• Published 24th Nov 2020
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Level Up! - RisuUmbra

A new MLP MMO turns death game as the players are sucked into what they assume is the game... not as fun as you'd think

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Chapter 24: Final Stretch

Chapter 24: Final Stretch

It took Calcifer almost the rest of the night to calm down after receiving their name. I did ask if they had a pronoun they wanted to be known as but all I got in return was happy confusion. I don’t think Calcifer is old enough to understand gender identity yet, I just decided to refer to them as ‘They/Them’ until they say otherwise. The nights out in the plains wasn't that cold with the fire going so we refrained from putting up the tents and just went to sleep under the stars with Cal to watch over us.

I had assumed that the following day would be just as peaceful as the days before, we were making good time and would have at most a day or so of full travel left until we reached the Trading hub. That was my first mistake, I really should stop assuming things about this place. Unlike yesterday, the three of us had stopped training our skills and decided to have a relaxing walk at the forest’s edge… okay that’s a lie. All three of us were put on edge by the forest being nearby, call it paranoia, forest-based PTSD, or stress, but none of us trusted anything about that forest. I wanted to say it was the same forest we had escaped in the beginning but it was vastly different, the biggest difference would be the fact that almost all of the trees are probably three stories high! They were an amazing sight at first slowly coming into sight in the distance but as we approached they just kept getting bigger, and bigger. My first indication that something was wrong was the fact that an absolutely massive forest like this had literally no sounds coming from it, not even birds. So I wasn’t really surprised when my [6th Sense] started ringing through my head, no… it’s what happened after that surprised us.

“Look alive you two!” David and Morgana immediately snapped from their ready positions and prepared themselves, David whipped his sword out of his sheath while Morgana stepped in front of the two of us. Earlier in the day the three of us talked about our positions in battle, Morgana immediately elected herself to be on the front lines as the main tank due to her hardier nature, David wanted to work in conjunction to Morgana zipping around dealing damage and pulling aggro (Aggro: A monster or players aggression towards a target). Before I could talk about my position Morgana and David cut me off and said I would be supporting them in the back. Apparently me always being in the thick of the fight as the squishy wizard had gotten on both of their nerves, I could only chuckle sheepishly at that.

“Calcifer! We need overwatch!” At my word Calcifer shot out from under my cloak disconnecting from the lantern and growing to their full size. Cal didn’t waste any time and shot upwards high into the air, I could see the trees deeper in the forest shaking from something… something large. The first hint that we needed to move was the ground starting to shake, the second was the massive trees in the distance falling to the ground with an earth shaking crash, I didn’t wait for the third.

“David Move!” The Pegasus nearly threw himself into the air as I grabbed Morgana around the barrel and [Blinked] away. Using the [Blink] spell with a passenger is just as weird as it sounds, the spell doesn’t hold us together as were moving at high speeds so I had to use both my [Levitation] and my own meager strength to hold onto Morgana as I launched us into the grass away from the forest edge. The two of us landed in a tangle of limbs as the tree line exploded outward in a shower of wood and greenery. Barreling out of the forest was a small stampede of creatures that bore some similarities with wild boars, the animal’s coat was obscured by the massive amount of moss and mushrooms growing on their backs making them look more like fallen logs then creatures. Morgana and I had thrown ourselves to our hooves in preparation for a fight ( I remember boars being pretty mean…) and when the sizable herd finally reached us they… ran right past. Parting around us like a small sea, the boars didn’t even glance at us as they ran out into the plains.

“Huh… talk about anti-climatic… “ David’s words announced his presence as he landed next to us and I’m pretty sure Morgana said something in return but I wasn’t paying attention. I was still staring into the forest, I’m genre savvy enough to know that a stampede like that could only mean one thing.

“ They were running from something” And as expected Morgana is already on the same page as me, David decided not to waste any words and took off into the air again. I felt the ground start to shake again as Morgana and I stared unblinkingly into the dark forest and after a tense moment I felt the expected burst of pure (Alarm!) flow through Calcifer’s bond… except in the opposite direction. My confusion was drowned out by the teeth rattling sound of the ground exploding, whipping around I saw in the distance where the herd of boars had settled down in the plains suddenly be reduced to mounds of fresh soil and rocks as a titanic worm burst out of the ground swallowing a few of the boars whole.

