Chapter 12: Fatal Attraction

 

“Gee thanks,” I mumble. Glancing up behind me, I spot the pink Crystal of Restoration over the doorway. That’s a little comforting, at least.

 

Unlike what I see before me.

 

A spacious stone hall stretches out in front of me. Jutting out of the wall at the far end is a balcony, on top of which the only other doorway out of this hall.

 

As for how I’m supposed to get up there... stone handholds, reminding me of those indoor rock-climbing holds, go up the wall to my right, cross over to the ceiling, and extend all the way to the balcony.

 

The ceiling is about 15 feet high and the balcony at least 60 feet away. FML.

 

“I don’t suppose I get any chalk?”

 

[I’m afraid not. But I think you’ll find this obstacle to be less challenging than it appears.]

 

Doubtful.

 

I walk over to the wall on my right.

 

I stumble a little when I reach it and catch myself on one of the handholds. Weird... is this wall slanted? It looks pretty straight.

 

The handhold is cool and rough, and it provides me with a firm grip. For now.

 

I sigh and take another glance at the ceiling. Not looking forward to that.

 

But time is ticking, so I grab hold of another handhold, put my right foot on a third, and hoist myself up.

 

I have the weirdest sensation that I’m tilting forwards as I do so. I halt. This wall is definitely slanted away from me... right?

 

As I climb up, the sensation continues, until it feels like the wall is tilted under a 30-degree angle.

 

I look down. The floor really still seems to be connected under a 90-degree angle...

 

“Suri... what is going on? Am I tilting this room? You’d tell me if I was getting that fat, right?”

 

[You have not noticeably increased in weight since entering the first preparation room. You are experiencing a difference in the workings of gravity in this dimension.]

 

“I can’t even trust gravity in this place? Do I need to worry about floating off into space here?”

 

[Well... not currently.]

 

What?

 

[Gravity works under a much shorter range than you are used to here. Much, much shorter. Since you have moved away from the floor, and onto the wall, you are now being pulled slightly more sideways, and less down.]

 

“... You’re messing with me. I’ve been near plenty of walls and never felt anything!”

 

[The previous spaces were much smaller, resulting in the pull of all walls affecting you simultaneously, cancelling each other out. At most, the pull of the ceiling would make you feel a little lighter than outside, as the main pull still comes from down below, where the mass is simply much greater.]

 

“... You know, I’m having a little trouble understanding which things are classified and which aren’t. Would you have told me this if I’d asked in the preparation room?”

 

[No. This knowledge became available when you started the second trial, because it is one of its main learning goals.]

 

“I see...”

 

[Outside of the five-minute window, practical questions—meaning questions pertaining to problems and situations at hand—will still be answered. Inquiries of a more philosophical nature are not permitted.]

 

“Why?” I reflectively ask.

 

[That’s classified.]

 

Yup. Should’ve seen that coming.

 

“All right then. Thanks for letting me know about the superweird gravity.”

 

Time to conquer this trial. Or well, the start anyway.

 

I climb up further, trying to sense the direction of gravity as I do. This is going to take some getting used to... it’s rather disorienting.

 

As I near the ceiling, the wall starts feeling less slanted, but I also start to feel lighter.

 

The ceiling must be pulling me towards it. So weird.

 

Its pull is still far from enough to keep me afloat however, so I start trying to transition into hanging from the ceiling.

 

Like I feared, there’s nowhere to plant my feet.

 

I have to do this hanging from just my arms, 15 feet up in the air.

 

I look down and take a deep breath. At least the air is only mildly toxic here, like in the preparation rooms.

 

I first try to lift myself off my footholds on the wall, using just my arms, I succeed, but quickly run into trouble. Even if I can hang from two arms, how do I move to the next handhold?

 

The problem isn’t that my arms are too weak to hang from individually; it’s my grip strength. There’s nothing to put my fingers on top of. I can only grab the handholds and squeeze, hoping to get enough grip.

 

Even with the counteracting gravitational pull from the ceiling, hanging from a single hand like that with a Str stat of 6... And this is just the first obstacle! I see now why Suri told me this trial would be impossible with too low strength.

 

Time to get serious. Man, I was not looking forward to this.

 

I accelerate a flow of Lavi through my heart and yank it back. I groan in pain as the Lavi detonates in my heart, but revel in the rush of temporary strength that floods my limbs with every pump.

 

One of my hands releases. I try and swing myself forward a little with the other arm and reach for a new handhold. Got it. I try not to look down at my uselessly flopping legs. I have to keep going now; my Lavi won’t last forever.

 

In fact, I asked Suri to add a feature to my status bar specifically for this trial: my net Lavi intake. Right now it looks like this:

So it’s -7 Onkh per minute, which gives me about 5 minutes.

 

I accelerate another flow, biting my lip as my heart withstands another battering, and release the grip of my second hand.

 

 

I’m almost there, when I slip up. Stupid really: I’m paying too much attention to the status bar, worrying if I’m fast enough. Though my fingers growing cold and numb might have also had something to do with it...

I swing forward and scratch the handhold I was aiming for with my fingertips. Panicked, I reach for it again, pulling harder on my other arm, but I’m now on the backswing, so I feel it slip from my fingertips a second time. My arms started shaking two minutes ago. I can already feel the extra strength from my last boost slipping, as well as my grip.

 

I make one last, desperate attempt, but my other hand cramps and I slip loose.

 

I’m falling. As I drop from the ceiling, the pull in my stomach increases. Right, the ceiling is losing its grip on me too.

 

Thankfully, years of gymnastics training taught me to reflexively right myself in the air and land on my feet.

 

“Oof!”

 

It still friggin’ hurts though. Man, this floor is hard.

 

[Too bad. Take a 10-minute break to restore your Lavi and try again.]

 

“Oh no I’m fine, Suri, thanks for asking, how are you?”

 

[You are welcome. I am fine as well, thank you.]

 

Ignoring my sarcasm, eh? Well... I got nothing. Point to Suri. Damn.

 

I check the status bar.

Looks like Lavi doesn’t work entirely like hit points after all, or otherwise the fall wasn’t hard enough to give me ‘damage.’ Good thing too, or I’d be dead.

 

I limp over to the entrance and flop down underneath the Crystal of Restoration, spreading my limbs like a shameless person on a nude beach.

 

It could be my imagination, but my sore arms and feet almost immediately start feeling better.

 

I experimentally stretch my fingers. Nope, I am not imagining things: this crystal is amazing. Can’t I pry it off the wall? It looks practically welded in... pity.

 

Oh well. I close my eyes to meditate.

 

“Suri... wake me in 10 minutes.”

 

 

Roughly 15 minutes later, I drop down from the final two handholds, onto the balcony, and stretch out my sore, numb fingers.

 

I check the status bar one last time.

Five Onkh Lavi left; I got faster. It’s still scary, having this little Lavi in my body—especially with the accompanying coldness, numbness, and black spots in my vision—but I’m starting to get used to it.

 

Time to take another 10-minute rest.

 

And then, the next challenge.

 

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