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[Voting Thread] Travel to an Alternate World Isekai Contest


Maeriberii Haan

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Traveling to Another World YCM Fun Fest

 

Voting Stage!

 

Contest information can be seen here

 

Down, down the rabbit hole, and embark on a journey of a lifetime!

 

The submission stage has been finished, and we now have 5 entrants here, each telling a story of their own. So, without further ado, we'll present the five stories that has been submitted! 'course, for now we won't reveal who had submitted these stories to prevent any sort of bias from happening. But that shouldn't be an issue, no no no. A good story will stay a good story no matter who wrote it!

 


 

[spoiler=The Dive]

 

---

 

 

His breathing was slow and heavy, the weight of his steel armor pressing down on his sprawled body. His entire person was numbed to its core; an uncaring void replaced the sensations of life he had grown fond of late. He hardly managed to peer to his left side, seeing his severed arm strewn halfway across the hall of the castle.

No pain at all.

He had failed.

Despite the deafening silence, he could feel the presence of the Ent King behind him. Perhaps he was standing there, mocking his defeated state. It was no battle. He fell upon the Ent with the strongest ability he had learned, and was ended instantly. There was no fight.

He began to feel slight pain in his severed limb. His adrenaline must be receding. Black would occasionally come in from the sides of what little vision he had. He was fading, fast.

He thought back to his many comrades outside, those he had spent years of his life getting to know, as they fought the Ent King's army. They had only just afforded him an opportunity to make it inside his chamber. He thought back to his hometown, his resting place, the land he fought so hard to protect.

With this failure, being the chosen hero, there was naught to stand in the way of the Ent King and his global conquest. His breathing began to slow further, and it was harder to hold his eyelids open. He struggled in vain to move, to make some sort of effort to survive. He could barely move his remaining arm, reaching it out in front of him.

Was this... the end?



No.

There was one last trick left up his sleeve. A final ability once been taught. Perhaps it would be too little too late, but there were no options left. He dipped his right index finger into a pool of his own blood that lay before him, using it to draw a pattern onto the cold hard tile before him. He struggled to remember the exact instructions. Three lines left, connect through the middle. Circle covers the outskirts, to the right. And inside the circle, the Sigil of the Praying Woman.

He placed his hand on the newly-formed markings. Now, pray. Pray for an answer. Pray for a solution. Pray for relief. What little mana he had left, he channeled into his arm. Slowly, he began to feel his lifeforce leave his body, but not from a natural death. The crimson formation began to glow bright blue, as all feeling in his body had completely left. He clinched his teeth, begging for the Ent King to not notice what he was doing.

It was taking too long. When he learned the spell, he had been told it should take but a few moments. But perhaps, what little lifeforce he had left wasn't enough to sustain it..?

His fears were soon vanquished, as a warm and comforting sensation enveloped his hand. An overwhelming sense of peace enveloped his mind and body, as he felt his mind go blank. With the last of what energy he had, he spoke.

“Oh Goddess of above, heed my call. I offer unto you all that I possess, in my life, my soul, my spirit, and all wishes I had, have, and will ever h-have.”

A lapse in memory caused him to stutter. He knew the Ent King must be aware of him now. So little time left.

“Take that which I offer you, and with it, grant mine a single wish; bring about a savior to this land! Bring forth a noble fighter to relieve my people from their suffering! I call upon a new [destined hero]! Take my status, and bestow it upon him!”

In that solitary moment, the light under his hand flashed brightly, blinding him so. He watched as a spiral of dark green energies surged towards the sky, taking his honored status with him. Only moments later, the colossal foot of the Ent King came crashing down on his hand.

He felt no pain. He felt no fear. Only elation.

“It is finished.”

And he was gone.





- - - - -

Year: Synced Calendar Date March 25th, 2366
Location: Scutum-Centarus Arm, coordinates unknown

- - - - -

Captain Feral took a sip from his coffee mug, immediately spatting the concoction out of his mouth and onto the floor. Accidentally, of course. He had no desire to piss off the bridge janitor anymore than he already had. During their last shore leave, the ship's cook had brought back a new brand of coffee, grown from ground on one of the more exotic habitable planets in the last occupied system. Problem is, the genetic makeup of the coffee bean had to be altered so heavily to accommodate the new soil that the flavor is almost entirely foreign to what coffee used to taste like. Among the 64 crew members on the RCH Impact of Silence, a crew poll indicated that 49 of the crew actually enjoyed the new taste, which is just above the 75% vote threshold needed to keep this brand. Much to Feral's dismay, anyway.

"Giorgo, how much longer until we can leave transitional space?" Feral asked with a sigh, placing the hot mug of undrinkable drink back onto his chair. The navigational officer watched as an automated janitor drone tried -and failed- to clean up the ejected drink off the floor. The janitor's non-standard issue cleaning machines seem to all have this in common; that is, being unable to clean anything.

"...Huh? Oh, right." He swiveled his chair back towards his monitor, pressing a few prompts on-screen. "We have about... 2 more minutes before we get into dive range. I've notified engineering to spin up the dive unit." He leaned back, kicking his feet up onto his console. "Hey, at this rate, we'll be home a few days ahead of schedule. I knew this shortcut would be worth the risk."

A console over, the sensory officer chimed up over her loud and rapid typing. "Oh, sure. While you guys can just sit back, relax, and sample coffee, I have to frantically keep our sensor arrays from frying themselves over this background radiation. What the hell is even happening in this part of the transitional space, anyway? I haven't seen anything like it."

Giorgo peered over, eyeing the rapidly rising text on-screen. "Eh, I'm sure you have it under control. That's why they pay you the big bucks, right?"

"You could help, you know."

"Cheryl, do you remember the LAST time I tried to help you with something?"

"...Point taken."

Feral leaned back into his chair, making sure to lean towards the side that didn't have the mug on it. "It's only a little while longer. Do you think you can hold out?"

"I'll... probably manage. Can't say as much for my keyboard, though." She stopped for a moment, frustrated that one of her keys had become stuck, leaving her to try and get it loose with one hand, and typing with the other. Feral took this opportunity to get on comms, ringing up the engineers down below. The hum of engines and the clank of metal sounded throughout the room, as someone came on.

"'Ello, cap'n. We've got the drives spinnin' up right this very minute. Was there something you needed, particularly?" The thick drawl was somehow still understandable, despite the accent itself and the surrounding noise.

"Just making sure everything is alright down there." Feral pressed a few buttons on his personal console, triggering a series of light alarms and yellow lights throughout the vessel. "Attention all crew. We are now entering Action State 2. All non-essential crew are required to lock themselves into their respective dive seats. Repeat, all non-essential crew lock into dive seats." He deactivated ship-wide comms and set it back to engineering. "Boran, we're diving in about 30 seconds. Make sure everything is locked down tight."

"Aye, cap'n. Consider it done."

Barreling through space, the RCH Impact of Silence began to gain more and more speed. The bridge crew abandoned their antics from before in favor of their respective dive tasks. Feral sat straight in his seat, locking himself down like the rest of his crew. "Giorgo, are our coordinates set?"

Without looking up from his console, the nav. officer did a waving hand gesture towards his captain. "It's all set and ready to go. Engineering is also giving us an all-green on our energy stores. All you gotta do is push the button."

Nodding, Feral opened the case that contained the dive button, getting on comms one last time. "All crew members, prepare to dive! In T-minus 10, 9, 8..."

Blue streaks of energy began to envelope the space vessel, as it pierced through the emptiness of space. Each held slight tinges of black inside, complimented the lighter blue.

"...7, 6, 5, 4..."

Cheryl, taking a break from sensor adjustments, noticed a curved line appear on her monitor. Assuming it was just another sensor error, she quickly took to correcting it. Despite her swift, almost furious keyboard strikes, the approaching line did not disappear. There was nothing to correct. Her eyes grew wide.

"...3, 2, 1... DIVE!"

"CAPTAIN, CONTACT!"

The moment she yelled, the moment Feral pressed the final dive switch, a mass of dark-green energy slammed into the side of the vessel, with enough force to completely push it off course and lopsided. Everyone on the bridge was knocked about, with Feral himself barely keeping in his chair. The vessel began to spiral out of control through, with course adjustment engines offline due to dive protocols. Moments later, the yellow lights turned red, and the light alarm picked up pace. An automated computer voice sounded over comms.

"W A R N I N G : A C T I O N   S T A T I O N   1.  V E S S E L  I S  O U T  O F  C O N T R O L."

Feral pulled up his own comms. unit, patching into engineering. "Boran, status report! Cheryl, what the hell was that!?"

"I don't know, captain! It was on my sensor array before I could do anything about it!" She peered back to the monitor. "I've never seen readings like this before. This ain't no space phenomenon we know about."

Giorgo, who had been knocked clean out of his seat, attempted to collect himself. "Mystery phenomenon? Just perfect. Now how about we stop this spinning, huh?"

As if on cue, Feral's comms from engineering sprung to life. Amidst the sounds of people coughing and alarms, Boran spoke up. "Cap'n, dive unit's shot! Whatever got us is suckin' all the juice our reactors got!" The sound of screeching metal and explosions interrupted Boran's report, shaking the entire vessel. "Gods be dammed! Reactor 1 just blew her top. Damage control, get on that!"

Feral gripped his forehead, leaning forward. The situation was spiraling out of control, fast. Considering his options, nothing seemed particularly appealing. Attempting to power the engines and course adjustment jets via reactor two could cause a critical meltdown, which would be a lot worse than simply "blowing her top." On the other hand, powering down all systems and waiting for damage control to get things under control could mean spiraling out into god knows where, perhaps even off all known routes. Even the-

His own thoughts were interrupted by the lurching of the entire vessel. It... was slowing down. The spinning was lessening. He reached for his comms unit as fast as he was able. "Boran, how did you do this? Are we running on one reactor?"

There was a few moments of silence on the other end.

"Cap'n...we didn't do anythin'."

Now things seemed completely out of their hands.

Cheryl tapped a few buttons on her console, letting out a very audible gulp. "Captain, sir... when we were hit by whatever blast that was... our dive wasn't canceled."

Having slowed the spin, Feral was able to get a good look at the dive wormhole, several dozen kilometers away by this point. The once brilliant blue of a typical dive was replaced with a deep, sickly green. The usual disc-shape also seemed distorted, as if it were... pulsating.

"...Cheryl... what can you-" As soon as Feral spoke up, the wormhole shot three gigantic tendrils of sorts, half a kilo wide and as long as the distance between them and the wormhole. Seemingly made of pure energy, they wrapped themselves around the Impact of Silence, covering the view ports in the same dark green as the wormhole itself. Giorgo, having been startled out of his seat again, scrambled to climb back in. "Sir, what the f*** is that?"

Almost like a response to the question, the crew lurched in their seats once more. This time, however, back the way they came. They were being dragged towards the wormhole. Feral fumbled over his comms unit, turning it to shipwide.

"All crew, prepare for emergency dive! Repeat, prepare for emergency d-!"

Unable the finish his sentence, the RCH Impact of Silence slammed into the wormhole sideways, quickly absorbed into the green mass. Objective completed, the wormhole returned to its blue color, and fizzled out to nothing.

They were gone.


- - - - -


The young boy slipped on a patch of loose gravel, as he made his way up the large rock outcropping. He barely managed to catch himself with his Shepard's staff, jamming it into the rocks ahead of him and preventing his falling back to where he started. After the small spike of adrenaline faded, he cursed to himself and continued climbing.

“He ought to be around here somewhere. Cursed hoves, always getting lost.”

It's among the highest shames for a Shepard to lose a hove, let alone for a Shepard to on his first year of work. There's a saying that goes around among veterans: “ 'Tis better to lose a finger, an arm, or your life than to lose a single hove.”

Or something to that effect.

In any case, the fledgling Shepard couldn't let one of only eight hoves he was tasked with caring for slip away, right under his nose. His livelihood-and life-depended on it.

After a great amount of effort, he had managed to finally reach the top of the rock outcropping, wobbling slightly as he stood straight again. From here, atop Griffon Tooth Hill, the sights we saw were familiar and welcoming, before a backdrop of warm oranges and reds that came with the rising sun. The fields he had grown so used to treading were green as always, and the nearby lake sparkled bright gold with the reflecting light. Justifying it as taking a small break, he absorbed the surroundings, letting the wind blow over his robes and across his face.



The lad shook himself out of it. He didn't have the time to rest like this. Should it wander into a nearby forest, or stay out long enough for dangos to become active, that hove would never be seen by civilization again. Atop the outcropping, he had a decent view of the surrounding area. Any movement would likely be spotted by him, his eyes trained by months of scanning wistful fields of grain for predators of any sort. And even then, the white puff that primarily composes a hove would easily be spotted among the greens and browns of the top of the hill. Any-

The soft bleating of a hove was still enough to make the boy jump out of his skin, nearly stumbling and falling back down the outcropping he had spent so much time climbing. His heart had begun racing again, as he gathered his bearings and frantically looked around for it. Its call was too close to be out of visual range, yet he couldn't see it. He began to panic. Its bleat was soft and weak enough to indicate that it was injured; by what, he had no way of guessing, but-

“Baaah...”

Too close. He peered down, a few feet away, only to see a small black hoof behind a rock. The Shepard stood motionless for a moment, before chuckling to himself. Mostly, at his own ineptitude at his job. He peered around the rock and saw his seventh hove lying there, with a small but gnarly gash in its leg. It probably had tripped while climbing the same outcropping he had, cutting itself and forcing it to stop. A sort of blessing it had been, as a hove can wander far unattended. The boy felt lucky it was forced to stop here.

Reaching down, he scooped the creature up into his arms, hefting it above his chest. Careful to level the leg, as to avoid further bleeding, his trek back to the rest of the flock could finally begin.

He had hardly taken a step before the strangest noise had filled his ears. A low groaning sound, like the stress of the chains of a city gate, but without the jingling sound. Soon, the air had begun to rumble as well, akin to the sounds of thunder from afar. The boy peered around, looking up into the sky for signs of a storm. Clouds were high and plentiful, but none showed the clear signs of a storm.

A flash caught the lad's eyes; a flash of green within one of the clouds directly above him. Foreign, and unnatural, followed by a sound similar to before, but louder and more intense. Sweat began to form down the side of his head. Magic was always a possibility, but magic was outlawed in the outskirts, so only city magicians or... criminals used magic. The clouds above him soon broke to a blinding flash, same in color as before, forcing the boy to turn away out of reflex.

Running. Running was the only thing he could think of doing. His footing was loose, forcing him to slow as he made his way down the rocks, and the tapping of the staff strapped to his back on the rocks was easily drowned out by a new noise. An ear-piercing roaring filled the sky, as though a great dragon had awoken in the skies above. As he ran, hove in hand, he peered back towards the sky.

How could that not be a dragon? Spewing fire earthwards and screeching loudly, as it barreled directly towards the spot he once was. Though, his running wasn't good enough. The beast was large as a mountain, and wide as an ocean, seemingly intent on scorching the lands and all who inhabited them.

But running was all he could do. His sandals did not make for good running shoes, as he tripped and stumbled several times, still gripping the hove tight the entire time. The horrible noise was getting closer, constantly, moving at a speed impossible by any man, even with magic, as though a bolt of lighting had been summoned upon him. Looking just ahead, he saw his flock, huddled together just where he had left them. Amidst the chaos, the herd mentality of the hoves was strong as ever.

Despite what little breath he had left, he yelled towards the flock, desperately hoping they'd hear him.

“MOVE! MOVE!”

Without success, the flock stood still. As though they had an ancient defensive method, of simply letting predators take what they wanted from the outer ring and spare the rest, they stood still. He cursed them mightly under his breath.

Regardless, it was too late. He reached the rest of the flock, but peering back towards the dragon, it would make landfall in moments. He had seen large rocks hit the ground before, and the impact it had, so should this massive creature collide with the earth at that speed...?

He maneuvered his way to the center of the flock, setting the injured hove down in the middle. Unfastening his staff from his back, rammed it into the ground and crouched, holding on for dear life. The grey dragon, unleashing a fantastic jet of fire and flame towards the earth, collided with a ground-sundering impact, even knocking the crouching Shepard unsteady. The last he saw was a gigantic wall of dust barreling towards him, forcing the boy to ball up on the ground.

All went black.


- - - - -


Slowly, Feral's eyes fluttered slightly, letting the light of the world pierce his eyelids. His mind was completely scrambled, it working solely off of instinct; he knew was to get up and look around. And yet, his numb body prevented any attempt to move, his limbs sprawled across the cold floor.

A few moments passed. Slowly, his cognitive abilities began to return, as well as slight limb movement and an egregious amount of pain. Clearly, the numbness had worn off. He finally regained control over his right arm; drawing it towards himself, he propped himself up, just enough to be able to look around. He was... still on the bridge. The bridge roof had a small fracture in it, letting a light breeze and some light in from outside. A small layer of smoke fluttered across the top of the ceiling. The bluish, early-morning tint of everything around him was almost enough to lull him back to slumber.

Until he laid eyes on a body. Cheryl's, specifically, body half-slumped out of her chair. A surge of adrenaline rushed through his system, as he regained full control of his body and felt the pain it was in; nothing felt broken, but several sprains for sure. He scrambled to his feet, stumbling and catching himself on his captain's chair; he had likely been thrown out of it when... it occurred. The memory came back to him in a flash; a spacial anomaly, followed by a dive malfunction, and then...

Impact? The gravity was natural. They must have impacted a planetoid.

