Editors: genericIntent, Scott
Author’s notes: Technically one more chapter to go! But it is a short one, and nearly half written already. I got a little distracted over the weekend, and even ended up coming into work Monday(yesterday) after having absolutely no sleep the night before! Anyway, I am back on track this week and I have a lot of guilt built up from not writing over the weekend so we are looking to have pretty productive week!
For all who are here to leave aggravated comments about cliffhangers, please find the comment section at the bottom of the page to express your thoughts. ^.^
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:… (Why do I even have this section!)
I take Fen and the rest of the party and leave the quartermaster behind. The tournament is in three real life days, or nine short, eight hour days in the game. Until then, I need to do my best to train against fighting other players. Additionally, my new weapons will get stronger as my religious ‘Belief’ grows. To raise my ‘Belief’ stat, I will have kill other players with my ‘Minor Dire Flame’, which can only be done without consequence in one place: the Battle Colosseum.
Mysteriously, Fen decides to leave and do her own preparations as I enter the colosseum to battle other players, relying on my sole spell to finish most of the battles. I continue this for nearly two days, until it’s time for the weekly call from my sisters.
I am in the middle of a battle with what I would call a weak player when the phone rings. Due to safety regulations, the V-Link only blocks optical signals entering the brain and outgoing motor signals. This allows me to hear the phone ringing even in virtual reality.
I immediately use the emergency logout function to return to reality. I keep one of the cordless phones on the small bedside table. This is so that if it ever rings, I can quickly get to it. Pulling the helmet off my head, I maneuver into a sitting position and answer the phone without checking the caller ID.
“Hello?” I ask politely with high expectations.
“Hollis! I’ve missed you!” Shari, my youngest sister, chimes from the other end of the line.
“Hah, it has only been a week, what are you talking about?” I have also missed my two little sisters, enough that sometimes it keeps me up at night as I think about them, but I don’t say this. “How have you been?”
“A week is still a long time! But I have been good. I am trying really hard at my new school just like you told me to and made lots of friends.”
“That is really good, I’m proud of you Shari. Are you the top of your class yet?”
“No, I try so hard but I am still sixth in my class, and 21st in my year.”
Of course the kids in school are ranked by their tests and how high their overall marks are. There are usually four classes to a year level and thirty students in each. While coming in the 21st rank doesn’t sound that impressive, it is significant when comparing that to the 120 students in her year level.
“Don’t be down about it, that is still quite impressive! You are doing fantastic so far, just keep up the hard work.”
“Yes! I will!”
“How is your life with Aunt going? Are you being well looked after?”
“I don’t like having to get up so early, but breakfast and dinner are always incredibly yummy! It is usually only me and Joelle and Aunt so it does get a little lonely sometimes. We aren’t allowed to have any of our school friends over, either!”
“Well, I’m sure she has her reasons.”
“It’s not fair! She had a friend over a few days ago so why can’t we? I know she had him over, I saw them outside from the bedroom window.”
“Don’t be like that Shari. Aunt is an adult, so she can do that. You just need to focus on your school and leave adult business to the adults.”
My conversation with Shari continues for another twenty minutes, before switching over to talk with Joelle. Our conversation is similar to when I was speaking with Shari. Joelle has a much more mature attitude than our youngest sibling. She asks many questions about my life and hopes I am doing well. She also whispers through the phone that once she is old enough she is going to move out, and back in with me and help me.
I am forced to tell her just to focus on school, and to stick by Shari. Even once she finishes school, Shari will still be in her final two years and will need her advice just as much as ever.
Once my weekly conversation is over, I lie back down and stare up at the ceiling. I long to be able to walk again. Since the accident, I have come to accept my condition, but I still want my freedom back. I feel like I am trapped in a cage, unable to escape no matter how hard I try. It is a depressing thought, but I dispel it with fantasies of running up to this little shack that is my aunt’s house, picking up my sisters, and fleeing.
‘No, wait. While I am at it, why don’t I pick them up in my top-of-the-line sports car?’
I pinch myself to prevent my imagination from running too wild. I definitely want my sisters back, but I am more aware than anyone else just how difficult that will be.
Getting up off the bed, I move over to my computer to look up information on getting my high school equivalency, also known as a GED. Apparently it is a test that cannot be taken online, and there are multiple schools in the area which provide the test during semester breaks.
