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Chapter 35 - Darkwood Hollow III

Claire was underground. She was lying down with her breath held and her body fully submerged. Her back was touching the soil, mostly because she was unable to swim or even stay afloat. Something about her constitution made it so she would always slowly sink to the bottom of any body of water she entered. It was a bit of an odd trait, considering that lamias were supposed to be semi-aquatic.

Back when she lived at the manor, she had always thought of the characteristic as an inconvenience. It made entertaining Alice incredibly difficult. The foal was obsessed with the lake in the castle’s courtyard and she would often descend from their home in the clouds just to frolic in it. And Claire had always accompanied her. The two had always been as close as sisters.

The halfbreed started to say, “I miss her,” only to stop as her mouth was suddenly flooded by a torrent of water. Half choking, she climbed up to the burrow’s entrance, refilled her lungs, and descended back into the depths.

Her location was a function of her predicament. She was in hiding. The rogue had murdered the largest raven, as well as all the others in its immediate vicinity, but there was another flock inbound, and she was far too exhausted to deal with it. The weariness wasn’t physical. If anything, the level up that came with the kill had left her body refreshed and full of energy. Her mind, however, was not. She needed a break. It was already late into the afternoon; she had spent half the day on high alert and the other half in combat.

Knowing that the ravens would freak out upon discovering the largest bird’s corpse, the half-lamia had stuffed it in a random burrow soon after retrieving any weapons still stuck inside of it. The bloated pigeon’s body didn’t exactly fit in the entrance, but that was a problem easily solved through the application of brute force.

The halfbreed’s biggest concern about her hiding spot—the burrow right next to the one the corpse was in—was that it was filthy. The water wasn’t quite as dirty as the swamp water, but it was still muddy and sad. Air was an issue too, albeit to a lesser degree. She could stay underwater for around two hours at a time if she kept still. And as the hole’s entrance was covered with a pile of leaves, it was unlikely that she would be caught in the act of catching her breath. The only other problem was that she had no idea how long it would take for the ravens to go away. There was no way for her to check without running the risk of exposure.

With a frown, the halfbreed directed her gaze towards her log. She had actively avoided looking at it ever since she went hunting for antlers. Sorting through the fifty-odd notifications that came with all her frog kills had seemed like a pain at the time, and the extra hundred from all the raven slaying only made the monolithic task even more tedious. But now that she was stuck underground, the halfbreed decided to suck it up and get it over with.

Scrolling through the list, she skipped over the vast majority of the entries, paying attention only to the ones that caught her eye.

Log Entry 692
You have slain a level 27 Llystletein toadempole.

This feat has earned you the following bonus rewards:
- 3 points of agility
- 2 points of dexterity
- 5 points of strength
- 7 points of vitality

What’s the difference between a frogpole and a toadempole, and why do they live together? Are they just variants of the same species?

Log Entry 714
Dancing has reached level 6.

How did that happen?

Log Entry 715
You have unlocked the Club Dancer class.

Club Dancer...? That sounds promising. Dancing around with a club might even look better than dancing around with a sword.

Log Entry 825
You have slain a level 34 Altered Emperaven.

This feat has earned you the following bonus rewards:
- 2 points of agility
- 1 point of spirit
- 1 point of strength
- 1 point of vitality
- 1 point of wisdom

The bird wasn’t even a Llystletein variant? Why was it so tough?

Log Entry 826
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 25.

Your primary class, Llystletein Rogue, has reached level 34.

And it barely gave any experience, only one level in each class... Nearly all the levels I gained today came from the frogs.

You have been awarded the following bonuses for reaching Halfbreed’s 25th milestone:
- A second class slot.
- The Paralyzing Gaze skill.
- 10 points in each ability score.

You have gained 8 ability points.

A second class slot already? I thought I wasn’t supposed to get one of those until I ascended.

