Chapter 11 – Why level fast when I can level up my skills instead?
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Eric shook his head, a wry smirk dancing across his scarred features. Of course these mutated monsters were hunting him! He had seen the mad gimlet of hate-filled cognizance flickering in the eyes of the rat whose heart he had exploded, just days ago. Pouring so much essence into the bastard, so much more than he needed to in his desperate lurch to survive, that he had almost killed himself while doing so.

"Training," he whispered aloud. "I need so much training by teachers who aren't even here, that it isn't even funny."

Even as he said the words, his crossbow disappeared, a center-gripped roundshield made of multiple layers of light, laminated glue and wood surrounding what amounted to a steel buckler popped into his left hand. And his second English saber, this one without the filed edge because a blackup blade with perfect edge integrity, even if it couldn’t tear through animal hide quite as well, appeared in the other.

Eric flashed a bleak smile as he practiced for several minutes pulling both saber and backup spear, this one held in an overhand grip, before switching his thin Viking era roundshield excellent for trapping blades for his smaller yet thicker heater style shield, the latter faced in high carbon steel and firmly secured by two straps to the forearm and a leather strap to squeeze in his hand. It was an entirely different affair to the Viking variant, held much closer to the body with a surface meant to deflect, not trap, both sword and axe swings, and arrows as well.

And Eric knew for a fact that his steel-covered heater shield could deflect any arrow even Vincent shot at it with their longbow like it was a joke. The crossbow bolts on the other hand… "As long as I hold it at a 10 degree or more angle to the sniper, even the 400fps fuckers are skipping off," he said to himself, though the thought of those sentinel rats coming at him with missile fire did put a smile on his face.

One that was almost instantly replaced by a feeling of dread as he finally put the guardian rat with its hate-filled eyes into his extra-dimensional storage space, forced to face once more that he wasn't necessarily the king of this jungle at a measly level two, still as likely to become the prey as the predator.

Even if he had enjoyed flexing in his own way, shifting the weapons of a Scandinavian going viking with those of renaissance mercenary in just a couple of seconds, ready to use either set to best effect against any rats that might eventually try to make a meal of him.

He was pretty sure it was only a matter of time.

He still took a moment to brace himself before claiming the rat, however, worried that he might unexpectedly go over whatever his maximum storage limit was. Not that he had any idea what that might be. Assuming he had any real limit at all.

He shrugged and sighed.

It was just one more thing he really should have tested during his frenzied training days. But he had enough on his plate, and was grateful that this time he thought to bring not one but two different shields, and was finally using his abilities, slowly getting the hang of summoning different items to his hands and forearms, finally willing to try increasing his speed, which he had been leery of with the highly complex crossbows but felt no hesitancy at all of practicing with shields and spears and such.

Because a full two seconds pause before an item popped in his hand was an eternity when rats were charging, he had found, having to rely on quick-drawing his saber with a warding slash multiple times during his last couple hunts.

He flashed a hard smile, finishing his exercise with a wickedly sharp double-edged dagger now tightly clenched in his right fist, heater shield on his left forearm, thinking that this time, when a rat managed to slam him down, eager to tear out his throat, the odds might be just a bit more in his favor.

But, much to his frustration, even with ESS Manipulation cheerfully dinging in his mind as it hit Rank 3, it still took about 2 seconds to summon that knife. Fortunately, he could put away anything he claimed in the blink of an eye, which was great. But it still took time to summon whatever he had stored. At least now it seemed to be a tiny bit easier to pull things free of storage, and that maybe he’d be able to do so, even when his heart was pounding while fighting for his life.

Maybe.

Then, with a final quick scan of his surroundings, most especially up at the roof, beyond grateful that his infravision meant that even the stealthiest motherfuckers would blaze like flame against the cold stone tiles, he put away his shield and dirk and summoned forth his discharged crossbow once more, re-cocking it and loading it with the same bolt he had fired just seconds ago before pressing on, eager to explore ever more of the winding dark mysteries that were these endless tunnels.

Because with his interface giving him access to a map he could access at well in the corner of his mind's eye, he found himself as excited to clear the fog of war as he ever had been in any of the adventure games he had so loved playing as a kid. Because now the level-ups were real, and leaving unexplored tunnels that enemies could ambush him from was a foolish risk.

