When I saw the A-Rank giant ogre attack, I fell to my knees.
Why did I come here? Am I really that unlucky... No... I know exactly why I was here. This was the town where the original Aria grew up. I thought that if I trained here, I would finally understand how to be like the real Aria.
But all it did was bring me to my doom. I was foolish and now that foolishness was going to be the end of me.
The monster ate whatever it could grab onto, whether it be human or fake. It's large club smashed houses as if they were mud. I could not even defeat E-rank rats so charging in to save those people would only add one more body to the pile. Forget flying away, the tiny wings on my back couldn't even move, they might as well be there for decoration.
The sound of another person's scream made my body shiver.
I could not bare the gruesome sight so I looked up at the sky. The sky I so desperately wanted to reach, just like the real Aria. So desperate that I committed all my life to it.
I kneeled there, crying as I waited until it was my turn.
Despite being morning, the light in the sky somehow grew brighter.
It blinded me. Even though I could not see, I could feel it. A powerful presence flying straight here.
Risking my sight, I opened my eyes slightly to look.
There she was, descending from the heavens, with large open wings.
It was the first time I had ever seen her. The original Aria.
I had the same long silver hair yet hers shined brighter.
I owned the same bright face yet hers was more elegant.
I wore the same clothes yet hers were more beautiful.
I saw her calm, blank expression. The same expression I had been trying to mimic and maintain for years.
My tiny wings were pathetic compared to her wings that looked as if they could touch the sun.
The ogre being instantly sliced in half didn't even catch my attention. I simply continued to stare at her.
All the other fake Arias beside me all stared in admiration, waving and cheering desperately to catch her attention. I on the other hand, had the completely opposite reaction,
The Angelic Angel: Aria. One of the 9 Heroes who slayed the demon king.
I had never seen her in action before. Seeing the real deal made everything look like a dream. The rumours did her no justice. She took all my expectations and exceeded them tenfold. Now that I have see, a large boulder of realisation hit me.
I clutched my head with my hands but could not look away.
"No way...There's no way..." I was pathetic. I was weak. I wasn't a fool for coming here. I was a fool for even thinking I could become her, all because I have the same face and voice as her. All this time, I had been building a flat bridge, hoping it would one day reach the sky.
A person's shadow will never become that person. They are always destined to follow after the original. That's what I was, just one of the many shadows who were all desperately trying to reach her level.
It was then I made the decision. No more copying. No more chasing after what I cannot reach. I was going to become strong through my own way. My own terms. My own...me.
I was going to change.
After the ogre was swiftly dealt with, several groups of soldiers from the main city arrived to clean up the mess.
I gathered what little stuff I had into a medium sized sack and went on my way. The first thing I wanted to do was leave this town and hopefully never come back.
As I walked, my ears picked up loud clamouring. I looked to see a horde of Aria fakes, all trying to get into a certain building with multiple soldiers holding them back. Usually to a normal person, seeing a entire horde of people all with the exact same face would looked quite strange. To me, however, it was usual sight.
The original Aria did not have any parents or family. This building was the same orphanage she grew up in. After slaying the A-rank monster, the original Aria payed that orphanage a visit which naturally attracted hordes of fake Arias to that exact place.
"LET ME IN!" Cried one of the fakes.
"I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE!" Yelled another.
"I ALSO HAVE MEMORIES OF GROWING UP HERE!" One of them lied.
Although there were many fake Arias, they stood no chance agains the trained soldiers from the city.
I turned away and walked towards the town exit.
As I walked, I hear the townspeople gossip to each other.
"Do they have no shame?"
"Look at them: fools, every one of them."
I walked faster.
"Mummy, why don't the soldiers make them go away?"
"They're like a flock of birds."
I broke into a sprint and ran out of the town.
I followed the road as I could not afford even the cheapest of carriages.
I did not mind walking though.
To make use to this time, I looked at my skill tree.
Skill trees: everyone has them. Each person's skill tree is only visible to the person it belongs to. It essentially shows you all the different passive and active skills you can learn and where each skill branches off to. It also conveniently provides a brief description of what they do.
Although there are many similarities to point to, usually everyone has a skill tree that is only unique to them. But not me. As an Aria fake, I was born with the same skill tree that the original Aria has. Only difference is that I started from the very bottom of the tree.
There is a reason why not a single Aria fake has reached the original Aria's power despite having the exact same skill tree.
It's probably cause of Roadblocks. The first few skills are usually easy to unlock, however, eventually everyone reaches a point in their tree where they can't seem to progress at all.
The reason for this is because the skill tree itself does not specific how to unlock them. That is for you to find out yourself. There's also no such thing as levels or EXP like how they write in the stories. Sometimes you can even unlock skills without knowing how you unlocked them.
