1 Chapter 1

"Destiny is a conniving child!"

Complaining didn't change the reality I was facing, but it did make me feel a little better.

The sword in my hand cut faster through the air as I channelled my frustrations into my training.

Muscle memory urged me to duck just before a bladed arm whistled over my head.

The missed strike left a glaring gap in my opponent's guard. Generating power from my bent knees, I slashed out with my sword.

The arc of my blade was textbook-perfection.

I was ranked first at swordsmanship in my batch. The attack was a clear demonstration of my talent in swordsmanship.

"Wooden bastard!"

Trainees were only allowed to use the signature silver sword on special occasions. For swordsmanship practice we were given a standard steel longsword; the ratios of the weapon were adjusted to suit the smaller hands of an adolescent.

"Give me back my sword!"

Sadly the dummy didn't care about distribution of force or the angle of my blade. Both of which were flawless.

The force behind my strike had cause my sword to become firmly lodged in the dummy's chest.

The fortress that I called home was surrounded by natural beauty on all sides. Ancient woodland blanketed year-round by the falling snow.

Nonetheless I couldn't help but marvel at the ingenious and intricate thought processes that had gone into making the dummy.

It's torso was split into three sections, each one moving independently at a random speed. Every one of its 6 rotating arms wielded a different weapon and an intricate underground array of wires allowed it to move freely within a 5 radius.

Although I despised it's horrifying wooden durability, I still had to recognise it as a worthy adversary.

"Whelps, gather outside the barracks!" The gravelly voice rang out.

Immediately I and the other recruits stopped what what we were doing. After years of brutal and even life-threatening training, we knew not to waste our teachers time.

I cast a glance at my sword. The hilt was still trembling slightly from the cut's momentum.

Since I had no time to retrieve my sword, I set off after the other trainees without a weapon.

We jogged for nearly half an hour before reaching the barracks.

The witcher who had given us the message was stood alongside several of his kin. He had covered the distance at a speed a mortal couldn't compare to. There wasn't even a bead of sweat on his forehead.

I quickly identified my mentor out of the assembled witchers.

Kilef had the signature icy countenance of a Witcher and the famed cat-like yellow eyes. He was the youngest among the witchers present but his combat strength was exceptional.

The impact of a mentor on a trainee was huge. All witchers had their specialities and us recruits knew how important it was to choose a suitable mentor.

Kilef was a talented witcher with a bright future. His skill with a sword was unmatched. The jagged scars on his hands and neck were proof of his abilities.

Scars were a source of pride to witchers. Each one represented a victory earned with blood.

The oldest of the witchers stepped forwards. He didn't talk for long but there was a faint gleam of pride in his eyes, "Go to your mentor. Today shall be your final test."

I walked to stand behind Kilef. The dual swords on his back glinted with the approaching midday sun.

The other trainees did the same.

Satisfied with our behaviour, the old witcher nodded and spoke, "Good luck."

After he had finished, every mentor began to move.

The weathered gates to the huge fortress of Ka'Er Morhen loomed in front of us.

I warily followed behind Kilef. Within the stone walls I knew that many sorcerers conducted their experiences. The perilous transformation from man to witcher was one such experiment.

Kilef didn't speak as we walked. He had been my mentor for half a decade. The bond we had forged was unique and strong. I trusted him more than anyone else in Ka'er Morhen.

'If it all ends here, maybe he'll shed his first tear for me.' I thought grimly.

It was a famous saying that only a monster could kill another monster. The alchemical processes that a witcher underwent were designed to cut away their humanity and put something cold and harsh in its place.

Bitter thoughts occupied my mind, 'No sorcerer cares if I live or die. The trial of the grasses isn't safe at all.'

The continent was countless times more chaotic and dangerous than earth. Transmigrating into the body of an orphan taken in by the school of the wolf presented me with a chance to become strong.

More likely, however, I would die on the table with my veins full of poison.

I was trapped and I knew it.

Training was my solace. It kept my mind from thinking about the future. More accurately it kept me from thinking how I might not have one.

Part of me knew that it didn't matter how hard I trained. Only destiny could determine whether I lived or died in the trial of the grasses.

Instead of succumbing to fear I chose to train even harder. I was a born prodigy with the blade, but I couldn't have achieved my current level without relentless training.

'I swear, if I survive this trial I will make my name echo across the continent!'

"Ding! The final condition has been met! Congratulations to the host for surviving till his 16th birthday!"

The mechanical voice made my eyes widen and my throat constrict. I was so stunned I could barely walk.

Kilef turned his head. I knew he could hear my racing heartbeat.

"You have made me proud boy. You are in the hands of destiny now, do not be afraid." He said with a far less chilling tone than normal.

I could tell he was trying to comfort me.

Years ago he had stood in my shoes. He knew the emotions I was feeling.

"Thank you." I replied, meeting his gaze.

The intensity in my eyes caused his eyebrows to lift slightly. He turned back with a hint of a smile. An apprentice who could remain calm in the face of death was deserving of his respect.

From his behaviour I was certain that he hadn't heard the mechanical voice.

"Ding! The treasure chest system is now online! The host may open treasure chests in suitable locations! From the treasure chest the host will recieve unknown rewards!"

"Ding! A treasure chest has been located 24 metres away!"

Time seemed to halt as the mechanical voice spoke. At the last possible moment my cheat had suddenly arrived.

Thoughts churned frantically in my head. I was willing to gamble the wrath of a witcher, or even a sorcerer, in exchange for a chance at survival.

'I know where it is.'

The thought hit me like a lightning bolt

In front of me, growing closer with every step, was the mutation chamber.

'It's in there.'