The Inner Eye
Zero stood speechless at the memory that was shown before him and the group of players and NPC’s. They were shocked to the core that their once beloved hero was now a vile monster that terrorized the city walls.
Why? Zero was lost with words. Why is she attacking us? Is this how all heroes might end up? Zero thought. He thought all legendary figures had some kind of happy endings, but the scene before him was not the case. He wondered if his legend would be fabricated just like the memory that happened before him.
Who were the demons that attacked the wedding, and what happened to the other heroe’s? Were they really killed off? Zero did not know the answer. It was a question that would forever be left hanging until he dived deeper into the game.
’Now that the fighters from the city knew they were battling their legendary hero, their motivation ebbed. Their swords had less driving power, and they felt sadness, horror, and betrayal. They could not believe what unfolded in front of them. The great majority wished dearly it was all just an illusion, but the memory was just as real. They could not escape the fight, but instead must push forward and kill the beloved hero.
The guilds had no such reservations. With a roaring cry, the Grand Legion was the first guild to enter without any hesitation. Coming from the horizon, thousands of Grand Legion, BlackTurret, Rangerz, Zoulz, and Zenith guild members rushed in from behind the undead land sharks from the east side. Their flags flapping behind them differentiated between groups. The BlackTurrets’ uniform color was red and silver, Rangerz was green and gold, Zoulz was purple, red, and white, Zenith was orange and black, and Grand Legion was seagreen blue with bits of white.
They swarmed on their foes like ants on prey. They charged nonstop. It was a march of destruction with every single guild member above level 140 and some over 150. The entire Grand Legion guild was veteran players that had played the game since the beginning of the beta period. Their strength was considered unrivaled until the rise of the WaterRose guild, who were equivalently strong and could take on each other head to head.
Standing upon the highest hill, Jergorien stood watching on his brown horse. His cold, solid demeanor stared straight ahead towards the city walls. His muscular human body seemed larger than the rest of the people surrounding him. His crusader shield was strapped to his back, making him look larger. His unique black armor with red accents gleamed dangerously, making him look like death himself. His unmoving attitude sat proudly with his vice captain Reiwin at his side riding a pony. Reiwin was a dwarf that was a bit taller than normal dwarves. This difference between them made Jergorien look even bigger than usual.
“Do not stop here! Get them before they get us!” Jergorien shouted. He reined his horse in.
The players before him stormed in non-stop like a tsunami that overcame its obstacle. They caught the undead land sharks by surprise, and the monsters turned around and bulldozed forward. Their chattering bones clicked against each other and their wild screams resounded with fury. It was a clash between the living and the dead, an onslaught of brutal power that wiped out one third of the dead in matter of minutes. Bones were scattered everywhere, and land shark bodies were ripped into shreds. It was a violent overthrow.
Reiwin bellowed out a laugh. His armored body shook even though he was covered head-to-toe with heavy armor. He was differentiated from his other guild mates by unusually large gauntlets that looked too big for his arms. There were no other weapons strapped to his back or any other special weapons hidden in his armor.
“I can’t wait till we join the fight. Why are we not going in?” Reiwin punched his hands together.
Jergorien sat silently on his horse, watching the battle unfold. The undead land sharks regenerated from the attacks that the players gave. The shadowy apparitions moved onto the next host of dead manslaughters that lay scattered on the ground. Even the bodies of the dead players that were left behind were occupied instantly.
“Oh ho, it seems like we’re having a bit of difficulty. Those apparitions really do come back by taking over another host,” Reiwin lamented. “Either way, this is not a problem. I’m going to go on and have some fun.”
“What, why?” Reiwin stopped himself from letting the pony run forward and instead turned around to look at Jergorien. “I don’t understand.”
For a moment Jergorien did not answer.
Reiwin sighed and shook his head. “We are going to miss all the fun.”
“No. We’ll go in shortly. Follow behind me and cover me.”
Jergorien spurred the horse forward. Reiwin followed right behind him with no questions asked. With full speed, both rode into the dense crowd of undead land sharks. It was a rough clash between jaws and swords. Jergorien pulled out his heavy sword that was as long as his body. His sword was like no other. Its jet black and blue body matched perfectly with his armor, and the hilt of his sword had a sun-like design with pure gold lines that ran down its blood groove. It glowed magically like hot molten lava.
Jergorien swung his sword, leaving behind a trail of aftereffect images. The aftereffect image made it look like there was more than one sword. With each swing of his sword from left to right, the undead land sharks fell like flies.
Over in the town square, Zero could only watch with fascination the scene that played out before them. He didn’t take part, but only listened. The songs from priests and the bishops had reached their climax. Many who sang stopped because their voices became hoarse; their dry throats making it difficult even to speak. This event was an opportunity that allowed Zero to reach his goal: level 150. He had less than 10 levels left, and it was a grueling task to reach his requirement.
As fewer and fewer people sang, the sound-like barrier began to weaken. With every lost voice, the enemy came closer. The voiceless people in the town square heard the yells and shouts from the people who still had their voices as they passed on the news from one another. They heard murmurs of Grand Legion’s return.
“Grand Legion is here. They must’ve found the answer!” People excitedly chattered loudly amongst each other.
“Let’s go!” Groups of people ran forward, streaming out towards the gate. They passed through the barrier as if it was nothing and clashed amongst the dead.
With a final wavering breath, all the bishops stopped singing. Their voices were hoarse and their breathing was heavy. The wall of sound slowly disappeared, letting in the stench of decay. The residents had to hold their breath to keep the smell from overpowering their senses.
