The night sky was filled with countless shining stars. It was the same old sky you would see inside the game. As for the livelihood in the city, the sight would surely catch you by surprise and make you gasp in astonishment.
Mira finally arrived at her destination, the City of Silver Horn. While waving and thanking the gatekeeper for his work, she entered the city and for an instant stood there motionless, perplexed by the changes it went through. But in the end, that was something she could understand.
The walls surrounding Silver Horn had grown considerably bigger and, if Mira’s memories didn’t fail her, the town itself was easily over three times its old size. She could only confirm that it was the right city when she saw the sky-high towers sitting at the heart of this metropolis. Those buildings, known as the symbol of Silver Horn, were the Nine Silver Linked Towers.
“Of course, thirty years could change any city.”
Mira muttered, as if trying her hardest to convince herself.
She began walking towards the far away entrance to the towers, sounding a bit displeased while trying to go through the main street, filled with citizens coming back from their work. Her child-like figure, illuminated by the moon and the flickering light of street lamps, stuck out in the crowd, catching everyone’s attention. The person herself didn’t notice, but many were captivated by her alluring beauty. Others, worried about a little girl walking there so late at night, tried calling out to her. A wide variety of reactions to Mira’s appearance accompanied her.
Something like that happening was probably inevitable. Her figure, created with the ideal female image in mind, had the power to take anyone’s breath away. Of course, even the creator himself would fall for her allure. Or, more precisely, there was once a being known as Kagami that would fall for her allure.Surely, Graia and his knights deserve praise for holding out and not getting charmed by her.
At the end of the main street, a wall of about four meters and a huge gate blocked Mira’s path. Behind them, illuminated by the moonlight, stood the imposing figures of the Silver Linked Towers. Buildings so tall one would have problems trying to look up at their top. To enter their premises, the only option was to go through the gate. However, to stop outsiders from getting in, some kind of special certification was required.
To unrelated people, a pass could be issued by the towers’ administrative department, only valid for a limited amount of uses. For the tower researchers, a 『Silver Key』 was provided, allowing them entrance. Finally, engraved with nine towers on it, a 『Master Key』 was given to each one of the towers’ highest ranking individuals, the Nine Elders.
Because of that gate, there was no need for any kind of guard so the place in front of the towers was mostly deserted. Naturally, as one of the elders, Mira wouldn’t have any problem entering the place… or so she thought.
When Mira stepped forward in front of the gate, just as she had done so many times before, she instantly noticed something was amiss. Previously, they would open automatically whenever she approached the entrance, but now the gates didn’t even move an inch. Mira then tried getting closer, but when it looked like she was about to bump into them, the girl quickly backed off.
“What is the meaning of this?”
While looking up at the gates, Mira restlessly moved in front of them. Jumping, hopping, going back and forth, over and over again. However, as if it were some kind of boring kid that wouldn’t react to anything funny, the gate looked down on her. Closed.
“Something is not right.”
Mira made a murmur and tried to recall everything related to that gate. A pass, the Silver Key and then the Master Key. Naturally, being the elder to the Tower of Summoning, she held the Master Key. Upon remembering it, she opened her item box, looking through the section for special items. Amongst the many icons there, Mira confirmed that the one for that key still existed and brought the item out.
By the way, it might be called a “key” but it wasn’t the kind of object you inserted into a keyhole and twisted. It had the shape of a card. Carved on its silvery surface were nine towers, one of which sparkled gold. This was used to indicate the master key’s corresponding tower.
The key seemed alright. So what was happening here? Mira pondered, while placing a hand on her chin and trying to check the key with her other one. All of a sudden, and without any apparent reason, the gate opened.
“How did it… ohoho, I see…”
When she put the Master Key back inside the item box, the gates closed. After taking out the item one more time, Mira saw them opening again. Before, the key always worked while inside the item box, but apparently this wasn’t the case now and you needed to have that item out.
Close. Open. Close. Open. Before she knew it, Mira had started playing with the gate, as if holding a grudge against it. The girl was baffled that the way to use the item had changed, but it wasn’t much of a problem once she understood what to do. After passing through the gate, Mira tossed the Master Key back inside her item box.
