Test (and some general updates)

This post (don’t hate me) is to test the wordads “referral” system. Here is the link, for those of you interested refer

Also, some general updates.

Re: Interference Chapter 30 is almost done, just need to do the final editing and it will be published (later tonight, or tomorrow).

A Strange Sky also is almost ready for another chapter release. And, I would very much appreciate any kind of feedback for this story. What did you like about it, what did you dislike? Feel free to drop your thoughts about it, and about the other works you find in this blog.

End of communications (for now).

 

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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.

 

 


A Strange Sky: Chapter 2- Shelter

The lone Sun lingered in the sky, far longer than it should have, according to Conrad’s watch.

It was still calibrated on the day-night cycle of his old world, Conrad knew that.

On it, the digital display marked half past eight post meridian.

Conrad looked at the sky, seeing how visibility was still good, as the lone sun was yet to follow its tweens beyond the horizon.

Its “brothers” had already gone past the horizon, leaving a single, small sun to lit the sky, painting it with a warm orange light, along with the dancing luminosity of the dancing aurora.

Two things became clear to Conrad. First, this world’s “days” would last longer than those from his old world.

The second thing, was that his watch was practically useless. It would not signal the correct time, and the compass on it was even more useless.

Conrad hoped that the night would last long enough to let him rest for a bit, but, at the same time, part of him hoped that it would not last too long.

A night spent inside a forest was a stressing experience even in his origin world, and here, in this place so strange to him, it would be surely worse.

Still, he used that extra sunlight to look for a place to rest.

He initially considered climbing up a tree, but those in the vicinitiy were too high, unsafe to climb with only his arms and legs, without any rope or tool to use.

Although, he admitted to himself, what he feared most was that his bad habit of turning around too much in his sleep would prove to be fatal, if he chose to sleep among those branches.

If he had time, and suitable tools, he would consider building himself some kind of ammock, perched up in the trees and suspended between two sturdy enough branches.

But that thought, he quickly dismissed, as walking along the riverbank provided him with another solution.

He came to find himself near a cliff, protrudring to the river from a low rock formation, that extended itself from the forest to the water.

The rocks reached a relatively low height, reaching four of five meters of height, not even half the height of the trees around.

And, he observed,the surface of that rock formation that was facing the river looked easy to climb up.

Much to Conrad’s surprise and relief, halfway through the top, there was a large opening.

The entrance of a cave.

Having a roof, albeit a rock one, would be incredibly beneficial, concluded Conrad.

If that cave was big enough, he could build a fireplace in there, and warm himself enough during the night.

If it was too small, however, a fire would be too dangerous to light in a cramped space.

There were some risks tied to the place, considered Conrad. Namely, it could be the home of something. But, he thought it was worth a shot.

Conrad came closer to the rock formation, keeping wary of his surroundings.

No sight of large animals, or small ones for that matter.

Beside the fishes splashing into shallow water, and the insects that buzzed around, he only found traces of the passage of animals.

Sometimes, he would see shapes dart through the vegetation.

But, the little buggers were too fast for his eyes to follow, appearing only as blurred lines that disappeared quickly into the woods.

As he came close enough, Conrad took some stones into his hand, throwing them into the opening of the cave.

Seen up close, it was bigger than he thought.

The first four stones missed, pitifully.

The fifth, and sixth, and the three that came after however, hit their mark, dinging each time they hit rock inside the cave, ricocheting their way inside.

Nothing came out of the dark entrance.

Still, Conrad knew, it did not mean that it was empty.

To be sure, really sure of it, Conrad realized he had all but a single option. To climb up, and see for himself.

The opening was slightly seven or eight meters above ground, halfway through the top of that greyish rock formation.

Still, the climb up from ground level looked easy enough, not impossibly vertical and full of places where he could grip his hands and put his feet to support himself.

He first tried a few kicks on the rock, on groud level, to see if it would crumble. It didn’t, and, seen up close, it had a resemblance to granite, a hard stone speckled with darker dots of different minerals.

The color of it was different, he observed, gray rock speckled with green and bluish dots, but the structure of it was roughly similiar.

At least, that’s what Conrad thought. He was by no means an expert on geology, and he knew he could be wrong.

He tried a few of the handholds that the rock provided, first putting his full weight into them.

When nothing happened, he took a wide breath, and began his ascension.

Then he stopped, pondering if he should already gather wood and stones for his fireplace, or climb up first, assess the situation, and then gather wood and other things if the cave was suitable to be used.

He decided for the latter. It would be more taxing on his strength, he thought, but for him it seemed better to play it safe than hurl extra weight up, in case the cave was not suitable, or worse, it had already some occupants.

It was tiresome, but he managed to reach the top.

Careful, he crawled inside of the cave. It was dark, but wide enough for him to pass while standing up, and even if he stretched his hands over his head, he could not reach the ceiling of it.

Not that he did, since he was still in precarious conditions at that moment.

As the cave was dark inside, he reached for his pocket and the lighter in it.

He was a bit conflicted about using it, since the liquid inside of it could be precious in later times, but he needed to see, and he had not the necessary tools nor the time to prepare and light a torch at the moment.

He took the lighter, and used it.

When the small flame flickered on, he almost jumped backwards in fear. Out of luck, he did not, stopping his recoil before he could misstep his own foot and fall out of the cave.

He drew a sigh of relief, trying to calm down his racing hearth.

As the light from the small flame illuminated the inside of the cave, a rock formation appeared to him like the snout of a sleeping animal, in the spur of the moment.

Instead, after the initial fright and to a closer inspection, he realized it was just rock.

Not even shaped like anything that resembled an animal, that image was only the product of his own stressed mind.

The cave went deeper, for almost seven meters, as Conrad counted and measured the steps between the entrance and the rocky end of that place.

It grew smaller at the end, but was suitable enough for him to spend the night, with a campfire to warm him.

And he would need it, given the humidity of the place.

Still, it was shelter. Not the best, but better than staying in the open, and on ground level.

He left some of the items he was carrying, strapped to his clothes while he climbed up.

The large fish, his supposed dinner, along with the other materials and stones he gathered.

The only things he kept, some stripes of cloth, a few shards of those sharpened stones, and his makeshift spear.

Just in case something nasty decided to show itself.

He steeled himself, before heading down the path he came.

Climbing down was slightly more difficult, for the slight sense of vertigo that he felt when forced to look down.

It was curious, to him, since he never suffered from the likes.

When he finally managed to reach ground level once again, a noise popped in his head, making him almost piss himself.

 

New Skil Unlocked! Physical Fitness (1/10)- Type: Passive (Soma)

Increases physical prowess

New Skill Unlocked! Climbing (1/10)- Type: General (Soma)

Aids performing the action of “climbing”

<<Oh, new ones>>

He muttered to himself, knowing that there would be no answer.

No matter how many times he asked or thought about information or explanations, that metallic voice would not answer, nor a window would pop up except for when he actually did something. Whatever that “system” was, or whoever controlled it, it would not answer, limiting itself to announce new events, without further explanation or word spent.

Still, this whole thing was a mystery to Conrad.

He did not know how it worked, or how to make it work.

The “skills” he got, he knew he gained them out of luck.

He even tried to experiment on some things, performing certain actions to see if he would gain a skill afterward.

Much to his satisfaction, normal biological processes would not require or grant a skill.

Whne he considered it, the thought of earning a “pissing” or “farting” skill amused him. In some aspects, Conrad was childish, especially for what concerned his sense of humor. And he was fully aware of it.

Still, he made some tests, and learned something about the process of gaining skills. He concluded that it was not something related to the complexity of the action, or how much he repeated it.

Much to his frustration, he had to admit that he lacked too many informations about the system, and all his considerations on the matter were only guesses at that point.

To kill time, he made a small stick of wood rotate between his fingers, quicker and quicker as time went by.

But, although the action was complex, and voluntary, it did not grant a skill to him.

Conrad took a look at the sky, and decided to focus on more pressing matters than to spend time doing “tests”.

He gathered some wood, choosing the fallen branches and driftwood that looked dry enough.

Next, some leaves, brown and crispy, that would allow him to start his fire.

He tried to bang together some stones, hitting one with the other, and keeping those that would let out a spark.

Although, he would not use that method to start his first fire.

He knew another one, using friction and some sticks along with light flammable materials.

Conrad walked to the forest’s outskirts. Among the tall Scalethorn trees, there were some smaller ones, that his Identify named as Kalu trees.

Unlike the Scalethorn trees, this one had a twisted trunk, and a spongy, thick bark that easily came loose from the tree.

Much like cork, but greenish in color and with a pungent, sour odor.

Underneath it, the trunk was covered in brown fibers.

He used some pointed rocks and his pocket knife to scrape away some large pieces of bark from the older trees, along with the fibers underneath it.

The youngest trees were not useful to Conrad, their bark too hard to scrape. But the older trees, they had useful things on them. First, the bark itself.

Next, the fibers underneath it, in some of the oldest, dried branches.

It was brown and crumbled with the slightest touch.

Moreover, it was deprived of any humidity, the ideal combustible for a spark to start a proper fire.

He grabbed as much of the material as he could, and tied it together with the remaing stripes of tissue from his former shirt.

Next, he used another stripe to tie the “package” to his clothes, and went back to his refuge, ready to climb up again.

He ignored the ringing noise and the blue flickering lights, dismissing them for later.

Once inside the cave, he deposited the materials he gathered, and focused his attention on the messages.

Skill Level UP! Gathering +1 (3/10)

Skill Level UP! Identify +1 (2/10)

Skill Level UP! Climbing +1 (2/10)

Skill Level UP! Physical Fitness +1 (2/10)

He did not know why, but he was satisfied by that notion, the ringing sound and the message that followed.

It gave him a sense of progress, although he could not explain why.

Conrad looked around, trying to figure out how to use the remaining hours of light. The light outside was still strong enough for him to risk another descent to gather material, but he needed to choose the most indispensable thing, what he really lacked and desperately needed.

Looking at the bare rock floor, he took a mental note of the first thing he needed to gather.

Leaves, lots of them.

<<Otherwise, I will have to spend the night sleeping on bare rock>>

Once again, he spoke his thoughts out loud, almost without realizing it.

He shook his head, returning his thought to the mental list of items he needed.

Then, he climbed down once again, heading to the forest’s outskirts, grabbing only his makeshift spear and some tissue strips.

Conrad had the time to do ten more trips before he finally felt satisfied by the amount of materials gathered.

He considered that there was still enought light outside for him to do some more trips, but he decided against it, in order to better prepare for the night.

Sitting down on the bare rock of his cave, he began to sort through the items he gathered.

A large stash of big leaves, that he began to process by cutting off the rigid stem and setting it aside.

From those leaves, he would make himself some semblance of a bed. Next, he looked at his supposed dinner, the large fish he caught.

He cursed under his lips, and took the fish in hands, heading down once more.

Conrad forgot that he needed to gut and clean it, and he did not want to do it inside his cave.

There was the risk that the smell of blood would attract some animals, but mostly Conrad did not want his first shelter to reek of fish gut and blood.

And so, he headed down, took the fish to the river and started gutting it and cleaning it. With him, he brought one of the larger leaves.

He would wrap the fish meat in there, tossing aside guts, fins and scales.

He reconsidered about the scales, especially those on the fish’s head. The reason for that was their hardness and flexibility.

Conrad did not have any use for them yet, but, he considered, in this kind of environment everything could be of some use.

The same consideration he did for the fish’s bones. After cleaning the meat, he took the bones to a spot on the riverbank, where, during the day, he had spotted an interesting thing.

The terrain on that spot bulged up, forming a structure with several small holes in it.

From there, a line of blue insects walked out of their nest. They were strange little things, with a “wormy” body and long antennae, but Conrad noted that those creatures behaved exactly like ants.

He deposited the fish bones there, hoping that the colony would clean them up from meat remains, leaving behind only the bone.

He often did the same when, as a child, he visited his aunt on her seaside home. Memories of those times emerged in Conrad’s thoughts, of when he fished out some good looking shells from the sea, and in order to clean up the shell, his aunt taught him the “ant nest trick”.

He would leave it near an ant colony, and, after some time, he would pick up the shell, cleaned from any piece of its previous occupant.

Now, he hoped that those weird little bugs did the same. He didn’t really need the fishbones, but he surmised he could use them as some sort of needles, to stitch together leaves when he would manage to fix himself some kind of string.

Having done that, he returned to pick up the fish and head into the cave once more.

Once inside, as he did before, he took a look at the blue window.

Skill Level UP! Climbing +1 (3/10)

New Skill Unlocked! Dismantle (1/10)- Type: Active (Soma- 1 SP)

Usable only on corpses/ plants/ non-living materials. Activating the skill will dismantle the object, yielding its components

Skill Synergy Unlocked! Dismantle Gathering

(When Dismantling/Gathering, bonus materials will be awarded)

Congratulations! You have unlocked the first Skill Synergy! As a reward, bonus Stat points will be awarded!

+1 Precision

+1 Perception

The message left Conrad slightly confused, but what happened afterwards was even more confusing.

His head started to spin, and once again, he felt that weird sensation as when the system first started.

It caused not pain this time, but rather some kind of ticklish unrest spreading through his nerves, reaching the head.

Then, the pain came, a jolt of it, like a knife was being stuck into Conrad’s temples.

And, quick as it came, it stopped.

Conrad opened his eyes once again, only to find that his vision was somehow improved.

Not only that, but his movements were also different, he noted. Somehow more coordinated, precise than before.

He shuddered, thinking about the message before, and the implications of it.

His Stats had changed, like in a game. But, unlike a game, this was real.

Those statistics, he considered, were not some random number, they represented his body. And, if those changed, concluded Conrad, his body would change.

He dismissed the blue message, still weirded out by what happened.

Outside, daylight had almost waned completely, and the forest’s song was beginning to change.

Night was falling, and with it, another set of creatures  began to roam the woods.

Strange noises began to linger in the air, growls and shrieks like Conrad ever heard.

He felt immensely glad for that small cave, as he started to work his hands into building a fire.

