This review is for the first volume of True Martial World

This inspection is for the very first amount of Akaoni: True Martial World. This show is composed by Hiroro and features examples by Mokoppe. The very first installment of this English translation of this web novel series has been released as an ebook by Cross Infinite World on July 31, 2017. Special thanks to Cross Infinite World for providing a review copy of this volume.

A thriller about witches, using a love subplot? That’s what Akaoni is, and I imagine just saying that is enough to send some readers flying. I still remember when it looked every second YA novel in English was a supernatural love affair, and especially stories featuring vampires flooded the marketplace. However, after reading through mass 1 of Akaoni, I have to say if you are not fully against the subgenre, this narrative is well-worth a shot. I was amazed with this one. It’s because they say… what was old is new again!

Chaotic Sword God

The narrative features a girl named Azusa, who’s kidnapped by aliens–and then is rescued by other vampires, who subsequently take her away for their vampire town to secure her from yet more vampires. The storyline deals with her figuring out why witches are after her specifically, and unraveling the last of the vampire bodyguard called Kouya. In his clan, Kouya is equally powerful and infamous, and for specific reasons he’s disinclined to consume blood.

Azusa is a fish from water also Kouya is a maligned pariah, therefore they are equally easy to sympathize with. I enjoyed their interactions throughout the publication, and enjoyed the way their relationship was treated. And though the majority of the narrative is told from Azusa’s point of view, there are chapters where we get Kouya’s viewpoint as well. Sometimes the chapters’ articles may also overlap somewhat, so that viewers can understand why the two characters act the way they do during certain events they’re both a part of. I discovered it all quite refreshing really, being able to clearly determine where the two figures are coming from. Their relationship developed at a pace that felt natural–neither too fast nor too slow.

The rest of the cast is also filled with likeable characters. Among those villains in particular stood out for me personally, but I will leave the particulars of the character’s story arc a surprise for readers to find out. The overarching narrative is a little complex, considering there are multiple factions and cryptic plots to keep tabs on–but overall I found this volume bright enough via its strong characters and their engaging dialogues. I think fans of adventure shoujo manga such as True Martial World Will find Akaoni includes a similar feel to it, and may especially like the lead roles. If the premise to this one piques your interest at all, I suggest picking this up.

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Japan: Points of Interest For Anime and Manga Fans

Select destinations that interest you and locate them on Google Earth. For ideas, check out the links below. Perhaps you can visit some of these locations on your next trip to Japan!

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Japan National Tourism Organization’s Guide for Anime Fans

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/exotic/animation/

Japan National Tourism Organization’s Map of Anime Locations / ”Pilgrimage” Sites

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/animemap/

Japan’s Geography: Anime Connections

Warlock Of The Magus World

Martial God Asura

5 Centimeters Per Second

The Alternate Universe of Warlock Of The Magus World: A Non-Sovereign Japan

The Supernatural,

The Intrigue,

And Mecha Battles

Warlock Of The Magus World: Lelouch of the Rebellion is a television anime series created by Sunrise, the anime studio most famous for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise and Cowboy Bebop.

Warlock Of The Magus World includes various giant mecha—armored robot-suits controlled by humans in the traditional Gundam fashion. The clever plot twists, chess-like battles of wit, and supernatural elements may remind some viewers of Death Note.

The story of Warlock Of The Magus World takes place in the alternative universe where Japan was invaded and conquered by a foreign power. The first few episodes of the first season highlight a world map that is physically identical but politically different from that of the real world.  Throughout the series, visual or verbal references to Japan’s geography are often made in passing. These subtle cues help the Japanese viewers to anchor the fiction with the real, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the story.

The Real and the Fictional

The alternate timeline of Warlock Of The Magus World involves three superpowers, the Holy Empire of Britannia, the Chinese Federation, and the Euro Universe. The entirety of North and South America is controlled by Britannia. The story takes place after Japan has fallen into Britannian control. The nations conquered by Britannia are labeled by “Area”. Japan is called is Area 11.

Compare

Search the Internet for a map of the Warlock Of The Magus World world, and compare the fictional nations with the real nations. Which fictional nations correspond to which real nations/geopolitical areas? How much have things changed in the alternate universe of Warlock Of The Magus World? Please keep in mind that many political shifts occur before and over the course of the series. The maps you find on the Internet are likely fan-made and only capture a temporary state of politics in the alternate timeline. Be sure to watch a few episodes before searching for the fictional map, and you may want to try adding a search term for the episode or season number.

Observe

After viewing some episodes, did you notice any visual or verbal cues for geographical information? How do you think it fits into the larger context of the story?

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Minutes before sunset light novel Chap Thirty-four

She was in our usual spot, and I rushed to her side before she’d sensed my arrival. “We have to get out of here,” I said, grabbing her hand as she gaped at me. “What?” she asked, dragging her feet along the grass as I led her away from the forest. My father had sent the entire force out to find her, and we’d be caught if we stayed close to the shelter. “What’s going on?” I pointed to the sky, and her purple eyes darted up. Streaks of green and blue soared against the blackness, and her grasp tightened. “What are those?” “Shade energy,” I said, lifting her into the air as I soared along the river. We were flying. “They found out about us.” “How?” “I’ll explain in a minute,” I said, and the water flicked behind us as we passed over it. She steadied herself, let go of my hand, and flew by my side as we curved around the river bend. A cluster of trees—ones that I knew led to the school—hung over the edge, and she sped up, dipping into them.

Zui Gu Dao

She laid her feet on the ground, and the trees blew. I landed next to her, and the leaves waved between our faces. I pushed them away. “We’ll be okay here.” “It isn’t that far from our usual spot,” she said, allowing her gaze to linger behind me. I ignored her and wrapped my arms around her torso. She squeaked, surprised by my sudden embrace, but leaned into my chest. Her hand tapped against my ribcage. “Shoman,” she breathed. “What’s wrong?” “I’m glad you’re okay,” I said, laying my hand against her hair. She leaned back, looking into my eyes. “I was worried about you, too.” “I’m okay.” She smiled, staring at her hand as she spread her fingers over my shirt. “I know that now.” I held my breath. Did she feel the same way about me? She had to. “Are you in trouble?” she asked. “They sensed our power,” I admitted. “But I don’t want you to be involved.” Her eyes widened. “They’re looking for me?” I nodded. “I’m not comfortable with it either.” Her hand curled into a fist. “Is it the Light?” “No.” Not that I know of. Her brow furrowed. “Then what’s the problem?” I wanted to tell her that she was the third descendant, to explain the prophecy, but I couldn’t, and she frowned at my silence. “You can’t tell me,” she said, and I looked away. “It’s complicated,” I said. “Did you use any of your powers?” She shook her head. “Believe me, I took your word to heart. I haven’t even transformed until tonight.” “Good,” I sighed, knowing she could’ve been tracked. We both could be, but I could defend myself. “Are you feeling okay?” Her shoulders dropped. “I’ve been exhausted.” “That’s expected after activating your powers,” I explained, knowing the descendant power came with faults. It completely drained me the first time. “The descendant powers,” she said, biting her lip, and I knew what was coming. “Did you figure out what I am?” Yes. “Not exactly,” I said. “But you aren’t Darthon. You don’t have to worry.” She folded her arms and leaned into me. “But the war.” Her words shivered through my chest. “If you’re the first descendant that means you have to fight. You have to win.” “I know.” Her forehead pressed against my sternum. “How long do you have?” “Less than a year.” She laid her hands on my hips and stepped backward. “But—” “I won’t be alone,” I said, trying to calm her. “The Dark will be with me.” Hopefully. It wasn’t guaranteed. In fact, it was more likely I would be alone, but I couldn’t tell her that.

