A note from B. A. Baker (Thedude3445)



We all know how this story goes. Heroes from a small village in the middle of nowhere get put into a brand new world after bandits destroy their home, thrust into a huge world-ending plot that involves giant fights and political machinations and adventures with lots of blue boxes and stats.

There was a village deep in the jungles of Alabaster, a small farming community known as Ghebville.

The people here farmed fruits like grapes, honeydews, canteloupes, and dragon fruits, and shipped them across Alabaster to score massive profits. Their business plan was something like this:

Step 1. Buy seeds from Seedmaster Earl.

Step 2. Plant those seeds and make sure they grow well—cultivate them.

Step 3. Harvest the fruits that come from those seeds.

Step 4. Find prospective purchasers for those fruits such as supermarkets, restaurants, or direct buyers.

Step 5. Set up an ordering system and send the ordering system to those people.

Step 6. Allow for the forms to come back and let people place their orders.

Step 7. Ship those fruits to the buyers.

Step 8. ?????

Step 9. Profit!

It was a hallowed nine step plan that the entire city of Ghebville followed like a code of honor. Other than the divine system of Soul Cultivation and devotion to the Babylon Sisters, there was nothing higher in all of Ghebville than to produce the fruits of hard labor (literally) and sell them to the uppity yippie urban dwellers with enough disposable income to afford fruits.

They lived in a massive treehouse village which spanned the mighty Tree Trees, a variety of tree which treed so much that they could support massive structures being built on them, even up six stories in the sky. They farmed in the spaces below and completely avoided the deadly giant beasts that lurked the jungle floor.

It was a peaceful, idyllic life as long as the outside economy was strong enough to support the importation of many overpriced fruits.

But the young people of Ghebville were not always so keen on following in the footsteps of their ancestors, due to being young idiots and sadly not Young Arrogant Masters in any way.

At this moment, cultivating silently in his room was Level 15, age 18 (his birthday was last week), soft-minded Xi Gua Lao. He sat, hands resting against his temples (as if to unlock the “temple” of his Soul Palace which had not fully formed), and stared at his “Fantasy Rush 2112” poster to give himself a place to focus his concentrations on.

He concentrated so hard this morning that his daos collected into a spirit teardrop, and metaphysically fell and rippled into the soul waters below. His soul, for one gleaming moment, joined with the currents of the rivers of all of life, and he could feel the entire Soul Realm weighing on his shoulders. He was like a God with no power. A Daoless Deity.

...And then all of that concentration broke when a loud clattering of pots and pans rang out downstairs.

He collapsed onto the ground (he had started levitating kind of like Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi) and groaned loudly at the end of his cultivation for the morning coming from such a stupid source.

“I was just about to reach Level 16...” he muttered.

Ah, well. It was getting later in the morning and it was nearly time for him to start his actual day away from his hobby of reaching divine status. He picked himself off the ground and plopped into his bed, where it was time to put some actual clothes on and begin his day.

Xi Gua Lao was a nice kid, most thought. He was pretty nice and not that rude. Even when his parents would often fight a lot and get in screaming matches over the correct way to cook Tomato Ramen. Sometimes it would devolve into Soul Combat, something that was extremely rare yet all too frequent in this young man’s broken household.

Also, he liked video games and anime so he was still really relateable to readers.

In fact, he was even more relateable than we thought. Eighteen years ago, before he was born on Wuweizi, he was a human living a life in the rich, detailed world of Atlanta, Georgia in the year 2095, where he was a member of a rocket biker gang and committed heists even as a teenager. His cyber-buddies got him into this brand new VRMMO known as “The Tower of Somnus,” where he soon became one of the top players and overall stopped committing heists due to investing so much time into going pro as a PVP master.

He was so good at the game that he defeated the in-game demon king and leveled himself up to 150, wherein he was soon tasked with an even deadlier mission—going back in time to his younger self, then using a magical spell to go back even further in the past so that he could meet a young woman named Tabitha Moore in the year 1998 and prevent her from falling into a lot of the traps that could have ruined the rest of her life.

Once Tabitha Moore was safe, she was taken into 2095, where she would be trained in the art of cyber-cultivation and become one of the scariest warriors in all of cyber-Earth Atlanta, Georgia. She apprehended the heinous villain Morgan Harding and their robot buddy R8PR, and then together Tabitha and Xi Gua Lao would topple the mighty empire of Zorian.

