Zero and Agnis quickly bolted towards the door. Running through the shop, he had to maneuver through the tight spaces without spilling any of Jack’s tools on the floor. A couple of times, he thought his large body was going to knock a couple of dangerous-looking swords off the desk, but luckily he didn’t. He wasn’t so big that he had to suck in his breath to squeeze through the rows of weapons, exactly, but he was tall and could accidentally sweep things aside if he didn’t pay attention
Some nearby guards were startled when Zero and Agnis ran from of the blacksmith’s shop. Silver bastard swords were drawn in a hurry. They glinted dangerously around Zero’s body, ready to strike.
“A monster!” yelled a guard as he aimed his sword toward Zero. Other guards turned towards the yell and met almost face to face with Zero, who was taller than them. He finally felt like he had grown, giving him a slight advantage—and he liked it.
A silver bastard sword swung towards him from the right. Zero stepped backward, dodging out of harm’s way but bumping into Agnis in the process. She stumbled backward into the wooden door. Steadying herself, she only had to slip past him before she was completely blocked in the shop.
The tip of the sword slightly nicked Zero on his chest. He felt a small prick and noticed it drawing blood. Taking a couple steps back, he inhaled deeply and then let out a torrent of red flames aimed at the ground, startling the guards backwards. Heatwaves tanned their faces as they reeled back in fright.
“Gyahh!” screamed a guard. He covered his eyes from the blinding light and stumbled backwards from the intense heat. Many others dropped their weapons and cowered in fear of being toasted alive by the fire.
“Wait, stop! Stop!” yelled Agnis as she rushed forward. She raised her hands and waved to catch everyone’s attention.
“Stop! He’s my companion!” Agnis ran in between the guards and Zero.
Zero cut off his fire breath and stood ready to see if anyone would attack again. He was not going to die standing still. Even though there were many surrounding them, he was going to take down as many as he could with him using his teeth, claws, and fire.
“Please! He’s my companion! Put down your weapons!” Agnis yelled at the top of her lungs. She pulled out a long paper that was beautifully inscribed with black ink. Written on it was the contract between Zero and Agnis.
The captain walked over to her and snatched the paper from her hands. He carefully read it line by line and peered back up at her with grunt.
“Stand down, men. It’s a pet,” replied the captain. He raised his hands to signal to his platoon. The sound of metal swords sliding into their sheaths could be heard. The captain roughly gave her back her paper.
“I am no pet,” Zero snappily answered. Smoke rose up from his nose, ready to shoot more flames.
“Excuse me?” The captain glanced up Zero startled. The guards around him whispered in surprise to hear Zero talking.
“I said I am not a pet!” Zero accentuated the word to the captain.
“Then what are you?” The captain stood up straight and slowly moved his hands towards his sword.
“Didn’t you hear her? A companion, and better yet, a Drezo Regalia. Remember that—if you can get it through your thick skull,” replied Zero. He too was ready to strike out if the captain pulled his sword.
“Graaaaaawwwwgrgh!” The unknown voice broke the standoff between Zero and the captain in a matter of seconds. The continuous spine-chilling sound rang throughout the city. The residents scrambled in panic as they raced around to hide from the unknown danger. Baskets were toppled over, shop carts were stashed away quicker than when they were set up, and residents rushed home. The sound of the unknown voice grew louder and louder, and trembled in fear and hid for the fear of being found. The night sky turned pitch black; luckily for Zero, he was still able to see.
“What’s happening? Are they already here?” said a young man in a panicked voice.
“No, they’re not supposed to be here till the morning,” replied a woman who was ferrying her daughter into the house.
“Where is it coming from?” The guards bustled around in confusion, trying to find the source. Their torches waved back and forth from one dark location to another, searching as people rushed by. The city had descended into chaos. People scrambled to bring their children, pets, and extra food inside before something disastrous happened to them.
“Graaaaaawwwwgrgh!” Another terrifying voice exploded like a ringing gong echoing into the darkness.
Loud bells clanged, warning the residents and players to seek shelter. People continued to duck and cover for the fear of being killed.
“The land sharks must be here! Everyone get ready!” shouted the knight leading the guards. The guards once moving in a chaotic mass quickly came to their senses and reformed their orderly groups. They raced up onto the city walls and waited for the oncoming battle. Standing like statues, they stared off toward the dark horizon, waiting tensely for the oncoming attack. Only the city lights illuminated the dark city walls, but out on the horizon nothing else could be seen.
No winds blew across the hot summer night, and no insects buzzed their usual songs. Only an eerie silence filled the air. It had been over a thousand years since a monster raid set its eyes upon the city walls.
Men, young and old, picked up any available weapons in the vicinity and readied themselves for the oncoming danger. High-level players stood ready, anticipating the battle, while the new players sought shelter. There were a hundred thousand players, and including the guards on top of the city walls, there were hundreds of thousands of combatants ready for battle.
“Tch.” The minor guard captain spat away from Zero. “Move out! Whatever this thing is it is no concern of ours.” His unit of guards went into formation and marched away without looking back. Zero snorted and watched them leave ahead.
Agnis patted him on the shoulder, making him turn his head towards her. “We should get going as well. I think it would be better if I rode on your back like a horse to stop people from attacking you.”
“You’ll do what?” Zero stared at her.
“I even bought a saddle for such an occasion.” She shyly pulled out a saddle from her bag. It was a simple brown leather saddle with straps to go around the chest.
“A-a-a saddle?” Zero stuttered. He could not believe what he was hearing. Was this a nightmare? He smacked himself in the face to see which one it was.
“Why did you do that?” said Agnis, shocked at what she was seeing.
Zero groaned. It was not a dream. He should have known Agnis would be like this. “Forget it. I’ll take my chances.”
