He walked out an hour later with three new skills: [Danger Sense]; [Mana Spring]; and [Sunder].
The first two were at rank F-2, and the last was at F-1. He had needed the first rank in a skill to be able to buy the second. The first two were the more expensive skills of the lot—especially [Mana Spring]—so he’d bought the first rank of [Sunder] and [Danger Sense] for 3,500 and 6,000 System Coins respectively, and used his Skill Tokens to buy the rest.
[Mana Spring] would give him the mana to use high powered skills more frequently, and let him summon his Beast Soul Weapon for longer; and [Sunder] was a low-cost offensive skill for causing more damage, particularly to armor and shields.
The pit trap in front of the Spawning Vat was now covered in Slimes, but it would take a lot longer for it to reach even halfway full.
Wanting to test things out, he summoned his Beast Soul Weapon and struck at a spawning Slime, just as it glooped out of the spigot, activating [Sunder] as he did so.
Green goo sprayed from the monster’s body as the weapon cleaved through it. The Slime’s core, split in half, shattered like crystal disco balls as the defeated monster splattered into the pitfall and was promptly devoured by its fellow Slimes.
He smiled and dismissed his weapon. Already his mana was refilling, much faster than it had previously, and his new attack skill didn’t cost much. Perhaps now he’d be able to wield the Beast Soul Weapon for a minute—half if he used [Sunder] continuously—rather than a couple of seconds.
He strolled into the Weapon Vendor. He needed a new shield, and his mace was looking a little worse for wear. The weapon had taken a lot of abuse and needed to be retired.
Chris left five minutes later, carrying a hammer and shield—both made of a silvery gray metal that resembled a matte version of steel. They’d cost him 800 System Coins, but in his opinion, their ability to take and deal out punishment was worth it.
The last thing to do was visit the free, System provided Tutorial Station he’d built.
Unlike Brim at the Skill Vendor, or the person in the Weapon’s Vendor, there was no person manning the structure. It wasn’t even a building, just a small booth covered by a small awning. Beneath the awning were pedestals arranged in a loose circle, with stools in front of each.
He took a seat and pressed his hand to the pedestal.
A robotic voice spoke within his mind, “Welcome to System Tutorial Station. Would you like a basic introduction to the Tutorial?”
There was a beep and the voice continued, “Welcome to the Tutorial, Christopher Hill of planet Earth (Formal Planetary Designation – VNX-761394726). As new inductees to the multiverse, your species will occupy the Tutorial for the duration of one Earth year.
“After cessation of the Tutorial, you will return to your respective locations. Some of you were deposited among the multiverse to mitigate the full loss of your species in the case that a calamity befalls your home planet or universe—if that is the case, you shall return there.
“If you were transported to such a location, please purchase the relevant planetary adaptation skills to avoid succumbing to the local conditions. You may also purchase teleportation home using a teleportation hub—Earth coordinates will be automatically added to your teleportation ledger, free of charge.
“While in the Tutorial, you will share greater opportunities to grow in power with yours and other species. Since your species is new to the multiverse, your town will be under Starter Protections for the first fourteen days. A weakened rank F-1 Beast Horde will be spawned in seven days to give your race experience fighting against waves of besieging enemies. This Beast Horde will bypass standard Starter Protections.
“Once Starter Protections expire fully, your town will be able to be conquered by other races. You may also conquer the towns of other races to provide more opportunities for members of your race to occupy limited Tutorial slots. As a newly inducted race, you are entitled to one basic weapon from the System Tutorial Weapon Booth. You will receive a one-time quest to kill five monsters and reach Level 10 once you leave the area of the Starter Protections.
“Finally, please be aware that increasing your town rank will increase the difficulty of challenges you will face, as well as the strength of the surrounding area—Anomalies are the exception to this rule, but grant greater rewards. Area rank may also be increased by defeating the strongest monster in the region. Town rank and other factors will determine the rarity, power, and quantity of materials that spawn nearby. Good luck, and please remember that without proper preparations, one life is all you get.”
