The Champion is PlayingTrue Hero

The Champion is Playing
True Hero

The main character appeared to be in the future, and he is ready to show female aristocrats and heirs of ancient houses the spirit of a player from 2010s.
They have a better education, they are smart, they are cunning, but they know nothing about how to play, given the standards of our time!

Prologue

I was standing in the office of Pantheon, filling out a form. For those of you not in the know, Pantheon’s in the business of almost everything: weapons, food, cars, goods for children, et cetera. In general, they made over half of everything you’d want to buy in any supermarket. What was I doing in this place? To be honest, I wanted a job. My plan was quite simple, considering that I didn’t know much about this world. At some point, I had appeared here without any useful skills, and now I wanted to try and get a job in the largest company.

“My name is Dan Kornev,” I said, my tone hesitant. I was only becoming more nervous as the delay stretched. Then the moment came when my fate didn’t depend on me anymore. The door suddenly opened and I overheard a fragment of the conversation being had with another candidate.

“The information about your skills, that you tried to conceal, will be included in your work file.” Judging by the scared look on the face of the short, bald man who nearly ran into me, it was not a good sign. Probably, when he had filled out his form, he had written about false accomplishments and this was the logical result of him lying. Considering the widespread use of information technologies, and retention of any information in the databases, it was not only cheating but also a sign of low intellect. As for me, I filled up all sixty sheets of paper absolutely honestly, carefully writing the phrase “I don’t have any” under every question that described my professional skills and experience.

Honestly, I was afraid of more tests and additional questions—I thought I had a great chance to become a laughingstock afterward—but everything turned out quite differently. Some lady just gave me a chip with an access code for the first task. They probably searched the files for omissions, but my lie had been so big that nobody had foreseen it. The people of the future seemed to be quite naive in certain regards.

I guess I should point out the fact that the date on my calendar was fifty years ago only two days prior.

“Welcome, Dan. Go to the gravity platform, and you will be taken to your area.”

As expected, I met nobody in the corridor. The company did not give us even a small chance to make any agreements in advance. However, I didn’t mind; after all, I had nothing to say to my opponents.

Sitting in the cabin, I could finally enjoy a comfortable chair, some tasty food, and natural alcohol. I hadn’t eaten for what seemed like a week. In the old world, my life hadn’t been much easier. It was not only that I had been a student who had just finished university, but everything was more straightforward, and more difficult, at the same time—Doomsday arrived. Without any special effects or warning, it just happened. One day people began to die. I am not quite sure about this part, but I hadn’t met anyone for two days and had started to think that there were no people left alive, except for me, in the whole city. Then, one day, after going down to the first floor of the hotel where I was living, I found that all of the corpses had disappeared. Considering that the floor was covered with chunks of dead flesh and fragments of bone, I assumed that someone, or some thing, had devoured them. Something that was very angry, with big claws. After that, I moved to an apartment with the thickest and most durable door that I could find. Unfortunately, it didn’t help—I was visited in the morning. Have you ever seen a metal door bending due to blows? It was not a pleasant sight, and I would not recommend it to anyone. I had made peace with death as something unexpected suddenly happened, and I appeared in the center of a big city, amid its noise and bustle.

To be honest, I was stunned. I stood still for an hour, without moving even once. I was just starting to realize what had happened and, as I understood later, it had been my salvation. When I appeared from out of nowhere on city cameras, I received a yellow status, which included the full verification and control of any of my movements. If I had taken a step or showed at least one unusual reaction, I would have been captured and spent my whole life in a laboratory, surrounded by people in white coats.

However, no deviations from the norm were revealed during the standard time, and I was given back a green status. If someone had tried to find out any information about me, they would have revealed a secret for certain. On the other hand, they would have had to do it in the first place.

