Chapter Twenty Three – Lingering Instinct
“What?” I asked, annoyed.
“I… heh, Sweetie, you... hahah!” Amy tried, but her words dissolved into helpless giggles.
I flushed, feeling embarrassed, as the two continued to laugh. My freckles involuntarily turned a vivid pink, which only seemed to make the two laugh harder.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Gell. It’s just… You aren’t supposed to wrap your lips around the mouthpiece,” Iron said, when he’d finally gotten his laughter under control. “You won’t make any sound like that.”
“Well how am I supposed to do it then!?” I screamed, stomping on the ground with my foot. I’d seen a few adventurers do that and decided it felt appropriate.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, sweetie. Here. You purse your lips like this,” Amy said, puckering out her lips. “Then you fit them into the hole at the end of the horn and blow through. Give it a shot.”
I glared at them but then looked back to the horn. The mouthpiece had seemed a bit wide. This horn was different from the one that had summoned Avwren. That one had ended in a sharp point. This one had a section just large enough to fit my lips into if I closed them together.
I did as suggested and blew through the horn, creating a clear, if not quite beautiful note. I beamed, delighted and amused by the strange sensation of air flowing over my lips as well as the sound. It wasn’t nearly as pretty as the bard’s had been but it was music!
Suddenly, a glowing purple and white void appeared in the middle of the clearing. I screamed, shocked, and Amy and Iron both stepped back, afraid. Almost as fast as the portal opened, though, a creature stepped forth from the bright corridor.
The portal winked out of existence as soon as the monstrosity had stepped out of it, and I gasped in awe.
It was… a four legged creature. Huge, even in comparison to Momma Bossbear. Instead of standing upright it seemed to only have legs and nothing to grasp with. It was pure white, with a purple, gem-encrusted horn on its forehead. This was a different kind of horn though. Silver, with purple lines that seemed reminiscent of the crystals on the summoning horn.
“Ohhh!” I said, stepping up to the creature. “You beautiful thing...”
“It’s a Unicorn! Where… how did you get something like that?” asked Iron, staring wide-eyed at the creature. He was every bit as transfixed as I was.
A text box appeared in front of me when I touched the Unicorn.
You’ve summoned “Lesser Unicorn - Unnamed.” This Unicorn was once the property of “Half Bold, Halfling Beastmaster.” Since he never summoned the creature, it remains unclaimed. You may claim “Lesser Unicorn - Unnamed” as your own and keep the summoning item to call it to your side in battle, convert “Lesser Unicorn - Unnamed” to a mount, or set “Lesser Unicorn - Unnamed” free.
There were three button boxes with the choices listed in each box below.
Before doing any of those, I focused on the Unnamed part. Half Bold hadn’t given the creature a name? Well, with a name like… what had his name been again? Bold viper, the jellyjerk or something? Well. It was probably for the best he hadn’t chosen a name for the Unicorn.
Either way, I would’ve renamed it. As I slid the box off to the side with my hand, I reached out and touched the creature’s long neck. Somehow, I wasn’t afraid of it, even though it was so much bigger than me. Normally that meant I’d be afraid, but this creature seemed to exude an aura that made me calm.
Would Half Bold really have tried to make this creature fight me?
I shivered, suddenly all too aware of just how cruel Half Bold was. I turned to look at Amy and Iron. Their clothes were different. Their faces were so much more serene than Half Bolds. But they were still... adventurers. Could I really trust them?
Questions for later. For now… I had a Unicorn to consider. He was prancing a little, stamping his feet expectantly as he looked at me. I smiled, my freckles going all yellow and pink with compassion.
“It seems to like you! You should ride it!” Iron said, and I jumped when he seemed to appear right beside me, pressing a hand on my shoulder.
“H-hey!” I exclaimed. “Not so close!”
The Unicorn snorted and used its huge body to shield me from Iron’s proximity. Fortunately, he backed away immediately.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Forgot you weren’t quite comfortable around us. But Gell, this is a Unicorn. It’s a mount. If she likes you, you should try to ride her. Mounts are unbelievably rare in this game because they can increase your tread and sky counters much faster than walking normally.”
I frowned. If that was the truth then why had Half Bold imprisoned her? Could he maybe be unaware? Or perhaps he already had a… “mount?”
“Oh… kay. I guess I’ll try. Hey there… uhm… what should I call you?” I asked. My first thought had been Violet Horn but somehow that didn’t seem elegant enough.
“I won’t keep you. You should go free, but I’ll give you a name. Would you like that?” I asked, delighted when it responded by brushing its huge nozzle against my face. I laughed, delighted as I came up with the best name!
“Alright then… you’ll be, Nosey! Nosey, the Unicorn!”
The unicorn pranced angrily, as if annoyed. “What? You’re like, fifty percent nose!” I exclaimed and the creature huffed, jets of hot air coming from its nostrils. I laughed again, feeling like somehow I’d known this creature all my life.