And as sweet as actually being able to boost his skills and stats in real life was, the trade-off was that he, just like everyone else, was forced to play this game of life on hardcore mode. Good thing that held as true for the rats as him, he thought as his lips curled in a fierce smile, eyes alighting on the prey ahead that didn't even know it was as good as dead.

Infravision is now Rank 5!

You can sense your surroundings with a degree of detail that now rivals daylight vision!

You have critically struck Sentinel Rat! Rat has perished.

You have critically struck Sentinel Rat! Lungs targeted. Rat suffers Significant Impairment!

You have successfully Interfaced the skill: Find Weakness! You have learned to use your infravision and hunter’s instincts to target the most vulnerable areas on your prey, learning to differentiate between various organs, effortlessly slipping your bolts past mutated ribs!

You’re now deadlier than ever in the gloom below. (But will your talents work in the daylight above?)

Find Weakness has been successfully quantized at Rank 1!

Eric felt a surge of sweet triumph when the closest monster rat collapsed, the second spinning around with a desperate squeal, unable to locate him.

Or at least not before Eric flipped crossbow for spear, lips curling in a snarl as he rammed full force into the beast, rejoicing in the feel of his bayonet pressing against the thick hide of the thrashing rodent for just a moment before abruptly plunging through, tearing right into the heart Eric could now distinctly sense pulsing to a throbbing beat, knowing just where to strike his target for a clean kill.

You have critically struck and killed multiple opponents of a higher level than you with your spear!

You are ready to level up!

You have earned experience beyond the minimum required for level 3.

Do you wish to funnel a portion of your excess earned experience into skill mastery? Note! Experience conversion efficiency depends on race, Contender Status, and Node Configuration!

Note! Conversion efficiency can range from Transcendent to Extremely Poor.

Eric froze, knowing he risked peril striking him from any direction at any moment if he let himself get too distracted, but this was so important, would have such a major impact on his future, that he forced himself to give it serious thought.

Just from spending months training under his personal coach, he knew all too well how hard it was to advance in any skill after achieving a certain degree of competency. What might have been easy strides at the beginning, going from novice to intermediate, might take years of study, shifting from competent to truly skilled.

Considering how gloriously fast he had leveled so far, and considering how Conscript seemed to be a bottom tier class, it made perfect sense for him to at least take advantage of the potential to gain an ever greater mastery of his weapons, such that even if the underlying physical stats needed points for him to develop them, at least he could use his weapons to the absolute best of what his stats would allow, as if they were a perfectly coordinated extension of himself.

And if increased skill ranks meant an almost intuitive sense of tactics and timing, such as just knowing the right moment to respond to an enemy's lunge, or having an instinctive sense of how to wind his weapon against an opponent and slide past their guard, or how best to brace himself to receive a charge, that would be an incredible boon.

Furthermore, all other things being equal, it made far more sense to be a highly skilled level 3 Conscript than a much less skilled level 4 or 5 Conscript, if he’d be getting there soon enough. Especially if… and he wasn’t 100% sure of this, he would earn more experience for his kills at a lower level. Though he personally leaned toward the idea that it simply took more experience to advance, but the rewards were the same.

Either way, if he could slow down the leveling, that would also increase his chances of getting the information he needed to unlock a really sweet class at level 10, without overleveling himself on a shit class and forever losing out on extra points per level that a far better class might grant him.

This, more than anything else, decided him.

Doing his best to push aside lingering doubts, he made his decision.

And he wasn’t going to do it halfway.

“Hell, yeah! Maximum potency to skill enhancement conversion, pretty please!” He whispered softly with a gamer’s manic grin.

And instantly regretted it, as the massive rat that had been slowly expiring squealed in sudden thrashing desperation, refusing to go quietly into that final good night, just as a massive wave of dizziness hit Eric.

It was all he could do to stay on his feet.

He immediately sprang back from the beast’s death throws, trading spear for heater shield and raised saber as he spun around, looking for any sign of stalking predators about to pounce.

