Chapter 15 – Chain Quest

Edit: The chapter is now edited to my usual style. I hope I got it all and moved it into into present tense where required. Funny that about half of it was already written in my usual style despite me trying to do it differently. I guess, once I built my writing style it kind of became a part of me.
Author’s Notes: Finally. We are finally here. Chapter 15 is now out. Also, considering my workload has exponentially increased recently and along with my house moving my schedule has been destroyed. So, until we can get a new working schedule in place, I will post a next chapter completion percentage at the top of the most recent chapter and update it whenever I get the chance to do more writing!
Lastly, another thing that only takes a moment of your time. I only ask this on full chapter releases, but please do vote for end online at TopWebFiction. The votes that are cast only last for 7 days so they are in need of some renewing,
Editor’s Notes: … ^ He writes too much…

-Verde-

I logged off after we decided to meet back in three hours. Well, it is three hours until we can start the quest once the in game sun rises.

Lifting my VL off of my head, the low evening sun floods my room with a golden light. The window is at the perfect position, allowing the entire room to be evenly filled with the gentle glow.

The first thought that came to my mind is about Lost. The second is that today happens to be Valentine’s day.

Rolling over and stuffing my face into the pillow, my face becomes conflicted. I waited so long for him to arrive in Grenton. I had grown more and more anxious with every passing day hoping he would arrive before today.

Why? Because I want to ask him to be my Valentine for the day.

I have been asked out by an innumerable amount of men in both real life and in virtual reality. Even today, in the game I had a shocking seven people presenting roses before me. Yet every single one of them I refused without a second thought.

Not once in my entire life have I ever considered accepting any man’s feelings. It isn’t because they only approached me based on my looks, I simply did not have any interest in them.

As a matter of fact, I never really had much interest in anyone until a while after meeting Lost.

I don’t know exactly when it started, but I get incredibly nervous when we are close together. And every time we are near each other, I remember that kiss!

Of course, I do not let this show on my face. Attending those kinds of gatherings with my family, I have been taught since a young age to hide my true emotions. It simply does not change the feelings that are hidden underneath.

I had taken a step into opening myself up and inviting him, but he simply came too late.

After that I had to tell him to meet me at sunset, being unable to see him for my stupid actions.

When I found out that he was not going to arrive in time for me to ask him to have a proper valentine’s date with me, I took it out on others.

I travelled around Grenton stealing peoples purses and even jewellery when I dared to. I did it far too much and eventually got caught. The guard then took all my stolen possessions and escorted me directly to a jail cell, where I was forced to reside for twenty four hours in the game.

The punishment could have been much worse, but I was fortunate that this was the first time I was caught in Grenton. I say it is fortunate because each time you are caught the sentence will double each time. Although, there is a limit depending on the crime, I hear the maximum time someone can be locked up is about 1 month in real life. Most people would simply log out for the duration of these periods though.

For one reason or another, I can’t seem to get any rest. Lifting my head off of the pillow, I see that only an hour has passed since I logged off, meaning there is still two hours until we planned to meet up.

Making up my mind, I put my VL back on and log back into End Online.

Returning to the inn, the entire lobby is packed with players drinking ale and around the barrels that are used as tables. In the corner of the room there is a platform with a bard playing. Whether they are a player or an NPC, I don’t know, but the atmosphere the bard is providing to the inn is incredibly relaxing.

I decide to walk the night time streets for a while, if I couldn’t sleep outside of the game, I don’t want to try now that I’m in it. Truth be told, I had logged out and slept while I was locked away in the prison when I got caught for stealing.

Leaving the Gold Run Inn, a cool night breeze swept by me. Pulling my cloak tighter against my body to escape the cold, the Grenton night time takes a while to sink in.

Paper lanterns hang from all the buildings, illuminating the streets with a soft warm glow. The light is almost enough for one to feel warm, despite the wind. The beauty of the surroundings more than compensate for the pitch black sky, next to no stars shining through the foliage of Grenton’s world tree.

As I wander through the streets, I spot a familiar figure in a white fur cloak at a restaurant. The only strange thing is that this person does not have their hood on. About to pass up on the person as simple resembling him, I notice the girl sitting at the opposite side of the table.

‘Fen!!?’

My mind cries out an alarm and I know that the other person must indeed be Lost. But when did he take the hood off? I thought he couldn’t take it off!

Realizing I am only about twenty meters away, and in the middle of the road, I dash to the side and hide behind a building.