Claire crossed her arms, closed her eyes, and frowned. It was a bit of a surprise, but not one that was unwelcome or unprecedented. She had heard of similar things happening to other people, and there was no downside to having more power. That said, she didn’t make any immediate decisions. Sylvia had mentioned that touching the hexstone would unlock another class and neither Barbarian nor Hunter came off as particularly appealing. Club Dancer seemed promising, based on its name, but she decided against considering it or examining it in more detail before all her options were on the table.

I’ll figure out what I do with all these ability points once I pick my class.

Log Entry 841
Envenom has reached level 10. A new poison, quicksilver, has been unlocked.

Isn’t that the stuff they use in all the plays? I wonder if it’s as deadly as they always make it seem. I should find something to test it on…

Setting the thought aside for the time being, the half-half-snake took a quick glance at her newest skill.

Paralyzing Gaze - Level 1
Cold and lacking in compassion, you have chosen to label innocent creatures as prey, time and time again. Many you have attacked for the sole purpose of your growth. Your heartlessness is reflected in your gaze, which is capable of triggering flight responses in the faint of heart. This trait is one of many reasons that you are unlikely to ever be wed.

P.S. Please be aware that violence and retaliation are not always the best ways to display your affection.

Effects
- Your glares are more intimidating.
- It is possible for you to paralyze an entity by staring into its eyes. This ability can be resisted and is less effective in combat.
- The strength and duration of the paralysis fluctuate with the amount of mana invested. The upper limit is equal to your highest ability score + 11% (10% + 1% per level) of your maximum mana.

I hate you too, Box.

“Claire!”

The halfbreed heard a muffled voice right as she began playing with a silver-coated dagger. Turning towards its source, she found her guide, barely visible beneath the murky depths. The faint green glow of a spell was the only reason she could be seen. When did she get here?

“What are you down here for? There’s a really nice lake like 20 minutes away if you want to take a bath. It’s a lot cleaner, and there’s lots of really tasty fish in it too.”

I’m hiding from the ravens, you idiot.

Having learned her lesson the first time, Claire kept her mouth shut and flapped her arms like a bird.

“Oh, right... You can’t talk yet.” The fox giggled as she stood up on her hind legs and pressed her paws against one of Claire’s arms. “One sec.” With everything in place, she hummed a quick note, accompanied by a surge of magic.

A strange sensation came over the blueblood as her companion’s aura grew to envelop her. The stimulus was reminiscent of the one the vixen had used to take her underwater the first time, but it wasn’t exactly the same. As Claire was already submerged, she didn’t suddenly start shivering, nor did she feel the urge to scratch her eyes. Instead, she experienced the anomaly that was her body drying off in the blink of an eye. Her hair, her skin, and her clothes all went from wet to dry without so much as a moment’s pause.

“There, you should be able to talk now. Oh, and I dried you off too since I thought it’d be nice. I really hate it when my fur gets all wet, and I’ll even start to smell if I don’t get all the water out before it starts getting nasty.”

“I’m hiding from the ravens.”

“Well, I guessed that much, but they’re gone already. And why didn’t you just use the tunnel we made before the fight? That one isn’t anywhere near as wet and muddy.”

Oops.

Claire averted her eyes. “No reason.”

“I’m sure there has to be some sort of reason. Did you need to pee?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?” The fox raised her brow. “I don’t think I’ve seen you go in like forever!”

“None of your business.”

“Well, ummm, anyway, the steelwings are already gone. I think they’re looking for the big guy because they stuck around for a little bit before leaving,” said the fox, her tail wagging. “Oh, and I can’t believe you took down their boss that easily! How did you know you weren’t supposed to hit it with magic?”

“What are you talking about?”

“It was a warlock, so it’s great at draining the mana out of your magic and throwing it right back at you. Wait, you didn’t know? Then why were you just hitting it?”

“Because I wanted to,” said the rogue. “Why didn’t you tell me anything earlier?”