The swarms of the undead clashed against the barrier and broke through. Even Lilith, who had been caged in by the barrier, was free. She roared a powerful wave that pushed back the surrounding army of NPCs that were attacking her on all sides. With a sharp inhale, she threw up heavy molten lava around her and onto the side of the city wall. Hot sticky lava ran down the wall and created a slope. It cooled down and allowed the undead land sharks to scale the walls and enter the city.
Fights were breaking out left and right, and there was chaos everywhere. Undead land sharks were broken down by the guild members, and shadowy apparitions appeared from the broken bodies. They transferred to dead manslaughters or fallen comrades, creating an endless number of foes. Lilith ran around amok, spewing out molten lava left and right, wreaking havoc and destruction upon the people.
Zero and Agnis were amongst a large group located in the interior of the walls fighting the undead land sharks. They managed to scale up the wall and continue fighting from their improved vantage point.
“Zero, move back!” Agnis yelled. She fired wind arrows one after another. Each exploded on impact and made the bones and decayed flesh erupts into thousands of pieces. Agnis and Zero were fighting side by side, each fending off three undead on their own.
Zero’s flame burned bright red, but the undead land sharks did not fall. They attacked non-stop, even though it burned their flesh and bones. These undead monsters were the worst foe for him.
He did not try to use his teeth to rip apart the undead. The stench of days-old rot was too horrifying. His stomach rolled at the thought of it in his mouth, making him want to hurl. The only weapon he had was his claws. With each jump, tumble, and roll, he slashed down upon the undead land sharks and chipped away their health.
His slash towards one of the undead land sharks brought it down to the ground and in that moment a ghastly apparition appeared like smoke hovering over its body. Zero took this chance and aimed towards the apparition, and blew a torrent of fire.
But the fire went through and did not harm the apparition. Instead the apparition passed through his body in a rush. He felt as if someone threw a bucket of cold water down his body from head to toe. He shivered and landed on all fours.
“Agnis, we’ve got a problem,” Zero yelled. A large undead land shark bulldozed forward. Zero dodged an attack to the right, where he almost got chomped in one bite.
“I know. I’m busy right now,” she replied. She fired a couple more wind arrows and took a step back. She changed her weapon into a sword while in the process of putting her bow away.
The ghostly apparition zipped away and moved into another dead human host.
You’re so useless, said a voice in his head. Do you need the great ring Sylph to help you out? The ring noisily chattered, breaking Zero’s concentration.
“Anytime now,” Zero replied in a hurry. He was holding back the undead land shark’s gaping jaws from biting into him. He used his claws to keep the mouth open, and the horrible stench of rotting flesh made him want to throw up when he inhaled to breathe out fire. With every ounce of breath he could muster, he blew fire into its gaping mouth. The undead land shark’s belly grew and grew until it burst, burning the flesh away.
Today I feel generous so I’ll give you something good, Sylph stated haughtily. You can bow down to me and call me Your Highness.
“Are you out of your mind? We don’t have time for this.”
I meant what I said. Sylph was not giving up his argument.
“Forget it. I can take care of these undead land sharks the same way that I just did.”
Zero bounded forward. He had to time every attack for the precise moment when the undead land shark had its mouth gaping open. But during that moment, he had his head almost bitten off.
Aw, come on. You’re so boring.
“That’s a matter of opinion.” Zero had to duck and roll into a ball, hitting the building wall and making him dizzy.
“Duck!” Agnis blurted out at the top of her lungs. She was fending off two undead land sharks by herself. Her blade cut through the head of the undead land sharks that were behind Zero. Zero barely dodged the swing, getting some of his fur cut off. The headless undead land sharks reeled backwards, trying to keep from tipping over. Agnis was onto the undead land shark like a bloodhound, never letting her prey go.
You’re no fun, Sylph whined, highly disappointed. A simple strength boosting and a decrease-in-’agility spell were cast on Zero.
“This is not helpful,” Zero retorted. One misstep and he could have gotten his left leg bitten off.
The sound of a horn blared throughout the field and over the city wall. The undead land sharks froze and then banged their heads into the ground as if they were trying to get the sound out of their heads. They roared and trampled around the city walls, destroying everything that they saw. Once again the horn blew, and the undead turned around and headed towards the sound.
“Kill them all!” Jergorien bellowed. He blew his horn again and watched the fight that happened around him.
“Aren’t you going to join in anymore?” asked Reiwin. He was sitting on his pony next to Jergorien in the battlefield. They had just broken away from a small skirmish a couple of minutes ago.
“No. I am not needed in this skirmish. My duty now is to protect the horn.” Jergorien steadied his horses. “What I do want to join in is that boss fight.”
“Then why don’t you. You can go in and fight? Just give the horn over to me.” Reiwin stuck out his hand towards Jergorien, motioning him to hand it over.
“I told you. The horn doesn’t work like that. Only one person is able to use this horn until that person dies, whether by a natural death or assassination. Even resurrection will allow it to transfer owners. The only downside is that the horn won’t be able to be used for a whole day. By that time we would have lost this quest.”
“I see, but you could still go in and bring it with you to fight the boss.”
Jergorien shook his head. “No, the swarm would make it harder to kill the boss and the undead land sharks. We’re aiming for fewer deaths, not more.”
“You really have thought this out, haven’t you? And here I thought you would go for the kill for the boss.”
Jergorien smirked. “Not today, my friend.” He huffed and frowned. The battle continued fiercely.
“What just happened?” Agnis asked, stupefied. She was holding her sword in hand and was looking slightly out of place like everyone else that was just fighting a moment ago.
“I’m not sure.” Zero bolted after the swarms of undead creatures that streamed out of the city like mad bulls. They were all headed towards where Jergorien was standing surrounded heavily by his guild mates and the other teammates.
