Chapter 28 - The Secret Lives of Llystletein Foxes II
Three days in a row? Give me a break…
Claire sighed as she looked around the dreamscape, her gaze eventually settling on its owner. She knew that she couldn’t reach him with her words, so she crossed her arms and put her foot down with the most annoyed scowl she could muster.
The man’s physical form remained unmoving, staring at the glowing rectangular artifact anchored to his wall. His astral phantom, however, was glancing left and right, as if to seek the source of her displeasure.
Tapping one of her feet against the ground and huffing finally led the man to point a finger at himself while raising a brow.
Yes, you. Claire mouthed the words while vigorously nodding her head.
He stared blankly at her for a few moments, then tapped the bottom of his fist against his open palm.
A word etched itself into her mind as the man smiled, sheepishly.
Sure it is.
The halfbreed rolled her eyes before directing her gaze back towards his body. He was still dressed in the loose white outfit he wore during her last visit, metal headband and all, but he didn’t seem nearly as focused on his magical box as he was previously. His eyes were closed, his legs were crossed, and his hands were placed upside down in his lap.
Within the enchanted cube was a group of tiny bald humans in the exact same pose. They were repeating a sort of mantra in a language she failed to understand, but otherwise, they remained still as stone, their bright orange robes unmoving save for when disturbed by the wind.
Observing his other self, the phantom chuckled and slowly shook his head, throwing his messy hair even further into disarray.
With a wave of his hand, he changed it from day to night. His body blurred momentarily, executing a thousand actions, as it warped around the room. He settled in his previous position right as the temporal shift was completed with a knobby rectangular device in hand. Fiddling with it, he kept his eyes focused on the wall-mounted artifact, which once again appeared to feature an oddly familiar but unclear illustration of a long-eared teen. She still couldn’t make out any other details of its appearance, no matter how hard she squinted.
The background, however, was so crisp and vivid that it almost seemed to be mocking her. She could see the cracks in the paved stone road, the mortar between each pair of bricks, and even the far off birds, soaring through the distant sky.
The phantom gestured towards the moving illustration Claire was unable to fully perceive, then put up his fists and punched the air several times in succession. Slow, easily perceivable strikes.
The halfbreed shook her head, prompting the human to raise his hand to his chin. And after a brief pause, his frown transformed into a faint smile. He snapped his fingers and created a projection of the device that his other self was toying with. If not for its ethereal nature, it would have been an exact duplicate.
Log Entry 662
Detect Force Magic has reached level 6.
The knob embedded into its left side moved by itself. It went right, down, and then into the corner between the two as an oddly reflective red circle, whose frame was marked with a cross, depressed itself into the inexplicably shaped wand.
“Repeat. Forward. Down. Down-forward. X.”
The long sequence of words appeared in her mind, one by one, each a pale white entry upon a pitch black canvas. She looked at him, raising a brow as the pattern repeated itself over and over.
He pointed to her hands, then at the wand before gesturing towards his other self.
She slowly reached towards the device, but her hands were unable to make contact. They phased right through. Claire turned to the man for guidance, but he didn’t react, even as she moved her hands back and forth through his creation.
The projected artifact repeated its previous action set, the knob phasing through her fingers as it moved. At the man’s command, she began to pretend that she was its operator, moving her hands in tandem with its unchanging pattern. She found it difficult to match, but she began to grasp the rhythm after a few repetitions.
And as she finally got it just right, a notification popped into her half-lucid mind.
Log Entry 663
You have acquired the Artifact Manipulation skill.
The man cheered, pumping his fists into the air as he floated towards her. But his face turned sour as soon as he read the log’s entry from over her shoulder. With his lips pressed tight and his eyes focused inward, he stepped over to the nearest wall and soundlessly bashed his head against it a dozen times over.
Claire stared at him in shock as the dream drew to an abrupt close. The ground disappeared and her surroundings darkened as everything suddenly vanished. All that was left was the abyss.
This time, she was ready. She placed her hands in front of her right as she was overwhelmed by the sensation of the fall. An impact rippled through her a moment later, followed by a second as her knees hit the ground. Raising the corners of her lips, the halfbreed slowly opened her eyes. The dirt was just a few inches from her face.
Ugh… stupid bell. Why do you have to be so loud? Shut up already!
