End Online: Chapter 35

Editors: genericIntent, Jack Vanatis, Johnist
Author’s notes: The final chapter of Volume 5! I have already finishing the rough plan for volume 6 and working on the next chapter, but it is still half a week away(estimated) from finishing the written stage.
The chapter plan for this chapter is now available on my Patreon. This one is available to everyone. If you don’t support me there currently, perhaps you will consider it. The Chapter 35 plan is separated into two parts as that is how it was originally planned (Half of chapter 34 and then 35, hence why the chapter itself is so long!)
Editor’s notes:
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Chapter 35: Assault, Grenton

-Mikhail-

“God damn it!” I curse vehemently and throw all the nearby paperwork around in the office shortly after disconnecting the V-Link.

“Mikhail, getting angry about it isn’t going to help,” Henry says as he stands in the doorway watching me with a frown.

I look over at him, trying to use a meditation technique to force the fury in me to calm, “Those arrogant little pricks simply slaughtered us when all I was doing was watching them. Now they messed up our plans!”

“No, you would have teleported to Swordbreak at the end of the hour and been separated regardless. You’re just angry you lost.”

“That can’t be right. I have lost plenty of times before and have never been this mad.”

“It can happen to all of us. Go home and get some rest. You have been logged in for extensive periods lately and we can tell it has taken a toll on you.”

“But sir-“

“Go home, Mikhail. I will see you tomorrow.” Henry cuts me off with a voice that gives me the chills and beckons for me to leave the room.

He is my boss and I have no reason to dispute it, so I oblige by leaving the building with an apology for the mess. Henry doesn’t appear to be too bothered by it and sends two interns in to clean the room.

My anger is still seething on the way home so I make a detour to my local gym, Maver’s Gym. I frequent this gym several times a week on a regular basis, but today is one of my rare spontaneous decisions to go.

Behind the reception desk is a charming lady with fiery red hair and glasses. She usually smells of expensive perfume that draws men in. Perhaps this could be a deliberate marketing strategy to retain customers. She doesn’t do much else behind the desk.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Peryn.” The receptionist gives me a charming smile as I enter the front door.

At this point I would usually flirt with her a little; I find her incredibly attractive, but today is different. I am not in the mood and simply reply with an ‘afternoon’ before swiping my membership card and entering the facility.

I am a high paying member of the gym, and as such have access to the special room out back, the heightened gravity training room. The gravity in this room is artificially increased above standard gravity. The amount changes on a weekly schedule, a notice board in front of the room states that today the gravity is 1.3 times normal.

Before heading into the room, I get changed into a training suit that the gym provides to monitor the body and ensure no injuries take place. The suit is clean, and once I am done I will send it down the laundry chute so it can be cleaned and prepared for the next person to use.

My personal belongings are left in a locker as I enter the HGTR. Stepping inside the room is like stepping onto some amusement ride that uses centrifugal forces to pin people to the walls, only on a smaller scale. I still feel my internals shifting slightly from the sudden change in gravity, but they soon adjust themselves and the discomfort vanishes.

The room is approximately ninety meters square, with countless exercise machines within. Ten people who I have never seen before are currently within the room. I use a free treadmill next to one of them and begin at a low speed which will begin at a walk and gradually increase to a slow jog until I have run a total distance of five miles.

With sweat dripping off my entire body, all the anger inside of me slowly fades away until it vanishes. I do some weight training next and spill more sweat onto the floor, but such is needed to keep the body in perfect shape.

On the way out of the gym, I smile and nod to the receptionist, even flirt a little, but she tactfully avoids all advances from the members of the gym with a precision that would astonish most military tacticians. I don’t know if there is any man in this woman’s life, but he would have to be an incredible person to be able to get her.

The remainder of the night is relatively peaceful, passing before I even realize what time it is. The following morning I feel completely refreshed, prepared for a new day. I begin work at 9:00am but arrive twenty minutes early and run some diagnostics on Xilbril. Information on Lost and his party still eludes me, but I am confident I will be able to uncover something eventually.

“Excuse me, Mikhail.” One of my co-workers, Klyde, pokes his head through the door of the server room and calls out to me. “Henry is gathering all the brass in the meeting room and would like you to be there.”

“Thanks, Klyde, please let Henry know I will be there shortly.”

“Sure! I will let him know now!”

Klyde rushes out of the room, leaving the door ajar, and picks up a phone from one of our wired terminals by the sound of it.

I don’t want to take too long, so I leave the server room after performing one more test to get in contact with Xilbril. Walking down the corridor to the meeting room, I can feel the faint familiar drumming of the hydrocell generator in the sublevels reverberating through the building.

The meeting room is in the far corner of the building. Morning sunlight spills through the two walls made of floor to ceiling windows. In the center of the room is a single round table with ten seats positioned around it. The seven directors of Idea Imagine are currently all sitting there, inspecting various reports and documents with the occasional question or chatter. Henry is also already here, as he is one of the seven directors.

They all turn to me as I walk in and hesitantly sit down, occupying one of the three remaining seats. A small pile of reports are slid over to me, which I quickly look over. Many of the reports are from me on the current situation of Xilbril and the AI children currently within the game.

Henry is the first to look up from his paperwork and speak to the group. “As you can all see, the problem of AI children has escalated to a whole new level. We need to come to a decision in regard to what we should do about the situation.”

“My concern isn’t these children that have been roaming about the virtual world; to ordinary players they are only boss monsters that cannot be killed and end up giving up after a few deaths. The problem is this one AI: Fen,” a wizened man in his late seventies says as he stares at Henry and me with a gaze as cold as ice.

One by one, the other directors speak their minds, asking for clarification of how the situation became like this.

“This Fen AI. My concern is that she is female.”

“Why is that your concern? Shouldn’t we be more worried about how close she has attached to a human player? We are all aware of their capabilities.”

“Every AI that Xilbril spawned from herself to date has been male. This is the only female to have appeared. I’m worried she will also spawn off a set of AI children and spread.”

“If she does, we will be able to determine the origin of those AI and determine Fen’s location on the server.”

“What if she’s not on the server?”

“Preposterous! There are filters and firewalls in place that will prevent that. In addition, there is no storage device connected to the server large enough to hold such a large entity as an AI.”

“The second generation V-Link helmets would make it possible.”

“Still impossible, the entity would have to break through the equivalent of a three meter thick steel reinforced wall to leave the server. It couldn’t be done.”

“So where is this AI then? One of the reports here states a program leaving the server to an external source. This could be the very same AI we are chasing down.”

“It must be somewhere on the server. The program that left must have been related to someone hacking into the less protected programs. In searching for this AI, Xilbril had hindered our attempts greatly, but we have already uncovered some information.”

“I can see it here in the report; Hollis Sylvester, Verity Lee, Markus Forz, Maver Marx and Malt Marx. So far, we only have names and basic information, but we know more about them every day.”

“With their real names, it is only a matter of time. Henry, what is it?”

“Sir, Verity Lee is the daughter of Sidney Lee, the director of Lee Investment Partners. As it states a little further in the report, there was an incident relating to our system that gave her amnesia. Whatever caused this is dangerous and a serious liability, we are in a race against time to prevent something similar happening on a larger scale. She has been entering the game and collecting information from the party to aid us.”

