In an unsightly fashion, I had lost consciousness and fainted on top of a puddle of puke.
But well… It wasn’t as if I’d not expected such an outcome.
I abhor violence. I’m just as resistant to gore like everyone else. However, it was to be expected. Humans have an innate resistance to the act of killing after all. Even in the face of danger, how many would actually act in self-defense?
I was woken up by Cid in the following morning. I noticed that my top was bare, with a roll of bandage wrapped around the side of my right shoulder.
Hmm… did I injure myself unknowingly? A small pang of numbness could be felt where the dressing was, but it didn’t seem to hurt.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s a small bruise so it won’t get infected. Give it a few days.”
I nodded meekly. Cid didn’t seem to mind what happened yesterday.
“Why don’t you freshen up at the lake nearby? It should be safe there. Here, a change of clothes. It’s nothing fancy that you otherworlders have, but it should fit your size.”
Receiving a bidding wave from my benefactor, I left promptly to clean myself.
Hmm…? Did he get my measurements while bandaging my wounds yesterday?
I appreciated the kindness of my benefactor.
It had been a long while since someone's been this nice to me.
The water was clean and blue, with fish leisurely swimming about.
I wonder how these trout managed to survive in a world with monsters. How do they co-exist together? Even in the game lore, there was no real explanation on this.
The mysteries of this world… I wonder if there’s research made on this world’s ecology?
I removed my dirtied jeans and dipped myself in; the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, so I submerged myself completely into the lake. As I watched the red paint wash away like miasma underwater, a cooling sensation filled my body. I lay floating on the surface, staring listlessly into space. The forest was no longer as dark and unnerving as it was in the night, and the sun’s rays passed the miniscule gaps through the leaves on trees, creating glitter when seen from above.
“Haah… is this a dream or a nightmare?” Last night’s events definitely served as a grim reminder. I looked down at my hands which had killed a goblin. How many stabs did I make yesterday? Mimicking the action of swinging a knife, I could still sense faint trembling as the bloody image resurfaced in my mind.
It would take some conditioning to get used to it.
Monsters weren’t pixels behind a screen no more, and defeating them wasn’t as simple as input commands on a keyboard.
Well, if there was a silver lining to the psychological shock I’d received yesterday, I did manage to level up. Noticing the new title which I’d obtained yesterday, I immediately equipped it.
Title: The Initiated
[You have crossed the boundary of a pacifist in order to become stronger.]
✦ [✣] Reduced aversion towards the act of taking a life.
✦ [+] Passive Skill:『Steady Mind』
『Steady Mind』seems to be a passive skill that reduces aversion to killing, although… this wasn’t an ability that existed before.
I splashed some water onto my face and laughed refreshingly.
In some ways, this world sure is convenient.
Over the next few days, I was taught many things.
To summarize, this world was indeed identical to the『Grand Order』that I know.
The various races, countries, languages all seemed to match in memory, but there were four important differences.
It seemed that unanswered lore had reasons behind them.
For one, mana wasn’t a simple blue resource number. Instead it was a pure element that carried the foundations of the fantasy world; Similar to chemistry, mana had known effects and influences on the properties of matter, such as being able to naturally mutate certain wild animals into monsters. It could also be used in fields like smithing to enhance the quality of a weapon.
As we grew closer as camp buddies, Cid had patiently answered my questions while I accompanied him over several days of freeloading. In exchange, I would help him out with miscellaneous tasks. It was difficult at first as I made many mistakes, however I was forced to do it or I wouldn’t be allowed to have my share of food. I’d painstakingly honed my basic survival skills in this way; From making a fire, tracking and scouting, identifying edible berries and even hunting game— The days passed by quickly as I adapted to this new lifestyle. I grew more proficient in my work, and realized that effort too, played a part in obtaining skills.
This was the second change. The repetition of certain actions would become the trigger to the acquisition of certain passive masteries. However this method was limited by the concept of a class system. For example if one has not made a job advancement to a [Warrior], then he would be unable to learn the Passive『Sword Mastery』no matter how much he swings the sword. The individual may be able to wield a sword normally against a person, but he will not have the system blessing to outmatch a monster. To put it simply, passive masteries acquired through effort become permanent milestones. In this way, a chef would not forget his craft even after years of not sharpening his skills, and a bard would still be able to play his music proficiently even at an old age.
[Combined proficiency over woodcutting, identifying wildlife and traversal over woodland terrains.]
✦ [✣] Common wildlife and plants can now be identified by the system.
✦ [✣] Strength +2 / Dexterity +3 / Intelligence +3
[Combined proficiency over tracking, trap-setting, fishing and hunting.]
✦ [✣] Weak points of common wild animals can now be identified by the system.
✦ [✣] Strength +2 / Dexterity +1 / Intelligence +1
I look at my status again. It’s been almost a week now, and my status has improved significantly.
[White - Level 4]
Strength 8 ✦ Luck 4
Dexterity 8 ✦ Intelligence 8
Title: Player | The Initiated
With some effort and help from Cid, I was able to deal the finishing blow on a few weakened goblins, raising my level to 4. However it didn’t take long before I reached a bottleneck from insufficient experience, and so this was the best I could raise my status to.
With the difference in levels came a huge leap in my physical and mental abilities.
I could now crush a rock bare-handedly with my hands, and I felt like my memory became a lot better. But if everyone could level up like this, why was the concept of a ‘hero’ still relevant in this world? This was the third difference I realized in this world.
It was the existence of the term “Ascendants”.
Also commonly referred to as existences capable of receiving the blessing of Altair, the Goddess of Systems. They were the chosen half of the world that were allowed to ‘level up’ and access the ‘status window’. There was never a clear distinction on the matter of granting ‘player rights’ to the world’s inhabitants. Exactly half, as the goddess had preordained. I wonder if there was a deeper meaning behind such a distribution of power.
Then it comes down to the fourth, and last contrast between game and reality.
While『Grand Order』was a revolutionary game with a generous amount of player freedom to do whatever you wanted, it was still driven by a plot. It was a standard fare of picking up the cover characters shown on the title screen (or the game’s official website). Then with your chosen party members, you would embark on an epic journey to find treasure and artifacts in order to gear up and defeat and seal the resurrected Demon King (Of course, you could also throw out the hero and use your own custom characters to match the players’... preferences.)
—A total of 640 normal endings to choose from, with 30 bad endings and 2 true endings.
The normal endings may be a bit too much because『Grand Order』was originally designed to be a visual novel, but well… the end result was the very example of over-achieving something. From the hero summoning, to the event of obtaining his first sacred weapon—Every aspect of the game was needlessly detailed. However, there was a discrepancy which I’d realized from talking with Cid.
The time is totally different.
The calendar of『Grand Order』closely reflects the one on Earth by design, and so it was easy to remember when the events of the game actually happened.
That was the year the hero was first summoned to this world.
And in Cid’s words, the year we were in now was 1875.
...In other words,
I was sent five years back prior to the start of the game.