The first thing I do is open my registered friends list. Sure enough, Lost is currently online. I poke my head out from behind the building I am hiding behind. Making sure to activate my skill to prevent other players from looking at me while I steal a glance at Lost and Fen.

My face suddenly becomes all flushed as Lost picks up a piece of meat on his fork and feeds it to Fen, directly into her mouth. My chest suddenly becomes heavy and my mind clouds.

I pull myself back around the corner and hide.

“Why should I worry about that wolf? She is just an NPC, not a real person.”

I voice my thoughts in a whisper without thinking. From the moment I started liking Lost, I never really felt concerned about Fen because she was nothing but a computer program, a ‘companion’ in the game. But right now it feels like the guy I like is about to choose someone else!

‘Impossible! There is no way anyone would choose someone else over me! I’ve seen the lustful look that every guy gives me. I may not be able to see under Lost’s hood but no doubt he looks at me the same! Hmph!’

Turning my embarrassment around, I steel my mind in preparation for what I plan to do next.

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

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

-Lost-

After I have a quick sleep for an hour, the headache I had seems to have dulled. I can still feel it, but thankfully not enough to call it painful.

After waking, I slowly make my way into the bathroom to wash my face and refresh myself before returning to put my VL on. The whole process takes about twenty minutes, but that is mostly thanks to climbing in and out of my wheelchair.

Inside the game, I return to the alley where I originally logged off from. The sun is still down in game, but the eastern horizon is slowly starting to brighten.

‘Now, I should avoid using my ‘Perceptual Sight’ sacred art in case that headache comes back.’ I remind myself in my mind. I also use my hands to feel my head, no longer hindered by that hood.

Checking the time, I should still have about half an hour before we are all scheduled to meet back up. Everyone other than Fen is also offline too. As for that wolf girl, she is not only standing right next to me, but also clinging onto my arm.

I don’t try to remove her from my arm. There is a small part inside my chest that is terrified of her. Perhaps I am weak willed, but I cannot find the courage to force her away.

Before doing anything, there was one thing that I wanted to check, so I bring up my player data.

Name: Lost
Health: 1252/1252
Stamina: 441/441
Mana: 467/913

Lvl: 97
Lvl UP: 54%

Str: 59 +20
Agi: 191 +55
Dex: 61 +33
Int: 11 + 20
Mnd: 40
Lck: 23

Fame/Infamy: 0
Alignment: -5
God: Grael
Belief: 10

Equipped Skills:
Class Skill: White Warrior  (SLvl 13, 17%)
[Unavailable]
Potion Production           (SLvl 16, 39%)
Mining                      (SLvl 1, 0%)
Smithing                    (SLvl 1, 0%)
Grael's Essence             (SLvl 1, 0%)
Origin of Dire Flame        (SLvl 1, 0%)
[Empty]
[Empty]

Reserve Skills:
[Empty]

Inside, my heart seemingly jumps for joy. Not only is that ridiculous title gone, but so is all my infamy! I am a little surprised at my new religious stats, especially that my alignment has turned into a negative for unknown reasons.

I walk out of the alley with her attached to me and every single player walking down the street stops in their tracks to stare at me. Not only the men, but even the female players give me hateful eyes.

I secretly sigh to myself. Of course, a young man and a young woman walking out of a dark alley is incredibly suspicious. Enough so that they will immediately jump to conclusions.

Ignoring my surroundings, I pass by the players without giving them any attention. With this dangerous AI attached to my arm, I have bigger concerns anyway.

I still have some time before the meeting, so I decide to walk around town for a while.

About ten minutes of wandering around the city and I find what appears to be the equivalent of the bazaar back in Iceridge. It is on the ground floor where the market stalls run by players lined up. Most appear to be vacant but I am sure they will fill as soon as the sun rises. Players aren’t machines, they need sleep.

The only main difference is that instead of being in a large open space like in Iceridge, this one is set up on a large street. The stalls line the road on both side, extending for a good hundred meters.

Above me I see faint lights showing through the wooden floor ten meters up. I can’t tell from down here, but I suspect that this bazaar may continue up there. Grenton does have four times the population of Iceridge after all.

I spot a player setting up his stall not too far from me. He stands nearly as tall as me and has slick black hair swept back. For some reason, this player looks incredible familiar.

“Mouse!”

I call out to the person setting up the stall. He turns his head to look at me in surprise.

“My apologies,” he calls out back to me, “but have we met before?”

“Of course! We used to do a lot of business down in Iceridge. How could you forget?”

“I remember now! You are the man that was in the hood. Yeah, you never even gave me your name you know!”

