Most used abilities: -
Most used weapon skills: Dagger Throw, Spear Throw, Lunge
The constant wailing was horrible. The girls had only just began luring the gnomes by throwing stones at them, but I was already suffering from a piercing headache. I was getting quite thirsty as well, which just made the whole thing worse.
My contribution to our escape plan was simple: we pried up the nails holding the shed together and took apart the wooden walls. We would send the wood rolling down the slope to clear the way as much as possible, giving us a good head start on the gnomes. The main focus was still on outrunning the little monsters. Chances were good that they were slower than us with those short legs, their bulbous head making it harder for them to keep their balance.
"Everyone's in position?" asked Tobias. He took up the leader's role for the time being. Though I would have preferred Pell as a leader, he was seemingly reluctant to be the center of our group. As for the others... well, Dana was a ball of frustration all the time, so I was happy that she wasn't ordering us around. And while Imaya's knowledge about games would surely be useful, her personality left a lot to be desired, at least for a leader.
Still, I could freely admit that (not counting the Sylven), I would have been the worst candidate for leading us. Not only was I disinterested in the position, but I knew that I didn't have it in me to be authoritative enough and to be able to keep everyone together.
After making sure everyone was ready to go, we stood at both sides of the lined up beams. Devi'lynn and I carried our sacks, containing two tibbars each. These sacks were the only useful stuff that we found in the shed besides the weapons. They were made of rough textile, with a string around the opening. Since the two of us were the ones with the least burden (I only had Stabby tucked into the side of my shorts), it was our glorious duty to carry our dinner.
As expected, the throwing stones at the gnomes had almost no effect. Previously we had also tried luring the gnomes with the dead tibbars, but the problem was that the little monsters were more intelligent than they looked: they ignored their meal if any of us was in sight. Still, at least it was working somewhat, so Imaya and Dana were ready to throw over some of the excess meat the moment we began descending. There were dozens of baby-faced monstrosities down there, hell, hundreds of them around the whole hill. Every little distraction was appreciated.
I glanced around one last time, taking note of the others. Our front line was Pell, Tobias and Teva'ryn. The former two had a wooden shield each, in addition to their chosen weapon. All three of them looked determined, though while Teva'ryn was calm and struck a graceful pose with his scimitar, Tobias was fidgeting with his rapier nervously. Pell was somewhere in-between: he was subconsciously inching toward the edge, eager to start. Or maybe he just needed to pee.
Dana and Imaya would be defending our side, but we told Imaya to shoot the bow only if it is really necessary. We might need the arrows later on for hunting, so it was better to not waste them here. Both girls looked fairly nervous, which was understandable.
Lastly, I would be covering the rear with Devi'lynn. The Sylven woman looked determined and relatively calm. And me? I wondered what I looked like in that moment. It was typical for me in stressful situations to feel a bit detached from reality, which was now in full effect. I still felt nervousness and I was also afraid, but these emotions were sort of... muted. I tried my best not to think about what was about to happen.
"Alright," shouted Tobias over the noise, "The girls can start throwing down the meat! Make sure to catch up to us down there, as fast as possible. Ready? Go!"
Wait, shouldn't the leader say some kind of motivational speech about working together and that everything would be fine? It was a bit sudden for me, but Tobias and Pell already began to push over the beams, one by one. The wailing intensified, and a faint white smoke - souls, probably - billowed towards us. I heard a soft ping and caught a flash of text: You have leveled up!
Damn, this is going to be annoying in the long run, I grumbled internally. In a few seconds, Pell was already about to descend. I stepped closer but wasn't able to see what happened after he sat on the edge and slid down, but I could tell by his cursing that he was still alive. Teva'ryn and Tobias slid down as well, with Imaya and Dana basically sticking to their back. It wasn't what I would have called 'defending our sides', but I didn't have the right to complain. As I stepped to the edge in order to follow the others, I immediately recognized the disadvantages of my plan.
