End Online Chapter 40

Editors: Dyngari, Templar, Jack Vanatis, genericIntent, Orang
Author’s notes: Several pieces of news. First is a big welcome to our two new editors: Dyngari amd Orang. Thank you to everyone who applied for the editor position, there were quite a lot of you and your willingness to help is more than one man can ask for. Unfortunately I couldn’t choose you all, but I hope that if any new editors are required in the future, you will apply again.
I have received a few words from our new editors for you all.
Dyngari – “Hi all, I’m your new editor for End Online, Dyngari! I’m glad to be working on a fun web serial that I’ve been enjoying for a bit over a year now; Yoroshiku ne!”
Orang – (Orang has opted for the ye’ olde tradition of editor silence. Perhaps next time!)
Lastly, today is a double chapter release! I have been holding back despite editing finished as writing Chapter 42 was my top priority. Chapter 41 and all updates to ToC and links will be posted shortly. More news too.
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Chapter 40 – Temple Trap

– Lost –

“Gladox? You’re the Gladox?!” I can’t help but cry out in surprise.

When I look at the four-eared wolf man, I can indeed see similarities between him and the famous player Gladox. However, there are a few differences, making me wonder if it is actually him.

The biggest difference is the armor, which is a deep obsidian color instead of the silver armor I saw on his videos. His sword is also different, but I can understand changing equipment as you get stronger, even if I haven’t done it that much myself. No, the main problem I have with him being Gladox is his height.

Gladox, in his videos, is a tall gladiator who storms through dungeons alone, laying waste to everything in front of him. This wolf man is, while still tall, only about the height of Sir Laurence. I could swear he is ten to twenty percent shorter than when I saw him in his videos.

“Yes, I am.” Gladox nods his head casually as if it is a minor matter. “You also seem somewhat familiar, but I can’t recall someone who had a lizardman race. But to have white scales, what kind-”

Gladox’s voice trails off as his gaze focuses on Fen. The wolf girl is basically wearing a rather revealing swimsuit top and skirt. His eyes turn murky and a faint hint of lust blooms in the recesses of his pupils.

“It’s Fen! Oh, how I always wanted to meet you!” Gladox cries out in an undignified manner, rushing toward Fen with his arms wide open to embrace her.

The wolf seems to sense the approaching danger and her attention focuses on the crazed, overpowered player. Without even a flicker of her eyes, her ice manipulation is put to use. Gladox’s foot is firmly sealed the ground, causing him to trip and fall face first toward some newly formed six inch ice spikes.

Perhaps if he was more prepared, he would have been able to raise his arms to catch himself, but the suddenness of the event didn’t give him the opportunity to prevent being impaled. Gladox falls on three ice spikes, one of which goes through his eye. I know it shouldn’t cause much pain, but just witnessing the incident makes me cringe. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for the person who suffered it.

Fen moves across and leans against me, no longer paying any attention to Gladox. The latter doesn’t stay down, but slowly climbs back to his feet. His spirits seem to have dampened slightly after suffering Fen’s resentment, but I can still see him looking at Fen with hidden desires.

“Just give it up, it’s useless,” I helplessly say to him. “By the way, are you sure you’re Gladox? I could swear that Gladox was taller.”

“You must be Lost. Fen is my ideal woman. She’s an adorable companion; screw those real life girls! And of course I am. My height? Oh, that’s all in the camera angle! With the proper techniques, I could make myself look even bigger!” Gladox proudly says while puffing out his chest.

I also realize that he is that type of person; someone who prefers girls in games over those in real life. I glance at Fen and wonder if I’m actually any different. Either way, it turns out that the most famous player in the game is a massive fan of Fen.

“Well, let’s all sit and eat.”

Our dinner feast begins shortly afterwards, now with the newcomer Gladox. Sir Laurence has a lot of questions to ask him, mostly relating to girls and a noble man’s etiquette. It is an embarrassing sight to watch, but at least the two players seem to get along. Personally, I had imagined him to be much more domineering in person, but apparently video productions can be deceiving. I secretly wonder how I was perceived by others in Mason’s videos.

Gladox sends a couple of questionable looks at Fen as we happily eat our food, which causes a flame of jealousy to sprout inside of me. It is a strange feeling I haven’t felt until today, despite all the stares we have gotten before, and the reason for that is my still growing feelings for the wolf girl.

After dinner, we set up our sleeping areas and rest for the night. The legendary player, Gladox, chooses a spot not too far from us and does the same.

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I awaken the following morning to the sunlight pouring in from the entrance. I ponder to myself about how with all the caves on the mountain, why had I picked one that would face the sunrise…

I slip out of Fen’s grasp and silently walk to the entrance of the cave. I stretch my body along the way, but it doesn’t have the same satisfaction as it does in real life.

Everyone else is beginning to wake up, but I find Gladox already awake and staring at the sunrise.

“Hey, Lost,” Gladox says when he senses me getting close to him, “Could I borrow your companion for a while? This sunrise is such a romantic moment, it would be a shame to enjoy it alone.”

