At first I felt nothing. No heat, no cold. No pain, no joy. No sorrow, no happiness.
I had my senses but I was behind a veil. I could see, I could touch, I could listen, I could smell and if I’d ever eaten anything, I’m sure I could taste, but I just couldn’t process any of it. I didn’t care about anything, as if I was perpetually indifferent.
Of course, I always carried out my duties, but in retrospect, those duties seem very strange. I blessed anyone that came to my shrine or healed anyone that came to my church, but almost nobody ever came.
I vaguely remember blessing a knight covered in glowing armor or healing a shadowy figure wearing robes. But no ordinary people ever came to my shrine or to my churches. Even the priests and the priestesses only prayed to me whenever the shining knight or the shadowy figure spoke to them, and they never asked to be healed or blessed.
They were as indifferent as I was.
Yet I never thought about any of this at the time because it didn’t matter to me. Nothing mattered to me. All I cared about was fulfilling my duties. But sometimes, I’d feel a change in my existence. As if someone was tampering with my soul.
But then again, maybe I didn’t have a soul back then? I can barely remember any of this, because these memories are vague, indistinct, and hazy. I couldn’t even tell the time back then, so I don’t know how long that state lasted. A few days? A few months? A few years? A few centuries?
I didn’t know and I didn’t care.
But then something happened. A prickling sensation crept up my toes, and went up my body all the way to my head. For the first time ever, I felt something: a cold, hard surface touching the tips of my toes.
Then something gently brushed past my back. Something with a smooth, silky texture rippled across my skin. A slight chill engulfed me, but it was soon replaced by warmth. Warmth that came from my own body.
I could sense something else too. Something fresh and sweet that drifted into my lungs with each breath I took. Mesmerized, I stood in the same pose that I’d always stood in and explored my newly discovered senses.
Although sight wasn’t a new sense for me, everything I saw was sharper and more distinct, and the colors livelier. The red tiled floor, the red walls, the red ceiling, the red curtains, and the red stone pedestal that I was standing on made the entire room pulse with an aggressive energy that captivated me.
Red; such a powerful color.
A while later, I felt a familiar sensation. Someone was calling me from the bottom of the tower.
Is someone seeking my blessing? No, this feeling isn’t coming from the shrine. It’s coming from somewhere else.
I frowned. I sensed the direction from where the feeling came, but I didn’t know what lay there. Whenever I’d felt this sensation before, my vision would blur for a moment after which I would be inside a church or the shrine but this time, nothing happened.
And then I felt another similar feeling. And then another. And another. And another.
Soon, I felt as if someone was trying to pull my soul in a million different directions but surprisingly, I felt no pain. In fact, every pull made me stronger and sturdier and my senses become even more potent and refined.
I fell off the pedestal.
What was that?
There it is again!
I heard the sound a few more times but soon, there was only silence.
Those were the first sounds I’d ever heard. Even when the shining knight or the shadowy figure prayed to me or asked for my blessing, I never heard anything. Their intentions just came to my mind. Even when I responded to them, I never actually said anything.
This time, not only did I hear a sound, I also saw something strange. A pale red square hung in the corner of my eye before slowly fading away. Worried that it would soon vanish, I tried to touch it. However, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, the square expanded and filled the lower half of my vision.
Level up! Aia Genrion Ignis has reached level 354! Required experience to reach next level: 39400517
Although I somehow understood that ‘Aia Genrion Ignis’ was my name, I couldn’t understand anything else. Confused, I ignored this new information for now and willed the screen to disappear.
This is starting to become annoying. Is it possible to stop it?
Surprisingly, it worked. Although the pale red square in the corner of my eye remained, the annoying sound no longer came. I waited for a little while and when I was certain that I wouldn’t hear it again, I began thinking about what to do next
The thin, red curtains covering the window were fluttering in the wind, so I walked over and pulled them aside. Bright light flooded in, blinding me for a few seconds until I gradually got used to it.
