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Chapter 101 - Dreams and Delusions IV

The sun began to rise as Claire made her way through the forest. With the sudden reduction in darkness came the usual ringing of bells, but the lyrkress was unbothered. She had already been focusing on the vector that kept her attached to the ground and selecting it took no more than half a heartbeat.

Despite the fox’s explicit recommendation, she had forgotten to work on the resistance skill, recalling it only as she ran out of things to kill. It had been over an hour since she saw her last mirewulf and the area as a whole remained almost entirely monster free. There were still a few alligators and frogs hanging around in the swamp, but most stayed out of her way.

Her neglect had done little to stop the ability from making leaps and bounds of progress. It had gone from level 4 to level 9 in just thirty-odd minutes, and she could already feel the difference. Gravity’s pull had weakened, even though its description listed no such effect.

Following the sound of rushing water, the halfbreed soon found herself upon a large river, built right into the woodland. Its banks were slightly lowered, but the trees cared little, with many of them growing their roots straight into the waterway. A small orange and black critter was sitting by the bank, clutching its inflated gut as it lay belly-up. The vast majority of its body rested on the shore, but its face was kept underwater.

It—she—got up, crawled over to a nearby sapling, and vomited all the contents of her stomach. The tree sucked up the liquid, drying itself and the soil around it in a matter of moments as it grew with unparalleled vigour. It went from a tiny sprout, less than half the fox’s size, to its full height of four meters in the time it took Claire to take three steps. Once at peak height, it went on to grow a bright red flower that opened and closed several times before settling down and falling still.

While the plant seemed perfectly content with the unnatural process, the fox did not. She coughed violently and grumbled aloud as she slowly dragged herself back to the shoreline. “Damn it, Al! Why did you have to make making these things such a pain?”

“Is that why they taste like vomit?” The lyrkress could already feel a wave of nausea bubbling up from within her throat.

“Wh-wha!? C-Claire? When did you get here?” Sylvia stumbled as she spun around, nearly tripping over her own feet.

“Just now. When you barfed on the tree.”

“I umm… dunno what you’re talking about.”

“You made it grow.”

“Must’ve been some other fox.”

“It was you. I just watched you do it.” Claire rolled her eyes and picked the canid up by the scruff. “Why are you making me walk around if you can just make them?”

“La la la! I can’t hear you!” The fox shoved her paws in her ears, closed her eyes, and shook her head.

Claire narrowed her gaze. “Fine. Have it your way.” Her tail was brought forward, wrapped around the fox’s torso, and used like a feather. She stuck the fuzzy tip under the fox’s arms and wiggled it about to spark an uncontrolled fit of laughter.

“Claire! Stop! Please!” squealed the fox, between giggles. “I can’t breathe!”

“Good.”

Sylvia tried to squirm out of the moose-snake’s grasp, but her grip was solid as iron. “If I can’t breathe I’ll die!” she wheezed.

“Then you better start explaining.”

“I will!” she wheezed. “Just!” Twice. “Let me go first!”

The lyrkress furrowed her brow for a moment before twisting her face into a dark smile. “After you learn your lesson.”

She uncrossed her arms and threw them into the mix, burying them in the half-elf’s fur and wriggling them about. Sylvia tried to protest, but the most she could do was wildly flail her limbs. Resistance was futile and there was no escape. She was destined to be tickled straight to high heaven. The extra stimulus made it impossible for the fairy to do anything but laugh, and Claire didn’t stop and set her down until she was completely out of breath, collapsed onto her belly with her limbs sprawled across the shoreline.

“What the heck was that for?” wheezed the fox.

“Fun.”

“That wasn’t fun! It was stressful.”

Claire smiled impishly as she transformed into a humanoid, sat down, and crossed her legs. “You were laughing.”

“That doesn’t mean I had fun!”

“I know.” The lyrkress picked the fox up again and placed her in her lap. “But you did. Just admit it.” Rather than tickling her again, she opted instead to scratch the spot behind the furball’s ears.

“Okay, maybe a little… But that didn’t mean you had to keep tickling me until I thought I was gonna die!”

“Too bad.” Claire briefly pinched the fox’s cheeks. “So? Why did you make me wander around the forest?”

“It’s ‘cause you’re killing them way too fast! Mirewulves aren't like the other monsters.” Sylvia pushed the other halfbreed’s hands away from her face and curled up. “They don’t spawn naturally, so we have to make more of them when they die.”

“Can’t you just grow them later?”

“Well… maybe. But it’d be a huge pain in the butt and I didn’t want you finding out how we made them.”

“Too late. I watched you vomit on one.”

“Oh umm… yeah.” The fox averted her gaze. “You really shouldn’t be eating them… I don’t think they’re sanitary.”

Claire shrugged. “It was for the quest.”

