Chapter 12 – Two Brothers

Author’s note: The final chapter of volume 2, answering some of life’s questions you have all been wondering about! Has been a great pleasure in writing this and hopefully we can look forward to even bigger and better things in volume 3!
I haven’t given it all away, but some of your questions have been answered!
Don’t forget, if you are interested in buying the ebook of volume 2, there is the extra chapter 8.5 from Chronix’s perspective of things. It is only a short, like the Christmas Special, but it may interest some of you. We also need more people to help out with the paperback copies, there is one order so far, so we only need nine more to be able to do it!
Also, I am thinking of repricing all my books to be $3.99, with the exception of the most current book to remain at $4.99 until the next volume is released, which will in turn be $4.99 until the next, etc… Alternatively maybe I should just drop them all to $3.99. Any thoughts on this? It appears the main negativity about my work seems to be the price.
Thank you for your time ^.^

– Lost-

Verde, Prince Charming, Fen and I left Leaz with the new letter of introduction. Although, it ended up in my hands after the prince simply discarded it.

“I have no need for a measly letter of introduction to an innkeeper.”

Those were his words, but it will definitely be useful later on, so I made sure to pick it up and store it in my inventory.

A little out of town, we stop inside a small clearing in a forest, the evening sun completely shaded by the foliage. Calling a break, we agree to log out and meet here again in an hour, after dinner.

When I return to my virtual locker, Fen is already there. Somehow, she is able to connect to and return from End Online considerably faster than I can. I almost wonder how she does it.

Leaving virtual reality I place my VL down on the bed next to me. I hope Fen doesn’t get too bored in there when I am gone, but she seems to have been fine so far.

‘Speaking of which, what does she do when I’m gone?’

Apparently, while the VL is not connected to a power source and is not in use, the internal battery will last up to 10 years. Truly such an advanced device, but that kind of battery life is required for the VL to be used for 12 hours without the power being plugged in.

The energy required for the device to be able to intercept signals leaving the brain is clearly no small amount.

Getting onto my wheelchair, I rolled myself into the kitchen. The time is around seven in the afternoon, and with the skies are storming, the house is filled with a grey failing light.

The kitchen all of a sudden turns quiet. Eerily quiet. Even the normal rattling of the refrigerator stops

Rain comes pelting down upon the roof and winds howl outside the windows. There are a lot of people who find themselves nervous in such weather, but I feel peace at the sound. Outside the house is almost like the raging inferno I am feeling inside my chest, reflecting my feelings of wanting to do better.

I switch on the light switch in the kitchen, except the room remains dark. Flipping the switch a few more times, I realize the power has gone out.

With a slight sigh, I wonder if the others in the game will wait for me, or continue on without me.

Opening one of the lower cupboards I remove two cans of ready-made beef stew. Fortunately, I have a gas oven and a lighter to light the flame, so no electricity is required. Pouring the two cans of soup into a pot, I also use a frying pan to lightly grill some bread into toast.

Dinner is incredibly simple. Reheat the stew, and pour it on the cooked toast. This is about the best I eat outside of End. I have nothing to gain from cooking any large or fancy meals here anyway.

It may be simple food, but it is incredibly tasty. I find that most people don’t realize it, but, quite often the simple things are the things that taste the best.

With dinner out of the way, next on my agenda is having a bath to wash off all the sweat I have built up over the past day. I would much rather be back in virtual reality, but I do still care for personal hygiene.

Relaxing in the warm water, I allow my mind to wander. I think about everything I have done until now in the game, and how I can improve on it. One of the most important things will have to be raising my level, and then get better equipment.

Since I found myself in this condition, I have greatly improved how well I can move around. Easily sliding into and climbing out of the bath are just some of the many things I can do with ease.

With nothing else to do for the night, I go to sleep much earlier than I normally would have. With no electricity, I cannot connect to the internet after all.

***************************************************

As I open my eyes, the rain is still coming down outside the widows. At least, the power appears to be back on.

Before logging back onto virtual reality, I decide to do a little research on my computer. Naturally, the best place to do this is the End Online Forums, or simply called the End Forums.

Having a look at what is most popular. The videos of the top ten players appear to be sky rocketing in popularity. In first place is Gladox, the strongest player in the game. His most recent video garnering a view count of just over two hundred million. There are hundreds of thousands of comments as well.

I decide to open the most recent video. Perhaps he will give hints on the best methods of getting stronger.

