End Online: Chapter 37

Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis,
Author’s notes: The chapter you have been waiting for? Well, it’s juicy, it’s fresh, and it’s here now.
The chapter plan for this chapter is available for everyone on my Patreon page. It is possibly the greatest one yet… maybe… but it definitely has the best illustration to date from Cr@ppy Artworks Inc.
As with the new chapter, please to take a moment of your time and show your support by following the link to vote for End Online at TopWebFiction. Remember, your vote will only last a week, but I will only ask you to do so with each full chapter release. More motivation for me to write faster!

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Chapter 37 – Ruminu Forgotten Temple

– Lost –

After Matrix interrupts Fen and me, the camp is incredibly awkward. The entire site is silent, and not-so-subtle glances are constantly sent my way. Fen stands next to me as I practice my ‘Potion Production’, eyeing the concoctions nervously.

‘Don’t worry Fen, I won’t feed these to you. Those other people though, I might,’ I sinisterly muse to myself.

Once the morning cleanup is finished, I challenge everyone’s glances before saying, “Nothing happened! Now, let’s keep going into this forest.”

They all agree, of course, but it doesn’t remove the suspicions they are harboring. I do my best to ignore them for the time being as I lead us out of the jagged plains and into the forest. At first it seems like an ordinary forest, but the brush quickly thickens as it turns into a jungle.

The change of atmosphere inside the jungle is surprisingly abrupt. The air becomes increasingly more humid and the sounds of small insects surround us. I hear some branches snap not too far from us, but can’t seem to locate any beasts or players.

CaptainGordon, Matrix, and Sir Laurence take the lead, using their swords to cut through the brush as we head deeper into the jungle.

A piercing cry from above alerts me and the rest of the party as four monkeys as large as a person swing down at us on vines, large clubs in hand. I am about to use ‘Creature Analysis’ when I witness Sir Laurence cutting one down with a single heavy overhead slash of his sword.

Seeing how weak they are, I don’t bother. Instead, I join the others in attacking the monkeys as they swing past. Three of the monkeys are instantly killed, while the fourth one only loses seventy percent of its health before passing by and swinging back up into another tree. I feel irritated that the only one that isn’t dead is the one I attacked.

It comes swinging back down a moment later, but is shot and killed by one of Mason’s arrows before it can get close to us. I collect several tufts of fur that the monkeys drop, as they are potion ingredients according to the item information, while several other minor loot items and a handful of silver coins are distributed to the rest of the party.

“That was unexpected,” Mason laughs heartily while warily looking up at the trees.

I look at him and amusedly say, “Weren’t you up a tree the first time we met you?”

“I was…”

“Could you climb up the trees to keep an eye out for any more of your kin?”

“Can’t you fly? And I am not a monkey, thank you!”

“You sure like to cause mischief though!” I look at Mason from the side, unwilling to let the disturbance this morning go.

Our bantering stops and we proceed deeper into the jungle. Before travelling too far we find a packed-dirt trail that leads off through the trees. The forest is much thinner around the path, making travelling much quicker. With the choice of turning to the right or left when coming onto the path, I choose to travel left, since the path to the right seems to lead back to the ocean.

The path forks multiple times through the jungle, and we even see several parties of players while aimlessly following it. The monkeys in the trees attack in approximately ten minute intervals, so after the first hour we can mostly predict when they will attack.

During the third hour of travel, most of the party starts to get restless from walking without direction. Suggestions to leave the trail to fight as many different monsters in the jungle as possible are raised, but I decide against it as we would probably end up lost before too long.

Not long after, our motivation is rejuvenated once again when we come to the end of one of the paths. Still within the jungle, the trees thin out before completely disappearing and leaving a large open area where the clear blue sky can be seen in its enormity.

Within the clearing are the ruins of a massive establishment. A square, ten meter tall wall of crumbling and cracked stone bricks surrounds an enormous temple and several other, smaller temples. At least, that is as much as I can see over the walls.

A crumbling stone arch which has had the doors collapse inwards serves as the entrance to the dungeon. From inside, I can hear the sound of swords and spears hitting something incredibly solid within the walls, letting me know that we are not the only people here.

“Let’s go!” I barely finish saying before everyone, minus Fen, rushes past me and toward the fallen entrance.

If it is a race to see who will be first, I can’t help but shake my head at their foolishness.

Kicking off from the ground, I leave an afterimage behind me as I move like a phantom toward the temple’s entrance, Fen following me effortlessly. The rest of the party, who are all still moving quite quickly, barely have any time to react as I pass them and arrive at the entrance.

Giving them a smug grin, Fen and I are the first to step through the fallen gates and witness the scene inside.

Entering ‘Ruminu Forgotten Temple

The ground is covered by old square slabs of stone, tufts of grass emerging from the cracks between their joints. An enormous stone temple is in the center of the area, looming above me with a menacing appearance. Several smaller temples and even smaller houses are around it, giving the appearance of a fallen civilization.

The wide streets between the buildings have stone pillars, as tall as three men, standing in positions with no apparent pattern. However, due to their age, several of them have broken, leaving pillar sections and rubble spread across the textile pavement.

The sounds of fighting ring out again as well. A party of six players, Nekomata from Kano City and Inudoga from the second capital of the Beast Realm, Koga City, are currently fighting two of the moss covered stone golems wandering the area.

