July 23, 2054. Thursday. 4:55 pm.
Kiyro had been lying on his bed meditating for the past hour. His mind was antsy and bored, and he needed a way to calm himself. For the past few days, he searched for new jobs and worried about what the man in the skull mask would do. He wouldn’t often have dreams about the past, especially about the man in the skull mask.
Something about the man in the skull mask drew him in. What he had said made him wonder what purpose the man in the mask could have for killing innocent students on the college campus grounds. Hundreds of unanswered questions appeared in his head.
Was it planned? Why at the College ground? Was he also a player in the game of Growth? If he is, would I meet him again? What purpose was the murder for? What’s the meaning of which wolf would you feed? Kiyro knew he would not get anywhere with questions in his mind. In reality, it was best to be left unanswered as of now.
So he closed his eyes and lay on his bed. Counting his beating heart and inhaling and exhaling every ninth beat. One word was continuously stuck in his mind: Rin. The Strength of Mind and Body. The first of the nine is Kuji Kiri.
He could still remember the noisy sound of the Newscast when he got home from the College Campus. His sister has turned it on to listen to the latest news. Not only did driving back take a whole hour after dropping off Eve, but the news about the death of the two students was aired.
There was nothing specific about the death of the two students except it possibly being a serial murder case. No other information was told, but people were told to come forward and bring any new information about the killer.
Kiyro sighed. His mind was in turmoil, and his concentration broke. At first, he thought that practicing meditation would clear his mind, but he was wrong. This was the one time when his concentration was broken repeatedly. There were too many thoughts going through his mind to even focus.
Today was the last day for the quest to be completed. If he remembered correctly, there were only a couple of quests left. For the past day, the last couple of quests did not budge for some reason. The forum was heated with outrage at the quests not being completed soon. He, too, wondered where the last couple of quests would be held.
He turned to his side and stared at his Alive gear resting on his chair. It had been a week since the last time he dove into the game. In all honesty, he missed the world of Noriene. It was exciting and fun to play in a different world. If he didn’t have a problem with money, he would enjoy playing the game for hours.
Kiyro squirmed around uncomfortably on the bed. He remembered Eve’s words as if it was like yesterday. Her words were the real reason why his concentration kept on breaking. When his sister dropped Eve off at the house, they had a conversation.
Kiyro walked her up to her apartment. Eve rummaged through her bag to take out a key and opened her doors. She turned around and was just about to say goodbye when she stopped and stared, surprised.
“Kiyro, your eyes!” Eve stared with gaping jaws as she pointed toward him.
“Excuse me?” He stared back, a bit lost with her reactions.
“Here.” Eve rummaged through her pocket and pulled out a small hand mirror. She handed it to him in a hurry. Kiyro couldn’t help but be a bit curious about her reactions.
Kiyro brought the mirror to his face, and what stared back at him were golden eyes with a feline-like iris. His hands almost lost their grip on the mirror. He fumbled and steadied himself as he looked back into the mirror.
“I-” said Kiyro, lost for words. He did not know how this was possible. Never in his life did his eye’s color shift from black to gold, especially into a feline-like iris. What stared back at him made him feel alienated from the real world. Was this a dream? The throbbing headache answered that question in seconds.
This was reality, and what stared back at him was himself. His eyes had a slightly hypnotic look that made him feel dizzy. He shook his head and handed it back to Eve.
I can’t believe he has golden eyes. Did he ever have such color before? Eve’s thoughts telepathically crossed his mind.
“Huh? Did you say something?” Kiyro asked. He stared at her, confused.
“Are you even human?” Eve poked him on the shoulders, testing to see if everything that happened before them was real. “You’re not an alien, are you?” She jokingly said nervously.
The poking got to the point where it annoyed him, and he swatted her hand away from his body. “I’m not sure.” Even he was not sure what he was. He did not know where to begin. Especially since he now didn’t know if he was human, to begin with anymore. He raised his hands to cover his eyes from her for fear of being called a monster. To this day, he was a normal human being; he was now something else entirely. He just didn’t know what.
“This is an interesting predicament.” Eve sounded a bit too happy for him. Kiyro couldn’t help but peek out in-between his hands. He could see her smile radiating with child-like innocence. A wave of relief poured through his soul, and the gripping fear that he would be seen as a monster was gone. She looked at him as if he was normal, like any other human being. She did not scream or shout, nor was there any sense of disgust in her voice.
