End Online: Chapter 44

Editors: Templar, Jack Vanatis, Orang
Author’s notes: The only chapter of End Online that was held back. It is the first chapter of Volume 7, and has been collecting dust for too long! I never got around to finishing the editing earlier because I was too focused on trying to catch up. I won’t ask for you to vote for End Online at topwebfiction just now, I want to get better and be writing more first.
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Chapter 44 – Guild Hall

– Lost –

I squint my eyes against the morning sun shining brightly through the forested swamp where I fought the ‘King Class’ AI, Ladon. I sit against a tree with Fen sleeping on my lap, her health still at zero, and observe my surroundings. All the frozen swamp water has long since thawed, and the dire flames used to light the area during our fight have vanished. Broken and charred trees litter the area like in a disaster scene. The occasional tree still falls down nearby, each creating a resounding crash and splashing the shallow swamp water in all directions.

Gladox sits nearby, fortunately on a dry log, unlike me, still bitterly soaking in the freezing cold water. He is inspecting his equipment and recently gained loot, while occasionally glancing at Fen in my arms with envy. I glare at him menacingly to remind him to mind his own business, but he just lightly chuckles before returning to whatever he was doing.

I was possibly the most surprised when Ladon dropped loot. Gladox took his share as if it was only natural, but I couldn’t understand why an AI that can’t be killed by players would leave rewards for them.

“What did you get?” I ask Gladox reluctantly, who takes the opportunity to turn toward me and stare at Fen.

“Probably the same as you. You should probably pick up your loot too before it vanishes into the system.”

I truly want to do that, but there is no way I am leaving this guy near a sleeping Fen alone. I’m not sure if it’s protectiveness or possessiveness I’m feeling, but regardless this remains my final stand. I would pick Fen up and carry her with me, but it hasn’t been long since the fight and I am still exhausted and low on health.

I take out a few of the health potions I’ve crafted and drink them, quickly restoring a large portion of my health. I still have a painful headache from using ‘Perceptual Sight’ again, this time worse than all of the earlier times put together, but some rest should help, probably.

Not long after, the loot box where Ladon’s corpse vanished into motes of light also disappears. I am initially perturbed about losing the rewards from his death, but am surprised when three items fall out of the air and splash into the swamp.

Gladox is also taken aback by the sudden event, but quickly goes and picks them up before laughing aloud and passing them to me. Of course, he takes advantage of the situation to get close to Fen and touch her. With his gauntlets off, his fingers brush past her face and I ferociously draw one of the ‘Twin Nightingale’ short swords with my spare hand and attempt to cut his hand off like some bronze age punishment.

Gladox quickly recalls his hand, slipping away before I can cut it off.

“She’s perfect! Lost, her skin is so smooth, just like how I always imagined my favourite idols would be!”

“Stay back, criminal!” I say wrathfully while pointing my short sword accusingly at him.

Gladox doesn’t respond to my threat, instead just laughing it off before changing the subject. “Disregarding other, less important events, it looks like our loot is a little different.”

My mind inclines to refute him and pursue our previous problem, but I truly have no words to follow up with. I eventually give it up and pick up the items Gladox placed down beside me. There are three in total: a glowing green longsword, a pitch black dagger with a baleful essence, and most surprisingly, a purple skill book.

Guardian of the Wind
A long sword formed by the remnant power of a wind deity. The 
blade has the power to sever all wind based elements, including 
the very air around the sword itself. The wielder of this sword 
will become the king of all that is wind based.
The blade is 104cm long. 

Requirements:
~ Level 325
~ Str 75
~ Dex 102
~ Agi 112

Weapon Type: Longsword
Attack: 550 - 587
Durability: Indestructible
Weight: 6.2 lbs

Abilities:
~ Increases attack speed by 25%.
~ Can sever any wind element attacks and spells. Correct timing 
of severing required for success
~ Grants the ‘Dimensional Sword’ Sacred Art special attacks.
~ Agility + 20.

Life Rend
A dagger larger than most with a twisted malice locked within. 
The dark entity sealed within this twisted blade will curse any 
target struck by it, inflicting negative statuses. The dagger 
is created from a semi-ethereal material, allowing it to pass 
through all defences when attacking.
The blade is 33cm long.

Requirements:
~ Level 325
~ Dex 112
~ Agi 102

Weapon Type: Dagger
Attack: 320 - 345
Durability: Indestructible
Weight: 2.8 lbs, 

Abilities:
~ Landing a sneak attack causes 300% damage.
~ Ignore all defence value when attacking.
~ Every successful attack has a 12% of causing either ‘Deep Bleed’, 
‘Frailty’, ‘Paralysis’, ‘Deep Poison’, or ‘Blind’. Does not work 
if target is immune.
~ Dexterity + 20

Tome of the Gale
Grants the class skill ‘Wind Monarch’. The user of the class 
skill ‘Wind Monarch’ has complete control of the wind element, 
allowing them to manipulate it with their will.