“Creature Analysis,” I quietly say as the rest of the party reaches the gate.

Name: Stone Guardian
Level: 155
Health: 4900
Magic: 550
Stamina: 550

??

I feel like there is a bit too much of a disparity between the level of the monsters outside the dungeon and those inside. The health of these ‘Stone Guardians’ is also incredibly high.

The party fighting the two golems appears to be having a lot of difficulty. Staring at them struggle due to their attacks bouncing off stone, Mason says, “The golems appear to be highly resistant against physical attacks. We need to use magic or physical attacks that are infused with magic.”

Walking down the street as a large group, we steer clear of the party so as to avoid the ‘Stone Guardians’ falling under my aggravation effect. We don’t avoid other enemies, however, challenging a small group of three golems right from the beginning. We could probably fight many more at once, as our stats are mostly equal to the top players and our levels are much higher than our enemies’, but we decide to be cautious.

To test our theory, we try pure physical attacks first. Mason’s arrows bounce off the golem, just as do Sir Laurence’s and Matrix’s swords. CaptainGordon’s pistol cannon has a very different effect, as the bullet embeds itself deep within the golem and causes web-like cracks to form around the bullet hole. The shot drains a full thirty percent of the golem’s health.

I use my speed to try and cut through its defense, slashing the enormous stone torso along the side. Even my speed isn’t enough to negate its physical defense, only leaving an inch-deep gash in the stone. Although much less effective than the pirate’s pistol cannon, my attack did take off five percent of the golem’s health.

“Next, magic attacks!” I call out, narrowly dodging the swinging arms of the golem that seems to have the strength to lift mountains.

Distancing myself from our enemies, I call out “Dire Starburst” and cast my magic before any of the others.

Thankfully my weapons halve the amount of mana required for my religious skills, limiting this spell to use about a quarter of my mana.

In the air around me, eighty to ninety small wisps of dire flame flicker to life like a small starscape. I concentrate and target the three golems each with a third of my starbursts. Each and every one of the small dire stars shoots forward like a bullet, piercing into the golems.

Cracks spread across one of the golems like a cobweb and it immediately crumbles into a pile of rubble. The other two survive the attack, but are also near collapse. The dire flames flicker in the wounds of the golems. They don’t cause continuous damage like they usually would, but instead prevent recovery.

The entire party and I are surprised at the strength of the magic.

Completely unfazed by the condition of the enemy, Fen materializes several ice spears and quickly kills the remaining golems. In comparison to their strength against physical attacks, they are extremely weak against magic attacks. It is only CaptainGordon’s strange cannon pistol that defies this logic.

With our enemies defeated, we collect the dropped loot and distribute it equally amongst ourselves. There are several silver coins, a low quality spear made from obsidian, and more than a handful of iron ores. I forego the spear and coins, taking more ores to train my smithing. CaptainGordon takes the same approach as me, collecting crafting materials with the intention of making a new boat eventually.

Being able to easily kill the enemies, we wander the streets of the ‘Ruminu Forgotten Temple’ with ease. I see the party of Nekomata and Inudoga occasionally along with several other groups of players, but there is still ample room to hunt enemies. Our main problem is that the enemies’ levels are too low and we have little chance of gaining much experience from them.

“What is in the buildings?” I ask with interest as we walk past the open doorway to one of the buildings.

Verde also looks into the opening, casually saying, “I’m not sure, but the other parties in the area have shown no desire in going in so I wouldn’t imagine much.”

Out of curiosity, we walk into one of the buildings, which is unnaturally dark until Sir Laurence casts a spell that creates a luminous ball of light above him.

When the inside of the building fills with light, twenty or more ‘Stone Guardians’ come to life, standing up and attacking. To make matters worse, they block off the doorway and are only a few meters away in this enclosed space.

Without the need for direction, everyone starts using their strongest attacks. I falter in surprise when Fen fills the area with an icy mist and causes ice spears to form at random locations in the air and attack omnidirectionally.

Mason shoots arrows of wind that are an improvement to the previous version of his sacred art. Now they shoot like a blade of wind, cutting everything in their path. Matrix’s sword burns with an inferno, the flames now with a hint of blue fire within them. Sir Laurence raises his sword up high, slashing it down with an overwhelming golden light.

Verde, well, she has no magic-based attacks and is standing protected in the middle of the group with a sour expression. I wonder if she will learn some elemental magic skills at the cities’ churches next time she has the chance.

As I am about to use ‘Dire Starburst’, something strikes me from the side and sends me flying. I get a glimpse of one of six stone golems that were closing in on me before hitting the wall. My health takes a significant penalty as well, losing a third instantly.

‘Tch, aggravation caused them to focus on me again. I also need better armor, the monsters keep doing more and more damage,’ I inwardly chastise myself for not being cautious enough.

Eating a few restorative herbs, I silently watch the monsters and marvel at how powerful my auto-aggravation is as they completely ignore Fen’s relentless assault of ice spears up until the point they collapse.

I also don’t entirely understand Fen’s magic. I can see how much mana she has at all times, and it appears she has needed less mana to use her basic skills than ever before. I wonder if there is a limit to this reduction, or if she will eventually be able to freely control basic ice attacks without the need to spend mana at all.

Several other golems break through our assault and attack our party. Most are blocked by Sir Laurence, but two manage to land a strike on Mason and CaptainGordon. CaptainGordon suffers the most, losing seventy percent of his health from a single strike. His defense must be even lower than mine.

