• hcmills

Chapter 159: Bye bye birdie


By the morning of day two, I feel positively alive again, and ready to start training. “Status Window, please!”

Looks like I received my 20 points for today already, which together with the 20 points from yesterday and the 50 I kept in reserve, brings my Trial Points up to a total of 90. Perfect.


Though I’ve studied it thoroughly yesterday, I ask for the Skilldream Shopping Window one more time.

As expected, Regeneration level 3 is no longer displayed in red, now that I can afford a full Skilldream for it. Which is exactly what I intend to buy first.


It’s high time I got my foot back. Flying may work well for a race, it’s still not my preferred means of transport in combat.


My eye is once more dragged down to the final Skill on the list, Warp.


The evolution of Distort Space sounds very promising, and it’s high on my list of priorities. I’m probably going with half a Skilldream for that one though, since it’s prohibitively expensive.


I should be able to get it with that, I think. I managed to get from the first to the third level of Distort Space all by myself, after all.


I’m also definitely getting Inertia Manipulation level 2, even if I have to take another half Skilldream to figure that one out.


After that, I’ll see. I’m going to need a way to deal with Vibration Energy, at least, but I’m not sure if I want to invest a lot of time in working with Electric Energy. Alec looked pretty darn cool with his Boost Reflexes, but he’s actually the Electric Subtype. It’ll probably never come as easy to me, which kinda stings.


Also, I expect any real competition to make sure that they’re protected against all basic energies anyway.


But let’s not get ahead of myself. I’ve got a long way to go. Moreover, training is only half of my goal for the coming days, and even the coming Skilldream.


I need a way back into the Realm of Imagination, and Skilldreams are my only hope of getting one.


I crack my neck, roll my shoulders, and take up a lotus position on the bed.


“One full Skilldream for Regeneration level 3, please!” I say, trying to suppress the physical signs of my nerves, and any stray thoughts that might reveal my plans to Suri.


[Coming right up,] Suri chimes, before a prickling erupts behind my eye-crystal as she initiates the mind meld she requires to pull me along into the Realm of Imagination.


Here goes nothing.



The first thing I do after I return to my body, is try and connect to the rock I casually conjured and left behind near the massive ant-hive Suri took me to.


Unfortunately, I can’t find even a trace of the connection.


Shit. It must’ve already Faded. At least Suri didn’t seem to notice anything. I’ll have to try and leave a different kind of anchor next time.


At least trying to leave one behind didn’t seem to trigger the punishment Goddess implanted in me. I guess it doesn’t count as ‘trying to enter the Realm of Imagination on my own,’ which makes sense. It’s only preparation for doing so, really. I made a point of thinking about it like that as well, though I’m not sure if that made a difference.


I suppress an annoyed sigh, and focus on my memories from the Skilldream. The point of it all was the method by which the ant-queen ordered around its different subjects, giving specific orders to specific groups with different smells.


I frown and lose myself in my training.



I can’t help but stare at my new right foot, for it is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.


All right, it’s a perfectly normal foot, but that’s exactly what’s so great about it!


I get up and carefully put some weight on it. It holds up like a champ.


The happy dance I attempt next turns out to be a bit much, yet I can’t even be mad when my ankle inevitably wobbles and dumps me on my ass.


I have two feet again!


And honestly, it feels like it’ll require less rehab than I feared, probably thanks to the fact that I essentially just copied my left foot and mirrored it.


Regeneration is such a cheat. I love it.


The days soon start blurring together, as I train practically from dawn to dusk, working hard to keep my mind off certain people and how much I miss and worry about them.


As I work on my stats, my conversion cycle, and on neglected Skills like Breath Control, I very quickly get used to walking on both feet again.


The monotony of my training is broken up only by Skilldreams, and the rare occasion where something truly interesting happens during my experimentation.


[Careful now, Emma,] Suri chimes all of a sudden, as I’m preparing to push the limits of how much cognition I can grant a conjured image of myself. [The amount of Espir you seem to be preparing is too much to push out at once; doing so can be very dangerous.]


I frown. “What? Why?”


[That’s classified,] Suri informs me smoothly. [Just do me a favour and never push out more than two-thirds of your Espir Pool at once.]


Well, damn. There goes my experiment. I suppose I can still see if I can push the cognition bit farther than I have before, but there won’t be much pushing of limits now.


Suri’s such a spoilsport.


Then again, Suri called both removing my eye-crystal and eating the Carriage of Dreams ‘Very dangerous’ as well, if I recall correctly. I’m definitely keeping this new ‘thing Suri doesn’t want me to do’ in the back of my mind.


Every Skilldream, I attempt to leave an anchor behind. Having come to the conclusion that the rock I left behind in my Skilldream for Regeneration level 3 was too bland and unnoticeable to attract the attention it needed to keep from Fading, I decide to get a little bolder. In my half Skilldream for Inertia Manipulation level 2, I Imagine some gorgeous flowers, but they don’t last much longer. In my Skilldream for Boreum Manipulation, I send out a bunch of paper airplanes, but they, too, are soon gone.


I also take a half Skilldream for Warp, but that one requires my full concentration.


Finally, on day sixteen, I strike upon success during a Skilldream for Boreum Manipulation level 2.


On a whim, I conjure a toy boat in the pond Suri took me to, figuring I can play it off as just having some fun even if Suri notices. Some fish take a liking to it.


By the time we leave, they’re still having a blast with it, so I’m not surprised to find the connection there when I return to my body.


Yes, finally!


