• H.C. Mills

Chapter 6: Don't you know that you're toxic?

I get up sprightly, drink some water from the sink and ask Suri about the promised food. In lieu of an answer I hear a rumbling and a small portion of foodstuffs falls down a chute into the alcove.

There's... nothing I recognize. There’s a kind of fruit resembling a raspberry, except it’s larger and pink, and a pale nut the size of a jawbreaker.

“What are these?”

[If you wish to know more about something, you can request information by saying: ‘Appraise.’]

“Really? Cool! Appraise.”

Two windows pop up in my vision.

“Suitable for human consumption, huh... perfect. And you're sure I'm not going to die in some obscure way from eating them? Like... my brain fries because I have too little 'flavour tolerance'?"

[That's classified.]

Of course it is.

“And let me take a guess, Hydrum is just another word for water?”

[Well, it is a very close analogue. Most lifeforms in this realm are Hydrum based.]

I’ll just take that as a yes.

I try one of the jicca nuts and nearly shatter a molar.

“Good god, why is everything so hard in this realm? I thought this nut was supposed to be soft!”

[It’s because your toughness stat is low. The jicca nut has a toughness of about 7, making it relatively very soft.]

Huh, that wasn't classified apparently. I guess foodstuffs are also 'one' in this realm.

I quietly eat on the bed. The nuts are tough, but the flavour is quite nice, hearty. The skin of the berries has the texture of rubber—thankfully not the flavour—but once I’ve chewed my way through, they are... definitely refreshing

“Not sure about flavour tolerance, but I’m positively developing sour tolerance here,” I grumble.

A thought strikes me.

“Hey Suri, could I survive without food in this realm? I mean I’m taking in most of my Lavi from the air, right?”

[You could subsist on Lavi for a long time, but you would ultimately still require food, because you consist of matter powered by Lavi.]

“I see...”

[If you are ready to start the Trial, just walk up to the door, and say ‘Begin Trial,’] Suri chimes when I’m just about finished with my meal.

Ignoring her, I once again take a seat in the centre of the room.

I breathe in...

Four hours later, when my trance breaks, there’s unexpectedly a pop-up notification hovering in my vision.

What? Is this for real?

I get up and stretch, curiously watching how the transparent floating window follows my movements.

"Suri, what is this?" That counts as a practical question, right? Pretty please?

[Congratulations, you have unlocked the 'Skill System'. To view more information, say: 'Open Skill Window.']

Frig’ yeah!

"Open skill window!"

Meagre lung capacity? My eyebrows reach for my hairline. This is meagre? I'm already breathing what feels like twice as deep as should be possible on Earth... I guess there's a lot of room to grow.

The meditation skill seems less useful at first glance, but it seems like it could help me 'heal' faster at least.

Time to check my Toxic Tolerance. Oh boy; I'm actually getting kind of excited... and here I thought I'd finally kicked my gaming addiction. It should have gone up again; I definitely feel a little less burn, I think.

"Status Window!"

7.1%! And Suri added a skill-list, neat.

It seems my growth has slowed, but I half-expected that. And hey, did my maximum Lavi increase? That does seem to be what the little green plus one indicates... Is it like I've stretched up my body's capacity by taking in more than I use up for a while? In that case the meditation skill might hold more value still.

"Suri, how much time left?"

[13 hours, 41 minutes and 57 seconds.]

Good. Since I've so far spent most of my time in this dimension either unconscious or doing breathing exercises, I'm far from tired. Time to grind!

I sit down again.

When Suri's voice finally breaks my trance, I feel rather disoriented.

[Warning: your time in the preparation room is nearly up. The room will be fully sterilized in 600 seconds.]

What? Already? Did my meditation skill improve?

My vision swims a little, and a blurry notification window slowly clears into view.

Awesome. I guess Toxic Energy is also measured in Onkh. 1.4... is that a lot? Not compared to my max Lavi I guess, but since it’s a different kind of energy, I can’t be sure.

Feeling a pang down below, I get to my feet.

My vision swims again. Man... I don't feel too good. Guess sitting for 13 hours straight will do that to ya.

I hurriedly make my final preparations, such as visiting the ladies room, eating some food and putting some extra in my backpack.

Man, I really wish I had asked Suri to wake me a little earlier; I'm actually a little nauseous, though it’s probably nerves.

I’m not getting sick, am I? Do they even have micro-organisms keyed to humans here? It seems unlikely... on the other hand, the universe clearly hates me, and this would be the absolute worst timing.

Cold sweat forms on my back as I take place in front of the door.

[180 seconds left.]

Alright... Here goes nothing. Don't be a baby, Emma; You're going to be fine.

"Begin... urk... trial."

The door rumbles open and a wave of sickly sweet air flows in. In front of me lies a cave, that somehow contains a garden. A wide variety of plants lines both sides of a beaten earth path that stretches out in front of me as far as I can see.

A huge flower with an ominous purple glow catches my eye. If that’s not the moonshade flower, I’ll eat my shoe. Can’t be much harder to chew than the grub Suri serves me.

I take a deep breath as I step through the door, and feel it harshly burn my lungs. Oof, tastes like a ton of toxic energy. Good thing I built up my tolerance.

Two pop-up windows appear in my view.

The door slams shut behind me.

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©2018 by H.C. Mills