According to many testimonies, they mostly obtained skills through very specific circumstances that are special to only that person. For example, one of the nine heroes once said that he unlocked one of his most powerful skills after becoming closer with all 5 of his siblings. Naturally, not everyone has five siblings.
Aria's wings are also another example. Currently, no one besides Aria herself knows how to obtain such large angelic wings. There is a skill in Aria's skill tree that gives your back small wings but the description itself states that they have "no actual use." Most believe that there is a secret behind this, so thousands of fake Arias spend their entire life trying to figure it out...including me.
To summarise it, there's no one common method of unlocking skills.
It was then I suddenly stopped walking as an entirely different revelation dawned on me: That was the true reason why all the other fake Arias and I have no chance of becoming like the original.
It's because we have the exact same skill tree. Meaning to unlock those powerful skills, wouldn't you have to unlock them the exact same way the original Aria unlocked them. In other words, I essentially would have to relive Aria's entire life. Which, to put it bluntly, was impossible. Us Aria fakes never grew up in that orphanage, we never went to the school that she went to, we never went on the adventures she did and we obviously weren't there during the Demon Lord's dying breath.
It wasn't the roadblocks. Roadblocks can be overcome eventually with time. But this wasn't a roadblock. To describe it more accurately, it was more like a giant, endless chasm had appeared in front of the path.
"I...I really am a fool."
To think it would take this long to realised something so simple. Even though I kinda already knew, it really hurt knowing that I truly did waste my entire life for absolutely nothing. I felt like I wasn't even worthy enough to live next to garbage now. But I could not let this emotion consume me.
I was hesitant before about my decision but now it was permanently cemented in my head. I needed to change.
My feet began to move again.
Now, how exactly am I going to change if I have the exact same skill tree as the original Aria, you ask?
Well, there is really only one way. I need to go through a Reset.
You can reset you're skill tree and when you do, you are able to choose another role. Basically giving you a brand new skill tree.
Now the general public mostly don't condone resets. Because you have start at the very bottom again, and since you can't reset until you reach the age of 20, for the humans, you are essentially throwing away two decades of effort. Almost every person who has been known to go through a reset, regrets it, because they end up spending the rest of their lives trying to catch up to their teammates or allies.
Not to mention, most humans are usually happy with their roles because somehow, humans are able to chose their role before their birth which to this day is still a mystery. A mystery that sparked countless theories and concepts debating the topic of reincarnation or afterlives, although I would rather not get into that since it confuses me.
Resets are usually only recommended for old fighters who wish to retire to something more peaceful.
Now in my case, however, it's the only choice I have if I want to change.
I had already made my decision, even if it meant I have to start from the very beginning. All I had to do now was get to a church. There are other ways to reset but a church is usually the go-to place for that kind of thing.
My mind wandered in a long chain of thoughts and before I knew it, the sun was slowly setting into its slumber.
I had a cheap low quality tent with me so I began setting that up as soon as possible besides the road. This was a very occupied and common road so it was safe...well, usually it was safe. But what other choice did I have?
The tent could barely fit one person but it served its purpose. I opened my sack to find my half eaten loaf of bread. I took a small piece of it and ate it.
My stomach still yearned for more but I resisted the urge and went to sleep.
I continued my journey. Luckily the main town was not that far and there weren't any forest or monster infested areas along the way. I rarely took breaks and continued forward until it turned to night again.
On the third night of my journey, I came across a tiny camp of fake Arias who were on their way to the town I was just in. Like me, they too also assumed that maybe the secret to unlocking Aria's skills was in her hometown. There were about four of them.
I asked if I could set up my tent next to theirs since its safer and they said yes. They did question me, of course, but I told them I was tired and didn't want to talk about it. Although, I did warn them about the A-rank ogre that attacked. Despite my warning, however, it did not change their minds.
I went to sleep.
It rained that night. Shivering and cold, I hugged my knees in hope that it will generate any sort of heat.
The next day, I checked my small bag. The half eaten loaf of bread was soaked and soggy now. My clothes were also wet but the sun was my only towel.
I still wasn't going to throw it away obviously. I broke a piece of it and ate it for my breakfast.
With that, I packed everything and I parted ways with the other fake Arias. I waved goodbye to them with a look of empathy. They waved back, each with a face filled with hope that caused an emotional aching in my heart. I couldn't tell them. I should've at least tried to convince them. Yet I didn't which made me a coward.
Along the way, I walked past a carriage. The people of the carriage gave me "that look". A look I was very familiar with so I ignored it.
I managed to get through by joining other camps of fake Arias whenever I could and eventually, after a few days, I finally arrived in the main city.
I walked through the street market, trying my best to ignore all of the food.
I was on my way when suddenly one of the merchants grabbed me roughly by the arm.
"Greetings, Ma'am!" He greeted with a smile that spoke of coins, "Would you be interested in buying one of these bracelets?"
I shook my head.