“She was aiding us. Even I can tell from the latest information that she seems to have stopped cooperating. If she wasn’t the daughter of Sidney Lee, we could be a little more forceful. What about the others? What information have you uncovered?”

“Markus Forz: recently ascended his father’s position as the CEO and director of Foster Electrical and Homewares; a multinational conglomerate that would be difficult to pressure. Maver and Malt Marx: two brothers from the slums who are perhaps flying too close to the sun with wings of wax. Hollis Sylvester: this person…”

“We have no information on him. No matter how much we search, he is like a ghost. He is also the one the AI attached itself to and the person of the most importance. Why do we still have nothing on him, for Christ’s sake?”

“The Sylvesters are a family originally from the middle district, fallen to the lower district a good twenty years ago. We acquired the family tree from their archives and even consulted several of the family members discreetly, but no one knows about a Hollis Sylvester. We are searching through driver’s license databases and other authorities, but Xilbril has managed to extend her influence out of the server and interfered with our searches.”

“I thought she couldn’t affect the outside world?”

“The child AI can’t, but she can. She was built from a concept found in an ancestral ruin discovered in the middle east for the purpose of controlling other systems, of course she has that capability.”

I am utterly shocked at some of the things the directors are talking about. I feel for a moment that I am working for a group of terrorists, but this is the cruel world where corporate might rules over all.

The discussion between the upper echelons of our company continues all morning. The main topics revolve around Xilbril, the AI Fen, and the mysterious Hollis Sylvester. I stand in silence for the most part, occasionally voicing my opinions when questions regarding my reports are directed at me.

A little after midday, everyone leaves the room to have a lunch break. At that time, Henry pulls me aside and tells me to follow up on my searches in regards to the people in question.  Apparently this meeting isn’t going to progress at all, as no one can agree with the others on any topic. I need to go source new information as soon as possible.

It isn’t just Henry that is concerned about the AI Fen, but I am as well after hearing everyone’s opinions of what the AI is capable of.

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-Verity(Verde)-

The morning sun filters into my room through the red blinds covering the window. It creates a pink and yellow ambience through the room that has a warm atmosphere. As we are currently coming into winter, it is the ideal feeling to awaken to.

Today is the day I plan on meeting Lost and Sir Laurence in real life. Thinking of how I will need to call them Hollis and Markus, it feels a little strange. First on the agenda, however, is escaping from my home without my parents knowing.

I’ve seen many movies where the person would just climb out the window to escape, even the one where the princess creates a rope from her hair to climb down from the top of her tower. The only problem is that I live on the 71st floor of an inner city apartment building. The view from my window alone allows me to see all the way to the middle district of Taile.

The only method is to leave the house normally and lose the escorts that my parents always have follow me.

I wish my mother a good morning in the kitchen; father has already left for work as he has several important meetings to attend to this morning. She asks me what I plan on doing today, and has no problems with me going out to do some shopping.

Playing the appropriate daughter, I leave the apartment with an innocent smile on my face. As I walk out of the lobby of the building, a man dressed in a black suit with slick hair and another with a more casual, laid back appearance stand and exit behind me. If I hadn’t recovered my memory I would have no idea that these two, who change their disguise every time, are the bodyguards my parents assign to follow me whenever I leave home.

The central business district is swarming with people in suits, all heading toward somewhere with a purpose. There aren’t many people milling underneath the canopies of cafes this early in the morning. Instead, people bustle about the pop up stands for a quick coffee to take to work. I feel somewhat amused looking at the baristas attempting to keep up with the demand of the morning rush.

I head toward an underground subway and catch the next eastbound train. With my two escorts following behind me, I exit in the middle district at a station near a popular shopping district. The street I am looking for is called Chapel Road and is lined with shops on both sides as far as the eye can see.

The street is as busy as I expected. I hurry through the crowd for ten minutes before heading into a clothing shop I have never been to before. Rushing against time, I find a pretty blue dress with long sleeves and a deep cut neckline and vanish into the changing room. Once I emerge from the dressing room, I look like someone else at first glance. Next to the counter, I pick up several trinkets to adorn my neck and wrists, along with some eastern hair sticks to tie up my hair. A small crimson and black bonnet hat completes the outfit.

I pay for everything at the front desk with my father’s card and wear it out of the shop. The clerk is more than happy to pack my old clothes into some bags for me to carry. Not wanting to be seen as having been clothes shopping, I dispose of my old clothes on the ground around the corner of an alley I walk past.

Glancing over my shoulder, I can’t see my escorts among the heads of all the shoppers on the sidewalk. A few cars buzz by down the street and I take the break in between them to quickly cross the road, doubling back on the way I came.

Glancing at the time on my phone, I am still an hour early for our meeting at Silcone Café in downtown.

Half an hour later, I arrive at the station nearest the café giggling at how I slipped away from my bodyguards. It was rather easy to lose them, so much so that at first I was worried that it was too easy and they were still following me in the shadows. I was looking over my shoulder the entire time but they weren’t there at all. I can only conclude that I successfully escaped them.

The location around the Silcone Café is rather quiet, very unlike the streets I am familiar with. There are only four shops lined up side by side: a convenience store, a rundown computer store, a pet supply store, and the café we are meeting at. The rest of the area is residential with only a few people wandering around. Everyone else is clearly already at or on their way to work.

“Verity!” A handsome blonde man sitting at a table in front of the café calls out, waving his hand up high with a gentle smile on his face. Despite the fact that he is sitting down, his long legs beneath the table prove he is just as tall as he is in the game, not that it could have been faked.

I instantly recognize this person as Sir Laurence, or Markus here in the real world. Seeing him dressed up in a plain black t-shirt and deep navy jeans is strange after seeing him in shining armor for so long. I can tell that he is definitely quite well off and from the inner districts. His clothing is from a famous brand name that I can instantly recognize.

“I’m here,” I say gently, sitting at the other end of the table courteously.

Markus doesn’t have any of the haughty appearance he has in the game showing in his expression. If I had to describe him, I would call him aloof.

“Lost isn’t here yet?” I ask, a little nervous at not seeing him around.

“No, I sent him a message a couple of minutes ago saying I was a little early. He should be here shortly.”

“I-I’m really nervous for some reason.”

Markus gives me a quizzical look but doesn’t comment any further. At this moment, a person in a wheelchair rolls past us. Or so I thought originally, except it came to a stop at our table. Expecting to have to turn down some charity service, I look at Markus and signal him with my eyes to make the person leave.

Markus doesn’t notice my message, but stares at the person in the wheelchair in complete shock. Eventually I turn my head to look and am equally surprised. “Lost!?”

“Haha, please, call me Hollis,” the man says with an awkward laugh. He is in his early twenties, around the same age as me. “Markus, Verity, there is no need to stare so hard.”

I look away embarrassingly, not knowing what to say. Markus is the first to speak up. “Hollis, I am sorry, I had no idea. Now I understand why you said you couldn’t travel far.”

“Unfortunately, this is how it is.”

“Can I ask for how long?”

