Editors: genericIntent, Vincent, Scott
Author’s notes: I didn’t expect this to get edited so quick! Seriously, another day or two at least. Hopefully the next chapter will still be out within a week, but we will have to see! Be sure to thank our fantastic editors for all the hard work they put into this writing. They bring a bludgeon to it and really make it take shape! ^.^ Two chapters of volume 4 left too by the way, it’s going to be longer than usual.
As another full chapter release. It is greatly appreciated if you can show your support to take a minute of your time to follow the link and vote for End Online at TopWebFiction.com! Votes are reset weekly so even if you have voted before, please do so again! ^.^
Editor’s notes:… (I suspect these guys like to act from the shadows!)
After walking for most of the day, Lost and I leave the city through the north gate. The evening sun causes the shadows of large hills to blanket the area around us by the time we finally leave the expanse outside Swordbreak.
Unclear about where we should be heading, we move in a generally northern direction. The whole time we keep an eye on the surroundings for the area that the man at the gate had described. Progress would have been much faster if we knew exactly where we needed to be, but the directions we received were simply too vague.
Just before the sun sets, a group of people approach us. There are six in total, walking with their backs slumped and their thumbs tucked into their belts. They smell of dirt and filth and don’t seem particularly interesting to me.
As they stand in front of us, a few of them lift their chins up to stare at Lost down their noses. They also turn to greedily stare at me, their eyes flashing with desire. I’m not entirely sure why, but seeing that makes me feel disgusted and angry.
“Hey, buddy. Do ya know about the new tax to pass through this mountain?” The man in front asks Lost.
“Excuse me?” Lost’s face darkens as he replies.
“Didn’t ya hear me? There’s a new tax to pass through this mountain. Just hand over all yer gold, and ya can be on yer way.”
Lost stares incredulously at the player, not knowing how to reply for a moment.
“How the hell is that even a tax?! A tax is when you have a set fee, usually a ridiculous amount, and charge each person that. What you’re describing is just plain robbery!”
“Don’t mess with me, man. Yer in for a world of hurt if ya don’t do as I say. So ya wanna set amount? Yer a first time customer so I’ll take it easy on ya. Hand over a measly thousand gold, and yer free to go.”
“How could I possibly have that much?”
The man doesn’t make any immediate moves and maintains a calm face, but he and his friends send glances of lust in my direction.
“Such as shame. Well, ya seem like a good guy so we’ll cut ya a break.”
He goes to move closer and put a hand on Lost’s shoulder, but Lost takes a step back and avoids the hand before I can send a shard of ice through it. I normally wouldn’t act that way to someone just trying to grab Lost, but these people have an incredibly hostile aura about them.
“I suppose we should just be on our way then.”
“Ah, just one thing before ya leave us here. As ya know, we’re turning a blind eye and letting ya go cause ya seem like a good guy. But, the thing is, a good guy would probably leave his girl with us as a sign of gratitude.”
The six men suddenly surround us and close in to form a tight ring with their bodies. Stuck inside the ring made of men, the only way out for us is to wait for them to leave, or cut our way out. There also isn’t enough room to build momentum and jump out of the encirclement.
I notice Lost’s face, which is still smiling but contains fury in his eyes.
“I told ya, now do as we say and leave the girl. Elsewise, we’ll send ya all the way back to Iceridge. Yeah, we saw the sigil on yer hand.”
All the men place their hands onto sword hilts and axe handles, ready to draw and attack us at any moment. This is also the moment when Lost finally snaps.
“Fen! Attack, now!”
I don’t hesitate to crystallize twelve large shards of ice. I train two on each target, and set them with a strong forward momentum. Lost’s knives cut through half of the enemies while my ice once again hits them all. It isn’t anywhere near enough to kill them or cause serious damage, but the shock and surprise causes them to lose formation and allow us to slip out.
“We run.” Lost says as he disappears before my eyes.
I don’t question the order and immediate follow north in the general direction Lost went. I run for five full minutes before I notice the familiar silhouette up ahead. It is Lost, who has slowed down enough that I can catch up.
I have been feeling slightly inferior to Lost as of late. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but he has since far outclassed me in terms of speed.
“They’re… gone…” I say once I notice their scent is no longer on the wind.
“Yes, they have been gone for a while. But they could still be chasing in our general direction. They wouldn’t be the first people to do so.”
“Then… kill them…”
I consider eliminating them to be the most practical solution to the problem, so I can’t understand why we didn’t do it in the first place.
“Sorry, Fen, but it would be best not to. If we do that I will get a player killer’s skull and that is more trouble than it’s worth.”
I don’t understand. Why is Lost concerned with some silly ‘skull’? Regardless, before I have a chance to voice my thoughts, I notice we have arrived at the area described by the armored man from the gate earlier.
