Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis
Author’s notes: There has been some changes to chapter 1 in regards to the Soulless. I wish to change it as they are not completely void of emotions. The Soulless are envisioned to be logical people with much more restrained emotions and the lack of being able to question themselves. In a way, you also could say they have no conscience. What they lack in emotions are the more complicated ones. The feel happy, sad, and angry; but lack feelings of love, empathy, partial humour, and will never know the feeling of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I have inserted the major change from chapter 1 below the editors notes so you don’t have to re read the entire chapter 1 to find the difference.
The chapter plan for this chapter is now available on my Patreon page. I am currently excitably planning and about to start writing chapter 36 of End Online, among many other things in my to do list. I will update this here when it is available.
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 when his parents left him a farewell note saying they have decided to enter the eternal rest. This was the most emotionally distraught state he had ever been in.
Chapter 4: Talent
On the fourth day of school, there are no practical lessons planned. Regal sits in his usual spot in class, listening and taking notes on what is determined to be common knowledge that everyone should have in this world.
The city of Theore has 47 floors, but not everyone can access all floors. Floors 1 through 9 are referred to as the lower district and are where all the common Immortalis reside. The stores mostly sell low quality goods with a few exceptions where average quality goods become available.
Floors 10 to 39 are called the middle district; well established families live here and have many high leveled members. Most of the larger guilds reside in the middle district in grand mansions that make people envious when seen.
The remaining floors 40 to 47 are called the upper district. Residents of this area are the upper echelon of Theore who are nobles, royalty, exalted hunters that have achieved the highest levels, and the largest and most powerful of guilds who could be a threat to a city if they turned against it.
Every single full resident of the city is at least level 10. This is because in order to graduate from school and become a hunter, each student is required to achieve this level. This is also the level that an Immortalis is allowed to leave the city to explore or wander throughout the world. All graduates receive a transmission plate, a small silver plate with a reflective surface, that can be used for instant communication once it has been held in close proximity and registered with another’s transmission plate.
An identity plate is also provided as proof of graduation. This card contains an Immortalis’ basic information and level, and is automatically updated as a hunter levels up.
A hunter also has the privilege of choosing a class title, such as how Mr. River describes himself as a flame alchemist. There are no genuine classes in this world, but it is a common occurrence for an Immortalis to self-assign a class title based on their strengths to define themselves to others. This also helps during self introductions when being accepted into a new party or looking for party members.
Mr. River’s lesson about the world, and the details that are common knowledge, continues all morning. Lunch arrives and the student’s heads are buzzing with an enormous amount of new information. The teachers don’t expect all the students to learn everything he has imparted to them by explaining it only once, but plan to repeat parts of the lessons to help the students memorize this material.
Regal is one of the last students to leave the classroom. Veronica happily walks alongside him toward the playground along with the other two Soulless kids, Klide and Astore, following behind them. Klide and Astore are also fond of Regal, considering him to be similar to a little brother that needs their protection.
Nearly all of the students during lunch are showing off their alchemical and martial skills. The teachers don’t stop this, but instead encourage it as practice will only help the students master their skills and Divine Arts. Students are also permitted to fight one another, but it must be done in the form of a duel, else the punishment will be severe.
The school’s equipment is far too durable for the likes of the students to damage, so they don’t hold back while unleashing fireballs, lightning spears and many other unique attacks to show off to their friends. They are all from basic skills that a child at level 1 can learn and within the first two Divine Arts, so their abilities deliver no significant damage and when compared to many hunters, their Divine Arts are almost party tricks that are visual only, dealing little damage with each attack.
The four Soulless students don’t participate in casting their skills to show off. Instead they sit against the school building as far away from the playground as possible in order to avoid getting caught by an accidental attack.
“Regal, how are you doing with your new skills?” Veronica asks bluntly while watching the other students releasing their Divine Arts.
“I can use them, but I don’t understand the formulae,” Regal answers back while recounting the confusion he felt when trying to understand the circular alchemical formulae that formed over his palm while using the Divine Art.
“Perhaps earth and ice alchemy aren’t what you’re skilled at. How about with the martial skills?”
“The same as alchemy. I can perform the moves, but I haven’t found any deeper meaning to them like how Mr. River described.”
