A note from Zogarth

Long note.

I have come to learn that you really can’t please everyone…

Wanna know why there are so many things unexplained or that they appear inconsistent? It’s because I have cut 3 chapters worth of explanations or POV chapter as everyone hated those. I have been told continuously I spend too much time “telling, not showing,” so I tried that. Clearly, the last chapter was a massive failure considering the rating divebombed the most it has ever done in a day, and 80% of the comments were negative.

So, I am just going to try and explain stuff…

First, we start with the “he should have expected the ambush.”

My question to this is: Why?

The main character has been stuck in the dungeon for 30 days, followed by several more days out in the forest alone. Jake has met two people during this time, one of them William, who was so obviously going to ambush him it was comical to Jake, and the other group was the five attackers.

After that fight, he realized something was off and that someone wanted to kill him, and that he had been framed for something he didn’t do. They knew his name, and the only ones knowing his name was Richard and his old colleagues, so he assumes they are the ones who think he did it.

Jake believes in his old colleagues as he is far too trusting (shown by how he never doubted Jacob once and was only pleasantly surprised when Jacob turned up with two more of his old colleagues). Is this naïve? Sure, as naïve as I would expect someone who has grown up in a safe environment and working in a corporate culture would be. It isn’t like the forest outside has taught him much about caution, either.

In fact, he expected the ones to be afraid of an ambush to be them and not himself, which is why he chose a non-threatening clearing to meet them in. He hoped to clear up the misunderstanding so they would stop needlessly hunting him for something he didn’t do.

When he saw that Jacob and Caroline were both alive and that Jacob was walking around the camp being treated well, he became even more sure that a fight wouldn’t be necessary.

“But stupid author,” you say, “Richard wants him dead already! He should know that!”

Well, yeah, he should know that, but at the same time, he doesn’t feel like Richard would show up in such force. Jake has shown repeatedly not to bear grudges, even respecting enemies who tried to kill him. He burned the corpses of those who he killed not to let them waste away. To him, the thought of bearing such a deep grudge to frame him and show up with an entire damn army didn’t ever cross him. He doesn’t believe himself to be that important to Richard or anyone else. He is just a lone archer; why go to such lengths if he doesn’t want a needless fight?

“But why didn’t he just escape immediately then when he saw them?”

Because Jake was taken by surprise and shocked, his head was already pretty occupied by trying to process why they had betrayed him when the walk talk was going so well. Before Hayden attacked from behind, a naïve part of him still believed that he would find a peaceful and diplomatic solution. He didn’t want to fight or kill anyone. It should be pretty straightforward, but Jake doesn’t like to fight humans at all, especially not after finding out that he killed the last five he met under false pretenses.

They were also all invisible (hence the shimmering in the air), and they knew he had some kind of perception skill due to Jacob and William both mentioning it. In fact, they fucked up by getting close enough that even the out-of-it Jake noticed them.

“He should have known they were coming; you nerfed him just to make a fight.”

I think I already addressed that he didn’t expect them to come at all above. But should he have sensed them coming before he did? Yes, of course, he should. He even blames himself for not doing so. He focused way too much on the conversation and the people in front of him. With his mental state weakened from learning how many of his former colleagues (especially Casper) were dead, his abilities didn’t function properly. Why?

Because I was trying to do that whole “show, don’t tell”-thing to display that while his sphere and bloodline is quite overpowered usually, it doesn’t function properly when he is not stable mentally. He can focus to the point of not registering anything from the sphere. This was already shown during the challenge dungeon, where he concentrated inwardly at the happenings in his own body to the point where he didn’t register anything around him. It isn’t like an ordinary skill, but far more reliant on himself as a person. If he feels weak, it gets weaker; when he is confident, it stays strong.

Jake has been “in the zone” for a long-ass time. Fighting and killing predicable beasts or doing alchemy. He has also always been the aggressor, except for the night he got ambushed. The only other time than that where he was attacked was versus the party of five, and if anyone remembers, then back then, he also didn’t exactly respond the most optimally right away. In other words, he is good at being the hunter but gets put off his game when he is the hunted. There were just too many people in this scenario, and he didn’t have the time or opportunity to react adequately.