Agnis’s face fell and her shoulders slumped at his answer. “But…”
“I said no!” Zero stated sternly. He was not going let her run all over him just because he had said yes to other things. If at any point he was going to allow her on his back, it would be on his own terms.
“Let’s go.” He trotted off towards the city gates, walking wearily for a possible another unsuspected attack from passing soldiers. The wind brought a familiar scent to his nose: a metallic smell he knew too well. He raised his head towards the direction of the scent.
Agnis sighed with disappointment. She put away the saddle in her bag and followed after.
“Come on, it wouldn’t be too bad.” Agnis jogged next to Zero, still hoping for a different answer.
“I said no.” Zero cut her off without giving her time to say anything more.
Shivers went down his spine from the unholy sound. It was not something one would want to hear in the middle of the night, especially when everyone was on edge from the land sharks’ upcoming invasion in the morning.
Weaving in and out through the crowds of waiting fighters, they made their way to the front of the gate. Large crowds of players and NPCs alike were pushing and shoving, trying to quickly get in. But anyone who noticed Zero moved aside with unease, and Agnis followed closely behind him, still pouting. Finally they exited the city and stepped from the panicked crowd trying to get in to a large but calmer crowd that stood watching the horizon.
A loud beeping sound exploded throughout each individual player’s ears, while red angry-looking messages flooded across the players’ menus.
|Alert! Alert! Alert!|
|Quest override of all personal quests has been initiated.|
|Special Hidden Quest Alpha will be a priority. Other quests cannot be completed nor given until the Special Hidden Quest has been completed.|
|Special Hidden Quest Alpha has been updated.
An unknown force is encroaching on all the cities. The once-forgotten manmade horrors have been resurrected to hunt the living. With the timing of the oncoming waves that are set to come in the morning, another unknown force strikes first to ensure the complete annihilation of all humans, elves, dwarves, and trolls.
An unusual eerie curse is still in effect throughout Noriene. All residents and players are cursed till the source has been eradicated.
Difficulty Level: ARequirements: The Seed Shard quest: Dispersal must be completed. The top twelve warlords of Noriene must meet in the same room and the majority must agree to combat the threat against Noriene. Once agreed upon, guilds may form temporary alliances and send out invitations to other players. Players who have watched the meeting choose which group they want to join for the duration of the quest. NPCs must also join the quest. All requirements also apply to NPCs.
Defeat: A preemptive attack has been initiated. Defeat the 9,999 manslaughters. The wave of the undead land sharks and the source that brings upon the curse. Must prevent all the residents of each city from being annihilated. Three-quarters of the population of each city must survive.
Reward: One high level armor from the highest level of monsters that they had killed during the duration of three days for each person. Experience points depend on how much you have contributed.
Deadline: The quest must be completed in three days. (1 day remaining)
|Special Zone Alpha effects have gone into place. For the duration of the required event, a special zone effect will take place throughout the major cities and surrounding areas. All attacks and defenses will go into real time. Fatality, wounds, and dismembered body parts are active and many more.|
An extra message appeared on Zero’s screen.
|Phase one of the Curse of the Drezo Regalia has been temporarily lifted. You will be able to shift between Origin and Human form three times during the event. There is a three hour limit to stay in Origin Form and a 30-minute cool down time.|
This was the first time Zero had heard of a curse set on his race. Knowing the curse was lifted for this event brought him only temporary relief. Who had set it and why? He wanted to know, but there weren’t any answers to his questions.
An explosion of disgruntled and horrified voices rose throughout the field. Panic erupted from the NPCs as their fears increased exponentially. They pushed anxiously to enter into the city walls and shoved each other aside. The player’s voices had rung with worry or anticipation at the double waves that were coming. It was unheard of for two unknown forces to appear at the same time.
“Are you serious? Is this game rigged?”
“How are we going to survive?” asked a worried female player.
“Special Zone Alpha? What does that mean?”
“Is this some kind of sick joke?”
“This is unheard of. Why the hell did Hercules Guild have to complete the Seed Shard quest and initiate something insane like this?” The voices of the disgruntled residents were blaming the misfortune towards their savior for the fear of death.
“Calm down, it’s nothing. We won’t die.” A player patted his friend, trying to calm him down.
“That’s not the problem. Look at the requirements. It’s insane. We have to keep at least 3/4ths of the residents alive, plus kill the first wave, then the oncoming second, and then there is also a possibility of a boss. If there isn’t, we’re saved. If there is, we’re screwed. Have you thought of that?” asked an exasperated male player.
“No biggie, we got Grand Legion and Hercules with us. It’ll be a cinch,” said another player with indifference.
His friend slapped his head and his jaw dropped in disbelief.
But the other half of the players cried out in excitement.
“Hell yes, more experience points!”
“This is too cool.”
“Who wants to see who can kill the most?”
A multitude of different cries and cheers mixed together, drowning out one another.
Zero quietly listened in on their conversations. He understood why everyone was worried, but this was the best time to increase a large amount of experience in a short amount of time. He was giddy with excitement and nervous for the possible outcome.
He looked out into the distance. A lot was on his mind.
“Zero, what are we doing out here? Shouldn’t we be in there?” Agnis pointed towards the city wall.
“Yeah, but I wanted to check on something. It just doesn’t seem right, give me a second.” Zero stared out into the distance and raised his nose. He caught a faint scent like rotting flesh. It was neither human nor creature. It reminded him of death and an odd foul odor that he could not describe.
“Do you think we will be alright?” asked Agnis worriedly. She scooted closer to the point of touching.
“I don’t know, Agnis. I don’t know,” replied Zero in a mellow-toned voice. He wasn’t sure how to comfort her about the oncoming problem. His stomach turned with nervousness and his heart beat quickly. This was his first raid battle of this caliber. Truthfully it was the first for every player in Noriene.
