Chapter 1: Personalities

In a place where everything changes and stays constant as if the two were eternally intertwined, Alex has observed the repeating cycle for a month after her meeting with Hermes.

 

In a few cases of ‘adventurers’, as NPCs would call them, start in Culcheth Village, it was only a matter of time before they left. This was because the isolation that the village offered was a far cry from what they have expected – that if Rihanna were to be here, she would instantly regret being the ‘Only Girl (In the World)’.

 

However, these pass and go of people barely affected the village. The wind still carried the dried leaves of autumn, the waves still sung that alluring lullaby by the shore and more importantly, the village still housed the hopes and dreams of those it sheltered.

 

Although, in a sense, sheltered and imprisoned could be used interchangeably, Alex thought. This place, Culcheth Village, only had two exits: one through the mountain path and one under the mountain.

 

Through her constant observation and the trail and error by the other adventurers, it was safe to assume that those who began in Culcheth Village were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

 

The path on the mountain winded numerous times and branched into multiple dead ends, enough to be considered a maze on its own. Furthermore, it was counted as a dungeon inhabited by high-leveled monsters.

 

On the other hand, the vast tunnel underneath was a hundred kilometers in diameter that both slowly expanded and contracted to open and close in a span of two hours.

 

Nonetheless, that didn’t apple to Alex. When she learnt of the village’s circumstances, even ignorance couldn’t give her as much bliss.

 

I don’t like being alone…

 

……

 

It was a month after the Ascension Online’s release and Alex was crouched in a cave. An intense expression masked her face as she stared at the cave wall before her.

 

An information prompt appeared,

 

Your [Prospecting] has reached Level 5!

  • Wisdom has increased by 5.
  • [Prospecting] range has increased to 50m.
  • [Identify] can now be used on ores and gems.

 

At that moment, her gaze let up. She collapsed on the ground and the sound of her heavy breathing reverberated in her ears. In her parallel vision, the blue MP bar blinked profusely. It now had a sliver of 10MP from the five points she gained into the wisdom stat, in addition to the increased maximum value of her MP.

 

“I finally have [Prospecting] at a decent level.” Alex sighed in relief.

 

The Blacksmith’s Profession Quest she has received needed her to state the five ores found on the mountains, their uses and their properties. Currently, she has seen four of the ores, each ore buried deeper than the other.

 

She also knew that to [Identify] these materials, it required to be in her hands. Once identified, the second and third parts of her quest would be completed. In spite of that, she made no movements of excavating them from the earth.

 

Her bag was as empty as a newborn’s mind, and the currency counter below told her she had one silver coin saved up. Not to mention, the ten pieces of stale bread that was provided to starting players has long been finished.

 

As a last attempt, she activated [Prospecting] and threw another glance at the cracked wall, causing her remaining MP to be drained to 0.

 

……

 

{Culcheth Village}

 

Alex treated the outermost part of the village, arriving at the hut whose chimney offered cornucopias of smoke unto the jolly Sky.

 

“Oh, you returned.” Smiled the wolven beastman. He sat cross-legged on a tree stump, his right hand supporting the pipe that produced shameful puffs compared to the chimney.

 

The two furry ears poking out of his head twitched slightly in delight and even though he tried to conceal it, his tail perched on a low branch halted as it swayed languidly from side to side.

 

She nodded in acknowledgement however a frown creased her forehead. The man enjoyed the company of others, she understood that clearly from his reaction. Yet, he remains in this part of the village which was a family and a beastman from being described as deserted.

 

He chuckled, his [Heightened Senses] was capable of picking up on people’s moods and thoughts, despite this girl hiding it with a mere nod.

 

Inwardly, he held the girl in high regard. She came to ensure that he knew that she still intended to become an apprentice. Nevertheless, her voice was strict when he spoke. “You haven’t completed the quest.”

 

When the girl bobbed her head and turned around to leave, he continued on impulse. “I have a pickaxe inside. You can have it.”

 

She spoke after a pause. “Thanks.”

 

“You don’t have to be so stiff around me.” He said as she headed towards the hut behind him.

 

Once again, she gave him a simple nod. The ground held her gaze captive and no expression could be discerned within her.

 

I hate those quiet people, acting so arrogant! Who do they think they are?

 

……

 

As soon as the girl lifted the hut’s overhanging flap open, Gearan felt the skin under his fur crawl and squirm at the non-existent heat scorching him across his face. Amongst the pain, a stinging sensation loitered at the back of his mind as if a gash was exposed to the air.

 

“She… hated ugly people too.” The girl proclaimed, her hand touching her own face.

 

The hideous scar, Gearan realized and withdrew his [Heightened Senses] focused on the girl. Nonetheless, he was rooted in his place, as if the stump assimilated his body onto itself.

