Chapter 28 – Three Months

Editors: genericIntent, Scott
Author’s notes: Much has happened and much to talk about! First of all, important news about the release schedule! I am currently setting up a personal timescale for myself that should help you predict chapter releases. I plan to work on a schedule where I allow 2 days for chapter planning and then writing the chapter at 10% a day (800 words) minimum. This way, you can expect a chapter to be released every 12 days at the latest! Keep in mind, it will take me a little while to adjust to this schedule, and life still happens. (I plan it like this because on a day where I am distracted or busy with work I should still be able to manage this little) ^.^
In regards to the poll for releasing chapters half as long and twice as often. I will now announce the results… The results were practically unanimous, and chapters will remain at the usual length! (I keep forgetting to announce these things! Same with announcing how many views we have had and breaking milestones – Currently 679k views!!).
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! ^.^
You can now view the original plan for chapter 28 on my Patreon page along with my explanations of the plan and thoughts. It is free for all to have a look! The plan and notes on chapter 26/27 are also there for you all to look at as well.
Editor’s notes:

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-Mikhail-

Standing in front of the Church of Swordbreak and looking down on the city, I’m forced to shield my eyes from a warm breeze carrying traces of dust that sting my eyes. I can’t prevent the dust from getting under my beginner’s armor, but it is only slightly uncomfortable.  You know, like sandpaper against the skin.

I have no words to express my anger and frustration. Some AI has erased my administrator rights and forced me into a player’s position. To make matters worse, my boss Henry has demanded that I start playing the game like anyone else. His idea is to follow Lost’s group and that strange AI with them.

All I can do is swallow my rage and bide my time. For now, I will just have to start levelling my character.

I walk as fast as I can down into the city, which, thanks to having a character with beginner’s stats, is not very fast. Using the two gold coins I have in my possession, I purchase the lowest quality iron sword and shield. The market in Swordbreak may be completely broken, but the lowest quality items are still affordable to new players.

Equipped with my first weapon and shield, I leave the city and walk into the surrounding fields. As soon as I exit through the city gates, a window appears in front of me. It asks me to select any of the six beginner skills.

‘Good, it appears my name being auto-assigned and this troublesome skill are the only deviations, otherwise I am a standard new character,’ I think to myself with a sigh.

I select five combat and one support skill that should help me most in the future: ‘High Speed’, ‘Sword Proficiency’, ‘Shield Proficiency’, ‘Heavy Armor Proficiency’, ‘Heavy Body’, and ‘Cooking’. The skill set is straight out of the book for someone who is focused on being able to defend themselves and deal damage at the same time. The proficiencies will also skill up and combine when they reach level thirty.

The most unique skill is ‘Heavy Body’, which is not very popular according to our company’s statistics. The skill gives a small strength bonus when swinging a sword or defending with a shield. The bonus is much more evident at higher levels. Most people don’t choose it because it also comes with a heavy movement penalty, but ‘High Speed’ is perfect for balancing out the ‘Heavy Body’ skill’s negative aspect. They will both also skill up and combine when they reach level 35.

After equipping all of my new skills, I head out into the fields. Seeing the large number of players outside the city makes me frown. There are so many players that there is simply no room to comfortably hunt any weak enemies.

Deciding to try elsewhere, I travel south to the next field which is a dusty, barren area. The monsters here are scrawny-looking Kobolds around level 20. I’m actually very skilled in martial arts, so I am confident that I can fight these enemies. Of course, there are still lots of players hunting here, but the area is much less densely packed than the previous one.

The sun begins to hang low in the sky as I pick off the kobolds one at a time, using my fast reflexes to dodge their attacks while counter-attacking at every opportunity. My low level and weak equipment shows in the minimal damage I deal with each attack, but even the wind can break a rock given enough time. Besides, each kill nets me huge experience and I begin leveling quickly. Predictably, my skills also rise at a matching pace.

However, I’m still not capable of travelling too far away from Swordbreak. If I run into an area with strong monsters, I will be instantly killed. Thankfully, I can still track Verity/Verde in the game thanks to her father monitoring her while she is in the game. According to the last report, they are still a week away from the capital.

Night falls in the game as I continue hunting the Kobolds. There are enough players nearby with torches that I don’t need to concern myself with holding one as I would much rather keep my shield.

I discover a sacred art for my sword proficiency called ‘Long Thrust’. Drawing my sword back causes it to glow orange, then I thrust toward the Kobold in front of me while retreating. The orange glow forms a type of sword aura around the blade of my weapon. As I thrust it forward, this aura shoots forward and pierces into the Kobold two meters away. It is not an overly powerful sacred art, but it is good for attacking while staying out of range of a counter attack.

By the time the sun rises again, I am level 22. My familiarity with the Kobolds and their tactics has been almost mastered, my stats have risen, and I should be harder to kill. The problem is that my ‘False Aura of Confidence’ skill has risen alongside all of my other skills. This skill weakens my defense and attack, making fights with the Kobolds even more dangerous than ever.

