Character Name: Nick
Level: 51 Hit Points: 1350
Arcane Energy: 850 Stamina: 2100
Holy Energy: Class Locked
Current Class: Dark Knight
Arcanum [increases Arcane Energy by 10 per point]: 75
Holy [No Effect/Class Locked]: 0
Athletics [increases Stamina by 10 per point]: 200
Fortitude [increases Hit Points by 1% per point]: 225
Current Elemental Attunement:
Effects: +10% Shadow Element Damage
+15% Shadow Element Channeling Speed
-10% Non-Shadow Element Channeling Speed
+2.5% Shadow Element Damage Resistance
Shield Expertise: Intermediate.
Shield Skills: Chains of Doom, Hessian’s Grip, White Wall of Dover.
One-Handed Expertise: Intermediate.
One-Handed Skills: Sacrificial Stab, The Courting Cross-Slash, Thrust of Terror.
Bludgeoning Expertise: Intermediate.
Bludgeoning Skills: Bone Shatter, Tremorous Impact
What he did just isn’t right, Nick thought, continuing to complain to himself as he camped the spot where Liu had logged out. Normally, he wouldn’t have to do this. He could just wait until she logged in, and she’d naturally come visit the group to take care of Lucas like she always did. That jerk just doesn’t know how good he has it. If I was him, I’d treasure the damn things I had, not go . . . He thought back to the woman he had begun to have hopes for. He thought of her lying there with Lucas, naked.
Maybe. Nick frowned. As the in-game effects of the alcohol began to wear off, as his judgement started to return, he could start to feel a little bit of shame for his actions earlier. Even if he didn’t want to admit it, he knew he shouldn’t have hit Lucas. It wasn’t the girl’s fault for picking Lucas; it wasn’t Lucas’s fault for having fun with the girl. Theirs were choices he really didn’t have a right to interfere with. He had never been one of those defeatist cowards who would claim dibs on a girl to his friends so he didn’t have to fight for her affection like he couldn’t win if there were any competition.
Rather, he was usually the opposite, but for some reason, the second he saw the girl with Lucas, he just felt angry. Rage boiled up in his blood, and he couldn’t help but throw that punch. That idiot, he thought again as he started to remember one of the more salient, logical reasons he was mad. If Lucas and Liu were fighting, there was no group. The two would split, and the family he was becoming a part of–the first group of people he could call his friends since he started the game–would break into two different parties, if not three or four. The fun hangouts, the laughing, the jokes, the mutual joy as they toppled quest after quest in the name of growing to be the biggest and best bad guys there were–all of it was going to vanish because one guy couldn’t keep his damn pants on for a single night. The moment Liu left, Lucas had jumped right in with the first girl he had seen. He had no idea how Viola or Bonnie would take it or how Katie would react, but he could already see Liu’s reaction.
He could tell she’d be hurt, angry, and that the two of them would fight, and then he would be caught in the middle. Just like Mom and Dad, Nick thought, remembering the times his mother had gone off flirting, and his dad, the ever-jealous type, had taken it out on her, and him, when he found out. The yelling, the screaming, the arguments, the nights he had spent unable to sleep as the two went back and forth till four in the morning, dragging him into nearly every fight . . . Nick shuddered as the memories filled his head. When his dad had finally had enough of his mom and run off with an intern, not able to tolerate the way his wife publically treated him like he was some stool, he had left Nick with her, and that was somehow worse than all of the vile atrocities the two’s hell-spawned relationship had ever manifested.
Nick was brought out of his thoughts by the sweet voice of a woman he held in the highest esteem.
“What are you doing waiting here? Has Lucas not signed back in?” Liu asked. “Why aren’t you two working on building the Academy up for another rebellion?”
“He cheated,” Nick blurted out without thinking. He had meant to say something more tactful. He had meant to start off with an “about that” or something else. However, the moment Liu mentioned Lucas, he couldn’t help it. The anger he felt at Lucas for messing with the party dynamic was too much.