He isn’t a machine who will automatically make the best decision in any fight. He is flawed, and if only relying on his instincts, he wouldn’t even have escaped that fight at all as he would have likely stayed and fought if he just followed it, only proceeding to flee if he got too hurt and his survival instinct kicked in. His instincts don’t tell him the best reaction; it’s often just a knee-jerk reaction instead. While dodging the first attack from Hayden was easy enough, at that point, he was still too jumbled up mentally to even register that it was time to get the hell out of there.

This entire series of chapters was very much a learning experience for Jake to not trust others so easily, even if he did believe he could. As others have pointed out, then we kind of knew this was a flaw, and the Viper even tried to point it out earlier, but Jake had to learn it the hard way.

I am sure there are many other things, but this is just some of those I wanted to address… like why Hayden as an example… something I cut a big part of a chapter out to remove as many would just have called it ‘filler.’

Could this whole part of the story be A LOT better? It sure could, to the level where I am not even sure if I should continue posting. I feel like the story gets a lot better later on (in around 10 chapters, I feel like it really beings to pick up), but I am not sure how the hell to get there when every chapter posted results in the rating dropping negative comments. There are many things people will call “stupid” that don’t make sense for a long time to come…

So… what now?

Quite honestly, if I didn’t have a Patreon up already, the chapter yesterday would have been the last, or I would at least have turned off all comments. While there was a lot of very valid criticism and many things I can admit was just stupid or incredibly poorly explained (likely the majority of it), it does get a bit too much when nearly every comment is negative and calling everything stupid, insulting me, or just announcing that they are dropping the story. Even posting this chapter, I get anxious. I can wholeheartedly say that while I enjoy writing it, posting it has been horrible.

I can’t stop myself from focusing on the negative comments, and even when 90% are positive, that handful of negative comments or bad ratings still make me feel like shit. I would continue writing it no matter what, but posting it just sucks… I don’t think I have ever been in a worse mental state than I am currently. I doubt everything I do, and I have come to believe that the novel may actually be as shitty as the comments make it out to be.

I would especially like to shout out the commenter, who said: “what a retard you are.” Yeah, I didn’t even bother to remove that one…

At this point, this is just rambling, but honestly, what can I do… I am not asking anyone to do anything or stop criticizing the novel; a lot of it has been extremely beneficial. I just wanted to try and explain some things and hopefully make some people think the story is less shitty… I also just felt like I needed to do something after the last couple of chapters.  Just… if you have no confidence in my ability to write the story and don’t enjoy it, it would properly be for the best to stop reading. Because as it is now, it feels like both you and I hate how things are.

Anyway, here is the chapter. If there will be one tomorrow, I honestly don’t know. I planned on posting one every day this week because of the Writathon, but at the same time, I would like to not feel like shit the entire weekend from checking my author dashboard (yes, I know I should stop, but I can’t).

Anyway, I don't plan on ranting like this again... but who knows. Heck, it will likely only make things worse.

TL:DR: I try to explain stuff, and I feel like shit every time I post a chapter. Last rant for a while...

Jake didn’t know how much time had passed before he opened his eyes once more. Or, to be more accurate, he saw out of his already open eyes. He found himself in a rather lovely-looking room. Scratch that understatement; it looked like the presidential suite of some over-the-top fantasy world.

Gaudy, clearly magical, chandeliers hung from the ceiling, with every piece of furniture overly ornated with extremely detailed carvings - all of them depicting a snake.

“So, how long ya gonna stand in the middle of my bedroom before saying hi?” a voice said, startling Jake out of his stupor.

Turning around, he saw a scaled man, now wearing quite a nice-looking outfit. It was a combination of a modern suit and a more old-school style. If he had to put his hand on it, it looked like something Dracula might wear.

“How did I get here?” Jake asked frowning. He couldn’t remember what he was doing before this and got a headache whenever he tried to.

“Now, this is where it gets interesting. Our connection from the blessing is two-way, you know? Though this is a first for me for someone to appear like this. Just know that you did this,” the Malefic Viper said, chuckling as he added. “Though I did help a little bit.”

Bringing a hand to his head, Jake still had no idea what the hell had happened. Turning to the Viper, he asked. “Where exactly are we?”