“Rejected,” I blandly say, leaving no room for negotiation.

Soon everyone else is also awake and the sleeping items are placed back in our inventories. Fen seems a bit absent-minded for some reason which makes me curious. I ask her if there is anything on her mind to find out what it is, but she just shakes her head and tells me that it is nothing.

We leave the cave and continue our roundabout route up the mountain, often climbing on our hands and knees because the slope is too steep. The only difference now is that Gladox is joining us. Just like in his videos, Gladox’s expression is one of seriousness as he casually keeps an eye on the surroundings in case any enemies appear.

As we ascend further, several more ‘Devil Goats’ and even a single enormous ‘Demon Gorilla’ – which is equivalent to a boss-like monster on this mountain – attack us. The mountain path is slightly wider and the slope of the mountain is gentler than usual, so there is much more room to maneuver as we get into an impromptu formation.

Gladox takes the front line, fighting diligently to deflect the enemy attacks and counterattacking their sacred arts with his own. At the same time, Fen and I make use of our speed to dash about the battleground while making quick and concise attacks.

Fen uses a pair of ice daggers to save her mana for later and I use my two sacred arts that have the lowest stamina consumption, ‘Triple Thrust’ and ‘CrossX’.

At the rear of the group, Sir Laurence grows dejected over the fact that his role in the party as a tank has practically been replaced by Gladox. I consider telling him that there can be more than one tank type player in a party, but I assume he will discover that soon enough. For now he just stays next to Verde to protect her as the two take care of any enemies that manage to make it behind us.

The first battle with Gladox as the main tank takes us nearly fifteen minutes to finish, but each subsequent one is usually finished within ten minutes as our cooperation as players quickly improves.

I admire the strength Gladox displays with his massive bastard sword as he deflects nearly all attacks, even some that I would have considered to be unblockable. Though the heaviest of attacks and sacred arts he is still forced to evade, it is like almost nothing can hit him.

I also notice Gladox glancing my way when I display my maximum speed. His eyes have an excitable fighting spirit and it seems he wants to test out who is the better between us. Fen is also fast to the extreme, but Gladox only sees her with affection.

As we climb the final stretch of the mountain and are about to reach the peak, I turn to Gladox beside me and whisper to him, “Gladox, why are you so interested in Fen? There’s Verde behind us as well. She’s just as… no, almost as good looking, so why don’t you chase after her?”

“You don’t understand? I thought you did! Fen is a companion; a digital diva, one of the most perfect creations of man since the dawn of time.”

Completely out of my expectations, Gladox’s expression suddenly becomes ugly and he gives me a pained look as he pauses before continuing.

“Real girls are the worst! They lie and deceive and betray. They can be friendly one minute, and the next turn hostile. I have already given up on such things. Ah… the virtual life is the life for me!”

‘Friendly one minute, then turn hostile? Actually, I think you just gave the perfect description of Fen, rather than Verde. Fen will never betray me though, nor I her,’ I silently muse but don’t say it aloud.

Our conversation ended as we arrive at a temple at the summit of the mountain. The temple is enclosed within a deteriorated wall that is crumbling in many locations, allowing players easy entrance and exit. The walls take up an area of a hundred meters long and wide, enclosing a single large Buddhist Temple and several additional areas that could be used as prayer locations. This leads me to believe that we’ve found the location for our quest.

The only thing I am curious about is why Gladox was coming here as well. There is a chance that we met him halfway up the mountain purely by chance while he was randomly adventuring, but I believe that would be a bit too much of a coincidence. The only other possibility is that he is here for a similar quest.

Rather than cautiously entering through one of the broken wall sections, Gladox takes the lead and walks straight toward the large gate at the front of the site and uses his shoulder to slowly push it open. I was concerned about monsters hiding behind the doors and waiting in ambush, though apparently that thought was unfounded.

I follow Gladox inside the walls and find everything long abandoned. The ground is cracked and tufts of grass are growing up in between. The buildings are in disrepair and some sections have even collapsed. The most notable part to me however, is that there are no enemies. My quest requires me to clear out the temple of all the occupying demons, but there are none around that I can sense.

I cautiously pay attention to the buildings around us, waiting for some form of demon to emerge and attack us, but my suspense is apparently unwarranted. Gladox leads the way as we directly enter the main temple and proceed through it. No matter where we go, there are no enemies.

“Gladox, isn’t it strange that it is so quiet?” I ask the four-eared wolf man curiously.

“Not really. There are a bunch of these temples on the mountain tops, most of them are empty. Perhaps we might find a stray monster or two if we inspect every part of this place, but that would be all.”

A depressing realization dawns upon me as I realize that this temple is only one of many, and the one we need could be any one of them.

Following Gladox, we arrive at a small isolated garden in the center of the main temple. The roof in this area is open and sunlight pours down onto the stones and plants, causing such a transcendent scene that I almost forget to question why this area is so well kept while the rest of the grounds are in shambles.