Requirements:
~ Level 200
~ Int 50

Effects:
~ Grants ‘Wind Monarch’ Class Skill.
~ Agility + 20 (Permanent)
~ Intelligence + 10 (Permanent)
~ Mind + 10 (Permanent)

Just looking at the items leaves me with a complicated emotion inside of me. The items are excellent, so good that most players would be completely aghast at seeing, but at the same time, there isn’t a single one I can use!

All three items have purple borders around their information, meaning that they are legendary rarity items, only one grade away from being of the divine rarity. The sword not only has a disgustingly high attack, it also grants the wielder the Sacred Art that allowed Ladon to stab through space and do a mid-ranged attack. Not only that, but the attack speed and agility increase is enormous for a sword, and it can cut down wind magic.

The dagger is also ridiculous. Its attack is what I would expect from a level 300 longsword, but it also has the ability to pierce through and ignore any armor. I secretly wonder if that includes shields and other related items that can’t normally be pierced through, but surely that would only be a joke. The bonus sneak attack damage is a little worrisome, and I really don’t want my enemy to attack me with something like that, but the twelve percent chance to inflict a random negative status is definitely the most frightening.

The skill book ‘Tome of the Gale’ causes me to be extremely conflicted, even slightly depressed. It is such an amazing item that the majority of players would fight tooth and nail to get it, yet to me it’s useless. My current class skill ‘White Warrior’ has that irritating soul-bound effect which won’t permit me to unequip it. A player can only have one class skill equipped at a time, so it would permanently be in my reserve skills section. I do consider learning it just to get the permanent stat increase, but I think that would be a complete waste. My current, second best option is to sell it for a lot of money.

Regaining my composure, I store the items away while giving thoughts toward what to do with them. I end up deciding to give the sword to Sir Laurence, who is always on the front line and wields a single longsword, and the dagger to Verde, who is lacking in attack power compared to the rest of us. They can’t use the weapons yet, but once they reach the appropriate level, they will be able to. The only concern is if both their dexterity and agility stats will be high enough to equip them by then.

“What did you get?” I curiously ask Gladox, who has returned to sitting on the fallen tree.

“Just a long sword unfortunately. Its rarity is of the legendary grade and has excellent stats, but I use large two handed swords which have the highest attack, so it isn’t suited to me.”

“So you don’t need it?”

“Oh, could you be interested in it?” Gladox sends me a mischievous grin which for some reason causes my anger to rise. “Perhaps if I could have a date with Fen, I could give it away.”

“I don’t need it!”

Gladox helplessly shrugs his shoulders, soon getting bored and deciding to venture around the area for a while.

Half an hour later, Fen’s health finally returns from 0 back to 1 as she feebly wakes up. I don’t say anything to her but instead shove one of my health potions in her mouth, forcing her to drink it. The wolf girl struggles in vain and gives me a glare that seems to accuse me of trying to kill her, but I patiently make her drink the potion until it is empty. Her health then quickly recovers up to thirty percent before slowly coming to a stop.

“Are you feeling better now?” I ask Fen while smiling gently.

Fen turns her head away sourly, avoiding my question entirely. I understand she hates the taste of my potions, but the health they restore is much greater than the ones you buy from the stores.

At this moment, Gladox returns with Verde and Sir Laurence in tow, who have just arrived back here after respawning. The latter two are unhappy and despondent about their sudden deaths, including the loss of experience and stats.

“I heard Chronix tried to kill you all,” Verde says as if chastising me. “You should have seen that one coming when you decided to work together.”

“Yeah, Gladox took him out before he killed me. I didn’t want to work with them, but we wouldn’t have won without the ‘Swords of Light’ and his help.”

“Well, at least you and Fen are fine. Only an idiot would have allowed Chronix to ambush him.”

“Tch,” Sir Laurence clicks his tongue in irritation at Verde’s indirect insult, completely out of his usual noble character. Verde only speaks with black humor, but I gather from the idiot prince’s reaction that she has been poking fun at him for a while.

“What do we do now, Lost? There’s no going back to Koga City, we will already be on the wanted list by all the guards. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a bounty on our heads too,” Gladox speaks calmly without concern, either because he has a solution already or believes that I will.

“We will travel to Kano City and teleport out of the beast realm. We got what we came for so there is no point staying any longer. Will you be coming with us, Gladox?”

“Of course. You mentioned it when I killed Chronix, but I am supposedly one of you all now. Not that their guild could scare me anyway. Most importantly, how could I possibly leave my beloved-”

“I get it! And again, stay away from Fen!” I throw one of my throwing knives at him, but he easily dodges it and lets the knife fly into the few distant trees that are still standing. I am tempted to throw more, but I already know it would be a pointless waste of time. Gladox is far too good at dodging, much better than he should be.

“Let’s head off. There is no use in waiting around here.”

Uttering my final line, I help Fen as we both stand up and stretch our legs. Right as my legs straighten, my headache from using ‘Perceptual Sight’ sharply spikes, sending an overwhelming pain as my vision wavers and I stumble forward clutching my head.

