Slowly, Conrad rose on his feet. He felt weak, as he never felt before. A mixture of exhaustion and hunger clouded his thoughts, a dull headache pulsing in the back of his head.
Yet, he smiled.
He relished the warmth of sunlight on his skin, basking in those few rays that shone past his cave’s entrance, lighting the interior of his little sanctuary.
He felt warmth, and that sensation was enough to make a small tear flow from his eyes.
Suddenly, he became aware of his condition. The curse had a heavy impact on him, and led him to not eat, drink or sleep for almost a whole week.
Days in this strange world lasted roughly forty eight hours, so, in the end, he considered, he abandoned himself for fourteen days, if counted by the old world’s standards.
He knew a man could survive a long time without eating, if properly hydrated. But how much could a person survive without drinking? Or without sleep?
He knew he should have perished, by the old world’s standards.
But it did not happen. He was weak, too weak, famished and almost on the brink of exhaustion once more, but he was definitely alive.
Moreover, he beat the curse. And that thought made him feel exalted, as it represented his first true victory in this world.
And here, winning meant receiving definite rewards. He glanced at the blinking blue dots that popped in his field of view, exerting his consciousness to them in order to visualize those messages.
The first one, he already read, moments before collapsing on his bed of leaves, too exhausted to even celebrate.
It informed him of the curse’s end, and he read it once again, relishing each single, blinking word on that strange floating window that appeared in front of him.
Next, he dismissed the message, dedicating himself to the others that followed.
New Skill Unlocked! Concentration (1/10)- Type: General (Pneuma)- A hard task needs a focused mind. Concentration lets you enter a focused state, increasing accuracy, precision, letting the outside world fade out…
Skill Level UP! Concentration +1 (2/10)
Skill Level UP! Concentration +2 (3/10)
Skill Level UP! Concentration +3 (6/10)
Skill Level UP! Concentration +4 (10/10)
Skill RANK UP! Concentration→ Concentration II (1/20)
Congratulations! You Ranked UP your first Skill! As a reward, you’ve been granted: 1 Tile; +2 Willpower
Skill Level UP! Concentration II +2 (3/20)
Skill Level UP! Concentration II +4 (7/20)
Skill Level UP! Concentration II+6 (13/20)
Skill Level UP! Concentration II + 7 (20/20)
Skill RANK UP! Concentration II→ Clarity (1/10)- Type: Active (Pneuma, 1AP)- When active, enter a state of deep focus, closing off the world and focusing your senses, heightening your thoughts.
New Skill Unlocked! Cold Resistance (1/10)- Type: Passive (Soma)- Your body grows accustomed to cold, be it icy winds or frozen water…
Skill Level UP! Cold Resistance +1 (2/10)
Skill Level UP! Cold Resistance +2 (3/10)
Skill Level UP! Cold Resistance +3 (6/10)
Skill Level UP! Cold Resistance +4 (10/10)
Skill RANK UP! Cold Resistance → Cold Resistance II (1/20)
Congratulations! You ranked UP 3 skills already! As a reward, you obtained:
Conrad looked at the stream of notifications, unable to believe what he was reading. As he read through them all, he noted how his Cold Resistance leveled up and ranked up at an astounding rate. He thought it due to him struggling to resist the cold caused by the curse. That strange state of clarity he found himself into, that was the time when he gained and used his Concentration, his focus and detachment from the outside world deepening as the skill level rose, and it ranked up.
Until the skill itself became something else.
And yet, the stream of blue windows was still far from its end.
Conrad skimmed through the simple notifications that informed him about his skills leveling up, until he reached the last window of that almost endless stream.
Skill Level UP! Cold Resistance II+ 1 (2/20)
New Skill Unlocked! Cold Attunement (1/10)- Type: Passive (Pneuma, rare)- Icy winds and freezing waters molded your mind and its vessel, allowing you to tap into their very essence. Attacks and skills are imbued with Ice element.
Congratulations! You have unlocked your first Rare skill! As a reward, you have been granted: +1 Tile, +1 Intelligence, +1 Perception
New Skill Unlocked! Will of Steel (1/10)- Type: Passive (Pneuma, rare)- Overcoming challenges has tempered your mind, your will has become as strong as steel itself. Grants minor resistance against Mind attacks and Curses, pain, hunger and thirst, debilitation.
