Traveling to another world wasn’t anything like Kevin imagined it to be.
No flash of light. No soaring across the stars. No weird distortion of reality. Not even the whimsical transition from wardrobe into an enchanted wood. No, it was more like waking from a deep sleep. That his old life, one with bright neon lights, blaring car horns, and angry people passing by, had been nothing more than a terrible nightmare and he was now returning to the real world.
One with bright neon lights, blaring car horns, and angry people passing by.
He blinked. He found himself standing in the downtown of an unknown city. The digital panels displaying brand names and wide-open streets reminded him of pictures of Time Square, though he didn’t recognize any of the signs or skyscrapers from any of the depictions.
Thick crowds bustled behind and in front of him. Many dressed in business suits and other formal attire. Others dressed in more casual, revealing clothes, and others worse simple T-shirts and slacks. Most had their eyes fixed on their smart phones, with others shouting into them—trying to be heard over the car noise and chattering flock.
“What the hell is this?” Kevin asked.
He searched around. While he couldn’t recognize a single structure, there was no doubt he was in a bustling, normal, metropolis. Not the high fantasy world he’d been promised. But then… when he thought about it, The Crystal never did say what kind of world he’d be taken to. All the references to High Fantasy and magic came from him.
“Oh, son of a—”
He turned in anger and stormed straight into what he first thought was a wall, but turned out to be a person with a chest as hard as a rock.
“Sorry,” Kevin began “I—”
He froze. The chest he ran into wasn’t just as hard as a rock. It was a rock! The massive stone creature loomed over eight feet tall with a slight hunch to its posture. It too wore a three-piece-suit, but with holes tailored out on the back to allow four, spine-like crystals to stick out. Each was a deep, crimson red, which channeled an electric-like energy from the tip to the stony body.
It lowered itself to face him. Kevin watched as the stones twisted and rolled beneath the folds of the suit and the creature lowered its triangular-shaped head to his. It bore several dozens of jagged, crystalline teeth, the stones around its face tightened, and it glared at him with two, ruby eyes right into his.
“Watch where you’re going!” It yelled.
“Right, sorry!” Kevin yelled, backing away to let the walking monolith move past his way. Kevin watched as it joined the throng of people walking along the street—not a single person in the crowd giving it so much as a passing glance.
Kevin let out a sigh of relief. Once the terror had passed excitement began to rush over him. That was a golem. An actual golem!
Now that he knew what to look for, he saw several of the creatures in the crowd. Like all the humans, they each wore a variety of garments—though many he began to see wore more inclined to go shirtless. He also noticed the spinal crystals didn’t all have the same color. Some were blue, some were green or yellow. Others had a spectrum of colors, going the full rainbow of all four colors or sharing two shades of one and another.
“Holy crap.” He said again, “I’m really in another world!”
On the surface, it looked like any other boring city, but it was actually a vibrant fantasy land that had progressed into the modern age. It made sense. Why wouldn’t a world of magic reach the technological level of earth, which took thousands of years to reach with only science?
He walked the streets, and slowly noticed the subtle differences he missed before. None of the buildings in this city were made with brick and mortar. They were all made with modern steel and glass. The air was clean. Not a single car gave off exhaust.
When Kevin came up to a pedestrian light, instead of the standard hand up or man walking, there were instead two crystals connected by several wires. At first, Kevin thought that the red crystal glowing meant stop and the green crystal would glow instead when it was okay to cross. But when the green crystal came on, it was only for a moment, and then both it and the red crystal went dull. It was when both crystals didn’t glow that the crowd began to cross.
As he was midway through the street, he thought he heard an airplane fly overhead. But instead, he looked up and saw a flock of men soaring above the air—arms outstretched in front of them like superman and flying in a V formation between the city buildings. Few would look up and point excitedly. Others continued to press on, as if the appearance of the super heroes was just a common occurrence.
He felt like a kid walking for the first time into Disney World.
Where did he even start?
His rumbling stomach answered that for him. He hadn’t eaten since his break, and even then, he only had crackers. Food first, adventure after.
He searched for the parallel world’s McDonalds. He would kill for a fake burger right now. But he couldn’t recognize anything like the golden arches, or anything to suggest a sandwich place, or even a dinner. Instead, he turned the corner, and notice a brightly lit, oval sign that was probably as large as three stories of the building.
The sign included bright pop-art golem with wide cartoony eyes and a long, frog like tongue that wrapped around and smacked its stony lips. It held out in one gravelly hand a bowl filled with noodles outstretched as if asking someone to take it to hold.
It wasn’t a burger, but it was a good second.
He opened the door and immediately got into a back up line. The style of the shop was certainly that modern appeal most fast-food places went for, with sleek, curved booths with no cushioning, and several, high rise, oval tables in the center. Nearly every seat was filled with both humans and golems. Kevin noticed while many of the golems sat alone, many also sat with the people and joined in their conversations as welcomed members of the group.