The prices for the test vary between $150 and $200 depending on the school, but either is still a considerable sum to add on top of my usual expenses. Lately, my income has come from selling a couple of pieces of equipment from ‘End Online’ and usually earning between one and two months’ worth of expenses each time. While the money has been good, it isn’t consistent and could stop at any time. My bank account currently only has enough for me to survive another six months without any income.
I make up my mind and decide to take the test if my quicksilver items and the elven bow sell well in the auctions. Opening up the auction and inspecting the items, I notice that the price for each of them has doubled since I checked it last. There are only two days left on the auction, and one and a half days until everyone starts bidding more seriously.
I strengthen my resolve and log back onto ‘End Online’. There is only one day left until the tournament begins, so I jump back into the colosseum.
I am not the only one practicing against another opponent, as I fully come to realize when Sir Laurence appears as my first competitor in the ring.
The prince stands upright in his armor that looks like it has been polished for hours to get its reflective sheen. When he sees me arrive from the blue team, a small smirk appears on his face.
“I have wanted to face off against you alone for some time,” he says quietly so that only I can hear.
My reply is curt, but I also have a small grin of anticipation on my face. Since the time that Verde disappeared and he left the group, he seems to have grown in monumental steps. So much so that I feel a little nervous facing off against him.
As soon as the match begins, I dash straight for him. Sir Laurence has been fighting beside me for a long time, so there will be no surprising him when it comes to my sacred arts and base abilities. Although, the same applies for my familiarity with him.
I have also grown more accustomed to fighting in the ring in the past few days. As such, I step my speed up to a new level, moving so fast it is difficult for the eye to follow. My main weakness, I have come to learn, is that I need to avoid becoming entrapped and having my agility stripped away from me. A few players have had skills that hindered me in such a way.
Sir Laurence’s face hardens as soon as I start moving, raising his shield to try and form a defensive wall between him and I. All I need to do is have my daggers land on his body, and my speed will ensure that any defensive value his armour has against my attack is heavily diminished.
One of my pure black daggers grazes against his shield on the way past, creating sparks as the dagger and shield collide. There is no delay between my attacks as I lower my posture and rush past him again, attacking his open side. The weapon slides through his armor, leaving a small red scar behind.
Sir Laurence clicks his tongue and hastily turns to face me and defend against any further attacks. I assault him again, both swords raised with the intent of creating a feint. The moment I am near the prince, I activate ‘Backstab’ and my false body disperses as it comes into contact with his shield.
He isn’t slow to react either, going down to one knee and slamming his shield on the ground at the same time. A vivid blue light bursts from his body and forms large, shield-like sigils around him at the compass points.
My attack lands on one of those sigils, and it feels like I am trying to cut through a concrete wall. Faint cracks appear on the sigil, but my strength proves to be inadequate to break through. I take a step back from recoil and not only does the ethereal defense around Sir Laurence vanish, but a sharp glint cuts through my waist, leaving behind a slight sting in my nerves.
“Still an attack only player I see.” Sir Laurence says while looking down from his superior height.
“This is just how I learned to play.” I shrug my shoulders helplessly at him.
“You need to focus on defense more. You are too vulnerable to attacks. That attack of mine already took off nearly twenty percent of your health.”
“There isn’t much I can do about that right now. I just have to use what I have.”
“You should listen to others more.”
He frowns at me while seeming deep in thought. I summon a small fireball of ‘Dire Flame’ and throw it at him to catch him off guard, planning to attack when he dodges. Much to my surprise, his sword starts glowing with a gold aura and grows almost half a meter longer. The sword effortlessly glides through the air, dancing this way and that, before catching the dire flame and redirecting it off to the side.
“How about you tell me what’s up with Verde?” His expression breaks character and becomes grim. Even his voice hardens as he asks the question.
“Don’t treat me like a fool. I enjoy this game as much as anyone else, but how could I have not noticed. The others haven’t known her that long so they haven’t noticed, but I have known her even longer than you, so I know something is different.”
“Why would you think I know something?” If I could hear myself from another person’s perspective, I am sure I would sound overly defensive at the moment.
Our fight practically comes to a halt, the crowd shouting in discontent at the lack of action while we stand facing each other and only sharing words.
“As much as I dislike it, the person she is closest with is you. If she has told anyone her problems, it will be you.”
“You really like her, don’t you?”
“Don’t change the subject. The fact that I like her is obvious. I have made countless attempts to get closer to her but they have all failed. Now tell me what has had her so distracted lately, or I will never consider you a friend again.”
