A Strange Sky- (OLD VERSION PART 2)

Hello, readers! This post here, it hosts the first version of  the novel “A Strange Sky”. I have decided to severely re-work on this, as I felt it too generic to my taste. Since I do not like to completely delete things that I worked on, I decided to let the first draft of that novel to be available for reading, as I did with my first, discontinued series.

 

Chapter 3

 

Conrad opened his eyes, awakened by the beeping sound of his wristwatch. He had set the alarm to ring after nine hours, to get himself some good sleep before setting on march again.

Although he went to sleep two hours after the last sun went down, after nine hours, the time when he woke himself, the sky beyond his cave’s entrance was still dark, the lone, giant moon still visible on the purple-black sky.

His cave was still lit by the remnants of last night’s fire, and he shuddered, as a sudden gust of cold wind made its way into the cave.

He put some more wood into the fire, poking at the remaining embers still covered in ash and adding some more dried leaves.

Since it was still night, he decided to not venture out, and dedicate himself to some tasks until at least one of this world’s small suns would show itself beyond the horizon.

As the flame became strong enough to both provide temperature and light, Conrad started to work with those scamps of vegetable fiber he prepared before going to bed.

Having been dried near the flame, they could be now woven together to form a semblance of rope.

At least, that’s what Conrad wanted to accomplish.

And so, he sat on his bed of leaves, carefully weaving the thin, frail fiber as best as he could.

He worked until the first sun came up, ruining some more of the fiber before receiving the usual notification and the sound that would precede it.

Success! Crafted- Small Fiber String (x1, poor quality)

Skill Level Up! Crafting +1 (3/10)

What he got in his hands, was a small piece of frail string made out of fiber, roughly reaching the length of fifteen centimeters and less than half centimeter wide. Still, it was a start. And his Crafting skill did level up again, so, there was something in there to be positive for, thought Conrad.

He stretched his limbs, doing some exercises on spot. The cave was small, but not too cramped, letting Conrad move as he pleased inside.

He did some basic stretching exercises, and some push-ups followed by more stretching. For roughly half an hour, he dedicated himself to ease his body, in preparation for the upcoming fatigue.

He resorted himself, to abandon his cave after two more days.

After all, by staying there he would only manage to survive, and he did not even knew for how long.

He needed to move from the spot, he wanted to.

Since, Conrad could not let the possibility of finding some trace of human presence slide away. And to find them, he needed to move from there.

In his thoughts, he planned his course.

First, he would follow the river downstream for a while, like his original plan was.

Next, he would deviate from it, heading to the highest hill that he managed to spot from his observations the day before.

From there, he would have access to a better view of the surroundings, and, hopefully, he would be able to spot traces of any village or cities given the higher altitude.

If not, he would still obtain a better grasp of the surrounding area, and perhaps find some more objectives.

There was always that question, burrowed in his thoughts, seeping in from time to time,

<<What if there is no trace? What if I don’t find a single hint of civilization?>>

This time, Conrad muttered it out, asking himself the question, without giving an answer.

He shook his head, thinking it best to set aside those doubts and focus on the more pressing tasks.

First, he needed to better prepare himself for the upcoming journey.

He would craft some more rope, for sure. Perhaps even work again on his spear, or craft a spare one.

A crude bow and some arrows would be beneficial to his situation, allowing him to keep enough distance

But, Conrad thought, he definitely lacked the ability to craft one, even if he had materials to his disposal. And, he had not. The piece of string he crafted from vegetable fibers was brittle, too thick and short to serve as a bowstring.

For now, he was forced to stick with his shoddy spear, nothing more than a sharp stone on a long, straight stick.

Perhaps, if he managed to increase his crafting skill enough, he would manage to fix himself some better tools, and better weapons.

But, he lacked some more fundamental items. First, he lacked clothing.

Temperature was still fine for the time being, and at night, he could warm himself near a fire.

But, what if rain surprised him? Or if days grew colder? He needed to cover himself, and he had no idea to where to find the necessary materials, and how to turn them into proper clothing.

Perhaps he could hunt some animal and use its pelt, but in order to do that, he would need to first catch and kill the animal, in a way that would not damage the skin.

Next, he would need to skin it, and treat the skin to make it usable for the intended purpose.

And of course, Conrad knew that it was impossible for the current him. He lacked the tools, and knowledge on how to treat pelts and skin.

And, he suspected, he lacked the ability to actually hunt anything else than slow moving fish.

With a deep sigh he set for the task that the current him could easily complete. Gathering and fishing.

The entire morning, or at least what he defined as morning, from the first, dim light of the day to when the three suns were up in the sky, shining above his head, he dedicated it to gathering more fibers, wood and stone.

Much to his dissatisfaction, although he gathered more materials than what he did during the first two days, and he climbed and ran all the way and all the time, his skills did not rise accordingly.

Skill Level Up! Gathering +1 (4/10)

Skill Level Up! Running +2 (3/10)

Skill Level Up! Sprint +1 (2/10)

Skill Level Up! Athletics +1 (2/10)

He leveled up his running and athletics, but even after all the running around, the skills only increased by one level. Same for Gathering and Sprint.

Climbing and General Fitness did not improve, not in the slightest.

An hypothesis started to form in his mind, about how the system worked.

As he gained the skill, it would increase quickly for the first levels, raising each time he performed the action linked to it, or he actively used it.

With time, as the skill increased in level, it would become more difficult to level up. A system similar to some he saw and experienced in those games, too similar to his taste.

Conrad realized that, in order to make them grow, he would need to spend more time doing the actual thing, or perhaps, do the same action in a different context.

Still, he was far too unprepared to attempt something else, and he decided to stick to his intended schedule.

Once he gathered enough fiber, he started working on it.

This time, he did not waste nearly as much material as the day before, netting thrice the amount of fiber in half the time. He left it to dry near the fire, adding more wood to the embers.

Then, he set out again, gathered more, and climbed up.

He did so for hours, stopping only for a quick lunch consisting in fruit and another fish, that he impaled on his spear.

This one had little meat, but its bones were hard, almost as stone, and he set aside the smaller ones. Perhaps, he thought, he could use them as needles.

He took some time to wash himself in the river, scrubbing away sweat and grime.

Without soap, the smell of rancid sweat would not go away, thought Conrad with a displeased expression. Still, it was better than nothing.

Once again, he smeared some of the bug-repelling sap on his skin, and he resumed his gathering of resources.

Doing so, he repeatedly identified items in his path. But, the skill did not increase, no matter how many times he used it, wasting that single SP that it costed.

It would regenerate in two minutes, so he could not spam the skill too much.

But, after he pushed himself into the threes, heading further away from the river, he used the skill again, this time hearing the noise notification that preceded the blue screen and the Voice’s announcement.

Success! Identified- Pongora Stalks

Skill Level Up! Identify +1 (3/10)

He used it on a plant he did not see before. Back near the river, he used the skill on rocks, sand, even fallen branches. On everything he saw, with varying results.

And he learned how the skill worked, after giving it some thought.

First, to make it grow, Conrad would need to use it on different things. Only by successfully identifying “new” things the skill would grow. On some targets, actually most of them, the skill would fail, giving the message

 

Error! Failed to Identify Target

Like when he tried to identify distant items, or things that only flashed in his field of vision for an instant.

Others, gave another message

Error! Impossible to Identify Target (Skill Level too low)

That one appeared when he tried to identify a strange crystal formation he found, or one of the largest trees that he found himself near to.

So, in order to make the skill grow, Conrad surmised that he would need to identify as many things as he could.

He took a mental note to do that, and to try to use the skill as extensively as his mana allowed.

Still, he went back to his cave, nervously looking around as he realized to have pushed himself too far inside the forest.

He ran back to the riverside, feeling more secure near a familiar place.

Once again, he climbed up to the cave.

This time, he brought back more of the fiber plant, and some stones and sticks. Along with large, robust leaves, and some branches of a plant similiar to a palm tree.

From that, he would try to fashion himself some kind of recipient, by weaving those long and flexible leaves together.

He first sat down, working on the fibers to make some more rope. Then, he turned his attention to the palm-like branches.

The whole process lasted three hours, but it netted him a better version of the fiber string, and a recipient made from those weaved leaves.

It was not sturdy, but with that, he could transport more materials with him, without having to carry them with his own hands.

Moreover, the whole process granted him another three levels into his crafting skill.

Now, he was starting to feel the effect of it.

His hands would move quicker and with more precision, and the quality of the objects seemed slightly superior.

The first piece of rope he crafted snapped immediately when Conrad tested it, pulling its end with strenght.

But, the newest products, resisted one, two, three pulls from him, even when he put some more strenght.

They failed however, when he put enough strenght. Still, it was improvement, and there was room for more, now that Conrad got the hang of the process, and what to do to improve it.

Once again, he climbed down, repeating the cycle for all day, until the last sun was about to hide itself beyond the horizon.

Most of his creations, he cast aside, using them to fuel his fire or to experiment some more.

At the end of the day, however, he managed to reach some satisfying result.

