Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, genericIntent
Author’s notes: It is the beginning of something new. Hopefully it is also the beginning of something good. I will most likely be out of internet for the next 1 – 3 weeks, so be prepared for a dump of chapters written by the time I return! For now, enjoy, leave your feedback and thoughts on the new story below (I still have internet on my phone so I’m not completely out of touch), and await my return. Mwahahaha *Pulls cap to cover everything below the eyes and hastily back peddles out of room while laughing sinisterly*
The chapter plan for this new story will also be available on my Patreon page for everyone who supports me there – once my internet returns and I have time to post it.
Chapter 1: Theore
The blistering midday sun burns brightly in the sky. A few inky grey clouds hover over the horizon, bringing news of a coming rain across the cracked wasteland.
Several yellow shrubs sway in the hot breeze, excited for the water to come. Sparse vegetation and rocky surfaces extend as far as the towering mountains tens of miles away.
Mutated animals, some as small as rodents and others as large as buildings, wander the land in solitude or in packs. Several people are in combat with these creatures. The smell of gunpowder, and static from charged ions, surrounds them as they discharge their weapons at the monsters. From one person in particular, a vivid blue circular symbol full of complicated patterns and formulae materializes into the air at his command. This symbol activates immediately and emits a hazy mist of ice that slows down the creatures around the man.
The hunters had emerged from the nearby city, which does not seem to originate from this world. Stretching twenty miles wide and forty-seven stories tall, each level of this city is three thousand feet high, causing the enormous structure to appear to pierce the heavens themselves.
This is the Grand City Theore, one of seventeen Grand Cities spread throughout this world.
Grand City Theore is a structure of cold steel, copper, and many other metallurgical minerals. Copper pipes carry steam from subterranean geysers that power turbines throughout the city. This creates electricity, moisture for the agricultural sector, water for the people in the city, heat during the sub zero degree nights, and kinetic energy to keep the city’s various generators functioning.
Silver pipes coated with mirrored glass on the inside collect the sunlight and reflect it throughout the interior of the city. This provides natural light throughout the floors of the city during the day. Mixed amongst some of the silver pipes are copper conduits from steam powered turbines, powering interior lighting and a few other constructs that rely on electricity to operate.
The city of Theore has numerous valves sticking out like branches, each as wide around as the trunk of an ancient world tree. They release the excess pressure from the city’s steam pipe network and eject it into the sky. The steam then disperses in the hot air around the city and causes clouds to form and gather around the distant mountains where the temperature is cooler. Once a month, the clouds become heavy enough that they start to rain and move back down the mountain, returning to offer a cool respite to the Grand City.
Deep within Theore, there is a young boy walking down several small alleys and avoiding the main thoroughfares. The boy is fourteen this year, and it is his first day of school. His home is exactly two miles from the school, so he left his house an hour and a half before school started to ensure he arrives there on time.
Short black hair covers his head in an unkempt mess. Anyone would assume this boy to be extremely apathetic if it was not for his unwavering, crystal blue eyes. He wears a brown tattered shirt with several short, brass buckles pulling the sleeves tight against his arms. His pants are as black as night, which helps conceal the wrinkles they are covered in.
He is only 4 foot 5 inches tall, allowing him to easily pass under the copper steam pipes powering the nearby residences, without having to lower his head. In front of the boy floats a translucent map of the city, highlighting the path to his destination.
He avoids the main roads to prevent unnecessary trouble. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to travel the entire way to school through the back alleys and has to use the main thoroughfare at some point.
“Oi, you’re that god damned Soulless kid aren’t you? The hell do you think you’re doing here?” A gruff middle-aged man notices the boy in the street and calls out in disgust.
The boy looks at the man without anger or humiliation and unhesitatingly replies, “I’m on my way to school, sir.”
“Ridiculous! They shouldn’t let someone like you even dream of going to school.” The man spits on the ground with an exaggerated motion and walks away.
“What? He’s a Soulless? Disgusting, he should just go straight to the Temple of Death.” The person next to the boy takes a few steps away as if the boy is contagious.
The boy doesn’t show any reaction to the man’s gruff words and continues walking.
This is what it means to be Soulless. A person that is said to have no soul and lacks some of the crucial factors that make up a person’s individuality. The boy quickens his pace as he leaves the area to ensure he is not late for his first day of school.
A half hour later, the boy arrives in front of the school he has been designated to attend, Theore School 116. The number 116 indicates that the school is on the 1st level and is the 16th school on that floor.
He received the notification a week ago. Which included a compilation of information regarding the schooling system and deposited all the items he would need into his personal inventory.
The school is a large building of silver, steel and copper plates. At the top of the central building is a clock tower, twisted copper hands on the clock reveal the time to be 8:40am. The boy enters the front gate twenty minutes early, exactly the amount of time he will need to register with attendance and arrive to class on time.