“Did you buy enough herbs?” asked Agnis.
“How about some extra arrows?”
“Then what about some daggers?”
“Agnis.” He turned around to face her. “I have everything ready. Just calm down, okay?”
She nodded, and her hands grasped onto his fur. Her white hair fluttered slightly from the wind that blew across their faces. A pungent stench of rot crept toward the city.
“What’s that smell?” Agnis’s face scrunched up in disgust, and she blanched, ready to throw up.
“Death,” Zero replied with a stoic face.
Zero stood like a stone, watching off into the distance. His Origin form let him see long distances in the dark, even though his human form didn’t have any particular seeing abilities. He got up, ready to leave and go back into the city walls, when the neighing of a horse brought his attention back towards the darkness.
In the distance, he saw a lone female elf riding hard on a brown horse. Her silver hair glittered underneath the moonlight, and her small stature held on tightly to her horse’s back. Deep wounds covered her body. She looked like she was about to fall off.
“What’s wrong?” Agnis asked worriedly. She teetered on her toes, trying to see what Zero was looking at.
“Agnis, I need you to go back. Wait for me inside.”
“There is a horse carrying a female elf and a monster chasing her,” said Zero. He stood up and bolted toward her at full speed. Time was of the essence, and he could already see her slipping from the back of the horse. A couple of feet behind her were the ugliest looking monster he had ever seen. It looked like a giant centipede with a human head. It had a hard brown shell with thousands of human-like hands moving fluidly like a single entity. Razor-sharp pincer jaws protruded from the side of its mouth. Red gleaming eyes lit the dark starry night as it snapped at the horse’s heels.
Fifty feet. Forty-five. Forty. I need to get to her faster. With a burst of energy he rushed forward to snap her up by the back before she hit the ground. The horse neighed in fright and thrashed its hooves towards Zero almost hitting him in the process.
Zero moved out of the way before he was harmed from the thrashing hooves. The monster was upon them in seconds like ravenous wolves. With its razor sharp pincers, the monster sliced the horse’s head off clean and sent it flying. The monster was the same size as Zero. Zero could not run fast with an elf uncomfortably in his mouth. So instead he quickly set her down and attacked.
With claws extended and snarling teeth showing, Zero dashed around the monster. Like a snake the monster attacked, aiming for his head. He ducked from the oncoming razor-sharp tail.
It was a dance of death between Zero and the monster, both trying to outmaneuver the other. His claws skimmed past the hard shell that protected its outer body. Zero growled an animalistic growl, trying to force it to move away. Circling around like a panther, he began to formulate a plan. He knew now that attacking its outer shell would not be enough to kill it. And he could not let it harm the elf girl.
Several times they met claw to claw, and Zero blocked its strikes to stop it from harming the elf. It was a dashing dance between the monster and him, each avoiding one another.
How am I going to kill it? he thought. One word entered his mind like a yell. Fire. He knew bugs hated fire. Pulling in a deep breath, Zero blew flames. To him it felt like a tickle in his stomach. In preparation for the land shark battle, he’d eaten enough flint to make him feel sick. He didn’t know if he would get another chance to stock up again.
The multi-colored red flames sprayed the monster in its face. Its scream brought goosebumps to Zero’s skin. It thrashed and swiped its tail at him. Zero had to dodge out of harm’s way before it could impale him in the process.
Jumping from side to side, he rushed in and head butted the monster in the chest. It toppled like a tree onto its back with a sickening thud. Squirming with its legs up in the air, it tried to twist back up. But Zero was too fast to allow that. He pounced on it like a cat and clawed deeply into its chest.
Each swipe dug deeper as black blood and guts spilled onto the ground. A howling scream erupted from its mouth as the monster tried to raise its head. It struggled to swipe down upon Zero, trying to break free. With one terrifying breath, Zero blew fire into the hole that he had created. It screamed, and screamed, and screamed. Its body flailed around till it finally stopped moving.
Panting, he got off the monster. His whole body tingled with the thrill of the battle. It seemed that the new zone implementation was the key. Everything felt even more real and alive. The smell, the touch, the taste, the sight, and even the sounds wrapped him tighter and tighter into the world. He felt a nick of pain on his side, but it was soon forgotten in the rush of adrenaline.
Even his fire breath was already becoming a weapon of his own. In the beginning his fire breath hadn’t done much damage, but now it was strong enough to defeat a monster, albeit slowly.
He checked for any items or money that would appear as a reward for his battle, but he was disappointed. Only a couple of gold coins were present.
“Cheap monster,” Zero grumbled and kicked it. The monster twitched. He jumped back growling, but nothing else happened.
Zero walked over to the elf that was on the ground and noticed her injuries, from cuts all over her body to a possible broken rib where her armor looked like it was pierced through. He bent over, listening to her breathing. It was barely audible. What made him most curious was why she was in such state. He especially knew that when players were close to zero health they were still able to fight or run away, not be barely alive and unmoving. This was something new.
The girl elf slowly blinked her eyes open and coughed up blood. Zero pulled up his menu and looked through his item storage for some healing items. He had two health potions that he had specifically saved up for in case of an emergency. Buying one of these potions cost him a fortune.
Gently holding up her head with his paw-like hands, he poured the potion into her mouth, a few drops at a time. She woke up a bit more energized. Her hands clasped around the potion like a hungry baby and took it out of his hands.
“Yummmm, strawberry.” The elf girl chugged the rest of the potion and wiped it off her face. Little by little her wounds started to disappear. She hiccupped.
“Taste good?” Zero’s face fell from depression. My money. He silently cried out with sadness.
“Thank you.” She stopped and glanced up in shock. “A talking horse.” Her mouth moved with awe. Her hands shakily rose up to his face, trying to touch him like he was some kind of scared animal that would run away if one did not slowly reached outwards to him.
