8: Groceries…Laundry…Grinding

Before, just after I’d been struck by the divine lightning and blown away, I’d had to put myself back together before I could safely move as I wanted.

 

At first I was too weak, too fragile. Trying to move from one place to another too quickly would just leave me scattered across the ether.

 

Then I was too strong, my existence slightly weightier than that of the world that I was in. Imagine a whale moving from one bathtub and splashing into another.  Instantaneous transitions from one space to another would result in the erasure or engulfment of the space that I’d left behind. And arrival in my destination were often “explosive”.

 

I try not think of those few times where I, in my confused, semi-conscious state would drift to close to human settlements. If they, I, we, were lucky then those settlements would starter towns. Or one of the other forms of blessed settlements such as Capitals and holy lands. Protected by immortal patrons and the goodwill of the system’s administrators and I hopefully did little more harm than your average category five hurricane.

 

If they were not so lucky…well….then that’s a shame then, I guess. Again, I try not to think of it. Those thoughts could live in the same place the rest of my doubts, guilts, shameful secrets lived.

 

They could take my unspoken questions of whether “I” was really the same me that I’d been at birth, and not just a very confused collection of souls that had been melted together were now doing a Desmond…er…Samhain, impression, with them.

 

In any case, the point I was trying to get to here, was that for a while I couldn’t teleport, doing my usual appearing and disappearing act. I had to get around through other means and by the time I had my shit together enough that I “could” safely teleport, I’d already sort of gotten used to getting around in what I guess I could call, the slow way.

 

My having an inconstant but highly mutable form was more or less the same as having the ability to shapeshift. Or rather it was exactly like being able to shapeshift. Fortunately the future-me had included lessons on shapeshifting. Thus in the time while I couldn’t be “me” I found it easy to be other things.


The only problem being that I now had to budget my energy stores carefully lest I fall into formlessness or worse risk my consciousness growing faint enough for the beast within me to surface and rampage.

 

Larger forms were harder to maintain unless I was sleeping  as my [Sloth] made them the perfect vessel for storing and collecting ambient energy. Smaller forms were easier to maintain but there were too many idiots who saw small and mistook it for vulnerable.

 

And of course my human…er…humanoid form was the most expensive of all, which is why it took me so long to regain it in any meaningful way.

 

I’d usually stay in medium size that  bigger than a man but smaller than a bus, while I was meandering through the world. Travelling through the open air and endless seas and crossing over many young and largely untouched continents.

 

It did occur to me a few times that I could maybe just claim one of those untouched lands for my own. Likely no one would mind. There were so many land masses being spawned into being each day that it was probable that a majority of Agartha would simply just never be inhabited by anybody.

 

I’d fantasize about maybe making my own little world there, a world built by me, for me.

 

Then I’d remember that I’d spent my entire life trying to escape a world with just “me”. I’d remember that the idea of such a world was downright terrifying to me. That my attempts to fit in, to blend in, with the rest of the world were almost entirely about staying out of such a world. In my mind, such a world would either entail jail, or a mental institute, or death.

 

I didn’t try so hard to be normal just because I was afraid of others finding out I was “ab-” normal…at least part of all that was because I knew deep down, that being just me, by myself, was fairly dogshit existence. And dangerous too, my father, had been just him, by him, for him and look what that got him? Sitting at the head of his own little cult of personality….

 

But this is getting off topic. What I was trying to talk about, was….shapeshifting and how much of a pain in the ass it was, and how much fun it could sometimes be.

 

Being forced to get around the slow way made me, what I’d thought I’d never really be, and outdoors-man. In truth, I can’t really say if I’m really an outdoorsy person or if necessity and the realities of my current existence just make me hate it less. However I can say that I do like running, swimming more.

 

Most of all I liked to fly. And think about it, trapped in a body that could take every form except your own, wouldn’t everyone eventually try giving themselves wings. I know I did.

 

Flight was yet another of the excessive mishmash of skills that my now non-existent future-self instilled in me.

 

And with the help of a little magic even the most ungainly forms could be made to rise up into the air. With obedience of the laws of physics and aerodynamics mostly serving to make the process less mana expense.

 

So I learned to fly, or at least I learned to love flying and I still loved it now. Often choosing to fly when teleporting could end a journey in a fraction of a second.

 

I’d chosen to do so now, actually. Taking a form that was like a cross between that of a bird and that of a deep sea manta.


A fast flying fleshy shadow with spots of pink light shining from deep inside of it, with wide wings and a long trailing tail for easier directional control.

 

Even if say I was taking it slow I still I moved across the sky at hypersonic speeds. Moving just a little too fast for most of the flying creatures, or the occasionally airship pilots, that shared the sky with me, to get a fix on what I was. Which was just generally for the best when one traveled amongst the clouds and seas of Agartha. Where dragons and leviathans were known to roam.

 

Beneath me were, rolling hills that went past in shifting shades of green and gray. Snow capped mountains that went from black to white as they craned towards the sky. Frothing inky rivers and glowing blue lakes. And the cities. Countless cities.

 

Some of them were empty save the occasional long leaning shadow. Others were teaming with life, albeit inhuman.

 

Life that came in myriad shapes. The shapes ranging from those that were at least somewhat reminiscent of normal animal life and those that were plainly alien. Coming with too many or too few limbs attached. Coming with maws that were always too wide as if made for the exact purpose of swallowing men whole.