The arid scenery in front of me is covered in more red dirt than anything else. The ground has gone through countless cycles of rain and drought, causing narrow fissures and deep ravines. There are wooden bridges crossing some of the wider splits in the earth, and a few descending paths carved into the walls.
I can see large ‘Antril Workers’ spread out over the ground and quite a few armed men and women fighting them. The monsters aren’t as strong as I am, yet all these people seem to be having so much trouble with them.
Two ‘Antril Workers’ come skittering towards Lost and I with incredible speed. I wonder, if I had six legs would I be able to move faster?
I click my tongue at the enemies, I can tell just from looking at them that they are highly resistant against ice. They can also resist most fire damage, but the ice resistance is the issue for me.
Just as Lost throws his throwing knives at the enemies, I form two shortswords of similar shape to the ones he used to use; a kodachi, I believe he said. These weapons are useful as they not only deal ice damage, but ordinary damage as well.
Most of the knives land, but the creature manages to shift its body weight and dodge a few. That is the issue with enemies too large; they are easy to hit. Using my ice kodachis, I take quick slices at its legs while doing my best to avoid the pincer grips in front of its mouth.
The second ‘Antril Worker’ approaches from the side in an attempt to catch us unaware. Lost suddenly appears behind it and drives both his weapons into its rear abdomen and causing it to rear up on its hind legs.
Noticing the weak spot, I form a few shards of ice in the air and launch them at the Antril’s rear abdomen. The shards of ice have a much lower reaction in comparison to Lost’s weapons. The creature did at least flinch and hesitate long enough for me to close my blades on its body. The ice blades in my hands slash at the joints between its head and central abdomen. The result is a critical hit which finally fells the creature.
Turning my head around, I see Lost has already finished off the second one. Just before I return to his side, I realize I sustained next to no damage from the entire battle thanks to my enhanced speed.
‘He hasn’t looked at me yet.’
I turn away from Lost and stab myself with the daggers a few times in succession. It hurts, but does the job of efficiently lowering my health. Confirming my current condition, I make my way over to Lost at a steady pace.
When I reach him, he frowns at me and start rummaging through his inventory. He pulls out a handful of green herbs.
“How did you get this injured? I swear you were doing just fine over there. Anyway, open wide.” He says with concern.
I happily open my mouth, allowing him to places the herbs inside. Getting a little eager, I close my mouth too quick and bite the ends of his fingers. He makes a quick cry of pain as he slips his hand back and by flicking his hand like a whip, brings a sharp chop down on top of my head.
I don’t hear what he says as the pain from the hit brings forth ecstasy and causes my mind to stop functioning properly. It is like someone else finally scratching an itch I myself can’t reach.
For the next four hours, Lost and I travel around this dry, dusty area. We kill countless ‘Antril Workers’, but can’t seem to find any ‘Antril Soldiers’. Given that searching the plateaus on the ground level appears to be fruitless, we decide to start looking in the ravines.
Picking a particularly large ravine, we make our way down a narrow path leading into its depths. The treacherous path isn’t wide enough for two people to walk abreast, so we walk single-file, slowly and carefully. The sunlight initially reaches down to where we are on the path, but gradually begins to fade the deeper it gets.
After five minutes, we encounter the first opening along the ridge wall. The path continues deeper down with no end in sight, but Lost leads the way into the cave without travelling down further. The interior is quite dim. There aren’t any light sources nearby, yet a gentle glow comes from deep within the cave.
A man and woman make their way out of the hollow as we enter it. The woman is carrying a jewelled staff while the man is wielding an oversized bastard sword and wearing a large set of shiny black armor that melds into the darkness. I find my eyes strangely affixed to them, or more precisely, their hands. That are holding each other. The couple gives us an interested glance and shares an amiable smile as they pass by.
The pathway breaks off into multiple tunnels, and from one of them, a new type of Antril appears. It is slightly larger than the ‘Antril Workers’, and considerably more bulky. By looking at the large horn growing from the top of its head, I instantly recognize it as an ‘Antril Warrior’, the enemy we have been looking for.
Just like the ‘Antril Workers’, the warrior breed of the species also has high ice and fire resistances. Planning to deal with the warriors the same as I did the workers, I condense ice to form two kodachis. At the same time, Lost vanishes.
He reappears next to the creature, cutting into its left legs. This enemy doesn’t collapse like the others, but instead rears up on its hind legs. Seeing this as an opening, I rush in to attack the underside of its body. I only notice the front two legs of the enemy glowing in a dull yellow glow when I am a few feet away. Sensing the impending danger, I stop my assault and back away at top speed. Unfortunately, I am too close as its glowing legs come slamming back into the ground.
Initially, I only feel a slight vibration through the ground, but the second wave of force that hits me is completely incomparable to the first. Like a hammer swung by a giant, it blows me back like a rag doll and I lose control of my limbs while flying. I glimpse Lost just after my feet leave the ground, who turns into a blur rushing toward me.
