A cold breeze blew by and gray fog blanketed the ground. Tall Stone walls laid out before them endlessly into the distance. Zero looked down upon the intricate maze on top of the cliff from the exit they had come out from. The Maze was long and far as the eye could see, even he wondered how they were going to make their way in without getting lost.
“How are you going to do this?” Agnis asked. She walked up next to him and placed her hands on her hips.
“I don’t know.” Kiyro replied. He wasn’t sure how they were going to even find the boss in the intricate maze before them. He wondered how long it would take to look through for the correct route.
“Is the maze moving?” Agnis squinted and scanned the large maze that seemed to cover the whole horizon. “I think it is. Look. It’s changing.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Zeraph spoke. He was not pleased at the outcome they were getting themselves into. “No one told us the maze changes. This is going to take a while.”
“Hopefully not.” Zero replied. Already this was becoming a difficult problem in itself. If he did not find a solution, they would be stuck in the maze for eternity.
“Do you have a plan?”
“No. Not yet. Bob. Do you know the way through the maze?”
Bob came forward rubbing his hands in worry. “No. I only know that every day the whole maze changes and a new route is opened. I only heard about the Maze of Geruem and never entered it before.”
“This isn’t good.” Zeraph folded his arms in discontempt. “We can’t just walk in there without knowing what’s going on in the inside.”
“I know, but what choice do we have?” Zero was not thrilled about the answer to the outcome either. He was hoping that the Maze would be an easy in and out, but nothing was easy. “On the bright side, the highest chance that we got to get through the maze is Bob directing it himself.”
“You’re kidding right?” Everyone was shocked to hear what Kiyro had said. To put blind faith into a NPC was unheard of.
“No. Think about. Who has the highest luck. Its definitely none of us.”
“Zero got a point,” Jack was leaning on his battle hammer.He warmed up to Zero’s idea.
“The game does have a set rule, especially when luck is needed at this moment. Passing through the Maze without getting lost is a bit difficult. We don’t have a single map or any hints telling us how to make it through. Think about it, Leprechauns have it hands down on being the luckiest magical creature in the game. So far that we know of.”
“You got a point, but this is ridiculous. Going in without a plan.”
“This is the plan.” Kiyro answered. The possibility of putting his trust on an NPC with the highest luck was not a gamble. So far he had seen Bob in action. Bob had shown them the shortest way to defeat evil Magician Mano, their village gave him a four leaf clover that had a high level of luck status, and still Bob had not died once or got hurt. One could consider it a miracle that Bob was still alive. It wouldn’t make sense that such magical creatures didn’t have an unusually high level of luck with them, in reality, Leprechauns are considered one of the luckiest creatures.
“Actually, I might have one.” Zero raised his hands to catch their attention. “The maze in the Minotaur reminds me of the Greek mythology of Theseus. Isn’t the game of Growth a game made with many different mythological creatures from different cultures?”
“Wait, it wasn’t just the Norse Mythology that the game was heavily focused on?” Jack asked.
“No.” Agnis replied, “He’s right. The monsters, creatures, and gods are not just one group. Right now, the predominant gods are from Norse Mythology. Think of the Fire Continent, a melting pot of different religions squished into one territory. After the Second Stage went into effect, I had heard and seen new gods and disciples appearing around the edge of the Electric Continent. If we think on that line, than it would make sense where this Minotaur in a maze came from.”
“You remember the golden ball of yarn that the princess Ariadne gave Theseus to help him get out of the maze.”
“Yea, but this is a maze that changes every day. How would a ball of yarn help us out in this situation?”
Zero went ahead first, without answering. Walking down the pathway that lead straight to the entrance of the Maze, Zero walked up towards one of the stone walls. He stopped while his friends surrounded him wondering what he will do. Searching through his bag, Zero pulled out the Golden Chalk the elder Leprechaun gave him. Carefully, Zero drew a ball of yarn that was threaded into a large needle the size of his forearm.
Even though his drawing was not considered complex, he was able to draw what he needed. In a shimmer of light, the ball of yarn that was threaded into the large needle slowly changed into a three dimensional object and fell to the ground.
“A ball of yarn and a needle?” Agnis asked confused on what Zero would do. “How is this going to help us?”
