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I woke up the next morning, stretching out in bed. Rolling out of bed, I headed towards the door and jammed my fingers against the door itself as I missed the doorknob. What the hell was that? I managed to open the door on my second try, though the first miss still bothered me. Moving down the hallway and downstairs, I almost tripped over my own feet several times.

“Gonna stay for breakfast today?” Alnoss asked me as I flopped down into a chair by the counter.

“Yeah.” I replied in a distracted tone. “Whatever you’re serving will be fine.” I missed the odd look Alnoss gave me before she went into the kitchen, as I was busy composing an email to Emily with an emergency request.

Emily,

Woke up this morning and I seem to be just slightly off with motor functions. Is this something like the alcohol episode?

Marty

Midway through my breakfast of steak and eggs, I got a reply.

Marty,

I looked into it and everything seems to be normal in regards to your character. Please head to your room so that I can join you virtually, email will be too slow for this.

Emily

I inhaled the rest of breakfast, though I had to pay special attention to my movements as everything still felt off. “Thanks Alnoss, and sorry I’ve been so distracted. I’ll fill you in on it when I figure it out.”

“You better Angus, or I will have Khaliss decide you need special training. Perhaps you wish to learn physical damage resistance?”

“No need for that!” I squeaked, carefully retreating back to my room.

“Hey Marty, go ahead and sit on the bed and explain what’s going on.” Emily said, her avatar a simple robed figure with the cowl darkening the face enough that I couldn’t see.

“Well, I started out this morning and missed the doorknob. Walking down the hall and stairs I almost fell three times, and breakfast was a chore. I had to pay extra attention so that I didn’t miss with my fork.”

“I see. You finished the dungeon yesterday? How many levels did you gain?”

“Just over thirty, why would that be important?”

“Ok, that explains it. Congrats, you are one of the very few who have ever gained so many levels at once that you are actually experiencing power ataxia.”

“Can you explain just what that is? It sounds, kinda bad.” I asked when she paused to stare at me.

“First, I have to explain how things work a little bit with stats. Strength is the easiest. Tell me, have you ever seen anyone crush rocks with their bare hands?”

“Not really sure where this is going, but no I haven’t.”

“Good. The reason is that stats aren’t increasing your bodily functions for the most part. Strength doesn’t make you stronger, either here or in real life. What happens is things have a minimum strength to lift. If you have enough strength, the game will let you lift the object. If two people are arm wrestling, the one with the higher strength gets a boost.”

“Ok, that actually makes a bit of sense. Still doesn’t explain everything.”

“I’m getting there, be patient.” She snapped. “Your demigod status gives you five points per level to each stat, so you just gained over a hundred fifty points to each one. The issue is that you boosted agility and dexterity. Agility slightly increases your speed, and a few points here or there isn’t noticeable. You gained enough for it to be noticeable. So until you spend a day or two adjusting, you are going to have some small issues.”

“So what is ataxia? And what do the other stats do if you don’t mind explaining?”

“Ataxia is simply a disconnect in muscle movement. Your brain expects your body to move at its slower speed, but since it is moving faster your movements are uncoordinated. And I don’t see the harm in explaining the rest, most of it is well known anyway. Dexterity boosts your fine motor skills, so you are less likely to drop things in your hand. Intelligence boosts skill learning, and wisdom increases your ability to notice clues.”

“Huh, seems normal enough. How does wisdom work though?”

“The AI will cause things to flash in the corner of your vision that you need. Not enough to be visual, but a subliminal hint.”

“I thought subliminal messages were outlawed though?”

“Well, we found a loophole in the legislation. The government regularly audits us, and have since closed the loophole. Anyway, what we do isn’t a message, just something highlighted for a fraction of a second. You are free to notice or ignore it as you wish.”

“I see. Can I also assume that there is something buried in the terms of service? For the lawyerly types?”

“Yep.” She said with a cheerful tone. “Oh, and I brought up your question to the developers. They are leaving in the experience boost. Since the second dungeon dive is optional, they are using it as a way to boost past the early levels for those that aren’t keen on evolving and restarting at level 1. While it is doubtful someone will boost through thirty levels like you did, even one kill will give them several levels. Now that all that is taken care of, I have other things I need to do. Call me if you have any other issues.”