Lost passes by and around me and I feel myself hit him. His arms wrap around me as he does his best to catch and protect me. My chest flutters from the feeling of him holding me, and despite the enemy fast approaching us, I wish this moment would continue indefinitely.
“Fen, are you ok?” He whispers into my ear.
I don’t say anything, but I nod, embarrassed.
“You need to be more careful. Especially against an enemy we don’t know anything about.”
He is wrong, I do know about this enemy, the same way I know about all enemies. I cannot see any information about the enemy, but the knowledge is like a memory from the past. I simply wasn’t expecting it to attack like that.
He lets go of me and I stand still for a moment, savoring the feeling of being embraced. As soon as the feeling fades, I move again to engage the Antril. The creature is incredibly tough, but soon falls to the ground dead under our combined assault.
“Strange,” Lost say while frowning upon the corpse, “it didn’t drop its horn. Perhaps it isn’t a common drop.”
We encounter another five ‘Antril Warriors’ in the cave, yet none seem to drop their horns. After the fifth victory, we find the light source from the cave. The tunnel abruptly ends, leading us onto one of the pathways in a separate ravine. The whole area must be riddled with these tunnels, leading in between the ravines in a massive network.
Following the path deeper into this ravine, the walls close together enough at one point that we easily jump across to the path on the other side and enter another tunnel.
We soon encounter another ‘Antril Warrior’, and while Lost is busy contemplating why no horns seem to be dropping, I get an idea. Without saying anything to Lost, as soon as we encounter the creature, I aim my ice blade directly at the horn on its head.
There is some resistance as the blade connects with the horn, but my ice proves to be denser and cuts the horn clean off its head.
“F-Fen? You?” Lost stammers after seeing my actions. “You are a genius!”
The next Antril we fight, Lost aims his dagger at the horn, but unfortunately he only leaves a deep scar on it and gets blown away by the counter-attack. Clicking his tongue, he attempts it again, luckily manage to land the short sword along the existing cut and cleanly removing the horn from its head.
This process continues for several hours and Lost begins to look extremely fatigued. He periodically withdraws food to keep his and my hunger satisfied, but we haven’t slept in quite a long time. I don’t feel the need for it, but apparently he must.
“Finally, that’s 200.” He sighs in relief.
“Let’s go… I’m sleepy…” I say, not because I am tired, but because I hope it inspires him to get some rest.
“Yeah, me too. We will go up to the surface then log off.”
We exit the cave by backtracking the path we took down. After getting lost several times, we find the ravine path. The sky is shining brightly with clusters of stars and a few ghostly white clouds illuminated by the moon. I don’t know what it is about the sight, but it reminds me of the man and woman holding hands earlier today.
I hesitantly extend my hand and grab onto Lost’s hand, interlocking my fingers with his before he can say anything. He glances over his shoulder at me, and I nervously bow my head and look down. He doesn’t say anything, and when I raise my head back up, he has already faced forward again. The silence of the night is broken by the sounds of swords clashing with armor and battle shouts from up above us, but it barely registers as background noise at the moment.
I sit next to the phone all morning, waiting for the anticipated call from my sisters. The only sounds are those of a clock ticking in the silence and me occasionally tapping my finger on the table. I only manage to wait for half an hour before returning to my room to look through the End Forums on my computer.
The latest news doesn’t seem to interest me at all. There is a sighting of Gladox and a report his level is fast approaching 400. I also see a video by a blogger who is busy trying to supply the latest news and updates from End Online. I play the video, but skip through the majority of it. The only interesting thing I hear from him is that apparently the single, large continent of End Online is called ‘The Continent of Thede’.
Scrolling down at the older updates, I see one which brings me to rapt attention. It is a post confirming the location of the Elves to be the far northern forest in the Kingdom of Forste. They are asking for information on how to enter it, as they continue to end up outside the forest where they entered no matter what.
Suddenly deciding to follow a whim, I search for the ‘Battle Colosseum’ in Swordbreak. Mouse had informed me that the solution to all my problems is there, but I don’t quite understand what he meant.
A seemingly endless amount of posts and information appear onscreen and I struggle to figure out where to begin. Picking a random spot that catches my eye, I learn about betting on matches, the gladiators, and how I can become one.
It is a pure player versus player arena, where only players can fight in various duels, battle royals, and tournaments. The second post I look at tells me all of this, including a schedule for upcoming bouts. In two weeks, there will be a large tournament with a massive prize of 10,000 gold and some ancient tablet.
This must be what Mouse meant when he mentioned I could solve all my problems here. I understand that it would definitely help me buy that scramasax, but it will hardly solve everything.
Choosing another post about the rewards of fighting, I try to find more information regarding the battles and am stunned at what I find. The winner of each fight will not only be rewarded with gold for their victory, but they will also gain fame!
