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Chapter 15

Age 749, Tuesday, July 9, Out At Sea

It had been a few hours since I set sail from South City, and I had to admit: Peelo had done a magnificent job repairing this old hunk of junk.

It still groaned in familiar ways, but I expected as much, really. The old timer had warned me, too.

He did, however, neglect to mention the new padded seat, which was an awesome addition if you asked me.


Ping!

Your [Sailing] skill has leveled up!

Sailing (Lv 47- 1%/Passive): Many men and women have looked towards the sea in wonder and astonishment, but very few were actually brave enough to have crossed it on boat. You, having braved the storm and all its beauty and horror, know just how dangerous the sea can really be. 51% Increase in boat speed. 35% Increase in boat turning speed.


I smiled at the progress— “been a while since I’ve seen that skill. Full speed would be a bit over 90 kph if I remember my calculation correctly.”

And the rough distance from South City to the western landmass on this map was… 6000 km?

A bit over 66 hours if I were to go nonstop— which was obviously impossible, as I would have to stop to refuel, as well as eat and rest… Not to mention the possibility of facing storms or more pirate scum.

Driving for 6 hours, then eating and refueling, then driving for another six hours before relaxing for the rest of the day would make this particular trip take about… six days.

I rounded the estimate up to a week in case there was a storm or something— maybe a week and a half if my luck was beyond awful and I got attacked by a killer whale or a band of pirates.

I nodded to myself and pushed the boat to top speed, picking up speed until the cold air was slamming against my body— my dark green jacket protecting me from most of the chill.

It might have been summertime, but out at sea, staying warm and dry was of the utmost importance.

Pulling Uranai Baba’s letter from my inventory, I read through its contents once more.


Letter From An Old Hag

Item: Letter
Class: Common

Description: A letter sent to you from the Fortune-teller Baba.

Contents:

To the son of Ren.

You have inherited his talent for the mystic arts— the fact that you’re able to read this very letter proves it.

You have an open invitation to my palace in the west.

Uranai Baba


As far as letters went, she’d probably given me the minimum amount of information possible, but just enough to pique my interest.

My father was apparently talented in the “mystic arts”, which was a fancy way of saying magic, and he knew this old lady in some way.

From Peelo’s revelation, I realized my father likely knew this old fortune-teller quite well, if he’d truly made the number of trips he had.

I mean, I had known for some time that my father’s life had probably been different than everyone else’s. Why else would his bracelet have been enchanted to boost the wearer’s attributes?

On that note, had he really died in an accident?

I remembered that day well; I’d just come home from school, only to see my mother sitting at the kitchen table crying her heart out, her phone broken on the ground, among other things.

All she’d said was that there was an accident, and that dad wouldn’t be coming home anymore. I hadn’t understood it back then. How could I have?

I was just a dumb kid, then.

Eventually I realized that he wasn’t coming back because he was dead. There was apparently not even a body. We had a gravestone made for him, but there was no one buried underneath it.

I’d visited it once and never again. It had all been too much to bear; it was one of the big reasons why I began to escape into games.

But, this was something I could no longer escape.

In the distance, I saw a whale leap high into the air, crashing back down in the water with a huge splash and a decently sized wave.

I smiled slightly.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to escape, anymore.

oooo

Age 749, Thursday, July 18, Near the Western Landmass

I grinned as I spotted the land in the distance with my binoculars, steering the boat a bit to the right.

The trip had actually been pretty dull, all things considered. The previous one had been filled with storms, pirate attacks and the like.

This one? Peaceful to a fault— a bit longer than anticipated, but it wasn’t so bad.

It wasn’t that I wanted something bad to happen, but just to have anything happen to ease the sense of crushing boredom one could only get with no human contact and nothing to pass the time with but a sizeable stack of books kept within my inventory.

Speaking of the books…

It was something I’d promised my mother I’d do. She wanted me to eventually get a degree in something, and I thought I’d pick something in line with my interests— in this case, Computer Engineering, Robotics, that sort of thing.

So, I read through the books while steering the boat, and also while relaxing— though I had to watch where I was going when I ended up focusing too hard on the books.

That had set me back quite a bit, actually.

Anyway… About three quarters of the way through my books, I had, to my surprise, received a skill.

And, like any skill, I grinded it by reading the remaining books, which led me to this point:


Techie (Lv 5-32%/Passive): Your keen interest in technology will bring you far in life, as it is the future of your race. At the moment, your theoretical knowledge is extensive, though you have no true experience with the “hands-on” aspect of your education.