In the center of the group like the eye of a storm, Jergorien stood blowing his horn. His guild members were the ones that protected their leader. The BlackTurret, Rangerz, Zoulz, and Zenith guilds herded the undead like sheep towards a location where they could pick them off easier.
Thousands upon thousands of the undead land sharks and the new undead ran forward. They ignored all other players and headed straight for Jergorien.
“Keep Jergorien safe!” Reiwin yelled. He pushed back an undead manslaughter from encroaching upon Jergorien. A couple of times the formation was broken through but was quickly patched up by one of the four independent guilds.
While the five guilds were taking on the massive numbers of the undead, Lilith was still creating havoc. Her giant hands swiped downwards, bulldozing past the Hercules guild and the city guards.
Zero and Agnis were stopped short by Lilith who blocked their path from going after the undead land sharks. Whether they liked it or not, they were forced into fighting Lilith with Hercules guild if they wanted to make it to Jergorien forces.
Hot molten lava spewed from both ends of Lilith’s mouth, one in her back and one in the front. Trees and crops burned to the ground, and even unlucky guards became trapped underneath the blazing lava.
“I don’t think it’s possible to get past her,” Agnis yelled. She was not too happy with the circumstance she was in, but it was ten times better than fighting an undead land shark apparition that kept on switching hosts without dying. She fired a wind arrow at Lilith’s face.
Black wings sprouted out of Lilith’s back, and with a powerful flap of her wings, the arrows were sent flying. Even the guild members had to keep themselves grounded or they too would be blown away.
“Tear down her wings! Don’t let her go airborne!” Aldran yelled at the top of his lungs. He braced himself and picked up a spear that was lying on the ground. Throwing his hands backwards, he fired with all his might. It flew through the air like a soaring hawk and made a bone crushing impact.
A large gaping hole appeared on her right side, and she fumbled and fell. Hundreds of Hercules guild members ran forward with swords, spears, pikes, and other weapons in hand. They viciously tore through her wings, making them look like Swiss cheese.
Aldran and his guild mates were keeping her in check: one group distracted Lilith’s front face while the other distracted her back face, which followed every movement they made. A third independent group attacked her blind spot, making it difficult for her to concentrate.
Zero rushed in with tooth and claw shredding her wings to pieces, while Agnis continued to aim at tight spots where it was a lot more difficult to aim. Around them the brave guild members fought and died, but with their constant ferocity they were able to bring down a large amount of her health.
Aldran’s white gryphon aura covered him with its wings like a shield when Lilith’s fist pounded downwards to strike towards him. Upon impact, the ground broke apart. One after another, Lilith’s humongous fists pounded continuously into Aldran, pushing him deeper into the ground. The white gryphon did not move, and stood proudly defending its master.
With a bone-shaking roar, Lilith spewed out molten lava on top of Aldran’s shield. It oozed and splashed against his shield, but no harm came to him in the process. Instead it hardened around him, trapping him in the rapidly cooling lava.
“Aldran!” Gullifer dashed in with his spear in hand and with all his strength sent it flying into Lilith’s eyes. She screamed and stumbled backwards, trying to pry the spear out of her eye. Lilith’s back erupted with hot black steam and lava, which flowed forth onto the ground to protect her from any possible ground attack, but she was still vulnerable to aerial and magical attacks.
The Hercules fighters launched many more arrows and spell one after another, trying to chip away at her enormous strength. Gullifer hacked away on the hardened lava with his sword until Aldran could emerge. His armor claws broke off the rocks, breaking his way though.
“Throw in Freya’s chain hounds now!” Aldran yelled.
Hundreds of long white chains were brought forth. The chains glowed baby blue and had hooks attached to the ends that were thrown, which dug deeply into Lilith’s skin. The chains snaked around her and held her in place. On the other end the guild mates pulled down with all their strength. Lilith raised her left hand, causing the guild members to be lifted into the air. They dangled like caught flies from the web of a spider.
Magical hounds appeared at the end of the chains where the guild mates were pulling, helping to keep Lilith down. Freya’s chain amplified with magic as each dog gained the strength of ten men. This was the legendary chain that the Goddess Freya had personally made and blessed, and no man or beast had ever escaped from the chain’s clutches. Lilith’s left arm was brought down with a loud thump that shook the ground.
“Bring her down!” commanded Aldran as he broke the rest of the hardened lava into fine dust with his hands.
Agnis and Zero bolted over to help tie Lilith down. Agnis stashed away her sword and grabbed hold on the cold metallic chain, while Zero chomped down with his jaws. His hind claws were embedded deeply into the ground, stabilizing him against Lilith’s pull. His veins felt like they were bulging out of his neck from the strenuous effort.
“She’s too strong!” Agnis yelled, sweat forming on her hand. The heat coming off of Lilith’s body was making everyone sweat.
“Don’t let go!” Zero mumbled with the chain in between his teeth. His claws skidded against the ground just from Lilith’s slight leg movement.
Do you need any help? I can give you a strengthening spell. Sylph’s voice resounded in his head.
“No thanks. You didn’t help last time.” The effects were already gone from the last spell that Sylph had cast.
Hmph. That was nothing. This is my best one. A feeling like static electricity ran through Zero’s body, and Zero felt both his strength and his magic leaving him. In just a few seconds, Sylph sucked dry every single bit of magic that Zero had left.
Zero could feel his legs becoming like jello and losing his grip onto the ground; even the magical dog that was pulling on the other end was failing to keep hold, because of Lilith’s strength.
Oops, said Sylph. Oh well. Good luck. And Sylph became silent.