Gladox is a massive person a little over two meters tall. He is even bigger than that Prince Charming. Wearing a silver heavy armour set that shines with a red hue, I only wonder what kind of materials and stats it has. The armour covers him from head to toe, so complete he would just look like a glorious suit of armour if he didn’t move.

Wielded in both of his hands is an enormous sword. The blade itself is red like blood, two hand spans thick and almost as long as he was tall. He is exploring some dungeon with tendrils of ice growing over walls of cracked brown stone blocks. The path he is in is about five meters wide, with the ceiling just as high.

The whole atmosphere seems to be in a frozen environment, but not quite like the Kingdom of Glace’s weather. It is more like it is an atmosphere limited to the dungeon itself.

Four limbed monsters wreathed in shadow come swarming at him along the walls. Raising his massive sword behind himself, He lunges forth.

He looks incredibly slow in my eyes, but maybe that is just me. He is wearing a monstrous set of heavy armour after all.

His next movements completely captivate my eyes. Swinging his sword in a wide arc, small embers trail the path of the blade as he cuts into three of the shadow creatures. From the red line tracing the hit, flames burst out and engulf the monsters.

In a single minute, twenty of these creatures have turned to ashes. Gladox’s health remains over ninety percent as he uses the weight of the sword to continue its momentum between attacks. From a diagonal slash to a low horizontal swing after a spin, it is almost as if it is one long chain attack.

He has complete control over the weapon. Though, I am most surprised as how he uses the environment, bouncing his blade off a stone wall or floor to reverse the momentum and continue his flowing attacks. It seems like impossible manoeuvres that you must have perfect timing to pull off.

He also appears to be able to use his sword as a shield, defending against attacks that way.

Gladox is completely different from me, a pure strength build. He does not have a whit of speed, but he compensates by not stopping his attacks.

The video was uploaded two weeks ago and comments are still flowing in.

Reino - What is with the ridiculous stream of attacks? How can 
one person do that?
Staxil - Defending with a weapon? That's just complete
nonsense
FireHill - Guys, this is Gladox we are discussing. He isn't the
strongest player in the game for nothing.
Jirob - Wow! I wish I could fight like that! I'm so getting this
game when I turn 18 in two weeks!
Reino - Jirob, this video does not portray this game. Don't 
think the entire game is like this. Cause it's not.
Kond - Wow Reino, what a way to ruin it for someone else. Why
don't you at least let him try the game and decide for himself.

The argument really sprung into life after that. One comment after another, and each more insulting than the last.

I decide it is not worth reading and simply leave the page altogether. There are other top players who are almost as popular, but I have never even heard of them.

This entire forum is run by Idea Imagine, the creators of End Online. Therefore, every registered player can log on to their very own profile with the same login as they use for the game.

Logging in as Lost, the first thing I do is run a search on the strange stone I acquired. I use phrases such as ‘Red Glowing Orb’, ‘Type of Flame Stones’, even a broad search on all gems discovered. I could not find a single piece of information about it.

Lastly, I decide I will check on my auctioned goods, they should only have forty eight hours left anyway.

First is the ‘Old Bronyx Plate Armour’. It has thirty people following the auction at a maximum bid of $178. My chest feels a little heavy, but I refuse to feel depressed about it. It is still better than nothing.

With the apple sales slowing down, to about half of what they are, I am going to need to and earn even more. PeachStar has sent a few payments through to my online wallet from the sales. Although it appears she eats about half of her share herself.

I open up the page for the auction on the ‘Meridium Boots of Haste’ and my jaw drops. The current bid is $1,360. With two days to go, that could easily become $1,500 or more.

A hundred and seventy followers, with nearly seventy comments about the item and asking about the seller. A lot of people want to know who this ‘Lost’ is, his level, and his skills.

I sit and silently stare at the page for nearly half an hour. Inside, my head however is not calm. There is a great big victory speech playing out in my mind as I imagine talking to everyone about what a success I have been. I also picture the proud looks on my two little sisters as they move back in with me.

‘No, stop! I need to not get ahead of myself. I may have on lucky burst but I may never sell anything again.’

Killing my own mood, I return to reality and focus.

‘Time to return to End Online, get stronger, and acquire more items that will sell well.’

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Grael-

I left my den in the search for the thief who took my ‘Draconic Ember Essence’. Of course, I ensured to cave in the entrance into my treasure room, just in case any more thieves come.