He heard coughing come from just beyond Cheryl's console. Giorgo slowly began to rise from the spot he had been thrown, tripping over himself and landing on the floor. The man rolled over onto his back, and coughed again.

“C-christ... what happened?”

Speaking to no one in particular, of course. However, the moans and groans of the awakening bridge crew soon let Feral know they weren't the only ones to survive. As for the rest of the crew...

God willing.

He made his way to his chair, checking the visual screen on one of the arms; main power is offline, with emergency power functioning off of existing batteries and solar. No initial scans, no turret functionality, no life support. The list of malfunctioning or disabled equipment stretched on and on. Disheartening, to say the least.

Feral opened up the comms channel to ship-wide, both ways. He knew he had to get a handle on the situation, and fast; before his splitting headache could get any worse.

“Boran... Boran, can you hear me?”

For a few moments, there was pure radio silence. Only the occasional sparking of a nearby glitched console broke the ambiance, or the heaving breathing of a bridge crew member. The silence seemed to last for an eternity, before the channel opened up again.

“Aye, cap-...aye cap'n. I'm still in... one piece, I assume. I can't say much for the reactors, though.”

His constant coughing indicated a large amount of smoke in the reactor room, which, when paired with the yelling of other engineering crew trying to seal reactor leaks, didn't bode well.

“The whole system is shot, from top to bottom. Reactor one has- OI, BRING OUT THE OXYGEN MASKS! WE WON'T LAST LONG IF YA DON'T!- Reactor one's got a major gash up the right side, along with a giant rock that's stabbin it. Reactor two is mostly functioning, but the difference in fusion core pressure keeps the whole rig from doin' anything useful. Right now, we're workin' on stabilizing what's left, but it'll take a minute.”

Feral tried not to let the worry affect his tone of voice.

“So long as the cores don't go critical on us. Just do what you can.”

“Aye, cap'n. We'll just- oi oi oi, fire on that console! Someone bloody put it out!”

The comms cut on that pleasant note, letting the groans of bridge crew and the zombie-like shuffling of their movements fill the air. Feral set himself back down into his chair, left arm propping him up as he thought. He felt no desire to check the status of the rest of the vessel; especially the lower halves, where the impact occurred. Crew losses would be... severe.

“Uh... captain?”

Cheryl's voice barely reached Feral's ears as he thought. His instinctive finger-tapping filled the room with a rhythmic sound.

“Captain Feral, sir!”

Her voice raised slightly, catching his attention. She must have wordlessly woken up, and was peering outside the shaded bridge window.

“You need to take a look at this, sir.”

Anything to take his mind off of his duties, really. That itself motivated him to get up and approach the window, stepping over a still-lying Giorgo in the process. Upon reaching the window, he pressed the tint toggle on the left of the entire bridge window, letting in near-blinding amounts of light. Feral's arm recoiled to protect his eyes, shielding them from the light, until...

“...Green.”

He absentmindedly uttered a single word as his eyes became used to the light. Fields and fields of green, with the occasional tree dotting the landscape. Small rock outcroppings lined the hill they had apparently crashed on. A glittering lake sparkled in the distance, given life by the newly-raised sun. Cheryl pulled out a small PDA, displaying a little string of data; though, Feral paid it no mind.

“Before we hit, auto-mapping did some celestial cartography scans, and... we're in no known sector. Not a single recognizable star formation.”

She turned to face her captain.

“Sir? Where the hell are we?”


- - - - -


The young Shepard coughed and gagged, reeling from the dust he had inhaled. The surroundings were still hazy, with particles of dirt and such swirling in the wind around him. In a panic, he shot up to his feet from his lying position, frantically peering all around him.

They were gone. All eight of them.

Without hesitation, the lad took off in a random direction through the dust and debris, shouting out into nothing. Anything that might have him find his herd. Soon enough, the swirling cover disoriented him, as he tripped and stumbled blind through the field. Panic began to set in; losing even one of his hoves would ruin him, let alone all eight, dragon or no.

His shouting fell onto deaf ears; no response or sign of them. Had they been blown away in the impact? Hoves are notoriously light, but not that much so. Perhaps they had just scattered in a blind frenzy after the impact hit? While they did tend to stick together when threatened, they had no qualms with scattering when panicked, particularly when facing large opponents. Had only he-

His internal monologue cut short suddenly, as he toppled forward into the dirt. The boy spit a small mouthful of dirt from his mouth, groaning as he returned himself to standing. He turned around to face his immovable assailant, fully intent on cursing it; had it not been one of his hoves. He scrambled towards the creature, which seemed to be conscious but stiff. Shock might have gotten to it. Scooping it up in his arms, he dove his head into its soft yet coarse fur, closing his eyes. Even one was better than none, and perhaps the rest would not be far.

The thought of their potential closeness calmed the young Shepard, before panic struck him again. He had nearly forgotten completely about the dragon; and in his running around the dusty air, he had no perception of where it might be. He sat on the ground, cross-legged and with the hove between his arms, waiting. A creature of that size couldn't stay hidden like this forever; eventually, it had to move. A swish of the tail, a small breath of flame. Anything to indicate its position.

There was no need. A gust of wind from up the mountains soon enveloped the field, quickly taking all of the dust with it. He shielded his eyes from the wind, ducking down to get closer his hove. Slowly peering up, he immediately froze dead still. Directly in front of him, not thirty meters away, sat the dragon, gigantic in profile and breathing flames. The moment seemed to last forever, with adrenaline pumping and reflexes ready but nothing to react to.



A minute or so had passed. The steady stream of fire and smoke from the creature's... “mouth,” hadn't faded. Nor had the beast moved a single muscle since being unveiled. Slowly, still cautious, the young boy raised to his feet, setting the hove down and commanding it to stay. The beast was of truly fantastical size, easily reaching 550 meters in length. The more he looked at its grey hues, the less real it seemed. At least, it seemed less of a living creature. Nothing of this size could exist outside of nature, he at first thought, but... the boxy shape it had, along with strange indentations all along the side...

Could it be man-made?

The thought was ludicrous, but as he gained the courage to step closer to the beast, it was clearly no living thing. Its skin was lined with metal if not made entirely out of it, as the profile sloped upwards towards the top. He squinted, eyeing something along one side of the object.

“T H E   R O Y A L   C O N G L O M E R A T E   O F   H O U S E S   L O Y A L   V E S S E L,
H O U S E   C E T U S   R E P R E S E N T

R.C.H.   I M P A C T   O F   S I L E N C E”

They appeared as random patterns to him at first, but upon closer inspection, they appeared to be letters of sorts. No language he had ever seen before. The weight of the knowledge slowly began to sink on him; a giant, metal, man-made object from a foreign land. His better senses screamed for him to walk back, collect his hoves, and run. He still had time. He could return to the village, and warn everyone of about this. If anyone would even believe him.

The young boy hesitated. Just before he was about to turn around, he noticed a small door on ground level, sliding open and shut. Open and shut. Little balls of light flew down from the corners. Was... there someone there? The motion was erratic, and inhuman. The thought occurred to him that perhaps humans weren't responsible for this creation. Digi's tended to avoid working with metals, though some of the larger cultures had metalworking. Is it really such a stretch that an unknown race of Digi's were responsible for this?

His accursed young curiosity had gotten the best of him as he thought, having slowly crept up to the door. Only a peak, he rationalized. Only to see what was inside. Through the gap the door made, smalls lights flickered on the walls. What seemed to be ropes hung from and were wound inside the ceiling. A small fire lit the corner of a hallway, illuminating the grays and dark blues of the strange construct.

The door suddenly stopped moving, mid-slide. It slowly opened back up to the open position, revealing the entirety of the hallway. Without thought, guided by a thirst for knowing, the young lad found himself creeping inside the hallway, slowly looking around as he moved fully inside.

The door, faster than he could react, slid shut behind him. Instant regret. Eyes wide, he turned around and slammed into the door, trying his hardest to yank it open and let him out. It didn't budge for a second. His panic began to set in again; it had little chance to rest today. With a shiver up his spine, he slowly turned around, having heard... noises.

“God, I finally got that door to stop. Now all I gotta do is finish soldering the wires, and it'll be done and done. Can't wait until they get this sections system regulator back onl-”

A man had come walking around the bend with the fire, speaking to himself in some unknown language. Upon seeing the young Shepard, he froze, eyes wide.

“W-who?”


- - - - -


All commanding officers aboard the Impact of Silence had gathered in the command room, adjacent to the bridge. Captain Feral, Nav/Security Officer Giorgo, Sensor Officer Cheryl, and Chief Engineer Boran all stood around the table, solemnly. They knew what this meeting entailed, first and foremost. Feral cleared his throat, looking towards Boran.

“What's the status report from you and your crew?”

Boran shifted in place, looking rather uncomfortable. He shook his head out of it, and looked back up.

“What systems we've managed to put back together tell us we've got around 60% structural integrity; just over the break-line. If we want to get 'er back in the air, we got to get it up to at least 65%.”

He pressed a button on the console in front of him, displaying a hologram; two large cylinders, one blue and one red.

“We managed to seal the breach in reactor 1, and theoretically, we could fire her up again and give us some proper power. Alas, so long as reactor 2 has that big-ass rock jammed up it, we can't risk activation, what with a pressure imbalance and all. And due to our status of 'skeleton crew,' we lack the right materials to even BEGIN reconstruction and resealing of the blasted thing.”

Feral enlarged the schematic of reactor 2; a large, jagged rock had pierced right into it from the bottom, likely on impact.

“And, of course, this means we can't get back in the air.”

“Right cap'n. Even moreso when you realize our auto-landing used all our terrestrial fuel to slow our landing. All things considered, it was the right choice. We're still kickin', after all.”

Feral closed the hologram with a sigh, scrolling through files to try and find a crew roster.

“All of us, Boran?”

As if he had just suddenly remembered, his face grew solemn once more.

“ 'Fraid not. My crew's been diggin' through some collapsed compartments; mostly non-essential rooms, so that shouldn't affect performance. Bad news, we've found 19 dead so far. Killed on impact, we reckon. Most were combat personal, though 5 were my own. We're... still looking.”

Giorgo in particular appeared crushed. A close friend of his had been discovered, mangled in one of the compartments that buckled on impact. He grit his teeth upon hearing Boran's report, turning away from the table. Cheryl simply placed a hand on his shoulder, as if it were some sort of consolation. She turned towards Feral.

“Well, Captain? What's the plan?”

Feral stared at the data he had extracted on the table. Livable, e-type conditions; no need for oxygen masks. Simply looking out the window confirmed the existence of water and plant life. Perhaps this planet had a similar crust to normal shipyard planets? Or maybe-

A knock on the door interrupted his train of thought. Irked, he shot the door a glare.

“Who knocks?”

A muffled voice sound out from the other side.

“Engineering Crew Ensign Charles Mark, sir.”

“All crew were notified of the lead meeting. What could be important enough to interrupt it?”

He seemed to hesitate for a moment, though shuffling could be heard from the other side.

“...Sir, you really need to take a look at this.”

With a sigh, he motioned silently towards Boran. With a nod, the Chief unlocked the door, letting it slide open automatically. Instead of seeing Charles' usual mug, they were met with... an unknown face.

“Get going.”

Charles gave the apparently young boy a shove with the muzzle of his rifle, as he had been escorting him by gunpoint. Feral froze in place, eyeing the boy from top to bottom. He donned a brown robe, that covered his entire body from the neck down, save for the sandals visible from on his feet. His medium-length, shaggy dark brown hair ruffled as he moved, and his face was completely caked in dust and dirt. Feral shot a look towards Charles.

“I found him snooping around inside one of the outside corridors; he apparently made his way in while I was fixing a door. Sir... he's not one of ours, that's for sure.”

With a deep sigh, Feral practically fell back into a chair in the corner of the room.

“By the Houses... this had better not turn into an incident. The bureaucracy would have my ass.”

He turned back towards the boy, eyeing him over again. He didn't appear to wear any clothes typically given to House colonists; perhaps he's apart of a self-funded, fringe colonist group.

“Boy, where are we right now? And what's your name.”

The nervous-looking lad fidgeted in place for a moment, before speaking.

“---...- ---- ---------- ---- --- ---.”

Feral's eyes grew wide. He turned to Cheryl, who was already scrolling through her personal PDA.

“Uh...?”

“Sorry Captain. It's not a dialect, it's not a transformation... there isn't even a vocal tinge of Conglomerate Common. Sir... He's not from us. He's not from anywhere our race knows.”

Giorgo seemed to almost chuckle upon hearing that, approaching the boy and ruffling his hair; of course, the lad recoiled in response.

“You're f***in' kidding me, right? He's just a human, like you and me. Maybe this a fringe colony that invented their own language?”

“Giorgo, step back and don't touch him. Charles, get him to quarantine and sanitation as soon as possible.”

He stood up out of his chair, placing both hands on the hologram table.

“Things have just become very, very complicated.

- - - - -

 

 

 


 

[spoiler=The Millennium War]

 

---

You know all those old high school cliches from the movies? Unfortunately they were all true at Lincoln Academy. The jocks all travel in packs, acting like out of control frat boys and got away with murder as long as they did well in sports. Meanwhile, the nerd got stuffed into lockers, thrown in to garbage cans, or beaten up on a regular basis. Sad to say but I myself was one of those nerds on the bottom of the food chain.


I had never done anything to torment the local bullies at school. I wasn't even all that smart to begin with so it's not like I was throwing the curve and failing them all. My glasses weren't because I spent my head in a book. but rather from staring at a screen all day. If it wasn't Final Fantasy on my Playstation it was DoTA on my PC or Monster Hunter on my 3DS. My video games were a nice escape from the daily cycle of up-school-home-bed.


It was the Wednesday right before Pilgrims Day and, probably because he knew he wouldn't get a chance to wail on me for a whole four-day weekend, my local friendly neighborhood bully decided to pick on me extra hard today as I was walking home.


"Hey SMELL-son!"


"It's Nelson." though no matter how many times I corrected him, he still never got it right.


"Shut up kid!" the jock pushed me, and laughed rather hard as I stumbled and picked myself up off the ground.


"So SMELL-son. Since Pilgrims is coming up, you should come over for a nice Euryval family dinner."


I already knew he didn't ACTUALLY want to invite me anywhere. This was the set up for some joke or prank or insult at my expense. Better to just take my lumps and keep going.


"I don't actually like turkey." I said trying to push past him, but he be stronger, taller and more physically capable then me he quickly got ahead of me.


"Slow down SMELL-son. We don't serve any jive turkeys at the Euryval household!"


"Oh? Then uhh... what do you serve?" I really should have seen this coming as I noticed him curling his fists.


"KNUCKLE SANDWICHES!" He gave an uproarious laugh as he gave me a vicious uppercut and I collapsed on the cold hard pavement. My head was throbbing, my eyes burned, and I closed my eyes, hoping that when I woke up he'd be nowhere in sight.



---



I awoke in what felt like a grassy knoll, which was peculiar because Silvershine was pretty much 99% concrete.


Don't get me wrong. I wasn't some big city kid who had never seen a tree in his life. I was just pretty damn positive I didn't collapse on the grass when my bully hit me. The last thing I remember as I blacked out was falling outside Lincoln Academy. Rather than waking up in the medical wing or at the hospital, it seemed somehow whoever discovered me decided that it was best to take me over to Solar Dusk Memorial Park or something.


What I got though was much worse.


"Grr..." I thought it was my stomach at first, but as I tried to get up the soft growling turned into a loud barking.


I quickly turned to the sound and was confronted with a dark haired wolf. The frightening canine was glaring at me with a fierce look in its eye as it snarled and looked me over.


"Wah!" I yelled, though there was no one to hear me.


Or so I thought...


"Back!" My vision was still kinda blurry and I wasn't quite so quick to move after my meeting with the bully, but I saw a girl wearing what might possibly be the most elaborate dress I'd ever seen in my entire life. It was one of those super poofy dresses, the ones that looks like a bell with how much it puffs out at the hips. She looked to be about my age, but I was never good at telling a girl's age, and probably even less so after spending a semester at Lincoln.


She wore a fancy tiara, jewels all over, and her dress had really elaborate designs decorated on them.


The girl rushed forward and did a did a quick circular hand motion and snapped her fingers. And just like that, the tips of her fingers engulfed in flames.


"what the hell!?" I quickly backed away from the girl, and it seemed the wolf did as well. It cowered nervously and seemed about ready to bolt. The fancy girl took a breath and the fire formed itself into a ball. She threw the blaze ball at the wolf, who instantly turned tail and ran back into the brush.


The girl breathed a sigh of relief, then looked over to me. "Thank the Gods you're safe." And then, she did something I'd never seen a girl do before. She smiled at me.


I awkwardly staggered myself back up to my feet. I remembered a line from one of my video games. "When meeting a beautiful lady, it's always wise to introduce yourself." I started to open my mouth but before I could a loud horse neighing alerted me of yet another person on the scene.


A boy, much older than me, probably about the same age as my bully rode in on an all white horse. He looked like some kind of nobleman or a prince with the way he came upon the scene. He dismounted his horse an quickly stepped between the girl and me.


"Princess Hollandaise!" the boy quickly looked her over. "Are you alright!?"


The princess looked him over confused. "I'm fine but-"


"Back vile fiend!" he quickly unsheathed a sword at his blade, aiming it at my throat. I quickly tried to back away, but soon found myself with a tree behind me and a sword wielding pretty boy in front.