“What the…!” Again the familiar ice cold feeling of fear lancing through my chest made itself known, I think I know why there aren't any monsters out here now. My moment of fear filled indecision was apparently enough time for the worm to snap up the remaining fleeing boars around it. There was a moment of silence as the worm searched for more food, I took a step back and contemplated the idea of just screaming to run. The moment my hoof touched the ground the head of the worm snapped to our direction, the guttural screech it let out was something I could feel in my bones.

“Run!” This feels vaguely familiar, running from a massively overpowered monster with two other companions… is this going to be a trend with us? I could hear my heart beating frantically in my ears as Morgana and I sprinted away from the Tremors-esque worm, said worm was rapidly catching up to us after finishing up it’s pork appetizer. Slithering through the earth with minimal effort, the bus-sized worm swallowed any obstructions in it’s path all while screeching a bone rattling roar. The worm’s roar was so loud that we almost missed David’s warning.

“Duck!” I had to make a conscious effort to actually dodge to the side instead of turning to look in David's direction, the familiar sound crackling and the feeling of my coat standing on end had me feeling glad I moved. Up ahead of us in the air was David surrounding himself with countless small storm clouds, each brimming with lightning. Cocking a hoof back, David let it fly into one of the closer clouds and at the moment of impact a bolt of natural yellow lightning burst from the cloud. David quickly became a veritable machine gun of lightning bolts as he sent hit after hit of electricity at the worm which wailed it’s obvious displeasure, the worm slowing at the onslaught but not stopping much to our detriment. I could see the countless scorch marks from the connected shots but none of them went more than skin deep, it’s hide was way too tough for our attacks… that didn't mean the same for its insides.

“Morgana, I need a boulder!” Sliding to a stop and facing the serpentine monster I started to gather as much mana as quickly as I could, Morgana didn’t hesitate to turn and charge at the worm as she sprung over me and slammed her forehooves into the earth. The ground followed her command and a stone cube about the size of a grown pony rose from the ground, taking that massive amount of mana I had gathered and slapped the sloppiest, most unstable yet powerful [Plasma Imbuement] onto the boulder. I had basically turned the boulder into a solid block of nitroglycerin and with the help of Morgana, launched it into the maw of the beast… then booked it in the other direction.

“Hit the deck!” Morgana and I dived back off the road with David and Calcifer swooping after us just as quickly, I put as many layers of the [Shield] spell as I could and Morgana frantically pulled up a slanted stone barrier to assist… the resulting explosion was one that was felt before it was heard. The beginning shockwave instantly shattered Morgana’s earthen shield instead of our bones, the following wave of debris that was launched by the shockwave shattered two of my [Shields] leaving one left. Each time a [Shield] was shattered it was like a punch in the stomach, I don’t think I was even breathing by the time the last impact happened. Before the final and most likely strongest blast happened I had an epiphany… I grit my teeth and pushed against the wall of force bearing down on us and activated my most useful skill… [Plasma Imbuement]. The naturally silver hued force field was already filling with cracks before the borderline enchantment skill activated, the cracks all quickly melted together as the barrier gained a rainbow hue like that of oil in a parking lot… then the fire hit. I was fully expecting to be socked in the face by the force of the flames and the lightning but instead once the elements hit the barrier they diffused around it, I had made an elemental deflector shield!

“My cloud barrage doesn’t seem as cool compared to this… We should come up with more team attacks!” David’s sudden exuberance caught both Morgana and I off guard, but I will admit that the previously panicked atmosphere in the improvised bunker had lightened immensely now that we're all thinking about team attacks…on second thought?

“Let’s make sure we can survive our own attacks first, okay?” David took a sheepish look out the barrier at the now abating fire and lightning, I wasn’t actively supplying them with magic so they were quick to fade. I dropped the barrier once the flames had abated enough for us to see what happened to the worm. Instead of a massive corpse like I was expecting , there were a few piles of charred blue flesh and fangs surrounding a massive hole.

“It got away… “ Morgana took the words right out of my mouth, I don’t think this will be the last we’ve seen of it either... Great! What’s with massive creatures having vendettas against us, are we cursed? One day I need to find a way to scan or identify other things just to see if we are really cursed, annoyingly there isn’t a skill for something like that (Not even under the Dark Magic tab!)

