Editors: genericIntent, Templar, Jack Vanatis, Johnist, Scott
Author’s notes: The first chapter of Volume 6! All the editors pitched in for this chapter, which was a nice surprise. Chapter 37 hasn’t been written yet. But writing will start in 2 days, and hopefully be done within 5 or 6 days from now.
There is no chapter plan for this chapter on my Patreon as this chapter and chapter 37 are a part of the same plan. To avoid spoilers, it will be released with the next chapter.
As this is a 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! ^.^
Chapter 36: Kano City
Grey mist completely surrounds me upon entering the teleportation circle in Grael’s Lair. It gradually begins to clear, revealing a bustling square within a city of timber and stone houses no more than two or three stories tall. The sounds of players bartering and forming parties fill the air, along with what seems to be several flocks of birds cawing in the distance.
I’m surrounded by other players and NPCs; most of them have perky cat ears atop their heads and tails that sway as they walk. The remaining players are mainly humans, but I occasionally see a few other races.
‘There are some differences in the cat traits among players,’ I muse to myself, staring at the different colored and shaped ears and tails. ‘I never got an option to customize my looks upon becoming an ‘Eternal Draconian’, could it just be random?’
Aside from inspecting the different colored cat ears, tails of differing fur thickness, and even the variety of cats-eyes, I try to get a better look at the city. Over the roofs of the buildings around me, I can see a large cathedral that stands taller than every other building in the immediate area, eclipsed only by the central castle itself.
The central castle is oddly constructed. Rather than a single large building, it appears to be made of dozens of towers connected to one another by arching stone bridges.
“It’s completely different from any other city I have seen,” Mason says while constantly turning his head around to inspect everything. “It is almost underdeveloped. Is it because the nekomata are a beast race?”
He has a point. Kano City is completely different from the cities in the central continent in that it is much more rustic. The city construction is indeed grand, but not to the same standard as Iceridge, Grenton, or Swordbreak. The city of Sphynx was more ancient than Kano City, but its grandeur also outclassed this.
“It is just the game designers,” Sir Laurence responds bluntly, lecherously staring at all the girls with cat ears.
“What will the other main city on this continent, Koga City, be like?” I ask curiously, and get a response from Verde immediately.
“I hear it’s not a great deal different than Kano City. The main difference is that it is within a forest, instead of next to the ocean.”
CaptainGordon’s eyes light up when he hears the city is connected to the ocean. He has been depressed ever since his ship was abandoned at the southern continent. Excitably, he exclaims, “Can we go past the docks first? I really want to see what ships people have made!”
“It hasn’t been very long since the expansion and players are unlikely to have sailed across the ocean here just yet. We will go do Verde’s race change first, and then we can go past the docks. You can go now and meet us later if you like?” I suggest to the pirate.
Dejectedly, CaptainGordon chooses to follow us as we walk toward the strange castle in the center of the city. By this point, several people are attracted by my appearance and begin to whisper among themselves.
“Who is that? Those white scales are awesome. Does anyone know what race he is?”
“It must be a hidden race, like the Elves, Dwarves, and recently discovered Phoenix Clan.”
“Some sort of reptilian race. Could it be a dragon race?!”
“It can’t be. Only that famous player, Lupis, has recently discovered and become a demi-dragon. The appearance is completely different than this.”
“It must be a type of white snake clan. I wonder which continent it is on?”
“What about that girl hanging off his arm? She’s so hot! Why can’t I get a girl like that?”
“She looks familiar!”
“You wish you knew her. I would be satisfied with my life if she just talked to me.”
“That other girl in the group is much more my type! I wonder if she will let me follow her?”
“Tch, who was the creep that said that?”
Fen and Verde attract a lot of lusty stares from the men and envious glances from several women. Fen is relentless as she clings to me, pressing her twin peaks against my arm and causing me to feel embarrassed. Verde is closely followed by Sir Laurence, a princess appearing to be leading her knight in shining armor.
I don’t turn my head but my eyes move from side to side, glancing toward the piercing stares. The rest of the party is also uncomfortable, with the exception of Fen who seems to be in her own world and doesn’t notice their existence.
The onlookers don’t follow us through the city, going back to their business once we have passed by. Despite the attention, only two people approach me to ask about my race on the way to the castle. I simply tell them I do not wish to speak of it, rejecting their persistent questions before moving on. The attention I’d get if they found out about the ‘Eternal Draconian’ race would never end. Dragons are admired by an enormous amount of people. As soon as news of a draconian race breaks, I will never escape.
