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 I put yet another point into endurance, leaving me with (27.5). A set of perks appeared right after,

Perk Selection. Choose One.

[Unstoppable(endurance over 25) - Your endurance is incredible. +5 health regen, +50 to stamina regen, +5 total health and stamina gained per point in endurance, another 1/10th of your endurance is converted into willpower.]

[Willful(Willpower of at least 10) - Your willpower is good. Doubles mana regeneration.]

[Fledgling(Reach level 5) - You've just started learning. +10% to experience.]

[Beginner(Reach level 10) - Now you know a little. You can step out of the tutorial zone now.]

Perfect. When I selected the perk, I gained over 138 health and stamina from it. No amount of exertion on my part could ever make me tired either. Days of sprinting would be nothing for me now. That meant that the stamina gained from endurance was useless now. The extra bonuses more than compensated for the difference.

Agony's pain had lessened until I hardly noticed it. Instead of the constant pressure, it was a slight malaise. After a few moments of enjoying the extra energy, I checked out my skill trees.

| III Determinator(Have Tireless, unyielding, unrelenting, and unstoppable perks unlocked by level 20, Endurance of 25 or more, willpower of 15 or more)[0/500] |

Ae trivial. Even if they hit me, I could take 4-5 of their full on charges before I'd die. My health pool had become massive. I kept sharp. I didn't want to starve to death before I could find a way out, yet I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew either. Finding the balance was difficult.

I went to sleep with quite a few skill points and level ups under my belt.

I woke up the next day. Despite my usual grogginess in the mornings, I powered through it with ease. The extra willpower really paid off when it came to stuff like that. Without missing a beat, I began killing bats again. Two hours later I reached level 28, putting a point into constitution.

The narrator voice rang out all badass'n'shit. I'd almost forgotten it existed.

'And their fists shattered against my skin.'

Awesome. Unlike endurance, constitution had a very slight effect on how I felt. My body was denser and harder, like I was becoming a rock. Endurance felt more like I was harder to pull apart, like my flesh was rubber. With a high constitution, my flesh would be moving stone. Combined with my pugilist skill reaching 44, I noticed a dramatic increase in the hardness of my hands. So did the bats.

I reached level 29 later, putting another point in constitution, further hardening my hands. In fact, at this point, the constitution did more for agony than endurance. I'd forgotten how it helped agony. In fact, it helped more than willpower thanks to those fighter trees I considered useless earlier.

Another couple hours of grinding out the bats later, I finally gained another level. I put another point into constitution and opened the perk menu once more.

[Willful(Willpower over 10) - Your willpower is good. Doubles mana regeneration.]

[Headstrong(Willpower over 15) - Your willpower is admirable. Willpower doubles internal motivation per point.]

[Fledgling(Reach level 5) - You've just started learning. +10% to experience.]

[Beginner(Reach level 10) - Now you know a little. You can step out of the tutorial zone now.]

Headstrong seemed pretty good, so I selected it. There was a massive increase in my motivation. Whatever I wanted to do, I could. My body became an engine of my will, a device for my cause. And my cause is killing the shit out of bats.

So I went about my business. I had to kill dozens of bats to level up now. Fortunately, agony had become a force by level 32 with 11 constitution. I had 742 health, 1.3 health regen a second, 16.5 willpower, and 13% damage resistance. Agony was stacked. Stacked up to a whopping 107 damage a minute. I could kill a level 35 bat in seven minutes without beating the shit out of it with my fists.

The main difference agony caused now, however, wasn't damage. It was the control it gave me over the bats. They would howl in, well, agony when they got in its now enormous radius. Even with this increased speed of about five minutes per bat, I could only manage about 1 level every two hours or so. That didn't bother me though.

The willpower really helped now. I was hungry, starving even. I hadn't spoken to someone in seven days. I was in this god forsaken, endless cave, yet I was fine. My will never wavered. My will was like steel by now. I had all the confidence in the world that I would crush these bats and get the fuck out of here.

And crush bats I did. By level 34 I had piles of corpses near me. Bat's kept coming to cannibalize their kin. I would murder them as they came. I even fought them when they started swarming. The bats wouldn't approach me unless I attacked them first with a rock or fist. It made the farming process relatively safe.

By the time I got sleepy, I'd killed at least a hundred bats, finally reaching level 35. I put another point in constitution, leaving me with (13.2). Enough for the perk involved with it.

[Willful(Willpower of at least 10) - Your willpower is good. Doubles mana regeneration.]

[Tough(Constitution of at least 10) - Your constitution is good. Adds +0.5% damage reduction per point in constitution.]