False Aura of Confidence (SLvl 6, 24%) -Passive
You naturally exude an Aura of Confidence that passively
raises the attack and defence of all party members.
Unfortunately, this is a false aura, which passively lowers
your own attack and defence.

SLvl 6:
~ 7.5% increase to all party members attack and defence.
~ 15% reduction in personal attack and defence.
~ This ability is Soul Bound, and cannot be unequipped.

For every level of ‘False Aura of confidence, the party benefit has increased by half a percent, while the detriment to myself increased by one percent.

During the next seven days, I start moving between hunting grounds and aggressively level up. I only manage to reach level 43 and still don’t have the qualifications to leave the kingdom, but to get to this level in seven days is an accomplishment few can boast.

The only downside is that my skills are somewhat lacking for my level, only averaging between 20 and 25 for each stat.

Due to ‘False Aura of Confidence’, enemies my own level are becoming harder and harder to fight against solo. I return to Swordbreak and enter the large player-run market where people often group together to form hunting parties. Above the sounds of players bartering with each other to try and purchase items at a reasonable price, the shouts of players looking for party members carries across.

“Looking for one more person to join our party! Magic specialist around level 80 preferred! Message FurongPond to join!”

“Party of three! Two defense specialists and one attack specialist around level 50! Looking for up to three more people to hunt in the ‘Forgotten Grotto’ dungeon! Message JusticeGear!”

“Level 74 dual sword attacker looking for a party! Deals a high amount of damage and knows a little healing magic! Message KirkResolve!”

All kinds of shouts for different parties looking for more players and vice versa echo across the crowd. I respond to three invites and the positions in first two are already filled by the time I message, but the third is still available.

‘Hello, Moonkite, my name is Mikhail the Stalwart. I am interested in joining your party.’ I try to sound humble, but end up speaking abruptly and coming across rather obnoxious.

‘Hi, Mikhail, what is your specialty?’  Moonkites’ female voice relays back in a private message.

‘I am an all round melee fighter with some skills in aiding the party.’

‘Sorry, but we are looking for a defence specialist. Someone to protect the party.’

‘I can do that! I can also increase your defense!’

‘Hmmm, let me talk it over with the other team members.’

I stand in the middle of the moving crowd, biting my bottom lip not in nervousness at Moonkite’s reply, but in embarrassment of practically begging a player to become a part of their party.  I instantly regret it and wish I could take it back.

‘Hi, Mikhail, because of this sacred art of yours that can increase our defense, we are happy to let you into the party on a trial basis. Come to the ‘Blue Swallow Inn’ so we can see you.’ Moonkite’s sweet voice enters my mind again suddenly, startling me.

‘I will meet you there shortly,’ As an employee of the company, how could I not know where this inn is? I know every main location in the game.

My knowledge of the game proves to be lacking slightly, as it takes me twice as long to get to the inn as it should have.

The ‘Blue Swallow Inn’ is a dusty place, with all the furniture seemingly made from sandstone, even the chairs. I find Moonkite and her party sitting in the center of the common area, casually chatting amongst themselves.

Moonkite is a tall female player with brass colored skin. She is equipped with a full set of Lorestone armor; a type of medium armor, and single two handed sword on her back identifies her as the main front line damage dealer.

Another man is equipped similarly but has a smaller one-handed sword and a shield. The final two members are both male and appear to be a magician and a priest, but it is difficult to tell what their skills are by just glancing at their equipment.

“A pleasure to meet you all,” I nod my head in greeting.

“You must be Mikhail the Stalwart! So this is what you look like. I must say though, it is a strange name you picked. Was there any reason for it?” The mage asks me curiously.

“It was something akin to a recommendation,” I try to laugh it off without grinding my teeth together in anger.

“Well, sit down and join us!” The man next to Moonkite, also dressed in medium armor, booms out in a mammoth-like voice. “We will be heading out within the hour, so enjoy the pleasantries as we get to know each other!”

I mingle with the group and we slowly get to know each other’s personalities and traits. The mage, Lockon, is a player with endless curiosity, always trying new techniques and spells. JohnSmite, the melee character with the abnormally loud voice, is actually a rather nice person despite not being one to think before acting. The priest, SomaHealer, is also the tactician of the group. He plans all of the team’s raids and battle strategies.

All the team members have specific roles that help the group as a whole except for Moonkite, the party leader. I find myself curious about why everyone follows her and if there is something about her I’m missing. As far as I can tell, all these men follow Moonkite from some form of infatuation.

Half an hour after I join the party, we all head out from Swordbreak toward a remote dungeon south of the city. The dungeon, called ‘Graveyard of the Damned’, is located deep within a gloomy, humid forest. I see a few other players around, but not many. Compared to the rest of Swordbreak, this place seems almost barren.

We walk into the graveyard dungeon. There is no change to the dimly lit woods around us, but tombstones and other grave markers show through the dead leaves and sticks on the ground in no particular pattern.