CaptainGordon brings out his own health potion, a middle quality one, and drinks it while hiding behind the others. The ‘Stone Guardians’ should have been defeated by now, but they have an annoying ability to absorb the rubble of their fallen comrades to heal themselves. As such, there are still nine remaining.

With my health restored and no current ‘Stone Guardians’ under my aggravation, I order everyone to attack all the targets evenly to bring their health down to fifty percent. Once that task is done, I cast ‘Dire Starburst’, creating carnage and damaging half of the golems. Perhaps it is due to there being more targets than last time, but my attack does considerably less damage to each golem. Still, it is enough that three are instantly killed and another three are quickly destroyed by the party.

The final few golems are quickly disposed of without much effort, and the room is now full of rubble. Several ornaments and stone shelves along the walls have broken as a result of the battle, but most of the room is intact. After collecting the loot, we divide up a large quantity of iron ore, a few bluesteel ores, and other miscellaneous goods.

The building is of considerable size, so we spend some time exploring the rooms and collecting any treasures lying around. More stone golems attack us, but nothing compared to the first room. We find a treasure chest in the back of the building, but it only contains a couple of low quality weapons and armor for each person.

I also can’t help but notice while we are inside that Fen keeps staring at me in an intimidating way. She is always next to me, so I do my best to put it out of my mind.

Leaving the building and going back onto the street, two of the parties see us emerge and express looks of utter surprise. Clearly, they know about the dangers inside the buildings.

One of the parties, the Nekomata and Inudoga party I saw earlier, quickly finishes the golems with an efficiency they didn’t have before and walks toward us. I put my guard up in case they attempt anything, but am confident we can defeat them with our strength.

Moments later, the party arrives before us and the leader, a handsome man with drooping dog ears and wielding a large two-handed sword, steps out and says, “Haha, no need to be so guarded. To be honest, I am surprised that you successfully went into one of these houses and came out alive. I have a proposition for your party leader: would you like to form a team and enter the main temple?”

“What’s in it for you?” I ask cautiously.

“Well, we don’t have the strength to go all the way through by ourselves. Judging by your strength, we should be able to if we work together.”

I look back at the rest of my party. Everyone apart from Fen and Verde nod their heads in acceptance. I also don’t have a problem working with another party, so I consent to working with them.

“That’s great! My name is NightHunt.”

NightHunt also introduces the rest of his party: PathFinder, GraciousOne, Gole, Pursuit, and HumorMe. The last person’s name causes me to laugh, but they seem to be straightforward people. They also happened to have come from another server when the merge happened, and they don’t know me or anyone from our party when I introduce us.

NightHunt also participated in the ‘Battle for Supremacy’, but it was only a superficial one as his server was already marked to merge with a different server. Since the result would have no impact after the merge, nowhere near as many people participated as ours had.

Taking part in minor chatter with the other party, I begin to grow more friendly with NightHunt and the others. Of course, I protectively hold Fen close after a few lusty glances are sent her way. Verde receives some gazes as well and moves behind Sir Laurence and the others.

Fighting against the ‘Stone Guardians’ with two parties is incredibly easy, to the point of instantly crushing groups of five or six. It only takes half an hour before we arrive at the entrance to the grand temple in the center of the ruins.

The doorway is a massive opening five meters tall and three meters wide. Torches, whose flames could die out at any moment, are strewn across the ground at regular intervals, dimly lighting the interior.

We enter and proceed cautiously, as this temple apparently has enemies much stronger than the ones outside.

Stone bricks make up the floor, walls, and ceiling. Vibrant green vines cover most of them though, breaking up the world of grey.

The tunnel into the temple continues straight forward until it reaches a large, square room, sixty meters long on each side, in the center of the temple. The ceiling is a large dome, with a single hole at the apex through which sunlight follows a small tunnel from the temple roof and spills into the room. In opposition to the stone brick floor earlier, this room has several decayed gardens and even a dried up river in it.

Pathways snake around the room toward different exits. Among the paths and gardens, golems made of iron walk in groups of six or seven.

“Creature Analysis.”

Name: Iron Guardian
Level: 210
Health: 7800
Magic: 700
Stamina: 700

??

They’re very similar to the Stone Guardians, except stronger, and if my intuition isn’t wrong, even more resistant to physical attacks.

“They are near immune to physical attacks,” NightHunt explains to me, as if reading my mind.

Nodding to him, I turn toward the rest of my party. “Well, I guess they are evolved ‘Stone Guardians’. They are level 210, much higher than the enemies outside. CaptainGordon, if you want to, you know, test out your weapon on them that will be fine. If you don’t want to show it off in front of another party though, I understand. Verde… I’m sorry.”

Verde is downcast because she is useless in this dungeon since she only knows physical attacks.

Experimenting with physical attacks against the enemy, I use ‘Backstab’ on the nearest golem, appearing behind it. Stabbing two daggers down onto the hulking lump of metal, I am completely incapable of penetrating the surface. I quickly use my original sacred arts, ‘Triple Thrust’ and ‘CrossX’, before it has a chance to retaliate.

My attacks result in taking a mere sliver off its health, and several white scratches on the back of its torso. I expected the golem to take a bit of time to turn around before attacking me, but to my surprise, its head and hands simply spin around. Caught unaware, I am completely knocked away by an arm like an iron rod that connects with my shoulder and takes more than half my health.