A few years had passed, and Tabitha Xi (they had gotten married and had three children) had been promoted into a much higher rank as a cyber-cultivating military officer, and used that as a spingboard into elected office; she became the Mayor of Atlanta for six terms from 2102 to 2126, and was the second-most-popular mayor in Atlanta’s long history, just behind Jimmy Carter who served one term from 2021 to 2026. Xi Gua Lao, on the other hand, was off-world on an assignment on the space colony Salvos, for a mission he could not disclose even to his wife.

And in that time... Tragedy struck. The Ghosthounds, a terrorist organization comprised of a bunch of anti-cultivators that used cyber-cultivation to build up nega-skills that could absorb the stats of all Tower of Somnus players and use them against them, set their sights directly on Atlanta. And it was a bloodbath.

Heroes and villains were made during the six-year Ghosthound Siege. We had the bold heroics of people like Eryk Solbourne, who sacrificed themselves in the early days to defeat the Ghosthounds’ mega-weapons. We had monstrous threats like Broccoli Bunch, who massacred tens of thousands of innocent civilians for reasons lost to history. And there were more nuanced people like Ryoka the Runner, respected by many but hated by most.

But one character of this epic saga with no nuance was Illea Spears the kickboxing traitor who served as one of Tabitha Xi’s right-hand enforcers... but then assassinated her herself, after one long night of wine, emotions, and steamy scenes. It was unclear what led to this assassination, but the results were much more evident: the world collapsed. The Ghosthounds had broken the siege and conquered Atlanta.

The Tower of Somnus was no more, and the Forge of Destiny had been shut down for good.

Once Xi Guo Lao arrived back on Earth (he was delayed because he had to go all the way out past Neptune to find his father who was stranded and sending back chaotic EMP waves to Earth that could have destabilized the whole planet’s economy; this is a reference to the obscure movie Ad Astra), he learned the truth about his home, his wife, and his favorite VRMMO, and it broke him.

It sent him on such a dark path that he vowed eternal revenge and became a furious rebel warrior, dedicated to destroying each and every Ghosthound, no matter the cost.

Over the next decades, using a tactic invented by Ian “Loop Warrior” Dunai, Xi Guo Lao would use his powers of skill and might to topple Ghosthounds without the upper ranks realizing it. He would disguise his murders as accidents, or disappearances, and do it in an unrecognizable pattern so that nobody could see what was truly going on. He had help from the Goldthirst Company, a fellow rebel group led by Threedak and Cali “Crimson Crow” Kodama, but most of his work was solo revenge of the highest order.

Eventually, the Ghosthounds would indeed learn about the horrific things that Xi Guo Lao was doing to their ranks, but it would be too late. Aural Automation, the AI algorithm designed to run the Ghosthounds’ liberal technocratic meritocracy, had failed to operate one day... because Xi Guo Lao had destroyed the entire system. The entire cyber-internet had gone dark once and for all.

The man freed all the political prisoners of Atlanta, including Jin Rou the rebel, Vainqueur “Dragon” Jackson, and Jimmy Carter himself, and coerced them all into joining the Goldthirst Company to continue destroying the Ghosthounds as much as they could.

Absolute chaos ensued. President Shoggoth of the Graven Party was assassinated in much the same way as his predecessor, Mayor Tabitha Xi (he thought that his advisor Walter Tye was his friend... and he was NOT). And the Ghosthounds were soon leaderless, all except for the tainted, un-respected Illea Spears, who everyone on Earth knew that Xi Guo Lao was aiming to kill last. Now that she was the last high-ranking Ghosthound left, though, she was the Queen. A reluctant, scared, hiding queen, who was also pretty ugly if we want to be honest about it.

Thus began Operation Re: Monarch. A full-frontal assault led by General Heather Moreall in orders, but definitely led by Xi Guo Lao in spirit. A two-month long battle that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, but ultimately led to the liberation of the entire planet from the Ghosthound scourge.

The most important scene, though, was when our two heroes, Xi Guo Lao and Jimmy Carter, dressed head to toe in battle armor, entered the Ghosthound throne room and confronted Queen Spears. She had anti-cultivated so much at this point that she outclassed almost all Earthen Cyber-Daoists, and had almost become a void-like husk, sort of like that really cool part of She-Ra season 3 that you all remember because everyone’s seen She-Ra by this point.

Jimmy Carter, ten foot long sword in tow, advanced towards the black-and-white villain, but Xi Guo Lao placed his arm in front of him and gave a simple nod. Jimmy knew at that moment exactly what was to go down here, and gave a simple nod in return.