Multiple boys and girls, all fourteen years old, filter in through the entrance of the school. Each and every one is being supervised by their parents. Only the boy who was called a Soulless earlier is alone.
The boy easily merges with the line of people and awaits his turn to enter the building. The line appears to be long, but the speed at which students are processed and sent to their respective classes is extremely efficient. Ten minutes pass and the boy is standing in front of the admittance desk inside the building.
“You are.. Regal Havier.” The short, blonde haired woman sitting behind the desk brings up a translucent screen with the boys information. The screen shows the status page for the boy.
Name: Regal Havier Age: 14 Level: 1 Nxt Level: 0% Health: 100/100 Mana: 100/100 Stamina: 50/50 Class: None Str: 10 Dex: 10 Agi: 10 End: 10 Int: 10 Lck: 10 Martial Skills: None Alchemy Skills: None Crafting Skills: None Misc Skills: Future Sight - Lv.100 (Foresight) Passive Buffs: None
“Hrmm,” the lady doing the admittance for new student suddenly frowns, “You have no skills other than a single miscellaneous skill, that appears to be your inherent skill. What have you been doing the past seven years?”
Regal can tell that the question isn’t meant to be answered. He waits patiently as she opens another translucent window. This new page contains Regal’s personal history, which can only be accessed by someone of her occupation.
“Both your parents are… This is complicated. They both entered the eternal rest and left you alone seven years ago. You are also a Soulless, so you probably feel nothing about this.”
The woman frowns upon reading the history of Regal Havier, a hint of scorn in her eyes. What she says isn’t entirely true. While he wasn’t as emotional as anyone else would have been, silent tears fell down his face while reading the farewell note his parent left saying they have decided to enter the eternal rest. This was the most emotionally charged state he had ever been in.
Regal didn’t become homeless after his parents entered the eternal rest. As he hadn’t completed school, he did not need to pay the single gold yearly city tax and was permitted by the city guard to stay in his home until he graduated from school.
Regal’s parents also left him with enough money to live peacefully for the next ten or so years. He took over maintaining and cleaning the small house while supporting himself. He had no indecision about this fact, only seeing what needed to be done and doing it.
“Soulless, you will go to the fourth classroom. Find any free seat and sit there. I am already behind schedule so make haste.” The woman abruptly brushes Regal off and attends to the next student.
“Yes, ma’am,” Regal nods toward the lady and follows his map toward the fourth classroom.
The classroom is already half full. The new students are laughing cheerfully with one another as they form their own social circles. Each and every student wears a similar brown shirt with the sleeves buckled tight and black pants. The only difference is that their uniforms are in much better condition than Regal’s.
When Regal enters, nobody pays particular attention to him as he finds an open seat in the middle of the room. Several children look toward him as he sits down, but no one comes up to invite him into their circle of friends. Regal’s new classmates don’t know he is a Soulless, but because of the unkempt hair and clothes, the other classmates find Regal’s appearance quite odd and out of place. Many look at him as if he is a delinquent of some kind and choose to be wary of him.
Regal Havier’s clothes were in good condition last week when he received the notification to attend school. They are only in their current state because he tried them on to go for a walk around the city and ended up being cornered and beaten by people who were aware of his status as a Soulless.
New students gradually filter in through the classroom door. Some select the seats nearest the windows, others choose a seat at random.
The bell rings at exactly 9:00am, and by this point the class is full with a total of thirty students. Theore School 116 has exactly four classrooms, each with an equal number of students. This means that in the entire school there are currently 120 students.
Shortly after the bell, a teacher walks in and quiets the class with the raise of his hand. The teacher has long black hair extending beyond his shoulders and pitch black eyes that seem to suck in the surrounding light. He wears a long overcoat of grey leather, which is adorned by several brass studs on his cuffs and lapel.
“Good morning students. I am Julius River, your teacher for the next four years. You can refer to me as Mr. River,” Julius speaks lazily as though he is overcome with exhaustion. “I am a level 124 Flame Alchemist.”
His introduction as a Flame Alchemist causes a commotion of excited whispering in the classroom. The students only become silent when an alchemical circle materializes in the air next to him and creates a small explosion.
“We will all begin with introducing ourselves and our future goals. You, at the front of the class. You can begin.”
A petite red haired girl at the front of the classroom stands up and begins her introduction, “Good morning, my name is Piora Flameheart. I hope to be a great Flame Alchemist just like our teacher one day.”
“Tristran Maple. I hope to become the best GunSmith in Grand City Theore.”
“Gertrude Tanner. I wish to open my own restaurant and become famous.”
“Hazel Marquis. I love the dignity of water and ice alchemy.”
“Fredrick Dennen. Martial Gun Wielder.”
