[AI]: "What would you like to know?"
[Jonah]: "What are skills?"
[Jonah]: "Memories? Of what?"
[AI]: "Of events."
Jonah groaned and rubbed his temples. Right, guess that was too open-ended of a question. He needed to be more specific with what he wanted to know.
[Jonah]: "Let's try this again; How do skills work? If skills are memories, then what separates them from this conversation?"
[AI]: "Skills are the memories of Life and Death. Of struggle and growth. They are memories of 'The Game.' Actions and events that go above and beyond a contestant's ability may be recognized by the Core System. These events will be recorded and immortalized, forever becoming a part of the history of "The Game" as a skill. The greatest of these, future Contestants will have the opportunity to share in their glory.
[Jonah]: "In other words, do something special, and the System gives you a skill for it. Do something extraordinary, and the System might make an entirely new one that could be put in the shop... Fine. Then what are some of the other more common ways to gain skills?"
Jonah could feel another headache coming on. Most of the time, the information given was straightforward, even if a little technical sounding. But he was starting to notice a pattern when it came to things directly related to "The Game."
Whether it was the Gamemaster, the System, or even this AI, they all seemed to present 'The Game' with a theatrical flair. It wasn't just flowery words, his brain told him there was something more to it. But he didn't have every piece of the puzzle yet. There was still too much he didn't know, and even more, he didn't realize he didn't know.
Jonah's mind raced with new ideas and new possibilities, more than ever before in his life. He struggled to come to terms with it all, like a billion piece jigsaw puzzle you didn't have the full picture for. Was it the influence of [Macgyver]? Or was it his new levels? Maybe even the Overmana? What was he becoming? What was "The Game" doing to him? To THEM? And why?
Wait... what was he doing? Was the AI talking? Had he missed anything? Crap.
Despite his concerns, however, the AI had remained silent during his internal monologue, only responding when it sensed Jonah's focus return to it. He was starting to suspect the thing was reading his mind, though he had no proof of it.
[AI]: There are 3 common ways that Contestants gain skills. The most common is through the Skills shop. Skills can be purchased through Skill Tokens gained from Sponsors, Quests, and Seeds. Next is through Soulstones. Lifeforms of a certain level of strength have the chance to condense Soulstones, the physical manifestation of their memories and self. Contestants can assimilate Soulstones and attempt to comprehend the memories stored within. Lastly, grand acts of accomplishment may be recognized by the System and rewarded with an appropriate skill.
While far more rare than the methods mentioned above, others do exist as well. Things such as bloodlines, inheritances, mystical treasures, and skill storage technologies exist within the 100,000 Galaxies. The opportunities and possibilities for growth are limitless.
Not surprisingly, it seemed that the most common methods to gain skills were through the System itself. But they did leave open other possibilities as well.
He could work with that.
There were still questions he needed answers to, but for now, he needed to digest the information he already had. He could barely focus as is, any more info dumps would be counterproductive.
Jonah's eyes wandered towards his stockpile of Worm parts. There was still work to be done...
A Week later.
Jonah turned the small, swiveling platform to face towards the Snake's esophageal sphincter. The movement was still a little ridged without many options for lubrication. Still, at least it gave full coverage of the stomach chamber. He'd used a fundamental wheel and axle swivel mechanism using the armor plates and a worm leg.
The whole thing, he mounted to walls in a similar way to his Hut platform.
It would make any real engineer facepalm, but it did what he wanted it to.
His fight with the Leviathan Worm left a bitter taste in his mouth. If it wasn't for a string of good luck, he'd have died many times over. His biggest problem had been his lack of ranged options.
What the hell had made him think he could melee a giant worm with razor-sharp tentacles and a body the size of a subway train?!
But hopefully, he wouldn't have to worry about that for much longer.
On top of this platform, he mounted four legs and strung a length of tentacle rope between them, attaching it to a pouch of Worm leather. The result was a rudimentary mounted slingshot style weapon. Initially, he'd wanted to make some kind of bow, but the materials on hand didn't lend well to the idea.
A slingshot was the next best thing. Plus, the ammo was a lot easier to make than arrows.
Using some simple bone shards as pellets, Jonah began the arduous task of testing and adjusting his creation.
At first, it seemed like the weapon was a failure. Even at full "draw," the pellets barely left a scratch on the armor plate he'd set up as target practice. That was when they didn't just shatter on impact or fall into the acid pool and vanish.
