• hcmills

Chapter 131: Child's play

I keep a wary eye on my Espir as I swim around Hangspire to ask friendly looking beings if they’ve seen Raindrop. A surprising number of them seem to know her, but so far none of them knows where she’s at.

I diligently sip my cocktail as I go. It’s delicious, and there’s a lot of Espir inside. However, I quickly find that I absorb perhaps at best a fifth of the motes—less if I drink too fast—and my Espir is still slowly dropping despite the influx.

By the time I’m down to seven motes, I’m feeling pretty desperate, and am starting to reconsider my options. Maybe I should just hand the whistle off to Akir, Raindrop can’t find me without it anyway, right?

However, at that moment, a huge ostrich with a feather plume hat approaches me, flapping awkwardly through the air. “Excuse me, dear, a-are you the one looking for Raindrop?”

With the help of some directions, I manage to find Raindrop in a field of flowers behind. Seeing her, I am finally able to calm down a little.

“Come on, you can do it!” Raindrop chirps excitedly at the tangerine-coloured flower in front of her.

For a moment, I watch in confusion as she spouts an endless stream of encouragement at the plant, which seems to lightly pulse and grow with every word.

“Ehm, Raindrop?”

“Aack!” she squawks, flapping her arm-wings as she shoots upright. “Oh, Eh-ma, you startled me!”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed,” I reply dryly. “What were you doing?”

“Hmm? Oh! I was just practising for the flower-growing contest! I’m totally gonna win this year,” she chirps confidently.

“A contest?” I ask, bemusedly raising a brow as I fold my arms across my chest. “Isn’t it child’s play to Imagine a flower growing really large?”

Raindrop cocks her head sideways in her jerky, bird-like manner. I can’t quite tell if it’s because she finds my question odd or just a tic. “Why would it being a child’s play be an issue? Are there no competitions of children’s games where you come from?”

I smile wryly as my mind goes to the grown men who become multi-millionaires running after a ball on Earth. “No, we’ve got those... I meant it sounds too easy to have a contest in. I mean, how hard is it to Imagine a flower and make it grow?”

Raindrop rolls her eyes. “You can’t just Imagine your own flower, silly. You have to pick an Extant flower and make that grow.”

Extant... right. So even Raindrop knows stuff like this.

I check my Espir. Five motes. I guess I can give it a try.

I turn to a pretty purple flower and try to Imagine it growing.

It doesn’t budge.

I frown. “Why doesn’t that work?”

Raindrop cackles. “You can’t just force it like that, silly—well, unless you’re Goddess—it’s a separate entity, with its own Espir, its own will. It’d be like if you tried to turn me into a fish or something!” She shudders at the idea.

I shake my head. “I take it Goddess won’t be joining the contest, since you actually have hope of winning.”

Apparently, that idea is terribly funny, for Raindrop practically falls over laughing. “Oh Goddess, you’re so funny, Eh-ma!”

“Thanks,” I reply dryly as she hangs off my shoulder with a feathery hand. “This is all mighty interesting, but I actually came here with a reason.”

Her eyes go round as dinner plates as I hold up the whistle. She squawks and apologises profusely, and it takes me a while to calm her down enough that I can explain to her about my upcoming supervised Visit, and that my chaperone can under no circumstances find out what I’ve been up to here, and especially should never catch sight of the whistle.

I make her repeat it back to me, and only once I’m sure she’s internalised the importance of the matter, do I relent.

Unfortunately, my drink is gone by now, so it seems like I’m going to have to cut my Visit short.

My eyes fall on the purple flower. I hesitate, then reach out and pick it.

Since this is all Imaginary, there’s no reason I can’t eat it, right? And since this thing is Extant, I might be able to absorb some Espir from it.

Raindrop watches me curiously. It’s not until I bring it to my mouth that she flaps her wings in alarm. “Eh-ma, what are you doing?! You can’t just eat her!”

I blink at her as she snatches the flower out of my hands, and carefully—impossibly—reconnects the stem to its roots. I watch, bewildered, as the trembling flower slowly curls out its petals again under her gentle encouragement.

Then she stands up and frowns at me. “You need to apologise!”

“Right, it’s a separate entity with its own will,” I murmur, catching on. “Ehm, I’m sorry, flower.”

Raindrop stills for a moment. “She forgives you,” she chirps happily. “As long as you don’t try it again.”

Well, this certainly puts a damper on my idea.

I scratch my immaterial-yet-perhaps-not-so-Imaginary head. “But, Raindrop, Akir made me a drink made of Extant fruit juices, why is it okay to drink that?

She cocks her head. “Fruit aren’t entities, silly, fruit trees are. Not everything Extant is alive. The whole Realm is Extant, otherwise it would Fade if we stopped paying attention to it, wouldn’t it?”

Ah. That’s actually pretty insightful.

Unfortunately, since there’s nothing to eat, I’m forced to say my goodbyes.

“Awww, well okay, see you soon, Eh-ma! I’m going to see if Blackie wants to play; I haven’t seen him for a while!”

