Chapter 18 – The Second Grand Inferno

Editor: Vincent, genericIntent, Scott
Author’s Notes: So first of all. I have a bit of a surprise for you all. This is not the end of Volume 3! Indeed, there will be one more chapter (It may be a little shorter than normal) due to this simply needs to be put in two chapters. So you can expect more soon!
Secondly, I would like to keep these author’s notes short when possible, so I will just leave it here. As this is a full chapter release, please do take the time to click on the following link and vote for End Online at TopWebFiction.com.
I am not off to source some dinner, before starting on Chapter 19 – The Ghost of Eltreant. That’s right it’s all planned and just needs typing.
Editor’s notes:…

-Lost-

I slowly lower the little boy, Shai’lan, down to the ground. Rather than running straight to his mother, he looks at me defiantly with a snot-covered face, his whole body shaking.

“I-it’s all y-your fault!” he shouts up at me.

“Shai’lan!” Shai’en, his mother, calls out in an icy tone. “Stop it at once!”

“Shai’lan, was it?” Mason says from over my shoulder. “I’m not saying that everything is your fault, but surely you realize we would not be here in the first place if it were not for you.”

I don’t know when the elder of the two brothers got behind me, but he must have crept over during the confusion and overheard the conversation.

The child gives him a stubborn look, but immediately stops talking nonetheless.

Shai’en doesn’t move, still collapsed in a kneeling position with her hands on her knees and head slumped down. Half her hair is tucked behind one of her pointy ears while the rest hangs limply down past her face.

“Shai’en,” I speak softly, and the elf slowly looks up at me. “I don’t exactly know what to do now. I honestly did not mean for things to get this complicated. But, it looks like there is a way to go back home. In the mean time, what will you do until we can get your homeland back?”

“I have nowhere else to go now that I have no home. But do you truly think you can fight off a group of bandits large enough to cause the entire elven population to flee from our capital city?”

“We will get rid of them.”

Truthfully, I have no idea how to get rid of them. I’m hoping that they only number in the thousands and can be slowly picked off in small groups. The elves don’t appear to be that strong according to what I saw from those town guards earlier. They are highly skilled warriors, but lack courage which causes them to be seen as weak.

Shai’en remains silent, looking at me with lifeless eyes full of disbelief.

“I think that about wraps it up!” Mason clears the air and causes all of us to blink a few times as he randomly claps his hands together, making a loud sound that echoes throughout the forest.

I walk over to the elf on the ground and extend an open hand to help her up. She places a shaking palm into mine, which I firmly grasp and use to haul her up onto her feet.

“I think you will need something to cover your ears at the very least,” Mason says to the elves. “Else I am afraid it might cause a bigger stir than it is worth.”

The mother nods and leads her son to a small house nearby. Only earlier, I found it strange how there were no doors on the houses. Yet, as she closes in on the house, the bramble wall comes alive and separates into a doorway to let them in.

They emerge from the house a few minutes later, each carrying a small sack and wearing a piece of headwear to hide their ears. The boy is wearing a dirty brown beanie, the same one that I saw in the picture of ‘The Mysterious Boy’. Meanwhile, his mother is wearing a white scarf on her head, the tails of the fabric falling down over one shoulder amidst her straight green hair.

Their hair color may be odd, but it is possible to dye your hair in the game so no one should think much of it.

I lead the way to the edge of the clearing, where Matrix and Fen are still waiting. I see Matrix practicing his sword swings while battling an imaginary enemy. Fen, on the other hand, is standing off to the side with a grumpy look on her face.

“It is time for us to head back now,” I say to the two of them. “We need to head back to town, finish the current quest, then resupply before heading out to the northern forests to reclaim the elvish capital. I’m sure you received the quest notification so you should already know.”

“I know,” Matrix says excitedly. “That’s why I am, umm, practicing for when we get there.”

While we’re leaving the clearing and entering the forest, the sun finally falls below the horizon and the last few shafts of light disappear. A few moments later, the moon climbs into the sky, sending rays of moonlight through small gaps in the foliage and shrouding the forest in eerie shadows that dance with the wind.

For a while, no one says a word or even dares to breathe too loudly. We all focus on our surroundings, completely spooked, almost as if a creature of nightmare will appear at any moment. Luckily, the only sounds around us are the hooting of a few owl-like, nocturnal birds and the rustling of leaves above us.

“Lost, are you sure nothing will happen to us?” Shai’en breaks the silence, whispering to me in a melodic voice quiet enough that I almost miss it.

“As long as no one finds out you are an elf, there shouldn’t be any problems,” I whisper back just as quietly, only my voice doesn’t sound as gentle as hers.

“But… This man that you are taking my son to… I-I’m scared.”

“There is no need to be,” I let out a sigh. I have already lost count of how many times I have tried to tell her that this isn’t something to worry about. “He is just an overprotective father that doesn’t like boys near his daughter. He doesn’t mean any harm, he just doesn’t want his precious daughter to ‘fall prey to some boy’. Or something like that.”

