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1040 Chapter 1039: Road Forwards

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'Leveled up... multiple times? I... guess that makes sense considering all the things that have happened... which is who knows how many events; I honestly can't even remember when I last bothered with my levels. Was it after Ka'Minvis?'

[Don't know, don't really care; all I know is that this is your current status sheet, and it's different from the last time you viewed it and the last time I was 'fully awake', or whatever the equivalent would be. Really though, I must admit that the progress you've made so far is rather intriguing. On one hand, it isn't that fast is it? It's been quite a long time since you found yourself here in this world.

Approximately two years, I believe..? A little over that, perhaps. And you're only at level 68, almost level 69. Some would consider that slow, and with a stat average - that isn't making use of your Charisma, since that is 'capped' at 100 technically - of approximately 160, it doesn't really seem that impressive. And yet, you also have something that matters more, something that isn't really that easy to quantify; a solid foundation, a 'safety net', impressive confidence and assuredness that is tempered with reality and understanding...]

As the System spoke to me, it summoned my status sheet and presented it to me in my mind, allowing me to look over the numbers and improvements I had made after many long, grueling days of training and fighting, of studying and comprehension.

[Level 64 -> 68 : 1,378,989 / 3,000,000

Shop Points : 320,000 -> 500,000]

[Stats :

STR : 128 -> 144

CON : 140 -> 152

AGI : 152 -> 171

DEX : 152 -> 173

CHA : 86 -> 90

WIS : 142 -> 158

INT : 142 -> 160]

'Y'know... sometimes I just have to wonder about this; it never really feels like these numbers have meaning, but I also just... I guess it's hard to compare these when these are just... me. I have nothing else to compare it to, and even if I did, I don't really know if I would understand what I was comparing...'

[Well, they are just numbers at the end of the day, and like you've said multiple times, having the ability to do something doesn't mean you can actually do it. Just because you have a lot of strength doesn't mean you can make use of it, or having a lot of mana doesn't mean much if you can't control it. So even if you have a set numerical value to these things, it doesn't really mean much, does it?]

'That... makes sense; even in games these values only ever meant you could achieve higher level skills, spells, or use better gear; it never really changed much about you. Even in shows or books these were just there as a sign of progression... which sort of makes me wonder...'

[Ah, I know you're Charisma is high and all, but don't become a narcissist on me now; you're not a main character here, alright? Well, I mean I guess you are kind of one, since our Lady likely has a book about you... but you understand what I am saying, right?]

I rolled my eyes dryly as I shook my head, finding it amusing how the System was so quick to build me up before being even faster to remind me to not get a big head from this, so I just thought 'Yeah, no need to say it like that though... it doesn't hurt to have some confidence in myself, right? You said so yourself...'

[Overconfidence is a pain to deal with though...]

Holding in a laugh, I glossed over the status sheet for a few moments more before asking 'So there was no skill acquisition or growth? Though... that makes sense, I guess. I haven't really managed to get much done besides theory crafting, and I haven't been able to put those theories to any kind of test either...'

[That is correct, and that is the correct reasoning too. Anyways, yes, I wanted to explain that you had leveled up and that while this might not seem that impressive considering how long you have been alive in this world, your individual strength and growth isn't the only thing that matters. This was also to just check up on you and make sure you were doing alright, what with the resurgence - well, not resurgence, but reminder of those two.]

'I... yeah, I'm fine. I knew they were still around, knew that they were going to eventually make themselves known once again. I still feel angry, scared, apprehensive and so much more at the mention of them, but it's not something I can't deal with. Besides, they aren't the only threat; those weird metallic monstrosities that Jahi and the others had fought before... they're still out there too, somewhere in the Labyrinthian. Hopefully those things cross paths with those two, but I'm not hedging any bets on it.'lightsnovel

[Well, that was all, and I look forwards to seeing how you progress in the future. From what it sounds like, this might just be the real start of your adventures, hm~? That multi year, treacherous journey from being a teeny tiny frog in a well to being that soaring crane up in the sky...]