First, he learned how to join together the small sections of strings, making a longer rope that would be able to hold some weight. It was still far from perfect, and he definitely would not use it to hold his own weight or some heavy object. But, Conrad thought, it would be enough to tie some small objects or pieces of wood.

He crafted a small satchel from woven leaves of those palm-like trees, then he made a larger one. With those, he could transport some supplies with him.

He then used the rest of his time to produce tools he would use.

A hammer, made by tying a hard stone to a stick, and a spare spear in case he lost the one he already had, or if it broke.

He used the rest of the sharp stones to make some daggers.

For those, he used some small pieces of driftwood. He emptied them, lodging some sharp shards of stone inside the hollow wood.

Each shard was twice the lenght of the piece of wood, so that half of it would be lodged inside the wooden handle, kept in place by sap and some tissue straps wrapped thightly around the handle.

He made three of such knives, one longer, for self defense, two smaller for utility use.

The whole crafting session netted him four more levels of crafting skill, making it rise up to seven.

Still, his items were always listed as “poor quality”.

Conraf shrugged his shoulder, eating the last piece of roasted mushrooms before rinsing his mouth with water.

He set the alarm on his watch, rolling himself on his bed of leaves.

<<Tomorrow will be a tough day>>

He muttered to himself, drifting into sleep.

The beeping sound of his wristwatch woke him up, daylight beginning to paint the sky in its colors.

He was starting to get the hang of this world’s unusual day-night cycle.

First, a single day lasted thirty-six hours. His initial count was not off by too much, only two hour wrong.

Daylight lasted for twenty-two hours, and the remaining fourteen were of night. And he was beginning to feel the change, his body still used to normal days, ones that lasted twenty four hours, with a single sun and other human beings to find around.

Still, he only needed to wait for his body to adapt. And it would, with time.

Grunting, Conrad rose from his bed, dedicating himself to some exercises before collecting his things and moving out of his cave, determined to explore this strange forest a bit more.

He had twenty-two hours at his disposal.

With him, he took a small amount of food.

Cooked mushrooms and two fishes, wrapped in large leaves and stored inside the small satchel he crafted from those palm-like leaves.

The largest satchel, he used it to transport his tools, knives and the makeshift hammer, along with his improvised recipient for water.

Heading to the exit, he dropped his spears down, along with the largest satchel.

Then, he started to climb down, leaving his cave behind.

After collecting back his weapons and items, he set out, following the riverside.

From time to time, he would activate his Identify skill. Most of times it failed, but sometimes he managed to take a glimpse of things, and on them, the skill worked.

Once, a patch of unusual purple moss. A large insect, with long, wriggling antennae and a vivid red coloration.

It darted quickly under the bushes, but it was enough for Conrad to use the skill on it.

Next, he found some fruits, more mushrooms and more plants on which the skill worked.

Conrad was relieved to see how his initial supposition was right. By using the skill on “new” things, it would gain levels faster. It rapidly grew, until…

 

Skill Level Up! Identify + 1 (10/10)

Skill Rank Up!! Identify—> Identify I (1/20) Increased Range, Successfully Identified Items now display more properties

Successfully Identified Organisms now display their level

Congratulations! You Ranked Up your first skill! For having raised your first skill to rank 1 (10 points), You will receive Bonus Stat Points!

Stat Points gained: +2 Int, +2 SP

Conrad felt a sharp pain on the back of his head, that spread to his eyes.

His vision blurred, and for some moments, he felt the world shifting from under his feet. It passed as quickly as it came, and Conrad felt changed afterwards.

Up until that moment, he only gained new skills. But, this time something different happened. He gained some Stat points, and that event changed him.

After all, thought Conrad, this was not a game.

Of course, if his Statistics were to change, his body would respond accordingly.

The world appeared more clear to him, details that he did not notice before now visible to his eyes.

It was not like the increase in Intelligence stat made him smarter, thought Conrad.

At least, he did not feel smarter.

What he felt, was more focus, a sharper view on the surroundings.

He immediately tried his Identify, to see how the range of it improved.

On his left, roughly twenty meters away from him, there was a reddish tree that he did not manage to identify before. Now, he tried the skill again.

It failed.

Conrad scoffed, advancing one step closer towards the tree. He tried the skill again, and it failed once more.

He did the same, until he finally managed to identify the tree. He was now standing twelve, maybe thirteen meters away from the tree.

Identifying it did not make the skill level up once more, but now, Conrad had a better grasp of it.

Mumbling to himself, he thought about what had happened before.

By reaching ten points into the skill, he managed to make it rank up. And that, gave him stat points as a reward. So, beside the obvious route of getting experience in order to level up, he could increase his stats using another mean. Training his skills.

The concept made him smile. Perhaps, he could try to spend some more time into his cave, before venturing out into the world.

With each step, immersed in his thoughts as he was, he became more and more convinced about this.
Suddenly decided to turn back, he froze on the spot.

Far away, on the path that he would need to take to return to his cave, an animal came out of the woods.

It was sniffing around, or at least, that’s what Conrad thought the thing was doing, lifting its snout in the air and moving it.

As big as a medium size dog, it had a green body, with stripes of a darker shade.

Conrad shuddered, the moment that the animal turned its head towards him.

In that moment, his instinct only screamed one thing.

Run.

And he tried, but the thing darted so fast towards him that it closed the distance in a single instant.

Jumping on Conrad, it send him tumbling backwards.

The impact made Conrad lose both his spears, the one he had in his hand, and the one he kept on his back, tied to his torso with a scamp of that vegetable rope he himself crafted.

He received no injury from the attack, as the monster’s claws slashed the large satchel he was transporting like a backpack.

The monster bit it off, tearing it apart and scattering its contents around before realizing that it was not meat that it bit.

The creature scurried into distance, circling around Conrad with feline movements.

It was quick, Conrad thought, too quick for him.

He knew, that he could not outrun it. The only choice left, was to fight.

He sprung to his feet, grabbing the spear lying next to him.

The creature did not attack immediately after the first pounce, limiting itself to circle around Conrad, hissing at him.

It was slightly bigger than Conrad thought, with a sleek, thin body. Six paws with strangely bent joints supported that sleek, muscular body.

With each movement, the smooth skin of the animal would reveal the muscles working underneath it.

From its rear, two tails extended, as long as the thing’s body itself, wriggling into the air.

The snout of this animal, it was slightly flat and elongated.

Again, much like those giraffe-things he saw some time before, the thing had no apparent eyes. Instead, its snout enlarged, making it seem like one of those curious hammer-sharks.

When it hissed, the “hammer” opened, revealing a structure much like an insect’s mandibles.

And they were sharp, dripping with saliva.

Small tentacles wriggled around that thing’s “mouth”, and the sight of it made Conrad shudder.

He gathered his courage. If he did not seize the initiative here, he would suffer some serious consequences.

He tried to Identify it, but as soon as he did, the monster scurried back into the forest.

His SP spent, without him knowing what that thing was.

Still, one thing he knew. It was not gone, stalking from the shadows, waiting.

Fleeing was not an option, since he suspected that the thing would rip his back apart if it catched him. And, Conrad knew, it would surely catch him.

He only had one option. Fight it.

Making as much noise as possible, raising arms to appear bigger, strike at the animal, in order to scare it and send it fleeing.

He remembered all those advices, that he even thought smart and useful back then. Not that he ever found himself face to face with a wild predator, in his life. The only thing that lousely resembled one, that he managed to encounter in the wild, was a fox. It scurried away the moment it saw Conrad, without him needing to do a single thing.

But, the thing there was definitely not a fox.

Perhaps, if he managed to strike a hit against it, he would make it flee.

It happened with some predators, that would flee whenever their prey fought back, following their survival instincts.

With a low hiss, the beast pounched at Conrad, leaping from the vegetation at astounding speed, surprising him once again, without Conrad even being able to react.

A long gash was now open on Conrad’s left arm, blood dripping from it.

The usual ringing noise, and a red window popped up into Conrad’s view.

 

Enemy Attack! Suffered – 1 Hp! (9/10 Remaining)

He cursed, recomposing himself as his sight darted around in search of that thing. He knew it was still there, although out of his sight.

Hiding, stalking him. Circling around and waiting for the perfect moment to strike at Conrad’s blind spot.

He gripped his spear tighter, his hearth thumping in his chest.

It was the first time for Conrad, the first time he faced danger like this. The first time, that something was hunting him, and he was nothing more than prey.

Weak, vulnerable prey.

Another hiss came from behind him, and made Conrad turn so fast that he almost lost balance.

 

Enemy Attack! Suffered – 1 Hp! (8/10 Remaining)

The attack came from his left side, leaving another shallow wound, this time on his back.

It was like a cat toying with its food.

That was the impression Conrad had. And he was the food.

Once again, he considered to run away.

But that thing was definitely too fast.

He realised, he was in a very dire situation.

<<That’s what happens, stupid Conrad, when you try to bite more than you can chew>>

He muttered to himself, his mind running, as he tried to think about a solution to his current situation.