While I was lost in my reverie, the platform arrived at its destination. It had taken a little more than an hour, so I was about 600 miles or so away from the city. It was true that I had gradually begun to comprehend the world surrounding me thanks to advertisements. About twenty years ago, one remarkable man had passed a bill that every leaflet, video, or any other promotional material should include useful information. Now you could not just write “Buy pineapples.” You had to add, for example, that Russia’s largest supplier of pineapples is the US, which sends a certain number of tons per week. Thanks to this, I learned about the cameras, security system, and, luckily, about "Pantheon." It helped me come up with my plan.

"Dan, please follow the highlighted yellow path, it will take you to your room," said a soft voice coming from nowhere. A yellow line appeared on the unknown material of the floor. If I had to take a walk, I didn’t mind; especially since I had refreshed myself with breakfast a short time ago.

I was walking slowly, deep in thought, remembering how after a few hours of wandering the city I had seen a poster. It showed two armies of knights with the support of angels, unicorns, and a bunch of other magical races, colliding on the field of battle. A modest inscription under the picture read, The final battle of the last qualifying competition of Pantheon. I had almost given up by that point. I had lost one world and was thrown into a new one where I didn’t know anything and no one would help me. The point was, I could not even make money. As I shook it off, my first thought was to get a job as a loader and slowly sort it all out, but alas, there was no such profession anymore. In general, machines had replaced all unskilled labor. They said that if you want to earn, learn to do something useful, but you also needed money for any sort of education. It was a vicious cycle. I had been planning to surrender to the government for experiments, but this poster attracted my attention. Playing a game was a good idea; even if I didn’t succeed, I would always have the ability to go with my fallback option.

Maybe there was a chance that I was wrong, and this plan was a big mistake. However, I could not just give up after receiving a vision of my life to come. Virtual reality had been nothing more than a fairy tale fifty years ago.

Suddenly, a red line crossed the yellow one that I was following. A blonde girl in strict business clothes walked past, looking at me with barely veiled contempt. I had seen the elite of this world before, on the streets, and in the halls of the company. These people were so used to living by the rules. They were used to knowing what to do, predicting the result in advance. However, I was also here, now, and had a chance to compete with them.

It was not an empty boast. Someone could think that it was pure luck that I had become a candidate for the job; however, this was the first of my twenty-three applications that was accepted, the other ones using fake names. If any of my other personalities had passed, it would’ve probably been the first time in history where a candidate for the game wouldn’t have come. I figured I could become a part of local history just with that.

It was kind of funny that, if I had tried to get settled in at any other place, nothing would have come of it since everything was checked by computers. But it was the big leagues, and many things were based on trust. And the final prize was gorgeous: an annual contract with Pantheon—a salary high enough for several lives over. The fact that I would not be able to do anything at this job was not my problem. Who would’ve guessed that such an unreasoned selection could happen?

I walked up to the door of my living quarters. They looked chic; several rooms, intelligent management, furniture that looked not only expensive but also comfortable. Behind one of the two remaining doors was a bathroom, and behind the next one was a capsule. How is it possible that I got into this place? I thought. Perhaps this was my paradise, or maybe it was my hell. I suppose I would find out.

I inserted my key in the capsule’s activation panel.

3 minutes 14 seconds left before the start of the Great Game

People in the future were not inclined to waste time, and I had no chance of rivaling their planning. However, games weren’t only about that. And being a champion was a state of mind.


Chapter One

Dan
After searching for a while, I couldn’t find the capsule’s manual. Fortunately, everything turned out to be somewhat intuitive. I got in and the timer immediately started the 8-hour game cycle. Molecular gel began to flow into the capsule, through special tubes, filling up the space around me. Maybe someone would have found it strange, but the most complicated thing in creating virtual reality turned out not to be reading the signals of the brain. In fact, passing signals onto it wasn’t an issue either. The technology was perfectly capable, even when employing the simplest neural interfaces. The main problem was the physics of the human body itself. If the movements a person made were completely blocked, the brain refused to believe in the reality of the transferred data. But if one neglected this precaution, nine times out of ten, the immersion ended with fractures and other types of injuries. The gel solved these problems; it slowed the movements of the body. It helped provide feedback and made the brain believe that the body was working as intended. The final problem was that the gel was very expensive, so virtual reality was only available to the elite of this new world. Ninety-nine percent of people could not afford even a one-time purchase for immersion. Even if they could, how would they deal with the necessity of having to replace it regularly?