The overwhelming relief made him feel at ease, and he was glad that Eve saw him like this first. Eve reached over to his hand to pull it down. She stared directly into his eyes, making him feel uncomfortable.
“It’s so beautiful,” Eve whispered. Her eyes sparkled with interest, and she held onto his hands tightly. She was inches away from his face; he couldn’t help but gulp nervously. Time seemed to stop for a brief moment between Eve and him, and through her eyes, he saw brief pictures of the past times he had spent with her in-game and out of it. So much bickering between him and her. Those past memories were like a fleeting moment, but memories he started to enjoy.
Kiyro’s heart began to race, making his hands start to sweat. He pulled back and felt his face turn hot. Then, twirling his hands in a circular motion, he could slip out of her grip and took a couple of steps back.
His mind was frazzled and unable to think straight, and instead tried to control his heartbeat. He was not comfortable with the piercing stare that Eve had given him. In actuality, he did not have much experience in handling females. Usually, they were quick conversations, while on the other hand, his brother did most of the talking.
“You alright?” Eve stepped forward once again. He took another step back unconsciously from her approach. He could feel the heat coming of out his body making him uncomfortable. He noticed that Eve looked more beautiful with each step she took.
“Yes.” Kiyro squeaked. “I’ll be fine.” Trying to stop her from coming closer.
Eve stopped advancing forward and tilted her head in confusion. Then, her eyes turned wide in shock.
“It’s going away,” Eve said in disappointment. “Your eyes were so beautiful. It’s back to normal now. That sucks. I want to see it change back. How were you able to do that?”
“I-I,” Kiyro’s answer was cut short by Eve’s constant barrage of questions.
“Were you born like this? Are you some other supernatural being? How old are you really? Where are you from?”
“One at a time. First, I don’t know how it happened, and I’m not sure if I was born like this. Second, I’m just as curious and confused as you.”
“I’m sorry.” Eve bowed, slightly ashamed. “I couldn’t help it. It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime supernatural thing that happens. I never believed such a thing is possible.”
“This just barely skims the top.” Kiyro silently whispered.
“I couldn’t hear you. What did you say?”
“Nothing. Just that when I do find the answer, you’ll be the first one to know if you stop asking questions now. Even I don’t know where to begin.” Kiyro sighed. This new mystery was bothering him. He wondered if his sister knew anything about their family background. He never really took the time to research his family’s heritage and past histories.
“I need to get going. My sister is waiting for me. I don’t want to make her wait.” Kiyro replied. He turned his head side-to-side to see if anyone was there watching them and turned to leave.
“I’ll call you later if you’re up for it.”
Kiyro was already walking away and waved goodbye to her without saying a word. He was too busy trying to escape what was happening all at once. He had questions he needed to ask his sister about personally.
Rushing back down, he arrived at his sister’s car. He quickly hopped in the passenger’s seat and buckled his seat belt.
“I was wondering what was taking you so long. Were you saying your last sweet goodbyes to your girlfriend?” Anna wiggled her eyebrows and gave him a mischievous grin.
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Everyone always says that the first time. Later on, everything just unravels, and bam! Your girlfriend and boyfriend. Then moving on to marriage. Finally, a family.”
Kiyro sighed. Sometimes his sister had a wild imagination that tended to exaggerate simple scenarios like today. It was difficult to get things across during those times when she was on the run with her wild ideas. “Nevermind about that. I wanted to ask you something.”
“What is it? Do you need female advice on dating?”
“No. It has to do with our family bloodline.”
“What about it?”
“Well, somewhere down our family tree, did we have some strange powers or weird things that happened?”
“Strange powers? Are we talking about superheroes or supernaturals?”
“Come on, Anna. It would be supernatural.”
“Nope. Not that I would know of. Mom never told us about her past or Dad. They never brought up anything except their happy days together.” Anna’s voice becomes solemn, thinking about their parents. “I miss mom.”
Kiyro tapped his forehead, realizing what he had brought up. Old memories left large wounds that did not disappear in both hearts. “I do too. She’s probably doing well in heaven now.”
“I don’t believe in heaven. It’s all a lie.”
Kiyro was lost for words. He did not know how to change the subject to a happier tone. Throughout the whole ride, their moods were heavy with sadness.
