Flora jogged over the ropeway leading from one of the levitating platforms to the Elemental Caverns. She still wore her Counterflow mech-suit, and to her amusement, it was even more comfortable deactivated than when technology worked.
The bridge swayed in the wind, but Flora still felt safe, knowing that a flexible construction would be less prone to break than a rigid structure. Below her sprawled the Zauberberg harbor surrounded by a cliff face on 240 degrees.
*beep* Aito displayed an arrow with hearts and the cover of "Passion of the Elements", pointing at a cave in the north.
"Right, the dormitories of the students of the Elemental Halls are in the cliff," Flora remembered the passage in the corny book. "Do you want to tour the dormitories?"
*beep beep* … *beep*? *beheheheep* (No… maybe the library chamber where Walter and Bernie shared their second kiss? Hehehe)
Flora rolled her eyes and entered the cave.
A strange atmosphere hung in the air. In the corners of Flora's eyes formed colorful shadows, but when she focused on them, they disappeared. She got goosebumps because none of her normal senses offered an explanation until a debuff appeared on her HUD.
Elemental Suppression: Non-Elemental skills have their effects halved. Non-elemental gadgets, artifacts, and foci don't work.
Now, Flora could see glowing mists fighting each other, while players and NPCs mingled unaware in the battlefield.
"Do you know what these clouds are?"
"No, Milady. You are receiving messages about resisting elemental effects, so maybe they are elemental energies?"
Flora didn't know what to make of it, so she swiped her batch over the loggy.
Weekly Quest: Weekly Tempering (Elemental Caverns).
Description: Visit the Elemental Caverns and survive 5 minutes of tempering in a zone of your choice.
Rewards: Free access to an elemental cave. Bonus XP for corresponding elemental affinity
Difficulty: Level 1-50 cave: D. Level 25-100 cave: B.
Bonus: Survive 30 minutes of tempering.
Difficulty: Level 1-50 cave: A. Level 25-100 cave: S.
Besides the weekly quests, there was one about a dungeon, and one could buy access to an elemental cave. Because Flora had the quests from Zauberberg, she didn't have to pay.
- Fire Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Earth Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Wood Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Metal Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Water Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Wind Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Lightning Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Ice Cave: Level 1 -> Level 50
- Fire Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Earth Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Wood Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Metal Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Water Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Wind Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Lightning Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Ice Cave II: Level 25 -> Level 100
- Fire-Wind Cave: Level 25 -> Level 100 (Requirement: > 25 LV in both elements)
- Earth-Wood Cave: Level 25 -> Level 100 (Requirement: > 25 LV in both elements)
- Metal-Lightning Cave: Level 25 -> Level 100 (Requirement: > 25 LV in both elements)
- Water-Ice Cave: Level 25 -> Level 100 (Requirement: > 25 LV in both elements)
When Flora browsed through the available caves, she was a bit intimidated by the displayed levels. "Level 25-100 doesn't mean that I have to be over level 25, right?"
"Yes, Milady. The affinity of the cave's elemental power is rising from level 25 to level 100 during 30 minutes."
The answer mollified Flora, and her mood took a sharp turn from timid to adventurous. "Do you think we can get the achievement and complete the quests if we choose one with dual affinities?"
"I don't know about the Zauberberg quests, Milady, because nobody is as daring as you on their first visit. The hybrid caves are counting towards the weekly quest. The description of the achievement only says you have to survive 30 minutes in one of the stronger caves."
"Let's try out the Water-Ice Cave because I have a high affinity for both, and water spells clear debuffs. We'd save 2 hours if it works. Although we had planned on summoning Bliz for the ice cave, I'm not sure whether she would survive the water aspect." Flora shrugged. "No harm in asking, and I can test the Summoner spells."
"Now elementals cost 10 MR/min upkeep, Milady."
"I'm just running Divine Radiance, so I have enough mana-reg to spare. I have to admit I have been feeling a bit lonely without any companions."
<Summon Ice Elemental: Bliz>
Bliz hopped one time to greet Flora. Then she dashed away.
