• H.C. Mills

Chapter 73: I wanna be, the very best

After a short rest, I sit up.

‘Time?’ I subvocalize.

[You have 12 hours, 48 minutes, and 36 seconds left.]


I’m a little tempted to continue my swimming training, but the languished feeling in my limbs convinces me otherwise. To be honest, it wouldn’t be the wisest plan anyway, considering the fact that I’ve only just raised my Strength, and my body needs some time to adjust.

The extra point in Strength isn’t the greatest gain of my training down here so far anyway; the second level of Breath Control is far more valuable.

Right now, however, I’m thinking of working on another Skill: Meditation. For a while now, I’ve been somewhat half-heartedly trying to figure out the third level, but now that I know that it’s the prerequisite for an awesome Skill like Regeneration, there’s definitely a little more impetus to continue.

Also, I’m pretty tired and a rest sounds nice.

I shift to a lotus position and swiftly enter a lucid trance. Suri warned me not to cut off the flow of Lavi to my sensory organs entirely, so there must be something else to dimming the senses. She also said something about getting a feeling for it, that I couldn’t do it ‘intellectually,’ if I recall correctly.

Hmm, how do I get a feeling for something I’ve never experienced before?

Though being underhydrum like now is a weird experience with the way it kind of dulls my hearing, that’s not caused by a change in my flows of Lavi.

Maybe this is hopeless after all.

I break my trance, in order to think more clearly.

I could always take half a Skilldream for 20 TP and try to go from there, but then, what do I do with the rest of my time here? I can’t leave now; I’ve already lost my chance of obtaining the fast-clear bonus, and the moment I leave the time limit for the preparation rooms will enter into effect, so that would cost all of us the extra 12 hours.

I could try working on the second level of Lavi Font, but I don’t think I’m ready to pull that off yet. I need more experience wielding Lavi first. It has to be Meditation, but how do I take a step further with that Skill?

What I’ve learnt so far is that Meditation slows down the flow of Lavi through my body; this is probably how the Skill decreases my natural resting consumption of Lavi. However, I’ve been trying to slow down the flow to specific sensory organs to various degrees, and short of cutting it off entirely, which Suri told me is dangerous, it doesn’t seem very effective.

She did admit level 3 had something to do with directly manipulating the flow of Lavi to my senses though.

Wait... what if I’m going about this all wrong? I’ve spent all this time experimenting, but there might be another change occurring in the flow of Lavi when I Meditate, that I just haven’t noticed yet!

Time to do some more observing, then.

I turn my senses inward, to the flows of Lavi through my ear, and start cycling in and out of my trance, trying to figure out the process by which it dulls my hearing.

I was right. It takes some patience, some trial and error, but I eventually discover there’s a kind of high-frequency signal overlaid on the flows of Lavi travelling to and from my ear, and dulling my senses has something to do with modulating that frequency down.

I feel like it’s probably more complicated than that, but the signals are too fast for me too really study them to the point I can understand what’s going on. However, like Suri said, this ultimately isn’t something I can figure out intellectually; I need to get a feeling for it. And now that I know what to focus on feeling, I am finally starting to make real progress. At least, with some of my senses.

Hearing and sight are surprisingly easy to dim individually. I haven’t really managed to practice much with taste and smell, as I’m underhydrum, but I feel they shouldn’t give me too much trouble either. The real bottleneck is touch. After all, unlike the other senses which are nice and local, that one is spread out over my entire body.

I really want to figure it out immediately, but after hours of slipping in and out of the lucid trance, my mind starts to dull. Soon, I inadvertently slip into a deeper trance, and ultimately fall asleep.

As usual, Suri wakes me 10 minutes before my time runs out. I startle awake groggily, a little shocked that I fell asleep inside a Trial with hostiles. Underhydrum, no less.

Though I don’t doubt Suri would have woken me if something had shown up. She seems quite invested in my survival, these days.

Anyway, I grab my stuff, do a final check for anything left behind, and enter the final open door. A short hallway brings me to a single room, which I promptly have Suri fill with Aether.

I shakily get to feet, coughing and sputtering as I take my first deep breath of Aether when a window pops up in front of me.

Hot diggity damn, I hit the motherlode.

Judging from the number I killed, it seems those giant axolotl-like-beings are actually called ‘urudo’, and the overgrown shrimp ‘krah.’

I’m a little disappointed that they were both worth only 5 TP a piece. The rewards for the froggos are also reduced compared to the previous Trial, but at least ‘Bubbles’ was definitely worth killing.

Seriously though, what is up with those names? First Hoppy, now Lollihops and Bubbles? What were they, pets? Damnit, they were, weren’t they? Those are names you’d give to pets. God, that’s disturbing.

I frown. “Wait, MVP?”

[Most Valuable Participant.]

Of course.

Anyway, from what I can tell, there are at least 45 Trial Points among the ones I received that everyone in the party should’ve gotten: 20 for clearing the Trial, 20 for the Major Bonus objective and 5 for the Minor one. And then there are the bonuses for quickly clearing it the rest may have received.

Well, let’s see my new total. I saved up quite a few points in the previous Trials, so it should be a record total for me.

“Status Window please!” I sing-song happily as I sit down carefully on the already dry bed. It’s weird, being able to talk again after spending so much time underhydrum.

151 Trial Points! Now that’s what I’m talking about; Gotta catch ‘em all! And I should finally be able to take Decrease Inertia.

Let’s see. Ooh, Vibration Tolerance has been added; that’s nice, though it isn’t very high. My Electric Tolerance has risen nicely thanks to those urudo though, from 1.3 to 2.9%. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem like the amount of Toxic Energy in my system has changed at all, probably because the Hydrum rejects it.

