Chapter 5:

The Howl of Northern Lightning

Face of Eternity : The Star and the Rose


It was still early, but we spent a lot of time trying to get a few more fish for lunch and dinner.

While we were doing that, I spaced out and started thinking about Uncle. He must have really been worried about me, since I just disappeared without warning. I’m sure he’s out there looking for me right now, I just know it!

“Do you think Uncle will find us?” I asked Indena.

“I hope so. I hate the outdoors.”

Was there anything she didn’t hate? She said that about a lot of things. It almost made me snicker, but I wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate me laughing at it out of the blue. She was a little scary, so best not to get her anymore mad then she already was.

“You know what’d be great right now?” She snatched up a fish! “A roof over our heads!” She threw the fish to the shore.

I couldn’t argue with that. To be honest, I didn’t like sleeping outside either. We barely had any shelter with the rock overhang. I guess we were pretty okay on food, but still…

“If only these Esba Salmon were easier to catch!” I made a snatch at one, but he swam away too quickly.

Indena jutted up before making a grab for another fish. Her entire body stiffened and she turned to look at me with curious eyes.

“What did you say?”

“I said these fish are hard to catch.”

She splashed over to me and shook her head.

“No, no…you said Esma salmon?

Did I? I checked my dialog history and realized I’d said Esba…SHOOT! I meant Esma!

“Yeah, that’s what I meant. Sorry, I mess up my words sometimes.”

She shook her head and looked up to the cloudy sky, smiling. “Okay, Esma…I know where we are now…Kinda.”

She explained that Esma was known as The Holy Lands by most. She called it the Great White North, and that was because it was actually the North Pole continent of the planet.

You know, I didn’t even think to check my internal compass. She was right. We weren’t exactly close, but on a planetary scale, we were near the North Pole.

Wait…

Oh my gosh…

Being so close to the North Pole only meant one thing…

“SANTA!” I cheered! “We have to find Santa, he’ll save us!”

“What the…?” Indena burst out into laughter. “No, you wide eyed clod. Man, I haven’t heard about Santa in forever…” She was laughing so much that she was tearing up. It wasn't that funny!

Her laughter slowly came to a stop, and she said, “No, we need to head south. We'll hit civilization if we do that.”

I thought my idea was much better. Santa would help us get out of this mess pretty quick, but whatever.

There was a problem with her theory though. Just heading south didn’t mean we were guaranteed to find people. I didn’t know Esma very well, but it probably wasn’t a small place. And who knows what other continents it connects with?

“We should go to Santa’s workshop. He’ll get us home in no time, maybe even take us to daddy.”

“Would you quit it with the Santa talk?” She put her hands over her hips. “Besides, he’s not even re…” she stopped talking.

“Not even what? Of course he’ll help us if we ask nicely.”

Oh, I think I understand what was going on. It wasn’t hard to figure out, but her attitude made it pretty clear. She was on the naughty list.

Yep. That had to be it. She swore a lot, and was pretty mean. No way she got anything but a lump of coal and underwear for Christmas each year. She probably didn’t trust Santa, and he probably wasn’t going to help her.

I, on the other hand, was a good girl. Santa would have to help me, and he might help her too, if I asked super nicely.

“Forget it. No point in arguing with your imagination.” She stepped out of the water, then picked up the fish and threw them over the makeshift fire pit. “Let’s eat something and prep to travel.”

***

While we were cooking the fish, I saw a little bunny hopping around near the river. He was trying to sip some water.

“Hey, hungry for rabbit?” Indena chuckled.

“No!”

Fish was already hard enough to kill and eat, who’d want to eat a cute little thing like that?

I think I spoke too soon, because a big bird was sitting up in a tree, staring down at the bunny with piercingly sharp eyes.

“Oh no, watch out Mr. Bun-Bun!!”

The bunny was alerted by my call, then turned around and saw a falcon swooping down with sharp claws, ready to snatch it up.

The rabbit stood up on its hind legs and stretched out its arms. The fur over its skin stuck out like spikes and its eyes turned blood red.

*SCREEE!*

Mr. Bun-Bun screeched really loudly! The falcon made a squawk and passed by the bunny. He was safe!

“Oh come on, Shrimp!” Indena pouted. “Can’t you just let nature do its thing? Rabbits are vicious little bastards!”

“No!” I shouted. “Mr. Bun-Bun deserved to live!”

The bunny turned back to me, then its fur went back to normal and he hopped away into a bush. I could still see him on my map, so he must have just been resting there.