New Patterns Revealed! Ice Series-Snow Flake (0/10); Ice Series-Brine (0/20); Ice Series- Hail (0/50); Meditation (0/10)
As the last of the blue messages disappeared from his view, Conrad focused his attention on the most pressing matters. First, he needed to feed himself. The fruit and vegetables that he had in his cave had gone bad, covered in pink-bluish mold. As he just escaped death and a curse, Conrad did not want to eat rotten food. Who knew what it would do to his debilitated body? He did not want to risk getting sick.
However, in order to get something fresh to fill his stomach, he would need to climb down from his cave. He felt weak, but not enough to not attempt to climb down. There was also another reason that compelled him to do so. He felt the dire need to clean himself, as during the time he spent struggling against the curse he did not move from his spot, not even to relief himself.
Now, his own smell disgusted him, and the sensation of stale sweat that stuck to his skin, along with other filth, made him sick.
Sighing, he started to climb down, moving with the utmost care. Halfway through, he stopped, fighting a sudden sense of vertigo.
But it went away, as quickly as it came.
Finally, Conrad’s feet touched the riverbank below, slowly sinking in the muddy terrain. He undressed himself, and he let the cold waters sweep away the filth from his body.
Then, he started to thoroughly wash his clothes. The lack of soap made everything more difficult, and the smell persisted on his tattered jeans as well as on Conrad’s skin.
Still, he felt better, the cold river water refreshed him, and he drank some small sips before washing himself. He knew that, in his situation, he could not just gulp down a lot of water, as his body would reject it. Instead, he needed to drink frequent, small sips.
Food was also another problem. As he went a long time without eating, his body would react badly if he just went and ate to his heart’s content. Instead, he needed to eat bit by bit, favoring simple, easy to digest food.
After washing himself, he strolled towards the forest’s edge, still naked and dripping with water. He grabbed a low hanging fruit, the same kind that he felt so disgusting when under the curse. Without hesitating, he dug in, biting the soft, ripe fruit, letting its juice flow from his mouth. He savored it, and to Conrad, that single bite felt like the most delicious thing he ever ate.
He gathered some more, then he strolled back to his clothes and began to climb up once again. Once he entered his cave, the smell lingering inside made him almost sick.
Cleaning the whole place would take him too much time, he thought, and he did not have the energy to do it. Instead, he considered another option.
The area around his cave was safe, he knew that. For the first time, he resorted himself to sleep outside.
He took the time to throw his possession down, carefully avoiding the soiled bed of leaves, almost feeling tempted to burn it. He left it like it was, instead, taking one last glance to his cave before climbing down once more.
The whole day, he spent it doing menial tasks, as he felt too weak to properly engage in productive activities. He built himself a fireplace, and gathered some leaves to act as a bed. Then, when night fell, he simply rolled over on his bed of leaves, and slept.
The next morning, he woke up with the first sunlight, feeling a little bit better than the day before. Conrad started his day with a fruit meal, this time conceding himself a full fruit to eat, just to see if his stomach would be able to hold it down.
Then, with his stomach filled, his mind more clear, he started to ponder a bit about what happened.
He died, and resurrected. All that happened was a consequence of that. The painful, cruel curse, was some sort of penalty that the Mosaic System introduced to discourage people from just letting themselves go, accepting death. If something like that did not exist, and dying had no demerit besides the pain, some people would use it as some sort of shortcut to power, thought Conrad.
Basing his reasoning on what happened to him, it was something possible after all. By fighting a powerful opponent, your skills would rise no matter what, even if you succumbed to it. A crazy enough person would definitely throw himself to stronger enemies, die and repeat, until his skills would reach a high enough level.
And so, the curse served as a deterrent to that kind of behavior.
It made sense to Conrad, although, he could not imagine someone that would die over and over just to become stronger.
Also, overcoming the curse gave Conrad some unexpected new skills. The new Cold Resistance and Cold Attunement left him a bit perplexed, as he was not exposed to actual cold, but rather, it was all in his mind. And yet, the system acted like Conrad himself was immersed in freezing waters, or covered in snow on some icy peak, going so far as to unlock Ice related skills and even Patterns.
