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Gaming on a Whole New Level

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Chapter 1: START GAME

In the year 2138, there exists something called a “DMMO-RPG.”

This stands for “Dive Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.” While connected via an intracranial nano-computer network called a “neuro-nano interface,” which combines the best of cyber- and nanotechnology, players experience physical sensations as if they were really inhabiting an imaginary world.

In other words, you play as if you’re actually in the world of the game.

And among all the various DMMO-RPGs that had been developed, one stood above the rest.

Yggdrasil.

It had been released twelve years earlier, in 2126, by a Japanese developer who had been waiting for just the right moment.

Compared to other DMMO-RPGs at the time, Yggdrasil gave players an incredible amount of freedom.

For example, consider the class system, a fundamental element of character customization. Counting the advanced classes as well as the base ones, there were well over two thousand. Since each class had only 15 levels, players could have seven or more classes by the time they hit the overall level cap of 100. As long as they met the basic requirements, they could dabble as they pleased. Though it would be inefficient, a player could acquire one hundred classes at level 1 if they wanted to. In other words, the system was such that, unless they were deliberately created that way, no two characters would ever be the same.

Then, by using the creator’s tool kit-sold separately- players could edit the appearance of their weapons and armor, as well as the advanced settings of their in-game residences.

The environment awaiting players who ventured into this world was enormous. In fact, there were nine worlds: Asgard, Alfhiem, Vsnaheim, Nidavellir, Midgard, Jotunheim, Helheim, and Muspelheim.

A vast world, a staggering number of classes, and graphics that could be tweaked to one’s heart’s content-it was precisely the amount of customization that poured nitroglycerin onto the Japanese creative spirit and led to the game’s explosive popularity. It got to the point wherein Japan the word DMMO-RPG was practically synonymous with Yggdrasil.

But that was all in the past now…

A wide white stage of the Gothic arena reflected that of the shifting pigments of the sky of which it floated in. The tiles that make up the floor are so reflective that it could be mistaken for a chunk of the sky as anyone could clearly see the space like clouds passing above off the surface.

At the center lays a humanoid figure lying on their back in a starfish position.

They are far from human though.

They have arms and legs like such with five digits and nails on each extension but other than that there isn’t much more of their form that is similar to the humanoid races the game holds...or will soon have held.

Their body is bare and blank of all gender aspects most other races do hold. Genitalia and mammary papilla are completely missing while the rest of their form remains on the fine line between masculine and feminine. Not only is their torso bare but their head as well. It’s blank of all features a face normally holds. Eyes, nose, mouth, and ears all absent; their scalp is no exception as it remains bald.

Their skin may be composed of ones with warm blood but the colors and shapes that’d shift across it are similar to the mannerisms of a chameleon.

This is mainly due to the fact that you programmed your avatar to express your emotions clearer. It's simpler this way since facial recognition was simply impossible with the time, programming, materials, and cash that’d burn. It was simpler to just have emotes in the game. This quirk you added to your avatar’s features also acts as a complement to some of your race levels as well as the mannerisms you’d expect from a faceless grotesque; so from the time on since you came up with the idea, you have always seen it as an act of brilliance on your part.

Though, now, it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

You’ve been there, in the middle of what had been the downfall of many hardcore players and guilds, for what seemed like hours when in reality it had only been thirty minutes since you had logged on…

...to the most successful and heartfelt game you’ve ever produced, Yggdrasil.

How twelve years seem to just fly by, especially since it was solely focused on your creation.

To be honest, it was like living in a dream. What was it?... Oh, yeah, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life? How true that is.

Ever since you first released the demo on steam your life has changed forever. You had never expected Yggdrasil to blow up the way it did.

In fact, you had only got the idea from a drunken D&D campaign.

A friend of yours was not only a sparky and annoying cleric throughout the entire campaign but is a hardcore gamer and had always given you rundowns of their favorite games since they knew you were a programmer. One night, when your entire group was together nursing on various alcoholic beverages and about to get your butts handed to you by a spider witch, your friend had mentioned how cool it would be if you created a game that has as much freedom and diversity as D&D as well as great graphics to accompany quests, stories, battles, and much more. With all the drunken support from all the other players and the liquid courage running through your system, your had readily sworn to create a game even better than what they were asking for and then charged straight into the witch’s din only for it to end up as a team TKO.

Thankfully, your luck was more so with your game development than witch slaying.

Your avatar’s skin shifts to a series of light pinks and yellows as you giggle at the thought.

You lived up to your word and created the game Yggdrasil.

Since then, you’ve been swamped with attending conventions, assisting other games in development, and giving pep talks in front of thousands. Every day was a vacation for you.

Gaming became a part of your entire life.

But you also wanted to be a part of the game. You could have just played the game like every other player but you wanted to be an obstacle yourself for true players to overcome.

Games only have so many missions they can dish out, so many items that can be collected, and so many bosses to beat. You wanted to keep your players attention.

And what better way than to create an unpredictable deity final boss personally controlled by the creator of the game?

So seven years ago, you released the avatar that you’d personally play as. You named this final boss Sōsaku-sha. A simple name, yes, but it was straight forward enough for all players to understand.

This gave Yggdrasil a whole new dynamic in popularity for your avatar became known for its difficulty.

For one, you’d only log in and play as Sōsaku-sha whenever you pleased. This meant that players couldn’t be prepared and camp out at your spawn point because you joined the server at random. Since this was the case, you programmed a mass notification system into the game so that any time you logged in it’d be sent out to all players.

Your spawn point was a challenge in itself to get to. For one, to even access Sōsaku-sha’s realm, normally located on the edge of the nine worlds, players/guilds would have to collect nine super tier magic items that each had their particular status effects. They were all shards, puzzle pieces to one important totem.

Each item was hidden at random, separate from one another, in each of the nine worlds. These super tier items could not be bought as cash shop items and wouldn’t spawn again once found. This meant that there were only nine of the super tier magic items in the game of Yggdrasil at all times. This also meant that guilds would fight tooth and nail for the items if found in others’ possessions because there would be no other way to retrieve all nine.

Once a player/guild was able to retrieve an item, enemy NPCs would suddenly have a twenty percent increase in hostility toward all players connected to whichever item they’ve obtained and will target them until they can steal it. Every time a player/guild retrieves another item the hostility, numbers, and strength of all enemy NPCs will increase by five percent.

If they collected all super tier magical items then they’d fuse together to form into the single totem, shaped like Sōsaku-sha standing with their head bowed to rest their chin on their clasped hands, called Fēsuresukī. The super tier item grants the holder all the status affects the nine separate pieces once held into one and will remain active until it’s no longer in the player’s inventory. Once Fēsuresukī is formed, a mass notification would be sent out to all players that the totem is active and will show the exact coordinates in which it was formed and every enemy NPC active in the world the totem is in will do everything in their power to steal it. Fēsuresukī will also summon a rune with an empty acropodium at the center, called the Kami no hashi, that only the player holding Fēsuresukī would be able to see on their map and if placed upon the pedestal it would act as a key to unlocking Sōsaku-sha’s secret realm.

Once your realm is unlocked the totem would shatter and randomly re-spawn around the nine worlds for players to find again. The realm would remain open for the player/guild that unlocked it for an entire year and then would lock them out and disappear after that allotted time is out. That gives them time to prepare and venture beyond the Kami no hashi. The realm also locks out the player/guild once they defeat you or if you defeat them three times. If they want to re-challenge you then they’d have to hunt down the nine super tier magical items once again.

But the difficulty didn’t end there.

Sōsaku-sha’s entire realm is protected by a bizarre environment, called Seiun, and NPCs that were unseen throughout the rest of Yggdrasil, called Kaonashis (no, not Kaonashi from Spirited Away).

Seiun, the space like gaseous storm that surrounds the Citadel, a sky arena which also acted as Sōsaku-sha’s palace, was renamed by players to Desukuraudo. While in the environment spells will act high-wire and often times malfunction. Without any buffs, items, spells, or armor that protects against all environmental status damage, it was impossible to pass through. All Kaonashis that you programmed to spawn and protect the hidden realm are monstrous creatures and amalgamations that are all level eighty and above. They swarm every crevice of Seiun or Desukuraudo and have randomly generated elemental and racial stats. This only allowed the strongest and adaptive players to pass through.

If any players did make it past all the threats that surround the Citadel then they’d finally face you unless they chose to raid the palace underneath the arena. No one was ever able to make it past the second floor down into the palace.

Your avatar’s skin visibly loses some of its saturation at your disappointment.

Saying you’re hard to beat is an extreme understatement.

Yggdrasil ranks levels from zero to one hundred. All players are limited by the point system and can only gain so many skills and stats before they max out. Unlike them, you’re on a level of your own.

You have higher level HP, MP, physical attack, physical defense, dexterity, magic attack, magic defense, total resistance, and specials than all other players because your max level doesn’t stop at one hundred. Sōsaku-sha has no weaknesses to any elemental stats nor has strength over any of them. You created your avatar this way so that only hardcore gamers and elite guilds could pose a challenge to you. You also programmed it this way because your avatar represented the deity that created Yggdrasil, hence its name, so it had to be abnormally powerful.

Though, you still wanted your avatar beatable so you set phases you’d manually switch in between. Players would have no visual or audio indication of when you’d swap except how your health bar and magic points are affected so they’d have to remain attentive in those areas unless they wanted to waste valuable items and attacks to end up killed. You had only two phases.

One completely focused on defense and became known as "shielded" by players. In this state, you wouldn’t be able to cast any spells or use magic but you’re completely immune to all attacks. This gives you time for your race and class levels to raise your MP and HP levels. You would still be able to use physical attacks and skills but you felt that fighting in such a way wasn’t fair. Cheating almost when it came to players who’s avatars aren’t immune to physical attacks. You'd really only swap to this phase to troll and to give both you and your opponents time to heal and mentally rest before you swapped back to your second phase.

The second focused mostly on offense which became known as "open" by players. In this state, you could use a wide variety of magic for whatever purpose you desired but your defense wasn’t impenetrable like the other phase. You have high defenses but over time, players would chip away at your HP which your racial skills would keep replenishing until you were completely healed or run out of it.

You’d keep switching in between the two to give players a run for their money. But you also had a single move that Sōsaku-sha became most infamous for and the bane of all players.

Eye of Providence.

It is a move that is unique to your avatar. Sōsaku-sha, when you willed it, would open a vertical eye that takes up its entire face which appears to be a bright white light. Players would have a warning as it takes five seconds at least to prepare and it appears as a thin white line across Sōsaku-sha's face. You can prepare it and hold it at trigger ready as you pleased but after thirty seconds you'd receive random disabilities that would continue to add up every thirty seconds until you open the eye. Any player caught in your gaze would automatically die and their HP and MP would be absorbed into your own. You only try to keep it open for a max of five seconds though; summoning it costs half of your remaining HP and after five seconds of you using the eye it depletes half of your remaining HP every second that passes. You’d use the Eye of Providence at least once every time you fought. Your physical and magical defense/offense, speed, and accuracy also drops down fifty percent during the time you have your eye open and five seconds afterward before returning to their normal stats. Any skills or spells you'd use during and five seconds after are also cut in half on effectiveness. Among that, you can only summon it when you're "open". Any player who'd survive after Eye of Providence would often times jump you.

If they were able to defeat you there were two possible endings. You would then plead with the player(s) to spare you and if they do they’d receive a grand reward. If they accept, not only do they receive an in-game pure trophy that is a world tier level item good for one use, each player that fought you and won would have their gamer tags put out on display for everyone to see, and they’d receive a real-life replica of the said trophy in the mail. A seven-day period of prosperity would also wash over the nine worlds that give all players various benefits. But if they kill you, then they’d receive the same prizes yet the trophy in both the game and mail will be dark and corrupted. In addition, throughout the nine worlds, there will be spurts of bad weather, poverty, famine, higher-level enemy NPCs will spawn, and more following a week after. Your avatar remains slain until the week is over and then you can log in and resurrect and re-spawn in the center of the Citadel's arena. After the player(s) receive the world item they would have a week to raid the Citadel before they'd be teleported safely back to the Kami no hashi they entered from and the rune would disappear along with your realm.

These two endings prompted players to challenge you time and time again to receive both of the two endings...only to fail.

Out of the seven years you played as Sōsaku-sha, you alone had been beaten a mere five times.

You giggle again in your lonely arena because only one out of those five defeats were you actually spared. Players would get so riled up when they’d fight you so when they’d finally beat you they wouldn’t spare you the ear to listen to your final plea. Ha! It was hilarious…

Murky blue flowed over the flowery colors of your cheer as your mind travels back to the end of it all. You take notice of the ticking clock at the top right of your screen.

23:50:32, 33, 34...

Less than ten minutes until midnight when your game will shut down for good.

You didn’t really want to shut the game down but over the years, players started to dwindle. Those who got burned out sought out other games to indulge in and such a complex DMMO-RPG costs a lot of money to keep up for so little players it contains now.

You don’t plan on letting Yggdrasil fade into the dark of history, though.

You’ve already made plans for a very similar and updated version of the closing game to be produced. In fact, it may just be a Yggdrasil 2.

Still, you can’t help but feel...lost? No, well, maybe, but...troubled, yes.

It kind of feels like throwing away a prized childhood toy because it has grown mold. You have sentimental attachments to the game and the grand diversity it was able to produce but you understand why it needs to be shut down.

23:51:42, 43, 44…

A little over eight minutes left…

You had put most enemy NPCs on peaceful mode for this last week. They’d certainly attack if provoked but you wanted to give players a chance to absorb the remaining sights of Yggdrasil…

An idea pops into your head.

Normally you’d stay in the Citadel and wait for players to come and challenge you but you know for a fact that none of the present players have your realm unlocked and with so little time left no player is going to be able to reach the sky arena in time.

You have a chance to leave and really watch the Yggdrasil end with a sunset. You know the best spot to watch it too.

Yet another idea pops in your head.

You can remain in character and act as Sōsaku-sha in this chaotic realm of yours. You never really traverse the palace below the arena unless it was to build. You often only descend to the floors below to peer through the Mirror of Remote Viewing you have in your possession to watch players throughout the game so, if you pleased, you could summon enemies for them to defeat or assist them where they’re struggling. You can take the time to admire all the items and architecture all other players were never able to with the little time you have left.

You have a choice to make. You can’t be in two places at once.

 

How will you use your remaining time?

I want to enjoy the sights of Yggdrasil one last time.

I want to act as a true ruler and remain at the Citadel until the very end.

 

An image of Sōsaku-sha in many different forms.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: LOST ROUTE

It wasn’t a very hard choice to make.

Where you currently live it’s difficult to see sunsets on good days with all the buildings in the way. When you get the chance to indulge in the splendor sunsets are, you fully do.

Besides, you never have left your realm as your avatar before.

Under your command, Sōsaku-sha’s form shifts as they begin to float, another perk of their race. Unfortunately, you can’t use Gate, a very reliable teleportation spell that could cover any distance and had a failure rate of 0 percent, anywhere within your realm. You had blocked out any teleportation magic within your realm so that players couldn’t just skip the Seiun and appear in the Citadel ready to fight.

This meant that you had to exit your realm by flying through the deadly cosmic fog that surrounded the sky palace/arena.

It is no threat to you though.

It was programmed with the sole purpose to protect you and the Citadel from any danger so it would be going against its code if it harmed you.

With that last thought, you rise farther and farther from the surface of the arena until you even pass the pinnacles that tower high over the shiny white dome walls covered with buttresses and elegant outcroppings.

The Seiun surrounds the Citadel like a shell but leaves enough empty space for players to truly admire the palace at the core of the storm and enough time to escape any Kaonashis that may have been pursuing them. The colors that shift throughout the stardust mimics your avatar’s skin as if it is an extension of you. At present, its a culmination of pastel blues, pinks, and yellows which make it appear like sparkly cotton candy.

It would be an appetizing sight if not for the Kaonashis that emerge every now and again from the confines of the Seiun like maggots. Some actually appear as such as well as mutants of moles, anglerfish, eels, jellyfish, worms, bats, and more. Others took on a more fantasy form like leviathans, basilisks, penanggalans, hydras, azathoths, nyarlathoteps, and other world-ending monstrosities.

You can’t tell whether or not it’s a good thing they’re limited to the territory of the Seiun.

The only way players can escape the faceless NPC’s other than killing them, of course, is if the players make it out of the Seiun. If Kaonashis stay too long outside the Seiun they die by shattering into the star-like particles that make up the space like storm.

The colors of the Seiun become more saturated in hue at your change of emotion but you didn’t have time to waste. The system clock displays the current time.

23:54:16, 17, 18…

With almost five minutes remaining you shoot through the air like a missile, closing the distance between the Seiun and you but leaving the Citadel far behind.

You turn your head over your shoulder and watch as the sky fortress shrinks in size. You’ll never see it again in the game. You had made so many memories there. The NPC’s you spent hours producing in wait for players to arrive, the detail that you put into the design of the Citadel, and the heat of battles you’ve faced over the years flashes rapidly in your mind before it fades into the vibrant fog of the Seiun.

You leave it all behind in favor of moving forward and you turn your head to face the psychedelic storm.

You’ve been in the Seiun before but it surprises you every time you enter because of how randomly generated the Kaonashis and the environment are. You had to admit that it was slightly nightmare-inducing sometimes. Tens upon hundreds of Kaonashis, all varying in size and shape, fill your vision as bolts of lightning and star particles illuminated them. The lightning that shot through the colorful mist pops and fades into a blizzard before lighting up like an inferno. Like busy bees, the NPCs swarm the Seiun as if on the patrol for any intruders. They flew through the stardust much like how you can since most don’t have wings, like the odd few, and upon your passing, they seem to follow as if noticing your presence.

Upon realization, you giggle at the Kaonashis causing the color of the Seiun to change into a variation of warm colors, “What are you all doing? Are you all trying to see me off?”

Around thirty seconds of being trailed by a faceless and bizarre legion like a mother duck leading her chicks through a hellscape, the Seiun starts to fade out into the sky beyond.

With one push, you breach the outskirts of the Seiun for the first time and come out far above that of the terrain of Asgard and Vsnaheim, the dwelling places of Norse mythology Gods. But you weren’t interested in those worlds. You have another one in mind that withholds the sights you seek.

You turn back once again to face the Seiun. The round planet like star system continues to spin and thrash with the torrent of bad weather and creatures. The Kaonashis circle the area closest to you in the storm.

You slumped almost in a bittersweet way. “I had fun…” You mumble before watching the storm reflect your somber feelings, “Thank you...for everything.”

To that you turn away and type in coordinates to open a “Gate.” to your final destination in Yggdrasil. A rift appears before you and you enter.

On the other side is a mountainous range with greenery and jutting rocks scattered across their peaks, all basked in an orange glow where to sun kisses the land. The fjord, cupped in the hands of giants, swallow the world above as a mirror does. The sky no different, with clouds seemingly absorbing the fiery curtain of the evening’s end to reveal the starry void beyond. All that isn’t in reach of the retreating globe is encased in chasing purple shadows signaling the unending night, the death of Yggdrasil.

Truly, this was a sight to behold. Even though you can’t feel the warmth of the dipping star, it truly is awe-inspiring.

It’s poetic that Midgard, the world of mortal man, has more captivating sights than all the other eight worlds. You programmed it this way to bring awareness to Earth’s environment that is being tarnished by mankind and show that we can truly enjoy sights like so in reality.

A sigh escapes you but you’re unsure of its emotional source. Even looking down at your own avatar’s skin doesn’t provide much intel as it’s many.

You check the time.

23:57:57, 58, 59…

Ahh, two minutes left. This was slight torture, watching the clock to your life’s dream’s allotted execution come ever so closer with the ticking seconds.

You are going to lose it all yet you know that this will be a step up.

This fantasy world may be ending but you’ll create new ones not only for you to indulge in but others as well. This was a stepping stone to better entertainment, you’re sure.

People need an escape from reality and you’re going to make sure to be able to provide it. You huff.

You have a break day tomorrow so you have no need to rush to bed as soon as the servers go down. But you love sleep so you plan to do so.

23:59:35, 36, 37…

You watch the descending sun and find words to form a eulogy of a sort.

“I watch in rapt attention as you pass on in a silent fall but I too will follow in your leaving. My secret lover, how you lift me up when I’m down even as your spirit is set aflame. I say rest now, for you’ve fought the good fight and won.”

23:59:57, 58, 59-

You brace yourself as the scene fades into the blackout triggered by the forced log out-

0:00:00...one, two, three…

“...Huh?”

The sight of forest captured in a sky full of stars fills your vision. You haven't logged out, you realize. You were still in the game?! And if you were, why did you get teleported here?

“What-” You’re cut off when you feel a gust of wind tickle your skin. Your mind blanks out for a second when you realize everything feels too real. You shouldn’t be able to feel the wind in the game! “What’s going on?!”

Before you realize it, you’re plummeting out of the sky to the Earth below, a screech escaping your lungs.

Everything becomes a blur as the wind whistles and whips past you in deafening gusts but somehow you distinguish screaming past your thrashing. It sounds disoriented but you pay it little mind in favor of finding a reason why Yggdrasil seemed so lifelike now but more importantly how to survive falling from the height you started at.

You don’t get much time to contemplate as the shattering sound of cracking fills your ears as your back collides with a solid surface. You cry out in shock but surprisingly not from the pain that you expected to come yet never did. You continue to fall, though, seemingly going through whatever you landed on. The fall that follows is a far cry from the one you were just traumatized by because it’s only a split second before you’re swallowed up by a cushioning yet prickly substance you could only describe as necessary discomfort.

The sound of frantic and disgruntled animals is the next thing you become aware of as you try to escape your savior(?) but being completely engulfed in what you realize to be straw makes your movements sluggish. The musky smell of a barn or possibly a stable is what hits you next and you recoil.

“Eugh! Disgusting!” You notice once more that your voice sounds disoriented but you throw that up to screaming your lungs out and being smothered in the hay you’re trying so desperately to escape from.

You finally seem to gain leverage with an arm and you’re finally able to free your head from the confines of the straw pile with a gasp.

You rapidly dart your head around and confirm that you are, in fact, in a dark barn with stables of animals scattered about. How you’re able to see it all blows over your head for the blaring fact.

This is definitely NOT Yggdrasil!!!

There is NO way your game can feel and act this realistic!

So where are you and how did you end up in the sky?!

You look up at the gaping hole in the roof of the barn that displays the starry night sky above as if confirming that your cardiac arrest inducing fall did indeed happen. It’s a miracle in itself that you didn’t die on impact! Without any injuries, to add! Maybe you are hurt and your adrenaline is masking your pain? You hope that isn’t the case and you’re just magically okay. You needed to check and make sure you’re not harmed in any way but first, you must escape the haystack.

You struggle for what seemed way longer than what you thought it would take but you finally break free. You lean over and put your hands on your knees and huff out a triumphant sigh. Well...you’re standing, albeit a bit shaky, so that’s got to be good news. Upon further inspection, you notice something truly bewildering.

You’re still your avatar, Sōsaku-sha.

You even lift both of your hands up to your face to feel around but it’s completely smooth.

Are you really still in Yggdrasil? You wouldn’t be your avatar if otherwise.

Maybe you fell asleep in the game? No, that’s not right. Maybe it’s a glitch in your neuro-nano interface which is causing it to malfunction. You did stay on until the forced logout. Maybe that’s it? Seems plausible but that could mean very bad news for your real body. No one will be checking up on you for a while.

You rush to pull up your menu to see if you could log out on your own-your hand stops.

Your menu wouldn’t come up.

“Come on…” You barely whisper as fear starts to creep your way into your core. No, this can’t be happening. Frantically, you try to use some other features.

Forced system access that bypassed the menu.

Nothing.

Chat.

Nothing.

A GM call.

Nothing.

A force quit.

Nothing.

“Come on!” You scream into nothing in aggravation only to understand why your voice sounded disoriented before. You grab your throat in surprise, “My voice!”

When you spoke, two voices seemed to work in harmony to make up one. The two voices can clearly be distinguished as male and female by the pitches each carries. After the surprise clears up you understand, in a way, how this voice of your’s fits Sōsaku-sha’s personality or who they are as an individual. They represent a powerful and supernatural being that carries the likeness of both genders. In your opinion, the voice(s) for Sōsaku-sha is perfect but the game wasn’t programmed to have a voice for the avatar, let alone anything else that has been occurring.

Along the line of voices, the sound of voices approaching your general location starts to register in your head.

Are they players who are experiencing the same situation as you? You mentally reprimand yourself for the relief that seems to wash over you, knowing you aren’t alone. But that also meant that you’re going to be the center of ridicule as you are the creator of Yggdrasil. Suddenly, you aren’t so excited about the prospect of being found by these players.

As you listen, however, the voices don’t sound like players.

“What in the-What fell into the barn?!”

“Something big, it looks it! There may be a monster in there!”

“Didn’t you hear somebody screaming?! Someone must have fallen through the roof!

“I don’t care what fell or broke in, we need to prevent it from harming the livestock!

You’d be sweating if you could. Those are definitely not confused players but angry farmers to the sounds of it. If they find you, who knows what they’ll do! If they are NPCs from Yggdrasil, who’s to say that they aren’t as real as you are now?! Maybe they’d be more forgiving to you if you were your real self but the way you are now they may not be so.

So what should you do?!

You could try to escape but if they catch sight of you, you’ll look very guilty and may end up getting attacked by whoever is outside the barn. Besides, you don’t know where you are. Even if you run, you’d just end up even more lost than you are now. If you are able to peacefully cooperate with the people outside, you may learn some information. Maybe even figure out what’s going on.

That is if they even cooperate with you in the first place.

They may just attack you on sight.

Augh, would you still be in this situation if you just stayed at the Citadel? Maybe if you had you’d be out of the game! Your avatar wasn’t made for leaving the realm in the first place! Gahh! Why did you have to be so sentimental?!!.

“You three, enter through the front! We’ll enter through the back! Yell if you find anything!”

Ahh! You needed to make your choice now before you’re trapped!

 

How will you act?!

Escape and find a safe location to figure out your situation!

Face the mob and try to negotiate even if they may be aggressive!

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: FORTRESS ROUTE

Although the thought of watching the world end in nature’s glory is enticing, roleplaying as Sōsaku-sha is even more tantalizing.

As if you truly are an unyielding warrior and ruler, not giving into despair during the end.

Sulking in the arena is doing you no good and you really have the itch to skim through the halls of the Citadel one last time.

Under your command, Sōsaku-sha’s form shifts as they begin to float, another perk of their race. You thought Ascend would fit your character quite well as the deity class they are. Many NPCs such as the angels and other transcended characters/monsters have this perk so it was only natural to design Sōsaku-sha the same. Also, since Sōsaku-sha is a kind of deity, they would avoid soiling their feet from the surface below (like the pompous being they are). Finally, Sōsaku-sha literally resides in a sky palace and would sometimes need to be able to fly to get around.

Sōsaku-sha can walk around but you find flying much more efficient. The only time you’d really be on your feet is when you’re “shielded” and it would deactivate your perk Ascend.

You stare around at the arena, the first floor, slowly turning in the air to fully absorb the sights.

The arena is technically the roof of the Citadel as it has no further structure above to act as such. You designed the arena, the top of the sky palace, to imitate the Colosseum of Rome but you gave it a gothic twist. With all the time on your hands when you awaited players, you drew your inspiration for the overall theme of the Citadel from gothic architecture like Cathedral Milan and Cologne but with a twist with the material that makes up the structure. It’s reflective in most surfaces and where it isn’t it’s either white marble, gold, or a variety of valuable gems. The arches that’d normally be round on the Roman Colosseum all take on sharper forms as pointed arches. The piers that held up the pointed arches have intricate engravings that intermingle with one another with jewelry to form an array of shapes or imitations of Sōsaku-sha. Atop the ring that makes up the dome of the arena shootouts tall pinnacles that you know are attached to buttresses and/or flying buttresses.

The stage in which the fights would take place is round and is a wide enough field to hold all the NPCs of the Citadel at once and hold large numbers of challenging players, like instances when multiple guilds would unite their forces to fight you.

If you recall, the most players that had challenged you at once was around two thousand with a few hundred NPCs, all close to or were level one hundred with maxed out items and armor. Sure, their numbers were quite overwhelming but a single use of Sōsaku-sha’s Eye of Providence wiped out half of their forces within the first second and replenished all of your lost HP and MP and more in one go. Players soon learned that numbers didn’t help, in fact, it made it harder to fight unless they could avoid Sōsaku-sha’s attacks.

Despite all the battles that have taken place in the arena, it shows no signs of one ever taking place here. It’s very difficult to destroy the structure of the Citadel as you put in a myriad of data into it to make it a divine level fortress. The arena repairs itself after every battle but everything below it doesn’t because it’s indestructible. Even the stained glass windows adorned with rare gems are impossible to break. This was because you didn’t want players to skip the levels of which the Citadel contains.

However, as you remember before, no one ever was able to pass the second floor.

You leave the stage of the arena by floating your way under an archway into a corridor-like moving maze with tunnels and ramps all leading off to different areas of the arena, to traps, or down to the second floor of the palace. You’ve memorized the pathways according to what time of day it is so it takes you less than thirty seconds to traverse the pathways.

But with only six minutes remaining that doesn’t give you a lot of time to reminisce.

You would use Gate, a very reliable teleportation spell that could cover any distance and had a failure rate of 0 percent, to teleport quickly between levels of the palace but unfortunately, you can’t use it anywhere within your realm. You had blocked out any teleportation magic within your realm so that players couldn’t just skip the Seiun and appear in the Citadel ready to fight. That meant that you also have to abide by the same rules and manually move across Sōsaku-sha’s realm if you wanted to get your avatar anywhere.

You descend the white marble ramp with your end goal being the throne room on the fifth floor.

The second floor is what’s known as the Hero’s Hypogeum. The rooms on the floor are stylized to act as a gatehouse to the rest of the palace as well as the armories, arsenals, prison cells, torture chambers, helipads, battleship docks, blacksmith workshops, locker rooms, green rooms, and more on the floor to provide for the massive army made up of humanoid, subhuman, and grotesque NPCs you’ve picked up from across Yggdrasil. The floor also contains separate rooms that are weak imitations of their biomes of which the NPCs originated from so they can feel comfortable and fight in their own element if an intruder ever entered. There are similar NPCs on most other floors of the Citadel but they have different functions. Even though most of the NPCs you had collected are races that often conflict with the others in the game, you personally reprogrammed all of them so that is no longer the case. This army is fittingly named Unmei no gundan to display the immense power they hold. Every NPC taken from Yggdrasil to reside in the Citadel was reprogrammed with a backstory and design unique to each but a similarity to all of their backstories remains constant:

They each willingly became faithful followers of Sōsaku-sha. Upon noticing their potential, Sōsaku-sha offered them a place to live in the Citadel if they leave their old life behind and become tools for their bidding. They agreed and Sōsaku-sha grants them immortality and power by giving them their blood to drink and transforming them into the Reborn, loyal servants of Sōsaku-sha that are willing to follow their every wish and command to the best of their abilities.

The Reborn in the Citadel are all level one hundred, maxed out on their own unique race and class levels. The Reborn that make up the Unmei no gundan number over ten thousand (Not including the other Reborn who are residents on the other floors).

If players are able to bypass you and the arena’s maze system then they would come face to face with Yggdrasil’s largest and most powerful NPC army. Not only that but players would have to navigate the rooms of the Hero’s Hypogeum and avoid traps while fighting the Unmei no gundan in the elements they’re strongest at. Plus, if they are spotted by any NPCs or trigger any traps, every floor will go to maximum security and will lock off floors until one of three things occur:

1. The intruders are killed.

2. The intruders flee.

3. The intruders find hidden keys hidden on each floor they make their way onto to unlock the ones below.

The Reborn regenerate on top of being powerful, due to them “inheriting” immortality from you. If an NPC is critically low on HP, the other surrounding NPCs are programmed to protect their injured warrior. If an NPC is bested and killed, it gives all NPCs engaged in combat a five percent boost on all attacks for ten seconds. The fallen NPCs, a week later, would resurrect and respawn at the center of the arena due to their immortality perk (much like how you do when you’re slain). Once they’d respawn, they’d make their way back to the floor they take residence.

You truly believe that you made it too difficult for players to raid the Citadel but then again you went easy on players who fought Sōsaku-sha. You guess that it was only fair to create a true challenge.

You quickly navigate your way through the chambers to where you know the closest ramp down to the second floor is. Every Reborn you pass seems to stop whatever default task they were trying to accomplish to greet you with a curt bow.

You were descending down another wide ramp before the sixth minute burned out leaving only five.

The third floor is known as the Commune Workshops. It consists of the sowers ward, barber, medical bay, labs, kitchen, brewery, pantry, larder, buttery, freezer room, greenhouse, farm, butcher shop, emporiums, laundromat, the extravagant janitor's closet (there's one on each floor but this one has the largest variety and supplies all the floors with tools), builder’s/crafter’s warehouse, waterward, and more to make the Citadel self-sufficient. They are all run by Reborn who work under the command of Disciples, NPCs you personally took the time to design from scratch instead of reprogramming already existing NPCs.

Disciples are very similar to the Reborn. They’re all level one hundred, maxed out on stats, and made immortal by means of Sōsaku-sha’s blood. They, however, have all unique attacks, defense, armor, weapons, and races unseen throughout all of Yggdrasil. On top of that, all their gear is in the divine class. Each Disciple could personally bring most of the guilds in Yggdrasil to their knees. Each Disciple acts as the big boss of particular districts such as food management, Citadel upkeep, army, finances, and more. Since the Commune Workshops is the third-largest floor with the most density in wards, this floor has the second largest population of Reborn and the largest population of Disciples.

You have descended into the crafting district where the Puppeteer, a giant animated wooden puppet, oversees. Typically, this district would be highly active because anything you’d want to be built concerning certain items, clothing, or features in architecture and design you’d like to add to the Citadel would be tasked to the Puppeteer. Their skills in class conserve multitudes of material, data, costs, and time that goes into crafting. It saved more than what you could when you’d cut corners. It saved you so much that you’d go to them for practically everything concerning construction. The only downside that comes out of the products made by the Puppeteer and the Reborn that are under the Disciple’s command is that they sometimes come out not exactly how you wanted them. You’ve never altered a product produced by the Puppeteer, though. You’ve always liked the imperfections in a way because it’d give whatever product produced with them a sense of personality.

But since you haven’t had the need to build anything as of late, the crafting district is almost barren with the exception of a few Reborn who are on standby or making their way through as you are.

As the same with the third floor as the second floor, all you pass stop what they’re doing to greet you with a bow. You even pass the Puppeteer’s workshop where they to do a personalized animated greet with the joints in their torso disconnecting with wooden creaks and spring pops as they spin in the air to give you a dramatic bow.

You giggle with mirth as you remember how lively you made the giant puppet. How ironic that they’re a thing that doesn’t live and can only imitate life but you've given it more life than what you typically exude!

You send a quick wave as if to humor the Disciple but you were in a hurry.

Another ramp you descend down to the fourth floor, the Living Quarters. This level you possibly had the most difficult fun creating. Not only had you have to create unique living quarters for every single NPC in the Citadel, including Sōsaku-sha’s, but you had to adjust every living arrangement (such as washrooms, spa, restrooms, bedrooms, apartments, bar, dining hall, garderobes, etc) to accommodate all the races Yggdrasil contains. Obviously, all fire elementals aren’t going to enjoy baths that require water or bedrooms they set ablaze every time they enter. How will the giants and dwarves eat if all the furniture and dining utensils aren’t adjusted to their size? How do the mermaids and other NPCs limited to water get around? What foods to serve to each race, what clothes do they each wear if they wear anything, when do they work and when do they have breaks, all that and more. It was quite the time consumer but you’re pleased to say that now the Living Quarters can fit the lifestyle of all types; from demons all the way to angels, their polar opposites, without the cost of discomfort between any of the residents.

You, however, must say that designing Sōsaku-sha’s royal chamber was hands down the most fun few rooms you’ve built out of all the other rooms on all floors of the Citadel. It was your dream apartment, one that you could never possibly have in real life. You even bought very expensive additions to replicate some of your favorite real-world books, games, photos, toys, music albums, clothing, and more to truly make your vision real.

You won’t be able to visit it though as three minutes remaining on the system’s clock.

You descend what you know to be the final ramp to the fifth floor, the Great Hall. This floor consists of the tea rooms, library, ballroom, theater, art gallery, cabinet rooms, the royal garden, boudoirs, the throne room, and more. It is the grandest level out of all the six floors as it is to display the glory of the Citadel. The Reborn hardly visit this level but if they do it is typically the maids or the guards of the Unmei no gundan making their rounds. This leaves the Disciples, who oversee their districts, and the Anointed, named Alvara, on this floor.

The Anointed are ridiculously overpowered NPCs with abilities that transcend one hundred like dulled out versions of Sōsaku-sha. They are, essentially, Disciples on steroids but instead of overseeing particular districts they are floor guardians. This meant that there are five in total because the first floor is reserved for battles pertaining to Sōsaku-sha. Truly, the first level is the easiest level for players to overcome, even if Sōsaku-sha was the most powerful opponent they’d face, because the rest of the levels contain thousands of beings as strong as them and five NPC’s with levels equivalent to your avatar handicapped.

Though, if players were somehow able to defeat all five levels they’d be able to descend to the final and sixth floor, the Treasury. It consists of the treasury (of course), trophy room, the victorious players’ memorial, and a bolted vault. It contains one Anointed, named Majesty, that protects the trillions upon trillions of gold and riches as well as almost every obtainable magic item that vary from first tier to world items. The players’ memorial is a hall containing the statues replicating all the players who’ve beaten you. There’s a bolted vault at the center of the treasury that contains one of the most game-breaking items you’ve ever programmed, a world item called Ragnarok which activates the apocalypse across all the nine worlds of Yggdrasil and destroys everything. It’s practically a restart button for the game.

The only way to access Ragnarok, though, is if they use Fēsuresukī to unlock the vault. You knew that there was no possible way any player would know that so even if they got down to the treasury they wouldn’t have been able to do anything to gain possession of the world item.

It was really only something meant for you to use but the temptation of making it an unattainable prize was too much for you to resist.

Your smirk dissolves slightly at the sight of the system clock.

23:57:57, 58, 59…

Ahh, two minutes left. This was slight torture, watching the clock to your life’s dream’s allotted execution come ever so closer with the ticking seconds.

Thankfully, the fifth floor doesn’t consist of many winding corridors like the ones above as it is the second to the smallest floor of the Citadel. Despite that, you still end up craning your neck to stare up at the goliath sized double doors. You’re very grateful for the Puppeteer's skills because they’re so extravagant that you’re sure that you would have had to live off of ramen for a week because that’s how much money it would have sucked right out of your pocket to produce. The two fifty-foot doors are rectangular in shape but the doorway continues far above to form the familiar pointed arch, filling the space above the two doors with stained glass. The two doors are engraved with many golden and bejeweled figures that all represented different races giving praise to Sōsaku-sha who is illustrated in the stained glass above.

The cool part of the door is that the engraved figures are actually animated golems that’d attack any enemies that’d make it this far and the only way to defeat them since they are impervious to damage, is if the replica of your avatar is shattered in the glass above the door. Once that occurs the doors would swing open, allowing the players entryway, but since you’re not an enemy the doors slide slowly open upon your approach revealing the throne room beyond.

And you must say...you truly went all out for the throne room.

You took heavy inspiration from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris when designing the grand room that could fit hundreds at once and still have room to fit hundreds more. Jewels, gold, and white adorned every inch of the ornamentation that made up the room, hardly excluding the triforium and the clerestory that held the towering glass windows that rained colors across the reflective flooring of the aisles and nave.

You strain your head to look up at the ribbed vaulting which crystal chandeliers descended, sending vibrant colorizations from the windows beyond. You’re sure that even if you hadn’t completely smothered the throne room in gems it’d still look like the one with all the rainbow sparkling lights.

On the far side of the throne room are a few main arcades that acted as a barrier, hiding the short flight of stairs that lead up to the throne of Sōsaku-sha, designed like the Baldachin. It’s not a grand chair that sits at the top of the podium, however. It’s a large round golden stool with silk-lined cushioning. It was large enough for you to sit cross-legged at the center and still have enough room to spread about.

Beside one of the archways leading to a round flight of stairs is Alvara, the Anointed guardian of the Great Hall.

She is a pretty human woman with striking green eyes that compliment her doe-like appearance. Her brown hair is pixie like but her bangs fall longer than the rest of her hair, shaping her face. Her outfits are always changing as you designed her to have periodic time slots where she will randomly select outfits from her massive wardrobe to wear for a day. One article always remains the same though which is her white and gold jock jacket that is currently tied around her waist. Today, her outfit mimicked that of a kimono warrior with a dark vest jutting out from her high waisted thai pants, that withheld waves of koi, to form pointed shoulder pads. The kimono underneath contrasted that of the dark vest to mimic the whites of the koi. The neckline of the kimono was like that of a turtle neck, enveloping her entire throat, and the sleeves were just as long. Geta sandals peak out underneath their flowy pants and they click in attention as they bow alongside the Disciple who stood by the other archway.

Jest is the Disciple’s name. They are a jester but their mannerisms are no laughing matter. They imitate jack the reaper, a second-tier undead, but way more deadly as they are a Sasabosam, a hybrid vampire. This species of vampire has iron-like teeth, pink skin, long red hair, extraordinarily long limbs, thin physique, and iron hooks for feet. You thought it was a great idea for such an acrobatic species of vampire to be a jester, and you still believe it to be a great choice. His bat like face is horrifically painted a pale white with dark paint running down their face from their beady red eyes that match the red paint (blood?) around their thin lips. He wears white and gold garb that is littered with stripes and diamond patterns. The wacky outfit puffed out large in some areas all the while remaining skinny in other areas, truly emphasizing how lanky Jest is. The golden bells attached to him ding as he also bows to your approach.

“Are you two keeping each other company? That’s sweet.” You hum as you float above them to Sōsaku-sha’s throne, ignoring the stairs.

You settle down in the middle of the stool to face out to the wide throne room.

23:58:55, 56, 57…

“I can’t believe that this is the end…” You whisper, watching the clock sound off the last minute.

You are going to lose it all yet you know that this will be a step up.

This fantasy world may be ending but you’ll create new ones not only for you to indulge in but others as well. This was a stepping stone to better entertainment, you’re sure.

People need an escape from reality and you’re going to make sure to be able to provide it. You huff.

You have a break day tomorrow so you have no need to rush to bed as soon as the servers go down. But you love sleep so you plan to do so.

23:59:35, 36, 37…

You space out in the grandeur of the palace and find words to form a eulogy of a sort.

“Oh world invisible which glitters out in sparkling glory, never touched, you fade away as do I. An echo of clashing past, you stand victorious even as your spirit dims like starlight. Dream on now, for you’ve fought the good fight and won.”

23:59:57, 58, 59-

You brace yourself as the scene fades into the blackout triggered by the forced log out-

0:00:00...one, two, three…

“...Huh?”

You weren’t back in your room. You were still in Yggdrasil in the throne room.

“What’s going o-” You grab your throat in surprise, “My voice!”

When you spoke, two voices seemed to work in harmony to make up one. The two voices can clearly be distinguished as male and female by the pitches each carries. The game wasn’t programmed to have a voice for your avatar!

“What’s going on?”

The time is accurate. You should have been booted by now!

0:00:38, 39, 40…

It’s definitely after midnight so why are you still here?!

You rush to pull up your menu to see if you could log out on your own-your hand stops.

Your menu wouldn’t come up.

“Come on…” You barely whisper as fear starts to creep your way into your core. No, this can’t be happening. Frantically, you try to use some other features.

Forced system access that bypassed the menu.

Nothing.

Chat.

Nothing.

A GM call.

Nothing.

A force quit.

Nothing.

“Come on!” You scream into nothing in aggravation but you jolt when a voice answers you.

“My creator! Is there something the matter?!”

It was a feminine voice that sounded warm and trusting but it didn’t stop you from freezing up with dread.

You blanch as you stare dumbfounded at Alvara, the NPC, who is still bowing but was now staring up at you in a very concerned manner for your well being.

