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The dream of Chernobyl’s control room and my magic arm shield started to vibrate. Huh?

“Juniiiiii,” my mother’s voice broke through my dream, ripping it apart into shreds.

I awoke with a yelp.

My mom was standing in front of my alcove, her hand on my shoulder. I groggily blinked at her.

“You weren’t waking,” she commented. “It’s… late.”

“I was busy,” I replied.

“Busy doing what? Sleeping?” She inquired.

“Uhh…” I decided not to explain that I was busy making myself a magic shield arm. Judging by my mom’s expression she was very annoyed with me.

“Juni, you didn’t listen to me last night,” she said, her voice very stern.

“About?”

“About getting rid of the nightcrawler right away!” She growled. “You three almost got eaten by a thunderbird.”

“Oh,” I slowly recalled the events of last night. It felt like a week ago. The meticulous work on a Michell shield had really drained my mental energy.

“Is that all you have to say for yourself?” Mom pressed.

“Uh, it’s part of my excellent training as a cendai,” I muttered in reply, looking away from her conflagrant gaze.

“What training? I haven't taken you to Eunice yet!"

I winced.

"You won’t live long enough to become our cendai if you continue to commit foolish actions like this.” Mom shook her head.

“I got greedy,” I nodded. “It won’t happen again. I’ll be more careful, promise.”

Mom squinted at me. She didn’t look like she believed me. I ignored her glare, glancing around the living room. Alessi and her mom were sitting on the couch. The big silver haired chimera was as expressionless as ever, while the little one was looking quite sorry for me. I winked at her.

“Juni… I saw you. You were eating monster meat,” mom declared.

“Yes,” I confessed after a deep pause.

“I told you not to do that!” She hissed loudly. “You didn’t just eat meat yourself either… you gave it to your… friend to eat!”

“So what?” I asked with a frown. Mom clearly didn’t see Alessi as my sister.

“Juni!” She barked. “Girls should not…”

“WHY?” I insisted.

“By the All-mother’s, why are you like this?!” Mom snapped. Alessi flinched, hiding herself behind the couch.

“What is so wrong with eating meat?” I demanded, staring back into my mother’s purple eyes, not backing down. I saw my own determined, yellow-orange eyes reflected in her reflective hair gemstones. “Eating meat makes… chimera stronger!”

“Eating meat… makes the men stronger,” she exhaled. “But… It also attracts predators!”

“Huh?” I tilted my head. “So if I eat meat…”

“You’re going to get eaten yourself if you keep this up, damn it!” She growled, raising her voice further. “You’re too young to fight monsters! You have NO way of defending yourself! You are small, weak and do not know magic. Boys fly and draw the monsters away so that girls can gather herbs and berries without fear or worry! The two work in tandem. Why don’t you understand something so simple?!”

“I… get it… I understand,” I whispered. If she was right, then eating meat made me stronger… but it also made me tastier to the monstrous inhabitants of the Chasm. The women avoided eating meat because it made them less visible to the flying and crawling abominations that emerged from the deep.

“Do you really?” She demanded.

“I do,” I nodded, keeping my head down.

“I’m going to be working on…” she started to speak. She didn’t sound calm. She was extremely agitated with me. I decided to depart before things got out of hand again.

“I’m going out with Alessi and Belassi. We have to relocate the rune blessings from their home into ours,” I said.

“Ah… fine. That would be very useful. Ours are almost out of power,” Mom noted with a glance at the carpets on the wall. “Please… be careful.”

She looked at the silver-haired pair.

“Juni will be safe with us,” Alessi said, making a symbol of a diamond with her hands. “We will protect her, I swear upon the strength of my chorus and the All-mother!”

“See that you do,” Mom nodded. "Your performance with the thunderbird leaves much to be desired."

Alessi nodded, looking ashamed.

“You can feed yourself, since you slept through breakfast, again,” mom commented my way. I saw disappointment in her eyes as she turned and walked into the kitchen.

I slid out of bed and groggily walked to Alessi.

“I tried to wake you earlier, but you did not rise,” she said.

“Was busy doing cendai things,” I yawned.

“Really?” She looked at me. “What kind of things?”

“Follow me,” I said, walking towards the front entrance.

“Follow us,” I heard Alessi order her mom around as I unlatched the beetle-wing doorway and stepped out onto the jaw of the dragon.

I washed my face and hands with the water that had pooled up inside one of the missing dragon-tooth cavities. It was refreshingly cold. Alessi patiently waited for me to finish and then did the same.

“Here,” I presented my right arm to her when she was done. “Punch me in the arm.”

“Uhh?” She blinked at me.