A friend? His words completely shock me, I have always had the feeling that he has some personal grudge against me and is only with us for Verde and his endless infatuation with her. I have never even considered this person to be a friend, so the thought makes me feel nervous and unsure how to respond.
“Believe me when I say she has not told me anything. I have my suspicions, but that is all they are right now. If I do find out something, I will be sure to tell you.”
I speak my sincere feelings to Sir Laurence, starting to feel a familiarity with him.
The man harrumphs, turning around and stalking off the stage. He effectively forfeits the match and the crowd erupts in an uproar around us.
‘The arrogance of this guy! I even thought we could be friends for a minute!’
Not only am I extremely irritated with his sudden attitude, but I will get no fame or rewards from this match at all!
The remainder of the day before the tournament passes relatively quickly, nearly all of my fights in the arena resulting in victories. All the stats that I had lost from my various losses were easily recovered and more. I also gained a small collection of ores in my inventory that I can use for training my ‘Smithing’ later.
The ‘Royal Summer Tournament’ is getting closer so I stop dueling and rest. I stroll out of the colosseum and into the busy streets of Swordbreak, mindlessly wandering where I see fit.
The biggest gains from the past three days of the tournament are the fame I have gained, nearly removing all of my infamy, the growth of my ‘Belief’ from killing with the ‘Dire Flame’, and subsequent strengthening of my weapons.
Name: Lost Health: 2667/2667 Stamina: 891/891 Mana: 2042/2042 Lvl: 212 Lvl UP: 51% Str: 64 +44 Agi: 204 +65 Dex: 73 +43 Int: 29 + 20 Mnd: 47 Lck: 30 Infamy: 19 Alignment: -39 God: Grael Belief: 78 Equipped Skills: Class Skill: White Warrior (SLvl 24, 78%) [Unavailable] Potion Production (SLvl 17, 11%) Mining (SLvl 15, 15%) Smithing (SLvl 13, 12%) Grael's Essence (SLvl 7, 80%) Origin of Dire Flame (SLvl 7, 80%) Haunting (SLvl 8, 28%) [Empty] Reserve Skills: [Empty] *************************************************** Non-skill resistances and bonuses Cutting resistance: 5% Impact resistance: -5% Poison resistance: 12% Acid resistance: 6% Flame resistance: 14% Ice resistance 5% +5% chance to completely resist all minor to intermediate poisons *************************************************** Skills Sacred Art Cost Triple Thrust 12 Stamina CrossX 21 Stamina Backstab 82 Stamina Pincer 105 Stamina Multi Mirage 187 Stamina Magic Cost Minor Dire Flame 800 Mana
Twin Nightingale A twin set of swords formed from the power of draconic amber essence and infused with the power of a higher being. This is the sacred weapon of the Religion of Grael. The swords resonate with the your religious 'Belief'. The higher your 'Belief' is, the stronger the weapons. The swords cannot be dropped or stolen. The blades are 47cm long. Requirements: - Level 110 - Dex 52 - Belief 10 Class 4 (Class up: Belief 120) Weapon Type: Double Edge/Twin Short Swords Attack: 104 - 115, 104 - 115 Durability: Indestructible Weight: 3.4 lbs, 3.4 lbs Abilities: - Increase movement and attack speed by 10%. - Mana cost of religious skills is halved. - Cannot be dropped on death or stolen. Any attempts to steal this weapon will result in receiving the curse of the dragon. - The swords can be used as wings to glide for up to 18 seconds. - Strength + 14
I close my player stats and item information as a problem suddenly occurs to me.
‘Fen! If I am not at the colosseum, she will get lost and be unable to find me!’
Before I can process the thought any further, I notice her familiar figure zig-zagging through the crowd of players toward me.
“Fen, you’re back! How did your practice go?” I call out as I the wolf girl appears before me from the crowd.
“Yes… it went well.”
Oddly, Fen seems slightly different than she was three days ago. Not only does she appear to be slightly taller, nearly as tall as I am, but the rest of her body has matured and started filling out more as well. Her hair has grown slightly longer, with the back of her snow white hair reaching her shoulders and the front extending to her collarbone.
“You seem different, Fen.”
“I am… the same?” She tilts her head and turns her statement into a question, almost like she does not know what I am saying.
A sudden thought occurs to me, and I wonder if the undergarments I had Verde help her buy back in Iceridge still fit her. I question why after all this time, she has made such a sudden change in the last three days, but receive no answers.
