• H.C. Mills

Chapter 7: A high-class bar

"Suri?" I call panicked.


"What's happening?"

[You are suffering the effects of Toxic Energy Poisoning,] Suri explains helpfully.

"I'm aware of that! Why am I only hearing this now?"

[You were notified when it became critical.]

"Yeah but, ugh! How can my net Lavi intake be minus three all of a sudden? And how come I didn't feel anything?!"

[Net Lavi intake is the sum of all Lavi in and out flows.]

A window pops up in front of me.

[There's a Crystal of Lavi in the preparation room, which supplemented your Lavi intake by roughly 5 Onkh per minute. The meditative state must have prevented you from feeling the effects of the Toxic Energy building up.]

The blood drains from my face as I check the numbers.

What the hell was I thinking, treating this like a game? Let's go breathe in as much toxin as I can, for hours, that'll help!

"Open Status Window!"

There’s the tracker... 5.8/1.4 Onkh. Down at the status effect it says 4.4... as in 4.4 Onkh over my tolerance limit?

I’ve really done it this time. I managed to poison myself before they even considered it enough of a risk to add this kind of tracker! The highlighted improvements in my skills and stats are a shallow comfort.

"What do I do now?" I ask, half expecting to hear 'die.'

[Well... normally this information should be classified, but I'm going to request an exception for you, hold on.]

It's silent in my head. I try to open my status window again to see how fast I'm dying, but nothing happens. Suri must be busy. Who is she asking for permission anyway?

[Permission has been granted. There is an 'oasis' in the centre of this trial, where the atmospheric toxicity is lower and a Crystal of Lavi is present.]

I take off like a rocket.

Well, an early rocket, perhaps, because my launch is a failure. My legs don’t listen very well, so I trip over my feet and smack into the ridiculously hard ground.

Dazedly I get up. Is this the effect of my lowered agility? Damn. Trying to keep my stomach's contents in check, I start trudging along the beaten earth path as fast as I dare.

Suri adds a status bar to the top right corner of my vision, showing how much Lavi I have left

Great. Now I can tell how fast I'm dying in style.

Time crawls by as I traverse the enchanting deadly, landscape. The moonshade flowers are planted about every 30 feet along the way; clearly deliberate. They truly are beautiful though... stems as long my arm, head-sized flowers consisting of six, fluorescent pink petals dotted in blue and a glowing purple centre.

If only they weren't killing me.

Still no oasis... How long have I been walking? Two minutes? It feels like forever.

I check the status bar.

"Suri... am I going to make it?"

[You are still losing 3.5 Onkh Lavi per minute. At your current speed, it should be approximately an 11-minute walk,] Suri says, sounding almost apologetic.

Well, shit.

I consider it for the first time. To just give up. To lie down... Perhaps it would relieve some of the nausea, the sweating and the pounding in my head.

The idea is becoming quite alluring actually. No more worrying... no more sadness about probably never seeing my family again... no more pain...

My tread falters. If it weren't for the unappealing knifegrass covering most of the space between the flowers, I might've already succumbed.

Pain... Something stirs in the back of my mind.

The meditation skill could bring me relief... It could also...

Reduce my resting Lavi consumption!

I pick up my pace again, as my heartbeat accelerates. Is there still hope? Can I even meditate while walking?

I grit my teeth; there has to be a way. Now that I see a chance to survive again, I find I'm not at all ready or willing to give up.

"Suri, you have some form of access to my mind, right?"

[That’s classified. Why do you ask?]

That wasn’t a no!

"I need to meditate while walking."

[… I see. How inventive.]

"Suri... Please?"

[Mmm... I suppose it can be considered a loophole. You'll have to pardon my intrusion then.]


I feel a prickling behind my right ‘eye,’ like something cold crawling up my optic nerve. I suppress the instinctive urge to resist it.

Slowly, as I trudge along, I slip into a trance.

A rush of cold wakes me from my trance.

I’m underwater, struggling to find my bearings in the heavy, viscous liquid. Rising to my knees, I break the surface and take a deep breath, remembering just in time to stop.

I find myself in a well-lit pool of water—or ‘Hydrum’, I guess—surrounded by white sand and things that might pass for a parody of palm trees. Apparently 'Oasis' was a literal description. The light is coming off a collection of brightly shining crystals in the ceiling.

Weakly I crawl out onto the hot sand. The status bar in the corner of my eye is flashing.

"Oh god, Suri: open the—the Lavi window!”

[You mean the Lavi Flows Window?]

“Yes, that!”

"Hah... Haha... I made it." I flop down onto the sand.

[Yes, you did well. Now rest, detoxify; you took in even more toxic energy along the way. Eat something first though, or you might still die.]

My fingers are shaking, numb. My limbs in general feel heavy, cold, and there are black spots swimming in my vision. So, this is what being near death feels like.

I drag myself upright, so I can fish in my bag for some food. It’s never taken this much effort to move before, and I feel distinctly lightheaded, but I can’t afford to faint right now.

The sour birberries make me pull a face, but they also bring me back to here and now. I wash them down with some Mountain Dew I found in the backpack. There’s other food in there as well; a large bag of Doritos, a few cups of instant noodles, but I decide to save them, as they preserve well and I only have a limited supply. Also, I doubt they contain any Lavi.

So, I’m stuck eating the grub Suri serves me. I like the jicca nuts better, but with how I feel right now, I’m not sure if I could chew them.

Finished with my improvised meal, I lie down in the hot sand and pass out.

Author's note:

Big thank you to fluffychtulhu for designing the artstyle for my tables and creating the template for the status bar! To see more of her work, click the link below.

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©2018 by H.C. Mills