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Chapter 102 -Dreams And Delusions V

Seven failures and two lightning strikes later, Claire finally found herself standing atop the savannah. Her hair was frizzled and her eyes were dead, but at the very least, her clothes remained in perfect form. The leather cloak regenerated every time she was struck, be it by a thunderbolt or a piece of debris. Her flesh did the same, but it was not as quick to recover; her skin remained marred by burns, and many of her scales were missing outright. But she was satisfied. Because unlike the savannah’s monsters, most of whom were cowering under their cervidian overlords, she had challenged the storm and won.

Catching one such group in her sights, the lyrkress slithered through the field with all caution thrown to the wind. Even with the full length of her body as an anchor, she struggled to remain balanced as she moved across the plain. The ground shook every time the wind howled, as it would during one of Primrose’s fits.

She was not the only one to note her progress. The massive deer craned its neck and looked at her with its multicoloured gaze as she drew near. A bolt of lightning arced from the sky and struck the behemoth as it raised its head, but the electrical surge prompted not a single reaction. It was simply shrugged off and ignored, just like the rain. Likewise, the monsters standing beneath its frame were just as uncaring. Even those standing too far to be protected were completely nonchalant. They ignored the lightning strikes and simply idled in the mud, as they had when the sun was out.

Only those struck directly had any semblance of a reaction. They sprang into action, seeking only to escape the deer that was their master. For some, like the field turtles, that meant sprinting at top speed. Others were not as fortunate. Those more susceptible to damage were left limping away at a snail’s pace. Whatever the case, their fates remained the same. A quick stomp from the deer would always spell an immediate demise.

Claire turned her mace into an icy blade as she continued walking through the storm. But even with the blatant act of aggression, the deer remained idle. It proceeded with utmost confidence, and not for no reason. Its gaze was on the verge of all-consuming. The abyss within its eyes sucked Claire into a trance and forced her to continue her advance, even as she tried to hold her ground. Her body refused to listen. Just like last time.

A branch with a large, ripe fruit grew towards her as she finally reached its base. The peach it offered was a light in the dark, a glowing beacon that beckoned and called the weary. Its pull was irresistible. She was slowly dragged forward, straight towards her new master.

All according to plan.

Her hand slipped right past the fruit and grabbed hold of the monster’s horns. Pulling, both with her body and with her magic, she moved its massive head a tiny bit closer as she bashed her axe against the thickest part of its antler trunk. Though seemingly made of wood, it was unlike the mirewulves, whose bodies had crumbled beneath her raw power. The deer stood strong. Her attack only managed to pierce a quarter of the way through the horn. It looked like a shallow wound, but a tide of blood leaked from the broken bone, most of it half frozen.

The cervidian monster reared up and roared as it swung its head around, but Claire was ready. Leaving her axe where it was, she grabbed onto its antlers with both hands and wrapped her tail around another part of its wreath. It buckled wildly in an attempt to shake her loose, but she remained in position until it gave up and sat down. A wide grin on her face, the lyrkress spat out a ball of ice covered in jagged spikes and smeared in her own blood—the reason she was able to break free from the deer’s control. Her cocky display remained, even as the cervid’s many subordinates climbed atop its body with her removal their sole purpose. Because a horde of ascended monsters was, ultimately, just another horde. And she had plenty of experience dealing with those.

Replacing her horse-cum-umbrella with her snake, Claire basked in the serpent’s rage for a brief moment before unfastening the wooden whips strapped to her bandolier. One in each hand, she cracked her neck. But she didn’t charge into the crowd. In fact, she did just the opposite and stepped away from it.

Because the deer was stupid. Completely, irredeemably stupid.

It had somehow managed to forget that it was the only thing keeping its pets safe from the weather. Some of the lighter creatures were blown away, while others were unfortunate enough to be struck by stray bolts from the blue. Some managed to climb unhindered, but they were the exception and not the norm. Most of the monsters that managed to get up onto the pseudo lord’s back were dislodged without so much as a chance to attack.

