• H.C. Mills

Chapter 107: Tunnel snakes rule!

I turn to Jacob and find him with empty hands, his spear embedded in a plessie that’s sinking to the sandy bottom thirty feet away.

He glances from his spear to the huge approaching plessie, seeming paralyzed with indecision.

Swearing internally, I toss him a tether as I swim over. <Nevermind, use mine!>

I ready my Focus Crystal and hold my spear out to him. From the corner of my eye-crystal, I spot Kaitlynn and Dave backing up and spreading out.

Good.

Jacob shakes off his indecision and rushes over, his own Focus Crystal at the ready.

The huge plessie picks up speed, heading straight for us, and lets out another keening, rumbling cry.

‘Foooooood!’

Jacob’s webbed hand shakes as he grabs my offered weapon.

The plessie is nearly upon us. A pink vortex springs from my Focus Crystal as I activate Manipulate Inertia. A split-second later, a yellow flash follows, and my spear disappears.

Its launch causes a shockwave, that smashes into me like a hammer. For a moment, the muscles in my chest constrict. Struggling to breathe in the violent wake of my spear’s launch, it takes me a moment to figure out what happened.

A pillar of rock just beyond the plessie features a nice cylindrical hole where the spear passed right through it, but the plessie itself seems fully intact. It swerved. Right before Jacob threw. Perhaps the plessie sensed the danger, perhaps it simply felt like playing with its food, but either way, Jacob missed.

At least the shockwave that travelled outward from the spear’s path seems to have affected the plessie as well, judging from the way it glides past us through the Hydrum almost motionlessly.

Then—around the same time as my muscles loosen back up—it jerks into action, turning its rage-filled gaze on us.

Shit!

<Go grab your spear, I’ll distract it!> I send to Jacob.

Jacob nods before speeding down with a kick from his webbed feet.

Upon seeing him move, the plessie—perhaps instinctually—moves its paddle-like limbs and chases after him.

I whip out a tether towards it. <Don’t even think about it, you overgrown sea-giraffe! I’m going to turn you into sushi!>

It shoots me a confused glance in passing, then turns back to Jacob, nearing him far too quickly.

Shit, it doesn’t understand! Objective meaning is pointless if the recipient is too stupid to get it!

I guess I have to dumb it down.

<Hey, stupid, you smell bad! Plus, you’re slow and ugly!>

This time, I get the reaction I’m looking for. It twists its long neck around to give me an indignant, affronted look, like it can’t believe I would say those things.

<That’s it, come at me, smelly-ugly-stupidhead!>

That seems to seal the deal, for its body follows its head and suddenly it’s speeding in my direction.

Oh crap.

I sweep out, the plessie hot on my tail. I’m a lot faster than Jacob, but so is this thing.

I try to throw it off with sudden twists and turns, but the plessie is very agile. In fact, it nearly manages to bite me when I risk a glance to confirm that Jacob’s retrieved his spear.

He has. Now what?

I attempt to duck around a rock pillar to gain some ground, but the plessie just wings around it and is on me again like a fat kid on cake.

Given no time to think, I can do little else but continue to lead this thing around on a merry chase. Even that is hard, as I quickly find out that while I can make tighter curves, this thing can outswim me on straights.

By the sixth near-miss with this thing’s giant friggin’ teeth, I am straight-up panicking.

Then Dave’s voice echoes in my head, like a heralding angel.

<Emma, swim up! We’re preparing to counter this thing from up here!> A hazy picture follows the message, the shape of a rock, jutting out of the Hydrum...

There! I recognize it as the pillar of rock that my spear went straight through earlier.

I shoot upwards without a second thought, squeezing as much speed out of my tired legs as I can in this chilly Hydrum.

With the gaping maw of teeth behind me, I don’t bother to slow down before I breach the surface. I launch myself out of the Hydrum like a trained dolphin in one of those shows. A large head follows me out on a long neck.

Before it can try to snap me up from the Aether, a blast of Astreum from Dave hits it in the throat and a shockwave from Kaitlynn in its stupid face.

