The slumbering people that were once affected by Dion’s ability slowly awakened, and confusion set in among them. They groggily stood up, trying to find their footing; some had temporary amnesia.
“What happened?” one of the soldiers of the city asked as he held his throbbing head.
“I’m not sure…” the one next to him stated.
“Where are we?”
“Am I dead?”
The voices of the sleeping people could be heard as they were jolted awake by the sound of booming magic. They cast their eyes upon their fellow brethren and noticed they were continuously fighting. Picking up arms, even though they did not know what was going on, they followed after. Their instinct kicked in, screaming to fight or die.
The obliteration of the dying bats sped up as more and more joined in on the hunt.
The bats skittered and flew around, dodging the attacks that were aimed at them. The sound of their flapping wings filled the battlefield.
“Don’t let him escape!”
The people ran and cast swirls of magic that brilliantly lit up the sky. Screeching from the fallen bats could be heard throughout the dark night.
“We’re going to win this!”
None escaped the determination of the people, who were bent on winning this fight. Zero too did not stop. His eyes gazed upon the prize that was to come.
“There!” Zero yelled. He dashed forward, slicing the bat in half with his sword. Agnis shot two more arrows right behind him, impaling the two bats perfectly. In a wisp of smoke, the bat dissipated into thin air.
“Are there any more?” asked Agnis as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.
“I’m not sure. I think I saw some fluttering around over there.” Zero ran towards the direction he indicated the bats to be. Agnis followed closely behind him, backing him up if he needed help. The number of red bats had already decreased dramatically in a matter of minutes. Zero knew that time was of the essence before Dion eventually came back together into one being.
Dion’s voice rang clear in the darkness. People turned their heads, trying to find the source of his voice.
“To the fools that have closed their eyes, I laugh at your naivety. You who have given up your most precious gift to receive another, I welcome the era of a true beginning.” His voice rang with harsh laughter.
“Look,” Angis pointed out. “He’s over there.”
As more bats fell down dead, the remaining bats swarmed together. Only a handful remained, and so Dion’s body was only partially brought back together. Parts of his flesh were missing and were faded like the mist. His right eye, the side of his stomach, and even his arms had large gaping holes that were shrouded with a thick mist.
He appeared in the middle of the field where tall grass grew. It swayed from side to side from the strong magical energy pull that built up around the swarming bats.
Even though Dion was badly injured, his voice was loud and clear. He stumbled onto the ground, catching himself before he fell. He coughed up blood that decorated the ground like scattered seeds.
“Puny humans. You do not understand the depths of what you have done.” Spitting on the ground, he wiped his mouth and got up. His eyes gleamed with bloodlust. “You have rejected the bliss you could have received when you embraced mother earth to rest eternally in her bosom and become one with her once again, and instead you have chosen to live. To continue to suffer through the countless agony that will persist.”
With heavy breath Dion stood proudly in the field. The people charged forward, not taking any chances. Dion did not waver nor fear; instead, he raised his hand to cast another magical spell, chanting in an ancient language. His voice grew stronger with dedication and power. Swirling black magical power streamed around him, forming in the palm of his hands. He raised it towards the crowd.
Zero headed towards Dion at full speed; he did not want to miss this opportunity to gain special items, money, and fame. The thought of it drove him faster. A handful of people followed right behind him, ready to strike the final blow.
“Hah! It will cost you all. You will see. I’ll get—” His words were cut short as a spear pierced him directly through his heart. The black magic dissipated and he stumbled forward. “What?”
Zero was one step too late to give the final blow and saw the spear at the last moment. He screeched to a halt and stumbled aside before he could be impaled by the spear that was protruding out of Dion’s chest. Agnis skidded to a halt, wildly flailing to regain her balance. She yelped and grabbed ahold of his clothes, but the sudden momentum threw her off. From the sudden turn and the weight, Zero lost his footing and fell as well.
“Kyah!” Angis shouted as she hit the ground and rolled a few feet. Zero tumbled down mere inches from Dion and was splayed out onto the ground.
“My love…” Dion’s eyes rolled back, and his body burst into smoke and dissolved into fine dust. “I’m sor-r-y…” His last words merged into the air, echoing softly into the wind.
Behind the disappeared body of Dion, Aldran was barely standing, panting heavily with a sword in front of him. Beads of sweat and blood mixed together like water and soaked his armor red.
“Aldran!” Angrist ran past Zero and Agnis to help, his arms outstretched to catch Aldran who collapsed onto Angrist’s shoulder.
“Thanks.” Aldran sighed with relief. “You’re a great shoulder rest,” he jokingly stated while he was resting on Angrist’s head. Angrist only reached up to his shoulder.
“I can’t believe it. You killed him,” Angrist excitedly stated. He almost dropped Aldran onto the ground from his carelessness. “Whoops! Sorry.”
“Whoops my ass. You purposely did that.” Aldran lightly punched him in the shoulder, but fell short.
“Hey, hey. The last time you dropped me on the floor.”
