Age 749, Thursday, Morning August 8, Uranai Baba’s Palace.
Slowly coming back into consciousness, I opened my eyes, groaning and immediately scrunching them shut as the light pierced through. I winced in irritation, gently rubbing at them.
Half a minute later, I opened them again, slowly adjusting to the light, seeing the usual window floating off to the side.
You have slept on a bed! HP, MP and Ki fully restored!
I dismissed it with a wave, deciding to stay in bed for just a little while longer as my mind caught up with yesterday’s events.
Just getting to sleep had been tough enough; the excitement, the trepidation had hit me hard.
Even weeks after disabling [Gamer’s Mind], I was still unused to feeling things.
I think, worse yet, the fact that I had been actively suppressing my emotions has dialed up their intensity.
Or, rather, it had muted their ‘kick’, so to speak.
The end result was the same of course. All of my emotional reactions were magnified now. The first week had been a complete struggle to maintain a hold of myself.
It would’ve been so much easier to shut it all off and go back to being a machine which somewhat resembled a human in appearance and mannerisms.
Just one long-press and voilà! No more pesky feelings; but, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I willingly went down that route once again.
So, I grit my teeth and sailed through the figurative storm of emotion. I was still sailing, actually.
“Work in progress,” I muttered as I finally got off the mattress, putting on the weighted clothes with ease.
I exited the room, and made my way down to the palace main hall, where Baba and the Usher were waiting for me, probably to see me off, I figured.
“Take this.” She said, holding her hand out after we exchanged greetings. It was a small phial, filled with a purple liquid. Activating [Insight], I read through the contents of the window that appeared.
Mana Vial (Minor)
Description: Restores 2,000 MP. Consumed upon use. Has the taste of syrup, but the consistency of water.
“…” I turned to look at the old hag in question. “Will I learn how to do this?”
“It’ll depend on your aptitude, really.” Uranai Baba replied, waving it off. “Many simply don’t have the patience, or the skill to be able to concoct magic restoratives.”
Which meant, with my Gamer ability, I could probably do it regardless.
“I see the gears turning in your mind.” Baba rolled her eyes. “It is a very difficult path to take— I fear you wouldn’t have the time to do so.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, sounding slightly confused. “It’s just following a recipe and mixing ingredients together, right?”
The old bat barked a laugh at that.
“The foolishness of youth…” She said with a shake of her head. “Potion-making is an art, child. It is not like chemistry or cooking. You do not simply follow a recipe. You understand it, you put every fiber of your being, your soul into it.”
I remained silent as she continued. “Not only that, but each and every ingredient must be gathered by you personally.”
That… would certainly put another level of difficulty into the craft, wouldn’t it?
“You are beginning to understand.” She nodded. “Some ingredients, you have to grow yourself, even. I remember, a long time ago, I was making a potion to keep my skin from ever getting wrinkly— I had to grow one of my ingredients in a desert environment, a few hour’s walk away from an oasis. It took a month for it to fully grow, and, when the time came to harvest it, I made the mistake of doing it five minutes earlier than I should have. Thus, it failed.”
“Maybe such a path isn’t for me, then.” I decided as I tried to absorb the sheer time and sacrifice put into this singular endeavor.
“Much of the stronger magics require sacrifice.” Baba stated as if she didn’t even hear me. “Amateurs decide to use the easiest thing available, blood sacrifice. It’s messy, chaotic, but gets the job done somewhat. The perfect tool for someone aiming to cause destruction and the like. Truly powerful magic requires higher sacrifices; hard work, mental resolve, time, all of these I put into my potion. It is not simply a recipe.”
“I’m sorry for making it sound like that.” I apologized, wincing at my thoughtlessness.
“Apology accepted.” The old woman replied, mollified.
“Why didn’t you ever decide to do it again?” I asked curiously.
“Doing it once was very draining— mentally, physically and spiritually.” Baba said, shrugging as she floated on the crystal ball. “I would rather not do so again.”
“I understand.” I replied, disagreeing with her but not willing to argue the point. I took the potion, sliding it into my inventory and giving her a nod.
“Take note.” She said, patting her crystal ball. “I felt the strange energy out some more a bit earlier. It seems you may truly be able to tell the future in some limited way.”
“So, Demon Bane—” I stopped short.
“—Yes, the energy in question is of demonic origin. Why exactly it’s surfacing here, I have no idea. It has done so before, once. I didn’t understand it then, and I do not understand it now.”