“He cheated?” Liu looked shocked. Her face didn’t turn red, but her mouth opened wide, and her eyes followed suit. Nick hated to be the bearer of bad news, and he could tell from just that one expression how shocked and hurt she must be. “What do you mean he cheated? What did he do? Did he get banned?” she asked.
Right, even my mom second guessed what it meant when she was told Dad had left. She refused to believe he would ever escape from her. People don’t believe that other people can ever change, Nick thought. “Uhh, no, he, ummm . . . He slept with . . . a lot of women. Like, all of them. Nearly every woman in the Blood Goddess sect. I’m sorry to have to tell you. I just wanted you to hear it from a friend,” Nick stammered out.
“That . . . That, dirty, no-good, lousy piece of crap!!” Liu practically yelled as she started storming over to the giant community hotspring-style bath where Nick had left Lucas and that crazy, evil Lilith earlier.
“Wait!” Nick tried to stop her. “We can’t. We can’t just go over there because . . .” Nick began the sentence, but he didn’t finish it. The truth was that he just didn’t want to see them fight. He knew they would, and he knew the fact that he had just ratted Lucas out for being a philandering jerk was the reason they would, but he still didn’t want to see it. Why did I have to open my big mouth? he thought.
“Oh, I’m going over there, and hell or high water won’t stop me!” Liu shouted as she pulled her sword out and kept marching with strong, deliberate earth-shaking steps.
“Wait!” Nick said as he rushed to catch up to Liu, who was somehow moving at the pace of a jogger despite the fact she was only walking.
When they reached the bath, Nick wasn’t surprised to find that Lucas had dressed but hadn’t moved an inch from the spot he had been earlier. However, Lucas looked far more collected than he had before. Earlier, when Nick had struck him in anger, Lucas had appeared to be dazed, as if he hadn’t known what was going on or what he wanted to do. Now, he was standing tall and proud like a dictator’s statue in the center of a town square, chiseled to perfection as his eyes belittled everyone under their gaze. He was only wearing the same regal handmade outfit that Bonnie had given him earlier, but now, as Lucas’s eyes swept across him and Liu, Lucas looked totally different than he ever had before. Nick gulped. Lucas wasn’t the only one that was different. Under those eyes, Nick felt different too. He felt small, like he was still a child hoping to dodge the potential misplacement of his father’s wrath.
“LUCAS!! HOW COULD YOU?!” Liu shouted at the top of her lungs as she waved her sword in the air. “I go away for, what? A few hours? Half a day?! AND YOU DO WHAT?!”
“Oh, do you want to know what he did?” Lilith asked as she walked up silently from behind Nick, her breath somehow chilling as it brushed against the back of his neck, drawing every hair on Nick’s body to attention. “I watched the whole thing,” she said as she stepped around Nick and slowly moved to put herself between him and Lucas. “It was really wonderful, if I don’t say so myself.”
“Just you freaking watch your mouth before I cut your tongue out, you dirty harpy!” Liu screamed, dashing toward Lilith and swiping at the woman with her blade. Lilith just smiled, adeptly using footwork alone to dodge the attack as she pulled out two daggers.
“I’m only answering your question. You wanted to know what he did,” Lilith said with an ear-to-ear smile and a calm voice that cut deeper than most knives. “You wanted to know what he did, so I’m telling you. Do you want to hear about the faces that fox girl made . . . so innocent, so naive, so young as she gave up on trying to suppress her moans? Or is that just what you wanted to hear?” Lilith shifted her gaze from Liu to Nick. “You chased her so ardently, but gave up at the finish line, letting cowardice forfeit your chances with her as you left her and your new lover both to your king. What a good and loyal knight you are,” Lilith said, cackling.
“I didn’t. I didn’t leave anyone to him!” Nick insisted, gripping his shield and sword tightly as he lowered his visor. It limited his vision slightly; but, overall, he could still easily see through the piece of armor. “That bastard just doesn’t care about anyone but himself!”
