2: Nose to the Grindstone

Inside my mouth exploded a taste that was like pennies, the salty, sweet flavor of blood and saliva and pain. I flipped head over heels as I slammed through the entirety of a planet, landing on the desolate surface of a distant moon.

As I groggily and fruitlessly peeked out from only one eye to see if playing dead would stop the beat down I saw the future-me glaring. His look unimpressed and peeved. Next to him was a faceless humanoid being made of silvered nothingness and chrome coated power. Its arms folded behind its back like a courtier of an imperial.

“Dude, we’re already on the same page. I’m you, you’re me. Do really you have to kick the shit out of me, every time you want to “teach” me something?” I grumbled. Opening both eyes since it was already clear that we both knew that I’d been faking.

Future-me just shrugged. The bones in his neck clicking faintly as he rolled his shoulders.

“Honestly, yeah. But then again, would you be going easy, if the roles were reversed? Even if you knew that this short but intense moment of suck right now, could save you a whole bunch of suck in the future?”

I sighed, thinking it over.

“…Shit.”

******

Two years had passed since I’d become a student in Silent Glenn. Two surprisingly un-terrible years. I was fifteen now, looking a lot  like the crazy tall scarecrow I’d been during my first life. Though all the physically activity the school had use outer-students doing had served to fill me up a bit.

After the first few horrific months where the school basically just tried to break us outer-students in, setting us to our strenuous, and highly hazardous duties, we all gradually began to adjust. Those who were either weak of body, mind, or will, all either died or quit.

Underperformers who couldn’t stay in the top seventy-five percent of the student rankings were all expelled.

Quitters didn’t get rides back to town, meaning that they had to travel through the deep dark forest and the wild wastes to get back to the secular world, quitting was a kind of death sentence in itself.


Expelled students “did” get rides back into town, for the sake of letting the school seem more magnanimous. If one was expelled at a high enough rank, one could even get a job out of it. Usually it’d be a position doing running a business for the school.

The rest of us, who were still in the running, got used to things and got stronger gradually growing in strength with use of school provided training meds and  our use of the  levelling system.


Ridiculous as it sounds, eventually doing manual labor for the school, while killing the occasional monster-sized pest, just became routine.

Part of the grind.

The rest of our time was spent in self-study. While we technically weren’t allowed to go to class with the rest of the student body yet, occasionally there would be public lectures that were open to everyone.

Thus I got the life of routine that I’d been looking for. Waking up in my tiny dorm room. Getting breakfast in the canteen. Working in the garden till a little past noon and then knocking off to meditate, study, or in my case teleporting out, to try to grind some levels in the forest.

It wasn’t the easiest life for a kid to have, but relatively speaking it was a peaceful life if you avoided all the drama with the student factions. Which I made damn sure to do.

So long as I kept my results to par, and did what I had to keep my class ranking up, by the end of the year I’d been in the top twenty-five percent of the outer-students. Meaning in the following year I’d get to be in the bottom twenty-five percent of the inner-students. Having finally become a full student of the Silent Glenn School of Sorcery.

I’d have had no complaints about the last two years if my future-self hadn’t shown up one day and started beating the shit out of me again.


At first I thought I was dreaming, then later I thought I was losing my mind. He’d appear drag me to some nightmare plane, a desolate universe of lifeless planets. Then he and the faceless, gray fleshed monsters that always accompanied him would start in on me.

Dropping me into the cores of dying of stars. Smashing me with mountains and moons. Doing something to the flow of time and space to so my flesh would start to dissolve.

Sometimes he’d revert to more mundane things.

Like the time he had a gaggle of, blank faced women with their eyes hidden behind plates that were screwed to their foreheads, chase me throughout a dead city that spanned an entire planet, while my ability to teleport had been stripped away. Their siren song letting them inside my head. Forcing me to do things to myself that no one should have to do.

Or like the time he had a metal angel with wings made of swords chase me down the length of an endless hallway. Dicing me into bits and then dicing those bits into subatomic particles, like he’d had an alternate me do in the good old days.

Or….like the time he somehow turned me into a moon and had a giant with a thousand hands sit in the center of the universe and try to swat me like a fly, while I shot myself from orbit to orbit. Using gravity magic to slingshot my way through the galaxies. While the gigantic shade would erase all those planets and stars with every errant wave of its hand.

And then there were the times where the older Desmond, the future Desmond, would just take me on by himself. Mano-e-mano sometimes with powers, sometimes without. Of course, considering that he had the benefit of being me, but with all the skill, strength and experience that I’d yet to gain, I always lost.

He’d wail on me, ranting either mathematics or physics or philosophy or about what kind of shitty person we were and I’d just sort of have to take it, because like I said, he was stronger than me and like three times crazier than I am now.

Worst of all is that I couldn’t even get mad, he and I were ostensibly on the same page, on “what” I needed to get done, if not the how.

I needed to be stronger. So strong that nothing could ever touch me. That no one, man, monster or god, could mess with my life.

Each little training session would go on for a subjective, five billion years. It literally became my life. I’d emerge from them, feeling like the real world was some daydream I was having while my mind and psyche healed. I’m pretty sure, there were some points in the last two years where my classmates would just find me catatonic, so in away its a miracle that I’d been able to avoid getting expelled.

Even more miraculous was the fact I’d managed to make a friend in Silent Glenn. Another Outer-Student, by the name of Jack Hu.  I have no clue how I did it, or why he’d befriended my mostly zombified self, but I’ll admit it was nice to have friends again. Even if it was some random kid who was maybe one, one billionth my mental junior.

The kicker is that I didn’t  even get any titles, or abilities from it all. All I got was a better sense of how to use the abilities I currently had. I now understood how to use the mandates. The archive still had no clue, what the mandates were, and as far as I could see they were just all my old abilities with the addition of some black and white and occasionally some gray, particle effects.

Speaking seriously, I was aware that that wasn’t all that there was too them. I knew that much when I saw that the future-me had traded the grand surplus of abilities that I’d had before for them.

And having been so thoroughly drilled in their use as I’ve been, I’d be beyond dense to ignore the implications of abilities that were more overkill than the overkill I’d had before.

I now suspect that I had cheats that were less like cheats and more like a mod-kit for the black, white and gray portions of the universe.

In the last two years, I’d spent a subjective three quadrillion six hundred and fifty trillion years learning things of a nature that had me nervously awaiting the day that a very troublesome “partially-omnipotent” appeared amongst my titles.

I hoped it would never come but something told me that the day it appeared was all but etched in stone somewhere. The only limit to the breadth and scope of my abilities was the level of strength with which I could use to employ them and how much imagination I used in doing so.

In other words, I was now potentially one of the most powerful creatures in this universe. The only limit to what I could do lay in how much stress  my body and soul, could take.

(And how much willpower I have to keep things from going out of control.)


For that I’d need to keep working, I’d have to keep leveling. Which I guess really just means that not much had changed after all, except maybe I was just a teensy bit better at magic and fighting than I used to be.

Or the very least I’d grown taller and older, and that’s something, right?

*****

*My Current Status

Name: Samhain(Alias)
Age: 14
Level: 22
Race: Humanoid Existence
Affiliation(s):
Title(s): Partially-Omniscient, Child of the Emptied Skies, Red Moon King
Talent: 100
Attainments:
Body 1242
Mind 414
Soul 414
Affinities: Time, Space, Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Metal, Light, Darkness, Life, Illusion
Abilities: Mandate of Black, Mandate of White, Mandate of Gray, Devilish Good Looks
Virtue: Temperance, Fortitude, Diligence
Vice: Lust, Wrath, Greed, Gluttony

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