Somewhere, a long time ago, a group of game developers sat in a room together. They knew they needed more content in their game to expand the playtime, but they had no idea what to add. Technology was limited, and there were only so many mechanics to add when all the controllable characters could do was to move up, down, and to the sides.

Then suddenly, one of them got an idea. ”What if we make our character able to fly?”

But no, that was quickly shot down. The movements would be too fast, and it would be too hard to control. Once more, they were stumped until someone else spoke up.

”What if instead of flying, we make it swimming…”

And thus, one of the worst ideas ever was conceived.

At least that is how Jake imagined the absolute moron who thought up water levels did it. No one liked water levels. They always sucked. Jake believed this was inherently down to how water affected movement and limited how one could usually control the game.

Water had to slow down movement, and while it allowed lateral movement, this was often slow and frustrating and incredibly ‘floaty’ due to it being in the water. It also meant enemies could attack from more directions, and overall just caused a lot of issues. However, perhaps the biggest obstacle was how one often lost their usual means of combat.

Suppose you killed stuff by jumping on it, then becoming unable to jump made that difficult. If you shoot a gun, the chances are that it doesn’t work underwater. Swinging a melee weapon was also often limited. In conclusion? You didn’t only have severely inhibited movement underwater, you also can’t fight properly.

Now, how does this relate back to Jake? Quite obviously so, actually. Because Jake currently found himself submerged in water, having no idea what the fuck he was supposed to do. He was just floating there, in the middle of nothing. Yet, for the first time, he also experienced something he hadn’t in a long time…


Jake couldn’t see anything in his surroundings. It wasn’t limited to his eyes either. His Sphere of Perception was being overloaded with information, the mana inherent in the water so powerful. It filled the sphere, making it seem almost solid to his senses.

To his eyes, it was also utter darkness, which was new to him. Usually, he could see even without any light. Entirely sealed off caves weren’t any issues due to his high perception, but he truly was blinded under this water.

For a brief moment, he panicked and began moving around, trying to find something to hold onto. However, he quickly found there was nothing and no one. He was utterly alone, trapped in nothingness.

Constant pressure was upon him from the water too. It didn’t deal any damage to him, but he felt it. Also, while he didn’t have to breathe, being unable to do so was incredibly uncomfortable for him. Jake had never had any issues with water and could swim with no problems… but this wasn’t okay with him.

Calm down,he told himself as he tried to stop himself from moving sporadically. His instincts told him to get out of the water and find solid ground. He felt exposed. Jake closed his eyes as he entered meditation and attempted to do what he had done in the Forgotten Sewers dungeon with all the dark mana and acclimate himself to the environment, filtering out the mana in the water.

Yet shortly after he closed his eyes, he was thrown out of meditation by his danger sense activating. His eyes shot open, and he moved to try and defend. The blade appeared in his hand but moved incredibly slowly through the water as he wanted to raise it and block the incoming blow.

He failed.

A warm feeling and a sting of pain were felt from his one arm as something had hit him. He had been cut, Jake knew that, but he didn’t know by what or who. Jake felt more and more unsettled as he felt something come by him again, not attacking this time.

The water made him feel like he was moving in slow motion. Taking out his bow was also utterly out of the question, as how the hell was he supposed to shoot an arrow while submerged? It would be an utter waste of time to try to.

By now, he also noticed something else with his wound. It kept stinging, and soon he noticed some foreign energy invade his body. It was venom. Jake frowned as he thought of what to do and summoned his wings to try and use them to move around.

He could feel something still move around in his sphere. He couldn’t properly see it, only notice the mana be subtly displaced at times as something fast moved by him. Jake once more tried to filter out what he assumed was water-affinity mana, but the moment he closed his eyes, his danger sense activated again.

Jake once more tried to block, and his time he was partly successful. He released a blast of mana from his body, hitting the creature attacking him just as it came close. It was repelled for a brief moment as it began circling him again. Believing he had found a temporary coping mechanism, Jake felt relief until he suddenly felt a sense of danger again, this time from two directions at once.

There is more than one.

