[11] Assimilation
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"Mentor of mine, what's the next trial?" Claire asked, Alicia on her lap as Asta fiddled with his new weapon by her side.

Igris Neihime chuckled.

[The ninth trial should be easy for you, seeing as you're an Ice Fairy, as for its rewards. . .] He said. [You'll see.]

Claire tilted her head.

The world blurred.

She blinked her eyes and found herself alongside Alicia and Asta.

"Oh," She muttered, "Of course. There had been a realm of ice to overcome. It makes sense there would be one of water."

The world around them was filled completely with water. There was no land. There was no sky. Only water. And far, far, far away was a white door floating within that space. It was no wonder why Igris had said it would be easy for her, she thought.

It was a length miles away and she simply had to swim there and open the door. For a normal human, it might be hard, but she could breath and move swimmingly in water. And, although Alicia could not do the same, she would not die due to it either.

Claire furrowed her brows as she watched her partner hold her breath. She supposed any damages that came from lack of oxygen would immediately be healed by her body. Although that irked her in the wrong spot, she supposed it was better than death, but she still asked.

"Would you like to enter my glacial world?"

Alicia shook her head. She opened her lips to speak but quickly closed them due to water. Claire supposed she was okay with being by her side even as she was technically suffocating so she could only relent with some force and instead moved to touch Asta's floundering figure.

"Wha—"

Though he didn't need oxygen, he was much too heavy to swim here. She could simply bring out the fish of ice she had made but that seemed like more effort than needed when a simpler solution existed. A layer of ice frosted over him and he disappeared into her <Glacial World>.

"Let's go," She said and Alicia gave her a grinning thumbs up.

Claire began swimming.

It took time.

Lots of time.

Sometimes it felt as if she was nowhere closer to the door simply because everything was water but, in the end, they both touched it and it glowed, swallowing them in its light as the world blurred.

[Ninth trial completed. Congratulations.]

Back in the crystal hall, Alicia released her held breath and quickly sucked oxygen into her system. Claire waved her hand, ice covered both of them before shattering into flakes of snow, removing the wetness from their figure.

"Are you alright?" She then asked her partner.

Alicia took in another breath and coughed. Wiping a trial of blood from the side of her lips, she smiled.

"I'm fine," She said, "All healed."

"That's good." Claire nodded with furrowed brows. Clearly, her partner was not completely alright. "Though relax some, would you?"

"Mhmm mhmm~" Her companion replied.

That settled, Claire crossed her arms as she stared at nowhere in particular.

"That was as easy as you said it would be," She said, "What's the reward?"

Igris Neihime's voice came readily.

[Eternal Ice.]

A chunk of the tower rumbled before them, squirming open before a large object rose out. Crystal clear, a box the size of a small shed stood in place. One look and she could already tell it was extremely cold.

Claire raised her brow and walked to it, touching its surface.

"Interesting," She saw her face reflected back, "I keep hearing 'Eternal Ice' but I still have no idea what it is."

[Eternal Ice is ice created from the death of an Ice Dragon. The explosion of mana from its heart will encase it in that ice. It's one of the reasons it's quite difficult to obtain the heart of a dragon of that element.] Igris Neihime said. [The important thing, however, is that Eternal Ice is impossible to melt and requires a demi-god level of strength to break once it has taken its final form—traits that gave it its name.]

"Oh?" That piqued Claire's interest somewhat and she looked at the chunk with renewed vigor. "So, what purpose do I have for it?"

She felt as if her mentor smiled.

[That's for you to decide. As you are right now, it's useless to you but, once you obtain the Water Seed, as eternal ice is still ice, you should be able to shape it to a form.] He said. [And, that, brings limitless possibilities.]

Claire nodded and touched the thing.

A layer of frost rolled over the object.

A moment later and it disappeared from the space for the future.

With that done, she asked, "What's the final trial, then?"

Igris Neihime laughed.

She tilted her head. "??"

[The final trial. . .] He began.

Claire watched as an oval-like object slowly floated down, glowing white as snow fluttered about it. By the time it was at eye level, she realized its form as something as small as a bean and made completely from water as it reflected her crimson eyes.

[Is to successfully assimilate with the Water Seed.]

Claire grabbed the object and felt frigidness seep into her as if the thing did not care that she was an Ice Fairy. The coldness was palpable and the entire area around her frosted. Her teeth clanking and her body shuddering, she spoke.

"How do I do that?" She took in a deep breath, a chill seeping into her lungs until her breathing rushed.

Igris Neihime chuckled.

[Eat it.] He said.

And she did just that.

"!!"

Her insides frosted and her blood slowed. It felt as if she had just swallowed the very idea of the word 'cold' itself. Claire couldn't help but open her lips and scream, clutching at her throat as her knees slammed against the crystal floor.

Alicia's crimson eyes widened.

"Claire!"

A growl escaped the vampire's lips as snow fluttered about the ice queen's immediate area. In seconds, she had become covered in frost. She tried to move closer but her feet froze in place.

"What have you done to Claire?!" The vampire yelled, nails extending, rage filling her voice. Crimson eyes glowing with an intent to kill.

Seeing her reaction, Igris Neihime felt a cold sweat even as she had no real way to attack him.

[I-if one wants to wield a law of the world, they must be suitable.] He scrambled to explain. [This is a natural reaction. It would be worse if she wasn't already an Ice Fairy!]

Alicia did not care for that one bit.

"Fix it," She ordered.

"S. . .stop. . ." Claire struggled to raise a shaking hand, her breath frosting the atmosphere. "C—calm down, Alice."

Water birthed around her figure, flowing in its clear form and beginning to wrap her within a cocoon.

"I'm fine," She managed before she drowned in a bubble and became weightless.

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