When the viscous substance filled the whole capsule, I received the coded electric charge. Without even a hint of discomfort, my brain switched over to the virtual world.

Welcome to the World of the new Empire
Conquer the whole kingdom and become its sole ruler

There I was, a beautiful screensaver in front of me. Everything was simple and straightforward, but no less enticing for it. The world map, however, was missing in the background. I sighed. Why would they even show it to me at the very beginning? I thought.

Continue
Choose your path: Warrior, Mage

Players had scant few options at the start. In the late game, there would be possible variations and specializations, but there were only two main directions in the very beginning.

Honestly, however, there was no real choice. A lot of people wanted to play as warriors, and so far none of them had reached the top. This was to be expected. In the game, you would recruit an army, develop your units, and then, with their help, you would capture the rest of the country. There had to be a catch in there somewhere, you would think, and you’d be right. The answer was quite simple—the intelligence of the hero determined the number of units a player could control, and intelligence was raised by default for Mages as they leveled, but Warriors could only increase it by investing the points they’d received from leveling. As a result, some players would only have half as many units as others of the same level. I saw a video about one of the most successful variants of the warrior path: a small detachment of Knights in their heavy, shining armor, with the support of the healer Monks. Every member of the group had had the highest level and the best upgrades possible. That small army broke through the enemy's formation, and it seemed like they could not have been stopped by anything. They were destroying everything in their path, but lost in the end despite all their best efforts. At one point, spectators had been given an opportunity to see the battlefield from up above, and the audience immediately realized that this massacre had been insignificant in comparison to the true size of the army of one of the players.

It was horrible to think that if you just tried a bit harder, you could win, only to then realize that you were way behind all along. However, despite knowing all this, I was sure that, if I were to play by the general rules, I would find myself losing to the other players. This meant that if I wanted not only to enjoy the virtual game, but also to achieve something in it, I would need to make unusual and unpredictable decisions. Even in my life before, playing computer games, I had been fond of choosing the weakest classes and then finding their strengths, using those to reach the very top.

I could not claim that I had always succeeded, but I had written a couple of successful guides which had then shifted public opinion about some of the forgotten classes.

You have chosen the class of Warrior

Here was my new path, I thought. Now, there was nothing left but to figure out how to turn it into my road to victory. The next step was the allocation of attributes. There weren’t a lot of them: strength, intelligence, endurance, and dexterity. It was also such an unfair setup— raising only intelligence was enough for Mages, but for Warriors, both strength and dexterity were needed, and health points weren’t superfluous either.

There were twenty starting points to spend, and it was necessary to do so wisely. From what I had seen about Warriors on the advertising posters, while I had been filling out the questionnaire, there were two main options for their development:

The first one was to put points in intelligence at the very beginning, and then, having had the opportunity to recruit more troops, increase the main military attributes through the process of killing enemies. The trick to this method was that after you recruited the maximum number of units at the very beginning, you could upgrade them and get a small but dangerous detachment in the end, as it demonstrated in that video.

The other option was the standard scheme, where you put some points in intelligence and got a small amount of freedom in managing your forces. The rest of the points could be equally divided among the other attributes. As a result, you would be at the head of your army, crushing the enemy with your might.

Strength +20

Everything else was left on zero. I had decided to stay stupid, slow, and fragile—but be damn strong. The first rule of the Champion: you should not be like everyone else. Immediately, I thought that maybe I should’ve been more careful with this rule. However, it was too late to change anything now.

Entrance

One moment, a huge eight letter inscription was floating in front of my eyes, and the next, I was in the woods. It turned out that I had missed the beauty of nature. Grass, trees, a flock of birds overhead—none of these things could be found in the new world. The wind ruffled my hair, and it was something incredible, compared to the anthill of the modern human city. I breathed in deeply, soaking in the beauty of everything around me.

