• H.C. Mills

Chapter 15: Let's play: Operation

[Emma, wake up.]

“Nooooo...” I groan. “I’m sleepy!”

Despite my protest, I try to sit up.

Pain, heretofore so deliciously absent, shoots through my leg.

I hiss. “What the hell?”

[The Crystal cannot properly do its job like this, Emma. You need to push the bone back into place, or the wound will close up like this.]

My eyes shoot open. “That’s—no, I can’t!”

[You have to. You’ll never clear this trial if you don’t heal properly. Now do me a favour and give it a shot.]

My hands clench into fists as I force my gaze down. My stomach turns at the sight of the bottom part of my shinbone sticking out of mangled flesh.

With shaking fingers, I reach out and gently press on the bone.

“Nnngaaaaaahhhh! Suri I can’t!”

[I don’t see any other options, Emma.]

“What if... what if you bring me into a trance again, to lessen the pain?”

[If I did that you would sit there and bleed out. In order for this to succeed, you would have to reach a lucid state of trance; I can’t help you do that.]

“Can’t or won’t, Suri?”



[I am not allowed to help you like that Emma. I cannot break those rules.]

“Shit... SHIT!”

[I’m sorry.]

“All right... even if you can’t help me... the lucid trance, can I do it?”

[Perhaps. The pain might actually help you stay awake.]

“Stop trying to turn me into a masochist,” I joke.

[You’re doing a pretty good job of that yourself, dear.]

I grin. Just yesterday I’d never have imagined Suri making a joke. And I don’t know about enjoying it, but I’m certainly getting used to pain...

Time for another dose.

I start gently pressing onto the bone, hissing from the pain as I try to sink into a trance. At first, it’s like willing myself to sleep; utterly impossible. The pain isn’t exactly helping either. But slowly, a kind of tug-o-war begins between the trance and the pain, both vying for my attention.

Sometimes I sink too deep, my eyelids start to droop, and the pain barely hauls me back out. Other times I press too hard and the pain scatters away all of my trance. As it goes back and forth, I slowly sink deeper, still watching the bone, still pushing it.

Bit by bit, the pressure I can exert increases, as I find a balance between pain and trance, between the sharpness of my discomfort and the sweet lure of sleep, and the bone starts to move closer to its original position. Every little bump on the road drags me back out again, requiring me to sink back down, dancing the line between living and dying.

Two inches away. One and a half inches away. One inch away, the jagged edge of the bone presses into my flesh. With the Crystal of Restoration and my trance combined, the pain is less sharp, more of a dull throb.

The final bit is the hardest. I have to press my fingers into the wound, which restarts the bleeding, and try to align the jagged ends of the bone together.

Somehow I am able to continue, to view the white hot pain as if a bright light in the distance; sharp and searing, but ultimately unable to touch me.

Finally, Suri gives the verdict.

[They’re aligned, you can let go now Emma.]

I release and slump back; as my eyes close I enter the sleep of the dead, knowing I will come out alive to see another day. Or at least, the rest of this one.

I expected it and yet I can hardly believe it as I carefully test my weight out on my left leg.

It’s good as new. There’s not even a mark on the skin.

That wasn’t the only surprise when Suri woke me this time. I also got the following notification.

Actually, that wasn’t very surprising; I half expected that. The real surprise was Suri.

[You are... incredibly talented, Emma. I am very proud of you.]

Aww, stop it. You’re gonna make a girl cry.

“Thank you,” I say. And I mean it.

“Will you show me the skill window please?”

Looks like the description changed a little, though not much. The description of Boost Physical is actually more interesting. Though I’m not in any hurry to learn the next ‘mode,’ one bag of Doritos says it’s even more painful than the first.

Hey, that’s a rare item here, okay?

Speaking of, I better check how the contents of my bag are faring after I landed on it earlier.

Thankfully, the Doritos and the cup noodles are still intact. The blade of knifegrass is obviously fine, but the Moonshade flower has seen better days.

I decide to unwrap it and find that its petals are wilting and have all but lost their glow.

It’s heartening to see something logical in this dimension for once. And no, my broken bone didn’t count.

The bottle I forced the stem in on the other hand, is filled for about a quarter with viscous, purple glowing sap. It looks downright deadly.

I would hate for that to leak out... good thing the stem was stuck in so tightly. Although... the stem has also lost some of its turgor and moves around a lot more easily.

I decide to cut my losses. I search for the bottle’s cap in my backpack, remove the wilting flower and screw the bottle shut. I dump the flower in one of the corners; it’s clear where the toxic energy went, and that’s all I need.

Satisfied that it’s secure, I hold up the bottle with its dangerous contents.


Drinkable? I shudder and gently put it back into my backpack. Like I’d ever get that desperate.

“All right, time?”

[19 hours, 14 minutes and 17 seconds left.]

Well over four hours wasted...

Actually no, not wasted. I learned a lot. I overcame grave danger at the cost of terrifying pain, and I grew from it.

I’ve learnt about how gravity works, learnt how to use Boost Physical in action and have gotten to know the dangers of this trial.

And now it’s time to kick its ass.

It takes me a mere 15 minutes to get back to the rope swing, and most of that time is spent waiting for my Lavi to recover after using Boost Physical.

The rope is now hanging down the middle of the pit, but it’s no matter.

I leap for it, grab hold, and start swinging. Soon enough I have all the momentum I need and launch myself onto the platform. I stick the landing.

The next couple of challenges are more of the same. Handholds on an upwards sloping ceiling. A double bar swing, where I have to leap from one bar to the next. A double rope swing. Peanuts.

But then the doorway leads into a staircase down, and when I arrive at the bottom, I look up and swallow.

Because for the next challenge, it looks like I may have to jump back and forth between two walls, to reach a platform that’s about 30 feet high.

Yup. Still going to die.

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©2018 by H.C. Mills