“Lost! Are you alright?” Verde exclaims in surprise as she sees me nearly fall back down. Thankfully Fen was next to me to catch me before such an incident took place.

“I’m fine, I’ve just got a bit of a headache, I think I will log off for today and get some rest. Can we leave tomorrow, the same time as now?”

It is Gladox who replies this time, looking at me with concern and saying, “Yes, safety comes before anything else so it will be best that you sleep and recover. We have all been online for a long time, so some rest will do us all some good.”

I am about to agree with him, but before I get the chance to say anything, Gladox logs off all of a sudden and leaves me at a loss for words. Feeling quite awkward, I shift my attention over to the remaining two.

“Verde, Sir Laurence, I have something here I want to give you.”

“Oh, is it a present?” Verde coyly responds to me, irritating Sir Laurence again in the process.

“Sort of. It is two of the items dropped by Ladon. A sword and a dagger, perfect for you two.”

Sir Laurence and Verde both raise their eyebrows in surprise, but I continue on explaining.

“Verde, you lack attack strength the most out of all of us. Sir Laurence, this sword will allow you to attack at a distance much easier, helping you hit the targets before they reach the front line. You can’t use the weapons yet though, the level and stat requirements are too high, but I’m sure you will be able to one day.”

Sir Laurence ponders over it before asking quizzically, “How high are the requirements?”

“See for yourself.”

I hand the weapons over to the two of them and watch in amusement as their expressions turn to one of utter shock.

“Lost, bro,” Sir Laurence looks at me sincerely and drops his usual noble in-game attitude, “Isn’t this a bit too much? How can you give us weapons as valuable as this?”

“Shut it, idiot,” Verde tries to stab Sir Laurence with her new dagger, this time insulting him directly, but as she can’t equip the weapon, according to the system it is no more effective than a butter knife.

“Haha, you two, that’s enough. I have very little need of the weapons other than selling them for money. However this will make our party as a whole stronger, which will make it a little easier if we have to fight any more enemies like Ladon.”

“We can’t take these for free though,” Sir Laurence says, ignoring Verde’s constant badgering to shut up, as if him returning the weapon would result in her having to do the same.

“I thought about that too,” I speak with a friendly smirk hiding my secondary purpose. “I also happen to know you both are obscenely rich, so buy them from me.”

“Hahaha!” Sir Laurence booms out in laughter while Verde sighs helplessly, “Of course we will. Tell me, how much do you want?”

Verde also stops attacking Sir Laurence and exhales, “I agree, we will buy them from you. Don’t be too mean though, father only lets me spend eighty thousand a month.”

Hearing Verde’s monthly allowance, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The rich live in luxury while I am trying to scrape up as much as possible to pay my rent and university debt.

“Just… make it three thousand each, or whatever you want to pay. I also have something for Mason as well, but I will give it to him for free, so I can’t be too unfair. You are all my friends, after all.”

Verde and Sir Laurence seem to be touched, smiling and agreeing with me before holding their weapons and examining them with fanaticism. I decide to leave them in their enthrallment and say my farewells to everyone before logging off, returning to the real world and falling into a deep sleep.

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I wake up at lunchtime the following day. My consciousness is still hazy, but I manage to turn my head and see the digital clock beside my bed, indicating that I have slept for almost fourteen hours straight.

I wearily drag myself out of bed and onto my wheelchair, holding my head in pain in the process. The pain of the headache has definitely dulled down considerably, but it stubbornly persists even after so much rest.

‘It is supposed to be a game. This is far too much.’

My initial intention is to throw away the V-Link and be done with End Online, as it has a serious fault of creating a skill capable of inducing migraines, among other peculiarities. Thinking about Fen however, and my desperate need to continue earning money, I place those thoughts aside and try to forget about them.

Whipping up a late breakfast, I return to my computer and log onto the End Forums to see the latest news. There is a large article from yesterday detailing some of the hidden races and how to acquire them pinned to the top of the home page which has received millions of views and tens of thousands of comments, but it only holds my attention for a while.

I then search some of the more prominent and famous players and guilds, trying to get a grasp on what is happening in the game before choosing which realm to search through for the next stone tablet. The larger guilds of the Devil Realm are still waging war with the guilds of the Deva Realm, so I would rather not go there.

Chronix’s ‘Swords of Light’ guild is already aware that the stone tablets have some mysterious value, and I don’t want to attract the attention of any other guilds. In both the Deva and Devil Realms, the guilds are already occupied fighting each other. If we are forced to make more conspicuous movements within a capital city, considering the high alert the guilds are in, they will most likely catch on that something is amiss and investigate. Two guilds fighting over a unique item would be more than enough to incite them to join in as well. I can only hope Chronix thinks there was only one stone tablet.