“Well, it wouldn’t really be much of a trial if I did, would it? Isn’t that why you’re here?”

“No. It’s not.” Claire sharpened her gaze.

“Oh… Well anyway, you can go use the hexstone now, if you’d like. It’s a good chance since everyone else is still gone.”

“Don’t hide things from me next time.”

“Okay, okay, I won’t, even if it seems kinda fu—” Sylvia covered her mouth with her paws. “Erm, I mean, I promise I won’t, and I swear I wasn’t up to no good, so please stop glaring at me!”

Claire frowned. “It didn’t work.”

“Huh? What are you talking about? Sure I get scared really easily, but you’re not spooking me, Claire. I know you’re totally harmless!”

“I was testing a skill on you.”

“W-wait, I thought you were harmless! W-why the heck would you do that!?” shouted the fox. She waved her paws around angrily with her ears folded forward and her tail straight up in the air.

I guess 25 mana didn’t cut it… Let’s try 250.

“You shouldn’t test skills on people without their permission! In fact, you shouldn’t be testing skills on people at al—”

“It worked,” said the half-snake. Her eyes were glowing with a piercing blue light, evidence of her guilt.

Observing the frozen fox from several different angles, Claire nodded in satisfaction. Sylvia had been totally robbed of her ability to move. She didn’t react or resist when the rogue fiddled with her paws, pulled on her tongue, or played with her tail.

“Claire!” Only after a few seconds did the fox finally respond. “What the heck! I just told you not to test things on me! Do you know how weird that was!? I could still see and feel, but I couldn’t move no matter how hard I tried. It was like I was having a really weird nightmare!”

“You deserved it,” said Claire. “Be glad I’m saving the quicksilver for a raven.”

“Would it kill you to be a tiny bit nicer to me? Why do you have to be such a grouch? Not even Grant is as mean as you are, and he’s the biggest jerk around.”

Ignoring the vixen, the bluescale crawled up through the burrow’s entrance. After confirming that there were no ravens around, she walked over to the clearing’s rune-covered centerpiece and placed a hand on it.

But nothing happened.

That’s weird… Claire frowned as she reflected on her previous experience. Maybe I have to touch it with my forehead? ...Nope, that wasn’t it either.

Log Entry 847
Detect Force Magic has reached level 7.

What if I just headbutted it?

She didn’t know exactly where the idea had come from, but for reasons beyond her comprehension, it just felt right.

So she did it. She reared her head, braced for impact, and bashed her skull against the monolith.

The impact was dizzying. Claire’s eyes were spinning, and a loud ringing filled her ears. The damage hadn’t been all that severe, but she felt like she was on the verge of passing out.

“Hah! I can’t believe you actually went ahead and did that,” said a familiar deep voice. Its chortling only served to amplify her pain and annoyance. “Hilarious, absolutely hilarious! I knew you would be one of the fun ones.”

Though still reeling, the halfbreed forced herself to focus as she faced the librarian head on. Her demeanor changed. Her legs and back were straight, and she kept one hand at her side while she wrapped the other around her waist. Likewise, her expression also tensed. A calm but cold poker face.

“Oh, relax already. I gave you great advice last time, didn’t I? It isn’t my fault you didn’t listen.” The human took a drag from his pipe, a cheeky grin on his face. “Now, I’ve got deadlines to meet, so why don’t we get down to business?”

He raised his ancient wand and tapped one of the many documents lying around on his desk. Like the first, it was an old piece of parchment, a dark yellow sheepskin whose colour verged on brown. The ink on it was faded, barely legible—not that she would have been able to read it, even if it was more clear. Despite its apparent age, the record was well preserved. Its edges were as unfrayed as they were on the date of its creation.

Log Entry 848
You have read The Lost Library’s Second Chapter. It has been transcribed into your native language as the following log entry.

