I'm back, and on a Friday (my time) no less! Not that this chapter is some god-tier chapter, I'm super busy this week moving house, so I'm honestly surprised I even managed to get this written. It was pretty hard to write with the amount of new systems I had to implement, but now that they're in, it should be much smoother sailing.
Thanks to Robert Waldron, Jesse Garcia, LOLZMAN, Ragy, Dakota, Hydrolic and The-Anti-Akuma for supporting me and my writing! I truly appreciate all the help you've provided!
Jaune had continued his endeavours into both the world of logging and the world of mining, and the rewards he had to show for it were plentiful.
From the Gatherer title ranking up from Naturalist to Self-Sufficient, discovering and excavating a boulder of granite, discovering what Jaune identified as a geode, getting a small amount of tree sap from a Black Birch woodland node and subsequently discovering a Red Heartnut woodland node full of Red Sap that was almost, if not completely, identical to the sap from the Forever Fall in Vale, and then getting a node depletion reward of what seemed to be known as Crimson Amber, Jaune was rolling in proverbial riches.
All that was less important than the notification of an update in progress that was pushed through, popping up and giving Jaune reason to pause, axe slung over his shoulder.
[Update 3 Final Changelog]
[Quality of Life update]
Jaune read through the notification, noting that a lot of the changelog was just reiterating changes that he'd noticed already, like Landing Pad Terminals and the adjusted Corruption effects on his Aura.
There were other things that Jaune had no idea about, though, and the System wasn't being particularly forthcoming in regards to them. Like, for example, Soulforging. Jaune had absolutely no idea what that was, but from the sound of it, it seemed like some kind of fusion between Crafting and Soul Harvest, but as to what that might entail, he had no idea.
One thing did catch his eye, though. "Rest Area rework?"
He read through that specific part thoroughly, eyes widening as he got to the end.
[Rest Areas have been reworked to have more function and utility, and are no longer reliant on dungeons. The Rest Area may be accessed by using a Hearthstone when outside of a dungeon. Hearthstone Recipe has been added to Alchemy!]
Jaune had a number of Hearthstones in his inventory. Hearthstones that now had a use outside of them being emergency teleport items. Hearthstones that Jaune could now craft at will, instead of relying on them to drop from chests.
He glanced around, taking in his surroundings. Gathering was sending him no signals, no attracting sensations that would pull his attention elsewhere. Clearly, this area was depleted of resources.
He shrugged. There was no harm in checking it out while he was here. It wasn't as if he was going to miss out on anything. Besides, it was technically an alternate dimension, or at least, as far as he remembered it was. He would re-emerge where he was when he left the Rest Area anyway.
He reached into his inventory and withdrew a Hearthstone, concentrating and pushing Aura into the rectangular prism, feeling it take a hold of his body and thrust him elsewhere. It was a sharp feeling, but not painful in any way, more akin to being prodded all over than actually stabbed.
He hadn't meant to close his eyes and yet the sensation had prompted him to do so involuntarily. He wrenched them open, surprised at the effort it took to do so, and took in his surroundings.
It was much like the last time he'd been inside a Rest Area, in that it was an empty cave, though not without room for improvement. Literally, in this case, as Observe notified him of the scattered locations for upgrades to be constructed.
He paced out the dimly-lit cavern, running one hand along the rough surface of the walls, marvelling at just how real it felt. For all he knew, it was real, located somewhere unknown on Remnant.
Or, equally as likely, knowing his semblance, this cave existed outside the regular spatial bounds of reality, like within some kind of pseudo-stabilized tear in space-time.
Being by no means any kind of super-physicist, Jaune shelved that thought for never again, refocusing his attention onto the potential upgrades he had at his fingertips.
"Beds, bookcases, a firepit," He began, trailing off as he looked around. It might have been a cavern, but Jaune might have just accidentally found an alternate solution to where they would stay whilst in Argus. Where he would stay anywhere, if the Rest Area proved to be as useful as it seemed it would be.
There was only one issue, though. The material cost for many of these upgrades were beyond his reach at that current moment. "Without a worktable to do any Crafting, I can't make half this stuff, damn it."
