When it was finally my turn to get healed, I surprised Janina, who wanted to check my condition, and myself by growling at her in a warning.
“Wow, nice fangs, these weren’t in the report, but if you want me to look at you, stop snarling at me and hide those claws!” Janina told me, calm.
On the contrary, I was bewildered. What claws? Unaware of what claws she was talking about because if I had claws, I would know about it, I looked at my hands. There, on all my ten fingers, I had two centimeters long claws now instead of nails. I stared at them in shock, and probably for a long time because Janina began to worry about me.
“Are you okay, Korra?” she asked me, keeping a sufficient distance.
I looked away from my hands and looked at her, “I don’t know, I …”
The unusual feeling I had when I spoke stopped me. Carefully running my tongue over my teeth, I discovered another change in my body, fangs.
I had real fangs now.
Don’t get me wrong, my teeth changed during the experiments. My canines on my upper jaw grew, the first premolars more resembled canines in shape after the change, the second premolars were sharper, first molars gained the shape of premolars.
Anyway, the number of my teeth had not changed, only their shape and, therefore their function. So, when Janina mentioned fangs, I thought she meant my longer canines, but I was wrong.
The canines I was now circling with my tongue were much bigger, not large enough that they would stick out of my mouth when I closed it, but both the upper and lower canines were considerably longer than they used to be. Surprisingly, I didn’t hurt my tongue or the inside of my mouth even though they were sharp, just like all the other teeth in my mouth.
It was just weird to talk with them in my mouths.
Pondering what Denholm had done to me, what changes his roar caused to my body, I looked pleadingly at Janina.
“What?” she asked me, confused, unaware of what I wanted from her.
I didn’t know it either, I just wanted to… “Help. I don’t know what happened to me!”
“Oh, that’s weird,” Janina wondered, thinking for a moment before she asked me, “Is this your first time something like this has happened to you?”
I hesitated, unsure of what I should say to her, but when I realized she had mentioned the report, probably about me, I could assume she knew what I went through, which led me to another question: Why did she ask me my name. If she read the report about me, she must have known it.
Anyway, it didn’t matter.
What mattered was that she knew about the experiments, and she was a healer, so I didn’t have to be afraid to talk to her about it.
“All the changes I’ve been through have been slow. It took weeks, sometimes months, before my body stopped changing. This is the first time my body has changed … so suddenly.” I explained to her.
She listened to me carefully and then nodded, “Then it can be a skill, don’t you have a new one that could cause it?”
“Skill?” I asked incredulously.
What skill could cause such a change? What skill could have turned me into an even bigger freak and made me act like an animal or as a beast? Oh, [Beast]. I immediately looked at the description of the skill, which, to my surprise, has risen by a few levels tonight.
Beast: lvl 5
Humans can say what they want, but there is a bit of a beast in each of them. Yet, there is more beast in you than is typical of humans. Why not accept it and admit that you are stronger than a purebred human because of it? Strength and constitution increased by 55%(50%)
According to this, there was a little beast in every human being, but more in me. I could understand that, after all, the essences with which Dungreen pumped me belonged to the beasts. But why had my body changed because of that now, when I had the skill for several days. Thinking of the second sentence in the description of the skill about accepting what I am, I looked at my hands again.
Did I really accept what I was?
From the very beginning, I hated what happened to my body, what Dungreen did to me. Most of all, I wanted to find a way to get rid of those mutations. Looking at the stump of my charred wing, remembering how its loss struck me, realizing how many times I fell asleep crying in the embrace of my tail, I began to wonder when my hatred began to fade.
When did I get used to the mutations so much that I didn’t dare look at my right side now, at my loins, where one of my wings was missing?
“Korra?” Jenina asked, interrupting the flow of my thoughts.
“Huh,” I looked at her, a little confused, wondering what we were talking about. I quickly remembered, though, “I have such a skill, but it’s a passive skill, and it doesn’t say anything about this.”
To emphasize what I meant, I raised my hands and bared my teeth at her.
“I see,” Janina sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose before answering, “It’s a passive skill, and that’s what passive skills do.”
Looking at her confused, I asked her, “I thought that passive skill could only raise stats or some aspect of the body, not that I would grow claws grow because of it.”
“I didn’t expect to teach anyone about skills tonight,” she remarked with another sigh, then looked me in the eye, “Look, you’re right. Passive skills affect stats and aspects of the body. They can increase your stats, but it’s not just numbers that increase. That’s not how skills work. A skill increasing your strength will physically increase your muscles’ density, efficiency, and firmness. The result is a higher value of the strength in your Status Screen.”
