A bright flash of white light completely filled Zero’s vision. A pure note entered his ear and then smoothly faded away. He did feel a very brief moment of pain, but now it was completely gone. Feeling extremely confused, he rubbed his blurry eyes a few times to clear his vision.
In the distance Zero could see thin strips of film that grew larger and larger as they came towards him. A thin film flashed forward, and his game life was plainly displayed. The plain events were colored in black and white while his grand battles and adventures were colored vibrantly.
Old memories were brought back that he had forgotten. The day Agnis appeared in front of him. The day she saw him hatch. There were times when she bothered him and made him feel like a fool. Some made him angry, some happy, others made him laugh at her idiocy when it came to animals. A friend is what he called her. A friend she had become.
Just as Agnis’s movie reel ended, scenes of Zeraph’s started to play. He noticed Zeraph’s arrogant stature and pristine clean look. Girls surrounding him from left to right, he gave each a wink with a dazzling smile. A couple of times Zero wondered how Zeraph’s face did not start twitching from the amount of smiles and winks he gave off to the girls. Already he felt his own face feel a bit stiff from watching. Either way, he was surprised that Zeraph had come to save them.
Dozens more film strips surrounded him in a circle and encased him in a shell. Zero felt overwhelmed. He was dying; this was what death was like in the game, and it felt strange. It was an odd sensation that he could not explain. He felt waves of complete peace while watching over his life, but a sense of sadness wallowed down in the pit of his stomach. It felt as if he still had unfinished business. It made him feel more attached to the physical world of Noriene. The unusual thing was he felt a bit of regret.
I wonder if this is what real death feels like, thought Zero. He continued watching his life play out in front of him; the last picture flew by inches away from his face. A blinding white humanoid apparition appeared in front of him. He shielded his eyes, squinting towards it. Its mouth opened and closed like it was saying something, but nothing could be heard.
Swirls of colors formed around the lips of the white apparition. It reminded him of the soft rippling effect of water color painting that had layers upon layers of bright colors. Its lips were colored light pink and full. A warm smile appeared on its blank white face. Zero felt his heart tingle with warmth; he felt that smile reminded him of someone.
It was a sentient being staring at him even though there weren’t any eyes looking towards him.
“With every breath you take I am with you. Let them see you in me,” the apparition spoke. Its sweet voice sounded like a soft spring breeze. The smell of fresh lavender and a tangy mix of spices calmed him further and made him more at ease. Soft sounds of ancient bells rang, and somewhere, people laughed joyfully.
Zero looked upon the apparition, confused.
“If you’ve got to start somewhere, tonight is the night for the sinner and the saints as two worlds collide, becoming one. Walk upon the many paths created by endless possibilities. You who are part of me, both broken and whole, do not be afraid. I am here.”
The white apparition pointed towards Zero’s heart. At the moment of contact a flash of blinding, pure light erupted in Zero’s face as he once again woke up on the ground. Dazed, he looked up towards the dark starry sky. A bright red moon hung low. Breathing out an icy cold breath, all the warmth escaped from his body. He shivered. Slowly sitting up, he looked around wondering where he was.
The world around him felt stifling and stagnant as if he couldn’t breathe. Words could not easily express what he felt and saw. Picking himself up to glance around, he saw the color of the world was dull and depressing. It was as if the world spat out the bright cheery colors and kept the dull gloomy ones. He noticed that he was still in the same place where he’d died. Everything was the same in the City of Diadem; just the color was off. There was barely any laughter or any kind of sound. Instead, silence was his only friend.
As his vision cleared, he looked down at his hands. Lifting them towards his face, he noticed that they were slightly transparent. Putting his hands together, they felt as solid as when he’d been alive. As he looked around he saw his body and he stopped. It surprised him to see his own dead body lying on the ground. It was the only thing at the moment that was vibrant in color. But then the colors on his dead body faded away as it turned lifelessly and ashen.
“Where am I?” he asked as he gazed around his surroundings. A white orb floated and danced around him. It gave off a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Just then a message appeared in front of him and it flickered with static.
|Would you like to walk among the dead with the sinner and the saints or do you wish to be guided towards the light?|
Zero pondered for a moment. Death. This was his first death in-game and he was a bit curious about the world. Who knew what was in this dimension? It was a risk he wouldn’t mind taking to explore new things.
“I’ll walk among the dead,” Zero affirmed his decision with confidence.
|Please head towards the light of rebirth.|
Scanning around him, he noticed that there were people walking around aimlessly, lost in their thoughts. No sense of direction, but a constant loop that had no concrete path. Their faces were ashen; their bodies looked like old TV static, and their heads and shoulders were slouched towards the ground as they slowly shuffled forward. A man walked in front of him, dragging his feet.
“Why? Why? Why?” the man muttered to himself. He coughed and wheezed with pain. The man stumbled forward and then continued on his way.
Zero raised his eyebrows. Is this guy alright? Zero’s body shifted a bit away from the man with unease. Warm air blew towards him.
He looks around, surprised, until he saw something off in the distance: a column of bright piercing light that penetrated the gray clouds as it reached up endlessly towards the sky. Its brightness illuminated the dark starry night, pushing back the light of the blood-red moon. Just by looking at it he felt refreshed and warm inside. Something about it felt familiar.