“We need to go join the tournament now. Are you ready?”
Fen nods her head while wrapping her arms around one of mine and pulling her body tightly against me. I feel a pair of cushions press against my arm, transferring their warmth to me and causing my face to flush.
‘They have definitely gotten larger!’
Two hours pass as we finally reach the end of the crowd, exiting near the colosseum. We take a few back roads and Fen and I emerge in front of the gladiator’s entrance for the arena.
There are no shortage of players here either, but at least it is much less crowded. The guard at the door does not stop us as we walk straight in, entering the bowels of the colosseum. As we enter, my gladiator’s insignia appears on my chestplate. Due to my extensive wins in the arena, my insignia is now blue, of the ‘Unique’ rarity.
The interior is as dank and dim as always, only the area inside has expanded exponentially to accommodate the high amount of players who are participating. There are supposed to be nearly five thousand gladiators participating in this knockout competition. I will have to win twelve matches in a row in order to emerge victorious. This will be harder than it appears as the players competing in the later matches will without a doubt be the strongest gladiators participating.
The quartermaster is standing in the main lobby, shouting out for everyone to come grab their participation badges. Fen and I make our way over to the center of the room and take a badge out of the large pot. I draw the number 2741, indicating the number that will be used to identify us.
Many of the gladiators are split off into little groups, casually chatting with each other. By sheer chance I happen to see the other four of our party standing off in the distance. Although if it wasn’t for Sir Laurence’s superior height and shining silver armor, I probably would not have noticed them.
Grabbing Fen’s hand, I lead us toward the group. It proves to be more difficult than I had planned, with the large amount of male players moving in front of me to block my way, anger in their eyes.
“Hey, why is someone like you with such a pretty girl?” One person calls out, attracting even more attention from the surrounding people.
“Yeah, whose hand does this good for nothing loser think he’s holding?!”
“Don’t get jealous, fellows, this guy is Lost, and what is wrong with him having a female partner with him?”
“We know who he is! We also know he is leading on two women! There is another one that he took up to a room in an inn alone just last week. This guy makes my single heart cry out in pain!”
The person who stood up for me changes sides and also begins to block my way. Not only that, but Fen’s grip on my hand tightens and she stares intently at me as well.
“Nothing like that happened! What ridiculous rumors!” I call out, trying to reassure the growing crowd.
“We should take him back to Grenton and claim the bounty on his head. He will spend enough time in prison with such a bounty that we may have a chance at some of the ladies!”
The players start to edge their way closer to me, ready to pounce on me at any moment. A short clap sounds from behind me as Fen stomps one of her feet and the ground within twenty meters turns to ice. Each and every single player in the region apart from myself has their feet trapped in ice, unable to move.
The wolf girl takes the lead and walks away from the group, pulling me along with her. I get a glimpse at her face and see an extremely displeased expression. Cracking noises again sound from behind me as the players free themselves one by one. While a sweeping glare from Fen stops them from pursuing us, it does nothing to prevent them from sending me hateful looks.
The rest of the party are looking over at us, their attention drawn by the commotion. When we reach them, Sir Laurence glances at Verde then stares intently at me.
‘Sorry, but I have nothing to say about that right now.’ I speak inwardly as if I am addressing the prince-like figure in shining armor.
“So, you are all already here!” I say instead of my thoughts, hoping to break the ice.
“We have been here for quite a while, you are rather slow.” Mason chuckles lightly at me. “How did the sale of your items go? They should have sold by now, right?”
“Haha, they went quite well. Have you made any more videos?”
“A few, but none have really had as much attention as I would have liked.”
I have no idea how well his videos have gone or not as I have not seen them, but I was eagerly checking my item sales in between every match at the arena yesterday. The final results caused me to actually shout for joy and bring unwanted stares and a strong feeling of embarrassment.
My ‘Quicksilver Gauntlets’ and ‘Quicksilver Boots’ sold for an average of $420 each, while the ‘Grand Elven Highbow’ reached an astronomical $2980. My bank account shortly after received the money and the jittery feeling in my stomach refused to stop. I also vowed to maintain my word and take the GED test once this tournament is finished. If I pass it, I will have to look at the various diplomas, hoping to find one suited to me.
“I’m sure it was still good nonetheless!” I laugh to Mason who returns the mirth back to me.
“Well, it wasn’t too bad either.”
“So, what number did everyone draw?” I ask while clearing my throat, noticing the others staring at us with blank expressions.
