The Way Ahead

by

NorskDaedalus

Chapter 1: Today’s Forecast Includes a Miniscule Chance of Planeswalkers

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Confusion

An eternal void

An enormous tree, orbs glistening in its branches

A sea of crystal

Falling

Falling

FALLING

Edwin started awake, his senses telling him that he was absolutely falling this time, and not just reliving the same nightmare about falling off a ladder again, and, fairly annoyed, he grabbed his pillow… his pill- wait.

His eyes shot open as he couldn't feel his pillow, or bed, or anything save air rushing past him, panicking as it sank in that no, he wasn't experiencing a nightmare, but rather genuinely hurtling through the air at heart-dropping speeds. Far below him, what looked like rolling landscapes swept by, though getting larger as he continued to fall from the sky. His half-asleep, half-adrenaline-filled and hyper-awake brain struggled for a few futile seconds to comprehend what was happening before giving up and releasing him back into blissful unconsciousness.

 


 

Edwin started awake, his senses telling him that he was absolutely falling this time, and not just…

He sat up suddenly, experiencing Déjà vu for a… nightmare? The question mark could stay. He had no idea what was going on, but he knew for a fact that he hadn't fallen asleep in the middle of a clearing. And he certainly hadn't fallen asleep in an Edwin-sized crater in the middle of the woods. Did he even go to bed? He was still clothed and in his jacket, at least, and the last thing he remembered was… Being in the lab? That didn’t make sense. His memory had to have been wrong, considering there weren't any forests like this near the college, and the weather certainly wasn’t this warm this- or was it yesterday?- morning. Apparently, he was plucked away from his research and tossed into a forest with no local trees or other plants. Actually, he couldn’t recognize any of the plants. They were all familiar, but subtly different from what he was used to. Also, his pockets were empty and his watch was missing. Weird. Edwin attempted to poke at the fuzzy holes in his memory, but that only prompted a sudden headache to lance through his skull.

After a moment of pain, and a few more of disorientation, the jumbled mess of memories slowly started sorting themselves out. It didn't do anything to clear out his confusion, but it provided a bit more information, at least. He had been falling. Actually falling, that much was certain, and he had definitely passed out in midair, but he seemed… fine? It didn't feel like he had hit the ground at terminal velocity. A bit fuzzy, perhaps, but not like he was dead or had broken every bone in his body. In fact, other than a distinct sense of tingling across his entire body, he felt fine. It felt almost like his foot had fallen asleep, but strongly applied across his entire skin. Looking at his hand, he didn’t notice any apparent cause of the sensation, though when trying to touch his arm, there was a definite resistance. Furrowing his brow, Edwin pushed against the barrier surrounding his skin, trying to figure out what it was, and-

 

You have unlocked the Basic Mana Sense Skill!

Accept Skill? Y/N

Congratulations! For destroying a tree with no weapons, you have unlocked the Way of the Empty Hand path!

Congratulations! For felling a tree on your own, you have unlocked the Lumberjack path!

Congratulations! By surviving a skydive, you have unlocked the Daredevil path!

Congratulations! By venturing deep into the Verdant with no guide, you have unlocked the Explorer path!

Congratulations! For visiting a different continent, you have unlocked the World Traveler path!

Congratulations! For being the first to arrive in Joriah from an unknown world and making a Path for others to follow, you have unlocked the CharLimitCanttalkmuchNocluewhathappenedDidmybesttohelpyouli path!

Congratulations! For being involved in something which requires Moderator attention, you have unlocked the Path Less Traveled path!

Congratulations! For bringing a wholly novel language into existence, you have unlocked the Linguist path!

Congratulations! For coming to Joriah from another world, you have unlocked the Realm Traveler path!

ERROR RESOLVED

Apologies for any inconvenience.

Logs are being distributed to the appropriate individuals

Personalized compensation has been provided

ERROR

ERROR

Requesting Moderator Attention

FATAL ERROR.

Please stand by.

ERR-

ERROR

ERROR: Debug not

ERROR: Error loop detected. Attempting to fix

Congratulations! You have arrived in Joriah from -ERROR: Invalid Location. Reevaluating

Congratulations! - ERROR: User not found. Triggering user integration.

Congratulations! You - ERROR:

Congratulations! You have - ERROR: User logs not found

Congratulations! You have been -ERROR: Event not found. Reevaluating

Congratulations! You have arrived in Joriah from -ERROR: Invalid Location. Reevaluating

Congratulations! - ERROR: First log to user. Triggering user integration.

Tasvalika! Na kalsan tiehsal -ZEZEZE: Tor kollis. Sil vorlamilating new language. Success.

 

"What?"