In theory it appeared to be a good to roll the beams down, tripping the gnomes and making them tumble down the hill. But while it was true in practice that we had created some space, the fallen bodies and the wood lying across the slope prevented a quick escape. It wasn't easy to descend the hill, avoid tripping over, and fight the little monsters simultaneously. Sure, the slope wasn't too precipitous after the initial slide, but we were on a hill nevertheless.
Just as I finished sliding down, one of my fears came true. When Imaya saw a gnome heading directly for her, she tried to step further behind Tobias but didn't pay attention to a fallen beam. She sprawled on the ground with a yelp, dropping her arrows, while Tobias was fighting two of the gnomes at the same time, so he couldn't even afford to look back.
I was hopping, stumbling, and tripping towards Imaya's direction. She was too shocked to assess the situation logically. She wasn't getting up. She wasn't running away. She wasn't even taking out her dagger, to get ready to fight. Instead, she was trying to gather the scattered arrows she had dropped.
A gnome reached the other end of the beam that tripped her over, and lunged. It was a surprisingly long jump, considering the size of its legs. Two rows of pointed teeth glistening with saliva, the gnome opened its maw wide — only to meet head-first with my sack of tibbars that I had already been swinging. I had put my whole body into that swing, so the force of it was able to send the gnome rolling down the hill. However, I also lost my balance and ended up falling on top of Imaya.
After a few frantic moments during which I managed to elbow Imaya in the face at least twice, I got to my feet. Without falling over, this would have looked so heroic. I looked at Imaya to check if she wasn't too hurt by... my elbow. She seemed okay, apart from being frightened as hell.
"Hurry up and get on your feet!" I nudged her. There was already a gap between us and the others. Seeing this, I turned around to look for Devi'lynn.
She was still behind me, playing tug of war with a gnome. The little monster had latched onto Devi'lynn's bag, teeth sinking into the fabric and probably even into the meat as well. Devi'lynn was trying to shake off the creature desperately, but it was a futile effort. Other gnomes were already closing in from both sides, and we only had a few seconds before they caught up to us.
"Just drop the bag and run!" I shouted at her.
I cursed myself for my stupidity immediately after. In my defense, it was difficult to think when a hundred little monsters were coming at you to eat you alive.
This, at least, got her attention. As she looked at me I raised my own sack and dropped it. I pointed at her to do the same, and thankfully she caught my meaning. She left her bag in the gnome's mouth and stumbled towards me.
After picking up my tibbars, the two of us ran to catch up to the others. Gradually, the dead bodies of the monsters became less and less frequent around us. Our frontline was working more on the sides now, since that was the direction the gnomes were coming from. Tobias and Teva'ryn on one side, Pell and Dana on the other. In the middle, Imaya was clutching her remaining arrows with two hands, bow hung over her shoulder, head swiveling left and right constantly.
I looked at Devi'lynn. She was visibly upset, with a hint of frustration or maybe even anger. Every now and then, she glanced back at the sack that we left behind. Almost as if she was contemplating whether she could still ran back for it and snatch it up. Does it really bother her this much? I wondered. If I weren't allowed to fight and I had only a single task — a task to prove that I'm useful too — then suddenly even failed at that simple thing... yeah, it would be upsetting.
"Here," I said, handing my bag to her.
She looked at me, but didn't reach for the sack. I shook it a little and extended my arm further. She reached out slowly, cautiously — as if she was sure that I'd change my mind in any moment — and finally grabbed the bag.
With my job done, I had nothing much to do after that point. Now that we didn't have that much pressure on us, our front line was overcome with courage. They didn't stick only to defensive maneuvers anymore, and went on the offensive instead. Soon there were no more gnomes chasing us. Luckily, it wasn't the whole horde that tried to catch us, only those that were closest to our exit point.