“I have tried to avoid keeping track, but it’s been a bit over a year.”

Unable to stay out of the conversation, I express my best intentions for someone I care about. “How can it be okay? You even had to wheel yourself here! Should I arrange for someone to help you with getting around and everything else?”

I genuinely meant to help, but Hollis looks at me with shock and even Markus’s jaw is agape. I instantly regret what I said and try to apologize but end up shamefully stammering every word in panic.

“Don’t worry about it.” Hollis raises his hand, which I notice is covered in calluses. “Let’s just talk about casual things like friends would.”

Sighing in relief, I am grateful for Lost covering my blunder. From anyone else’s position, I must have looked like a typical rich girl looking down on the less fortunate and flaunting my wealth.

We order a coffee, which Hollis insists on paying for and even Markus objects strongly to it until Hollis brings up a sly remark asking if they thought he was so poor he couldn’t afford a coffee. It was a dirty move by him, but effective.

We spend until noon discussing our daily lives, and what we do for a living. I am surprised to hear Markus has recently inherited his father’s position as the head of an enormous multinational business. Lost is currently making a living off selling game items from End Online. Despite the massive difference between the two, I look up to them and am ashamed to tell them that I currently don’t do anything. My father has been trying to persuade me to begin several courses to allow me to enter his world, but I don’t have that kind of viscousness in me so I adamantly refused.

“Also, starting next year, I will be attending university,” Hollis says cheerfully, rolling a little closer to the table to get under the shade umbrella and escape the scorching sunlight.

Markus’s interest piques and he suddenly seems wide awake after hearing this. “Really? That’s fantastic, what are you studying and where?”

“I will be studying philology and semiotics at Cambridge University.”

I hadn’t heard of the university before, but I understand what the course is about. With the countless ruins of ancient civilizations around the world, the archaeologist occupation people take after the course is quite popular.

Markus smiles mischievously at Hollis with a plot obviously unfolding in his head. “It’s funny you should mention Cambridge University. I also will be studying international law there next year.”

Stated as a matter of fact and completely unlike the Sir Laurence that I am used to, I don’t know how to respond to the situation.

Hollis is also taken aback. “Wait, what!? Since when!?”

“Since now.” Markus laughs heartily at Hollis’s ghastly expression. “Verity, why don’t you come study there too? I hear you have been looking to attend university as well, just holding out for the right one, right?”

“W-where did you hear such a thing!? Whoever s-spoke such things must be lying!” I stammer profusely as I am caught up in Markus’s web that he uses to try and tie us all together. “And you, Markus, didn’t you say you were running your business, since when do you have time to go to university?”

“I have time for End Online, I have time for university. Besides, there are plenty of people who work beneath me to take care of the day to day needs, and studying international law is also helping my business, you know.”

“Urgh, fine.” I try to refute him, but end up defeated with every word. This is truly a side of Sir Laurence I have never met before.

The thought of attending university with the two of them isn’t bad, but my father would never allow such things. We finish one more coffee each, which Hollis agreed to let Markus pay for. A while after lunch Hollis tells us he is expecting a call from his little sisters and takes his leave. The thought of a little sister leaves me feeling quite warm and comforted inside. I only regret that I don’t have one of my own. Hopefully I will get to meet Hollis’s little sisters one day.

Markus and I also head off from there. Markus offers a lift to Lost and myself, which I refuse and Hollis decides to accept after Markus whispers something in his ear. The two happily chatter away inside the chauffeured car which conveniently has a large boot space that Hollis’s wheelchair folds into perfectly.

I watch the two leave, then jubilantly head back to the station to return home. Halfway there, I panic and decide to return to the shopping district from this morning. I find my clothes from earlier surprisingly still hidden around the corner where I left them. I slip back into the shop I was in this morning and with a wink to the shopkeep, get changed back into my original clothes.

From the busy shopping district, I return home in high spirits. Back at home, I notice the two escorts aren’t back yet, and begin to worry slightly. I feel bad that they may have been fired for failing at their jobs.

“I’m home!” I call out after entering the large apartment on the 71st floor.

“Sweetie, I’m so glad you’re back!”

My father surprises me by being home already and is eating a late lunch in the kitchen.

What makes me the most concerned is that neither he nor my mother seem to be aware of my short disappearance or just don’t care. Something inside of me is telling me something strange is happening here that I am missing.

I spend the entire day suspicious of my parents. Hollis and Markus agreed that we will log back on tomorrow so I have nothing at all to do today. I spend some time browsing social media websites, the local catalogues, and practicing cooking with my mother.

The strange feeling increases at dinner, where father decides we will be going out to a restaurant he has been fancying all day. We take his executive limousine to the expensive eastern restaurant in the upper district. The waitresses here are extremely gaudy and lavishly adorned. What catches my eye the most is how they all have their hair tied up by two eastern hair sticks adorned with gem encrusted flower designs or dragons at the end. The hairstyle is extremely similar to how I had my hair today.

‘No, there is no way possible he knows. This must be a coincidence.’ Despite the sinking feeling in my stomach, I vehemently reject the notion that we are here tonight because of my short escapade today.

“Verity, have you reconsidered the option of studying corporate management at university?” My father asks curiously, giving me a quick glance from the corner of his eye.

“I’m sorry father, but I have no wish to live in that industry, and I will tell you the same every time you ask.”

“Is there nothing I can do to convince you?”

“Nothing, father.”

“I will let you study at any university that offers it of your choosing though.”

“No- wait, any university of my choosing?”

My father gives me another quick glance which causes my suspicions to climb. “Of course, any university.”

“Then I want to study at Cambridge University, but I still won’t take over your business.”

“Fantastic! The application has already been sent off!”

It takes me nearly a minute to comprehend what he just said, before I stand up in a flush, my chopsticks dropping to the ground. “H-h-how!? Y-you followed m-me today, didn’t y-you!!?”

My shout causes an uncomfortable silence to come over the entire restaurant, yet my father doesn’t respond. He continues to eat his dinner as if nothing is wrong. In fact, he even has a slightly gleeful expression on his face after finally getting me to study the course he has been wanting me to for so long. The pedigree of the school doesn’t matter either, he will simply replace all the teachers related to my course.

I feel a headache coming on and excuse myself from dinner, taking the chauffeured car back home and secretly hoping my parents are stranded there at the restaurant.

Back at home, the troubles only increase when I find a variety of eastern hair sticks sorted by size in one of my drawers. There is a little note on top of them in my mother’s handwriting that says, “You looked so beautiful today, I arranged for some more hair sticks in the hopes you will use them more often.”

I go to sleep early while screaming into my pillow in frustration. Tomorrow is the day I go back to End Online and can take out some of this frustration on some players from other kingdoms. I don’t care about Lost’s opinion, we are going on the offensive!

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-Hollis(Lost)-

As I am lying on my bed staring at the ceiling, I replay today’s events in my head. A coquettish smile adorns my face in response to my peaceful and elated mood.

The real life meeting at Silcone Café was quite exciting. I arrived there incredibly nervous and if my legs had worked, I would have run away as fast as they would have taken me. I could tell Markus and Verity were equally as nervous, but slowly the conversation eased and we all became more relaxed. My biggest surprise was that they are both from extremely wealthy backgrounds.