Kiyro sighed. This wasn’t the only thing that happened. The following day, he went out towards the back of the apartment and walked a couple of miles. From there on, he was next to a large man-made pond. Rummaging through his pocket, he pulled out the stone. He couldn’t help but examine the stone that was in his hand.
Intense dark energy could be felt from the stone. Something about the stone made him quiver from unease. The longer he stared at the stone, the more mesmerized he got. Something about the stone pulled his heart in a darker direction. The struggle was strong when he was about to throw the stone. It wasn’t until the last second when a voice cut through his mind yelling, ‘Throw it!’
Tearing his gaze away from the stone, without a single thought, he threw the stone into the pond. With a small plunk, it entered the water and disappeared into the depths.
The sudden pull of the darkness was gone and replaced with emptiness. Kiyro felt at peace, finally free from the tug-of-war between his decision to keep it or not.
He heard the sound of machines turning on. He looked over to see that his Sense gear had turned on itself. Then, getting up, he curiously looked around. The plug was in, but he heard it automatically turning on itself.
Was the Real World Quest finally over? Kiyro thought while picking up his Sense gear. He brought it over to his bed and placed it on his head. Laying down, the world around him turned completely black.
Zero woke up in his usual child-like body. He looked around to see where he was, realizing that Zero was not in the same place he had logged out. Instead, he was in a black void-like area with nothing in sight. Only a small ball of light surrounded his body and illuminated a very small area around him.
Real World Quest is still in effect.
3332/3333 quest left.
Zero was wondering how he could log into the game world, but the thought was quickly lost when he felt an unknown voice call out from his soul. It was not like any call he had ever felt, but more like a pull towards a direction, he had to go.
With each step, he followed the pull of the voice that rang in his heart. Even in the darkness, he seemed to know where he was going until he stopped.
Where am I? He looked around to find any clue of where he could be.
“What a familiar scent.” An unknown voice called out to him.
Zero carefully glanced around to find the source of the voice, but it was too dark to find it. “Who are you?”
“You are asking who I am? Isn’t it polite that you answer who you are first?” The voice grumbled in annoyance.
“I’m Zero. It seems I am lost.”
“Well, Zero, who is lost. How did you get here? In no way can a human like yourself step foot in such a dark world except if they are part of something else. Or possibly do you have the gift?”
“Yes. The gift. To travel between dimensions. In other words, astral projection.”
“Travel between dimensions?”
“It seems you are new to this. Well, it’s alright; leaving your physical body to come to the realm of the dead is a feat in itself.”
“I’m dead!” Zero gasped in shock. “I was sure I was alive.”
“You’re not dead. Once astral projecting to another dimension, you just leave your body behind. Look, your lifeline is still attached to you.”
A claw-like hand with silver scales extends out of the darkness and points towards Zero’s belly button. It was like a very faint umbilical cord-like line that was not easily noticeable until it was pointed out.
“If I were you, Next time, I suggest you hide your lifeline. All it takes is for you to imagine it being translucent like air. Try it.”
Zero followed the unknown voice instruction. Then, in a blink of an eye, the cord that was present faded away.
“Not bad. You’re quite good at this.”
“Who are you? Better yet, you still have not given me your name.”
“Kuhuhuhu,” the voice laughed creepily, giving Zero a chill. “Giving up your name means telling who you are. Don’t you know I can call you here just by name?”
Zero was uneasy at what the unknown voice had stated, but it did not stop him from asking. “I have been polite to you by giving you my name, or have you had no courtesy to give me yours? Or are you too afraid to say your name?”
Bursting out laughing, the being’s voice echoed endlessly into the void. Then, with claws clicking on stones, the being slowly slinked out for Zero to see. What stood before him was a majestic silver dragon. Eyes that glowed sapphire blue, scales that shimmered with their own silver light. The body was sublime and graceful, and patches of long hair decorated its head, elbows, back of its ankles, and even its tail. Two long graceful horns protruded from its head, and a large pair of wings sat on his back.
Zero had never seen such a beautiful dragon. The aura around the dragon had a life of its own, where he felt small compared to the dragon himself. Yet, he couldn’t help but stare in awe as the silver dragon towered over him. Straining to look up, Zero’s neck felt like his head would fall off.
In his mind, he called out ‘Origin Form,’ In seconds, he shifted and changed into his black and gold dragon form. Stretching like a cat, he still had to glance up at the silver dragon before him. He was dwarfed even in his dragon form compared to the Silver dragon.
