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A note from Journeyman_Mike

Alright, Divers this chapter we take a look at the skill grind and Henry focuses on getting some better gear.

Henry and Iggy were sitting cross-legged by the firepit hoping to gain the so far elusive meditation skill. "It's been hours and I just can get this! What am I doing wrong?" Henry's frustration hit the boiling point and he could handle it anymore. He stood and paced the campsite. It was a little after noon on the second day they'd spent in the Zone the corpses of the pygmies were a little ripe having sat in the sun for a few hours. Henry decided to take a break from 'Meditating' to clean up their new home.

He started by dragging the corpses deep into the woods, a good 2 miles from their cave site. That should keep the stench from reaching us and as an added bonus won't attract any monsters. As he walked back to camp he took the time to slow down examining nearby plants looking for anything that could be used be it spices or medicinal herbs. He knew a good amount of herblore having spent most of his youth working the fields around town and running errands for the local apothecary. Soon he had several bushels of useful herbs and spices all the better his work paid off with a *DING* letting him know that he'd earned a skill, probably Herbalism, but he had decided not to check his skill-ups until the end of the week. It would force him to train harder if he couldn't see the progress he's made and he suspected that skill-ups weren't as useful as they first appeared this would let him test that theory.

When he got back to camp he had decided that meditation would have to wait. First, he needed to make this place more comfortable and he knew just where to start. He took one of the broken spear shafts and tied a tuft of bear fur to it making a crude broom. It was a rough construction but would get the job done to start. For the next hour, he swept the entire cave taking the time to remove all the assorted bones and stacking them neatly with the remains of the bears. He might find a use for them in the future. *DING*

Ignoring the skill-up once again he moved on to the next project, making a proper bed inside the cave and securing the entrance. He would also like to make a fireplace within the cave, but that would take more skill then he currently possessed. He took out one of the knives and began to saw down a small tree near the side of the cave where the forest was more sparse. It took him several hours of back-breaking work and very sore arms before he had a nice pile of rough cut wood, 15 logs about 6" in diameter and 10 feet long. He had completely ruined one of the blades and was left with only four.

Wood ready to start construction he took some of the bear's sinew to use for ties to hold the bed together. He cut one of the logs in half to use as the head and foot of the bed and cut four legs out of a fourth log to complete the frame. Using the sinew he tired it all together and stretched a bearskin over it to complete the bed. *DING* It was rugged but would hold up well for his use.

He had 11 logs left, but the cave entrance was 25 feet high and 15 feet wide. It would require 40 logs to complete an entire entrance like he wanted to create as he looked at the cave he was inspired to make it a true home and base of operations within this wilderness. If he could secure a stable and safe base of operations within Appalachia it would ensure that he could continue to grow strong and maybe even discover some of the answers these Incursion Zones held.

Having a goal for the next few days he didn't even think about gaining skill levels and when right back to cutting down trees keeping them as uniform as possible. He would cut enough small trees to make a basic entrance and back it with bigger logs once he was able to make a forge and melt down the knives to make a good ax for himself.

Henry was so focused on his goal that it didn't occur to him that he had never built anything close to as complex as he now planned. The plans came to him instinctively likely a combination of skill gains and his increased intelligence.

For the rest of the day, he continued his cutting and shaping. By the end of that first day, he had cut 50 logs and would be ready in the morning to start making the secure entrance.

Sleep came easily to Henry that night and he woke refreshed in the morning. In fact, he felt much better than he had any right to feel considering he'd spent much of the day brutally working his body to its limit. He simply shrugged it off as an effect of the Zone and got back to work.

On the second day, he started by setting a foundation for the entrance digging with his hands and the broken pieces of spears to make the job easier. It took until noon, but by the end, he found it very easy to move the hardened dirt and set the logs. It was a curious situation, but he did just spend hours learning how best to attack this problem so it wasn't too surprising. With the foundation set, he could begin placing his walls and door using the remaining sinew to secure it all together. As he worked he began to unconsciously use his nanite control to strengthen the sinew and more securely bond the logs together. This was only possible because he had been using a similar technique all day to strengthen and refresh his muscles.

By the end of the third day, Henry had completed the entrance, constructed a table and four chairs, a kitchen area with a dugout water basin, and a fireplace that ventilated out the back of the cave through a small hole he had dug in the roof. It was an impressive amount of work, but he was not yet satisfied.

As the sun rose on the fourth day Henry woke up feeling like a new man. Today he would create a workshop. I can believe that I've never thought to make a dedicated workspace before. There's so much to do to get this place ready. Right now, I've got the bare essentials down, but if we're to thrive here I need a place to create better equipment and weapons. A workshop with a forge shouldn't be too difficult to make, I've seen enough of them back in town and I watched the blacksmith reforge plenty of plow blades. Okay, that's the plan for the next three days. I need to make a workshop and forge so I can melt those horrid knives down and make a wood ax maybe use the leftover iron to make a saw blade. Hmm...I'll probably have to get some more metal at some point, but I think I felt some deposits deeper in the cave yesterday. WAIT, I can feel through the Earth now...well that'll be something to explore later. Back to work.