“I still feel uneasy.”

Shai’en remains silent for a little while, except she can’t maintain it for long and starts talking again barely five minutes later.

“Lost. You know, you are a surprisingly nice person.”

“W-what?” I stammer out, confused as to what thoughts cause her words.

“I mean, something about your aura makes me feel absolutely terrified. Almost like, at any moment, you could suddenly grab me and throw me to the ground. Then, using your bare hands, rip my clothes to shreds before you-“

“Stop!” I cut her off mid-thought. “Please don’t go any further than that.”

I can see how crimson her face is at the moment, even in this darkness. Everyone else notices it as well and has stopped walking to turn their heads and stare at me with their jaws dropped. Even Fen is staring in complete shock.

“B-but, I have to ask,” Shai’en’s voice still sounds like a gentle flute on the wind, despite the stammering. “How e-exactly did you find our community? There should have been wards that prevent all humans and any pets of theirs from entering.”

‘Well, I suppose she technically isn’t human or my pet,’ I think to myself as I look over at the girl in question.

“Unfortunately, I probably shouldn’t say. What about you? It seems like the city of elves split up into multiple communities. So where is everyone else?”

“Most of my people were enslaved when the bandits attacked. The remainder fled and went into hiding.” She seems to feel a deep pain while talking about the loss of her home.

“Surely your village was protected by the same kind of illusion as you used in this forest. I don’t understand how you were attacked in the first place.”

“It was. Our main city, Entreal, was protected from outsiders the same as we were here in the forest. Unlike now, there were no rules forbidding contact with humans. The only way for an outsider to get into the city was for them to possess a ‘Necklace of the Elves’, or be in the company of someone who did. Fortunately, it is an item which cannot be forged or stolen, even from a dead body.”

As Shai’en talks, she pulls up a string necklace from around her neck. Along that necklace are four odd-sized aquamarines shaped like upside-down tear drops. Even in the night, they seem to radiate a faint azure light.

“This necklace also provides a strong resistance to negative mental status effects and illusions, the strength of which depends on the particular necklace. The strength of one’s necklace is generally related to how important you are in the elvish society.”

“I see, I see,” I say while nodding my head. I suddenly have a thought. “Wait. I get how desirable these necklaces are, but if a necklace can’t be stolen, then how did this person get one of those necklaces?”

“They say a lone, travelling elf met a human and fell in love with him. They were together for six months and had already promised a long and plentiful future together.”

“One night, the man was taking a bath with the woman when he fooled her into taking the necklace off so he could have a proper look at it. The moment she took it off and handed it to him however, he stabbed her in the back, murdering her in cold blood. I hear that the blood soaked into his skin, permanently staining him of his sin.”

“This man then used the necklace to lead an army of bandits into the heart of the northern forest, raiding the capital of the elves. I was only a child when it happened, but I will never forget that night…” Her voice trails off as she begins to recall her memories of the past, a few tears forming in her eyes.

A foreboding silence once again falls over the group for the remaining journey through the moonlit forest. After listening to Shai’en’s tragic story, no one knew exactly what to say next.

Eventually, Matrix suggests that we stop and rest for the night, but that plan ends up being hard to implement as we are short two sleeping bags.

Shai’en gradually starts making small talk, breaking the silence by asking about us and where we are from. She seems like a curious child, asking us endless questions.

With the moon directly in the middle of the sky, we finally emerge from the forest and into the open plains around Grenton. There are quite a few new players still battling wild boars and other beginner-level creatures, even in the dead of night.

‘They must be trying to level up as fast as possible, to still be out here hunting during the night.’

Without giving it any more thought, I lead the way past them and towards Grenton. I can see the light of countless lanterns throughout the city, their flickering flames like hundreds of thousands of fireflies flying about. The entire city gives off a gentle, golden radiance that truly matches its splendor.

That soft light is projecting onto the ground just outside the eastern exit, almost like an open door beckoning me in.

Most of the NPCs have vanished into their residences for the night, yet the streets inside the city are still bustling with players. It isn’t just young people playing, either. There are many middle-aged men and women dressed as warriors, magicians, and even some who have chosen their equipment based off of personal fashion sense. The elderly community seems to be rather lacking in the game, but there is definitely a few old couples that seem to be enjoying vigorous, strong bodies.

All along the street I am on, players are running stalls with large varieties of food that they have made. Ever since the Christmas update that introduced the satiety system to the game, there has been a massive increase in quantity and quality of food products being sold.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” Mason says beside me. “I even heard there are some players who have taken up a farming profession. It is mostly the older people who no longer have bodies strong enough to do it in real life. Most of the bigger guilds purchased land or let them use theirs to produce food products in return for providing free cooking materials.”

I feel utterly amazed at this. It has only been three months since Christmas, yet such a system has already not only been thought of, but even spread around the guilds on a large scale.

“To think, you could just purchase land,” I say, thinking about how simple it would be.