"Uhh..." I tried to speak, but with a sword sword at my throat I couldn't much. Fortunately, the princess had a few choice words for her knight in shining armor.


"Hey! Leave him alone!" she said, putting her hand on his sword arm and pushing him back.


The boy seemed completely dumbstruck. "But Princess! I was merely rescuing you from this..." he looked me over in disgust, something I was quite familiar with.


"I do NOT need any rescuing!" The Princess interrupted.


"Uhh... no offense, but I sorta still do..." I whimpered, his sword mere inches away from my throat.


The boy scowled, but one look from the princess and he relented. He quick returned his blade to his side and sighed.


"Fair Princess Hollandaise, when we found your bed chamber unoccupied we had all feared the worst."


"That's an understatement." She said with a flip of her hair. "You ALWAYS think the dark wizard Palindrome is out to get me. I came here alone, of my own free will."


"Why did you come to the Eternal Forest alone, unsupervised, on a dark autumn night like this!? What good would come of it?!"


"I came to meet with him!" She pointed directly to me.


"Oh, so what is this then?" He seemed hurt, as though he didn't want to know the answer to it. "Are you two... h-having an affair?"


She looked taken aback, slightly offended, and then rolled her eyes, a reaction I was more accustomed to getting from girls. "Have you hit your head!? I am committed only to you! And that man is not my lover. He has a much higher, and much more important purpose in my life."


The boy glared at me, and I backed away, perhaps anticipating a sword at my throat again.


"Uhh... what exactly is going on?" I asked.


"I prayed and prayed as hard as I could to all of the Eternals of the Aether Realm. Zera - Lord of the Sky. Demeidon - God of the Sea. Arena - Goddess of War. And even the loser gods too, like Aphraestus - God of Love. Apollemis - Goddess of Music. Diomes - God of Travel. Even Persdaes, Goddess of the Underworld. At last, after all the nights of prayer a shooting star seemed to signal my prayers had been answered. I followed it into the woods, and sure enough... here you are."


I felt this hadn't answered any of my question at all. "But... what is here?"


"Who is he?" The knight asked. "What exactly where you praying for?"


"The same thing I always pray for, dear knight Tomate." Princess Hollandaise gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. "I prayed for an end to the Millenium War, and I'm certain this is the boy who will assist us with it!"

 

 

 


 

[spoiler=Expedition Solaea]

 

---

Part 1: Gateway
 
As Joe walked along the path through the nature park, he imagined about where he would be now if he hadn’t been such a procrastinator. Maybe he would have done better in college. Maybe he would finally have had a real job by now, like his college friends were able to achieve already. As his thoughts led to stress, Joe tried to relax – this was the reason he’d came here, after all, to get away from the troubles that followed him through society. But his worries would not go away. Starting to panic, Joe began to lose attention of the world around him and tripped over a stone. He fell off the path into the deep river beside it, as the current swept him away from his intended route.
 
     When Joe regained his bearings, he found himself in a lake at the end of the river. After swimming up to the surface, something caught his attention. A flashing light, fading in and out, was moving across the edge of the lake. Hoping it was a park guide with a flashlight, Joe began swimming and calling after it, hoping to get its attention. The light just tried to move away, as if it was scared, but Joe continued to pursue it.

     As he swam across, climbed out of the lake, and continued to chase the light across land, Joe began to realize it wasn’t like something from a park guide’s flashlight. Rather, it seemed more like a orb of light hovering and moving on its own, almost as if it were sentient. After a few more minutes of this chase, Joe found himself facing a great wall with an arched walkway through it. Sketched across the arch were glowing runes, ones that Joe could not decipher. On Joe’s side of the wall, a rocky environment surrounded him, with only the moon to light the details; but through the arch, Joe could see a lush forest covered with the warm hues of dawn. Intrigued by this, Joe stepped in to see what was happening.
 
     As Joe entered the other side of the arch, he could feel a warm breeze blowing that wasn’t felt on the other side. Around him, he could hear the cries of what he thought was the wildlife of the forest. As Joe looked all around, he caught sight of the archway he had passed through. It was still there, but it was sealed with solid stone, with more runes across it. Beginning to panic, Joe noticed some odd-shaped indents across it. Assuming these indents were keyholes for key-like devices, and that assembling them and inserting them could get him back to his own world, Joe decided to set out to find his way back home.
 
 
Part 2: Another
 
     As the sky turned blue and the forest around Joe settled into a largely green state, he explored around the area by the walled gateway, and his state of panic gradually gave way to a feeling of serenity.  The warm temperature of the wind, the scent of the flora, and the distant calls of the fauna all came together to form one peaceful environment. Eventually, Joe decided to venture out of this area in search of the devices that might be able to open up the gateway again. After all, he wouldn’t find them by just sticking to one area.
 
     The forest was filled with trees of many sizes, with massive branches stemming out from them. Many of these trees were also draped with ivy, and vines overhang, mostly in spaces between the large tree branches. All of these seemed so well-coordinated as if to seem like it was designed for humans to navigate the many levels of the forest. On the ground, many kinds of flowers had grown, giving the entire forest floor a sweet mix of exotic aromas.
 
     As Joe went further and further away from the gateway, he felt like he was being watched by an unknown follower, and it began to worry him. Finally, Joe decided to call for his stalker to reveal itself. Suddenly, Joe was surprised to see a figure drop from above and land in front of him, crouching like an athlete as if to move again. The figure had an air of confidence around her, with her eyes narrowed towards Joe. Her black hair blew in the wind, long and untied, and she wielded a spear in her right hand.

     Startled, Joe asked, “Who are you, and why were you following me?” His acquaintance replied with a soft voice, “I am Jadea, the chief huntress of this area. I followed you for you seemed, at a distance, to be a Shorian, but up closer you seem to be just a harmless stranger to our land.”
 
     Joe’s mind began to buzz with questions, and thus he continued to inquire, hoping for an answer; “Am I in danger here?”
 
     “Yes and no; it all depends on what you do.”
 
     “Can you take me back to my homeland?”
 
     “Perhaps, but there is much to be done.”
 
     “Where am I anyway?”
 
     “I have only known this land as Solaea.”
 
     “How can you jump from such a long height and land unharmed?”
 
     “Don’t worry, me and my tribe do stuff like this all the time.”
 
     A suddenly interested Joe asked, “Can you take me to them?”
 
     “Sure. I think that you will find some of the things there interesting, but you should know that I cannot guarantee your safety.”
 
     But Joe didn’t mind – he was just glad to have someone to lean on in this strange new world. And so the two set off together for Jadea’s tribe. For her, it was the only home she had – but Joe had no idea what to expect.
 
 
Part 3: Artifact
 
     As Joe and Jadea trekked through the forest side by side, they eventually came to a sheer cliff. Along the side of it was a narrow walkway that they chose to hike on in single file. Jadea was able to do so with effortless balance as if she had known this road all her life, while Joe had a hard time keeping his balance, and stuck close to the wall in fear of falling. Eventually, they came to a small clearing where pieces of rusted metal lay. One was a mechanical sphere on a pedestal, and it seemed like it had not been used for a very long time. In front of the pedestal laid three other spheres similar to this first one, arranged in a straight line.
 
     “These are the Spheres of Xarinaea, named after my tribe, who discovered it. My home isn’t far from here, and we often come here to study these artifacts, where they came from, and how they operate. We’ve made no progress so far,” said Jadea as they passed by the pedestal. But something about it caught Joe’s eye; there was a bit of a gap there that revealed some broken pieces of machinery. “What’s this?”, he asked Jadea, and the two drew closer to the gap to examine it.
 
     “We don’t know what that is. None of us know anything about the inner workings of these artifacts. We just use them how they come as, if they aren’t in disrepair like this one is. Since we can’t make more of them, and there isn’t enough to go around, we are constantly fighting over who deserves them the most,” explained Jadea. But seeing a resemblance between this mechanism and some machines in his own world, Joe replied; “Uh, I just gotta work around with this. I got a degree in engineering when I was in college, so I know what I’m doing.”
 
     Not understanding what Joe meant by “degree”, “engineering” or “college”, Jadea paid close attention to how Joe played with the instruments inside the pedestal, but could not make sense of what he was doing. Suddenly, the mechanical spheres lit up, revealing in the patterns of light pictures and runes like those on the gateway. Jadea looked around astonished as Joe felt a sense of accomplishment that he had never before felt.
 
     But shortly, the two heard footsteps coming from the side of the clearing opposite of the side they entered. As they looked towards where the sound was coming from, they saw a man running forwards, coming to arrive in front of Joe. He was breathing heavily, as if he had come a long way, but when he saw that the spheres were lit up, he seemed to gain back his energy.
 
     “Hey, did you just get the Spheres to work? I can’t wait to tell my friends who study here, they will be so excited! What’s your name, by the way?” said the man to Joe.
 
     “Uh, I’m Joe. Nice to, uh, meet you. Who are you?” asked Joe, despite his shyness.
 
     “I’m Aido. Nice to meet you, too, uh, Joe. That’s an unusual name around here, by the way, where are you from?”
 
     “I, uh, went through this arch of sorts, explored a bit, and, well, here I am.”
 
     “So you came from that gateway that’s been sealed up for years?” Aido paused, taking in the concept. “I can’t say I understand, but if you’re coming to the village, you’re not far. Follow me. You’re lucky Jadea decided to accompany you, by the way; we have a bit of tension with outsiders due to our own rough relationship with the Shorians.”
 
     And so the three continued their walk, in the direction Aido had come from. They re-entered the forest area, and not soon after, they stopped at a large clearing.
 
     “We’re here.” Aido said.
 
 
Part 4: Village
 
     “But I don’t see anything. I just see… what I saw everywhere else in this forest of yours,” said Joe in confusion.
 
     “Look up,” replied Jadea. And in doing so, Joe was able to finally notice a sprawling village up in the trees. Across it spread wooden walkways, stairs, and holes covered with curtains in the trees, as well as people walking across this network of walkways. The entire complex seemed designed to be in harmony with nature, and began about 3 stories above the forest floor but stretched all the way to the treetops.
 
     Among the moving silhouettes, a still one caught Joe’s eye. He could barely make it out, but determined it to be a mostly human creature, but with a few extra bumps in the shape. Perched from one of the higher stories of the village complex like a cat, it seemed to be watching him and his friends, and Joe began to feel a bit uneasy. Joe silently pointed it out to his two colleagues, and Jadea hollered up to it; “It’s OK, he’s a friend!”
 
     In response, the silhouette began to walk as if on all fours, first to the center of a nearby tree, then down it, head-first. As it got closer to the ground, Joe was able to examine it in more detail. It seemed to have a jaguar’s ears, tail, and green cat eyes, but otherwise was very much like a young woman, like Jadea. As the creature finally reached the trio whom awaited her, she asked to Jadea; “Who is this stranger?”
 
     “He got in through the gateway which we’ve been trying to open, apparently, and was able to light up the broken Spheres.” came the reply from Aido. The creature looked at Joe in disbelief, and after a short while staring at him, decided to respond; “Hi, stranger who can manage the Artifacts. I am Noru, the tribe’s watchguard and food supplier.” Noru held up one of the hands that it was using as a leg, holding it closed and flat like a paw. Confused, Joe mistook this for a request to do a fistbump, and nudged it with his own closed fist.
 
     Insulted, a suddenly angered Noru drew back its mouth in a snarl, her shapened teeth showing, and swiped one of her claws at him, but Joe was able to duck out of the way. Even so, Noru's attempted slash missed Joe's face by an inch.  Jadea went over to try and comfort Joe, who was frightened out of his wits, while Aido tried to explain to Noru that Joe meant no harm. After the situation was resolved, Joe and Aido used the steady ivy and stairs to climb up through the many floors of the village, while Jadea chose to wall-jump across the trees, and Noru leaped from level to level.
 
     If the view of the village from the forest floor was good, the view from the village itself was simply breathtaking, especially due to the fact that the sun was setting by now. Eventually, the four reached a level halfway between the forest floor and the tips of the treetops, and gathered by a walkway covered by curtains in the side of a particularly wide tree. “This is where I reside,” explained Jadea. “I imagine we are all tired from today’s events, so we can reside here for the night.” The rest agreed, and entered.
 
     It was a one-room residence, with a few empty shelves here and there, and four sleeping bags, one for each of them. Joe took the one closest to the door, and soon after, partly because of the soothing sound of Noru’s purring, and partly because of his own fatigue, he fell asleep, while a restless Aido went to check on the spheres.
 
     The next morning, Joe woke up to Jadea and Noru trying to get his attention. Upon seeing him open his eyes, Jadea told him; “What are you doing? Get up! We need to get you out of here, the village is under attack!”
 
 
Part 5: Raid
 
     Still drowsy, Joe asked; “But where’s Aido?”
 
     “He went to check on the Spheres. We don’t know if he’s OK, so we have to see if he’s still there. Besides, it isn’t safe for you here right now,” replied Noru, and they set off. As the three scrambled down the village, Joe could see some of the villagers squaring off with whom he presumed to be the raiders, and could see a few carrying off a device of some shape. He instantly recognized that shape – it looked like it would fit exactly into one of the Gateway’s bumps. Soon they made it to the clearing where the Spheres lay. When they got there, all four of the contraptions were missing, and not a trace of Aido was to be seen.
 
     After investigating the clearing for a while, Noru concluded to the others, “Aido was certainly here, but the raiders must have taken him hostage and brought him and the spheres somewhere. Follow me, I’ve picked up his scent.” Joe and Jadea agreed, and they followed Noru back into and through the forest. Soon Joe was able to see what looked like a city growing out of a large pillar of stone by the shore, where Noru seemed to be headed towards. Joe inquired, “Is that where…”
 
     “Yeah,” Jadea replied, “That looks like the place where we are headed. He must be there.”
 
     The city looked very old, its buildings’ walls made of adobe, and the rocky pillar it was built on was surrounded by water on three sides. The only way to get in was on a stone bridge. It seemed large enough to shelter at least 100 people, and seemed like a great place for fishermen to make a living, but not much else on its own. This must be the reason they might have taken some of the technology, Joe thought, since otherwise it seemed the city’s people would barely be able to get by.
 
     “You call this a city?” Joe asked the other two with him.
 
     “Well, it is a city compared to our village,” Jadea replied. And so they crossed the bridge, but at the end were greeted by what looked to be like a guard of the bridge, in the same uniform as the ones the raiders wore.
 
     “Stop,” the guard said, “who wishes to enter our city?”
 
     Joe whispered to Jadea and Noru, “I got this,” and stepped forward to answer the guard’s question.
 
 
Part 6: City
 
     Once facing the guard, Joe told him, “I am a merchant who is travelling for new goods to restock my, uh, stock. These two behind me are friends of mine who have helped me manage my profession.”
 
     The guard replied, “What are your names?”
 
     “I’m Joe, and these are my friends Jill and Megan,” said Joe, for he was certain that telling his friends’ distinctive Xarinaea names would give them away.
 
     “Those are some unusual names.” The guard then focused on Joe. “Why do you look so different? Nobody in this area looks like you.”
 
     “Well, I’m from far away, that’s all,” Joe managed to stutter.
 
     “Very well. You may proceed,” replied the guard, as he stepped aside. “Welcome to Shoria.”
 
     The three entered, as an impressed Jadea went to ask Joe, “How did you convince him?”
 
     “I don’t know,” Joe replied, “I just told him the first sensible story that popped into my head.”
 
     As Joe and Jadea continued to follow Noru, who still was following the scent of Aido, they were able to catch soundbites of the conversations of the people around them. By now, the story of the person who could configure the Artifacts had spread, and most of what Joe heard was about it. It felt odd to him, being the talk of a town that he didn’t know, and who didn’t know him.
 
     Soon they found themselves going through an alley and emerging in front of a small adobe house. “He must be in here,” said Noru. Together, they decided to force the door, and Joe declared, “We’ll do it on the count of five, OK? FIVE!” Together the three threw themselves at the door and it burst open. Inside they found Aido, tied up, whom they moved to release.
 
     But once inside they could see two guards rushing at them, who were previously inside guarding the door. Suddenly, Jadea and Noru charged at the guards so fast Joe was unable to believe it, yet Aido seemed to be used to these events happening in front of him. Jadea slammed one of the guards in the head with the flat end of her spear, while Noru pounced on the other guard, whom was knocked out of consciousness from the fall. Both Jadea and Noru got up quickly after that, and the reunited trio of four ran out of the adobe house to make a dash for the exit, since reinforcements were almost certain to arrive.
 
     While on the run, Joe caught sight of a floating light, similar to the one he encountered that led him to the gateway earlier. Joe took off after it, and the others, being pursued after and with no time to argue, followed him. Soon they emerged in a small warehouse where they found the four spheres that were stolen during the raid. After collecting all the spheres, the group, each of them holding onto one, headed for the exit. However, when they found themselves facing the stone bridge they entered on, a patrol of guards blocked it. They turned around, only to find themselves suddenly surrounded.
 
     With no way to outmaneuver or overwhelm the guards, the four colleagues were forced to surrender. Joe, however, made one plea; “Please take us to whoever the boss of you and this place is – we have something to tell him.” And so the four were taken to a large marble building, flanked by the guard that met them on the stone bridge, as well as three others. Together they went through a few hallways and emerged into a large, well-lit room, where a person sat at a desk in the center. This must be the boss, Joe thought. The man  at the desk, who was until then studying something on his desk that Joe could not see, suddenly looked up, and asked to Joe’s group, “Who are you, and why did you try to take our spheres?”
 