The thing was obviously hiding itself inside the forest, luring Conrad with noise to distract him and attack him afterwards.

He repositioned himself, his back now towards the river, as there was less chance that the beast would attack him from that side.

The injuries he received were bad, bad news, he thought.

He doubted that the animal was venomous, since he would have started to feel the effect of it by that time.

But, the wounds could get infected if he did not clean them and disinfect them.

<<Well, if I ever manage to survive this thing>>

He grasped his spear, nervously scouting his front, left and right.

From time to time, he would catch some movement beneath the vegetation, quick shadows leaping, leaving behind the sound of rustling leaves.

Other times, he heard the thing hiss at him.

He had to think, and fast.

The monster, that’s how he decided to call it, was quick and had sharp claws at his disposal.

Too quick for him to avoid the monster’s attacks.

But,it was not like Conrad was at total disadvantage. First, he thought, the thing was small, and light. Even lighter than a dog that size would be, perhaps weighting no more than twenty-five kilograms.

A weight that he was sure to easily lift and throw away.

His only option was to physically overpower the monster. Conrad weighted eighty kilos, and, although he did not boast a body-builder physique, his body was well built, and he kept good care of it. Regular exercise, often at his workplace’s private gym.

Definitely, he knew he was strong enough to kill the creature, if he ever managed to hit it.

And that was the problem, the main danger of his situation.

The little bugger was too quick. Not that Conrad was slow, or had bad reflexes, but that strange animal moved so fast that the image of it blurred, and it liked to hide and ambush.

So, Conrad, knowing that he could not outrun his foe, decided on a risky gamble. He would wait, and strike at the thing whenever it came close enough.

He focused, slowing his breathing. Instead of letting himself be distracted by surrounding noise, he forced himself to listen.

When the monster hissed from its hiding spot, Conrad forced himself to not react, his eyes concentrated in front of him, his muscles arching under his skin.

He waited for the sound of rustling leaves, signal that the thing was about to leap on him.

And he darted, sidestepping on the left when his eyes caught a glimpse of that blurred figure.

It scurried once again into the vegetation, as quick as it came.

A sound dinged into Conrad’s mind, and the usual blue window popped up.

 

New Skill Unlocked! Dodge [active -1 SP- (1/10)]

New Skill Unlocked! Concentration [passive (1/10)]

He smiled at the message, dismissing it with a single thought. It was small, but that skill, Dodge, could grant him a better survival rate.

Once again, he listened and waited. He was surprised by himself, by how calm he was in this situation.

It could very well mean his own end, and yet, he was not terrified. He was afraid, sure, but the fear he felt was not the kind of fear that paralyzes, that makes oneself do rash and stupid decisions.

It was a good fear, the kind that sharpen your senses.

And there was another feeling mixed in, that made his hair stand on his skin, and his face twist into a fierce grin.

He was enjoying it, as much as he never had.

More than ever, he felt alive.

He focused his attention once more, like he did before. This time, he managed to hear the thing’s soft footsteps, as it strode under the trees’ shadows.

And he saw it, leaping out of the vegetation.

He focused, recalling the sensation from when he used his SP before. It was a weird feeling, a jolt of energy rising from the back of his spine and spreading.

When he used Identify, it reached his head and then his eyes.

This time, it traveled down, to his thighs, his legs, as he sidestepped activating his new Dodge skill.

He successfully avoided the monster’s leaping attack.

But Conrad did not stop there. More a reflex than a proper blow, he swung his spear on that strange animal, hitting it with the blunt shaft.

A loud thud and an angry growl resounded, and the thing recoiled on the ground. Determined to not let this opportunity slide, Conrad dashed ahead, putting his weight behind his next move.

He jabbed with his spear, aiming at the small figure.

The monster avoided the first strike, as it did the second and third. Leaping from side to side as Conrad tried to skewer it with the stone spearhead.

The jabbing attacks had no success, but Conrad managed to strike the monster once more, by sweeping his spear in a wide arc and letting it slide half-movement. It resulted in a wider arc than the monster initially predicted to avoid.

The sharp spearhead grazed the monster’s left hind leg, as it hopped upward to avoid Conrad’s attack.

The usual dinging sound, and another blue window popped.

 

 

Attack Successful! ??? suffered 1 Hp damage!

New Skill Unlocked! Spear Proficiency (passive 1/100)

Another skill gained, and Conrad’s grin grew wider. This time, the little beast did not retreat towards the forest.

Instead, it took its distance, and Conrad felt the sensation that its eyeless head was glaring at him.

The thing coiled its body, emitting a low growl before springing quickly towards Conrad.

It jumped at him, bared talons and open jaws.

Conrad used his remaining SP to Dodge backard, chaining the movement with a descending swipe of his spear.

He hit the monster, barely as it changed its course mid-leap. Still, this time it was the sleek green body that showed a wide gash on its right side.

Conrad had no time to rejoice, as the monster charged once again at him. He tried to use Dodge once more, but the jolt he felt was different, slightly painful.

 

0/2 SP remaining- Unable to Activate Dodge Skill

<<Shit>>

He shouted, shifting his grip on the spear to guard his neck from the upcoming assault.

The force from the monster’s attack made him fall backwards, splashing into the shallow water.

He struggled, keeping the monster at bay with his spearshaft held with both hands, trying to push the monster and its snapping jaws away from his neck.

They struggled for roughly two minutes, the monster’s talon prying at Conrad’s shoulders as he barely kept the thing’s snapping insect jaws away from his neck.

One bite, and he would be gone. That’s what Conrad thought, when having those sharp, snapping maws dripping with saliva close to his face.

Arching his body, he assessed a strong kick on the monster’s belly, sending it sprawling in the air.

It landed gracefully, turning once again towards Conrad for another leaping attack.

Conrad rose as fast as he could, and he activated Dodge twice in rapid succession. The first time, to avoid the leaping attack.

The monster landed into water, slipping on the muddy terrain under it.

The second Dodge, Conrad used it not to move away, but forward. He shifted his grip on the spear, putting all his weight on a single jab.

This time, a loud, pained growl followed his attack, and the water began to take in the color of that curiously purple blood that flowed from the beast.

Conrad pushed, with all his strenght, as the monster thrashed around.

He felt its muscles give away, then the bone underneath them cracked under the pressure of the man’s attack, as the spearhead lodged itself deeper and deeper, gashing more purple blood with each

centimeter it drove further into the monster’s body.

Notifications dinged in his mind, but he dismissed them, sending only a quick glance to the blue screen.

 

Skill Level Up! Dodge +2 (3/10)

Attack Successful! ??? Suffered 3 Hp Damage!

However, something unexpected happened.

By thrashing around in its desperate attempt to free itself, the monster managed to break the spear.

The spearhead was nothing more than a sharp stone. Sharp, indeed, but frail. And it broke, snapping into two parts.

The monster jumped out of the shallow water, a furious blur of claws and jaws leaping at Conrad’s face.

He jumped back, his SP all spent, unable to use his skill to dodge the attack he relied on his own body.

And he was too slow, as the burning, sharp pain that exploded in his left shoulder taught him.

Another dinging sound, this time the window was red.

Enemy Attack! Suffered – 5 Hp! (3/10 Remaining)

Danger!

He grabbed the monster’s body, yanking it from himself and launching it with all his strenght.

This time, the monster did not land with grace, crashing onto the soil and slipping, struggling and limping to get up again.

A wild animal would have fled at this point, its survival instincts kicking in after being wounded.

Instead, the eyeless thing glared at Conrad once more, making his skin crawl.

It had no intention to run, Conrad knew in that instant. It was about to attack again, one last, desperate effort.

Another minute was spent during the bout, and Conrad regenerated a single SP.

Wounded, perhaps in worse condition than that creature was. And it knew about it, since it took its time to attack, creeping closer, like cat to mouse.

It hissed, lowering its body before coiling its spine, preparing for the final leap.

Conrad bet all his chances on that single, last SP.

To his left, there was his spare spear. In a single, fluid movement, he threw his broken one towards the monster, already mid-leap towards the man’s head.

His Dodge activated at the last second, and Conrad saw the thing’s maws snapping closed while in movement, closing themselves on the spot where his neck was half an instant before.

He avoided it, perhaps out of luck, or it was his own ability.

At that point, Conrad surely did not care. With his Dodge, he leapt toward the spare spear lying on the ground, grabbing it with one hand and turning around, adjusting his grip and swiping the air behind him.

He was sure that the creature would immediately jump back at him, and it did, receiving the brunt force of Conrad’s attack.

The spearhead slashed, this one sharper than Conrad’s first, shoddy spear. Its jagged stone edge slashed deep into the thing’s torso, reciding skin, muscle and tendons up until the monster’s neck.

The force behind Conrad’s spear sweep made the creature land a few steps from him. Wounded, but still alive.

It struggled to get up, growling, hissing, twitching as jouts of purple fluid flowed from that gaping wound.

