The Nixies hissed and screamed.
“Oh my … ” My voice failed as I stared at the giant sail that towered above me. Just how massive was the body that supported that sail?
The Nixies dove to the side, attempting escape.
Water exploded around us without warning. An enormous fin erupted through the surface. It struck my bubble before hitting the Nixies with a bone crushing force. My mist shield shattered as I was thrown high into the air, spinning and gasping through the air. My HP dropped seventy percent of my remaining HP, leaving the bar in the red. I flailed in the air until I was finally able to control my body. Once I was upright, I controlled the mist. I landed on a solid surface and took a deep breath, trying to make the world stop spinning. Thirty feet up, I stared down at the huge shape becoming more and more clear as the enormous fin splashed back into the water.
The Nixies fared a little worse than me. They were also launched into the air, nothing graceful about them as they flailed, screaming. Some were thrown to the side and cleared the shadow under the water. They slapped onto the water and sank down, disappearing from view, leaving dark green stains in their wake.
The second Nixie with the broken nose and the leader were pitched straight up in the air. The leader clawed at the air, its eyes wide with fear. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the first time it was ever out of the water. The accompanying Nixie looked just as frightened.
There was another water explosion, sending Nixies back up into the air.
Even though I hovered to the side, I was drenched again.
From the water, a dinosaur appeared. Seriously, a fifty foot dinosaur! It was covered in navy blue scales that were each probably the size of my hands. Its head alone was twice as long as I was tall. Then there was its long neck and the smoothe oval body, well over two buses in length. The stubby tail lashed about as the enormous flippers agitated the water. Above its head read: [Plesiosaurus Lv 68].
I gaped at it. Why didn’t I know that there was a Loch Ness monster in the Gate? Like for reals, I had no idea!
The leader Nixie screamed as its rise ended and it began to plummet. The Plesiosaurus opened its mouth wide and jerked its head up. The Nixie’s scream was cut off as the Plesiosaurus snapped its jaws shut with a sharp thud, the whole Nixie gone in one bite.
A chill went through my body.
When its leader was eaten, the second Nixie squealed in terror. It continued to fall past the Plesiosaurus’s head. It belly-flopped right on the Plesiosaurus’s back, just barely missing being skewered on one of the bony dorsal fin that ran the length of the Plesiosaurus’s back. The Nixie groaned and wiggled around, trying to claw off the monster, though it was obviously disoriented.
A bugle sank from the Plesiosaurus’s head down its neck to its body then disappeared. Satisfied, the Plesiosaurus turned its head and looked at the Nixie on its back.
My eyes widened and I stood up. That was my Nixie! My kill! All the rest of them were gone and I just knew that with the arrival of the Plesiosaurus, I’d never find another one today. If ever.
The Plesiosaurus opened its mouth and angled down.
“That’s mine!” I hissed and thrust out my hand. I cast Mist at the same time the Plesiosaurus lowered its head. Simultaneously, I kicked off my platform and cast Feather Step. In the corner of my vision, my MP flashed yellow, letting me know that I was getting low.
A thick fog appeared around the frightened Nixie. The Plesiosaurus roared as if confused, the low sound vibrating through my chest. My heart jumped out of rhythm, but my mind was clear as I closed in. I just had to kill the Nixie before the Plesiosaurus did. I didn’t even need to destroy the energy crystal, just kill the damn monster.
The Plesiosaurus paused only for a moment before it lunged down. Its teeth sank into the Nixie’s legs, whether or not it meant to. The Nixie screamed and slapped at the Plesiosaurus’s lips around its legs, but nothing happened.
I landed on the Plesiosaurus’s back just as it lifted its head into the air, dragging the screaming Nixie with it. Green blood trailed along the dinosaur’s lip line, making the navy blue scales gleam multicolored in the sun. A pretty color, but gruesome. I tsked in anger and looked up at the Nixie dangling fifteen feet above my head. Its scream weakened, and the beautiful humanoid body dangled limp as blood covered it — ghastly to look at.
I lunged forward, Feather Stepping on the mist that rippled around the monster just as the Plesiosaurus tossed the Nixie another five feet into the air and opened its mouth for the Nixie to fall into. I arched my arm back and activated Critical Hit and Throw at the same time. The kindjal shot through the air like a long bullet at the Nixie.
A foot from the open mouth, the kindjal pierced the Nixie's chest. The blade went straight through until the guard hit its torso with enough force that the Nixie shook. The Nixie exploded into shimmering sparkles just as the Plesiosaurus’s mouth clamped shut.
Ding! [Daily Task (Kill Two Nixies) Complete +25 EXP. Would you like to accept your reward? Y/N?]
Ding! [You have Leveled Up!]