“Hahah, my name is Lost… Hey! You have sent money into my virtual wallet before, so clearly you must know it.”

“Doesn’t change the fact that you never told me your name before!”

Mouse suddenly breaks out in laughter, which I can only frown in response.

“By the way,” I cut off his laughing with a serious tone, “what are you doing here? Aren’t you meant to be back in Iceridge. I went to say goodbye before I fled the city, but you weren’t there.”

“Indeed, I am from there.” He holds up his right hand, revealing the symbol of Glace, “But as I am sure you know, there is three times the business to be made here.”

Bringing his arms out wide and signalling to the whole area, I recall that this guy was always one to speak with body actions.

“But,” he continues on, “you had to flee from there? What did you possibly do?”

“Mmm. Well, the Swords of Light guild seemed to get a bad impression of me. Safe to say, that city was no longer safe for me to be in or around.”

“The Swords of Light? I haven’t heard of them.”

“Apparently they have a pretty big name for themselves. They are quite notorious among other players so I am surprised you haven’t.”

“Maybe I have heard of them. I just can’t seem to recall.”

He looked at me with a strange expression on his face. I don’t know exactly what it was, but something seemed a little off.

“Anyway, I need some armour crafted!” I previously had no clue who was going to repair and craft all this ‘Tattered Mouldy Leather’ for me into a much needed new piece of armour, buy I just found the person who created my current torso armour.

“As you know, I am always pleased to be of service. For the right price of course.” A business smile crept onto Mouse’s face.

“I have the materials right here. I hear it is cheaper if I produce the materials myself.” Well, I read up on the forums that most smiths will charge less if you provide the raw material.

I pull out my large stock of the leather and place it in front of him. He frowns as he looks down on the pile of rotted leather. Picking a small piece up and inspecting it, only leads his brow to furrow further.

“It’s no good.” He speaks as he closes his eyes and shakes his head.

“What do you mean? It is a crafting material, from a high level monster at that!”

“It is a crafting material, but not for any kind of quality armour. I mean, look at how frail this material is. It also has a toxic status effect. I suspect this will create an armour with incredibly low durability and slowly poisons you. Which would be completely useless, and with no value.”

I can tell by his serious tone that he is being completely honest with me.

“Well, I may as well do something with it. What can you do with it?” I feel my hopes for some kind of fantastic armour dropping to rock bottom.

“Why don’t I ask an acquaintance to use this and create some clothing? That way the durability will not matter.”

“I suppose… It is better than nothing after all.”

Mouse lightly shrugs his shoulders, letting me know there is nothing that can be done about it. I lay out all of the leather in front of him. A slight widening of his eyes shows his surprise at the quantity, even though he takes it all nonetheless.

“It will be three gold coins.” He says while smiling, which I quietly hand over to him, “And now that that is out of the way. We need to discuss the real business.”

All of a sudden he takes on the most serious face I have ever seen him make.

“T-the real business?” I ask nervously.

“Yes. You must tell me, who is that stunning lady attached to your arm.”

The words take a minute to sink in, considering the atmosphere. I was expecting him to ask something a little more… Suiting the seriousness on his face.

“Lost! We are all here at the inn. Where are you?”

Verde’s almost urgent voice suddenly interrupts my train of thought. Finally taking notice of the sky, I see vibrant rays of crimson and orange light shining past the underneath of the canopy from behind the large world tree in the center of the city.

“I’m sorry! I will be there in a few minutes!” I send a private message back in desperation, there is no way I can jeopardize my own quest by being late.

“Mouse, sorry! But I have to run! Please take care of that clothing for me!”

“Sure, sure. Go do your thing. And don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.” He gives another business smile as I am about to turn around, only to stop in my tracks.

“What secret?” I am genuinely curious.

“You know, that fire that someone started the other day. The city guards are furiously trying to find who did it, nearly every person with fire magic has been put to the question. I even hear there is quite the bounty, considering that the flame burnt down 5 houses in the end.”

“Wait! What!? How did you kn… Never mind, I have to go!”

I don’t even have the time to wonder how he knows such a thing, nor why he is being overly kind to me. There is a bounty on my head, and in the end, he is a businessman.

I rush off towards the Gold Run Inn with Fen still silently attached to my arm, not questioning Mouse’s knowledge again.

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

-Verde-

I return online and rush over to the inn in no time at all. After all, I returned to the game only five minutes before our meeting time. Considering that as the sun comes up, the system wakes up all the players that choose to sleep in game. Naturally, all the streets soon fill up.

