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How long do we have to stay like this? One of the sisters thought to the other, allowing those thoughts to be transmitted. Due to their unique connection, it was the easiest thing in the world for them to share each other’s thoughts. If anything, it took more effort not to let their thoughts be shared.
Until it passes. The other answered, clenching her fists as she heard another tree falling over. There is probably a bonus reward for killing it, but there is no need for us to flirt with death like that. How much of your power do you have access to?
The first sister closed her eyes in focus, appraising herself mentally. Two percent of our mana, and one percent ki. I can’t feel a connection with my void powers right now, though I feel like I could force out the Stories power to cancel her trick.
No, that would defeat the purpose of the experiment. We can try that later, see what would happen with two opposing narrators. As the other sister thought that, she heard a brief lull in the storm. Her eyes went wide, clenching her fists and connecting her mana to the natural energy around them. Before her twin could ask what was going on, a dome of stone wrapped around them.
Moments later, there was a deafening crash, roots yanked through the dome and pulled out to leave little holes. The tree that they had been hiding under had been completely uprooted. Looking through the holes, the twins saw the massive form of a figure whose body was seemingly composed entirely of storm clouds. Its footsteps echoed with a clap of thunder, its hands seeming tipped in small tornados.
So that’s what’s going on. It seems our dear narrator is playing us for a fool. One of the two thought bitterly. No wonder it showed up when we were so weak, it’s a storm elemental.
Does that mean we have a chance? The other asked, her eyes going wide as the first one nodded.
I’ll handle the wind, you focus on the water. After saying that, the two sat down, backs against each other. They were used to working in harmony like this, so even with their limited resources, they had their options. As long as our natural authority hasn’t been stripped, this should be feasible.
Natural authority referred to a recognition with natural energy that was built up by druids, shamans, and elementalists over the course of their training. It could be considered an attunement with nature, though there was considerably more to it than that. Given their current situation, they had to ‘reconnect’ with their natural authority in order to wield the power of nature.
Form the tokens. They thought to each other in unison, a pair of hairpins forming in their hair. One sister had a blue hairpin, and the other had a white one. Assimilate.
The tokens briefly grew hazy, sinking into the heads of the two felyn girls. With this, they had taken their tokens of nature into themselves, no longer requiring an external source to connect with natural energy. The exact process was admittedly complicated, but it was something that they had gone through before.
Mana check! One sister thought, with the other quickly answering her.
One percent normal. If we disrupt the core, it should be enough. Druids rarely relied on their mana capacity, the bulk of their powers deriving from their natural authority. The only need for their mana was to channel their thoughts.
"Be still, sever, fall, disperse." One sister spoke, the other reciting her own commands.
"Churn, rage, collapse, burst." Every word spoken carried an odd echo, the commands brought through natural energy towards the body of the massive giant. Elementals were incredibly powerful creatures, but only when they were faced against normal foes. Swords and fists could deal no lasting damage, but a well-placed druidic disruption could surpass over a hundred levels to fell a giant.
As the commands reached the body of the elemental, the wind at its fingertips shook, the miniature tornados falling silent and still. The clouds that made up its body became heavy, sinking towards the ground and letting out scattered rain. However, the core was untouched by the sinking clouds, leaving it exposed as a mass of swirling wind and lightning. Without the raging winds from the rest of its form to fuel it, the core began to slow, becoming more sluggish by the moment.
At this point, the eyes of the two sisters opened, having seen the core through their connection with nature. Their words now came out as one. "Shatter!"
Above their stone dome, where water was leaking in through the holes, there was a clap of mighty thunder, the core of the elemental erupting from their combined commands. The clouds that made up its body began to disperse, though the storm raging overhead had not halted. Although it had likely been brought by the elemental, it would continue for some time after it was gone.
"Wait, you can do that?!" Lifre’s voice called out in surprise as the elemental giant was destroyed. "That was meant to be an avoidance obstacle! Uhm… okay, I can work with this. With the great beast of the dark forest destroyed, the pair found themselves in relative safety for the time being. The storm had chased away most of the greatest predators, along with the great beast’s own rampage."
"However, this meant that they were left without prey to hunt for food, and would need to secure a meal soon." As Lifre’s voice rang out, the twins heard a faint gurgling from their stomachs. How long had it been since they were truly hungry?
"Oh, she’s evil." One of the two said with a huff, shaking her head. "But getting food won’t be that hard. There are bound to be a number of fruits and berries that we can eat."
Though she said that, she could feel the energy rising within her body again. Defeating the storm giant had easily been worth more as a trial than all of their previous ‘achievements’, bringing them up to five percent of their full energy.
