Chapter 66: Luck be a lady
Suri was right; practising underhydrum definitely has its advantages. Hydrum contains more Lavi and doesn’t spread out or flow away from me as much after I breathe out, so it’s easier to practise maintaining control over my exhale like this.
Actually, now that I’m looking at it properly, it seems like the Lavi in the exhaled Hydrum I’m controlling lights up a little brighter. Huh.
I close my eye-crystal. That is to say, I lower my eyelid over it and I can still see a slight green glow!
Mmm, I should really look into what the eye-crystals can and can’t do, sometime.
Another thing I quickly figure out, is that if I keep the exhaled Hydrum close—preferably even in contact with my skin—it becomes easier to control it for longer. It also becomes easier to kind of ‘sense’ it, meaning I can sort of tell where it is, without looking at it, as long as I’m controlling it.
I’ve decided that my main goal here actually isn’t to level up the Skill. Don’t get me wrong; levelling the Skill would be sweet, but it feels like a long road still, and it would probably just improve my control over my exhales in general.
Instead, I’m focused mostly on finding new ways to apply the Skill, thus improving its utility. Particularly, ways to use the Skill to improve my underhydrum mobility, and in that sense, this latest discovery opens up some interesting applications.
My first idea for a propulsion method is to form some kind of propellers around my ankles and wrists.
The first attempt to produce those fails spectacularly. So does the second. I give up after the seventh attempt or so. Turns out this requires more control on a finer scale than I can currently manage.
Let’s try something a little simpler; I exhale through my nose, and make the two streams of Hydrum coil into two spirals around my legs—symmetrically, so one clockwise, the other counter clockwise.
Now, with some effort, I make the spirals slowly spin around my legs.
Getting some feeling for the motion, I replace the Hydrum with a fresh exhale, and attempt to speed the motion up.
Unfortunately, instead of propelling me upwards like I hoped, it seems to only be sucking some Hydrum around me downward...
It takes me a little while to realize the problem: I expected the downward force of the spirals displacing the Hydrum to generate an upward force on me, as I’m creating the motion. However, it seems both the motion of the spirals and the forces involved are entirely disconnected from my body.
I guess action doesn’t necessarily equal reaction here; at least when it comes to energy manipulation.
In order to get any kind of propulsion force going on me, the Hydrum will need to somehow adhere to me, or push against me.
Cue my latest experiment, which, I must say, is going rather swimmingly.
Pun fully intended.
I direct the Hydrum I exhale to soak into my pants, and stretch out from there, to form what is basically a transparent, slightly green-glowing mermaid’s tail around my legs and feet.
And with a kick from both of my legs I’m swimming around like one, using my Breath Control only to keep the tail intact and stuck to my legs and pants, and relying on the ample strength of my legs for propulsion.
Fast! With a single kick, I reach the opposite wall in the admittedly small room.
This is going to take some practise, though—my control over the Hydrum quickly weakens, causing my tail to rip and disintegrate as I attempt to swim back. I’ll need to constantly renew the exhaled Hydrum, which will only be made harder by the fact that I’m moving it around—but damn if it isn’t fast!
This might not be the best place to practise however, I’m going to need some more space...
I guess it’s about time for my Skilldream anyway. After all, I’m going to need Lavi Font if I want to activate Boost Physical for an extended period of time.
The extra Strength would definitely make me even faster, swimming like this, but the strain on the tail would also be greater.
‘Could you drain the room please, Suri?’
[Sure thing, Emma,] Suri chimes, speaking for the first time in a while.
Aether quickly fills the room as the Hydrum drains away, leaving me hacking and coughing once more.
I swear I’ll be able to transition smoothly someday.
I sit down on the bed and take a few deep breaths to grow accustomed to breathing the very different medium of Aether again.
[So, will you be taking the full Skilldream?] Suri chimes unprompted.
I open my mouth to answer in the affirmative, but then stop. Actually, will I?
On the one hand, I can’t really afford to waste a lot of time trying—and worst case, failing—to figure the Skill out. On the other hand, a full Skilldream also takes more time, and this would be my fifth Lavi Manipulation based Skill... sixth if you count Breath Control separate from Respiration.
In fact, was it just me, or did Suri put a little emphasis on the word ‘full’ in her question?
