Nova lifted up the ax again. She could hold it, but it was definitely something she wouldn’t be able to maintain. Still, it was enough for what she needed to do. She turned to look at Mathius and Trixie was already there.
“Wakie, wakie!” Trixie practically yelled in his ear.
Mathius jerked awake and started to move away but couldn’t. He looked down in confusion before realization slid across his face. He turned his head to look at Nova, before glancing down at the ax she had in her hands.
“Yes!” Trixie said, jumping up and down. “But before we get started, you’ll need to summon my old pal. Now, this part can be tricky. You’ll want to summon him just as the cut is finished. Too soon and he’ll get angry and devour you. Too late and you won’t have the stamina to…negotiate.”
“Negotiate,” Mathius asked warily.
“Don’t worry. It’s different from our little contracts. No fiddling around with details. Just a matter of will.”
“That sounds worse,” Mathius said.
“It’s a matter of perspective.” Trixie reached over to pinch Mathius’s cheek but her hand simply went through him. Nova had forgotten that Trixie was in her astral form.
“You should get the details about what she’s asking you to summon,” Nova said. “I’m sure there’s some catch she’s leaving out.”
Trixie pouted. “Nova, you sure take the fun out of this.”
Nova rolled her eyes and lifted the ax and then brought it down on a rock. The rock was smashed into pieces. Nova narrowed her eyes.
That could be a problem. It’s acting more like a hammer than an ax.
“What is the catch?” Mathius said to Trixie.
Trixie huffed. “Fiiine. Old Membri tends to devour you over time if you don’t have enough willpower to hold him off. But you have plenty. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Shit,” Mathius swore.
Nova glanced at Mathius to see his brow was furrowed in a pensive look. She wasn’t sure what to say to him. Nova had figured there was a catch but ultimately Mathius had to decide whether it was worth it.
“What if I fall asleep or am unconscious?” Mathius asked, looking for the loophole.
Trixie shrugged. “You’ll be fine…mostly. Look, Membri has been replacing body parts for centuries. People wouldn’t use him if they died as soon as they fell asleep. Honestly, I don’t know how the whole thing works but it’s more a sort of ‘wear you down over time’ thing. Membri’s a connoisseur. He likes to savor it.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better.”
“Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?” Trixie tilted her head. “You won’t be eaten right away. How’s that?”
Mathius glared at Trixie.
Trixie shrugged. “Look. You don’t have many options. Making deals with demons always comes with a cost. You either work with it or you don’t. Your choice.”
Mathius frowned and looked down.
Nova decided not to interrupt them. Instead, she focused on the ax that smashed like a hammer. She needed it to cut Mathius’s legs, not smash them to bits. Just thinking about either option made her face twist up. She took a breath and tried to look at things logically. She did this or Mathius stayed stuck there. More than likely eaten by monsters with no way to escape.
Nova shuddered. That’s a pretty morbid thought.
Unfortunately, it was the reality she was working with. Nova looked at her staff-turned-ax. “Axe, is there any way to make it sharper?”
A moment later the rocks fell away and Axe came out of the staff with Andy beside him. Both looked paler and a little less substantial.
“What’s wrong?” Nova asked, worried.
Axe chuckled. “This staff of yours has some limitations on it.”
Nova looked at him warily. “Is it hurting you?”
“We’re fine, Miss Davis,” Andy said quickly.
Axe chuckled and patted Andy on the shoulder. “The boy’s right. We’re fine but it can take a lot out of us. What we’re trying to do is use Andy’s nature attunement with my knowledge of the ax. It gets sort of weird and wears us down.”
Nova looked at the pair curiously. “I didn’t know you had to do that in order to form an ax.”
Axe nodded. “I don’t know exactly how your staff works but for now it seems to use whatever skills or knowledge we have to make your weapon.”
Nova nodded her head slowly. She had a hint that might be the case. When she first used the scythe, she had memories of a farmer. It was the same when she had the spear. Memories of Andy as a young soldier had invaded her mind.
“I’m a little confused. If I’m using an ax, shouldn’t I only need your help, Axe?”
Andy looked a little disappointed at her words.
Axe shook his head. “You’re making it out of stone so you need nature attunement to pull it. Andy here is the only one in that staff of yours that has it.”
