“Did you manage to find them?” asked Jasmine still pouting. “No, Fang have a very skilled magic caster blocking my enhanced tracking skill with a barrier”, Streifen answered slothfully. “So, what do we do?” Jasmine questioned they in concerned.
“Need some high level item to detect the source of the barrier and hopefully weaken the source”, they answered Jasmine sluggishly. Streifen bought high level detection items and Jasmine prepared herself to fight powerful magic casters or worse Fang.
But the actual source of the barrier is much more terrifying than those two combine. Jasmine can’t stop herself shaking in fear in front of her was the most fearsome creature in the whole wide world, a ball of fluff.
Fluffs are frightening because even a low level fluff can cast a strong barrier and have high damaging attacks. It be an instant kill for new contestants like herself. If she dies here, she be reincarnated at their base. Alice won’t be able to teleport her back here.
“Hmm…, a leaf fluff was the source of the barrier and it looks high level too”, they stated lazily without a hint of fear. Jasmine looked at Streifen in disbelief and pure shock. “That fluff has a level fifty skill tree”, Jasmine pointed out in panic to them.
“Well, it a good thing I have a fire and crystal fluff skill tree that’s around level seventy”, they said slothfully. Jasmine jaw dropped in bewilderment. She thought that Streifen was some rich person that buys high level equipment but have trashy skills.
She was wrong, taming any type of fluff takes a lot of time and effort. They might look cute but they are the most rowdy creature out of all the creatures. A lot of contestants gave up on raising them and release them back into the wilderness. Jasmine prepared herself for battle “Alright, let’s do this”, she said to them enthusiastically.
Then, they summoned the fire and crystal fluff then, they engaged in a fight with the leaf fluff. Each fluffs elemental attributes are shown on top their heads. The leaf fluff has cream colored fur, green sparkling eyes and a green leaf facing down on its head. The fire fluff was all red and has a small flame on its head.
The crystal fluff was all pink with bushy eyebrows and a few crystals on its head. Next to Streifen, Jasmine was providing support with fire vines to restrain while causing some damage to the leaf fluff. The fire fluff attacked the leaf fluff with lava spit and the crystal fluff created a shield to ward off attacks for ten turns.
Jasmine followed up those attacks with a fire hail spell towards the leaf fluff. The leaf fluff counterattack with a barrage of poison leaf spear. Streifen used a healing spell to treat any physical and or status damages. But then, the leaf fluff used tree basher skill and Jasmine suffered heavy damage which led to her demise.
Thankfully, Streifen have a powerful reincarnating spell which brought Jasmine back to life and healed her fully. “That was much appreciated”, Jasmine thanked Streifen. “That took a good amount of my mana”, they stated lethargically. “How long will it take you to recover?” questioned Jasmine towards them.
“At least two minutes, so I’ll attack physically”, Streifen answered while taking the dagger from the strap at their low right arm. Streifen swiftly attack the leaf fluff with its dagger five times then, a follow up lash with its titanium tail. Jasmine used fire hail once more and lava spikes on the leaf fluff after Streifen attacked it.
The leaf fluff used healing roots on itself which healed its health fully. “Damn it”, Jasmine cussed. “It ok, we still can fight”, Streifen yawned at Jasmine. Jasmine calmed down and restrain the leaf fluff once more with fire vines.
Then, Jasmine’s bracelet glowed indicating she can learn a new skill. Jasmine had to choose between lava wave and fire cyclone. “Don’t take too long to think”, they said to Jasmine lazily while using the crystal fluff to shoot magma crystal spears at the leaf fluff.
She chose fire cyclone skill and used it on the leaf fluff instantly. The leaf fluff was burnt and stuck in the fire cyclone vortex. The fire fluff continued its barrage of fire spit with the crystal fluff crystal shards attack on the leaf fluff.
She could feel the barrier surrounding the island weakening. “I’m able to detect our comrades’ exact location but they are in separate location”, Streifen said lethargically while using their enhanced tracking skills.
She knew it was dangerous to separate in this situation so she had to choose between the three accordingly. “Can you detect the weakest one?” questioned Jasmine. “Yeah”, Streifen answered slothfully.
“This way”, Streifen said sluggishly to Jasmine before taking off. Jasmine was barely keeping up with their speed. “The site is underground and the entrance is heavily guarded”, Streifen stated lazily.
