As a little hatchling, Grat-ra’zun remembered hearing stories of a time long ago. The Elder Dragons back then— far more plentiful in numbers— regaled him tales of their own childhoods. A terrible time trapped in slavery. An era before peace. A period of pure chaos. It was no calamity nor cataclysm that befell Vacuos. It was a true apocalypse.
A great evil had emerged from the seams of the world, plunging it into darkness, enslaving all of its inhabitants. It mattered not who. Humans, elves, dragons, dwarves, gnomes, merfolk, monsters, and demons. Even the most powerful Elder Dragons were left helpless in the face of the end of times. But just when all hope seemed lost, the heavens split open.
The sky tore apart, and angels descended from the skies in numbers never seen before, a holy army that blanketed all of Vacuos with their sheer might. They fought back against this permeating darkness, freeing the enslaved populace under the command of one power. A being so mighty it reached into the hearts of every creature, empowering them— giving them the strength to fight back against this endless Void.
They called it God. It liberated them from their bondage, releasing them from their slavery. Blessed with its might, they were able to fend off their oppressors. They were able to find emancipation from the darkness. And together with the army of angels, they sent the Great Evil back into the aether it came from.
But even after Vacuos was saved, the end times averted, God had not rescinded its blessings from the creatures of the world. They remained protected by its grace; their strength now forever derived by this gift bestowed upon them.
And even as this story had vastly changed throughout the millennia— parts left forgotten, and details bastardized for one reason or another— one constant still remained. That it was God who’d saved them. And, today, this God was known as the World System.
So Grat-ra’zun couldn’t help but wonder what Amelia was talking about.
“It called itself the God of Vacuos,” the brown-haired human said with her arms crossed. “And it spoke to me as soon as I woke up.”
“I do not understand this.” The dragon rubbed his temples. “So you’re saying the World System did reach you, even in the Fractured Realm.”
She closed her eyes, sighing. “No, I’m saying something calling itself the God of Vacuos spoke to me. There was no blue box— no screen telling me I leveled up. Just a voice. A weak one.”
He frowned in response. That is… Grat-ra’zun knew what it was, but he didn’t say it just yet. Meanwhile, Noele scratched her chin in thought.
“Isn’t it possible you just went… a little bit crazy?” the blonde girl suggested idly.
“Rude,” Amelia said flatly.
Noele quickly clarified. “I’m not saying this as an insult— even if everything about you is kind of insane— but I just think that if I were trapped alone with no sense of time and no idea where I am, I’d probably lose my mind after a few months.”
“Calling me insane after calling me crazy doesn’t make me feel any better.” The brown-haired woman rolled her eyes. “And if I really did imagine that voice, I’m pretty sure I’ve imagined everything else that happened before and after it too. Which would make both of you figments of my imagination.”
The dragon blinked, and the blonde girl paused. They exchanged a glance as Amelia tapped a finger on her forearm.
“Are you figments of my imagination?” she asked expectantly.
“I do not believe Noele’s hypothesis is true,” Grat-ra’zun finally said. He rose to his feet, raising a clawed hand. His fingers shone, and an object came shooting at him, swerving around his towers of treasure. “I would like to perform a test on you, Amelia.”
He grabbed the object in the palm of his hand. Noele and Amelia peered at it as he lowered it to the ground. It was a mirror. One that was ten feet by ten feet wide. It barely fit in his fingers, so he propped it up on a nearby pile of gold. It shone with iridescent colors, reflecting nothing on its surface.
“What is this?” Amelia narrowed her eyes.
“That’s—” Noele exclaimed. “The Mirror of Holy Judgment!”
“...that doesn’t explain anything.”
Grat-ra’zun ignored the two humans’ brief exchange, instead continuing his train of thought. “If you could, I would like to ask you to stand before this mirror, Amelia. I have some suspicions.”
“I mean, sure.” The otherworlder shrugged as she stepped forward. “But what are these suspicions?”
“You say you have heard a voice while in the Void… the Fractured Realm. One that does not belong to the World System. And one that resounds only in your head, correct?”
