• hcmills

Chapter 190: Seafood

Ragdolling through the Realmvoid, once again bombarded by flashes of light and odd noises, I lose all sense of direction within seconds. I have no idea where Kirri is compared to me, and I can only hope that my remaining momentum will carry me forward towards—


A sharp pain tears through me as I smack into what feels like a viscous liquid, the dull thump that rattles through my spiritform shaking me to my very Core.


For a moment, nothing happens. Then the surface gives way beneath me, and I’m sucked in.


I don’t fight it. In fact, I’m relieved!


If entering a Realm is like diving, I’m pretty sure I just performed a majestic belly-flop into the Realm. Painful as it was, at least I landed somewhere. And considering the timing, It should be our target destination.


The sucking sensation ends soon enough, but I’m still encased in something, and can’t see.


I immediately try to move my limbs. There’s a lot of resistance around my legs, but after some frantic clawing, my hands manage to break free and out into something wet.


After scraping and pulling for a couple of seconds, I manage to bring my head out of the sand as well, finding myself at the bottom of a large body of water.


Used as I am to being under-Hydrum, I instinctively open my mouth to try and breathe. However, I quickly gag on the salty flavour and spit it all out again.


Yuck, seawater.


I feel kinda dumb for even trying that in the first place, because it’s not like I need to breathe at all here.


Whatever.


I’ve got more important things on my mind right now.


I quickly glance. The bottom of the sea is mostly greyish sand covered in a variety of oddly shaped shells. Some strange seaweeds with flowers grow nearby, and there are large black rocks sticking up out of the sand in various places.


Mostly, I notice a disturbing lack of well-trained boat-birds. Which also means I have no immediate source of Espir. Crap.


Not seeing any threats either, I quickly resume digging myself out.


Once I’ve freed myself, I take a moment to stretch, then take stock of my possessions.


My face quickly falls when I realise Akir’s trident, which was on my back, isn’t there anymore.


Crap...


I glance down at the pit of sand, then shake my head.


If it had been on my back while I dug myself out, I would’ve noticed. It must’ve dislodged as I spun through the Realmvoid, and ended up who knows where.


Meanwhile, my Imagium tools and all of my bags of wood chips are down in Kirri’s hold. All I have on me is the moral compass. Great.


I pull it out of my pocket along with a bunch of sand and flip it open. The needle remains still, pointing firmly at good. With a sigh, I close it and put it back in my pocket.


Then my eyes widen, as I realise I had something else on me. Kaitlynn’s bracelet is no longer on my wrist!


Did it Fade?! If... if it Faded already, wouldn’t that mean—


I practically dive back into the hole I left behind, frantically clawing at the sand, throwing it out of the rapidly deepening pit by the handful.


Come on come on come on, be here!


I feel like crying—or perhaps, I already am. It’s very hard to tell underwater.


My hope dwindles with every inch I remove, but I stubbornly keep going. I have to know if she’s all right, I have to be sure, otherwise—


Finally, one of my hands hits something.


If I wasn’t holding my breath on account of the seawater, I would’ve gasped.


With shaking fingers I liberate the object from the sand.


It’s the bracelet.


I close my eyes and sink down onto the sand.


She’s alive. Thank Goddess...


To be absolutely sure, I check the connection leading from the conjured bracelet to Kaitlynn. It’s faint, but it’s there, leading down into the sand, out of the Realm.


Since this bracelet has now come off someone’s wrist twice in the span of minutes, and the clasp is once again open, I determine it’s simply not very reliable. So instead of putting it on normally, I make use of the generous slack the bracelet has, and tie it tightly around my wrist, securing it with the best knots I can think of.


In the future, I’ll be able to use this accessory to track Kaitlynn down across the Realmvoid, so there’s no way I’m allowing it to be lost or Fade.


Knowing for sure that Kaitlynn is still alive eases a lot of my stress.


