Falling into the Darkness of Humanity
Thursday. July 2, 2054. 5:30 am.
Kiyro woke up and felt something heavy on top of his body making it very difficult for him to breathe.
“Baby brother. Time to wakey wakey,” said a soft female voice that whispered in his ears. Kiyro bolted up, and his sister fell backwards off his bed.
“Owww,” she cried out in pain from hitting the floor.
Kiyro looked at his sister and shook his head. An overpowering smell of lavender filled the room.
“Anna? Did you use my shampoo again?” asked Kiryo, still a little groggy and definitely not pleased. “Why are you always wearing my clothes?” This was not his usual routine he normally woke up to.
“Tee hee,” she giggled as she guilty smiled up at him. His large, light-brown T-shirt looked too big on her, her wet hair was plastered on her back, and her black-and-white plaid skirt showed off her skinny legs.
“Better yet, how did you get in this apartment? I don’t remember giving you my keys.” He sighed and rubbed sleep from his eyes. “You picked the locks again, didn’t you.”
The slightly-guilty-but-also-pleased look on her face said everything he needed to hear.
“You need to stop doing that or you’re going to be reported to the police. It’s breaking and entering!” said Kiyro as he pulled the bed covers back and placed his feet on the cold wooden floor.
“Nuuuuuuuuuuuu,” said Anna with her cute voice as she plastered herself to her brother. “Don’t do that, brother. Please have mercy. My boyfriend and I just broke up,” she sobbed into his t-shirt.
“You’re always like this when you break up with your boyfriend. Hurry up and get back together. You’re annoying me,” said Kiyro as he tried to peel her off. Anna had always been way more touchy-feely than he was. Their dad was the same way.
Kiyro peeled her fingers off his t-shirt one by one.
“I can’t. We are officially over. I found him cheating with another girl in my bed. I haven’t even gotten that far with him!” she sobbed hysterically. “He said I’m slow witted.” Her tears were making a wet spot on his shirt. He stopped resisting; her words hit him like a tornado. Hatred, anger, and a will to punch his sister’s ex-boyfriend swarmed in his mind. His hands balled up into a fist. Breathing in slowly, he tried to calm his anger. The morning sunlight hit her soft dark brown hair and her baby skin cheeks. Kiyro patted her head.
“Calm down and breathe,” said Kiyro as he hugged her closely. He completely forgot about trying to push her away and instead tried to calm his own out-of-control emotions. Kiyro breathed in unison with her. Already his mind was racing with things that he would do to her ex-boyfriend. He breathed once more and pushed back his diabolical thoughts.
“He’s just jealous, sis. Slow-witted? You are a genius in business and you were named the youngest rising star in Women Entrepreneur magazine. You built up your own business from scratch and didn’t even get a single dime from Mom or Dad,” said Kiyro softly to his sister.
Plus you’re stingy with money and you won’t lend a single dime to anyone. Even your family he thought as he grimaced. There were a couple of times that he had thought about asking her for a loan, but his pride stopped him. He knew that she would not lend him any money and instead chastised him to chase his dreams. Anna looked up at him with large tears rolling down her face.
“You shouldn’t act like this. You’re older than me. Act like an adult. What is one man going to do to you anyways? Nothing. You’re going to find a better man out there and be even happier. So stop crying and let’s go have some breakfast,” said Kiyro as he smiled at his sister. She wiped off her tears with the backs of her hands.
“You always know what to say,” said Anna as she brightened up quickly. Kiyro always had a knack to calming his sister down in seconds. He led her towards the kitchen.
“Um…Kiyro. I’m going to stay with you,” said Anna as she carefully followed ten steps behind Kiyro.
“What?” said Kiyro, stupefied. He turned around and glowered at her. “What about your apartment?”
“My contract’s been terminated and I moved everything into storage,” said Anna as she twiddled her thumbs with shamed face.
Kiyro groaned. Right now he felt like he was going to have a major migraine.
“You need to ask me first before you just up and decide to move into someone’s apartment. You’re rich and you don’t need to live here,” he calmly stated.
“Come on, pleeeeeeeeease!” begged Anna as she glomped onto his right arm and looked up towards his sullen face. “I’m trying to cut back on my expenses. How about this: I’ll pay half of rent and teach you the ways of business,” said Anna as she clenched him tighter. She gave him the puppy dog eyes that Kiyro couldn’t resist. It was one of those looks that he could never say no to when it came to his sister.
Kiyro stopped to think about it for a moment. Who would miss this sweet chance to have someone cover half his bills and save money? For a poor college student, this was ideal, and to top it all off he would learn business from his sister.
“Deal,” said Kiyro with a straight face.
“Yay!” Anna jumped up and down in excitement. “I’ll make you breakfast,” she said as she headed towards the kitchen.
“No!” He stopped her in her tracks. “You go turn on the TV and sit down. I’ll make breakfast. You somehow tend to burn even water. I don’t know how that’s even possible,” said Kiyro with a chuckle.
Anna pouted and headed over to the small old TV that he was luckily given by a nice next door neighbor that was getting rid of their old TV for their new one. It was not the standard up-to-date TV, but it worked perfectly fine.
“How’s business been going for you? I haven’t heard from you for a very long time.” He stopped and realized that it had actually been five years since they had seen each other. He realized that they had rarely even spoken to one another. The only time he had seen her was that one time on the women’s magazine and he barely read entrepreneur magazines
“Actually really good. Diva Technology has gotten the contract with Yami Hikari.”
“What? Really?” said Zero in an awed voice. The last thing he heard from her was that she was with a group of people creating some kind of high-security technology.
“Yep. It’s not something that everyone knows and hears about.”
“So does that mean that you were part of the creation of the game?”
“Can’t tell you. It’s private matters.”
“Come on Anna. I’m your brother.”
“Sorry. It’s still out of question.”
Kiyro sighed. It was worth a try. He knew she would not talk about business matters in personal life as much as possible. She almost religiously kept the two separate. Anna turned the TV on with a remote.
“Good Morning America. This is the daily Channel 77 Atlanta News station,” said John the anchorman. “We have a wonderful weather today. It’s in the high 90s, with a light breeze, and no clouds in sight.”
“Yes, it’s such a wonderful day. A great time to go out and spend it with your family,” said Simon, the second anchorman who was sitting right next to the other.
“In other news, the new Embryo gaming consoles have been sweeping the world like a storm. Embryo has already sold seven hundred and fifty million of its products worldwide and made a hundred billion in revenue. That’s quite amazing, don’t you think, Simon?” said the anchorman.
“Yes, it is. Not only that, their new Alive gear update has piqued the world’s curiosity. These supposed quests have been popping up like wildfire around the world. You should definitely try out their new high tech. It is one of a kind,” said Simon happily.
“Would you like sunny side up or scrambled?” Kiyro asked from across the kitchen.
“Scrambled, please,” said Anna as she watched the news intently.
“I got one for my cousin to play the game called Growth. I’m not sure what the big deal is with these supposed ‘Realistic’ Quests,” said the anchorman.
“That’s the thing, John. The supposed goal of the real-life quests is to help people go out and interact more with the world through gaming. According to our latest survey, it seems that a very high percentage of Americans today don’t even know who their neighbors are anymore.”
John looked at Simon in shock. A graph popped up, showing a decrease in human interaction between neighbors.
“That is quite surprising.” John’s eyes became bug-eyed.
“Reports are coming in that the average Americans are more socially enclosed, doing things alone, wanting to be left alone, and having a tendency not to make groups. The Realistic Quests in Growth give the people the opportunity to know each other more.”
“When did this update go into place?”
“The update began at 12 am last night and has gone into full effect this morning.”
Kiyro brought breakfast over to the small dining table. Huh. They implemented a new update. I should check that out.