"I wouldn’t count on it being that easy." The other sister said with brows furrowed, using her control over the elements to push the water out of their slowly filling shelter. "Now that we’ve passed that last trial, it feels like we’re in the fifth or sixth ring." She lightly stomped the ground, testing the sound and ease in which her foot sank into the stone. "Okay, fifth. Not as bad. But still, if we use the animal from before as an example, this place should have between the second and third ring for food."
"You mean we have to go exploring to find better food sources?" The first twin asked, her face distorting. Normally, this would not be an issue for them. However, there was a raging storm outside, which had previously been the domain of an elemental giant. It was hard to say if other elemental monsters were still lurking within the storm.
"That’s right." Saying that, the second twin sat down, crossing her legs. "I’ll try to divine which way we should go, now that our natural authority is restored. While I do that, try to make some weapons for us."
"Yeah, yeah, I’m on it." The other huffed as she got to work, stretching her arm out and focusing to connect with the elements. "Wood, iron, stone." She muttered, the ground shaking as natural energy began to spread out.
Lifre hovered a good hundred meters above the twins, able to see what they were doing by reading the text that appeared within the book before her. This was as much a training experience for herself as it was the twins, though her rewards were far less tangible.
How is the expenditure? Terra asked curiously from within Lifre, causing the slime girl to shake her head.
Now that they’re actively participating in the trial, I can feel a portion of the divine energy that would be going to the god among them being sent to me instead. Almost like they’re paying me to keep them here. It’s still not caught up to how much it cost to seal their powers, but it’s a start. Considering that I am able to control the difficulty of the trial, it’s definitely an acceptable tactic!
Lifre was trying to avoid talking out loud, as anything she said would be recorded as the words of the narrator. Terra simply chuckled at Lifre’s comment. You don’t have total control, or else that elemental would not have been so readily handled.
Lifre fell silent at those words, having to consider it. She had to admit that things were lining up a bit too smoothly for the twins. First there was the poison, and the resulting antidote. Although Lifre had said that there would be an antidote available within the hollow, she personally was not aware of the herbs that would make such an antidote. As long as the sisters had done any action that could be defined as taking the herbs, she would have used her power as the narrator to remove the poison.
For the right herbs to actually be there based on those words, it seemed like a part of her story was being created not by the narrator, but by the characters. The other prime example was the elemental giant. When she first saw it, she assumed that it would be the avoidance obstacle that she intended it to be. However, when the Terra twins recognized it, they saw a way to defeat it.
Lifre hadn’t specified what type of monster they would be fighting, only that there was a great beast within the storm. She had to admit the possibility that the power she had set up made it so that there would always be a way for the challenger to win within the boundaries of the story she established. Or maybe the power was using both her narration and the experiences of the characters to shape the world?
If it was the former, then Lifre would not be able to simply kill off adversaries with the good old ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ cliche. There would always be some method for the challenger to prevail presented to them, so long as they had the ability to recognize it. And if it was the latter, that would mean that Lifre could get more specific with her narration if she wanted to cover those little loopholes.
We’ll find out soon. She said as she grabbed her pen, placing it down against the page. "Once the sisters were ready, they bravely set off to the west, where the divination revealed the most ideal source of sustenance for them. However, there were unknown and poisonous materials mixed within the forest that they would need to be wary of, lest they succumb."
This was the test that she had established. Because she included the word ‘unknown’ in her narration, the poisonous hazards should be something that the twins would fail to recognize. If that was the case, she’d know that it was only a matter of her narration needing to be specific enough. Otherwise, if the twins were able to find familiar poisonous substances, it meant that the power she was using wanted to leave a path for them to succeed.
Naturally, if they really did pick a poisonous fruit, Lifre would provide them with an antidote again. Although she wanted to test the extent of this ability, she didn’t want to kill either of the two girls. At most, she’d make them crawl through the mud a bit to find their salvation.
How long can you keep them like this, anyways? Terra asked curiously, causing Lifre to shake her head.
Until I stop coming up with trials, I guess? I don’t feel like there’s a real limit. But trials of this level will get easier for them over time, offering less rewards. Once I’m done, any rewards that they’ve gotten from their trials should be added on top of their base abilities.
Terra blinked at Lifre’s answer, nodding her head while thinking. Theoretically, if you could devise trials for them reaching all the way to the level of their prime, they could directly double their power?
Well, yeah. Lifre confirmed. But I’d need to keep them here for a few years to do that, and come up with challenges for them every step of the way. I expect that a ten percent increase will be the most I can give them. Also… if I’m not mistaken, they’ll keep that increase if I bring them into another training story later. It feels like it’s like it’s saved to my divinity. So, I won’t be able to completely seal them to base level again.
Interesting… Terra gave another nod. While this power sounds useful to trap enemies in, its real power is like you planned, being able to train your allies. If you were to use it on an entire army at once, you could put them through rigorous war exercises to give an entire nation a substantial growth in power. You might even be able to make Dana and Tsubaki stronger with the right challenges.