He arranged the stones and the pieces of wood, like he did oh so many times when he was little and his father first, then his friends, took him camping in the woods.

And, it was from those days that he knew how to start a fire. He had a lighter with him, but though it best to save it for later times.

He took a suitable piece of the bark, not too small, not too big, then he set some dried leaves and fiber on it.

Then, he took a straight, flexible stick, tying a stripe of cloth to both ends, bending it to form a small arch. Like a miniature bow.

Before he did so, he wrapped the cloth strip onto another stick, in a way that, if he moved the small arch, the stick would rotate on itself.

Next, he worked, moving the arch back and forth while pressing the straight stick on the piece of bark, making it rotate over the fiber and dried leaves, letting friction do its work.

It became heated first, then a puff of white smoke began to rise after some work put into it.

Conrad brought it closer to his mouth, lightly blowing air onto the clump of fiber and leaves, until a small, weak flame began to dance.

Grinning, he put the piece of bark under the woods arranged into his fireplace, adding combustible to the fire and taking care to not choke out the flames.

After a few moments, fire was burning inside the small cave, its light dancing on the rocky walls of Conrad’s shelter.

He was pleased to see how the smoke from it was not suffocating, as the cave was large enough for the smoke to disperse.

After letting the fire burn for some time, he then started to fix himself some dinner.

He put the fish on a stick, and set it over the fireplace to cook, blocking the base of the stick with some of the loose stones that were inside the cave.

He did the same with some vegetables he found, and a few edible mushrooms he picked up after identifying them as edible with his skill.

Famished, he still waited for the fish to be done.

Eating raw ingredients might be dangerous, he thought. And he waited, patiently.

As he waited for his dinner to be ready, Conrad headed to the entrance of his little cave.

A chilling breeze made him shudder, shirtless as he was, but he resisted, peeking out of the entrance to see the sky above.

Night sky was a marvel, a dark purple color sparkling with so many stars that it left Conrad’s mouth gaping in wonder.

A lone moon was up in the sky, red in color and far bigger than the Moon that Conrad remembered.

Its surface was also different, smoother. And it had a ring surrounding it.

But, as pretty as the sight was, the sounds that the night brought were not as much.

Things were moving below, creeping among the trees and bushes. Roars, and hisses, and a curiously creepy sound, as if a bird was trying to imitate a human laughter.

It made Condrad shook his head and recoil back into his cave, to the warmth and light of his fire.

Consuming his dinner, he was pleased of the result. It lacked salt, but it was savory, and the mushroom had a nice, although unusual taste.

Moreover, he knew that a meal caught, harvested and cooked with his own hands, it always tasted better to him than those served in most restaurants.

He smiled when the system notified him of the newly acquired cooking skill.

New Skil Unlocked! Cooking (1/10)- Type: General (Soma)

Aids in performing the basic action of “cooking”

Before curling himself to sleep, he summoned his status screen, gazing at it.

He felt different from the night before, where his world was still work, money and gray concrete.

Not only for the shock of this new world, or for the stat’s influence. It was something deeper, and Conrad knew the reason for it.

It was the open air that made him feel like this, at peace, content, even if his situation was all but peaceful or something to be glad about it.

He knew about that, and he surprised himself for how calm he was, for how he was enjoying it.

Like a trip to the woods outside the city, he thought.

That too, it always made him happy whenever he did it.

And, with each vacation or day off, he would dart away from his house and immerse himself into Nature for some time.

Because, Conrad loathed the city.

The oppressive rithms, boring job at his desk, everyday flowing the same as the one before it.

He was unhappy back then, repeating himself day after day that it was what he wanted, what he studied for, what he struggled for.

But that feeling was always there, gnawing at him from deep inside.

Sure,he thought, he had a nice car, a respectable bank account, and soon, he would have a nice apartment were to live.

But, that life, he knew, it was not for him.

Every moment was a pact between he and himself, to give up what he really wanted in order to pursue that thig called success.

And how empty it looked to him, right now, the same as it did whenever he had enough time to spare that he managed to go back to the countryside.

The air there was clean, and wide spaces full of nothing but nature always soothed Conrad’s mind.

Moreover, there was that feeling in the air, the one he got when his barefeet touched the grass, whenever he picked a ripe fruit right from the branch were it grew.

He longet for it, and being there, in that wilderness, had the same effect on him as the countryside had.

All in all, considering the possible dangers of this unknown place, Conrad felt a thing he almost forgot during his life in the city.

Happyness.

He shook his head, focusing on the blinking blue screen in front of his nose, as he laid down on the heap of leaves that was to be his bed.

Conrad’s eyes ran down the list of stats and skills he gained, and his grin widened further.

<<What’s next?>>

He muttered, feeling himself drifting into sleep.

Mind Mosaic Status:

Level: N/A

Class: N/A

EXP: -/-

Statistics

Soma: HP 10/10

Strength: 1

Nimbleness: 1

Coordination: 1

Reaction: 1

Pneuma: AP 1/1

Intelligence: 1

Willpower: 1

Tekna: Sp 1/1

Precision: 2

Perception: 2

Titles: N/A

Tiles: 0

Skills

General: Gathering (3/10); Crafting (1/10); Climbing (3/10); Cooking (1/10)

Active: Identify (1/10), Dismantle (1/10)

Passive: Physical Fitness (2/10)

A Strange Sky: Chapter 1- Mosaic


Author’s Note: This is the new and revised version of “A Strange Sky”. I decided to give a more “personal” touch to the system (it felt too generic before), along with other changes to the events and story itself. The old version of this chapter is still available for reading, on a separate post listed on the Novel’s page. Thank you for stopping by!


Still taken back by the view, Conrad stood there staring at the sky above.

Even if the sight of it was indeed beautiful, he did not consider it so. It was strange, unknown. Frightening.

He shivered, his mind running through the implications and conclusions of such sight.

A noise ringed in his ears, and a chill ran down his spine. He thought to have heard a voice, behind him, and he turned around so fast that his head felt dizzy for a moment.

There was no one behind him, but he could not shake off that impression.

He sighed, deeply, thinking about how his mind might have gone for a trip in crazy-town. That was the best explanation he could give to himself.

<<I crashed my car, hit my head strong enough to fall into coma, and all this is just the product of that>>

Once again, his mind turned towards that possibility. He took the time to analyze the situation, to think things through. In his reasoning, he found three plausible answers for what surrounded him.

The first, and most logical, was for everything around him being not real, the product of his mind after the accident he was involved in. In short, a coma-induced dream.

But, thought Conrad, the sensations he felt led him to believe that was not the case. He knew that it was not the case, somehow. And that led him to the second and third options. The second one, was that, somehow, this place was real, but a different place, different from the town he lived, the country. Different from the world he lived in.

Back when he woke up, he was shocked by finding himself into a forest, but he thought it a normal forest.

It was still plausible back when he was under the canopy of trees, when he could only see patches of the sky, covered by the foliage.

But now, it was so surreal that his mind rejected it. Torn between what he saw, and what his body felt.

<<Ah, shit. What the hell do I do now?>>

He sat there for some moments. Although the temperature under the trees was pleasant, up here, the breeze was now getting cold enough to make him shiver.

<<Can you feel cold while in a coma? Or perhaps, this is the afterlife. I cannot rule that out>>

That was the third option, for him. He died in the accident, and what he experienced was nothing but the afterlife.

He had never been a man of faith. Rather, if he would be forced to define his beliefs, he would describe himself as an agnostic. Not believing in any God, but unable to rule out the possibility that, somehow, somewhere, a superior existence, or a multitude of them, could exist.

He definitely did not believe in heaven, or hell for that matter.

And yet, for what Conrad knew, the place where he found himself could easily be either of those.

Or, and that thought was so silly that it almost made him burst into laughter, he could have woken up in another world.

<<Sure, that’s exactly what happened. I have been summoned into another world, and I will become the Hero of Justice here!>>

He shouted his words to the wind, laughing out loud afterwards. It was not a pleasant laughter, however, more similar to a psychotic break than sincere fun.

He calmed himself, after the sudden outburst. The air was too cold now, and his body was beginning to shake a bit too much.

He decided to climb down, going back to the forest below.

There was another reason that compelled him to do so.

His stomach started rumbling again.

The sensation was real, he had no doubt about that.

More than that, it proved that whatever happened to him, it was definitely not a dream.

He felt a plethora of emotions whenever he dreamed.

Lust, anger, sadness, fear. But that was it, they were only emotions. Sometimes, he even felt the pressing need to pee. But he never felt hunger, or pain, like he did since he woke up.

Listening to his stomach, he decided to go back to the forest.

The hill where he was standing was lush with grass and some bushes, but nothing that looked edible grew there.

He saw some yellow berries on some of the bushes, but he decided to not risk eating those.

Descending from the hill was easier than climbing it.

Not only because, well, that’s how hills work, he thought, but mostly because he felt good right at the moment.

The pain was gone, the ringing sound in his ears was there no more.

He even found the strength to run for a bit, and he did so easily.

He was glad about it, but then he began to notice. Some of the cuts he had on his skin, some of the bruises, they were already healed.

The cuts were shallow, he admitted, but the bruises? They were severe, his skin tinged with a shade of dark, almost black purple, now faded into a mixed shade of gray and yellow color, while most of his skin returned to his original, slightly tanned color.

As he went down the hill, he took a glance to his body from time to time.

The bruises were really healing, it was not just an impression he had. By the time he was into the forest once again, they were completely gone.

For good measure, Conrad ran his fingers on the spot where the bruises where, pressing them on his skin.

Nothing, just the sensation of his hands pressing on his chest.

<<And, that marks the third unexplained thing. Shit, what the hell is going on?>>

He was really at loss for words. He sat on a fallen trunk, resting his head between his hands as he thought about what to do next.

His wounds were gone, but those strange, blinking blue and red spots in his view were still there. He tried to blink them away, to rub his eyes, but the flickering spots remained in their position.

Conrad shrugged his shoulders, unable to find a solution for this minor problem. Maybe, he thought, it was some temporary damage due to the accident.

He had other priorities to consider, first.

He needed to find some food, and water.

When he was atop of the hill, he did not see any trace of civilization for miles and miles around.

Conrad wanted to get out of the forest, but to do so, he considered he might have to walk for days, perhaps even a whole week.

<<Maybe, if I follow the river…>>

Doing that, he would surely find water, and food if he managed to catch some fish.

Nodding to himself, he decided his next move.

He would try to find the river, and, once he managed to reach it, he would follow its course, hoping to find some trace of civilization along the way.

Perhaps, if luck decided to be on his side, he might even find a boat along the river, hopefully with someone aboard.

As he walked among the tall trees, he started to take a closer look at them.

Having spend his childhood in the countryside, he was no stranger to meadows and wilds, but every single plant he saw he could not recognize.

They did not look tropical, and the place itself did not have the appearance of a jungle.

It was more like a forest that belonged to temperate climate.

Like the ones that he “explored” as a child, when he sneaked out of his parents’ farm, forging adventurers in his mind.

Yet, the trees he was seeing now were similar in structure, but there were some subtle differences.

The size of them was definitely bigger, and the bark looked more like scales than proper bark.

The leaves were unlike any he had ever seen.

The shape of them was like large needles, but they were soft to the touch, even those that fell off the tree. The dried leaves, as he pressed them between his fingers, crumbled into a thin, brown powder.

Those that he managed to snap from a short, young tree of the same species, they let out a thick, almost transparent juice.

It had a sweet scent, and Conrad was almost tempted to taste a bit of it.

In the end, he did it.

It was delicious, with a syrupy consistence and a rich sweet taste that reminded him of vanilla.

He tried to munch on an entire leaf, but he spit it out immediately.

The whole thing had a bitter taste.

<<So, leaf bad, juice good>>

He thought. Of course, the juice could also be bad. Very bad, if it contained some poisonous substance.

For that reason, he only tasted a small quantity of it. He would wait a bit before eating some again, in order to see how his body reacted.

The other types of plants, bushes and grass that he saw, all of them were different to the species he knew. They were similar, in some way, but different.

The bushes had the same kind of structure as those that he would find in a normal meadow or woods, with a height of no more than thirty centimeters, thick leaves of a dark green color, apt to properly use the scarce light that filtered from the canopy above.

However, they were different. The leaves had peculiar shapes, like two hearts inverted and connected by their point.

Kind of shaped like the numbed eight, he thought while observing them. Those bushes bore berries, with different colors ranging from light purple to golden yellow.

But the thing that surprised him the most, it was a patch of moss like he never saw.

It glowed, a pale, faint blue light. Stems were growing from it, like thin mushrooms.

Something out of a science fiction movie, or a fantasy game.

Again, the lights flickered in his sight. This time, Conrad focused on them, asking himself what the hell was going on with his eyes.

As he acknowledged the strangeness of those lights, and began inquiring himself over them, the light expanded in his view.

<<What the fuck?>>

He recoiled, muttering an imprecation as one single light became a flickering blue window in his view.

Conrad tried to extend his hand and touch it, seeing his fingers pass through it. He turned his head, left and right, but the window followed the movement, remaining in the center of his field of view.

He tried to swat it with his hand, but nothing happened.

But, when he thought about getting rid of the thing, it turned back into a flickering light on the bottom of his view.

As he returned his focus on the thing, it burst out once again. He experimented a bit with it, learning how he could freely control the size and inclination of that strange hallucination, just thinking about what he wanted to do with it.

Strange pictures flickered, white on blue background, like glitched text on a computer screen. But, as Conrad tried to decipher those symbols, that looked to him like some weird sort of writing, the symbols slowly warped, starting to make more sense. Until…

Welcome, Conrad

The simple greeting, written on that floating window made Conrad question his sanity for good this time. He could handle the weird trees, the three suns made him dubious about it, but that simple word made Conrad really think that he simply lost his mind.

System acknowledged- Starting Mosaic Routine…please standy

A sharp pain assaulted Conrad, spreading from the bottom of his spine to the rest of his body.

He fell to his knees, as waves of pain reached his head, bursting inside of it like it was about to split in two. His ears began ringing, his mouth had a weir, metallic taste.

