SMage CH 1 – Dive
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A part of him had died while everything was dyed in crimson. That was the first thing that came to his mind as his eyes blinked open. 

He was on fours while staring at a pool of blood. It took him a few long seconds to figure it out. The blood was dripping off his face.

Things are looking really marvelous.

Strangely enough, he couldn't feel any pain. Maybe sheer adrenaline had kept the pain from overwhelming his brain and being awake and sane enough to peer around. His thoughts were clear as he was no stranger being cuddled by adrenaline.

But maybe the ring of shiny writing on the floor also had a hand in this. Strange runes were glowing surrounded him as his flimsy hands struggled to keep himself up. 

The drowsiness felt inescapable, like one of those days when he had to stay up a few days in a row. All just to finish up the current project, but only much worse. Coffee had been his best friend during that time, but he didn't think coffee would do any good now. 

Also, there was no way he was anywhere near the office. The place looked more like a basement with very steep stairs and his hands were much too thin.

"Where-" his words interrupted with a massive headache. 

His hand clawed his head trying to ease the pain. It felt like someone was poking around his brain. Only his fear of more pain had stopped him from banging his head on the floor.

Memories of growing up in a strange medieval world flowed within him. He remembered learning to walk, and later the language from his two mothers. That fact surprised him.

Well, at least as they claimed to be. One of them couldn’t help herself but pamper the boy in his head whenever she could while the other had tried her best to act like one.

His birth mother had black long hair and bright purple eyes. The other was a slender brown-haired woman with a fierce smile. Truly beautiful ladies, but only maidservants. Slaves trained to keep the place orderly, among other given things. They had lived in mockery but better fed and sheltered from danger than the others on the street. Or as the boy was told.

He’s a bastard of the master. Being born as one was both a blessing and a curse for both the mothers and the child. The three of them had no choice but to endure. 

But of course, he as a child had never understood any of this, not until now. 

The massive headache eased as the memory slideshow inside his head ended. He fell to his side, and only then he could tell that there were people talking.

"...sorry my lord, the boy, he- he doesn't have any noticeable affinity, just the common Aether," said someone. From the voice, he could tell the man was terrified.

"Hmmph!" another person admonished the speaker before he grumbled. "Are you saying that we had made no progress at all after using the soul tearing or whatever?"

"Soul Search, my lord, but yes. I can't access his Status, but his affinity is easily measured," the other man replied. "But as I said, soul magic is illegal for a reason, and this magic formation, I'm afraid, is not complete, as clearly, it has failed. I don't know what went wrong but I have followed every detail from the book my lord had-"

"Enough!" yelled the other voice. "You better keep that mouth shut, mage, or I'll do it for you. Clean up this mess, you hear me?"

"Yes, yes, my lord," the relief in the mage’s voice was apparent. 

He was certain that he had become a victim of a shitty illegal experiment, but that was all he heard before the darkness claimed him. In his sleep, he dreamed of two different worlds mixing and matching together like nothing was wrong.

In one world, he remembered growing up in a rough neighborhood but somehow he was able to make his way to work as a white-collar. He grew old and alone, stuck on his 'not-really-desk-job' without a real chance of promotion while caring for his mother. 

An ‘IT support’ in the name but had to do almost everything else by himself. Overworked and underpaid, but it beat the alternative. Living off others’ misery was never his thing.

The choice he had was between the bad and the worst, but he had made the best of it. All things considered, his life in this world wasn’t the best but wasn't that bad. 

The only mystery was he didn’t remember dying or witnessing some miracle that he could link to his current situation. No, this is not an over-blown ‘isekai’ situation.

The other much shorter life was spent with his two mothers. The best of times were spent in the warm and soft bosoms of dear mothers. Unlike the norm he knew, the lovable women let him do anything to their chests even if he was old enough to think for himself. The behavior was encouraged by the two instead of deemed taboo. 

Of course, looking back into the memory made him feel all kinds of contradicting feelings. He would say the boy was very fortunate but given his current situation, he couldn’t say his luck got any better in this world. 

He was sure that he had many more happy memories of the two, but bad memories tended to be more clear and pronounced. Fear played the main role in this.

Every time the lord and many ladies of the house came around, his head would be pushed down by shaky hands. The little him knew nothing and just trusted both his mothers all his heart, but the much older him knew better.

Those people are not unreachable kings or queens. They were just upstart rich folks who were flaunting their superiority.

And his mothers loved each other. Very much. 

