60% Shadow of Ethura / Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Chapter 3

I made a few changes in the previous chapter because I had a great idea after I had already posted the chapter. I will try to not do this again, but please do go back and reread the last few paragraphs of the previous chapter. If you don't you may end up becoming confused in this one. Thank you!

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The guards had finally stopped pursuing me when I had entered the outskirts of a zone known as Cloud Forest. I heaved a sigh in relief as I sat down to soothe my haggard breathing. The chase was way too tiring for my comfort. Before I could say "doodlebugs," a golden light rained down upon my character, and I felt my avatar's body changing the way its breathing rhythm was and noticed my strength was returning to me. It seems like my running skill has advanced some.

With each increase in skill level, the avatar would make the necessary changes to secure the player's mastery of it was significant. For example, if I were to increase my swordplay skill, the skill system would help the player's avatar match the skill level by making its stance become more sturdy and powerful with each increase. However, it was up to the player how and when they use the skill. Some players may use the running ability to dodge attacks while others may use it because of the inconvenience of not having a mount yet. There are cases where people were able to bypass the system to defeat foes of a higher "skill" level than themselves due to their combat experience in the real world. I found this out because one of the beta testers was a veteran. She was undefeatable until magic started to come into play in the game.

It was a bit of an unfair system, but it was a survival game. In the wilds, only the strongest would survive. If they have the ability, they would undoubtedly take their place at the top. Of course, real life combat experience wasn't the only thing which could make others excel. Gaming abilities and knowledge would allow the pros to adapt to this new environment and make their way to the summit as well. Therefore, everyone had a chance.

I opened up my character window to check how much it had grown. Two levels weren't so bad. I guess the chase had some benefit to it after all.

Oh.

I giggled as I looked at my blank character's name. I had forgotten to name myself. I shrug my shoulders and exited the screen. I could handle that another time. For now, I had more pressing matters at hand, such as this harp.

I hold the wooden instrument in my arms and studied its beautiful craftsmanship. Truthfully, I was wondering what I should do with it. Should I keep it for myself or give it back to the old man? I thought about it for a few moments before I decided to keep it until our paths crossed once again, so I placed into my space.

After standing up, I began to head back to the beginner village, hoping the geezer was still there. Plus, it was near night time. I had no idea what was in this Cloud Forest, but it must be dangerous. I thought as I remembered the looks of terror on those soldiers' faces when they saw me enter. The sooner I left, the better.

*ROAR!*

I was only a half a mile away from the exit of Cloud Forest when a thunderous roar resounded out as the earth quaked under the weight of something massive. I had no idea where the sound was coming from, but I could see an enormous silhouette running to me from ahead. Hell no! I wasn't ready to fight a giant monster like you yet. I wanted to level my character up by defeating some large toads. I ran as fast as my avatar's legs could carry me to my right. My skills were way too low to handle the creature, especially so since those soldiers ran away at the sight of the forest. Or...was it this creature they saw?

Well, it didn't matter at the moment because my level X running skill was not cutting it out for me. The quaking of the earth was becoming louder and stronger with each breath I took. Each tremor was now causing me to stumble all over the place. The beast, whatever it may be, was catching up.

Damn! Its running skill must be at least level U to be able to be that much faster than I am. In a matter of seconds, it had caught up. I could feel a sharp wind blowing on my neck as the creature must have pounced towards its prey.

I was a goner, I thought. I couldn't see any escape route anywhere. In my first day inside of Ethura, I closed my eyes and accepted the fact that I had died while still running away from a monstrous creature.

At least, that was what I thought. Before the claw could reach me, my feet, which were running on solid ground before, felt nothing under them. I screamed(unintentionally) as I fell down into a deep, dark pit with cold sweat covering my avatar's back. At the bottom, there was a large pool of water. I crash landed into it, leaving me with only a sliver my HP bar, before I began to swim my way out of the pool.

It seems like I'm still in the game, baby! I laugh nervously as I recall the close calls from before. Let's not do that again, shall we?

I evaluated my surroundings, a typical cave, and noted no monsters were in sight. Since it was safe, I decided to use this time to start training my avatar's mental energy(ME). In order to use any type of skill, it calls for ME to be consumed. As one raises the level of a skill, the skill can either take more or less of ME. The running skill, which had just leveled up to W, was one where it would take less ME after each increase.

As there are no stats to increase it directly, I had created meditate to help recover and increase both mental and physical strength. It was the most basic and important skill in the game as it can directly increase one's power. Plus, more ME means more skill leveling without having to meditate once again.

From running so much, my ME was nearly drained to the bottom, so I felt a bit droopy and out of it, especially after the fall I just had. It was another thing to look out for. The higher the ME, the more skills you can spam. However, less ME means getting into a near drunken state. If a player's ME drops to the pit, they would pass out and be at the mercy of any creature or player in Ethura. That's why players have to be mindful of how they use their skills and of their ME.

I sat in the most comfortable position and began to activate the meditation skill. It took about three hours to increase its level. The skill actually made a player to meditate as they would in real life. If I didn't create it like so, then my game would not get the realism I was looking for. Even then, George and the company had ruined all of that.