 
Part 7: Mayor
 
     Joe was able to reply, “Uh, I’m Joe, and I’m the guy who was able to make the artifacts work. We were taking the spheres back to the Xarinaea because your raiders stole it from them after trying to raid their village.”
 
     “Well, yes. We both know that. You see, they are important to us, too,” explained the man behind the desk.
 
     Joe went on, “They also took one of our people hostage.”
 
     “Wait… they did?” asked the man behind the desk. “I specifically told them to not cause any unprovoked attacks on anyone.”
 
     “Well, that’s what they did. I saw it with my own eyes, and we were able to set him free, though. He’s here, by the way.” Joe pointed at Aido.
 
     “So that’s what happened. I’ll have the people who carried this out disciplined soon. I should introduce myself, by the way; I’m Von, mayor of Shoria.”
 
     “So was it you who had the sphere area trashed? Why?”
 
     “We are trying to study these spheres to figure out where they came from, and how they work. But there isn’t enough to go around, so we and the Xarinaea tribe keep quarreling over who gets what.”
 
     “Do you think we could get an agreement arranged so the fighting can stop, at least for a while?”
 
     “Sure, but I would rather work these out with the Xarinaea, as you do not seem to be one of them, Joe. Do you have any with you?
 
     “Yes, I have 3.” Gesturing to his colleagues, Joe said, “These are my friends, Jadea, Aido, and Noru, from your left to right. They are Xarinaea members and I think they would be alright people to negotiate whatever you have in mind with you.”
 
     Von examined the three Joe gestured to. “Very well. But I would like to request that you leave the room, Joe, as manners involving the town’s leadership are private.”
 
     Joe left the room into the waiting room outside, and after a few minutes, Aido came out. “I need a break. We’re having a hard time deciding who needs them more. We got in a stalemate,” Aido told Joe.
 
     Joe replied, “Then why don’t you just take two spheres and leave two to the Shorians? We need at least one to hook up to the pedestal, for that might be a power source, but we need to be equal. And maybe each of us having the same number will lead us to discovering their secrets faster.”
 
     “I guess I see your point. Hold on.” Aido went back in, and after another minute, the three came out. “It’s all set up,” Jadea told Joe. “We will keep two and the city will keep two. You wanna head back to the village now, Joe?”
 
     “Sure,” replied Joe, “I can always come back here.” And so the four set back off for the Xarinaea’s village.
 
 
Part 8: Sunset
 
     As the four of them walked together back in the direction of the forest, Jadea moved to be walking by Joe’s side, for she had some things to say to him.
 
     “You know, Joe, I’m so glad you came to our world,” she told him.
 
     “Well, uh, why?” Joe replied.
 
     “Well, you are able to control how the Artifacts work, due to your, uh, what was it called?”
 
     “It’s known where I come from as engineering.”
 
     “Ah, that’s right. You have skills in your engineering, have been able to help come up with a peace agreement between us and the city of Shoria, and, well…” Jadea paused to think. “Well, you’re just a nice guy and a blast to be with.”
 
     “Uh, thanks,” Joe replied. “You’re a blast too. Well, really, everyone here is, but you especially.” Not knowing what else to say, Joe held out his hand. Jadea took it, and after a while, they released. Soon they reached the forest, Noru crawled up to be at Joe’s other side, for she had something else to say, too.
 
     “I’m sorry I lost my temper when we met,” Noru told Joe. “I hardly knew you.” Not knowing what to say, and worried that he would set off her temper again, Joe nodded in Noru’s direction, and Noru scattered off. Soon they reached the village, and they climbed back up to the enterance to Jadea’s residence, where the four sat on a nearby walkway’s edge, observing the sunset.
 
     “You know what,” Joe thought aloud, “I think I could stay here for a while.” Before, in his own world, Joe felt aimless. But now, he felt like he had a purpose in this new world, one where he was eager to explore. Not knowing where to start, he asked Aido, who was on the other side of Noru, “What else is out there?”
 
     Aido replied, “Well, there’s the Capital city. It’s like Shoria, but much bigger and grander. So if you wanted anything to do, I guess we could go there next.” Joe thought that sounded good. And as he watched the sunset slowly progress, with Jadea on his right, and Noru and Aido to his left, he felt satisfied with his new place in this new world.

 

 


 

[spoiler=One More Time, One More Chance]

 

 

---

 

 

“Hey, wake up! You can't afford to sleep in a time like this, Commander!”

 

“U-uh?!”

 

An abrupt yell broke the silence of the lush forest. The source of the high-pitched voice was that of an elf, yelling in frustration towards another elf in full knightly equipment. Once the knight opened her eyes proper and getting hold of herself from the daze, the first thing she noticed was how the girl who woke her up had disappeared. Confused, she tried to wipe her eyes with her fingers but stopped immediately as she felt rough edges almost touched her vulnerable spot. The knight was looking quite quite confused. Since when did she wear gauntlets? As the thought passed her, she shook her head in denial, yet she slowly realized more and more details of her surrounding. Forest? Trees? The sight of the environment she was in bewildered the armored girl...who also just noticed about her own equipment as she tried to get up and felt their weight.

“How...how the hell did I get here?!”

 

“Pardon?”

 

Hearing the knight's panicked voice, an elven archer went up from her hiding spot, and rushed to get close to her, wondering what had just happened. The girl in the armor stared at the archer for a moment as her appearance became clear. Sharp edges on her face, the pointed ears, and a tall, slender figure. A real-life elf? How could even this be possible? The girl was overcome with panic and surprise, and as she was unable to process what was actually happening, she froze on where she stood. The archer merely shook her head at the sight, and delivered a hard slap on the girl's face.

 

“Listen here...I don't know what kind of demon or evil had possessed you, but snap out of it, will you? You're supposed to be our leader! Need I remind you of what's at stake here?”

 

The girl still froze, unable to respond in any way. The archer sighed in response and continued to talk.

 

“These orcs....those abominations, had razed our villages for too long. They killed our people, disturb our peace. Need I remind you of the sight of-”

 

“Alright, alright! I got it. I'm sorry for showing my weakness like this. I...I'll take some time to be alone, if you may.”

 

The archer didn't seem to be satisfied yet, but at the very least, she didn't chase her as the girl withdrew herself to focus on what had just happened. Was this a big prank? It seemed to be too complex for that. And if this was not a prank...well, perhaps she was now somehow entered one of those fantasy stories she used to read, playing the role of an elf. The change was upsetting in all of its suddenness, but after a little walk, the girl decided to play her role for the time being. She was not expecting answers to come anytime soon anyway.

 

She returned to where her comrades were, and put some more confidence in her voice. Some of them still looked at her in an odd way, perhaps due to her way of speaking not being like what they expected, but none of them seemed to be up in arms about her now. They mentioned that the projected time for when the raider squad arrived would be in around one hour, and so the girl decided that she could use the time to actually see what kind of preparations had been done with the guise of an inspection.

 

The setup so far seemed to be pinpoint. There were twelve of them now, and most were ready on their positions where they could easily snipe the upcoming convoy of orcs. With her head now getting clearer, the commander noticed that from each sniping position, each of them actually had an easy time coming down to rapidly ambush their target, or to escape had there were more orcs than what could they handle. The need of mobility was why they opted to not stay on trees and chose a position where they could be stationed on elevated land overseeing the forest' pathway instead. Confident that she figured out the overall plan, the commander girl got herself to a position that would allow her to notice the orcish convoy as soon as possible, with one of the archers being on her side.

 

“Our scouts estimated the orcs to pass here in one hour soonest. It is apparently the usual raider group instead of something bigger, but-”

“Yeah, yeah, we'll have to be ready to face any surprises.”

 

Without any clocks around, it was hard to tell how long had time passed. Anxiety filled the thought of the knight girl. She was still barely adjusting herself to her current predicament, and now she's already going to enter direct combat too. Worse, she's somehow ended up as the group's commander. Her zero experience for this situation was clearly reflected on her face, and the elven archer on her side took it as a sign that their commander was having a sudden panic attack. Instead of relying on her though, she spent her time instructing the others and getting them ready. So far, despite her worries, everything went well. Of course though, what mattered the most would be once the combat actually started.

 

And then, loud noise in the distance could be heard. At first, the elven archer thought that it was the rumbling sound of the orcish raiders' march, but as the noise went closer, everyone realized that it was far from those orcs' noise. A primal, guttural roar shook the forest, sending birds that were nesting on trees near them to fly away in fear.

 

“...I-Is that one of those orcs' beasts?” The knight girl's voice was clearly showing worry.

 

“No...it can't be. I think...it might be best if we just-

 

R-Run! EVERYONE RUN AWAY FROM HERE!”

 

The air of composure the elven archer maintained broke at the moment a giant lizard creature appeared from the darkness of the forest. Her voice was frantic as she screamed, yet it was too late for one group of those elves since just as they rose up from their bushes to escape, the beast rushed towards them. It was way faster than a creature of that size had any businesses to, and the surprising speed allowed it to slam one of the elves far to the trees with enough force to almost topple it, and another ended up being held on the ground by one of its claws, and before long, the beast tore through her, snacking on her in what happened to be a few seconds.

 

“F-forest dragon? How can something like that awaken here of all places?”

 

That thing, a dragon? The knight girl's gaze became empty. T-that's nonsense, right? Why would they stumble into a dragon here of all places? As the girl froze in fear again, the elven archer on her side regained enough of her sense to start dragging her away, just as the dragon started to spit acid around, hitting two elves that were unlucky enough to be in its range. The acid's effect was horrific on their body, but at that point the knight girl had blanked out the sight from her mind.

 

The group, now only having eight people left, were forced to retreat due to this unforeseen situation. They were frantic, none of them could really retain enough composure to think of anything else other than running away, and no one had any actual idea about what happened. Just run, run, run, as far away towards the opposite of where the dragon came from. Was it awakened because of their activities? Were the orcs had a hand behind this? Or perhaps, they might just be really unlucky?

 

It was not even fifteen minutes later however that they heard another sound coming towards their direction, and this time, it was clearly from something more organized. A series of tribal shouts that continuously followed each other like a maddening chant. A frenzy of savage noises, completely chaotic yet it followed a certain tune of death and conquest. It was a tune that once the group heard about, they realized that their fate had been sealed.

 

Ending on the forest' path after their escape, the elves were now face-to-face against the march of the orcish army.

 

The knight girl didn't draw her sword. All her hope lost, she dropped to her knees as the shouts and war cries became more and more deranged. Her allies, facing imminent death or enslavement, chose to have a last stand in spite of that.

 

The battle was over in seconds.

 


 

“No...no way that was real...no way...no...”

 

It had been an hour since the Annemarie snapped from her dream. Still clutching her face as she sat on her bedside, she was sweating a lot despite the air conditioning and her expression was filled with shock and horror. She felt it. She felt everything. The fear coursing through every single one of her nerves as the beast appeared. The orcs' assault, and everything else. The pain, everything was felt by her body, yet here she was, still unscathed and in one piece. What kind of sorcery had just happened? Was it just an overly lucid dream?

 

However, a thought passed despite of this. At the back of her mind, she couldn't deny something that she felt. Excitement, a thrill of having her wish fulfilled with the prospect of living her life in that fantasy world before everything went awry. But the nature of how she met her end there still shook her too much for her to even start reminiscing on it. And so, right now the thought was buried away deep inside, overshadowed completely by the feeling of dread.

 

Then again, it's not like she's going to have another chance like that, right?

 

That day, she chose to not go to her college class, and try finding ways to get her mind off from this topic. Her immediate decision was a cafe. She thought, nothing would beat a cup of coffee in the morning to refresh herself for the rest of the day. When she arrived there, the cafe was unusually lacking in customers that day. Only three other customers were there, busy with their own thoughts. She ordered a cup of espresso along with some snacks, and sat down on a table.

 

“I didn't do something weird yesterday, right?”

 

Her hand shook as Anne moved the coffee cup closer. In the meantime, she was flipping through a newspaper to divert her thought from that dream she had. She kept convincing herself that it was just an especially lucid dream, but her mind continued to refuse that explanation. That was real, that was real. A chant could be heard banging on her brain. Nobody wished that to be real, she thought. She refused to accept the experience as real.

 

But, that was really just a lie.

 

The dream she had was the only out of ordinary thing that she ever experienced in her recent memory. Anne's life so far was relatively mundane, boring even. Currently she was studying at a local university in a major she chose without thinking much, as her only goal was to enter college as her parents demanded no matter where and how. A loner at heart, she preferred to be alone and loved to spend her time accompanied by novels, cartoons, and video games, but she was not lacking in social contact either, hanging around with her friends on occasions. She lived alone in a flat away from home, and fifty percent of her diet was instant noodles. Every single day living a routine, she expected that once she graduated, she would be stuck in a mundane and boring job too. It was seemingly a fate for someone as unimpressive and not-notable as her, but it was never a fate she ever wanted to accept.

 

No, it would definitely be unacceptable if she had to live her life like millions of others of her generation. She's destined for more. That kind of mundane life was never for her in the first place. As the fragrant scent of the roasted beans tickled her senses, the tense mind burdened by the nightmare loosened up a bit. Had she thought about this moment more, she would find it odd that she was slowly accepting the fact that she wished to have more of those dreams, but her fears evaporated all of the sudden, just like the faint trace of steam rising up from her cup.

 

Each gulp of the now-warm coffee entered her throat, invigorating her mind. With the rhythm of the liquid giving back the energy to face the day for Anne, the buried desire to live on another world grew stronger and stronger. Thus, with the healthy dose of caffeine becoming her fuel, Anne's mind slowly erased the thoughts about her horrible dreamlike experiences, forgetting the pain she suffered there.

 

Another try.

 

Another try would be what she needed.

 

“That one was just be a nightmare, right? In that case, if I can...I wish to experience this again.”

 


 

“Whoaaa, your description really made it feel like a real experience, Anne!”

 

“I know, right? This one lasted days too over there. Time really do flow differently in dreams.”

 

The girl sitting across the table from Anne looked at her in wonder as Anne told her what she experienced last night. Just a few days after her first experience in the odd body-swap fantasy of her dream, she found herself ending up in another one. This time, she was the daughter of a local noble, and it was far more pleasant than her first time. As said, this one actually lasted days in her dreams, with her consciously sleeping and waking up there. The experience itself was not that special as the most she experienced was the daily life of a caged, growing noblewomen waiting to be married off to someone, but, even something that lame had its own novelty. And for Anne, who experienced it as if it was her own life, it was a whole new world of experience, and a proof that she could gain something nice from this kind of dream.

 

Of course, Anne didn't tell her friend that the dream ended with her breaking her neck after falling from a balcony. Compared to her first death though, that ending wasn't as horrible as before, and while dying was still a scary thing to experience, this time it ended in a snap. Her mind barely even remember that fact, and it quickly ended up just as a footnote even for Anne. How she was having these dreams in the first place still felt as the most important thing she had to figure out in her mind.

 

Anne parted way with her friend after the dinner. Even as she waved goodbye to her friend, Anne's mind was barely there, already focusing on the thought of her personal wonderland once more. Her friend definitely noticed that she was barely paying attention to her, but she probably thought that it was nothing actually concerning. In the night's silence, each went to their homes. Anne said that she was going to focus working on an assignment through the night, but both of them knew that she was lying.

 

She had tasted the fruit of paradise, and now, she hunger for more.

 


 

“U...uh...is it working?”

 

Anne opened up her eyes to find herself in a tavern. Loud, rowdy, and ripe with the unbearable stench of alcohol. She almost threw up due to not being used to the smell, but she managed to hold herself back to not make any scenes here. The first thing she must do now would be to figure out what kind of role was she playing now, right? Right now, she was wearing a decorated white robe of some sort, and by moving a bit, she also noticed that she wore a set of chain mail underneath it. No one sat near her table, so there's no one to ask about what she's supposed to be now. She then noticed the ornate wooden staff on her side, however. That alone was enough to solve the mystery.

 

“A priestess of sort? Might not be that bad, then.”

 

Not minding the fact that she had zero knowledge on the miracles these “priestesses” would be expected to pull off, her mind had wandered towards the small bag stationed not far from her. Inside was...nothing actually of note aside from a letter. It was written in a fancy style, perhaps a certificate of sort? While on a glance the glyph was completely alien to Anne, it was a surprise for her that soon she started to whisper the content of the letter somehow

 

“Adventurer's guild? Is this a game or something?”

 

The letter was a form of request from an adventurer's guild, apparently supposed to be her first mission there. Her thoughts went to the garden variety of early game mobs like goblins or slimes at first, but it was actually a fetch quest. Fancy-sounding flower of sort, the name didn't really incite any interest on her. The letter did mention that it would be best for her to travel in a group for this, and that perhaps would explain why she woke up in this dirty tavern in the first place.

 

Her eyes explored the varying sort of people on the tavern. Unruly-looking ones that eyed her in an uncomfortable ones, men that didn't care about anything else other than the mug before them, servants that tend to these men, and the youthful intermixed with these people, looking around just like her in search of something. None of them seemed to be promising so far however. Anne wished to have people that looked like they're dependable enough for her to entrust them with her safety.

 

It was then that her eyes locked into a group of adventurers that had just entered the tavern. They were looking enthusiastic, and with the dirt on their equipment, Anne was able to conclude that they had some experience at the very least. Without thinking about it more with the thirst for adventure guiding her, she rose up from her position, and went towards them just as they found a place to sit on the crowded place.

