14 An Ominous Tinkle
A 'little' cliff MY ASS.
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1500 fucking meters later, and I'm ALMOST to the top of this bloody sheer cliffside.
If I survive this, I am going to kill that half-bird biyatch.
I'm not even afraid of heights in real life, and this dizzying drop is enough to give me the jitters. I'd be surprised if even one in a million players is able to pull off this chain quest. Especially this early in the game, before anyone's gotten completely comfortable with the differences between virtual reality and reality-reality.
Thankfully, the boost from the Climb skill makes a noticeable difference, and with my natural ability, I've maintained a 90-98% skill proficiency rate the entire way up. I bet if I climbed up and down the cliff a couple more times, I'd level up the skill even without the chain quest reward.
I am also thrilled that the stamina-consumption rate of high-proficiency climbing is really low; I've only had to stop and recuperate five times. Which is great, since stopping on the practically paper-thin ledges is honestly more stressful than the climbing.
With a last burst of energy, I summon my inner shinobi and hurtle towards the peak. As I finally crest this godsforsaken precipice, I can only gape in amazement.
Awaiting me at the top is a nest enormous enough to comfortably sit twenty grown men.
Two things immediately come to mind:
#1) A boss lives here. A flying boss. A big one. And I don't even have pockets yet, let alone a weapon of any kind.
A nest this big? YOU KNOW there be treasure here!
A bit of drool dribbles down my chin. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
When my loot-addled brain settles enough for me to think clearly, I realize the devs can't possibly expect me to face a boss at this stage. The terrifying, strenuous climb is clearly enough of a real test. As long as I'm fast, I should be able to grab these basketball-sized eggs without any problems.
I untie my DIY shirt-pocket to grab the packet of levitation powder Dina had handed me before sending me off. She only barely explained what it does, but she made it very clear it could not be used on human or humanoid beings.
The way she shuddered as she mentioned "disastrous consequences" made me all too willing to believe her warning.
Though I was partially annoyed she hadn't mentioned the stuff while I was working my ass off collecting the first 36 eggs, mostly, I was planning on how I could save it for later emergencies.
Wishful thinking, apparently. There's no bloody way I can get all these monster eggs down the cliff in one trip, and if I take too long, I doubt Mommy Monster Boss will be charitable enough to just let me steal her eggs and frolic off into the sunset.
I carefully remove the first speckled brown egg, sprinkle the lavender powder on it, and with a quick prayer to whoever might be listening, I toss it off the cliff.
"Whew," I let out a relieved breath as the egg gently floats down to where I can barely make out Dina, standing with a much bigger basket. Which I'm sure I'm going to have carry after all this.
"Now we're talking," I say, mostly to pump myself up.
(Don't pretend like you don't do it, too. You're just still mad jealous I'ma get me some loot.)
As I climb in and out of the nest, carting giant egg after giant egg, I can't help but notice the glittery shimmer hiding beneath the twigs in the center of the nest.
I pause before I grab the final egg to think through my options.
Best case scenario, I use the last of the purple powder to lower my treasure to the ground, carry the final egg in a sling made from my scarf, and nothing bad happens to my loot, my eggs, or my precious self.
Worse (and Therefore More Likely) Scenarios:
-I lower the treasure to the ground, and Dina steals it before I make it to the bottom.
-I use the last bit of powder on the egg, and removing it from the nest signals the arrival of Big Mama Bird. I either die fighting to get my treasure or die from sadness because I leave without it.
-I take too long thinking through my options, and Boss Big Bird shows up and kills me before I get either the egg or the treasure, so I not only lose my loot, I also fail the chain quest and lose my upgrade and EXP.
I figure it's even money whether removing the final egg or touching the hidden treasure triggers the arrival of Flying Monster Mama, but it's definitely too optimistic to think neither action does. In fact, it's likely both of them trigger it, so no matter what, if you want to finish the quest with a perfect score and/or acquire sparkly goodies, you have to face the guardian boss.
I also figure Dina is equally likely to leave me to die whether I lower the egg or the treasure to the bottom, but at least if she runs off with the egg, I should get the quest rewards.
I do a lot of thinking, but my brain processes all these options in mere seconds. When I make my final decision, I figure I have a few more seconds to calm my mind and prepare as best I can for any eventuality.