 

My visual acuity was sharp, and the omniscience that I’d affectionately dubbed my archive, even sharper. Thus even as I flew, I could easily keep an eye on even the mites that crawled across the backs of the ants on the ground.

 

Eventually I found what I was looking for, or rather I’d known where it was all along, having headed there with “it” as my intended target.

 

As I reached my destination, my flesh crawled, liquefying, vaporizing and then solidifying. Dropping like a bomb and actually detonating. The blast equivalent to ten hydrogen bombs. The roar of it so loud that if felt like it could rattle the world to pieces. A mushroom cloud of vapor, and smoke and debris climbing high into the air to rain down on everything for several hundreds of miles.

 

I felt my mana level rise, climbing a mere two levels. I clucked my tongue, or at least I would have…had I had a tongue.

 

The blank faced man, William, had been right, when he’d called the storm of immortal wrath that had chased me and eventually destroyed me an opportunity of sorts.

 

Once I’d pulled myself together again, I found that though I’d been pushed back to the beginning of the level count once more, I was no weaker than I’d been before. On the contrary I was stronger and my talent and ultimate potential much expanded.

 

Partial-Omnipotence, was both more and less than what it sounded. I could do, be, anything. It was right in the Omni- all, potence-able. But being capable of anything, wasn’t the same as being all-powerful.

 

I still needed energy to do things. Worse yet, being capable of everything thing, meant being capable of the most magnificent of mistakes, like the very brief period where I almost erased myself again by opening a hole to…I don’t know that nearly holed me out and drained me dry.

 

Thus I still needed to level up, I still needed to get stronger, more substantial, since if I was an all-capable pen, then my power was like my ink. If I ran out of ink, then I simply couldn’t do anything.

 

Or rather, since I was more like a pen that was itself made out of ink, I probably could do “something” or try to find a way to cheat but I’d probably regret taking things that far and it’d mess me up in the process.

 

Possibly even resulting in an erasure of my consciousness which was pretty much the only way to kill me for realsies at this point. Though something told me not to count on that little too much. I suspected that there were people out there like my blank faced friend who could and would tell me to the contrary.

 

I might have gotten a big head about things, all the same, but then the archive kindly reminded me that many of the immortals, be they god, angel or demon, and their children held similar powers.

 

Even “I” had held similar powers, albeit not so broad, in my previous incarnation. There had been very little that the black, white and gray mandates could not do.

 

Thus, accordingly there were fail-safes set in place by the various higher beings and even the universe itself, to make sure idiots like myself couldn’t get carried away and do something foolish.

 

The one big dark spot that came with the reset of my status as a leveller was that the amount of magic I was required to gather for each level-up seemed to have balloon enormously. Whether willingly or unwillingly I’d spent the last three years or so, killing up a storm and it was only recently that my level had finally climbed back up into the double digits.

 

I  probably wouldn’t have even managed “that” if it hadn’t occurred to me, to wonder if there were any richer sources of magical energy in this world. My current need for magic was so dire that I could destroy entire cities and not gain a single level from it. Though the magical energies in Agartha was richer than that which could be found in almost any world, being almost as rich as the energies found in the heavens, my appetite now demanded richer fare.


Which put me out of sorts for a quite a while as I’d find myself needing completely consume ten cities or more to make any noticeable change in my mana stores.

 

Fortunately there was a simple fix to my problem.

 

On the one hand that I didn’t think to ask the archive about the issue sooner just proves that super sentience and hyper intelligence are no remedies for being an idiot.

 

I’ll can only posit that I “did” have the excuse of having to deal with the issue of the slow and unsteady reformation of my fractured consciousness to worry over, at the time.

 

On the other hand once I’d asked I was given a window into how far the administrators of this and the designer of the system were willing to go with this little experiment of theirs.


It seemed that they too had seen the arrival of beings like myself, abnormals like myself coming. And to be fair, considering that this world was rapidly becoming a wonderland, a rollicking bedlam for the strange and impossible. A nursery for young immortals and great heroes to be reared, I suppose not seeing this coming was yet another blind spot in my thinking.

 

Even in the original Agartha, aging games that were well played would often just naturally gain expansion packs as a matter of fact. It was something so part of the flow of things that most people just assumed it was so out of hand. If a game was good, there’d be dlc to cash in on that fact. It was just a fact of life that everyone had gotten used to.

 

Similarly, as things had been running well in Agartha, at least by the immortals’ standards, for over three thousand years with leveller powers and the powers of the factions of Agartha rising, it was only naturally the new additions be made to the world.

 

One part of these new additions were higher levelled ruins, dungeons and dead cities. Lands that would be visited by those levellers who reached top ranks of the chart but either didn’t want to graduate out yet, or still had a ways to go till they could do so.

 

Territories with higher powered Demon Kings. Who were in turn served by higher powered monsters. Who in turned lived in higher quality dwellings. Environs that were big enough, rich enough and sturdy enough that they could take an atomic bomb or ten and only be slightly devastated.

 

The kind of self healing realms that the gods and other immortals could fight in, in the heavens

 

On the one hand, I kind of hated it because it meant collecting magical energy was back to being a grind again.

 

On the other hand….

 

No, wait, there was no other hand. I just hated it, but it was what it was and even if I couldn’t die any more and didn’t need to worry about suffering through another reset, I still needed to keep getting stronger if I didn’t want to end up suffering in the long run.

I still had the memories from all those immortal soul fragments. Memories with which I could attest that there was a vast multitude of fates worse than death to be suffered if one was weak enough and unlucky enough to fall into the hands of another.

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