Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis,
Author’s notes: And that is all for this effort. More chapter(s) coming in about a week/or a little more.
Longest chapter of the release bananza. Also, updating on the status of CotE and releases. As I mentioned a while ago, I will stop releasing these chapters at some point and wait before posting the rest, at a speed of 1 chapter/week, mayber 2. I plan to start withholding chapters once Volume 1 becomes 50% complete. So far, it is guesstimated to be about 25 – 30%, so there will still be a few chapters, I’m just reminding you all ahead of time.
There is no chapter plan for this chapter on my Patreon at the moment. There will be a single release on what changed between planned and written for all chapters posted today later. Editing, sleeping, and writing to do first.
Chapter 9 – Rebirth
Following the fight with the first mutant rat, the four member squad is guided by Veronica away from the corpse in case the gunfire attracts multiple monsters, or other squads. Shortly after disappearing into the white mist, another squad emerges from the other side of the path.
This squad is comprised of six students from Class 4, the same class as Regal and the others. The squad captain is Frederick Dennen, a person Regal had defeated in a duel previously and whom also holds a strong dislike toward the Soulless. Frederick is the type of person that likes to bully others, often targeting Regal and the other three Soulless. They outsmart and escape Frederick too often though, coming across a teacher, or disappearing from sight, with seemingly uncanny timing.
The sound of Veronica’s squad’s footsteps can still be heard in the distance, but the echoing makes it difficult to discern how far and in what exact direction.
“Fred, whoever it was is already gone, are we going to chase them?” one of the other squad members, Jak, asks the squad captain nonchalantly.
Frederick frowns as he attempts to pierce through the mist with his eyes.
“Yes, we will. I saw those four Soulless escape in this direction, so it must be them. My father told me Soulless shouldn’t even be allowed to attend school. They keep escaping their punishment while we’re at school, but let’s see if they have any such luck here.”
“Does that include Veronica? I know she’s a Soulless too, but she is still a girl.”
“Don’t be fooled by her appearance. She is a Soulless just like the rest of them. Now, hurry up!”
Frederick quickly leads his squad into the fog, following the sound of the clattering footsteps in the distance. Despite his words, Frederick still has doubts that the Soulless are as bad as what he has learned while growing up. His father used to be a part of a bandit group in the wasteland, which heavily influenced the upbringing he had.
“You were right, Veronica, people did decide to chase after us,” Regal says while glancing over his shoulders, where the sound of footsteps can be heard in the distance.
Veronica doesn’t bother looking behind her, replying to Regal as if it is a matter of fact, “Lots of people dislike us Soulless, even though we are still Immortalis and not very different than them. Quite a few people try to trouble us at school, especially Frederick, so of course they will try to here as well.”
The four member squad rushes into the mist ahead of them while not trying to hide their footsteps in the least. Two rats, the same as the one before, emerge from the walls with screeches that alarm Regal, causing him to turn around with his weapon drawn. Before he can engage the rats, however, Veronica grabs his arm and drags him away.
As per Veronica’s plan, the four Soulless leave the rats behind to hinder whoever is chasing them and allow them to get away. The plan is successful as Regal and the others hear the sounds of gunfire, various alchemy attacks, and the piercing screeches of the rats. A couple of minutes later, two more rats emerge from the wall in front of the Soulless’ squad, preventing them from proceeding like before.
“No,” Veronica says astutely, “don’t shoot at them. The noise of gunfire will alert the party following us even if they can’t hear our footsteps any more. We will retreat for now and find another path.”
Not engaging the rats, Veronica leads her squad to retreat before the rats can attack. Backtracking the way they came, they can’t hear the squad that was following them, but the sound of gunfire has disappeared so they most likely are finished with the rats. When they return to the previous passage where the path splits, they quickly proceed down the other path.
The process of escaping ambushing rats and travelling deeper into the first floor of Theore Substructure continues for the next half hour before Veronica and the others are confident they have completely lost their pursuers.
