[You have inherited a will — Ascension status: In process…]
I felt as if I was jolted awake — figuratively speaking — by the void. Simply put. Words floated in my mind. What did ‘will’ mean. And what was ascension? Why was it in process?—
My thoughts were interrupted in the void by a mix of sounds.
Screams, grunts, death. I could feel it happening, I could sense the void seemingly shake! What was happening?! No! The void was like my home— If it was destroyed then, what would happen to me?
I heard more grunts, more screams, and an eerie silence. Some were the sounds of beasts, others of something else entirely. A mix of guttural sounds akin to growling, yelping, and the striking of flesh. I could hear rocks shifting as they made a soft sound as if mashing it. Sometimes wails of pain would accompany it, and sometimes just silence.
The cracking, the creaking, the sound of things tearing apart. The hoarse sounds of death coming from various beasts. I could almost see it…
And then, there was nothing. As if the endless butcher of things never happened. Was the void safe? Had it been attacked? Could it even be attacked? I couldn’t see, let alone move. Did it exist in a physical sense? I couldn’t answer anything by myself, and yet. I was in the process of… Ascension? The only thing that could help me make sense of things were the floating words.
Ascension to, what? What does one ascend to? Heaven? I didn’t want to laugh, but yet it sounded ridiculous. If I was going to heaven, why was there a series of ever-shifting sounds that all sounded just as brutal? What kind of ascension requires such things?
[Ascension in progress: Merge with the l̷̙͎̮͕͓̓̓ơ̴̮͚͉̹̈͐̈̃̔͠g̷̗͈̬̰̘̭͑̓̄̐̆͜i̶͓͙͍̮͙̦̣̓͒̂͘̕̚͝ĉ̶̡͑ ̶̨̫̹̟͈̙̄͜u̴̠͇̭̒̏̆̀̽̈́̕n̶̗͍͉͎̘̞̂̐i̷̲͕̮̹̫͌̓̇̆̎̓̓ț̷̛͈͐͌͒́́͊]
Huh? I could hardly see it in my mind, the flickering of the words and distortion of it, but it said. Logic unit? What was that? I mean, how was I exactly supposed to merge with it? The words weren’t very helpful either.
[You have been chosen as a Champion! Current era — Era of True Monsters — As a champion from ě̴̡̻̯͖͋͘ͅͅr̵̻̻̙̰͓̩̊͌́̂͘r̶͚̂̈̀̊͠ō̶͔͓͉̲̓̔̎̕r̶̛̤̠͈̤̊̔̇̾͝ you have been selected to c̶̞̽͛͗͌̀͠ḥ̸̢̭͔̤͆͂̈́͒͒ͅa̵̢̼̞͇̺͊̂̄̾͐̇̎̀̇́n̷̡̮̦̮̾̊̊̏̀g̶̣̳͚̦͍̏͜e̸͈͛̆̉̆ ̴̢̙͔̲̥̩̾̎͂̿͂̈́͜͝͝t̵͕̥̥͍͎̗͂̅̽̃̀͋̌͌̾̕ḧ̷̡̫̜́̽̀̉̀͛e̵͍̲̰̙̟̝͚̋͂̔͗̃͛͌͒͝ ̷̨̲̥̙̹̬̟͓̞̳̮͓̋̑͆ẻ̶̠͉̻͉͈̜͖͇́̈͝r̴̛͚͆͗a̴͙̰̦̭̰̘̔͌͆̓̅̎͋̌͘̚]
[Title acquired: Chosen by the system — You are special, rejoice in the help of a great cause! — May get help, titles are easier to get.]
System? Help? My mind froze, what were all of these notifications. They were just like a— game? It was akin to a game. I had gotten a title. I was in the middle of ascension. I was chosen as a champion, the only logical conclusion was—
I was dead! And this? My fantasy world from the deterioration of my mind, similar to an eternal coma. Why would I dream of being in a game though? I can’t remember… But before I could infer anything, I felt a weird sensation.
My eyes opened. I could see blurry light, smell iron, touch… Touch?! Before I could process anything I was hit by the warmth of sunlight as my eyes adjusted, I felt warm, but it was different from the sun, I was holding onto something warm. Following the feeling I looked and—
“What the fuck?!” I stumbled back and fell down onto a puddle of red. My hand was… “WHAT THE FUCK!—” My hand! wHat is tHat?!