Tie my scarf into a makeshift sling.
Grab the pointiest stick in the nest and practice a few jabs with it.
Roll the last egg to the very edge of the nest. Scoot aside the topmost twigs covering the treasure. Return to the egg and prepare the purple packet.
I dump the last of the powder onto the egg, lift it out of the nest, and hurl it over the side of the cliff.
I grab my pointy stick, race back to the middle of the nest, and dive my hands into the sticks, moss, and leaves protecting my treasure.
As I scoop up the three unknown but-oh-so-glittery-and-reassuringly-hefty objects, an earsplitting, roaring screech warns me of my impending doom.
An enormous shadow descends upon me, blotting out the sun, and in one fluid motion, I shove the loot into my scarf, grab my pathetic spear, and roll to the side.
Sword-sharp talons rip apart the space I'd just vacated, and another inhuman screech fills the air. Tamping down my terror, I dive-roll again before leaping up into a sprint to the raised edge of the nest.
Somehow, I need to hurt or distract this winged beast enough to give me the time to scale down the cliff. I examined the entire area when I was still on egg-floating duty, and I'm at the edge of the map up here. There's no way down except the sheer face I've already climbed.
The boss's name and level blaze an angry red above its fearsome head:
[ITSUMADE - Grand Protector of the Eyrie]
[Level 20 - HP 100,000/100,000]
I choke back my hysterical laughter as I mentally compare my wimpy-ass stats to this Level 20 beast. Moving purely on instinct, I dodge as its giant, curved beak strikes; it roars in frustration as its saw-like teeth close on nothing but air. It whips its snakelike body around, talons flashing, and screeches again.
Only this time, red-orange flames shoot out of its beak, because WHY THE HELL NOT?!
Truly desperate now, I weave and dodge around the outer edge of the nest, grabbing as many sharp-ish sticks as I can. I almost trip a couple times, and I spare half a thought to missing my old AGI.
Unbelievably, I manage to avoid the teeth, beak, talons, and intermittent flames, only because it hasn't returned to the air to attack. I can't guarantee it won't immediately do so, however, as soon as I leave the nest. I am willing to bet that the creature is programmed to stop chasing once the player reaches the ground, though. This quest would be too broken otherwise.
Taking the gamble, the second I reach the section closest to the cliff, I stop and manage another last-second dodge, knowing that the creature always spreads its wings to scream its anger.
I throw spear after spear at its vulnerable left wing, aiming at a single spot near the joint.
Predictably, the sticks do practically zero damage to the boss, but my persistence pays off in the form of three spears sticking into the bird's wing. Itsumade roars and rears back in pain, and I take my chance.
I visualize my own big, beautiful wings unfurling from my back, and as the boss flaps angrily in an attempt to remove the literal thorns in its side, I spread my wings and leap, using the boss's air attack to give me enough lift to soar over the edge.
As I fall, I can hear the eerie, mournful cries of the boss monster, "itsumade, itsumade," over the rush of wind in my sensitive ears.
All too soon, my borrowed lift runs out, and I'm stuck gliding under my own power. Without the Flight skill, however, my wings can only slow my fall, not stop it.
At the last second, I whirl around to land on my back, curling my wings forward to help my arms cradle the precious, shiny loot I am about to die for.
I slam onto the ground with enough force to leave a small crater in the pine-needle-coated earth. As I watch my HP plummet faster than I just did, I can only curse my greedy loot-snatching fingers, which are currently gently caressing their ill-gotten gains entirely unconsciously .
I close my eyes, unwilling to witness my mortifying death in the fucking Foundation Village.
Then I open them again when a full thirty seconds pass and I'm still clutching my sparkling goodies.
1 fucking HP.
I whoop and yell and bust out laughing.
Lunatic Lieu is alive and well, and turns out my crazy ass still can't get enough of the bloody Red Zone.
My can't-believe-I-fucking-survived laughter is forcefully cut off not a moment later, however.
The tinkling raining-glass sound effect that signals my abused pants disappearing in an explosion of blue-opal starburst fractals is not nearly ominous enough, given the givens.
Dina's scandalized shriek does the trick, though.