“Oh, he seemed to care about them. He seemed to care about that . . . Bonnie girl . . . a lot . . . once she returned to the festivities and found the allure of a true man irresistible. The way he paid extra special attention to her, the way he used every finger, every muscle, every movement of his hips and tongue as he pulled cries out of her that I’ve never heard a woman in the castle make in all my years.” Lilith laughed with cruel pleasure. “You’re just mad because it wasn’t you, because you’re a failure. I’m curious . . . What excuse did you tell yourself when you refused to ask out a girl who had stripped in front of you many times, who flirted with you constantly, who always watched you with interest? Were you trying to save your friendship? Your pride? Your dignity? Do tell.”
“Shut up and leave him out of this,” Liu snapped. “This is between me and Lucas!” She pointed at Lucas with her blade. “I, Xun Guan, the Blood Queen, the great empress of all the lands, demand an explanation for this betrayal!”
“You were his queen?” Lilith laughed. “Then what’s the issue? Is there anything wrong with a king having a harem and concubines? What royal doesn’t enjoy the fruits of his subjects?”
“Thank you, Lilith, but I think you’ve said enough,” Lucas interrupted before the woman could continue. Lucas stepped forward, his magic staff in hand as his eyes pierced through Nick. Even though every word that had come out of Lilith’s mouth had infuriated him, none of them hurt as much as that disdainful, mocking gaze that Lucas gave him. He hadn’t looked at him, but through him, like he wasn’t there, as if he didn’t even merit consideration from the man whom he had grown to trust, whom he had grown to consider a friend. “I can handle it from here.”
“Aww, that’s a shame,” Lilith said with a sigh. “I wanted to tell her more details about you and the fox girl, how you used her tail and ears . . . It was so creative. You’re truly a villain and a genius in all fields.”
“Do you wish to strike at me too?” Lucas said as he walked closer to Liu, placing himself close enough for one of her dash attacks to easily hit him before Nick would even be able to react. “Do you feel wronged by my growth?”
Before she even answered, Liu took his suggestion to heart, running forward and swiping at him. Unexpectedly though, Lucas easily blocked the attack, shifting his staff to the left and using it to redirect the blade as if he were a weightlifter blocking the pitiful attack of a ten-year-old kid.
“Pathetic,” Lucas said, raising his other hand and unleashing a stream of pure Arcane Energy, blasting Liu in the chest and sending her flying back and onto the ground. “You think that you’re still above me? That I am still the lowly commoner you made into a Knight for your own gain? How amusing.”
“Yeah, that’s right! I MADE YOU! And dammit if I can’t unmake you!” Liu screamed as she hopped back up, dusting herself off, her bloodshot eyes displaying her anger as she came at Lucas again, and once more, despite how insanely fast the blade looked to Nick, Lucas brushed off each attack, completely destroying her momentum with only one hand and his staff to counter the blows.
“Is this the best that you can do?” Lucas laughed in Liu’s face. “Let me tell you, woman, that you are nothing compared to me. You, who should have taken the scraps I chose to throw you, are now rebelling? Ha! Ridiculous!” As he laughed again, he extended his left hand once more and shot another burst of pure Arcane Energy that sent her spiralling back.
Damn, are you just going to watch? Nick thought to himself, rushing forward with his own blade as he started to activate his snare skill to help Liu, but before he could even get his shield up and the energy flowing through it, a monster descended from the sky and landed right on top of him, squashing him into the ground as if he were an insect underneath its massive weight.
“Odious Nick! I had no idea you’d be so treacherous as to betray my most noble and kind brother!”
“Noble and kind? How is what he’s doing noble or kind?!” Nick shouted at the large blue-feathered, multi-tailed flying monkey creature, Linnaeus.
“He could have killed you both, and yet he tolerates your clear and obvious betrayal. Do not think I couldn’t tell you are a gutless worm that has tried to wriggle into the master’s garden and eat his flowers while he is away? I have seen your covetous eyes as clearly as my master’s new friend Lilith has. That he spared you was showing kindness, and yet still you persist in trying to attack him? Perhaps I should find out how tasty your–”
“Linnaeus,” Lucas interjected as he blasted Liu once more, creating space between them so he could look over at Nick and the monster on top of him. “Spare him. He knows not the sins he commits.”