His vision flickered, the world losing focus once again. Twitches, and then spasms took hold of all his muscles, and he collapsed, face flat on the ground, convulsing.

Mosaic System Online. Sorry for the Inconvenience, Conrad.

Would you like to start the Tutorial?

Y/N

The pain started to subside, slowly becoming nothing more than a sensation of warmth spread into his body and head. Conrad got up on his feet once again, rubbing off the tears that began flowing from his eyes.

<<The fuck is going on?>>

Along with the message, he clearly heard a voice, repeating what was written on the blue flickering screen.

It was not coming from anywhere around him. It came from inside of him.

Like the voices that conversed when he thought about something.

But, unlike those, that spoke with his own voice, as they represented his internal monologue and dialogue, that voice held a monotonous, flat tone.

Like the voice of a vocal synthesizer from a computer.

He coughed, muttering and cursing under his lip.

The blue window was still there, waiting for him to pick an answer. At least, that was the impression Conrad had.

He sighed, deeply, before giving in to curiosity and thinking “Yes”.

As he did, a sound of bells ringing happily played in his mind, and the window shifted, new words rolling on it like the credits of a movie.

Excellent! Welcome to the Mosaic System Interface!

Here, the system will display useful, color-coded information that will help you during your journey!

A blue window, along with a sound clue are generated for standard communications

A red one is generated to signal damage report after harmful events

<<So, those lights I saw before…>>

He started to connect some dots. His vision flickered red, before, when he woke up. That must have been a damage report, Conrad thought, surprising himself of how well he was simply accepting what was happening.

He focused once again on the blue, floating window, reading the information on it.

It was different from before, with numbers written on it. Conrad’s eyes gaped wide in surprise.

Below this Tutorial message, you fill find your Status Screen!

It displays a summary of your Mind Mosaic, each parameter being a rough extimation of an aspect of your Mind.

Level: A rough extimation of how much your Mind Mosaic has been completed. For now, it wil be blank, as you still have some tasks to complete, before fully embracing the System

Class: The type of picture that your Mind Mosaic draws. Blank, for now.

Experience: Gaining it and reaching a certain amount will increase your Mosaic Level

Stats are divided into three “families”- Soma, Pneuma, Tekna

Skills: For now, a blank window, where skills will be added. To obtain one, perform certain actions. Skills have levels, and can leveled up repeating the action. Once a skill is maxed, it will Rank up, becoming an advanced version of itself.

Titles: Awarded for special actions, each title has a bonus related to it.

Tiles: can be earned in two ways. Increasing your Mosaic Level, or increasing Skill Level. Sometimes, extra MP are awarded as bonus for performing special actions.

There are three types of Tiles: Soma, Pneuma, Tekna

You can spend Tiles to complete a Pattern. Patterns, like Tiles, follow the Soma/Pneuma/Tekna classification, and each type can be completed by using the same type of tyles.

Completing a Pattern will yield results: Starting a pattern gives one stat point related to the type

Completing 10% of a pattern has a chance to give stat points or a new skill

Completing 25% of a pattern has a chance to give stat points or a new skill

Completing 50% has a chance to give stat points, a new skill or skill synergy

Completing 75% has a chance to give stat points, a new skill/skill synergy/ pattern synergy

Completing a Pattern will open up new patterns related to the one completed, and will reward either stat points or a new skill.

Higher tier patterns require more tiles for completion.

Completing a set of related Patterns, called Mosaic, will yield additional bonus stats, Tiles or skills, and unlock a higher tier Mosaic.

Mind Mosaic Status:

Level: N/A

Class: N/A

EXP: -/-

Statistics

Soma: The Vessel of a Mind, related to physical prowess and Health-HP: 10/10

Strength: 1

Nimbleness: 1

Coordination: 1

Reaction: 1

Pneuma: The Soul side of a Mind, related to Arcane and Dreams- AP:1/1

Intelligence: 1

Willpower: 1

Tekna: The Reason side of a Mind, related to Skill- SP: 1/1

Precision: 1

Perception: 1

Titles: N/A

Tiles: 0

Skills: N/A

Conrad looked with attention at the flickering blue screen, unable to wrap up his mind to what lied before his eyes.

Before he could make other, deeper considerations about it, the screen disappered, substituted by another message.

This marks the end of the Tutorial session. All that is left, is for you to survive and

complete your Mind Mosaic. Good Luck!

<<You gotta be shitting me>>

Those blue windows, and the statistics in them, they were just like one of those you would see in those old RPG games.

He did play his share of them when he was a teenager, but the passion that he held towards them faded away as he grew up, until they became nothing more than a memory that he was slightly ashamed to have.

He disliked his old, nerdy, angry teenager self, so different from the efficient and success-driven adult that he became.

Yet, that thing was really a Status screen, considered Conrad, while recalling the window into view just by thinking about it.

He remained there, staring at it, using his hands to swat away the bugs buzzing around him.

<<You’ve got to be shitting me>>

He blabbered once again, the only thing he could manage to say.

The situation, he thought, was crazy enough to make him want to question his own sanity.

But, as he was still wallowing in his thoughts, he heard a rustling of leaves, coming from his right.

As he looked there, he saw an animal dart out of the small bushes.

He expected it to be a rabbit, given the size of the creature, but when it stopped, standing on its hind legs, gazing at Conrad for a moment before scurrying off again inside the vegetation, the man clearly saw the creature.

It was definitely not a rabbit.

Looking similar to a lizard, without a tail, and two deep black eyes. It had the frame of a rabbit, moving exactly the same way, its hind legs bigger than the fore, that the little thing used to jump around with great speed.

Only, it skin had not fur, but scales, shining with a yellow-green glint. It even had something like ears, although they were more like flaps of scaly skin, that the thing raised when it looked at Conrad with curiosity.

Two messages popped up in his head, rapidly following one another.

 

Enemy ?? Appeared!

 

Enemy ?? Ran away!

Conrad shook his head, shocked by the little thing’s sudden appearance.

The trees were strange enough, the sky even worse than those, but that? That was something insane, he thought.

And then, something clicked into his head. Perhaps, he always knew, since the time he woke up in this strange place.

He had the sensation, the certainty, that this, all of it was real. Crazy, without the slightest doubt, but real.

He was alive, he was not dreaming or hallucinating or whatever else.

He was wide awake, and this place was not his world anymore.

Having reached this consideration, Conrad thought, he had two choices before him. Deny it, or accept it.

And the thing that disturbed him the most, is that he was accepting it.

He surprised himself with the way he suddenly thought it not only real, but logical, even.

This world he woke up to, it was not his old one anymore, but some crazy place, with three suns and levels, experience and all that shit.

And he accepted it, like a given truth, surprising himself.

He became conscious of his own situation, a lone man, weaponless, lost in a forest that most likely hosted deadly creatures crawling among the shadows.

He felt a chill run down his spine, as he was now conscious of every sound, every shadow moving around him.

Conrad looked around, frantically, his eyes darting from bush to tree to stone. He realized that he was out in the open, unable to defend himself.

He had his knife in his pocket, he knew that, but that short blade would require a short range for him to use, and that would lead to dangerous situations.

He needed something to defend himself, that allowed him to keep enough distance from a predator to minimize the risks. A short knife would not allow that.

Near him, three steps away from his right foot, he found a fallen branch, large enough for him to use as clubbing weapon.

Keeping wary of his surroundings, he strolled to the branch, picking it up.

Successfully equipped- Wooden Branch (+1 Attack)

<<Sure. Of course>>

He shrugged his shoulder, questioning himself if he expected something different, given what he already experienced.

He dismissed the blue window, noticing that, once aknowledged, the windows would disappear from his vision, collapsing into a blue dot on the far right of his vision.

If he focused on it, Conrad learned, the windows would be displayed again, in some sort of message log.

He clenched the branch harder, and pressed on, threading into the vegetation.

Denying things would not get him anywhere, he knew that very well.

He had always been pragmatic, and right now, although he already spent some time doubting what he saw, he decided to accept it.

Perhaps seeing that creature was the turning point for him, although, deep down, he knew that the reason was another.

If that thing was there, unknown, practically alien to him, what else could be there?

Woods were dangerous enough without the thought of something lurking beneath the vegetation, but right now, that thought was creeping into Conrad’s mind.

And it was that thought that motivated him to move, to leave the fairly open place where he was standing, gawking like an idiot.

Right now, there was nothing else he could do beside accept things, and try to do something about his situation.

He stopped worrying about his situation as a whole, since he doubted he could find any answers by standing still in the forest, and he focused on his immediate needs.

Food, water, shelter.

And he knew where to find two of those.

The Sun…no, the three suns were still shining their light on the forest, so he still had plenty of time to reach the river and look for something to eat.

He did not trust the berries and strange mushrooms he found, now that he knew this whole place was nothing like he thought at first.

Conrad walked for two hours, stopping only from time to time to rest his legs a bit, or to grab something he thought useful along the way.

Stones, one hard, dense and of deep brown color. Smooth, and did not break when he hit another, bigger rock with the small one he held in his fist.

Then, he found some smaller, white-ish stones that shattered when struck.

Those stones broke into pieces that had sharp edges, good enough to cut through vegetable fiber.

He could not cut down a tree with them, but they would be useful as improvised knives, or even spearpoints, if he managed to actually find a piece big enough to produce a spearpoint from it.

He had still the strips of his shredded sweater and shirt, so he could use them to tie the sharp stone shards to pieces of wood.

But he would take care of that later.

On the way towards the river, he noticed a spot where several branches had fell to the ground, their wood still wet with fresh sap.

He thought them recently fallen, perhaps shaken down by a furious wind.

<<Or ripped away from the tree>>

Conrad whispered, while looking around. He found traces of a large animal’s passage, droppings, scratching marks on the trees.

Luckily, the still warm excrements had pieces of semi-digested, small wooden branches in them, so it was something that ate plants, and not a large carnivore.

He looked at them from half a step away. A disgusting thing to do, for him, but it was also necessary to assess the surrounding.

Traces, be it paw prints or droppings, could reveal a lot about whatever roamed the forest.

And Conrad knew that, and he took the time to look around at each clue, no matter how disgusting it was.

He surmised that the large animal that wrecked that place must have been an herbivore.

Although, thought Conrad, it could still be aggressive and territorial.

To be safe when night would fall, he considered about climbing up a tree.

Staying on ground level could be too dangerous, since who knows what might be lurking these woods at nights.

There were several ways that he could be killed, and Conrad mentally ran through each and every possible death that he could think of.

Trampled, mauled by a predator, stung by insects. Food poisoning, wound infection. Bitten by venomous animals.

Falling to his death. Disease carried by dirty water, disease by eating raw or rotten food.

Even some ridiculous things like being eaten alive by carnivore plants, or by dinosaurs.

He ran through them all. After all, in this place unknown to him, everything was possible.

He was scared, as he never had been in his whole life, but, somehow, he felt another emotion creeping in, making its way between his concern and fear.

Excitement, the rush of adrenaline slowly rising to his head. He could not see his own face at the moment, and if he could, he would be surprised to find a smile in his expression.

He walked for hours, sometimes, more often than he would like to admit, he lost his directions and was forced to mark the trees along his path.

His compass, was not reliable, sometimes identifying the north where no more than half an hour before was east, and so on.

But, and much to his relief, he managed to find his way among the trees and now, he could hear the sound of running waters.

The river was near, just beyond a final line of trees.

Luckily, he did not encounter any large creature during his march into the forest.

He saw some of those lizard-bunnies, and he even thried to catch one of them, but the little buggers were fast.

He was feeling seriously hungry right now, and his stomach was grumbling loudly.

Although the sap from the curious leaves did not hurt him in any way, he still did not eat those that he brought with himself.

Because, he found another use for them. He noticed that, his right hand, that had a bit of that sap smeared on it, was not being assaulted by those pesky little bugs.

After assessing that the sap was safe to use, and had probably some bug-repellant property, he smeared some on his chest, arms and face.

His legs were still protected by what remained of his expensive pair of jeans, but he spilled some sap on them anyways.

Much to his satisfaction, the sap really did work.

The bugs still buzzed around him, but they quickly dispersed.

The biggest success was that they no longer bit Conrad, and he even felt that the bitemarks he already had were less itchy as he applied some sap on them.

When he decided to stop, and take another handful of those leaves to bring them with him, he got a notification, and the usual flickering window appeared.

Gathered Scalethorn Leaf (x5)

New Skil Unlocked!Gathering (1/10)- Type: General (Tekna)- Assist in the act of gathering resources, granting a bonus yield

<<Wow>>

That was the only thing he managed to say.

Now, each time he looked at a single tree and focused on it, a small window would float in front of it.

Detected- Scalethorn Tree

He tried to do the same with the other plants around him, but no window appeared.

Only after he managed to gather some parts of them, like leaves or branches directly torn from the plant, the window did appear.

His gathering skill worked in a strange way. After he managed to gather manually some parts of a plant, and the info window appeared on it, the skill would highlight the parts of it that could be gathered.

Some plants had glowing leaves, surrounded by a yellow aura. Others had the same light around their stems, or branches.

Even some berries showed the same glint.

He spent some time gathering what he could, and as he did, his Gathering skill increased to level two.

At the same time, another notification popped up in his view.

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

New Skill Unlocked- Identify (1/10)- Type: Active (Pneuma- 1 SP cost)- Focus on a target to learn information about it

Now, whenever he focused on a plant, or even objects, like stones or fallen branches, he could see a small status window about them.

The skill, when he used it, gave him a weird sensation. Like when the “system” activated for the first time, he felt a tingling sensation at the base of his spine, that rose from it as a wave of heat, rising through it and reaching his head, spreading through the brain into his eyes and from them, back to the brain where it subsided.

The action const him one of those “SP”, skill points, leaving him with none. He noticed that, after roughly ten minutes, the single skill point would replenish itself.

Identify, once activated, lasted roughly two minutes, making Conrad’s eyes feel dry and slightly itchy.

During the time that the skill was “on”, he learned that he could identify several items before the effect wore off.

Being wary of the limitations, he used the skill accordingly.