Devi'lynn still seemed to be a bit frustrated. From time to time she glanced in my direction, crinkling her forehead, probably trying to figure me out. I was such a mysterious fellow, after all. Did I give her my bag just so she had something to do? Did I give it to her to make her seem more useful? Or was it because I didn't want to carry such a heavy bag? Maybe all three at once, maybe neither of them!
I was waiting for my collar to flash in any moment, informing me that I have gained a new title: Randel, the True Gentleman!
When my collar pinged right after that thought, I almost jumped out of my skin. It was just sarcasm! I panicked. Could the collar read my thoughts?
Well, of course it could. I had been activating my Weapon Skills without voice commands.
"Ooh yeah! We did it!" Tobias exclaimed, pumping a fist in the air. The others seemed quite relieved, too. No one was visibly injured, which was quite impressive. Who would have thought that a bunch of strangers could team up this quickly and work together in order to survive? Sure, not everything was perfect during the escape, but all things considered, we were doing well. No one froze completely from fear, and no one became so overconfident to get themselves killed. It could have gone wrong in lots of different ways, but we managed to avoid all of them.
It took me a moment to realize: the others had gotten a message from their collars too. Outside of combat these notifications seemed to linger for a while, so I had plenty of time to read the text. It was just a single line informing me that I have successfully completed a quest... and this also meant that I had gained my very first Ability.
The others were already reading their Ability description. I glanced around quickly — it would be pretty stupid if a stray gnome jumped on us while we were busy reading — then quickly opened up my Abilities panel.
Dark Bond, level 1
Enchant your weapon and form a bond with it. The bonded weapon can be teleported into your hand. You can teleport to the bonded weapon. Any damage you take, the bonded weapon suffers it too. Any damage the bonded weapon suffers, you take it too. The bond can be cancelled at any time.
Maximum number of bonds: 1
Upkeep mana cost: 2 mana per 5 seconds
Teleport mana cost: -
Enchantment cooldown: 20 seconds
Teleport cooldown: 20 seconds
Well, that was a bunch of information. From my limited gaming experience, I knew that 'cooldown' was the minimum time that the player needed to wait in order to be able to use the Ability once again. I could actually figure out the meaning of everything written there, but the 'you take damage' part was a bit vague. I would have to test it, though I had no idea how would I do that safely.
"Guys, what did you get?" asked Imaya with a slight smile. Though her usual cheery behavior was still subdued due to recent events, she already began to regain her usual self.
"We should continue moving towards the river, and we can speak along the way," offered Tobias.
"Right!" replied Imaya. "I'll begin: my Ability is called Holy Sight, and it improves my eyesight. Pretty neat stuff for an archer!" she grinned. "It's supposed to let me see in the dark, and it also helps in recognizing magical illusions!" She spun around as she said this, walking backwards. Her eyes were shining with a light green glow.
"If it's holy sight, why do your eyes shine green, not white?" I asked.
"Beats me," Imaya shrugged. "Maybe in this world, the heavens are green."
After a brief silence (while no doubt everyone tried to imagine God in green), I told them about my Ability. However, I deliberately omitted the part that I could teleport to the weapon. I didn't think anyone from this group would really betray us, but just in case, it didn't hurt to have my own ace in the hole. Besides, in any normal situation this Ability wouldn't even matter, so I didn't feel bad about hiding it.
"And just for the record, I don't think I'll be using this thing that much," I added. "I have no idea what would happen if the blade of the dagger broke while I was having a Dark Bond with it. Would my legs break, or would it be my spine?"
I got a few shocked looks from the others, but I held out Stabby in my right hand and concentrated on using my new Ability. I felt a strange tugging sensation in my other hand, as if it wanted to move. I could choose to ignore it, so it wasn't the same as it was with the Weapon Skills. I let the collar guide my movements. My left hand clenched the dagger's blade at the base, then my right hand slowly pulled the dagger out, as if I was unsheathing it. I was glad to see that it didn't cut my skin. As the blade left my grip, I could see that it was covered in some kind of faint black smoke, endlessly billowing around the weapon.