The adult man in him was sure the pair weren’t really just massaging each other or playing tickles as they had said they were. 

His birth mother was the loveliest, sweetest woman who ever lived if he would give his adult opinion on her. The one claimed to be mommy, however, had the tendency to kiss him on the lips whenever they were alone. Her displays of love are the most questionable between the two but he was the knot of their red string.

Regardless, either one of them could be the reason why he ended here. People change when their circumstances change. He didn't know how he had ended up in the circle of glowing writing on the floor, but at least he was sure of one thing. 

Magic exists in this world. 

In what form he didn't really care. The fact alone had made everything else insignificant, incest-ish relationship or not, it didn’t matter. He would spare nothing and no one to claw his bloody way out from the bottom.

He felt like he was smiling in his sleep.

The semi-lucid dream continued as he tried to remember the things he had learned in the old world that could be used here. He tried to stay focused but a lot of the time the two worlds would mix together into odd jumbled up scenes. 

And like all dreams, it was hard for him to focus or find it strange.

The dream ended abruptly as he woke up. His eyes blinked open but he still could barely see anything at all. His heart drummed in his ears as he closed his eyes again. 

'Am I dead?' he lamented despite the cold biting his back, a clear sign he was still alive. 'Shouldn't I wake up on a warm comfortable bed? Isn't that how most isekai stories started?' he chuckled at the silly thought.

He was no hero, more like the unfortunate side character. Accepting his fate had improved his sight somehow, or maybe his pupil had learned how to dilate again. 

Regardless, he was lucky that the culprit mage hadn't cleaned his mess yet, and this wasn't the first time he woke up on a cold blood-soaked floor. Growing up in a rough neighborhood had taught him how to get through this kind of situation. 

At least, this time I didn’t have any broken ribs poking my lungs.

He took deep breaths to give his body some energy to work with. During the attempt to energize himself, he recalled that he hadn't even had a name yet. All bastards didn't deserve a name, and his mothers would rather not name him than risk her child being beaten up. 

Maybe that’s why they had allowed such things, to compensate for his situation. All he had was useless and baseless assumptions.

'At least I'm not a ‘snow’,' he chuckled. 

Of course, he had a name before waking up here, but unlike most, he had always hated his otherworld given name.

A groan escaped his mouth as he rolled his body on the floor. He gritted his teeth as he pushed himself up. One limb after another, just like the old days. 

He knew better not to stand up immediately, and so he spent some time on his knees while looking around. The smooth cold floor looks like it was made from clean-cut solid rock. He could find no sign of smoothed cement at all on it. 

The writings weren’t glowing anymore and that was a relief. 

There was a wooden door and the said stair leading up to it, and as the floor, the stairs looked more like cut rock than cement. Somehow someone had changed the rock’s shape without breaking them apart.

‘That's a magical world to you,’ he guessed.

The room wasn’t in complete darkness because of a barely lit oil lamp, and he spotted three more of them left unlit. A simple wooden table was placed on the opposite corner with books and a few other things arranged haphazardly on it. 

The lack of any decorum had only improved its unique charm. The secret lair vibe came complete with the reek of dried up blood.

'It's simply perfect,' he chuckled.

His legs noodled when he tried to stand up, but he managed to get it in some working condition with the sheer force of will. A continuous string of petty curses inside his head had helped a lot.

He took a few precious minutes leaning on the wall even though he knew that he hadn't had much time to waste. The lackey mage could be back at any time and that would be very well the end of him. Someone who had been willing to do a bloody experiment on a small child would unlikely let him off out of guilt or the kindness of their heart.

He cursed inside as he used the wall to make his way towards the table. He had to admit, if the circumstances were any better, he would have thanked them both. 

The fact is, the dumb botched experiment had brought 'him' here, planned or not. A magical world he would love to explore or maybe conquer? Terrorize? Who knows? 

He chuckled at the fascinating but dumb idea. Too many times he had experienced dumb death in the magical world. Well, it was in-game, but it made him realize the scary truth. 

Real-life in a magical world is living in hardcore mode all the time. He couldn’t afford to take stupid risks. Skimping defense for the offense is just for super lucky MCs with divine plot armors.

He would face this world with an ultimate hardcore mode in mind. Safety should always be his top priority. Play it safe and he would come out safe. He chuckled.

He didn't know if he was transmigrated or maybe something in between, but he already had an escape plan inside his head. It would be a cruel one, but he had to be decisive if he wanted to live past this lair. 