Nova’s brow furrowed. “I guess that makes sense.” She paused. “Does that mean the farmer has void attunement?”
Axe rubbed his chin. “I don’t know. I suppose it’ll be good to check what mana attunements we have in there to work with.”
Nova nodded. “I also can help. I mean, I should help with it being my weapon and all.”
“Good point. So, what attunements do you have?” Axe asked.
“All of them,” Nova said, running her hand through her hair.
Axe laughed. “Funny. But which ones can you use.”
“All of them,” Nova repeated. “Well, emotions, royalty, and life are iffy. I think I have to encounter someone with them before I can use them, which doesn’t quite make sense since I’ve encountered royalty magic but still don’t have access to it.”
She brought up her Mana Shift screen just to check but royalty magic still wasn’t listed. When she closed it out she saw that both Axe and Andy were gaping at her.
Axe shook his head. “You Soul Travelers are something else. All the manas? Even the Soul Traveler I encountered back in the day didn’t have all of them. I think he had 2 or 3. You’re a beast.”
Nova sighed. “I wish. Just because I have them doesn’t mean I know how to use them. I can’t even do mana manifestations.”
“You mean you used to not be able to. Your staff allows you to now, doesn’t it?”
Nova looked at the staff thoughtfully. “Maybe. It did with the scythe but it doesn’t look like it works that way with the other attunements, otherwise wouldn’t I have been able to do that instead of calling the rocks?”
Axe looked thoughtful. “Hm, it sounds like you need to spend some time figuring out how this staff of yours works. It’s dangerous to be using a weapon that you don’t understand.” He crossed his arms. “As to the rest, you have an entire ghost army to help you train how to fight. I think you’ll do fine. Matter of fact you’ll have to if you’re going to go through the dungeon which I’m recommending.”
Nova groaned. “I figured you would say that.” She looked back into the darkness. “What made you decide that was the best way?”
“It’s not,” Axe said. “The dungeon is dangerous, especially for someone on their own but the alternative is getting yourself trapped by this Oren fellow. I know what it’s like to be trapped and I would avoid it even if I have to fight my way through a thousand monsters.”
Andy nodded in agreement.
Nova felt sad hearing that. Again, she wondered just how long Axe had been trapped in the Cradle tree. How long all of them had been. Still, that meant their advice was colored by their own experience. It wasn’t the best option.
“I’ll also say you need the training,” Axe said. “You’re a Soul Traveler and just knowing you for one evening has shown me this is just the start of the trouble you run in. Getting some battle experience under your belt is exactly what you need. Maybe you’ll luck out and find another exit. If not, you can loop back around to the entrance and by that time you might actually be able to tell everyone trying to control you to piss off.”
There was a certain appeal to what Axe was saying. Being in Hayeln, while it had its dangers, most hadn’t been tied to combat. She wanted to get stronger so why not use this as an opportunity?
“I’ll have to talk to Mathius first. It’s not just my life in the balance.”
“Talk but do it quickly. More monsters are gathered. I suggest you leave this spot before they get here. Fighting here and there is fine, fighting a horde is suicide.”
A wave of alarm went through Nova. “Do you know how much time we have?”
“Maybe six or seven hours. Might be less though.”
Nova nodded and turned to Mathius. She walked over to the man. She paused, unsure what to say. “Did you decide?” She asked.
Mathius nodded. “I don’t really have a choice. It’s either die or allow some parasitic demon to attach itself to me.” He laughed bitterly. “I guess I already have one, what’s one more?”
“Hey,” Trixie said indignantly. “I’m not a parasite.”
“Was there someone else leeching off my mana?” Mathius said, raising an eyebrow.
Trixie huffed. “I’m not a parasite.”
“Are you sure?” Nova asked Mathius, she didn’t like this idea but couldn’t think of another option that didn’t end with Mathius bleeding out.
“I know you’re worried but it’s better than giving up and dying.”
Nova didn’t ask him again. After all, he was right. What choice was there? “Okay, then get ready. I need to try a few things before I’ll be ready to…” She trailed off and looked at his legs.
“Okay. I need time to learn the incantation from Trixie,” Mathius said, his face scrunched in determination.