Wow, the little bunny scared away the falcon by puffing up his fur and screeching. He would have definitely lost in a fight, but he won by not even fighting at all. That was pretty impressive.

***

After lunch, we both started to gather up a bunch of different stuff to make little items. Indena took some leaves and twigs and made a crummy basket. She also broke up some salt rocks to preserve the fish.

Since I had my compass, I used it to point us in the direction of the south. This was a really big valley, so it was going to take some time to get out of it.

As we were moving, a little bit of thunder crackled above, but no rain. We didn’t pay it any mind, but Indena said she was getting a bad feeling. I had a little bad feeling too, like something was watching us.

To our left on a small pile of rocks, I saw some static crackle around and zip away super fast. More thunder followed. A bolt of lightning struck not too far away too. Was this heat lightning? I thought that only happened in summer time.

“Hey, Indena…” I tugged lightly on her jacket, “Does heat lightning happen in late Fall?”

“Heat lightning isn’t real,” she claimed. “I know that, because this jerk back home always…”

She stopped mid sentence and her eyes went wide, like an animal on high alert. Then glared up to a hill.

Her arm raised up and she flung a fireball in that direction!

BOOM!

FWOOSH!

The fire ball exploded and left a fire raging in its wake!

“What’s happening!?”

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning jumped out of the fire and struck a nearby tree. Sparks blasted across the land as the bark lit up in a fantastic blaze.

“Shrimp, check your map!”

“Oh!”

My map was showing things appearing and disappearing every second. With a brief glance, I saw that the monster symbols were jumping in and out all over the place. Was that related to the lightning? Every time an icon would appear, thunder would also happen.

Just then, behind us and on the hills next to us, wolves started to step out from the grass.

-WARNING! Threats sighted!-

-Thunder Wolves tagged ; Foe-

One let out a loud howl and all of them raced at us! Barking with thunderous voices.

"Run!" Indena pushed me forward so I could get ahead. She dropped the basket of fish to maybe slow the wolves down.

We ran as quickly as we could. Those wolves were just behind us!

They moved so fast, like blurs of lightning!

As we were running, we found out they had been leading us around like cattle. We were trapped by a big rock face, and they were closing in on every direction.

The thunder wolves were prowling around, electricity crackled across their skins. The scent of ozone filled our noses while we waited for anyone to make the first move.

One wolf growled. He had to be the big dog, since he had bone spikes sticking out of him in a few places. It almost looked like he had a crown made of rock on his head.

-Alpha Identified-

-Dire class monster-

“Dire monster! What do we do?” I shivered.

“We fight.”

Indena’s hands burst with fire, her Halloween orange eyes lit up bright, her tattoos did too.

She took on an attack pose, then she waited for something to happen.

“Stay behind me. If one of those monsters attacks you, scream.” She ordered.

-Bing!-

“Okay.”

There was a little room to take cover behind a small rock, so I hid back there.

She looked like she knew what she was doing. I remember seeing her move super quickly in battle, so she must have been super strong.

I wanted to watch what was going on, but I didn’t want to risk peeking my head over and getting noticed. If only I could see without my eyes…

Oh wait! Indena mentioned something before like that. She said she could see in inferred if she closed her eyes. That must have been a skill fire mages have. I wasn’t a mage, but I could manipulate infrared waves.

I twisted my left ear and a little antenna popped out of my head. One really neat thing I could do with it was manipulate electromagnetic waves, and inferred was one of those.

There was some Stardust stored away in my body, and one of the things about it was that when it decayed, it produced a bunch of different types of radiation.

Spawning some of the solar crystal in hand, I tuned my antenna to work like a sonar, then it picked up on electromagnetic waves and gave me a choppy view of the environment.

EUREKA! It worked!

The fight hadn’t started yet, it looked like the smaller wolves were moving into flanking positions. Indena had her eyes on each of them.

The big dog howled into the air and the subordinates charged at her!

She slammed her flaming fist into one, then swung the punch around to strike another square in the jaw!

With incredibly fast reflexes, she punched out at least seven wolves!

Watching her fight was almost like watching a martial arts master at work! She had incredible form, and was so fast I could barely keep up!

They were all rushing in around her, attacking from both the sides and rear. The Alpha began to make a charge for the front, leaping into the air and opening his jaw for a bite at her neck!

She quickly used a repulse of fire to blast away the other wolves, then grabbed the Alpha by the jaws and held them apart from clamping down on her. She had enough strength to hold the entire wolf up!