What did that stupid ring do? Zero thought, but before he could ask, Lilith’s right leg rose up, taking both Zero and Agnis into the air. Lilith’s leg thrashed around wildly, trying to get the magical chain off of her, but instead the players were thrown off and the magic chain held on tighter.
Zero clamped his jaw down tightly onto the chain. A couple links away, Agnis too was holding on for dear life.
“Zero!” Agnis yelled in fear. Her hands had begun to slip from her sweat.
Zero was swung from side to side, and from the momentum he let go. He flew towards the next chain that was flying towards him. Grabbing onto the chain with his claws and teeth, he once again jumped to another like a monkey swinging through the jungle.
Agnis was slipping fast. She grasped with both hands around the end of a dog’s head, but the heat crawled up from her foot and reached towards her face, making her sweat even more. Her grip became too slippery to hold, and she fell towards Lilith’s burning hot body.
Mustering up all of his remaining strength, Zero swung towards her and caught her in mid-air. His arms stretched outwards and pulled her into his slender body to protect her. Curling into a tight ball, he fell towards Lilith. They fell hard onto Lilith’s stomach, rolling towards her head. Finally they came to a halt near her collarbone, and Zero let Agnis out. A sharp pain erupted on his side of his chest—he’d either broken a few ribs or gotten some wicked bruising. He stood shakily.
“Thanks, Zero. You really saved me there.” Agnis pushed herself up and pulled back her hair.
Lilith’s movements made it very difficult for them to stand. She rocked back and forth, almost making Agnis fall forward.
“Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow!” Agnis jumped up and hopped around Zero. “My foot’s on fire!” She tried to shift her weight to keep her feet from burning.
“Get on. I don’t feel anything.”
With a bounding leap, Agnis hopped onto his back, and he winced. She shook her legs, trying to cool them off.
“I can’t thank you enough. Her skin is way too hot. I think I got a first degree burn.” Agnis wiped her hands against her head. Beads of sweat fell down her pretty face, and her white hair stuck to her like glue.
“This is becoming a problem.” Zero walked to the warmest part of Lilith’s body: her heart. “I can feel that most of the heat coming from here. Maybe we can destroy it.” He began to claw his way into Lilith’s skin, but barely any deep wounds were created. Instead it was protected by a thin sheet of black ooze which irritated his claws.
“Not good, my claws can’t get to it.”
“Let me try. Step back.” Agnis pulled out her bow and nocked an arrow.
“You’re kidding me, right?” said Zero, shocked at what she was going to do.
“It’s worth a shot,” she said and pulled back the arrow. Swirls of compact tight wind energy swirled to the tip of the point, making the wind blow harder and harder around her. Zero couldn’t help but step back a bit more and he had difficulty keeping his eyes open.
When Agnis let it go, a powerful gust of wind shot forth, pushing both of them back a couple of feet. Like a shooting star, the arrow burst forth and hit its mark. But only the half of the arrow made it through her skin.
“You’re kidding me, right?” Agnis’s jaw dropped open in astonishment. “That was my strongest wind arrow magic. I even compacted it into the end of the arrow to make it pierce through.”
Zero jumped sideways high into the air to dodge a burst of Lilith’s fire bullets. “We need to find a different way around this. We need something stronger to pierce through her skin.”
At just that moment, Aldran came flying in with his sword over his head. The gryphon that was protecting him had both claws on Aldran’s shoulder, making it look like Aldran had a pair of white wings that kept him adrift.
“Zero! Move!” Aldran yelled. He swung his sword downwards with all his strength, hurling it towards Lilith’s heart, with Agnis’s arrow as his marker.
Aldran’s sword seemed like it was caught on fire, and it sped towards Lilith’s heart, gaining momentum. With a crushing impact, the sword sank deeply into Lilith’s heart. Her ear-splitting wail was so powerful that it blew all the surrounding fighters backwards, where they lay cowering with their hands on their ears
Aldran too was thrown onto the ground, while Zero and Agnis could barely move. Their ears rang from the cry.
In a final burst of energy, Lilith spewed out clouds of black molten lava. It was different from her usual lava attacks. Its gurgling and bubbling form gave off an acidic smell, and it ate everything it touched, save Lilith’s own skin.
Zero had to hop around, trying to avoid the harsh black lava. It hissed and blew out a noxious gas that made him dizzy. He took short breaks so he wouldn’t inhale too much of the noxious gas, but this merely left him light-headed.
“Zero, we need to pierce the sword deeper. That’s our chance!” Agnis yelled over Lilith’s roars. Another spray of nasty black tarlike ooze fell like rain upon the surroundings. It sizzled wherever it fell, including on fighters who howled as their armor melted away.
Zero tried his best to dodge the rainfall of black tar, while Agnis began to chant magic. Swirls of blue fire appeared, coming from the side where she housed an ancient blue flame. Both of her hands were surrounded heavily by the blue flames. She waved her hand above her head, disintegrating the black tar that would have fallen on them.
Agnis reached over to the sword embedded in Lilith’s heart. Dark ooze slipped from beneath the sword and spilled outwards. The moment she touched the sword a burst of light consumed the sword and turned it fiery blue. The black ooze smothered and hissed when it touched the flames, burning cleanly away. More and more black ooze sprayed outwards around them, and half of the monsters disappeared into nothingness.
Lilith roared in anguish, and Agnis snatched her hand back. It was burned red from the hot metal sword. “I can’t grasp it.” She held her hand close to her body.
“Hold on!” Zero yelled. He reached over with both claws and wrapped around the sword tightly. The blue flames licked against his hands, but he felt no heat. It did not even sting him.