Zero did not reply and picked up the magical yarn and needle.
|Golden Yarn threaded
Created from the Golden chalk. The golden yarn is endowed with an endless amount of yarn until it is cut by the drawer. One end of the yarn is already threaded into the needle. An indestructible yarn. It can only be used once. Once cut the yarn will disappear. Only the drawer may handle the golden needle.
|The Golden chalk (rare)
A magical chalk that has the ability to bring to life a drawing on the ground giving it magical properties. Its powers are unknown. How it was made is a mystery in itself. The magical chalk can only be used three times before it breaks. Use it wisely for there is no other chance to bring it back to life.
“Bob come here.” Zero motioned Bob in front of him. He was amazed at the status given from the ball of yarn and needle. He quickly got to work with his plan.He picked up the golden needle off the ground and stabbed it into the ground. Bob came forward wondering what Zero wanted.
“Hold your hands up for a second.” Zero searched for the other end of the yarn and pulled it out.
“Like this?” Bob raised his arms. Zero bent over and tied the end of the yarn around Bob.
“I see!” Agnis chuckled. “You’re going to use Bob as a lifeline.”
“Then what about the needle that you just stuck into the ground?” Alan walked over towards the golden needle that was embedded into the ground. He reached over and tugged hard on the golden needle. “What?” Grunting, he tried to pull out the the needle from the ground. “How? It’s completely stuck.”
“Really?” Jack went over to Alan. “Move aside. You should let a dwarf handle something like this. Even though we are small we are known for our bountiful strength.” With a thudding of his hammer falling onto the ground, Jack rubbed his hands and grabbed the end of the needle. With a heavy breath, he pulled hard with all his strength.”Why I never-” Each word was heavy with strain. Zero could see nerves bulging out of Jack’s neck.
“Give it up. At least for now, no one is able to pull the needle out. Isn’t that good enough?” Zero asked. He couldn’t help but grin. He felt more confident than before with his plan in motion.
“Okay.” Jack huffed and puffed from trying to pull out the needle, “It’s all good. We can move on. This might actually work.”
“We’re counting on you Bob,” Zero patted Bob on the back. This was a slim chance, but having a lucky creature like Bob could help them get through the Maze with less chance to get harmed. “We need to keep Bob safe. Without him we might be stranded inside the maze without ever finding a way towards our goal.”
“I guess it’s worth a try. Logic in game seems to be thrown out the window anyways,” Zeraph shrugged.
“Lead the way. We trust your judgment.”
“Yes!” Bob said with enthusiasm. His eyes sparkled with deep appreciation towards Zero.
|Intimacy with Bob has increased by 100.|
Bob entered first with bold steps, Zero followed closely behind him watching for any potential dangers. Zeraph and Agnis were on Bob’s right side, while Alan and Jack on Bob’s left. They carefully walked watching out for potential harm.
A loud rumbling sound could be heard as they noticed the entrance being closed. The golden string that was laid out changed direction leading to a different exit.
“Are we locked in?” asked Alan. He squirmed uncomfortably at the thought of being locked in the large maze.
“No, the walls just shifted directions.” Zero replied. He walked towards the wall and placed his hands wondering if it is illusion or reality. “Our only option now is to move forward.”
“Then what about our exit?” Alan asked. “All I see is the golden thread going in the opposite-” He became quiet and understood where the golden thread was leading too.
“He’s our life line. The golden thread will not be destroyed, so don’t worry.” Kiyro grinned. He patted Alan’s shoulder reassuring everything was going to be okay.
“You heard him. Let’s go.” Zeraph said with a loud voice to snap the people’s attention. Bob was already walking ahead before them.
Zero gave the stone wall one last look, and turned around towards Bob. Even though he knew the gold yarn had shifted direction towards a different direction, he still felt like the exit was right there in front of him. He walked behind Bob as they twisted and turned constantly for hours. Everything looked the same, nothing changed as they went deeper. Time past as they continued on their journey.
“This is going to drive me crazy just looking at the wall.” Jack grumbled under his breathe.
“At least we haven’t had a dead end yet.” Agnis replied. She too was getting impatient walking through the endless maze. “What else could be living here to be so boring? I thought there will be some kind of monster hunting we could be doing in here so we don’t get bored out of our mind.”
“Aaaaah!” A male’s voice called out sobbing loudly.
“You had to ask.” Zeraph stared at her for speaking out too soon. Agnis shrugged it off as if it was nothing.
Zero and his group bolted towards the sound, and noticed a small handful group of soldiers fending off a couple of two legged goat like monsters. The monsters were on their hind legs with a humanoid torso and a ox face. They were the size of a fully grown human male. With his telepathy skill he was able to get a name. Red Minotaur, but no other information had appeared before his screen.