“My bedroom,” The Malefic Viper said, still smiling. “More accurately, we are in the headquarter of my little Order. The great, the magnificent Order of the Malefic Viper!”

Spreading out his arms with a goofy smile, Jake could only chuckle a bit. “Very humble of you.”

“Well, a certain amount of ego is certainly required for one to ascend to godhood,” the Malefic Viper said, as he took a seat at the table. “Come on, take a seat, and calm down a bit.”

Following the advice, Jake sat down on the chair as he rested his head in his hands. What exactly was he doing before he got here? He remembered wanting to meet his colleagues. But after that, everything seemed all murky to him.

He had made contact… met them… ambush… Jake suddenly opened his eyes wide as he remembered. He had been betrayed. He had run. He got through a barrier, and the final thing he remembered was charging into a group of three raptors before he blacked out.

“I died,” Jake muttered as he looked towards the ground. “I fucking died.”

The Malefic Viper looked at him a bit as he laughed out loud. “So, is this the afterlife you expected?”

Jake, still somber, looked up at him. “So… this is what happens when you die? You appear in a gaudy room with a god cracking jokes?”

“Well, that entirely depends on a lot of things, but yes, a blessing can affect where your soul ends up after death,” he answered. “Though no, unless extraordinary circumstances represent themselves, death means death. End of story.”

“Does dying during the tutorial count as such extraordinary circumstances?” Jake asked bitterly.

“Sadly not. At least I have never encountered it,” the Viper said. “Death, no matter how it happens, will result in you leaving the tutorial for good and all rewards lost. Besides anything directly related to circumventing death, dying in combat results in just that: Death.”

He made a big silly smile at Jake as he finished, the archer looking back confused at him. Until it finally hit him.

“Wait, what the fuck, I'm not dead?” Jake asked as he perked up, staring daggers at the Viper. “What the hell, man?”

The Malefic Viper answered by laughing hysterically at Jake's outburst. “You should have seen yourself! Pure gold! Pure gold!”

His amusement was shortlived, however, as he turned severe. “This doesn’t make your situation good, though. Your body is in a shitty state, and your lifeforce is unbelievably weak. Your physical body is likely in a very vulnerable state right now.”

Jake, hearing that, also turned serious. “What can I do? And how the hell am I here if I am not dead?”

“You can’t really do anything except trying to calm down. Your body is healing by itself; you just have to not stress and inhibit said regeneration. As to why you are here… because you chose to. Or at least part of you did. Not something I have experienced before with someone of such low rank,” the Malefic Viper said, as he continued the lengthy explanation.

“Karmic projections aren’t that uncommon, but the way you did it is exceedingly risky. One could say that a part of your soul has traveled through the karmic bond created by the blessing I gave you last time we met. I would recommend not doing it this way again, as if the other party has even the faintest of nefarious intent towards you, crushing your projection, and thus the fragment of your soul would be extremely easy. The damage to your soul wouldn’t be easily healed from that and can result in many negative side-effects.”

Jake couldn’t help but get a bit scared upon hearing that. “How the hell did I manage to sever a part of my soul and send it here?”

“On that matter, I can’t help you. Well, I could, but I am not going to. Methods to do things like that are not exactly common knowledge,” the Malefic Viper said as he shook his head. “Perhaps you simply sought to seek refuge somewhere and accidentally made your way here with a part of your soul? Just a guess.”

That certainly was a possibility when Jake thought about it. Perhaps his instincts had taken over and, in desperation, somehow managed to do it. Which also kind of was an example of how his instincts were just that: Instincts. It was fast kneejerk reactions and a powerful sense of intuition. This meant that he far from always made the best decisions when he relied purely on his instincts. Especially not in complicated matters.

Perhaps coming here was a mistake. At least Jake didn’t think the Malefic Viper had any evil intentions towards him, so he shouldn’t be in any danger. But making his way back to his body and the tutorial was, without a doubt, his top priority.

“Can I return to my body somehow? Or is my consciousness split or something? How exactly does this work?” Jake asked.

“Nah, things aren’t like that. Whenever your body is ready, you will naturally return. I made sure of that. It’s also just a small part; it ain’t like you made a clone,” the scaled god answered. “Just wait and hope someone doesn’t finish off your body in the meantime.”