[Fledgling(Reach level 5) - You've just started learning. +10% to experience.]

[Beginner(Reach level 10) - Now you know a little. You can step out of the tutorial zone now.]

Now it wasn't an enormous bonus, but with the fighter's multiplier, it was starting to add up. It was at 21% damage reduction now. The first thing I noticed was that my skin and body didn't feel normal anymore. I was less soft and plushy, more wooden.

The bats became softer as well when I hit them. I kept drinking out of the pools, so I wasn't thirsty. But damn I was starving by now. I thought about eating the bats multiple times, but I decided against it. They looked disgusting, and agony left them looking like gelatin after I killed them. Not the most appetizing meal, even for a starving man. Hell, it may even make me sick.

So for the first time since I entered this god forsaken cave, I planned an exploration. From my backpack, I got several clear plastic bags. I filled them with the glowing cyan water, giving me some makeshift light. I wanted a couple extra just in case.

And I finally moved away from my little cove of rocks. By now I'd shit and piss enough in a nearby pool that it was murky brown. I had to slip into a pool of water so it didn't make a sound. I used the same one over and over since I didn't want to ruin all my water sources. It was disgusting as fuck. I was disgusting as fuck. But alas, that is all behind me now.

I trekked down the corridor, where multiple bats assailed me. I dispatched them over fifteen minutes, being careful of where I was. The closer to the wall I was, the easier the fights were. They couldn't come at me from all directions then.

With that I walked out into dimly lit caverns with little bags of water as my guides. The cave was nothing like I remembered when Micheal and I first came here. The stalactites formed sharp points like teeth. The ridges of the walls molded into twisted, warped faces. Any insects I saw curled up and died.

That was likely due to agony though. I got a notification at that point.

Skill lvl! Pain Tolerance(lvl 86)

I smacked my forehead. I've forgotten to distribute my skillpoints into the determinator tree. I checked out my skills, catching even a few new ones.

Pain Tolerance lv86, Desperation lvl 37, Hail Mary lvl 7, Death's Dance lvl 51, Dodging lvl 28, Pugilist lvl 44, Physical fitness lvl 21, Focus lvl 27, Scorn lvl 52, Sneak lvl 13, History lvl 7, Biology lvl 9, Mathematics lvl 11, Patience lvl 5, Throwing lvl 13, Momentum lvl 8, BloodHollow Bat Slayer lvl 16, Coarsened Hands lvl 11, 446 total, 336 spent.

[Momentum(lvl 8) - You swing with momentum behind your blows. +8% to weight and power when using momentum for attacking.

[BloodHollow Bat Slayer(lvl 16) - You've murdered many of their kind. They become easier to kill. +16% damage to BloodHollow Bats.]

[Coarsened knuckles(lvl 11) - Who needs a weapon when your knuckles are made of metal. +11% damage with your bare fists.]

They explained why I'd been killing the bats in under five minutes now. Agony should be doing at least three damage a second with all my damage buffs and active skills. It made the process smooth, like slitting a throat with a knife. With that handled, I spent 110 points into the third determinator tree. It rewarded me with a notification, at 100

To determine is to make definite. Your will determines whatever you choose to be. +10% willpower, +10% endurance.

I do a little fist pump, jumping for joy. The extra attributes are always welcome, coming with the usual rush. They synergize well with my current build as well. If I invest in this tree for several hundred more points, I should be able to get up to crazy levels of endurance and willpower.

Of course, without agony this build would be insanely bad. Like, total, utter trash. Agony made all the difference. I should probably round out my offense some, just in case an enemy can counter agony.

With that in mind, I redouble my efforts of pulverising the bats with punches as they die to agony. I gain a level, putting a point in constitution, before I reach another set of glowing pools. These pools are less cyan and more red, turning the water a vibrant pink.

There sits an enormous bear, blood red and fur like spines. It's barrel chest rises up and down slowly as it breaths. A bit of red mist comes out of it's pitch black nostrils. As I get closer, I analyze the bear and discover something very disconcerting.

BloodHollow Bear(lvl 75) - An enormous, terrifying creature. Fight with caution as it's red aura and monstrous strength are very effective tools for dismembering adventurers.

Of fuck. I sneak backwards before its eyes pop open. A fucking bat dives towards me before I dodge. As it shakes itself from its slumber, I damage the bat, beating it down with my blows and agony. Of course, agony does most of the work.

The bear roars out with enough force that the ground quakes. A stream of cold sweat pours down my forehead in an instant, activating desperation. The stat boost is nice and all, but this thing's gonna kill me. In that moment, it scrapes its claws on the cave's ground.