‘Its attacks are much stronger, too!’

Quickly returning to the party, I let them know my findings while healing my wounds. Due to a lack of time, I consume several of my own potions and wonder why the others dislike them so much. They don’t taste great, but they’re not that bad.

Fen hugs me while I am healing and I imagine her licking my wounds. As strange as my daydream is, I realize that I like the idea. Maybe later, though, when we’re not in any immediate danger.

My aggravation apparently attracts quite a few golems toward us, and both parties curse at me before firing their magic attacks. Fen is a little late to join, as she stays with me and doesn’t seem to realize the situation going on around her.

She normally isn’t this much of an airhead, so I think something must be up. Just as I am thinking that, she bites her lower lip and says so quietly that only the two of us can hear, “I can’t… wait any longer.”

I don’t understand what she means, but before I can react, a dome-like ice barrier forms around us. The ice completely blocks vision, but it lets a pale blue light through from the outside.

I look deeply into Fen’s eyes as she suddenly grabs my coat, pulling herself close and laying her lips over mine.

Subconsciously I wrap my arms around her, feeling the chill of her skin while holding her tightly. She doesn’t struggle at all, accepting my embrace entirely. I brush a lock of snow-white hair out of the way as I initiate another kiss.

Once again my senses are overwhelmed by the sweetness of her lips, savoring the moment until the end. That’s not even mentioning the feeling of her tongue wrapped around mine. I have no clue what such a thing would feel like. Definitely not.

I quickly release her when I finally remember that a fight is currently going on around us, pushing her back slightly and mumbling, “Now isn’t the time… Later, okay?”

She nods meekly and moves behind me, dispelling the ice barrier at the same time.

Some of my party look at me with suspicion, especially Mason, who says, “What was that? Also, Fen, you are drooling.”

At this point, Sir Laurence’s attitude seems to take a jolt as if he has suddenly realized something.

“I forgot about Fen’s satiety level,” I hesitantly lie. “It got too low so she was hungry.”

Sir Laurence, unwilling to let this moment go, comments, “I bet. Hungry like the wolf.”

This triggers Mason’s knowledge of the situation, and he sharply turns toward the prince. “Really? You must be joking.”

“I never joke. By the way, she isn’t-” His words trail off into a whisper as he describes his conclusion to Mason in lurid detail.

‘Would you two just shut up! Especially you, Fake Prince!’ I silently scream as I realize the situation is completely beyond my control. If anything between Fen and I is to happen again, it must be as far away from these two as possible.

My only saving grace is that the others don’t appear to have many suspicions. NightHunt has a sly smirk on his face, but I give him a glare that says he’s dead if he opens his mouth.

While we are distracted, the golems somehow increase their numbers again and are starting to pressure us. In a panic, I cast ‘Dire Starburst’, killing the nearly dead ones and weakening the rest.

With the onslaught of two parties’ worth of magic, the battle is quickly won. NightHunt’s party is indeed not that strong, and most of the work is done by us, so we take seventy percent of the loot and the other thirty percent is theirs. This is quite generous, as eighty-twenty would be closer to fair.

An hour and many health and mana recovery potions later, we finally clear the room of all the ‘Iron Guardians’. The interaction between Fen and I earlier has also become common knowledge, much to my embarrassment and much to Mason’s and Sir Laurence’s pleasure. Verde acts strangely after finding out, occasionally sending me furtive glances. I look back at her once, only to have her quickly turn away.

I am completely silent as we leave the main room, following a random corridor. Fen keeps unusually close to me too, which isn’t helping my current situation.

Just as I’m considering running away from the group and exploring the temple myself, we enter a smaller tomb-like room connected to the corridor. ‘Iron Golems’ aren’t as concentrated as in the entry room, but they are still abundant.

Each room usually has a treasure chest, even if most of them are full of rubbish or trapped. Checking for and disarming them becomes Verde’s sole task. We discover that a strange new herb called a ‘Star Herb’ is often found in the treasure chests. As I am the only one with a use for it, I give up on some other minor goods and monopolize them.

We finally find a staircase leading to the second floor, which is about ten meters above the first. The second floor turns out to be a headache, with the ‘Iron Guardians’ increasing to level 220 and the corridors becoming something akin to a labyrinth.

We break for lunch after a particularly large fight that leaves us all tired, but our effort isn’t without reward. I have increased my level by two, and so has everyone else in my group. NightHunt’s party is elated, as each of them has gained at least seven levels or more.

I am in charge of lunch, as usual. With my cooking equipment, I create a vegetable soup with several herbs, including the new ‘Star Herb’, which proves to be a new favorite. NightHunt’s party immediately gets closer to us after smelling the cooking. It is worlds above the pre-cooked meat and other smaller rations they have prepared.

With everyone extremely energetic after a good tasting meal and their satiety bars full, we continue our exploration of the temple. The second floor is very repetitive, and also very easy to get lost in. We do happen to find an easy method to deal with any large groups of ‘Iron Guardians’ though.

The top of the walls and floors are covered with vine growth, and there are occasionally thicker vines running across the floor that are easy to trip on. Whether it was intended by the game designers or not, we only need to lead the iron golems over one of these vines for them to trip and fall. The success rate of this is incredibly high, with only one or two fortunate enough to step over the vines.

