Chapter 10: Talent
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Jackson woke up in a panic as he tried to stand only to fall off of the sofa and hit the floor.

His body was hot and sweaty; he was taking breaths in short bursts as he tried to remember what had just happened. The memories were blurry and foggy like they weren't his own to begin with.

'Ugh...' He shivered and clutched his head suddenly as the feeling of being trapped within that sludge returned to him all at once, he felt like he was gagging as he felt it fill his throat again even though he knew there was nothing there.

'What the hell was that?' It felt like a bad nightmare but at the same time it was something more, something more real than any dream could ever be. It felt exactly like the moment he'd been faced with that planet-sized beast the day before except this time his body had come with him. 

After five minutes of taking several deep breaths to calm himself down Jackson had finally somewhat recovered, he was still struggling to come to grips with what had just happened but despite his questions there was no way for him to get the answers. He slowly got up from the floor, sending a sideways glance to the sofa with the thought of going back to sleep crossing his mind, with a sigh he shook his head and made his way to the front door of the store.

He had no idea what time it was but he no longer felt tired, just hungry. If he couldn't gather any food he'd end up starving to death before he managed to leave the forest. 'There has to be a knife or something somewhere in this town.' He thought as he carefully pulled the stiff door open, being careful not to break it now that it was hanging by a single hinge.

He opened the door to what he could only assume was early morning, maybe sometime around five or six am? He didn't have a clock to check but simply from how the first glimpses of light were peeking through the buildings and trees he could roughly assume.

The icy breeze of the wind worked well to distract him from the strange dream as he quickly made is way through several buildings as carefully as he could without making much noise out of fear for either causing a building to collapse or alerting any creature that had decided to nest here.

Fortunately, it seemed that the beasts preferred the wilderness over the cramped nature of human buildings, or maybe they could just tell that these buildings were unsafe to begin with and they wouldn't be as foolish as Jackson to willingly go into the crumbling death traps. 

Twenty minutes later he'd searched all of the buildings that were 'safe' to search, mainly those that didn't look like they'd collapse in on themselves as soon as he opened the door which did end up happening once reducing the amount of buildings in the town by one more. He'd managed to find several useful tools: lighters, some kitchen knifes and a small backpack that was missing one of its straps.

The lighters were obviously useful for when he needed to make a fire, the knives would provide him plenty of replacements and despite the backpack missing one of its straps it would make it much easier for him to carry with him items he found while travelling in the future.

"Guess I should head out huh?" He took a quick glance at the treeline and saw more rays of sun finding their way through as they began to light up the town. He'd scavenged everything that was still usable and there was no reason for him to return to the store, if he headed out now he'd cover a lot more ground.

With the in mind he started to organise what little equipment he had, placing the few smaller knives into the backpack carefully at the bottom. He also added a couple of larger rocks just in case, if needs be he could use the backpack as a weapon in emergencies. He put one of the lighters in the pocket of his jeans and the others into one of the bags smaller side-pouches before fashioning a makeshift knife holder from his belt and placing one of the larger ones at his waist.

Despite his ragged appearance at least now he'd be ready for anything that decided he was an easy target for their breakfast, 'hopefully they get impatient and come sooner rather than later.' He said to himself as he looked down at his stomach, if he didn't find something to eat he was only going to get weaker as time passed. 

He was much more confident as he stepped foot across the threshold dividing the town and the forest with a weapon at his side, his steps were even and calm as he started just started to walk in a straight line with the determination to leave this forest by the end of the day already on his mind...

An hour passed silently, the forest was quiet as he walked, the sun was only just beginning to peek out from higher in the sky from between the clouds when the ground began to tremble violently.

Boom! Bang!

The whole world began to tremble alongside the sound of explosions that came from behind him, he could barely see through the treeline but he could make out what looked like to be smoke floating high into the sky. Gritting his teeth and looking up towards the canopy of the trees he made up his mind to climb one despite the dangers.

Gritting his teeth he found one that seemed to be the easiest to climb quickly and began to scale it, it was easier with his enhanced strength to pull himself up but the higher up he went the feeling of danger grew until he was balancing on thing branches that looked like they could break in an instant and send him hurtling to the ground.

But, that didn't stop him from going higher until he finally broke through the layer of foliage that had been covering the roof of the forest, as far as the eye could see there was forest going in all directions. However, in the distant where the explosions had come from there was a lone mountain sitting in the middle of the sea of trees - from it a thick plume of smoke was rising into the sky.

The sea of trees was disheartening but he tried not to focus on it, instead he watched as the smoke began to part as if something was moving from within it. 

Bang! Bang!

Even from this distance he could still hear the sounds as more explosions rang out shocking the forest, this time however he saw as rocks were flung from the mountain in all directions before slamming down in parts of the forest taking an immeasurable amount of trees down with them.

He watched as something thin and slithering broke free from the cloud of smoke; a familiar blue tentacle emerged as it began to wildly flail slamming itself into the rocky mountainside creating more stones of destruction that rained from the sky.

Jackson watched, both shocked and entranced as he wanted to know what it was trying to do, five minutes passed as it repeated this until it suddenly stopped wordlessly and retreated. Before, the ball-like shape that had haunted his dreams came crawling out using its tentacles to move itself, it was almost a quarter of the size of the whole mountain as the smoke cleared and revealed it.



From all over the forest he could hear the low cry of beasts sounding out in unison as if they were in pain from the moment it came out into the world, their voices were trembling as if in fear before dying down slowly.

The world went silent for a brief second after... 


That final heartbeat. Jackson's mind slowed down as he watched as from within the massive ball of flesh was ripped apart by a terrifying set of teeth that began to chew on the flesh from within, he watched as something ate its way out of the tentacled beast and tore it apart in its jaws.

Slowly its body was revealed from the inside, two leathery wings hung by its side and a plated-scaled head revealed itself alongside two rows of sharp teeth.

It looked almost exactly like the planet-sized beast he had seen before, almost identical except far smaller in size. As soon as he saw it finally he realised what that beast was, what they were.

"Dragon..." No sooner had the words left his  lips before, "ROAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!" It had angled its head at the sky and cried, its roar echoed in all directions shattering Jacksons' eardrums and sending him hurtling to the ground below from the sheer force behind it as it forced him to let go of the tree from the sudden pain.

He was too busy withering in pain on the ground to notice a small changed had been made to his status menu in that moment...

[Talent: Gaze of the King]