“We seem to have escaped trouble for now. Let’s fight the next rat that appears,” Veronica lets out a sigh of relief as she speaks to the rest of the squad.
Almost as if her words were a prediction, the scratching sound of metal on metal sounds. From between some of the pipes on the wall, two rats emerge.
The first rat is the same as the earlier ones, only slightly larger, signifying it is most likely level 2. The second rat is half the size as the first, with grey stripes that seem to move like shadows when the rat moves. It makes soft clicking sounds as the three inch long knife-like claws tap the isometric grilled floor while walking.
Kilde, seeing this new type of rat appear, stares intently at it then says, “Be careful, my mother warned me that sometimes different types of rats appear on the first floor and that they are usually stronger than the standard mutant rats.”
“Did she tell you about this type of rat?” Regal asks, trying to gauge how strong it is compared to a standard mutant rat.
“No, she said that this is a learning experience and I must learn about it myself. She did say they give more experience though.”
Veronica interrupts their conversation urgently, “It is coming this way! Regal and Astore, start firing at the Mutant Rat. Don’t use all your mana too fast though. Klide, protect me while we fight this smaller rat.”
Casting ‘Chilling Wind’, Veronica slows down her enemy while moving to the rear of the party with Regal. Despite being under the effect of ‘Chilling Wind’, the half sized rat moves like the wind as it dashes toward Kilde and Astore. The level 2 mutant rat is also quicker than a level 1, and isn’t far behind.
Kilde aims at the smaller rat and uses a martial skill that causes all six bullets in the gun’s chamber to be shot in quick succession, with the penalty that each will only do half the standard damage. The small rat doesn’t bother dodging, and is hit by all six bullets. A health gauge appears above it and shows that the attack only did twenty percent damage to its health.
Veronica fires at the same rat, taking smaller chunks out of its health, up until it gets too close to Kilde and uses him as a shield from her while it slashes it’s terrifying claws at Kilde’s legs.
The level 2 mutant rat is more cautious, dodging from side to side to avoid most of the bullets from the students who are incapable of predicting its sudden and random movements.
Seeing this as a crucial moment, Regal loads six ‘Ice Bullets’ into his gun and uses ‘Foresight’ to glance a single second into the future before firing his each bullet. After knowing where the rat will dodge as it approaches, Regal’s aim holds true. Five bullets hit the target and, due to the bullets doing a little more than double the gun’s base damage, take away sixty percent of the rat’s health. His sixth bullet misses, but that is a fault of his aim.
After using sixty mana on ‘Foresight’, Regal is left with only forty points which should be enough in the event of an emergency. The level 2 mutant rat sees Regal as the bigger threat after this, ignoring Astore and aiming to attack him. Astore uses the Divine Art ‘Ice Gauntlets’ and brings an icy armoured fist down on the rat as it runs past him, taking a further ten percent off what is left of its health.
Meanwhile, the half sized rat attacks Kilde, its claws tearing through his pants and leg in a single swipe, causing his red blood to ooze out. The damage is healed instantly of course, both his pants and his leg, but the blood stains on his pants and leg will have to be washed out later.
A single slash does less damage than that of a level 1 mutant rat, but it unleashes a flurry of attacks that very quickly adds up to around thirty percent of Kilde’s health before Veronica hastily traps the rat in a ball of wind and fires several bullets while Kilde retreats.
The large level 2 mutant rat continue to ignore Astore despite being directly punched, and pounces at Regal. Regal, being slow to move, suffers a large gash on his thigh that removes a full twenty percent of his health. Following Veronica and Kilde’s lead, Regal begins to retreat with Astore following, fending off the mutant rat with his icy gauntlets.
The two rats continue to press the squad of four as they keep retreating backwards, firing off more bullets while simultaneously taking damage. Astore, with only forty percent health left, bumps his fists together and unleashes the Divine Art of a Martial Skill that causes his fist to form three ‘fist shadows’ as he punches toward the mutant rat.