In the center of the garden, with a pebble path leading up to it, are three graves with several bouquets of flowers placed in front of it. Gladox signals for us to wait as he walks up to the gravestones, taking out a bouquet and placing it among with the rest.

Apart from placing his offering, I am close enough to hear him speak in a quiet voice. “Your descendant pays her respects to her ancestors, and hopes you may remain in peace, undisturbed in your slumber.”

A milky white light seems to rise from the ground, swirling around Gladox before slowly entering him. I would guess that it is giving him an amount of experience, or boosting stats.

“Is your quest done?” I ask him once he returns to the group.

Gladox nods, affirming my thoughts on this being the location for his quest.

“Yes, this is a popular quest that many players have been taking lately. I’ve heard that if the quest goes a month without being completed, the temple will no longer be pure and the lovely quest giver won’t offer it to players. More importantly, it will randomly give two stat points to the one who completes it.”

“Not pure anymore? That sounds like what we need, a Buddhist temple in this area that needs investigating and any demons removed. Essentially, a temple with demons should be the place we are looking for.”

“That sounds interesting, perhaps we should stay together for a while. I will help you complete this quest.”

Gladox appears to have good intentions, but I notice his gaze occasionally flickering over toward Fen, which inherently makes me protective and intend to deny him.

“Your help is more than welcome,” Sir Laurence says before I have a chance to reply. The silver knight shows a strange camaraderie with the famous player which I somehow find unsettling.

“Great!” Gladox says, slapping a large hand on my shoulder and not leaving me, the party leader, a chance to deny him.

Deciding to give up on my selfish rejection, I take the lead with Fen and lead us out of the temple and back down the mountain.

I don’t pick any particular mountain among the several I can see next, just creating an imaginary path connecting them and systematically choosing which mountain is “next” on that path.

Gladox, Sir Laurence, Verde, Fen and I spend two days and manage to reach the summits of four more mountains. With the distance between them and the amount of enemies, our travel between the temples is too slow. I try to avoid as many monsters as possible, but there is almost nowhere to avoid them along the winding mountain paths.

It’s on the third day that I cry out in relief when we find what we have been looking for. On the fifth mountain top the Buddhist temple is completely full of demonic beasts. I can tell before I entered due to there being not only an increased amount of enemies while ascending the mountain, but several dozen ‘Devil Goats’ patrolling the perimeter of the temple.

“And I was beginning to think we wouldn’t find the right temple until the very last mountain. Now then, let us go clean up these demons!”

Without worrying about strategy I lead our party toward a group of five ‘Devil Goats’ and throw some daggers at them to initiate the combat. The goats let out a hideous noise that quickly grabs the attention of two other nearby patrols and they quickly center their attention on us.

“Fen, slow down the extra two packs for a while,” I say while focusing my attention on the initial troupe of demonic beasts.

While the goats still have some distance to reach us, I cast ‘Dire Starburst’, sending almost a hundred minor wisps of dire flame at the group. The goats possess more intelligence than the golems (the last creatures I rained devastation upon with this spell) and break their formation to dodge. Their efforts are not completely in vain, but about half of the flaming wisps still hit them to cause considerable damage to the group as a whole.

Sir Laurence and Gladox step out front next as the squad of ‘Devil Goats’ finally reach us. Then the predictable Prince Charming shouts, “My lady, I shall protect you from these demons,” raising his shield while rapidly casting a holy spell to increase his defense and greatly reduce damage from the dark element.

Verde rolls her eyes as she stands behind his protection, waiting for the right moment to attack. I had expected this from everyone, but to my surprise Gladox approves of Sir Laurence’s words.

“So bold! Such an admirable quality to have, perhaps I should try it as well.”

I notice the four-eared wolf man stealing looks at Fen and can’t help but glare at him. He doesn’t seem to notice my look however, or at least he pretends not to.

Clearing my head of everyone’s useless quirks, I charge forward to strike the enemy once they have been blocked. I take note of Fen, who is currently manipulating small ice shards to form a minor blizzard that is blowing against the enemies. The two groups of ‘Devil Goats’ only take a small amount of damage over time, but their speed is instantly halved by the icy storm.

The first ‘Devil Goats’ collide with Sir Laurence’s shield, pushing him back over a meter and nearly causing him to collide with Verde. Verde quickly leaps out from behind him and slashes the goat twice before retreating. She tries to cut the back of its legs with a Sacred Art, but her attack misses.

Gladox’s large two-handed sword swings diagonally down gracefully, deflecting the attack of one enemy and attacking a second before it can hit him. I secretly praise the attack for its perfection and wonder if I would have been able to do it.

My attack comes next, supporting Gladox as I rapidly attack the already injured ‘Devil Goat’. Despite the enormous damage Gladox’s weapon does, I find that my Divine rarity twin short swords, the ‘Twin Nightingale’, is capable of keeping up over time. It may take five of my faster attacks against one of his, but they both are similar in damage.

