Chapter 14 – Religious Conscription

Editor: Vincent
Author’s notes: Another chapter out. Also two big pieces of news. One is that we finally have a spot on topwebfiction.com !! Please do follow this link and vote for End Online! http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=end-online.
Secondly, my job has turned into a full time position! (It is such a great job I couldn’t possibly turn it down) Which gives me less time to write for you all. But I do get to do some writing at work and I work hard after hours to get it all to you. I may not be able to post it at the same time each week, but I will aim to get it out on the same day! We have also discovered our editor is the quiet type, but he wrote on a sign to say you should vote for End Online at topwebfiction ^.^
Editor’s notes: …

-Lost-

Matrix gives an embarrassed look as I am stunned at his attack just now. In a heartbeat, he traversed nearly half this room and dealt a final critical strike on the boss, Overseer ‘Law’.

“Umm… It is kind of our finishing move.”

These two are clearly stronger than they first appeared. I wonder if Mason has a finishing move like this as well. Glancing over at him, he looks away from me while scratching his jaw.

Even Fen over there is surprised, showing interest in the first thing other than me or food.

With nothing else to say, I let out a sigh.

“Lost,” Matrix calls out, “There is the loot from the boss still. Umm… I should probably take the umm… Sword. I will get the most out of it. Would you take the armour and half the gold?”

“Yeah, that should be fine.”

It is a fair deal. I don’t get to compare the armour and the sword, but if one was better than the other. There would be no way to evenly share the loot in the first place.

Matrix removes a pitch black helmet and seventy four gold coins from his inventory, handing them over to me. A few weeks ago, this amount of coins was a staggering amount. But with the near seven hundred I have gained while being in this dungeon, it doesn’t have as big of an impact.

Taking hold of the helmet I inspect the item.

'Nightingale' Helmet
A Helmet made from taurastone, causing it to be
extremely rigid and resistant to blades. As a side
effect to the rigidity, it is weak to blunt attacks.
This helmet is a part of the 'Nightingale' set,
armour crafted in ancient times and worn by the
countries prison overseer 'Law'.
   
Requirements:
- Level 145
- Str 65

Armour Type: Heavy(Taurastone)
Defence: 27
Durability: 56/56
Weight: 11.5 lbs
Cutting Resistance: 10%
Impact Resistance: -10%

Effects:
- Immune to 'blind'
- Grants 50% night vision

I would not call it incredible, but it is definitely a good item with a unique rarity. As my thoughts wander towards putting it up for auction and trying to guess how much it will sell for, I recall the fact that I can finally equip the sword I received from defeating the goblin boss, Grigor.

Pulling up my status first, I check to see how much my stats have grown.

Name: Lost(Man in the Hood)
Health: 823/1252
Stamina: 311/441

Lvl: 97
Lvl UP: 49%

Str: 59 +15
Agi: 189 +50
Dex: 61 +28
Int: 11
Mnd: 40
Lck: 23

Infamy: 190
Alignment: +0
God: -
Belief: 0

Equipped Skills:
Class Skill: White Warrior  (SLvl 13, 12%)
[Unavailable]
Potion Production           (SLvl 16, 39%)
Mining                      (SLvl 1, 0%)
Smithing                    (SLvl 1, 0%)
[Empty]
[Empty]
[Empty]
[Empty]

Reserve Skills:
[Empty]

Just looking at my agility seems unreal, almost as if the stat is broken. It is apparently common knowledge that by getting the base value of a stat over one hundred will place you in the top tier of players. Yet, mine is nearly at two hundred.

Unequipping my ‘Brittle Steel Wakizashi’, the weaker of the two swords, I equip the new ‘Fire Imbued Meridium Scramasax’.

I practice for a moment to get used to the new weapon. Yet, it proves to be impossible. It is not a situation where I find difficulty wielding it, but more the issue that it weighs twice as much as the other blade, throwing my balance off.

However, I feel the impulsive urge to use the new weapon so I keep it equipped.

Considering this weapon doesn’t have a sheath, I place it through my belt.

“Lost! How have things been!? Sorry I didn’t contact you earlier, I have been a little busy. Me and Sir Laurence are training around Grenton while we wait for you to catch up. Are you nearly done?”

Verde’s voice enters my head completely unexpected, causing a momentary loss of words.

“Ah, Verde. It’s fine. We just finished the boss battle now and are about to leave the dungeon. What happened to that suspicious individual who was following you?”

“We? As in you and Fen? Oh, he disappeared as soon as we reached Grenton.”

“There are two others as well. A pair of brothers we met when I logged back on.”

“Hey, we should probably head off now. What are you daydreaming about?”

Mason interrupts the conversation, disrupting my current thought.

“Yeah,” I reply to the man, “let’s head off.”

“Sorry Verde, I have to head off now. I will meet you in Grenton.”

“Okay! I will wait here for you!”

She seems to be rather energetic, I wonder if something happened?

With Fen grabbing me by the arm, she start trotting off to catch up to the other two with me in tow. They both see her clinging to my arm, and with shy expressions, deliberately look the other way.

I have long since stopped caring about this type of behaviour from her. After all, I have had to put up with her somehow climbing into my sleeping bag overnight. Fortunately I still have the one that Prince Charming lent me, but I do really need to buy one of my own. And one for Fen.

Even once we caught up to the other two she continued to cling to my arm. Walking out of the boss room, I could feel something soft pressing against the limb in the wolf girl’s clutch.

“Fen,” I furrow my brow as I think of the best words to use, “Do you know what a bra is?”

“A… Bra..?” She tilts her head, genuinely puzzled.

“I thought that may be the case…” A sigh escapes my lips. I am not going to even try explaining to her what a bra is. That kind of discussion is well out of my expertise.

Come to think of it. Can you even buy bra’s in this game? Don’t people in medieval fantasy worlds usually wrap up their chests in bandages and such? I never really considered this, players are automatically given standard undergarments anyway.

All I need to do is focus on the fact that she is an NPC, despite how lifelike she seems. This is the only way that I can ignore the indecent things she does.

Back in the north prison wing, there are a couple of skeletons that have respawned.