With the bond complete, it was time to test the second part of my Ability. I intended to drop my dagger and teleport it back to my hand before it reached the ground. Unfortunately, it was only what I wanted, but my collar had other ideas.
Pain erupted from every part of my body below my neck. The device was controlling me once again, only this time there wasn't any specific movement. I convulsed wildly, falling backwards, my head hitting the ground hard. I wanted to shout, to cry in my anguish, but I could barely breathe. Through tear-soaked eyes, I could make out the others coming over to help me, but suddenly their bodies stopped responding as well. Each of them had desperate expressions on their faces, but they didn't seem to be uncontrollably shaking like me. Their body moved on their own, hands slowly raising up to cover their own eyes.
It felt like every muscle in my body were cramping at the same time. My vision was beginning to fade as I couldn't get enough air. It felt like an eternity had passed since my body went into spasms. My agony was just becoming more and more intense. I could have imagined a less painful way to go, I thought between two especially strong waves of pain. I was just about to pass out, when I heard a faint click. I stopped shaking, and my body fell limp. My breathing was ragged, and I couldn't feel anything past my neck.
I couldn't see very well either, but I could make out a feminine figure in a suit, before she grabbed the back of my head, turned me over, and showed me face-first into the ground.
"Don't look," she said on a raspy voice.
Hearing the woman in the suit, everyone else began to talk at the same time. Soon they were shouting over each other's voice, demanding answers, and freedom, and a way back home. The woman holding me down ignored them, calmly tinkering with my collar.
"Inspector!" a new voice, this one male, spoke up. "The Council sent me to inform you. Since this one's device already needs recalibration, we might as well connect the prototype to it."
"The A-110 type weapon?" asked the Inspector.
"Yes, Inspector. Here, I've already brought it. Please set its base form to something small and simple when you link it."
"Why didn't they do this yesterday?"
"Something wasn't functioning properly and it burned out the last test subject's nervous system. The problem was quickly found and fixed soon after, but the Council had already decided to send out the current batch."
"Additionally, I'd like you to know that we have already found the person who is responsible for calibrating this one's Abilities. The Council handed over the case to you, Inspector, to punish him as you see fit."
"Sure," was all the woman said. Well, at least the man was talkative. Every information that we could glean might be helpful. I was still reeling from the pain, and my brain was struggling to make sense of the conversation, but I tried to commit all of it to memory.
I wished I could regain control over my body. If I could move, would it be difficult to wriggle myself free? These guys might have guns, but this might very well be my only chance. Whatever this recalibration meant, it might provide a window of opportunity for me to escape. There would probably be a moment when they had no control over me.
But what would that freedom mean? I would be still stuck in this world. Without the collar to gain Weapon Skills and magic, it would be even more difficult to survive on my own. Maybe someone would say that there is pride in dying as a free man and not as a slave, but that philosophy had no hold on me. I liked living much more than my pride.
Perhaps after a few weeks, I would change my mind. I didn't know a thing about surviving in the nature. I also didn't know what this so-called Council was planning for us. They seemed to be letting us do whatever we wanted, at least before this incident. I wondered which would be better: if they left us alone after this, or if they pestered us with their experiments and prototypes. The latter would provide better chances to escape from this world, but being a lab-rat would certainly be more dangerous. In the end, I was just glad that they decided not to simply kill us off and deem their experiment a failure, just because they had to intervene.
"This will hurt," the Inspector interrupted my thoughts, speaking right beside my ear.
Before I could prepare myself, she plunged a needle — possibly a syringe — into the back of my neck. A burning sensation crept along my spine and I couldn't keep myself from screaming. The sensation began to spread to my limbs, and it was finally too much. I passed out from the pain.
