The Archaic System - A New Beginning

edited June 2018 in Original Stories
Chapter 1: Death
It was just for a moment. Was that really him? It couldn't be that simple. I spent years trying to find him. How could we see each other here?
I took off running faster than I ever had before. I could see his silhouette about 50 meters in front of me. 30. 20. 10. BRAD!!!
As he turned towards me the face of my little brother which I hadn't seen for 10 years was looking back at me. Finally!
I reached out to embrace him. Tears filled my eyes. The ever-present pain of longing and loss losing its grip on my chest. "Brad I can't tell you how much I've missed you."
Suddenly I felt a cold piercing pain in my chest. As I pulled away from him I looked down to see a thin dark blade slowly withdrawn. Wait. Haven't I seen this blade before? At the end of the blade my dear brother's hand. I looked up, eyes filled with disbelief. How could this happen? I spent so long looking for him. How could that sweet innocent child from 10 years ago do something like this? 
My knees suddenly became weak, coldness beginning to envelop my body. As I start to fall I look at him. Pain etched across his face. Before the darkness fully descended I heard him say, "Brother, I really wish you had stayed away."
The darkness completely enveloped me before I could ask him why.
I could feel myself falling.
Light suddenly flooded my vision as I lifted my eyelids. Startled I began to sit up. 
"Where am I. where's Brad?"
"Uh. You have always been such a heavy sleeper." 
I know that voice. I haven't heard it in years. Not since….. 
I quickly turn my head. This can't be. It's not possible. My hands began to tremble. 
"Who else would it be moron?"
How can this be real? I saw him die right in front of me. My best friend Mike. We were friends for years even before the migration. 
Like a flashback, I recalled how we met. I had started my first job at a garden center, but I had always been a weak kid, skinny, with pale skin, I always preferred burying myself into books instead of getting involved in sports. I had a hard time lifting any of the heavy stuff like bags of mulch and potted plants, Mike would always help me out. Mike was much stockier, a little short, but he was packed with strength. He had a rough tan, short brown hair, and a full beard even though he was just 18. Everyone always thought we were an odd pair since I was tall, blond, and pale.
"What, What are you doing here Mike?"
"What do you mean what am I doing here? Are you still asleep? We are going to Agartha today!"
Suddenly it hit me, like a ton of bricks crashing down on top of my head. I began to see it. Mike still had his left eye. He looked younger than I remembered. I looked down at my hands. They weren't callused and scarred. They were the hands of an average teenager, who lived an average life and had yet to witness the cruelty of the world. I was myself ten years ago.
"Man, what is wrong with you? We need to get going. It's a good thing I stopped by. I just knew you would oversleep."
I remember. This was the day we left for Agartha. Agartha is another world, one that is very different from Earth. Suddenly, I remembered how all of this started.
In the 1900's people began to realize that one day earth would run out of resources and could no longer sustain life. However, on September 10, 2008, the Large Hadron Collider was fired for the first time. To the public, this was a science experiment and sure some people claimed it would rip open a black hole and consume the world, but those were just conspiracy theories. What really happened was something even the scientist involved never expected. When the particles in the experiment collided it ripped open a portal to a planet in a different universe. A planet completely different than the one we had known, this planet was called Agartha. 
The world governments kept Agartha a secret and through a joint task force commissioned by the U.N they began to prepare for the migration. There was a lot to prepare for, but the U.N knew they had a long time before our resources ran out. The universe Agartha was in had completely different laws that operated it. Sure things like gravity and Newton's first law of motion still applied, but there were other things that completely eclipsed mankind's understanding. Things that on earth were only read in fairy tales and fantasy novels. Over the next 500 years the U.N task force managed to gain a basic understanding of Agartha however, not without many sacrifices and many obstacles along the way. Their greatest obstacle was that no matter what they did or how they tweaked the portal everyone that went through would end up in a random place. If you were really unlucky you could even be placed on a volcano or in the middle of the sea. 
They were, however, able to develop their greatest achievement ALIC. ALIC is short for Adaptive Learning Interface Connector. Basically, before entering Agartha everyone received a shot at the base of the brain that inserted ALIC and it allows you to understand not only every language on earth but every language from the natives of Agartha as well. Most importantly it allows you to connect to the Archaic System. The Archaic System is the fundamental difference between Agartha and Earth and is one of the reasons the natives overpower humans so easily. By placing your hand on an origin stone which can be found scattered throughout Agartha and in most cities, you gain access to the Archaic System. The Archaic System is a lot like a video game. When you access it you can see your level, stats, and skills. When Agartha natives kill a living creature they absorb its essence through the natural laws of their universe. Then when connected to the origin stone it allows them to enhance their powers through that essence. ALIC is how we humans are able to do the same. When we kill something ALIC will store the essence and then allow us to use it to upgrade our levels, stats, and skills when we connect to an origin stone. 
After my surge of memories, I looked up at Mike and said, "My bad bro, let me get ready."