The snapping of twigs underfoot alerts us to a group of enemies approaching from our right. I am one of the first to glance toward the group of skeletons approaching. These skeletons are called ‘Warrior Remnants’, and have the fighting skills to back that up. Their bones are a dusty grey color, and are not only overly bulky but almost seem to gleam underneath a layer of dust.

“This is it! Time for you to show us how useful you are!” JohnSmite bellows out with a hearty laugh.

I don’t need to actually do anything, the effect of ‘False Aura of Confidence’ is a passive effect to not just me but all team members. I still nod my head and move to engage the ‘Warrior Remnants’.

The first skeleton suddenly dashes toward me when it reaches ten meters from me. It has no weapons and simply sends a punch at me. I raise my shield to defend against the attack, and feel a force similar to being hit by a giant hammer. My feet slide back two meters and I even lose ten percent of my health. The strength of this skeleton is completely beyond expectation.

“Hah, you had best be careful, these ‘Warrior Remnants’ are not to be messed around with,” JohnSmite chuckles while brandishing his oversized two-handed sword and moving to attack the incoming enemies.

Moonkite also moves forward to the front line, holding her sword behind her hip and ready to swing.

JohnSmite attacks first, his sword creating a silver half moon and it cuts across three ‘Warrior Remnants’, leaving chips in their hip bones and knocking them back two meters.

“This isn’t bad! The boost is quite nice Mikhail!” He calls out, pleased with his bonus damage.

After taking care of the group of skeletons, I follow the rest of the party into a small mausoleum which leads down to another dungeon underground. The dungeon is simply a labyrinth of caves, so our whole party to ends up lost within the hour. Nobody seems to mind it though, taking too much delight in the bonuses my skill is giving them.

Three days in real life pass before we emerge from the underground tomb. The biggest difference between now and when we entered would be the fact that now I am leading the party. Or to be more accurate, the party is following me.

During the few days in the dungeon, a few other players learned about my skill and the benefits it gave to everyone in my party. Many wished to join our party just for the benefits, but Moonkite rejected them all. After knowledge of my skill spread like wildfire, there were even a few parties that directly attacked us, trying to eliminate the rest of the party other than me.

Trying to make sure I stayed with them, Moonkite and the others automatically assigned me to be the leader, and even started helping me raise my level as fast as possible. Thanks to all their hard efforts, I have now reached level 89, slightly higher than the average of the party. The only downside to raising my level so fast is that my stats are considerably poor, with my highest one only being 43.

My ‘False Aura of Confidence’ skill also raised to just above level 10 while in the dungeon. Once I reached level 10 in the skill, it also started giving a five percent increase to movement speed, which caused everyone to become even more elated.

As I walk out of the dungeon with the rest of the party only two steps behind me, several other parties from around join the group. Each new group to join us gets a strange look at first, but nobody raises any concerns.

Two days after leaving the dungeon, the company informs me that Lost has arrived in Swordbreak. I immediately try to leave and spy on him, but am stopped by a large male player called FierceTiger.

“Guildmaster, you cannot possibly just leave like that. You have matters that require your attention.”

Yes, over the past two days, the following of people heralding my skill to support their parties has escalated. Wildly. A few guilds even got together and merged to become the guild called ‘Hero’s Vanguard’. They then appointed me to be the guild leader and locked me away in this massive mansion to keep an eye on me.

As a guild master, I seem to have absolutely no power. The pre-existing guild masters formed a circle of elders; they hold all the power in the guild while I am handed menial tasks and get detained in here.

It should be technically impossible to detain a player like this, but they do such an incredible job at it I can only cluck my tongue in response.

I humbly return back into the room, but as soon as FierceTiger’s attention is diverted, I slip out the window unseen.

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-Verde-

The party disbands with Lost’s news of going to get his high school equivalency. At least we all share our real life contact details so we can stay in touch. I am lacking most of my memories, yet when it comes time for the party to disband, I feel a piercing pain in my chest.

I don’t show this in front of everyone else, but I am starting to value spending time with them. I wonder if this is how I felt before I lost my memories.

Lost and Fen are the first to leave, logging off at the same time. Mason and Matrix are the second, mentioning that they will be online again tomorrow if Sir Laurence and I are available.

The knight in silver armor silently sits next to me even when everyone else is gone. I notice him occasionally glancing in my direction, but he makes no move to start a conversation.

I stand up to leave the inn and Sir Laurence immediately follows behind me. I scowl, but don’t tell him to leave. Despite how irritating I find him to be, I prefer even his company over being alone.

Seeing how adamant he is to stay with me, I head toward an NPC-run adventurer’s guild where you can get small quests from the notice board.  The sun begins to sink into the horizon by the time I manage to get through the crowded streets between the inn and the guild.

I grab my hair and tie it up behind my head to keep it out of my face. I don’t know exactly how I tie it up as the memory eludes me, but the movements come naturally to my hands as if I have been doing it my entire life. Sir Laurence gives me an odd look as I tie it up, but a single glare is enough to cause him to turn his head.

