Chapter 62 — Gods and Illusions V
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Merry Christmas everyone!

Chapter 62 — Gods and Illusions V

As excited as she was for her first ascension, Claire knew better than to surrender herself to her enthusiasm. Selecting a new racial class would play a key role in determining her future. It was a key decision not to be made in an irrational state of mind. More importantly, she had to address the matter of her vitality. The evolutionary process was only meant to take an instant, but there was no way to know for certain, and taking a few moments to remedy the issue was far better than winding up dead.

Knowing that her log was sure to be flooded with an inordinate number of kills, the halfbreed decided to bite the bullet and pray to the extortionist that was the goddess. Even that choice came with its own set of difficulties. She had failed to acquire any new belongings during her previous killing spree. Weapons aside, she had nothing but a bag ruined by a melted candle and the clothes on her back. The only other thing she could think of was summoning one of Llystletein Authority’s disgustingly magical dishes. The final option seemed like the most offensive and entertaining, but she didn’t want to sit around while the magic went through the long and complicated process of turning itself into something edible. Twenty minutes wouldn’t have been much to waste on a prank under any other set of circumstances, but it was far too long with her ascension right around the corner.

Though proud of her appearance, Claire had no intention of showing the world her bare flesh, which was to say that the bag was the only option that remained. Taking it off and setting it down in front of her, she assumed the usual posture and closed her eyes.

“O goddess of the eternal flow, divine matriarch of water and time. I offer to you a vessel, and with it, the candle that has shown me my journey’s path and two garments I have crafted from a watcher’s pelt. I beseech that you accept my gift and bestow upon me an opportunity to leverage the full extent of the blessing that you have so graciously offered.”

It wasn’t uncommon for there to be a delay before a prayer was answered. The less one was liked by one’s patron deity, the longer it would take, hence why Claire had suspected that the box would keep her waiting. But the goddess of the eternal flow responded immediately. The divine’s monotone voice started to play in her mind before she even opened her eyes.

You have accrued a large number of log entries. These have been summarised below.

You have slain the following:
- 1 level 71 Borrok Rotblood
- 10 level 35~47 Borrok Mages
- 19 level 30~40 Corrupted Watchers
- 22 level 32~49 Borrok Warriors
- 41 level 14~20 Corrupted Barbearians
- 45 level 22~27 Corrupted Frost Wolves
- 72 level 8~17 Corrupted Lesser Vampire Pups
- 129 level 16~34 Borroks

The experience you have accumulated has resulted in the following level ups:
- Halfbreed has leveled from 44 to 50
- Llystletein Bloodthief has leveled from 50 to 53
- Llystletein Force Mage has leveled from 33 to 40

Level up bonuses have increased your ability scores by the following:
- 20 spirit
- 30 wisdom

You have been awarded the following bonuses for reaching Halfbreed’s 50th milestone:
- 10 points in each ability score.
- Halfbreed has qualified for evolution.

You have gained a total of 82 ability points.

The first thing Claire did, after noting the ability points she had gained, was invest six of them into vitality and bump its final value to 250. A wave of relief washed over her as soon as the transaction was completed. The aching in her chest calmed. It was still present, but the pain had dulled. It was nowhere near as bad as it was before.

You have acquired the Axe Mastery skill.

The proficiency that you have accumulated has resulted in the following skill level ups:
- Assassinate has leveled from 9 to 11
- Bloodthief has leveled from 7 to 9
- Catgirl Detector V 0.17 has leveled from 3 to 14
- Club Mastery has leveled from 10 to 11
- Dancing has leveled from 6 to 7
- Digging has leveled from 10 to 11
- Envenom has leveled from 12 to 13
- Force Manipulation has leveled from 9 to 13
- Lashing Tailstrike has leveled from 2 to 3
- Makeshift Weapon Mastery has leveled from 14 to 16
- Manathief has leveled from 6 to 9
- Paralyzing Gaze has leveled from 4 to 6
- Phantom Blade has leveled from 2 to 5
- Sneaking has leveled from 12 to 14
- Sword Mastery has leveled from 7 to 8
- Throwing has leveled from 6 to 7
- Tracking has leveled from 8 to 9
- Unarmed Combat Mastery has leveled from 10 to 12

Looking over the battle’s boons reminded her of her awful behaviour throughout. A guilty wince crossed her face as she recalled that her mother had never been a fan of manipulation. If she were present—if she were still alive—she would have no doubt been disappointed, disappointed that Claire really was her father’s daughter.

