3 – Xanatos Gambit
I opened my eyes to see a dark forest canopy, covered in gray mist. Though it felt unfamiliar, I could already remember what it was and, more importantly, where I was.
“The Lost Woods. And it seems to be early morning once again.”
The time and place was the same as the one in my memory. However, there was a slight difference.
I could feel the flow of mana around me now. In addition, my body felt sturdier. To confirm it, I tried to pinch my skin. Instead of the soft feeling of flesh, it felt like stone. When I applied a bit more force, I was able to distort it like it normally should, but that was already confirmation of my hypothesis.
But for a final confirmation, I examined my status, the quantification of attributes devised by the Goddess. A brief thought and the window of light appeared in my eyes, showing mostly what I expected to see. A title for sacrificing my life that increased my stats. New abiliites reflecting the experience memorized by my body. And a technique that I comprehended from the one who cut me down.
The only unexpected portion was the title of Aria’s Savior. It seemed that my actions were more influential than I thought if the Goddess’s system granted me a title for it.
An earthshaking roar erupted from nearby.
“I forgot about that guy. Tch.”
I glanced towards the direction of the roar and considered my next course of action.
The one approaching was a towering demonic dragon, covered in a dark miasma and obsidian scales. The first time I saw it, I immediately activated Information Concealment and fled the scene since victory was impossible and defeat held too many cons. But this time was different.
“Victory is… still impossible. But now that I’ve confirmed it, defeat is beneficial as well.”
The Goddess was watching from somewhere up above. And she was strong. Strong enough to pierce the walls between dimensions and pull souls to her own world. She was also mentally unstable, living only because she could not die. And then there were the questionable circumstances of my first death to consider. Was it truly a series of unfortunate coincidences? Or was it divine meddling?
I wouldn’t be able to confirm either way, so it was better to err on the side of caution. That led to my actions during our talk and my choice in ability. It was a gamble, but one that played out well. Although my personality was distorted, my identity lost, and my name changed to a name that was not a name, what I gained in exchange was worth it.
…Unless that was what the Goddess wanted me to think. But that way led to madness, so I dismissed the thought.
The sounds of falling trees drew near. At the same time, the ground began to tremble, shaking as the demonic dragon approached.
I cut my thoughts short and stared at the approaching figure. Dark miasma and an oppressive atmosphere spilled forth. Victory was impossible. A primal instinct from deep within indicated certain defeat. But-
Mind-numbing fear memorized. Indomitable Will LVL 1 obtained.
-In this world, there was no experience that would not benefit me.
I picked up a stick from the ground nearby and walked towards the dragon.
One step. Two. Three.
The dragon emerged from the darkness, staring at me with crimson eyes that flickered like hellfire. A cloying smell of decay filled the air, the result of the dragon’s decomposing body that was kept alive only through its massive mana and unending rage.
It came to a stop before me.
Of course. I would have done the same if I was in its situation. As a powerful being that could overturn nations, facing a tiny human who dared to pose a challenge while armed with nothing but a stick the first response would be confusion. However, the next-
A sound erupted from its throat that no human could ever produce. At the same time, a stream of pure dark mana evaporated my body.
Fatal blow memorized. Mana Resistance LVL 1 obtained.
Darkness mana memorized. Darkness Attribute LVL 1 obtained.
Overwhelming power prevents further memorization.
The title (tentative) Legend has been obtained for challenging one even the Braves could not fell.
I opened my eyes to a dark forest canopy, covered in gray mist. When I did, I remembered the last flurry of messages to appear before my eyes and sighed. “…I suppose it would be too much to obtain that strength in a single encounter.”
The mana of a dragon, the overwhelming energy that could destroy nations. With it, I would have almost nothing to fear in this world. But it seemed that my ability had limits as well.
I shook my head. “No matter.”
If once wasn’t enough, then twice. If twice wasn’t enough, then three times.
If I wanted to live a life free from the Goddess, I needed power. And while this place might have been a deathtrap to anyone else, for me, it was the perfect location to improve.
I picked up a nearby stick before walking towards the dragon. Perhaps sensing my determination, a roar erupted in the forest earlier than before.
…I was no longer smiling.