“We need to save them!” Zero ran forward first.
“Are you out of your mind!” Zeraph called out and ran behind him.
“No. We need them.” Zero’s hands were already on the hilt of the sword ready to pull out and strike like a viper.
“Is this the Minotaur we are supposed to slay?” Jack asked as he was in the middle of the fight battle hammer against ax. “This is the boss right?”
“I don’t think so.” Zero slashed at the back of the Red Minotaur. It screamed a bellowing yell from the pain and turned in anger towards Zero. Swinging its ax, it charged towards him.
The air shifted sharply as an arrow whizzed passed him and embedded itself squarely in the bulking chest of the Red Minotaur. Zero glanced over his shoulder and saw Agnis nocking another arrow into her bow. The Minotaur roared and swung towards Zero’s head.
Ducking under the ax, he rushed in and sliced horizontally across the Minotaur’s stomach. Taking quick steps out of harm’s way, he maneuvered his way to the Minotaur’s back. Lightning fast strikes were continuously dealt without stopping and finally the Minotaur stumbled and fell dead on the ground.
The second Minotaur was upon the cowering soldiers on the floor, their eyes full of dread. Zeraph ran forward and hopped on top of the Minotaur’s back slashing furiously like a madman. In seconds the Minotaur fell onto the floor dead.
“That wasn’t too hard.” Jack replied without breaking a single sweat.
“What are you guys doing out here?” Zero walked forward up towards the three soldiers that were on the ground ashamed.
“We were sent here to slay the Minotaur that inhabits these walls, but days went on and our numbers slowly dwindled to only three. Hundreds of the soldiers disappeared while wandering through the maze. Every turn that we made, the more we can not find where we once were.” The haggard looking soldier replied with sadness and grief. “We don’t know how to get out of here nor where the Minotaur who rules this maze resides. Please, can we come with you?”
“Sure. The more the merrier.” Zero replied. “We were heading towards the Minotaur anyways. If you do ever want to escape, this golden yarn should lead you to the exit.”
“We can not thank you enough.” Their eyes sparkled with hope. “We will follow you till we slay the Minotaur. You have truly given us hope once again.” They gladly spoke with enthusiasm. Zero could already see the once gone vitality come back with full force. “My name is Tom. This is Eron and Evan. They are twins.”
“Nice to meet you. How long have you guys been stuck here?” Agnis asked. Curious of their answer.
“We think it has been over a year.” Tom replied.
“A year!” Agnis gasped shocked at the answer that Tom has given him. “How did you even survive?”
“There are edible food and water in this maze. You could say they are pockets of oasis that seem to grow fruits and waterholes in the area.”
“Who sent you guys for this mission?” Jack asked, he leaned on his battle hammer.
“The king of the City of Diadem. Every month, he sends out new soldiers to the maze to get rid of the Minotaur and take the Golden Eye, but for the past five years, not a single soldier had returned.” Tom said with sadness. “We all knew that coming here was more of an exile and a death sentence. All of the soldiers that come to this maze are either convicts or people that the King does not want near him.
“I see.” Zero put away his sword. He was now even more suspicious of the king. Now it all made sense. The king sent him here not for the deal with the Drezo Regalia but possibly more on the side of getting rid of him so they could take back the Draconis Library. This infuriated Zero, his drive to complete this quest was even higher than before.
“At first, the King’s favorite soldiers with great backgrounds and standing were sent. Then when no news came of conquering the maze, he became desperate and sent out people who are just as desperate as he who would want a second chance in getting back their honor.”
“That would make sense.” Zero grumbled underneath his breath. He was not too thrilled being tricked so easily. He would show that wretched king that he had accomplished an impossible feat. “We will slay the Minotaur and gain back our honor. I am certain we would accomplish this task.”
“You sound so confident.” Tom stated with awe. “How are you so confident that you would find the Minotaur that guards this Maze?”
Zero grinned. “We have a secret weapon. Bob here will lead us the way. He knows the way around.Our duty is to guard him till we find the Minotaur and stay alive. You guys can do that right?”
“Yes!” The soldiers said in joyful unison.
“That’s great. Show us the way Bob!”
“Yes, Sir!” Bob saluted and went forward.
Agnis came up next to Zero and whispered towards him. “Are you sure that was a good idea to tell them about Bob? Bob’s still a wild card.”
“I know, but you saw hope brought back into those soldiers eyes. What we need now is more people to protect Bob. We don’t know what else is in this maze and our chance of survival increases by three more.”
“Well it’s your call.”