Once I reached the inn, I see the two brothers, Mason and Matrix, sitting at one of the table barrels with Sir Laurence. The brothers are busy chatting to each other and have completely excluded Sir Laurence. Even though he probably decided himself to not talk to them, it was still somewhat of a pitiable sight to see.

“I’m here.” I put on my best smile under the hood that covers most of my face. Mason only nods while giving me a glance but Matrix immediately blushes and looks away. At the same time, Sir Laurence gets up and walks over, instantly going to one knee in front of me in the pose of a knight before his queen.

“My lady, I am glad you are safe. I spent the entire time worrying that some fiend may have attacked you.”

Despite how used to his selfishly embarrassing lines I am, he occasionally speaks one that I can’t help but feel incredibly awkward in front of.

“Where is Lost?” Passing off the knight’s line like it was never spoken, I address the other two.

“No idea,” Mason replies, “It says he is online though.”

“Hang on.”

I open up my friends list and select ‘Lost’. From there I send a private message asking where exactly he is considering the rest of us are already here. I know Fen is not here, but she is an extension of Lost, and will be with him.

He almost seems to be in a bit of a panic when he realizes the time, which causes me to let out a small giggle inwardly.

Five minutes later, Lost rushes through the door as it is time to start the quest. He immediately send the party request to everyone, yet nobody other than me accept it. They are all too busy staring wide eyed at him, including Sir Laurence.

“T-the hood!” Mason stammers. He has not known Lost for long, but he was fully aware of the fact that that hood does not come off.

I’m not shocked at the hood, but the girl who was shamelessly wrapping her arms around Lost’s arm took me aback. I need to do something about that!

“Nothing to do about it.” Lost shrugged.

The next surprise that Sir Laurence talks to him, for the first time without me explicitly wishing him to do so.

“That ghastly expression looks like something out of a horror film. Put it back on.”

There is no hatred in his voice, it is completely emotionless. There is however, shock and hatred over those words in the eyes of the two brother, Fen, and even myself. Sure, Lost’s expression looks was something akin to someone who had been to hell, but to say it so forthright and put someone down about it is going too far.

Through the silent atmosphere, he slowly rises the hood up and brings it back over his head, allowing that mysterious shadow to shroud itself back down over his face once again.

He tests taking the hood off and back on again, but eventually leaves it on.

“Let’s do this quest.” He quietly mumbles to us as he walks past and towards the bar keeper who has just come out of the back of the store.  With Fen clinging to Lost’s arm, as soon as she passes behind Sir Laurence, with a sweeping motion one leg, kicks against the stool he was sitting on. The two rear stool legs snap like twigs and the knight in shining armour falls to the ground with a shout as the wooden structure beneath him collapses.

By now, everyone has accepted the party request and moves behind him to start this quest.

“Lost! You are here! Perfect timing, my daughter has just left the back door. Follow me through to the back.” Rix, the innkeeper, speaks most of the sentence in hushed tones, not wanting to alert any unnecessary attention.

He leads us behind the bar and out the back door of the room. We pass through what appears to be a living area, and then a large kitchen, where a lady as large and round as a giant tomato was busy flying up a large amount of stir fry in an equally enormous wok.

She didn’t even turn around when we walked in, so all we could see was her massive back. With one thick braid of hair running down her back, she was dressed in blue overalls over a pink and white floral shirt.

“Sweetheart, these are the people that are going to find out where that pesky daughter of our is sneaking off to with our food. They were recommended by my brother.” I can see the loving affection he had for this woman

“I don’t care,” she speaks over her shoulder in an incredibly harsh tone to her husband, “Didn’t I tell you to just leave her alone!”

“Honey, I care for her! I’m sorry, but I must know she is safe.”

The wife let out a snort and Rix led us through to the back of the kitchen, where a door led to the alley behind the building.

“Sorry to be a burden to you,” Rix speaks to us quietly, yet very rapidly, “But, can you please follow my daughter and find out where she goes with all that bread!”

The next thing I know, I am standing in the alley behind the building with everyone else, the back door to the inn firmly closed in front of me.

“Wait, what about her name?” I ask towards the closed door.

“What about her looks? Who exactly are we looking for here?” Lost follows up next to me.

I stare at the door the same as everybody else, but there is no response.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have time to wait around,” Lost let out a large sigh. “At least we know she is carrying bread. Judging by the parents, she should be anywhere between five and fifteen years old. Originally it was just you, Verde, that was going to secretly follow her. But now, we all need to split up and locate her first.”