With the increased efficiency from killing enemies that fall and can’t move, we manage to search the remainder of the second floor and ascend to the third. Just as I had suspected, the ‘Iron Guardians’ have increased by another ten levels to level 230. I don’t know if it is just my imagination, but they also seem to be getting larger and more resistant to physical attacks.

The vines are thicker on the third level, making the enemies even easier to trip and kill. This level is also smaller than the previous one, with wider paths allowing us to clear it in two thirds the time of the second.

Just like clockwork, the enemies grow stronger by ten levels, slightly larger in size, and the area of the floor is smaller all the way until the end of the fifth floor. NightHunt’s party is practically doing nothing by now, barely able to even damage the golems who have increasingly large health pools.

This changes once we ascend to the sixth floor. After several enemies, I notice in the dim light that they appear slightly different and use ‘Creature Analysis’.

Name: Silver Guardian
Level: 260
Health: 9750
Magic: 1100
Stamina: 400

A guardian made from silver to guard the ancient Ruminu Temple.
They have a strong affiliation to magic and are slightly 
resistant to it at the expense of physical attack resistance.

Having already killed several of them, the description of the monster finally appears. I make a mental note of killing each type of enemy before analyzing them in the future.

Despite the description of the analysis, the ‘Silver Guardians’ are still stubbornly resistant to physical attacks. They also resist ten percent of all magic damage, regardless of the element. As if that wasn’t enough, they have a magic attack that causes various parts of their body to liquify and shoot bullets of quicksilver.

One of Nighthunt’s party members, HumorMe, is killed by this attack. Despite the fallen comrade, we continue pressing forward to climb higher in the temple. Our loot of various ores is enormous, with collections of silver ore now adding to the pile.

The seventh and eighth floors have less enemies, but increasing monster levels slow our progress. Upon reaching the ninth level, everyone, myself included, is exhausted from the continuous online playing. We take turns logging off for food, but none of us have had proper sleep as we keep pressing through the dungeon.

Back in my locker, I ignore the ‘China3’ theme outlay and stare at Fen. Outside of the game, she still wears the embroidered bikini top and short, slitted skirt like in the game. She can change between this and the previous dress at will, but she seems to like wearing the current outfit for some unknown reason. Perhaps it is easier to move in.

Without saying a word, I exit the virtual space and consciousness returns to my body. I wake to find that I am still lying down on the bed.

After moving into my wheelchair, I steadily move around the house to do any necessary cleaning and make some food. I also have a quiet bath, hearing the echoes of the water lapping against the side of the tub, the only thing disturbing the silence of the room.

I have become much more coordinated since losing the ability to walk, and with methodical movements that don’t seem awkward at all I easily climb out of the bath and dry myself.

I return to my bed to go to sleep, but rather than sleeping in reality, I return to my virtual locker. There I find Fen curled up asleep on the bed with her knees poking out of the bed sheets near her chest. At least, she appears to be asleep.

Rather than standing there like an idiot, I silently walk to the other side of the bed and slide in. The lights are dim, but I can still see the impeccable skin of her back. I disturb the sheets getting in, which provides an admirable view of her thin waist.

Reaching out, I gently touch her back with my fingertips. Perhaps it is because she is not in the game and isn’t categorized as an ice wolf right now, but she is quite warm. I feel embarrassed that I have never noticed this before.

Running my fingers up her back, I realize that her top is completely gone. Instinct wars with reason as I want to lift the covers to check her bottom half, but I manage to restrain myself.

Fen twitches beneath my touch, but doesn’t make any other movements or say anything. I come to the conclusion that even if she wasn’t awake before, she definitely is now. I move closer to her and wrap my arm around her from behind.

I am currently not wearing a top either, so bringing myself close to her causes my chest to press against her back. I guess you could call this skinship. While pulling myself closer, I inadvertently grasp her breast. The sensation is soft, yet firm at the same time. My face immediately heats up and I feel reason losing the battle.

My hand remains in that position for a little too long, as Fen moves her arm and places her hand over mine. To my surprise, rather than removing it, she tightly holds onto it. I gently try to remove my hand, but Fen firmly holds it in place, resisting my movements.

I start to relax when she says with a quiet yet clear voice, “Stay like this for a while, okay?”

“You didn’t stammer?” I ask, shocked wide awake by her speech.

“Nn,” she quietly affirms, nodding her head slightly.

She refuses to answer any of my questions after that, so I eventually put my curiosity on hold. Around the time I stop prying with questions, Fen twists her body around and rolls to face me.

With barely an inch or two between us, I stare into her eyes as she stares back. My hand is now free, wrapped around her back, so I pull her against me and press my lips to hers. Her twin peaks presses against me, but the sweetness of her lips is so overpowering that I barely notice.

After a long, deep kiss that leaves me more awake than ever before, I loosen my grip on her slightly and press my forehead against hers. Holding that pose, I just enjoy Fen’s closeness until I calm down and sink into sleep.

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

“Lost, you’re late!” Mason complains while yawning.

I am still tired from recently waking up and logging on in a rush, as I actually was late, so I don’t have the energy to argue with him.

Everyone else is also waiting. I happen to have some small snacks in my inventory that I distribute to the others, so we silently munch on that while proceeding on the ninth floor.

