Day 3: A Gift from the Gods
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Eyes. My eyes. I needed to open my eyes.

It took all the strength I had, but slowly, painfully, they opened like stuck shutters. Something was… gnawing at my hand. I looked down, only to see a rat. A small rat. A small rat with twelve eyes. I tried to twitch my fingers and it scurried off quickly. 

This world is so fucking scary. 

I couldn’t move. Everything was numb and cold. I’m more surprised I woke up at all. I wasn’t going to make it like this. I was really going to die without a miracle. Dead in some sewer. But there was no such thing as ‘plot armor’ in this world. I’d have to do it all myself- 

My status. It was… blinking. It took more effort than I’d have ever imagined to say the word, but I managed. So cold. So tired. 

“Status.” I whispered out like a breath of death. 

[Level Up!] 

[Name: Matt

Level: 1 

Free stat points: 5

Qi points: 1

Qi Rank: Qi Condensation Rank 2

Achievements: [Welcome to The Gameshow] [The Royal Road] [Humanity’s First Fear] [Creative Care] [Boned] [Anti-Deus Ex] [Legs For Days] [Bleed To Bleed Another Day]

Titles: N/A

Strength: 7

Speed: 9 

Endurance: 9 

Magic: 4

Mind: 12] 

A level up. My first level up. That meant… the Gods. I’d reached 100 Likes. I might… actually survive this. There was no doubt in my mind about what to do next. I’d felt the effects of getting just 2 endurance. 

[Name: Matt

Level: 1 

Free stat points: 0

Qi points: 1

Qi Rank: Qi Condensation Rank 2

Achievements: [Welcome to The Gameshow] [The Royal Road] [Humanity’s First Fear] [Creative Care] [Boned] [Anti-Deus Ex] [Legs For Days] [Bleed To Bleed Another Day]

Titles: N/A

Strength: 7

Speed: 9 

Endurance: 14 

Magic: 4

Mind: 12] 

Suddenly, I felt my whole body feel like it was going to explode. Tension and pain rushed back into me. I couldn’t even scream, as my whole body locked up, and my side burned even worse than when I’d originally gotten the injury. Tears fell from my eyes and as suddenly as the pain came, it vanished, as if it was a mirage. 

But the feelings left behind weren’t. I could feel my heartbeat, my blood, the coldness of the sewer but also the warmth of my body. All steaming through me, rushing through me like a freight train of pure unfettered life. I’d been so close to death… so, so very close. Without that level up… I had a Qi point but would it have been enough? My body still felt sore and stiff, it still hurt, I was still hungry and so, so thirsty and tired, but I wasn’t dying. I was fully healed. The Qi point wouldn’t have been enough. 

I took a deep, shaky breath. I had survived. I had survived the skeleton and then everything that had come after. I had survived bleeding nearly to death in the bowels of a sewer. I was alive. I was still here. I was still alive. My shaky breath became a shaky laugh, as tears began to fall. This was… so fucked up. A few days ago, my life had been great. Now I’d nearly died and was stuck in a sewer, beneath a town of absolute horrors. Zombies and Skeletons were the least of the dangerous things here. And a single Skeleton alone had nearly killed me. There’d been… god… there’d been so many things I’d run past yesterday. 

My heart started beating hard, just imagining them. I couldn’t stay here. I’d have to leave this dank sewer to go find water soon. Actually… 

I quickly looked around the sewer but while it was still damp… there wasn’t an ounce of water nearby. Even if it was poisonous, I’d have taken it in a moment. My lips and throat were as dry a cracker. I didn’t even feel like I could spit. Blood loss had done nothing good for my dehydration. If I could make it back to the gas station… but where even was I? Where was the gas station? I hadn’t exactly been paying attention to the roads or where I was going as I fled for my life. Plus, I was defenseless. There had been that strange aura around my fist yesterday but- 

At that moment, a box spawned into existence and fell onto my lap. 

“Oof. A bit heavy. Huh. It’s already time for a new care package…” 

…I was scared. This would be the third package and I was scared. The first had been a harmless prank. Annoying but harmless. I was still sticky but it was mostly from blood and sweat now instead of chocolate. I grimaced. My entire body seemed to be covered in dried blood, especially around my left side. Peeling off my shirt from my body was going to suck. 