“Everyone, keep your party chats on so we can keep each other updated. Make sure to make the call when you find her.”

Everyone looks at each other and gives their agreements.

As I go to head off in my own direction, I notice Fen sticking close to Lost and suddenly get an idea.

“Lost,” I sheepishly call out, causing him to stop and turn around. “It may be better if Fen splits up as well, to cover more ground.”

Lost seems to give it some consideration, nodding his head a few times. Next to him, Fen shoots a terrifying glare at me that sends shivers all up my spine.

“Don’t… want to…” The wolf girl speaks in an icy voice.

“W-well,” Lost starts stuttering, “I g-guess there is no helping it if she comes along with me or not.”

I don’t fully understand why Lost seems so nervous, but I kind of get the premonition that he is afraid of something.

“But you two are the fastest among us. If you split up we all will cover a lot more ground.” It is a solid argument. If we want to succeed this quest, we will need everyone doing their part.

“I-I know. Let’s not worry about it t-this time.”

From the glare the girl is still giving me, I feel like the entire area around me has dropped a few degrees.

As I let out a deep breath, steam forms in the frosty air in front of my face.

‘My god, the temperature has actually dropped! Is this that wolf’s doing?!’

“Okay, I get it.” I actually don’t, but for some reason he seems to want to give that wolf girl what she wants. I am also frightened of pushing too hard and causing her to attack me.

Turning around I head off into the crowded streets to search for this child that is supposed to be running away with bread for some unknown purpose.

Five minutes into my investigation and I start getting a headache. I don’t know if it is because of this quest or the fact that I never really paid attention before, but while the ratio is low, there is an incredibly large number of child NPCs running around.

I immediately rule out all the boys and only look at the girls, but none have any bread on them.

“This is so frustrating! How can I find the girl when the streets are so crowded and the kids keep disappearing!” I call out over the party chat in frustration.

“Verde,” Mason responds to me, “you need to be in a high place. Get on top of a roof or similar where you can overlook the entire scene.”

“That would help!”

“No worries. Oh! I found her!”

“What!? Already!?” It was not just me who was astonished, but also Lost, Matrix and Sir Laurence over the private chat.

“Ah yeah, she just entered a pretty dark alley with a basket full of bread. Pretty sure it is her. Let me send up a beacon on my location.”

All of a sudden a translucent beam of golden light like an early sunrise reaches up into the air. Even if through all the people a buildings, I can only see a fraction of it, I instantly recognize the light for what it was.

It is an option called the ‘Beacon’ that any member of a party could utilize at any time. All it does is send up a beam of light for one minute which indicates the players position. The best part about it is that only the other party members can see the light. Naturally, this is useless in underground dungeons and the like.

I weave my way through the busy streets towards the faint light. Surprisingly, Mason is quite far away. It takes me a good ten minutes to finally reach him, his ‘beacon’ being sent up multiple times as he slowly follows the innkeeper’s daughter through the crowded streets.

When I arrive I find him on a rooftop, with Lost, Fen and Matrix already there.

Looking dumbfounded from the street, I have no clue how to even get up there. Pursing my lips, I look around for something to climb up.

While I can easily jump a five or six meter gap with my agility, that does not mean I can jump five meters up to get on top of a double story roof.

Around the other side of the building I spot a few crates stacked up and a second floor balcony. Jumping up onto the crates, I launch myself up onto the balcony ledge and further up to the roof.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the full jump and ended up with only hanging onto the edge with my hand, before ungracefully pulling myself up and onto the roof.

“I don’t understand. Where is she going? It is almost as if she is heading for the city walls,” Mason states quizzically.

“Hmm. It could be possible,” Lost replies, seemingly devoid of emotion.

“H-Hey!” I call out to the group who were currently ignoring me. “What’s happening? I only just got here.”

“Ah, Verde!” Lost turned around, his voice suddenly happy, “We have found the girl, but she is taking a strange path. We are having a bit of trouble keeping track of her in this crowd.”

He indicates to a young eight year old girl strolling through the crowd quite quickly. She is wearing a light blue scarf and a pink and white polka dot dress. Under her arm is a small basket with a few loaves of bread in it.

“Okay, I will go down and follow behind her.” I feel a little sour considering it was quite the effort to get up here, and now I have to go back down.

Down on the ground I see the others easily jumping the distance to the next building as they refuse to let the girl get out of their view.

“Hey, Lost. Where is Sir Laurence?” I ask the leader with uncertainty. I have never known him to be one to be late or get lost.