“Now we just got news that a car exploded near a children’s park. Supposedly an old lady was walking across the street and the women didn’t see her because she was texting on her phone,” said the John.
“She was texting on her phone? Is she nuts? Was everything alright?” gasped Simon.
“Yes. There is a report that a young lady with blueish silver hair came in and rescued the driver before the car exploded. No name was given and she left before the news crew arrived. Witnesses also say that she was wearing Alive gear when this was happening. Isn’t that strange?” said the John.
“PFFFFFT!” Kiyro spat out his food in a spray. He stared at the TV in disbelief.
No way. That can’t be her. There are thousands of girls with bluish silver hair, he thought as he wiped the pieces of egg off his cheeks and mouth.
“Aw, gross. Did you really have to do that?” Anna looked at him in disgust. She pulled her plate away from him.
“Perhaps she got a quest?” said Simon with a straight face.
“A quest?” asked John with wide eyes.
“A supposed real-life quest that people were talking about could have happened. She could have gotten something for saving that lady.”
“I don’t believe such an extreme quest like that could exist.” John waved his hands in front of him in disbelief.
“Well, we won’t know until Yami Hikari releases their reports.”
Kiyro turned off the TV. Just the thought of Agnis made him not want to listen to it any more.
“Hey, I was watching that,” said Anna. She frowned at Kiyro, but he ignored her. He got up and went to the kitchen.
“Kiyro, have you been playing Growth too? I can’t imagine who wouldn’t want to, \Anna called out to him from the dining room.
He turned on the faucet and began washing his dishes.
“Yeah, why?” said Kiyro, stacking his dishes on the drying rack.
“Can I see your Alive gear?”
Kiyro heard Anna’s loud footsteps heading toward his room. After a couple of minutes he finished up washing the dishes clean, wiped his hands off on a dry towel, and went back towards the dining room. Anna just then walked back out of the room and came toward him. She handed him his Alive gear.
“Try it on. I just had a dummy prototype I had laying around at work and installed a new up-to-date memory chip in it,” said Anna excitedly. “We’ve been tinkering with a couple new things in the Alive Gear. It’s nothing major. ”
Kiyro put on the Alive gear.
A menu popped up showing different features of the new update in real time. The package included a Bluetooth, free wifi-calling, GPS, health monitoring, and many more small apps.
“This chip was sent out to millions of customers three days ago. We were working on this product in partnership with the Yami Hikari company. You have the latest up to date one that we completed yesterday,” Anna boasted happily. Then she handed him a small keychain that looked like a car remote. “This is an eco-friendly, solar-powered remote called Mico. It lets you control your Alive Embryo gear without calling out for the menus. It has a built-in fingerprint scanner so only you can access it. You can go online and pull up your bank account, make transfers, etc. By the way, how much do you have right now? I need to know so I can begin teaching you couple of business things,” said Anna excitedly.
Kiyro blushed red. “I have $6,032.22 left.”
Learn from Anna and become a businessman
Difficulty Level: ARequirement: Brother of Anna.
Rewards: Possible huge fortune later on down the road.
Failure: You risk losing all your money.
“A quest? That’s odd.” Kiyro looked closely upon the quest. He wondered how the quest could just form like that out of the blue.
“Huh?” Anna curiously peered towards him.
“I just got a real-life quest, like what the news was talking about.” Kiyro reread the quest a couple of times. He didn’t expect his quest to be about learning business. But he accepted it anyway.
“Okay, this is what you are going to do. I’m going to teach you the concept of business. You will learn under me for a year. So starting now, I want you to start practicing to create a business plan. I’ll give you a topic for you to practice on. Start with my company, Diva Technological Corporation. Give me a second while I get my Alive gear,” said Anna. She grabbed her bag that was lying next to the couch. She put on her pink Alive gear and adjusted it.
“I’ll send you a couple of books that I want you to study. Make the business plan simple, concise, and professional. The limit is two pages. Send it to my email. Also, to make this a binding contract, I’ll be sending you a legal document for you to sign. Use the Mico to scan your thumb print, enter voice recognition, and make an eye scan. This should be enough for security and digital evidence. You will get a hard copy and a digital copy for you to read anytime and anywhere,” said Anna as she explained enthusiastically. Anna paces back and forth around the room with her hand on her chin deep in thought.
Anna stopped. She turned towards Kiyro with excitement in her voice and continued, “Take out $500, and we are going to put that money into the stocks for Technological Reality Game or TRG for short. Read the latest news such as government news, gaming news, technological news, and what’s going on in the world. The price on oil can even make the stock market plummet. I’ll teach you how to read the patterns, but the final decision to pull out or put in is all up to you. One more thing: go find yourself a job.” She yawned. “You will need at least six months of savings that can compensate for your monthly bills and many other things. You don’t have enough. That is it for today. Your homework for now is to start looking into the past and present world news.”
Kiyro listened to his sister. He even pulled up an app for stocks to keep track of them.
Quest has been updated.
You have been taken under Anna’s wing to begin learning the business life. The first step is to write your first business plan. This contract will end in a year from this date. The first topic is Diva Technological Corporation. A digital file of the plan is recommended. You are able to read and store all your plans at any given time. Voice recognition, eye scan, and fingerprint are required.
You have invested $500 into stock TRG, Technological Reality Game. You will be able to buy or sell stocks that you own.
The first part of the quest will end in a year from this date. The second part of the quest is complete when you either receive the profit or lose it.
He knew his sister was a very serious person when it came to business and he made sure to listen carefully to every word that Anna had to say. The world moved on money and he knew what he needed to do.
Saturday. July 4, 2054. 3:30 pm.
Zero was crouched hidden underneath the dense foliage and slowly peeked out the bushes to see his surroundings. This was his third short surveillance in the past couple of days. A quick hour or two of just sitting around in different spots to watch the guard’s movement was a long and dreary process. Two days ago it was up in the tree, yesterday was hiding in the water acting like a log, and now today he was covered in mud pretending to be part of the bushes.
It wasn’t too difficult to do to just sit down underneath some dense bushes and watch. What was difficult throughout the whole process was sitting still and watching everything without falling asleep. The number of times he almost fell asleep was quite a bit to count.
During the first scouting, there were a couple of times when Zero was almost caught by the guards because of their unexpected appearances. In the beginning, he had forgotten to rely on his abilities, but after the close encounters he used his Keen Hearing to help alert him. The crunching sound of leaves saved him on numerous occasions. When the silence was broken, climbing like a squirrel, he would hide. Just like in real life, he noticed that guards did not look up. From that moment on, he knew that NPCs with little training in the arts will tend to ignore overhead surroundings.
It wasn’t just that that he noticed. On the second trip, he had to sneak in the pond that was next to the mansion without making a splash. When he finally was underwater, floating with a log over his head, he had to meticulously cut out a hole that would allow him to watch the bypassing guards without being caught. The amount of patience he had to endure to just cut a hole in the floating log took a lot longer than expected.
Breathing was another problem; he had cut out a large willowy brown weed like plant and makes a long snorkel without making it look to conspicuous. Cutting through the hole and breathing the snorkel was a challenge that took a while to accomplish. When he was done, he was able to breathe normally without it. He had learned a lot of the guard’s pattern, but at the same time almost got hypothermia from staying in the chilly pond for too long.
The amount of suffering ordeal he had to go through to just to get a bit more information of his surroundings. How he loved his past teachers for teaching him all his Ninjitsu skills and hated it when it came to the time to do it.
His back ache just thinking about it. A couple of hours had passed since he had been battling his drowsiness. What was worse was that there was nothing to do but to watch. He couldn’t meditate, write, do anything but just sit there. The only thing he was allowed to do was watch and think. Thinking was not the problem, it was what to think about and how to keep yourself entertained.