In that moment, Zero pushed downward hard, using all of his and Agnis’s body weight to drive the sword deeper. ’Sylph’s curses meant nothing in the face of his determination and adrenaline.
|20% critical attack added to 1000 attack. You have lost 15 health points.|
Zero backed up and pounded hard one again and again like a sledge hammer.
|35% critical attack added to 1790 attack. You have lost 50 health points.|
|45% critical attack added to 2500 attack. You have lost 103 health points.|
|63% critical attack added to 2500 attack. You have lost 200 health points.|
The added bonus continued to increase, and the flames grew in size. Agnis chanted her magic while holding tightly onto his neck. Lilith thrashed and screamed until both her arms came loose from Freya’s chains. Hercules guild members were casting their spells to lower Lilith’s health as much as possible, and more players streamed in to help try and hold her down.
Like a homing missile Lilith’s hand came towards them in a flash. Zero ducked, but he was too slow. Lilith’s hand hit Agnis hard. She flew backwards and hit the ground a good few feet away from Lilith’s body.
“Agnis!” Zero turned around sharply, ready to bolt towards her, but instead was stopped short by the same hand that sent Agnis flying.
“There no time for this,” Zero cursed under his breath. He bolted towards the sword once again. The black ooze had left behind puddles that formed into small humanoid monsters. He wasn’t sure if he should attack. The black tar did cause erosion that he did not want to get affected by.
Instead, he weaved between tarlike monsters and arrived at Aldran’s sword. The blue flames did not die out like his regular red flame, but instead grew stronger.
|Sylph’s blessing Absorption has been activated. This skill weakens the owner for duration of time till the countdown is complete. The skill will be activated for the next five minutes.|
The message blinded him for a moment as he struggled to read it. The blue flames erupted brightly into a small torrent of fire and wrapped around him like a blanket. All the humanoid monsters were incinerated. The flames danced around him like fairies and swirled around him wildly.
His instinct took over and he inhaled deeply, sucking in the torrent of fire into his belly. Not a single flame escaped as it entered his body. His stomach gurgled, and he burped in satisfaction.
|New skill has been learned because of your natural element affinity to it.
Holy Flames.A special flame that is endowed with a holy element. All undead and demon creatures are heavily damaged by it. Any light element creatures and monsters will not be harmed by its flames.
Zero had no time to finish reading the message, and instead he blew a circle of flames around him like a shield. The humaoid monsters fell like flies upon contact. He smiled, satisfied at his outcome.
Standing on his hind legs, Zero pounded down upon Aldran’s blade. Each strike chipped away Lilith’s health. He spewed out his holy flames after each pound, making the fire stronger and stronger. The fire grew to a blazing inferno, such that people had to move back and cover their eyes from the bright light.
With every ounce of strength he could muster, his final strike pierced Lilith’s heart. A tornado of blue fire shot upwards into the sky. She screamed and screamed and screamed to the point her voice became like a whisper. Blue flames covered her from head to toe. Amongst the fire, Zero stood on his hind legs, panting furiously. His arms felt like jello and he could barely move.
People watched with awe, their eyes glued to his majestic stature. This small, reptilian, doglike creature standing upon its mighty but defeated foe reminded all who watched of David and Goliath. In mere moments, Lilith’s body disintegrated into black ashes and disappeared in the wind, creating a black snow.
Not too far from the battle with Lilith, the battle with the undead land sharks finally came to its conclusion. Jergorien blew his horn, disrupting the apparitions that invaded the dead bodies. They screamed in agony as they clawed their heads trying to get the sound out of their ears. They phased in and out, becoming solid beings and giving the players a chance to destroy them.
Every time the sound of the horn faded out, the black apparitions attacked back in frenzy, especially the holder of the horn. But the ring of guild members protected Jergorien so he could blow his horn every few minutes.
When Lilith fell, the players shifted their heads and looked towards her. They felt the rumbling of the fall, making some lose their footing. The rest of the players rushed to fight the apparitions, and soon enough, the battle became one-sided. Fewer players died from the apparitions and instead more players ganged up on them.
With the last undead creatures defeated at the hands of the players, a blazing blue inferno shot upwards, signaling Lilith’s death. A flood of messages appeared before the players, congratulating them for their completion of the quest.
|Special Hidden Quest Alpha has been completed.
All rewards will be sent to your personal storage box, and the accumulated points contributing to the quest will be sent to the players and NPCs personally. The curse has been lifted, but there is still some unusual energy similar to a curse still in effect. It does not affect the everyday lives of the people.
For his reward, Zero received twin sets of daggers name Ecurion. He was very pleased.
A twin set of daggers that are made from a holy element. The famous adventurer Lamia has personally wielded this weapon. Over time she enchanted her light magic into the blades, making the daggers more powerful.
A massive cheer erupted from the players and NPCs. Some fell backwards and lay down exhausted upon the ground, while others began to move around searching for their comrades. Tattered banners of guilds were still standing amongst the people. It was a heartwarming scene to see, especially for the guild members that stared upon it with pride.
The raid was finally over. No more would the undead land sharks attack the city. The last of them perished like clouds and disappeared for all eternity. The surviving players and people could finally rest without having to look over their shoulders.
The city was partially in ruins. The majority of the right side of the City of Terra had been broken or demolished by Lilith. Hardened lava was still left behind, and piles of the dead were littered everywhere like flowers, making an unappealing scene. NPCs lost their homes, but players were looked upon as heroes. The people were not dissatisfied by the outcome; instead they were jubilant for their future prospects.