“But, brother, just think of how tasty his delicious, beady eyeballs would taste as they squished and popped between your teeth.”
“Spare him!” Lucas repeated more forcefully. Nick had been with Lucas a long time, but his voice felt colder than ever before. Even as Lucas commanded mercy, Nick still felt frightened. His ego wanted to just chalk it up to Lucas’s Charisma score, but his brain knew it was more. There was a cold indifference in each word that told Nick if he wasn’t careful, then he might be tortured in abysmal ways and fed to one of Lucas’s monsters. Nick felt strongly enough to say he knew he was now disposable to his old friend.
“Yes, brother!” Linnaeus said. “Your generosity and mercy know no bounds. That you would spare him is a testament to all that is good and holy about your cause. Do you plan to spare the Lady as well?” Linnaeus asked.
Lucas looked over at her. “Does anyone wish to leave with her?” Lucas asked loudly, looking around. Nick hadn’t seen them before, but his former group members appeared out of the shadows one by one. Bonnie, Viola, and Katie each came forward, and each shook her head.
“I think I’ve seen enough,” Bonnie said as she looked down at Nick, who was still being crushed by the large flying monster. “Just . . . get out of here.”
But . . . But! Nick wanted to yell.
Viola came up and wormed her way to Lucas’s side. “I know where my place is: with the hero of the story, not the sidekick.”
What the . . . What the hell? Nick gulped, feeling further betrayed. Even if he hadn’t been super close with them because they hadn’t known each other for very long, he couldn’t think of anything he had done to warrant this reaction.
“Let’s just go,” Liu said as she got to her feet once more and picked up the sword that had been knocked out of her hand by the last blast.
“But . . .” Nick wanted to protest. He wanted to stop her and try to fix this even though he knew he couldn’t, but then he saw more and more people walking in, weapons in hand and staring maliciously at him. He might have been confident that Bonnie, Viola, and Katie wouldn’t raise weapons against him and kill him, thanks to their past, but he had no certainty of these bloodthirsty women.
“Fine. Fine!” Nick said, and with those words, Linnaeus let Nick stand up as well. As he was climbing up to his feet, he saw Liu extend a hand to him, her visage like that of a scarred valkyrie that had come to resurrect him and bring him out of this hell.
“Goodbye, Mr. Impotent!” Lilith chirped with a laugh that no one else seemed to share.
“Come on,” Liu said. “We need to get out of here, quick.”
“Yeah,” Nick snarled, his teeth gritted as he stood up, grabbed his sword, and started to leave.
The two of them didn’t say a word as they left the larger party, their pace even brisker than it had been charging in.
“When did he get so strong?” Nick asked, breaking the silence after he was sure there was no one nearby that could hear him.
“He’s always been strong,” Liu answered. “You just never noticed because you were always in the front, and he was always in the back.”
“But he was like . . .” Nick had trouble forming the words as defeat sank into his bones.
“Like a tyrant that uses and discards people,” Liu said, her voice showing that her anger had not dissipated nearly as much as Nick’s.
“Yeah . . .” Nick nodded. “Like a tyrant.”
“And one that stands to seize the whole of Humanity if we don’t stop him.
“Huh?” Nick looked over at her. “But how are we going to stop him? We’re just . . . We’re just two people.”
“Don’t worry,” Liu replied, putting a hand on his shoulder. “We’re not just going to stop him. We’re going to destroy him and everything he stands for.”
“That’s . . . Can we really?” Nick asked. “Maybe we should just leave it alone.”
“I won’t leave it alone,” Liu declared adamantly. “He betrayed our trust and betrayed our people, and now he aligns himself with all those bastards. He says he’s trying to make the game better, to save us from the game dying out due to lack of content, but really he’s just turning the whole damn thing into his pleasure palace. He was using us to sate his hedonistic greed. He doesn’t care about the game, just himself.”
“No.” Nick shook his head. “He won’t be able to get away with that. We can’t let him win after he just threw us away. After he abandoned us!”