Eventually reaching the city’s castle, which I learned is simply called Kano Castle, two nekomata guards with nervous expressions cross their weapons at the gate and address me. “Halt, what’s your business here?”
Considering I am the one who sent all the party invites to everyone, I am automatically considered the party leader.
“Good morning. One of my party members would like to hand over a ‘Compact Soul Gem’ and change race.”
The guards hastily step aside and say, “Of course. Forgive us, it is our duty to halt strangers… Please proceed inside.”
You have intimidated the royal guard of Kano Castle. Word has spread among the guards of your intimidation. Infamy + 20 Total Infamy: 39
Seeing the notification screen appear before me, I stifle a choking sound and silently curse. ‘I did nothing wrong! I have been dealing with player merchants for so long and not NPCs that I had completely forgotten to not talk to them! Damn it!’
I have told Verde and Sir Laurence about this problem before, and upon seeing my current expression, the corners of their lips twitch as they try to refrain from laughing.
With my anger slowly turning into depression, we all walk through the gates and into an enormous garden of rock ponds, sand fields and miniature trees. Stone paved paths create a walkway around the area and lead into a forest of pillars that appear to pierce the sky.
“Do you know where we need to go from here?” I ask Verde, who nods her head and leads the way to the nearest tower.
Inside the tower, NPCs are everywhere, so I do my best to make myself scarce and appear to not be a part of the group. I have gained infamy just being nearby before, and I do not plan on getting more. I had nearly eliminated all of my infamy in the Swordbreak colosseum, but I seem to gain it much more easily than I lose it.
From what feels like a safe distance, I watch Verde step away from the others and approach a Nekomata that is walking around supervising and giving orders to what appear to be the equivalent of office workers. I sneak behind several pillars with Fen in tow until I am close enough that I can hear their conversation.
“-change to the Nekomata race.”
“Yes, I would like to become a part of the city and the Nekomata race.”
“Are you aware of the responsibilities in becoming a part of our race? I can explain them for you if you like.”
“Please explain them to me.”
“To be a part of our race, there are several conditions to agree to. First, no matter where you came from, this will become your new home city. Second, you may never betray this city or its interests. Third, you will be summoned and are required to partake in the defense of this city if a monster horde approaches our walls. Fourth, in the event of a war, you may be conscripted to take part as a defender or attacker. Condition four is optional, but refusal will result in infamy and the chance of a monetary penalty. Do you accept these conditions?”
“Yes, I accept them.”
“Good. Please follow me to the Nekomata Soul Pond.”
‘Soul pond?’ I am puzzled by what he means by that. I will look up what that is on the internet later when I log out.
Verde and the supervisor Nekomata leave the room through a large door at the rear. At this point, I approach the rest of the party to wait.
Twenty minutes later, Verde returns with an entirely new look. Her hair, which normally has a glamorous wave in it and extends down to her chest, has become thicker and slightly wilder. On top of her head, a pair of auburn cat ears stands upright, twitching slightly in embarrassment as we stare. A bushy tail, as thick as any of the others I have seen, extends behind her. As she is facing us, I can only see it when it sways from one side to another.
Evidently having enough of our gazes, she stomps over grumpily. “Would you guys stop staring?! You have already seen hundreds, if not thousands, of cat people on the way to the castle!”
“Yes, but we haven’t seen you as one,” Mason replies wittily with a small smirk on his face.
I make sure to stare and constantly get closer until her face turns completely red before saying, “You guys have had so much amusement at my expense, I think it is time for a little payb- Ouch!”
Before I can finish mocking Verde, Fen sharply grabs my hip and digs her fingers in, causing physical pain akin to being bitten by a wild animal. Grabbing her arm, I quickly drag her off somewhere the others won’t hear us.
“Fen, I have told you before, you can’t do things that cause actual pain. If knowledge of something like that gets out… No, let’s not worry about that. Just remember that you cannot do it.”
The wolf girl stares at me with upset yet angry eyes. “You were… getting too… close.”
“Doesn’t mean you need to do that.”
“She’s a… succubus.”
“Don’t say that, either. People don’t like to hear such things.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at Fen referring to Verde as a monster in the game, and a succubus at that.
I don’t know how to explain it, but it seems like Fen has become slightly more proactive lately. Originally, her personality was as cold as ice. But lately, especially since the expansion and the new realms were released, I have begun to notice her emotional range broadening. As to whether this is a good thing or an unwelcome complication, only time will tell.
After Fen agrees to quiet down and not say anything that I have designated as offensive or rude, we regroup and leave Kano Castle.