“Not quite,” Mason laughs at my surprise. “If you want to farm on it or start any form of production, you will naturally have to defend it from monsters. They won’t spawn in the farm or even around it all that much, but they will enter the farm and start eating the crops and livestock unless you can keep them out. It is quite a lot of work for the supervising guilds.”

We continue our conversation on food and guild economies until we reach the ‘Gold Run Inn’. Once inside, I go straight to the innkeeper, not bothering with anything else.

Glancing behind me, I notice Shai’en looking at me nervously while Shai’lan is hiding behind her legs.

“Can you please give me three rooms. Two beds each,” I say to Rix, not mentioning anything about the quest.

“No problem. That will be four gold and fifty silver,” he says with a smile that fails to reach his eyes, giving me an unnerving foreboding. As soon as I hand the payment over, he whispers to me in a cold voice, “Say, you haven’t tracked down that young boy just yet, have you?” He glances over at Shai’lan, almost as if he already knows who the boy is.

“Please, Rix. It is late and we all need sleep. How about we discuss it in the morning?”

The innkeeper calmly nods his head as he agrees to put it off until the morning.

“W-why didn’t you say anything?” Shai’en asks nervously as I return to the group with our room keys.

“There isn’t any rush, is there?” I respond calmly, smiling sincerely underneath my hood. “Let us sleep for the rest of the night and come back here in the morning.”

I hand over one of the keys to Shai’en and Shai’lan, while the second one goes to Mason and Matrix. I explain where the rooms are while handing over the keys, more so for the benefit of the elves rather than the brothers. It’s possible that the elves have never stayed in a human settlement before, so I assume they may not be sure exactly where to go.

With our discussion at its end, we all head up to our separate rooms for the night.

Before I climb into my bed, I look over at Fen who is currently standing on the balcony. She has propped her head on her hands while leaning forward and resting her elbows on the balcony railing. A few gentle breezes of cool night air pass by her, causing the hem of her red halter dress and her hair to gently drift back at forth.

‘I wonder if I should have had Shai’lan here and have Fen stay with Shai’en. That way, I know those two elves won’t try to disappear in the middle of the night, and I won’t have to deal with this wolf.’

I think to myself about the various things I could have done differently as the system assist slowly causes me to fall into a slumber.

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

As I open my eyes to the morning sun shining through the balcony doors, my body registers an incredibly familiar feeling.

I look down and see a slightly ruffled head of white hair positioned next to my shoulder. Below that is a slender and exposed nape, almost opaline in appearance. She is even worse this morning than yesterday, with half of her body practically on top of me.

My heart starts racing as she gently stirs, her body quivering for a moment before once more returning to stillness. Looking down at the girl, I do feel some affection towards her, just not the type I would consider ‘romantic’. The very thought causes a lot of internal conflict and emotional turmoil.

Fen is just an NPC. Indeed a highly advanced program, but none the less, still a product of programming code. Besides, isn’t she technically a wolf?

While I am trying to slip out of bed, Fen makes a light “ahhn” sounding yawn before suddenly chomping down onto my shoulder. Sinking her teeth deep into my skin causes extreme pain and I cry out in agony.

“Cut it out!” I don’t yell, but speak in a reasonably loud and overbearing voice to the wolf girl while sending a hard chop down into her head with the side of my hand. The blow causes her to loosen her teeth from around my shoulder at the same time as I slip away from her grip and her teeth.

The girl in front of me stares at me with wide open eyes, a mischievous grin permeating her face.

‘You were awake this entire time?!’

“Please Fen, you need to stop doing that.” I say to her in resignation.

“Stop…what?” She arches her eyebrows while responding in a voice as clear as a clean cut crystal.

“Stop sneaking into my bed. Honestly, you never give up.”

Her eyes dull slightly while looking at me. In my mind, I cannot help but imagine wolf ears on her head drooping down and a menacing aura emanating from her.

“I m-mean, it isn’t that I don’t like it,” I say with a little fear in my voice. “I just think it is not a good thing to do.”

She doesn’t seem to get any happier, but at least she doesn’t seem to be too grumpy.

Five minutes later, I lead the pouting wolf-girl downstairs where I plan to meet up with everyone else. The others are currently standing around one of the barrels, happily chatting away with each other without the slightest hint of nervousness.

I arrive at the spot with Fen in tow and give my morning greetings to everyone. Shai’en looks at me with conflict showing in her eyes. Eventually, she speaks up.

“Shai’lan, go with this man for a moment.”

I nod my head and look down at the young child. He hesitates for a moments, but shortly resigns himself to following me through the few players scattered around the room and over to the innkeeper.

“Good morning, Rix. I am here to bring you the boy who your daughter was secretly meeting,” I say while pointing down to the little child.

“Hoohhh?” He makes breathing in air seem incredibly intimidating as he leans over the counter to bring his face closer to the child. “So, you are the one who has been dragging my very own daughter away from me? Do you think you deserve her affection and love? Huh?”

“T-t-that’s not what i-i-it was,” Shai’lan takes a step backwards, stammering his words before the innkeeper’s menacing glare.