“Regal Havier. Unsure as to what I want to be in the future.”
Once everyone has introduced themselves, silence falls over the classroom. The teacher begins to speak again.
“You are all young. Your goals may change in four years, so you must remain open to all possibilities. There is only one more part of the introductions to do. I hear there are four Soulless in this school, all of whom are in this class. You four, please stand up.”
Regal and three other students, two males and one female, stand up in unison. All the other students stare at them wide-eyed.
“All of you now know who the Soulless in the class are,” Mr. River looks at each and every one of the students, examining their expressions. “I will have you all know that I truly despise discrimination against the Soulless. They didn’t have a choice in who they are. They are still living people the same as all of you. You would have found out who they were eventually and now that you know, I hope you can all accept them.
Despite the teacher’s words, all the students in the class looks toward the four Soulless with shock and disdain. Their parents had all taught them what a disgrace it was to be a Soulless. The students simply have no intention of saying their thoughts aloud due to Mr. River’s instructions.
“Ahem,” Julius clears his throat to reclaim everyone’s gaze, “Your first Lesson today will be General Education and History. After lunch I will be teaching you Mathematics. Tomorrow will be a full day on Martial Gun Skills and Alchemical Skills classes will be on Wednesday. All of you should already have learned some skills that will be used in these classes. Regardless, you will still be taught several basic skills despite what you already know. Everyone, take out your textbooks and take notes for this lesson.”
Everyone, including Regal, takes out a blank notebook and writing tools from their personal inventory. Everyone was assigned school notebooks, one for each subject, but a few students have bought custom notebooks from a general store.
“I will start with History and some general information on this world. Some of your parents may have taught many of you about our history, but some may not have been taught anything. Therefore, we will start at the beginning. Make sure to take notes. You need to memorise this as you have a test on this, friday.”
“226 years ago, in the year 2360, the Earth suffered its greatest apocalypse: The Collapse. The human population had grown beyond what the ecosystem could support, and it began to fail. The Earth was barren of minerals and natural resources, oceans began to dry up, the atmosphere became thinner. Eventually the oxygen grew thin, making even breathing difficult.”
“The human race had covered ninety percent of the planet. Reliance on fossil fuels, pollution, war, all these problems had long since been solved. We invented machines to carry out our daily tasks. It was called the Golden Age. Then The Collapse happened.”
“Despite all our technological advances, The Collapse was something we could not solve. Expansion into space and the colonization of other planets became the focus of the entire race. For the next twenty years, space exploration was conducted by every major nation. Every journey, unfortunately, returned in failure. If we’d had more time or had begun sooner, perhaps we would have succeeded.”
“With millions dying every day due to the collapsing ecosystem, humanity was forced to turn its attention elsewhere. With no method of escaping to another planet, people decided to discard their physical bodies and live digitally. Unique storage arrays, called Mind Bubbles, were developed with the purpose of allowing a person to digitize their mind and transfer it into this storage unit. This was the only means of survival left for the human race.”
“Despite all the endless trials, it proved to be impossible to digitize an already developed mind. The only people that could successfully undergo this procedure were infants with their minds were still developing.”
“Additionally, simple storage of the mind was not living. An enormous matrix was created to connect these Mind Bubbles to an already created world, an MMORPG that the name of was never passed on. We currently call this world Grandosa.”
“The game was reset and adjusted to allow the new human race to live similarly to the previous one. We all feel pain, pleasure, love, and everything else as we once did.”
“However, we are no longer humans with mortal bodies. This is why we long ago discarded the term ‘Human’, and began anew as ‘Immortalis’.”
“Humans logged into this digital world to raise and guide the first generation of Immortalis. The knowledge of how they survived in the degenerating climate outside has long since been lost.”
“But, to support the future generations, billions of unfertilized eggs and sperm cells were harvested and kept in a cryogenic state. Machines, still active to this day in the outside world, fertilize these eggs and sustain the newly formed humans until they are nine months old and can discard their mortal bodies to become one of us, an Immortalis. Every four years, a new generation of Immortalis is given birth and joins us.”
“This world also has a system in place to give birth. When a man and woman copulate together, they have the option to go through a pregnancy and have their own child. These children were originally called Immortalis as well. At least, this was the case until we began to notice that these children seemed to be lacking something the other Immortalis had.”
“Nobody could discover exactly what is missing with these children and in the end were referred to as hollow Immortalis, or half-living. Today, most call these children Soulless.”
“The creators of this world, the humans, perished long before they could solve this problem. All they left behind is countless machines to perpetually maintain and expand our world.
“We Immortalis are immortal by every definition. While we can die, we are reborn in the Temple of Life with only a five percent penalty to our experience points. We can also appear to be any age at or below our current age. I am currently 64 years old.”