But, prank. The show hadn’t even ‘started’ yet. So, that was fine. But the next… a tie. A three way tie, between random, a positive effect, and a natural diaster. I may have gotten the positive effect… but I wouldn’t forget the last option. That might have really killed me. I could see it though, ‘why’ it was chosen. It was funny. It was interesting. The gods seemed to be… capricious. If the Hostess of this damn show was anything to go by, if the gods were all like her… that was worrying. 

But I’d made a request. I’d asked for something specific. I’d… I’d prayed for help. 

“Please don’t screw me over.” I said, before opening the care package. 

It wasn’t empty. The moment I opened it, the weight of the box seemed to increase. For the third time in less than five minutes, I cried. Not out of pain, not out of terror and relief, but out of… I don’t know. Happiness. Reverence. 

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.” 

I held the items within close to my chest, crying tears I couldn’t afford. 

Inside the box was the thing I’d needed since Day 1. There was a completely black chest piece, with a pair of pants, boots, and armbraces inside. All black. Armor. Actual armor. And next to them? A sword in a sheath. It looked like a straight up katana. 

The gods had… actually listened. 

I almost couldn’t believe it. I was… well… I was justifiably angry with them. All of them. I tried to swallow it but they did this to me. They put me here. They put me and my friends in this hell and even shoved my dog into a small cage and then dangled him over me like some kind of prize. But I realized… I had been making a lot of assumptions. Before and now. All I knew was that the gods were watching me… I didn’t know a damn thing about them besides that they could watch me and some of them could vote to help or hurt me. The only Goddess I knew anything about was… a pretty bad first example. She was the only one I had any interaction with and she seemed… evil. 

I needed to keep an open mind. And right now, I needed to put this on. 

The next few minutes were… miserable. The armor was great but getting it on was awful. Removing my shirt, peeling it off my bloody body, was even worse than I imagined. I’m pretty sure it removed a layer of skin on the way out. It sure hurt like it did. The chest piece was clearly never meant to be worn without a shirt underneath and chafed terribly. Somehow, my pants had gotten chewed up at some point and my shoes were practically in pieces. The boots were welcomed but my terrible socks weren’t. At least the pants and armbraces didn’t give much trouble, as they seemed designed to be outerwear. 

And there was the katana. There was a belt/sheath combo that went around my waist. Pulling out the sword, it was pure black. I was sensing a theme here in this world but it might literally just be related to how I’d beaten the Black Skeleton yesterday. The edge looked sharp but I didn’t exactly have anything to test it on. It felt good in my hands though. Really good. Really really really good. 

I finally felt like I could defend myself. If I had this yesterday… things might not have gone so horrible. 

But speaking of, there was something else I needed to make a decision on. It wasn’t a hard decision. 

[Would you like to spend a Qi point?]


I felt the invigoration of the stats, the feeling of my body getting stronger, faster, more durable, of connecting with the universe, and my mind turning sharper. It was damn near intoxicating. My decision was easy. Yesterday, I had a speed buff and hadn’t outrun the skeleton. It’d been one step behind me the whole way and seemingly had infinite stamina. That was when I had 21 in speed. Now, even after raising my cultivation realm, I only had 10. 

Feeling a little more human, a little more alive, I frowned and looked around. I was still in a sewer. Going up… was a choice. A bold one. A terrible one. I’d seen more than enough yesterday. If I had passed out damn near anywhere above, I’d be dead. The sewer, through the fact that I was still alive, was multiple times safer. 

But I needed food and water. I wasn’t going to find any down here. 

Taking a deep breath, I looked towards the ladder I’d… completely ignored when I fell down this hole. I had no idea how I’d even managed to close it on the way down. I needed to go back up. I didn’t want to but if I wanted to survive, I had to. 

Carefully, I climbed back up the ladder, moving the manhole cover. For once, I noticed the increase in my strength. I had started at 5 and was now at 8. That wasn’t exactly double strength but it was definitely noticeable. The manhole cover felt so much lighter than I thought it would. Maybe that should have worried me, but after yesterday… more strength and more power felt like the sweetest of treats in the world. 

Cautiously, I stepped out, only to immediately realize why I’d been able to escape. I was in the middle of a street, but there was a whole building around me. Something had clearly knocked it here. Brutally. It was crumbling, crushed, and on its side. I could see windows and doors tilted in a way I never expected to see. I didn’t even remember running in here but… I must have. Unless the building crashing down was new but… I felt like I would have remembered that. Or at the very least, heard it. 