Already swarms of players and NPCs were harvesting their spoils of war and selling them in the town square. They were already cleaning up the streets and burying the dead. Even Zero and Agnis helped to clean up the mess, especially since it helped them look for the spoils of war. Small easy quests popped up like wildfire, asking for players to help clean up and rebuild the city walls.
Zero had one level to go before he hit the necessary 150. This raid had given him an egregious boost in level upgrades; a world quest like this could be considered a hot pot for experience points.
You know, this is the best time for us to get to know each other, stated Sylph.
“I don’t think so,” Zero replied as he searched the ground for any loot.
You can’t mean that. Are you going to be happier that you have a set of daggers than someone like me? Sylph’s voice sounded a bit sad.
“Comparing you to the twin dagger is like heaven and earth. You drained my magic in the middle of battle.”
Hmph, Sylph said grumpily and then stayed silent.
“Were you saying something?” Agnis asked. She was helping out the nearest group of people in decomposing monster’s bodies and gathering materials from the dead monsters.
“Oh, okay.” She turned back around and continued on her work.
While Zero was busily helping move the bodies out from the interior of the city buildings, Garrett rushed over yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Zero! Zero!” Garrett waved him down.
Zero stopped and turned towards him. “What are you doing here? This is not the best time to be here right now.” He looked at the senile old rabbit as if he was crazy. He wondered what was so important that needed his attention.
Garrett panted from exhaustion. Even for the short run, his age felt like it was catching up to him. “I’ve got…” He panted heavily. “Something important…to tell you.”
“It’s about your crystal gem, or should I say, you’re Krustallos,” Garrett excitedly stated. He pulled out the crystal that Zero had given him a few days ago at the library. The last time he remembered it was the size of a small almond, but now it was the size of a large peach. How it grew he did not know.
“Is that really mine?” asked Zero. Garrett carefully handed it to him.
The Krustallos glowed with power. He could feel it pulsate with the rhythm of his heart. Its soft glow of white and black light danced around him. Something was strange about this particular crystal: it felt completely alive.
“It is. The Krustallos has been growing since you gave it to me. I have never seen something like this before,” Garrett said, enthralled. He bounced around with excitement. “Let me check if you have another one.” He reached over to see Zero’s chest like a hawk that caught its prey. A shiver ran down Zero’s back.
Zero backed up from Garrett. “Hey. Keep your hands to yourself. I’ll do it myself,” he warned.
“Fine.” Garrett huffed and pulled his hand back.
Zero eyed Garrett warily. Sitting down, he pulled back his fur with his paws where his old jewel resided. In its same place was another walnut-sized jewel, but the color of the jewel was different. It was completely blue like sapphire.
“I’m growing crystals.” Zero eyes sparkled at the possibilities of future investment that this could bring, imagining the gold that he could trade off for his own. Lightly running his fingers over his new crystal, it fell off into his hands.
“Again?” He stared down upon it, shocked. How many times would crystals fall out so easily? How many more would he be able to make? The possibilities were endless.
“Again!” Garrett excitedly snatched it out of his hands, grabbing the larger crystal as well. He raised it up into the sky, staring at it with complete interest. The morning light cascaded down upon the blue sapphire-like crystal, creating a soft baby blue glow. “This is fascinating.” He raised his broken monocle to his eye to examine it even more closely.
Zero stared at Garrett, speechless. He peered over Garrett’s shoulder, trying to see what he was seeing.
“The difference is fascinating. Look at this.” Garrett brought it close to Zero’s face. “This one”—he raised the larger, black-and-gold crystal jewel to Zero—“continuously grows at a slow rate and somehow is magically connected to you. The crystal formation is completely different from the new one. The colors are even different too.” He raised the other one. “The smaller one has a completely different feel. The crystallization had stopped growing. I’ve never heard of this before. It seems that it only stores energy and has no connections to you at all anymore once the crystal is detached. This is truly fascinating.” He grinned with joy.
“How can you tell?” Zero asked. He peered closely at the crystals to see what the difference was but did not see anything at all.
Garrett chuckled. “You young’uns these days don’t know how to read the natural energy of this world. It seems like fewer and fewer are born with the ability.” He sighed at the thought. “The crazy adventuring these days has gotten these young’uns so enthralled that they forget to learn the basics.”
“Well then, can you teach me?” Zero asked hopefully. He felt like learning this skill could be very useful in the future.
“Sure I can teach you, but it’s going to take a long time. It just doesn’t happen in a day.” Garrett looked at him funny.
“I know that. Can’t you at least tell me the basics?” Zero asked, slightly annoyed.
“The concept is simple, but explaining it takes too long,” Garrett chastised. “It would be better if you could have someone stand in front of a white wall to see the colors around the person. It’s like a natural force field that is in every creature or thing. These energies contain information about the person or object.”
Garrett paced back and forth with his hands to his back. He was already in a teacher mode, completely forgetting he still had the crystals in hand. Zero was a bit worried that he might drop his precious crystals that he thought about selling.
“You must first open your inner eyes, or you can call it the third eye. Everyone has one in between their eyes on their forehead.” Garrett pointed at his forehead. “You must imagine it in your mind opening and closing like your real ones. This will take constant practice until it will naturally open and close when you want it to. After you do, you look towards the object and steady your mind. You will relax your eyes and let them unfocused on the area where you are looking. Use your peripherals to look for the aura. Try not to look directly at the object. As time goes on you will start seeing a thin clear film around the person or being. It’s easier to see it when you use another being standing in front of a white wall. Also, living creatures are easier to read than inanimate objects.”
“No. As you practice more and more you will see the thin film around the body start to show colors. This is how you know you have succeeded in observing an aura,” said Garrett with a very deep, strong voice. He proudly stood in front of Zero as if he was doing some kind of special speech.
