During the meal, some rudimentary introductions were made.
“This is Lyra,” Sam said, gesturing the blonde girl who was ripping chunks off of her meat. She flicked her hand dismissively at them and then continued to eat. Then Sam pointed to the other woman. “That’s Ellaine. The other two… won’t join us tonight. We were all traveling together in the truck when the system came online. I hit a wolverine and got the skill Driving Lvl 1. I knew something had changed.”
Ellaine voraciously ripped through Randidly’s fruits, seemingly glad to eat something aside from meat. Besides that, the meal was relatively quiet, all three of them giving Randidly strange glances. He ignored it, preferring to wait for them to just say what they were thinking. But considering their complexions… it didn’t seem like they were his daughters. Then who were they…?
After the meal, Sam gestured him over to talk about equipment. They walked behind the truck to an area where several small wooden tables had been erected. On them were various garments made of Wolverine pelt. Most of them appeared to be shoulder pads.
“It’s surprisingly difficult to work to make armor from these creatures body parts. Part of it is the difficulty in manipulating the fur and scales, but the other part is my own body. I need points in strength just to handle it. I’ve worked out a pretty good system for making them, and made a few discoveries….”
“Before that, try this.” Randidly reached down to the cat he was carrying and held it up by a paw. Then he pulled, ripping out one of the claws. After brushing off the gore covered tendon, he offered it to Sam.
Sam took it with a frown, and then pressed the claw one of the shoulder pads he had made. It passed through it like it was nothing.
“Higher quality, eh,” Sam grunted, shaking his head. Then he said. “Well thank you. Anyway, I made some discoveries. You have the Equip skill, right? I got it too. Still, I can see all the stats of the equipment because I’m the creator. Take a look at it.”
Randidly took the shoulder pad and examined it.
Poorly Made Shoulder Pad Lvl 11: An amateur's work. +2 Health.
Randidly frowned. Much worse than receiving a single point in vitality. And its level was so high.
“But, then I did some experiments. I can’t get the bonus because my equip level is too low, but the girls can, without the Equip skill. It gives you vision, but it also limits you. Not that the PP isn’t useful, but that most people should just not learn it, and trust the sellers for the information about it. More importantly though, once I told the girls that… none of them learned it, even though I’ve had them wear all that stuff for hours. Do you get what that means?”
For the first time ever, there was a hint of excitement in Sam’s voice. “It means that we influence what we can and can’t learn! By our beliefs.”
Randidly nodded slowly. “....that skill of Lyra’s, Mana Manipulation…. I’ve thought about it a bit, and I don’t know if I could learn it. I’ve thought of this like a game, an rpg. You learn skills and use mana to cast them, that’s it. I can’t sense mana. Just finding her own understanding made her discover her own skill. Makes you wonder about the usefulness of trying to help others at all.”
“Exactly. Which is why… I think we should keep the information we share with each other general, if we do it at all.” Sam said. “I have an idea for what I want to do. And if it works out…”
A woman’s hiss and hurried footsteps interrupted their discussion. All the excitement disappeared from Sam’s face, and he sprang into motion, rushing back towards the fire. Randidly followed closely, his eyes narrowing, but they only found a nervous looking Daniel, who was staring at the two women.
Luckily it looked like they had gotten their hoods up in time, because Daniel turned back to Randidly rather quickly.
“Ghosthound! There’s been… we unlocked…. Well, follow me, I’ll show you.”
The Killer, Decklan, was standing smugly in the middle of a circle of people when Randidly approached. His eyes flitted across the surrounding men, almost 50 of them. Their group had really grown today. They all parted as he approached, and he walked forward, finding Donny standing with Decklan and a mean looking brute with dull, expressionless eyes.
“What’s all this for?” Randidly asked directly.
Nul stepped forward with a happy expression. “Finally, one of the villagers has reached Level 10. As such, I can now provide a new function for the Newbie Village and…. Other guests,” He said, giving Randidly a distasteful look.
But at least he was now willing to talk to Randidly, so having some people here, getting classes and leveling, must put him in a good mood.
“Players may use me to transport themselves into far off parts of the Nexus, competing in what are called Skill challenges. The Prizes are self-evident: Skills.”
Randidly straightened, his eyes narrowing at Nul. “...you can earn skills?”
Nul nodded. “But of course, the usefulness depends on how many skill slots your class provides: in that way, production focused classes have a definite edge. In addition, your options are limited by what Tier you are in.”
“Tiers?” Daniel sounded like he was salivating at the thought.
“Yes,” Nul continued. “No doubt you have noticed that there are certain ‘main’ paths that unlock naturally, based on total stat value. For example, you start with Newbie Path, and Trainee Path unlocks at 100. Apprentice is 400, Journeyman 750. So although the Skill challenges provide breadth of skills, they won’t give anyone a skill more powerful than they are.”
Nul made a strange gesture with his hand, and a notification appeared before Randidly. He instantly clicked skill challenges.
Newbie: Running 5 SP, Jumping 5 SP, Dogding 5 SP
Trainee: Slash 10 SP, Endure 10 SP, Roundhouse Kick 10 SP, Sneak 10 SP, Magic Missile 15 SP, Healing Palm 25 SP.
Apprentice (Locked): ????
Randidly did some quick math. His current total stats were 358, not including items, which Randidly suspected did not count. That meant he needed less than 50 to unlock the Apprentice Path. But for now…
Of the available skills, some Randidly already had. Others, like Jumping, Slash, and Endure, seemed like they would be easy for some levels, but he ultimately wouldn’t use them. On the other hands, Roundhouse Kick, Magic Missile, and Healing Palm intrigued him. The first for some variance in his fighting style, the second for another spell, and the third for the utility it could bring, should he ever be injured while alone.
“How do you get SP?” Randidly asked shortly, turning to Nul.
Nul’s lips pursed in distaste. “Normally, you would earn it passively by gaining levels and killing a certain number of enemies. You… will need to trade in especially rare items, in order to gather it.”
“Will this suffice?” Randidly produced a third gold coin, this one taken by killing the rare boss of the lizards. Nul’s eyes widened and he nodded, happily accepting it.
“Yes…. this is good for 500 SP.” Randidly’s eyes narrowed at the amount, but he didn’t ask for the coin back. If Nul was so willing to part with SP, it was probably a treasure…
But Randidly knew nothing about the system, so it was hard to gauge. Still the smug grin on Nul’s face did not sit well in Randidly’s stomach.
“How does it work?” Daniel inquired. Most of the other nearby people had turned away, uninterested. After all, although the skills would give them variety, they would take up a valuable skill spot. As their class advanced, they would naturally unlock paths relating to that class, giving them skills. As such, this was a cost they weren’t willing to pay.
“Simple, just select the skill and the trial begins. Time will flow differently there, so if you pass, others will think it took you but a moment. But of course, if you fail…” Nul snorted, giving Randidly a glance.
But Randidly flashed him a grim smile and selected the Roundhouse Kick skill.