“A horse?” Zero bent over closer to the elf girl, confused. “Do I look like a horse?”
“I-I-I….” she stuttered. Startle, she pulled her hands away.
“You alright?” Zero curiously peered down at her, overshadowing her.
“Oh!” She sat bolt upright and slammed into his head.
Zero reeled backwards in pain. His eyes scrunched up and his hands grasped his forehead. That was a serious head butt that had made him slightly dizzy.
“Owwww.” The elf rubbed her head furiously. She stopped and her eyes opened up in a flash. “The enemy is coming,” she whispered. “They’re right behind me!” she gasped out loud.
“Calm down. Are you talking about the land sharks?”
“No. It’s worse than that.” The elf grabbed his head and shook him. Her eyes were like those of a crazed madman, while her hair was disheveled. He wouldn’t be surprised if she was mistaken as one at the moment.
Zero pulled back getting out of her grasp. He was even dizzier than before. “What could be worse than that?”
The elf girl scrambled up and dusted off her clothes hurriedly. “Manslaughters,” she whispered.
“You mean one of those.” He motioned towards where the dead manslaughter lay.
“Did you kill it?” she asked. She gaped at him, jaw hanging open.
“Yeah. You don’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s dead.”
“That’s not the only one.” She began to hoist herself up onto Zero.
“Whoa, little girl, what are you doing?” He quickly moved back. She stumbled forward but caught herself.
“We need to go now,” she said in a panicked voice. “Everyone needs to know that the manslaughters are right behind me. They’re going to be here soon!”
Zero closed his eyes. This is a special circumstance. Just this once, he thought. He clenched his teeth and squatted down. Turning his head towards the elf girl, he said, “Get on.”
The elf girl happily climbed on top of his back by pulling herself up by his fur. She made herself comfortable and wrapped her hands around his neck.
“Hold on tight, okay?”
“Okay.” She grasped even tighter. He barely even felt the squeeze.
Zero’s head snapped towards the sound. He squinted into the darkness and noticed movement from fifty feet away. Three more manslaughters were rushing in his direction, screaming at the top of their lungs.
He silently cursed. “Is this some kind of horror movie?” he was not a huge fan.
“They’re here,” the elf girl said and shivered. Her hands pulled on his fur to the point of pulling it out.
“Ow ow ow. Hold. Not pull. Please,” said Zero with a tinge of pain in his voice.
“Sorry,” she whispered. She loosened her hands and snuggled deeply into his fur.
In a single push, Zero bolted towards the city wall. With each step he took, he could feel his powerful legs digging deeply into the dirt, giving him a burst of speed. No horse or man could outrun him now; he felt like he was going as fast as a cheetah. Behind him the three manslaughters pursued.
“What’s your name, elf?” he yelled while running. The rushing wind blew past them, creating a loud whistling sound.
“I’m Zero. Where did you find these monsters?”
“At the mansion of Dion.” She hiccupped. “I’m sorry. We couldn’t hold them back.” Lara had begun to sniffle.
“Please don’t cry. I don’t blame you for it. Just what happened?” Zero sprung forward and latched onto the wall. His claws dug into a crevice. He pulled himself up by the strength of his arms. He could hear the crunching sound of stone breaking underneath his claws.
“I swear we didn’t do anything. My party heard a yell from the mansion of Dion and rushed over to see what had happened. What we saw was just horrible. It was completely overrun by monsters.” Lara held on tighter, trying not to fall off his back. “They came in hordes. All you could hear was the screams of the dying. My friends…” Her voice trembled and became softer. “They protected me and were left behind. I haven’t been able to contact them…”
“You can’t contact them? Does the messaging not work?” he said with a surprise.
“Yes. Something is wrong with the game system. It has been happening since the attack. I think there is some kind of interference going on.”
Zero jumped upward and grasped onto a protruding stone. His grip slipped and he missed.
“Kyaaaa!” Lara screamed as she dangled from his back. The three manslaughters had reached the base of the city walls. Hundreds of arrows flew downwards towards the manslaughters. Most of the arrows bounced off their hard shells, but others made contact on the soft tissues around their joints and eyes.
Already they looked like porcupines as two fell backward dead. The third was right on his heels, snapping its ugly jaws and clawing its way up the wall.
“We’re almost there.” Zero gritted his teeth. This was going to be a lot harder than he’d thought. He felt stupid that he didn’t take the easy way and went through the gates, but it would have taken too long and people were already present. By the time they did that, the enemy would have been upon them. Climbing the wall was the fastest route. He had the strength to do it.
An arrow whizzed past his head and bounced off the wall.
Don’t these people know how to aim? Zero thought. Today he did not want to be target practice.
With one claw after another he pulled himself three-fourths of the way up. The last manslaughter caught up and bit down hard on his tail. Zero yelped in pain and faltered. His grip slipped from the extra weight.
“Hold on. I have something that might help,” said Lara. She fidgeted in her pockets and pulled out a potion. Dangling off of Zero’s neck, she dropped the vial onto the face of the manslaughter, and the green acidic liquid splashed onto its face. A loud sizzling sound could be heard as the liquid started to melt its face showing meat and bone. It let go of Zero’s tail to howl a painful cry, and it slipped and fell backwards onto the ground with a loud thud.
Another shower of arrows fell downwards like rain and pierced its soft underbelly. With one last howl, it went quiet. Overhead, a thick rope dangled in his front of Zero’s face.
“Zero! Hold on!” yelled Agnis over the wall. She waved to catch his attention.
Without a moment to lose, Zero clamped onto the rope. He was almost yanked off the wall, but he caught himself. With each pull he climbed ten feet higher, making his goal ever so closer.