“Can’t you use your cloaking spell?” questioned Jasmine to them. “Nope, the place is armed with magic nullifying items”, Streifen yawned sluggishly. “So what do we do?” questioned Jasmine in a panicked voice. “I’ll try to negotiate with Fang”, Streifen answered lazily.
She gulped in uneasiness at the plan. They head to the location and Streifen demanded to meet with Fang in his usual lazy manner. The guards escorted them to a small room with a small round table and a few chairs. Moments later, Fang appeared out of thin air which surprised Jasmine.
“Settle down girl”, Fang said while snickering at the fear in Jasmine’s eyes. Jasmine ears flopped down while taking a seat with an obvious pout on her face. Fang and Streifen took their respective seats at the same time. “Let’s see if you can offer me something interesting Streifen”, Fang said while emphasizing on Streifen’s name.
“A poison fluff and a dragon fluff for all three of your captive”, Streifen offered slothfully. Streifen lazy attitude in high pressure situation really irks Fang but he will not show it. “Very well”, Fang said calmly with an eerie smile.
She shivered in terror at the sight. “I’ll give them to you once we are off your island safely and sever any connection to you”, Streifen sluggishly yawn behind the bone head mask. “Very well”, Fang stated once more but with a malicious aura around him and a fiendish smirk.
“If you break this deal, there will be harsh consequences”, Streifen reminded him in a lazy manner. They came to an understanding and left the meeting room. Streifen and Jasmine waited for their comrades on Streifen’s sailboat.
They saw their comrades shackled in neck, wrist and ankle chains. Kage was badly battered while Virgil and Spiral only have minor cuts and bruises. Jasmine vigilantly watch their surroundings for a surprise attack or ambush.
Once, their comrades arrived near Streifen’s sailboat they were released from their chains. Spiral and Virgil helped Kage onto the sailboat. When, they were safely aboard the sailboat, Streifen set sail while Jasmine still warily kept a lookout for any sign of trouble.
They manage to get out of Fang’s territory safely and made their way to the water area. “Treat their wounds”, Streifen said lazily from behind its mask. “Right”, Jasmine agreeing with Streifen and beginning to treat Kage’s injuries.
There was a heavy awkward silence between Spiral and Virgil. Virgil broke the silence first, “I’m sorry for not being much help”, Virgil apologized. “No, I was probably the one that triggered the traps”, Spiral said remorsefully.
“I think it’s a good thing that all of you survived without considerable damage to yourselves physically or mentally”, Streifen stated in an apathetic but serious manner. “Yeah, Fang may not look like it but he is a sadistic guy”, croaked Kage in pain.
“Why did you get involve with Fang?” asked Virgil as kindly as possible. “My family wasn’t a multinational company but we did have a few franchise chains here and there. One day Fang came and was about to take my family business away. I offered myself so that Fang would spare my family business”, Kage explained.
“Get some rest”, Jasmine stated after she finish treating Kage. Jasmine went to treat Spiral’s and Virgil’s minor injuries. They relaxed a little bit and watch the beautiful aurora night sky with countless bubbles of different sizes float around in the sky.
In the distance, they were able to see some round cottages with cedar thatched roofs that looked like pine cones. Each of the cottages were encased by their own individual bubbles. “I have a friend in the area”, Virgil stated breaking momentary peace.
“Try to contact your friend and setup a meeting”, Kage suggested while resting. “Alright”, Virgil agreeing with Kage’s suggestion. Virgil attempted to get in contact with Ar a grass slime but to no avail.
“My friend seems to be busy at the moment, I’ll call again later”, Virgil said. “We should find lodging as soon as possible”, Jasmine point out. Just as the others were about to nod in agreement, Spiral interrupted “I don’t have the proper documents to enter the water area”.
“That is a dilemma, Spiral can’t get the documents unless her skill tree is at least level five. Spiral’s skill tree is only at level one because she didn’t have the chance to go hunting and gather experience”, Virgil stated.
“Then, we should head to the ice area”, Streifen said slothfully. “Ice area is a mini area near the water area right?” questioned Jasmine. “Yeah”, Streifen yawned. The ice area is a small rural town that is at the outskirts of the water area.