Zero quietly thought of what he said. He knew that NPC had only one chance in life in this game. He could not haphazardly waste them away in this game, but at the same time Zero only had one chance to get through this Maze and succeed.
Throughout their constant twist and turns, Bob continued to lead them deeper into the Maze. The number of Minotaurs increased in random fights, and even at times they were lucky enough to meet up with more lost soldiers that wandered aimlessly. Their small group increased in size from ten, twenty, and up to forty.
Each new group of lost soldiers they had met, added new additions of different classes that helped grow them into an efficient team. Mages and even priests were found, giving Zero’s group an edge in combat. Truly Zero felt like he had invested correctly in allowing Bob to take the lead. They were finding more and more straggling NPC soldiers that normally one would not be able to meet.
Zero was commanding a small platoon that followed diligently behind them. The archers were in the middle of the group with the healers and magicians, while the soldiers with high offensive ability defended them in the process.
“Move back! Don’t let the Red Minotaur kill you. If you are about to die, come back and get yourself healed.” Zero yelled out towards the soldiers that were attacking a large group of Red Minotaurs in front of them. They were cornered on both sides and they could not break through without destroying the Red Minotaurs. No more were they fighting just a couple but now in groups of tens and even more.
The injured soldiers hobbled backwards while another soldier replaced their spot. The priest had begun chanting their healing spells helping recuperate the hurt soldiers.
Agnis shot with the archers creating a free-falling rain of arrows. The Red Minotaurs turned into live pincushions and stumbled and fell dead. Zeraph was busily fighting with the soldiers in the front, while Jack was fighting and holding off the back with another group of soldiers. It was becoming a fierce battle of dominance of with the battle going back and forth as the Red Minotaurs tried to break through.
Alan was given the task to make sure to keep Bob alive. Even though Alan did not have powerful skills like Jack, Agnis, Zeraph, and Zero, he did have one skill that kept Bob alive. Merchant’s Will is a contract between two people where one can temporarily keep the contractor alive by throwing money or any other materials as distraction allowing them to escape. For Red Minotaurs it was the color red. Anything that had red was the perfect distraction that allowed a moment’s distraction. Having large stash of painted red dolls that he was going to sell were used at moment’s notice to save both their lives at times when the Minotaurs broke through.
Zero saw that off in the distance another large group of Red Minotaurs were rushing in towards the the back where Jack and his small group of soldiers were fighting. At this rate, the back would be overrun in seconds, leading to a complete wipe out of his group. Splitting up his small band in half was already pushing the limits, now the arrival of more enemies would make it difficult to keep the balance of his group in check.
“Keep them back!” Zero yelled. The time was now to shape-shift into his Origin form. He had kept in his human form for one reason only, to use it when the need desperately arises. Throughout the beginning, his group was able to fend off the Red Minotaurs with no trouble. They all have started to get the feeling of battle tactics that Zero had came up with and even allowed him to take command.
With a sound of his bones breaking, he could feel himself shifting into his Origin form. The black slender neck and tail, sharp teeth and claws that can shred through rocks and metal, and finally his large body that was slightly bigger than an elephant.
With a bellowing roar, Zero’s intimidation skill went into effect stunning all Red Minotaurs in fear, while his teammates cheered and roared with him. Their morale boosted at the sudden appearance of Zero’s dragon form, the soldiers that they saved were in awe of him, even though they too were shaken to the bones by Zero’s roar.
“About time,” Jack yelled out. “Here I thought you will be dozing off to sleep or something. You couldn’t shift sooner?”
“I was just waiting for the right time.” Zero ran forward towards the stunned Red Minotaur. He blew a jet of fire that crackled and burned upon impact. The Red Minotaurs screamed in pain and rushed forwards towards him. With a swipe of his tail, Zero sent the Red Minotaur flying towards another crashing into each other in a loud thud.
“That’s more like it.” Jack spoke in glee. He hammered down unto another Minotaur with a couple of the other soldiers. They wiped out the minotaur in seconds.
Zero continued to blow torrents of fire that created a wall behind the Red Minotaur that his group were fighting. This gave Zero’s group some time to wipe out the remaining Red Minotaurs before getting swarmed by more. Instead, Zero went forward and fought the oncoming Red Minotaur. Like a cat that found its new toy, he jumped around and slashed them pushing them backwards. Each fire and each strike of his claws, they slowly started to dwindle in numbers.