 

“Do I know you, miss?” The first one to notice her was someone that dressed lightly. An ascetic monk skilled in martial arts, perhaps? He looked to be quite ripped, and he didn't seem to carry any weapons on him.

 

“I'm...I'm a priestess looking for an adventurer to help me.” Her enthusiasm would've made Anne talk in a more open way, but it would be in her favor to have some reservation to not arise any sort of unnecessary suspicion.

 

“Oooh! Tell us, tell us!”A female voice shouted in excitement. A short-haired girl, she was well-armored, with her helmet resting on her side. Anne could see a recently-washed spear on her side, and the faint shade of a short sword on her waist. She looked younger than Anne, but she was definitely not someone to be trifled with.

 

“It's...uh...” Anne paused for a moment in hesitation while figuring out what she should say, before getting the letter from her bag. She read aloud the information about her quest to the people present before her, talking about their goal to find the so-called Flower of Dawn in a nearby mountain range. The letter didn't state any reward, but even then the group was enticed enough by the promise of adventure to show their support on Anne's request.

 

“It does not sound bad. I was worried you would be asking us to exterminate some monsters on a cave or something similar. I hate caves.” The third member of the party, a young man with an unnaturally small stature, said it in relief, although Anne felt the tone to be a bit too flat. He dressed in a similar way to a mage, and he did carry some heavy books with him. It was a surprisingly balanced party, thinking about it, and Anne's mind wandered to her games for a moment.

 

“Alright! We'll accept your request! Get yourself ready guys, we'll hit the road again now!” The knight girl was apparently the leader of the group with how .commanding her tone was despite its cheerfulness. However, that prompt of hers was responded by two glares aimed at her.

 

“Oi, give us some rest first. My back is sore now.”

 

“It is best if you do not treat us as inexhaustible magical golems.”

 

“A-ah, right right! We'll stay in an inn for tonight.” The girl slightly flustered at how bad the two's reception of her unrelenting enthusiasm was, and settled with a more contained tone as she turned her attention back at Anne. “It's getting pretty late, so uh...you'll come with us, miss...?”

 

“Anne, Annemarie. Just call me Anne or Marie, I'm fine with either. And...” She thought about the offer a bit. Even here, accepting free lodging from a stranger still felt odd. There was no reason not to accept it as she didn't know about any resting place she could return to here, but it still took her a bit to finally voice her choice. “Yeah, I'll come with you three. After all, we're a party now, right?”

 

“...Y-yosh!” The knight girl's excitement was a bit delayed. Maybe she was shocked with her overflowing interest? “Welcome to our team, Anne!. I'm Carmine, that musclehead there is Bistre, and-”

 

“My name is Aureolin, son of Chartreuse. It is nice to be in your company, miss Anne.” The child-like halfling cut Carmine before she could introduce him. With how little he could tolerate the overly excited girl, Anne wondered why did he stick around with the rest of them. Something about him also made Anne felt uneasy, but she dismissed it as just her being not too used to his odd tone.

 

“N-nice to meet you too.”

 

It was then decided. They would leave tomorrow morning, and they aim to reach the mountain range by midday. After some discussion on their way to the inn, Bistre predicted that at the very least it would take two or three days to complete the quest, and had volunteered to pack the group's supplies through the night. Aureolin in the meantime decided to find more information on what kind of beasts or monsters might they find there. That left both Anne and Carmine without much to do as they rested on their shared room.

 

“From which church are you?” A sudden question broke the silence of the night. Anne, who was trying to sleep, noticed that Carmine was already on her side, looking at her with curiosity.

 

“Ehhh? Aren't all churches here the same?” As she was suddenly awakened from her half-sleep, the answer coming from Anne was more a reflex of the only thought she had regarding the topic.

 

“No, silly! What are you, a foreigner?”

 

That answer surprised Anne enough to make her rose up from the bed. Both at the fact that Carmine might start being suspicious of her, and also how the knight implied that there were several religions around. It's a bit hard for Anne to think a fantasy world with that kind of belief system. With her mind somewhat cleared, she tried to salvage her situation for now rather than dwelling on her confusion.

 

“A-ah. I was...yeah, I'm a foreigner. I'm from a far away kingdom, but I thought...at first I thought the lands here are being illuminated by the light of my Goddess. I'm not that attentive and I haven't seen the churches here, to tell the truth.”

 

“That's a shame...thought I can ask you about how the order of this city's church now to you.” Carmine went quiet after saying that. It was appreciated by Anne, of course. If she asked more about the supposed church she had no idea about, more and more would she suspect her of being an oddity. However, after a while of silence and with the red-haired girl still not sleeping, Anne wondered about what was up with the girl, and decided to talk more to her instead.

 

“You alright?”

 

“Y-yeah, I'm fine. You just reminded me of a friend I had.”

 

Ah, that was something Anne could understand. Thinking about it, her appearance wouldn't be all too unusual in a world like this.

 

“Can you tell me more about her?”

 

“She's...well, she was actually my senior in the knight academy. She left her chance to be one of the royal guards to return home to her village, but we still had contact with each other...until she perished, that is. That's kind of why I left the academy to be an adventurer! I can't just sit by in this city – I want to actually help people like her!”

 

Carmine's train of thought was pretty simplistic. Without her armor, her body frame and appearance really did paint her as someone three or four years younger than Anne. Age was something Anne took as granted when it came to fantasy, but seeing a young teenager already being trained soldier like this in person was disturbing in its own way. Carmine now was quite eager to continue her story, so Anne chose to be quiet for now.

 

“Back then mother said to not trust elves, but she's a very nice person!”

“She's an elf, huh?”

 

“Yep! It's rare for an elf to join us human's knight academy. She said they're usually more reserved or something like that.”

 

“If you may...can you tell me how she died?” The question slipped through Anne's lips. She didn't intend to ask it in fear of being seen as rude, but being carried by the situation, she couldn't help herself to ask it. Carmine paused for a while, which made Anne worried that her words hurt her feelings. That worry thankfully was unfounded, however. The girl's voice broke the silence as she continued her story.

 

“It was just one month ago. She sent me a letter that her village was pillaged by those orcs the royal guards failed to handle all this time. She said she was going to try ambushing them the next time they would try to raid her village...the next letter I got, two weeks later, was from another one of my senior.

 

He...he found what remained of her alongside some other elves on the side of the road in a nearby forest. He refused to say what happened to them. I can't even go to her funeral. It was upsetting, and I plain out quit from the academy that time. I can't do anything if I just stay there for two more years.”

 

Orcs? Forest? Anne's gaze gradually became empty as the realization of the identity of Carmine's idol dawned on her. The dam of her memories burst, the painful recollection of the traumatic experience flooded her thoughts. She couldn't say anything, her body froze from the shock. Contrasting her reaction, Carmine didn't seem to notice anything wrong with Anne however, and paying her listener's condition little mind, she continued to talk. Her expression became more upbeat, she now spoke with a more cheerful tone as she patted Anne's shoulder.

 

“Though...you know, with you here with, it really does feel like she's here too. After all, you know what, she's also Anne!

 

Just by looking at you, I'm sure you'll be as kind as her!”

 

---

 

 

 

 


 

[spoiler=Fairy Fascination]

 

---

 

Chapter 1: Through the waiting room window

 

Gretel loved to dream.

 

Of the two of us, she was the more imaginative, the more airheaded one. She was always reading books from my family’s collection whenever she came over to play. I wasn’t an avid reader, but she was, so she was treated like family by my household. We all loved her. I certainly did.

 

Our families were the only two in the neighborhood, so we were the only two children around. We turned to each other for company and comfort. Although, at first Gretel was difficult to talk to, or so I remember. She often had her eyes on a book, or to the sky, or towards some distant scenery. Anywhere but where she stood she would pay attention to.

 

But I was stubborn. I wanted someone to play with and she was the only one there, so I tried my hardest. Soon we became friends, if I remember, because we had similar names. Gertrude and Gretel.

 

She would often visit my house, and make herself at home in the library room while I would, while bored, pester her around. In hindsight, perhaps I wasn’t a very good friend.

 

But she would often tell me of the stories she read. Of knights and witches and fairy tales, and she made them all sound so fascinating. Whereas usually she was cripplingly shy, her story sessions had more life than anything. My childhood was largely defined by the stories she would verbally convey to me after reading off the books that were originally mine in the first place (my family’s, but oh, details).

 

“Trudy, what would you want to do if the world in this book was real?” Amongst those sessions, she would often bring up what-ifs of the made-up worlds inside the books she read. She was frankly quite obsessed with the idea. She was a frail girl who could not exert herself, she mostly stayed inside rooms, stuck with only old books and a worthless friend like me, and perhaps she wanted to escape that. I later found myself wondering if she really enjoyed my presence at all.

 

I thought I would never find out. My parents had to move abroad for their jobs, so I followed them leaving my first and only friend behind. But not completely. We kept online correspondence with each other and chatted on a regular basis. It was during the time when the internet began to spread so we both familiarized ourselves with the necessary websites and programs.

 

At some point, however, it was decided Gretel would fly over to visit us. Her parents were busy but by then she had just entered high school and she convinced them both she was responsible enough to board an airplane by herself. We arranged a date I would go pick her up at the airport too. 11 August, at five in the morning because the other flight available that day would’ve had her arrive at almost midnight. After a lengthy chat session, she logged out and I waited before I got my parents to drive me to pick her up.

 

But she did not arrive. She never did.

 

It turned out she never boarded the plane she was supposed to. There weren’t any reports of girls boarding the wrong plane either. She had somehow disappeared after her parents dropped her off and kissed her goodbye. She had gone missing.

 

I heard afterwards Gretel’s parents had the police search for her but it was as if she disappeared into thin air. Not even the luggage she had with her, a single pink suitcase I thought didn’t fit her well, was found. Being ex-neighbors, my family helped out as much as they could with the investigations but in the end, it turned fruitless. Gretel was lost.

 

It was most likely, many reasoned, that she was kidnapped before she boarded her plane. However, I never believed such a theory as a child back then, for Gretel was incredibly shy and would never be led away by kidnappers, and I knew that trait of hers and I was proud. Kidnapping was impossible.

 

Of course, my childish stubbornness aside, it was still rather unlikely to be a kidnapping. There was no demand for ransom. Gretel’s parents and the police held out for one to arrive, but like Gretel it never did. That ruled out the only plausible motive for kidnapping a frail, anemic girl like her. And even then, her disappearance was just too clean. It was more likely Gretel, by her own volition, ran away. And I chose to believe that. For whatever reason Gretel decided to run away, but she was certainly alive.

 

I felt if I no longer believed she was out there somewhere, that the friendship we held would truly disappear.

 

And with such sentiments, life moved on. Before I knew it, three years had passed and I turned nineteen. In those years, I had graduated high school and entered university. Ever since Gretel’s disappearance I did not get close to anyone. I didn’t want someone else to replace her in my heart.

 

But I never seriously tried to search for her. The case had long turned cold and was forgotten by the minds of the public. She was most likely kidnapped in some fashion. Instead of accepting such, I turned to the occult. I attended online group chats and looked for urban legends associated with mysterious disappearances. I still wanted to believe Gretel was out there, but the realist in me had already given up. I was pathetic.  

 

One day however, an overly enthusiastic Mr. Schmidt from the online occult group chat I frequent told me something very interesting. It was a calm and uneventful day, both in real life and in-chat when he came online.

 

“Gentlemen, today an intriguing rumor has reached my ears!” He typed out something along those lines, I believe. Without the exclamation mark.

 

“Another one of your baseless stories?” I had replied, but with less grammatical coherency than what I have written just now.

 

“Hans my comrade, your skepticism hurts me.” Hans was the online handle I used to pretend to be a male salaryman. It sounded unique enough. Schmidt then proceeded to tell me and the rest of the group, very dramatically, of the so-called intriguing rumor.

 

About a phantom airplane that does not exist in official records, yet is in service in many airports all over the world.

 

About a phantom airplane that can only be accessed with a special plane ticket, a plane ticket only obtained through special means.

 

About a phantom airplane whose supposed destination seemingly differs with every person you hear the rumor from.

 

There was one part of this otherwise typical urban legend that stood out inexplicably to me.

 

You needed a referrer. When buying a plane ticket over the phone or on the counter, you namedrop a person who has already boarded the plane before. You would then receive a blank, black ticket alongside your regular one.

 

It was the sort of urban legend that easily spread and justified its own lack of validity. People couldn’t test it simply because they wouldn’t know who to refer to. Frankly it was a perfectly valid and legitimately dubious-sounding urban rumor. Perhaps that was what grabbed Mr. Schmidt’s attention. As for me, like with every other rumor from Mr. Schmidt I paid it no mind.

 

It remained forgotten in the depths of my mind for the next year. Again, before I knew it, it was October and I turned twenty and my university would close for holiday for the week leading up to Halloween.

 

Being a student living abroad I thought best to return home for a small vacation. After phoning mum about my decision, she told me she would wire the money over, so I should buy the plane ticket myself. Even though it was now possible to order online, my parents were rather anti-technology (anti-progress, I say) so I was told to do it the old-fashioned way. Over the counter. Really though, in the first place, are they not concerned that they’re letting me, their precious and vulnerable twenty-year-old daughter travel alone?

 

I rode to the nearest airport. Rainbow Road Airport, there really wasn’t anything special about this particular place, other than costing me less than the next nearest airport to get to using the taxi. I approached the service counter and told them what I wanted. A ticket for one, from here to there, from this time to that time, et cetera. Being well-trained staff, the plain-looking old man listened to my order with a smile and after inputting my information, printed out a ticket and handed it to me.

 

Perhaps seeing a plane ticket reminded me of some stupid rumor Schmidt told me before. Perhaps remembering stupid rumors made me say stupid things. Perhaps I just wasn’t thinking properly that day.

 

I name dropped Gretel.

 

“Gretel Liddell.”

 

He paused his smile, he stopped and looked at me square in the eye. Then he looked back at his screen and typed in a few words. Enter. He scrolled his mouse wheel a few times, before clicking again and printed something out. He handed it to me,

 

“Here you go.”

 

It was a ticket-sized black piece of paper. Rather than being colored black, it felt smooth like soft plastic, as if it had always been such a color.

 

“The ticket you ordered.”

 

“Is this some sort of joke?”

 

Before I could object, the staff signaled the next customer to come. I was pushed away from the counter. I felt terribly confused, and wanted to believe it was some sort of elaborate prank Schmidt and the other members came up with. Or perhaps the old man knew of this rumor and decided to play along?

 

I lined up in queue again and waited out my turn, which came excruciatingly slowly. I walked up to the same counter as before, and the same staff there recognized me. “You again?”

 

“Is this actually real?” I held up the ticket, the darker one. “Can I use it today, right now?”

 

“By all means.” I couldn’t reply by how nonchalantly he answered. “Next!”

 

Again, I found myself standing outside the ticket office. Something about all this felt very unreal to me. I thought to myself as I hurriedly walked to a seat.

 

On a whim, I had referred to the name of my missing friend from years ago. And in return I obtained a special ticket. It was as if the rumor of the phantom airplane was actually real! More importantly, did this not mean Gretel was a passenger? Was this how she disappeared all those years ago?

 

What was I thinking? Why was I acting like the rumor is real?

 

I changed my mind halfway through walked towards a random check-in counter and handed the black ticket over to the lady. While she took a look at it, I stared at her face, hoping for some kind of confusion to show. I wanted someone to tell me this was fake. But my expectations were let down.

 

“Do you have any luggage with you?” As if it was perfectly normal, she turned to me.

 

In my own confusion, I managed to meekly say I had none.

 

“Very well. Here’s your boarding pass. Please be on time.”

 

It was around this point that I decided to roll along with this. If this was still part of the prank, it was a very well-thought one and I may as well follow it to its logical conclusion. If it wasn’t a joke, then...I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it. I coughed, and then in the sweetest voice I could muster I thanked the staff and walked away.

 

The voice of reason inside my head insists it was perhaps some shady kidnapping scheme, intended to lure in unassuming people like myself. If I followed through I might disappear like Gretel did and have atrocious things done to me. That was a very real possibility and sounded much more likely than some fantastical rumor being true. Yet even that would’ve been fine to me, if it meant finding out Gretel’s fate.

 

But on the other hand, this could be related to Gretel.  No, it certainly had something to do with Gretel. I wanted with all my heart to believe that. Even if it was stupid to do so. I will spare further details on my confusion and doubt at this point. It was tiring and tedious to write and most likely even more so to read.

 

I looked at my boarding pass. Noting the details specified on it, I found my way over to Departure Gate C. for my flight CLD65, seat 45D. Passenger Gertrude Chataway. Aged twenty. Young beautiful female. I was ready.

 

I sat alone in the waiting room. It seemed to be large enough to accommodate a hundred or so passengers. The seats were all white and plastic and had very little cushioning to them. They were very uncomfortable. There were no windows even though it was a waiting room. It felt to me as if this room in particular was secluded from the outside world, and immediately I felt tempted to leave this room, if only to prove that I could. I resisted and waited.

 

A man walked in from the right side of the room. He wore a flight attendant’s uniform, which really was just a standard business suit with small decorations, and a hat. But whereas it would normally be a military cap or the like, he wore a top hat, like a magician. He also wore a glove on one hand, his left, but not the other hand, his right.

 

“You must be Miss Gertrude Chataway. If you would please follow me.” He spoke with a lisp.

 

He led me through a long, nondescript hallway that had no place eating up this much space in an airport. We did not converse.