“Leave this one to me.” Stepping in front of everyone, Fen releases my arm as I go to test out the new sword.

I exert power in my legs, I close the twenty meter distance in less than a second. The air around me still vibrating from me passing through.

I slash the weapon through the skeleton’s hip, encountering no resistance at all. As it passes through, small flames lick from the red line caused by the attack on the monsters body.

Everyone silently stares at the skeleton in as much shock as I am in. That one attack removed over half of its health, an undead monster over level 150.

The skeleton stumbles a little after my attack, but before it can recover I return and do a critical hit on the back of its neck. The skeleton collapses into a pile of bones, leaving behind bone dust and a sub par steel longsword as loot.

“Lost!” Mason called out in astonishment, “I think I should be the one to ask this time. What the hell was that!?”

“Hah, you tell me your secrets and I’ll tell you mine. I’m more interested in that attack you used to finish the boss.

“Our attack is simple, beef up an attack with as many enchants as possible, then strike. We incorporate the ‘Rabbit Flight’ spell to achieve enough speed to cut through the armour rating and also prevent them from dodging.”

“Yes, but I know a little bit about the ‘Rabbit Flight’ spell. A high class wind spell with an abnormally long chant designed to allow you to escape from any monster. It isn’t supposed to be possible to attack with it, so how did you do that?”

“You still haven’t told me your secret. Along with how you create false images of you while you yourself turn invisible.”

We pass through the door leading into the central wing. The three stories above have slowly repopulated with skeletons and zombies. Fen and Matrix are taking the lead and fighting all the enemies while Mason and I follow behind, casually chatting to each other.

“I am one of those rare people with a speed build. I attack at high speed to negate the opponent’s armour defences.”

“I gathered that much, but the damage you did to the skeleton was far too abnormal. All of a sudden when you equipped that weapon your damage increased explosively. Is it the weapon, is it related to how you create false images. It is far too mysterious.”

“Well, you still haven’t told me how you can attack with a spell that shouldn’t be able to be used for attack.”

Mason emits a sigh as he gives away his secrets.

“Under normal circumstances, it is true you cannot attack while using that spell. There is wind pressure as soon as you start to move that blows your weapon back, ruining any planned attack. At least, that is how my brother described it.

It turns out, if you can execute the attack and move at the critical moment of the attack, you can counter balance that force. However, that requires the perfect balance of speed, power, sword angle, and other minute factors.”

“Interesting, interesting. I see how it is done.”

“Well, now it’s your turn! Cough it up, how can you do the things you do.”

“It’s nothing too spectacular, I have a legendary class skill called the ‘White Warrior’. It has a few benefits such as a high damage multiplier with my weapon proficiency, as well the ability to create afterimages.”

“Legendary!? Incredible, I wonder if I could get it too! Please, tell me what skills you need!”

I can feel the depressing aura that emanates from my body as I think about that one particular skill that was needed for this class skill.

“It’s not possible… You need to have that devil skill…”

“Wait, what do you mean? That devil skill?”

“Forget it. There is no way you can get it. It is a skill that causes everyone to hate you, and nearly every monster to become ‘aggro’ towards you. It still haunts me to this day” I sink even further into my gloominess.

“What!? That’s a horrible skill, I have noticed sometimes monsters would break off from everyone else and attack you. I guess that skill is the reason. Why didn’t you just unequip it if it was causing that much trouble?”

“You… Can’t… You can’t unequip this particular skill”

‘Ah, maybe I should just go grow mushrooms. Yeah, that can be my new job, a mushroom farmer.’

I start to drift off from reality as Mason finally understands a little about the skill. Before I realize it. We are back outside of the prison and within the dome shaped cavern. Just to make me feel even more under the weather, the irritating maze is at the far end, and approximately fifty zombies and skeletons are in between.

Almost like a drone, my thought remains devoid of all thought while I rush at them from behind. My new scramasax fells the first skeleton with a single strike. These guys are definitely weaker than those in the prison below.

Everyone else joins in. With ice bolts raining down and arrows flying around, Matrix joins the close combat. I may be a little strange, but this kind of battle is starting to feel ‘normal’ to me.

With the battle finished, we walk straight into the labyrinth.

With the mist in front of us once again obstructing our vision and confusing our sense of direction, we walked for hours…

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

“Thank god! We are finally out!”

Mason flops himself onto the ground and starts sniffing the grass.

“Ahh. The smell of Spring!”

Carrying on with the old mausoleum only a meter behind him, he is completely immersed in the overgrown foliage that protects this place from being easily found. Come to think of it, the foliage we cut through has already grown back. I wonder how long it takes for the vines and bushes in this game to grow back.

Mason is still lying face first on the ground, so rather than wait for him, I decide to cut through the brush myself. I don’t use my weapon with the fire enchant in fear of starting a fire. I sincerely doubt that it will happen, but just in case.

A few moments later we reach the expanse of low hills covered by flowers of every spring colour. The midday sun looks down on us, while the sounds of bees and birds frequently enter the surroundings. To have fresh air again is truly refreshing, each breath filling me with rejuvenated life.

“I guess it’s time for us to finally go to Grenton.” I spoke up to the others behind me.

Fen doesn’t say anything back as usual, but the two brothers smile and silently follow behind us.

Turning north west, head for the capital of Forste.

During the first day, I use the intuition I discovered to locate herb reserves. Harvesting each of these locales, I restock up on my herbs and even discover a few new ones. Meanwhile, Mason seems to be picking up small sticks, stones, and shooting down birds for feathers. It is not hard to discern he plans on restocking his arrows.

Opening my main menu, I do a refined search on my herbs to find out exactly what I have and how much.

◊ 74 Green Medicinal Herb
◊ 31 Yellow Medicinal Herb*
◊ 19 Antidote Roots
◊ 11 Ther Flower*
◊ 9 Black N
◊ 9 Solar Stem*
◊ 5 Fire Flower
◊ 3 Winter Berries
◊ 12 Animal Fat (Rotten)

I’m surprise myself as I notice that the animal fat is technically a herb. Although, it appears to have been in my inventory for too long and gone rotten. It may be such a lovely landscape around me, but there is nothing else to do other than to dump it. At least I am nice and place the putrid pile of animal fat behind a tree, out of harms way.