Inside the premises was a huge lawn. There, you could see a few researchers walking in a hurry, going back and forth between their towers. It was already past working hours, but the tower researchers didn’t seem concerned about that. Mira’s memories from that place were outdated, so she felt a little anxious about how things turned out at the towers three decades after her disappearance. Nevertheless, everything was the same. Experts would never change their blind devotion to their work, no matter what. Thinking that, Mira breathed a sigh, both relieved and amazed.
The nine long towers were arranged forming a circle over their massive site. Going clockwise from the entrance, their respective names were: 『Tower of Sorcery』, 『Tower of Blessings』, 『Tower of Onmyou』, 『Tower of Exorcism』, 『Tower of Summoning』, 『Tower of Necromancy』, 『Tower of Xian』, 『Tower of Demonology』 and 『Tower of Abstractionism』.
Just as Graia had said to Mira, Luminaria was the Elder of Sorcery. And if she really was there, it would only be inside the Sage’s Room, at the highest level of the Tower of Sorcery. Mira began moving towards the tower that faced the gates. On her way, some of the experts tilted their heads in confusion after glancing at the girl’s figure. The towers themselves didn’t require any kind of key to enter, so Mira simply walked in.
An atrium occupied the entire tower, giving a real sense of spaciousness to the building. That shape was the result of many donut-like facilities being stacked one over the other. And then, going up to the ceiling, was a spiral staircase that connected all floors. After repeating the process of building a floor to accommodate new researchers many times over, when they noticed it the place had already reached thirty stories.
Obviously, using only the stairs to climb a tower that big would take too long. To solve this problem, Abstractionism techniques were applied to create an elevator in the middle of the building. The learning method for Abstractionism didn’t follow any linear approach and many of its techniques held peculiar effects. With the player’s own creativity, it was possible to use them for many things like ambient illumination, as a power source for devices, etc.
The elevator was also one of the fruits of the players’ wits. And not only that, the entire tower was built by them. That was something that could be done since the early days of the game’s official launch, from a time when no one knew how to properly learn new skills.
Every new player had to choose one out of three available countries to start their game in. Those nations were called the “Beginners’ Three Kingdoms” and, once a player reached a certain rank, they were forced to leave that country. The premise was that players who weren’t members of a country suffered a lot of restrictions and couldn’t receive any of the benefits given by it.
First of all, the penalties for dying were absolutely wicked, causing the player to lose all the contents of their item box. Furthermore, the player would be afflicted with a serious debilitating debuff for an entire day, stopping them from performing well at combat. Another restriction was that if anyone tried to cross borders they had to pay an expensive fee to continue.
Now, if the player was affiliated with a country, they wouldn’t lose any items and the harsh debuff would wear off in a few minutes just by resting in their own kingdom. Also, the fees for crossing the borders would be reduced to next to nothing. Finally, the country gave considerable benefits to their players, such as the access to all its facilities free of charge. However, belonging to a kingdom also had a drawback, since there were taxes to be properly paid. Even then the pros outweighed the cons.
In spite of the fiendish setting of being forcibly thrown out of the their own countries, the players that initially had problems with it eventually accepted that as something natural to Ark Earth Online. And, when they were about to come into terms with living forever as a wanderer without nationality, the first founders appeared.
With that event, players that left the Beginners’ Three Kingdoms could finally maintain the benefits of being affiliated to a country. And at the same time people rushed to create new nations, fights over territories broke out frequently, ushering in a new era of war.
Founders hired other players as mercenaries, on a high pay, to bolster their forces. Citizens, or players belonging to the country, also participated in the war. If someone wanted to challenge themselves, they could go alone with about ten NPC soldiers and still emerge victorious.
If a country got bigger, the number of players affiliated to it would also increase. Consequently, the kingdom’s funds would multiply even more and, once it secured enough top-level players, the country could easily win the war.
This situation spread through the entire continent and gradually become a problem. Then, when the difference in power between large and small countries became too big, the problem worsened. After being founded, small kingdoms would get immediately attacked and annexed by the bigger ones. The world began to look harsher for newly created countries.
Amidst all that chaos, the nation leaders assembled together and entered into a treaty:
『National Power Ranking Restriction』
This international pact created a rating system with five levels based on every nation’s territorial, economic and military strength. Those levels were used to restrict the number of players allowed to participate in a war. The most peculiar characteristic from the treaty was that the maximum number of players participating in the war had to use the ranking level of the weakest country as reference. Not only that, it was decided that the players eligible to fight had to be chosen at random.