Nova nodded and then hurried away to a spot that was a little deeper into the darkness, but not so deep that she was lost in it. Axe and Andy trailed behind her.
“We probably shouldn’t form the ax until you’re ready. It takes a lot out of us to do.”
Nova nodded her head in agreement. “That’s fine. I actually want to try a few things before you form it. I’ll call you both when I’m ready.”
Axe and Andy both nodded and then returned to the staff.
Nova’s attention turned to the rocks. She took a breath and hoped she wouldn’t draw too much attention but if this worked she had a better chance of doing this cut correctly. She sat down and began to weave.
The weaving was surprisingly easy. Shaping the wind mana into the weaving she needed flowed more naturally than it had before. Nova got the feeling it might have something to do with her stats in mana agility going up. Since mana agility was one of the stats she couldn’t increase with SP she would have to just make sure to spend time practicing it. Since her base mana agility doubled it would definitely be worth it.
“Time to grind,” she muttered to herself.
Though the weaving went well the artificing was a different story. Rock after rock blew up in her face. She managed to keep the explosions small but the sound was loud and one time even the rocks shifted. After that, she had been too worried about causing a rock slide to keep going. She didn’t want to crush Mathius in the midst of trying to save him.
In the end, she managed to complete two rocks embedded with the blade sharpening weaving. Honestly, she was fortunate to manage even that. The weaving involved the measurements of the rock and enough space for a level eight weaving which many of the rocks didn’t have. Strangely enough, after the first few rocks had blown up in her face, she had started to get a feel for what she could do to make it fit. It wasn’t perfect, like trying to twist and scrunch something into a place it wouldn’t normally fit, but she managed to do it.
“Are you done blowing things up?” Trixie asked.
Nova jumped, not noticing the demon coming up from behind her.
“Then we’re ready.”
Nova nodded and focused on the staff. “Axe. Andy.”
Immediately, the two ghosts appeared.
“Snacks!” Trixie said, excitedly. “You should share.”
“Back off,” Nova said, raising her staff.
“So aggressive,” Trixie said, eyeing Andy before sniffing. “Fine, be stingy.”
The demon glided away. “Just hurry it up. Time’s a-wastin’.”
Nova didn’t lower her staff until Trixie had returned to Mathius’s side. That was worrying. She didn’t know if Trixie had been serious about eating the ghost but she would have to be more careful.
She turned to Axe and Andy. “Sorry about that.” She then pointed to the two stones. “These rocks have a wind weaving to help cut things. I know it’s not much but maybe if we add it to the edge of the ax it’ll help.”
“Got it,” Axe said and then they both vanished back into the staff.
Nova wasn’t idle. She put her hand on the staff. Using mana shift, she pulled threads of her mana, shifting them to nature attunement and having mana transfer put them into the staff. honestly, she was a bit afraid she would accidentally blow up the staff but no message ticking down the time sounded.
The staff began to hum with power and then the rocks around her began to gather around the staff, forming an ax head. Her hand automatically dipped at the extra weight. She heaved it up. Pulling it back she brought it down on a nearby rock. The rock was smashed into pieces. It wasn’t the clean slice she wanted but there was nothing more she could do at this point.
She turned and began making her way to Mathius. When she got there, Mathius looked pale and he was bleeding. Beside him were several symbols.
“Do you always have to use blood?” Nova asked.
“It’s the strongest method,” Mathius stated.
Nova’s face twisted up. Summoners were pretty creepy.
“Come on! We don’t have all day,” Trixie said impatiently.
Nova wanted to ignore Trixie but she knew she was right.
She walked to the side of Mathius. It was an awkward position with the way he was pinned. Nova looked down at his legs. The rocks covered past his knees.
“It’s going to hurt,” Nova said.
“I know,” Mathius replied back.
Nova closed her eyes.
“Are you ready?” Nova asked.
“No,” Mathius said. “But do it anyway.”
Nova opened her eyes. She raised the ax. The weight was even heavier.
She let it fall.
I hope you’re enjoying my fantasy LitRPG webnovel. Check out my patreon to read ahead.
Sorry about no updates last week. I overdid it with my injured arm and had to rest more.