Should I make spaghetti tonight? he thought as he sat very still. He tried his best not to move a single finger. Small gnats buzzed around his young face. He did not have much baby fat anymore. Now he looked old enough to be nine years old.
Nah. Anna doesn’t like it. How about mushroom soup… or should I go with a more oriental dish?
His stomach growled at the thought of delicious food.
“Hey Ken!” a man’s voice shouted, echoing into the dense trees. Heavy footsteps shuffled their way close by towards Zero.
Zero froze. This was not good. Whoever this was getting close to his hiding spot was making it difficult to escape. If he moved right now he would be found. This was not a good start to end the day with when today was the day to infiltrate the mansion later tonight.
With each step the person took, Zero heard the leaves crunching under the heavy boots. He even saw a little bit more of who this person was. It was a guard walking around with a heavy set of silver armor. Zero could barely make out his facial features because the majority of them were hidden behind the helmet.
“Ken! Where the hell are you?” shouted the guard. He whooshed his sword in front of him, cutting through the thick bushes. It stopped a couple inches short from Zero’s face.
Beads of sweat fell from his face. He couldn’t even gulp for the fear of being found out.
“I’m here, damn it. What do you want, Tim?” Another annoyed voice was heard coming closer from Zero’s right side.
“Master Dion has informed us to come in to get things ready for tonight. He wants everyone to change up and get ready.”
Ken sighed. “Alright. I was dreading this day. How could Master Dion do such inhumane act? Is he insane?”
“Watch your mouth, newbie. You don’t want to be caught stating such facts in front of him or you would be dead in matter of seconds.” Tim waved his sword back and forth, almost slicing Zero’s nose off. “Damn gnats. This is why I dislike working out in the woods. These annoying pests just stick to you like glue.”
“Sorry, let’s go before we get in trouble. You know he doesn’t like to be kept waiting,” Ken stated with worry.
“Yeah. The last time someone did that to him they lost a couple of fingers.” Tim shivered. “Let’s go before that happens to us.”
Crunching sound of leaves and twigs snapping underneath steel boots faded away. Zero let out a heavy sigh and fell backwards.
“That was too close.” He wiped away his sweat and struggled to get up, but his knees shook and wavered .
“Come on, leg. Move.” Zero smacked his leg a couple of times to let the blood flow through. Death at this time was not something he wanted to go through especially because of the twenty-four hour limit he would be stuck in.
Taking a small step, his foot got stuck on a tree root. He fell forward face first with his hands splayed out. In a matter of milliseconds his body’s natural instinct to pull into a roll took effect. Tumbling down a steep hill, he arrived at the bottom with barely any scratches. He was a bit dizzy from the roll.
Sand entered his mouth and it covered his whole body.
“Pfbt!” Zero spat out in disgust. He looked up towards the direction of where he fell and noticed that he was in a large hole. It was going to take a minute to climb back up.
Brushing the sand off his clothes, Zero began to explore. He hadn’t noticed this terrain before. It was hidden well from the rest. It was like a giant pothole that had only one way to go up and it was through the steep hill. Plants covered it well and kept it hidden from sight. There was even a small stream that entered and exited the pothole. Where it would go he didn’t know.
To his left, he saw a small old stone door covered heavily by damp green moss.
Where would that go? he pondered, and his curiosity got the best of him.
His hands pressed against the cold stone door. He forcefully pushed with his might and it barely budged open.
“Come on. Open.” He huffed and strained to push it further. The sound of grinding stone against stone could be heard. A small opening was made where he could barely squeeze through. Pushing against stone and wall, he squeezed through with only a little difficulty.
It was a damp tunnel that smelled of stale air and moss. He wondered how long it has been since it had been opened. Only a sliver of light passed through the cracks, making it difficult to see.
Rummaging through his backpack, he pulled out a magical fire lamp that used minimal fire magic. Just a simple phrase was needed.
“Turn on,” he stated. He always wondered why this word was not Fire or Light on. Either way it didn’t matter at this moment. He had a time limit to go through this place as quickly as possible. He had other things to do and prepare before it hit sunset.
A dim light lit up his surroundings. There wasn’t much to see but an endless looking tunnel that was held up by wooden beams. Small mushrooms were scattered on the wall, and glow worms dangled from the ceiling.
Zero walked forward into the long tunnel. It felt like an endless walk that would never stop. He didn’t know if he had walked for an hour or ten minutes. It was hard to tell when everything looked, smelled, and felt the same.
Finally he arrived at a dead end. There was nothing but a wooden wall that blocked his path. Carefully placing down the lamp, Zero began to search the surrounding wall.
Every door has some kind of switch or something, he thought as his hands pressed against the wall trying to feel if there was any kind of switch. It’s a game, why wouldn’t there be one?
And almost silent click was heard. Zero’s finger pushed in a small switch in the middle of the wooden wall. The wall rumbled and shook. Dust blew in his face, and the door quietly opened. In front of him lay a passage way that led to a pantry. Freshly stocked food was placed all around the walls and in front of him.
“I know where this is.” He glanced around the room. “It’s the Dion mansion’s pantry,” he said with excitement. Another secret passage he had found in less than two days. What a lucky find. He smiled in glee. There was another way to escape with more chance to survive.
“This is going to be too easy.” He smirked with confidence. Now he just needed to figure out a plan on how to get to one of the locations he had found.
The door to the pantry twisted open. Zero bolted towards the hidden door and slightly closed it without making sound.
A cook entered picked through a barrel of potatoes near the middle of the pantry.
“Master Dion wants this. Master Dion wants that. Noooo. He doesn’t like this. Why won’t he just stick with one instead of making dozens,” grumbled the cook. “They don’t understand how hard it is to prepare for a whole festival of people and they expect me to finish it by tonight? Are they insane?” The cook slammed a potato in his hand back in the barrel.
“I would like to see them cook for thousands of people not just one.” He waved his fist in the air. Stopped and sighed. “They wouldn’t even listen anyways. At least the guards are not picky with their food. For once I wish they would stop complaining.”
The cook rummaged through a second barrel.
“I swear though, I think I heard some eerie sounds near one of the passage ways not too far from here during the middle of the night. Was it a scream? I don’t know.” He shivered. “Better not to think about it. Hopefully there is no ghost running around here.”
The cook quickly picked through what he needed and left in a hurry. Zero pushed the wooden door back in place. He turned around and followed the passageway back into the open air.
Zero had collected enough flint to last him for a while. His hands were heavily covered in mud after digging out many different sizes of flint. Wiping off his hands on his pants, he continually hauled flint stones into his storage bag and brought it to the storage facility.
Clump. He dropped the large bag on the desk in front of the storage owner.
“This as well?” Her eyes became large like they were about to fall out.
It was to the point where the storage owner was shocked to see her storage unit used as a personal collection specifically for rocks.
“Thank you for using our storage facility. Sir would you like to add any other items as well?”
“No. Just this for now.” Zero shook his head.
“Okay than. Thank you for using our storage. Please consider to use our storage more often for more valuable items.”
“I am. Thanks.” Zero smiled and went out to go collect some more, but first he needed to sharpen some flint knives that he had been procrastinating on.
Finding a clear space, Zero pulled out from his bag his tools and the flint rocks. He laid it out. Neatly stacking them from largest to smallest, he sat down comfortably on the ground. Picking them up one by one, he inspected them closely. He needed the right ones that would fit perfectly in his small hands and to keep it hidden underneath his clothes.
His work was just beginning. A loud continuous banging sound could be heard as Zero chipped away at the flints with a hammer and a chisel or bashed it against another rock. A couple of time he almost set the surrounding place on fire from the loose sparks that flew everywhere.
He was luckily enough near some water to quickly run back and forth and stop it before it caught on fire. It had taken him an hour to get the right size, shape, and sharpness.