In front of me is the request board. Well, it is called a request board, but it is practically as large as a wall with hundreds of requests pinned to it. I walk back and forth, finding three requests that are suitable to Sir Laurence’s and my levels. All three requests I pick are related to collecting a certain number of monster parts, and will reappear on the board within three hours for anyone else to choose.

“It’s late. I will be logging off to get some actual sleep,” I say to Sir Laurence nonchalantly. “I will be back in twelve hours, if you want to quest with me.”

“I will be waiting, my lady,” he replies with a deep bow.

I glance at him once, before turning around and logging off.

Outside of virtual reality, I lift the helmet off my head to reveal my rooms interior. My father is sitting there next to my bed, placing down the tablet he was using to watch me in the game.

“Father, I have told you how much I dislike you sitting next to me while I am in virtual reality,” a hint of anger coloring my voice. “It’s really unnerving. Why can’t you simply log on yourself and join me?”

“Verity, I have already told you how I have had my administrator rights stripped from me and turned into an ordinary player. And those damned fools from Idea Imagine are playing dumb as well! I will be back in their office next week to share a few words with them!”

“Then just raise your player level. I can convince everyone in the party to let you join along. You only need to be level 50 to leave your starter kingdom.”

“As if I have time for that.”

“But you have time to sit next to me and stalk me through that tablet?”

“I’m not going to argue with you about this. Go downstairs and wash up, I will have the maid cook something nutritious for you to eat.”

I follow my father’s orders, but stroll downstairs in irritation. In the kitchen, a middle-aged lady welcomes me to the table and informs me that some food will be ready shortly.

Ten minutes pass and she sets a small bowl of chicken soup with buttered bread on the side in front of me. It’s too late for dinner, so I only have something small to warm my stomach and help me sleep soundly.

The rest of the night finishes relatively quickly and I find myself staring up at the ceiling from my bed, the moon gently shining in through the window. I pick up my phone and scroll through my contacts list. The number of contacts is truly pitiful; the other party members represent the majority of my phone book.

I see Lost’s number, or Hollis in real life, and feel a strange urge to call it. I can’t describe this feeling, but it causes me to want to act on impulse.

‘What is going on with me? I saw him just recently, and I want to call him right now?’

Restraining myself, I send a message asking when he will take his high school equivalency test. Unfortunately, it is nearly midnight, and I don’t get a reply before falling asleep.

Three months later, I look back on all the time I have spent with Sir Laurence, and feel as if it has only been a couple of weeks. During that time, I have amassed a small fortune in loot, but my strength is relatively low, so it is up to Sir Laurence to carry it all for me. My level has increased to 186, which is still somewhat low compared to the rest of the party.

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-Mason-

As the partly temporarily splits up, Matrix and I form our own sub group and head off from the inn together. Swordbreak is like a beehive of activity, and trying to get anywhere is an ordeal in itself.

“What should we do now, little brother?” I ask Matrix.

“We should try recording a few more videos. The electricity bill just came in the other day and dad has been… brooding over it. It would be nice to earn a little more and help out.”

“Yeah, that would be good. I won’t be getting any of that other income either by the looks of things so a few videos will be best.”

“What other income?”

“Oh! Hah, don’t mind that. I was just thinking out loud. The question is, what can we record?”

“Umm, a few dungeon runs, perhaps?”

“Everyone does that, though. Urgh, what a dilemma.”

Matrix and I try to brainstorm, but we can’t seem to come up with any prolific ideas. We end up choosing to do a typical dungeon run, except with a new, undiscovered dungeon.

Finding new dungeons is incredibly difficult, and requires more of a natural talent or luck rather than skill. We go to one of the libraries in Swordbreak and I equip my ‘Literacy’ skill so I can decipher the books.

We spend the next three weeks entirely in the library, our levels stagnating while I try to figure out the location to an undiscovered dungeon. I can almost feel the piled up dust weighing down on my shoulders and back when I finally come across some helpful information.

“Matrix! Here it is! Chapter 32 of ‘History of Nell Forger’. It describes how the adventurer came across this hidden tomb in the south by chance. Apparently, he used an arrowhead to flick a switch hidden in between a few rocks. I doubt anyone would have discovered this dungeon by chance!”

“That’s awesome, bro! Umm, we should head off immediately!”

I pay the librarian to use her ‘Scribe’ skill and copy the description of the dungeon for me onto a scroll. Depositing the parchment into my inventory, Mason and I leave the library and make our way out of the city.

The south gate of Swordbreak is only a hundred meters in front of me, yet I can’t reach it because the thousands of players in between are like a swarm of locusts covering everything. I had heard rumors about the south gate being the busiest place of the city before, but I never really took them to heart. At least, not until now.

“Big bro, I just had an idea,” Matrix’s face lights up as he says it. “Why don’t we record the journey to the dungeon? The first obstacle can be right here!”

