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The party awoke the next morning well before sunrise for the second day in a row. James lit the sconces on the walls and quickly cooked up some breakfast. He would certainly have to learn a new recipe soon. A quick glance at his interface confirmed that he was close. He needed two more levels in cooking to reach Level 20. If everything he learned about the game so far were right, he would get to choose another recipe then. James briefly wondered if he should grind it out right then since he still had plenty of Ingo meat and Tucca, but he decided against it. Doing so would have been a good use of his time, and was exactly how he wanted to leverage the time slowing effects of the spirit vessel, but he had a party to think about now. Alex was the only person that was able to work on a skill while they were close to the cabin, so Patrick and Lilly dawdled around, too scared to leave the cabin so early and risk waking the Martyrs. No, James would take a page out of Frode’s book and, ‘Kill two birds with one stone.’

“Hey, guys, I know what we can do to make our morning free time more productive,” James began. When everyone was finished yawning and he had their full attention, he continued, “Let’s build a training area next door. That way we can all train with the extra time we get from the spirit vessel.”

“Is there enough room on the cliff?” Lilly asked.

“I have been thinking about that. There isn’t much room, only enough for a small area. But hopefully, later on, we will be able to dig into the mountain a little and expand it.” James replied, turning his head to a yawning Patrick. “Looking at you, buddy!"

“I’m on it. Lilly found me a pickaxe! So I can get started immediately,” Patrick said.

“Nice! What else did you find?" James asked, turning his head from Patrick to Lilly.

“The pickaxe was probably the most useful, but I found some stone carving tools along with some stone and metal cooking items. A large metal pot, cups, bowls, etc.” Lilly replied, gesturing to the long table. “I put them all behind the bar.”

“I wish I knew that before I ate breakfast with my hands again.” Patrick laughed.

“Sorry!” Lilly squeaked before flushing. “I am usually better about those things.”

“It’s cool,” Patrick said before hefting his pickaxe over his shoulder and heading out of the cabin.

“Alex, do you think you have enough wood to build a dummy that we can practice attacking?” James asked. “If you can make a sturdy frame I have enough Ingo skins to wrap and pad it.”

Alex looked around the bar area and found his small pile of wood scraps. “Yeah, I can probably make 3 or 4 human-sized figures, but I will be tapped out after that.”

“Great, let's get to work!” James announced and moved to exit the cabin.

“Wait! What do I do?” Lilly interrupted.

“You can either help Alex and me or bring up some grain from the basement. I want to try and brew some beer with the grain and that metal pot,” James said, winking at them.

When they exited the cabin, Alex laid a hand on James's shoulder to slow him. The two let Lilly walk ahead.

"Hey, do you think this bar thing is a good idea? I mean, I get why we started to build it but are it smart to continue putting our resources into it?" Alex whispered conspiratorially with a concerned look on his face, "Don't get me wrong, I have seen first-hand in the military how far even a small morale boost could take you..."

"I understand, I understand. The wink I gave earlier was mostly for Lilly. I honestly am not sure what she can do to contribute right now," James whispered back. "That is why I told her to get the grain. I have no illusions about how real our situation is. Getting stronger, safer, and finding information will always be our top priorities, not recreation. I just wanted to make sure Lilly felt like she was contributing to rebuilding her old home."

"Okay, good. I am glad we are on the same page. I agree that we needed a morale boost too, just not at the expense of our lives." Alex lowered his head and went silent for a while before meeting James's gaze once again. "So, we'll complete this training area, and then everyone will have a chance to be productive, right? Even Lilly?"

"That's the plan, Stan."

***

By the time the sun came up that day, the party had completed the training area, and Patrick had finally gained the Mining skill. He wasn’t able to make any noticeable progress on the mountain yet, but James was glad that his hunch about the skill correct.

James opened his town building interface and saw the training area located next to the cabin on the cliff.