With one last pull, Zero pulled himself over the wall. He stumbled for a brief moment with shaking legs before he flopped down. A couple of guards rushed over to help Lara.
“That was a workout,” he panted, rolling on his back. “I don’t think I’ll ever climb up like that again.”
“Zero…” An almost ghostly whisper called out to him.
Zero felt a spine-tingling chill and looked up. A couple of feet away from him, Agnis’s eyes gleamed with danger.
“Ye-e-s?” he stuttered.
“It’s not fair. How come she got to ride on your back?” Agnis came over and pounded on his chest.
“Stop. Stop. Stop. Agnis.”
Agnis stopped and looked at him with suspicion. Her usual beautiful smile was gone and a pout was plastered in its place. Her cheeks turned puffy and her eyes had an evil glint.
Oh no, he thought. I better say something before I get my ears chewed off.
“Ahem.” He cleared his throat. “This was an emergency situation. Lara will tell you. Lara?” He looked at her, his eyes pleading for help. Lara scooted back from Agnis’s stare.
“Lara.” He coughed to get her attention and motioned his head towards Agnis.
“I, uh…I.” She stopped for a moment. The intensity of Agnis’s bloodlust grew bigger as Lara shrank back in fright.
“I have something important to say.” Lara spoke softly, barely audible. “The manslaughters are coming.” Her voice rose with more power. Her back straightened and her face turned stern from the realization that her friends had sacrificed their lives for this important information. “They will be here soon. We need to get ready. My friends have sacrificed their lives to help us!” she shouted, catching everyone’s attention.
“Their carapace is too strong to breach,” she explained. “You must aim for their joints, eyes, mouth, or any soft tissue areas including their underbelly. Disable them. Roast them. Kill them!” Lara’s voice attracted more people to hear what she had to say.
“Our normal communication networks are down. We cannot use it to reach out to our friends anymore. Something is blocking all this. I don’t know why. If you don’t believe me, try it.”
The players around her shuffled through their contacts and were surprised to see that what she said was true. Unease rose in people’s hearts.
“Our communication is cut. What are we supposed to do?” panicked a player.
“How are we supposed to receive messages on how to kill the land sharks? And now we have to fight manslaughters too? This is outrageous!”
People shouted and yelled as they squabbled amongst one another.
People and NPCs fell silent. They turned their heads towards the commanding voice and parted as Aldran, leader of the Hercules Guild, made his way through the crowds to the top of the wall.
“We don’t have time for any of this nonsense. If what this girl says is true, we need to be ready,” Aldran said. Gullifer followed quietly behind Aldran like a shadow, while Aldran walked forward with head held up high. He stopped in front of Lara.
“You have done well. You’re one of Grand Legion’s warriors, aren’t you?” Aldran asked.
Lara sniffled and began to bawl. “I-I couldn’t save them.” Her crying intensified.
“It’s alright. You have come in the nick of time to help us.” Aldran wrapped his arms around her and hugged her. He patted her shoulders. “Now, now. Don’t cry. A cute face like yours will get all messed up.”
The female players looked jealously at Lara.
“I-I know. I just failed.” She sniffled and wiped away her tears.
“No. You have arrived and given us what we needed to know. Especially how to kill them. You don’t know how vital this information is.” He smiled. Everyone nodded in agreement. Aldran turned towards everyone. “Now. As we all know, we have a time limit. Let us make ready for war!”
The people cheered with excitement. They rushed towards their posts. Lara and Aldran quietly talked. Zero could still hear soft crying from Lara. He felt relieved as his job was done.
“I’m surprised he was near,” said Zero with interest. He too was about to step in and quiet the people but Aldran had already done so.
“Agreed,” said Agnis. She stared at the guild leader with awe.
Lara walked up towards Zero nervously. She squirmed, trying to say something.
“Thanks, Zero,” she softly whispered. “You know, people here don’t usually save people, especially because you don’t die in real life.” Lara fidgeted even more, making him slightly uncomfortable.
“It’s alright. Just glad you’re okay.” Zero smiled warmly.
Lara quickly walked over and gave him a peck on his cheeks. She blushed red and ran off into the crowd.
Agnis’s jaw dropped, then she burst out laughing. “You lucky dog. You’re finally taking your first step to becoming a lady killer.”
Zero stared towards where Lara had run off to in a daze. He didn’t know what else to say. His hands lightly brushed against his cheeks where she’d given him a light kiss. He could still feel where her warm lips left an impression in his fur.
“You.” Aldran motioned towards Zero.
“Me?” Zero looked around him to see who Aldran was talking too. His paws fell to his side.
“Yes, you. Who else would I be talking to?”
“Yes?” asked Zero. He was confused at what Aldran wanted. He stood up straighter and waited for Aldran to come towards him.
“What are you? Are you a werewolf?” asked Aldran.
“A giant fox demon?”
Zero rolled his eyes. “Do I look like a demon to you?”
“Well, that is a matter of who is looking at you from what angle. If you look from the side right over here”—Aldran side-stepped around him and went towards the back—“you look like a giant fluffy fox monster. And if you go over here”—he walked back to the front of Zero—“You have the tendency to scare people. It’s all about the angles.”
Zero laughed. He couldn’t believe this guy. He didn’t know if he was strange or just outright truthful. The way that he envisioned and the world portrayed Aldran was as a cold, merciless, and arrogant prick, but that wasn’t the case.
“Either way. You look pretty cool. Your name is?” Aldran examined him.
“Zero, and this is Agnis.” Zero motioned towards Agnis with his head, who stood right next to him. She smiled and nodded politely.
“I’m Aldran, and behind me following like a shadow is Gullifer. Please don’t mind him. He has a tendency to scare people too,” he cheerily replied. “Anyways, thanks for rescuing Lara. She told me how, when she was at the brink of death, you gave her a potion. Without it she would have died from falling off the horse.”