Anyway, that had taken me all of six days to achieve. The maths and physics books had been considerably dry reads despite my interest in the subject, but I powered on through them, heavily abusing my INT stat as well as my [Speed Reading] skill, which had gained some levels of its own.

Speaking of stats, reading the books themselves had raised both my INT and WIS.

Doing higher level mathematics, solving complex physics problems, learning methods of programming and the like, all of these had required me to use my mind to its utmost limit.

It certainly hadn’t been easy.

I pulled up my [Status Sheet] for a few moments:


Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer


Level: 19 (16,800/20,000 XP)
Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 6,845
MP: 5,994
Ki: 8,712

STR: 50 (83.5)
VIT: 62 (103.54)
AGI: 50 (83.5)
INT: 62 (79.98)
WIS: 60 (77.4)

Points: 52
Battle Power: 90.2


I gave a quick read through the window, before dismissing it in satisfaction. The increase in stats was worth it.

Ten minutes later, and I was ashore, the boat giving the telltale groan it made when beginning to brush up against the land.

Placing whatever junk I had lying around on the boat back into my inventory, I turned the old ship into a capsule once again, stepping onto dry land.

A second later, I nodded, pulling my jacket off and throwing it into the inventory. Now that I was no longer out at sea, it was starting to get awfully toasty.

The July sun beat down on me as I began my trek in the wilderness, heading towards the mountains to the north of me— the logic being that I would be better able to navigate once I got to a high enough altitude.

Plus, it would probably be fun, I figured.

Actually reaching the mountain was taking a lot longer than I expected— one of those cases when something in the distance looks so big that you believe it’s actually close.

An hour’s walk and I was still probably about a third of the way there— I couldn’t be too sure, my perceptions feeling skewed and casting doubt in my mind.

I was about to stop to drink some water, but was interrupted by a strange thud in the distance, steadily growing stronger with every second.

With an earth-shaking roar, a dinosaur burst out of the tree line, a T-rex— wait, no; it was an allosaurus. I had a bit of a dinosaur obsession while growing up, and I knew the difference between the breeds, and especially how this particular breed behaved.

Which meant— I heard nothing but roars as another two, slightly smaller allosauruses came out of the forest, all making a beeline for me.

Pack hunters.

Throwing an [Observe] on the pack leader, I began to run away, buying myself some time while nervously reading through the window.


Leader

Allosaurus – Level 25
Race – Dinosaur
Age – 16

HP: 20,000

The Alpha of its pack, this allosaurus plans to eat you, as it is very hungry.

Battle Power: 85


I snuck a peek back— the gigantic thirty foot long monster was gaining on me, and fast.

For a moment, I thought about stopping and fighting the giant animals head on before dismissing it as utterly reckless. These things were mountains of pure muscle.

My fists would do very little, here.

My [Tiger Claw] could likely pierce their hardened scales, but it would have been like if I got stung by a bee. It would hurt the great beasts, but it wouldn’t help me in any way.

Activating [Sprint], I went even faster, leaving a steady gulf distance between us and buying me more time to figure out a plan.

Running the numbers in my head, I turned and aimed at the quickly approaching dinosaur waiting until he got very close.

-6,000 Ki!

Ha!” A great ball of Ki shot at the hulking beast, slamming into it with great force and knocking it back. It was dead before it even hit the ground.

I turned, and made a break for it, the other two allosauruses not even breaking stride at the sight of their alpha getting taken down.

Unsurprising, more food for them I reckoned, as a new set of windows appeared to the side.

+5,000 XP!


Ping!
You have gained a level!


For reaching Level 20 without dying, you receive +3 to all stats!


Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer


Level: 20 (1,800/21,000 XP)
Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 7,484
MP: 6,489
Ki: 2,312/9,525

STR: 53 (88.51)
VIT: 65 (108.55)
AGI: 53 (88.51)
INT: 65 (83.85)
WIS: 63 (81.27)

Points: 57
Battle Power: 95.2


That had taken most of my Ki reserves— and there were two more to deal with. Wait— they stopped, and turned back to their deceased leader, examining its body for a few seconds before tearing into him voraciously, the downed allosaurus’ blood splattering all around his still-warm corpse.

To resort to cannibalism, how hungry were they?

But then again, it made sense; I wasn’t exactly a good source of nutrition for the quickly shrinking behemoths. Between me, a quick, moving target that could kill them, or an already dead mountain of meat— the choice was simple.