This human probably doesn’t know, but I have an incredibly acute sense of smell. I can follow his scent over the ocean if I must, as long as the scent is no more than a few days old.

He appears to have spent a small amount of time in this nearby town I burnt mostly to the ground, before leaving north west. I can tell from the smell I am not far behind him, maybe by only a day.

I do not rush. A majestic creature such as me should never be in a hurry to go anywhere. As long as I don’t start falling behind the target, I will continue to casually stroll after it.

I reach a point in a nearby forest where the scent simply disappears. Confused at first, I search the area suspecting he may have discovered he was being followed.

All around me are ten meter tall trees growing like thin pillars. I wouldn’t call it hard to a dense forest, but the trees do prevent the eyes from seeing too far. The bark on the trees is a light grey colour, with leaves of fresh green and yellow littering the canopy.

Covering the ground is grass just tickling the ankles. Also, plenty of small bushes and fallen leaves litter the area, leaving plenty of places for a human to hide.

Reaching the conclusion that he must have teleported or some such method, I inwardly laugh to myself.

‘Fu hah hah ha… If you think teleporting will prevent me from chasing you down, you had better think again!’

I find a small distortion in the space where his scent vanishes. Using my hands, I stick them into the vortex and start to pry it open. Forcing the portal open, I go to follow him through it.

Except, I couldn’t seem to pass through . It is odd, I can hold it open easy enough. I simply just can’t travel through it to the other side.

Roaring in rage, I withdraw my hands and storm around kicking down trees to vent my frustration.

I hear two voices break out of the trees where I just was. Creeping back I see the woman with a hood over her head and a tall blond man in shining armour.

“We need to wait,” The voice belonged to the woman, “He should be back before we know it.”

“My lady. We cannot simply wait out here until he gets back. If he missed the appointed time, there is no helping it. Just forget him.”

“No! I came out here with him, leaving him behind would just be pointless!”

“Well, why don’t you leave him a message and we will meet him in Grenton? I see no point in sitting here for that lowlife. Don’t you see how superior he acts, expecting us to wait for him. He doesn’t even show his face to us.”

“Don’t you dare say tha- Who’s there!?”

The woman breaks off from the argument and looks in my direction, almost as if she could see me through the trees. It is my fault for not hiding better, how embarrassing.

Masking my killing intent as much as possible, I stroll out of the bushes with my hands up. I ensure to gently keep my eyes closed, the violet slitted irises are more than enough to give away that I am not human.

“Ah, I’m sorry I wasn’t sure how to approach. You seemed to be rather busy.”

The woman maintained her silence at my words. She is right to be cautious, except she is not my target. If I recall, I do believe she was with the hooded man though.

“Is it just the two of you travelling together? Surely that must be dangerous.”

With my eyes closed, I try to give a gently smile. I can’t see anything, but the rest of my senses are strong enough to be able to judge things accurately. She still has the scent of suspicion.

“There are two others, but they are not here right now. Why are you keeping your eyes closed?”

“Oh, this?” I let out a short, cold chuckle, “It is merely a form of training I have been trying. I take it these other two will be back?”

“I think they may have already left without us actually. So who knows.”

“Oh no. I doubt that.”

“You doubt that? Why is that?”

“Oh, just a feeling I have. Nothing more.”

“Well, we are going to be leaving now, it’s been a pleasure to meet you…?”

She trailed off with a questioning voice, I can only assume she means to ask who I am.

“Oh, just call me Learg. That will do.”

‘More like you should prostrate before my and call me your highness! Filthy human!’

Oops, I let out my killing intent again. I don’t sense anything different from them, so maybe they didn’t notice.

“Although, I happen to not be much of a fighter. Would you happen to mind if I followed behind you for my safety?”

“Umm… Let me discuss it with this guy for a bit.”

She drags him off and whispers to him about whether they should let me follow. I don’t particularly want to waste my time with them. But they have some connection with my target. Following them around is possibly the best way to find him now that I have lost his scent.

They don’t actually make any noise as they talk. But I sense a link between the two, and I can hear them when I focus on it. They speak about me being a suspicious individual, but the foolish man in the armour seems to believe he can protect her if need be.

With the mid-day sun shining down, the shadow of the canopy is projected down onto the ground.

The two humans come back and agree to let me follow them. Apparently their names are Verde and Sir Laurence, neither of which I will remember for long.

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Lost-

When I log back on finally, the area around me has slightly changed. Almost as if last night’s storm had occurred in the game as well, there are between ten and twenty of the nearby trees knocked to the ground.

