Chapter 13: Of the Princess Diaries
At first sight, the next challenge looks like a 20-foot jump over a 15-foot-deep pit.
Thankfully it isn’t. It’s a wall run.
There are handholds coming up this side of the pit, presumably to climb back up if you fall.
Of course, I have no plans to do that.
Normally I would balk at this task, writing it off as near impossible, but in this realm...
In this realm, it shouldn’t be that hard.
Still, I’m rather nervous, and Suri isn’t helping.
[Stop dawdling Emma, these first obstacles are just for practice. It’s not going to get any easier if you wait.]
Shit. She’s not wrong though.
I pick the left wall, decide on an angle of attack and try to mentally prepare myself for the way gravity will shift as I near it. I can practically see myself stumbling on the last step, smacking into the wall and sliding down into the pit face first. Not my idea of a good time.
As I tighten the straps on my backpack, I decide not to use Boost Physical. I’m not used to moving around with the increased strength yet; it would just throw me off.
Besides, like Suri said, this is just a warm-up. My natural athletic ability should be plenty. Even if it’s still reduced by the Toxic Energy. Oh well.
I sprint up to the edge, angling slightly towards the wall, and kick off. I spin my body into position as the floor’s gravity falls away and the wall’s pull becomes more noticeable.
My right foot hits the wall, which now seems slanted to me. It helps me stick to the wall as I run along it, first up a bit and then down, until I have no choice but to push off again, before I slip.
I soar the last few feet through the air and land safely on the other side.
[Well done, Emma.]
“Aww shucks, you’re gonna make me blush.”
[Oh, please don’t, that could be very dangerous.]
My eye twitches. You are full of surprises, Suri.
Just like this trial.
I walk through another stone doorway to the next challenge and am confronted with another 20-foot-long pit in the ground. This time, the walls are out of reach, as the pit is a lot wider than the platform I’m on.
There is, however, a bar. Not the fun kind, unfortunately.
A metal bar hangs over the centre of the pit, and I guess I’m supposed to swing from it.
First a wall run, and now this, what am I, the Princess of Persia?
Anyway, time’s wasting and the uneven bars was always one of my better events, so I get a running start and leap for it.
However, I forget to take into account the decrease in gravity that happens right as I leap off the platform and escape its pull.
So, I hit the bar a little higher than intended and scramble to hold on.
Well, there goes my speed.
I move my grip and start swinging back and forth, higher and higher.
The bar doesn’t bend like I’m used to, despite its length, which feels odd, but doesn’t really matter; I’m basically running on auto-pilot by now, swinging full circles around it.
I dismount and finish my routine with a modest, single stretched backflip, sticking my landing on the other side of the pit.
[Well done Emma,] Suri praises me. [You do have some skill.]
“Eh, I’m a little rusty,” I say, as I shake out my arms. “But it’s coming back to me. I used to love gymnastics...”
“I was teleported into a game-like dimension, that’s trying very hard to kill me.”
[As I’ve said before, your death is not our goal.]
“Yeah yeah, I’m just kidding. No, I quit because... I couldn’t afford to keep doing it. I quit soon after starting college, which I was still attending when I got sucked into that portal.”
[From my understanding, physical activity is an important part of a healthy life for humans,] Suri says disapprovingly. [And college sports are... what is it called? ‘Subdized?’]
“Save me your speeches, woman. And you mean subsidized, yes. When I say I couldn’t afford it, I don’t necessarily mean money-wise, I mean time-wise.”
[I see. Time is money, yes?]
“Yes, well, it is when you’re working several part-time jobs to pay for college. Like selling hotdogs.”
Like me and... Josh.
I clear my throat. “Speaking of time, I better keep going.”
The next challenge is a rope swing. Is it just me, or are the pits getting deeper? It looks about 20 feet deep... I guess they’re raising the stakes.
The other side seems farther too, but with the rope attached to the ceiling roughly in the middle, and already tied to a post on this side, it shouldn’t prove too hard to get enough momentum to make the swing.
So I waste no more time, untying the simple knot and getting a firm grip.
A thought strikes me.
Who tied this knot?
I open my mouth to ask, but already know the answer: ‘That’s classified.’
I’ll have to remember to ask later...
It’s with these kinds of distracting thoughts that I make one of my biggest mistakes so far.
I try to swing across the pit, without activating Boost Physical.
As soon as I leave the edge of the platform, I realise my mistake. Though gravity decreases a little upon leaving the platform, it is a long swing, and the faster I go, the harder I have to pull and grip. And I am starting to slip.
In a panic, I try to use Boost Physical mid-swing.
Somehow, I pull it off and it saves me from slipping further down.
However, doing it took all of my concentration, and it hurt like hell.
That’s perhaps what causes mistake number two.
I notice too late that I’ve reached the other side.
I release on the backswing.
My fingers touch the platform on the other side but slip away powerlessly. The gravity of the wall on this side of the pit kicks in, pulling me towards it. However, the wall is incredibly slippery, like it’s been oiled! They must be trying to prevent cheaters from climbing...
Instead, the slipperiness results in my uncontrollable slide down the wall, feet first but at breakneck speed.
If the fall had been straight down, things might’ve ended differently. I might’ve been able to right myself in the air on instinct, perform a roll upon landing to disperse the force.
Instead, I hit the ground under an unfortunate angle, while panicking.
Pain blinds my senses for a moment, and I scream out.
Please no. Somebody tell me this isn’t happening.
All of the blood drains from my face, because... I recognized that feeling; it’s the very distinct snap, of a breaking bone.
Hoping against hope that I’m wrong, I look down at my leg.
The sight of something jagged and white sticking out of my calf, promptly causes me to faint.
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