The voice stopped and Chris suddenly went still. One life and that was it? He had sort of expected it, but it still came as a shock. Surely something that resembled a game to such a degree should have respawns. The thought was worrying. Worse yet, it tore at his conscience. Had he doomed Bruce and Steve when he’d pranked them earlier? The prospect of death had been solidified, and his eagerness to go out and risk his life diminished drastically. It was better to take things slow, to not try and pursue every single title out th—
Suddenly, his worries faded, everything was good. Steve and Bruce would be fine. What was most important was that he level up and obtain a… something. He didn’t know what that something was, but it was important, he just knew it. It was power, something worth fighting for, something worth dying for.
He frowned, that last thought felt like it had come from somewhere else—then that worry smoothed away as well. He spoke into the sudden silence, “What happens if a town is conquered? What happens to the inhabitants?”
“Question not recognized. Would you like to replay the Tutorial introduction, or do you wish to purchase a more advanced Tutorial introduction?”
The idea of other races conquering towns to get access for their populations was frightening. There were races whose members had been here for a year. How could they compete against those after only fourteen days?
That town rank-up business was bad news as well. Increasing the danger of the surrounding area would be disastrous for anyone spawning in. It would necessitate conquering towns in lower ranked zones. That was people like them. The sitting ducks.
And Chris suddenly realized. There had been four artisans, but a fifth bone knight—an Ossian Juggernaut—in production. The Undead had their own buildings—he’d seen them in the System buildings menu—but they hadn’t even cleared the town of space for the System Coins. They should have. Free money was free money.
Unless they couldn’t. Unless… what was its name? Nathak? Unless Nathak had been a newly conquered starter town—dedicated to strengthening the newest members of the Undead race. Unless someone with the relevant authority was coming to take control of, and clear, the town. Maybe the operator of the fifth bone knight?
And what would they find? Their town gone. Its occupants dead… deader. And a human’s keep in its place, with a human town nearby.
He had a feeling this was going to get awfully messy, awfully quickly. Fourteen days didn’t sound like a lot of time. And he wasn’t even sure if Kingscastle, his keep, had the same protections as Hartshire. He suspected not.
He checked his titles, crossing his fingers for a settlement-owner related boost. None. Either it didn’t exist, or someone had got there before him. However, if there was one thing of which he was certain, it was that he wouldn’t last an hour against a determined siege.
He needed more people. Not just for defense, but taxes too. Buildings were expensive, and he’d never pay them all off on his own. There were other options, but he’d consider them later. They would cause a whole host of problems if he opted to enact them.
The stairs of his keep flew past him, three at a time, as Chris returned to the roof.
He slapped his hand to the pedestal and tabbed over to the screen titled “Spawning” that he had seen earlier while perusing the menus. Inside were two sliders, on labelled “Human”, the other “Slime”. Both were set to zero. He moved the human one up to maximum, then closed down the window. Hopefully he’d get some citizens spawning soon.
Either way, it was high time he got some sleep. He was exhausted. It had been a busy day.
He’d destroyed a Dungeon, defeated an Undead town solo-ish, and created his own demesne. But it was likely that enemies were coming. And even if they weren’t, humanity would soon be facing threats that it simply wasn’t prepared for—the tutorial introduction guaranteed that.
He cursed as he realized that his keep didn’t have a bed for him to sleep in. He couldn’t be bothered to buy one from the general store, so he slunk awkwardly into the Defender’s Barracks and slumped down on one of the vacant beds in which the Kingscastle guards would eventually spawn.
His armor clanked and rattled, and it took him a moment to understand that he hadn’t removed it since the previous day. He shucked the plates of worked armor from his skin as if he were an armored oyster.
Then, casting his protection lazily onto the floor, he leaned back and let his head sink into a surprisingly decadent and downy pillow. Tomorrow would mark the start of the real grind and recon activities, but right now he was just appreciating the softness—not paying much heed to the demon blood that still stained him from head to toe.
Tomorrow was the time for worrying about all the little problems that had roosted around him, but now was time for sleep.
He didn’t need much convincing. One more breath into the down pillow and he was out like a lamp.