“Keep them back a little longer Zero. We almost finished them off.” Jack had swung his battle hammer in a diagonal towards the Red Minotaur’s head. With a sickening thud, the Red Minotaurs crumpled to the ground dead.
“Already ahead of youuuuu.” With a large blow of spewing fire, Zero blew directly into a Red Minotaur’s face and with a swing of his bladed claw, he ripped through skin and bones.
Zero’s battle was with burning fire that surrounded him like a tornado. The cackling fire power that took longer to burn out than a normal fire had made the Red Minotaurs step back with unease. They did not want to step into the powerful swirl of fire, but at the same time they had the urge to attack Zero. The Red Minotaurs did not stop and instead pushed forward towards Zero.
When one fell from the blazing inferno, another took its place and ran towards Zero in a hurry to wipe out the cause of the fire. A Red Minotaur escaped the fire that blocked their path and growled with thundering breath. It’s eyes glazed over like a madman and the Red Minotaur stomped his foot with anger. With a bellowing cry, the Red Minotaur attacked horizontally towards Zero’s neck.
The old brownish ax with dried up blood was stopped with Zero’s claws. He was not as nimble like when he was in his human form, but what he lacked in speed he had power. It didn’t take long for Zero to push back the Red Minotaur towards the burning fire. The clapping of the hooves of the Red Minotaur dug deeply into the ground, trying hard to push forward.
Zero pushed with all his might, their tug of war battle was slowly slipping in favor towards him. He wondered how strong his strength would become as he got older and older. His claws finally crushed the ax into thousands of pieces as it crumpled onto the ground. The Red Minotaur huffed in surprised and lost its balance forward, giving Zero a chance to attack. He did not hold back, and instead dove headfirst towards the Red Minotaur. Biting and ripping apart skin and bones, the Red Minotaur fell dead on the ground.
Jack ran to his side with his battle hammer in hand, the small group of soldiers that they have picked up followed closely behind him. The soldiers leveled up quickly and efficiently, already from a level 100 they had all leveled up to 122.
By Zero’s guess, he expected the Red Minotaur to be around level 150 or even higher. Jack, Agnis, and Zeraph each commanded their own troops.
Jack and Zeraph both split up the large group of melee attackers each having ten in their group, while Agnis led the eight magicians and seven healers. Zero was the one that moved from one group to another, directing them and even updating his teammates on what was going on at each other end.
“We just finished taking care of our side. We need to rest up and regroup. The Red Minotaurs had already injured half of my team. At this rate, we will lose them.” Jack replied while he was swinging his battle hammer downwards onto the Red Minotaur’s feet.
“Tighten your attack and watch each others back. I’ll be drawing three-fourth of them to me, while the rest you guys need to pick them off quickly,” Zero jumped towards a Red Minotaur with outstretched claws. His claws went past the raised ax that feebly attempt to stop Zero’s attack but failed.
“Got it!” Jack swung his battle hammer like a bat and the impact caused the charging Red Minotaur ax to shatter. Sometimes Zero wondered if Jack practiced baseball by the way he swung his battle hammer. Almost half of his attacks seemed in some way have that baseball stance when batting.
Jack’s group swiftly took out the Red Minotaurs one-by-one, while Zero aggravated a good third of the Red Minotaurs. He had to run around, and use fire to keep them at bay. At times, he had to be very careful not to be overrun by the Red Minotaurs or he would lose his health quickly and die.
Zeraph’s group finally finished picking off the rest of the Red Minotaurs, and joined in on Jack’s battle. The Red minotaurs were slowly whittling down and finally defeated. With a loud cheer the remaining soldiers yelled with happiness. Even though they were at the beginning area of the maze, they have successfully defended and grew stronger together.
Zero was happy to see that the soldiers that joined his group were leveling up with them, even though their levels were lower than Zero’s group, they were a great asset in this endless labyrinth. Without their help, they would of gotten overrun in a couple of battles. Not only that the soldiers became stronger, the battles between the Red Minotaur slowly became easier to deal with. With a pleased smile, Zero wondered if he would gain any rewards for bringing back the soldiers that were stuck in this endless maze. He couldn’t wait to see the stupid king’s face when he brought the treasure and the lost soldiers.
With a grin, Zero finished off the last Red Minotaur with his jaws. Zero’s group continued forward into the endless labyrinth.
August 1, 2054. Saturday. 5:00pm
The days passed and Zero and his group was still stuck in the giant maze. They have fought thousands of Red Minotaurs through the endless maze. They fought, rested, and pushed forward. Zero wondered when the endless maze will ever let up, the grueling walk through the maze was becoming monotonous. He felt like they were stuck in the maze for years.