“Do it,” I said. “I made my arm tougher. I think. Hit me and we’ll see if it worked.”

“Alright.” She swung her knuckle into my arm.

I focused on my new thread, tightening it. Alessi yelped as her hand collided with my invisible shield and her first bounced away from me. I knew that it was the Michell structure I had made with the strength-reinforcing red thread.

[-0.87 Mana]

The System chimed.

“Owwww, what in the Chasm?” Alessi rubbed her fingers, hissing. “It feels like I just punched solid rock.”

“Magic!” I declared jovially.

“Hmmm,” she carefully poked my wrist. “Strange… it’s soft now… but when I hit you… it felt like you had hard crystals all around the top of your wrist.”

“Took me all night to make,” I grinned. “Magic shield.”

“That’s really… amazing,” my audience of a single, small chimera clapped.

“Will you…” her eyes settled on mine.

“Teach you how to make one?” I asked with a sly grin.

She nodded.

“In time,” I said. “First you must learn… matematyka!”

“Mate… mati… yka?” She blinked, not understanding the Ukrainian word for “mathematics”.

“No,” I shook my head with a giggle. “Mathematics. Adding, subtracting and multiplying numbers.”

More confused glances and questions followed from the little chimera.

 


 

I spent the first hour of my day snacking on a dry berry patty and describing basic math to Alessi via use of dry berries as props. She was fairly quick on the uptake, absorbing math like an eager sponge. I recalled that I still had nine points to spend.

“Uh, Alessi, can your mom carry me to your place?” I asked her, bringing out the belt pack my mother had used for carrying me around.

“Sure,” Alessi nodded.

“I’m going to take another nap,” I explained. “Got more dream-magic stuff to do.”

“Allright,” the little chimera smiled at me. “Don’t take too long.”

“No promises,” I laughed.

 


 

As Belassi carried me on her back, I attempted to return to my mental picture Chernobyl via the use of meditation. Back on Earth I had practiced ‘Ohm meditation’ pretty often. It was one of the esoteric skills taught to me by my grandfather. According to Buddhist books in his library, the Ohm sound-cast meditation was an all encompassing construct, the essence of ultimate reality that unified everything in the universe, unlocked the deeper state of consciousness and opened up the third eye.

Grandfather Vladislav wasn’t a Buddhist, not by a longshot. He didn’t believe in souls, chakras, or the third eye. What he taught me was basically a way to clear the mind to mentally refocus the brain on solving a specific task. To be more specific, he had used his own “Ohm'' meditation space to do complex fractal mathematics in his head. Compared to him, I sucked at math, since I was more of a visual person. Thus, I used Ohm meditation to mentally visualize cosplays and materials in my head before I assembled them in reality.

As I hummed the ‘Ohm’ softly to myself, I focused all of my will on visualizing, immersing myself in my imaginary space into which leveling up had normally cast me into.

After a long while of humming, I began to drift and then I was suddenly standing amidst the dreary, decayed reactor room. It worked!

“I’m back baby,” I winked at my stats panel. “Now… let’s see what else I can learn to do!”

Since I couldn't see myself fully, I imagined a large mirror in front of myself, to see a reflection of my body. It immediately appeared in front of me. Yay, for having an excellent, visual imagination.

I saw that I had five gold-colored [Dexterity] threads and a single red [Strength] thread coming out of the center of my chest. Interesting. I wonder if it was my chimera synesthesia talent that had automatically assigned them colors for clarity.

I turned the next dial of interest.

Agility: 1
Investiture points: 8

A pink thread bloomed from my core. Unlike the Strength thread, it didn’t form into a tree that followed the shape of my bones. Instead, it wound, naturally looping itself into a spiral-shaped formation. It looked like a spring. Was it supposed to make one of my muscles springier or something?

I pushed the thread out of my body and tried to fold and unfold the spiral. As I did, I felt something akin to air pressure grow and release within it.

Aha! I’ve made a compressor of sorts with the Agility thread. I added the word [Compressor] to the title. It appeared on the plaque in front of me. I could permanently rename the System terms. Well, they were in my imagination after all, so why not?

I already knew what gold-colored [Dexterity] threads did. I labeled the [Dexterity] skill as [Pneumasomatic Actuators] and moved onto the next thing.

I cranked the dial next to [Vitality].

Vitality: 1
Investiture points: 7

A bright, yellow thread blossomed from my heart, forming into a thick beam. The beam flashed and opened up, forming a needle-like pinhole. A million tiny threads woven from yellow light danced inside of the pinhole, creating something akin to a fine soap-bubble film. I had no idea what was happening. I moved the weird pinhole across my body into my right arm and lifted it to my face. I saw a grayscale reflection of myself inside of the pinhole. The grayscale girl lifted her arm up to her face.