“Thanks Em, I was really worried we had another incident on our hands. I really appreciate the quick response.”

“You’re welcome.” She said after a moments hesitation, then disappeared as she logged out.

“Wonder what she was hesitating about?” I muttered, before heading carefully back downstairs.

“I’m back Alnoss.”

“And?”

“And I’m sorry.” I said, picking up a fork and twirling it around my fingers like it was a pen. Half a second later it went flying out of my hand. “Oops.” I sheepishly said before grabbing it and trying again. “Anyway. It turns out since I gained so many levels in one go I need a little bit to adjust. I was worried since I couldn’t keep control of my body very well.”

“Hmmm. Ok.” She said, before turning and starting to walk away.

“Ok? That’s it?” I asked, flabbergasted.

“Yep. Losing control of your body is a perfectly fine reason to be distracted and rude.”

“Alright then.” I muttered, before perking back up. “Hey Alnoss, I think I have a great idea!”

“Hmm?”

“Well, I need to go hunting for Khaliss in the near area. Care to try out some recipes with me when I get back?”

“We’ll see. Now, good luck hunting.”

“Thanks.” I said, heading out.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Heading south out of the city with a full quiver of normal bolts, I pulled out my Hunter’s Map and activated it. Now whatever animals I started hunting would have their territories mapped, so long as I could spot them. I started out with small game, as that was the simplest to find and stuck to level ranges from 20 to 35. Aerosquirrels were abundant, though they were fairly docile unless provoked. They relied on air magic to attack with blades from a distance, but the strongest could only fire two or three at a time. Instead of rabbits, there was a plethora of al-miraj. These light based creatures were a mix of rabbit and unicorn, though they kept the size of a rabbit on steroids. Specializing in speed, their initial lunge attack was a minor annoyance if you could dodge it. Dealing with power ataxia, I didn’t have the coordination for that.

Instead, I was forced to improvise. Turning my weapon so the head of the hammer faced the incoming lunge worked wonders, though I was constantly burning my own life to repair the damage it was receiving. Slaughtering ten of the creatures wasn’t that hard with their aggression, and I even earned a new ability for my weapon.

New weapon ability!

 

While not a conventional shield, your weapon has learned from its use as a defensive piece of equipment.

Piercing intercept – Your weapon has a chance to intercept and negate damage from a piercing attack. In exchange, it will lose 10% durability.

 

A few minutes walk from the city, if you weren’t stopping to slaughter the wildlife, I came across a lake. Mostly rectangular, it was roughly an acre in size and had a small island in the middle. I managed to finish several water based creatures’ habitats, though several of them extended south following the river that exited the lake. The most annoying was a highly aggressive snake, the shadow moccasin. Steel feathered swans, needlemouth bass, vermillion frogs, and spotted beavers were the more mundane forms of wildlife. I decided to follow the river south, and the fish switched from a bass to a trout variant, this one the bladefin trout. Although I wasn’t really trying to hunt the predators of the area, a few of them took exception to my intruding. The most aggressive were the adolescent hydrocs, which were basically crocodiles with a small bit of water magic. I did see a smaller pack of dire wolves, but they were on the trail of something and paid me no mind.

Hmmm, an interesting split here. To the west is an area obviously full of spiders and things that like the gloom, judging by the number of webs there. Or I could follow the river south. Smiling, I went in search of poisons to add to my immunity. Unfortunately for me, only the webwidow spiders were poisonous, while the wolfen spiders and drop spiders were not. Wolfen spiders hunted in packs and were nearly the same size as the canines they were named after, while the drop spiders were slightly smaller and preferred to drop on their prey from above and try and break its neck.

The teardrop valley that the spiders inhabited was easily explored, and I was excited to see three creature areas show up as explored on my map. At the back of the valley, instead of a large lair stuffed full of spiders guarding their mother, I found a strange graveyard. There were no spider webs whatsoever, and none of the grave markers had any form of writing. Creeped out, I marked it for exploration when it was night out, and headed back to the river. Another hour of travel later, and I came across a beach. Rather than explore another area, I headed back to the forest and started methodically mapping everything I could.

Getting away from the river, the smaller game gave way to larger creatures, and I happily started tracking a sounder of swine, though they had two sets of tusks instead of one. Called tuskers by the system, I decided that bacon was in order. These seemed rather small, so I held off taking them down and instead kept hunting. After passing up several groups of smaller pigs, I came across a massive beast. It was large enough to make dire wolves look small.

