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Chapter 111 - Eel Season V

“That didn’t go as poorly as it could have.”

Mumbling under her breath, Claire flexed her freshly regrown fingers and stumbled towards the stone situated near the arena’s far end. The recoil that came with using her divinity had already kicked in; there was a dull throbbing in the back of her skull. It wasn’t nearly as debilitating as it had been the last time, but it remained a nuisance nonetheless.

“It would have been even easier if you used us properly.” The phantom snake that appeared on her shoulder spoke with an annoyed grumble.

Log Entry 2925
You have slain a unique level 152 Llystletein Sawfish, titled ‘The Lord of the Labyrinth.’

This feat has earned you the following bonuses:
- 7 points of agility
- 13 points of dexterity
- 42 points of spirit
- 1 point of strength
- 18 (9x2) points of vitality
- 8 points of wisdom

On her other shoulder, the pony appeared, nodding with all the vigour that its disproportionately sized head would allow. “Yes! That, precisely!”

“I am using you properly.” It was difficult to focus on the conversation with the goddess rattling off in the back of her mind, but she managed to squeeze out a response.

Log Entry 2926
You have leveled up. Your health and mana have been restored and all harmful status effects have been cleansed.

Your racial class, Frostblight Lyrkress, has reached level 87.

Your primary class, Llystletein Bloodthief, has reached level 85.

Your secondary class, Llystletein Vector Mage, has reached level 83.

You have gained 84 ability points.

“You are most certainly not, young lady,” huffed the pony. “I know that I’m beautiful enough to grab any man’s attention, but if you were going to throw me at him, then you shouldn’t have detonated me immediately. At least let me do something.”

“You’re invisible,” muttered Claire. “And you’d hardly be able to charm a rock, even if you weren’t.”

Log Entry 2927
One of your spawnable food items has been upgraded.

“Oh, Claire. My beauty is the only reason Father was ever lenient with us.”

“Lenient?” The only one of the three with a real body rolled her eyes. “He was never lenient.”

“Well, him aside, the matter of fact is that we aren’t being used to our full potential.” Shouldersnake slithered forward and turned to face her with half its body suspended in the air. “If you’re not going to cast any spells with the mana you feed us, then at least give us the agency to do it ourselves.”

“That’s right! Don’t micromanage us unless you’re going to do it right!” complained Shoulderhorse.

Claire blinked. “You can cast spells?”

Log Entry 2928
Assassinate has reached level 18.

Log Entry 2929
Catgirl Detector has reached level 11.

“Of course we can!” The danger noodle bonked its forehead against hers, several times, but the two never made contact. “Why else would you infuse us with mana?”

“So I can blow you up?”

Shouldersnake heaved an audible sigh. “That’s supposed to be a last resort.”

“That’s right! How could you possibly consider detonating me? You’ll scorch my beautiful mane!”

Log Entry 2930
Phantom Blade has reached level 19.

Log Entry 2931
Spirit Sorcery has reached level 29.

“I don’t care.” Again, the lyrkress rolled her eyes. “What spells can you cast?”

“All of yours,” said the snake. “And the skill doesn’t say it, but we can use your divinity too.”

Claire pursed her lips. “Fine.” She had to admit, it seemed like a decent idea. One was the perfect mobile nuisance while the other could be set up as a trap. “Next time.”

“That better be a promise!” said the pony.

The pair began to fade as soon as the bluescale nodded, satisfied smiles on both their faces. Shouldersnake’s was relatively inoffensive, but the horse’s was obnoxious. Just seeing the smug grin was enough to plague her fist with a perpetual itch.

Log Entry 2932
Throwing has reached level 11.

Log Entry 2933
True Ice Manipulation has reached level 15.

Log Entry 2934
Vector Manipulation has reached level 32.

Claire looked towards the hexstone as the goddess’ voice finally trailed off. Sylvia had warned against falling into Alfred’s trap, but the fourth was still supposed to be safe. Taking a small breath, she laid her hand against the rock and waited for the librarian to work his magic. She was soon taken from her body and pulled into his realm, just like the other three times. The old human was clearly waiting for her; he was leaning far back in his chair with his pipe in his mouth and a wide grin sitting upon his face.

“Hello, Claire. I would’ve loved to say that congratulations are in order, but you got the wrong lord.”

“I’m killing all of them,” she said. “They’re free experience.”