Edwin recoiled, the strange sensation swiftly forgotten, as his vision was suddenly blocked- no, not blocked, he could still ignore the messages and see past them- crowded by the torrential influx of words. "Umm. What's this?" With no answer forthcoming, he took a second look at the words, "Hallucination?" he waved his hand through the last message, and it vanished, shrinking away at the touch, "Interactive hallucination? I don't think hallucinations can respond to touch, but maybe? Hm. Probably not a hallucination. Too coherent. Then, the barrier and the nightmare… am I in shock?” he felt his pulse, “No? My heart would be fluttering way more if I were, right? I think that’s how it works? Meh. So, not in shock, not a hallucination… maybe. Not worth treating this all as a hallucination, though.” He glanced back at the messages, “Different world? Moderators. Mana. They can’t make up if this is a computer sim or a fantasy world, can they? Hmm. I wonder if I should stop talking to myself.”

“Let’s take this one step at a time, bottom to top. Firstly, whatever this is doesn’t seem to have been familiar with English. Point for me being in another world. Second, I am apparently not the first person to arrive into this world, though it doesn’t look like any have come from Earth. So then… I’m probably alone, in that regard.” he sat in silence for a moment as he processed that. He may have not had that many ties back on Earth, but he still… okay, you know what? He wasn’t going to deal with that right now. Shove those emotions in a box, open it later. He could do that. Survive now, have emotional crises later.

“Lots of errors, and lots of Paths, whatever those are. They seem important. Hey, moderator guy! Can you hear me? Can you understand me? What is this? Can I get a tutorial? I’ll accept a really annoying fairy that won’t shut up if you’re out of everything else.” He didn’t get a response, to no real surprise, and dismissed most of his messages by waving his hand through them. The one exception was the single block of text that was asking for feedback of some kind.

 

You have unlocked the Basic Mana Sense Skill!

Accept Skill? Y/N

 

"So… mana. As in magic. Well, when in fantasy-land, do as the fantasians do? Accept." the prompt vanished as soon as he turned his thought towards accepting it, "Hm. Thought-based? Interesting." he mused, before re-focusing on the new notification.

 

Level Up! Basic Mana Sense

Level Up! Basic Mana Sense

Level Up! Basic Mana Sense

Level Up! Basic Mana Sense

Level Up! Basic Mana Sense

Basic Mana Sense

If it’s glowing and isn’t a mushroom in a cave, it’s probably magic

Detect nearby magic.

Increased range per level

 

Edwin immediately felt, well, not exactly better at feeling the barrier around his arm, but like the sensation had clicked in such a way he could instinctively recognize what it was- a thin layer of mana coating his entire body. He tried sensing any magic in his floating notifications, but, strangely, the glowing blue text was entirely invisible to his new sense. "So. Actual magic. And skills, which are apparently not magical? That doesn’t make sense. I pity the poor souls who have to maintain something like this, if it's global. Whoever it is seems a little sarcastic though, I approve. Still, I wonder, how do I see this sort of thing? Uhh… Skill list? Paths? Menu? Status?"

The last one seemed to do the trick, though he didn't quite get what he was expecting.

 

You have unlocked the Status Skill!

Accept Skill? Y/N

 

"Why would I not?" he mused, and the prompt seemed to treat that as an acceptance, as it resolved into a new message.

 

Name

Edwin

Age

Very Young

Race

Human?

Class

None

Attributes

None

Skills

Basic Mana Sense

Status

Paths

CharLimitCanttalkmuchNocluewhathappenedDidmybesttohelpyouli

Daredevil

Explorer

Linguist

Lumberjack

Path Less Traveled

Realm Traveler

Way of the Empty Hand

World Traveler

 

Level Up! Status

Status

For all you who aren’t good at introspection, fear not!

Call up a summary of your personal achievements.

Increased detail and greater customization per level

 

“Okay, that’s a lot. Very young? Why am I very..? Ooh. Time of system installation. Weird. All this computer-like stuff left me expecting numbers. Maybe that’s the ‘increased detail’? How do I even level this up, anyway?” he dismissed it and called it up again-

 

Level Up! Status

 

- looking over everything, it didn’t seem to have any changes, the exception being he got a distinct feeling of his Status skill being ‘stronger’ than it was before, in some indefinable way, and that his Basic Mana Sense was about twice as strong. No indication what the Paths were, either. They all felt really low-intensity, though, weaker than either of his Skills. Whatever. He could deal with that later. For now, he needed to find some food, water, and shelter, and picked a random direction to start exploring. Sure, you were generally supposed to stay in one spot when lost in the wilderness, but there was almost certainly not a search party looking for him. He did keep flickering his status up and down as he was walking, though. So far as he could tell, there wasn’t any reason not to, and the level-ups were probably a good thing.