He sat down on an exposed chunk of rock, more a stalactite that had fallen than anything else, thinking.
The thinking lasted less than a second as he looked up and at the corner of the cave, where a bright, glowing notification box spelled out 'Workshop'. He probably should have seen that one coming.
With a quick step, he covered the distance, and the notification box expanded, displaying the required materials to construct the first tier of the workshop. "Five bronze ingots, ten pine logs, five gneiss chunks…" He paused, frowning. It wasn't as if he didn't have these materials on hand, it was just so many. "Glass, coal and Grade II Energy Dust? Gods, this isn't cheap."
The option to construct it wasn't greyed out, though, so Jaune shrugged, tapping the floating button.
There was a sudden surge as he felt the items leave his inventory and turn into sparks, scattering around and casting strange, eerie shadows across the cavern surface as they coalesced into a small, basic workspace.
The multiple, echoing dings startled him too, not just the notification that he'd constructed the basic workspace, but also the indicator that he'd leveled Crafting and, subsequently, ranked up his Designer title, and to its final tier as well, Master.
"Huh," he remarked, because there wasn't much else he could say.
With a shrug, he retraced his steps through the cave, this time taking in the required materials for constructing the other upgrades, committing them to memory. Once he'd completed his lap, he pulled up the roughly carved log of pine that served as his little workspace's seat, and began working.
The sequel to the Arcave would more than live up to its predecessor, that he was certain of.
Jaune had hit a snag rather early on. His basic workspace only allowed Crafting recipes up to level 15. Anything higher than that required an improved workshop.
That sounded as if it had an easy solution, and it did, all he had to do was upgrade the Basic Workspace to a Workbench, but unfortunately, that was where the simplicity ended. The crux of the issue stemmed from the fact that Jaune was missing a number of components to create said Workbench.
Bolts of fabric were easy for him to get a hold of, it just meant visiting an arts-and-crafts store when he got back to Argus. The harder part was the crushed topaz, which he very much didn't have any of. There was also Dust Oil, but considering that required Blade Oil, which required Oil, which was very easy to get, he figured that part was essentially a non-issue.
Everything else he had, though, so that was a benefit. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small snag.
On the bright side, Jaune had managed to construct a Gneiss Firepit, which he'd promptly upgraded to a Granite Firepit, if only to prevent the jokes that he knew would inevitably be made.
It took no fuel to light, strangely, simply crackling to light on its own, but from the detailed little list that hovered almost holographically in his peripherals, he knew that it would give him a buff if he fed it the correct logs.
Five oak logs, according to the displayed box, and he'd get a ten percent boost to his total HP for five encounters or until twenty-four hours had passed.
He would have taken the firepit up on its offer had he enough logs. Down to only two, without the possibility to get anymore until tomorrow, that wasn't going to be happening.
"The price of early upgrades, I guess," Jaune muttered. The gneiss firepit only wanted pine logs, but he'd skipped that. Apparently too early, but then again it was only a five percent boost from that initial tier of upgrade.
Honestly, Jaune was more surprised that, despite the quantity and value of everything he had in his inventory, he didn't have anything actually useful for this situation.
At least he'd gotten two more Crafting levels out of the experience.
Actually, he did have that Geode from earlier. According to the twenty total minutes he'd spent paying attention in his geology unit about four years ago in school, geodes contained gems. Well, he assumed they did. It seemed likely. His memory of that particular lesson was spotty at best, as with most of his schooling pre-Beacon. Actually, most of Beacon was patchwork at best too.
He shook his head, grabbing out the newly acquired geode and setting it down on the workspace, grabbing a small hammer and chisel.
Now, all he had to do was-
The hammer smacked against the handle of the chisel, sending a splinter through the rocky surface of the geode, and he watched in satisfaction as it cracked open, split into two halves like a particularly cartoonish coconut.
The reddish-gold gemstones that lay within glittered in the firelight, and Jaune suppressed a laugh. Three uncut topaz lay on his workspace, and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He'd gotten lucky, but that didn't mean he could upgrade right away. He was still missing two sets of components.
Deftly, he pulled out his new Jeweller's Tools and began the refining process, cleaning up the topaz so that they were far neater, and much more usable for what both he knew and what the System defined.