To Regal’s confusion, these shadows seem to be real, as two of them hit the unsuspecting rat and finally kill it. Astore is exhausted and pants for breath, clearly out of stamina. Nearly all of the skills that the students learned outside of school use considerably more stamina and mana, despite them all being for level 1 Immortalis. Using them less due to this limitation slows down the speed in which they can comprehend the Divine Arts, but equivalency causes them to do more damage.
The smaller rat is still attacking Kilde, and Veronica is forced to use a second Divine Art she hasn’t used previously in front of Regal and the others. The air around the small rat twists and forms several ropes that tie it up, immobilizing it completely. This effect will only last several seconds, and completely exhausts Veronica’s mana.
“Everyone, shoot it quickly!” Veronica orders, joining in as all four squad members empty their revolvers into the small rat before the bondage wears off. Fortunately, it is enough to kill it.
“That was incredibly dangerous, we can’t try to conserve mana again if we come across an enemy like that. What was it?” Regal asks while looking at the small rat’s dead body from afar.
The loot menu hovers above the corpse, at the top of which is the level and name of the monster. “It is a level 2 Shadow Rat,” Veronica says blandly emptying the inventory of the mutant rat and giving one of the items to Kilde. “The loot from the level 2 Mutant Rat is for you two to share.”
Regal and Astore walk over and inspect the loot of the level 2 Mutant Rat.
~ 3 Bronze Coins ~ Lvl 2 Dusk Elixir
“I will take the bronze coins, you take the Dusk Pill, I hear it is helpful recovering from low leveled blinding attacks,” Regal says resolutely, willingly passing the Dusk pill that is easily worth thirty bronze coins to Astore as he is no longer in dire need of money and considers him to be a good friend.
“Very well, but if another one is dropped, you take it.”
“I will do as you have said.”
Veronica comes across and cuts off the ear of the Shadow Rat’s corpse, adding it to the ear of the Mutant Rat before placing them both in her inventory and saying, “Regal, I will trouble you to supply the food needed for our health and mana recovery. You didn’t forget to bring it, right?”
She has suspected Regal of being likely to forget things since the incident two months ago. Without picking up on her suspicion, Regal replies confidently, “It is a little sooner than I expected, but I have plenty of recovery food. Although I apologize if what it is made with doesn’t taste very good.”
From his inventory, Regal takes out two sandwiches for each person. Each sandwich has semi stale bread, bone dry meat, and lettuce that is bland and tasteless. Each would also restore thirty health and mana over thirty seconds. This is food made with the cheapest ingredients and without the ‘Cooking’ skill. If it wasn’t for the fact that each squad member valued being able to restore their health and mana more than the taste of food, they would have never eaten such a thing.
No appreciation is expressed to Regal after the food, and he remained oblivious to how bad the food actually was.
Regal checks his experience points after the last battle, and is surprised to find that he has only gained two percent experience points toward the next level. Most of that came from the Shadow Rat, as the first Mutant Rat didn’t even account for a single percent.
Once their health and mana was restored enough to safely move one, the squad leaves the area through a random tunnel.
Veronica leads the team well, her efficiency at being a leader slowly increasing. The other three members also learn a lot about working as a team as well.
Four hours after entering the dungeon and fighting or running depending on the situation, their teamwork has greatly improved. Surprisingly, after tasting Regal’s sandwiches the first time, Veronica, Kilde, and Astore had their greatest improvements in dodging the enemy to not take any damage.
Six hours after entering the dungeon, the four person squad has killed nearly forty Mutant Rats, four of which were the stronger variations, such as the Shadow Rats. Despite this, each member is only 23 percent toward level 2.
Passing down a corridor that seems like any other, the Soulless suddenly come across a completely new room.
‘Halt!’ Veronica conveys to the squad with the raise of her hand.
Peering through the quickly clearing mist, Regal notes this room is half as large as the entrance room. The surprising part is that the room is full of rats. Not just Mutant Rats, but Shadow Rats, Boulder Rats, and even the Flame Rats that gave the squad a lot of trouble barely half an hour prior.