As line moved forward, Kevin peeked at the menu. All the options were written in a strange script that reminded Kevin of the enchanted glyphs he’d see in a roleplaying game. He wasn’t sure why he assumed everything would be in English, but an immediate problem came to mind that he should have considered—especially in his rant over all the problems that come with venturing to another world.
He was in another world. An entirely new world with languages he didn’t know. He already knew he couldn’t read, but what if he couldn’t talk to anyone. How would he order food? How would he ask where the bathroom is? How could he even begin to function here if nobody could understand him?
“Hey!” A man yelled behind him. “You mind? You’re holding up the line.”
“Oh, sorry.” Kevin apologized and stepped forward.
Well. That’s one problem resolved. He could understand speech at least. Then again, he had understood that first golem before… He really shouldn’t have been worrying about this. But how though? He focused on two girls at a table nearby. By the motion of their lips, he could tell they weren’t speaking English. Yet somehow, he was able to understand every words they said as if watching the dubbed version of a Japanese film—except, you know, not terrible.
He turned to look at the menu again. Instead trying to read the glyphs, he focused on the images to the side. The standards were there, ramen, mac and cheese, beef stroganoff… except without beef. In fact, none of the items on the menu had meat in them. Each menu option appeared to have a Crystal off to the side of the bowl.
Kevin raised an eyebrow and glanced again at the tables. Every dish appeared to have a crystal in the dish. Most ignored it as they drew up the noodles with a fork or chopsticks, which made Kevin assumed it was there to season the dish somehow. One golem, however, took the crystal in his hand after finishing his bowel, and placed it near his mouth. He didn’t eat it. Instead, an electrical current formed between the two, and the golem’s red crystals changed to the yellow shade of the crystal. The stone muscles loosened and rose, looking bright and happy as he walked out of the shop.
“Can I help you sir,”
A bump from behind informed him he’d reached the front of the line. He was greeted by a very pretty girl with fair skin and her hair up in a beanie. She fixed with him with eyes the color of amethyst and held a bright, perky smile he could tell was forced, yet did nothing to hinder her natural beauty.
“Sir?” She asked, skeptically.
“Oh, Sorry, yes.” He said, pretending he hadn’t been staring. “Yes, um. I’ll take the plain ramen bowl, up there.” He pointed up at the picture. “And if you could, hold the Crystal please?”
She raised an eyebrow at him but typed in his order in the register. “Alright. That’ll be 10 DP. You may scan your card when your ready sir.”
Kevin reached into his pocket, then froze. His wallet wasn’t there. He was sure he had it when… no… no he had left it back in his apartment. He didn’t have any money! But wait, would a parallel world even accept visa cards? Of course it wouldn’t…
Then he came to another realization—one he should have come to far sooner. He was in another world, without money, without anything.
Stupid! He thought, That’s Isekai 101!
“Is there a problem sir?” She asked again.
“Uh…” He looked up. The line behind him was glaring at him now. He leaned in close to girl, who had a really pleasant smell he couldn’t place, and whispered, “Listen. Um, is it possible to talk with your manager? It’s not about your service. You look great—I mean were great, I—”
She rolled her eyes. “Just wait a second. Hey Mykel, could you watch the register for a while. Just wait one minute sir.”
“Sure…” He said, stepping out of the line as a teenage boy came up and started taking the next person in line’s order. Kevin let out a chuckle. Even in a parallel world, the fast-food industry is still quick to exploit child labor.
After a few minutes, Beanie girl returned from the back with a woman a few years older than himself with short, wavy red hair.
“How may I help you sir?”
“Yes, Listen,” he said in a whisper. “I’m actually kind of new in town, and I don’t exactly have any money so…”
“You’re a refugee then?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem. The tab you received from customs should work the same way as our Identification Card.’
“Actually, you know.” Kevin said, “I think I must have lost that too so… If it’s at all possible, just for tonight, in exchange for a bowl of Ramen, I can help out around your store. Maybe help wipe down some tables and mop the floors. Could we work something out that way?”
She eyed skeptically. He still wore his work polo and khakis, which were both clean and proper. Hopefully that didn’t imply he was a kind of bum who would run off after getting a free lunch.
“Oh…” She said, nodding. “I get it now. You’re not supposed to be here are you.”
“We could certainly use some help around here tonight—two of my girls who usually locked up called in sick. You do everything Lilith here says, we can also let you sleep on the couch in the back for a now. Least till you get on your feet.”
“Seriously?” It was more than he could even ask for. “Thank you.”