Unable to revel in the tiny but remarkable victory, she clasped her hands over her ears as she rolled onto her back. The magical toll was back, and with it, a headache for the ages. Claire grit her teeth, trying her best to bear with it as she scanned the room. The first thing she noticed was the lack of darkness. Sunlight was streaming in from multiple directions, keeping the den just as illuminated as it had been when she went to sleep.
Isn’t it supposed to be night? The halfbreed frowned. She had to shout internally just to hear her own voice. I thought the bell rang at sunrise and sunset. How long did I sleep?
Claire was fairly sure that it was morning, as she felt the same way that she typically did after a good night’s rest, but she was also on the forest floor. Isn’t the forest only available at night? Did I sleep through the first bell and miss getting flipped? Does it even work like that?
Throwing the alarm and its rules on her list of questions, Claire looked for the fox that was supposed to answer them.
She scanned both the ceiling and the floor, but the vixen was nowhere to be seen. The only trace of her that remained was a small pile of ropes off in one of the room’s corners.
Log Entry 664
You have heeded the Whisper of Mirewood Meadow. The Lord of the Holt awaits those who dare to challenge it.
The ringing was gone, but it took another few minutes for the halfbreed’s headache to abate. Only after it faded did she slowly sit up and perform a second, more careful sweep of her surroundings. Sylvia had evidently spent at least part of the night digging out more of the den, as there were now three chambers in total. Two were roughly the same size, whereas the last was the bathroom, a small alcove sequestered away from the rest of the living space.
She didn’t even try to run. Claire rubbed her temples. Is she stupid? Tracking confirmed that the half fox was inbound. She was slowly making her way over to the den, moving through the forest at a leisurely pace.
Popping open her log, Claire ascertained that the previous night’s acquisitions had been real. It was always hard to tell. The methods used in her dreams were shady at best; she found it incredibly difficult to trust them, in part due to a lack of consistency. There had been a few rare occasions where the dreams really were just dreams.
Log Entry 665
You have slain a level 57 Llystletein caveshaman.
A brand new entry popped up right as she confirmed that Artifact Manipulation was more than another figment of her imagination.
Huh? Oh… right. Poison. She closed her eyes for a moment as she recalled the berry she had poisoned on a whim. Level 57? No wonder it shrugged off the knife stuck in its face.
This feat has earned you the following bonus rewards:
- 5 points of agility
- 10 points of dexterity
- 5 points of spirit
- 5 points of strength
- 5 points of vitality
- 20 points of wisdom
That’s a lot of bonuses, much more than the hellhog, even though their levels weren’t that different. Is it because it was ascended?
“Wait… Box! What do you mean, caveshaman!? It lived in the trees! It used wood magic! At least call it a treeshaman!”
Log Entry 666
You have unlocked a new spawnable food item.
Log Entry 667
You have leveled up. Your health and mana have been restored and all harmful status effects have been cleansed.
Your racial class, Halfbreed, has reached level 20.
Your primary class, Llystletein Rogue, has reached level 26.
You have been awarded the following bonuses for reaching Llystletein Rogue’s 25th milestone.
- The Charm Catgirl class skill
- 20 points of agility
- 20 points of dexterity
You have gained 32 ability points.
The following Llystletein Rogue skill has been acquired:
Bloodthief sounds like it might be useful, but Charm Catgirl? Why? I bet this is a part of the curse. Stupid head librarian.
Log Entry 668
Envenom has reached level 7.
Log Entry 669
Assassinate has reached level 6.
Log Entry 670
Sneaking has reached level 8.
Log Entry 671
Throwing has reached level 3.
Log Entry 672
Makeshift Weapon Mastery has reached level 7.
Log Entry 673
Achievement Unlocked - Systematic Defiance
You have slain an entity of an ascension level greater than your own. This feat will be remembered.
Great. Now I just need 30 more halfbreed levels.
Artifact Manipulation — Level 1
You have, over the course of several hours, learned to manipulate a tool that five year olds are capable of handling with masterful ease. Congratulations, you can now safely say that you are more intelligent than the average dog.
- You gain a basic, intuitive understanding of every artifact you touch.
Charm Catgirl — Level 1
Your inexplicable preference for catgirls has wreaked such havoc on your mental health that you have managed to delude yourself into believing that you are capable of charming them. Please be aware that a divine force has noted your degenerative tendencies and placed you on a watchlist. Seeking a therapist is strongly advised.