 

Although she was faced away from him, its clear image entered his mind – the grafting scar across the girl’s face surrounded by a crevice of pink burnt skin.

 

Unable to intervene, he watched the girl enter and leave the hut with the pickaxe in her possession. The hand clutching her scar, seethed in anger as it throbbed with even more heat.

 

“Why did you choose this path?” His teeth gritted.

 

Nonetheless, the girl ignored him and walked lifelessly, her foot barely able to support her swaying weight. When she was out of his line of sight, the wind carried her voice.

 

“I will become everything she hates.”

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Chapter 0: Prologue

‘Welcome to Ascension Online.

 

The system does not recognize any saved data, would you like to create a new account?’

 

Is this really virtual reality, Alex thought as she glanced at her surroundings.

 

She was at the centre of a cathedral, numerous pillars lined up on either side supporting the dome above. In the shadows, the faint glow casted by the light seeping through the clerestory windows revealed the long expression of the statues as they towered over her lone figure.

 

At her back, an arched doorway had been pried open – along with the dull brown sky, they gave off a muddled feeling. Moreover, in the altar’s place were eight empty seats exuding power throughout the cathedral.

 

“Yes.” Alex answered listlessly.

 

‘The system will be doing a full body scan. Please wait for a moment.’

 

Suddenly, she was disconnected from the game. It minimized itself on her Nerve Gear immediately scanning her brain waves. Without a word, she lay on her back and waited for the scan to finish and before long, the game initiated.

 

An information prompt greeted her,

 

Full Body Scan: 100% [Completed]

 

Simultaneously, Alex’s body materialized from her toes to her head. Undoubtedly, she was lightly clothed and her eyes glinted as she observed her own modesty.

 

Nonetheless, the disembodied cybernetic voice drifted between the darkness while it continued to ask the questions.

 

‘What is your name?’

 

“Alex.”

 

What is your race?”

 

“Human?” Her voice was laced with confusion causing another information prompt to appear.

 

Human

 

A human once was able to occupy one of the Thrones to save the race from being evicted. It enabled the race to inhabit a dominion which later became the smallest continent, Lightfield.

 

Choosing this race will have the following bonuses and drawbacks: None

 

Do you belong to this race? Yes / No

 

She read over the mass of text carefully and swiped at the prompt to see any other available information.

 

Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Demons and Beastmen – these were the five races. They all had differing starting location, stat allocation and stat scaling. Obviously, it gave the players an important choice to make right off the bat.

 

Under her gaze, she contemplated over the race’s deviation from one another.

 

Considering I’m a beginner, drawbacks might amount to more while bonuses might amount to less, she thought. An immediate answer appeared on her mind, following her thought process.

 

Her hand skimmed over the transparent screen and landed on the ‘Yes’ option.

 

‘Do you wish to make any changes to your appearance?’

 

Another window appeared, containing an imager of her.

 

Not giving it any thought, she replied. “No.”

 

‘To start your journey, please choose a starting location.’

 

Her image was promptly replaced with a map – names of kingdoms and towns scribbled itself on the meager continent named as Lightfield. In the continent, the mark of civilization deeply embedded itself onto the land like a wide-spread plague.

 

It drove nature into a roaming corner around the coast. However, this was only due to the mountain range halting the civilization’s advance.

 

Coincidentally, it was labeled as a landmark in the continent of Lightfield, Sleeping Dragon – an aptly named mountain range in the form of a dragon spanning across and separating civilization and nature like a barrier.

 

Once she noticed a darker shade in the names of kingdoms compared to the towns’ faded names, her eyes naturally moved to the outskirts.

 

Situated between the mountain range and the thinning forest, a village caught Alex’s attention. The village’s name was completely faded and it was miniscule compared to its surroundings.

 

Upon her tranquil expression, an underlying vengeance shook the surface as her thoughts tiptoed on the past.

 

In an instant, her senses were assaulted by the familiar rotting stench of a backwater town, the satisfied laughter of a girl as Alex broke down in front of everyone’s indifferent faces and the bright glow of a gleaming red blade.

 

As fast it came, it went and was replaced by the sudden gust entering the cathedral. Quickly turning into a gale after it seemed to pick up on her intentions, it caused the dormant dust to grind against the weathered interior. The winds howled in her ears while it continued to drag her out of the sacred place.

 

“Who are you?!” Alex glared at the shadows. Even if it were for less than a second, she knew what she saw.

 

As if to prove her correct, right before she lost her footing on the uneven cobbled floor and heard the doors close shut, she saw him.

 

He sat at the foot of the steps towards the eight seats wearing the smile that gave him away. His disembodied cybernetic voice transitioned over flawlessly to an amused human tone.

 

“Hermes.”