We soon reached the airplane, and it seemed I was the only passenger. I was seated at seat 45D. Unlike the waiting room the seats were well-cushioned, which was a relief. The ratio of present customers to empty chairs was still unnerving, however. If this was still a prank, now was the time to reveal it, I thought.

 

“We will depart in ten minutes. If there are any questions before we take off, you may voice them now.”

 

“Then,” for the first time in what felt like a long while, I spoke. “Where are we heading? And why?”

 

“...You must have something or someone you are searching for, do you not? That is why you are here. As for where, we will merely take you one step closer to what you desire. We have always done only that, and will continue to do only exactly that. That is what we exist for. Would that be a satisfactory answer?”

 

“No.”

 

“We hope you have a pleasant flight.” He smiled politely and left me alone.

 

Again, without anything to do I merely sat and waited. The window shutters were pulled up, but glancing outside all I could see was the scenery of airline roads, what one would normally see when waiting for an airplane to take off.

 

I felt a small shake, as the scene from the window gradually shifted. That was the sign for take-off. Inexplicably, seeing that, my eyelids soon felt rather heavy. I wanted to sleep. I clearly remember thinking to myself just then before I lost my consciousness, just how unusually calm I was considering what situation I had gotten myself into.  

 

The sound of an announcement notice woke me up. I could not tell how many hours have passed because my surroundings have not changed one bit, I was still alone in the plane cabin.

 

“This flight will arrive in fifteen minutes. I repeat, this flight will...” Or so I remember hearing. I stifled a yawn and turned to the window to the right of me. I had wanted to simply check if the sun had fallen yet. What I saw next would be something I believe I would never forget for the rest of my life.

 

There was an island in the middle of the ocean. Its sheer size was massive, but not in the way you would normally think of it. Normally one would think of a large island as one that was wide and long. One whose lands stretched far. The island in front of my eyes was more than that. It was tall. Not in the sense that it had towering mountains or such. It was not its height but the exact opposite that made its size so intimidating.

 

It was floating.

 

Like an iceberg, the landmass’s bulk was concentrated mainly in its lower area. Its top surface was wide for an island, but only because it was in midair that it seemed so spectacular. There were various small lights shining off its surface that I could barely make out. It was night time, the sky was dark, but there were no clouds to cover the marvelous sight that was illuminated by the moonlight.

 

“...we will soon arrive at the continent of Lower Camelot...” The announcer’s voice brought me back to reality. I was quite sure I pinched my cheeks a few times, half in hopes that it was a dream and half in hopes that it wasn’t. I didn’t wake up.

 

Instead I stared through the window as the island came closer and closer. The small lights I saw grew into larger and more colorful lights with each passing second. It was clear to me what laid before my eyes was, not quite a country, but certainly more than just an island. It was a buzzling city. I gradually saw buildings and roads and even skyscrapers, all with a different architectural design style than what I have ever seen before. With every dozen buildings that pass by the plane window, my eyes constantly shifted its interests to the next one. I could not tear my gaze away.

 

Soon the skyscrapers stood taller than the height of the plane and I had to look up as far as I could to see the top of them. The roads became detailed enough I could imagine myself walking through them, and I could see people walking around, albeit not very clearly. There were oversized creatures walking alongside them too!

 

The plane’s altitude lowered as it flew around. Soon the scenery became less and less cluttered with buildings as it presumably arrived at a less populated area. With a thud, the plane landed.

 

I waited patiently until it stopped.

 

The plane attendant, the same man who spoke with a lisp, came over. “I shall accompany you to the plane exit.”

 

We did so. I admit I was still left excited by the sight of everything, and I felt like a kid again, so the walk to the plane exist, through the tunnel that connected it to the airport, passed by me like a blur. But then, at the end of the tunnel, we arrived at a hallway. The man did not take a step further, and bowed.

 

“What’s the matter? Won’t you accompany me?”

 

“Only up to this point, dear customer. Walk straight ahead and you should face no complications.”

 

Hesitantly, I obeyed and kept walking. The hallway ahead was featureless and as I walked through I could not tell how far I went. I glanced behind and already I could not see the entrance from which I came.

 

With uncertainty and doubt

 

And curiosity

 

My footsteps pushed through.

 

I was absolutely sure that Gretel must’ve walked through the same hallway, years ago. She must’ve been just as fascinated and in awe at seeing the floating island as I was. She was certainly still here, in this strange unknown place somewhere. And I will find her.

 

And bring her back.

 

---

 

 

 

 


 

Oh, before you vote, here are some voting rules that you must heed.

 

 


  1. Any member of Yugioh Card Maker is eligible to vote.
  2. Votes are done by posting a minimum of 100 words mini-review/reasoning of your choice between the five, and with addition of at least one sentence opinion on the rest of the entries.
  3. Those who submits an entry can vote too, but they cannot vote their own entry. Stroking your own ego is unhealthy I hear.
  4. Votes can be changed, but it must be done in a separate post with a reasoning to go with it.
  5. No cheating! Alts, convincing people behind the scene, and other illicit activities that influences voting might risk entries to be disqualified, and worse, you might get some forum-wise penalties depending on the offense. Don't risk it!
  6. Additional rules and information would be added as necessary here

 

Voting will end on November 4th 2016, at 06.00 PM UTC +7. Keep it in mind, alright?

 

With that said, it's time to vote!

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Top Five YCM Isekai Fiction You HAVE To Read
I didn't get to submit anything for this contest, because that would have been unfair to the rest of you, so instead as your benevolent deity of the Creative Writing section, I decided to give some thoughts each of the contest submissions and grant y'all a bit of my divine wisdom.

5. Expedition Solaea
My first impression was "Whoa, this moves fast." It's not necessarily a bad thing, but past the initial bit of introspection, the prose is very flat and distant and the pace really doesn't help. We get little to no insight, details, or nuance on the characters and the things that happen; anything we get feels like infodumping because of how carelessly it's tossed at us and glossed over. As far as I can see, besides trying to fit it all into the 5000 soft word limit, there's no reason you should be going this fast.

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Sanic is a very bad role model


Even accounting for how rushed it is, the dialogue is extremely mechanical, serving only to move the plot or deliver necessary information, and the characters are both flat and generic.

The plot is uninteresting and poorly developed. I have to call bullshit on this "engineer" being able to tinker with some random ancient artifact to activate it. It's worse when we have no clue what these artifacts do and we are given no reason why these artifacts are being so heavily contested over. The conflict isn't built up at all, and there's zero tension as the characters just walk in there and rescue their friends and the artifacts. Then all of a sudden, it's solved with a quick talk. We are given no reason why the dude was kidnapped, it seemed to be just a convenient reason for us to go to Shoria.

My advice is to first slow wayyyyy down because there's far too much missing from your writing to try to go fast. If you wanna improve, join the Creative Writing Discord chat if you haven't already; there you can ask questions, participate or spectate on writing discussions, and just overall gain insight on writing from fellow writers.

4. The Millennium War
Okay, The Millennium War knows it's cliche, we are told that in the very first line in big metaphorically red letters "THIS FIC IS CLICHE AF". From the monologuing first-person narration to the goody Hero-summoning princess heroine, the writer has followed the recipe perfectly to the letter, so props on that—there is some comfort and fun in cliche and stuff can be cliche for a reason. Except the writer missed the footnote at the end of the recipe that says "add your own unique twist to the story" and it ends up banal. The most surprising part of the story may just be the fact that the princess is already betrothed so she can't fall in the love with beta protagonist, but I guess that could set up some nice NTR stuff later.

The first part seems to only serve to punch us in the jaw with the fact that the main character is a loser nerd with no evident redeeming features. The scene is boring, too short to really establish much, and ends way too abruptly as if just to add impact to the bully's punchline. I get that this sort of scene is almost obligatory to isekai and introducing your character, but never write a scene because you have to. Pack it with more content or find a good reason to skip it.

Next, we are greeted with generic fantasy enemy #3, the wolf. Honestly, despite being only Level 1, it's funking scary, especially when it's right in the face. The writing didn't convey much emotion or shock or anything. There was barely a change in tone from what it was before. The dude doesn't even have a reaction to being in a new world.

It's just pure cliche and doesn't feel like a parody either.

3. The Dive
The beginning was nice. I liked that. However, look at the picture below. That represents your fic. You know what that is? That's fluff.
 

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I feel it could be a whole lot shorter, especially when the point of this contest is to punch your reader with a good first impression in as little time as possible. There was zero punch to your writing. Characters also didn't leave any impression on me. Your world-building wasn't particularly interesting since it was made to be generic, leaving the reader to just assume everything. Take lessons from Rinne or something on unique world-building.

Overall, it's just decent I guess. Cool premise, no glaring flaws, but nothing that stand out.

2. One More Time, One More Chance

I started doing a bit by bit nitpick as I read, but funk that, that's too long, so you get the beginning of it.

The first bit was confusing, I had to read it twice (I know, that's a lot).
 

The girl was overcome with panic and surprise, and as she was unable to process what was actually happening, she froze on where she stood.

Avoid logical statements like "because she was unable to…" in the middle of emotional moments. We intuitively understand why she froze, no need to explain.
 

“These orcs....those abominations, had razed our villages for too long. They killed our people, disturb our peace. Need I remind you of the sight of-”

This feels too much like an infodump. I get that she's trying to reorient the commander, but it doesn't feel like that.

The part where she just goes on a walk and comes to terms with it all was way too fast compared to the normal pace of the narrative. You can't have the most important bit of development here just glossed over like that.

Anyway, I like that you went for something more ambitious. Writing isn't bad. It's certainly an interesting premise to be able to glimpse at the world from many perspectives. Although it felt kind of jarring, it was a good choice to jump over the noble story. The last bit at the end does make me curious how she will encounter the story of the noble, if she doesn't that's just lame.

1. Fairy Fascination

There's a very nice voice and narration here. Honestly have little to say here, it was pretty well-crafted from the beginning to end and felt complete as an introduction. The touch of mystery and occult is cool.
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Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be too late. It's a disgrace I didn't get to reading and reviewing these earlier but at least I'm on time.

 

I'll go through these in order of story listed.

 

The Dive

was probably the most competently written out of the entries, in terms of prose and dialogue and whatnot. There's a lot less I could nitpick in the words and sentences, which is nice. I don't really think there's that much fluff.

 

Let's start with nitpicking the beginning though. If this summoning magic that, as we've been shown, can summon a huge starship from some other more sci-fi-based dimension, how come this is a last resort thing? We've also been shown that some disarmed dude on the verge of death was able to do it too. It doesn't even need a lot of justification to make sense but, it does feel awkward to be shown why our crew's summoned to another world and it's through something seemingly so small as a couple of blood symbols on the ground(I really like how that was described though. 'The Sigil of the Praying Woman') and some light incantation. It's hard to gauge how powerful magic is in this setting because of that. If some half-dead dude was able to do that much then surely the scale of magic in this war should be a lot larger and we wouldn't have someone lying on the ground without his arm next to the enemy king. Also because it's specified he was wearing armor at the beginning, I had in my mind an image of a knight as our narrator at first, but then he's using summoning magic which conflicts with my previously imagined image of him. It's a confusing detail that doesn't add anything.

 

The sci-fi parts were not as interesting but there's at least some personality here. Not to any individual character but the overall mood, I guess? You've described small details like the cleaning janitorbots not actually cleaning things or the captain not being very helpful. Those are fun details, but the actual characters don't have that much...character. No one stands out, I don't even have a clear image of Feral in my head, and if you spent less time and words on this scene it would've been fine.

 

And another perspective switch to the fantasy side again, this time to some Shepard kid? I feel it's too confusing to have 3 different perspectives in one chapter. You start with a fantasy, then switched to sci-fi, and now it's back to fantasy(but not the same perspective as the first one) before the sci-fi ship crashes into the fantasy world. I'd say, cut out the beginning or this. I suppose the contest regulations screwed you over, since I asked the isekai world to be introduced to the main character in some small extent at least, and hell that screwed me up too. It would've been ideal to end this chapter just as they prepared for the emergency dive, and instead expand on the sci-fi side of the story more.

 

Story title is boring.

 

The Millennium War

Aix already said a lot of what I felt about this, but I'll try to add something.

 

I think this one suffers a lot from trying to present its high school and bullies as a well-known cliche. If you had presented this with more weight(as a legitimate bullying issue the main character has) it could've worked better. Also I didn't really feel anything for the main character. I don't feel the frustration of being trampled upon by some arrogant dumb normalfag and this part just feels emotionally weak.

 

THEN the MC wakes up somewhere, and the first thought he has is that his town doesn't have a lot of grass? It sounds like he's trying to sound smart and sassy like the teenager he is but this still broke what little immersion I had.

 

And finally, the end of it felt terribly done, with the princess explaining why she's out here. You're setting up some context which is nice but it's really not needed. I would've ended the chapter at the princess fending off the wolf. Right there, without the parts after. It's interesting she starts out engaged to someone but this detail feels unnecessary here. I would save that for a chapter 2. And I would've expanded on the combat scene a lot more. She uses magic and we get a 'what the hell!' from the MC and that just isn't as amazing as it should be. You're bruised up and you wake up next to a wolf when a girl in a frilly dress gallantly leaps in from somewhere and fends it off for you. And then from her hands she casts magic. The feeling of awe in that scene could've been delivered a lot more competently.

 

Props to the title being directly relevant though.

 

Expedition Solaea

was the hardest to read, sorry. It's long yet the narration feels very robotic. The first few lines I was half-convinced the narrator was narrating about an animal or something. And the rest of it felt more like a summary than an actual attempt at narrating a story. I don't really understand why it's divided into named parts either, because that doesn't seem to do anything. I'm not sure what else to say, I guess I'll fall back on redirecting you to Aix.

 

I am not too fond of 'The' at the start in story titles so I guess, naming-wise this title wins?

 

One More Time, One More Chance

is a nice song.

 

Okay it's a tie between The Dive and this one for me. The former is written more competently but this one immersed me the most out the entries here. Also has the most impressionable main character.

 

The beginning felt really awkward though. It felt like you were trying to rush through it, and I can understand why but seeing how quickly the captain girl adapted to her circumstances broke my immersion straight off. I don't think it was necessary to have the archer girl slap and confront her at all really. Have it feel more anecdotal and personal, would've probably flowed fine. It would feel more ephemeral and dreamlike too, which would be perfect.

 

Because it turns out to be a dream and god this was when I was leaning towards the screen with excitement. The two scenes with Annemarie in the real world were the most interesting. It really captured the idea behind writing isekai fantasies, to escape. I don't think any other story here does it as well. Wish it was longer though, especially when she was telling her friend about it. And elaborate a little bit on the friend too, even if she won't be a major character or anything.

 

Then it's back to the fantasy part and this part is long and again, not as interesting. Her dialogue with the 3 people she joins is awkward, and the reveal that one of them knows one of Anne's previous incarnations is interesting but not enough to be a satisfying place to end it at. And I'm confused, was that previous incarnation called Anne too? And there's one fatal flaw in that girl's assumption. Annemarie's only possessed that first incarnation during that last battle so there's no real reason that she would be similar to the first incarnation's personality before that. It's not something the other girl(I keep saying 'the other girl' because uh...I don't remember. I only remember Anne's name) would know but we the readers know so, again it feels awkward. It really would've been fine without the last two lines or something so I would have less to nitpick on.

 

I keep saying it but this piece really is best defined as awkward. There's noticeable grammatical mistakes here and there that break you out of it and a fair amount of the dialogue could be rephrased to flow more smoothly.

 

I'm guessing the title kinda works as conveying Anne's desire to have just one more dream, one more chance, every night. Sounds really cheesy though.

 

Fairy Fascination

The narrative voice in this one is kinda inconsistent and feels off. The beginning narration feels somber and nostalgic and down to earth, but then there's a parenthesis with a side note saying 'oh, details!'. Or on a larger scale, the flashback narration was dry and heavy in mood but then it abruptly switches to her online friend shouting jovially(or so she decided to portray him that way). Or her calling herself a young beautiful girl somewhere around the middle mark. It's an attempt to inject some personality into the narration but it just ends up feeling off. Feeling awkward.

 

But the worse part is in the airport scene where if you tried to visualize what was being described it'd look nonsensical. In fact the way events are portrayed to have happened in general feel off, as if the author doesn't really have a grasp on reality. It would be fine if this was intentional, I guess.

 

And this one's really skirting the (IKENAI)borderline of being an isekai. She sees a fantasy world/floating island through the window plane and that's the only glimpse of the other world this story has. I'm not even sure this fits within the regulations. Overall it just wasn't written as competently as The Dive and didn't immerse me as much as Annemarie's Dreamy Adventure.

 

The title doesn't feel that related to the story but I really like the names Gertrude and Gretel.

 

With all that said

 

I think my vote goes to The Dive.

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First off, I'd like to say that I really appreciated ALL the entries in this competition.  The stories overall contained a lot more originality than I expected when I read the rules about Isekai stories, and most had some twists I didn't see coming.  There are many lovely turns of phrase in the different stories, too.

 

Comments, in order of the stories:

 

The Dive:  I liked the mystery of the title, and was taken aback (in a good way) that the "portal" to a strangely different world appeared to be the death of the protagonist in the first few paragraphs.  (Later, I realized I'm unsure what happened there.)  I found the writing in the Impact of Silence section to give off a heavy Star Trek vibe, which is mostly good (except for the detail of the engineer sounding Scottish, which was too derivative) in that it really was so different than the opening.  But I'm afraid I'm with the reviewer above who said 3 scene/character shifts was too much to introduce at once.  I wasn't even clear if the shepherd's planet was the same as the opening character's.  One small suggestion:  give the opening character and the shepherd names!  Everyone on the ship is named.  It made the ship scenes seem more in focus and the other two scenes feel more evocative – a mismatch that didn't feel intentional.