Then he hit one with a hammer really, really hard, turning it to powder, which he scooped into his inventory, along with the two intact gemstones.
He didn't even stop to question the logic of cleaning up a gemstone only then to crush it. He could conjure vehicles from thin air and phase through solid objects, logic was more akin to a guideline than a strict set of rules whenever he was involved.
He swiveled in his seat, back facing the workshop now as he glanced at the three figures sat by the firepit.
"So, what are we thinking?" He asked, seeking any input from Alcmena, Ouroboros and Electrus.
None of his summons appeared surprised by his question. "I don't believe either Alcmena or I are suited for Warp, Master."
He agreed with Ouroboros's sentiments, and he nodded. "Electrus, you want it?"
Electrus shook her head, little sparks cascading down from her hair.
"Perhaps Ishara might want it, Master? Another sentient might be a worthwhile endeavour," Alcmena pointed out, and Jaune was willing to agree with that.
He stood up, walking over to the empty spot that would, eventually become an Altar, according to the popup. Considering Jaune was about to perform a ritual, perhaps that wasn't too far off.
Ishara spawned forth from Jaune's shadow, chitinous legs skittering across stone as it scuttled towards the center of the ritual circle that Jaune was etching into the stone, Terrakinesis proving to be still as incredibly useful as ever for this sort of thing.
He placed the required component, the single chunk of shimmering black crystal that was Nigredo, into one of Ishara's pincers, the Deathstalker summon taking it and holding it tightly as the ritual circle began to glow, increasing in luminosity steadily.
It cast strange, almost spectral shadows across the dark stone walls, until it was so bright that Jaune had to close his eyes, and even then the warm red glow that scattered through his eyelids was near blinding.
And then, as it always was, the light disappeared just as suddenly as ever, and Jaune opened his eyes.
He'd long since gotten over his summons and their immediate nudity upon evolution, but he had also learned to come prepared for such scenarios.
He handed the female figure of Ishara one of his spare Traveller's Cloaks, and she wrapped it around herself without preamble, before unsteadily getting to her feet.
Ouroboros stepped forward and assisted, taking her hand with one of his own. "I know how unfamiliar it is, though I was on the opposite end of the spectrum."
Jaune realised what the snake-man meant, smiling at the thought. Ouroboros had gone from no limbs to a pair of arms and legs. Ishara, on the other hand, had gone from eleven limbs to only five, if you included her long, iridescent black, chitin-clad tail that emerged from her tailbone, protruding from the rear of the cloak, the tip glistening gold in the traditional Deathstalker style.
She pushed her long, black hair out of her face, the braid reaching down past her waistline, and took in her surroundings with a single pair of eyes for the first time.
"So many strange sensations," She remarked, with a similar intonation as Ouroboros's own tone. "This will take some getting used to."
Ouroboros lead the unsteady Ishara over to the firepit, and Alcmena shuffled to the side, taking her sister and helping her to sit.
While he was here, though, this was a good opportunity to expand his catalogue, so to speak.
First, though, he needed more Grand Soul Orbs, which weren't that difficult to create any more, thanks to how high his Soul Harvest skill was.
He didn't reach the required amount before a notification startled him.
[For reaching Level 50 Crafting and Level 65 Soul Harvest, you've unlocked a new skill!]
[Soulforging (Active): Thanks to the System, you can now create Soulforged Nodes, Soulforged Components, Soulforged Equipment and Soulforged Perks by combining certain items with Soul Orbs. Level 1; XP 0/12.]
[Unlock new recipes for Soulforging by completing special achievements! You currently have 0 recipes!]
His semblance was being surprisingly cheery for telling him he couldn't actually do anything with his new skill, as interesting as it sounded.
He went back to creating Soul Orbs, a little bit disappointed. At least he leveled Soul Harvest very quickly. It didn't take much longer before he was both Level 75 Soul Harvest, with over twenty-five Grand Soul Orbs in his inventory.
The question was, which new Bound Soul did he want to create?
He had a not-so-insignificant amount of options available to him, and, as always, decisions like this were hard for him.
