Amelia’s hand reached out as far as it would go. No matter what module she activated, no matter what powers she possessed, her arm always had a limit. Perhaps her right arm, made of hardened stone, could be rearranged into a longer form that could catch falling idiot kobolds. That could not be done here. Because, foolishly, in the heat of the moment as she leapt into the giant chasm, she had extended her left arm instead.
And now she, too, was falling.
Phelia had fallen the first time they came to the Manadhmeth Dungeon. Amelia had raced after her without hesitation that time, too. But this time, she was not fast enough. Her hand could not reach the white-scaled fool or her horns or even her tail.
Her fingertips stretched to their absolute limit. Phelia reached out hers with a high-pitched squeal of determination. Frustration and utter fear. Amelia screamed back, her vocal cords rippling in her throat with pain. But their hands did not meet.
All she wanted was to be an adventurer, that woman. A risk-taking, high-flying hero that others looked up to, even in an era where that type of person had become increasingly rare. Phelia had been adorable after she saw that professional monster hunter, that fuzzy-eared image of what Phelia could be one day if she tried hard enough. But trying hard enough was not sufficient for those unlucky enough to fall to their doom, not once but twice in a matter of months.
Their screams continued as blackness enveloped them. The ledge above grew smaller and smaller as they passed beyond the threshold of Floor 3, down towards the red hues of the world below.
Phelia squeezed her eyes shut, pulled back her hand from Amelia’s. Then in a flash, opened them again, extended it again. A new idea, one her panic-riddled mind must not have considered in the ten seconds since they began their fall. Her tiny vestigial wings spread out as wide as they could, flapping gallantly in the open air to try desperately to get some kind of lift, to suddenly unlock their true potential.
It did not happen.
But it was good enough. Phelia’s descent slowed, just as Amelia’s stayed the same. Their hands grew closer. Phelia’s claw touched Amelia’s fingers.
They wrapped together tight.
“Hold on!” Amelia yelled.
She looked up at the tiny specks of light at the top of their existences. She gritted her teeth, and with all her might, let the power of the Warp Module overtake her—
Suddenly, in a flash, she and Phelia were in a brand-new location. That was, still falling through the air, but now ABOVE the hook shot and above a bawling Mino jumped back in shock at their sudden appearance.
Their speed had increased greatly, though. So great that when Amelia grabbed onto the hook shot rope, she pulled it down with incredible force. She weighed significantly more than an average human, and Phelia in her other hand weighed her down even more. With all that on the rope at once, it took just an instant for it to snap and for the two of them to swing straight into the wall below Mino.
Amelia’s shoulder slammed into the rock and she screamed out in pain. Then, below her, Phelia did the same thing.
“Shit,” she whispered.
Are you okay?
That really hurt, didn’t it?
I’ll turn on the Repair Module now.
“No. Focus all energy on teleporting.”
She looked down at her left hand, struggling to keep the dangling Phelia firmly in her grip. Then she looked at her right hand, gripping a rope that was starting to shake as if it could slip away at any moment.
Amelia steeled herself again, made sure to visualize Mino and the worried look she must have had on her face. Got ready to save the day.
And then she and Phelia were on the ground. The safe, chasm-less ground.
Phelia panted feverishly. Amelia’s vision spun around in a daze.
Mino wiped the tears from her face and rushed over to them. She hugged Amelia around the neck so tight it choked her.
“Gods, what happened?” she asked in a yell. “You were falling, and then you were above me, and then—I don’t know, but I was just so worried, and you—”
“Doesn’t matter. We’re safe,” Amelia said through struggled breaths. Mino finished her hug, pulled back slowly. And then the two of them stared at one another for a long second, Amelia’s cheek about as bright as Mino’s eyes.
Amelia’s head slumped over on Mino’s shoulder. Her comfortable, warm shoulder that had no semblance of danger, with a nice fabric on her dress. It pulled the elf back into their embrace, who accepted it like any good friend would. Mino rubbed the back of Amelia’s head and for a second she wondered if she was about to go to sleep—the human kind of sleep.