“Oh? A Drezo Regalia. I haven’t seen one in ages.” The silver dragon laid down, folding its arms over each other. Lowering its head, the dragon stared straight into Zero’s eyes, with Zero feeling a shock of energy run through his whole body. “Now it makes sense how you have come here. A human in a dragon body.” Smoke erupted out of the silver dragon nose.
“Well, no matter, a holder to the True dragon’s power. What brought you here to my domain?”
“I was not brought here out of my own will.”
“It seems that is true. No matter. You are here and I as well. I have been bored for centuries with no one to talk to. So why don’t you keep me company, little pup.”
“What do I get out of talking with you?”
“Knowledge. Isn’t that what your heart desires right now? But, unfortunately, it seems you don’t even know what you truly are by the looks of it nor what I am except a dragon in your eyes. Not even a shred of respect towards your predecessors that had given your ancestor such power.” The silver dragon clicked its tongue in disgust. “These days, these young pups don’t show any respect to their elders.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know you. Giving respect needs to be earned. Respect is not something one throws around because of age. You should know that, oh wise dragon.”
Tension filled the air in an instant; Zero gulped. He knew he was stepping on a landmine, especially because he could feel the power of the Silver dragon rising exponentially. Compared to him, their powers were like heaven and earth.
“Earning it?” The Silver dragon stared toward Zero. A crack of a smile erupted on the dragon’s face, and once again, the Silver dragon burst out laughing.
“You are right on some aspects. I have not met such a rambunctious young dragon in a while. It brings a refreshing new wind. How it reminds me of my old days.”
“Well, a dragon who does not want to give me your name. I have a couple of questions for you. If you don’t mind asking.”
“Kuhuhuh. I do not mind. Go ahead, young dragon. What is it that you ask?”
“Are you not a Drezo Regalia? You stated that I am a human in a dragon body, so I’m guessing that we might be two different beings.”
“To answer your question. I am a True dragon. Us True dragons are not that many in physical life. Then, our powers could move mountains and shake heaven and earth. Now I am just an existence that lives between both planes. The living and the dead. How many of my kind are left that I do not know, but to see you, Drezo Regalias, still alive brings great happiness to my soul. To see our powers still reside strongly in your body proves that we are alive. Oh?” The silver dragon stops and looks closer at Zero’s chest, where his Krustallos resides. With his silver claw, he taps Zero’s krustallos.
In a flash of golden light, the energy around his Krustallos shimmered brightly, blinding Zero. The memories of his life flashes before them. Not a single episode of his life was hidden away. Instead, the silver dragon’s static face changed into worry while looking through Zero’s life.
“Hey! That’s an invasion of privacy!” Zero exclaimed. He was not too fond that his whole game life showed before him like a movie.
“Are you the only one of your kind?”
“I am shocked to hear that the Drezo Regalias has fallen to only one. The future of your kind is bleak. I wondered why your kind has not come here in a thousand years even though I have called out numerous times to your kind’s souls.” The silver dragon said with heartfelt sorrow. “And it seems you been cursed. What has happened to your kind while I was sleeping?”
“If I knew, I would be able to tell you, but even I don’t know the answer to what happened to all the Drezo Regalia. So I am actually searching for the answer.”
“Young dragon. I am sorry that I can not help you with that aspect of your journey. Instead, you have awoken and enlightened me to the surroundings of both of our kind. It seems it is time for all our True dragons to rise up from slumber again and help guide this world again.” The silver dragon stood up, its wings spread out wide and strong.
Zero couldn’t help but be awed at the size of the silver dragon. He felt enormous power radiating from the silver dragon’s body. He, too, wondered when he would grow to such size and power.
“It seems my time has come to leave. Maybe this is why you have come here. To awaken this old soul that has been slumbering here for over ten thousand years. I know what I must do.”
“Wait, but I haven’t asked you all my questions! What is a Drezo Regalia? How did we shift into this form? Why have you True dragons given us this power?”
With a gush of wind and the silver dragon’s wings flapping, a torrent of wind blew towards Zero. The silver dragon lifted its body off the ground and flew upwards into a dark void, where Zero could not see.
“You senile old dragon! You said you would answer my questions!” Zero stomped in rage.
Out of nowhere, Zero was snatched off the ground and in the silver dragon’s claws. Zero yelped in surprise as he dangled like a toy in the silver dragon’s grasp.
