I woke up in the [Solo’s Sanctuary], coming to consciousness in the most peaceful manner I’d ever woken to in weeks. Relaxed, splayed across my couch. I was fairly certain I’d been snoring. A miracle, considering how paranoid I’d been.
“This place truly is a sanctuary,” I said, sighing as I stood up.
It was time to go, if that increasingly burdened part of my soul was anything to go by. That ethereal feeling that I couldn’t truly trace with anything but the Skill itself. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact length of time I spent inside, but it was enough for a night of deep sleep and then some.
Reluctantly, I took three steps away from the couch, the sanctuary blurring away, reality reasserting itself. And there I stood, right where I’d left. Overlooking the arrangement of campfires that some people had attributed tentative nicknames to. That strain on my being immediately faded.
Near me, Third was still close where I left him, watching over the encampment of survivors. Refugees from an old world. I stared at him, curious, wondering if I looked as Rickson had.
Third gazed down below with calm green eyes, roaming over the whole clearing, eyeing the positions of the three other clones currently present. He could see across the distance with surprising clarity. Second was by the Dungeon, Fourth and Fifth were shadowing him, trying to figure out how to use [Telepathy].
I regarded myself.
With the boosts to WIS, WIL, and CHA, their total rose to 85. It meant I was five off of increasing the maximum number of copies of [Never Alone].
After all this time, I was still hesitating on using my Stat Points. They were an extremely precious resource as they represented an immediate incremental increase to any aspect of myself I ever found lacking. A scarce one too, seeing as only one is given every level.
I wasn’t a fool to think that just because I’d been so blessed, it made these points worth anything less. The truth was, I still barely knew anything about this new reality. Sure, these points could bump an attribute now, but as seen with [Never Alone] they could potentially mean something more.
Because of my Title and Item, I could hoard what I already had with relatively minimal risk. That spoke to some part of me. The one that had adapted and changed along with the world. In this manner, at least, I could be prepared to adjust, immediately.
Name: Evahn Wynst
Title: [Trailblazing Vanquisher of the Hivemind]
INT: 20 + 5
WIS: 27 + 5
WIL: 29 + 5
CHA: 14 + 5
Stat Points: 18
Skills: [Never Alone], [Low Profile], [Solo’s Instinct], [Solo’s Sanctuary], [Telepathy]
Regarding that strange knowledge of myself was like looking at my being quantitated, with the Titles and Skills indicative of any outstanding qualities beyond those obvious in the attributes. Objectively, I was someone with experience operating solo and gathering information undetected. Subjectively, I was a man trying to acclimate. A survivor no different than the rest. As much a stranger to this new world as anyone else. Lost, homeless, and thrust into danger and unknown.
Leveraging every tool I could.
Skill: [Never Alone]
Even working alone, it never hurts to have another set of eyes. Better yet when they’re yours. You are able to replicate yourself to a certain degree and capacity.
- Max Copies: (WIS + WIL + CHA) / 10 + [Ring of the Hivemind] = 9
- Copies have halved STR, CON, DEX, and AGI.
- All other attributes are retained.
Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth greeted me. A wave, a nod, a pat on the back, simple acknowledgment. All the ways I might greet myself. Nine clones, ten Evahns.
I couldn’t produce a copy from another copy, unfortunately. It was an extremely limiting aspect of [Never Alone] given its scope but I supposed it was only fair. It was the first thing I had tried.
But I paid attention to the cloning process this time, not ever having the opportunity to really test it before. The clones kept my clothes and appearance, perfect copies of myself. Yet the things I had on me weren’t necessarily translated. My [Spidersilk Backpack] stayed present only on the original, arbitrary objects I held during the process didn’t copy over.
I tested a few things, holding rocks, sticks, and other random items. My phone which I had kept and still had no signal. Every clone came out as only plain old me, without any accessory beyond my clothes.
I supposed that had to do with the phrasing ‘to a certain degree and capacity’ in the Skill description. A soft limit on replication. And what exactly happened to my clones when they died? The thought brought dark memories, though I couldn’t remember returning to confirm a body or not. I create the clones from basically nothing, do they return to nothing?
I stared at Ninth, trying to ‘dismiss’ him, and found nothing forthcoming. Even when the clone himself tried to will it. Instead, the process reversed. Where before I stepped away from myself, a copy of my individualism, retaining my mind, forking away from the original, that copy stepped into me returning to the originator.
The sensation was oddly familiar as I reabsorbed my clones, looking towards the [Sleepywood]. As Second had just discovered, it had to be the original Evahn to enter the Dungeon. Clones were barred.
It left me with a certain choice I was bound to face eventually. The question of whether or not there was a reason to stay relatively anonymous. If there was merit to revealing my Skills and if doing so put me in any danger, or gained me any benefit.
I wondered how much WIS and INT affected my reasoning. Recurring social patterns were somehow apparent to me, sifting through my memories. Historical precedent of prominent figures and those around them, even present in my everyday. Jealousy, envy, awe, friendship, opportunity. I’d attract all that and more.
To reveal myself would be declaring an ability to help everyone. My mental attributes cursed me with a sense of what would happen. I didn’t want to be shackled to the greater good. Burdened with a responsibility like that, I’d never have a moment to myself.
I wasn’t heartless, but neither was I that noble.
I valued my independence more than the greater good. A selfish take, no doubt, but a necessary one, considering the apocalypse. It was hard to feel bad about that when I felt it so crucial to surviving.
This new world? It was terrible, dangerous, and every moment was one I could die. But… looking back, for me, had the old world been any different?
Here? At least, I was free.
I thought maybe that was why I was a [Solo]. Not because I’d been alone in my old life, but because I’d always dreamed of the liberty I now had. Unshakeable independence. To be someone more than what I was.
It was a small, inconsequential revelation. Yet it resonated deeply enough that I looked at my hands, pondering the WIS attribute. With it, I felt more grounded, the confusing tangle of emotions I’d carried with me my whole life finally unfurling as I regarded them.
It was like I could breathe again, not realizing I had ever stopped.
More sure of myself, I made my way to the [Sleepywood], reabsorbing my clones. It was the first time in a while that my original self would be in direct danger. The notion went against my entire approach to the apocalypse. And although the nature of the Dungeon demanded my presence, nothing demanded that I enter.
And yet… I needed to know, first-hand, the mysterious reality of this world. The unknown nature of this ‘system’ people had taken to calling it. Whether wonder or danger, I wanted to see what the world had come to.