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  • edited June 2018
    Chapter 2: Preparation
    The first thing I wanted to do was go see my brother, but I remembered that it was too late, the U.N had already separated everyone based on age in preparation for the migration to Agartha. 
    Since you would end up in a random place when you go through the portal the U.N decided to send everyone through in batches based on their age. 25-30 would go first since this was when most people are in their best shape. Followed by 30-35, 20-25, 35-40, 40-45, 15-20, 45-50, 50 and above, and finally 15 and younger. The U.N did it this way so everyone would have a better chance of survival. If the elderly or young went in too early they may not be able to survive against the natives or beasts in the wild. With the more fit paving the way and setting up villages the others would at least have a chance of survival.
    Mike and I are 18 so we are going in the 15-20 group, but my younger brother Brad is only 14 so he will be in the last group to go. It's been about a month since the 1st group went to Agartha and today it's our turn to go. 
    After the first portal was opened in 2008 they were able to replicate their results and now there is a portal in every major city. Since the food supply is dwindling and the plan to migrate to Agartha has moved forward the U.N brought everyone into the major cities separated us by age and provided us with our basic amenities. 
    I started to pack up what little belongings I had with me, my I.D, a picture of me and my brother, a pocket knife Mike had bought me years back, and a watch that didn't even work anymore. The watch had been my fathers, but he and my mother died in a car crash shortly after Brad was born. We had been raised in an orphanage until I could make enough to support myself and Brad. Mike would always help us out when we were struggling, buying us groceries if we couldn't make ends meet. He likes to act tough on the outside but he's really such a softy.
    As I was putting my things into a small knapsack attached to my belt I heard Mike say, "Man I can't wait to find out what Agartha is like. I definitely can't wait to use the Archaic System. They say some of the advance teams already have incredible powers."
    "Haha, I'm sure we will get a chance to find out." I wanted to tell him about just how harsh life on Agartha could be, but I didn't think he'd believe that I had come back from the future and I didn't want to say something that would affect his actions.
    In the last timeline, Mike and I were able to meet up just 3 months after entering Agartha and I didn't want to say anything that would jeopardize that.
    I just had to keep my secrets to myself and hope that I could use them to make myself powerful enough to protect Mike and find Brad.
    After I was ready we left my small room. It was really just a half of a cargo container with a bed and nightstand in it. I could see dozens of people milling about in the huge warehouse as I and Mike started to head towards where the portal was.
    It was about an hour walk and we passed thousands of others on our way to queue up. The time period to migrate for 15-20 year olds lasts about 5 days and you can go at any time so while there was always a line to enter the portal it was never absurdly long.
    The portal was located in an old sports stadium. The place was pretty run down, no one had played the sport in over 200 years due to the extensive injuries involved. For some reason, the city had never torn down the stadium, something about it being a piece of history. 
    As we arrived at the stadium we got in line to enter. When we got to the front there was a large man in a black coat who said, "Identification please."
    Mike and I pulled out our I.D cards, "Hmm, Troy Williams and Michael Durbin both 18. You may proceed."
    He looked at us and said, "Make sure to go to the armory first to get your care packages."
    "Thank you." We responded.
    As we walked towards the armory following the signs in the stadium Mike looked at me and said, "Have you thought about what kind of weapon you will choose?"
    In every care package was a liter of water, 10 kilograms of a compact grain-like food, and your choice of weapon. It wasn't much since everyone who migrated received it, but it was better than nothing. In the last timeline, I had chosen a longsword with fantasies of being a majestic and aloof hero who could decimate his foes with one slash of his blade. However, reality was harsh and after getting to Agartha the longsword was too burdensome for someone with my physique to wield. I ended up abandoning it. This time I wouldn't make such a short-sighted decision.
    "I think I'm going to get a kodachi." 
    "What's a kodachi?"
    "It's a short sword, longer than a dagger but lighter and shorter than a sword."
    "That sounds perfect for you."
    Even though I already knew I figured I'd ask, "What are you going to get?"
    "Of course I will get a spear. What other weapon could possibly display all this strength" As he patted his bicep.
    "Hahaha naturally, a spear would be best for you," Mike smirked and stuck out his chest as we entered the armory.
    We could see dozens of people walking around trying out different weapons, we headed toward the counter. 
    As we got close we could see a muscular young man with a crop top haircut and military fatigues at the counter shouting at the attendant, "What do you mean I can't get any firearms? I've been training with guns my whole life, it's definitely the best choice to defend myself with."
    The attendant responded with a firm tone, "I'm sorry but there is no way to produce gunpowder in Agartha so the government has decided it's best you start with one of the weapon options here since that is how you will have to protect yourself in the future."
    "Ugghh" grunted the young man turning around clearly displeased.
    He saw me looking at him and barked, "What do you want?" He went to shove my shoulder and step by me.
    Seeing his hand coming I lightly sidestepped causing him to miss and lose his balance falling on the floor.
    As he looked up at me fire blazing in his eyes he shouted, "You'll pay for that punk!"
    He started to take a swing at me when Mike stepped up hooking the man's arm with his, stopping the punch. Mike glared at him, "You sure you want to do that?"
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  • Chapter 3: General Gunther
    The guy glared back at Mike but before he could say anything the attendant came around the desk and said, "Fighting is not allowed here, stop at once unless you want to portal to Agartha without a care package."
    We understood the importance of the care package and took a step back. The young man glared at the both of us and with a menacing tone said, "You better hope I never find you assholes in Agartha."
    Mike just laughed and said, "Sure thing crop top, we'll keep an eye out."
    He growled back, "My name, is Benning Gunther and don't forget it."
    "Uh huh whatever."
    As we turned back towards the attendant I said, "Sorry for the trouble sir we didn't intend to start anything."
    He had an amicable smile on, "I know, that kid has always been difficult to handle. Speaking of which you two should be careful he is the son of Brigadier General Gunther."
    "Oh fuck!" I couldn't help saying out loud.
    "Who's Brigadier General Gunther?" Mike turned to me and said.
    "Remember that already powerful advance team you were talking about? General Gunther is their leader."
    "So what? Agartha is 10 times the size of earth. What are the chances we run into him?"
    "Very little I hope" 
    I really hope this doesn't drastically affect the timeline. We didn't run into Gunther's son in the last timeline and General Gunther is one of the true human powerhouses in Agartha. 
    What's wrong with me? I shouldn't be this scared I know a lot of things that are going to happen and a ton of secrets about Agartha. As long as I use that knowledge and work hard who says I won't end up even more powerful than General Gunther.
    Determined to change my fate I turned to Mike and said, "Let's get our care packages and go. I'm ready for everything Agartha can throw at me"
    Mike chuckled, "Now that's what I'm talking about pal. Let's do this!"
    After getting our care packages we headed straight to the portal. In the middle of an open field at the center of the stadium was a huge circular metal apparatus. Inside the center of the circle was a dark liquid substance that seemed to ripple outwards from the center. As we got closer we could feel a subtle pull towards it.
    There were probably 3000 chairs set up around the portal and about 2500 already had people sitting in them. A man in a black coat asked us to take a seat as we got close.
    Shortly after sitting down a portly man in black trimmed with gold got up on a stage in front of the portal and said, "Welcome youths, I am Captain Bartholomew and I am here to brief you before you portal to Agartha. I am sure you are all ready to adventure into this new world and embark on a journey like you could have never imagined. However, before you go, there are a few things we need to make sure you understand. First, we are not alone on Agartha besides the beasts that roam the new world there are at least 4 other sentient races. The most dangerous of the 4 and the ones that hate humans the most are the Fey. They are a very domineering race who believe that their god placed them on Agartha to subjugate all other races, and consider humans an abomination. They look very similar to elves you have seen in fantasy movies. Their body is about the same as ours in terms of constitution but they are very agile and attack in a fierce manner. If you encounter a Fey don't try to run, hide and hope they don't find you or attack before they get the chance to."
    You could see the crowd shiver at the thought of the Fey. 
    Captain Bartholomew paused briefly before starting again, "The G'eth are a race that while its shape is human seems to be made from many plants corded together with a set of emeralds for eyes. They have not shown a direct aggression towards humans however, they seem to be whimsical in nature as we have not managed to develop many connections with them. Associate with the G'eth at your own discretion. The Shades are a mysterious race and not many have been seen, but we know they exist. They seem to be capable of conforming and moving within shadows and darkness. On the few occasions we have interacted with them we have noticed they tend to speak in riddles and love money. Be careful if you happen upon them. The last race and the ones that we have developed the best relationship with are the Una. They have a human-like shape and can be identified by their blue skin. They are capable of coming on land however, they prefer to stay in water. The Una are a gentle race who have been of great assistance to humans in Agartha. The only thing to be wary with the Una is that they focus greatly on purity therefore under no circumstances can any of you enter into a relationship with any of the Una. Doing so is punishable by death not only under Una law but under our law as well."
    I could hear a guy in front of me snicker, "Who would want to have sex with some alien freak race anyway"
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  • edited June 2018
    Chapter 4: Migration
    Captain Bartholomew continued, "Now these are just the races we have had a chance to interact with there is a chance there are more. If you discover solid proof of another race you can turn it into the adventurer association at any human settlement for a reward. Last important piece of information is something I'm sure all of you have heard about and that is ALIC. The Automatic Learning Interface Connector allows you to understand all human languages and the language of the 4 races. It also allows you to absorb the essence of anything you kill which is essential to becoming more powerful and developing new skills. You cannot absorb the essence of someone else's kill since ALIC will sync with the essence as soon as the creature dies. Also absorbing the essence of a before undiscovered sentient race will allow you to understand their language as well. Once you have gathered essence you can go to any origin stone in Agartha and connect to the Archaic System allowing you to upgrade your body and develop new skills. For your convenience this information has been put into text that is easy for you to understand, much like a video game. First you have levels and when you have enough essence you can level up allowing you to distribute 2 points for each level up to your stats. The stats for the human body fall under these categories strength, constitution, willpower, and dexterity. For reference the average human soldier would have about 10 in each category. The skills you develop will be largely dependent on the essence you gather. For instance, the Fey are extremely adept at wind-related abilities so if you kill a Fey and absorb their essence you may obtain the chance to earn a wind-related ability.  Before administering the ALIC shot to all of you and sending you through the portal to Agartha I want to stress the importance of developing your abilities and power well. The only thing you can truly rely on in Agartha is yourself. Good luck!"
    This amount of information was a lot for those in attendance to process. Mike sat in the seat next to me dazed. Having already known this information, and more, that they haven't discovered yet, I had no problem and was just waiting for Mike to break out of his stupor.
    "You ready to go bro?" 
    "Huh? Oh yeah. I just didn't realize that there would be other races in Agartha and that humans might not be at the top of the food chain" said Mike a bit of worry on his face.
    "What did you expect to find in an entirely different universe?" I replied snarkily.
    "I don't know. I at least thought it would be similar?"
    "It doesn't look like it. Regardless we got to go."
    "That's true. Me and my spear will take them on regardless!" said Mike regaining his former bravado.
    "Remember your own safety is more important. Don't take stupid risks"
    Mike looked at me slightly offended. "I got it. I got it. Stop worrying mother."
    "Fine. Let's get up there and get going."
    "Yeah, I'm ready."
    Mike and I got up and walked towards the front of the portal. We were among the first in the group to recover from the shocking information. From our spot in the queue we could see people getting their ALIC inserted. Ugh, it's so painful. I can still remember the searing pain I felt in the back of my head when I got it in my last life. As we got closer I could see Mike getting nervous. I chuckled knowing he's not a big fan of shots.
    "Getting squeamish?" I prodded him with my elbow.
    "Fuck off you asshole, you know I don't like needles."
    I just laughed in response as we got closer.
    Finally, we were at the front and a guy in a white coat asked Mike to lean forward. Real quick he jabbed the needle in the back of his head.
    "Ahh fuck! No warning you prick?"
    "I find this works faster." Responded the guy in the white coat. "Next"
    I walked up prepared. Leaning over I felt the jab in the back of my head and the searing hot pain in the back of the skull. Luckily the pain doesn't last too long but it still hurts like hell. We continue forward towards the portal. You don't really feel any different with ALIC unless you are absorbing essence or connecting to the Archaic System through an origin stone. 
    As we got closer to the portal we could see people passing through the dark liquid and disappearing beyond.
    Finally, it was Mike's turn he was in front of me, spear strapped to his back with the water and food in a duffle bag around his shoulder. The spear was almost as tall as he was. He turned to me before passing through and said, "I'll find you when we reach the other side."
    "Not if I find you first." I retorted
    Chuckling he took a large step and passed right through.
    I took a deep breath and said, "Here we go" as I passed through the portal.
    Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be put through one of those old drying machines they had centuries ago? That's what it feels like when you wake up after having portaled to Agartha. Every part of your body feels like it was pounded on. Traveling through a rip in space and time to another dimension is not a fun trip even if you have done it before. However, those that are able to wake up are the lucky ones, some die before their consciousness can return.
    Before opening my eyes I prayed, hoping that I got sent to a different place than I did in the last timeline. As I opened my eyes I could see a dark cavern above me. So dark you could barely see and what looked like tunnels running through the ceiling. A sense of déjà vu hitting me. Why? Why did it have to be this place? This absolute godforsaken hellhole. Dammit.
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  • edited June 2018
    Chapter 5: Cavern
    I immediately grab my kodachi as I get to my feet. I may have been clueless in the last timeline, but now I know just how dangerous this place is. Out of all the people that portaled to Agartha I couldn't be considered the unluckiest, but I certainly am not lucky either. 
    The place I was teleported to was the middle of an underground cavern. That in itself wouldn't have been so bad. The real problem is that this cavern was the den of a Grootslang. The Grootslang is a snake like creature but has immense strength. It is 50 meters long, has pitch black scales, white oval eyes, and two long fangs that stick out of its mouth. However, its fangs are not poisonous, instead it uses the fangs to impale its prey then detaches its lower jaw, which has razor sharp teeth and minces its prey to pieces before swallowing it. Of course it can also just coil around you and crush you with its massive strength. Just a flick of its tail is enough to break through a reinforced steel door. In the last timeline it took a hundred man team of lvl 20 humans two hours to take down the Grootslang.
    Luckily last time I didn't run into it, but I did run into a few of its offspring. By forcibly mating with other snakes the Grootslang produce offspring that are about five meters long and as thick as a human arm. They, like their parent, have 2 long fangs, have incredible strength, and can wrap around a human limb snapping it in half. I almost lost my life multiple times in the last timeline. The only weakness they have is that their senses are limited and they mostly locate prey through sound. Also two inches behind their head is a reverse scale that if struck with enough force can kill them instantly. 
    Currently I don't have the strength I had before I died, so most of the techniques and abilities I had learned cannot be used. However, some of the easier movement and blade techniques surfaced in my mind. The first one that came to mind was a technique I picked up from a corpse I found in the saarthal desert during my last life, clearly it didn't work so well for him but it's all I have right now. It was called the shifting sands movement technique. Essentially it focused on using the strength of your toes to make sudden shifting movements to quickly evade enemy strikes. The blade technique I remembered was a mediocre one that was commonplace amongst humans called the body force technique. The technique focused on leveraging your weight behind the blade to make parry's and deliver crushing blows.
    After a moment of contemplating them and preparing myself mentally I began to ready myself to get out of this damnable place. Last time I wondered aimlessly before finding the exit so I couldn't remember exactly how to get out. I would just have to try different paths and hope they lead me to the exit. 
    I began to make my way through a tunnel on the right. The ground was soft beneath my feet, which helps since it dampens the sounds my steps make. The whole cavern was covered in a misty, humid atmosphere. It was dark but I could still see about 10 meters in front of me. 
    This tunnel goes on for quite a while, it had been about ten minutes since I left the last cavern. Suddenly I could hear a scraping noise coming from in front of me. I steeled myself, I knew what that sound meant. It couldn't be the Grootslang, the sound would be louder, it must be one of the offspring. I softly stepped over placing my back against the wall of the tunnel. I could hear the offspring getting closer each second. Then in a bend in the tunnel ahead I could see a greyish snake about three meters long with two short fangs protruding slithering down the tunnel. I almost let out a sigh. It was a fairly newborn. Once the offspring reach the adult stage they will be five meters long and have black scales. Being three meters long and having greyish scales meant this one was only about a year old. Knowing that I needed essence to get stronger I couldn't let such easy prey slip by. 
    As it began to get close I tightened my muscles getting ready to pounce. Just as it was about to pass me I raised my kodachi and using the body force technique putting the power of my entire body behind my strike as I brought the kodachi down on the reverse scale of the Grootslang offspring. The force of my strike carrying through the offspring beheading it. 
    Essence gained +3
    The notification flashed in the corner of my vision. ALIC would notify you every time you gained essence. Satisfied I started to skin the corpse, even though I had the grain for food who knew how long it would take to get out of here and the scales can be used to make some light armor if I can bring it to a blacksmith in one of the towns. I put the scales and about five kilograms worth of meat in my knapsack. Too much would only slow me down. I could only carry about 20 kilograms total before my movement would be affected.
    Again I set out to try to find an exit. After about an hour I came upon another large cavern like the one I appeared in. I was starting to feel hungry so I decided to munch on a little of the grain and drink a little of my water. I would have eaten the meat from my kill but I didn't have any way of starting a fire in this damp cave. 
    After my short break, I looked at the surrounding cavern. Stalagmites were coming up from the floor and a small pool of water had gathered at the center. At the far end, I could see 3 tunnels. One was large, the other two only slightly taller than me. I began to move toward it keeping an eye out for any Grootslang offspring nearby. I had to circle around the pool as I didn't know how deep it was and while I hadn't heard of Grootslang offspring's that could swim I didn't want to take the chance since I would be severely disadvantaged underwater.
    I began to make my way around the side of the pool. Just as I passed a stalagmite on my left I felt a sudden change in the air. Quickly I brought my kodachi up on my left side preparing for danger. Just as I braced myself a huge force rammed my kodachi launching me backward. I slammed into a stalagmite knocking the breath right out of me and sending my senses into confusion. Overcoming the pain and bracing myself I looked up and saw a five-meter black snake with two long fangs wrapped around the stalagmite I was just walking past.
    Shit! I was too careless. It's an adult offspring and it got the jump on me. Before I could think anymore the offspring used the stalagmite as a springboard and shot towards me. I quickly used the shifting sands technique exerting force on my toes to shift my body quickly to the right. As I dodged the offspring slam into the stalagmite. The offspring became dazed not expecting me to move so quickly. Before it could react I brought the kodachi up and with everything I had brought it straight down on the offspring's reverse scale. Piercing through I could see the offspring struggle for one last second before…
    Essence gained +5
    Holy crap. Finally, I could let out a breath. 
    However, just as I went to sit down I could hear the sound of scraping coming from the big tunnel at the end of the cavern. It kept getting louder and louder. Then to my absolute dismay a dozen adult Grootslang offspring came out of the tunnel. 
    Crap! They must have been drawn by the noise of our fight. Frantically I thought, what could I do? If I run back the way I came I'll end up in the cavern I started in and there was only one tunnel out of there. It's a dead end. To get to the other two tunnels I would have to go through the offspring. There's no way, they'd tear me apart before I could get there. Then I looked over at the pool and thought I really really hope they can't swim. I grabbed my kodachi and sprinted towards the pool.
    Luckily I was much closer to the pool than they were and was able to dive in while they were still five meters away
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  • edited June 2018
    Chapter 6: Underwater
    As soon as I jumped in I struggled to see the past the bubbles and noticed that the pool was even deeper than I thought. I swam forward as fast as I could, however, I quickly noticed that the offspring didn't seem to be following me. Slowly I floated back up to the surface. As I broke through I quickly looked around expecting to see the menacing glares of the offspring. To my surprise, rather then looking at me menacingly they looked fearful.
    Hmm. This isn't good, drawing on my experience from my past life I knew that they wouldn't be fearful for no reason. Most likely there is something in this pool that is much stronger than them. I quickly looked beneath the water. I noticed there was something glowing further down allowing me to see about 30 meters down into the pool despite the darkness of the cavern. I looked all around and couldn't find any kind of creature. Still, something must be scaring the offspring. I decided it's best to wait and see if the offspring move away after a while.
    For a while I tread on water kicking my feet and using my arms to stay above but after 30 minutes I began to get tired so I would just let my body float on top. Occasionally I would have to kick to keep myself in the middle of the pool because while they wouldn't get in the offspring would still try to bite me if I got too close. I floated there for what seemed like hours. 
    Finally, I decided I would have to try to find another way out because with my grain being ruined after being in the water my sources of food were limited. Also, who knows how long the offspring might stay here.
    In the end, the pool was my only way forward. If a creature is in this pool, but I can't see it, there must be underwater tunnels. I took a deep breath and dove underwater. I kept my eyes open trying to spot any tunnels or any danger. After diving about 20 meters I saw a tunnel to my left. It was fairly large about 10 meters in diameter. I quickly swam towards it. I knew I wasn't in the best shape and needed to find another source of air quickly. 
    I went into to the tunnel and continued moving forward using what appeared to be glowing algae to see my way. I had gone another 50 meters in the tunnel. My eyes began to sting and I could feel my lungs burning due to lack of oxygen. I knew if I turned back now I could get back before I passed out, but would I have the strength to get this far again? Determined, I pushed forward. After about another 20 meters I could see the tunnel start to angle up. Oh thank god! I hope this leads out my lungs burning even more. Frantically I swam forward desperate to make it before my strength failed me.
    I swam as hard as I could, finally, I could see a glossy rippling barrier above me, I knew that meant there was air. Struggling with my tired muscles, stinging eyes, burning lungs I finally broke through the surface.
    "HHHHUUUUHHHHH" I inhaled a huge mouthful of air. Panting, catching my breath as the burning in my lungs slowly subsided. I eased over to the shore and pulled myself out of the water. Collapsing, I laid there just letting the feeling of being alive wash over me. Maybe having come back from death made me braver than before. I would never have done something so risky in my past life. I always chose to play it safe. Things can be different now I don't have to live the meaningless life I did before, always at the mercy of others. I don't know why I was given a second chance but, I swear I will make the most of it.