“What are you talking about? I slipped.” Aldran’s lips curled into a smirk. “You can’t prove anything.”
“Pft. We’ll see about that.” Angrist slapped him hard on the back, making Aldran fall forward. Angrist burst out laughing and Aldran couldn’t help himself and followed after.
“How’s Gullifer?” Aldran stopped laughing and tried to get himself steady on his feet.
“He’s being taken care of,” Angrist said.
“Take me to him.” Aldran hobbled forward, but Angrist stopped him.
“Not a good idea. You look like you can barely stand. Leave the rest to our friends. They’ll take care of him.”
“I know, but I want to see if he’s okay.”
“Aldran, he’s okay. I was with him a moment ago, and one of our priests is already taking care of him.”
Aldran sighed with relief. “I’m glad to hear that.” He hobbled over to where Dion had died. Fine black sand lay out on the ground.
“It’s seems there no loot. That’s so odd.” Angrist searched the ground where Dion had fallen. “Chh.” He clicked his tongue. “What a pathetic boss character. Here I thought there would be something great.”
Groups of people streamed to Aldran and passed by Zero and Agnis. They jostled and pushed making their way towards Aldran. Zero almost got trampled. Their voices called out in excitement and were filled with praise at the downfall of Dion. Their jubilant laughter excited the surrounding people as loud cheers erupted in the crowd.
“Aldran! Aldran! Aldran!” The chant continuously grew louder and louder.
Aldran raised his hands to silence everyone. Zero and Agnis got up out of harm’s way and curiously listened to what Aldran would say.
“This is not just me who has accomplished the task. In reality we have all made it happen.”
“Aldran, but you hit the last blow. You did more work than all of us in holding off this wave,” Angrist stated. He was already reeling with pride from Aldran’s accomplishment.
“No. Without you guys getting his health down close to zero, I would not have had such an opportunity,” Aldran humbly stated. “I personally thank you.” He bowed to the people.
“Aldran, don’t bow. You’re our leader!” They gasped at the display he had shown. They tried their best to keep him from bowing his head.
“You’re making us feel bad. Please keep your head up!” his guild mates cried out one by one. They were touched by their leader’s humility. Even the other NPCs and players were filled with delight as they looked up to him with more respect than ever before. Their voices continued to praise him for his kindness and humility.
Zero got up and shook himself free of the dust and grass. He was not happy at what just happened. For a second there he thought he saw his life flash before his eyes for a second time. The life-and-death struggle was already difficult enough, but to continually get close to it and almost lose his chance of completing the quest was not something he wanted.
A message appeared alerting the people who had joined in on the boss fight, rewarding them with experience points and status. Zero silently skimmed through his, in a hurry to quickly pick up the prizes left behind by the dead monsters and leftover loot from dead players. The amount of gold and items he could receive from collecting had his head spinning with anticipation.
|You have leveled up from helping to defeat Dion the Insane Vampire.
You have gained the ability to encourage the living with your words to bolster up their fighting spirit. The duration of the effect is five minutes, but not all your words will have such impact. Certain conditions must be attained for this ability to go into effect. Your title Beacon of Hope has been changed to Torchlight of Hope.
Even though he hadn’t received much from the battle, he was still happy that he had received something in return. Chipping down Dion’s health was not an easy task, especially in his human form.
Luckily, he was still able to pick up something special. He lifted his tongue and opened his mouth. Coughing, a small black ring fell into his hand. He wasn’t sure how it happened, but at the last moment when he slightly opened his mouth during the tumble away from the spear, the ring must have gotten in his mouth.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to speak up when Angrist stated that there weren’t any rewards, it was more along the lines of him trying not to choke. Only now he was able to get it out of his throat.
I’m not so sure if Aldran wants this. Anyway, getting near him right now is impossible. He lamented over what to do with the ring while looking over the massive crowds that encompassed Aldran.
It was a pitch-black, opaque ring that it did not shimmer or glow underneath any light. Instead it seemed to suck it in like an empty void. The ring had an ominous feel that he did not like. A message automatically popped up in front of him.
|Ring of Sylph
This item cannot be given away. It chooses its master to serve. It does not like elves, trolls, dwarves, or humans, but there are exceptions to this as well. It likes hybrid races only. The ring has a fickle personality and does not like to listen to its master. It gives its master status boosts and other small forms of magic whenever it wants to. It also has the knack to annoy the owner, and it’s a pervert.
“Likes to talk and a pervert?” Zero couldn’t help but be confused at what he was given.
Yeah, have you never seen a talking ring? A voice cut through his mind.
Zero eyes grew wide, and his hand fumbled, almost dropping the ring onto the ground.
Hey, open those any wider and I’ll poke ‘em out. You got a problem with me talking? the ring threatened him.
Gahahaha. Feel the mighty power of me! An electric shock jolted through his body, stunning him for a split second.
Zero’s anger flared. “You little!” He raised his hand, ready to chuck it across the field.