I don’t get to keep attacking blindly with my speed for very long. Three of the goats come under the effect of my aggravation and change targets to blindly attack me. In order to conserve my stamina and mana for the two other groups that are slowly getting closer, I take a leaf from Verde’s book and hide behind Gladox, using him as my personal meat shield.

The three ‘Devil Goats’ try to charge past Gladox and attack me. The top-tier player easily prevents them with a few short movements and a simple slashing Sacred Art. I have seen videos on the internet of him fending off four attacking enemies at once, so blocking three that aren’t even trying to attack him is effortless.

I take the opportunity to use my lesser Sacred Arts, striking them with ‘Triple Thrust’ and ‘CrossX’ consecutively. I also lead Gladox away from Sir Laurence and Verde to prevent my auto-aggravation from pulling their enemies too quickly.

The battle is finished before we even get a chance to get warmed up. The ‘Devil Goats’ have a high attack and a few troublesome dark magic spells, but their level and health aren’t overly high. The whole process goes quite smoothly.

The entirety of the other ‘Devil Goats’ arrive just after the first group is annihilated. They instantly open up with their dark spells, binding our shadows to slow us down, and attack with dark energy bursts. I take the most damage from the barrage, but I think of it as slowly training my Mind stat and shrug it off.

We have Fen’s help this time, so the second wave of enemies becomes entangled in ice attacks that come from unpredictable angles and throw the goats into disarray. I praise Fen’s tactics, approving of her yet growing skill. The only thing I worry about with Fen is making sure that she continues to improve her power so she can protect herself if somehow I am not there to do it myself.

I understand Fen is already incredibly strong, but players are extremely crafty and can easily bridge this gap. It is the experience of those who kill other players for fun that would be the deciding factor.

The ‘Devil Goats’ have poor coordination and cooperation, so we systematically take them down one after another. I lose about half of my health during the battle, but that was only from the wide-area darkness spell the beasts released periodically.

Sir Laurence, Verde, Fen, and I are all still around the early 200’s for our levels, and that is fifty or more levels above the ‘Devil Goats’. Most any other party of four would have a much more difficult time in killing them. Gladox himself is apparently nearly level 500, so he probably could have dealt with them all on his own in the first place.

Despite everything, they drop a considerable amount of experience relative to their level; enough to push me over the edge and reach level 228. I have been dedicating a lot of time to killing enemies lately, but their levels have all been too low and aren’t giving me enough experience.

“Gladox, how do you level so fast?” I ask curiously while picking up my portion of the items the enemies dropped.

The four-eared wolf man momentarily grimaces before evasively saying, “Leveling speed isn’t everything. Focus on raising your stats more. Of course, if you were to give me Fen, then-”

“Rejected! I was just a bit curious.”

“…It was worth a try.”

I don’t bother to banter with the man who has a fondness for NPCs. Instead, I quickly consume one of my self-created health potions before strolling around the walls of the temple to attract some more of the patrolling beasts. The potion didn’t taste that bad, so I can’t understand why everyone complains about them so much. Potions created from wild ingredients are completely free of charge, and only consume a small amount of time for item gathering and potion creation.

It takes me five minutes to find two more groups of ‘Devil Goats’ and lure them back to the group. While running I sent a private message in warning so that Sir Laurence and Gladox are already up front waiting to defend when I get back.

The formation is extremely similar to the previous two groups of enemies, the only difference being a minor adjustment due to most of the enemies directly pursuing me thanks to my aggravation. It’s a considerable hassle for me, but it takes a lot of pressure off the other members and allows my teammates to easily cut them down.

I take the scouting position again and repeat this process until the remaining five groups of enemies that are scattered around are killed. A massive stack of ‘Devil Goat Horns’, ‘Negative Eyes’, some lesser weapons and armor, and an odd assortment of other miscellaneous drops fill my inventory. I can’t sell them for real money, and I don’t have the crafting skills to make anything worthwhile out of them, but the money will be extremely helpful to the guild.

We group up outside the front of the temple and wait to recover our mana and health before entering. I have an ominous feeling about the place, though I don’t believe there will be any trouble we can’t resolve.

“I’m ready to go,” I finally say as I choose a broken section of the walls to enter through.

Gladox is the first to reply. “I’ve been ready for a while. It took you long enough.”

“We can’t all be as good at deflecting attacks as you are. And even you couldn’t avoid all those dark magic spells.”

“Two of us aren’t quite ready yet,” Verde chimes, patiently sitting as her mana recovers.

Fen sits beside me and doesn’t move even though her health and mana have finished recovering. To pass the time she unexpectedly asks me questions about what I want in the future, which I myself don’t even know. As all of our stats except for Gladox’s can be seen in the party window, I watch Verde’s and Sir Laurence’s bars slowly refill.

Lost
lvl: 228
Health: 3185/3185
Stamina: 951/951
Mana: 2380/2380

Sir Laurence
lvl: 237
Health: 2908/3429
Stamina: 699/699
Mana: 612/842

Verde
lvl: 205
Health: 2315/2437
Stamina: 557/557

-Companions-

Fen
lvl: 221
Health: 4280/4280
Stamina: 1345/1345
Mana: 1490/1490

Once they are done, I order, “Let’s go,” and move toward the opening in the wall.