 

The Millenium War:  As noted above, the story felt like it was deliberately trying to be cliché, which is just fine.  I half-expected the princess to reveal that her name was Peach!  The narrator's voice was consistent, amusing and amused, and relatable throughout.  I felt comfortable reading this and interested to see where it would go.  But it does need to go somewhere – the story here seems to end just before we break past the cliché and start getting into something more original and more interesting.

 

Expedition Solaea:  I'm not that familiar with "standard" Isekai fiction, but in some ways this story reminded me of a Studio Ghibli movie in the relative softness of its plot developments.  (And I love Studio Ghibli.)  The characters don't bash each others' skulls in, there is tension but no overt conflict and certainly no hatred, and I did find myself picturing the village in the trees pretty clearly.  There could have been more development of Joe's issues with self-esteem at the beginning, and his luck at fixing the spheres does seem to come unnaturally quickly.  But I loved that the "showdown" in the city is resolved without a fight, and that there's room for the story to move forward in other chapters.  Driven by plot, and not so much by characterization, but there's nothing wrong with a fun, fast-moving plot!

 

One More Time, One More Chance:  Solid writing, and I like the originality of escaping through dreams (even if that runs the risk of reducing the stakes, as the worst that'll happen to Anne, apparently, is that she'll wake up).  There was one big point of confusion for me that took me out of the story, which is the appearance of the dragon.  Anne's reaction was why "here, of all places", which suggests that she's completely comfortable with the concept of dragons, she just wasn't expecting one, even though she's surrounded by elves.  I think the story-telling would have been stronger if there was more of Anne's backstory or way of thinking early on that would help me identify with her as someone I could relate to, i.e., definitively from our world.  The ending was ambiguous, in a good way – how will her many lives in this place turn out to relate?

 

Fairy Fascination:  I loved the mood set by this piece, in that I felt like "something was up" in an otherwise familiar world, but I couldn't put my finger on it.  Then the realization that the black-ticket thing is going to play out felt both like a logical extension of what we'd been reading and something vaguely threatening at the same time.  Again, the floating island nicely reminded me of Ghibli (and Swift before that).  Like The Millenium War, though, I wished this story went a bit farther, so I got some sense of what the mood would be like once in the city:  mysterious, mystical, militaristic, all of the above?  Getting just a taste of that would have made me really wish to turn the page.

 

My two favorites here are Expedition Solaea and Fairy Fascination, as different as those two stories (and styles!) are from one another.  If I had to pick a "winner", though, I'll go with Solaea, as that's the adventure that I'm most eager to read more about.

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Originally was going to write something for this myself but lack of time is a real killer. So as an isekai fan I guess I'll read over the stories and make my opinions known.

  • The Dive is probably the most compelling of all the entries and the best writing quality. I really like all the fiddly little details because that's a thing I like. So what Aix calls fluff I call immersion. And unlike a few of the other stories, it felt less like you were telling a story, but showing a story.
  • The Millennium War felt a bit too short. Also pretty generic with the bully thing and then the beautiful princess.
  • Expedition Solaea took advantage of suspension of disbelief a bit too much in my opinion. Just really doesn't make much sense that an average "Joe" would know how to solve all these problems and it makes everybody else look stupid in comparison.
  • One More Time, One More Chance didn't really draw me in--I've probably read a few too many bodysnatching stories--but it was interesting and I did like the little twist at the end even if I saw it coming a while back.
  • Fairy Fascination had the most original idea of all of them I'd say and the cursed plane definitely reminded me of those little Japanese rumors that go around. Which is nice timing cuz Halloween is today.

For me it's a cross between The Dive and Fairy Fascination. I think I'll go with The Dive for now, but I might change my vote. Might look over the stories again and stuff.

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My reviews tend to be more idle commentary with a short summary at the end so here we go.....

[spoiler=The Dive]Jeez this is long
The start was nice, right off the bat it made me think "Oooh what's happening here"
"His entire person" is an awkward statement though.
Severed arms don't get strewn. Strewn tends to be more for...plural things.
It starts getting...the wording and pacing feels really awkward after the very start. It feels really wordy but the words come off uneccessary or just not quite right.
"[destined hero]" I hated this. It's a little thing but the structure bugs the crap out of me.
Up until then I was getting kinda into this spell thing.
The sci-fi switch was nicely done I won't lie. However I can't say I was drawn into the characters much.  Their interactions felt stiff, to me.
I did enjoy the "contact" part, it was exciting, and got me interested again.
Personally I think it’d been nice to start the next section with dialogue. The “the young boy” part just came off as an awkward transition. It’s best when changing scene entirely to try and set the scene or show right away how very different things are.
It took me a while to get that “hove” wasn’t a misspelling of “hoof”. There’s a lot of terms being thrown around it’d be good to give some more indication what’s being talked about. As is I just am left not able to really grasp the scene.
Also you started calling him lad and it sort of threw me off for some reason. Those kind of terms “The boy, lad, etc” shouldn’t be something that a reader really notices beyond the vague realization what is being talked about.
I did enjoy the whole “fantasy character trying to comprehend sci-fi thing”, it was cool to see them relate it to things they understood.
I feel the fantasy parts was just sort of...not as exciting. I couldn’t really get a sense of what the boy was feeling as well as with the sci-fi part.
When we go back to Feral I noticed you used “slowly” to start two sentences in a short time frame to describe actions.
Something about a fantasy character thinking about something in “meters” is really awkward for me, due to not being used to that.
“Nothing of this size could exist outside of nature” Isn’t this a fantasy world with dragons though?
“He's not from us. He's not from anywhere our race knows.” There had to have been a better way to say this.

Okay so overall thoughts was it was way too much. So much words, not much actual information. I mean I get what happened, but I feel like I had to force myself to read it all. There were good parts but I feel it should have been a bit more shortened and focused. And the wording was sometimes awkward as well. I didn’t feel I was really shown the world in a good way. More like I was forced to listen to someone describe things. Details are nice but you have to write the details right. I don’t feel like this was done well here too often. They were more...just thrown at me.



[spoiler=The Millennium War]I will admit. The start has me super interested. It literally knows its cliche, and that could be a very interesting premise for a comedy story.
Though the fact it’s first person bothers me for that very reason. A character knowing how cliche the world is, is a very tricky thing to pull off convincingly.
This character feels painfully forced. Like he’s just there to be like “HEY GUYS A NERDY VIDEO GAMER WHO DID NOTHING WRONG AND GETS PICKED ON”. I don’t like that. Especially as he’s describing himself. It just doesn’t feel natural.
Hold up four day weekend? Never had one of those...Anyway
“jive turkeys “ Okay what the hell is up with the slang here?
...And that’s how...*sighs* okay sorry I dunno I just can’t get into this. It’s ridiculous but doesn’t actually feel like a comedy. And this character is just so...flat.
“I awoke in what felt like a grassy knoll”. Okay so here’s the thing. Especially in first person it’s best to describe the feeling instead of telling what it is exactly. When you write “felt like a grassy knoll” instead stop, think about “what does a grassy knoll feel like?” and then write that.
"You ALWAYS think the dark wizard Palindrome is out to get me.” And this was just ridiculously forced.

This whole thing was just sorta...awkward, cliche, and unsure of what it was trying to be. It felt like it was trying to be a parody but it very much wasn’t. I have zero attachment to this story after reading this honestly.



[spoiler=Expedition Solaea]Okay the start just threw me right into characterization and that was kinda awkward. And whoa what the hell suddenly he’s falling into a river what’s going on? Like I can’t keep up with my own reading. Maybe if I read this at one sentence a minute it’d make more sense but as is just felt like a serious of random thoughts and events stacked on top of each other.
I feel I’m just being given a list of things, not reading a story. There’s no real substance to it.
The whole parts things feels weird, like, that it shouldn’t be in this competition. Since I thought it was supposed to be a “one chapter” thing and this almost feels...cheating? Either way it’s a cheap way to separate events.
Oh hey, there we go, that forest part was fairly well described, it should have had more of that.
“Suddenly, Joe was surprised to see a figure drop from above and land in front of him” That isn’t how the word suddenly works. It’s supposed to go right before the action. Suddenly he was surprised just feels awkward.
Speaking of awkward that dialogue was super awkward and random and illogical.
That info dump was so unnatural and I was confused. Like why is any of this happening? What is going on? I don’t even know how to feel about this because it feels like nothing and too much is happening at the same time.
“Uh, I just gotta work around with this. I got a degree in engineering when I was in college, so I know what I’m doing.” This is just bullshit.
wtf the Part 4 literally interrupted something in the middle of a thought.
You have to stop saying “It seemed” honestly. Just makes it weird.
“How did you convince him?” Apparently by being the main character. That’s basically all I’m getting from this is that stuff happens because main character.
I kind of just skimmed the rest because it’s more of the same. I can’t really say much more than I already did so I’ll leave it at that.



[spoiler=One More Time, One More Chance]“An abrupt yell broke the silence of the lush forest” I like the idea of how you started. However. If the perspective character doesn’t even realize they’re in a forest this line makes little sense. Same for describing her as an elf immediately.
“well, perhaps she was now somehow entered one of those fantasy stories she used to read” Gonna have to point out that this is usually a big no-no unless you’re aiming for something silly. Even then it’s a bit too on the nose.
Interesting she is taking it in the way she is but it also feels very strange. Maybe that’s characterization but I’m unsure.
I will say so far the idea is cool. However it does also feel unrealistic. Especially if she is the leader the people should be a lot more confused than they are. Especially if she’s, from what it seems, not from a world where fantasy stuff happens. She should definately show more differences and it’d be way too obvious.
Also it feels like things are going a decent, somewhat slow, pace but also a lot of important things are being rushed. Such as reactions to...everything around, and other people’s actions.
“That thing, a dragon? The knight girl's gaze became empty. T-that's nonsense, right? Why would they stumble into a dragon here of all places? “ Now you’re just confusing me. Does she know about the world or doesn’t she? She should be surprised at everything or nothing. Like either she takes everything as “well I guess this is how things are”. Or everything should be “Whoa that’s a thing.” However she should not be surprised at this specific of an issue. The issue of a dragon being “here of all places”
There’s some grammar nitpicks all throughout this but I can at least understand what’s being said. I really liked the real life stuff, and the idea of the dream thing, and felt it was quite well done. Honestly I just would like a bit more detail, and a bit less lengthy inner monologue type stuff. But it was quite engaging throughout.
The guild part seemed better described than the elf part, which was interesting, and I enjoyed reading this part more.
“That's a shame...thought I can ask you about how the order of this city's church now to you.” What just happened here?
There’s a few instances like that of just awkward wording that do take me out of things I won’t lie.
Daaamn that ending really was good. I expected it once she said the knight thing but it still felt great.
Overall this one was really cool. The idea was interesting, the description was mostly good. The main issues is I feel it’s a bit too unrealistic with how people react to the main character. And there’s some points where the pacing switches a bit too much.



[spoiler=Fairy Fascination]I’m loving how the story flows so far. It really makes me interested in what’s going on. It gives me information in a way that makes me want to hear the information.
I don’t like the tacking on something in parenthesis thing. Feels weird. “that were originally mine in the first place (my family’s, but oh, details).” It felt jarring and the flow was interrupted for a moment.
It makes me feel bad for both these characters, their relationship feels so sad.
I will say I did have a moment of confusion about the chatting online thing. Given she seemed to not be a chatty person, but, maybe that’s just irl. Either way maybe the confusion is on me but I found myself, at times, confused what was going on.
I feel the whole “I was pathetic” part could have been better. It seemed rushed, the idea that this character was having actual troubles with what happened.
“I had replied, but with less grammatical coherency than what I have written just now.” idk this felt weird to me. I think this part could have been formatted differently to make it more...interesting and true to what happened.
“supposed destination seemingly differs “ a bit odd wording.
I feel so far this story was really amazing with narration but then it started getting...strange. The narration became a lot more stilted later on.
The airport part was fun. Like, the writing got better here, similar to the start, even if the narration is somewhat inconsistent.
I’ve never seen a floating island described like that but I liked it.
“and I could see people walking around, albeit not very clearly. There were oversized creatures walking alongside them too!” I think this part could have been described more. Even just describing one such creature a bit would have given a much better impression.

 

Overall I think I really liked it, it was quite good. It was interesting, well written, engaging, and such a neat idea. The best part of it for me was how it felt more real than the others. Despite the occasional odd choices in wording and the inconsistent stuff.

 

 

[spoiler=My Decision]Now, Dive was a good one, it just felt like it could have been more brief or...rather the details given should have been handled better.

The next two, while not the worst things, I just couldn't get into.

One More was quite good, and I enjoyed the whole thing...

But I vote for Fairy. It felt the best combination of well written, interesting story, and realism. Very good job!

Also I think I know 4/5 of the writers, lol.


 

I spent way too long on this.

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Jumping in cold here we go

 

[spoiler=The Dive]

 

I'm just going to start with the more technical jargon here, in specifics the writing style. There was a lot going on here that didn't do it for me, especially the imagery and descriptions. A lot of the time I felt the narration was just trying a little too hard, and descriptions such as "uncaring void" or "deafening silence" felt very cliché and didn't add anything to the narrative. In particular, the lines "immediately spatting the concoction out of his mouth and onto the floor. Accidentally, of course." was a shining example of the technical problems with this entry. Word choice borders on completely unnecessary just for extra flowery flourish (concoction instead of something like drink) with the extra "accidentally" portion being completely unneeded. How often does someone take a sip of their drink and just spray it all over the floor intentionally?

 

In the matter of the writing style, there needs to be a better focus on simplification in a lot of areas: to not use unnecessary additions that don't introduce any new angles or ways to look at the image or particular; to not use words that are needlessly flowery and complex for the purpose of making things sound better. Instead, focus on descriptions that not only establish the mood and the atmosphere, but do so with concrete images. Simplification comes in for making these images accessible and easy to understand for most readers; they'll read the description and feel what the story wants them to feel without any thought. Of course, as always, Show, Don't Tell.

 

As for the plot, characters, structure, etc. I felt this entry was, again, very lacking. The cold starts did not lend itself well here. In the case of Sci-Fi and Fantasy universes that are very alien to our own modern setting, you need need need NEED to write these stories with this in mind: The reader does not know anything about your universe jumping in. There's a lot of ways to convey alien settings to an unfamiliar mind implicitly; to drop a strange term that a reader won't understand, but through the story itself implicitly explain to them what it is. From the introductory fight to the ship scene, characters and events are dropped on me and I'm not given any reason to understand why what's happening is happening, why I should care, or even who I should root for. A knight is fighting the ent king, but is the ent king a good guy or a bad guy? Why is he fighting him? Where is he fighting him? What's an ent? This intro scene generates so many questions, and before it decides to give answers, the scene jumps to a radically different scene.

 

The sci-fi scenes don't get any better; dropping terms and jargon with no context like as if this was a book straight out of the ​Dune series. Now, I love Dune, but I hate it when any sci-fi or fantasy novel just starts dropping in-universe terms on me like I should know what they are with minimal to no context. In the case of Dune, if I read the entire book and the only way for me to know what a frickin' Mentat is is by looking it up in a glossary at the back, then the author's failed as a story teller to convey his universe to me. Introducing and establishing an alien setting is very difficult, even more-so without using exposition; but it can be done and the mark of a good sci-fi or fantasy setting is how accessible and intuitive it is for a reader to really get into what's going on without anyone explicitly saying "By the way, this is what this is".

 

Which leads me to this critique: The plot progression is just plain confusing across the board. If this were the opening chapter to a book, or the first episode to a show, I would honestly just drop it by the second scene. It gets very confusing very quickly and does a poor job doing what a first chapter/episode is supposed to do: Establish the story. If there's anything that I feel could really remedy this for this entry, it would be focus. Pick a few characters, and develop the world from there; don't try to establish everyone and everything at once.

 

Honestly, I could go on trying to unpack everything that needs to be said regarding this entry, but I've already said a lot and need to move on. For future endeavours, I recommend looking over how you establish your universe and stories. Accessibility and ease of understanding make a huge difference for a given piece, and a confused reader loses interest very quickly.

 

 

 

[spoiler=The Millenium War]

I feel like there needs to be a better understanding over how jarring, confusing, and downright frightening it would be for someone to suddenly awaken and find themselves in a strange new world.

 

While this story is short, it does a decent job with its cold start, but I still felt the execution wasn't very great. The intro scene is incredibly cliché (acknowledging this doesn't make it any better) and the opening interaction was... fairly bad. To start, the bully not being named annoyed me quite a bit; he's clearly a character that knew the protagonist quite well, so why wasn't he named? Shouldn't they have history? Shouldn't he have more significance than some stranger on the street? Overall, the interaction serves as nothing more than a vehicle to get the character punched so he can awaken in a Forested Glen; hardly anything is established, neither the main character's personality, his faults, where he's going to develop, nothing. Some videogames are namedropped and all that can be gotten is "He's bullied and a weak nerd", which could describe just about anyone. This scene is generic and lacks significant development that could have done well to establish the main character more.

