Whatever that bait smelled like, it worked. I couldn’t smell it myself and it seemed ridiculous it could attract animals at range, but animals arrived. Rabbits came in, got stuck in the floor, and then I activated the spike trap to make their insides outsides. The digester I purchased descended from where it hid in the ceiling, glommed onto the remains, and lifted back up to the ceiling to turn it into biomass. Thank goodness without making me taste it. Killing the rabbits didn’t bother me- I had been hunting more than once - but the idea of consuming them raw, bones, pelt, and all was not appetizing.

Then a deer arrived, cautiously walking in. The digester seemed to get rid of the blood and death smell as well, since it took slow steps forward without taking fright. I hurriedly reclaimed the sticky trap, not trusting that it’d hold something that large and only spook it instead. As it bent its head to the fruit, I triggered the spike traps.

They consisted, each, of a row of stone spikes that popped out of the wall, reaching somewhat less than halfway across the width of the hall. Which actually made the deer a better target than the rabbits, provided that they had the force to penetrate the hide properly. Something I was by no means certain of.

The spikes slammed out, and I tried to put some extra force behind them. It was, on one nonexistent hand, just a decision to trigger the traps or not. And it was, on the other hand, something I could feel, a vague twitch of muscles and nerves, so surely I had some control over it.

One of them caught the deer right in the neck, and it squalled, struggling, as blood spurted. And I realized I had no ears out in the hallway. The only hearing was from the crystal, where it sat in the dark room, and with the wall sealed up there wasn’t much to be had in that realm. Then the deer tore free from the spikes and made it all of three steps down the hallway before collapsing. Success! And my very first experience points.

I hadn’t even been sure those things existed in this world, or simulation, or construct, or whatever exactly was going on. The overlay had spoken of levels and hit points, but it did not mention anything I had none of, which was a bit irritating. And now I had a paltry five experience in my pool. Experience points that apparently could be poured into anything in my build list, both category and instance. Right now they all needed ten experience points to get anywhere, so that was going to be a while. I’d think on it while I constructed.

The digester, once I set it on the deer carcass, had to stay extended from the ceiling for a time, and whatever paranoia had made me start digging downward cautioned me that for big things like this I would want some way to seal off the area. Okay, well, that’s what doors were for.

I’d had time to sort through the architectural options, which were fairly narrow at this point. Doors, stairs, table, chair. No windows, not yet, though I only had the one entrance facing anything worth looking at. Walls, floors, ceiling. Boring, but I wasn’t bored.

I should have been. I had very little to do other than wait most of the time, and I had never been an immensely patient person, but now the passage of time didn’t grate so much. I should also have been panicked at the lack of limbs, of proper senses, of a normal body. But whatever body I did have didn’t have those responses, those chemical hormones. I was intellectually disturbed, but that was it. And now that I had the supernumerary inputs under control, the worst disturbance was taken care of.

I put a door in at the entrance. Not an interior door, which was entirely wood, but an exterior door, which was stone. I could trigger it at will, open and closed, with no apparent cost, but it looked like a door, albeit a large one, which seemed rather conspicuous to me. There had to be some way to make it stand out less.

Try as I might, I couldn’t figure a way to alter the door option. So I turned my attention to the door itself. There were little twitches of control, here and there, so maybe I could finesse what already existed.

Open, close, open, close. I focused on that, concentrating on the feel of things moving about. And managed to stop the door halfway through. Success! In more than one way.

The overlay pinged me with two updates.

[Control 1] learned.

150 Experience gained.

Well. That was a lot more experience than a random deer, and some kind of skill. Very nice. And it implied I’d do well to continue fiddling around with the edges of what I could do. So, skill first. Control: Temporarily take manual control of dungeon features. Simple enough.

And experience...well, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I didn’t know enough. Was trapping animals all there was to do? Surely not, I was at least told monsters existed. And something had broken down a wall and shattered a crystal, which I doubted rabbits and deer could do.

I decided, to start, to go with the paranoia option. First I upped each of the categories by one, which expanded my repertoire considerably. Windows (the shutter type), sliding doors, rotating walls. Pit trap, boulder trap. Ears, maws (which was kinda freaky). Money bait and grain bait. Money bait took resources I didn’t have. One gold.

So without clear direction, I followed paranoia, and improved my roots. Two level-ups took thirty-five points and made them faster and unlocked a submenu to change their size. Larger, or longer - I could chew away two hallway-widths of rock at a time, now. Or a full room height. I let them run, gauging how long it’d take to dig out the room I wanted. The answer was a full day, and in the meantime the original roots would keep going, opening more horizontal space.

In that time I experimented. I tried adding a wall to where a wall already was, at angles. Given my surplus of stone, I built and reclaimed at the dead end, trying for different shapes. By timing things, I found it took one minute to build and one to reclaim, getting half the resources back. And after much poking and prodding, stretching and flexing, I managed to get a few bits of stone to stick on the face of a wall. Not much, but another notification scrolled by.

[Alteration 1] learned.

150 Experience gained.

Alteration: Make minor modifications to dungeon structures. Key word, minor. Mostly cosmetic, at this point, though it did seem I could make the stone spikes slightly longer and larger.

[Spike Trap] advances to level 2.

It seemed worthwhile to try everything with everything, but given combinatorial explosion, that wasn’t likely to be possible.

Or was it? Did I really have anything better to do?

For the moment the answer was no, and I wished I had notepaper. Or maybe I did? There could be a note function in the overlay…

But no. I could finagle the real world, but the overlay didn’t yield to any of my coaxing. So I just tried to remember what I’d done, made a mental list, and worked my way through it. I replaced the front stone door with a sliding version of the same, to make it somewhat less conspicuous, then Altered the surface to make it fit in with the surrounding rock as well as I could.

[Camouflage 1] learned. Straightforward. Make things look like other things, within reason. The description specifically stated that things could only be camouflaged with small alterations...which was astoundingly vague.

Well, I'll take it.


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