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Chapter 92 - Giant Frogs and Wooden Dogs IV

Having decided to sleep away all her problems, Claire sat up and greeted the morning with her mind fully refreshed. For once, she managed to get through the night without experiencing any lucid dreams.

Though she wasn’t bothered by any unwanted giggles, she didn’t rest for nearly as long as she had on any other day. When she opened her eyes, she found that there wasn’t even a hint of the morning on the horizon. The moon was still high up in the sky and the night was dotted with stars, all perfectly visible thanks to a distinct lack of sunlight. Even Sylvia, who was often up before her, was still sound asleep. The fox had once again turned into a fairy and used her tail as both a bed and a blanket.

She was awfully tempted to play a prank on pet-in-denial. Pinching her nose shut, suddenly dipping her in the water, and tickling her awake all seemed like perfectly valid methods of harassment. But despite entertaining a number of possibilities, the lyrkress chose not to act on any of them. She dismissed her mischievous plans, plucked the tiny elf-like sprite from her feathery mane, and set her down by the firepit. The flames themselves had long petered out, but she figured it was at least warmer than the draughty excuse for a tent that the canid had made of palm leaves.

Stepping to the shore, she walked along the beach until the sleeping, upside down manatees were out of sight before taking another look at her status. Surely enough, she found everything she expected. Divinity was still present. It was neither a dream nor a hallucination, but rather a real acquisition she could hardly believe. She had only ever heard of a few people capable of channelling the sacred stat, with her father being one of them.

The moose-snake had no idea how she managed to acquire it, but there was no mistaking its presence. She could feel it inside of her, occupying the same circuit as her mana. Some of the fiery fervour flowed through her body, but most remained concentrated in her shard. The ice was acting as would a repository, a battery to contain the almost foreign power that her body was otherwise incapable of handling. She could tell, from the way her circuits burned, that it was the only reason she could handle five whole units. Without the elemental power source, she suspected her upper limit would have sat at a solid two thirds of a point.

Sensing the divine force was easy. Getting it to do her bidding, however, was not. The most she could do without any instruction was channel it as she would her mana. Knowing of arcane magic, a renowned school that focused entirely on the release of raw magical energy, led Claire to suspect that it was possible to do the same with divinity, but pulling off such a feat was beyond her. She had no idea how arcane magic worked, nor did she think she would be able to tell the difference between a regular arcane spell and one infused with a hint of divinity.

The lyrkress was so frustrated by the lack of information that she was tempted to ask around for advice, but she wrote the idea off as soon as it surfaced. She didn’t want news of the acquisition to spread, at least not before she mastered it and turned it into a worthwhile trump card.

After a few failed attempts at firing divine energy from her fingertips, Claire gave up and looked to her boxes for hints. The stat had enhanced two of her skills, and she suspected that their freshly upgraded descriptions were likely to contain a few clues.

True Ice Manipulation - Level 1
Congratulations. You are now about as divine as a speck of heavenly dust. There is very little about you worth worshipping, but you have somehow managed to find yourself a group of idiots willing to advocate for your ascent to godhood nonetheless.

Come on, Box… that has nothing to do with the skill at all.

Effects
- You are capable of exerting a striking degree of control on the element of ice, true or otherwise.
- The power of your ice magic is increased by 61% (50% + 11% per level) of the sum of your wisdom and spirit, expressed as a percentage.
- You are capable of using your divinity to convert ice spells to true ice spells. Any true ice that you create will revert back into regular ice after 2.2 seconds (2 seconds + 0.2 seconds per level) per point of divinity invested, beyond the minimum cost. The minimum divinity cost is equal to the greater of 1 divinity point and 1% of the spell’s mana cost.

True ice?

The only two things she knew about true ice were that it was supposedly indestructible and that it would apply frostblight, both excellent properties she could easily leverage in battle.

Spells
- Icebolt
- Create Ice
- Freeze Toilet

That’s new.

Create Ice
Spend up to 10% of your maximum MP to create ice.

The spell was simple but effective. It provided the ability for her to do what she was already doing with icebolt, just without all the extra steps in between. Testing it, she confirmed that it provided much finer control over the object she created. The sphere she spawned was exactly as she envisioned it, even without a few minutes’ worth of minor adjustments.