The plessie rears back. Meanwhile, I regret my decision to not slow down before leaping out of the Hydrum as I plummet towards the rocky surface from a greater height than I’m comfortable with.

Thankfully, Jacob is there to arrest my fall with a flash of yellow. He even attempts to catch me, but receives a faceful of Hydrum for his troubles from my disintegrating tail, before we go down in a wet heap.

There’s a moment of deceptive peace and silence, before several things happen at once.

I get up and ready my Focus Crystal.

Jacob grabs his spear and starts to get up as well, slightly behind me as he was on the bottom of our heap.

A bulge moves up the plessies throat.

Kaitlynn inhales.

Then, all hell breaks loose as the plessie unleashes a torrent of pink-glowing liquid.

My stomach sinks, but then Kaitlynn’s standing in front of me, and answers with a stream of blistering Astreum.

The two opposing flows meet in the middle with a mighty roar. My heart skips a beat at the sight of Kaitlynn's hair fluttering in the gale generated by the violent clash.

I unconsciously raise an arm and squint against the wave of Heat that washes over me. Just in time too, as the Heat is quickly followed by a spray of pink droplets that leave pockmarks in the surface of the rock and burn my unprotected skin.

Thankfully, our armours fend of the brunt of it, as they are impervious to the Acidic Toxic Energy, like I’d found out back in Hub Two.

The pink goop has the advantage of superior weight, which is only exacerbated by the downward angle, but the Astreum leaves Kaitlynn’s mouth with greater speed and power, which results in a momentary stalemate.

Unfortunately, Kaitlynn’s reserves are smaller. Her stream quickly weakens, and the pink goop gains ground.

Jacob levels his spear at the thing’s head. I reflexively activate the Qi in my Focus Crystal. A vortex of glowing pink energy springs forth and drains the inertial mass from my surroundings.

I throw in my Focus Crystal’s full charge—10 Onkh—never considering the size of the resulting vortex or its potential consequences.

Kaitlynn, who still stands directly in front of me, gets caught in the vortex. As her inertial mass is drastically decreased, the powerful stream of Astreum leaving her mouth effectively turns her into a lightweight rocket.

She shoots backwards. I raise my hands to catch her, but my inertial mass is decreased as well. Kaitlynn and I are launched off the rocky outcrop together. Caught off-guard, Jacob activates his Skill just a split-second too late, after my Focus Crystal and its accompanying vortex are already out of range.

His spear doesn’t disappear in a flash. It just shoots forward and pierces into the plessie’s throat.

It certainly looks painful, and it effectively cuts off the deluge of pink goop, but it’s not deadly. If anything, our would-be prey just looks really pissed.

Kaitlynn and I hit the surf.

Shit shit shit!

My heart pounds in my throat as I rebuild my tail as fast as I can.

Jacob and Dave land in the Hydrum on opposite sides of the rock.

The plessie comes around from the other side, spear still stuck in its throat, and chases after Jacob.

My mind races as I look around for something to use as a weapon, a distraction, a means to escape, anything.

My eye falls on the hole Jacob’s first throw left in the pillar of rock we just vacated.

An idea bubbles up from a dark corner of my mind.

Oh, that is nasty. Would it fall for that? It’d have to be really pissed, and if I screw up I’m done for...

I glance over at Jacob, who’s swimming for his life, and barely manages to stay out of reach with well-timed uses of Increase Momentum.

Screw it. Death or glory.

I swim down to in front of the hole and fill my Medium Yin Focus Crystal with all the Qi I have left.

I whip a tether over at the plessie. <Get glorbed, you smelly-slow-stupid piece of shit!>

It shoots me a condescending look from the corner of its eye, clearly not willing to give up on its favourite prey for a second time.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. <You fat bitch! I’m going to find all of your eggs and turn them into omelettes, starting with this one!>

A wave of fatigue washes over me as I expend some of the remaining dregs of Espir to conjure the image of a large, light-pink egg behind my back, then bring it around as if I was hiding it there all along.

