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Pixel Courage 30

On the way to the Volcano of Dreams, I wondered what fighting Jhaness would be like. In the fog and soot that clouded my vision, it’d been hard to see her true form.

Would she have claws? Fangs? How would she fight against me?

I knew she had big wings. Would she try to pick me up and carry me off? Drop me at 1,000 feet?

I imagined her teeth digging into my flesh, her claws rending me in two.

I imagined the pain. I imagined death.

Trudging back to the Volcano of Dreams, I imagined a lot of things.

But only half of my thoughts could be focused on the future. The other half were focused on making sure Meltdown Jungle’s creatures didn’t come out of nowhere and attack me.

At one point during my journey, a soft ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum sounded off in the distance. I moved around it.

At another point, I saw a bit of ground that didn’t look as solid as the rest. I moved around that, too.

All told, making my way through the Volcano of Dreams wasn’t too difficult. Knowing where some of the biggest problems, I avoided them.

Climbing the Volcano of Dreams wasn’t any easier, unfortunately. I attacked and killed the Batsa again — because it was easy, if nothing else. Got the 5 XP and continued to climb.

After reaching the top of the volcano, I checked my menu. Before fighting this monster whose skills I didn’t know, it seemed like a good idea to be at peak strength.

That meant looking at my Skill Tree. There were three branches, not counting the electricity skills, which were a branch I still wasn’t ready to mess with.

The three powers to choose from: THORN PROTECT, MILD HP REGEN, and VINE GRAB. All three were good choices, really.

Thorn protect looked like a good defensive skill, and I didn’t have any of those yet. Being able to take a hit and not feel it could prove useful.

At the same time, Mild HP Regen was even more tempting. Wouldn’t have to spend so much on potions if I could regenerate HP myself. The Mild HP Regen wasn’t as strong as Major HP Regen, which meant it was probably more helpful in-between battles than it was during them.

And I wouldn’t be able to purchase Major HP Regen until I was at least Level 9, because of the skills you needed to purchase before you could purchase Major HP Regen. That said, if I didn’t purchase Mild HP Regen now, I’d have to wait until at least Level 11 to get Major HP Regen.

Vine Grab was way more tempting than the previous skill I’d bought from that branch, Vine Smack. I hadn’t even used Vine Smack yet, but Vine Grab was more appealing, because it changed the dynamic of a fight. If a monster was dodging my sword swings and vine punches too easily, I could drag them close enough to do some damage.

All the skills were temping, which was a good place to be in. Still, since I wanted to make a decision before fighting Jhaness, I decided to go with Mild HP Regen.

It took a lot of properly level up Durability, so I might as well do the best I could with the HP Points that I already had.

Satisfied, I bought Mild HP Regen. Leaving the menu cleared my line of sight, which made something very apparent: the purple fog wasn’t here.

No idea how this volcano worked, but it wasn’t spitting out the purple soot like it had been last time. The gray craggy surface below my feet was clear to see.

The sky had a bit of a purple haze, but nothing too obscuring.

Looking out at the sky, I saw Jhaness approach.

She looked different than expected. The first thing you noticed was her wings: massive black things, they looked like they belonged to an oversized crow. Jhaness’s wings would raise in the air, and they’d block my view of the sun. Then they’d come down.

They flapped up and down in slow, powerful movements. If a real bird flew like that, gravity would surely pull it down in-between each flapping of the wings. It would be jerking up and down in the air, as opposed to the fluidity of Jhaness’s flight.

But gravity didn’t necessarily exist in this world. Instead it was the illusion of gravity. And so Jhaness’s powerful wings raised rose up, then came down, over and over again.

Of course, she wasn’t even a bird, not with the strange-looking body she had. Her body looked just like a fly’s, except way bigger.

Though it was dwarfed by the massive black wings that held it aloft, Jhaness’s body was still huge when compared to a fly’s. Still, she had a green carapace, with the stick-like legs and the huge red eyes.

As Jhaness approached, I saw the truth of those eyes: they were compound eyes. That essentially meant that the eye had thousands of little bubbles on it, each of which added to what the fly was seeing.

I raised my sword high in the air. Palms sweating. Knees wanting to buckle.

In the sooty air that the Volcano of Dreams had created, I couldn’t see Jhaness too well. But now that I could see her, I could see how truly hideous she was — how truly monstrous.

I’d shown her empathy, but clearly she wasn’t worthy of my empathy.

She was an NPC, driven by AI, imitating life but coming nowhere close to it.

And so it wasn’t a tough decision. I knew I had to kill Jhaness when she got close enough.

“I didn’t expect to see you again so soon, Chris,” Jhaness said. “None of the PCs come here very often.” She flew just a few feet away from me — just far enough away so as to be out of easy reach of my sword.

Had to talk to her. Had to make sure she didn’t fly away before I was able to kill her.

“I came here on a mission,” I said.

“Another coin?”

“Yeah.” The lie was just what I needed. “The coin merchant said I had to show you the coin. Then you’d tell me what to do from there.”

“That’s odd, but I can take a look.” Jhaness approached.

That very approach filled me with revulsion. A fly with massive bird wings? It didn’t make sense, it couldn’t be real.

She grew closer.

And closer.

I unsheathed my sword.

She began to speak. “Wh–”

No time for conversation, not with a monster.

The sword came down, slicing a large part of her wing off.

She screamed. The scream was half-human, half-fly. It was the sort of shriek you would expect to hear a woman make, but it was mixed with a buzzing undertone.

She tried flying, but her torn wing prevented that. She couldn’t get off the ground.

My sword came down.

More screaming.

The next time, I went for one of her eyes. Split it wide open.

More blood.

Another sword strike.

Screaming.

Again.

Blood.

Again.

Screaming.

Again.

I stopped swinging the sword.

This whole thing felt wrong. The foreign nature of the fight didn’t make sense to me, though, until I realized something.

There were no HP reports — nothing telling me how much HP Jhaness was losing. All I had to go on was her bleeding, her screams, her dying breaths.

Even worse, she hadn’t put up a fight.

My HP Bar was just as full as it’d been before the fight had begun.

“Why?” she rasped, laying there bleeding. Portions of the volcano’s gray crust were getting stained red.

“It was…” Hard to speak. “It was my mission.”

“Why’d you…” She didn’t finish the sentence.

“I was supposed to! It was my… It was…” I stopped myself. No point explaining myself now.

I wanted to cry. Dammit, the emotions were welling up inside me, but no tears were coming out. All the frustration and guilt didn’t have any escape, so they just stewed within me.

Probably should’ve just left The Volcano of Dreams, confirmed the mission’s completion with the coin merchant and collected my XP.

Something drove me to stay, though. I wanted to look at what I’d done. Wanted to see her corpse disappear. Wanted to see her respawn. See that she was fine, reborn anew.

That didn’t happen. I stood there, waiting, watching her bleed. Every once in awhile, she would manage to get a noise out. Nothing intelligible.

After several minutes, I realized I had to put her out of her misery. And so I brought the sword down on her, again and again, causing more lacerations, more wounds, more pain.

She made a noise, which caused me to pause. I leaned in and heard her say, “Stop.”

I did. Watched her for awhile more. Waited for her to disappear.

She didn’t. She just didn’t.

No idea how much time passed. But eventually it became clear that she wasn’t going to disappear.

I just couldn’t take any more waiting, so I logged off.

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