He patted Zero on his shoulder, which gave him pause. “Wow. You have some soft fur.”
“I know. You’re not the only one that has said that.” He sighed. He wondered when people would stop saying that.
“Graaaaaawwwwgrgh!” The unholy scream signaled the oncoming wave.
“They are here,” whispered Agnis. Her words caught Zero and Aldran’s attention. They whipped around to look down the city walls.
Thousands of manslaughters rushed towards the city, swarming together like ants. Most of them were the size of a car, and out of every thousand there were a couple of even larger ones that outmaneuvered and outclassed the rest.
“They’re here!” yelled a guard. The guards moved fluidly into formation, weapons drawn. Aldran rushed to the edge of the wall. He pulled out his majestic looking wooden bow.
“Ready, men! We are going to push these vile creatures back!” Aldran cried out. He nocked his arrow to the bow. “Fire!” commanded Aldran as he fired his own.
Thousands of arrows with burning fire showered like rain onto the oncoming screaming waves. It reminded Zero of thousands of fireflies lighting up the night sky. Almost half of the arrows bounced off the shells, but the rest struck luckily into the soft spots of the manslaughters.
“Keep firing!” Aldran shouted again. Wave after wave of brightly lit arrows pummeled the enemy monsters. A few caught on fire, others fell dead to the ground, and a handful ate their fallen comrades. The ones that ate grew bigger and stronger, towering up to the size of a semi-truck. The rest continued to charge forward in a mindless horde. Their minds settled on one objective: complete and total annihilation of the city.
“Kill these ugly bastards!” Gullifer yelled in glee. “Aldran, I bet you cannot kill as many as me!” He continued to fire one arrow after another. Each hit its target almost perfectly in their weak spots.
“You’re on. The one who loses will buy the whole guild beer.” Aldran laughed. “Zero and Agnis, come join us. Don’t just sit there.” He motioned them forward. Agnis was already shooting her black-tipped arrows at the enemy, and Zero was patiently waiting for his chance to join.
“You sure about that?” Zero smirked. He was itching for battle. “What do we get if any of us win?”
“A magical amulet.” Aldran pulled out an ancient blue sapphire the size of his hand. “And the loser coughs up 50 gold or an item of an equivalent value.”
“You serious?” Zero looked at it with greed. His mind spun with the things he could buy from selling that sapphire.
“You guys really think you can win against me?” Agnis chimed in. “Already five dead.” she boasted.
A message appeared before each one of their screens.
A temporary side quest has gone into effect. Because it corresponds with the main quest, this quest will not be disqualified. Instead it will not be posted in the main quest sections. The time limit is set to the end of the battle with the manslaughters.
Friendly WagerA small wager has gone into effect with Gullifer, Aldran, Agnis, and Zero. Kill the most manslaughters to win the bet.
Bet between Gullifer and Aldran: Loser buys the whole guild beer.
Bet between everyone: The winner gets an ancient sapphire amulet. The losers must pay up 50 gold or equivalent values to the winner.
|Side Quest has been accepted. Kill count has been activated. Please enjoy the hunting. Good luck and good fortune to you.|
A counter appeared on the right corner of Zero’s screen.
“Come on, Zero. Let’s get closer.” She pulled on his fur. “Plus you owe me.” Her eyes glinted. A bead of sweat dripped from his face.
“Fine. Get on.” He dejectedly walked over next to Agnis and stood still. She squealed in excitement as she pulled out her saddle. She placed it firmly on his back for it not to slip and wrapped the leather straps tightly against his chest. He already felt like his freedom was slowly slipping out his grasp with each pull of the strap. With a clicking sound it grasped tightly onto his chest. It was not uncomfortable, but it did slightly irritate his skin.
Agnis pulled herself up by grabbing onto his fur and throwing her leg over. She settled down comfortably onto his back.
“Wow, Zero. It looks completely different from up here. I can see so many things,” she said with excitement in her voice.
“Well you better hold on tight.” Zero snickered. He was going to give her a ride that she would never forget.
In one powerful burst of speed, he leapt off the city wall. Aldran stared at them in complete surprise.
“Kyaaaaaaaaaaah! Are yoouuuuuuuu trying to commmmmmmmmiiiiiiittttt suuuuuuuuuiiiiicccccciiiiiddddeeee?!” Agnis screamed at the top of her lungs. Her hair flew wildly behind her back and her face froze in complete terror. She hugged onto him tightly, still screaming. Zero could not help but snicker wickedly.
Twisting and turning like a cat in mid-air, he dug his claws into the wall so he could skid down. The manslaughters were ten feet away from the wall, rushing towards them with gaping jaws. Zero pushed himself off the wall and sprang towards the snapping jaws. His feet slammed down upon the head of the manslaughter that was trying to eat them. His downward force squashed it like a bug.
Ewww, he thought. He could feel a bit of squishiness and liquid in between his toes.
His claws dug deeply into its head, puncturing it. He bounded forward, snapping at the other manslaughters that scrambled over the dead. Agnis seemed frozen on his back with her hands still grasping painfully at his fur.
“Agnis, snap out of it! Time to fight!” he shouted, startling her out of her terror. In seconds her dazed self-returned to her cold warrior princess like look. She reached behind her, pulling out one of her three swords. In his opinion it was a fascinating sword. Zero really wished he had one as well. Its silverish blue blade glistened exactly like her real life hair, and glowing magical sigils formed on the blade, creating a soft blue glow. She called it Starbreaker.
With a swing of her sword, a hot sizzling sound could be heard slicing through the thick armor of manslaughter’s legs. Agnis hacked off many more, making it collapse onto the ground. Zero bounded forward and tore a chunk of its head clean off the body. Black blood splashed on the ground, making it sizzle and bubble, destroying the soil. It screamed an unholy cry and fell dead to the ground.