All he could do against someone who called a mage was, plan for the worst and hope for the best. He simply had no knowledge about such a person. The mage could still be alive and well even after he fell for the plan for all he knew. 

The boy's memories showed how commoners’ faces turned white and kept bowing if a mage was annoyed. Exaggerate or not, there ought to be a good reason for that.

It took him more time than he had liked sitting on the chair to gather some strength to move, but he didn’t have much choice in that. Pushing himself would only lead to stupid mistakes that could cost his own life, and so he waited. He was up and moving as soon as he could feel his legs again.

After a lot of effort, a quick inspection told him that the door above the stairs was one solid thick piece of wood. 

Magic might have something to do with it, duh.

It had no hole for keys of any handle of any kind. He couldn't even take a peek let alone trying to pick the lock, but luckily, that fact wouldn't affect the plan. 

He took the seat again after everything was in place. His vision blurred as his consciousness threatened to fade away as soon as he sat down. 

It was easier not fighting it, but he needed to stay awake to be ready for what might happen next. He steered his attention to the things on the table.

There were two books, which should be a bottle of dried ink, and something like a feather pen dipped into it. One of the books had a title written on its thick skin. It wrote, 'Spellbook; Arcane Shell' in the very familiar but alien language.

This could be his lucky break. His heart pumped in his ears as he grasped the book with both hands, everything else all forgotten.

But nothing happened. 

He tried to hold it in a few different ways and even shook it, but still, nothing happened. Zero. Nada. The damned book even had refused to be opened.

A sigh escaped his mouth. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy.

The other book didn't have anything on its blue cover. Instead, the book was a journal after he took a peek inside. The content, however, didn't have any insight he could use or learn about the world. 

Most of what was written were complaints the mage had, and the gory details the lord-father had the mage do. Apparently, he wasn't the first child experiment left to die in this underground secret lair. The lord-father and the mage came here to experiment on magic whenever a new source of knowledge was stolen or scavenged. They were also creepily obsessed with the same woman.

It was safe to say that anyone who would walk down that stair deserved what was coming for them. He skipped to among the last written pages of the journal and what was written there had shed some light on what had happened recently.

 

- Lord Bashker is a bastard who breeds bastards like they were cattle. It might be better to call him Lord Bastard instead. God, life is truly unfair. The man had all the women he ever wanted to be brought to his room, and I only got this single spellbook for six months of service. Whole six freaking months!

The book would sell for a few gold coins, which is a lot, but who would want to waste any Essence to learn such a useless spell. The best it could do was blocking thrown rocks while anything sharp will still go right through. 

But the commoners didn't know that!! 

And writing this down helped. Thanks a lot, me. -

 

The dumb guy loved himself too much, but the passage had convinced him that there is a way to learn the spellbook. He just doesn't know what this Essence is and how to get it. 

'Maybe it's written somewhere in the journal?' he tried to convince himself to read the rest of the random entries. He got a lot of creepy garbage to filter through.

The door creaked while he was in the middle of cringing at the journal’s contents. Hours might have passed, and it was about damn time someone came. 

He had read enough about the woman’s sexual preferences, both the lord-father and the mage had even exchanged notes on her. They were pretty sure that she was a Celestial, whatever that was, and tried very hard to please whoever this unnamed woman was.

The one at the door let out so much of a ‘Hey’ before a loud gasp was heard. A very unmanly shriek followed right after along with other very unpleasant sounds.

He didn't turn around because he knew what he would see wouldn't be pretty. The sounds of clear crackings were enough to cause him to flinch. He had never enjoyed violence but he had learned that sometimes it was necessary. 

The tumbling meat and bone down the stairs ended with the loudest crack. A mixed stink of urine and blood filled the room soon after.

The oil from the lamps had worked wonderfully well as a lubricant. A generous offering to the bare-bone, very steep, and very stony stairs had turned it into a lethal deathtrap. The poor lighting only made it harder to notice the stained step.

He was glued to the chair facing the wall for a long time.

‘Did I have any other choice?’ A question came to his mind. 

He didn't really know as he had only done what was necessary to keep himself alive and well. A man was dead because of his deliberate action. There was no point making excuses because he only got one life as far as he could tell.

His mind kept going back to the talk between the men while he, a little boy, was literally bleeding from his face. He was but cattle in those men’s eyes and this cattle had just bitten back.

 

[Core disintegrated.]

[48 Essence absorbed.]

 

The floating box had come out of nowhere but it brought a big smile on his face. He had gotten his answer.

 

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