    I began to look over my belongings. My kodachi was strapped to my right hip and my knapsack strapped to my left. I opened the knapsack finding a sloshy grain like mess. Uh, you would think they would have given us a resealable package for the grain. The grain and meat were ruined, the picture of me and Brad was unrecognizable. After emptying the knapsack out the only usable items I still had was my plastic I.D, the bottle of water, my dad's broken watch, and the pocketknife Mike gave me. Other than that I had completely soaked clothes and boots as well as my kodachi and it's sheathe. 
    This is a problem, I need to find a source of heat and a food source, or I need to leave this cavern soon. With the dampness down here I will probably never dry out and while I can find and kill more offspring and eat the meat raw I'd rather not. 
    For now, my best option is to continue to move forward. I gathered my things and looked around me to see what my options were. The pool seemed to come out against the cavern wall and the cavern extended into the darkness opposite of it. I began to walk towards the darkness. I stayed vigilant, there was no guarantee that I was out of danger and I still hadn't found what scared the offspring. I didn't want to get surprised again that was how I ended up in this mess.
    I walked forward slowly, this cavern was different from the one with stalagmites, it had a flat floor and the ceiling was higher than I could see how dark it is. As I continued forward I could start to see the walls coming together on my sides. Eventually, I got to another tunnel about 10 meters wide. At least it wasn't a dead end, all my effort would have been in vain.
    I continued treading lightly through the tunnel, trying to make as little sound as possible. After a couple of minutes walking I could see the slope start to angle up. Maybe, just maybe this leads to a way out. As I climbed further I got more excited, it took me a week to get out of here before, if I could be out on the first day losing my food and being soaked was totally worth it. Others wouldn't, but I know what plants were safe to eat in Agartha. As long as I can get out of here I'll be fine. 
    As I got further along in the tunnel I felt a subtle breeze blow by. Hell yes!! Now I know an exit must be nearby. Finally, I saw the tunnel widen into a large cavern filled with stalagmites. Light from the opposite end of the cavern illuminating the area.
    As I looked further into the cavern I noticed something large wound between the stalagmites. Suddenly my entire body went cold as ice. 
    It felt like the hand of death had gripped my heart. 
    This can't be possible, I was so close.
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  • Chapter 7: Grootslang
    Despair overcame me like a wave. The Grootslang, here, blocking my only way out. I was so close, how could I have been brought back to ten years in the past just to die in this godforsaken cave.
    I don't accept this.
    I refuse to accept this.
    It's just a Grootslang if I'm careful I can get around it.
    I looked forward, the majority of its body seemed to be coiled around the center of the cavern with just the last 10 meters coming out, lying between stalagmites. It appeared to be sleeping, it's black scaly eyelids that are as large as my torso laid closed. Its head turned sideways with it's two massive fangs shining like ivory.
    I started to move forward taking slow steps allowing my feet to make light contact with the ground before applying pressure so I could reduce the sound to a minimum. I continued, moving as slow and as soundlessly as I could. Sweat was pouring down my face. 
    I steeled my nerves, I just had to get past this and everything will work out.
    As I went to take another step my knapsack snagged on the side of a stalagmite, I could hear a light ripping noise. 
    My whole body went rigid, my breath caught in my throat. I slowly turned my head towards the Grootslang. 
    After what seemed like an eternity, I calmed down. That didn't seem to wake it. I slowly moved back to unhook whatever part got caught on the stalagmite when suddenly my dad's watch slipped out of the newly torn hole.
    It made a crisp "ding" as it made contact with a rock.
    Without thinking I used the shifting sands technique to immediately shift my body backward.
    The stalagmite in front of me exploded as a large black blur completely passed through it.
    The Grootslang lifted it's head up into the air, its large white oval eyes staring down towards me like a king about to execute a prisoner, hissing lightly.
    Malice, pure unadulterated malice was emanating from its very being. My entire body became tense as the fear almost overwhelmed me.
    I calmed myself down, if I lose my head now I'm dead for sure. The only advantage I have is my intelligence, I quickly glanced around while drawing my kodachi. Ok, there are a lot of stalagmites in this cavern, they may not block it but they can at least slow it down. There is also a large pillar 20 meters to my right, maybe he won't be able to break that and I can somehow move around and get a shot at its eyes or reverse scale. 
    Without giving me any more time to think the Grootslang shot towards me, It was much faster than me, but with shifting sands, I could just barely dodge. As I narrowly evaded its fang passing by me, I struck out towards the reverse scale with my kodachi, but it was too fast and the reverse scale was a small target, the strike landed on a different scale on it's back barely leaving a white mark. I stepped backward.
    Continually using shifting sands I moved towards the pillar, when I got about 5 meters away I glanced back. The Grootslang was bringing its fangs down on top of me. I didn't have time to dodge, quickly I dropped down.
    As I lay flat on the cavern floor the Grootslang's fangs are on both sides of my head impaled into the ground. It's open mouth above, its tongue flickering just inches from my face. I quickly reach up with my kodachi and stab into the roof of its mouth. Due to my own weakness and the dense mouth of the Grootslang it only went in two inches, far from a fatal blow. However, it was enough to piss it off.
    The Grootslang pulled backward hissing. As one of the fangs was being withdrawn it scraped my left shoulder, cutting it open. 
    I winced in pain but didn't have time to focus on it. While the Grootslang was reeling I got to my feet and dashed towards the pillar. I was almost there when the Grootslang recovered and shot towards me again. I had just got around the pillar when the Grootslang's fangs came whipping towards me around the side. It tore open a gash in my thigh as it passed, impaling the pillar after. However, the pillar was tough and for a second it was able to hold the Grootslang still. Ignoring the pain in my thigh and shoulder I twisted my hips and used every ounce of strength to bring my kodachi down on the Grootslang's eye. 
    I buried the kodachi handle deep into its eye and quickly pulled it back out. The Grootslang reeled back clearly in pain shaking its head back and forth hissing loudly. Just as I was about to use shifting sands to get some distance I felt a large force crash into my side.
    I was sent flying into a wall. My left arm was probably shattered and I had to have at least five broken ribs. The pain was so intense I thought I would pass out. Luckily I had tucked my arm in at the last moment or I probably would have died instantly. I opened my eyes I could see the Grootslang still whipping it's head and tail, back and forth.
    The tail. That's what must have hit me. Shit. 
    I can't let it end here. As long as I can kill it I'll still have a chance.
    Using every ounce of willpower I had, I stood up, ignoring the pain that seemed to come from every part of my body. I used my right arm to grab my kodachi and moved towards the still thrashing Grootslang. As I got close I suddenly had an idea. I reached into my knapsack and using the tips of my fingers grabbed the bottle of water. I threw it towards the pillar in front of the Grootslang while still holding the kodachi. 
    When the bottle hit the pillar the Grootslang stopped thrashing and headed straight for it, fangs bared. The fangs pierced right into the pillar, it was stuck again but this time I was behind it. Summoning every ounce of strength and courage I possessed. I darted forward and aimed my kodachi at the reverse scale behind its head. Leaping up I buried the blade into it severing the spinal cord of the Grootslang. It's massive body suddenly went limp.
    Essence gained +5000
    I did it.
    I really did it. 
    I slumped to the ground as the pain began to overwhelm me. I didn't have the strength left to do anything else. In the end, it looks like I still won't make it out of here. 
    As I struggled to keep my eyes open I thought, come on this can't be right, after all this, I'm just gonna die in this damn cave. 
    Just before I completely blacked out I couldn't help but wonder why there was a vine moving up my leg.
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  • Chapter 8: Nightmare
    My eyes opened wide, the pain in my left arm and side so intense that I couldn't help but scream as soon as I woke. I could see trees all around me. I'm moving backward.
    The pain came in another wave. I couldn't help but close my eyes, sweat was pouring down my face and back from the sheer amount of agony. In my brief moment of consciousness, I realized something or someone was carrying me. The jostling from their movement causing the waves of pain. I embraced the respite as I again blacked out.
    I awoke confused, my mind in a fog and my surroundings hazy. Suddenly a young Brad came up and embraced me.
    "Brother what are you standing there for? Let's go and play."
    "What? Brad?"
    "Come on Big brother I want to play in the sandbox"
    "Ok. Ok. I'm coming"
    I let him lead me by the hand into the sandbox.
    "Brother help me build a sand castle"
    "Ok. First, grab that pail. Now fill it with sand. You pat it down like this. See you can use your shovel to make little windows or a door" I instructed Brad on how to make a sand castle.
    I looked off into the distance. I can't remember the last time we simply enjoyed a day together. Wait, something's not right. I'm missing something.
    "Brother I want to build a moat around the castle"
    I turned towards him, "Ok. You have to....."
    When I turned towards Brad his shovel had become a dark dagger and he was stabbing it into the sand like he was trying to dig a moat, but instead of sand, a dark red liquid was bursting out all over him. I looked closer the sand began to twist and morph, coalescing into a human shape. It was... me.
    "This is your fault you know"
    Brad turned towards me, one corner of his mouth arching up into a smirk.
    "What? What are you talking about?" I couldn't help stuttering
    "Ughh isn't it obvious?"
    He continued to smirk as he began twirling the dagger with his fingers. The blood rolling off the edge creating streaks of blood in the air before it splattered on the ground around him. He looked at me with eyes cold as ice.
    I couldn't understand what was going on. I took a step backwards.
    "What do you mean?"
    He stood up. 
    "You know exactly what I mean"
    He made a lateral slash towards me. I stepped back to dodge. The blood coming off the dagger splashed on my face and chest.
    "It's your fault mom and dad died"
    He stepped toward me making another slash.
    I stepped back saying, "That was an accident"
    "It's your fault I was lost in Agartha"
    He stepped towards me slashing again.
    I took another step back, "I looked for you every day"
    "You didn't try hard enough" he shouted as he lunged the dagger at me.
    I dodged, "I did everything I could"
    My brother looked up a maddening scornful rage overcoming his features.
    "I had to kill you, something as weak as you doesn't deserve to live, it's your own fault, you couldn't protect me, it's all your fault, pay for it, just let me kill YOU"
    I couldn't bear it, it was my fault. 
    I am too weak. 
    I couldn't even protect my little brother. 
    I stood still. Brad jumped towards me, dagger raised over his head, a sadistic murderous smile spread across his face.
    "It's ok little bro if this is what it takes" I softly whispered.
    Suddenly a soft light broke through my vision. Brad dispersed like mist blown away by the wind. My eyelids weakly opening. Above me an arched ceiling, brown with a wooden texture, small sprouts spread across it with tiny green buds. I could hear running water in the distance. There was no pain and it felt like I was laying on clouds. I took a deep breath, it smelt like spring after wisterias bloom.
    "Welcome, back to the living. We weren't sure, you would be, joining us again." A gravelly voice said slowly beside me.  
    I turned to look at the source of the voice. He was sitting in a stone chair next to me, his torso comprised of gnarly knotted vines twisting upwards, bundling up at his shoulders then twisting down, falling and thinning like a willow. His face looked like the branches of a Socotra dragon tree, that had been shaped to look human. He had deep green emerald eyes with what seemed to be cape lilac leaves with browning edges for eyebrows and hair. His legs like the trunk of an oak sturdy and solid, with roots spreading at the base. This was an elderly G'eth. 
    I just blankly stared at him for a moment trying to understand what was going on. A moment ago I was prepared to let my brother kill me and now I'm being looked at by a G'eth. I needed a moment to comprehend what was happening. Then it came back. The desperate fight with the Grootslang, the feeling of being carried. I realized what happened with my brother must have been a nightmare. This G'eth must have played some role in saving my life. All of the pain was gone. I flexed my left arm afraid to look over. 
    I could feel it. 
    I looked at myself as I sat up, I was in what appeared to be a toga, the fabric coming over my right side before wrapping around my waist and going down. My left arm and side were exposed, I looked them over, not even a scar. How? Even in the past timeline, I had never heard of the G'eth possessing such amazing healing abilities.
    "You are, completely fine, I assure you," said the elderly G'eth.
    I quickly got up from, what appeared to be a giant pile of moss that I was sitting on and bowed towards him. 
    "Thank you, sir, for the immense kindness you have shown me"
    "Hahaha, I did not expect, someone of, your kind, to react, as such." He slowly said with a deep and jovial voice.
    "The majority, of your kind, act with wariness, if not hostility, towards my people. From what I, understand, that gesture, is a show, of respect, in your society"
    I stood up locking eyes with him.
    "Yes sir, and I apologize for my fellow humans while some of us may act thoughtlessly, not all do."
    "Indeed, your actions, prove as much," he said as he raised his large frame out of the chair. He was at least a meter taller than me. 
    "However, our treatment, of you, was not due, to the whimsical nature, of which, your kind, claims us to be. Rather, it is because, of your actions."
    Confused I responded, "Sir, I apologize for my lack of understanding. What exactly have I done to merit such treatment?"
    Deeply chuckling he said, "Were you not, the one, who slew, the Grootslang? That very creature, has been, terrorizing, my people, for centuries. We simply, had no way, of getting past, its incredible, defense, and were helpless, in front of, it's immense, strength."
    He paused staring at me. 
    "However, four cycles ago, one of my warriors, was patrolling, the area, around the, Grootslang den. 
    He heard, the Grootslang, hissing, and thrashing about. To his, great surprise, when he looked, inside, he saw, a battered human, leap at, it's head, slaying it, with one strike."
    He calmly looked me over.
    "He brought you, back to, our village, to me, begging me, to save, your life. At first, I did not, believe him, and it was, no small cost, to save, your life, as you were, at death's door. However, upon hearing, his story, and after, twenty warriors, hauled the, Grootslang's, corpse back, I had no, choice, but to, acknowledge, the service, you rendered, to my people. This was, no small debt, you have saved, many lives. I would, like to know, how you, could achieve, this feat? I sense no, great strength, from you."
    "Sir, during a fight with the offspring I noticed there was a scale, facing opposite the others, which was significantly softer located two inches below the head. After being mauled by the Grootslang I made a last chance effort to hit that scale and luckily managed to pierce through, slaying it." Obviously, I could not tell him the truth, that I had the known this because of a past life.
    "This knowledge, is truly, valuable. It will be, of great assistance, to our warriors, in other, territories, that are, under threat, from a, Grootslang. You must, have a, keen mind, to notice, such small details."
    "Thank you for your kind words, I was merrily doing my best to survive." 
    "Nevertheless, it took, great courage, and determination. Please stay, in our village. Valerian, will guide you, to a room. He is also, the warrior, who found you." He then raised his arm gesturing behind me.
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  • Chapter 9: Geodenisis Arboreth
    I turned around looking at where the elderly G'eth was pointing. As I turned I noticed the surrounding area. It was a large open courtyard. The moss I had been sleeping on was located under an overhang made of live branches from a nearby tree. The center of the courtyard had a natural spring running through it and the surrounding fauna was remarkable. I had worked at a garden center on earth so I could see the care that was put into this courtyard. Then again the G'eth can manipulate plants so maybe it is natural for them. I had seen G'eth villages in my past life but never a courtyard this stunning.
    Valerian the warrior was standing by a large arched door at the end of the courtyard. He was clearly a much younger G'eth similar to me in height. The vines comprising his torso and arms much denser and smooth than the elderly G'eth. The green of the leaves in his hair vibrant as if bursting with life, his emerald eyes were a much lighter color. 
    The G'eth have no need for clothes or weapons as their ability to manipulate the surrounding plants and their own body give them great dexterity in combat. G'eth are best known for their spear techniques and ability to control an enemies movements. They use their arm to form the shape of a spear and manipulate the vines to draw out dense minerals to the head, increasing their penetrative force. Some gifted G'eth can even form multiple spears, lashing out at the same time to corner enemies. They can also manipulate the surrounding plants to bind up enemies slowing them down or completely stopping their movements.
    I looked at Valerian and took a bow.
    "Thank you for saving my life! I will forever remain in your debt."
    He laughed loudly, "Debt? What debt? I was merely doing what I should for a fellow warrior. There is no debt to speak of." 
    "Nevertheless I must repay this kindness!" I stayed bowed.
    "Hmmm. In that case, take me as your brother and you can consider your kindness paid."
    I rose shocked, "This is all you want?"
    "Yes and now that I am your brother you must take me with you to see the world," he replied shamelessly.
    Valerian looked at the elderly G'eth and said, "I'm assuming you won't have a problem with this Grand Elder Corytheius."
    Grand Elder? He is a Grand Elder? I was floored. I never heard of any human even meeting a Grand Elder in my past life. Grand Elders ruled the forest and G'eth villages for the surrounding 50,000 kilometers. There were only 5 in all of Agartha and they were rumored to be immortal. 
    Corytheius looked at Valerian and said, "If this, warrior, takes you, as a brother, I see, no reason, to deny you. I knew, from the time, you were, a sprout, you could not, stay rooted, here."
    Valerian kneeled, "Thank you, father."
    Corytheius turned to me, "Warrior, what is, your name?"
    "Troy Williams" I responded quickly. I was more than a little nervous now that I knew he was a Grand Elder.
    "Troy Williams, do you, accept the, brotherhood of, Valerian Nightshade, and promise, to remain, an ally, with the, G'eth people."
    "Yes sir"
    He reached out and placed a vine on my left shoulder. Suddenly a weird itching sensation came over my arm. When I looked a green tattoo in the shape of a tree with its roots extending down rose up from my skin, slightly bulging like a brand. 
    "This is, the mark, of the Arboreth, symbolizing you, as a friend, of the G'eth."
    Valerian came up beside me and threw his arm over my shoulder.
    "Haha, now we are brothers, I can't wait to see whats outside this forest!"
    I couldn't help but think he is gonna be a lot to handle but, that's Ok, I know I can trust him, after all he saved my life.
    I looked at Corytheius, he seemed to have a mix of relief and worry on his face. There was one question pressing on my mind that I simply couldn't help but ask. 
    "Grand Elder, if I may, can I ask you something?"
    "You may," he responded.
    "How did you heal me? I have never heard of such incredible healing abilities in all of Agartha."
    "This...," he was clearly struggling with the answer.
    "Since you, are an ally, of the G'eth, you could, have some, right to know, the answer. However, it is, an important, secret of, my people. I cannot, tell you, for free. If you, agree to, hand over, the corpse, of the, Grootslang, I can, tell you. Do not, worry, we will, still prepare, some gifts, for you."
    This is not an easy decision. I know just how much the Grootslang is worth because of my past life. In the last timeline, a human mercenary group became a carp leaping over the dragon gate after killing the Grootslang. Not only were they able to make over 50 sets of high-quality armor, they sold the remaining parts for the high price of 100,000 gold. Considering the fact that an average farming family could live on five gold a year this is an enormous sum.
    However, sometimes knowledge is invaluable, as I well know after fighting the Grootslang. Either way I could not have gotten the profit from the Grootslang on my own anyways. I could have easily been killed by others for it. 
    "Grand Elder, I am willing to turn over the corpse to your village."
    "Fantastic!" He heartily bellowed.
    "To understand, the source, of what, healed you, you must first, know how, we G'eth, came to be."
    Corytheius sat back down in his chair, the roots at his feet extended till they reached the spring in the center of the courtyard.
    "When this, world formed, it was nothing, but a large, desolate mass, with no life. One day, an object, descended, from above. Within that object, a single seed. The seed, took root, at the center, of the world, and grew into, Geodenisis Arboreth, the world tree. It gave life, to the planet, and is, the mother, of all G'eth. Every G'eth, comes from, Geodenisis Arboreth. I picked, Valerian's bud, from it myself, and nurtured him, in this courtyard, before he, became the warrior, he is today.
    He paused looking softly at Valerian.
    "When I saw, what you had, done for, my village, I used some, of the sap, of the, Geodenisis Arboreth, we have stored, in our treasury. The vitality, it contains, cannot be measured, and it is, capable of, restoring all life, that has, even one, breath left. This secret, cannot be, know to the, outside world, as they would, surely destroy, Geodenisis Arboreth, in their greed. This would, destroy not only, the G'eth, but all, of Agartha."
    Nodding, I understood the gravity of the secret that he revealed to me.
    "I sense, greatness in you, please do not, disappoint me." He slowly said as he closed his eyes.
    "I will do my utmost best and not reveal your secret even in the face of death."
    Valerian turned towards the exit.
    "Let's go, he needs to rest. It's been a long time since he spoke this much."
    I caught up to Valerian.
    "Yeah, how about showing me around the village?"
    "Not a problem brother!" Valerian grinned.
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  • Chapter 10: Origin Stone
    "Hey Valerian"
    "Yes brother?" He responded while continuing through the door of the courtyard.
    "Does this village have an origin stone?"
    He turned looking at me, "It does. I had heard that humans had found a way to access the Archaic System. I didn't really believe it though.... I'm assuming you want to go and advance after killing the Grootslang?"
    "If it wouldn't be too much of an inconvenience. I need to get stronger before our journey, there are those I still need to protect and find." I said solemnly.
    "Not a problem. How is it that humans are able to access the Archaic System. From what I understand you all are from an entirely different universe?" He said as he lead me through the village.
    I saw no harm in telling him, "Our government developed a technology called ALIC that allows us to absorb the essence of things we kill and connect with the origin stone to access the Archaic System. I'm not sure exactly how it works we were never given those details." 
    "Ahh, it seems we have underestimated your people, while you lack raw power, you have great intelligence." He sighed.
    "That is true. Back on earth humans ruled the entire planet due to our intelligence. However, that is also how we destroyed it."
    Valerian turned to me in shock, "Your planet is destroyed?"
    It seems I may have said something I shouldn't have. In my timeline, all the natives eventually found out about human history and knew we ruined our previous planet.
    "Well not destroyed per se, it's more like we used up all the resources the planet could provide. On earth, we don't have something like the Geodenisis Arboreth which provides vitality to the planet."
    He noticeably calmed down, "Oh ok. That makes sense. I was afraid your race had destroyed its world tree."
    "No nothing like that. Our worlds operate in different ways. Our world works off concrete rules of physics and science. Yours seems to function based on some kind of transmutable essence. It is something beyond our understanding."
    "I see. Well here we are."
    I had been so engrossed in our conversation that I didn't realize we had arrived at the location of the origin stone. In front of me was a structure comprised of large white stone blocks that had been pieced together. There were four entrance through large arches with the origin stone located in the middle. Stairs leading up to each entrance with steps that were slightly larger than the steps I was used to. Clearly, it was tailored for the G'eth who can grow significantly larger than humans. 
    Not all origin stones are located in structures like this one. Some are even in the middle of the wilderness with grasses and moss covering them, making them look like normal rocks. However, all origin stones have two things in common. A blue crystal that is embedded on the top and the fact that they are completely indestructible. 
    "Thanks for guiding me here Valerian."
    "No problem brother."
    I went up to the origin stone, climbing the large steps of the structure. As I got to the origin stone, I looked down at it. Memories flooding my mind from my past life. So many times I stood in front of these stones to get more powerful. So many times I trained arduously just to get that little bit stronger. So many times I sacrificed my blood, sweat, and tears just to get a chance to rise above those who pushed me down.
    I took a deep breath. This time would be different. This time my strength will soar and those who looked down on me before will have no choice but to tremble beneath me.
    I placed my hand on the blue crystal.