When I woke up, the sun had already set, but it was only relatively dark. I was lying on my back, staring lazily at the moon. This planet had a single one, just like on Earth, but it was larger than ours... or maybe it was just closer. It seemed to be brighter too, shining with a soft orange glow, a little like a dimmed sun. I turned my head to the left. There were still plenty of shadows, but the night looked much friendlier than it would have looked on Earth.
"Do you still feel your nerves?" asked Imaya so suddenly, that I flinched a little. I didn't realize she was there, behind my head. And what does that question even mean? When I sat up I saw the others anxiously hovering around as well.
"Ugh... yeah, I can still feel everything," I said, flexing my toes. "What happened?"
"Well... a few minutes after you fainted, that Inspector and the other guy have just simply disappeared," Imaya began to explain.
"When we could finally move," Tobias took over, "we couldn't find them anywhere, even though there was nowhere to hide. However, they left this behind," he said, placing down a small, curved dagger next to me.
The dagger was totally black, both blade and hilt looked to be made of obsidian. The only exception was an orange dot at the base of the blade right above a tiny crossguard, which seemed to be emitting a faint light. When I picked the weapon up by the handle, the length and shape of it seemed to adjust itself to my hand. I almost dropped it in surprise, but before my brain could catch on, the transformation was already over.
"Woah!" exclaimed Imaya. "It didn't do that when we were holding it!"
"Didn't you hear what that man said? It's obviously linked to him," Dana reprimanded her. She turned towards me, and for once she looked almost a bit eager.
"What can you tell us about it?" she asked.
"Umm... I don't kn-"
"The collar, you dumbass! What does it say?"
Couldn't she be a little more considerate? I wasn't usually in top form right after waking up, and that was without being tortured beforehand. I grudgingly touched my collar. The Companions tab on the right side menu immediately stood out, because it became clickable. I opened it up and found a 3D model of my black dagger, with a description next to the image.
Soul Eater, demon's fang
A powerful weapon created by legendary beings. It is a living weapon from an extremely rare and incredibly durable material. The weapon's true capabilities are still a mystery, but one thing is certain: it needs to consume souls regularly. Otherwise, if not fed properly, Soul Eater will devour its owner's soul.
"Well then," I said with fake cheerfulness, "how can I un-own this thing?"
After everyone had satisfied their curiosity, they have left me alone with the two tibbars. They blamed me for losing my bag in the fight, so as my punishment, I had to skin and gut the animals. Having barely survived a malfunctioning collar was not a good enough excuse. Though technically it wasn't me who lost the bag, I didn't bother to correct them. The only one who could have objected was Devi'lynn, and they didn't ask her opinion on the matter.
At least I finally had time to think things through. My team had made a good effort to put as much distance between us and those cursed hills as possible. I had been carried by Pell while I was out.
The place Tobias had chosen for the night was next to a lonely tree along the riverbank. There weren't many dry wood around this area, so I didn't know how the others planned to cook the meat. Hopefully they could gather enough while I skinned the animals. They had a lot of time, because my progress was really slow. I had basically no idea what I was doing.
My thoughts were occupied with the two strange figures and my near-death experience. I tried not to dwell too much on the memory of the pain, but it wasn't easy. It was as if I could still feel some of it, like... some fire coursing through my veins. Even just the thought of my convulsing body made my heartbeat rise. But if I got past those memories, a lot of interesting observations could be made.
First of all, now we knew that with the collar, this Inspector and her associates could control our bodies. However, they didn't control our head and more importantly, didn't control our mind. My memories were intact, as far as I could tell. Of course, if they could erase memories, I probably wouldn't remember them being erased.
Next, there was the fact that I could understand what the Inspector and the other guy was talking about. They didn't do it for our benefit, so this meant that the two of them were most likely human. It bothered me more than a little that they didn't even care whether we heard them or not. I got the impression that they normally didn't involve themselves with the 'test subjects', but it seemed like it wasn't really important to them whether us lab rats knew about the existence of other beings outside of our little labyrinth. This would be an easy explanation, but one detail didn't fit: they didn't want us to have a good look at them. If they didn't care, why bother covering our eyes?
