I woke up after a nice, long sleep, and had the urge to do a nice, big stretch and yawn.
I remembered where, exactly, I was, and immediately clamped down on that instinct. I looked down to where I should be, only to see dirt, some leaves that had fallen on me while I slept, and a few crushed berries.
I was still invisible - but in my carelessness, I’d left some traces behind. Crushed berries didn’t come out of nowhere, and now I was going to be leaking blue goo, which [Tracks-be-gone] was going to have to work overtime on, reducing the skill’s useful life.
Heck, thinking about it - traipsing through the garden with barely a care in the world was making [Tracks-be-gone] work extra-hard. A footstep on stone was erased in an instant, practically no mana used. Dirt footsteps?
Dirt impressions on the ground where I’d been sleeping?
Oops didn’t begin to cover it.
I checked that the coast was clear, that no elementals were near and like, looking at me, then I scuttled out from the bushes, carefully not touching any of the branches. I wasn’t fully successful, as not being able to see myself at all didn’t help with the finer points of moving around without touching anything. Still, minimal harm was done. Even as I winced after breaking a “branch” of the blueberry bush, I watched it knit and repair itself, the skill working hard.
I’d need to seriously consider a full stealth class for my 3rd class. Being properly stealthy was invaluable, although my current combination of sneakery was using three different elements at once. Mirage, Sound, and Wood.
Thoughts for another day.
However, thoughts for today - I had [Sneaking]. I was willing to bet I’d been offered an upgraded version, even if I couldn’t see the notification yet. I was going to try something crazy.
I was going to see if I could accept a skill that I hadn’t seen the notification of. After all, I’d technically gotten the new skill - I just hadn’t seen the notification.
I willed myself to accept the upgraded [Sneaking] skill - making sure I tried to get whatever one was best for the current situation - and took a quick peek at my status.
[Avoiding The Dragon's Eyes] met my eye, and I pumped my fist. Eking out little bits of survival, here and there!
I didn’t think anything else could easily be upgraded, but I’d take what I could get.
My level was doing good things to boot! Amazing experience here. My [Oath] was also skyrocketing, everything multiplying with each other in the most satisfying way.
I chewed my lips before coming to a decision. I’d been wearing [Tracks-be-gone] for a while now, and the more time I spent in the orchard the worse it’d be. I was going to be here quite a long time to boot, Lun’Kat’s injuries were extensive, and my healing wasn’t doing much. I took my well-abused backpack, slung it in front of me, and started looting, only hitting up trees and bushes in a direct line between where I’d gone to sleep, and the exit to the orchard.
Apples made up the bottom layer, followed by oranges and bananas - all fruits that I could eat whole, that wouldn’t leave evidence that [Tracks-be-gone] would need to erase. I wasn’t looking forward to eating the peels, but push was meeting shove and survival was paramount. I sprinkled the top with some softer berries. The entire time I tried to walk softly, to step in areas with harder, more packed dirt. Needing to dodge the occasional elemental was just the cherry on top. Fortunately for me, the dryad wasn’t around right now.
With one last look of longing at the stand of mango trees, and the forbidden, uneaten fruit, I left the orchard, vowing that I’d get some sort of repayment from Lun’Kat for her effectively denying me gastrointestinal bliss.
I made my way back to the main lair, where the sun was streaming in from the hole in the ceiling. The sun lit up the floor, slowly moving towards Lun’Kat.
Thinking about it - I hadn’t tried it before, but could [Wheel of Sun and Moon] work on indirect sunlight?
I snuck closer to Lun’Kat, and tried to activate the skill, focusing on healing her snout. I had no such luck.
I looked at the sun, slowly creeping across the floor. I refrained from sighing.
Being able to work on Lun’Kat twice per day was going to make this take forever, and dramatically increased the risk that she’d wake up, I’d get caught, roast Elaine, yada yada yada.