“Ahaha, that’s very funny… No, wait. That actually might not be a bad idea! Quickly, we have to backtrack our steps and get out of this crowd.”

“Why?”

“The video shouldn’t start with us stuck in this crowd, but should show us running into it.”

“That’s brilliant big bro! I’m so proud of you!”

Following my plan, we turn around and force our way out of the crowd, leaving a few angry players in our wake. A few more hours are also wasted, but at least we get what we came for. The start of my video is explaining about the discovery of the hidden information, and immediately getting stuck in the crowd at the edge of the city. I even curse as if I am caught by surprise and displeased.

Over the next two days, Matrix and I deliberately steer ourselves into trouble, creating an eventful video of our journey to the hidden tomb. I label it as part one of the dungeon crawl, opening the tomb with an arrow and entering at the very end of the video in hopes of creating some suspense for the next video.

We head into the dungeon the very next day, before I finish compiling the video. I do not wish for players to find out about the dungeon before we have even finished going through it.

The interior is completely decayed and decrepit, with crumbling brick walls and flickering torches that are nearly burned out. The air is stale and difficult to breath. The decay of the tomb and stagnation of the air sets off alarms in my mind.

“Not good, Matrix. Get your antidotes ready, I have a bad feeling about this tomb and I hope poison is the worst of it.”

“Okay!”

We pass through several large rooms before the enemies start coming. Swarms of festering zombies start crawling out of holes in the walls, falling onto the ground before standing up and stumbling over one another toward us. As I had feared, they are indeed highly poisonous.

The enemies are level 160 and called ‘Noxious Guards’, and one manages to swat Matrix, infecting him with the toxicity. Matrix’s health starts to plummet, forcing him to consume a total of three antidotes to rid himself of the poison.

Beyond the room where the ‘Noxious Guards’ crawled out of the walls is the interior of a massive cathedral. Oddly, there are no windows, only cracked brick walls and a large, domed ceiling covered in moss with vines hanging down.

Matrix and I are completely stunned at the sight. For such a large area to go undiscovered for so long is incredible. I’m so excited; this video is going to get so much attention!

I catch a low groan in the distance, and I turn to face the noise. My excitement dulls slightly when I see nearly two hundred ‘Noxious Guards’ wandering over toward us.

“Matrix, brace up. The zombie apocalypse is coming, and it’s completely lacking in coordination,” I joke when I notice the zombies bumping into one another and obstructing the entire group.

We do our utmost to flank the enemies while picking them off one or two at a time. This isn’t the fastest or the most honorable method, but it is effective.

We walk up a staircase along the side of the wall to a second story balcony running the circumference of the room. The zombies on the balcony are the most dangerous ones yet, not due to them being stronger than the rest, but because when they stumble they fall down the narrow staircase at maximum speed and are extremely difficult to dodge.

Along the balcony, there are several doors leading to elsewhere in the cathedral. Matrix and I enter each and every one before moving onto the next. Some doors end in small rooms, and we are lucky to find an ornamental chest containing some crafting materials in one, and a level 180 long sword and shield set which radiates with a faint blue light. These items are ‘Unique’ and of considerable value to other players.

I plan to put the sword and shield up for auction when I get the chance for a bit of extra money. I’m not as excited to sell equipment as Lost is, but that is mainly due to the concern that items I list for sale never gather much interest. I can’t help but sigh at my bad luck.

“Big Bro, what’s wrong?” Matrix asks me after noticing my sigh.

“Hah, it’s nothing. I’m just reflecting on a few things.”

“I see… umm, you would tell me if there was anything wrong, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would, little bro!”

Seeing Matrix’s expression relax, I continue leading us through the dungeon, one room at a time. Several hours pass by and there are still several areas that we have not explored. Entering through a large double door inlaid with more rust than iron, we find ourselves in a small corridor-like room that is no more than ten meters wide and forty meters long. The strangest part of the room is that the walls have decayed twice as much as the rest of the structure.

My mind is slow to process the change in atmosphere before the door behind me silently closes and locks. There isn’t a single zombie in this room, but suddenly a large amount of purple-black smoke drifts down from the ceiling before coalescing. Smoke continues to pour into the room without any sign of slowing down, yet the condensed mass at the other side of the room is gradually shrinking.

It isn’t long before the densest concentration of purple-black smoke begins to become solid. I watch as a slim, meter and a half tall figure takes shape. The smoke suddenly stops flooding the room, and as the figure absorbs the last of the gas in the air it opens two red eyes and looks directly at us.

‘It’s a boss! But it is so small. How strange,’ I think to myself while studying the enemy.

“Big bro, that isn’t the, umm, final boss of the dungeon, is it?”

“No, I don’t believe it is. This should be some form of sub-boss. Be careful, I don’t think this enemy will be as slow as all the ‘Noxious Guards’ throughout the dungeon.”

Matrix nods his head in response. I don’t have an analysis skill like Lost so I can’t tell what level the boss is, but I am quite adept at comparing their strength against ours and determining our chance of winning.