Some items only had showed a small description when targeted by the skill, like the stones he gathered before, or the wooden branch that he had with him.

Others, especially leaves, mushrooms and fruits, showed a bigger window, where, listed below the plant’s name, it showed some effects.

The berries from a nearby bush, they had a “mild poison” listed under their name. Another plant had

“minor poison” listed as an effect of its leaves.

Most of the vegetation around, was useless if not dangerous.

However, thanks to this new skill, Conrad managed to find some mushrooms that had the “edible” effect displayed, and also some berries with the same property.

He gathered some mushrooms and berries, storing them in a small satchel he made with the largest piece of his late sweater, that he decided to cut with his pocket knife.

<<Huh…so, does not work on this>>

Conrad said out loud, when he tried using the Identify skill on his knife. It showed nothing for it, activating on the nearest object.

Conrad surmised that the knife, being from another world could be not effected by the skill. Again, he surprised himself of how sure he was about that answer, and how well he accepted it as logical.

Shaking his head, he left his thoughts to focus on the task he was doing.

He ripped the rest of the sweater and the shirt, cutting them into strips of tissue that he tied to the branch he carried, so that he could keep his hands free while walking around.

The stones he collected were kept the same way as the leaves, mushrooms and berries, wrapped into a fairly large scrap of cloth that he tied to his belt, dangling from the right side of his waist.

After the gathering spree, he finally proceeded.

He got out of the trees, following the growing noise of flowing water.

Until he found himself before the slow flowing river.

Before heading out of the trees, he looked around, using his new identification skill to see if some animals were in the proximity.

When Conrad saw that the place was clear, he headed out towards the river.

It was large, larger than he expected when he first saw it from atop the hill.

The waters flowed slowly, and they were surprisingly clear. He was glad to spot some fish swimming around in low waters.

Their appearance was a little off, thought Conrad, as the creatures looked like armored version of a proper fish. But, their nature was undeniable. He glared at those slowly smimming figures.

Fish could mean food.

<<If I manage to catch one>>

He muttered, looking at the water in anticipation.

Conrad took some time to observe them, waiting for his lone skill point to regenerate, his eyes darting from the shallow waters to the forest from time to time, as he feared something popping out of the woods.

As the skill point regenerated he immediately used Identify on the swimming fishes.

He grinned, when the skill listed them as edible.

Conrad sat down, undoing the satchel on his right side, preparing himself to attempt crafting a makeshift spear.

He took hold of the branch he was carrying, and realized it was too thick for him to properly use as a spear.

Luckily for him, he noticed that the riverbed around him was basically littered with driftwood, and it took him only few minutes to find two pieces suitable for his needs.

Almost reaching one meter and half in length, relatively straight and hard enough to not break after Conrad swung them, hitting a lone rock to test the pieces of wood.

Satisfied by the results, he sat down and took his pocket knife, starting to work on one extremity of the first stick.

Shaving the wood, Conrad attempted to sharpen it, to craft some semblance of a spearpoint from it.

When he did, another blue window popped up

Success! Crafted- Makeshift Spear (x1, Poor quality, Attack +1)

New Skill Unlocked- Crafting (1/10)- Type: General (Tekna)-Assists in the process of crafting items of general use, bonuses granted with increased skill level

Conrad took a better glance at his work. He was slightly irritated by that “poor quality” that popped up near the spear, but he had no time to argue with an immaterial blue window.

Instead, he headed towards the water, ready to test his newly crafted weapon.

After some time spent ankle deep in cold waters, he shouted in rage.

<<Fuck! This is more difficult than I thought!>>

He muttered, trying to calm himself down. The fishes swimming around in the low water, were too quick for him to stab with his spear.

Moreover, the different refraction index between water and air slightly distorted the image he saw of the fish, leading to more difficulties for him.

He tried again, and again, until he finally managed to graze a fish first, then after few more tries he finally landed a good stab on a large, fat fish.

As the animal thrashed around, it almost broke the makeshift spear, surprising Conrad with its strength.

Still, he managed to yank it out of the water, where he finished the still squirming, wounded fish by hitting a rock on its head.

He took only a quick glance at the blue window that informed him about the fish’s death. He gained no experience from the act, and he felt slightly dissatisfied by it.

Still, he had food, Conrad thought with a satisfied grin. The fish, along with the mushrooms he gathered earlier, would make a nice dinner.

He headed once more towards the water, this time to drink a bit and refresh himself. His body was still dirty with blood and sweat, and he was feeling disgusted by his own smell.

He washed himself as best as he could, thinking about how the lack of soap will make the smell persist on him.

Sighing, he resigned to reek for some time. After all, he thought, soap would be incredibly difficult to make in those conditions.

Still, Conrad felt slightly satisfied by how things had turned out. He managed to find the river, and

now that his dinner was secured, and he had enough clear water to drink from the river, he only needed to find shelter for the night.

Mind Mosaic Status:

Level: N/A

Class: N/A

EXP: -/-

Statistics

Soma: HP 10/10

Strength: 1

Nimbleness: 1

Coordination: 1

Reaction: 1

Pneuma: AP 1/1

Intelligence: 1

Willpower: 1

Tekna: Sp 1/1

Precision: 1

Perception: 1

Titles: N/A

Tiles: 0

Skills

General: Gathering (2/10); Crafting (1/10)

Active: Identify (1/10)

Passive: –

A Strange Sky (Old Version- Part 1)

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.


Prologue

The man groaned, lifting himself up from his position.

His right side ached so much, and he felt a constant, ringing noise in his ears.

As he tried to pull himself up, a piercing pain flashed in his chest, spreading to the rest of his body and forcing him down again. He coughed, surprising himself at the sight of blood.

He was laying face down, sprawled on soft, moist ground that stuck to his skin.

He tried to get up from his position once again, this time slowly, rising on his elbows first, then turning his body around.

Each movement gave him a jolt of pain, but it was less than before, when he tried to lift himself up too quickly for his conditions.

From the earlier experience, he did learn that his conditions were bad, although he still lacked a clear grasp of what happened to him.

Only two things were clear to him. First, he was hurt, and badly. Perhaps, some of his bones were broken.

Probably two or three ribs, as the pain that he felt with each breath suggested him.

His arms were fine. Hurting, but fine.

He tried to move his legs, and, although his muscles jolted and ached, he was relieved to see that he could move them just fine, albeit with a bit of effort.

The second thing the man did learn, was that the place where he came to his senses was definitely not his car.

He was perplexed, scared even. One moment he was driving on the highway, going back home after a hard day of work, and the next, he was there. Sprawling on the ground, somewhere unknown to him. He did remember a flashing, intense light suddenly blinding him while he was driving, but, after that, his mind went blank. Only the noise was there, the same ringing noise he was still hearing.

He pulled himself up, turning into prone position. He supported himself with his elbows, but the gesture and position were too painful for him to maintain. In the short time he did manage to keep the position, he caught a glimpse of the place around him.

Trees. All around him. A park, most likely, one of the few places where this many trees could be seen near the city.

Although, the air around him smelt and felt more like a proper meadow, different from the still polluted air that you would breathe in a city park.

He scoffed, finding it difficult to believe what he saw.

And yet, the lush trees were all around him. Now that he was laying on his back, he could clearly see the treetops looming over him, and patches of clear sky beyond them.

<<This must be some kind of hallucination. I had an accident in my car, and now I am seeing things. Perhaps I’m in a fucking coma, or my head has been messed up by the accident. Or, I may be dead>>

He talked to himself, finding his own voice broken, almost a strengthless whisper.

Once again, he tried to move. Touching the ground with his right hand, he tried to find something in the immediate vicinity.

Perhaps a long, sturdy fallen branch that could help him support his own weight, in order for him to properly get up on his feet.

What his fingers came into contact with, was a rock.

He turned his head in that direction, looking the form of the boulder that was next to him. It was not

too big, more a big stone rather than a proper boulder. He used the stone to help himself get up. Struggling for a while, he finally managed to pull himself up.

As he did, a sensation of vertigo almost made him fall back on the ground. He closed his eyes, letting it pass before opening them again. His stomach was clenching, his guts twisting, but he endured.

He recognized those symptoms. The ringing noise, nausea, it was all too similar to when he had another accident, and he hit his head pretty badly.

He was forced to stay awake at the hospital that very night.

<<Falling asleep with a brain concussion might be dangerous>>

He remembered a pretty nurse telling him those words. She was short, blonde. Thin legs and a big pair of…He even sprouted a cocky line to her back then, giving his usual wry smile to the young woman.

Now, there were no pretty nurses around, only trees as far as the eye could see.

The man took a long, painful breath, and he forced himself to sit on the rock. He examined his own body.

His arms were fine, although dried blood and patches of black soil still stuck to his skin. He still had his clothes on him, although they were now in tatters, looking like they had been both shredded and burned at some point.

His trousers, a pair of blue jeans, were somehow intact enough, safe for some long tears on the fabric that showed most of his skin on the knees and thighs, but the important parts were all covered.

And he still had his shoes, black leather boots, an imitation of those used by the Army.

A sturdy pair of shoes.

He smiled. Having something to protect his feet with was something helpful in a forest. Because, at some point, he knew he would need to move away from that spot.

Perhaps, he would need to walk who knows how much distance, and a nice pair of boots could prevent him to injure his own feet by walking over something.

Like a pointed stone just laying below the soft soil, or even a broken stick of wood.

He once lived in the countryside, and, when he was nothing but a brat, he injured his foot while strolling around in the small woods beyond his parent’s farm.

There was a small pond of clear, spring water in those woods, and he would often go there. Discard his clothes, almost throwing them away, and plunge into the shallow waters, skin-dipping into the cold pond to flee from summer’s excessive heat.

That day, he saw a fox among the bushes, and, excited as a children could be before a wild animal, he chased it into the woods, butt naked as he was.

He pressed his foot on a fallen branch, and the splintered wood gave him a nasty gash on his right sole.

He almost lost his foot from the resulting infection, that he got because he hid the injury from his parents, as he was sure that, if he told them, he would receive a harsh reprimand from his father, and perhaps even punished for his carelessness.

Of course, he received plenty of both after he came back from the hospital.

From that day, he learned the lesson.

Glad that his legs were somewhat covered, and his feet were well protected, he got rid of the tattered sweater that was still on his chest, being no more than a thorn rag.

The sleeveless shirt that he wore beneath, that too was in no condition to be worn.

He still kept the rags, since they could come in handy as bandages, or even to light a fire, if he found himself forced to stay the night in the woods.

He began to convince himself that he was not dead, and neither in a coma. All around him, his surroundings were too real.

The sounds, rustling leaves and chirping birds, the clatter of insects.

And the smells, those too were there. The smell of forest soil, and grass and trees. The smell of blood and sweat, coming from him.

More than that, it was the pain in his right side that convinced him of the reality of his situation.

With his left hand, he gently touched his ribs, trying to find out if they really were broken.

As he was now bare-chested, he saw a large, purple bruise on the right side of his chest and abdomen.

Some spots on his skin were almost black, and touching them was painful enough to make his eyes wet with tears.

He needed to know, however. A broken rib might be the thing that spelled his doom right there.

So, he endured the pain and touched his chest, probing one rib after the other. But, much for his satisfaction, his ribs did not feel broken to him.

He concluded that his bones were fine, nothing broken. He just took a very strong hit, resulting in bruises all over his body and some minor cuts. All in all, a lucky epilogue for a car accident.

<<Well, aside the fact that I woke up in the middle of some fucking woods>>

The pain was also beginning to subside. All in all, his conditions were not as critical as he initially thought.

They were strange, he had to admit. Well, everything about his circumstances were strange, the man concluded to himself.

But his body’s conditions, it was like he just survived a harsh impact. A situation that was compatible with the aftermath of a car accident.

He could have hit something with his car, since he was speeding too much past the limit, like he always liked to do when the road was empty enough.

After the impact, he could have been flung away from his car, landing here, in the spot he found himself right now.

Except, he was driving through a part of the highway that crossed the city. There were some open fields nearby, but surely, there was no trace of trees for miles across.

Not a park, or some garden with more than a single tree in it. Much less a fucking forest.

He rummaged through his pocket, seeing if his phone had somehow survived the impact. It did, but…

<<What the fuck?>>

A static-like noise was coming from the small item, and on its display, a series of symbols, unknown by the phone’s owner, were being shown. The symbols looked like they were glitching out, their shape distorting into misplaced pixels.

And the phone began to melt in the man’s own hand. The screen turned black, enough for the man to see his own surprised face reflected on it, before the phone’s battery let out a huge spark and burst out into flames.

He dropped the phone, holding his hand that was slightly burned. The phone gave off some sparks for three more times, before burning out completely.

That was beyond bizarre, thought the man, as he gazed on his cellphone’s remains. He had a spare, he thought, but he remembered that he had it in his car.

And, seeing as his car was not near him at the moment, that thought was only useless to him.

He dismissed what happened with the phone as the aftermath of the accident. Perhaps, it took some heavy blow, that damaged both display and battery, and, when he tried to boot up the phone, the broken screen showed those strange symbols, and the damaged battery exploded into sparks and then flames.

Yes, he thought, that might be what happened.

Trying to distract himself, he pulled out the other items that were in his pockets. A gas lighter, a pack of paper tissues, and a new, sealed pack of rolling tobacco, along with filters and rolling papers.

That was the content of his left pocket. The right one, it held his wallet, and his key-chain. The key-holder he used was a comically small, but functional knife. It was something that Carla, his girlfriend, bought him when she came back from Italy.

She did visit a small town, famous for its pocket knives, and, given that her loved one was a passionate collector of sword and knife replicas, she thought it sweet and funny. And it was, at least for him. He looked at the small key-chain for a long moment, his eyes filled with a sad emotion.

Although that memory was sweet, his recent fights with Carla had made the two of them drift apart, and they decided to take a pause from each other.

It happened no more than two days ago, thought the man.

He examined the keys. Those for his own garage, his apartment, a large key for the Palace’s entrance.

The Palace, a high sounding name for the apartment complex where the man lived.