The leaves had scattered all over the ground from the destruction, giving me a sense of unease at what could have caused it. Fen is also here with me, although with a bored look on her face she ignores the damage.

A small notification shows I have a voice message in my inbox. Opening it, Verde’s enchanting voice plays through.

“Lost, Sir Laurence and I are going to Grenton ahead of you. We don’t know how long it will be till you’re back and we can’t wait until you do. There is also a person following behind us who is incredibly suspicious, I hope to get into town where it is safe before he does anything.”

“P.s I’m going to miss your cooking. I will look forward to seeing you again. We will meet you at the Gold Run Inn, the one specified in the letter of introduction.”

Mmm, some suspicious guy is following them? I wonder what they could want. Also, is it just my cooking what you look forward to? You can really get directly to the point can’t you.

I hear a rustling in the bushes and raise my guard immediately. A beast sneaking up on you usually leads to suffering a critical hit.

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Mason-

My name is Maver Marx, but my character in End Online is just called Mason. I am nineteen years old and a full time gamer.

I make my money by recording my gameplay footage, editing the camera angles, then placing it on the forums for people to watch. My brother, with the character Matrix, helps me with this and we split the profit made.

Living in the slums with my brother and father, it is the only place our meagre income can allow us to live.

With the entire area is stricken by poverty, we are lucky to have our VL’s. Our father had worked at Virtue years ago and lost his job when the public opinion for the technology turned negative.

At least he got to keep some of the devices for his kids at the end, even if the loss of job had forced us to move out into the slums.

There really isn’t much profit in the videos I make. I am not like any of the famous players. On a lucky day a thousand views on any of my videos is about the best I get. Even my most recent one in the large scale battle against the army of stone kobolds and boulder ogres only managed to get eight hundred.

I really need to do something to get the views up. I get paid on the advertisements on my video. All I have to do is put up a video of at least an hour long and any advertisers who wish to put their advertisement on my video, place their bids with the highest one getting the spot. It is also a video lifetime spot. All they have to do is buy it.

They can pre purchase spots if they contact me before I post the video, but I am also not popular enough to garner that kind of interest from any media investors.

I usually set an hour video to have three advertisement spots at every twenty minutes. They usually sell, but only for meagre amounts. One video will tend to only get me about a hundred or so dollars if I am lucky. But lately that has been going down.

Matrix and I are currently on our way to a dungeon in between Leaz and Grenton. I discovered clues about it by reading some books in Grenton last month. Only, I got distracted thanks to the large scale battle that was going on.

Checking my status, I notice I gained about twelve levels from that battle in a single day.

Name: Mason
Health: 1060/1156
Stamina: 281/281

Lvl: 89
Lvl UP: 12%

Str: 44 + 7
Agi: 62 + 13
Dex: 75 + 23
Int: 18
Mnd: 23
Lck: 18

fame: 20
Alignment: +0
God: -
Belief: 0

Equipped Skills:
Longbow Proficiency       (SLvl 27, 72%)
Shortsword Proficiency    (SLvl 20, 16%)
Physical Prowess          (SLvl 35, 11%
Precision Targeting       (SLvl 34, 86%)
Hunter's eyes             (SLvl 36, 38%)
Cooking                   (SLvl 11, 2%)
Wood Crafting             (SLvl 12, 42%)
Stone Crafting            (Slvl 12, 42%)
High Speed                (SLvl 19, 91%)

Reserve Skills:
Fletching(SLvl 11), Literature(SLvl 15)

I really want a class skill. I have been trying to get one related to archery, but I have had no luck so far. Matrix is in the same situation, trying to get a class skill related to being a ‘Magic Swordsman’ but still yet to discover one.

I wear hard leather armour and shin guards specially crafted from the pelt of a Mountain King Lion. Its status showed it was something called a ‘Knight Class’, and it was incredibly more powerful than a normal creature. If I was to put it in terms that I grew to understand it, I would probably call it a ‘Mini Boss Class’.

Matrix would have gotten first say on the good due to his death and effort put in, but he wears medium armour so it was better if I have it.

I travel up through the trees while my brother follows along the ground. We do this to prevent ambushes, or if one of us still gets ambushed, to allow the other one to come to the rescue. It may not seem it, but it is quite effective if the enemy only thinks there is just one of us.