“I’m guessing that is where I need to go.” He began to walk towards the light. A young woman who was thin and bony with a heavy hunched back walked up towards Zero. The ashen-looking lady was wearing a white discolored dress, and her face sagged with depression. Wrinkles were prominent on her forehead from the furrow of her eyebrows. She was deep in thought.
“No. No! I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it! It’s not my fault,” whimpered the lady as her feet shuffled quickly back and forth in a circle. She bumped into Zero as she walked by.
“Excuse me.” Zero cleared his throat with annoyance. He was a bit annoyed she lacked the common courtesy to say sorry when bumping into him.
The lady glanced at him for a moment, tilted her head to the side, and returned to muttering to herself.
“No. No! I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it! It’s not my fault,” the lady repeated in a continuous chant.
“Excuse me,” exclaimed Zero loudly as he tried again to gain her attention.
She stopped. Her head slowly did an unnatural turn as she looked directly into his eyes. Her body jerked as she disappeared and reappeared in front of him like smoke.
“I didn’t do it!” she screeched in his face. Zero jumped back, startled, as the lady in white stared at him. Her eyes were lifeless. She turned around and went on her way. He didn’t expect that reaction from her nor would he ever bother her again. Straightening himself, he continued on his way. Another walked past him.
“Why does God not save me?” The old man paused in thought. “What did I do wrong? I know I am right. Yes. God is wrong, I am right. Yes. Yes! Yes.” The old man paced back and forth as he dragged his twisted leg. His right leg was paralyzed from the knee down. It looked like it was run over by a carriage.
“Sir, I would like a moment of your time.” Zero cautiously walked up towards him. With a dark glare, the old man replied nastily, “Go away, brat.” He spat onto the ground. “If you are not going to save me then LEAVE!” he shouted and then shook his fist at Zero. The old man then suddenly stepped towards Zero as if he was ready to throttle him. Zero backed out of reach.
“These people are insane,” Zero muttered to himself. “I think it’s best to leave them alone.” Weaving in and out between the zombie-like people, he heard constant ramblings of anger, sadness, or depression. A couple of times he thought they would all leap out and attack him, but they remained docile.
“So this is what hell must be like. People trapped in their own anger, jealousy, hate, depression, guilt, and sadness wandering around aimlessly. Continuing to torture themselves and not even knowing that their salvation is close by.” Zero eyed them warily. “We create our own hell, and it seems the environment is just extra. This place makes one want to think depressing thoughts. I wouldn’t be surprised if our minds go crazy from it.”
The white orb floated lazily in front of his face, circling and following him as he walked. Its outer transparent film shone with the light of what looked like a small dancing fire surrounding its core.
“What is this?” He poked at the orb a couple of times. A static shock of pleasant feelings tingled up and down his spine. He poked it a couple more times and got the same shivering feeling. With his last poke, the orb bit down hard on his finger.
“Ow!” Zero yelled as he pulled his finger back. He shook his fingers as throbbing pain pulsed throughout his hands. No blood appeared, but small indentations resembling teeth marks were imprinted on his finger.
“This little—” As he was about to smack it, he felt an odd sensation as if someone was watching him. Glancing back and forth, no eyes were found. Nothing. All he observed was the same dark, heavy atmosphere of the city around him.
“This place gives me the creeps,” croaked Zero. He began to purposely pick up his pace towards his destination. A few times he thought he saw black apparitions darting back and forth amongst the buildings.
He passed through a thin alleyway that could barely fit two people side by side and finally arrived at the town square. What he saw surprised him. Solid grey humanoid apparitions were bustling around the town square, doing their mindless routines. It reminded him of the town people that were actually alive. But there were none of the noises usually heard in a busy area. All he heard were moans and groans.
In between each grey solid looking humanoid apparition were the ashen, colorless, transparent people that reminded him of TV static. But the grey apparitions didn’t see the static-looking figures. They walked right through them as if they didn’t exist.
As Zero was walking towards the fountain in the middle of the square, he spotted a lone child playing with a sailboat. Out of everyone else, Zero noticed this young boy was vibrant in colors. His sailor hat was neatly placed over his hazelnut curls that covered his light blue eyes. He was wearing a small blue-and-white sailor suit.
“Hey, kid.” Zero approached him cautiously as he was a bit worried that like everyone else the child would react by screaming at, swearing at, or ignoring him.
Turning around, the boy smiled and disappeared in a blink of an eye. The echoing laughter of the young boy could be heard ringing around Zero. All that was left was the sailboat floating up and down from the currents of the falling water. Zero walked around the fountain, looking for the boy.
Once again jubilant laughter echoed throughout the town square. Out of nowhere Zero was pushed hard into the fountain. With a loud splash he fell face first into the water. He gagged and coughed to clear his throat and nose.
“Tag, you’re it.” The young boy joyfully laughed at the sopping-wet Zero. Grumpily Zero peered up at the boy.
“Why, you… Get back here!” Zero swung his arm in a sharp motion as he tried to grab him.