Liu looked over at him, tilting her head a moment. She seemed to be confused. “Yeah, that’s the spirit!” she finally said. “Let’s make that bastard pay!”
“Right, that dirty, no-good son of a whore!”
“Hey, his mom might be nice,” Liu snapped. “Let’s not go jumping to conclusions about Gin– I mean, uninvolved parties.”
“Whatever. He’s dead meat. We’re going to obliterate him and his empire!”
“Indeed, but first,” Liu replied, “we need to rally people to our banner. He outnumbers us, and he has the advantage of a head start and state backing thanks to his rank. He’ll have Humans and Blood Guards defending him as well as his army of followers.”
“Right . . . then do you have any ideas?” Nick asked.
“I have plenty, but we’re going to need to leave Dover to enact them.”
“Sounds good to me,” Nick said, taking a deep breath to calm himself as he followed Liu, who was now in front of him as her pace continued to increase.
“Excellent performance,” Viola said to Lucas in a low voice so that only he and Bonnie could make out her words.
“It was adequate,” Lucas replied quietly with a shrug. “I don’t think it’d have worked if he wasn’t already furious with me.”
“Why was he mad?” Bonnie asked. “I don’t get it. And why did Lilith keep mentioning me?”
“You really don’t know?” Lucas asked, looking over at her, wondering if she was intentionally playing ignorant or merely as emotionally dense as the main character in a teen drama.
“I don’t get why he was so mad,” Bonnie said. “No one did anything to hurt him. You said Liu was in on it, that you rehearsed the blows, but was Nick as well? Was he just acting mad or are you two really fighting?”
“It’s not going to last. Nick just needs to get it out of his system. He’s being silly right now, and I’m sure he’ll see it soon enough,” Viola said, dismissing Nick’s childish rage.
“Well, whatever it is, I hope he gets over it soon,” Bonnie said, looking at the scepter in her hand. “I’d hate to not have a tank to heal.”
“You mean you enjoyed hitting him a lot and pretending like it was for the good of the group,” Lucas corrected with a laugh.
“Hey! My heal attack is a patented combat method, proven effective time and time again!” Bonnie shot back, defending herself. She wasn’t even a healer. That role had shifted a while ago as she became a spymaster of sorts with her class, making costumes, specializing in blending in, and doing her best to infiltrate enemy territory. However, every now and again, when it was just Bonnie, Lucas, Nick, and Liu, she’d take over the job of healing since no one else would–a job she seemed to enjoy more than she should, as it often involved her shouting the word “heal” while smacking Nick with the scepter rather than just channeling Holy Energy at him.
“It’s okay,” Viola said, patting Bonnie. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” She side-hugged Bonnie. The two of them looked like a pair of sisters, Viola the older one, rather than just friends as they walked a step arm in arm.
“But . . . I just . . . Why would he . . .” Bonnie pouted for a moment, nuzzling into Viola’s hug.
Lucas felt a little guilty about the whole charade. He and Liu had planned out the performance with the help of Gina earlier at the restaurant before filling only Bonnie and Viola in on it, and it was not something that any girl would want following the night his female followers had enjoyed. He hadn’t even coached Lilith on what to say, much less told her what her plan was, so every dirisive dig involving Bonnie that Lilith had made at Nick’s expense had been her own choice. He didn’t know how Lilith knew, word for word, the perfect things to get under Nick’s skin. He just knew that this was apparently her modus operandi. Despite her seeming appearance as his stalwart ally, she had already approached, from what Liu had said, both Viola and Liu.
She had tried to worm her way between Lucas and Liu as she suggested, weaving true accounts into her lie, describing how Lucas had been with other women, saying that he didn’t actually care for Liu, that he was just trying to use Liu and would eventually discard her. With Viola, she had tried to use Viola’s race in her attempts to manifest tension between the Alfar woman and Lucas. She had suggested that Lucas’s rise would be the downfall of Alfars and that, while Lucas seemed like a nice guy to her, it was only because she had use and purpose to Lucas, but the majority of the Alfar did not, so Lucas would not keep them around. He might dispose of them.