Just as I decide to become a gladiator and join the arena to gain enough fame to offset my infamy, the phone in the other room starts ringing. I eagerly run over and pick up the phone.
The following conversation with my two little sisters seems to pass in an instant, despite the hour I spend on the phone. We talk about menial things, including their schooling, friends, and some strange man that visited my Aunt this morning. By the end of the conversation, I can’t find a way to say my farewell for the next week and don’t want to put the phone down.
The girls are the first to say they have to go, as Aunt Jude is calling them. When the phone finally hangs up, I can hear their voices in my memory, and recall them attempting to cook in the kitchen, running around the lounge room, and staying up all night gossiping to each other. A small part of my heart aches when I recall it, my mind creating ghosts of them in the house.
I eventually return to where I left my V-Link, logging back into End Online to begin my path as a gladiator. After informing Fen that there are a few things I want to do, I make my way towards the colosseum. Not the main gate which is flooded with players trying to make their way in to get the best seats for today’s matches, but the smaller entrance further around the building.
Crowding around this entrance are a few dozen high-levelled players fully equipped with top tier gear that is all most likely of the ‘Unique’ rarity at least. They give us some hard stares, but don’t cause any trouble. I mostly ignore them, and make my way to the NPC door guard. Naturally, my intimidating aura induces fear in the guard and my infamy consequently grows larger. But I could not care less about the gain in infamy, considering I will soon be parting ways with it.
The journey to the vaguely-described area somewhere in the north is slightly eventful. Encountering a group of players trying to extort us, I opt to break out of their formation and run. Getting a player-killer skull in such a heavily populated place is a recipe for disaster.
We finally reach the area and discover the mission targets are inside a maze-like labyrinth of tunnels snaking throughout the area. All of the Antril species have an appearance strongly similar to fire ants, if only more menacing and about as tall as the average person.
I kill multiple ‘Antril Warriors’, yet not a single horn drops. I rack my brain trying to find out why there hasn’t even been a single drop.
‘Is my ‘Luck’ stat too low? Am I missing something?’
Fen becomes my saving grace, using her ice daggers to cut off one of the horns in mid combat. After her success, I attempt to replicate it as well, but I find the creature’s horn to be classified as a shield, meaning I can’t ignore its defensive value with my speed. Being forced to rely on strength alone, it takes between two and five strikes to sever the horn, depending on how accurately I can repeatedly strike the same place.
The time when everyone is due to meet back in Swordbreak is fast approaching as I finish collecting the required 200 horns. Walking out of the cave and onto the wall of a ravine, I gaze upwards to the nighttime stars. I consider why it is only here in Dalbe that the nighttime sky appears so much more vibrant than in the other two kingdoms.
I feel a warmth envelop my hand, it is a pleasant feeling that makes me want to hold onto it a little bit tighter. I know whose hand it is, but I still glance over my shoulder at the girl who is acting shy behind me.
‘Well, it’s not… unpleasant.’ I think to myself as I turn around and start ascending the ravine.
The sounds of players’ swords cutting into Antrils and the shouts of party leaders issuing orders pervades the night. Once we reach the surface, I log out and return back to my locker. In my own personal space with the theme of ‘China3’, I decide that perhaps just for tonight, I will not return to reality.
Moving to the back of the living area, I open the double sliding door and reveal a bedroom. I could call it mine, but I have never actually personally been in it. A large four poster, king sized bed is centered on the back walls. A couple of pieces of furniture lay on one side of the room for clothing storage, while a few empty bookshelves occupy the opposite side.
I climb into the bed, which feels like it is ten degrees warmer than the surrounding air. Basking in the warm sheets, I quickly enter a deep slumber.
My consciousness stirs and I feel a pleasant feeling against my body. My arm is outstretched, and on top of it at the shoulder is a head of snow white hair. I can only see the top half of her head as the bed sheet covers up to her petite nose. Fen’s warm body clings to me tightly, refusing to let me go anywhere.
I put up with it for a moment before I force myself to sit up and inevitably disturb her rest. She yawns and stares up at me with her eyes just above the blanket. No emotions are betrayed by her eyes, they simply stare at me.
My mind goes into alarm mode when I notice the current time. It is 9am, meaning I have slept for seven hours. I only meant to sleep for five hours, allowing me time to return to Swordbreak before everyone else arrived.
Any thoughts of Fen flee my mind as I rush to log back on and hurry back to the city.
Along the way, I send a private message to Verde, Sir Laurence, and the brothers to apologize for being late and that I will be back in the city soon to meet up and reform the party. They seem rather understanding, even though the blonde prince curses me for being irresponsible.
Fen and I make haste back to Swordbreak, not stopping at all and even barging through a few groups of players along our path. By dusk that day, we finally make it back inside the gates of the capital city.