I searched around my immediate surroundings, but there was nothing and that wasn’t really surprising. I’d traded one box for another. Looking out the sideways windows, their glass clearly shattered, I- 

My heart rate skyrocketed as I was face to face with a zombie. It stared at me, glassy eyed, empty. Nothing. My fear and terror skyrocketed and it was only my increase in mind that kept me from going crazy right then and there. As calmly as I could, almost in a trance, I swung my black katana. For a moment, I was left confused. The windows were wide, like that of an office building. More than enough for me to walk out of. My blade had moved, I was pretty sure. And yet, the zombie still stood, even though I was sure I’d swung. 

For a moment I thought the zombie was some horrible mirage, even though that terror deep inside me was so very real. 

And then its head fell off. 

I watched as if in slow motion, as its head fell to the ground before the rest of its body toppled over. There was a brief moment of struggle, of both head and body still trying to silently move, before they both stilled. Going back to nothing from whence they came. 

I looked at my blade, at my arm that had swung it, and blinked rapidly. I’d… done that. I’d swung and… and it had passed through so easily that I hadn’t felt it at all. My jaw dropped, even as the knowledge slammed into my brain. I… since when was I that strong? Since when were blades so sharp that they could cut through flesh easier than water? Were zombie bodies really so weak? 

No matter what, my mind calmed quickly, and a sense of absolute euphoria swam through me. I… I was doing it, really doing it. Not just surviving by the skin of my teeth, not just lost, afraid, and confused, I was surviving and thriving and murdering and winning. 

I had to hold back my laughter, feeling better than I had in what felt like years. There was just… no feeling like coming back from the brink of disaster. Even as I cautiously looked around, even as I spotted more insect-like creatures boldly moving about, dark black slimes that glided terribly across the ground with a half dozen snapping jaws and too many eyes, and even as I saw more zombies, I did not panic. I still felt good, if horrified. 

That feeling died when I saw the behemoth. 

Imagine a ball of pure black evil. Make it slightly cone shaped, as if a horn had fallen from some dark god. Add in a billion red vines, that seem to twist and curl around each other, constantly in motion, standing on four legs that look more like solid pillars. It moves not by taking steps, but as if from one moment to the next, a single leg has teleported forward and up somehow, yet hits the ground with the force of a bomb. The red vines twist and curl, sometimes dropping off, turning black before they even hit the ground, and then spreading out like snakes, before going inert. 

That was the behemoth. A monster. It had no face, it had no eyes, it barely had legs, but it sure had limbs. Those vines would twist together, forming massive tentacles the length of football fields, lashing out seemingly at random. One hit the ground for a moment and dirt was flung up higher than most buildings were tall.

I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. 

I walked out of the crumbled building, turned in the opposite direction from it, and began to move. Anywhere that brought me closer to it was the wrong way. The dark morning greeted me, light seeping from above, and I kept to the shadows, eyes alert. Monsters were everywhere in this town and they seemed more than willing to feast on each other. I saw some of those terrible vines fighting with one of those horrific blob creatures. They did not win. In fact, I was positive vines were incapable of screaming, and yet, the blob found a way. It had occurred to me before but… were those blobs fucking shoggoths? I really hope not otherwise… please tell me HP Lovecraft was wrong. 

Did it even matter if he was? The gods might have made eldritch monstrosities just for this gameshow. It was hard to say what they could and couldn’t do. Had they had something to do with how this world ended up, or had they just teleported me here? I had no idea how strong the Gods were. 

I continued my trek. I had expected… more. But as I got further from the area, the less noise I heard. Soon, it became as silent as the grave. I was heading through parts of the town, slowly making my way through. Every one of my steps thundered in my ears. If I met a single monster… I was probably going to die. Sweat coated my back and terror coursed through me. This was bad. I couldn’t stay like this, this was just asking to die. I should head back down into the sewers immediately and- 

I turned a corner and nearly fainted. There was something I had been terrified to run into from the moment I arrived and met my first danger. Something that exists in every movie with them in it. Something I knew would be terrible to face from a mental standpoint alone. 

I could say with certainty that I had never felt the way I do now. I had found a zombie horde. A thousand zombies, standing there, still as statues. Not moving, not breathing, not fighting, not making any sounds, just standing there. All outside what looked like a massive store. 

My mind rebelled, 13 in the stat not nearly enough to handle what I was seeing, and I only kept my sanity because I immediately looked away. I didn’t know if the fear was natural or unnatural but it was debilitating. The worst part of it all was what they were in front of. A massive super store. The kind that would have food, water, supplies. The kind that would have a backpack. Fresh clothes. The kind that would let me survive another day. By now, the thirst and hunger were hurting me and I couldn’t afford to wait much longer. I was hungry but it was nothing compared to how thirsty I was. I felt like a dried sack of flour. Like I was dust. 