Jake didn’t get why the guy was still in such a merry mood despite his possible demise at any moment. “I barely dare ask, but… what would happen if someone did that?”

“Poof!” The Viper said as he made a small cloud of smoke appear from his hands, “and you’re gone.”

“So… death?” Jake asked, sour at the showoff in front of him.

“Yep. Permanent,” he answered. “Though don’t worry, I have a feeling you'll be just fine.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jake decided to trust him for now. “So… what am I supposed to do in the meantime?” Jake asked.

“Well, since you dared to intrude into my personal chambers, the least you can do is to entertain me a bit,” the Malefic Viper said jokingly. “What have you been up to since passing the challenge dungeon? And did ya get any nice rewards?”

“I guess It was decent…” Jake began as he explained what he had been doing since their last meeting. To his surprise and embarrassment, the Malefic Viper had heard his small prayer before ingesting the unholy amalgamation of poison he used to pass the challenge dungeon.

He told of returning to the tutorial forest but quickly found that there really wasn’t much to talk about, so they did like their last sit-down and started discussing broader subjects and themes instead.

Elsewhere in the Order, a green-haired woman sat meditating. Opening her eyes, she sighed as she thought of how to handle the Malefic Viper’s return. The banquet had gone well, and the proper ceremony would begin in only a few days.

She couldn’t help but chuckle a little at the thought of the ignorant ones that the Malefic Viper had talked to the day prior and their surprise upon discovering that they had conversed directly with their Patron.

Getting up, she decided to walk the halls. She was the Hall Master after all. The Lord Protector had returned to his realm and had begun making his own preparations together with his direct followers. The ceremony would be grand for sure.

As she walked the hall, she eventually ended up close to her Patron's chambers. Not wanting to disturb him, she prepared to leave but heard voices coming from the room.

“That sounds utterly idiotic of you,” an unknown voice said.

Surprised, the Hall Master stayed to listen. She knew of everyone with access to this area of the Order, and yet she didn’t recognize this one. She considered scanning the room with her mana but feared that it would offend the Viper.

More Importantly,… who was this person speaking to? Could it be their god? No, impossible, no one would dare-

“Hey, give me a break. I thought it sounded like a great plan at the time,” she heard the Malefic Viper answer as he laughed.

“If the goal was to get slapped across the face, then sure,” she heard the other person answer, also laughing.

Frozen she stood there… was this person… mocking her god? Had another god entered without her knowledge? But what god would dare come here and talk so casually with the Viper himself?

No, she had to investigate, even if her life depended on it. Perhaps it was a test to see her devotion by not allowing slights to his honor? Yes, that had to be it.

With great resolve, she made her way to the room. She already decided to enter, but teleporting in would still be a bit too disrespectful.

As she was about to knock on the door, it opened, revealing the happenings within. Two people were sitting at a small table. No, one god and a… projection? She felt the faint aura of the Viper himself coming from the conjured image, but the aura it gave off was of a different person.

“Ah, Jake, this is Viridia, the big boss of my Order. Well, Snappy and I not included. Boss of the mortals, I guess, would be most accurate,” he said, as the projection also turned to look at her.

Jake and the woman looked at each other as both froze.

To Jake, she looked… impossible. Green hair, glowing yellow eyes, and a face that would put any model from Earth to shame. Quite frankly, she looked far too perfect for it to be natural. Perhaps she had a hidden skill or something, but Jake felt like the only reasonable response would be to show loyalty towards her.

Luckily his bloodline didn’t really care for that, so he managed to stay seated.

Viridia, on the other hand, was equally surprised. This person was Jake, her Patron’s supposed ‘friend’. Obviously, the man was weak, but she got a weird feeling as she looked into his eyes. She couldn’t quite describe it, but if she had to compare it to something, it would be a lesser feeling of reverence, not unlike what she felt when she was in the presence of her Patron.

It was the result of the True Blessing without a doubt. The blessing on top of the massive benefits it already granted was also a message. That he was chosen. Most holders were known as popes, prophets, saints, and champions. It was a way to mark the most critical mortal by a god. Which thoroughly made Jake an outlier.

“Eh, nice to meet you,” Jake said.

“This servant greets the chosen one,” Viridia said as she knelt, surprising Jake.