“I’m back,” I say to Mason over a privately message, “But there is something I must do in Swordbreak so I don’t want to leave for a week or so. If that’s fine with everyone else?”
I would have sent the message over the party chat, but unfortunately, logging off disbands the party and there hasn’t been the chance to reform the party as I was not around. Well, perhaps the others have already formed the party and are just waiting for Fen and I to join.
“Lost! Sorry, we decided we didn’t want to wait for you, and have already left Swordbreak.”
I stop walking in the middle of the busy street out of sheer shock. My head feels slightly dizzy and numb as I attempt to come to terms with Mason’s words. However, his voice sounds in my head before I have the chance to continue.
“I’m kidding. We are all at the Sandy Sun Inn having a few drinks. It is a little west of the colosseum.” He speaks in a dry voice that causes me to imagine him with a cunning grin as he speaks them.
“…I will see you soon.”
I slowly move toward the inn Mason described in silence. I get lost a few times and it is well into the night by the time I find it. Sure enough, everything is sitting around a small table chatting over large, wooden cups of beer. It is a unique sight of completely different personalities, Mason is being overly joyful while Matrix is shy and avoids eye contact. Verde is cupping the drink in two hands and takes short, delicate sips, while Prince Charming is sitting overly close to Verde and pretending to be protecting her.
I move over to the table and sit at an empty spot next to the prince, with Fen sitting in between Matrix and myself. Matrix sends a nervous glance at Fen and shuffles away somewhat, ending up closer to his brother.
“Haha, Lost! It’s good you can make it!” Mason bellows out cheerfully.
Before I even have a chance to think, two cups of beer, the same as everyone else’s, appear in front of Fen and I. Resigning myself to the cup, I eagerly join in on the conversation and forget about the past few hours.
The sun rises in the game, signalling a new day. We had reformed our party at some stage last night while dancing around, causing more than one bar fight in the progress.
I walk out of the inn and my head feels like it is still spinning slightly. I am forced to squint in the sunlight as the brightness induces an uncomfortable feeling behind my eyes and makes me feel slightly nauseous. I know what this feeling is from a few experiences in the past; it is a mild hangover.
When I look at my stats screen, I see that I have a flashing status effect on me for being ‘drunk’ which reduces all my stats by 25 percent for the following day.
“Lost,” Verde politely speaks to me while also rubbing her eyes in the sun, “You told Mason you had something you wanted to do earlier? What was that?”
“It is something very important to me. I wish to go participate in a few matches in the arena.”
“What?! Why?! There is no need to fight in there. And if you die while fighting, you will respawn all the way back in Iceridge. That is at least three weeks of travel in game time to get back here!”
“Haha, there is no need to be worried. If a player dies in the colosseum, they are revived in the waiting room just outside the arena. There is also only half the death penalty.”
“Really? I have never heard of such a thing.”
“It’s true,” Sir Laurence semi joins the conversation, whispering gently to Verde. “It is to incentivize players from other kingdoms to take part in the arena. Else, only players from the Kingdom of Dalbe would participate.”
After saying his thoughts, however, Sir Laurence becomes silent as he stares at me sternly.
“Well, I suppose it should be fine then. But what are we to do during this week? Or do you expect us to simply wait for you?”
“Why are you so concerned? I was, umm, thinking that there would be a quest or two in the city you could do, or enjoy the sights.”
“Because we’ve travelled so far together, of course! Why go so far only to separate now? You didn’t think this through very well; do not be so selfish!” Verde furrows her brows and glares at me with displeasure.
“I’m sorry… Please, forgive me.”
“Just hurry it up.” Verde sighs in resignation, her expression softening to look at me with worry..
Fen and I soon split apart from the rest of the party and walk toward the colosseum. I believe everyone else is will take up a local quest, but they don’t specify what their plans are. Perhaps they intend on becoming gladiators as well.
I stop by a local healer on the way and pay an exorbitant fee for a detoxification that eliminates my ‘drunk’ status. Once the treatment is done, my head does indeed feel considerably clearer.
I pass through multiple dusty streets before I finally arrive at the gladiator’s entrance to the colosseum. There are even more players waiting around in this area compared to when I accepted the quest to qualify as a participant, but I only recognize a few of them from last time.
I move toward the guard standing next to the entrance. He starts to get nervous when he sees me approach and even places a second hand on his spear. I can see his knuckles turn white from the force he is using to hold the weapon.
“Excuse me, I have accomplished the task of collecting two hundred Antril horns.”
A trading window opens up before me and I select the items from my inventory and place them within it.
“Y-yes, this is very good. Y-you have indeed completed the request.”
Your quest has been successfully completed. You have gained the right to participate in the battle colosseum as a gladiator.
The standard ‘Quest Complete!’ notification appears before me, but as soon as I dismiss it, another appears in front of me.
