"So, how does this test work? The name's pretty self-explanatory, but if there are any catches, I'd appreciate knowing them, thanks," Daz said to the android that was floating in front of him.
He, Madison, and Rimmy were now in the Power-Stripped Survival Test's lobby. There were only a few hundred people in here, clearly, it wasn't the most popular of tests.
"Of course, Sir. This test is incredibly simple. All of your skills, stats, items, evolutions, everything that has been given to you or earnt from the system, shall all be temporarily stripped from you as you are faced with challenges. Like a lot of other tests in the amusement centre, it is an endless trial. You will be awarded with merit points based upon how many trials you complete and based upon which ones you complete," The robot explained.
Daz raised an eyebrow. "Which ones?"
"Indeed. The trials are randomised. You may get an unlucky draw and will be forced to fight an overpowering monster, or perhaps lady luck favours you and you'll be given twenty simple physical challenges in a row," the android said calmly.
"Huh. Sounds interesting. Maddy, wanna give it a try, or will you stay on the sidelines again? I have a feeling Rose suggested this room because of our esper powers. I think we'll keep them in there. Yours might be even more useful than mine in this kind of trial," Daz noted encouragingly.
Madison held her chin in her hand and tilted her head a little bit. "Give, up?"
The android looked a bit confused for a split-second before it interpreted what she meant. "Yes, Madam. It is entirely possible to surrender mid-way if you think a trial is beyond your capabilities."
"Okay. Do, it," Madison declared as her eyes sparkled. 'If I don't need to get hurt, then I wanna do the same thing as Daz!'
'Cute,' her boyfriend unconsciously thought. Daz peeled his eyes away from his adorable girlfriend and looked at the android once more. "Are there any other rewards, or is it pure merit points?"
"Yes, Sir. There is a very small chance that you may clear a 'golden trial'. These trials are impossible to distinguish from the normal ones, but successfully clearing one shall result in the host being rewarded with a lucky draw from a very special lottery. For reference, as of now, a total of four-thousand-five-hundred-and-sixty-seven hosts have cleared a little over twenty-thousand trials collectively but no one has cleared a golden trial as of yet," the robot explained happily.
"Huh. Sounds interesting. We'll both do it then, I suppose," Daz replied.
"Of course. There is a small fee of two-thousand merit points to participate," the android said as a prompt filled both Daz and Madison's vision asking them for the required money.
They both accepted, naturally.
|The total balance of the host is now: 71,727,365 [-2,000].|
With that, they said their goodbyes to Rimmy and both entered the trial.
As soon as Daz had stepped through a door leading to the trial, a massive cascade of white light washed over him and started taking everything that he'd gotten from the system away.
It felt... draining. Daz likened himself to a balloon deflating. The sensation was... unpleasant. Once it was over, his hair was dark brown once more, his face was rougher and his skin felt cold.
Looking down, Daz realised that he was almost completely naked save for his underwear. "Ah, that makes sense. The Travelling Gear of Altros was given to me by Altros, yeah, but it was given via the system. Hamson's brand is gone too. So are my gems and Reika. Man, I feel weak."
He looked around a bit, but all he could see was the nothingness created by the darkness that surrounded him.
|First trial: Acquire clothing in any way possible.|
"Blue?" It had been a long time in Daz's mind since he last saw a blue system notification. It felt almost nostalgic.
With another bright flash, Daz's surroundings changed. He was now stood in the middle of an open square in some sort of town. The buildings were made of wood, and the ground he was stood on was mostly dirt.
A hand suddenly grabbed his arm and twisted his wrist behind his back. Moving his head, Daz could see an angry looking man apprehending him who was wearing sloppy clothing, but he had a breastplate on with a crest painted in its centre.
'Some sort of medieval kingdom's soldier or something? I guess I'm being arrested for indecent exposure?' Daz concluded.
He couldn't understand the words being thrown his way, but he didn't resist. He let the man drag him away as he waited for an opportunity.
It was only once they were in the town's prison that he got his chance. Just as he was being tossed into his new home - a cell - did he finally have a moment alone with the solider 'escorting' him.
He wriggled free from the man's hands and kicked him as hard as he could in his genitalia. Before the man had a chance to scream, Daz punched him incredibly hard in the chin as the man hunched over to protect his groin, knocking him out.
Daz grabbed the man's body to prevent it from making any noise as it fell. With a bit of difficulty, he stripped the man and put on his clothing. He was about two size's too small for the soldier's clothes, but thankfully he had a belt designed to keep his standard issue sword affixed to his waist which Daz could use to compensate for the difference in stature.
|Congratulations! You have successfully completed the first trial.|
He was brought back to the lightless room and he immediately noticed that the breastplate, as well as the sword that he'd acquired, were now gone. He had only been left with the poor quality clothing of the soldier's.