“I can tell now, that won’t be the last time we see that worm. We should really get out of here, I don’t want to know what that explosion attracted” I felt a flicker of worry from Calcifer (who I just realized was absent from the worm encounter) as he entered the lantern, I pushed the throbbing feeling in my horn to the back of my mind and tried to get moving. David stayed on the ground with us this time, probably just as on edge as the rest of us… I just want to get to the town already.

The three of us had finally settled down after the whole worm incident and had set up camp in the shadow of a nearby boulder. The three of us were much more spread out than usual, there wasn’t any tension or anger in the air or anything just… we were starting to smell. My [Cleansing] spell does remove foul odors but leaves this odd absence of a smell that’s like if t.v. static was a scent, it’s a smell that starts to grate on the senses so we collectively decided to not use the spell in place of hygiene (or at least until I can find a way to give the spell a scent). So after a long day of walking in the sun and training our skills we’ve become a collection of interesting smells.

David had been working on his [Discipline] and [Cloud Control] so he was left smelling heavily like ozone and sweat, Morgana had been inspired by our maneuver back during the worm encounter and had been trying to be more creative with her [Earth Manipulation] skill and now had the musty smell of fresh mud and cut grass. I think I was the worse of the three of us, I was trying to expand my limits when it came to my [Summons] and their [Imbuements]. I couldn’t tell who smelled more smoky, me or the fire itself. It didn’t help that I also had an undertone of the static-y smell that I'm coming to associate with the smell of used mana.

I let out a deep sigh while I stared down at my meager dinner of travel rations and water, these things weren’t disgusting per say but they're definitely tasteless. The dried hay bars paled in comparison to the smell of Morgana’s bell pepper kabobs, David caught my forlorn look and let a slight grin grow on his face as he took a larger than necessary bite. I jokingly growled in his direction and made a mental note to make his slices smaller the next time I make pizza. I took another tasteless bite of the bar and quickly took a swig of water to help push down the impossibly dry food. The source of my misfortune has nothing to do with my friends, it’s something that’s bound to be a pain in every player’s butt in the future. Apparently we weren’t just given new bodies upon our entry to this world… but also new allergies! I used to be allergic to a few kinds of penicillin but now that I'm a pony I guess I can’t eat bell peppers anymore. I learned this the hard way and promptly threw up in a nearby bush after my first bite. I glanced over at my abandoned kabob that I was keeping afloat with my [Levitation], I eyed a particularly juicy looking chunk on the stick and felt almost physically pained as Calcifer quickly burned the chunk into their being sending out waves of contentment. Feeling my attention on him, Calcifer sent me a small cavalcade of emotions that roughly translated to ‘Stop being such a drama queen… ‘ I couldn't help but chuckle at that.

I felt a smile grow on my face as I dropped my not-really-sour mood, I felt a very faint pulse of happiness come from my lion who was currently housed in my lantern. They tended to act more like a baby when it came to their emotions, mirroring my emotions at times and having a near unstoppable curiosity when not in battle. I finished off my rations and water and just watched everything, Morgana and David were trading jabs about their smells and laughing about it. Calcifer was floating nearby just happy to be included and was flourishing their comet like tail about like that of a puppy, I turned my gaze upwards and took in the stars. I could see countless stars floating above us and the faint purple and green hues of nebulas in the distance, I could hear Morgana and David’s voices slowly fade away as they joined me in gazing at the stars, it’s moments like these that I start to wonder… am I thankful that I was brought here?

Author's Note:

I hated writing this chapter... I don't knw why but it took me so long to do it. I kept deleting and rewriting parts of it then redoing it again to change things so... I'm just going to finish it with nothing too plot heavy. I think from now on I'm just going to use travel time as a sort of intermission for side stories, like a tales around equestria thing. Give some viewpoints of some of the other players or npcs.

[That sounds pretty nice I guess, but what if some thing important happens while they are traveling?]

Then that event will take up the side story for that intermission, there are plenty of other stories that we're not focusing on and they'll still be there after the events happen...maybe.

[...I don't like that maybe...]

Don't worry about it... Here's an idea, if any of the readers what to hear a side story about a specific character then they can request them. Give them a bit of power over the point of view.

[That might be fun, there are some pretty creative beings out there... might be worth a shot]

[I hope you all enjoy the chapter, however sparse it was... See you next time!]

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