It was a one-on-one duel between our two lifelong enemies. Xi Guo Lao, spacefaring master of the VRMMO, and Queen Spears, the kickboxing traitor with an immense anti-cultivation power. Spears brought the Mighty Sword of Sylar Wershin, a multi-dimensional weapon that could split an atom in half with its sheer sharpness. Xi Guo Lao brought only his anger and his fists.

And let the record show that Xi Guo Lao devestated his enemy so badly that she was retroactively altered through all of history. Her name was actually Utpal Sen in the old version of reality, and she was a man, until the power of anger and grief so utterly set upon her that that old self was erased and replaced by the Queen Spears we knew at the end.

She was killed, of course, in this time, but not before being isekai’d to a new realm known as “Skyclad World,” a fun fantasy realm of adventuring and pirates and cloud-faring airships. Xi Guo Lao couldn’t have been more furious, and yet... he had no way of tracking her down through the dimensional planes. Not that he knew of, at least.

He became King of Atlanta in the wake of the Ghosthounds’ final defeat. He was reluctant to accept such an honor except that the Goldthirst Company bestowed it upon him in the spoils of war. He suspected that Jimmy Carter and Threedak were plotting behind his back to turn him into a puppet while they controlled all of the real power, but if they were truly doing such a thing he didn’t get a chance to ask, because he had his entire government purged anyway. Only Jimmy Carter escaped to live another day; everyone else who had supported his takeover was executed and erased from the historical record except for what archivists would later discover in the ruins of the lost societies once civilization collapsed after World War IV.

Over time, Xi Guo Lao descended into madness. His distrust grew of anyone around him, and, like an overgrowth of viney tendrils reaching into the core of his being, his grief for Tabitha Xi was transformed into a bitter resentment for the entire world.

Atlanta soon came to cover the entire Earth just as the spread of a virus (the Atlanta Metropolitan Area) often comes to reach even the furthest corners of the Earth. This was simply an extension of the natural order of things based on extrapolating data on the growth of Atlanta that had been consistently done in surveys in the early 21st century; its exponential growth had simply continued until there was no part of Earth left that was not Atlanta.

The planet, too, was renamed Atlanta, and other than the runaway Jimmy Carter and his clan of holdout rebels, the entire world was controlled with a tight grip by King Xi.

Xi Guo Lao set his sights on the rest of the world. Salvos was acting up again, and Lao had seen enough of Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans to know that other planets could be very deadly to Atlanta if they returned to the planet. A galactic conquest was in the works...

And then King Xi accidentally got hit by a truck and died.

The Babylon Sisters found him in the afterlife and reincarnated him here on Wuweizi, where he lived life from birth and unfortunately did not possess the mental abilities to fully reckon with these intense memories of a life he used to control, but they still floated around in his mind anyway. He reckoned that if he reached a high enough Soul Crystal level here on Wuweizi, he would unlock the secrets of his Atlanta life and possibly the secrets of cyber-cultivation too.

But he could barely do normal cultivation, so it seemed pretty useless to wish for all of that...

With a sigh, Xi Guo Lao stepped downstairs and fixed himself breakfast. It was another boring day in the town of Ghebville, this quaint treehouse village dedicated to farming fruits and sometimes vegetables and being relatively boring.

If only...

If only he could discover the world outside of this deep dark jungle and explore everything, he would certainly discover a pathway to making his young adult life more fulfilling. Something to go beyond the life of a farmer that he seemed destined to enter.

But that day would probably never come, and he was ultimately fine with it. He could become a hero without leaving his hometown.

Xi Guo Lao’s younger sister, Hei Mei, burst through the front door, slamming it open (yes, slamming it open, as physically impossible as that may seem), and screeching to the entire family, “Guess what I found?”

“What?” said all three other family members at the exact same moment, in-sync with each other.

“I found a recipe for a new carrot-cantaloupe soup!”

“Wow, awesome,” they all said simultaneously at the same time.

“And we’re all gonna cook it together.” Hei Mei made a cute pose like with the peace sign and sticking her tongue out, some very obvious bait to the creepier of readers who would soon begin to obsess over this character and be angry every time she failed to appear in a chapter.

Xi Guo Lao, who was extremely protective of Hei Mei in a very controlling way, would never have allowed such a thing. But he knew not of the level of creepiness that readers would soon reach, so he was not ready for it just yet. Instead, he was merely ready to be annoyed by his younger sister while she related to all of the mostly dysfunctional family members how to make this soup she heard about.

He sighed and accepted that today was not going to be the day when he became some sort of heroic cultivation master.

Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

A note from B. A. Baker (Thedude3445)

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About the author

B. A. Baker (Thedude3445)

Bio: I like to watch movies.

Avatar art by Andrew Hussie

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