And the place itself, old and badly maintained, was the farthest thing from a real palace. It was cheap, and that’s all that the man needed when he moved in. Things had changed during the years, and in recent times, he had begun to hunt for another place to live.

A low, grumbling noise distracted the man from his own thoughts. His own stomach, now more relaxed than when he woke up, was beginning to signal its need for food.

And the man had none. At least he thought, but, as he rummaged further into his right pocket, he found an intact pack of gummy candy.

He always had a sweet tooth.

Without further thought, he opened the pack and ate a handful of candy. He saved the now half-empty small pack for later, savoring the sweet taste melting in his mouth.

Next, he rolled himself a cigarette. Not the smartest thing to do after an accident, when no more than twenty minutes ago he could not even breathe properly. But man, he thought, he really needed one.

He lighted it on fire, keeping the lighter between his index and thumb, looking at it. A cheap item, purple in color and made with a frail, semi-transparent plastic that allowed to see how much gas was left inside of it.

It was still half full. Still, thought the man, how come it did not even have a crack on it. After all, both his body and the cellphone suffered some kind of damage from whatever the hell happened, and yet, that small lighter was in pristine conditions.

He gave it not too much thought, considering it one of the marvels of random events.

Taking big puffs of white smoke, he enjoyed his self-rolled cigarette.

To kill time a bit, he opened his own wallet. Money, debit cards. His driver’s license. The picture on it always bugged him.

It was a really bad picture, that he took when he was still too young. Five years had passed from when he was eighteen, and he got his license. The face on that picture was roughly the same as it was now.

His cheekbones became more prominent as he grew older, and, unlike his eighteen years old self, he had no longer a long hair cut. Now, he kept them short, styling them with gel and keeping them swept to the back.

More professional, he thought.

The stubble on his chin was also gone, as, each morning, he shaved his face.

He removed the piercing on his left ear, all three of them. The rest was roughly the same as when he was younger.

His light brown eyes, that sometimes, under the right light, seemed almost yellow.

His eyebrows, that gave him an intense expression, black as his hair and naturally perfect, much to his satisfaction. The eye portion of his face was what granted him most of his success with the ladies, at least, that’s what he thought.

His nose, that was the feature he least liked of his own face. Back then, it was decent enough, but, when he was twenty years old, he had a fight and had his nose broken.

Now, the bridge of his nose was slightly bent to the left, as the broken bone failed to heal properly. It was not a major defect, however, he was too much conscious of it.

He even thought about spending some bucks to fix it, but he always desisted from that idea.

He had enough vanity to consider it, not enough to actually go with that decision. After all, it was still surgery, and surgery scared him a lot.

Inadvertently, he ran his left index on his nose, tracing the slight curvature that it had taken.

His lips, his cocky smile, that never changed through the years.

And of course, his name, written besides the photo on the small, plasticized document.

Conrad Levine. He always loathed his name. Conrad, it always sounded old to him.

Clara loved it, that silly, beautiful Italian girl.

Again, she crossed Conrad’s thoughts. For a moment, he wanted to grab his phone and call her.

<<Ah, right>>

He said to himself, feeling slightly dumb. He had no phone with him, nor he had the fucking idea about where he was. Perhaps, he thought, even if he had a phone, who knew if it worked out here?

For what he knew, there could be no signal there.

<<And where the fuck is “here”?>>

He shouted in frustration. One thing was sure to him, as his last outburst had just confirmed. He definitely felt better than when he woke up.

He tried to stand up on his feet, and he did it without much effort, or pain.

His side still hurt, but it was not enough to keep him from doing movements. Sure, thought Conrad, he could not be able to run a marathon or climb up a rock wall, but he could walk just fine. Perhaps even run.

And so, he decided to start walking. No point in standing there.

First, Conrad thought, he needed to find a way to orient himself among the trees. As he came closer to one, he was pleasantly surprised to see some moss growing on one side of the trunk.

Although he did not recognize the type of moss, and neither the tree, he knew from his days spent camping that he could use it to find the north.

But then, he came to the conclusion that, without knowing where he was, there was no point in knowing about north or other cardinal points, for that matter.

What he needed to do, was to choose a direction, and move that way.

Perhaps, he thought, he could climb up a tree, but he dismissed that idea quickly, since it was too risky for him in those conditions.

The best thing to do, would be for him to find a high place, perhaps a hill of some sort, and hope that it was easy to climb up top, but high enough to grant him a better point of view, past the treetops and past the woods.

The terrain around him was slightly sloped, and he thought that if he followed that slope, perhaps he could find himself in a high position and see where this place was.

He followed the slope’s direction, heading east.

After roughly one hour of difficult march, Conrad was pleased by what he saw.

Exactly what he wanted. A hill, whose top rose higher than the trees. More than that, it looked easy to climb it, reaching the top.

And Conrad did so.

It took him almost another hour, as he judged from the watch he still had on his left wrist. Another item that, mysteriously, did not end up destroyed like his clothes and cellphone.

Looking at it, he felt a bit dumb.

The watch, beside displaying the hour, it had a small compass.

The sight from the hilltop left Conrad speechless.

Climbing the hill had been easier than he initially thought, as the hill, although it was significantly taller than the trees that grew around it, was not steep. It sloped gently upwards, allowing him to walk right up to the top.

He still had to pause a few times, to catch his breath and rest his legs. Still, right now, he was feeling significantly better than when he woke up.

Breathing no longer was painful, and the fresh, clean air was nice on his skin.

Other things had started to bother him thou, like the feeling of blood, sweat and dirt clinging to his skin, and the constant buzz of insects that had begun to swarm him.

They were tiny little critters, their bodies held a green, metallic shine. As he swatted one, he took the tiny corpse between two fingers, taking it closer to his eyes for a better inspection.

It was nothing like he had ever seen. Kind of an hybrid between a dragonfly and a mosquito, with a peculiar coloration.

It had the bodily build and bulging eyes of a dragonfly, but it was much, much smaller, and had a stinger for a mouth, exactly like a mosquito.

And the little buggers stung him, too many times. His skin began to itch, and the bite-marks swelled and reddened, itching furiously.

He hoped that those little bugs were not something nasty, only mildly annoying. Otherwise, he would be in some deep trouble.

Still, after reaching the top, he forgot about the insects, and the dirt on his skin.

All around him, as far as his eyes could see, there was a green sea. Nothing but trees for miles and miles, in all directions.

And the hill he climbed was pretty high, roughly two hundred meters, he thought, so it offered a pretty wide view of the place.

A wide river slithered his way among the green of the forest, the treetops enveloped in a thin veil of mist.

As Conrad basked himself in the view, he thought it splendid. The calm of it, the absence of any trace of humanity all around.

It should have been something to worry about, but, against all logic, the sight calmed him down.

He breathed in the slight breeze, the air so clean, like it was back when he was a child, and his family lived away from the city. No, it was even better than back then, and Conrad had the slight sensation, the feeling that the air of this place, it never had an ounce of the polluting smokes of human activity.

It was pure, free, alive. Untainted.

It was only when he lifted his eyes, setting his sight on the sky above, that a sense of dread took hold of Conrad’s thoughts.

It was blue, but…

Not a single cloud, and a strange, aurora-like luminosity was dancing on the sky above. It shined, the color changing between shades of blue, green and purple.

The most stunning thing, were the three lights glowing where the Sun should have been. Significantly smaller than the Sun, their light was dimmer, enough for Conrad to gaze at them without blinding himself with their light.

Maybe their combined size could reach that of the real Sun, he thought for a moment, perhaps in an attempt to escape the reality of what he saw.

Well, reality, he thought, might be the least correct term to use here. His body, his sense of smell and touch, suggested that all of this was real. The breeze on his skin, the smells lingering in the air. Even the complex song that the huge sea of trees sang, with notes of birds and rustling leaves.

And yet, his sight suggested that this was not real. At least, not his usual “real”.

Conrad was standing on the top of a hill, surrounded by a sea of green, unknown trees. Over his head, strange skies where three Suns shone.

<<This must be a fucking dream>>

He muttered to himself.


Chapter 1

Still taken back by the view, Conrad stood there, immobile, staring at the sky above. Even if the sight of it was indeed beautiful, he did not consider it so. It was strange, unknown. Frightening.

He shivered, his mind running through the implications and conclusions of such sight.

A noise ringed in his ears, and a chill ran down his spine. He thought to have heard a voice, behind him, and he turned around so fast that his head felt dizzy for a moment.

There was no one behind him, but he could not shake off that impression.

He sighed, deeply, thinking about how his mind might have gone for a trip in crazy-town. That was the best explanation he could give himself.

<<I crashed my car, hit my head strong enough to fall into coma, and all this is just the product of that>>

He thought that, because admitting that all this was real, was too much for him.

It was still plausible back when he was under the canopy of trees, when he could only see patches of the sky, covered by the foliage.

But now, it was so surreal that his mind rejected it. Torn between what he saw, and what his body felt.

<<Ah, shit. What the hell do I do now?>>

He sat there for some moments. Although the temperature under the trees was pleasant, up here, the breeze was cold enough to make him shiver. After all, his chest was exposed, so it was only natural for him to feel cold.

<<Can you feel cold while in a coma? Or perhaps, this is the afterlife. I cannot rule that out>>

He had never been a man of faith. Rather, if he would be forced to define his beliefs, he would describe himself as an agnostic. Not believing in any God, but unable to rule out the possibility that, somehow, somewhere, a superior existence, or a multitude of them, could exist.

He definitely did not believe in heaven, or hell for that matter.

And yet, for what Conrad knew, the place where he found himself could easily be either of those.

Or, and that thought was so silly that it almost made him burst into laughter, he could have woken up in another world.

<<Sure, that’s exactly what happened. I have been summoned into another world, and I will become the Hero of Justice here!>>

He shouted his words to the wind, laughing out loud afterwards. It was not a pleasant laughter, however, more similar to a psychotic break than sincere fun.

He calmed himself, after the sudden outburst. The air was too cold now, and his body was beginning to shake a bit too much.

He decided to climb down, going back to the forest below.

There was another reason that compelled him to do so. His stomach started rumbling again. The sensation was so real that it troubled him. More than that, it proved that whatever happened to him, it was definitely not a dream.

He felt a plethora of emotions whenever he dreamed. Lust, anger, sadness, fear. But that was it, they were only emotions. Sometimes, he even felt the pressing need to pee. But he never felt hunger, or pain, like he did since he woke up.

Listening to his stomach, he decided to go back to the forest. The hill where he was standing was lush with grass and some bushes, but nothing that looked edible grew there. He saw some yellow berries on some of the bushes, but he decided to not risk eating those.

Perhaps, in the forest, he might be able to find something more appetizing, and less risky.

Descending from the hill was easier than climbing it. Not only because, well, that’s how hills work, he thought, but mostly because he felt good right at the moment.

The pain was gone, the ringing sound in his ears was there no more. He even found the strength to run for a bit, and he did so easily. He was glad about it, but then he began to notice. Some of the cuts he had on his skin, some of the bruises, they were already healed.

The cuts were shallow, he admitted, but the bruises? They were severe, his skin tinged with a shade of dark, almost black purple, now faded into gray-ish yellow color, while most of his skin returned to his original, slightly tanned color.

As he went down the hill, he took a glance from time to time.

The bruises were really healing, it was not just an impression he had. By the time he was into the forest once again, they were completely gone. For good measure, Conrad ran his fingers on the spot where the bruises where, pressing them on his skin. Nothing, just the sensation of his hands pressing on his chest.

<<And, that marks the third unexplained thing. Shit, what the hell is going on?>>

He was really at loss for words. He sat on a fallen trunk, resting his head between his hands as he thought about what to do next. He needed to find some food, and water. When he was atop of the hill, he did not see any trace of civilization for miles and miles around. He wanted to get out of the forest, but to do so, he might have to walk for days, perhaps even a whole week, he thought.

<<Maybe, if I follow the river…>>

Like that, he took that decision. He would try to find the river, and, once he managed to reach it, he would follow its course, hoping to find some trace of civilization along the way.

Perhaps, if luck decided to be on his side, he might even find a boat along the river, hopefully with someone aboard.

The river he saw was flowing north-west of his position, and he headed that way.

As he walked among the tall trees, he started to take a closer look at them.

Having spend his childhood in the countryside, he was no stranger to meadows and wilds, but every single plant he saw he could not recognize.

They did not look tropical, and the place itself did not have the appearance of a jungle.

It was more like a forest that belonged to temperate climate.

Like the ones that he “explored” as a child, when he sneaked out of his parents’ farm, forging adventurers in his mind.

Yet, the trees he was seeing now were similar in structure, but there were some subtle differences.

The size of them was definitely bigger, and the bark looked more like scales than proper bark.

The leaves were unlike any he had ever seen.

The shape of them was like large needles, but they were soft to the touch, even those that died and fell off the tree. The dried leaves, as he pressed them between his fingers, crumbled into a thin, brown powder.

Those that he managed to snap from a short, young tree of the same species, they let out a thick, almost transparent juice.

It had a sweet scent, and Conrad was almost tempted to taste a bit of it.

In the end, he did it.

It was delicious, with a syrupy consistence and a rich sweet taste that reminded him of vanilla.

He tried to munch on an entire leaf, but he spit it out immediately.

The whole thing had a bitter taste.

<<So, leaf bad, juice good>>

He thought. Of course, the juice could also be bad. Very bad, if it contained some poisonous substance.

For that reason, he only tasted a small quantity of it. He would wait a bit before eating some again, in order to see how his body reacted.

The other types of plants, bushes and grass that he saw, all of them were different to the species he knew. They were similar, in some way, but different.

The bushes had the same kind of structure as those that he would find in a normal meadow or woods, with a height of no more than thirty centimeters, thick leaves of a dark green color, apt to properly use the scarce light that filtered from the canopy above.

However, they were different. The leaves had peculiar shapes, like two hearts inverted and connected by their point. Kind of shaped like the numbed eight. Those bushes bore berries, with different colors ranging from light purple to golden yellow.

But the thing that surprised him the most, it was a patch of moss like he never saw.

It glowed, a pale, faint blue light. Stems were growing from it, like thin mushrooms.