Frostblight Lyrkrian Shapeshifting - Level 16
A dearest wish is a fickle thing. Some hope for their fathers and brothers to return from the battlefield, while others pray that the gods might take notice of their overwhelmingly mediocre existences. You, on the other hand, have hoped to regain the ability to cross your arms. This wish has now been granted, courtesy of your divine spark. Perhaps it is time to regret not hoping for anything less lacklustre.

Effects
- You may freely adjust the extent to which different parts of your frostblight lyrkrian form are present as observable characteristics
- 85% (10% + 5% per level) of your body can be transformed a second
- Maintaining a transformation consumes less stamina.

Crossing my arms? Wait… Closing her eyes and focusing on the skill, she discovered that her mental levers had increased from two to three, with the newest addition pertaining to the shard.

A small grin crossed her face as she confirmed its function. Thinking about the catalyst buried in her chest was enough to get it to vanish. The hole it left behind was immediately filled with flesh and restored to the pristine state it was in prior to the corruptor’s last ditch attempt on her life.

“Very useful,” she muttered, as she crossed her arms for the first time in a week.

After a moment or two of gloating, she returned the limbs to her side and grew the shard back out to its usual length. From there, she tried enlarging it, but it resisted the command and refused to change until she called upon her divinity. Consuming two of her five points, she doubled its length and transformed it into a disproportionately large wedge. Focusing on it again allowed her to tweak its shape with surprising ease. Turning it into a third hand was as simple and straightforward as turning her rear flippers into another set of legs. And it didn’t even cost her any extra divinity.

Actively using the skill allowed her to manipulate the hand, but never did it become quite as malleable as any other part of her body. Ordering it around was clunky and convoluted. It felt like she had to go through a dozen extra steps just to get it to perform a few simple motions. Even clumsily clenching and unclenching the frozen fist took far too many different instructions. She could easily think of a near countless number of applications, but shelved her experiments in favour of staring down the hundreds of ability points she had sitting around.

A brief consultation with Zelos had taught her that withholding her points had not been as much of an error as she had assumed. If she didn’t need the immediate boost to her raw stats, then keeping them around would allow her to artificially raise the difficulty of each challenge, thereby increasing both its risk and reward. Or at least that was the theory. Claire was under the vague impression that Durham had provided a similar explanation at some point or another, but she had never cared enough about his opinion to fully retain most of the information he divulged. As far as she was concerned, the guard had never been anything but a lecher undeserving of her respect.

She was tempted to keep withholding her points, just to speed up the leveling process as much as she could, but she had already set her mind on challenging the lord of the slough. And having heard much about it over the past few days, the halfbreed had decided that she wasn’t bold enough to keep so much of her power in reserve.

The lords’ precise abilities would change over time and whenever an individual was replaced. The elf didn’t have any precise information on the giant frog’s current iteration, but each of its predecessors had been in control of two distinct schools of magic. Water and lightning, fire and ice, and earth and wind had all been documented by the various groups that had challenged the lords in the past. All of them were well known combinations capable of wreaking havoc in the hands of a capable caster. And capable the frogs were. One particularly crafty anuran had apparently used its illusion magic to trick its assailants into killing each other—not that it mattered to her. She had no intention of teaming up with anyone but her imaginary shoulder beasts, hence why she needed to be in top form.

Fortunately, the two and a half days she had spent hunting monsters nonstop had finally provided a solution to her dilemma. If she couldn’t decide between might and magic, then she would just need to choose both and become something along the lines of a battlemage. Like her father. She had hoped to avoid following in his footsteps at first, but reflecting on the idea led her to realise that she was just being silly. Actively rejecting a viable strategy just because of his influence was no different from going out of her way to copy him.

Claire knew that the choice would lead to a reduction in either brute force or utility, but she wasn’t worried. If there was one thing she had learned about Llystletein classes, it was that they were ridiculously potent. Llystletein force mage, by itself, had already provided more utility than three or four regular classes combined. Raw power was her only real concern, and making up for a lack of it was as easy as choosing evolutions that favoured it. If even that failed, she was just going to have to rely on finding some sort of ridiculously powerful tertiary class, whenever she managed to unlock her third slot.