Concerning affiliated and mercenary players, a restriction was imposed. It stated that, of the maximum number of players participating in the war, seventy percent had to be citizens from their country. With this, the strength between each nation’s group of players tended to find an equilibrium. At the same time, that decision raised the usefulness of soldier NPCs in a battle and created a situation where a player’s individual strength greatly influenced the course of war.
Not everything was perfect, however. In those days, players belonging to the expert class only had their basic abilities to use. Admittedly, there was the possibility of forming a party, but by the time they finally became seasoned players, the experts could only be a nuisance. Being considered as a class of failures, nearly all experts ended up completely losing their roles in the game due to that treaty.
When expert players, that wouldn’t amount to even five NPC soldiers’ worth of war strength, occupied a precious slot in their nation’s quota of players, the war would eventually be lost. This resulted in a movement, from behind the scenes, that further progressed the persecution of expert class users.
Lying in the southeastern part of the continent, the Kingdom of Arkite was a small country born in the middle of that age of wars. In order to protect newlyfoundedcountries and stop them from getting caught in a conflict, the treaty declared that, within four months since its creation, no nation could be attacked by others. Still, even if there weren’t any large kingdoms nearby, recently created countries would become an easy target for the countless small and medium-sized ones.
Against all odds though, the Kingdom’s doomed fate wasn’t settled. The leader of Arkite, Solomon, was friends with Dunbalf since the Open Beta. And that same Solomon invited Dunbalf to his country, in a time when the persecution of expert class users still existed. Following that, expert players from everywhere heard about a nation that would accept them and, seeking to become citizens, moved to the Kingdom of Arkite one after the other.
Solomon always watched over Dunbalf and, consequently, knew the hardships that expert users went through. Because of that very fact, Arkite’s leader had an ambition. When Solomon gathered and accepted all experts, an interesting phenomenon began to take place.
It was the information exchange between fellow expert users. Finding a method to learn new abilities was hard enough and when someone discovered a completely new skill, they would monopolize it, gaining a huge advantage against others. During those days, information could be sold at a high price. But that didn’t happen in Arkite. Everyone that gathered at the Kingdom worked together as comrades and would teach each other how to learn their abilities and what effects those skills had.
Regarding wars, Solomon had already given up on them, but the citizens still prepared for battle. They wanted to be useful to the only country that accepted their pitiful selves. Experts abandoned the idea of only working alone. Rather, they would be even more powerful if their combined strength were used.
There, Solomon saw a chance of victory. The sovereign lent a portion of the Kingdom’s territory to the expert players for the sole purpose of researching abilities. And on that territory, they built nine facilities, one for each type of expert class. Later, those buildings would serve as foundations for the current Silver Linked Towers. That marked the moment the strongest nation was born, a small country that could oppose and destroy the invasion of even the largest ones. This was the history of the Kingdom of Arkite.
In this world, those events had happened over thirty years ago. While deeply reminiscing about her past, Mira stepped in the elevator, aiming for the Sage’s Room at the top floor.
By the way, that wasn’t the usual elevator that could be seen in the real world. It worked as a transparent tube with a thin and round stone that would go up and down. Completing the device was a magic circle drawnon the stone’s surface.
A passageway extended from each of the floors to the elevator’s tube and, if looked at from below, its appearance would resemble that of a fish spine. For that reason, people started calling it “Fish Bone-style Elevator”. But that was another history from Mira’s old days.
魔術の塔 – Tower of Sorcery
聖術の塔 – Tower of Blessings (Could be translated as “Sacred Arts” too…)
陰陽術の塔 – Tower of Onmyou (Yin-Yang, Onmyoudou, etc.)
退魔術の塔 – Tower of Exorcism
召喚術の塔 – Tower of Summoning
死霊術の塔 – Tower of Necromancy
仙術の塔 – Tower of Xian
降魔術の塔 – Tower of Demonology (Literally uses “Demon Invocation/Summoning”. )
無形術の塔 – Tower of Abstractionism (“Shapeless” arts, considered what it can do at later chapters too.)