Had it seen me from its horn? Did it know me?
“Well you only have one other prominent feature. Would you prefer Horny?” I asked and he snorted again.
Curiously, Iron snorted too, giggling like I’d said something absolutely hilarious. Strange.
“Fine… fine, that wasn’t really what I was going to use anyway,” I said, holding up a finger like Amy had done when she told me about how names couldn’t be stolen.
“Where did you get that horn, Gell?” came Amy’s voice as she approached after smacking Iron for some reason, who was still laughing at some joke I didn’t understand. Amy came to me much more slowly than Iron had. “That’s a beastmaster’s summoning horn, right?”
“Oh. Yeah, I stole it from a jerk who was keeping this guy imprisoned. He tried to put me in one of those horns, but I tricked him and snagged this from him instead! I still want to save that other prisoner of his though.” I trailed off. “Poor Avwren is still trapped…”
“That’s… an interesting view of Beastmasters,” Iron said. While Amy seemed perfectly fine approaching it, he seemed almost scared now that it had snorted at him.
“I’ll save him someday, too! Now that I can leave the cave, I’ll finally be able to find a family! A real one… not like… what I thought. How about you, huh?” I asked, petting the Unicorn’s white fur gingerly. “Would you like to be part of my family?”
I stepped back, startled as the creature leaped up on its back hooves, neighing wildly before landing again with a thump. I beamed.
“How do you feel about Torchlight? Because I know I’ll be safe when you’re around. Okay?” I asked.
Torchlight seemed much happier with that name than Nosey. I pulled the screen back to me and clicked the option that released him. The moment I clicked it, a burst of light appeared around Torchlight. A smaller yet no less vibrant burst of white and purple energy erupted around the horn which had been forgotten on the floor. The horn shattered, letting the purple gemstones embedded in it fall to the ground.
Torchlight bayed again, happily leaping like a wild thing. It returned to me and nuzzled my face once more before dashing away into the trees, even faster than Red Thorn’s dagger.
“What… What did you do!?” Iron shouted, causing me to jump back in alarm. “You let it go? But that’s… that was an epic mount! You could’ve gone almost anywhere with that, or sold it for enough real world money to...! Why would you–?”
“Derek…” Amy interrupted with one small word. I looked on in awe as that one word worked upon Iron_Crock_584 like magic. He instantly calmed, though he still looked angry.
How did she do that? Was the word actually magic? Could… all this time could I have just turned to Red Thorn and said “Derek?” to make her stop hurting me?
“Honey, that horse was worth a small fortune! In the real world! She could’ve sold it. It might’ve helped her out wherever she is in…” the man trailed off, looking over to me as Amy touched his face. His expression softened.
“Yeah, okay. Gell, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow up like that. It’s just that creature could’ve really helped you. You could’ve gotten armor and weapons to protect yourself with,” he said, trailing off as if he wanted to say more but couldn’t find the right words.
There was context that I was missing here. Real world. Again.
“But… Torchlight will help me. Didn’t you see how happy she was?” I asked, genuinely confused.
I was no longer afraid of Amy or Iron. They had, thus far, been nothing but kind to me. I’d made Iron angry but I didn’t really understand why.
“I’m sorry, Iron. It’s just… Torchlight was just like me. Trapped. I had to let him go. Otherwise I’d have chained him, just like the instinct did to me. I don’t want anyone to be trapped because of me,” I said softly.
“Very mature of you Gell. She did a good thing, Iron,” Amy said imploringly. She put a hand on my shoulder.
I looked at her quizzically before she wrapped both of her hands around me. A hug. This was… a hug. I relaxed into the embrace slowly, but felt immensely better when I did. My arms naturally found a place around the shorter woman’s back.
“Silly thing,” the man scoffed. “But okay. So, you were trapped then, Gell? Do you want to talk about it?”
I folded further into Amy’s hug. “No. Not really. It's over now. I’m… I’m free, just like Torchlight.”
I didn’t want to dwell on the guilt of hurting Momma Bossbear. Of leaving Bugbear behind. Of betraying the ones I’d once thought of as family, and being betrayed in turn.
Thinking about forgetting just made it harder to forget though.
I was here, in the Great-Open! Everything was supposed to be great now! So why was I crying again?
Amy hugged me tighter. In the distance I heard a Unicorn whinny, and I sniffed before turning and hugging Amy as hard as I could. She let me, and I’d never been more grateful to anyone in my whole life.
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I'm Materia-Blade. I've been a long time fanfiction writer, and have recently decided to toss my hat into the original fiction arena. I love fantasy, sci-fi, and Lit-RPG's and have read hundreds of books from each genre.
My new story Artificial Jelly has released and is currently being pretty well received! Excited for it to hit trending! Thanks to those who support it, and me, and I hope it continues to impress!
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