There wasn't much bone left either. The sickle monster has been almost fully digested by the time he thought to pull it onto his platform.
After a while, an idea struck him. Using a tentacle scythe, Jonah carved out some of the hard, rubbery flesh that composed the outer layers of the Snake's stomach. With the Snake's ever-growing power, even the razor-sharp tentacle scythe was starting to feel the resistance. Still, he finally managed to cut a chunk out.
The small chunk of flesh was strange. About the size of his head, it felt far heavier than it looked, almost like a block of lead. It wasn't so much "hard" as it was tough. Very little bounce when he dropped it on the platform, but sturdy and didn't warp easily.
Taking the chunk of flesh, he carved it into seven fist-sized balls, then left them dry (not an easy task, inside a stomach). Every few days, he'd dip them into the acid to kill off any bacteria. Finally, after another week, he was left with three brown-grey balls, roughly half the size they'd started as. The other four had either cracked, rotted, or been to damaged by their acid baths for his purpose.
The brown-grey balls were extremely tough, even chipping a tentacle scythe when he tried to cut one. Heavy too, each half fist-sized ball easily weighed 10lb. After chucking one at a worm plate, it gave off a satisfying ring, like a stone on metal, and left a small scuff.
Jonah gave a grin and retrieved the ball. Ya, this could work.
He wrapped each in a thin layer of worm leather to protect it from the acid, then headed over to the mounted slingshot. Jonah took a deep breath before loading the first ball into the slingshot and pulled it back as far as possible. The elastic nature of the tentacle rope meant that it could store a lot of energy. Coupled with the projectile's sheer weight, Jonah found his arms shaking by the time he brought it to full draw.
He took a moment to aim before releasing his grip. The 10lb pellet cut through the air with a high pitched screech, before striking the target plate mounted on the far wall. The deep voice of a gong echoed through the stomach, even causing the Snake to stir slightly.
Jonah peered over at the target plate, to find the ball embedded roughly 1/4 of its diameter into the thick, metal like plate. It didn't manage to crack or penetrate, but he was pretty happy with the results. Even if he couldn't crack the shell of a level 40 something Leviathan Worm, he was pretty sure it could do significant damage to anything not so well-armored.
With the test a success, Jonah spent the next 3 weeks building more slingshot platforms and producing more balls. Once he had a working prototype, making more was simple. Soon, there were a dozen similar platforms embedded along the walls, each at different elevations and angles, all connected by a series of tentacle rope lines and ladders.
Even if one or two platforms got destroyed in combat, he had several more to fall back on.
He'd used up nearly a third of his supply of leather and plates to craft it all, and half of his tentacle scythes shaping all the materials. But it was worth it, for the sense of security it brought him.
Through the whole process, [Macgyver] had hit level 30, and reached "Apprentice" status, further expanding his mind and letting him further see the depths of possibility sealed in the materials around him. The AI had explained the progression of crafting skills in depth, once he'd hit 30. Apparently, they were broken down into 5 ranks.
Beginner (levels 1-29), Apprentice (30-59). Journeymen (60-89), Master (90-99), and finally Grandmaster at level 100. Each peak was a bottleneck that a craftier would have to struggle and push beyond their limits to achieve.
But in return, the System would grade and enhance their works based on their skill and other factors. A blade forged by the hands of a Master blacksmith might be sharper, more durable, or even exhibit supernatural properties that an Apprentice's blade might not, even if both used the same materials and technique.
These boosts were often minor and fundamental, compared to other methods of strengthening, such as mystical engravings or enchanting. Still, their nature and the fact they could be stacked with these other methods made sure that even Journeymen would never want for a job in any world of Laniakea.
Unfortunately for Jonah, the nature of [Macgyver] meant he wouldn't see such boosts himself until he hit Journeymen. In fact, the System didn't even recognize his creations as "items." He might as well be hurling rocks for as much as it cared. In exchange, he got flexibility and creativity. And those were far more important to him right now than some minor boost.
His efforts with [Breathless] had started to bear fruit as well. After dedicating roughly 1/4 of his day to meditation, he managed to bring it up to a solid level 15 and increase his mana pool by 40. [Arcanic Regeneration] had increased by only 2 levels since.