She was talking about my father.
“The trip itself will take you around a day’s time.” Baba continued. “Your job is to investigate the region, perhaps find the source. If you feel you can deal with the problem, do so. If you find yourself outmatched, then try to stall for as long as you can. Akkuman is uniquely suited for jobs like this, but he is still busy in the Yunzabit Heights— an old ice demon reported to have awakened from a deep slumber.”
Akkuman, I hadn’t even met the guy yet, but he seemed to be a frightful fellow, if he can take care of a problem that big.
“…How often does something like this happen?” I asked after a moment.
“Often enough that I keep five fighters on retainer— at least one of them strong enough to deal with such threats.” Baba replied. “Do you think I tell people’s fortunes for fun?”
I absorbed her words. She likely paid the warriors to fight challengers, as well as go against various demons that pop up on the Earth.
“I think you watch your fighters against random groups for fun.” I replied. “Not that I can blame you; watching idiots go in way over their heads and get kicked around is pretty entertaining.”
“Just so.” She said, waving me away. “Go on, now. Off with you. We’ll resume your lessons when you’re finished with the job.”
I gave a nod, before exiting the palace, the main doors of the entrance closing behind me with a loud slam.
I would be back.
“If I live through this, anyway.” I muttered under my breath before starting on my journey.
Pulling a NutriBar out of my inventory— it was light-years better than whatever Baba had her cook whip up in the kitchen— I took a bite of the bland food.
It was strange, really.
I used to really dislike these rations, often going to restaurants or fast food joints whenever I had the opportunity.
However, after dealing with Baba’s strange and often disgusting taste in food, I began to realize that the ration bars just weren’t so bad.
I headed north, walking along the the lakeshore until the palace was but a small speck behind me, before breaking off of the lake and heading straight north.
The land gradually shifted from lowlands to highlands.
The seemingly boundless fields of green north of lake began to make way for various rocky outcroppings, jutting from the earth in completely random fashion, showcasing part of the larger story of the Earth’s tectonic shifts over the billions of years it’d taken for it to form.
“Demon Bane.” I said out loud, keeping my senses peeled as my Ki and Magic licked out at the air around me, feeling out for whatever energy I had felt when interacting with the crystal ball the day before.
I reeled in my ‘lures’, so to speak, before continuing on through the increasingly rocky territory. Dozens of minutes passed, with no sign of any disturbance in the energy of the world around me.
I stopped for a moment, turning my attention to my right. I felt… Something. It was very faint, but I could just about detect it.
It didn’t register as an animal or human, or like anything I’d ever felt before. The energy was strangely slimy, and felt somewhat hot, like grabbing a plate fresh out of the microwave.
What could it be?
I’d need to get much closer if I were to invoke [Insight] onto whatever the source of the energy was. With that in mind, I changed directions and trekked towards it, keeping my guard up.
I felt it more clearly with every step I took towards it, feeling a shiver creep up my spine. Something about it felt so out place.
This didn’t belong here.
It mingled with the flow of the Earth, but it was as if the Earth’s energy tried its best to avoid it- a futile gesture, but one of some significance, I thought.
I stopped, re-orienting myself and moving slowly up one of the larger rocky outcroppings here. The disturbance was at its top, it would take me about ten minutes to get up there.
A few presses in my [Inventory], and I felt lighter than ever, having switched the weighted clothes with a different set. One that Baba had materialized for me as a joke a few days into my training, but I’d taken quite the shine to it.
She’d even made in my preferred colors. I definitely would need to learn [Magic Materialization] one of these days. Uranai Baba had said I’d need to be quite adept at magic before even considering such a skill.
My own attempt at recreating it had ended up wasting a day’s worth of training. That was when she’d materialized the current outfit I was wearing: a dark green tunic held by a brown belt, grey trousers, and brown boots.
“This is so cool.” I crowed for the briefest of moments, before my gleeful gaze turned serious once more as my probes felt the energy spike.
I began to climb the outcropping, the mountain climbing experience making things much easier this time around. Knowing what to avoid, how to grab onto ledges, and other things really helped in that regard.
Before I knew it, I grabbed onto the final ledge, pulling myself up easily. I saw it as I got to my feet, dusting myself off almost absently as I stared into the hole in reality.
“What…” I said out loud, probing it and invoking [Insight].