“Catch me if you can,” the boy laughed as he phased in and out of different locations. Zero watched, appalled. He knew he could not just catch a ghost. He did not know how. Scratching his head for an answer, he looked down upon the floating boat. Its white flag flapped magically as if it were sailing through the sea. Picking it up, he casually examined it. Painted in black and white, chipped from old wear and tear, a name was written: Lady Gabrielle.
“Hey kid. I’m going to sink your boat if you don’t—” Zero threatened and stopped. In a blink of an eye, before Zero could finish his sentence, the kid appeared in front of him. He menacingly glared as his pupils changed from blue to red. The look sent shivers up and down his spine. When he dropped the boat in surprise, the boy’s hand shot out and grabbed it before it hit the water. The boy caressed it with love as his face scrunched up with displeasure.
“Don’t touch my boat,” said the boy, emphasizing each word to drive the point of how precious it was to him.
Zero shook himself out of it. He did not like how the kid made him freeze in fright. He was also surprised that one could still get wet while dead.
“Sorry kid, I didn’t know it was special to you.”
With a scowling look the boy stuck out his tongue at Zero.
“I’m sorry. I was lonely. Nobody plays with me here.” The boy fidgeted with his fingers wrapped around the boat flag. “Really.” Zero rolled his eyes. “I can see why.” He squeezed out his wet clothes. Shaking, large droplets of water splattered onto the young boy.
“Hey. Stop that.” Giggling, the young boy covered himself from getting completely wet.
“Well. You’re wet now, and…” said Zero with a bit mischief in his voice. Zero grabbed the young boy’s arm before he finished the sentence. He pulled him hard into the fountain. With a loud splash, the boy was wet as well.
“I caught you.” Zero deviously smiled as he tickled him. This is payback.
“Noooooooooooooooooo. Not fair. Hehehe.” The young boy joyfully laughed as he held tightly onto his boat, soaking wet. Their laughter rang throughout the town square, and the ashen-faced people turned to watch them. For a moment their train of thought was broken as color was slightly brought back into their faces. They smiled.
With the tickling finally over, the young boy stepped out of the fountain, dripping with water. The ashen people turned away, falling into their trapped routines.
“What’s your name, kid?” Zero stood up and tapped his head sideways, trying to get water out of his ears.
“Sol.” He rocked back and forth on his toes and beamed up at Zero. His hands were behind his back with the sailboat. Zero smiled back. Zero for once was taller than the kid and he looked down upon him.
“Well, I’m Zero. Why are you here all alone?” Zero asked. Sol’s eyes reminded him of the vast ocean, fluctuating between green and blue.
“I’m waiting for my father. He said he will be back,” said Sol innocently. Sol skipped around Zero as he held his boat over his head. He pretended that the ship was sailing in the sea through the air.
“My father is a sailor. He owns a shipyard. This is the boat he made for me.” Sol beamed as he showed off his boat. “Did you know that he traveled through the whole world of Noriene! He’s amazing. One day I’m going to be just like him.”
“Oh really? That’s nice, but where is your father?”
“I don’t know. I have been waiting here for a long time.” Sol’s face grew solemn. “He said he would be back with my new sailboat. The last thing I remember was Mom screaming and the hooves of a black horse. Then I was here. But he promised to come. He’ll come soon.”
Find Sol’s fatherDirect Sol towards the bright light. Protect him from any encroaching danger.
Difficulty Level: E
Failure: The complete obliteration of Sol’s soul. This will result in different spirits attacking you out of malice.
Zero didn’t expect there to be a quest in this world. It seems like an easy quest, he thought as he pondered for a moment if he should accept. He didn’t expect much reward from walking the kid towards the light, but he decided to take the quest anyway. He just did it out of pure goodwill.
“Well then, Sol. Have you thought of going towards the light over there?” Zero pointed in the direction of the light. Sol stood on tiptoe to see what he was talking about.
“I never went that way before. You think Dad will be waiting for me there?” asked Sol curiously as he looked at Zero with bright blue eyes.
“Yeah. Let’s go to meet your father,” said Zero confidently. Sol tucked his boat under his arm and took Zero’s outstretched hand. Together they walked towards the light as the white orb floated behind them leisurely.
“Are you going to be looking for your dad too?” Sol glanced up at Zero with curiosity. Zero didn’t know how to tell this kid that he was going towards the light to get resurrected.
“Something like that.”
Zero continued to chat with Sol as they walked through the dead City of Diadem.
“Sol, have you explored the City?” Zero asked.
“Nope. I stayed by the fountain all the time.” Sol skipped around with the boat in the air. “Check this out.” He let go of the ship, and it floated in midair like a sailing ship in water. Its flag magically flapped as Sol willed it to move through the air.
“How?” Zero was stunned. Sol proudly smiled.
“Just believe.” Sol tapped his own heart. “A lot of things are possible.” Sol chuckled as he gleefully danced around after his boat. Just as quickly as the boat floated magically in the air, it settled back in his hands. His breath became as heavy as if he’d run a marathon.
“I can’t do this for too long; it drains my energy. I’m tired now.” Sol eyes became droopy.
Zero was amazed at the ability that Sol showed him. He didn’t fully understand how he did it but silently watched. He didn’t notice that while they were walking, a couple more groups of children appeared behind him. They came out from the buildings, shops, and playgrounds and were following them closely.
