So I said I would continue this story sporadically while mostly focusing on Vainqueur, but… now that I am ending Vainqueur the Dragon and am about to start a new story entirely, I realize that I was lying to myself and delaying the inevitable. I’m not finishing Magik Online.
The reasons are many, but boil down to two.
First, I have repeatedly burnt out on this story, which sucked all my motivation to write it. It’s mostly due to negative reception to some twists, lack of readership, and just trying to stick to a plot full of incoherences. Magik Online is itself the reboot of an older work called Dis Acedia, where I burned out after almost two years of publishing, for more or less the same reasons. I can’t help but feel that the fundamental concept/idea itself is broken, and Magik would need 30+ chapters to feel complete. I just no longer have the will to write a full volume of it.
Second, it simply doesn’t pay the bills, unlike my other works. The main reason why I even continued it so far was sunk cost fallacy; I spent so much time on it already, I committed, so I have to end this saga.
But I’ve learned that sometimes when nothing works, the best option is to fold and know when to leave the table. Since I no longer enjoy writing this story nor does it pay the bills, I simply have no reason to continue besides stubbornness.
However, instead of leaving this story on hiatus forever, I’ve decided to publish a rough outline of the remaining chapters and story arcs. That way, I hope it can provide readers with some measure of closure.
So… yeah, I apologize to everyone who waited eight months for another chapter. Thing is, I am very thankful for your support since you were my very first readers long before Vainqueur or Never Die Twice. I am so sorry it ends this way; I really wanted to finish this and complete the saga, but at this point, it’s just painful.
I don’t think that I will revisit that universe, so… I hope this outline gives you closure.
This outline starts after the last chapter’s ending.
After crossing the portal into Pandoria, Shroud awakens in the imperial homeworld of Concordia (or what appears to be Concordia), where he shares an apartment with his old crush Samantha and serves under his mother Alice as the Vice Blue Minister. He quickly realizes that he is an alternate reality, one which is limited in scope (the world glitches out past a certain perimeter) and resetting every twelve hours. He finds his scattered team there, and they realize this is an overwritten reality long destroyed; one where Mathias never became Shroud and instead joined Concordia.
They manage to escape this realm and realize that Pandoria is actually a patchwork, cancerous multiverse made of all the alternate realities deleted by Dis over its long existence; many of them ended up there due to Wyrde’s actions, as she alters history to favor her own homeworld. With each deletion, Pandoria’s power grows, spreading Black Flux and causing more glitches in reality.
They track down Mammon to a nightmarish, rusted city overtaken by Black Flux and Pandorians, where the archdevil tries to harness the power of various realities to cast a mighty time-travel spell; the same one that caused the devastation of the Midnight Market. His goal is to go back thousands of years in the past, preventing the Maleking’s original sealing and thus creating a universe ruled by the forces of Hell.
Obviously, a battle starts and the group manages to put Mammon down before he can launch the spell. However, this also attracts the attention of Pandoria’s ruler Ashmal, who reveals himself as a colossal Pandorian who went insane after realizing Dis’ true nature. His ultimate goal is to have Pandoria swallow Dis, before collapsing all of reality into nothingness – which in his mind, is mercy.
As they try to escape the seemingly-invincible Ashmal, the heroes are helped by what appears to be a dragon made of maggots with great magical powers, who can travel between Pandoria and normal reality at will.
The group returns to Earth, but things get worse. The Maleking finally escapes from his prison, revealing himself to be the Beast of the Apocalypse, long ago sealed by the Dismaker. He makes his way towards Earth in a straight line, destroying every celestial object on the way, and makes his intentions clear: conquer the planet as his birthright, destroy Wyrde, and then create a universe where might makes right.
In preparation for his master’s arrival, the Maleking’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse land on Earth; the resistance and some benevolent Concordian like Kresnik and Samantha (who now works for Alice Martel) make a temporary ceasefire to focus on them. Mur and his old rival, the Horseman Graff, mutually kill each other.
However, the arcadian hunters’ leader, Lord Revel (revealed to be the god Dagda, having been consumed by Dis’ magic during the ancient godwar) proves himself unstoppable. Unable to defeat this powerful archmage, Shroud, out of options, is convinced by an increasingly maniacal Stitch to awaken a Worldshaker before using [Network] to pilot it.
Now in control of a gigantic alien war machine, and being able to channel his spells through it, Shroud confronts Revel and both prove to be evenly matched; however, the battle ends when Blackcinders has both of them bombarded from orbit, killing Revel and disabling Shroud. As a result of his evolving Lock, Shroud is permanently fused to the Worldshaker, as he starts transforming into an ‘Iron God’; a new Dis linked to the Magik Online system. This was what Stitch had planned all along, having become obsessed with Dis’ technology and now desiring to see the process out of intellectual curiosity.
Concordia captures the disabled Shroud and brings him to the White Neurotower in the arctic as Wyrde prepares to launch her planned reboot. She reveals herself to Shroud and explains that her goal is to create a perfect universe without pain or suffering, where she will be reunited with her dead cofounder Halcyon, and where Mathias himself will live a happy life; whether he wants it or not. Shroud’s mother Alice tries to convince him to go along, as she launches the reboot.
