April 24, 2:22 pm BT – 12:22 pm UT, The Gorge At The Iron Gate Pass, China
It wasn't easy falling down a gorge. For one it was actually quite narrow. Irade had to use [Flight] to dodge rocks and some tree branches. Even so, Irade got a couple unlucky scrapes. It was a relief to finally get to the bottom, and confirm that there really was a little patch of rock to stand on down here.
Of course, it was the only patch of rock.
Irade looked around, surrounded by the rapid waters. On both sides were sheer cliff walls, and what little space there was for something to stand on was covered in branches. There was no way for a human to get here, not without some high-end protective gear. Or they were superhuman, like her.
She eyes the water warily. It was moving fast, and looked quite deep, but the water itself was actually quite clear. She could see the dirt below, as well as some fish swimming downstream. Sure, it would be dangerous for her to fall in due to the speed and rocks, but it didn't seem...extraordinarily dangerous. Irade wouldn't expect a monster to come leaping out of it, for example.
Maybe that's what the monster wanted her to think…
But as Irade stared at the water, she couldn't find anything dangerous about it. Even the HUD didn't seem to think it was dangerous. It was still blaring its warning, but it didn't seem to really care about the water.
Then again, maybe Irade was focusing on the water for different reasons…
She slowly opened her rucksack, and took out her empty water bottle. She licked her parched lips as she filled up the bottle with the water from the river.
Once it was full, she immediately began drinking the water. The water was cool and refreshing, quenching her dry throat. Irade gulped down the water furiously, not even pausing to take a breath.
She only stopped once the water bottle was halfway empty. Remembering her situation from earlier this morning in the truck, she held herself back a little. Once again, she sat down, and started to refill her bottle.
The air was cooler down here, with a permanent cool breeze whistling past. Once her water bottle was full again, Irade used [Flight] to start exploring a little more.
On a whim, she chose to go upstream. When she thought about it, she realized that she needed to go up the mountain anyway, to reach that one mountain range in the distance anyway, so she stuck to it. Plus, the HUD seemed to be blinking brighter and faster the more she went up.
There wasn't really much to see though. The gorge opened up a little, but was still quite narrow. She did notice that the incline seemed to be getting steeper, but it was still quite bearable.
Until she reached the waterfall.
She heard it before she saw it, but even then she wasn't prepared for it. Irade flew up to a small pool, with a large, raging waterfall coming down from a large cliff-face. Around the pool were some small vegetation and trees, all cut off by more cliff walls. It was pretty in a natural, wild way. Irade felt as if she had walked into a secret area in a game.
She landed on one of the banks near the waterfall, mindful of her remaining MP, and started walking towards the waterfall. As soon as she had reached the small pool, the HUD had actually stopped blinking. Had it figured out that Irade was doing the opposite of what it wanted, so it was now acting meek? Or had she actually passed the "danger" already?
Irade was tempted to go back a little, to see if the HUD would start acting up again, but after looking at her MP, she decided it might be better to wait. She stayed there for a while resting a bit. Once she had her strength back, she began eyeing the fish in the water hungrily.
Fishing couldn't be that hard. Could it?
Thankfully, Irade's stats made it easy for her to catch fish with her hands. She snapped some branches off a couple trees, and picked up some dry pieces too to make a fire. Thank god for her cigarette lighter.
Unfortunately, Irade didn't have a knife. She ended up using her nails to cut through the fish, cutting splitting it in two and cooking them from the inside. The scales were just too tough for her to handle.
Still. It was better than nothing.
She sat there, eating her makeshift fish barbecue, sitting down as she watched the waterfall. The sound of the crashing water was soothing to her. It made her feel calm and at peace. She had always thought waterfalls were cool, especially the ones in games where...where…
Irade looked curiously at the waterfall. There couldn't...could there?
Well, there was only way to find out.
She checked her MP – not much had recovered, but she definitely had enough for what she was planning. After a moment's hesitation, she decided to take a couple fish with her. Cooked and uncooked. Why? Well...her gamer instincts were telling her to bring everything she could, just in case.
Once that was done, she slowly made her way around the pool, getting as close to the waterfall without getting in the water.
Then, she activated [Flight], and started moving towards the waterfall. Irade could feel water drops spraying in her the closer she got. She took a deep breath as she got close, and dived in.
For a moment, she could feel the sheer pressure of the water forcing her down. Luckily, Irade had been so focused on moving forward that she managed to get past it quite quickly, coming out the other side into a cave.
Huh. There really was a secret room behind the waterfall. Though there didn't seem to be any treasure chest or anything. Or at least, none that Irade could see.
She peered down into the cave. It looked to go in quite deep. There was a small, silver river running from the other end of the cave down towards the entrance, getting mixed up with the waterfall at the end. Stalagmites rose up from the ground, and stalactites hung over the ceiling, but there seemed to be a clear path down the cave, almost like it was made to be walked on.
Just like a video game.
Irade really wanted to go in to explore it, but was hesitating a little. Firstly because she was soaking wet and didn't like the idea of going into a cave with wet underwear. She had a feeling that all the clothes in her rucksack would be wet too, and so she probably couldn't change into them now.