It was akin to a stick, but— I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Full of red flesh, chunks falling out in crimson, it was a… bone? Its thing, encased in blood.
I took a deep breath and decided to assess the situation. Only to pause again. Everywhere I saw, observed, tried to look at. All red. Chunks of flesh were hanging from the rocky walls, bones and viscera were splattered everywhere. I could see multiple carcases of strange beings around me…
I? I could feel my stomach churning. Deciding to look away, my gaze landed where I initially woke up. I paused. It was a skeleton. I woke up next to a skeleton?
[Title acquired: Grim Reaper — Your entire life, you’ve been surrounded by bones. You were born with bones, you became part of the bones, you are the bones. Life and death has been present with you since your birth, and yet you’re one of the remains. — +200% Bonus damage against bones
“We press forth! To bring down a true monster takes the truest of monsters! Attack! Only one shall remain!” — Sansan to his army — last emperor of the Death Empire. End of the Era of Decayed Sovereignty.]
Unable to process the information I paused and closed my eyes.
I… Was all of this real? The notifications, the screams, the… Everything…? All— all things considered. If the title was to be trusted then. Wasn’t I present during the death of… This? I mentally skimmed over the image of the scene in my mind, unable to take a look at it to confirm.
Taking a deep breath I opened my eyes again.
Red, splatters, massacre. Was all I could picture just looking at it. Perhaps it didn’t look as brutal as I first envisioned but... It was as if things got blended together into an amalgamation of flesh, fur and bones... Thankfully it wasn’t rotting... I took a deep breath yet again in an attempt to calm my unsettled heart, my stomach no longer upset.
Bones, flesh, and rocks. Some carcasses were a combination of all, some were mutilated, some had their flesh maimed, and others seemed to die to more natural things such as bites. I wasn’t panicking, or at least not as much as I thought.
I shook my head. And looked towards the light. I was in a cave. I was born in a cave. If the notifications were to be believed anyway. At that moment I saw a strand of silver hair block my vision. Well, with some blood on it.
I sighed. “What the fuck…” My voice wasn’t like how I thought it would be. Was I a girl? No— I was Leah! Well… Was Leah a girl? No… brother. Girl, I wasn’t, but…? Sister?
My shoulders slumped as my body collapsed on the oddly warm ground. The blood no longer mattered as I began to remember things. The time spent in the void and my current situation. In short— I still didn’t know if I was Leah, or well. Well who else could I be? It was slightly illogical. Highly so.
I looked down just to make sure. My body wasn’t very gifted, neither in the past nor now, frankly I could hardly tell the difference between my current body and my old one, well the only difference was that my sex had switched. It hardly made a difference to my current state of mind if I was being honest…
Even though I was bathed in blood… I didn’t feel shocked anymore.
It was oddly calming.
But there was something rather unnerving. Perhaps I was going crazy, but I was certain of one thing. This wasn’t a dream, but a new life of sorts. Or well…
I looked at the cave of death once again, finding an odd feeling of warmth within everything, finding a desire somewhere in it.
If it was nothing more than a dream, it surely had been turned into a terrifying nightmare.
◇ ◇ ◇
I opened my eyes after thinking for an indeterminate amount of time to get my thoughts in order. What I had discovered wasn’t any different to what I initially thought. I was in a void with little to no memories aside from flashes. I wake up here and now I have some type of quest in progress. I heard horrid sounds in the void only to see the aftermath after waking up.
I was some type of champion. And my mission wasn’t very descriptive either. Well. I was alive. At least I thought so, I could breathe, feel, and even taste the blood near my mouth. I was completely covered in it from head to toe. Its iron-like taste slightly bothered me.
Long story short, I died but somehow I was alive now. And that was slightly concerning. But nothing was as concerning as the tug I felt in my mind. I had looked at it a few times, but it was just as unnerving every time.
The warmth of the cave and its desire had grown.
I felt drawn to delve further into the cave almost as if it was calling for me. It needed me... I needed it. It was an instinct, but it was almost primal. It was unsettling, I felt an unending desire to go there, a thirst. It had been calling for long… and I couldn’t resist it.
Looking at that place made me slightly uneasy, but also oddly excited. I couldn’t decide whether to heed my instincts or to try to ignore them. So I simply stayed on the ground.
I felt safe sitting down.