Suri shouldn’t be strong enough to climb all the way back up to the Realm of Imagination, but she should at least be capable of keeping the both of them alive. Truth be told, as I am right now, I’m too weak to deal with Suri. This way, I have time to grow stronger before I confront her, so really, it’s a good thing this happened!


I almost manage to make myself believe it.


Either way, for now, I’ll have to focus on my own survival.


I check my Espir Pool, finding that I’m currently at 29 out of 37 motes, with much of that damage being the result of Lio’s attack earlier.


All right, I’m not, ehm, in the woods yet, there’s time to fix this. First priority is to find an alternate source of—


My thoughts trail off as my eyes fall on a distant patch of strange vegetation.


Specifically, it appears to be a copse of underwater trees.


Hunting without a weapon seems foolish, so these are most likely my best bet in the meantime.


Well... guess I’m entering the woods after all.


I form my legs into a mermaid’s tail with the ease of experience, and start swimming. I take it easy and keep looking around cautiously on my way over, but don’t come across any forms of life except for the plants. However, some of them seem to have been gnawed at, indicating there are definitely some hungry lifeforms around.


When I come closer, I find that the strange vertical shapes I spotted from a distance are indeed trees, though unlike any I’ve ever seen.


First of all, because they’re underwater. However, they do still appear to be trees, just, somewhat adapted. Like, they have seaweed-like leaves, but their branches curl up, as if they’re not used to being underwater and are trying to float.


I hesitate for a moment, as I’ve never used my Devouring Energy on living wood before, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any harm in trying.


I’m already down another mote after transforming my legs, and it’s not like Goddess is going to pop over to stop me, so I decide to go for it.


I hover over a branch, somewhat hidden between the seaweed leaves as I push out a tendril of Devouring Energy and make contact with the tree’s odd, slimy bark.


Unexpectedly, a shiver runs up the trunk in response, and the tree sways a little. I halt the movements of my tendril, eyes wide. When nothing else happens, however, I grit my teeth and continue pushing the energy in.


No feeling sorry, or I’ll never make it back up there.


The wood offers considerably more resistance to my Devouring Energy than I’m used to, but no further reactions come from the tree. My Devouring Energy has slowly developed, gotten more aggressive, and hungrier, so it still doesn’t take long for my tendril to bore through the tree’s outer defences.


The Espir inside the wood puts up more of a fight as well, but as more and of my Devouring Energy makes its way inside, Espir starts to stream back into me, and I slowly begin to recuperate my losses.


I slump a little in relief.


One thing Akir drilled into my head is that keeping a full Espir Pool is important, more so than it was with Lavi.


Lavi is like a kind of fuel, that keeps the body moving, going. Espir is more than that, here, because it’s not just fuel for thought processes, it’s also the very stuff that makes up the spiritform.


As my Espir Pool grows empty, my spiritform—which also serves as a barrier protecting my Core—becomes thinner, weaker. It’s like if my Strength, Agility, and Toughness stats were linked to how full my Lavi Pool was.


So watching new motes wink into life inside my spiritform is very satisfying, but that doesn’t mean I’m dropping my guard.


Which is why I’m able to spot a glimpse of periwinkle exoskeleton from the creature trying to sneak up on me in the nick of time.


My tendrils snap back into my coccyx like a whip and I sweep out with a kick from my tail.


A periwinkle claw the size of a lorry tyre grabs onto the branch I was just hovering over, and cuts clean through it.


I reflexively reach back for Akir’s trident. Only when my fingers grasp empty water, does my mind catch up.


Crap!


Lacking a weapon, I’m definitely not engaging a creature several times my size and Espir density, so I immediately turn tail and rush out of the small copse of underwater trees.


A huge periwinkle lobster-like thing bursts out after me.


I say lobster-like because it has two claws and an exoskeleton of sorts, but that’s honestly where the similarities end. It lacks antennae, but makes up for it by having six eyes, arranged in two parallel rows of three. Moreover, it has no legs, just smooth armour covering its belly.