Slowly entering into the temple grounds, I notice a few solitary ‘Devil Goats’ wandering around in other areas, but there is nothing close enough to notice us.

“Move as quietly as possible,” I whisper to the others. “We’ll scout the area first to find out the situation before deciding what to do. For some reason, I have a bad feeling about this place.”

“Agreed,” the rest of the group reply in unison.

Sticking close together, we head toward the inside of the front gate. As we get close, a ‘Devil Goat’ comes around the corner and alarms us all. I quickly wave my hand for all of us to quickly retreat and move around a small praying shrine before it can see us. I’m not concerned about the single goat, but the alarm it’ll raise will be more than troublesome.

Unfortunately, not all plans work out the way they should. As soon as we go around the shrine, another goat comes out from the other side. Avoiding this one is impossible as it instantly notices us. The ‘Devil Goats’ shrill call echoes within the temple and alerts everything in a fifty meter radius.

The clopping of hooves on stone and grass sound from everywhere but behind us, where we entered. I can tell from the cacophony that there are at least twenty of them, and decide that we should retreat to avoid being surrounded. At least then we can hold a position where the only direction they can approach is through the broken down section of wall. There isn’t another section like that for some distance, and the goats are unlikely to be smart enough to go around.

My plan is instantly foiled. Behind us, the ground cracks open and ten skeletons, of similar structure to the goats but broader and with tails of fire, emerge. I glance behind me and my thoughts of twenty ‘Devil Goats’ was completely wrong too. There are thirty of them coming from different directions accompanied by three enormous bull like creatures that seem like they might crush the goats in their charge.

Trying to keep myself from panicking, I quickly use ‘Creature Analysis’ on the two types of enemies I have never seen before.

Name: Bone Beast
Level: 210
Health: 3350
Mana: 650
Stamina: 0

??
Name: Hell Bull
Level: 235
Health: 3185
Mana: 0
Stamina: 700

??

“$#!%,” I swear at the stats of the beasts. “This is a complete trap! The ‘Devil Goats’ are all level 160. What’s with this? Level 210? Level 235? This is no small hunting ground!”

Gladox and Fen are the only ones who aren’t worried. Verde and Sir Laurence are in disbelief at how strong the enemies are. Unfortunately we are almost already surrounded so I give out orders rapidly.

“We will charge out through the ‘Bone Beasts’, they’re magic types with a high health! Sir Laurence, bash them away with your shield. Don’t bother trying to kill them. Gladox, knock as many aside as you can. Verde, support Sir Laurence so none can attack him from the side. Fen, cover the ground under the enemies with ice so it will be easier to knock them back.”

Our rush is uncoordinated at first, but we rapidly find our bearing with our positions. Fen does her job first, making a field of ice, only…

“Damn it! Fen, it won’t help if we have to run on the ice as well.”

Fen quickly melts a path through the middle, but it is still quite slick with water. The next part is up to Sir Laurence and Gladox. The ‘Bone Beasts’ however cast their spells before we can reach them, spitting out a thick miasma with similar properties to Fen’s earlier mini-blizzard: we suffer a small amount of damage over time, and it slows our speed down, albeit only by a quarter.

They manage to get in another wave of attacks before we can reach them. Ten purple-black orbs of energy materialize around each ‘Bone Beast’ before lancing towards us. The collective attack is strikingly similar to my ‘Dire Starburst’, but it only deals about half the damage. My health drops to eighty percent after that second attack, and the others suffer about the same due to most armors (except those with special resistances) having little defense against magic attacks.

Seeing such a familiar attack, I reflexively cast ‘Dire Starburst’ to send back an fiery flurry of similar quantity at the enemy. The miasma between our group and the mobs is filled with shooting streaks of black and red as we get closer to one another.

I don’t have the time to look behind me, but I can sense the rest of the enemies quickly closing in.

We collide with the ‘Bone Beasts’ moments later, Sir Laurence being the most effective with his holy magic and shield bashing Sacred Art. Gladox is incomparable when deflecting attacks, but he seems to have some trouble knocking the enemies aside with his own initiative. It doesn’t matter much as the icy ground still causes them to slide back just far enough.

I have no attacks that can knock back an enemy, so I just use up all my mana dealing as much damage to the group as possible. This way they will be easier to kill when we are in a more advantageous position.

The enemy doesn’t seem to care about being knocked aside as they constantly send dark magic at us. The barrage of attacks grows unavoidable, dealing even more damage to us. I also notice that as time goes on, more and more attacks seem to be directed specifically at me.

Just as we are about to break free of the enemies, a streak of red comes from the side and hits Sir Laurence and Gladox, blasting them nearly ten meters away and leaving the rest of us exposed. I see in the party window that Sir Laurence’s health drops by about thirty percent, a terrifying amount. I don’t know about Gladox, but his high level should give him at least twice as much health so it won’t be as bad for him.