The boss suddenly moves, dashing toward us at a frightening speed. Matrix moves to engage the boss directly while I move around the side to flank it. With my high dexterity and all the bonuses from the ‘Grand Elven Highbow’, nearly every single one of my arrows should hit.

I fire off three arrows in quick succession and gape in surprise as two out of the three miss. I recover and attack with another two arrows before the boss reaches Matrix and find that again, only one arrow hits the target.

I notice that the boss moves with a strange rhythm, first moving fast, then slow, and once again moving fast.  This process continues to repeat itself at a consistent pace, yet it is still difficult to keep track of.

The boss creates a long purple-black whip in its hand out of the same condensed gas its body is formed from. It swings the weapon toward Matrix who prepares to raise his sword and parry the tendril like whip. The boss’s strange movements catch Matrix completely off guard as the whip arches toward him slowly at first, before the speed of the attack dramatically increases. As a result, Matrix completely misses the chance to parry the attack and is hit across the shoulder.

A small sonic boom erupts from where the tip of the whip cracked across Matrix’s chest and even at a distance I feel the shockwave that follows. Matrix, unable to parry and at ground zero, is blown back and into the wall ten meters behind him.

‘Not good!’ My instincts start screaming toward me about how low our chances of victory are. ‘We barely have a 20% chance of victory at best!’

“Matrix! Are you okay?!” I call out to my little brother, who remains sitting against the wall where he fell.

“Yeah, big bro! I’m fine! Just, umm, a little surprised!”

“He moves with a strange rhythm which interchanges between fast and slow, be careful!”

“Okay!”

The boss turns toward me and approaches thanks to my shouts attracting its attention, but Matrix quickly stands up and activates a sacred art to draw its aggro again.

Trying to match my attack with the boss’s movements, I launch another three arrows at it. Two out of three arrows hit this time which is certainly better than before, but still somewhat lacking.

Rather than trying to parry the whip attacks, Mason focuses completely on dodging out of the the whip’s trajectory, chanting his magic at the same time.

“Flame waves in the wind as the wind nourishes the fire. The cycle of Yin and Yang becomes complete at the tip of the sword and extends forth. Flame Waves!”

Matrix’s sword slashes through the air with pinpoint precision. As it swings, flames lick the blade of the weapon and fly from the swordpoint as a blade of flame. The blade of flame cuts through the air in the same direction that the sword swings, creating a line of red sparks and sharp flames from Mason to the boss. He swings the sword several times in succession, each creating its own flame blade.

My eyebrows knit together as I stand there motionless and mouth agape after hearing his ridiculous, self-made poetry. He has been doing this ever since we were trying to do something different to have my videos stand out from the rest and become more popular. The first two videos with his shameless chanting showed some results, but there was nothing after that.

Despite how many times I tell him to cut it out, he still persists. He is so proficient in magic that he doesn’t even need to call out the chant at all. He could save himself a great deal of time if he simply listens to me and starts using magic silently.

Matrix’s flame blades pass through the boss with little resistance, most likely due to the fact that it is made from a condensed gas. At least the boss takes damage, it’s health bar becoming visible despite still appearing to be full.

Matrix holds the boss’s attention consistently, healing himself when needed, dodging rather than attempting to parry, and occasionally responding with a long distance magic attack. My accuracy continues to increase as well, with nine out of ten arrows now hitting the boss.

Half of my of arrows are gone, stuck all along the walls after passing through the boss. There is even an arrow sticking out of Matrix’s hip which, despite his understanding, I feel incredibly guilty about.

I decide I will call the boss ‘Gas Child’ for easy reference. His health finally falls below half and the visible health bar turns orange. At this point, there is a distinctive change. He suddenly enlarges and his form vanishes as he disperses. Even the health bar vanishes from sight as the area begins to fill with purple-black smoke. Smoke fills every corner of the room, attacking both Matrix and I at the same time and leaving no room to dodge. The damage to my health isn’t too bad, but a message appears that causes my chest to constrict.

'Grand Elven Bow' Durability has fallen below 10%:
~ Damage has been reduced by 40%
~ Attack speed has been reduced by 40%

'Orcish Gauntlets of Archery' Durability has fallen below 10%
~ Defence value has been reduced by 40%
~ Additional effects have been reduced by 30%

'Golden Imp Leather Cuirass' Durability has fallen below 10%
~ Defence value has been reduced by 40%
~ Additional effects have been reduced by 30%

'Hayater Leather Cap' Durability has fallen below 5%
~ Defence value has been reduced by 60%
~ Additional effects have been reduced by 50%

'Soft Haste Boots' Durability has fallen to 0
~ Item has broken and can no longer be used
 
'Guiding light(Necklace)' Durability has fallen to 0
~ Item has broken and can no longer be used

Disregarding all the nearly broken equipment, the two items that actually broke are the most devastating. Broken items are automatically unequipped and placed back in the player inventory. The problem is that once an item’s durability reaches zero, they are considered to be beyond repair.