Of course, if I went and directly touched her, the same thing would happen. Dragon wakes up, Elaine-on-a-claw, Elaine-in-the-maw, and then I’d see what the afterlife normally looked like. Noooo thank you. If I was that suicidal, I would’ve let the Shluggoth eat me. I was here because I wanted to live.
No. I was going to do this the slow way. It was [Oath]-approved. She was being actively treated, she was getting better. I was here, and doing what I deemed reasonable to leave both patient and doctor alive and well in the end.
While I couldn’t directly heal Lun’Kat right now, there were other things I could do. I slowly, carefully circled her, noting every injury I could see. Every cracked scale, every bent horn. The lightning scars and broken wing, the nasty cuts and missing claws.
For each injury, I catalogued it, then started to make a medical plan. How would I treat it? What was wrong with Lun’Kat? What would be needed to fix it? Each injury, each plan of action, I knew I’d be able to easily retrieve with [Pristine Memories].
I was maybe a quarter of the way through the process when the sun started to reach Lun’Kat. I stopped my diagnosis, and got into position.
Lun’Kat had shifted around somewhat, and her tail was now lower on Mt. Loot. It was enough for the sun to reach her sooner, which allowed me to heal her sooner.
I grabbed the first set of injuries I wanted to handle, and with my pre-made image, immediately blew through all my mana healing it. Without a moment’s hesitation, I sprinted - as softly as I could - over to the Arcanite pillar I’d used last night. I still believed that my [Scintillating Ascent] wings, being made out of Radiance, would destroy my invisibility and strip one of the tiny bits of protection I had. Sure, given Lun’Kat’s incredibly high level, it was probably more like a paper sign saying “Nobody is here”, but I never knew. Every little bit helped.
Then again, there was an argument for blowing my invisibility, and using my wings to fly. I’d be quieter, and faster, which would get me out of here sooner. At the same time, if Lun’Kat stirred, she might notice me as a result, especially with the great big glowing wings, saying “INTRUDER HERE!” Lun’Kat was probably the greatest illusionist in the world, and might be able to detect my weak invisibility that I had going for me.
I didn’t know which decision was correct, but I made it, and I was going to stick with it until new information changed my mind.
Knowing the little “trick” to it, how the Arcanite “resisted” and needed a little “twist”, I was able to pull mana faster this time, before running back over to Lun’Kat.
A combination of the sun moving slightly differently across the sky, my pre-planning and determination, and Lun’Kat’s tail being lower on Mt. Loot all in all meant that I got fifteen healing sessions in this time, instead of the two I got in last night.
Lun’Kat shifted three times while I was healing her. I didn’t let it bother me - she’d either see me, or she wouldn’t. I was dead if she saw me, and alive if she didn’t. I had achieved a state of serenity about it.
I didn’t draw mana from the pillar while she was moving though. Too risky. She might be able to feel me “tugging” on it, and wake all the way up.
Either way, fifteen rounds of healing later, and the sun’s light was too high for me to reach without flying. It was nicely on Lun’Kat though, and I started to hear dragon-sized purrs come from her as she bathed in the sun.
First she acted like a princess, now like a cat. It was hard to reconcile her with the living incarnation of terror and destruction I’d seen devastating the countryside.
Now that I was done healing, I wanted to make myself scarce. Which meant the main lair was out of the question. I’d love to see what she’d done with her herb and flower gardens, but the dirt problem was rearing its ugly head again. That, and I couldn’t possibly justify going there - it would solely be for my own curiosity. It didn’t help Lun’Kat at all.
No, sadly, tragically, if I wanted to help Lun’Kat I’d need to visit her absolutely massive library. Woe is me. I wanted to see if I could find some books on dragon anatomy, to study them and see if I could improve my healing speed.
I practically skipped to the library, staying all-too-aware that being too loud could break [Muffle], and that I was still deep in the lair of a dragon. I did throw the occasional [Sunrise] at myself, figuring that I should seize the moment to eke out every last level possible.
Still! A chance to legitimately look through a dragon’s hoard of knowledge! I was so happy I could sing!