“Gah!” Zero yelled in startlement. The world ahead of him had begun to shift in colors. The dark void around him was changing quickly into bright light. He couldn’t keep his eyes open because of the blinding light that made it difficult for Zero to see.
“You can open your eyes now.” The silver dragon’s voice rang loudly in his ears.
Carefully opening his eyes, he could see the world around him. They were both high up in the sky, flying over a large forest. Zero wasn’t sure where they were and watched in awe at the world before him. The feeling of speed, fresh air, and the power of freedom all in one could be felt for Zero. It was an exhilarating effect that he could not get rid of nor ever forget.
“Whooooo!” Zero yelled in excitement. He held up his arms like he was on a rollercoaster ride.
The silver dragon chuckled and placed him on its back. Zero grabbed hold of the silver dragon’s hair and watched with excitement. He could feel the powerful beat of the wings around him, the whistling air that could push him off at any moment, and the freedom of flight that he had never felt before.
With a powerful stroke of his wings, the silver dragon dove headfirst towards the ground. Wings tucked tightly into its side, the rushing wind coming towards them like a bullet.
Zero couldn’t help but dig his claws into the silver dragon’s back. He noticed not a single drop of blood escaped from his grasp. His excitement was quickly changed into fear, for he thought a couple of times that he would be thrown off the silver dragon’s back.
When they were close to the ground, the silver dragon opened its wings wide and strong at the last moment. Then, a quick burst from a sudden updraft brought the silver dragon back into the air without crashing into the ground.
“You’re crazy!” Zero exclaimed towards the silver dragon. His claws went limp from holding onto the silver dragon’s back. He almost tumbled off the silver dragon.
“You won’t be saying that when you have grown your own pair of wings.” Silver dragon barked out laughing.
“I’ll have wings?” The thought excited him to no end. He wondered when he would break from his child-like body and become a full-fledged adult.
“Yes. When you are an adult. By then, you will be at the end of your first stage of Growth by about two hundred years old. Then you would be moving into the second. Finally, when you hit five hundred years old, your final stage of Growth would begin.”
“Two hundred years old.” Zero stated in shock. He groaned.
“Luckily for you, your adult stage is coming around the corner. You had your first fire, no?”
“I could see the small crown of horns commemorating your 150-year-old mark. Unfortunately, you only have another fifty years. Time will fly by as if it is nothing.”
“I’m 150?” Zero whispered, confused. He only had been in the game of Growth for about a month and a half. The Growth game time was not ridiculously fast to the point where 150 years have gone by. Then it hit him. He was level 150 as of right now. Already pushing halfway towards 151.
Zero was excited; this meant that he had only fifty more levels to go before he would sprout wings. The problem was that the next fifty levels were much more difficult to level up than the 150 he blazed through. A smile erupted from the corner of his lips.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
They flew through the endless forest, crossed large mountains, and finally arrived at the City of Diadem. Compared to them, who were high above the sky, Zero noticed the small amount of dots roaming around the city ground. The silver dragon’s shadow covered a fourth of the city.
But what was strange was that even though the shadow flew across the city, not a single person glanced up at them.
“Don’t they see us?”
“No. We are still in the dimension where death rules the living.” The silver dragon flaps his wings and hovers above the city.
“Then why are we here?”
“Don’t you know? Your body’s here. I came to drop you off. Why else?”
“Sigh. You have a lot of things to learn.”
The silver dragon reached over his shoulder and pulled him off. “If I were you, I would practice transcending between life and death. There are things in this dimension that you would never know about otherwise. Secrets you never would’ve known till you take steps to face the darkness that stops you from moving forward.”
Dangling from the silver dragon’s claw, Zero glanced down to see where he was. He was over the Infinity Church’s tower.
“Young dragon. Choose now. Would you like to go back to your sleeping body, or would you like to take a step towards your fears?”
Zero thought for a while. He wondered if this could be a possible quest in the game. “I’ll take the chance to face my darkness.”
“Wise choice, young dragon.”
Once again, a heavy blast of air lifted them both up into the air, and this time a shimmering white light appeared before them. With a blast of strong cold wind, Zero held on tightly for his dear life. The world around him was a blur of light, making it difficult to see what was happening.
“Don’t be afraid.” The silver dragon called out with its deep voice.
