The tip of the kindjal hit the energy crystal with a chink and sank a quarter of an inch into the stone.
Every Hunter froze and looked towards me.
Web-like cracks spread from my kindjal out across the crystal.
The bottle fell from Blake’s hand. “What — ?”
A blinding flash pulsed from the cracks. I winced even though my eyes didn’t hurt at all from the light. The Hunters around me were a different story, they covered their eyes, gasping in shock. But the light sent my heart racing. What if the magic emanating from the crystal caused Blake’s team to change into monsters?
A second pulse of blinding light issued from the energy crystal. This time it wasn’t just light, but also a power strong enough to vibrate through my immobile body. The force shook through me, hit the trees that surrounded me, and knocked damaged trees over. The shockwave threw Hunters off their feet causing them to skid across the ground, groaning and gasping as they went.
With the sound of glass breaking, the cracks in the crystal continued to spread releasing another shockwave. It washed over me, filling my body with power and flung my hair back from my face. The kindjal sank into the crystal all the way up to the hilt. My body was frozen in place, holding the kindjal inside the blinding light that radiated from the energy crystal.
This power, this forcefield that stunned us all and held me in place, suddenly reversed directions. It retracted, shot back towards me, and circled the blade of my kindjal before vanishing. The crystal etched in the steel of my blade started to glow just as bright as the power that it absorbed. I gasped. This radiating power just merged with my blade?
The crystal in the steel grew brighter. It was bright enough that my eyes should burn, but there was no discomfort as I stared at it. In fact, I couldn’t seem to be able to look away. Slowly, my kindjal started to change. The crystal that mixed with the steel began to expand, overtaking the steel. In a flash the blade transformed. What once was three quarters steel and a quarter crystal was now equally half and half steel and crystal.
My kindjal finished it’s transformation and the energy crystal I crouched over exploded into tiny little lights, just like when I’d destroy a monster’s crystal. The lights faded then disappeared leaving nothing behind but a crater at my feet. I stared into the dark pit, shocked at how big the energy crystal had been.
Ding! [Task: Destroy the Crystal Completed! +2000 EXP]
Ding! [You have Leveled Up!]
Ding! [You have Leveled Up!]
Ding! [You have Leveled Up!]
Ding! [Her Will has Upgraded!]
Ding! [Her Resistance has Upgraded! Would you like to apply changes? Yes/No?]
Notification after notification popped open before my eyes, almost making me dizzy. All that happened just from breaking one crystal? Where was another one of these?!
I focused on the last notification and lifted my hand to accept. I paused. My hand was clean. I wiggled my fingers. All the blood and grime that I’d picked up since I was separated from Emma was gone, leaving my skin perfectly clear. Curious. I accepted the upgrade for my armor.
Instantly, my everything on my body changed. My under shirt and pants altered into gray under armor that felt and looked like armor, but it was as flexible as cotton. It covered me from neck to ankle to wrist. My leather breastplate was replaced by a black leather cuirass that had a whimsical, airy pattern imprinted along the sides and bright silver accents in just the right places. Matching black pauldrons and arm bracers matched the set. Around my hips hung a slanted mini-skirt that tucked under my hip satchel and went halfway down my left thigh, leaving my right thigh open for the thigh strap on the satchel. The new greaves and the boots matched the style of cuiress. The leather was just like my last set, firm enough to stop attacks, but flexible enough that I could do a backflip in it.
I grinned. If I could handpick fantasy armor for myself, it would look just like this.
A horrified yell broke through my glee. “Where’d it go?” Blake staggered to his feet, rubbing his watering eyes.
I gasped and stepped back. It took a second before I realized my Stealth was still working and no one was looking at me.
The group of Hunters were pushing up to their feet, unsteady and rubbing their eyes. They staggered towards the hole as if they were still confused and disoriented.
“Where is it!” Blake screamed and looked at Penny, his eyes swollen and bloodshot.