Wait! Wait! Wait! the ring shouted. Don’t do it! I promise I won’t do it again.
“Lies,” Zero said bluntly. After reading the information, he knew that this was not so. He chucked it hard across the field.
“Good riddance.” Zero did not feel bad at all. Instead he was satisfied that he got rid of a problem that could become big later on. Just when he was about to leave, the ring’s voice laughed loudly in his head with a crackle.
Did you seriously think you could get rid of the powerful me? It snickered at Zero.
Zero glanced around, trying to find the voice.
Over here, dimwit. Look down on your right hand.
Snapping his head towards his hand, he saw the black ring on his right index finger snugly fit.
“No way,” Zero barely whispered under his breath.
You and I are going to stick together forever and ever and ever… Like a broken record, the ring voice annoyingly sounded off.
Zero couldn’t believe his luck. He tried pulling it off as hard as he could, but it did not budge off his fingers. “Get off!”
Hell no, I like where I am. After you threw me away I’m staying right here, the ring stubbornly answered.
“Find someone else.”
Zero wished then and there he had given it to Aldran, but it was too late. “Gah!” he yelled.
Agnis turned towards him out of concern. “Are you alright?”
“No. This wretched ring doesn’t want to come off!”
“What are you talking about? All rings can be unequipped.”
“Not this one. It’s been talking to me and it just told me it doesn’t want to leave my fingers!” Zero raised his hands so she could look.
Come on. Bring your hands closer to her boobs. I want to feel them, the ring said like a dirty old man.
“Shut it,” Zero replied, annoyed.
“Excuse me?” Agnis stared back.
“No. No. Not you. This ring.”
“Look, I’m not crazy. It’s the enchanted ring. I swear it on my life.”
“If you say so. I’m just going to go over there and clean up my bow.” She pointed towards a flat rock where she could see. “Just call me when you need me.”
Sweetheart. Don’t leave me, the ring cried out in sadness as she walked away. Let me touch your butt like last time.
“Thanks a lot. Now she thinks I’m crazy. And what do you mean last time?” He eyed the ring suspiciously.
Wouldn’t you like to know, the ring snickered. Either way I’m staying here till I feel like it. I’m out of mana because you’re so weak and I’m so sleepy. Good night Mr. Weakling.
“Wait. Wait! You’re not staying on my finger. Get off!” He pulled on the ring once more but it didn’t budge a single inch. Only silence followed after.
This truly was unlucky. He’d never heard of a talking accessory before, especially a growing accessory as well.
“Agnis,” he called out. She stopped what she was doing and turned towards him.
“Have you ever heard of a growing accessory or weapon before?”
“I have heard rumors about a growing weapon. I think there are three of them held privately by different players. I’m not sure who. Such information isn’t disclosed so I don’t know if it’s real. Why?”
“My message states that this ring is an evolving accessory.”
“Oh, really?” Her interest was piqued. “Why didn’t you say so in the beginning? Here I thought you were going a bit crazy there for a second. Do you mind if I look?”
“I told you it doesn’t come off.”
“You’re joking, right? That’s not possible. All equipment is made to be taken off either by you or by others.”
“You can try it if you want.” He stuck out his hand towards her. “It even zapped me.”
“Yeah, it has a mind of its own.” He wanted to cry.
Agnis grabbed Zero’s hand, and a static shock ran through her whole body, electrocuting her for a split moment.
Zero jumped back. “You alright?” He was stunned at what happened.
“You’ve got to be kidding. You shocked me. My health just dropped 10 points.”
“Really?” He was baffled He pulled up the status menu and noticed a lightning bolt icon next to his name. He read the accompanying message. “The ring gave me an added bonus that goes into effect for duration of one minute. It’s not a strong effect so it’ll just feel like a light shock.”
“I see. That could be useful over time.”
“I’m not so sure. It’s fickle,” he replied.
“No matter, won’t it be useful to you later down the line?”
“I’m not sure. What if it backfires?”
“By that time you might already have gotten used to it.”
“I don’t want to get used to it. I’m fine without the extra unnecessary pain. Either way, until I find a way to get it off, I can’t do anything about it.” He sighed.
Agnis nodded. Zero noticed gold on the ground a couple of feet away.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Sure.” Agnis went back towards her seat and continued cleaning her weapons one by one.
Zero was busily picking up items and money off the ground while Agnis was re-stringing her bow and cleaning her armor. She was meticulously taking care of her weapons. He was not going to lose this opportunity to pick up the spare items on the ground that monsters and people alike had left behind. The valuable amount of gold and silver he could gain was large.
The spoils of victory, he told himself. The winner would always gain something while the loser would not.
Aldran’s voice boomed across the battlefield, and Zero turned his head to listen. “We need to get back in and recover. Bring in all the wounded. There’s little time till the morning sun rises.” Aldran commanded his forces, as there was no time to dally. “Do not leave anyone behind.”