“Hmph, big sister will help you out! We will practice together again. Come on!”
Veronica grabs Regal’s hand and ferociously drags him away to practice their alchemy skills together. Klide and Astore silently watch as Regal is dragged away before they also decide to use their time wisely and start to practice their alchemy skills with each other.
Every student is completely out of mana and stamina when they return to class after lunch. The depletion of mana causes the student’s minds to become dull and process information much slower while a lack of stamina makes them feel weary. This situation could affect them in battle, so the teacher reminds them that outside of training they must always be mindful of how much mana and stamina they have.
Instead of returning home after class, Regal heads toward the public library on Theore’s first floor. The school’s library is small with only a few books and little more than the very basic of information about skills.
The public library however, is a building sixty feet tall with gold plates wrapping around the wall junctions like stitches. A strange clock with warped hands adorns the top of the structure, and transparent reinforced glass reveals the internal cogs and wheels gyrating as it operates. Small clicking sounds can be heard from within the clock late at night when the surroundings are quiet enough.
Covering an area of 33 thousand square feet, the interior of the library is quite spacious. The ground floor has rows of bookshelves neatly arranged, along with groups of large tables placed strategically nearby. The floored area of the second to fourth floors are sixty feet wide, and form a ring above the ground floor.
From the first floor, it is possible to see a warped mirrored surface on the ceiling that reflects light throughout the building. The source of light is a single chandelier hanging in the center of the building, burning with inextinguishable vigor. This also warms the atmosphere and causes this place to become the destination of many Immortalis when the weather is wet and cold.
Regal follows behind a party of hunters as they enter this library, only casually glancing at the few buildings nearby that overshadow this grand structure. He ignores several people who appear to be school kids and ascends a thin staircase to the second floor near the back of the room. The second floor is where the majority of information on alchemical and martial skills is stored.
He browses through several shelves of books until he finds information books on both ‘Ice Heart Alchemy’ and ‘Vigorous Earth Alchemy’. The books are thin with two pages to introduce each Divine art and describe their strength, weaknesses, and typical use in battle. There are large tables and chairs placed in the spaces between the groups of book shelves throughout the second to fourth floor. Regal sits down at the nearest table and studies the two books carefully.
After researching all there is to know about the two skills, Regal decides to continue down the current skill paths from which he chose the Tier 1 Divine Art in order to reach the incredibly useful Over-Tier Divine Arts.
By mastering ‘Ice Heart Alchemy’ along his current skill path, he will get three passive Divine Arts that will respectively increase his mana, intelligence, and luck. The bonuses are small as are most passive Divine Arts, but it is an accumulative value. The Over-Tier Divine Art he will get is called ‘Blooming Frost Lotus’, which causes a dozen razor sharp ice lotuses to materialize in his vicinity and tear the enemy to shreds.
‘Vigorous Earth Alchemy’ also has three passive Divine Arts. These give small boosts to health, stamina and strength. The Over-Tier Divine Art along his current skill path is a supportive Divine Art called ‘Vigorous Life’ that will temporarily triple his maximum health at the expense of reducing his mana to a third.
As the library only permits for books to be borrowed when paying a fee of two silver per book, Regal places them back on the shelves while selecting a few others. It isn’t just books about skills that he reads, but those relating to different types of talents.
The library is open around the clock, so Regal continues studying inside until long after the natural sunlight fails. According to his research, when an Immortalis is talented in a particular element of alchemy, they will either be talented in all alchemy or a specific element type while having little talent in the opposing element. Regal knows he isn’t the first type, but he may be the latter.
Ice alchemy is closely related to water alchemy, and they both are in opposition to the fire element. Earth alchemy is also closely related to metal alchemy and opposition to the formless wind alchemy. If Regal is indeed the latter of the two types of talent, he should at least have talent in either fire or wind element alchemy. He could be gifted in both.
Unlike the library, all the standard shops are closed so there is no method to purchase a new skill and test this out. He also only has enough money for a single skill book, and cannot afford to choose wrong.
Regal’s parents left him with enough money to easily last until his graduation. He currently has ten gold coins hidden away under his bed. A single gold coin will allow him to eat for about a year, meaning he will need four gold coins to last until graduation. Once he becomes a hunter, he will be qualified to work, or leave the city to earn money from hunting.