She ducked away from his glare, still rubbing her own watering eyes. “I don’t know, boss.” Her voice was timid.
“Find it!” he demanded.
“Blake,” Mark cut in, his tone more reasonable.
Blake cut him off. “I just told Jordyn that we found it. He’s on his way here, right now. Do you seriously expect me to look him in the eye and tell him that the crystal he spent millions on vanished under my nose?” With each word, his face turned more and more red. He glared at his team.
A cold smile spread across my face as I watched him. Look for it all you want, you son of a bitch. You’ll never find it. I wanted to see President Price lose it on Blake, but it wouldn’t be smart to stay here. This wasn’t as good as throwing him to pack of Orcs, but it would have to do for now. While the Hunters were still distracted, I turned and Feather Stepped away as fast as I could.
Behind me, Blake’s screaming echoed. “I don’t care what you have to do. Find that damn crystal!”
I took a breath and climbed into the trees. I’d spent so much time in the trees that climbing and leaping from branches was becoming second nature. Like a female Tarzan, jumping around, eluding detection — Blake’s team wouldn’t spot me up here, not with their eyes glued to the ground searching for something they’d never find.
The sound of trees cracking and snapping filled the air. The ground vibrated. I turned and watched as Blake’s team began ripping apart the earth, pushing trees to the ground, looking for the crystal. I breathed a sigh of relief and kept leaping, leaving the sounds of their destruction behind me.
It was time to finally get out of here. I’d had enough of Gate Vale today. I just needed to find Emma first, but I didn’t even know where I was. I didn’t have a map and even if I did, I’d been turned around so many times that I couldn’t be sure what my location would be on it. I took a breath and thought for a moment. Instead of running around the jungle, looking for her where she might or might not be, maybe it would be better to wait for her at the transportation circle. She had to use that no matter what to leave the jungle. That way we wouldn’t miss each other by accident. But how to get there?
On Earth, moss grew on the north side of the trees. In Gate Vale, the moss grew on trees facing the Gate, although there were some places that moss didn’t grow. I didn’t know which one the Feng Jungle was, but now was a good time to learn. The transportation circle was between my location and the Gate, so, if my theory proved correct, if I followed the moss it would lead me towards the Gate, and I’d find the magic circle on the way. But if I found the edge of the Feng Jungle, where it met another landscape, then I just needed to walk that border until I reached the southern part of the jungle where the circle was.
My Stealth flickered and wore off. I was far enough from Blake that I technically didn’t need it. But now I had to watch out for monsters. I needed the rest of my MP to Feather Step, I couldn’t use it on Stealth anymore. I paused and looked closely at the tree I was standing on. My hand smoothed over the branch but I couldn’t find any moss. Humming with disappointment in my mind, I jumped to the next tree and looked for some moss. There had to be some somewhere.
My search continued and my stomach started growling. Right, I’d spent a lot of energy — and bled a lot recently — I really needed to refuel. And now that I had a moment of quiet, I should assign my extra stat points that I’d received from leveling up.
My mouth kicked up as I sat down on the branch. I still couldn’t believe that I went up three levels in one go! It almost made this whole venture worth it. I was still a D rank, but I felt so much stronger now. And not just because of the change in armor. Grinning, I opened my stats menu and gasped in surprise. My max MP had doubled! I now had 200 MP! Granted, it was at 20 MP right now because it was low before I leveled up, but to think that I had that much to play with now, it was like a dream come true. I didn’t have to be so careful with my MP usage.
The other changes were connected to the boosts that my armor and weapon gave me. Before my gear gave ten additional points to my strength and constitution. Now they gave a twenty point bonus.
I bit my lips to keep from whooping. After so many crappy things happening the last few days, something finally swung my way!
I pulled my sandwich from my Items Bag and took a bite.
A low rumbling sounded behind me. All the hair stood up on my body as my gut sank to the ground. God, I hadn’t even noticed that a monster had come so close to me. I slipped off my branch and dropped to the ground. The air whoshed behind me and something landed on the branch where I’d just been.