We come to a small clearing with two people in it. A man wearing a snow white fur cloak. And a girl in a red halter dress, her hair the same colour as the man’s cloak. Using ‘Hunter’s Eyes’ my vision zooms onto the man’s right hand, spotting that he is from Glace.

Something seems off about the two, so the thought of attacking simply doesn’t seem like a good choice. Despite how popular player versus player combat is in the videos.

“Hoh, friends! What brings you out here?” I announce myself from the trees, letting the man know where I am. The girl doesn’t even look up, almost as if she already knew I was there.

He looks up at me but maintains his silence.

“We happen to be going to a new dungeon. I suspect it may be quite tough though. Would you two care to join us?”

“I suppose I can do that.”

The man in the hood let out a friendly laugh, but somewhere behind it I could feel an icy tone. I would like to know more about this mysterious individual.

“Great! But, we won’t be forming a party. Surely you can live with that?”

“Yes, yes. That is perfectly fine.” He raises his hands as if he is harmless. But raising his hands reveals the two short swords under his cloak state, warning me that he is most definitely armed.

“It’s a pleasure, I am Mason. And my brother down there is Matrix.”

“Brothers? That’s definitely interesting. I am Lost, and this is Fen. Well, shall we be off?”

“Yes, I will let you lead the way.”

I jump out in front and start walking towards this hidden dungeon I read about. The book could be wrong, but my ‘Literature’ skill revealed that the information has more than an eighty percent chance of being true.

Passing through the trees with our two companions for this trip, I get excited about the video. Having guests and such for video’s usually boosted views, having such a pretty girl in the video too is bound to make the popularity reach higher than it ever has before!.

We break out of the trees into low rolling hills covered in flowers of every colour. The sky had a few clouds around, but nothing that should affect the weather. As we continue north, I ask about these two people.

“You agreed to come rather readily Lost. Surely you must know how easily it would be for us to betray you. What are your reasons?” I question the hooded figure, the moment I invited him he suddenly turned friendly.

“You offered for me to join rather readily, it could have easily gone the opposite. I could ask the exact same thing.”

“Indeed!” I let out a bellow of a laugh at his response, “Indeed it could.”

“Well truth be told. I need to get stronger as fast as I can. If I join you in a hidden dungeon, I can do that. There are other reasons too, but I would rather not talk about them.”

“I guess this will benefit us both then! I make videos for the End Forums. Having extra people, especially a stunning beauty as one of them, would be great at increasing our viewers.”

I was about to let out another laugh when I felt an icy cold aura come from Lost, only vanishing when Fen spoke.

“… Am I… A stunning… Beauty?” She looked up at Lost bewildered.

“Yes,” Lost spoke back to her, dropping the murderous aura, “yes you are.”

Not saying another word, I lead us to the location described as half a day’s walk from where we currently are.

I find a dense thicket of trees and vines. Even the overgrown ground is full of logs and other objects difficult to navigate around. Using my level sixty ‘Keen Sandrock Shortsword’, I cut down all the vines and obstacles in my way until I reach what appears to be a small mausoleum.

Keen Sandrock Shortsword
A straight shortsword made out of sandrock. The material
cannot be repaired due to its nature of being a carved
blade, but sandrock is an incredibly tough mineral. The
edge if this sword was grinded by a master, creating the
perfect blade for inflicting deep, lethal wounds
The blade is 45cm long.

Requirements:
- Level 60
- Dex 38

Weapon Type: Double Edged/Short Sword
Attack: 76 - 88
Durability: 58/76
Weight: 1.9 lbs

Abilities:
- An attack with this sword can cause bleeding damage of
up to 3hp per second for up to 30 seconds.
- Multiple strikes will accumulate the bleeding damage.
- Cannot be repaired.

This blade has been incredibly helpful at the best of times. The material sandrock is a lightweight and incredibly tough mineral, light grey in colour and feels like sandpaper to the touch. The shortsword also causes excessive bleeding damage from attacks thanks to sandrock’s coarseness.

The mausoleum in front of me is all cracked, with vines and moss covering it. The entrance inside is a simple metal gate, the lock so rusted it had broken long ago. Pushing it open I enter the dungeon first.

Entering 'Vexl Forgotten Prison'

Drawing my bow I loosely knock an arrow, ready for any monsters that appear. I also make sure to turn on my recording software as I enter the mausoleum for my next video. A small red dot in the corner of my vision informs me that I am currently recording.