I had a thought that if I find any good equipment that they need, I could sell it to them instead of taking the chance that it wouldn’t sell well when listing it at the auction. It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. They gave me a scrutinizing look while I was thinking that and I worried that perhaps I had let something slip in my expression.

When I revealed that I applied to university, Markus immediately declared he would be going as well. Being so used to the cold outward demeanor of the knight in shining armor,  this kind of warm and friendly camaraderie caused me to question if it was the same person sitting in front of me.

The morning passed and our conversation came to an end a little after lunch. I excused myself as today is the day my sisters will be calling me, and if the past weekends are any indication, they will call sometime between 2:00pm and 3:00pm.

True to my prediction, they call me at exactly 2:00pm. I boast that I will be attending university next year, which causes them to be incredibly happy. We spend an entire hour speaking about school and university. Unfortunately, I also had to put up with them talking about boys they do or don’t like.

The Wanderers aren’t meeting up in End Online again until tomorrow, so I spend the afternoon shopping for necessities and cleaning the house. Well, cleaning as much as I can.

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My boots crunch in the hard snow as soon as I log back into End Online. The area I left is currently experiencing a light snowstorm and the entire sky is a sheet of white and grey. My cloak wards off most of the storm, but visibility is still very poor.

Verde and Sir Laurence log in just after I do. They take two steps back in surprise and cover their eyes to block the falling snow. It doesn’t take long to adjust to the storm and they slowly uncover their faces.

“Welcome back,” I say to them as they acclimate to the storm.

Sir Laurence nods his head curtly, his cold attitude having returned upon entering the game. Verde sports a sour expression that is completely new to me and doesn’t respond. Her scrunched up face is surprisingly cute to look at and I sneak a few glances at her. Perhaps Fen notices this, as she suddenly grabs onto my arm with an iron grip.

“Mason and Matrix are still in Grenton, aren’t they?” Verde asks suddenly with a voice that causes me to shiver.

Wondering what it is they did wrong to Verde, I decide to abandon them to their fate. “I assume they are. The last time I heard from Mason, he and his brother were defending the city quite valiantly.”

“Good, we’re going to Grenton.”

“What? Why are we going to Grenton?”

“To kill them.”

“What did they do wrong?”

“Nothing. I have some frustration to take out. Now let’s go.”

Sir Laurence watches from the side as Verde states her mind and walks off. Knowing the area we are in, I try telling her that she is actually walking south, not north. I am rewarded by her physically throwing a dagger at me which flies toward my head with incredible accuracy and I am only saved by a small ice shield deflecting it at the last moment. I thank Fen dearly for it, but Verde is clearly in an extremely poor mood.

At least Verde hears me and we begin walking north. Due to the war currently going on between the three kingdoms, there were very few players to the east of the city, but there are plenty to the north. The further north we travel, the more players there are. Most players are in groups of at least four, trying to make their way to Grenton discreetly. Of course, it isn’t very discreet when no matter where you look there is at least one group of players.

Two arrows and a fireball are the greeting we get from the first opposing group of players we encounter. We haven’t even left the frigid climate of the Kingdom of Glace when they ambush us. At least we aren’t alone, several other groups are suffering attacks as well.

A second volley comes shortly after the first, but we are prepared for it and dodge the attacks while using their trajectory to locate the position of the attackers. We only lose a small amount of health before successfully tracing the attacks back to a group of four hiding in some nearby bushes. It isn’t a bad hiding spot; if they hadn’t attacked, we would have walked right past them unaware.

The players are between level 100 and 150 judging by their attacks. Either that or they have extremely low stats for their level, which isn’t uncommon among certain groups of players.

The enemy party only remove ten percent of our health thanks to Sir Laurence’s shield tactics before we wipe them out. The party leader also drops his ‘Unique’ magic staff, which is a happy surprise.

Elusive Staff of Flame
This staff is said to be crafted from the oak of a ten
thousand year old tree which developed its own
wisdom. Late at night, this staff may whisper to you.

Requirements:
~ Level 115
~ Int 42
~ Dex 27

Weapon Type: Staff/Two Handed
Attack: 52-60
Durability: 65/65
Weight: 11.3 lbs

Abilities:
- Increases damage of fire spells by 35%
- Increases movement speed by 8%

I have found many better weapons than the one dropped by the defeated party leader, but this is still good and will sell for a small amount of money. I inwardly laugh to myself as we split the gold dropped by the group and continue heading north.

The second group we meet is along the border of the two kingdoms, in a thicket of bamboo-like trees where the snow begins to thaw. This group sticks to the bamboo area, using the surroundings to enhance their battle tactics by jumping between the stalks above our heads and slashing long katanas at us from our blind spots.

I try to use ‘Backstab’ and Fen launches several spears of ice at them, but they are simply moving too fast to hit. As soon as I appear behind one, they are already several meters away and I have wasted my stamina.

My health, along with everyone else’s, is slowly whittled away over the next ten minutes. I finally end up having enough and throw multiple dire flame fireballs around the area, burning down the bamboo and trapping the enemy on the ground. Hellfire-red flame slowly spreads around the base of the forest, burning down the bamboo shoots one after another. The enemy are utterly shocked and aghast at my actions while I keep telling myself how the victors write the history books.

The players from Grenton shout out all sorts of profanities and curses at my actions as we overwhelm them with speed on the ground and start cutting them down. The dire flames in the area do barely any damage to the players as they have an extremely large amount of health. My dire flame attacks are great in that the fire can’t be extinguished with conventional means, but at the same time the damage it deals per second is extremely small. I’ve also noted that it is much slower to spread than normal fire.

This group of enemies doesn’t drop any equipment upon death, but they do leave nearly a thousand gold coins for us to split. The money is obviously from them killing players from Iceridge here. They were a very formidable group with a good tactic between them.

Four more groups and a super-levelled solo player attack us while we ambush three more over the next several days. Verde’s mood also hasn’t improved at all during this time, resulting in her being frighteningly aggressive against every group we attack or get attacked by.

While travelling, the items I auctioned sell as well. I excitedly check the final price of the items after a personal alarm signals the end of the final auction. The four main pieces of equipment sell for prices that cause my jaw to unhinge.

Violet Flame Shamshir - $1040
Inflammation Axe of Carnage - $1220
Venomous Scorpion Tail Whip - $880
Emperor Rahad's Sceptre - $3280

The myriad of lesser items sells poorly in comparison. Only half of the items sold for a cumulative amount of 200 dollars. I relist the others automatically, but don’t really expect them to sell.

After travelling for nine days and fighting ten more parties of players from Grenton, the capital city finally becomes visible in the distance. I can see the main army from Icebreak, or at least the remaining forty percent of the initial siege force,  swarming one of Grenton’s main gates. I overhear a nearby passing group of players say that an enormous force from Swordbreak is assaulting the gate on the other side of the city at the same time.

A single small group like ours can’t affect the war much from the outside, but a sinister plot begins to unfold in my mind as we approach from a different side: Eldenweiss Forest.

