TWO MONTHS LATER
I took a deep breath and looked down. Sixty feet down, the Josu Rainforest floor spread out, a mix of dark colored soil and pale green moss that climbed the trunks of the massive trees. The ever-present light drizzle flattened my hair to my head and dripped from the point of my nose, making it itch. I wiped the water off and pinched my nose to keep from sneezing. With one more deep breath, I stepped off the branch and dropped to the forest floor.
I landed silently on the soft ground and stepped back, pressing my body tightly against the smooth tree bark behind me. My kindjal appeared in my right hand. As soon as I landed, I spread out my senses. Thirty feet away, I could feel three large monsters, Velociorheas, walking through the forest. They were bobbing almost leisurely around the tall trees, soundlessly moving over the moist ground. Getting closer to me.
I Mirrored my kindjal and gripped a warm metal handle in each hand. The rain hung onto the blade, the clear crystal blended with the silver steel almost glowing in the dim light. Each water droplet that caught and lingered on the blade soon evaporated into mist, then dissipated into the air because I didn’t collect it.
A Velociorhea approached the other side of the tree. Several loud sniffs sounded, then I heard the ground squish as it was compressed — a footstep. Then another. Four feet from me. Two feet from me.
Out of the corner of my eyes. The huge claws, bigger than my fingers, of the three-toed foot sank into the ground as it stepped next to my feet. A large, elongated head appeared. The huge, pointed teeth were bright against the dark skin of the bird-dinosaur’s head. The circular yellow eye on that bald, black head pointed straight at me.
I swung my kindjal before it could alert the others. My sword sank into its chest where the long, thin neck met the colorfully feathered body. The monster’s mouth opened, but no noise escaped. I jerked my kindjal and ripped it out of the side of the Velociorhea, nearly severing off its wing in the process. It collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain.
The other two instantly reacted. They whipped around the tree, trying to pincer me in the middle. I jumped up and kicked one head while I stepped on the other. I landed five feet from them and turned just as they got back to my side. They attacked, snapping and scratching at me. I parried, but one attack was soon followed by another. More and more, they pressed me, forcing me back.
Poisonous fog exploded out of me.
The Velociorheas shrieked in alarm and turned to run away.
“Not this time,” I whispered and thrust out my hand.
Ten feet away, a solid mist wall appeared in their way. They hit into it and bounced back, obviously confused.
This fog wouldn’t only work in my favor, but it would ensure that no other Velociorheas would get in my way. I’d found that these monsters were sensitive to Poison Fog, as in, they could detect it every time and they would always run away. Now that I finally got them in my trap, I wasn’t going to let them go.
As soon as they realized they weren’t getting out easily, the Velociorheas turned on me, more aggressive than ever. They worked in perfect unison, a unique trait to the species, to take me down. It was hard work to keep a step ahead of them, and I still lost HP in the process, but they were losing it faster — they were susceptible to Poison.
“Ha!” I slashed out with my left kindjal and left a gaping wound on the side of the breast of the Velociorhea. Then I spun and stabbed into the hole with my right kindjal. There was a slight resistance as my blade hit the energy crystal inside, then it shattered. The monster exploded into tiny lights that quickly disappeared, leaving two glowing orbs behind.
[+ 346 EXP]
A heavy force slammed into my back. I was knocked to my knees. The other Velociorhea pressed down on me with one foot, its long claws digging into my leather armor and painfully piercing my skin. Then it snapped down at the back of my head.
I twisted my body and leaned my head to the side. The toothy mouth slammed shut right next to my ear, the sound sending shivers down my spine. I jerked my kindjal around and stabbed it right into the monster’s head. The Velociorhea screeched, painfully loud, and launched off me. I jumped to my feet and turned around, swords at the ready.
The bird-monster shook its head, where the right eyeball should have been, a gaping hole leaked blood.
I lunged forward, closing in on the left. The monster followed me with its good eyes. Five feet from it, I created a solid block of mist on it’s right. With a flick of my wrist, the solid mist smashed into the blinded side of the Velociorhea. It screeched as it was taken by surprise and thrown to the ground. I jumped up and stabbed down with both blades at its chest. The energy crystal shattered and the monster disappeared, leaving a couple Drop Items.
Breathing heavily, I scooped up the Drop Item orbs. They disappeared as soon as I touched them, depositing their items in my Items Bag. Then I turned and walked back to the tree where I originally started.
The first Velociorhea was still there, spilling black blood all over the pale green moss, but alive. The slit in its yellow eye constricted when it saw me and it struggled to get up, but the most that it could do was flop to the side.
I walked up and stabbed down. The Velociorhea vanished, along with the black blood and any other traces it had left.
[You have Leveled Up.]
[Gained: Ability Mist Blade.]
[Daily Task: Destroy 10 energy crystals complete. + 215 EXP]
Satisfied, I opened up my System menu and assigned the extra Stat Point.
EXP to Next Lv 6885
Strength 90 (+20)
Constitution 83 (+20)
Stat Points 0
Mist (Improved) (70 ft)
My eyes widened when I noticed my rank. I was finally a B. After all this work, I was halfway to where I wanted to be. I should be whooping and jumping around, but I couldn’t muster up the excitement. I still had so far to go.
It had been two months since the cult collapsed and Kesstel disappeared. My life had fallen into a routine. Wake up, kill as many monsters as I could before the sun goes down, cash in the Drop Items, go back to E Hostel, sleep. Get up in the morning and do it again.