“U-uh…” Your mind becomes blank as you try to wrap your head around the fact that the NPC was talking!

“Please excuse me, my creator, is something wrong?!” They repeat themselves as they stood up as if to assess you and see for themselves where the issue lies. Her motion snaps you out of your shocked daze enough to give a reply.

“Yes...something’s very wrong.”

Both the NPCs in front of you stand frantically, “My creator, whatever it may be?!” Everything, “Please, tell us and we’ll make sure to fix the issue at hand!”

“Erm…” You fumble over your thoughts as your focus rapidly switches back and forth between the Disciple and the Apostle. There was something undeniably human about the way they spoke and move.

The situation you are in is so off but you try your best to not let your predicament get the best of you, especially since the two NPCs are so lifelike now.

You really want to scream though.

You try to inhale to calm down-only to realize that you can’t.

Your hands slap to your face in fright for a second but you calm down only slightly when you realize you’re not suffocating. The fear is replaced by bafflement by the fact that you can feel the smooth surface of your face, that you’re not suffering from asphyxiation right now, how you can see without eyes, how-

“My creator,” The scratchy voice that addresses you this time comes from Jest, “let us know what burden is weighing over you and let us exterminate it!” They hiss the last part as if they want to exact murderous intent on whomever or whatever is causing you distress.

“I-em...I don’t see how either of you would be able to fix this-”

They drop down to their knees immediately which makes you jump in shock.

“My creator! We’re sorry for being incapable to elevate your plight but please, nothing would give us more joy than a chance to make things right for you!”

“Yes! And if we truly can’t help you then we are disgraces to the titles which we carry and will gladly pay with our lives to make up for our faults!”

“That won’t be necessary!” You shoot up out of your stool to stand and gaze down upon the two NPCs better, “Your deaths won’t solve anything! In fact, it may just worsen the situation! Besides, you shouldn’t have to pay for something that’s beyond your control. Even I don’t fully understand what is occurring.”

You’re having a conversation with NPCs.

It was amazing but petrifying at the same time but guilt is what’s having an overwhelming vice on you as you notice tears collecting in their eyes.

Ahh, you’re being assaulted by too many emotions at once.

“I also care very much for both of you. I created you and I wouldn’t want to see any of you hurt because of me. So don’t feel as if you failed me. On the contrary, you’re actually helping me keep my thoughts together. So please, neither of you have the need to shed tears.”

“Thank you for your kind and merciful words. We don’t deserve them.” Alvara is the one who speaks up with a shuttering sob and Jest follows with a nod, his bells dinging as he does so.

“Your wish is our command. How shall we serve you, my creator?”

You cringe at their loyalty but maybe you can gain some better understanding of what’s going on by using them. Maybe you fell asleep in the game? No, that’s not right. Maybe it’s a glitch in your neuro-nano interface which is causing it to malfunction. You did stay on until the forced logout. Maybe that’s it? Seems plausible but that could mean very bad news for your real body. No one will be checking up on you for a while.

Whatever the cause may be, you’re still in the game (even if it is very lifelike now) and you have two very loyal and powerful NPCs willing to do your every will and whim. Collecting information is the most important thing to you right now.

What should you focus on collecting information from?

You want to focus on the realm.

You want to focus on the NPCs.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: FLEE

You’re honest with yourself in that you’re far from favorable standing and shouldn’t put yourself in harm's way in an effort to extend an olive branch even if it may be the upright thing to do.

Still...the decision makes you feel a little...off...for some reason.

You don’t know the situation and are not in a position to try to negotiate with an unpredictable mob. Anger and fear are a crock-pot for bad decision making and that’s what’s probably brewing in these people at the moment. You’re also not sure on how your stats in Yggdrasil correlate in this situation as you’re still Sōsaku-sha but it’d be foolish to put it to the test at the moment.

Things could really turn for the worst if you’re not careful.

You need to acquaint yourself to your surroundings before you can find your exit.

From what you could tell, with a quick surveillance, you fell into a fenced-off pin filled with piles of hay and other consumable goods meant to feed animals. The planks from the hole you caused seem to have fallen on some pots and smashed them open, leaving water and strange-looking spuds strewn across the dirt floor of the barn. Most of those spuds have actually rolled off under the fence into a pin where pigs are starting to gobble them up gleefully. The entire barn seemed to have fenced sections and stables to contain various livestock or goods along the walls of the rectangular building. In the center is a wide clearing allowing enough space for a van to make its way through happily swerving to either of the double doors. Ladders are built on to support beams that lead up to what looks like a second floor that contains more goods and supplies. You focus on the hole that you made and it seems that some of the produce kept on the second floor is damaged with some of the contents still falling down through the scar in the wood.

You back away to the railing facing the aisle to avoid a tumbling squash that bursts open upon impact with the grassy floor just shy of the haystack.

Wait, grass?

It was green, healthy sprouting grass with spurts of tiny colorful wildflowers that vary in array. The patch of grass surrounded a small area which you were standing with a splotchy trail that followed you to where you currently stand.

Question marks could have popped out above your head to better explain what you were feeling at that moment.

With an inquisitive foot, you drag your sole along the dirt floor in a hurried manner, not completely forgetting about the approaching mob outside.

Grass and wildflowers sprout out of the ground, trailing your feet as if to cushion or even make sure your feet aren’t soiled from the dirt and mud of the barn.

A gasp escapes you but you don’t get to relish in this new information as you notice flickering lights trailing through the wooden panels in both pairs of double doors.

You could try to run but with the grass that trails you with your every footstep, it’ll make it near impossible to escape unnoticed. It’ll be a miracle if you’re able to do so!

Wait just a-you’re still Sōsaku-sha! You could use magic spells to escape the situation! The downside is that it’s still uncharted territory among your stats in this bizarre situation. You don’t even know if you can use magic and now might not be the best time to test it.

If it works you may get out of here without a single soul taking notice of you but if it fails you’ll be caught.

That’s a huge risk.

There’s another option though. You could attempt to sneak by without the use of magic maybe even use the grass to make dummy trails. That way, while they’re distracted, you can weave through the stalls until you can slip through one of the doors or windows into the woods that you saw in the area before you plummeted from the sky. The downside is that you’ll have to be quiet and stealthy to avoid alerting them to your fleeing presence. They'll be on the lookout for you but you believe you can slip by if you’re careful.

A clicking sound from both doors signals to you that they’ve unlocked them and your time to make a choice is nigh.

 

How will you escape?

I want to use spells to escape, sneaking is too risky to attempt.

I want to sneak to escape, spells are too risky to use.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: STAND YOUR GROUND

You’re honest with yourself in that you’re far from favorable standing but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to extend an olive branch and do the upright thing.

It slips into your mind that this choice feels...right...for some strange reason. Not morally but more...characteristic wise.

If you’re compliant and non-threatening the mob may be more complacent and tame in how they treat you. Anger and fear are a crock-pot for bad decision making and that’s what’s probably brewing in these people at the moment so by being peaceful it may not add fuel to the flames. In addition, you’re not sure on how your stats in Yggdrasil correlate in this situation as you’re still Sōsaku-sha but it’d be foolish to put it to the test in violent acts.

But, unfortunately, you don’t know what type of people these farmers(?) are. There’s a possibility that they’re animated NPCs but you can’t be sure. Things could really turn for the worst if you’re not careful.

It’s in your best interest to remain passive no matter how threatening they may become. Your main goal in doing this is to gain information on your situation but if they try to harm you…

You’re not sure what you’ll do. Run? Defend yourself? Take it?

Best that you think on it but you will focus on how you should interact with these people peacefully.

First though, you need to acquaint yourself to your surroundings before you can find a way to approach them in a non-threatening manner.

From what you could tell, with a quick surveillance, you fell into a fenced-off pin filled with piles of hay and other consumable goods meant to feed animals. The planks from the hole you caused seem to have fallen on some pots and smashed them open, leaving water and strange-looking spuds strewn across the dirt floor of the barn. Most of those spuds have actually rolled off under the fence into a pin where pigs are starting to gobble them up gleefully. The entire barn seemed to have fenced sections and stables to contain various livestock or goods along the walls of the rectangular building. In the center is a wide clearing allowing enough space for a van to make its way through happily swerving to either of the double doors. Ladders are built on to support beams that lead up to what looks like a second floor that contains more goods and supplies. You focus on the hole that you made and it seems that some of the produce kept on the second floor is damaged with some of the contents still falling down through the scar in the wood.

You back away to the railing facing the aisle to avoid a tumbling squash that bursts open upon impact with the grassy floor just shy of the haystack.

Wait, grass?

It was green, healthy sprouting grass with spurts of tiny colorful wildflowers that vary in array. The patch of grass surrounded a small area which you were standing with a splotchy trail that followed you to where you currently stand.

Question marks could have popped out above your head to better explain what you were feeling at that moment.

With an inquisitive foot, you drag your sole along the dirt floor in a hurried manner, not completely forgetting about the approaching mob outside.

Grass and wildflowers sprout out of the ground, trailing your feet as if to cushion or even make sure your feet aren’t soiled from the dirt and mud of the barn.

A gasp escapes you but you don’t get to relish in this new information as you notice flickering lights trailing through the wooden panels in both pairs of double doors.

Your focus is both narrowed in on both the fascinating new discovery and the doors of the barn. How you are able to focus on three things at once throws you through a loop but then again, how can you see without eyes?

Although plants growing at your touch and your wide sight is astonishing, there are more pressing matters at hand and you ultimately decide to file this tidbit of information for later.

A few seconds of searching the fence, you find a lock to a gate that gives access to the aisle and you proceed to unlock it and push it open.

No plants or grass sprout upon touching the fence so you deduce that there must be certain conditions for such growths to take place.

The doors of the barn click, as both groups have seemingly unlocked them, along with the fence gate that locks upon your exit. Walking out to the center, you watch in interest as more grass and wildflowers bloom under your feet but pay special attention as the double doors to your left start to open up and voices reach you among the chatter of the livestock.

“I’ll peek in and see if I can spot whatever it is.”

“Be careful Nate.”

The man named Nate slowly creeps into view. First through the doorway is a worn-out brown leather boot followed by a hand holding the door for leverage as he peeks his head in. He’s a seemingly young fellow with a sharp complexion. He wears a frown as his dark brown eyes scan the room which passes over you twice. Confusion blossoms forth from you.

Why can’t he see you? You can perfectly well see him.

His faux hawk, that matches the color of his eyes, sways as he turns his head back to whoever is on the other side of the door with him.

“Hand me the torch, it’s too dark to see anything.”

Uh-oooh, yeah, that’s right. Sōsaku-sha has night vision due to their race. That explains why you can see everything with clarity even when it’s lunar’s peak.

However, it doesn’t explain why you can see the double doors on the other side of the barn start to crack open with your back turned to them.

Your mind switches attention as the young man named Nate pulls through the doorway a torch and holds it above his head as he rakes his eyes across the barn once again.

Simultaneously, both sides seem to see you at once with the flames and you decide now might be best to make a friendly greeting.

“He-”

“W-what is that?!” Yells out some men who see your silhouette from behind you.

“I don’t know!” Nate yells back in reply as the doors on both sides of the barn start to cautiously slide open for more to catch a glimpse at you. “It has the form of a human but the thing’s face is blank! Some kind of monster it looks it!”

You stand still, kind of at a loss for what to say.

You’re human too, you wanted to say but currently, that isn’t true. You’re Sōsaku-sha. Still, their words throw you off for a second but you find the courage to form your own.

“Err, hello?”

“Is that it speaking?” A boy with a caramel caesar cut hair, who looks around the same age as Nate, questions as he peeks his way around the corner with wide crystal blue eyes.

He’s ignored as Nate steps out from his cover into view, “Who are you and why did you break into our barn?”

Throwing a lot of assumptions and rude...but it’s in your best interests to cooperate rather than to try and correct them.

“My name is-” Ack! You almost slipped and said your real name! “Ehem, my name is Sōsaku-sha and I didn’t do this intentionally,” You point over to the spot which you landed with a slight turn, “I was flying over when I fell. I’m sorry for the damage and distress I’ve caused. I hope it’s not too severe of a hole I’ve made but it was quite the fall, you see.”

Your words seem to have calmed them down slightly. Even the men from behind you who had drawn out weapons, probably thinking you couldn’t see them with your back turned, start to lower them.

Good, you were getting very anxious there for a second.

“I hope so too.” Nate hisses with a crinkle of his tan nose as he starts to walk very slowly towards the damaged area fenced in keeping an eye on you. He is followed closely by two young men while two others stand by the door with their torches. Three men also follow from the other side, much older though.

You stay in your spot, not wanting to risk scaring them, but you turn slowly to watch them approach you. As you do so you truly notice how tall you are compared to the weary men.

Your avatar, your current body, was designed with a height of 213.36 cm, approximately seven feet, so as they draw closer they have to crane their heads back to look up at your blank facade.

“How can you fly without wings?” An aged fellow with a gray speckled beard asks with a rumble in his voice as he approaches you. You turn your head to the man since it’s the respectful thing to do but it seems to unsettle him at the motion.

They’re making you very self-conscious about your appearance.

“How can I see without eyes? How can I speak without a tongue? How can I hear without ears? Similar questions with similar answers. I don’t know the logistics. All I know is that magic is involved.”

“A magic caster?” Nate scoffs his rhetorical question near the pin where the hole hangs above, finally taking his eyes off you to observe the damage dealt.

“Why were you out flying in the first place?” The older man asks once again making this feel like an interrogation.

“Do you question the birds why in the sky they keep so?”

You...don't know why you said that like that. Maybe your anxiety is getting the best of you.

All visible seem to gain mixed emotions upon your answer so you decide to answer his question more directly. “I wanted to gaze upon the wondrous sights in the realm of man before the end.”

“The end? What load of bull-hockey is that?” Nate huffs out a few airy laughs while he kicks the mashed squash to watch it roll.

“Quiet Nate!” The lighter-toned young man hisses at the darker one and you immediately infer that those two have a friendly relationship.

“It was going to be the end of everything to me. Don’t chortle your begaffle at that.” You drop the friendly demeanor at the aggravation that blooms forth in your chest following the man’s amusement.

He tsks and continues his evaluation.

The old man clears his throat, “Sounds like the end was supposed to be your death. Am I right?”

You hum, thinking of a way to word yourself without giving too much away. “In a way, yes, but it’s much more complicated than that.”

You still don’t know if this is Yggdrasil and the NPCs are just as lively as you are or…

The fantasy world had become the real world…

Typically you’d throw up that idea to being impossible but the way your situation has unfolded is making you believe it to be the truth and since that is a possibility you want to play it safe.

“Yet… it seems that “the end” never occurred, had it?”

“Mmm… not exactly. To say that it didn’t occur as I expected it to is an understa-”

Shit! The pigs have eaten the black dust sprouts!” Nate screams and throws his hands up into his hair while all who heard show clear shock and distress.

“Black dust sprouts?” You ask nervously, wondering what the severity of that meant.

An older man with a tuft of dark hair finds the words to answer you. “They are a highly valuable anesthetic but poisonous when taken raw.”

...Uh oh.

Not only have you damaged their barn but you’ve possibly killed some of their livestock and destroyed some of their produce as well.

“Will the pigs die from consuming the sprouts?”

“Judging by how much they’ve eaten, it’s certain. We’ll have to butcher them for their meat but it won’t be a lot since most of them are hardly piglets. Shame they couldn’t have been a bit older to live up to the price they cost.” The old man with the beard laments but Nate is furious.

“Don’t you think that the loss of sprouts is more problematic than some pigs?!” Many seem to agree with the young fellow which is not helping you in any matter. “The dealers expect there to be fifty pots full by the month’s end! The stalks have already been reaped of what we’ve sowed and they won’t grow more until the next season! They won’t be happy to hear their drugs had been fed to the pigs by a faceless naked freak!” He points a finger at you accusingly as he says the last part.

Ouch.

“That’s enough, Nate.” The old man’s voice is stern as he addresses him before turning to those around you, “There’s no need to get aggressive-”

“There’s no need? No! What we need is compensation!” Nate interrupts and waves his arms up at the hole in the ceiling of the barn, “We’ve all worked hard to get the things it has just destroyed; some of us with sweat and others with blood. To mend and replace all of it is going to cost us the skin off our backs!”

Most of the men present nod their heads or state their affirmatives at Nate’s rant.

They believe that you should pay for the damage you’ve dealt to them. Under normal circumstances, you’d have no problem with doing so but right now you feel like that’s the least of your concerns.

Nate continues, “I believe this thing owes us where it’s due.” He points at you again, “You should cover our losses and make amends for the damage you dealt.”

“Why do you think “this thing” stayed to face you all rather than flee? I’ll pay what you’re due.” You huff knowing that even though this is the least of your concerns, it’s going to have to take priority as of the moment. These people are stepping stones to figuring out your situation and if you refused to pay for the damage then you could potentially make them hostile and lose your chance to learn from them. You would have gained more from fleeing than refusing payment so it would have made facing them pointless. To top it off, you planned to double whatever price they set. You plan on doing so not only as an act of goodwill but to also get on their good side more so. “Relay the price but be wary of my payment; I’m obscure as death for their methods untelling, except through fate’s eye, yet they’re inevitable with their promise of delivery.”

What the heck?! Why did you say that?! You sound so ominous now! All you wanted to do is tell them that you may not be able to pay them exactly the way they may expect you to! Is your manner of speech messed up too among other things?!

The men’s reactions are similar to how they acted after your first weird comment. The old man with the beard sighs in a relieved but withering way after turning to Nate, “What’s the estimate on the damage sought, boy?”

Nate tsks, “Can’t say for certain because I haven’t seen the extent of loss but I can already say that it’ll definitely cost some heavy coin. There are at least six gold coins worth.”

Oh hey, you have gold. Plenty of it too. It was the main form of currency in Yggdrasil and maybe it’s the same here.

Yet you’re hesitant on using gold.

You don’t know their monetary system and the value of gold may be more or less than the game’s currency was. Also, you’re in uncharted territory and flashing your wealth may not be the brightest of ideas. Doing so is only asking to be mugged and/or found by some unfavorable people. You want to remain under the radar for quite a bit until you can get your bearings. Atop of those concerns, you have a finite amount of gold in your inventory and you don’t want to use it willy nilly. You don’t know how long you’ll be in this situation and it may be in your best interests to conserve them.

Besides, you can clearly see that most of their issues can be solved with magic. Back in the game, using magic was like a flick of the wrist for Sōsaku-sha. The downside is that it’s still uncharted territory among your stats in this bizarre situation. You don’t even know if you can use magic and now might not be the best time to test it. These people are fearful of you and if you start performing magic they may become hostile. It may be easier for you to just flash your coins to these people and give them what they want because magic can also attract unfavorables.

Another problem of those two choices is that these people will most likely want you to leave once you’ve paid your dues. You could work for them to pay for your debt but...you must be prideful now because you don't even consider it as an option. You'll just have to find a way to make them keep you around...

The old man turns to you, “Will you be able to pay somewhat more than that?”

“I can and more.” The question is though…

 

How will you compensate them?

I’ll pay with gold.

I’ll pay with magic.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: LOCATION

Your main blaring anxiety wavers around the question of why you’re still in Yggdrasil. So to focus on reconnaissance only seems like the natural thing to do if you were lost and were trying to find your bearings.

“Jest.” The Disciple seems to grow with glee upon you calling them but still remains serious, “Spread the word that all levels of the Citadel must go into maximum security but do not allow any of the floors to lock up any passageways unless an intruder is spotted. Also, collect five of the finest Reborn scouts the Citadel contains and bring them up to me on the first floor of the arena. I’ll give you all more instructions once you arrive.”

“I will do so swiftly, my creator.”

‘Ah, but can you even leave the throne room?’ You think in your head. You had programmed him to guard this grand room and even though you hadn’t bound the vampire to this space, by leaving, he’d be doing something no other Disciple has done under circumstances other than retiring to their chambers.

“Good. I’ll be seeing you in twenty minutes. You’re dismissed.”

Jest stands with a curt bow and a jingle before spinning on his sharp sickles, clicks following his hurried pace.

You watch Jest make his way across the throne room and approach the tall double doors on the other side. Much to your curiosity, the doors open and allow him to pass on his merry way.

“Curious…” You hardly mumble still at a loss for what’s happening. Not only are the NPCs very lifelike now but they can follow your commands without using command phrases as if they can understand your intentions. It makes you question whether or not this is limited to just the throne room, the entire Citadel...or...all of Yggdrasil. So many things to test out to understand the limitations of your situation but you don’t want to get carried away by overthinking it. You’re still in Yggdrasil, your game, so there shouldn’t be too many differences. Baby steps is the pace you’re going to set for yourself. There’s no point in rushing and possibly disorienting yourself more than you are already.

So you turn to the Anointed with your second priority in mind, “Alvara.”

“Yes my creator?” She inquires, seemingly eager to do your every will and whim.

“I want you to contact all the Anointed and have them join me on the first floor. Once I’ve dealt with reconnaissance I’ll meet back up with you Anointed and will have more to say.”

“As you wish, my creator.”

“With that said, I don’t want you to rush and miss important factors as I also want to know the conditions of the Reborn, the Disciples, and the goings of the floors while I’m away but I’d much prefer it if you five are all collected by the time I get back, as that is your priority. I’ll try to notify you when I’m returning."

You need to test the extent of your influence. Jest and Alvara may be life-like but who's to say that all the other NPCs are? Who’s to say they’re loyal like the two? By commanding her to skim the floors of the Citadel, you can check on the conditions of them without having to do so yourself. It may not be an in-depth search but with the Anointed checking the floors for you she’ll test those waters. She’s the best NPC to do so too since she’s one of the five most powerful NPCs of all and you’ve programmed her with a background to be very sociable. If there’s any disloyalty blooming in the Citadel towards you, she’ll know. Besides, you have to make your way through the floors yourself so you’ll see soon what is the case.

A top that, since Yggdrasil seems so life-like at the moment, it makes you question your avatar’s abilities. You may be extremely OP in the game but is it still the case now? Sōsaku-sha’s main source of power resides on magical ability, although they still are very powerful in physical terms. You needed to confirm that you can, in fact, still use magic because not only is it a vital part of transportation in Sōsaku-sha’s realm and supports your information-gathering skills but it will drastically affect your combat ability.

Sōsaku-sha is supposed to be the most powerful being in the game, the final boss, the deity that created ALL of Yggdrasil, and the ruler of the Citadel, home to the most powerful NPCs out of all the nine worlds in the fantasy DMMO-RPG. So far everyone you’ve met is loyal to you but who’s to say they’ll follow a powerless leader? And if your avatar still has the same stats there’s the Anointed who come close to your own. You need to make sure that they’re still loyal to you.

That’s why you’re having Alvara, an Anointed and possibly the only available ally to you who could stand their own against the other four, bring them before you so you can see how much authority you hold over them.

It does raise questions though…

If they are loyal to you, how much so? You had programmed all Anointed, in fact, all NPCs in your realm to have extreme love and loyalty towards you. Are they willing to do anything you ask of them and to go out of their way to go up and beyond your expectations because of their coding or do they go against it? If your stats are weak will their loyalty to you dwindle? Will they start to lose faith in you if you make stupid choices? If there’s the possibility of their loyalty to you being able to change due to circumstances, how will you maintain it?

“My creator?”

Oh right, Alvara is still here waiting to be dismissed. Before you could utter a word though, her alarmed face catches you off guard. “Is...something the matter?”

“If it isn’t too rude of me to inquire...what did you mean when you said you’ll be away?”

Oh, thank God. You thought it was going to be something else entirely.

“Jest will be delivering the scouts he acquired to the arena to whom I’ll be joining. I’ll be gone for a short while during our reconnaissance outside the realm but I’ll return soon enough.”

“B-but my creator! You mustn't! You’ve never been outside your realm before!” Her outcry almost makes you jump again but you’re starting to become numb to the constant surprises you’ve been receiving.

“Yes, that may be the case...but where do you think I existed before I constructed my realm?” The question seems to throw her off judging by the puzzled look she makes, “And just because I created the Seiun to act as a barrier, I never intended it to keep me trapped here. Besides, the only ones who’ll recognize our surroundings and understand their conditions are a select few Reborn and me. Since I can’t be sure that Jest will find scouts among those select few I must go. I want to see for myself if our...bizarre situation is also the case beyond here.”

She’s silent for four breaths, processing your words with various expressions before finally accepting your decision. “...Very well...but please...let me beg you to let me be selfish and request that you have an escort. If something were to happen to you we’d never be able to forgive ourselves. We exist because of you so it’s only right for us to lay down our lives to act as your sword and shield. At the very least, let me prepare a guard for your excursion.”

You wilt under her extreme devotion but thought of that as unnecessary. You'll have five NPCs that’ll be following you out during your investigation and they’re all going to be level one-hundred. Besides, Sōsaku-sha is the most powerful avatar in all of Yggdrasil so what good will a guard do for you…unless you’re powerless...and...the scouts Jest brings before you aren’t loyal…so...having guards who’re commanded by Alvara to protect you might...be...a good idea.

In Yggdrasil, the system would judge mobs and NPCs within Sōsaku-sha’s realm as belonging to you. Friendly fire was always on as not to give intruders an advantage but...is that still the case? If you’re attacked, will it not harm you?

….

“...If doing so will calm your worries then I’ll gladly accept your offer.” You turn towards the short round flight of stairs, all the while still being able to see Alvara with your back turned somehow until the barricade obscures your vision, and start to descend down the side the Anointed is closest to. “As it pains a mother to see her brood suffer, I too am pained by your heart’s cries and I’m moved to do what I can to alleviate your distress. Although I say this, we will be putting more in physical danger by doing this...so...” you exit the staircase and walk underneath the archway to stand before the still kneeling NPC, “...there should be no more than five in this guard and they shall only be members of the Unmei no gundan. Have them ready and on the first floor before Jest arrives with his selected scouts. While they are being selected ask the candidates if they wish to guard me. If they do not then find someone else.”

“My creator, it’s a privilege to serve you!” Alvara claims with a loud voice as if her statement is fact and that the mere mention of what you said was beyond offensive, “If one’s to say they wish not to protect the one who has given us everything then they do NOT deserve to live!”

You cringe but you’re able to keep your composure after such a powerful and passionate proclamation, “I understand your reasoning but I shall not ignore the welfare of my creations. We will be outside the protection of the Seiun for quite some time. The Disciples and Anointed have never been outside my realm because I had created all of you here in the Citadel. Since this,” You wave slowly to your surroundings as you walk around her, “is all you know, I do not want to expose you to the worlds beyond without easing you to them. The Reborn are the only ones with such prior insight so that’s why I desire them to assist my search...” You turn your body back in the direction of Alvara who is looking up to you where she’s kneeled. “...but all have ties and backgrounds connected to the worlds beyond. They’ve all left their past behind. Families, friends, possessions, land, and more...so the temptation may be grand.”

“No one would dare choose anything over you-”

“And I’m not saying they will. I’m saying that it may distress them to face the life they left behind. Not only that but many of the Reborn are active in doing the work they’ve been assigned. We can’t afford that kind of distraction in the situation we are in and it’ll throw the Citadel in disarray if we don’t handle this accordingly.” You take a few small steps up to the NPC who looks so small from your avatar’s 213.36 cm (seven-foot) height, “I know your intentions are from a concerned and loving standpoint...” You kneel down before her and you catch the scent of pine and honeysuckles from her, much to your surprise, “...I too want what’s best for all of you but I need you to trust my judgment.”

She looks awestruck. Her mouth hangs agape as her glossy green eyes seem mesmerized by whatever colors that may be shifting across your face(?).

You feel like you should encourage her. Maybe a fleeing grace or a good luck before you send her off to complete her assignment?

At that moment, you realize that you haven’t yet tested to see if the NPCs really are alive or if they’re just acting as such. Watching Alvara’s chest rise and fall makes you question if the former is true but that...can’t be...well, none of this should be happening...but you’re praying that this is all faulty coding and that you’re not actually...in a fantasy world.

A good way to test this is to reach out and feel her…

Once you actually register what that implies the thought makes you want to sweat.

Alvara is an attractive woman with a beautiful body and a giving heart. With the way she looks at you plus the fact that she seems to be willing to do anything for you makes you feel sick...the good kind of sick(?). The kind that people call butterflies in the stomach? Yeah. You feel as if you’re going to do something naughty by how hot you’ve suddenly become but you are, by no means, going to do anything like THAT. In fact, your only real goal is to see if she has a pulse. Doing so will truly prove what is the case. ‘This is necessary!’ You tell yourself.

To that, you bite down your anxieties with your anticipation to raise your hand and place it upon her shoulder-

Admiration, inspiration, love, compassion, baited, realization, shock, honored, privileged, gleeful-

You jump away at the sudden intrusion of feelings that resulted from your contact with Alvara.

Both she and you stare at each other bewildered by just what transpired but you more so.

‘This is real.’ keeps repeating in your head like violent waves upon a shore. Unrelenting the echo of your epiphany as dread laps at your soul, your core, as is sand by the salty tongues of the sea.

‘This is real.’

‘This is real!’

‘Alvara is alive!’

You had felt the warmth of her skin through her clothes and a beating, like a drum’s symphony, of her heart's pulsations. It was a steady ba-bum, ba-bum, until it sped up to her realization of your contact. Not only that, you were assaulted by emotions you know weren’t your own. You don’t have it in your mentality at the moment to puzzle together as to what just occurred and frankly, you don’t want to.

You force your focus away from the Anointed to look at your-Sōsaku-sha’s hand. Colors ripple rapidly across the surface, too many and too fast to contemplate their meanings. You rub your thumb over your middle and index finger as if to feel the phantom texture. You repeat the gesture twice more before bringing your other hand to feel your palm.

Smooth...soft...wrong.

The senses of taste and smell were altogether banned from fantasy worlds by cyber-tech laws. Yggdrasil had a system for eating and drinking, but anything consumed only affected in-game stats. Even touch was regulated to some extent. This was all so the game couldn’t be mistaken for the real world.

And here you are...able to touch and smell.

“U-um,” Alvara’s voice brings you back to reality, “My creator-”

“Do you understand everything you need to accomplish?”

“Ye...yeah-I mean yes my creator! But-”

“Then you’re dismissed.”

You wanted nothing more than an explanation of what’s happening but you knew that the answer wouldn’t be served to you on a silver platter. If you’re ever going to get what you want then you’ll have to be patient.

But Jest is going to be up on the first floor soon and you wanted to test your abilities before then so spending any more time with Alvara is possibly more information you can’t gain.

You move your legs to turn and leave but the feeling of the smooth cold floor doesn’t register. A change of focus reveals to you that you’re now floating. It seems that Sōsaku-sha’s perk Ascend still works which gives you hope that not much has changed stat-wise if at all.

You force your vision off of the Anointed as you float across the throne room to the large doors. Like before, when you first entered, they slowly slide open upon your approach.

You’re swift in your pace but you regulate your speed to allow yourself to observe what other oddities there may be. As you continuously ascend the floors you get more and more proof that this may not be the game you used to know. Every NPC you pass, whether it be Reborn or Disciples, acts very much alive and thankfully very loyal to you. You are trailed by humanoids, subhumans, and grotesques prostrating themselves, voices of praise, and proclamations of “My creator!” in every district and corridor you make your way through.

It’s all quite overwhelming and all you’re able to do in return is wave, nod, and give short answers to their inquiries.

You’re starting to have a growing concern about your...title. Although they are accurate in calling you “creator”...it sounds like they’re calling you God, more so than a programmer. You’d probably be able to tolerate being referred to as “creator” if they said it any other way. It doesn’t make you feel good. You’re nowhere near a God. Sure, you designed Sōsaku-sha as a type of deity-like being but not a God. Nowhere near a God. An elevated being? Yes. A God? Absolutely not! Especially not a God while you’re possessing your avatar’s body.

If these NPC’s believe you to be some type of God, do they expect you to be perfect?! No! You know you make mistakes and you’re not about to pretend to be something you’re not just to avoid shattering their expectations of you. So how are you going to break it to them without them turning on you?

Ahh.

It’s no good.

Maybe you should sit on this thought but ask the Anointed what they think when you return. You shouldn’t worry about something that may not even be the case...but it’s a wise choice to store it for later.

It takes six minutes before you make it up to the floor of the arena. It’s completely bare of all life and you sigh in relief.

Finally, you can breathe!...well, figuratively-but it just feels so right to be where you are even though nothing is right in this situation.

You’ll enjoy your solitude while it lasts...and you know it not to be long.

And you’re going to use that time wisely.

First off, you want to see if Ascend still allows you to fly around without the need for spells. You may be floating but if it can’t get you more than a few feet off the ground then you’ll be burning a lot more MP from now on if you can still use MP.

Thankfully, when you will yourself upward, you easily gain distance between the ground and you but you learn something else...

You become aware of your vision expanding as you try to look around the arena. A realization hits you. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t have eyes so for them to be able to see is different from how you...used to see. Vision is defined as light entering the pupal which then, intern, creates an image for you to perceive the world as. For Sōsaku-sha, however, their whole body is the pupil, it seems. It’s like looking through a telescope when you focus on particular things but when you want to focus on everything at once it’s like removing the barriers of the scope (the peripherals) and realizing you’re in a bubble (Sōsaku-sha’s “pupil”). The bubble is your vision and all that the bubble catches you can see. Up, down, left, right, back, front, close, far, it doesn’t matter. When you turn, it makes you feel as if you’re on a swing you twisted the rope or chains on and let it spin you. If you could describe how it feels it would be that the world revolves around Sōsaku-sha.

You catch yourself rapidly turning your head and body in the air to get some sense of your new sight but it only leaves you disoriented and slowly drifting back down to the platform below to get some sense.

This isn’t right but you’ll have to grit and bear it for now until you can find a way out of the game or until someone gets you out.

“My creator!”

“Huh?” You turn and focus on five figures running to you. You recognize them all. “Oh, so you all are going to be my guard for our reconnaissance?”

The five members of the Unmei no gundan make it to about eight feet away from you before falling to their knees and bow in a line. You’re relieved to see that they too are loyal to you.

“Yes, my creator! We were commanded by Dastgir to do so!” Ah, Dastgir. He is one of the Anointed, guardian of the Hero’s Hypogeum (the second floor), and general of the Unmei no gundan. Alvara must have gotten in contact with him and informed him of my decision. Smart move on Alvara’s part. Instead of choosing members herself, she left it up to Dastgir who would know better than anyone else which of his subordinates would be best to assist you (if he has your best interests at heart and it looks it). “We’ll do our utmost to protect you!”

The one who answers is a large Reborn hobgoblin that was renamed by you to Erx. He dons his best armor and weapons (that you’ve designed) much like the other four. His white and gold uniform covers up all of his large body excluding his flat square head and pointy ears. His dark brown sideburns cover up most of his rough redwood skin but you can still see his tusk-like teeth sticking up and over his top, thin, overturned lip. To you, it appears that Erx is wearing a menacing mien and you contemplate whether it could be the effect of the weight of his duty to protect you, his default expression, his mood, or if it’s his intimidation stats having an effect. His small beady yellow eyes bore into you, making you feel even more uneasy than you already are.

“My creator,” A Sheikah in more ninja-like-garb catches your attention. Her tightly fitted clothing and thin armor, which help her with speed, consists of the Unmei no gundan’s themed colors white and gold. Her white long braided hair blends with her uniform but her red eyes stick out like blood stains on silk and rubies on her olive skin. Despite that, she has a kind appearance that pairs with her muffled words behind her shawl mask. “I’d much prefer it if you wouldn’t put yourself in danger like this. If I can request, I’d like it if you’d stay here and have the reconnaissance go out on their own.”

A Zmei, in his human form, by the name of Ynnam hisses in reply, “Akkar! Do not doubt our creator’s decision!”

“You agreed with me on the way here! All of you did! I’m only saying such things with the best intentions for their welfare! Do you all not also wish it to?!”

“Don’t drag the rest of us into your treachery!”

“And how is it treachery?” You ask out loud, honestly wondering how Akkar’s request is traitorous.

They all stare up at you with open mouths.

“My creator! I’m sorry about our shameful display. It’s not how proper members of the Unmei no gundan should conduct themselves.” Ynnam bows his head further down causing his pure gold dragon armor to click. Akkar follows in action but says nothing.

“I do not mind,” You wave dismissively but then cross your arms, “but I would like it if you could answer my question, Ynnam.”

“Y-yes. I believe that Akkar is showing you great disrespect by contradicting your orders with her heart and tongue. You are absolute and it’s complete blasphemy to go against it.”

“...is...that it? I see your reasoning but I don’t view Akkar’s request as anything of the sort.”

Your question could have been a bat that hit the Zmei in the teeth by the way he recoils and blinks rapidly as if he was trying to see if he really just heard what you said.

“Kuh-who-wha-”

It seems like he can’t fathom why you don’t see it the same way. Maybe if you explain your viewpoint then maybe you can calm the situation down. “The fawn who ignores the murder’s forewarning is fair game to a hunter but the one who heeds the crows’ call will become wise with age and experience.”

You...don't know why you said that like that. Maybe your anxiety is getting the best of you.

All visible seem to gain mixed emotions upon your words so you decide to speak with more clarity. “I won’t ignore kindly suggestions if it means that I can avoid disaster or better improve myself.”

“But you’re perfect! How can you possibly be able to improve?!” Aragog, a Drider, hisses in disbelief.

She, among the Reborn in attendance, has the least amount of armor and clothing on due to the fact that most of her body is a spider. A highly venomous one at it too. Even the hairs on her body, that stand up every time you look her way, can become poisonous needles at will. She has a hard exoskeleton and it poses better than any suit of armor could with her thin, hairy, long limbs. The part of her that looks human is sharp and hairy in some parts. Her skin is mostly dark purple with green markings that fade with the purple into her light yellow underbelly but at the end of every point and limb is black. Aragog’s face is shaped like a human woman with wide cheekbones and short blonde hair that match the hair on the rest of her body and her light yellow underbelly. The difference is that she has pointier ears (not so much as elves but like someone pinched them at the top), no visible nose, eight green orb-like-eyes, pedipalps that act as the bottom jaw, and black, sharp, needle-like-teeth.

“Yes, do not humble yourself, my creator. There is no need.” Erx shakes his head as if getting any other idea of you being any less so out of his head.

“A construct of mortal perception, perfection is. Although you all may see me as the epitome of such, all have unique outlooks due to their upbringings, culture, race, and so on. We all see the world in a different light so just because you may say I’m perfect doesn’t mean another could contradict such a claim.”

“Whoever says so is a blind dead fool!”

“Ah-AHhh…” You cringe. You might be right in the fact that they may think you’re a God. “...now here’s the thing...since perfection is the viewpoint of an individual that means that perfection can be everything and nothing at the same time. As such, to say that perfection exists is false because it's an obscure opinion as it could be themed around a person, place, thing, subject, eccetera. How can one thing be perfect when another completely different thing can be perfect? Simply put...it can’t. Nothing can be perfect...well...except a few things-err-but, I’m not among those few things. I have my own flaws, as we all do, and by listening to any advice you give me I can become my version of...not perfection but...hmm...my best self. All of us can improve and it’s best that we strive to do so.”

You really tried to word your explanation in the right way to the best of your ability but even then you can’t help but feel like you should be sweating under their wide-eyed gazes. Hopefully, now they won’t see you as such a high and mighty authority figure and more as...well...you don’t know.

“Such insightful words!”

“That’s what we should expect of our creator.”

“Ahh, you truly are perfect! You even deny it for our sake!”

“So thoughtful!”

“My creator, to know that you believe we can give you insight to your unlimited knowledge truly warms our hearts.”

Wait! No! No! I didn’t mean it like that! Augh! You’ve probably just made your position worse!

*sigh* This is so nerve-racking…maybe you can help them see you differently someday but you can tell it’s going to take some time.

“...Mmm...I say all this because I believe Akkar was suggesting that I stay here at the Citadel with the intention that my safety is priority. I see no harm nor treachery laced in her words and I’m warmed by the thought that she would speak out despite my choice in the matter.” You turn your body fully in the elf’s direction who seemed to be glowing with joy to fully address her. “Akkar, despite adversity and the pressure that you may disappoint me, you have shown true love and to that…” You float down to the ground in front of her before kneeling and lightly grabbing hold of the sides of her head with your surprisingly large hands.

Overjoyed, blessed, elated, mystified, curious,...

Emotions once again flood your system and you come to the conclusion that you must be able to sense them by touch. You can’t sense thoughts though. Just emotion. It’s strange and it overlaps your own to the point that you can’t tell whose is which. Though...to be quite honest...her positive emotions are overpowering your anxieties which is very relieving on your part. You...might have to start having frequent contact with more NPCs.

You’re able to retain your recoil this time and you bring the Sheikah’s head up to your face so you can place a light kiss upon her forehead (you don’t have lips but you’re sure that the gesture was understood as a kiss). Her skin lights up as red as her eyes and her long ears twitch rapidly, following the tremors and goosebumps that run up and down her body.

“Muh-m-my c-creator?!”

“I thank you. A falcon may have the best vision among all other living creatures but it only has two eyes. With another pair, they can see the world anew and understand it from a different perspective.” ...what’s with you and using all this...imagery to explain tough subjects?... Is your manner of speech messed up too among other things? You let go and float away backward once her emotions became too much for you to even think. “Ahem...I hope that others will follow your example. Even if you all,” You address everyone now who looked as if they were trying very hard to hide their jealousy, “believe that I cannot improve...I know that I can. On top of that...I see it as a way for all of you to improve. If you question my motives then it gives me a chance to teach you why I choose to do the things I do; then not only will it motivate you to do as I’ve asked but it’ll help you understand how I think. Do you all not agree?”

Once again, they all stare at you with open mouths and glittery eyes before going on another spout.

“Woah!”

“Magnifisant!”

“We can never fully comprehend your extensive thoughts but we’ll try our hardest to do so!”

Mmmm, you expected them to react as such and that’s why you add a question, “Mmhm...so it seems you all understand my other motive?”

Their demeanors plummeted.

“U-uhm, another motive...my creator?” The heavenly voice comes from your final guard. Lamassu, an Aasimar. She’s angelically beautiful, as it is a trait of her race to be so. Her blonde hair flows down her matching paladin armor like golden rivers and the white robes do her large feathery wings and glowing eyes no justice as they seemed purer than the cloth.

“Emhm, yes. You see...I may know much but I don’t know everything and neither do any of you. One of those being...the qualities each of us holds. I may have created all of you but beyond the...anatomy...biology...mmm, the makeup of your forms...I don’t know much about your characteristics. Your personalities. The same could be said for all of you. You don’t know much about me...but...the more questions we ask each other the more we learn and understand one another. The more we understand about one another the friendlier we’ll all become.

Gasping, Ynnam blirts, “You don’t mean-”

“Yes, I desire to become friends with you all. That is my other motive.”

They explode with vigorous refusal.

“We don’t deserve to!!!”

“N-no, my creator! Please! W-we can’t ever hope to-”

You're supersized by their refusal but you interrupt their naysaying, “Do you all not wish to be my friends?”

That completely changes their sudden disapproval like a switch.

“No!Nonononono! We-we do! We do!”

“It would bring us no greater honor to be called your friends!”

“Please, let us slave to become such someday!”

You nod, “Good...so do you see why I’d like you to question and advise me where you see fit as I’ll do the same?” They give you affirmatives, “Mmm, good, good. Now...” You turn back to Akkar who is still red-faced and you draw your attention to your surroundings. You stay still not to disorient yourself.

Hmm, it seems that Jest hasn’t arrived yet with the five reconnaissance members. You still have a bit of time to test a few things out.

“...I will give you my reply as soon as Jest arrives with the five Reborn he has selected. They will most likely have the same protest as you as I have not notified them of my involvement in this mission. With that as the case, I do not want to have to repeat myself and waste valuable time now, trying to explain my choice, when I’ll be relaying it within the next few minutes. I’m sorry for having you wait.”

“It’s n-no trouble!... In fact...It’s quite generous of you to take account of my worries…” She trails off, making you believe she was finished, before speaking up once again. “Is it okay...if I ask another question in the meantime?”