He could make more than one new summon, though, that wasn't too difficult. It'd take a bit of time to make the next tier of required soul orb, the Legendary Soul Orbs he'd just unlocked seeming as if they'd take a good long while to form, but it was still a possibility.
A thought occurred to him, and he acted upon it, taking the Alpha Seer Eye from his inventory and placing it down on the ritual circle, along with twenty-five Grand Soul Orbs, and allowed the energy to flow outwards into the circle.
As with earlier, it began to glow bright until it was so bright that Jaune had to look away.
It was faster than Ishara's evolution, though, fading just as soon as it had arrived, and when Jaune opened his eyes, a floating orb of gold and white hovered, just a few feet off the ground.
"Welcome to the family, Palantír," Jaune said, giving it the proper name the summon deserved.
In response, Palantír gave Jaune a perk, as was customary.
[Your connection with the soul of a Seer unlocks the Scrying ritual for use.]
He hadn't known the full extent or the details of what the perk was, but it did confirm a few suspicions Jaune had. He'd suspected it would be at least something akin to an intel-gathering perk, but a ritual was out of left field.
He brought up his rituals, reading through the newest of the list.
[Ritual of Scrying]
[A ritual that will allow the caster to concentrate on an object that is significantly linked or connected to a target, allowing the caster to gain a remote view of the target from any point on Remnant.]
Well, he could definitely think of a few uses for a ritual like that.
Actually, Jaune realized, he could think of a use right now. Shuffling through list after list, Jaune scanned his inventory, looking for something, anything that might be connected.
Only one thing came to mind, and Jaune pulled out Tranquility, unsure of how likely a chance this had of working.
He placed the shotgun down atop the ritual circle, kneeling before it and focusing.
There was nothing for longer than Jaune hoped, and then all of a sudden, he felt more nothing.
He blinked, disappointed.
Of course, it was then that he realised that he was at the top of the cave, peering down from above. Peering down from above at himself, more specifically, his own body kneeling before the glowing ritual circle in front of him.
That hadn't worked quite as he'd intended. It had worked, though, and now Jaune was able to properly take in the sensation of weightlessness that was somehow so different to freefalling.
Then, all of a sudden, Jaune felt a strange vacuum, a deep-seated thrumming pull, dragging him downwards. He let it take him, drawing his ethereal form back into his own body.
His physical form jolted and his actual eyes opened, the feeling of coarse rock on his fabric-clad knees visceral.
Palantír shifted, drifting over to him, and whilst the orb had no face to display concern, it was clear as day across the psychic link, the inside of the glassy sphere like a shifting galaxy, twisting and spinning faster than he'd seen before.
He shook his head, silently indicating that he was fine, standing from his kneeling with a quick groan. He'd barely been kneeling for a minute, and yet his body felt stiff and unfamiliar, a very strange sensation, and coming from him that was saying something.
He could've sworn he'd be used to strange sensations by now. Either way, he shook off the feelings, letting his muscles loosen from the sudden tension they'd formed. It certainly helped him feel better, less like he was experiencing an existential crisis.
Jaune had other things to do than concern himself with that, though, considering he didn't have anything that a Scrying Ritual would be useful for. His one attempt had failed, so he was just going to quit while he was ahead.
He handed Palantír a newly-created Greater Soul Orb, and the summon took it in its sole tentacle, glowing brightly even as Jaune moved past, rooting around deep in his inventory.
When he looked back, Nanuk Claw in one hand, Jaune noticed that while Palantír hadn't gotten any bigger, the singular tentacle was now more akin to a swath of them, whip-like tendrils tipped with sharp bone, like one of the most painful scourge's Jaune had ever seen. Not that he'd seen many of the multi-tipped whips, but still.
Palantír drifted aside to make way for Jaune to place the Nanuk Claw down on the well-worn ritual circle, but there would be a small amount of time before that would have any use, as Jaune concentrated, focus diverting from anything else to the swirling ambient Aura in his palm, congealing as it did to form a Soul Orb.
The Legendary Soul Orb was by no means a cheap orb to create, especially considering that, despite how high a level Soul Harvest was, it was still only just the required level to even make them.
It was some minutes later, easily double digits, that Jaune had both Legendary Soul Orbs made.