In the center of the room is a grandiose staircase, spiraling down into the ground toward the second floor of the dungeon.
After they back away as quietly as possible, Veronica whispers, “There is no way we can cut through them, nor survive on the second floor. We will head back the way we came and get close to the exit. As it hasn’t even been half a day yet, let’s try a different path.”
When leaving the room full of Mutant Rats behind, the sound of footsteps echoes from the fog in front of the Soulless. Veronica, Regal, Astore and Kilde all freeze in their footsteps, trying to not make any noise. But the other party already knew there were some players up ahead and continues walking unabated.
From within the fog in from of the Veronica’s squad, six students emerge. This is Frederick’s squad, who had lost the trace of the Soulless several hours ago.
Frederick, and three of his lackeys standing behind him, gaze upon the four Soulless with disgust. The other two squad members are not in Frederick’s circle of friends and were just brought into the group to fill up the numbers. They don’t have any dislike for the Soulless, but are mildly afraid of the rumors that they can take other’s souls.
The two squads stand silently and stare at one another. Regal uses half of his mana with ‘Foresight’ to see five seconds into the future to assess the situation. Alarmed at what he sees, he wraps an arm around Veronica and pulls her out of the way moments before Frederick casts a lightning based alchemy Divine Art. Regal’s actions were barely faster than Frederick’s as a single bolt of lightning is discharged to where Veronica was moments ago.
The static charge of the lightning bolt disperses the mist as it passes the squad of four and continues travelling down the corridor, all the way until the room full of Mutant Rats. An ear piercing screech of twenty Mutant Rats in unison causes all ten students to have their minds disoriented.
Veronica is the first to react to the situation, pointing toward the other squad. “Run! Shoot them as you go, we will die if we are caught between them and the rats.”
Regal raises his gun and fires ‘Ice Bullets’ at Frederick’s squad without focusing on any one person. His accuracy drops as he fires while running, but three bullets still hit the opposing squad.
Kilde and Astore begin firing bullets and alchemy at the same time as the opposing squad. These students are still young and have much to learn about the world, so the area becomes an incoherent mess of bullets and alchemy Divine Arts. Frederick’s party is constantly retreating to prevent Veronica’s party from overtaking them and using them as a shield against the approaching Mutant Rats.
As Veronica’s squad is nearly upon Frederick’s, Regal uses ‘Foresight’ and dodges three consecutive attacks, closing the remaining distance at the expense of his mana running out. With no mana, his mind slows down the speed in which it reacts to the enemies attacks, dulling his movements and making dodging impossible.
The fight between the two squads becomes even more scrambled as they mix together while escaping. Veronica’s squad is faring worse than Frederick’s. If they can’t escape soon, they will likely die before the rats can even reach them. Everyone is down to half their health and every inch of their bodies are hurting from the pain of burns, frostbite, blunt trauma and bullet penetrations.
The most unfortunate is Regal, who is almost absentminded. Two stray bullets hit him along with Frederick’s electric bolt. The latter of the attacks is the worst, bringing him near death and stunning him for two seconds. The small lapse in time where he can’t move is enough for him to fall behind the party and have the rat swarm reach him.
Helplessness flashes in Regal’s eyes and Veronica calls out to him, also panicked, as several claws descend on him and remove the sliver of health he has left. Regal’s body becomes limp and he cannot move a muscle nor speak. He can still feel pain as the rats claw and bite his body before passing him and chasing after everyone else. He watches helplessly and pain as everyone disappears into the mist, shortly followed by the rats.
Moments after everyone had left and the area became peaceful, Regal’s vision begins to turn black, and all the pain in his body subsides.
Following a brief peaceful respite, Regal’s body begins to disintegrate. Along with his body being removed in preparation of revival is an agonizing torture that no words from the teacher could have described. His body and mind feel like they are being torn to shreds, which are then torn into smaller pieces, and torn again, and again. Regal’s screams out in pain as the agony replaces all conscious thoughts, but his voice only echoes out in the void of his mind, unable to reach the outside world.