“I think you and me are going to be having a very long talk about this shortly. If you think I will let you have my daughter, you had better think again!”

Rix, raising his voice, attracts the gazes of more than a few players throughout the inn. He even goes on to continue pressing the terrified boy when suddenly a loud metallic clang sounds throughout the inn.

The whites of his eyes show as Rix silently passes out and slumps over the counter. Standing over Rix’s now unconscious body is his wife with a rather large wok in one hand.

“I am terribly sorry for that,” she says without a hint of remorse for her husband. “I usually don’t show myself out front, but this man is making too much noise. Will all of you accompany me back in the kitchen for a moment?”

Not just Shai’lan and I, but the rest of the party all silently follow behind her like docile hostages, fearing her brutality. We arrive in the kitchen where she stops and turns around.

“Now that we are away from prying eyes and that noisy husband of mine has quieted down, you must be the young boy that my daughter showed some interest in.”

She looks Shai’lan up and down, occasionally nodding to herself as if in agreement.

“I’m sorry,” Shai’en says as she walks over and joins the conversation after seeing how this was going to end. “My son cannot have this kind of relationship with an ordinary person.”

“Why?” the innkeeper’s wife lowers her voice calmy. “Is it because you are elves?”

Not just the mother and son, but even I am greatly shocked by her words, not sure what to say in return.

“What, you think I wouldn’t notice another one of my kin? Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Zusa’jan, a former elf.” She laughs in a dry voice while lifting her hair away from her ears.

Sure enough, the innkeeper’s wife has elvish ears. Except, they are short and have nasty scars from where they were chopped off.

“Y-your ears! And your h-hair!” Shai’en stutters in shock, simply pointing at Zusa’jan.

“Well, elvish ears stick out too much to be able to fit in with humans. As for my hair, it’s dyed.”

It is incredibly strange, as she doesn’t have any elven grace, nor does she have a smooth, pleasant voice. Everything about her spoke of a middle-aged, overweight woman.

“Hang on,” I raise my hand as a strange thought comes to my mind, “Then your daughter. Wouldn’t that mean?”

“Yes, she is technically half elf and half human. It is half the reason my husband here is so overprotective of her. Fortunately, she was born with a human appearance.”

“I don’t know quite what to say,” I shake my head, feeling like a massive bomb shell had just been dropped on me.

“Please, think nothing of it. I just hope you will not go telling others of my heritage.” I feel death approaching as she raises the large frying pan in her hand. She only moves it a fraction, yet the intent is clear as day.

“O-of course not.”

“Good. Now, you have caused a few problems, but I know that you mean well,” Zusa’jan sighs audibly. “I apologize for any inconveniences my husband has caused you. Allow me to give you a proper reward for your efforts.”

Your quest has been successfully completed

- Infamy from Quest:Follow my daughter has been negated
- Fame + 35
- Intimacy with the elvish race has grown, you will naturally be
accepted in elvish communities and receive better prices when
trading with elves.

A feeling of exultation spreads throughout my body. I have finally gained some fame. Even if it is with the persona of ‘Man in the hood’, it is still a step forward. With the repair of infamy gained by completing the ‘Follow My Daughter’ quest, it means I have actually gained a total of forty fame, bringing my infamy down to one hundred fifty.

I am concerned about the gained intimacy with the elves. It is definitely related to fame and infamy, meaning that once I remove the hood, I will no longer have the benefit. I pause for a while as I contemplate my options.

With an internal sigh, I decide to reveal my true identity. The title I have offers nothing more than hiding some of my stats from analysis skills anyway.

“Mrs. Zusa’jan,” I say while pulling my hood off of my head, “It is a pleasure to meet you, I am Lost.”

“I see, I see,” she nods her head with a curt laugh.

Your identity as ‘Lost’ has been revealed to be behind the

‘Man in the Hood’. Now that your identity is widely known, the

title ‘Man in the Hood’ has become invalid and will be removed.

All infamy and fame between the two identities will now be merged.

‘I guess it is true when they say that nothing travels faster than the word of mouth. It has only been a few seconds and the entire continent knows it.’

I laugh in my mind, I am already aware that this is just a game mechanic. It doesn’t rely on the speed of pigeons and rumours for every NPC to become aware of my identity.

“Zusa’jan,” Shai’en deeply bows her head towards the innkeeper’s wife, “We are going on a dangerous mission soon. Please… I, Shai’en, plead you. Can you take care of my Shai’lan while I am gone?!”

Shai’en keeps her head bowed, dreading what the response will be. I am personally surprised that she has decided to come with us.

“Raise your head, Shai’en.” The Zusa’jan says pleasantly. “Of course I will look after him. However, if you do go, you must come back. This is your responsibility as a mother.”

Shai’en nods in acceptance while thanking the innkeeper’s wife with utmost sincerity. At the same time, a notification appears in front of me. It informs me that the quest has been updated and that if Shai’en dies, we fail the quest. Also, she automatically appears in the party window as a companion.

