• H.C. Mills

Chapter 25: Pornithology

Author's note: Good news for my mobile readers!

I've spent a full, mind-numbing hour recoding all of my images on Royalroad, so they won't scale down when read on a device with a small screen, but become scrollable instead, and I will continue to code my images this way in the future.

So, if you're reading this on a cellphone, you may want to switch to reading it here.

Blood drains from Dave’s face. His hand, the one holding the crystal that shines a refreshing white light over me, trembles. “Shit! We don’t have anything stronger than that drink! Sixteen Lavi, that only gives us eight minutes; that will never be enough time to Purify you!”

“I can—” I cough weakly, “—meditate, conserve Lavi.”

Dave nods frantically. “Should save 1 Onkh per minute, right? That’ll buy us some time, but—”

“1.5, actually,” I interrupt smugly.

Hey, I’m dying here, let me have this.

Dave’s brows rise in surprise, but he doesn’t question me. “That... 32 minutes might be enough time for me to stabilize you for now, but... these drinks have a very short duration of effect, and we only have a few.”

[The yams, Emma,] Suri reminds me.

Right, good one.

“Yams, in my backpack,” I mumble.

Iron Man scrambles for it, clearly glad to be of assistance.

Kaitlynn pushes the waterskin containing the sweet liquid against my mouth again, and I reluctantly sip from it.

“Alec,” she calls after him, “there’s a Blue Angel in my bag, could you grab that too? It should help clean her up faster.”

Right! Alec! Phew, now I can just pretend I knew all along. If I survive, that is, but I guess otherwise it wouldn’t have been an issue anyway.

“Blue Angel, in your bag, got it Kaitlynn!” Alec answers distractedly, proving my conjecture as he rummages through my bag.

She shakes her head at his back, and turns to me, smiling. “They’re kind of bitter, think you can stomach it?”

I give her a small, wry smile. “Little choice.”

“All right,” Dave says, looking calmer, more determined, “we can do this. Eat quickly, then meditate.”

Alec hands me the Blue Angel first. I weakly bring it to my mouth and attempt to bite it. My teeth don’t even scratch the surface.

“Uh oh,” I mutter. “Status window.”

“What? What is it?” Dave asks.

I grimace sheepishly. “I can’t chew it; my strength is down to 1.”

Dave frowns. “Damn... Maybe we can like... dice it for you?”

Kaitlynn sighs and grabs the Blue Angel. “There’s no time for that; leave it to me.”

She takes a bite and starts chewing.

When she’s finished, she leans over to press her lips against mine and deposits the bitter mush straight into my mouth.

What are you, a mother bird?!

I struggle weakly. After Kaitlynn finishes her deposit, she admonishes me. “There’s no time, Emma, we need to get you into meditation. Just let me feed you, okay?”

Dave swallows, and nods. “Ehm, yeah, this is probably... probably the best way.”

...Hold up, what’s with this atmosphere? Come to think of it, wasn’t Dave wearing some kind of bird costume when I first met him? Is it that—are you a bird-fetishist?!

Alec, wide-eyed, goes, “Oh man, that’s definitely the best way!”

“Dude, be cool,” Dave hisses at him. “This is serious.” Yet I catch him glancing at us repeatedly when Kaitlynn bends over me again.

Ah. This is just a ‘look it’s two girls kissing’ thing, isn’t it? I figured.

Not that that’s what we’re doing. I mean, this doesn’t count. It’s more like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, that doesn’t count either... And either way, it doesn’t matter; I don’t swing that way.

[You should start meditating, Emma, no time to waste. You may actually still live through this.]

Right, meditation. I don’t really need to wait till I’m done eating, that’s level 2 for ya.

Though with great difficulty—thanks to Kaitlynn’s ‘unique’ delivery method and the blue mushroom’s bitterness—I eventually manage to sink away into a lucid trance.

At some point, after finishing the mushroom and the first hexagonal yam, I lose focus and go into deep trance.

After about 8 hours, Kaitlynn rouses me for the second yam. Alec seems to have fallen asleep, sitting against the wall. Dave is still sitting by my other side, though his white Focus Crystal isn’t shining right now.

He responds to my questioning gaze, saying: “I have to wait for my Qi to recover; it takes 5 Onkh to cast, and the effect only lasts for about 10 minutes, so...”

I nod in understanding. If his Qi restores about as fast as mine, he can probably only cast once an hour. Let’s hope it’s enough.

