1 – And I was Alone

“Looking good.” Admiring my reflection, I couldn’t help but comment on my appearance as I gazed into the mirror. Neatly combed backward, my short black hair exuded a sense of tidiness, while my face remained flawless, devoid of a single hair.

I smoothed out the creases on my shirt and ensured that my belt held my jeans securely. Today marked my first date, and not just with anyone, but with my college crush. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

I elegantly tucked a lock of hair behind my ear and flashed a smile at my reflection. I must admit, my looks weren’t too shabby. I could be considered somewhat handsome, and it was this charm that had landed me this date.

Gathering my car keys, I departed from my apartment, making my way down to the basement. As I settled into my car, I inserted the key and pressed the ignition button. I was ready to embark on this new adventure.

We had agreed to meet at our designated location, so I headed straight there and patiently waited. It wasn’t long before I spotted a woman in her mid-twenties, dressed in a grey T-shirt and blue jeans, waving at me.

“Hi, did I keep you waiting? I apologize; the traffic was unbearable today,” she said with a hint of worry in her voice.

“It’s alright I just arrived myself,” I responded, offering Claire a reassuring smile. I maintained a calm demeanor, my face composed, even though inwardly, nerves were wreaking havoc. As a socially awkward person, it was my first time dating, and I felt the weight of the occasion.

We continued our conversation as I led her to the passenger seat in front and drove us to a newly opened Chinese-themed restaurant. It was a bit costly, but I had no regrets. We both took a seat at the table and picked up the menu.

After ordering two servings of Sweet and Sour Pork and Fried Rice, alongside a bottle of champagne, we settled in for a chat. Our conversation revolved mostly around her friends and various topics unrelated to her or me. I wasn’t particularly skilled at conversing, so I let her take the lead while I nodded along, showing my interest and engagement.

Soon, our orders arrived, and we expressed gratitude to the cheerful waiter who courteously bowed before leaving our table.

“Have you thought about what career path you’d like to pursue?” I inquired while cutting a piece of meat.

“I’ve been contemplating a career in IT. I believe I have a knack for it,” she replied, her gaze fixed on me. A surge of euphoria coursed through me as I pondered her words.

“That sounds like a fantastic choice,” I replied a bit too eagerly and loudly, glancing around to ensure no one overheard. Gathering my composure, I continued, “If you decide to pursue a career in IT, I could offer my assistance. This way, we could spend more time together.” I couldn’t help but hang my head in embarrassment. Oh, how awkward that had been.

“I think I’d like that,” she murmured softly, her cheeks turning slightly red, her eyes fixed on her plate. She looked adorable when she blushed. I couldn’t help but gaze at her in awe.

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Thump.

The table shook, accompanied by the clattering of cutlery. I peered down at it, bewildered.

Thump.

This time, the impact was more pronounced, prompting me to rise from my seat and glance across at Claire, who had done the same. The restaurant erupted into chaos, with another jolt of trembling.

“It’s an earthquake! We need to get out,” I exclaimed without hesitation, gripping her hand tightly as we ran toward the exit. People were in a state of panic, scrambling, screaming, and pushing their way out of the building. We followed the crowd, seamlessly blending into the chaos.

The shaking intensified, and dust began to descend from the ceiling. The chandeliers swung back and forth like amusement park rides, and the shattering of glass drowned in the collective screams.

I felt the grip on my hand tense, and I looked at Claire, who had a worrisome expression on her face. “It’s going to be fine,” I assured her while squeezing her hand, and we burst through the doors into the crowd-filled roads.

The whole world seemed to be shaking today as if the end of times were near. I felt a vision of multicolor only to return to normal the next second, and I looked in stunned amazement at the glowing bright sky. The sun had just set when it was rising back again.

Despite the chaos around us, I felt my heart grow calm as the inevitable demise of the entire world settled in my mind.

In the otherwise silent street, I heard a whisper beside me, “Are we going to die?”

I looked at her pretty face, my heart wincing, and cursed my luck. “Then we will die together.” My words seemed to give her some hope as she leaned against me, and I felt that maybe dying today wasn’t that bad after all. At least I had someone beside me.