 

Level Up! Status

Level Up! Status

 

It quickly hit diminishing returns, though, and after he went half an hour of calling up and dismissing his status without a level, he decided it wasn’t worth the distraction. Instead, he directed his focus to the task that was actually at hand. He needed to find shelter, and it was impossible to tell where the sun was at, as the thick canopy above diffused the light and bathing the ground in an emerald glow that- Hmm.

Wait, Edwin thought, his focus wandering to the leaves above, why are they all glowing green? Are they letting light through them? How is that effective? Well, it is green, so they might still be getting their red and blue allotment before just passing on the remainder. How would that work for the leaf structure, though? I’ve never seen anything which would suggest that sort of thing is possible.

Then again, if we’re talking about magic here, maybe trees are capable of sustaining a leaf structure which doesn’t rely on reflecting the unwanted green light, but just filters out all red and blue light from the sun, and allows green light to pass through unimpeded? That could be… very interesting. I wonder if the leaves would look black from above, if they allow all light to pass through them? And then wouldn’t that mean there should be a lot of black or purple undergrowth down here, taking advantage of the green light let through? Though that would explain why all the plants here are so dark in coloration, if they’re in the process of becoming black. Actually, for that matter, what’s the advantage of having transparen- “Whoa!”

Edwin was snapped out of his musing by something appearing in his peripheral vision. He danced back, but whatever it was, it moved alongside him. Then, he realized he was being ridiculous as his eyes properly focused on what was in front of him.

 

You have unlocked the Visualization skill!

Accept Skill? Y/N

 

“Visualization? Is everything a skill? I mean, sure, but what?”

 

Level Up! Visualization

Visualization

To solve a problem, you must first imagine it.

Thoughts are more detailed.

Increased clarity per level.

 

“Oookay. Interesting skill. How does that even work? What does that even mean?” he tried to imagine it but, ironically, couldn’t.

 

Level Up! Visualization

 

Edwin glared at the notification, dismissing it when it didn’t wither under his stare. With a sigh, he continued his quest onwards. The entire forest was… oddly empty. Other than a few smaller animals, one of which looked strangely like a squirrel if he was supposed to be in some distant world, and the background noise of buzzing and chirping insects, there were no larger animals to be found, which was really odd, as a forest like this should be teeming with life…

...Then again… he couldn’t keep relying on his old instincts for what should or should not be the case. There was demonstrably magic in this world- as a quick call to his status demonstrated, regardless of his supposed mana sense might say- and that meant the creatures here probably also had magic to work with. It was far too valuable a trait to not be evolutionarily selected for, and even if there weren’t unicorns or the like, what would an octopus with a stealth skill be like? They could practically turn invisible back on Earth, and that was entirely through good old-fashioned chemistry and biology. Perhaps that’s why there were so few creatures around? Prey animals would have magically keen senses and stealth capabilities, which his normal human senses couldn’t keep up with. Though, on the other side of the coin, that meant that predators would have senses and stealth abilities to keep up. The thought that there might be an invisible mountain lion just behind his back sent a shudder through him, and Edwin picked up the pace to try and get somewhere- anywhere- safe. Pity he didn’t have a skill for-

 

You have unlocked the Walking skill!

Accept Skill? Y/N

 

With a grin, he accepted the skill, and turned around to look at the forest behind him, a wake of trampled plants from his passing already springing back into place. Alone, on an alien world, with unknown dangers, no sign of civilization, shelter, or food, he couldn’t help but chuckle. Back on Earth, he had been all but nobody. Smart enough to get by, not smart enough to really stand out. Certainly not smart enough to pioneer any kind of research, or to push the bounds of humanity’s knowledge. Here, though? Here he had the chance of a lifetime. He was on a new world, a fantasy world no less, and the gates of possibility were opened wide before him.

Look out, world. I’m coming for you, and I have Magic.

 

Level Up! Walking

Walking

And if you would walk five hundred miles, you’d get pretty tired.

Increased stamina while walking.

Endurance increases with level.

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A note from NorskDaedalus

Day 1 chapter dump, let's go!

 

As this is my first publically-availible piece of writing, feedback from people who do not know me and therefore don't have emotional stakes in me feeling good about my work is quite welcome.

...I may regret saying that, but hey. Only way to improve.

This story is largely inspired by ones like [Biologist], Essence of Cultivation and Delve. I hope to give a methodological exploration of a fantasy world from the PoV with a physicist with far from a perfect memory.


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NorskDaedalus

Bio: Recent Physics graduate, just killing time, entertaining people, and earning a bit of money by writing on the internet during my job search.

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