A while later, I checked my attributes. The Warrior path, ten health points, twenty points of strength—everything was as I had planned. My gaze settled on the possible size of my future detachment: one cell, no more than one kind of troop, no more than ten creatures. With my absolute zero intelligence, it was quite logical. On the other hand, I hadn’t had the opportunity to recruit even this low number.

Suddenly, I realized that I had almost forgotten to check how great my strength was now. Licking my lips in anticipation, I came up to the nearest tree, swung, and hit it with all my might. Something cracked, both in the tree, and in my hand. A small dent had appeared on the tree’s bark, but as for me, I had the bad luck of managing to break my arm or something to that effect. Oddly enough, I didn’t feel any pain at all. It was strange, since it was said that I should experience all sensations as I would normally feel them, in real life. I thought the only possible explanation had to be my zero intelligence. The nervous system generated by the game was so simple that it must not have been able to transmit all the signals needed to the brain.

It turned out that I had become something like a troll—strong, dull, and with thick skin. With a crack, I set the dislocated joint. It was a good time to evaluate my prospects. Suddenly, I heard something make a crunch from beside the tree.

Cautiously, I tried to find out what it was.

Because of the foliage, it took me some time to notice a huge, dead branch resting against the trunk of a nearby forest giant. When I had hit the tree, I had made it shake violently. A branch had fallen against the next trunk, and I then heard a crunch. For some reason, I thought this club would make a good weapon for me. With my low health points, I should keep enemies at a distance.

It took a dozen strikes, and I had to set my joints three times, but I was finally holding the giant branch in my hands. After I had finished, I thought that maybe it would have been easier to just climb up and break off a branch. And then I wondered whether this body could affect the how my brain worked. However, the dead branch did appear to have some obvious advantages. It was lighter, and it would not be changing its shape in the future. Moreover, it had turned black due to its age, and the black club looked solid enough. Every time I had seen a video about this game, the players had had armies of Light creatures - angels, monks, elves and so on. Maybe I should be a dark lord.

After swinging the club of darkness a couple of times from side to side to get used to the weight of it, I finally looked around. There was a path leading to the right, opposite the setting sun. It was the main road, and, most likely, if I did go north, I would reach the starting point assigned to each player, where they would begin forming the backbone of their army. There was no reason to visit that place—with my inability to recruit troops, it was a better bet to immediately move to the territory of a neighbor. This was my great plan—sneaking up to the enemy’s camp and killing him stealthily. My twenty points of strength made me believe that one blow should be enough. The next step of my plan was to repeat this until my enemies started tightening their security and it stopped working. If I had chosen the path of a magician, I couldn’t have done this; it took time to hire and train troops. As for me, I was already a dangerous combatant. I hoped that if I managed to gather the resources of several settlements for my own use, I could try to achieve something on a global scale.

I turned my back on the path and went deeper into the forest. If my newbie territory was to the north, then I should come across another player heading south. Despite the absence of a road, it was a pleasant walk. Either the forest was not dense enough to stop my advance, or I was simply too tough and strong for it to hinder me.

About half an hour had passed since I entered the game and still nothing had happened. I was beginning to feel like a bit of an oddity. Was my behavior so unusual?

At that moment, I heard a grunting sort of growl, and a huge figure appeared from the foliage. The huge creature was standing ahead of me, fast and agile despite its height, and holding a giant cudgel in one hand. It seemed that the monster was almost dancing, with how fluid its movements were. The system highlighted the information about it:

Insomniac Troll, level 5

I imagined what one of these future directors of the Eurasian branch would do, if they were in my place. Would they run away, or get into a fight? Most likely, they would not have come here without an army capable of winning the fight for them. That would be the logical, reasonable, and worthy plan of action for the future director. But since this troll and I were both right here, in this place, my options were limited.

I took a deep breath and sighed; maybe I was too stressed. Thinking about all this certainly wasn’t going to do me much good.