He sighed. He wondered when his preparations would be completed.
It took a while for him to make enough gold from hunting and selling to buy himself a small, black katana. He sold rabbit’s feet, snake venom fangs, mice’s hearts, and other loot to buy it. Every day, he would go visit the weapon shop fantasizing about holding the black sword that was on the wall. It was a decent, cheap sword that had a very intricate, small, black dragon design on its tsuba (guard). Not only that, there were two small hidden blades in between the tsuba, one in the end of the kashira (buttcap) and one in the bottom of the kojiri (scabbard tip). In addition, hanging off the saya (scabbard) were a couple of blow darts, as well as a dart gun. The moment he bought it, he renamed her Kamori and took a couple of practice swings.
The sword glistened in the lamp light, making its edge appear sharper.
Each swing of the blade made a satisfying whistling sound as it cut through the air. He practiced a couple of katas (forms) and styles he knew. People could not take their eyes off the mesmerizing dance of forms. It was like a dance between lovers, truly an extraordinary sword dance of a master. While swinging and singing a tune joyfully, the sword’s black blade glistened in the light. He was graceful like a crane, fast like a viper, but elegant like a swan.
Not skimping out on the sword maintenance, a whetstone was the next thing he bought. Every day he made sure to keep his katana clean and in top condition. Not a single fingerprint could be found on its blade. He knew that leaving a fingerprint on the blade could rust Kamori and decrease its effectiveness in cutting through solid objects.
Zero also bought one small magical wrist accessory that could store up to five items. It was not a popular item, but he thought differently. He put in three chunks of flint that could be used three times and left the rest empty in case he ran out of space in his bag.
As days went by, his clothes became more worn and torn. Not that he cared in the slightest; he made sure to use them till they were but rags. His first set of clothes looked like someone shredded it through a blender from all the rolls and monster fights that he had gone through. Finally, he had to throw them away since they couldn’t hold up any longer. Even basic stitching couldn’t keep them together. With this in mind, he made sure to buy a couple more sets of the same basic clothing. Zero had to wash his clothes often when worn, rotating between his other sets of clothes. Being naked was not on his priority list after the incident at the pet shop.
Constant maintenance was needed. If he stank too horribly, he would either attract higher-level monsters or scare off the lower-level prey. Not only did the clothes decrease in durability over time, even rare items would break apart if they were not well maintained. There were also activities like showering, relieving oneself, cleaning, cooking, and many more in the game of Growth.
This game is too realistic, Zero complained as he spread out his recently washed last set of clothes. The majority of the time, he would turn the status and menu bars off to enjoy the game’s full immersion. Often in the game, he confused reality with the game world.
He could tell whenever he was getting closer to death through fatigue, pain, and lack of endurance. Growth made sure that every player’s pain setting was set to default and was cut in half from real-life pain. The pain setting could not be lowered any further. The purpose was to give players a full-game immersion and make them not take advantage of death repeatedly.
While searching through the forums, Zero found out that when players died they lost a level, dropped a random item, and lost 1% of their money. To him he thought it was detrimental to lose that one percent. Storing things in the storage unit was also very important. When players experienced death in the game, they would go into a ghost perspective mode throughout the whole day in real-life time or choose to move around in the spirit dimension as a ghost. People rarely choose to walk around in a spirit form in death because the losses tripled in levels, items, and money.
Zero pulled out a beginner’s manual he bought from the item store while he was waiting for his clothes to dry. He actually enjoyed reading, especially on a warm and sunny day like this. Sitting underneath the tree, he got comfortable and began reading the long overdue beginner guide. Turning page after page, he skipped over things he already knew and instead went to where he had left off.
|Volume 2 of Beginner’s Guide to Growth
Welcome future explorers of NorieneCh. 1 Noriene Spirit World vs. the Physical World
Upon the death of a player they will lose one level, an item, and 1% of their gold. Other players and monsters can gather up items and money from the dead players.
The world of Noriene is split into two dimensions: the first is in the physical world of the living, and the second is in the spiritual world where the spirits of the dead reside. There have been instances where the dead cross the boundary over to the living world to create mischief and havoc or just to stand by their loved ones. There is an urban legend that the universe has more than two dimensions.
Upon the death of the character, their soul shall transcend into the spiritual world to walk upon the planes of the dead for twenty-four hours in real time. One may choose to be a spectator or walk among the dead.
No demonic entity is allowed inside the church or sacred space. There are exceptions called the Infinity’s sacred blessing, where a dark being can choose to walk in the path of the Infinity. This blessing can only be found in death. Certain steps need to be taken to receive the blessing and certain codes cannot be broken depending on the species.
If Infamy is too high upon death, certain steps must be taken in the spirit world or the player will not be allowed to be resurrected. They will not be allowed to enter the Church of Infinity or the sacred space.
The barrier that holds the dimension between the living and the dead is said to be called the Yggdrasil tree of life. There are rumors stating that it might be an actual tree that divides the world into the living and the dead, but no such tree has been seen or found. No other information is known.
“Church of Infinity…” Zero stopped on the page. He had heard about this influential group in the game.
It was the main religion that the people worshipped. There were other gods, but this was the number one group that existed. There were even special classes dedicated to this religion; the Disciple of Infinity.
Disciples of Infinity were always in high demand when traveling far distances. They were also considered unique job classes, but being a Disciple of Infinity was not an easy route that many people could take. The work and time commitment were akin to those of a nun in real life. The thing about it is that when high level players go do missions or go into possible dungeons, they are too far away from the cities. In order to avoid travelling back, a Disciple of Infinity was necessary.
|Ch. 4 Church of Infinity
The Church of Infinity has been around for thousands of years and is the number one religion in Noriene. There are fewer true Disciples of the Infinity than priests and priestess that follow the ways of the Church of Infinity. In order to walk the path of the Disciples of Infinity many things must be given up.
Zero skimmed through the book a bit more before closing it.
Title: The neighborhood child finder
|Race: Hybrid Human unknown
|Level: 67||Main Job: None
Secondary Job: None
|Health points: 4750||Mana Points: 2500|
|Attack: 222 (+50)
Luck: 40 (+10)
|Magical Attack: 200
Magical Defense: 150
Fame: 500 (+15)
+ Transform beginner level 3 (70%)
+ Camouflage beginner level 5 (0%)
+ Skilled hand mastery beginner level 5 (0%)
+ Kicking Mastery beginner level 3 (88%)
+ Keen Hearing beginner level 3 (77%)
+ Stink Bomb beginner level 7 (50%)
+ Exploding Breath beginner level 5 (20%)
Human Form Specialties:
+ Ninjitsu Training for Mastery
+ Five Elements of Hiding: Fire, Water, Earth, Wood, and Void (Auto)
+ Weapon Mastery beginner level 2 (7%)
+ Pressure points beginner level 5 (77%)
Hybrid form Specialties:
+ All the abilities of the Human and Origin Form can be used.
Origin Form Specialties:
+ Stink Bomb beginner level 7 (50%)
+ Exploding Breath beginner level 5 (20%)
+ Keen Nose beginner level 3 (50%)
+ Crush beginner level 3 (20%)
|Info: A hybrid human that is born from an Egg. No data of the species is known. A small bounty is placed on your head. The bounty will not be active for a week in game time.|
“Not bad,” he said to himself as he looked through his menu. Last week, he had reapplied for Ninjitsu training near his neighborhood in one of the Danketsu Ryu Dojo sister branches that were scattered around the world. He didn’t mind going over the basics and perfecting them throughout the month. He had stopped training heavily in the martial arts during the past three years due to personal reasons, and as a result, his form had gotten a bit rusty. His sister suggested that he go back to studying martial arts, stating that a lazy body would do more harm than good in the long run. She specifically mentioned that keeping a healthy body was a requirement for her business teachings. He thought she just included that to be a pain in the butt.
