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Chapter Forty: Put to Good Use

               Kaltyr could only imagine how her opponents felt as they watched her exit the tree line and approach their lodge with no fear, even going so far as to taunt them with a blast of fire into the air before diving into the river.

               The girl still wielded her twin spears as she entered the flooding, turbulent waters of the river on her way to the lodge. The disorder of the water was difficult to cope with at first, but she almost immediately gained the Swimming skill, which was miraculously at level 10—the highest level she’d ever gained a skill at, and her current second-highest skill level, just behind Fishing at 11. As soon as Swimming was added to her Skills List it was like a god touched her with their Hand of the Sea, and she found herself maneuvering through the tumultuous body of water with ease. She didn’t even need to activate Alligator Eyes and Fish Scales until the beavers launched their assault on her in what they thought was their home turf…

               Boy were they correct.

               Kaltyr had practiced swimming and fighting with a spear while submerged back in her territory’s river, and hadn’t found it too rough a task… The reason probably being that her only enemies were a couple violent fishies only a fraction of her size. Now, up against five beavers ranging between Life Levels 3 and 6, everything changed. Additionally, although Fire Skin kept her warm beneath the waves, it lost all offensive uses underwater.

               Even before the enemies entered the river, the red girl suffered the effects of a spell that further disturbed the water around her, making swimming difficult even with her skill’s level being so high. The water swirled around and opposed her every movement, pushing her backwards when she meant to move forward, spinning her when she wanted to stay in place. The force the water spell could generate wasn’t all that strong by itself, and it could definitely be fought against, but the effort required to do so was taxing and quickly built over time.

               Then, in the midst of growing accustomed to the first spell’s effect, a second one struck—an offensive type. The water around Kaltyr solidified in places, forming what she could tell through her Magic Sense were spikes. They shot toward her as soon as they completed forming, leaving a trail of bubbles behind them. She used her two spears to block a couple of the water spikes, but the third landed, solidly striking the side of her head.

               The girl growled—which sounded quite strange underwater. The water spike cast by what she assumed was a Life Level 4 beaver did almost nothing to her body reinforced by both magical scales and Life Level 7 mana. Granted, 9 of her stat points were invested in Internal Mana Manipulation, but her internal mana was still dense enough to ignore a level 4’s attacks for a while.

               It was while another three water spikes formed that the three remaining beavers entered the water—the two casting the spells seemed to be relaxing on the wooden platform. Unfortunately for the beavers, Kaltyr was prepared for their entry, and a Bubble Pain Splash struck the first she laid eyes on—it being a water spell meant it could be cast underwater just fine. The glowing red girl used the time she’d bought to struggle against the spell causing water turbulence so that she could breach the river’s surface for a moment to refill her lungs with fresh air, before submerging herself.

               WHOA!

               In the few moments between shooting the Bubble Pain Splash and rising to grab some air, the beavers made significant headway, and were already nearly on top of her. Surprised, Kaltyr began casting another Bubble Pain Splash while she tanked more hits by the water spikes, and took a stance as best she could. The first beaver finally made it within striking distance, intent on slashing her with its claws, but Kaltyr stabbed at it with her spear. The rodent gracefully dodged the first spear, but was met with and punctured by the second, which drove into its furry belly a decent amount. Blood dyed some of the murky water with red, but it did nothing to obscure Kaltyr’s vision, which was magically enhanced. While the beaver struggled to extricate itself from the end of her weapon, the girl released her second bubble attack, only for it be shredded by the second beast that entered the close-quarters combat fray.

               Kaltyr prepared another of her only underwater-friendly spell while she attempted to slash the new beaver, but the natural water resistance combined with the crowd control made her attack pitifully slow. Her slash was easily bypassed, and the beaver quickly closed the distance between the two. The Life Level 5 beast slashed the girl’s chest…but achieved nothing. After two more level-ups, although the attacks drained her mana, Kaltyr could afford to ignore even a level 5’s direct attacks for a short while as long as she and her clothing were physically reinforced. Before the beaver could drain enough mana to cause damage, Kaltyr let go of the spear still stuck in the first beaver’s belly and lashed out with her hand, attempting to grab its head. She failed, the beaver slipping out of her grip due to its underwater mobility being too high, and settled for punching it. However, her punch couldn’t accomplish much when it had to fight against so much water resistance.