“I’m not entirely sure. Considering that he has such heavy armour and is the slowest of us all, he may still be trying to get here.”

“Well, this is pretty far away from where we began. How exactly did Mason find this place?”

“Also not exactly sure. Mason mentioned something about putting himself in a little girls shoes and figuring out where he would go.”

“Okay! Well, I don’t really get it, but I’m only here to secretly follow this child. It is lucky we found her in the first place.”

As I say that, I also focus my attention on having everyone around me avert their eyes.

A cool, secretive sensation invades my mind, informing me that the skill is now currently active.

In front of me I am only a few steps behind the girl.

Almost as if she is aware I am chasing her, she suddenly stops and does a complete ninety degree turn, disappearing into an alley in the blink of an eye.

A tinge of worry assaults me, but I feel better when I catch up to the little girl only a minute later.

I keep giving Lost reports over the party chat. He is slightly behind as when she had entered the alley the others lost track of her.

I go in and out of dark alleys and through busy streets, almost as if I am being lead on a wild goose chase. This girl clearly did not want anyone following her.

The houses all around me slowly get smaller and smaller. Eventually, I come to a sudden realization.

‘We are approaching the city wall!’

Lost and the others are no longer trying to follow as well. Once Sir Laurence caught up with them, there was no longer a way for all of them to keep up with me and the girl on the ground.

I told them at one stage to just come down, but apparently, they aren’t meant to be seen. Of course, I yelled out to them that if they didn’t want to get seen then they should hurry up and get off of the roofs. It was an incredibly frustrating conversation. And over such a simple thing, I even lost control of my emotions.

Feeling ashamed, I follow the girl in silence. She often flicks her head back to check for any followers, which makes me incredibly uneasy and nervous, but my skill to avert her eyes from me prevails in the end.

When I bring my eyes back to the girl from looking at the wooden buildings, she has somehow disappeared from right in front of me. My heart clenches at the thought that I just failed the quest.

I frantically search the surrounding to find out where she could have gone, but I cannot discern where she went no matter how hard I look.

Returning to where I saw her last, I can’t gather where else she could have gone. There are some small cheap residences on one side of the road, while on the other side, there is the city wall.

‘She must have gone into one of the residences, but which one?’

I ponder to myself while looking around. There is no way she climbed the wall with some kind of extraordinary feat, so what else could there be.

My eyes wander to the base of the wall where I notice something peculiar. There is a thin plate of metal, about forty centimetres long and wide, leaning against the wall.

‘No, it can’t be.’

I move over to the plate and move it out of the way. I may have suspected it, but to find a hole in the wall is still surprising.

I hesitate for a moment, not wanting to crawl along the ground through the small hole. The hesitation goes as I consider that this quest needs to be done. Lost probably won’t forgive me for causing him to fail it just because I didn’t want to crawl through the dirt.

I get down on my elbows and crawl through the gap. The wall is about two meters deep and having to squeeze my shoulders together in such a tight spot makes my chest feel rather uncomfortable.

After a minute of wiggling around I emerge on the other side of the wall. The hole on the outside isn’t covered by a metal plate, but instead has a clump of unnaturally long grass growing over it.

Outside of that crop of grass was a small clearing about fifty meters in diameter. Everything else was what appeared to be endless woods, the trees reaching from ten to twenty meters tall.

On my way out of the grass it is unavoidable that I made a few rustling noises. So who is to blame me for warning not only the little girl that I was following, but also the little boy she is meeting.

The boy is wearing simple brown clothes, with a white beanie on his head that was pulled down to cover his ears. Some small wisps of blonde hair poke through the rim of the beanie, but most appear to have been tucked underneath it.

There is a strange air about this boy. He appears to only be eight years old, the same as the girl. But he had this mysterious aura that causes him to look incredibly elegant.

The noise I made allowed these two to become aware that someone is definitely there and look past my ability. The boy is the first to throw his glance over at me, fear showing in his eyes. The girl, at the sight of me, seems to be about ready to start crying when the boy looked back at her.

“W-what have you done!?” The boy cries out to the girl next to him. “I told you that you can’t tell anybody about me, and you led them here!?”

“N-no! It’s not like that!” She states back, letting out a few sniffles.

“You kept saying how you want me to go over to yours to play. How you want to introduce me to your parents. Did you let someone come here with you?”

“I c-checked, there was nobody f-following me!”

“Well now I have to tell me parents, and we will have to move away! I won’t be able to come here again!”