“No need to thank me,” She said, “Lost both my parents when Taksa was ransacked, and I was in a rough spot too when I first arrived. Though, you will need to put in an application for an ID soon. I know the wait through customs is long, but you truly need that card to be able to do anything in this city.”
He blinked. Was she thinking he was some kind of illegal alien? Which, technically he was.
“Thank you,” Kevin said, holding out his hand to her. “I promise, you won’t regret—”
“Get out,” She yelled, her eyes widening with anger.
“What?” Kevin asked confused, “What did I—”
She gripped his wrist tightly and dragged him toward the front of the store. Every turned their attention on him as they did, and he was completely lost on why he was receiving such cruel treatment.
She hurled him out of the store, and almost into a couple passing along, causing the man to curse at him.
“Be grateful I don’t turn you into the Enforcer, High-Form scum! Get out of here before I change my mind.”
She closed the door behind her and stormed back inside. Everyone was staring at him now, and he got the feeling whatever she accused him of being was a rather serious offense. He took off running, passing someone with a phone by her ear, looking directly at him.
He turned a corner and took cover in an alleyway two blocks down. He pressed himself against the building and took a breath.
Okay, inventory of what just happened.
She was nice to you; said she would help. You thanked her, then went to shake her hand, and she flipped out. Is trying to shake someone’s hand here like trying to give them the finger? But then, why did she call me a High-Form. It sounded kind of racist, but about what? I don’t look any different than anyone else in that—
Then he saw it, as he was inspecting his hands, he noticed The Crystal clutched in his hand. No, not clutched. Even as his hand opened, it remained embedded into his skin. He let out a cry, and waved his hand desperately trying to dislodge it.
Will you cut that out! Are you trying to attract attention from the authorities?
He paused. He didn’t think that. That wasn’t his thought. But he was sure he thought it. It came to him as clear as one speaking to him.
And he knew the voice.
Honestly, did I not impress upon you the severity of our situation?
“Useless Goddess?” Kevin asked.
You have the gall to call me useless after that display? Honestly, to flaunt me about like that like a common hand puppet—you were fortunate that none of the Heroes supporters spotted thee. It would be an attack on my dignity if my champion were to be felled mere moments after having been summoned.
Yup, definitely the useless goddess.
“You’re not flashing,” Kevin said, as he stared down at The Crystal, “How are you talking?”
Well, obviously luminescent impartation wouldn’t be the most favored form of communication now that we are bounded. You cannot expect to act in any sort of discretion when your hand flashes with my radiance anytime I must convey important information on you—which with your limited cognizance will likely be on a frequent basis.
“Good to see you’ve returned to your oh so humble self now that you got me here.”
Nay, She continued, as if ignoring his statement. I have deigned to attach myself to your nervous system. Much in the way your brain imparts commands to your fingers, I’m able to send to you my voice in the form of impulses, which upon reaching your brain are registered as singular phrases and thoughts. Do hold your praise, I am quite clever aren’t I?
“So you’ve gotten on my nerves, literally. Great. If I become paralyzed when I’m sixty five, I’m blaming you.”
What do you take me for? The merger between ourselves went off without a hitch. You and I are successfully made into one entity. Go on, flex the muscles in your hand. Tell me if you feel any pain whatsoever.
Begrudgingly, he obeyed. She was right. Now that the shock wore off, Kevin realized he didn’t feel any pain whenever he touched or flexed the area around The Crystal. His hand opened and closed as naturally as before, and there was no sign of redness of any kind.
“That still doesn’t explain why you had to fuse yourself to my hand.”
Well, it was the first point of contact.
“No, I mean I don’t know why you had to do it at all.”
I believe the reasons would be obvious, beyond the obvious factor of prejudice I feel toward your species on account of those who stole my powers. When I bestowed the Four with authority over the Pillars, each one had to learn to harness their power over several years. We do not have that much time. Soon as the Four discover you are here, they will muster all their might to stop you. This way, you will have my direct help in learning to master your authority. Don’t you feel bless?
“Not the verb I’d use.”
He stuck his hand into his pocket. He stepped out of the alley and, after making sure he could do so without attracting stares, stepped into the crowd—walking the direction away from the noodle shop. There was still too much about this world he didn’t understand. The ID cards, Refugees, this thing with High-Forms. What he needed now was information.
And though he hated to admit it, he was “blessed” having the all-knowing creator and source of all that information thrust into his pocket.
“So, useless goddess.” He said,
I demand that you stop referring to me as ‘useless goddess.’ You will address me as the Divine Lady and nothing else.
“Yeah… I’m not going to do that. You’re barely a lady, let alone divine.”
Of all the indignation! Let us get one thing straight, Kevin Ventura. I am a benevolent goddess. Before you formed from the grotesque physical conjuration that you nasty little humans use to breed, I had seen the birth of over a thousand stars! I, who have birthed this world from nothing, forming every mountain with care, flowing every river, and I will not be talked down to by a lowly being whose only creative contribution to the cosmos was the pitiful stick drawing he made in twelfth grade.