    Name: Troy Williams
    Level: 1 (0/100)
    Essence: 5008
    Stat Points: 0
    Strength: 7
    Constitution: 9
    Willpower: 7
    Dexterity: 8
    Snake King Aura: (Inactivate) (0/3000)
    You have defeated an apex existence of the Grootslang species and absorbed its essence. You can now use essence to develop its unique ability. This ability allows you to have dominion over all lesser snake species and can briefly induce a fear effect in an enemy if their willpower is lower than yours, even paralyzing them for a moment if it's significantly lower.

    I stared at the notification appearing in front of me. I blinked a few time to make sure that I wasn't dreaming. It is real! 
    "Hell Yes!" I couldn't help shouting out!
    First I gained the chance to earn an amazing new ability! Snake King Aura looked extremely useful and I could already imagine many different scenarios where it could be used. Other than that my starting stats were significantly higher than in my previous life. In my last life, my highest stat was willpower at 7, but the rest were all at 5, which I could only assume was because of my weak physique and lack of involvement with sports.
    What caused the change? I thought back to what had happened.
    It had to be the treatment of the Geodenisis Arboreth sap, that is the only thing that could have impacted the fitness of my body. Such amazing stuff, no wonder the G'eth would want to keep it secret.
    Now I was faced with a decision. Use all my essence to level up, or use the essence to unlock Snake King Aura and use the rest to level up. The increase in fitness from leveling up would be immense, however, Snake King Aura would just be too useful.
    I put 3000 essence into Snake King Aura. The notification changed.

