Spike of All Trades

by Ariamaki

Chapter 30: Listing

A few minutes passed on their walk before Rarity stopped and gestured for Spike to join her. They were around the mid-point between the school and Carousel Boutique, so this was where they'd part ways for now. Spike had mixed feelings about that, about all of this, but he could get past it.

"And here the road splits, hmm? Have a good time with the Crusaders, and make sure to bring Sweetie back sometime before dinner, alright?"

Spike nodded rapidly, reaching out to shake Rarity's hoof.
"Sure thing! Thank you for... everything."

"Think nothing of it, Spike. Although... I did have one last thing I wanted to mention. I suppose talking with Aunt Arcane reminded me, in the end."

"Oh yeah?"

"A piece of... advice, I suppose? My perspective on your new situation. You already know that I prefer to do things all together instead of one by one: I can multi-task, if I do say so myself, along with the best of them."

Spike recalled the cloud of clothespins and magic working in concert this morning.
"I'll say! I’ve always been impressed by that side of you... Obviously."

"Hah! Well... Consider doing the same. That's my advice, simple as it sounds! It seems like you can use your 'skills' at the same time as one another, yes? In that case, if you’re going to train yourself... Train everything you can all at once. Normally I wouldn't think of things in such utilitarian terms, but... I'm rather curious to see where this all takes you."

His smile was wide and genuine, and he leaned forward to follow their hoof-shake with a quick hug.
"I can definitely get behind that. Thanks again, Rarity: I'll see you when I bring Sweetie back!"

His feet carried him away quickly, almost against his will, as Rarity waved him off.

Spike would be at Ponyville Schoolhouse within seven or eight minutes if he kept full pace... So he slowed down a bit once he had crested the hill. He had some 'menuing' to do, as they called it. Management and reaffirmation of what he had on hand, something he could multitask- Hey, maybe that'd be a new skill! He had been getting them at a pretty fantastic pace so far, although the gut feeling remained that the bonanza would end tonight. His initial quest had even called itself a "jump up the ladder", so it was probably easing him along in order to level the playing field...

Level it against who, or what? He couldn't shake the idea that this wasn't just him growing up and coming into his own as a dragon, if that was even the cause of it all. There was a purpose to what was happening to him. Thus he had to stay alert and smart and keep himself prepared: Which meant it was time to hit the menus and make sure he had a strong grasp of his 'arsenal'. First came skills... No, actually, first came that box he ignored when he was dealing with Blind Eye.

A skill has been created through a special action! Through the power of your body to endure pain and damage, a skill to resist trauma, [Physical Endurance] has been created!

[Physical Endurance] (Passive) Lv 1 EXP: 0.00%
This basic skill increases your bodily toughness, but only in regards to mundane damage.

3% decrease in the damage from all physical attacks and hazards.

Well, that was... refreshingly simple. Although it made sense that the descriptions of 'generic' skills were in and of themselves generic: It looked like Cooking had a similarly short summary. And since he had that up, Spike took the opportunity to pull up all of his other skill boxes and take a look at the haul thus far. Probably wouldn't hurt to get a summary of what it all does in writing while he was at it. It would make it easier to keep track of what he needed to test and experiment with in the future, since the descriptions were not 100% forthcoming about specifics.

Gamer's Mind -- Immune to 'psychological effects'. Still experience them but not affected? (TEST)
Gamer's Body -- No 'real' consequence to injury. After sleeping, recover from absolutely anything.
Observe -- Activate ability to see the description of things. Provided by game's "engine" it seems.
Cooking -- Passive, generally improves my ability to cook, required to learn / use complex recipes.
Earthshaper -- Improves my ability to carve / sculpt / shape rock, stone, and maybe metal? (TEST)
Dragon's Claws -- Claws are stronger, sharper, precise, retractable. Blunt fingertips feel weird.
Omphaloskepsis -- Twilight's meditation, restores MP / HP / Stam, trains them and Dragon's skills
Dragon's Heart -- Passively boosts all stats, lets me burn MP to boost them... how much? (TEST)
Dragon's Mind -- I can see and learn magic, plus it's why meditation can train the Dragon's skills.
Dragon's Breath -- Defines how my fire works, might give more control, learn new 'colors'? (TEST)
Cantus -- Singing a 'Heartsong' gives bonus MP regen, I can redirect it into various buffs per song.
Stagnet -- Lets me freeze, dismiss, and manipulate my fire as well as (apparently) magic. (TEST)
Dragon's Hoard -- Changes my growth based on chosen "hoard", can scale freely within a range.
Balanced Soul -- Passively boosts XP and all stats, but only if all my stats are equal. Free points!
Physical Endurance -- Damage resistance from 'mundane' harm. What exceptions are there?