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She’d be upset. “I want to help,” she said, and I froze. “No.” She dropped her hands. “Why not?” she asked. “I have powers. I can help.” “You aren’t going near the Light,” I said, knowing her life was more precious than mine was. They could absorb her, whatever that meant, and her death would cause their success. I couldn’t risk it. I wouldn’t. She folded her arms. “Whether you like it or not, I’m going to help. I’m here to stay, Shoman, or have you forgotten that?” I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “It isn’t that simple.” “Then make it that simple.” I can’t. “You aren’t fighting, and it isn’t up for negotiation.” She dug her toes into the dirt and snapped a leaf off a branch. She fiddled with it in her hands and sat down, tearing it down the middle. “But I’m capable—” I sat next to her. “I know you’re capable,” I said, sighing. “But it’s too dangerous, and you’re not going to get hurt because of my inability to fight.” Her mouth opened. “You’re protecting me from something.” My shoulders tensed. “Why do you say that?” The leaf sparkled purple beneath her touch. “I can read you better than you think,” she said. “You aren’t confident about defeating this Darthon guy, huh?” I laid my arms on my knees. I had yet to tell her about Fudicia. “I don’t know what to expect from him,” I admitted. She eyed me. “Or from yourself.” I tensed, and she leaned against me. “I’m not trying to upset you,” she said. “I’m just trying to figure this out, and it’s hard when you don’t tell me everything—or anything, for that matter.” My jaw popped. “It’s better if I don’t.” She was quiet, and her cold cheek pressed against my bicep. “I’m worried about you. I care about you.” My stomach churned.

Zhan Long

Was she supposed to love me, too? I didn’t know. “Don’t worry about me,” I said, fighting my emotions away. “I’ll be fine.” “I can’t lose you, Shoman.” I straightened up, and whiplash stung my neck as I turned to her. Tears pressed against her eyes, and my stomach twisted. “You’re not going to lose me,” I said, but she turned away. “Hey.” I moved toward and leaned over. “Look at me.” She didn’t move. “Please look at me.” I touched her chin, lifting her face, and she blinked, pushing tears back. “You really think you’re going to lose me?” I asked, and she almost nodded. I kissed her. She tensed, and I moved back, looking into her eyes. “You aren’t.” “Then let me help,” she said, and I grabbed her hand. “I can’t,” I said. “You need to trust that. You need to trust me.” “And I do—” “Then forget about the battle,” I said, running my thumb over the back of her hand. “Please.” She bit her quavering lip, but she didn’t nod. “I can pretend to,” she said. “But I won’t.” I sighed, opening my mouth to argue, but she placed a finger on my lips. She smiled, “I may not know all the details,” she said. “But I know you’re in trouble, and I don’t want to see you get hurt.” I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and kissed her finger. I loved being near her. “We should talk about something else—” “About how much I care for you?” Her voice was sharp, but her eyes were soft. My jaw locked, and she hugged her knees, laying her chin on them. She blinked, and the purple color glowed in the shadows of the trees. “I don’t know how I can feel this much when I barely know you, but I do.” Her words explained everything I felt, and I knew I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was falling in love with her, and she was falling in love with me. It was fated, decided before any of us were born, and I hated it as much as I loved it. I could barely stand it. “I don’t know either,” I whispered, and she scooted closer, lying on my lap. I leaned back, placing my hands on the dirt, and she stared up at me. “Do you think fate’s possible?” she asked, and I stiffened. Fate was a reality, but it wasn’t a beautiful or angelic thing. It was a heart-wrenching nightmare. And we’d fallen blindly into it. We had no escape. It was happening, and it was up to me to guarantee our survival of it. “Yes,” I said. “I think it’s very possible.” She smiled and pulled me down to kiss me, even though I knew she wouldn’t if she understood the ramifications of it all. Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates, selfishly and without control.

Chap 29 and 30 Minutes Before Sunset

“Long night?” Eric asked as he laid his head on the desk and peered at me with his green eyes. I nodded groggily. Ms. Hinkel was allowing a study hall in our homeroom today, but I couldn’t concentrate. I hadn’t slept. “How about you?” I asked, and he shrugged. “Same, but it was worth it,” he admitted with a stifled laugh. “Unlike you, I’m not tired.” “I’m not that tired.” “Mhmm,” he hummed, and I pressed my forehead against the cool table, ignoring his ability to irritate. “What were you doing last night?” I asked. “Getting some stresses out I suppose.” I peeked through my curls. “I heard about the funeral.” The confession rolled off my lips. “I’m sorry to hear that.” His jaw popped. “But I’m used to it, right?” I whistled low, knowing he was referring to the day before.

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“So you did hear Crystal.” He shrugged and lifted his head, pressing his back against the chair. I mirrored his movements and opened my mouth to speak, but was interrupted. “Ms. Taylor, can I see you at my desk?” Ms. Hinkel asked, and I straightened up. Eric, on the other hand, didn’t move. I pushed my chair back and hurried to her desk. “Yes, ma’am?” I asked, fiddling with the ends of my hair. She moved a photograph around on her desk. “I hope I’m not out of line, Ms. Taylor, but your mother told me about your parents.” My heart lodged into my throat. “They did?” She nodded. “They thought I might know them, because I’ve lived here my entire life.” Like everyone else in Hayworth. “But I didn’t know them personally, but if you need help looking up anyone else, I’d love to help.” “Er, thanks,” I said, stepping backward. I’d rather not discuss my personal life. “Can I go back to my desk now?” Ms. Hinkel nodded, and I spun on my heel, practically running back to my desk. I slid into my seat, clutched my bag, and threw books on the table, desperately trying to distract myself. Did she seriously have to say something in the middle of class? The entire class had to hear. My face was burning with embarrassment. My fingers shook, and my pencil rolled across the table, toppling off. I sprung forward to grab it, but Eric caught it, inches from me. His eyes met mine, and I noticed the electric streaks in his emerald-colored gaze. We scooted backward, and he laid my pencil in front of me. “No one paid any attention,” he said, running a hand through his hair. His bangs stood up with static. “Except you,” I guessed. He laid his hands on his knees. “I didn’t know you were looking for your family,” he said. “I wasn’t,” I sighed. “I needed good grades before I could.” His jaw rocked. “And that’s why you were so pushy about the project.” I nodded. “I expected something more normal, like being able to hang out on the weekends—or prom,” he said, and I tapped my nails along my thigh. I kept forgetting about prom. I had more important things on my mind. “I’m not as normal as you’d think, Eric,” I said, and his gaze darkened. “Neither am I.” I giggled at his darkness; his personality was beyond bizarre. “I never said I thought you were normal,” I said, and he managed a smile. “And you think that’s funny?” “How couldn’t I?” His smile stretched into a grin. “You’re one interesting girl, Jessica.” My blood tingled through my veins, and I shifted in my seat. “You’re pretty interesting too.” He frowned. “Interesting isn’t what I’d call it.” “What would you call it then?” I asked, and he dropped his eyes, looking at the blank papers in front of him. “I can’t say.” “I don’t believe that,” I said, and he raised his brow beneath his shaggy hair. “I never asked you to.” The bell rang, but we didn’t move. Our bags remained at our feet, and our chairs stayed in place. He stared, widening his green eyes, and I bit my lip, unable to move. “Did I say something wrong?” I asked, and he shook his head. “No,” he whispered before his mouth snapped shut. He scooted back, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around as Robb leaned over to pick up my bag. Crystal smacked her gum and grinned. “Are you coming or not?” she asked, and I stood up, turning my back to Eric. “Yeah,” I said, even though I didn’t want to.