Death in this world causes a person to lose half the money they are carrying on them, regardless of the circumstances. The only way to store money without losing it is to either keep it in a hidden location, or store it with Yggdrasil, the banking and trading company that stretches across the entire world. The problem for a student like Regal is that he has to be a hunter before he can acquire an ‘Yggdrasil Card’.
Regal walks down the cobblestone street amongst the jubilant cheers and sounds of drinking by the hunters in nearby taverns, the light from their open doors spilling out into the street an illuminating it more than the street lamps do. Rather than heading home, Regal walks in a different direction toward a structure that is similar to the public library and is always open.
Compared to the library, this building has silver and obsidian plates and other adornments on it. Every edge is sharp and lethal, so attempting to climb this building would be suicidal. The name of this building is the Training Hall, as stated by a hanging sign above the front door.
The floor area of the building is significantly larger than that of the library, but it is only two stories tall. The ground floor is for practicing long distance attacks, while the second floor is separated for those practicing close distance attacks and individual rooms for training supportive skills.
Regal doesn’t hesitate to enter the complex. It is completely free to enter and train, but whoever is training must supply their own ammunition and mana recovery items. Two attendants at the front desk will supply these to those in need, but they charge a price almost twice that of the market value.
Not wanting to waste money, Regal doesn’t purchase any of these supplies and instead practices his ‘Ice Bullet’ Divine Art and ‘Revolver’ skill by shooting the ice bullets at a target sixty feet away. He also tries to get used to using ‘Curve’, but every time the bullet veers far off target and seems to hit a random location.
Regal even tries closing his eyes and feeling the firing of the gun when using ‘Curve’, but even then, there is no deeper understanding of the skill. Sitting down and meditating on the spot while creating more bullets and focusing on the alchemical formulae, Regal continues until he runs out mana.
Once he is out of mana, he practices with his combat knife on the second floor until he is completely exhausted. There is no time for studying once Regal returns home as his weariness takes control and he immediately falls asleep.
The fifth day of school is the day that the students are tested on their knowledge of history and common knowledge of the world.
Regal stares intently at the test in front of him and answers one question after another with a steady rhythm. The first twenty questions are multiple choice, where there is only one correct answer out of four. This is the easiest part of the test and Regal is confident he will be scoring top marks in this section.
The second section is a total of ten questions that he needs to provide short answers of a sentence or two relating to the general rules of the world. The third section is the hardest, only consisting of two questions that require a descriptive summary of various aspects of Immortalis history.
With absolute confidence, Regal finishes all the questions with time to spare and flips his test upside down to signify that he is done. Most students who finish early revise their answers to try and correct any mistakes, but being a Soulless, Regal has already decided on the answers and will not make any changes.
Ten minutes later, Mr. River stands up and stops the test. Any students who are still working on the test have nervous expressions as they are forced to stop.
Rather than handing their tests to the teacher for marking, they are automatically corrected as the teacher presses a few icons on a translucent display in front of him. Piora and Hazel shine above the rest of the class, getting scores in the high nineties out of a hundred. Regal’s score pales in comparison at 74, a little higher than the average in the class.
During lunch the four Soulless students share their scores, and it turns out that Regal scored the lowest of them all. Once again, they cannot help but think of Regal as a little brother to them all.
“Regal, next time, we must study together!” Veronica says obstinately to Regal.
“But Veronica, I am fine studying by myself. I will just study harder next time.”
“No! We will study together and I will help you get a better score. Also, call me big sis.”
“It’s fine, big sis. It fine.”
“I said no.”
This conversation is a collision of determination between two Soulless; two people that will make an instant decision on what they think of as best and will not waver. The result is Regal dropping the conversation seeing no reason to continue a fruitless argument.
The remainder of the school day is review on what the students learned throughout the week. Mr. River particularly focuses on information that the class didn’t understand as much, based on the results of their tests. Despite being a person with no motivation, he is an outstanding teacher that correctly identifies where his students are lacking and directly focuses on that.
Being a Friday, the next two days are the weekend where there is no school so the students have a longer farewell out in front of school before heading home. Some new friends even make plans to meet up in their free time, having their parents register their transmission plates so they can contact each other.