Several of them chased the white orb that was floating around Zero; this was when he noticed that there were more children behind him. He had to swat it away from his face. There were many times that the kids were close to poking him in his eyes with their flailing hands that were trying to grab onto the white orb. More and more gathered around him laughing, dancing, and skipping as they sang about the joy of life.
“Where did you guys come from?” Scanning from face to face, he noticed at least a dozen children from different ages, races, and genders surrounding him.
“Over there by the blue house,” said a young girl who looked about thirteen as she pointed off towards a distance.
“I was playing at the playground,” a young boy chimed in.
“I was looking out the window and saw you guys,” a young teen girl said happily.
|Quest has been updated.
Find Sol’s father and direct the children towards the lightDirect Sol and the group of children towards the bright light. Protect them from any encroaching danger.
Difficulty Level: D
Failure: The complete obliteration of their souls. This will result in different spirits attacking you out of malice.
Zero did not expect the difficulty to jump up to another level. What was worse was that those ashen-faced spirits might actually attack him if he failed this quest. To him it would be a complete zombie apocalypse if that happened. That thought horrified him.
“This is not going to be easy.” Zero carefully examined his surroundings. They were already halfway towards the column of light. He also noticed that the color of his surroundings was becoming more vibrant and lively.
As Zero’s small band of children continued to walk towards their destination, his small party continued to grow larger and larger into a small army ranging from toddlers to teenagers. Already the children under the age of ten outnumbered the teenagers ten to one. He guessed it was possibly over a hundred of them surrounding him. How these kids were still here in this plane, he didn’t know. At least it was an easy task to deliver them to the light.
He sighed as he continued forward. This was going to be a bit more difficult than he thought. Hopefully he wouldn’t meet anything difficult that will block their way, but even that might be a bit too much to ask.
Zero continued to pass through the tall buildings that covered the passageway and led the group up the outcropping of stone. He took a detour away from the obvious path that led towards the castle. It was blocked off by a shimmering force field that would not allow him through, the same kind of force field that blocked the passage in the world of the living. He did think about entering it a couple of times, but even in death it didn’t allow him through.
Some houses felt peaceful and shimmered with a white aura-like force field, vibrant with color and life. He couldn’t enter them. There were also darker malicious-looking ones that he kept away from. Something about them kept him on edge. Whatever was inhabiting the house beckoned him.
He instead took a local path that winded up towards the north side of the castle. That was where the Church of Infinity had placed the resurrection spot. The winding path circled around the warriors-guild headquarters and led right to the resurrection point. A musty scent could be smelled in the air just like when a room has not been aired out for a long period of time.
Already the group had swelled exponentially to the point that he felt like he was guiding a flock of endless sheep. All he needed was a shepherd’s staff and a couple of dogs to complete the deal. Zero led the massive group in the front, scanning for any possible danger by pointing, sniffing, and listening. If he had been in his Origin form it would remove all doubt from those watching that he was a guard dog.
|Quest has been updated.
Deliver the children and teenagers to the lightDirect Sol and the group of children and teenagers towards the bright light. Protect them from any encroaching danger.
Difficulty level: C
Failure: The complete obliteration of their souls. The more souls lost results in higher chance that different spirits will attack you out of malice.
“It went up another level…” Zero was speechless. He prayed that it wouldn’t go up any further.
He cursed under his breath for his bad luck. Let them slip upon the wet rocks. No, wait. I’ll be haunted.
His prayer went unanswered.
“Zero, why do you think my father did not come?” Sol asked. He hugged his sailboat tightly and his face casted with doubt and sadness.
“I’m not sure, Sol. There could be a lot of reasons.”
“But I waited there forever. He promised.” Sol’s voice was tinged with a bit of anger.
“I know, Sol. He might still be looking for you; it might be that you left the world first, and he couldn’t find you.”
“I didn’t leave. I was where I was supposed to be.” Sol looked at him quizzically. He didn’t get what Zero was implying.
“I’m going to break this to you as easily as I can. You’re not alive anymore.” Zero stopped. Sol smiled upon Zero.
“Yes. I know.”
“Wait, you knew?” Zero hadn’t expected such an answer from someone as young as Sol. “So does that mean that you all know?” He glanced around at each one of them. All the children shook their heads.
“But we are still alive,” said Sol as he touched his chest over his heart. “Even though our hearts are not beating anymore we are still alive. It’s just the people in the city, who are walking lost, don’t know it. In actuality they deny it.” For a brief moment Zero saw Sol’s eyes age.
“So does that mean that all children know that they’re dead?”
“Nuh-uh.” Sol shook his head. “Only the people who accept it. We accept and know what we are.”
“Then you should know that could be why your dad can’t find you.”
“No. I never saw him come back to the fountain once. Neither did Mom,” Sol whimpered. “It’s like they forgot about me.” Tears welled up in his eyes.
“Don’t worry, kid. We’ll find your parents soon, and where we are going, I’m sure they will be there.” Zero patted Sol’s back, trying to cheer him up.
