The next day, I worked until my arms shook. My hands were covered in blisters, and my muscles screamed.
That was all I got for it. I asked Kepler if that was bad, and he just cursed about "Heroes" for a few moments, swallowed- what I assumed was pure rage, and ignored me.
After, I revisited my status, in dismay:
Title: Summoned Hero*
Language of men - Lvl 10 - Passive
Identify Lvl 3 - Active
It had not been an easy day.
I had already learned the hard way not to let stamina drop down to zero. Though it seemed to recover quickly, the harder the motion or form with the spear, the more quickly it drained. Despite a decent recover time, settling in on five or six was as low as I was willing to go without someone driving me to keep going.
None of those numbers had increased, either. Unlike Strength, or Dexterity, those had remained fixed. I wasn't sure if that was because they were locked into place, or if they operated on a different set of conditions.
It had begun to seem that the more the numbers accumulated, the harder it was to earn more. While some weapons likely favored whatever it was that assigned those ranks, there was an increasing difficulty in obtaining them. When I spoke with the others, they seemed to be in agreement with this. Jones said that from what he'd managed to learn while around camp, most status improvements past twenty, took months. Sometimes, once they were high enough: years. For most people, this meant a soft cap on what a normal person could achieve, sooner or later.
From that perspective, it almost felt like a fluke my Wisdom stat had risen at all, but then again... Even with all the perceived struggles to improve, the Summoned Hero title was almost a cheat. Which, explained Kepler's reactions.
Still, I wondered what Kepler had meant by his statement, the night before.
"Little while longer..." He'd said.
Had he meant it as "you're going to die" or had he been speaking about something else.
Was it possible to lose a title?
These were the questions on my mind, when I took the risk of finding the cook. Jones offered to go with me, but Kepler told him not to. In fact, he forced everyone to do more training, before sending me out alone.
Somehow, I managed.
Upon arrival, the cook didn't even say a word during the transaction. They took the coin and Kepler's name, then handed me a bloody package of meat.
Ground Horse Meat
Low class ground meat, meant for cooking. Poor quality.
I made the mistake of trying to open it, but quickly tied it back together. Small as it was, it smelled horrible, and the paper- whatever it was that held in the meat beneath the fine string, barely did its job. Walking down the path back to our tent, I was careful not to let it leak on me.
It was dark when I finally made it back. Everyone was already in their bunks. Except Kepler, it seemed. He was waiting for me.
Looking at the package, he nodded. The same way he always seemed to, when he saw something he didn't seem to actively hate.
"Good." He said, taking it from me.
"I didn't make it to twenty." I said.
"Mm." Kepler grunted, inspecting the horse meat, again nodding. "Go and sleep."
"What's that for?" I asked.
"Go." He repeated, setting the package down on the chest beside his bunk.
The rest of the night, I spent in an anxious state of barely sleeping exhaustion, and using [Identify] to revisit the same few objects, over and over. At some point, the [Identify] skill crept up another level, to four.
Then, morning had come.