I take particular note of several posts about Gladox. According to the forums, he has gone missing, and hasn’t posted a video in over a week. I secretly laugh to myself because he has been with us, yet nobody has recognized him due to the change in race and equipment.

Feeling slightly more clear headed, I go outside to enjoy the warm sun on my skin, fighting against the dull ache in my head during the process. I sit back in my wheelchair and relax, closing my eyes and allowing the sun to burn bright against my eyelids and illuminate my consciousness with a dull velvet red.

After sitting outside for nearly an hour, I return inside and climb back to my bed. I still need more sleep to try and combat the aching in my mind, but decide to log on to End Online to see Fen first.

Inside the virtual reality, I flex my limbs and clench the tight muscles I don’t have in reality. It creates an odd sensation, but it is pleasant nonetheless.

Fen is curled up on a large fallen tree that is over two meters in diameter, her breathing coming out in a smooth, steady rhythm. Her strength has already completely recovered and she is no longer in the weak state she was when she woke up. I creep toward her, but the sound of my feet making small splashes in the water alerts her and she reactively shoots to her feet, wary of the surroundings.

Seeing me before her, Fen relaxes and waits for me to reach her before taking the initiative and wrapping her arms around my neck. Fen begins repetitively kissing me with passion now that I am locked into her embrace and can’t escape, not that I would try to. I return her vigor full heartedly, my arms wrapping around and grasping her slender waist before pulling her into my support.

“Thank you,” Fen says with a joyous expression, contradicting the usual cold countenance she has, “I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to get a single memory stone, and I would eventually die.”

“I told you that I will do anything to help you. And what do you mean memory stone? Are you talking about the stone tablet?”

Fen inclines her head, explaining briefly that it is called a memory stone, but even she does not know why. Unlike Grael, for some reason, Fen is incapable of reading the stone. I have been studying philology and semiotics at Cambridge University for a while now, and while sometimes I think I can comprehend the meaning behind some of the symbols, the engraved text as a whole completely befuddles me.

I stay with Fen for a while, enjoying a peaceful moment between just the two of us. Perhaps it is just a turn of good fortune or a result of the broken section of the forest, but not a single monster appears near us during our time together.

After that, I log back off and return to sleep, setting my alarm to ring half an hour before our party is to log back on together.

When my alarm rings and wakes me back up, the earlier headache still persists, impeding my ability to think clearly. I grit my teeth in frustration at the haziness, but soon start to get used to it.

I log in to End Online and find the rest of the party already waiting. Everyone has always been good with their timing, so we can set off a little earlier than planned. Verde and Gladox ask me how my headache is going, and not wanting to concern them, I harmlessly wave my hands and tell them that it is much better now.

We leave the broken section of the forested swamp and head south toward Kano City. Gladox and Sir Laurence take the lead, dealing with any monsters that we come across while Verde, Fen, and I play a supporting role from behind. It is easy progress as none of the monsters are too powerful, the strongest being small groups of level 220 Colossal Wind Serpents, large snakes which are irritatingly similar to Ladon, if he had been much smaller.

We travel for half a day, passing by countless players and arriving at a flat plain of yellow flowers and small shrubs where a party of six approaches and bars our way with weapons drawn.

“Player killers?” Gladox asks amusedly, smirking with no sense of danger.

“We are bounty hunters, and it just so happens we noticed your faces posted in Koga City. I have the names Lost, Fen, Verde and Sir Laurence, so I can’t be wrong. I’m surprised though, I haven’t seen a bounty as big as yours in a long time!” The leader, wielding a heavy shield and what should be a two handed sword, yells in happiness like we are a bag of gold waiting to be picked up.

“So we did have a bounty,” I can’t help but sigh, feeling depressed about being wanted, even though this is just a game. “Why don’t they recognize you, Gladox? Any player seeing your name would know not to pick a fight.”

Gladox stares at me strangely, proudly stating, “What are you so down about?! Having a bounty on your head means you are a dangerous man. It is a sign of respect! Most players would probably avoid you thinking you will just kill them for getting in your way. As for not knowing my name, that is only natural. The names of wanted figures are only posted with the pictures when another player recognizes them and passes the information to the guards. There is a pretty big reward in doing so after all. Nobody really knows my current appearance so it would actually be strange if it was posted on the wanted poster.”

“I prefer fame over infamy!” There is true irony in my words, considering my player’s curse that makes me gain infamy from just talking with most NPCs. I feel dejected that Gladox, the player that would deter bounty hunters like these players in front of us, happens to be the only unknown player in our group. I could tell them who he is, but they probably wouldn’t believe me regardless.

The party of six who have taken the role of bounty hunters attack at this point, trying to take advantage of our conversation to gain the upper hand in the fight. Gladox was right about other players being cautious, as seen by this group of six attacking abruptly.

Unfortunately for the other six, Fen and I have incredible speed, while Gladox’s skill is second to none.