During the evening I managed to hunt a few ‘Spring Horned Deer’ which weren’t called ‘Spring’ because of the season they live in but because each horn was coiled like a spring. They were also slightly soft, causing their charging attack to spring me away and leave everyone else laughing like hyenas.

Later that night, I decided that I would finally cook a proper meal. Up until now, in the dungeon I have just been eating bread and other long life items you can get in game. But nothing compares to a freshly cooked meal.

Mason and Matrix show a considerable interest as I start bringing out all the equipment. Fen, on the other hand, is literally drooling in anticipation.

For dinner I began to cook large slabs of venison on a large pan simmering in fresh animal fat, ‘Solar Stems’ are also rubbed into both sides of the meat. ‘Solar Stems’ are a strange herb, they leave your mouth burning and provide some resistance to the cold, albeit not as strong as the ‘Fire Flowers’. But they also grant a limited night vision.

In this scenario, I am trying to rub the slightly bitter yet burning taste of the stems into the meat as I grill it.

While that slowly cooks through, I chop up some potatoes and carrots I managed to locate near where I harvested some herbs. They aren’t like normal vegetables though, the potatoes are strangely pear shaped with black spots on them, while the carrot’s are yellow and perfectly round. They are called the ‘Bulb Potato’ and ‘Sun Carrot’.

They tasted a little strange, but I assumed they are at least still vegetables. I left the vegetables in a pot of boiling water to cook.

While all the food was cooking, I decided to try experimenting with some potions. After all, I now have a bunch of new ingredients.

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

Opening my inventory, I choose two random ingredients to try mixing together. the ‘Yellow Medicinal Herb’ and the ‘Solar Stem’, two new ingredients of mine.

Grinding one of each in the mortar and pestle, I feel that the quantities of each item are off. It is not like I know a recipe or anything, it just doesn’t feel quite right. Placing another ‘Solar Stem’ in the mix however alleviates this feeling.

The mix takes on a gentle orange hue, and maintains the gentle colour even when mixed with the water in a vial.

‘Success! I have created my first normal potion!’

I almost cry in joy, pride welling up in my chest. I open up the item information to see what I have created.

(Unknown Potion)
    
Requirements:
- Level 41

Item Type: Potion
Weight: 0.1 lbs
Effects: ??

That’s strange, I can’t seem to discern what it is. Is it because it is a higher class potion? Do I need to drink it to find out its effects.

Noticing Fen still fixated on the food, I decide to test the unknown potion on someone else before drinking it myself. No matter how bad it is, it isn’t going to do any serious harm anyway.

“Fen, since I am cooking all this meat for you.” I put on my best smile, despite the fact that she probably can’t see it underneath my hood, “Will you please try this for me and tell me what you think?”

“…Okay…”

She doesn’t have any hesitation in her mind at all. So content on her dinner that she would probably jump through hoops of fire if I asked her to.

Handing her the pleasant looking potion, she drinks it all in one mouthful.

She stares off into space for a few seconds, before contorting her face in a gruesome look. Without any moment she runs off into the trees at top speed.

“Wait… What?” I breathe out the words quiet enough that even I barely hear them.

From the trees come the sounds of someone violently vomiting.

Fen’s strolls back into camp a few moments later, her face as pale as a ghost.

“…Why… Why… That liquid… I couldn’t get it out… Of my mouth…” Tears are in the corner of her eyes, whether from being upset or being sick, I’m not sure.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t know what it tasted like. But it looked all right!”

“…You’re… Horrible!…”

She turns her head away from me, but doesn’t leave the cooking food. Looks like I am going to have to make it up to her with meat.

I inwardly laugh to myself at how predictable she acts around food, meat in particular

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

-Mason-

Once we left the ‘Vexl Underground Prison’ I almost kissed the ground at finally being outside that stuffy, mist obscured, infuriating labyrinth. Well, actually, I did kiss the ground for a bit.

Lost cut his way through the regenerated bushes and vines for us to get back out. Following behind him, he declared that it was time to move on to Grenton.

“Hey Matrix,” I call out to my brother over private chat, “this guy is an interesting person. Why don’t we join him for a while and see how things go?”

“You make the calls brother. I will, umm… Follow you.”

“Okay! Let’s do it! I’m sure I will get plenty more good videos if I follow him too. So are you liking your new sword?”

“Oh, Yes!… Umm… It’s amazing, but I can’t equip it until I am level 143 anyway.”

I laugh back to him, he is as shy as ever. He will shamelessly chant ridiculous and unnecessary chants when casting low level spells, yet he turns red in embarrassment when holding a normal conversation.

The sword he got was the better of the two items that the boss dropped. But to make up for it, the ‘half’ of the gold dropped by the boss that was given to Lost was twice as big as the ‘half’ that we kept.

So silently, we decided that we will follow and join him..

During the day he somehow managed to locate reserves of herbs, almost as if he could see them from a mile away. They were also good for me though, as I was able to gather all the materials I require for crafting arrows there.

The issue with archers is arrows are usually limited in number, you have a high percentage of being able to retrieve arrows from fallen monsters, but you are still at a disadvantage when you run out.

This is why I used up three skill slots to get all the skills required to craft arrows. This way no matter where I am, I can always make more with easy to get materials.

Later that night, Lost began to bring out a large range of cooking tools. Even I put down the sticks I was shaving into arrow shafts in order to inspect it. He cut up large slabs of meat and even what appeared to be some strange kind of vegetables.

Going back to my crafting, I was once again interrupted when I had just started carving out arrowheads from stones. The girl came back with tears in her eyes and cried that she couldn’t get ‘that’ liquid out of her mouth.

‘Wait, what liquid? What did you do to her!?’

I felt morbidly disturbed, possibly misunderstanding the situation, but something inside my stomach still turned over. Especially when he told her he was sorry, and that he didn’t think it would taste so bad. By this point I figure, they are consenting adults, what they do is between them.

Lost shortly served up dinner and whatever animosity his girl companion held for him was instantly dismissed.

He even passed plates out to us, thick slabs of venison with seasoned vegetables tickled our noses with their enticing scents.

