Samantha woke to find herself alone on the air mattress she and Nathan were sleeping on. Keith had bought those and the blankets for everyone on their first day, after finishing up the runes. Looking around, she found that almost everyone was still asleep – Nathan and Keith were the only others awake, and they were sitting at a table at the other end of the cafeteria.
"Morning," she greeted them when she sat down, noting that they were carefully enchanting every last Lego brick from two new boxes of ships and crews. "What are you dong?"
"Enchanting," Nathan answered, then paused as a message appeared in his vision, a message that woke the others.
|A Food Supply Drop has appeared in Room Red Eagle Seven. The room has become protected against invasion for the next 24 hours.|
"That's our cue," Nathan told Keith, then looked at Samantha. "Stay. Here."
"There's absolutely no risk to the baby-"
Nathan's tone was firm and definite, and Samantha sighed, slumping into the chair beside him as he stood. Nathan and Keith left the cafeteria, watching as Ichtvar and Keith's familiar chased each other down the halls.
Rather than clearing out the halls themselves, the seven players decided to let the familiars do it, especially since the monsters were weak enough that Nathan and Keith received practically no Experience. It was their fifth day, and neither senior had gained a Level yet.
They had utilized those five days to train body and magic. They knew that over time, the monsters would grow more difficult, but none of them would even struggle against the early monsters, which meant little Experience gains for them.
So instead, they trained to enhance their abilities.
"Nathan?" Keith said as they reached the Red Eagle Hall.
"I have a theory I want to test."
"About?" Nathan asked.
"Regarding it being a construct of magic all the way through?"
Keith had shared the theory and statement with Nathan that he had given to the others in the harder difficulty during the Tutorial, while Nathan was unconscious from his awakening.
"Yes," Keith opened Room 7 and entered, Nathan following him in. "Damn."
There were four wooden crates sitting in the classroom, each a perfect square four feet on each side, a rope handle on the two sides of it and a hinged lid on top.
"How full are these?" Nathan asked as he walked over to one of the crates and lifted up the hinged lid. "Pretty full."
Keith looked inside, swearing.
"How much do they think eight people will eat in a day?" Keith asked.
Nathan muttered something under his breath, then checked the crate he'd removed. It had several runes on it. He noticed two more crates with the same runes, while the third one had different runes.
He checked the two with identical runes, finding them filled with food, then he opened up the fourth crate. Supplies. As soon as he looked within it, a message appeared in his vision, and he assumed that it formed in others' as well, based on its contents.
|The amount of items in a drop and the fact that not all of the food supply drop is food is not information that can be shared outside of the game. The fact that you receive a food supply drop every five days is allowed to be shared.|
Nathan frowned as he remembered something that Master Torvin had told him.
"We know there's at least one person actively watching us," Nathan stated, and Keith gave him a confused look. "Even though nearly everything – including this – is automated. We know someone who has traveled to other dimensions, and he's stated that entire worlds are under the System – everyone ends up in it on their eighteenth birthday, and it slowly takes over the worlds.
"How do these restricted pieces of information work?" Nathan asked as Keith realized what Nathan was doing. "Do people have to discover these on their own? Can they only share it with others who enter the game with them do-"
|The information will not be restricted once most of your world has been initiated into the System.|
"You cut off," Keith said. "Why?"
"They responded," Nathan stated. "If the Mana and Mana changes hadn't already confirmed it, that would've confirmed they're watching us."
"What did they say?" Keith asked.
Nathan debated on whether or not he could actually share that information. It wasn't likely they would receive answers often, and he was, if honest with himself, completely surprised that they actually responded.
"Never mind," Keith said. "They just told me."
A new message appeared in their visions.
|You may not share that information, nor that we have responded, with anyone except your familiars. Inform them that sharing this information will result in their immediate deaths, as well as the immediate deaths of anyone it shared with.|
That answers that question, Nathan thought to himself.
"I wonder why they responded," Keith said. "I doubt it's likely to happen again."