Lost
lvl: 97
Health: 1252/1252
Stamina: 441/441
Mana: 913/913 

Mason
lvl: 99
Health: 1296/1296
Stamina: 311/311

Matrix
lvl: 106
Health: 1461/1461
Stamina: 341/341
Mana: 446/446
 
-Companions-
Fen
lvl: 82
Health: 1612/1612
Magic: 589/589
Stamina: 518/518

Shai'en
lvl: 30
Health: 440/440
Magic: 281/281

‘Great, isn’t that just what I need. Not only is this going to be some impossibly hard quest to reclaim the elvish capital, but now we also must escort and protect one person while doing so. Nothing less from a legendary quest.’

“I won’t let you down!” Shai’en says to me with dedication.

‘What can someone as weak as you possibly do?!’

Bidding our farewells, we all leave the inn and split up to prepare for the quest. I am sure Mason is going to stock up on arrows, potions and any other necessities. Matrix follows behind him obediently to stock up on his own supplies.

The NPCs need no preparation. One of them uses magic and leeches off of me for health recovery, while the other is to stay back and be protected. As they have nothing to do, they follow me as I head out to stock up on my supplies.

With Fen wrapping her arms around one of mine, and Shai’en sticking unnecessarily close to me on the other side, I receive double the jealous stares as I normally would. Ignoring the surrounding hatred being directed at me, I open my player menu while walking.

I bring up the ‘Nightingale Helmet’ auction listing. I am pleasantly surprised to see the current bid for the item is a little over a $1,000. With four days left on the auction and approximately five thousand watchers, a giddy feeling sits in my stomach when I think about how much this helmet will go for.

Two thousand? Three thousand?

When I sold the ‘Old Bronyx Plate Armour’ and the ‘Meridium Boots of Haste’, they both had a price jump at the end of their auctions. They each sold without a hitch, earning me a massive $2170 together. Although in my opinion, the ‘Old Bronyx Plate Armour’ went for much less than it was truly worth.

This is completely different from the two items I sold not too long ago. There are countless comments on the auction as well. Most of the comments are from people wondering about the player named ‘Lost’. Which server is he on, what is his level, and a few other general questions.

Not only does the helmet have some desirable effects on it, but it is also slightly above the average user-level and a heavy armour class, which compliments most players preference for specializing in defense. Thus, the item appeals to the majority of players.

This money will be a massive help, as the apple sales I had completely stopped a while after the introduction of the satiety system and the mass influx of food products into the market. Ever since everybody stopped buying the apples, I told PeachStar that she could do whatever she wants with them.

‘She probably stopped selling them altogether and just ate them all herself.’ I think as I grin to myself.

I am in desperate need of income right now. Between rent, bills, food, and my game subscription, I spend between two and two and a half thousand dollars per month. If I could sell two items worth this much, then I would suddenly start making money. From the $14,000 I had when I sold my car and the money I have made through my game item sales, I have $5,504 left in my account.

Once I stop daydreaming, I realize I have arrived at the town’s players’ market. Walking past most of the stalls lining the road, I finally arrive at one that sells light and medium armour. I have not yet had a problem with my low armour rating as I have been able to dodge practically every attack, but how long will that last? Even one strong direct hit could prove to be fatal.

The lady running the stall is dressed in casual clothing made of some sort of medium-quality, coarse material. The clothing clings to her figure, exhibiting her curves while at the same time exposing a large amount of skin. With a red piece of fabric tying her black hair behind her head into a ponytail, she gives me a strange look as she notices the two women standing behind me.

“Is there anything I can help you with today, sir?”

“Oh, don’t mind me,” I say in a dry voice, ignoring her petty sales technique of using her looks to attract customers. “I will let you know if I decide on anything.”

I browse the goods for some time, bringing up the item information on more than a few pieces of light armour.

“I will take these three. How much will it be?” I hold up a grey piece of torso armour that even covers my shoulders, a fire-red pair of leather plated greaves, and a thick pair of azure boots.

Her smile falters momentarily as she looks between the equipment and me.

“Are you sure, you will look rather strange with all these different colors on you.”

I can tell by what she is wearing that this player is someone who likes to choose things according to her own fashion sense.

“It doesn’t matter. How much?”

“It will be 590 gold.” She speaks while putting on a polite business smile.

I nearly cough up blood after hearing the price. I only have 612 gold, so this purchase will cost practically everything I have.

“I will give you 500 gold,” I try to barter with her and bring that enormous price down.

“590 gold,” she says in the same voice.

“How about 550 gold?”

“590 gold. Take it or leave it.”

“570 gold.” With a good deal of irritation in my voice, I offer her just slightly under her price.

“600 gold. The extra is for wasting my time.” Her smile is exactly the same, but now I can feel a ruthless chill in her voice.

“Fine, 590 gold.”

“600 gold.”

“I will go elsewhere!” I say in outrage. There is no way I am going to let myself get ripped off like this.