I nodded, looking at my hands, “I understand that, but why these?”
Janina thought for a moment, staring at the stars partially obscured by the smoke rising from the smoldering ruins of the barracks buildings, and then said, “Let me ask you. You didn’t find it strange why you can actively control [Indomitable Will] even though it’s a passive skill?”
Her question startled me, forcing me to ask how she knew I could actively control the skill, realizing quickly that it was probably because of Agent Hal’s attack. I mean Stanley Morton’s attack. Everyone knew I had defended myself against the attack, and Captain Rayden saw my Status Screen, which made it easy to deduce how I could do it.
It didn’t change the fact that my ability to control [Indomitable Will] indeed seemed strange to me, though.
“It did,” I said, nodding slightly.
“It’s a mistake kids make when they first hear about passive and active skills. Anyway, you can still control passive skills. You could say they have their active element in themselves. I don’t know what kind of skill you have, but those claws, fangs, and snarls are an active part of it, and you should be able to control it, as well as other passive skills,” she explained to me, rubbing the bridge of her nose, and added, “To some extent.”
The mystery of my ability to control [Indomitable Will] has been solved. There was nothing special about it, I was not as exceptional as I thought, just ignorant. I limited myself, assuming that the passive skill could not work differently than I was used to from the games I played. What other possibilities did I deprive myself of?
What was the active part of [Lover of Work], [Tireless Machine], or [Eleaden Standard Language], thanks to which I was able to speak and read Standard? I figured at level ten, I might be able to write in this language, but maybe it was just the skill’s active part.
It was quite frustrating when I found out that I can’t write Standard despite having a skill. Every time I tried to write in the dirt on the floor in my cellar, it ended in a mixture of incomprehensible lines and loops. I knew what I wanted to write and what the word should look like, but I just couldn’t write it for some reason. Anyway, I soon gave up that effort, waiting for level ten to come and solved this little problem. After all, I didn’t need to be able to write in the cellar.
Now that I was back in civilization, writing might be useful to me.
I growled warningly at Janina, who may have been trying to touch me for the fifth time, while I pondered what other skill might be hiding the untapped potential. [Never-Dying] could be one. I relied on this skill to heal me, to know what’s best for me, which wasn’t always true, as it turned out when it healed my spine right after it stopped my bleeding.
If I could control this skill, I would leave my spine for the last, saving myself from unbearable pain.
Though, it was not right to blame [Never-Dying] for that as the skill wasn’t the cause of my pain. I just felt it now because of it. I could have prevented the pain as well if I chose some of the pain-reducing skills sooner or at least kept [Pain Resistance] a little longer.
So yeah, I made some mistakes, which I now greatly regretted. But, I dared to say that I had learned my lesson.
Sudden itching on my ass made me move my hand to scratch it, causing me pain that I wouldn’t have felt if I had mastered my skills better. However, it reminded me of the question I had wanted to ask Janina since she had stopped my bleeding.
“Why didn’t you heal me completely?” I asked the healer, who for some reason looked very frustrated.
Ignoring her tired look, I continued, “My regeneration is very good, it would be enough if you just boosted it and …”
“Then what?” she asked, raising an eyebrow and adding, “In a few minutes, you’d be jumping here like a horny bunny?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say it that way … but yes,” I said after a moment’s hesitation.
Janina shrugged, “I can do it, but I need to check on you first.”
“Go ahead,” I nodded.
But she shook her head, “I’m afraid if you don’t want me to knock you out, you have to stop using that skill. I’ve tried to touch you at least six times already, and you’ve always started snarling at me like an injured dog.”
“Oh, I didn’t even realize I was doing that …” I said, bewildered by the actions of my body.
Without realizing it, I acted like a wounded beast. Embarrassed, I apologized, “Sorry!”
“You don’t have to apologize. Just please stop growling at me.” Janina asked me.
But it was easier said than done.
“I’d love to, but I have no idea how,” I objected, feeling helpless.
“Each skill requires a different approach, and even if two people have the same skill, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they control it in the same way. What I’m trying to say is that even if I had the same skill as yours, which I don’t have, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that my way of controlling it would be useful to you. I’ll tell you what my mentor always told me; A calm heart and imagination are masters of skills.” Janina said and stood up. She looked down at me, “I’m going to check on the others. If you change your mind, I can always knock you out. Just call me!”