Spreading it all out like this made him realize just how much he had accomplished in so little time. Still missing that Dragon's (Strength) skill, assuming there isn't an inexplicable gap in the pattern: Probably something good to focus on soon, even if only to confirm or deny his suspicions. Speaking of confirmation some poking around in submenus eventually led to him finding other things he’d acquired with less fanfare over the hours: Elemental Affinities, Masteries, Subskills, and a single Consumed Skill. His 'engine' was showing itself to be more complex every time he looked... Not necessarily a bad thing.

Affinities... He had picked up two, Fire and Earth. Given the timing, it was easy to guess that they were related to the circumstances in which he acquired them. At the same time they made a lot of sense for him in the long term as well: Being a dragon, he could breathe fire, and for that same reason he ate stones and gems. Even an Earth Pony couldn't boast that level of connection to the soil. So those made sense, and expanding his collection of Affinities... Well, it could go a few ways. Those ways, in turn, got another segment in the journal:

1- It's possible those were all he'd ever get: More than one game had that stuff hard-locked at character creation. Decent and depressing odds, although if he had to stick to two elements, that was probably going to be the pair he chose anyways. Shame about Air, if it works out that way...

2- He might be able to learn or acquire them from ponies or other races, especially if Dragon's Mind had a generous definition of 'magic'. This had high odds since he had gained these affinities at the same time as Stagnet, which let him control and manipulate magic and fire.

3- He might gain them naturally by getting new kinds of Dragon's Breath with the self-same skill, or even just through exposure to the right elements or situations. Not the most likely, but also the best one in terms of potential.

As for the Masteries... Well, he had a decent idea there. He had earned Cooking with this system, and was on his way to getting Craft and Intimidate by the same metric. Since they were word for word the same as skills from O+O and the games based on it? Mastery was probably how he got the things most others would consider 'skills': General, mostly passive talents. Earthshaper wasn't in the list, but in O+O that kind of thing was a subset of Craft... and so was Cooking, plus there’s at least one other difference: Spike’s Earthshaper has an Active component.

Given the evidence, Spike was pretty convinced that the Mastery system was for "skills" in the traditional sense as opposed to the hodgepodge of magic and powers his engine called skills. Which left the weird mystery of Internal Alchemy, of course, but that was probably going to bother him for a long time at the rate it was growing. So that was another topic handled.

Subskills, another one with questions attached. He didn't have a lot of data-points to work with directly, although he had interesting counterpoints. The Commands from Stagnet, the Heartsongs from Cantus, the Recipes from Cooking, etc... Why weren't those Subskills, and why were the ones he had? Using his current collection as a guide he guessed that the deciding factor was if the new 'part' merely added to a skill, or if it was a total overhaul to the core concept: A variant of sorts.

By that logic, Quality Assurance was an always-on method of seeing items his power could utilize, Indra's Net let him turn Observe onto the bonds of things instead of the things themselves, and the Green Sending-Fire totally changed his breath (even if it was his 'default', it wasn't mundane fire).

Commands and Heartsongs and Recipes just added to the framework of their skills in a defined way: Different commands, different tunes and buffs, different kinds of food. That seemed like a good way to split it up, although something to take note of? So far all of his Subskills were either inherent to who he was before The Gamer, or had been gained as quest rewards.

And that left his single Consumed Skill, Eidetic Memory. That was the situation that felt the simplest, but simultaneously the weirdest. From what he could tell it was ‘consumed’ because Dragon's Mind replicated its functionality, but if that was the case then did it even do anything? Had he "wasted" a skill, so to speak, or did earning it amplify that part of Dragon's Mind in some way? The Consumed Skill menu didn't even let him see Eidetic Memory's description, probably because he never saw it before the skill was lost to him.

After so many new theories and ideas, it was a bit disappointing that this would remain a mystery.