They both promptly joined the Nanuk Claw amidst the etchings. Again, the glow appeared and then disappeared, and when Jaune faced the ritual circle once more, he found himself dwarfed by the Nanuk Bound Soul that stood in front of him.
Almost the mirror image to Callisto, the Nanuk was coated in thick, white fur, bone plates and spines tipped with a near translucent ice-like material.
"Clearly you're built for cold weather, Polaris," Jaune remarked, and the polar bear seemed to appreciate the name, the gentle rumble that emerged from his throat cascading through the nearby stone.
[Your connection with the soul of a Nanuk gives you access to the Slow Skill.]
[Slow (Active): Thanks to the System, you can cause a target to be slowed, making them significantly slower physically whilst not affecting mental acuity. Costs 250 MP. Level 1; XP 0/12.]
Not one to leave a summon at Minor if he could help it, Jaune tossed another newly created Greater Soul Orb to Polaris, watching as the arctic bear chomped down on it, growing much larger, the bone plates growing wider and the spines extending further, until they were almost brushing against the walls.
In much the same way as his sister, Polaris slumped down onto his hindquarters, at ease despite his new size.
That would have to do for summons for now. Jaune didn't have the time to dedicate to creating ten whole new Legendary Soul Orbs, nor the willingness to spend that much time doing so when there were other things he had to do.
Like, for example, his Scroll vibrating in his pocket.
He found Blake in a small park, sat with her arms leaning against her knees, watching the passers-by as they wandered across the pathways.
"Sorry I took so long, I got stuck in a cave and I couldn't figure out how to get out for a few minutes. Turns out the portal that got me in there appears when I get close to it, so I managed to figure it out."
Blake turned to look at him, shaking her head. "You never fail to impress."
Jaune took the seat next to her on the bench, leaning back and enjoying the mid-afternoon sunlight. "So, what's up? Where's Ilia?"
"She's getting Weiss, we're meeting them here."
Jaune frowned. "You're dodging my question. Why are we meeting up? Did you find Pyrrha?"
Blake gestured over the wall, pointing towards the large concrete and steel building opposite the park. "She's in there."
Jaune followed her gaze, to the sign above the building's entrance. "Argus General Hospital? Then they haven't…"
The last Jaune had heard, Pyrrha was comatose. If Blake was saying she was in the hospital, then it seemed likely that hadn't changed, and he found himself grimacing. "Damn it."
"I'd been hoping she was okay too. We can't get in to see her, either, not unless we have ID that proves we're family."
"Which we don't have, and we're supposed to be laying low. Yeah, I can see why this is an issue."
His brow scrunched in thought, eyebrows trying in vain to bridge the gap as one hand came up to rest on his chin. "I have a really bad idea."
"If your idea is to break into the hospital during the night shift, I'm going to veto that right now." Blake interjected, before his idea could develop. "I want to see her too, and I can guarantee that Weiss does as well, and neither of us can phase through solid objects."
"I have another really bad idea that's significantly harder to pull off," Jaune answered.
Blake sighed. "Alright, fine, let me hear it."
"We steal a nurse's keycard, sneak through the hospital, and then try to heal Pyrrha."
Blake stared at him. "You realize there's a lot more to that than three steps, right?"
He cocked his head. "It's not a military base, Blake, it's a civilian hospital, they've barely got any security. Pretty much just one or two guards and a security camera system. I can hack the cameras, probably, and then we're pretty much golden as long as we act like we're supposed to be there."
He waved his hand side-to-side. "Eh, semantics."
"Even after all that, how sure are you that you can heal Pyrrha? What if it's beyond you?"
"We'll burn that bridge when we get to it."
"That's not how that saying goes."
Jaune shrugged. "Yet again, semantics. I can't know unless I try, and I can't try unless I'm there."
Blake shook her head. "We don't even know what's wrong with her! You could make her worse!"
That was a fair point, he had to concede. "Then we can look at her medical charts when we get there! They'll be at her bedside, right? That'll at least point us in the right direction."
"I know you're used to playing things by ear, we all are, for better or worse, but this is a situation where jumping in headfirst without any intel might be a serious problem! That's not even mentioning the issues that would arise if we get caught!"