For some reason, the troll wasn’t in a hurry to attack. He stood still, then suddenly started beating a nearby tree with his cudgel. What was I supposed to do? I also had a club, and it was even black. Now the two trees were shaking from our echoing blows, and it should be noted that I was doing it better. My huge tree was making a louder rattling noise.

"Gr-gr." The troll stopped and looked at me with some respect. "Stranger—a strong warrior."

It was a very clever remark from the monster who was rattling a tree with a piece of wood. To be fair, I probably didn’t look much better.

"I'm not a stranger. They call me the Dark Lord," I decided to reply, getting a headstart on my legend. Maybe it was not the best moment, but you couldn’t immediately agree with an opponent in these kinds of situations. Your image played an important role, and the part of a stranger was not something that would help me establish control.

"What Dark Lords are doing?" asked the monster in a loud voice. If he hadn’t been growling every time he was pronouncing the ‘L’ sound, I would’ve said that he was interested, and maybe even slightly intrigued with me.

"Well, usually, the goal is to take over the world." The truth was a most powerful weapon in this case. Then an idea came to my mind. "What do you think about helping me? Trolls are strong warriors, after all."

My woolly interlocutor immediately straightened up, and unconcealed pride shone in his eyes. "All right, I agree to serve Dark Lord, to help him. To take over the world. It should be interesting."

You have gained the skill 'Leadership'
You can increase the number of your subordinate units, due to your good leadership and charisma.

I stared at the panel of attributes with deep interest, adding another cell for the troops. I had heard about this ability; with its help, Warriors could somewhat compensate for their small number of units, compared to Mages. I had hoped to get it, but did not expect to receive it so quickly and certainly not at this low level.

"My name is Klaus," my new companion said amiably. It was hard to decide how I should react, since I had no idea whether this was an appropriate name for a troll or not.

However, I was looking at him with great pride. Level 5 was a big advantage for me. High strength and movement speed made him a very powerful ally; no wonder he took the place of five creatures at once. I was sure he would be of great help to me. A sudden thought came to mind—I remembered a story from childhood about trolls and their amazing ability to pick up a scent, or, at least, that was what the book had said.

“My name is Dan. Can you sense any living beings nearby?”

"Dan... hmm, what a stupid name! I'll call you Dark Lord." It seemed my joke was beginning to gather momentum. On the other hand, I already had a troll in my army—a good reason to be a serious contender for the title of ‘Your Darkness.' The reply came swiftly and was delivered in a casual tone: "I feel two settlements."

He waved his paw in the direction from which I came, and then somewhere to the east. The first was clearly mine, but the second one clearly belonged to my first neighbor. To be honest, it was a weak point of my plan: how could I find my opponents in the game? After all, if we were all weak now, it was possible to be at a distance of just a few hundred feet away from each other and not notice a thing. However, if they became strong and increased the size of their army, then it would be too late. Now, it seemed this problem had been solved, and I was now ready for anything.

"Lead on, Klaus!" A smile curved my lips as we rushed through the forest.

I was not very good at running, but at this point, I ran as though I could not be fatigued. Klaus was howling, and at some point, I started to join him. Then, my eyes saw the icon of a new buff appear:

Wild Hunt, level 1
You get a blessing as two or more creatures give in to their animal instincts
Fatigue is reduced by 90%
Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance are increased +10

As soon as I concentrated on the inscription, the buff immediately disappeared. But it didn’t take me much time to once more awaken my feral side. My club began to tap a wild rhythm as I flew past the trees, and I howled. Satisfied, Klaus began to hum a strange melody. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the buff icon had appeared again, and a thin smile appeared on my face.

"Master, the enemy is upon us!" Klaus shouted.

"Don't stop! Charge forward!" The troll ran ahead, and I stayed a little behind him. No one else should have the power to stop such a monster, but it was better not to take that risk. Klaus lowered his weapon, dragging it along the ground behind him and causing a terrible rumbling. As I thought about the point of his behavior, everything immediately became clear: dust, dirt, and forest debris—all these things, getting into the air, surrounding the troll with a solid cloud in which his figure was lost. Could I also do this? At first, nothing happened, but then I noticed that tapping a club was not as chaotic as I had thought at first. In our own world, you could say that many things weren’t as simple and meaningless as we sometimes thought they were, initially. Then I tried to repeat the pattern of my new friend, copying his every move.