I walk away from her and start looking at the stalls further down the road. I look over a lot of stalls, yet none of them sell light armour. There is lots of heavy armour, and even a few with medium armour. There is not a single stall in this street that has the least popular type of armour, light armour.

I contact Mouse through my friends list, as I know he definitely sells light armour. Apparently, he isn’t running his stall today as he is out collecting crafting materials, and will probably be doing so for the next few days.

I head back to the first stall, where the girl selling the light armour gives me another cold look.

“600 gold.” I say while feeling bitter inside.

“610 gold, since you’ve wasted even more of my time,” she says, this time with a merciless smile.

I don’t try to barter anymore, immediately handing over the money to her in defeat. She then passes over the armour peacefully, which I immediately equip.

Silverhusk Plate Armour
An armour expertly crafted from the petrified bark of the
silverhusk tree. It is extremely hard and can deflect most
bladed edges.
The material received a lesser blessing of the earth and imbues
the strength of the earth on the wearer.

Requirements:
- Level 82
- Str 29
- Dex 35
- Agi 47

Armour Type: Light(Silverhusk)
Defence: 63
Durability: 47/47
Weight: 19 lbs

Abilities:
- Cutting Resistance: +5%
- Impact Resistance: -5%
Fiery Leather Plated Greaves
Greaves made from overlapping leather plates. The leather
came from a fire breathing lizard so it naturally contains
the creatures fire resistance attributes.
 
Requirements:
- Level 56
- Dex 34

Armour Type: Light(Leather)
Defence: 16
Durability: 32/32
Weight: 2.9lbs

Abilities:
- Flame Resistance: 9%
Azure Hide Boots
Boots made from the fur of an Ice Boar. The fur has a strong
resistance against ice and fire, but has been known to
cause people to get cold toes.

Requirements:
- Level 59
- Dex 31
 
Armour Type: Hide(Light)
Defence: 15
Durability: 38/38
Weight: 2.4lbs

Abilities:
- Fire resistance: 5%
- Ice resistance: 5%

Of course I am not even remotely concerned with the different colours of each piece of armour. Once I have equipped the armor, it all unsurprisingly turns to different shades of white. From a fashion sense, yes, it looks good, but it is still a little annoying.

Each piece of armour I bought only has an orange border, meaning they are of ‘rare’ quality. While not being anything overly special,  the armor is still quite good for being player-crafted items.

I miserably jingle my now good-for-nothing money pouch, hearing the remaining two gold coins clink together.

Without enough money to restock my medicinal herbs, I will have to take the time to collect them as we travel.

I spend some time with the wolf girl and the elf now that I am done reprovisioning and we are just waiting on the two brothers to finish their preparations. With my spare time, I try my luck at visiting one of the nearby parks in hopes of collecting some medicinal herbs. I am not surprised when I get there, as it is as packed as ever. I’ve learned to expect overcrowding in the city parks.

‘Lost we are done now and waiting for you at the east gate,’ Mason’s voice enters my head.

‘Okay, we will meet you there,’ I respond to him rather quickly. I inform the other two with me that we are now heading out.

It only makes sense that we meet and leave by the east gate, rather than the north. It would take about half a day to walk to the north gate, and the northern forest we have to go to is technically slightly to the east as well.

I finally get to the east gate and see the others waiting just off to the side.

“I trust you are all ready by now. As you should already know, this is going to be extremely difficult. But, they always say the greater the risk, the greater the reward,” I state to everyone in a calm manner, but my attempt to boost their morale is only half as effective as I had hoped.

“Indeed, I feel the same. Plus, this next video should be amazing.”

“Oh? How much are you recording?” I ask curiously, somewhat concerned over revealing the innkeeper’s wife’s secret of being an elf to the player community.

“Just the trip to the elvish capital and their liberation.”

I nod my head in approval. Considering the legendary rarity of the quest and the fact that it will be revealing the existence of the elves, surely his video will garner a lot of attention.

With me leading the way, we blend into the groups of players all leaving the city. As they leave the gates, each group heads off in it’s own direction. At the same time, all the male and female players happily gossip to one another and some even form new parties.

Ahead of us and travelling to the north are three parties and about ten solo players. Each and every one of them are still below level fifty.

I stop dead in my tracks and my eyes widen as soon as we reach the grasslands. Throughout the short-cut grass and sparse, low rolling hills as far as the eye can see, there are hundreds, no, thousands of players in this one area.

“W-what the hell is this?! It wasn’t like this just yesterday!” I cry out in surprise while Mason chuckles at my shock.

“You know that in real life, today is Saturday, right? Well, there are a lot of ‘End Online’ players who have full-time jobs, so the weekend is really the only time they get to properly play. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have wealthy parents who can support them while they play whenever they want.”

“I see, I see.”

That must mean that every single weekend, the game suffers a massive influx of players coming online.

Putting aside the shocking number of players in front of me, I start heading through the area towards the forest where the elvish community used to reside. I make sure to try and weave through the players in such a way to prevent most of the enemies they are fighting from being affected by my intimidating aura.