Basic Training Area - Attacks, spells, and abilities can be trained in this area. They will gain experience as they would in actual battle, but at a 60% slower rate.

“Okay..." James murmured. He looked around to see if anyone noticed him talking to himself. Lilly had left to go bring up some grain sacks, Patrick was relentlessly swinging away at the mountain, and Alex was training his unarmed combat against the dummies they had built.

James investigated his interface further and saw that he could decrease the experience penalty by 10% if he built an advanced training area. The advanced level of the training area had a wooden fence, benches to sit on, and weapon racks. He knew that the party could build this upgrade easily, however, when the option was selected, the advanced training area became red in his map overlay. They would have to dig into the mountain a good 30 feet before they had the room to upgrade the training area.

No matter, James thought. He was happy to have a place everyone could train. Even Lilly would be able to grind her light spells here!

At the top of the town building map overlay, James could see a tree icon indicating that he had 230 pieces of wood. When he focused on it, a highlight appeared at the mountain base indicating the actual woodpile. The Martyrs had finished tearing down the houses. Martyr tents took some of their places while others were just titled, ‘Empty lot.’

James mentally pulled up more information for the Martyr tents and realized they gave no bonuses. He then checked out all the other buildings. The half-burnt church that gave them access to the cliff area also gave no bonuses, but James could see he had the option to give it a proper name. He changed it to ‘The Tower of Stairs.’ The Cabin on the Cliff was already named as such. James liked the ring of it so decided not to change it. He also saw that it had a bonus attached.

Spirit Vessel - Time moves 30% slower in the Cabin on the Cliff and the surrounding areas.

Unfinished Bar - Morale is increased by 0% within the Cabin on the Cliff.

James was very curious to see the effects an actual morale boost through the game interface would bring. He wondered if Lilly felt better because they had started to improve the village or if she wouldn't feel better until the bar was complete. James himself felt a little hope knowing they would get a bar eventually, but he wasn’t an NPC. He recalled how Lilly seemed in a pretty good mood ever since they decided to rebuild the town, so he tossed the idea from his mind.

Food - 5 of unlimited (Daily Consumption = 35).

“Shit,” James said out loud, causing Alex to look over from his fight with the training dummy. That moment James realized two things. One, he would need to get some food for the town as soon as possible. Two, his management of the town would eventually decrease the amount of time he spent training. He had only spent a few minutes in his interface just now, but all that time would add up during the long run. It was admittedly the first day that this happened, so James was happy he realized it. He was suddenly appreciative of his strategy to only invest in Wisdom. The experience gain boost should be enough to keep him from falling below his party in the level department, even while he did management things and they trained.

“Alex!” James called out, “we need to go on a food run!"

***

James, Alex, and Patrick found their first Ingo nest just 10 minutes from the village. Before they left, Alex made a good point that Lilly should stay back. James agreed and told her they needed her to find a way to craft some proper clothes. It was true, as all of them still wore most of their starting gear, but the actual reason was that she couldn’t respawn if anything went wrong. Lilly also agreed to notify the Chieftain that they were leaving the village, just in case.

James activated Jump Strike, poised his blade above his head in a familiar movement, and prepared to land. Right before he did, Patrick bowled into the bunch of Ingos and knocked them all over, effectively removing the Ingos from the path of James's Jump Strike ability. James landed with an impact that drained double the energy that a completed Jump Strike would have.

“Shit,” James said as he struggled to compose himself. He didn't want to move as slowly as he was, especially in the middle of a battle, but the exhaustion of losing so much energy over a short period wore him out.

“Sorry!” Patrick called out as he swung his sword in a sweeping arc. “It's a new ability! I wasn't sure what it was going to do!"

James heard Alex chuckle as he ran past to join the fight. James just sighed as he attempted to run with his slow and fatigued muscles.