    Snake King Aura: (Active)
    This ability allows you to have dominion over all lesser snake species and can briefly induce a fear effect in an enemy if their willpower is lower than yours, even paralyzing them for a moment if it's significantly lower. To use this ability focus your mind on domineering thoughts and direct them at your enemy.

    Hmm. It may take me a while to get used to using this. Unlike a video game where you can instantly use an ability when you gain skills from the Archaic System you have to learn how to control it and use it properly on your own.
    Next, I still had 2008 essence left and can use it to level up. I started pouring the essence into my level.

    Level 1: (100/100)
    Level 2: (200/200)
    Level 3: (450/450)
    Level 4: (750/750)
    Level 5: (0/1100)

    At the end, I was level 5. I gained 8 stat points and had 508 essence left over. The reason I didn't put all the leftover essence into level 6 is because of a piece of advice an old man in a tavern gave me in the last life. He said, "Never dump essence into your level unless you can level up. You never know if the next time you come to an origin stone you have a chance at a new skill and sometimes skills are more important than a level up." So it became a habit to hold on to the essence. 
    Now it's time to distribute the stat points. I decided to distribute the most into willpower and then dexterity. This is because Snake King's Aura can cause an enemy to pause in fear and in that moment if I deliver a quick blow I can kill them immediately. Therefore, willpower and dexterity are my most important, for the moment. However, strength and constitution cannot be overlooked. Constitution was greatly boosted by the Geodenisis Arboreth sap so I didn't think it needed increasing however, strength could use another point.

    Name: Troy Williams
    Level: 5 (0/1100)
    Essence: 408
    Stat Points: 0
    Strength: 7 + 1
    Constitution: 9
    Willpower: 7 + 5
    Dexterity : 8 + 2
    Snake King Aura: (Active)

    A cool feeling shot through my hand and into my body. I could feel my muscles tightening, my mind felt refreshed, and my joints loosen up. You never get tired of that feeling, the feeling of getting more powerful. It's intoxicating.
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  • Chapter 11: G'eth Village
    I took a deep breath. It was a crazy feeling like your entire body was remade into the body you always wanted to have. Before, on earth, it took people years to get to the fitness level they could after just a couple level ups on Agartha. It is truly an intoxicating feeling.
    In my past life, there were many people who would chase after level ups like madmen. They craved the high of leveling up, almost as if the actual increase in fitness was secondary. While I wasn't one of those people I could certainly understand why they would do it. 
    After adjusting my body for a moment I turned towards Valerian, "Could I take a look at the market next?"
    "Haha, sure thing brother!" He began to walk around the side of the origin stone.
    I caught up with him to walk alongside him. After thinking for a moment I asked, "What makes you want to leave the G'eth village so bad?"
    "Well...." he said while his leafy eyebrows scrunched up.
    "I have a complicated history."
    I was intrigued.
    "How so?"
    "Well, my bud that Grand Elder Corytheius picked from the Geodenisis Arboreth was the product of an attack made on it 700 years ago."
    "What? How did that happen?"
    "It's complicated and will take a long time to tell. Why don't we wait for another time?"
    "Ok. Not a problem." I could tell the subject bothered him and I didn't want to press any further.
    We made our way over to the market. It was so lively there, the G'eth were selling a lot of the products they cultivate from the forest. The number of fruits, vegetables, and nuts available was simply astonishing. Suddenly I realized I hadn't had anything to eat in a while. I was starving.
    I looked down at my toga. I didn't have my knapsack or kodachi with me and even if I did I wouldn't have any money. I looked over to Valerian.
    He looked back at me and chuckled,  a vine at his waist unwound revealing a pouch. He pulled out a couple silver coins.
    "Tonight will be on me."
    "Thank you, brother!" I couldn't wait to dig into the succulent fruits at the different stalls.
    We spent the next couple hours roaming the streets frequently stopping at the different stalls sampling the delicacies. I didn't have this kind of money to spare in my past life. Almost every spare cent was spent either trying to survive or on finding my brother. I was one of the weakest in human society. 
    I refuse to be brought that low again. I refuse to be trampled on and used by others. This time I will rise above them all. Fierce determination bubbled up within me.
    "You ok." Valerian said beside me.
    "Oh, yeah I'm fine just remembered something unpleasant."
    "Oh ok. You ready to head to your room? It'll be dark soon."
    "Yeah, it'll be nice to get a rest."
    We headed out from the market into a residential area, the two moons shining as the sun began to fall. We came to an area with enormous trees rising high into the sky, holes had been hollowed out within them every ten meters. A large vine started at the base and wound around it like a spiral staircase. 
    After passing about a dozen of these trees Valerian led me up to one. 
    "Go to the room at the top, your knapsack, clothes, and kodachi have already been delivered there."
    "Thanks, Valerian for showing me around today and for saving my life."
    "Don't mention it, brother. I'm sure I'll save you again in the future hahaha." He laughed uproariously.
    "Haha, I'm sure you will." I said genuinely believing he would. I turned and started walking up the vine.
    The climb up the tree seemed to take forever, this tree was just so large. Finally, I got to the top. I looked out over the forest. In the moonlight it was so tranquil, a gentle breeze blowing, it almost made you want to stay here forever. However, I couldn't, I knew this peace was temporary and I had to get stronger fast.
    I walked into the room, in the corner there was something that looked like a weaved basket filled with feathers. The G'eth don't need beds so I'm happy they remembered to provide me one. Over to the side laid a large round tree stump with my knapsack, clothes, kodachi, and a lit candlestick on it. I was tired and ready to go to bed. I grabbed the kodachi, blew out the candlestick, and jumped on top of the feathers, drifting off to sleep in just a few minutes.