Uhhh…

I lifted my left arm and waited. The girl in the pinhole lifted her left arm. So… this pinhole was a weird mirror with… a bit of lag, a delay? But why? I scratched my chin in confusion. In a brief moment, the black and white version of me scratched her chin too.

The weird mirror-like pinhole flower reminded me of the mirror flowers from “The Mystery of the Third Planet” Soviet animated film. In it, space explorer Alice discovered mirror-like flowers that took photographs of everything and played it back to the observer at a slightly delayed rate. Was this what was happening here?

The pinhole recorded… me and played it back at a delayed rate… but why? I didn’t feel any healthier from it. Why was it called [Vitality]? Weird. I glanced at the [Vitality] plaque, renaming it.

Vitality [Slow Mirror]: 1

Could I control the recording rate of the mirror if I flexed my new Vitality muscle? I tried to do so… and absolutely nothing happened. No… there had to be something else at play here… something that I wasn’t understanding. Wait. I needed to see the exact time being recorded!

“Display my current age… to a precise millisecond!” I ordered my imaginary control room. The age dial expanded.

Age: 7 months, 27 days, 5 hours, 24 minutes, 15 seconds, 532 milliseconds.

I glanced at the dial through the Slow Mirror pinhole. Grayscale letters and numbers stated the following.

Age: 7 months, 27 days, 5 hours, 24 minutes, 14 seconds, 228 milliseconds.

Aha! My reflection was around one second slower than mine. I brought the Slow Mirror to the front of my right wrist, turning it into a little grayscale wristwatch slit. I could use this to solve mysteries that happened a second ago, I suppose. I giggled to myself about this fun prospect that clearly had nothing to do with Vitality. I tapped the surface of the Slow Mirror with my ghostly finger. Its surface wobbled ever so slightly.

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with it, so I left it alone for now. I’d have to come back to experimenting with it later.

I moved onto [Charisma], cranking its dial a single click forward.

Charisma: 1
Investiture points: 6

A lime-colored thread grew straight up from my chest into my head, forming an emerald halo above it.

Uhh… Charisma makes me into an angel? Very funny, system. I wiggled the halo around. It didn’t seem to do anything.

I tried to pour energy into my Charisma halo. Its emerald glow intensified.

[-1 Mana]

I glanced at myself in the mirror and saw that I looked… alluring? A tad more captivating? Not that there was much to look at, as I was a human-ish figure made from a bunch of semi-transparent threads. But there was definitely some sort of a catchy-ness about me that inexplicably drew my own gaze to myself. Weird!

I decided to call this skill the [Allure Halo], labeling it as such in my chart.

I glanced at my mana and saw that it was quickly running low. I dimmed my halo.

I looked back at the time on the panel.

According to it, I had spent about an hour in my evolution mental space. It was time to wake up.

I forced my eyes to open.

 


 

I was sitting in the pack, behind Belassi as she was slowly climbing towards a smaller skull-house embedded in a tall stone column. I noticed Alessi climbing behind us.

“Do I look different?” I asked her, pouring power into my [Charisma], igniting my Allure Halo.

“Hmmm,” she looked at me. “There is something off about you. Strange… You look, a tiny bit… prettier? Not that you weren’t pretty before… but… it’s like the light is falling on your face just right? I don’t know. Your hair is sparkling very prettily too…”

Alessi looked at me with utter fascination, like I was a very tasty berry, unable to draw her gaze away. Excellent, the Charisma halo was indeed doing its job, making me irresistible. I wondered if it was some kind of a mental effect that was affecting the observer. I cut off the flow power into the halo before I ran out of mana.

Alessi blinked. “What was that?”

“Beauty magic,” I said, grinning widely.

“Hum,” she said. “How’s that useful? Seems like it would just make you tastier to monsters? Can you do the opposite of the allure, maybe?”

“Hmmm… that is a good idea indeed,” I rubbed my chin and wondered if I could somehow invert the angelic halo into one of a hideous demon.

Did the monster-repelling runes work on the same principle? Did they make the skull-house scary or unattractive to beasts?

 

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About the author

Vitaly S Alexius

  • Canada
  • Archbishop of Captania and sovereign territories
  • https://www.rom.ac

Bio: I was born in the year 1984, in the 4th most polluted city of Soviet Union.
On April 11/1997 fate has given me an unexpected twist and by means of aerial transportation I was dislocated 5555 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Ontario, Canada, wherein I currently preside in an 1890 cathedral and partake in writing and drawing things.

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