***

A loud crash followed by a lingering clang echoed throughout the ground level of the cabin on the cliff. James had finished emptying his satchel from the day of hunting. After the party had slain their first Ingo boss, they decided to gather up all the loot and sort through it later. They wanted to get ahead of the food shortage problem, so James decided that speed was of the essence, and since the Ingo camps were so easy to clear as it was, they didn’t see the point in equipping stronger gear just then.

Lilly let out a gasp as the pile of loot began to glow with grey, white, and green light. “Oh my god, an uncommon item!” Lilly exclaimed as she dug through the pile to pull out the item that was giving off a green glow.

True Iron Maul (Uncommon) 20-30 Damage + Cripple Effect - 10% chance to cripple, causing movement and attack speed to be reduced for 30 seconds.

“Wow,” James gasped. “That does more than four times the damage of my Martyr Skinning Knife."

“It’s even double my greatsword,” Patrick said slowly, drool threatening to escape his mouth.

James wanted it - there was no doubt about it - but he couldn’t even find a semi-logical reason why he should have it, even with the greed coursing through his body. “Well, I think Patrick should have it. What do you guys think?”

The other party members let out a sigh but reluctantly agreed. Patrick let out an ear-shattering, "Woohoo!" then rushed to grab the maul. “I have a two-handed skill as well, so I will still be able to use my new skill!”

The rest of the loot wasn’t on the same level as the maul. It was mostly common and widespread items, but, combined with the shirts and pants Lilly was able to fashion; it filled the most significant gaps in the party's gear.

James watched the party as they excitedly equipped their share of the gear and was amazed at how more prepared they looked. His party wasn’t exactly formidable yet, but at least they didn’t look half naked and continuously dirty anymore. James even looked better himself. After his death from the Oana attack he lost his shoulder armor, but now that hole in his heart was starting to fill.

Alex got a pair of gloves with hardened leather studs over his knuckles that would undoubtedly help his unarmed style of combat. Patrick got the uncommon maul and filled out in his severely lacking armor department with various pieces. Lilly got a book written in a strange language no one could understand. James originally wanted it to study, as his Intelligence level was the highest, but he conceded to give it to Lilly since she had the second highest Intelligence and much more available free time. James got a strange device with metal hooks. Upon further inspection, he saw it was for one of his sheath slots, but he wasn’t sure what it would carry. It was Lilly that gave him the idea to put it over his hand and on his bracer. He did so and realized that the item fit perfectly over his bracers. The metal hooks jutted out just enough that he could use them as a weapon if he needed. James nodded his head in satisfaction as he gave his now weaponized bracers some practice swipes.

Statistics

James – Level 14 (1 level gained since last open)

Constitution, Level 6 – Controls how much health you have

Strength, Level 6 – Affects your ability to use weapons, lift objects, and your size

Endurance, Level 5 – Controls how much energy you have

Agility, Level 5 – Controls your movement abilities in battle, dodge, critical strikes, and unarmed combat damage

Will, Level 5 – Controls how low your HP can drop before you go into shock, and more

Intelligence, Level 20 – Controls the data you can gather from your interface, the world, and how much mana you have

Wisdom, Level 25 - Controls the rate at which you gain all types of experience, and more

Health, 60

Endurance, 50

2 statistic points ready to distribute.

James invested his 2 points into Wisdom as he settled into his fur pile for the night. Then he remembered to check the town builder interface to see if it updated the food count. When they returned to town, James had placed all the Ingo meat he gathered from the day in one of the cabins with a crewed guard station on top. It did indeed update the food count, and they had enough to survive for at least a few weeks. James noticed that the food counter also displayed a rot countdown. He had more than enough time to find a better way to store the food, but it wouldn’t last indefinitely. Besides, the food would be eaten long before it was in danger of spoiling.