In short, it was not what actually, physically happened to him that influenced the system, but what he thought it was happening, Conrad surmised. He thought that the cold was real, and the system reacted, changing him to endure the cold, adapting him to it, to the point that it generated a skill based on cold itself. He had yet to try it, but the skill description stated that his attacks and skills would have an Ice element attribute.
In RPG games an elemental attack was something good to have, and, without any doubt, it would prove useful to Conrad.
And yet, even if he gained much from the whole experience, he still felt terribly frustrated by all that happened. When weighting the small growth he achieved against the humiliation, pain and impotence he felt when facing the Lyander first, then during the curse’s effect, he could not help himself but to consider one simple thing.
He did not want to feel something like that, ever again.
Weakness was fatal in this world, and he learned it the hard way. Sure, he thought, he had been unfortunate in finding a powerful creature on his path, but he had the slight feeling that even a lesser monster would have bested him.
After all, his level was still one, and his skills, although he already had more than twenty, were not suited to battle or hunt.
As he dwelt on his considerations, he summoned his Status screen. The Pattern section drew his attention, with the new Patterns that he had unlocked. Now, he had some spare Tiles to use, and he wanted to experiment a bit with this part of the system. When he thought about it, the Status screen shifted, changing into another, unknown window. In it, the Patterns he unlocked were represented as silhouettes, each fragmented, like a puzzle. Around his left hand, four floating blue lights manifested, four as the number of Tiles in his possession.
With his eyes shifting from the blue lights to the Pattern window, he started to consider how to spend those Tiles.
The Fool’s Pattern required a large number of Tiles to complete, and he immediately ruled it out. For now, he considered spending his Tiles on something that he could complete. The First Step Pattern, along with Ice Series- Snow Flake required the least amount, both of them needing ten Tiles to complete.
Conrad weighted his options. The Snow Flake was tempting, but he felt like it was something too specific. The First Step was the first Pattern he managed to unlock, and its name implied something related to beginnings.
Conrad dumped all his Tiles on the First Step Pattern. As he did, each Tile took its place on the silhouette, revealing a part of the picture. The blue lights disappeared from his left hand, and a notification window popped up.
Congratulations! You assigned your first Tile to a Pattern!
As a reward, you’ve obtained:
+ 2 free Stat Points
Pattern Progress: First Step- 4/10
Congratulations! First Step has reached 40% Completion.
Reach 50% and 100% for Pattern Rewards!
<<Finally>> murmured Conrad, seeing how spending his Tiles yielded him bonus SP and AP. The increase was small, but now, he could use two skills in a row, instead of being limited to only one. Five more HP would also be beneficial, although, he considered, they would still mean nothing against a powerful foe. He remembered how he felt when he looked at the damage log from the Lyander’s attack, seeing how it six hundred damage to him. What were five measly points in front of that monstruous power?
The two free stat points were interesting, but Conrad was unsure about where to spend them. In particular, he wondered if he should dump them into one of his higher statistics, or try to balance out the ones that were lacking.
After some careful considerations, he decided to allocate the stat points into physical statistics. One point went into Nimbleness, the remaining one into Reaction.
He braced himself for the upcoming change. Mental stats did not give the same rebound when increased, only giving him a quick headacke, that during the day was overshadowed by the pounding pain caused by his condition.
But physical stats were another story altogether. He felt his muscles jolt, quick, nervous movements that followed the wave of energy, spreading from his lower spine to all of his body.
When he opened his eyes once again, he felt not different from before. Yet, he knew the change was there, and he would experience it once he started moving. For now, however, he had no intention to tire himself by trying his new stats or skills. His body was still weak, and he needed the time to recover.
After dealing with notifications and Patterns, Conrad was left without anything to do. His days, since he woke up in that clearing inside the forest, had been so busy that he basically had not a single moment of idleness.
Now, it was weighting on him, and he could not handle the simple fact of staying still, doing nothing.
So, he decided to partake in some kind of activity, something that would not tire him out or expose him to risk, but at the same time would keep him entertained.
He was near the riverbank, and the terrain around him had something that would keep him occupied enough, and help him on the long run.