Gritting his teeth, Jake released his presence and infused it with mana to try and get a better understanding of the situation. When he did so, he suddenly became able to see a bit more of his surroundings as some of the mana was displaced. However, he also felt a severe drain on his resources. The water pressed down on not only him but everywhere his presence now dominated, wearing it down and forcing Jake to choose between deactivating it or risk running out of mana within less than half an hour.

Jake felt forced to choose the former, but not before one final push. He channeled more mana into Pride of the Malefic Viper and also summoned a net of arcane mana. When the next creature came to attack him, Jake was ready.

The creature zoomed towards him, and at the final moment, Jake manipulated the net of mana to be positioned in front of him. At the same time, he angled his body, allowing his foe to penetrate his stomach with its attack. He felt like he was pierced with a sword as he was stabbed through. The net of mana was wrapped around his foe as he tried to grab hold of it with his hands.

He felt something slippery squirm, but he managed to keep hold of it with the net. The wound on his stomach got worse as it moved back and forth. Jake raised his blade and stabbed it through the creature to make it stop, but found that it only made things worse.

Finally, he managed to wrestle it into a position where he could place his hands on it without slipping. He began channeling Touch of the Malefic Viper as the creature struggled. Yet he just kept going, the wound in his stomach growing and more and more venom being injected into him.

With a final push using Touch, he felt the creature that attacked him stop struggling as a notification appeared

*You have slain [Deepgorge Terror – lvl 127]*

Jake stared at the notification for a while. Only level 127. A being several levels below himself had caused him quite a bad wound and left him reeling from its simple attacks. It wasn’t even some powerful variant. Heck, it just felt like a creature that was some weird mix between a swordfish and an eel. He knew he needed some way of fight back, and quick before-

His danger sense activated as he was forced to block a blow with his arcane barrier. The creature was repelled, but soon after, it activated again. Focusing on his surroundings, he saw signs of movement. Not just one or two either.

That is when Jake realized that he was truly in deep shit.

How exactly they had come to be in their current situation was a bit hard to understand. It all begun when they ended up at the same Vault and the nature of the Vault proved to have certain competitive elements. The Vault had opened up a large maze all around itself as the geography changed, and everyone had been teleported and split up.

Miranda had found herself alone, split from Sylphie and Carmen. The three of them had stayed together and done well, even clearing a few Vaults together. She had heard that Jake had an incident with details still unclear of what had gone down. All she knew was that it involved killing many people, and many of the smaller independent forces were now afraid of anything related to Haven.

She would handle that later. What mattered now was the situation in front of her.

Standing in a hallway, she was faced with a man she had only ever seen once before but heard of many times. His black combed-back slick hair and casual demeanor undoubtedly gave him an offputting presence as he stood there staring at her.

“Eron,” she said.

“Miranda, I believe?” the man asked rhetorically.

In a situation that mirrored the one where Jake met him, she was now faced with a conflict she would prefer to avoid. Under normal circumstances, they would have no reason to fight; however, this Vault fostered battles.

When they were teleported, each got a small mark that others could claim. These marks allowed the challenger to open certain passageways and grant them more access to deeper areas of the maze and eventually the Vault itself.

This Vault was perhaps the largest of the bunch with the most rewards, and from her estimates, in excess of a thousand now found themselves within. Miranda had already used a device given by Arnold to send out a distress signal, so she could only hope someone would come… because she wasn’t certain how to handle the supposedly immortal healer.

“An unfortunate situation and the peculiarity of the circumstances are not lost on me,” Eron spoke. “I hope we too can have a friendly bout like I did with Mr. Thayne.”

“I don’t suppose we can’t just go our separate ways?” Miranda asked, having a feeling her time in the Treasure Hunt was about to be over. Sadly one couldn’t simply hand over the mark from the Vault. It was only dropped by leaving the entire Hunt or dying.

She should know. She had already made a handful of people leave, which was also the reason why she knew Eron wouldn’t simply let her go. He also had quite a few marks too, but less than her.

“Sadly, I don’t believe that is a course of action worthy of consideration.”

With those words, he exploded in white flames and began manipulating his magic.

Miranda also used her own skills as she began retreating, having been warned by Jake of the odd affinity Eron possessed. She considered what to do as a voice suddenly entered her mind making her eyes open wide.