Suddenly, an unexpected event disrupted the situation. I stared at the string of letters expanding in my vision, written in esoteric markings resembling a small child’s nonsensical scribbling. Strangely, I could understand them.

[Connection to the Core Consciousness established] [Preparing the merge…]

[Merged successfully]

[Welcome Earthlings. I am MAAS, the Multiversal Automated Authorization System. As of today, you have successfully integrated into the Multiversal Coalition and are given the Rank of Initiate. Brace yourself, Earthlings, for I will be moving the Earth from its planetary Orbital System and shifting it to a different Galaxy.]

Confusion filled my mind as the world around me became even more surreal. I turned to look at Claire, only to find her staring back at me. “Did you see that too?” she asked, and I nodded, realizing that I wasn’t hallucinating.

People around us were whispering and staring into space, dazed by the extraordinary events unfolding. The sun grew brighter, and my body felt light. Slight nausea overcame my senses, and darkness engulfed me.

I found myself in a strange state of semi-consciousness. I was aware but couldn’t feel anything. My mind felt overwhelmed as if experiencing a multitude of things simultaneously. I sensed that something significant was happening, but I couldn’t grasp the details.

Suddenly, there was a shift, and I felt like I was flung into a quagmire. Overwhelmed and disoriented, my consciousness grew heavy, and I lost all sense of awareness.

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Drip Drip

Feeling a slight wetness on my cheek, I tried to open my heavy eyes. My body groaned in protest, and I struggled against the sensation of a hangover that refused to fade.

Summoning all my strength, I pulled myself up using my hands on the uneven rocky terrain. To my surprise, I realized I was surrounded by obsidian ground.

Confusion washed over me as I looked around, and a cold, moist drop fell on my head. It trickled through my hair and down my neck, sending shivers through my body. I looked up to find the surface above covered in jagged, moss-covered wet rocks that emitted a blue glow. I had no idea what was happening or where I was. The word “system” floated in my hazy memory.

A barrage of messages bombarded my consciousness, and I began sifting through them.

I stared in utter shock and terror at the log of cosmic notifications that appeared before me:

[Anomaly detected…] [Preparing the response to the unknown anomaly] [Response failed. Re Attempting…Failure!] [Unknown Interference detected…] [Forwarding the issue to @$@%&%@…Error…] [Subject is close to breaching the Cosmic Membrane] [You have lost contact with the Nexus Core] [You have lost the system-provided functions] [XP gained from killing monsters is no longer available] [Class and Profession are no longer applicable] [System shop is not available] [Skill gained from leveling are no longer available] [You are no longer a system-authorized entity]

I felt a knot form in my stomach as I struggled to comprehend the meaning behind these notifications. It was evident that something terrible had occurred. Panic coursed through my veins, and I could feel my stomach twist and turn. Nausea overwhelmed me, causing me to retch. Weakness spread through my limbs, and I collapsed onto the rocky ground, staring up at the ceiling.

As I lay there, I noticed a glowing blue droplet of water slowly growing larger before splashing onto the ground. However, there was no evidence of a puddle forming or any impact on the solid rock surface. The strange and inexplicable nature of this sight only added to my bewilderment.

Shaking off my confusion, I mustered the strength to pull myself up. The light from outside filtered through the entrance, accompanied by the scent of damp grass and the freshness of nature. With curiosity piqued, I cautiously peered through the hole and gazed upon an elevated forest floor adorned with unfamiliar vegetation.

Instead of the expected sight of green flora, dew-covered grass, towering shady trees, and sprawling bushes, what met my eyes was a surreal display of alien plant life. Vibrant hues ranging from yellow to orange, pink to violet, and every shade in between adorned the alien foliage. Looking upward, I found no trace of the sun or moon, only a vast expanse of red stars scattered across the inky black cosmos. It became clear to me once again that I had been transported to an alien world, far removed from the familiarity of my home, and the realization hit me with a wave of loneliness—I was alone in this strange and unfathomable place.

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