The real problem that constantly cropped up was the shortage of food. Feeding the soldiers to keep their stamina up was cutting a large chunk of Kiyro’s food stash. He did not have enough to feed everyone, but luckily for him they stumbled upon a couple of Oasis through the maze. There were fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and even fish.
Zero and his small group sat around a small oasis. Small trees that gave great shades, large body of water, and even bountiful wildlife that came and went throughout the day. The smell of grilled fish drifting through the air, as loud boisterous laughs could be heard.
“Gah. Miss you make the most delicious food ever.” Tom replied with a satisfied face. He was chewing on grilled fish.
“She’s a genius. I tell you. I have never had such delicacy before coming from a fish.” Eron raised the grilled fish towards Agnis in honor of her making such delicious food.
Agnis had cooked food for everybody. That included about 150 soldiers plus Zero’s group. What amazed Zero was her skill to be able to cook for everyone without much help. Her skill with cooking was already on par with a professional.
Zero had to agree that the food that Agnis made was truly an exquisite delicacy that he rarely ate. It wasn’t until he was partying with Agnis that he was able to eat such delicious food. The best part of her cooked food was the added bonus that came with it. The fish he had taken a bite out of gave him twice the normal stamina while the coconut drink that he had next to him gave him temporary strength points.
He was glad that Agnis was with them, especially times like these when long adventures had a high chance of food running short. While Zero searched and identified for food, he gave them to Agnis to cook. She had made some interesting dishes that he never seen before. Spicy tailed lizard, cactus bomb juice, and sweet coconut grilled fish. At first he was skeptical with trying the tailed lizard, but once he tried it, no words could describe the tangy flavor that it gave.
“So delicious.” Jack replied. His face was stuffed full with grilled fish and spicy tailed lizard. For a moment, Zero wondered how Jack would swallow such large mouthful in one gulp.
“Wow. Where did you learn to cook like this?” Alan asked. For a moment Zero thought he saw a tear of happiness drop from his eyes. “You’ll make a wonderful wife. Your husband would never starve.”
Agnis blushed red, she was cleaning up her knives, pots and pans. She then stored it away into her Zenith pouch. “I had some spare time.” Her voice was low, almost like a whisper.
“Not bad.” Zeraph was eating slow and in small bites. Even when Zeraph was eating, Kiyro could see that he had kept himself from spilling or making a mess of himself. Now that he had thought about it, he had never seen Zeraph ever have a single stain on his clothes or face. A complete neat freak to the end. “Do you know how to make spring rolls?”
“Yes. I actually do. Bring me the recipe and I can make it next time.”
“I’ll do just that.” Zeraph finished his meal. “Zero, how long do you think we are till our destination? This quest is taking a bit too long for comfort.”
“Well.” Zero thought it over. From the progress they were making, he assumed possibly that they were a good three-fourth of the way through, but because the labyrinth moved he wasn’t even sure. “Honestly, I don’t know.” He felt lost and defeated. The dreary walls of the labyrinth started to get to him. These past few days, he was even dreaming about labyrinth.
“How many small Oasis have we came across?”
“Five this past week.”
“Did you noticed that not each one is similar.”
“I actually did as well.”
“Really?” Jack rubbed his dwarven belly. He leaned back and began to pick his teeth with a toothpick. “I thought throughout this whole time, we been going around in circles.”
“No, the placement and number of the trees and the shape of the water is vastly different. Even the animals that came to the drinking fountain changed. It’s not as apparent if you’re not paying close attention.” Zero replied. “The first oasis we came across was a small watering hole the size of a football field with a total of twelve palm trees. The animals that came by were dessert rabbits. The second Oasis has double the amount of trees and water. The animals were still the same. The third Oasis had twenty palm trees, three times the watering hole, and the animals tend to be fish, gazelles. desert foxes, and even rabbits. The fourth one had the same amount of trees, water, but their were predominantly camels. The final Oasis is this one, though the strange thing about it is even though they are a lot of trees and even the watering hole is seven times larger, there are alligators but barely any grass eating mammals. None of the other oasis had carnivorous creatures as of yet.”
“You actually remember all that.” Jack was speechless. “Wow. I thought I had good memory but yours outclass mine.”
“Well it’s just memorization. Nothing big.”
“You kidding me right? Do you know how much people want that ability in school? It’s like a free pass to not study so hard for test and you could even ace everything without trying. The amount of play time one could have,” said Jack enviously. “I would love to have such skills.”