But there was nothing in these newly explored tunnels, save for this single patrolling pair.

Which was a good thing, because his limbs were feeling hot and flush, his heart racing with something beyond the frenzy of battle.

This was different. This was him feeling like he was about to pass out, sensing that somehow he had opened the floodgates to allowing his interface to affect not just the potency infusing his body with strength as he leveled up, but allowing it to alter his very mind.

What the hell had he been thinking?

Hadn’t he been warped and altered enough, since he had entered that damned pod? Now he was going to let the interface power-level his own neuronal connections for hyper-fast training fueled by the maximum allowed fraction of all potency absorbed from his kills?

Then he groaned, quickly closing his eyes and scanning the messages now flashing through his interface. Messages ignored as he desperately looked for a way to stop whatever was going on.

Only to find that he had effectively thrown open the floodgates to power now sending signals through his psyche he dare not mess with, lest he end up killing himself in the process.

 

He shook his head, feeling a surge of unexpected anxiety as another wave of dizziness overcame him after he gathered up the rats, realizing he just might be in way over his head, if his body and brain were getting ready for a hard reboot. In the middle of rat territory, after he had dared travel so far from his bunker, leaving so many opportunities for his enemies to coordinate and ambush him from behind.

He swallowed back the sudden surge of panic, channeling his fear of falling into a catatonic daze into a hyper-alert focus that flickered over absolutely everything as he began loping back the way he came, making full use of his Rank 5 Infravision, a skill he hadn't even realized he had been leveling up as much as he had. Not until he found he could literally sense the organs in his prey, spot the heart beating underneath the skin of those giant rats, which had made evolving the Find Weakness skill a natural extension of his growing ability. But all that mattered right then was that he was now able to differentiate between the minute shifts in temperature between individual stone tiles and the environment all around him as effortlessly and naturally as if he were jogging along a street on a bright summer day.

He was now desperate to get back to safety, wondering if he had been holding off too long in ignoring the messages blinking in the corner of his mind's eye.

It was a harrowing hour, making his way back home, expecting an ambush around every corner, especially after making steady use of his Essence skills today. Yet much to his surprise and relief, he didn’t grow faint with weakness like he had when he had last pushed himself too hard. If anything, he felt stronger than ever, his muscles overwhelmed with a strange tingle, as if they were somehow on the cusp of an odd breakthrough of their own.

When the side-tunnel leading to his shelter was finally in sight, he almost shook with relief.

But he refused to play the fool when he was so close to a triumphant close to his hunt, carefully looking all around for any sign of traps, tripwires, or trouble, having learned never to underestimate his prey.

But there was nothing.

No telltale flashes of heat in the distance, or rats trying to hide close by, half-obscured by cold stone tiles around the bend. No piles of bones oddly placed to warn rats of intruders, which he had spotted twice when he had dared the deeper tunnels.

There was nothing at all to be seen, smelled, or heard that hadn’t been present before.

Yet for whatever reason, his heart was pounding when he finally darted across the main passage and into his own side tunnel.

But it was empty of everything, and the tripwire of twine he had set up, looped around a bundle of bones balancing several pots and pans lay completely undisturbed.

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, feeling like eyes were watching him the entire time, he quickly spun open the lock, only for it to refuse to pop open.

His heart was now hammering as a cold spike of dread brought everything to nightmare-like focus.

Taking a deep, shuddering breath after a quick look all around, he took off his gloves, cursing his strangely trembling fingers...wasn’t he over that? As he dialed the numbers one more time.

Feeling a rapturous surge of relief when the lock effortlessly popped off and he yanked open the vault door and slipped inside just as fast as he could, giddy with relieved laughter when he spun the door tightly shut and collapsed upon his favorite leather couch, feeling such a surge of warmth for his brightly lit sanctuary, before his eyes rolled back and he found himself spiraling in darkness, before being trapped in a nightmare comprised of fighting for his life against a rat swarm that just wouldn’t end.

Rats that ultimately ate him alive, no matter how many crossbow bolts he fired.

No matter how desperately he used his spear.

The massive swarm of rats kept tripping him off his feet before devouring his kicking, screaming form.

Over and over again.