The odd thing was that she didn’t encourage Viola to leave, even suggesting that Viola should “ensure” Lucas wouldn’t dispose of the Alfar, using her “special gifts” as a method. Lucas wondered if Lilith saw his physical intimacy with Viola as a success in whatever potentially nefarious scheme she had concocted.
Always planning something, Lucas thought as his eyes studied Lilith. She didn’t seem to understand his intentions though when she noticed, turning and giving him a big smile and a wink before nodding her head back toward Bonnie and Viola. Do you think this was some successful plan that we were in on together from the start? Lucas wondered. Had she known how I would play these things out? Or is she just happy with the result? He only knew one thing for certain: Lilith had, from what he had gathered after talking to Liu, wanted to remove Nick and Liu from the party for some reason. What was actually motivating Lilith to play the role she played was still a mystery.
“Lord Lucas,” a voice called out, breaking Lucas’s thoughts as he was trying to understand what was going on in the heads of the women surrounding him.
“What?” Lucas said, turning his attention to the person speaking, a peasant girl with a large scythe and an outfit that was two sizes too big for her body.
“Lord Lucas, we have an urgent issue,” the woman said.
The opportunity to assign a Faction Quest has manifested. Current Faction Treasury from previous battles: 408 Gold, 0 items. Items are currently not set to be stored from faction-based kills within faction-friendly territory or on faction-friendly quests. This can be changed in the settings menu. Would you like to use any portion of the treasury to create the Faction Quest?
What is this? Lucas blinked twice as he saw the text appear in front of him. Current treasury? Faction quest? What faction quest can I create?
“Lord Lucas,” the woman repeated again, trying to grab his attention as she somehow detected the fact that he was no longer focused on their conversation. “We’re under siege. There are . . . There are a lot of them. The spells, the skills . . . The blood skills aren’t working,” she said. “They’re using fire.”
“What do you mean the blood skills aren’t working?” Lucas asked.
“Just that. The blood guards you left at the entrance, they’re all dead. Every single one of them was killed, and the mage, he cast a spell, but it seemed to bounce off a giant golden sphere that their Clerics summoned around the party as it marched forward.”
“Huh? Sphere? Their Clerics? How many are there? Where are the others?” Lucas asked. He didn’t expect this at all. He had been under the assumption that they were going to have a relatively uncontested battle ahead of them, that there were no major competing factions. This confidence was one of the reasons that Lucas had been so keen on working with Liu to create a new faction. Instead, however, the moment Liu and Nick left, trouble had come knocking on their door. He was about to continue acting befuddled and questioning the woman when he noticed that the people around him were all staring at him. He realized that everything he was saying and doing was going to cause an issue with his image, an image that he had worked very hard to craft.
“Okay,” Lucas said, putting a hand on the peasant girl’s shoulder. “Take a deep breath. Relax. You’re with me now. The Blood Goddess has bestowed her blessing upon us,” he said. “As such, you must have faith in her–and in me. I will protect you. We will protect each other.” He looked at the crowd as more and more of his people gathered around him. Thank God that their breaks didn’t last longer, he thought as he noticed not only the NPCs, but dozens of the players flocking around him. Whether they had just run from the enemy forces to gather around him, mobbing up for another strike, or they were just logging in, the numbers were going to help him in whatever skirmish had scared the woman. “Now that you are calm, tell me what has happened.”
“It’s . . . It’s the church. Not the right one, not the church of the Blood Goddess. It’s one of those stupid light-obsessed, evil churches filled with hypocritical heretics!” she replied, anger in her voice. “They’ve come with two dozen enemies, all Paladins and Clerics of the order! They’ve come to kill you!”
How could they have found out about me so fast? Lucas was about to ask aloud, confused as to how the enemy had managed to scrape together a formidable force of Paladins and Clerics, two things the churches could not easily spare, but then he remembered the fact that, when he had begun the metamorphosis, when he had started changing into a Vampire Lord by defeating all those who had opposed him in the makeshift dungeon he had carved out of a hotel, everyone around had apparently been notified and come to attack him. He had been forced to fend off player after player from the Church, and only after defeating them all did he gain the right to ascend, becoming a Vampire Lord in the service of the Blood Goddess. Right, everyone knows. The better question is, why didn’t they show up when I was fighting for my life at the hotel? Lucas wondered. “So the Blood Guards and the Blood Mages were ineffective,” Lucas said, nodding and pretending like he had fully anticipated this possibility.