Walking through the city, a familiar feeling appears in my mind. Following my intuition, I find a nearby park of lustrous pine trees that several Nekomata couples are strolling through. While others are enjoying the scenery of the game while dating, I disturb the foliage on the ground in several areas until I find what I am looking for: herbs.
With Fen standing beside me, I appear to be on a date as well and don’t attract a great deal of attention, but I begin to harvest the herbs. Fen helps me, but I am forced to once again remind her not to pick them as she doesn’t have the appropriate skill for it. I have tried teaching her, except either she appears to be incapable of learning new skills, or I am incapable of teaching them to others.
Everyone, including Fen, still helps me quickly collect them by uncovering them so I can easily pick them all. They are incredibly happy to do so as herbs are what I use to flavor my cooking. After half an hour, my supply of herbs increases dramatically. Counting them all, I lament that they are all low quality herbs.
~ 27 Green Medicinal Herbs ~ 2 Orange Medicinal Herbs ~ 13 Five Leaf Clovers ~ 42 Frost Lotuses ~ 14 Stems of Paralysis
The most abundant herb I found is the new ‘Frost Lotus’; a small flower that can be consumed for a three percent temporary increase to cold resistance. The skill ‘Potion Production’ is only a single percent away from level 19, so I sit in a quiet section of the park and try a few random recipes with the ‘Frost Lotus’ until I finally create a new potion.
As I have not tested the potion yet, I am unaware of the effects. The liquid is a pleasant ice-blue, but a disturbing purple mist swirls through it and corrupts the color. Everyone apart from CaptainGordon takes a few wary steps back, leaving the pirate confused. Even Fen quickly parts from me so as to not end up testing another one of my potions.
Being the closest person, CaptainGordon has no qualms helping me test the potion. As soon as he drinks the potion, however, his face rapidly turns pale before becoming blue and green. His entire body starts shaking and he falls down on all fours with a sickly appearance. Finally, he starts convulsing and trying to throw up the potion, but the system prevents that from happening.
The others look at him with pity while I happily inspect the revealed effects of the potion. It is called ‘Simple Ice Resistance Potion’, providing an incredible 27 percent increase to ice resistance for five minutes.
‘The ‘Potion Production’ skill really gives a wondrous increase to handmade potions even if they are made with low quality herbs. They still taste slightly bad, I wonder if they are missing something?’ I wonder to myself while repeating the recipe to create more of these potions.
After twenty more ‘Simple Ice Resistance Potions’, my class skill finally levels up. All my stats have increased by ten percent since becoming an ‘Eternal Draconian’, and the increased belief from killing dozens of low level players has levelled up my weapons and granted a new magic.
Name: Lost(Desert Pilgrim) Health: 3140/3140 Stamina: 932/932 Mana: 2270/2270 Lvl: 225 Lvl Up: 13% Str: 69 +61 Agi: 208 +90 Dex: 76 +50 Int: 33 + 23 Mnd: 48 Lck: 32 Infamy: 39 Alignment: -68 God: Grael Belief: 136 Equipped Skills: Class Skill: White Warrior (SLvl 27, 3%) [Unavailable] Potion Production (SLvl 19, 0%) Mining (SLvl 15, 15%) Smithing (SLvl 13, 12%) Grael's Essence (SLvl 12, 60%) Origin of Dire Flame (SLvl 12, 60%) Haunting (SLvl 5, 84%) [Empty] Reserve Skills: [Empty] *************************************************** Non-skill resistances and bonuses Cutting resistance: 5% Impact resistance: -5% Poison resistance: 12% Acid resistance: 6% Flame resistance: 14% Ice resistance 5% ~ +5% chance to completely resist all minor to intermediate poisons *************************************************** Skills Sacred Art Cost Triple Thrust 11 Stamina CrossX 19 Stamina Backstab 80 Stamina Pincer 100 Stamina Multi Mirage 175 Stamina Partial Draconic Trans. (Racial) Magic Cost Minor Dire Flame 800 Mana Dire Starburst 1500 Mana
Twin Nightingale A twin set of swords formed from the power of draconic amber essence and infused with the power of a higher being. This is the sacred weapon of the Religion of Grael. The swords resonate with the religious 'Belief'. The higher your 'Belief' is, the stronger the weapons. The swords cannot be dropped or stolen. The blades are 47cm long. Requirements: ~ Level 110 ~ Dex 52 ~ Belief 10 Class 5 (Class up: Belief 170) Weapon Type: Double Edge/Twin Short Swords Attack: 117 - 132, 117 – 132 Durability: Indestructible Weight: 3.4 lbs, 3.4 lbs Abilities: ~ Increase movement and attack speed by 11%. ~ Mana cost of religious skills is halved. ~ Cannot be dropped on death or stolen. Any attempts to steal this weapon will result in receiving the curse of the dragon. ~ The swords can be used as wings to glide for up to 20 seconds. ~ Strength + 15
The new spell, ‘Dire Starburst’ uses an obscene amount of mana, but thanks to my god-tier weapon halving the mana cost, I can manage to cast it three times with my mana. I have been having difficulty increasing my total mana pool as my level is the slowest thing to grow. I can only admire the leading players who have managed to get their levels in the late 300’s and early 400’s.