Regal leaves with the other three Soulless and it is his first time seeing their parents. Klide and Astore’s parents are two loving couples that appear to dote on their sons a little too much. Both parents enthusiastically run up to their children and give them big hugs, which causes an embarrassing scene. Veronica’s parents are more refined, patiently waiting for her and sharing a few words while warily watching how close she sticks to Regal.
Many of the normal Immortalis students only have a single parent come to pick them up. Some are because the other parent is either a hunter that leaves the city to earn money, or are busy working various stores. Others are because they only have a single parent. Regular Immortalis are born through the digitizing of newborn babies in the real world and adopted into various families, so it isn’t uncommon for them to only have a single parent.
Grand City Theore is a safe place and there is no need to personally pick up their sons and daughters, but it is a custom passed down from the humans to the first generation of Immortalis. A few students, including Regal, still travel home by themselves however as not everyone follows this custom. Of course, Regal’s situation is that there is no one to pick him up in the first place.
Rather than heading home, Regal walks toward the Market Street, the busiest business area near his home. Squeezing through the crowd with multiple apologies for bumping into people, he eventually finds a store selling basic alchemy skill books.
A cheerful girl with a lustrous body in a short red dress with long silver hair is in the shop waiting for the next customer. She wears an exquisite top hat with a blue velvet band and a gold pocket watch tied around that catches the eye of several men in the crowd, yet they still hesitate to enter.
“Welcome young master, is there anything I can help you find?” The alluring store owner asks.
“I’m looking for a fire element alchemy skill book.”
“We have several of those. What level are you?”
“Oh! So young and innocent! Well, this young miss has three to choose from!”
The store clerk bends over the counter in a position that is a hair’s breadth away from exposing her underwear. This is an excellent sales tactic to enamour male customers and entice them to buy her goods. It is only a shame that Regal is a Soulless and has no such desires within him.
The lady brings up three books she spoke of. They are ‘Illustrious Flame Alchemy’, ‘Hundred Palm Flares Alchemy’, and ‘Flame Forge Alchemy’. Their prices are respectively 3 gold, 4 gold, and 2 gold.
“Young master, I strongly recommend ‘Illustrious Flame Alchemy’. You should definitely pick that one,” the lady employs her best sales tactics to increase sales, while not obviously recommending the most expensive item.
As Regal is only planning on purchasing a skill book to test out his aptitude, he insists on purchasing the cheapest ‘Flame Forge Alchemy’ despite the owner’s protests that ‘Illustrious Flame Alchemy’ is much easier to learn and has better benefits.
After purchasing the cheaper skill book, he leaves the store owner who is pouting inwardly dissatisfied.
‘More than likely he is a Soulless. I should have noticed earlier?’ she inwardly sighs and watches him vanish into the crowd.
Regal brought four gold coins with him as he was unsure on the price of skill books. Two gold coins is still exceedingly valuable, as that could feed him for two entire years, but at least it was less than he anticipated.
He also purchases five ‘Mana Rations’ from a nearby store for ten bronze coins before heading directly to the training hall. Being late in the afternoon, there are still several hunters training their skills or practicing new ones, so Regal chooses to enter a private room on the second floor.
Immediately learning the new ‘Flame Forge Alchemy’ he chooses a Tier 1 Divine Art from one of the three paths, ‘Radiant Flame’. It has a range of ten meters and can be used for multiple purposes. Not only can it be used to attack others, it can also be used to smelt and refine low quality ore. However, it is too hot to cook food.
Regal casts the new divine art, which uses five mana every minute. By continuously using the skill, he can constantly analyse the alchemical formulae to further his comprehension.
After nearly two hours of continuously using the skill, he manages to raise the alchemical skill by a single level, but still cannot find any understanding within the alchemical formulae. Regal also has no more ‘Mana Rations’, meaning he has no further method to replenish his mana while using the skill. He can cook at home for food, but it is not specifically meant for increasing mana regeneration and will not supplement it enough to support the skill.
Regal helplessly sighs to himself and is thankful that he bought the cheapest skill book. He already understands that his talent is not in fire element alchemy
At the same time as Regal is in the training hall, the planet Earth is beginning to undergo changes.
