79. Sleep Sucks!
I was Level 56 now. Thanks to the Drakes, I had managed to make up for all the levels I had been missing out on for the past few weeks; it wasn’t that I was unhappy dealing with Humans for an extended period of time— I really liked Humans… or, some of them— I just also couldn’t wait to become an Archdemon. Which, the more I thought about, seemed like wasn’t coming next.
Once we left the territory of the Drakes, re-entering a more barren region of the Motharis Mountain Range, my leveling stalled once again. No longer were there monsters above Level 60. The one monster Species we met that was above that threshold were docile— so we didn’t attack those [Ezarbs]. In fact, there was a Level 69 one that was nice.
While we continued traversing, sailing slowly towards our destination, I tested out the Skills I had finally maxed out. [Ignition] and [Self Haste]. The former being maxed let me control the fire coating my body even better— I could concentrate it more on different limbs instead of just having it uniformly spread out. Meanwhile, the latter being maxed… made me faster.
I was surprised!
“Were you really?”
Daniel asked, looking at me dubiously.
I beamed back.
Other than that, I wasn’t exactly certain how close my remaining Skills were to being maxed. I assumed that [Advanced Fire Creation] was going to have the same number of levels [Basic Fire Creation] did, but I could not know for sure. I tried asking Daniel about it, but…
“How should I know?! I’m as clueless as you about these things!”
He wasn’t any help.
And finally, after navigating our way through different biomes and parts of the Motharis Mountain Range, we arrived.
“This is it.”
“This is the Brilsum Ruins?”
I cocked my head. What lay before us was a vast canyon— multiple rolling valleys cut into each other, forming haphazard intersections of all shapes and sizes. It was like a [Hellhound] had torn into the land, and the thin stream of water flowing through it was the blood dripping from its victim.
The orange landscape— a far more vibrant color than the dull gray of the mountain peaks, or the dark green of the forests in between mountains— was an almost welcoming sight; this was our destination. This had been where the city of Brilsum had lain many, many years ago. And this was where it had been laid to rest too.
A city state was what the Humans called it. One that was surrounded by natural barriers, protecting it from other angry Humans— or Kobolds, or Elves, or Dwarves…
The dangerous monsters in the area served to their advantage, stalling any army that may have tried to invade them, this treacherous trip inflicting too much attrition on their enemies. But it did not stop everyone.
When the Oracle of Light, Melissa, was summoned to the Nexeus, she was to end a great war between the two warring Human empires at the time. But after her job was finished, she journeyed to the Spirit Plane and met with the Fairy Queen, before coming back and destroying every Fairy temple across the Human lands. And since the city of Brilsum had been started from a Fairy temple… it suffered from her wrath. The entire city was destroyed.
Such power— that is how strong [Heroes] are. To destroy an entire city on her own. And yet—
I glanced over at my useless companion as he scoffed and shook his head, responding to my question.
“This isn’t the Brilsum Ruins— it’s… why are you staring at me like that?”
“Nothing. Just disappointed.”
“Wait, what are you disappointed about?!”
I ignored him and entered the entrance to the deep crevice. He chased after me, sputtering protests.
“Is this about that [Hero] Melissa again? I knew I shouldn’t have told you that story! It was just a legend, we don’t actually know if it’s real—”
The two of us spent the day scouring the large gorge, walking alongside the rushing river cutting through it. No monsters attacked us here; there was no living creature to be seen or even heard in this canyon. Only the splashing waters were audible to my ears— but even when I stared through the clear glass-like surface…
I observed. Daniel nodded.
“Yeah, this place doesn’t give me good vibes.”
I glanced back at him, the words registering oddly to me. It only took me a moment to realize he was speaking in his native tongue— English. It was something I asked him to do. To switch languages from time to time, to try and level up my [Universal Language Comprehension]. So far, there weren't any substantive results.
“It reminds me of the Netherworld. So quiet. So serene. Until a wild Demon comes out and tries to claw your face off.”
“Well, we don’t have to worry about those here. Just gotta look out for monsters, monsters, and… more monsters. I f—”
I rubbed at my ears.
“Stop switching between languages. You know I stop understanding you when you do that!”
“I just prefer cursing in English. It sounds so much nicer.”
“It all sounds the same to me.”
“And that is?”
I shrugged, not really sure how to explain.
“They all sound like words.”
It made sense to me, however Daniel was confused. Not bothering to elucidate him— or try to figure out myself— on how my Racial Skill worked, I continued walking past him as the sun set on the horizon.
The orange canvas above slowly turned blue as the twilight settled into night. Soon, only a single thin slit in the dark curtain illuminated the land below, and the dotted, twinkling spots served to only complement the crescent moon’s glow.
Daniel’s pace slowed as he groggily trudged behind me in the muddied ground. I trooped ahead, undeterred and unaffected by the late night, only stopping when Daniel decided to stop whining and just collapse on the ground.
