All in all, I was happy with the choices I'd made. My new abilities sounded really useful and I still had plenty of time left on Duncan’s ship to recoup the lost skill levels.
The four abilities cost 55 levels in total. That sounded like a lot until I saw the 44 levels in Jester alone. I didn’t know enough to spend all of my points yet though. Despite that, I was about to take the plunge. What gamer could resist the allure of leveling up for real?
I gripped the sides of the basin and pushed my face into it. I could feel the water’s surface around my chin and scalp but there was crisp breathable air on the other side. It smelled like Autumn.
When I opened my eyes I nearly laughed. Right in front of me was an action figure sized model of myself slowly rotating flanked by statistics. It looked a lot like a character creation screen in MMO’s I’ve played. I was a little shocked at how much I had changed. The dirty dreadlocks jutting out from under my green cap were the most notable change. My shirt and shorts weren’t in great shape either. A tear here and a puncture there had added up and I looked more like a hobo than a minstrel. I scanned the skill-list to the left of my representation. Nothing new there so I looked to the Stats on the right.
Titles: Trans-Dimensional Being
Feats: 0 [Apply]
Experience: 283 [Level Up]
The first thing that caught my eye was the flashy title. When did I get something like that? I wondered what it meant to be a Trans-dimensional being and a message superimposed itself over the stats a moment later.
You have fallen through a crack in the universe and landed in another dimension. The gods in no way admit any wrongdoing but offer you this title to help you adapt to your new circumstances.
- +250% skill EXP gain
- +10 free Skill Points per level (15 total)
- +1 free Stat Point per level (6 total)
- Access to an extra-dimensional storage space
What was with that wording? Do the gods need lawyers for this sort of thing? Either way, It looked like I didn’t completely miss out on the overpowered abilities I originally hoped for. It just happened to be a subtle power that would be weak at the start and build up over time. So long as I worked at it, I could become any kind of hero I wanted!
I dismissed the prompt and frowned at the big fat 0 next to the entry for feats. I was pretty sure I’d done a few impressive things since I arrived. When I looked too closely at the bold [apply] the stats faded away.
An exhausted man staggered down a beach. His sunken eyes watched the waves suspiciously and his skin was blistered with too much sun.
Walk around outset island in one day +End
Then I saw myself underwater, inspecting the sea-floor for the bubbles that indicated shellfish hiding just under the surface.
Stay 10 meters underwater for one minute +End
Vision after vision passed by as my feats were replayed for me.
Swim 1,000 meters +End
Hit 100 animals with a ranged weapon +Dex
Learn to play an instrument without instruction +Int
Successful voyage at sea +Luk
Trade 1 silver worth of goods for more than twice its value +Cha
5 consecutive successful voyages at sea +Str
Talk yourself out of 5 dicey situations +Cha
Carry 10 KG for a week +Str
Restore 5,000 Mana +Attn
Oddly enough, in the last vision, I was sound asleep. Maybe that boosted mana regeneration? I could guess a lot about what the different stats did based on the feats they were associated with. One thing was for certain though. This Attn stat was the one that let me generate mana. When the stats came back up with their new values I scanned down the list for its match.
Titles: Trans-Dimensional Being
Experience: 283 [Level Up]
I felt a lot better about my stats now that I had eleven extra points sprinkled in. Those extra three points in Endurance and two in Strength should go a long way towards making the work on the ship easier. Attunement was the only stat that could possibly match Attn. It looked like I was pretty tuned out in general. No wonder it took me so long to recover my mana pool after playing the Song of Storms.
If all the points I just earned were any indication. I would have no trouble raising a well-rounded character. I should save my free points to push a specialty. That left the big question though. Now that I had a [level up] button in front of me I couldn’t put it off any longer. What build was I going to go for?
Tanking was right out. I had no interest in getting hit on purpose. Especially with no indication that respawning was a thing. I could be a ranger but standing in the back ranks calmly shooting arrows didn’t really appeal to me either. I always got dewy eyes when thinking about fast melee builds. It would really be something else to slip through the shadows and dance through battle narrowly dodging battleaxes. That brushed a little close to the mortality issue again. There was really no contest from the beginning. Magic. It had to be magic. There was no resisting the allure of having an arsenal of spells, each for a different situation. Magic was a fantasy, a dream for everyone in my home dimension. I owed it to all the harry-potter fans out there to learn as much magic as I could!
You have leveled up!
+15 Skill Points
+6 Stat Points
I dropped the skill points into trade, bumping it up to 19 in an instant. The stat points all went into my attunement, bringing it up to 9.
Titles: Trans-Dimensional Being
I now had nearly five times the attunement I had when I walked into adventurers guild! That should let me play the song of storms ten times each day! Less time working the rigging was fine by me. It should also speed up the rate I earn more attunement-related feats if my guess was right.
Happy with my progress, I tried to pull my head back out of the basin but it was stuck. My panic was cut off by another notification.
Once you leave the essence pool all changes will be permanent
Are you sure you would like to apply all of the selected changes?