“Their blades couldn’t penetrate the shields of fiery light that manifested in front of the holy men, and the spells couldn’t penetrate the large dome of light that protected them! We’ve been cursed! The Gods of Light are coming to punish us for our–” Before the woman could continue to voice her fears for the whole group to hear, Lucas grabbed her, yanking her close and embracing her so that her face was smooshed against his chest.
“It’s okay,” Lucas said as he put a hand on the back of her head, preventing her from escaping the hug and continuing to panic. “You don’t need to fear anything. These Gods are”–he paused for a moment as his eyes met Lilith’s mid-sentence; and then, remembering how she treated Nick, he decided to steal her words–“doing nothing more than struggling, lashing out in impotent rage as they try to squash their betters. We have taken from the Church more than a few followers, more than the gold that has dropped from the bodies of those they sent earlier, and more than the land that we have seized in this town. We have taken their reason for existing. We have taken justice into our own hands. If they did not come here, would there be violence? If they did not attack first, would we be the barbarians they see us as, raising scythe and sickle, axe and sword, staff and knife against them?” He asked this not to the woman he was holding, but to the crowd of people looking on.
“No,” an Alfar in the crowd said. “We are innocent!”
“That’s right! We are! We are the people the Goddess has chosen, and you are the Knights and Ladies that have come to defend her honor in my service. You are not the murderous beasts they make you out to be!” Lucas did his best to wear the most innocent and charming smile he could sport, but from the way Viola was chuckling, he knew it wasn’t fully working.
“That’s right! We are!” the woman who had answered him earlier shouted back.
“Indeed! But what of the rest of you? Will you be as vocal, as proud, as defensive in my service in honor of the Blood Goddess as she was?” Lucas said, raising his hand and pointing to single out the woman who had just spoken.
Your actions could manifest a Faction Quest. If you’d like for one to be created, please specify what percentage of the treasury you shall dedicate toward the quest and the goal required to fully complete the quest.
Can I put my own savings into the game? Can I donate cash to the treasury if I so choose? Lucas asked the system, remembering that the dungeon had created barriers to prevent this type of abuse earlier.
The system will generate quests with Reputation, Gold, and item gains for your faction based on the resources your faction generates as well as your direct donations. Each kill a player makes against a faction enemy within the bounds of such a quest will generate a percentage of wealth and Reputation for the Faction Treasury. In the settings, the percent of items the Faction Treasury takes from the spoils of war during Faction Quests may also be adjusted.
So there is nothing stopping me from putting all of the money, the hundreds of Gold I took from the Headmistress’s stash and dead body, into the Faction Treasury? Lucas asked.
There are no penalties for doing so.
Then let’s double it, Lucas thought to the system. Take four hundred more gold pieces from my inventory and create an eight-hundred-gold quest for the players here.
800 Gold has been deducted from the Faction Treasury. Current remaining Faction Treasury: 8 Gold. Your words and actions will create the bounds and terms of the following Faction Quest.
Faction Quest: Prevent the Purge.
“TO DEFEND OUR HUSBANDO!” one of the women shouted after Lucas gave up a small fortune to create the base for the quest.
“ABSOLUTELY! No one will touch that beautiful face of yours!” a large heavy-chested Dwarven woman carrying a battle axe shouted as she hoisted her weapon into the air.
“We will defend you until death!” A Were-Fox said as she also raised her bow.