Throughout the past week, he went to class three hours every other day, in order to relearn everything. On the first day of class, he took his Alive gear with him and learned “Ninjitsu Training for Mastery” skill. It opened up a new branch of skills that allowed him to learn “Five Elements of Hiding: Fire, Water, Earth, Wood, and Void,” “Weapon Mastery,” “Pressure points,” and Herbology specific only to his Human form. The skill “kicking mastery” was also learned but it applied to all forms. He was satisfied with the outcome of the skills he acquired.
Lately, he had been doing easy-level quests such as helping parents find their lost children and gaining a bit of fame. By the end of his fifty quests, he was given the title “the neighborhood child finder,” a title he didn’t like much. If he could, he would have denied it and just gone on about his business. What was worse was that kids now ran up to him constantly whenever he was in his origin form. It was suffocating for him to be surrounded on all sides by kids, and he thought he had finally gotten a case of claustrophobia. He refrained from showing himself in that form while in the city, especially around children.
The days when he were completed training and doing personal things, he and Agnis would search deeper in the forest for black bears, red-tempered bears, and even the king of bears. Those were a bit of a challenge, but they did rack in some good experience points.
Zero walked over to his clothes. The last beam of sunlight finally set, and thankfully his clothes were completely dry by now. One by one he neatly stashed away his clothes and began packing the necessary equipment for his quest. Today was Saturday, and it was his last chance to help the pet store owner. He gathered medicine, food, leather-skinned water sacks, rope, a good amount of flint, and small handmade flint knives. He packed them all into his bag. This was all he could afford at the moment. The majority of his stuff was either found in the wilderness or made by hand. Agnis curiously peered over at Zero.
“So, how are you going to take all that with you when you’re pretending to be a slave? I thought slaves are penniless,” said Agnis as she circled around him. Her hands picked up a small throwing knife that was on the ground next to Zero. There were a dozens of them neatly put in one spot. “It’s going to be difficult to fool the guards with a bag on your back.”
Zero was lost for words. He’d completely forgotten he was impersonating a slave. This was going to make things a lot harder than he had anticipated. Picking through his items, he left the majority of his things in his bag. He only took out a couple of small flint rocks the size of a penny, a small flint knife which had low durability and enough medicine for about four people.
“Agnis, lend me the sewing kit that you bought from the store, please.” Zero looked up at her from the ground.
Agnis pulled it out from her side bag and handed it to him.
“No problem.” Agnis flipped her wrist and threw the throwing knife against the tree with a loud thunk. One after another she threw a couple more, each landing near the vicinity of each other.
“Not bad. You’re getting better.”
“Well I got a good teacher.” She smiled as another landed squarely in the middle of the other three. She began to pick up her pace. One of the throwing knives slipped out of her hands while throwing and it whooshed past close to his face. He could almost feel the cold metal. A thin line appeared as a trickle of blood ran down his face.
Zero stood there frozen.
“Let’s just put them away for now,” said Zero with a shaky voice. He thought he saw his life flashing before him. Agnis slinked over to the tree and hurriedly put them away.
Zero had noticed that she carried useful and odd items. One time, though, he had caught a glimpse of the contents of a bag and saw that she was carrying black animal fur. He was dead sure that it had been his, shed during his Origin state. He was completely creeped out at her odd habits when it came to animals.
He remembered that one time Agnis snuck a baby horned rabbit into a restaurant under her clothes and fed it food under the table. How she caught that rabbit was a mystery to him. The waitress that brought out their food sneezed and spilled hot soup all over the place. She poured hot soup on Agnis and the baby horned rabbit, causing it to squeal in pain and attack the waitress. Nearby players stepped in and killed it on the spot.
That day no one was safe from Agnis’s wrath. A full-blown brawl began. Zero had to step in and use his Stink Bomb skill to stun everyone. People were tearing up and choking left and right and a couple people passed out on the ground. He wasn’t able to drag her out in his human form, so he changed into his Origin form to trick her into walking out.
Zero focused his attention back to the present. He reached behind his neck and took off the collar he had received from the boy’s mother. He placed it on the ground and picked up a needle and a thread. After threading the needle, he began sewing the items he had picked out to the inside of his collar.
“Huh, that’s actually a good idea.” Watching over his shoulder, Agnis was impressed by what he was doing.
Zero tried to be as careful in his sewing as possible in order to minimize the chances of any objects falling off. When he finished, he placed the collar back on his neck. All of his items were neatly hidden away.
“You should do that with your clothes.”
“Not a good idea. If by chance they take my clothes, then I won’t have it. Better to keep what I’ve hidden in the right places for now.” He didn’t want to alert anyone to the fact that he still had some kind of weapon he could use in a time of crisis. Not only was he posing as a personal house slave, he was also wearing decent clothes to play the part. The invitation they had received required all slave owners to make their slaves look presentable.
“Makes sense. It’s time to go.”
They went to the shop to change into their clothes and freshen up for the journey. The shop owner reserved a carriage and bought Agnis a simple blue dress. Using the exceptional persuasion skills she had learned from bartering in the streets, she was able to get them what they needed. They wouldn’t have been able to afford either the dress or the carriage without her skill. It was too expensive for those who were poor.
When Agnis stepped out of the dressing room, Zero was struck speechless by how dazzling she looked in her dress. It was royal blue and had a large bow on the back. Though it had a simple cut, it made her look very elegant. He noticed, through her slippers, that her toenails were painted red, accentuated with small flowers. Her long white hair was pinned nicely in a bun with a blue butterfly hairpin. Zero wore a simple black and gold suit with shorts. In the last couple of days, Zero had noticed he had gone through a bit of a growth spurt. He expected it might be because of his level. He had been able to pass Agnis’s level because she had focused on honing her skills for the last week. They headed towards their carriage, which was waiting for them in front of Tino’s Egg Shop.
“This is going to be so exciting!” said Agnis with glee.
As they stepped out, they saw a small, oval-shaped carriage drawn by four brown sturdy horses with a footman in the back and an old driver holding the reins in his hands at the front. The footman opened the door for the two of them. Zero stepped back and motioned for Agnis to enter first. Agnis smiled as she hoisted herself into the carriage, and Zero followed shortly. They made themselves comfortable for the ride.
“Here.” Agnis gave Zero a half mask that was fashioned in a dazzling black-and-gold design with mesmerizing jet black feathers on the side. Agnis then donned her bluish emerald green mask that had feathers around it, making her look a bit like a peacock.
“What did you find out about the castle?” She knew that for the last two days Zero had been scouting.
The castle wasn’t far from the City of Diadem. It was only a few hours’ walk from Tino’s shop, and by carriage it would take less than an hour. The carriage ride was all for appearance’s sake. Only people who were noble, had high status, or were personally invited were admitted. Luckily they were able to attain an invitation through the Tyrell, the pet shop owner. Zero took out a map the store owner had given him.
“Well, so far I have found three passageways. The first two are not heavily guarded so it will be easy to bypass their security. The third I found by chance. It’s best to sneak out one of these three passages. We have to choose one of them to sneak out of. I think our best chances lie with the one I stumbled upon,” said Zero as he pointed to the three locations. “I noticed that the guards have a regular interval shift which changes every hour. They tend to stay in one spot for a while then move every twenty minutes or so.” He drew a line with his finger to show her their pattern. “We need to watch out for the extra guards that come out in random intervals.” He scratched his chin. “It’s too random to pinpoint where they will go next.”
“That’s quite impressive. You figured all that out in just two days?” said Agnis with surprise.
“I have done real-life surveillance missions before,” he said as he waved it off like it was nothing. “The hardest part is staying awake. It can be extremely boring.” He sat back, trying to make himself comfortable.