Zero slowly opened his eyes, wondering where he was. All he remembered was flying through the sky with the silver dragon. After that, it was all blank. The most curious part of the ordeal was now wondering where he was.
Looking around, he noticed that he was standing in a dimly lit hallway with broken glass on the floor. He felt like he was in an abandoned house in a horror movie. Everything around him was either old, broken, or chipped paint.
“Where am I?” Zero walked around trying to find clues to where he was at. Unfortunately, nothing gave him a hint of where he could be.
“Young dragon.” The silver dragon’s voice echoed around him.
“Where are you?” Zero shouted out, hoping he could find the silver dragon that was gone from his sight.
“Don’t worry, young dragon. You are in good hands. However, I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Yea, what is it?”
“This task will challenge your very mind, body, and soul. Do you think you could handle it?”
“Of course, I can. I will not back down on a challenge.” Zero replied and whispered under his breath, “plus, this is a game. There is no death.”
“Kuhuhuhu. Nice words coming from a young dragon. I will give you something that you will need. A special stone purifies the light, and a mask hides who you are.”
A stone appeared out of thin air and floated down onto Zero’s hands. A warm, tingling light encompassed his body, making him full of vigor and power. Nevertheless, he could not help but keep the glowing white stone closely in his palms.
A swirl of light appeared before him as a black and gold dragon’s mask dropped in front of his hands. Zero quickly put it on, wondering what effect it would bring, but no new message appeared when he put on the mask.
“Remember, this world is more than it seems,” the silver dragon’s voice slowly began to fade away.
“What do you mean?”
“You will know.”
All game abilities, armors, items, and weapons have been locked. Additionally, the origin form has been canceled.
“Hyuck,” Zero said in outrage. He couldn’t believe all his game abilities were gone. No more was he able to change forms; instead, he had to deal with whatever was coming his way, no matter how difficult it could be.
How would he fight a boss monster if all his weapons and abilities were locked away? Scanning the room for answers, he saw a broken metal pipe on the floor. Quickly he picked up the metal pipe off the ground and kept it in hand. But, unfortunately, he already missed his Katana and twin daggers.
A cold breeze blew in, making Zero shiver. Looking down, he noticed he didn’t even have the usual light armor. Usually, he did not keep any heavy armor on his growing body. Instead, he would wait until his growth spurt finally allowed him to be an adult. This allowed him not to keep buying new heavy armor every time he had a growth spurt. Instead, he wore light leather armor that could be easily adjusted even though it did not compare to heavy armor.
Zero sighed. He clenched his pipe close in hand and began walking down the dark hallway. He wondered if, just like a horror game, any monsters would pop out from the darkness. Then, hoping that there wasn’t any that would, he walked on ahead.
A soft voice echoed down through the hallway, making its way towards Zero’s ears. It was a conversation between two unknown males.
“Is it true?” said the first male’s voice.
“What do you mean is it true? Why do you not think it is?”
“Because it just sounds too unrealistic that the puppet of Cain could be easily bypassed.”
“Easily? I think that human was just lucky.”
“You think so?”
“Yea. How else would it have happened? The puppet is just a normal human.”
“Tch. Humans. They make me want to snap their necks and feed them to the dogs.”
“Kehehehe. I have actually done that. My hellhounds have grown pretty strong after eating the soul of a human. It has become its regular diet. I recommend feeding your pet such food next time you get the chance.”
“I sure will.”
Both malice-filled voices cackled out loud with laughter. Zero carefully slinked ahead, trying not to get caught. He didn’t know how strong these beings were, nor did he know what they were. Then, peeking out from the door corner, he spotted them hovering around a small fire in metal bins.
Metal bins? I thought the game of Growth didn’t have man-made metal trash bins yet. Zero thought, confused.
Two humanoid beings had the face of one of those traditional angry Japanese masks. Their lips were curled in an evil smile while tusk-like teeth protruded out of their mouths. One of them only had one eye. They seemed to be wearing modern clothes rather than the medieval-like clothes that he usually saw in the world of Growth. This confused him even more. Where in this world of Growth did monsters wear modern clothes?
“But still, even though that human was lucky, how was he able to pickpocket the stone? You know that was not something a normal human would be able to do.”
“Could be a thief, maybe?”
“Kah-” The man spat with disgust into the fire, making the fire burn brighter. “If I get my hands on that human, I will slaughter him in seconds.”
“But the stone. Without it, our plans are pushed back by a couple of years. How the hell did that rat know?”