I had died and ‘revived’ over ten times without obtaining any benefit. Each time, only the message ‘An overwhelming energy prevents memorization’ flashed in front of my eyes before I woke up on the ground facing the forest canopy.
It was time to change my tactics.
I picked up a stick as before, but this time experimented with the ‘chaos’ attribute I had obtained.
A hundred attempts went past. Each time, the same fate. Still, there were some benefits. By imbuing the stick with the chaos attribute using my chaos affinity, I was able to inflict a tiny wound on the dragon with Imperial Slash. And in doing so, both leveled up.
…This approach merited experimentation.
Another hundred attempts. My skills increased substantially, but were still not enough to defeat the dragon. Chaos was insufficient. Perhaps Darkness, would work better?
Yet another hundred attempts. Darkness helped to disrupt the dragon’s mana, but nothing more. On the positive side, Imperial Slash leveled up. Physical and Mana resistance did as well.
…After ten thousand attempts, I gave up. It seemed that there was a hard limit to what I could do with just a stick and my bare hands. While the dragon could no longer kill me with its breath or attacks, the same held true for me, at least in my inability to slay the beast.
I laid on the ground facing the forest canopy. The damnable dragon’s roar erupted in the distance, and I promptly activated Information Concealment. Almost immediately, the roar stopped. It was probably being cautious. While it had long lost its reason, instincts remained in the beast. For something to suddenly vanish beneath its sight indicated unknown powers.
In short, I was free to do as I wished without worrying about it chasing me for the nth time.
I stared at the misty forest canopy for a few moments and then opened my status.
HP: 100000 (+100000)
MP: 20000 (+20000)
Absolute Memory LVL ?? – A unique unranked skill granted to Nowun by Goddess Serena using the infinite human potential gifted by Earth’s Creator. Grants the concept of ‘Absolute Memory’ to the user.
Information Concealment LVL ?? – A unique unranked skill recognized by Goddess Serena due to the user’s ability to withhold and conceal information. Grants the concept of ‘Information Concealment’.
Chaos Affinity LVL 5 – A skill granting the affinity of Chaos, the magical element that disrupts all others.
Physical Damage Resistance LVL 5 – A skill granting resistance towards physical attacks.
Imperial Slash LVL 5 – A subset of the martial skill “Imperial Swordsmanship”, which is the greatest swordsmanship available to the current era of humans. Using physical strength (or an appropriate substitute), lash out with the force to sever steel.
Indomitable Will LVL 5 – A skill granting resistance towards mental status effects.
Darkness Affinity LVL 5 – A skill granting the affinity of Darkness, the magical element embodying shadows, void, and negativity.
Mana Resistance LVL 5 – A skill granting resistance towards phenomenon involving mana.
The Nameless – Obtained by giving a pseudonym to Goddess Serena and refusing to present one’s true name. Due to this, the original name is discarded and one’s true nature becomes indistinct.
Otherworlder – Obtained by all those transported by Goddess Serena to Asifant. Grants language translation and basic knowledge of the world.
Karmic Anomaly – The title granted to one whose karma cannot be discerned. Effects are unknown.
Martyr – The title granted to one who sacrificed their life for the sake of another. Doubles HP and MP.
Aria’s Savior – The title of the one who saved the elven princess Aria Sylvania from suffering a fate worse than death. She will never forget your kindness.
(Tentative) Legend – The title of one who (challenges) defeats ancient beings of catastrophy. Grants superhuman strength and speed.
Going by the knowledge that Goddess gave me, my skills were on the level of an A-ranked adventurer. To put it in perspective, those people were the ones sent out to scout dungeons containing dragons, arch demons, and other calamitous beings. Powerful, but not all-powerful.
My HP and MP, essentially my durability and mana pool, were more outrageous, rivaling a dragon. Even compared to those Braves, also known as otherworlders, brought over by the Goddess, I was magnitudes above them since the highest amount for humans was 999. Coupled with my new title that enhanced my abilities even further beyond the limits of humanity, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about in the outside world so long as I didn’t act too conspicuous and draw out ancient beings of catastrophy.
“In that case, I suppose it’s about time.”
I picked up my faithful companion (stick) and headed towards the boundary between the Lost Woods and the Ancient Forest.
I had a debt to settle.