A clear blue sky, with a glowing yellow sun shone above my head. Down below, rows of red buildings lined a lighter red road that led up to the tower that I was standing in. A lot of tiny, red-robed figures were running around. A few of them seemed to be walking in a daze and a handful weren’t moving at all. In fact, they seemed to be looking at the tower, or maybe, at me?
Some of the tugs I was feeling seemed to be coming from these figures. Someone moved towards the large, bright red doors on the far side of the road and pushed them open, allowing several other red-robed figures to enter.
A smaller version of that door was on the other side of the room I was in. The door was covered in strange runes and symbols that I couldn’t understand at all, but rather than being impressed, I shrugged them off as gibberish. I approached the door like the figure down below had done, and pushed.
The doors glowed brightly as angry red sparks flew out from their center. They rumbled and scraped the floor before opening. I hesitated for a moment, before taking a deep breath and walking down the stairs behind the door.
Why would anyone build such a pointlessly long staircase?
After walking all the way down the pointlessly long staircase, I encountered another door like the one upstairs. There seemed to be voices on the other side so I stopped for a little while, trying to listen to what they were saying.
“…miracle…must be…divine…pray…gratitude…go up…impudence…wait…she expects…praise be to…should we…maybe…fools…heretic…how dare…let go…how dare…why you…stop it…interfere…unsightly…”
Unable to understand what they were saying, I approached the door and pressed my ear to it, hoping it would help. Sparks flew, the door glowed bright red and I was suddenly looking at a group of red-robed men and women frozen in the middle of a brawl.
A young blonde-haired woman had her hands around the neck of a fat middle aged man. A black haired young man was pulling on a white haired old man’s beard and a short, bald man was trying to force the boy to let go.
And of course, I stood with an ear pointing towards them in a pose that obviously betrayed the fact that I was eavesdropping on them. Feeling awkward, I quickly stood up and accidentally struck the same pose I’d made on the stone pedestal upstairs.
Immediately, all the red robed figures fell to their knees and bowed.
“Oh, great one! We humbly express our gratitude for your benevolence. Praise be to the Fire Goddess, master of the raging flames!”
I sat on an elaborately decorated red chair in the shrine’s gathering area. It was a large hall filled with rows of wooden benches facing the stage where I was sitting.
I soon learned everyone had experienced the same hazy state of existence as well as the sudden liberation of their body and senses. Since they were listening to everything I said, I decided to have them all gather together so we could discuss all that had happened.
Judging by their endless praises and heartfelt gratitude, they seemed to believe that I had released them from that hazy state of existence and I didn’t deny it because I wasn’t sure if I had.
After we collected some more information, I found out about the status window. It was a pale red screen like the one I had seen that described your physical and mental condition. Although merely expressing the desire to check your condition would also open the status window, thinking of the term status window or status would open it more easily.
After a few tests, we learned that a person’s level corresponded to their overall power. Also, it seemed that my level was absurdly high, because the highest level that anybody else had was 11.
Your title was your position in society. Even the servants had titles like: servant of the Fire Goddess’ shrine.
Moreover, everyone had a unique ability that nobody else seemed to have. I had the ability Wrath of Ignis, however, some of the less fortunate people around me had abilities like Celestial Firewood Collection or Mastery of Tongue Twisters.
As I sat listening to more people share their experiences, I suddenly felt a powerful pull towards my right. It was so strong that I was sure that I would be physically pulled in that direction if I even thought about it…
I crashed through the walls and sped towards the forest outside the shrine, leaving behind the stunned the priests and priestesses that sat on the wooden benches below the stage.
I traveled so fast that everything was a blur. I crashed into trees and boulders and felt a dull pain in my right shoulder, which bore the brunt of my collisions. By the time I finally stopped, I was so dizzy and disoriented that I stumbled and fell on the ground.