Soon they reached the beginning of the path towards the Church of Infinity. It was a large open pathway, paved with gold-painted stones, set underneath archways of towering wooden beams that held many entwining vines as grapes dangled on it. No sane man would chip the stone ground for the fear of the curse of the Gods nor steal from the vineyard. Rumors of different horrifying deaths were engraved in NPC thoughts. Endless sparkling streams of lights cast off a luminescent glow and lit the pathway. It brought peace to the soul.
Already the way towards the sanctuary looked lively with color, bright like the living world, and a sweet smell of hot honey bread drifted towards them. A couple of the kids already inched forward as their noses told them that it was possibly their mom’s cooking.
With no hesitation Zero began moving forward, feeling the warmth of the light cascading down upon his face. Its warmth tickled his cheeks turning it pink. The group of children sped up, and their thousands of footsteps resounded like thunder on the golden stone floor. Home. It was deeply engraved in each of their thoughts. It was a place of everlasting peace and comfort. Their long journey was finally coming to a close.
The inhumane piercing sound broke through the silence. It sounded close—whatever was making it was coming towards them fast. Zero looked up towards the stairs. They had a straight shot up towards the column of light. Fear was heavy in the air as they all turned to find the source of the sound. Even Zero couldn’t help but turn his head towards the uneasy sound. Goosebumps prickled up and down his arms.
The sight of the creature froze his blood. Here was this thing that children, teens, and even adults still feared. Flashes of memory surfaced in his mind: dark, ghastly, human-like shadows stood at the foot of his bed, watching, breathing heavily as the room turned icy cold.
A couple of times, he swore he thought he saw sharp teeth coming out of its mouth as he peered out under his bed covers as a child. All he could see were glowing red eyes that he was sure could pierce through one’s soul. He felt waves of hate and anger manifested around him. They would always come during the night at 3:33am. He remembered every time; the digital clock would go off exactly at that time. But as he grew up, he brushed it aside and laughed it off as a figment of his imagination. He even broke the digital clock and asked his mother to get him a new one that didn’t beep.
These unwanted memories still haunted him at times. And now, in the realm of the dead, three of these nightmarish figures appeared before him once more.
The three black-hooded humanoid figures wore mundane medieval clothes. They appeared to be no more monstrous than regular human beings. No claws. No sharp teeth or outrageous displays of appendages. Instead their presence was overwhelming: he felt complete fear.
“Run! The shadow men are here! Runnnnnn!” yelled a boy with broken glasses, his voice cracking. Mass panic broke out, and they all frantically searched for shelter, but there was none to find. Children and teens scrambled all over the place, pushing, shoving, and running into each other. With each step the shadow men took, colors surrounding them were sucked completely dry. Green grass wilted and became diseased. Flowers, trees, and grapes shriveled up and turned a lifeless brown-gray. The nightmare men blew out frozen air between rows of decaying teeth, sending ripples of cold into the air around them.
Zero knew that it was impractical to protect every child now that they were fleeing in every direction. Teens and kids shoved him aside as they tried to get past him. They hid behind the wooden beams as if it could even protect them. Some were crying in fear as they stood immobilized. A couple of the older teens picked up the crying younger kids and sprinted off with them.
But he had to try to save them. Inhaling sharply, he roared loud and clear. “Everyone halt!”
Just like obedient dogs, each and every one stopped to look upon Zero. His ringing voice pushed aside their fear.
“Run towards the light!” Zero ordered them as he pointed towards the direction they had to go. A ripple effect began as they first walked, then trotted, and ran at a full sprint. Not one disobeyed. Their only drive was to get out of there alive.
Zero wished like never before that he didn’t have to do this outrageous quest. The promise of possible large wealth or even experience points was the only thing that kept him from going a bit crazy. “This is just a game. This is just a game,” he murmured, trying to focus his thoughts on reality. He was only doing this to get a good job. Fighting ghosts was not on his priority list.
“Origin form!” Zero shouted, but nothing happened. Confused, he checked his timer. His six hour limit was over and he could change at any given time. Also the twenty-four-hour mark was close to being over.
“Origin form! Origin form! Damn it, why doesn’t it work?” cursed Zero. He stomped madly on the ground, frustrated that nothing was working.
“Does this mean I can’t use my skills in death?” He gasped in fright and confusion. “Is this why no one wants to stay in this dimension and just wants to be guided out?” He was running out of options. The shadow men drew closer and closer. True death was coming towards him. He did not know what would happen next.
A twinkling light of metal could be seen in one of their hands. It was twirling a small dagger in its hand. A long, black, bat-like weapon bubbled and formed in another black shadow’s hand.
Soft dark chants whispered through the air and into his ears. “Give us back our life. Give us back our life. Give us your life.” The chant got louder and louder.
Sweat dripped down his face. “Even in death I still feel sweat. Is this because of that wretched necklace? I knew I should’ve thrown it away,” he mumbled under his breath. But he remembered what Sol said: to believe.
“I need a sword. I want Kamori here.” He closed his eyes and imagined his favorite black sword. He imagined its cold, sharp blade, the alligator-skin hilt, and the rough texture of leather in between his hands. Something heavy appeared in his right hand. He grasped it tightly. Kamori was with him, with a white aura coating the blade.
Stepping forward, he got ready. Children and teens streamed past him, and the shadow man circled him like hungry predators. Their eyes glowed dangerously red.