Conrad ignored the notifications, as he did with the ones before when he was being maimed by that thing. He looked at it, his weapon still gripped tight by his hands.

It was dying, bleeding slowly.

Out of curiosity, he spent one SP to Identify the monster, to give a name to those question marks that almost killed him.

 

Successfully Identified- Hammerne (lvl 1)

Skill Level Up! Identify I +1 ( 11/20)

He walked up to it, the monster squirming as it sensed its enemy coming closer.

Raising his spear, Conrad lowered it on the thing’s head, piercing it.

After the Hammerne stopped moving, he sat down near the corpse, his breath still in disarray.

His eyes glanced towards the floating blue window, now ridden with system messages.

 

Skill Level Up! Dodge +1 (4/10)

Attack Successful! Critical Hit! Enemy ??? Suffered 7 Hp Damage!

Skill Level Up! Spear Proficiency + 4 (5/100)

Skill Level Up! General Fitness +1 (5/10)

Skill Level Up! Athletics +4 (5/10)

New Skill Unlocked! Swipe [active -1 SP- (1/10)]

Congratulations!! You defeated- Hammerne (lvl 1)

Gained + 20 EXP

Congratulations! You defeated your first enemy! For having defeated your first foe, you will receive bonus stat points!

Gained : +1 Str ,+1 Vit

Exhausted, Conrad dismissed that notification, summoning his Status screen.

<<All that shit, and not even a level up>>

He groaned to himself, taking a closer look at his wounds.

Level

1

SKILLS

Class

N/A

General

Active

Passive

Str

2

Gathering (4/10)

Identify I(11/20)

Crafting (6/10)

Climbing (4/10)

Running (3/10)

Cooking (2/10)

Sprint (2/10)

Dodge (4/10)

Swipe (1/10)

General Fitness (5/10)

Athletics (5/10)

Spear Proficiency (5/100)

Concentration (1/10)

Agi

1

Vit

2

Int

3

HP

3/15

MP

2/2

SP

3/3

Att

3

Def

1

Titles

N/A

Exp

21/100

Chapter 4

Conrad sat there, his body in pain from the recent wounds.

Few steps in the distance, the Hammerne’s corpse laid on the ground, a puddle of its purple blood staining the soil underneath the creature.

After the fight, having barely survived it, Conrad came to some considerations.

First, he made a huge mistake in comparing his strength to that of the creature.

He thought himself definitely stronger than a creature that size, no bigger than a medium sized dog.

Of course, he was still making assumptions based on his previous experience, where strength was something defined by training and overall constitution, rather than being dictated by something vague as a Statistic.

And, he realized, this world followed different rules than what his mind was accustomed to. That earlier battle was to him a brutal example of how this strange world worked.

He discovered himself far weaker than he thought, when he barely managed to repel a thing half his weight and size.

He surmised, that the monster he fought must have had a physical strength comparable, if not identical, to his own.

And that thought deeply disturbed him. He realized, that he had been incredibly lucky by encountering the small monster. If a bigger creature attacked him, he would have lost his life.

Among all things, he realized how he struggled against something whose level was equal to his own.

And what little amount of that curious thing called “Experience” the battle yielded him, only twenty measly points.

That nearly cost him his life.

His own weakness apparent, Conrad realized that in order to survive in this world, he did not only need to have food, shelter and water, but he needed another thing, that the current him lacked.

Strength.

But, there were also some positive considerations among Conrad’s thought. First, he rejoiced when he found out that his health regenerated on his own after some time. Slower than his SP, for sure, ticking one point up each fifteen minutes. But, with each point, his wounds hurt less, even beginning to close.

He surmised, that to fully heal his fifteen HP, from the three that he had immediately after the fight, he would need to wait three hours.

But, he did not want to wait there for his health to reach its peak. He was out in the open, and perhaps, some more Hammerne was lying in wait, spying at him with its insect maw watering in anticipation.

He would not risk staying out like this. But, he felt too weak to start moving immediately, and he came to a compromise with himself.

He would wait some more, letting his Hp reach at least five, before heading back to his cave.

And, once there, he planned to do something about his current lack of strength.

Conrad had now a vague idea of this world’s strange system. Everything was ruled by two kind of numbers, namely level and statistics. And, in some way, it could be said that only the latter truly mattered.

As, he surmised, that increasing the “level” would only have the benefit of yielding more Stat points, to add to your own, and perhaps, some Skills, although he was not sure about that.

After leveling up some of his own skills, Conrad knew that raising the level was not the only way to increase Stats.

He could do it by “training” his own skills, increasing his own proficiency in them until a certain “skill level” was reached.

The Voice named that event “skill rank up”, and it happened first when Conrad raised his Identify to Skill Level ten.

And when he did, the “system” granted him some bonus Stat points, de facto increasing his power without him having to face dangerous enemies, risking his life.

Since he was now conscious of his own weakness compared to the wildlife here, he decided to dedicate himself to raising his own stats before attempting to head out once again. Perhaps, by doing this, he could improve his chances at survival.

His health ticked up once again, the pain lessening as his Hp were now five out of fifteen. He felt better, enough to stand up and head towards the river. There, he washed off his wounds as best as he could. Without anything to properly clean them, the only thing he could do was wash off the blood that was beginning to dry on his skin, along with that purple liquid he drew from his foe.

Perhaps, he thought, some plant in the surrounding area might have antiseptic or disinfecting properties, although he doubted that he would be able to find one without venturing deeper inside the woods.

And that thought, made him look towards the Hammerne’s corpse.

It had large wounds on its body, and Conrad knew, that such wounds would make its skin unusable.

<<Well, it’s not like I know how to skin it anyway>>

He muttered to himself, thinking about how he lacked proper tools and work space, along with the necessary knowledge to properly skin and treat the monster’s hide.

What he could do, was try his best by bringing the corpse back and working on it. Perhaps, he would gain a skill from the process, he thought while glancing at the corpse.

But, he realized, bringing it back would pose some problems.
First, in his conditions, it would be difficult to drag almost thirty kilograms of dead meat. To that, he would need to add the potential risk that the thing’s blood might attract some scavengers or even larger predators to Conrad’s position.

He had the river near him, and he could skin and prepare the corpse while in the shallow water, in order to let the blood be swept away.

After giving it some thought, he decided to risk it and take the thing with him.

His health ticked up again, reaching six out of fifteen total Hp.

Now, half his wounds were already healed, the long, bleeding gashes on his skin now being nothing more than white scars, in less than two hours.

The system had a lot of bad sides to it, but it definitely had some perks.

Perhaps, even his previous worries about infections could be something not worth considering here. For what he knew, the risk of infection could be completely absent in this world, or specific to some kind of skill that his foe this time definitely did not have.

<<I guess I’ll know it in due time, since I still do not have antibiotics or even some soap to wash myself>>

Soap.

That word remained in Conrad’s thoughts. He knew how to produce some, mixing lye with animal fat or plant oils.

It was one of the curious things his father taught him when he was little, not out of some particular need, only because he knew how to do it and he had the peculiar hobby of making most of the items he would need.

Conrad’s father, a large man with a bald head and a wide smile, was someone who liked to work, his hands ever in motion.

He worked his farm, planting, harvesting, tending to animals. That was his main occupation, the one that he sustained his family with.

The others, they were his hobbies.

Woodworking, making home-made soap and candles that he would use for himself or as gifts for his closer friends. Hunting, even, whenever he had the time.

Most of the lessons did not stick to Conrad, who was there only to spend time with his old man.

But, there were some that remained with him throughout the years, cherished memories of simpler times.

He would have never imagined that he would need what his father taught him in order to survive.

How to start a fire with nothing but wood and sticks. How to shape wood, or weave leaves into a basket, or fiber into a string.

How to cut a tree, or, make your own soap. The latter was more difficult than the others, since it required things that Conrad was not sure he had.

First, he would need time. He could mix cinder and water and let it react, stirring it from time to time until the water absorbed the caustic components, turning itself into low strength lye.

That would require him six, perhaps seven weeks in order to do so. But, he lacked the necessary recipients, or even a tool to filter cinder properly.

Or, he could mix water and cinder, boiling it in order to speed up the process.

Of course, he thought, in order to boil water he would need a proper recipient.

Best he could hope for, in this forest, would be for him to find some clay and shape it into a pot. Metal was out of the question, given his current circumstances.

He would also need to procure himself, and treat, animal fat.

Vegetable oils would be more complicated, since he did not know the plants or fruits in this region, and if the oil they would produce would be suitable for use.

Conrad snickered, thinking about the purple blood of the thing he just killed.

Of course, he thought, he did not only ignore the type of plants and fruits that grew in this place, but he also did know nothing about the animals.

Would a thing with purple blood even have fat in its body, he interrogated himself, his gaze wandering towards the corpse.

It was, under each aspect, an unknown species to Conrad. Perhaps, he thought, it was an alien.

<<Well, it would be more correct to say that I am the alien here>>

He sighed, shaking his head. His health had ticked up again, reaching seven Hp out of fifteen.

