As soon as everyone’s hearing has recovered from Alec’s squeal, I begin explaining.
“So, I figured it’d be worthwhile to ask about not only the crystals in this bag but crystals in general. I’ll try and relay what I learned using a few examples. Suri, could you share my appraisal windows with the rest please?”
[Sure thing, Emma.]
“All right, let’s start with the first of the three natural types of crystals: pure Yin and Yang Qi crystals, like—”
I reach for the bounty spread out on the floor in front of the couch that everyone’s gawking at and pick up my first example.
“—this one, though I’m sure you’ve all seen it before. Appraise!”
“Though it’s called a pearl, it’s actually a crystal consisting of pure Qi,” I explain. “As you can see, Alec grabbed exactly one Yin and one Yang Pearl, and since I’ve learned my lesson last time, we’ll be deciding on a distribution democratically this time,” I finish, smiling wryly.
That draws some awkward chuckles. Tough crowd. Better move on quickly.
“Anyway, their main function is replenishing Qi, and for ‘weaklings’ like us,” I continue, applying air quotations to indicate I am quoting Suri, “forcibly increasing our maximum Qi capacity. Next up is the second natural type of crystal... the Lavi crystal.”
I pick up another familiar golf-ball-sized crystal. “Appraise!”
“Turns out, this crystal and that one,” I say, pointing at the head-sized green Lavi crystal embedded in the ceiling, “are exactly the same type of crystal: they’re pure crystallized Lavi, formed by living beings concentrating their excess Lavi. In order to demonstrate that, I had Suri add the Lavi emission to the appraisal result; that usually isn’t shown as it’s pretty negligible.”
“Wait,” Alec interjects, raising his hands as if he’s in class, “you’re saying that those Crystals of Lavi in the ceiling... we could eat those too?!”
“If you can open your mouth wide enough, then yes,” I deadpan. “Though a ‘weakling’ like you would just explode from the spontaneously released Lavi once it hits your stomach. That thing probably contains like 1000 Onkh.”
His eyes widen, and he quickly drops his hand. “Duly noted.”
“Interesting,” Dave says, his eyes shining. “Does that mean we could potentially grow crystals on our own bodies, like the Trigots?”
“I think we could, actually,” I say, causing several brows in my audience to raise in surprise. “Suri was, again, purposely being a little vague about it, but I get the impression that growing a Lavi emitting crystal inside of your own body may be the goal of a Skill evolved from Lavi Font.”
“Could be a good way to counter the increasing resting Lavi consumption,” Jacob remarks thoughtfully.
I nod. “Exactly. I think that’s actually why creatures have them; as they grow bigger and stronger, their Lavi consumption increases, to the point where breathing and eating become inadequate, so they need an additional source.”
I put the Lavi crystal back down, and pick up a different, orange glowing crystal.
“On to the third and final natural type of crystal: energy crystals. Appraise.”
This time, I give them a moment to study the window in front of them, before continuing.
“Energy Crystals are crystallized forms of the energies we know and love, meaning there are exactly 10 types. They’re similar to Lavi Crystals in that they constantly give off energy without reducing in size, but a lot less stable. Apparently, conservation of energy is not a thing in this realm. Now, you may think you haven’t seen these before, but you have.”
Alec picks it up. “Ooh, it’s actually warm to the touch. Hot, even.”
He begins playing with it, flipping it from hand to hand to distribute the Heat.
“Ooh, are these how they regulate the temperature?” Kaitlynn pipes up. “Are there crystals like this hidden in places where we usually don’t see them?”
“Yes to the first, no to the second,” I say, smiling brightly at her. “Apparently, the Twin Star is some kind of unholy fusion between a giant Yang Heat Crystal and a marginally smaller, still giant Yin Lightning Crystal.”
She narrows her eyes at me, silently begging the question if I’m bullshitting her or not. I give her my most innocent smile, but it seems to amuse her more than appease her suspicions. Honestly, where is the trust!
As the silence stretches and it becomes apparent that I’m not retracting my statement, Jacob scratches his cheek and mumbles, “The term ‘Realm of Crystals’ is starting to make sense.”
Dave nods mutely.
“Ouch!” Alec exclaims before he haphazardly tosses the Heat Crystal— that he’d unconsciously been holding in the same hand for too long—to Kaitlynn, who catches it bemusedly.
“Oh, it is hot,” she exclaims delightedly, before quickly tossing it back, inevitably sparking a game of hot potato.
I look on fondly.
Jacob looks on irritatedly. “Guys... guys, will you knock it off?”
Kaitlynn, giggling, tosses it extra high. Alec jumps up to grasp it, but, well... he doesn’t have any depth perception.
Kaitlynn gasps as it goes sailing straight through his arms. Alec freezes, single eye wide.
The crystal tumbles end over end through the Aether, in a wide arc, inevitably pulled down by the stronger gravity coming from below.
Jacob curses. A flash of yellow sends him rocketing forward. He dives for the crystal and catches it just above the floor.
For a second, it’s perfectly quiet.