“Dunno. It sounded like it was coming from all around me, but I guess it could’ve been in my head.”
“Tell me: did this voice promise you power?” the Elder Dragon asked.
Amelia tapped a finger on her chin. “Among other things, yes.”
“Hrmph. This test will determine if I can fully trust your words.”
“Do you seriously still think I’m lying?” She gave him a flat stare.
Grat-ra’zun shook his head. “I am not doubting you believe you are telling the truth. Rather, I believe you may have been tricked. I believe you have become Void-touched without your own knowledge.”
“Void-touched?” Amelia raised a brow.
“I think I’ve heard of that before,” Noele said, furrowing her brows. “It’s… a forbidden power used by the Sect of Abyssal Thorns. A power that comes from beyond the World System.”
Grat-ra’zun nodded. “Indeed. And I surmise this may be why the World System has rejected you. When one becomes void-touched, your integration is muddled. You can no longer gain levels in your Class, nor can you gain new Titles. You may still access your existing Skills, but your repertoire is forever limited to what you currently have.”
“Then maybe that’s why you can’t get a Class, Amelia,” the blonde girl agreed.
“I guess?” Amelia looked dubious, but she wasn’t against it.
“Observe, this is what an individual blessed by the System appears like under the vision of the Mirror of Holy Judgment.” The Elder Dragon pointed the large mirror towards Noele, pouring his mana to activate it.
Her reflection gradually appeared on the surface. A blue box flashed next to her, and Noele blinked.
[Human - Level 50]
“That’s like an [Appraisal] spell,” the blonde girl murmured.
“That is not all it is capable of,” Grat-ra’zun said. “It will judge your soul next.”
Noele blinked, then her eyes widened as her reflection started to glow a translucent gold. Like a burning flame. One that consumed her abdomen and chest— a power that wisped calmly, radiating a light mist.
“That is your soul. The magic inhabiting your body. Its size reflects the amount of mana you can carry at the time. Its size is relative to your body, of course. A low-leveled human’s flame is typically but the size of their hand. But yours is many times larger. You are strong, Noele. Especially for one your level.”
The Elder Dragon gave her an approving look as she stepped aside. He turned to Amelia.
“If you are Void-touched, a black pit will appear in your soul, at the center of the flames, corrupting it and tainting it black.”
“What about yours? How big is your soul?” the blonde girl asked, turning to him.
Grat-ra’zun snorted as he faced the mirror at himself. His soul appeared. Like a raging wildfire. It consumed his entire body, nearly even reaching his clawed hands. It shone brightly. Like it was the sun itself. And a blue box appeared next to his image.
[Dragon - Level 87]
“As you can see, my soul fills nearly my entire being. I am the only SSS-ranked creature alive in Vacuos today. My power has reached the limits of what the World System has granted me. Very few individuals in history have ascended above Level 90, and only one has ever achieved Level 100.”
“The final level,” Noele whispered almost reverently.
Grat-ra’zun turned to Amelia. She listened, a hand on her chin in deep thought. His gaze bore into her.
“Yet, you have defeated me in battle with such ease I’d have thought you were at Level 100 as well. The only possible explanation is that the Void has infected you with its powers without you knowing. Shall we test it?”
Amelia’s gaze darkened. She opened her mouth, and the dragon expected her to voice her apprehension. But she just looked up with him, bored.
“Sure, I don’t care,” she said without missing a beat. Stepping forward, she stood before the Mirror of Holy Judgment. “Test me already.”
“R-right.” Grat-ra’zun took in a deep breath. He was almost entirely certain of his prognosis. But her uncaring attitude made skeptical of himself now. He coughed, covering his mouth. “I am activating the mirror now.”
Amelia didn’t say a word. She waited, and the mirror flashed. Her image appeared on its surface together with a blue box.
[Human - Level 0]
She really doesn’t have a Class… Grat-ra’zun’s eyes widened slightly. But her already knew that. Seeing it, however, was different from just being told about it. Now, he had to wait to see the source of her power.