Now, he definitely felt better than before, his head stopped hurting, and the wounds on his body were transmitting itch rather than pain.

A sign of healing, he thought without any doubt. He steeled himself, heading towards the scattered items he lost during the fight with the creature.

He recovered some of them, along with the shredded satchel. It was unusable, but he could recover the fiber strings he used as handles for the satchel.

Next, Conrad headed towards the creature’s corpse, ready to take it with him.

<<What the fuck?>>

He shouted in shock, as he lifted the corpse. It weighted next to nothing.

It took Conrad some moments to realize what happened, and several readings of his own Status screen.

His Strength statistic had increased, now being listed as two, instead of the one it was before.

In short, Conrad realized his Strength had doubled, increasing his physical strength accordingly. He did not feel stronger, by all means. He only felt slightly dazed, still aching all over his body.

But, what he did at that moment convinced him otherwise.

Unsure about how to consider this sudden change, he started to walk back towards his little cave.

During the walk back, he gave some more thought to what happened. A raise in his stats could have some hidden dangers in it.

First, it was not a process that happened over a long time, little by little. The change was not subtle, but immediate. As soon as those number changed, his body would change accordingly.

And, without time to adjust, the increase could be disorienting, if not dangerous, he thought.

His new strength, for example, would surely make things like crafting or other actions that required precise, delicate movements be more difficult.

His strength doubled, he would need to exert more care when using delicate items or materials.

Sure, he thought, some actions would greatly benefit from the increase. But others would not, and he would require some time to adapt to his new stats.

The walk back happened quite uneventfully, much to Conrad’s relief.

Still, his eyes darted on his surroundings, as he expected to see something crawl out of the woods.

Sometimes, he even saw some shadows pass by, each time giving him goosebumps and making his heart race.

He was tense, too much, every noise a predator in hiding, each shadow ready to pounce at him.

But, nothing happened. He made it safely to his cave, the only sanctuary he had in that strange forest.

His higher strength made the climb up easy, even with his wounds.

Once inside, he felt relaxed, like a weight had been lifted from his back.

His bed of leaves was still there, some steps away from the remains of his fire.

He sat on the floor, abandoning the Hammerne’s corpse near the entrance, letting himself rest for some moments.

Then, after his health ticked up two more times, he got up and started to work.

He had three goals set in his mind. First, gather supplies. Firewood, more of those palm-like leaves, fibers to make string and then rope.

Food, and more stones and sticks to craft himself some tools, replacing the items he lost after the fight, and the ones he decided to leave behind.

Next, he would try and fashion himself some items. He would try and mold some of the clay-like mud on the riverside into pottery.

Even if the process would not yield him a usable or useful item, he thought, it would help him towards his third goal.

Increase his skill level, and gain some more Stat points before venturing out again.

Focused, and ready, Conrad climbed down once again, ready to put himself to work.

Skill Level Up! Gathering +1 (5/10)

Skill Level Up! Running +2 (5/10)

Skill Level Up! Climbing +1 (5/10)

Skill Level Up! Sprint +2 (4/10)

Skill Level Up! General Fitness +3 (8/10)

Skill Level Up! Athletics +3 (8/10)

After climbing down, running to find resources, gathering them and returning to his cave, for almost all day, Conrad sat in his cave, now cramped with items, and looked at the system messages he had dismissed during the whole process.

None of his skills had ranked up, but some, namely General Fitness and Athletics, were about to do so. All in all, he felt pleased by it.

He turned his attention to his acquired items.

Enough firewood to last him some days, along with stones of various sizes and hardness, that he planned to use to craft himself some tools and a new spear, perhaps two if he had enough materials.

Lots of those fiber-rich plants, that he would use to make himself some string, along with numerous branches of those palm-like trees.

Some more bark, along with the pieces of it that he used to fashion himself two recipients.

One, it held water for the night.

The other, it had a slightly grayish-blue mud. Clay. He found it by accident, while he pushed further upstream during his attempt at catching a large fish. He did not catch the fish, but he found a spot of mud that had clay on it.

He would still need to filter it before using it, and mix it with enough water, but, for Conrad, it was something to be glad of.

He fashioned himself two more recipients, these ones larger than the others he had, stuffing them with those large, impermeable leaves he found along the riverside.

One, he would use to fetch water and mix it with clay. The other, it was to be filled with clay. He hoped that the whole thing would not break under its weight, both during his climb down and when he would haul it back towards his cave.

To make the handles for those recipients, he used all the rope and tissue strips he he had, even going so far as to dismantle his daggers and even his spear, the one he used to slay the Hammerne.

The noise dinged, informing Conrad of a new event.

New Skil Unlocked! Dismantle (1/10)

He shook his head, dismissing the notification before climbing down once again.

When he came back up, he carefully let down the water recipient, before heading out for the last time in order to gather the clay.

The recipient, filled with clay, weighted so much that the bindings and handles of it almost snapped under its weight.

Still, Conrad managed to haul it up, climbing the three meters between ground level and the entrance of his cave with the recipient fastened to his back. He spilled some, but most of it he managed to bring back up.

Now, he had only a last task left to do before daylight was totally gone.

He took a glance at the Hammerne’s corpse, that he had stashed inside a bundle of large leaves, smeared with that bug-repellent sap he found.

By Identifying the corpse, he was reassured when, listed on the blue window, he saw the properties “edible” and “non toxic” below the other properties of the corpse.

He approached it, taking the bundle down to the river with him. In order to not risk littering his cave with blood, that would attract something nasty, be it predator, scavenger or even pesky bugs, he decided to skin, gut and dismember the corpse near the river. He took with him some of the spare pieces of bark he had, tying them together to the Hammerne and launching them on the ground below. The drop was nothing more than three meters down, maybe three and a half, and the ground below soft. Taking a deep breath, he jumped down.

He received two system messages, one red and the other blue.

Suffered – 1 Hp! (Fall Damage)

New Skil Unlocked!Acrobatics (1/10)

Conrad laughed, collecting the body and his other items. He went near the water, sitting himself on a rock that he dragged there earlier in the afternoon.

He lifted the only stone knife that he had left. It was definitely not the proper tool to skin and gut an animal, he surmised after the whole process cost him a lot of sweat.

He washed off the blood from his hands, and set aside the skin, or what was left of it.

<<So, no skills this time…>>

He muttered to himself, a sad note in his voice.

Still, he worked, using the knife to strip the meat from the Hammerne’s bones.

That meat had a purple coloration to it, and a strong smell.

Not unpleasant, or even nauseating.

Just, intense.

Conrad took some strips of muscle and set them apart on a piece of bark.

The ruined skin of the animal was set onto another, as the pieces of tendons and what Conrad surmised to be what little fat the animal had.

The organs, all of them weird in shape and color, he threw them off into the deeper waters.

He tried his best to pry away the Hammerne’s claws and sharp jaws, and he did, after struggling for a good amount of time.

He often washed the carcass, in order for the blood to be swept away.

Small fishes gathered in the shallow waters around him.

Too small for him to dine with, and too quick to be caught.

Conrad just ignored them, his eyes wandering from the carcass to the surrounding, his ears strained to perceive even the slightest sign of movement.

It was crazy to do this in the open, he was well aware of that.

But, it was better than risking the smell of blood to attract something to his cave, when he was sleeping.

He worked for another hour, cutting, cleaning, cutting again.

The tools he had were not the best, but he managed well enough to be satisfied of the results.

He looked at that curiously purple meat.

Along with some fruit, that would be his dinner for the night.

He had no salt to preserve the meat, much to his displeasure. Some mid-term provisions would be beneficial for him to stash.

For now, however, Conrad had plenty of food at his disposal.

He planned to cook all the meat from the Hammerne, which was, all considered, a measly amount given the size of the thing.

Most of its body weight were bones and organs, its muscles being only a fraction of the thing’s weight.

The light from the last sun was beginning to wane, and Conrad climbed up again, hauling the prize of his hard work back up with him.

Once inside, he laid down on his leaf bed, exhausted and hungry.

He took only a brief respite, before getting up again and starting to fix himself some dinner. He did not catch any fish, but he had meat.

He roasted it above the fire, sticking each piece into a piece of wood and suspending it over some embers that he scooped out of the fire.

His side-dish was already cooking under the warm cinder, a pair of red, round potatoes that he found near the forest’s outskirt.

Of course, he knew that those weren’t potatoes, but, he did find them under the ground, so they were some sort of tuber, like real a real potato.

More importantly, his Identify listed them as edible.

And that was enough for Conrad.

He let his dinner cook, and he looked at the system notification he set aside before

Skill Level Up! Dismantle +3 (4/10)

Apparently, he noticed, Dismantle was affected by skinning and butchering also.

Another notification signaled him that his dinner was ready.

Skill Level Up! Cooking +2 (4/10)

He took a deep breath, steeling himself before giving a bite to the Hammerne’s meat.

<<Hm, it could be worse>>

He muttered, chewing the hard, nervous meat.

Conrad knew it lacked proper preparation to soften it, but, the taste itself was not too bad.