Still, it wasn’t enough.
Out of the sixteen areas that Gate Vale was divided into, I’ve killed one of every monster in seven areas. The System has notified me of four monsters that could help with creating a cure for the Sleepers disease, but those four items were already known to the medical world and already being worked on. In the end, I wasn’t any closer to finding the ‘missing ingredient’ than I was two months ago — when Kesstel said there was no cure. It was the magic of the parasitic planet that was causing people to fall into a coma. And there was nothing from the Gate that was going to wake the people up, since the parasite wanted the people to die so it could eat the planet.
There just wasn’t enough time. I only had four more months before my mom had to leave the hospital.
I waved a hand and a solid piece of mist appeared over me like an umbrella. A piece of paper with a list of every area and known monster listed on it appeared in my hand. I took a pencil out and drew a line through ‘Velociorhea,’ completing the Josu Rainforest list. This place was good for leveling up and cultivating, but it was time to find another place.
A teal screen flashed before my eyes, telling me that I needed to go. I put the list away and started to run through the forest. I didn’t bother to go up to the treetops. I wasn’t at risk to run into monsters with my Poison Fog activated in Josu Rainforest. If I was in another location, that would be a different matter, but here I simply ran full out over the soft, wet ground.
Two hours later, I stood in front of my family’s apartment door. My knuckle made a soft sound as I rapped on it.
There was a clatter of movement from inside the apartment, then the door swung open.
Aliya stood on the other side, a wide smile on her face and a fluffy pink cat ear headband popping out of her light brown hair. “Happy Birthday!” she squealed and threw herself at me.
I caught her and grinned as I held her warm body close. So, so much better than the cold chill and death inside the Gate. “Thanks,” I murmured, her hair in my face. Ah, did she put on another inch since I last saw her? I swear she wasn’t this tall. Wasn’t this old.
Aunt Mina and Uncle Mark sat at the battered, square table on the other side of the small living room. They smiled at me, love in their tired faces.
“Come in, come in,” Aunt Mina stood up and walked over to us.
Without waiting, Aliya dragged me inside and shut the door. I took a second to hug my aunt and uncle before I was pushed into a chair with a loose leg.
My sister hurried over to the kitchen counter and returned, holding something behind her back. “Tada!” she sang and pulled a sparkly gold crown headband from behind her back. “It’s your special day, so you get the crown.” She slid it onto my head, the Fanged Snapper bracelet I made her tinkling soothingly from her wrist.
I cringed and laughed at the same time. Seriously, bling wasn’t my thing. But anything Aliya gave me was perfect. I just hoped she grew out of her ‘glitter’ phase soon.
Still, I took a flip phone out of my Items Bag and opened up its camera. Smiling, I grabbed my sister and pulled her in for a selfie to show off our headbands. Then I turned around and took a picture with all four of us together. It had been so long since we were all in the same room, I wanted to capture it.
“Have you had lunch yet?” Aunt Mina asked.
I nodded. It was almost two in the afternoon — I hoped they hadn’t put off eating for me.
“Then it’s already time for dessert,” Uncle Mark said. He went to the counter and picked up a large plate covered by a metal mixing bowl. He carefully walked the short distance back to the table and set it down. Then he took the mixing bowl off, revealing a sword-shaped birthday cake.
Since we never had money for a lot of presents growing up, Aunt Mina always made sure to make us a special birthday cake. She’d spend hours, sculpting cake and frosting, trying to make whatever wild request Aliya or I asked for. She wasn’t a cake master by any means — like the time Aliya’s unicorn looked more like a dying dog — but she always put her best into it, and some of the pieces were actually really good.
This sword looked more like a fat dagger, but I liked how she used sugar candy as gems on the hilt and blended two colors of gray to represent the pattern weld on the blade.
I grinned wide. “It’s wonderful. Thank you!”
I reached out and hugged her. I could feel the pounds she’d lost in the last couple months from stress at her job. Her eyes — the same hazel as my mom’s, Aliya’s and mine — were tired, with bags under them from not sleeping. And there were more gray hairs than last time I saw her, I swear. Even so, she was grinning as happily as ever.
“Ah, I can’t believe you’re already nineteen. I remember when you were this big.” Aunt Mina held her hands in front of her, indicating a tiny bundle. “You were such a fussy sleeper, your mom would come and crash at my place while I watched you in the afternoon just so she could get enough sleep to function.” She laughed, memories alight in her tired eyes. “Now, you’re such a strong young woman. Your mom and dad would be so proud.”
A happy blush burned my cheeks. I hoped they would be proud of me. I was trying, really I was.
Aliya and Aunt Mina worked together to put a one and a nine candle on the cake, then Uncle Mark lit the candles. As the people I loved sang, my chest tightened painfully and a big smile split my face.
“Make a wish and blow out the candles!” Aliya urged.
I huffed and blew them out.
Aunt Mina got some plates while Uncle Mark dug out a tub of ice cream from the back of the freezer.
Aliya bumped her shoulder against mine. “What did you wish for? I won’t tell anyone.”
I laughed and shook my head. “If I tell, it won’t come true.”
“Aw, that’s just a myth,” she complained.
I bumped her shoulder back. “So is wishing on candles.” But I’d do it again and again, if it kept my loved ones safe. After all, it was a wish I was willing to pay any price for.
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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.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.