“You all have your ‘Necklace of the Elves’, right?” I ask Verde and Sir Laurence, causing them to sigh helplessly as I equip mine.

“You’re forgetting we didn’t participate in that quest. That was when Verde went missing and I went to join the church and become stronger.” Sir Laurence shoots a quick glance at Fen, but thankfully doesn’t comment on the root cause of Verde’s absence.

“Ah, sorry. Well I have one and Fen is with us, so it should be alright.”

We head around the battle and into Eldenweiss forest, which most people still consider to be impassable thanks to the disorientation spell that is active within. Due to my having a ‘Necklace of the Elves’, our entire party becomes exempt from the illusion and passes through it effortlessly. The elven village is the same as when we left it, only abandoned, but is not our destination. I am also feeling incredibly guilty that the large burnt down section of the forest still exists.

Twilight arrives before we manage to reach Grenton’s walls. We follow the wall to the south for a while then double back and travel north until we find the small tunnel in the wall that Verde followed the innkeeper’s daughter out of. Thanks to this, we successfully infiltrate the capital city Grenton.

Inside the city, the lights along the streets flicker into life as the stars begin to shine in the night sky. The city appears to come alive as the upper levels also have the street light lit.

“Lost, I know that we are at war but that does not mean you can use your fire magic in this town. Understand?” Sir Laurence furrows his brows, almost as if he thinks that I’m some kind of pyromaniac.

I laugh it off, and explain to him, “I learned my lesson last time. Also, I still have a bounty here so let us not alert them to the fact I am here.”

“Hee, that may be a good way to relieve some of my stress,” Verde laughs heartily for the first time in several days and I feel slightly insecure as a result.

‘What are you, a sadist?’ I think, without saying it out loud, of course.

There is very little room to hide in the city apart from the back alleys, but anyone skulking around them would arouse immediate suspicion. We decide to approach the problem with the concept of hiding in plain sight. Walking down the center of the street with our kingdom’s symbols on the backs of our hands casually hidden by placing our hands behind our backs or in a pocket, not a single player gives us a second look. Some people stare at the girls for a second or two, especially Fen, but not out of suspicion.

“Fen, you must promise me that the moment it gets dangerous, you will immediately flee and log off,” I say as seriously as possible to the girl hanging off my arm. “That includes if there are too many enemies together.”

The wolf girl seems reluctant, but agrees after I press her a few more times.

Speaking to Verde and the prince now, I say, “Also, once the fighting starts, we will split up in groups of two to have a better chance of at least some of us escaping. I’m sure you realize this is practically a suicide mission?”

Verde responds with a smile devoid of happiness. “We are only here to kill Mason, and Matrix if possible, then we can escape. It isn’t like we are fighting against Grenton’s defending army.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just remember everyone in this city is an enemy.”

We walk toward the east gate, which is the nearest, when someone finally recognizes us.

“Lost! Oh my god, is that you!? What are the chances of seeing you here!?” A man in his mid-thirties with a broadsword strapped to his back bigger than he is shouts out excitably to me.

I immediately panic and make sure to hide the symbol of Glace on my right hand. Following the man’s unnecessarily loud declaration that I am here, more people take notice of us.

“My goddess, Fen, is here! Fen, please look at me!”

“Fen, please be my wife! I will do anything for you, even-” The second person is cut off by several ice spears immediately skewering him to the ground.

Several others start gathering around us and make comments about the various people from our party, until one person states the one thing I feared, “Aren’t you people from the kingdom of Glace?”

Everyone’s voice trails off and is replaced by silence until, with a smile, I utter the words, “Kill them all.”

Fen and I are the first to jump into action. I leave faint after images behind as I move from one person to the next slashing with the ‘Twin Nightingale’ at critical locations such as the neck and knees, even the wrists of some people that appear to be archers. The critical hits don’t disable them, but slow down their actions for a while.

Fen’s ice formations become a beautiful sight that mesmerize the attackers and cause them to halt their actions. Two ice daggers materialize in her hands and what appear to be rose petals made of ice rain down from the sky around her. These razor sharp crystalline petals follow the movements of her arms and flow around her with a gentle ebb. She follows my actions, using the high speed of a high class boss monster to stab and slash as many people as possible. The ice petals around her form a natural defense even as they attack, damaging not only the people that get too close to her, but the people she closes in on as well.

The players from Grenton soon overcome their shock and respond to our attack. Several panicked shouts and death-screams from the weaker players alert everyone that the enemy is inside the city. Some people even shout out our names, alerting everyone who we are as well. The memory of the bounty on my head causes me instant mental grief and I begin to regret coming here.

I notice Verde and Sir Laurence out of the corner of my eye, fighting the endless reinforcements coming in from behind. Verde is slashing and stabbing the players, causing grief-stricken faces as they are disabled in ways my character can’t manage. Sir Laurence protects her, thrusting his shield at every attack aimed at her. Despite this, some still manage to slip through and damage her.

Just as I am thankful that all the players fighting us are low level and weak, karma brings stronger players to the fight.

A player dressed in heavy armor violently thrusts out a kite shield with the image of a serpent on it. I barely have time to react before it hits me and knocks me back with a five second stun effect. The weak players take this opportunity to hack and slash at me with their crude weapons. A single strike does very little damage, but a hundred of them causes my health to plummet.

Fen reacts violently to my predicament by forming an ice wall in front of me and dropping a dozen stalagmites as large as an elephant on the beginners. I see her mana in my peripheral view drop sharply from the attack, but the weak players are killed off in droves and the ground becomes covered in gold coins. Some players even stop attacking to pick them up.

“Fen, time for you to escape!” I order as soon as the stun wears off.

The wolf girl adamantly refuses, but her mana is down to twenty percent and her health is starting to drop. Reinforcements keep coming as well. She eventually agrees to leave, joining Verde and Sir Laurence to create a hole in the encirclement and allow her to escape into a small alley. Some players break off to chase after her, but I know they will never catch her when she is running as fast as she is able. Despite that, I still harbor a bit of anxiety for her.

Sir Laurence heals Verde and himself, but ignores me to save mana. The chauvinist act is almost as disgusting as the high quality home-brew potions I am forced to drink to stay in the fight. I even break my word and use ‘Dire Flame’, which wreaks havoc among the low level players and even spreads to some of the nearby buildings. My belief in the religion of Grael quickly rises as a result of all the players dying from fire damage and the scene soon includes the carnage of flame and dead bodies.

With Fen gone, the endless tide of people swarming in overwhelms us as our mana runs out. Despite holding out for half an hour since the beginning of the battle, Sir Laurence is the first to die, using the last of his mana to give one final heal to Verde.

Verde looks down at his body with contempt, picking up and stealing the helmet and money he dropped on death.

“You must kill him. Kill Mason,” Verde says to me before she also falls in battle.

I drink more of my potions and restore my health to almost half. Now the players are going to attack me from every direction, which I cannot possibly survive.

‘And she still expects me to kill Mason?’ I huff in exasperation and defeat while looking at what must be about three hundred players filling the street and surrounding me. ‘We should have gone with the alleys. Surely that would have had more luck than this?’