The players and NPCs alike moved like water, each doing their job to help. They picked up their wounded brethren and hoisted them on wagons, sleds, and anything they could move them in.
I don’t think I could get away with picking through the bodies for loot, he thought. He did not wanted to be known as some kind of vulture that picked through the dead while everyone else was helping out. I’ll go help out at the same time and see what items I can scrounge up in the process.
He walked over to assist a group of young females. They looked like they were having a bit of trouble carrying the heavily armored wounded soldiers. Soldiers were laid out in neat rows. Some were given water while others were being wrapped with bandages.
“Do you guys need some help?” Zero asked.
“Yes please,” one of them replied as the others kept working. “Aren’t you the kid that helped move the hearts of the people?”
“I-I…” He didn’t know what to say. Instead he blushed slightly red. He hadn’t expected anyone to remember or to praise him.
“Your words truly helped us all. If it weren’t for you, we would still be wallowing in despair for our lost ones. I know it takes time to heal, but it can be done. I thank you.” She slightly bowed her head to show him gratitude.
Another of the girls spoke up from where she was bandaging a soldier. “If you don’t mind it, we would like your help. We need to take the soldiers inside the city walls to the hospital, and we don’t have any horses to pull the wagon so it’s difficult to do this.” She wiped sweat from her forehead. “If the swarms come, they will not survive. I cannot bear to see my people die.”
This was a predicament, since right now he did not have the strength to haul a full grown man. On the other hand, his Origin form would be strong enough.
“I think I might be able to help you on that,” he said, debating if he should use it at this time. He only had two more transformations available before the day was over.
With his mind resolved on helping them, he shifted. His small human form grew larger and larger. He could feel his bones creaking and squeaking as he took shape. The girls gaped.
Zero couldn’t help himself and stood proudly before them with his chest out. He always wanted to try looking cool once, like how an artist might depict him on the page.
“Oh wow. You look so adorable.” They squealed with delight.
“May I touch your coat?” another female got up to ask. A couple more came over to see what was going on.
“Hehe. What are you? You look so cool,” another stated with glee.
“Are you going to help pull the cart?”
“Yep,” Zero replied. He couldn’t help but feel satisfied. He was not usually the type to boast, but the attention was nice.
“Stick your chest out any more and your ribs will fall out,” Agnis said. She walked over to where Zero stood and ruffled his fur.
“No they won’t,” he grumbled. He was enjoying that flattery for a moment, but Agnis had to cut in and say something.
“Here, let me help you guys out.” Agnis pulled out some rope from her bag. “Come on, Zero. I need to strap you to the wagon.” She motioned him towards the cart.
It wasn’t a large wooden wagon. It was big enough to carry about four people. Its wheels were battered and worn, and he wasn’t so sure it would hold together during the ride back into the city.
“Are you sure that’s not going to break down?” Zero asked.
“It’s fine. It has quite a bit of durability. It states 25/30 left, so we should be okay,” Agnis replied while tying the harness to the wagon. She tightened it a bit too much, making him squirm.
“Agnis. A little bit looser.” He skittered from side to side. “It’s pinching my side.”
“Sorry.” She loosened it.
“What are you?” one of the ladies asked. She came up to him and scratched him under his chin. For some strange reason the place where she was scratching felt very pleasant. It tingled like a head massage, but this time under the chin.
Purring with satisfaction, he almost melted into the lady’s hand. Agnis laughed at Zero. “Are you purring?”
“I can’t help it.” He tried to stop himself from purring but instead it sounded like a hiccup. “Aaaaah…” he sighed in satisfaction.
“Thank you for helping us out. We were worried about how to take the wounded soldiers back in,” the lady stated. She moved her hand up to his head and patted him. The other women were already busily putting the soldiers into the wagon. It took a couple of them to hoist one grown man up onto the cart while there was one of them that picked up the soldiers as if they were sandbags.
Zero patiently waited. Being harnessed to the wagon did not allow him to help move the soldiers. Instead he had to stay still so he wouldn’t move the cart around too much.
“It’s all set. Please drive carefully,” a lady said.
“I will,” said Zero, confident that he wouldn’t spill anyone over.
“Okay. They are all tucked in and ready!” the youngest girl out of the group yelled from behind. She tapped the back of the cart, telling Zero to go ahead.
Agnis jumped on the driver’s side seat of the cart, while the other women stayed behind to take care of the wounded. With a straining pull, he walked forward. At first it was difficult to pull the heavy load, but eventually, when he got it moving, it was a lot easier than he expected. Luckily, he wasn’t very far from the city walls, which made the trip back and forth short.
Whenever he saw something glittering on the ground, he quickly whisked it away and stashed it into his inventory. He did not miss a single opportunity of gaining items throughout his task.
When he entered the city and was stopped by a thick crowd, he shouted, “Excuse me.” The crowd bustled and pushed as they moved away. People turned their attention to him, wondering what he was. They had never seen such a creature before. Dogs barked and came over, wagging their tails. They even playfully nipped at his feet.