Skills

Sneak, Level 5 (1 level gained recently) – Visibility & sound decreased by 5% while sneaking

Skinning, Level 19 (5 levels gained recently) – Time to skin & error rate decreased by 19% while skinning. Error rate when skinning tougher skinned creatures reduced by an additional 50%

Cooking, Level 18 (5 levels gained recently) – Food is 18% more delicious. Stat buffs from meals that award them increased by 18%

Fire, Level 12 (3 levels gained recently) – Your mastery of fire is increased by 12%

Short Swords, Level 21 (4 levels gained recently) – Damage done with short swords increased by 21%

Short Sword Ability “Jump Strike,” Level 10 (4 levels gained recently) – Chance to stun 70% (20% + 5%/lvl)

Small Shields, Level 13 (4 levels gained recently) Chance to fully deflect or block an attack increased by 23% (10% + 1%/lvl)

Party Leader. Level 2 (1 level gained recently) Damage taken by party members reduced by 2% (1%/lvl)

Congratulations! Your Short Swords skill has surpassed Level 20. You can now choose from the below 2 sub-skills.

Sub-skill 1 - Dual Wield - Allows you to dual wield 2 short swords.

Sub-skill 2 - Whirlwind - Allows you to spin your short sword in wide circles, extending the reach and increasing damage by 10%.

“Nice,” James whispered to himself. This was precisely what he was looking for - a way to increase his damage in battle and be a more productive member of the party. He chose the Dual Wield skill.

Dual Wield, Level 1 – Damage penalty from dual wielding decreased by 1%. Current damage penalty when dual wielding equals 59% for both weapons.

Looking over his new skill information, James surmised that dual wielding actually decreased your overall damage because it gave you a penalty to weapon damage on both weapons, but if you increase the skill to Level ten you would only get a 50% penalty to each weapon. He figured that if you had the same weapon in each hand and a dual wield skill of Level ten, you would still do the same damage as if you only used one of the weapons. This skill would be useful if there were enemies out there with a disarm skill or if he could level it above 60 and do the full damage with both weapons. Getting his creative juices flowing he explored the possibilities of this skill. It would already increase his survivability rate, in the event he was ever disarmed. Probably the most significant benefit though would be stat increases and special effects. He needed to find two uncommon or better short swords that had special effects and level his new skill as soon as possible.

Congratulations! Your Jump Strike sub-skill has surpassed Level 10. You can now choose from the below 2 augments.

Augment 1 - Tremor - Land with such force the ground trembles beneath you. Surrounding enemies are slowed for 1 second.

Augment 2 - Practiced - Energy costs when activating this ability are reduced by 10%.

If these augments increased in effect with each level he gained, they would both become instrumental. James knew the practiced augment was the smarter decision, at least for what he knew about the world so far, but his mind quickly imagined him soaring through the air, dual blades poised above his head, and landing like a comet that shook the ground and his enemy's will to fight. He chose the Tremor augment quickly, before he could talk himself out of it.

Congratulations! Your Small Shield skill has surpassed Level 10. You can now choose from the below 2 sub-skills.

Sub-skill 1 - Bash - You bash your enemies with your shield, causing them to stumble. Knockback chance 10%.

Sub-skill 2 - Hero - Permanently increase your Constitution by 2.

This choice was much more comfortable than the two before. Torunn and Patrick were turning out to be decent tanks, both in their unique way. Plus, he had the dual wield skill now, so he didn’t need a shield. The only reason James gave the decision any thought at all was because of his Jump Strike skill. It got exponentially more potent after Level 20, proving that if he just stuck with a particular skill, it would become more powerful due to augments and sub-skills. It would indeed be better to level a few skills really high rather than have a ton of medium level skills. Still, he hadn’t been in this new world long, and if what Alex and Patrick said was true, he would be here for a while. James chose the Hero sub-skill and watched his health bar increase slightly. It was the first time he raised his Constitution. James took a sharp breath as a new vigor filled his body. He felt like he had just overcome the flu that he was never aware he had.

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About the author

BigMartyrs

Bio: Writer of disparate LitRPG stories.

Current works = Legends of the Great Savanna (published) , Milton (Ongoing)

Stay in touch at JLLincoln.com

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