Hole in Reality
It is a hole in reality, achieved through the breaking of dimensional barriers. It links this world to an unknown destination. Its source is equally unknown.
A hole in reality? I balked for a few moments at the portal, before turning to leave. Uranai Baba needed to know of this.
But then I stopped, feeling the portal’s energy spike once more. I turned to inspect it further, not really understanding what was going on.
The hole became larger, probably big enough to fit a small child through. Something was feeding it energy. But… what?
I swallowed the reflexive fear down, taking deep breaths to calm myself, before examining the hole in reality more closely. I probed it further, waiting until the next spike.
It came a few minutes later, widening the portal once more. I felt a trace of energy going straight down, into the ground. Something in the ground was doing this?
I moved my energy through the ground, trying to feel for whatever it was down there, but I detected nothing.
Whatever was down there was so far deep underground that I had no chance of sensing it.
Plus, something that deep down had to have been old. Like, millions of years old. I doubted I’d be able to sense it if it weren’t for the intermittent pulses coming from the portal.
I watched as the portal pulsed again, growing wide enough to be able to squeeze in someone my size.
Pulling a capsule from my inventory, I ran the numbers in my head, before putting the capsule back. If this really was a hole leading to the demon world, then going back to the old hag could be a big mistake.
I couldn’t just leave it unattended.
Granted, the information I had on demons was lacking. Aside from the Demon King Piccolo, there have been mentions of other nameless demonic entities who were either killed off or sealed away.
Even Baba hadn’t been overly helpful on that front, despite actively dealing with the supernatural herself. Though, what light she did shed was confusing to say the least.
Apparently, Otherworld existed as part of the universe, under the purview of beings called Kais, who oversaw different sections of the universe.
Otherworld was comprised of Heaven and Hell, as well as the planets these higher deities apparently lived on.
But here’s the kicker: Demon World was apparently something completely different from Hell. It wasn’t part of Other World, and it wasn’t part of the living world either.
The old crone had almost no information on it, other than my father apparently disappearing without a trace the last time the energy was felt.
Everything was beginning to click into place now. Did my father find a portal just like this, back then?
Just then, the portal pulsed once again, spitting out a man in armor— or at least, what passed for a man.
The creature’s head was missing. It held a blood-crusted sword in its right hand, with a shield strapped to its right arm.
It moved the shield around weirdly. At least, I thought it was weird right until it pointed the shield at me, revealing the the metallic face sticking out of it.
“A human, just waiting at the gate?” It crowed excitedly, taking a few steps forward, its armor clanging with every movement it made. “Such a young one, too!”
Latching onto it with my power, I invoked [Insight], suppressing the urge to wince at the sheer wrongness this creature exuded merely by existing.
Scourge – Lv 37
Age – 140
Race – Demon / Undead
Rep: 0/50,000 Despised
A low level Knight in the Demon Army, Scourge is looking for some glorious combat, and maybe some good old fashioned bloodletting!
He plans on starting with this dumb, yet familiar looking kid.
Battle Power: 155
Boy, was I glad to have taken my weights off beforehand. So this was just a low level Knight from the demon world? And, what the hell did it mean by familiar?
“Why have you come?” I stalled for time, hoping the sign of sapience this being was showing could be used to my advantage.
Sometimes, people loved sharing their stories with any who would listen.
I knew it was a long shot, but I was still banking on that, hoping this monster was going to at least gloat about how smart he is.
To my surprise, it actually worked.
“Foolish mortal…” The headless Knight crowed. “It doesn’t seem to understand its predicament, does it? No matter…”
My apprehension gave way to indignant anger. “I have a name, you tin bucket.”
“It still talks.” The monster said to himself in a somewhat surprised tone. “The cattle does not know its true place.”
He brandished his sword toward me. “Perhaps a good bloodletting will teach it.”
My eyes flashed with blazing intensity.
“Just try it!” I snarled, sinking into the Tiger Stance and watching the demon carefully.
The face on the shield screamed at me, a palpable wave of sound impacting against my body.
You have been hit by the [Knight’s Wail].
[Gamer’s Body] partly negated the effect.
You are now disoriented.
Time left: 3 seconds
I had no time to read the window, tripping over my feet and barely dodging the swordsman’s downward slash.
The large blade impacted against the ground, digging into it and buffeting me with the debris.