"Likely because of the translation fix," Nathan said, and Keith's eyes widened in realization. "Now, you mentioned before we entered that you wanted to test something?"
"Right," Keith nodded. "Can you open up your Status menu?"
"Why?" Nathan asked.
"I want to try reading it," Keith told him.
"That's not possible, and even if it were, I wouldn't want you to.,"
"No," Keith said. "I mean the magic behind it. There are two possibilities behind it: the first is that it's either an illusion in your mind, or an actual thing that appears, keyed so that only you can see it. I'm in favor of the latter, and I want to see if it's possible for me to see the magics behind them."
"I've tried with my own," Keith said. "But it's possible it's a lot harder to check your own, especially in the latter scenario. If it is possible, however, we may be able to find a way to reveal someone's stats."
Nathan contemplated on it for a few moments, then nodded. He wasn't sure how it was possible to read someone's full stats considering the agency had confirmed that reading someone's mind while they read it did not reveal the Status, but Keith seemed confident. He pulled up his Status.
|Level:||150||Health:||5,930 (1/120s)||Mana:||32,250 (6/5s)|
|Stat Points:||0||Skill Points:||35||Points:||2,669|
"Can you trace where it's located?" Keith asked Nathan, who traced with his fingers where it appeared in his vision, a little more than a foot in front of him. "Thanks, keep your gaze focused there."
Several minutes passed as Keith and Nathan stared at the same spot, then Keith's sudden happy expression told Nathan it happened.
"It's definitely the latter," Keith said. "Keep it open and focused there. I can't actually read your stuff, but I can definitely tell there's magic there."
Several more minutes passed before Keith told Nathan he could stop.
As if I needed permission, Nathan closed his Status.
"I'll try it with the others," Keith told him. "And the various menus, too. It might take me a couple of weeks, though."
Nathan nodded, then looked around.
"So how are we supposed to get these out of here?" Keith asked as Nathan called for Ichtvar through their familiar bond. "The door isn't four feet wide."
"Wait for the phoenix to return," Nathan grunted. "He flew off at some point."
Ichtvar only took a few seconds to reenter the room.
"Widen the entrance, please," Nathan said, and Ichtvar nodded, then flew up and landed on the metal doorframe.
A few seconds passed before the doorway widened, quickly becoming five feet.
"Damn," Keith said in awe. "My familiar can't do that. He can do some other stuff, but not bend space like that."
"Let's get these out of here," Nathan said, and the pair go to work picking up the crates and moving them into the hall.
The crates were heavy, but nothing they couldn't handle with their System-augmented strength. However, due to the size, the pair worked together, each grabbing a handle of each crate to move them. Once they had all four out in the hall, Ichtvar released his spell and landed on one of the crates.
"How do you intend on moving these back to the cafeteria?" He asked as Nathan pulled out a card with a rope image on it. "A rope?"
Nathan triggered the card, which disappeared as a rope appeared. He then used the rope to link together the four crates, and after making sure they were snugly and tightly secured together, he tied the top ends of the rope together over them and looked at Ichtvar expectantly.
"I'm not carrying those."
Nathan pulled out another card and activated it, revealing a bar of chocolate.
"I guess I'll just eat this, then."
Ichtvar took the rope and lifted the crates up into the air, flying through the halls. He utilized his spatial magic to widen the halls when turning down another, something the seniors helped by pushing the crates.
They reached the cafeteria after a few minutes, meeting the shocked expressions of the other seniors.
"Holy fuck," Michael said. "I didn't realize that they'd given us that much. I mean, I figured they'd given a fair amount, but-"
"Only one is supplies," Keith told him as Ichtvar landed, then looked at Nathan expectantly. The senior tossed him the wrapper of the chocolate. "Nathan, that's mean."
"I got hungry," Nathan said as the phoenix incinerated the wrapper with a glare. "Oh, stop that."
Nathan pulled out another card and triggered it, revealing an even larger chocolate bar, which he then tossed to the phoenix, who took it and flew back to the halls.