The jovial tone that the System took made me chuckle out loud this time as I finally opened my eyes, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated despite not having actually prayed; but still, this small chat with the System had taken some of the weight off of my shoulders somehow, and that was more than I deserved.

'Don't go getting philosophical on me now, System... The idea of a little old man or woman sitting cross legged in my mind and spitting proverbs and other words of wisdom at me constantly would push me to the edge so very quickly.'

[I shall keep that in mind for whenever I feel like tormenting you~! Enjoy~!]

Getting up, I took a step forwards and leaned on the railing, looking down at the city that sprawled out in front of me as I was left alone in my mind - something that made me sound crazy, but oh well, no one else knew - and left alone to think about what to do going forwards.

Or... not what to do, but how to act going forwards, I suppose; it had been a long time here, and yet I hadn't hit triple digits in terms of levels just yet, and my stats were gradually crawling on in with each passing day, compared to the times where I would leap upwards in mere days of simple training.

Should I try and become more proactive with this life of mine, treating it more like the others I had read from the comfort of my 'safe' home, or the ones that I had played that had no real consequence no matter how many times I messed up or made mistakes?

Actually living that kind of life now made me realize even more how utterly insane those people were... though I guess I am not one to talk on sanity, now am I?

My thirst might have been tempered and locked away with how severe everything has been recently, but I can feel it in the back of my throat and mind now, nipping away at me like an insidious little puppy hankering for attention; I had been supplementing this craving of mine with raw adrenaline and unadulterated lust, but now that was no longer enough...

Now, I needed to specifically target my degenerate craving for suffering and agony, I needed to make someone's skin into an artwork of crisscrossed cuts, use their vitae as a medium of which I could paint the most wonderful picture of hedonistic, wanton violence that I could...

It was beginning to make itself known once more, scratching at the back of my mind and giving me back that thirst that I had managed to live without; it was coming back, and that was a bit worrying.

So my own twisted version of insanity was making its gradual return, but what did that mean for the rest of me?

lightsΝοvel

Should I begin throwing myself into the grinder to remove the imperfections and willingly subject myself to the tortures of getting stronger, or should I maintain my enjoyable and easy course that I was living through right now?

I had the occasional road bump, sure, but everything was manageable and relatively low stress, and I could work at a snails pace to do anything I pleased; was that something I could continue to maintain in this world..?

With the changes it was being subjected to become more apparent with each and every passing day?

I don't think I could with good conscience, not when there were three others relying on me constantly, not when there were three others back at home who weren't presently able to get as strong as this world was going to demand of us... I don't think I could keep this slow pace, could I?

My gaze wandered over the city below as I took in its peaceful atmosphere, the occasional flickers of torchlight and mana crystals illuminating the streets alongside the moonlight, and the gentle breeze that whistled quietly through the streets filled me with such blissful serenity...

Serenity that was only possible because the one who ruled this entire city - this entire country - was strong enough to support it on her own two shoulders, and that she was strong enough to even make the Empire think twice about behaving unscrupulously against this place.

Sure the Empress would likely be able to join hands with Lady Igna and Lady Lorelei to turn this entire desert into glass and earn a pyrrhic victory, but sometimes it is better to not play the game at all instead of playing to win constantly, and the reason the Empress would never want to play that game was because of the Sultana.

One person could change the entire thought process of one of the strongest people in the entire world, and that was what Jahi, Anput, and Leone wanted to reach, even if it was for different reasons to each of them; it was something that I wanted to, and to reach it... well, from the little I know of each of their stories, they were never idle, never stagnant.

Taking a deep breath of the cold night air, I decided that I needed to change the direction I was going in for this life, to begin taking the more arduous, dangerous road that led straight up that mountain, that went straight up to the peak that they resided on.

I needed to take that road, and not the easier, but much longer path that slowly wrapped around this entire mountain, exponentially increasing the amount of time I needed to reach that peak that I wanted to make my own.