I suppress the urge to immediately try and enter the Realm of Imagination. Doing so now would be far too conspicuous.


I steel my heart and resolve to wait for tonight.



When I lie down in bed, the connection is still there, if perhaps a little weaker.


I close my eyes and wait, to make it look more natural.


Ten minutes later, I can feel myself genuinely start to drift off, and I know the time to try it is now.


Giving myself no time to try and back out, I mentally grasp the Imaginary string that connects me to the toy boat, and attempt to follow it into the Realm of Imagination.


The moment I do, it’s like a dam bursts inside of me.


All of my senses fade, as I’m immersed in the life of another...



It starts with a cycle of warmth and cold, a vague sense of opening up to greet the light each day.


The passage of time blurs as I grow, higher and higher, my colours deepening and intensifying, until one day, I grow restless, unable to contain myself. My wings spread, and I take flight for the very first time.


This world is a paradise. I eat only because it helps me grow, and turns my thoughts less fuzzy. There’s no hunger or thirst, there’s only joy, freedom, and friends to play with.


And flying... flying is the best, the most amazing feeling, that I can never get enough of. The purest joy fills me as I wheel through the air, warmed by the glow of the giant ball of fire in the clouds.


The scene shifts.


I’m playing with some friends in a fruit tree, racing for the ripe ones. They are delicious, and they make my head feel less fuzzy, my vision clearer at the edges. However, strange things start to happen. Odd noises, bangs and flashes. At first they scare me, but I quickly grow to enjoy them!


They make the game that much more intense.


There’s only a few fruits left when it happens.


Another delectable fruit ripens, and I make a dive for it, when something hits me from the side at high speed. I’ve collided with things before, but it was never like this.


I’m struck by a new, alien sensation. I don’t like it.


It’s pain, some buried instinct tells me.


Disoriented, I somehow end up on the ground.


I try to roll upright, but I can’t. It’s like my shape isn’t right. It’s been twisted, deformed, into something that... isn’t me.


My feathers feel funny...


For the first time in my life, I experience fear.


Large figures appear over me, first one then another.


A ripe fruit lands next to me at some point, but I don’t feel like eating. I’m not sure I could, with my shape deformed like this.


Suddenly, I’m being cradled by an extraordinarily powerful, yet gentle being. I relax a little, certain she’ll be able to help me, somehow.


And indeed, the pain quickly disappears, as I’m bathed in her warm light.


My last thoughts are of flying on a warm breeze, the fire lighting up my feathers as I soar...



The sequence of memories ends as abruptly as it started, and I shoot upright, gasping for breath.


I lift a shaking hand up to my left cheek, and wipe at the tears already streaming down my face.


Holy shit... That, was the most horrible, tragic... Shit, and I was the cause of that!


[Emma? Is something wrong?] Suri chimes.


I cough, to stall for time. “Ehm, yeah, yeah I’m okay. I just... really miss Kaitlynn.”


It’s true. As much as I’ve tried to keep myself occupied, thoughts of her pop up all the time, leaving me yearning. Now, in the dark, after this traumatic experience, there’s no barrier I can throw up to prevent the new flood of tears that follows my admission.


[Ah, I see. There there,] Suri chimes awkwardly. [You’ll be reunited soon enough.]


Suri thankfully leaves me alone after that. It takes a while for my tears to die down, and the sadness to fade into an odd melancholy.


Any doubts I had about the effectiveness of Goddess’ method of banishment are gone. How the hell am I supposed to get through that and maintain my focus?



It takes three days before I muster up the courage for another attempt. My toy boat is apparently really popular, because it’s somehow still intact.


I’m once again pulled completely into the life of the being I ended, and left a crying mess by the end of it. At least Suri doesn’t ask for another explanation.


When I go to sleep that night, I’m pretty much ready to give up.


However, after I finish another Skilldream the next day, I come out to find the following notification.

Well... that is interesting.


Moreover, it’s suspicious. After all, this was only half a Skilldream for Lavi Font level 3. It took no more than three hours, while even my ten-hour Skilldream for Warp didn’t net any results like this.


I don’t feel any different either. Say, this timing...


I barely stop myself from reacting when the thought pops into my head.


What if it’s from experiencing that punishment by Goddess again last night?! Wait, that’s it, her punishment is a form of mind control, so trying to resist it should help improve my Mental Fortitude! Maybe the Skilldream was just the final push I needed, unless...


Unless it happened last night, and Suri hid it from me, to try and avoid the topic.


I can totally imagine her doing something like that. She’s not about to get me disqualified days before the final tournament, after all. She clearly has something riding on me finishing, perhaps even winning.


But this is big... Not only can I use it to improve my Mental Fortitude, I could even try to figure out how to actively use my Espir against Mind Control!


I yawn and stretch, trying to give no indication that I find anything unusual about the message.


All I remark before I wave it away is, “Cool!”


[Quite,] Suri chimes.


Is it just me, or did she sound a little frustrated there?


I shrug and get back to training, vowing to brave the mental barrage once more tonight, no matter how much I hate the prospect of going through it again.


Ugh, I’m going to be doing this over and over, aren’t I? Sorry, Goddess, I guess I’ll be using your punishment to train myself...


At least she can rest assured that I’ll be suffering from it plenty.



Author's note:

Next week's chapter may be delayed by a day or so, as I will be taking a vacation from next Saturday to the Saturday thereafter. I do have most of what I need to post prepared, so I might still manage it on Friday if I've got time and my mobile internet holds out. ^^


Thanks for reading! ^^

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