Claire, on the other hand, was presented with nothing but opportunities to aggress. Snapping her wrist, she launched an assault on the deer’s massive eyes. Though she had never used a whip, makeshift weapon mastery guided her hand. The hardened vines bent past the branches covering the deer’s face and dug straight into the side of its head. Though both simultaneous attacks had missed the monster’s oculi, she was perfectly satisfied with the result. The experiment had proven that while inaccurate, the whips were powerful enough to tear right through the monarch’s pelt and rend its flesh asunder.

Another pained howl erupted from the creature’s throat. It threw its head back, screamed, and bounced around, but she remained exactly where she was. A minute of failure led it to opt for another means of defense. It expanded its wreath, growing it to cover its face with a thick layer of green.

The exact result she had predicted.

Its newfound shield was robust; both cervids knew that she would struggle to get past the forest of wood and bone. But Claire was unbothered. Unlike her foe, she was well aware that she didn’t need to. The laurel rampart robbed the deer of the ability to see. And in doing so, accomplished the halfbreed’s goal.

She had only targeted its eyes because she wanted it blinded.

So that she could prepare her next round of attacks.

Retrieving and repairing her axe, she slid down a branch and swung at the cervid’s exposed nape. Every strike cracked the weapon’s blade. But she didn’t let up. The edge was not the tool’s only means of assault. When it broke, she switched to bashing her target with the axe’s hook. And when that joined its predecessor and shattered, she moved on to gouging with its spikes. The barbaric ice mage maintained a relentless assault, fixing each shattered piece in turn as another took its place.

It was a perfect display of raw ferocity, but the deer refused to capitulate. Even with an attack every second, she couldn’t get all the way through its spine. Like most other Llystletein monsters, it clung to life with an irrational obstinance. The damage she inflicted was regenerated between every attack. The monster’s fat and blood coated its freshly restored pelt, and even when frozen, caused her blade to slip. No matter how hard she swung, it simply refused to die; her frostblighted strikes were incapable of breaking past its raw vitality.

Her poison, however, could.

It seeped into the giant’s veins, spread throughout its flesh, and culminated in a reward, right as its servants finally climbed close enough to attack.

The violent sneeze that erupted from its face was paired with an accompanying spasm. Its legs trembled and its body lurched like a small boat in an all-consuming storm.

For Claire, it was a non-issue. Her tail continued to keep her anchored.

But the same could not be said for the monsters scrambling towards her. They were shaken right off, sent flying in random directions. Only half of the brainwashed creatures were cognizant enough of their own positions to hang on for dear life. Those that stuck around were removed by Shouldersnake. The limbless lizard skittered down the length of the king’s body, tearing its fangs through all the monsters it crossed. They were dislodged without fail, be they hyena-boars, wingless three-legged sands owls, or savage rabbits with human-like ears.

They couldn’t touch her. And neither could their master.

But victory eluded the halfbreed’s grasp. Just as how the deer had no means of killing her, she too had no means of killing it. Her venom could irk it, but only the soarspore poison had any effect. Likewise, her only bladed weapon was unable to end its life. The wounds she inflicted appeared massive enough to prove fatal, with many measuring in at over a meter across. But to the deer, they were just tiny cuts, cuts it could regenerate as quickly as the gash on its neck.

She was out of options.

A sigh and a lightning strike later, she begrudgingly climbed back up the monster’s neck and axed a fruit-laden branch off its crown.

For a moment, she was tempted to jump off and leave, her goal technically accomplished.

But then she recalled that the deer was not like her.

Killing it was as easy as taking its breath away.

And she had everything she needed to do exactly that.

Step one was seizing control of the rain. The cold air radiating from her body turned it into sleet, sleet that she funneled into the deer’s nostrils. It started flailing again, but there was no escape. Waves upon waves of ice were shoved directly into its lungs. It coughed, wheezed, and tried to purge the foreign substance, but she froze its wet fur and sealed both its mouth and its nose, trapping the freshly melted liquid inside.

It smashed its hooves against its face and rammed its snout into the dirt. But the muzzle didn’t break. It couldn’t put enough power into its forelimbs, and the ground was too muddy for the ice to shatter. None of its flailing managed to save it.

Not at the start of the battle.

Nor at the end.