Several locations on the surface have formed fissures erupting with magma. This scorching hot inferno destroys everything it touches. Despite barely touching a millionth of a single percent the planet’s surface, it is only the beginning.
When the molten material touches the manmade structures covering the surface of the planet, it melts the metals, ceramics and glass and breaks them down to their molecular structure. These minerals fuse with the magma’s earthly compounds and return to being a part of nature.
This process will continue to repeat as the high pressured magma within the planet breaks through the weakened crust, which is gradually compressed and swallowed within the planet by a new crust forming on top. The combustion of plant matter also releases carbon dioxide and moisture into the air, beginning the recovery of the atmosphere. The oceans are still drying up, but rainfall will eventually begin to replenish these as well.
Nobody knows how many millions of years this process will take as there are no humans left alive on the planet. The only survivors of this world wide purge are minute life forms within what’s left of the ocean. They are the very basis of the evolutionary chain, and unknowingly one of the most resilient forms of life.
The compound containing the server of the world the Immortalis reside within is hidden deep within the earth’s crust; a rectangular box structure of staggering proportions and made out of a metal not even the Earth’s molten iron core can melt. In this place devoid of air, pollutants, or any compounds that can cause decay, thousands of pseudo artificially intelligent androids carry out their programmed duties.
They monitor incubating fetuses that rely on artificial oxygen and nutrients. They also perform the digitizing of these infants and connect them to the virtual world. Every four years, enough of these artificial products are produced to develop 170 thousand babies, creating ten thousand more Immortalis for each grand city.
Factories create new robots as the previous ones break down, while the currently operating machines maintain the factories before they too are recycled into new machines without any wasted resources.
In this subterranean bubble that holds the remnants of civilization, the grand cities are seventeen cylindrical towers, each three hundred feet wide, that pierce the darkness above. Recesses along the walls of these towers are for the artificial brain storage devices, the Mind Bubbles, to be inserted and connect to the virtual world. When a new Mind Bubble is connected or removed, small flying robots appear to carry out this task.
A slight tremor causes the area to vibrate slightly despite the liquid shock absorbers around the complex. Two of the Mind bubbles suddenly fall from one of the arrays, splitting from the cords connecting them to the network and crashing into the ground, breaking into several pieces. A thick, silvery liquid flows out from the wreckage and onto the ground.
Several robots responsible for the cleanliness of the subterranean area arrive at the wreckage and clean up the mess before leaving as if they were never there. Today is the day that two Immortalis disappeared from the world.
These Mind Bubbles are cubes small enough that they could be grasped within a child’s hand. Inside of it is a super conductive ball filled with a mercury like substance. This substance is what stores the digitized infants’ minds, creating a medium for them to grow and form personalities and memories of their own. Each one has a randomized codex that is used to organize the data and access memories in a model similar to the human brain.
What isn’t known is this is where the difference between the digitized Immortalis and artificial Immortalis, ‘Soulless’, resides. When a Soulless is artificially created, a blank mental map is inserted into the mercury like substance and becomes the foundation of their soul.
A digitized Immortalis’ Mind Bubble has a unique difference within it that, even though the scientists discovered the flaw, it was never fixed as the experiment was already a success.
A human fetuses’ mind contains several unregistered memories as it is forming, which are inserted into the Mind Bubble. These forcefully implanted memories cause the mercury-like substance to expand, splitting the superconductive sphere and entering the mind bubble. An adult human could not be digitized because the volume of memories they contained were too much, causing the mercury like liquid to explode and completely destroy the device.
When a new born child is digitized, the damage from the expanding liquid is minimal. This is then registered by the device and dormant nanomachines activate in response, repairing the sphere as the internal pressure subsides. Despite this, half of the mercury-like substance is already outside the internal sphere. Each section of the liquid is a part of the contained soul, connected to each other via the superconductive material and forming a unique negative feedback loop, allowing the soul to question itself and its decisions by creating a paradox of the mind.
The Soulless are not like this. All of the mercury like liquid remains within the sphere as no memories are forcefully inserted, preventing the mind paradox to form and causing their souls to become logic based existences. Their souls also appear to lack in other areas that no one seems to understand. If the scientists who created them still existed and studied this phenomena, they would have made the final step in understanding the human soul and have become capable of creating the perfect artificial intelligence.