A hammer the size of a small truck came down on me, slamming down with enough force to turn all of the surrounding pavement into loose gravel. Slamming down with enough force to bring some of the less hardy structures of the city tumbling down. Reducing them to rubble.
I seemed to have been turned in a fine mist, fading from view before my triumphant killer.
His smile was soon turned to a frown, that soon turned to a scowl, that soon turned to howling and screaming and tears.
The metal fleshed giant dropped his hammer, letting it fall as he grasped at his neck. Blood poured out from all the orifices of his head as he sagged to his knees, still trying to drawn in a breath that just wouldn’t come.
Then finally he keeled over. Dead. Shortly after his body rupture, a ghastly hole opening in the center of his back.
I stood in the center of that hole, standing on the base of the metal brute’s spine feeling more embarrassed than hurt. I probably should have seen that coming, but I’d been distracted by this really shiny, pretty, green stone.
I know what it sounds like but trust me here; it was one very, very interesting stone. With sigils of some sort all over it. Sigils mysterious enough that even the archive had a hard time placing exactly where it was from.
The stone was clearly a treasure, one of those little trinkets and bits of magical gear that the administrators of the world and the various immortal sponsors of the system had donated and had deposited in the various dungeons, wastelands, ruins and dead cities as an incentive for all those intrepid levellers out there.
That this treasure was one I’d found in a ruin meant for Saints, Sages and Would-Be Gods made it all the more interesting to me. I knew that I’d found something big but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made it so special.
The giant had been surprisingly light on its feet, thus I was nearly killed. Or at least nearly injured…Or maybe not even that. I find it hard to gauge exactly how hurt I am these days. In truth it almost always just comes down to how bad a thing feels. Yes, I “was” smashed into powder by the giant’s hammer, but I’d had enough magic in me to take that powder funnel it inside the giant’s nasal passages and reconstitute my body using a mixture of magic and some of the giant’s mass.
Without a permanent body, or any permanent forms of harm to worry about hunting has become a bit of a meditative process more than anything else. And I’ll admit that I sometimes got a bit sloppy when it came to not allowing enemies to hit me. On the one hand the injuries did hurt exactly as badly as you’d think, but on the other hand, I was kind of numb to pain after everything that I’d been through.
Thus my sense of danger was starting to grow a little weak.
I mean if some real big shot Demon King or a being on the scale of genuine divinity were to show up, I’d probably be in trouble, but with my partial-omniscience I’d likely see it coming so long as I paid even the littlest bit of attention. Having learned my lesson from my meeting with the gods and my stepping on the divine landmine that had lived within the neighbor at the Silent Glen dorm, I was naturally, much, much more attentive to things these days.
Or at least I tried to be.
“Um…ah…there you are.” I said, finding the rock again. I frowned as I continued to inspect it, and then following a hunch, I opened my mouth and dropped the rock inside. Chewing it like it was a hard candy.
I waited, wincing a bit, but there was no rumble from the heavens, no shifting in the cosmic flow. I wondered if I’d over thought things, but somehow I had this feeling that, that wasn’t the case.
“Mhm….I guess, I should get started then.” I said, speaking aloud. Mostly speaking to myself, but also speaking to my new friends who’d been drawn by the sound the giant made as it tried to kill me and was then killed instead.
I shifted from my feline form, to a larger, octopedal form. An armor plated, six legged base that appearance wise seemed like a cross between a tiger and stag beetle. And a humanoid torso, also armor plated, the ends of its arms, looking like they’d been melted off, since I was holding off forming my hands till I knew what I was facing.
Out came more giants and in response the ends of my hands and the legs of my bestial half were turned into razor-sharp blades.
In truth the blades were sharper than razors. They were monomolecular and enchanted with a curse of severance and ruin that made chemical bonds of a material loose and crumbly.
As the crowd of hulking, thirty-foot tall metal brutes came to try and crush me, eager to feast on my flesh, I rushed forwards to meet them. Equally eager. The awakening of certain troubling portions of my inner-being had given me a certain zeal for ending things.
I slew the giants that tried to ambush me, then I found and slew more giants that just happened to be minding their own business. Then a flock of metal wyverns appeared and then started attacking me, which led to my sprouting wing to meet them in the air. Then there were giant metal worms that appeared while I was trying to see what metal the wyverns tasted like. And there were many other creatures that appeared in this city of rust and silence, all of them picking fights that they probably shouldn’t have been picking.
I’d planned to only lose myself in my work for a few hours but before I knew it thirty years had gone by.