I’m not about to give up without a fight, however. Even though I am surrounded with about five meters between me and an angry sea of players, I once again sprint to one side, leaving afterimages behind me and slashing at three players who turn out to be high level and suffer little damage. I think of using ‘Back Stab’ to break out of the encirclement, but I know the skill won’t work on a player as far away as the back of the crowd.

Just as the sword of one of the players comes swinging down toward me, it cuts through an afterimage as I dash toward the other side of the encirclement, which is rapidly shrinking. The players there expect me to appear and raise their swords, axes, spears and bows. Just before I reach the players, I jump in the air as high as possible and extend the short swords out beside me like a pair of pitch black wings.

The players stare in amazement as I glide through the air five meters above everyone, rapidly approaching the back of the crowd that nearly had me trapped. Several arrows whiz through the air to narrowly miss me as escape appears in reach. My attention shifts slightly when I notice a large group of the city guards mixed in with the players.

As I start losing altitude, an arrow of pure wind assaults me. The arrow has a wide area effect, preventing me from escaping by knocking me off balance and dispelling my gliding ability. I crash onto the hard packed dirt road and sustain heavy damage from the fall.

Just as I am wondering what in hell just happened, I hear a familiar voice, “When I heard you were in Grenton attacking innocent citizens, I couldn’t help but disbelieve, but I was soon convinced and rushed here as fast as I could. I wouldn’t normally engage you one on one even when you are exhausted, but sometimes just the right opportunity presents itself!”

Of course, it’s Mason, gloating with his head held high. Everyone else around is now keeping some distance and not attacking due to the dozens of city guards standing behind Mason. Just looking at them causes my face to pale.

“You know, those are the words of someone who is going to lose.” I laugh at Mason sinisterly, trying to buy time while I work out how to kill him.

“Unfortunately this isn’t some fantasy novel, else I would be a little scared. Matrix, hit him till he is nearly dead and can’t move, but don’t kill him. Hah hah hah!”

“What’s so funny? You’re plotting something, aren’t you?”

“If I just kill you, you’ll revive in three days. That won’t be much of a punishment for challenging me on my home turf and causing such an uproar in the city. Had I known you guys were coming, I would have had Matrix watch that hole in the wall I’m sure you crawled in through.”

“Well you should just kill me now then. By the way, how did you get so many city guards to come with you? Aren’t they supposed to be holed up in the palace for the ‘Battle of Supremacy’?”

“This is where it gets interesting. You have quite the bounty in Grenton. The guards view you with such importance that they came out just to arrest you. Why kill you just so you can revive and rejoin the fight when you can be imprisoned for the next month?” Mason laughs heartily at my horrified expression.

“That’s cruel, Mason. That’s too cruel!”

“Also, Fen is already in the cell waiting for you.”

“What!?”

“I happened to come across her and all I had to do was tell her that you were there and she went willingly. I nearly got skewered a few times which was frightening though. So you better just go without resistance.”

“You’ve won this time, Mason. But there’s still one thing I have to do.”

“Hmm? What would-”

Before he can finish his sentence, I activate ‘Back Stab’ and appear behind him. Before he can react to my dissipating afterimage, my two shortswords have dug into his back and remove a large chunk of his health from the critical hit.

Mason tries to turn around and I hear the guards behind me start clamoring into motion as well. Before they can do anything though, I use both ‘Triple Thrust’ and ‘CrossX’ sacred arts one after another in rapid succession.

Mason finally has to time to counterattack, drawing the dagger he keeps for close-quarters combat. His usual guard and brother, Matrix, is still ten meters away and rushing toward us with his sword on fire in preparation to attack.

Mason curses and tells Matrix not to kill me as that will count as a failed plan, but Matrix seems to be adamant on protecting him. Mason’s dagger glows blue as he unleashes a sacred art similar to my ‘Triple Thrust’, creating multiple ghost images of the blade that stab me a total of nine times. It would have dealt decent damage too, if it didn’t simply pierce my afterimage.

“Dammit, this is why I didn’t want to fight him one on one,” Mason curses as he notices I have used ‘Mirage’ and created at least a dozen false images of myself. The guards are also confused by the sacred art and it effectively holds off my arrest as I attack Mason two more times. The archer quickly falls to critically low health, but not before he uses a strange skill to throw a large number of arrows to dispel all my false images.

I quickly escape from Matrix’s flaming blade and the fiery sword aura it shoots off and am about to deal the finishing blow to Mason when several pairs of iron-like hands grab me from behind. I turn my head to see the city guards and their stony expressions.

I look back and see Mason, lying on the ground with barely an inch of life remaining as Matrix withdraws a healing potion from his inventory.

In this last moment I manage to free one arm from the guards and grab three of the throwing knives attached to my thigh. With the flick of a wrist, I throw all of them at Mason still on the ground.

My aim is poor; the first one sticks in the dirt next to his shoulder. The other two, by chance, strike him in the chest, and even more miraculously tip him over the borderline to death. His body turns grey moments before Matrix attempts to give him a potion. I don’t get to see Matrix’s reaction as I resignedly allow the guards to drag me off toward prison.

The crowd stares in shock. To them, we are team mates from the same party but to us, this was a rivalry to see who would win. I’m going to get locked up for the rest of the war, but this small victory has me satisfied.

‘What could one man do in a war of this scale, anyway?’ I laugh to myself while in the clutches of the guards who have a personal vendetta against the arsonist who caused so much damage to their forest and city several months ago.

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

The cells in Grenton are actually well appointed. A large television display on the wall can be used to view news and various information shows about End Online that are streamed onto the internet. There is a large double bed and even a small kitchen. A single flame lantern hangs from the ceiling while the ground and walls are made from solid stone.

I had not expected such opulence from a prison cell, but then again, imprisoned players could just log off and wait for their character to be released.

“Lost… I was… waiting,” Fen says happily and jumps on me when I am thrown in the same cell as her.

I want to rebuke her for not logging off, but I am happy that she is healthy. I reason that we are in the same cell due to the fact that she is my companion according to the game system. It is also probably the same reason why she was locked up as well.

“Must be partners in crime, huh?” I say to the room at large as I lie on the ground with Fen sitting on top of me. Her risqué clothing and the fact that she is straddling me would cause anyone’s eyes to pop upon seeing it.

“Please, I’m innocent! Let me out!”

The mournful shout of a player echoes down the prison corridor, audible to every inmate. Several similar cries and the rattlings of doors sound out after that from other players.

‘So there are players of all types. Come to think of it, my character is going to be in here for a month according to the system notice I got. Perhaps I should play the victimized inmate for a while too,’ I heartily think to myself while a prison guard outside shouts at the troublemakers.

When I hear him threaten to extend their incarceration times, I suddenly decide not to do the role play.

I log out for the time being and speak with Verde and Sir Laurence over the phone. Verde is incredibly pleased that I managed to kill Mason and they both find my imprisonment to be greatly amusing.

I also speak with Mason while offline for a while. He is extremely frustrated that I managed to kill him with my final desperate attempt, but he considers himself to have won since I’ll be in prison for the rest of the war.