In contrast to the busy city of the water area, the ice area has a much lower level requirement for entry. “It would take a few days, to get to the ice area port”, Streifen said lethargically. “Do we have enough supplies?” questioned Virgil.
“Yeah”, Streifen answered sluggishly. “Then, one of you get me something to eat and drink”, Kage commanded. “You should be nicer to the people that rescued you” Jasmine scolded Kage and he scoffed at that.
She pouted and smacked his right shoulder. “Please”, Kage said jokingly. Jasmine glared at Kage which seems to only amuse him. She huffed and turn away from him to look at the vast ocean.
Spiral brought Kage, his food and beverage. Kage grinned at Spiral happily then started eating. Virgil watched the exchanged and saw the way Kage can interact with any being with ease.
He sighed at his lack of interacting skills. “He became a guarded because of ill-intent and two-faced beings he had to deal with in his life. Spiral has not been through such things in her life. She led a simple life till that incident was dragged into this mess without a choice in the matter.
All the other contestant are better prepared than her even the new ones. Sometimes a new contestant can defeat a veteran one. Spiral needs to get stronger and wiser even if he has to train her harshly. It’s better than dying and or becoming someone else’s slave”, Virgil grimace at the last part of the thought.
As they approach closer to the ice area, the air around them became colder. Everyone except Streifen shivered as the chilled air hit them because of their white tiger fur. “Changed to the appropriate clothing or die from hypothermia cause it will only get colder”, Streifen said sluggishly.
Everyone except for Spiral had clothes to handle the ice area effects. None of them can lend Spiral a pair because all their skill tree level is abundantly higher than hers. Streifen noticed that and asked Jasmine in their usual slothful manner to cast a protection spell till they can go to an armor shop on land.
After they had changed into their ice area outfits at the speed of sound, Jasmine began to cast the protection spell on Spiral and recast every two minutes when the spell wears off. Everyone especially Virgil was on edge if Jasmine mana was enough to last until they reach their destination or not.
If it was the latter both of them would suffer tremendously. The moment the boat reached the ice area port, Virgil lifted Spiral bridal style and sprinted into town. “Phew, thank goodness my mana lasted till we reach the port”, Jasmine sighed in relief.
“Well, we should find a lodge and get some proper rest before heading out for a quest”, Kage stated while holding his arms up. “I’m not gonna carry you”, Jasmine said with a huff. “Neither am I”, Streifen said lazily. “Awe, your words wound me”, Kage said while putting a dramatic display of being wounded.
Virgil burst into the armory shop while carrying Spiral. He quickly purchased a set of ice area beginner armor for Spiral. “Could you put me down so that I can change into the armor?” Spiral asked feeling uncomfortable being carried by Virgil.
Virgil carefully set her down. Spiral went to the changing room with her new ice area beginner armor. Virgil waited for Spiral at the armory shop lounge. “Would you like a drink or a meal Sir?” questioned the lurker bartender.
“No, thanks”, Virgil politely decline. Moments later, “I’m done changing”, Spiral said to Virgil as she entered the lounge. “I’ll contact Jasmine”, Virgil stated. Virgil texted Jasmine that they have obtained an armor for Spiral.
Jasmine text him back that their group found lodging at Snowflake inn. The trip there would take a few hours. As they made their way to the inn, they passed some shops and stalls. So they stopped to buy some food and drinks. Spiral was enjoying the foreign delicacies since she never had such luxuries before. After that, they continued to walk through the street and there were some contestants trying to trade and or sell their stuff with other contestants.
If they had managed to get in the water area it would have been a billion times busier. A cute and small female dandelion plant in a white strapless sundress with gossamer cicada-like wings and cheese puff-like hair approached her trying to sell accessories. She declined the cute plant hybrid. Then another creature approached her. It was male fox hybrid, he greeted her. She greeted back while Virgil was glaring at the contestant. “Wanna be friends?” questioned the fox hybrid with a sly grin. “No, thanks”, Spiral declined as politely as possible while feeling uncomfortable about the situation.
“Okay”, the male fox hybrid said before leaving with a displeased look on his face. “Careful who you befriend, some low level contestants just mooch of higher level ones”, he lectured her. “I understand”, she sighed tiredly. She knows those kind of people well, that’s the very reason she is ostracized by society. She didn’t associate with people that only see others as tools for their own gain and wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice or betray anyone.