“Of course. Go ahead.” You were quite interested in what she had in mind and by allowing her to ask away it’ll most likely encourage others to warm up to you.

Akkar is silent for a few beats before she musters up the courage she needed, “...When you touched me just now...I felt a wave of emotions that weren’t my own. Were those yours?”

….

Eeehhh?!

“You had felt my emotions?!”

“Wow! Amazing!” Akkar is ecstatic, seemingly mistaking your question as a statement.

“You felt our creator’s feelings?!!”

“*GASP*, m-my creator! Could you also touch m-me?!!”

The five Reborn dissolve into a furious debate but your own riddled inner thoughts overpower their yelling, making them seem like hums compared to your whirlwind. Your vision goes dark as if you’ve closed your eyes to fully enter your mind and focus on just that.

Others can feel your own emotions if you touch them?! What had Akkar felt from you?!

What had ALVARA felt from YOU?!!

You feel your stomach fall.

You had been feeling some very intense emotions when you had touched Alvara-Kieaaah! It’d explain why she acted the way she did afterward and the fact that you left her there right after must have looked bad on your part!

Ah! YOU’RE SUCH AN IDIOT!

“O-oh! My creator!” A familiar raspy voice draws your attention to the approaching group from behind. “Are we late?! I’m terribly sorry if we are!”

You turn to Jest midair to watch him approach with five others and to show that you acknowledge their hurried arrival.

Taking note of their races, the ones following after the Vampire are a Wraith, a Sluagh, a Wendigo, a Draugr, and a Kenku (All of whom you recognize as Malum, Skinner, Nictis, Ukara, and Lexx in that order).

Although you notice that all of the Reborn Jest had selected are, in fact, great for reconnaissance...you can’t help but find his...personality apparent in such. The five Jest chose are all either undead, have evil auras, or have a dark and trickster nature.

You know that they are likely allies if they’re following Jest so easily but you can’t help but feel wary. “No, no, don’t be. You’re actually a bit early, I believe.”

Jest is visibly relieved to hear such as he comes to a bowing halt with the other’s before you, “Ah~That’s good...but you’re here before me with…” He tilts himself side to side to better see around you and take note of the other five Reborn, “...others? Had I made you wait long?”

You shake your head, “Nnuhn. I came up here to test some things before you’d arrive but I was soon pleasured with their company.” You float aside for both sides to better see each other, “I’m sure most of you all know one another. If not, I’d like you to get up to introduce, greet each other, and share some snippets about one another so that this operation will run smoother. While you do so I will test a few things away from here before we can continue.”

You expected them to tell you that they’re all acquainted, since all the NPCs that you’ve witnessed up until this point seemed to have prior knowledge of each other but to your surprise, all of them get up and start to do as you’ve asked. Jest, more so, as he seems to not know anyone.

You feel a twinge of guilt as you realize that this may be the case because he’s a Disciple and they’re programmed to guard singular parts/rooms in the Citadel. His is on the Fifth floor which hardly any other NPCs visit. He becomes cheerier as he talks with the ten Reborn it seems and it makes him look lonely because of that.

Is this the same case for most of your Disciples?

Maybe you’ll implement time periods when NPCs can socialize? A thought to put on the back burner.

You give them some space to test out your magical abilities. Magic and spell casting are very important to your avatar, Sōsaku-sha, and you want to at least make sure that you have some measure of defense before you go.

Are the mechanics the same?

You look at your multicolored hands which the Seiun is echoing. It’s hard to tell which specific emotions are moving across your avatar’s skin but most are dark with sparks of lighter blues, purples, yellows, and greens. It looks ugly. Like skittles in puke, you compare with a sigh.

Even with the odd position, you are still your avatar and it’s still Yggdrasil. It must not be too different?

You start to consider the magic you had been able to use in the game. The total number of magic spells in Yggdrasil, from tiers one to ten, plus super tier, was well over six thousand. These were split into various trees that’d be compatible with some races while it wouldn’t with others. Some spells require certain conditions to work like the type of biome the player is in, needed tasks completed beforehand, items that need to be held, can only be used on certain levels, and so on. Normally a level-100 player could use about three hundred but there are some instances where players have found loopholes and were able to have more. You avatar...since it was the being that created Yggdrasil...is able to access all the spells contained in the game (though the conditions for the spells still have to be met for you to use them).

This is an insane amount, you know, but it’d only make sense that Sōsaku-sha would have that kind of ability if they were able to provide the rest of the nine worlds with magical powers. And since you programmed them into the game you had memorized them all.

You flex your fingers a couple of times, thinking how to go about using a spell.

There are no icons to show you your long list of spells you can cast and select. So how can you cast spells now?

You think of your perk Ascend by looking down past your hands to see the glossy reflective surface of the stage show you your reflection as you hover about two feet above. You’ve seen your avatar plenty of times...but now it’s...different…. You shake your head, forcing yourself not to become memorized in your own reflection, and focus on why you looked down. Ascend is a magical perk so it shows that you still can use magic...maybe...

How did you activate it? The perk hadn’t been active until you had jumped away from touching Alvara. It couldn’t have been from touching her. It must be something else. What had you done?…mmm...maybe it was because you actively wanted to get away from her? Hmmm…want…maybe you can use magic if you actively want to or have the will to use magic?

You look back at your hands. Well...It can’t hurt to try?

You have a perfect grasp of what the area of effect would be and how much time it would take before you could cast again. Locking your sights on the empty space you've set out before you-you raise your dominant hand and in a loud voice you call out, “Chaos Bolt!”

The crackle of lightning meets your non-existent ears as a stream of electricity shoots out forward from your palm then fizzles out as it reaches no target.

If you still had eyes, they’d be as wide as saucers. You’re happy to know that you can still use magic but that’s not what surprised you. You had felt the energy in that attack. Like...an inner source of...something leave you to manifest itself into the attack.

“Amazing…” You mumble to yourself before huffing out a laugh in disbelief. This added to the life-like reality you are situated in now. What you had felt must have been your MP depleting! Chaos Bolt is a first-tier magic spell so it wouldn’t do a whole lot to your huge magic bar, which is why you used it, but it still requires MP to use. For the first time since the shutdown, you feel secure. Like you finally have something you can lean on for support. This ability came with a serious high-the fulfillment and satisfaction of knowing that this power was truly yours. Your skin shows your evident change in mood as bright greens, yellows, and pinks spark to life like bleeding dye.

“Woah!” “So cool!” The voices of the eleven NPCs are audible from where you hover and you feel something akin to a smile grow on you. Coming to the conclusion that magic won’t be an issue to use, you turn and make your way back to the group.

“Have you all become acquainted?”

Affirmations follow in response but Skinner, the Sluagh, raises a boney, anorexic hand. “My creator,” The thin gray figure lets out a sorrowful yet rough moan, “From what our...associates have informed us...you...urge us to ask questions when we have ones?”

“That is correct. Do you have any? Feel free to ask anything but don’t feel that you’re pressured to do so. I’m sure these five have filled you six in on why?”

All nod in response and Skinner continues, “Do you really plan on leaving with us on reconnaissance?”

“Yes. I am coming with you all or...in actuality you are all coming with me since I intended you all to assist me in the first place.”

Nictis lets out a rumbling growl, “All servants of you are more than capable of fending for themselves and will not risk disgracing you with any type of failure! You don't need to put yourself in harm’s way like this!” Drool leaks from his maw as he speaks and some of his saliva drips on the Reborn around the Windigo as he shakes his head.

You almost laugh at the faces they make when wiping off the spit from themselves but you reel it in with a huff, “I know. Akkar had the same objections and that’s why I’ve waited until now to explain myself...” And with that, you almost repeat exactly what you had conversed with Alvara. The group takes a bit longer to settle though but eventually they begrudgingly stop trying to persuade you against your choice and they make their vows to protect you no matter the cost. There was just one little thing that was bothering you. “Jest.”

“Yes, my creator?”

“I didn’t intend on having you join us on our reconnaissance but I feel that if I turn you away now it’d be harsh on my part. I don’t want you to feel unwanted so if you have the desire I will not prevent you from coming along even though I’m hesitant on the idea. You are a Disciple, a being I had created here in my fortress. You’ve never been outside my realm, let alone the Citadel, so I don’t want you to become overwhelmed by the worlds beyond. The choice is yours though. If you feel that you can handle yourself then I welcome you. If not then you can return to the throne room and stand guard. What would you like?”

He looked troubled, “My creator...I’m...not a burden to you, am I?”

“You are not a burden!” You shout as a matter-of-fact, “Only if you become a disturbance on our reconnaissance will you be so, that is why I say you can come if you will control yourself. Is that clear?”

“Y-yes.”

“So what shall it be?”

He’s silent for a few beats as he turns his red beady eyes downward in contemplation before it’s masked with a resolute one. “I want to come along! I want to assist you, my creator, and nothing would make me happier than to do so! That is my purpose for existence!” You don’t utter a word because you can tell he’s not done talking as he pauses to look up at you with determination clear on his features, “But I must request something of you.”

“Oh? What is it might I ask?”

“Your concerns are legitimate ones and if you say the...things that exist beyond your realm are overwhelming then they must be. I will try to maintain a level head but the moment I become a distraction I want you to tell me so I can retreat and no longer remain one.”

“Mmm, very well. Just know, Jest, that if I do end up sending you away don’t feel as if you’ve failed me.”

He bows, “Thank you for your kindness.”

Mhmm...he didn’t agree with you on that last part. You hope you don’t have to end up sending him back to the keep in fear of how he’ll think of himself afterward. Moving on, you address all eleven NPCs in attendance, “Before we make any advances to leave I shall give you all buffs to aid us in our venture.”

“You’re too kind to us.” Aragog sighs blissfully as you raise your dominant hand.

You’re not certain that you can use buffs but the mechanics in Yggdrasil for them weren’t much different from the spells and that gives you confidence that you can do this. “Mass Fly.” The NPCs light up for a second and you recognize it as the animation for the particular buff. Success! Now you continue with vigor, “Damage Immunity. Foresight. Hatred. Stealth. Invisibility. Detect Ally. Haste. Hunter. Greater Resistance. Absorption. Mental Barrier. Lion’s Heart.” You lower your hand once you’ve buffed everyone, even yourself.

“Wow!” “This is amazing! Our creator’s magic is flowing through us!” “I feel so empowered!”

“...Let’s go.” You try to ignore their antics by flying upwards but unbeknownst to you your skin reflects the cheery attitude your lifelike allies are rubbing onto you. You rise farther and farther from the surface of the arena until you even pass the pinnacles that tower high over the shiny white dome walls covered with buttresses and elegant outcroppings.

The Seiun surrounds the Citadel like a shell but leaves enough empty space for players to truly admire the palace at the core of the storm and enough time to escape any Kaonashis that may have been pursuing them. The colors that shift throughout the stardust mimics your avatar’s skin as if it is an extension of you. At present, its a culmination of the bright colors you saw on yourself before, bright greens, yellows, and pinks which make it appear like a field of flowers.

It would be a cheerful sight if not for the Kaonashis that emerge every now and again from the confines of the Seiun like maggots. Some actually appear as such as well as mutants of moles, anglerfish, eels, jellyfish, worms, bats, and more. Others took on a more fantasy form like leviathans, basilisks, penanggalans, hydras, azathoths, nyarlathoteps, and other world-ending monstrosities.

You can’t tell whether or not it’s a good thing they’re limited to the territory of the Seiun.

The only way invading players could escape the faceless NPC’s other than killing them, of course, is if the players make it out of the Seiun. If Kaonashis stay too long outside the Seiun they die by shattering into the star-like particles that make up the space like storm.

The colors of the Seiun become more saturated in hue at your change of emotion as you receive more praise from your followers.

“Woah!” “It’s been so long since I’ve been outside…” “The Seiun is so pretty!”

“My creator?” Jest inquiries and you urge him to say whatever is on his mind, “What are those creatures up there?” He points up at the psychedelic cloud and you automatically know what he’s inquiring.

“I’ve dubbed them with the name Kaonashi. They are monstrous and powerful beings that are among our outer line of defense and I’m hoping they don’t attack us once when we approach.”

“What?!” “Why would they dare attack their creator?!”

“I created them to be mindless killing machines with their only purpose in being to kill all intruders and protect our realm and the subjects who reside in it. Although they shouldn’t attack us…something has changed. I…” How do you word it right? “...felt it a while ago back in the throne room. Things are different...majorly...even you all are different in some ways.” They look shocked as you continue, “...and I’m cautious in the fact that it might be the same for the Kaonashi and the Seiun. Nevertheless, we are going to push through.”

“My creator!” Erx hurries in front of you with arms raised stopping you as you start to drift towards the celestial mass. “I must insist that you have a member of your guard go off ahead to test the waters before we progress. As a member of the Unmei no gundan, I cannot allow you to be put in harm's way and I’m willing to go to see if it’s safe.”

What?! No! “Canon fodder may grant victory in a war but is it so for its commander? And what good am I to cower in fear what I’ve created that I allow my subordinates to face?” You shake your head and place a hand on the Hobgoblin’s shoulder.

Fear, love, conflict, pride, confusion, focus,...

Erx is a whirlwind of emotion but you try to project your own onto him, “Besides...I created you all...and it pains me to see you risk yourselves for me…. Have any of you considered that I feel the same way you do for me?”

He’s flabbergasted and so taken aback that he actually backs out of your grasp with a wide mouth and a blush. “M-m-my…”

“We will advance...together.” Even though this may become a huge battle. When no one else objects you shoot through the air like a missile, closing the distance between the Seiun and you but leaving the Citadel far behind. It’s only seconds before your group breaches the gaseous shield.

You’ve been in the Seiun before but it surprises you every time you enter because of how randomly generated the Kaonashis and the environment are. You had to admit that it was slightly nightmare-inducing sometimes. Tens upon hundreds of Kaonashis, all varying in size and shape, fill your vision as green flames and star particles illuminated them. The inferno that shot through the colorful mist pops and fades into acid rain before hardening into boulders. Like busy bees, the NPCs swarm the Seiun as if on the patrol for any intruders. They flew through the stardust much like how you can since most don’t have wings, like the odd few, and upon your groups passing, they seem to follow as if noticing your presence.

“Do not engage any of them unless they become a hostel!” You yell over your shoulder as you expand your sights to envelope all angles. Time passes in tense beats but none of the beasts engage any of you nor show any hostility. That's when something dawns on you, “They’re seeing us off.”

“An escort?” Lexx, the Kenku, echoes back in disbelief. “Are you sure?”

You hum an affirmative, “We’d be amidst a battle if they weren’t. They must know that we are allies and are trying to guard us against any possible threats…*sigh* Thankfully....”

Around thirty seconds of being trailed by a faceless and bizarre legion like a mother duck leading her chicks through a hellscape, the Seiun starts to fade out into the beyond and you feel the temperature drop. Before you can exit voices call out to you.

“My creator!”

You stop when you see your guard slow in their tracks, “Is something the matter?!’

“It has...suddenly...grown hard to breathe.” Ynnam says in choppy and labored breaths as where all the other guards plus Lexx. You become legitimately worried for them.

“When did this start to occur?” You float back to them with hovering hands. Is it the Seiun that is causing this or perhaps something else? You find the connection that all those who need to breathe are affected but not the four undead Reborn nor Jest. It would explain why you’re not also affected.

Lamassu whimpers, “Just...a few moments ago.” Why would they suddenly...you turn your attention to the direction that leads to the exit of the Seiun. It is possible that this could be two things:

1. Status effects from the Seiun.

2. There’s depleting oxygen due to the environment beyond.

Either way, you can only see one solution but… “Hmmm...this certainly cuts our numbers.”

“My creator?”

“Aragog, Lexx, Lamassu, Akkar, Ynnam, and Erx. You will all immediately retreat back to the Citadel.”

“W-what?” “But my creator!”

“Stop!” You snap at them, “I know this is very important to you all but what good is a guard that is weak or, God forbid, dead?!” You knew you were being harsh but you needed to be. They will keep finding reasons to stay with you otherwise. “I still have others to protect me...” You gesture with your arms to the five others you hadn’t listed, “and I, for one, can also handle myself. We will return soon and hopefully, we can find the reason why this occurred so this doesn’t happen again. So please, don’t blame yourselves for something that’s beyond your control. Retreat back to the Citadel, this is my order.”

They’re still in shock, obviously having some major inner turmoil but Erx is the first to snap out of it. “As you wish…” He bows, “We’ll take our leave…” After him, the others follow in his steps and one by one they all turn back to fade into the storm, also to followed by some Kaonashis.

“*Sigh* I feel kind of bad for doing that but it was for the best.” You whisper to yourself as you twist your body to face the remaining five. “Shall we continue?” They all nod and you all do so but the trip was hardly long as with one push, you breach the outskirts of the Seiun for the first time as your avatar-

...

And your mind goes blank.

You were supposed to come out far above that of the terrain of Asgard and Vsnaheim, the dwelling places of Norse mythology Gods and two of the nine worlds, but nye! They’re absent.

Instead you’re met with a planet! A planet that reminds you of Earth but the continents were nothing like the ones that should be there. You can see clouds moving across its surface and you can see the waters that separate the land. You can see its lunar satellite orbit the giant and you can see a distant star illuminate the surface below. Nowhere in sight a familiar sight beyond the Seiun. All else is just...space...you’re in space. Outer-space.

“I don’t recognize any of this...” Ukara, the Draugr, mumbles to you with Message once they realize that their voice can’t be heard with darting glowing blue eyes, “I remember there being...lands of gold and magic when I was summoned by our creator.” Well at least message was still an option in this strange situation.

“So what is all of this?” Malum, the Wraith, hums in Message with a rattling in his misty voice. He turns to you, the creak of his bones unheard.

You shake your head slowly as you float past the five, silently trying to wrap your head around what’s going on. This isn’t a part of Yggdrasil. You have a detailed memory of every inch of the nine worlds, despite how large they were...and nothing from Yggdrasil looks like this. You had thought this was still the game with you still being your avatar and the Citadel and the NPCs still intact but…

“I don’t know. I don’t know where we are. I hadn’t made any of this.” You say out loud, knowing they won’t hear a word you say. Who knows what the heck is happening! “But...this may explain why everything is different.” You sigh and become resolute. Assume, if you were truly Sōsaku-sha, what would they do? Would that help? What would they think? The NPCs confusion makes you consider a final question. What would Sōsaku-sha say?

“Okay!” You clap your hands together and turn back to the undead with a Message. “Here’s what I assume occurred. The change I felt was…” Um-um-make up something! “...myyyy whole realm being teleported to some unknown location.” Nailed it. “As of right now I don’t know why it happened, only theories to guide us. The only way we’ll get answers though is if we explore. We will continue but we’ll break up into groups of two, three in each. Malum, Skinner, and Ukara, you’re Reborn and are the most likely to tell the differences in our surroundings among the others. Encircle the Seiun and see if there are any familiar sights beyond my realm. Once you’re done...erm… use Message to contact me."

“Yes, of course, my creator.” Skinner nods.

“Good. Jest, Nictis, and I will continue forward and gather more information until you Message me. Once you do, we’ll hurry to return and go back to the Citadel to meet up with the Anointed. Are my words clear?”

“Yes, my creator!” They all call out in Message at once.

“Then we’re off.” You turn towards the planet and fly towards it while being followed by the Wendigo and the Sasabosam. Speaking of which, Jest hasn’t said a word since you’ve all entered the Seiun. You admire him through your extended vision and he looks...wild. Concern grows within, “How are you fairing, Jest?”

He turns to you with the scariest look, his makeup not helping, and you see him open his mouth to speak, blank out, then snicker in silence. What?! What’s funny?! Don’t laugh like that! He gets his act together then Messages you. “Forgive Me, my creator, even though this situation is dire, I’m enjoying myself. I’ve never seen such a wide expanse of area before. I’ve always thought the arena held space but the space out here is nothing compared to it. It just seems to go on forever!”

“Mhm, I can agree.” It did look like it could go on for eternity...and that doesn’t give you hope in your situation so you force yourself to focus on the fast-approaching planet ahead. You’re now able to distinguish landscapes in which you can see mountains, rivers, deserts, greenery, and others but not to the point where you can see any details.

“Where are we going to look?” Nictis’ inquire enters your mind and you slow to a stop to decide. The other three will be done with their search soon so it’ll only be enough time to briefly skim one area.

 

So where will you search?

The mountains.

The forests.

The green-lands.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: COMMAND

Your main blaring anxiety wavers around the question of why you’re still in Yggdrasil but the loyalty of the NPCs in the Citadel is going to have a detrimental effect on how you’ll figure out your situation. So to focus on them seems like the smart thing to do if you were lost and were trying to find your bearings. You need all the help you can get.

“Jest.” The Disciple seems to grow with glee upon you calling them but still remains serious, “Spread the word that all levels of the Citadel must go into maximum security but do not allow any of the floors to lock up any passageways unless an intruder is spotted. Also, collect five of the finest Reborn scouts the Citadel contains. Dastgir can help you obtain suitable choices if you have difficulty selecting them.” He is one of the Anointed, guardian of the Hero’s Hypogeum (the second floor), and general of the Unmei no gundan. The Centaur hybrid would know better than any other NPC in the Citadel which Reborn would be best to assist you (if he has your best interests at heart), so it’d be smart on Jest’s part to get guidance from him. “Have the five prepared for travel for they are to traverse and venture beyond my realm. Have them confirm our surroundings but warn them not to stray too far as to avoid conflict with any possible NP-Erm...any enemies. If they are met by any, they are to retreat.”

“I will do everything as you’ve commanded and inform them of the possible threats.”

“Mmm, I’m glad to hear it. Also, another word for warning for you to relay. The Kaonashi and the Seiun are very dangerous and unpredictable. If they are or even feel like they’re in danger, they are to retreat immediately. Even if they feel a slight change to their stats, health, or anything of that matter, they are to retreat. Their safety is my priority. We can always try again after we know what there is to look out for.” Yeah, that would be best as you could know what to prepare for when you’d go out. In the meantime, you want to go to your quarters and use your Mirror of Remote Viewing. That way you’ll be able to get a sneak peek yourself instead of just hearing a description of the surroundings. Even though you’re tempted to go and check it out now...you’ll save it for later. You had more pressing matters to attend to. “Have them ready for their departure in twenty minutes and they are to return after an hour has passed. I’ll be waiting for them on the first floor. Do you understand everything I’ve told you?”

“Yes, my creator.”

“Good. Once you have finished you’ll return here and remain guard. You’re dismissed.”

Jest stands with a curt bow and a jingle before spinning on his sharp sickles, clicks following his hurried pace.

‘Can you even leave the throne room?’ You think in your head. You had programmed him to guard this grand room and even though you hadn’t bound the vampire to this space, by leaving, he’d be doing something no other Disciple has done under circumstances other than retiring to their chambers.

You watch Jest make his way across the throne room and approach the tall double doors on the other side. Much to your curiosity, the doors open and allow him to pass on his merry way.

“Curious…” You hardly mumble still at a loss for what’s happening. Not only are the NPCs very lifelike now but they can follow your commands without using command phrases as if they can understand your intentions. It makes you question whether or not this is limited to just the throne room, the entire Citadel...or...all of Yggdrasil. So many things to test out to understand the limitations of your situation but you don’t want to get carried away by overthinking it. You’re still in Yggdrasil, your game, so there shouldn’t be too many differences. Baby steps is the pace you’re going to set for yourself. There’s no point in rushing and possibly disorienting yourself more than you are already.

So you turn to the Anointed with your second priority in mind, “Alvara.”

“Yes my creator?” She inquires, seemingly eager to do your every will and whim.

“You’ll be joining me. I want to check the conditions of each floor and those residing with them.”

She lights up immediately with a huge, toothy smile which takes you back slightly. She looks crazy!

“Eek! Of course! It’d be my pleasure!”

You can only hum in reply as you couldn’t find the words to make one. You need to do this, you tell yourself. You need to test the extent of your influence. Jest and Alvara may be life-like but who's to say that all the other NPCs are? Who’s to say they’re loyal like the two? By commanding her to follow you through the floors of the Citadel, you can check on their conditions with one of the best guards Yggdrasil has to offer. On top of that, the Anointed is the best NPC to help you since you’ve programmed her with a background to be very sociable. If there’s any disloyalty blooming in the Citadel towards you, she’ll know.

You’re confident that she’ll aid you...but...since Yggdrasil seems so life-like at the moment, it makes you question your avatar’s abilities. You may be extremely OP in the game but is it still the case now? Sōsaku-sha’s main source of power resides on magical ability, although they still are very powerful in physical terms. You need to confirm that you can, in fact, still use magic because not only is it a vital part of transportation in Sōsaku-sha’s realm and supports your information-gathering skills but it will drastically affect your combat ability.

Sōsaku-sha is supposed to be the most powerful being in the game, the final boss, the deity that created ALL of Yggdrasil, and the ruler of the Citadel, home to the most powerful NPCs out of all the nine worlds in the fantasy DMMO-RPG. So far everyone you’ve met is loyal to you but who’s to say they’ll follow a powerless leader? And if your avatar still has the same stats there’s the Anointed who come close to your own. You need to make sure that they’re all still loyal to you.

It does raise questions though…

If they are loyal to you, how much so? You had programmed all Anointed, in fact, all NPCs in your realm to have extreme love and loyalty towards you. Are they willing to do anything you ask of them and to go out of their way to go up and beyond your expectations because of their coding or do they go against it? If your stats are weak will their loyalty to you dwindle? Will they start to lose faith in you if you make stupid choices? If there’s the possibility of their loyalty to you being able to change due to circumstances, how will you maintain it? In Yggdrasil, the system would judge mobs and NPCs within Sōsaku-sha’s realm as belonging to you. Friendly fire was always on as not to give intruders an advantage but...is that still the case? If you’re attacked, will it not harm you?

“My creator?”

Oh right, Alvara is still here waiting. She probably thinks your silence is more than you just dozing off. “Sorry, I got lost in thought for a second.” You observe Alvara where you stand. You haven’t yet tested to see if the NPCs really are alive or if they’re just acting as such. Watching Alvara’s chest rise and fall makes you question if the former is true but that...can’t be...well, none of this should be happening...but you’re praying that this is all faulty coding and that you’re not actually...in a fantasy world.

A good way to test this is to reach out and feel her…

Once you actually register what that implies the thought makes you want to sweat.

Alvara is an attractive woman with a beautiful body and a giving heart. With the way she looks at you plus the fact that she seems to be willing to do anything for you makes you feel sick...the good kind of sick(?). The kind that people call butterflies in the stomach? Yeah. You feel as if you’re going to do something naughty by how hot you’ve suddenly become but you are, by no means, going to do anything like THAT. In fact, your only real goal is to see if she has a pulse. Doing so will truly prove what is the case.

“Alvara.”

“Yes, my creator?”

“I want to run a test with you.” You turn towards the short round flight of stairs, all the while still being able to see Alvara with your back turned somehow until the barricade obscures your vision, and start to descend down the side the Anointed is closest to. “You have every right to deny me if you’re not comfortable with going through with this. Something has changed. I…” How do you word it right? “...felt it a while ago. Things are different...majorly...it’s also the case from what I’ve seen of Jest and you.” You exit the staircase and walk underneath the archway to stand before the still kneeling NPC who looks so small from your avatar’s 213.36 cm (seven-foot) height. “So I want to...erm...t-to touchyouandseewhat’sdiffrent.”

Nailed it.

She blinked, processing your words with frozen breath. AaAhhha. Please pleeease don’t take that the wrong way. A blush climbs up her face when it finally clicks and you almost scream at her to forget what you said, just to save you both the embarrassment, but she speaks up before you.

“I see…” She stands up, not even reaching your shoulder with her height, “Then please,” She spreads her arms as if offering herself to you, “do as you must.”

DON’T SAY THAT LIKE THAT!!! You’re going to die of embarrassment at this rate! “A-are you sure you’re okay with this?” ShutupShutupShutup! You’re making this worse!

“Of course I am.” Her blush deepens making you doubt that she told you the truth. “Please, go ahead.”

A swallow is hard on your throat, tempting you to just stop this now but you’re already in this deep and it’ll make you look bad if you back down now. Besides, you need to do this. ‘This is necessary!’ You tell yourself.

To that, you bite down your anxieties with your anticipation to raise your hand and place it upon her shoulder-

Admiration, inspiration, love, compassion, baited, realization, shock, honored, privileged, gleeful-

You jump away at the sudden intrusion of feelings that resulted from your contact with Alvara.

Both she and you stare at each other bewildered by just what transpired but you more so.

‘This is real.’ keeps repeating in your head like violent waves upon a shore. Unrelenting the echo of your epiphany as dread laps at your soul, your core, as is sand by the salty tongues of the sea.

‘This is real.’

‘This is real!’

‘Alvara is alive!’

You had felt the warmth of her skin through her clothes and a beating, like a drum’s symphony, of her heart's pulsations. It was a fast ba-bum, ba-bum and it only sped up upon your contact. Not only that, but you were also assaulted by emotions you know weren’t your own. You don’t have it in your mentality at the moment to puzzle together as to what just occurred and frankly, you don’t want to.

You force your focus away from the Anointed to look at your-Sōsaku-sha’s hand. Colors ripple rapidly across the surface, too many and too fast to contemplate their meanings. You rub your thumb over your middle and index finger as if to feel the phantom texture. You repeat the gesture twice more before bringing your other hand to feel your palm.

Smooth...soft...wrong.

The senses of taste and smell were altogether banned from fantasy worlds by cyber-tech laws. Yggdrasil had a system for eating and drinking, but anything consumed only affected in-game stats. Even touch was regulated to some extent. This was all so the game couldn’t be mistaken for the real world.

And here you are...able to touch and smell.

“U-um,” Alvara’s voice brings you back to reality, “My creator.” You don’t want to hear what she has to say but you nod for her to continue. “I...I believe...did you project your emotions onto mine?”

….

Eeehhh?!

“You had felt my emotions?!” When she nods you let out a huge sigh as you grow hot with embarrassment. Great. She probably thinks you’re a huge pervert.

“When you touched me just now...I felt a wave of emotions that weren’t my own. They were…”

Please don’t say it!!!

“...fearful. You seem very anxious.”

Huh?...oh. Well...maybe she’s being nice to you and worded it differently than what she actually felt from you, to spare you the embarrassment, or that’s really what she got from you.

Either way, you appreciate it and watch silently as she places her right hand over her heart and lifts the left as if she was reaching out to touch you. “Please...let me beg you to let me be selfish and allow me to help you any way I can. I can’t stand by knowing that you’re in distress!”

Beats of silence pass between the two of you as you run her words through your head like a record on loop. There’s nothing you could say. If you told her the truth, that everything seems to be wrong, it’d probably hurt her. It’s better to just assure her of what she’s doing now. “Thank you for your concern but you’re honestly doing wonders already.” Yeah, thank God you don’t want to kill me. “You’re helping me understand this strange situation better. For example…” You extend your hand for her and she quickly accepts the invitation, once again flooding you with alien emotions. You’re able to retain your recoil this time. “...it seems that we are able to share our feelings through physical contact.”

“Share?”

“Mmm, yes. I’m also feeling yours, Alvara. I can’t sense thoughts though, through this method. Just emotion. Is it the same for you?”

“Y-yes. I’m only getting feelings.”

Thank God. “Then it’s mutual. I say this because I feel your positive emotions and they are overpowering my more negative ones. It’s quite...relieving. I...might have to start having frequent contact with others...though, bless the poor soul that’ll be on the receiving end.”

“My creator!” She bows her head and holds your hand against her very soft hair. “Anyone of your servants would fight tooth and nail for the opportunity to hold your hand as I am, more so if they knew what it means to you!” The fact that you can feel she means every word makes your heart flutter. You can’t see the joyful smile that climbs up her face at your warming emotions. “Don’t think that you’ll hurt us by letting us help. Please, take it from me, an ant you’ve allowed to be graced with your touch.” She looks up at you once again but tears flow down her rosy cheeks this time, “I’ve never been happier in all my life! Allow me to do this again for you anytime you need it! I’d be more than honored to!”

“...” You don’t think you’ve ever been this speechless in your entire life. How could you even begin to respond to something like that?! Instead, you opt to wipe her tears away with your thumb. She cries a little while longer before she seems to gain control of her emotions, you continuously cleaning her face all the while.

“Forgive me for my outburst. It was uncalled for.”

You shake your head. “There is nothing to be forgiven. Truly sweet is the honey that flows on behalf of a yellow rose.”

You...don't know why you said that. Maybe your anxiety is getting the best of you.

She seems to gain mixed emotions upon your words so you decide to speak with more clarity. “Your tears are nice. They show that you care about our friendship.”

“Fuh-Friendship?!!”

You envelop both of her hands in yours, now only realizing how small her’s are in your own. “Yes. I desire to become friends with all of my subjects.” That way you’ll all be less likely to turn against me, “It’s one of the reasons I want to traverse the floors. Do you want to be my friend?”

“Of course I do, my creator!!!”

When she almost busts out crying again you let go and move backward, her emotions becoming too much for you to even think. “Mmm...Then I’m sure others would like to be too. Let us be off. Time doesn’t stop for anyone.”

You move your legs to turn and leave but the feeling of the smooth cold floor doesn’t register. A change of focus reveals to you that you’re now floating. It seems that Sōsaku-sha’s perk Ascend still works which gives you hope that not much has changed stat-wise if at all.

You will yourself to float across the throne room in the direction of the large doors but you move at a reasonable pace so the Anointed isn’t left behind. “Alvara.”

“Yes, my creator?”

“I aim to work our way up the floors so that when we finish we’ll stop at the first floor on arrival of our reconnaissance. If we arrive early then we’ll spend that time testing a few more things.” Your split vision shows you that Alvara is excited at that concept, “But since we are on the fifth floor we’ll need to go down to the sixth first…. Do you know who Majesty is?”

“The Anointed who guards the treasury? Yes, we’ve had many insightful conversations over the years. I’ve even made them a mask once. They said they appreciated it but it was hard to tell with their lack of face.” Ah, yes. Just as you thought. The background you had given her is working like her memories.

“Good, we’ll be paying them a visit.” Upon your approach, the large double doors to the throne room slowly slide open upon your approach, like before when you first entered. The grand hallways look the same as they did in-game. Extravagant and screams rich. The fact that this all may be real makes you sick. What was the saying? The richer you are the more worry you’ll have? Yeah. You’ve never been more worried in your life but you don’t think the grandeur is the cause. You hope that somehow, this all ends soon and you can return back to reality.

You slide easily through the corridors, knowing every inch of this place, and you make small talk with Alvara as you both make your way to your destination. You both agree on taking turns asking each other questions to pass the time. You knew practically everything about her so most of your questions consist of theories and puzzles until you’d come up with one that’d really help you. She, on the other hand, is very interested in you. She wanted to know what's your favorite color, what hobbies you enjoy, if you prefer fluffy animals over scaly ones, and more. You answered everything truthfully, seeing no harm in doing so, but sometimes you have to alter them to fit your avatar. When she asked you what you liked to eat you were honest but had to point out that you don’t have a mouth to consume such things.

The more questions she asked the more you start to realize that you have a lot to learn about the anatomy of Sōsaku-sha. If you’re stuck here, you need to find out how to live in this body or there’s a possibility that you'll...you’re not even sure if you’ll resurrect if you die but you’re never going to test that out. Not while you still don’t know how permanent this situation is.

By the time you both reached the ramp that leads down into the sixth floor Alvara was the only one asking questions. The Anointed noticed and when she inquired about it you simply made the excuse that you like teaching others.

At the bottom of the ramp is a small hall that leads to a giant golden statue that mirrors your avatar’s form cut in half at the torso. It holds its hands, fingers interlaced, at its midsection almost as if clutching onto life but have come to a peace that it is the end. You made it so that it symbolized the end of the gamer’s journey, the final phase into the absolute completion of Yggdrasil. The whole statue is as large as the double doors to the throne room but you know that the entrance to the Treasury is much smaller as it is just behind its hands.

And those hands will remain closed until one can pass the statue of riddles’ test.

Upon your approach the statue takes notice of your presence and moves its blank head to follow you with a familiar yet echoey version of your new voice. “I speak without a mouth and hear without ears. I have no body, but I come alive with the wind. What am I?”

“Oo! I know this one!” Alvara suddenly calls out and you turn to her with muted surprise. The action causes her to grow shy under your gaze. “...If you’d allow me I can solve this riddle for you, my creator.”

“...Heh...I see.” She’d have to pass the door of riddles to visit Majesty so of course, she’d know a good portion of riddles. The only concerning thing with that sediment is that you didn’t program her with that knowledge so the implication that she has “memories” you hadn’t given her to have is troubling. The other NPCs may be the same you realize.

A swallow pushes down your anxieties as you gesture her to step forward. “Very well but do note that if you fail you’ll have to dodge the statue's attacks until you get an answer right.” You doubt that she’d volunteer to do something that’d harm you if she didn’t know full well what she is doing, considering how she has conducted herself so far. Besides, you know all the answers to all the riddles the statue could ask and if she gets it wrong you’ll correct the error.

She nods and steps forward, drawing the attention of the golden giant, “My answer to your riddle is an echo.”

You feel something akin to a smile when you pat her twice on the shoulder with a sigh as you make your way past her towards the opening hands. Her joy is made more apparent as light floods the area in which you two leave behind knowing that you’ll soon pass through here again.

What you step out onto is a quartz bridge suspended hundreds of feet above a sea of gold like a dungeon filled with lava. The bridge stretches out into the small expanse which is the Treasury, held up by engraved pillars and arches, leading any wandering soul into the few subsections the chambers contain. Stairs would depart from the pathways, which would descend into the indefinite gold horde below. The ceiling stretches high, mimicking the ones of the other floors and the stained glass windows let in colorful light from almost every angle. Although the space isn’t the largest floor, it still holds a great portion of space which could take half an hour of searching for the Anointed. Thankfully, though, at the center of the treasury, where all the bridges connect into a single large platform under the largest chandelier the Citadel holds, hovers the animated mannequin.

Their exterior form is an amalgamation of armor, donned with the Citadel’s gold and quartz theme. Their body only consists of a misshapen torso, four separate poles that make up its arms, six needle like fingers, blades for joints, an Egyptian like headdress, and an extended flat which is currently holding a Chockwe mask. A distinct sound of humming mechanical parts fills the empty space and progressively becomes more pronounced as Alvara and you close the distance between the Anointed.

Majesty hovers lower to the ground, tilting their colossal head downwards, and puts their right three fingers across their chest to perform a mock bow. “My. Creator. . What. A. Privilege. It. Is. To. Have. You. Along. With. My. Favorite. Colleague.” Their choppy, rich voice remains bland in pitch, not clearly expressing their joy to your arrival, as they raise their head. “To. What. Do. I. Owe. You. For. This. Fine. Occasion. Question. Mark.”

You almost ask why they said "question mark" at the end of their statement when you realize it was a question. Your Avatar nods in approval as you stop before the nine-foot giant. You like their voice. It completely embodies their character not only in personality but on their robotic side. In addition, it seems that they are alive(ish) and loyal to you. This gives you hope that all the other NPCs are too. “Majesty, it’s nice to see you again too.” If they were affected by your sentiment you can’t tell for they make no indications of such. “However, our situation is not one to be taken lightly. Were you informed that we have been placed in maximum security?”

Gears click in response, “Yes. My. Creator. . I. Was. Messaged. By. A. Disciple. By. The. Name. Of. Jest.” Your skin flashes shades of green, not only because you’re pleased with the vampire’s work but you learned that you could possibly still use Message. “He. Had. Informed. Me. Of. Your. Plight. . Have. You. Come. To. Have. Me. Help. Dispel. It. Question. Mark.” Their voice betrays their question but you understand it was one.

“Yes. I am gathering all of the Anointed personally to the first floor to await the report from reconnaissance from there we’ll be able to take ample steps to give you all proper orders to carry out. For now…” Wait, you could make this a thousand times easier than just looking for the Anointed like a big doofus! “Message Dastgir, Bizerk, and Kendria to make their way to the Arena.” Yes! That way you don’t have to test your ability with Message, possibly making a fool of yourself, and you get to see how it is conducted! “As you do so you will follow me along with Alvara. Is this satisfactory?”

“Very. . I. Find. Great. Pleasure. In. Knowing. I. Can. Assist. You.”

“Good. Then let's be off. Time is of the essence.” You know you’re acting hasty but you want answers and the quicker you are the more likely you’ll get more.

When you turn to leave not only does the clacking of Alvara’s sandals follow you but now the humming of Majesty. You notice, with your odd vision, the robot bring two of their thin fingers up to the side of their real head and start to speak out.

It seems that Message generally works the same way as it did in the game but without the list of contacts that typically appears to choose from. You’ll have to figure out how that works more intimately later.

By the time you all reach the fifth floor Majesty has finished Messaging the other Anointed and Alvara takes the opportunity to speak. “Hey, Majesty?”

“Yes. Question. Mark.”

“Did you know you could feel our creator’s emotions through physical contact?”

Loud static noises erupt from Majesty which has you turning midair in the direction of the two Anointed despite being able to see them just fine before. You continue to float backward, still aware of where you’re headed, while you worriedly eye the robot. “Are you alright, Majesty?”

“Don’t worry about them, my creator.” Alvara hums with pinched brows, “They often do this when they’re processing a lot of information. I must have surprised or overwhelmed them. When Majesty finally understands...or computes what I’ve told then they’ll stop making the noise.”

Just as Alvara finished speaking a click finishes the static, “Is. This. True. Question. Mark. ”

This time it was harder to understand that Majesty had asked a question, “Yes. This is true. It is also new news to me, among many other changes.”

“Other. Changes. Question. Mark.”

“Mmmhm. Many things are different. For example,” You point your dominant hand to your face while supporting your elbow with your other hand, “my vision is different than before.”

“How so?”

“It...seems to be...extended...somehow.” You nod to yourself as you cross your arms. Yes, that is the best word you can come up with especially since you haven’t bumped into a single thing despite not facing the direction you’re all heading in. “It changes from time to time but essentially I’m able to focus on more things than what I’m acquainted with.”

“Ahh.” Alvara is the only who gives any physical reaction to your words.

Chatter down the hall catches your attention and you turn around in the air just in time to see a maid and a footman make their way around a corner. You immediately recognize the Reborn Vedalken and Shifter and they too seem to recognize your group, faltering in their step and voices becoming hushed. Your attention narrows on the female and male NPCs. Their white and gold outfits sway as they move and you notice them expanding as their breaths quicken. Your sight zooms in and narrows down to their whitened knuckles that grip their cleaning tools and supplies tightly. You even see the goosebumps travel up the exposed skin of the Shifter because he’s wearing much less clothing than their associate.

This practically confirms that all the other NPCs are no longer just codes but very much alive like Alvara is.

“They are different too.”

“My. Creator. In. What. Way. Question. Mark.”

“Same way everything is now.” You hardly care to elaborate as you draw closer to the pair that now steps aside and bows, waiting for your group to pass. When you’re within forty feet of the couple you address them. “Morpho. Claw. It’s nice to see the two of you.”

“Likewise, my creator.” Morpho bows deeper, her blue skin shifting to a purple hue as a blush creeps up her features. “It’s always an honor to be present amongst such perfection.” Ermm… although the comment sits weird with you-you understand that she is a Vedalken. They are a race that is obsessed with finding perfection even though they believe it is unobtainable...so the fact that she calls you perfect-

Claw hums in agreement but it sounds more like a purr to you. “Yes. It is also wonderful to see two of our Anointed.” The Shifter looks up to nod at the two with a sharp smile. “Alvara. Majesty.”

Majesty remains quiet but Alvara shares her greetings with the two as you pass, leaving the Reborn behind. Before you round the corner the two came from you see Claw jump excitedly around Morpho who holds a hand over her chest in bliss.

D...Do you really mean that much to these NPCs?

You’re starting to have a growing concern about your...title. Although they are accurate in calling you “creator”...it sounds like they’re calling you God, more so than a programmer. You’d probably be able to tolerate being referred to as “creator” if they said it any other way. It doesn’t make you feel good. You’re nowhere near a God. Sure, you designed Sōsaku-sha as a type of deity-like being but not a God. Nowhere near a God. An elevated being? Yes. A God? Absolutely not! Especially not a God while you’re possessing your avatar’s body.