 

Jumping into the fantasy setting, the dialogue began to urk me quite a bit. As I said before, I feel like any teenager isn't going to be so nonchalant about being punched and waking up in a foreign world; they're going to think that they were knocked out, or maybe they're dead; neither of which are terribly light things that won't bring about much concern. As well, the way they establish the universe's religion and pantheon is just... it made me cringe. Nobody talks like that. In the case of a religion with many gods, nobody when talking to someone else with an equal or greater degree of devout understanding is going to say "I prayed to Artemis, the Goddess of hunting and fertility as well as Zeus who's the king of Gods and the god of thunder and he bones a lot of animals!" It may seem like a convenient way to establish a part of the story's setting, but it does so with stilted and unrealistic dialogue. Nobody's going to explain it like that, at best they're just going to say "I prayed and prayed as hard I as I could to every Eternal!!" A lot of this information isn't even readily needed, but what is really readily needed (knowing what the millennium war even is, since it's obviously the main conflict) isn't delivered at all.

 

The story, in fact, just ends too immediately. We get two scenes overall that establish a very minimal amount of information and do so through some very stilted and unrealistic dialogue. A lot more development needed to be given to this piece overall, as it felt very shallow and unexplained.

 

 

 

[spoiler=Expedition]

Right off the last one, I feel like someone is going to be acting different when they discover they're being stalked. Not only that, he's on a hike through a "nature park" and at some point decides to ask if he's in a different world despite a complete lack in any change of scenery. There's nothing to suggest to him that he's changed locales; he's on a hike, suddenly is stalked, and then not only somehow realizes he's in a new world but is just perfectly okay with it? This isn't even going off how now he's alright with hanging out with someone that was just stalking him a second ago.

 

Overall, I just felt this entry was very dull. As I've probably explained, a lot of interactions just don't make any sense, and the plot progression is more or less "He's hiking, then suddenly he's in a new place without anything suggest he's warped, and then he meets these people, and then this happens, the end". The main character is very flat with no real depth, and everything just flows with this bizarre direction. It almost feels like the writer had a vague idea on the location, but didn't really know what they wanted to have happen in it, or what characters would be involved.

 

The writing itself is serviceable; most images and descriptions were pretty weak, with a lot of extra descriptions that weren't needed ("But once inside they could see two guards rushing at them, who were previously inside guarding the door." There are much better ways to tell the reader that these were the same guards as before) and the story lacked any significant amount of mood or atmosphere.

 

This entry could stand for a lot more development, and a lot more polish. The characters are weak, the plot feels like a sequence of events with nothing really tying them together, and the interactions across the board are unrealistic and unbelievable.

 

 

 

[spoiler= Two More Times and Chances Also]

Once again: Someone who's waking up in a strange new world in strange circumstances is not going to take things very lightly. This main character is way too accepting of these circumstances they find themselves in suddenly, and not nearly confused enough.

 

Which is one of my only major critiques. The setting shows some decent accessibility, and beyond interactions that aren't quite as believable as they could be. The idea of falling asleep and waking up in a strange world has been done quite a bit, but that's not to say it's bad. If anything, the execution for what's going on could have been a bit more concise on what's going on and some polish in some areas (the inner monologue about wanting to experience it again could be done over again in a better way). Regardless, the writing has a good flow to it, and the imagery is both concise and good.

 

If anything, it feels like there's a little too much "tell" and not enough "show". Explicit emotions are stated for how a character feels, and it even when it says "seems", I feel like there could be more of a focus on body language and physical interactions than just telling me how they seem to feel. Let me, as the reader, receive the same information as my camera/point of view (the protagonist in this case) is receiving.

 

For an introductory chapter, however, you're on a good track and a bit more work on establishing the main character and polishing those interactions, and you've got something pretty good in the works.

 

 

 

[spoiler=Fairy]

I love the narration here. While it's a little heavy on the exposition, reading this one gave me a strong sense that someone is telling me a story; and this someone is a real person with real characteristics. There's a good personality to the style of narration here, and this accomplishes a strong mood and atmosphere without needing much description to do so. The use of repetition gives almost a poetic feel to the story, and the pacing is just great. I really appreciate that this story takes the time to let the reader to get to know the narrator and what they're talking about before taking the plot anywhere fantastical; it's a slower start, but it does a fantastic job establishing what's going on. If anything, I would say that the piece ends too soon; just as the plot really starts to get moving. While I did say it was well-paced earlier, thinking about it now it tells me that this story was maybe paced for a longer format. Still, it has a good personality and a good flow.

 

As far as plot complaints go, I feel like it could have been more clear as to why the main character namedropped themselves as Gretel, and given a better line of thought to explain why they're okay going forward into a very vague and worrying situation (getting onto a plane that you don't know where it's going isn't a small thing). Beyond having these nitpicks; I'm more or less just saying that a bit more polish in the flow will really tie a neat bow on this entry, and make something fantastic.

 

 

 

[spoiler=Verdict]

My vote's going to Fairy Fascination, with One More Chance in a close second. Overall, I felt this piece had the strongest balance of pacing or atmosphere and did a great job establishing its universe; giving the reader only the information they needed to know but hinting at there being a lot more as a means to draw the reader in and keep them interested. One More Chance had good writing and a good flow, but I felt it needed more work and polish on its pacing and interactions.

 

 

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Alright, here goes nothing.

Who cares for suspense, am I right? Man, this was difficult to do, there were some pretty solid works from you guys. After a lot of time and thought, I have come to the conclusion that “Fairy Fascination” will be receiving my vote. I'll get to the nitty gritty of it at the end of this review, so stay tuned for that. For now though, I want to start with general thoughts and critiques and the move my way through the works in the order presented in the thread.

 

Without further ado:
General thoughts...well, let's address the obvious. Every single entry here could use grammar touch ups. I'm not going to read every single typo or error, but you all should definitely proofread more often if you are not doing it now. Fortunately, few of these grammatical errors were egregious in nature, and hardly subtracted from (or made confusing) the stories you all wrote. I won't do super specifics to call anyone out because I might have missed some, but I guarantee a proofread will tell you if you need to fix some things or not.

 

Next, I can definitely see where each of you took common elements in an isekai and put them to use- or chose not to. Nothing wrong with sticking to the basics, of course, but some of these common things go unmentioned but often become cliches so I encourage you to be conscious of them while writing. From having a loser/loner/whynotboth protagonist to being summoned by a princess, you guys did it all, heh.

 

Finally, to wrap up general comments, I want to say that you all managed to execute something well. While I will be honest and say none of them were perfect, each of you managed to do something different than your peers, but in a pretty strong way. Whether you place value on that strength or not is up to you. To conclude, I'd also like to mention that I'd love to see these works if you all continued them. It would help you guys out, it would help me understand your writing patterns and mannerisms, and it would be something fantastic to reflect upon using your beginning chapters. All and all, keep up the good work!

 

 

[spoiler=The Dive] Alright. You know who you are. Comments are gonna be the same for the section I had read previously, I like your character introduction and the use of scifi for an isekai, though it quickly became a mix of both, in a way. Loving the new stuff I read (from the kid's perspective). The whole time I ended up thinking “Oh what the hell is he going to do for the language gap” and I am really impressed that you did not choose to ignore it like most people like to. Looking forward to seeing how the story expands and how you resolve these “issues' of language.

 

My critiques are also the same. Grammar is messy, probably nearly the messiest of the bunch (sorry, fam), but rarely distorted the reading as a result so that is good! The other big detail I wanted to mention in the way of critiques is the vocabulary you use. You should have attached a mini-dictionary, at least in this case. I can make only so many guesses at what all of these words mean, haha.

 

Some other, newer comments: I like how the story starts fantasy, with our unnamed failure of a hero (I”m thinking his name was Aix or something), and then shifts us towards our spaceship crew. For one...your names were pretty good. You “did them” a lot better than most people did, it felt. And your methods of introduction were casually slipped into conversation, which is always cool to read. Coffee bit feels like it breaks the tension just a tad bit too much, but maybe that's just me. Also, I”m a sucker for the whole sectioned off “Year/Section” thing. Scifi nerd, and whatnot. Good work, all around, and I hope you revisit this or continue to improve it.

 

 

[spoiler= The Millennium War]

Alright. Your isekai is more traditional, and there is nothing wrong with that, even if I seem to be an ass in my ratings. You take a more informal approach and enter the mind of a kid in school. While I don't personally LIKE the dialogue/monologue, I would be lying if I said that they were entirely inaccurate. How should I say it...well, basically it felt like you made two bland characters just so you could hurry up and transport your main character to the new world.

 

Your main character is perhaps intentionally dull (in the way that many protagonists are), but the bully's dialogue and the boy's introduction feel informal to a point of being...iffy. I am unsure if you were trying to be serious in the work or not, especially with how the protagonist is teleported- a punch from the bully. So, not going to lie, the beginning of this story failed to hook me in pretty much anyway. BUT. It got better, and that's what matters. Your speech patterns feel much more fitting of your princess and knight. Hell, your main character even started getting a sense of humor, though not all of the jokes were hysterical or anything. I will say that your humor does have some great potential, even getting me to chuckle at times (and that's not bragging, it's just stating that I didn't laugh a shitton while reading these so that was pretty well done when it hit its mark). You continue to maintain this very informal, rough vocabulary and need to interject with the protagonist, and I”m not sure what I think about it, really. Much like his inner humor, his monologue as a whole was quite hit or miss with me. But that's just me. My last “negative” remark is that the “princess summons some dude from another world” thing...feels like a cliché. Could, again, just be me.

 

Now, to conclude somewhat more positively...the ending was really, really good. You related back to the title, left it on a cliffhanger that actually managed to hook me, and named our nameless knight- all within a line or two. That was really good, and it added with the fantasy terms mentioned just actually felt like it was evoking the sense of fantasy, which was pretty cool. Keep up the work, I'd love to see you continue!

 

 

Alright guys, sorry to have this be so rushed but homework, laziness, and writing way more than I expected has caused me to be behind on a lot, so I'm going to write small quips for the last two-three entries to meet the voting requirements BUT I WILL BE BACK TO FINISH THEM LATER. Sorry that this happened, got tired way too fast for my liking.

 

[spoiler=Expedition Solaea] Man, I will have to break this all down later, but I have a lot to critique here. I promise you it won't be in a way that just makes it look bad, and I hope it can show specific details and ways to improve, but this one was a bit messy. Character dialogue, story flow, details that were uncovered, and things like that all should be looked at a bit. Not gonna say outright “bad' or “good”, just that it could use some re-examining. Sorry for those to be my only remarks now, I really am.

 

 

[spoiler=One More Time, One More Chance] Not gonna lie, this was my runner up. I really, really, really enjoyed this. I'll write more when I get home, like I said, but the only thing I could really fault you for (well, that I can recall this late at night) was grammar. It was such a close vote for me between this one and the final entry. I'll be thorough when I get the chance this evening.

 

 

[spoiler=Fairy Fascination] You know...the title has really grown on me, despite not being relevant for most of what I read (aka, all of it). Just a small tidbit. Anyways...we have my winner! Hahaha. Man, I was debating for days between this and the previous entry, and this one nudged ahead based on A. slightly, slightly better grammar and B. me simply enjoying the plot more than the previous one, albeit barely. You developed background, you let us peer into the mind of the main character, though I found certain parts...contradicting, I think is the word I want. I'll go into detail about that later, as stated previously. Anyways, on to more of what I loved. You really fleshed out the moving to another world. It's part of why I liked Dive so much, too. You made a strong buildup to what was going to happen and to what should be considered a really important point in all isekais but is quite often ignored or downplayed. Not to mention, I found the method of being transported to be particularly cool among the other five (not the other five were bad or anything). Your fantasy world as seen through the mind of the protagonist really gets me anxious to read and learn more about the WORLD and the CHARACTERS. THIS is what I look for in writing. Man, I wish more of the thoughts were here, but I'll have to get back to you on that when I'm not braindead tired.

 

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Aaand, that's it! The clock hits the designated number, time for voting is up. Aaaand, we have a winner!

 

Congratulations to Fairy Fascination for winning this contest! The final standing is 4 votes for Fairy, 2 votes for The Dive, and 1 vote for Expedition. Ones that do not win, don't fret, alright? What's important is to learn from the critiques, and create an even more impressive work in the future!

 

The names of the writers of the entries will be announced tomorrow, and that also includes my own review of your stories, so look forward to it~

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The names of the writers of the entries will be announced tomorrow, and that also includes my own review of your stories, so look forward to it~

I will avoid spoiling it because I totally guessed 4 of them right.

 

Take that as you will everyone. ;)

 

But I'd like to say congrats to the "mysterious" writer of Fairy, good stuff, would read it as a book, get to that.

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I just want to say something to each of the writers who submitted an entry.

 

I think it would be great if you continued your stories and posted your new additions (as well as the original entries) in this forum. I appreciate all of your hard work, and would love to see how they continue to play out -- and I bet at least a few others would enjoy it too.

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Pardon me, I failed to finish the reviews in time.

 

But for now, I'll announce the writers for the entries!

 

The Dive is written by Mako, Expedition Solaea is written by cr47t, The Millenium War is written by Catterjune, One More Time, One More Chance is written by Nanashi Ninanai, and finally, Fairy Fascination is written by Witcher.

 

Thank you all for participating in this contest, whether it's by voting or making an entry. Soon we will prepare another contest, so look forward to it~

 

But in the meantime, I promise I'll finish the reviews as soon as I can. Life is a pain in the ass.

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One More Time, One More Chance is written by Nanashi Ninanai

oh you

 

sooooo like i totally rigged the contest so that i would win and thus claim the reward of making a mod confess to me in a PM

 

Anyone has any ideas on what sorta contest to have next, feel free to chime in

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oh you

 

sooooo like i totally rigged the contest so that i would win and thus claim the reward of making a mod confess to me in a PM

 

Anyone has any ideas on what sorta contest to have next, feel free to chime in

Harem contest. It must be done.
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Harem contest. It must be done.

Hate to be rude but isn't that inappropriate for YCM, at least partially?

 

I'm fine with almost any contest, as long as it does not require violence, scary stuff, or inappropriate stuff (ex. what Aix suggested).

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  • 2 weeks later...

...Fashionably late, as usual.

Yeah, sorry these took so long. Life things, and I procrastinated very very hard. No use in lying. Begin!

[spoiler=THE DIVE]

what is this huge pile of trash

 

 

_________________________________________

[spoiler=THE MILLENNIUM WAR]

Look, I'm going to be pretty blunt and honest, as I'd expect to be done to me. This was... written pretty poorly. Simplistic, basic language, awkward grammar, and poor descriptors abound. When going through it, it actually kinda felt like I was reading one of those sort of... "adventure" kids books for like 2nd graders in the 90s. You know the ones. Between the terribly generic characters, name, and plot, it... well, it actually felt a bit like a blast to the past, surprisingly.

Now, look. I did rail on this rather hard, but it does have its good points. In particular, of the 5, it felt like it was the most grounded, and to the point. Plus, unlike the rest of the pretentious baby writers here, who went with fancy prompts and "tried to be creative," I felt like this one stuck to its guns and went with the theme the hardest; generic Isekai story. None of the rest gave me this "feeling" of a proper "one of a billion" isekai light novel in Japan. There was also one joke in there that, while the execution was a bit flawed, I did laugh at. The "I do" joke, about being rescued. That could be retooled into a proper joke, aye.

 

 

_________________________________________

[spoiler=EXEDITION SOLAEA]

Boy, this was very, VERY "A > B > C" in terms of style. This happened, then this happened, in this place. This is what it looked like. Then this happened. it's all so matter-of-fact! I mean, I GUESS that's not necessarily a bad thing. You can't claim it's difficult to understand, after all. But it's like reading wikipedia's version of a rough draft of a script; all the basics of the basics are laid out plainly. Even the dialogue is so... stilted and formal. Ask question, receive answer, ask question, receive answer; no flares of personality or characteristics of the speakers shine through at all. It all comes across as really, really rough.

That being said, at least I understood everything that was going on. Nothing was particularly mysterious, but I felt comforted in the knowledge I was provided. But I guess the biggest problem it has is just that it's... painfully generic and stilted. Writing has a sort of descriptive beauty to it that flows if you get it right, sucking you in and making it feel as though you aren't reading anything at all.


_________________________________________
[spoiler=ONE MORE TIME, ONE MORE CHANCE]

Unfortunately, with this one, my VERY first impression was total confusion. As in, that first entire paragraph was so mangled and confusing that it took several tries to even get my bearings as to what was being said. And as I moved on... man, it seemed like everything moved so, SO fast. I mean, I get the idea; randomly thrust into an already developing situation should make for interesting character moments, right?

The problem I have with his whole thing is that it feels like it's trying to skip all the build up and get to the "good" stuff. As in, with how fast this character got over her situation for the most part, just started assuming things, then tried to run with it, and overall made everything feel disjointed. My suspension of disbelief was instantly shattered, and it felt like I had ended up 30 chapters in to a story that had been going for a while.

And that's when she woke up. Alright, I'll admit I didn't see that coming. However, by that point, I was still reeling by how unrealistic the entire first part felt.

Regardless, I see the concept you have going, and the potential is there. You just need to fix the sentence structure, make character reactions more believeable, and take time to slooow down. Let us injest things. Don't go rushing forth.

 


[spoiler=Fairy Fascination]
this entire contest was a hack frau*shot*

unfortunately, I couldn't find all that much wrong with this, outside of me thinking "this is a bit pretentious." The surefire winner for a reason.

 

 

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