Even the boy started tearing up now, while the girl started balling. All I could do was stand there dumbstruck and witness this scene.

‘What the hell did I just witness. Is this the kids these days? Acting out soap operas?’

I fail to realize that my mouth was hanging open. The boy runs off into the woods with a frightening speed for someone his age, and the girl sprints back to the hole in the wall in tears.

I stand there for a good five minutes before actually doing anything.

“Lost… I have some good news and bad news.” I hesitantly send a private message to the party leader.

“Oh? What are they? Hopefully the bad news isn’t too bad, so start with that.”

“If you insist… Well, the bad news is, that I was caught following the girl.”

“Oh no! Doesn’t that mean we’ve failed the quest!? Please, what’s the good news?”

“I found out what she was up to. I was caught at the end, but I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. It seemed like an unavoidable situation at least.”

Lost let out a sigh over the private chat before speaking again.

“I doubt it was unavoidable. But anyway, I think we still may have passed. Thank you for your help Verde, really. Meet back at the inn in an hour?”

I blushed when I heard his gratitude for my help. Being of use to him really made me feel warm inside.

“Okay! I will see you there in an hour!”

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

-Lost-

I am quite shocked and worried when I first hear that Verde was spotted. Part of the quest description was not to get caught, after all. But it seems like she only got caught at the very end, when we discovered what Rix’s daughter was doing with the bread. As it turns out, she was giving it to a mysterious boy outside of town every morning.

Dropping the thought for the time being, there is still an hour before I have to meet up with Verde to turn the quest in.

“Sorry, Mouse. I like you, but there is no extra room for any party members.”

Well, there is room for one more player. Our sixth party member is technically my companion, Fen. As I recall, it is possible to have a party with more than six members, but only six players will get experience, and it will be less than if the party contained just those six players.

“Aww, come on,” Mouse conjects to me, “We have known each other for quite some time. How ’bout if I just travel with you? I won’t join your party or anything.”

I give it some thought. The deal itself should not impact me at all, but that is the thing, I don’t see what is in it for him. If he came to Grenton to do business with more people, why is he offering to leave that to play with me? Something about it seems suspicious.

“Hah, I will have to pass. Even if you are around level one hundred and fifty like you say, we don’t really need any help.”

I give him my best smile to try stay on his good side. Seeing me, he just lets out a sigh.

“Oh well. Maybe one of these days I will get to have a good adventure.”

‘What do you mean by that? If you are such a high level why do you need us for a good adventure?’

I sincerely wanted to say those words out loud, but I thought better of it.

“You will get one eventually. I am sure of it. Anyway, I best be off.”

Taking my new ‘Tunic of Toxication’, I head off to go find the auction house in order to sell that ”Nightingale’ Helmet’.

The new clothing item I got came out as an ‘epic’ rarity item. I guess the materials themselves weren’t too bad. Even Mouse was incredibly surprised when he got them back from his ‘friend’, or so he said.

Tunic of Toxication (Brown)
A tunic made from 'Tattered Mouldy Leather' which has
retained the toxicity of the material. Due to being
such a small quantity of materials, the wearer will
slowly build up an immunity to toxins.
Due to the material being so frail, durability will 
slowly drop. This item cannot be repaired.

Requirements
- Mnd 33

Defence: 0
Durability: 10/10

Abilities:
- 20 poison damage every 10 seconds
- Durability will drop by 1 every 10 minutes.
- Poison resistance will permanently increase by 1% 
  for every straight ten minutes of wearing this item.
- Acid resistance will permanently increase by .5% 
  for every straight ten minutes of wearing this item.

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

I was somewhat disappointed with the auction house. The cathedral had looked slightly different from the one back in Iceridge, even made out of some kind of incredibly dark timber, but the interior was practically the exact same. They even had an extremely annoying receptionist.

Nonetheless, I got all my business done. I put up the helmet up for a two week auction at a starting price of twenty dollars, exactly the same as last time.

Once all the business was done, I head off straight for the Gold Run Inn.

Inside the inn, I meet up with everyone else, where they all happen to be drinking large pints of ale. Even Verde has a large frothy cup of ale in front of her. Under the brim of her hood, I can see a little bit of that froth on her nose.

As soon as one of them spots me, they all stand up and follow me over to go see Rix. Fires of fury lit in the innkeeper’s eyes as soon as he spots me walking up to him. Being the leader of the party who accepted the quest, naturally I am the one he will defer to.

