Before Nathan cleared the lower levels, the forest would be in a constant state of daytime.
The Endless Forest was known to most as paradise, as even though the critters were hostile and many of the plants poisonous, with a bit of vigilance nothing would outright kill you.
That was the case for daytime at least, as upon first entry of the lower levels south of Lumbertown, the days upon your return to the forest would cycle like on earth. A choice many were reluctant to take due to the terrors of the night.
As he walked through the forest, Nathan's stomach grumbled, he had not had a proper meal for a while and was motivated to find some prey beyond mere stats.
The critters of the forest weren't exactly densely packed, as such Nathan had to search for quite a while, salivating at his own thoughts before he found one.
A Horned Rabbit
Slightly larger than rabbits found on earth, with a very pointy horn protruding its forehead, these critters would lunge when cornered, at a speed and force deceptive of their size. Against humans, they would attack regardless.
Nathan was familiar with most recorded creatures and plants found in The Tower, Horned Rabbits included. Knowing what was coming, he readied his stance.
*Swoosh* the rabbit pounced at him.
Nathan was almost caught off guard at the blitzing speed of the rabbit, as it lunged through the air, but managed to steady himself in time. With a sideways grab, he took a hold of the rabbit's horn, and thrust his dagger from underneath its jaw and into its skull.
[You have defeated a 'Horned Rabbit']
[+1 to Strength]
[+1 to Agility]
Increasing your attributes was somewhat straight forward. Stat relevant action would build up potential, being released upon killing monsters in The Tower.
Killing the Horned Rabbit, his approach was thoughtful, actions swift and the strike forceful. If not for his already high agility, he would probably have increased it as well.
Nathan had trained for this before he could even walk, in the past 3 years the intensity of his exercises were especially gruelling, having him shed blood, sweat and tears, hundreds of times his own bodyweight.
With a trail of blood behind him, Nathan made his way to the ever-present river of the forest. Draining, skinning, eviscerating and quartering, were all skills he had been taught.
Upon eating his grilled prey an unknown feeling welled up in him. He had never actually done the deed itself whenever they went out to hunt on earth, this time he simply acted without thinking, not even using his ability. The feeling was somewhat uncomfortable and he wasn't sure what to make of it, as such he stopped dwelling on it, continuing to enjoy his food.
The possibility it might be feelings of remorse or sympathy never entered Nathan's mind. He had seen what they were capable of on earth. When it came to magical creatures, killing them was perfectly normal, more so for Nathan who's dad, Liam died in The Tower.
A couple of hours later and Nathan was on the ground puking his guts out, parts of rabbit strewn across the roots and grasses of the forest. Making his way towards the river to get cleaned up, he cursed his grandpa for giving him faulty info.
After dinner, he went out looking for poisonous plants with the intent to increase his constitution. There wasn't too much danger in it, and he took care to only ingest as much as to only cause some discomfort and nausea, an approach common on the first floor. However the dosage was based around the average adult, a demographic that did not include him, hence his now slightly more colorful cloak, and less colorful expression.
Taking hits from monsters was ill advised to increase your constitution stat unless it was already sufficiently high, or you had an appropriate skill for it. Cuts and bruises took time to heal, and blood loss was no joke.
Any physically draining labor would help increase your constitution, however it was way to slow, and exhaustion was generally a bad idea outside of safe spaces. Not that being poisoned was great either, but you would at least be able to swing your weapon, assuming the dosage was right of course.
After a while of exploring, and having increased his attributes quite a bit. Not knowing how long had passed under the perpetual daylight, Nathan eventually started to tire.
He had somehow gotten used to actually using his ability in fights, but with rarely meeting more than one critter at a time warranting it's use, he felt little satisfaction from the encounters.
With carcasses in tow, he headed back to town. Horned Rabbits, Quill-Tailed Foxes and Weeping Skunks. The creatures weren't exactly legendary, nor worth that much, their value measured mostly in time saved, which was hopefully enough for lodging to let him rest.
It didn't take long for him to return to where the space stabilized, the Grand Oak on the horizon.
When he left for the forest, Nathan didn't have time to take in the sights outside of Lumbertown. Plenty of people were reluctant to fight their way up The Tower, opting to find employment on the first floor instead.
Awakened were scarce and certain resources of The Tower were in high demand.
Along the river, people were seen panning for ore and cutting down trees. In the river, there were trace amounts of minerals that could be refined into a metal named magi-steel, the most common metal in The Tower due to its frequent appearance on most floors. It was either used in its pure form or as the core for alloys with other, rarer materials mixed in. Nathan's dagger was pure magi-steel.
The lumber was gathered to either to expand the town, or to be made into charcoal for the smithies of the Ash Districts. The Grand Oak had an aura that prevented fires from growing under its branches, hence any smithies had to be outside of the oak's crown. Along with the smithies there were plenty of people with ill intent on the first floor, as such fires were frequent outside the core of Lumbertown. Structures having to be rebuilt frequently with the ever-growing population of awakened.
Walking past the gates of the city core, Nathan struggled to keep up his vigilance due to drowsiness.
Asking around, he headed towards an inn that would accept game for lodging. He contemplated sleeping back on earth, but without any knowledge of the current weather, he succumbed to the temptation of an actual bed.
Magic Power 16
Waking up the next day, Nathan pondered a bit before heading out to find Richard. There was an information gathering hub in the core district where people could pay for information, they also kept track of the weather on earth that was free of charge.
If he went himself however, nothing would stop these people from practicing their trade, selling him out to anyone asking, which could be used to find his general location on earth.