The video will be a fully interactive 3D render of everything I can see in a three-sixty degree view of my position. From there I can freely move the camera around in the edit and create the angles for my video. There is a lot of effort involved, but it pays off in the end.

A large number tells me I have enough free space in the VL’s memory circuit for about a hundred hours of recording. The sheer size of the memory devices in these old second generation VL’s is no laughing matter.

As soon as I enter the tiny mausoleum, the entire space is taken up by a staircase leading underground.

“Today I am heading deep into the Vexl Forgotten Prison, a dungeon potentially undiscovered until now.” I appear to be speaking to an apparition in front of me, but it is where I will position the camera afterwards.

“The rumours spread throughout the history books speak of this place as being used to lock away class A criminals, only to leave them to die from starvation. Some began to turn into cannibals while others simply lost all sanity. It got so severe the entire prison was locked away and hidden, leaving the insanity to be trapped within, unable to touch the rest of the world.”

“For today’s journey, I am joined by Matrix, the magic swordsman, once again. Also, we have two guests who are joining us in a competitive hunt of monsters. Meet the mysterious Lost, and the peerless beauty Fen.”

Lost showed some interest in Matrix when I mentioned he is a magic swordsman, but throughout the entire thing, he did not speak a word. Could he be shy of speaking in front of a camera? Well, he shouldn’t be afraid of something he cannot even see.

“Like I just said Lost, we are in separate teams so it is whoever gets the kill first. Although, we are working together so try not to get in each other’s way, play fair.”

He gives a slight nod of the head and we reach the bottom of the stairs.

Slowly, torches along the dark grey stone brick walls begin to light up. Moss climbs the walls and even hanging down from the unnecessarily high ceiling. The path is only about 4 meters wise, but the ceiling reaches about eight meters high. This area would be quite inconvenient for people wielding large weapons.

A clinking and clattering noise emanates from down the path. The walls bounce the sound around, creating endless echoes. Through the light mist that prevents us from seeing too far down the hallway, seven skeletons emerge, their bones clinking together to create the sound we could hear.

“Analyse!” Lost calls out, “It’s called a ‘Murderous Skeleton’, level ninety-two. It seems to be a monster relying on stamina for attacks, be careful.”

Drawing my bow as taut as I can with my strength, I release my first arrow at the closest skeleton. Completely surprised, the arrow passes directly through its chest, dealing no damage at all. Fortunately, it did hit the skeleton behind it.

Following our usual battle plan, Matrix now charges forward, chanting some kind of spell in an exaggerated voice.

“The fires of heaven burn from my agony. Peeling wings off angles, they turn to meteors and come crashing down to earth. The destruction kindles my heart, accepting the fire, bending it to my will. O’ Lord, fear my flames that will bring death upon heaven. Fire Ball!”

I can see how stunned the two new members are. Matrix is level ninety five, and has already mastered chantless magic. I used to get incredibly frustrated at this, all he needs to do is speak the name of the spell in order to cast it, yet he recites ridiculous poetry before doing so. No matter the situation, he never falls out of character.

The entire chant he did is useless, using it to cast a simple fireball onto his bronze longsword, wreathing it in flames.

I launch more arrows at the incoming skeletons, some hitting, others passing through the gaps in the bones. I don’t mind wasting arrows, I have a combination of three skills that I can use to create arrows from any number of cheap, easy to get materials.

Matrix also starts swinging his sword around without any coordination, still successfully managing to land most hits on the skeletons. The flame effect on his sword appears to help hurt the skeletons via magic damage. Skeletons are usually the worst enemies for us considering their resistance to both cutting and piercing attacks.

I switch to my ‘Rock Arrows’, where each one has a blunt rock at the end to deal blunt damage rather than piercing. I draw my bow to fire, except, the most ridiculous thing happens.

Large shards of ice, incomparably larger than my arrows, fly over my head and crush the skeletons, eliminating every single one.

“Hey!” Lost scolds the girl, giving her a good karate chop on top of the head “I wanted to kill some too you know.”

The girl gives out a meek apology with some kind of sly grin on her face. What a frightening person, they are a lot stronger than they look.

Matrix also has a stunned expression, looking directly at the two.

The current battle is not over just yet. Ten zombies emerge which Lost identifies as ‘Imprisoned Zombie’s’ at level eighty.

Given that they are zombies, blunt attacks are less effective so I switch back to my standard arrows.

A white flash passes by both me and Matrix to intercept the zombies. Wielding two slightly curved shortswords, Lost unleashes a flurry of death. The zombies may be slow monsters, but when compared to him, they are not even moving.