Alfred smiled as he took the wooden briar out of his mouth and spun it in his veiny, wrinkled hands. “Well, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that they’re free, but they certainly are worth quite a bit of experience.” A mischievous glint appeared in his eye as he breathed out a lungful of smoke. “Ah, yes. That reminds me, I noticed that Sylvia had to bail you out the other day.”

“So?”

“So I was thinking that the best way to curb your reckless abandon might be to get rid of your safety net.” There was an awkward pause as the man waited for Claire to react, but she remained perfectly silent. Her mouth stayed shut and her expression failed to change.

“Well then. I was expecting more of a reaction.” He faked a cough and cleared his throat. "Perhaps I need to work a little on the delivery.” He muttered a bit of self criticism under his breath as he raised his head. “Now, where was I? Ah, yes.” He clapped his hands together. “I’ll be giving Sylvia a lyrkress fetish the next time she has to save you. Just so you feel a little less invincible.”

Claire’s tongue flicked against the back of her teeth. Chewing on his words made her want to retch, spit, and rinse out her mouth. The man was nothing short of stabbable. She wanted to vent her frustrations on his face, but suppressed the urge in short order. She knew that she couldn’t let him get to her. He was a conniving old bastard; the moment she lost her calm was the moment he won.

“Where’s the fourth chapter?” Her control over her pitch was perfect. Her tone was so flat that it trumped even her chest.

“My apologies, I almost forgot about it.” The old man chuckled as he fiddled through the documents on his desk, eventually pulling one out from under a large pile. “Here you are.” The page slid out of his hand and floated its way over to her. Unlike the others, it was made of paper instead of parchment and its words were inscribed not in ink, but an emerald flame.

Log Entry 2935
You have read The Lost Library’s Fourth Chapter. It has been transcribed into your native language as the following log entry.

Log Entry 2936
Hello, trial goer, and congratulations on finding a fourth set of instructions. Only three more remain, and while it may be difficult to seek them, you are sure to find the Grand Cathedral so long as you continue to endeavour. If you ever find yourself at a roadblock, with a lack of monsters to fuel your growth, then seek the Equitaur’s Trial. It is capable of providing a reasonable challenge to any, and of course a corresponding reward.

Comprehending the contents of this message will grant the following boons:
- An audience with the Head Librarian.
- An immediate upgrade to any Catgirl Detector skills.
- Access to a new class. In your case, a librarian has decided that this will be Llystletein Stormbreaker. This class is a potential evolution to Llystletein Vector Mage.

Another class relating to storms.

Log Entry 2937
Catgirl Detector V. 0.33 has been forcefully evolved into Catgirl Detector V. 0.34. Minor technical optimisations have been made, but there are no noticeable differences to the average end user. Individuals with high agility scores may notice an improvement in the skill’s processing speed. This upgrade comes with an increased attraction to catgirls.

I hope you die, Alfred.

Placing his elbows on his desk, the old man formed a bridge with his fingers and rested his chin on top of it. “So? What are you going to ask me this time?” he said, with a toothy grin. “We have all the time in the world, and I know Sylvia’s already given you a bit of a history lesson. I’m sure you must have plenty of questions.”

“I don’t,” said Claire.

“Really, none?” The man raised a brow and frowned. “Well, if you’re not interested, then you’re not interested, I guess. Nothing I can do there.” His wand descended from a nearby bookshelf and caught his hat before it fell far enough to obscure his eyes. “Feel free to ask me about anything else you have in mind as well. Your questions don’t have to be about Llystletein.”

“I don’t have any questions.”

“Really? Not even about that meeting you had with Flux, Vella, and Builledracht the other day? I’m sure I could offer a fair bit of insight. Perhaps even into their motives.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The old man broke into a cackle. “I know Sylvia just told you I was sealed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what you might think. I still have free access to the divine realm and my information network happens to be on the more accurate side. You can go check with her if you don’t believe me.”

“I don’t care.”

“You still don’t trust me? Really?” he adjusted his glasses and took a whiff from his pipe. “Sylvia’s lied to you much more than I have, and you clearly trust her.”

“Most of them were little white lies.”

“Maybe if you discount all the times she’s tried to kill you.”

“I said most. Not all.”

“I don’t get it.” He took off his hat, revealing a head of thick silver hair as he set the pointed leather cap on his desk. “I don’t see any reason for you to defend her with what she’s done, nor do I see why you haven’t tried to kill her. Everything else that’s messed with you has gotten either a foot or a knife to the face.” Alfred frowned. “Maybe you need a quest as an incentive? I’m pulling at straws here, give me something to work with.”

“Incentives won’t help.” The answer was immediate; it came far too quickly for something that had been given a second thought.