I confirmed the changes and a warm feeling enveloped my body. I pulled my head out of the water to look down. My gut visibly shrank as my arms swelled. My entire body grew considerably leaner. My favorite part of the process was how grime simply drifted away from my skin and hair leaving it clean for the first time I could remember.
When I looked back to the basin I was shocked. The water practically hummed with power. It wasn’t the kind of humming power that you hear near electrical boxes: the scary, barely contained kind. This was power with purpose. It was wholesome and good and bottomless. My low attunement had blinded me to it just like a deaf person might not hear a fire alarm.
I barely had the presence of mind to spend my newly acquired trading skill points. I had no plans to get on another ship after my contract was up so I wanted to milk this trading opportunity for all it was worth.
There is an old Chinese proverb I got stuck in my head at some point. It goes like this: “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop”. Seems like the Earth Mother agreed that a smile is the most basic tool in a merchants bag of tricks. I picked it up and still had enough points left to get light mood.
You have attained the ability: Charming Smile
+1 reputation level when meeting someone new
You have attained the ability: Light Mood
You can carry twice as many goods without becoming overburdened
Score! These abilities were totally worth it. Getting to a friendly reputation level with Frankie was probably the only thing that got me off of outset island. Charming Smile would probably open up all kinds of special trade opportunities. Light Mood was a godsend too. Maybe I should have put some stat points into strength… No, It’s better to plan for the future when I’m spending my limited stat points. I wouldn’t be trading forever, and even if I did, I wouldn’t carry all my merchandise personally.
Looking over my changes I felt the old thrill of going from zero to hero that made RPG’s so addicting to me. I was 70 Skill points down but I gained 6 useful skills, 17 stat points and some answers about how I ended up on that beach.
I turned and as if sensing my intention, the wall slid to the side letting me leave. The priestess was still smiling vacantly when I passed by the desk. I needed to ask her a few questions but she beat me to it.
“Congratulations on leveling up! I see you have purchased seventy points worth of tier 1 abilities. That comes to seven silver.”
I stopped in my tracks. The smug glow of magical self-improvement fading with my goofy grin.
“Seven… Silver?” I asked, not believing my ears.
“That is correct” She informed me without breaking her damn serene attitude.
“But, but you said the services here were free!”
“While registration, leveling up and applying Feats are all complimentary, the Adventurers Guild went to great expense to facilitate access to abilities. We, of course, charge a small fee for those who make use of that service.”
“Small fee? That’s all the money I’ve made so far! You really should have told me before I bought the abilities!” What was with the people in this world. She just kept smiling but goosebumps ran up my spine and I got the feeling that I had just yelled at the wrong person.
“Excellent” She clapped her hands together “Then you should have no problem paying the fee.” A pair of cloaked men appeared to either side of me and took my arms while a third patted me down.
“Must have been lying about the coin priestess. He doesn’t have a copper on him.” Said the man who had just put his hands places where they were definitely not welcome.
“I don’t have it on me.” I snapped “I’m contracted on the sea cow. I’m owed seven silver for the work I’ve done so far.”
“That’s just as well.” Cut in the serene voice of the priestess “We can garner your wages without much trouble. If you are telling the truth, you will be free to go.”
“And if I’m not?”
“There are other ways to repay a debt.” The priestess said, letting my imagination provide all sorts of terrible possibilities. Then a not so terrible possibility crossed my mind.
“Is one of those ways fighting monsters?”
The priestess was taken aback by my apparent eagerness.
“That is one way yes.” She admitted
“Would other contracts, specifically my contract with the sea cow, become void if I went into debt to you?” She snorted at my question, totally breaking her mysterious image.
“No, you would be required to fulfill any previous obligations before paying your debt to us but it looks like that won’t be an issue. I have just received confirmation of your active contract and garnished the seven silver in question. It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
Pleasure my ass. This was practically highway robbery. I bit my tongue and stomped out of the building, giving another look at all the precious metals. In retrospect, I should probably not have expected this place to run as a non-profit.
When I got outside I began to cool off and see how narrowly I dodged a bullet. If I had bought all the abilities I could, there was no way I could have paid for them all. Something clicked in my head. Costs. She said the book in the door had information on abilities and their costs. I had assumed that just referred to the point costs. At least I had my interdimensional storage. I would be shit out of luck if they took what little capital I had left before garnering my wages. Not to mention what they might have done if they found me with loot from a battlefield.
I took a few deep breaths. If anything, this just underscored how important money would be. I didn’t just need to pay for room, board and swordsmanship lessons if I wanted to become a hero. I would have to pay through the teeth for every ability on the way. The priestess also said something about all my abilities being tier one. That probably meant it would only get more expensive in the future. I forced a crooked smile across my face.
“Smile Patrick.” I told myself “You don’t have the time to throw a hissyfit. Get out there and find some deals!”
I started walking towards the future. Then I stopped. I had completely forgotten to ask the priestess for directions.