“Let’s see, Arthur Chua. Fifty-nine credits total.” The attendant was reading the information from the scrolling tablet he had before him, eyeing the information idly before gesturing and handing the tablet over to Arthur. “There you go. Shop items are now listed up to 60 credits. I can expand further, if you want to look at saving up for more; but considering you’re brand-new and poor, I’m going with the assumption you need to buy techniques and pills immediately. Fair?”
“Fair enough.” Arthur picked up the tablet and flicked his gaze down, eyes widening at the sheer volume of items listed. “This . . . I . . . That’s a lot.”
“Can you help?” Arthur said plaintively.
“If you wish,” the attendant replied, sounding a little bored. “I will need parameters of what you want, however. What are your goals? Do you even have any?”
Arthur paused, hearing the tone underneath the man’s words. Not exactly scorn but dismissal. His eyes narrowed, but he swallowed his pride and spoke. “Vague ideas. Do you perhaps have suggestions?”
A shrug. “What have you done so far? What do you have upgraded?”
“I’ve upgraded and developed my Body attribute, with Enhanced Eyesight as my first trait. Otherwise, I have Focused Strike”—the man gave a dismissive snort—“and an Accelerated Healing technique.”
“Interesting,” the man leaned forward. “There’s no indication you bought that from us.”
“I learnt it myself,” Arthur said pridefully. There was a considering look from the attendant before he gestured for Arthur to continue. “My plan was to upgrade my Spirit attribute next, with the goal of increasing my cultivation speed. It’s too slow right now.”
Another dismissive snort. “They’re always too slow.”
“Well, that’s my plan for now,” Arthur replied. “I’m not exactly sure what techniques or equipment I should get. I’m leaning towards buying more techniques, maybe a pill to boost an attribute or increase my energy.”
“Forget pills that boost attributes directly. There are only two that you could afford and I’d advise against them to anyone—the amount of corrosive and corrupt chemicals are too high. Very temporary boost, for those who are too much in a hurry. Not worth it.”
“Oh, right!” Arthur remembered and extracted a pill from his pouch, placing the unknown item on the table. “Does assessing what this is cost me anything?”
Lips pressed, the attendant picked up the box and opened it, staring at the pill within. After a moment, he set it down and pushed the pill to Arthur. “Yes, normally. Even if we are unable to tell what an item is, there is a cost. However, since you’re poor and I have no idea, I’m waving it.” He pushed the pill back to Arthur who caught the open, spinning box in his hand.
“You don’t know?” Arthur said. “At all?”
“I don’t specialize in assessments. If you wanted someone like that, you should have specified when you got your number. I can tell you, it looks to be a specialized pill, so details will likely be hard to acquire anyway. Probably something either made by a sect or corporation for their personnel.”
“So it’s safe?” Arthur said eagerly.
“Hah! No. Pills made outside of the Towers are not registered beforehand, so the formulas and processes are secret. However, without the Tower’s aid, they are also more expensive to make and might have secondary, unknown effects later on down the line. In addition, many such pills might require a specific cultivation technique or prior use of other pills.” The man shrugged. “It’s a good way to ensure your work isn’t just stolen.”
“I didn’t steal it!”
“I didn’t say anything.”
Arthur glared at the man who continued to look unperturbed. Turning the box over in his hand, he sighed and put it away, choosing to decide what to do about it later. “Right, so any other suggestions? Or none at all?”
“Don’t get snarky with me. You’re the one not giving me much to work with.” The attendant rolled his eyes, before shrugging. “I would not recommend too many techniques at your stage. Your biggest problem, as you have mentioned, is your cultivation resources. More than two or three active techniques become a problem. Perhaps a single passive technique at most, though those come with their own problems.”
“Reduction in cultivation or refinement speed due to reservation of energy for the technique. And it’s hard to find techniques that you can turn off, so once you start, you are stuck until you either upgrade the basic technique or replace it with another,” Arthur said, just to show off that he knew something.
“Exactly. So, I’d recommend two to three active techniques—combat focused, of course. And maybe some equipment. Pills to aid your cultivation might be viable, but at your stage, it’d mostly just speed up your current cycle. That, you will have to decide.”
“Upgrade now or later . . .” Rubbing his chin, Arthur considered the question briefly before asking. “How much for those pills that give more refined energy?”
“Depends on the pills. The cheapest costs 10 credits and will increase your refined energy, if you use it well, by a maximum of a quarter of a point. If you had a technique, it might go as high as a third. If you are not compatible, you might at most break even.”
Another damn factor about using pills, even Tower pills. Some pill consolidation techniques, some cultivation techniques aided in absorption, speeding up the process and amount of good a pill did. For people like him, they could only hope for the basics. Which lead him to ask:
“Are there cultivation techniques I can afford?”
Another grimace but he nodded. Not unexpected. The advantage of Tower cultivation techniques were that they could be used by everyone. The disadvantage was that they were at best mediocre for most people and incredibly expensive. Just like the basic technique he studied, really. Anything better than the basics was just out of reach for now.
“Right. Techniques. Combat ones . . . Maybe if I’m going with Spirit for my next attribute, something that will boost my Body?”
“Specific or general?”
“Uhh . . . general?” Arthur said, hesitating. “Yeah, general.”
“High-end but costly, or low-cost but low amplification?”
“Low amplification and, preferably, good for long-term.”
“Won’t be worth it in the long-term, but if we assume long-term means length of Tower stay, then yes, there are a few.” The attendant kept tapping away at the tablet, before he continued. “What else?”
“Let’s go with gear. I need to replace the herb gathering boxes from the newcomer gear, and I need a spear. Something solid and unlikely to break. Enchanted if possible . . .” Catching the look of disdain in the man’s eyes, he continued. “But not necessary. Armour would be nice too. Or a protective technique?”
“Armour is cheaper for now and probably better. Once you upgrade your body more, you’ll step out of the need for armour with techniques, but that should be something you look at on the third floor or higher.”
Arthur winced, recollecting what he had read. Right, right. Body techniques for physical improvement like that went down one of two routes: a general active boost, or a passive rebuilding boost. Since he had no desire to smash himself into trees and fists and what not to rebuild his body, he was happy to make use of active boosts. Anyway, active boosts were stronger later on when he had a higher energy pool and access to better techniques.
“Anything else?” the attendant asked, forcing Arthur to shake his head. Not that he didn’t want more, but with only 59 credits to his name, there was a limit to what he could buy.
“Here.” The tablet was shoved over again, the list much shorter.
Nodding in thanks, Arthur looked down while idly humming, still excited to see what he could purchase.