With her choice in mind, the lyrkress brought agility, dexterity, and vitality to 500, their next threshold. One point was put into spirit so that she had an even number, wisdom was raised to 1000, another likely threshold, and all remaining points were dumped into strength, bringing its value to a total of 826.

Log Entry 2322
Vector manipulation has acquired a new spell.

Log Entry 2323
True ice manipulation has acquired a new spell.

Ignoring the power suddenly welling up from within, Claire immediately popped open her menus and stared down her latest acquisitions.

Concentrate Force
You may charge your force spells for up to five seconds. Each second of charging increases the power of the resulting vector by 10%. The spell’s cost is increased proportionally.

Requirements
- Possess 500 dexterity and 500 wisdom
- Be a vector mage or an evolution thereof

In a word, the spell was unwieldy. A quick test confirmed that she needed to hold whatever limb she wanted to use in place if she wanted to concentrate the outgoing vector. The entire process was clunky and she doubted its practicality in combat. Still, it was a welcome addition. She could already think of a few ways to use it to mess with Sylvia.

Freezing Ray
Consume up to 200MP to fire a beam that lasts for 1 second for each 20MP consumed. This beam inflicts freezing damage, with the damage dealt increasing exponentially with continued target exposure. The duration must be declared during the initial cast.

Again, the ability was tested immediately. Claire aimed at a distant rock sitting atop a nearby island and fired the spell. Ice spread from the point of contact and soon encased the entire object. She cancelled the channel roughly halfway through, just to confirm the backlash that would come from a breach of contract, but found nothing particularly detrimental. The mage was blasted by a wave of what she assumed to be freezing cold air, but her resistance kept her completely unaffected.

Aiming at another spikier rock, she infused the spell with divinity and repeated the action, freezing her target solid and cancelling it shortly after. The second attempt had a more visible effect. The hand she used to fire the beam was frozen solid, stuck in a block of ice that she had to actively manipulate to remove. Likewise, her target had also suffered heavier consequences. The ice seemed to follow a different pattern, erupting from within her target as opposed to encasing it from the outside. Wait… is it… bleeding?

Log Entry 2324
You have slain a level 42 Turpedo.

Log Entry 2325
True Ice Manipulation has reached level 2.

I guess I wasn’t just imagining it…

Having finished testing both her spells, Claire closed her eyes and redirected her focus. Her body had changed. Power, magical energy was flooding her circuits and bubbling through her veins. Her hands felt much more nimble and her body much lighter. Jabbing at the air, she confirmed that she was much faster and more powerful than before. She was confident, certain that she could brute force her way through a buccaneer with little difficulty.

Firing off a few icebolts endorsed the assumption that 1000 was another threshold. The trees she hit were destroyed with just a single spell each, a clear upgrade from the two or three she had previously required. Infusing her spells with divinity only further bolstered their potency. The second tree she targeted bloomed like a flower, bursting at the seams as it was ruptured by the sudden freezing of all its fluids. The true ice didn’t last long enough for her to tell just how the material differed, but at a glance, it seemed more than deadly enough to justify the cost. She was tempted to find another monster and run a few quick tests, but she was out of time. The stars had vanished and the sun had started to peek its way above the horizon.

The lyrkress breathed a bit of a sigh as she reverted her shard to its usual shape, magically transformed her silken nightgown into a casual dress, and made her way back to camp. Surely enough, Zelos was already present and accounted for, as he had been on every other morning. Nodding at him and receiving a similar greeting in turn, she sat down next to the freshly rekindled flame and silently stared into the fire. For a while, the two remained perfectly silent. He was preparing breakfast, while she kept busy by thinking about her skills and acquisitions. There was a lot to process, and a few quick tests were far from enough to cover the full extent of her checklist.

“Did you sleep well?”

He finally broke the silence as he handed her a plate. It was nothing complex, just a few greens tossed together with a cheese sauce and a couple slices of fruit. There were a number of herbs and spices sprinkled on top, but they were relatively unimpactful.

“Well enough to fight.”

Spending the last of her divinity, she grew out her ice shard, flattened it, and set the plate down on the makeshift table. Zelos raised a brow at the behaviour, but refrained from making any overt comments.