“Tell him I said hi,” I reply, fondly recalling the big black bird that basically saved my life by bringing Raindrop to me the first time I Visited the Realm of Imagination unsupervised.

As I yank on the chain that represents my spirit’s connection to my body and Imagine it pulling me back, I think back on what this Visit brought me.

Aside from getting my warning to Raindrop, I learned some useful stuff this time. I’m definitely looking for some fruit trees next Visit. Well, next Visit that isn’t a Skilldream.

[Really, Emma?] Suri chimes when I return to my body. [I’d hoped we’d be done with your little nightly accidents by now.]

‘Did you really have to put it like that?’ I send back as I stretch and rub the sleep from my eye.

[Like what?]

‘Just... nevermind. Sorry, I guess. It’s not under my control,’ I lie.

[Oh, forget it. I suppose experience has proven your nightly incidents to be harmless,] Suri chimes. [Just do me a favour and make sure you keep quiet about their nature to your fellow participants, and I mean all of them. I’m sure you believe you can trust your current bedmate, but anything you say to her will be listened in on by that incessant chatterbox, and he’d rat us out in a second if he believed it to be in his advantage.]

‘I won’t tell her,’ I promise just as the girl in question starts to stir.

I’m not about to let Suri in on the fact that Kaitlynn knows all about my Visits, and is actively helping me to hide them from Kai. But this is certainly an interesting development. Seems like Suri doesn’t care too much about my Visits anymore, as long as the other guides don’t find out.

Kaitlynn turns around groggily—though I suspect she may have been faking sleep and waiting for me to return—and smiles at me. “Good morning,” she says with a raspy voice as her languid stretch pushes her chest up towards my face.

Of course, we don’t nap in our armour. Not for the first time, it becomes apparent to me that Kaitlynn—much like me—doesn’t wear a bra to bed either.

I avert my gaze and swallow. “Yup. Good morning.”

This is going to be a long day.

“Let’s try this step by step,” I say. “Start with entering a lucid trance, please.”

Kaitlynn closes her eyes, and I wait for the Lavi flows barely visible beneath her skin to slow down.

“Very good. Now push it to the next level. Shut off your senses of sight, taste, and smell. All you need is to hear my voice and sense your body. You got that?”

Since she has the requisite third level of Meditation, this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, so I just give her a moment to figure it out. Soon enough, she slowly nods.

“Good. Now picture Alec’s painting of the Hydra in your mind, particularly the first pane, the rallying cry. Focus on that sensation, the urgency. Can you feel it?”

After a moment, another nod follows.

“Hold that in the back of your mind. Now tap into the connection to your body’s senses, that stream of information coming up through your spine. Are you in?”

A longer pause, followed by a third nod.

“Perfect. Now, when you’re ready... send the signal.”

Kaitlynn remains still for a moment, then a frown begins to creep over her face. She minutely shakes her head.

“Not working, huh...”

I purse my lips. It’s probably the required sense of urgency that’s tripping her up. She doesn’t feel like she’s in danger. I’d rather not wait for the right opportunity to come along where she’s actually in danger for her to gain it, however.

“All right, give me a moment,” I say, as I reach for her backpack, and retrieve something. “Stay in your trance, stay connected, and hold that feeling.”

‘Suri,’ I send. ‘Could you turn off this room’s Restoration Crystal for a bit, please?’


I take one of Kaitlynn’s hands in mine and press the tip of one her throwing knives against the tip of her index finger. Her brows rise, but her eyes remain closed.

“Do you trust me?” I ask.

She hesitates, then nods.

“Good. This is going to hurt, but it’ll be worth it.” I hope. “I’m going to count to three, okay? One... Two...”

I press harder, until the knife pierces skin.

Kaitlynn lets out a soft gasp.

I pull the knife back and stare intensely at the small cut. “Now, send the signal. Send it!”

For a moment, nothing happens. Then a visible pulse travels through her subdermal Lavi Flows, and the small cut begins to close up, flesh knitting together neatly.

Her eyes jump open. “I did it!”

I laugh as she launches herself around my neck with a squeal. “I figured you just needed a little... motivation. I bet the adrenaline helped too, with the, ehm...”

I trail off for a moment, caught off guard by the sensation of a pair of warm lips pressing into the sensitive skin of my neck.

“The, ehm, sense of urgency, required...”

My attempt to rally is quickly derailed as Kaitlynn’s mouth works its way up my neck to my jaw, and finally—

I pull away with a shuddering breath, holding her by the shoulders.

She bites her lips, and it takes all I have to tear my eye away from hers. “We, ehm, we said we wouldn’t.”

She takes a deep breath and leans back to rake a hand through her hair. “Right. I know. It’s just hard, having you this close, and not...”

I nod like a bobblehead on the dashboard of a moving vehicle. “I know. I’m sorry.”

She shakes her head. “It’s okay. I knew what I signed up for.” She clears her throat. “Anyway, we should probably, like, eat something. And talk Skilldreams.”

We keep our lunch simple again, as we didn’t pack too much firewood. I’ve eaten a lot of zirots over the past weeks, but I can honestly say I’m not tired of them yet. There’s just something very satisfying about biting through that waxy peel to the sweet goodness beneath.