This process only two minutes within the dungeon, but it was an eternal torture to Regal. Only after it was finished, did his mind become numb, not noticing that his body was once again being reformed.
Regal opens his eyes to see the inside of a golden domed roof, depictions of the dawn sun and mighty warriors valiantly fighting adorning it. This dome seems to radiate sunlight, filling the building with a warm golden glow. Gold encased pillars stretch down from other parts of the roof, supporting the weight of the structure.
Rows of bench chairs form lines on the marble tiled floor, but there is no one sitting in them. Ornamental doors are wide open at the end of the building, allowing anyone to enter or exit at their free will.
This is the interior of the Temple of Life, and Regal is currently floating in the Rebirth Pond, a large square pool where Immortalis are revived after their death. The last Rebirth Pond an Immortalis entered is where they will be revived, regardless of the distance. With the exception of Soulless, it is also the location new Immortalis are born into this world.
The water in the knee deep pond has mysterious properties that numb pain. Regal remains floating in the water until all the agony has vanished from his body, before standing on his feet and wading his way to the edge of the Rebirth Pond.
The sound of splashing water fills the cathedral that is desolate of anyone except Regal. The radiant light quickly dries him as the last few drops of water fall with a lonesome echo of droplets hitting the marble tiles.
Feeling unwell, Regal proceeds to the exit of the cathedral when something unexpected completely happens. His vision goes black once more, just like when he previously died. This time, there is no pain, and he feels like he is floating in an endless void.
His body had vanished from the middle of the Temple of Life without a sound, as if it never existed there in the first place.
Deep in the Earth’s crust, the enormous array that contains the Immortalis and the world of Grandosa is experiencing another earthquake as the land directly above it is still being reformed. Shock absorbers dilute the majority of the tremor, but this earthquake is the largest so far and a large force is still transferred through to the facility.
The shaking causes hundreds of Mind Bubbles to fall from of their sockets in the server pillars. The indentations in these sockets’ purpose it to prevent this, but it is a feature that never had the chance to be tested and this earthquake is beyond all predictions.
Regal’s Mind Bubble is one of these. His is extremely fortunate however, as it took the position in the pillar where an early Immortalis decided to enter the Temple of Death. His Mind Bubble only falls distance of three feet before hitting the ground. All the other Mind Bubbles that are raining down, par two or three, are broken into pieces upon collision with the floor and are completely destroyed.
Regal’s Mind Bubble doesn’t come out undamaged, as the superconductive sphere within it and several of the connections are split. The device registers the damage, and the dormant nanomachines become active as they rapidly circulate the sphere and a couple of other section that received minor damage to repair all the deficiencies.
Whilst they are repairing the Mind Bubble, the mercury-like liquid within the superconductive sphere begins to seep out. This process is almost identical to the creation of a new Immortalis. The only difference is that there is no expansion of the mercury-like liquid, so the overall volume doesn’t increase, but the density is respectively much higher in return.
Cleaning robots arrive at the scene and quickly begin collecting up all the broken pieces and polishing the floor. Regal’s Mind Bubble is almost swept up along with the rest of them, but before the robot picks up the device, its sensors register that it is still operational and sends out an electronic signal. From other locations, similar signals are sent from cleaning robots
A droning noise fills the air as small flying robots arrives shortly after that, picking up the mind bubbles that did not break and placing them back in their original sockets.
Regal reappears within the Temple of Life mid step, just as he had vanished. There is no physical change to him after what happened to his Mind Bubble, and initially he doesn’t notice anything either.
Continuing to walk toward the exit, Regal’s footsteps slowly come to a halt and his expression fills with confusion as he mentally asks himself an endless amount of questions, ‘Huh? What was that? What just happened? What is this strange feeling? Why am I so uncomfortable? Why did… This is Regal, fourteen years old. These are his memories, but, who am I? Am I Regal? Why do I feel like I am not?’ Why do I feel like I am?