No game no life light novel

She was late. I’d been waiting by the river for an hour, and I hadn’t even heard from her. I sat for fifteen minutes, and then I paced like Luthicer, unable to remain still. Had she been caught? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to consider the possibility until it was too late not to. “Shoman.” She appeared out of the shadows, misty and dark. Her pale face was reddened, and her hair withered like black snakes trying to return to the shadows. I rushed to her side, laying my hands on her boney shoulders. “What’s wrong?” I asked, and she reached up, folding her fingers around my wrist. “I shouldn’t stay; I—I can’t do this anymore; I have to go—” “What?” I searched her face, but she refused to meet my gaze. “What’s going on? Talk to me.” She shook her head from side to side. “Please.” “You wouldn’t judge me?” she asked, biting her lip. “Never.” Her nails dug into my skin, and she stepped back, letting go. “I’m not like you, Shoman,” she said, voice shaking. “I can see it in your face; I can feel it.” My shoulders stiffened. She hadn’t acted this scared since I first saw her by the river. “Feel what?” I asked, and she threw her hands into the air. “I’m stronger than I’m supposed to be, aren’t I?” I avoided her purple eyes, unable to confirm her worries. I knew the truth—she was—but I couldn’t tell her that. I had no explanation as to why, and her power, to be quite honest, was terrifying. The shadows consumed her, and then she was in front of me, solidified. She grabbed my hands and held them up. “I am, aren’t I?” “No,” I lied. “You’re not.” I just wanted her to breathe. “I know more than you think,” she said, dropping her face. “I know how to use powers you’ve never taught me.” Impossible. “Like what?” “I don’t know.” She hesitated. “I can’t explain it all.” “Then show me.” Her brow scrunched above her nose. “I don’t know about this.” “Because you don’t have an explanation,” I said. “If you show me, I can tell you what it is.” And if it’s anything like your previous powers, it’ll probably be sparkles. She searched my face, and her purple eyes glowed. “Okay,” she breathed and took a step back. She locked her feet and spread her fingers apart. A severe wind whipped between us, and her black hair burst around her face. A bright cyclone spun in front of her, and then it condensed, forming into violet metal. A sword sat in her hands. I leapt back. Only descendants could do that—and I was one of them. My palm shot out instinctually, and my sword split through the air, resting in front of me. “Who are you?” My voice ripped against my throat, and she stumbled backward, barely steadying her weapon. “Shoman?” Her back was against the nearest tree as she stared at my mirrored sword. I’d told her it was impossible. “What are you doing?” “Who are you?” I asked, considering my only possibility, Darthon. But I knew he was a male, and she wasn’t. She had to be an illusion, a mask he wore to test my abilities. My grip tightened. “Tell me who you are.” “I’m—I’m—” She shook her head, and the tip of her sword dipped. “I can’t, but it’s me. I’m your student—” “I don’t believe you.” “Please.” Her eyes began to water, and the purple sword flickered, disappearing into the shadows. She’d lost her concentration, and she held her hands up. “Put that away. I haven’t changed.” This was my chance to kill her—or him. She was disarmed, but her powers vibrated off her, and they were vibrant. I hesitated, studying her expression. Her purple eyes were wide, and her black hair stuck to her cold face, blotchy with tears. She was petrified. Her fear was tearing my concentration apart. “What did I do wrong?” she asked, and I stepped closer. She stomped her foot, screaming. “Please, Shoman. Put that away.” Blue streaks of power swirled around my blade, and I knew how it represented my adrenaline. My heart was pounding, and I was ready to strike. I could kill her for her power, let alone exposing mine. The Light was surely tracking it, and Fudicia already had my signal. “Shoman!” Her voice barely penetrated my ears. “I’m telling the truth, please.” I didn’t budge, and tears spilled over her long eyelashes. Her lip quavered, and she grabbed the bark, twisting her torso around the trunk. “Wait!” I shouted, but it was too late. She bolted, not even bothering to use the shadows, and ran across the ground like a human. I absorbed my sword and ran after her. I swung through the thick brush, scraping against the bare branches and tickling leaves. I kept my eyes locked on her black hair, but she dodged every tree, branch, and stone. I didn’t have time to look for them. I hit every one. “Wait,” I tried again, but her body burst into smoke, and I hit the ground, cursing. What the hell was happening? I leapt to my feet, shook off the dirt, and threw my senses out. She was out of my radar, but I knew where she was headed. I compressed my molecules, squeezing my organs and skin together, and ripped them open again, landing on the street feet away from the river.

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Transcending the nine heavens

She always left that way, and just as I planned, she ran right past me. With one arm, I stopped her, and she screamed, pushing off me as I held her. Her nails dug into my skin, and I winced, stepping on her foot before she could kick my shin. “Screaming will only get us both caught,” I said as she continued to fight. “Be quiet.” “Let me go.” She squirmed against my chest. “Someone, help!” “I’m sorry I have to do this,” I said, laying a hand on her cheek before she pulled us to the ground. Her entire body stiffened, and I knew she was paralyzed. I had the power—as did most elders—but I’d never used it on a real person before, and I didn’t like the feeling. Her skin was cold, and her heartbeat slowed beneath my fingertips. I could feel her blood freeze in her veins, and her eyes widened as I lifted her face to look at her. They were blue. Her emotions almost turned her back into a human. I looked away and sat her on the curb. “You have to listen to me,” I said, knowing how the power would affect her. It generally made shades sick. “I’m not going to hurt you, understand?” She didn’t nod, and I had to remind myself that I’d taken her motor movements away. As long as I touched her, she couldn’t move, and I kept my hand on her arm. “That prophecy I couldn’t tell you about—there are two descendants; the first is from the Dark, the second, Darthon, is from the Light,” I explained. “And you just used a power unique to them.” I swallowed, understanding my exposure. She knew who I was now. “But you’re not Darthon, and that means there’s more to the prophecy than I knew, and you’re that part,” I spoke as the realization came to me. “But the Light might know, and they could be after us right now. They can trace a descendant’s power, and we just used it.” I let her go, knowing she’d have a moment before my energy fully left her bloodstream. “I’m trying to help you, but you have to let me,” I said. “You’ll probably feel really sick.” She leaned forward and gasped, pushing her head between her knees. She heaved, and I fought the temptation to touch her. I’d probably paralyze her again. It took a minute to tune the power down. “Are you okay?” I asked, and she gripped the curb with shaky hands. “What you said,” she breathed, keeping her head down. “Is it true?” “Every word.” She laid her cheek on her knee and looked up. Her blue eyes were purple again, but I shivered. They had looked so familiar before. “But that means,” she began, sucking in breath. “You’re the first descendant?” “I told you I couldn’t be a guard,” I joked, but she didn’t smile. “What am I then?” she asked. “Am I Darthon? Do I have to fight you?” I shook my head. “You can’t be,” I said. “For one, you’re a girl, and you are too frightened to be.” I ran a hand through my black hair and shook out the dirt it collected. “And I trust you.” Because I can’t help it. “But—” Her fingers shook as she spread them out to stare at her palms. “How do you explain my power then?” I frowned. “There must be a third,” I said, and she tensed. I grabbed her hand, holding her shaking fingers.