A couple of days later, I am sitting in the prison with Fen eating a very luxurious meat and vegetable stew I cooked up while watching a report on the TV of the current war situation. I turn my attention away to shout at all the inmates who are complaining about the intoxicating smell of my food and not having any themselves. Even the prison guard is standing outside the prison door, staring through the grates at my food while salivating. My potions may taste like Armageddon, but my cooking is excellent.

Forcing my attention away from the outside interference, I look at the current war report on the screen presented by a male and a female in a medieval looking newsroom. A bird’s eye view of Grenton is projected behind them where several trails of smoke can be seen coming from the city.

“ShiningGary, I thought you said Grenton, the capital of Forste, would not fall to the combined assault of Glace and Dalbe? Care to comment?”

“Yes, LyatLover, that was the original situation. Glace did not have the numbers or force necessary to break through while Dalbe’s playerbase has an average player-level far below the other kingdoms. Additionally, Grenton only has two choke points to defend from attack. The city is otherwise surrounded by a forest that players can’t navigate.”

“But the forces of the two kingdoms did get in, ShiningGary. Doesn’t that mean you were wrong?”

I can practically see the veins throbbing in their heads as the two presenters butt heads. I don’t know them at all, but I can tell there is probably some old grudge between them.

“The situation changed, LyatLover, just like I said. First, do you know of the famous party of players led by Lost?”

“Of course, who hasn’t seen the videos with them in it? They have travelled all over the continent, even to some strange new continent in the south sea. What about them?”

“A good friend of mine from Grenton told me the news that only a few days ago. Four of the party members from Glace broke into the city through unknown means. They started a brawl that lasted just under an hour and caused a massive uproar.”

“I don’t see how that could change the situation. One person can’t affect an entire war and change the outcome.”

“Actually, the uproar caused many players to abandon their posts on the wall to rush over and have a look. The weakened defense allowed both the forces of Dalbe and Glace to break through the city gates and invade the city. That was the fall of Grenton and the Forste Kingdom. The kingdom that was in the best position to win suddenly fell due to the actions of a small group.”

“Incredible! I can’t believe that one group of people could do so much! I wish I could have seen it.”

“One of the people actually recorded and uploaded the entire thing. Just search Lost vs Grenton on the End Forums and you can find it.”

“I will look it up as soon as I get home. What happened in the end?”

“He got imprisoned in Grenton for the crime of arson dating back several months. There is currently a large procession of players from all three kingdoms swarming around the prison in hopes of being able to see him.”

That last sentence instantly gives me a headache. They show the image of a massive throng of people around the prison that I am most certainly within. They also predict that now that Grenton has fallen, it is only a matter of time before Iceridge falls as well.

Not worrying about it anymore, I log off to focus on researching the information necessary and getting my books and equipment ready for university next year.

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

The month that my character was imprisoned in Grenton eventually came to an end. Just as everyone had predicted, Icebreak was the second kingdom to fall. The players of Glace put up a good fight against those who weren’t used to fighting in the snow, but the sheer overwhelming numbers eventually won.

The most surprising part was the message that every player received after the war finished:

The ‘War of Supremacy’ has finally come to an end with the 
fall of Iceridge. The annals will tell of the valiant warriors from
the Kingdoms of Forste and Glace, but the Kingdom of Dalbe has
proven to be the greatest.

With the conclusion of the war, Dalbe has become the seventh
realm and the update ‘The Seven Realms’ has been released.
Six new realms have been added, each as large as the new Dalbe.
You may transport to these from the many teleporters throughout
any of the capital and major cities: Swordbreak, Grenton, and
Iceridge. The first teleport is free for all players.

With so many new lands revealed, End Online servers have begun
to migrate. A new server will support all the players from five
existing servers. We at Idea Imagine hope you make many more
friends with the addition of so many new people.

All players have also been awarded a single ‘Compact 
Soul Gem’. This can be given to the representative of any race
to change the race of your character and set a new spawn point.
Any existing guild spawn points will remain, but now have the 
ability to be relocated to any major town, minor town, or 
occupied land.

Enjoy the new realms!
- Idea Imagine Development Team

The message caused a massive uproar throughout the internet. The ability to become a new race was like a bombshell to the gaming community.

I, on the other hand, have my own problems to work out. The massive crowd of players around my prison know when I am going to be released and return vigilant after an entire week of waiting for me. I end up waiting an additional two weeks before bursting out of the prison with Fen after the crowd dies down. We catch them by surprise, but it still takes us several hours to completely lose them despite our advantage in speed.

After leaving Grenton, Fen and I head into Eldenweiss Forest. Our destination is the abandoned elf village where Verde, Sir Laurence, Mason, Matrix, and even CaptainGordon are waiting. As it turns out, CaptainGordon’s ship was left at the southern continent when he teleported back, so he is currently a pirate without a ship.

“Lost!” Sir Laurence calls out excitably as soon as I arrive. “You would never guess it, but Verde will be attending the same university as the both of us!”

Verde’s inability to keep a goofy smile off her face causes me to laugh. The others simply look at the three of us curiously, wondering what we have been keeping to ourselves.

“That is excellent!” I respond, tuning in with the cheerful atmosphere we’re creating.

“Mason! Matrix!” I shout in shock upon finally noticing that the two have more acute facial features, with longer hair and the pointy ears of the elves.

Mason responds while clapping me on the back, “Yeah, while you were wrinkling away in the dungeon, Matrix and I visited the elven village and exchanged our ‘Compact Soul Gems’ to become elves. The benefits are great. Level twice as fast but stats grow twice as slow. This doesn’t even matter because we levelled our stats up as humans up until now. The bonuses to the bow and swordplay are well worth it!”

“You didn’t consider wanting to become any of the six new races?”

“Nope, it’s an elf’s life for me.”

“So, does anyone know what the new races are yet?”

“Yeah, the posts have been up on the internet for quite a while. Each realm has three or four corresponding settlements players can teleport to. Each settlement usually has a different variant of that race, so it is up to the player to decide which to become. The six new realms are the Devil Realm, Diva Realm, Beast Realm, Aquillan Realm, Arctic Realm, and Pixie Realm. Each variant of each race has their ups and downs, so look them up before you decide.”

“Actually, I have something else in mind.”

“Really, what?”

“How about you all follow me and see first hand?”

Everyone agrees, but I maintain the mystery as we head east and south. Verde and Sir Laurence’s expressions darken the further we get. A few days later we arrive at a towering mountain range.

“Lost, this isn’t what I think it is, is it?” The prince asks gloomily, not wanting to be anywhere near this location.

Mason, Matrix and CaptainGordon are completely in the dark in regard to why we are here.

Climbing the mountain range, I lead the party to a familiar cave on the back of one particular mountain.

“Grael!” I shout out, my voice echoing down the cavern and causing everyone in the party to become alarmed.

I hear footsteps coming from further in and wait patiently. Sure enough, the figure of a man in tight leather clothing with long, black hair and royal purple pupils appears in front of us. His expression is extremely displeased, as if he has just awoken from my shout.

“How dare you disturb my rest. What do you want, servant?”

“I have brought a ‘Compact Soul Gem’ as you requested.”