The monster’s taste still lingered in the back of her throat, but she did her best to ignore it, even as it crawled up her tongue. She tried to wipe the taste away by rubbing the fleshy sponge on the back of her teeth, but it didn’t work. The flavour remained, intensifying every time she looked at the four-legged vomit machine.

“Yeah, umm… Al’s kinda gross sometimes.” Sylvia scrunched up her face. “I’m not really sure if it’s really even worth it.”

“Well it’s out of the way now,” said Claire. “But I’m going to keep killing them. They’re good experience.”

“Please don’t,” groaned Sylvia. “Can’t you go beat up the Green Belt’s monsters or something instead?”

“How strong are they?”

“They should be a good bit tougher than the mirewulves. It’s where you’ll find all the ascended hellhogs and mimics and stuff,” said Slyvia. “I promise they’ll give more experience too.”

The lyrkress crossed her arms and closed her eyes. “Fine. But first, I want to head back to Sky Lagoon,”

“Oh umm… sure, I guess. But why there?”

“Because I just remembered I owe Beckard a few things.” Claire placed a hand on one of the objects strapped to her thigh. “And one of them is a piece of magic wood.”

“Oh yeah! Have you already figured out where you’re going to get the water?”

Smiling, Claire looked between the river and the fox.

“Wait, that doesn’t count! It’s loaded with magic when I barf it back out, but it doesn’t count and you can’t use it for rituals!”

“Then help me figure something out.”

“Ummmm…” Sylvia leaned forward and rested her chin on one of Claire’s knees. “Oh, I know! You might be able to get some from those giant tree deer thingies. Some of their fruits are filled with lots of juice, and I’m pretty sure it counts since they’re made of magic.”

“Then Sky Lagoon it is.”

___

“Are you sure you don’t need to let your parents know you’re leaving?” Claire swam her way up the tower as she looked at the fox beside her.

It was a slow climb. Her flippers and her arms were both kept relatively still. Her only real source of momentum, her tail, lazily swished from left to right, generating just enough force to slowly float her up towards the surface.

“It’ll be fine! I’m not a kid and I used to vanish all the time even when I was.” Sylvia’s ascent was just as relaxed. She was paddling with a slow, gradual motion, her legs completing a cycle only once every few seconds.

The leisurely pace was one that had persisted through the entire trip. Claire was in no rush. She was already satisfied with the ten-odd levels she had gained in each class and saw no reason not to procrastinate. The vixen, on the other hand, was simply tired. Her stomach ached and her bladder was still throwing a fit. All the excess water she drank had left it worn out and abused.

“I still can’t believe you’re older than me,” mumbled Claire.

“What’s that supposed to mean!?” The fox shouted indignantly as she stood up and placed a paw against her chest. “Can’t you see how grown up and beautiful I am?”

Rolling her eyes, the lyrkress floated a hand over and gave the furball’s nose a pinch. “Looks aren't everything. You’re mentally stunted.”

“W-what the heck!? I’m not mentally stunted!”

“Either that, or you’re a psychopath.”

“Now you’re just being bitter.”

“I wonder whose fault that is.” Claire slapped an incoming turpedo with her tail and shattered the poor leatherback’s shell. “Only a deranged madwoman would try to kill a pet for no reason.”

“Well I didn’t do it for no reason, so I’m not deranged!”

“That’s what they all say.” She fired a blade of ice and shot it into the monster’s face before it could turn around and swim away.

Log Entry 2790
You have slain a level 32 Turpedo.

“Well it’s true!”

“I’m sure it is.”

“Ughh… You need to learn to respect your elders,” grumbled the fox.

“Never.”

“Come on!” Sylvia’s ears drooped as she plopped her face into the side of her bubble. “I have feelings too, you know?”

“I know. I wouldn’t tease you if you didn’t.”

With a smug grin, Claire kicked her tail into high gear and propelled herself up towards the surface. She zoomed right past every rock-turtle along the way and burst out onto the cliff so she could greet the sun. But it wasn’t there. Its warm rays were nowhere to be seen, hidden far beyond the dark, stormy sky. Massive black clouds rained lightning on her parade as tall, heavy waves beat against the shore. Their violence was powered by a trio of vortexes, each a spinning column of water that rose into the heavens.

The chains tying the floating islands down clinked and clanged as the howling gales threatened to lift their anchors and blow their vessels away. Even atop the cliff, the halfbreed was no exception to nature’s fury. Her cloak billowed in the wind. Every gust that flew by threatened to sweep her off her feet and throw her off the ledge. Her force resistance’s deactivation was the only thing that kept her from joining the stray manatee flailing about in the air. The unlucky sea cow had been abducted by the hurricane, blown away as easily as another one of the countless leaves fluttering through the sky. Though seemingly at nature’s mercy, the aquatic mammal had a surprising amount of control. There was enough water in the vortex for it to more or less swim around in midair. It wasn’t nearly as graceful or fast as expected, but, at the very least, it was managing to avoid all the random objects that happened to fly its way.