“Don’t run. I’ll figure this out.” She stood up, and I followed her. “I—I don’t know what to say, Shoman,” she said, on the verge of tears. I searched for her blue eyes, ready to study them again, but they remained violet. “I can’t fight you. I can’t be in a war.” “You don’t have to be,” I said, unsure if my words were truth. “The fight is between Darthon and me.” “But I have your power.” “I know,” I managed to speak through the pain of my sinking chest. “How long have you been using that sword?” “Just tonight.” Her lips twisted. “But I’ve known about it all along.” The blood drained from my face. Her words described the very instance I showed my sword to Abby—a time that initiated her death. I’d felt the power in my veins for days, and I couldn’t hold back any longer. Now my student was doing the same thing, and I was in Abby’s place. “You have to go home,” I said, dragging her toward the forest. Energy was easier to muster in the dark. “Don’t activate any powers for two days, okay? I’ll find you then.” Her footsteps echoed behind me. “I’m scared, Shoman,” she said, and I stopped her at the edge. “It’s okay,” I said, laying my hands on her shoulders. Strands of her black hair twisted around my fingers, and I lifted them, watching purple sparkles drift to the ground. “What if it isn’t okay?” she asked. “What if nothing is?” I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her against my chest. Aside from the first time, I’d never touched her first, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to protect her, and, if I couldn’t do that, I’d at least be there for her. I wanted to stay with her, guarantee her safety, but I couldn’t. I never could. “Shoman?” she whispered against my neck, but didn’t ask any questions. It felt too right to be next to her, to feel her heartbeat against mine, to smell her shampoo or see the marks of her past in her eyes. It felt too right to see her and know she saw me back. It felt unnatural to leave her in the darkness with nothing. I gave in. I leaned back, lifted her face, and kissed her. She gasped, breathing against my lips before kissing me back. Her hand pressed against my neck, her fingers twisted into my hair, and I pulled her hips against mine. She didn’t stop, and I didn’t want her to. I was Shoman—Eric Welborn—and I didn’t like anybody. I didn’t want anybody. But, apparently, I did. I wanted her, and I had her all at the same time. Finally. I’d wanted it for longer than I even knew. I understand that now. But I had to let go. If she was going to be safe. My hands wrapped around her hips and I pushed myself backward, stepping away. Her breath fogged out, drifting between us, and her eyes fluttered open. Her cheeks were rosy. “You have to go,” I said, letting go of her. “Now.” Her chest rose as she sucked in breath. “You’ll see me again, right?” I nodded. “I promised that days go, and I intend to keep it.” She smiled, stepped forward, and leaned up to kiss my cheek. Her warmth drifted over my skin, and goose bumps trailed down my neck as she moved away. “Good night, Shoman,” she said, and I bit my tongue to prevent from shouting after her as she dissipated. I wanted to stay with her, but I needed to get home. I had questions, and my father would have the answers.

Read Alter World Light Novel Chapter 3

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The cooler fans whirred. Massage rollers stirred. With a hum, the seat heating kicked in. The FIVR capsule was waking up from sleep mode. The initial checks flashed before my eyes. Self-test. Operator connected. A 3D Desktop menu unfolded in front of me. I mentally knocked on wood and started Desolate era’s game client. A second’s delay as it ran an automatic upgrade. I fed my credit card information into the registration form and, ignoring the endless scroll of the world’s description, headed straight for the character generation menu. Choose character. “High Elf.” For your information: High Elves are recommended for experienced players only. The High Elves’ religion of Gods of Light makes them a legitimate prey for all the supporters of the Fallen One. Furthermore, the City of Light which is their capital and start location borders on the Dark Lands. Although the city itself is well-fortified against the Fallen One and his henchmen, the neighboring locations can already bring encounters with beings of the Dark. Are you sure you want to choose this race? “Confirm.” Congratulations! You receive +1% racial bonus to Intellect at each level. This what might seem like a negligible bonus had compelled me to choose an Elf. An extra 100% Intellect could tip the scales in my favor already at level 100. Even though it definitely complicated my way to the top levels, it stood to reason that the time spent leveling up was nothing compared to top-level playing. The end reward was large and quite tangible, worth every bit of the creators’ pain in the butt. Because, let me tell you, the top levels do not end the game. This is only where it starts. Choose class. “Warlock.” For your information: Warlocks are the Fallen One’s secret worshipers and are attracted to the Dark forces. Other Light races tend to shun them. Certain NPC characters may refuse to interact with you. Quite a few vendors might jack up their prices when dealing with you. On reaching level 10, a Warlock will have to decide on a specialization. You will be asked to choose between Necromancer and Death Knight. Both are despised by the Powers of Light. Many quests and locations will be closed to you. If you still want to play for the above classes, we suggest you choose a Dark or neutral race. “No way!” I shouted at the interface. “Necro is my favorite toon since the day I was born! I don’t want to be the umpteenth Archer Elf. I don’t give a toss about your politically correct standards. ‘We advise, we suggest, you had better…’ Yeah, right. I’m going to screw your template. I’ll be the first Dark Elf among your cute-and-cuddly Paladins. Confirm!” Congratulations! You receive +1% class bonus to Intellect and +1 to Spirit at each level. Choose your starting characteristics. You have 25 points. Use them wisely. Once the character is created, no further changes are possible. The descriptions of the five basic attributes hovered before my eyes. Strength: increases attack power and the chances to block and parry. Controls the amount of weight a character can carry. Weight overload may lead to speed loss. Intellect: increases the character’s ability to learn non-combat and magic skills. Increases spell power and mana pool (1 Intellect point gives 10 mana points). Boosts mana regeneration. Agility: increases movement accuracy, improves evasion and chances to score a critical hit in both close and long-range combat. Spirit: boosts Life/mana regeneration. Constitution: gives hit points (1 Constitution point gives 10 Life points). A miserable chain of zeros glowed against all of the above characteristics. Oh well. Every junkie knows that the preparation process is just as sacred as the shooting up. Off we go, then. The dumb housewife solution would be to set all the parameters to five and enjoy the perfect balance. Won’t do. Specialization is the key. Better to be the best in one area than average in everything.

No game no life light novel

rsy2k6jwbu02mplzepybybn-e91ccxsuzjeylkgus-cI much preferred a surgeon’s knife of specialization to the Jack-of-all-trades’ monkey wrench. So. What is our ultimate goal? Who is a Necro? He’s a caster: a character with the ability to cast spells as his preferred method of attack. He can also summon various forms of the undead, such as skeletons, zombies, demons and so on and so forth. Virtually a small group consisting of a mage and his pet tank. All the damage is done by casting spells at long range, no hand-to-hand combat, no risk of the opponent delivering direct blows. Which means that Strength, Agility and Constitution are secondary to the part. Now the Spirit is vital, even though you don’t regen much mana in the course of the combat. All the meditation only starts once it is over. Sure it’s a pain wasting three full minutes sitting on your backside, but not as bad as running out of mana in the middle of a fight. All right, that little was clear. Let’s start from the end: Agility, 0 I just hoped I wouldn’t be all thumbs. Zero agility wasn’t for that, anyway. It only meant that I wasn’t getting any racial bonuses. Strength, 3 I needed some to lug around my gear and the loot dropped by monsters. It wouldn’t be cool to rush to the store every time I got myself a dagger or some ore. Constitution, 5 I didn’t want them to blow me over with a feather. So I went for it, even though it meant having a hard time parting with every point. Spirit, 6 I needed every drop of mana I could get. My life would be hanging by a thread thousands of times, depending on whether I had enough mana for that one final spell. Intellect, 11 I splurged every remaining point on it. You just couldn’t have enough mana. It was either not enough or more than you could handle. Accept new characteristics. Are you sure? “Confirm.” Congratulations! Welcome to the character visualization menu. Choose your avatar’s appearance. The figure of an Elf turned slowly before my eyes. It was male by default which saved you a couple of unpleasant surprises in the process of virtual sex. I played with the scroll boxes choosing a build similar to my own. Okay, so I did add a bit of muscle here and there and made the six-pack more pronounced. Who wouldn’t? With any luck, I’d end up living in this body happily ever after. I turned to the facial options. The avatar had my face—also by default. These days even pocket calculators came with cameras so I shouldn’t have been surprised to have found one inside the capsule. The menu offered a lengthy choice of premade portraits in various stages of cuteness or brutality. I ticked a few and started clicking the randomizer. Surprisingly, I liked one of the resulting images. It was a rougher version of myself: a rugged soldier with a seen-it-all air about him. I pushed the slider closer to the virtual thirty years old, added a few gray strands for believability and saved the character. Choose a name. Good question. Wouldn’t be nice to walk around a fantasy world with Max as a moniker. I clicked through the name generator until I decided on Laith. In Elven, La stands for “night” and Ith means “a child”. Child of Night. I had to take my character seriously. The deeper the immersion, the higher the chances of going perma. “Laith.” Welcome to Desolate era, Laith. You’re facing an eternity’s worth of infinite possibilities. While I tried to fathom out that last bit, the virtuality faded, enveloping me in thick darkness. I waggled my head peering into nothing. Sounds came first. The trees rustled. A grasshopper chirped. A bird whistled. Then the world gained light and color, smothering me with its beauty. A forest breathed around me. No; not just any old forest: the forest. Have you ever been to an Elven forest? I hadn’t. But you’ll know it the moment you see it. A little brook murmured nearby; butterflies fluttered their wings amid sunrays dancing in the foliage.