“I’ve been meaning to ask… is that Archibald’s runecloak?”

“Who?”

“Archibald. He’s an old acquaintance of mine, huskar with half his body cybernetically altered.”

“I have no idea who you’re talking about,” lied Claire.

“I see…” Zelos scratched the back of his head. “Well… I suppose that isn’t much of a surprise. He mentioned that it was taken by something, most likely a borrok. If you got it off one of them, then I guess it’s yours now.”

Claire nodded silently and noted the explanation. It would be a good one if anyone else happened to question her.

“He’s still looking for it, so I’d try to keep it inconspicuous if you can.”

With another nod, the halfbreed bit into an obnoxiously sour piece of fruit and forced it down her throat as she looked towards the half-fox that was only just starting to stir.

“Good morning,” yawned Sylvia, as she slowly sat up.

“Good morning Sylvie,” said Zelos, with a hum and a smile.

“Morning,” said Claire, without either.

The fox glared at her after shaking her head and clearing it of any remaining weariness. “Oh, come on, Claire. Do you really have to be such a downer so early in the morning?”

“Yes.” She smiled, faintly. “I’m actually quite excited.”

“That’s a bold-faced lie and you know it!” said Sylvia.

The lyrkress rolled her eyes. “Do I really have to act the part? Fine.” She turned into a humanoid, hopped around, rapidly clapped her hands, and squealed. “I can’t wait! Today’s finally the day I get to kill giant frogs and wooden dogs!” After holding the pose for a few seconds and leaving both the others completely speechless, she snapped right back to normal. “There. Happy?”

Sylvia blinked a few times before finally responding. “No! That was super weird!”

“Exactly,” said Claire. “Now hurry up and eat. It’s time to go.”

“Ah, yes. Before we leave, there’s someone I would like you to meet.” Zelos smiled and clapped his hands.

“Was that the signal?” asked an obnoxiously familiar voice.

“It was,” nodded the elf.

Out from behind a rock stepped one of the last people Claire had wanted to see, a large squirrel with a coat of red fur and a disagreeable smile.

It was Mittens.

In the flesh.

Again.
___

Claire

Health: 4635/4635
Mana: 11135/11135
Divinity: 5/5
Health Regen:1500/hour (3000/hour)
Mana Regen: 9000/hour
Divinity Regen: 5/hour

Ability Scores - 0 Points Available
- Agility: 500
- Dexterity: 500
- Spirit: 404
- Strength: 826
- Vitality: 500
- Wisdom: 1000

Racial Class: Frostblight Lyrkress - Level 73.94
- Frostblight Lyrkrian Martial Arts - Level 17.40
- Frostblight Lyrkrian Shapeshifting - Level 16.21
- Paralyzing Gaze - Level 11.09
- Thermodynamic Regulation - Level 7.25
- True Ice Manipulation - Level 2.17

Primary Class: Llystletein Bloodthief - Level 74.12
- Assassinate - Level 15.34
- Bloodthief - Level 16.63
- Charm Catgirl - Level 1.00
- Cloak and Dagger - Level 10.10
- Envenom - Level 17.54
- Manathief - Level 15.82
- Phantom Blade - Level 14.87

Secondary Class: Llystletein Vector Mage - Level 70.53
- Basic Force Resistance - Level 4.73
- Catgirl Detector V. 0.33 - Level 9.46
- Detect Force Magic - Level 16.51
- Spirit Sorcery - Level 24.49
- Vector Manipulation - Level 27.37

Unclassed Skills
- Artifact Manipulation - Level 3.00
- Axe Mastery - Level 8.23
- Club Mastery - Level 17.45
- Cooking - Level 1.02
- Dagger Mastery - Level 14.50
- Dancing - Level 8.21
- Digging - Level 13.46
- English - Level 25
- Greatsword Mastery - Level 10.64
- Llystletein Authority - Level 7.83
- Makeshift Weapon Mastery - Level 22.51
- Marish - Level 19.09
- Sewing - Level 1.42
- Sneaking - Level 17.19
- Spear Mastery - Level 9.05
- Sword Mastery - Level 10.06
- Throwing - Level 10.68

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Spicy Space Squid

Bio: Surprisingly tangy and delicious.

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