Strictly speaking if he focused on stats first, he could trek through Europe at a much faster pace later on. His grandpa however told him to focus getting far enough away from Central City first. As such he would min-max his time until he got to Eastern Europe, only progressing in The Tower on rainy days.
Mistlands was the term used for an area that was in the middle of transformation on earth. Anyone that found themselves inside the sudden, pervading mist would have a hard time moving. It would gradually grow in density, until nothing would be able to leave or enter.
Immediately after the transformation, monsters would yet to have spawned, but any animals or humans that could not get outside in time would mutate. A discordance of deformed flesh, ear-piercing howls of pain and rage. The victims would would lose all semblance of their previous selves, both in mind and body. They would grow into monstrosities that could no longer support their own life, eventually collapsing into piles of grotesque flesh.
Naturally when something like this happens in a populated, urban environment, the buildings become obstructive and the myriad of streets confusing, making escape difficult. If those lucky enough not to be inside would delay in their escape, by the time the transformation completes they would be at the receiving end of the mutants' short lived rage.
The first instance of this, happened in India in 2029, the body count in the hundreds of thousands.
The world was in an uproar, and the governments not much calmer. This was what spurred a major change in the approach towards the world changing. By this time some awakened had settled on transformed land, and found that monsters would not spawn directly in or around their settlements.
With the support and sacrifice of many awakened, the world erected new mega cities, seemingly overnight in magical zones. Billions of people relocated over few years.
The first of these cities in Europe was Central City, located in old Switzerland, and home to Nathan and his family.
At it's center was a building that towered over the rest of the already vertically built metropolis. This was the headquarters of the association known as Guardians of Europe, the lovechild of the EU-NATO coalition that appeared in the earlier days of The Tower.
Their goal was to combine the efforts of the various European governments, military and volunteering awakened, to protect the people and safeguard industry and logistics. To maintain a semblance of a productive economy, and the general wellbeing of the population.
The coalition grew into what was now the association, and the current administration in charge of awakened in the region. Named after past efforts and future responsibilities, a more than symbolic existence of hope for the people.
The association had grown powerful enough in Europe to enforce strict laws and had surveillance on any awakened that wanted to live in their cities. If the intentions behind this used to be to protect the people, it was now deranged into a tool for 'aristocratic' families of awakened to protect their self-interests.
Although this was not obvious on the surface, it could not escape the more perceptive of people.
Despite knowing of this, Sophia Roth, an awakened that was thought to have great future prospects, aligned herself with the association, distancing herself from her adoptive family.
This was a strategic move as the association, corrupt as it may be, was a pile of loose sand under the surface. Divided into several factions, even with similar goals the decision of who was to stand at the top was what divided them. The current association head being a mere figurehead.
It was claimed that her adoptive father died in the Tower, however the timing was just after she had awakened, a happenstance she later found suspicious. She had learned that the association had less than ethical ways of dealing with awakened families of 'opposing' values, that they felt would grow too powerful.
She started to suspect they were responsible for her adoptive father's death. In their minds she could still be recruited, but her 'fake' father Liam, and godfather Walter, could not. They were clearly against the association's ever growing plot of awakened supremacy.
Thus to give the association factions hope that she would join them in their more shady endeavors, she registered to work directly for the association, albeit only in the official duties. Appearing ignorant of what brewed under the surface.
She did this to protect her little brother, in an attempt to lower their vigilance towards him. She felt guilty towards her adoptive father's death, believing they were responsible, and she was the trigger. She didn't want them to target Nathan the same way.
If only things were that easy.
As Sophia headed towards the association headquarters to complete her bimonthly administrative duties and reports, she met upon a young adult of a particularly sleazy nature.
Kyle was of the Grayson family, a 'new noble' family whos political alignments were to advocate towards awakened 'rights', as their task of protecting the citizens were said to be noble.
Naturally she knew this was just a bullshit front to spoon-feed the people excuses, making them believe that the increasingly frequent immoral acts from awakened were justified.
While she didn't like him, she didn't have to pretend to be cold towards him either, as this was the core of the persona she came up with. The persona of someone who would abandon the people who raised her.
"Yo little miss ice queen, you have a new mission from the higher ups." Kyle said, with a mischievous grin, waving a folder in front of her. "Apparently your dearest little brother has been naughty, trying to escape the mandatory evaluation. Just because his grandfather is a bit special doesn't mean he can break the law you know."
Concerned, almost breaking character from the sudden news, Sophia barely managed to keep her cool as she continued walking her office, seemingly not too bothered about the folder Kyle was trying to tease her with.
"Go on." she said, making Kyle follow her.
"Our agents followed him into the mountains where they lost him, we've supressed the news for now but it's only a matter of time before the media start picking up on it, who knows what stories they might spin up once that happens." He continued, trying to gauge her reaction, with little result.
"He used to go camping quite a bit with his grandfather, not unusual, and could have met some danger instead, what is your basis for claiming he is trying to run away?" She stated, matter-of-factly
"Did I say that? I don't remember saying that. Anyways, your job is to find him and bring him back, you have three months, and there will be no charges regardless of intent if you succeed. The association will prevent any media speculation in that time." He finished, smacking the documents with the details on her desk.
Name: Sophia Roth
Eye Color: Green
Hair Color: Red
Tower Floor: 1
Magic Power 100
Infernal Ignition(Tier 1): Release wisps of fire that flies and ignites under your control, exploding at the desired location. Mana cost is determined by how much the manipulator feeds it, affecting scale and potency.