Something out of a science fiction movie, or a fantasy game.

He looked around, searching for a stick.

He did not know why, but he wanted to poke the thing. As he found a suitable piece of wood, he grabbed it from the ground, and…

You found- Wooden Stick (x1)

Would you like to equip it?

Y/N

<<What the fuck?>>

Conrad looked at the stick he was holding in his hand.

He clearly heard the voice, but it was not coming from anywhere around him. It came from inside of him.

Like the voices that conversed when he thought about something.

But, unlike those, that spoke with his own voice, as they represented his internal monologue and dialogue, that voice held a monotonous, flat tone.

Like the voice of a vocal synthesizer from a computer.

Conrad dropped the stick.

You dropped- Wooden Stick (x1)

Slowly, he picked up the stick once more.

Again, the first message played in his head.

But what was even stranger than that, was the thing that came into his view.

Like a floating blue window, one of those you would see in those old RPG games.

He did play his share of them when he was a teenager, but the passion that he held towards them faded away as he grew up, until they became nothing more than a memory that he was slightly ashamed to have.

He disliked his old, nerdy, angry teenager self, so different from the efficient and success-driven adult that he became.

Yet, that thing was now before his eyes.

When he first heard “The Voice”, he saw it only for a moment, flickering in his view, but now, it was there, floating half a meter from his nose.

It read the same words that he hear the first time.

You Found- Wooden Stick (x1)

Would you like to equip it?

Y/N

This time, Conrad thought “yes”.

A sound effect popped in his mind, much similar to his late phone’s message notification.

Successfully equipped- Wooden Stick

(+0 Attack)

See Status Window for more Information

<<And what the fuck is a Status Window?>>

As he said the name out loud, another notification popped up in his mind.

The blue window he was staring at disappeared, and a bigger one appeared right before his nose.

<<You gotta be shitting me>>

He slurred his word, his mouth gaping wide open in surprise.

Level

1

SKILLS

Class

N/A

General

Active

Passive

Str

1

Agi

1

Vit

1

Int

1

HP

10/10

MP

1/1

SP

1/1

Att

1

Def

1

Titles

N/A

Exp

0/100

The Status Window displays your own stats, along with other useful information.

Name, Level, Class are listed on the top portion, while STATS, Skills and Titles are displayed on the lower portion.

Would you like a more detailed tutorial about the system?

Y/N

Without glossing over it, Conrad choose “yes” when presented the option. He could not believe what was going on.

Sections of the Status Window were being highlighted, as the mechanic voice spoke to him, explaining each term and number displayed on the Status Window.

According to the Voice, this world that Conrad found himself in was ruled by two things. Level and Stats.

The Voice explained about Level, deeming it a rough gauge of a living being’s power.

The higher it was, the stronger the one who held it. However, explained the Voice, a high level did not necessarily mean absolute strength.

It was still possible to be killed, fairly easily, by something that had lower level than you, if you were careless enough.

Moreover, certain beings, while having low levels, held special skills or high stats, so the Voice advised a lot of caution before engaging an enemy or monster.

As the Voice continued, explaining about Stats, short for Statistics, Conrad’s eyes widened in surprise.

This was really like those fucking games, he thought.

Some of the terms were fairly easy for him to understand. Like the meaning behind the Level, and the fact that he would gain Experience by defeating enemies, thus raising his level when he gathered enough.

By increasing his level, he would obtain STAT points, that he could distribute freely among his stats, increasing them.

Like the name of them suggested, the STR stat, short for Strength, governed physical attack, defense and overall strength.

AGI stood for Agility, and it defined quickness of movement, along with precision of each movement, and by consequence, each attack.

VIT meant Vitality, and things like stamina and total amount of HP, Hit Points, were related to this statistic, while INT, Intelligence, was something related to the quantity of Mana that his body would be able to produce, absorb and regenerate.

Skills were defined as special actions, although the Voice did not explain how to gain them, if it was even possible.

Lastly, the Voice spoke about Titles, special bonuses awarded by performing notable actions. Earning a Title had the possibility of yielding bonus STAT points, or even Skills.

Before going silent, the Voice told Conrad that what he heard, it was just the basic Tutorial.

Several mechanics were hidden, only to be found and understood by trial and error.

For all the duration of the tutorial, and some minutes afterward, Conrad stood there, bare-chested, with a wooden stick in his hand. His mouth wide open, surprise painted on his face.

<<You’ve got to be shitting me>>

He blabbered, the only thing he could manage to say.

The situation, he thought, was crazy enough to make him want to question his own sanity.

But, as he was still wallowing in his thoughts, he heard a rustling of leaves, coming from his right.

As he looked there, he saw an animal dart out of the small bushes.

He expected it to be a rabbit, given the size of the creature, but when it stopped, standing on its hind legs, gazing at Conrad for a moment before scurrying off again inside the vegetation, the man clearly saw the creature.

It was definitely not a rabbit.

Looking similar to a lizard, without a tail, and two deep black eyes. It had the frame of a rabbit, moving exactly the same way, its hind legs bigger than the fore, that the little thing used to jump around with great speed.

Only, it skin had not fur, but scales, shining with a yellow-green glint. It even had something like ears, although they were more like flaps of scaly skin, that the thing raised when it looked at Conrad with curiosity.

Two messages popped up in his head, rapidly following one another.

 

Enemy ?? Appeared!

 

Enemy ?? Ran away!

Conrad shook his head, shocked by the little thing’s sudden appearance. The trees were strange enough, the sky even worse than those, but that? That was something insane, he thought.

And then, something clicked into his head. Perhaps, he always knew, since the time he woke up in this strange place.

He had the sensation, the certainty, that this, all of it was real. Crazy, without the slightest doubt, but real.

He was alive, he was not dreaming or hallucinating or whatever else.

He was wide awake, and this place was not his world anymore.

Having reached this consideration, Conrad thought, he had two choices before him. Deny it, or accept it.

He clenched the stick harder, and pressed on, threading into the vegetation.

Denying things would not get him anywhere, he knew that very well.

He had always been pragmatic, and right now, although he already spent some time doubting what he saw, he decided to accept it.

Perhaps seeing that creature was the turning point for him, although, deep down, he knew that the reason was another. If that thing was there, unknown, practically alien to him, what else could be there?

Woods were dangerous enough without the thought of something lurking beneath the vegetation, but right now, that thought was creeping into Conrad’s mind.

And it was that thought that motivated him to move, to leave the fairly open place where he was standing, gawking like an idiot.

Right now, there was nothing else he could do beside accept things, and try to do something about his situation.

He stopped worrying about his situation as a whole, since he doubted he could find any answers by standing still in the forest, and he focused on his immediate needs.

Three things, basically.

Food, water, shelter.

And he knew where to find both of those. The Sun…no, the three suns were still shining their light on the forest, so he still had plenty of time to reach the river and look for something to eat.

He did not trust the berries and strange mushrooms he found, now that he knew this whole place was nothing like he thought at first.

He walked for two hours, stopping only from time to time to rest his legs a bit, or to grab something he thought useful along the way.

Stones, one hard, dense and of deep brown color. Smooth, and did not break when he hit another, bigger rock with the small one he held in his fist.

Then, he found some smaller, white-ish stones that shattered when struck.

Those stones broke into pieces that had sharp edges, good enough to cut through vegetable fiber.

He could not cut down a tree with them, but they would be useful as improvised knives, or even spearpoints, if he managed to actually find a piece big enough to produce a spearpoint from it.

He had still the strips of his shredded sweater and shirt, so he could use them to tie the sharp stone shards to pieces of wood. But he would take care of that later.

On the way towards the river, he grabbed a long fallen branch, thick enough to be used as a clubbing weapon. The wood itself was hard and flexible, perhaps it had recently fallen.

<<Or ripped away from the tree>>

Conrad whispered, while looking around. He found traces of a large animal’s passage, droppings, scratching marks on the trees.

Luckily, the still warm excrements had pieces of semi-digested, small wooden branches in them, so it was something that ate plants, and not a large carnivore.

Although, thought Conrad, it could still be aggressive and territorial.

To be safe when night would fall, he would need to find refuge on the trees, perhaps.

Staying on ground level could be too dangerous, since who knows what might be lurking these woods at nights.

There were several ways that he could be killed, and Conrad mentally ran through each and every possible death that he could think of.

Trampled, mauled by a predator, stung by insects. Food poisoning, wound infection. Bitten by venomous animals.

Falling to his death. Disease carried by dirty water, disease by eating raw or rotten food.

Even some ridiculous things like being eaten alive by carnivore plants, or by dinosaurs.

He ran through them all. After all, in this place unknown to him, everything was possible.

He was scared, as he never had been in his whole life, but, somehow, he felt another emotion creeping in, making its way between his concern and fear.

Excitement, the rush of adrenaline slowly rising to his head. He could not see his own face at the moment, and if he could, he would be surprised to find a smile in his expression.

He walked for hours, and now, he could hear the sound of running waters.

The river was near, just beyond a final line of trees.

Luckily, he did not encounter any large creature during his march into the forest.

He saw some of those lizard-bunnies, and he even thried to catch one of them, but the little buggers were fast.

He was feeling seriously hungry right now, and his stomach was grumbling loudly.

Although the sap from the curious leaves did not hurt him in any way, he still did not eat those that he brought with himself.

Because, he found another use for them. He noticed that, his right hand, that had a bit of that sap smeared on it, was not being assaulted by those pesky little bugs.

After assessing that the sap was safe to use, and had probably some bug-repellant property, he smeared some on his chest, arms and face. His legs were still protected by what remained of his expensive pair of jeans, but he spilled some sap on them anyways.

Much to his satisfaction, the sap really did work. The bugs still buzzed around him, but they quickly dispersed. The biggest success was that they no longer bit Conrad, and he even felt that the bitemarks he already had were less itchy as he applied some sap on them.

When he decided to stop, and take a handful of those leaves to bring them with him, he got a notification from The Voice.

 

Gathered Scalethorn Leaf (x5)

New Skil Unlocked!Gathering(1/10)

<<Wow>>

That was the only thing he managed to say.

Now, each time he looked at a single tree and focused on it, a small window would float in front of it.

Detected- Scalethorn Tree

He tried to do the same with the other plants around him, but no window appeared.

Only after he managed to gather some parts of them, like leaves or branches directly torn from the plant, the window did appear.

His gathering skill worked in a strange way. After he managed to gather manually some parts of a plant, and the info window appeared on it, the skill would highlight the parts of it that could be gathered.

Some plants had glowing leaves, surrounded by a yellow aura. Others had the same light around their stems, or branches.

Even some berries showed the same glint.

He spent some time gathering what he could, and as he did, his Gathering skill increased to level two.

At the same time, another notification popped up in his view.

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

New Skill Unlocked- Identify (1/10)

Now, whenever he focused on a plant, or even objects, like stones or fallen branches, he could see a small status window about them.

Some items only had a small description, like the stones he gathered before, or the wooden branch that he had with him.

Others, especially leaves, mushrooms and fruits, showed a bigger window, where, listed below the plant’s name, it showed some effects.

The berries from a nearby bush, they had a “mild poison” listed under their name. Another plant had

“minor poison” listed as an effect of its leaves.

Most of the vegetation around, was useless if not dangerous.

However, thanks to this new skill, Conrad managed to find some mushrooms that had the “edible” effect displayed, and also some berries with the same property.

He gathered some mushrooms and berries, storing them in a small satchel he made with the largest piece of his late sweater, that he tied to his belt.

The rest of the tissue stripes he brought with him, the remains of his shirt and sweater, were tied to the branch he used as a walking staff, so that he could keep his hands free while walking around. The stones he collected were kept the same way as the leaves, mushrooms and berries, wrapped into a fairly large scrap of cloth that he tied to his belt, dangling from the right side of his waist.

After the gathering spree, he finally proceeded.

He got out of the trees, following the growing noise of flowing water.

Until he found himself before the slow flowing river.

Before heading out of the trees, he looked around, using his new identification skill to see if some animals were in the proximity.

When Conrad saw that the place was clear, he headed out towards the river.

It was large, larger than he expected when he first saw it from atop the hill.

The waters flowed slowly, and they were surprisingly clear. He was glad to spot some fish swimming around in low waters.

Fish meant food, if he could catch them, that is.

He sat down, undoing the satchel on his right side, preparing himself to attempt crafting a makeshift spear.

During his trip to the river, he managed to find a fairly large piece of the white stone.

He was surprised to see that the system, or whatever it was that was showing him the names of things via those floating messages, described those stones as Whitestones.

The had no special properties listed, only the name of the stone and its weight, curiously described in kilograms.

Without minding too much to that detail, Conrad began to work on the stone, hitting it with the other, harder stone he brought with himself.

He broke the Whitestone in some shards, many of them being unusable for his means. Too little, or cracked in a way that they would shatter if he hit something with them.

But, he managed to produce some good ones, at least he thought.

One of them was big enought to be a passable spearpoint, and he set it aside.

The other five he deemed good enough, he would use them later to craft himself some kind of knife.

After all, if he managed to actually catch a fish with his spear, he would need to use a knife to peel away its scales and get rid of its organs.

He used the small knife that was his keyholder to cut a piece of his shirt into thin strips.

The ridiculously small knife was only good for something like that.

But Conrad was grateful for having it in his hands, since it allowed him to cut the fabric with enough precision as to obtain some strips, without ruining the fabric too much.

He rolled each strip on itself, burning each extremity with his lighter in order to melt the synthetic fabric, fixing each strip to form a small, thin rope.

Then, he started to work on his staff. He smashed one end of it, breaking the wood with the stone and then working on it with one of the small Whitestone shards, cutting off some parts and realizing a place where he could insert the larger Whitestone shard.

He fixed the shard by tying it tightly into the wooden branch. It took him some time to reach a passable result, but in the end, he managed to craft a makeshift spear.

The notification sound played again, and a message window opened up in his view.

 

Success! Crafted- Makeshift Spear (x1, Poor quality, Attack +1)

New Skill Unlocked- Crafting (1/100)

Conrad took a better glance at his work. He was slightly irritated by that “poor quality” that popped up near the spear, but he had no time to argue with an immaterial blue window.