I didn’t have time to respond to the System. I was too busy freaking out. My sword! My kindjal! It was right there when the Plesiosaurus shut its mouth! Oh, please! Please tell me I didn’t just lose it!
Then the Plesiosaurus roared and shook its mouth like it was confused that it was empty. It turned its head and focused a round, sea-green eye on me. After all, I was currently hanging out right at its eye level. Its eye narrowed with blood lust.
A shudder went down my spine as all thoughts for my kindjal disappeared with my courage. Oops, it was time to go. I turned and ran as fast as I could, Feather Stepping on the mist like my life depended on it. ’Cause it did.
The Plesiosaurus lunged at me. Its huge maw clamped shut, missing my hair by inches. It was so close that I could smell bloody fish stench on it’s breath and hear its pointed teeth rubbing against each other. When it missed again, the dinosaur roared in anger, nearly erupting my ear drums.
It chased after me. It was large and fast, but it also seemed to need to swim under the water. Since I was running on the topmost layer of golden mist hanging over the lake, it meant that I had a little bit of time to react when it reached me. Every time it lunged, there was always a water explosion first, helping me keep out of the way of the huge jaws. Each time it jumped up and fell down, it gave me a momentary heads-up that it would quickly overrun just a minute later.
It didn’t seem to mind that it couldn’t eat me. In fact, I’d say that the repeated failures seemed to egg the Plesiosaurus on, making it lunge faster. It tried to splash with waves of water, obviously trying to knock me down. It roared in anger and snapped at the air just at my heels.
All the while, I ran like hell was at my heels. Because it was. If I stopped — or even slowed down — for one second, I was dead. On and on it went, continually dodging the latest attacks while I watched my MP tick down a point every five minutes.
In the distance, I could see boats full of Hunters that about-faced when they saw the Plesiosaurus charging through the water like … well, an enraged monster. Mages used magic to speed the boats out of the way, aiming for the shoreline opposite of me and my Loch Ness monster. A small part of me hoped that the Plesiosaurus would get distracted by the boats since they were causing such a disturbance on the lake. There had to be someone on a boat that could actually take on the Plesiosaurus. But no. The monster stayed on me, dogging my every move.
Finally I neared the shore. I could see the individual trees off the rocky beach. There was a small crowd building along the water to my right. They pointed at the Plesiosaurus, a lot more excited than I was.
There was a huge thump and the monster let out a roar that rumbled in my chest and nearly deafened me.
I glanced over my shoulder, but didn’t slow down.
For the first time, the Plesiosaurus struggled in the water. It slapped its flippers around in the water, trying to drag itself forward as it snapped at the air in my direction. But its speed had considerably slowed. It took me a second to realize what was happening. The lake was becoming too shallow for the Plesiosaurus. Still, it struggled on, as if hating that it lost its prey.
I didn’t slow down though. I was running out of MP and still had a distance to clear on the lake. Since I wasn’t desperate anymore, I changed directions and Feather Stepped away from the crowd of people.
An explosion erupted out of view followed by furious roars. At least the sounds weren’t so close this time.
I looked over my shoulder again to see the Plesiosaurus throwing water in the air and roaring at the top of its lungs. But it didn’t get any closer to me. The surface line only reached about half way up its body — apparently not enough to let it go any farther. With one last display of anger, it turned around and started to work its way back to deeper water.
I sighed in relief. I passed over the waves crashing against the shore and kept running towards the forest on the other side of the rocky beach, creating solid mist steps to keep myself up in the air. The crowd was coming my way, and I didn’t have an explanation as to why I was being chased by a dinosaur. Or why I was ‘running on air.’ I started to angle down, aiming to land in a break of the tree canopy. Or at least that’s what I wanted to do. That is, until my MP hit 0.
Feather Step and Mist ended simultaneously. I dropped through the air, right into tree branches below. I gasped and lifted my arms to protect my face as I crashed through the canopy line. I twisted around, barely missing thick branches as smaller ones caught and snagged at my clothing. They left little cuts and tears on my clothes, but they also helped slow my descent. Finally I reached out and grabbed a branch. My careening weight rebounded and my arm felt like it was almost pulled from its socket. The bark burned my fingers, but I kept my grip and swayed to a stop.
I looked down and blinked. The ground just was ten inches below my toes. With a tired smile, I let go of the branch. I wanted to lay down right then and there, but I forced myself to run a small distance longer. Any thoughts of escaping the crowd of Hunters I could hear in the distance flew away when I came across a patch of green grass under a pink flowering tree. It looked so lovely, I staggered over and flopped down right there.
I puffed out huge breaths, so tired and sore that I didn’t want to move. I could literally close my eyes and sleep right there on solid ground with the smell of grass and sweet flowers in the air. Which was stupid. I was in the Gate — sleeping would be a death sentence. But god, it would feel nice.