“This is strange, there aren’t any golems,” Sir Laurence says while looking around suspiciously. Even NightHunt’s group notices something strange is at work here, and is on full guard.

NightHunt himself is no exception, glancing around warily. “Something is indeed wrong. Could it be a trap?”

“I doubt it,” Mason theorizes, “it is more likely that they are concentrated in a large group, or large groups, somewhere.”

With everyone keenly looking for anything out of place, we progress just as slowly as we did on the previous floor. Verde spots several traps that we avoid and we run into a few she didn’t see in time, but none of them release any ‘Silver Guardians’.

We eventually reach the central area of the ninth floor, a massive room overgrown with vines and full of crumbling walls. Part of the ceiling has caved in, exposing the sky. A bright ray of light shines down from the hole, illuminating a golden golem standing on top of the pile of rubble that was once the temple’s roof.

The golem is much slimmer and slightly smaller than the previous golems. It has the shape of a man, albeit one who would be considered obese.

Feeling a considerable danger emanating from the golem, I immediately use ‘Creature Analysis’.

Name: Golden Guardian (Knight Class)
Level: 290
Health: 24500
Magic: 8200
Stamina: 2000

??

“It’s the boss!” I shout in a panic after seeing its stats while cursing to myself, ‘and my ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’ still has a few hours before I can use it again.’

As if my words set off some sort of trap, the floor behind us rises and seals off the only way in or out of here.

Quickly relaying the boss’ stats to the others, we ready our weapons and cautiously advance. I feel like something is different with this boss, as the system recognizes it as a ‘Knight Class’. I have only seen one monster before with the same classification, in the mountains around Grael’s lair, and it was completely overpowered.

“Lost, be careful,” Fen whispers a warning to me quietly enough that nobody else can hear.

I silently nod my head and prepare to use ‘Dire Starburst’.

Mason, still analyzing the situation, says, “It appears to not be reacting to our presence. It could be a broken boss, but it probably won’t remain passive once we attack it.”

After a quick discussion between our two parties, we decide to attack together at once with our strongest magic attacks. Whichever party ends up killing the boss will get the experience and loot, so we are wary of each other right from the beginning. I am also prepared to fight NightHunt’s party if necessary. With Fen, we have seven members, two more than them, so they are probably more wary of us.

Unleashing our full potential, we bombard the boss with every element. A massive storm rages from the attacks, twisting around each other with the boss at the center. I am shocked to see only five or so percent removed from the boss’ health. The boss golem’s magic resistance is clearly higher than any of the previous enemies. It is most likely more susceptible to physical attacks than the previous enemies if that is the case.

Just as Mason predicted, the boss didn’t stay quiescent after being attacked. Doing a quarter turn to face us with eyes like golden flames, the boss raises one hand and its fingers extend, shooting forth like golden spears. Even I am hit from the unexpected attack. I am lucky that it apparently has a low attack power and only takes ten percent of my health.

The ‘Golden Guardian’ moves from its perch atop the rubble and runs toward us. I call it running as it is faster than any of the previous golems, but its movements are still clunky and slow.

Every step shakes the ground and makes keeping our balance difficult, but we manage somehow, splitting up to assault the boss from different directions. I get close to the boss when slashing with my daggers, but it doesn’t seem to fall under my aggravation. I try several more times, but it seems to be immune to it.

This causes the others to be under more pressure as it directly pursues them. Sir Laurence holds it off with his shield and defensive sacred arts, but is eventually knocked aside by the overwhelming weight of the ‘Golden Guardian’. It doesn’t attack anyone in particular, but seems to randomly pick a target from any nearby enemies.

Fen’s attacks are the most helpful out of all of us, piercing with ice spears, flowers erupting from the ground with razor sharp petals, and surrounding the boss with floating ice shards that scratch it every time it moves.

The boss’s health finally falls to seventy percent from our combined attacks. Despite that, its swinging arms and finger spears hurt us more than we hurt it. We can only hold on by rotating an attack group and recovery group. Six people attack while the other six focus on restoring lost health and mana.

Almost as if the boss senses danger, it breaks away from the fight and returns to the ray of light in the center of the room. With an enormous leap, it ascends to the top of the rubble and bathes in the light. Its golden body reflects the light and rapidly recovers from all the damage we did to it.

“Not good! Everyone attack and knock it out of the light!” I worriedly exclaim. If it can simply restore health like this every time, we will never defeat it.

Something surprising happens next. Rather than simply absorbing the light and recovering, it begins to emit light of its own. It also starts to grow, until it’s several feet taller than before.

“It’s transforming!” NightHunt says, shocked by the scene.

I also feel something isn’t right, and use ‘Creature Analysis’ again as if by instinct.

Name: Sun Guardian (Prince Class)
Level: 290
Health: 39700
Magic: 14600
Stamina: 3400

A Silver Guardian who solemnly stood within the only ray
of light in a temple whose creators had long since passed
away. It absorbed the element of the sun after enough time,
and became the ruler of its own existence. The Silver 
Guardians saw the Golden Guardian as an enemy, but none 
could stand up to its power and were destroyed.

The Golden Guardian eventually absorbed enough energy of 
the sun and received its blessing, becoming the Sun Guardian.

‘Something is completely wrong here. Not only has its class changed, but even its name. Its stats have also gone through the roof.’ I worriedly think to myself while completely overlooking the fact that I can suddenly see its description.

