Chapter 8: Once bitten, twice an idiot

I wake up hungry and thirsty, but thankfully alive.

 

Kind of a given, when you wake up.

 

Anyway, first things first. I sit up and grab some food and water. I feel like I should be able to handle the jicca nuts again.

 

“Open status window.”

 

 

“Alright... Open Lavi Flows Window.”

 

 

“I see... Suri, how long was I asleep?”

 

[45 minutes and 37 seconds.]

 

“That short?” I ask in surprise. “And how much Toxic Energy did I clear up in that time?”

 

[Yes, that short. Your body managed to remove 5.1 Onkh Toxic Energy.]

 

“Wow. Does this oasis have some means to remove Toxic Energy, or am I just that awesome?”

 

[You are not. There is a Crystal of Purification right above you.]

 

Well gee, Suri, could’ve said that with a little less conviction...

 

I close my left eye and look up at the ceiling. I quickly spot two head-sized crystals molded into the arching stone: a green Crystal of Lavi and a white crystal that gives off a pure white energy. I take it that’s the Crystal of Purification.

 

Well, judging by my in- and outflows, I could leave the oasis and survive. Though it would probably be safer to wait a little longer.

 

But this oasis is really something...

 

Finished with my meal, I get up and walk a few steps away from the oasis, until I can feel toxic air burn my lungs again.

 

I take a deep breath and suppress a cough.

 

“Suri, how much time do I have to finish this trial?”

 

[23 hours and 50 minutes total, of which 20 hours, 31 minutes and 3 seconds remain.]

 

“I see.”

 

I sit down. The beaten earth path is hard and uncomfortable.

 

I take another deep breath.

 

[What are you doing?]

 

“Grinding.”

 

[Ah, you’re one of those. There seem to be a lot of you in this batch.]

 

Yes, well... that’s not very surprising.

 

“Anyway, specifically, I’m going to train my Toxic Energy Tolerance.”

 

[Still, I’m surprised you’re persisting in this strategy after what happened last time.

 

“Look, I don’t know what the next trials will hold for me, but I have this sneaking suspicion this isn’t the last time I have to deal with Toxic Energy. I have to grab every advantage I can get, and here I have air rich in Toxic Energy, and a lovely oasis to help me purify. I might not get an opportunity like this for a long time.”

 

[But you will get sick again. And doesn’t it hurt?]

 

I glance at the display of Lavi in my right eye’s vision. As much as I hate the burn, I’d better not meditate this time, or I could die without ever noticing.

 

“Yes. Yes it does. But whatever doesn’t kill me...”

 

I take another deep breath.

 

 

Doing this without meditating has... upsides and downsides. I have been on the verge of giving up for an hour now; the air here is practically saturated with Toxic Energy and it hurts like hell. Somehow, I’m still holding on. Probably because whenever I’m about to quit, I see my Toxic Energy Tolerance rise.

 

The upside to not meditating, is that I can focus on breathing.

 

Despite the pain, I soon got bored of just sitting there, so I started experimenting a little. I tried rapid, shallow breaths, and long, deeper breaths, all the while watching the Lavi flows window. I soon discovered something... odd.

 

The shorter my breath, the lower my Lavi intake becomes. And breathing faster doesn’t seem to help.

 

I couldn’t figure out why until I started focusing on watching the specks of Lavi and Toxic Energy in the air with my right ‘eye’; they helped me see the flow of air.

 

When I take shallow breaths, regardless of speed, the air I breathe out hangs in front of my face, nearly unmoving, before I suck it in again. This way I’m actually rebreathing the same air over and over!

 

I’m pretty sure air isn’t supposed to work like that.

 

But then again, this isn’t really air, it’s ‘Aether’.

 

Either way, after this discovery I started to focus on breathing as deeply as I could—without hurting my lungs—and managed to raise my Lavi absorption to 10 Onkh per minute, followed by this notification.

 

 

Sweet! I glance at the status window that I’ve been keeping open the whole time. It’s a great motivator.

 

 

My Lavi has only started dropping a couple of minutes ago, because I’m still somewhat in range of the Lavi crystal.

 

I can’t let it go any further though, or I might not break even or purify fast enough to survive.

 

Weakly, I crawl back to the oasis, and lie down in the sand. I lazily stretch out my limbs, highly satisfied with my progress.

 

“Time?”

 

[17 hours, 14 minutes and 39 seconds.]

 

I laugh.

 

[What’s so funny?]

 

“Just the realization that I’m excited to have hours of self-torture left.”

 

[You are a weird human.]

 

“I probably am.” It would explain why I can’t stop smiling.

 

I check my Lavi; it’s still dropping, albeit slowly. Yikes.

 

“Alright, I’m going to meditate for a while, can you wake me when the Toxic Energy in my body drops below 4 Onkh?”

 

[Sure thing.]

 

I hum happily as I slip into a trance. My training is far from over.

 

 

 

Finally, after roughly another 13 hours of self-torture, with several healing breaks, I reach my goal.

 

 

“Open status window!”

 

 

With this much, even I can be satisfied. My deep breathing skill finally reached level 2, when I hit an absorption of 10 Onkh Lavi per minute, and my max Lavi increased to 36 due to all the breathing. What’s more, because of the copious amounts of self-torture I applied, I received the following notification:

 

 

Does that mean it’ll be easier to torture myself in the future? I might cry... No, I’m sure it’s a good thing. It’ll help me survive.

 

The only thing I find disconcerting is the fact that my skin has gained a slight, purple glow...

 

I’m sure it will clear up after I spend some time in the oasis.

 

I go through my by now familiar routine of crawling back and flopping down; I don’t even need to ask Suri for the time anymore.

 

[1 hour, 36 minutes and 55 seconds remaining.]

 

That’s... a little less than I thought. But it should be fine, right?

 

“Suri, how long is the walk from here to the end of the trial exactly?”

 

[That’s classified.]

 

Shit. I’m pretty sure she said the oasis was ‘halfway’ the trial, but I can’t be sure about how precise she was being...

 

I should leave early, just to be safe. But I also need to detoxify...

 

“Alright Suri, I’m going to meditate, please wake me in 60 minutes.”

 

[Sure thing.]

 

That’ll give me at least 30 minutes. I’m sure it’ll be fine; how far can the exit be?

 

Author's Note:

Dun dun duuuun. Yeah, I got nothing else to say about that really.

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©2018 by H.C. Mills