“So how long does this take to learn?”
“Have you not heard me, child?” Garrett asked with disbelief.
“Well, a long time is a long time. An approximation would be great.”
“You whippersnappers these days don’t have any patience,” Garrett grumbled. “During my days it was a privilege to learn things from a master.”
He paced back and forth, hobbling as if he had a bad leg. “It could take months, years, or your whole lifetime.” Garrett stopped and gave a grumpy answer. “I reckoned you want to learn it in matter of seconds.”
Zero did not reply and listened quietly.
“When I was learning, it took me a whole year. Don’t you know how difficult it is to open up a third eye? Most people are not just born with it opened.”
“Do you mind if I have my stones now?” Zero held out his hand-like paw.
Garrett continued on with his lecture while handing him both his crystals. “That was just being able to see the clear white outline like film around it. It took me another three years to get to see color.” His white tail flickered in frustration and his one ear drooped even more to one side.
Zero looked down onto his jewels, ignoring the constant blabber and nonsense that Garrett was spewing out of his mouth. He closed his eyes and began to imagine an actual third eye perfectly centered on his forehead. It didn’t take long to envision what he wanted it do. Blinking and closing it like a regular eye, he continued the exercises for a while.
Opening his real eyes, Zero looked down onto his paws. Two perfectly formed crystal rocks lay before him. Without blinking for as long as possible, he patiently waited and stared. His eyes slowly blurred out and watered, so he had to blink a couple of times.
What he saw lying before him was a thin sheet of clear outline that wasn’t even a centimeter away from surrounding the crystals. It was barely noticeable on the small one, but when he looked at the larger of the two, his eyes widened with surprise.
A thick aura danced and blazed in his palms. Is this fire? he thought, amazed at what he was seeing before him. He blinked a couple more times to see if he was just imagining it. There wasn’t anything but the rock. It wasn’t just a small flicker of fire-like aura—it looked like a hearty fire that even a rogue wind could not put out.
“Garrett….” Zero asked a bit worriedly. He shifted from side to side.
“Young people like you…yes?”
“Why does the large one look like its aura’s on fire? I’m not going to get burned, am I?” Zero glanced up with worry.
A new skill has been learned. Third Eye.
“Identify Third Eye.”
Automatic: 1st stage.
2nd stage: Color
3rd stage: Clarity
“No game experience points will be accumulated? I thought all games accumulated points. Must be a different way.” Zero pondered for a moment thinking what it could be.
“What are you doing?” Garrett asked.
“There some odd energy coming out of the black-and-gold Krustallos. There’s some kind of energy line connecting it to my chest.”
A transparent line almost too thin to see was transferring over from the black and gold Krustallos to Zero’s chest where the Krustallos had first fallen out.
“Where?” Garrett peered at his hands, trying to find the line connecting Zero and the Krustallos. He leaned in closer and bumped into Zero’s hand, pushing it back towards his chest. The Krustallos slipped from out of his hand, and a static-like discharge appeared between the two. The Krustallos pulled into the crevice of his chest and connected. He felt a shockwave of energy that ran its course across his whole body, making him immobile for a moment.
“Are you okay?” Garrett asked with alarm.
Zero’s chest felt cold like ice, his breath quickened, and his heart sped up erratically. With quick heavy breaths he tried to calm his nerves. His chest felt like a cold fire, both burning and numbing. An icy breath escaped his mouth, and his stomach rumbled.
With a burp, a blue fire erupted out of his nose.
“Excuse me,” Zero bashfully stated. He hadn’t expected that to happen. His body returned to his normal temperature.
“I can’t believe this,” Garrett said, flabbergasted. “It’s back on your chest. How could this be? For a Krustallos to reattach itself? Then does that mean that the second one can as well?”
Garrett paced back and forth, trying to figure out the answer to his question, making Zero a bit dizzy from watching. He stopped and turned towards Zero. In a fleeting footstep Garrett’s face was literally in front of Zero’s chest, and he tapped on the Krustallos. He had his broken monocle raised to his eye and stared.
“It seems the first one does not budge out of the chest. It’s already conforming to your chest and is growing in a rapid rate.” Garrett tapped the Krustallos with his fingers. “Then what about the second one?” He snatched it out of Zero’s hand and placed it close to the first Krustallos.
The blue sapphire Krustallos moved like liquid towards the black and gold one. In one moment, the two crystals merged into one. The empty spaces that were present were filled up by the blue sapphire as it moved like liquid into a diamond shape. The blue faded away as the colors changed and shifted into the first original color, black and gold.
“What a fascinating find. The so-called living crystals are real.”
Zero turned his long neck towards Garrett. His dragon face was now less cute and a bit more reptilian that looked like it had aged into teenage years. There was still soft feathery hair covering his face, but it being replaced by snakelike skin over time.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, since the last time we met, I have been researching this so-called Krustallos. Krustallos is its original name, but there have been documents calling it the crystal, the life-giving gem, or even the unholy gem. Throughout the legends there have been known documents about the living crystals, saying they are a power source that replenishes over time and more potent than regular crystals. Three famous crystals have been documented in history: the Jaded Emerald, the Blood Ruby, and the All-giving Rose. Each is famous for its beauty and power, but became stolen, lost, or possibly destroyed.” He stopped for a moment to scratch his scraggly beard and think about what to say next.
“These crystals share with yours a special characteristic. They grew continuously without any natural reason. It’s like they pull the energy from some other source to crystalize into a specific shape, a diamond. Look, even yours is steadily turning into one too.” Garrett lifted up Zero’s feathery hair on his chest. Just like what Garrett stated, the Krustallos was a diamond shape.