Matrix, the man who will fall to poison one day, dug into his meal without a moments notice. But given our time spent together, I trust this mysterious man well enough that I doubt he would ever poison his food. Even the thought seems crazy.

Placing a piece of the venison in my mouth and chewing, it not only tasted like the tenderest of meats, but the herbs danced around my mouth like a hot summer day. For the next five minutes, I was blissfully dreaming of the midday sun blazing down during the hottest season of the year.

Before I even realized, my entire plate was empty. Even the vegetables disappeared without me knowing. I was so caught up in the taste of the meat I didn’t even register anything else. What incredible food!

Looking over at Lost and Fen. He was for some reason prostrating himself on the ground in front of her, who was eating an enormous amount of meat while tears streamed out of her eyes. I could almost hear her in hysterics.

“…I-it all… Taste like… T-that stuff!..”

What the hell happened, what stuff?!

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

-Lost-

What an eventful night, who would have known that the new potion I created would destroy Fen’s mentality. This has to be by far the scariest potion I have ever created. I even ended up prostrating in front of her with apologies. I really don’t want to lose my companion.

Thus, ending my night.

The next morning I’m not even surprised to feel a lump inside the sleeping bag. The individual who was supposed to be guarding us for the three hours of night has once again shirked her duties.

I can hear a faint sobbing coming from under the blanket too, a nose sniffling in sync with the sobs.

“The meat… Why… The meat…”

I don’t have the heart to move her. I actually do feel bad for ruining her long awaited dinner by feeding her something maliciously disgusting. I wish I can describe the taste, but I have too much fear of trying it.

Strange enough, despite all the complaints, she still ate every last piece of meat.

I eventually drag her out from inside, waking her up in the process. But, it is time for us to pack up and start heading towards Grenton.

While putting all our stuff away a pair of male players wander directly into the camp. Seeing me with my mark of Glace on my wrist, a cruel grin creeps onto their faces. Out of curiousity, I glance at Fen’s hand, which unsurprisingly does not contain a mark. They surely must think she is a weak, new player.

The first one readies a dark brown longsword and kite shield, while the second player raises his staff and begins to chant.

Mason and Matrix wander over and the glint in the eyes of the two suddenly disappears, almost as if realizing there are more than two people here. The man at the rear stops his chant, the light from the gem at the tip fading. Both of them turn tail and run into the dense trees behind them as fast as they prepared to attack.

I don’t know about Fen but for some reason I didn’t feel afraid of the two at all. The two of them gave off an atmosphere that almost said they were… Weak and naive. Looking at the girl next to me, she didn’t even register they were there at all. She was still busy sulking.

“What was that about?” Mason looks puzzled as he asks me.

“I honestly don’t know. Seemed like they saw two players from a different kingdom and decided to try their luck.”

“And they just gave up like that?”

“Well, our forces did just double in number.”

He looks even more confused by my words. But, all I do is laugh at him.

We spent the next five days in game walking to Grenton, each step closer leading us to cross paths with more and more players. There were a few threats at first, but we were lucky they weren’t all that strong. Fen took care of them all by herself. I only feel fortunate that she followed my instructions and didn’t kill a single one. Her having a player killer’s skull on her back is the last thing I need.

Lastly, considering she is my ‘companion’, I am technically in the same party as her. I would also get the skull on my back.

However, the closer we get to Grenton, the weaker the average player was. The worst I receive are the angry shouts of players as the monsters they are fighting are suddenly tempted by my aggravation. It stirs up some depressing memories of when I first started playing the game, but I am long since used to it.

Surprisingly, I have already been playing this game for over five months. Yet it is only recently that I have felt this alive, so to speak. Full of energy, I pass through a small thicket of tall trees covered in small, red flowers. The flowers blow down and away with the slightest breeze, passing by my eyes as I stare down at Grenton.

The city itself is incredible. Twice the size of Iceridge and multitudes more people. There is constantly people walking in and just as many leaving. There are enormous trees growing throughout the capital, reaching hundreds of meters in the air before spreading their foliage in a wide arc.

Most of the city received a cool shade from the canopy, far enough away to still let enough sun inside of the city, but taking the blazing sun off everyone’s shoulders.

Buildings are attached to all sides of the massive trunks. There are even smaller buildings hanging in between them, along with all the pathways and platforms to suit.

The entire city is like a multi layered complex, some parts reaching four or five stories high. Each level appears to be placed about ten meters above the one below, but it is hard to judge from half a mile away.

Getting closer, I can make out the platforms are made from a light brown wood while the houses were a dark oak wood. The contrast is amazing, almost like an art piece.

“You look so surprised. Is this honestly the first time you have seen Grenton?” Mason stared at me like I was some kind of stranger.

“Sorry, I never left the kingdom of Glace before. It is incredible.”

“That’s surprising! There are pictures of Grenton all over the internet. It is said to be the most beautiful city in End Online, modelled after the hidden elf village Elfenhiem.”

“Elves?” I couldn’t hide my astonishment.

“Hah, it is only the rumours told in books. Most people don’t know these things. I only do due to reading a lot in order to increase my ‘Literature’ skill.

‘Still, elves huh?’

We enter into the shade provided by the foliage of the enormous trees and the surrounding temperature instantly drops. Approaching one of the entrances to Grenton, the majesty of the capital city leaves me awestruck. I was wrong about assuming the higher floors were place ten meters above one another, the distance is much closer to twenty.

Despite how packed the city appears from a distance, even having levels above one another. The inside is extremely open and spacious, wide lanes filled with neatly pruned bushes, some even flowering large colourful rose-like flowers.

I stroll into the city with everyone else in tow. Fen is once again attached to my arm, her eyes sparkling at seeing the marvels of the city.

“It truly is incredible.” I breathe the words out, quiet enough that no one else can hear.

“Verde! I am here! In Grenton!”

There is only silence at first, but she eventually gets around to replying.

“That’s great! Can you meet Sir Laurence and I at the Royal Birch Hotel at sundown?”

“Ahh, yes. I should be able to meet you there then.”

“Okay, thanks!”