“I don’t know, but I bet the enemy has gotten wind of our plans.”
A loud squeak was heard, and a clattering of rocks falling onto the ground was heard from his direction. The two turned their heads towards the sound and found Zero hidden behind the wall.
“We know you are there. Come out, rat!” The man with one eye spat with anger. He growled towards Zero. Pulling out a knife, they both waited quietly for Zero to come out.
Zero wasn’t sure if he should rush out and surprise them or wait for them to come to him.
“Fine, if you’re not coming, then we’re going to you!” Both monsters rushed head first towards Zero. Compared to them, having a knife and him only having a pipe to fight would be a challenge.
Before they could overwhelm him, Zero struck like a snake. He aimed toward the closest one on the head using his metal pipe. With the fast momentum of the swing, the metal pipe hit the first man squarely on the chest. Winded, the man kneeled over, vomiting up black substances that Zero did not want to know.
The one-eyed man slashed sideways, making the Zero jump back before his stomach could have gotten wounded. Simultaneously, a quick three-handed strike was dealt towards Zero, each narrowly avoiding it.
Given the opportunity, Zero lunged forward and used the metal pipe like a fencing sword. Then, with a flick of his wrist, he hit both men’s hands and both in the heart, disrupting their heartbeats flow one after the other.
Zero’s breath quickened; with each punch and strike with the metal pipe, he let out his breath in synchronicity, allowing the power behind his strike to add up even if it was little. His mind zoned in on the battle, adrenaline-pumping the world around him felt like it was slowing down. Each hit, dodge, strike, and even his heartbeat felt like they were going in slow motion allowing him to dodge out of harm’s way.
The fight between Zero and the two men shifted like a seesaw. Then, with a nasty swing to the side of one of the men, he could destroy the first one in under two minutes. Then, like a ghost, the man disappeared like smoke.
With only one left, the chance of survival has increased for Zero. The dropped dagger was also now in his possession. He had scooped up the dagger when the man disappeared like a puff of smoke.
“Why you!” The other creature took a stab at Zero’s right eye. Ducking down, Zero whisked the dagger he had finally gotten upward, blocking the attack’s momentum. Then, with his other hand, he twirled his body like a tornado and slammed the metal pipe into the creature’s skull.
In a whisk of smoke, the second creature disappeared. A clatter of the dagger fell onto the cold stone floor. Exhaling out in his final pent-up breath, he breathed in relief. Glancing down, he noticed the other dagger on the floor, but there was no game money or monster parts he would usually collect. So each creature had only one weapon left behind.
“This is it?” Zero grumbled. “Cheap monsters.”
He examined both the daggers.
Nothing appeared before him.
Once again, no screen showing the dagger’s properties appeared.
“Is the game broken?” Zero wondered, but then he realized that when he was roaming around the realm of the dead, something similar happened with his sword not appearing. All he could do was keep the daggers in both his hands. There was nothing to strap it on or a pouch in which he could stash them.
Dropping the metal pipe with a clang. Zero held onto both daggers in each hand. He searched around in the empty room, but nothing was found. Only a broken chair and the fire lit inside the metal bin. Everything around the room reminded him of the modern era. Nothing in the room and the hallway screamed of a fantasy world.
Finally, after carefully searching the room, Zero headed out the door and continued forward. On every winding pathway he took, the lights flickered on and off, making seeing difficult. He kept one eye closed and the other opened throughout the whole time. The reason was if he did come across a room where all the lights were turned off, he would be automatically adjusted to the darkness with his other eye.
Keeping one eye closed and the other eye open was not an easy task to do. He often wanted to keep both eyes open but knew better than to succumb to his urges.
Whenever he saw the creatures with creepy mask-like faces, he would sneak in and attack from behind. He would not fight them head-on when he could not use his skills or Origin form. He knew playing it safely and clearing out the rooms were the best way to go. One-by-one, the masked creatures dropped similar items like weapons. Most of the weapons disappeared on touch as if they were made out of thin air.
Weapons that did not disappear were very rare, but even then, he could not take all the weapons with him. He could only take the weapons in hand. With each kill, the fight became easier and easier. He did not know if his confidence or the simple attacks made him overcome them.
Continuing forward, he stopped as he heard voices talking once again. This time the voice he heard shocked him to the core.
“No way.” Zero quietly mouthed. “How is this possible?”
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