Instead, he headed towards the water, ready to test his newly crafted weapon.

After some time spent ankle deep in cold waters, he shouted in rage.

<<Fuck! This is more difficult than I thought!>>

He muttered, trying to calm himself down. The fishes swimming around in the low water, were too quick for him to stab with his spear.

Moreover, the different refraction index between water and air slightly distorted the image he saw of the fish, leading to more difficulties for him.

He tried again, and again, until he finally managed to graze a fish first, then after few more tries he finally landed a good stab on a large, fat fish.

As the animal thrashed around, it almost broke the makeshift spear, surprising Conrad with its strength.

Still, he managed to yank it out of the water, where he finished the still squirming, wounded fish by hitting a rock on its head.

He quickly dismissed the message window that informed him of having successfully killed the fish. He received 1 EXP for doing so, but it did not matter to the hungry man.

Conrad focused his attention on the fish.

It was smaller than it seemed like when it was underwater, but it was still a good catch, more than enought to Conrad’s belly for the night.

The info window about his catch identified it not only as “edible”, but also as “delicious”.

<<Good to know>>

He said to himself, grinning from ear to ear.

Now that his dinner was secured, and he drank enough of the clear water from the river, he only needed to find shelter for the night.


Chapter 2

 

The lone Sun lingered in the sky, far longer than it should have, according to Conrad’s watch, still calibrated on the day-night cycle of his world.

But, in this one, days were far longer than Conrad expected, and visibility was still good, as the lone sun was yet to follow its tweens beyond the horizon.

Conrad hoped that night would last long enough to let him rest for a bit, but, at the same time, part of him hoped that it would not last too long.

A night spent inside a forest was a stressing experience even in his origin world, and here, in this place so strange to him, it would be surely worse.

Still, he used that extra sunlight to look for a place to rest.

He initially considered climbing up a tree, but those in the vicinitiy were too high, unsafe to climb with only his arms and legs, without any rope or tool to use. Moreover, the treetops had tiny branches, who Conrad believed to not be sturdy enought to hold his eighty kilograms of weight.

Although, he admitted to himself, what he feared most was that his bad habit of turning around too much in his sleep would prove to be fatal, if he chose to sleep among those branches.

If he had time, and suitable tools, he would consider building himself some kind of ammock, perched up in the trees and suspended between two sturdy enough branches.

But that thought, he quickly dismissed, as walking along the riverbank provided him with another solution.

He came to find himself near a cliff, protrudring to the river from a low rock formation, that extended itself from the forest to the water.

The rocks reached a relatively low height, being two or three meters taller than the trees around. And, the surface of that rock formation that was facing the river, it looked easy to climb up.

Much to Conrad’s surprise and relief, halfway through the top, there was a large opening. The entrance of a cave.

Having a roof, albeit a rock one, would be incredibly beneficial, concluded Conrad. If that cave was big enough, he could build a fireplace in there, and warm himself enough during the night.

If it was too small, however, a fire would be too dangerous to light in a cramped space.

There were some risks tied to the place, namely, it could be the home of something. But, it was worth a shot.

Conrad came closer to the rock formation, keeping wary of his surroundings.

No sight of large animals, or small ones for that matter.

Beside the fishes splashing into shallow water, and the insects that buzzed around, he only found traces of the passage of animals.

Sometimes, he would see something dart through the vegetation.

But, the little buggers were too fast for his eyes to follow, appearing only as blurred lines that disappeared quickly into the woods.

As he came close enough, Conrad took some stones into his hand, throwing them into the opening of the cave.

Seen up close, it was bigger than he thought.

The first four stones missed, pitifully.

The fifth, and sixth, and the three that came after however, hit their mark, dinging each time they hit rock inside the cave, ricocheting their way inside.

Nothing came out of the dark entrance.

Still, it did not mean that it was empty.

To be sure, really sure of it, Conrad realized he had all but a single option. To climb up, and see for himself.

The opening was slightly seven or eight meters above ground, halfway through the top of that greyish rock formation.

Still, the climb up from ground level looked easy enough, not impossibly vertical and full of places where he could grip his hands and put his feet to support himself.

He first tried a few kicks on the rock, on groud level, to see if it would crumble. It didn’t, and, seen up close, it had a resemblance to granite, a hard stone speckled with darker dots of different minerals.

The color was different, gray rock speckled with green and bluish dots, but the structure of it was roughly similiar.

At least, that’s what Conrad thought. He was by no means an expert on geology, so, he could be wrong.

He tried a few of the handholds that the rock provided, first putting his full weight into them.

When nothing happened, he took a wide breath, and began his ascension.

Then he stopped, pondering if he should already gather wood and stones for his fireplace, or climb up first, assess the situation, and then gather wood and other things if the cave was suitable to be used.

He decided for the latter. It would be more taxing on his strength, he thought, but better play it safe than hurl extra weight up, in case the cave was not suitable, or worse, it had already some occupants.

It was tiresome, but he managed to reach the top.

Careful, he crawled inside of the cave. It was dark, but wide enough for him to pass while standing up, and even if he stretched his hands over his head, he could not reach the ceiling of it.

Not that he did, since he was still in precarious conditions at that moment.

As the cave was dark inside, he reached for his pocket and the lighter in it.

He was a bit conflicted about using it, since the liquid inside of it could be precious in later times, but he needed to see, and he had not the necessary tools nor the time to prepare and light a torch at the moment.

He took the lighter, and used it.

When the small flame flickered on, he almost jumped backwards in fear. Out of luck, he did not, stopping his recoil before he could misstep his own foot and fall out of the cave.

He drew a sigh of relief, trying to calm down his racing hearth.

As the light from the small flame illuminated the inside of the cave, a rock formation appeared to him like the snout of a sleeping animal in the spur of the moment.

Instead, after the initial fright and to a closer inspection, he realized it was just rock.

Not even shaped like anything that resembled an animal, that image the producto of his own stressed mind.

The cave went deeper, for almost seven meters, as Conrad counted and measured the steps between the entrance and the rocky end of that place.

It grew smaller at the end, but was suitable enough for him to spend the night, with a campfire to warm him.

And he would need it, given the humidity of the place.

Still, it was shelter. Not the best, but better than staying in the open, and on ground level.

He left some of the items he was carrying, strapped to his clothes while he climbed up.

The large fish, his supposed dinner, along with the other materials and stones he gathered.

The only things he kept, some stripes of cloth, a few shards of those sharpened stones, and his makeshift spear.

Just in case something nasty decided to show itself.

He steeled himself, before heading down the path he came.

Climbing down was slightly more difficult, for the slight sense of vertigo that he felt when forced to look down.

It was curious, to him, since he never suffered from the likes.

When he finally managed to reach ground level once again, a noise popped in his head, making him almost piss himself.

 

New Skil Unlocked! General Fitness [passive (1/10)]

New Skill Unlocked! Climbing (1/10)

<<Oh, new ones>>

He muttered to himself, knowing that there would be no answer.

No matter how many times he asked for information or explanations, or even simple conversation. The Voice would not answer, limiting itself to announce new events, without further explanation or word spent.

Still, this whole thing was a mystery to Conrad.

He did not know how it worked, or how to make it work.

The “skills” he got, he gained out of luck.

He even tried to experiment on some things, performing certain actions to see if he would gain a skill afterward.

Much to his satisfaction, normal biological processes would not require or grant a skill.

Although the thought of earning a “pissing” or “farting” skill amused him. In some aspects, he was childish, and full aware of it.

Still, gaining skills was not something related to the complexity of the action.

To kill time, he made a small stick of wood rotate between his fingers, quicker and quicker as time went by.

But, although the action was complex, and voluntary, it did not grant a skill to him.

He gathered some wood, choosing the fallen branches and driftwood that looked dry enough.

Next, some leaves, brown and crispy, that would allow him to start his fire.

He tried to bang together some stones, hitting one with the other, and keeping those that would let out a spark.

Although, he would not use that method to start his first fire. He knew another one, using friction and some sticks along with light flammable materials.

Next, he used his stone knives to scrape away some bark from a different kind of tree.

Unlike the Scalethorn trees, this one had a twisted trunk, and a spongy, thick bark that easily came loose from the tree.

Much like cork, but greenish in color and with a pungent, sour odor.

Underneath it, the trunk was covered in brown fibers.

He found a group of those trees, that his Identify skill named as Kalu trees.

The youngest ones were not useful to Conrad, their bark too hard to scrape. But the older trees, they had useful things on them. First, the bark itself.

Next, the fibers underneath it, in some of the oldest, dreid branches, it was brown and crumbled with the slightest touch.

Moreover, it was deprived of any humidity, the ideal combustible for a spark to start a proper fire.

He grabbed as much of the material as he could, and tied it together with the remaing stripes of tissue from his former shirt.

Next, he used another stripe to tie the “package” to his clothes, and went back to his refuge, ready to climb up again.

From gathering the materials, his Gathering went up one level, along with Identify.

As he climbed up, he gained another level in both Climbing and General Fitness.

He did not know why, but he was satisfied by that notion, the ringing sound and the message that followed. It gave him a sense of progress, although he could not explain why.

As he was inside the cave, his cave, once more, he started preparations to light his fire, and then prepare his dinner.

He arranged the stones and the pieces of wood, like he did oh so many times when he was little and his father first, then his friends, took him camping in the woods.

And, it was from those days that he knew how to start a fire. He had a lighter with him, but though it best to save it for later times.

He took a suitable piece of the bark, not too small, not too big, then he set some dried leaves and fiber on it.

Then, he took a straight, flexible stick, tying a stripe of cloth to both ends, bending it to form a small arch. Like a miniature bow.

Before he did so, he wrapped the cloth strip onto another stick, in a way that, if he moved the small arch, the stick would rotate on itself.

Next, he worked, moving the arch back and forth while pressing the straight stick on the piece of bark, making it rotate over the fiber and dried leaves, letting friction do its work.

It became heated first, then a puff of white smoke began to rise after some work put into it.

Conrad brought it closer to his mouth, lightly blowing air onto the clump of fiber and leaves, until a small, weak flame began to dance.

Grinning, he put the piece of bark under the woods arranged into his fireplace, adding combustible to the fire and taking care to not choke out the flames.

After a few moments, fire was burning inside the small cave, its light dancing on the rocky walls of Conrad’s shelter.

Then, having secured warmth and light, he dedicated himself to food. He first scrubbed the scales out of his fish, then tried to open its belly with the stone knives.

Finding it too difficult, he resorted to his keychain, and the small knife attached to it.

Even if the blade of it was too small, it still managed to cut the fish’s though skin, and it was easy to use the stone knife to gut it afterwards.

Conrad threw away the guts, tossing them as far as he could. He put the fish on a stick, and set it over the fireplace to cook.

He did the same with some vegetables he found, and a few edible mushrooms he picked up after identifying them as edible with his skill.

Famished, he still waited for the fish to be done.

Eating raw ingredients might be dangerous, he thought. And he waited, patiently.

Daylight had waned, the last of the three suns disappearing into the horizon.

As he waited for his dinner to be ready, Conrad headed to the entrance of his little cave.

A chilling breeze made him shudder, shirtless as he was, but he resisted, peeking out of the entrance to see the sky above.

Night sky was a marvel, a dark purple color sparkling with so many stars that it left Conrad’s mouth gaping in wonder. A lone moon was up in the sky, red in color and far bigger than the Moon that Conrad remembered.

Its surface was also different, smoother. And it had a ring surrounding it.

But, as pretty as the sight was, the sounds that the night brought were not as much.

Things were moving below, creeping among the trees and bushes. Roars, and hisses, and a curiously creepy sound, as if a bird was trying to imitate a human laughter.

It made Condrad shook his head and recoil back into his cave, to the warmth and light of his fire.

Consuming his dinner, he was pleased of the result. It lacked salt, but it was savory, and the mushroom had a nice, although unusual taste.

Moreover, he knew that a meal caught, harvested and cooked with his own hands, it always tasted better to him than those served in most restaurants.

He smiled when the system notified him of the newly acquired cooking skill.

New Skil Unlocked! Cooking (1/10)

Before curling himself to sleep, he summoned his status screen, gazing at it. It was still basic, so different from the same kind of window he used to stare at during his gaming years.

Still, beside the strangeness of it, Conrad did not feel different in any way from the day before. Only slightly more energetic than usual, but he suspected that it was more because of the open air, rather than some obscure effect of this strange, gamelike world.

Because, even if he refused to aknowledge it, Conrad loathed the city.

The oppressive rithms, boring job at his desk, everyday flowing the same as the one before it.

He was unhappy back then, repeating himself day after day that it was what he wanted, what he studied for, what he struggled for.

But that feeling was always there, gnawing at him from deep inside.

Sure, he had a nice car, a respectable bank account, and soon, he would have a nice apartment were to live. But, that life, he knew, it was not for him. Every moment was a pact between he and himself, to give up what he really wanted in order to pursue that thig called success.

And how empty it looked to him, right now, the same as it did whenever he had enough time to spare that he managed to go back to the countryside.

The air there was clean, and wide spaces full of nothing but nature always soothed Conrad’s mind.

Moreover, there was that feeling in the air, the one he got when his barefeet touched the grass, whenever he picked a ripe fruit right from the branch were it grew.

He longet for it, and being there, in that wilderness, had the same effect on him as the countryside had.

All in all, considering the possible dangers of this unknown place, Conrad felt a thing he almost forgot during his life in the city.

Happyness.

He shook his head, focusing on the blinking blue screen in front of his nose.

Level

1

SKILLS

Class

N/A

General

Active

Passive

Str

1

Gathering (2/10)

Identify (2/10)

Crafting (1/10)

Climbing (2/10)

Cooking (1/10)

 

General Fitness (2/10)

Agi

1

Vit

1

Int

1

HP

10/10

MP

1/1

SP

1/1

Att

2

Def

1

Titles

N/A

Exp

1/100

There were two options on the top right part of the screen, both greyed out. He tried to think them open, then he even “clicked” with his finger on them, but nothing happened.

