-200 years later, outskirts of the ruins of Pine Bluff in Arkansas-
“Alex, wake up!” Yelled a young feminine voice from nearby. “Whaa…” Groaned Alex as he slowly woke up and rolled over in bed. His eyes opened slightly and he took in his small room.
He slept in an average bed similar to what people did pre-cataclysm and lived in a fairly small bedroom within his families apartment. Light shone through his window illuminating his small writing desk handmade of rough-hewn wood, an old metal lawn chair and simple dresser full of his meager supply of clothes; most of which were heavily patched by his mother at this point.
Spread across the desk was his precious supply of spell scrolls although he could only afford the most basic at the moment since he wasn’t a real adventurer yet.
Next to his desk was his pile of trainee adventuring supplies, showing clear signs of wear. An old world backpack with some leather holding together a few sections, a pair of sturdy hiking boots and a bedroll meant to be attached to the bottom of the backpack.
Inside the pack was all of the basic supplies that he would need to journey outside of town for any length of time or to enter a dungeon.
Suddenly a sharp pain slammed into his stomach with a good bit of force and his eyes shot open, all signs of tiredness gone. “How many times do I need to tell you to stop jumping on me to wake me up, Emily!?”
His little sister had a habit of waking him up this way and despite the predictability of it Alex just couldn’t bring himself to wake up fast enough to avoid her morning antics.
Emily is just eight years old so sometimes it can be hard to get things through her thick head. “But today is your awakening! You should have been up forever ago.” Emily complained in a whiny voice as she climbed off of his bed.
“Ah! My awakening is today!” Exclaimed Alex loudly as his eyes and mouth shot open in surprise.
Back, in the beginning, every living adult got the choice of a few seemingly random classes and the benefits that go along with it but as things settled down people realized that children under 15 had not been granted a class but nobody was quite sure why.
It slowly spread that as children reached their 15th birthday the dungeons would allow them access and upon entering they would be given the choice of class and the perks that came along with it.
Today was Alex’s 15th birthday and he had no time to spare! He jumped out of bed and started stripping off his night clothes to change into his adventuring gear.
“Eww!” Screamed Emily as she ran from the room at the sight of her older brother undressing. Alex could hear her run all the way to her room before tuning out the noise and getting dressed.
“Hmm, let's see cant forget anything today…” He murmured to himself as he pulled on a beige linen shirt with dark brown leather on the elbows and various other sections for added protection. Alex also wore an extremely faded pair of blue jeans with dark brown leather patches and a pair of hiking boots.
As he pulled on his sword belt with his wooden practice sword he silently prayed that he was given access to one of the stronger swordsman classes. He had been preparing for it his whole life! He grabbed his backpack last with its basic exploration supplies - rationed food for a few days, a canteen of water and some very basic medical supplies.
Since the classless never actually left town alone he didn’t need to have too much in there but it was best to carry the basics.
As more teenagers got classes it became apparent that the class choices were in fact not random and were instead based off of several factors. The true personality of the individual along with the actions and achievements in their life up until this point seemed to be the main focus.
Some class options still did not make sense to people but the new laws of the world were still mysterious despite how much time has passed as communication is now heavily limited. Some of the largest and strongest cities had limited electricity and plumbing but any attempt to run things out of town was always ended in it being destroyed by monsters as soon as it was left unguarded.
To make matters worse it took several generations for humanity to adapt enough to start feeling safe again but by that point, most of the advanced knowledge had been lost. Digital information was inaccessible without power and many books had been destroyed in the initial years when most buildings got destroyed by plants and became open to the elements.
“Ok, all set!” Alex said triumphantly and did a quick fist pump in the air. He ran out of his room into the hallway and down the steps. The building was an old world building of some sort that had survived the worst of the cataclysm.
The entire building was made out of concrete although they had made it more homey with some rugs and things hanging on the walls and such. Various vines could be seen along the walls, floor, and ceiling along with an entire tree growing out of the hallway at the far end, past where any of the usable rooms were.
As he sprinted down the steps he saw his mother step out of the kitchen and into his path. “Slow down there mister! I know you're excited about your big day but you can’t skip the most important meal of the day.” His mother Jaclyn smiled tenderly.
She was a young woman most would assume was in her early thirties. She was of Caucasian descent, as were her husband and children, and she had waist-length light brown hair.
“Let me get a good look at my son before he heads off to become a man,” Jaclyn said as she handed Alex an egg sandwich. Alex himself looked to be an average height 15-year-old with dark brown hair just past his ears.
He had a bit more muscle on his than your average 15-year old since he had aspirations to be a swordsman but he wasn’t massive. He had blue eyes and looked like he was used to handling himself. This world was a challenge after all and the children were being groomed for their awakening since the age of 8.
His sister Emily was about to start her training as a potential healer in fact. His mother’s intelligence stat was quite high after all and his sister was one of the lucky few who managed to not just inherit one of their parent's stats but she even got their mother’s highest stat! ‘Lucky… I wish I had gotten a strength boost.’ He thought to himself as he looked down at the numbers lining his right arm.
After the advent of Adam and the birth of Yggdrasil, all of humanity got a series of numbers on their right arm that looked like a black tattoo. If you thought about them you would inherently know their meaning but the visual representation was useful when dealing with others.