“I was here first, so I got an early number,” Mason raises his small badge which has ‘#453’ written on it.
“We were lucky to find these two considering how much later we got here,” Verde laughs while holding up her plate labelled ‘#1417’.
“At least we don’t have to worry about facing each other early on!”
“The matchings are random, so it is still a little early to say that.”
Just as we are speaking amongst ourselves, a message appears in front of each us.
Congratulations on taking part in the 'Royal Summer Competition'. All players who participate in the event will receive at least one reward, and more depending on how many matches they participate in. The 'Royal Summer Competition' is a knockout competition, a single loss will result in your removal from the tournament. Any player who has registered and not turned up at the battle colosseum has been deemed to have forfeited. Best of luck to everyone who has shown up. The tournament will take place during the in game daylight hours, for two days out of every three. Please take this free third day as an opportunity to rest properly. You will be notified ten minutes prior to your match when you are required to compete. In the mean time, you can touch the back of your number badge to open a real time display of the arena and any matches currently taking place. Make sure to enjoy yourself and make the 'Royal Summer Tournament' as lively as possible! Emperor of Dalbe - Renalt Gaiden
The entire room becomes silent as everyone reads through the message, followed by the chatter slowly returning in places. I notice a few players making a path toward the ramps leading up to the arena on the far end. These must be the first players chosen to compete.
A few hours pass in which Verde, Sir Laurence, Mason, and Matrix leave to compete. Fen and I stand there watching the matches through a small projection from the number plate. Not just the wolf girl’s head presses against my shoulder, but the rest of her body leans on me, transferring her weight onto me.
Sir Laurence really shows off his defensive skills, using various shielding techniques to protect not just himself but Verde as well. His sword cuts their enemies with each and every counter attack. He has a solid technique that blocks nearly every attack, yet still deals out a significant amount of damage.
Verde dances around her prince, her daggers flashing from odd angles and crippling the opponents. She has unknowingly become stronger as well, her quick, agile attacks somehow dealing negative status effects to the enemy when they strike. I question whether this has happened over the past few days, or slowly while she has been travelling with me and I simply didn’t notice.
Mason and Matrix are just as I recall them. Matrix takes the front lines, chanting excessively long incantations while Mason takes the rear and fires arrows. I notice he is using his own ‘Grand Elven Highbow’ to attack. Mason’s arrows take strange trajectories, curving around to almost attack the enemies from the side. The brothers have a much harder time than Verde with Sir Laurence’s support, but they still manage to win in the end.
Team #2741 Please proceed to the arena grounds. You will be participating shortly.
I was just starting to wonder when my turn would come when the message finally appears to let me know it is now our turn to compete. The thought of losing in the first round causes my confidence to waver, but I steel my nerves as we proceed to the passage leading to the arena at the end of the room.
The roar of the crowd intensifies the closer we get. We eventually reach the arena and seat ourselves on the bench closest to the door. There are eleven other teams on the bench, waiting for their turn in one of the sparring areas. The entire colosseum is bathed in a gentle afternoon glow as the daylight is gradually coming to an end.
The seated players glance toward me, a few lingering longer than the others, but no one says anything. None of us will know who is fighting who until we move toward one of the arenas.
Fen and I wait for about ten minutes before a message notifies me to move to ‘Arena 6’ in for my contest. I take note of the other team who stands and moves in the same direction.
One player is covered in bulky, black armor and wields a longsword and a menacing kite shield. The other player is a female with a slim build and wearing a violet mantle that extends to her ankles. She carries a warped oak staff with a ruby the size of my fist entwined onto the top. The ruby gives off a faint crimson light that causes the air to distort around it from heat.
They are the typical warrior and mage type builds working together to complement each others weaknesses. A solid defense and ferocious attack is a typical team tactic used in any game.
We ascend onto the square stage and move to opposite sides of the arena. We don’t exchange words, just a short, courteous bow. The only person who doesn’t bow is Fen, who stares at the opposing team blandly.
“Fen, take out the spellcaster at the back first,” I say to my companion as soon as the match starts.
No more words are needed as we sprint forward in unison. I leave an afterimage in my wake and reach the enemy first. The spellcaster hasn’t even finished chanting her spell when I appear from nowhere and deal a significant amount of damage to the defending knight. The knight is startled at the sudden damage just as I had hoped, leaving the spellcaster exposed to Fen’s attack.