"Hello to you too…." Flora mumbled and followed the ice elemental with her eyes as Bliz zig-zagged through the cave. First, Flora didn't know what was up with Bliz. Sure, she was a bit hyperactive, but currently, she behaved like a six-year-old Kevin without Ritalin. Then, she remembered the fighting mists.
Indeed, Bliz chased the light blue clouds, or more precisely, she did a good job of staying in their middle while they danced with other mists.
"Come on, sweetie. We are going into an Ice-Water cave. No need to tire yourself out before."
Aidan guided them to a corridor and stopped the trail in front of a stone archway with carved waves, snowflakes, and waterdrops.
Flora entered, and a timer appeared on her HUD, counting down from 30:00.
You are in an Ice-Water Domain.
All your skills that aren't Ice or Water have a Handicap.
The cave was just a bit bigger than her containers. The walls and puddles on the floor were frozen, but liquid dripped from the ceiling. The temperature was cold, and Flora's breath was visible, and her nose stung from the acrid stink in the air.
Just when Flora looked at the status effect from the domain, a second entry appeared on her HUD. The list was getting longer.
Elemental Suppression: Non-Elemental skills have their effects halved. Non-elemental gadgets, artifacts, and foci don't work.
Ice-Water Domain Suppression: -1 OV Domain Handicap. – 1 HP per minute.
Biting Cold: 1 x Reduced speed. 1 x - 1 HP every 2 seconds.
Not soon afterward, a fourth debuff joined them.
Biting Wet: 1 x - 2 HP every 2 seconds.
"Not comfy, not comfy at all," Flora mumbled as she paced in the room, rubbing her hands. Bliz orbited her like the moon the Earth on her path around the sun.
(Left-Hand, Wavering Wave-Ring, channeled:) <Healing Rain [Morph: Mana Down - Healing Down]>
The most important job of the spell was to prohibit Biting Cold from increasing its stacks.
"First spell: 'Empower Elemental'" Flora clicked on the link, and the diagram popped up.
(Right-Hand, Toasted Bracelet:) <Empower Elemental: Bliz>
Name: Empower Elemental
Description: Raises the Attributes of your chosen elemental.
Cooldown: 25 sec
Duration: 10 sec
Formula: Up to (MMic MOV + Skill MOV)/14 OV for each attribute.
Flora opened the command Overcharge Regular Mode for comparison.
(Right-Hand, Toasted Bracelet:) <Refresh>
Name: Overcharge Regular Mode
Description: Boost your drone/robot/mech-suit/batticle/vehicle regular mode.
Cooldown: 25 sec
Duration: 10 sec
Formula: Up to (PMic MOV + Skill MOV)/7 OV for each physical attribute.
Flora could see some similarities in the diagram. Although the spell consisted of graphs and the command looked like a three-dimensional chip, the general shape of both was relatable. While she compared the descriptions and diagrams, the cold and acid fumes intensified.
"Milady! Bliz needs your attention. I recommend Healing Water Stream as a stop-gap."
(Right-Hand, Toasted Bracelet, channeled:) <Healing Water Stream: Bliz>
"Burned Toast!" The elemental had lost her icicle shape and looked like a plastic cooking spoon on a hot plate. The acid had left gashes while running down her half-melted form.
Flora wasn't familiar with the acid debuffs' symbols, but four of them crowded Bliz debuff list. It was a wonder that the fragile elemental wasn't dead yet. Flora's spells, her Ice Shield, and Refrigerate had probably saved her until now.
Even though the Stream spells had an intermediate secondary effect, the stacks only shrank slowly, much too slow for Flora's anxious mind.
When Flora hung out in her bedroom, she had planned with Aidan a strategy for the single elemental rooms. Contingency plan one: Stream the crumbs out of the toast. Implemented! Contingency plan two: Clingwrap the toast.
(Left-Hand, Wavering Wave-Ring:) <Acid Shield: Bliz>
In the single elemental caves, the shield wouldn't be damaged. Here, the Biting Cold ate into it. However, if it held out 10 seconds, no new stacks of acid would touch Bliz, and the existing stacks would run out. Consecutively using the two measures was redundant, but Flora had been desperate to save her elemental.