“Half a Skilldream, please,” I say finally, steeling my determination.
Barely a second passes before I allow Suri to whisk me away to a small island made of mirror-shards, surrounded by a roiling sea of glitter.
I wake from my only-two-and-a-half-hour Skilldream, ready to dance for joy.
I don’t actually dance. Too busy stretching out my stiff limbs. It’s like my body doesn’t move a single muscle while I’m Skilldreaming... I’m kind of used to it by now, I guess.
Anyway, the reason I’m so happy, is because I now know why Suri hinted at me to take the half-Skilldream; Lavi Font is actually very similar to Boost Physical!
At least in the sense that they both rely on the manipulation of the Lavi Flows inside of the body. The first level of Lavi Font is somewhat like the second level of Boost Physical, in that it applies a semi-permanent change in how those flows operate in a specific part of my body, except that area is in the belly instead of the heart, and with Lavi Font, there’s not really any reason to turn it back off again, except maybe when it’s time to try a new mode.
And no pain. I hope. Time to find out, I guess.
I close my eyes and direct my senses inward, to behind my belly button.
I study the available Lavi Flows, comparing them to my vague dream memories till I’m sure I’ve got the right one.
I only need to redirect one flow for the first level of Lavi Font, but the manipulation I need to make is a little complex.
Taking a firm hold of the flow, I break it open somewhere in the middle, and start to bend the Lavi that’s gushing out into a long circle. When the circle is about to complete, I bend the flow further, forming the start of an inward, 2D spiral.
I repeat this process, faster and faster, as the spiral nears completion, until... I lose control.
The spiral breaks apart, the Lavi scattering outward, causing my stomach to swell momentarily, painfully, before the original flow re-establishes.
Ugh. All right, it’s still pretty tricky; it’s not a medium-grade Skill for nothing.
Creasing my brows over my closed eyes, I prepare to try again...
An hour or so later, I am still at it. I definitely feel like I’m getting closer to completing the spiral though...
The main problem with what I’m trying to do, is that maintaining control over the flow of Lavi becomes harder and harder as I’m nearing what’s supposed to become the centre of the spiral, because every new curve needs to be completed faster than the previous.
In order to counter this, I need to progressively slow the Lavi down as well. Of course, that leads to different problems, as the flow gets backed up and the Lavi starts to compress, but...
My eyes fly open. Hold on a second... but, that’s the goal, isn’t it? It’s supposed to compress!
I squint, my mind racing as I try to recall what Suri told me during the Skilldream. The working principle behind the Skill... ugh, what was it she said? This is definitely a downside of half Skilldreams; if too much information is conveyed in a relatively short Skilldream, it’s much harder to retain it.
Come on, Emma. She said... should I ask for a hint?
No, focus. She said... compressed Lavi contains more energy!
I frown. How does that help?
Wait, that’s it! Compressed Lavi contains more energy, than just its Lavi content. So when it decompresses, new Lavi is formed!
Somehow, the energy that’s added during the compressing, is transformed into Lavi!
Even if it makes little sense to me how what’s basically Life Force can be created in such a manner, the vague sense that still remains of my Skilldream is telling me I’ve got it right.
I try again, this time focussing extra hard on slowing down and compressing the Lavi towards the centre of the spiral.
It fails, as in my enthusiasm, I bend the flow too sloppily.
I try again. This time, the flow races towards the centre under tight control. I slow it down more and more as I get there, and finally succeed in forming the spiral.
Except, I’m so surprised by my success, that I nearly forget the last step. I quickly direct the Lavi to spout out of the bottom of the spiral, and connect it into the node the flow was originally headed for.
I link it up, and let go, holding my breath. The spiral shifts and wobbles, as the initial flow lines dissolve, and it turns from a rigid spiral into a continuous whirlpool of Lavi, that keeps spouting out compressed Lavi from the bottom, which quickly decompresses as it is given space, forming additional Lavi.
A window pops into view.
I did it! And it doesn’t hurt!
This time, I actually dance.
Quickly done with expressing myself through the art of dance, I flop down on the bed, happy, yet confused.
This spiralling whirlpool of Lavi, that’s now spinning under its own momentum, fed by a single flow of Lavi... shouldn’t work. I mean, before, I was the one forcing the Lavi inward, and it protested heavily, yet now all of the Lavi is flowing inward by itself, even compressing the Lavi in the middle somehow... but why?