Eventually, Amelia found the strength to shake Mino off and stand back up on her feet, which was more than she could say about the shock-addled Phelia, who still seemed to have completely locked up from the fall. She had saved them both with the flapping of her vestigial wings, but she had also caused it all in the first place. Amelia was sure that all of this and more was flowing through her mind at the moment.
Out across the chasm, the treasure chest still sat. She looked down at Phelia, then at the chest, then again at Phelia.
Be very careful, Amelia.
Amelia landed gracefully on the ground, feet just a little wobbly from the change in terrain. Grabbed the treasure chest. Kind of heavy.
Back right next to Mino and Phelia. Dropped the treasure chest and let it hit the dirt with a thud that shocked both girls into looking her way.
Then, and only then, could she finally collapse back onto the ground and feel the weight of exhaustion pour all over her.
Amelia, you just used the Warp Module four times in a row.
Three times with a lot of added weight.
And guess what? You also reduced your mana reserves by 27%.
43% power remaining.
Your other modules will be inoperative for a few minutes while more mana is fed into them.
“Anyone got a soul gem?” Amelia wondered aloud. But the others paid no attention to her qualms, her newfound realization that the Warp Module had very real limits when used untrained.
Phelia got back up and stared at the treasure chest for a long moment. Then, in a surprising moment, she stomped her foot and huffed angrily. When Mino placed her hand on the top of her head, she shook it off and scowled.
“Come ON!” Phelia yelled. “I was so close. Amelia, why did you have to go and do that? The treasure was right there!”
“You could have waited for a second, and then we could have figured out a plan together. Some other way to get across without the hook shot. But instead, you just went and... AUGH.”
“Phelia!” Mino snapped. “What’s gotten into you? Amelia just saved your life and rescued the treasure chest.”
“Yeah.” Amelia kicked the chest and its rusted-over lock popped off. The lid swung open.
Phelia huffed. “You wouldn’t understand. My quest, it’s all I...” Curiosity overtook her and she peered into the treasure chest. “Aw, come on! It’s awesome stuff... You ruined it.”
Amelia looked down and found the dark purple robes and scattered jewelry stashed inside. A jewel-encrusted gauntlet that looked to be for orc-sized hands rested atop it all, and was probably the bulk of the entire weight. Most likely, this treasure chest was itself decades old, hidden away and then lost to great distances. Some aspiring adventurer had probably used the chest to store all the goodies they uncovered in their own exploration, and met some untimely demise before they could retrieve it.
Phelia, in the moment, looked exactly like the kind of aspiring adventurer who would rather sacrifice her own life than quit while she had a small cache to trade in. Angry and defiant at no one and nothing in particular, even if her harsh words were directed at Amelia. It was a complete reversal from her normal demeanor.
All that energy Amelia had wasted, all the temporary exhaustion she felt from defying her own demise, spent on someone who was now complaining about it.
“I thought I helped,” Amelia said.
“Not with my quest! I was so close to finally accomplishing something in Fleettwixt, but now I can’t even—”
A giant, rumbling sound. The ground shook violently for a second and knocked Mino on her ass.
Hidden animals jumped out of their resting spots and scurried around, looking for safer refuge. Otto himself began to do this, but eventually circled back around and stuck close with her elven owner.
In the distance, through a narrow gap in the endless caves of Floor 3, Amelia saw several dim, fleshy limbs pounding past, a faint thud with each step.
She tensed up and gulped reflexively.
As she pulled Mino back up, though, Phelia stayed in place... her eyes almost literally glowing with excitement.
“A legendary beast has awakened,” she said, seemingly to herself. “That’s what the monster hunter came down here for. A legendary beast here in Floor 3.”
Amelia and Mino exchanged worried glances.
“I still have a chance,” Phelia said. “A chance to complete a quest! I can defeat a legendary beast!”