The red streak comes to a quick stop and is revealed to be one of the ‘Hell Bulls’. The red was the glow of a Sacred Art that allows it to do an instantaneous charge. It was at a speed that even I can’t compare to.

“They can get out on their own, we are the ones still surrounded. Verde, fall behind Fen, we will keep going forward.”

Right now there are only two more ‘Bone Beasts’ standing in the way. I use ‘Backstab’ to appear behind one of them and slash a few times with my short swords. Whether it is due to my attacks or the auto aggravation I constantly emit, the two ‘Bone Beasts’ blocking the way, as well as most of the others, turn to attack me.

Fen and Verde easily slip out of the slowly closing circle of foes now that they are not under constant attack, but I am getting closer and closer to death as my health keeps plummeting.

As soon as the two girls are out of the way I take a quick glance at Sir Laurence and Gladox to check on their condition. The prince and the four-eared wolf man are fighting against the raging ‘Hell Bull’, but no other enemies are targeting them so they aren’t under any pressure.

My health drops to fifteen percent and I don’t wait any longer, hastily retreating to protect my life. Each death gives a heavy penalty to my agility stat, which is the main pillar for my character’s build. Dying a single time can take a full week to restore my stats back to their prior number.

In my desperation, I consider using ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’, but quickly realize I wouldn’t be able to outfly the enemy’s magic attacks. With no other option, I run as fast as possible, leaving behind an afterimage that misdirects everything apart from the wide-area attacks and charge out through the broken wall.

With the wall to protect me from enemy attacks, I use the brief respite to quickly drink a few health potions and then chew on the most effective herb I have, ‘Red Medicinal Herb’, to stimulate my health to keep recovering. I also give some to Fen, but she adamantly refuses to drink the potions and only eats the herbs. Verde has her own potions prepared so she uses them and also rejects my offer of goodwill.

Before we can get too relaxed, the enemies come charging out the broken section of wall and turn toward me. I can no longer afford to hold back, and I don’t have the strength to seal the gap with the half-buried blocks of masonry around us. I use ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’, my weapons disappearing from my hands as they are unequipped by the system.

The snow white scales start covering a large portion of my body and my hands turn into deadly draconic claws. Two pure white wings spread from my back and the transformation is complete.

“Fen, all-out attack! Verde, strike when you have a chance!” I command as I take to the air and fly above the nearest enemy.

I leave an afterimage even in the air, so the enemy’s stronger single-target attacks have difficulty hitting me. I drop down from the air and land on top of the enemy, knocking it to the ground. My mana has recovered somewhat so I throw two ‘Minor Dire Fireballs’ at the other nearby ‘Bone Beasts’ before slashing at the one beneath me.

Dark Magic attacks are constantly launched at me and some of the ‘Devil Goats’ are also now stampeding out of the temple. I reflexively spread my wings out in front of me and block the magic. I am still damaged by the attacks, but the defense increase surprises me greatly. I never knew the wings could be used for such a purpose.

‘Could this skill have hidden effects that aren’t written in the description?’ I wonder to myself.

The ‘Bone Beast’ beneath me quickly dies despite the fact that its level is equal to mine and it would normally require careful planning to take down solo. Fen’s attacks fill the air and attack the other beasts to take down two more. I can see the health bars of the enemies nearby, and all the ‘Bone Beasts’ are now near death.

Once all the magic type enemies are dead, the enemy monsters have lost their long distance attacks. The ‘Devil Goats’ can still use magic, but it is incomparable to the damage done by the ‘Bone Beasts’.

I flutter around the enemies that are charging out and start picking off ‘Devil Goats’, cutting large chunks of their health off with heavy attacks. I deliberately avoid the two remaining ‘Hell Bulls’ and keep flying into the air in order to avoid their charging Sacred Art. They are currently under my aggravation so I have no concerns about them attacking the other party members for the moment.

Despite my being in the air, Fen’s magic is under her impeccable control and not a single one of her attacks hit me.

When only a few ‘Devil Goats’ are still alive, Sir Laurence and Gladox emerge from within the temple. Gladox, who has never seen my other form before, stands rooted to the spot with his jaw dropping so low it nearly falls off his face.

“That’s awesome!! So you were a dragon race! How come I didn’t get a cool race like that!?” Gladox yells and points at me.

I frown slightly at the distracting shout but keep my attention on the enemies. The two new arrivals soon join in on the battle, Gladox being slightly delayed by slowing to admire my snowy white ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’ and shouting compliments.

“You use fire right!? Can you also use ice!? Fen can. If you can combine fire and ice into one attack in that form, it would be perfect!!” Gladox is enthusiastically going on about something I don’t understand as the last ‘Hell Bull’ falls to the ground dead.

My dragon form has triple my standard defense, and even the ability to use some parts of my body as a shield, but despite all that my health has fallen back down to dangerous levels. There isn’t as much of a rush now as we have spent a lot of time fighting the patrol groups and then these enemies, so I decide to bring out my cooking equipment and cook us all a quick meal.