Small cloud of dirt, level 1
Reduces the accuracy of remote attacks by 50%
Reduces the damage of zone attacks by 30%

A giant troll and a man following behind him emerged into a clearing, where six footmen in mail armor and about a dozen peasants armed with various tools were already ready to do battle. It was hard not to pay attention to the talent of this player: during those few hours that I had spent running through the forest, they were able to organize their settlement and had even trained some of the soldiers to the level of footmen.

I also admired that the peasants were standing up for this player. Achieving such results, while still staying popular with the populace, was no mean feat. It seemed to me that any other attempt to attack this settlement early on would have been doomed to failure. Not mine, however.

Imagine a charging troll, rotating a huge club with the speed of a chopper. It was really hard to stop him, especially given he was a much higher level than his enemies—it was almost an impossibility, in fact. In the next few moments, the soldiers disappeared in the cloud of dust and then reappeared when the dust cloud passed by, dead on the ground. Without the support of a professional army, the peasants immediately lost their nerve and dropped their weapons. I was confused. Where was the hero? Was it possible that they’d run away?

As I was thinking this, a bolt of lightning hit me.

You have been struck by lightning for 70 damage

Someone had dealt me seventy damage with just one spell, and for some reason, I was still alive. I realized that the wild hunt buff had added ten endurance, giving me an extra 100 hit points. Since I didn’t have any desire to get hit by such magic again, I hid in the woods and ordered Klaus to destroy everything in sight until he found the magician. He was immediately taken with this idea. He wasn’t feeling disappointed that he’d agreed to join me now, that’s for sure. The next lightning bolt hit the troll but didn’t damage him at all. It was not surprising, given the difference in levels and his natural resistance.

As for me, I already had a charred spot on my skin. I was lucky that the sensitivity of my new body was low, otherwise, I would have been frantic due to the pain. I could only guess how ordinary soldiers survived here.

Player Samantha Hollins was defeated
You gain 2 levels
Strength is increased +2
You gain 2 attribute points

Apparently, the troll had found my opponent. You were a good player, Samantha, but I was better. A sardonic expression crossed my face. Two levels wasn’t that much of an achievement, certainly, but she didn’t have a large detachment. My strength had been increased, apparently due to my level up, and I had also gotten two more points to spend freely.

The question was, how should I spend them? I was sure that I didn’t want to increase intelligence—if the feeling of pain was turned on, I would end up regretting it for sure. I also didn’t see many advantages to leveling dexterity, so only endurance remained. If there hadn’t been any buffs on me, I would now be dead. Ten health points was a very small number; I needed at least more than seventy. That way, I wouldn’t have to be afraid of first level spells. On the other hand, in the future, my enemies would get higher level incantations. Would I always be forced to spend my free points on vitality? One defense could not defeat an enemy, but as I had already proved, it was possible to make do with strength alone. So I made my choice:

Strength +2

I came out of the woods, and went back to the settlement. In the meantime, Klaus had managed to destroy the last building, a stone tomb. I should’ve stopped him earlier; after all, this was my property now.

"Do what you did before." I waved a hand to the peasants. If this girl had a plan, why shouldn’t I try to use it?


Samantha Hollins
My grandfather had been preparing me for this test for as long as I could remember. I had access to all of the best schools, the best tutors, trial immersions, and training simulators. I had thought I was ready even for the previous games, but my grandfather only allowed me to register this time.

At first, everything went just fine with the well-thought-out sequence of actions to ensure the economic well-being of my village. The model was a simple one, with everything taken into account, and an accident was impossible. Then, after an hour had passed, the first footman began his training. It seemed simple, but it was necessary to arrange for a full cycle of work in the smithy in order to produce the needed weapons and armor. I also had to implement the cycle for the training of people who had just been peasants until recently. I did not doubt my success, but everything was turning out even better than I’d planned.

