Chapter 194: Thar he sucks!
With a grunt and a heave, I toss another lightly struggling, winged fish—not sure how many I’m up to by now; I’ve lost count—down the hatch.
Thankfully, creatures simply Fade in this Realm without leaving a mess to clean, or Kirri would have been a biohazard by now.
Though killing the relatively harmless flying creatures up here leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I can’t argue with the results. It’s so much easier; like shooting fish in a barrel! With access to all the Essence I could possibly need, my growth accelerated once more, and the bottleneck really became the speed at which I could process it.
I also checked to see if the Moral Compass had any adverse reaction to my hunting of relatively harmless creatures, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. As long as I continue properly processing the Essence, not much seems to change with the swinging of the needle, confirming my earlier hypothesis that it’s a relatively simple measuring device after all.
I still have no idea how it functions, of course...
Anyway, the additional Essence that was supposed to leak into Kirri’s wood doesn’t seem to have had much effect yet, but I feel that may have something to do with the density.
That’s something I only recently realised is an issue.
About when I hit 300 motes, my growth started to slow down, as it became harder to pull Essence into my Core for some reason. I’ve pretty much plateaued now, and the only explanation I can think of is that the Essence density in my Core has surpassed that of the average prey in this Realm.
Which is why my prey this time is the biggest flying fish I could find.
My tendrils bore into its spiritflesh, head unerringly to its cracked Core, and drain.
A measly bit of Essence makes its way into my Core, barely burning as it goes, and I let out a sigh.
Still stuck at 312 motes...
I absentmindedly fiddle with Kaitlynn’s bracelet, something I’ve deliberately made a habit of, to make sure I stay aware of its presence, and don’t allow it to Fade.
It’s been a big help in keeping me motivated, and now, once again, it drives me to make a decision.
I’ve wasted enough time here.
Yes, it’s high time I moved on to greener pastures. That is to say, I need to find a way to leave this Realm and cross the Realmvoid up towards one that’s a little higher in Spiritual Realmspace, where I can continue growing.
Aside from being necessary for my growth, moving up is also ultimately the only way to reach Kaitlynn.
But in order to leave this Realm... I first need to deal with its Apex.
By now, I’m one hundred per cent convinced that Schlorpy—that’s my nickname for the creature creating the giant whirlpools and sucking down flying seafood—is this Realm’s Apex.
I’ve been studying its behaviour, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t sapient—not that I expected it to be, all the way down here. Either way, that means I’m not going to be able to convince it to let me go. So I’m going to have to defeat it.
The only question is how.
Kirri has thankfully become a little more flexible about me leaving after I stuck around for a long time, so last time Schlorpy appeared to hunt—which it does very regularly, like clockwork—I took a peek underwater.
I didn’t dare to get too close, for obvious reasons, but from what I could see, Schlorpy is basically a massive whale, except for the maw full of sharp teeth and the tentacles it has instead of fins.
Interestingly, the tentacles don’t seem to have any function in regards to locomotion. The way they wave around underwater, seemingly searching for something, suggests to me they’re mostly meant to detect prey, or perhaps defensively.
Not that there’s anything here that would dare to attack it.
Except for me, of course.
But even I wouldn’t just swim up to it and try to stab it with my trident. Even shooting at it seems quite pointless. I’d never be lucky enough to actually hit its Core, and even if I could produce some kind of Extant rope strong enough to hold it, Schlorpy could probably easily pull Kirri entirely underwater.
No, I’ll need to do this smartly.
Which is why I’m laying a trap.
The first phase of my plan is... well, it’s not going great.
Armed with the axe Akir loaned me, I’m trying to cut through the trunk of an underwater tree.
My Imagium tools are certainly tough and sharp enough for the job, and the wood’s Espir density isn’t that high, so I’m making incredible progress by Earthly standards.
It’s just that I picked the biggest tree that I could find...
As in, this sucker’s trunk has a thirty-foot diameter. It’s like a bloody sequoia!