A couple of days later, our party has explored the majority of the eastern section of the city, which also includes the docks. Even though the players with ship building skills haven’t made any impressive battle ships just yet, CaptainGordon excitedly spends an entire day giving these players guidance and helping them. It is a shame his ideas are completely different from theirs, since he ends up being chased away from the docks by several irritated people.
Our current task is a detailed search of the markets and what is available. Splitting up into teams of two or three, I travel alone with Fen while looking at weapons, armor, and herbs. I purchase a hundred new throwing knives several grades higher than my current ones. They are called ‘Black Iron Throwing Knives’ and while being twice as heavy and traveling more slowly, they do three times the damage.
I have a large amount of gold stored away, and collectively our party has enough gold to officially form our guild. We haven’t done so yet, and have stored the money as we don’t know where to set our base. We intend to set the base somewhere outside the main cities, on land we can build upon. The construction will be CaptainGordon’s role as he is currently the poorest of us all after spending his money on his ship, the Bastion.
Passing by one particular stall among many selling various weapons and armor, I see a familiar face standing behind it.
‘No, it can’t be,’ I deny the possibility and continue walking past.
“Hey, Lost! How can you ignore me just like that?!” The player selling the goods suddenly calls out with an exaggerated expression.
Fen looks back at him and tugs on my cloak, confused. I stop in my tracks and hurry back to stand in front of the store, “Mouse, you stalker! Why do you keep popping up everywhere I go?!”
“What are you talking about? Stalking? I have been here for two weeks already. Why would I stalk you? Although I barely recognize you with your new look,” He says with an innocent smile, unperturbed at being called a stalker.
“Every market I go to, you are there. Twice is a coincidence. This is the fifth time! Wait, you don’t have seven identical brothers, right?”
“Of course not, it is just a coincidence, haha. Well, I was hoping to find you after all.”
“So you are stalking me. Who’s going to appear next, Chronix?”
“Chronix? Who’s that? Ah, the guild leader of the ‘Swords of Light’. I recall they recently had a massive change in members a couple of months ago.”
“You’re too well informed, it is completely suspicious. So how did you know I would be here?”
“Oh, I didn’t know if you would be here or not.”
“Then how were you hoping to find me?”
“Don’t you know? When lost, stay in one location and wait for someone to find you. I have waited two weeks for you.”
“No, that kind of situation is when lost in a crowded public location, like a shopping mall. There is no way something like that would work, especially since I wasn’t looking for you.”
“That hurts my feelings, Lost. A shopping mall? I’m not sure what you are getting at, but this is a crowded public location, isn’t it?”
“For some reason, I’m having difficulty refuting that… No, this is still beyond coincidence.”
In the middle of our conversation, a handsome man selling extravagant weapons inlaid with gems and standing at the stall next to us joins the conversation.
“Mouse, is this the person you have been waiting for the past two weeks?”
“Indeed, this is the Lost I was telling you about. He’s quite famous, but many people who merged from the other servers don’t recognize him.”
“Impressive. I will look you up later when I log off, Lost. Say, that girl with you is a stunning beauty. Princess, would you like to come have a look at my wares? I may have just the sword to match your eyes.”
His voice has a gentle tone and his smile seems like it could capture the heart of any woman. He may be Sir Laurence’s greatest rival.
“Regilus, you philanderer. Can’t you see Fen already has a man? Not like you have a chance anyway, she only has eyes for Lost.”
Fen, the girl who currently has their attention, leans on me and doesn’t even seem to realize they are speaking about her. A few other stall owners who don’t currently have any customers turn to look at Fen as well, lewdly staring at her cleavage exposed by the bikini-style ‘Segral Royal Top’.
“Fen,” I ignore Mouse and Regilus as they start their own argument about Fen and her availability, “How about we go clothes shopping? I can get you a new dress.”
“What’s wrong… with these… clothes? You don’t… like them?”
“No, it isn’t that I don’t like them.”
To be completely honest, I am just upset that everyone keeps staring at her like hungry wolves.
“Then… it’s fine.” Fen replies nonchalantly, dragging me away from Mouse and Regilus.