With minimal encounters with enemies and slow progress through the grasslands, we finally arrive at the forest.

“Shai’en, does this forest have a name?” I ask curiously as we enter.

“It does, but it can’t be spoken in the human tongue. It can only be spoken with the voice of nature.”

‘What the heck is the voice of nature? Well, I take it that is just your way of saying that it doesn’t have any specific name.’ I think deeply about what I should call it.

“Why don’t I just call it the ‘Eldenweiss Forest’?”

“If that suits you.”

I stop in my tracks as I suddenly feel a strong foreboding. Sweat trickles down my back while I glance through the trees all around me. Apart from the wind rustling the branches above me, I can also hear a faint whistling sound.

Before I have a chance to react, I lose my balance as an arrow suddenly appears in my shoulder with a tingling sensation. Being a sneak attack, it is an automatic critical strike for nearly a third of my entire health.

‘How frightening! If I hadn’t just bought all new armour, that would have done a lot more damage!’

“We’re under attack! Mason, Matrix, you protect Shai’en. Fen, you help me fend them off.” I call out to the others behind me who immediately move into position. The brothers ready their weapons while moving closer to the elf. At the same time, Fen gets real close to me while searching the surroundings.

Another few arrows come flying through the trees from our front and Fen stamps her foot on the ground, causing a narrow shield of ice to rise in front of us. The shield quickly cracks and crumbles as a heavy barrage of arrows hits it.

Coming out of the trees is a familiar blonde-haired man in a strange suit of silver armour. In one hand he holds a large kite shield, while the other has a strange longsword in it. The blade glows a deep crimson, as if it has a lust for blood.

“Lost, wasn’t it?” The man asks with a cruel smile. “You caused me quite the problem a while back.”

Almost like a veil of mist dispersing in my mind, I finally recall who he is.

“Chronix, as I recall. You have no reason to chase me. Not for just running away from your extortion.”

“If it was just you refusing to pay your dues, no, I would not bother travelling this far for revenge. But you, that girl, the knight, and the wolf made a fool of me which is absolutely unforgivable.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

I am getting a little nervous. I know just how high this player’s level is, and it is somewhere around 250.

“Speaking of which, where are the others? None of them seem to be around. Did you lose that massive wolf pet of yours, too?”

“It’s none of your business!” I growl at him.

“Anyway, enough of this small talk. I am sending you all the way back to Iceridge where I will find you again and repeatedly kill you until you quit the game.” The fake smile on his face completely disappears as he makes a circular waving signal with his sword in the air.

A few bushes around us rustle and the sound of twigs snapping echoes from all directions as nearly thirty players surround us.

“These people aren’t particularly strong. As a matter of fact, their levels should be even lower than yours. But they have me and a lot more numbers. Say your farewells quick, as that is all the time you will get!” Chronix roars at us.

“Mason! Matrix! Take Shai’en and break out through the rear. Fen, get ready to flee!” I bark out orders as fast as I can think. The two NPC’s are the only two people we cannot let die.

“No!” Fen shouts next to me while giving me a stubborn look.

Letting out a sigh I charge forward at the same time as the brothers lead the elf to break through the rear of the encirclement.

I leave an afterimage behind as rather than attacking Chronix, I aim for the two archers standing a little behind him. The leader himself still doesn’t attack, clearly waiting for me to attack him first so he can kill me without getting player-killer status.

All the attackers’ eyes widen in surprise as their arrows, emanating a fleeting yellow color, pass right through my false image and disperse it like it was made of mist. They may have used sacred arts that aid in the guidance of their arrows, but they can only aim at my afterimage in the end.

I cover the ground between us in seconds, mercilessly slashing my twin blades at their throats and causing large critical hits that take away nearly half their health each. Damage dealt to players is a lot less than what is done to monsters, but using my speed to negate an opponent’s defensive rating still works at 100 percent efficiency.

Fen sends down a barrage of ice bolts on a few swordsmen who try flanking me while I finish off the two archers, then quickly move on to the attacking swordsmen. In mere moments, five of the enemy are dead.

‘That’s strange, isn’t his guild supposed to only have high level players? These people are rather weak.’

“NO!” I cry out at seeing the situation with the other members. Matrix and Shai’en managed to escape the encirclement and are now running as fast as they can, Matrix carrying the elf princess-style as she is a bit slow by herself. Mason, on the other hand, had been trapped by the enemy and is currently on his knees, his health plummeting at a drastic rate.

Only fifty meters away from me, I see Mason die due to the onslaught of about ten players.

This isn’t good, but not due to the fact that Mason died as he can revive back in town. The problem is that Matrix can’t possibly outrun ten players while carrying the elf. Chronix knows this as well, changing his current frown over his side’s losses to a look of glee.

“Hurry, you ten. Go slaughter them before they get too far away. We will only have these two here left after that.”