“You idiots!” Jacob bursts out as he jumps up, “Didn’t you hear her say it wasn’t very stable?!”
They all turn to me.
“Ehm, well, yeah, relatively,” I bring out, fighting a smirk.
“Meaning?” Dave asks gently.
“That mostly means they have a much lower Toughness compared to other kinds of crystals,” I explain. “Still a lot higher than the floor here, of course... Even if it did break it wouldn’t really cause much of a problem. It just makes the crystal less potent, because the energy it produces increases exponentially with the size somehow. But, ehm, nice catch?”
Jacob stands there rigidly for a moment before dropping his head. “Right... fair enough.”
Alec finally can’t hold it anymore and starts laughing. Kaitlynn at least makes a valiant effort to suppress her giggles.
Jacob’s grey-tinted skin flushes red as he walks over and petulantly smacks the crystal back down on the floor. “Not like you guys actually knew that,” he grumbles, but it just sets them off harder.
I use my iron will to suppress the smile trying to creep onto my face and decide to quickly continue and spare him further embarrassment.
“However, like Lavi Crystals can be made to spontaneously release all of their energy by eating them, energy crystals can actually be set off into an explosion,” I warn them seriously, bringing a swift end to their laughter.
“Let’s take this one for example, one of the most dangerous crystal in the bunch,” I say, picking up a neon-green glowing crystal. “Appraise!”
I give them a minute to read it and consider the implications, and then continue.
“As you can read, Crystals of Radiation Energy—and Crystals of Toxic Energy, by the way—can be given Purpose. Which means, that lovely Crystal of Restoration over there,” I say, pointing at the pink glowing crystal in the ceiling, “is actually also a huge chunk of crystallized Radiation Energy; probably more than enough to burn out all of our Lavi at once, leaving us all as lifeless husks, if someone were to set it off.”
Jacob actually physically flinches away from it; like those two inches would make a difference.
Alec raises his hand again.
“Yes, you there, with the funny looking nose,” I say, pointing and gazing down at him expectantly as if I’m hosting a press conference.
“Ehm, yes, hi,” Alec says, his lips quirking upwards at the corners a little. “I’m with the, ehm, ‘Concerned Gazette,’ and our readers would like to know: What exactly would set such a thing off? But—and I’ve been told to stress this—they’re all just asking for a friend.”
I fight hard to suppress my smirk but end up snorting through my nose. Damnit; he actually got me this time!
Let me explain: Alec and I started an informal no-laughing competition before the last Trial, as a casual way to further hone his Willpower.
“Eleven to one,” Dave, our self-appointed score-keeper, intones dryly. Obviously, the eleven is mine, thanks to my superior wit and Willpower.
“Booyah!” Alec exclaims nonetheless.
I shake my head, and quickly school my features. “That’s a good question sir, you can tell your readers to tell their friends the following: Never inject the opposing type of energy into an Energy Crystal, or it will come undone and explode to some gruesome effect.”
“Okaaay,” Alec says, frowning, “and just to be clear...”
“That means,” I continue, “that you should never insert the Yin-Yang Opposite Energy into an Energy Crystal. And before you ask: the five pairings are Heat with Cold, Vibrations with Lightning, Radiation with Toxic, Momentum with Inertia, and Gravity with Space. That’s why the Twin Star is able to exist, even if it isn’t very stable; it consists of Heat and Lightning, which are respectively Yang and Yin energies, but not an opposing pair.”
“So,” Jacob rasps, “we’ll be fine as long as you don’t attempt to Infuse the Crystal of Restoration with Toxic Energy?”
I smile serenely. “Exactly.”
“Good. Please don’t,” he deadpans.
“I’ll try to contain myself,” I promise lightly, fighting the urge to cross my fingers behind my back.
Seriously though, I wouldn’t. I may be a bit of a masochist, but I’m not suicidal.
“And,” Dave says, picking up the Radiation Crystal, “If we develop some kind of delayed method of activation, we could turn this into a Radiation Grenade?”
I blink at him. Oh man, I hadn’t even considered that yet. “Well... yes. I suppose we could.”
He nods, unperturbed. “We’ll have to see if we can figure something out then...” he mutters. “Not sure if 100 Onkh is going to be enough to really kill something either, considering the size of our Lavi pools.”
Wow. For a guy who, just a few days ago, grew pale at the thought of violence, you’re awfully into this.
I guess we’re all adapting pretty fast. Not like we have much choice.
I shudder and decide to hurry on to the final subject. “There’s one more type of crystal I managed to learn a bit about, and that’s also the most valuable crystal Alec stole,” I say, picking up a fist-sized, perfectly octahedral, white crystal. “Appraise.”
Dave lets out a low whistle. “That could come in handy.”
“Indeed. Now, Focus Crystals, as opposed to the ‘natural’ types of crystals, are artificial,” I explain. “I don’t entirely understand how they work... it’s supposed to be mostly crystallized Yang Qi, but there’s a core inside it that’s Yin or something, to help stabilize it and to help it attract and store Yang Qi. Trying to forcibly store Yin Qi in it would break it, but not make it explode or anything. Just shatter.”