Fen also seems to sense something, immediately moving ahead to shield me.

The Sun Guardian looks toward us with a new, smooth coordination, before steely words are emitted from its body, “I… will… des… troy… y… you… all.”

Its movements are twice as fast as before, and golden globules form in the air around it, orbiting it at a speed which will definitely tear us apart.

Everyone quickly backs away, and I grab firmly onto Fen to keep her away from the enemy, but find her to be as immovable as an iron rod stuck in the ground.

“Fen, we need to retreat, now!”

“I’m sorry, Lost. I can’t do that… Not this time.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” I feel torn inside as I can’t leave her to fight an enemy that will kill and erase her from being my companion.

‘I can use ‘Backstab’ to get within the orbiting bullets, but I don’t know how much damage I can do,’ I think, trying to come up with a solution as I flicker and move in front of her.

Just as I am about to take action, a faint blue screen appears in between the ‘Sun Guardian’ and myself.

“Stay with me tonight, as well,” Fen’s voice behind me is ice cold, sending shivers down my spine.

What happens next takes me and everyone else by surprise. A gust of wind blows around the room and rapidly turns into a maelstrom of ice shards, freezing winds and snow. In the center of this storm are Fen and I, while the others quickly move into the central area with us before they perish as well. The ‘Sun Guardian’, caught by the attack, dramatically slows down from the subzero temperatures, and frost even starts forming on its body.

The storm continues to grow within the room as the winds become more violent. Just when I think it can’t get any more powerful, ice-blue lightning begins to spark between the ice shards and forms an abstract net throughout the storm.

The evolved boss’s health is dropping fast. It loses a single percent every second within the storm, and its movements seem to be getting even slower. The boss has some sentience however, and understands the peril it is in. Its body bursts with a golden flame, melting the frost on its body and freeing most of its movements.

Rather than attacking us, the Sun Guardian turns around and runs toward the pile of rubble, ignoring the damage to its body. The light can’t penetrate the storm so it can’t regenerate itself again. Against all expectation, the boss suddenly jumps from the pile with otherworldly strength, piercing through the storm and into the open sky, onto the temple roof.

I don’t know how I know, but it has escaped. Fen realizes this as well, quelling the storm and returning the chamber to silence.

Everyone stares at her and me stupidly now that everything is over. I want to say that it had nothing to do with me, but I am already labelled an accomplice. I also want to ask what the hell that was, but can’t seem to find the words.

“Well, now that the boss battle is over, I guess we will be leaving,” NightHunt laughs awkwardly, edging away from us with his party. He throws a grappling hook and rope through the hole in the roof and climbs up to the temple roof, quickly followed by the rest of his party, minus the fallen HumorMe.

With them gone, my party looks at us strangely, before Verde raises her voice. “What the hell was that!?”

I am at a loss for words, so can only reply, “I… I really don’t know. Fen?”

“I… don’t know,” she stammers as before, but I know that it’s fake as she has been able to speak normally.

“You can trust them, you know,” I whisper to her, hoping they don’t hear.

“No.” Her glare seems to pierce through me as she speaks, her icy voice as sharp as a knife.

An awkward silence follows as they all stare at Fen and me like we’re aliens, before Sir Laurence saves me by changing the subject.

“How about we all log off for today? Lost, Verde, our first day at university starts tomorrow, so we need to take extra time to prepare.”

“Oh, sure, but let’s get up on the roof first. NightHunt was nice enough to leave the rope after all.” It actually works out well for me, as today I expect my sisters’ regular phone call.

Mason and Matrix seem to be a bit sour about logging off early, but don’t complain about it. CaptainGordon doesn’t particularly mind, and actually states the he will wait on the temple roof with a portable furnace and start refining the enormous amount of ore that are his share, as he is nearly over his carrying capacity.

We plan a time to log back in and meet up tomorrow afternoon, after university finishes for the day.

“Lost,” Sir Laurence asks me, “do you need me to pick you up tomorrow morning?”

“I can’t possibly ask you to go out of your way like that.”

“Nonsense, it is practically along the way.”

“Well, if that’s the case. Then… please.” It isn’t along the way at all, but I don’t point that out and accept his kindness.

Next Chapter

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22 Comments

  1. As Fen’s “satiety” level decreases, her magical attacks correspondingly increase, apparently.

    Also, there’s apparently a way for a Silver Golem to become a Golden Golem and then, if it spends enough time standing in the light, to become a Sun Golem, and then to gain sentience and to be able to leave the raid and to head out on its own. Why do I get the feeling that a number of Sun Golems might be running around the land in a year or so?

    Is it possible for Fen to get pregnant? If so, what would be the result?

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    1. Well, on the sun golems, you have to remember the game lore. This is in a ruin, and so I imagine that the golems will have to stay in sunlight for years, decades, or centuries, and I also imagine that there will be few ruins with silver golems, which have had sun exposure for perhaps centuries, and a silver golem who differed from it’s set duties of patrolling.

      From the game AI, Fen can probably get pregnant. It seems to want to give a proper life to them, rather than a imitation of one, and I guess that would be part of the package. It might be a sort of ‘do you wish to get pregnant – y/n’ thing on Fen’s side though, giving her the choice. But we can probably guess Fen’s choice.

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  2. 2 things.

    1.) You’re punny, roof was definitely blown.

    2.) I’m getting that nostalgic “last day of summer” feeling. Very excited about the next chapter.