The Alpha’s sharp teeth dug right into her hands, passing through her fire aura and drawing blood. His claws were pawing her all over, cutting at her arms especially hard.

The other wolves bolted in like lightning and struck her in the sides. They continued to drum at her in their lightning forms.

ZAP!

BZZT!

The shocks forced her to release the Alpha, then she concentrated a heavy amount of fire into the part of her aura over her fists. The wolves that were bolting at her like lightning continued to hit her, but when one got close she’d use her fists to punch them out of the air!

One was hit so hard that he reverted from his lightning bolt form back to his wolf form and landed on the ground with a broken jaw. He tried to rise up, but he dissipated into a haze of mana.

Indena kept trying to time her punches just right to hit the lightning wolves out of the air. She managed to get a few more, most died quickly from the heavy impact.

The ones that didn’t bit at her legs and attempted to hold her in place.

Now the Alpha wolf leapt in and clamped his jaws down on her shoulder!

Indena punched into the alpha’s gut, trying to get him off her.

“Alright, two can play that shit!”

She opened her mouth and bit down on the Alpha’s shoulder!? What a feral counterplay!

Fire burst from her mouth! Lightning burst from his!

Flame wafted into the wolf from Indena’s bite, and torrents of electricity entered her from his bite.

Both of them released each other, and Indena elbowed down on the wolves that were biting her legs. Her flame aura mostly protected her, but she was bleeding.

She shot out fire bolts at each of the lacky wolves, causing them to explode and die.

Now it was just the Alpha left, he looked pretty badly wounded, but so did Indena.

Both of them were dripping blood down on the ground, it was looking like a mess of red all over!

“Hey, doggo…” she huffed out, hardly able to keep her stance, “Why don’t we call it here, eh? You lost your boys, and I don’t feel like fighting you anymore.”

The Alpha’s head tilted downward, as if he’d understood what she was saying and considered it. When his head went back up, his yellow eyes started to glow brighter.

He howled up into the sky! Dark clouds that had loomed over us this whole time shot lightning down all around.

More wolves spawned from the lightning.

“You gotta’ be kidding me…” Indena growled, clenching her fiery fist tightly. “Stupid ass dog!”

The fight continued. The longer it went, the stronger and faster Indena seemed to be getting. But she was greatly outnumbered, and all those injuries were taking a terrible toll on her.

She needed help, but I didn’t know how to get involved…but I had to protect her!

There was a tingle in the back of my mind, like a system was trying to activate automatically, but it was just booting up for the first time. Combat Protocols? Oh man! Those sure would help here!

I tried to dedicate more resources to unpacking the info, but…

-Combat Protocols.Zip has restricted access-

-Advisory : Prerequisites not met for full activation of First Law Protocol. Combat Protocol unpacking denied-

Dang it! The combat systems looked like they wouldn't unpack until the First Law Protocol prerequisites were met. What were the prerequisites? I checked the HELP tab…

-First Law Protocols will activate when a human being has come to mortal harm, or is in danger of such.-

-Requirements Remaining for full activation : Minor proficiency in any form of martial arts.-

Uhg! What did it want from me, to be a black belt?! Man, to have your own body literally tell you that you weren't good at something really hits a different cord…

No way could I have fought anything without the combat protocols…but maybe, I didn’t have too.

I started thinking about what that rabbit did when that giant bird was about to eat him. His fur stuck up and he let out a high pitch screech that scared it off. That little guy scared off the bigger guy, so maybe I could do the same?

I didn’t have fur, and I couldn’t stick my hair up on ends…maybe Samael could scare the wolves? He’s a snake, everything’s scared of snakes for some reason…nah, he’s too little.

Wait, I had wings. Big wings too. If I flared those out, the wolves might get startled. But what if that didn’t work? I’d need an extra layer of fright to boost my fear levels.

I could take off my faceplate, I looked pretty scary without it…no, that might freak Indena out too.

It was pretty dark from the cloud cover, maybe light would work. I could make myself glow with Stardust. I practiced making my skin glow in the dark one time, and it looked pretty cool.

That settled it. I’d light myself up and flare my wings out! They weren’t demons, but who wouldn’t be afraid of a glowing angel?

I climbed to the top of the rock, balancing daintily on the very summit of this small boulder. All eyes were on me now.

“Yalda, what are you doing?!” Indena cried out in shock.

I didn’t answer. My wings were about to do the talking.