“Too bad I only grabbed a Yang one,” Alec grumbles. “Wait... what type of crystal was the trident made of?”
I shrug. “I ran out of time, and I couldn’t exactly appraise it. I did ask about the eye-crystal, but that was classified, unsurprisingly. I have a feeling neither of those two falls under the three ‘natural’ types of crystal though.”
“Yin-Yang Qi Crystals, Lavi Crystals, and Energy Crystals,” Dave sums up. “It’s interesting how they’re all made of energy. On the one hand, they have incredibly high Toughness, yet they can also be quite volatile.”
“So, how are we going to divide this stuff?” Kaitlynn asks, scrunching up her nose cutely. Then she winces and turns to gaze uncomfortably at Alec.
The rest of us follow suit.
Alec blinks over his eye-crystal. “Hey, I just put it in a backpack, you guys managed to drag my sorry ass here after that. Let’s just try to divvy it up in a way that makes sense.”
Dave nods. “Sounds fair.”
And so we do. Some of the decisions are easier to make than others.
Like giving Dave the Radiation Crystal, that’s a no-brainer. His Radiate Skill is already level 2; it’s the perfect training tool to help him add the regular Radiation to his arsenal without wasting TP on a Skilldream, even if a half-Skilldream would only cost him 13 TP because of course these bastards round up.
All right, not exactly the worst thing they’ve done to us, but still, it’s adding insult after injury!
Anyway, another easy one is giving me the purple glowing Toxic Crystal.
Yup, Alec grabbed one of those too, back then. Don’t worry, the 0.2 Onkh of Toxic Energy it emits per minute hardly tickles my skin when I hold it at this point. And Toxic Energy, unlike Radiation, doesn’t penetrate stuff. The emitted Toxic Energy just kind of dissolves and spreads into the Aether. Therefore, I just keep it stuffed in a closed container—currently, I’m using an emptied-out cockle shell, bound together with some straps of blue leather. Apparently, once the Aether is saturated, the Toxic Energy stops building up.
Guess conservation of energy not being a thing works both ways; it can both be created out of nothing and dissipate into nothingness if there is nowhere for it to go. Super weird.
Then there’s the electric blue Lightning Crystal—the very one that had shocked Alec back in the temple, causing him to give us away. Apparently, Electric Energy can build up in that one a bit, over time. The little shit zapped me too when I first took it out of the bag, so I gleefully suggest giving it to Alec, so he can grow more familiar with the energy he’s learning to manipulate.
Watching him struggle with the prospect of picking it up is highly entertaining.
I know from experience that even holding it is uncomfortable, as after that initial discharge, the crystal still produces a constant, uncomfortable current of about 0.3 Onkh of Electric Energy. Unfortunately, it appears impossible to use this to really train resistance as well, as Electric Energy doesn’t build up inside of your body, and 0.3 Onkh would be below the initial Tolerance Limit of anyone but a small child perhaps.
Of the Energy Crystals, that just leaves two Heat Crystals; one obviously goes to Kaitlynn, and by process of elimination that means the other one goes to Jacob.
I guess finding a Crystal of Momentum for him would’ve been too much to ask for. Honestly though, getting some more kinds of Energy Crystals would’ve been very nice, even if just to experience those energies first hand.
Anyway, we unanimously decide to give Jacob the Yang Pearl and Minor Lavi Crystal as well; he’s still lagging behind us in both of those aspects, while he’s more than proven himself a valuable companion. Plus, an extra use of his Charge Skill is something all of us can see the value of.
As for the Medium Yang Focus Crystal, that one we decide is simply too valuable to really ‘give’ to someone, so for now, it’s in shared custody of Dave and Kaitlynn, who can both stand to gain from attempting to practice charging their respective Skills beyond the 10 Onkh limit of their current Focus Crystals.
Finally, that leaves a single Yin pearl.
With this one, we run into a stalemate, as Alec and I both insist the other one should take it.
Simply put, I still feel guilty. Giving it to him wouldn’t absolve me in any way, but it would be a nice start of a meaningful apology towards him. The stupid blond git, however, refuses to accept it, and insists he wants to give it to me as a ‘thank you’ for ‘saving him.’
The rest just stays out of it, apart from sending amused glances our way. Eventually, Kaitlynn breaks up our bickering, pulling on my sleeve with a frown before letting me know that she’s hungry, and I need to stop arguing with the chef.
Thus the argument is suspended, while Alec starts preparing us a feast of something none of us has had in at least a month: seafood.
Soon enough, I am desperately practising Meditation Level 3, trying to cut off my sense of mouth-watering smells. Well, that, and my senses of hearing and touch during Kaitlynn’s occasional giggly attempts at tickling me.
That doesn’t stop me from playing along, of course, glaring and grumbling promises of revenge when she least expects it.
It is only after we gather around for dinner, that our argument finally comes to a conclusion. Surprisingly, the one who ends it is Jacob, who cracks up after opening his boiled oyster, to reveal a second Yin pearl.
Bit of an exposition chapter this, hope it was still entertaining. ^^
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