Chapter 20: Shopping

“Eighty-eight and a half thousand,” he whispered. That was a lot of cash.

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He stepped away from the pedestal and poked his head outside. Nothing remained of the town of Nathak, now called Kingscastle. Roads and paving cut through a massive sea of mud, all enclosed by the familiar walls. Now that it wasn’t filled with a winding maze of buildings, the town seemed a lot smaller.

He returned to the pedestal and sold the rest of the walls and roads, bringing him up to just over a hundred thousand System Coins. He wouldn’t need all of the space, and he’d seen a cool option when scrolling through the buildings list.

He selected the building, mind wandering. Why hadn’t the Undead done this, and why had there been so few of them? The town could fit a few thousand of the Undead, yet there’d only been about three hundred in total. What’s more, they had no need of the buildings—they had rested in the town center. Why had they kept them?

It was just another mystery, and Chris doubted he’d find answers. He shrugged and walked outside the building, as instructed to by a screen.

The walls were gone, and he stood next to the small thatched house, an island in a square kilometer sea of churned dirt.

The house disappeared, leaving the pedestal standing alone in the field, then piles of stone rose from the earth, stacking themselves on top of each other until they formed a small keep with battlements and a steeply pitched tile roof topping it off. A section of the wall in front of him disappeared, and a thick wooden door sprang up in its center.

Chris entered the much reduced town of Kingscastle, looking around. The area was relatively spacious, with enough space for a bed, table, and a few other amenities. A roaring, woodless fireplace sat at the far end of the room, and a small spiral staircase hugged the corner of the room, reaching the next floor. Not seeing the pedestal, he ascended.

The next floor was bare and surfaced with wood, except for a small stone stage set around another fireplace, so he continued up. The staircase ended in a small ladder with a bolted wooden hatch in the ceiling, he pushed it aside and climbed up to the roof of the keep.

A steep, tiled roof to protect against the worst of the elements covered the tower, supported by thick wooden beams beside the crenellations that ringed the top of the keep.

There were small murder holes, for archers to shoot down from above and drop boiling hot chocolate, or whatever it was medieval defenders did; and at each of the four cardinal directions, inset into the crenellations like computer terminals were the pedestals he was looking for.

The F-1 keep upgrade for the tutorial town had been expensive at 20,000 System Coins, but it gave him better defensive options and was pre-requisite to some of the higher leveled, complex defensive fortifications.

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Then he began buying other buildings and vendors. A wall began to form around the keep—the tower a bullseye in the center—far smaller than the one that had surrounded the former town. Inside buildings began to take shape, roof tiles clicking together like fish scales on top of the buildings, punctured by the occasional chimney.

He saw one of the Slime buildings, but blanched at its price tag of 30,000 System Coins. Then he remembered the Building Token he’d received as a reward, he quickly applied it and watched what looked like a massive iron cauldron take shape.

Finally, he bought some of the free tutorial buildings and closed down the building menu—88,000 System Coins poorer, including the initial keep upgrade.

He moved on to a menu called ‘Spawning’ and opened it. There were two sliders on the screen next to the words ‘Slime’ and ‘Human’, both were set to zero. There wasn’t any explanation, but he guessed this was how people got transported over to the tutorial zone. He hesitated over allowing spawning for Humans, then thought better of it. His settlement, Kingscastle, was still in a formative stage—adding people would complicate the affair.

He closed out the window, then descended the stairs to peruse through his new buldings.

The first building he visited was the System offered Defender’s Barracks. It would spawn System generated warriors who would guard the settlement. It had been one of the buildings that required the keep upgrade. The building was simple and squat, containing eight empty beds, lined up in neat rows. When he pressed his hand against the frames, he saw a countdown timer for each of them. Three days. It was a bit of a wait, but hopefully it would be worth it.

He moved onto the next buildings: an Infirmary, which accelerated healing inside it; four Vendors for General Supplies, Skills, Armor, and Weapons; and finally a Slime provided building called a Spawning Vat—the cauldron-like building he had seen earlier.

Chris was particularly interested in the last of these. Since Slimes were monsters, their options for settlements were different. Monster settlements were geared toward empowering monsters or creating more of them, helping to pump out enemies that were more powerful or more numerous—although he didn’t know how they managed to pay for the buildings. Maybe they got them for free, or through quests.

The Spawning Vat was an iron tank full of goo that would pump out Slimes from a spigot-like vent at regular intervals; but rather than sending them out to rampage among the Enlightened, Chris had the System build a pit trap in front of the spigot instead—with slippery surfaces to prevent climbing of course. He could already see the first Slime dripping from the spigot; it was a small thing, maybe the size of a basketball, with a stone in the middle—the size of a golf ball. It fell with a splattering squelch into the pit, where it began to blob lazily around the bottom, trying and failing to scale the sides.

Another Slime began to drip from the Spawning Vat, taking another minute to emerge. He smiled as he saw it fall, the Spawning Vat would make a good farm, if nothing else—and the building token meant he got it for free.

Content, he went over to the Skill Vendor. It was a building packed with luminous crystals in baskets. There was a desk near the entrance and a short, bald human man with blue eyes and a black beard that choked the lower half of his face in a thicket of scraggly black wires.

“May I help you, m’lord?” The bush around the man’s head shifted hypnotically and it took Chris a moment to realize that it was the man speaking.

“I need to buy some skills. I have Skill Tokens.”

“Very good, m’lord.” The man’s eyes lit up at the mention of Skill Tokens, so much so that it his beard looked in danger of catching fire.

“And call me Chris.”

“Very good, m’lo—Chris,” the man rumbled. “What skills are you looking for?”

He thought to himself. What was the stuff people always got in books and anime. Harems, attention from gods—with a fifty-fifty chance of them joining the harem—more harems, and identification skills. “Do you have any hare—I mean, skills that will let me know how powerful something is? And what’s your name?”

“Brim, Lord Chris, and I have just the thing.” Brim hurried over to one of the unmarked baskets, shoved his hand inside and pulled out a specific crystal. He clutched it in his hand and whispered something to it. Light seeped from between his fingers, then he held out a crystal that looked exactly the same as it had before. “This crystal holds [Insightful Gaze], rank F-1, which should give you information on the level of all enemies, rank F-3 and below.”

Brim’s free hand flicked outward. A screen appeared in front of Chris, showing that the skill was able to be exchanged for 4,000 System Coins, or one F-1 Skill Token. “Would you recommend anything else?”

“I am unable to offer advice on how to advance your build, Lord Chris. I am an artificial construct created by the System­, non-System affiliated shops would be able to help you more.” Brim’s beard drooped apologetically.

“No worry.” Chris’ hand hesitated over the accept button, then fell away. “Uh, do you have a skill that lets me detect danger?” Danger detection was more vague, but, unlike identify, it might work even if he didn’t know where the threat was, or where it came from. It might even work against unidentifiable threats, like poison gas, or traps.

“I will retrieve it,” Brim said. He replaced the crystal, drawing a faint wisp out of it as he did so; then he moved to another basket and retrieved an identical looking crystal.

“[Sense Danger], rank F-1.” Brim held out the skill crystal.

Perfect. Now for the rest.

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