Nature truly was cruel, I noted as I kept on sprinting, reading through my windows once more, before dismissing them and slowing back down to a slightly brisk walk.

I pulled out a Nutri-Bar from my inventory, taking a few bites out of it as I took in this new information.

I was going to make the assumption that I would receive bonus stats every 20 levels; I didn’t really have any information to support it, but it would fit with the theme of the game.

Milestone rewards, and the like. What was the point of endlessly grinding if it didn’t feel rewarding?

Following this thread of logic, I surmised that the reward would be proportional to the amount of effort put into reaching it.

As it was, I got to level 20 mostly by doing whatever quest popped up while I was doing other things like training, or studying, or simply surviving in the wild.

I was sure that I would have to actually begin grinding hard at some point, but I didn’t know exactly when I’d have to shift my “playstyle” in that particular direction.

For now, my current progress was good enough, I reckoned as I pulled a water bottle out of my inventory and took a long swig before returning it.

I picked up the pace, keeping an eye on my Ki as it gradually began to rise. It’d take about an hour for it to fill back up, but that was all right.

Keeping an eye out for any more predators, I carefully traversed the lands, slowly calming down when I realized those allosauruses weren’t going to chase me— sated by their former leader’s flesh, no doubt.

I finally reached the base of the mountain, forty minutes later. Staring up at the rough terrain, I pulled on a new pair of shoes out of my inventory.


Hiking Boots

Item: Shoes
Class: Grand

Description: A pair of high quality hiking boots you bought with the prize money. They are specifically designed for protecting the feet and ankles while on rough terrain, and provide a good grip.

25% Increase in stability on rocky terrain.


With that, I began to make my way up the mountain, carefully watching every step. I lost myself in the task, focusing on my footing, as well as the peak far above me.

These boots were really coming in handy, I faintly noted as the minutes passed. Easily able to grip the earth beneath my feet and allow me to move almost unhindered; well worth every Zeni.

Half an hour passed before the path began to become difficult, my path turning steeper and steeper, until I was actively using my hands as well as my feet to climb.

My jacket was already back on, with the sun slowly beginning to set, and the altitude making everything feel much colder.

I stopped for a moment to adjust my collar before freezing, having heard a few small stones fall somewhere nearby, making pitter patters over the rocky terrain.

Turning to that direction, I stopped its source— a pair of sabrecats, frozen in place when they’d seen my stare in an attempt to avoid my notice.

Such a primitive trick, I thought as I cast [Observe] on both cats, reading off their status sheets.


Mountain Sabrecat – Lv 15
Race – Feline
Age – 5

HP: 6,000

A species well suited for rocky and mountainous terrain, these have grown very large teeth to easily kill their prey. They are known to chip their teeth on stones every year, lest they grow too long and become useless. This one wants to eat you.

Battle Power: 42


Mountain Sabrecat – Lv 12
Race – Feline
Age – 4

HP: 5,000

A species well suited for rocky and mountainous terrain, these have grown very large teeth to easily kill their prey. They are known to chip their teeth on stones every year, lest they grow too long and become useless. This one wants to eat you.

Battle Power: 35


Hm, okay.

Well, they weren’t exactly a major threat, I noted. I pointed my palm at them, aiming carefully, before shaking my head.

“Dumbass!” I chided myself. “You’re on a mountain, if you throw [Ki Balls] that you aren’t even sure are going to hit, you’ll cause an avalanche and bury yourself under the mountain.”

I continued my climb, watching closely as the two predators slowly made their way to me through the treacherous terrain.

“Hm.” I looked around my current spot— there was plenty of space to move around. I turned to the ledge on which I knew the two cats were about to reach.

A few seconds passed, before I saw both sabrecat’s paws emerge on the ledge, pulling themselves up quickly as they prepared to lunge— but I had already made a lunge of my own, activating my [Tiger Claw] on both hands mid-lunge.

-1,800 MP!

I sidestepped the first sabrecat’s lunge and swiped at the second, the glowing claws at my fingertips digging through the animal’s skull and piercing its brain, killing it instantly.

+3,000 XP!

I pulled my stained fingers out and fixed my attention back on the other animal, faintly aware of the now-dead animal beginning to spasm uncontrollably, its nerves firing off randomly in response to the lethal trauma I’d inflicted upon it.

The remaining sabrecat was already leaping to maul me, its claws and giant fangs ready to take me down.