I wasn’t worried about it though, this city was dead in the Agarthan wastes where the magic and divine energy were so thick that the laws of time and space were made unstable.
Out here time was dilated. Thirty years out here was just three days for the folks back in the real world, the more densely populated parts of Agartha.
This was just for this particular area though, there were other places where time was sped up, so one had to be careful. I knew of a fair number of recorded tales of famous adventurers who went off into the wastes only to return and find that everyone they knew had died of old age while they’d just been gone for a day.
Which would be bad since I still had the tyke to look after. My precious disciple, the girl I’d taken in as a student on a whim.
I’d left her at her school, leaving her with the Moonlit Tower, the magical construct of illusion magic, spatial magic and psychic energy. A Magically enhanced dream that I generally used to explain the more fiddly concepts of magic and martial arts to the girl and let her try things out in a safe environment.
I’d left a sliver of my consciousness within the dream to look after the girl but I’d need to get back to her eventually just to check up on her progress.
At the end of my thirty year rampage I found that I’d slain every single last mob in the city. The only thing left for me to do was to go after the territory’s boss.
It wasn’t hard to find out where the boss’s lair was, I just had to find the last living thing in the city.
He, she, it lived in the one building that wasn’t covered in rust.
A stone mansion that stood apart from the quiet city of glass and steel.
I entered the building and saw velvet ropes and flickering overhead lighting like those one would expect to see in the exhibits of a very old museum.
Wandering a bit deeper inwards, I saw cases full of pieces of technology that were both similar and dissimilar to that of old earth and the original “sane” Agartha. I saw phones. I saw early computers. I saw planes, trains and early sub-orbital shuttles.
It really was uncanny. It was all our tech. More or less. Everything mankind had made both before the destruction of earth and after we’d evacuated into the void.
The only thing that stood out as “not” ours, was the one big installation at the back of the museum. A gargantuan satellite that looked nothing like the one’s we had floating in upper atmosphere today.
Instead of being canister shaped it, or shaped like a rocket, this satellite seemed to have been built to look like a giant metal egg. One half hatched with the denizen within peeking out, their electric diode eyes blinking out from within the darkness of the metal shell.
Beside the metal there were also bits that looked more like chitin.There were points where the wiring looking more like neurons on a human brain and there were tubes filled with a red pulsing liquid that regular flowed in and out of the ghastly contraptions internal workings.
I didn’t need the archive to know that there was something off about the machine, but the archive blared its warning to me anyway.
I didn’t need to be leveller to feel the danger wafting off the thing. The aura the machine exuded was enough to have me drawing weapons from out of the empty air. Shifting my form to something suitably large and suitably armored.
I became a bull, a six armed minotaur with cannons instead of horns and a beam attack that came out of my mouth. I had multiple heads for the sake of varying how many kinds of munition and beam I could fire off at any one time. And the number of arms I had swelled growing from six to thirty six as my apprehension increased.
There was a hum and then there was silence, palpable silence. I waited feeling something that was equal measures wariness and anticipation.
Then from within the metal contraption there came a groan, a groan that was accompanied by whistling and beeping.
Ice cold steam poured out from the seams in the machine’s chassis. It streamed out without enough force to blow everything around it away. And by everything I don’t just meant the exhibits and the museum furnishing. The floor and the ceiling were also blown away as well. The world beyond the museum was also shoved aside. The streams of steam blew long and hard till there was only a void, bleak and beige. Empty, save the machine and yours truly.
“Hmm…..Isn’t this a bit early? I was told that I’d have at least a millennia or two to slumber, before you little mortals found your way here.” said a voice, that was toneless and empty. Sounding synthesized.
I couldn’t help laughing, feeling a bit nervous. The corners of my mouth curling in the usual grimace.
“Ah…Well sorry for interrupting your rest, I guess…I’m not sure if I’m what you’d call a mortal but you “can” consider me a sort of early access adventurer, if you’d like.” said I.
“Mhm….fair enough. Now that I look closer you might not be mortal after all, you still seem to “read” as a mortal, but maybe that will wear off in a few trillion years or so. Immortality doesn’t really look like immortality till enough time goes by…In any case you say, you’re an early access adventurer? Well, in that case might I ask whether you’re a hero come to slay me for the honor or a Demon King come to challenge me for my throne.” said the machine.
“Ah…the first one, I think. A hero.” said I. Feeling more than a little embarrassed to refer to myself as such.
The machine hummed as if mulling my words over, then without further ado the egg began to hatch.