She ends on a cheery note, her voice still dancing in my head. Guessing sunset is still a few hours away, I decide to explore the town a little bit and sell the helmet, the one from the subterranean prison boss, at the local auction house. Hopefully I can get two thousand for a sale this time!

There is only one problem with my plan, I have no clue where the auction house is.

Putting it aside for the moment, I may as well at least enjoy the views of the city. I recall the information I originally read about finding herbs in local parks originated from Grenton.

“Lost,” Mason speaks up next to me, “Matrix and I are going to go report our quest. I assume you have your own things to do as well. What I want to ask is, will you accept us joining you on your journeys?”

The question takes me by surprise. I certainly was not expecting them to ask this.

“Hmm, why would you want to come with me?”

“Well, as you already know I make videos and post them on the ‘End Forums’. I think that if I continue to travel with you, I will be able to continue getting the best material for my videos. Like from Vexl.”

“Haha, it sounds okay to me. It is a pleasure to know you Mason.”

“You too!”

We shake hands and exchange friend requests before the brothers head off to do their own thing.

“Fen, you go off by yourself too. I want to do some stuff on my own.”

“Don’t… Want to…”

I give her a dry stare until she looks away pouting. It isn’t that I need to be alone for anything in particular, but I want to have a peaceful explore of the city.

Fen disappears from where she is standing, turning into mist. I guess she has returned to my VL for now. Sighing, I press onwards into the city.

Strolling through the broad streets I finally find a local recreational park. I can tell that there definitely are herbs in this park. There is nearly a hundred players crowding the park, searching the ground to try and be the first to pick each herb when it regrows. At least they respawn at random locations in the area, giving everyone a fair chance of getting them.

I can see the symbols of all three kingdoms mixed in the crowd. Everyone coalescing into the one city for herbs must be extremely strenuous, clearly nobody has told them of other places you can acquire herbs. I am not interested in trying my luck here when I can find places outside of town when I need. There are bound to be a large number of these parks around the city, but surely they are all going to be as packed as this one.

I had best keep the other harvesting locations a secret, there are always players who go around harvesting everything like robots.

Passing onwards through the crowd of players walking down the lane, a strange sense of foreboding overcomes me. Something inside of me screams to run, but I don’t know what it is or why.

Out of the crowd, a middle aged man appears. He is dressed as some kind of underground bouncer with a long leather overcoat on top of some kind of cheap clothing that clings to his figure. What intrigued me the most is that even though his eyes were closed, He seemed fully aware of me. Almost as if he was waiting there specifically for me.

“Excuse me sir. May I have a moment of your time.” The mysterious man somehow closes the distance between us with a single step, the air around him vibrating as he stands directly in front of me.

The person has dead straight black hair, sitting well below his shoulders.

Something about this person sets off danger alarms in my mind and I try to get away.

“I’m sorry, but I have some business to attend to. If you will excuse-“

I try to walk around the person and continue on my way, but he grabs my arm and prevents me from going any further.

“Oh, but I must insist. It will only take a moment.”

As if taking my silence as a ‘yes’ he starts walking to a gap in between two houses, completely out of the public eye. He drags me by my arm, his grip getting tighter to ensure I don’t escape. I give a few nervous tugs, but they can’t shake loose his iron grip.

He enters the small alley, barely two meters wide, with me in tow.  With a flick of the wrist, he casually tosses me forward. I land flat on my back on the hard-packed dirt ground.

It may be a game, but my heartbeat is straining inside my chest. As much as I am aware that this world is fake, the fear I am feeling is real.

The man stands over me and looks down, his eyes still closed.

“Lost? Yes, I hear that is your name. Do you happen to remember a certain dragon’s lair you entered a few weeks ago?”

I try to speak but when I open my mouth, I feel a fear that erases all thoughts from my mind.

“Ahh, for some reason I get rather excited seeing you. All I want to do is pummel you into the ground. But, we have more important matters. From there you entered a treasury room and stole a particular red orb.”

“…” I try to speak but once again I find myself unable to get the words out.

“Oh, sorry. I have carelessly been letting my bloodlust out. Allow me to mask it again. Now, where is the orb?”

The pressure on my chest lessens and it becomes easier to breath.

“I-I don’t know w-what you’re talking about.”

At least I can finally speak, but I still do feel a more natural fear, it just no longer has an overbearing oppressive feel behind it.

“Don’t play games with me. Where is my ‘Draconic Ember Essence’?”

The man opens his eyes, revealing a pair of slitted violet pupils. The same eyes as that dragon.

‘No way! This is the dragon!? Is it the same kind of NPC as Fen!? Oh ****’

I curse at realizing the situation in front of me. Also, what am I going to do if I get another wierdo downloaded into my VR headset. If he is the same as Fen and she could do it, he must be able to as well.

I summon up all the courage in my body to deal with this issue and prevent further interest in me.

“Why exactly should I give it back to you? Speaking of which, what even is it?”

I see some irritation on his face. He squats down and sits on my stomach.

“The ‘Draconic Ember Essence’ is a reagent I created by placing my flames inside a gem over a long period of time. When I require, I can call upon all that stored power and use it. If you do not give it to me, not only will I kill you and take it from your dead body, but I will kill all those friends of yours that also came with you. The knight, the sneaky woman, even that other lady that was there.”

“NO!”

Back in a panic, I cannot let him do that. If Verde and that prince receive this kind of retribution, then it would be fine. But if Fen dies…

“Then it is simple. Give it back.”

I have no use for this item anyway. According to his description of what it is, I can’t use it regardless. I open my inventory and then remove the strange orb, which seems to even light up the immediate area with a red hue.

“Much better, I had suspected this would be more difficult.”

Grael’s expression seems to relax once getting his item back. He even gets off me and stands up.

“You are very compliant, aren’t you. I actually may need someone like you in the future to do my bidding. One can’t let such a person past them.”

Grael leans down and grasps my forehead with one of his hands, slowly gripping harder and harder until the pain became almost unbearable.

“Mph, that will do. Now I will always know where you are.” He speaks like he is proud of whatever he did.

Before I notice it, a window appears in front of me.

You have decided to follow the Religion of Grael.