Nearby, he noticed Sol being bumped around like a ping pong ball in the crowd of children rushing past him. He fell to the ground, as his boat rolled towards the dark apparitions.
“My boat!” yelled Sol as he quickly reached towards it. It rolled towards the shadow men. As they passed by it, it broke into a million pieces. Sol backed away in terror. Their presence drained Sol’s life slowly like a leech with each step they took towards Zero.
Two of the shadow men attacked with lightning speed with their weapons. The third joined them from the left. Dodging the attacks, Zero bolted towards Sol. He gritted his teeth and swung in an overarching arc towards their head. Scattering, they dodged the white glimmering blade.
Inhuman shrieks rippled through the air as they fought. Metal sparked against metal, black ghastly smoke appeared and disappeared, and with each strike he could smell their foul breath. He swung Kamori once again. The shadow man stepped aside and nicked his arm. Drops of blood formed around it as it stung. Ignoring the pain, he followed up with a sharp roundhouse kick. Using the momentum of his blade swing, his kick passed through like water and lightly skimmed through the shadow man’s side.
The shadow man kicked just as Zero did, striking Zero in the head. The impact sent out a stunning shock, numbing his face and blinding his right eye as he saw white. Pain enveloped his entire face. He was knocked down onto the ground, dizzy from the impact. The wound seeped blood, making it difficult to see through one eye. He didn’t see the next kick that struck him on the side of his ribs.
Coughing up blood, he was sent flying, slamming his back into a column. The impact left him dazed and his breath left him.
His eyes watered with tears of pain. Even in death everything felt real. There was just no escape from pain in living or death. Peace? Lies. Where is heaven when you need it the most? Dark thoughts pervaded his head as he lay wounded on his side. He felt his life draining slowly. The color of his skin began to turn lifeless as all his strength felt sapped just from that contact with the shadow man.
“Sleep. Sleeeeeeep. Sleeeeeeeep,” they whispered into his ears.
“Sleep and accept the sweet bliss of true death,” one of the ghastly apparitions croaked.
An ashen face appeared from dark shadows, its eyes sewn shut. Its mouth whispered the same chant continuously.
“It doesn’t hurt. You won’t feel anything.” Their cackling voices laughed with delight as they approached him. Ghastly hands reached towards him.
They’re too strong. I’m going to die, he silently cried. He couldn’t lift Kamori. The shadow men’s bodies shimmered like old TV static. Distorted, agonized faces appeared on their bodies. They walked with a jittery gait as if their legs were broken.
True death at this moment sounded peaceful to him. Constant dark thoughts invaded his minds, telling him to give in. His eyes drooped with sleepiness.
Get up. Get up. Get up! an unknown voice screamed in his head.
Adrenaline kicked in. I don’t want to be like that. I can’t stay like this. Move, hand! MOVE!
With trembling hands, his fingers moved towards Kamori. The shadow men were upon him, hovering his body, ready to strike down with their daggers. With all the strength he could muster, he swung his sword into the abdomen of the nearest shadow man.
A loud, unearthly shriek erupted from its black-void throat. Small dime shaped holes appeared around Kamori as its body slowly disintegrated. Kamori vibrated and light erupted, blinding Zero. The other shadows cowered from the vibrant light. His hands fell limp at his side. All he could do now was to breathe. Even that was difficult.
One of the apparitions paced back and forth around Zero. Its face and body changed into the fat man he slew in the mansion of Dion.
“Lookey here. A child.” It smiled wickedly. Its eyes gleamed with bloodlust. Its foul breath wafted towards Zero, making it even harder to breathe. “I know you. You’re that rat. Keheuheuheu. It seems destiny has given me another chance. I want to know what’s under that skin. Keheuheuheu.” He licked the blade. The fat man lumbered forwards as his hands changed form into a sword. His rotten teeth peeked through his grin. Zero couldn’t believe he was here.
“You’re here?” Zero gasped in surprise. “I killed you.”
“Yes, and where do you think the dead go?” The fat man chuckled. “You have given me freedom from my body. Now I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, and it’s all thanks to you.” His sword glistened brightly under the red moon.
“You’re dead.” The irony of the word hit him.
“Ah, but that’s not true.” The fat man smiled as he took a step closer. “As I get stronger, I can transcend into the living. You will be my next meal.”
Zero couldn’t believe what he was hearing: the dead being able to interact with the living. If this was true, the fat man would be even more dangerous than when he was alive.
Like a streaking comet, a white orb zipped in front of him and created a magical light force field. Protecting him from their fiery wrath, it pushed the shadow men away. The impaled black shadow disappeared into the light as it let out one last shriek of pain. One of them clawed viciously at the barrier, and the other swung its bat, trying to break through. A powerful fluctuating energy spike blasted outwards, pushing them further and further back. They stumbled and fell.
“Noooooooooo! You are mine!” the fat man roared furiously.
The orb burst into fiery blueish-white flames, enforcing the shield. Whenever they touched it, it burned right through their skin.
A wave of energy rippled outward. An old antique bell rang as it welcomed its people home. Its loud ancient sound reminded him of the old clock tower in London, Big Ben. It disintegrated the shadow men as they screamed out in painful anguish. Their voices sounded of tortured souls. Their bodies had begun to expand in size as shapes of trapped souls screamed and stretched the body like elastic.