“The last thing about the Krustallos is that all of the three legendary Krustallos have some kind of unique power. For example, the All-giving Rose had the highest grade magic to heal. It had over a thousand different ancient healing spells that could be pulled out to be used. The Blood Ruby’s specialty lies in blood magic. And finally the Jaded Emerald was known for its powerful earth magic. Now all it comes down to what power this one holds. Do you know?”
“I’m not sure. Nothing ever happened to it, and it was with you for quite a while. I thought you would know by now.”
Garrett shook his head sadly, and his ears sagged even more. “Nothing. All that time studying it, there was no response till now.” His voice sounded defeated. “But no matter! As the original holder, you have a better chance than I of finding the elusive answer. And when you do, you must find me and tell me. I’m dying to know.”
“All right.” Even though Garrett was irritating, he was also a treasure trove of knowledge. He wouldn’t mind sharing his discoveries about the Krustallos if Garrett could possibly help decipher some mystery about his species. “You put your heart into your research history, don’t you? I can see it in you when you are working. The amount of information that comes flowing out of your brain is truly extraordinary.”
“Kuhuhuh. You’ve finally figured out that history is important, now, have you.” Garrett chuckled under his breath.
“Well, yes, in a way, but to see someone work diligently in the things they love to do is what’s truly amazing to see. Your eyes seem to sparkle every time like a child enjoying their favorite toy. I don’t think I have that dedication right this moment. I haven’t found things I would say I’m truly passionate about. Just simple goals. How have you kept that passion going for so long?”
Garrett came over and patted him on the shoulder. “Well, things don’t come as easily as you think. There will be many times when you fail to achieve your goals, and many times those failures will make you feel like you’re losing your passion and your motivation to move forward. But when you are at your lowest time, you must remember those sparks you had that kept you going. The love and joy of having fun. The drive of putting it all into the thing you care about doing. When you finally finish, you sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. This doesn’t mean you can slack off. It’s a high that you keep going almost like a rollercoaster ride.”
Zero thought for a moment about what Garrett said. He could remember times when he had given his all in the things he had done. Competing with his brother for the top spot in school bands, making model rockets, and making bets on who would arrive first at their house. Those were the days where he had fun. He pondered for a little longer before he answered.
“I think I might know what you mean. There was this one time when I was given an assignment during middle school. I had to write a short essay, and my brother drew the pictures for it. I wasn’t any good at writing and I was even worse at drawing. I threw away draft after draft. It gave me a migraine. But my brother just kept drawing. He didn’t get mad when he had to start over. They were just stick figures, but they were awesome. He made the whole classroom laugh.” Zero chuckled for a bit and stopped. His face fell stone cold.
“What’s wrong? It seems something has upset you.”
Zero didn’t know if he should tell Garrett, but it didn’t matter if he did because he was an NPC. “My brother was a popular guy. He was steadfast, strong, inspiring, and happy-go-lucky to the point of it being contagious. But being angry at him is difficult. He had a fight with our father and then right after with me. I quarreled with him for hours, trying to convince him that what he was doing was abandoning the family at the wrong moment in time. His words pierced me to the point I could not breathe.”
Zero’s breath quickened and his voice became strained. “He is an inspiration and a rival.”
Silence followed after. Zero’s mind was running with the thoughts of Kyle’s words. Have you forgotten who you are? You are like a dog that follows its master. Wake up! I don’t need you anymore. You are worth nothing to me. Anger bubbled in his stomach. Everything that I had done for him, and he throws it in my face?
“Our mom was dying, and he just left us. We all knew she was close to death’s door, and she passed away shortly after from cancer a week later. Her body was too weak to hang on any longer. He abandoned us. No, more like he abandoned me.”
“Life is a very interesting topic. Have you ever thought that fate plays a different role? Sometimes life events happen for a reason. What you learn from those times are betrayal, loss, helplessness, and even anger. But in the long run, when you sit back, you will realize that there is a bigger picture that you would not have noticed at that moment in time. The path one travels due to the decision one makes at a certain point in time would be considered a turning point in one’s life. The decision one makes during that time is not just because of one thing; the events that happened in the past led to that decision in that key moment.” Garrett’s voice was filled with kindness, and Zero didn’t expect to hear such words. A tear fell down his cheek.
“Yeah.” Zero choked up. “Now I understand a little bit more why he left, but not his complete distaste towards me. It took me this long for me to see it a different way. I was clouded by my own anger. Even I had something I wanted to do. I could not stay any longer under my father’s wings, I had to leave and make my own footprints in the sand. Sometimes I notice a second pair of footprints in the sand already ahead of me. I always wonder where it’s going and when it will disappear. I always wondered why though. Why couldn’t he stay a bit longer? Was our mom dying not important at all? This is the question I wanted to ask him for leaving Mom when she needed him. She never got to see him one last time.”
Remembering his mother still broke his heart. Remembering his lovely mother. She was a very positive influence with her warm tender words. He could still remember her smile. Her Italian blood ran thick in her even though she was also a quarter Korean.
Zero breathed in to calm his nerves. I promised myself I won’t break down anymore, he thought to himself. He clenched his fist to bring himself back to reality.
“Don’t think too deeply about it. Life is a fickle thing. It brings people together when the time is right.” Garrett smiled warmly and pushed his monocle back from falling off.
“Well, I think it would be—” He was cut short as a large message appeared, catching his attention.
The message screen turned fuzzy like static electricity. An eerie cackling resounded in the background. A phrase appeared on the static screen: “Are you ready?” Then the screen turned completely black. Zero was roughly pushed out of the world of Growth.