Sir Laurence was paying the most attention to the other party and steps forward to block them. The bounty hunters are incredibly strong, more so than Sir Laurence or I anticipated, as they push back the idiot prince and break his balance. Verde was positioned behind the knight, so before she can attack, Sir Laurence’s heavily armored body comes crashing into her, tripping them both and causing the two to smash into the ground in a tangled mess.

Fen’s ice spears pierce through the air with a bone chilling coldness, stabbing at the enemies. Five of them seem prepared and manage to dodge in the nick of time, but one player is impaled and becomes pinned to the ground.

Sir Laurence and Verde get back up and rejoin the fight as Gladox steps forth to deflect their blows, but is hit by a terrifying lightning bolt the man who is pinned to the ground somehow manages to cast. Being paralyzed for 5 seconds, Gladox receives a myriad of attacks by the enemies’ swords and axes, but his health and armor is so ridiculously high he doesn’t even lose ten percent of his health.

I leave Fen to continue attacking the melee attackers and disappear like a ghost, leaving afterimages in the trace of my path as I flank the players and arrive behind the spell user. The mage, who doesn’t look like one due to his medium armor, tries to turn around and block with a mace, but I already stabbed him in the back with ‘Triple Thrust’.

By the time the player has frantically turned around, I have already appeared behind him again with ‘Back Stab’ before chaining the attack to a third sacred art, ‘CrossX’. All my attacks completely ignore his armor due to the extreme speed, but his level is quite high considering I only reduced his health by a third.

The mage then abandons trying to defend against my attacks directly and instead fires an omnidirectional fire based spell in the area around him. Even with my speed, I can’t avoid the attack and end up being blown back five meters, losing a quarter of my health in the process.

Seeing his attack having succeeded, the bounty hunter forms a confident grin and prepares his next spell, this time a lightning one which focuses on hitting the target instantaneously. If this was against anyone else, I would definitely bow my hat in admiration for picking up the target’s weaknesses almost instantly. Unfortunately, it is my vulnerability as an agility based character that is at a disadvantage.

I keep my distance and throw a few throwing knives, shaving off the target’s health slightly and trying to interrupt the spell. I am successful in stopping the player’s chant, but he starts chanting again almost instantly, this time moving from side to side to avoid my knives.

I don’t have time to go back and forth against a player who can do area of effect attacks which I can’t dodge, so I attack at full power. I don’t use ‘Partial Draconic Transformation’ but instead use ‘Dire Starburst’, interrupting his spell again. The player tries to back away and drink a health potion, but my ‘Dire Starburst’ has the terrifying ability to prevent the restoration of health, much to the player’s shock and confusion.

I instantly close the distance between us, casting a ‘Minor Dire Flame’ at him to sap his health while unleashing a flurry of quick slashes from angles difficult to defend against. The player casts a few more spells, only one of which hits me, before his health is finally depleted and he dies, dropping a large pile of gold coins and even his weapon, a unique rarity mace.

Dragon Bone Ribbed Mace
A blunt weapon crafted from the absolute metal, orichalcum, 
and the supple yet indomitable bones of a dragon. Due to the 
materials, this weapon will not only grant the wielder the 
wisdom of a dragon, but it will not break easily either and 
requires little maintenance.
This weapon is 79cm long. 

Requirements:
~ Level 290
~ Str 60
~ Int 50
~ Mnd 60

Weapon Type: Mace
Attack: 295 - 320
Durability: 142/160
Weight: 11.5 lbs

Abilities:
~ Increase mana by 14%.
~ Intelligence + 15.

I sigh in relief that I didn’t get hit directly by this mace. It would have easily taken a good chunk of health with just one hit. The base attack may only be three hundred points, but with the modifier of his strength on top, plus any item bonuses he may have had equipped, it could add up to a scary figure for someone with low defence like me.

Placing the item in my inventory to sell later, I turn to see the rest of the bounty hunter party dead. I noticed Verde and Sir Laurence’s health dropping through the translucent party window at the side of my vision, but Fen was safe so I didn’t turn to check on them.

It turns out Gladox took the lead role in dealing with the attackers, actively defending Verde and Sir Laurence when the situation got dangerous. These players were at a much higher level than the two of them and had better equipment, and adding in they had one more member because Fen stayed at the back, it is only natural they were forced into a disadvantageous situation. At least I took care of the magic caster so they weren’t assaulted by long range attacks while defending.

We take a moment to rest and restore our health. My health potion stock has started to run low so I bring out my mortar and pestle to create some more. I currently have a large collection of various medicinal herbs to use.

Going from the lowest to highest grade of herbs I have, there are ‘Green Medicinal Herbs’, ‘Orange Medicinal Herbs’, ‘Red Medicinal Herbs’, and my most recent gain, ‘Five Leaf Medicinal Blossoms’.

The health potion created with the ‘Red Medicinal Herbs’ is good but it only restores 620 health points over ten seconds. I would prefer to have more of the ones created with the ‘Five Leaf Medicinal Blossoms’, which restore over 1300 points in the same amount of time, but finding the herbs for it is considerably difficult and relies mostly on luck.