- Amplifies the effect of the Catgirl Enthusiast achievement
- You are capable of inflicting the Charm status on any catgirl that remains within 1.1m (1m + 0.1m per level) of you for 590 seconds (600 seconds - 10 seconds per level)
- The Charm status will last for 65 minutes (60 minutes + 5 minutes per level)
- The proximity timer will reset after the catgirl spends 65 minutes (60 minutes + 5 minutes per level) outside of the skill’s effect range
- It is possible for this skill to occasionally trigger automatically while in the presence of a catgirl
- Any level 25 Llystletein class
- Acquired the Catgirl Enthusiast Achievement
It... amplifies the curse? No! Anything but that!
Bloodthief — Level 1
It is often said that there is a fine line between a genius and an idiot. You have proven this statement unequivocally false by ignoring a key feature of your primary class. Knowing that you are being rewarded for your behaviour brings me nothing but pain. The celestial responsible for encouraging this tomfoolery will be punished.
- Phantom strikes are now capable of recovering health equal to 1.2% (1% + 0.2% per level) of the damage dealt.
- Unlock the Manathief skill before reaching level 25 as a Llystletein Rogue
- Reach level 25 as a Llystletein Rogue without casting Manathief a single time
Manathief? I forgot that skill existed.
Charm Catgirl aside, Claire was satisfied with all her new acquisitions. Killing the shaman had provided her with one of her most notable growth spurts yet. Her ability scores had skyrocketed overnight and she was even the proud owner of a new combat-worthy passive skill. With enough time and investment, Bloodthief was sure to provide her with the edge she needed.
“Thirty nine ability points...” she mumbled. “I should spend some.”
The rogue closed her eyes as she reflected on the day’s experiences. The first stat she considered was strength. There was certainly an argument for bolstering it, given that both veabers she attacked had completely disregarded the physical damage she inflicted, but she wasn’t too concerned. At the end of the day, both had still died.
Besides, I bet they were only that durable because they were Llystletein variants. The stupid mimic thing was really stubborn too.
Spirit and wisdom were also quickly set aside. She didn’t feel like she needed the magic resistance provided by the former, and she had no magic of her own to leverage the latter. Likewise, dexterity didn’t seem like it would do anything to help her in the immediate future—her fingers were already every bit as nimble and precise as they needed to be. The only thing they had failed at was turning her melee weapons into projectiles.
I’m not going to be doing any more of that anyway. I keep losing everything I throw.
With four of the six ability scores disqualified, Claire was left with the only seemingly worthwhile investments. Agility was a no-brainer. Even the squirrels were faster than her and she didn’t have the technique to make up for the difference. Vitality, however, was a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, she didn’t want to invest in it because it was useless if she didn’t get hit, and on the other, she didn’t want to die.
I’ll put a few points into both. I might as well get them to nice-round-numbers while I’m at it.
Having altered her ability scores, the halfbreed turned towards the burrow’s freshly crafted second entrance right as a familiar fox climbed through it.
Health Regen: 50/hour
Mana Regen: 366/hour
Ability Scores - 2 Points Available
- Agility: 100
- Dexterity: 115
- Spirit: 64
- Strength: 101
- Vitality: 50
- Wisdom: 183
Racial Class: Halfbreed - Level 20.45
- Quadrupedal Bloodrush - Level 1.01
- Lashing Tailstrike - Level 1.00
Primary Class: Llystletein Rogue - Level 26.91
- Assassinate - Level 6.40
- Bloodthief - Level 1.00
- Charm Catgirl - Level 1.00
- Cloak and Dagger - Level 4.11
- Double Stab - Level 6.02
- Envenom - Level 7.11
- Manathief - Level 1.00
- Artifact Manipulation - Level 1.00
- Club Mastery - Level 5.73
- Dagger Mastery - Level 4.51
- Dancing - Level 5.24
- Detect Force Magic - Level 6.11
- Digging - Level 8.34
- English - Level 25
- Llystletein Authority - Level 3.92
- Makeshift Weapon Mastery - Level 7.00
- Marish - Level 18.99
- Sneaking - Level 8.61
- Spear Mastery - Level 3.82
- Sword Mastery - Level 4.67
- Throwing - Level 3.15
- Tracking - Level 7.27
- Unarmed Combat Mastery - Level 3.36