The smoke suddenly shifts, rapidly gathering together to reform ‘Gas Child’. I don’t immediately realize it, but the boss is gathering its body in a completely different location from where it dispersed. When the smoke clears enough, I see where the boss is reforming.

I nock an arrow, and my bow glows a pale blue as I prepare to release my ‘Piercer’ sacred art as soon as Gas Child becomes solid. In the space of a few breaths, the boss reforms its body again and brandishes its whip, but I don’t fire. The boss is directly behind Matrix!

My little brother is standing there dumbfounded, not because he doesn’t know where the boss is, but because all his armor and even his weapon have broken. He is standing there in nothing but the casual clothes which are normally under his armor.

‘Damn it, Matrix! How many times have I told you that you need to maintain your weapon and armor in good repair!’ I inwardly curse, understanding that all his equipment has broken due to their durability being at half.

Matrix stands there stupidly, looking down at his bare hands as the boss flicks its wrist and delivers a whip lash to Matrix’s back. The strike creates a deafening shockwave that sends me sliding back several meters. Poor Matrix flies several tens of meters before hitting a wall and becoming a corpse on the ground. The attack dealt critical damage, and without a single shred of armor for protection, he died instantly.

I barely have time to curse before ‘Gas Child’ automatically targets me and attacks with his whip. I begin to raise my bow to defend against the attack, using the ‘Grand Elven Bow’s’ ability to be used as a shield, before remembering that it is nearly broken.

I jump to the side in an attempt to dodge, but my speed is not as fast as Matrix’s. The whip follows its characteristic trait of fluctuating in speed, lashing at me nearly instantly. I feel a wind brush past me as I narrowly dodge, before a shockwave buffets my body and sends me flying several meters away. The game doesn’t permit players to feel any significant pain, but the rotating of my vision as I tumble is enough to nauseate me.

The attack takes just over a third off of my health, leaving my limbs feeling a little heavier than before. Standing up slowly, I see that the boss is steadily approaching me. I realize that when facing straight on, it is incredibly difficult to capture the timing of the boss’s movements.

I nock two arrows and hastily release them at the enemy. My accuracy improves dramatically thanks to the target not moving sideways. I quickly use the sacred art ‘Wind Piercer’, firing an arrow of wind at the boss before retreating.

My concentration wavers as I see the boss falter and become unsteady from the wind based attack. His health visibly drops a fraction from the attack as well.

The attack also seems to cause ‘Gas Child’ to rage, his speed explosively increasing as he leaps toward me. The whip in his hand strikes toward me while circling around itself. I attempt to dodge the whip again, but it seems to track my movements and make dodging impossible. The whip gathers around my body before tightly binding me.

Trapped by the purple-black whip wrapped around me, all my struggles to free myself are fruitless. With another flick of his wrist, the boss lifts me up with his whip and swings me around himself. My vision blurs slightly and I feel the semi-solid whip release me. The next thing I notice is a dull itch on the back of my head and shoulders.

I can vaguely feel the wall behind me, but my limbs refuse to move no matter how hard I struggle and my mind is still reeling from the flight and slow to respond. As my head clears and my focus sharpens, I see the boss standing a few meters away from me. His whip comes swinging down once more and then everything turns black with a single message.

You have died.

Due to having no one in the vicinity of your body, your soul
disperses and revival magic can no longer be used on you.
Your soul has reformed in the Great Church of Grenton. 

Do you wish to revive immediately?
                   Yes/No

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

Matrix and I challenge the hidden tomb three more times and defeat the sub boss on the third attempt, but fall miserably to the mundane enemies deeper in the dungeon. Our party is far too small and not levelled high enough to be able to go further, so I make a video out of all the footage I have.

The video of us in the dungeon takes quite well with the viewers and even the advertisement slot sales. It isn’t my most popular video to date, but it is still better than my last few.

In the blink of an eye, three months pass and it becomes time for the party to get back together. Thanks the the multiple trips back to Swordbreak Matrix and I have had to make after death and the loss of stats each time, I suspect everyone else’s character strength to have increased. Except for Lost himself, as he hasn’t been playing.

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

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

-Lost-

The three months of study and the final exams make it feel like only several weeks have passed, but the changing of the seasons says otherwise.

Now that I have my high school equivalency, and with high marks at that, I am qualified to apply for a large number of further study options. I want to go to university, but am unsure what I want to study. I spend an entire day doing research on the internet about university courses and all the future job opportunities.

Considering my inability to walk, it will have to be some form of corporate or other desk job. The prospect isn’t enticing, but it is something I must do.

“Accounting, teaching, neuroscience, art, music, law, science…” I mumble to myself as my eyelids begin to slide shut, the boredom from reading the content of the courses available causes me to feel extremely fatigued.

The sound of a message on my phone snaps me awake. Picking up my phone, I see it is from Sir Laurence, or Markus Forz, as he is known in real life.

Lost, are you coming back soon? The group is waiting.