"You had me worried, Bliz! Why didn't you say anything? I'm sorry I was so slow."
Flora switched her bracelet and her ring. The Wavering Wave-Ring applied the secondary effect twice, which was nice, but for Bliz's low acid resistance, the Toasted Bracelet was better. It enabled the secondary effect of spells to produce a better result.
(Left-Hand, Toasted Bracelet, channeled:) <Healing Rain [Morph: Mana Down - Healing Down]>
"5 Minutes have passed, Milady."
"Very good, Aidan."
Pray generated only 45 mana, much less than its usual amount of around 120 when she used her Multi-Tool Scepter. Still, it was more mana than the 10 mana it cost, so Flora profited from it. At the moment, Refresh was enough to uphold her mana. However, with every minute, it grew more difficult to cleanse Bliz, and Flora's mana expenditure rose.
"ETA: 10 seconds until the affinity of the cave will cross Second Luck, Milady." Aidan issued the warning because the cave would be in the same affinity tier as Flora and two tiers above Bliz.
(Left-Hand, Toasted Bracelet, channeled:) <Healing Rain [Morph: Secondary Effect Up - Healing Down]>
The prayer gave Flora and Bliz some Mana-Reg, but Flora had hoped for a better effect.
Flora's shield still held up well against the elemental onslaught, but Bliz's vanished too fast. Nonetheless, with the help of those two protections, she only needed to use 20 seconds of Healing Beam.
As the timer ticked down, the pressure on Flora rose. She went over her list of spells, cursing that she still didn't know them by heart.
(Left-Hand, Toasted Bracelet:) <Super Wavebreaker>
The spell had a 5-minute cooldown, but it was worth it. Not only did it clear all of Bliz's debuffs, but also the time slowed, and Flora could finally take a breath to sort her thoughts. Her head was filled with simulations of the bouncing effects. Divine Radiance spread the primary and the secondary effect from Flora to a friendly target, albeit with a reduced chance because of the Elemental Suppression. The Wavering Wave-Ring also ping-ponged effects:
Effect: Splash. Secondary Effects of spells hit nearby targets or main target twice.
When she had used the ring with Rain, not only did Divine Radiance propagate both effects from her to Bliz, but the ring also bounced the secondary effect to Bliz. She was unsure whether Divine Radiance ping-ponged the ring-induced jump from Bliz's secondary effect to her. She owned the ring, so the effect would be indirectly caused by her as well, so it should work. Visualizing all the hopping effects made Flora's mind spin. If Aidan hadn't assured her that the Toasted Bracelet had a better effect with the Rain than the Wavering Wave-Ring, she wouldn't have believed it.
Nonetheless, she was slowly furthering her understanding of her tools between bouts of self-doubt whether she was efficient or just running herself ragged with half-assed measures.
Flora was considering dismissing Bliz when she had an idea of how to use her Healing Breath efficiently.
The spell had a long cast time of 2 seconds; then, the elemental effect would be ejected out of her focus for another 3 seconds. Although the skill had an intermediate secondary effect, in the 5 seconds, only one dose would be applied, while Healing Rain had only a weak secondary effect but applied a dose every 2 seconds. An additional problem was hitting herself and Bliz at the same time. There Flora's inspiration had struck.
Flora put her left arm around Bliz and extended her right arm as if she would take a selfie picture with a smartphone of both of them. Then, she manipulated the magic cone of healing water to hit them. A blue wave surged out of the Wavering Wave-Ring into their faces.
Thankfully, healing spells had no corporeal aspect. Otherwise, the two ladies would be thoroughly wet.
(Right-Hand, Wavering Wave-Ring:) <Water Halo>
Buff Water-Halo: - 28% damage; 1 Cleanse ever 2 sec; Time-remaining: 10 sec;
Unfortunately, she could only cast the spell on herself, but Divine Radiance and the Ring both worked, so Bliz received a double whammy of its effects.