Yet each time, he got just a little bit better at sniping off two crossbow bolts, putting out the two largest fiends with shots that tore right through their brainpans.

Then fast-drawing his saber and ripping out the throat of another squealing rodent in a spray of crimson before quickly summoning his spear and desperately dodging and darting around a milling cavern of death, caving in skulls with quarter-staff like blows of his spear before plunging the tip of his weapon through eyes, necks, and hearts with a surgeon's precision.

Each move carefully orchestrated to inflict maximum damage with minimal risk to his person; every sweep of his shaft, shift of his feet, swing of his hips, all working to buy him just a few more seconds of life than it had the last time the swarm had overrun him.

It was a nightmare he thought would never end.

Until, abruptly, it did.

 

You have successfully slain multiple rats of a level succeeding your own with the use of spears!

You have successfully slain multiple rats of a level exceeding your own with the use of crossbows!

You have successfully injured multiple rats of a level exceeding your own with the use of sabers!

You have chosen MAXIMUM potency to skill rank conversion! (Race dependent, Node Dependent, Contender Status Dependent.)

This decision cannot be reversed until Bronze Tier is reached!

You have achieved Rank 10 in Spear!

You have achieved Rank 10 in Crossbow!

You have achieved Rank 8 in Saber!

 

Congratulations! You have achieved Journeyman status in: Crossbow! You now enjoy +1 to Finesse and +2 to Perception as increasing mastery over the crossbow becomes mastery over yourself!

You may now choose 1 weapon related perk as the essence of the hunter becomes your own!

- Hawk Flight – (Standard) - This perk taps into the living memory of countless millions of quarrels and arrows that have sailed far beyond what any hunter or assassin had a right to expect! Taking the Hawk Flight Perk will permanently double your range with the Bow and the Crossbow, with further increases as you continue to rank up and commune ever deeper with your chosen skill.

- Precise Shot – (Standard) – This perk taps into the living memory of countless hunters before you who understood that accuracy was everything on the hunt. Taking the Precise Shot perk will grant you a permanent bonus to all your shots at all ranges! This bonus will increase as you continue to improve your skill!

- True Shot – (Adept) This perk allows you to hit your target with unerring accuracy! Your momentary flash of supernatural insight automatically accounts for wind, distance, and your prey's current trajectory! Note. As this is a ranged weapon, unexpected gusts of wind or changes in your opponent's trajectory (such as making an unexpected leap or dodge) could still result in a miss, especially at far range. At close range, or against a distant but stationary target, a bullseye is practically guaranteed!

- Critical Strike – (Adept - Terran Heritage) This perk taps into the killing insights of countless hunters before you whose revelations blend so well with the millions of assassins who have used this weapon or variants of this weapon on countless worlds. For just a moment, you’ll know exactly where to strike your target with this weapon in your hands to cause maximum damage! You might not be guaranteed an accurate hit, but you know exactly where to hit to make that magic happen!

 

Warning: If you fail to pick a skill evolution perk before you next fall asleep, the one deemed most compatible with your physiology will automatically be chosen!

 

Congratulations! You have achieved Journeyman status in: Spear! You now enjoy +1 to Strength, Finesse, and Quickness as increasing mastery over the spear becomes mastery over yourself!

You may now choose 1 weapon related perk as the essence of the spear becomes your own! Note. As you have evolved your spear skill along the hunter's path and have failed to engage in any formalized sparring since interface evolution, you are unable to select any perks related to warding enemy blows or countering an opponent's ward. All Perks will become increasingly effective, and you will be able to make use of said perks with increasing frequency, as you continue to rank up this skill!

Skill Evolution perks available to you at this time:

- Enhanced Hunter’s Accuracy – (Advanced – Heritage) - The Terran part of your heritage has been using sharp sticks for millions of years!

Hunter’s Accuracy is a permanent enhancement perk that will make it near effortless to tap into ancestral memory to assure smooth, graceful strikes that hit with perfect grace and form! This perk will significantly improve your accuracy and balance while using the spear, and will increase as you further improve your own mastery over your ancestral weapon!