I rolled over and looked up at the blue sky on the other side of the leaves. The events of today played through my mind. I did everything the task required but …
“My sword!” I moaned and covered my face with my battered hands. I loved that thing, and I’d thrown it into a monster's mouth. I didn’t even think about what I was doing when it happened. I just wanted the kill, and I threw away my awesome, pretty sword to get it.
I was distracted when the System dinged in my ear. I spread my fingers and saw that the same notification from earlier appeared again. The one I never had a chance to address before the Plesiosaurus started chasing me.
[Daily Task (Kill Two Nixies) Complete +25 EXP. Would you like to accept your reward? Y/N?]
I looked at it. Oh, yeah, I think I leveled up too, right? “Yes,” I whispered out loud, accepting the reward.
[Gained Ability: Mirror]
Mirror? What was that? Man, this System really liked to use weird names and give unusual Abilities.
I opened my Menu and paused as I remembered something. When I fought the Drake, I also lost my kindjal. That was actually the moment when I found out that it would always return. Well, it had always returned to my hand. And it's not like the Drake actually ate my kindjal like the Plesiosaurus did.
I held out of my hand and summoned my kindjal from my Items Bag. The familiar warn handle appeared in my hand. I gaped at the steel and crystal blade, thinking that it was the most beautiful thing in the world. Not just because it was pretty to look at, but because it was back. I whooped and threw my hands in the air.
I froze mid-motion when I sensed strong forces coming closer to me.
A Hunter in studded leather armor pushed aside a bush next to me. Her eyes landed on me and she yelled in excitement, “Hey, I found her!” Then the light in her eyes dimmed as she got a good look at me until she was simply staring at me blankly.
I blinked back at her. Who was she trying to find? “Um, hi?”
“Did you find her, Jules?” Another Hunter pushed passed the bush into my little spot. He stared down at me, his eyes flicking from just above my head where my title bar would be then down to my face. Then he just stared.
I frowned at them. I knew that I was ragged looking. I mean, come on. After what I went through, who wouldn’t be? But did they have to stare like that? It’s not like I was indecent.
“Oh, I wanna see!” Yet another Hunter appeared, a Healer in a pink robe. She blinked down at me.
Now I was really starting to feel like an animal on exhibit. “Can I help you?” Someone had to break this odd atmosphere.
“Ah.” The first girl glanced at her companions. “We’re looking for someone. A woman that can walk on air. She landed around here somewhere.” She glanced at my title bar again. “Have you seen anyone like that?”
Ah, that’s what was going on. After all, walking on air was a novelty. No one could do it. Well, they found her, but she didn’t want to talk to them. All I wanted was dry clothes and a warm bed. Even though the weather was great in this forest, the slight breeze sent goosebumps all over my damp skin.
I shook my head. “I haven’t seen anyone else. Just you.” Which was true.
The man tsked under his breath. “Where did she go? I wanna know more about that dinosaur.”
The Healer gaped at him. “Hang on, you aren’t thinking about fighting it, are you?”
I glanced at him. He shouldn’t even try. The Plesiosuarus was level 68 and he was level 59. It might be manageable, I guessed, but the monster had a major field advantage. My benefit was that I was high above the water, making the monster come to me. And I wasn’t trying to kill it, just run away.
But I couldn’t tell the Hunter this. According to the System, my title bar was frozen, forever showing that I was an E Rank. So someone like me wouldn’t know what ranks the Hunters were in front of me.
I gasped and played along. “What dinosaur?” Hopefully my acting was good enough. It’s not like I’d ever taken theater before.
“There’s a dinosaur in Prine Lake!” the female Hunter burst out. “I had no idea! It must be new.” Her eyes lit up like a christmas tree.
I widened my eyes. “No way! Man, I’d stay away from that!”
The man hummed under his breath. “Anyway, we gotta go.” He glanced at his companions. “Let’s go find her.”
He and the female Hunter ran off. The Healer hung around a second longer. Since I was so beat up, she kindly healed me quickly before hurrying after the other two.
I watched them disappear, feeling flabbergasted and amused at the same time. I must have made a big splash on the lake if people were trying to find me. Luckily, it seemed like they didn’t get a good look at my face. My false title bar helped too. Fame was never something that I wanted. There was good fame and bad fame. I wanted neither.
I started the long trek back home.
As soon as I stepped through the barrier, a warning shot down my spine and I looked across Gate Square. I totally didn’t expect to see the human monster Kesstel standing idly nearby, a red warning sign still flashing over his head. Before he could turn my way, I activated Feather Step and ran for all I was worth. Just as I turned the corner of a building, I glanced over my shoulder.
He stood in the same place, facing me. Even from this distance, I could feel his piercing gaze as he watched me turn and run again.
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I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
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