You are the only follower of this newly found religion.
By following and fulfilling the requests of Grael, you 
will gain 'Belief' in your religion and be granted
stronger powers in your religious skill, granted by
your god himself.

In joining this religion, you have gained the following:
- Belief + 10
- Skill 'Origin of the Dire Flame'
- Skill 'Grael's Essence'
Origin of the Dire Flame
The power of Grael, passed down to those who have
believe in him. The stronger your belief is, the
stronger this skill will be.
The Dire Flame is a fire that cannot be extinguished
by ordinary means. The most powerful flames are said
to burn for six days and six nights.

SLvl: 1
- +5 Strength
- +5 Dexterity
- +5 Agility

- Ability to use the magic "Minor Dire Flame"
- This ability is Soul Bound, cannot be unequipped 
as long as you maintain faith in Grael.
Grael's Essence
Dragons are the most prideful creatures known to 
exist. Most of these creatures live in seclusion 
and are rarely seen. They also boast the most 
powerful talent in magic.
The essence of a dragon contains not only their
magical aptitude but also their endless bloodlust.

SLvl: 1
- +20 Intelligence

- Magic Force + 3
- +200 Mana

- Immunity to Dire Flame
- Ability to exert a dragon's bloodlust, only
effective on existences below your current level
- This ability is Soul Bound, cannot be unequipped 
as long as you maintain faith in Grael

“W-what did you just do!?” I stammer at the man standing over me, almost speechless.

“What do you mean? I imparted a fraction of my power into your body which I will mentally be aware of and always know where you are. Although…” He seemed to frown a bit while looking at the hand he used.

“It seems as if that power has fused into you and formed some kind of bond between the two of us. It is a little unexpected and I don’t think I will be able to reverse it, but it should not matter. You are but a servant, after all.”

A servant? This guy really looks down on others.

“Well, I received what I came to get. I will leave now. But our relationship has just begun. I will call for you when I need you next, and you will come.”

He gives me a cruel and ruthless smile before turning around and walking back into the crowd.

I lie there for a while and watch the sun through the small gaps in the canopy above the city. It slowly sinks in the sky as the time to meet with Verde and Prince Charming. For some reason I don’t even feel shocked at the new mana bar that I have below my health, even if it says I have 913 mana points.

Standing up, I slowly read back through the skills of this religion I have been forcefully conscripted to. Based off his words, It doesn’t seem like it is a legitimate religion of any kind, but that is how the system interpreted his action.

‘These NPC’s, like Fen, are far too strange!’

I complain in my mind, how can they do these things. And why am I the only target of them! Well, I can’t instantly assume that there aren’t others who are attached to these abnormal artificial intelligences.

“Lost, we are currently at the Gold Run Inn waiting for you.”

Verde’s voice appears out of nowhere, startling me for a moment.

“I am on my way now! Hmm, where exactly is the inn?”

“Oh! it is in the east side of Grenton, near where all the low level players purchase their supplies. Head towards the nearest town exit and turn left. Follow that street down and it is the sign which looks like a river of gold. Sorry, there are no street names in this game apparently.”

“I will be there shortly!”

I end the private chat with Verde and open a new one with Mason.

“Mason! Can you come meet me at the Gold Run Inn?”

“I can do that. When did you want to meet?”

“I’m heading over there now, make it in ten minutes?”

“Hah, okay. I will meet you there.”

I go to leave the alley way, but first I am curious about this new spell. Opening my main menu, I access the information about my current skills.

Name: Lost(Man in the Hood)
Health: 1252/1252
Stamina: 441/441
Mana: 913/913

Sacred Art         Cost
Triple Thrust    13 Stamina
CrossX           22 Stamina
Backstab         84 Stamina
Pincer           112 Stamina
Multi Mirage     197 Stamina

Magic                 Cost
Minor Dire Flame    800 Mana

I am shocked at the cost of the spell. Opening up the information on it reveals that there is also no chant for it. I only need to call out the name of the spell.

“Minor Dire Flame!”

The small fireball slowly takes form in my right hand, the space crackling with a red lightning as flames coalesce into a single point. The ball of fire is only about the size of my fist, but it burns incredibly bright and gives off an enormous amount of heat.

I throw the small fireball at the ground. It flies directly straight, unaffected by gravity, to hit the dirt ground. The impact causes it to splash, almost as if the fire itself is some kind of liquid.

All of a sudden a considerable sized area in the alleyway is set alight by the fire. Panicking, I flee back into the crowd before anyone sees what I did. As soon as I am gone from the scene I hear voices shouting out behind me.

“Hey there is a fire in this alley! Someone, quick, help me put it out!”

“I have the skill for water magic! Allow me-” A faint chanting follows as he casts some kind of water strike attack

“What kind of useless skill is that, it evaporated before it could even touch it!”

“It must be some kind of high class fire magic! Oh no, it’s spreading onto the houses!”

“Idiots! Let me, I know much higher water based magic than that amateur spell you used. And I can do it chantless.”

“That did nothing!”

“I don’t know what’s going on, I submerged it in water and it still didn’t go out! What the hell kind of fire is that!”

I don’t want to stick around for them to start chasing down whoever started it, there is a chance that someone witnessed me leaving the scene of the crime.

I hurry east, trying to get to the Gold Run Inn as fast as possible.

About fifteen minutes later, I arrive at the inn in question. It is in a small lane off one of the main paths that lead to one of Grenton’s exits. The inn is made out of the same dark wood as every other building, but it is about five times the size of any other building in the area.

Walking in, the sound of players slurping drinks and shouting enter my ears. I am surprised I didn’t hear such a racket outside, before entering. The main room of the lobby consists of simple wooden barrels for tables, stools placed around them for the chairs.

Large candelabras light the room as nearly a hundred players clamour about making an enormous racket.

At a stool in the corner, I see a familiar hooded figure and knight in shining armour. I walk directly over to the two.

“Verde, it is good to see you again!” I know I should probably greet the other guy, but I just feel awkward just thinking of it. Not that he cares, he only pays attention to girls that could become his damsel in distress anyway.

“Ah, Lost! Yes, it is good to see you too!” She shows a smile from under her hood as my eyes are drawn to her rosy lips. My heart rate begins to climb as I feel a hand placed onto my shoulder.