The food I make helps us steadily restore health and mana, and within twenty minutes we are ready to venture back into the temple. I am aware of what sorts of enemies are inside now, so I won’t let us get in a situation similar to the one before. I also won’t be able to use ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’ again for some time.

Entering the temple through the broken wall, I notice some ‘Devil Goats’ still wandering around. Rather than getting close to them, I use a throwing knife to attack and get their attention. They let out shrill calls that alert anywhere between twenty to thirty new enemies, but this time we aren’t surrounded and can retreat back to the broken section of wall and create a proper defense there.

We end up repeating this process eight times, fighting into the early night before all the enemies in the temple are dead. There was a final large mass of about sixty enemies crammed up in the main temple too, which was incredibly difficult even with Gladox’s help. I know that it was the last group because a quest update notification shines before me.

Quest: Investigate the ancient Buddhist Temple

Update: All demons have been eradicated from the Buddhist 
Temple, and the religious site has once again regained its 
sanctity. Return to the librarian’s assistant in Kano City 
to report the quest and claim the reward.

Grade: Rare(Orange)

The rest of my party also receive it, so they find out it is over at the same time as me. Gladox is disappointed there is no boss when I tell him the quest is completed, but I personally am tired of these dark attribute enemies. I do need a strong boss to find rare equipment to sell, but I should be able to find one within the next week.

We decide to camp in the temple for the night. I take a chance before sleeping to have a look at my stats. Thanks to the high leveled enemies, I had even gained another four levels. Unfortunately it takes forever to raise my class skill, and it only grew by a small amount.

Name: Lost(Desert Pilgrim)
Health: 3260/3260
Stamina: 997/997
Mana: 2451/2451

Lvl: 232
Lvl Up: 49%

Str: 70 +61
Agi: 211 +90
Dex: 77 +50
Int: 34 + 23
Mnd: 50
Lck: 33

Infamy: 44
Alignment: -68
God: Grael
Belief: 136

Equipped Skills:
Class Skill: White Warrior    (SLvl 27, 18%)
[Unavailable]
Potion Production             (SLvl 19, 0%)
Mining                        (SLvl 15, 93%)
Smithing                      (SLvl 14, 29%)
Grael's Essence               (SLvl 12, 60%)
Origin of Dire Flame          (SLvl 12, 60%)
Haunting                      (SLvl 6, 10%)
[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 Tran.  (Racial)

Magic                       Cost
Minor Dire Flame        800 Mana
Dire Starburst          1500 Mana

Leaving early the next day, it takes us nearly three hours to return to Kano City. Gladox has become enthralled with my race and decides to accompany us for a while as he plays. Our party is short a few members and we have already learned to work with him in battle, so everyone is happy to have him follow along.

In Kano City we head back to the librarian’s assistant to turn in the quest. I stay back and watch on as Fen, the one who accepted the quest, goes to speak with the assistant. The difficulty of the quest was incredibly high compared to the standard, so I hope that the reward reflects that.

Your quest has been successfully completed.

A message appears in front of me, which I quickly dismiss before opening my inventory to check the loot. I received two items, a set of leg armor and a standard longsword with green etchings on it.

Both items have a level requirement of 200, which is where the majority of the game’s main players currently are. The leg armor itself is only of the ‘Ordinary’ rarity, but its defence is considerably high for its class. The longsword on the other hand leaves me speechless. It is of the ‘Epic’ rarity, only below that of the ‘Legendary’ grade. It only has one ability, but that single ability is incredibly valuable.

Severing Breeze
A longsword that is endowed with the techniques of an ancient
wind deity. The power of wind circles around the blade and is
unleashed when swung. The sword will only accept those who
are capable of unleashing its full potential.
The blade is 102cm long. 

Requirements:
- Level 200
- Agi 60
- Dex 60

Weapon Type: Longsword
Attack: 180 - 197
Durability: 60/60
Weight: 5.4 lbs

Abilities:
- Capable of using the Sacred Art ‘Greater Air Blade’.
Greater Air Blade:
An instant cast Sacred Art that causes the swing of the weapon to
unleash a blade of wind. A small portion of the opponent’s armor
is ignored in the attack.

Range: 10m
Damage: Attack X 1.2
Cost: 30 Stamina

I numbly reread the item information over and fail to notice my other party members trying to get my attention. I only realize when Sir Laurence shakes my shoulders and asks me, “What is it?”

“We need to go to the Auction House!” I hurriedly say, grabbing Fen’s arm and pulling her along as I rush out of the library.

I notice that the others are bewildered by my actions, but I don’t have time to worry about that. The excitement over the weapon makes my heart race and the only thing I can think about is how much will it sell for.

I push through the crowd in the streets and ignore all the angry shouts. I soon reach the Auction House and am about to enter it when I hear the sound of knocking on a door. The noise feels out of place, so I turn my head to locate the source. Unable to find it, I decide to ignore it… until it happens again. This time, I realize exactly what it is.