- Enhanced Hunter’s Throw – (Advanced - Heritage) The Terran part of your heritage has been using sharp sticks for millions of years! Even your shoulder sockets have evolved with spear throwing in mind. Even with your limited personal experience at casting a spear, this perk is available to you!

Hunter’s Throw is a permanent enhancement perk that will make it near effortless to tap into the prowess of your ancestors, where a successful hunt could literally be the difference between life and death! This perk will significantly increase the reach and accuracy of all your hurled spears and similar weapons, allowing for 3x standard range and heightened accuracy that will continue to improve as you rank up this skill! (Enhanced Version).

- Note. This will additionally unlock a synergistic Throwing Skill that you may rank up separately.

- Piercing Strike - (Adept - Heritage) For one brief moment in time, embrace the killing fury of countless millions of hunters before you in delivering one deadly thrust that can pierce through almost anything!

- Truestrike – (Adept – Heritage) - This perk allows you to hit your target with unerring accuracy! Your momentary flash of supernatural insight automatically accounts for your prey's rapid attempts to dodge and evade! Whether a fast-moving hare, or the eyes of a powerfully built opponent, you're sure to hit your mark, unless your opponent counters the blow at a significant penalty!

- Critical Strike – (Adept - Heritage) - This perk taps into the ancestral wisdom of countless generations of hunters before you! For just a moment, you’ll know exactly where to strike your prey with this weapon in your hands to cause maximum damage! You might not be guaranteed a deadly hit, but you know exactly where to hit to make that magic happen!

Warning: If you fail to pick a skill evolution perk before you next fall asleep, the one deemed most compatible with your physiology will automatically be chosen!

 

Congratulations! You are now a Level 3 Conscript!

You have successfully invested THREE character points into Vitality. Vitality is now 17! You’re now tougher and can run and fight longer than 99% of all mortals lacking interfaces!

Your scars continue to fade. Inflammation has decreased and the pattern of flame that is your soul has begun to reveal itself! Congratulations, you have hair once more! Appearance has improved by 2 points!

 

Eric gazed at the prompts for long moments, both awed and overjoyed by the messages bubbling up across his interface, sweet and welcome, like the finest champagne.

He was profoundly surprised to find himself skilling up so quickly, even considering the choice he had made, and he knew it was far more than just an arbitrary number. He could feel his mind flooding with a plethora of insights, recalling the desperate fights against the rats so clearly.

It was as if he had replayed, studied, and analyzed every feint and strike, every defensive leap back and lunge, every successful piercing of eyes, throats, and hearts, countless times before, the lessons ingrained in the now far more coordinated movements of his body every bit as much as it was in his mind.

And perhaps he had somehow managed to do just that, in a nightmare that had seemed without end, that he now suspected was just a System induced training routine. And how coordinated and graceful the movements had felt.

To the point that, according to his interface, he was transcending the limits of what 95% of even crack-trained troops here on Earth would ever achieve.

Save, of course, for those who could level up, just like him.

And the fact that hitting a level 10 milestone in any given skill not only gave stat bonuses of 3 points in total, exactly what he earned with a Conscript level, but also gave him access to incredible perks that almost seemed to border on powers as he attuned to what seemed to be the potency inherent in weapon mastery itself in this brave new world, meant that choosing a maximum experience to skill conversion might just have been the most savvy decision he could have possibly made.

Even if he absolutely hated the idea of a pod-implanted interface messing with his brain to an ungodly degree.

Because sure as heck, his ‘Journeyman Rank’ meant a lot more to the System than it might to the blacksmith’s apprentice of 200 years ago. He smirked as this thought alone brought an unexpected message to his mind’s eye.

Note. Journeyman Status in any given skill is according to galactic standards.

Achieving this degree of skill implies a mastery beyond what most mortal practitioners are ever able to achieve, as a portion of all potency earned goes to enhancing the synaptic interconnections responsible for your survival!

NOTE! The degree of potency available for skill mastery is race dependent / meridian node dependent! - Most Terran adventures have MINIMAL access to a LIMITED number of nodes. Said skill growth from killing opponents will thus be MINIMAL for most! Diligent practice and study under a skilled trainer are both highly recommended in order to maximize your chances of survival!