If these NPC’s believe you to be some type of God, do they expect you to be perfect?! No! You know you make mistakes and you’re not about to pretend to be something you’re not just to avoid shattering their expectations of you. So how are you going to break it to them without them turning on you?

“Majesty. Alvara...I...would like to ask something of you both.”

“We would be elated to do anything you asked of us!” Alvara lightens up and walks a bit closer to you seemingly impatient to hear what you’d say next. Majesty mimics Alvara’s body language and also drifts closer to you.

“Uh…” ‘Hey, do you think I’m God?’ Yeah, probably not the time to be asking such things. You’ll sit on the thought but you’ll definitely ask the Anointed what they think when they are all together in one place. So when you get to the first floor you’ll have to find a way to bring it up.

Ahh.

It’s no good.

You shouldn’t worry about something that may not even be the case...but it’s a wise choice to store it for later. “...would you like to continue our conversation from before?”

“What. Conversation. Question. Mark.”

“Oh! I’d love to!” Alvara claps her hands together as she turns to the large robot. “Our creator allowed me to ask them any question I desired and would answer them.”

The static noise that followed was very brief. “Really. Question. Mark.” When they see the Anointed nod and that you do not correct her, they accept the fact before inquiring you. “May. I. Ask. You. Questions. Question. Mark.”

“Yes.”

“Will. I. Offend. You. If. I. Ask. You. Personal. Questions. Question. Mark.”

You shake your head even though it was slightly a lie. “You can’t ask anything worse than what Alvara did.”

“Huh?!”

“What. Did. You. Ask. Our. Creator. Question. Mark.” Majesty actually sounds shocked.

Purple and green colors dance rapidly across your skin as the mischievous thoughts flow through your head. “Oh, just what sex positions I like.”

“WUh-WHAAT?!!” Alvara explodes red with embarrassment as she stops in her tracks and rapidly shakes her head and arms at Majesty who has also stopped in their tracks but doesn’t dare deny your words.

With loud static filling the air, the robot places their “hands” in a position in imitation of sitting them on their “hips” as they look down at the other. “I. Thought. You. Were. Better. Then. That.-”

Your boisterous laughter stops the two in their tracks and they proceed to watch you double over in the air, clutching your abdomen. “HAhaha!-Ma-Majesty! It’s, it’s okay! *Sigh* Ahh, sorry Alvara. I couldn’t help but mess with you.” You turn to the two with one hand still on your stomach as the woman lets out a huge sigh. “I hadn’t had a good laugh like that in a while.” It probably felt that euphoric because you’re really stressed out. “I won’t get offended by any personal questions. I just...I’ll probably not be able to answer them all like you’d expect me to.” You continue to move and the two anointed follow in tow.

“Now I know where Bizerk gets their personality from.” Alvara airily jokes to herself that you actually bark a laugh at.

“Yeah, well, I did create all of you.”

You regulate your speed to allow yourself to not only help Alvara and Majesty in sticking with you at a comfortable level but to observe what other oddities there may be.

As you continuously ascend the floors you get more and more proof that this may not be the game you used to know. Every NPC you pass, whether it be Reborn or Disciples, acts very much alive and thankfully very loyal to you. You are trailed by humanoids, subhumans, and grotesques prostrating themselves, voices of praise, and proclamations of “My creator!” in every district and corridor you make your way through.

It’s all quite overwhelming and all you’re able to do in return is wave, nod, and give short answers to their inquiries. All the while this was occurring, Majesty and Alvara take turns bombarding you with questions. Majesty’s were honestly very hard to answer. When they asked you for your gender you had started to answer with a, “I am a-” when you stopped and realized that they weren’t asking you but Sōsaku-sha. You had designed your avatar to be both male and female but also...neither one...you really didn’t know how to answer them. You just ended going up on an entire rant about the anatomy of Sōsaku-sha for most of the trip up to the first floor.

It takes around fourteen minutes before you all make it up to the floor of the arena. Typically it would be barren of all life, the exceptions being player raids, but at the center stands five familiar individuals.

Two Reborn stand amongst the three other Anointed, seemingly conversing with them and paying particular attention to the Centaur. It takes you a little while longer to notice but you recognize that the two Reborn who are talking to Dastgir are members of the Unmei no gundan. Before you could think of a reason why guards of the Citadel would be present on this floor when you hadn’t called for them Alvara calls out with a loud voice, “OOOI!” She waves to the five who’ve now taken notice of the three of you.

The three anointed all have different reactions to seeing your approach.

Dastgir is a giant of a Centaur, standing well over 243 cm (8 feet) in height. His toned olive body is hardly hidden under his armor, like that of an Aztec warrior, and darker tinted boney exteriors. He waits in attention as he has taken a wide stance facing you and his long goat ears stick up high, causing his many earrings to clink together.

Bizerk is not so reserved as he seems to be fangirling and fanning himself. Although he’s currently wearing his white and gold robe, that’d cover his whole body if he stayed still, it is wide open from the neck down. The rubber hose and cartoon-like entity is odd in shape, almost mimicking that of the grinch, and only consists of the colors black, white, and red. His single white eye glitters comical sparkles behind his hood and you can see his pupil expand at the sight of you.

Kendria cowers behind Dastgir’s legs as if trying to hide from your sight. She is a young but very shy angel. She hardly ever comes out of the cocoon she has made for herself out of her many wings numbering up to twenty in total, at the moment. Despite her hiding, you can clearly see her big blue eyes peeking out from behind her pristine wings glittering in the same manner as Bizerk’s who is now dramatically fainting.

“I see you’ve gathered here as all requested. This is very good.” You comment idly while thinking of what next to say to all of them. You honestly should have planned on that.

“We’ll always do as you request of us, my creator.” Dastgir’s voice is deeper and richer than you’d imagine it to be. You thought it’d be raspier because of his dragon-like skull. He bows his humanoid torso slightly and pounds his chest with his right as he does so. “Bizerk!”

“AIIIEEE!” The dark gremlin screeches out as Dastgir kicks him with one of his many legs, causing them to roll twice and fumble in their cloak as it wraps around them.

“Stop fooling around. You are in the presence of our creator. Show some respect.”

“Gah! I know! Ya don’t ave ta kick me like dat!” When Bizerk finally stands back up his hood has fallen off revealing his face which consists of giant red lips that form into two of the three horns on his head. He sticks out his tongue, which also functions as his eye, at Dastgir through his many sharp fangs before he looks your way. His entire head moves up into a smile. “My beautiful, radiant, strong, awe inspirin’,” He scoots closer ever closer to you with reaching arms as he continues to list adjectives to describe you with until he’s almost touching you, “lovin’ creader,-” He claps his hands together, “-for what reason ave ya seen fit ta gather us all ere?”

“Mmm…*ahem*, I must apologize for keeping you all waiting and pulling you from your duties,” Before any of them could wave off your apology you continue, “but I have good reason for doing so. May all of you stand before me before I continue? I don’t want any of you to feel left out because I won’t turn to look at you as I speak.”

They all hurry to do as you asked, all forming a line like preschoolers attentive to a teacher. They all stand far enough back so that you could properly see them, even if your new vision wouldn’t expand, and straight in attention except for Kendria who is still cowering away from you.

Dark blue spots spread across a small portion of your chest, right under your collarbone, as a chill settles down there. The feeling almost wants you to pout because the small angel reminds you how skittish animals would shy away from you when you’d want to pet them.

You stomp the feeling down because now wasn’t the time to get lost in your thoughts.

“As you all know I have commanded that all floors go to maximum security. I have stated this because I’ve taken notice of anomalies in this world of mine. I am still in the process of finding them all and identifying the source of the issue. So until then...I’ll very much appreciate all your cooperation in my endeavor to understand...this.” You wave absently in no general direction to give emphasis on “this”. “If you all would like too that is. You have every right to deny me.”

Indignation and denial answers.

“Who’d dare deny you, my creator!” It’s clear that Dastgir’s hiss is not a question. “I shall correct any heretics and see to it that their outlook is corrected if not silenced.”

You feel that threat to your very core. Your skin must show it because the Seiun darkens considerably.

Although the other six NPCs agree with their own inputs you shake your head.

“I appreciate your loyalty but we can't force others to be the same. It’s not morally correct…”

Your voice grew weaker as you spoke, not truly meaning those words. You really do want as many...creatures? NPCs? Living beings wanting to help you up until you are able to log out of the game. Although you’d like to, forcing others against their will to serve you just doesn’t sit right with you. It almost makes you feel as if you’re condoning slavery. Besides, if you did that then you’re sure that you’ll more than likely get on the bad side of these beings.

“So if someone wishes not to follow an order of mine then let them state the reasoning behind it. The fawn who ignores the murder’s forewarning is fair game to a hunter but the one who heeds the crows’ call will become wise with age and experience.”

...what’s with you and using all this...imagery to explain tough subjects?... Is your manner of speech messed up too among other things? All you wanted to say is that if you receive criticism you might be able to improve yourself and the choices you make!

You clear your throat with a cough and clear up the imagery with an explanation. “I won’t ignore kindly suggestions if it means that I can avoid disaster or better improve myself. If they question my motives then it gives me a chance learn and to teach them why I choose to do the things I do; then not only will it possibly motivate them to do as I’ve asked but it’ll help them understand how I think. Do you all understand? I’m not just saying all of this to protect those who doubt me but encourage you all to do exactly that.”

“You want us to doubt you?!” One of the Reborn screams at the idea as if they haven’t heard you right.

The one who does so is a large hobgoblin that was renamed by you to Erx. He dons his best armor and weapons (that you’ve designed) much like the other four. His white and gold uniform covers up all of his large body excluding his flat square head and pointy ears. His dark brown sideburns cover up most of his rough redwood skin but you can still see his tusk-like teeth sticking up and over his top, thin, overturned lip. To you, it appears that Erx is wearing a menacing mien and you contemplate whether it could be the effect of the weight of his duty to protect you, his default expression, his mood, or if it’s his intimidation stats having an effect. His small beady yellow eyes bore into you, making you feel even more uneasy than you already are.

“In a way...yes. It’s so that we can all achieve the best outcome for every given situation and for us to learn from one another. I don’t see everything so be that extra eyes for me. Does that sound reasonable?”

They are all silent, sharing glances with one another for a few seconds to show how uncomfortable they are with the idea but they all reluctantly bow, stating that they’ll respect your wishes.

*sigh* This is so nerve-racking…maybe you can help them be more comfortable with you someday but you can tell it’s going to take some time.

“My. Creator.” The automaton hums. “If. You. May. Allow. Me. Let. Me. Elevate. The. Confusion. . Will. You. Correct. Me. If. I. Am. Wrong. Question. Mark.”

“...Yyeeesss…” You were hesitant but you were curious of what Majesty has in mind to tell the other NPCs.

All eyes turn to the robot as they begin to speak. “During. My. Trip. Up. To. This. Floor. With. Our. Creator. And. Alvara. It. Became. Apparent. To. Me. That. Our. Creator. Enjoys. Teaching. Others. . I. Believe. That. They. Want. Us. To. Ask. Them. Questions. Because. It. Makes. Them. Happy.”

“Awwwh!” All in attendance lighten up at the prospect of making you happy and suddenly aren’t as hesitant to the request you made. It slightly peeves you that that’s the reason they suddenly warm up to the idea but you swallow the feeling down.

“Am. I. Correct. My. Creator. Question. Mark.” Majesty asks for your approval. When all look at you with glittery expressions you sigh.

“Although that isn’t the only reason I want to be inquired of...you’re not wrong. I do enjoy teaching others as much as I do learning.”

“So not only can we be taught by our creader but we can make dem happy at de same time?! Kieeah! It’s like a dream come true!” Bizerk hugs himself, getting lost in a fantasy. Many nod in agreement with him and you fight to let out another sigh.

Well...as long as it motivates them not to kill anyone that you can possibly win over through words...then it’s fine.

“So I must remind you, if someone doesn’t agree with me let them state their reason. But...some situations will require...different actions to take place if I’m met with resistance. When the time comes...I will-WE will find a solution to deal with such matters. In the meantime…” You turn your head over to the two reborn. “I want to know why you two are here.”

Dastgir steps forth, “My creator, they were a part of the reconnaissance group Jest and me developed.”

“Oh?” So they weren’t here for no reason-Wait! “So you ran into an issue?”

“Yes, my creator. We returned here shortly after departing because Erx and I started having difficulty breathing in the Seiun.” Aragog, a Drider, hisses in self-loathing.

She, among the Reborn in attendance, has the least amount of armor and clothing on due to the fact that most of her body is a spider. A highly venomous one at it too. Even the hairs on her body, that stand up every time you look her way, can become poisonous needles at will. She has a hard exoskeleton and it poses better than any suit of armor could with her thin, hairy, long limbs. The part of her that looks human is sharp and hairy in some parts. Her skin is mostly dark purple with green markings that fade with the purple into her light yellow underbelly but at the end of every point and limb is black. Aragog’s face is shaped like a human woman with wide cheekbones and short blonde hair that match the hair on the rest of her body and her light yellow underbelly. The difference is that she has pointier ears (not so much as elves but like someone pinched them at the top), no visible nose, eight green orb-like-eyes, pedipalps that act as the bottom jaw, and black, sharp, needle-like-teeth.

“Although we retreated just you instructed us to, we still feel as if we’ve failed you.” The two reborn bow deeply. “Forgive us.”

“I will not. Neither of you are at fault for anything. I’m proud that you listened to me instead of putting yourselves in danger. I would have been terribly guilt-ridden if you continued and something worse occurred to you both.”

“We don’t deserve such kind words!” Aragog whimpers while Erx’s stiff form relaxes.

“Mmm...this is concerning news though.” You turn your head upward to stare at the psychedelic cloud. “The Seiun has many status effects that it can place on passersby but I created it with the sole purpose to kill all intruders and protect our realm and the subjects who reside in it. They shouldn’t attack or affect any of us but..things have changed.”

You look back down to the two reborn. “What occurred while you were in there?”

“Well...it was a very humbling experience.” Erx scratches his hairy chin. “I mean no disrespect but it’s utter chaos in there. More than once I thought we were going to be attacked by the Kaonashis but all they did was follow us.”

The one who answers is a large Reborn hobgoblin. He dons his best armor and weapons (that you’ve designed) much like all of the NPCs in the citadel and beyond. His white and gold uniform covers up all of his large body excluding his flat square head and pointy ears. His dark brown sideburns cover up most of his rough redwood skin but you can still see his tusk-like teeth sticking up and over his top, thin, overturned lip. To you, it appears that Erx is wearing a menacing mien and you contemplate whether it could be the effect of the weight of his duty to protect you, his default expression, his mood, or if it’s his intimidation stats having an effect. His small beady yellow eyes bore into you, making you feel even more uneasy than you already are.

“The Kaonashis didn’t show you any hostility?”

“No. I don’t believe they did.”

Well, that was good news, they are the largest threat in the Seiun. But that doesn’t explain why Aragog and Erx started to struggle to breathe. “When did you start to suffocate?”

“Far into the Seiun, I believe. we had been flying straight for half a minute when it occurred.”

So they were near the exit when they couldn’t breathe well. This changes things. If it was a status effect of the Seiun then they would have been affected far sooner than thirty seconds, let alone with just breathing problems. This makes you believe that it isn’t the space field but rather what lies beyond it. The terrain of Asgard and Vsnaheim, the dwelling places of Norse mythology Gods and two of the nine worlds, should be outside. Maybe it had something to do with oxygen levels? The worlds of the immortals wouldn’t be affected by such petty things so I'd make sense.

“And it only affected you two? Who was among your team?”

“Yes, my creator, we were the only two affected. The other three among us were Cruella, Nut, and Sparse and they claimed not to be affected.”

So that meant that a skeleton, a warforged, and a festrog weren’t affected. “That would make sense. Cruella and Sparse are undead while Nut is an automaton. They don’t have the need to breathe while you two do.”

But that does bring to question, do you have a need to breathe? You don’t have the...parts to do so but you may be like some kind of toad now and you breathe through your skin. Would that mean you’d also suffocate if you left? Are you trapped here? Hmmm...maybe it’s a good thing that you didn’t go with reconnaissance but you don’t like the thought of being caged here, let alone in the game.

You sigh, rubbing a hand down your face as you look back up at the Seiun and watch it shift along with your skin. It appears as a sickly stormy sky, foretelling misfortune with its murky gray, greenish-yellows, and blues with very dark splotches.

Hopefully there’s light after the storm…

“Thank you, Aragog, Erx, for informing me. You’re allowed to stay until the three return if you wish but if you have duties…” You look back down to turn to Dastgir, silently asking him if they do.

“I’ve already had other guards cover their absence. The Citadel’s function isn’t negatively affected while they are here.” The centaur firmly nods with a stomp of one of their front hooves, standing in attention.

You nod and turn back to the Reborn. “It is for you to decide.”

“I would love to stay!” Aragog’s body hair stands straight as they wiggle in a slight dance. “Spending time with you is always a privilege!”

Erx, upon seeing their fellow Reborn jump at the chance to spend more time with their creator, is motivated to do the same. “I also want to stay.”

“Hmm…” You didn’t know how to reply. ‘Cool.’ or ‘Nice.’ doesn’t seem to be the right things for you to say. Maybe you should just drop the subject. The time you have left until the scouts return is dwindling. You should test or seek out more information. “In the meantime, why don’t we spend our time wisely until the three return.”

“What shall we do, my creator?” Alvara peeps up, looking excited.

There were actually a few things you want to figure out.

You want to see if the NPCs think you’re some kind of God. Not only that but you wanted to get to know the NPCs in front of you personally. Asking them questions could give you tons of information and expand your knowledge of your new(?) allies. You may have programmed them but evidently, they have minds of their own now. Not only that but you also want to learn more about your body. You can see but you have no eyes. You can hear without ears. You don’t know if you can eat but you can talk, albeit with two voices. You can smell but you have no nose. You can feel but evidently, your feelings can project onto others. Can you even use the bathroom anymore? Do you even have a need for it anymore?? What gender are you??? You’re utterly confused in that department. Although this all might be something you should find out in private the Anointed and Reborn could possibly help you find out something you don’t even know about yourself.

Then there’s the issue with magic. Magic and spell casting are very important to your avatar, Sōsaku-sha, and you want to at least make sure that you have some measure of defense yourself in case you have no one else around to protect you. Are the mechanics the same? You are still your avatar and it’s still Yggdrasil so it must not be too different. So, the way you see it, the best way to test out your abilities is in a fighting match.

You look up and eye all the NPCs.

This could totally go wrong real quick. The Reborn are all level 100 while the Anointed are only slightly less powerful than you. If this goes wrong...you could really be hurt or you could possibly hurt the others.

...But...by doing this you could learn so much about your avatar’s abilities and possibly see what the others have in their stock. You already know their abilities but you’ve never been able to see them in action.

So what should you do with your remaining time?

Make small talk and get scientific.

Let’s rough house!

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: JUMP FOR IT!

In the next instant you decide that trying to slip away when you literally have flowers trailing your every step is going to be impossible. You’re still your avatar and this still has to be Yggdrasil. You must be able to use magic!

You hurry to stand back under the hole to peer out at the starry night sky.

You have no idea what’s going on but there must be some things that have remained constant.

Ascend could easily assist you since it is a racial perk. It allows you to fly around without the need for spells so it could definitely help you float quietly out of the barn.

But there is a concern-

“I’ll peek in and see if I can spot whatever it is.” A male voice makes your head jolt to the direction of the doors to your right, just in time to see that they have opened slightly.

“Be careful Nate.” Another male voice meets you but it sounds lighter than the other.

When you see a worn-out brown leather boot slip through the crack you duck down so that the hay pile could hide you.

How do you activate it?! How do you activate Ascend?!

It should just automatically turn on when you move around but…

Looking down at your feet you see that they rest on the hay and grass bed that now surrounds you.

You shouldn’t be standing on the ground. You should be floating in the air, at least by two feet, at all times! The only time Ascend doesn’t work is when Sōsaku-sha is-

O-oh...

“Oh no.” You whimper out as you come to a realization. Sōsaku-sha’s perk Ascend is nullified when they are shielded. Not only that but you won’t be able to cast any spells or use magic while you’re shielded. You won’t be able to escape like this.

It would be an easy fix if you could pull up your menu but for some reason, it’s not working!

So then how did you end up activating it?! You don’t remember doing so! You were up in the sky one minute then-

“Hand me the torch, it’s too dark to see anything.”

“Shit.” The curse escapes you with a silent hiss. They're going to find you at this rate if you can’t get your stupid magic to work!

Maybe it’s a voice thing?? You don’t remember everything you said while falling but maybe you said “Shielded” out of desperation?! It’s best worth a try!

In a low voice, as not to be heard, you utter “Open.” while staring intently at your feet.

...

Nothing happens.

“S-shit.” You try again, whispering “Activate Open.”

...

Again, nothing.

“Please activate Open.”

Nothing!

“For the love of God, let me-”

“I don’t see anything.” You jump at the male’s voice who now sounds like he is fully inside the barn. “Let's spread out and search. It must still be in here.”

A heavy feeling befalls you and your body starts to quake.

“Two of you stay at the door and make sure nothing gets past you.” You suddenly hear, at the other side of the barn, an older man’s voice to your left.

You’re trapped!

“Shit!” You silently scream as you give up on trying to activate your abilities with voice commands and try to think of another way.

This is the first place they’re going to look so you’re not going to have a lot of time!

S-should you play dead?! Could you even try?! If you truly are shielded right now then nothing they could do to you will hurt you while you do so. But what if you’re not shielded and your magic system is just messed up? Wait, you don’t know if your magic system isn’t messed up! You haven’t even tried using one spell yet! The menu for spell slots is different from the typical menu! Maybe you still have access to magic!

Raising your hand you try to pull up your spell slots-

Nothing.

“Come oooon.” You want to cry.

Are you going to die?! Are you really going to die like this if you can’t get your shit together?!

Can you play dead?! You’re really considering it now but you’re sure that they’ll find a way to see if you’re alive one way or another! Your skin changing color might be a BIG hint after all! Not to mention your breathing. Wait a minute-

“There’s the hole. It must be in that pin.”

Nevermind about whatever you were just thinking, it doesn’t matter. You need to do something, NOW!!!

And in that instant you look up at the hole and come up with a crazy and desperate idea that you don’t think twice about.

You jump up.

In the back of your mind you knew it was a stupid choice but you just didn't think, you just acted. All you wanted to do at the moment was escape so, in a blind panic, you just leaped for the one escape route left open for you.

To your surprise you’re actually able to jump high enough to grab hold of the broken planks of the second floor and, with remarkable ease, haul yourself to the floor.

“IT’S THERE!” “What the HELL is THAT?!”

You’re aren’t startled by their voices as much as the feeling of something bouncing off your leg but you’re still startled nevertheless.

You pull yourself to safety and listen as they run about, calling to one another; some alerting while others give instructions on your location.

“I shot that thing with an arrow! It just...bounced off the monster!!! I saw it!”

WHAT?!! Was the thing you felt really an ARROW?!!

Looking down at your leg while crouching away from the place you crawled out from, you try to see if there are any cuts. You turn it this way and that but find nothing. You even run your thumb over the place you felt get hit but you feel nothing. It didn’t even hurt when it hit you either.

“*SIGH* Thank God.” At least shielded is good for one thing. It really did just save your ass. If you had been shot right then and there...you don’t think that there would have been a chance for you to escape.

At least now you know you have one.

But you’re not free yet. You could hear them at the bottom of the ladders discussing what to do now while more people are rushing here to surround you. Time is running out so you need to find a way out and soon!

You eye the hole on the roof that is just a few feet away from you. You could climb out there but you’re sure that there are people waiting for you to jump at the opportunity presented to you. There is no way you’d risk being shot with another arrow or worse despite the fact that it didn’t do anything the first time.

You’ll just have to find another way or plan something else.

Looking around, you spot two other exits than the one you made. Window shutters are on either end of the barn, closed but you can see light flickering dimly through both. There are people on each side of the barn, possibly waiting for you to jump out but you estimate that either one will be a better choice than the hole. It’s like a huge target mark and the moment you stick even a toe out through the hole you’ll be in the line of fire.

They suspect that you’re a monster and possibly some kind of dumb creature that will jump at any chance for survival...and while that may be true in some ways, you have enough brain to come to a conclusion.

There’s one hole and two windows. They are gathered at the hole because they saw you climb through it. That leaves fewer people gathered underneath the windows so your chances of escape are better if you go for one of the windows. The odds are practically even for both sides...

But you could make your odds even better and you know just how you were going to do that.

Moving quickly you pick up four hard items, not even paying attention to what they actually are, and try to move as quietly as possible to the window on what was your left before but now is behind you to your right.

After raising your dominant hand with one of the items in your fist, you chuck that son of a bitch hard in the opposite direction. A huge crash follows with shattering glass that draws the attention of the mob.

“It’s heading for the back window!!” “Everyone move!” “HURRY!”

If they think you’re going one way then even fewer people will be gathered at the other window!

You keep the joy of your successful plan to a minimum and continue to move at a slow and regulated pace backward, not wanting to alert your actual position to anyone.

Your strange vision allows you to navigate around the pots and barrels around you as you throw another item but this time farther than the one before. You cringe at every step that causes a creek but it doesn’t seem anyone other than you hears them because they continue screaming at each other about their perceived location of you.

You’re almost to the other side of the barn when you throw yet another item. You don’t know how you achieve it but you’re able to hit a crate sitting on the far wall all the way on the other side of the barn with expert precision. The thing explodes to splinters, drawing the attention of all below.

Your back was now against the wall adjacent to the window. Your head turns right to face your goal. You’re positive that if you still had a mouth, you’d be biting your tongue in anticipation.

You only had a little way to head now. Just a few more steps and you’ll be right up against it!

Never in your life have you ever wanted something more than to reach that window without being caught, you’re sure. Just a little more...

You raise the final item above your head and prepare to throw it as close as you can to the other window when your arm freezes. A blond man climbs up a ladder a couple of yards from you holding a weapon that looks like a hoe but much shorter in length. A hand from the ladder passes the blonde man a torch so that the other could climb up. They weren’t the only ones who climbed up a ladder. You see all throughout the barn that people had climbed up with various weapons, all facing one direction…

To the corner that you weren’t at.

You didn’t dare move even an inch. It wouldn’t help at all to stay in your spot but you’d rather wait for them to move away from you before you make a move. The further they are from you the better.

God, how you're not sweating bullets right now is a miracle in itself!

“I don’t see it.” The blond whispers to the other as he hands him the torch back.

“It’s probably hiding.” The skinny older man says as he pulls out a knife from his side. The glint of it makes you swallow. “Come on. Frank and Joseph are up there closer to it. Let's go and back them up.”

You watch as all the men who’ve made it up to the second floor slowly close in on the corner they think you’re in.

With each step they take you relax further and further. In a minute they’ll be far enough for you to continue to sneak your way to the win-

“Hey, wait, Seth.” Your thoughts shutter to a halt when you see the blond man stop with an arm on the skinnier man’s shoulder. Why did he stop?

“What is it Mat?” The skinny man inquires and looks down to where the other man is looking. You too shift your gaze to what they were looking at-

Your heart plummets with an unbelievably hard thump in your chest.

They are staring at a patch of grass and flowers.

A patch of greens that allows their gaze to travel up a path all the way to you…

...

There are a shared few seconds of staring at one another before all Hell breaks loose.

“AHHH!!!” “THE FUCK IS THAT?!!”

You don’t think as you chuck the item in your hand as hard as you can at the skinny man before making a mad dash for the windows.

More screaming envelopes as you scramble to the shutters and fling them open.

It is a high drop, around thirty feet you’re sure, but you have no other way now and thankfully it seems that no one dangerous is nearby. Upon an arrow whizzing by your head, you hurry to sling your body out of the side of the window before dangling your body by just your hands to lessen the height of the fall.

You let go and land on your feet-right in front of three men who pounce at you with clubs and pitchforks.

Jumping must be your reactive instinct to life or death situations because you leap right out of the way of the first man’s pitchfork, which was aimed to impale your chest. Although you were able to sidestep that kiss with death, the second man’s club has a date with you and almost makes itself home in your face, if you hadn't broken your neck moving your head out the way.

“Kill this freak!” The third man screams out as he swings his pitchfork at your stomach when you turn to run.

You couldn’t keep dodging forever and you really didn’t want to find out if you’re actually shielded. Plus, if they keep you dancing here then more are going to join them.

You need them to get off your ass!

So when the first man swings his pitchfork back at you, you catch it. The other two men see it as their chance to attack and both aim at you at once.

You predicted this would happen.

Bending your legs quickly, you spring your entire mass in the direction of the man with the club, tackling him with your back. While you do so, you swing the pitchfork, with the man still holding on, to the one charging you.

Courage, rage, and dread fills your senses for a split second but it fades just as fast as it came when you realize that the three men were now on the ground trying to pick themselves back up.

You hear screaming all around you but you take it as your cue to haul ass and you do just so. You run in the direction away from the barn to get as much distance away from you and the men who want to kill you. There is a small crowd of women and children gathered around the barn but upon seeing you heading their way they disperse immediately from the path you take.

With your split vision you watch as some men chase you while others shoot arrows. Only one got close to hitting you but the archers didn’t give up until they realized that there was a risk of hitting the ones pursuing you.

You almost laugh, feeling as if you had finally escaped as you slip in and out of alleyways in the small village to avoid the ones chasing you. They could follow your trail, sure, but they’d have to rely on their torches and you seem to be faster than them. This may be their turf but all you need to reach the forest. The moment you finish that thought, you round a corner that leads straight to a line of trees. “Yes! YES! Sweet lord, thank you. Haha! I got out! I got-” “MAGIC ARROW!”

Your attention snaps back out of your jubilee to a familiar voice. Shifting your focus you notice a bright light but before you could react, hot pain shoots through your neck causing you to trip on your own feet, with a gargled yelp, and face plant on the dirt path. Flowers sprout up upon your contact but you pay them little mind as you clutch your throat, that you feel is pouring hot spurts of blood, and thrash on the ground in agony. Any screams that leave you are silent or are reduced to whimpers as the pain starts to mellow out. You watch in horror as a pool of glowing golden blood starts to pool down to the ground below you.

“I GOT IT!!! IT’S OVER HERE!”

The voice calls out again and the spark of recognition you had before informs you that the one speaking is the man named Nate. That didn’t matter much as you mull over the fact that you have a hole through your neck.

How you're not dead yet is mind-boggling but you didn’t want these people to finish you off.

Keeping your focus on the young man who is waving to the approaching men, you try to stand up to limp away-

You don’t feel the ground.

Freaking out and thinking it may be the blood loss, you look down to assess the numb feeling that has spread across you...only to see that you were floating.

You’re Open...NOW?!!

“H-hey, what the hell?!” “I thought it was DEAD!!!” You hear shouting and you know that they were seeing what you’re seeing.

Quickly, Nate holds up his arm, his palm facing you, as he takes a wide and determined stance. It immediately clicks what he is doing and you gasp.

“Magic Arrow!” “Dimensional Move!”

A bolt of light strikes through the space you held only a second prior and you appear five feet away from its path to its left.

Your back is now against the forest with the mob facing you. The words “Magic caster” and “Dangerous” are echoed amongst the crowd but you’re not thinking straight to consider what else they’re saying. You are frayed, mentally. So much so that you don’t even feel the pain of your neck anymore. You also must be hallucinating because you no longer feel the wound around your neck and drop your arms in response.

Rationality is out the window. All you want to do is survive at this point and you know that these people will just keep pursuing you until they can kill you.

You didn’t show these people any hostility and yet they attacked you.

Something...vile starts to boil deep down inside you as you stare at the men in front of you with a newfound feeling.

You feel unbridled wrath.

You just wanted to be safe but they’re threatening your life. You will not let that stand.

Unbeknownst to you, the men watch as your skin as it shifts to black and fiery red colors that contrast the gold liquid that is dripping down from your hands and healed neck. They all take a consecutive step back as you raise a hand.

“All living creatures should know this rule…” You address the mob with your new-found confidence that blossomed forth from rage, “...that when you intend to take life...you should be prepared TO LOSE YOUR OWN!!! FLASH!”

The bright white light pierces their eyes through the dark of the night, blinding all who were facing your attack. You could fly away now that they couldn’t see you but you wanted to make sure that they would not come after you after this. The thought of them hunting you keeps running through your head with a pounding tempo so you waste no time with your next spell.

“Shock Wave!”

The blast of air sends the men in the front flying with sounds of blood-curdling cries and crunching bones into the ones behind them. They all end up in a heap, calling out to one another in blind panic trying to figure out what happened.

You spot that some of the ones you’ve hit were still, not responding to the voices of others nor the physical actions installed on them. Most of those who were limp had crimson flowing from their lips, nose, ears, and eyes and stared blankly in no given direction.

They are dead, you realize…

….

And yet you feel nothing but relief. It shocks you that you aren’t traumatized by what you’ve done...but you’re not. You know that you are defending yourself and all that seems to matter is that you’re in less danger now. It justifies the act.

“No! NO!” The voice belonging to the man named Nate reminds you that you’re not out of the fire yet. He grips blindly onto another young man with short caramel hair who you saw jump in front of him when you used Shock Wave. He too has blood pouring from his face but you could care less about who Nate was holding, all you care about is getting rid of your threat. You’re still in danger and Nate is the one you know who possesses the most.

You have one final spell to use before you take your leave. This last one will show them that you’re not one to be trifled with.

“Animate Dead!”

The ones you had killed suddenly groan and start to move. The blind men have no way to tell what’s happening until their throats are ripped open in the teeth of the zombies. Those who are killed by the undead also become such, attacking the living. You watch as the men who are still alive panic at the sound of death and start to swing around their weapons in a blind fit, sometimes killing each other in the process.

Your job here is done.

They weren’t going to follow you after this and if they do they’ll weakened fools.

You will yourself to turn and your body allows it. Echos of screams and chaos fall behind, dwindling off into nothing as you fade into the shadows of the wood.

You have successfully escaped...

 

 

You awaken with a nudge at your side, pulling you out of the dark space you drifted off to sleep in.

In amazement, when your vision returns, you realize that the thing that woke you is a deer sniffing you.

H-how is there a...hey wait.

Where are you?

Upon further search, you realize that you are in a familiar forest surrounded by various animals from the tree you’re leaning against. Two bunnies are curled up in your lap, finding great pleasure in absorbing the heat of your body into their own, while squirrels, mice, and other small creatures are huddled around your sides. How they didn’t wake you is a surprise in itself. Deers mull about, either feasting on the grass and flowers that had sprouted around you, drink from the stream that runs nearby, or basking in the sunlight that peeked out from the leaves.

Sunlight...

When you turn your face up you feel a slight pressure take off from the top of your head and watch as a finch flies off, followed by the ones that were perched on your shoulders into the canopy above. Blue meets your sight when you focus on a spot not blocked off by the trees. The clouds slowly drift in a slow march across the expanse of the sky to fade off on the horizon.

So...it wasn’t all a dream…

You really are stuck in your avatar Sōsaku-sha...and you really had killed a bunch of people last night…

“*Sigh* Shit.”

Great...you should have expected this. No way that could have all been a dream. It was too vivid. But how…

How in the world are you your avatar?

You lift your arm off your pastel stomach and look it over. It is your dominant hand...yet it looks nothing like the hand you know to be your own. For one, it is nowhere near your natural skin tone and the blood that has dried and caked onto it is an unnatural gold color that shimmers as you turn it. The hand doesn't have any of the calluses you've grown onto and show you which fingers you’d use to write. It has no hair...just like the rest of your avatar. You now have reasonably sized nail beds, small cuticles, and long enough nails to be able to scratch the rabbit in your lap.

The tan furball stretches its body, truly relaxing as you continue your ministrations. When the dark brown bunny squints open its eye at the other’s pleasure you decide to not to leave them out and start to pet them with your other hand.

If you had a face right now you’d be smiling at the display...you know you would...You’ve never experienced something so magical in your life.

At least...it's something you consider to be better than magic.

Considering what you did the first instance you get to use it.

You still don’t feel bad about what you did. You’re trying to find reasons to make yourself feel horrible for what you’ve done. You’ve taken the lives of men who were probably just scared and wanted to protect themselves and their families. Maybe they had wives. Maybe they had children. Maybe they had parents they were providing for. Maybe you’ve killed them in a more brutal manner than you should have…

...

Nothing. For some unknown reason, you’re not guilty. Not one bit. If you had to describe what you felt like in one word it would be “Justified.” You feel that you did what you had to to live.

Would you still feel this way if you were still...No, you’re still you. Just not in your real-erm...original body. But would you still be feeling this way if you were still human?

You can’t help but feel that the reason you’re not sickened by your actions is because of Sōsaku-sha. They’re not evil. You know that. You had designed the character with a Karma level of 100+. That means that they should be good. They might not be a saint because it’s neutral good but they still hold positive Karma.

So is the reason you won’t blink an eye at the bloody act you pulled because of that?

Are you okay with any type of murder now?

“No.” You surprise yourself when you answer yourself out loud and feel a heavy weight settle in your diaphragm.

No? Why did you not feel anything for those men that you slaughtered while you feel that anything else is-Oh! OH!

You sit up suddenly, causing the critters around you to wake and make others jump away much to your displeasure, being hit with a realization.

Sōsaku-sha only fights when players come to defeat them! That means that the only reason Sōsaku-sha kills is to either protect themselves or things they care about! This must be transferring onto yourself somehow since you’re them now!

Only a few ways to test this theory but the only one you could think of is to quiz yourself and see how you feel.

Would you kill others to protect yourself and the things you value?

You feel pride in response.

Would you kill others to protect strangers?

You feel that it would depend on the circumstances.

Would you kill others for fun?

You feel disgusted at the mere thought of using others for your own entertainment and you’d definitely kill any others who’d do such vile acts.

Wow...who knew that being stuck in your avatar could change your value on life itself.

How about for sustenance?

You look down at the bunnies in your lap. They are plump, obviously having had their fill on the grass and flowers that surround you. They could provide a lot of meat for a hungry traveler…

Would you kill for food?

Depends on circumstances, you feel like...and this isn’t one of them. Besides, you aren’t hungry.

You cup the bunnies into your arms as you shift your body onto your legs and proceed to place the two on the area you had only occupied seconds prior before standing up. Eyes of all sizes watch as you proceed to stretch in place. The grass and flowers that grow out of almost everything you touch seems to be good for at least one thing besides feeding animals and leading murderous people to you. It makes one damn great makeshift bed. If you’re honest, you feel that if you were actually tired when you had laid down there the night prior you probably would have never woken up out of your slumber.

You’re surprised that you even slept at all. Such a peaceful one at that.

You had only settled against the tree after going straight for three hours and deciding that you wanted to think out what had occurred.

You came to many conclusions during the time you were lucid.

For one, you could control and access Sōsaku-sha’s magical and physical abilities still but they were now reliant on either your intentions, feelings, and/or will. It’s...still a hypothesis and you don’t know yet for a fact if that is or what is true yet. All you have to back up your theory is the fact that:

1. You didn’t have and still don't have access to your spell slots.

2. Voice commands meant jack shit until you wanted to fight back.

3. You went open when you felt secure while you stayed shielded when you hadn’t felt in control of the situation.

4. Sōsaku-sha’s accuracy and physical strength showed when you were throwing the small hard objects with the intention to hit specific things.

5. Sōsaku-sha’s speed allowed you to outrun the mob because you intended to outrun them.

6. You probably could have leaped straight out of that barn if you wanted to because of Sōsaku-sha’s physical abilities but, because you intended to, you had only jumped up high enough to grab hold of the second story floorboards.

7. Sōsaku-sha’s skin color is reliant on what they are feeling.

Another piece of information that you’ve obtained is that you still have your avatar’s racial perks or at least two of them. Ascend was one that you were desperately trying to get a hold of during most of your time in the small village. Only after you got hit did it activate but you still have it.

With one last stretch you walk over to the stream to wash up. You’re surprised at the clarity of the water, despite it being in the wild. You’ve only seen fancy water bottles, back in the real world, that rival such purity. You proceed to start rubbing handfuls over your new body to clean yourself. This isn’t a bath but it’ll make do.

Ascend is not activated at the moment despite you being open now. As your hypothesis suggests, it won’t activate as long as you intend to walk around rather than float. If you really wanted to float then you’d start to like the many times you tested it out last night. Although, typically, you’d jump at the opportunity to fly, after the traumatic fall and the fact that it could cut off on you at any time, you’re hesitant to rely on it.

You splash your face and neck, scrubbing the areas where blood still stuck to your skin. You watch as sparkly flakes detach themselves from you and start to drift down the stream.

Life is the second perk you know you still have and you’re very grateful for it. It saved your life last night. You thought you were hallucinating at first but, indeed, your wound had healed without you having to use any of your spells or seeking medical attention. If it hadn’t activated, surely you would have...hmmm...you’re not even sure if you’d resurrect if you had died. You’re not even sure how permanent death is now. Would you return to your normal life or is it something final…

You don’t want to find out...you won’t find out.

You try your best to wipe the excess water off of your body because your vision starts to get blurry. That’s another oddity you’ve found. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t have eyes so for them to be able to see is different from how you...used to see. Vision is defined as light entering the pupal which then, in turn, creates an image for you to perceive the world as. For Sōsaku-sha, however, their whole body is the pupil, it seems. It’s like looking through a telescope when you focus on particular things but when you want to focus on everything at once it’s like removing the barriers of the scope (the peripherals) and realizing you’re in a bubble (Sōsaku-sha’s “pupil”). The bubble is your vision and all that the bubble catches you can see. Up, down, left, right, back, front, close, far, it doesn’t matter.

So when anything gets on that bubble it obscures your vision. It was Sōsaku-sha’s gold blood but now it is the water that's the blinder.

“*Sigh*...what is going on?” You turn to the various forest folk who’ve not shied away from you, “Would any of you know?” Musing with a hum, you turn back to the stream to stare at the water. You couldn’t see your reflection in the water, just your shadow...but it isn’t your shadow. “Mmm, I wouldn’t expect any of you to know the answers. I don't think anyone can help me now...”

You couldn’t go back to the village. Well...you could with a disguise spell but you honestly have no desire to return as it is. You don’t think you’d be able to fit in anyway. Grass and flower trails don't help you in any manner.

Shifting your vision you look down at your feet, completely cushioned by the greenery that blossomed underneath, untouched by the dirt bellow.

If you had shoes then maybe this wouldn’t happen...Still, how would you fit in? You don’t know anything about how this world works. Obviously, people are fearful of you in this form. It may have been circumstances but you could read in between the lines. They attacked you without you showing hostility so they've possibly have seen things that are...not human. Sure...you probably would have been defensive like they were if you saw something like your avatar. Even then…*sigh*

You don’t have clothes either. You never had a need for armor, weapons, tools, potions, or anything else normal players would carry on them at all times. You’d just rely on magic and physical strength when you fought. If you had stuff like that, no players would have ever been able to touch you in-game. Oh, how you regret not having anything now. All you have on yourself is data crystals, eight spell scrolls (that you don't have any use for at the moment), and a few other items that you have no use for. You still have gold, though. Using what you have you can really help you secure yourself and possibly even get you the supplies you need. Although you have plenty of it, you really don't want to rely on that just yet nor too much.

You don’t know the monetary system of this world. The value of gold may be more or less than the game’s currency was. Also, you’re in uncharted territory and flashing your wealth may not be the brightest of ideas. Doing so is only asking to be mugged and/or found by some unfavorable people. You want to remain under the radar for quite a bit until you can get your bearings. Atop of those concerns, you have a finite amount of gold in your inventory and you don’t want to use it willy nilly. You don’t know how long you’ll be in this situation and it may be in your best interests to conserve them. You at least want to learn a bit more before considering them...unless you run into an emergency, of course.

You sigh once again, suspecting that you'll be doing that a lot more often now. Many of your burdens would be alleviated if you could access the Citadel or even its supplies...