The depth and intensity of the image left you speechless. I crouched and ran my hand across the carpet of flowers and grass. “Hi there, new world,” I whispered. “I’m afraid we’re stuck here together for a long time.” A long-eared hare sprang out into the opening. As I stared at it, a prompt popped up: A young rabbit. Level 1. Okay, a rabbit, not hare. Same difference. Enjoy your freedom, buddy, while I’m in a good mood and have better things to do with my time. Only then I noticed the game interface. Semi-transparent chat boxes; the life, mana and experience bars; the belt with quick spell access slots empty as yet. I played with the transparency levels and shuffled the icons around. I had plenty of time to adjust it all to suit my own needs. Talking about myself. My rags were just about that—rags. A light-colored canvas shirt and a pair of gray canvas pants. As far as Elves went, I was a bum. Never mind. Just give me some time to level up a bit, and I’ll be wearing Versace tights, or whatever they crave here. I opened the character menu and saw that my clothing was purely decorative. It didn’t offer any extra stats or even armor points. I opened my shoulder bag and discovered a water flask and a piece of bread. Another prompt popped up: Food plays an important role in the Desolate era territories. A hungry character’s ability to restore life and mana may dwindle to a stop. Keep an eye on your avatar’s satiety levels. Some food and drink may bring extra boost bonuses. In order to be able to make your own food, you need to practice the cooking skill. See Wiki for more details on bonuses and skills. For a second, I regretted letting the rabbit go unscathed. A roast is always better than a moldy roll. Never mind. There had to be more game out there. My eye was caught by a blinking FIVR connection icon. I opened the menu and grinned with delight. Ping: 3 milliseconds. Packet loss: 0%. Connection type: 3D. FIVR time restrictions: none.” Yess! It worked. Deep inside, I’d had a nagging feeling that either the chip or the patch would let me down despite all the testing, throwing me out of FIVR four hours later. That would be the end. Bye, world. Hello, tombstone. The next thing I saw was the lit-up pictogram of the quest tab. I switched over to it and discovered a new quest. Greetings, young Warlock! A long and hard road lies in front of you. Few have mastered it. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You’re about to make this first step. There is a cave not far from the place where you first arrived in this world. Old Grym lives there, a hermit. Local peasants think he’s mad and shy away from his company. But Grym is still the Fallen One’s faithful servant. He will help you. Follow the deer trail to go east. It will take you to your destination. Aquilum, The Dark Guild Master of the City of Light. A guild master without a guild. Okay. When I’d chosen the race, I’d also studied the city map. I could bet my bottom dollar there’d been no Dark Guild on it. Unfortunately, time was an issue so I had to leave Googling it till later. Shame. I had to play blind – no guides, no manuals or prompts. Just like in the good old days. Having said that, many an unexpected surprise could open to the newly initiated. We’d just have to see. In the meantime, all eyes east. Time to hop down the bunny trail. I checked the interface for its built-in compass and walked, unhurried, down the barely discernible trail. The total absence of weapons and spells worried me a little. Failing everything else, I could do with a stick but the forest was clean and neat like a parkland—not a broken branch in sight. I didn’t have to walk long. Another couple hundred paces, and the trees gave way revealing a gloomy opening. Gray grass crunched underfoot. Ancient trees rose skywards, their trunks silver with moss. The sun had disappeared behind some stray cloud. Yeah. Welcome to a Necro’s lifestyle. I squinted at the scene. And the worst was still to come: graveyards and zombies, and the tombs of the undead. I wondered if I’d jumped the gun with my character choice considering the local visualization levels. Should I exit while I still could and change my colors to some sort of daisy-picking, tree-hugging Druid? Deep in thought, I kicked a toadstool or some such mushroom and volleyed it right into the wide hollow of a gnarled oak tree. “Never mind,” I murmured, looking around. “No good changing horses midstream. I’m an evil warlock, and no mistake.

maxresdefault2Where’s that cave of his? Come out, you old schemer! We’ve got business to discuss!” And there it was, his cave: a cliff green with age hiding in the shade of a straggling fir tree. The entrance was wide enough for me not to have to duck. I made a shaky step or two, guided by the fire gleaming within its bowels. Another step, and I entered a large room dimly lit by a single wax candle. The light played games with the shadows, not letting me see properly. Then a shadow stirred in the corner and stared at me with two odd-color eyes. “Grym the Hermit?” I asked, not quite sure, and stepped back, feeling the air around me for something heavy enough to pass for a weapon. The dark shape in the corner grumbled and stepped toward me. “You bastard,” my fingers finally closed around something handy by the wall. I raised the object and took a swing. “Name yourself, O monster! Which eye you’d prefer to keep, the blue one or the yellow one?” The shadow gave a skeptical chuckle and stepped into the light. A goblin, short and gray-haired, shook the cobwebs off his patched robes and looked over me. “Put the broom back, young warrior,” he said in a thin voice. Shuffling his worn-out sandals, he walked around me, shaking his head with disapproval. “So! The young Elf has decided to defect and follow the Fallen One? Are you craving adventures or something? What do you want to prove? Many an immortal has visited me here but few have reached true power. They’d hover around for a few weeks before disappearing from sight. They have no will – no passion.” I lowered my head to him. “Sir Grym, one does not choose one’s parents. It’s not my fault I was born an Elf. It was my own choice to follow the path of a warlock and with any luck, I shall prove it to you soon.” The goblin’s grim stare bored a hole in me. “It might happen sooner than you think, young clown,” he hissed in my face. He swung round, reached for a heap of old rags and produced a bundle, wrapped in purest white cloth. “In the name of the Fallen One who demands a sacrifice! Cut her heart out!” The goblin pulled the fabric away and the cave echoed with a baby’s cry. Tears welled in her bright blue eyes. I recoiled. Something clanged against the stone. I looked down at a curved dagger now gleaming in my hand. New quest alert! Demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One. Quest type: general Execution conditions: may vary Reward: unknown They were all raving mad here. Conditions may vary? My knuckles cracked as I squeezed the dagger. “How about a goblin’s heart instead? Will it do for my demonstration of loyalty?” I stepped forward and stabbed the sickening face. At least I tried to. The air around me thickened and I froze in the awkward pose of a dueling musketeer. You’ve been immobilized. Spell cast: Chains of Bone. The goblin sniggered and waved his hand. The baby bundle disappeared. I collapsed in a heap on the floor. The dagger clattered on the stone and skidded away. You’ve been knocked down. Damage sustained: 12 Life points. “Cool down, young Elf. It was naught but an illusion. You shouldn’t listen to everything your priests tell you. We need no butchers here. The Fallen One isn’t the dark side. He’s just one of the Pantheon who lost his battle for the right to have his place in the Temple of Heaven.” Quest completion alert: Demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One. Quest completed! Reward: Twilight Blade. Your relationship with the Dark Alliance has improved! Your relationship with Grym has improved! “Arise, Warlock,” Grym helped me back to my feet. “And pick up that dagger over there. It’s not an illusion. Don’t be scared: there’s no blood on it. I’m pleased with you. Haven’t been so pleased for a long time. And still you’ll have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

” New quest alert! Demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One II