Log Entry 849
Hello, trial goer, and congratulations on finding a second set of instructions. The path to the Grand Cathedral is thorny and necessitates the risk of death, but that does not mean it is unreasonable. You may very well benefit from seeking the aid of others, but do not rely upon it. Never forget that you are to them as they are to you, another competitor and source of experience.

Comprehending the contents of this message will grant the following boons:
- Access to two new classes. In your particular case, a librarian has decided that these will be Llystletein Force Mage and Llystletein Bloodzerker.
- Access to a second class slot, if it is not already available.
- A brief but substantial audience with the Head Librarian, during which you will be assigned a task to complete for an additional bonus.

Two classes? That’s not bad…

“Before you ask me any questions, I’d just like to mention that I took great joy in what you did to the huskar.” Eyes twinkling, the human set down his pipe and took a sip from a wooden mug covered in vines and flowers. “Admittedly, I was a little disappointed that you didn’t finish him off. I’d appreciate it if you could slit his throat the next time. That incorrigible leech deserves every bit of punishment that comes his way.”

“Is that supposed to be my task?”

The wizard leaned forward and propped his chin up with a fist.

“I would have liked that, but he’s ready for you, and you’re not ready for him,” he said, as he flicked his wand. “But I will offer you a reward, on the off chance you manage to catch him unawares again.”

Log Entry 850
You have received a quest - Kill Archibald Ravensworn.

Primary Objective: Archibald Ravensworn is slain

Deadline: N/A

This quest’s reward will be determined at the time of the completion. Its value will depend on the satisfaction the Head Librarian derives from the target’s death.

“As for your actual task… Let’s go with something a little more achievable, shall we?”

Log Entry 851
You have received a quest - Destroy Borrok Peak.

Primary Objectives:
- The borrok lifegiver is slain
- The borrok sentinel is slain

Bonus Objectives:
- Marleena Morgan survives
- Carter Grassrunner survives
- Borrok Peak is vandalized beyond recognition
- Beckard Links does not attempt to speak to you

Deadline: 170 hours

This quest’s reward is 50 points in each ability score, with an added bonus of 5 additional points per bonus objective completed. Failing to complete this quest before the deadline will result in the forfeiture of its reward.

“Yes, that should do. The borroks have just finished repopulating. It should be time to trim them down so that they don’t get out of hand.” The man nodded to himself as he popped his pipe back into his mouth. “Now… any questions?”

__

Claire

Health: 304/304
Mana: 750/750
Health Regen: 68/hour
Mana Regen: 388/hour

Ability Scores - 48 Points Available
- Agility: 115
- Dexterity: 127
- Spirit: 75
- Strength: 117
- Vitality: 68
- Wisdom: 194

Racial Class: Halfbreed - Level 25.19
- Lashing Tailstrike - Level 1.00
- Paralyzing Gaze - Level 1.40
- Quadrupedal Bloodrush - Level 1.01

Primary Class: Llystletein Rogue - Level 34.65
- Assassinate - Level 6.40
- Bloodthief - Level 3.14
- Charm Catgirl - Level 1.00
- Cloak and Dagger - Level 6.66
- Double Stab - Level 8.16
- Envenom - Level 10.97
- Manathief - Level 1.00

Secondary Class: Unselected

Unclassed Skills
- Artifact Manipulation - Level 1.00
- Club Mastery - Level 9.39
- Dagger Mastery - Level 7.82
- Dancing - Level 6.02
- Detect Force Magic - Level 7.79
- Digging - Level 10.27
- English - Level 25
- Llystletein Authority - Level 3.97
- Makeshift Weapon Mastery - Level 9.62
- Marish - Level 19.02
- Sneaking - Level 9.83
- Spear Mastery - Level 3.82
- Sword Mastery - Level 6.45
- Throwing - Level 4.80
- Tracking - Level 8.37
- Unarmed Combat Mastery - Level 5.16

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Spicy Space Squid

Bio: Surprisingly tangy and delicious.

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