“I’m too tired, Salvos. We woke up before the sun even rose this morning. It’s past midnight now!”
“Doesn’t your [Hero] Class give you any Skills to help you deal with sleep?”
“No. It doesn’t.”
He sighed, sprawling himself on the ground like a corpse. Or a really tired Human.
I shook my head and sat myself down. I created a ball of fire— an actual ball— and placed it on the ground, rolling it to him.
I spoke simply. He raised a brow and turned to face me.
“What’s this for— ouch, hot.”
“Of course it’s hot. It’s fire.”
I rolled my eyes. I glanced up at the steep incline before me and slowly began undressing.
“Wait, Salvos, what are you—”
The Human man jumped to his feet and covered his eyes. I ignored him as my body began to shift. Cracks resounded in the night, like that of a smattering of rocks being crushed together, as I grew taller and larger.
My now pale skin almost seemed like snow in the moonlight— and my golden eyes had an almost luminescent glow to it. I dropped my clothes to the ground, taking a moment to see myself in the river water. I stood tall on two legs. But my arms were long too— if I bent over even slightly, they would be touching the floor.
I had a long face— almost like that of a [Hellhound]. It wasn’t the snout-like protrusion of a dog covered in fur, more like if you took what was underneath all that fur and smacked it on me. That was my face. Except with horns jutting out of the sides.
I turned to face Daniel who was suddenly unbothered by the fact that I was naked, and staring at me with a confused face.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m just going to climb up to the top of the canyon. Scale this cliff. See if I can spot anything.”
“Uh, what about me?”
I raised a nonexistent eyebrow at him.
“What about you?”
“What if a monster attacks me when I’m sleeping?”
I scoffed— although it came out more like a wheeze— and began to climb up.
“You’re not going to be attacked by anything. There’s been no monsters so far! And I won’t go too far, so don’t worry.”
He tried calling out to me but I was already halfway to the top; I was finished climbing a moment later, and found myself on a kind of plateau. I glanced back down and saw Daniel had already resigned himself to sleeping alone and was rolling out his bed.
I cast my gaze across the vast landscape, trying to see if I could see the remains of a city anywhere in the many gorges that spread out like a spiderweb etched onto the ground. I saw nothing.
I looked and looked, but found it to be pointless.
The canyon was just that— a canyon. It was bare. Empty of life. There was no evidence anything had been here. It was just like the Netherworld, but it left me even more wanting.
I sat there at the edge of the rocky cliff as Daniel slept below. There, I began practicing my mana manipulation, fire creation, and a plethora of other Skills I could improve on. I focused on refining my magic— in weaving the threads of mana together to form something more than rugged clothing: to create a luxurious dress befitting a Princess like me.
And after weeks and months of practice. I… succeeded.
General Skill [Advanced Mana Manipulation] Level Up!
[Advanced Mana Manipulation - Lvl. 3] -> [Advanced Mana Manipulation - Lvl. 4]!
Experience is awarded for the leveling of a General Skill!
I stared down at the kusarigama in my hand with wide eyes. I… did it! I finally made the same weapon Jaakko had used!
I pumped a fist in the air as the metal from the chains clanged in a fiery sound.
“I did it! And I leveled up a General Skill too!”
I excitedly glanced down to tell Daniel— and I saw him standing up, walking further into the canyon. I blinked.
I called out to him but got no response. I leapt down to the bottom of the cliff, landing a little heavier than I would have in my Mortal Form. My eyes glazed over the camp he had briefly set up, left behind as he disappeared in the distance.
“Why would he…”
I picked up my clothes and tossed it in his bag, quickly gathering his things before I rushed after him. It didn’t take me long to catch up to the Human man. He was far slower than me, after all.
I put a hand out and grabbed at his shoulder—
But he shrugged me off and continued walking. I frowned and ran around him, speaking.
“Daniel, what are you doing? If you could have continued you should have just said so—”
I paused right as I circled to his front. I stared at my companion as he walked past me, eyes closed, not a single word of mine reaching him.
Staring after Daniel, I watched as he headed deeper into the canyon, almost disappearing behind a thin veil of mist that had come with the night. I took a moment to gather myself before hurrying after him once again.
“Daniel, why are you walking when you’re sleeping? Is this a Skill? Or is something else moving you?”
I waved a hand in front of him, trying to find any invisible thread that could have been pulling him along. Nope, so it isn’t the work of Giant Spiders then. I thought one of them might have been using their threads to control his movements. If that wasn’t the case, it was probably some kind of magic. And all I had to do was wake him up!
I raised a hand and smacked Daniel across the face, screaming.
The Human man recoiled, taking the blow and stumbling back. I waited for him to react— to snap back a reply. But he stayed in the same position for a moment. I blinked.
And he unsheathed his blade and swung at me.