Flora's mana and, to her astonishment, her concentration had sunken below 30%. Thanks to her Level 100 attributes, she now received the Third Wind bonus: Temporary mana points from Vigor, higher Magical Power, Macro-Control, Micro-Control, Regeneration, and Defense.
"Stay back, Bliz. I need to leave the rain." Flora jumped into a corner. Thanks to the Elemental Mage class, she had received a trait called Elemental Power Gain:
When you get damaged with the elemental power of one of the connected classes, you get OV affinity in percent of the damage in mana.
So, Flora collected a few stacks of debuffs for mana regeneration.
"I'm out of ideas for saving Bliz. Do you have a suggestion?" Flora asked. "And please arrange an optimal rotation for my spells."
"Yes, Milady. The Summoner skill Human-Elemental-Synergy adds a percentage of your attributes and resistances to Bliz's stats. Due to your low level in the skill and the Elemental Suppression, it might be negligible."
(Right-Hand, Wavering Wave-Ring:) <Acid Shield: Bliz>
Flora used the seconds in which the shield protected Bliz to learn the spell. When the shield popped, she channeled to let Aidan gauge the effect.
(Link to Bliz:) <Human-Elemental Synergy>
Name: Human-Elemental Synergy
Description: Shares Attributes and Affinities between you and your elemental.
Cooldown: 1 min
Formula: Up to OV of (MMic MOV + Skill MOV) in % of each attribute and affinity from your elemental gets transferred to you and vice versa.
"You are transferring 3 OV Acid Affinity to Bliz, Milady. That may seem low-"
"Yes, extremely low!"
"-but it is quite effective. Here is the suggested rotation:
- Second: Shield Bliz
- Second: Pray for Mana
- Second: Wavering Wave-Ring: Access Leyline, Refresh [Morph 2 times]
25.-60. Link to Bliz: Human-Elemental Synergy
25.-60. Second Toasted Bracelet: Rain
26-30. Second: Wavering Wave-Ring: Breath Selfie
- Second: Bliz: Shield
30-50. Second: Wavering Wave-Ring: Beam [Morph]
50-60. Second: Wavering Wave-Ring: Halo"
"Let's do it!" Flora cheered.
While she had cast three spells at the same time in her bedroom, it was a bit different in the field, especially when shooting Water Breath selfies during it. So Flora messed up Rain a few times and once Human-Elemental Synergy. Only the last one was bad because it had a 1-minute cooldown.
Flora had fun acting a crazy mage in a soaked blood-red robe, emitting magic from both hands and mind. Now that she didn't channel rain all the time, she even had a 22-second break. She loved juggling cooldowns!
Belatedly, Flora realized she could sit down and regenerate more mana that way.
The ten-minute mark came and went. While she had a system worked out, Flora had the urge to kick herself because she was so underprepared. She hadn't eaten anything, no potions buffed her, and even though she had a few mana and health potions in her quick slots, she regretted not wearing the potion guzzler. And her bottom was freezing off! In the next cave, she would sacrifice another bedroll to the gods of comfort. Her current bedroll had survived uncharacteristically long.
"Can we expect any major hurdles in the next minutes?" Flora asked Aidan in her break-time.
"Yes, Milady. In the last 20 seconds, the room will have an affinity of level 100. You will survive with our current measures, but Bliz will stack around 1000 damage worth in debuffs."
"Holy toaster! Just to make sure, she won't get only 1000 damage over 20 seconds, but 1000 in the last second?"
"Yes, Milady. We don't know how the acid ability procs. Bliz will be hit ten times with a poison debuff. If she is lucky, it is a Light Etch stack, for only 10 damage. The highest chance has a Deep Etch stack worth 50 damage. But if she is unlucky, she might get Light Acid Burn for 250 damage or even a stack Deep Acid Burn for 1250 damage. The last one has only a chance of 8% per application, but they are ten ticks. Hence it might happen, and we won't get it cleared away in time."
"Even getting the 250 stacks a few times would be the end. 250 on the first, 500 damage on the second, 750 damage on the third. 1000 on the fourth, 1250 damage on the fifth… and so on." Flora looked at Bliz's HP pool. She only had 90 health points. "Oh, dear."