You have been awarded a common gladiator's insignia, this must be displayed at all times when fighting in the arena. You will be awarded newer, better insignias as your rank in the arena improves.
I browse my inventory and finally find a shabby looking, round insignia with a carving of a helmet on it. The helmet is the type a warrior would wear, covering the entire head with a T-shaped opening on the face. The item also says that it will be automatically equipped when inside the battle colosseum and will unequip itself when I leave.
For some reason, I don’t gain any infamy this time when I turn in the quest. I wonder if it could be due to there being no room for negotiations, or perhaps some other factor. While I now have a method to work off my infamy, I still prefer to avoid gaining any in the future if possible.
“Please, f-feel free to enter whenever you like. T-the quartermaster will be able to assist you with selecting matches and events to participate in.”
The guard quickly steps to the side and allows me to enter the door behind him. I take one last glance at the players milling around the entrance before entering the colosseum with Fen. I notice that Fen technically didn’t complete the quest and become a gladiator, yet the NPC didn’t stop her from entering along with me. The guard must automatically recognize her as my ‘Companion’.
The inside of the building is well lit by torches along the sandstone walls, but the air is quite damp and cool in here. I walk into a large room full of weapons and armor. A few players are busy around anvils and furnaces forging these weapons. I approach one of these players and ask about all the items he is crafting. He has curly brown hair, a face full of freckles, and is wearing casual grey clothing while inspecting his creations.
“I do it to improve my ‘Smithing’ skill. One of the rewards that most winners are provided are various ores that can be forged into more armor and weapons. Considering that the durability of weapons and armor drops shockingly fast when fighting other players, it is a good hobby.”
“Really? I wouldn’t imagine it would drop that fast.”
I already knew about ores and sometimes a few other crafting items being awarded to the victors from battles. It is apparently an incentive to keep the arena constantly busy, and it works.
“It is because nearly everyone becomes a heavy tank during a fight, relying on defending against blows rather than avoiding them. A player’s attack will also damage the armor more than most monsters. The reverse also happens, a player hitting a shield with their weapon will lower the weapon’s durability more quickly than cutting into monsters. Speaking of which, you are welcome to purchase any of my extra armor and weapons if you need some.”
“I understand, that makes a lot of sense now that I think about it,” I consider it to be similar to how nothing damages a rock more than smashing it into another rock of similar hardness. “How much for those leg guards over there?”
“They’re not a bad quality piece of armour. Made of ‘Diamond Silver’ and intended for players level 220 and up. I will sell them to you for 350 gold if you like.”
I can’t seem to find a response after hearing his price. For a place like Swordbreak, that price is unheard of.
“Haha, don’t be too shocked. Down here in the pits, weapon and armor are priced at the normal rate. We only trade between fellow gladiators and aren’t greedy for money, just enjoyable matches.”
“S-sorry, I was just a little surprised by the price is all. Would you happen to have any short swords?”
“A short sword? No, I can’t say that I do. Long swords, axes and various other two-handed weapons are the only weapons that are generally in use in the arena, so that is all we make. We do have a few projectile weapons and ammunition if it helps, but you will have to make your own short sword if that’s what you want.”
“You don’t happen to take requests, do you?”
“Sorry, only from more friendly acquaintances. It’s nothing personal.”
I would work hard and make my own weapon, but I will need other skills that can aid the ‘Smithing’ skill to improve the weapon or imbue it with enchantments. And after all that effort, there will be far better weapons placed on the market from rare loot and boss drops.
“Think nothing of it, perhaps another time.”
“Haha yes, perhaps another time.”
I leave the player behind and head through a large double door off to my right. There are two more doors leading out of the room, but I choose the closest one to me for convenience.
Behind mystery door number one is a dome-shaped room many times larger than the last room and full of weights and other training apparatus. My first thought upon seeing the area is that if a gym existed two thousand years ago, it would probably look like this. I can see several players at various points of the room using the equipment to train their characters. With death in the arena only exacting half the usual penalty on players’ stats, this area must be a fantastic way to regain any stat points that were lost. Strange how I never read about this area in the End Forums.
I leave the room and try the next door around the room. This one is on the exact opposite side of the colosseum exit. This room is the smallest so far, with a single desk at one end of the room, and several boards throughout the room full of upcoming events and people requesting matches with strange and fantastical rules.
There are several players searching over the boards, but only a single NPC wandering around the room with a large wooden staff in his hands. He appears to be a weathered man in his late fifties with streak of grey hair along the side of his head. Behind the NPC are two stone passageways, curving away and ascending to unknown locations.
I instantly recognize him as the quartermaster that I need to talk to in order to register for any events. Even though this is a game, I still feel a little nervous as I walk toward him.
“Good afternoon, I would like to register for a match.”
The hint of a frightened expression appears on his face momentarily, but is gone in the space of half a breath.
“HAH! YOU WANT A MATCH?! What match do you want?!”
