Two days later, on the 16th day since we’ve started tempering, the time arrives for two more of our party to level up, coincidentally during the very same night. Alec and Kaitlynn.
We already have a Major Heat Crystal for Kaitlynn—lugged all the way from the Fourth Trial—so we only need a Major Electric Energy Crystal for Alec, and we’re set.
I tell Dave to sit out the hunt, as I don’t trust his Purify to be fast enough to offer protection against a powerful electric discharge. He protests at first, but I convince him to leave the hunt to me, Jacob, and Alec, as the three of us are the only ones with sufficient protection against Electric Energy.
Jacob has his special Energy Power-Up to protect him from Electric Energy, and I’ve been tempering Electric Energy Tolerance especially in preparation of this hunt. With the three temperings I’ve had, I got up to a Tolerance of 32.4%. It took Alec seven temperings to reach 45.1%, but he got there.
By the way, it took Kaitlynn only a mere five temperings to reach a Heat Tolerance of 46.4%. Now that’s talent.
We decide to cut partway through the Cold corner to save time, and also to avoid the council’s island. I doubt they’d try anything, but getting close to that Lightning Bitch always puts me on edge.
Now that he’s finally gotten the hang of my patented mermaid swimming technique, Alec is like a kid on Christmas.
His tail still rips and fizzles sometimes from his overenthusiasm as he attempts weird under-Hydrum manoeuvres and leaps, and he’s clearly distracted, but I suppress my annoyance and let him play.
I remember what it was like at first, the rush of the speed. Moreover, the only thing truly dangerous about the urudo is their lightning. If you can deal with that, they’re pretty weak. They’re a far cry from the plessies, which will always remain scary with their predator instincts and razor-sharp teeth.
Eventually, as we make our way into the corner proper, I do call him to order and get him to line up.
It takes a while for the first urudo appear. It seems like there’s fewer than before, but then again, we are hunting them.
The small fries are easily taken care off. They either charge at us or hover in place and spread their weird external gills to fire off bolts of lightning. Neither of these tactics faze us. Their weak discharges barely tickle my skin, and it’s easy enough to dodge their charges.
I also take the chance to practice Inertia Manipulation. I haven’t gotten the hang of shaping the area affected by my Positive and Negative Inertial Energy yet, but with the right timing, the Skill still has its uses, even under-Hydrum.
For example, I can use Positive Inertial Energy when I’m certain only the blade of my spear is in the path of an urudo’s charge to make my spear unmovable and thus maximize the damage it does. Moreover, thanks to the flexibility provided by the merged Skill, I can quickly switch to Negative Inertial Energy when it turns out I actually failed to dodge a charge to turn any murderous headbutt into a gentle nudge.
The prime urudos—the ones with Minor Electric Energy Crystals embedded in their foreheads—pack a little more punch. Their discharges still actually hurt, and I make sure to fill my spear up with Toxic Energy to make it less conductive for the foreign energy whenever I stab one.
We only come across two of them along the way, however. The first we took out with relative ease. The second one puts up a bit more of a fight but eventually panics when a jab of Alec’s trident gives it its fourth, fifth, and sixth stab wounds.
It turns tail to flee. Just when I’m about to envelop it in a field of Positive Inertial Energy to keep it from getting away, I get a message from Jacob.
<Emma, below you!>
I reflexively switch to Negative Inertial Energy, but it doesn’t really help when a bolt of lightning strikes me, powerful enough to shave off some 20 Onkh of Lavi.
The spasms quickly seize, and I turn my gaze down to find a very large urudo staring up at me angrily.
Where the hell did it come from?!
I leave the question for later, and instead quickly reform my tail as it charges over.
We scatter, and the battle starts for real.
Our planned tactic is simple: Jacob and I are going to combine our Skills and try to take it down in a single shot. After the disaster that was our hunt on the huge plessie, Jacob and I actually spent some time practising our combination attack, and we got a lot better at it.
It’s still a bit risky, as we only have two spears and we might end up losing one, but bringing a beast like this down with shallow wounds would take a long time, and its discharges hurt like a bitch, so we decided it was worth trying. Also, it’s not half as fast or deadly as that darn plessie was, so Alec should be fine distracting it for a bit while we line up our shot.