The thought of teleporting back to your realm did cross your mind at one point, the night prior. You’d be somewhere familiar. Somewhere you knew you’d be safe and surrounded by NPCs that you had programmed to serve and protect you…

Lifting your hand, you try opening Gate once more...but nothing occurs.

“Tsk...Just like last night…” You had tried to use Gate to arrive just outside the Seiun but the portal wouldn’t appear. Despite it being a spell that doesn’t have any limitations with distance there are a few ways that it wouldn’t work. You can’t use Gate to teleport into the Seiun because of the barrier you had set up (that is why you tried to set it just outside, yet it still didn't work). Not only that but Gate was designed to be used by players who’ve been places. You and a couple of others wanted to produce a fast travel mechanic in Yggdrasil but still wanted players to explore the world you had created and not skip over it. That’s why Gate can only travel to places players have already been to. There were some exceptions to that rule but in your case, you don’t have those. In fact, when you tried to teleport anywhere in Yggdrasil it didn’t work at all despite it all being discovered territory for Sōsaku-sha. Only when you had used Gate for places you’ve already been to since the shut down does it appear. Doubts are starting to blossom within you on whether this is all still really Yggdrasil...but until you gain some information...

...you are completely lost and have nothing…

“...Great.” You slump to the ground, flicking a small wildflower with a finger absentmindedly while listening to the sound of life around you.

You feel naked...well, you are, but more vulnerable than before. Like a baby, completely confused.

Like, why are you stuck here in the first place? Is this even Yggdrasil? It doesn’t seem like it. And why do plants grow from yo-Sōsaku-sha’s touch? You really have no clue about how that works. That's something you never added to your avatar. Not to mention the color of their blood. Why gold of all things?! You must admit it looks pretty but you seriously don’t want to have to bleed anymore let alone have your neck blown out!

You shiver at the phantom pain before massaging your hands over the areas where the holes had been.

There’s so much you know...yet the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything!

….

*Sigh*

You have very little to help you...and nothing to guide you...what are you going to do? You don’t know where to go...Not back to the village, that’s for sure...but that couldn’t be the only civilization. No, that couldn’t have been. There must be more...if...there’s more...maybe you have a chance at learning. You don’t want a repeat of what had occurred last night so you’ll have to approach this differently. If you find another civilization that is. You see it as your best course for survival. You don’t know the first thing about surviving out in the wilderness and frankly, you don’t want to.

Looking up, you try to gauge what time of day it is. It appears to be somewhere near noon, it looks like it since the sun is overhead.

That gives you roughly six? Seven hours to search around...if the sun moves at the same pace across the sky as Earth. Ascend will surely cut down on the time but you’re very hes-

A nudge at your backside pulls you out of your thoughts. Another deer is poking you with its snout urging for your attention. It is an odd enough display that you are completely in shock for a good second before you comply. “What are you poking me for?”

The deer steps back, allowing you to turn in spot to face the horned buck, and turns its body to the side, still staring at you. You don’t do anything but watch it, trying to puzzle together what it’s doing. A snort escapes its snout after a second and it trots away a few steps before turning back with a small stomp of its front legs.

Okay. It’s clear now that the deer was trying to tell you something but what, you don’t know.

You stand to watch the oddity. The buck upon seeing this trots off a few more steps to the herd of deer that were now heading off into the woods before turning back to you with another snort and stomp. Something clicks with the odd movement and you figure out what it is communicating.

“Do...do you want me to follow you?” You say as if the buck could understand you. Of course, it doesn’t because it gives no reply to your comment. It just stands there, waiting for you to make a choice.

You have no idea where these deer are going and why one would want you to go along with them is mind-boggling, though, it is such a bizarre act that you almost immediately start following them. Before you take a step forward, however, look back up at the sun. Rationally, you shouldn’t follow the herd. You could spend the remaining hours of the day gathering information to survive...Well...you don’t have a need to rush...really...you were stuck here until someone takes you out of your neuro-nano interface (hopefully sooner). Besides, you should wait until the heat dies down from what you did at that village. Maybe you could learn of the terrain better this way? Well, flying would be a better method of scouting than walking if you’re going to be honest. Safer too. You don’t know what the forest holds. If this is still Yggdrasil or anything like the magical world, there will be monstrous creatures in these woods that you’ll have to face.

Another snort of the deer calls to your attention. Realizing that it’s becoming impatient you mull over the two choices in your head.

 

Where will you go?

I will follow the herd and see where they will take me.

I will scout the land and try to find civilization.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: GIDDY-UP

In the next instant you decide that trying to slip away with magic is too big of a gamble in a life or death situation. Your menu wouldn’t work so why would your spell slots? Besides…

Looking down at your feet you see that they rest on the flower and grass bed that now surrounds you.

Ascend isn’t working right now. Whatever the cause for it may be...it is a sign that your magic and spell casting abilities may share the same issue. You’ll try to find a solution for that later but for now, you have to find a way out.

First, however, you need to make sure that they don’t just follow the trail of grass and flowers to you.

Turning to the gate that gives access to the aisle, you throw yourself over it surprisingly easy with the help of your arms to support you. Wasting no time, you jog up to a ladder, across the aisle to the right, and make sure to rub your feet as much as you can around the base of it.

“I’ll peek in and see if I can spot whatever it is.” A male voice makes your head jolt to the direction of the doors to your left, just in time to see that they have opened slightly.

“Be careful Nate.” Another male voice meets you but it sounds lighter than the other.

When you see a worn-out brown leather boot slip through the crack you hastily turn to retrace your steps, cursing internally and praying that you won’t be spotted. You hop, one foot after another, careful not to add to many more grass splotches as you make your way back to the pin. You had hardly hurled yourself back over the gate when the young man, who goes by the name of Nate, peeks his head in through the doors and scans over the room with a frown.

He hadn’t seen you.

The realization plus the close call releases a relieved sigh from your chest as you stay low, backing away from the fence to the hay pile to better hide. With the distraction in place, all you needed to do now is get out of this pin without making too many more grass patches.

Your vision seemingly spreads, allowing you to look around for possible escape routes. The aisle is off-limits so it only leaves three options: The hole you fell through, the pins to your left, and the pins to your right.

The hole is a straight shot out of here but without magic, you don’t think you can sneak out that way without getting spotted. There’s definitely people on the other side of it, no doubt about it, just waiting for you to crawl out like a worm. Besides, you don’t think you could jump high enough or find something to stand upon in time to climb out. That leaves the pins as the only two options-

“Hand me the torch, it’s too dark to see anything.”

You realize that you don’t have a lot of time to decide so you quickly try to see which way would provide you with the most coverage. The pins to your right contain various farm animals with low fences while the ones to your left contain stalls with various goods, supplies, and horses to what it looks like. Although going right would be easier to traverse, you don’t think you’ll be able to hide easily. Plus, the fact that the path you made leads to the right is only another indicator that your best option is to go left.

It truly wasn’t a hard choice to make.

As silent as you can possibly muster, you start to make your way to the barrels that line the left side of the pin you’re in and make sure to stay as low as possible. While crouching you grab bunches of hay and start to throw them over the grass and flowers, covering your trail. You had barely hopped over the first fence when you hear Nate speak up once again.

“I don’t see anything. Let's spread out and search. It must still be in here.”

This will be the hard part. Trying to stay hidden while they search for you. If you can find a wide enough opening to slip by you’ll take it but these men won’t easily give you the opportunity.

“Two of you stay at the door and make sure nothing gets past you.” You suddenly hear, at the other side of the barn, an older man’s voice far behind you. At least now you know that the doors aren’t an option anymore as you make it to the first stall. These are way higher than the fences but you can tell you could still jump up and grab hold of them. You’d love to do that and continue making your way farther away from the first pin but, now that there are men coming from both sides, you don’t think that you’ll be able to jump over the stall without being noticed, at least from behind. You’ll have to wait until they’re distracted enough by your dummy trail to even try to attempt to climb out.

Curling into a ball where the crates and bags are most compact, you wait for them to do so with a sick feeling settling on your stomach.

You don’t like this. You don’t like the feeling of being cornered like this. The only solitude you have is your own mind and even that is betraying you. It just keeps replaying scenarios where you’re found and killed. A-are you going to die if you’re found? Could you even die? This all might still be Yggdrasil and something like that probably doesn’t mean much...hmmm...you’re not even sure if you’d resurrect if you do die. You’re not even sure how permanent death is now. Would you return to your normal life or is it something final…You don’t want to find out...you won’t let yourself find out because how real your situation is. S-should you play dead if you’re spotted? Could you even try?! No, you know you wouldn’t be able to. They’d know you’re alive. Not to mention that your skin changing color might be a BIG hint. For now, you just have to stay still and watch.

From in between the cracks of the barrier that surrounds you now, you watch the three men draw closer and closer to the pin that you had already left.

“There’s the hole but what the fuck is all this?” Nate hisses as he approaches with two younger men to the other group just outside the pin next to yours.

“Flowers?” A boy with caramel caesar cut hair, who looks around the same age as Nate, mumbles as he walks up to the gate with a dark-haired boy who is holding a bow with an arrow strung and ready to draw at a moment's notice. “Why are there flowers?”

“There’s no sign of a creature in the pin either.” The young man with the bow turns to the group. “Only grass and these flowers.”

“Hmm…” The old man worriedly trails his eyes down the path which you set. “I don’t know, boys, but I’m starting to get the feeling that we might not be dealing with something we can handle. It may be a magic caster.”

“It would explain the odd growth.”

“Is it a fae?” The caramel haired boy’s question prompts Nate to step forth.

“Could be. Only one way to find out.” The moment they all turn their head to the ladder you shoot up from your spot like a spring and start to make your way over the stall. “It must be up there. It's where the path leads but we shouldn’t pursue it just yet.” You notice Nate crouch down to the patches of grass in the aisle before you lose sight of the scene, slipping into the next pin searching for an exit, but you still listen in. “It’s bipedal, evident by the patches of grass if these are its footprints, but there’s something concerning.”

“What is it?”

“The spacing between these steps. A full-grown man could only have this much space in between his steps if he was hurrying to get somewhere. The creature we are dealing with could have been rushing to get to the ladder...but that still means that the creature is at least six feet in height.”

“Six feet tall?!”

“At least, it could be taller.” You slip over the next stall as they continue to talk. You cringe at every sound you make. Thankfully, no one other than you hear th-*SSsfFFn*

You jump, freezing in your spot as something wet sprinkles onto your back. Quickly you shift your vision to see what had just sniffed you-only to see that it was just a brown horse. You sigh, relieved that you weren’t caught, as you slowly turn towards the horse to get a better look at it. Its mane is darker than that of its body, almost appearing black in contrast and it has one splotch of white in between its eyes. Its eyes are the most striking features on the horse as one is as dark as its mane but the other contrasts with a bright blue color. It sniffs you again, splattering more of its snot on you.

“Eahk! Hello to you too.” You whisper as you wipe yourself off with your hands, watching as the horse bends its neck down to nibble at the grass and flowers bellow you. As it does so you take a moment to pat its neck, relishing the feeling-

“We'll need more men to kill this thing.”

“S-shit.” You’re suddenly pulled back from reality by the blatant fact of what they intend to do with you. You need to find a way out, NOW.

The horse lifts its head to watch you climb up on a crate to look around for exits. The only things that seemed to be available to you are the small windows that line up the sides of the barn. They are very small. So small, in fact, that you think that you wouldn’t be able to fit through them, let alone Sōsaku-sha’s head. You’re positive that the windows are just a form of medieval AC but that knowledge doesn’t help you. You quickly scan about, slowly realizing that the doors on either side of the barn are the only real exits on the ground level.

A heavy feeling befalls you and your body starts to quake.

You’re trapped!

Is this karma?! Have you done anything to deserve this?! No. You can’t think of anything that would warrant this. This must be fate or something along those lines. Magic wouldn’t work, you know it wouldn’t have, but you at least thought that you’d be able to slip by. You want to cry-

A nudge at your side informs you that you’re not alone.

Shifting in place to face the horse, it returns your gaze as it sniffs you, your body slumps as hopelessness slowly envelopes you.

You can’t escape. You’re only waiting to be found and killed now. You don’t even think you can talk your way out of this anymore. “I...I don’t understand…” You stare at the horse, seemingly the only thing that you find solace in. Raising a hand, you start to pet its snout. It is very hard, not as soft as you thought a horse would feel, but still finding some comfort in the form of acceptance. “I don’t know what to do…”

“Liam, go inform either Hyatt or Joseph to go get more men.” You cower in place pulling the horse's snout closer to you, almost hugging it now. “We’ll need to surround this thing.”

“I don’t know what to do…” The whimper that comes out of you is barely audible as you desperately try to think of a way to avoid death-

The horse lifts its head out of your grasp causing you to snap out of your festering panic attack. You watch as it hurriedly trots over to the corner of the pin where some crates that are covered with a beige drop cloth. Biting down on musky tarp it struggles to pull off the blanket from what it is covering.

Seeing this odd act you hesitantly come over to assist the horse, mainly because you didn’t want it making too much noise trying to do whatever it is doing.

When you grab the cloth, green spreads like dye around the areas you touch with your hands. You pay that little mind as you assist the horse, more concerned with overhearing many footsteps go past the stall. You even see a couple of men walk past the one low gateway into the pin but, thankfully, there are high walls on all other sides so they don’t see you jump as they pass. The dirty cloth slides easily off the barrels once you have lifted the corners and most of it tumbles straight onto the dirt floor.

The horse, lifting the tarp in its teeth, drapes you with the moldy cloth.

Holding back a gag at the sudden overwhelming smell of muck and shit, the feeling of the blanket becoming enveloped in bright green moss and tiny colorful flowers at your touch gives you some form of comfort, it apparently protecting you from the filth the tarp carries.

“Why did you cover me with this?” The inquiry is light as you wrap yourself in the makeshift cloak or hood. Surprisingly, the awful odor slowly fades into one you’d describe honeysuckles to smell like and while that was surprising in itself, you are more intrigued at the animal’s actions. It genuinely seems like it is trying to help you...wait.

Animals couldn’t suddenly understand you, can they?

“Can you understand me?” Your question goes unanswered as the horse lays down beside you. You start to think that it just wants you to cover it with the blanket but then the horse starts pulling your left leg closer to itself with its snout. Confused, you move closer to the point that your shins are touching its hard side. You always thought horses were a lot squishier than this but it seems like they're all muscle. You dismiss the thought and ask the horse another question, “What are you trying to make me do?"

It either doesn’t understand you or it ignores you because it continues to try to move you closer to itself. However, you know you have no more room to move. You’re already right up against its side and if you go any farther you’ll just be standing right on top of-

You feel stupid...and you summarize that it may be a reason why you’re in this situation. The horse clearly wants you to get on its back and you’re just standing there like a dunce, drooling and whining about your situation.

Not wanting to waste any more time, you lift your leg over the horse before carefully sitting down on top of it.

When it suddenly stands you almost fall off but you steady yourself by squeezing your thighs together and wrapping an arm, the one not holding your cloak together under your collar, around its thick neck.

Ye-you’ve never ridden a horse before! You don’t even know the first thing about riding a horse!

Evidently that means little as the horse cautiously moves closer to the gate, carrying you to the opening.

Upon seeing this, your head shakes violently as you’re brought closer to the open space. “No! No! No! What are you doing?!” You scream the whisper, almost having enough sense to jump off the horse but then you notice the mob. Many of the men that make up the group are climbing the ladders to the top floor, leaving very few on the ground level. Those who are on the same floor as you have their backs facing you, the men's attention narrowed down to the area above.

Not focusing on your corner.

The horse, turning its body to the side, lines you up with the gate allowing you to see that the double doors also only have three men guarding it but they too are distracted.

Upon seeing this...a plan pops into your head.

It’s a crazy plan but...if...if you do this...you’ll be able to escape. You might die...but its the best idea you can come up with besides breaking and hiding in a box in a dark corner of the barn for the rest of existence. Plus, you think that the horse already had the same idea.

You shift your body closer to the gate, maintaining your balance with your thighs tight around the horse’s torso, before slowly moving your right hand down the front side, keeping an eye out while you do so. No one seems to see as you fumble around the surface of the gate for something in particular. Your vision shifts and is suddenly extended from your arm. How you can see out of your arm is a mystery but it points you to the item you were trying to find.

Bingo!

The lock to the gate is easy to lift as your hand went quickly to work with it.

The click of the gate did draw a few eyes but the deed had already been done.

Zipping your hand back into the pin at lightning-fast speeds, you grab at your moss hood and the dark mane of the beast you’re on, as the horse spins at a jolting speed, almost throwing you off in the process, to face the gate. It then bursts through the unlocked gate, drawing the attention of everyone in the barn, as it sprints left to the barn doors where three men stood in shock.

“THE FUCK?!” “There, THERE!” “It’s taking the HORSE!” Many yell from behind but you can’t see them with the cloak around you.

The men at the door can’t do anything as the wall of muscle comes charging straight at them. Two had enough sense to jump out of the way but the third got plowed as he tried to jump on.

BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I can’t believe that actually worked!” You scream in a cocktail of adrenaline and pure bliss, turning your head to look over your shoulder as you see the men’s figures frantically sprinting about. You turn back to the horse and wrap the one arm not holding onto the cloak around its neck in a hug, “Thank you! Thank you so much! I love you! I fucking love you, holy shit, haha! I’m going to keep you forever!” You almost freaking try to kiss it but instead, you opt to just start laughing again.

You honestly had no idea it would be that easy of an escape plan. You had assumed that since most of the men had gone up the ladders and the few others were distracted, that the ones inside the barn wouldn’t be able to act fast enough to pursue and there wouldn’t be enough men outside to block you before you disappeared into the shadows of the night. You honestly should have thought of that plan sooner but you didn’t know that you could ride a horse. You still don’t know how you’re riding one. It just seems to know where you want to go and that’s completely fine by you. As long as it takes you far away from this village then you are a happy camper, yessiree!

The side of the barn you came riding out from seems to be the side that leads to all of their crops. Thin wooden fences block off most of the crops so you have to maneuver around them but a few others don’t have anything to protect them. The horse still tries to avoid trampling over their crops much to your pleasure. Although those people wanted to kill you-you still didn’t want to give them a reason to do so. Well...more reason than you stealing a horse and busting a hole into their property.

Beyond the crops, it's just grassy planes as far as the eye can see with a few scattered trees sticking out of its expanse. It probably would have been better for you to have ridden into the forest instead of being out in the open like this but you recognize the issues in doing that. Monsters and threats unbeknownst to you could lurk behind the deceiving safe haven. You assume that things as such would exist in there based on the things those men had discussed back in the barn and the fact that this may still be Yggdrasil. You’d also have to turn back and risk being caught by those men.

So you weren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth...quite literally, haHA!

You look back once again to check on the condition of the mob and to see if they are following you. Like you guessed, the few who had jumped onto some horses had pursued you but only as far as the middle of their crop field because beyond the light the small village could provide, their torches do little to aid them in chasing you.

Thankfully Sōsaku-sha has night vision due to their race so you have no issues going across the terrain!

You hum happily and pat the horse below you in thanks. You’ll have to continue to ride off as far as you can into the distance because the villagers will more than likely try to get you back. That one man named Nate, especially. He seemed to be good at things such as that but...for now, you are safe.

You sigh as you look up toward the night sky and see it truly for the first time.

It is...stunning. You had never seen a night sky with such clarity before. Back in the real world, you live in an apartment in a crowded city. Despite the fact that you lived in a much better part of the metropolis, you still spent some lonely nights peering out over your balcony, watching the world below buzz with life but the sky dead as the void itself. If you were lucky you’d be able to see one or two stars beyond the smog that constantly drifted overhead...or maybe those were just planes...

Pale light casts down from the sparkling heavens above reminding you what Earth once possessed before your time. You inserted scenery into Yggdrasil that was impossible to see anymore in the real world due to pollution. Still, this natural scenery couldn’t be compared with what you had developed in Yggdrasil, only giving further proof that this might not be your game anymore.

Nothing could compare to this.

“It's...so beautiful…” You choke out as the hood falls off your bald head, expanding your vision even further now that the mossy cloth no longer obscures it, “It's like a sea of pixie dust or even jewels…”

Hmmm...Jewels

You look down to the horse that had slowed down some but was still galloping away from the village. “I need to name you now that you and I will be sticking together.” You direct your statement to the horse with a tilt of your head. “It doesn’t matter to me what gender you are, I shall name you Jewels...for you shone a light of hope for me in the shadow of uncertainty and safeguarded me from Hel’s cold clutch. In turn, I shall treasure you for your namesake and make sure to adorn you with true prosperity plus a long fulfilling life.”

You...don’t know why you named a horse like that but you shake your head, tossing your passionate outburst to the back of your mind, and turn your head back to the sky sighing. The wind tickles your skin as you travel farther and farther out into the open fields knowing...

You have successfully escaped

 

 

 

 

You wake up to the feeling of soft lips nibbling at your neck and you propel high up into the bright blue sky with a loud banshee screech; violently flailing and spinning your limbs in every direction to ward off the threat, turning hot pink at the ticklish feeling.

Jewels jumps away from you with a similar, high pitched, startled noise, then a snort as it trots back over to you as you float back down to the ground. You clutch a hand over where your heart should be as you pant. It was only the horse, you realize with a grateful yet ragged sigh. You honestly thought something was trying to eat you for a hot second or that a weirdo had the nerve to come up to you, while you slept, and k-kiss yo-

Hey, wait a minute. Jewels is still here...so does that mean-

You look around to confirm your surroundings and, indeed, you are met with the scenery you remember settling down at the night before. A breathing hilly expanse of green as far as the eye can see as well as the occasional scattered trees and bushes, one of those patches being near you to provide you some form of cover. Yellowish-orange butterflies with dark spots peppering their wings flutter all around you, some settle down on the flowers you grew while others land on you, much to your joy. A single small pond, with some reeds growing out of its edges, is a few feet away from where you currently float. It has a stream flowing through it that stretches out in two separate directions to the horizons. The water glitters from the sunlight above and when you look up blue meets your sight. The clouds slowly drift in a slow march across the expanse of the sky to fade off on the horizon, casting down shadows on the green world below.

So...it wasn’t all a dream…

You really are stuck in your avatar Sōsaku-sha…

“*Sigh* Well, crap.”

Great...you should have expected this. No way that could have all been a dream. It was too vivid. But how…

How in the world are you your avatar?

You lift your light pastel arms to look them over. Some butterflies fly onto your arms as you do this and, while it does intrigue you why the small insects would choose you as their perch, you focus more on your limbs. These are your hands...yet they look nothing like the ones you know to be your own. For one, they are nowhere near your natural skin tone. They don't have any of the calluses you've grown onto and show you which fingers you’d use to write. They have no hair...just like the rest of your avatar, plus they now have reasonably sized nail beds, small cuticles, and long enough nails to scratch your new companion, Jewels, who you now know is a female.

“You scared me, girl.” You do a sprinkling motion with your fingers so that your nails can really do their work, trailing them down Jewels' snout from in between her eyes. You don’t know if you’re petting the horse right, as you’re only repeating what you’ve seen actors do in movies, but it doesn't object to your ministrations so you continue to stroke and scratch it.

You’re pleased that the horse stuck around with you. Very pleased actually. Jewels could have just wandered off at any time yet she stuck around here with you. Maybe she wants to stay with you. You hope she does. You really want her to stick around. You want any type of friendly company you can get while in this strange world.

You stop petting the horse with one last pat and turn, mid-air, to the pond nearby.

Ascend now works, thankfully. After going for what felt like hours, Jewels and you had settled where you are now so that she could drink some water while you could test out some things about Sōsaku-sha. You came to many conclusions during the time you were lucid.

For one, you could control and access Sōsaku-sha’s magical and physical abilities still but they were now reliant on either your intentions, feelings, and/or will. It’s...still a hypothesis and you don’t know yet for a fact if that is or what is true yet. All you have to back up your theory is the fact that:

1. You didn’t have and still don't have access to your spell slots.

2. Voice commands mean very little unless you mean to cast a spell. You also have to be “open” to do so.

3. You’re open when you feel secure while you stay shielded when you don’t feel in control of the situation.

4. Sōsaku-sha’s speed and physical strength showed when you were climbing about in the barn as well as how fast you were able to act in some instances.

5. Sōsaku-sha’s accuracy showed when you’d aim at objects with either spells or hand held objects with the intention to hit specific things, even if they’re crazy far away.

6. Sōsaku-sha’s skin color is reliant on what they are feeling.

Jewels starts to eat the bed of flowers that had cushioned you while you slept, during which you proceed to float down into the pond to wash up, the butterflies on you flying off as you sink deeper. The grass and flowers that grow out of almost everything you touch seems to be good for at least one thing besides feeding animals and leading murderous people to you. It makes one damn great makeshift bed. If you’re honest, you feel that if you were actually tired when you had laid down there the night prior you probably would have never woken up out of your slumber.

You’re surprised at the clarity of the water, despite it being in the wild. You’ve only seen fancy water bottles, back in the real world, that rival such purity. You deactivate Ascend and proceed to start rubbing handfuls over your new body to clean yourself. This isn’t a bath but it’ll make do.

You’re able to cancel out Ascend despite you being open now. As your hypothesis suggests, it won’t activate as long as you intend to walk around rather than float. If you really wanted to float then you’d start to like the many times you tested it out last night. Although typically, you’d jump at the opportunity to fly, after the traumatic fall and the fact that it could cut off on you at any time, you’re hesitant to rely on it. Plus, you wanted to stick around with your new pet horse.

You splash your face and neck, scrubbing at the areas where you felt the most grimey, despite nothing actually being there, and start to think of what would have happened if you hadn’t escaped with Jewels.

You probably would have hidden but it would have been hard with all the grass and flower trails. The mob would have searched the entire barn eventually and would have spotted the trail. If they still couldn’t find you after that, you probably would have stayed in whatever spot you found for three days or more before even trying to escape again. However, if they did find you-you would have most likely tried to run or fight them.

You sink underwater into a fetal position at the dark thought, knowing from tests the night prior that you don’t have a need to breathe anymore (it's still an alien feeling though).

You wouldn’t have been able to use any magic of course because you realize now that you were shielded back then. However, you still had Sōsaku-sha’s physical attributes. They wouldn’t have been able to hurt you even if they tried and if you had decided to fight them...none of them would have stood a chance. But...what if you had suddenly become open during that time? If they attacked you like that you could have died. Good thing you never had to find out.

You stand up out of the pond and watch as the water blurs your vision. That’s another oddity you’ve found. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t have eyes so for them to be able to see is different from how you...used to see. Vision is defined as light entering the pupal which then, in turn, creates an image for you to perceive the world as. For Sōsaku-sha, however, their whole body is the pupil, it seems. It’s like looking through a telescope when you focus on particular things but when you want to focus on everything at once it’s like removing the barriers of the scope (the peripherals) and realizing you’re in a bubble (Sōsaku-sha’s “pupil”). The bubble is your vision and all that the bubble catches you can see. Up, down, left, right, back, front, close, far, it doesn’t matter.

So when anything gets on that bubble it obscures your vision. It was the moss cloak you wore last night but now it is the water that's the blinder.

“*Sigh*...what is going on?” Mumbling with an empty voice(s), you look down at the surface of the pond to stare at your reflection. You’re actually able to see it...or...see a reflection of someone who isn’t you. None of your facial features meet your gaze, just a plain, smooth, colorful skull of something inhuman.

No longer wanting to stare face to face with something you’re stuck with, you turn and float out of the water onto land, finished with your bath. You try your best to wipe the excess water off of your body before grabbing the moss cloth, you had used as a blanket the night prior, to towel yourself off. It’s not very absorbent and it leaves little plant particles on your skin but it is easier to pick those off than trying to wipe off water. Thankfully, the cloak still smells like honeysuckles and as you wipe yourself with it the sweet smell transfers onto you like a cologne or even a perfume.

What do you do now? You don’t even know where to go.

You couldn’t go back to the village. Well...you could with a disguise spell but you honestly have no desire to return as it is. You don’t think you’d be able to fit in anyway. Grass and flower trails don't help you in any manner.

Shifting your vision you look down at your feet, completely cushioned by the greenery that blossomed underneath, untouched by the dirt bellow.

If you had shoes then maybe this wouldn’t happen...Still, how would you fit in? You don’t know anything about how this world works. Obviously, people are fearful of things inhuman. It may have been circumstances but you could read in between the lines. They decided to find and kill you based on the fact that you’re...not human. Sure...you probably would have been defensive like they were if you saw something like your avatar. Even then…*sigh*

You don’t have clothes either. All you have is the moss and flower cloak. You never had a need for armor, weapons, tools, potions, or anything else normal players would carry on them at all times. You’d just rely on magic and physical strength when you fought. If you had stuff like that, no players would have ever been able to touch you in-game. Oh, how you regret not having anything now. All you have on yourself is data crystals, eight spell scrolls (that you don't have any use for at the moment), and a few other items that you have no use for. You still have gold, though. Using what you have you can really help you secure yourself and possibly even get you the supplies you need. Although you have plenty of it, you really don't want to rely on that just yet nor too much.

You don’t know the monetary system of this world. The value of gold may be more or less than the game’s currency was. Also, you’re in uncharted territory and flashing your wealth may not be the brightest of ideas. Doing so is only asking to be mugged and/or found by some unfavorable people. You want to remain under the radar for quite a bit until you can get your bearings. Atop of those concerns, you have a finite amount of gold in your inventory and you don’t want to use it willy nilly. You don’t know how long you’ll be in this situation and it may be in your best interests to conserve them. You at least want to learn a bit more before considering them...unless you run into an emergency, of course.

You sigh once again, suspecting that you'll be doing that a lot more often now. Many of your burdens would be alleviated if you could access the Citadel or even its supplies...

The thought of teleporting back to your realm did cross your mind at one point, the night prior. You’d be somewhere familiar. Somewhere you knew you’d be safe and surrounded by NPCs that you had programmed to serve and protect you…

Lifting your hand, you try opening Gate once more...but nothing occurs.

Tsk...Just like last night…” You had tried to use Gate to arrive just outside the Seiun but the portal wouldn’t appear. Despite it being a spell that doesn’t have any limitations with distance there are a few ways that it wouldn’t work. You can’t use Gate to teleport into the Seiun because of the barrier you had set up (that is why you tried to set it just outside, yet it still didn't work). Not only that but Gate was designed to be used by players who’ve been places. You and a couple of others wanted to produce a fast travel mechanic in Yggdrasil but still wanted players to explore the world you had created and not skip over it. That’s why Gate can only travel to places players have already been to. There were some exceptions to that rule but in your case, you don’t have those. In fact, when you tried to teleport anywhere in Yggdrasil it didn’t work at all despite it all being discovered territory for Sōsaku-sha. Only when you had used Gate for places you’ve already been to since the shut down does it appear. Doubts are starting to blossom within you on whether this is all still really Yggdrasil...but until you gain some information...

...you are completely lost and have nothing…

“...Great.” You wrap your cloak around your shoulders before slumping to the ground, flicking a small wildflower with a finger absentmindedly while letting the butterflies take residence on you once again.

You feel naked...well, you are, but more vulnerable than before. Like a baby, completely confused.

Like, why are you stuck here in the first place? Is this even Yggdrasil? It doesn’t seem like it. And why do plants grow from yo-Sōsaku-sha’s touch? You really have no clue about how that works. That's something you never added to your avatar. Why are animals attracted to you?

You lift a finger and watch as two butterflies try to land on the tip at the same time.

There’s so much you know...yet the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything!

….

*Sigh*

You have very little to help you...and nothing to guide you...what are you going to do? You don’t know where to go...Not back to the village, that’s for sure...but that couldn’t be the only civilization. No, that couldn’t have been. There must be more...if...there’s more...maybe you have a chance at learning. You don’t want a repeat of what had occurred last night so you’ll have to approach this differently. If you find another civilization that is. You see it as your best course for survival. You don’t know the first thing about surviving out in the wilderness and frankly, you don’t want to.

Looking up, you try to gauge what time of day it is. It must be somewhere late in the morning as the sun as it appears to be off to the side a bit in front of you.

That gives you roughly nine? Ten hours to search around...if the sun moves at the same pace across the sky as Earth. Ascend would surely cut down on time but you don’t want to leave Jewels.

You shift your vision over to the said horse and you see that she had taken your spot in the flower bed, her long eyelashes hiding her two different colored eyes from the world.

You shift your focus back on your surroundings. You technically could stay in your spot for however long you want...but you’re sure that those villagers are going to want their horse back. If you stay here you’ll risk being caught up by them. Besides, there’s nothing you could gain from remaining here. So the way you see it...you can go in three directions. You can either go in the direction of where the sun is rising from, where the sun will set, or continue straight away from the village. You don’t know what will lie beyond those three directions but it’ll be better than going back. You know it will. So…

 

Which direction will you go in?

I’ll go East, in the direction the sun is rising from.

I’ll go West, in the direction where the sun will set at.

I’ll go South, in the direction away from the village.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: NOW I AIN'T SAYIN' SHE A GOLD DIGGER-

“Thankfully, I can pay as you asked. However, before I flash any coin, I want to know the full estimate of the damage. I don’t want any of you getting the idea that you can rob me just because I’m not entirely in the best position to negotiate.” You nod while crossing your arms, confirming that you can pay in gold...and hoping that you can actually access your inventory. That would be very bad if you can’t pay them like you said you would. You bet that they won’t enjoy you lying to them.

You don’t trust Sōsaku-sha’s magic ability at all quite yet, despite the benefits. You don’t want to potentially ruin what little relationship you have now with these people by scaring them.

“That sounds fine by me.” The old man mimics your body movement before turning to Nate. “We will give them a fair price. Am I clear, boy?”

Tsk, fine.” The young man sends a glare your way. “As long as it pays us in the end.”

“Good…” The old man turns back to you, a hand stroking his beard in contemplation, “Now...what to do with you…”

“I suspect that you won’t want to let me out of your sights until I’ve paid my debt. Am I correct?”

“Mmmm, yes...I hope you understand why.” His expression saddens some but remains as stern as ever. “We don’t earn much as farmers. Despite that, we still have families to feed. Every coin matters to us. Even a copper piece can go a long way...which is why we can’t exactly brush off this incident.”

You hold up your hand to show that you’ve heard enough. “I understand. I take no offense...but...will we be staying here or will you keep me someplace else until I pay? I suspect that until the sun rises, no one will be able to properly calculate what I’ve destroyed. I’d like to think that we’re all civil. You all don’t want to stand around until then, I’m sure. We can-”

“Don’t think you can trick us.” Nate spits as he walks out of the pin to you with a slight strut, swinging his legs in a cocky way. “You can fly, can’t you? What’s stopping you from flying away once we bring you outside?”

“That’s true.” You lean your head slightly towards the young man. “Why don’t I do that? Hmm? In fact, why didn’t I do that before I revealed myself to you? That would have been the perfect opportunity to slip away, don’t you think? So why didn’t I run away then, hm? Why don’t you tell me that since you’re so smart.” You know that the huge factor that played a part in making that choice was because of the fall you had just experienced. You’re sure you have a phobia of heights now, however, none of these men know that. So, you’re going to use that knowledge to paint yourself in a good light.

“Watch your mouth, freak.” Nate hisses, puffing out his chest to you in a challenging way but before he could take another step towards you the boy with caramel hair places a hand on his shoulder, halting his movement.

“I don’t have a mouth to watch.” You shake your head with a sigh, “I’m only saying this so you don’t sound like an idiot. You may be a sharp young man-” You quickly flick him on the forehead before he could even react. You feel a spike of fear at the act yet you continue, “-but you sure aren’t observant enough.”

Nate’s face turns unbelievably red once he processes what you had done, “WHY YO-” “I’ve already made it clear that I want to cooperate and cover all of your losses.” You interrupt him, knowing that whatever he was going to say was born from anger. “I was being considerate and taking into account your needs and comfort. Please don’t mistake that as me trying to trick you. I’m perfectly fine with waiting here despite the smell. My only ulterior motive was to gain information because...I’m kinda lost.” You look about at the group of men and scratch your neck awkwardly, “I thought we could talk over tea or...just talk. I’m...not from around here so anything you can tell me will be great.” Turning back to Nate you extend your dominant hand out to him. “If you truly don’t trust me then, if I am taken somewhere, you can hold my hand while we walk.”

Although Nate seems to have calmed down some, he smacks your hand away, still miffed that you had flicked him. “No thanks. I want both of my hands available if you try something. I’ll stick to walking behind you.”

‘Well that won’t help you. I can see things behind me now.’ You almost say but you hold back, pulling your arm back to your side. “Mm...if that helps you then I’m okay with it.” You turn back to the old man, “I assume you’re the one in charge around here based on how you act. Would you like me to stay here or would you like to take me someplace else?”

The group exchange glances, all seeming to have various opinions on the situation, but they all turn to the old man before you who strokes his beard once again, closing his eyes with a sigh. “I will bring you to my house. We can discuss more there.”

Some try to object but the man had made up his mind, motioning for you to follow him as he turns to talk out of the barn. You feel something akin to a smile form on your face despite you not having one. Finally, you can learn something!

 

 

You shift again uncomfortably on a creaky wooden chair you’ve been sitting on for the past five hours, making it whine under your weight. You patiently wait for the old man, whose name you’ve learned to be Barry Long, to return after he had stepped out of the slightly spacious room you’re held up in. Meanwhile, you silently stare at the three men who’ve been assigned over watch of you: Nate(of course), Liam (the caramel-haired boy), and Vance (a dark-haired boy with the bow and arrows). Why these young men were assigned to the task rather than the men who looked like they could punch a hole through a tree is beyond you. There’s got to be a reason but you are too caught up in your thoughts, swiveling your feet into the grass and flower patch that now surrounds the area you occupy as you reply to all the things you’ve learned during the hours you spent asking the men questions.

In fact, you had learned a lot on the way to the chieftain's house.

For one, people are fearful of things inhuman. Upon exiting the barn you had gotten many terrified looks from the people gathered outside. When you had turned your head in the direction of one family they hid their child behind them, away from you.

It...made you really sad...

You’d never been treated in such a way before. It may have been circumstances but you could read in between the lines. They genuinely were afraid of you based on the fact that you’re...not human...b-but you are human...even though you don’t look like one. Sure...you probably would have been defensive like they were if you saw something like your avatar, you reason. Even so…*sigh*

Another item of information was the sky…

You had actually frozen from shock when you looked up. It was...stunning. You had never seen a night sky with such clarity before. Back in the real world, you live in an apartment in a crowded city. Despite the fact that you lived in a much better part of the metropolis, you still spent some lonely nights peering out over your balcony, watching the world below buzz with life but the sky dead as the void itself. If you were lucky you’d be able to see one or two stars beyond the smog that constantly drifted overhead...or maybe those were just planes...

The pale light that casted down from the sparkling heavens above reminded you of what Earth once possessed before your time. You had inserted scenery into Yggdrasil that was impossible to see anymore in the real world due to pollution. Still, the natural scenery couldn’t be compared with what you had developed in Yggdrasil, only giving further proof that this might not be your game anymore. Not just because nothing could compare to it...but because it wasn’t the constellations of Yggdrasil...neither the ones of Earth.

However, you were cut short. Nate yelled at you when you had stared up at the sky for too long so you couldn’t really spend an eternity looking up at it, puzzling together what it meant. You know that if he didn’t pull you out of your reverence you most likely would have just stared off into space forever, literally.

The third thing you learned was that these people are impoverished.

You had suspected as much since Yggdrasil’s humanoid villager NPCs are mainly just barely above the technological advancements of the lower class of the medieval age. It is the same here.

All of their houses are made of stone with brick roof tiles and shabby wooden stutters that keep the windows shut. All the houses are either one or two stories high off the ground, surrounded by dirt but on the rare occasion, greenery. Candles and torches were the only available sources of light to guide your group to Mr. Barry’s house. It wasn’t necessarily a short walk, as his house was on the other side of the village but the village is a small one so it didn’t take forever. You had spent that time talking to the group you were with, trying to gauge where you were…

And that’s how you learned that you are no longer in Yggdrasil.

You knew that you weren’t on Earth but you at least thought you were stuck in your game because you’re still in your avatar. Yet, the men who escorted you were confused by every question you asked them about the geographical locations of Midgard. They promptly informed you that they don’t know what you were talking about and told you of the names of places surrounding their village that you never heard of. Yggdrasil’s world was based on Norse myths so you were completely ignorant to what they informed you of.

That’s when you froze for a second time, completely in shock because the realization hit you like a slap to the face. You were teleported or brought to an unknown world when you had tried to stay on the server until the forced logout. You were hypothesizing the possibility all this time about this being a new world, the evidence pretty clear as it was laid out on the table to you bare...but you had flipped out, collapsing onto your knees and clutching your head as you cursed at yourself out loud. Liam had tried to comfort you but when he touched you something strange happened…

You change your focus to the young man that sits across the table from you who isn’t looking at you. Rather, Liam is fiddling with some loose strings on his baggy beige shirt tiredly but seems to have a lot on his mind. You’re not surprised. You both had jumped away from each other before accusing one another of doing something. It caused a slight uproar in the group but after a little bit of talking to settle everyone down, you all agreed to test it out and after touching the arms of others you all came to a conclusion. You now have the ability to feel the emotion of others like it is your own if you enact physical contact. You couldn’t hear their thoughts but you could still get a distinct feeling of what they were thinking based on their emotions. Those who touched you had felt the same thing as you did.

You don’t know why you could share emotions with others now, just like why you grow plants out of almost anything you touch but you assume that it's just one of the few things you’ll have to deal with now. You hadn’t programmed those traits into Sōsaku-sha. In fact, the only traits you had given Sōsaku-sha were ones to help you around your realm, benefits in producing products, and to fight players. Beyond that…

Your avatar doesn’t even have a race category like many others in the game. You had completely customized your avatar from scratch to be like nothing seen throughout the rest of Yggdrasil so you can’t even try to find some explanation in your memory’s knowledge of the other races. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t even fit in with the angelic and God-like races even though they are a type of deity.

You have nothing to compare your avatar to...and you feel that you’ve only scratched the surface of the mysteries of your situation. There’s so much you know...yet the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything!

A sigh escapes you as you shake your head. At least you know that you could still use Ascend, the only indicator that you can use magic.

The moment Liam had touched you-you had started floating again. You don’t know at the time how it got activated then but you promptly went back to standing on the ground when you started getting yelled at. You also started to float again when you entered Mr. Barry’s house. He has dirt floors so, when you walked in, flowers and grass sprouted up from where you walked. Upon seeing what you were doing you had wanted Ascend to start working again. It did and no one really protested against it the second time.

The first thing you had asked about when they finally settled you in the room that you’re in now was for them to explain more about the countries of this new world and the geography of it. Mr. Barry had gone and pulled out a map to lay it out on the table, pointing out specific areas of interest on the strange continent displayed as he spoke. He went off to first explain the countries they had told you about earlier. Bourn, the village you’re in, is part of the Re-Estize Kingdom. And, adjacent to the great mountain range that runs North and South is the Baharuth Empire. The countries are often on bad terms and often battle on the plains that border the two countries near the capital city of E-Rantel. And there is one more. The Slane Theocracy lies to the South of both countries.

You had asked for further detail, just being swept away in awe of your situation, on the history of each country, how they handled currency, who ruled each nation, if there were monsters or even other intelligent beings living amongst the human population, how magic works in this world, and more...and your mind was blown away with knowledge. Royalty, nobility, knights in shining armor, religions, cults, gangs, war, treasures, rumors, myths, legend, unforeseen dangers, beasts of great proportions, potions, adventurer guilds, strange languages, ruins, everything you live for! You felt like a giddy child brought to an amusement park for the first time! You completely gushed over everything they told you and your curiosity surprised the men present.

Mr. Barry had stepped out after five straight hours of talking himself dry to make something to clear his throat and to keep himself awake as the sun rises to start the new day.

Now, in the present, you notice Nate staring at you once again with a tired grimace from the wall he is leaning against. Frowning seems to be his resting face but you can tell he has something to say to you. Not wanting to wait in awkward silence until the chieftain is back you try to prompt up another discussion. “You seem to have something on your mind, Mr. Nate.”