The wolf girl raises her hand into the air and forms a dozen stalactites of ice above her that startle me. They are not the usual rustic cones of ice, but thin, seamless javelins of ice. They produce a high-pitched whistling noise as they tear through the air toward the mage. The crowd roars in excitement at the attack, but the mage also finishes her spell incantation as well.
The woman points her staff forward as soon as she finishes chanting, swinging it in the air three times consecutively to produce the arcs of blazing flames. The first bursts of fire pass through the incoming ice spears, instantly turning them into steam, while the third races toward Fen.
Fen stands her ground, one arm still in the air forming more ice spears while she raises her other hand in front of her to create ice walls to guard against the flame. The walls form an arrowhead in front of her that slowly melts from the heat of the attack, but manages to disperse the flames enough to leave her unharmed.
My heart races at the sight and I am distracted long enough for the black knight to catch me unaware with his blade, gouging it deep into my shoulder as it glows as black as his armour. The arm attached to the shoulder with the blade in it goes limp and an icon indicating that one of my arms has been disabled appears. The attack does a lot of damage to my health pool as well.
The knight mutters something under his breath, but I do not catch what it is. Just as he is about to attack again, I use ‘Multi Mirage’, and turn into a dozen figures surrounding the two. Keeping my distance, I use my remaining arm to launch five throwing knives at the mage. The black knight attempts to block some of them, but the real five throwing knives come from a different direction and stab into the mage.
The woman’s chant is interrupted and her next spell fails at a critical moment. Fen’s next volley of ice spears whistle through the air and pierce completely through her and into the ground. The crowd shouts like wild animals as she is impaled by a dozen ice spears and dies on the spot. The attack was completely without mercy and containing a power I have never seen Fen wield before. I am befuddled mainly because I can see her stats and her level has not increased in the past few days.
The black knight is also shocked, shouting in anger and rushing at the nearest mirage of me. His charge isn’t without sense or made in blind rage. It is a calculated attack without any unnecessary movements that quickly disperses some of the mirages. He then glows black and suddenly appears blurry. His body splits and forms into three separate, identical figures.
Each one rushes at a separate image of me and quickly makes short work of it considering my mirages can’t actually attack. The most surprising is that his clone technique creates bodies that can actually attack. Fen launches several ice spears at the three black knights, but only manages to hit one while the others dodge and escape the projectiles. The impaled knight struggles for a while to free himself, but two more ice spears cause it to dispel into shadows.
The remaining two don’t even need to finish taking care of my mirages as one of them luckily attacks my real body. The blade of the knight only glances me, but it is enough to tell that I am the real one. The other knight, which I suspect to be the real body, takes note of how my mirages are incapable of dealing damage and rushes toward me.
“Minor Dire Flame,” I call out, forming a small fireball in my hand which I immediately throw at the black knight attacking me.
My fireball hits the knight, causing the undying flame to latch onto him and start dwindling his health. I only need to maintain my distance until this clone vanishes as well. The real black knight turns around and uses his shield to defend against Fen’s ice spears at the last moment. While each of the spears shatter upon impacting the shield, the force of each one pushes the knight back a step.
I close the distance between the clone and I, using my dagger to slash across a small opening in its defense and finish it. At the same time, Fen creates a different type of ice spear that is as thick as a man’s head and tapering down to a strange clover-shaped head. With the flick of her finger, the small missile of ice flies toward the black knight at a frightening speed.
Seeing the incoming attack, the knight falters for a moment but does not have time to dodge after just defending against the last attack. He raises his shield up higher and positions his entire body to receive the shock of the attack. Unexpectedly, the missile of ice does not strike the knight at all, but the ground in front of him.
All I hear is the sound of a thousand pieces of glass shattering as a large bush of spear-like branches and thorns made from ice erupts like lightning from the missile’s impact site. Some branches hit the shield and break into pieces, but most pass underneath and directly assault the knight. Due to his heavy armor, the knight isn’t impaled, but still blown backward toward me in a critical condition. I take the opportunity to critically strike the knight’s back and finish the match.
The crowd shouts in excitement and a several wolf whistles also carry across the wind. It isn’t just my match they are cheering for, but the majority appear to be looking at Fen and I.
‘That knight was much stronger than the mage! No, the mage never got the chance to show off her skills. I should be more shocked at Fen. How did she get so much stronger?’