A barrage of sparks ignite from the monster's claws as they drag on the ground. Aw fuck. The red mist grows around it, making it seem even bigger. Its eyes meet mine, and we match our gaze for a few seconds.

Of course, during this whole heated exchange, I beat the shit out this poor bat beneath me. Right as the bat dies, the bear roars like thunder once more before charging towards me. I run behind a stalactite before the sounds of its stomps grow in my ears.

Agony only makes it madder before I leap out from behind the stalactite. An explosion of rock explodes from behind me. Splatters of stone bite into my skin, like a heavy, sharp rain. From the dust cloud, The bear charges forward, far faster than the bats.

In seconds, it barrels past me. The wind from it rolls me away. It was like being lifted by the air. I glance around for anything to hide behind. There's nothing.

The bear jolted towards me, speeding like a bullet. Like a thousand tiny fires, its claws cut into the stone floor as it reached me. Unlike the bats, it learned from last time. As I sidesteped, the bear reached out a paw. A large gash cut into my stomach, reaching my organs.

The pain isn't even that bad, but I spit up blood. My hp fell by a third from that tap. This thing had tremendous power in each of it's paws. They hit with the force of cars crashing when the bear raised off it's front legs and slammed them into the ground.

At this point, you'd think I'd be terrified. Perhaps even downright shitting my pants, but no, I'm focused like a laser. My mind hones on ways out. What can I do to survive? Before I find a solution, the bear runs up again, this time, I feint to the right before dodging leftways.

The bear misses his paw grab, giving me time to think. As the bear prepares its next charge, my mind slaps me with a realization.

I'm just going to have to survive till agony kills this thing.

Instead of charging, it walks, forcing me away from it. We dance like this until I reach the edge of a wall. It purposefully walled me in. I grimaced at the creature. This malicious little...

Scorn Active

It gave me the boost I needed. It slashed diagonally towards my right. The spiked fur slashes against my cheek before I torque hard into my next punch. Like slamming my fist into a wall, I hit the bear.

A bone breaks in my hand before the bear swipes again. I lean towards his strike, dodging underneath as his fur cuts my hair. With another heavy strike, I push off my feet and slam my fist into the monster's side.

Another bone in my hand breaks before the bear headbutts forward. I sidestep before stepping forward, turning my heels, and dragging my fist behind me.

The bear pulls its face from the rock as my punch collides with its nose. For the first time, it stumbles backwards in the fight. I lunge towards it, building force in my fist as I charge forward. My fist impacts into its nose, breaking the bones of my wrist and knuckles.

Yet, it falls instead of me. Ever since my father would let me, I've been boxing day in and day out after school. I was never the brightest kid, but I could box pretty damn well. Enough to be a professional in time, according to the coach.

He told me that years ago. I've honed my fists into weapons long ago, and with the pugilist skill active, I could unleash my real potential. All the extra stats and skills didn't hurt either.

Of course, my bones breaking hurt even with all my pain tolerance. It drained my health while agony prevented it from regenerating quickly, since I needed the damage. No matter how I considered it, agony was doing more damage than my fists were. Simple as that.

The bear being on the ground helped buy me some time. Tears fell from its cheeks as It finally got back up, hatred in its eyes. The red aura became a fog, like a mist of blood. When it touched me, my skin melted.

I simply stepped back out of its range. The bear barreled at me but I sidestepped again. The bear swiped at my legs, expecting me to duck. Instead, I had jumped by kicking off the wall beside me.

The bear's paw crushed the rock wall, covering us in a cloud of dust once more. As it settled, he and I stared at one another. This was going to be a long fight.

************************************

My wrist is a lumpy mush. Every breath is fire in my lungs. My arms are like bars of lead at my sides. I've mauled this monstrosity so many times. It refuses to die.

The bear no longer has a nose. A bloody pile of mush rests on its face. The eyes where next. That was where I broke several of my fingers poking it till it went blind. The torn ears tell you how it went from there. I couldn't take that sense entirely, however.

It could still hear, but without its other senses, it fumbled around weakly. I tossed rocks around the room, keeping it running around in agony's range. Of course, I stopped fighting the damn thing thirty minutes ago, but I couldn't stop agony's damage.

If I did, the red mist would restore the bear's wounds. It happened once already. There's nothing more demoralizing than watching your work go to waste. Especially when that involves tearing off a giant bear's nose.

Without his usually keen senses, the bear fumbled in a dark abyss of pain. I cranked agony up as much as it could go without killing me. Even without any regeneration of my wounds, I had to kill this thing. I wouldn't die. I can't die.