It seemed to him like a mix between chicken and fish.

The potato-looking things, on the other hand, were delicious.

His belly filled, he dedicated himself to a little more work before calling it a day.

He processed all the vegetable fibers, taking care to not break them with his increased strength. Much to his surprise, his control was better than he thought, perhaps, even better than what it had been the last time he tried to produce the rope.

He then set a long stick over the fireplace, along with some pieces of bark surrounding it.

He placed the fibers to dry near the flame, adding some more wood to the fire.

On the stick, he placed his own clothes, still damp from the river.

The temperature that night was hot enough for him to feel comfortable without clothes.

Naked, on a bed of leaves inside a cave.

Conrad laughed, considering how, no more than three days ago, he was wearing an expensive suit, driving a brand new car while commuting back home from his office.

And now, he felt more freedom than he ever had in that life.

Before lying down and closing his eyes, he checked his progress, summoning the Status screen.

Level

1

SKILLS

Class

N/A

General

Active

Passive

Str

2

Gathering (5/10)

Identify I (11/20)

Crafting (6/10)

Climbing (5/10)

Running (5/10)

Cooking (4/10)

Dismantle (4/10)

Dodge (4/10)

Swipe (1/10)

Sprint (4/10)

General Fitness (8/10)

Athletics (8/10)

Spear Proficiency (5/100)

Concentration (1/10)

Acrobatics (1/10)

Agi

1

Vit

2

Int

3

HP

3/15

MP

3/3

SP

2/2

Att

3

Def

1

Titles

N/A

Exp

21/100

Chapter 5

A chill woke Conrad up, causing him to groan and turn his face towards the cave’s opening. The small patch of sky he could see from his position was still dark.

He looked at his wristwatch, seeing how only half an hour was left until the alarm.

He scoffed, drowsiness still affecting him. As he started to get up, his mind running through the tasks he would do during the day, he began to be aware of the noise coming from outside.

Rain.

A loud, distant thunder resounded, as if marking Conrad’s sudden awareness of what was happening outside.

He strolled to the opening of his cave, peeking outside for some moments, before a cold drop of trickling water fell on his neck, making him shiver.

In the twenty minutes that Conrad employed to fix himself some breakfast, the rain became a proper

squall, complete with thunder and flashes of lightning.

Conrad shuddered, as the temperature had dropped considerably.

He put some more wood in the fire, poking it with a stick to adjust the embers and uncover them from the cinder that had deposited during the night.

He took his tattered pants, still a bit damp, and donned them.

Again, a chill ran through his skin, and he moved himself a bit closer to the fire.

Staring outside, he began to realize that the squall would last for a long time, at least some hours. Maybe, even a whole day.

He sighed, deeply, reorganizing his schedule for the day. He still had enough food to last him for two days, fruit, the Hammerne’s cooked meat along with mushrooms and those delicious red “potatoes”.

The fire began to crackle, as the flame rose higher, brighter, and, much to Conrad’s satisfaction, warmer.

He ate, muttering a song to keep himself some company. Loneliness was beginning to wear on him, and he often caught himself thinking out loud or talking to himself, in order to satisfy his need for the sounds of a human voice.

Even if it was only his own.

After finishing his breakfast, a strip of meat and some fruit, he gulped down a bit of water to rinse his mouth, and took care of his biological needs on a remote corner of the cave.

In there, he had set up some large leaves on the rocky floor, in order to not stain it with his own waste.

Pissing was not a problem, since he could just peek out of the cave and relieve himself from there.

But, bigger “business” needed to be disposed properly.

Afterward, he took the leaves from the ground, taking care to not look at their content, and threw them, along with their content, outside of his cave.

The least thing he needed, was for his sole refuge to reek of his own shit, he thought.

Shuddering, rubbing his arms to his chest in order to warm himself up, he returned near the fire.

For some moments, he pondered to start another fire, but he desisted from that thought. The main reason, was to conserve his firewood provision.

He would be fine if the rain only lasted for two or three days. But, if it lasted more, he would be left without firewood to use.

And so, he considered to conserve his provisions, and keep only one fire going.

Still, the chilly, damp air was beginning to make him feel too much cold.

<<At least there are less bugs flying around with this weather>>

He muttered, scratching his shoulder. Although he was making intense use of the bug-repelling red sap, some of the little creatures ignored it, crawling and biting to their heart’s content.

If he had alcohol, thought Conrad, he could use his tobacco to fashion a better repellent, but he had none at his disposal.

And, he was slightly reluctant to part from his tobacco stash, that he was carefully rationing during each day, in order to make it last for how much he could.

Thinking about it made him need a cigarette, and he fashioned himself one. He kept all the necessary inside the plastic, impermeable wrapping of his rolling tobacco, that allowed the contents to remain sealed. Whenever it would finish, thought Conrad, he would find some use for that wrapping.

He lighted the cigarette, almost burning his own finger when he neared it to the flames. Still, he cherished that moment, a taste of his old world in this strange, new one.

In his mind, he had accepted that the place where he was in, it was a completely different world, the New World, as he had taken to call it in his thoughts.

He did not have a sliver of comprehension about it, if it was the afterlife or something else altogether, but, it was clearly different from his old

world. Of that, he was sure.

Puffing out white smoke, he took some glances to see if the squall outside had diminished in its intensity.

But, it hadn’t. Lightning and thunder did, but the downpour was strong as ever, if not stronger. Luckily, Conrad thought, there was not enough wind to blow water inside his cave.

Some of it trickled down from the rocky ceiling, but it was not enough to be a problem. Only some drops, which fell to the floor, ticking as if to sign the passing of time.

Bored, cold, Conrad decided to do something useful with his time.

He looked at his stash of those palm-like leaves. All considered, he had an abundance of them.

Enough to fashion himself some more satchels, perhaps four or even five of them.

He set aside the materials he would need for them, careful to add more, just in case.

The pile of leaves that he was left with, it was still big enough for him to produce two or three more, but he had another idea in his mind.

A jacket. Given how he was bare-chested, he felt the pressing heed to cover himself with something.

Unlike the palm leaves that he saw in the old world, these ones had smooth edges, and they were more flexible, tender without being fragile.

It would be an incredibly uncomfortable item, but, if he managed to fashion himself one, he would have something to cover himself with.

<<The only problem is that I do not even have the slightest idea about doing it>>

He lamented, but he still sat down and began weaving leaves together, stopping only to add more wood to the fire.

After some shoddy attempts and pitiful results, he started to put more focus and thought in what he was doing.

Preparing a shirt was impossible for the current him, and so he thought of another solution.

He started by making sheets, cutting the leaves in two along their middle, following their length to produce long and thin strips. He then weaved those strings together, bending one atop the other, then in the other direction, again and again.

What he considered a “failure”, he dismantled it and started over again. When he was starting to feel more confident about what he made, he still took it apart, and started back from square one.

He held his first, complete sheet between his hands. The leaves had some small gaps between them, but, it was something. As long as his arm, and thrice as wide. A starting point, from where he could only improve.

At least, he hoped so.

He set the sheet aside for a moment, during which he rested his hands, drank a sip of water and dismissed all the notifications that had popped during his work.

Skill Level Up! Crafting +1 (8/10)

Skill Level Up! Dismantling +1 (5/10)

Skill Level Up! Concentration +3 (4/10)

Success! Crafted- Woven Leaf Sheet (x1, poor quality)

Then, after stretching himself a bit, he sat back again and resumed his work.

Soon, he begun to realize that the sheet he was working on was still too rigid for him to use as clothing. Too rigid, and it had too many gaps in it.

But, Conrad did not set it aside. Instead, he continued working on it. At the start, his idea was to make separate sheets to join together with some of his strings made of fiber. But, he decided to not go with that idea, working instead into producing a large sheet of woven leaves.

He would not use it to dress himself with it, but to “improve” his current bed. By using two sheets and stuffing leaves between them, he could have some semblance of a bed to sleep on, instead oj the heap of leaves he used.

In the end, the whole process took him three hours, netting three large sheets of woven leaves, each roughly one meter longer than Conrad’s own height.

He then joined together two of those sheets, tying the loose ends that he had left on each side together. He did so on three sides, leaving one open. He then started stuffing leaves into the item, until he was satisfied enough. Then, he closed the last side.

As he did, another notification popped up.

Success! Crafted- Woven Leaf Mattress (x1, poor quality)

Skill Level Up! Crafting +2 (10/10)

Skill Rank UP! Crafting→Crafting I (1/20)

(Enhanced Precision, Handling, Coordination during the action of “crafting”)

Skill Synergy Open! Crafting ↔ Concentration

(When Crafting, Concentration is automatically activated, granting bonuses to the process)

For having one of your skill Rank Up, you have been awarded bonus Stat points!

Agi +1, Int +1

Skill Level UP! Concentration +2 (6/10)

A sharp pain rose from Conrad’s spine, jolting through his body, expanding to his joints and nerves, subsiding slowly into a warm sensation.