I was a little taken aback by this healer’s attitude. Even though I was beaten and injured, it was enough for her that I wasn’t dying. I wanted to shout at her that my heart was pierced, I had a broken spine and a torn off wing, but I did not say the harsh words and insults out loud. It wasn’t a good idea to upset someone who could help me, instead I thought about what she told me.
Yeah, losing consciousness and waking up when it’s all over was an easy way out, a tempting way, but not what I wanted. I can’t be stunned every time I go feral.
Another solution I could think of was to swap the skill for another and forget about this problem. I would never have to worry about claws suddenly appearing on my hands or that I will start growling at the people around me.
However, the question was, what should I do if the same problem occurs with a skill that I replace this with. Plus, this wasn’t the only passive skill I had. I couldn’t be sure that because of [Lover of Work], my body wouldn’t change one day too, or [Tireless Machine] – I didn’t want to become an android. Changing skills every time I couldn’t control them, was no solution.
The only solution was to control skills, to control the beast. I mean the skill [Beast]. Although Janina was not willing to be my mentor, she gave me a clue, how to get the skill under control. A calm heart and imagination are masters of skills. Well, it wasn’t complicated.
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine my hands with my nails, my teeth as they had been before, while trying to calm myself down with [Indomitable Will] even more than I have been doing so far. I tried to convince myself that there was no one here any more who could threaten me tonight, hurt me, no one who could challenge me. I was trying to tell that to the beast that was obviously inside me too.
Should I call her Beast-Korra? Or Korra-Beast? Korreast?
Ehm, focus Korra!!
So I did.
It didn’t take long, and I felt a change, so I opened my eyes just to be shocked by what I saw. It wasn’t the white fur around my wrists that frightened me, I was used to it, but the fact that now my hands were covered in red fur. Of course, the claws did not disappear. In a panic, I quickly checked my entire body visually, using [Space Domain] and [Internal Perception].
Forgetting why I didn’t use the last skill in particular to check my loins, I almost threw up when I saw the hole I had over my left butt cheek. Given the size of the wound, I was glad that the bastard hadn’t ripped out an organ together with my wing.
Trying to suppress the urge to vomit and to calm down, I tried to organize the thoughts of my failed attempt and the changes it brought. My legs from the knees down were covered with a mixture of fur and feathers, which resulted in a very unpleasant feeling on my feet in shoes. The white patch of fur above the sternum between my breasts had grown, and the fur was now peeking out of the new holes I had in my shirt. Even the tuft of fur on the bridge of my nose had grown, now covering the center of my forehead, flowing smoothly into my hair.
Telling myself that, at worst, I would just drop the skill, I tried to figure out where I had made a mistake. This wasn’t something I imagined, but something … that I was afraid of.
“That must be it,” I muttered triumphantly.
I was so scared that I would turn into an even bigger freak, that I thought more about what I didn’t want to become than what I wanted to look like. Knowing that my fear of further change was the cause, it was now a little easier for me to avoid this mistake.
It took a while, but in the end, the patches of fur receded back to their original size, my claws disappeared as if they never existed, and the same was true of my teeth.
I opened my eyes and looked triumphantly at Janina, who was talking to the guardswoman, checking her arm.
“I think it’s safe to touch me,” I called to her, showing her my claw-free hands.
After Janina finished checking the guardswoman, she came back to check on me. This time when she tried to touch me, I didn’t bar my teeth at her. Instead, I smiled, excited about this little victory.
With her hand on my shoulder, Janina nodded slightly, acknowledging my efforts, but concentrating on her work.
I felt her mana in my body, searching it, checking my condition.
She was quick. It only took Janina a minute to finish my health check.
“Are you sure you want me to heal you?” she asked.
Wondering about her question, I looked at the wounded Guards, “Shouldn’t I? You healed them!”
As the realization dawned upon her, Janina slapped her forehead, and then she looked at me with an apologetic look on her face, “I’m sorry, Korra, you must have been confused as to why I just stopped your bleeding!”
“…” I nodded silently, waiting for her explanation.
“I’m used to working with soldiers, with city guards. Everyone … most of them have a regeneration comparable to yours. Probably that’s why I took you as one of them,” Janina tried to explain to me.
But I still didn’t understand why that was a reason not to heal me.
“So you didn’t heal them either?” I pointed to the guardswoman and the guardsman sitting nearby.
Janina shook her head, “I checked them, stopped the bleeding, straightened the bones, that’s all. Their own body will fix them, and at the same time they may gain a few levels in their skills, in their regeneration, resistance to pain, and so on.”
Oh, so that was a way of training for them, I realized.