Each of my warriors had almost fifty health points and steel weapons. By the end of the day, I would have had about forty of them.

I could have taken two detachments and gone hunting in the surrounding lands. While my forces were preparing, I spent time thinking over the potential for development in this area. I could put all of my production facilities downstream and make the residential sector just upstream from the production facilities, reducing any dangerous pollution.

I should build a reserve, the number of my homagers should only increase. Homagers? There was a reason I had been called Princess when I had been a child.

However, as soon as I was distracted for a second, everything went to hell, all at once. A terrible roar came from the forest, heading in our direction. I stood still, puzzled, wondering what it could be. There shouldn’t be any attacks from wild animals in the first week. That meant it must’ve been a player. Given that they had had to get here from their own settlement, there would be one or, at best, two warriors in their squad. They had no chance, but I didn’t want to take any risks and marshaled all my forces. In the distance, I gathered peasants; they wouldn’t be much use in a battle, but the effect of the crowd would give a buff, plus two or even three points to each attribute.

I could hear the roar approaching. At the last moment, the thought came to my mind that I should hide. Of course, it was heroic to stand in front of my little army under the red banner, but I had a completely different task. I had to prove that I could manage any team; from a few people to armies of thousands. I had to prove that I could achieve success at the head of any sized group.

When two dust clouds appeared out of the forest, I spotted the faint outline of a troll. I froze for a second, confused, and not knowing what to do. Where had a player, in such a short time, gotten a servant of such high level? Where did the troll come from? Did he carry out an experiment on the villagers that turned them into such a monster? After all, I had read about something similar, but who could predict that such sheer stupidity would actually work.

My soldiers were already dead, and it was no surprise, because neither they, nor I were ready for such a clash. My peasants were, of course, useless. However, I still had a trump card, since 'Pantheon' gave players special bonuses for unique achievements in the real world. From the very beginning, I had had a spell of the second circle: heavenly lightning that hits a whole area. The dust cloud in the air would not prevent me from punishing this man for his impudent behavior. One hundred damage for one attack—most likely, it would be enough to end him.

I cast the spell, and the debris in the air around him dropped to the ground in a heap of ashes, but he continued to stand there as if nothing had happened. I wondered why it only did seventy points of damage to him. How did he get even those seventy points, if he needed to invest so much into strength to be able to kill my footmen in one blow? Why was he not doubled over in pain, when his shoulder and half of his arm had been burnt that badly? At that moment, I recognized him—this was the guy I had seen in the corridor. Cheap clothes, an admiring glance, it had been a miserable sight. I had always wondered why these people were even allowed to enter the Game. Who knew that, in the end, it would turn out this way? Was this an accident? I should check who among our political opponents could play this kind of game.

The cooldown for my lightning was over, but the player had already disappeared into the forest and I could not reach him. However, he did not hide, but instead stood on the forest border. Maybe I could try to kill him, but what if this was a trap? When fighting such a foe, one could expect anything. At that moment, the troll rushed to the side of the house where I was hiding. How had he guessed? I tried to jump to another roof and was knocked down by a blow from the troll’s club.

You died
Would you like to resurrect on the altar?
Yes Resurrection will be finished in 10 minutes

I thought we could negotiate. Or, to be more specific, I would first pay, and then we would talk. Whatever the case, I planned to get some answers.

Your altar is destroyed.

This was outrageous. What was the point of this? Why did he destroy the altar of the player, without even having attempted to get the ransom? Was he really that rich?

Do you want to use the “second chance?”
Yes

The second chance was an opportunity for any player to start their game in the Empire from scratch. In a couple of days, it would not make much sense; it would be impossible to catch up to other players. However, if you were to make a critical mistake at the very beginning, with its help everything could be fixed. Or, like in my case, if you got destroyed, early on...
Dan, I'll remember you.