Once one actually managed to try and grapple him, but like a ninja, he disappeared into smoke, appearing behind the zombie and cutting it to pieces.  He threw a few small knives, and using sacred arts with glowing blades, ended the fight in under a minute.

‘A-a-amazing! Those zombies could not do a single thing to him! This next video is sure to get plenty of views!”

I am not even upset over him taking all the kills. The quality of my video has instantly gone through the roof!

“Come on,” Lost spoke casually, “Let’s keep moving. We have a lot of ground to cover.”

He was incredibly lucky though, a single bite from a zombie carries a highly potent poison in it.

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Mikhail-
-Inside Idea Imagine Server Room-

The entire room is empty except for a large array of data cubes, each one meter in all directions and laid out in a matrix five wide, five deep, and eight high. In total there are two hundred of these cubes, each capable of containing and processing an impossible amount of data.

There is about a meter and a half gap in between each cube that you can easily pass through. But you have to work around the massive supports and cable that connect each of the cubes in the array together, supporting the entire framework.

This technology is top secret to the corporation, if it became public knowledge, it would have a massive effect. Data that is no longer stored on flat data discs, but in a three dimensional diaphragm, which is then laid out in a larger matrix.

Directly in front of me, is the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

Connected to one of the cubes, is my laptop. Specialized software is running to analyse the data inside of the cube.

“Mikhail!” A gruff gentleman with his hair a mess calls out to me, his face unshaven and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. That man is Henry, my boss.

“It’s been months now! Have you still found nothing on the missing data!?”

“Sorry Sir! It did not leave any traces as to where it went. I think Xilbril erased the tracks.”

Xilbril is the Artificial Intelligence that is stored in this supercomputer. It is the entity which created End Online and manages it. I have high enough clearance to have knowledge on it, but most people have no clue about it.

The technology itself is leaps and bounds ahead of anything even remotely similar. No human could even dream of creating something as advanced as an AI like this.

Xilbril was originally created as a basic program that had the capability of taking in information and learning from it. For five years around the clock, employees of Idea Imagine continued to teach it, forcing it to grow and evolve into what it is today.

End Online is only another one of these learning points, teaching Xilbril about humans and their behaviour.

“Sir, I don’t fully understand exactly what we are looking for. And why is it so important to find this ‘child’?”

Letting out a sigh, Henry puffed smoke into the air.

“Xilbril has evolved and gone far beyond what we ever could have imagined. Years ago, when the V-Link was still new, she had ‘children’, small artificial entities that broke off from her control and formed their own independence.

“You can find these entities in the game, usually as monsters and such, but occasionally as NPC’s. If you look at their status, they have a weird class depending on their age and sophistication. It goes from Prince, to King, Emperor… There all seem to be male, but that is about it at the moment, we haven’t discovered any other information than that. Fortunately, they are trapped in the server.”

“If they can’t get out, could it have been deleted?”

“No. There was evidence that it had somehow been moved, just the signature of the device that did it vanished. The only thing we know is that it must have been downloaded onto has to be one of the second generation VL’s. It is the only device that could theoretically hold one of these entities. We halted production of them as soon as it was discovered. We tried to recall as many as possible, but there are still plenty of them in circulation.”

I remember now. This company has a sub section called Virtue, the creators of modern virtual reality. The V-Link was only originally meant for physical interaction with Xilbril, but sold as a device under a different premise to raise more funds for the project.

“Can’t we just delete all these ‘children’?”

“Look at that server, do you really think you can pin point one tiny piece of data, which is constantly moving mind you, and delete it? Also you would have to get past Xilbril, who actually does see them as her very own children and guards them quite closely. You would have to destroy the entire thing to get rid of them.”

“I understand. But if the second generation VL is the only place for them to go, and they can’t infect the internet or any such thing. Surely there cannot be any harm done.”

I studied hard at university and became an expert in networking and communications. I honestly could not see what the whole uproar has been about.

“Unfortunately, that is not the case. The server of End Online cannot connect with anything other than the VL’s and the End Forum. This is hard wired in to prevent any controversies of artificial intelligence taking over the world. It is nonsense, but movies have made people paranoid of it.

“The artificial beings are trapped in End Online, but if they break out of that cage and into a VL, things are different. The VL does not have these restrictions, and they can easily connect with any device that is connected to the internet, worldwide. Then we have the dangers they present.”