There were streams of players and NPCs that helped each other out, bringing the wounded into the city walls. Shops were converted into makeshift hospitals. Priests and priestesses busily ran back and forth healing the wounded. Women and children helped by making and delivering food, wrappings, and other supplies.
Zero stopped at a makeshift hospital that looked more like a giant tent. Agnis jumped off and lightly landed on her feet. She began unloading the wounded soldiers. People rushed over to help her.
“Over here. We have more wounded in this wagon,” yelled the city solider. “Put him over there.”
A little girl shyly came over and peered up at Zero. He glanced down and wondered what she would do. She rose up her hands to his face and showed him a small carrot.
“Horsie.” She smiled the biggest grin she could ever muster.
Zero did not know how to tell the girl that he wasn’t one without starting a very long explanation. So instead, he bent over and ate the carrot out of her hands.
“Horsie!” The young girl was thrilled at what he did and ran off back into the crowd.
Zero silently sat still, munching on the carrot. It wasn’t bad; it was actually quite sweet for a carrot. He didn’t usually eat carrots, but this was the first time he’d ever tasted a sweet one.
“You ready?” Agnis came over and put her hands on his neck. He nodded, still chewing.
“What are you eating?”
He gulped before answering, “Carrot.”
“A carrot?” Agnis asked, perplexed. “Where did you get it?”
“Some kid gave it to me.”
“A kid?” She paused for moment. “I’m guessing they thought you were some kind of horse. Kind of funny when you think about it. Well, time to go.” She turned towards the cart and got in.
Throughout the next two hours, Zero walked back and forth, pulling the cart. Each time he stopped to unload the wounded fighters, the same child came back running with different varieties of fruits and vegetables. He did not mind. It was free food. He was getting hungry from all of the pulling and it gave him the extra boost to keep going.
In total he went back and forth forty times and brought over eighty people into the city, from the worst wounded that needed speed to the least where he could lazily walk without worrying. It wasn’t a difficult task, but it was rewarding in a sense to help out the population. Not to mention that he was able to scrounge around picking up gold and items throughout the whole process without drawing much attention. The only time he had to do extra work was when they put one too many injured soldiers on the back of the cart.
“Agnis. There are way too many people on the wagon.” Zero wheezed. “Someone needs to get off or it’s impossible for me to get this moving.”
“Fine.” She jumped off and began walking with him side by side. “How about now?”
“Manageable. Still a bit too heavy. Putting six in the cart is a bit too much. Next time lessen the load by one.”
“Well, it’s alright. You’ll gain some muscles.” She smiled.
“I don’t think it works like that,” Zero said. He was slowly losing his breath from the strenuous pulling, making him winded.
|You have gained +1 in strength from pulling a cart with a heavy load.|
“No way,” Zero silently mouthed. He could not believe he gained strength just from pulling the cart. Does that mean if I kept pulling the cart I’ll gain more? he thought. He was debating on the idea to keep going, but just by pulling the cart he had spent a good amount of stamina and needed a constant amount of food to replenish his energy. In the long run it would cost him more to continue on with this task. Not only that, he had just an hour left before he transformed back to his original shape.
It was not enough time to gain another status point, nor was it a good use of his time. He was sacrificing his time to level up to help the people around him, and while he didn’t mind that every once in a while, he was on a tight deadline to get the Yami Hikari job.
“You alright?” asked Agnis. She peered over curiously.
“Yeah. Everything is fine.”
Just as he stepped inside the gate, the ground shook and rumbled. The rocks jittered with the thundering sounds of heavy footsteps, each step getting louder and louder. Trees snapped and tumbled down with a loud boom. People wobbled and stumbled trying to keep their balance.
Players and NPCs gasped in shock. A giant silhouette loomed over the trees. Dawn was breaking, making it difficult to see because the sun was directly behind it. The only clear features were the gleaming golden eyes that pierced through peoples’ souls like a knife through butter.
A large sandstorm boiled up on the horizon for as far as the eye could see. It spread miles upon miles wide, coming from the east side of the castle, sweeping towards the city in a heavy gray cloud. Thundering roars of thousands upon thousands of ghastly looking land sharks followed closely behind the looming monster.
The sound of war horns blew to signal the oncoming waves. Zero’s ears perked forward, listening to the wailing horns’ call. Everyone still out on the field rushed to the city gates with other wounded soldiers in tow. Aldran barked orders towards his guild mates, who reorganized themselves without hesitation. They did not disobey or falter, because his high fame and leadership skills lessened the effect of the monster’s mesmerizing terror.
“Move! Get into position!” Aldran commanded. His left hand was on his hilt, and Angrist was right behind him.
Aldran looked out into the distance with a stone-cold expression. His whole appearance had changed—only his voice was recognizable. He wore gryphon armor, gold and pure white. Feathers accentuated his helmet in the back, and a large glowing blue crystal was embedded in his armored chest. It was an amazing set of armor that covered him from head to toe, and not a single spot showed a gap of skin. A blue feathery cape blew across his back. On it was a wing-like design in golden ink. Tuffs of white feathers adorned his shoulders.