As we are heading off, Mouse suddenly calls out behind me, “Hey, Lost! Regilus and I can’t agree on something. What size are Fen’s breasts?”
Everyone within thirty yards becomes silent and turns to look at us.
“You! Go away! Somewhere we won’t coincidentally meet again!” I shout at Mouse, inwardly feeling incredibly awkward when confronted by so many piercing stares.
While hurriedly leaving the area, no longer looking at weapons or armor, my own curiosity overpowers my common sense and I turn my head and also glance at her cleavage, ‘Actually, what size are they? Perhaps a D-cup? I’m sure Verde would know– no way I could ask her that!’
Noticing my gaze, Fen blushes and averts her eyes. I also turn completely red in embarrassment at being caught, ‘You ignored everyone else when they looked!’
“Lost…” Fen looks directly at me, her cheeks still flushed.
“Tonight… stay with… me.”
“…Perhaps another night?”
Fen’s lips quiver and a small smile forms as she grabs onto me and pulls herself tight against my chest, attracting a lot of attention from the public display of affection.
“Fine, I will stay with you tonight! Just let go, everyone is staring,” I hurriedly say as I try to pry her off of me.
Following my agreement, she parts from me.
“Everyone… doesn’t matter… Just you.”
“So, did everyone get what they needed?” Mason asks once we regroup at the city’s easternmost gate.
“Well, you could say there were some difficulties, I guess,” I awkwardly phrase my response as the others all look suspiciously toward Fen and myself.
Sir Laurence puffs his chest out, drawing a golden sabre that glows with a majestic aura. “Indeed! This knight has been needing a new sword. With a maximum damage of 215, and a fifteen percent chance to halve the enemy’s defenses for one minute, I have found my ‘Excalibur’!”
The weapon looks incredibly expensive, and I am confused as to how he got it.
“Verde, did you buy this weapon for him? I find it hard to believe he bought it when you are constantly stealing his money.”
“Ah, yes, I may have bought it for him,” Verde coquettishly says with a guilty expression.
“Speaking of which, what level is your ‘Class Skill: Thief’ at now? I mean, you steal his coin pouches quite frequently, I’m surprised his armor hasn’t rusted from poverty.”
“… It’s level 54.”
“That is impressive.”
The victim of poverty, Sir Laurence, is suddenly talking with CaptainGordon about his new sword while pretending he can’t hear us.
While joking and teasing each other, we exit the city and travel northeast along the coast. The smell of salt assaults my nose but the ocean breeze is refreshing. Seabirds flock above the waves and caw at low-level sea monsters that often come ashore.
Hundreds of players are spread out on the beach as far as the eye can see. Most are in parties of two or three hunting down the monsters, while others are taking advantage of the enemies being engaged to peacefully swim in the ocean.
To avoid my auto aggravation skill attracting the attention of these monsters, we steer clear of the beach and walk parallel to it. Other than the beach, everything else around the city is a grassy plain. It is strange though, as the ground is broken and uneven everywhere. Small cliffs of two or three yards are formed by sections of the earth being pushed up. Our vision is limited to the nearest jutting pieces of land, and what is beyond them remains unknown.
‘I don’t blame everyone for hunting on the beach, these small cliffs are everywhere! Thankfully our agility is high enough to jump up… Well, except for Prince Charming and his ridiculously heavy armor,’ I silently muse to myself while taking my turn in helping Sir Laurence climb one of the cliffs before jumping up myself.
Scaling the next wall of land, I see four ash-colored monsters with eight legs and hard carapaces like an insect. One immediately falls under my auto-taunt skill and skitters toward me with its foremost two legs poised to strike.
“Creature Analysis,” I breathe out quietly.
Name: Stone Dweller Level: 56 Health: 390 Magic: 0 Stamina: 150 ??
I stare at the screen in front of me, unsure how to proceed. I had thought it would be a strong monster given its menacing appearance, but should have known better considering how close we are to Kano City.
“Everyone, leave this to me. I want to try out my new skills,” I say to the others who are drawing their weapons.
“Partial Draconic Transformation!”
I can use this skill not once a day in the game, but in real life. It has a duration of fifteen minutes and cannot be dispelled before then. My swords are automatically unequipped as my hands become covered in scales, my fingers extending and forming deadly claws.
The snow white scales on my body also grow, covering about fifty percent of the skin beneath my armor and clothing. From my back, two wings, each as large as my body, grow and glisten under the sun.