Log Entry 2791
You have slain a level 122 Llystletein Buccontrol.

This feat has earned you the following bonuses
- 2 points of agility
- 3 points of dexterity
- 2 points of strength
- 2 (2x1) points of vitality
- 4 points of wisdom

That’s an even worse name than Field Turtle. How does he come up with these?

Log Entry 2792
You have unlocked a new spawnable drink item.

Claire watched the freshly freed monsters disperse as she listened to her logs. They ran in all directions, completely ignoring her as they scattered to the winds. Some of the smaller ones were swept away, taken by the storm, but most were able to hold their ground, even with the winds as harsh as they were.

Log Entry 2793
You have acquired the Whip Mastery skill.

Claire crossed her arms and sat down, but the goddess’ voice had already quieted. Is that really it?

Checking her log, she confirmed that nothing else had changed. Not even her mage class, which had been on the verge of leveling up, had made any notable progress. “Why is it so worthless? That’s barely a fifth of a mirewulf’s worth of experience.”

“It’s because it wasn’t really much of a threat,” said Sylvia, who suddenly appeared right beside her.

“It seemed threatening.”

“The only thing it really does is that nifty mind control spell, but that’s not really worth all that much on its own, since it’s so easy to break.”

Shrugging, Claire looked through its branches and identified several different kinds of fruit. The most common variant was more or less a peach, a pink and yellow blob, hanging from just about every terminal branch. Almost equally as abundant were the porcelain spheres. They vaguely seemed to resemble apples in terms of shape, but their outermost layers were made of a material that looked a lot like ceramic. Though glossy and dyed with bits of blue, the earthen shell was squishy and supple. A light squeeze popped one of the fruits and spilled its sticky contents all over her hands.

“Which ones are the ones with water in them?” There were over ten different varieties and none of the others stood out or caught her eye.

“Uhmm… Hmmm…” Sylvia hummed a quick tune, applied a rune to her nose, and sniffed each variant in turn. Three repetitions later, she lifted an unremarkable red blob with a few spikes sticking out of the tip. “These smell the most watery, but none of them are all that different. Maybe you should try bringing a whole branch back? I dunno.”

“Useless fox,” grumbled the lyrkress.

“I’m not useless!” Sylvia stamped her feet with almost enough vigour to burst her own bubble. “I’m the only reason you thought to try hunting these things in the first place!”

“And it wasn’t worth it. That was too much effort for 0.3% of a level.”

“Yeah, but now you should have everything you need to pay the cat guy back.”

Claire shrugged. “Okay, fine. You’re half a step up from being useless. Happy?”

“Mhm!” Sylvia nodded before scrunching up her brows and freezing. “Wait, no! I meant no!”

“Well too bad.”

The blueblood picked up her axe and began chopping at the antler’s root. It took five swings to get all the way through; the bone wasn’t as tough as her mace, but she was convinced it would make a decent weapon once all the fruits and leaves were removed. Its rounded curve greatly limited its possible applications, but she was confident she could make something out of it, one way or another.

“Ugh! Whatever! I don’t care anymore.” Sylvia climbed up on top of Claire’s head with an audible huff. The bubble surrounding her body deformed to accommodate the change in position. “I know you’re really just being mean to be mean, and that you just don’t want to admit I’m not useless. Deep down, I bet you’re super grateful and totally attached to me!”

Claire scrunched up her face. “Stop that. You’re starting to sound like Mittens.”

“B-but you are, right? I mean, look at how fluffy and adorable I am! What’s not to love?”

“You’re not fluffy. You’re just a soggy old rag.” Hoisting the two meter-long wreath over her shoulder, the lyrkress made for the cliff’s edge.

“I’m not soggy! I’m perfectly dry!”

“I’m sure you are.”

A tiny icicle drilled its way into the fox’s bubble, but the weaponised raindrop failed to pierce the protective barrier. It bounced right off, harmlessly, as would a less jagged projectile.

The fox giggled. “Nice try.”

“Shut up.” Grumbling again, the less-than-bubbly blueblood jumped off the island and made for a certain annoying box’s temple.

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Spicy Space Squid

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