Quest type: unusual

Execution conditions: may vary

Reward: unknown

Shuumatsu nani shitemasu ka

I couldn’t believe it. The old fusspot just wouldn’t stop, would he? Should I try my new dagger out on him? Then again, he might come up with something better than the immobilization trick. I reached for the dagger and concentrated. Twilight Blade. Binds on Pickup. Thrust weapon. One-handed. Damage 1-8. Speed 1.8. Durability 80/80. Effects: 7% Tremble Hand debuff probability in attack slowing counterattack 24%. Not bad for a letter opener. Some newb rogue would pay a nice pile of gold for a sticker like this. A couple of them could have enough DpS to last me through the first ten or fifteen levels. The effect was a dream, stripping your opponent of a quarter of his power. Not that I really needed this sort of gizmo. I didn’t think I’d have to do much tanking, apart from possibly the first few levels when I might have to perform a bit of blade-rattling. After that, casters like myself with no armor and negligible life would come down after just five or six hits from average mobs, so I could forget close combat. I attached the dagger to my belt and lowered my head in a bow. “I thank you for your lesson and your gift, Sir Grym. What I would like to know is where could I study Warlocks’ magic skills?” The goblin cocked his head and rubbed his chin in thought. “I could help you as far as my knowledge goes. You do have a gift for magic and I could give you access to it. Come back when you gain some strength. Now go. I am tired.” The goblin turned his back while a mysterious force grabbed my elbows and dragged me along the passage before pushing me out. “Wait up! I need to ask you about the Guild…” I tried to shove my head back inside but the invisible taut wall pushed me away. Grym the Hermit is busy. He doesn’t want to see you. Come back when you reach Level 5. Bastard. I ignored the alert box but another one chimed in its place: Quest completion alert: Meet Grym the Hermit. Quest completed! Reward: Magic abilities unlocked. Skill Tree Available: Blood Magic Skill Tree Available: Summoning Skill Tree Available: Death You have 3 Talent points available! Much better. I slumped onto the grass and started opening the menu windows. Main growth options: raising the undead or summoning otherworldly monsters. The former started off as weaker and also called for summoning ingredients, but theoretically, had a higher leveling potential. The summoning line had a choice of skills on higher levels that would increase your raised monsters’ power. It also offered quite a few buffs and bonus items for your raised pets. Summoned creatures tended to be stronger than the raised ones until at a certain point they hit their limit. Not quickly, but somewhere in the area of level 200 things would come to a complete halt. Beyond the Archdemon there was nothing left to summon. Of course, he had his own buffs and skills but the statistics showed that a top master specializing in summoning showed a 6% higher win rate in combat. Which was nothing to sniff at. For me at least. The bulk of players lived online as they did in real life: I want it all and I want it now, and let tomorrow worry about itself. I made my choice, minus one Talent point. Congratulations! You’ve learned the spell: Summoning the Undead Cast time: 4.5 sec Mana expenditure: -30 (+15 for each caster level) Ingredient: The Soul Stone Properties: Raises the undead. See Wiki for more details. I followed the link. Never a bad idea to find out as much as you can about your main weapon. As it turned out, the only way to get hold of a Soul Stone was to have it dropped by a slain opponent. You couldn’t buy or steal it, nor trade it with another player: you could only get it by killing a monster – or have it killed by your group. In the latter case, the chances of the corpse dropping the stone shrank progressively, depending on the number of group members and, most importantly, their level gap. The power of the raised creature was relative to its level when still alive. Plus item bonuses, buff bonuses, minus a certain quotient depending on the player’s class and level. Mana expenditure, too, was related to the char’s growth. That was clear enough. The spell itself remained unchanged but what took 30 mana at level 1 demanded 1530 mana at level 100. Now the Blood Tree. This was where we were soon going to have a variety of DoTs, auras and debuffs. DoTs were a Necro’s second most powerful weapon. Unlike wizards or mages, a Necro couldn’t deal a large instant damage. But he could cast a bunch of spells which would reduce the target’s life fast enough. And the spells themselves, apart from dealing basic damage, could have some very nasty extras, from slowing life and mana to poisoning or even draining them. Lots of little tactics and combinations made it perfect for anyone clever enough both with his head and his hands. At the moment, I had two such spells available: a slowing one and a stronger poisoning one. The latter could deal more damage which was a good thing but still I was going to take the first one. As I leveled up, the slowing effect would grow, ultimately freezing the target 60-70%, and that could save my skin quite a few hundred times. Good thing. Congratulations! You’ve learned the spell: Thorny Grass. Cast time: 1.5 sec Mana expenditure: 15 The spell deals 5 points magic damage every 4 sec for 16 sec. Slows an enemy target 11%. See Wiki for more details. Excellent. I had one more Talent point left. Moving to the Death Tree. At the moment, I had two spells available and I was dying to get both. The first one was Life Absorption which, apart from damage, drained the target’s life. The damage wasn’t much but it ignored the player’s magic resistance and, most importantly, helped me heal. And you couldn’t underestimate the importance of healing for solo classes. The second one was Bone Shield. It created a magic shield capable of absorbing a certain amount of damage. I gave it a good thought and decided to go with the healing one. The shield I could still take a bit later on one of the next levels. From what I could remember from the official guidebook, I would receive 3 more talent points at level 5, and then one point for each level once I chose my specialization. Congratulations! You’ve learned the spell: Life Absorption. Cast time: 1.4 sec Mana expenditure: 14 The spell deals 8 points of magic damage to an enemy target simultaneously giving you 8 HP points. See Wiki for more details. I moved my newly acquired spells into quick access slots. Having finished, I jumped to my feet and shook the dirt off my pants. Great worldbuilding. The developers showed amazing attention to detail. The leaves rustled. The sound of footsteps came from the trail. In a moment, a beefcake Elf walked out into the open, his recognizable celebrity face distorted with fear, his childlike eyes wide open. He carried no arms and wore the same kind of sack shirt as myself. I took my hand off the dagger. “Be welcome, O young Warlock!” The Elf’s eyes opened wider. “Are you Grym the Hermit?” Can’t he read or what? “I’m his younger twin. Go in, be my guest,” I pointed at the cave. “He’s expecting you.” “TY,” the young Elf forced out sliding past me toward the entrance. I shook my head, unbelieving. How mature. I just hoped the developers took the players’ age into account. That way, he’d have to prove his loyalty by slaughtering a rabbit. Alternatively, he could get a snail and a hammer—all that snot and gore hitting the cave walls. Nah, I was going too far. Most likely, the FIVR capsule’s parental guidance was blocking out all gore, pain and erotic sensations and activating the profanity filter. Right. Time to get going. I’d been in the game already for an hour and a half and hadn’t risen beyond a level one newb. Not good. Judging by the map, the city’s East Gate was only ten minutes’ walk away. The new players’ starting locations were situated behind the city walls allowing endangered newbies to escape to the safety of the guards, if needed. I could do a bit of hunting while heading toward the city. These backwoods had to have more rabbits and other game to offer than the newbie-infested city limits.

Read A Quest of Heroes Chapter One

 