Almost giddy with excitement, he thought about the various ways he could evolve his two new Journeyman Tier skills. He couldn't help quirking a smile at references to his Terran heritage, as if he were a single generation from casting spears at choice game racing across the Serengeti. Still, if that condescension meant he now had 4 spear perks to choose from, even though he had, as it noted, evolved the skill completely independent of fighting any like-armed individuals, using it to take down and defend against predatory animals only. Which, come to think of it, was probably how spears had been used throughout most of human history. Occasionally defending oneself against aggressive or hungry neighboring tribes, but mostly using them bring home fresh game to feed the family.

With the crossbow selections offering 3 instead of 4 options, the Interface seemed to be implying he was communing with the galactic knowledge and mastery of the weapon as a whole. Which was fine with him, since he liked the choices both represented, and was more than happy to take any snarky comments or historical lore with a smile, so long as it presented paths of power that could, quite literally, mean the difference between life and death for him in the hunts to come.

With that grim thought in mind, he knew he had to make his choice not as a gamer. More than anything else, he wanted to grab the permanent enhancement perks. He didn’t give a fig that they were relegated as ‘standard’ perk options. Because few things were sweeter than permanent passive bonuses, especially if the active enhancements required time, limited resources, or techniques he didn’t have yet. Even looking at the big picture, there was a huge advantage to be had with stacking multiple passive buffs that would all be used concurrently, as opposed to a couple active powers he had to choose between and that he could only use sporadically or a limited number of times.

But still. When all was said and done, the perfect character build, the perfect use of his own potential, meant absolutely nothing if he didn’t survive long enough to see that happen.

He was already behind the gun, a vindictive pod giving him the only basic tier class it even offered. Not even standard. But he wasn't going to let that stop him. He sure as hell wasn't going to quit life, or advancing, just because some folks might have an even better setup. Good for them! Even 3 points a level made such a phenomenal difference in his health and quality of life that it brought him near tears just thinking about how far he had already come. And how far he could still go.

And he sure as well wasn't going to let his own life story be cut short,because he was trying to min-max when he should have been focused on the only thing that mattered.

Survival.

And that meant, above all else, making that one crucial shot that might save his life count.

For the crossbow that meant taking True Shot. Because even if he could only use it once in a blue moon, he could think of no more useful ability than being able to hit exactly where he aimed at, even if for the eye of a madly charging rat, eager to tear out his throat. And considering the underground tunnels that were both his hunting grounds and home, he didn't have to worry about range, at least not yet, and at close range, the likelihood of someone jerking back or dodging in time to react to a crossbow bolt going 500 feet per second was minimal at best.

Even at long range, the perk would be extremely useful, he thought, for drawing a bead on his target, such as if he were hunting large game and wanted a perfect kill shot for a quick, merciful death.

The choice for spears was even harder. Because he would love nothing more than to take what seemed to be enhanced versions of the standard buffs, permanent enhancements that would allow him to hit with even more grace and accuracy than before, as if he had gained a massive finesse buff, or throw it at triple the normal range, with added accuracy as well. Incredible boons, and they'd be passive and permanent.

But no. Here too, he knew he’d have to pass. Because as the interface itself had remarked, he had no specialized perks for dealing with like-armed spearmen, no special technique for parrying their own strikes, or feinting past their own defenses.

Piercing Strike was the active enhancement he knew he had to make.

Not True Strike, which was so crucial in archery but far less of a concern when using melee weapons at 6 feet or less, especially if he chose the Advanced passive. And he refused to take Critical Strike for either of his abilities, because here is where his Infravision talent truly shone, already giving him a sense of where crucial organs were located within his prey, assuring for effective thrusts that would slide perfectly between the ribs, the darkness doing nothing to hide his prey's secrets either.

What he needed was the ability to blast through almost any material, as the interface itself said, which Eric could only hope meant his spear might have a shot against truly fearsome prey with absurdly thick armor… or skilled human foes who, despite all his training with his mentor, he had never fought in killing earnest against before.

If he was going to be forced to fight for his life, he could think of no better perk than one that could potentially blast right through shields and armor, or pierce even the skull of a massive charging rat as it lunged for the kill.