Partial Draconic Transformation has been activated. ~ Attack: 161 ~ Defence +200% ~ Strength + 30 ~ Movement Speed +20% ~ Immune to fire and poison damage
Shocked, I read the information several times. I had looked at the skill information previously, so I know the attack damage is the value of my strength, but the other bonuses are completely new to me.
Losing track of the ‘Stone Dweller’ while reading the information, I am hit by a surprise attack. Both of its front legs stab my chest, but are blocked by the scales. I slide back three feet from the direct impact, but only take twenty points of damage.
‘This is incredible!’ I exclaim in my mind, thrilled at the defensive power I have. ‘If only I could use this skill more often!’
The others are also stunned at my resilience.
Initiating my attack, I intend to dash to the side of the enormous critter before slashing it with my claws. A truly embarrassing scene follows. With the extra agility and movement bonuses from my new race and this racial skill, I am not used to this new speed. The world flashes by me and I overshoot the distance by an entire three yards and swipe my claws through empty air.
Trying to cover up my actions, I ignore the failed attack and immediately start doing small dashes around the enemy to get used to the speed. The ‘Stone Dweller’ starts turning around in dizzying circles while trying to keep up with me.
Once I am confident using my draconic speed, I close the distance to stand next to the creature. I am a little closer than planned, but it is still acceptable. With a single swing of my clawed hand, my fingers tear through the hard carapace as if it was paper. Four large red gouges are traced in the wake of my attack and the ‘Stone Dweller’s health drops by ninety percent.
Shocked by the attack and damage, the enemy stumbles back several steps. It doesn’t exhibit fear, however, as one of its legs emanates a dull yellow glow before abruptly stabbing toward me. I am outside of its normal attack range, but the leg extends and pierces the distance between us.
I immediately jump to the side and easily dodge the attack before closing in and killing it with a final slash of my claws.
By now, two more of the ‘Stone Dwellers’ have fallen under my aggravation status effect while the final one is heading toward the party. Rather than wait for the enemies to reach me, I flex what feels like an additional muscle on my back and extend the pure white wings. I can clearly see the white, tattered leather membrane of the wings, which should have originally been black, and the scale plated bones supporting them.
With a single flap of the wings, gravity seems to reverse and I am lifted off the ground and seven feet into the air. These wings have some minimal flight and gliding capabilities, but it still isn’t true flight. If this wasn’t a game skill guided by the system, there would be no possibility of me achieving this on my first try. I shakily manage to hover over the ‘Stone Dwellers’, before dropping down and relentlessly attacking them.
Mason, unwilling to wait for me to take care of it, rapidly shoots several arrows with pinpoint accuracy and quickly kills the final enemy while it is still approaching them. His skill with a bow has increased significantly since becoming an elf, leaving me in awe at his speed and efficiency.
“Verde, what are the benefits of becoming a Nekomata?” I ask, unable to withhold my curiosity after seeing Mason.
Her ears twitch at my voice before explaining. “I have a permanent twenty percent bonus to my speed, and my agility is easier to raise at the expense of my strength. Not only is strength harder to train, I lost a third of what I had as well. If it wasn’t for your fame showing people how effective agility based builds can be, everyone would still be the heavy-armored strength based build and very few would choose this race.”
“I suppose that’s not bad, but it doesn’t seem like much. Is there more?”
“Of course! My hearing and sight are improved by ten percent, I can partially see in the dark, and I have a racial skill called ‘Nine Lives’ that can be used once a week to revive me at half health if I die. Once I get a little more skilled, I can also use my tail to grab objects.” Verde giggles lightly and curls the end of her tail as if to grab something.
Mason laughs before adding, “Verde, I don’t think that last one can be considered a skill. But you, Lost, you haven’t told us about your new race. Spill the beans about that transformation of yours, it’s incredible!”
Everyone’s eyes become harder as they stare at me intently, waiting for my response.
Clearing my throat and deliberately extending the silence by not saying anything, I gratifyingly watch everyone becoming more and more impatient. Eventually, when everyone seems unable to hold back anymore, I explain.
“Well, the race itself is called ‘Eternal Draconian’. All my stats are increased by ten percent. The draconic scales give me a twenty percent defense boost and have an effect similar to a shield. I gain twenty percent more experience than normal and I’m completely immune to illusion magic.
“This transformation is my racial skill, ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’. It increases my strength by thirty points and triples my defense. I can’t wield any weapons, but my damage is equivalent to my total strength. I move twenty percent faster and am immune to fire and poison. There is no mana or stamina cost, but it can only be used once per real life day and disappears after just fifteen minutes.”
Everyone listlessly stares at me for some time before they speak almost in unison, “That’s completely broken!!”