               The first beaver finally wiggled Kaltyr’s speartip out of its gut but didn’t fully retreat—its injury wasn’t too severe. Though it did stay in the backline, beginning to cast spells from a distance while the second and now third warrior beavers moved in with their claws brandished. The girl tanked another volley of water spikes, which were beginning to sting, and swam forward to meet her opponents. She stabbed out with both spears in different directions, forcing the rodents to dodge. Kaltyr immediately followed the stab with the launch of another bubble, having predicted where the level 5 beaver would move. The bubble landed, causing its victim to squirm in agony and become an easy target. Yet, when she stabbed in its direction, the other beast intercepted with its body, slamming into the weapon’s haft and causing her to miss.

               GOTCHA!

               Which was exactly what Kaltyr wanted. She let go of the spear that missed, used the other spear to swipe at and force the beaver to dodge, then lashed out with her now-free hand to grab the beast! The girl latched onto one of its legs and began pulling it toward herself. The beast she held squirmed, turning its body so it could bite at her digits, but Kaltyr had learned from her first attempt at grabbing rodents—though, that one was a rabbit—to never let them bite her hand. As soon as the beaver’s mouth opened wide enough to encompass the girl’s first, she obliged her enemy, let go of its limb, and jammed her hand up to the wrist into its maw. It didn’t bite her hand—her fist punched its mouth!

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               The Life Level 4 beaver panicked, clawing at Kaltyr’s arm, trying to extract her hand from within it… But it had met its doom. It couldn’t close its jaw, its claws had little effect in the short term, and the girl began rerouting her fire mana into her fist.

               When Kaltyr first awakened in Manic atop that patch of grass that would become her home for over a week…never did the thought occur to her that she’d have the privilege of witnessing a fiery explosion of blood and flesh underwater…that she caused. It was majestic. Maybe Fire Skin had uses underwater after all? Despite the gore of it all, Kaltyr found herself smiling—though not while showing her teeth…nobody wanted blood and guts in their mouth. Ew.

               Two spellcasters above water, one spellcaster underwater, and one warrior left.

               The remaining warrior beaver overcame the pain from the spell that struck it, only to watch as its buddy’s head exploded nearby. The beast’s eyes grew red in its fury as it charged Kaltyr, who had both her spears in hand again and another Bubble Pain Splash prepared. She launched the spell, but it was prematurely popped by a water spike—those casters were good. The beaver twitched as it passed through the spell’s painful substance, but it was nowhere near as bad as when it hit directly.

               Then, it was sliced open by Kaltyr’s pocketknife.

               Kaltyr smirked as she placed the knife back in her pocket and reequipped the spears she kept letting go of. The beaver had easily avoided her spears with the help of the caster making the water more turbulent in its favor, and it even narrowly dodged the hand the girl tried to grab it with…but she hadn’t tried to grab it at all. She’d slashed it with her pocketknife, knowing it would be wary of her grip.

               After finishing the job by crushing the beast’s skull while it was stunned by the slash, Kaltyr gave chase to the beaver that switched roles from front to backline, as it had already begun retreating to the lodge. However, the girl still had one more trick up her sleeve… She fished around in her pocket for a small package she’d crafted out of a rabbit’s skin, unlatched the wire that kept it closed, and threw it in front of her.

               In an instant, all hell broke loose.

               The beaver previously retreating, having sensed the aura of what Kaltyr spread around her, immediately did a 180, followed by the two splashes produced by the other casters previously above water.