I end up creating a hundred of the former potions, but only ten of the latter. I still have more herbs that can be used, but I save them for other curative potions I know the recipe of, like high quality antidotes and status ailment cures.

Not long after sitting down to rest, I receive a random friend request from a player called SolaceRevenge. It is surprising, and wondering what this player wants, I press accept.

“Goddammit you @$$#0/3,” an enraged voice enters my mind through a private message from the new ‘friend’. “Give me my mace back or I will pk you until your stats are all the way back to 10!”

I am completely taken aback at the suddenness of the message. In my astoundment, more strings of curses and vile insults filter into my mind. Unable to hold myself back, I sarcastically laugh back over a private message before selecting ‘Remove Friend’ and ‘Block Player’ from the menu, allowing the previous owner of my new mace to rage on his own.

Finally ending our rest once our party’s health points have been recovered, we continue our journey toward Kano City. During our travel, I find that players filling in the roles as bounty hunters is an astoundingly popular choice. From what I gather, each of us has at least several thousand gold coins on our head in Koga City. Our deaths could make any group of these players, or even some smaller guilds, considerably wealthy.

I hurry our party along, even changing course to a more roundabout one in order to avoid the growing number of players. Other people are quite intelligent, easily guessing that we will be heading toward Kano City in order to leave the continent. As a result, the quantity of these bounty hunters increases the closer we get to the city.

As Kano City comes into sight, there are simply too many money hungry players camping around the city for us to enter without a fight, in which the enemy would vastly outnumber us. Not even Gladox wishes to test himself against those odds.

We camp at a small ridge out of sight of the players guarding the city, stealthily watching them and waiting for an opportunity. I decide for all of us to follow Gladox’s advice in the end and log off. Our plan is to wait until the early hours of morning in real life when it is still dark and not many people are playing End Online, log back on during the in-game night cycle, and sneak into the city without anyone knowing.

During our wait, I get a surprising message from CaptainGordon, who to this day I don’t know the real name of and simply have saved in my phone as ‘CaptainGordon’.

Lost, the primary stage of building the guild has all been completed. Come have a look as soon as you can, please bring more gold with you as well!

I have no idea what he means by primary stage of construction, but I can’t help but imagine the frame of a house placed together just like when I used to work for the construction company.

‘He used all that gold already!?’ My mind grinds to a halt in shock. I had given him a large quantity of gold to buy necessary materials, and he was going to personally prepare more for what he needed, so where did it all go? I suspect he was too enthralled with building the guild hall he decided to just buy as many materials as possible, spending the gold like it was burning holes in his pockets.

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When I log back onto End Online everyone is already waiting except for Verde. We sit around in the dark discussing our plans for where to go next, which I take as an opportunity to tell them that the guild hall is mostly done and CaptainGordon wants us to go have a look.

When Verde logs on not long after, I fill her in on what she has missed before we depart for Kano City.

Under the thick veil of night, we move through the shadows and approach the city. The number of players interested in our bounty has dropped immensely as most have already logged off, but a few are still diligently waiting outside each entrance of the city to prevent us from entering.

I lead the way as we slowly creep around a group of ten players holding torches up high in the air. I can see their eyes scanning the night searching for movement, but we stay out of the torchlight and only move forward when the players are looking in a different direction.

Half an hour later, I am boisterously laughing aloud as we walk in through the city gates. It is at this point that those players standing guard turn around to see us with ugly expressions on their faces. Now that we are inside Kano City, they can’t attack us without the guards appearing and arresting them. Of course, if we cause any trouble, it is likely the guards will lock us away on behalf of Koga City, but then the bounty would disappear and no players would get the reward.

We don’t stay in Kano City for long, only waiting for dawn before replenishing some of our food stocks and repairing weapons. I also buy some raw ores to craft more throwing knives to save time looking for and mining them, but I decide to abstain on buying more herbs as I intend to collect them myself.

After our shopping and repairs are completed, we immediately head for the main temple where teleportation is available.

“Where would you like to go today?” A cat eared priest girl asks our party politely in front of the teleportation circle.

As the party leader, I am the one to respond, “Human Realm, Iceridge.” We then step into the circle and a bright light flashes, blinding us momentarily before disappearing and revealing a new scene around us.

The stained glass windows in the frosty temple have ice creeping around the sides, threatening to turn the illustrative panes into ice sculptures. A small breeze blows in under the large double doors at the front of the temple, carrying with it traces of snow in the form of thin powder.

I walk outside the temple to find myself looking down upon the eastern side of Iceridge, piles of snow covering the roofs of homes, guilds, and shops alike. Off in the distance is a massive water fountain, the water frozen in the air like a tree of sharp ice daggers. The sight of the city fills me with nostalgia – it is the same first impression I had of the game when I began playing.

“CaptianGordon, we have just arrived at Iceridge, are you at the guild?” I ask secretly over a private message.