I am currently facing another fifteen of these weaklings and one Chronix. Seeing how difficult I am to fight, the silver-armoured man finally readies his sword, clearly not caring about getting player-killer status anymore.

“Fen, retreat. Go to the others and help them escape.” I speak quietly in a commanding tone at the wolf girl next to me.

“No… I do-“

“Retreat, Fen. I am ordering you to.”

A hint of indecision and turmoil flashes through her eyes before she obediently nods and dashes off, faster than the enemy can react to stop her.

“Are you sure that’s wise, Lost? Now you are all by yourself,” Chronix mocks.

Making up my mind, I decide that I will go down swinging, doing as much damage as I possibly can before they kill me. That way, I should at least be able to kill a fair few of them and hamper their efforts in chasing the others.

Dashing straight at the group, I wipe the smirk off that arrogant knight’s face as I silently activate ‘Multi Mirage’, splitting into eight copies. In the same moment, I also launch the throwing knives attached at my thighs. Only ten knives are real, but a massive eighty projectiles seem to be attacking them.

Arrows quickly disperse the fake images, but they have served their purpose of allowing me to close in on them relatively unharmed. Suddenly appearing right in front of Chronix, I slow down time by using ‘Perceptual Sight’, then activate ‘Back Stab’ the moment his swords falls on me. The sword passes straight through the resulting image with no resistance as I appear directly behind him and stab both my swords into his fully exposed back. Unfortunately, the critical hit only takes ten percent of his health.

Two arrows pierce me before I jump back away from him, each taking away a further eight percent of my health. Despite the slight headache that ‘Perceptual Sight’ is once again giving me, I use my heightened senses to tuck one of my shortswords into my belt mid-air and extend my hand upward.

“Minor Dire Flame!” I call out as 800 mana is drained and a small, crimson lightning coalesces on my palm and forms a small fireball of the brightest flame.

I immediately throw that fireball at the now turning Chronix, and it hits him square in the center of his chest. As my feet land on the ground, my flame splashes over him, clinging to everything it can. It doesn’t seem like much, but his health slowly depletes from burn damage. Currently, the flame seems to be taking away nearly two percent of his health per minute.

“What the hell is this?! You ****,” the man curses me as he tries to douse the flames on his body. Only, no matter what he tries, the flame just won’t go out. All the other low-level players are standing around like statues, utterly stunned.

While he rolls around and tries to suffocate the flames in other bizarre methods, I notice that slowly but surely, the flames are gradually spreading to the forest floor and even the trees.

‘What an overpowered spell! And this idiot is starting a damn forest fire!’

I cry inside, as my only two options are to either put the fire out and be killed by Chronix, or to leave it burning and escape in the confusion, letting God knows how much of this forest burn down.

I made the mistake in town with the fire, assuming that houses and the environment would be indestructible in the capital city. Apparently, they are not.

The flaming knight starts calling out for water, and even pours his drinking water on himself. What Chronix doesn’t know is that water is useless against it, and only a ‘Burn Remedy’ will put this fire out.

He runs off into the forest looking for a water source in a panic. Given that he only had eighty percent health left, he only has forty minutes to do so. I wonder what he will do when he finds out this fire can even burn underwater.

From previous experience, I learned that my fire is nowhere near as powerful as Grael’s is. Rather than burning for six days and six nights, mine will dissipate after six hours. It is still more than enough though to put an end to this level 250 player.

Before all the other players realize why they are here and bring their attention back to me, I immediately flee the forest. Given my speed, there is no chance they will be able to catch up to me.

I enter the grasslands outside of ‘Eldenweiss Forest’ and sprint back towards the eastern city gate. As I am passing through all the low level players working diligently to raise their levels, I start hearing loud voices.

All the players around me are suddenly running away, half of which are cursing at me as they try their hardest to get away as fast as possible.

Stunned, I stop and have a look around at the area which is now practically devoid of all players.

“Oh, just great.” I say with a sigh while looking at the status icons in the corner of my vision. There are a few, such as my hood shrouding my face with a shadow and fire and ice resistances from my equipment. However, the most important one is a large, red skull. The symbol of a player killer.

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85 Comments

  1. I know that we are talking about a different world setting but 2000-2500 dollars per month living costs is huge, especially for the zone he lives in. Add to that the amount the brothers are earning so that they can live in the slums and you have an inconsistency problem. This has bothered me to the extend of wanting to write this comment.

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    1. It’s based off renting a 2 bedroom house by himself. The prices are slightly influenced by my culture, and I can assure you that cost is quite normal. Even higher if you are paying off a mortgage. While the two brothers live in the slums and don’t earn half as much, they also have their father living with them who doesn’t just backpack of his two sons.

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      1. This still doesn’t add up according to your earlier information that mentioned that the normal offers for his car at 650 were equivalent to two weeks of work in wages. How could he survive with 1300 a month? Also I feel that your estimation of 14000 lasting for 6 months was not effected by the reduced cost of two less mouths to feed and otherwise take care of. Perhaps going back and touching up your numbers would help the immersion here.

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