“What? What do you mean?”
Mason, the first to recover from shock and disbelief, explains the issue. “Lost, all races are supposed to be relatively equal to the original Human race. Some aspects are amplified, while others are reduced. Your race, the ‘Eternal Draconian’ as you called it, has none of these balancing reductions. Adding on top of that, your bonuses are far beyond what others have; the only possible conclusion is that your race is unfair.”
Not knowing how to reply, I absentmindedly scratch my jaw. All of a sudden, Fen, who is standing beside me, whips her head around and looks at a nearby ridge.
“What is it, Fen?” I ask, confused because she has never shown interest in others.
“There was… someone.”
Unfurling my wings and nearly hitting Fen, who moved to the side just in the nick of time, I flap them several times and climb fifty feet into the air. This is the apparent limit of how high I can fly, but it is enough of a vantage point to see all the way back to the city and beyond the plains to the forest on the other side.
Despite searching the area, I can’t see any other players nearby. I glide through the surrounding area to see if anyone is hiding behind one of the cliffs, but still don’t find anyone. With the only possibilities being that they either used an expensive teleportation scroll, or more likely just logged off, I eventually give up the search.
Returning back to the party, I sullenly tell them that whoever it was is gone. I feel nervous knowing that whoever it was, they heard me talking about my unique race. If the knowledge is posted on the internet, it will be the ‘Royal Summer Tournament’ all over again.
Continuing northeast, we gradually move through the rugged plain toward the forest. Night falls before we reach the forest, and while it is still possible to continue travelling, we decide to camp for the night.
We never used to use tents as they take time to set up, but with more people we can afford to have two or three of us set them up while the rest do other chores. Mason proceeds with his usual duty of collecting firewood and starting a fire while I begin to prepare our evening meal. Everybody flees from my potions, yet they flock to my food. I secretly think about trying the effects of mixing one of my potions with my food to spite them, but decide that would be petty and restrain myself.
The season in this realm is spring, so I plan to cook something refreshing. In the pot of boiling water, I drop some birds that are freshly hunted, plucked, and skinned by Mason. As they cook, the fat melts off them and seeps into the water. I wait until all the fat has melted off before picking them out, stripping the meat from the bones, and placing it back in the pot while disposing of the carcasses.
Pulling several vegetables leftover from the first continent from my inventory, I dice them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the broth. Last, I grind six ‘Fire Flowers’ which add a chili flavor, three ‘Morning Dew Herbs’ that are sweet in nature, and finally two ‘Azurite Stone Herbs’ together. The final herb is the most important, as the ‘Azurite Stone Herbs’ are incredibly durable and serve to thicken the broth while adding a mysterious flavor and fragrance to the dish.
The aroma emanating from the pot is extremely strong, so I have Matrix and Sir Laurence patrol the area in case any monsters are attracted to the smell.
Shortly after, seven bowls of thick poultry stew are served. Six people wipe saliva from the corners of their mouths before stuffing their faces as if they had starved for days. Even I am impressed by the taste. The mysterious flavor of the ‘Azurite Stone Herb’ is like nothing I have tasted in the real world. The closest would be a combination of ground spices, fresh garden herbs, and a nearly intangible hint of egg.
Only satisfied after cleaning out the pot, we all move to our tents. There are only six prepared, as Fen will be sleeping with me. It allows me to speak with her in private, arduously teaching her the difference between right and wrong.
Unequipping my armor and cloak, I climb into a large sleeping bag with enough room for two people. Fen silently slides in beside me, placing one arm across my chest and pulling herself against me. I can feel most of her body against my arm and my heartbeat quickens in response.
“Fen, you are awfully close,” I nervously whisper to the wolf girl who is currently sniffing my neck.
She fails to pick up the hint that she is uncomfortably close. She is an artificially intelligent computer program, yet I am afraid that I can no longer see her as just that.
“Shall we continue with discussing things you should not do?”
“If you… want.”
For the next half hour, I teach her human morals. Actions you should not do to others, topics you should not discuss with strangers. As long as I feel it could help her understand her actions better, I teach her anything and everything.
Eventually, my mind begins to fade into sleep with the game’s assistance, but with the last sliver of awareness I have left, I hear Fen’s voice, clear and without any pauses. “You are the only one for me. For you, I will do anything.”
Before I can react, oblivion overtakes my consciousness and whatever thoughts I had are swept away with it.
“And that is the information on Lost’s new ‘Eternal Draconian’ race that our intelligence has brought us,” I finish reading out from a private message sent by our spy.
“That’s completely broken!!” Shock and disbelief covers the faces of all the upper members, or the Elders as they have started calling themselves, of the ‘Swords of Light’ guild.
