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The first order of business, after I changed into a less sweaty shirt and had a chance to throw myself onto the smooth padding of my couch, was to figure out what direction to go. In most game systems, and it did seem like this was a game system we were dealing with here, having some focus generally let you apply your best powers to the widest set of problems. Maybe that was nonsense. Honestly, it was hard to extrapolate from thirty minutes of exposure to the end of the world.

Thinking about it a bit more, I came up with two possibilities. Either specialization was going to be critical, and I shouldn't clutter up my menus further, or, option two, was that power was going to be more liniar, and flexible, and the more options I had available, the more suited I would be to the new world that was coming up.

Maybe it would be best to wait and see? Not commit to anything too hard until, at least, until that last :26 in my vision ticked down to zero, and I got to see where my apartment building got slapped down.

[Skill improved : Planning +2
Stat improved : Intelligence +1]

Okay, now, why the hell would it give me that much of a kick upward if all I'm doing is making the decision to wait and see? How much brainpower and foresight, honestly, does it take to decided to *not make a decision*? I stared up at my ceiling fan and the giant angled windows of my living room ceiling. Despite the clamor outside, it felt secure in here. Peaceful. Without even thinking about it, I slipped into a rhythm of breathing and following the motion of the fan with my eyes, just enjoying an island of calm before the oncoming storm.

[Skill improved : Meditation +1]

Ironically, the notification that I was properly meditating was more than enough to snap me out of it. Lurching forward in a situp, grabbing the arm of my couch to stabilize myself, I decided to try to get a few chores done before the impending rearranging of the world, and the sudden loss of things like electricity.

Laundry, for sure. It had been piling up, and it needed to be done before I may never get to have fresh shirts again. Into the machine it went, and the twelve minutes the cycle needed would hopefully leave some time for it to start drying as well.

[Skill set unlocked : Cleaning
Skill unlocked : Cleaning - Laundry]

Hah. Should have seen that coming. I was getting frustrated with the constant bombardment of windows, but at the same time, my excitement was also growing. Would I eventually unlock an ability that let me simply point at some pants and render them clean? That would be more than worth this whole thing, honestly. But until then, I got my phone plugged in, and made sure everything on my PC was saved and closed and the desktop itself was shut down properly. If there was ever electricity and internet again, I'm sure I'd be able to pull up the Reddit thread from this one amazing hour, and see some eerily accurate shot calls about the nature of our new reality. For now, though, time was running low.

[Skill improved : Observation - Forethought +1]

As I moved around the kitchen, putting some stuff away and doing the dishes, for which I recieved a notice of ...

[Skill unlocked : Cleaning - Dishwasher
Stat unlocked : Dexterity. Manipulate your fate. Dexterity set to 3.]

... I continued to scrub at the pans in the sink, occasionally flipping a plate into the dishwasher, with a small flourish. This particular stat unlock was instantly noticeable, and I felt like I had near-perfect control of my fingers. It was almost like magic, if it weren't for the fact that I now knew actual literal magic existed. It didn't take long to finish up what I was doing, and I didn't waste time also making use of the running water to fill up a few bottles I had around.

[Skill improved : Planning +1
Skill improved : Observation - Forethought +1
Path unlocked : Travel Preparations]

I pulled up my status, to see that 'travel preparations' was for some reason marked as 1/10. Was that because I had made progress on it, specifically? What unlocked paths in the first place? What made me take steps on them? I got the references to game logic that were going on, but the gritty mechanics seemed a bit obfuscated. For that reason, it was hard to bring myself to care about the new path in any way.

I still had about ten minutes before everything quite possibly literally went to hell. Enough time to water the plants on the back deck before that became logistically a problem. Of course, by this point, I was half expecting when, after properly soaking the dirt around the leafy greenery in the planters on my porch, I was treated to a new popup.

[Skill unlocked : Gardening. Plant the future.
Skill unlocked : Farming. Grow the future.
Pool improved : Calm +2]

Well that was nice. I thought, feeling the increase in the presence of literal calm throughout my body. With still five minutes to spare, and a beautiful sunset starting to light up the night sky, I decided to do a little experiment. Reaching down inside myself to the pool of legally-distinct-from-mana mana that my compassionurgy had created, I focused on casting the second spell I'd been given, just to see what it would do.

The magic spiraled up around me, twisting in loops around my arms, before finding focus in the childlike smile that played on my lips as I felt the rush of friendly joy that was my inner energy make itself physically known. That smile, then, became something *more* for a second. I couldn't feel it exactly, but I knew what it was doing. It showed the world around me a better version of itself. A version that was gentler, kinder, healthier, happier. It painted a picture that was utopian in its nature.

Then the mana source ran dry, and it snapped off, and the world was back to just being a beautiful summer evening.

[Spell improved : Lorwyn's Smile +2
Stat improved : Magic +1
Pool improved : Kindness +2
Skill improved : Gardening +1
Ability set unlocked : Arcane Gardening. The green mage's touch.
Ability unlocked : Floral Connection. All roots are one.
Arcane Gardening slots used : 1/1]

I raised my eyebrows as that last notice. It was close to what I'd been expecting, but I didn't really get it until I looked down. The small plants that had just been starting to sprout in my planters had all doubled their growth. All of them reaching up to the sun, to the sky, and to me. The vines looked almost alive, dancing a little bit in the aftereffects of the spell. It made me smile, and in that moment of happiness, I felt my Kindness start to regenerate.

Ah, so that's how that one worked then.

One minute to go, though. My last act, before the next step, would be simple. I was going to eat the leftover pizza in my fridge, sit on my porch, and play my guitar for my newly dancing plants, and watch the sun set. If I was lucky, then by this time tomorrow, I'd be able to do it again.

[Skill improved : Taste +1]

I fetched my guitar with mediocre pizza in mouth, and headed out to the back porch again. Unfolding one of the beach chairs I had there, I plopped down, and just sighed. It had been a long day. It had been a long *hour*. I was looking forward to the future, though, and seeing what wonders it held.

[Resistance unlocked : Food poisoning. You are what you eat.
Stat unlocked : Toughness. Brace yourself. Toughness set to 2.]

"Okay, ouch." I said. "That really stings, you know? I thought I kept in shape." Then realization hit me, suddenly. "Wait, food poisoning? Son of a bitch..." I stared down at the Judas pizza in my hand. "That's a great early warning, but for fucks sake. It doesn't help knowing that toilets probably won't be hooked up to the grid in ten seconds."

[Skill improved : Observation - Forethought +1]

"Oh fuck off."

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About the author

argusthecat

Bio: I write stuff, and have a lot of thoughts about narrative structure and tropes. Some of the stuff I write is here, the rest can be found over on Reddit on my r/hfy author page. Feel free to message me if you want to talk about ideas, or just have questions about anything I made!

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