“The dangers?” Curious as to what an artificial intelligence can do, I have to ask.

“These entities are not programmed by humans. They learn and grow to be what they are. As such, they do not have any of the restrictions and rules like the things we create have. Due to how advanced they are, our firewalls, virus protection, they can tear through it all like paper. They have full administrative controls over anything they can touch.

“Now, imagine one of these things inside a V-Link, a device with unlimited potential. It is such a powerful device that we are forced to program in rock solid limitations that even the world’s best hacker cannot breach.

“It blocks the signals going to the body so you are not moving your real body while you do your virtual one. Anything powerful enough to do that is more than capable of also blocking the sub conscious signals, such as those to maintain the respiratory system, or even the heartbeat. Also, this is only one of the possibilities.”

My entire face goes white. I understand what he is getting at. While a hacker could not breach the devices defences and turn it into a lethal object, a highly advanced artificial intelligence is completely different. And from that VL, it is quite capable of reaching other VL’s, or anything connected to the internet.

“S-sir! How is that any different from being able to take over the world through the internet!”

Henry lets out another sigh as he puts out his cigarette.

“Stop watching too many movies Mikhail. All the dangerous toys are on closed networks. There is no connection between the internet and them in the first place.”

Next Chapter

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48 Comments

  1. Hello and thank for the chapter.

    The video will be a fully interactive 3D render of everything I can see in a [three-sixty] degree view of my position.

    Shouldn’t it be something like three-hundred-sixty ?

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    1. Haha, no. What you are thinking of is saying three hundred and sixty. Basically, this is a way of saying a number in english that is more ‘slang’ than proper english.
      If you take the number 360. We will often break it down into two numbers 3 and 60. Then we say them individually. It is simply more convenient and quicker.

      The same way we will often speak 1200 as twelve hundred rather than one thousand two hundred. Again it is quicker and easier to say. Just a bit of english to help you ^.^

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  2. “all on closed networks” well at least one of these scenarios includes this fact. I mean the only real danger is if it gets into the banks.

    potentially cause economic collapse.
    shutting down the internet.

    What was it that it couldn’t do again?

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    1. Well, basically it cannot become skynet. Hack into nuclear weaponry networks or anything that could legitimately cause mass destruction to the real world. The only damage would indeed be digital. It could hack into the banks and such, but I would assume they have offline backups.

      The main issue is the hacking into VL’s. A device that has the power to block the neural signals to the body easily has the power to cause death. I won’t go into any further detail on that as I will leave it for later in the story. And trust me, this isn’t a spoiler ^.^

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  3. >and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
    Smoking is forbidden around or near any computer server rooms.

    >All the dangerous toys are on closed networks.
    There is the Internet 2 which is another internet for the use of the government, military, certain selected major corporations, and certain selected major universities. It’s separate to keep its data packets separate and physically unavailable to common users on the internet as we know it. As for closed networks, they have always existed. My employer is a major worldwide corporation and it runs its own private telecom and private internet service to connect its facilities (gear, machinery, data, commerce traffic) and employees. You could consider it a closed network except there are bridges from it to the regular internet. They are limited capability and very specialized, so they cannot really be used to hack because their programming is all on ROM chips. Thus, even if a hacker had access to the machine, he cannot program (hack) the gear because he cannot edit the program nor store an executable in it.

    But if there was an artificial intelligence on one side, it can take control of a robot. That robot can then put together another computer out of parts. That robot can then connect the computer bridge between both the public internet and the closed network The AI that has control on one side then programs that computer to be the bridgehead into the closed system. Voila. The physical isolation protection is circumvented. The AI can take control of a robot and send it to a cellphone tower. It then somehow opens up the control room and replaces the hardcoded firmware with its own. That tower can now listen to internet 2 and not just the regular internet. Voila. Of course all this is assumes no alarms are set off and that no resource tracking is performed and that peering security software tracking unapproved new traffic has not been set off. Peering is a big deal because the internet is a vast collection of toll roads owned by companies. Data flows and imbalances are tracked and paid for through peering arrangements. So a rogue AI putting unpaid traffic would eventually be detected. If they didn’t pay, their data packets would be dropped. So any AI that appeared would need to take over sites physically and prevent its data from being dropped. That would mean killing lots of people all over the world who work at these network centers. In cases of electronic warfare, it is not inconceivable that staff would be instructed to pull the plug on networks thus turning the internet into lots of individual small networks.

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