You have unlocked the following Halfbreed Evolutions
- Arctic Rattletail
- Frostblight Lyrkress
- Icerunner Centaur
- Icewinged Cervitaur
- Hexapedal Frostviper
- Lesser Ice Elemental
- Rimeblood Gorgon

Shaking her head free of self-loathing, Claire fixed her eyes on her potential evolutions. There were seven of them, seven different ways for her to ascend. Her heart raced as she traced her fingers over each one in succession. It wasn’t until half a minute later that she finally realised she needed to examine them in more detail. The sheer excitement had left her mind frozen and dulled.

The moment she tried opening up the details panel was the moment the world suddenly shifted. Her rocky surroundings were replaced by clouds, clear skies, and catgirls. After blinking a few times, so that her eyes could adjust to the light, she cast her gaze on the person standing in front of her.

“Good evening, Claire.”

“Good evening, Box.”

In the blink of an eye, the halfbreed went from wearing her excitement on her sleeve to showing a sincere smile, a mask she knew the divine would have wanted to see. Her fakery was more than good enough to fool many a nobleman, but the heavenly entity didn’t buy it. She knew Claire’s tricks. She had watched the halfbreed develop her social facade throughout the earlier parts of her childhood. And, of course, she was not so easily tricked to begin with. None of the true gods were. In their eyes, a mortal’s attempt at deception was just as fruitless and adorable as a puppy’s.

“Why are you here?”

“I see that you are as dense as ever.” The goddess sighed. “I am here to assist with the process of your ascension, as is per the tradition.”

“My word. How is it that you are still so bitter, after all these millennia?”

Another voice, one that the halfbreed failed to recognize, rumbled throughout the heavenly domain. The cloud by its point of origin shook and warped as it took on the shape of a man. He was an older gentleman with short red hair featuring the occasional streak of white and a well-maintained beard that failed to crowd out his features. He was wearing a lightly coloured, long sleeved shirt underneath a dark grey vest that fit close to the lines of his frame, and a pitch black pair of pants that served to contrast his bright white belt. If not for the folded reptilian wings, his lizard-like eyes, and the chain-link tail sprouting from his rear, he almost would have looked vaguely human, like the other deity.

“Builledracht.” The goddess frowned at him, making no effort to hide her displeasure. “Leave. You have no part in this rite.”

“Not to worry, dear. I have no intention of going back on my word. I am only here to observe.” He smiled as he walked over and seated himself atop a chair that didn’t exist.

“Voyeurism is a disgusting habit.”

“Nobody is perfect.” Unbothered, he leaned forward and rested his shoulders on the invisible table in front of him. “Carry on. You’re free to pretend I don’t exist.”

The goddess gave him a bit of a glare before turning back to her subject and pointing to the space behind her. “Now as I am certain that even you, Claire, will recall that it has come time for you to ascend.”

Following the deity’s finger, Claire turned around to find seven copies of herself standing atop a pedestal with roughly two meters between each. The one on the far right was the first to change. Her humanoid shape morphed and lengthened to take on a shape akin to that of her mother’s, a purebred lamia with a rattle at the end of its tail.

The one beside it had a similar outline, but was only half as long. What it lacked in size, it made up for with additional features, namely clawed, webbed hands suited for aquatic life and snakes in place of hair. Its face was changed, more monstrous, with blueish white scales covering everything beneath its nose and a thin tongue as long as an arm.

Next to form was the one on the far left. Its height nearly doubled as its figure morphed, growing a muscular quadrupedal base. Giant feathered wings, spanning over four meters across, sprouted from its back. As a winged cervitaur, it retained her ears, but dropped all hints of scale; looking at it provided not even the slightest hint of her serpentine ancestry.

Second to the left was a smaller and less imposing but equally four-legged frame. It was almost identical to that of a standard centaur’s, but it had thicker hair and a much longer mane. The body double lifted its hoof when she looked at it, as if to show the spikes that lined its soles.

Icy chest protrusions aside, the four outermost evolutions were more or less exactly what Claire had expected, her parents’ forms, or perhaps forms they had discarded or rejected. Prior to his second ascension, her father had been a centaur, or more specifically, a cervitaur of the winged bull moose variety. Likewise, her mother had chosen a graceful rattletailed form over assuming the unique gorgonian one linked to her bloodline. The remaining three choices, on the other hand, had her thoroughly confused.

Smack dab in the middle of the line was a copy of her body made entirely of ice—the only one of the seven options that lacked a chest spike. Its translucency bothered her, but not because she was against the idea of being totally see-through. Her concern was the distinct lack of any organs. The elemental was a solid chunk of ice and nothing but.

On its left was a form roughly halfway between her father’s and her mother’s. Its front half was perfectly centaur-like, sporting a muscular second chest and two powerful legs. If she were to name a difference, it would have to be the horse-like limbs that, for some odd reason, had fins attached right above the ankle. The body’s rear end, however, took the centaur concept and threw it out the window. Its two-meter-tall frame thinned out into a scaly serpentine posterior with a pair of flippers along the sides and a mane-covered tail at the very end. Unlike most of the other choices, the lyrkress’ humanoid part retained all her traits. Both the ears that her centaurian forms sported and the patches of scale that came with her reptilian options were present and accounted for.