Due to the rising anger in my heart, my meditation skill came to an abrupt halt when I was just about to recover all of my strength. I tried again and again. With the process of trial and error on my side, I was able to increase its level a few more times, bringing it to level V. My ME had tripled in size and my body felt more vigorous than it ever has before. I glanced at the HP bar and didn't see any changes aside from it being filled. Then again, it doesn't have a number on it or anywhere around it, but I had a feeling it increased.

Feeling satisfied with the current results, I decided to get up and find an exit to this place. I walked around until I found a narrow path which led away from the pool. It was dark to the point to where I couldn't even see my hands crawling on the walls to feel where I was heading. The sides of the cave were wet and sharp. Sometimes, there were some spikes poking from the sides of the walls, which barred my path. I would have to either duck under or jump over them depending on how tall or low they were.

Towards the end, there were so many of these obstacles that I was forced to use the staff to effectively break the rock as me hitting it with my hand did nothing. I didn't want to use the sword yet as I was planning to use it in case some monsters appeared. By the time I got through the thick wall, the staff had many fractures in its wood. It was another thing I didn't like about the first equipment. The durability was too low.

I step out into large corridor which strangely had a dim lighting. However, due to my eyes already being acquainted with the darkness, it stung my eyes each time I had opened them and it took a short while before they adjusted. To my left was a clear dead-end, so I went right.

Drawings of a winged man as the main character were deeply etched into the stone. The hand which drew it was very skillful as each one was very lifelike. I traced the markings with interest as I found it was not inferior to a modern artwork. The detail was exquisite and it portrayed all vital elements in art very well. The rough edges around circular corners hinted the work was created by a blade of some kind. The dim lighting made the lines more bold and distinct.

It appears as though the people were frightened of something when they threw stones at the winged boy. His wings made him different than everyone else and they were afraid. I didn't understand why. Him having wings doesn't make him a horrible person. I continued to follow the strokes with my fingers as I followed the story. The next thing I know, the boy had grown up. He was flying away from a burning town with a sack in his hands. I found it strange at how the lighting was very vibrant on the sections on fire and on the sack while all else held the same as before. I glanced up to see if there were some holes in the ceiling, but there was none. I studied it for a moment longer before moving on. Perhaps it was my mind playing tricks.

The winged man persevered through many disasters. I watched as he fell into the traps of others and lost one of his wings. Tornadoes, volcanoes, and even a massive wave had come to threaten his life, but he was able to survive each one with the skin on his bones barely attached. He was on a quest to find his the people who had taken his right wing. He wanted it back because he wanted to know the feeling of flight once again. Each trial he faced, each wound he had, and each betrayal he had witnessed was all shown to me in the most vivid of detail. Although there were no words, my mind would conjure them for me and allow me to stand in his place. I was able to feel everything he had. The strange lighting and the amazing artistic skills I traced all contributed to story so well.

Unknowingly, tears began to blur my vision as I watched the final pieces of the winged man's journey. The guy had found his adversary and fought to his bitter end. He had killed himself after finding out his wing had been used to inject its DNA into other creatures. The experiments were to allow humans to grow wings and fly, but thousands had died with no success. All of the feathers from his stolen wing was plucked, so he found out his efforts were all for nothing. He was saddened and didn't want anyone else to suffer under those cruel experiments, so he hid and starved himself to death.

Pain filled my chest as I broke down. I couldn't take the apathy I was trying my hardest to portray. My mind was filled with rage, regret, and sadness. Too many negative feelings were swirling in my heart to continue this facade. I tried to calm myself down when Elena was home so she could stop worrying about me. I restrained myself for too long and this carving had brought all of those feelings back to the surface in an unyielding tide. Would I end up like the winged man if I try to get Ethura back? Was this a warning?

While I was crying my heart out over the mixed emotions I had once suppressed, Elena came to inform me dinner was ready through the microphone, so I did my best to calm myself as quickly as possible and logged out. Although I had spent over half a day inside the game, only around forty-five minutes had passed in real time. It wasn't something I would have advised them to do as it places too much mental stress on the player, but they were worried about the time it would take in order to enter the real game world. George had pressured me to make a timetable to where one hour in real life would equal a day in the game. As I was scared my investor would quit supporting Ethura, I complied and was able to succeed after a year of hard work.

As my mind entered my body once again, it felt like I was breathing fresh air for the first time in a long while. I opened my eyes and pressed the open button under the pale glow of the gel. My steps to the door were sluggish and clumsy. However, I took in a deep breath and placed a bright smile on my face before I left the room.

I ate and chatted with Elena as though nothing had happened. We played a few card games together before she allowed me to go back into the game world. I was glad to see her relief when she saw how 'happy' I was at being able to be with Ethura. It was a good thing virtual tears won't cause any side-effects on my real body. If she knew what Ethura has brought me was more tears and anger, I know Elena would never allow me to bring so much as a foot inside of it again. So, I must be 'happy' for now until I can truly feel the way I act.

SoulDevouringLotus SoulDevouringLotus

I've decided that since the chapters are fairly long, there will be an upper limit of four chapters per week.

I guess this is as good of a time as any other, so I shall tell you the rule I have set up for power stones. If one day this story attains 50 power stones(PS), I will release a chapter every day for an entire week. If it gets to the point to where I have to do this for 3 weeks straight, the 50 PS will increase to a greater number.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter!

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