    "Ughh" I grunted as I rose up. A feather stuck in my mouth. 
    "Pphhh pphhh pphhh" I spit it out.
    "Troy get ready to go!" Valerian shouted
    "Huh, whats going on?"
    "After you killed the Grootslang some of its offspring began to wander out of the cave. Even a few villagers have been hurt by them. Grand Elder Corytheius issued a hunting request offering 5 silver for each young Groostlang offspring and 10 per adult. I thought we could figure out each other's combat style and work on our teamwork while earning some spending money for the road. Also, Grand Elder said it will take about five days to prepare your gifts from the Grootslang so we have the time."
    "Ok just give me a minute." Why does he have to wake me so early? I know G'eth don't need sleep but I sure do. Regardless he is right and I haven't had the chance to try out my new ability or test my fitness yet.
    I put on my old clothes, there was still a tear in the shoulder and thigh, but I didn't have any better options right now. I strapped the kodachi to my right side and my knapsack to my left. Finally ready, I walked out of the room to see Valerian leaning against the tree outside my door with his arms crossed.
    "Ready to go?"
    "You know it!" 
    We walked down the vines and headed out of the village.
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  • Chapter 12: The Grind
    Valerian led us through the village and back towards the Grootslang den. As we walked we got to know each other better. We talked about funny moments from our past, our friends and family, things we have done, all kinds of things. 
    From the conversation, I was able to understand a lot about Valerian. He is an energetic guy who likes to makes friends and isn't afraid to be at the center of attention. Most importantly I can tell he is the loyal type, the kind who will standby someone no matter what.
    Eventually, we made it close to where the Grootslang den was. Valerian had us stop about 100 meters away.
    He whispered to me, "We have to be careful, according to reports there can be as many as 20 Grootslang offspring around the cave at any time. We will have to draw them over here in two's or three's to kill them. It'll be an arduous process but we will be able to kill quite a few this way."
    I looked over towards him. Part of me wanted to laugh and explain my new ability to him, but the other part of me decided it would be more fun to see his reaction. Before Valerian could say anything I dashed towards the cave. 
    I could hear him shouting behind me, "It's too dangerous! Troy! Stop!"
    For a second I thought he would try to slow me with his vines, but for some reason, he didn't. He just chased after me. However, with a 10 dexterity, I was just fast enough to stay ahead of him. Before long I arrived in front of the cave, Valerian was still shouting for me to come back and turn around. 
    When I got within 20 feet of the cave a swarm of Grootslang offspring came towards me. There had to be at least 30 of them. 
    Suddenly I thought, maybe I should have tried this before I tried to use it against so many. For a moment I slowed down and fear began to build up inside me. Then I remembered I needed to have domineering thoughts and direct them towards my enemy. 
    I began to think of all the events in my past life, how many time I was forced to bend my knee for someone else. How many times my hard work was taken for someone else's gain. Then I thought about how much I would make those people suffer and how I would rise to the peak of the human race, looking down on all of them. I straightened my back and glared out towards the Grootslang offspring. The air around me seemed to freeze and the offspring immediately stopped and bent their heads towards me.
    Valerian caught up to me grabbing me on the shoulder about to pull me back when he said, "Troy. What-What is going on?"
    I turned his face a mix of confusion with a tinge of fear.
    "Don't worry they are under my control."
    His jaw dropped, I couldn't help but bust out laughing. It just looked hilarious with his leafy eyebrows arched up and his wooden mouth hanging open. I couldn't help it I almost fell to the ground with laughter.
    I explained to him the Snake King Aura and how ALIC can allow humans to gain certain abilities from enemies we kill. 
    "This brother of mine is so amazing!" He patted me on my back.
    That fool. I could see the dollar signs spinning in his eyes as he turned and walked towards the offspring. They were still bowing their heads towards me and even when Valerian got close they didn't make a move. 
    When he came up to one he asked me, "Where was that? What did you call it? Reverse Scale? Where is it?"
    I responded, "Two inches below the head." As I swung my kodachi cleanly beheading one of the offspring.
    Essence Gained +5
    Valerian formed a spear where his arm was and pierced through the reverse scale of the offspring close to him. Even after killing them the others didn't make any movements. I couldn't help but think about the video games in my past life and how people would spend hours even days grinding for levels. If people could grind this easy they'd be masters in any game. It was like a bug or a cheat. I could basically walk up and kill them in an instance.
    Valerian and I continued to kill the remaining offspring here. Then we proceeded into the cave to kill more. This cavern that the Grootslang used to rule over is actually incredibly large. Valerian explained that the cavern was spread out underneath a nearby lake called Lake Lyenas. That coincides with what I knew from my past life as the exit I made it to last time was close to a Lake. 
    We spent the rest of the day killing Grootslang offspring. Luckily you only needed to bring back the fangs as proof of the kill or else we would never be able to haul back all the corpses. Even then Valerian had to make a kind of sled out of vines to haul all the fangs we gathered and drag it along with us. 
    When we got back to the entrance of the cave we came through I looked at my notification logs. I had always been good at math and added it together quickly. In total, I gained 823 essence after killing 205 Grootslang offspring. Some of them were young offspring and some were adult. Overall it was a great haul. I looked over at Valerian. He could barely stay still he was so excited.
    "We are rich!" He shouted out.
    I turned towards him grinning, "Let's head back to the village for now. We can come back tomorrow, the sun will be setting soon."
    We hauled the fangs back towards the village. As we walked through the streets people started to stare at us. It was somewhat unusual for a human to be in the G'eth village although they had seen humans before. What was really catching there eye was the sled full of fangs from the offsprings we killed.
    I had an uneasy feeling. The G'eth are certainly one of the more morally sound races, but no matter what race riches can be an overwhelming temptation. We got closer to the elder compound and for a moment I thought there wouldn't be any problems. However, just as we were about to enter to turn over the fangs a large G'eth stepped out and said, "Well if it isn't little Valerian."
    There is always one idiot.
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  • Chapter 13: Cratagus
    The G'eth that stepped in front of us had an enormous frame and was at least half a meter taller than Valerian and me. The way the vines corded together to form his frame made him look like a bull that was standing on two legs. He even had large thorns protruding from his shoulders making him appear especially vicious. He was sneering at Valerian and seemed to ignore my existence completely.
    "Oh, if it isn't my old buddy Cratagus. If you would kindly step out of our way we would like to collect the reward for our hunt today." Valerian said, as he went to step forward dragging the sled full of fangs behind him.
    "Sure, no problem, but I think we need to inspect those fangs first. You don't mind do you?" Responded Cratagus as he reached towards the sled. 
    Suddenly, a purple vine shot out from the ground and swatted Cratagus's hand.
    Cratagus yelped, as he quickly withdrew his hand and stepped backward. He fiercely glared at Valerian. I looked at where Valerian had hit his hand, a purple blotch slowly spreading. Poison? G'eth are known for their manipulation of plants but they generally avoid using poisonous ones. It's very rare for a G'eth to have any poison related abilities, especially one so potent that it would act that quickly. I looked at Valerian intrigued. Why would Valerian have such an ability?
    Cratagus noticed my look and turned to me almost shouting, "What? Didn't little Valerian tell you? He is the shame of our people!"
    Valerian seemed to tense up when he heard that. His energetic features draining as a somber atmosphere fell around him.
    "What do you mean?" I said to Cratagus.
    "Oh, he didn't tell you did he? Well I certainly wouldn't want to hide anything from the Grootslang slayer." Cratagus responded sarcastically. He straightened up and severed the part of his hand that was covered in purple, vines extending and growing to reform it.
    "You see about 700 years ago the Fey got wind of the Geodenisis Arboreth location and launched an attack on it. Although we repelled them a despicable Fey was able to shoot a final arrow before his death. This arrow was coated in an extremely toxic poison. If it wasn't because of how much vitality it possesses and the combined efforts of the Grand Elders the Geodenisis Arboreth would have perished. For centuries it was weakened producing less buds than normal which greatly reduced the G'eth population. If it wasn't for this our greatest enemy, the Fey, would not have grown to be as dominant as they are today." Cratagus said with anger.
    "What does this have to do with Valerian?" I asked. I was well aware of the animosity between the Fey and G'eth. The Fey preferred either a rapier or a bow as their weapon and their favorite material to use for their bows was the dead body of a G'eth. It was natural that the G'eth hated them.
    "The Geodenisis Arboreth had just finished expelling the last of the poison 50 years ago. It just so happened that a bud absorbed a portion of it gaining the ability to turn any plant into a toxic poisonous abomination." Cratagus said as he stared at Valerian. Valerian was clearly upset the mood around him seemingly sinking into an abyss.
    Suddenly a lot of things began to make a lot more sense for me. Why Corytheius seemed to treat Valerian so special. The look of worry and relief on his face when Valerian decided to travel with me. The subtle looks we would get walking through the street, I had assumed they were because I was human. It also explains why Valerian hadn't stopped me with his vines before, he must have been afraid he would poison me.
    Cratagus continued his raving, "Worst yet if the Fey ever killed him and got a hold of his body he could be turned into..."
    "SILENCE," A voice from the elder compound boomed.
    The earth trembled as massive vines shot out from the ground wrapping around Cratagus. Before he could move they completely encased him, wrapped so tight you could see Cratagus wincing in pain just his head sticking out above the vines. 
    From the courtyard a deep gravelly voice slowly said, "Cratagus, you are aware, that I, forbid anyone, from speaking, of this, correct?"
    Cratagus timidly responded, "Yes Grand Elder, I just thought the human should know, what he is associating with."
    "You think, I am blind, Cratagus? You think, I haven't, long known, your nature? You think, I can't, see how, you abuse, your power? You think, I don't notice, your greed? I have, allowed you, to exist, because of, the threat, the Grootslang, posed, and the, need for, strong warriors, to defend, the village. Now, I think, you are, no longer, necessary."
    The vines around Cratagus squirmed and pulsated. Quickly, the green drained from Cratagus face as he seemed to wither in an instant. 
    When the vines released him he was half the size he was before, almost as if Corytheius had sucked the vitality right out of him. He also had a red branding that extended down both arms.
    "I have, left you, your life, however, you are, no longer, welcome, amongst the G'eth. Leave, Immediately."
    Cratagus looked at Corytheius with a face full of shock. Then he turned towards Valerian and me with a hateful glare as if he we had committed the worst atrocities. Without saying a word he made his way out of the village.
    Corytheius turned towards a nearby G'eth and said, "Abelia, count, their fangs, and give, them their, reward." He then returned to the elder compound, clearly his actions had drained his energy.
    The G'eth named Abelia quickly came over and started counting the fangs in pairs. You could tell she was a female G'eth due to the numerous flowers blooming across her body and in her hair. The crowd that had gathered slowly began to disperse as everyone continued about their day.  Valerian turned towards me, a look of shame and fear on his face.
    "I am sorry I did not explain before."
    "Explain what? I see no problem."
    "Regardless you are my brother and you saved my life. Not to mention having the ability to form poisonous vines may be useful for us. It is not an abomination or a curse as Cratagus suggested, in fact it may save our lives in a dangerous moment."
    Valerian noticeably perked up saying, "Haha, you couldn't be more right. I'm awesome!"
    "Ok Ok don't overdo it"
    By now Abelia had finished counting our fangs, "104 adult offspring and 101 young offspring fang pairs. Allow me to go retrieve your coins."
    She returned after a short while, "Here are 15 gold coins and 45 silver coins. Thank you for killing so many for us." Abelia said as she held out a small sack. 100 silver coins equaled 1 gold coin so the total was 1545 silver coins before she converted what she could to gold coins. 
    "Our pleasure." Valerian said as he quickly grabbed the coins.
    "Let's go get something to eat, it's been a long day," I said.
    "Sure," responded Valerian as he pulled out ten gold coins. "Here is your portion."
    "What? We can just split it in half."
    "No," Valerian insisted, "Your ability is the only reason we killed so many anyways. If I am your brother then just take it."
    "Ok." He didn't really leave me a choice. 
    After eating dinner we headed back to our rooms. We agreed to meet at the village entrance the next day to continue hunting.
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  • Chapter 14: Last Day
    Over the next four days Valerian and I continued hunting the Grootslang offspring in the cavern system under Lake Lyenas. Sometimes I would use my Snake King Aura to wipe out large groups, but other times I wouldn't activate it so we could get a chance to experience each others combat style.
    Valerian was definitely the stab first and ask questions later type. It took a lot of patience and repeated instructions to drill some tactics into his head. He was also reluctant to use his deadliest weapon, his poison vines. It was as if hiding them was a reflex he had developed, only using them in moments of anger or desperation.
    One time a Grootslang offspring surprised him and used its fangs to rip open the vines in his leg causing him to fall down. Out of shame and anger he used four poison vines to pierce through it. Within about 30 seconds the offspring was reduced to nothing but scales, fangs, and a skeleton. All of the meat had been completely melted off.
    I wanted to give a name to his poison vine ability and we eventually agreed on referring to it as Nightshade, partly because it was his last name and partly because Nightshades on earth were a type of flower that could be highly toxic. We may not be very creative but I thought it was fitting.
    The more we hunted the less kills we would get. For one we had to travel further into the cave to find them, and the more we killed off the less were left. After all, the Grootslang wasn't there to produce anymore and we didn't find another Grootslang in the cavern. On the last day we only managed to kill 54 and at this point we didn't even need the Snake King Aura to help us. Our teamwork was flawless and we could hit the offspring's reverse scale in our sleep.
    Over the course of the four days we collected 521 pairs of fangs. 307 came from Adult Grootslang offsprings and 214 came from the young ones. We were able to earn 41 gold coins and 40 silver coins and I gained 2,177 essence. Together with the first days earnings we had a little over 50 gold, since we had spent some on food and necessities. I had exactly 3,408 essence saved up after including the last five days and the leftover amount from my last level up.
    Naturally my first stop after getting our rewards at the elders compound was the origin stone. As I placed my hand on the blue crystal my information popped up in my vision.

    Name: Troy Williams
    Level: 5 (0/1100)
    Essence: 3408
    Stat Points: 0
    Strength: 8
    Constitution: 9
    Willpower: 12 
    Dexterity : 10 
    Snake King Aura: (Active) 

    I poured essence into the levels. I was a little disappointed that I didn't gain a chance to learn another ability. I was hoping for something like Snake Eliminator or Butcher of Snakes, but nothing came up.

    Level: 5 (1100/1100)
    Level: 6 (1500/1500)
    Level: 7 (0/1900)

    After assigning the stats I looked over my information again.