Opposite it was her final and most bizarre alternative, the only one to drop all her humanoid features. It was precisely what its name described, a viper, but with six girthy legs. The serpentine body was the longest of the bunch, with a frame that almost looked to span over ten meters in total. Like the other odd-option-out, it retained her massive ears. Even her hair was kept, to an extent. A long mane ran down the length of the snake’s spine, as it would a horse’s head. The legs that were its namesake were mostly centaurian, but they also reminded her of the gorgon situated right beside it. They featured webbed toes and thick jagged claws as sharp as freshly whetted knives.

“Why are they all ice-themed?”

The question elicited a sigh from the goddess. “Your memory pales in comparison to that of even a goldfish.” The raven-haired divine pointed at the item embedded in the halfbreed’s chest. “Have you already forgotten about the frostblight?”

“No, but I don’t see why it would influence all my choices.”

“That is because you are a halfwit. The shard embedded within your chest is an elemental power source. There is no reason not to assimilate it, unless you would rather be both weaker and perpetually hounded by the frostblight.”

“Oh… right. I forgot it was a catalyst.”

“It is not a catalyst. It is an elemental power source. It can be used as would a catalyst, but they are not the same.”

Claire shrugged as she turned back towards her options. The first she looked at was the one that was a literal snake. It was the one that stood out the most, given that it changed almost everything.

“A hexapedal frostviper is a powerful being,” said the goddess, in a way that was equal parts familiar and off-putting. “They are powerful, but losing the humanoid aspect of your form will affect your mental faculties. You are not ready for this sort of ascension. You will be, but not yet. Not now.”

Hearing the goddess’ testimony almost led Claire to instantly lock in her choice without so much as reading a description, but the hand gently laid on her shoulder stopped her from following through on the impulse. Something in the back of her mind was bugging her, and it took her a moment to realise that it was the goddess’ brighter-than-usual tone.

“I will show you its description, and I will allow you to select it if you must. But it is not the right one.”

“I still want to see it.”

“Would you like the usual? Or would you prefer a description that contains… less personality?”

“The usual,” said Claire, with a smile. “I don’t think it’d feel right to read something with no snark in it, after all this time.”

The deity returned the smile, but said nothing more. She did, however, compose a box with the wave of a hand, one with its borders made of gold.

Hexapedal Frostviper
Legged vipers are swift, deadly ambush hunters that hardly ever leave their homes. They are particularly skilled at eliminating unsuspecting passersby, but their thick scales and powerful muscles provide them with the ability to triumph even in unplanned upfront engagements. Imbued with the power of true ice, the frostviper variant is capable of thriving in biomes that others can only consider hostile. Members of this race are plagued with the instinctive tendency to build their homes in extreme environments. Individuals that do not think themselves capable of ever being touched by the opposite gender will find this racial class particularly potent.

Becoming a Legged Frostviper will reclassify you from humanoid to monster. This change will affect you mentally, and you will grow more aggressive and impulsive. Legged Frostviper’s maximum level is 300. The process of reaching this level will determine the resulting evolutionary options. Legged Frostviper will gain bonuses upon reaching its 175th and 300th levels.

This class was unlocked by fulfilling the following requirements:
- Descend from a line with equine ancestry
- Descend from a line with serpentine ancestry
- Initiate your first ascension under the effects of true ice
- Slay at least two ascended monsters prior to your first ascension
- Think and fight as would a true monster, despite possessing a humanoid form

After reading the class over, Claire did as the goddess instructed and dismissed it. Becoming a snake monster seemed like an interesting proposition, but her interest failed to extend beyond idle curiosity. Even if hexapedal frostvipers were powerful, she was unwilling to become something that simply wasn’t her. It violated her aesthetic, her sense of identity.

That thought was one that also ruled out several of the other options. The pure lamia and pure centaur classes were both lacking the physical traits she desired. If she was to remain a humanoid, she wanted to keep her ears and her scales. Both contributed heavily to the identity she had in mind. Claire had always been proud of how large and shapely her fluffiest organs were, and she loved the way her scales felt to the touch. She had no intention of losing either.

Taking her eyes off the box and turning back towards her pedestal where her potential forms were on display, she found that the only two options she had yet to outright reject were the only ones that remained. She was a bit annoyed that she didn’t even have to voice her dismissal for it to be known, but didn’t complain. There was nothing wrong with convenience, after all.

“What about this one?” asked Claire, as she looked at the frozen statue that looked just like her. “Is becoming an elemental different from becoming a monster?”