I needed that store. I needed to get in there. And then I needed to get out. All without drawing the whole zombie horde to me. There were other buildings… but none looked like houses or stores. This world… it was odd. Even now I hadn’t seen a single car. 

I shouldn’t jump into anything. All I needed was food and water, that wasn’t worth drawing an entire horde of zombies. I should explore the buildings around me. There had to be some place with a fridge or bottle of water or something. 

Cautiously, extremely cautiously, I entered a different building. It seemed to be a small… office space? My sword was the ready, my grip on the handle in a death grip. The last building I’d went into had a skeleton that had nearly killed me. I didn’t like my chances facing one. I turned a corner-

Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope. 

I tried not to run. I failed. With heart racing, breath hitching, and fear swimming through me, I fled in a nearly blind panic. I had considered the zombie horde I couldn’t look at, to be the worst thing I’d see today. How naive. How hopeful. 

I had seen more. A town had so, so many people. The office I’d walked into, apparently had an open cubicle layout. And I’d seen them. Dozens and dozens of zombies. But not just any kind. They were all dead. Stripped of flesh. All of it. Bones showing, with more than a few removed. I knew what that meant. What dozens of stripped zombies meant. 


I left and scrambled away, not daring to be any closer for even a minute. I looked around me, wide in panic. I’d entered a school before, I was pretty sure, and that seemed to have everything but the kitchen sink in it. This building? A skeleton processing area. How many more? Would I walk into the next building and find a nest of those horrible scorpion-ant monsters? Perhaps a massive shoggoth that would eat me in a moment? 

I was getting hysterical, I needed to calm down, but that was impossible. I wasn’t just walking a tightrope of death, I was surviving currently by pure and utter chance. Even if I hid in the shadows, I was out in the open. I needed to leave the town immediately. I looked back to the mega store. There was no way inside was safe. I had no idea how to even get inside. But playing ‘Guess if you’ll die!’ with buildings was without a doubt my worst option. Alright. Alright, alright alright. Let’s think. 

It’s a store. It’ll have entrances behind it. The Zombies all seemed to be in front, standing in the parking lot. I can just go around them, to the back entrance, get in that way. I plotted my course and grimaced. I’d need to pass through… a lot of areas. Staying hidden would be hard but doable. 



The town seemed to be majorly made of five ‘species.’ Zombies, skeletons who preyed on zombies, Scorpion-ant things, shoggoths, and vines. I wasn’t including the single behemoth I could see even now. 

I had found a sixth. Or more like forgotten about them. 

Fast zombies. Unlike the dead, terrifyingly horrible ones, these ones seemed more out of the movies. There was ‘emotion’ there, if you count snarls, hunger, and growls ‘emotion’. I hadn’t been able to notice before but it was different in another way from zombies. It had ‘died’. The zombies just… were dead. This zombie had a clear gunshot wound in its chest. That brought up so many questions, none answerable. 

The problem was I now knew why the back entrance wasn’t an option, or at least, not guarded by a horde of zombies. A pack of six of the fast kind were standing there, guarding it. Well, I didn’t know if they were ‘guarding’ but they hardly moved out of place, so I felt it was a good assumption to make. 

Now came the question. 

Can I take six fast zombies? I had a sword and armor now. My stats were decent considering. I could probably slice right through them. But I remembered the zombie from yesterday. It had been nearly as fast as the skeleton. Perhaps these zombies would eventually become those skeletons. 

What was my other option? All of the other buildings could be less safe and give less stuff. Even if there was a hundred skeletons in there, they probably all couldn’t run through a single door together. I probably had at least a semi-chance of being able to run back into the sewers. I’d already found the nearest manhole cover I could. 

So… so I was really doing this. Okay, okay okay okay. I psyched myself up. The blade was sharp. Just, just swing for their torsos. I could stab them in the head later.

I moved forward from behind the shattered wall I was hiding behind and suddenly they were nearly on top of me. 


I swung my blade and fully accepted it was no normal chunk of metal. It went perfectly, meeting the chest of the first zombie, and didn’t slow down one bit. 