It lasted nothing more than two seconds, and when it was gone, Conrad felt even better than before.

He looked at his hands, breathing in and out to calm his racing heart.

His stats, he knew, had increased again, and his body reacted accordingly, being adapted to the new stats, or by them.

This time, Conrad tried to do some basic movements, to test what had changed. Much like when his strength stat made him effectively stronger, the rise in Agility made him twice as quick as before.

Not only that, he felt more focused due to the rise in Intelligence.

He decided to test how these changes would improve his work. He was curious, since the Voice had announced that two of his skills now had synergy between them.

Conrad took the leaves in his hands, once again. This time, he would make the satchels he needed.

And his fingers worked, twice the speed as before, more precise.

He finished in half the time, and he had enough spare materials to make himself another satchel.

The overall design of them was even better than the first ones he made, perhaps because he had more practice and experience in making them, Conrad thought, or perhaps because his Crafting skill had ranked up.

Nonetheless, he had finished his first task.

But, there was a lot more for him to do, since the storm outside trapped him into his cave, still raging as strong as before.

Conrad added more wood to the fire, and started to work on his next task.

String, and rope.

But, he had thought of a different method to wind the fiber together.

With the roundest stone he managed to find, and a straight stick, he had fashioned himself a makeshift spindle, that he used to coil the fiber on itself.

Using a lot of attention, he managed to produce a tinner string, by carefully winding each fiber.

To increase the length of it, he added new fiber from time to time.

This time, he did not waste a single centimeter of it, winding the fibers into a thin string, then winding it again on a straight stick in order to not let it tangle.

He managed to make a good lenght, roughly ten meters, or even fifteen, since he did not have a proper grasp of the string’s lenght.

He pondered for a moment, about which destination that string would have.

He pressed it between his index and thumb, feeling the string. It was coarse, too much to be woven into some semblance of clothing.

And so, Conrad decided to destine the string to its original purpose.

Rope.

He unraveled the string, winding it around some sticks he had fixed between rocks.

He measured it, as best as he could, and he cut pieces of equal length.

Four of them, that he started to wind together in order to make a rope. It would be definitely shorter than the original length of the string, Conrad knew, but it would be stronger, perhaps even able to hold his full weight.

After making the rope, he had still plenty of fiber to work with.

He took a break from that work, since he was starting to feel the need to move his body after sitting down for too long.

Conrad took the time to do some light exercise, push ups and sit ups, and some light stretching to ease his muscles a bit.

Then, after dedicating an hour to physical exercise, it was time for him to start working again.

Conrad produced some more string from fiber, then set his mind into making a thinner version of it, with the ultimate goal to use it to fashion himself clothing.

After some tentatives, he managed to produce a thinner version of the string. It was still a bit coarse, but definitely more suitable for attempting to produce clothes.

He then tried to put into practice an idea he had. In order to weave fabric, he thought, he would need some kind of loom.

He did not know the exact and proper way to build one, but he thought it possible with some sticks and patience.

He set some sticks, blocking them with rocks first, then fastening each stick to the other with the string he made from fiber.

Two rectangles, one in front of the other. The “skeleton” of his loom.

On one end, he fixed some hard, long thorns he gathered before from a plant near the forest’s outskirts.

These thorns were harder than the soft wood he used for his loom frame, and thus, he was able to stick them deep into the wooden bar.

On those, Conrad would hold every line of first string.

Then, he fixed a moveable side bar, that would hold each line of second strings.

Then, Conrad paused, looking at his work with a mixture of surprise and doubt.

He did not know how to make such item, he knew that.

And yet, somehow, it was clear to him how to arrange the sticks together, and how to correctly weave them afterwards. It was like a distant memory, that he remembered step after step.

But, he was sure of it, he never learned how to build a primitive loom, much less how to weave strings together.

And yet, much to his confusion, he knew.

Perhaps, he thought, the increse in his Crafting skill had some hidden effect.

He continued his work, with each passing second, he was sure of it.

The movements of his hands were so familiar, and yet, he never did something like this, not even in his childhood.

<<I bet not even Dad knows how to do this stuff>>

He talked out loud, stunned and amazed at the same time.

But, he did not stop his work.

Instead, Conrad let his hands loose, following their work, losing himself in his own concentration, the sounds of rain in the distance, the dancing flames and their heat near him.

He worked, ignoring his stomach grumbling.

When he stopped, he took out the cloth he had woven together. He let his hand caress it, a coarse, rough surface.

But, it was definitely better to wear that, than to run around bare chested, especially since the temperature had dropped so much.

Once again, he was forced to go through the number of system notifications that pulsed blue in a remote corner of his field of vision.

Not because he needed to, but because the constant, rhithmic blue pulse was beginning to annoy him too much.

Skill Level Up! Crafting I +2 (3/20)

Skill Level Up! Concentration +4 (10/10)

Skill Rank UP! Concentration→Concentration I (1/20)

(Enhanced attention to detail, precision of movement, thought speed and calculation ability)

For having one of your skill Rank Up, you have been awarded bonus Stat points!

Int +2

For having successfully Ranked Up three skills, you have been awarded bonus Stat points!

Free points +2 (Use Status Screen to assign those points- the Status screen will be forcibly open after this message is aknowledge, unable to leave Status screen until points have been allocated)

Again, the sensation of pain that Conrad was beginning to feel acquainted to, spreading from the base of his spine, climbing up to its head and exploding there, with a ringing sound in his ears.

The Status screen flashed in front of Conrad’s eyes, in there, a new option open. He looked at it, undecided on how to spend those free points.

But, he came to a decision quickly.

He had gained enough Intelligence from leveling his skills up, and the stat itself did not improve Conrad’s own situation.

What he needed at the moment, was a change that would directly impact his survivability.

Namely, his choice was torn between Strength, Vitality and Agility.

Vitality would yield him more Hp, and that would mean for Conrad to be able to take more hits before dying. Although, it sounded nice, he surmised that it would be definitely better for him to avoid being hit altogether.

Strenght and Agility remained. One would allow him to fare better in a fight, the other to run away from it.

Sighing, he chose Agility to be increased by two points.

The Status screen closed, and Conrad braced for the new wave of pain that surged, this time jolting through his nerves, reaching arms and legs, twitching there for some moments before becoming a warm, pleasant sensation that disappeared slowly.

He tried to move his hands, realizing that his movement speed had incresed again.

His Agility being now at four points, did it mean that he was four times as fast as before? Conrad doubted so, perhaps the actual increase was lower than that, although he had no way to properly measure it.

With time, he was sure that he would adapt to the new speed, like he did with his strength. And, he did so incredibly quickly, in a matter of some minutes even.

It would happen again with his speed now, he was sure of it.

And indeed, it happened like so. He felt weird for something like fifteen minutes, then his mind became used to that, until it felt normal again.

During that time, he ate something, finishing one of the strips of Hammerne meat and a red potato, along with a bit of fruit.

Outside, it was still raining buckets.

He stared for some moments to the dark sky outside, before his attention returned to the task at hand.

He had prepared enough fabric, now, he thought, it was the time for him to attempt making a shirt.

Or something that had the vague appearance of it.

Still, it was like he actually knew what to do.

He used a stick to take measurements, taking sign on it and on the fabric with a piece of charcoal that he pulled off from the small pile of cinder left near his fireplace.

Then, he took his own measurements, using a spare string he had, making knots on it to signal each measurement he took.

Using one of the fishbones from his first catch in this world, that he had stashed for later used, he had fashioned some kind of needle.

He used it to sew together the pieces of fabric he made, fashioning himself a sleeveless shirt made out of plant fiber.

Success! Crafted- Fiber Shirt (x1, poor quality)

Skill Level Up! Crafting I +2 (5/20)

Skill Level Up! Concentration I+2 (3/20)

Would you like to Equip- Fiber Shirt?

Y/N

He selected “Yes”. However, the window was still there, nothing happened.

Conrad then put on the shirt, and selected yes again.

This time, the window changed.

Equipped- Fiber Shirt

Defense +1

Much more than the increased defense, it was the fact that the shirt kept him a bit warmer than pleased Conrad.

He then took some more of the string, decided to use it to mend his pants as best as he could.

He took them off, then started to repair the ripped jeans. It was a shabby work, but still something.

From before, he had some smaller patches of fiber tissue, that he sew together with the jeans fabric, in order to patch up the ripped pair of paints.

Then, he put them on.

<<No system message this time. So, these do not count as Items, do they?>>

He did not realize it until that moment. The items he had from his old world, somehow were not recognized by the system. He tried to drop his lighter and pick it up again, to confirm things. Again, he saw no message pop up.

Conrad shrugged his shoulder. Even if he knew that, it was not something useful to him.

Outside, the storm still raged on. Lightning and thunder did come back, after some hours of quiet, shaking the sky in their rumbling lights.

Since morning, Conrad did ran through almost all the task he intended to do in the upcoming days.

Given how he was forced to stay in his cave, he had to occupy his time somehow.

There were only few things left to do for him.