It was technically a safe space. At least, I thought so — I was born here after all. Even in spite of the numerous beasts, I just felt… safe. But going further into the cave felt odd, even if I was drawn towards it by a mere feeling of desire.
However, in the end, I only had two routes, an odd-instinctual one, and leaving the cave. Would I even get to return here again? Sure I did not know what awaited me, but the likeliness of me returning to a pit of corpses? Most likely not. No matter how safe I felt, they would eventually decay, and soon taking its pleasant feeling along with it. Without thinking any further I stood up, but made sure to look around. Surely there was something that I could use to cover myself.
I took a look around, my eyes landing on the different beasts and ravaged things, until finally, my eyes stopped on a very familiar scene. It was the skeleton. The skeleton I had woken up with, and the skeleton I had possibly slept with. It had some cloth that was like a mangled cloak. I took it without thinking twice about it.
He was dead and I needed something to cover myself. Besides, I wasn’t going to cover myself in bloody beast parts or whatever the things were. Perhaps they were animals, but they felt closer to beasts rather than anything. I had seen it, some of their pointy fangs, no animal would have serrations on their fangs. They were monst—
[Title acquired: Scavenger — It was mine, I swear! It was left there for me to take! +150% Substance Bonus — Food will last 150% longer in your body.]
[Attribute now visible: SUB — Substance.]
[Title acquired: Desecrator — You don’t respect the dead?! You defile them! What’s to come, their children? Your fingers show no respect for the dead as they dance on their corpse, you rob them of what was rightfully theirs. -30% Charisma +120% Dexterity]
I paused. It was just a fucking skeleton!
“Is it really necessary to be so passive-aggressive to me? Aren’t I a champion for you or something? tch.” I grumbled as I put on the poor excuse of a cloak. It kind of made me not feel as cold from the wind, but that was about it.
I wasn’t too used to the system, but I couldn’t get hung up on it either.
So much for modesty. At least I had gotten some titles, which, granted. I didn’t know how much they mattered. But if it was like a game, then surely the percentages were important. Now if I knew what my attributes were. And so, I said the first thing that came to mind.
Name: Leah | Branded name: Unavailable
Level: 10 | Race: Descended Dungeon Core
Passive skill: Calculated Danger Perception | Blessing: Night’s Embrace
Attribute Average: 19 | Max attribute average: 38
Mana: 5 | STR: 20 | DEX: 24 | END: 20 | AGI: 20 | CHA: 14 | SUB: 30
Affinities: Darkness (Tier 1) Skills: None
Oh! Well this is surely helpful, Strength, Endurance, Charisma, Dexterity, Agility and… Substance? As well as Mana that was lower than everything else. Still… I basically understood nothing about what most of the things meant.
Calculated Danger Perception? Affinity of Darkness? Descended Dungeon Core? Branded name? I sort of knew what a dungeon core was but… Weren’t they supposed to be static and like, not have a body?
Attribute points that I do not understand as well as no skills and an affinity to darkness. I sighed.
Looking at the edge of my vision. I could almost see a quest-like panel with the notification of being a Champion. It was also telling me that my ascension was in process. But…
The keywords in the objectives kept distorting and flickering. Should a game truly do that? No— I couldn’t say it was glitched just yet. Perhaps it was meant to be cryptic and glitchy, but it was weird.
I mean. Why would you select a champion, throw them into a death zone within an objectively eerie cave and then tell them to change the… era? Or whatever it said. Moreover, it was the era of true monsters. Which didn’t sound like a nice era to begin with...
Moreover, if I remembered correctly, the Grim Reaper title had a quote in it from Sansan the emperor. It was one that marked the end of the Era of Decayed Sovereignty… Whatever that was.
To bring down a true monster, it takes the truest of monsters! I heavily sighed remembering it…
Perhaps it also marked the start of the era of true monsters. Needless to say… It didn’t sound good, it was basically shouting the word ‘trouble’. But first, I simply had to move forward. I had been thinking for probably an hour or two at this point.
I sighed standing up, I had already made my decision as my feet led me forth towards the depths of the cave, following nothing but the warm fuzzy feeling. It made me excited, but at the same time there was another feeling there.
The era, whatever had happened to me, the game, or the death around me. Perhaps I would’ve questioned it, if it didn’t make me feel sick when I first saw it. Just where was I? And what had happened to me?
It truly was, a bit too much to take in. This… new life of mine.