The reply comes not long after, the strange pirate like player’s voice directly entering my mind, “I am! Mason and Matrix are here already, we are all waiting for you.”

Relieved that the two brothers are there already and I don’t have to track them down, I turn to my party and say, “CaptainGordon, Mason, and Matrix are waiting for us. CaptainGordon seems to be a little too excited, so I don’t know whether to look forward to seeing this new guild building, or be a little concerned about what it would look like.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” Verde says comfortingly, the others agreeing with her.

The only person I am feeling concerned about is Fen, who is standing beside me holding my arm in the crook of her elbow. The place was originally Fen’s home, so I hope that CaptainGordon hasn’t destroyed it.

“Fen… aren’t you cold?” I can’t help but frown and ask when I see her in basically a bikini and skirt. It is extremely attractive and I always enjoy seeing her wear it, but in this winter environment, just looking at her makes me feel even colder.

“No,” The wolf girl nonchalantly replies, looking at me as if asking the question was pointless.

“Regardless, wear this.” I pull out a thick black fur robe from my inventory that was a loot from a level 200 monster a while back, helping Fen put it on and cover up her body.

Gazing at her elegant face protruding out of the neck of the cloak, her silky white hair hanging down in front of her shoulders, I have the urge to pull her close and kiss her. I restrain myself in the end, but at the same time notice her unclothed slender legs poking out from the hem of the robe. I then take out a pair of thick woollen boots that dropped from the same kind of monster that gave the cloak. Neither item has much of a defensive value as it is only a monster drop, but they do look to be well insulated.

Fen huddles her face against my shoulder and I place my arm around her. Sir Laurence and Verde both clear their throat while looking at me disapprovingly, causing my attention to shift away from Fen and realize we are getting a little too intimate in a rather conspicuous location. Gladox is also silently looking at us – no, at Fen – with a sour expression. Whether it is because she is wearing less revealing clothes, or her closeness with me, I don’t care, I pull her close while sending a “she’s mine” glare back at him.

I lead the party to descend down the stairs and pass through Iceridge. There are still players wearing all sorts of odd mix and match equipment walking through the town just like I remember. Something that I am not used to seeing any more is the large number of low level new players, or perhaps even some who have reset their own characters.

I want to pass through the city quietly and quickly, but a large portion of players recognize me as Lost, even when I’m buried in a crowd. ‘The Wanderers’ guild is predominantly popular in Iceridge and a lot of players look up toward it with high praise. Another large number of players proudly show me their ‘The Wanderers’ guild symbol on their shoulders, trying to get information about our secret guild hall and how to get in.

Doing my best to not give anything away, I give the players some brief information about it being a matter of providing merit and accomplishments for the guild before passing on. We don’t lose all the players trailing behind us and reach the secret cave until late at night, a gentle snowstorm whisking behind us and removing our tracks.

“You’re here!” CaptainGordon excitably calls out while waving his arm, hitting the torch he is holding on to the wall of the cave and nearly dropping it in the snow.

“Let’s see this guild hall!” I chuckle lightly and follow the strange pirate and two brothers into the cave.

Sir Laurence pulls out a torch of his own and joins CaptainGordon in leading the way, lighting up the dark tunnel enough that we can all comfortably see.

“There are no enemies here,” I heartily say to Gladox, who hasn’t been here before and is constantly looking at the shadows ready to attack.

“I haven’t been in a single cave where there aren’t any monsters,” Gladox still looks around suspiciously, despite me telling him to be at ease.

Not far into the tunnel, we reach the open cavern where the season suddenly changes to spring, soft grass covers the ground, apple trees are everywhere, and it is also the place where I first met Fen. There are large holes in the ceiling of the cavern like cheddar cheese which allows sunlight to illuminate the area, but it is night time so only faint moonlight descends. CaptainGordon has already solved the lighting problem along the ground however, with tall twisted iron torches standing up from the ground and burning at the height of our shoulders.

“Cap, this is incredible,” I am absolutely stunned when I see what has been done to the inside of the cavern. Not just me, but Verde, Sir Laurence and Gladox are wide-eyed and slack jawed in astonishment as well. Perhaps because it was her home originally, but Fen shows a strong interest in it as well. At least she seems to be pleased with what was built anyway.

Just after entering the cavern , I notice the majority of the apple trees have been removed. There are still some around the entrance and a few others spread out, but a manmade construction has completely changed everything.

A path has been marked out from the entrance to the center of the large cavern but hasn’t been crafted yet, although I prefer for it to stay grass which I will mention to CaptainGordon later.

In the center of the cavern, which we first see after leaving the apple trees around the entrance, is a massive pile of resources: wood, iron, copper, and clay, ready to be put in place. The most surprising is rather than a single, large guild hall being constructed in the cavern like I expected, CaptainGordon has more accurately created a town.

Double and triple story houses don’t fill the area, but are built against and line the far walls in a massive semicircular shape, each so close to each other they are almost touching. They are constructed from multiple wood types grafted together with iron and brass detail. Moroccan terracotta roofs extend all the way up to and against the solid stone walls, creating a sharp contrast that brings a unique eastern atmosphere to the buildings.