Alec does an excellent job at making a nuisance of himself—not that I ever doubted his ability there—with rude gestures and jabs of his trident, until the urudo goes after him. The beast gets in a good zap or two, but Alec shrugs them off like a champ, further annoying the irate urudo.
Jacob and I take our time, and I direct Alec Telepathically in where to swim until we get a good shot.
We end up taking it when the creature swims up after Alec, exposing its soft underside to us.
Not that that softness matters much. The wake of our projectile leaves a gaping hole in the urudo’s chest. The shockwave stuns the creature and disturbs the whole area, whipping up clouds of sand at the bottom and scaring fish out of hiding places all over. To its credit, the urudo shakes itself out of its stupor a mere three seconds or so later, and angrily changes course towards us, crackling with Electric Energy. However, we just evade it, until it expires, about a minute or so later.
Turns out it managed to get the drop on us earlier by hiding in the sand below, its big, white form actually lending itself quite well for camouflage. Jacob didn’t spot it until it moved, and by then it was too late for much of a reaction.
Good thing we were ready for this hunt.
We get back a little before dinner. Apparently, Dave’s cooking. Colour me curious. Tired both physically and mentally, I head down to my hut, and flop down on my bed.
The last thing I think before I drift off into a well-deserved nap is, it doesn’t even smell like her anymore.
There’s some time left before dinner after I wake. On a whim, I decide to climb into the watchtower. Our flag flutters in the breeze below my dangling feet as I enjoy the view. When I grow tired of it, I instead check out my Status Window.
Definitely not bad. My Electric Energy Tolerance is coming along nicely and even my Heat and Vibration Tolerances grew a little with all the hunting we’ve been doing on the Yang side.
My store of Toxic Energy has gone down quite a bit, in part because of the hunts Dave and I did for Radiation Crystals, and in part because of my training to control the Toxic Energy in my body.
It’s taking some getting used to, that I can do that now. The Toxic Energy in my body is very different from my Lavi and Qi. My Lavi flows and pulses like something, well, alive, and my Qi kind of flutters about randomly, like little snowflakes. My Toxic Energy moves around only a little, preferring to curl up and writhe in the little nooks and crannies of my flesh and bones, like freaky little octopi made of conglomerated poisonous snakes.
It takes a bit of effort to get them to split into little magenta tendrils and move along my meridians, but I’m getting the hang of it. I figured out that once I get them going, they’ll pretty much do what I want.
Anyway, the reason I lost a bunch of my stored Toxic Energy is that I’ve been practising transferring it to my breath and merging the Toxic Energy into my Breath Control.
It’s a work in progress. I developed my nice Lavi nuclei technique to keep control of my Lavi for longer, but that doesn’t seem to work with Toxic Energy. And once I lose control of the Toxic Energy, it goes after the Lavi in my exhale, disrupting my control over that as well.
I would’ve lost more of my Toxic Energy, except I’ve been trying to recycle it by re-inhaling and absorbing it back into my body. To be honest, it wouldn’t be too difficult to top up my Toxic Energy level. I might not have any more Moonshade sap, but I’ve got a bunch of Minor Toxic Energy Crystals left over, which I just stick against my skin for a while. However, I think I’ll keep it at around 100 Onkh for now. Though it’s not hard for me to get rid of excess Toxic Energy anymore, it’s still nice to have a bit of a buffer in case an enemy we’re to suddenly hit me with a dose of it.
Anyway, my next goal should probably be to practise inducing Purposes in the Toxic Energy in my—
My thoughts grind to a halt as I spot Kaitlynn walking through the village.
The very sight of her fills me with a confusing mix of emotions that make my stomach grow taut with tension.
She catches sight of me and freezes in her tracks. She stares up at me. I swallow, my tongue scraping unpleasantly against the suddenly dry roof of my mouth as I lift my hand in a pathetic little wave.
She awkwardly returns it, before turning her gaze down and plodding onward, her shoulders noticeably more hunched.
Shit. I’m such a coward.
It’s high time I faced her.
Before I can talk myself out of it again, I get up and swing myself over the edge of the tower. I create a spiral of Negative Inertial Energy a split-second before I land, resisting the inane urge to do a super-hero landing.