“Don’t call me Mr. Nate. It sounds weird.”

“Ermm, I’m...sorry? From where I’m from it is respectable to address individuals who you’re in a professional or business relationship with by their first names. Is...that not the same here?”

He shakes his head with a scoff, “No. We go by surnames.”

“Ah...no wonder Mr. Barry was making that face every time I said his name.” So, they’re more Westernized here than Japanese. How bizarre. “Now I feel like a dumbass.”

Nate actually coughs out a laugh at your statement before hurrying to cover it up as Liam and Vance turn to him. “Just call me Nate. None of that Mr. crap. You make me feel old.” He pushes himself off the wall, resuming his frown, to properly face you. “However, you’re strange.”

“Oh uh, mmm...thanks?”

“I didn’t mean that as a compliment.” He quickly retorts back with a squint of his eyes. “I mean that you’re a sore thumb. You’re something I’ve never seen before.” He takes two slow steps toward you before continuing. “What are you?”

“Hmm? My race? To be honest, I can’t really say I know. I’m the only one of my kind to my knowledge…” You reply back as you roleplay as your avatar. You couldn’t really tell them the truth because, frankly, no one would believe you. Besides, you don’t want to reveal too much information about your real self.

“No parents?” He takes two more steps to the table but still hasn’t quite reached it yet.

“None. I created myself after all so...yeah.” You swallow back the fact that you have...or had human parents up until this situation started.

“You created yourself? Really?” You would have reacted the same way if someone told you that they had come into existence out of their own vendetta. It's just impossible...in human terms.

“I did... What do you think my name means?”

“Uh...I don’t remember it.”

“That’s okay. My name is Sōsaku-sha. Do you know what that name means?”

“No. Why does it matter?”

“Sōsaku-sha means “Creator”. I am a creator. I create life, essentially, and I build worlds for that life to exist on.” You lose yourself in character, having done it so many times back in Yggdrasil for players. “So, wouldn’t it only make sense that I’d give myself a vessel to occupy so that I may interact with my creations?”

“Are you saying that you created us?” Vance's voice is soft but cool in tone, surprising you as he addresses you for the first time since you’ve arrived

“Not at all. I’ve created humans in the past but nothing from...here. In fact, that’s why I’m so intrigued by this new world. I had nothing to do with the creation of this world so this is all an anomaly to me!” Yes, yes. That is what an creator would do. They’d be drawn to the chance to see other’s work to get inspired for their own. You can use that! “It’s amazing! This is all so similar to the worlds I have created! Your social hierarchies, technologies-Hell, you even have magic! Haha! To think something like this existed! It makes me wonder...if there is someone else like me out there…” You mumble off and once again think about the possibility of players being stuck in this new world with you.

If there are...you’d like to find them.

They may be scared, pissed, or all the above...they might blame you for this predicament...but you’re sure no one would want to be alone at a time like this. You feel that way. You can only imagine where they would have popped up. You hope that they’re nowhere near the trouble you’re in.

The three young men exchange odd looks to one another at the information but before they could ask any for more information out of you Mr. Bar-err, Mr. Long comes in with a tray of clay cups and a steaming kettle. “Sorry for the wait but I wanted to make tea for us all. It’s my form of thanks for staying up with this old man.”

“Aw, thank you, Barry.” Liam hums sleepily as he’s handed a cup. A strange herbal smell, that’s neither bitter or sweet, catches your attention as Mr. Long pours the steaming liquid into the cups he has handed out. You can’t tell by the smell what type of tea it is but by the way the young men accept their mugs with gratitude it must be something good-

“You wanted tea as well, didn’t you?” The old man’s voice draws you out of your thoughts and you see that he’s handed you a cup. You stare at his hand maybe a second too long but you eventually move your hands to slowly take the cup from his.

“...You didn’t have to.”

Mr. Long holds the kettle steady as he pours the herbal liquid into your cup, “Yes, but I believe it would have been rude on my part to not serve you as a guest since you’ve been cooperating and kind with us.”

“Oh...Thank you.” You bow your head to him before pulling the cup of tea to yourself…

Only to realize you might not be able to drink it.

Sōsaku-sha doesn’t have a mouth on them so can I even drink? Can you eat? Maybe you can eat and drink still but it's just another hidden trait of your avatar? You’re finding out new weird ticks about your avatar so maybe this is one of them? Maybe you absorb things like a slime or that a mouth appears on your face just like Sōsaku-sha’s Eye of Providence? Or maybe you really don’t eat because Sōsaku-sha doesn’t have a need to eat?

Well...only one way to find out.

You bring the cup up to your blank face and let the tea’s vapor run across your skin, enjoying the earthy aroma before trying to blow on it.

Nothing.

All you did was make a noise mimicking the sound of blowing. You sigh, lamenting the fact that you were about to try to gulp down boiling hot liquid, as you bring the rim up to where your lips would be. Unbeknownst to you, the four men in the room were watching you expectantly as you tip the cup back to take a sip-

Hot boiling tea runs down your chin, neck, and chest, causing you to jerk the tea away as Nate busts out laughing.

Erk-ugh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to spill it.” You wipe your face with the back of your hand, surprised that you hadn’t been burned despite the hot feeling but also upset that you hadn’t been able to drink the tea.

“N-no problem. Here take this.” Mr. Long takes the towel he had used to hold the hot kettle out to you.

“Thank you. I had thought I could drink it.” Taking the towel you start to dry your new body off, huffing in frustration as Nate steps up to the table. “A shame. It smells nice.”

“How did you expect that to work?” He pulls out a chair and sits beside Liam, across the table from you, “Didn’t you tell us that you don’t have a mouth?”

“Yeah. I don’t have a mouth...” You fold and place the now slightly damp towel on the table in order to pull back the cup of tea to you and pear into it. You had thought that maybe a mouth would form when you tipped the tea back but it didn’t. You were slightly thankful since you didn’t want to burn your mouth the moment it is summoned if you could summon one. But, strangely, you hadn’t been burned by the tea even though it is super hot. It just felt very warm and tingly when it had dribbled down your face.

So, could you really not eat or is there something you’re not seeing?

*Sigh*, oh well...it’ll just require more testing on your behalf. For now, you are content with holding the beverage close to yourself despite how sad you are about missing out on its flavor. “I’ve never tried to eat or drink in this body before so I don’t know how...or if I can.”

“What’s this about?” Mr. Long asks before Liam gives him a quick summary, making the old man give you a strange look. “Are...are you a God?

Pffffff-Ha, who, what?!” You shake your head, trying to clear your head from the whiplash of emotion, “D-do I look like a God?... You know what, nevermind. Don’t answer that. I’ll clear your assumption up by saying blatantly that I’m not.” You answered your own question after they gave you a look, reminding you that you’re not human. “Even though I was worshiped as one where I came from…” You think about the NPCs that would hint players to your existence and the cults that searched for your avatar by collecting the items used to form Fēsuresukī. They were typically the targets of players who’d try to access your realm but at the same time, the players who held the items or even Fēsuresukī were under constant threat of those cultists. Either way, Sōsaku-sha was seen as an elevated being of sorts and, sure, you designed Sōsaku-sha as a type of deity-like being but not a God. Nowhere near a God. An elevated being? Yes. A God? Absolutely not! Especially not a God while you’re possessing your avatar’s body. “...I do not want to be referred to as one. I...I’m not a God anyway.”

“Good, I wasn’t about to start kissing your ass anyway.” Nate huffs and takes a sip out of his cup before cringing, having burned his tongue.

“Stop being a jerk, Nate.” Liam elbows his associate before turning to you. “So you’re not a God...then what do you think you are? You claim to have...created worlds? What would you call something or someone that could do that?”

“The only thing I’ll claim to be is a creator. Nothing more than a powerful, magical...creature on that topic.”

“How many of these worlds have you created?” Vance once again surprises you by asking you a question but this one...you weren’t so sure you wanted to share with them information about Yggdrasil but...you’ve already given your character a story...and these men had given you lots of information. If you stop now, the persona you’ve built might crumble. What type of creator doesn’t jump at the opportunity to show others their work? Only shy ones, you know, but you haven’t portrayed yourself as shy. Besides, if you speak about Yggdrasil they may tell others. That way, if another player hears about the game from the mouths of others they’ll try to find the source of the rumor!

“I’ve created around seventeen worlds,” Yggdrasil isn’t the only game you’ve created so you count the games you helped develop as worlds, “but the universe I created this avatar in is what I dubbed with the name Yggdrasil. That universe consisted of nine worlds. Their names were-

A knock sounded on the door, interrupting the spiel you were about to go on, and Mr. Long gives you all a look before he gets up to check it. Only a moment later he comes back with a sigh, “Nate, the sun has risen some and the boys outside want your help determining the damage.”

“*Sigh*, fine.” He turns his head to Vance as he scoots out of his chair. “Stay with...uh, Sosawko-sha, and make sure that they behave until we come back.” Well, at least he tried to say your avatar’s name right. “Common, Liam-” Nate slaps the kid on the back as he was trying to drink some of the tea, making him cough, “I need your help.”

Liam groans as he gets up from his chair, "Why am I always the one being dragged along?! Take Vance for once! I actually want to hear what they to say!"

Nate almost looks offended by Liams words, "Because I know Vance has enough common sense to tell the difference between fact and fairy tales, unlike you!" Nate roughly grabs the boy's arm to escort him out. All the while he does so he squints in your direction, "Ignore them. Don't let their bullshit get in your head."

"Don't worry, Liam. I'll make sure to tell you what you miss." Vance pats the blond's back as the two hurry out the door to go on their quest to assess the damage you wrought. When the click of the front door of the house closing echos, Mr. Long clears his throat after taking a sip of tea.

"Please, don't mind Nate's rudeness. The boy has been through much."

"It's water under the bridge, Mr. Long. We all have the individual right to choose what to believe in." You swirl the tea in your mug as you watch the old man smile not only because you didn't let Nate get under your skin but you also addressed him correctly.

"What were those worlds you were speaking of?" Vance prompts you to continue which makes you quizzically raise a brow.

"You actually want to hear what I have to say?"

"Nate can't speak for me. I'll decide if it's bullshit or not." He sips his tea as he stares at you, seemingly intrigued as to what you have to say.

"Hmmph...delighting in the ripe fruit, curiosity seems to draw man to the tree-" You cut yourself off, catching yourself speaking strange again, and with a shake of your head you continue, "Very well. I will satisfy that hunger for knowledge."

Up until Nate and Liam return with a few other men, you speak a great deal of everything you had built in Yggdrasil. The landscape, the biomes, and their inhabitants. You don’t say anything about the players, your realm, or any information pertaining to Sōsaku-sha’s abilities though. You don’t want to jeopardize your safety or the safety of other players if they are here. What really catches Vance's attention in particular is when you start talking about certain creatures and the magic system in your game while comparing it to the knowledge they had provided to you about their own. You can tell that he was about to start asking you questions but knocks at the door once again interrupted your conversation. The men had all entered the room to give you the final estimate…

The chieftain hums as a stranger to you finishes whispering into his ear and the old man turns to you. “The damage you inflicted is going to cost you eight gold and eleven silver coins. Do you have that much on you?”

You have way more than that and based on what they taught you about the currency of their world you sum that up to be around 885,000 yen, a currency you’re all too familiar with. You believe that to be a little pricey for a hole, especially since it is the middle ages so their prices should be a little less, but you remember that you destroyed some of their produce and poisoned a majority of their pigs. So, they have given you a fair price.

“I do...but we may need to do some exchanges of coins. I’m only carrying gold so you’ll have to compensate what I overpay. Is that okay?”

Nate's eyes widen and his lips pinch together at the information but Mr. Long nods, “I understand. We’ll pay you back.”

Okay, now was the moment of truth. Players would need to use the console to bring up items but you don’t have that option now. You’ll just...have to try to open your item box just like how you tried to drink the tea and how you used Ascend. You just have to try...or you’ll be in deep shit.

Raising your hand, like you would trying to open your menu, you think about accessing your item box-

And your hand disappears into a dark like fog that has appeared in the form of a small portal.

You almost gasp the same way the other men in the room do at the display. Cautiously, you try to grab a hold of the small gunny sack that holds your coins. When a coarse fiber meets your hand you slowly retreat your arm from wherever it had gone to take out whatever item is in your hand. You pray that it isn’t a something threatening-

Your hand frees from the dark mist and the portal dissipates, revealing a cantaloupe-sized sack that appears to be withered and fraying. It is made up of many different types of purple fabrics all sewn together with a small tassel hanging off of the bottom of it. You immediately recognize it as your Bottomless Bag.

Despite the name, it does have a limit to the items which it can hold but it extends a player's inventory by fifty slots. It is a...mmm, difficult isn’t the right word to use but it is hard to obtain one of these bags as it only allows players level 65 and up to obtain. Those players would also have to obtain rare items across Yggdrasil’s worlds to craft the bag. That meant that they'd either have to farm the items, trade, steal, or just buy the actual items off of the game’s store website. After that, they’d have to either find an NPC who can craft the bag, craft it themselves, or find a player who has the crafting stats to produce it for them. The fast way a player could obtain it would be buying the entire bag off the game’s store but because of the large price on it and it wasn't incredibly hard to make the bag, players often chose to go the hard route. Once a player equips the bag it binds with the player, forever fusing the extra fifty slots to the player’s inventory (which is one reason why the item cannot be traded).

Despite the many items you could have placed in your extended inventory, you’ve only ever opted to use the Bottomless Bag for your extra gold. You don’t carry much in the first place. In fact, you really only carry the basics for crafting. You never had a need for armor, weapons, tools, potions, or anything else normal players would carry on them at all times. You’d just rely on magic and physical strength when you fought. If you had stuff like that, no players would have ever been able to touch you in-game. Oh, how you regret not having anything now. If your memory serves you right, all you have on yourself is data crystals, seven-no eight spell scrolls, and a few other items you can’t remember the uses for at the moment. However, you’re just happy that you were able to pull out your gold for the time being.

“Here we are.” You place the sack in front of you on the table. Despite it being filled with coins, it doesn’t clank when you place it on the table; in fact, it doesn’t make much noise at all, having you believe that it has something to do with magic. Untying its silver, laid, nylon rope strands, the opening of the sack loosens. You proceed to reach in and pull out one glittery gold coin…

A realization suddenly hits you and makes you stop from pulling out more. “Before we start this transaction, I want to check something with you.” You lean over the table and hold out the coin for the chieftain to take. “That is a coin that originated from Yggdrasil. Do any of you recognize the designs?”

Yggdrasil’s coins are engraved delicately, both sides with the words “YGGDRASIL” wrapped around the top portion of the images each side holds. The head has the left side profile of a woman with long flowing hair. Originally, the gold coins had the face of a man sealed upon them, before Valkyrie’s Downfall Event, and was switched to a profile of the woman afterward. In addition, it has the game’s release date below the woman, stating “SINCE 2126.” The tail is the world tree of Yggdrasil with the snake, Jörmungandr, encircling it.

“N-no, I haven’t. How very interesting.” The old man flips the coin through his fingers a couple of times before handing it over to another man to look at it. It goes through the hands of every single man in the room and they all give similar replies, having never seen the coin before. You suspected as much but you wanted to check and make sure. Having that solved you move onto your second point as it is handed back to you.

“So...none of you have seen a coin like this before?”

“No, it doesn’t seem like any of us have, Sawsocku-sha.”

“Please, just call me Sō if you can’t pronounce my full name.” You wave off, hoping that you didn’t sound irritated as you tried to help them out, “I was only double-checking because I wanted to see if I could even use this here and how this coin is compared to your own.” You gesture to the gold piece in your hand, “If you’ve never seen a gold piece like this before...wouldn’t its value be different than your own? I suggest figuring out how much mine is worth before we start exchanging. Who knows…maybe mine is worth less than yours.” You notice Nate’s and a few other men’s faces slip back into a frown at your words, informing you that your hunch might be right.

Your coins might be of higher value.

“Ah, yes. Mat, could you head into the closet inside my kitchen and get my scale and weights for me? They should be on one of the left shelves.” A blond man nods and makes his way out of the room while Mr. Long turns to another man. “Frank, could you hand me that?” The younger man hands over the wooden box in his hands to the chieftain. You can tell by the noise it makes as it is handled that it is filled with coins. Mr. Long thanks Frank and opens the box toward himself, pulling out three coins. “Here is one copper, silver, and gold coin. Take a look at them if you wish.” He repeats your motion, leaning over the table to hand them over to you.

When they're dropped into your hand, you pull them in close and you start to observe the designs of each. All of the coins are odd in shape, having uneven sides, and different engravings on each.

The copper coin is the smallest of the bunch, being half the size of the other two. The head of the brown coin is that of a...you can only guess the right profile of a human in a Roman helmet with a horseshoe and an olive branch hovering around the figure. The tail has four circles interlaced into one that envelops a cross at the center.

The silver piece’s head has the right side of a bearded man’s face at the center, a circle surrounding the image. Strange symbols wrap around the top of the circle while a rope does the same at the bottom. On the backside is a strange bird, facing what looks like a lantern and away from a bolt of lightning.

Lastly, there’s the gold piece. The silver and the gold are the same sizes but you can tell a lot more work has gone into the design of the last coin. The head holds, at the center, the right profile of a man’s face that looks oddly similar to Julius Caesar. The head is wrapped up in a similar fashion to the silver coin, having a circle surrounding the man’s face while strange symbols wrap around the top half of the circle. However, instead of a rope at the bottom, there’s a grain of wheat taking its place. In addition to that, a stippled circle wraps around the entirety of the designs on the front as well as on the back. The tail appears to be a compass and, while the shape points in a + position, the strange letters are set up in an x position. Finally, at the center is an eye with pointy extensions sticking out from its empty core.

With the new gold piece in hand, you hold it up to your own to compare the two. The difference is drastically evident and you suddenly become proud of yourself that you thought to check this out before you started trading coins. “Mmm...I see. My coin is twice the size of your own...so...if we are only speaking about gold value here, I’d say my coin is twice the price of your own. Wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes...that seems right. We’ll have to weigh them to see.”

Nodding you continue. “I agree...but I can’t help but speak what’s on my mind. My coin is definitely worth more than double the price of your own gold coin. It’s either four to five times the worth of your own.”

“What are you saying?!” “How so?” “Are you trying to trick us?!” “Nonsense!”

Before the men around the room could yell out any more you hold up a hand to cut them off, “Hear me out. I am a creator so that means I have the eye of an artist. Because of that, I can tell you straight that my coin would be appraised at a much higher price because of its design. Look-” You hold up the coin from this world in between some of your fingers of your left hand-“I can tell that these coins were each produced by hand by the way the artwork and engravings are shaped, in addition to the actual shape of the coins themselves. While these are fairly nice in design,-” You hold up the coin from Yggdrasil in between the fingers of your right hand-“compared to this, it looks pretty messy. My coin is much cleaner in appearance, something that an engraver would have an extremely difficult time producing in a timely manner with the technology I suspect your world has. In addition to that…”

You place the coin in your left hand down on the table, with the silver and copper, to take out another coin from your pouch. You hold it up the same way you did with the other, “each of my coins looks identical to one another, unlike yours. Not only is it difficult to produce one coin of such clean shape but two without any abnormalities between them only increase their value, as it shows consistency. I can say that my coins weren’t produced the same way as your own is which is why it appears the way it does. Because of this, a true craftsman would strive to find ways to replicate the methods these coins were produced with to raise the value of their own coin, in turn, increasing the price of these.”

Gathering all of the coins, you lean over the table once more to hand them all to Mr. Long so he can look at them. He seems interested in comparing the two Yggdrasil pieces to each other. “On top of that, they’re a foreign coin. Although that doesn’t increase the value of it in itself, they are coins that carry the knowledge of technologies beyond what seems to be available in this nation or kingdom. People will strive to gain that knowledge because if they can get a hold of information, from a civilization that can produce coins like these, it can increase the security, prosperity, and wealth of one's nation. This is possibly the main factor in why I believe my gold coins are worth so much more than your own.”

Just as you finish speaking, Mat comes back in with a money changer scale and a wooden box in hand and places them in front of the chieftain, where he sits.

“Thank you.” Mr. Long spreads everything out in front of him so he can get to work.

As the chieftain starts comparing weights from the box to one of the Yggdrasil coins, a thin older man clears his throat before stepping forward from the back. “Do you just expect us to believe that these are worth that much more because of that?! Some of the things you’ve mentioned are hard to believe. It just makes me think that you’re just trying to get out of this cheaply!”

“You’re right. I am trying to find the cheapest method, but for reason. These coins hold great value to me, beyond that of what I'm saying they’re worth because they originate from my homeland. I’d rather not give them to you at all. I’m only doing so because I’m at fault for your losses. I could have used magic instead to fix your issues but I’m honestly not confident in my abilities at the moment. Besides...I’m sure the display of power would have frightened you all and I did not want any of you to become hostile with me. I despise needless death…”

“W-what does that mea-”“I see.” Nate interrupts the thin fellow as he crosses his arms, “I also agree that they may be worth more than what meets the eye…” You both watch as Mr. Long puts on another small weight to one of the two platforms present on the scale, “However, it's not up to us to dictate the worth of art. Not all merchants will appraise the same so we can’t afford to risk the loss of compensation. How about you just pay us what they’re actually worth? Hm?” The tan man sends you a slight smirk, knowing full well what he is saying to get what he wants. Although you can appreciate the way he expertly crafted his words, you know he’s trying to suck out all the gold he can out of you. However, since you were already going to increase the price anyway, his words don’t get under your skin.

Mr. Long coughs as he displays what he has discovered, “It’s as heavy as about two of our gold coins, just as you suspected Sō.”

"Woah..." Men all around the room stare at your coins in amazement.

“So that means that you should give us five of your coins and we’ll pay back what we can to even the score?” Nate grins as he holds out a hand to you to accept three more coins from you. However...

You have a different idea in mind.

“...I’ll tell you what…” You reach into your sack and pull out a third coin to hold it up for them all to see, “how about I remain in your village until you go to get these three coins appraised.” You lean up to place the single coin into the young man’s extended hand and watch as his smug expression falls. “The price I expect these to be worth is fifteen gold. If the value is less than what I’ve guessed...I’ll compensate you...plus I’ll double the number of coins I’ll have to give you. That means that if I have to give two more, to make ten, I’ll also have to give you five more for the price of twenty. You won’t need to pay me back where I overpay and, after that, I’ll be out of your hair. However, if I am correct in my assumption and they are worth fifteen of your gold pieces...I’ll be allowed to stay and live in this village as I please. Does that sound reasonable?”

All the men exchange glances at one another at your proposition. You can tell that they really like the aspect of gaining more gold. Mr. Long hums, closing his eyes in thought, "This is not my choice to make. Sō," He opens his wise eyes to address you, "I'll need to talk to my associates and get their vote on the subject." "Of course, take all the time you need." You move your toes in the grass patch around your feet as you watch the most of the congregation leave to discuss whether or not to accept your offer in a separate room from you.

It is a gamble on your part. Not a big one but you can still lose a bit more than what you’d like.

You’re risking overpaying them greatly...but you understand that they are poor...well, poorish...and that the gold can really help their condition. Besides, twenty gold coins are practically nothing compared to the hoard you have. You’re just sentimental of what you have left of your game and you’re not so key on losing. You made this bet essentially because it helps you find a way to root yourself onto a safe location. Even if you lose this bet you’ll still be able to settle down.

These villagers will have to go to get the coins appraised which means you’ll be following them to make sure the coins are sold correctly. You want to avoid the situation where either these villagers or the merchant, that will buy the coins, will try to pull the rug out from under your feet. If you’re right, you can live among people who’ve already adjusted to your presence despite the fact that you’re...not human presently. However, if it’s truly less than what you think it is then you’ll pay them and you’ll be in a city. A larger city means more information flows through there. If you could get a job or a means to live there, you’ll be golden.

You...don’t know what you’ll do after that though…

Look for players? It seems like the right thing to do. You have an obligation to do so since you can’t help but feel that this situation may be your fault. Your game...Yggdrasil did something. You’re stuck in your avatar so it's only reasonable to assume such. You can’t be the only one. If you do find them…what then? Apologize? Mmmm...Yeah, that seems to be the right thing to do. They may have lives that they need to get back to. You too have a life of your own as well but first, you want to find others before you start searching for a way to go back to the real world.

The men reenter the room and it is the chieftain who takes the initiative to inform you of their choice, "We've all decided to accept your proposition. We'll expect you to hold up your end of the bargain as you expect us to." Mr. Long holds out a thick hand for you to take; you stand up and grasp his firmly to seal the deal in front of the audience gathered, grounding your place into this new world…

But where it shall be...you have yet to know

 

 

 

“No! NO! You’re not coming along!” Nate spits out a wad onto the ground in between the two of you, crossing his arms as he blocks you from the cart that was just finished being prepared to go on the trip out to E-Rantel. Evidently, the capital of the Re-Estize Kingdom is only a days ride away by cart and that’s where the three young men (Liam, Vance, and Nate) are going to sell the three coins and buy supplies the village needs. Since the sun has been up for around three hours now you can only guess that it is nine o’clock. If they leave now they’ll be able to arrive in the city around noon tomorrow. You understand why they’ve prepared so quickly. It gives them plenty of time to carry out their tasks in a timely manner. While the cart was prepared quickly, you had learned a lot as they did so.

During those few hours since the agreement, you had been let off with little leeway and to have your own space without much supervision. Vance, however, still tailed you like a shadow after he had gotten dressed into a strange romper with a lot of buttons on it. You also found it odd that he was so quiet most of the time yet you didn’t mind his company even if it was just to make sure you wouldn’t runoff. However, he did ask about the magic and monsters you spoke about once you had made it a little ways away from the village to test some of your abilities out. Upon hearing his curiosity, you spoke a great deal of what he asked and tried to perform some of your magic spells.

Thankfully, you learn that you still can in addition to other things.

For one, you could control and access Sōsaku-sha’s magical and physical abilities still but they were now reliant on either your intentions, feelings, and/or will. It’s...still a hypothesis and you don’t know yet for a fact if that is or what is true yet. All you have to back up your theory is the fact that:

1. You didn’t have and still don't have access to your spell slots, menu, or any of that junk.

2. Voice commands mean very little unless you mean to cast a spell. You also have to be “open” to do so.

3. You can become open and shielded still, however, it switches to and fro depending on how threatened or secure you feel.

4. Sōsaku-sha’s accuracy showed when you’d aim at objects with either spells or hand held objects with the intention to hit specific things, even if they’re crazy far away.

5. Their physical strength also showed when you literally were able to pick up a BOULDER and hold it above your head with ONE ARM (You had really lost your mind at that, even Vance’s eyes popped out of his head when you told him to “catch it” as you aimed to throw the huge rock at him).

6. Your avatar’s speed is still insanely fast. You had asked Vance to throw rocks at you and not a single one would graze you, even when it was a handful of pebbles. On top of that, when he’d shoot arrows, not at you, of course, you were able to grab them out of mid-air (you let out an embarrassing squeal after you’d caught the first arrow and Vance laughed at the little victory dance you did afterward. You screamed at him to shut up about it when all of your skin grew hot pink).

7. Ascend won’t activate as long as you intend to walk around rather than float.

8. Sōsaku-sha’s skin color is reliant on what they are feeling.

Another oddity you’ve learned more about is your new vision. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t have eyes so for them to be able to see is different from how you...used to see. Vision is defined as light entering the pupal which then, in turn, creates an image for you to perceive the world as. For Sōsaku-sha, however, their whole body is the pupil, it seems. It’s like looking through a telescope when you focus on particular things but when you want to focus on everything at once it’s like removing the barriers of the scope (the peripherals) and realizing you’re in a bubble (Sōsaku-sha’s “pupil”). The bubble is your vision and all that the bubble catches you can see. Up, down, left, right, back, front, close, far, it doesn’t matter.

You had also accessed your inventory to double-check what you have. Other than the butt-load of gold, all you have on yourself is data crystals, eight spell scrolls, and a few other items that you have no pressing use for, just as you thought. You had thought about how nice it would have been to have access to the materials and supplies in the Citadel.

Even though you knew that you were no longer in Yggdrasil, you had tried to use Gate to arrive just outside the Seiun but the portal wouldn’t appear. Despite it being a spell that doesn’t have any limitations with distance there are a few ways that it wouldn’t work. You can’t use Gate to teleport into the Seiun because of the barrier you had set up (that is why you tried to set it just outside, yet it still didn't work). Not only that but Gate was designed to be used by players who’ve been places. You and a couple of others wanted to produce a fast travel mechanic in Yggdrasil but still wanted players to explore the world you had created and not skip over it. That’s why Gate can only travel to places players have already been to. There were some exceptions to that rule but in your case, you don’t have those. In fact, when you tried to teleport anywhere in Yggdrasil it didn’t work at all despite it all being discovered territory for Sōsaku-sha. Only when you had used Gate for places you’ve already been to since the shut down does it appear. The fact that it didn’t work only further proved that you’re no longer in your game.

As you tested out your spells, you had felt energy in every single one you had produced. Like...an inner source of...something leave you to manifest itself into magic. You only assume what you had felt must have been your MP depleting. Some of them drained more from you than others, however, you still felt energized even after those many hours you spent testing your skills out. Vance was awestruck at some of the spells you casted, demanding you to tell him what tier they were. You didn’t go crazy with the spells so at most some of them were level eight. You thought he was going to lose his mind after you informed him that you could go beyond that. He asked for you to perform a spell higher than eight but you refused him by saying, “That'd risk the lives of everyone in the village.” You knew that only some of them could do that and which ones are generally safe but you didn’t want to waste the MP.

Around the third hour, Liam came running up, also changed into a different outfit (a very baggy one), to Vance to drag him off to leave. Hearing this, you followed to see what they meant by leaving. Upon seeing you approach with his colleagues, Nate had run forth to stop you once you said that you’ll be joining them.

“Yes, I am, unless you want to cut the deal off. I could just leave you with the three coins.”

“Oh no. We’re keeping the deal alright.” Nate squints his eyes at you, “It’s just that I don’t trust you.”

“Nate. Just let Sō come along.” Liam walks past the tan man to throw the bag on his shoulders into the wagon. “They’re not here to cause issues. They probably just want to make sure that we’re not going to scam them.”

“Tsk, whatever. That’s not the only issue.” The fact that he doesn’t try to deny that they’ll scam you isn’t encouraging, “They’re a monster! They’re not going to fit in!" Ouch, "Monsters aren't allowed in the city unless we're registering them as property. I'm not going to do that either because I don't want to be liable for whatever this thing does.”

“I’m sure they have a spell that can disguise themselves.” Vance says in a blank tone as he looks at you.

“What?”

“I’ll tell you later.” Vance turns his body to you, “Can you do that?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t dare follow without a way to blend in. I don’t want too many to know I exist.” You have a couple of spells that can do the trick but you have only one in mind.

Disguise Self

It isn’t a high-level spell as it is just a simple illusion. Players can make themselves—including their clothing, armor, weapons, and other belongings on them—look different until the spell ends or until they dismiss it. Players can seem 1 foot shorter or taller and can appear thin, fat, or in between. They can’t change their body type, so they must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs. Other than that, the extent of the illusion is pretty flexible. The changes wrought by this spell fail to hold up to physical inspection, however. For example, if a player used this spell to add a hat to their outfit, objects will pass through the hat. Likewise, if a player used this spell to appear thinner than they actually are, the hand of someone who reaches out to touch them would bump into them while it’s seemingly still in midair. In addition to that, the spell only has an hour duration so, until you can find a more permanent method of disguising yourself, you’ll have to recast it every hour.

An hour is enough time to replenish the loss of MP so, even though you’ll have to keep casting it over and over again, it won’t hurt you to do so. Life is such a helpful perk as it restores your MP double the speed normal players MP can. You did consider using Transmutation but you worry that it may be a painful process and would require you to use other spells to make it more tolerable.

“Eh? Really?” Nate looks you up and down, “And how do you expect to do that?”

You obviously need to change your appearance to appear like a human again. Not just any human, however. You need to fit in so you have to choose a form that has similarities to the natives of this world. If you appear too foreign, you’ll draw eyes which means that you’ll need to replicate what you’ve seen the village as reference. You would have loved to appear as yourself but you also don’t want to use your actual identity in this world as it could endanger you. You have to make a new look. So…

 

What will you choose to look like?

I’ll look like a male.

I’ll look like a female.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: I GOT THE MAGIC IN ME

“But as I’ve said before, my form of payment may not be as you all suspect. I’m a creature of magic and I know that I can fix my fluke easily with such.” You shake your head side to side as you cross your arms, silently telling them that you will not be paying in coins. You just hope that you can get your magic to work. That would be very bad if you can’t repair the damage like you said you would. You bet that they won’t enjoy you lying to them.

You don’t know if you can access your item box at all and even if you could, you don’t want to let go of what limited coins you have. You don’t know how long you’ll be stuck in this situation and you want to cling onto all of the lifelines you possess for as long as you can. If magic is a suitable substitute then you’ll use that because that always replenishes itself.

The old man cringes slightly, “We’d just prefer it if you’d pay us. Do you have coin? You just told us that you can pay.”

“I can pay and that’s why I said I’ll use magic. That will be my form of payment.” You’re firm, standing your ground and unmoving as you stare at the old man. “As I’ve said three times now...how I handle matters may be different from how you folks may. I only offer my services this way because I know for a fact that coin can’t cure pigs.”

“Cure?” “What the hell's that supposed to mean?” The two men who came in with the one you’re addressing mumble amongst themselves while the three younger men’s expressions each morph into something different.

“You said that you were going to slaughter those animals because they’re poisoned by those black dust sprouts. Isn’t that right?” You only move your dominant hand to point in the direction of the pig pin. “If coin could buy them a cure you wouldn’t have said that, now would you? You would have asked for the money to purchase it. The only other...reasons you’d say such a thing is if there is no antidote created yet or if the source for the antidote is far from the vicinity of your village. Whichever reason, I can cure the pigs easily. That way you’ll lose less of your...livestock.”

“Well, whoop-de-fucking-do!” Nate throws his arms up in the air to show his frustration, “You’ll save the pigs! That won’t save our asses though, nor cover the damage!”

You turn your head to the furious young man with a sigh, “Do you really believe all I can do is cure pigs?” Before he could answer, you turn your body to face him. “No. I fully plan on repairing your barn and replenishing your supplies. That includes the spouts you’re so worried about. You said it yourself,” You wave casually to emphasize your point, “‘The stalks have already been reaped of what you’ve sowed and they won’t grow more until the next season.’ You already know that you can’t grow more in time for...what was-oh yes, the dealers to collect your harvest. Coin can’t even save you in that department unless you’re planning on compensating them with it. I’m acting with your best interests at heart, I assure you.”

“So…” The blond boy raises a hand with arched brows as he addresses you, “You can fix all of this...with magic?”

“That is what I have been saying-” An idea suddenly strikes you and for a small moment you’re thankful that you don’t have a face to show your smirk, “In fact...if you all desired, not only could I replace your produce but I can greatly increase its amount. More than double what you all had before, might I add...easily.

“Awaahh!” The men upon hearing all delight on the idea of plentiful produce but Nate spits, not as quickly bought over by the idea.

“What do you expect from us in return? I don’t believe you’d do that for free.”

Hmm...sharp.

“That’s true. I wouldn’t.” You lean your head slightly towards the young man. “I do want something in return for my service. Information is what I desire.”

“Information?...What kind?” The old man squints at you as he speaks, “We are but lowly farmers. We don’t have much information to give.”

“You have more than enough, I’m sure.” You completely dismiss what the man pleaded with a raised hand, “I’d like information because...well I’m...kinda lost.” You look about at the group of men and scratch your neck awkwardly, “I thought you all could tell me where we are...in this world, that is. I have no idea where I am or how this world works. Anything you know could help me to be honest. I was flying above Sunnmørsalpane in Midgard, the last I knew of.”

You know that that’s a hard deal to decline. These farmers seem to be...lower class...poor, as to say. They’re obviously desperate. They must be hard workers that receive very little pay by how they reacted to your offer. You know almost for a fact that they’ll accept. This way, you can learn more about what's going on without manipulating them with any charm magic and hardly exerting too much MP. But...there's more to your ploy…

“So...essentially, what I’m going to do is replace and fix everything I’ve...messed up. I‘ll double your produce if you agree to give me information...however...I have another offer.”

“What else are you offering?” The old man strokes his beard as he contemplates your first offer but is open to your next one.

“Let me live amongst your village.”

“Hell NO!” Nate hisses as he stomps out of the pin to you with slight sass, swinging his legs in a cocky way. “Monsters aren’t welcome in our village!”

Ouch.

“Even one that plans on making sure that you’ll never go hungry again?” In a blink, Nate’s scowl turns to one of shock at your calm reply. “How about one that will make sure you’ll never get sick? One that will heal broken and weary bones? Ward off any threat that will come close to this village? I can make your village prosperous if you allow me to be its guardian. It’s the least I can do if you allow me to stay.”

“You’d really do that all for us?” A thin older man clears his throat before stepping forward from behind the one with the beard.

“Quiet Seth.” The blond, to the thin man’s right, shushes him as the old man hums.

“Sawsocku-sha,” The man pauses to collect his thoughts as you give him credit for at least trying to pronounce your avatar’s name right, “while your offer sounds nice...we cannot accept it at this time. In this village, we make deals like that through vote. It is not my place to decide for us.”

“...that is...reasonable.” Placing your hands on your hips, you drop your head to look down at the flowers surrounding your feet. “If clouds didn’t join to mourn, scarce would be the springs of green-” You cut yourself off, catching yourself speaking strange again, and with a shake of your head you continue, “It’s only fair that the majority should have the final word. No single man should hold the weight of the world on their shoulders…” You look up to the old fellow as something clicks, “I assume you’re the one in charge around here based on how you act.”

“Ah, yes. I am the chieftain of this village.”

“Noble of you to come with your men to face me.” Nodding, with the knowledge that he is a very selfless man, you continue, “I don’t believe relying on me to fix the barn would have to have the input of your village. Wouldn’t you say?”

“Uh, mm. That’s...right.”

“Yes. So will you allow me to fix your grievances?”

The chieftain’s brows knit even further together at your words. Looking to his left he eyes the hole in the wood panels that line the second floor and roof. His frown deepens as he sweeps his gaze to the shattered pots and scattered debris that litter the pin along with the ruined produce. Sharing a glance with every man in the barn, he sighs before meeting your face once more. “I will allow it. We don’t earn much as farmers. Despite that, we still have families to feed. We can’t afford to recover something like this on our own. We will hold you to your word that you’ll fix this.” He holds out his right hand for you to take, “This is the deal, for now.”

You smile in appreciation, despite them not being able to see it.

They are starting to take the bait. With this little bit of trust now put in place you can build upon it. Although they didn’t accept your other deals that doesn’t mean that they won’t in the future. However, in the case that they don’t accept any of your propositions, you’ll be taking your time rebuilding the farm and replacing their stock. If you really do still have your magic you know you could knock this all out in under an hour if you really wanted to. Even so, you’ll make sure this will take a couple of days...maybe even a week so you can collect as much information as you can during that time. You’ll get what you want one way or another.

Once that’s all said and done...what then?

....

You could start by searching for other players.

You have an obligation to do so since you can’t help but feel that this situation may be your fault. Your game...Yggdrasil did something. You’re stuck in your avatar so it's only reasonable to assume such. You can’t be the only one. If you do find them…what then? Apologize? They may be scared, pissed, or all the above...they might blame you for this predicament...but you’re sure no one would want to be alone at a time like this. You feel that way...Mmmm...Yeah, that seems to be the right thing to do. You wouldn’t hold it against them if they lashed out at you either. They may have lives that they need to get back to. You too have a life of your own as well but first, you want to find others before you start searching for a way to go back to the real world. *sigh*...Well, whatever happens, you’ll need to fit in for the time being.

Obviously, these people are fearful of things inhuman. It may be circumstances but you can read in between the lines. You eye the weapons in all of their hands and think back to how they have treated you thus far. They were and still are prepared to kill you based on the fact that you’re...not human. Sure...you probably would be on your defensive like they are if you saw something like your avatar. Even then…*sigh* So, to avoid future complications between...hmm, race(?)...the people of this world, you'll need to appear as somewhat familiar and trustworthy.

It’s an easy fix if your magic works. You have a couple of spells that can do the trick but you have only one in mind.

Disguise Self

It isn’t a high-level spell as it is just a simple illusion. Players can make themselves—including their clothing, armor, weapons, and other belongings on them—look different until the spell ends or until they dismiss it. Players can seem 1 foot shorter or taller and can appear thin, fat, or in between. They can’t change their body type, so they must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs. Other than that, the extent of the illusion is pretty flexible. The changes wrought by this spell fail to hold up to physical inspection, however. For example, if a player used this spell to add a hat to their outfit, objects will pass through the hat. Likewise, if a player used this spell to appear thinner than they actually are, the hand of someone who reaches out to touch them would bump into them while it’s seemingly still in midair. In addition to that, the spell only has an hour duration so, until you can find a more permanent method of disguising yourself, you’ll have to recast it every hour.

An hour is enough time to replenish the loss of MP so, even though you’ll have to keep casting it over and over again, it won’t hurt you to do so. As long as you have your perk Life it’ll restore your MP double the speed normal players MP can. You did consider using Transmutation but you worry that it may be a painful process and would require you to use other spells to make it more tolerable.

So, for this all to work, you obviously need to change your appearance to appear like a human again. Not just any human, however. You need to fit in so you have to choose a form that has similarities to the natives of this world. If you appear too foreign, you’ll draw eyes which means that you’ll need to replicate what you’ve seen the village as reference. You’ve only seen the men so far but that’s more than enough. You would have loved to appear as yourself but you also don’t want to use your actual identity in this world as it could endanger you. You have to make a new look. This way, your interactions with the natives of this...new...world? Yggdrasil? Whatever! NEW SITUATION will run a bit more smoothly…

In fact...THAT can be the first spell you could try out! It wouldn’t hurt to use it. AhHAAA! You got it! If it doesn’t work then you’ll fain that you’re tired! That way you’ll have more time to plot how to either get it to work or worm your way out of this situation! If it does work then you’ll be able to fit in a-

“Do...you not know what a handshake is?” The chieftain tilts his head a bit with a small timid smile, “You’ve been staring at my hand for quite some time now.”

“Ah! Sorry! I just got lost in thought for a second.” You awkwardly laugh as you stretch out your own right hand to grip his-

Distressed, anxious, cautious, shy, troubled, worried, fear-

You jump away at the sudden intrusion of feelings that resulted from your contact with the old man.

Both he and you stare at each other bewildered by just what transpired but you more so.

‘This is real.’ keeps repeating in your head like violent waves upon a shore. Unrelenting the echo of your epiphany as dread laps at your soul, your core, as is sand by the salty tongues of the sea.

‘This is real.’

‘This is real!’

‘That man is alive!’

You had felt the warmth of his skin and the clammyness of the sweat that had built up on it. You felt how he was shaking and how his grip on you tightened. Not only that, you were assaulted by emotions you know weren’t your own. You don’t have it in your mentality at the moment to puzzle together as to what just occurred and frankly, you don’t want to.

You force your focus away from the man to look at your-Sōsaku-sha’s shaking hand. Colors ripple rapidly across the surface, too many and too fast to contemplate their meanings. You rub your thumb over your middle and index finger as if to feel the phantom texture. You repeat the gesture twice more before bringing your other hand to feel your palm.

Smooth...soft...wrong.

You think you know the reason why but how you didn’t think more of it is beyond you. The senses of taste and smell were altogether banned from fantasy worlds by cyber-tech laws. Yggdrasil had a system for eating and drinking, but anything consumed only affected in-game stats. Even touch was regulated to some extent. This was all so the game couldn’t be mistaken for the real world.

And here you are...able to touch and smell.

“What did you DO?!!” Nate’s furious voice brings you back to reality, “What did you do to Barry?!!”