However, as Wyrde makes her move, so do others. The Maleking finally arrives, his Lock [Apocalypse Force] causing disasters all around the globe; Ashmal emerges from the Black Tower with an army of Pandorian and makes his way north; and mankind assaults the Neurotowers around the Earth to prevent the reboot.
This results in a cataclysmic melee. Ashmal makes his move towards the White Neurotower, intending to corrupt Wyrde’s reboot and end all existence; mankind and the old gods/sponsors try to gain control over the Neurotowers to teleport Earth back in its solar system; the Maleking fights the Concordian fleet; and Wyrde attempting to launch her universal reboot.
Samantha, who has grown increasingly disturbed by Concordia’s insane ambitions, is eventually convinced by her old friend Maggie to switch sides; she accepts a Magik Online offer and helps Shroud’s team (helped by Ulysses) get into the White Neurotower. They confront Wyrde, while Alice continues with the reboot.
Loctis intervenes and is revealed to be the maggot-dragon under an illusion spell. He admits that he was supplying both the human resistance and the Malebranche with information to take down Concordia, reasoning that Wyrde had become a tyrant and that their cofounder Halcyon would be ashamed of what the Empire has become. He begs Wyrde to listen to reason, but she is so set in her ways that she refuses to imagine any alternative to her plan. Loctis fights his former mentor with Shroud’s team, but they can only hold the mighty dragon archmage back.
While the reboot happens, Shroud ends up having a semi-surreal experience where he is briefly connected to all of Dis at once, finally understanding the enormous size of the artificial universe. Dis turns out to be an artificial dimension growing by absorbing pieces of other universes into itself, as it abducted Earth from its original solar system, before using the souls of those it captures as Flux energy. Anton Maxwell/The Dismaker appears to him, confirming that he is Dis incarnate, lonely, and that his goal was to create ‘another him’ so he could have someone to share eternity with. He offers Shroud to either proceed with the reboot, join him and rule Dis together, or let Ashmal end everything (having grown so bored with immortality, Maxwell relishes the possibility of dying).
Instead, Shroud decides to choose no side but mankind’s: preventing Wyrde’s Reboot, rejecting the Dismaker, and unleashing a powerful wave of White Flux which purifies Ashmal and his Pandorian army, finally allowing them to die. Shroud then absorbs Pandoria’s energies into himself, fuses with Magik Online’s Administrator, and becomes an Iron God; the same creature as Maxwell/Dismaker, with the power to grant magic to others, create his own neurotowers, and with total control over the Magik System.
Wyrde realizes that due to Shroud short-circuiting the necessary systems, the Reboot is no longer possible; she mentally collapses as the realization that everything she did was for nothing and completely shuts down. Alice, meanwhile, is overwhelmed with despair at Shroud rejecting her vision, and in denial over her own escalation, activates the base’s self-destruct sequence. Wyrde refuses to evacuate, and Shroud loses his mother to her own madness.
As a result of the failed reboot, the sponsors’ plan succeeds, and a portal starts teleporting Earth and its moon back to their original solar system, far away from Dis and its madness.
Meanwhile, realizing that Wyrde is dead, Blackcinders vows revenge. She decides to use her gravity control to pull the Moon out of orbit and crash it against the Earth before it can get away, reasoning that ‘the apes should not outlive Concordia’s Grandmaster.’ Horrified, Loctis, the Golden Prince, and other commanders like Kresnik order the Concordian forces to stand down and leave the planet, causing a civil war among the Empire’s ranks. Meanwhile, the Maleking orders his troops to blast the Concordian fleet to oblivion with Black Flux bombs, while he attempts to follow Earth into the portal and escape Dis.
Now the incarnation of the Magik Online system with full access to all spells, including Dot 5 and Black Flux, Shroud supercharges the surviving players with his enhanced [Network] and allow them to push back the Concordian and Malebranche; he makes his farewell to his surviving teammates, has a brief telepathic talk with Ulysses and Perse, then goes to engage the fleets in orbit.
The godlike Shroud devastates both groups, kills Blackcinders by ramming an asteroid on her, and then pushes back the Maleking before he can enter the portal. The Earth and its Moon escape Dis, the Neurotowers detonating afterward; the planet is free, and mankind can rebuild alongside the old gods. Shroud, however, remains trapped behind.
Furious, the Maleking tries to murder Shroud in a final act of spite, reasoning that he cannot stand the existence of a benevolent god. The duel takes place over several realities as they jump through them until Shroud finally erases the almighty archfiend from existence with a Dot 6 Hack.
Fast forward, Manah assumes command over the Malebranche, intending to reform them into a more peaceful organization while she continues the war with Concordia’s remnants; while the dragon empire splinters into a reformist bloc led by Loctis, and an old guard bloc made of Wyrde’s hardline followers. Shroud, now a god, decides to watch over Dis to counter the Dismaker’s malevolent influence, vowing to one day overthrow the mad deity. Maxwell/Dismaker responds that he welcomes the challenge, but has the feeling that the two of them will keep this up forever.
The story ends years later as Kari Matsumoto meets with her surviving teammates and the Werners in a rebuilt Japan. Finally having the chance to live a normal life, she looks at the skies and wonders if Shroud is watching somewhere. In another universe, standing over a developing, peaceful alien world, an iron god looks up at the skies too; thinking that as long as there is life, there is hope.