It does have a tail, however. A spinning tail, which propels it after me at high speed.


What are you, a torpedo?! This makes no biological sense!


Of course, biological inconsistency has probably never stopped the inhabitants of Spiritual Realmspace before. Especially ones too dumb to understand any of that.


The hairs in my neck stand up as I vaguely sense the mass of Espir gain on me.


I change directions at the last second. A huge claw snaps shut on the position I just occupied and the lobstorpedo careens past me, unable to stop in time.


However, it’s quick to use its tail and flat claws to steer around and head straight for me once more.


I desperately continue evading its charges with sharp, last-minute turns, all the while searching for a way out of this predicament.


Finally, I catch a glimpse of predatory eyes lurking in a shallow cave beneath a nearby rocky outcrop, and head for it without a moment’s hesitation.


I push myself as hard as I can, reaching an underwater speed I previously held impossible.


The lobstorpedo is faster still.


I hold out as long as I can, and when I finally change directions with a powerful swish of my tail, I feel the edge of one of its claws rake my back.


Still, the lobstorpedo doesn’t manage to get a hold of me, and once more overshoots the mark. This time, it actually has to slow itself down a little by reversing the spin of its tail so it doesn’t slam into the big rock we were headed for.


The second the lobstorpedo’s claws reach out to catch itself against the rock, the creature beneath pounces.


The electric-blue eel strikes like lighting, sinking its teeth in the lobstorpedo’s carapace, and proceeding to wrap itself around it and try to drag it down into its hidey-hole.


The lobstorpedo puts up a valiant fight with its massive claws, but the eel has gotten stuck in its rotors and appears to be going nowhere.


I don’t stick around to see who wins, immediately swimming off for calmer waters.


Holy shit that was scary! I really need to find Kirri, or at least my bloody trident. I hope it landed in this Realm, at least... I swear, if it’s in the hands of a giant singing crab, I’ll—


As luck would have it—or more likely, sheer friggin’ coincidence—I spot a thin bony shape, sticking out of a distant patch of sand. It seems to have ended up a good distance away from where I clawed myself out of a literal seaman’s grave, but I’m just happy I found it at all.


If it had ended up completely buried like me, well...


Moreover, this gives me good hope that Kirri’s here too!


Right as I start for it, some deep-buried instinct sets off alarm bells in my head that call for me to stop.


I warily survey the open area surrounding the trident, almost suspiciously clear of clutter.


It takes me a moment, but I eventually spot something.


An eye squints at me from the sand.


A large eye, from a large, camouflaged creature.


Son of a bitch.


Swallowing thickly, I retreat towards a nearby rock and hide behind it, keeping an eye on the creature hidden in plain sight.


After a moment, the eye slowly closes.


Well, I can’t quite make out its shape, but it doesn’t seem to be a crab, at least.


I’m getting the sense it’s closer to some kind of squid, which doesn’t make me any keener to tangle with it.


Frustrated, I check my motes. I was back up to 32 when I got interrupted, but after the frantic swimming and graze on my back, I’m down to 29, which is even less than what I entered the little underwater copse with.


One thing’s clear. I can’t keep running from fights like this, I need a way to bite back.


And for that, I need the trident. My spiritform is far too weak to rely on, and I’ve spotted nothing else remotely suitable for underwater combat nearby.


The trident may not seem like much of a weapon against creatures this size, which can snap off far thicker tree branches like it’s nothing, but the creepy bone weapon is made of Extant material from a much higher Realm. According to Akir, that makes it virtually indestructible down here.


And that, I can work with.


But first, I need to get my hands on it. And since there’s a trap in front of it, I’ll just have to spring it.



Author's note:

Thanks for reading! ^^


Book 1: Unnatural Laws

Book 2: Unusual Enemies

Book 3: Unimagined Adventures

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