The two abilities revealed by Double Strike were Bone Breaker and Sudden Strike. Bone Breaker gave him increased blunt force damage while Sudden Strike allow him to make a full power attack out of nowhere, overwriting his previous attack. Seeing what Description told him about Sudden Strike blew him away. The ability was powerful, very powerful. It could easily act as a trump card by ending a fight out of nowhere or allow him to overextend, the ability taking advantage of his opponent by allowing him to counterattack when he had no business doing so. It felt like a reality-breaking ability, and it made him realize that combat didn’t follow all the same rules as outside The Tower.
But the other ability, Bone Breaker, seemed equally as useful, especially considering his circumstances. The Shard he was going to enter was often called the Land of the Stone Giants, aptly named after the large stone-coated humanoid monsters that were typical for the Shard. His primary weapon to combat them was a hammer, and Bone Breaker seemed like exactly the type of ability he needed to synergize with his blunt force attacks to break the tough defenses of the stone monsters. After all, it didn’t matter how many strikes he could land if he couldn’t break through the monster’s defenses.
This decision was agonizing, and it took Tormacc almost an hour to firm his will to commit to pick Bone Breaker. Truthfully he probably didn’t need to worry so much, as choosing one option didn’t disable the other. The Fate Wheel gave many branching paths, but while advancing farther down one path would give you access to more powerful abilities, there was nothing stopping you from going back and unlocking abilities from an earlier tier. In fact, doing so gave you many more options than only advancing down one path. The threats you would face in The Tower weren’t one dimensional, and the inability to adapt would lead to a quick demise.
Tormacc had been so focused on which ability to choose he had temporarily forgotten that, his inexperience with the Fate Wheel coming through. So after he remembered that he could, and likely would, come back and unlock Sudden Strike later, he sheepishly invested 200 Essence to unlock the tier five Bone Breaker. Out of the 1,702 Essence he had after he had unlocked Description he was down to 1,322. Tier six abilities cost 500 Essence and tier seven 1,000, leaving him a bit short of reaching tier seven with his current Essence. He was able to unlock two tier six abilities though, and looking at the options revealed by Bone Breaker, both looked like good ones.
Rupture enabled him to ignore shielding and defenses and directly deal internal damage, while Stunning Blow struck with a large amount of concussive force, aiming to incapacitate the target for a short period of time. While Rupture seemed powerful, anything that even had the chance to stun his target was a must have, so without any hesitation he invested 500 Essence to unlock Stunning blow, leaving him with 822 left.
Now that he had unlocked the highest tier ability he could afford he had options. The first option was to save his Essence until he reached a thousand and could unlock a tier seven ability. But any Essence saved was lost combat power, and if he was worried about only surviving it was useless to try and save his Essence for later. As long as he was able to secure his safety he could always farm more Essence. He couldn’t risk saving Essence only to go through the portal and appear in a dangerous area where his life was under immediate threat. No, he had to unlock more abilities: the only question was what to unlock.
The first two abilities he unlocked were Utilization and Meditation, costing ten Essence each. They were both tier one abilities, but despite that, they were must haves. Utilization was the other tier one ability in the top section of the Fate Wheel, and it helped him utilize the other abilities he unlocked and use them more naturally. Meditation was one of the tier one abilities on the left side, but while that side of the Fate Wheel was geared towards those who used magic, that didn’t mean the abilities weren’t useful for physical fighters.
Meditation was arguably the single most used ability in the Fate Wheel. By entering a meditative state, the user was able to slowly absorb Essence from their surroundings. Normally this wasn’t all that useful, as the Essence was absorbed at a very slow rate. But with practice, Meditation could be substituted for sleep, allowing for a small Essence gain every night. And while most people only gained two or three Essence per night, even that small amount added up over time. If Tormacc had known what it did he could have bought it early on in his time in the starting zone and it would have more than paid for itself, but it was no use regretting things he couldn’t change.
He now had 802 Essence left, enough to unlock another tier six ability and still have some left over. Rupture looked interesting, but the ability he wanted the most was still Sudden Strike, and since he would be able to unlock it and still have enough for Rupture he went ahead and invested 200 Essence into Sudden Strike. It also revealed two new tier six option for him to choose from, which was another plus.
The two new abilities available were Execute, which struck a killing blow in exchange for a period of intense weakness, and Quick Strikes, which boosted his attack speed. Both seemed useful in the right situation, but overall, Rupture seemed more suited for the types of enemies he was going to face, so he ended up choosing it.
He was now down to only 102 Essence and it was a hard decision on how to spend it. He was now confident he had unlocked enough pure combat power, so he started taking a look at the utility aspects he could unlock. As he was browsing them, one in particular stood out to him. Stella had gone out of her way to hammer home how powerful the crystals and spheres dropped by monsters were. It was an easy to understand point, but looking back now, it was clearly a hint.
