The Celestial Plane was in upheaval. A new Harbinger had appeared, and just like that, two basic aspects—science and its opposite—had become Primal Forces. This, of course, had far-reaching consequences.
The Divine Assembly was gathered, and every divine being stood in attention. That day, the heavens would witness the birth of two new Gods.
While Eterna, the goddess of order and all things eternal, was not happy, the God standing directly opposite to her was. He wiggled his green moustache in greeting and sneered at her.
Wade, The God of Potatoes and Traffic Cones, was extremely happy. He revelled in Chaos—it was his element, after all—but causing chaos in the mortal realms was small potatoes compared to this.
To cause true chaos and disarray on a Celestial scale was its own reward. He was reaching new heights. Bobby, the God of Chaos and All Things Fleeting, inclined his head and retracted his eyestalks. He was revelling in the sensation. Ever since Eterna had brought that thrice-damned Wheel Of Aspects of hers to the heavens, the going had been rough for him; it imposed order and didn’t give him any wriggle room. Only today had he finally managed to circumvent that limitation.
Even though this so-called Ethan West had rejected becoming his Harbinger—a fact which saddened him greatly—he still managed to come out on top in respect to the other Gods. As the custodian of Chaos, The Wheel had to delegate all decisions regarding that aspect to him. Through that, he had managed to touch the mortal and influence the course of events. His actions led to the birth of two new Gods, and because the Harbinger of Science was touched by Chaos, it was almost a guarantee for an alliance between Science and Chaos in the future, which would give Eterna no choice but to side with the new God of Ignorance.
His masterful plan filled him with glee.
“Take that, you stuck up bitch!” He sent telepathically to her. He could see her face reddening and it filled him with unrestrained joy. He knew she’d try to target the mortal, of course, but had his own plans to stop her should it come to that.
A sudden silence fell on The Assembly as two new Gods began to form in the Circle of Creation at the centre of the chamber. Thick fog swept the entire area. It swirled and condensed in the middle, and two shapes began to materialise.
All the divine beings present watched the hallowed act with reverence.
After the smoke cleared, a boy and a girl could be seen standing in the circle.
The girl stepped forth. “My name is Scintilla, and I shall henceforth take the mantle of The Custodian of Science,” she solemnly intoned.
The boy walked forward. “Hi! I’m Marlon! Let’s go play!” He said to the girl, chasing her around when she rejected him. All the other gods cheered.
Wait a minute—this was not the custodian of Ignorance but… Was this… The Primal Force Of… Fun? Innocence?
“Status screen!” Ethan enunciated.
A new screen appeared, and he could see many details about his status in the eyes of the system.
He ruminated over this screen for a long time, asking his AI questions and familiarizing himself with the available attributes, occasionally asking the system for help on a specific topic once he figured out he could do that. Apparently, the main attributes were all linked to his body’s performance in one way or another, as one would expect. He suspected that higher levels of an attribute meant that the system would actually reinforce his body through magic. His implants couldn’t stop the magic from affecting his entire body if it wished, just his nervous system.
He went over the information he’d gathered about the various attributes so far:
- Strength: Governs the body’s physical strength and carry-weight.
- Vitality: Governs overall health, pain tolerance, and health regeneration.
- Dexterity: Governs hand-eye coordination and accuracy with ranged attacks.
- Agility: Governs the body’s overall limberness and responsiveness to commands.
- Intelligence and Wisdom had different effects for normal people without implants, but in Ethan’s case, Intelligence would affect the power of his spells and mana regeneration, and Wisdom would only increase his maximum mana pool.
He was quite surprised that his Intelligence and Wisdom scores were so low compared to his other stats, but quickly realised that they did not reflect his actual capacity for cognition, merely what bonuses the system would give him if it could. The title gave him pause and had him worried though; he definitely needed to be wary of divine retribution in the future.
He didn’t know if being a [Harbinger] brought with it any special status or divine protection from retaliation. He still needed to know more. He decided to postpone distributing his Attribute Points to a later date, maybe once he knew what he was up against. Satisfied with this information, he moved on to the next task.
“Skills screen!” he said with confidence.
“Hahahahaha!” The Matriarch laughed maniacally as she circled [Commander] Talius. Her fingers had partially transformed into claws, and she had also sprouted wings and a barbed tail, striking occasionally with each.
Also, as Talius had learnt, she could still breathe fire in this form.
It was significantly weaker than her dragon’s breath, but it was still enough to give him pause. He had to dodge quickly every time she inhaled deeply, and she toyed with him sometimes by inhaling with no fiery breath coming out. He just wished he could distract her long enough for his men to escape as instructed.
He didn’t implicitly trust Jarret’s judgement, but he hoped the [Mage] would be smart enough to stay concealed. The reason he sent him ahead with only two men was speed. He wanted this information safely in the hands of The Empire as soon as possible, and Jarret could take care of himself and two other men and even cast a haste spell on the three of them in case of emergency.
After Jarret had disappeared, Talius had commanded the rest of his men to withdraw from the field. He quelled all their protests with a firm hand. They followed his commands to the letter and orderly retreated from the plateau. It was up to them now.
They would all be dead right now had he commanded them to attack, he realised. If the Matriarch turned back into a dragon and chased after them... no. He would not allow it. He had to keep her busy. He just hoped he could give the men enough time to retreat to a safe distance before he activated his weapon of last resort because he was slowly losing this battle.
He dodged another clawed swipe of her hands and blocked a strike from her tail with his sword. He’d seen it coming long before it landed. Yet he was still losing, despite all his efforts, and she was driving him into a corner. He was getting distracted. She drove her clawed hand through his armoured chest and he could feel his life seeping away.
He gripped her waist and tried to drive his greatsword into her spine. She blocked it with her tail, inhaled deeply, and spat fire, singeing the left side of his face as he leaned right and avoided the brunt of her attack.
“Getting tired, old man? Submit, and I will make it a quick death,” she chuckled.
She was losing patience, it seemed. But he had her right where he wanted her: as close to him as possible. He embraced her tighter. She struggled to break free. She had no idea what was about to happen.
“[Commander’s Sacrifice],” he whispered sadly, activating a skill he’d acquired not very long ago.
A short distance away, his retreating men heard the sound of an explosion rocking the earth. They struggled to keep their balance as the once flat plateau was split asunder.
Ethan was staring at his skills screen, deep in thought as he pondered the information.
According to this information, he’d had access to two skills since coming to this world! However, he still had no idea how to activate them. He took out his leather jacket and held it at arm's length.
“Analyse!” he commanded.
No skill activated and nothing happened.
AI, do you have any data on skill activation? he asked.
<Negative, would you like to create a new data node?>
Yes, start simulations immediately. I want to know how to activate my skills the moment you find out, Ethan commanded.
<Acknowledged. Starting new simulation…>
He looked at his unspent Skill Points and mind-clicked the button for the Skill store.
Interesting. He was highly interested in [Design Schematic] and [Study (Basic)]. He currently had 3 free Skill Points. He decided to try his luck. Since he couldn’t activate skills yet, he decided to purchase knowledge instead. He went ahead and purchased [Study (Basic)] for two Skill Points.
He was immediately prompted with a question.
- You spend 2 SP to purchase [Study (Basic)].
- You obtain [Study (Basic)]. You may purchase this skill again at a later date.
- What topic would you like to study?
With no hesitation, he said, “Magic!”.
<Incoming information packet. Would you like to accept it?> His AI intoned.
“Yes!” He enthused.
He waited restlessly for some time before his AI assimilated the data.
<Decoding complete. Would you like to read the data manually or a direct memory transfer?>
Give me a memory transfer, he commanded eagerly.