He rose to his feet, grabbed the largest satchel he had and strolled towards a spot on the riverbank where he was sure to find clay, or at least this world’s version of it.
When he reached the spot, he used his hands to grab clumps of the light gray material, hauling it back to his place.
Using a large, flat rock as a base, he started to mold the clay into a simple recipient. Then, when he reached a result that pleased him enough, he started the campfire once again, and put his work to cook among the embers.
He knew it was not the most apt method to actually produce ceramic, but without a oven, and the energies to build one, it was the only thing he could do.
As he waited, he sorted through the equipment and tools that he removed from his cave. Rope made of vegetal fiber, the long poles that would become shafts for his spears. Rocks of various sizes, hardness and texture, his primitive tools. Satchels made of woven leaves and branches, along with some raw, unprocessed materials. Bark, leaves, sticks and pieces of wood. Even the bones of the first, large fish that he caught on his first day, carefully wrapped inside a piece of cloth. Too brittle to use as cutting tools or weapons, but the thin fishbones could be used as needles in Conrad’s intentions.
All his possessions, apart from the spears he broke and lost during his unfortunate first direct encounter with the local wildlife.
Having finished sorting his items, a notification reclaimed Conrad’s attention.
Crafting Successful! Small Pot (Poor Quality) x1 has been created!
Skill Level UP! Crafting +1 (4/10)
Seeing the notification, he rushed to take the small pot out of the fire. It was covered in ashes, and Conrad used a stick to yank it out of the fire, walking to the river where he immerged his creation inside the water, to cool it down and clean it.
Then, he examined it. It was a small, ugly thing, but to Conrad, it was a huge success. The clay was good enough to be made into ceramic. And having ceramic would mean having the possibility of storing water, boiling it even.
Moreover, he could use the clay itself to build a primitive oven. Something like that could even be enough to smelt metal, if he managed to find some.
Following the elation after this success, Conrad fully dedicated to pottery. He crafted several recipients, going back and forth from the riverbank to the fireplace to gather enough clay.
At the end of the day, he had successfully made two small recipients, three medium ones, as large as a kitchen pot, and a large one, twice the size of the medium ones.
He filled one of the medium pots with water, throwing in mushrooms and roots he peeled with his steel knife, an aromatic herb that grew near the riverbank, its scent being a weird meddle of mint and lemon.
Lastly, he added two fishes, that he managed to capture with his hands. Unable to resist trying his skills, Conrad used Sneak to move silently in the knee deep water, without alerting the fishes that swam lazily in the shallow waters. Then, he simply grabbed them with his hands. The first three times he failed, but the fourth and sixth attempt granted him protein for his dinner.
Conrad’s mouth started to water as the smell from his boiling pot began to diffuse in the air. Using his steel knife, he fashioned himself a spoon out of a piece of driftwood, smoothening it out with a piece of sandstone.
The usual blue notification popped up, alerting Conrad that his Vegetable and Fish Stew was ready, and his Cooking skill had leveled up.
As he tasted the stew, he found its taste decent enough, although it lacked salt.
After the meal, he felt definitely better than before. His head was still a bit too heavy and clouded, but the worst part was now gone.
Perhaps, he thought, by the next day he would be able to actually do some work, and start training his skills.
Before abandoning himself to sleep once more, he took a last glance to his Status screen:
Mind Mosaic Status:
Soma: HP 15/15
Pneuma: AP 2/2
Tekna: SP 2/2
Patterns: First Step (4/10); The Fool (0/100);Ice Series-Snow Flake (0/10); Ice Series-Brine (0/20); Ice Series- Hail (0/50); Meditation (0/10)
General: Gathering (5/10); Crafting (3/10); Climbing (5/10); Running (2/10); Cooking (3/10); Map (1/10)
Active: Identify (5/10); Dismantle (2/10); Sprint (2/10); Foolishness (5/10); Rush (5/10); Pierce (5/10); Sneak (7/10); Clarity (1/10)
Passive: Physical Fitness (6/10); Athletics (2/10); Poison Resistance (1/10); Spear Mastery (2/10); Cold Resistance II (2/20); Cold Attunement (1/10); Will of Steel (1/10)