One of the abilities he could unlock in the bottom section in tier three was Loot Finder, which increased the drop rate of crystals and spheres. He probably would have glanced over it, not knowing how useful it would be, but now that he was thinking about it, Stella was probably hinting for him to unlock it. It was also something that would be better unlocked earlier, as the sooner he got it the higher his chances of seeing a payoff and finding more crystals and spheres.
After unlocking Loot Finder for fifty Essence he decided to use the remaining Essence on the two abilities revealed by Utilization, which were Improved Learning and Integration, each tier two ability costing twenty Essence. The first did as the name suggested, increasing his leaning speed, while the second allowed him to better combine his abilities. With the final ten Essence he unlocked Inner Strength, the other tier one ability on the physical side of the Fate Wheel. Upon seeing what abilities were revealed from Inner Strength he kicked himself. He should have unlocked it before the other two.
One of the abilities, Energy Sustenance, would cut down on his food consumption, which was a concern for the Shard he was going to. It didn’t matter too much though. It shouldn’t take long before he could gather the twenty Essence required to unlock it. He could take it as a lesson to order his unlocks correctly, although in the future it was likely he would be unlocking abilities one at a time, not saving a ton of Essence and spending it all at once.
That night he tried to use Meditation instead of sleeping but gave up halfway through the night. Perhaps he was too excited for the next day or just too unfamiliar with the technique, but he couldn’t properly clear his mind. After sleeping for the remainder of the night he woke up refreshed and full of energy, the partial night’s sleep not affecting his enthusiasm in the least.
All throughout his time in the starting zone there had been that voice of self-doubt in the back of his mind. Was he doing the right thing? He knew he had a mission, but before coming to the First City he hadn’t fully realized what that mission was or the weight of its responsibility. But he knew now. For some, perhaps the pressure would be suffocating, the weight of their race laying heavy on their shoulders. But he could only think about the honor he had gained as the sole representative of his race, fighting for glory against a myriad of dimensions. He wouldn’t let his people down or he wasn’t Tormacc.
He didn’t really feel like eating breakfast, but he knew the importance of regular meals, so he forced himself to calmly eat his food in silence before checking out of the inn. Wearing his brand-new leather armor, Tormacc stepped out onto the street, ready to continue his journey, but this time with full clarity of purpose. He didn’t think about the danger he would have to face, only the glory he could obtain. That was who had been raised to be.
After a walk through the First City he reached the portal junction, stepping through it to reach the Central Plaza. The First City was huge, with an expansive array of transportation portal locations spread throughout. But if you wanted to enter the real portals that took you to the Shards, you had to go to the Central Plaza. It was the same area Tormacc had appeared when he left the starting zone, although the section he appeared in was a small section off to the side. The real Central Plaza was centered around the gigantic portals leading to the Shards.
He hadn’t really noticed them before, their presence blocked by some buildings, but now he had a clear view of them. The normal transportation portals were large, with five people able to enter them walking abreast. These portals could fit at least one hundred. They were set up in a triangle, their unstable frames rising high into the sky overhead. Looking at them, he realized he had actually seen them when he had visited Kaz Ehen. Back then, he only thought they were large structure of some kind, not realizing how far away they were, and what that distance meant for their size.
There was a steady stream of people entering one of the portals, the one he wanted to enter, with only a few people entering the other two. Considering they were both level four, it made sense that most people would enter the level three portal. There wasn’t a direct correlation between higher tier Shards and the ability to more easily farm Essence, as a higher tier Shard just meant more danger. Sometimes that meant more opportunity, but not always.
Tormacc flicked his wrist, causing a hammer to appear from his Spatial Bracelet before he joined the group of people moving towards the portal. Everyone was in a combat ready state, as you never knew where in the Shard the portal would deposit you. More often than not it was somewhere safe, but a statistically relevant percentage of the time you would appear in a dangerous location. Even the second it would take to summon a weapon could mean life or death if you appeared in a monster nest.
As the people surrounding him neared the portal, he could feel the tension increase. It was noticeable in small ways, a few extra rustles here, someone stroking their weapons there. It once more reminded him he wasn’t going sight-seeing. Despite his enthusiasm, death was only one poor decision away. Tightening his hands on his hammer, he focused his breathing and stepped through the portal into a whole new world.
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Bio: Hello! I am an avid reader turned amateur author who hopes to one day write something worthy of professional publishing. Until then, I am posting my work on Royal Road for people to enjoy and so I can receive feedback, hopefully allowing me to improve my craft and write better stories.