"Blake, we assassinated Weiss Schnee without a single hiccup, if we can't break into a civilian hospital then we really need to re-examine our skill-sets."
Blake sighed, resting her head in a palm. "Jaune, I realize that it's not that hard for us to break in. The problem that I'm still hung up on is the threat we might pose to Pyrrha. What if your magic makes her condition worse? What if she wakes up, but she has no memories? What if it's not Pyrrha in there? There's a lot more 'ifs' in my head and your blasé attitude isn't alleviating those worries."
"Do you think I don't have those same worries? I'm terrified that we might never get Pyrrha back, but if we let that fear prevent us from taking action, that's no better than Pyrrha being dead anyway! I'm not going to stand around and do nothing, Blake, not when I think I can help."
"We need more information, Jaune. Gods, if we have to kidnap and interrogate her doctor I'm all for it, but we can't dive in without knowing anything!"
"It's not like someone is just going to appear and give us what we need, Blake! It's up to us!" He replied, equal heat in his voice, hushed as it was in the public space.
"Um, excuse me, uh, are you, uh, Jaune Arc and Blake Belladonna?"
The question caught both Blake and Jaune completely off-guard, and they both looked away from each other mid-argument to stare at the tan-skinned boy that stood in front of them, hands nervously at his side.
"Uh…?" Jaune ventured, more than a little confused.
"The man in my head says he knows you, and your system? Is that right?" The dirt-stained boy said, and then paused, as if he was having a long discussion with an invisible person. Jaune was too caught off-guard to notice, though, one hand reaching for Predator on his hip.
"Do you have a name?" Blake asked, her own hand creeping slowly towards Gambol Shroud, as subtly as she could possibly muster.
The boy nodded, either unconcerned or unaware of the potential danger he was in. "I'm Oscar. But the man in my head says you'd know me better as Ozpin."
Blake sighed. "I think I'm going to lose my mind, and it's all your fault."
Jaune was too busy staring open-mouthed to hear her.
For those interested, I'll put the full changelog on the public spreadsheet, at tinyurl com / SystemaStats (gods I wish ffnet let me do links). Anyway, Oscar! Hooray!
I've always liked Oscar as a character, despite my own personal misgivings with Ozpin, which have also faded as the series has progressed. He's everything that Ozpin isn't, and that makes him a near perfect foil for the old man's flaws. Also he's too pure for Remnant, and definitely too pure for Systema, with the crap Jaune's pulled.
Regardless, I'm gonna move onto reviews real quick! I'm partway through moving furniture onto a truck right now so I can't do that many.
Argus456: In a sense, the limitlessness is only as useful to Jaune as his ability to actually catch the fish. He very much could trawl for fish, but what use that would be is somewhat limited, as is the threats he'd face like you pointed out. At the moment, fishing is really only worth it for the XP and for food, which is pretty much also only useful for regenerating SP and gaining XP.
Curious Beats: At this point, who hasn't?
P0k3d4th: That is a possibility later down the line, it really depends on how the system progresses. It's definitely something available, though.
Gizmo Gear: I've never tried Curse of Aros, but I've got far too many hours in Runescape, so let's pretend that I didn't just straight up steal the idea for Gathering from that, yeah? RS3 has been the reason I've had some late chapters in the past haha.
FrostyChops: I'd argue that it's sadder that I've spent over three years of my life designing what actually might be the most complex system for a LitRPG to ever exist. Unless we count D&D stories as LitRPGs in which case I'll happily take second place.
IHateGenericCereal: Good news, the public sheet should (if I update it in time) have all the available things Jaune can do in it, including Crafting recipes, available Gathering nodes and his summon list!
Farfikuger: I deliberately made sure there was no Firemaking skill, fuck that and fuck Wintertodt.
That'll have to do for reviews this week, sorry to those I didn't respond to, but I promise I read, considered, laughed and appreciated your reviews! I dunno when the next chapter will be, I've gotta get all set up in my new place before that can happen, but hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later.
I have a Pa Treon in case you ever want to support me and my writing, get access to the full system, and other special rewards!
And, as always, see you next chapter!