“Do you still do missions?” asked Agnis. She curiously peered over.
“No. It’s been a while since I stopped doing it,” said Zero as he scooted over towards the window and looked outside.
“What kind of missions were they?” Her eyes became wider with curiosity.
“Surveillance, protection, infiltration, sabotage, and many other things. There were quite a lot of missions to do within the dojo when I was working.” He continued to look outside as he cut her questions short with simple answers. He didn’t want to talk about his life.
“Did you ever do anything illegal? I know I’m being nosy but would you tell me about one of your missions?” She was literally falling off her seat trying to hear more about his life.
He turned his head towards Agnis. “That’s a matter of opinion, and no. It’s best that you don’t know.” He turned back to the window.
Agnis snorted with dismay. Leaning over to see what had caught Zero’s attention, she too began looking out the window.
“Oh wow. That’s beautiful,” gasped Agnis.
Off in the distance a full moon could be seen behind the mansion, creating a calming, scenic view. Orange-yellowish rays of moonlight radiated down to the mansion, creating a soft glow to the moat surrounding it. Tall, beautiful trees with small lanterns shaped like flowers illuminated the night with a soft pink-purplish glow. Japanese lanterns lit the ground in intervals, all the way up to the entrance of the castle. A couple of times, Zero thought he saw small white orbs flying around the pathways.
“We’re almost there,” he said as he paid close attention to any irregularities in his surroundings.
He didn’t want to start out his first adventure by being sold off as a slave. Zero at times felt like a slave to Agnis; he didn’t need another owner. There were a few times where he had to sneak away from her grasp when he was in his Origin form. He shuddered at the memories.
“Are you cold?” She looked at him curiously.
“No. I’m fine.” Zero kept looking out the window, trying to ignore her.
“I wonder what it’s like in there. Do you think they will be selling slaves in some hidden room?” asked Agnis.
“I’m not sure, possibly.” He replied slowly thinking over what she had stated. There was a heavy thumping noise as the carriage hit uneven ground. Both Zero and Agnis were lifted out of their seats and tumbled around in the carriage.
“Oww. They need to pave the roads in this game,” complained Agnis as she rubbed her back from pain. Underneath her was Zero.
“You’re heavy, get off me,” he wheezed. Her crushing weight was compressing his lungs, making him lightheaded. Agnis glared down at him, forcing her weight down even more.
The carriage came to a sudden halt. The door opened and a servant’s hand reached into the carriage to help Agnis out. A mansion guard wearing heavy armor walked towards them.
“Your invitation please,” he said with a gruff voice, extending his hand out towards them.
Agnis pulled out a small brown scroll and handed it to the guard.
The guard looked at Zero. “Is this your son?” the guard asked, frowning. Zero looked at him in horror and got up from the carriage floor.
“No,” Agnis said, sounding offended. “Do I look like someone who has had a child?” Her eyes twitched as if she was ready to snap.
“This is my slave Zero,” said Agnis with her voice full of authority.
“I’m sorry, my lady. Please go ahead.” The guard moved out the way to let them go through. Zero sighed with relief as they went forward.
Loud trumpets blared to introduce them to the crowds as they entered the mansion. People’s heads turned as they watched Agnis and Zero descend the steps.
“The family of the Lily Merchant guild has arrived: Lady Agnis and her Slave Zero,” the announcer yelled out to the crowd. A couple of men walked forward to help Agnis down the steps, but she declined their help with a smile.
Zero looked upon the mansion hall. As far as he could see, there were many people wearing a variety of different colorful masks that hid their identities. Masters and merchants alike were showing off their slaves’ skills on stage as they advertising their assets in order to gain a better deal. A large group of people gathered around, watching in excitement; it was reminiscent of a carnival. From right to left, he witnessed a puff of blazing fire spewing out of one of the chained slaves on a stage. In giant glass containers, there were mermaid-like creatures swimming around in circles.
Kids were running around with balloons held in their hands and food in their mouths as if it was normal event and their parents were not bidding for slaves. Food stands were set up as they sold hot, ready-to-eat food.
“We have a beautiful high elf for sale,” yelled a fat ugly man. His stomach spilled over his pants, making him look like a giant whale. Next to him was a young female elf that had gashes on her arms. Her clothes looked like they had been in a rough fight; they were battered beyond any kind of normal use.
“She was caught a couple of days ago. You could use her to be your housemaid for cooking and cleaning. Or you could even use her to bear your children.” He chuckled as he held his belly. His rotten yellow teeth could be seen peeking out of his ugly smile, and his face looked like it had been squashed against a wall. His beady eyes scanned the crowd for potential buyers.
“200 gold,” said a young man as he raised his hand.
“500 gold,” said a gentleman with a top hat.
“1,500 gold.” The young man raised his hand again.
“2,500 gold.” The gentleman rubbed his ruby cane as he looked dead straight in the eyes of the young man.
“7,000 gold,” puffed up the young man as he grinned at the gentleman.
“15,000 gold,” said the gentleman as he tapped his cane on the ground.
The crowd gasped in shock.
“15,000 gold. Anyone else?” The fat man announced as he smiled, “Going once. Twice. Three times. Sold! to the gentleman with the top hat.” A loud round of applause was heard as they congratulated the gentleman, who nodded in appreciation. The fat man went down towards the gentleman to complete the trade. The gentleman’s butler handed the fat man a bag of gold, and the fat man handed him the chains. As the elf walked down towards the gentleman, the ugly fat man smacked her butt one last time.
“Sir, I recommend you use her for breeding. She will bring you some high-quality offspring,” said the fat man as he looked upon her with lust. Agnis felt disgust in every fiber of her being. Her anger rose and she slipped her hands under her gloves, ready to pull her hidden knives out to skewer him. In seconds, Zero stopped her and shook his head. There was always a time and a place to lash out and attack. This, however, was not a smart place to do it.
“Ah. Yes,” said the gentleman as he took the chain from the fat man’s hand.
“Thank you for your business,” said the fat man as he patted his stomach with glee. The high elf looked back at the man and gave him a murderous glare. Her eyes were red with bloodlust.
Agnis was revolted with what she just saw.
“Disgusting,” she spat. People like him got under her skin, but she couldn’t do anything and was forced to quietly watch from the side lines.
Zero and Agnis continued to rove around the mansion looking for any information on Tino. No clues or whereabouts were found.
“Maybe he’s not being sold today?” said Agnis as she was getting worried that they had failed their quest. “I hope we didn’t miss our chance.”
“If we did, then our quest would have probably told us,” said Zero. He noticed a couple of guards talking amongst themselves as they were watching Agnis. For the past couple of minutes he had been eavesdropping on them.
“Hey, Agnis. You see that pathway behind the guards?” Zero tugged on her clothes. Agnis looked around towards the guards.
“What about it?”
“So far in this mansion, out of all three passageways that I have seen, this one is the only one guarded. Any time someone goes near them, they are turned away. I want to go check that place out. Can you go distract them?” said Zero, watching out of the corner of his eye.
“Done,” she said confidently.
Agnis walked towards the three guards, who were wearing very light armor. On her way towards them, she picked up a silver platter and placed four glasses filled with red wine on it. She carried it like a server towards them.
“Are you guys by any chance thirsty?” She winked at one of the guards. The youngest guard blushed and lowered his eyes.
“Oh, thank you, my lady,” said the guard as he picked up a glass of wine.
“My pleasure.” She smiled sweetly. “I was getting a bit lonely and when I saw you guys I thought you might like some company.” She handed the other guards their wine, smiling and making eye contact with each one.
“You are a life saver, ma’am. I’ve been dying of thirst. We are not allowed to move from this spot for long periods of time,” said the other guard. One of the guards brought out a wooden chair for her to sit on.