The morning light brought forth a mesmerizing shine that made the armor sparkle in the sunlight. He looked like a hero that stood proudly against the dark demonic creature that was coming towards them.
With every step the giant monster took, more of its appearance could be seen, from its large ugly claw-like hands to its muscular but deformed female body. It had two female-looking faces conjoined together, one on the front and one on the back of its head. On each face, two long horns protruded from the forehead and two along the line of the jaw. Long, thin spines grew out of its back, and small bursts of fire erupted out of them. Two goat-like hooves supported its massive, hunched body. The monster’s steps were sluggish and slow. Its skin looked like molten lava mixed together with greyish-black.
“What is that?” Zero gaped at the creature and the dust clouds that were being blown heavily around in the distance.
“I swear I’ve seen that before.” His eyes widened. A dark memory resurfaced from the time he visited the Mansion of Dion’s underground secret hideout.
“What?” Agnis asked.
“I know that monster. I saw it sleeping under the Mansion of Dion. What is it doing here?” More unwanted memories of the fat man were brought forth. He shuddered to remember the time he spent fighting for his life when he slew the fat man who was experimenting on people. It was something he did not want to recall, but the past still stalked him, not letting him go.
“It was the exact same monster that was sleeping in the giant egg-like test tube.”
“Test tube?” Agnis cocked her head.
“I never told you, but underneath the mansion they were doing some kind of human experimentation. That monster you see there was present when I was looking for Tyrell.”
“You serious?” She was baffled at what she was hearing. “Why didn’t you destroy the monster then? It could’ve saved us a lot of trouble.”
“Our mission was to save Tyrell, not cause a ruckus to bring the guards down and get all of us caught. It’s not easy to dodge the guards when you have a group you need to protect. I was not strong enough to fend off an army at that time. It was a better idea to keep a low profile and get out of there safely.”
“And I didn’t want to chance waking up something like that by breaking the only thing that’s protecting me from it. I like my life,” Zero said. During that time, he was too busy thinking about getting out of that place. Especially when he was seeing shadows move by themselves.
No. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. Shadows don’t move by themselves. Once again I was hallucinating.
Trouble was coming their way and this was not the end of it. From manslaughters, to Dion, to now an unknown giant monster, and following after the land sharks. He didn’t know when the waves were going to end; he only knew that he had to survive them all.
Amidst the chaos of citizens shouting and preparing for a fresh battle, Zero’s pace increased to double time. He needed to get the wounded soldiers to safety. It would become impossible to defend the warriors because of the attached cart on his back. The cart wobbled and even flew off the ground as it bounced off the rocks and slammed back down with a heavy thud. The road was making it very difficult to pull the cart.
Time was of the essence. He was not sure if it would be possible to run back out to grab a couple more wounded soldiers. By the time he did, the land sharks would be on them. It was not a favorable outcome, and he was no superman.
Sprinting at full speed, he rushed through the gate.
“Move! Move! Move!” yelled Zero constantly towards the running crowds. Some people dove out of harm’s way, and a couple almost got hit for not paying attention. Agnis hopped on, making the cart even heavier. But somehow from the adrenaline rush, he was able to pull the wagon with no problem.
Arriving at a familiar signpost, he skidded to a halt. The wagon pushed him hard from the momentum, causing him to be pushed forward and almost squashed in between the sign post and the wagon. He was in front of the makeshift hospital where dozens of wounded soldiers were laid out in rows. Priest and nurses ran around in a hurry, trying to heal them quickly.
“Quickly! Get to the ones that are most wounded. We do not have time,” the head priest shouted out to the group of nurses.
Agnis jumped off the cart. The priest and a group of people rushed over to help carry the wounded soldiers off the cart.
“This person here needs the most attention,” the priest yelled out. “Quickly, the enemy is upon us. We must be ready!”
Agnis quickly went over to Zero and began to untie the ropes. “I can’t believe they’re already here. Time sure does fly. What should we do?”
“What can we do is the better question.” Zero turned towards Agnis. He patiently waited for her to untie the ropes. “If what Aldran says about how we can’t damage them is true, we are in deep trouble. So far the other guilds have not arrived. I haven’t even seen a single Grand Legion guild member anywhere.”
“Even so, we need to help out. We should try different attacks to see what can work or not,” Agnis said. She pulled the ropes over his head and began to work on the other side.
“No. That’s a waste of time. If we cannot hold them back with normal means we must find a different way. Other people will be trying such methods, and having hundreds of people doing the same thing is wasting our time.”
“Then what should we do?”
Zero pondered for a moment. She had a valid point. Staying alive was a priority, but completing the quest was something that must be done. If they didn’t, the cities would be destroyed and civilization could revert back to the dark ages. The game life would be a hundred times harder, or so he’d read on the forum.
“I think I might have something to go with. Come on, get on. We need to get there quickly.”
