Chapter 16: Too many walls, not enough bridges

[You should eat something,] Suri suggests when I don’t move for a few seconds.

 

Guess I might as well. Can’t be expected to perform crazy, death-defying stunts on an empty stomach.

 

What I do after that, in a corner of the room, is entirely my business. Pun intended.

 

From the lack of food-wrappings and bloodstains I’ve come across so far, I’ve concluded that the trials get ‘sterilized’ pretty well after every participant, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

 

Which begs the question if anyone—or rather, how many—died in this room.

 

I take another look at the intimidatingly high back-and-forth wall-jump in front of me and the spotless rock floor beneath it, and decide not to think about that anymore.

 

God, I never thought I’d say this, but I miss people. Like, in general. These Trials would be so much easier if I didn’t have to face them alone. I mean, Suri is pretty good company, but it’s not the same.

 

All right, enough with the pity-party, Emma. This is just another obstacle, just another challenge. You’ve faced worse; you’re not even bleeding or anything, so get it together.

 

The opposing walls are about 30 feet high, but also 8 feet apart; definitely too wide to stretch my arms out between them and touch both sides. There don’t appear to be any handholds or anything of the sort, so jumping back and forth seems like the only option.

 

I try out the gravity near each wall, but the pull isn’t as pronounced as it was during the wall-run. Probably because the walls are so much closer together. Still, I can feel a clear pull near the walls which makes them seem slightly slanted and should help me maintain grip.

 

The real problem here is the fact that I have to make it to the top in one go. If I fall from near the top, I could easily break something again and get hurt too badly to make it back to the Crystal of Restoration.

 

I need absolute confidence in making it before I go that high, which means I need to practice.

 

So, I start doing just that. I activate Boost Physical, jump up against one of the walls and push off from it way too hard.

 

I twist around in mid-air, barrel face-first into the other wall and land on my butt.

 

Right... Let’s try this without Boost Physical and focus more on spinning in time.

 

 

I’m actually getting the hang of this! I’m using Boost Physical again and am learning how to control my strength. I quickly find that while I don’t actually need the boost in strength for the jumps, I still need to use Boost Physical to replenish my stamina so I can keep going. Who knew jumping back and forth between walls would be so exhausting?

 

It’s also interesting that this advantageous effect of Boost Physical was never explicitly stated... though of course, I’ve long figured it out; I’ve been using it for hours.

 

I soon run into a new problem however. I am now at the point where I can quickly rise up to 15 feet if I put my mind to it, but a controlled descent is much harder.

 

That is to say, I’m falling. A lot. Not from too high of course. I try to angle my back and forth jumps down when I want to descend, but as I pick up downward speed, it gets much harder to maintain grip. I’ve even taken off my shoes, as I’m getting more grip with my bare feet, but still, I am bruised all over.

 

Most falls and landings I handle pretty well, but not all of them.

 

“Oof!” I let out involuntarily as my back slams into the floor.

 

Falling on my back is the worst; it knocks the wind right out of me. It doesn’t help that I took off my backpack for the training, but I’d rather not have the bottle of Moonshade sap burst open in my backpack.

 

Or worse, my bag of Doritos.

 

But as I lie there, wheezing, an unexpected notification pops up.

 

 

...

 

I kinda hate the part of me that now thinks I should perhaps fall some more. Stupid gaming addiction.

 

[Good. this seems like the perfect time for a serious attempt, wouldn’t you agree?] Suri chimes.

 

I sit up and take a deep breath. My ribs seem to be fine, which is nice. I carefully roll my shoulders, one by one, testing them.

 

[Come on, Emma, quit stalling. You’re ready; have a little faith in yourself.]

 

I sigh. “I suppose you’re right.”

 

I get up, grab my backpack and strap it on extra tight. I glance around, hopeful that I’ve forgotten to do or grab something, but of course I haven’t.

 

I move to the bottom of the walls and turn my gaze upward.

 

Oh man. I better not screw this up.

 

I dry my sweaty hands on my wrinkly, smelly uniform, and prepare myself for action.

 

Activating Boost Physical, I launch myself up at the first wall. For the first wall-jump, I kink off with a single foot, trying to get as much height as possible. From the second jump onwards, I catch myself on the wall with hands and feet, maximizing my grip and stability. I make sure to twist back and forth during the jumps, instead of turning in circles as I did in the beginning.

 

I only needed to get dizzy and end up smacking my head onto the floor once to learn that lesson. Go me.

 

I quickly sink into the rhythm. Jump, twist, catch... jump, twist, catch... jump, twist, catch

 

I don’t look down or up, I don’t think, I just keep going, boosting only when I feel my strength wane.

 

When I do, my muscles ache with held-back strength.

 

And suddenly I run out of wall. That is to say, I smack my stomach into the ledge at the top.

 

“Oof,” I bring out, but manage to hold on, and crawl onto it. I look down over the ledge at a thirty-foot drop.

 

...

 

I friggin’ made it!

 

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©2018 by H.C. Mills