“Thank you. That is very kind of you.” Agnis sat on the wooden chair and crossed her legs. She purposely pulled up her dress slightly, showing off her legs. All three guards glimpsed for a brief moment and tried to hide their interest. The youngest lightly tugged at his armor as if he was overheating from his blush.
Zero took this chance and quietly slinked behind the guards while their attention was diverted away. He quickly moved down the moonlit hallway. Whenever he heard or noticed the guards, he quickly moved into the shadows, erasing his own silhouette and movement.
There were a couple of times the guards walked right past him. This was one of his Ninjitsu skills that he used and put into practice. Skills that he had in real life worked surprisingly well in the game world for example he noticed that the NPCs had the same similar functions. It was a very miniscule detail that made them feel even more real. A reminiscing of a memory popped up in his head from his old school days. He could still hear his teacher’s booming voice giving out a specific lecture.
“The human eye sees in three ways: color, silhouette, and movement. If a person or an object is being still and has the same general color and shape to the surrounding area then it is technically invisible to the naked human eye. By erasing all three, the human eyes do not easily detect the presence of another being. Then there is the difference between daytime vision and nighttime vision. During the day, the human vision picks up color, while during the night, their vision is black and white, so they see everything in grayscale.” The teacher smacked his stick onto the board. Zero snapped back to reality.
Zero slowly slinked in between the shadows, making his body fit with the surroundings.
There are just too many of them, thought Zero as he plastered himself to the wall in-between some statues, hiding from a pair of guards.
“Did you get the fresh batch of green eyes the customer ordered?” said one of them.
“Yep. I have it here.” The other guard pulled out a glass jar filled with green eyeballs.
“That’s disgusting. What would they need body parts for anyways?” The guard was trying not to gag as he stepped away from his partner.
“Best not to know and just deliver it to the customer,” the guard replied as they headed toward their destination.
“Transform into Origin,” Zero muttered under his breath when they left. He needed a clue of where they were hiding Tino, and sneaking around for a long period of time would get him nowhere when he had to get back to Agnis.
Slinking quietly down the opposite hallway from the guards, he knew that he only had about one hour in his origin form. Through constant practicing of his skills he had been able to gain an extra ten minutes. He wondered why his origin form was more limited than his human form, but he had found no answers. Zero sniffed the ground, trying to find any scent that was lingering. As luck would have it he noticed a faint smell of blood on the floor, which he followed until he ended up in front of a wall.
“Huh?” Zero sniffed around, confused. “This can’t be the end. It must be some kind of hidden door.” He knew it was typical for people to hide things behind walls or doors to create an illusion that there was nothing there. It didn’t fool him and his nose in the slightest. He sniffed around a little more, looking for a heavily dense smell that people tended to leave behind when they pressed or touched a certain area repeatedly. In his smell vision, he saw a pool of condensed aura hovering around a small camouflaged button on the wall.
Not only that his ears picked up some kind of moaning scream where he was at. Is this where the cook stated it would be? He looked around even more diligently trying to uncover its secrets.
Zero pushed the button with his paws, and the door soundlessly slid open.
This ability is quite useful. I’m starting to understand what it’s like to be in a mind of an animal. Living in an animal form had given him a different perspective of the world.
“Bingo.” Zero looked down upon the descending staircase. A strong breeze with the stench of blood wafted into Zero’s nose. Quickly, he sharply inhaled and held his breath to dampen the smell, but eventually he had to breathe again.
Ugh. This smells, thought Zero as his face crinkled with distress. With every step he took down the stairs, the smell of blood permeated his nose, making him queasy. Even though he turned off his skill, the stench of blood was still overpowering.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” screamed a female’s voice in pain.
Zero jumped back, startled like a cat from the unexpected noise coming from the distance.
“Please stop! Aaaaaaargh—” The female’s voice was abruptly stopped as if something was stuffed into her mouth.
Zero cautiously moved down the stairs. The air felt colder as he descended deeper and deeper into the ground. The walls were covered in graffiti with black magical symbols that glowed softly in green with thin sheets of ice.
On his last step, he saw rows of bloody naked male and female torsos lined up like slaughtered cow meat that were on hooks with their heads, arms, and legs dismembered. Blackish goo that oozed out of their skin formed magical sigils on the bellies of the pregnant looking torsos. Couple of times he thought he saw something move in their belly. Each of them was encased in an egg shaped water test tube with black tubes hooked into it. Thousands of black-filled, tube-like wires that were attached on the outside of each egg container led towards a lit-up room in the distance.
On top of shelves, dozens of frozen hands and legs were packed tightly in containers from male and female humans, elves, dwarves, trolls, and monsters that he had never seen before.
He had never felt this unnerved before. Flickering lights illuminated the dim room. With each flash, he saw new horrors. Zero swallowed loudly as he took a couple more steps towards the flashing light. He did not want to go towards the light in the distance, but his gut told him that whatever he was looking for would be there.
What he saw stunned him. In the middle of the room was an operation table with a young female strapped down. Behind the operating table a huge egg-shaped glass tank the size of half the room was filled with water. Inside it was a deformed-looking being. It had two female faces conjoined to each other with elongated horns: two on the forehead and one coming out of the side of each cheek and chin. Its arms were muscular and humongous, with sharp black claws. Thin long black spines protruded out of its back. What unnerved him the most was the body looked like someone threw it together in an experiment. He wondered if it was even human. The lower half of its body was connected to the egg machine. Each of the black tube wires that were connected to the other egg-shaped containers in the other room were all connected to this specific glass tank. Black ooze was being milked out of this creature and directly inserted into the others.
Zero moved from one table to the next, trying to find what he was looking for. A bright blinding flash of light brightened the room. A fat man with beady eyes with a mask covering the majority of his face held an electrical chainsaw looking equipment. His white doctor apron covered part of his obese belly and was soaked completely in fresh blood.
On the wall Zero saw a silhouette of the fat man sawing off the female’s arms. Blood splattered and flowed everywhere like a stream as the right arm fell on the ground in front of Zero. Zero backed up towards the walls ready to bolt but instead his back legs stepped on something squishy and soft. He turned around and noticed a severed left leg on the ground.
Another fell to the side.
Zero couldn’t take it anymore and he was about to hurl.
The sound of the machine turned off as it was laid down gently on the table as if it was a newborn baby. Zero peeked out from under the table and noticed the fat man pick up a syringe filled with black gooey substances. Squirting it out a couple of times to take out the air bubbles, the fat man inserted it into the belly. In seconds the belly inflated and the body spazzed out uncontrollably.
What the hell. What the hell. What the hell! Zero eyes enlarged.
I need to get out of here before I get killed. Zero’s mind raced with many different escape plans. He was stuck underneath the table, because the fat man was blocking his escape. Reaching down with his pudgy hand, the fat man began collecting the arms and legs one by one.
No! he screamed silently in his mind. Crouching down low to the ground, he was ready to pounce when he had the chance.
As soon as Zero saw the fat man’s face, he pounced with his claws spread out in lightning speed. He did not allow the fat man to squeak. Crashing through the sides of the tables, his fat pudgy arms swung the medical equipment around as he stumbled. The room shook with his heavy footsteps until he fell heavily onto the ground with a loud sickening thud. Zero furiously bit down on the fat man’s ear, tearing it off.
“GAHHHHH!” the fat man screamed in pain as he swung over his head trying to hit Zero.
The window for escape was closing; he knew he had to immobilize the fat man fast or he would not be able to escape.
“Get off, you rodent!”
Scampering around the fat man’s face, Zero jumped off and landed on top of the table where all the medical tools were laid. As he looked around the room in the light, the floor was stained heavily with blood as it glistened like rubies from countless deaths.