There is something about his voice that contains a certain familiarity, but I can’t seem to recall what it is. I massage my temples while I fruitlessly try to figure it out.
“Hmm, I would like a standard one on one match.”
The man flips through a few parchments until he finds one he approves of and slaps his hand on the table with a loud crash, causing me to jump in fright.
“Follow the path to my right and be ready in ten minutes! DON’T REGRET IT IF YOU DIE!”
“Fen, I need you to stay here for me. I will be back soon! If you have any troubles, log out immediately.”
The wolf girl nods her head in understanding. It should be possible for her to fight with me in a two on two match, but I cannot risk her dying like that. We stare at each other for a lingering moment, before I finally turn my head and break eye contact.
I walk through the passage on the right, the only sounds being the echoes of my boots clicking on the ground. My heart rate doubles from nervousness and I start to consider the possibility of being easily defeated. Successful players who fight in the arena are generally either high levelled or highly skilled, sometimes both.
Up ahead of me, sunlight is pouring in from where the passage comes to an abrupt ending. I walk out into the ambiance and am momentarily overwhelmed by the shouts of the crowd. My eyes adjust to the light rapidly, revealing a large, sand-strewn oval battle ground with six raised arenas on it. Half of the arenas have two players fighting on them, while the other half have four.
“Hey! Are you going to stand there all day like an idiot? Come sit down and join the queue,” A gruff voice sounds from my left, startling me.
I turn my head to the left and see a line of players sitting on a stone bench against the edge of the colosseum floor. All their torso armors are blue with their gladiator’s insignia attached in the center of their chest. The insignias are in all grades and colors, the highest being a single player with one glowing dimly with the green of ‘Epic’ rarity.
There are a total of 26 players in the line, half of which are staring at me.
“Yes! Of course.”
I rush over and sit at the far end of the line of players on the bench. This must be where everyone waiting to battle waits for their turn to arrive. I notice that none of them seem to be equipped with their weapons or shields.
“So, what’s your grade?” The player directly next to me asks with a friendly smile. He is a large, middle-aged man with thick beard and a blue insignia on his chest.
“Your grade. What is the rarity of your gladiator’s insignia?”
“Oh, sorry. It is only common. I’m new to the arena.”
I pull open my cloak slightly to reveal the plain white insignia attached to my ‘Silverhusk Plate Armor’. When the man sees it however, his smile instantly disappears and hostility flashes in his eyes.
“I think you’re in the wrong place here. How about you walk away and leave this area before I make you.” A few heads turned at his words, staring indifferently at me.
I open my mouth a few times trying to find the words to respond to him, but the immense pressure from everyone causes my potential responses to catch in my throat. It took nearly a minute before I finally manage to regain my speech.
“E-excuse me? What did I do? I’m sure you were all new to the arena at some point and had common grade insignias. I hardly think that is any reason to kick someone out.”
Hard stares bore into me, causing me to avert my eyes from them. The player next to me who had suddenly become hostile is the one to respond.
“No one here could care less as to what grade insignia you have. What we do care about, is the fact that you are not a part of the blue team. Your torso armor is white, which gives you away.”
I pull open my cloak again and look down at my body. It is just as they say, my torso armor is still completely white. But this doesn’t mean I am not a part of the blue team. All the other players on the bench also suddenly equip their weapons, ready to attack at any moment.
“N-no! It isn’t like that at all! It is an effect of my class skill that causes everything to turn white! Look! Look!” I hastily open my cloak completely and point out my boots, clothing, and anything else that could be served at evidence.
“That is completely unconvincing!” Another player calls out.
“Let’s just kill him and be done with it!”
“Hold it, everyone.” The person who speaks up is an almost adolescent man in the middle of the line. He is the same person with the ‘Epic’ insignia.
“GordonOx, he is clearly a spy. The red team must be planning an off-arena assault, and they sent him to stab us in the back the moment the battle begins.”
“Are you afraid of the red team? His armor isn’t red either. The truth will be revealed when he is called up to battle. Whether he fights for the blue team, or the red team.”
“It won’t matter if they surprise attack first.”
“That’s why I propose we move him to the front of the queue. If he is a part of the red team, we will find out soon enough.”
Just like that, everyone shuffles back on the seat and forces me to sit at the very front. Hostile glares assault me for the next five minutes before a message finally appears in front of not just me but everyone else.
The blue team member in arena 2 has fallen. The next member from the blue team approach arena 2.
“T-that’s me.” I say as I stand up and awkwardly walk toward the arena with only one player waiting on.
“Blue team it is! Good luck!” The same player who stuck up for me and proposed I go next in line gives me a smile and thumbs up.
I climb a row of cracked stairs to arrive on a solid platform that is thirty meters wide and long. The player on the other side is equipped with full heavy armor, a large heater shield, and a menacing battle axe which leaves trails of fire through the air when it moves. Unfortunately, I can’t make out his face as his helmet completely covers it.