Just as I am wondering about the changes in my companion, a victory message appears in front of me. I am awarded two points of fame and two pieces of bronze ore. The moment passes and I assume Fen’s increase in strength to be some kind of training that she has done over the past three days.
“You have become so strong, Fen!” I say to my companion while we descend from the stage and leave toward the arena exit.
The wolf girl looks at me strangely, but doesn’t reply and only twines one arm around mine and pulls us close together. This causes the crowd to start calling out again, this time with many jealous jeers aimed at me. I block the voices out and continue onward into the bowels of the colosseum.
I meet up with the rest of the party who congratulate us on our victory and also take note in Fen’s increased strength. They see Fen and I so close together but pass it off as nothing out of the ordinary, only Verde continues to stare with a strange intensity that makes me look away. To everyone’s surprise, Verde then approaches closer until she is standing directly in front of me.
“C-can I help you with something?” I ask her awkwardly while still looking away.
“No. I just suddenly felt an irritation and a strange sense of deja vu when I saw you just then.”
“So why are you standing so close to me?”
“I thought there was something on your face, so I came closer to look.”
I turn back to look at Verde, who is not staring into my eyes but instead at the lower half of my face with a complex expression. When I realize she is staring at my mouth, I feel my cheeks flush from remembering that embarrassing moment in the cave back in the Kingdom of Glace.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Fen is glaring at Verde with what seems to be irritation. Verde also notices it, and moves back away from me before suddenly speaking again.
“I have a few things to do, so I will be logging off for now.” She doesn’t even wait for a reply before disappearing.
“We will be off, too. Judging by how many people went through the first round today, I suspect the second round won’t start until a little after lunch tomorrow. We will be back a little after that.” Mason speaks up for him and his brother, who both log off after I say farewell.
I look toward Sir Laurence, who is looking at me with a grave expression. This may be the second time seeing him with such a serious look, but I am still just as surprised as the first time.
“Lost, tell me what is going on with Verde.” He doesn’t move, but he still seems to loom over me.
“W-what are you talking abo-“
“Don’t waste my time, Lost. What is going on with her?”
“I only have thoughts on the matter. Nothing concrete.”
“I don’t care. Tell me.”
“I think… she might have amnesia.”
“It’s just as I thought,” He lowers his head while pinching in between his eyes.
“What? You knew?” I don’t understand why he would press me so hard if he already knew.
“Just like you, it has only been speculation. How could I not possibly notice something like that when I spend so much time with her? I just wanted to hear it from someone else before I was sure.”
“What could have caused this?”
“I have no clue. All I know is that is must have something to do with her disappearance. I did some investigation around Grenton, but found nothing.”
I let my mind wander, trying to think of anything that happened at the time which could be a clue. Unfortunately, I can’t come up with any helpful ideas, either.
“So what should we do now?” I ask Sir Laurence, hoping he has some insights.
“We should try to recreate familiar scenes when we get the chance in the future. Hopefully, she will recognize one which should trigger a memory. Perhaps she will be able to tell us what happened then.”
“That… that is a pretty good ide-“
“YOU! What are you doing here?! How is this possible?!” An incredibly noxious voice that I was hoping to never hear again sounds from beside me.
I turn around, making eye contact with Chronix who looks like he is seeing a ghost. Of course, how could he possibly expect me to get back to Swordbreak so quick? Behind Chronix are eight of his lackeys, all of them within the group of players who attacked and killed me the other day.
“You are interrupting. Leave.” Sir Laurence speaks up and takes a step forward toward Chronix.
Despite Chronix’s well built figure, Sir Laurence is still larger and manages to make Chronix shrink away from him. As if his pride would not allow him to falter, he quickly recovers and steps forward while drawing his sword and pointing it toward me.
“I warned you, Lost. The next time I see you I am going to make you suffer! You even brought that pretty girl along with you. She escaped last time, but that won’t happen again.” He glares at me with hatred before turning to face Sir Laurence with bravado. “And you! Who do you think you are?! You are nothing before me: the guild leader of the Swords of Light and the sole heir to the Munro Corporation! Learn your place and leave before I decide to bring you down as well.”
Sir Laurence doesn’t say anything but turns his head toward me.
“Sorry, Lost. I will be leaving first. I just remembered I have some business to attend to. We will continue this later.”
Chronix has a look of victory and his cronies laugh out loud as Sir Laurence logs off, but I saw the furious glint in the prince’s eyes moments before he left. The look causes a chill to spear up my spine.