These numbers symbolized the primary stats - Strength, Vitality, Agility, Lifespan, Intelligence, and Wisdom. Most of these were obvious, strength makes you stronger and agility makes you more agile. Vitality made you harder to damage, allowed you to take more damage before death and helped you to heal faster.
Lifespan signified how many years you had left with each point being ten years, although it was not perfect. You could still die to disease or a monster attack, this was just your maximum time on this earth if you stayed healthy and safe.
Wisdom was a bit trickier than the others. When people focused on it in their dream space, the location they could see their class and adjust stats while sleeping, the System told them what it did but nobody could seem to utilize it apart from extra mana regeneration.
Supposedly wisdom controlled the effectiveness of shaping and wielding raw mana along with your mana regeneration rate. Many people have tried putting points into wisdom to be able to use mana freely without the aid of scrolls but despite the description of wisdom saying it could be done, nobody had managed it thus far. It also didn’t quite seem to make you smarter per-say but more capable of making the best choices in a given situation. This made it useful to a point but it was still widely considered the least important of the stats in this brutal world.
All of the stats could be trained higher through normal actions and several would simply go up as you age. A 5-year-old is, of course, going to have more strength than a baby for example even if they did not train, which a 5-year-old would not be doing. Wisdom was the hardest to raise and for most children, it simply went up by 1 per year on their birthday. Once you were an adult or in your later teenage years though you would start to see peoples wisdom raising more.
Intelligence increased your internal mana reserves and the strength of spell scrolls used along with quick thinking and clearer thoughts. His sister’s high intelligence was why she was in training to be a healer as she could use more healing spell scrolls before being out of mana than most others.
The reason for that was one of the other biggest changes to humanity. When the first children started being born people noticed that they were being born with one stat usually much higher than the others. It was deduced eventually that some children are lucky enough to randomly gain 10% of one of their parents highest stat added onto their own starting stats.
It was estimated from what they saw in their own town and when they travel to the nearby towns that this happened to around 1 out of every 50 children born, so the people it happened to were quite lucky. If they were also lucky enough to receive one of their parent's high stats, well, that’s how heroes were born. The town had very high hopes for Emily’s future progress as a healer.
So since their mother was a famous battle priest in the past and had quite high intelligence, Emily really lucked out inheriting it. Unfortunately, Alex was not quite as lucky and inherited neither his mother's high intelligence nor his father's high strength. This did, of course, do nothing to dissuade him from his dreams of becoming a great swordsman like his father though.
Once they got a class the stats got a boost depending on the class and rarity which then updated the numbers of your arm to reflect them. The other details of the class, however, were hidden after you got to see them during the selection.
To see them again and how your leveling progress was going, you had to go to sleep while thinking about your class and then you would be able to know more. Alex didn’t know much about this process though as it was hard to explain and he would know when he got a class of his own he was told.
Alex took a big bite of the sandwich and gave his mother a hug, before edging past her to escape. “Ah, before you go!” She yelled and he stopped mid-step. Alex’s eyes widened as he turned around and saw his mother pulling a scroll out of a carved wooden box about the length of a Childs' forearm.
“Is that what I think it is!?” He exclaimed, but before he could try to stop her his mother began reading from the mid-tier barrier scroll. ‘I can’t believe she is using a mid-tier barrier on me! That must have cost a whole weeks pay!’ He thought to himself in shock.
“Leather, metal, plate, or mail; magic defends where others fail. Shield!” Alex felt more than saw a small barrier line the edges of his clothing and body covering him entirely as his mother finished the chant. He silently watched as the scroll crumbled into dust in her hands.
His mother slumped to the side and leaned on the wall for support. “Mother! You shouldn’t use so much mana at once, you know that!” Alex said with worry. “I know I know sweetie but I couldn’t send my only son off for his awakening without the best shield buff I can supply.
Don’t forget, your mother is a famous battle priest. This much mana expenditure will only take me a few hours to recover from and I’ve been holding onto that scroll for years while waiting for this day.” Jaclyn responded with pride while slightly out of breath. “Unless you take a serious hit that should last for the entire day. Good luck!”
Unfortunately despite the world being filled with mana and Ki humanity seemed to only have a true aptitude for Ki, with most of the techniques originating from the Far East in China and Japan and such, so physical classes tended to be the norm.
For people like Alex’s mother who healed or people who wished to use magic, they had to rely on scrolls written with monster blood. The incantations originally were in an odd never before seen language that allowed anyone to understand the contents in their own tongue but without being able to fully comprehend the runes making it up, similar to the System’s voice that humanity heard at the beginning of the cataclysm.
After some testing, it was discovered that writing the incantations in your own language worked as well as long as you used monster blood for the writing itself still. Along with this discovery, it was also found that intent means just as much as the words and that the words must partially be there to help you keep a focus on the correct intentions. So if you were to read a spell in Spanish without knowing the language, it would do nothing if you did not know the proper purpose of the spell.
They still drew mana from peoples bodies however and humanity seemed to have an abysmal mana regeneration rate compared to the monsters they fought. Certain alchemical concoctions could speed this up but in general spell casting was rare.
“Thanks, mom, bye!” Just like that Alex turned and bolted from the house, sprinting along overgrown mossy roads towards his destination, one of the offshoots of the great tree Yggdrasil which was commonly referred to as a dungeon due to their similarity to the idea of dungeons that humans was already families with.
It was there he would finally get a class and start on the path to becoming a great swordsman and adventurer!