The boy stood on the highest knoll of the low country in the Western Kingdom of the Ring, looking north, watching the first of the rising suns. As far as he could see stretched rolling green hills, dipping and rising like camel humps in a series of valleys and peaks. The burnt-orange rays of the first sun lingered in the morning mist, making them sparkle, lending the light a magic that matched the boy’s mood. He rarely woke this early or ventured this far from home—and never ascended this high—knowing it would incur his father’s wrath. But on this day, he didn’t care. On this day, he disregarded the million rules and chores that had oppressed him for his fourteen years. For this day was different. It was the day his destiny had arrived. The boy, Thorgrin of the Western Kingdom of the Southern Province of the clan McLeod—known to all he liked simply as Thor—the youngest of four boys, the least favorite of his father, had stayed awake all night in anticipation of this day. He had tossed and turned, bleary-eyed, waiting, willing the first sun to rise. For a day like this arrived only once every several years, and if he missed it, he would be stuck in this village, doomed to tend his father’s flock the rest of his days. That was a thought he could not bear. Conscription Day. It was the one day the King’s Army canvassed the provinces and hand-picked volunteers for the Shen Yin Wang Zuo. As long as he had lived, Thor had dreamt of nothing else. For him, life meant one thing: joining the Silver, the King’s elite force of knights, bedecked in the finest armor and the choicest arms anywhere in the two kingdoms. And one could not enter the Silver without first joining the Legion, the company of squires ranging from fourteen to nineteen years of age. And if one was not the son of a noble, or of a famed warrior, there was no other way to join the Legion. Conscription Day was the only exception, that rare event every few years when the Legion ran low and the King’s men scoured the land in search of new recruits. Everyone knew that few commoners were chosen—and that even fewer would actually make the Legion. Thor studied the horizon intently, looking for any sign of motion. The Silver, he knew, would have to take this, the only road into his village, and he wanted to be the first to spot them. His flock of sheep protested all around him, rising up in a chorus of annoying grunts and urging him to bring them back down the mountain, where the grazing was choicer. He tried to block out the noise, and the stench. He had to concentrate. What had made all of this bearable, all these years of tending flocks, of being his father’s lackey, his older brothers’ lackey, the one cared for least and burdened most, was the idea that one day he would leave this place. One day, when the Silver came, he would surprise all those who had underestimated him and be selected. In one swift motion, he would ascend their carriage and say goodbye to all of this. Thor’s father, of course, had never considered him seriously as a candidate for the Legion—in fact, he had never considered him as a candidate for anything. Instead, his father devoted his love and attention to Thor’s three older brothers. The oldest was nineteen and the others but a year behind each other, leaving Thor a good three years younger than any of them. Perhaps because they were closer in age, or perhaps because they looked alike and looked nothing like Thor, the three of them stuck together, barely acknowledging Thor’s existence. Worse, they were taller and broader and stronger than he, and Thor, who knew he was not short, nonetheless felt small beside them, felt his muscular legs frail compared to their barrels of oak. His father made no move to rectify any of this—and in fact seemed to relish it—leaving Thor to attend the sheep and sharpen weapons while his brothers were left to train. It was never spoken, but always understood, that Thor would spend his life in the wings, be forced to watch his brothers achieve great things. His destiny, if his father and brothers had their way, would be to stay here, swallowed by this village, and give his family the support they demanded. Worse still was that Thor sensed his brothers, paradoxically, were threatened by him, maybe even hated him. Thor could see it in their every glance, their every gesture. He didn’t understand how, but he aroused something, like fear, or jealousy, in them. Perhaps it was because he was different from them, didn’t look like them or speak with their mannerisms; he didn’t even dress like them, his father reserving the best—the purple and scarlet robes, the gilded weapons—for his brothers, while Thor was left wearing the coarsest of rags. Nonetheless, Thor made the best of what he had, finding a way to make his clothes fit, tying the frock with a sash around his waist, and, now that summer was here, cutting off the sleeves to allow his toned arms to be caressed by the breezes. His shirt was matched by coarse linen pants—his only pair—and boots made of the poorest leather, laced up his shins.

against_the_gods_teaser_by_ecedie-d63fies

They were hardly the leather of his brothers’ shoes, but he made them work. His was the typical uniform of a herder. But he hardly had the typical demeanor. Thor stood tall and lean, with a proud jaw, noble chin, high cheekbones, and gray eyes, looking like a displaced warrior. His straight, brown hair fell back in waves on his head, just past his ears, and behind the locks, his eyes glistened like minnows in the light. Thor’s brothers would be allowed to sleep in this morning, given a hearty meal, and sent off for the Selection with the finest weapons and his father’s blessing—while he would not even be allowed to attend. He had tried to raise the issue with his father once. It had not gone well. His father had summarily ended the conversation, and he had not tried again. It just wasn’t fair. Thor was determined to reject the fate his father had planned for him. At the first sign of the royal caravan, he would race back to the house, confront his father, and, like it or not, make himself known to the King’s men. He would stand for selection with the others. His father could not stop him. He felt a knot in his stomach at the thought of it. The first sun rose higher, and when the second sun, mint green, began to rise, adding a layer of light to the purple sky, Thor spotted them. He stood upright, hairs on end, electrified. There, on the horizon, came the faintest outline of a horse-drawn carriage, its wheels kicking dust into the sky. His heart beat faster as another came into view; then another. Even from here the golden carriages gleamed in the suns, like silver-backed fish leaping from the water. By the time he counted twelve of them, he could wait no longer. Heart pounding in his chest, forgetting his flock for the first time in his life, Thor turned and stumbled down the hill, determined to stop at nothing until he made himself known. * Thor barely paused to catch his breath as he sped down the hills, through the trees, scratched by branches and not caring. He reached a clearing and saw his village spread out below: a sleepy country town packed with one-story, white clay homes with thatched roofs. There were but several dozen families amongst them. Smoke rose from chimneys as most were up early preparing their morning meal. It was an idyllic place, just far enough—a full day’s ride—from Shen Yin Wang Zuo to deter passersby. Just another farming village on the edge of the Ring, another cog in the wheel of the Western Kingdom. Thor burst down the final stretch, into the village square, kicking up dirt as he went. Chickens and dogs ran out of his way, and an old woman, squatting outside her home before a cauldron of bubbling water, hissed at him. “Slow down, boy!” she screeched as he raced past, stirring dust into her fire. But Thor would not slow—not for her, not for anybody. He turned down one side street, then another, twisting and turning the way he knew by heart, until he reached home. It was a small, nondescript dwelling like all the others, with its white clay walls and angular, thatched roof. Like most, its single room was divided, his father sleeping on one side and his three brothers on the other; unlike most, it had a small chicken coop in the back, and it was here that Thor was exiled to sleep. At first he’d bunked with his brothers; but over time they had grown bigger and meaner and more exclusive, and made a show of not leaving him room. Thor had been hurt, but now he relished his own space, preferring to be away from their presence. It just confirmed for him that he was the exile in his family that he already knew he was. Thor ran to his front door and burst through it without stopping. “Father!” he yelled, gasping for breath. “The Silver! They’re coming!” His father and three brothers sat hunched over the breakfast table, already dressed in their finest. At his words they jumped up and darted past him, bumping his shoulders as they ran out of the house and into the road. Thor followed them out, and they all stood watching the horizon. “I see no one,” Drake, the oldest, answered in his deep voice. With the broadest shoulders, hair cropped short like his brothers’, brown eyes, and thin, disapproving lips, he scowled down at Thor, as usual. “Nor do I,” echoed Dross, just a year below Drake, always taking his side. “They’re coming!” Thor shot back. “I swear!” His father turned to him and grabbed his shoulders sternly. “And how would you know?” he demanded. “I saw them.” “How? From where?” Thor hesitated; his father had him. He of course knew the only place Thor could have spotted them was from the top of that knoll. Now Thor was unsure how to respond. “I…climbed the knoll—” “With the flock? You know they are not to go that far.” “But today was different. I had to see.” His father glowered down. “Go inside at once and fetch your brothers’ swords and polish their scabbards, so they look their best before the King’s men arrive.” His father, done with him, turned back to his brothers, who all stood in the road looking out. “Do you think they’ll choose us?” asked Durs, the youngest of the three, a full three years ahead of Thor. “They’d be foolish not to,” his father said. “They are short on men this year. It has been a slim cropping—or else they wouldn’t bother coming. Just stand straight, the three of you, keep your chins up and chests out. Do not look them directly in the eye, but do not look away, either. Be strong and confident. Show no weakness. If you want to be in the King’s Legion, you must act as if you’re already in it.” “Yes, Father,” his three boys answered at once, getting into position. He turned and glared back at Thor. “What are you still doing there?” he asked. “Get inside!” Thor stood there, torn. He didn’t want to disobey his father, but he had to speak with him. His heart pounded as he debated. He decided it would be best to obey, to bring the swords, and then confront his father. Disobeying outright wouldn’t help. Thor raced into the house, out through the back and to the weapons shed. He found his brothers’ three swords, objects of beauty all of them, crowned with the finest silver hilts, precious gifts for which his father had toiled years.