They walked in silence after that, mulling over their own thoughts. As the sun began to set, they saw the Snowflake inn signboard in the distance and made their way there. The Snowflake inn like most building in the ice area look like a small castle made of glass covered in different styles of frost and or snowflakes.
They went inside and check in at the front desk. Before they went to their separate rooms, “I never intended to demean you, I might be overprotective of you but that is because you weren’t born into this life of the obligation to participate in the tournament and it scares me that horrible things might befall on you” he sincerely apologize to her.
“I know and I’m grateful but it also constantly reminds me of my uselessness. Even though Jasmine just join, she contributed more than I did”, she said despondently. “That is because she was born into this life, she just like Streifen, Kage and I was groomed for tournament”, he explained to her.
“Guess I have to work extra hard not be a burden to you all”, she said with a small smile. “You need to know your limits, rushing in without a plan is dangerous”, he advised her with concern look. “I’m sorry for always making you worry”, she said on the verge of tears. “I’ll always worry about you just take better care of yourself from now on”, he requested bashfully. She nodded with a small blush tinting her face. “Right, we should get some rest for tomorrow”, the words tumble out of her mouth in her flustered state.
“Yeah, night”, he agreeing with her. Virgil was glad that his relationship with Spiral improve a bit. Alice would be proud of him if she were here. It has been awhile since his last visit to ice area. He reminisced a little bit before going to sleep.
Virgil was sharing a room with Kage while Spiral was sharing a room with Jasmine and Streifen was staying in a room of its own. The next morning, the sun rays glittered through the buildings and waking its occupants.
Kage burst into Spiral’s and Jasmine’s room shouting “Wake up already”. Jasmine was cussing him in hybrid language while Spiral was yawning and rubbing sleep gunk off her eyes. Kage merely grinned and waited for them to get out of bed.
Then, they went to meet up with Streifen and Virgil at the inn’s dining hall. Jasmine’s stomach grumbled at the scent of food and Kage laughed at that. “I can’t help it if I’m hungry”, Jasmine defended.
“Yeah, yeah, you did use up a lot of mana yesterday”, Kage agreeing with her in a sarcastic manner. “C’mon let’s get something to eat and drink”, Spiral said. “Kay”, both of them said in unison but Jasmine with less energy than Kage.
Once they got their meals and refreshments, they went to take a seat at the table with Virgil and Streifen. “We should discuss battle formations”, Virgil stated after everyone has finished eating. “Well I’m a tanker type of person”, Kage said cheerfully while striking a pose of a single thumbs with a huge grin on his face.
“I’m a support mage”, Jasmine said casually with a smile. “I’m still figuring it out”, Spiral said nervously. “I’m a support too”, Streifen yawned. “I’m an attacker”, said Virgil. “So, Spiral you should stay at the back with Jasmine and Streifen”, Virgil said to her. “Alright”, Spiral agreeing with Virgil.
Then, they went to prepare for their quest. They stopped by a potion shop and looked around. Picking potions is as hard as picking an armor or an equipment. Plus, a potion cost depends on the area even though the potion is the same type, it may cost more in certain area.
The high prices for the potions were scaring Spiral but the nonchalant attitude of her team members buying lots of these expensive potions scare her more. After they finish purchasing the potions, the left the shop and then each of them gave her half of their potions.
She blushed at her teammate’s kindness and will do her best not to be a hindrance. “Do any of you need to go to the equipment shop?” Virgil asked the group. “Nope”, all of them replied.
“Alright, let’s head to the forest outside of town, there should be some decent level creatures there”, Virgil said. Today Streifen is using a genderless cotton fluff. Streifen’s mind has taken over the cotton fluff’s body. A cotton fluff body is green and its elemental attribute on its head looks like a white afro.
Virgil is using his newly acquired lurker. Lurkers can morphed into any shape they chose. The variety and strength of the shape is depending on the individual skill tree level.
Kage is using a female plant humanoid which shock the group. Jasmine glared at Kage’s female plant busty chest. His female plant has bushy hair, tree roots intertwining into long arms and claws.
Long leaves and tree roots barely cover his female plant private areas. There are also some that are jutting out of the knee area. She and Spiral haven’t caught any creatures yet to be used for battle. They began their journey to the forest.