The Elder Dragon waited. Noele stared, shuffling in anticipation. And the image on the screen— didn’t change. The two of them blinked.
“Nothing,” Amelia said. “Seems like your mirror is broken.”
“That’s not right. It was working just a moment ago—” Grat-ra’zun hurriedly directed the mirror at himself, and it flashed. It once again showed his reflection, soul and all, for all to see. “This is…”
“It’s not broken, “ Noele finished for him.
“But why isn’t it showing her soul?” he asked, gritting his teeth. Again, he turned the mirror to face Amelia. Again, nothing happened.
She gave him an expectant look. “So, does this mean I’m in the clear?”
“It does not. If it cannot see your soul, then something must be wrong, or you have no soul. Which is not possible.” Grat-ra’zun looked at her. “You say this voice spoke to you— what else did it tell you, Amelia?”
Amelia raised her head. “Well, as I said, it called itself the God of Vacuos. And it said something about making me the vessel for its power or whatever and that it would reward me greatly if I helped it return to its world.”
“And what was your response?” the Elder Dragon asked.
“I told it to fuck off, of course,” Amelia scoffed.
Noele paused. “Wait, why would you tell God to fuck off?”
“Because it is not God,” Grat-ra’zun said. “Do not trust its words, human. It is a lie. Tricks of the Void. The very same falsehoods it tells those who have become Void-touched.”
“I see…” She pursed her lips.
“Even if you rejected the Void’s offer,” he continued as he turned to Amelia, “I do not believe you are a minion of the Void, but just hearing its voice means it has reached you. And I believe your soul may have still been tainted by its powers.”
“So you think that’s why the System isn’t giving me any Class options?” Amelia raised a brow.
“Perhaps. I cannot say this is for certain because I cannot see your soul through the Mirror of Holy Judgment. However, it is highly likely the time you have spent in the Fractured Realm has corrupted your soul preventing your integration into the World System.”
“I see. That’s annoying.” Amelia sighed.
“I apologize, but I cannot offer you my help any further. I understand you have come to me seeking answers, and I have only offered you speculations. I wish there was more I could do for you. This is all I know.” The Elder Dragon bowed at her, and she paused.
“Actually, I do have another question,” she said as she tapped a finger on her chin. “You haven’t heard about someone getting offered no Class. But, hypothetically speaking, what about someone getting offered only one Class?”
Grat-ra’zun shook his head in response. “I have heard nothing of that, either. However, if someone came to me saying the World System has only bestowed them a single Class, then I would laugh in their face and tell them to get lost.”
“Why’s that?” Amelia narrowed her eyes.
He laid himself back down as he snorted, plumes of smoke huffing out of his nose. “Because the reason for their ‘condition’ is simple: they simply haven’t tried hard enough to get another Class.”
“If that is all you are asking, then yes. That is all I can offer you.” The Elder Dragon lay in his bed of rubies, waiting expectantly. “If there is nothing else I can do for you, I shall resume my slumber.”
“Well, there is something else you can do for me.” Her eyes glinted, flickering to the ground.
“There is?” Grat-ra’zun blinked.
“What else can—” Noele followed Amelia’s gaze, then bit her lower lip. “Oh.”
“I’d like some gold, please,” Amelia said, raising a hand at the Elder Dragon. She gestured towards the pile of coins lying beneath him. “Platinum too, if you have some.”
For a moment, Grat-ra’zun stood there, frozen. His mind reeled. He processed this slowly, before he finally drew back in outrage.
“What? How dare you make such a request! You come to me for my wisdom, and you demand my treasures? Why should I impart even a fraction of my hoard to you, human—”
“For trying to kill me,” Amelia cut him off simply.
“Oh.” He stared at her, wide-eyed. He glanced between her proffered hand, and the glittering coins at his feet. Finally, he acquiesced. “Right, I apologize about that. You can have some of my treasures.”