“See and judge for yourself.” Again, the goddess did something with her hands and created a menu for Claire to inspect. “I admit that leaving it to you may be a rather poor choice, given your distinct lack of intellect, but it is your will that will shape your destiny, not mine.”

“I know I just said that I was okay with the box being snarky again, but did you really have to go ahead and start doing it too? I like you better when you’re not snapping at me.”

“The fault lies with your preference, not my behaviour.”

Lesser Ice Elemental
Elementals are vulgar spiritual life forms composed primarily of magical energy. They excel at the application and use of magic and possess the innate ability to manipulate their elements as naturally as a physical lifeform would its limbs. This racial class is synonymous with vanity. Individuals that take great pride in their appearance, particularly those that practice exhibitionism, are well suited for this class.

Becoming a Lesser Ice Elemental will reclassify you from a humanoid to a spirit. Your mental state will not be affected by this change. Lesser Ice Elemental’s maximum level is 250, at which point you will ascend into an Ice Elemental. Lesser Ice Elemental will gain additional bonuses upon reaching its 150th and 250th levels.

This class was unlocked by fulfilling the following requirements:
- Absorb the essence of a spiritual entity
- Initiate your first ascension under the direct influence of an ice-aligned elemental power source

Claire frowned as she finished reading the class over. It was, in a word, unassuming. All the description really seemed to say was that choosing it would make her a decent ice mage. And while she did have to admit that ice magic seemed rather potent, based on her experiences over the past couple of days, she had very little interest in becoming reliant on it.

Lesser ice elemental’s biggest problem seemed to be a clear lack of synergy. Throwing pure casting into her approach to combat would be difficult at best. More importantly, the halfbreed had her doubts about the class’ second ascension. She didn’t like the idea of committing to something so far in advance. Assuming she ever got there to begin with.

“Can I see the last one?”

Without a word, snarky or kind, the goddess snapped her fingers and made it happen.

Frostblight Lyrkress
Half aquatic reptile, half terrestrial quadruped, lyrkresses are rare perversions of the natural order capable of conquering land and sea alike. Lyrkress flesh is malleable and individuals of this species are capable of adjusting their forms. The frostblighted variety of this class has evolved a moderate resistance to thermodynamic change alongside a notable proficiency in ice-based magic. Sexual deviants capable of developing affection for individuals outside of their own species groups tend to prefer this class.

Frostblight Lyrkress’ maximum level is 250. This racial class’ evolutions are currently unknown. Frostblight Lyrkress will gain additional bonuses upon reaching its 150th and 250th levels.

This class was unlocked by fulfilling the following requirements:
- Descend from a line with equine ancestry
- Descend from a line with serpentine ancestry
- Slay an ascended individual prior to your first ascension
- Acquire and mitigate the effects of frostblight as a result of direct contact with true ice

P.S. Please be aware that, while it is necessary to create the halfbreed prerequisite for this class, zoophilia is unwise and ill-advised.

“I think this one is the best.”

The halfbreed preferred versatility to commitment, and the lyrkress class had it in spades. As far as she could tell, it took strengths from both of the other classes without any explicit weaknesses. The ability to morph her body also seemed like a plus, but she wasn’t pinning too many of her hopes on it. There was no telling how potent it would be from the description alone.

“Is it your final decision?”

Claire nodded—

“Then a frostblight lyrkress you will be.”

—and in doing so, vanished from the divine realm.

With the only mortal gone, the unbeholden landscape reverted to its default state, a sea of stars with a small, twelve planet solar system occupying the foreground. Within the abyss, the two gods remained, with one sitting atop a planet with his arms resting on its ring, and the other standing atop one of the greenest globe’s seventeen moons.

“Explain yourself, Builledracht.” The goddess turned to the well-dressed man. “Why are you here?”

“I had no choice but to attend. I know I’ve relinquished control, but I am still her patron, if technicalities are to be observed.”

The female deity grimaced.

“Why hasn’t she sworn to you yet? She seemed to trust you enough, more than me at least.”

“” The goddess responded in a voice too quiet to hear.

“I’m sorry dear, I didn’t quite catch that.”

“I said she doesn’t know my name!”

For a moment, there was nothing but silence as the older gentleman stared at the flustered young goddess.

Exactly one third of a millisecond later, the seemingly infinite moment came to an end. Laughter echoed throughout the heavens, shaking all seven hospitable realms and nearly destroying the five no longer conducive to life.

The day of their encounter was one that the curse god’s priests would mark as a day to be feared. For they had all heard his cackling, echoing through all their minds at once. None would ever learn the true reason the old one had suddenly split his sides. And though he had almost no hand in the misfortunes and horrors soon to follow, his hysterical fit would be cited by many a scholar and historian as the beginning of The Great Collapse.