1 - Ch. 1 - (?'s POV)

Have you ever woken up with no memory of how you got to where you were? Some would answer with the words, "Yeah girl, all the time. After a night of partying with a couple of my friends at a club and crashing at their place afterwards." Then let me add to that with this next question, have you ever woken up tied to a tree in the middle of the forest at night? If you answered that with a yes, then you'd probably know how I feel.

Waking up to nothing but pitch black forest and the only source of light being the moon would be terrifying to some including myself, but I am surprisingly very calm right now. 'I don't think I've ever been this calm in the dark before.', were my first coherent thoughts after I woke up in what looks like the start of a nightmare or a scary movie.

Even though I'm calm, I can still feel that sense of fear I normally would be experiencing in the back of my mind behind what feels like a door within my thoughts. 'I'll come back to that another time. First things first, breathe, and then take stock of what I have, what's on me, my location, my current situation, and my surroundings.'

'I have clothes on, good. My wallet and my watch are missing, bad. My boots are still on my feet, great. All my fingers and toes are where they should be, excellent. I'm in an unknown forest, in an unknown location with no means of protection, and I'm tied to a tree… That's bad x 3 = terrible. I can hear the hoots of owls, the swaying branches, and the whistling wind. That's not too bad. Now then, time to plan my way out of this while staying still so as to not attract any attention from any potential predators out here.'

After what felt like 10 minutes of planning; a.k.a. making sure my luck doesn't run out while I think, I start to wiggle my way downwards while pushing outwards with the weight of my upper body against the ropes while I push back against the tree with my elbows. After 5 or so minutes, the ropes give a little with just enough room for me to slowly saw the ropes using the very tree I'm tied to. 'I should've listened to dad and kept a knife in my boots.' *Sigh* 'This is going to take a while.'

{A few moments later}

As the ropes fell to the ground, I heard a distinct *PING* sound that made me drop to all fours on the ground with a grunt. With a wary glance at the shadows, and adrenaline coursing through me, I slowly got up and crouched to a nearby shadow while I picked up the ropes that were used to keep me trapped a few moments ago.

'What the hell was that?!'

With no time to waste, I slowly crouched from shadow to shadow and hid behind one tree after another as I made my way through the forest with the cautious gait I always used when I snuck away from the house at night to meet a few friends.

It took me a considerable amount of time but as I made my way through another dense foliage of hanging vines, I beheld the site of an abandoned and rundown log cabin. 'Finally, shelter and a place to recuperate and get my bearings.' *Sigh* 'What a relief…'

I slowly circled around the area and made my way towards the cabin with hope in my heart.

This log cabin looks to have been built into the side of the mountain and surrounded by an absurd amount of dense foliage and tall trees. Thanks to the moonlight, I could see that the log cabin had a few windows, a single entrance with a sturdy looking door, and that it wasn't as rundown as it looked from afar. There's 3 floors, broken down fences, a chimney, and a ton of vines crawling almost half of the structure from the ground up.

'If I wasn't so tired, I could kiss that door.' With slow strides, I made my way to the front door and slowly opened it.

'Darkness, shadows, and other furniture. Not a bad find, If I do say so myself.' I slowly closed the door behind me with a click. After that *CLICK*, the same *PING* sounded out in front of me and I wouldn't have believed what happened next until it did happen.

[Congratulations! For surviving the beginning stages of your journey and finding shelter, you are now officially an Adventurer!]

These floating words popping up in front of me and the accompanying sounds made me jump back and collide against the very sturdy door with a grunt. With a slowly throbbing and aching back, I stare at the words with confusion and a slight hint of trepidation. It wasn't long before the words disappeared and more replaced them.

[Now then, to get this underway without further interruptions, we've currently muted you and the shelter you've found yourself in is locked. So, don't even try it.]

'Now aren't those words ominous, and why the hell am I so calm?!?' With a twitch starting to show on my left eye, thanks to my overactive imagination, the words shifted once again.

[We can tell that you've probably got hundreds of questions for us, but we've stopped answering them after the last millennium. We'll explain things to you, and if you don't follow, then that's TOO BAD.]

'…'

[You've been chosen through a painstaking process of random chance to be another Adventurer in one of the worlds we've made a long time ago. Don't YOU feel lucky? This world that we've dropped you in is named Hetraea and it's a world unlike any other.]

'This can't be a joke… there's no holographic technology this advanced yet…'

[Your objective is to SURVIVE, THRIVE, and STAY ALIVE!!! That is all. However you do so is up to you. There are many dangers in this world and you only have 1 life to live. Make it count. Any normal human from your world would be dead after a few months, but not you Adventurers. No, no, no…, we've gifted you all with a certain Spark of what humans usually call the ability to Adapt, if you will.]

'This is just, I have no words for this…'

[This Spark of Adaptability needs to be cultivated by you. We've unlocked your Soul, Mind, and Body. How you develop from there is up to you. This calm state of mind that you're feeling will go away for a few moments after we're done, so GOOD LUCK coping. It's always fun to watch Greenhorns like you deal with this their first night.]

'What a bunch of f***ing a**holes!!!' With a stomp, I start pacing through the cabin with the words following my vision wherever I look. My twitching is on full blast, and I have to curl my fists otherwise I'd be destroying the limited furniture in this place.

[Before we go, heed these words. WORDS have POWER! KNOWLEDGE is KEY! The KEY to survival is CULTIVATING your SPARK. YOUR BODY, MIND, and SOUL belongs to YOU and YOU alone. Survive and make things interesting. A few of us have bets going around. Tata for now.]

The words blinked out of existence after I read and digested the final line.

'Well, that doesn't sound good…', was my last coherent thought that night.

Because all of a sudden, I felt fire rushing through my veins. I was on the ground twitching like I was having a seizure with a silent scream stuck in my throat in no time. My head was pounding, I felt my insides burning, I felt like I was drowning, and a million other feelings kept on rushing and leaving me in quick succession. I felt my vision darken and I was out like a light.

{After dawn breaks the next day}

I must've spent the rest of the night curled up in phantom pains because when I opened my eyes, there was daylight shining through the windows of the cabin. The grogginess was slowly leaving me, but almost every part of my body hurt. There were tear stains on my cheeks, my eyes felt itchy, my nose was runny, my hands were shaking, but thankfully, I could stand. I made my way towards a wooden bench next to one of the windows and sat down as if the strings holding me up got cut.

My emotions were all over the place and I felt lost. I'm afraid, anxious, hurting, and I don't know what to do. I take a few deep breaths and try to calm down while I think. With my eyes closed and my back leaning against the bench, I try to calm down even more. It takes a while for my racing heart to regain a steady rhythm, but when it does I feel a sudden sort of clarity and calmness wash over me. I felt a cooling sensation coming from my temples and spreading all over my body like a wave. It was both odd yet very pleasant.

*SHING* 'That sound…'

I open my eyes to even more floating words in front of me, but these felt different and they looked different.

[With the act of subconscious concentration with both body and mind, you've gained the ability of "Basic Meditation". Descriptions are listed down in your "Abilities Menu".]

["Basic Meditation – Lv 1" has gained 5% exp]

'Wait what?!… My life's a game now?'

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