“Sometimes creatures appear on roads, so be on guard”, Virgil stated to the group without actually making eye contact with them. Everyone nodded in response except for Streifen. It couldn’t nod in its cotton fluff form since it’s a ball of fluff with tiny wings. It can’t fly but it can fart to propel it upwards.
So it yawned a response instead “Yeah”. The forest was filled with thick layers of snow, Spiral was the only one that had trouble moving around. “Kage help me set up camp”, Virgil said as he felt the air around them becoming colder.
With the skills of a plant and lurker, they made a hut. Streifen provided the beds and pillows with the cotton fluff skill. Kage prepared their meal with his plant skills. Jasmine and Spiral were only able to watch from the sidelines.
Once Kage was done preparing, they began to eat. “Crystals usually roam this area and catching them would help you financially”, Kage said while munching his food. “Don’t talk with your mouth full”, Jasmine scolded Kage.
Kage then obnoxiously chewed his food. Jasmine huffed in annoyance and continued eating her food. “Are you in a guild Streifen?” questioned Spiral. “Nope”, Streifen lazily answered. “How did you meet Kage?” questioned Jasmine curiously.
“We met at a park in the grass area”, it answered slothfully. “Yeah, I was looking for plants to capture and that place is always filled with people and creatures, it’s a good place to get info”, Kage explained.
“There are tons of other hot spots in other areas too”, Virgil said to them. “Are there any in this area?” asked Jasmine. “There is a few, we will visit them later”, Virgil told her. Both Jasmine and Spiral never left Metro until now so they are excited they can explore other areas.
Even though it is dangerous, sometimes in life you need to take risks. But needless risks will just cause more harm than good. “Time to get our snooze on”, Kage said before plopping into bed. “That guy sure knows how to make a scene”, Jasmine gripe.
“Thank you”, Kage exclaimed with a grin at her. “It wasn’t a compliment you dolt”, she huffed angrily. “But it actually is since he is a tanker type, he needs to get the enemies to focus on him”, Virgil explained.
“Why are taking his side Virgil?” Jasmine pouted at him. He felt uncomfortable being in the middle of her fight with Kage. “I’m not taking anybody’s side”, he defended. Jasmine glared at Virgil in disbelief.
“Jasmine you shouldn’t lash out at people without a good reason”, Streifen advised Jasmine. “He is so annoying”, Jasmine grumbled. “Jasmine, you shouldn’t let people provoke you so easily”, Virgil lectured.
“He is right”, Spiral agreeing with Virgil. She angrily ignored them and went to sleep. “We should get some sleep too”, Virgil sighed tiredly. “Night”, Streifen said before going to sleep. “Is this group going to be okay?” Spiral questioned him in worry.
“I have no idea, we just have to see how it goes”, Virgil answered her. “Alright, night”, Spiral said with a hint of worry in her voice. Virgil studied his new lurker body before going to sleep. The next day, “Wake up”, Kage exclaimed frantically.
“What’s the matter Kage?” Virgil asked groggily. “Jasmine is gone”, he answered frenziedly. Virgil became fully alert and so is Spiral. Then, there was a ping from Spiral’s bracelet. It was a message from Jasmine.
Hey, went out hunting with Streifen at Icy Lake. Call us when you wake up if we are not back yet by then.
Spiral told the others about the message and called Jasmine after that. “In a fight right now”, Jasmine said hurriedly before ending the call. “We should head to Icy Lake”, Spiral said to them while anxiously fidgeting. They both agreed with Spiral and started their journey for Icy Lake. Upon their arrival, they saw that Streifen and Jasmine were pinch fighting a flock of baby water slimes. They quickly went to aid their companions. It was an intense battle but they manage to defeat an entire herd of baby water slimes.
“Let’s rest before continuing to grind”, Kage suggested with a smile. They agreed with Kage’s suggestion and set up a new campsite in the vicinity. “Hey!” an unfamiliar called out to them. They turned to the origin of the voice and saw a Midnight Sheep. A Midnight Sheep is a rare hybrid because the hybrid is near extinction. “This is my hunting ground, what are you disgusting adventurers doing here!” the Midnight Sheep exclaimed to them.
Author Note: Chapter 8 is W.I.P and there is a borrowed a line from @graphiteshimmer @DemonGoddess in Chapter 5