“Ah you’re back! I will have a word with you! My daughter came back covered in tears and snot this morning. Care to explain yourselves?”

“I’m sorry Rix.” I give him a voice as sincere as I can manage, which is probably pointless given the intimidating aura my class skill gave off. “We were discovered by your daughter at the same time as we discovered where she was running off with that bread.”

“W-What! I told you not to get caught!” His anger continues to rise, most of the players in the inn have stopped talking and were keenly listening in to our conversation. “A… Anyway, tell me. What exactly was happening each morning?”

“Sir, your daughter was taking the bread each morning and meeting a young boy outside the walls. I don’t know exactly what they got up to as we were discovered as soon as we caught her.”

Rix doesn’t say anything back. I also explain how he had run off saying he couldn’t come back again but he seems completely oblivious to everything after hearing the word ‘boy’.

Finally, after regaining a fraction of his calm, he speaks once more.

“So that’s it.” His voice is quiet, but it contains a ferocity I never want to be on the receiving end of. “How dare this ‘boy’ sneak around to see me daughter. Lost, I don’t care what you have to do. Find this ‘boy’, and bring him to me!”

Your quest has been successfully completed

Due to the nature of the quest, all party
members have gained +5 Infamy.

‘What kind of reward is that?! This was a rare quest, and the reward was detrimental!’ 

I scream in my mind at the useless reward, but I am shortly interrupted by a new quest appearing in front of me.

Quest: Bring the mysterious 'boy' to Rix
The innkeeper of the Gold Run Inn, Rix, has demanded
you to locate the mysterious 'boy' that his daughter
was secretly meeting. 

You may not refuse this quest. Failure will lead to Rix
becoming highly hostile.

Grade: Blue

Next Chapter

Previous Chapter

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38 Comments

  1. Ty for the chapter! I can see Lost turning into a Batman type of figure, stacking all of the infamy instead of fame.

    Greetings from Belgium 😉

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  2. Would be cool if you made the “Next chapter completion” a seperate post that stays at the top , at some point it will sink down in new release posts.

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    1. Yes, I should do that. I will have to find out how to though haha. You do have a good point so with the next percentage update I will duplicate it into the most recent post

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  3. I really don’t get MC. Between silverhaired wolfgirl, that won’t betray you, won’t be blinded by greed and so on, and klepto ojou-sama, I would instantly choose wolfgirl 10 times out of 10. And who cares that she’s an AI. At that level there are no differences between AI and human aside from common sense logic and lack of human faults. Plus common sense can be acquired with experience.
    Afraid of being locked in the game? Just explain her in simple terms about ‘worlds’ and your needs. Well, It’s all just my point of view. It’s not that I’m asking to change anything. So thank you very much for the story. Will be waiting for more.

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    1. It is more the thought that “She isn’t real, no matter how smart she is just a program.” that caused him to avoid pursuing that path so far.
      Thanks, I am working hard to keep producing it ^.^

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      1. Well, I was surprised that MC used term AI speaking about Fen, and he should have already understood that It’s definetely bottom-up type. But I guess not all people share my attitude towards AI. Plus this way we have more intrigue for the story plot )))) Not everything and now )
        P.S.: I know you can’t answer anything definite without spoilers. Also, won’t be posting any of my insights cause of possible spoilers. I’m pretty sure about some of them )

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        1. Well, I don’t pan on joining the war between top-down and bottom-up types of AI lol.
          As for spoilers, there are only a few events and the ending that are planned so you insights can’t be confirmed either way until it happens in the story ^.^

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  4. The MC knows the difference between a real person player character and an AI character. While an AI can seem real, it has no useful possibilities outside of the game. With real people, you can meet them outside of the game and continue interacting that way. And as the common saying goes, real life >> game life. If End Online could convincingly change the truthfulness of that saying, that would be a literary accomplishment.

    The MC really does need to guard his real life identity. If found out, he could be easily threatened and even lose access to the game. To help maintain reader sympathy, particularly among more conservative readers, the MC should at least try to find jobs, even if he fails at it. Someone who doesn’t even keep trying only reinforces and justifies the stereotype against providing social welfare to anyone in that USA society he lives in.

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  5. Umm, did i miss something while reading or what happened to the stuff he were trying to sell before?

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    1. I’m not even kidding when I say I realized that about 3 hours ago!
      I went back through my chapters to double check what I had written to maintain consistency… yet there was nothing to be consistent with…
      I am including the info in chapter 18!

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  6. Wow… so he gets scared of his loyal companion just because she’s in love with him? what a douche bag…

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