In the Skills section, Breath Control is now listed as Level 2, and, oh, it seems like Mediation now reduces my Lavi consumption by 2 Onkh! Sweet.

Furthermore, my max Lavi has increased by 1, which is always nice, and my max Qi by 2. What a waste of a pearl, that could’ve been 4 or 5 easily if I’d eaten it with full Qi, 9 or 10 if I’d taken it with a Stardrop. Oh well, it was worth it.

Strength is up by one of course, to 13, nice.

And then there is Charm, which has been raised to 6.

“Ehm, Suri?”

[Would you like to start your 5 minutes?] Suri chimes knowingly.

“Yes please. Why did my Charm rise during the last Trial?”

[Because you actively used it.]

My stomach sinks. Oh boy.

[And so effectively too,] Suri chimes. [That boy didn’t know what hit him. I hadn’t expected you to grasp it so soon, to be honest. You’re a natural.]

My head is spinning. I feel sick.

“What exactly did I do, Suri?” Though I sort of already know the answer, I need to hear her say it.

[Why, you Charmed Jacob into staying to help you, of course.]

I close my eyes and take a deep, shuddering breath.

[Oh, don’t go acting all dramatic now; it worked, you slew the beast, huzzah!]

“I made him do something—expose himself to danger—against his will!” I burst out, jumping up from the bed and starting to pace the suddenly cramped, narrow feeling room.

[No, you made him want to do it for you,] Suri corrects. [There’s a difference.]

“Well, that’s not much better! Point is, I warped his mind to suit my desires.”

[And it saved the day,] Suri argues. [This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about when I said you shouldn’t tell them. If he’d known, he’d have been alert against it, and his fear would’ve won out. And though in this particular case, you would’ve been fine, Bubbles would probably have killed at least one of your precious friends.]

I massage my temple with my hand. This is giving me a headache. “Just because it turned out right, that doesn’t make what I did ethically or morally okay,” I reply. “Even if part of me feels he should’ve done what I apparently convinced him to do in the first place...”

[Wrong and right are luxuries you can’t afford, Emma. Your job is to survive.]

I sigh deeply. “So, what, you still think I shouldn’t tell them about it?”

[If this incident hasn’t instilled the value of keeping your Charm ability hidden in case of emergency, then I don’t know what will. Of course you shouldn’t tell them.]

I groan, thoroughly conflicted.

[Now, might I remind you that your five minutes are still active?] Suri chimes pleasantly.

Shit. Fine. I guess now isn’t the time to decide. I flop back down on the bed, not caring about the Toughness of it this time. It hurts less than I deserve.

“Ugh, okay... from your continued vehement protestations that I shouldn’t tell my friends about this, can I at least assume we still share a living room?”

[You can. And there’s 47 hours, 56 minutes, and 13 seconds left.]

“Good.” I take a deep breath. “Can you tell me more about how I used my Charm?”

I’d rather use it knowingly next time. Or at the very least, not use it unknowingly.

[Certainly. Now that you’ve actively used your Charm, you’re entitled to hear about the third type of energy you possess.]

Wait what?

[It’s called Espir. In fact, let me add it to your Status Bar and Status Window.]

I glance at my Status Bar and after a moment, a new section is added.

“Woah. I’ve got 14 Onkh, is that a lot?”

[It’s on the high side for someone just starting out with using it, yes.]

“So, what exactly is it?”

[It’s a type of mental energy, used to power the active use of Charm and Radiance.]

“I see. And how quickly does it restore after use?”

[It only restores when you are asleep.]

My brows rise. “What about when I’m in a deep trance?”

[Nope,] Suri chimes. [It has to be sleep.]

That’s a pretty harsh restriction, but that may be for the best. I shudder to think of the kind of havoc someone with limitless active uses of a powerful Charm stat could wreak.

“How do I increase my max Espir?” I ask regardless.

[Depleting it and getting a good night’s sleep often will help it grow slowly. No shortcuts possible, I’m afraid.]

Hmm. I don’t know what else to ask about this right now, so time for some other questions I had prepared.

“Then, what does the next level of Breath Control entail?”

Heh. Tail.

[The third level of Breath Control is about maintaining compression of Aether outside of your body, enabling you to form a kind of delayed decompression breath-bomb.]

My jaw drops. “That is awesome.”


“How does that work, do I need to, like, make the Aether spin in a kind of glowing ball?” I ask enthusiastically.

[No, why would that work?] Suri chimes, confused. [You need to form a shell of Lavi around it, to keep the pressure contained, obviously.]

“Riiight.” That does make more sense. “Can you give me a hint about suppressing my sense of touch for Meditation level 3?”

[Nothing beyond what I’ve already told you, sorry. But you’re definitely on the right track.]

Shoot. It was worth a try.

I drum my fingers on the bed a little, considering questions.

“What would you recommend I purchase with all this mullah I got?”

[Assuming you’re referring to your Trial Points, I would still lay the focus on Skilldreams. I believe you were interested in Decrease Inertia?”

I nod.

[Well, perhaps you should take Increase Inertia as well, go for the set.]

“Hmm. I could, but they’d both require Qi to practice, and I’d rather gain some experience with Decrease Inertia first and then take half a Skilldream for Increase Inertia.”

[Fair enough. I still think Lightning would suit you as well, but continuing your Toxic Energy path is also not a bad idea. You know, in low doses, Dreamcloud makes beings more susceptible to suggestion, that could synergize very well with your Charm.]

That’s... Oh damn.

“I’ll consider it.”

Author's Note:

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