1. Escaping the Void
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A creature lurked below the world's surface in a golden lightning cage. It had remained lifeless for a long time, constantly in stasis of existence. The ethereal whispers of the Void couldn't awaken the creature from its eternal slumber. Titanic horrors that shouldn't exist casually floated by with curious glances with their many eyes that had seen the birth and death of stars. The old ones knew to avoid it, and the younglings would soon learn.

The cage was the one cornerstone in the endless Void. Never moving, it kept its prisoner safe from ancient predators that lurked nearby; some would love to consume such a notorious creature.

For the first time since its creation, the cage showed signs of sentience as it pulsed and allowed a soul entry. The dormant creature of shadows raised its head...

"Where the fuck is this?"

The words of a world-ending monster echoed out into the expansive nothingness. 

Victor felt... many things. Strange, odd, confused. No adjective in the English language could describe being suspended in nothingness. He could tell his body was huge, but it was hard to tell without a reference.

His thoughts were cloudy and dull as if downloading an update. Something squirmed around in his skull, building walls and sealing something. It was all very confusing.

But then he snapped into focus. He was somewhere, as something, but he could finally think. His brain whizzed as ideas of his situation flew past. 

"That Goddess never..." his voice sounded old, as old as time, nothing like his previous teenager voice cracks, "... told me my mission." A frown formed on the Netherborne's face. From his memories, if the protagonist was never provided with a purpose, such as 'Defeat the Demon Lord!' then there were more nefarious schemes behind the scenes. Why would an all-powerful entity kidnap a random soul and give them preferential treatment?

The Void rumbled as what can only be described as an eldritch blue whale floated below the cage. Before Victor could even react, a force smashed into the cage, and it didn't resist. It flew up towards the mortal plane above.

Like swimming underwater and looking towards the sky, the world's underbelly became focused as he hurtled towards it. Then, right before impact, a small gap formed. The cell opened up and pushed him against it. 

The hole was merely a few meters wide compared to his titanic size. Yet the cage and unknown force did not relent. He was compressed and squeezed through.

 

***

 

With a pop, the gap in the fabric of reality in the centre of the ritual circle closed.

Victor looked around himself, or he tried to but was already confused. Firstly the ritual circle was covered in foliage. The tattered clothes surrounding the ritual helped hide the rotting bodies of long-dead humans.

Victor felt nothing despite the horrific sight. Only cold thoughts occupied his mind, mainly the objective of the Goddess. If she cared about the planet, there is no way she would allow a creature such as himself into this world. "So, what is her plan?" His ancient voice remained the same, but it lacked that gravity it had in the Void.

"So I was massive." Victor scrutinised his surroundings. "Unless the trees are tiny here, I am tall, disturbingly so." Victor reached out to touch the top of a nearby tree but paused. His arm was no longer made of flesh and blood. Instead, it was some kind of shadowy mist that evaporated with every passing second, and at the end were claws, easily a meter long each and made of dark metal.

 "Alright, let's see what I'm working with here, [Status]."

 

[Name: Victor]

[Race: Netherborne]

[Level: 1]

[STR: 999, DEX: 999, CON: 999, INT: 999, WIS: 999]

 

[Race Information]

[Skills]

[...]

"Hm, aren't those values a little high for a level 1?" Victor worried as he read the stats that appeared in his mind. "Anyways, pushing that aside let's check out the race information..."

 

[Netherbornes are sentient undead nightmares from the Void; they are artificial and malicious and recorded to take pleasure in the corruption and suffering of others. They are creatures known to end civilisations when summoned and have immense powers over the powers of darkness. Few have feasted their eyes on their true forms and lived to tell the tale, but a few records claim they stood taller than a large barn with bodies of shadowy mist and lethal blades.]

[Netherbornes are unnatural beings rejected by the world's energies and therefore consume lifeforce to remain on the mortal plane...]

[Notice: To maintain form in the mortal realm, one stat is lost per second from each stat category] 

"So that explains why the trees seemed smaller; I'm larger than a barn, so maybe more than six meters tall? But more concerning is that last notice..." Victor quickly rechecked his stats.

 

[STR: 939, DEX: 939, CON: 939, INT: 939, WIS: 939]

 

"It's only been a minute, and I have already lost over 60 stat points in each category, so 300 in total? So doesn't that mean I only have around 15 minutes to live?"

 

In a dull panic, Victor opened his skill menu.

 

[Consume X]

[Raise Undead X]

[Shadow Magic X]

[Annihilating Aura X]

[Freezing cone V]

[Stealth X]

[Doom Ray X]

[Spirit movement III]

 

"Shit, I don't even have time to read my abilities. That can wait; I need to find some prey while my stats are still high."

 

Victor started to run in a random direction, but much to his surprise, it seemed Netherborne were incapable of simply walking. Rather, they float or fly to move. "This will be a massive advantage in combat," Victor said as he made no noise or vibrations and could also change direction instantly, instead of turning and giving away his movements to an opponent.

 

While floating through the forest like some grim reaper, he turned on his [Annihilating Aura]. Any creature within 30 ft of Victor died instantly. This seemed an effective method for killing all the insects hiding amongst the soil and trees.

 

[Level up!]

 

[Level up!]

 

[Level up!]

 

[Level up!]

A constant pain seemed to gnaw at his brain. The pain was similar to hunger but left Victor feeling like he was withering away.

 

Despite levelling up multiple times, Victor's stats were still decreasing by the second. Thinking for a moment, he decided to read the first skill description, [Consume]: Absorb nearby lost souls for life energy

 

Realising what he was doing wrong, Victor activated [Consume], and tiny blue wisps started flying towards him and were absorbed by his shadowy body. Victor could feel the life energy enter his body, but it was quickly used to maintain his form.

 

Even after killing hundreds of bugs, Victor had only really stabilised his stats at around 1000 each. Then, desperately looking around, Victor saw a small green man with a wooden pole and rags covering his junk hiding in a bush.

 

Victor floated over to the green man. Despite being directly in front of the little monster no taller than his claw, the goblin completely ignored him as if he was not even there, but it seemed to sense something was wrong.

 

Although the goblin couldn't see through Victor's maxed-out Stealth skill, its instincts told it of incoming death. The forest had suddenly gone deathly silent. The usual hum of insects had vanished and been replaced with a chilly stillness. So the little green man decided to run. Victor simply followed behind silently.

 

Victor had disabled his [Annihilating Aura] to not kill the little goblin. As everyone knows, goblins are not solitary creatures. They are like rodents and breed like crazy. All he needed to do was follow this little goblin to his nest, and then his rapidly lowering stats issue could be resolved for a while.

 

It was quite a terrifying sight if anyone could see it. A small one-meter tall goblin was running with a fearful face while a barn-sized shadow monster of death silently floated behind it like some stalker.

 

This poor little goblin will regret bringing his tribe to extinction in his next life...

 

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