“Woah! It’s really storming out here today,” said Sylvia. The fox had remained within her air bubble, even after she surfaced from the water.

“Is this normal?”

“Ummm… I’m not really sure, but it should be, I think.”

“Make up your mind,” said the lyrkress. She half-shouted as she dug her hooves into the cliff. She knew the fox would hear her either way, but she couldn’t help but speak up. It felt like the wind was going to whisk her words away.

Cadria was no stranger to the occasional bout of heavy rain, but a tropical storm like the one assaulting the archipelago was unheard of. The only tornadoes she had ever seen were artificial, and none of them had ever come with enough moisture to spell the end of the world.

“Do you think we should come back some other time?” asked Sylvia.

“No. This is fine.”

Taking a deep breath, Claire charged at the cliff’s edge and leapt right off. She had to fight against the wind to seize control of her tail and point it at her back. The wingless flier had the right angle and everything was in order, but she soon found herself veering off course nonetheless. A powerful gust sent her drifting in a completely random direction. Correcting for the change, on its own, was trivial; a leftwards yoink was all she needed to get herself back on track. But the wayward gale was not alone. It was accompanied by a countless number of brethren, some stronger, others weaker, all obnoxious.

Still, she was able to more or less navigate her way to the island. Everything went about as smoothly as it could until she was suddenly assaulted by a tree. The massive log came out of nowhere, crashed into her back, and nearly shattered her spine. It missed her vertebrae by a hair’s breadth and slammed itself into her ribs instead. Two of the fragile bones broke on impact. The pain distracted Claire just enough for her to lose control; she was thrown off course and sent tumbling into the beach. Adding insult to injury, she was struck by a stray bolt of lightning shortly after landing. A wave of heat passed through her body, accompanied by a pulsing pain, a strange burning sensation that bounced through her veins and flooded her system with misery. Her limbs jerked about, twitching and spasming against her will as the raw energy rampaged through her.

When the seemingly eternal moment finally passed, she was left clawing at the ground and gasping for air. Her skin was burned, her scales were charred, and she was barely able to move.

“I told you this was a bad idea,” said Sylvia, who dropped down next to her.

“Shut up,” groaned Claire.

She summoned Shoulderhorse and threw up a makeshift shelter by ordering the pony to eat all the rain and debris that happened to fly in her direction. Slowly, steadily, she grit her teeth, bore with the pain, and pushed herself off the ground. A quick glance at her HP revealed that the damage wasn’t as bad as she thought. She had only lost about a fifth of her total, even though it felt like the reaper was already knocking on her door.

“You’re just mad I’m right!” huffed Sylvia.

Ignoring the fairy, who may or may not have been correct, Claire leapt back into the air and launched herself straight through the hurricane. There were many things out there capable of stopping her dead in her tracks, but she wasn’t about to let some dumb storm add itself to the list.

___

Claire

Health: 4207/5310
Mana: 11605/11605
Divinity: 5/5
Health Regen:1725/hour (3450/hour)
Mana Regen: 9252/hour
Divinity Regen: 5/hour

Ability Scores - 267 Points Available
- Agility: 580
- Dexterity: 539
- Spirit: 429
- Strength: 869
- Vitality: 575
- Wisdom: 1028

Racial Class: Frostblight Lyrkress - Level 82.06
- Frostblight Lyrkrian Martial Arts - Level 21.44
- Frostblight Lyrkrian Shapeshifting - Level 16.87
- Paralyzing Gaze - Level 12.65
- Thermodynamic Regulation - Level 10.10
- True Ice Manipulation - Level 10.41

Primary Class: Llystletein Bloodthief - Level 84.74
- Assassinate - Level 17.40
- Bloodthief - Level 20.17
- Charm Catgirl - Level 1.00
- Cloak and Dagger - Level 10.10
- Envenom - Level 19.39
- Manathief - Level 17.23
- Phantom Blade - Level 16.81

Secondary Class: Llystletein Vector Mage - Level 81.95
- Basic Force Resistance - Level 12.21
- Catgirl Detector V. 0.33 - Level 9.82
- Detect Force Magic - Level 16.87
- Spirit Sorcery - Level 26.01
- Vector Manipulation - Level 29.85

Unclassed Skills
- Artifact Manipulation - Level 4.00
- Axe Mastery - Level 11.09
- Club Mastery - Level 17.49
- Cooking - Level 1.02
- Dagger Mastery - Level 14.76
- Dancing - Level 8.23
- Digging - Level 13.54
- English - Level 25
- Greatsword Mastery - Level 10.64
- Llystletein Authority - Level 7.96
- Makeshift Weapon Mastery - Level 23.82
- Marish - Level 19.09
- Sewing - Level 1.43
- Sneaking - Level 18.13
- Spear Mastery - Level 9.74
- Sword Mastery - Level 10.21
- Throwing - Level 10.84

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Spicy Space Squid

Bio: Surprisingly tangy and delicious.

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