Maybe they aren't human after all. They could just speak in our language to deceive us, but that would mean that they cared about what we thought about them. Maybe this whole 'test subject' thing was also an act.
Either way, the incident had confirmed for us that we were indeed transported here by someone and it wasn't by mistake. Did this mean that we were in some kind of simulation? Testing the collars, or testing something else? I would have to ask my team, because they had been probably talking about this when I was unconscious.
There was one more important thing which we had learned: we weren't the only collared ones here, and we wouldn't be the last. If other people had managed to survive, we needed find them and see if they had more information about our kidnappers.
The meat wasn't as bad as I had expected. A bit chewy and a bit tasteless, but certainly edible. Cooking it went smoothly as well, with the 'most useful Ability of the day' award going to Tobias. None of us knew how to light a fire, but luckily we didn't even need to try. It turned out that Tobias had gained the Ability to set his sword aflame. He could even increase or decrease the intensity of the crimson flames that enveloped his blade. It was the ultimate barbecue skewer, if you overlooked the fact that it roasted the meat from the inside out. As we ate the first tibbar, Tobias had recovered enough mana to be able to cook the second one as well.
After dinner I sat aside from the others, leaning against the base of the single tree that we were camping next to. My collar's menu was open, and I was staring at my attributes. During the fight with the gnomes I had leveled up several times, and I was level 6 now. Below my attributes, a new line had appeared: Unspent points: 5. Next to each five of my attributes, there was a faint + sign.
Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Magic, and Spirit. During dinner, Imaya had chattered a lot about them, borrowing knowledge from her plentiful gaming experience. There was no guarantee that anything she had said applied here, though.
After a bit of consideration, I put all of my points on Endurance. I didn't know how much it mattered, but if there was a chance that it would make me more vigorous, I'd take it. The next few days would probably be spent by walking, walking, and then some more walking. I didn't need fancy magic or dexterity stats for that.
Our little group's goal was to find some kind of settlement, or at least other people. What would happen after that was still a mystery. The two Sylven would probably leave us at some point, as there was no reason for them to stay if they couldn't even talk to us. Likewise, it seemed that I was fated to collect souls for my dagger. It didn't take a genius to conclude that I would have to kill things. I couldn't expect it from the others to help me killing other beings for the rest of my life. This meant that we would be parting ways sooner or later.
I was thinking about the possible outcomes of the next few days, and I was thinking about home. This entire situation had come out of the blue, and my mind was still struggling to comprehend everything. I wished I could just lay down here and go to sleep, then wake up in my bed tomorrow morning. This was a fun nightmare, but enough was enough.
I looked up as I heard footsteps approaching. Due to the plentiful moonlight, I could easily recognize that it was Imaya.
"Randel?" she asked, making me wince. She was as loud as ever. When I gave her a small wave, she came over and sat next to me. "The rest of us have been talking about our stats and our party composition."
"Yeah, I heard most of it," I replied. "Interesting stuff."
Supports, tanks, damage dealers. Never mind that we didn't even have proper weapons for everyone, they were already discussing who fit which role.
"Right. So, I've been wondering, which attribute will you be focusing on?"
I frowned. "Do I have to? Can't I just distribute them evenly?"
"No! I mean yes, you can, but I wouldn't recommend it. There is this thing called diminishing returns, sure, but listen to this: if everyone spends their points evenly, none of us would be exceptionally good at anything, right? What if a task needs exceptional strength? None of us would be able to do it. But, if we stay as a team and everyone focuses on different stats, we can help each other out."
"I see. Individually, we should avoid being jack of all trades."
"Exactly!" she agreed. "I'm not saying that you have to put everything on a single attribute, but try not to spread yourself too thin."