They exploded as souls escaped from their bodies and disappeared completely. Zero sighed with relief, grateful the bell had ended this nightmare.
The flickering flames of the orb’s fire died down, becoming smaller and smaller. It wavered and waned, descending into his upturned hands and melting into his heart. He felt a warm wave move through him as life returned slowly back into his hands and body. His skin glowed golden and his pain ebbed. Speechless and grateful, he stood up.
But his task was not done. He noticed a small body lying on the ground in a fetal position.
Zero ran towards him and placed Sol’s head in his lap. His body felt lifeless, his skin ashen. Did I fail again, just like I failed Pat? And with someone so young this time?
Eyes flickering open, Sol smiled.
“Zero. I’m so c-c-o-old.” Sol’s blue lips trembled.
“Stay with me, kid. We’re almost there,” said Zero as he tapped Sol’s cheeks to keep him awake. “Your father is waiting.” Zero slung him onto his back. His legs trembled as he stood up. Sol was a lot heavier than he looked. Jogging towards the warmth of the light, he could feel Sol’s life draining.
“Come on, Sol. Stay with me!” Zero shouted.
Zero picked up his pace, but Sol’s weight slowed him down. He didn’t have enough stamina for a full-out sprint. The upward run of the stairs felt endless. But with each step, he felt a pulsating warmth that filled his body. He felt his strength and life gradually replenished as he rushed up the stairs.
They reached the top of the stairs, and the sweet ringing of the bells welcomed them home. Warmth filled him bone-deep as he collapsed onto the ground, out of breath.
“We are finally here,” he gasped as he rolled Sol over to lie on the ground.
Color began to return to Sol’s face, and his eyes flickered.
“Zero.” Sol grinned from ear to ear.
“Welcome back, buddy. How do you feel?” Zero’s hand rested on his shoulder.
“Hungry.” Sol’s stomach grumbled. Zero laughed jubilantly.
“Don’t worry. You won’t be anymore.” Zero winked at Sol and helped him to his feet.
Children and teens held hands in a circle around the large column of light. They sang and danced with pure joy. One by one, the children entered into the dazzling light, which melted into their bodies until they disappeared. The light itself exuded blissful laughter. A blast of powerful warm light pulsated outwards. Zero shielded his eyes. A stream of aurora appeared and spread across the black sky. Its illuminating lights danced and twirled around the pillar of light, creating a lotus flower design.
The lost, ashen-faced people that were walking like zombies turned their heads towards the pulsating light. Washing away their doubts, they too began their journey towards the light.
“I think I see my dad,” said Sol excitedly, pointing to the pillar of light. “He has a new toy ship for me!” Sol beamed widely, his teeth pearly white, and he jumped up and down from excitement. He was ready to bolt towards his father.
“Thanks, Zero.” Sol gave him the biggest bear hug that he could muster. With a heartwarming smile, he let go and ran into the blinding light.
“Dad!” Sol yelled in happiness as his voice faded.
Sol was the last kid to enter into the column of light. Zero now stood alone.
|You have completed the quest.
A new title is given.“Beacon of hope.”
+ 7% in increase to immunity to dark magic.
+ 7% increase to light magic skills.
+ Shadowy dark apparitions are wary around you.
+ Lost souls will appear before you and ask for help.
+ A soft glow of light surrounds your body. It becomes a sign of hope to lost souls in death.
“The Last Stand.”
He had leveled up significantly in death. He wondered if they would cross over into his resurrection.
“Identify the Last Stand.”
|The Last Stand. (Automatic)
When your life drops close to zero, with one last burst of strength you may call your personal shield of light to protect you in its warmth. Life and mana recovery is increased by 5% for duration of five minutes. Useable in all forms.
Special Dove Message:
You have been granted by the god of Infinity to be able to resurrect this once for the good that you have done for the lost souls. Notoriety will stay the same. All debts must be paid off, or the next time you will not be able to be reborn.
“Not bad.” Zero dismissed the messages on his screen. Zero looked into the column of light. In its center, there was a double-helix of brighter light, like a strand of DNA.
“Here goes.” Zero held his breath as he entered. This time he welcomed the blazing light that erupted in his face.
<Memory Public Hospital>
The evening sun set and its beams on the white stone floor became shorter. Inside the hospital, the patients noisily chatted as they waited for their name to be called. Large 90” TVs were set up on the wall for patients to watch. The latest news was being played. Nurses ran around in a hurry to deliver messages between doctors. No one stopped to take a breather. It was one of those busy days where patients flooded in nonstop.
A loud blaring sound of an ambulance stopped in front of the emergency entrance. Paramedics wearing Alive gear rushed in with an injured teenage girl. Blood seeped through her clothes and dripped down from her head. A metal rod stuck out from the left side of her chest.
“We had a pile-up on 285. There were two sixteen-wheelers and a couple of cars, cause unknown. The patient’s car skidded off the road, and she got impaled on a metallic pipe piled by the roadside construction. We’ve got fourteen dead and more injured on the way,” the paramedic explained quickly to the doctor. “The metal rod luckily didn’t impale the heart, but her lung has collapsed. Heavy bleeding, concussion, and I’m not sure of the complete extent of the damage.”