I’ve been at it for quite some time now, and I’m maybe ten per cent through, if I’m being optimistic. Moreover, since the tree seems to be gently trying to float upwards, I won’t be able to count on gravity to assist me in bringing it down.
Or, well, up.
Ugh, this is going to take forever!
Well, at least there’s a convenient source of Espir available.
It’s kinda nice to be back in the water again. The moment I jumped in, I almost instinctively switched my legs out for a mass of Devouring Energy tentacles. Those same tentacles are currently firmly anchored into the tree trunk, below where I’m cutting. I don’t want to weaken the wood that I need, after all.
Hold on... weaken the wood?
I stop my axe practically mid-swing. A simple flex draws back a few of my tentacles and sends them probing into the cut I’ve been working at.
This might actually work!
Excited, I start draining the Espir directly at the surface of the wood, carefully watching it for changes as I do. At first, nothing happens, but after I add a few more tendrils and persist for a while longer, the wood starts to turn grey and desiccated.
Once the wood looks properly deadened, I draw back my tentacles and vigorously swing my axe.
My axe cleaves through the weakened wood like it’s tofu, hacking in easily thrice as deep as before. As I continue swinging, however, the wood quickly restores its lustre and hardens again.
Hmm... I need a better way to do this...
It takes some experimentation, but I manage to work out a better system. Instead of the axe, I’m using Akir’s large saw now.
My tendrils enter the tree trunk from the side and penetrate the wood all the way to the cut, where they continuously suck out the Espir. As my saw makes steady progress through the desiccated, grey wood, my tendrils slowly pull back from the deepening cut.
It’s still a lot of work, but I’ve got nothing but time. Eventually, inevitably, the last sliver of wood snaps under my relentless assault. As I’d hoped, the massive trunk immediately starts rising up, buoyed by the bulbous leaves lifting its creaking branches.
I quickly swim up after it, my tentacles undulating below me with hardly a thought.
It’s a little creepy how natural it feels, to be honest, but I’m not complaining.
I follow it up for quite a while, only relaxing once I confirm it’s floating up towards the bubble of air I came from as expected.
Although I’ve found by now that there are many of these air bubbles in the Realm—and each of them serves as a kind of inverted gravitational centre and food dispenser for Schlorpy—this one is by far the closest to the small copse of underwater trees.
I once again thank my lucky stars that Kirri and I ended up entering this Realm near enough to each other that I eventually bumped into her.
Though the water seems to stretch out endlessly in most directions, this Realm still has a kind of cramped feeling. Perhaps it’s simply the lack of a real sky, but it feels like more than that. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the Realm just seems kinda... small. At least compared to the vast expanse of the Realm of Imagination.
Then again, perhaps it is smaller, with this being a much lower, and no doubt younger Realm.
I’m brought out of my musings when the tree at last surfaces in the bubble.
Kirri rushes over the moment my head breaks the surfaces, almost skipping through the water as she happily flaps her wings.
I wave at her but don’t climb back on board. My job isn’t quite done yet.
More sawing. Joy.
Even with my new method, cutting through every single branch and sharpening the stumps into lethal spikes, takes an awful lot of time.
Even with the trimmings supplying me with plenty of Espir, I’m starting to feel mentally fatigued by the end.
I guess there’s still a factor aside from Espir playing a role there. Unfortunately, there’s no rest for the wicked.
There’s a lot of time between Schlorpy’s visits, and I don’t quite feel like waiting another round, so I need to finish this now.
Thankfully, even without the bulbous leaves, the tree is still buoyant enough to remain afloat at the bubble’s surface, so I can proceed without additional hassle.
For the next step of my plan, I take some time to figure out how to modify my ballista to something which can fire conjured nets with.
Eventually, I realise I’m overcomplicating this, and replace it entirely with a catapult.
A few test shots later, I’m ready to begin.
Catching live, flying fish in a net is a little trickier than shooting them with my trident. It takes some more experimenting to get my net to simulate the right kind of weight and shape to get it to properly fold out and wrap around a prey upon hit, but soon enough, I manage to pull down my first fish.