I took a single step, and threw a textbook sidekick, the force behind it breaking through the sabrecat’s fangs and smashing into its mouth.

It made a little whiny noise, before weakly attempting to swipe at my foot as it choked.

I pulled my foot out of its gaping mouth, wincing at the bloody mess I’d left and watching as the previously lunging predator began to try and crawl away from me.

I felt a bit of pity for the poor creature, despite realizing that, had our positions been reversed, it would have been feasting on my corpse.

Still, with its teeth destroyed, and an injury like that, it was likely going to die within a day at best.

Carefully making my way towards the slowly crawling feline, I quickly tore through the back of its neck with a quick swipe, taking it out of its misery.

+2,400 XP!

I sighed and deactivated [Tiger Claw], backing away from the edge and sitting down, my back against the rock wall. This was probably the only part I didn’t really enjoy. Killing animals wasn’t something I could really get used to, even after I learned how to properly hunt from the Ox-King.

I pulled a small container of wet sanitizer tissue, cleaning my bloodied hands, before wiping at the blood on my boot. A quick check to my MP showed that it was down to 4689— that skill really was a magic hog, but its sheer effectiveness made it worth using.

Once I was done cleaning up, I gave one final look to the two dead hunters, bowing my head slightly in respect for them, before continuing on up.

The path was turned into a straight climb, after another twenty minutes of steady hiking. I didn’t really have any proper mountain climbing gear, aside from my boots, and those were more for traversing terrain, than actually dicking into the rocks.

“This is as far as I go.” I said out loud, staring up at the mountain’s peak. I made good progress; I was three quarters of the way up.

I pulled the map out of the inventory, cursing as the wind made the paper fold in a weird direction. I had to step closer to the rock wall and place the map against it, having to adjust it every few seconds to read through it.

“Okay, so I’m probably around here.” I put my finger on a spot on the first mountain. I could definitely see the ocean east of here, and I could see well enough to the west. The map said there’s a lake, there. I would put my money on that, since it would have been much easier to live near the water, than it would be to live in, a desert.”

The lake itself was surrounded by small hills and forests, making it quite the remote location. Perfect for, say… an old hag who valued her privacy?

I rolled the map back up, satisfied with my conclusion, and looked over the west ledge, pulling out the binoculars from my inventory and putting them on.

I scanned the horizon for a while, before I found the lake.

Scanning it closely, I felt a small smile spread on my face; there were buildings there. I couldn’t quite make them out from this distance, but it didn’t matter.

I now had a lead.

I took a step in that direction, before stopping and shaking my head. The sky was already turning dark, the final red hues of the sun gradually disappearing into the horizon.

I set up a tent, using my [Tiger Claw] to make holes large enough into the rocky ground so I could put the stakes in easily.

In the process, I slightly regretted not getting a Capsule Tent— not that it would have helped me here, this was the biggest area at this altitude, and it wasn’t big enough for the affordable capsule models I was looking at.

I gave a shrug, staring at the darkening sky for a few long moments, before going into my tent and sitting down on the comfortable mat, zipping the tent closed behind me.

I pulled another NutriBar out and took a big bite, the taste not even bothering me anymore, after months of growing used to it. I had an all new understanding of the term “acquired taste”.

I lay down on the mat, covering myself up and tried to sleep. I twisted and turned. I was perfectly comfortable, but my mind was going a mile a minute.

I was going to meet someone who probably knew something substantial concerning my father. Hell, I bet that old hag knew everything about him. I stared at my bracelet for a second, my mind presenting me with dozens of questions.


Beads of Haste

Class: Accessory (Wrist)
Rarity: Rare

The bracelet your father always used to wear. He always said it was his lucky bracelet. You’ve always thought it was too bad he wasn’t wearing it the day of the “accident”. +5 to AGI

Additional effect: ?, Insufficient AGI to unlock


How did he make it? Why did he make it?

Why was he not wearing it on that day? What really happened on that day? Judging by his ability to enchant an item that has given me a better stat boost than any other item I’d ever seen, he had to be pretty good at these ‘mystic arts’, right?

I doubted he just went up and disappeared. I hadn’t known the man for very long, but my mother had always insisted that he kept his promises, and was one of the most reliable people she’d ever known.

“Dad…” I said slowly, feeling sad for a few moments before [Gamer’s Mind] exerted its power, blocking the feeling off with great efficiency. “Just what were you doing?”

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