    I love the story, both in End Online and COTE, thank you for writing!

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    1. Addendum: Every time I see the link to your patreon page I read it as “Patrón” the first time and start thinking about margaritas…

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    1. 1. A gentleman never tells, and Lost is nothing but a gentleman. That being said, whether he has or hasn’t, he soon will have had with Fen.

      2. Yes, but they’re at least 1200 years apart. (?)

      3. No? He shaves. Were you asking about a real beard or were you asking about a differently gendered companion used to hide one’s homosexuality, or is there some other meaning that you l337 n00b kids are using these days for the word beard?

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  3. the boss is like Fen and is an AI
    similar to the lightening cat he saw before
    seems to me that they start out as simple programs/characters; but when attacked they evolve

    lost attacked/fought Fen a lot in the beginning winning and losing battles

    could be this interaction (the fighting) helps them to evolve and grow into individuals
    it was only after the initial battle, when the golem retreated and changed, that he started to speak.

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    1. No, if you remember, fen is the ‘child’ of the game AI, and there are a number of these ‘children’ spread throughout the game. Grael is one I think, and from what I can guess most of these can assume a humanoid form. By the sun’s blessing, though, it might mean the gods, perhaps meaning the game AI, so perhaps a new child has been born?
      I guess that it is similar to how regal had a form of ‘AI awakening’ in COTE.

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      1. it could be

        it might be that it takes something to trigger the next step in this
        as you say the suns blessing could be a way for the Main AI to evolve/grow her creations into something more.
        that the interaction is a necessary

        the initial contact was that the golem was just sitting there
        it could be that there are many different children and it takes the right sequence of events to trigger the evolution process and receive the blessing to expand it’s awareness
        move from simple program to a more complex program

        in COTE it was the sphere being dropped and the grey goo bursting that made the evolution step from soulless to “soul”
        maybe the fight is a similar process
        evolution through survival?

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        1. Just noticed your mention of COTE, and it’s interesting: Its never actually confirmed whether Regal actually has a “soul” now. After all, it is stated that the formation of the mind bubble redundancy is different for him (No expansion takes place). It’s more likely that Regal’s akin to Fen, as in he’s now an AI with complex emotions, but still capable of far more than the others in the game due to processing speed/computing ability/etc.

          It’ll be very interesting to see where the AIs go from here, in both stories. This, of course, assumes that new story is coming out……… Yeah, its kind of been stuck on the exact same progress for the past week and a half.

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          1. i think in both instances that it’s chaotic nature
            with COTE the bubble dropping and bursting added a chaotic element to the structured development. when the ones with souls are born it says that the fluid expands and burst
            the drop/knock would have a similar effect to this and could be the trigger needed to create a “soul”

            in END the AI would need to battle
            most of the ones that we’ve met
            Fen, the lightening cat that was saw, the golem were in places that weren’t easy to get to.
            anything they come up against i’m sure that they would have been easily defeated.
            but the player interaction, the fight, the life/death battle
            the whole chaos of a battle
            could be the trigger, in that instance, that is needed to develop the programming further.
            for them to think outside the box.

            if i remember correctly, it was multi battles with Fen before different stuff happened (apples removed from tree springs to mind).
            before that it was brutal strength/speed match

            both worlds could be be connected (though with hundreds, if not thousands, of years between them)

            for chapter releases Wolfin said:
            “As I mentioned a while ago, I will stop releasing these chapters at some point and wait before posting the rest, at a speed of 1 chapter/week, mayber 2. I plan to start withholding chapters once Volume 1 becomes 50% complete. So far, it is guesstimated to be about 25 – 30%, so there will still be a few chapters, I’m just reminding you all ahead of time.”

            so guessing he’s hit the 50% mark and is working on that
            with chapters to be slowly released as and when ready
            agree that it’s annoying
            but considering i wait months/years for book to be released.
            a few weeks for a chapter is doable and gives me something to look forward to
            to ponder

            and discuss on here my thoughts for what is happening :p

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          2. Okay, for you all waiting. Been hiding away with my fascination of reading. CotE will be released up to chapter 14 soon, and… I had some other thoughts, but I have only just awoken so my mind is pretty drowsy ^.^

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  4. Thanks for the chapter~!
    I hope that Lost will turn into dark side and kill everyone in town with dire flame so he can be a super god-like player killing machine , that would be fun I think.

    sorry for my low english skill.

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    1. Tat would kinda go against what we have seen of lost so far. He is not the type to backstab (other than the skill – hehe), murder, or massacre. He might do it for his family or close friends, but not just for the sake of killing.

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  5. Interesting another possible AI and Fen reacted to it. Interesting also I’m still curious about the future of their relationship and what will happen between Lost and Fen. I also want to find out about the character that gave lost his aggravation skill.

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  6. I do like the series a lot and i have read the latest comments, from what I have seen Fen have developed a very useful adaptability and i would really like to see where it all goes, on another point I would really like a best friend- brother kind of relationship between Hollis and Markus, I really think those two could become extremely dangerous if they decide to go at it like that and markus could actually be a good person to become a focus for us to see the high side of society specially since verity feel really awkward about involving herself on it.

    Anyways I like the series a lot and I do hope that chronix get a mountain range dropped on his head, and I do hope that Hollis sisters do not get married at all to chronix, that would be disgusting.

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