It’s all hazy again…
When my vision cleared, I saw a little boy with an even younger girl in his arms. They stared at me in shock but quickly recovered and looked behind me fearfully. I followed their gazes and saw hazy black smoke blowing in the wind. Yet no matter how hard the wind blew, the smoke didn’t move at all.
What is it?
Unbelievably, I felt as if the smoke was looking at me. And then, I saw it move. I was surprised, but another thought came into my mind.
Why am I surprised by this? Why do I feel like smoke shouldn’t be acting like this even though I’ve never seen smoke before? Wait, why do I even know what smoke is?
However, this was just one of many similar questions that had popped into my mind today. Why did I know about these things despite not knowing when or where I learned them? Or who I learned them from?
While I was lost in my thoughts, the boy pushed the girl behind him and glared at me and the living smoke. The smoke moved, seemingly provoked by the child’s actions. However, I didn’t feel any malice or ill intent from it. In fact, the smoke seemed reluctant. As if it couldn’t help but move towards us despite its true desires.
Confused, I asked: “What are you trying to do?”
The living smoke stopped. Bubbles of air started erupting from its surface and it emitted a soft, gurgling sound. Was it trying to say something? The little children behind me started quivering in fear and before I could stop them, tried to run away.
The smoke stopped making noises and flew towards the children, passing through a tree branch on the way.
Something tightened in my chest.
The branch withered and died.
I rushed in between the smoke and the children just as it almost touched the little boy. A wave of coldness washed over me, followed by a stifling pain in my lungs. I gasped for air while flailing about, but the pain intensified and soon, I couldn’t breathe at all.
What…what is this?
My lungs constricted and my vision grew blurry.
It’s all…hazy again…I don’t…I don’t want…to feel that way again.
But no matter how I thrashed about, my lungs refused to take in air and my body grew colder and colder.
I couldn’t feel anything. For a very brief moment, I felt like I was back on that stone pedestal in the room at the top of the tower. I was behind a veil again, aware of my senses and of my existence but unable to move, unable to feel.
I panicked but my panic soon gave way to anger. I was angry at the smoky creature that reminded me of that time. Angry at the children who had called me to this place. Angry at myself for my inability to fight against this feeling of helplessness. And angry at the haze and whatever or whoever it was that had made me experience it.
There was a blinding flash of red light and a powerful pulse of heat went through my body, driving out the cold. Tremendous power coursed through my body. I opened my eyes and saw a world painted in red. Or rather, everything I saw had a red tint to it.
I looked up, and saw a frightened face. The boy had tears in his eyes and he seemed to be clinging onto my clothes. The girl was hiding behind the boy, but I was sure she was crying as well.
I turned and saw the smoke creature a few feet away from me. It seemed to be trembling. The sight made me happy for some reason but there was another emotion in my heart, one that overpowered everything else at the moment.
I rushed over to the living smoke and punched, but my fist just went straight through it, making me angrier. It tried to escape but I followed it easily. I kept trying to punch it but my fists went through it and hit the ground or a tree or a boulder. Although the ground was full of craters and the trees and the boulders lay in pieces, I didn’t manage to hit the shadow at all.
No! I will not give up on my revenge! You dared to confine me! You dared to imprison me! I will never forgive you! Never!
I roared, letting out my anger and frustration. I felt a vague power on the edge of my senses and intuitively grasped it. A bright red flame emerged on my fists as I punched at the living smoke again. Although I didn’t feel like I’d hit anything with my fists, I knew that I had done it.
Sure enough, as the dust settled, the living smoke lay in the crater that I had just created. It slowly dissipated, leaving a small black ball in the center of the crater.
Breathing heavily, I looked at the crater for a long time before my anger subsided. However, as my anger disappeared, so did my strength and I instantly collapsed onto the ground.
An indistinct sound came from the distance. A blurry figure reached out to me, but I couldn’t feel anything. I was behind the veil again.
Everything was hazy. But soon, everything went black. I was unconscious, but I felt relieved. At least I wasn’t caught in the haze again.