With her task done, Agnis pulled herself up onto his back. She tried to sit comfortably without a saddle because she did not have enough time to strap it on.
“Where are we going?” she asked as she pulled herself close to his body.
“You’ll see.” With a spurt of speed, Zero bounded forward, weaving through the crowd and jumping on top of obstacles to avoid slowing down.
“Are you sure that wherever we are headed to is going to help us?” Agnis shouted. The wind blew harshly against her face, making it difficult for Zero to hear her.
“I’m not sure. It might not even work. But it’s better than nothing.”
“Well then, what are you trying to do?”
“Bringing a legend to life.”
“What? A legend?”
“The legend of the guardian that protects the church,” he said calmly. He wasn’t too sure if it was going to work. He remembered hearing the story from a passing disciple, and the best people to ask about the legend were the twin bishops themselves.
“Are you serious? We’re going to chase a legend?” She was appalled at his answer. “Are you nuts? At a time like this?”
“Do you have a better answer?”
Agnis could not think of anything else. Instead she sat quietly on his back, her hands clenched tightly on his fur, making him slightly cringe in pain.
“If this legend works, it might buy us some time, which is what we need till Jergorien finds an answer.”
Zero jumped off the stairway that led toward the church and landed softly onto the ground. He was like a cat that did not get hurt even from jumping from a twenty-foot stairway. But he could feel slight cramps forming in his legs from sprinting too hard. The burst of energy needed to run at high speed was something he could not maintain for a very long time. It took too much of his stamina. The longest he could run at his top speed was under five minutes.
“Do you think there really is a guardian?” Agnis asked, pulling in even closer to his ears for Zero to hear her voice without screaming.
“I hope so. If not, I have nothing else up my sleeve.”
“We could always fall back on my plan to try out our skills. Who knows? We might find an answer during the fight.”
“That’s a last resort,” Zero stated. Grinding away on monsters was okay, but time was of essence, and he wouldn’t receive a reward if he was dead. The stakes were pretty high. He needed every level he could get his hands on.
Upon arriving, groups of priests and priestesses were running around taking care of wounded soldiers and players. Many were wrapped in bandages as they lay out on the ground resting.
It was like a crowded honey bee hive where the wounded soldiers were the larvae and the nurses, helpers, and priests were worker bees.
That’s quite a lot of people, Zero thought. Now where is one of the bishops?
He scanned around, trying to find the blue and white robes that they usually wore.
Nope. Wait. Is that them?
People hurriedly went around Zero as if he was just another object placed in the middle of the road. He walked up towards one of the bishops that was outside healing wounded patients. It was Bishop Sanya, who was casting a major group healing spell. A greenish-white magic circle appeared underneath the people as a soft luminous glow of magical green light surrounded them.
Zero could feel the effects of the spell. It felt warm. The warmth reached all the way to his core.
“Bishop Sanya!” Zero called out in a hurry. He stopped behind her. Bishop Sanya turned around, completing her spell in the process.
“It’s me, Zero.”
“Zero? Zero, is that you?” She gawked at his appearance. “I barely recognize you. What happened to you? Did you get cursed into a monster?”
“No. No. I’m not a monster. I’m a halfling,” he quickly answered. “There’s no time to explain. Bishop, I was wondering if the Legend of the Guardian is true? Are there special beings that come out to protect the people when there is a crisis?”
“What are you talking about? Special beings?”
Zero’s heart dropped. “So you don’t have anything that can protect us from the oncoming land sharks?”
“Child, there are no special beings. Rest assured, we are the light that protects this world.”
“Huh? What are you saying? Is it possible that there is anything you could do to help us? The city is in trouble.”
Bishop Sanya nodded, already understanding the predicament that the city was in. “I know, child. I have seen the future of this city; all things do happen for a reason.”
“Then will you not do anything to help?”
“Do not be afraid. Have you not learned already what people can do when many become one?”
“Yes, but that is difficult to accomplish. What good would it do at this moment?”
Bishop Sanya gave him a warm smile that put him at ease. He wasn’t sure what she was going to do next.
Breathing in softly, she tapped her staff onto the ground. A soft bell tone cut through the noisy church garden. Such a pure sound caught the attention of the surrounding people. They turned their heads to listen.
With each step she took, more and more people stood up to follow behind her. The disciples even began to softly hum to her beat.
The church door opened, and Bishop Etran stepped out. When she passed the front door, Bishop Etran smoothly walked next to her. Following behind him were even more priests and priestesses humming to the beat of the tapping and bell-like sound.
“What are they doing?” Agnis whispered.
“I don’t know, but if I’m correct, we’ll get to see something cool.”
Zero and Agnis followed behind them. It became a long parade of priests, priestesses, and disciples. Even the wounded soldiers were now fully healed and following after. People in the buildings stepped out, curious at what was going on.
“Are those the disciples of Tyr?” Players curiously peered over.
“Look, it’s the Church of Odin. Their head priest just stepped out with groups of the disciples following behind him.”