FLOOSH!

My wings parted the air, stretching as far as they could go. The moment they hit the climactic showcase of this display, I struck a pose reminiscent of a ballerina.

Stardust energy flowed through my veins, collecting just under my skin and causing it to light up bright. It was such a fantastic glow, rays of light were peeking through me.

Just as hoped, everyone was stunned. The wolves looked frightened, backing away from me.

Even Indena was awestruck, but played along with her own magic…

Fire erupted around me, my whole body was twinkling with stardust, and lighting up with flame. I would have been durable enough to take the heat, but my internal thermometer was telling me that the fire wasn't hot. That must have been some sort of ability Indena had.

All of the wolves freaked out, then rushed away…all but the alpha.

He coward in place, scrunching up and having his fur stick up on end. But then he stepped forward and tilted his head down, putting his tail between his legs.

What was he doing? It looked silly.

Indena let up on her magical fire, then stepped back to me.

“I’m starting to see why you’re so important.” She told me. “You’re an angel, aren’t you? I had a feeling…”

“Well, actually…” I retracted my wings, then stepped down from the rock. “I’m an Exceed, a synthetic angel.”

“Whatever you are, you just put the fear of God in that thing.” She gestured to the wolf. “See what he’s doing? That means he respects you.”

Oh, really? I got a monster wolf's respect? Hey, that was pretty cool.

All of the other little wolves started to show back up, then they also did the same as the Alpha. One of them even came up to me and started whining.

“What’s the matter, little guy?”

He was super tiny compared to the rest. Maybe he was a pup? I leaned down and started petting him.

Once the Alpha saw what I was doing, he came over and growled at the little one, getting him to stop whining.

“It’s okay.” I told the alpha. “I don’t mind petting him.”

The Alpha looked at me like he understood what I was saying, but still gave a nasty snarl to the little one. Then he turned around and took his place at the head of the pack.

I think he might have been mad at the little one because he was trying to get attention, and the Alpha found that disrespectful. I couldn’t speak monster wolf, but I had to assume that’s what was going on, since this guy didn’t look hurt at all.

Once I gave the little one a few more good pets, he went back to the group. The Alpha made sure he was placed behind him.

Since things were calm for a second, I did a bit of a bio scan on the wolves. Turns out, Alpha was a female! Maybe the pup was her son.

The HELP icon was blinking on my toolbar. I opened it up and saw a new tab called Monster Compendium. This tab was retroactively documenting all the monsters I was seeing. Since I scanned the wolves, it was giving me tons of info on them.

The Alpha howled into the air, then she looked at Indena. Another monster wolf came by and started licking Indena’s wounds, at least the ones not covered up by clothing.

Her visible wounds started to close up. I could sense that there was some mana being transferred onto her cuts, it must have been healing her. Once there wasn’t anything left that it could see, the wolf went back to its position in the pack.

Was this how real wolves acted, or were these guys really smart? I guess I shouldn’t be comparing animals to monsters, they probably were completely different, only sharing appearance and some behavior.

The pack turned and started to move up the hill, then they all transformed into bolts of energy and radiated away into the sky.

“Nice work, you saved my…” She fell down to the ground, landing on her hands and knees. “Uhg…”

Most of her wounds were healed up, but she was still in bad shape.

-LEVEL UP! (Lv 16)-

-New abilities unlocked! Unpacking Lesser Support Magic data-

-…-

-Data unpacking complete!-

-You may know use the following abilities-

-Lesser Heal : Heal target for small damage-

-Lesser Curse Heal : Heal target of small curse-

-Stardust Aura-

-Copycat Magecraft, (Lesser)-

Yeah! Level up!

It looked like I was able to use support magic now, which included a few useful things, I think.

Lesser Heal was probably going to be really helpful in fixing Indena up right now.

Curse Heal sounded cool, but I was afraid to find out what curses were…

Stardust Aura? That sounded cool. Looks like that was a power that protected the user from dark attacks.

Copycat Magecraft was probably the thing that made me the most curious. What did that mean? Copycats usually were people imitating something, and magecraft was like magic Indena could use. Did that mean I could copy magic from a mage? Apparently I didn’t meet the prerequisites…man…

Anyways, I began to cast the Lesser Heal spell on Indena.

The requirements for using the spell were to prime it up, then speak some sort of incantation to cast it out. It said I’d need to make something up for the semantic component.

Semantic means talking, right? So I guess I needed to speak some sort of incantation.