“Room 2A is available!” The doctor’s clothes fluttered behind him as he rushed with the paramedics. There was no time to lose. A young teen’s life was in balance and time was of the essence. Paramedics rushed the patient into the room. The doctor’s team followed right after.
For the next couple of long hours, the doctor’s team worked diligently to save her life. It was not an easy task. The emergency light turned off as the doctor’s group exited the room.
“Nice job, Alex.” A nurse with curly red hair and a voluptuous body came up and congratulated him for saving the girl’s life.
“Thanks, but we need to move on to the next patient. The pile-up was really bad. We have four more that just came in and are being worked on now. Go and check on them, please, and report back to me,” said Alex with indifference to her. He pulled out his glasses from his pocket and picked up the clipboard from the nurse. It was the information for the next patient.
Alex was not a fan of this new technology that the world was becoming attached to. He enjoyed doing things the old fashion way. Technology felt like a hindrance to him. He did use the Alive Gear a couple times, but his eyes easily tired during surgery. Surgery precision and knowledge jumped up by 20%, and he knew this was a huge asset, but he felt uncomfortable wearing them.
This was his place of work, his cover-up in real life. It was the best job to fool the people into thinking that he was like any other. Unconsciously he reached over to his cheek, and stopped himself short.
At times his cheek throbbed, and it became an unconscious habit that he had to stop himself or his makeup hiding his scar would disappear.
A group of men in black suits with red collared shirts walked up to Alex. A couple of them had a large black briefcase. Each one of them wore Alive gear and had a small pendant trinket on the left chest. It was a six-pointed star with an eye of Horus in the middle. In the center of the eye was a simple design of a three headed snake-dragon in a triskele pattern. A buff, tall white man walked up to Alex.
“May I help you?” he peeked over his glasses. “My name is James. We have an order from the higher-ups as well the consent of the guardian to go ahead with this project.” The man handed him a paper signed by a company called Kosmos. It was surprising to see a well-known company take interest in the girl that he had personally saved.
“Right now she’s in a coma. She won’t be able to talk with you right now,” Alex said with suspicion. Something about them felt out of place.
“Please just take us to her. We have something we must do,” James said with indifference to the situation. “Which room is hers?”
The red headed nurse that was next to Alex the whole time smiled. “Please come this way. I’ll take you to her.” She directed them towards the room where they needed to go.
“Wait, what? I don’t think this is a good idea. We don’t know them,” said Alex, surprised. He didn’t like where this was going, especially how this nurse didn’t question them.
“Sir, we are in a hurry. We already have an official document to go through with this. So please stand aside.” James pushed him aside and followed the nurse. Alex followed right behind them closely.
The nurse opened the door to the private room where the patient lay. James and his men entered the room. They placed their case onto a table and unlocked it. Inside was an Embryo Sense gear.
“What are you doing with that?” Alex asked. The men in black suits carefully placed the gear onto her head. James pressed the power button on the forehead where the Embryo logo was located.
It was an egg shape with three pairs of wings. On the left side of the egg, the wings were colored light blue and the other side was colored red. Inside the egg was a white power button symbol that looked like a dragon eating itself. This was where the users had to press to turn the Sense gear on. It would also scan their fingerprint for identification. A golden crown was above the egg and an infinity mark underneath it. The right half of the infinity mark was colored red and the other half was colored light blue. The golden egg glowed as it was turned on.
James stood watching over the girl. Alex assumed he was doing something to the Sense gear through the Alive gear. Stepping back, the men in black suits looked over to Alex.
“Everything’s stable. She should heal faster now.” James was satisfied with his work. “If anything strange happens, please call us first.” He walked over to Alex and clasped his hands. “You will witness a true miracle.” James smiled brightly and let go.
Alex felt something solid and metallic in his hands. It was the same trinket the men in black were wearing on their chests. One after another all the men in black suits left the room. As he stared at the trinket, he thought he saw it blinking its eyes. Startled, he dropped it onto the ground. Slowly crouching down, he picked it up and closely examined it. No blinking. Nothing.
“This is all in my head.” He sighed in relief. “These long hours really do make my eyes a bit tired and playing the game Growth as well. Damn, I need to complete my mission. Playing doctor is a headache.” The past weeks, he had been cutting down on his hours at work. Now he asked to change his status to a call-in doctor at certain days and times. He didn’t need the long hours anymore, and since he received a mission from the higher ups to find the Seed, his priority had changed.
Switching between one persona to another was completely flawless. This was just another game, another skill he needed to do his job right.
A soft, irregular, metallic beeping sound was heard. He looked around, trying to find the sound, and as his eyes rested upon the girl he noticed an odd, soft, thin sheet of green aura around her whole body. It was barely noticeable to the naked eye, but if he stared long enough, he could see it clearly.
Rubbing his eyes a couple of times, he checked if it was real. The green aura didn’t disappear from his vision. Instead it intensified around her.
“I need some sleep. I must be really tired,” said Alex worriedly. He nodded in agreement with his own logic. He was going to call off work as soon as possible for the day and get some sleep. He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.