I watch all the slack-jawed members with amusement, laughing coldly before stating, “This is Lost we are talking about. We should not have expected any less from him.”
“That’s true. It couldn’t be any other way.”
“Nothing less than the best.”
“Mhmm, I agree with you.”
An Elder with the petite body of a child that makes me wonder if he is even old enough to legally play End Online raises his hand like some grade schooler before asking, “Guild leader Chronix, I’ve only recently been promoted to Guild Elder so I don’t fully understand. I am a big fan of Lost and his party, just as we all are, but why exactly are we constantly chasing after and trying to kill him?”
The room falls unnaturally silent after the question and no one dares speak, so I answer the question myself. “Elder SingleShoe, there are two types of people who are fans of others who are strong. The first is the most common; rabble who blindly throw gifts and praise at them to get their attention. The second are those who want to have the honor of fighting them. We are the latter.”
“But wouldn’t it be easier to just be friends?”
“I met Lost before he became famous. At that time, unfortunately, we had a difference of opinion between us. There is no way he would accept me as a friend now, and if he did, I would probably think less of him. All I want is to follow him, and keep challenging him along the way.”
After Elder SingleShoe nods his head in understanding, another person asks a question that makes me frown. “Guild leader, before joining the ‘Swords of Light’ three months ago, I recall you used to be one of the leading high level players on the server. What happened to-”
“Moving on to the next topic of this meeting. Lost and his party are currently in the Beast Realm and we have an idea of his location. We will be sending thirty ordinary members and two Elders for this assault. I will also be going, as usual.” I cut off the previous question and don’t answer, as it is a subject I do not wish to speak about with these people.
The Elder who asked the question takes the hint and doesn’t ask it again. For the next half hour, we discuss the members who will be leading this operation, along with a new strategy to combat Lost’s draconic race. Defense against the companion Fen and his other party members is included in the plan.
“Tomorrow, we will head out as planned! Everyone, dismissed!” I turn and leave the room before logging out, not bothering with seeing the other members off.
When my consciousness returns, the first things I hear are the birds cawing in the distance and the sound of movement in the camp. As I stayed up half an hour speaking with Fen before going to sleep, it is only natural I am the last to awaken.
A cold draft invades the tent and makes me shiver; half my face is already numb. Fen’s arm wrapped around my back has a soothing effect that calms my mind when I focus on it. There is also the feeling of pressure on my forehead that leaves me confused.
Slowly opening my eyes, my originally calm heart instantly starts working frantically as I realize my previous thoughts were completely wrong. I have rolled, or been rolled onto my side. Fen’s face is pressed against my face, the tender skin of her nose is brushing against the side of mine, and our lips are a single breath away from one another.
Her breath is frigid, brushing against my face every time she exhales and adding to the numbness. Despite that, I can feel a heat rising in my face that is quickly dispelling the chill.
Staring at her eyes quivering beneath her eyelids in her sleep, I am unable to hold myself back anymore and inch my mouth closer to hers. The movement causes our skin to rub together and my emotions to fall into turmoil. Pressing forward a little more, our lips begin to touch lightly.
“Lost! What exactly are you two doing in there? Don’t tell me… are you?” Mason’s teasing voice comes in from outside and I know he is unlikely the only one there.
I pull my face away from Fen’s sourly. The mood is completely ruined, and for some reason, I’m feeling considerably angry at Mason.
Fen is holding herself against me tightly, and my hand is trapped in an awkward position against my chest. Wriggling my arm around to free it and then myself, I grasp onto something that fills my hand. Gently applying pressure, a small protrusion presses against the center of my palm.
‘Soft!’ Is the first thought that comes to mind.
I rise up onto my elbow and lift the sleeping bag cover. Sure enough, there are Fen’s twin mounds, devoid of any clothing – one of which just happens to be in my hand. I want to let go before misfortune falls upon me, but wait a few breaths before doing so, breaking free from Fen’s arm and climbing out of the sleeping bag.
Equipping my armor and cloak once again, I briskly leave the tent and grumpily say to the party lining up out front, “I just woke up!”
Several smirks follow.
Fen emerges shortly afterwards and we all get to work to quickly pack away the campsite.
I witness a strange sight while helping tidy up. Two small ice spikes erupt from the ground and pierce Mason’s feet while he is cleaning the remains of the fire. There is no injury as he doesn’t cry out, but having his feet pinned to the ground still causes him to fall into the cold ashes and stir up a cloud of soot. He stands up abruptly afterwards, covered from head to toe in grey and black residue.