She was chased through the halls firing magic after Eron as he pursued her. Miranda turned a corner, with Eron turning it soon after. He found that the woman had erected a wall of stone to block his way. He burned through it within a minute, and on the other side found Miranda surrounded by a barrier. She had reached a dead-end.

“I can at least waste your time,” the woman said as Eron walked forth. He waved his hand as white flames blanketed the barrier of mana. Miranda kept up the shield as he slowly burned it down, waiting for her to run out of resources. Because he knew she would run out before him.

Seconds turned to minutes, and soon a quarter of an hour had passed. No one else had arrived during this time besides a woman who saw Eron and then swiftly ran the other way. That put his mind at ease as she would serve as a distraction if anyone else came down the same way. As they were at a dead-end, no one should come.

“I must admit, I expected more,” Eron said as the woman had only been defensive throughout it all, besides the first few minutes where she at least attempted to stop him. “One would think the City Lord of Haven had more tricks up her sleeve.”

“Trying my best here,” she answered as sweat pooled beneath her. Eron looked on, knowing she would soon reach her limit.

“A valiant attempt indeed if the purpose is only to waste my time,” he muttered.

A minute or so more passed.

“I do hope you are aware this is in no way personal,” Eron told the woman. He saw blood come out of her mouth and her one leg wobble as she kneeled down. “Just leave now, Ms. Wells.”

“Why would I?” he suddenly heard a female voice say. His eyes opened wide as he looked to the side and saw the City Lord of Haven standing on a magic circle more than ten meters away from him. Completely unscathed.

“How is-“ Eron begun as his vision shifted. The room expanded, showing the barrier of stone he had made a hole through gone, and a long hallway opened up in front of him where a dead-end had been. Beneath his feet was a magic circle that had not been there before. He whipped his head to see what he had been burning and saw a figure stand beside what looked like a metal mannequin with white flames on it.

The figure was one Eron recognized.

“The pleasure is all yours,” Sultan said with a smile, staring mockingly at Eron.

Eron knew himself and his powers very well. He feared very little and knew few things could truly harm him. However, that didn’t mean there weren’t people on Earth he would avoid at all cost. People with magic and methods he wasn’t sure how to handle or who countered him.

Sultan was one of these people.

The man took out a black notebook as the pages began turning. Eron couldn’t move. He tried to, but the command simply didn’t register. Instead of moving he chose to blow up his own body to escape.


White flames blanketed the hall, and he saw Sultan and Miranda both be pushed back. Eron could move again and swiftly retreated back where he had come from. He ran through the halls, seeing the two people chase him. He sent back a wave of white flames, making them both stop their pursuit. His escape continued for a minute or so until he turned several corners and felt like no one was chasing him anymore.

Eron sighed with relief as he resigned himself to-

“Verdant Feast Of the Lagoon’s Insatiable Depths.”

He hadn’t moved. He hadn’t self-destructed. The realization struck him as a hand reached up from the magic circle below him. The entire floor turned into murky green water as countless greedy hands pulled him under. He tried to explode again but still found himself frozen.

The last thing he saw before being pulled under was the smile of Sultan as he stood there with his black book.

Miranda collapsed with fatigue as the man disappeared, devoured by the ritual. She looked at Sultan, for the first time feeling a bit of fear towards the man. He had spoken in her mind and told her what to do, even being aware of her Feast ritual.

“Well, that’s that handled,” Sultan said as he closed his book.

“Will he die?” Miranda asked.

“Doubtful. However, the feast is self-perpetuating, correct? So let him be the fuel of his own prison till the Hunt ends,” Sultan said, shaking his head.

Miranda gave the man a look again, slowly nodding her head. A small pool of green water remained on the ground where Eron had once been, no other signs of him present.

“It should keep him trapped till the end of the Hunt.”

Miranda once more nodded. Eron could probably find a way to break free eventually if he was truly invincible, but it shouldn’t be possible in such a short amount of time.

Sultan himself stood there nonchalantly as he motioned for her if they should continue their journey. The slave woman also soon came up to them, having served to put Eron’s mind at ease before.

She couldn’t wrap her mind around how Sultan looked completely unbothered by how they had just put someone out of commission that even Jake had told her to avoid at all cost.

At that moment, Miranda had to admit… she was happy he was on their side.

A note from Zogarth

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