“Lost, we have been waiting for you! I take it all of you are acquainted?”

The person behind me with a hand on my shoulder is Mason, Matrix at his side. I forgot to tell him about the others so naturally he is curious.

“Ah yes, allow me to introduce you to Verde and Prince Charming. These two are Mason and Matrix, brothers in real life.”

The prince’s face twitches when I call his name, but nothing more. Verde seems to giggle a little and I spot Matrix staring at her wide eyed. I feel a little pang of jealousy when she smiles back at him.

“Lost,” Verde calls out, “Where is Fen, isn’t she always with you?”

“Ah… She is sulking.”

“Oh! What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything! Anyway, how about we go see this bartender? I will send the party requests.”

“Changing the subject.” She giggles while everyone listens to our exchange of words.

I send out the party invite to everyone and within a minute we form a party of 5 people. The only one missing is Fen, because she is currently back in my VL.

I walk up to the inn keeper and take out the recommendation from the uncle back in Leaz. I start to panic as I realize that I should not be in this room when handing it to him. But before I can turn around, the owner is standing in front of me behind the bar.

“W-What can I help ye with?” Yep, my intimidation is definitely working.

“I was given this to hand to you.”

As soon as he opens the letter and reads it his eyes widen in surprise.

“Oh, I ‘ave been waiting for someone like ye! Honestly, ye terrified me at first. But if me’ brother ‘as given ‘is recommendation, then clearly ye must be trustworthy! I actually did’n want to ask this o’ anyone else, tis quite a personal matter ye see. Lately, me daughter ‘as been disappearing each mornin’ round sunrise, takin’ a ‘ole bunch of food wit her. Does ye think ye can find out where she be going for me?”

“Oh! Yes!” I am shocked. To finally receive a request directly, I can almost cry in joy.

Quest: Follow my daughter
An innkeeper of Grenton, Rix, has requested you to follow
his daughter when she leaves the house at sunrise to find
out exactly where she goes. When she leaves, she will 
usually carry an unusually large amount of food. 
You must not be caught following her. 

Refusal will cause Rix to lose trust in you, possibly even
refusing to offer his services.
Grade: Orange

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66 Comments

  1. // Read The Gamer c074 yesterday. Was at the previous chapter last week. Pretty sure there are four new characters within the last few. Finally indulged in reading 32 chapters of Zhan Long. Considering there are already 1500+ chapters that increment daily, I don’t know if I’ll ever see those get translated. Got impatient waiting for the Re:Monster manga so went through 7 light novel chapters. Apparently, defiring was sick so World Teacher c011 was released late, but I’ll wait for it to be proofread anyway.

    Reminds me of Ark testing survival cooking on his familiars… ~,~’ (This might be what Simulacra was referring to.)

    *That* bigger half. Aww, the brothers are actually fair and square. *^^*

    The kingdom symbols. Fairy Tail guild tatoos. 😛 The essence of being dangerously away from your home city is somewhat similar to being too far from your base in the children’s game Capture the Flag. Hmm, is End Online international or is it only available to those in Hol’s country/area?

    Elfenhiem made me think of Elfhelm and how the mangaka of Berserk has been stalling so much that it might never be reached within this decade or even the next. =,=

    // It’s cute how most CAPTCHA I’ve been encountering today seem to be intentionally related to valentine’s day.

    Two more Soul Bound skills! Why is he so unlucky? (I feel guilty for chuckling.) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34484.Small_Gods

    // I tried a game called 0 A.D which is similar to Age of Empires. Conclusion: Even at “turtle speed” (0.5x), I still really suck at RTS, haha.

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    1. I’ve done the same with zhan long! in the scant spare moments I get lol.
      I haven’t had time to read world teacher, hopefully defiring doesn’t stop translating cause he is sick of it.
      End online is international, but each major city has it’s own server. I will go more into the real world later when the story encompasses more of it.

      Haven’t actually gotten far into beserk! But I do attempt it from time to time lol.

      Hah, well being unlucky does seem to be a part of his character ^.^

      I love AoE. Build a massive army; Crush the opposition.

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  2. Okay so if Lost had chosen a one handed long sword instead of short swords does that mean that Fighting Prowess +2 would have given him one-handed sword proficiency? Also, if so would have the white warrior class given him a higher proficiency, or is white warrior specific to short swords? Also, earlier it was noted that the proficiency only goes to his right hand. Does the White Warrior proficiency include it to both hands or does he specifically need a dual wielding skill? Okay, sorry just a couple more. What are the effects/importance of Divine items, classes, and skills? Does it mean that they are just that more broken, that they give the highest multipliers or is it an importance thing, they have very unique effects that could change the balance of the game.

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    1. Yes it would have. The system favours a persons preferred type of weapon. Consider a person using a weapon to slowly build up experience using that weapon, and when the skill is upgraded, it specializes to that weapon type.

      This way, sword proficiency could upgrade to either, one-handed swords, two-handed swords, exotic swords, short swords etc…
      The white warrior does not apply to both hands if my memory serves me, you would need a dual-wielding or a second skill with short sword proficiency for it to apply to the off hand.

      Divine items/skills are indeed, more game breaking. But just like legendary stuff, they do still have their weaknesses. Like how Lost’s White Warrior class skill is weak to AoE skills and confined spaces. This helps maintain balance, you just require better tactics to overcome them

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      1. Oooh, i see, i see. That makes sense. Although what i mean is how do divine skills/items differ from legendary or epic? What would a divine skill do exactly?

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        1. Hmm, a divine skill is simply a lot more rare than a legendary. While a legendary skill may have a damage multiplier of 3.1, a divine may have 4.1 at the same level. Naturally, they also provide stronger and rarer skill and the like too. I haven’t got any in specific but I am sure to have at least one in the story.
          Ok I lied, there is one that is planned, but telling would be a spoiler, lol

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  3. Hi 🙂

    I found your here Novel yesterday and enjoyed reading it from the Beginning to the End.
    I really enjoy reading fantasy/scifi story’s in which you can see the Characters develop over the time.
    The Characters you describe are very like-able, especially Lost and Fen.