               Kaltyr mentally mockingly laughed at the sight of the rabid beavers as they frantically did their best to consume the worthless level 0 and few level 1 pills. When she’d first concocted those elixirs, she noticed that they had a little bit of an aura to them—which Sir Quiggly-Do the Fifth confirmed—and tested whether beasts would react to it.

               Oh boy did they react to it.

               Any beast that even caught a fraction of a waft of the aura and/or smell of the pills went crazy. Even level 1 beasts and normal animals tried to fight her for them! Her teacher/guardian spirit, after she asked, informed her that beasts couldn’t tell the difference between elixirs and spirit herbs so they ravenously chased after any they found in case it helped them grow stronger.

               Which meant that when Kaltyr threw out the thirty level 0 pills, all the beavers felt was gluttony, and all they saw was potential power to gobble up. They had to obtain that power at all costs, even if they had to face an overwhelmingly powerful Life Level 7 creature. It was with the help of those useless pills that Kaltyr made mincemeat of the last minions in her way.

               “All that’s left is that big lightning beaver.” Kaltyr thought as she latched onto the wooden platform and lifted herself out of the water.

               Just as she predicted, the lightning beaver was too powerful to care about the level 0 pills—being at Life Level 6—and was safely standing in the center of the platform, far away from Kaltyr, casting a spell in preparation for her arrival. Additionally, even if it had gone after the few level 1 pills thrown with the level 0 ones, it would probably have suffered mana backlash.

               The girl briefly considered whether she should allow the beaver to finish its long cast as she smirked at it. She might as well see what it was capable of, since she wasn’t going to explore the rest of the Small Dungeon in her current state, as that would be stupid. No, she’d already planned on retreating to safety to refill on fire and regular mana after slaughtering the bea—

               Kaltyr lacked the time necessary to finish her thought as the lightning beaver, which stood nearly as tall as her on its hind legs, completed its spell, causing a white bolt of lightning to descend from the storm clouds above. The bolt shattered the girl’s Fish Scales and burned through most of her Body Mana Reinforcement, blackening her skin and burning her clothes a little. Unconscious, she fell backwards head-first, back into the river’s violent waves.

               ……

               Kaltyr barely avoided losing all the air in her lungs as she awoke to the horrendous agony of several claws digging into her ribs, underwater. Memories of the last few seconds before she was struck by the lightning bolt came flooding in at the same time as the terror of it all set in. She was going to die.

               She was several meters underwater, most her mana burned by the lightning, as a giant beaver was cutting into her chest with its claws. She was going to die.

               Scant air remained in her lungs, her limbs felt numb, and her blood was leaving her body at an alarming rate. She was going to die.

               She’d dropped her spears back on the platform, her vision was blurry, and the pain was almost too much to bear. She was going to die.

               Hope seeped out as quickly as her blood stained the river water. She struggled to reach for her pocketknife, but the lightning beaver used its other clawed paw to stab her arm, before opening its maw to bite her neck. This was it…

               Until she realized that mana wasn’t the only energy available to her.

               A sparkle of determination shone in the girl’s eyes as she formulated a plan as quickly as she could. Despite the circumstances, her sense for battle was still alive and strong. Overcoming the current situation was improbable, but not impossible!

               Kaltyr used a split second to internally scan herself, taking stock of how much mana she had available.

               10%? That’s enough.

               She urged her mana to gather in the base of her neck, where she reinforced herself. The lightning beaver’s teeth came down, but only managed to dig a few centimeters into her flesh. Success! Strengthening flesh for a strong attack required the entire body be infused, but solely increasing defense didn’t! However, the girl’s energy stores were draining quickly to maintain her neck’s defense, and she began casting Bubble Pain Splash anyway, gambling her life, putting her trust in her plan.

               The beaver instantly noticed the spell she began casting and removed its claws from her chest, moving to interrupt her so that she’d suffer the backlash, but Kaltyr couldn’t allow that. She sacrificed the spell’s pain potential by releasing the bubble while it was still small, and it landed on the beaver’s stubby face. The spell didn’t contain nearly the amount of mana it could have, but it did its job. The beast squirmed in pain, losing some concentration. It still held her right arm, but her left was now free to attack…yet she didn’t reach for her knife, instead going straight for the throat.