“What’s going on? Why are all the different bishops from different gods coming out with their disciples?”
Stream after stream of different religious groups poured forth out of their temples and followed alongside Bishops Etran and Sanya. They were a total of seven that walked side by side, their voices joining perfectly in sync with the humming sound. The melody was composed of different octaves forming a whisper in the wind. Multi-colored clothes that represented different sects could be seen. Their followers trailed behind, wondering what was going to happen next.
They walked together towards the middle of the city where a beautiful castle stood surrounded by a lake. Its crystal clear water sparkled under the morning sun, making it appear orange-red. The large crowd continued on and made their way towards the town square and the large fountain in the middle of it. Their joyful voices became louder and their hums stronger as a soft white light danced around them. It seemed as if the world acknowledged their voices and gave them strength.
The land sharks finally appeared before the city walls. The soldiers and players alike fired volleys of arrows down upon the giant monster and the undead land sharks. The arrows went right through the land sharks as if they were not there. On the other hand the giant monster looked like a porcupine, but all the arrows burst into flames and turned to ashes. Nothing stopped their onslaught, and it became very difficult to hold them back.
The land sharks were all dead skin and bones. Their acrid, decaying smell reached the people’s noses, causing nausea. Holding one’s breath only made fighting more difficult.
All the representative bishops from different gods stood in a circle around the water fountain. Their voices carried power as their humming intensified. Wind blew around the bishops, carrying their voices across the plains. NPCs and players turned their heads towards the sound. They lowered their weapons, wondering where the hum was coming from.
Two distinct voices, male and female, led the group’s singing. Their voices did not waver. Instead their song poured forth from their hearts, ringing with the people. It was something that even Zero could not help but interact with. He hummed with everyone even though he did not know the words.
It was an ancient hymn that resonated with his soul. Here and there he thought he heard words that he even understood. Each phrase shook his soul, bringing out the best of his voice. He was surprised that his voice could make such tones. He didn’t expect his Origin form had such vocal capabilities. A flood of messages appeared on his screen.
|From the ancient hymns, the dazzle effect has been initiated. All stats will increase by +1 every thirty minutes for duration of four hours.|
|From the ancient hymns, all traces of fear have been canceled. The people’s hearts have been gathered into one.|
|Soft illuminating light covers each individual, protecting them from the first five attacks.|
|From singing with all your heart, the curse on your Origin form has decreased for this single instance. You are now able to stay in your Origin form for an extra thirty minutes.|
The undead land sharks screamed in agony and halted in their tracks. Each pounded its head into the ground, trying to stop the voices. Confusion was sent forth through the land sharks as they bustled and slammed amongst themselves. To them the voices of the people were like the sound of nails running down a chalk board. Even the giant monster stumbled around, trying to get its bearings.
A soft white transparent light burst forth from each Bishop. They glowed magically, each of their voices bringing in sound magic that expanded around them with each person singing and humming to the tune.
Bright morning sunlight heralded a warm cascading light that brought forth warmth and light magic. Both sound and light worked harmoniously with one another. Each voice brought the circle of sound and light magic together, making it stronger and stronger. The barrier expanded into a large bubble that crept outwards towards the city wall, protecting everyone inside.
The undead land sharks and the giant monster were pushed back into the field. The sound of breaking bones could be heard as they were pushed back. Some head-butted into the barrier and shattered into pieces. Even though they broke apart, a black shadow inhabiting the body moved into the dead manslaughters, fallen players, and NPCs littering the ground. It was a near-endless supply of dead bodies.
|A temporary shield has been set around the city of Terra. The shield will remain in effect until the voices of the main seven bishops that are leading the group have been silenced.|
How long will their voices be able to hold up? thought Zero. Already his was becoming hoarse and he had to stop. He was not used to humming or singing for long periods of time.
He saw a bright flash, and the Book of Historia appeared before him. A swirl of powerful winds burst forth from the book and went outwards. The powerful blast pushed people back, and even he had to brace himself. The wind exploded outwards towards the monster that was rampaging outside the city walls.
Right after the light appeared, his rare and unused O.M. that Ren had given him activated on its own. The small O.M. shimmered and shined in front of him and faded away. The pages of Historia moved erratically backwards like a rewinding a tape and stopped.
|O.M. Rank A Special Ability has been activated. All events since the beginning of the Special Hidden Quest: Alpha have been recorded. The capacity of the recording has been extended to last the duration of the quest. All recordings will be done automatically.|
The wind swirled around the giant monster, temporarily caging its movement. The monster struggled and roared, spewing out molten lava onto the ground. It sizzled and hissed as the trees and vegetation caught on fire. A forest fire began, killing all plant life in the vicinity. The roaring flames ravaged and raved, not quelling its fiery flames.
Like falling stars, a white comet of energy hit the giant monster. A burst of blinding light spread forth, blinding every single person in sight.
A single name pierced through Zero’s thoughts. Lilith.