I can still see the small lake that used to be at the rear of the cavern is still there, a copper arched bridge stretching across it. CaptainGordon has also been using grey stone slabs in random positions to create cobblestone paths around the front of the buildings and the beginning of a large public square in the centre of the cavern where the materials are. It appears that he has run out of the grey stone and has been forced to stop though.

CaptainGordon looks at us with his pride emanating from his face like a bright glow, waiting for more praise. Unfortunately for him, his work is simply too spectacular. Everyone is at a loss for words and don’t have any means to express their thoughts other than staring and gaping.

“I say Cap, I can’t believe you made all this already. You know you didn’t have to go this far, right?” I mumble to break the silence and express my feelings.

“Hmph, if you are going to make something, you have to make the best! There is no other way to it!”

“I know, but you still spent so much gold on it, if I didn’t have a lucky encounter not long ago, I would be completely broke.”

CaptainGordon looks a little guilty at first, but quickly recovers and proudly boasts, “Well you will have the best guild hall of them all. ‘The Wanderers’ secret base will be the most amazing place in the entire game!”

“Hahaha, you are wrong. We will have the best guild hall of them all! Don’t worry too much about the money for now, but we need to make this guild hall, if you can call it that, better than everyone else’s.”

“I can’t agree more! Guild leader, is there anything else you want to add to this place? Just give me the orders!” At CaptainGordon’s words, the rest of the guild become intrigued and start giving their ideas as well, but mine come first and foremost.

“There are some things I want to see. First, keep as much of the grass as possible, I like the natural feeling of it. Second, and most importantly, this is a hidden base. We need a hidden door in the cave, make it look like the end of the cave, but there is actually a door there!”

I get more and more excited talking with CaptainGordon, who starts to frown at my ideas.

“Lost, I don’t know how to do all of that.”

“Can you do something similar?”

“I may be able to do something. Leave it to me!”

I leave my trust in CaptainGordon, leaving him, Verde, Sir Laurence, and Matrix to keep coming up with new ideas. I pull Mason to the side and ask him about how our guild is going so far.

“We currently have 741 guild members,” Mason answers straightaway, all the current knowledge of the guild memorized. “The majority of those players are below level 100, so even among small to mid scale guilds, we don’t have much combat strength. At any one time, there are between forty and sixty percent of our members online.”

“151 players are above level 100, while just over thirty of those have levels over 200.  We need to recruit more players in the higher levels if we want to be able to fight or defend against most guilds.”

“Can we fight with numbers to defeat high levelled players?”

“Not really. The high level players usually have area of effect attacks or spells. These would destroy our forces in a head on clash.”

“It’s alright, there are more ways to fight than going head to head. Still try to get higher level players then. We have Gladox now, so as long as he is willing to be a public figure of it, we are bound to get more fame and have more players join us.”

“I won’t be a public figure of the guild,” Gladox suddenly stands beside me and mutters solemnly. “The guild is still too weak. My name would likely cause other guilds to directly attack us as well. There’s no point in provoking a fight we can’t win.”

Mason and I frown at that, but Gladox’s reasoning is fair. There are indeed a large number of players who want to kill him, and them targeting our guild, especially with their own guilds supporting them, is likely to cause a catastrophe.

“But you will join our guild, won’t you?” I ask the four eared wolf man.

“Of course.”

I send a guild invite to Gladox, and see him respond to it straightaway. Rather than Gladox appearing in the guild member list, however, the invite simply disappears. This only means one thing, he rejected the invite.

“…Gladox?” I ask confused.

“I will join your guild, but I have conditions.”

“As the future strongest player in the guild, that is only natural. What are your conditions?”

“Your party at the moment is too weak. Your skills are all over the place and your levels are too low to equip the game’s current top equipment, like those new weapons you got. My condition is that first I will take you training. We will choose skills to help define everyone’s fighting style, and then power level.”

I widen my eyes in surprise. I am aware that my character is lacking in some areas, but not as critical as Gladox makes it out to be. If anything, I would say he is being a little too harsh. Sir Laurence comes over and also seems to be of the same idea. Verde looks guilty, actually agreeing to his words, while Fen glares at him for calling me weak.

Gladox ignores our expressions, even not paying attention to Fen for once. He looks at me with eyes so that feel as sharp as swords, saying seriously, “Lost, as the party and guild leader, do you accept this?”

“Yes, of course I do.”

I have seen firsthand how strong Gladox is. I decide not to judge his opinion and allow him to help us train to become stronger, even if it is to just get him to join ‘The Wanderers’ and continue fighting with us.

“Great!” Gladox breaks into a relaxed smile. “I am going to make you all the strongest!”

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20 Comments

  1. I love both of the series end online and cote, and am eagerly awaiting both of them. Thank you for two of the best series I’ve ever read!

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