The surrounding manslaughters rushed over to gobble their fallen brother. It was a wild feeding frenzy. The loud sounds of bone cracking, shells ripping, and blood being slurped could be heard. The smell of sulfur filled Zero’s nose.
“Careful. Don’t let the blood touch you,” Agnis shouted over the roaring monsters. Zero quickly spat out the chunk of monster head. He didn’t want to accidentally drink its blood and somehow end up with a hole in his stomach. He dashed forward. Ducking underneath a rearing manslaughter, he slid underneath it, barely keeping his head from being chopped off.
Agnis followed after with a clean slice that cut through its stomach, spilling out blood and guts onto the ground. It reeled up in pain as it attacked them with its pincers. Zero hopped out of harm’s way but was slammed viciously onto the ground with its forked tail pinning him by the neck.
Drawing in a huge breath, Zero spewed out a bright red flame that spread outwards, burning the manslaughter in front of him. It let out a horrifying ear-piercing scream that shocked Zero’s ears. In that split second Agnis jumped off of Zero’s back and slashed off its tail.
Freed at last, Zero pushed himself hard off the ground, making him fly upward ten feet in the air just in a nick of time before another could tackle him. Agnis hopped on top of the manslaughters like a stairway and jumped towards Zero. She grasped onto his legs and has begun to scale up onto Zero as if it was nothing.
Zero once again filled up his lungs with air and blew out a raging inferno onto the monsters that were snapping upwards at them. The roaring flames burned everything they touched. Their skin melted like wax, and their bodies caught on fire. A screeching melody of the dying rang like the lullaby of death.
Zero fell back down. This time he was ready to take out the ones that caught on fire. He wasn’t going to let this easy stack of points go to waste. At the moment of contact on the ground, he rushed towards the burning manslaughters.
“Zero, what are you doing?” exclaimed Agnis as she held tightly onto his fur.
“Don’t worry. Just keep on firing. Don’t mind me.”
“How can I not mind when you’re running towards a blazing inferno?!”
Zero laughed. He had loot that he needed to collect from the dead manslaughters. Every chance he got, whenever he saw a precious item lying on the ground, he swiped it up with his hands, claws, or jaws and stashed it away in his magical bag that was transformed into part of his collar.
Weaving in and out between the snapping jaws, Zero clawed through legs, tore through shells, and even decapitating them on the run. Agnis swung left and right like a wild cat howling with each swing.
“Zero, they are climbing up the walls. Some are already in the city!” she shouted urgently, pulling his hair towards the direction. “We need to keep them back more!” Agnis aimed and shot another squarely in the eye.
“What do you think I am doing right now?” Zero blew out another fiery blast in an arc. He ran across the edge of the wall, pushing as many of them back with his fire as he could, but his fire did not encompass enough area. So instead he ran towards the gates, blowing fire on the ground as the plants caught on fire. The flames spread, creating a large fire wall. Some monsters reeled back, while others still passed but were caught on fire, and many more instead concentrated on a different path. Half of the east side of the city’s outer-walls was covered in crackling flames.
While Agnis and Zero were busily keeping the manslaughters back, Zero saw glimpses of what was happening around them throughout his bout. Away from the protection of his fire, the guards were being pushed back one by one. The manslaughters were climbing up and snatching fighters from the tops of the walls. Many were eaten while the others were killed. Mages cast magical spells from fireballs to icicle attacks that penetrated or froze the manslaughters in their tracks.
The players from KillemAll guild burst from the gates and jumped into the frenzy of the fight. They pushed back the monsters that were attacking the residents. Kyo led at the front with his guild mates following closely behind. Slashing through the manslaughters like bulldozers, spamming continuous large scale magic that decimated the monsters, they were turning the tide slowly but surely.
Dodging, jumping, biting, and spewing fire, while Agnis hacked away at the ones still struggling to survive, they somehow ended up near the gates where Kyo and his guild mates were clearing out the manslaughters in droves.
The waves of manslaughters had begun to shift towards Kyo’s guild from the fire. One-on-one fights grew to one against two, three, five, and even seven. Even though many of his guild could stand face to face with a couple, five to seven were too many. They were slowly being overrun.
“Challenge of the Beast!” yelled Kyo at the top of his lungs. A blast of energy spread outwards. The manslaughters that were around him were affected by the howl. They froze as their attention was drawn towards him. Even the ones that were attacking his guild mates switch their targets towards him. They clamored and chattered with their pincer-like teeth and made a beeline towards Kyo.
“Kyo, are you insane!” one of his guild mates cried out as he hacked one of them before it could attack Kyo.
“Kill them before they get to me!” Kyo shouted. He swung down with his large heavy sword onto the ground. “Shatter into pieces, you ugly shits! Earthly Spikes!” He laughed brazenly. Dozens of hardened earth spikes erupted from the ground around him like a fortress, impaling the attacking manslaughters.
The manslaughters squirmed, trying to break free, while Kyo’s guild mates rushed in to extinguish the dying. One of the manslaughters got loose and struck at Kyo’s blind spot.
Zero rushed in and tackled it before it could hit. Slashing with his teeth and claws, he shredded its underbelly into mincemeat, while Agnis stabbed it with an arrow in its eyes. It staggered and roared, thrashing around blindly, and fell dead.
“Hmph, I could have handled that.” Kyo grunted. He flicked the black blood off his blade.
“If you say so.” Zero rolled his eyes and bounded forward away from Kyo.
“Zero, you’re bleeding. Are you alright?” Agnis asked worriedly. She brought her hands up to her face. They were covered in red blood.
“I’m bleeding? Where?” He slowed down. He peered to his side, looking for it.