Though I feel a little stronger, I unfortunately still can’t chew. Thankfully, Kaitlynn is now a little more prepared and a lot less embarrassing.

Instead of chewing the second yam, she crushes it with a rock, in a kind of bowl sized leaf. Her delivery method has also improved: she feeds it to me with rudimentary chopsticks, which of course, she’s very handy with.

As soon as I’m fed I slip into a deep trance again.

By the time I come out, I feel almost human again.

“Status window.”

Looks like I was right about needing to poison myself to raise my Toxic Energy tolerance... At least I’m no longer in danger of dying. -6.5 is quite manageable with my breathing skill and some simple food or meditation.

But man, my Toxic Energy level went down by 4.4 Onkh overnight; Dave must have worked hard. In fact, he’s lying on the floor next to me, still clutching his Focus Crystal. Poor guy, better let him sleep.

Kaitlynn is curled up on my other side, and even Alec is still out, snoring lightly in the corner.

The only one who’s up, besides me, is Suri.

[I’m not sure which amazes me more; your ability to make fatal errors or to somehow survive them.]

“Good morning to you to,” I whisper back. “No, ‘I’m glad you’re still around?’”

[Oh, but I am. You’re very amusing.]

“Gee, thanks.”

[You’re quite welcome.]

Ugh, insufferable woman! That reminds me, I have some beef with you still, my dear Suri...

“By the way Suri... why didn’t you teach me that skill Dave uses, huh? With that, I could’ve made it through the second trial far easier and with a lot less suffering! Instead, you taught me this useless, suicidal Lavi burning skill that boosts my strength for a whopping 6 seconds! Do you really have my best intentions at heart?”

[Purify is a skill that requires Yang Qi.]

And once again, I am left with my foot in my mouth.

Perhaps I was whispering a little too heatedly, or maybe naptime was running at an end anyway, because Kaitlynn stirs and stretches. Then with a sudden inhale, she rolls over to look at me with wide eyes. Finding me awake and, well, alive, brings out a wide, relieved smile on her face.

“Good morning,” I whisper, smiling wryly as I study the upper half of her face. She has a button nose, and quite a few freckles that cover it and her upper cheeks. Her eyebrows are brown, so I take it that’s her natural hair colour, beneath the vibrant blue dye-job. As for why I’m not looking at her li—lower facial area, it’s because, ehm... well, I’m already more than familiar enough.

“Good morning to you, miss Toxic Dragon Girl,” she whispers back.

I groan softly and apply my palm to my face. I knew that’d be coming back to haunt me.

“Thank you,” she whispers earnestly. “For standing up for me, and for, well, risking your life like that. It was...” She trails off, shaking her head.

“... Really unwise.” I finish for her.

She snorts, trying to keep it down.

“I was going for something like heroic,” she says.

“So was I,” I say morosely, “but like the idiot I am, I ended up shooting straight past it towards suicidal.”

“Stop... making me... laugh,” she laughs. “We’ll wake the boys.”

“I’ll try,” I promise.

But I’m totally crossing my fingers behind my back. Or mentally, at least. That counts, right?

Author's note: I promised to elaborate a little on the other writing project (a book) I'm currently working on, so here goes.

Quick disclaimer: it's still a ways from finished. I'm currently writing chapter 19 from an estimated 21, but that's still technically 'the first draft'. (I've actually already done several rounds of editing along the way, based on feedback from my alpha readers, but there are still some large edits to come once the first draft has been completed.) I will eventually post the first chapter on my website, but that's gonna be a while.

My project is intended to be a series, and the title I currently have in mind for the first book is 'The Forbidden Element'. It's about a boy who loses his mother in a mysterious attack on their village. His grandfather is at war, leaving no-one but him to take care of his little sister. So, in order to escape being drafted himself, he seeks to enter an academy for magic. Once there, however, he picks up the trail of his mother's killer...

I've put a lot of time, effort, and love into this project already—a lot more than my webnovel, to be honest, which I only started working on last may—and it's shaping up to be pretty decent.

If you'd like to help see it come to fruition sooner, the best way to do so would of course be to support me on Patreon, so I can start thinking about quitting my part-time job to fully devote myself to writing, but every kind of support helps. Whether it's rating and/or reviewing my story on Royalroad, or sending a link to a friend.

Either way, thank you all for very much for reading my work and helping my dreams come true.

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©2018 by H.C. Mills