After some basic math, he's figured out that [Arcanic Regeneration] passively drained him of roughly 1.5 mana per skill level per second, rounded up. With his current reserve, he could 'hold his breath' for a little longer than a minute before he started to suffer from mana starvation.
Thankfully, at his current level of [Breathless], he took in almost three times that expense, giving him a generous lead. Not that it was any reason to slack, however. The more breathing room he hand, the better he would feel. Hehe...'breathing room.' Puns.
*slap* Focus Jonah!
He was tempted to simply stop training [Arcanic Regeneration] altogether, but that wasn't really an option. The acid was becoming deeper and stronger with each passing day. His [Minor Acid Resistance] had already hit level 20.
According to the AI, non-specialized combat-focused contestants rarely ever level 30 in their resistance skills even after years and years on the front line.
Granted, Jonah doubted they were bathing daily in stomach acid. Even still, it told him just how dangerous a situation he truly was in, reaching level 20 in a few short months.
|Name: Jonah Hilannd
Contestant ID: Sol-3-00000000001
Viewership Rank: #325,558
Malnutrition (Minor, Recovering),
[Mana Sight]-lvl 8, [Siphon]-lvl 1, [Duplicate]-lvl 1, [Graft]-lvl 1
[Minor Acid Resistance]-lvl 20, [Breathless]-lvl 15, [Arcanic Regeneration]-lvl 6
[Macgyver (apprentice)]-lvl 30
Jonah sighed as he closed his screen. He still hadn't figured out how to "attune" himself to the Snake yet. The skill wasn't very clear on this for some reason. It felt like there was something he was missing. Something he wasn't fully understanding. His gut told him [Duplicate] was his ticket out of here. But if he couldn't figure out how to get it to work, it might as well be worthless.
And suffice to say [Siphon] didn't work at all; the Snake was just too high of a level for him to see any effect.
Well, progress was progress, he guessed. Still, it felt like he could do more. Like he HAD to do more.
Unfortunately, he was starting to run low on worm parts. He wanted to keep a supply back for repairs, at least. He didn't know how strong the acid was going to get, or when some psycho would decide to drop some other giant monster on him.
As he mused on his next steps, the world shook.
Or, more specifically, the Snake did.
The acid pool swirled and shifted as the walls around him twisted and flexed. Jonah looked up at his creations, trepidation in his eye; would they hold? He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding as he watched the structures buckle and twist, but holdfast.
The muffled sound of fighting could be heard through the thick snake flesh, and the beast squirmed and moved. Thankfully, the belly of the beast seemed to be farther down the length of its body, as the combat seemed distant, and the Snake's movement muted as if only moving part of its body.
It would make sense that the Snake didn't want to move much; the stomach alone was half the size of a city block at this point, how much energy did it take to move the rest of it? But then that begged another question. What kind of entity could push the Snake to move, let alone fight back?
For the next hour, Jonah clung to the leg of his makeshift shelter, riding out the tempest of sound and movement.
Till finally, it stopped.
Soaked in acid and arms shaking with fatigue, Jonah strained his hearing, trying to guess what had happened. Had the Snake won? Or had the enemy escaped?
Jonah wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed. The next moment, he felt the familiar sensation of his stomach dropping as the Snake shot forward at extreme speed. The momentum ripped Jonah from his platform and slammed him into the back wall, as a massive crash sounded from outside.
Jonah shook his head as he tried to right himself. When he could hear again, he noticed a rhythmic pulsing sound. The walls rippled and rattled with each wave. It was then he realized.
Something was coming.
And this time, he was ready!
He scrambled up to his hut and started to carry ammunition to several Slingshot platforms. He'd planned on carving out storage for them but hadn't had time yet. 20 minutes later, he had 3 Platforms loaded with a few dozen Slingshot shots, when he noticed the glow.
At first, he thought it was his mana sight, but as whatever-it-was, got closer, he realized that whatever the Snake had swallowed, it was giving off an intense orange glow. One bright enough to see with his regular sight.
The glow became brighter and brighter, until finally, the esophageal sphincter and reveled its payload. It was a...
A mostly intact office building covered in a massive, glowing barrier was slowly pushed through the opening and fell with a splash into the acid below.
Jonah could only stare in confusion and shock, mouth agape, and head tilted. The next moment, however, a smile spread across his face.
[Jonah]: ...... THE SNAKE PROVIDES!