“On your right side, there’s a mat of sticky blood. I think it was when your neck was trapped underneath the tail. We should go find a place to recover. At the rate we are going we won’t survive till tomorrow.”
“You’re right. It seems you’re not faring any better.” He turned his head towards her and chuckled. “You should look at yourself.”
“Wh-hat?” Agnis stammered. Her hair was in a mess, blood streaked her face, and her arms were all scratched up.
“I suggest you to tie your hair back. That will solve the issue.” Zero smiled.
Blushing, Agnis pulled out a hair band and pushed it back. “Done.”
Even covered in blood and gore, she still looked amazing. She was a bona fide battle maiden.
“How many more of these monsters are there?” he asked. Throughout the battle he thought there were going to be an endless number of them.
“Less than half still remain,” stated Agnis, reading off her status screen.
Zero continued to trot towards the gate where there were fewer fights and monsters. They bypassed dead bodies of manslaughters and players alike. It was a complete wasteland of the dead. The largest of the manslaughters were being pushed back by the KillemAll guild, who served as a layer of protection so the low-level players could safely take down the smaller manslaughters. Around the city gate there was a small “safe” zone that KillemAll guild had created, giving the lower-level players a chance to fight back. It was a tag team of strong vs. weak, wiping the monsters out one by one.
A thundering roar could be heard as a manslaughter the size of a double-decker bus bulldozed its way through from the left side of KillemAll guild. The players that tried to stop it were trampled underneath its weight and destroyed in matter of seconds.
“To your left!” Agnis yelled and stood up on Zero’s back. Her aim was steady as she pulled back her arrow and fired. Out of all her arrows that she had fired, this one was enchanted with magic. It was swifter than the others, and the wind wrapped around it, amplifying its speed. In a flash it took off a good portion of the oncoming manslaughter’s right legs, and it stumbled and slid, banging its head onto the ground.
She nocked a couple more arrows and let them loose. Each one either pierced its thick skin or blew apart more legs. Zero on the other hand raced forward, ignoring the slight buzzing pain on his side. He slammed into the manslaughter that was teetering on the edge of falling over. Agnis climbed over its back towards the head.
Her gleaming blue sword slashed down upon its head, impaling it into two. The low level players looked upon her with awe. They cheered in unison as the manslaughter fell down dead. She pulled out her sword, now covered in black blood. She flicked it once and the black blood splattered onto the ground. A loud hissing sound could be heard as the plants wilted away from the black blood that touched them.
A group of female players ran up to her squealing in delight as they surrounded her with awe and admiration.
“Hell yes!” cheered a young girl wearing a light armor.
“You’re so cool!” said another player.
“How did you do that?”
“What kind of blade is that?” Their voices rung like annoying birds.
A couple of the males walked over to Zero, inspecting him with interest.
“Where did you get your mount from? I’ve never seen one like that before.”
“Is it vicious?”
“How were you able to control him?” They walked around him. Zero ignored them and examined the dead manslaughter to see if there was any loot left behind.
Only a couple of silver coins were given with a small ruby the size of a quarter. Picking it up gently with his claws, he examined it.
A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gem. The fiery captivating ruby represents nobility. It may be used to make jewelry or other items.
His hands itched with good fortune. This was already his fourth one, and he was excited to get some more. He stashed it away.
The irony of being a hybrid character, Kiyro sighed. The number of times he had to tell people he wasn’t a pet, a horse, a monster, and now a mount was getting tiring. Maybe it was best to play along with it.
One of the male players tried to pet Zero.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. He bites,” Agnis replied in a hurry.
Zero smirked and looked toward Agnis. She already knew what he was about to do.
“She’s right, you know. You might miss a finger or two if you’re not careful,” said Zero with an impish grin. The male player pulled back and hid his hand from Zero. All their jaws dropped with surprise.
“It talks,” said a dwarven male player.
“He’s an actual player,” Agnis pointed out. “Now, if you don’t mind. There are more coming your way. If I were you, I would get ready.”
The group of players turned around in a battle stance. Approaching them were a few smaller manslaughters.
“You know me too well,” Zero snickered. Agnis climbed back onto his back.
“How would I ever forget the noble Drezo Regalia.” She patted his back. “You and me have been with each other for long enough now that it’s the same thing over and over again. Don’t you ever get tired?”
“Yep.” Zero nodded.
“Can’t be helped when nobody knows what you are.”
Zero trotted away from the group of people and towards the hordes of manslaughters.
“Our bet is still on. Let’s go win this.” He grinned from ear to ear. Zero was looking forward to getting that piece of amulet from Aldran and winning large quantities of gold.
“You think you’re going to win? Highly unlikely,” said Agnis with a playful tone of voice. She pulled out an herbal paste from her bag and lightly applied it to his side where he was bleeding.
Zero winced. “Careful, that hurts.”
“You’ll be alright,” said Agnis as she applied some more thick paste of healing homemade herbs. “See, all done.”
Zero turned his head to look at her handiwork and noticed a glob of unevenly pasted homemade medicine. He looked at her and back at her handiwork. “What? You serious?”
“What?” Agnis asked.
“You’re supposed to even it out. Not just throw it on it. You’re wasting some valuable materials,” he chastised her. “You want the medicine to last, especially when you’re on a tight budget.”
“Well, I thought this was better. It would last longer.”
“Not really, you don’t need to put so much to get the needed effect,” he replied. “But, either way, thank you. That took the pain off my side.”
“You’re welcome,” she chirped with happiness. “Let’s go for round two.”
A loud explosion was heard. Agnis’s and Zero’s heads whipped around toward the noise. Out before them were two very large manslaughters, bigger than the one that they’d just killed. But they did not just have one head, but two.
“That is one ugly-looking beast,” said Zero.
“Agreed,” replied Agnis.