But it was only so long and there was six of them. I’d been stupid. They tackled me, bringing me to the ground in a moment. My eyes widened and my blade moved, catching on in the head, but I barely had room to swing it. Four zombies were left and they clawed at me, tearing into me, blocked only by a sword and my chest piece. One bit my arm with more force than I thought a human was capable of, but the armbrace protected me. 

I was held down and a new form of terror, that of utter helplessness, of being ganged up on by multiple things, blossomed in me. 

“No! No! Get off me!” 

I stabbed one but even for my super blade, that still made getting out of it hard. I wasn’t lucky enough for them to just attack my chest and arms, my legs and waist were starting to be attacked and torn into. At this rate I’d really die. I focused, my mind nearly buckling as I tried to keep my panic under control, when I felt it. That aura from before. I felt it from my… core. It was familiar. I latched onto it like a dying man seeking salvation. 

It poured through my hand holding the sword and for a half second, my sword gleamed green and black. It tore through the zombie but more importantly, my arm moved so much faster. I caught another one in the swing, by pure luck, and that left only two. One trying to eat my unmentionables and another stuck to my arm, trying to bite it off. Neither were hard to deal with, their choice of attack not blocking my arm. 

I sat there, gasping, surrounded by six corpses. Six full corpses now at least. There was so much going through my brain… but it’d been overloaded in the last few days and then buffed with my mind stat. What my thoughts instantly turned to, instead of that horrible nightmare I was going to have PTSD over, was that aura. I’d felt it this time. It felt… exactly like… 

“Qi. It’s Qi.” 

Qi wasn’t just stats. It was some kinda, thing. I knew they used it in anime and stuff. Chi, chakra, qi, ki, etc. Some kind of… energy. And now I had that energy. I felt inwardly drained, as if tapped even drier than before, but I could use it now. That Qi. Only for half a moment, but that moment was literally the difference between life and death. It made me faster, stronger, and seemed to work on my blade to make everything before it even easier to cut through. 

If anything, as I laid there, once more bleeding, I felt thankful. I’d now thoroughly learned that numbers were a power all it’s own and I’d engrave this lesson onto my heart for all time to come. I doubted I’d be fast enough any time soon to prevent six bodies from tackling me to the ground. I’d been a fool to think otherwise. 

Getting up hurt. The armor had saved my life and prevented the worst of it, but it didn’t protect everything. My waist in particular seemed to be gouged a little. But it seemed light, and was light, in comparison to the wounds I usually received. 

“Usually received… get it together. You only came to near death once. Don’t treat that like the baseline.” 

Shaking my head, it was finally time to see what I’d earned with that fight. There would definitely be more zombies inside but so long as I was careful, I should be fine. I approached the door, reached out, except… 

[Challenge found!] 


[Challenge type: Endurance! 

Reward: 10 Qi Points!

Special notes: This challenge requires an entire day to attempt! As such, your day will immediately end. Don’t worry though! You’ll be fully healed, refreshed, fed, clothed, washed, and fully rehydrated! Peak condition will be returned to you!] 

I stared at the prompt. This was… I wasn’t stupid. 10 Qi points… that was a shit ton. If I didn’t hit the unknown stat decrease, that was a +10 stats to everything. But… I had no idea what the challenge actually was. Just that it was an endurance test. But I could put two and two together. Zombie horde outside, six fast zombies in the back, Endurance challenge… it would probably force me to survive a whole day of waves and waves of zombies. 

My mind bucked at that but I held it down. 

The peak condition note was perfect. Too perfect. My day would end. That meant 24 hours of countless zombies. That was too many. I’d definitely die. I frowned. Or not. Despite the absolute terror slow zombies gave… they were slow. They hardly moved. If I could swallow the terror… it really would be an endurance test to take care of them. 

The hard part would be the fast zombies. I assumed I’d be stuck inside the store the whole day. But 10 Qi points was worth 10 levels. Could I afford not to do it? In 3 days, I’d gotten 1 level. At this rate, I might make level 10 by the end of the month and get a class… but even that probably wouldn’t be enough by itself. At least, it doesn’t feel like it would be. A month is a long time. I’d already picked up a lot of achievements, who knew how strong I’d be after a full 30 days. And the challenge came at the end. If anything, I was probably behind the curve. 

I took a breath. More than anything… I was helpless. The fast zombies were the peak of what I could fight. If it had been just one skeleton here, I would have had to leave. I was too weak. I needed to get stronger, immediately. 

This was stupid. But I couldn’t afford to not do it. 

“I accept.” 

And then everything went black. 


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