"Huh. So no extras? I only get to bring the stuff that I'm told to get? I wonder if I get to keep these things when I leave? I shoulda asked about that beforehand. Oh well. As Rose would say, 'hindsight is twenty-twenty', right?" Daz joked to himself as he waited for the next trial's notification.
|Second trial: Clear the obstacle course.|
|Third trial: Escape your pursuers.|
|Sixth trial: Acquire a weapon.|
|Tenth trial: Assassinate Sector 17's minister of finances.|
|Twenty-second trial: Acquire a nanosuit.|
|Thirty-fifth trial: Prevent the Star of Miplon from imploding.|
|Sixty-seventh trial: Slay Worldeater Grimbalda.|
Daz narrowly avoided an attack from the massive collection of ideas that had materialised into the Worldeater before him.
His instincts quickly told him to move right as soon as possible. With but a thought, his nanosuit moved him far faster than his body was able to.
Sweat covered his face underneath his mask. 'Shit. It's too fast. I can't even hurt it with my guns, so is this even possible to kill? Maybe I just got super unlucky?'
As that thought escaped his mind, his nanosuit ran out of power. He didn't panic and moved to the best of his ability.
His instincts guided him as he lost an arm to an attack. It was instantly devoured by the Worldeater. Daz frowned. "I surrender."
He felt that there would be no possible way for him to defeat this creature with his human body, even despite his instincts. Losing his arm in that last attack had solidified his doubts.
With his forfeiture, Daz was returned to the black room once more. With a final cascade of white light, his items, skills and species were restored.
|Congratulations! You successfully cleared a total of 66 trials in the Power-Stripped Survival Test.|
|6,578,030 merit points.|
|The total balance of the host is now: 78,305,395 [+6,578,030].|
Daz wandered out of the black room and returned to the lobby as he was lost in his thoughts. 'So I didn't clear any golden trials, huh? I wonder if killing that Worldeater would have counted as clearing a golden trial? Still, six-point-five-mil isn't that much compared to the other tests. The experience was certainly novel and a bit entertaining. I'm definitely disappointed that I didn't get to keep any of the gear I earned in the trials though.'
A whistling sound filled Daz's ears, derailing his train of thoughts.
"You completed some pretty tough trials, didntcha?" Looking at this voice's owner, Daz saw an average-looking teenager with a peculiar set of pistols strapped to his waist. The only other thing of note in regards to this boy's appearance was that he seemed to have gills on his exposed neck.
"Did I? They all felt the same except for that last one," Daz replied a bit dismissively as he began scanning the screens in search of Madison. Since she had yet to greet him, it was obvious that she was still taking part in the trial.
"You did seem really calm all the way through, I suppose. Normally losing an arm would leave someone rolling about on the floor crying their soul out, y'know?" the boy noted.
"Once you've lost an arm once or twice before, you get used to it," Daz said monotonously with a light shrug. 'What does this guy want? I'd prefer it if he stopped beating around the bush and just told me what he was after.'
The boy looked a bit surprised before he laughed. "I guess that makes sense. Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Daz. I've gotta go grab some more merit points real quick before the last auction starts, so I'll catch you later."
Daz didn't respond as the teenager wandered out of the room back into the massive hallway which connected each of the tests and gambling centres. "So he was a champion?" Daz noted in a mumble.
It wasn't long before Daz found the screen showing off Madison's exploits in the test.
As he had expected, this trial was a good fit for her. Not only had she gotten extremely lucky thus far, but she'd also only had one encounter with an undefeatable trial. Using her esper power, she had managed to 'alter' the trial's setting, or at least that's what Daz had concluded. He still didn't know how her power worked, after all.
Once she'd cleared her two-hundredth trial, she gave up abruptly. It didn't take her long to find Daz. She quickly hugged and kissed him on the cheek before she collected herself and stood next to him calmly.
"Why'd you give up?" Daz asked as they left the room.
"Bored. Missed, you," Madison admitted with a slight incline of her head.
Daz couldn't dissuade his face from creating a loose smile. "That's sweet of you. What'd you get as a reward, by the way?"
"Mmm, twenty, million, and, lottery," Madison said as she took off her backpack and rummaged about in it before she pulled out a small golden ticket that was quite different from the auction ones. "Rip, to, spin."
"You got a golden trial and beat it, huh? Good job, Maddy. I wonder what you'll get from that?" Daz asked rhetorically as he stroked his jawline.
"Don't, know. Find, out?" Madison asked in turn as she tilted her head cutely.
"Sure. I have an item token and two skill upgrade tokens too, so we can do all of that in a training room if you want?" Daz suggested.
Madison happily nodded her head as her eyes smiled. "Sounds, good."
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