Naturally, I’d memorized exactly which side-entrance had the books. I approached it, and slowed to a stop.
Did Lun’Kat guard her knowledge as fiercely as everything else? Were there wards and security on the books? Enchantments to stop bookworms from eating everything? Elementals dusting, and patrolling around?
Little spells to slap butterflies trying to eat the books, who wanted nothing more than to snack on some delicious knowledge?
I hesitated, looking around.
Inscriptions covered large amounts of Lun’Kat’s lair. Whatever they were doing, they hadn’t detected a pest like me yet. The doorway to the library looked just like every other side-passage in Lun’Kat’s lair. There wasn’t a layer of special Inscriptions or anything.
Was getting a chance to see Lun’Kat’s library worth the risk of getting caught and eaten? Couldn’t be riskier than covertly trying to heal A DRAGON!
I had to stifle a laugh, biting down on my lower lip.
HA! Of course it was worth the risk!
I gleefully entered the library, looking up in awe. It was like a normal library, except everything was scaled up to be dragon-sized. The shelves, hallways, scrolls and books were all of a size for Lun’Kat to easily read - which meant they were nearly twice my size, and reinforced to boot. The world’s slowest ball of dust rolled through the hallways, a small, compressed cleaner, the winds being more like a puff of air.
Grabbing the most powerful elemental around wasn’t always the right call it seemed.
I had full confidence that I could pull a fairy, or a little mouse, and slowly turn the extra-extra large pages using my full body, one at a time, and read the words inside, drink the tasty nectar of knowledge, all while dodging the questionably alert sentinels.
I was being careful. I didn’t want to touch anything, not until I’d found what I was looking for. I was an unattended kid in a candy shop, told to only grab one bag of licorice. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it’s what I should do.
Yet, even as I scanned the titles of the books on the lowest level, two things jumped out at me.
The first was the symbols were completely unrecognizable. I knew how to read, but this was written with an entirely different alphabet. It might be the same language - unlikely - but I was screwed either way if I didn’t know the alphabet.
The second was the Inscriptions I’d be concerned about. They were written around the edges of every bookshelf, layers of some type of protection near the book. Lun’Kat had placed the protections practically on top of the books, instead of securing the entire library.
The third, naturally, were any elementals or other guardians Lun’Kat might have around.
Still. I was undaunted, and had nothing better to do. Then again, given the chance to browse a dragon’s library, I don’t think I’d ever have something better to do.
The titles on the books remained disappointing, and occasionally there’d be a stack of scrolls on the lower shelf. I tried to see inside of them, to check if they were worth risking the security system or not - for all I knew the ‘security’ was really just anti-bug, anti-decay Inscriptions - but they were either dark, or written in the same unknown language.
Up and down the aisles I went, searching for books that I could read. I’d take anything at this point, even if it wasn’t dragon anatomy!
Although, I really should be focusing on dragon anatomy. It was a little harder to justify why I was here, if it wasn’t to help Lun’Kat.
Then again - if I was going to die screaming if I was caught either way, why not read a few things to pass the time?
Row after row, book after book, and I was starting to despair that I’d find anything written in a language I knew. From what I’d gathered, I spoke a language I was calling “Creation” - the language all living things who’d been created on Pallos had dumped into their head. As Night had said, he’d been given a full language when created, and it was the reason the dwarves and I shared a tongue.
I would’ve expected the dragons to also have been born with the language, and assuming Lun’Kat’s moons weren’t hereditary, she’d been around almost as long as Night had. Yet, none of her books were in the language. The only thing I could think of, was that dragons had decided that they didn’t want to speak the same language as everyone else, and invented their own. Or maybe Lun’Kat wrote all her books in a cipher, that only she could understand.
Either way, as I hit the wall in the library, marking the end of the shelves - I had nothing to read.
Head low, bitterly cursing Lun’Kat out, I headed back to the main lair. No mangoes. No books. No fun way to pass the time. All this risk, and for what? A few measly levels?