There must be some kind of attractive force coming from the centre of the whirlpool, binding it all together, but where is it coming from? Is it the compressed Lavi, that’s somehow attracting more Lavi unto itself, causing it to compress further? A kind of Lavi gravity... Lavity?
I shake my head, smirking. Still... I was kind of expecting to come across something weird here, as what this Skill promised from the start was basically free energy, in the form of Lavi, which should normally only be formed by the combination of Yin and Yang.
How do plants do it then?
Ugh, enough. I’ll save these questions for when I can ask them.
[Congratulations, Emma,] Suri chimes, apparently waiting so as not to disturb my thought process.
“Thanks! Can I see the Lavi Flows Window, please?”
Mmm, my Lavi Font is currently only creating 1.5 Onkh Lavi per minute, not as much as I’d hoped.
But wow, my net intake is currently +14.5 Onkh. Meditating here would be great for my Max Lavi.
How much of that net intake will be left during the next Trial though?
Let’s see, there won’t be a Crystal of Lavi in the ceiling—at least, I seriously doubt it—so that takes me down to +9.5. Then there’s the fact that we’ll mostly be underhydrum, and my current Lavi intake in Hydrum is only 7 Onkh per minute, so that takes it down to +4. Add to that the second mode of Boost Physical and it drops to -1.
Of course, that’s on breakfast food, meaning Jicca nuts and birberries. If I eat Trigot meat, I can get 1.5 Onkh per minute more, bringing me up to a net +0.5 Onkh per minute. That doesn’t leave me a lot of wiggle room, but at least it’s net positive.
“What would half a Skilldream for Lavi Font level 2 cost?”
Well, I did just save 25 TP.
What can I say? I’m a gambler.
At first it seems like my luck is holding true. The second level of Lavi Font just adds a second flow into the spiral, which sounds easy enough.
Unfortunately, just steering the second flow into the spiral doesn’t work; it immediately destabilizes when I try. My guess for why would be that the centre isn’t compressed enough, and therefore can’t provide a big enough attractive force to keep the spiral from, well, spiralling out of control.
It can’t ever be easy, can it? Guess, I’ll have to start from scratch.
Of course, this spiral is much bigger and more powerful than the previous one, and having to split my focus over two flows does not make it any easier, despite the fact that I have some practise with that thanks to the second level of Boost Physical.
An hour and a half into my training session, things are looking grim. Despite my best efforts, the spiral keeps collapsing in the final tenth or so. I just can’t compress the Lavi far enough, slow it down enough, and most importantly, bend two flows at once, fast enough.
[I think you should give it up for now,] Suri unexpectedly chimes.
“No,” I state flatly.
“I said ‘No,’ Suri!” I snap. “I spent 25 Trial Points and 4 hours on getting this second level; I’ll figure it out.”
[While your pig-headedness has often turned out a boon, in this case, it’s clouding your judgement,] Suri chimes calmly. [You need to face facts; you’re not ready for the next level of Lavi Font, and you’re now wasting valuable time better spent honing other Skills. Now do me a favour and give up.]
Suri’s words are like a bucket of cold Hydrum in my face.
I groan, hiding my head in my hands in frustration.
[It’s okay Emma; the rest won’t even have to know you failed, because you didn’t spend any more than you said you would.]
I failed. The words, perhaps meant to soothe me, sting. But Suri’s right: I have better things to do.
And I guess the others don’t really need to know about this. At least not right now.
I roll my neck. Apparently, taking two Skilldreams in a row—with intense, meditative practise after each—is murder on my neck-muscles.
I restore the single Lavi Flow spiral of Lavi Font’s first level with little difficulty.
All right, so it wasn’t a complete waste. I still learned a thing or two, got some good practise in manipulating Lavi, and I’m sure I’ll figure this second level out on my own at some point.
Still, spending 25 TP and having nothing concrete to show it for it sucks. And as Suri said, it’s not like I didn’t have anything else important to do.
Trying to use Infuse Toxic Energy into Hydrum or my spear, for example. Practising swimming like a dolphin in the living room.
Well, what’s done is done. I better go see how the others fared, before my ass and the bed become One.
Hey, you never know in this place.
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