“Wha-I...I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t do anything!” You weakly cry out as you watch the men around you grip their weapons with new fever, their knuckles turning white around the handles. You swallow and raise your hands in surrender. “H-hold on! I think this is all a big misunderstanding-”

“All of you, hold your horses!” The old man raises his voice to halt the younger men’s advances on you. “Sawsocku-sha didn’t hurt me. They just…” He looks at you in a strange way before continuing, “What...what was that? It was...I was feeling...more. More emotions, that is...did you put your feelings into my head?”

….

Eeehhh?!

“You had felt my emotions?!”

“I believe so.” All in attendance watch as Barry scratches his head. “I know they weren’t my own...it sounds like you don’t know what you did and based on how you recoiled from my touch I can guess you realized something happened, though. Have you ever done that before?”

Beats of silence pass between the group as you run his words through your head like a record on loop. There’s nothing you could say. What could you even say? This is all too strange and new to you! Who knows what the heck is happening! But...this isn’t too bad. You’re learning new things about your new body and this isn’t any different. Maybe it's just another hidden trait of your avatar? You’re finding out new weird ticks so maybe this is one of them? You sigh and become resolute. Assume, if you were truly Sōsaku-sha, what would they do? Would that help? What would they think? Gazing at the anger and confusion among the six men makes you consider a final question. What would Sōsaku-sha say?

“No.” You decide to lose yourself in character, having done it so many times back in Yggdrasil for players. “I’ve never touched another creature in this body before. It seems that we are able to share our feelings through physical contact.”

“Share?!”

“Mmm, yes. I also felt yours, sir. I didn’t sense any of your thoughts though. Just emotion. Was that the same for you?”

“Y-yes. I only got feelings.”

Thank God. “Then it’s mutual, though...that is bizarre.” You drop your hand and contemplate how that even works. So anyone you touch now will experience the same thing as you do? That’ll get annoying real quick, not to mention burdensome. Will you have to act...what is it called again?...*sigh*, whatever. Fear of being touched. That way things like this won’t happen again. Augh! Is it something you can turn off? Is it something along the lines of magic-

Wait, magic!

Is this a sign you can still use your magic?!

“H-ha...well that’s good.” The boy with the blond hair interrupts your train of thought with a nervous laugh, pointing in your direction but low. “And I see how you fly now.”

“Hm?” A change of focus reveals to you that you’re now floating. “Oh! It seems that Ascend still works.” Yes, yes! This is further proof that your magic may still work and that your stats weren’t affected. You must have been shielded. It would explain how you were able to survive a fall like that...though...that might mean that you’re open now. In other words, vulnerable to attack.

You’ll have to continue playing safe.

“Don’t even think about escaping!” Nate hisses with his fist balled at his sides, taking a wide stance as he gets into an offensive position. “I promise it won’t end well for you!”

A frown would be visible on your face if you had one, “I’m not going to do that.”

“And what makes me believe a word you say? How do I know that you won’t fly away the moment you find the opportunity to?!”

You lean your head slightly towards the young man. “Why don’t I do that? Hmm? In fact, why didn’t I do that before I revealed myself to you? That would have been the perfect opportunity to slip away, don’t you think? So why didn’t I run away then, hm? Why don’t you tell me that since you’re so smart.” You know that the huge factor that played a part in making that choice was because of the fall you had just experienced. You’re sure you have a phobia of heights now, however, none of these men know that. So, you’re going to use that knowledge to paint yourself in a good light.

“Watch your mouth, freak.” Nate hisses, puffing out his chest to you in a challenging way but before he could take another step towards you the boy with caramel hair places a hand on his shoulder, halting his movement.

“I don’t have a mouth to watch.” You shake your head with a sigh, “I’m only saying this so you don’t sound like an idiot. You may be a sharp young man-” You quickly flick him on the forehead before he could even react. You feel a spike of fear at the act yet you continue, “-but you sure aren’t observant enough.”

Nate’s face turns unbelievably red once he processes what you had done, “WHY YO-” “I’ve already made it clear that I want to cooperate and cover all of your losses.” You interrupt him, knowing that whatever he was going to say was born from anger. “In fact, I offered even more than that. I was being considerate and taking into account your village’s needs and comfort. Please don’t mistake my intentions as an act of trickery. If you truly don’t trust me then don’t. You’ll see soon enough that I meant every word I said.”

Tsk! Whatever!” The tan boy keeps his glare centered on you. “For your sake, you better.”

You only hum in reply as you decide that it might be close to the time you should attempt to settle on a new form, “I can get started with my work as soon as possible. I-oh! That’s right, I have night vision so the shade of night shouldn’t be able to hinder me...mmm...however, I am aware that you all might want to keep an eye on me and make sure that I work as I say.”

“Yes. We can’t exactly brush off this incident.” Barry nods slowly with a squint of his eyes. “Are you suggesting that we should wait until morning so we can watch you easier?”

“It’s just as you say...but...will we be staying here or will you keep me someplace else until then? I suspect that until the sun rises, no one will be able to properly keep an eye on me if I worked. I’d like to think that we’re all civil. You all don’t want to stand around until then, I’m sure. No, I’m not using this as a way to escape.” You quickly add as Nate opens his mouth. “I’m simply trying to find the best method for...interacting with one another? Best course of action...so we don’t become hostile with one another.” You look directly at the chieftain to address him. “Would this be a matter needed to be voted upon or…”

The group exchange glances, all seeming to have various opinions on the situation, but they all turn to the old man before you who strokes his beard once again, closing his eyes with a sigh. “I will bring you to my house. I live alone so it shouldn’t be much of an issue.” Some try to object but Barry had made up his mind, waving them off with a hand, “I have plenty of room to house Sawsocku-sha for the night. If you men are so against it, why don’t you come over and give this old man some company?”

“Then I guess we three will be spending the night at your house.” The dark hair boy, who hadn’t spoken a word up until this moment, cooly nods to the chieftain.

“What?” The blond exclaims before his ear is being pinched in between the fingers of Nate’s hand.

“Damn straight we are.” He tugs a bit roughly as his captive starts to whine. “We aren’t letting Barry spend the night alone with a monster!”

Ouch.

“Guess that’s settled.” The old man nods. “You four will spend the night with me. When the morning rises, Sawsocku-sha can start to work under supervision.”

“U-um, I don’t mean to be rude sir…” You raise your dominant hand to point up, in a matter of fact, “but my name is pronounced Sōsaku-sha. I’m not offended. I know it is a long name to say. You can just call me Sō if it is easier for you.”

“Oh, my bad.”

“Hey, like I said. It’s no problem.”

“Ha, well...Sō...you can follow me. I’ll take you straight to my house.”

“Wait.” The old man was mid turn when he stopped at your call, “There’s a few things I need to do before we leave the barn.”

“What are they?”

“First, I want to change my form. I feel that my appearance may be…” You look over to a grouchy tan man who bares his teeth at you, “...unsettling. I do not want to cause panic among your people so...I’m going to cast a spell that will make me appear human ag-*ahem*” You cough to try to cover up your almost slip up. You don’t know what these people would think if you told them that you used to be human. For now, you’ll play your role as your avatar until you can find a way out of this mess.

“You have magic that can do that?” The young man with the dark hair once again surprises you by asking you a question.

“I horde many spells. One may have the likeness to the pages of a book but I’m a library-” What is with you and ALL OF THESE ILLUSTRATIONS?!! “I...yes. Is it alright that I do so?”

“I don’t see an issue with that. Do as you must.” Barry nods, giving you permission to test out your magic for the first time since you’ve come to this strange plane.

You nod and raise your hands with your palms facing out at your sides as you try to settle on a form you are comfortable with. Magic and spell casting are very important to your avatar, Sōsaku-sha and if that is jacked up then you'll be in a very hard position. While you're a little bit more confident, now with Ascend active, you don't know how to summon magic...

Are the mechanics the same?

You look at your multicolored hands. It’s hard to tell which specific emotions are moving across your avatar’s skin but most are dark with sparks of lighter blues, purples, oranges, reds, and hardly any green. It looks ugly. Like M'n'Ms in shit, you compare with a sigh.

Even with the odd position, you are still your avatar and...there's a possibility it’s still Yggdrasil. It must not be too different?

You start to consider the magic you had been able to use in the game. The total number of magic spells in Yggdrasil, from tiers one to ten, plus super tier, was well over six thousand. These were split into various trees that’d be compatible with some races while it wouldn’t with others. Some spells require certain conditions to work like the type of biome the player is in, needed tasks completed beforehand, items that need to be held, can only be used on certain levels, and so on. Normally a level-100 player could use about three hundred but there are some instances where players have found loopholes and were able to have more. You avatar...since it was the being that created Yggdrasil...is able to access all the spells contained in the game (though the conditions for the spells still have to be met for you to use them).

This is an insane amount, you know, but it’d only make sense that Sōsaku-sha would have that kind of ability if they were able to provide the rest of the nine worlds with magical powers. And since you programmed them into the game you had memorized them all.

You flex your fingers a couple of times, thinking how to go about using a spell.

There are no icons to show you your long list of spells you can cast and select. So how can you cast spells now?

You think of your perk Ascend by looking down past your hands to see the lively garden that surrounds the spot which you stood as you hover about two feet above. Ascend is a magical perk so it shows that you still can use magic...maybe...

How did you activate it? The perk hadn’t been active until you had jumped away from touching the chieftain. It couldn’t have been from touching him. It must be something else. What had you done?…mmm...maybe it was because you actively wanted to get away from him? Hmmm…want…maybe you can use magic if you actively want to or have the will to use magic?

You look back at your hands. Well...It can’t hurt to try? But for this to work, you need to settle on a look...so...

 

You want to appear as…

A male.

A female.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH

“Let’s head for those mountains.” You point to the collection of white located to the North of the forest and plains, “Although there is unlikely anyone or anything living atop to get information from, it is a great vantage point and place to set up a base of operation if needed.” That way you can spread your information gathering tactics from there with the cover of the biome. Since it is centered amongst the rest of the terrain it will only aid you in spreading scouts. In addition, there’s a lot of minerals that can be collected as well as various other resources from the geo-giants, not to mention it appears to stretch out toward an ocean on its Northside.

“A wise move, my creator.” Nictis bares their teeth at you in what you suspect to be their form of a smile(?), their spit slinging off into space as they turn their head to face you. You hum an affirmative in Message as you watch the globs of drool freeze as they drift off into the dark vacuum of the starry void.

You suspect that the reason you all aren’t popsicles at the moment is due to the protective spells and buffs you've cast on the party. Thankfully they’ll last long enough for when you suspect to return.

“Stay close together as we approach. There may be dangers that lie ahead.” Although very unlikely if this situation was that of Earth, Yggdrasil’s mountains were a hot spot for high leveled beasts. If this world is the same as Yggdrasil you suspect that you may run into trouble. “Until we secure an area, we are not to separate by any means. Is that clear?”

“Yes, my creator!” Jest and Nictis call out simultaneously, signaling you to start forward.

As you plummet to the planet below the two NPCs take stride, sticking very close to your sides as you draw near to what you suspect to be the planet’s atmosphere.

“I’ve already cast protection spells on each of you so when you’re enveloped in flames do not fear. You will come to no harm.” You say this because you start to feel a sudden shift in temperature. You know that it may be a possibility that, at the speed your group is traveling, it may come about as a reality with your limited knowledge of rockets and meteors. Undead are weak to fire so you don’t want them to freak out and think that they’re going to die.

“I will not fear anything while I’m beside you, my creator!” Jest’s cackle echoes in your head while he does raise a hairless brow, “However, I don’t understand why we would-” He cuts himself off as a bubble of orange envelopes your bodies, immediately warming your forms from the freezing plane you’re now leaving.

None of you share any words as you all strive to breach the planet's natural shield together. It is very difficult to see past the flames, even with your expanded vision yet you are able to make out bits and pieces.

This is all so serial...you feel as if you’re watching a movie unfold rather than doing all of this yourself. This is...an out of body experience...literally...None of this could ever occur in real life. In fact, it shouldn’t occur even in-game! This is all way more than a simple technical glitch and too realistic to be a fabricated dream.

Kaah...you have no idea what is happening…

You know that you should be freaking out at a time like this...but you feel that you have an obligation to remain collected, especially now that you’re leading an expedition into the unknown…

...

Huh…

You haven’t thought of that yet.

Is there a possibility...that your mind had been changed, along with your body?

You should have been afraid after seeing what had become of you in the arena’s mirror flooring, but...you didn’t feel out of place...nor unnatural. Just confused and worried that you won’t be able to be yourself again. Another thing that you’ve noticed is that you’re no longer tired. You had stayed up very late to watch the servers shut off. Plus you’ve been doing some mentally straining tasks since this whole ordeal started...yet you’re not feeling any fatigue. To be ready for player raids, you had made Sōsaku-sha with racial traits to prevent the need for rest not to mention that Sōsaku-sha has immunity to most mind-affecting effects...so is this a result of that? The spell Sleep and other similar status attacks are still effective on your avatar so why aren’t you feeling tired?

You love to sleep so you hope it’s something you can still do.

What else is different then? Will these changes affect who you are?... Who you are as a person? Your mentality?

If these mental changes have a large effect or are erasing how you, yourself, see the world you’ll need to quickly make a...some sort of list of how to properly act so you don’t stray morally. Your will may be your own but that doesn't mean that it can’t be affected. You want to cling on to your humanity.

The fire that surrounds the three of you dissipates as you slow down in your descent, the mountains drawing near.

“My creator, what was all that about?! I don’t believe that was a magical attack.” Jest Messages you in surprise as he takes a look back from the direction you all came from.

You don’t know how to explain the logistics of...astronomy or the facts behind atmospheres so you try to find a very up in the air answer. Knowing you’re no longer in space, you speak out loud. “Planets, such as the world below, have natural barriers, called atmospheres, that prevent outside threats from making landfall on them! A way to counteract that is...by regulating speed! The reason why we caught fire is because we approached it too fast! However, time is of the essence and I knew the buffs would protect us!”

Nictis howls at your explanation, no longer using Message to communicate, “Perceptive, our creator is! To be able to foresee the danger ahead!” The embers of light that serve as his pupils narrow down as he turns to the now visible snowy cliffs. “So how should we go about eliminating the threat?!

Huh?

Jest growls as he glares at the surface below, “Shall we destroy the planet for daring to harm you, my creator?!”

“HAHA! Destroy the planet?! That was a good one Jest-” The joy that spotted up to you shrivels up when you see the vampire’s serious expression. He wasn’t joking. Not at all. “Aehhaha...No, Jest! We aren’t going to bring any harm to this planet!” You shift your vision back and forth between the two undead, only now realizing that Nictis has the same desire and understanding what he meant by ‘eliminating the threat’. “None of us are going to. This planet may contain answers to our situation. We didn’t play by the rules of the world so that’s why we got burned. Thankfully, though…” You slow your descent as you prepare to land on the snowy peak of one mountain, “I have ways around those rules.”

Deactivating Ascend, you land on the rocky snowy surface in a puff of snow, the cold only now starting to seep its way into your core.

Metal clanking to your right and a heavy thump to your left audibly signals to you that your scouts have landed.

“Mm…”A rumble echoes in the wendigo’s chest causing you to turn your head in their direction as they step forward to gaze across the hilly landscape, pupils dilating in doing so. Their breath fogs out of their mouth as they sigh, “This is similar to the mountains I used to live on...back before I was summoned by our creator.”

“Wah! Really?!” Jest’s mouth stays agape as they look frantically around, appearing way more pleased by the second. It’s only a moment before he finds out that his breath fogs up from the cold. Once he does, he breathes out puffs of air reminding you of a child in his goofy acts. His smile splits his face as he starts to dance around you. “My creator, look at me! I’m a frost dragon!” He bellows out a puff of air to emphasize his point with a bizarre pose of his limbs.

He is able to win a bubble of laughter out of you as you watch him dance. At the sound of your joy, he looks incredibly pleased with himself and starts to dance even more vigorously to get another sound of laughter out of you. He continues to do so while you spread your vision to take in the environment.

It is a frozen, alien world.

You’ve never seen a mountain in person before...well, one that isn’t covered in houses and trash. It appears as a crystalline paradise. The snow appears to be like powdered sugar atop the cliff faces though the damp wet cold beneath your feet tells you otherwise. For miles, this rocky ocean stretches out to the horizons enveloping this world, as you know it, in a sheen of ice. You can tell that these mountains aren’t incredibly high since the few clouds that scatter the landscape calmly drift above, shying from the light breeze that tickles fingers across your skin.

Tilting your head back to see if there were any clouds overhead you were met with a glorious sight.

It is...stunning. You had never seen a night sky with such clarity before. Back in the real world, you live in an apartment in a crowded city. Despite the fact that you lived in a much better part of the metropolis, you still spent some lonely nights peering out over your balcony, watching the world below buzz with life but the sky dead as the void itself. If you were lucky you’d be able to see one or two stars beyond the smog that constantly drifted overhead...or maybe those were just planes...

Pale light casts down from the sparkling heavens above reminding you what Earth once possessed before your time. You inserted scenery into Yggdrasil that was impossible to see anymore in the real world due to pollution. Still, this natural scenery couldn’t be compared with what you had developed in Yggdrasil, only giving further proof that this might not be your game anymore.

Nothing could compare to this.

“It's...so beautiful…” You choke out as Nictis struts back to you. You continue as you expand your vision even further to take in more of the sky, “It's like heaven’s tears or a rich woman’s throat…”

“Mmm, I agree.” The chirps of Nictis' jaw pull you out of your thoughts to see him looking up as you are, “On most nights when I couldn’t find a good hunt, I’d stare up into the sky…it was of great comfort to me...it still is...”

“Is it really?”

Nictis nods lightly as they pull down their skull to look at you, “Didn’t you create it, my creator? The night sky...back where you summoned me from?”

You mull over Midgards’ constellations from Yggdrasil and try to compare it to this...You couldn’t. “Yes. I did.”

You don't know why but you feel that Nictis sends you a small smile as their pupils dilate some. "...Thank you."

“Oh! My creator!” Your attention snaps back to Jest as he is currently doing a handstand to your left, “There are flowers beneath your feet!”

Huh?

You look down and sure enough, a patch of healthy sprouting grass with spurts of tiny colorful wildflowers that vary in array surround the small area in which you are standing.

Oh, jeez. You literally had to land in the one spot where there were flowers...but...you don’t remember seeing them when you landed...In fact, how is this greenery sprouting in such harsh terrain?

You take a few small steps back to investigate the strange growths-

Grass and wildflowers sprout out of the ground, trailing your feet as you move.

Gasps escape from not only the NPCs but from you at the strange display.

“Well...this is quite bizarre.”

This whole situation is bizarre! This is only a grain of salt compared to everything else!

“Is this not your doing, my creator?”

“If it is then I’m completely oblivious to it. I don’t believe that I have perks that would cause such growths…” You lift your foot quizzically to look at the bundle of green. “...In fact, I don’t believe that there’s a perk that can do this…” The plants don’t wither without you, neither do they seem to be affected by the climate! There are various spells that could allow this to occur such as Grow Plant but you’re not using any magic. You know this because you clearly don’t remember casting any...and you didn’t feel the same sensation that came with casting or depleting MP. You place your slightly damp foot back down on the cushion below to steady your stance.

They both gasp as if they realized something.

“The grass is making sure their feet aren’t soiled from the dirt! Amazing!”

Woaaah! Even the soil knows when to bow down to our creator’s majesty!”

...What?

“Erm...well, I...I don’t think that’s how it works.” You huff before facing the opposite direction from them, “Nevertheless, that is not of importance at the moment. Let us investigate this region.” You face the two undead who’ve now seemed to grow serious at your words. “Nictis...this terrain is similar to your homeland. You’ll have an increasingly better time noticing tracks, scents, and any leads that can help us draw conclusions about this world. In addition, you’ll probably be able to guide us through the safest routes. I will trust you to lead us. Is this a task you’re willing to take?”

The wendigo’s eyelights seem to bore into you as they quickly mull over your words, letting out a grunt of an affirmative. “I may only have limited experience beyond hunting but I shall do as you ask. I’ve already taken the initiative to look around and I’ve found some decent paths which we can travel.”

“That is great news. Jest.” You hear the scratching of the jester’s hooks clanking on the ground as they stand upright, “You’ll be our lookout. I want Nictis’ full attention on finding clues and securing this immediate area. You will keep an eye out for any threats or anything of interest. I’m trusting you to keep us safe.”

“I will not fail you.” They bow and, upon seeing his loyal act, Nictis follows suit, both becoming resolute and determined to make your will reality.

“That’s good to hear. Before we hurry off I want to cast a few more spells among us. I held off on some of these before because I didn’t want to waste MP on buffs that may be of no use. Since that is no longer the case I will do so now.”

The two undead nod as you raise your hands.

“Odorless, Mass Silence, Rabbit Ear, Rabbit Foot, Focus Magic, Complete Vision, Hawk Eye, Shield Wall, Mass Strengthen, Undeath Slave Sight.”

You finish uttering the spells you wished to cast and the glittery lights fade off, the spells taking effect. When your vision is tripled you’re not as disoriented as you thought you would be, just surprised that the spell worked. Undeath Slave Sight lets you see through the eyes of the undead you summon. However, Nictis and Jest weren’t summoned by you...well, they kinda were so you guess that’s why it worked but they weren’t summoned by the required means-

“My creator...may I ask you something?” Jest asks while reaching up atop his head to feel the bunny ears that have sprouted out of his jester hat.

“Of course.”

“Why did you cast Odorless among us? We are undead and not the rotting ones, so we don’t produce smell.”

“Ah, yes. That is true...but I wanted to play it safe. We don’t know how strong the enemy is or if they can smell even the slightest scents. Unlike you two, I…” Actually, you don’t know what your avatar is...You don’t know why you can share emotions with others now, just like why plants grow underneath your feet but you assume that it's just one of the few things you’ll have to deal with now. You hadn’t programmed those traits into Sōsaku-sha. You know that. In fact, the only traits you had given Sōsaku-sha were ones to help you around your realm, benefits in producing products, and to fight players. Beyond that…

Your avatar doesn’t even have a race category like many others in the game. You had completely customized your avatar from scratch to be like nothing seen throughout the rest of Yggdrasil so you can’t even try to find some explanation in your memory’s knowledge of the other races. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t even fit in with the angelic and God-like races even though they are a type of deity.

You have nothing to compare your avatar to...and you feel that you’ve only scratched the surface of the mysteries of your situation. There’s so much you know...yet the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything!

A sigh escapes you as you shake your head, “...I’m not an undead...well...I don’t breathe so...maybe...I don’t think I’m an undead. I am...warm blooded unlike your races are so...there is a possibility that I could be producing a smell.”

“You don’t smell, my creator. Even before you cast Odorless, you didn’t” Jest hums with a slightly stupefied look before the wendigo raises a clawed hand

“Well, that isn’t all true…” Nictis' comment causes the vampire and you to turn your heads in the undead’s direction. “They have the slight smell of spring. I know this because I’m familiar with the season. It’s the smell of life returning with the sweet flowers and dew drops. It’s also a smell that tells me that hunting will be easier for the time being…” Nictis trails off, looking distant as heavier globs of drool start running out of their mouth.

“A-aha...so I’m guessing I don’t smell bad, right?” You almost take a step back from Jest as they start sniffing in your direction, seemingly forgetting that you’ve cast Odorless on yourself already. You’re starting to guess that Jest may be a very...straight forward thinker...or...one-track minded...simple headed...yeah.

“Of course, my creator.” Nictis chest rumbles as they start to walk, “Over here is a path we can take. It may be a little slippery but I’m sure we can manage.”

“Ah, then please, lead the way.” You activate Ascend to keep from making more grass and flower trails. It’d be a waste to put so much effort into making sure that you three’s presence will go unnoticed just to give it away with your feet. “Remember, Mass Fly is still in effect so if any of you have trouble then you can use it.

“Yes, my creator.” They both say at the same time as you all start to search the area.

After a few minutes, you realize how nimble Nictis is.

The wendigo wasn’t lying when they said that the terrain reminded them of their old home. You’ve all only been on the mountain for a handful of time, yet he maneuvers over the rocks and ice like it’s the back of his hand. Like a gorilla swinging through the branches of the jungle, their long slender arms allow themselves to grab onto ledges inhumanly far away and their hooked claws allow them to find even the smallest of outcroppings to hang onto as they make their way across the terrain.

Jest isn’t so different in anatomy and proves to be very agile in the cold environment. You had thought that his hooked feet would make it difficult to keep his footing but he seems to use the blades as an advantage, utilizing them as picks. Sometimes he reminded you of a trapeze artist by how he’d swing around with a slight smirk on his face.

You just continued to float between the pair as you all looked for clues.

There isn’t much to find, however. The mountains seem completely barren of all life.

You expected to at least seen an animal crawling over the rocks or even a bird flying in the distance by now...but nothing. When you voice your concern to Nictis he simply hums, “That is a natural occurrence, my creator. It is typically hard to find game in environments like this. There is no vegetation up here so it gives no reason for the living ones that eat such to come up this high. The same can be said for the meat-eaters since their prey doesn’t come up here."

“Oh... Then, should we fly to a lower altitude to save on time?”

“We will if you desire.” Nictis stops in place to turn their head to you. “However, those seeking shelter will typically go up here to hide from predators and to protect the things that they hold dear...I believe that it’d be wise to continue as we are. Creatures of higher intellect are typically among those who reside at these levels...ones that may have enough sense to interrogate.”

Huh. He does have a point there...and if you continue as you are and are unable to find anything that could potentially be dangerous then you can start making moves to set up base here.

“I will trust your judgment. We’ll continue as we are.”

Nictis nods, “As you wish.” He turns and continues in the direction he was heading in.

It’s only a matter of time until the other group will use Message to call off your search so the possibility of finding answers in the near future starts to dwindle off as the seconds tick by. You sigh at the thought but try to keep your hopes up.

Well, even if you’re all not able to get anything from this at least you’ve taken steps. Baby steps but that’s still progress. That progress means that you’ll be able to start making camps in this general area to spread out like a web of information. Hell, maybe you even start colonizing this area. Start building a...a...a functioning society. Yeah, and the more that they will spread the more information that will be gathered…

But…

What are you even expecting to find?

You don’t think that there is an answer in the world that could describe what has happened to you. Not unless everyone else here is like you…

...

Wait. Is there a possibility of other players here? In this world?!

You look out to the starry horizon with a newfound emotion.

What if there are other players from Yggdrasil here?! T-that is a possibility. You’re here...so it’s only reasonable to assume such.

....

You got it.

You know what you must do now.

You will use your resources and efforts together to search for other players.

You have an obligation to do so since you can’t help but feel that this situation may be your fault. Your game...Yggdrasil did something. You’re stuck in your avatar so it's only reasonable to assume such. You can’t be the only one. If you do find them…what then? Apologize? They may be scared, pissed, or all the above...they might blame you for this predicament...but you’re sure no one would want to be alone at a time like this. You feel that way. You’re lucky to have such loyal NPCs...Mmmm...Yeah, that seems to be the right thing to do. You wouldn’t hold it against them if they lashed out at you either. They may have lives that they need to get back to. You too have a life of your own as well but first, you want to find others before you start searching for a way to go back to the real world.

Yes, you know your mission now. This web of information gathering will start here and you will spread across the globe to find the answers you desire.

“Hold up.” Nictis stops in place, causing Jest and you to freeze as you watch the bunny ears on top of his head twitch. “I hear something...”

“I don’t hear anything-” Jest whispers causing the wendigo to hiss.

Quiet. Listen...”

The three of you stay very still, practically statues as you all desperately do as Nictis said. A breeze as light as the flap of a butterfly wing is all you hear. The whole world seems empty besides your group. You frown despite not having a face at the thought of the whole planet being empty. Not a single soul living beside the NPCs and you.

There. This way.” Nictis moves incredibly fast. Faster than what you thought could be possible on a terrain like this.

“What?! What did you hear?!” Jest calls out again but Nictis continues without as much as a slight glance over his shoulder. You too didn’t hear a thing even with your own pair of rabbit ears and it makes you wonder what he could have possibly heard in this silent world.

Jest and you follow close in suit as the wendigo runs. Only a minute or a half passes when he stops again to listen. It’s a still, short moment before a quick “That way.” is thrown out and he’s running once more. He repeats this process and every time he does you can only try to assume what he’s hearing. You can see through his eyes but you can’t hear with his ears. You prepare yourself mentally for what he believes he hears. You don’t want to ask him since you don’t want to break his concentration even though you know that he will answer you. Soon enough, you’ll figure out what he’s looking for since he’s stopping less and less frequently to listen.

Here!” Nictis skids to a halt in front of a hollow cave that leads to...a wall of rocks?

“What’s this?” Jest plops down beside the undead as he starts to feel around the surface, rabbit ears twitching as he does so.

“Can’t you hear it?”

“Hear what?”

“There’s air moving around here.” Now that he says it, you do hear a small hiss of something. Is it really the rocks? “There’s a tunnel beyond these boulders.”

“How can you tell?” Jest spreads his arms out as the other climbs up the rocks in search of something. You can see through his eyes that he’s looking in between the crevices of the pile for that said thing.

“I’ve memorized every sound a mountain can make so that I could find prey easily. Any obscurity can’t escape my senses...even if it is as little as a peephole of a whistle…” As Nictis finishes speaking he sticks a claw into a crack, finding the source of the noise. He jumps down, satisfied by what he’s found. “Although it is common that avalanches cause pile-ups such as this…” He turns to you two, pupils dilating as he speaks, “this is not the case here. These were intentionally placed here to block off the tunnel on the other side. I can tell by how it is piled.”

Wow, you are truly grateful that Jest picked out a wendigo for this mission. You don’t think you could have had a better pick for this biome. “Can you tell what kind of creature had this placed here?”

He shakes his head lamentingly, “Unfortunately not, my creator. These boulders have been here for around for a century or more. It shows how much ice and snow has fused to the rocks even when this area is protected from the weather. If it was a creature that could produce scents then I can no longer smell it.”

Hmm, that is peculiar...Could it be that whoever placed it here is dead? It is very likely. If they were still alive and had gone to visit this tunnel then Nictis would have probably picked up a sent. That means that this tunnel is long abandoned...well unless they don’t produce smells like undead. That means that this structure is most likely not man-made...as in not made by a human but some other kind of fantasy creature.

So this world may share more similarities with Yggdrasil that you originally thought.

If they closed off the tunnel from the inside how could they get out? Are there other tunnels that connect to the surface like this scattered around the mountain? That is a good possibility...but then why would they need to close off this entrance? Was it to prevent something harmful from coming in...or was it to lock something inside?

“Can you tell from which side the tunnel was blocked off from?”

“It was closed off from the inside. There are no boulders out here, farther from the entrance, and when I felt along the inside of the hole I found out that the pile goes in further.”

So they were inside...What does that mean for you?

....

Well, at least you know that you’re not alone in this world...or that there used to be living creatures here. If anything, this is your first big lead in finding information.

“My creator, what do you suggest we do?” Jest looks up to you as if ready to take on any assignment you could dish out at him.

You glance in between the two undead. They both look like they want to storm into whatever is on the other side...and you’re not going to lie and say that you don’t.

In fact, you want to bust down the wall of rocks yourself and waste no time scrounging around for any information you can get your hands on.

As you’re about to confirm your intent, a familiar ping goes off in your head.

It’s a Message.

You waste no time answering, “Hello?”

“My creator, it is I. Skinner. I wanted to give you our report on the surrounding terrain outside the Seiun.”

Ah! That’s right. “So you’ve finished your search then. What was the result?”

“Malum, Ukara, and I found nothing of familiarity. Besides the planet and its moon, there are no other nearby landmasses. It is more of this night sky in every other direction.”

You’re all out in the middle of nowhere...just as you feared you’d be. Sigh...well...it could be worse. You could have been dropped off amidst enemy territory without the support of your NPCs. Thank God that didn't happen. “Thank you for informing me of this.”

“Of course...my creator? Will you be returning soon then?”

....

Augh! That’s right! You had said that you’d return once they had Messaged you and you’d all go back to the Citadel to meet up with the Anointed. Those five are probably in the arena, awaiting your return.

But that was before you found a clue!

You really want to find out what kind of information this cave holds. While it is true that you can return at any time to crack it open, this may be your first true step forward. Maybe you can find out what had happened to the creature that had built this barrier. Even if you find a pile of bones, scraps of clothes, anything...it’ll fill a lot of burning questions weighing on your mind...It may add more but it’ll answer something.

However, unlike this cave, the spells you cast on your group won’t last forever. The three NPCs waiting for you near the Seiun will be in big trouble if you don’t do anything. Not only that but you’d be going back on your word. You don’t want the NPCs to start to think that you don’t mean what you say straight off the first hour or so you’ve been in this situation. In addition, the Anointed and the members of the Unmei no gundan you sent back are also waiting for you. It would be slightly cruel of you to make them wait and worry longer than they have to. Finally, you had set up that visit with the Anointed and if you’re not punctual to your own meeting then what kind of a ruler will they see you as?

“My creator?” Jest asks again, informing you that you don’t have forever to make a choice.

 

What will you do?

Investigate the tunnel despite pressing matters.

Return to the Citadel despite your desires.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: CALL OF THE WILD MAN

“Let’s head for that forest.” You point to the collection of dark green pinched between the mountains and the plains, “That’s our best bet with finding other living creatures, not to mention the resources we can extract from the environment.” That way you can spread your information gathering tactics from there with the cover of the biome. Since it is centered amongst the rest of the terrain it will only aid you in spreading scouts. In addition, there are other biomes near the forest that could serve as valuable sources of mining and farming.

“An excellent move, my creator.” Nictis bares their teeth at you in what you suspect to be their form of a smile(?), their spit slinging off into space as they turn their head to face you. You hum an affirmative in Message as you watch the globs of drool freeze as they drift off into the dark vacuum of the starry void.

You suspect that the reason you all aren’t popsicles at the moment is due to the protective spells and buffs you've cast on the party. Thankfully they’ll last long enough for when you suspect to return.

“Stay close together as we approach. There may be dangers that lie ahead.” Although very unlikely if this situation was that of Earth, Yggdrasil’s forests are a spawning point of various low to high level beasts, depending on which one you go to. If this world is the same as Yggdrasil you suspect that you may run into trouble. “Until we secure an area, we are not to separate by any means. Is that clear?”

“Yes, my creator!” Jest and Nictis call out simultaneously, signaling you to start forward.

As you plummet to the planet below the two NPCs take stride, sticking very close to your sides as you draw near to what you suspect to be the planet’s atmosphere.

“I’ve already cast protection spells on each of you so when you’re enveloped in flames do not fear. You will come to no harm.” You say this because you start to feel a sudden shift in temperature. You know that it may be a possibility that, at the speed your group is traveling, it may come about as a reality with your limited knowledge of rockets and meteors. Undead are weak to fire so you don’t want them to freak out and think that they’re going to die.

“I will not fear anything while I’m beside you, my creator!” Jest’s cackle echoes in your head while he does raise a hairless brow, “However, I don’t understand why we would-” He cuts himself off as a bubble of orange envelopes your bodies, immediately warming your forms from the freezing plane you’re now leaving.

None of you share any words as you all strive to breach the planet's natural shield together. It is very difficult to see past the flames, even with your expanded vision yet you are able to make out bits and pieces.

This is all so serial...you feel as if you’re watching a movie unfold rather than doing all of this yourself. This is...an out of body experience...literally...None of this could ever occur in real life. In fact, it shouldn’t occur even in-game! This is all way more than a simple technical glitch and too realistic to be a fabricated dream.

Kaah...you have no idea what is happening…

You know that you should be freaking out at a time like this...but you feel that you have an obligation to remain collected, especially now that you’re leading an expedition into the unknown…

...

Huh…

You haven’t thought of that yet.

Is there a possibility...that your mind had been changed, along with your body?

You should have been afraid after seeing what had become of you in the arena’s mirror flooring, but...you didn’t feel out of place...nor unnatural. Just confused and worried that you won’t be able to be yourself again. Another thing that you’ve noticed is that you’re no longer tired. You had stayed up very late to watch the servers shut off. Plus you’ve been doing some mentally straining tasks since this whole ordeal started...yet you’re not feeling any fatigue. To be ready for player raids, you had made Sōsaku-sha with racial traits to prevent the need for rest not to mention that Sōsaku-sha has immunity to most mind-affecting effects...so is this a result of that? The spell Sleep and other similar status attacks are still effective on your avatar so why aren’t you feeling tired?

You love to sleep so you hope it’s something you can still do.

What else is different then? Will these changes affect who you are?... Who you are as a person? Your mentality?

If these mental changes have a large effect or are erasing how you, yourself, see the world you’ll need to quickly make a...some sort of list of how to properly act so you don’t stray morally. Your will may be your own but that doesn't mean that it can’t be affected. You want to cling on to your humanity.

The fire that surrounds the three of you dissipates as you slow down in your descent, the forest drawing near.

“My creator, what was all that about?! I don’t believe that was a magical attack.” Jest Messages you in surprise as he takes a look back from the direction you all came from.

You don’t know how to explain the logistics of...astronomy or the facts behind atmospheres so you try to find a very up in the air answer. Knowing you’re no longer in space, you speak out loud. “Planets, such as the world below, have natural barriers, called atmospheres, that prevent outside threats from making landfall on them! A way to counteract that is...by regulating speed! The reason why we caught fire is because we approached it too fast! However, time is of the essence and I knew the buffs would protect us!”

Nictis howls at your explanation, no longer using Message to communicate, “Perceptive, our creator is! To be able to foresee the danger ahead!” The embers of light that serve as his pupils narrow down as he turns to the now visible greenery. “So how should we go about eliminating the threat?!

Huh?

Jest growls as he glares at the surface below, “Shall we destroy the planet for daring to harm you, my creator?!”

“HAHA! Destroy the planet?! That was a good one Jest-” The joy that spotted up to you shrivels up when you see the vampire’s serious expression. He wasn’t joking. Not at all. “Aehhaha...No, Jest! We aren’t going to bring any harm to this planet!” You shift your vision back and forth between the two undead, only now realizing that Nictis has the same desire and understanding what he meant by ‘eliminating the threat’. “None of us are going to. This planet may contain answers to our situation. We didn’t play by the rules of the world so that’s why we got burned. Thankfully, though…” You slow your descent as you prepare to break through the canopy, “I have ways around those rules.”

You descend through a small gap in the trees onto the forest floor below in a spray of leaves as you deactivate Ascend.

A hiss to your right and a heavy thump to your left audibly signals to you that your scouts have landed.

“Mm…”A rumble echoes in the wendigo’s chest causing you to turn your head in their direction as they step forward to peer into the thick woods, pupils dilating in doing so. The dark hair on their sickly, gray skin shifts as they sigh, “This is similar to the forest I used to live near...back before I was summoned by our creator.”

“Wah! Really?!” Jest’s mouth stays agape as they look frantically around, appearing way more pleased by the second.

“Yes, when prey would become scarce I’d travel to the forest to hunt.” The wendigo gets on all fours and starts to sniff, drool pouring out his jaws as he continues to speak. “Didn’t do it too often though. Going into another hunter’s territory can be troublesome...in some cases, it can even cause a turf war. I wasn’t looking to get myself killed.”

“Wow! I couldn’t imagine.” The vampire, using his hooks like picks, climbs up the nearest tree like a spider, also sniffing the surroundings though you doubt it is for the same reasons as Nictis. While the Reborn has experience with the scents of forests, the Disciple has very limited knowledge of anything beyond the throne room of the Citadel. You suspect that he's probably trying to familiarize himself. “That wouldn’t be an issue now, would it?”

“Our creator’s strength runs through us. Of course not...but we shouldn’t pick fights and risk putting our creator in harm’s way.”

“Agreed.”

They continue to talk blissfully about you and how they’d maul anyone who’d dare look at you the wrong way while you spread your vision to take in the environment from where you stand.

It is a luscious, wild world.

The towering canopy shades what makes up the green labyrinth below from what little light the night could provide. The shade has dropped the temperature of the forest floor but despite you being naked you’re not sensitive to the change, a surprise to you. You’re surprised that you didn’t feel the extreme cold in space nor hot while being caught on fire. You assume that it has to do with Sōsaku-sha’s tolerance to such things.

You imagine that this is what a redwood forest would look like or even a jungle but you hadn’t had the opportunity to yet, back in the real world. To do such things now in the 2130’s is something near impossible with the waitlists and the extortionate prices. The closest thing you got to experience were the ones in Yggdrasil that you had developed with the help of a few others.

You must say, man made things cannot measure up to what mother nature can produce.

Strange concept though, that this may still be Yggdrasil and these are elements that you had implemented in the game but you hardly think that is so now. Nothing, except the fact that you’re stuck in your avatar, your realm and NPCs still existing, and the magic system being generally the same, is like your game.

“My creator,” Nictis stalks back up to you, his pupils dilating as he does so, “I have taken the initiative to learn as much as I can about the surrounding environment. I have yet to secure this area but after checking there doesn’t seem to be anything more than the typical forest life in this area…” He trails off for a second, drool slipping from his maw to the mud below before shaking his skull lightly, “What would you have your servants do now?”

Jest jumps down upon hearing your conversation and you place a hand on your chin as you think. “Mmm…” You turn your attention away from the two NPCs to once again look at your surroundings. You saw these woods from outer space so you know that this place is huge. That is a lot of ground to cover. It’s only a matter of time until the other group will use Message to call off your search so the possibility of finding answers in the near future starts to dwindle off as the seconds tick by. You sigh at the thought but try to keep your hopes up. Well...there is a way to make this go faster...though you know that your companions will hate the idea. To be honest, you do too...but you want answers. “We should split up and search the area for any leads.”

“My creator, who will protect you?! S-surely you don’t mean to leave yourself without a guard!”

“Have you forgotten who I am?” You hate that you’re pulling that card but, at your words, the two NPC’s mouths shut with a click. A sigh leaves you before you continue, “You both should worry more about yourselves. Don’t think that your only purpose in life is to be my shields. You all mean way more than that to me.” You lift your hands to emphasize a point. “I’ve already cast Detect Alley on all of you. If any of us get into trouble, we’ll be able to find each other easily. The same can be said if any of us find a clue. We’re all just a Message away. Besides, we all won’t be here for long. The other three will soon be finished with their preliminary check around the Seiun. I plan to not waste the limited span we have left. We’ll cover more ground this way. Will you two comply?”

“We will not fail to do as you’ve asked.” They both bow in surrender to your will.

“That’s good to hear. Before we hurry off I want to cast a few more spells among us. I held off on some of these before because I didn’t want to waste MP on buffs that may be of no use. Since that is no longer the case I will do so now.”

The two undead nod as you raise your hands.

“Odorless, Mass Silence, Rabbit Ear, Rabbit Foot, Focus Magic, Complete Vision, Hawk Eye, Shield Wall, Mass Strengthen, Undeath Slave Sight.”

You finish uttering the spells you wished to cast and the glittery lights fade off, the spells taking effect. When your vision is tripled you’re not as disoriented as you thought you would be, just surprised that the spell worked. Undeath Slave Sight lets you see through the eyes of the undead you summon. However, Nictis and Jest weren’t summoned by you...well, they kinda were so you guess that’s why it worked but they weren’t summoned by the required means-

“My creator...may I ask you something?” Jest asks while reaching up atop his head to feel the bunny ears that have sprouted out of his jester hat.

“Of course.”

“Why did you cast Odorless among us? We are undead and not the rotting ones, so we don’t produce smell.”

“Ah, yes. That is true...but I wanted to play it safe. We don’t know how strong the enemy is or if they can smell even the slightest scents. Unlike you two, I…” Actually, you don’t know what your avatar is...You don’t know why you can share emotions with others now among other tweaks but you assume that it's just one of the few things you’ll have to deal with now. You hadn’t programmed those traits into Sōsaku-sha. You know that. In fact, the only traits you had given Sōsaku-sha were ones to help you around your realm, benefits in producing products, and to fight players. Beyond that…

Your avatar doesn’t even have a race category like many others in the game. You had completely customized your avatar from scratch to be like nothing seen throughout the rest of Yggdrasil so you can’t even try to find some explanation in your memory’s knowledge of the other races. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t even fit in with the angelic and God-like races even though they are a type of deity.