Thankfully, the thing can’t resist glancing at me again. Judging by the widening of its eyes and the shiver that runs through its body, it spots the egg. Rage fills its eyes as it lets out another low rumbling whine, but this time with a different meaning.

‘Dieeee!’

It swerves away from Jacob to swim straight for me.

Perfect. Come at me, you cocky bitch!

I tense my legs and prepare my tail for my mightiest of kicks.

I’m only going to get one shot at this, and timing is going to be crucial.

Just before it’s upon me, I turn around to face the hole and form a boundary of Spatial Energy inside.

I open it up, stretching the hole in two dimensions, and the resulting rush of Hydrum pulls me inside. With a single kick of my tail, I shoot through.

As I hoped, a maw full of razor-sharp, serrated teeth follows after me.

Right before it catches me, I pop the boundary.

The chasing maw is launched forward as the hole contracts around the neck it was attached to. I curl up into a ball as the giant teeth surround me, and... I come out the giant hole at the back of its throat, where its neck used to attach.

I stare at the now slowly sinking head, still processing the stunt I just pulled. It actually worked! Take that, you dumb dinosaur! No wonder you’re extinct!

Then Kaitlynn has her arms around me. <Emma! That was amazing!>

She presses her lips against mine and I reflexively close my eyes and sink into it.

It’s a weird experience, kissing under-Hydrum. Especially since we’re both currently breathing Hydrum, and our mouths are therefore full of it.

Then I realize the situation we’re in, how we might be spotted at any moment, and I flinch back and push her away.

I can feel my breath come faster, my head spinning with the beginnings of a panic attack as I glance around. Dave approaches in the distance, Jacob rounds the corner.

Dave can’t have seen what we were doing from that far, right? I let out a shaky exhale of relief and focus on slowing down my breathing.

Only then do I turn back to Kaitlynn, with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

She’s allowed herself to drift off a little after my shove and avoids my gaze when I try to catch her eye.

She does not look happy. Crap.

I bite on my bottom lip.

Damnit, why am I so hung up on the others knowing? I mean, it’s not even like it’s really gay. This is normal Yin-Yang attraction. Totally straight, when you think about it.

Except if I explain that to them, that means I have to tell Kaitlynn that there’s no future for us back on Earth...

<Well done, Emma!> Dave sends when he gets near. <Now, we probably shouldn’t linger. Let’s grab our stuff and go, guys!>

It takes some time to track down my spear, but thankfully it lost most of its speed smashing the hole through the rock that I used to kill smelly-ugly-stupidhead, and eventually just fell down into the sand somewhere. As for Jacob’s spear, that one was stuck in the plessie’s neck, which ended up crushed inside solid rock, so I and up having to swallow a pearl so I can open it up again and retrieve it.

I personally pry the Major Toxic Energy Crystal out of the huge plessie’s forehead, since it seems unwise to let any of the others handle it, with their lacking Toxic Energy Tolerances.

A quick glance at the plessie’s body on the other side of the rock tells me that the pink goop was actually not coming up through the windpipe like I expected, but up its oesophagus. It was literally stomach acid that it was vomiting at us.

Yuck.

Thankfully, the acid burns quickly fade away under Dave’s Restoring Radiation when we get back to the island.

We tell Alec and Loudmouth all about it over dinner—turns out the eggs aren’t Toxic, and Alec whips up a mean omelette—and they stare at us with such similar looks of awe that, despite Kaitlynn giving me the cold shoulder, even I crack a smile.

Alec in return tells us that he thinks he’s come up with a way to teach us Regeneration, but that it’s still a work in progress, and he’s not ready to show us.

I keep glancing over at Kaitlynn, but she steadfastly ignores me during dinner, picking at her food and hardly eating it.

Dave catches my eye at some point, and gives me an odd look, before shifting his gaze to Kaitlynn. I quickly avert my eye, with a twisting in my gut.

Tomorrow. I’ll talk to her tomorrow. Right now, I need to focus on levelling up.

Author's note:

Thanks for reading! ^^

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©2018 by H.C. Mills