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He grabbed all three, surprised as always at their weight, and ran back through the house with them. He sprinted to his brothers, handed each a sword, then turned to his father. “What, no polish?” Drake said. His father turned to him disapprovingly, but before he could say anything, Thor spoke up. “Father, please. I need to speak with you!” “I told you to polish—” “Please, Father!” His father glared back, debating. He must have seen the seriousness on Thor’s face, because finally, he said, “Well?” “I want to be considered. With the others. For the Legion.” His brothers’ laughter rose up behind him, making his face burn red. But his father did not laugh; on the contrary, his scowl deepened. “Do you?” he asked. Thor nodded back vigorously. “I’m fourteen. I’m eligible.” “The cutoff is fourteen,” Drake said disparagingly, over his shoulder. “If they took you, you’d be the youngest. Do you think they’d choose you over someone like me, five years your elder?” “You are insolent,” Durs said. “You always have been.” Thor turned to them. “I’m not asking you,” he said. He turned back to his father, who still frowned. “Father, please,” he said. “Allow me a chance. That’s all I ask. I know I’m young, but I will prove myself, over time.” His father shook his head. “You’re not a soldier, boy. You’re not like your brothers. You’re a herder. Your life is here. With me. You will do your duties and do them well. One should not dream too high. Embrace your life, and learn to love it.” Thor felt his heart breaking as he saw his life collapsing before his eyes. No, he thought. This can’t be. “But Father—” “Silence!” he shrieked, so shrill it cut the air. “Enough with you. Here they come. Get out of the way, and best mind your manners while they’re here.” His father stepped up and with one hand pushed Thor to the side, as if he were an object he’d rather not see. His beefy palm stung Thor’s chest. A great rumbling arose, and townsfolk poured out from their homes, lining the streets. A growing cloud of dust heralded the caravan, and moments later they arrived, a dozen horse-drawn carriages, with a noise like great thunder. They came into town like a sudden army, halting close to Thor’s home. Their horses , pranced in place, snorting. It took a long time for the cloud of dust to settle, and Thor anxiously tried to steal a peek at their armor, their weaponry. He had never been this close to the Silver before, and his heart thumped. The soldier on the lead stallion dismounted. Here he was, a real, actual member of the Silver, covered in shiny ring mail, a long sword on his belt. He looked to be in his thirties, a real man, stubble on his face, scars on his cheek, and a nose crooked from battle. He was the most substantial man Thor had ever seen, twice as wide as the others, with a countenance that said he was in charge. The soldier jumped down onto the dirt road, his spurs jingling as he approached the lineup of boys. Up and down the village dozens of boys stood at attention, hoping. Joining the Silver meant a life of honor, of battle, of renown, of glory—along with land, title, and riches. It meant the best bride, the choicest land, a life of glory. It meant honor for your family, and entering the Legion was the first step. Thor studied the large, golden carriages, and knew they could only hold so many recruits. It was a large kingdom, and they had many towns to visit. He gulped, realizing his chances were even more remote than he thought. He would have to beat out all these other boys—many of them substantial fighters—along with his own three brothers. He had a sinking feeling. Thor could hardly breathe as the soldier paced in silence, surveying the rows of hopefuls. He began on the far side of the street, then slowly circled. Thor knew all the other boys, of course. He also knew some of them secretly did not want to be picked, even though their families wanted to send them off. They were afraid; they would make poor soldiers. Thor burned with indignity. He felt he deserved to be picked as much as any of them. Just because his brothers were older and bigger and stronger didn’t mean he shouldn’t have a right to stand and be chosen. He burned with hatred for his father, and nearly burst out of his skin as the soldier approached. The soldier stopped, for the first time, before his brothers. He looked them up and down, and seemed impressed. He reached out, grabbed one of their scabbards, and yanked it, as if to test how firm it was. He broke into a smile. “You haven’t yet used your sword in battle, have you?” he asked Drake. Thor saw Drake nervous for the first time in his life. Drake swallowed. “No, my liege. But I’ve used it many times in practice, and I hope to—” “In practice!” The soldier roared with laughter and turned to the other soldiers, who joined in, laughing in Drake’s face. Drake turned bright red. It was the first time Thor had ever seen Drake embarrassed—usually, it was Drake embarrassing others. “Well then I shall certainly tell our enemies to fear you—you who wields your sword in practice!” The crowd of soldiers laughed again. The soldier then turned to Thor’s other brothers. “Three boys from the same stock,” he said, rubbing the stubble on his chin. “That can be useful. You’re all a good size. Untested, though. You’ll need much training if you are to make the cut.” He paused. “I suppose we can find room.” He nodded toward the rear wagon. “Get in, and be quick of it. Before I change my mind.” Thor’s three brothers sprinted for the carriage, beaming. Thor noticed his father beaming, too. But he was crestfallen as he watched them go. The soldier turned and moved on to the next home. Thor could stand it no longer. “Sire!” Thor yelled out. His father turned and glared at him, but Thor no longer cared.

Read another light novel: Against the gods

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The soldier stopped, his back to him, and slowly turned. Thor took two steps forward, his heart beating, and stuck out his chest as far as he could. “You haven’t considered me, sire,” he said. The soldier, startled, looked Thor up and down as if he were a joke. “Haven’t I?” he asked, and burst into laughter. His men burst into laughter, too. But Thor didn’t care. This was his moment. It was now or never. “I want to join the Legion!” Thor said. The soldier stepped toward Thor. “Do you now?” He looked amused. “And have you even reached your fourteenth year?” “I did, sire. Two weeks ago.” “Two weeks ago!” The soldier shrieked with laughter, as did the men behind them. “In that case, our enemies shall surely quiver at the sight of you.” Thor felt himself burning with indignity. He had to do something. He couldn’t let it end like this. The soldier turned to walk away—but Thor could not allow it. Thor stepped forward and yelled: “Sire! You are making a mistake!” A horrified gasp spread through the crowd, as the soldier stopped and once again slowly turned. Now he was scowling. “Stupid boy,” his father said, grabbing Thor by his shoulder, “go back inside!” “I shall not!” Thor yelled, shaking off his father’s grip. The soldier stepped toward Thor, and his father backed away. “Do you know the punishment for insulting the Silver?” the soldier snapped. Thor’s heart pounded, but he knew he could not back down. “Please forgive him, sire,” his father said. “He’s a young child and—” “I’m not speaking to you,” the soldier said. With a withering look, he forced Thor’s father to turn away. The soldier turned back to Thor. “Answer me!” he said. Thor swallowed, unable to speak. This was not how he saw it going in his head. “To insult the Silver is to insult the King himself,” Thor said meekly, reciting what he’d learned from memory. “Yes,” the soldier said. “Which means I can give you forty lashes if I choose.” “I mean no insult, sire,” Thor said. “I just want to be picked. Please. I’ve dreamt of this my entire life. Please. Let me join you.” The soldier looked at him, and slowly, his expression softened. After a long while, he shook his head. “You’re young, boy. You have a proud heart. But you’re not ready. Come back to us when you are weaned.” With that, he turned and stormed off, barely glancing at the other boys. He quickly mounted his horse. Thor, crestfallen, watched as the caravan broke into action; as quickly as they’d arrived, they were gone. The last thing Thor saw was his brothers, sitting in the back of the last carriage, looking out at him, disapproving, mocking. They were being carted away before his eyes, away from here, into a better life. Inside, Thor felt like dying. As the excitement around him faded, villagers slinked back into their homes. “Do you realize how stupid you were, foolish boy?” Thor’s father snapped, grabbing his shoulders. “Do you realize you could have ruined your brothers’ chances?” Thor brushed his father’s hands off of him roughly, and his father reached back and backhanded him across the face. Thor felt the sting of it and glared back at his father. A part of him, for the first time, wanted to hit his father back. But he held himself. “Go get my sheep and bring them back. Now! And when you return, don’t expect a meal from me. You will miss your meal tonight, and think about what you’ve done.” “Maybe I shall not come back at all!” Thor yelled as he turned and stormed off, away from his home, toward the hills. “Thor!” his father yelled. A few of the villagers who remained on the road stopped and watched. Thor broke into a trot, then a run, wanting to get as far away from this place as possible. He barely noticed he was crying, tears flooding his face, as every dream he’d ever had was crushed.