I leapt high into the air, avoiding the follow-up thrust. I rose at least fifty feet, whooping in exhilaration and excitement.
I hung in the air for a few seconds, feeling my body shake off the effects of the disorientation as I fell back down.
The Headless Knight raised his sword, moving himself underneath where I’d land.
He was hoping to skewer me with his blade, I realized. I pointed my hands down towards him.
“Ha!” Power erupted from my palms, falling down into the creature below me.
The gravity assisted ball of Ki smashed the Headless Knight into the ground, embedding him within.
The sword flew out of the creature’s grip as it grunted in pain. I stared in shock. That much energy was supposed to have utterly destroyed this creature!
I hit the ground running, dashing forward and grabbing the sword before the monster could reclaim it.
The weapon was heavy and unwieldy— even at my current strength level, but I hefted it in preparation to finish the Headless Knight off. A quick check to its HP showed that it was down to 3,000.
Its defenses had been high enough to withstand more than what its displayed HP showed it could take. I’d have to take that into account, in the future.
“What… are you?” It asked in a mix of shock and existential terror.
I ignored its question, instead asking my own. “How did you open the portal?”
“It believes one such as I opened the gateway. Mortals are so strange.” The Headless Knight replied, its shield-face amused.
“If not you, then who?” I tried again, brandishing the heavy sword threateningly. “How many of you are there? I want answers.”
“The hatchling believes it will get me to talk.” The demon snarled. “It will get nothing from me.”
And I believed it.
Without any more words, I lifted the large blade, bringing it down on the demon’s shield-arm, denting the armor inward and shattering the appendage.
The monster gave one last cry, glaring at me with hatred, before the arm fell limply to the floor, its shield-face clattering away for a few moments.
Reddish black ichor pooled beneath the main body, as well as the shield-face as I took stock of the situation.
That had been.. Laughably easy.
Then again, I thought as I looked at my Ki…
It had taken more than a third of my available power to put that thing close to death. Meaning, if I was fighting more than three of these, I would be having a bad time.
And, this was just a low-level fighter.
“Just a footsoldier. Fodder.” I mumbled, thinking quickly as I pulled another NutriBar, as well as a bottle of water, consuming both quickly. “Someone just scouting out the territory. This guy couldn’t have possibly been able to open the portal.”
I rubbed the bridge of my nose. “Never any answers, only more questions.”
-Head north, and investigate the disturbance in the world’s flow!
You’ve discovered that the disturbance is a hole in reality, leading to what you believe to be the Demon World, somewhere wholly separate from both the worlds of the living and of the dead.
-Close the portal.
Reward: 15,000 XP, ?
Failure Penalty: Death
“Close the portal.” I repeated incredulously, waving away the quest window. “That’s so very helpful, game.”
All right. What did I know?
The portal was linked to something deep underground.
However, whatever was down there wasn’t actually churning out any energy of its own— at least, none that I could readily detect.
Its purpose, then, was… Maybe some kind of beacon?
A figurative lighthouse for the spellcaster to be able to orient him/herself and come to this specific location?
That would have been my best guess.
This meant that whatever was powering the breach was actually on the other side, which fit well with my train of logic.
Someone opens a portal, and begins sending underlings through it to scout the territory out. Then, when that’s done, they send an army through, establish a foothold, etc.
Basic invasion tactics.
The only way to stop this would be to close the portal.
Doing that would probably involve going to the other side and shutting it down from there. However, that would most likely leave me stranded— the realization shot through me like a cold knife.
Was that what happened to my father?
Before I was able to process that particular thought, the portal pulsed again, another grotesque creature stepping out of the black void.
It was a purple blob, this time; a wrinkly, fat cone of flesh, with small stubs that passed for arms and legs, using a piece of gnarled wood to walk around.
It took a single step, its eyes landing on me, and then its fallen ally, before opening its toothless, too large mouth and letting out a loud, keening wail of anger that made my ears hurt.
With a wince, I linked my energy to it, invoking [Insight] on the ugly fleshy creature.
Nev – Level 36
Age – 89
Race – Demon
Rep: 0/50,000 Despised
A low level Mage in the Demon Army, Nev was sent in after Scourge failed to report on his scouting mission. The reasons why seem quite obvious to him.
He plans on distracting the foul mortal long enough to escape into the portal and warn his brothers of the resistance waiting on the other side.
Battle Power: 20
Not if I had anything to say about it.