“Even your companions ditch you. You have nothing to protect you.” Fen suddenly moves in front of me in response to his words and stares at him dangerously. “Oh, you want to protect him? It doesn’t matter, you will both die.”
“You can’t touch us in the city. Not without the guards interfering and arresting you.” I rest a hand on Fen’s shoulder to hold her back from assaulting Chronix and his lackeys.
“No, but the moment you step foot outside, I can. I will always be watching and waiting. Just try it.”
Chronix raises a hand and waves it sideways to direct his henchmen to follow him. He walks off in the opposite direction with an obnoxious grin on his face. I contemplate methods to trick Grael into stepping outside of the city with me. If Chronix even attempts to attack Grael, I have no doubt he will be instantly turned to ash.
Round two in the arena begins to grow closer as I explore Swordbreak with Fen. I visit Mouse early in the morning, who is exceptionally pleased about my participation in the tournament. I question why he is so concerned with me entering the tournament, but he gives me no answers. After a little while, I find a quiet spot in some alley where I practice my ‘Smithing’, creating a large number of various throwing daggers for my personal use.
When most of my ores are gone, I switch to cooking some food. I try something completely new, cooking a large ‘Grizzly Boar Meat’ along with a random selection of mysterious herbs that I could not yet discover the use for. Cooking inside of Swordbreak proves to be a poor idea, the smell alone attracting a large crowd five minutes into roasting the meat. Even Fen betrays me, joining the crowd in wanting the food.
With the drooling crowd of players surrounding me in this small alleyway, a rather profitable business idea forms in my head.
I cut the meat up into portions of about three mouthfuls each, and sell them at a single piece of gold each. Most people buy two or three portions at once, but even then the dish sells out in minutes at twenty portions. I cringe a little at the twenty gold in my hand and consider the effort put in for such a little profit. I consider stocking up on meat supplies, but I will never have enough herbs to compensate.
I sigh in disappointment. It is a good plan, but I simply don’t have the goods to sell. With the market prices in Swordbreak as messed up as they are, I probably can’t purchase the ingredients and still make a profit.
With all the food gone, the crowd disperses and leaves a very unsatisfied Fen, who only received a small portion of the food.
After putting everything away, Fen and I leave the alley and return to the colosseum for the second round of the tournament.
Even though the number of players in the second round are only half of the first round, the waiting room remains as large as it was when the tournament began. Due to the competition halving, the room is much less crowded and the different groups of friends can be distinguished more easily.
I’m not sure how exactly the drawing system works, but I am notified to move to the arena shortly after arriving. I don’t even get the chance to find the rest of the party.
Fen and I ascend to the arena and are welcomed by the roar of the crowd cheering the combatants currently up on the tournament stages. The difference this time is that it is the middle of the day, so the scorching sun is blazing directly down on us. Due to this being a game, nobody’s strength is sapped, but every player under the sun will feel uncomfortably warm and find their thirst levels dropping faster than normal.
Of course, I am an exception to this. My ‘White Wolf Winter Cloak’ not only protects me from the cold weather, but also the heat to a certain degree. The ‘Epic’ rarity of this item really isn’t just for show.
“The superstar has returned.” A few players on the bench look over and smirk at one of their remarks.
“Such a shame, only one of us will get to go up against him. I hear the ‘Swords of Light’ guild has a pretty hefty reward for whoever defeats him.”
“It’s true, I will pay five thousand gold to whoever defeats him!”
My jaw drops and I stare in disbelief when I see Chronix and one of his goons sitting down on the bench amongst the players. They both smirk toward each other before sneering at me.
‘What kind of luck is this!?’
I awkwardly sit down on the bench and massage my temples, pretending my headache isn’t sitting six players down from me. I am not even sure what I did to make this person have such hatred toward me. I once read something on the End Forums about some humiliating video of him losing it after finding out I stole his boss fight, but that kind of thing is completely out of proportion with this vendetta.
A message window appears which startles me from its suddenness. I am to proceed to the fourth arena for my match.
I look to my sides to see who my opponents will be. Three teams stand up at the same time and move off to two different stages. A female-only team of warriors, another by-the-book balanced team with a heavy armored player and a mage, and lastly Chronix and goon number one.
I walk toward the fourth arena and can only frown, feeling that fate is playing a cruel trick. Chronix showed complete, open hostility toward me in the gladiator waiting room less than a day ago. Now, the person standing on the opposite side of the tournament stage, is none other than that very same Chronix.