“Aaaand she made it awkward,” the Malefic Viper laughed with faux annoyance. “Come on, take a seat. We were discussing how to handle rejection when your former crush decides to try and kill you in cold blood.”

“And the people I thought were my friends,” Jake added, as he seemed a bit downtrodden. “Though I still think it is all based on some stupid misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstanding or not. It wouldn’t matter if you died now, would it?” the Viper said, shaking his head. “What’s done is done; the goal now is to move forward. And get your sweet revenge, of course. You fucked up this time, stupidly walking into an obvious ambush like a moron, and got smashed. Learn from it, and don't do it again.”

"I don't know... I just thought that I cou-"

"Well, you thought wrong. Stop being so naive and trusting. You're far too weak to act like that."

Turning to Viridia once more, who was still standing there unsure what to do, the Malefic Viper ordered.

“Take a seat, and give us your thoughts. A female perspective is always valuable.”

Rushing as if a scared rabbit, she hurried to sit down as she tried to calm herself down and formulate a response. This situation was far too informal for her taste, and she couldn’t help but get nervous. Steeling herself, she managed to squeeze out: “I believe the advice of the Patron to be the best thing to do.”

Shaking his head, the Malefic Viper sighed to himself inwardly. Devout followers were nice to have, but they made for terrible conversation partners. Turning back to Jake, he continued.

“Jake, what do you want?”

“I want to return to my body and hopefully not die, I guess?” he answered.

“No, what is your goal? What do you want in the long run?” the Viper asked once more.

What do I want? He hadn’t really thought much of it. He wanted to survive, of course, and that had been the main thing everything revolved around. He had always been a rather one-track person, focusing on the matter at hand first and foremost. The looming threat of death had, of course, been a good motivator not to get too lost in thought in the dungeon.

But thinking on it more in-depth, why did he want to survive? What for? Besides the basic instinct to survive that every living being had. What did he want to achieve? Right now, he wanted to somehow clear up the misunderstanding with Jacob and the others... or did he really?

He did want to get revenge on that red-robed bastard with the spear along with Richard and that metal caster.

If thinking long term goals, however… he wanted to find more challenges and fights. Not just fight weak or scheming prey, but powerful enemies. He craved the near-euphoric feeling he got from fighting the ambushers on that first night.

He wanted to overcome challenges and climb higher in the system. See exactly how powerful he and his enemies could become. He wanted to improve.

“I want to do whatever I want,” Jake answered after thinking deeply on the matter.

“True freedom is indeed a worthy goal,” the Malefic Viper said as he nodded. “But what do you want to do with this freedom?”

“I want to be able to see what this multiverse has to offer. Challenge myself and see exactly how far I can go. Or at least go out in a cool way,” Jake answered with a cheeky smile.

The Viper returned the smile: “Then don’t allow yourself to be chained down by your past. Stand above all of them. Schemes and planning, in the end, fall before absolute power. Reach a level where your word becomes truth; misunderstanding dispelled with a wave of your hand. Your enemies either cowering in fear or dead. To strive for progress is to keep moving forward ruthlessly.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jake laughed as he looked towards the ceiling as it started getting blurrier by the moment.

“I think my body wants its soul back,” he said, as he stood up from the chair, the Viper doing the same.

“Take care, my friend. May we meet again soon,” the god said, adding. “Let’s hope it’s not due to you being near death, though. Stay true to yourself, but stop being stupid.”

With a final fist bump with the god, he nodded. “Thanks for the talk.”

“Just remember, Jake,” The Viper said, as he turned unusually severe, letting his aura wash over the room. “Freedom doesn’t come without power, and power doesn’t come cheap. Strive for it. Hunger for it. Make it, so you are never betrayed again. So no one dares to. And if they do… crush them like the pathetic ants they are. You will find yourself on a mountain of corpses. Be sure you’re the only one standing on the top.”

These were the last words Jake heard as his projected body disappeared as the soul fragment returned from whence it came. Turning to the even more astonished Hall Master who had just silently been observing everything, he smiled.

“So, what ya think?”

However, she didn’t hear the words as she was shaking from the pure killing intent in his aura that still lingered. For all of his antics and unusual personality, she had nearly forgotten.

The Malefic Viper had never been a benevolent god.

A note from Zogarth

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