I glanced up from where I crouched and got a look at the monster. It looked like a white tiger, but the stripes were pale gray. Instead of a full, muscular body, it looked thin and stretched, like a cheetah without such a thick torso. Two long tails swished from its hindquarters. [Feng Cat Lv 60] hung over its head. It turned its head and glared at me with deep blue eyes. It jumped down … along with three other white and gray shadows.
My eyes widened. It wasn’t alone? My sandwich was replaced with my kindjal and I Mirrored it. I cast Mist. The thick, moist particles spread out forty feet around me. In the mist, the monsters’ coats should have made them nearly invisible, but my ability made them easier to see than ever. Unfortunately, that didn’t change the fact that they were three times my level.
This was the worst place to solo in. I swear, there wasn’t anything that I could kill in this jungle — outside of those horrible caterpillars.
The Feng Cats paused, obviously weary of the Mist. But that didn’t stop them from focusing on me and getting ready to attack. Hopefully, the Mist would be enough to hide me completely from them in combination with Stealth — just like with the Serpent earlier.
The lead Feng Cat’s eyes widened as it focused on something over my shoulder. It crouched low and flashed its teeth, letting out a small hiss. The other large cats behind it shifted and began to back up.
I gasped, recognizing the actions from an old friend’s house cat. Were … they scared?
The monsters whipped around and disappeared into the forest in a flash. A second later an overwhelming threatening pressure flooded across the ground, trying to pin me in place.
The hair on the back of my neck lifted as I slowly turned around, searching the foliage. What could possible scare off level 60 monsters like that? At this point, what was the point of being surprised anymore? I mean, everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong in the last couple days. At this point, it was about time to up the ante.
Something shifted around a tree and a sunbeam flashed off a metallic surface. A second later, whatever it was walked right into the mist. Even though it neared me, I couldn’t tell what it was. It was like there was a block on my senses that shielded it, like a black hole moving through my mist, moving at a steady pace right toward me.
I gripped my kindjals tighter and took a small step back, aiming to hide behind a tree.
A man stepped out of the mist. He held his head high and seemed completely nonchalant in his blue tunic, black pants and simple steel breastplate in this dangerous jungle. His blond brows rose high on his forehead as he focused on me. Instantly his Hunter aura vanished. “I thought it was you.” Interestingly enough, for the first time, a warning wasn’t posted over his head, next to his red title bar. Why?
I gasped, finally able to breathe again. The kindjal lowered to my side, but I didn’t put it away. “Kesstel? What are you doing here? I thought the Stone Mace Guild had exclusive rights to the Feng Jungle?”
He smirked. “And who’s going to tell me no?”
I paused. He had a point. There were very few people who could make an S do anything they didn’t want to. And I had a feeling Kesstel was a little harder to control than others. Not because he was willful, but because he just didn’t care.
“Besides, when I felt the disturbance in the Vale, I knew you had to be around here, so I thought I’d stop by,” he said in an off-handed way.
I blinked at him. “How did you know it was me?”
“There are only two people on Earth that can affect the parasite enough to make it mad. Both are standing right here.” He swept his eyes around then focused on the direction I came from. The direction that the giant crystal had been. “Ah,” he said slowly as if he knew what had just happened and started to walk towards me.
My eyes narrowed as all the pain that Trace put me through came to my mind. I thrust up my hand. “Stop!” I ordered.
He paused and looked at me, completely taken aback.
“You,” I pointed at him as I glared. “Are not allowed within fifteen feet of me until you square things off with your girlfriend. Not only do I absolutely refuse to, I literally don’t think I can survive getting tangled up in a lovers’ quarrel.”
He looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
EXP to Next Lv 874
Strength 45 (+20)
Constitution 39 (+20)
Stat Points 0
Mist (Improved) (40 ft)
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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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