‘There’s someone at my front door?’

Hesitating in front of the Auction House, I quickly decide it would be best to answer it. I send the rest of the party a quick message saying that there is someone at my front door and I will be back shortly before logging out of the game.

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

“Coming!” I call out from my bed as I remove the V-Link from my head.

While pulling myself into my wheelchair, my stomach growls in desperate need of food. I have noticed lately that I seem to have lost some weight from the lack of exercise and only eating a minimal amount. I unlock and open the front door while contemplating what to eat before logging back in.

Standing on my doorstep are two men in expensive suits. One is a balding middle-aged man while the other is extremely handsome and only in his late-twenties. My initial thought is that they are salesmen and I start to dismiss them, but what the younger man says makes me apologetic for my rudeness.

“Good afternoon. You must be Hollis Sylvester. I am Michael and this is Rood. We are employees for Virtue, the company that manufactured your Virtual Link.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.”

“It’s not a problem. Normally we wouldn’t make a house call toward any of our customers, but there has been a situation.”

“A situation?” I begin to grow nervous.

“Yes, our company has an automatic monitor for all the V-Links in circulation. Due to the nature of the device, it is necessary for us to maintain the safety of our customers. If there are any anomalies, such as the one we detected with your device, we are required to come solve the issue.”

“Anomalies? Wait, what do you mean? There is nothing wrong with my device.”

“Most issues aren’t detectable by the user. Our failsafe tests will always pick up on any inconsistencies with the devices before any harm can come to the user, so we ask that you please do not think of our device as dangerous. However, you may have noticed some unusual symptoms like a lack of appetite, dizzy spells, or even mild headaches.”

I rub my temples gently while thinking about the headaches that have been coming and going since the last time I used the Sacred Art ‘Perceptual Sight’ in End Online. If it was a fault with the device that caused it, then it would be understandable. The headaches have been less frequent lately, so the only known cause of it is using that Sacred Art. As long as I don’t use it, there is no problems.

“There have been none of those symptoms,” I blatantly lie. “But would you be able to fix it now? I’m happy to wait if that’s what you need to do.”

“I apologize Mr. Sylvester, but such a fault cannot be reliably fixed, and given that there is a chance it could happen again the device will have to be scrapped. There is no need for you to worry, we will provide you with a new one free of charge and all your application and game data will be automatically downloaded onto the new device.”

“No! You can’t just take it!”

I wheel myself to block the doorway and prevent the businessmen from entering. Replacing a device is fine, but that device is the one that has Fen residing within. There is no way I can allow them to just take it.

“Mr. Sylvester,” the handsome man, Michael, continues to speak without showing any emotion on his face, “We are required by law to remove the faulty device. We have the replacement as per our quality control terms here with us. If we leave without the device, we will lose our jobs and the company will be in a lot of trouble as well.”

Michael reaches into his coat and bring out a slip of paper that is some form of legal document. He hands it over to me and explains its purpose.

“This is an order of law that we must remove it for the safety of the consumer. Please move aside so we can do our job.”

I resolutely block the door and prevent them from entering the house, but the two men just sigh before forcefully rolling me backwards and into the hallway. They then walk around me and quickly locate my room where the V-Link is currently sitting on my bed.

As my anxiety becomes higher than it ever has been before. I arrive at the room to find them finishing unplugging everything and manually disconnecting it from the local internet. The middle-aged man, Rood, puts down a box with a new V-Link, the latest model. I desperately try to grab them and stop them from taking Fen away, but Michael and Rood easily step aside and dodge me.

Just as they go to leave, Michael steps in front of me before reaching into his jacket again and this time removing a thick envelope. He calmly places it down across my knees before saying.

“Our devices practically never have any issues associated with them. As you may understand, we would rather people don’t go talking about this to others. This envelope is our unofficial apology, and we hope that today’s matters can end with this.”

I open the envelope and to my shock, find a thick pile of bank notes. There should be about five thousand dollars in there if my initial judgement isn’t wrong. Perhaps it was due to the shock, but I have a sudden realization that the Virtue employee Michael seems familiar.

Unable to put my finger on why, I can’t help but ask, “Wait! Have we met before!?” to Michael as he is walking out the door.

I want to keep him back and wait for an opportunity to take back my old V-Link, but it is Rood who is holding onto it and he doesn’t take note of my shout.

Michael pauses for a moment, but he is facing the other direction so I can’t see his expression.

“No, we haven’t,” he calmly states before walking out the door and shutting it behind him.

My house is quickly filled by silence and the fading afternoon light. I sit there in a daze, my hands trembling. My mind is blank, and I don’t know what to do next. I absentmindedly sit there in the hallway, ignoring the hunger in my stomach. My phone rings after half an hour, most likely Markus or Verity wondering why I haven’t logged back in, but I also ignore that.

All I want, right now, is silence.

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12 Comments

    1. Orang is the indonesian word for “people” or “man” (not the gender .. I.E. Orang utan (the ape) translates to man of the forrest/jungle).

      Like

      Reply

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