Bolting towards the door, he jumped up in midair but was snatched by the fat man by his tail.
“Gahhh!” Zero yelled in pain as his tailed got snapped back. It felt like his joints were hyperextended. In that moment of pain, Zero instinctively grabbed the nearest filled syringe with his paws. Hanging upside down, he saw the fat man’s mask fall off his face. It was the same man that had sold the high elf. Zero looked at him in disgust as his blood boiled in rage.
“Let go!” yelled Zero as he was dangled by his tail.
“It talks?” said the fat man as he wiped away the trickle of blood from his face. “I wonder what your insides would look like. Would you have an extra stomach like some of these monsters that I have been slicing? No. No. I need to save that spot for them to grow.”
Zero did not like where this was going. He spat on the fat man’s face as he swung back and forth.
“You vile rodent!” Zero’s foul rotten breath overpowered his sense of smell making his eyes water heavily with tears. This must be what my breath is like. He coughed.
Zero knew he didn’t have much time; with one last flick of his tail, he had enough momentum to stab the fat man’s hand with the syringe and inject the black goo. In a cry of pain, the fat man let go of his tail. Flipping over like a cat in midair he landed on all four feet. His mind went into a survival mode and all his reason left him. Given this opportunity, Zero jumped up towards the man’s throat and latched on.
The fat man stumbled backwards as he desperately tried to pry him off his throat. As he pulled, he caused more laceration to his throat than before.
“Let… go.” The fat man coughed up blood. He continued to pummel down, only to be rewarded by the tightening of Zero’s already clenched teeth. Zero made sure that if he was pulled off, a chunk of the man’s throat was coming with him. As the fat man was stumbling around, he impaled himself on a sharp protruding metal rod that hung against the wall. The fat man looked down in shock at the metal rod impaling his heart. Coughing up blood, his hands loosened and slackened to his side. Zero let go and slid down when the fat man stopped moving.
“Huff. Huff.” Cold puffs of air came out of Zero mouth.
“Katoo.” Zero spat out the man’s blood and tried to settle down his heart. His jaws were covered in blood; he looked like a feral animal. He did not expect to kill someone in such a way. Even though the death was not real, the whole experience was still unnerving.
“Everything is all right. This is just a game,” Zero told himself. He shook off the feeling of disgust and began going back to business.
|You have leveled up!
You have received a necklace of toes, the diary of death, and ten pieces of gold.
“Necklace of toes? What kind of sick joke is this?” Zero grimaced as he thought of the variety of people it went to.
“Identify necklace of toes.”
|Necklace of toes
A collection of variety of human toes. A psychopath that enjoys slicing up fresh bodies for his own joy. A very dark aura surrounds it. It is best to throw it away, but if you can calm the souls maybe something really good can be gained. Be careful; strange occurrence might start happening around you.
Thinking deeply, Zero debated to keep it or throw it away. The bad outweighed the good, from dead people’s toes, possibly curse, and strange occurrences. He did not like the thought of having a necklace of toes with him, but the chance of treasures enticed him. He stowed both of the items away in his magical bracelet.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a female apparition in a tone of black and white that looked like old TV static.
Zero turned his head towards the figure as his eyes became large in disbelief. Standing right next to the dead female body was the same female. He knew there was no way he could fight a ghost right now. All physical attacks were rendered useless and even magic attacks could not harm a ghost as easily.
The female ghost stared at him and slowly raised her hands. She pointed down towards her head for him to look at. A flashback of strange, nightmare-like visions during his childhood years surfaced in his mind that he had deeply hidden away. Memories of hiding under his blanket when he was a child from something he couldn’t remember. Shaking his head, he tried to clear his mind.
P-please…help…me… a pervading static like thought entered into Zero’s mind. It was like hearing an old out-of-tune radio with bad static.
“It’s all an illusion. It’s not real,” Zero mumbled to himself as he smacked himself a couple times, but all he could feel was pain.
Walking cautiously and avoiding the spilled blood, Zero jumped up onto the table and looked at where she was pointing. On the dead body, there was a small red tulip pin stuck to her hair.
Take…..this….to…my…..mo..ther, the ghost girl’s thoughts entered into Zero’s mind as she looked at him pleadingly.
“I don’t know how to find your mother.”
On…top…of a hill…in front…of a lake, said the girl telepathically. Her eyes were filled with sadness and pain.
Deliver the tulip pin to her motherA ghost has asked for your help to deliver a message to her mother. She lives on top of a hill overlooking a lake.
Difficulty Level: E
Requirements: Able to see and talk to ghost.
Failure: If you deny the quest or fail to complete it, the girl will haunt you for life.
Zero looked at the quest in disbelief. He had enough trouble already, and having a ghost following him around for the rest of his life did not sound so pleasing.
|You have accepted the quest. You have learned new abilities: Communication with the Dead and Sensing the Dead.
Communication with the Dead
This ability allows you to communicate easily with the dead at any given time telepathically. This skill will remain active at all times. This ability can be used in all forms.
This ability allows you to sense a presence of the dead in the nearby vicinity. There are three different forms spirits mostly take: an orb, black and white static apparition, a black shadow, or a silhouette. This skill will remain active at all times. This ability can be used in all forms.
I’m not so sure I want to talk to the dead. The dead were not his favorite subject to talk or think about, but now he was forced to begin facing his fears. The girl faded into air.
“Ghost is not real,” said Zero as he tried to steady himself. This made him feel better.
“Hey mutt,” said an unknown man’s voice.
Zero looked around, tensed and ready for another attack. Looking around, he noticed many different cages stacked against the wall filled with different people of different ages. In one of the cages, Zero noticed a battered old man with scruffy beard. One of his eyes was sealed shut and caked with dried blood, and his left arm was missing.
Zero looked towards the man cautiously.
“Mutt, go grab the key on the wall,” the man said as he pointed towards its direction.
Zero eyed him with contempt and grumbled under his breath. Asking politely was one thing, but being ordered was another.
“Mutt, we are all going to die today if we don’t get the hell out of here now,” said the man. He grasped the bars of the cage hard as he stared at him like an insane person. Zero took a step back in unease. Dealing with a crazy person was not his specialty, and instead he went towards the keys. He jumped up onto the box and with his teeth he grabbed it off the wall.
“Bring it here, mutt,” said the man as he whistled towards Zero like a dog.
Small whispers from different cages erupted in excitement. Young human males and females peeked out from their cages as hope filled their eyes. They had been imprisoned for quite a while.
Trotting towards the old man, he dropped the key but kept out of his reach.
“Old man. I’m looking for someone here,” said Zero. He lifted his paw and sat it on top of the keys.
“How is that my problem? Give me the keys, mutt,” said the man rudely as he desperately reached out towards the keys.
“Well, I need to know where Tino is. Your help will be greatly appreciated,” said Zero. He looked around for the hole to put the keys. What he noticed was that it was an odd door where the key had to be inserted on the side of the wall. He even saw a lever right underneath it.
“I’m Tino. Why are you looking for me?” The old man stopped trying to grab the key and looked directly into Zero’s eyes.
“Your brother is looking for you. I’m here to get you out,” said Zero and this time he scooted the key towards the Tino.
“My brother sent me a mutt?” said Tino in surprise.
“Look, buddy, I’m not a mutt. I’m…um…hmm…” Zero thought deeply trying to find his answer and no answer could be found.
“Well, it doesn’t matter what you are. Get me out of here. The guards will be here shortly after the ruckus you have caused.” Tino once again tried to reach for the keys. Zero looked at Tino and nipped his hands.
“Oww! What was that for?” Tino pulled back his hand in pain and shook it.
“That’s for calling me mutt continuously. I’m Zero.” Zero frowned at Tino.
“Okay. Okay. Just get me out of here,” said Tino hurriedly as he motion him forward.