“And why not?” The old man’s eyes almost seemed to twinkle.

“I can’t kill an aspect.”

Alfred studied her carefully, adjusting his glasses several times as he stared at her poker face. “That can’t be the only reason, can it? Please tell me there’s more to it than just that.”

“Of cour—”

“Don’t say it. You’re going to kill my fantasies.” The old man collapsed onto his desk and groaned, his face buried in his arms.

“Of course there isn’t.”

“Damn it! I just told you not to say it!”

“Too bad.” Though she didn’t dare let it show on her face, Claire was on the verge of breaking into a cheer. She had finally gotten him back, just once, for all the suffering he had forced on her. She almost wanted to lash out with an added declaration or two about catgirls, but she knew better than to continue running her mouth. Whatever she said in haste was likely to be used against her.

“Why do you have to pop my bubble like that? Can’t you just let an old man dream?”

“No.” Claire crossed her arms. “And you aren’t old. You’re a celestial.”

“I’m an old celestial. I’ve more millennia under my belt than you do years.”

“Your age won’t kill you. It’s irrelevant.”

“Yes and no. You’re right in that it doesn’t typically happen, but there are a few technicalities that make it possible.” He slumped back into his chair. “Are you sure you really don’t have anything to ask?”

“Nothing.”

“I give up.” The human groaned. “I’ve given you advice. I’ve helped you along with classes and quests, and you still refuse to trust me.”

Claire shrugged. “Can I leave now?”

“Do whatever you want.”

With an annoyed wave of the wand, the demigod sent her on her way.

“Thank you, celestial of the lost library, sovereign of life and creation.” Claire put on a reverent smile and performed a picture-perfect curtsy as her spiritual body began to fade. “I wish you luck in your escape. May you continue to watch over me, as I continue to wander the domain crafted by your hand.”

“And now she starts acting like that?” Alfred banged his head against the table. “Fifty thousand years,” he muttered, as she vanished. “Fifty thousand years of making women, and I still can’t quite seem to understand them.”

___

Claire’s smile warped into a smirk as she got over the wave of nausea that came with being beamed back into her body. She hadn’t exactly slugged the old man in the face, like she wanted, but she had certainly gotten one up on him. And as far as she was concerned, that was all that mattered.

“How’d it go?” A voice pulled her eyes towards the hexstone. Its half-elven source was curled up into a ball, with only her head slightly raised. In front of her hovered a portable flame, a lit torch kept within a much larger floating bubble.

“I thought you went back to bed.”

“I was going to!” Sylvia’s tail flicked to and fro. “But the explosions were too loud. I couldn’t fall asleep anymore. Oh, and everyone else woke up too.”

“Right.” Claire raised her ears and scanned her surroundings. “Where are they? I don’t hear them.”

“They didn’t think it was safe to stay at camp, so they backed off through one of the tunnels.”

“Oh.” The blueblood got up from her spot by the hexstone and wandered over to the monster’s corpse. “I don’t think they’ll be happy about this.”

Very little remained intact. Its head had been reduced to a crushed lower jaw, with everything else from the neck up completely obliterated by the crystal that burst from its head. All its legs and spines had been ejected during its death and fired into the various walls. The inside of its throat was charred by its own arcane magic, and its spine was damaged right down the centre, courtesy of a certain incorporeal snake. Not even its rear was looking usable. The blade at the far end of the saw tail was relatively undamaged, but most of the chains holding it in place were cracked, broken, or missing.

“Yeah, it looks a little banged up.” Sylvia’s tail flicked back and forth as she jumped to her feet. “I bet this never would’ve happened if you just learned to sing again! Barding things to death is way easier than bludgeoning them, and it keeps the corpse looking picture perfect too.”

“No. I told you, we’re not singing a duet.”

“Awwww… why not?” The furball’s ears drooped.

“Because it’s pointless. I can’t become a bard.”

“Yeah, but you don’t need to! You can turn one of your classes into a hybrid if you want. Like that warrior class!”

“Rogue.”

“Huh?”

“I’m not a warrior. I’m a rogue.”

“You are?” Sylvia blinked. Thrice. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” The bloodthief rolled her eyes. “What are you trying to say?”

“Uhmmm… Nothing.” Averting her gaze, the vixen hopped on top of Claire’s head and pointed towards the nearest hall. “We should go find the others before they panic.”

“Fine.”

The lyrkress gave the fox’s nose a knowing pinch as she turned back into a lamia and sought the three musketeers.

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Spicy Space Squid

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