You have nothing to compare your avatar to...and you feel that you’ve only scratched the surface of the mysteries of your situation. There’s so much you know...yet the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything!

A sigh escapes you as you shake your head, “...I’m not an undead...well...I don’t breathe so...maybe...I don’t think I’m an undead. I am...warm blooded unlike your races are so...there is a possibility that I could be producing a smell.”

“You don’t smell, my creator. Even before you cast Odorless, you didn’t” Jest hums with a slightly stupefied look before the wendigo raises a clawed hand

“Well, that isn’t all true…” Nictis' comment causes the vampire and you to turn your heads in the undead’s direction. “They have the slight smell of spring. I know this because I’m familiar with the season. It’s the smell of life returning with the sweet flowers and dew drops. It’s also a smell that tells me that hunting will be easier for the time being…” Nictis trails off, looking distant as heavier globs of drool start running out of their mouth.

“A-aha...so I’m guessing I don’t smell bad, right?” You almost take a step back from Jest as they start sniffing in your direction, seemingly forgetting that you’ve cast Odorless on yourself already. You’re starting to guess that Jest may be a very...straight forward thinker...or...one-track minded...simple headed...yeah.

“Of course, my creator.” Nictis chest rumbles as they start to walk, “Then shall we start heading our separate ways?”

“Yes. Both of you stay safe. Utilize the spells which are active on you if needed.” Activating Ascend, you wave an arm in their direction, “We’ll see each other shortly.”

The undead seem to grow...sad(?) upon your words, yet they nod and start to head in their separate directions. Seeing as they do so you head off, away from them to find your own clues.

After a few minutes, you realize how easy it could be to get lost in these woods.

Everything starts to look the same with no signs of landmarks in the forest. A mushroom here. A bush there. Oh, another patch of weeds. All that and a maze of trees. It’s impossible to tell in which direction one could be moving in but that mattered little to you as you continued your search. The sky-scraping trees further intensified as though they’re swallowing you up. It truly feels that you are entering into the belly of a beast...and it fills you with awe.

You have no idea where you are headed. Off to the middle of nowhere? Someplace mystical? You have no clue...but you’re curious as to what this world holds.

Your curiosity doesn’t do you much help in finding anything though. Only the nocturnal critters of the forest seem to fill your void. A croak of a frog here. A chirp of an insect there…

You try everything in your power to find anything, using all of the senses you possess to do so.

But that is a bizarre thing you found...your senses seem to be amplified by an extraordinary amount when you focus on them.

Your sense of smell, which is one of your strangest, allows you to smell what you suspect dogs or even bears to be able to smell. The strongest scents come from the animals of course but you try not to focus on them because they aren’t releasing pleasant odors. You gag a couple of times upon smelling some of them and out of the blue muck smells that typically linger around marshland. That gunk smell had been distant but as you continue forward it is becoming more and more potent.

You realize, over time, the reason for this.

The forest that surrounds you is slowly shifting to a swamp, the ground becoming more and more covered in water and the thick humid stench of it all hangs above you, much like the vines of the trees. You had enjoyed the occasional smell of herbs, flowers, oaken, and foreign sweet odors but-Urp-you just can’t stand the smell of rotting fish right now…

You tolerate it though, wanting to remain vigilant by all means, keeping your vision wide and your ears open. You technically don’t have ears but you feel as though you have ones larger than an elephant because of how much sound you're picking up. The wind can’t even penetrate through the thicket without it catching your attention, even when it seems to approach from a miles away. The fact that you feel that you can hear that far and you hear nothing out of the ordinary is both comforting and disappointing. Well, at least you know Rabbit Ear is doing it’s part...but you do wonder how much of your hearing it has improved...

Your sense of touch doesn’t do much while you're using Ascend but it does tell you when a bird or a bug decides to hitchhike on you and which way the breeze is coming from. Your vision only does so much in an environment like this even though it keeps you well covered from all angles. You don’t know if you have a sense of taste but you will yourself to keep it off if you do. You don’t want to accidentally taste something you’d regret, especially while in the heart of a swamp. It’d be a bad choice to activate it if taste now works similar to how your other senses work.

In addition to that...there’s something...odd that you had noticed when you started to search your surroundings. You know that you have at least four out of five of your natural senses but...

You seem to have a sixth sense now.

You can’t describe it in any other way than you somehow being acutely aware of living creatures around you. You thought you were being paranoid at first when you started to expand your available senses to stay alert and you...just felt like something was...there...even when you couldn’t see, hear, or smell it. You slowly realized that wasn’t the case, though. You were proven that you’re not, in fact, going crazy when you’d feel things inside the ground or the trees only for them to pop out. It is mainly insects that prove that they were the ones hidden….but it still creeps you out. The feeling of knowing something is there is like worms wriggling and buzzing under your skin. It especially feels the most intense when you focus on particular organisms.

Despite the uncomfortable feeling, you reluctantly keep it up because it was and still is very helpful pinpointing the things that escape your other senses. It reassures you that nothing is watching you out from behind a bush. The only living things that are currently watching you are the ones you don’t mind. As long as that doesn’t change, you’ll be happy...or if something does start following you...you know Nictis and Jest would be over here in a flash and you’d all be able to start interrogating whatever it could be. If it comes to it, you could all kill it-

What-woah...hold on now. I-is that you talking?! Is that really you?!

Woah, holy shit... So your mind is affected!

You are actually prepared to kill whatever may threaten you. Even if it’s a human?!

The fact that you feel that the answer would be a solid yes hardly comes as a shock to you, but the fact that you feel nonplussed at the idea is what does startle you.

Wow. You really do need to make a rule book or a list of how you should act. Murder isn’t…it isn’t right in certain circumstances-No! NO! It shouldn’t be right under any circumstance! It is wrong! It’s-

Glittery golden light fills your vision and your mind blanks.

You freeze in mid-air, trying to figure out what you were just thinking about…

....

....

….

*sigh*...No matter how hard you try to remember what it was you can’t seem to recall the seconds prior.

Scratching your neck you hum. “Huh. I must have had a brain fart or something..." Welp, that something that future you can have a problem with. Right now, however...you need to focus on finding information.

So far you’ve found absolutely nothing. You know Jest and Nictis haven’t found anything either because they haven’t Messaged you and you haven't seen anything through their eyes.

“... I suspect that nothing will be a common factor in my life for the time being…”

Well, even if you’re all not able to get anything from this at least you’ve taken steps. Baby steps but that’s still progress. That progress means that you’ll be able to start making camps in this general area to spread out like a web of information. Hell, maybe you even start colonizing this area. Start building a...a...a functioning society. Yeah, and the more that they will spread the more information that will be gathered…

But…

What are you even expecting to find?

You don’t think that there is an answer in the world that could describe what has happened to you. Not unless everyone else here is like you…

...

Wait. Is there a possibility of other players here? In this world?!

What if there are other players from Yggdrasil here?! T-that is a possibility. You’re here...so it’s only reasonable to assume such.

....

You got it.

You know what you must do now.

You will use your resources and efforts together to search for other players.

You have an obligation to do so since you can’t help but feel that this situation may be your fault. Your game...Yggdrasil did something. You’re stuck in your avatar so it's only reasonable to assume such. You can’t be the only one. If you do find them…what then? Apologize? They may be scared, pissed, or all the above...they might blame you for this predicament...but you’re sure no one would want to be alone at a time like this. You feel that way. You’re lucky to have such loyal NPCs...Mmmm...Yeah, that seems to be the right thing to do. You wouldn’t hold it against them if they lashed out at you either. They may have lives that they need to get back to. You too have a life of your own as well but first, you want to find others before you start searching for a way to go back to the real world.

Yes, you know your mission now. This web of information gathering will start here and you will spread across the globe to find the answers you desire.

Clenching your fists you look up with a burning in your chest, “I will find you, don’t worry. You’re not alone...I will find you all! This I promise!!!”

What meets your outcry is an echo of your strange, lone voice as you stare out a small opening in the canopy to the night sky above.

It is...stunning. You had never seen a night sky with such clarity before. Back in the real world, you live in an apartment in a crowded city. Despite the fact that you lived in a much better part of the metropolis, you still spent some lonely nights peering out over your balcony, watching the world below buzz with life but the sky dead as the void itself. If you were lucky you’d be able to see one or two stars beyond the smog that constantly drifted overhead...or maybe those were just planes...

Pale light casts down from the sparkling heavens above reminding you what Earth once possessed before your time. You inserted scenery into Yggdrasil that was impossible to see anymore in the real world due to pollution. Still, this natural scenery couldn’t be compared with what you had developed in Yggdrasil, only giving further proof that this might not be your game anymore.

Nothing could compare to this…

You smile.

...

The sight gives you hope...the hope that you will succeed.

“I promise…” You shift your gaze outward again to continue where you left off on your search-“Wait...is that?

Floating down to see if it’s actually what you think you’re seeing and sure enough, it is.

In the mud are some very large footprints, way over a foot in width with long thin drags in front of the four toe imprints. It must have some wicked claws, you assume. Is it a bear?

You lower yourself onto the ground and crouch down to it to get a better look at one.

Wait, do bears even go in swamps? No, it isn’t a bear… You’re sure bears have five toes with pads… this print doesn’t seem to have any of those. Everything seems connected in some weird way, like it’s all just one big slab. You look up the trail it has left in its wake and try to see if you can tell how many legs it has. As you look between the spacing of each you start to have a tinkling of a feeling that it only has two as no other footprints overlap in the line.

What kind of creature is this?! None from Earth, you’re sure. However, you can pinpoint a few possibilities from Yggdrasil...but is this even the same?

You may need help with this-

A familiar ping goes off in your head.

It’s a Message.

You waste no time answering, “Hello?”

“My creator, it is I. Skinner. I wanted to give you our report on the surrounding terrain outside the Seiun.”

Ah! That’s right. “So you’ve finished your search then. What was the result?”

“Malum, Ukara, and I found nothing of familiarity. Besides the planet and its moon, there are no other nearby landmasses. It is more of this night sky in every other direction.”

You’re all out in the middle of nowhere...just as you feared you’d be. Sigh...well...it could be worse. You could have been dropped off amidst enemy territory without the support of your NPCs. Thank God that didn't happen. “Thank you for informing me of this.”

“Of course...my creator? Will you be returning soon then?”

....

Augh! That’s right! You had said that you’d return once they had Messaged you and you’d all go back to the Citadel to meet up with the Anointed. Those five are probably in the arena, awaiting your return.

But that was before you found a clue!

You really want to find out what kind of creature made these prints. If you leave now you might not get the opportunity to follow where these tracks lead. These tracks may be gone by the time you or you send someone else. These prints can’t be that old because the mud doesn’t look like it has dried much. There’s a large possibility that whatever this thing is...it’s still alive. If you’re able to get anything from it then it’ll be more than what you have now.

However, similar to these prints, the spells you cast on your group won’t last forever. The three NPCs waiting for you near the Seiun will be in big trouble if you don’t do anything. Not only that but you’d be going back on your word. You don’t want the NPCs to start to think that you don’t mean what you say straight off the first hour or so you’ve been in this situation. In addition, the Anointed and the members of the Unmei no gundan you sent back are also waiting for you. It would be slightly cruel of you to make them wait and worry longer than they have to. Finally, you had set up that visit with the Anointed and if you’re not punctual to your own meeting then what kind of a ruler will they see you as?

“My creator?” Skinner asks again, informing you that you don’t have forever to make a choice.

 

What will you do?

Investigate the prints despite pressing matters.

Return to the Citadel despite your desires.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: EXCUSE ME

“Let’s head for the plains.” You point to the collection of light green located to the south of the forest and mountains, “While it may not provide much coverage, plains are the perfect terrain for farmers or other similar occupations...if there are any. It’ll be discreet, off the grid.” In addition to that, they’ll be creatures with higher levels of intelligence than what you could probably find in the other biomes. That way you can spread your information gathering tactics from there with the cover of the biome. Since it is centered amongst the rest of the terrain it will only aid you in spreading scouts. In addition, there is a forest that could potentially serve as a valuable source of various resources among farming.

“A cunning move, my creator.” Nictis bares their teeth at you in what you suspect to be their form of a smile(?), their spit slinging off into space as they turn their head to face you. You hum an affirmative in Message as you watch the globs of drool freeze as they drift off into the dark vacuum of the starry void.

You suspect that the reason you all aren’t popsicles at the moment is due to the protective spells and buffs you've cast on the party. Thankfully they’ll last long enough for when you suspect to return.

“Stay close together as we approach. There may be dangers that lie ahead.” Although very unlikely if this situation was that of Earth, Yggdrasil’s plains are a spawning point of various low level beasts however, higher level beasts do sometimes find their way there during events or specials. If this world is the same as Yggdrasil you suspect that you may run into trouble. “Until we secure an area, we are not to separate by any means. Is that clear?”

“Yes, my creator!” Jest and Nictis call out simultaneously, signaling you to start forward.

As you plummet to the planet below the two NPCs take stride, sticking very close to your sides as you draw near to what you suspect to be the planet’s atmosphere.

“I’ve already cast protection spells on each of you so when you’re enveloped in flames do not fear. You will come to no harm.” You say this because you start to feel a sudden shift in temperature. You know that it may be a possibility that, at the speed your group is traveling, it may come about as a reality with your limited knowledge of rockets and meteors. Undead are weak to fire so you don’t want them to freak out and think that they’re going to die.

“I will not fear anything while I’m beside you, my creator!” Jest’s cackle echoes in your head while he does raise a hairless brow, “However, I don’t understand why we would-” He cuts himself off as a bubble of orange envelopes your bodies, immediately warming your forms from the freezing plane you’re now leaving.

None of you share any words as you all strive to breach the planet's natural shield together. It is very difficult to see past the flames, even with your expanded vision yet you are able to make out bits and pieces.

This is all so serial...you feel as if you’re watching a movie unfold rather than doing all of this yourself. This is...an out of body experience...literally...None of this could ever occur in real life. In fact, it shouldn’t occur even in-game! This is all way more than a simple technical glitch and too realistic to be a fabricated dream.

Kaah...you have no idea what is happening…

You know that you should be freaking out at a time like this...but you feel that you have an obligation to remain collected, especially now that you’re leading an expedition into the unknown…

...

Huh…

You haven’t thought of that yet.

Is there a possibility...that your mind had been changed, along with your body?

You should have been afraid after seeing what had become of you in the arena’s mirror flooring, but...you didn’t feel out of place...nor unnatural. Just confused and worried that you won’t be able to be yourself again. Another thing that you’ve noticed is that you’re no longer tired. You had stayed up very late to watch the servers shut off. Plus you’ve been doing some mentally straining tasks since this whole ordeal started...yet you’re not feeling any fatigue. To be ready for player raids, you had made Sōsaku-sha with racial traits to prevent the need for rest not to mention that Sōsaku-sha has immunity to most mind-affecting effects...so is this a result of that? The spell Sleep and other similar status attacks are still effective on your avatar so why aren’t you feeling tired?

You love to sleep so you hope it’s something you can still do.

What else is different then? Will these changes affect who you are?... Who you are as a person? Your mentality?

If these mental changes have a large effect or are erasing how you, yourself, see the world you’ll need to quickly make a...some sort of list of how to properly act so you don’t stray morally. Your will may be your own but that doesn't mean that it can’t be affected. You want to cling on to your humanity.

The fire that surrounds the three of you dissipates as you slow down in your descent, the plains drawing near.

“My creator, what was all that about?! I don’t believe that was a magical attack.” Jest Messages you in surprise as he takes a look back from the direction you all came from.

You don’t know how to explain the logistics of...astronomy or the facts behind atmospheres so you try to find a very up in the air answer. Knowing you’re no longer in space, you speak out loud. “Planets, such as the world below, have natural barriers, called atmospheres, that prevent outside threats from making landfall on them! A way to counteract that is...by regulating speed! The reason why we caught fire is because we approached it too fast! However, time is of the essence and I knew the buffs would protect us!”

Nictis howls at your explanation, no longer using Message to communicate, “Perceptive, our creator is! To be able to foresee the danger ahead!” The embers of light that serve as his pupils narrow down as he turns to the now visible greenery. “So how should we go about eliminating the threat?!”

Huh?

Jest growls as he glares at the surface below, “Shall we destroy the planet for daring to harm you, my creator?!”

“HAHA! Destroy the planet?! That was a good one Jest-” The joy that spotted up to you shrivels up when you see the vampire’s serious expression. He wasn’t joking. Not at all. “Aehhaha...No, Jest! We aren’t going to bring any harm to this planet!” You shift your vision back and forth between the two undead, only now realizing that Nictis has the same desire and understanding what he meant by ‘eliminating the threat’. “None of us are going to. This planet may contain answers to our situation. We didn’t play by the rules of the world so that’s why we got burned. Thankfully, though…” You slow your descent as you prepare to land, “I have ways around those rules.”

Deactivating Ascend, you land on the patchy Earth, the grass swallowing you up to your knees.

A hiss to your right and a heavy thump to your left audibly signals to you that your scouts have landed.

“Mm…”A rumble echoes in the wendigo’s chest causing you to turn your head in their direction as they step forward to peer across the flat grassland, pupils dilating in doing so. The dark hair on their sickly, gray skin shifts as they sigh, “I’ve never been on a field before... Are there a lot of game here, my creator?”

“Game?”

“Animals to hunt.”

“Ah! Yes... Yes, there is if you look in the right spots. Many larger herd animals graze in fields like these and smaller animals live under the cover of the grass.”

The wendigo gets on all fours and starts to sniff, drool pouring out his jaws at your words, “Ah~... Fascinating…”

Well, Nictis seems content. You shift your vision to see what Jest is up to.

Jest’s mouth stays agape as they look upward, appearing way more pleased by the second as his red eyes seem to glitter, “Wow…”

“Hm?” You follow Jest’s gaze to see what has caught his attention-

You are met with a glorious sight.

It is...stunning. You had never seen a night sky with such clarity before. Back in the real world, you live in an apartment in a crowded city. Despite the fact that you lived in a much better part of the metropolis, you still spent some lonely nights peering out over your balcony, watching the world below buzz with life but the sky dead as the void itself. If you were lucky you’d be able to see one or two stars beyond the smog that constantly drifted overhead...or maybe those were just planes...

Pale light casts down from the sparkling heavens above reminding you what Earth once possessed before your time. You inserted scenery into Yggdrasil that was impossible to see anymore in the real world due to pollution. Still, this natural scenery couldn’t be compared with what you had developed in Yggdrasil, only giving further proof that this might not be your game anymore.

Nothing could compare to this.

“It's...so beautiful…” You choke out as Nictis struts back to the two of you. You continue as you expand your vision even further to take in more of the sky, “It's like embers of life or drifting snow…”

“Mmm, I agree.” The chirps of Nictis' jaw pull you out of your thoughts to see him looking up as you are, “On most nights when I couldn’t find a good hunt, I’d stare up into the sky…it was of great comfort to me...it still is...”

“Is it really?”

Nictis nods lightly as they pull down their skull to look at you, “Didn’t you create it, my creator? The night sky...back where you summoned me from?”

You mull over Midgards’ constellations from Yggdrasil and try to compare it to this...You couldn’t. “Yes. I did.”

You don't know why but you feel that Nictis sends you a small smile as their pupils dilate some. "...Thank you."

Before you can ask why he thanked you Jest’s hiss of a voice pulls you away, “How can so much light sparkle in the dark? What are those gems?”

“Gems? Is that what you call stars?”

“Oh? Is that what these are called? Thank you for informing me, my creator.” He sends you a heart-melting smile which only makes you feel bad. He doesn’t know what stars are because he’s always trapped in the throne room. He thought the stars are gems because that is among the few things that glitter in his extravagant cell.

Dropping your head you smack a hand to your blank face. “*sigh*, I really am the worst.”

“M-my creator!” Nictis growls not at you but at the idea of your comment, “Why would you say such a thing?!”

“You are perfection incarnate!” Jest jumps on the bandwagon with distaste hanging heavy on his thin lips, “Do not speak harshly of yourself!”

“N-no, no… I’m just ridiculing myself for something stupid… I uh...I’m making note to make some needed changes for you all, don’t mind me…” When you get back you’ll make sure all of the Disciples, Anointed, and Reborn all have more freedom. Thankfully you already called the Anointed to a meeting. You can bring it up then when you return. Shifting your vision, they still seem to be miffed by what you said so you decide to change the subject. “However...let’s not get distracted from our mission. We should start our search for information.”

“My creator,” Nictis rasps, his pupils dilating as he does so, “I have taken the initiative to learn as much as I can about the surrounding environment. There doesn’t seem to be anything more than the small creatures that you spoke of…” He trails off for a second, drool slipping from his maw to the grass below before shaking his skull lightly, “What would you have your servants do now?”

The undead watch closely as you place a hand on your chin as you think. “Mmm…” You turn your attention away from the two NPCs to take a quick look at your surroundings. You saw these fields from outer space so you know that this place is huge. That is a lot of ground to cover. It’s only a matter of time until the other group will use Message to call off your search so the possibility of finding answers in the near future starts to dwindle off as the seconds tick by. You sigh at the thought but try to keep your hopes up. Well...there is a way to make this go faster...though you know that your companions will hate the idea. To be honest, you do too...but you want answers. “We should split up and search the area for any leads.”

“My creator, who will protect you?! S-surely you don’t mean to leave yourself without a guard!”

“Have you forgotten who I am?” You hate that you’re pulling that card but, at your words, the two NPC’s mouths shut with a click. A sigh leaves you before you continue, “You both should worry more about yourselves. Don’t think that your only purpose in life is to be my shields. You all mean way more than that to me.” You lift your hands to emphasize a point. “I’ve already cast Detect Alley on all of you. If any of us get into trouble, we’ll be able to find each other easily. The same can be said if any of us find a clue. We’re all just a Message away. Besides, we all won’t be here for long. The other three will soon be finished with their preliminary check around the Seiun. I plan to not waste the limited span we have left. We’ll cover more ground this way. Will you two comply?”

“We will not fail to do as you’ve asked.” They both bow in surrender to your will.

“That’s good to hear. Before we hurry off I want to cast a few more spells among us. I held off on some of these before because I didn’t want to waste MP on buffs that may be of no use. Since that is no longer the case I will do so now.”

The two undead nod as you raise your hands.

“Odorless, Mass Silence, Rabbit Ear, Rabbit Foot, Focus Magic, Complete Vision, Hawk Eye, Shield Wall, Mass Strengthen, Undeath Slave Sight.”

You finish uttering the spells you wished to cast and the glittery lights fade off, the spells taking effect. When your vision is tripled you’re not as disoriented as you thought you would be, just surprised that the spell worked. Undeath Slave Sight lets you see through the eyes of the undead you summon. However, Nictis and Jest weren’t summoned by you...well, they kinda were so you guess that’s why it worked but they weren’t summoned by the required means-

“My creator...may I ask you something?” Jest asks while reaching up atop his head to feel the bunny ears that have sprouted out of his jester hat.

“Of course.”

“Why did you cast Odorless among us? We are undead and not the rotting ones, so we don’t produce smell.”

“Ah, yes. That is true...but I wanted to play it safe. We don’t know how strong the enemy is or if they can smell even the slightest scents. Unlike you two, I…” Actually, you don’t know what your avatar is...You don’t know why you can share emotions with others now among other tweaks but you assume that it's just one of the few things you’ll have to deal with now. You hadn’t programmed those traits into Sōsaku-sha. You know that. In fact, the only traits you had given Sōsaku-sha were ones to help you around your realm, benefits in producing products, and to fight players. Beyond that…

Your avatar doesn’t even have a race category like many others in the game. You had completely customized your avatar from scratch to be like nothing seen throughout the rest of Yggdrasil so you can’t even try to find some explanation in your memory’s knowledge of the other races. Sōsaku-sha doesn’t even fit in with the angelic and God-like races even though they are a type of deity.

You have nothing to compare your avatar to...and you feel that you’ve only scratched the surface of the mysteries of your situation. There’s so much you know...yet the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything!

A sigh escapes you as you shake your head, “...I’m not an undead...well...I don’t breathe so...maybe...I don’t think I’m an undead. I am...warm blooded unlike your races are so...there is a possibility that I could be producing a smell.”

“You don’t smell, my creator. Even before you cast Odorless, you didn’t” Jest hums with a slightly stupefied look before the wendigo raises a clawed hand

“Well, that isn’t all true…” Nictis' comment causes the vampire and you to turn your heads in the undead’s direction. “They have the slight smell of spring. I know this because I’m familiar with the season. It’s the smell of life returning with the sweet flowers and dew drops. It’s also a smell that tells me that hunting will be easier for the time being…” Nictis trails off, looking distant as heavier globs of drool start running out of their mouth.

“A-aha...so I’m guessing I don’t smell bad, right?” You almost take a step back from Jest as they start sniffing in your direction, seemingly forgetting that you’ve cast Odorless on yourself already. You’re starting to guess that Jest may be a very...straight forward thinker...or...one-track minded...simple headed...yeah.

“Of course, my creator.” Nictis chest rumbles as they start to walk, “Then shall we start heading our separate ways?”

“Yes. Both of you stay safe. Utilize the spells which are active on you if needed.” Activating Ascend, you wave an arm in their direction, “We’ll see each other shortly.”

The undead seem to grow...sad(?) upon your words, yet they nod and start to head in their separate directions. Seeing as they do so you head off, away from them to find your own clues.

After a minute or so your companions are out of sight, the horizon serving as your only barrier.

Everything starts to look the same with no signs of landmarks across the plains. It’s all grass. Grass here, grass there...though there are the occasional bush and tree. However not much else changes. The only obscurities that you catch are the weeds that take place of grass. It truly feels that you are swimming across a green ocean how flat and alive it is...and it fills you with awe.

You have no idea where you are headed. Off to the middle of nowhere? Someplace mystical? You have no clue...but you’re curious as to what this world holds.

Your curiosity doesn’t do you much help in finding anything though. Only the sleeping minds of wildlife and the songs of crickets seem to accompany you.

You try everything in your power to find anything, using all of the senses you possess to do so.

But that is a bizarre thing you found...your senses seem to be amplified by an extraordinary amount when you focus on them.

Your sense of smell, which is one of your strangest, allows you to smell what you suspect dogs or even bears to be able to smell. The strongest scents come from the animals of course but you try not to focus on them because they aren’t releasing pleasant odors. You gag a couple of times upon smelling some of them but overall the plains smell relatively good. The grass reminds you of tea by the tangy richness it releases. You also enjoy the occasional smell of herbs, flowers, and foreign sweet odors that litter the landscape. It’s like...it’s what you think flower shops would have smelled like if there were any more around back on Earth…

You enjoy the scents that come your way, holding onto this moment while keeping your vision wide and your ears open. You technically don’t have ears but you feel as though you have ones larger than an elephant because of how much sound you're picking up. The wind can’t even penetrate through the thicket without it catching your attention, even when it seems to approach from a miles away. The fact that you feel that you can hear that far and you hear nothing out of the ordinary is both comforting and disappointing. Well, at least you know Rabbit Ear is doing it’s part...but you do wonder how much of your hearing it has improved...

Your sense of touch doesn’t do much while you're using Ascend but it does tell you when a bug decides to hitchhike on you and which way the breeze is coming from. You don’t know if you have a sense of taste but you will yourself to keep it off if you do. You don’t want to accidentally taste something you’d regret. It’d be a bad choice to activate it if taste now works similar to how your other senses work. You’ll see how to make it work later.

In addition to that...there’s something...odd that you had noticed when you started to search your surroundings. You know that you have at least four out of five of your natural senses but...

You seem to have a sixth sense now.

You can’t describe it in any other way than you somehow being acutely aware of living creatures around you. You thought you were being paranoid at first when you started to expand your available senses to stay alert and you...just felt like something was...there...even when you couldn’t see, hear, or smell it. You slowly realized that wasn’t the case, though. You were proven that you’re not, in fact, going crazy when you’d feel things inside the ground or in the passing trees only for them to pop out. It is mainly insects that prove that they were the ones hidden….but it still creeps you out. The feeling of knowing something is there is like worms wriggling and buzzing under your skin. It especially feels the most intense when you focus on particular organisms.

Despite the uncomfortable feeling, you reluctantly keep it up because it was and still is very helpful pinpointing the things that escape your other senses. It reassures you that nothing is watching you out from behind a bush. The only living things that are currently watching you are the ones you don’t mind. As long as that doesn’t change, you’ll be happy...or if something does start following you...you know Nictis and Jest would be over here in a flash and you’d all be able to start interrogating whatever it could be. If it comes to it, you could all kill it-

What-woah...hold on now. I-is that you talking?! Is that really you?!

Woah, holy shit... So your mind is affected!

You are actually prepared to kill whatever may threaten you. Even if it’s a human?!

The fact that you feel that the answer would be a solid yes hardly comes as a shock to you, but the fact that you feel nonplussed at the idea is what does startle you.

Wow. You really do need to make a rule book or a list of how you should act. Murder isn’t…it isn’t right in certain circumstances-No! NO! It shouldn’t be right under any circumstance! It is wrong! It’s-

Glittery golden light fills your vision and your mind blanks.

You freeze in mid-air, trying to figure out what you were just thinking about…

....

....

….

*sigh*...No matter how hard you try to remember what it was you can’t seem to recall the seconds prior.

Scratching your neck you hum. “Huh. I must have had a brain fart or something..." Welp, that something that future you can have a problem with. Right now, however...you need to focus on finding information.

So far you’ve found absolutely nothing. You know Jest and Nictis haven’t found anything either because they haven’t Messaged you and you haven't seen anything through their eyes.

“... I suspect that nothing will be a common factor in my life for the time being…”

Well, even if you’re all not able to get anything from this at least you’ve taken steps. Baby steps but that’s still progress. That progress means that you’ll be able to start making camps in this general area to spread out like a web of information. Hell, maybe you even start colonizing this area. Start building a...a...a functioning society. Yeah, and the more that they will spread the more information that will be gathered…

But…

What are you even expecting to find?

You don’t think that there is an answer in the world that could describe what has happened to you. Not unless everyone else here is like you…

...

Wait. Is there a possibility of other players here? In this world?!

What if there are other players from Yggdrasil here?! T-that is a possibility. You’re here...so it’s only reasonable to assume such.

....

You got it.

You know what you must do now.

You will use your resources and efforts together to search for other players.

You have an obligation to do so since you can’t help but feel that this situation may be your fault. Your game...Yggdrasil did something. You’re stuck in your avatar so it's only reasonable to assume such. You can’t be the only one. If you do find them…what then? Apologize? They may be scared, pissed, or all the above...they might blame you for this predicament...but you’re sure no one would want to be alone at a time like this. You feel that way. You’re lucky to have such loyal NPCs...Mmmm...Yeah, that seems to be the right thing to do. You wouldn’t hold it against them if they lashed out at you either. They may have lives that they need to get back to. You too have a life of your own as well but first, you want to find others before you start searching for a way to go back to the real world.

Yes, you know your mission now. This web of information gathering will start here and you will spread across the globe to find the answers you desire.

Clenching your fists you look up with a burning in your chest, “I will find you, don’t worry. You’re not alone...I will find you all! This I promise!!!”

What meets your outcry is an echo of your strange, lone voice as you stare up at the fantastic sight of an unknown star belt.

You smile.

The sight gives you hope...the hope that you will succeed.

“I promise…” You shift your gaze outward again to continue where you left off on your search- “Wait...is that a…”

You float slowly through the air, convincing yourself that you’re not seeing things. In doing so, what has caught your attention starts to draw closer.

Is that a structure in the distance?!.... Yes. Yes, it is! It looks like a wall!

You fly faster to investigate it.

Walls are man-made structures! They don’t just pop out of the ground like daisies! This is your first real lead in this strange wor-

A tinkling of a knowing...an awareness of something to your left makes its way across your skin and your body jolts to a stop to face the said direction.

This...this feels different. Much larger than what other creatures there had been. Fixing your focus to hone in on the-fast? Oh WOAH! What the fuck?! It’s heading toward you at an alarming rate!

W-what should you do?! Crouch in the grass?! No! It’s a land animal! You need to go higher! If you do so not only will you be out of its way but you’ll have a better chance at spotting it!

With that thought you rise up high into the air to a height that’d surely shatter your legs if you fell… Shaking your head at the morbid thought at hand you try to look for what was coming-

A dark creature makes itself known as it draws nearer…

Or so you had thought it was a creature.

It becomes apparent that as the figure approaches that it is a person.

Not just any person though...

The figure is an old man, dressed in a snazzy black suit like a butler.

....

You have no idea what confuses you more.

The fact that there is a butler out in the middle of nowhere…or how this old fart can run this fast!

Whatever the case, you need to Message for backup upon your discovery! “Jest! Nictis!

“My creator?!” “Are you in danger?!!”

“I don’t think so but I’ve found a lead. Head my way and please hurry.”

“Understood!” “We’ll make haste! Please stay safe!”

“Thank you.” You end the Message just in time to see the butler stop in place a good distance away and…

Look straIGHT AT YOU?!!!

You have invisibility on! How is that-wait, certain level classes and races of players and NPCs can see through lower level invisibility spells…

Is this guy FOR REAL?!!

“Excuse me.” An extremely rich call makes you blanch at the realization that he’s totally addressing you. “May I ask what you’re doing up there?”

….

….

WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO?!!!

Are you seen as an intruder?! No! You’re sure that if this place is of importance they would have sent more people to face you, let alone a soldier. So what is a butler doing here? And since he can see you why isn’t he disturbed by your appearance? You’d think that you’d freak out if you were in his place but he doesn’t seem to care-No, he doesn’t mind you. So is heteromorphic creatures a familiar thing in this world, familiar to him, or is he open-minded?! Shit! You don’t know what to do! Uh, uh…

….

*sigh*

Okay…

You just need to relax.

This is what you had wanted... A chance to gain information. Even if he may see you as a threat and is calculating how much of one you are presently…you can change that through interaction.

You can talk to him like a normal human being and work things out.

Okay.

Bracing yourself for what is to come, you dissipate Silence on yourself and straighten your form to speak, “I apologize if I’m intruding but I was curious when I saw this structure from afar. May I ask you what this place is?”

You slowly lower yourself down to show that not only does he have your attention but you trust him to some extent. However, you have an ulterior motive as you want to see him up close.

“It is my lords’ place of residence.” Ah! So you’ve stumbled across some kind of noble’s keep. Is this a lucky coincidence...or an unlucky fate? Only time will say- “If you’re truly interested then, would you like to come inside?”

“Huh? Really?!” Choking out your shock, you take in his form as you draw closer. You’re well around twenty feet above him but you can see he is a very well kept fellow.

His short, silver hair is neatly combed with his long bangs slightly framing the sides of his wise forehead, shading his narrowed gaze on you. His cheekbones are strong, you observe, and this clean-cut beard emphasizes the shape of his face. He practically oozes masculinity by the way he presents himself. His dark suit with gold trims frames his body, making him appear incredibly fit and healthy underneath...or is he really that way?! You wouldn’t be surprised. Anything to explain how he ran so fast here to meet you. Well, overall...he seems gentle in appearance, almost giving you a grandpa vibe but his eyes tell you a whole different story. They’re as sharp as an eagle's, seeming to bore into your very core as you finally land in front of him, leaving an eight-foot gap between the two of you.

“Of course. We’ll accommodate your needs if you wish. If you’re hungry we can provide you with a meal.”

“O-oh...you’re too kind. Are you sure that’s okay?”

The butler slightly nods with a rumbling hum, “My lord is very kind. He’ll have no qualms with having you under his roof.”

“Even if I’m not human?” You watch his face closely to try to gage the reasoning for him to be so welcoming of you. Why welcome a complete stranger into a fortress such as this? Does this man not believe that you’re some kind of threat? That is both a comforting and terrifying thought.

Jest. Nictis. Where are you two?

Whatever twitch or flicker of a hint that you wanted to flash across his face never occurs, his face remaining like chiseled stone as he calmly replies. “None at all. Are humans typically weary of you?”

Erm...well...not from what I’ve seen…” Considering the only humans who’ve seen you like this were players back in Yggdrasil, Alvara, various NPCs back in the Citadel, and this old man and they’ve all haven’t seemed to mind your looks… Maybe you aren’t as off-putting as you thought. “But humans are fearful creatures by nature. They’re scared of the unknown…”

You’re talking like you’re not human! Is this part of your mind being altered?!

“Many creatures are.” The flicker of a sparkle behind his eyes almost goes unnoticed by you as he continues, “But you seem curious of the unknown, seeming as to why you approached this place. Am I wrong in assuming this?”

“No...I guess you’re right. Though, heheh, that doesn’t mean that I’m not cautious.”

“Mm. Rightly so.”

“I can say the same thing about you.” You wave a hand lightly in his direction with a slight tilt of your head. “You came to greet me despite not knowing who I am.”

“It is my job as a butler to be hospitable to all who my lord welcomes.” He places a white, gloved hand over his heart to bow to you signifying his loyalty to his master.

Through the eyes of the two undead, you see that they both now have the nearby fortress in their sights.

“Would you be so welcoming to two others?”

He question has him standing up straight once again with a slight lift of his brows, “Are these two associated with you?”

“Mmm...something like that.” You turn your head to your left to face your approaching comrades which prompts the butler to follow suit. When they’re within range you remove Mass Silence from them so they can be heard.

“My creator! We have arrived!” Jest calls out as he lands with a jingle, no longer flying in order to run up to your side.

“Who is this?” Nictis hisses, not in a threatening manner but one of distrust.

“My name is Sebas. I am the head butler of this estate.” Huh. He doesn’t seem to mind Nictis’ and Jest’s appearances either. Why not? Human NPCs back in Yggdrasil thought of undead as enemies. Why does this guy not mind? “May I learn of all of your names?”

The two NPCs remain silent, slightly standing in front of you to your sides, ready to act at a moment's notice. However, at the butler’s words, their eyes flicker between you and the unknown man in front of them, unsure how much information you’d like for them to disclose. Seeing their hesitation, you decide to be the first to speak up.

“That is a nice name. I am called Sōsaku-sha.”

For the first time since you met Sebas, an emotion flickers across his face but it is so distinct and strange that you can’t get a read on it. “Sōsaku-sha… I’ve heard that name once before…”

“Really?” Well, that isn’t very odd back in Yggdrasil. You think about the NPCs that would hint players to your existence and the cults that searched for your avatar by collecting the items used to form Fēsuresukī. They were typically the targets of players who’d try to access your realm but at the same time, the players who held the items or even Fēsuresukī were under constant threat of those cultists. Either way, Sōsaku-sha was seen as an elevated being of sorts. Maybe it’s the same here? Maybe this world is Midgard taken into a literal sense and that this is still Yggdrasil. Maybe the people here are NPCs? It would explain why this man claims to have heard your name someplace.

He nods slowly, “Yes. I believe the one who gave me my name…has mentioned you before.” He turns to you with a lighter look, stormy eyes looking you over with a sparkle that appears like lighting.

Seeing as how you’ve been put in the spotlight once again you decide to step out of it with a change of direction. “Erm, you two!” You lightly slap the backs of the two undead, causing them to look your way in surprise. “Introduce yourselves to this kind fellow. It’d be rude of me to speak on your behalf at this time.”

“Uh-mm,” The wendigo is the first to do as you say, “my creator has graced me with the name Nictis. As of right now, I am serving as their guard.”

“Yes. We both are.” Jest nods over to the Reborn, “My creator has blessed me with the name Jest.”

Sebas processes your names and bows once again, “It is a pleasure to welcome you all in my lord's behalf. Would you care to come inside? We can talk awhile and we see to it that your group is catered to.”

“My creator?” Nictis' inquiry prompts you to hum out an affirmative for him to continue. “What does catered mean?”

“Ah, it’s when professionals provide food, drink, and other various goods to a group of individuals as a form of service…” You trail off as Nictis' jaws are practically running with drool at the mention of food. He must be hungry. Well, of course he is. He’s a wendigo. They’re cursed to always be hungry...but due to being reincarnated as a Reborn, you know their hunger has been mellowed since you wrote that in all of the wendigos’ coding in the Citadel. So you take comfort in knowing that it is a condition that is no longer a physical ailment but a physiological aspect to your alley.

“I can see that cater is your new favorite word.” Jest teases the wendigo from where he stands off to your right.

“Ah! I apologize!” He immediately starts trying to wipe his mandibles clean but he only makes a further mess of himself.

You cringe, thinking that Sebas might be disgusted by Nictis but a single, light airy laugh escapes the old man with a heartwarming smile, “Ah, I will agree with you. He does seem to enjoy the word. Here-” Reaching a hand into his breast pocket, Sebas pulls out a handkerchief and presents it out for Nictis to take, “this may help.”

“....” Nictis silently stares at the item offered to him for a solid five seconds, looks over to you for another three, and finally looks back to the quaint cloth for an additional five before slowly plucking it out of the butler’s hand. The undead takes a moment to inspect the cloth, sniffing it some and looking it over. Satisfied, Nictis starts to wipe his jaw clean but you have other plans by lightly tapping his foot with yours.

“Did you forget your manners?”

“Ah! Thank you s-sir…for this.” Nictis hums as he hands over the soaked towelette back to Sebas. When the damp handkerchief is dropped into his hand he doesn’t put it back in his breast pocket. Instead, he cups the article up to his stomach, a smile still present on the butler’s face.

“You’re quite welcome. Now, if you all would like to follow me, I can lead us inside.”

This is perfect. This is all...too perfect. This is exactly what you had wanted, no, this exceeds it. You had just wanted to find some lonely outcasts to interrogate so as to not bring attention to yourself. Instead, you stumble like a blind fool to the doorsteps of a noble. A blind fool who can’t tell whether the noble is a sheep...or a wolf.

Sebas may be a welcoming fellow...but this all seems too good to be true. Like Hansel and Gretel, they spot the candy cabin in the woods and expect to have their fill of sweets but inside lurks a cannibalistic witch. You may be being lured into a trap…

However, you want answers.

At the end of the story, the children find out the witch's wicked plot and kill her, making off with a treasure to bring home. If things really turn out that way, you’ll find a way. You have two loyal NPCs and magic by your side right now, not to mention your own tactical skills.

You have confidence.

You want to proceed.

Before you could tell Sebas to lead the way, a familiar ping goes off in your head.

It’s a Message.

You waste no time answering, “Hello?”

Sebas waits patiently as you listen to the one who contacted you. “My creator, it is I. Skinner. I wanted to give you our report on the surrounding terrain outside the Seiun.”

Ah! That’s right. “So you’ve finished your search then. What was the result?”

“Malum, Ukara, and I found nothing of familiarity. Besides the planet and its moon, there are no other nearby landmasses. It is more of this night sky in every other direction.”

You’re all out in the middle of nowhere...just as you feared you’d be. Sigh...well...it could be worse. You could have been dropped off amidst enemy territory without the support of your NPCs. Thank God that didn't happen. “Thank you for informing me of this.”

“Of course...my creator? Will you be returning soon then?”

....

Augh! That’s right! You had said that you’d return once they had Messaged you and you’d all go back to the Citadel to meet up with the Anointed. Those five are probably in the arena, awaiting your return.

But that was before you found a clue!

You really want to find out what is inside these walls. If you leave now it may look like you’re spitting on their offers. Not only would it possibly ruin your chances to learn something but it could tarnish whatever relationship you can build upon this connection.

However, similar to this opportunity, the spells you cast on your group won’t last forever. The three NPCs waiting for you near the Seiun will be in big trouble if you don’t do anything. Not only that but you’d be going back on your word. You don’t want the NPCs to start to think that you don’t mean what you say straight off the first hour or so you’ve been in this situation. In addition, the Anointed and the members of the Unmei no gundan you sent back are also waiting for you. It would be slightly cruel of you to make them wait and worry longer than they have to. Finally, you had set up that visit with the Anointed and if you’re not punctual to your own meeting then what kind of a ruler will they see you as?

“My creator?” Jest asks in a quiet tone, informing you that you don’t have forever to make a choice.

 

What will you do?

Follow Sebas despite pressing matters.

Return to the Citadel despite your desires.