Finished first, I wait in silence for Kaitlynn to swallow her last bite.

She licks her lips and turns my way. “It’s time, Emma. You can’t postpone it any longer.”

“Is it though?” I ask thoughtfully. “Suri, how much time do we have?”

[Of your mandatory 24-hour wait, 19 hours, 36 minutes, and 15 seconds remain.]

“That’s quite a lot, still!”

Kaitlynn snorts and gives me a light shove. “Just get it over with, you goof.”

I groan. “Do I have to? It’s just getting worse and worse!”

She shakes her head, staring at me with a glint in her eyes. “What, are you chicken?”

Damnit. She knows just how to push my buttons.

I sigh and cross my arms over my chest. “Fine, but let the record state I’m doing this under protest. Suri?”

[Yes, dear?]

“Would you please show us ‘Suri's Hyper-Amazing, Stunningly-Custom, Stylishly Colour Coded, Natural Growth, Tempering, and Levelling Results Window and Skill Overview’?”

[Why of course!]

I roll my eyes at the gaudy display of the window’s title. “I really hate you sometimes, you know that?”

[Is it the alternating colours in tempering? It’s too much, isn’t it?]

Ignoring her, I go over our respective Lavi and Qi Pools.

Kaitlynn seems to have received more Lavi per tempering, but it seems clear that the increases were relative to the size of our Lavi Pools. It’s only thanks to the much greater number of temperings I’ve had that I’ve managed to keep my lead over her.

Man, I’ve had a lot of temperings, though.

Kaitlynn still has a bigger Qi Pool than me despite this, but I guess that’s the price I paid for using my tempering sessions to practise my Qi Skills.

This table also makes it abundantly clear that the natural growth of our Lavi Pools has pretty much ended now that they’ve gotten so big. Oh well.

Our stats are coming along nicely as well, though most of our physical growth comes from levelling up of course.

Still, Strengths of 16 and 15 are nothing to sniff at. Maybe we need to rethink Kaitlynn’s battle style...

Especially since she also learned Increase Momentum from Jacob’s artwork! Too bad it’s only the first level still, which means she can only launch herself, and not just her weapon, so we won’t be able to use the epic Inertia-Momentum combo attack I devised with Jacob.

Well, that attack would take a lot of practice to get right anyway.

“I see you succeeded in getting Lavi Font to the second level,” Kaitlynn comments. “You’ll have to teach me that Skill sometime...”

I nod. “Later, though. I think our next move should be to try getting the reconversion Skill extension that matches our subtype.”

Kaitlynn scrunches up her nose. “I can see how that would be pretty useful for you to convert Toxic Energy to Qi, with your Inertia and Spatial SkiIls, but I’m not sure if it’d be worth much to me... I don’t have any good uses for Increase Momentum yet except dodging, and my Astreum Breath is definitely still my best weapon by far.”

I frown. “I get that, but I feel like it might be relevant to the coming Trial somehow. Suri wasn’t allowed to tell me, of course, but considering the Trial is supposed to be personalised to us somehow...”

Kaitlynn nods slowly. “That may be true. Frankly, what I want most of all is to work on my Heat Vision Skill and see if I can get to the point where I can use that eye-laser attack chief Deathglare used.”

“Chief who?”

“Deathglare. I think you called her Frogzilla? Loudmouth talked about her sometimes. Apparently she was the Grand Chief’s ex.”

I shudder. “Well, I can see why he broke up with her... Anyway, that sounds absolutely wicked; maybe you can try and work on both, just to be safe? I’m hoping I can get the Reconversion Extension with half a Skilldream myself, so I can take half a Skilldream for the second level of Inertia Manipulation.”

“Oof. You’ll be unstoppable with that,” Kaitlynn says, playfully bumping my shoulder with her own.

“Oh, I’ll show you unstoppable, just wait till I’ve figured out how to fly,” I reply with a wink that I guess could be construed as a little flirtatious.

Still, I’m not prepared for the warmth of her fingers tracing my bicep, or for her breath to tickle my ear as she leans in and whispers, “I’ll look forward to it, then.”

I can’t help but stare after her as she sashays away.

Kaitlynn may have known what she signed up for, but did I?

Author's note:

The book's still doing pretty well, particularly in Canada, for some reason ^^

It's occasionally even number 1 in the Lesbian Romance category there, somehow :p

It's also doing well in Australia, Germany, and the US. However, for some reason, it has not taken off in the UK, like at all :s Which is a shame, because it's one of the bigger markets for English LitRPG.

One of the reasons, is probably that it still only has three ratings in the UK, and zero reviews. So, if there're any UK readers here willing to go the extra mile to support me by buying the book there and leaving a rating and/or review, I would appreciate that very much :)

UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08MQTLMZ9

General link: (Should redirect to your country's Amazon marketplace, or the US I guess if your country doesn't have one) https://books2read.com/whisperingcrystals1?store=amazon

(Be careful not to leave a review right after your purchase! Amazon takes note of such things. If you want to make sure your review doesn't get deleted, read the book, and review after a minimum of 72 hours ^^)

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