“A benevolent goddess who, by her own stupidity, sold off all her powers to four complete strangers who have now trashed her world?”
She went silent.
Very well. She relented, But you will not refer to me as “useless goddess”.
“Fine…” Kevin said. He glanced at a window, and was shocked to see a display of, what couldn’t be mistaken for, a game console. He almost laughed at the sight. Even with people flying through the sky, video games still managed to get developed.
And you cannot refer to me with synonyms of the name either. No words like worthless, idiotic, moronic, disgusting, revolting, vulgar. I will allow you to refer to me as graceful and heavenly, however.
He stared at one of the cover arts for a game. It was a standard, old school fantasy cover with a knight, princess, and evil sorcerer. The Knight had long, flowing red hair which he first mistook for her cape, and held aloft a golden sword above her head. The princess was your standard damsel, with flowing white hair, violet eyes, and a lavender dress that flowed to her ankles. What was odd though was the sorcerer looked almost human, with a thick, billowing black robe, blue scarf, and top half of his head concealed in a darkened robe, with only two red eyes burning bright underneath it.
The picture was almost nostalgic. It brought back memories of home… of that time when he and his sister played Ocarina of Time and she let him play on his own for the first time.
“How about Nav,” He said.
Nav… She repeated. Nav, yes. It is quite fitting. For I shall be your noble navigator through your trying adventure.
“It’s also a play off an annoying character from the game I always play. You two are a lot alike.”
Hey! You listen here!
“See, perfect match.”
From that moment on, The Crystal was henceforth known as Nav.
“So Nav,” He began. “Do you mind telling me where exactly we are?”
We are in the heart of the Bastion City of Garnetia—I believe in its Seventh Sector. Citizenry Population: eighty three percent humans, seventeen percent Diam.
“Diam?” He asked, “You mean the golems.”
Yes…. She said, and Kevin could feel the equivalent of her rolling her eyes. Though I resent them being compared to those automatons. There was far more work that went into creating them to referring them as soulless.
“I didn’t, and we’re getting off track.”
Ah yes. Garnetia is the human race’s capital city, and it is the crown city for the Hero of power, The Scarlet Angel.
“The Scarlet Angel?” Kevin asked, almost chuckling.
Yes, She said, The Heroes have adopted ridiculous names upon usurping my power. Maiden of Life, Time Ranger, all so over the top.
“Yeah,” Kevin said, “And Divine Lady is so subtle.”
Indeed. I’m glad you are able to understand even this gravity of nuance.
Kevin made a mental note: Nav doesn’t understand sarcasm.
“Got it.” He said, “So does that mean there is a Kingdom of Diam as well?”
There was… She said, Until it was consumed in a time vortex, caused by the Hero of Ages.
“Wait,” Kevin said, “What do you mean time vortex?”
We’ll return to that later.
“No, no no no. We’re not skimming passed that. What happened to the Diam’s Kingdom?”
Okay fine. The Hero used the Pillar of Time to create a pocket dimension of time within the confines of the Kingdom. One day, it might be tomorrow. The other day it might be the ancient past or distant future. Or it could cycle through the same day for twenty years straight. The point is. It’s gone, lost in a void by the Heroes’ creation. Don’t ask me why, they do these things because they can. Now can progress to more pressing topics.
“Sure…” Kevin said, “I’m about to fight a guy who can literally rewind time. Fascinating. So, you want to go into the details about this marvelous power you claim can combat these guys?”
I shall once it has manifested.
“Can’t you tell me now?”
I cannot, for I do not know the form it will take.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Kevin screamed, causing a few people to look at him. He waved them off with his non-crystal-embedded hand and kept walking.
“You made the thing, didn’t you?” He whispered, “How can you not know what it does?”
I know what it does. But the form it’ll take varies from human to human as is the method which you will learn to harness it. It’s much like your handwriting. Sure, each letter may have a distinct form, but the way each human writes it is vastly different from the next. Much in the same way, as I’ve come to learn, humans who adopt an authority learn to harness it. I could break down elemental principles for you, but until we know exactly how your body will come to harness it, it’ll be no different than trying the importance of oxygen to one who doesn’t need to breath.
“Alright, alright I get it,” He said, “Then let me ask you this. When that lady in the shop there saw my hand, she called me a High-Form, what exactly is—”
A loud explosion cut off his question. He dropped to the ground. The bang had been a few blocks back, and everyone around him had turned to see what had happened.
He rose above the crowd, and eyes went wide.
A skyscraper bellowed smoke as if it had been bombed.
The same building, which several stories below, housed the Noodle Shop.