So, for the next two days, Henry dug and shaped the Earth creating his workshop, collecting metal, and making a small forge and smelter. It was quaint, it would do the job well and made a foundation for bigger projects to come later. Henry was proud of his work, but still more to do and couldn't rest yet. A wood ax and saw later he left the workshop and started off into the forest looking for a good tree to finish off his underground home.

At the end of the week, Henry had finished his new cave home. It came complete with the small forge/workshop, a bathroom including rudimentary plumbing and fully reinforced entrance. It looked like a half-buried log cabin. He had built the cave entrance up and out into the small clearing making his living space above ground so he could enjoy the sunny days. The cave now extended 50 feet below the surface and was honeycombed with tunnels for mining. It was a deceiving structure looking like nothing more than a simple cabin in the woods. They would be ready.

If he had stopped for longer than 10 minutes to eat or drink he would have noticed how insane this level of construction was for someone of his skill level, but he had been a man possessed while he worked and it wasn't until the end when he stood back admiring the new home that he realized how crazy it all was.

Iggy had spent this time in their soul space planning and composing books with all the knowledge she had been born with. It was important to her that the Study was properly organized. As Henry gained skills and levels over the course of the week she simply organized the skill books and kept focused on processing all the data that became available this helped Henry to come up with more complex plans for his projects without any real thought. This was the optimization process that they had been told to expect, but because of Henry's ability to absorb mana and integrate the nanites, it was much more effective than anyone had ever planned for.

"Um...Iggy...Have you been paying attention to this?" Henry's voice was cracking, he hadn't spoken for a week and was unused to the sound.

"...WHAT DID YOU DO?!" She screamed totally shocked with the change the cave had gone through in such a short time. Iggy had also lost track of time only now realizing it had been a week.

"Hey, calm down it's not like this is a bad thing. And besides, it's your fault too for losing track of time." They had become so linked that reading each other's surface thoughts and emotions wasn't something they had to think about it just happened naturally.

"Henry, you need to look at the Status Sheet..."

Henry Woodridge
Age: 25yrs Skill Level: 5 Profession: None
Health: 100 (13/min) Mana: 260 (23/min) Archetype: None
Stats: Skills:
Strength 16 Machine Interfacing lvl 15 Herbalism lvl 5
Agility 10 Unarmed Combat lvl 3 Forestry lvl 5
Resilience 7 Dodge lvl 3 Construction lvl 10
Constitution 10 Polearms lvl 2 Carpentry lvl 5
Endurance 13 Small Blades lvl 4 Cleaning lvl 3
Perception 5 Pain Resistance lvl 5 Blacksmithing lvl 8
Intelligence 26 Mana Manipulation lvl 10 Smelting lvl 5
Wisdom 23 Nanite Control lvl 12 Mining lvl 5
Affinities: Tracking lvl 0 (1) Axes lvl 4
Fire - 0% Air - 0% Survival lvl 5 Meditation lvl 10
Earth - 25% Light - 0% Cooking lvl 5  
Water - 0% Darkness - 0% Leatherworking lvl 5  
Unallocated Stat Points: 15 Unallocated Skill Levels: 15

"By the stars! That's incredible. We gained 2 Pain Resistance, 10 in Nanite Control and Machine Interfacing, 7 in Mana Manipulation, 4 in Leatherworking and Survival, and 2 in Small Blades. We also got new skills: Forestry 5, Construction 10, Carpentry 5, Blacksmithing 8, Smelting 5, Mining 5, Axes 4, Cleaning 3, Meditation 10, and Herbalism 5. It's so much!" Henry was in awe.

"Henry it looks like almost all of the skills give a stat boost every 5 levels. That's how our stats got so high."

It was a very good week for them and now it was time to enjoy the spoils with a nice bath followed by a long rest.

"We'll figure out what all this means in the morning. I'm beat!" Henry walked straight to the bath and promptly fell asleep.

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A note from Journeyman_Mike

Good Morning Divers!

So that grind got away from me a little bit and I'll be breaking it up into a few chapters. So if skill-ups, crafting, and combat training don't interest you come on back next weekend. 

New release schedule is finalized, ill be doing Mon-Wed-Fri with smaller (1500 words or so) chapters and a big chapter or 2 on the weekends. 

See you all on wednesday!


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About the author

Journeyman_Mike

  • Penn's Woods

Bio: Mike is an amateur author and management professional. When he isn't working he spends his time reading, playing D&D, and conquering the world in Civ VI.

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