<<Perhaps, it’s something for later? Maybe if I level up, they will pop up? Well, whatever>>

He noticed that two more voices were added to the status window, namely attack and defense.

Conrad looked at them, and he reached a conclusion. These new voices were related to him having a proper weapon “equipped”. He tried to discard his shabby spear, and saw that both voices disappeared from the menu.

Shrugging his shoulders, he kept the spear closer to him, taking small comfort in that number near the “attack” voice of the menu.

By far, it was his highest stat, boasting double the amount of the others.

Of course, it was only two, the rest of his stats all being one.

Rolling on the side, Conrad tried to find a confortable position to fall asleep.

Which, as the night turned into day, did not happen.

The lack of a proper place where to sleep, and cover on his skin, along with the noises coming from the forest were enough to impede his sleep.

He fell asleep, then, ten minutes later, a loud noise would wake him up, making his heart race.

Or, his position on the bare rock was too uncomfortable. He even thought about going back down and gather some leaves.

Better than sleeping on rock, for sure. But going down, now, at night, it was a risk not worth the reward.

Not only because of things that might be lurking below, hungry and hidden, but for the sheer risk of him mistepping on the way down, and falling to his death.

Conrad finally gave up on sleep, frustrated and tired.

For how much he disliked living in the city, he surely never had to face this problem there.

Not the noise, there was plenty of that around his house, although none of it with the connotations of danger that the noise here had, but sleeping on a rock of bed was too much for him.

He took a mental note to gather some leaves, a lot of them, before making a new shelter.

And that thought brought him to a question that he needed to pose to himself.

What next?

Two simple words, that ran in his thoughts, among sleepiness and concern.

What next? He could try and follow the river some more, but, what were the chances of him actually finding civilization here?

There was the chance that he would find none, and walk for days to an empty end. It could be that this forest would extend for miles and miles, and it would take him weeks, if not months, to get out of it.

Or, there was another possibility, perhaps worst than the first one, Conrad thought.

There could not be civilization, anywhere.

After all, in a world with three suns, all possibilities were to be considered.

And that led Conrad to another consideration.

Would he move from his little cave, or would he stay there?

He had water close to him, and food was there, although he needed to struggle a bit to get it.

But, if he just stayed there, the chances of him encountering any trace of civilization would drop.

And, he needed also to consider how well would he fare, here in the wilderness.

Sure, he would be able to improvise some kind of shelter, even furnish it to some extent.

But what if bad weather came, he thought, or if he injured himself.

And most of all, he would be alone in there, only a man against nature.

Sure, the Voice would speak from time to time, but that was a monologue on its part, and frankly speaking, Conrad muttered to himself, that Voice creeped him out a bit.

<<What do I do?>>.

Those words remained there, in his thoughts after he spoke them, for all night.

Which, lamented Conrad to himself, was way longer than he thougth.

His watch already was past twenty four hours, signaling eight in the morning while morning actually came.

Like it happened at dusk, only one sun rose at dawn. The others would follow, later, until all three were up in the sky.

Still, the measurement of time that Conrad did was wrong, as he later reasoned about.

He remembered that, when he came to be in this forest, it was morning already, but those curious suns were up in the sky, all three of them.

So, he surmised, a single day would be longer than he calculated with his watch.

Far longer than he expected, probably more than thirty hours. And that would mean, he was awake for a day and a half.

<<Fuck. Way to pull an all nighter, Conrad. Next thing I do, is to build me a fuckin bed>>

Still, he thought, it was not like he suffered sleep too much.

He was still feeling drowsy, for sure, but not to the point of being unable to do anything.

And he did not need to do much, not today at least.

<<Now. Go up, or go down?>>

He asked himself his own question, after reaching the resolution of staying in that small cave for the day.

If he was to set on march again, he needed to do so when in full strenght, not after a sleepless night.

First, he decided to climb up, and scout the surroundings.

After a quick breakfast, during which he ate the leftovers from his fish and mushroom dinner, along with some fruits he picked the day before, he climbed up from the cave’s entrance.

The exercise granted him another level in General fitness and Climbing, making them rise up to three.

And the climb up had been easier than the night before, and the new levels in those “skills” made it even easier, to the point that he did not even feel fatigued.

Up on the rock formation, he was standing in front of a sea of trees.

<<Shit>>

He cursed out loud, surprised by the long necks emerging from that green sea.

Like seeing a squid-faced giraffe, slowly and lazily munching on treetops.

Their bulbous heads did not seem to have eyes, and large spots where the eyes should have been were pulsing in green light.

Still, thought Conrad, for them to make no noise whatsoever…

He immediately became glad to not have ventured further into the forest.

The other animals he saw, those he could tolerate enough.

But these ones, the sight of them truly made his mind wander to those sci-fi stories he loved when he was young, and sometimes, even now.

<<Well, one thing is reading them, living them thou…>>

He left his words hanging, turning his attention from the towering creatures to the surroundings.

His position was too low to see the path ahead, but he could look for useful landmarks or other elevated places that might be useful for a later time.

To his back, there was the hill he first climbed up yesterday, and the river to his right, flowing in the direction Conrad was looking to .

To his left, more trees, and rocky ridges that from time to time rose up from the green sea.

Perhaps, Conrad thought, the rocks where he stood now were a continuation of that very ridge.

Far in the distance, it became higher and higher, until, perhaps some kilometers away from him, it became a proper mountain.

Taller trees could be seen emerging from the more uniform treetops, but no other things that claimed Conrad’s attention, beside a curious flying thing that perched for a few seconds near him.

It looked like a bird, in its general structure.

But, featherless, with scaly blue skin and its wings more similiar to fins than proper bird winds. It had a beak, sure, but curved upward.

Conrad could only take a small glance at the thing, before it darted away in the sky.

He shrugged his shoulder, preparing himself to climb down once again.

As he did, he definitely noticed the benefits that General Fitness and Climbing granted him.

It was not that hard of a climb, but it still was tiring the day before. Now, thought Conrad, he barely sweated.

Taking note of that, he wondered if he could get more skills related to basic movements.

To test things, he jogged lightly on place, and then he ran on the rivershore, sprinting from time to time.

Of course, he did so after making sure that nothing was near the place.

Notifications dinged in his mind, and the usual blue screen floated in his sight.

 

New Skil Unlocked! Running (1/10)

New Skil Unlocked! Athletics [passive(1/10)]

New Skil Unlocked!Sprint [Active- 1SP- (1/10)]

He gained three new skills from that. Running, Athletics and Sprint.

The first was like Climbing, he just needed to perform the action and it would activate on its own.

The second one, Athletics, it was listed as passive, much like General Fitness.

The last one, Sprint, it was listed as active.

After few tries, Conrad managed to understand what it meant.

To will the skill into action, he needed to activate it, either by thinking the skill’s name, or exerting some more strenght into his steps.

It left him panting the first time he used it, far more energy consuming than when he sprinted by using the old, usual method.

But, he covered a significant amount of ground with it, and the speed he reached, it was so high that he almost crashed on a nearby rock.

Almost, but he managed to stop himself.

He gained no new levels for those skills, and decided to not practice them there. It could be dangerous, and he was too tired to do it anyway.

At the moment, he needed to prioritize two things.

Gathering, and crafting.

He needed to gather materials, and food.

He needed to build himself a decent place to rest, and perhaps, if he had spare energies to do so, some more things.

And so, he set out to gather enough material to build himself some semblance of a bed.

Surely, he thought, sleeping on leaves would be better than sleeping over bare rocks.

He gathered, snapping branches that had enough fresh and tender leaves on them. He even found some low growing plants, that had thin, flexible stems.

He gathered those, thinking of the use he would find to them.

Then, after gathering some more leaves, fruit and mushroom, he dedicated himself to fishing. Without success.

After spending roughly the entire morning, if this world still had a concept of it, he stopped and ate some raw fruit.

Still, he kept wary of the surroundings, but, much to his relief, nothing came out of the woods during that time, or out of the waters.

After his vegetarian lunch, he dedicated himself to more attempts at fishing.

This time, he managed to kill one with his spear.

It was definitely smaller than his first bounty from the day before, and, when he killed it, it granted him zero point two experience points.

The bigger fish granted him one.

<<So, it works like this, huh?>>

No other actions granted him experience before.

Only when he killed something.

He hoped that to not be the case, although, it made sense given the striking resemblance of this new system with those of an RPG game.

And in those games, killing “monsters” would give experience, and make a character grow accordingly.

To have a better grasp of things, he tried to squish one of the everpresents bugs that buzzed around.

Killing it gave no response from the system.

Although, when he moved to kill a slightly bigger thing, a scarab-looking beetle, no longer than half centimeter, he gained experience.

A negligible amount, 0.001 points. But still, it was there.

So, he thought, to grow in this world, witht this system, he would need to kill bigger things, or an inconsiderate amount of smaller beings.

That, of course, if this world really worked like one of such games.

But, thought Conrad, things could not be that simple.

He gathered some more materials, each time climbing back to his little cave.

When it was finally enough for him, he climbed once again, hauling some firewood with him.

Then he set up for the night again, this time having arranged himself a makeshift bed.

He prepared the small fish, the only success of his fishing activity for the day, and arranged some more vegetables to bolster his dinner.

Roasting them on the fire, he turned his attention to something else while he waited for dinner to be ready.

The flexible stems he found before, he sliced them open with his tiny knife keyholder, separating the fiber in them as best as he could.

What he tried to do, was build himself some semblance of a rope.

Of course, the results were terrible at first, and he wasted half of the stems he gathered.

With a bit more patience, after calming himself down and smoking a cigarette, Conrad managed to cut the stems as he wanted.

First, in half, running the minuscule blade from one end of the stem to the other.

Then, he divided those long halves into half again, using the same method, with more caution. He repeated the process, ruining the fiber most of the time.

But he managed to obtain some good ones, albeit a fraction of the total amount.

Then, he would need to dry them, before actually attempting to tangle those fibers into some semblance of a rope.

And he had not even the slightest idea about how to do it.

Still, it was something to keep his mind occupied on.

Setting aside those fibers, as he left them near the fire, laying them on a piece of bark to keep them straight, he then moved his attention to the fish and mushrooms that were cooking.

He consumed his dinner, adding some fruit after it.

To store some water, he used a crude recipient, made by tying some pieces of bark together with some of his last strips of cloth, and stuffing them with some large leaves he found on the riverside.

It spilled some, but held enough water to not force Conrad to climb down if he wanted to drink during the night.

He once again summoned his status screen, as he did the night before.

The numbers on it were the same, but the quantity of skills was definitely increasing.

After his gathering spree, he managed to raise Gathering one more level, as well as his attempt to craft a rope made Crafting raise to level two, while preparing his dinner yielded Conrad another level in his Cooking skill.

Much to his unsatisfaction, the increased level of the skill did not make the meal taste better, and the small fish he cooked was definitely less savory than the large one he caught and cooked the day before.

Perhaps, thought Conrad, it was the ingredient’s fault that his meal tasted worse, or he was simply too tired to properly enjoy it.

He focused once again on the Status window.

General Fitness and Climbing were up to level four, both of them, while the other skills remained invariated, since he did not spend any time running or sprinting around after getting them.

 

 

Level

1

SKILLS

Class

N/A

General

Active

Passive

Str

1

Gathering (3/10)

Identify (2/10)

Crafting (2/10)

Climbing (4/10)

Running (1/10)

Cooking (2/10)

Sprint (1/10)

General Fitness (4/10)

Athletics (1/10)

Agi

1

Vit

1

Int

1

HP

10/10

MP

1/1

SP

1/1

Att

2

Def

1

Titles

N/A

Exp

1.01/100

There was a new voice in that window, stating the total amount of experience he gained.

A negligible amount if compared to the amount needed for him to level up, a staggering one hundred experience points. He thought about how he could manage to gather those.

He would need to kill ninety nine more of those large fishes, or a thousand smaller ones.

The thought of him seeking and swatting one hundred thousand small bugs, squishing them one after the other until he gathered one hundred experience from them made him laugh out loud.

He would definitely get something out of such ridiculous action.

But, his laughter faded as he considered another, quicker method.

As he surmised before, larger creatures gave more experience.

So, if he ever managed to catch and kill something else beside a fish, maybe…

Conrad set aside those thoughts, rolling himself in his bed of fresh leaves.

It was still a bit uncomfortable, but leagues better than sleeping on bare rock.

With a smile, he closed his eyes, this time drifting into proper sleep.

Some news about Re:Interference and the other series on this blog…

Hello reader! This post is here to inform you of some changes that will happen to this blog. Due to some imminent IRL stuff, I, your humble Author, will no longer be able to post the same quantity of material.

Concerning Re: Interference, I will no longer be posting two chapters each week, changing the release from two to a single chapter, released without a scheduled day.

That means, whenever the chapter is ready, I will post it here (also on RR, with one day of delay)

Concerning A Strange Sky and Glimmer of a Fallen Star:These two stories had no schedule to begin with, so nothing to change here. From time to time, I will post a chapter or two.

I apologize for this, but it is a necessary step. Sadly, writing requires time, and revising what you write requires even more, and between moving to a new apartment and switching to my new job (and figuring out how much free time it will leave me each day) this is the best I can do to keep the stories “alive”.

Thank you for your time and comprehension.

 

Not a new chapter (aha! I meant, sorry),just a general update

Hello readers! Thank you for taking a little bit of your time to come here.

Sadly, this post is not a new chapter, but a communication.

Since, next week, I will have some big changes in my life.

Namely, a new job and a new home.

And that translates into the need for me to move from my current home, and take all my stuff to the new one. And, also, there’s the new job.

All of that, means that I will need a bit of time to sort things out, and so, starting from the 10th of May, to the 24th, the blog MIGHT go into a hiatus period.

I say MIGHT, because, depending on how things play out, I might still be able to carve some time to update a chapter here and there. Or, it could be worse, and I would need more than two weeks to deal with all the RL stuff.

So, this is just a notice, nothing decided yet, just to let you know of that possibility.

I will update with more news on Sunday, May 7th.

End transmissions.