"Oh come on, look, just for you, I'll sell it to you for half price," A very common luring trick used in markets, he then said with an even wider smile, "Oh and did you know...it's the same type of bracelet the real Aria would wear."
I gulped upon hearing that. I shake my head again and swiftly walk away.
That was a very common occurrence. Knowing full well about the fake's unending desire to be like the original, it didn't take long for merchants to exploit that. "Buy this to become more like the original" they would say.
Unfortunately, it was a marketing trick that, to this day, many fakes still fall for thanks to their desperation.
I made haste to the church.
I could practically fell the intense amount of stares that fell upon me when I entered the church.
For obvious reasons, fakes usually don't visit the church.
"Is she lost?"
"How dare she set foot on holy ground."
"Can someone kick her out, she'll taint this whole place."
Ignoring them all, I walked in.
Although, it didn't take long for someone to stop me. A priest.
"You have no right to be here, leave." He said sternly.
My hand shook a little, "I-I...I..."
"What was that? You dare talk back to me!"
"Acting cocky just because you have the same face as her. When will you filthy fakes realise that you will be nothing like-"
We both looked over to see another man approaching.
He seemed like someone with high authority considering the priest's reaction.
"F-father, this fake had the audacity to disrespect-"
"Silence boy. Let me talk to her."
"O-of course, father." The priest stepped aside to let the other man through although the priest continued to remained close, probably so he could still intimidate me with his stare.
The so called father was incredibly old. He neither smiled nor did he give me the same look that the others did. It was hard to read his expression.
"How may I help you miss?" He asked.
"I want to reset my skill tree."
Those words hit both the men like a fireball.
The arrogant priest was the first to speak, "HA! You fakes really are all fools! Don't you know that Aria's skill tree is the only good thing that you fakes hav-"
The father gave the priest a look, causing him to fall silent. He then looked back and stared me directly in the eye.
"Are you sure miss?"
I was led to a different room.
It was quite spacious and incredibly clean. It was almost empty if it weren't for the large magic glass ball that stood in the middle.
"That's it?" I asked.
"Yes, you will know what to do from there." He answered, "I would also like to remind you that while the first reset for everyone is free, the second, third and so on will require a cost to be paid."
"Y-yeah, I know."
I gulped. To be honest, I didn't think it would be that easy. Maybe I was just lucky.
I stared at the magic glass ball as I walked closer. In the glass, i could see my reflection.
I looked like a mess. My hair was disarranged and dirty, same with my clothes. I looked at the faded numbers "0217" imprinted across my neck, a constant reminder of what I was. It was then I also noticed that I still had the mini wings on my back. I had completely forgotten to turn that skill off. I stared at the wings. A few years ago, another Aria fake taught me how to unlock this skill and when I did, it was one of the happiest days of my life. It felt like I was so close to reaching the original Aria.
I'm such a fool.
I now realise that these wings provided nothing but fake happiness. This was goodbye. As much as I was going to miss them.
With a clenched fist, I reached for what I hoped would be a better future ahead of me.
Upon touching it, I blacked out.
I was floating in a pitch black space.
The only sense that was working seemed to be just my sight as I could not feel, hear, smell or taste anything, not even my own saliva.
Above me, there were several floating words.
I guess these were my choices. When choosing, there is no description provided, you simply must choose based on the name.
It's important to note that each person will have a different number of choices. Some people have reported that they only had two choices to pick from while others have reported that they had almost a hundred. Further emphasising how unfair this world can be.
Each skill tree or role is also different from each other even if they do share the same name. Two people who pick healer for example, can be similar, but may also have completely different method of healing and will certainly have different ways of unlocking certain skills.
Speaking of healer, that was one of my options. I had about 8 options to pick from. One of which was "Angel" which I was certainly not going to pick.
I laid there, floating in complete darkness. I wonder how time passes in here. Does time move at all?
It made me wonder. Have people ever just decided to remain here forever? I mean, here you don't seem to need to worry about food or anything. You could use this place as a convenient escape from reality. I wouldn't be surprised if people resorted to that. Both humans and fakes.
But I had no plans on doing so. Staying here in this empty place would be incredibly lonely for me.
I varied and compared my options. Reseting a third or fourth time due to indecisiveness would not be favourable so I had to make sure I made the right choice. I wanted to spend a bit more time thinking about which to choose but no matter how I looked at it, amoung all 8 choices, only one stood out to me.
I'm not sure exactly how I selected it, but I somehow did.
A bright, blinding light begins illuminating the endless dark void.
I'm not entirely sure why I picked this role.
Maybe it was because of my loneliness.
My desire to belong somewhere. To be accepted by someone or something.
Yeah...that was probably the reason. In the end of the day, it was the main reason why so many other fakes and I wanted to be like the original, not to take her place,... but so we could just be accepted.
"Congratulations, you are now a summoner."
This chapter was finished on 10/01/2022ns188.8.131.52da2