Secondly because it didn't look like there was a light source deep in the cave. Here at the entrance was fine; the waterfall didn't completely block out the light, and so the entrance had a bright, aquarium-like lighting to it. But who knows how far the light would reach?
Then again, it wasn't like Irade had to go all the way down the cave right now. She could just...go a bit deeper, then turn back when it got too dark. And who knows; maybe there would be treasure deeper in the cave.
With that decided, Irade took out the wet clothes from her rucksack, laid them all on stalagmites to dry, picked up her wet cigarette lighter, and headed down the path deeper into the cave.
The air seemed to get warmer the deeper she went into the cave. Her steps echoes off the walls, making it feel like she wasn't alone. Despite the cave being quite large, there was a quiet claustrophobia among the rocks and river of the small cave. That said, the fact that the path was just a straight line did alleviate some of her fears for some reason.
At one point, Irade realized that she had gotten quite deep into the cave, but she could still see. She looked back at the entrance, only to find it a little speck in the distance. So where was the light coming from?
It only took a second for her to realize that the water was glowing.
"Huh," she muttered. "Must be bioluminescent."
She walked in deeper, not thinking any more about it. Maybe if she had, she would have noticed that the path she was walking in was exactly beside the small river.
At one point, Irade began noticing the cave around her changing. Less stalagmites and stalactites, the walls, floor, and ceiling all smoothing out. The river too seemed to be expanding, becoming larger.
It was only then that Irade noticed the blood along the path.
She stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the blood on the floor, mind not comprehending. This wasn't the weirdly fake blue blood that monsters bled. It was real, crimson blood.
Her heart quickening, Irade knelt down to get a closer look. It looked like the blood was somewhat dried...but not completely. She looked up to find a whole trail of the blood leading forward the same direction Irade was going.
Wherever she was going, she was going to find whatever left this blood trail.
She stayed there for a moment, thinking. Slowly, she got up, and kept walking.
Whatever left this trail was hurt. If it was hostile, Irade had the advantage. She didn't slow down, but she did start paying more attention to her surroundings. Not that very much changed; the cave got smoother, and the drops of blood started appearing more, joining to become small, intermittent trails, before finally becoming a long, glistening red line. Irade wondered what would be able to take so much blood loss without dying.
She only needed to wait a few minutes to get her answer.
Irade looked ahead to see the cave opening up into a cavern, as well as the river opening up into a large pool. From where she was, she could see that the entire pool was bioluminescent, lighting up the cavern in a silvery-blue light.
She could also see that the trail of blood lead right up the edge of the pool, towards a large rock. Irade frowned. Had whatever left the trail jumped into the pool?
Irade got closer, only to realize that the large rock was…moving?
Also, why did the HUD show that it had a HP bar?
With a name of ????
Ah. It was breathing.
That wasn't a rock.
Irade froze as the 'rock' turned and gazed at her with it's shining blue eyes.
It was a wolf.
A large, black wolf. It was much larger than any dog Irade had ever seen.
They stood there, staring at each other for what felt like minutes. The wolf seemed almost unearthly, bathed in the blue-silver light of the lake, while Irade stood motionless in the darkness of the cave. She hadn't yet stepped out into the cavern where the wolf was resting, mostly because of those eyes.
She didn't dare breath, her heart beating a samba out of her chest. For some reason, the wolf's piercing gaze was much more terrifying than the yellow-eyes hatred she had gotten used to from monsters.
The wolf growled softly, the sound somehow triggering a primal fear in Irade. She wanted to turn and run, run as far away as she could and never look back. That was how terrifying this beast was; on an instinctual level, every cell of Irade's body was yelling at her that she could not beat this beast.
Irade blinked as the thought entered her mind. She looked at the wolf once more, and remembered the trail of blood. Sure enough, it lead straight to the wolf. She couldn't see which part of the wolf was hurt, but now that she was looking at it properly, she could tell that the beast was weak. It was shivering uncontrollably as it glared at Irade, despite the warmth of the cave.
It was only then that she noticed the little status effect next to the wolf's HP bar, showing that it was [Bleeding].
She took a step forward, but the beast growled, stopping her. It's intention was clear; don't come closer.
Very well. Instead, Irade back up, slowly opening her rucksack.
Thank god she had prepared for this.
She took out a couple of the raw fish, and slowly tossed it over to the wolf. At first, the wolf flinched, but then its nose began twitching. After a moment, it edged closer to the fish, sniffing it, making sure it wasn't some sort of trap.
Irade watched as it slowly began to nibble at the fish, unable to stop the smirk from spreading across her face. It was kind of cute, watching a massive wolf eat fish like some adorable dog.
She tossed over a couple more fish. The wolf kept an eye on her as it was eating, always wary. Irade kept her gaze with the wolf, looking into those eyes.
They didn't seem so scary anymore. Well, that wasn't true. They did seem quite angry. But under that anger was something...sad.
No. Not sad.
Irade remembered the trail of blood, and she started to understand what the wolf had probably gone through.
"It's alright, I'm not here to hurt you," she whispered. "But I get it. You need some time alone."
She knew what it was like to feel like a failure.
"I'll be back with more food later," she whispered, and turned around.
The wolf never took its eyes off her as she slowly disappeared into the darkness.
Wolves are Uyghur Culture :P
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