Hogzilla

Race: Ham Elemental

Level 38 elite

 

This massive beast has achieved the second tier of monster growth, and is one of the largest of its kind ever recorded. Good hunting!

 

Chuckling in my head at that description, I needed to prepare a trap for this beast. A pitfall seemed in order, so I made a long one between me and the hog, leaving a thin shell of earth so that it looked safe. I let fly with a bolt, and it slammed home into the side of the beast. With a squeal of rage, it turned and charged at me, plunging straight down into the trap I had laid for it. The fall shattered its front legs, but the rage filled swine wouldn’t let that stop it. Still trying to slide forward with its back legs, I started raining blows on its head to end its misery. Despite using several charged blows, it still took almost twenty strikes to take down its health.

Instead of looting it, I went ahead and added its body to the bag that Khaliss had given me to transport game, happy that it would fit. I went ahead and filled up the rest of the spot with nine other pigs, and decided to call it a day. I had thoroughly mapped the ranges for the spiders, tuskers, all seven varieties of aquatic wildlife, and the al-miraj. Not bad for a day of work.

“Yo, Khaliss. Got some creatures for your quest to take a look at.” I said as I ran into him at the barracks.

“Excellent! Come with me then, we have some of the butchers on standby.” Leading the way, we came almost to the wall of the city before an open air market type area emerged. Several people were at different tables, skinning and dressing what several hunters brought in. We headed to a stone table at the far side, this one had several drakelings with smaller knives.

“Khaliss? When did you start hunting again?” One of them asked, flinching when they saw the captain.

“I haven’t Dravin. Angus here has spent the day trying to find out some ranges for our hunters, and we thought that you would want to see what he had first.”

“Well, these youngsters seem to have the smaller game figured out fairly well. Let’s see what’cha got for them to work on.” He said to me.

“Well, for the smaller stuff let’s go with these aerosquirrels and the al-miraj.” I said, dropping ten of each one on the table. “We might want to save the horns on the al-miraj, they could be useful for piercing weapons.” I mentioned.

“You would think so, but not really. Grind ‘em up and use them in an enchantment ink can boost light type enchantments though, so we will be keeping them.” Dravin said, walking us to the next table. We followed this routine several times, until the last two tables where I placed the first nine of the pigs.

“Dravin, where’s your strongest table? I think this last one deserves a place of honor.”

“Right over there.” He said, pointing to a stone table twice as thick as the rest and having three rows of eight legs.

I sauntered over, and pulled the corpse of Hogzilla out onto the table. The dull thunk caused the entire area to fall into silence.

“What in the hell is that?”

“Hogzilla. Description called it a ham elemental. Tier two beast, and I was wondering if you guys would let me have the belly area.”

“Sure, we can let you have that. I’ll be carving this beastie up myself, and get you the cuts tomorrow.”

“Come along Angus, Dravin is the best at what he does. Now, if you’ll let me get a copy of your map, I can get your rewards for you.” Khaliss said. Leading me off to the side, he nodded a few times while looking things over, then handed me a coin pouch. “Thirteen gold for each species, it’ll take a day or two to determine which ones are edible. You managed to map out eleven of those species, so I can give you another 22 gold.”

“Thanks a lot Khaliss. I think I’m gonna call it a day and head on out. Before I go, warn your hunters about that graveyard I marked. It’s got a creepy vibe, and I plan on exploring it after dark in another day or two.”

“Sure thing, but what’s the delay for?” He asked, confused.

“Power ataxia. I worked through most of it today, but my critical hit rate was next to nothing. Even bashing against the head of that massive pig, and it had two broken legs at the time.”

“Heh, and you didn’t come to me, why?”

“Didn’t want to bother you. Besides, this let me hone my skills in actual combat, which seemed like a better option.”

“Very well. I’ll see you tomorrow Angus.” He said, before heading back towards the barracks. I headed straight to the inn to head out for the night.

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A note from Mighty Moushie

I can't help but think this feels like a filler chapter, mostly because I skipped through a lot of combat.  I couldn't help it, but combat against beasts just feels lame after the dungeon.


About the author

Mighty Moushie

Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.

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