“I don’t know. There are some down side to be able to remember things indefinitely.”
“You won’t be able to ever forget. Meaning if you ever stumble on a murder case, the memory would always be fresh and detailed in one’s mind.”
Jack went quiet. “I see. That is a problem.”
“There are always pros and cons to everything.” Zero knew this better than anyone. To gain a gift one also gains the curse that followed right behind it. He could still remember freshly the day the two college students were murdered. How they looked, what pose they were in, the clothes they wore, and even to the miniscule details. It still brought shivers every time he remembered the man in the mask, Angel.
He shook his head trying to clear to his thought. He did not want to remember such scene again. The only thing he could do was push back the thoughts deep into his mind. Even though he could not forget, all he could do was ignore it as best as he could.
“So are you saying that we are getting close or are you just throwing out a theory?” said Jack.
“We are getting close. The thing is when I was scouting around for a bit, I did find some human bones sticking out of the ground near the large boulder over there.”
“What?” Jack who was leaning back comfortable bolted upright. “Human bones? Here?”
Zero nodded. “There wasn’t just one though.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“That could have been those crocodiles.” Alan sipped his drink. “You did say that they are crocodiles in the water.”
“Yes, but still. Think about it. The bones should be deep in the waters not out in the open. These bones were not just one. I think there were more than ten. I also did find something else,” Zero rummaged through his Zenith pouch and pulled out an emblem. A small round emblem the size of Zero’s fist was shown. On it was the royal design of a lion ingrained in it. He passed it around for everyone to see.
“A coin?” Agnis was the first one to hold it. “It looks like it’s made of copper.”
Next was Jack. “You said this was from the pile of human bones. Did you find anything else?”
“Yes, but the armors and helmets are completely crushed and broken. There no use in bringing them with me. It would of been a waste of bag space. I did though think that this coin looking thing might be of some use.”
“Hmm….” Alan took the coin from Jack. He took out an round magnifier glass and examined it.
“Does it have any value?”
“No. It’s made out of bronze. You won’t get anything if you sell this. I suggest you to throw it away. It seems that it has odd dents on it. I don’t know if the coin was bitten down by a wild animal or something. I swear though. I think I have seen this coin somewhere before.”
Zeraph inputted his opinion. “This is the royal guards token personally given by the king.”
“Royal guards token?” Everyone was surprised by Zeraph’s response.
“How do you know this?”
“I have seen some back at the castle. They’re like dog tags.”
“Zero, did you see anything else that seem out of place when you checked?” asked Alan.
“Well,” Zero thought it over for a moment. “I did find it kind of strange that their were tons of bones present near the boulder. It was as if it was an old feeding ground. There were some female clothes mixed in with it.”
“You don’t think it was the Minotaur do you?” Alan shivered. “Think about it. It could be a man eating monster.”
The soldiers that were listening onto Zero’s conversation froze stiff. Fear and worry filled their bodies. A couple of them had begun to whisper to one another about the possibilities the dead soldiers.
“Actually,” Eron cut in on their conversation. “There has been a strange rumor that the Minotaur is a man-eating monster.”
Everyone’s attention focused on Eron.
“Where did you hear that?”
“It’s well known legend that has been around for a hundred of years. Supposedly the story goes that the past king had made a deal with the devil. He would give up his first born son’s soul in exchange for the innumerable wealth and power. At that time, Kingdom of Terra had been going through a money crisis because of the war with Kingdom of Elements. The war lasted for fifty years till finally, the King had summoned up the devil. The moment the king had sealed the deal, the state of war had changed drastically. The King of Terra was able to push back the King of Element’s forces back to their country.” Eron breathed in deeply, his demeanor changed into sadness. “The thing was, the King of Terra had drastically changed since he made the pact with the devil. His crimes were more heinous than any human’s. He would indiscriminately kill men, women, and children alike. He took it even a step further and killed pure mythical creatures for his own pleasure. His crimes pile so high, that the soil of Kingdom of Terra was drenched red with blood.”
“It was that bad?” Agnis asked. She was sipping on her drink immersed in Eron’s story.
“Yes. When the devil came to take the first born son’s soul, the king gave him without any remorse. The devil took the child of the first born and warped his soul and body into a monster: a minotaur. He became a monster that kills and eats the flesh of man. Ten years later, when the first born son was fully grown, he came to terrorize his father’s kingdom. His heart was black like void, his anger so furious that it shook the heavens. Even his hunger was unquenchable that he slaughtered and consumed thousands of humans for months. The cries of the dead was so fierce and heavy, that even the gods intervened.”