    Name: Troy Williams
    Level: 7 (0/1900)
    Essence: 808
    Stat Points: 0
    Strength: 8 + 1
    Constitution: 9
    Willpower: 12 + 2
    Dexterity : 10 + 1
    Snake King Aura: (Active) 

    Again a cooling sensation shot up my hand followed by a rush of intoxicating power coursing through my body. It is really such an amazing feeling and I love every second of it. I stretched my muscles adjusting to my new level of fitness quickly.
    Today is the day Corytheius said the gifts from the Grootslang would be prepared and when we went to the elder compound earlier we asked about it. However, his assistant Abelia let us know that the gifts needed a little longer than expected so they would be ready in the morning.
    Since the day was almost over Valerian and I decided to go eat some of the fruits and nuts from the stalls in the market and then head to our rooms to rest.
    The next morning I woke up early, Valerian and I agreed to meet in front of the elder compound before meeting with Corytheius to accept the gifts. We also planned on this being the last day we stayed in the G'eth village. 
    Two days ago I purchased a map and found out that the human settlement I found after escaping the cave in the last timeline was about a day's travel around Lake Lyenas to the North East. Luckily it wasn't too far away and considering it took me a week to escape from the Grootslang Den in my past life, I'll be getting there about the same time as I did before, however, this time I'll be significantly more powerful.
    I gathered my things and put my clothes on, which by now had a couple more cuts from close calls with Grootslang offspring. I also strapped on my kodachi and knapsack although my kodachi had numerous nicks and was in a state of disrepair.
    After descending the tree I went through the village towards the elder compound. I was greeted by many G'eth along the way. Even a few of the younger G'eth approached, giving me pieces of fruit. It seems after killing the Grootslang and so many of it's offspring I have became somewhat popular in this village. 
    The weak always revered the strong and this is especially true in Agartha were danger is everywhere. The weak are either used as tools or killed, few in this world will view the weak as anything more than ants. I wish I could say humanity would overcome this and protect the weak, but I knew from personal experience that it wouldn't happen. I had to become strong.
    I arrived in front of the elder compound, Valerian already waiting for me, a sack strapped around his shoulder.
    "You ready to go?" I said to him.
    "Naturally," he responded.
    We walked into the elder compound together. Grand Elder Corytheius was sitting in a stone chair. A few items laid out on a stone table next to him.
    "We have, prepared the, gifts from, the Grootslang, for you, young warrior," He slowly said in his normal gravelly voice.
    "You have my sincere gratitude," I responded bowing.
    He nodded a smile spreading on his face.
    He looked at Valerian, "And for, my son, I have, prepared a, parting gift."
    Valerian was beaming. I wondered if it was because the Grand Elder looked proud of him or if it was because he was getting a gift. 
    Corytheius extended one of the vines on his arm to one of the items on the table and brought it in front of me.
    "First, an inner armor, made from, Grootslang scales, and bound together, using a, living plant, called, Dragon's Twine. When the armor, is attacked, the Dragon's Twine, will bring, the scales, towards the, point of attack, increasing defense, and reducing, the penetrating, force of the, attack."
    I held the armor in my hands, the scales light but dense, a red plant interwoven through the scales like fabric. 
    I focused my eyes on the armor. Another function of ALIC was to identify equipment. Since the vast majority of items in Agartha are unknown the government developed this function to allow humans to identify the properties and effects of items. The reason this function was not mentioned in the briefing is because, overuse of this function can cause damage to the human brain if your willpower is not high enough. In about two years time, after most of humanity has used essence to become stronger, this will be common knowledge.
    As I focused my eyes on the armor it's information appeared.

    Name: (Unknown)
    Defense: 30
    Reduce piercing: 40%
    Self Repairing

    Overall these stats were pretty amazing. A defense stat of 30 means it can disperse a blow from a human with a strength of 30. That is already really high but the reduce piercing 40% stat is insane. Just because something has a defense of 30 doesn't mean you are invincible as long as the opponent strength is under 30. When using a weapon the sharpness of a blade magnifies the strength, however, this will be greatly mitigated because of the reduce piercing effect.
    I figured I should come up with a name for it since it was unnamed. Hmm, how about Grootslang Armor? No too wordy. Living Scales? That sounds creepy. Oh I know Dragon Cuirass. Since it was made with Dragon Twine I thought it was appropriate. The instant I settled on the name it appeared in it's information.
    Corytheius began to reach for the next item on the table.
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  • Chapter 15: Departure
    Corytheius's vine-like arm extended wrapping around a small bottle. It was just about the size of a baby's fist. A golden translucent liquid was jostling about as Corytheuis lifted the bottle into the air.
    "A parting gift, for my son, Geodenisis Arboreth sap. Only use it, in a, desperate moment."
    Corytheius brought the bottle in front of Valerian. Valerian took the bottle, carefully storing it within the vines comprising his torso. 
    Again Corytheuis reached out to the stone table. His vine-like arm wrapped around two objects bringing them in front of me.
    Corytheius looked at me, "We crafted, these two, curved daggers, from the fangs, of the Grootslang. They are, especially sharp, and perfectly balanced. I hope, they serve, you well."
    I grabbed the two daggers inspecting their exquisite craftsmanship. The handle was crafted out of a dark onyx-like metal. Their handles seemed to be covered in scales that somehow gave the daggers fantastic grip making it easy to hold and apply force with them. At the end of the handle, a snakehead formed, similar to the Grootslang but without the long fangs protruding from its mouth. The blade had the same ivory look as the Grootslangs fangs except it was polished to the point it gleamed in the sunlight. Its curved edges were beveled and looked sharp enough to slice through steel. I was so excited my hands trembled. I was just beginning to think that my kodachi needed to be replaced soon and receiving these daggers was like getting coal in winter. I quickly focused my eyes on the daggers.