               Kaltyr held the beaver just below its chin and pumped fire mana into her hand, trying to burn through its destabilized Body Mana Reinforcement to reach its flesh. The beaver reacted quickly, further reinforcing the spot being burned, then removing its claws from her right arm to attack her left. The girl’s arm wasn’t reinforced, so a reinforced claw strike from the beaver, even if underwater, would easily cut to the bone, if not completely through.

               So Kaltyr let go, bringing back her left arm to avoid the claw strike, then bringing her now-free right arm to do the same thing the left one tried while her adversary was still suffering the effects of the pain spell. The beaver missed its strike, but swept its claw out again, trying to tear up her arm, and failing due to lack of concentration. The fire mana had moved from the left hand to the right, which latched onto the beaver and continued burning through its mana while Kaltyr cast another mini Bubble Pain Splash.

               She eventually managed to burn through the lightning beaver’s throat by taking advantage of the pain effect produced by the Bubble Pain Splash, killing it. It was like that—by making use of both her internal and external techniques—the girl survived her closest call yet. Her closest brush with death.

               Extremely exhausted, the girl broke the river’s surface and gasped mightily. Everything ached to varying degrees—mostly a lot—as she struggled to swim her way to the base of the wooden beaver fortress, where she retrieved her blackened spears before quickly turning back and heading for the shore. When she touched down on solid earth, she didn’t hesitate for a single moment before pushing every fiber of her being as hard as she could to run to the trees. Once amongst the vegetation, she followed the marks she left on the trees until she found the spot she buried her deerskin bag. After digging it up, Kaltyr took out a smaller rabbit-skin bag before climbing the nearest tree as high as she could. Finally as safe as she could be, the girl shoved three level 2 pills down her throat and began meditating, pulling in magical essence from the atmosphere. In her current state, any beast past Life Level 1 could kill her, making the task of refilling on mana paramount… Even though she doubted anything besides some birds might be in the vicinity. Despite there being so many mouths to feed, those beavers were all very powerful. There likely weren’t many beasts within a few square kilometers of their territory. She definitely hadn’t seen any, at least.

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After the few minutes necessary to fill her soul passed, the girl hurriedly circulated her mana, using it to dissolve the medicine in her stomach and concentrate the healing properties above her right breast, where the lightning beaver had dug deepest. It seemed to have been meaning to puncture her heart, but was stopped by her ribs, probably due to a lack of necessary mana to reinforce its paw enough. The pain was still excruciating, despite both her mana and the medicine taking effect, and the freezing rains and winds didn’t help.

Thinking about the cold, Kaltyr was reminded of the fire mana that saved her life. Her eyes wandered to the spot near the tree she hid in where she used her control over water to keep an area dry and lit a fire. She quite heavily regretted thinking so little of the Fire Skin skill, now. Had she thought it useless to take fire mana with her underwater, she wouldn’t have survived the attack by the big lightning beaver.

Fortunately for her, however, she did decide to use Fire Skin—even if only to keep herself warm—and she realized that fire mana did have its offensive uses underwater—if she made direct contact between the enemy and the part of herself she channeled the fire mana through, it could burn unimpeded.

“But seriously, what was with that lightning bolt?!”

The memory of how she was struck by lightning still caused her to shiver in fright. The beaver had a skill that allowed it to summon lightning at will…though it surely cost a lot of time and mana, in addition to needing to be outside under a storm. Kaltyr could sense how the beast’s mana circulation was sluggish, and it hadn’t used its mana for anything besides reinforcing its body when it tried to finish the job. Though, that last part could have been because they were underwater and all its other skills were electricity-based, but it could have been anything, really. Magic was magic.

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- my thoughts:
Yaharo~ Fight scene! Good? Bad? Comprehensible? Reasonable?
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