"Alright, I get it," I said, but after a pause I added, "but I'm not sure that I agree."
"What? Why?" she sounded incredulous. "Why don't you agree? Don't you want as to be a team?"
"No, that's not what I'm saying. I admit that you have much more experience with games than I have. But there is one thing that you are overlooking, and it is a really big one: this isn't a game."
I waited for her retort, but none came. After a few more seconds, I was the one who broke the silence.
"I thought you would protest that maybe all of this is just a virtual reality and we are actually lying in our beds. Or that because we haven't tested it yet, we wouldn't know if we could respawn. What's on your mind?"
"I..." Imaya trailed off. "Yeah, that would be good. It would be comforting to know that nothing could actually harm us. But..." Her voice turned soft and shook a little. "After what happened with the... at the gnomes... and t-then with you.. It- it just felt so real. So... I think you might be right."
I didn't say anything. It wasn't difficult, because I had no idea how to respond. I decided to wait it out; maybe she had more to say. Whether she wanted to speak more about our near-death experience, or she wanted to change topic, it was up to her.
"Umm... I think I already implied it but- but I'd like to say thank you. For... looking out for me back then. Maybe I... did not look too grateful, but I really was. I am."
"Don't worry about it," I waved it off. "You already thanked me when you helped me skin those tibbars. You were so fast that you basically did all the work by yourself!"
"Yeah, well, you clearly sucked at it."
Ouch. Hearing that as someone whose chosen weapon is the dagger, well, it was a bit cruel. But wait a second! Maybe I had just let her do most of the work on purpose. This way she had felt that she thanked me properly through her tremendous help in preparing dinner. Yes, that was the story I was going to go with. Randel, the True Gentleman strikes again!
"So, how would you distribute the points, now that we agree that this isn't actually a game?" she jumped back to our previous topic.
"Well, first of all, I'm still not totally against specializing. But in my opinion, a few points on everything would help us out a lot. If our bodies gain muscles because of a few digital points, who could say no to that?"
"Yeah, you got me there," she said, and I could hear the smile in her voice. "I was also wondering about Endurance. Should my body require less sleep, I could spend my time on more useful things!"
"Like watching anime and reading manga?" I asked.
"Oh wow! Are you a mind reader?" she exclaimed jokingly. "Do you think they have such things here? It would be awesome. But, if they didn't have any, it would be awesome too! I'd just start up my own studio and make tons of money!"
I was just gaping at her for a moment. Actually, that's not a bad idea. Assuming we could find civilized people, of course. If we could bring new and unique ideas from our world into this one, it would be easy to get rich.
"Let me just tell you," I said finally, "that in my opinion, you already have too much energy. Don't you dare to put a single point on Endurance!"
"Ha! Lady Archer does as she pleases!" she said with mock indignation. "But jokes aside, I'm not hundred percent sure that's how Endurance or Strength works. This collar recognizes when we are fighting. It can be possible that it gives us those bonuses only when we are performing the Weapon Skills. You know, that's the only time when the collar is actually in control."
"Hmm, I haven't thought about it, but it can be true. It would then mean that for some people, putting points on Strength or on Magic would be a waste. I can accept that. But I still stand by my original opinion."
"Oh? What is that?"
"You shouldn't treat any of this as if it was a game. What does it matter if none of us specializes and we aren't the best? This isn't some kind of competition where we have to kill the biggest boss-monster as fast as possible. The most important thing is staying alive."
"I... yeah, I agree," Imaya muttered.
I closed my eyes, sighing softly. "In a world where we can't just simply respawn and laugh off our mistakes, we have to be careful what kind of mistakes we make. We can't just simply experiment with different 'playstyles' and switch to a new one if one of them fails. Failure could mean death. If a tank dies, they wouldn't complain afterwards that the support didn't heal them fast enough. They would be dead."
After that, neither of us said anything else. As reality began to sink in, we just sat there in silence for a long, long time.