    Name: (Unknown)
    Sharpness: 75
    Hardness: 70
    Armor piercing: 20%

    I looked at these stats stunned. This was a top quality weapon. There were few weapons I had seen in all of my past life that surpassed this pair of daggers. I had a few fortuitous encounters and had seen some incredible things in my past life so they were not the best I had ever seen. However, that was years later. As of right now, I have only been in Agartha a week and I already had a huge boost to my stats and amazing equipment. I know I have to take advantage of this opportunity and I know exactly how because of the memories of the last timeline. However, I can't take full advantage of my memories until I return to the human settlement.
    After taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of the daggers I began to think about what to name it. Considering the origin of the daggers, the look of the handle, and the way it curved I instantly thought of a name, Twisted Serpent. I need to make a sheath for it, but other than that it was perfect. 
    "Thank you Grand Elder Corytheius. I will always remember the kindness your people have shown me."
    I bowed towards him.
    A smile spread across his face, "Thank you, young warrior. Good luck."
    Valerian suddenly kneeled, "Thank you for this opportunity father, I will return with stories of glory and grandeur."
    Corytheius nodded his head in a way that only a father knows how. Somehow revealing how proud he is of his son with just a simple nod. Valerian stood and together we headed out of the elder compound. We still needed to gather many supplies before heading toward the human settlement, I had traveled in the wilderness many times in my past life and know you could never be too prepared. Even though it was just a day's travel and in an area not known for being dangerous you can't underestimate the wilderness in Agartha.
    After spending a couple of hours in the market gathering supplies we headed towards the gates of the village. As we were going through the gates I looked over at Valerian.
    "You gonna miss it"
    "Miss what?"
    "The village. You've lived here your entire life"
    He turned around looked at the village, then he looked back at me, "Nope."
    Facing the road he leaped out with no hesitation, his hands raised to the sky, "I've been waiting forever to get out of this place! Corytheius always treated me well, but I never really got along well with the rest of the G'eth. I've always been more interested in the outside world than in the old customs of the G'eth."
    I nodded towards this new brother of mine, "Well we will see a lot of this world, I have a best friend and a brother to find."
    Of course, I know how to find Mike, but I couldn't tell Valerian that. I will get to meet him in time, that isn't a big concern for me. My brother, on the other hand, is an enigma. Other than in ten years when he kills me, I have absolutely no clue where to find him. Even after years of searching, I found no clues about his whereabouts and have no idea why he would kill me.
    Suddenly, I remembered one detail I had forgotten about the moment he killed me. I had recognized the dagger I was stabbed with. It was an incredible item, the blade was a dark purple with a pitch black handle. My team had taken it off the corpse of a dead Fey in a ruin 8 years after I arrived in Agartha. We wanted to keep it but needed the funds, so we ended up selling it in an auction. I don't know how it could possibly help me find my brother to my brother. I put it to the back of my mind, there is nothing I can do to find him right now. Even if I did I might not have the power to help him. 
    The best thing I can do is get strong, get strong and build up my influence. Become someone that people can't ignore, can't take advantage of, someone who stands above all others. Only then can I protect those I hold dear. Only then will I be satisfied.
    I looked down the road, the forest extending into the distance. A feeling in my soul rising, vibrating at a fever pitch. Goosebumps spread across my body, I knew deep in my soul that my journey was beginning, that from this moment forward I couldn't back down, that I would either rise to the heavens or fall into the abyss of hell.  I stepped forward.
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  • Chapter 16: Black Lion Village
    Valerian and I began our trek toward the human settlement. It isn't particularly large, about half the size of the G'eth Village. The settlement has a simple structure since the majority of humans haven't been in Agartha very long. Also a lot of the technologies that humanity had on earth were either incompatible with Agartha, could not be replicated here, or could not be brought through the portals. For instance, electronics will be fried going through the portal and even if they made it safe to Agartha the magnetic field works differently here causing them to malfunction. On top of that humans could not find sufficient replacements for many of the raw materials used to create advanced technology on earth. This essentially sent humanity back to the era of cold weapons and rudimentary technology.
    This is why human settlements have simple structures reminiscent of buildings from centuries ago. This particular settlement is surrounded by a wooden fence with archer towers in the corner. There are only two entrances, one in the north and one in the south and it is located near Lake Lyenas in an open plain. The settlement is called Black Lion Village after the mercenary group that established it.
    Many different groups and factions began to vie for power when humanity moved to Agartha. It is a land of opportunity and many people view it as a chance to gain power and prestige. There were no shortage of average people becoming dazzling figures in my past life. The leader of the Black Lion mercenary group is one such person. 
    His name is Alexander Morrow, he was a government officials son on earth. He was also a national level boxer, top athlete, and an influential society elite. This gave him both the physical skills to rise above others and the ability to lead others with charisma. He formed the Black Lion mercenary group shortly after arriving in Agartha and quickly established a settlement. It is clear he has high aspirations and the drive to achieve them.
    In my past I admired him as did many people in Black Lion Village. He seemed like a lofty lord valiantly defending the people of Black Lion Village. However, Alexander Morrow was much more devious than anyone realized. He secretly supports a bandit group that has a hideout in a nearby mountain in the forest. He uses the bandits to both appear as a hero to the people of Black Lion Village and take out anyone who may threaten his authority. It was not uncommon for powerful merchants who tried to establish themselves in the area to suddenly disappear one night. He wants to build an empire and he wants to be the single authority in it.
    He was also one of those humans who despised the native races of Agartha. He wouldn't go so far as to kill them in the streets, but his prejudice was obvious and any native races in the village would be relegated to menial sometimes demeaning jobs. His prejudice spread to the other humans in the village creating an oppressive atmosphere. 
    Black Lion Village is not a place that holds many pleasant memories for me. However, it is a necessary step on our journey and most importantly I have to be there two weeks from now as an opportunity I cannot let pass will appear. 
    For the most part our journey towards Black Lion Village has been a mundane one. There were a few wild beast that tried to attack however, between Valerian's vines and my daggers they posed no threat to us. I had studied a few dagger techniques in my past life, but that was at a higher fitness than I'm currently at so I couldn't use them. However, I could simplify some of the techniques allowing me to still perform at a high level compared to other humans. The wild beast were an excellent opportunity to sharpen these techniques and I even gained 43 essence. 
    The road out of the village had long ago turned to wilderness however, we still had it relatively easy because Valerian could move the plants out of the way reducing the time spent going around them and the risk of tripping over them. He would always use his arms to make a grand gesture like he was parting a sea even though we both know he doesn't need to. 
    He would look over at me grinning or saying, "I know I know I'm the best."
    Sometimes he really gives me a headache.
    Nevertheless it was very convenient. After traveling for about half an hour we heard a rushing sound and the trampling of leaves and twigs from our front-right. Valerian who was in the middle of another one of his grand gestures stopped, his face hardened and he got into a battle stance his right arm forming into a spear. I pulled out my daggers and crouched down ready to take immediate action.
    We heard a roar and the sounds of something large moving through the brush got closer. Suddenly a large brown bear like creature bust through the brush and into the clearing Valerian had made. I quickly observed it while activating Snake King's Aura to stop it's movements. It was huge, about three meters long with massive hind legs and forearms. The brown fur on it's body reflected like metal however there were gashes covering it's body especially on it's face. One of it's eyes was even cut open blood still leaking out of it. This is a brown steel bear I realized, although it is in terrible shape.
    As I finished observing it the bear shook it's head erasing the Snake King Aura's fear effect. That was quick, it only took me a moment to observe it yet it already broke free of Snake King Aura. So far this is the first creature I've encountered to break free that fast. 
    The bear glared at me with it's remaining eye and began to charge as it roared ferociously with immense hatred. 
    Did I kill it's cub? I suddenly thought. I had no idea why it would have such hatred for me and seem to ignore Valerian's presence entirelly.
    I used the shifting sands technique to dodge to the side and almost simultaneously Valerian said, "You really shouldn't ignore me."
    Four large vines burst out of ground wrapping around the legs and forearms of the brown steel bear just as it turned to face me. I dashed in front of it stabbing one of the Twisted Serpents into it's eye. At the same type I flipped onto it's back, I noticed a gash through it's fur below it's head. I plunged my other dagger into the open wound severing it's spinal cord. 
    Essence gained +2300 
    The large brown steel bear slumped to the forest floor dead. 
    I looked towards Valerian, "Nice timing."
    "Yeah yeah I know you couldn't have killed it so easily without me," he laughed.
    Just as I jumped off the bears back and retrieved my daggers the sound of many things rushing through the brush came from the direction the bear had came from. We turned towards it getting back into our battles stances. Seven humans came through the brush, they were all wearing a brown leather armor with a yellow wolf painted on the front.
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  • Chapter 17: Yellow Wolf Bandits
    The seven humans that stepped into the clearing stared at the brown steel bear then stared at Valerian and me. They glared at the the two of us, a look of hatred and frustration showing on their faces. 
    I instantly knew, who they were and clearly grasped the situation. These are the Yellow Wolf Bandits the bandit group that Alexander Morrow supports. They must have been sent specifically to hunt the brown steel bear because their equipment wasn't what a normal hunting party would have. They had two men carrying shields and short swords, two with long broadswords, one with a large battleaxe, one with two straight daggers, and one with a short-bow. If they were a normal hunting party they would have more archers and less sword and shield-bearers. They were clearly put together with a large powerful target in mind. This combined with the wounds the bear had when it arrived painted a clear picture.
    They had just been chasing the bear and were all a little short of breath. After a moment the one with the large battleaxe stepped forward. He had a large muscular frame, his arms and chest almost bursting out of his leather armor. He had a rough stubble beard and short spiky black hair. 
    "Did you kill the bear?" He said with an authoritative tone.
    He directed his question to me. He definitely isn't the brightest guy is he, I couldn't help thinking.
    "Yes, WE killed it," I gestured towards Valerian. I know he hates being ignored.
    The bandit looked at Valerian and scoffed, looking back towards me.
    "That was our prey, how will you compensate us?" He sneered.
    I already knew where this was headed. I don't like playing games and don't mind killing humans. It isn't the first time, it won't be the last and these aren't good people anyways. I won't lose a second of sleep over their deaths. I turned towards Valerian a murderous look in my eye, he returned the look. We are on the same page.
    I looked back at the bandit a grin spreading across my face. He looked at me perplexed. Before he could blink I dashed in front of him. I switched the Twisted Serpent in my left hand to a reverse grip and swung my left arm at his neck. His head was cleanly separated and hit the ground with a thud.
    "How's that for compensation?"
    At the same time a purple vine shot from the ground and pierced the archer through the abdomen. The tactics I had taught Valerian seemed to be paying off, he knew to take out their ranged support first. 
    I then activated Snake King Aura and directed it towards the two bandits with shields. For a moment a look of fear overwhelmed their faces. Before another thought could enter their brains my daggers slid across their throats,  like a hot knife through butter their necks opened up, blood gushed out in torrents.
    By now the remaining two swordsmen and dagger wielder recognized the trouble they were in. However, Valerian had already began to use his vines to hinder their movements. Valerian leaped forward with a loud battle-cry his spear extending, simultaneously piercing the two swordsmen directly through the heart.  Naturally I had explained to him the weak points of the human body.
    The only one left was the dagger wielding bandit. I ran towards him quickly overcoming him due to Valerian's vines. Just as I was about to plunge a dagger into his back he spun deflecting it with his blade. However, he overestimated his weapon as it was shattered by the force and hardness of Twisted Serpent. A shocked look spread across his face. I was astonished as well, he shouldn't have been able to deflect my stab so easily. Regardless, I followed up by slashing through his neck and then plunging my other dagger into his eye. He breathed his last. I looked around, ten seconds hadn't even passed and all seven of the bandits were dead. 
    I turned to Valerian, "Nice work, you've gotten much better."
    "Better? Hmph, I was always this good!"
    Maybe I shouldn't compliment him anymore.
    We began to go through the corpses of the bandits looking for any items that may be useful. As we were doing this I explained the situation of Black Lion Village and the Yellow Wolf Bandits to Valerian. He was pissed of by the treatment of the natives and by the deviousness of Alexander Morrow however, I convinced him to keep his cool. I explained that even if we were stronger we couldn't take on a whole village on our own. We kept going through the corpses.
    Most of the bandits just had a few silver coins and some dried meat on them. As I checked the dagger wielding bandits equipment, I noticed a small worn manual tucked into his waistband. As I opened it the bold black words at the top caught my attention, Quicksilver Blade. It is a blade technique manual, it can be used with numerous kinds of short blades including daggers. It focuses on short instantaneous burst of speeds and flexible movements allowing you to strike and block from unusual positions. This must be how the bandit had blocked my strike earlier!
    I couldn't wait to study the manual but we had to hurry as the Yellow Wolf Bandits might have more people nearby. We finished gathering what we could from the corpses. I thought it was a waste, but we had to leave the brown steel bear remains behind. It's fur makes excellent armor and it's meat would make an exquisite barbecue, but we don't have the time to take care of it here and it's too big to move.
    We quickly rushed away from the scene of the fight. As we were running I added up the notifications from the bandits in my head. You gain essence even if you kill humans. In total I had gained 957 essence from killing four of them . Surprisingly the majority of essence came from the dagger wielding bandit and not the battleaxe bandit who appeared to be the leader.
    An unspoken rule for humans in Agartha is to never reveal your level. If someone knows your level it makes it easier to gauge your strength. Generally, you only know someones level if you kill them. This is because the amount of essence they accumulated is absorbed by their killer. From this I could see that the battleaxe bandit and dagger wielding bandit were level 2 while the other two were only level 1. They never stood a chance against someone like me who is level 7, especially considering my fantastic armor and daggers. However, that made want to start studying Quicksilver Blade even more because it allowed the bandit to block one of my strikes even though he was only a level 2.
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  • edited June 2018
    Chapter 18: Mysterious Stranger
    We continued to run for about 5 mins before we came to a clearing in the forest. In front of us was an expansive plain. The sun was at the peak of the sky so it was about mid-day. The sun on earth rises in the east and sets in the west however, the sun on Agartha rises in the south and sets in the north. Since we had been traveling north-east the sun had been been mostly behind us for the entire morning but now it was directly overhead. 
    To the west of where we emerged from the forest we could see the shore of Lake Lyenas. It is a fresh water lake whose tributary comes from highlands to the west. The tributary brings clear glacier water down from the highlands into Lake Lyenas. The slow moving water from the tributary, the general lack of storms in this part of Agartha, as well as the mountains to the west and east that block high winds causes the water in Lake Lyenas to be particularly clear. Lake Lyenas also has a river that flows south through the forest leading out into a sea referred to as the King's Sea. 
    There is no doubt that one of the reasons Alexander Morrow established his settlement here is due to Lake Lyenas. Lake Lyenas provides the settlement with clear fresh water which needs little processing for consumption and a means for future transportation channels out to King's sea. The open plains provides a clear line of sight for any enemy attacks and plenty of farmland. The nearby forest has numerous amounts of game for the villagers to hunt and beast the villagers can attempt to domesticate.
    Some beasts in Agartha can be domesticated others are not so easy. People with connections to the government can get this information ahead of time giving them an edge on establishing settlements. As a government officials son, Alexander Morrow knew of some beasts that could be domesticated and had a few of the villagers begin domesticating them. 
    Also the high rising glacier mountains to the west and the low woodland mountains to the east actually separate a portion of the continent we are on. This means to go from north to south you must either go through the mountains, around them, or pass through the plain in the middle which is the very plain Black Lion Village is located in. Unknowingly Alexander Morrow had established his settlement in a location that would make it a massive trade hub in the future. Overall the location of the Black Lion Village is excellent, not to mention there is an origin stone within the village.
    Since it was about midday I was starting to get hungry, after eating nothing but plants and nuts for almost a week, G'eth don't eat meat, I was dying to eat some fresh meat. Hunting on the plains was laborious and we didn't have any bows or mounts so it would be even more difficult. I looked at Lake Lyenas and decided it's time for some fishing. 
    We headed over to the shore, which was a short walk from our location. Valerian immediately stretched out his vines into the near lake water and spread out his arms. He really reminded me of a tree now. He must be loving this sunshine and fresh water.
    I reached into my knapsack pulling out a long tough twine. I had got this when we got supplies in the G'eth village. You can never imagine just how many uses there are for twine in the wilderness. It is an essential item for any adventurer. 
    I looked at Valerian, "Can you make me a tough long stick?"
    "Sure," He responded.
    A meter long stick grew from the side of his arm then fell off. I picked it up, this'll work. I whittled a hole at the end to run the twine through. Then I tied the twine to the top and fashioned the other end to a fishhook I had the forger in the G'eth village make for me. Next I just needed bait. I went into the shallow part of the lake, a few small fish were swimming around that looked similar to minnows on earth but had a bright green color. Forming my hand like a scoop I managed to hit the water in a way that sent one of the small fish flying on to shore. This was a trick one of my old team members taught me in my past life. I hooked the small fish onto the hook, making sure to keep it alive so it would lure other fish better.
     When I was ready I pulled back with the rod then spun to get the line into the air and gently jerked forward. The trick was to get the line far enough out there without sending it so hard the line comes taut and snaps back. I had plenty of practice from my past life so I managed a pretty good cast.
    After about two hours and repeating the process numerous time I managed to catch about three fish. Since Valerian didn't need any I prepared a fire and was ready to roast them, my mouth salivating at the thought. I had gathered a few herbs herbs and spices while at the G'eth village and couldn't wait for the fish to be ready. 
    I ran a stick through the center of the fish and slowly roasted them over the fire, then I lightly seasoned them. The smell of the herbs mixed with the oil of the fish heating up created an intense aroma that was simply irresistible. I pulled all three off the fire, I jabbed two into the sand so that the stick was buried with the fish untouched at the top. The other one I held on to waiting for it to cool down so I could eat it. Before long it was cool enough to eat and I tore into like a ravenous wolf. The fish practically melted off the bones.
    It had been so long since I had a delicious meal like this. Even on earth the meals were rationed by the government and all the food was processed and bland. This was fresh and bursting with flavor. I savored every bite. Just as I was about to tear into the second one I heard a voice behind me.
    "Youngster, could you spare a fish for this old man."
    I nearly leaped out of my skin, I spun around as quick as I could, I used shifting sands to quickly move backwards and retrieved both my daggers, entering a battle stance. Valerian too quickly retracted his vines getting into a battle stance, his right arming forming a spear. It takes long to describe but happened in a moment.
    In front of me was a seemingly very old man. He had a long scraggly white beard and long white hair flowing down from underneath a large brimmed hat. A tattered brown robe was draped around his frame. His wrinkled hands where wrapped around a cane that seemed to prop him up.
    How on earth did he get behind me without me noticing? The old man seemed suspicious, however, he had no domineering presence and not even a hint of killing intent. If he had I would have sensed it.
    "Oh? A young human and a G'eth fast friends? How intriguing!" He chuckled. "How about you sit and give me a fish, in exchange I will tell you a story." He raised an eyebrow at me.
    I had to admit I was still very wary of him, no normal old man could get that close without me sensing them. Then again I had the feeling if he wanted me dead I'd have never known who ended my life.
    I relaxed putting my daggers away. I gestured to Valerian to calm down.
    "No problem, I have two left anyway. Have a seat." 
    I sat next to the fire. The smile of the old man and the glint in his eye didn't escape my eyes as he took a seat.
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