Piercing Strike could very well be the difference between life and death.

With mixed feelings, he made his choices, and he was swept away by a sudden flood of memories that weren't his own… before they suddenly were.

Countless times he had squeezed the trigger of his crossbow to make the killing shot against massive mastodons against a backdrop of brilliant blue skies…. Or wrapping his tentacles around the trigger, piercing the tiny jewel-like heart-seed of his spawnmate’s unwanted courter, knowing just how to compensate for the steady pounding of the sulfuric rain. To a soldier steadying trembling claws as he spotted just by chance, the enemy commander retreating from the front lines and felt such a thrill as he unleashed his deadly quarrel in the split second he needed to send the Gromit tumbling off his crab as the bolt slipped right into the gaps between their race’s naturally armored hides.

Alien lives. Alien worlds. And a shuddering flash, they were his own.

He wanted to scream for the sheer overwhelming horror of it all, an echo away from madness… before it faded away like a distant dream.

But the moment he touched his crossbow, he felt a connection to it like he never had before. And he just knew that if he pushed himself, if he really really focused… the shots he could make would be beyond the pale.

Even if he only had the mental fortitude to tap into that potential a few times a day at best.

It was a similar experience when holding his spear, but at least the memories felt far more natural, feeling a shiver of wonder, in fact, when he realized in a sudden epiphany that all those ancient hunters he sensed lunging forward with desperate, furious power, plunging their spears through the hearts of lions, tigers, and fiercer game now long extinct, had been his own.

The memories of his father’s fathers were, for a precious heartbeat in time, his own.

He swallowed and wiped a tear from his eye, never having missed quite so acutely his own non-existent father as he did at that moment, for all that he felt closer to the man, or maybe his very humanity, than he did at that moment.

He gazed fondly at his pathetic excuse for a spear, filled with a sudden quiet confidence that when push came to shove, he would do his ancestors proud. Even if the desperate nature of the act would be so draining that he dare not try to use it more than once every battle.

At least for now, having just hit Journeyman status.

He took a good half hour to just sit and meditate and try to process everything that had happened to him, all the ways he had grown, and yes, try to become comfortable with the ghosts of countless ancient memories only now fading from his mind before he finally pulled up his character sheet once more.

Yet he couldn’t deny the sweet sense of joy he felt in all the ways he was growing and improving himself, his coordination and general health now far beyond what it had ever been before.

Even if his musculature wasn’t quite as powerful as it had been at his prime, his ropy muscles were now backed up by endurance that wouldn’t quit, and arms that wouldn’t tire, no matter how long he held his blade at the ready.

_____________________________________

Eric Silver Level 3 Conscript

 

Physical Characteristics

Strength12 (57%)

Vitality – 17 (02%) (You can now fight harder and longer than 99% of mortals lacking interfaces!)

Finesse – 15 (Your grace and coordination make you a deadly opponent with spear, saber, or crossbow!)

Quickness – 12 (You’re now faster than 75% of all unleveled mortals fighting for their lives!)

Appearance – 9 (Healthy skin is finally starting to show between your scars! You finally have eyebrows and a full head of hair!)

 

Mental Characteristics

Scholarship – 12

Perception – 15 (You’re more perceptive than 95% percent of your mortal peers when it comes to spotting and drawing a bead on your target, or sensing someone trying to draw a bead on you!)

Willpower – 15

Charisma – 13

 

Stamina – 190 Points (Your stamina and rate of recovery now far exceed the norm! If you were just a bit faster and stronger, you could easily be a professional athlete!)

Health212 Points

 

Interface Recognized Skills

Crossbows – Rank 10 (True Shot)

ESS Manipulation – Rank 5

Saber – Rank 8

Spear – Rank 10 (Piercing Strike)

Stealth – Rank 5

Swimming – Rank 2

 

Interface Enhancements

Full Neuro-Linguistic capabilities

Extradimensional Storage Space

 

Essences Claimed:

Fire (Rank 1)

Wrath (Rank 1)

 

Essence Related Skills:

Infravision: Rank 5

Heat Surge: Rank 2

_____________________-

 

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