    What I liked best was the elaborate Skill/Lvl System. You definitely have a knack for that and going into detail, which makes it easy (for me :P) to follow.
    I’m curious to see where you want to go with the Classes in the Game and how you will further implement and describe magic in the game.

    One thing i did not like though is Lost Secret Identity Name. While I like the Idea of a secret Identity that comes with the Hood, the Name ‘The Hooded Man’ does not sound very.. inspired imo.
    I would go with something like: The White Streak or The Nameless Warrior.

    Second if I were Holly i would at least write some Emails or letters to my sisters. Or is that forbidden too? I think I remember that he was’nt allowed to see them, so since they are pretty close i would imagine that he finds a way to communicate? maybe?

    Do you plan to let the Characters meet in the RL or even make them able to use their learned skills RL?
    Thats probably too spoilerish so dont answer that question 😀

    Anyways you got me hooked!

    Eturion

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    1. Think about it bro. I’d you were able to use skills from the game to real life imagine how much the skills would be abused. In the beginning of the novel it says that skills are simplified so that it can’t be used in rl.

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        1. You could technically learn martial arts in the game and bring them out. But these are things you would normally be able to do. A person who has never touched a bow in their life could gather how it is done from watching movies, and then pick up a bow and fire it. They may have terrible aim, but anyone could technically be lethal with it. The game more tries to prevent things like carving up corpses or how to forge blades; Stuff that someone may potentially take a liking to, and then start doing it outside of virtual reality. The only way to prevent every skill/piece of knowledge from being taken out would be to destroy the game itself lol

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          1. I didn’t really understand why you added the bit about the game simplifying forging. I mean, it’s not like that’s dangerous. Any idiot can go out and buy a knife, no forging skill required, if they want to stab someone. It would make more sense if it was just to save players the enormous time and effort of turning ore into a weapon, but not as a ‘safety feature.’ Same with potions; as none of the compounds involved are the same as irl, it wouldn’t hurt anything to have a bit more involved chemistry. If someone wants to create powerful poisons irl all they have to do is look under their sink.

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          2. I get what you mean. With some of that stuff I more looked at it as “frowning on teaching people how to make weapons” anyway, there are a hundred for’s and a hundred against’ to it.
            I will keep that in mind for when I do my next piece of work.

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  4. I’ve quite enjoyed this. It’s very similar to RR, but that’s not a bad thing. There are some grammatical/word errors as well, but again not a bad thing and not unexpected before a story has been sent of for professional edit. It’s very hard to spot one’s own errors in writing as the mind tends to gloss over such things, assuming it got them right the first time. Overall a very fun story, with just a couple of small things bothering me.

    For instance, what’s up with the MC and his sisters? Did he not even point out to the social workers that apparently you can make absurd amounts of money in this VR he’s immersed himself in (I mean, c’mon, a real dollar for a virtual apple (before hunger is even a thing ingame)? That’s a sign of a seller’s market. And since this is sometime in the future the idea of gold farming as a career would probably be pretty widely known). And what about the ‘top’ players? They seem to be levelling with no restraint, but I get the feeling that when the MC eventually runs into them they won’t just be ‘hollow,’ with high level but shitty stats. If that’s the case, what magic are they using when the MC is apparently dedicating every waking moment to this game? Is there no increased difficulty in gaining levels as one gets higher and higher up? I guess I’m just kind of anxious to see the MC in a pvp fight with someone of decent level (I’d say around 100) who isn’t just a power leveller (who ignores stats) to see how he stacks up, considering he’s probably spent more time ingame than them at this point.

    My biggest peeve isn’t really a problem with the story, but it’s the hood thing. That was fairly annoying that he couldn’t take it off, and his abilities are basically neutered. It wasn’t really made perfectly clear either whether it was a psychological thing or a game mechanic. I mean, a game mechanic seemed to be implied but still. I’m hoping whatever it is that will be done away with soon. I can understand for story purposes having him usually fight at a fraction of his potential, that can lead to some pretty cool ‘oh gee’ moments when he suddenly pulls off the hood and goes all-out. But having it completely blocked like this is very annoying and feels a bit… cheap. Like you’re going to keep pushing it until he gets into some all-out fight where he’s getting destroyed then magically the hood will come off.

    I know this seems like a lot of complaints, just wanted to close by saying I’m really enjoying this story. After reading what’s been translated of the royal road and play to live series’ I’ve gotten a real hankering for these VR stories.

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    1. Haha yeah I get what you mean. Well it is kind of a spoiler but at the same time not. But the hood does not last forever. Also, I deliberately avoided specifying the cause ^.^
      There is not increased difficulty in gaining higher levels, but you need a lot more experience. going from level 1 to level 2 may only be 10 wolves worth of experience, while going from level 99 to level 100 would be about 10,000 wolves worth, with the required exp for the next level increasing exponentially.
      Keep in mind, a lot of these power levellers do also dedicate a lot of time to the game. They can easily be upper tier citizens in real life living with their rich parents who can do whatever they like.

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  5. Hey, I forgot something, can you have more than one class skills? If you do, can Lost have a second class that something like Dire Flame Holy Knigh when he gain more religious skills? Well, that all right now. and man, the website forgot about my login.

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  6. “Finally, I am in the great WOODEN city of Grenton. Marveling at all the WOODen towers and WOODen fences and WOODen trees, I walk by countless WOODen tables and WOODen chairs at various shops all constructed out of WOODen beams and fancy inlaid WOODen panels. My goodness, almost everything in town (except fireplaces and stoves) is made of WOOD! Ahh, I have some new skills. What’s this one about fire that cannot be extinguished until as much as 6 days after creating it? Let’s try it out in this abandoned alley!”

    *years pass by*

    “Finally, I am in the great rebuilt city of Grenton famed for masonry and beautiful brickworks. Marveling at all the MASONry towers and Masonry fences and Masonry streets, I heard they had a fire years ago that their incompetent fire department didn’t put out. Mrs O’Leary’s cow must have been at it again. I walk by countless shops and residences constructed out of Masonry. Ahh, I have some new skills. What’s this one about earthquakes that don’t stop until an hour later? No such thing! Let’s try it and see how it works in this abandoned alley!”

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