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A note from argusthecat

Okay more of this I guess

[Stat improved : Balance +1]

I was in my kitchen, standing on one leg. It turned out, it was pretty effective. The new system we seemed to live in now was overly enthusiastic about... everything, really... but at least it was a nice positive reinforcement loop.

You did a thing, you got rewarded for it. Presumably, you do more difficult or interesting things, or think interesting or difficult thoughts, and you were rewarded for that too. Which is why I'd decided to stand on one foot in my kitchen.

[Stat improved : Balance +1]

There were about two hours left until monsters started spawning. Right now, the rest of the residents of the apartment complex (all eight of them that were here when the shift happened) were having a meeting about how to manage it. I don't think it had occured to anyone that food, running water, and power were *also* going to be massive problems in the near future, judging by the sounds of conversation outside my window.

[Skill improved : Planning +1
Skill improved : Observation - Listening +1]

I couldn't blame them, though. Monsters did sound like a huge problem. And while I was now about five hundred times more effective in a fight than I ever would have been an hour ago, thanks to my growing strength and willpower stats, none of my magic was really geared for actually fighting.

Hell, I didn't even want to fight, if I could help it. But I would if I had to, especially if it was to protect the last eight people and one cat I may ever see. So while they discussed plans, I excused myself back to my apartment to try to see if I could discover any unlocks that may be of use.

[Stat improved : Balance +1
Skill improved : Observation - Listening +1]

While also listening in, of course.

They were talking about how they'd improved already; it didn't sound like anyone had really made the connection that they could *do it on purpose*. Bernard, the big guy from apartment 14, was talking about how he got some kind of sand-based crafting magic just for fucking around building sand castles. I really should go tell him to start power-leveling that before the spawn points opened up.

But right now, I wanted to take a few more minutes to see what I could find myself, here in the peaceful darkness of my own apartment.

[Stat improved : Balance +1
Ability unlocked : Feline Grace. Your paws are light on the ground.
Skill improved : Meditation +1
Pool improved : Calm +1]

Like that.

I put my leg back down. The level ups did seem to be coming slower, and that might have been because holding this position had gone from a wobbly stance to a firm and unmoving pose in the span of about two minutes. So difficulty did matter, even if the threshold was super low. Right now, it was time to see about something else. There had clearly been no tutorial, but the system did respond to my request for a status window. And I was curious if it could at least provide a *small amount* of clarifying information.

So, I settled down on my couch, fiddling with a kitchen knife that I'd grabbed while I was getting a drink of some of the last water within some few hundred miles. My first plan was to see if I could get a basic weapon skill while I was doing this, so I twisted the blade around in my fingers as I sent a mental prompt at the system in my head.

"What is 'calm'?" I asked it.

To my surprise, I got an answer.

[Calm : Resource. Pool improved by : Willpower, control, meditation. Pool refreshed by : Mental relaxation, active meditation. Passive consumption: Allows for clear thought in stressful situations. Active consumption : None.]

Okay, that was surprisingly useful, even though it obviously wasn't giving me any information I hadn't already unlocked. There were obviously more skills that would improve it, but those weren't shown to me. I left that window open, positioning it off to the right of my vision. Fiddling with the way the windows responded to my thoughts for a second, I managed to get the standard RPG setup of having all my resource bars up in the top left corner of my sight; not in the way, but conveniently placed.

[Stat improved : Control +1
Skill improved : Meditation +1
Pool improved : Calm +1]

Handy, I thought to myself, as I continued running my fingers along the knife. I'd sort of passively started toying with it, no longer attempting to unlock anything.

Okay, system. "Define 'kindness', please." It reacted right away with another convenient popup.

[Kindness : Resource. Pool improved by : Optimism, compassionurgy. Pool refreshed by : Mental relaxation, positive interpersonal actions. Passive consumption : None. Active consumption : Compassionurgy.]

Interesting as well. So, running out my pool of kindness wasn't going to make me a bitter asshole, good to know. I was now sitting crosslegged on the couch, running my palm back and forth down the sides of the knife, as if sharpening it along my skin. And even though I was doing it without thinking, that was enough to prompt another unlock.

[Ability unlocked : Sharpening. The whetstone and the perfected blade.
Skill unlocked: Knife. A small blade with a large impact.
Technique unlocked : The Claw Of The Clear Mind. Your blade requires no thought; your enemy requires no consideration.]

Okay, that's a lot less pacifist than I was hoping for. I just wanted to snag a little self defense, not an ability that sounds like I could literally murder people without thinking about it. But still, I really can't choose what's thrown at my character sheet. So, one more check before I headed downstairs to check in with my neighbors. "System! Assistance please!"

Nothing.

"Okay, sorry. System, define the resource pool 'assistance', please." That got it. Apparantly, asking for help was gauche, but using it as a more specific search engine was fine.

[Assistance : Resource. Pool improved by : Providing aid to others. Pool refreshed by : unknown. Passive consumption : None. Active consumption : Addition to any ability, magic, skill, or technique. Increases positive effects based on amount used.]

Neat. So, help people out, get the tools to help people out far more in the future. No way to refill it, though. Yet, anyway. I assumed I'd stumble across it at some point.

I checked my timers and noticed that we were down to fifteen minutes before quests opened up, and I was quite curious about that. With one last sip of water, I made a quick mental list as I headed for the door to go rejoin the meeting. First; keep up on my backyard garden. That required a source of water, so put that on the list as a sub-section. Second, find someone who was interested in seeing if we could share skills. Third, figure out if anyone in our little group had anything that stood out. Fourth... well, the fridge wasn't going to keep stuff cool forever. So, fourth, drag my grill downstairs, and see if anyone wanted burgers tonight.

[Skill improved : Planning +1
Stat improved : Intelligence +1
Philosophy improved : Optimism +1
Pool improved : Kindness +4
Step Taken : Travel Preperations +1
]

Apparantly the system agreed with me that burgers had an intrinsic value.

Spoiler: Spoiler

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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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