“Hmm…” I had to think of something. It referenced that it needed to be something that got me excited, so… “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man! I’ll heal you up as fast as I can!”

The glow that hovered over my hands now sent out a shockwave into Indena. The light radiated around her and some of her smaller wounds healed. The bigger ones looked a little better too.

“Did you just use healing magic on me?” She looked like she’d seen a ghost. “Holy crap…”

“What?” Why did she make it sound like I was doing something awful? She looked so shocked and disturbed.

“It’s just…kids don’t usually use that. Nobody uses it. Healing magic takes your life force and gives it to another person. It ages you.”

Hmm…I didn’t feel like my life force was draining at all. I felt perfectly fine. Even my sensors read that there were no changes to my age. Weird.

“I don’t feel different.” I shook my head.

“Maybe you didn’t use enough to feel a difference?”

I don’t think that was it. Even the smallest change would have been detected by my body. This would be something worth looking into later.

She still looked like she needed a little more help, so I tried to cast it again, but then a message popped up…

-Not enough CP-

CP?  Here we go into the rabbit hole again…

-…-

So the HELP icon was flashing on my toolbar. I opened it up and noticed a few things had been unlocked on the list. I saw some things called Channel points, Mana points, and Stardust points had been filed in.

-Channel Points (CP) : Channel points are required to use support magic skills. Draws upon Up Mana energy.-

-Mana points (MP) : Mana points indicate the amount of mana available to cast magical abilities, such as elemental magic, wizardry spells, witchcraft…etc. (See types of magic in HELP menu for a full list of ‘known’ magic types)-

-Stardust Points (SP) : Stardust points indicate how much Stardust reserves are available in the body.-

I noticed after reading those, there was a little readout in the upper right of my vision that gave me stats for all those three things. SP was at the top, MP was in the middle, and CP was last.

This was a lot to understand all at once, but the gist of it seemed to be that these different points were required to use all types of magic. I only had so much to use at once, so the number of how many points I had must have gone up as I leveled.

“Hey, Shrimp?” Indena waved her hand in my face. “What’s going on? I thought you were gonna’ heal me again.”

“Oh, sorry. I got distracted looking at my stats.”

“Huh?” She didn’t seem to understand that. “Whatever. Just…are you doing it again or not?”

“I can’t. I’m all out of Channel Points, so I can’t cast another spell.”

She gave me a really funny look, the kind that a caveman might give technology.

“This crap just keeps getting more and more like a video game by the second. Whatever.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

She clarified that she wasn’t mad, just confused at how I talked.

I considered explaining to her what I’d discovered, but I figured it might confuse her more. She was probably tired, so going over it wasn’t a good idea right now.

There was one thing I did want to ask though, it had to do with one of the descriptions I saw…what was Up Mana energy? I asked her that, since my HELP menu didn’t have anything on it.

“Up Mana…” She put a finger to her chin, “You got me there.” She shrugged. “Maybe your dad knows more?”

“It looks like it’s used for support magic.”

“OH!” She cooed out. “Yeah, that’s something filtered out of mana, like elemental magic. Didn’t know it was called Up Mana, though.”

Her explanation was brief, but here it is…

She said that mana was one big entity composed of several different elements. Depending on what you filter out of it, you’ll get different effects.

So for instance, Elemental Magic was something filtered out of mana with tattoos, like she had. Up Mana energy was also something filtered out of it as well, but used for support magic.

There was more stuff, but she was only familiar with Elemental Magic.

You know something? Mana kinda’ reminded me of quarks a little bit…I wonder if that was by design, or coincidence? Design being like, when mankind was first made and stuff.

You know what, how were people made, anyways? Like, who were the first mommy and daddy of the universe? That was something I really wanted to know. I wondered if they were babies at one point, but who would have raised them?

“Hello, Shrimp?” Indena again waved her hand in my face. “Stop spacing out like that, I’m suffering over here.”

Her wounds weren’t so bad anymore, so she was exaggerating. But she did have a few scratches and bruises that needed to be fixed up soon. She also had a small fracture in her forearm.

She asked me to help her bind up her arm with some sticks and cloth from her jacket skirt. We turned it into a makeshift splint. It wasn’t a good job, but it helped.

Thunder crackled above us, small droplets of rain hit our heads. Each moment the droplets become more plentiful. Soon we’d be in the middle of a nasty storm.

“We need to find shelter.” Indena said. “Come on, let's get moving.

Yuuki
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SkeletonIdiot
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