I'll find Micheal and Kesley and get somewhere safe once I'm out of this cave. This evil, demonic, diabolical, insane cavern of doom.

First comes killing this bear. The bear's movements had slowed quite a bit, to a crawl almost. With a renewed resolve, I sprinted towards it, gaining a skill,

Skill Gain! Sprinting(lvl 1)

Not important right now. I bent low and smashed the bear's pulpy nose as it fell down from the pain. Like a brute, I smashed my limbs into it's eyes, ears, and nose again and again. Blood covered my hands. Whether it was my own or the bear's, it didn't matter.

I crushed and crumbled. I maimed and murdered. I ripped and rived. I pounded. I punched until it's face was red porridge, just like my hands.

Level up! [15,000 exp](BloodHollow Bear exp)X[3](Underleveled Bonus)X1.5(Ancient wisdom) = 67,500 exp gained. 4 levels gained.

Holy fuck that was the hardest 4 levels of my life. I place all four points into constitution, giving me a respectable 17.6. The perk selection came up once more,

[Willful(Willpower of at least 10) - Your willpower is good. Doubles mana regeneration.]

[Dense(Constitution of at least 15) - Your constitution is admirable. Adds another 0.5% to damage reduction per point in constitution.]

[Fledgling(Reach level 5) - You've just started learning. +10% to experience.]

[Beginner(Reach level 10) - Now you know a little. You can step out of the tutorial zone now.]

Well, Dense wasn't anything special, but I selected it before slouching beside the bear. Damn this is hard. I haven't eaten a damn thing in three days, I'm fighting for hours on end to the death, and all with my bare hands. It's a tough life.

At least my damage reduction had increased dramatically with the four levels and perk. It reached all the way to 38%. My skin felt like it was covering wood now instead of muscle. My heart felt like it pumped syrup instead of blood. It was wierd, but awesome at the same time. It made me wonder if this was how superman felt, being the whole man of steel thing.

My mind wandered as I cut off agony. It had been a long time since I had it off, several days at least. Even though the discomfort was slight, it became a painful norm. Within minutes, all the broken bones, skin, blood, and other stuff I didn't know I had in me, had restored itself.

It made me realize just how durable I really was. The determinator trees weren't for nothing, after all. During the fight, I received several notifications

Skill Gain! Heavy Hands(lvl 1)

Unique fighting style skill gained(Unlock the five skills required, then use them in conjunction with each other) Fuses Heavy hands, Coarsened Knuckles, momentum, dodging, and pugilist into one skill, Dreadnought Brute(lvl 1) Gives half of missing tree points from skill fusion.

Sounded good. I checked it out.

[Dreadnought Brute(lvl 3) - You ground your feet and trade blows against any foe. Fighting prowess determined by level. Influences all skills assimilated by the unique skill's creation. Effects are variable.

Well, hopefully it would be pretty good. Sounded like it would increase the effects of all the skills that made it. I'm guessing that's how I started fighting man to man with the bear. The skill must have given me the edge I needed for it. What it had given me as well, was 197 free skill points too. The 5 skills weren't a high level, besides pugilist, so I got a ton of points.

It also verified my assumption that level 100 was the maximum for a skill. With that settled, I invested all 230 extra skill points into the determinator tree. Two notifications rang out.

To be determined is to be definite. Define yourself. Give your unstoppable will a purpose, and let it go and crush that which stands in its way. +10% endurance. +10% willpower.

You're one of the few and the only. Do not squander your gifts. Push forward, shatter walls, and become the golem of your ambition. +10% endurance. +10% willpower.

With all the bonuses said and done, the fight may have actually have been worth it. After pulling out the bear's largest canine, gutting it, and eating some of the meat, it surely was worth it.

Sure, I was eating disgusting, raw, gamey as fuck bear meat after having starved for three days, but at least I was full instead of being empty. I gorged on that damn meat, like it was the finest of delicacies. I simply sat in place for an hour or two after that. I didn't do anything during that time. I just sat there.

I feasted on another portion of the raw meat before falling asleep on the hard floor. I cut on agony with the discomfort coming back in waves. Little bats landing echoed in the distance, along with some deep rumbling. A creepy cricket jumped somewhere near me. It died instantly.

I blinked a few times. For some reason, my throat burned. It was like I had a hot coal in my throat, fiery and scorching. My eyes fogged over, them burning too. My tears crawled across my face. There I sat by myself, weeping until I fell asleep, cloaked in the discomfort of agony.

Whether it was the skill or my own agony, I still don't know.



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