“Forced immortality is too much for some people though. The humans left behind the Temple of Death for this purpose, where we can go and decide to enter eternal rest. All of those who choose to rest in peace receive all of our respect, so remember to never disrespect them. It is a severe crime that can leave you in jail for longer than killing another person if you do. Well, killing another person isn’t such a big deal, considering they will simply be reborn.”
Kopis Numin, one of the students in the front row, puts his hand up and begins talking despite the teacher’s frown. “Excuse me, but what is the old world like? Is it similar to this one?”
“Nobody knows,” Mr. River answers. “We don’t believe it is, considering all the machines and equipment that support developing humans before they become Immortalis are not present in our world. We also have alchemy and other skills that the old world doesn’t have, making it difficult to compare.”
The discussion about old world history lasts all morning. Several of the students are resting their heads against their desk, weary from trying to take in such a large amount of information at once. The desks are made from a bronze, and the cold metal will usually shock the students awake if they rest their head on it. The students whose heads are placidly resting on the desk move one hand under the table out of sight of the teacher, manipulating a small flame alchemy symbol to heat the metal up to a more comfortable temperature.
“Since the creation of this world, a little over two hundred years have passed. The world is constantly expanding too, so the current size of it is both unknown and unfathomable.” Julius River soon ends his lesson and dismisses the students for lunch.
There is an hour long break for lunch, which all the students take at the large playground in the center of the school. Just as children should; they play with their newly formed groups of friends, some even continue making a few more friends from other classes.
The four Soulless children are inevitably left out of this social gathering event and sit to the side, watching the other children curiously. Strangely, despite being rejected by the other students and forced into solitude, not a single one of the Soulless approaches the other three in an attempt to make friends.
Except Regal, who, having nothing else to do, approaches the other three Soulless and extends a neutral greeting to them.
“Hi, I’m Regal Havier. Would you like to be my friend?” Regal asks each of the other kids.
“Sure, my name is Astore Jone.”
“Klide Fen, a friend sounds nice.”
“Oh, my name. I’m Veronica Hayfare. Let’s all be friends then.”
Regal removes his lunch from his inventory, a ham and salad sandwich he prepared last night. After eating, he starts up a conversation with the other Soulless in regards to their thoughts about school. Just like Regal, they share the opinion that school is a place they should attend and learn from. Any of the other kids in the playground would most likely be shocked to hear such a bland opinion.
The bell signalling the end of lunch echoes across the school. All the children rush back to class and to their respective desks.
The squeal of a hinge needing oil screeches through the room as the teacher, Julius River, closes the door after he enters.
“Students, I hope you took adequate notes on the history lesson. Anyone who didn’t will need to work with those who did to study. There will be a short test on Friday.”
“Teacher,” a blond kid at the back of the room who looks like he will be a ruffian in a few years calls out, “I have a photographic memory. I remember all your words by heart so I don’t need to write notes!”
“Shut it, brat! There was no such thing as a photographic memory in the old world, nor is there in this one! Cyen, make a copy of your notes for this idiot so he doesn’t fail the test at the end of the week.”
“Yes, teacher,” the student next to the blonde kid, Cyen, starts rapidly copying his notes into a spare notebook.
“Now that lunch is over, I will begin teaching you mathematics. Math is very different from the old world. We once had endless formulas for calculating the world’s mysteries. However they don’t relate to the new world and so are not taught. If anyone is interested in advanced theory, you can do self-study in the library on your own time.”
Julius River begins his lesson on general mathematics as unenthusiastically as he did with General Education and History. The afternoon consists of working out calculations of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Problems such as mana cost for forming an alchemy symbol compared to how much mana one has available and so forth are the common problems presented in the lesson.
The students absent-mindedly listen to the teacher with little interest in the subject. They want to use alchemy and martial skills, not learn about the cost of them.
Mr. River then discusses the currency system of the world. A standard bronze coin is the smallest unit of money. A hundred bronze coins are equivalent to a single silver coin, and a hundred silver coins are in turn worth just one gold coin.
There are also gold teals, small plates a quarter the size of an adult’s palm, that are worth a hundred gold coins each, but these are only carried by the wealthy.
Regal writes down all this information as the teacher discusses it. Silently, he thinks to himself that it will be best to spend at least an hour that night going over it to help memorize the information.
The rest of the day passes quickly before the final bell at 3:00pm signifies the end of school for the day. The students eagerly place their belongings back in their inventory and rush out of the classroom, eager to tell their parents about their first day at school and the new friends they made.
There are also whispers about the Soulless hidden behind thinly veiled distasteful expressions from students and parents alike. Regal hears some of these mutterings as he leaves the school, but pays them no attention. He silently makes his way home for the night.
Regal’s trip home this day is peaceful, being one of the few days he doesn’t come across any of the locals who usually make life difficult for him.