Grael’s expression instantly turns into one of pleasure as he gestures for us to follow him into his lair. Inside the massive open cavern, the afternoon sun shines down through the missing cap of the mountain. Grael takes my ‘Compact Soul Gem’ and heads off into one of the side passages.

‘If I recall, that is the cavern to his treasury. Wait, what’s that?!” I notice a complicated magic circle about three meters in diameter painted onto the stone floor at one side of the cavern.

I did a little research on the new realms on the internet while my character was in prison, and that is the magic circle to teleport to the other realms. Before I can think anything else, a message appears in front of me.

You have successfully changed race to ‘Eternal Draconian’ and 
a new spawn point has been set to Grael’s Lair.

Eternal Draconian:
~ Immune to all illusion magic.
~ Experience gained +20%
~ All stats +10%
~ Capable of ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’
~ Draconic scales increase defense +20%.

Along with the message, my appearance starts to change and my whole body feels hot. Draconic scales grow and armor the backs of my hands and arms, the sides of my neck, and a little on my jaw. My legs also develop similar scale armor on my thighs and shins.

Perhaps it is due to my ‘White Warrior’ class skill, but all the scales on my body are pure white, glistening like silver unlike Grael’s obsidian scales.

Everyone stares at me in astonishment, and Verde withdraws a hand mirror from her inventory and shows me that my eyes have become royal purple with reptilian slits for pupils. I can’t deny that the they are exactly like Grael’s.

The dragon in human form returns shortly after, a satisfied expression on his face while nodding to himself. “Good, now I have my first official servant.”

“What!? Then why have you been claiming I was your servant before?” I gape at the dragon who is completely self conceited.

“What nonsense, you were already my servant.  We have now completed all the formalities and it’s official.”

The others laugh at me which Grael ignores, but I really want to attack him right now. The only problem is my chance of victory is zero. Grael and I go over the plan to acquire the six other stone tablets, including everyone else from the party so they know everything as well. Apparently there will be some big reward for everyone if we acquire the tablets so they are more than happy to search for them across the realms. More than anything, it is an adventure for all of us to do.

Grael further gloats about the teleportation circle he prepared in advance to force me into the other realms if I had refused to go or tried to escape. After explaining everything, the arrogant dragon returns to one of his caverns to sleep, leaving us milling around the magic circle.

“So, where should we go first?” I ask the others while feeling lost for directions.

Verde is surprisingly knowledgeable on the subject and jubilantly declares, “I haven’t gotten to choose my race yet! Let’s go to the Beast Realm, Kano City. I want the agility, stealth abilities and ears of the Nekomata Beast Race.”

Nobody has any better plans so we decide to go to the Beast Realm to search for the next stone tablet.

We all step into the magic circle and call out, “Beast Realm, Kano City.”

With a flash of light, we vanish from the cavern one by one.

Next Chapter

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42 Comments

  1. Awsome! We finally have the defence upgrade I have been nagging about! This race has like NO downsides, I doubt any of the other races don’t have any negative effects to changing race (like the stat progression decrease from the elves). I wonder what the partial draconic transformation does? Turn his head dragon-like and grow wings and a tail maybe? Some fire-breathing thrown in there? Whatever it is I can’t wait to find out.

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    1. ha! who knows what downsides there are, maybe he will no longer be able to see his white warrior illusions anymore tho i doubt it. maybe races will hate him?

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  2. I’ve felt that so far this whole series has been building towards an exploration of the real world consequences of everything going on in-game(Fen breaking out into the V-link, the entire server, The parts which clearly have little yet to do with Lost’s direct story line).

    I don’t know if this is part of the plan, but it would be interesting to explore how the game could impact Lost while he’s at college beyond just his interactions with the End Online server. Whatever happens in Vol. 6, I definitely want to see the game impacting Lost more directly. I mean, we’ve already seen how the Perception skill gave him continued migraines after logging out. Maybe something in-game could heal him IRL? I’m pretty much rambling at this point, but just kinda needed to put this blurb out here.

    Hopefully I articulated this idea fairly well. 😛

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    1. I agree. I’ve felt that his second sight skill has literally sped up his mental processing, possibly aided by the prime AI that runs everything. Either aided or not, that’s why he gets migraines, because he’s working beyond what the human body would normally allow. Sooner or later, he’s going to activate that skill outside of the game.

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      1. I’ve been thinking even beyond that. Perhaps that’s a first step, but if healing activates outside of the game, he could get function of his legs back.

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        1. I think a certain rich knight is going to be bidding up everything Lost posts from now and Lost will be able to pay for some real medical help to get his legs repaired. Although, I think part of the reason he can move so fast is because his mind is disassociated from his legs.

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          1. Weeeeell, if I remember right it costs like a million dollars or thereabouts, so I think that is a little unlikely, though I do think that at some point in the story the company is going to find him ( most likely through his association with Verde as they will be attending the same college) and offer him the money to get his legs and sisters back in exchange for access to his v-link with fen on it. That would be a real dilemma…

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          2. wreggs..more like 7 million yes. but that wouldn’t stop someone making sure their poor friend got a bit extra. but i dont see anyone offering him 7 mill. something pretty extraordinary will have to happen for him to get the use of his legs back.

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          3. I dunno though. I agree that it would have to be something significant, but isn’t the Eternal Draconian class unique enough to meet that requirement? Either way, it’ll be VERY interesting to see where the story goes from here.

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  3. Can you please not put snippets for the next chapter ABOVE the current one? I ended up reading it first before realizing what it was.

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      1. If it’s not there when you first post the chapter, I wouldn’t bother putting it anywhere. Post a new page and call it out as a snippet. I don’t go back and reread chapters after I’ve already read them. I wouldn’t have known there was a snippet there if I hadn’t posted a comment and checked that I wanted to be notified of new comments.

        Or do whatever floats your boat. 🙂

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  4. Thanks for the chapter! One of your best!
    Finally, new update, new races.
    The battle was kinda short. I though you would describe it in more detail, but at the same time happy the story is progressing faster.

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  5. I would like to thank D. Wolfin for the very interesting series. I’ve recently discovered LitRPG genre and pretty much read everything I could get my hands on. I’ve read books 1-5 in one go, took me less then a day. I look forward to book 6.
    I think things will get really interesting when Grael will become aware of existence of outside/real world. He’ll have a stronger connection to Lost now and might be able to get into the locker and possibly reach beyond it. Even if such powerfull and self-aware AI won’t be able to break through completly and leave the game it will most likely be able to influence the internet and data. It’s a dragon, so it’ll will go after wealth and power. Grael will also need a proxy in real space and who will be better then Hollis? He might even fork out the cash for the treatment to make his puppet whole again.

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  6. Finally got a dip in my free time to buy the fifth book. Read through it, now I find myself chomping at the bit to read more. Thank goodness there appears to be more on here. Hurry up and make book six come out for us poor impoverished readers, Wolfin!~

    All joking aside, I really hope it doesn’t take too long before I’m able to buy the next book and read it at my leisure…

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    1. Last I checked, the author was spending all his time writing a completely different book about some AI kid who gets brain mixed in with the backup for a dead human’s brain and thus acquires emotions.

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