When he sees me, he suddenly raises his battle axe to point it at me, leaving a fire trail in its wake.
“I know you! You’re Lost, from that video with the elves!!” He shouts out at me.
More than one of the battles on the other arenas stop while the players look over at me with astonished faces. The sounds of the crowd also doubles from the excitement of everyone trying to shout over one another and be heard. Though there are too many voices mixed together and I can’t even make out if they are calling positive things or negative.
“Yes, I am. But there was really no need to shout.”
“I’m sorry! I was just a little excited after seeing you appear right in front of me. I was completely captivated by that video, so I could tell it was you right away even if you weren’t wearing the hood. Please, tell me how you found it! The elves, I mean!”
“This really isn’t the time for it. Perhaps another time.”
“Of course, of course. You must be new to Swordbreak and the arena considering you were in Grenton not too long ago. Do you know the rules of the matches? Ring out and you lose, last man standing in the ring alive is the winner. Haha, you’re Lost, of course you already know. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Firecore.”
I have a feeling this person is rating me much higher than I deserve to be. Before I can respond to him, he starts running toward me with his weapon raised. He is fast, but his heavy armor must be slowing him down by a lot.
I draw my two short swords and wait for Firecore to get closer. When he is ten meters away, he does something completely unexpected. His axe glows with a fiery light and he swings it down at the ground. The fires from the axe instantly explode forward toward me in a narrow cone shape. I am forced to jump to the side, but still get singed by the flames and lose nearly a full quarter of my health.
Shaking off my shock, I move toward the enemy at a high speed. Not as fast as possible as I still cannot control it properly and will most likely end up running straight out of the ring, but enough to hopefully surprise him. Firecore starts moving back at the same time as I move forward, swinging his axe horizontally to intercept me.
The moment his axe touches me, my body disperses into mist as the result of using ‘Backstab’. If Firecore paid as much attention to the video of me fighting as I suspect, he is fully aware of the two shortswords about to stab him in the back.
The attack lands perfectly, yet despite landing a critical hit, barely does more damage to him than what his glancing blow did to me. I swifty retreat, and not a moment too soon as steel and fire cut through my previous location.
“Hahaha! That’s good! You’re as good as I thought you would be! Come, I want more!”
This guy is obsessive and crazy, I understand that now. I take the opportunity to use ‘Multi Mirage’, a skill that works wonders against a single opponent. I first throw a collection of throwing knives at him from all angles, even if only a few are real. Firecore picks a direction and raises his shield to block. He is lucky and turns to face the right direction, successfully stopping the real throwing knives. I can’t let him off that easily though, and rush forward to start attacking with my other sacred arts.
I use both ‘Triple Thrust’ and ‘CrossX’ from all sides to confuse him. I manage to land two attacks before he notices which is my real body and ignores the rest of the mirages. With the skill’s effectiveness now over, I allow all the false images of me to vanish and once again activate ‘Backstab’.
The axe once again passes through my body horizontally only to have it turn insubstantial and vanish. Only, this time his axe is glowing with a blood red light, and continues its path. Firecore releases an attack that causes him to spin and attack in a full 360 degree range.
The attack interrupts my ‘Backstab’, blowing me away while at the same time doing heavy damage. I stop near the edge of the ring with my health dangerously low. I had thought that this would be an easy battle considering my dominance in speed, but this player seems to start moving before I do and ends up matching my attacks.
Firecore’s health looks to be getting low as well. I decide to take a gamble and raise my speed by another level. I push off of the ground a little harder than before with my weapons raised. The attack catches the player from the red team by complete surprise and unable to block. My blade cuts straight through his arm, armor and all to leave a large red scar on his player avatar.
What little health he has left is immediately emptied, causing him to fall the ground and vanish. There are no player drops in the battle colosseum, and the death penalty is much lower than the usual, so there are no hard feelings formed between players killing each other in the arena.
Congratulations, you are the victor for Arena 2. Rewards: Fame +1 1 iron ore Would you like to continue onto the next match or step down from the arena? Press 'yes' to proceed. Yes/No
I easily accept yes, moving on to the next challenger from the red team. The second victory will give me two points of fame, while the third giving me four points, and doubling with every consecutive win. Once you reach the sixth consecutive win, however, the amount of fame awarded will not exceed 32. It is hard to even get this many wins considering the short break you get between challengers to eat and recover whatever health you can.
You have selected to await the next challenger. You will receive a 90 second interlude to restore satiety and health.
I hastily sit down, bringing out some dry, long life food from my inventory. After restoring enough of my satiety, I withdraw my best medicinal herbs and consume them to start my health recovery. The healing speed is simply too slow as I calculate how much health will be restored by the time the next challenger appears in front of me.
‘I will have to start the battle with less than half of my health!’