Getting the harness on the slippery bastard is somehow even harder.
Finally, however, I get it on and let him go. I watch in satisfaction as the rope tying him to my tree full of sharpened points pulls taut, and the whole thing rises slightly in the water as it frantically tries to flee.
Excellent. Looks like I’m going to need a lot more, however...
One hundred and forty-three is how many it apparently takes. One hundred and forty-three flying fish, lifting together, finally manage to pull the tree fully out of the water.
Of course, I’m not about to watch them fly off with the darn thing. A strong rope—thicker than all the others—connects the middle of the tree to the crank system on Kirri’s rear.
I happily stare up at the beautiful sight of the massive floating tree, covered in sharp barbs, angled slightly up. I even whittled the bottom down to a sharp spike!
Now all I need is for Schlorpy to do his thing and choke on this sucker.
With my preparations finished, I settle down to wait, idly draining the Espir out of some of the large bulbous leaves I brought on board.
It still takes a few hours before the waters stir. Thankfully, I managed to remain watchful the entire time, so I notice right away. Unfortunately, however, the spot Schlorpy shows up in is quite a distance from here, almost a third around the bubble.
“Let’s go, Kirri, quick!” I shout even as I jump up.
Responding quickly, Kirri sets off even before I push the throttle.
It’s not until I fully engage it, however, that Kirri seems to realise this isn’t a drill and sets off at full speed.
Behind us, many of the flying fish had stopped pulling too hard, causing the tree to dip down a bit, but Kirri begins pulling at it, they startle, and it rises back up out of the water.
Thankfully, these fish aren’t the type who move in schools. In fact, the swarm of panicked fish is entirely unable to agree on a direction to pull in, resulting in them easily being pulled along behind Kirri, towards the danger.
“Come on come on come on,” I mutter.
All too soon, however, the whirlpool starts to decrease in intensity.
That’s fine, however.
I knew the odds of making it to that spot in time were slim to none.
However, I also know Schlorpy usually resurfaces at least twice more, at relatively nearby spots. Basically wherever the most prey gathers.
And the place I’m heading for has quite a concentration of gently gliding rays.
You like those, don’t you? Come on big guy, take the bait...
As I’d hoped, the water beneath them soon begins to churn.
By now, we’re close enough that I feel we should be able to make it.
Kirri starts to whine uneasily as we enter the whirlpool’s outer reaches and her wood starts to vibrate.
“Steady girl, steady,” I mumble at her, gently scratching her steering wheel. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”
I know Kirri can’t understand me, but she gets the tone of my voice, and I manage to soothe her enough that she continues following my instructions as I bring her closer and closer to the whirlpool, before I have her turn and sail with the swirling current, around to the whirlpool’s other side.
I anxiously watch as ray after ray gets sucked down, while my floating trap edges closer and closer to the spot over the whirlpool.
The one hundred and forty-three fish lifting it struggle even harder, finally starting to cooperate, but they’ve already entered the suction zone, so it doesn’t help.
Finally, as Kirri is almost entirely on the other side of the whirlpool compared to the tree, it happens.
The tree starts to get sucked down.
With a mental yank, I dissolve all of my conjured ropes at the same time.
Freed from the constraints holding it up, and pulled down by both gravity and suction, my sharpened tree thunders down towards the maw below.
At the same time, I steer Kirri farther into the whirlpool. She whines, but still follows my direction.
“Good girl!” I croon over the cacophony as the maw comes into view
And a split-second later, the massive tree crashes down into Schlorpy’s greedy gullet.
Kind of a random announcement, but I'm having a German translation made of the first book. I thought about getting it translated last Wednesday, saw that there was a potential market for German, found a translator who's done more LitRPG books, and signed a contract on Thursday, so... it's happening. :p
I also considered Chinese for a hot second, then realised how much would need to be censored for this series to be accepted there. And I figured: You know what? Fuck that.
Anyway, thanks for reading! ^^