Arcane Ascent

One day, an all-powerful entity known as the Administrator takes vast chunks of humanity into the Trials, an alternate dimension where they must clear 100 quests or else face extinction. Kai is one of the unlucky ones transported to the Trials, but with a lifetime of health issues, all he can do is struggle to survive. After barely surviving the Tutorial, he ends up living a life of weakness, unable to progress while everyone around else leaves him behind. One day, however, Kai finds a rare item that he believes is the key to fixing his hopeless situation. However, he is betrayed and killed before he can change anything. But in death, he finds perhaps the greatest way to change it all: a Return to the Beginning.

John_Doever · Fantasy
Not enough ratings
11 Chs

The Four Treasures

Kai took in the quests he had to complete with an acknowledging nod. One that would have been far too casual for literally anyone else staring at those same requirements.

'Damn, the Returner difficulty really has no concept of forgiveness, huh?'

Not only did the difficulty necessitate that you defeat every single boss in the Tutorial, including the optional ones, but it also largely pitted Returners against each other.

A Returner had to accomplish every single quest or otherwise suffer true death. In the Trials, there was a Soul stat that represented what percent of your soul was left.

When you died, you had the choice to resurrect at the cost of 50% of your soul.

However, True Death killed you regardless of how much soul percentage you had. It was permanent, eternal death.

This meant that Returners were incentivized to work as quickly as possible to clear as many bosses before other Returners took them out.

Granted, the conditions for 'defeating' a boss was more generous than one might think. It just meant you had to have a significant contribution in taking it down, so it was possible for Returners to team up.

But in practice, that ended up being as difficult as finding a needle in a big, big haystack. You needed to spend the time to gather fellow Returners, during which any one rogue Returner could already be taking out a boss, and even if you somehow managed to power of friendship your way into a solid Returner party, the rewards for clearing the bosses got split considerably.

The Trials valued the exceptional. Those that struggled. Those that triumphed. And, most importantly, it tended to shower gifts more on incredible individuals than on groups.

All of those reasons contributed to why an extreme minority of Ascenders ever dared to become Returners. And why among those desperate enough to return, only a tiny handful survived to achieve greatness.

Greatness that, soon, Kai would hold in his very own hands.

Kai opened his system interface, checking on his map.

On it, Volt City lay centered, marked as Zone 1.

A blinking white dot indicated where Kai was, and he was quite far north from the city's walls, in the midst of a vast forest.

The entire forest was marked as Zone 2: Fallingleaf Forest.

To the west of the city was Zone 3: Mount Drakescale

To the east of the city was Zone 4: Stillwater Lake

And, to the south, there was a stretch of farmland called Zone 5: Training Grounds.

The way the tutorial worked was that it spread the five hundred million people of the Fifth Wave across one of many tutorial quests set up in Elsia, the broader world that the tutorial took place on.

The Trials allocated everyone to different tutorials at random, with some tutorials having hundreds of thousands of Ascenders while others could have as low as a few hundred.

For reference, the tutorial Kai was in had 20,000 Ascenders in it.

There were also a few ways to make the tutorial more predictable.

One of the initial Gifts, for example, was an item called [Sneak-Peek] that let you preview what tutorial to go to. This was useless to Kai because he knew where he was going anyway.

Another way was through the shining or shadowed key fragments.

The mini-games associated with them, allying with fellow fragment bearers for the shining key and hunting bearers down for the shadowed key, would not work unless every fragment bearer was in the same tutorial mission, so they were all guaranteed to be in the same one.

Even now, Kai could see two blinking black dots where the other shadowed key fragment bearers were. One was located in Zone 3, in Mount Drakescale, and the other in Zone 1, directly inside the city.

He did not worry too much about them.

It would take at least a day for either of them to get to Kai just solely based off of distance. Probably two to three days when factoring in dealing with enemies or going through training.

That was more than enough time for him to be much stronger than the average Ascender here.

Dane Denholm would also get just as strong.

From the biography, Kai knew that Dane said he acquired 'four great treasures' that let him get ahead of everyone else. One of those treasures was the Shining Key which Kai obviously could not get anymore.

The other three, though, were up for grabs.

The first one was called the [Blessed Element Ring] which greatly boosted one's elemental magic. It was located in Zone 5, the Training Grounds.

Where Dane first loaded in.

There, during a training session, Dane would impress a knight commander by making a 'hero play' and jumping on a fake bomb when everybody else ran.

That commander, his heart swayed by the selfless gesture, would give Dane a ring called the [Blessed Element Ring].

The ring made Dane a force to reckon with, getting him from barely shooting out tiny balls of sparks to roasting enemies with full on flamethrower force.

Then, Dane would go on to Zone 4, the Stillwater Lake, and dive underneath it to find a cavern which housed the [Distant Reflection], a mirror whose surface mimicked rippling water.

Using it, one could store teleportation charges. In combat, it was not that useful, at best, it could teleport an Ascender a short distance away, and it was not very accurate either.

But outside of combat, especially outside of the Spire was where the item showed its real merit.

The [Distant Reflection] allowed an Ascender to easily travel through space to access distant worlds for rare items without the need to rely on ripple-gates, wormholes that various factions, human or not, often guarded and taxed heavily for their usage.

Finally, Dane would head to Zone 2, Fallingleaf Forest, and solve the puzzle of the Guardian Mural, granting him access to a host of mighty elemental summons that carried him until he managed to finish the Shining Key.

All this, Dane achieved in just three days.

'I can do better than that,' was Kai's thought as he started to sprint into the depths of the forest.

Away from Volt City.

<Warning: you are venturing further into a hostile area. You may encounter enemies.>

Kai ignored the warning. Most Ascenders that loaded into hostile zones like the forest would have tried to go straight back to the city for safety.

That was what Kai had done in his past life.

But all that did was waste time. Valuable time that Kai could use to find items and grow stronger.

As he ran, he rapidly ran out of breath, his body still sickly and weak.

After just a minute, his lungs burned like fire. His muscles ached terribly, feeling like lead weights. His breaths shortened into desperate gasps.

He was forced to stop, still so far from the Guardian Mural.

Once again, he was made to face his past weakness.

But not for long.