“So what did they do next?”
“Well there are a couple of versions. The first was that the god Freya came down to slay the prince. Others stated that he was so powerful that a magical labyrinth was created to contain him in one place indefinitely. There is more evidence on it being the second case then Freya herself coming down to intervene.”
“Is the minotaur that powerful?” Agnis was not liking where the story was going.
“Well if you go with the second version, then yes.”
“This could be a problem.” Agnis mumbled under her breathe.
“All legends come from some sort of fact.” Zero replied. “All we know is that the Minotaur that lives in this labyrinth is powerful. How powerful we won’t know until we face off with him.”
“That is something I wish we never have to do, but alas we have no choice.”
“Wait. I have something I am interested in though.”
“That is?” Eron waited for Zero’s question.
“How did the Golden Eye even end up with the Minotaur in the first place?”
“Well there was a rumor going around that a powerful talisman belonging to the King of Terra is here. The devil had supposedly stolen the powerful talisman from the king and hid it where even the king couldn’t reach. From then on the king was enraged by the deceptive nature of the demon that he promised to himself that he would kill the demon one day and take back his royal right.”
“Well my belly is finally stuffed. Why don’t we go ahead and finish up this quest. I’m getting tired of the long labyrinth.” Jack replied. He got up and picked up his weapon. “The sooner we complete this quest, the sooner we get the rewards.”
“True, but isn’t it fun to go out adventuring with everyone?” Agnis asked happily. “I want to enjoy every minute of this qu-”
Bong! A loud gong like sound could be heard off in the distance. Birds that rested flew out in frenzy. The animals that were drinking by the water hole, bolted away in fright. The metal walls of the Labyrinth had begun to move. The labyrinth contraption could be heard as metal grinded against each other.
Bong! Bong! Bong! The sound was getting louder and louder. Everyone bolted up, and quickly packed their belongings. They did not know what this odd gong like sound was nor what could be coming their way.
“What the hell is that?” Zeraph had his hands on his sword. Eve walked up next to him. She raised her hand to cover from the sunlight and squinted off to see off in the distance.
“I’m not liking this at all.”
“Do you think it’s the Minotaur?” Alan whispered.
“If it is this would be a great chance to beat it and for us to get out of this wretched place.” Jack replied. He tapped his fingers nervously on his weapon. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for some action.”
“Are you sure about that?” Zero asked. He could see Jack’s nervously shaking.
“Yea. What do you think I am, a coward?”
Bong! The sound got even closer, but nothing came out from the three exits of the Labyrinth maze.
“We should go check it out,” said Zero. Even though he did not like to go find trouble, this could be the boss monster that they were looking for.
“You serious? You want to fight whatever it is in the narrow space of the Labyrinth?” Alan was not too thrilled with Zero’s decision. “We’ll be picked off easily. We should fight in this open space instead.”
“I don’t think the Minotaur would gallantly waltz in here.”
“How are you so sure? You found the bones.”
“They were old. I didn’t see any more than that. If the so called Minotaur was once a man, he would not fight outside where he is easily exposed.”
“Then what are you saying we should go do?”
“We go hunting and draw him out.”
“Gah. I shouldn’t have asked.”
“If you remember, the Labyrinth shouldn’t even shift till midnight, but don’t you hear the gears shifting earlier than that? It would make sense if they are trying to keep the minotaur inside the labyrinth by shifting the walls near him more frequently or he would get out.”
“Well that is a different way to think of, but it could be bad for us too.”
“True, but right now this is the only clue we got. Let’s finish this so we can get out of here.”
“You’re right. I’m starting to forget why we have come here in the first place. This place just makes you feel we been living here for years.” Alan sighed. He placed his hands on his hips. “So which way should we go?”
“The one towards the North.” Zero pointed towards one of the three exits. “The sound seems to be coming from that direction.”
“Well then you heard the man. Let’s go!”
Zero’s small force moved forward towards their exit. The soldiers mumbled with one another wondering what could cause such a sound. They entered through and continued walking towards the sound.
Bong! Krank! Kashhh!
The entrance was suddenly closed behind them and the walls shifted once again. Everyone stopped and came together so they would not split apart. The walls moved to the right, opening up a new path.
“I hope you’re ready Zero.” Zeraph was next to him. He was on full alert.
“I am.” Zero quietly stated. He waited for the walls to completely stop before he walked forward towards their new destination.