Noele and I left the dragon’s lair richer than before, with a bag full of gold and platinum coins. More than enough to retire on, according to Noele. So this trip hadn’t been an entire waste.
Sure, I learned a bit about this world. But Grat-ra’zun wasn’t able to offer me any proper explanation as to why the System was discriminating against me. He did give his own speculations. He thought that me having spent time around the Void might have played a part in my faulty integration.
But he had said that those who were Void-touched couldn’t level up any longer— that I shouldn’t be given any Class options because the System rejected me. And yet—
[Please choose a Class to integrate into the System.]
I saw the blue box flashing before me. And I saw the Class it offered: to become the [Worldwalker Hero of Vacuos]. No one else could see it. One thing I learned was that the System’s messages were only visible to the individual. It had popped up just after I stepped out of the cavern. And it contradicted everything Grat-ra’zun had speculated.
So that wasn’t right, was it?
The only other alternative was that I simply wasn’t trying hard enough to get a Class. I could try maybe cooking a bunch of dishes to get a [Cook]-related Class or chopping down a few trees to become a [Lumberjack], but that was for the future.
For now, I shook my head as I slung the bag of coins over my shoulders. Perhaps the Elder Dragon could’ve told me more if I mentioned my particular predicament— that of the nature of the Class being offered. But I decided against it, remembering the Class description:
An otherworlder who has arrived in Vacuos to save the world from destruction. As a unique Class, the [Worldwalker Hero of Vacuos] is unrivaled in strength, skill, or mastery of magic. Benevolent and full of grace, you will forever devote your life to protecting the System from the Void’s corruption
I saw the way Grat-ra’zun acted when the Void was merely mentioned. He wouldn’t react positively if he knew I was actively rejecting this Class option. Furthermore, something about my whole situation felt odd. Especially when considering what the Voidgod had said to me.
So, for now, I kept this to myself, returning with Noele back to Windrip. It had barely been a week since I arrived in Vacuos, anyways. There was no rush for me to figure everything out. After all, I was just trying to relax and enjoy my life now.
Grat-ra’zun only relaxed when the two humans were far from Mount Arkais. He heaved out a sigh in relief, muttering to himself.
“Thank Arrak’tun they’re gone. I hate having humans in my lair.”
He lay there for a moment, atop his bed of coins with his eyes closed. The moment passed, and his eyes snapped open.
“The Great Evil Fal-Deus is finally making its return to Vacuos. The end times may soon return. I must act— before the Sect of Abyssal Thorns learn of this.”
The Elder Dragon got to his feet, spreading his large wings wide. Then he slumped over, sighing once more.
“Of all the Elder Dragons in history, why must I be the one to deal with this? I just wanted to sleep for another hundred years…”
It was the call of the Void. Or so did Leonhard say.
Kallistus left the meeting with the Sect of Abyssal Thorns, remembering those foolish words. Such idiocy— the [Hero King] almost felt sorry for them. They worshipped the Void, yet they thought their weak visions and impaired senses were indicative of the Void’s desires.
Ridiculous. That had simply been a rift in space. One that was similar to the rift he’d sensed just a week back. One that still needed to be investigated, but not given the same gravity they had given it. It was a calling from the Void, but not in the way Leonhard thought. It was a calling for freedom. To be returned to Vacuos. To be returned to its home.
And Kallistus knew this because he was unlike the rest of the Sect of Abyssal Thorns. Even if he ostensibly followed their orders, he didn’t care for their goals to overthrow the World System. Because he himself had heard the true call of the Void.
The one true voice of the God of Vacuos. It resounded in the [Hero King]’s head, like a distant echo plaguing his thoughts.
“I can see… dreams… deepest desires… I can… give you…”
He closed his eyes as he remembered his home. As he remembered his life on Earth. Before he was unfairly ripped away from that peaceful life, before being thrust into one of a constant life-and-death struggle.
Resolving himself, Kallistus moved to act. And in the proceeding weeks, in a move that surprised everyone not just in Laxo but in the entire world, the Kingdom of Kal would declare war against the Astrad Kingdom.
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