Craft some new weapons, and try his hands at pottery, using the clay he hauled back the day before.

He chose the latter task, thinking about doing the weapons last.

<<Perhaps, this will increase my Crafting skill even more. And, if it works the same as with the shirt, a higher Crafting will help me built better weapons. I hope>>

Talking to himself, Conrad got up, and strolled to pick up the clay.

He spent some time to mix it with rain water, in order to make it soft enough for him to mold.

Then, he chose the flattest rock in his cave to use as a working surface.

On there, he started to mold the base of his first vase.

But, he stopped almost immediately. To prepare a proper ceramic, he would need to cook it. And to do that, he realized, he needed an oven.

He had enough clay to build a small one, he realized.

And that, he knew how to do. Not from direct experience, nor from the weird knowledge that came like a memory.

But, he once saw someone do it, in a video that one of his friends, Jacob, a man with an insane fixation for survivalism, had shown him some years before.

Those images had stuck with Conrad, and he himself did not know why.

He realized later the reason for that, for how he yearned a life like that, were his own two hands could build him a house, immersed in nature, without the need for a job, to pay rent and so on.

Of course, he knew that he had no idea at the time, how really though would living in the wild be.

Now, he had some taste of it.

And, he considered, he had been terribly lucky in his circumstances. First, he was in a place with abundant resources. Water, food, even shelter.

Next, he met few animals during his stay in the forest.

Sure, the Hammerne had been dangerous, but that had been the only direct meeting that Conrad had with local wildlife, apart from fishes, a weird bird-thing and pesky bugs.

It could had been definitely worse, and he knew that.

Still, he set those thoughts aside, preparing his own attempt to build a kiln from clay.

First, he mixed some of the fibers and thin, young branches that he had set aside from his previous activity.

Some, he would use later to weave a basket together, the others, he had no use up until that moment.

Now, he used those materials to mix them with the clay, in order to give it more structure.

Then, he began to work on the base of his kiln. Large, roughly circular.

Twice the thickness of his hand, and with a rough diameter of his own arm length.

He needed it to be above the floor, in order to place the fire underneath it.

To buld the base, he first set up some stones in order to support it and keep it above the floor.

Conrad took two long, narrow stones to act as suppor, setting them up near a flat, protruding portion of the rock wall of the cave, that he previously had used as some sort of table, given its flat surface.

Now, it would serve him as part of the base for his kiln.

He molded the clay around it and the stones, in order to have some space between the clay base that he would later build, and the rocky floor of the cave.

Inside that clay structure, he stuck some more stones, halfway the distance between the floor and the top of the structure.

Those would serve to keep the firewood over the ground, allowing a better air flow into the kiln.

Then, he started working on the base, which would be a roughly circular “grate” made of clay. With his fingers, he dug holes as large as two fingers into the clay base.

Next, he worked on the structure of the kiln itself, to surround the base, the grate and the rocks supporting it ,going upwards.

He worked, shaping the clay in a circular form, smoothing it by wetting his hand and “caressing” the clay.

The structure grew upwards, and, as it did, the number of notifications in Conrad’s view grew at the same time.

He ignored them, focusing on his work.

The kiln, complete, was almost two arm lenghts from the floor of the cave, raised up and supported by stones.

It was still damp, but Conrad was starting to put wood underneath it, in order to start the fire and let it “cook” the kiln.

Then, he took a lit stick from his other fireplace, and started the fire under the kiln.

With cinder, he smothered his first fire, taking the half burnt pieces and sticking them into his kiln fire.

He would need some time for it to be ready, and so, he decided to start practicing on his pottery.

Using another batch of clay, the last one, since he depleted almost all he had stashed to build the kiln, he started to work on his first attempt at pottery.

He took a large piece of bark to use as a working surface. In there, he put some clay, forming a thick base, as thick as his thumb, circular in shape.

Again, the notification sounded in his head, but he dismissed it, relegating the blue window to a pulsing light in the farthest corner of his field of vision.

Then, he started to work on another piece of clay, shaping it into a long cilinder by pressing and rolling with his hands.

He picked up that cilinder, and fixed it onto the base, smoothing it with his fingers to fuse base and cilinder. He repeated the process, keeping the thickness of each cilinder the same.

That, was something Conrad had not done since primary school.

He remembered, that some of his classes were about art, and they had a fine laboratory, complete with an industrial pottery oven, colors and tintures.

A unusual occurrence for a public school in a rather poor part of the country.

He remembered that his teacher, a big and cheerful woman, explained to the class how the whole laboratory of arts was funded by a private donation, in order for the school of his poor birthplace to “spark the creativity of younger souls”.

Conrad had thought it the lamest thing he ever heard, back then.

He did not like arts at the time, and he had no talent nor patience for that kind of activity. They did many things related to artistic disciplines in that laboratory, spending two hours each week with painting, pottery, scuplting with clay and synthetic material.

But, he always had poor results and worse grades in those subjects.

Even them, he preferred sports, or music, rather than dirtying his hands.

It was later, after growing up, that he regretted a bit to have failed at picking up those skills. And, at the moment, he regretted it even more. He still recalled the process, and his new skills were definitely helping him improve the process.

The storm lasted for two days, before subsiding into a gentle rain and then clearing completely, the three suns back in the sky, along with their light and warmth.

In those three days, Conrad managed to advance his situation quite a bit.

His kiln was now complete, and it had allowed him to cook his first piece of pottery. He used it to boil water, both for cooking, washing himself with warm water, and, most importantly, he made a piece of soap.

Since he had time to spare in those three days, he crafted another, larger recipient, and he began to collect the cinder from both fireplace and kiln, running it through a sieve made with plant fiber, combing the ashes to eliminate grains or pieces of wood.

Then, he boiled it along with water, stirring each with a wooden stick, until the mixture became dense.

He spilled some on his skin, in a moment of distraction. It burned, red messages displaying in his vision until he washed it off.

Much to his relief, Conrad received only a slight burn from the caustic substance.

Then, he used the other recipient he had to boil the Hammerne’s fat, or at least, what he thought was fat.

He was much pleased to see he was right, as the pieces melted into a purplish liquid first, then, when he added water and stirred enough, it became clearer, a light purple.

Only when he took the recipient from the fire, and let it cool, it separated into two phases. A clear, white above, and a purple liquid below.

He scooped the white portion, mixing it with the filtered caustic solution into a third ceramic, nothing more than an open, rectangular mold that he crafted. Within it, he mixed some fruit juice, just to give it some semblance of smell to the soap.

In those three days, he ran through all the materials he had gathered, and consumed all his provisions of both food and firewood.

And, he definitely ignored the system notifications a bit too much.

Sighing, Conrad ran through them, dismissing those that notified him of an item’s completion, even the red ones that showed the damage he suffered. What he was interested into, were the blue ones that highlighted his Skill growth.

Skill Level Up! Crafting I +7 (12/20)

Skill Level Up! Concentration I +5 (8/20)

Skill Level Up! Cooking +4 (8/10)

Skill Level Up! Dismantle +2 (6/10)

New Skill Acquired! Corrosion Resistance [passive (1/10)]

New Skill Acquired! Refine (1/10)

He mumbled when seeing the Corrosion resistance, but then he realized that it must have happened when he splashed some of the caustic lye on his skin.

Conrad was pleased to see how his Crafting was about to rank up a second time, and making that piece of soap allowed him the skill Refine.

Still, none of his other skills leveled up during that time, since he only limited himself to some basic exercise while confined into the cave.

Now, both in order to gather more supplies, and to train his skill further, Conrad was ready to set out again.

He still needed to craft himself some better weapons, he knew that, but, during those three days, he thought that it would be best if he could gather some better materials instead of just stick and stones.

Perhaps, he would be able to find some bones, or better, something like obsidian.

But, deep down, there was another motivation for Conrad to head out, although he himself still failed to aknowledge it.

It was a creeping desire to test himself, to see how the increase in his stats changed him.

With a smile, that he did not notice on his face, Conrad grabbed his large satchel, along with the spear, a stone knife and some rope, and he jumped down from his cave’s entrance.

Skill Level Up! Acrobatics +1 (2/10)

His grin widened further, as he strolled away from his safe spot, heading to the forest.

Status Screen:

Level

1

SKILLS

Class

N/A

General

Active

Passive

Str

2

Gathering (5/10)

Identify I (11/100)

Crafting I (12/20)

Climbing (5/10)

Running (5/10)

Cooking (8/10)

Dismantle (6/10)

Refine (1/10)

Dodge (4/10)

Swipe (1/10)

Sprint (4/10)

General Fitness (8/10)

Athletics (8/10)

Spear Proficiency (5/100)

Concentration I (8/20)

Acrobatics (2/10)

Corrosion Res. (1/10)

Agi

4

Vit

2

Int

6

HP

3/15

MP

5/5

SP

2/2

Att

3

Def

2

Titles

N/A

Exp

21/100


Again, these are a first draft of the first five chapters and the prologue.  Currently, I am posting the new version of each chapter and updating the novel page.

 

 


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