"What was that about?" Samantha asked.
"Ichtvar likes chocolate," Keith told her. "It's part of how the government placated him before he decided to contract with Nathan just because of what happened the last time a phoenix contracted with a child of Nathan's father."
"Merlin?" Samantha asked.
"Ichtvar hasn't said," Nathan shrugged. "But we've already confirmed through Master Torzin that the Ultimate Trinity has contracted to more than just him. Let's check the crates."
The seniors gathered around the crates, Nathan pointed out the one that was different, and they went through the food. Fresh fruit and vegetables, containers of flour, sugar, and other baking ingredients, and one of the crates was chilly on the inside, filled with meat and drinks, including milk. They found some cheese, butter, and cream cheese as well, and at the very bottom of it-
"Ice cream?" Samantha asked.
"Looks like it," William commented. "Let's get the cold stuff moved into the fridges and freezers."
He and Michael got to work on that while Mitchell and Elise started putting the other ingredients away.
"I'm going to make breakfast for everyone," Samantha declared, and Nathan opened his mouth to say something. "Don't you dare protest, Nathan. You can handle my cooking, you've eaten it a few times. You and Keith can have fun sorting out the stuff in the supply crate."
"Fine," Nathan grumbled. "Do you want a recipe to make pancakes? Or just going to make bacon and eggs?"
Samantha thought for a moment, then accepted his offer. He pulled out some paper and a pen and jotted down the recipe, then Samantha joined the others in the kitchen to get to work.
"I wanted to make breakfast," Nathan grumbled, and Keith snorted.
"She's doing that because you won't let her leave," Keith told Nathan.
"She always said she wasn't going to be a woman in the kitchen," Nathan muttered.
"Nathan," Keith said. "She's doing it because not letting you cook will annoy you. Let's look through the supplies. I'm curious what all they gave us – and why they sent us so much. There's enough to last a full team of eight more than five days."
As soon as he said that, he saw Nathan's eyes take on a distant look, and sighed. Nathan was thinking on what caused such a huge abundance of food and supplies. As Nathan did that, Keith opened up the final crate and began unloading it.
Medical supplies, lube, pads, tampons, condoms, paper, craft paper in both rectangles and squares, a few other art supplies, magic pens of the variety he had purchased for Nathan, five boxes of blank playing cards, two boxes of actual playing cards, rope, twine, blankets, even some of the laundry things they could buy in the laundry room. There were a few other items, which only deepened Keith's curiosity over the situation.
Why would they have supplied us with so much stuff? Keith wondered. Some of these are definitely tailored to us – like the blank playing cards. But this also contradicts the theory that they can't just create things in-game off of what's in it. The food does, too – none of that was in here with us already.
"Because the monsters are killed within an hour of spawning."
Keith looked at Nathan with a confused look.
"The reason we received so much," Nathan told him. "It's because Ichtvar and Splashy kill the monsters so fast, leaving it almost completely safe in the halls. The more monsters killed, and the faster, the better the supplies we receive. It's an automatic thing based on that."
Keith nodded, agreeing with Nathan on that theory.
"But," Keith said. "There's also the side where someone could just do a bunch of long Survivals for that reward at the end. If they just stay in here-"
"But they wouldn't," Nathan said. "Unless they wanted to put up with months' worth of fecal matter and urine. Unless they didn't want to bathe or wash their clothes. Unless they stockpiled far more Points than they'd earn. To keep themselves fed, they'd be spending more Points than they earned from the run. There's only so much we can bring in with us. My cards circumvent this, but even they have their limits, especially since I can't bring in fresh food."
Yet, he added, though not aloud. And the reward seems kind of cheap, too – the real reward, to them, is likely the Levels we gain and all the Points from the kills we could do, which is just another incentive to leave the safe zone of the cafeteria.
He was still a bit uneasy about it, though. There were, no doubt, others with something similar to his cards. A determined enough person would make it through just hiding in there. It would be a massive waste of time for them to earn the Points, though.
Would something come that would force them out of the safe room?