Similar to how he is in game, Sir Laurence is very direct and straight to the point. He has messaged me several times over the course of my studies, and I even relied on calling him occasionally for advice with a problem I was stuck on. He was highly knowledgeable and surprisingly helpful.

I give him a short reply, letting him know I will be on in 24 hours and for him to make sure everyone knows. At that time we can all get together and talk about everything. He replies almost instantly with a second equally curt message.

I spend the rest of the night refreshing my memory on the game and the latest news in the End Forums. The forums hint that something big is coming to the game, but contain no concrete evidence, only speculation.

I log into my locker, and Fen jumps on me before I can gather my bearings. The collision causes me to topple over with Fen still sitting on top of me.

“Fen, it’s only been three days since I saw you last… Is this really necessary?”

“…Unn,” The wolf girl makes a pleased grunt, leaning forward on me and rubbing herself against me.

My cheeks turn crimson and I feel my pulse begin to pound. My embarrassment leaves me at a loss for words so I forcefully roll over, causing her to end up beneath me. Taking the opportunity as her grip loosens, I stand up and dust myself off.

Still laying on her back, the girl scowls and looks displeased. However, her dissatisfaction soon leaves her as we both end up side by side on the couch, me describing to her my studies, almost teaching her all the material I learned in the process of our discussion.

Fen has a stutter with her speech that I thought was some fault in her programming, yet she learns the things I tell her about with astonishing ease. I can’t imagine her coding to be faulty and still have such an amazingly rapid learning curve.

This is how all of my conversations with the girl go. I visit two or three times a week to sit down and talk with Fen. I enjoy having someone to talk to, and open up with. Thanks to her being an artificial program, she is absolutely perfect. Of course, our time can only last so long before I run out of things to talk about.

Being in a very positive mood from my recent test results, I decide to sleep in the bed in my locker tonight. Fen is overjoyed, and she practically drags me to the bed before following me in, wrapping her arms around me and tightly pulling herself onto me. Two warm, soft lumps pressing against my shoulder is my last conscious thought before I drift off into a deep sleep.

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

“Welcome back!” Mason, Matrix, and Verde say in unison.

Sir Laurence is here as well, but he only gives me a curt nod of his head.

I look all around the ‘Honey Tree Inn’ with wide eyes, “It feels like everything around here has changed!”

“You simply haven’t been here for a while. Although they did replace the tables about a month ago,” Sir Laurence also looks around, noting several things are different.

“I’m glad you passed, Lost!” Mason says with a massive grin. “And with such high grades too! That must have been one of the top scores in this entire city.”

We all stayed in contact in real life, and thanks to the people in front of me being the only friends whose phone number I have, they were the first to hear about my test results.

“I still need to choose a course for further study, so it is not over yet.”

“If you need any advice, I would be more than happy to try and help!” Verde adds into the conversation with a smile that can’t be anything other than genuine.

“I appreciate it, really! You will be the first I call if I get stuck!”

Our conversation fills with menial and insignificant things and lasts several hours and many ales.

“Hey,” Mason raises his hand to get everyone’s attention, “how about we form a guild. We have five people here, which is the minimum number needed!”

Verde frowns, “It is, but you also need 20,000 gold, which I am sure none of us have.”

“Ah, well, perhaps we could save up for it.” Mason’s expression becomes downcast.

“I quite like the idea. I recommend we put a little money away each time we earn some gold so we can eventually form one. Also, I did receive 10,000 gold from winning the tournament which means we are basically half way there,” I say, half to myself, but everyone seems to give it some thought.

Eventually, they all agree to the idea.

I just have one last question to ask, “Does anyone have any ideas for the guild name?”

Everyone shakes their head in silence.

Next Chapter

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36 Comments

  1. Like already mentioned above, i marathoned through this amazing novel as well! Looking around your website i couldn’t find anything concrete on when you release chapters. Weekly? When your writers inspiration is at its peek? monthly?

    Anyways really great novel it was a fun read, i’ll be sure to keep track and support you!

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      1. I allow 2 days for planning a chapter, then another 10 for writing. The editors may take up to 10 days, but while they are editing I am writing the next chapter, so it usually doesn’t take 20 or so days between chapters ^.^

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        Reply

  2. I think PK system of the game is easy to exploit, all you need to do is trick or provoke someone into hitting you then a group can pk the other player however they get no skull. Another way is high level players can force someone into attacking another player and when the forced player dies they can go and kill the other player. If this is a REAL game now no one would play cause many scrubs would be flooding the forums complaining about how they keep on getting PKed and their items and gold being stolen.

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    Reply

    1. That is true, but I think that it would be able to be exploited no matter what. Players will always find a method for this. As the game is governed by an AI, if there was any drastic amounts of exploiting the PK system, something would be done ^.^
      I believe I have already mentioned the method of tricking a player to attack one person and then kill him. This trick, however, is common knowledge amongst most of the gaming community so it is a little more difficult to pull off.

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