Kaitlynn flinches as I gracefully touch down right in front of her, bringing a hand to her chest.
“Ehm, hey,” I say lamely. “Sorry if I spooked you.”
She blinks, then gives me a small, crooked smile. The sadness and hesitance behind it hurt a little in my chest. “That’s okay, I’m pretty used to your reckless behaviour,” she says, with a hint of tease in her voice. “What’s up?”
“I just...” I start before trailing off as the words ‘wanted to apologise’ get stuck in my throat. They just don’t feel right. Empty. “I know you’re levelling tonight,” I say instead, “and I was just wondering if you were... feeling ready. If you had any questions.”
“Oh,” Kaitlynn says, nodding and turning her gaze down. She hugs one arm to herself and kicks up a bit of sand with an idle foot. “I’m a bit nervous, I guess. I may not have entirely paid attention the first time the topic was discussed... maybe you could tell me what to expect?”
She looks up, peering at me through impossibly long lashes, biting her lower lip, and my heart skips a beat.
I suck in a breath and try not to let it show on my face. “Yeah, of course. Ehm, it’s... well, I’m not gonna lie, it sucks balls.”
Some of the tension in my shoulders falls away. “But there’s no need to worry. You can’t really do anything wrong, and you’ll be unconscious for most of it. The only tip I can really give you is that you should start Meditating the second you drop your crystal inside.”
She nods. “Right. Thanks.” She pauses for a moment, and I hold my breath, waiting for her to say something, anything. “Well, see you at dinner, I guess.”
My stomach drops as she gives me another awkward little wave and goes to move around me.
I can’t help myself. My fingers close around her wrist as she brushes past.
She freezes at my touch. In return, the feel of her skin burns my fingers.
“Kait, you know you don’t have to be so polite, right?” I ask softly, my voice hoarse with held-back emotion. “I’d do anything for you. That hasn’t changed.”
“Why?” she asks. “I thought you only liked me because I’m Yang?”
I flinch back, letting go of her wrist at the tone of her voice. “I’m sorry,” I say, the words as sincere as they ever have been, coming out of my mouth. “I hate what I said back then. I didn’t mean it. Or at least, I didn’t mean it like that.”
She brings the wrist I just released to her chest and cradles it like it’s wounded. Then she turns and scoffs at me, a sad look in her eye. “Didn’t you? Objective meaning doesn’t leave a lot of room for incorrect interpretation in this Realm, you know?”
I shake my head. “It’s objective meaning, not objective truth. It doesn’t stop us from lying, let alone from saying things we don’t mean.”
She stills for a moment, considering. “Then why did you say it?”
I swallow, frozen under her gaze. “That’s... kind of a long story,” I offer. “Would you be willing to hear me out?”
Kaitlynn looks at me for a long time, judging, weighing. Her stare feels like a rock on my chest, making it hard to breathe.
Finally, she nods. She turns around and begins walking away with purpose, only pausing for a moment to turn and look at me expectantly.
I take a deep breath and set off after her.
Exciting news: Rules as Fun is officially starting this Sunday! ^^
Join us in the world of Ugyra, where the rival Nordstrom Empire and the Republic of Lavaraine have destroyed each others’ lands and cursed their gods, leaving the surrounding vassal states to rebuild themselves in the magical wasteland left behind
You can find the stream at twitch.tv/rulesasfun
The adventure begins at 19.00 this Sunday (That's Central European Summer Time, GMT+02:00. I said it'd be +01.00 last time, but that was a mistake: I forgot about summertime!)
If you want to know what time that is for you, just use this time zone converter; I already filled in the exact time of the stream, all you need to do is add your own location!
Some examples of local times it equates to:
Los Angeles: 10:00 (GMT-07:00)
New York: 13:00 (GMT-04:00)
Stockholm: 20.00 (GMT+03:00)
East Kazakhstan: 23:00 (GMT+06:00)
Tokyo: 02:00 (GMT+09:00)
Sydney: 03:00 (GMT+10:00)
So... props to anyone who watches the stream live from Sydney, but I wouldn't recommend it :p
If you miss it, you should be able to watch an archived version on Twitch, and eventually on YouTube. But there's nothing like watching it Live, of course ;) Hope to see you there!