Huh? Lucas looked around. I thought I set the quest toward defending the honor of the Blood Goddess. Did I not make it clear enough? Lucas wondered to himself as he watched their ferver. Crap, am I now being treated like a Japanese idol, and these women are my rabid fangirls? He began to recognize the look in their eyes. It was the same look in the eyes of one of his former colleagues that had spent an entire night waiting outside of a ticket booth to be there when they opened so he could get front row tickets to the concert. Is this because of my Charisma? He thought for a moment, mentally checking over at the stat. He had 350 before he even became a Vampire Lord, and it had let him create ridiculously powerful quests. Then after becoming one, he had 450 Charisma. Now, because the orgy last night had created Charisma bonuses for every woman he “defeated,” he had 555 base Charisma. Coupled with the fact he had the title Enemy of All Men, which gave him an additional 25% Charisma bonus, he was essentially sitting on 693 Charisma against women. It was a ludicrously high stat, given that even the best Level-100 bards wouldn’t sink more than 400 points into it, deeming anything more to be too many stat points to still have a viable combat build. Yeah, that may be it, Lucas thought, using the Charisma score and the nature of the game to rationalize how many of the women were treating him while he intentionally ignored the possibility that the orgy earlier had an impact on his public image with the opposite sex.
“Wait!” Lucas decided to stop the fervor where he could. “I know you are enthusiastic, but don’t forget what is at stake here. At our gates, coming toward us at a casual speed”–Lucas looked down to the woman at his chest, seeing if she would refute his statement–“as if they are merely taking out the trash, comes a force of size and fury that we have not dealt with before. I cannot lead you to victory, for that will deprive you of your glory. Instead, I will tell you this: these arrogant foes, these men who would belittle and crush you beneath their boots, are not a danger, but an opportunity. The guards of the Blood Goddess have not stopped them from threatening you, not because she believes the enemies are strong enough to defeat you. She has faith in you, and so do I. So, I ask you”–Lucas took the woman whom he was holding, placed both hands on her shoulders, and gently created a little distance between them as he addressed her directly, looking into her eyes–“will you prove my faith right?” Lucas then looked to the crowd around him. “Will you work together, as brothers and sisters, and show that my faith was not misplaced?”
It was the best Lucas could do to create a touching scene, and every single person seemed to have bought into it as they stared at him in reverence for a moment. Only after almost a minute had passed did someone finally break the silence.
The axe-wielding Dwarf from earlier laughed in the most awkward way possible, each laugh taking the form of a distinct “ha” that could only have been faked or forced. Then she suddenly yelled, “Oh, you better believe your handsome damn mug I’m going to gut some of those heretical priests like my name was Queen Mary!”
So, a player, Lucas noted as he beamed a smile at her.
“Thank you. Now, I must prepare for battle by praying. Please ready yourselves, and don’t forget that you are only as strong as your allies. Do not let them divide and conquer you. Do not let them rest secure in the fact that they have been fighting side by side for years, while we have only just begun our reign. We will not let the Goddess down. I have faith,” Lucas said, turning around as his eyes searched for Linneaus and Eri.
While he couldn’t immediately find Linneaus, the stealth-based flier being difficult to spot if he wasn’t on land, the second he thought about Eri, she crawled her way out of the ground and appeared in front of him.
When did you grow? Lucas thought, looking over her body and stats. The battles had been rough, and every time a body fell, Eri had popped out to eat it, growing her brood of Ant-Dragons as she herself became larger and larger. Unlike Saba’a, the spider monster that Lucas had raised on noob island, Eri didn’t look fat and grotesque, but was growing more and more into what looked like an armored, black-scaled komodo dragon, the only difference between her and dragons from the old European lore being that she had no wings. Instead of flying through the air, she ripped and tore through the ground with ease, her deadliest weapon being her Lightning Breath.
You called? Lucas could hear the voice of the monster in his mind, a stark difference from the other monsters that would speak out loud to him.
Is it because I hatched it with my own energy? Lucas guessed as he reached out and petted the Ant-Dragon. Yeah, I called, Lucas thought, continuing to pet the monster. I’m going to need you and your brood in the coming fight. The dog-like snout of the lizard made it difficult to pet, as every time he tried to pull his hand back, Eri would push forward, anticipating his movements as she nuzzled into his hand and closed her eyes. She didn’t reply to him, but instead just kept nuzzling his hand as Lucas reached out with the other and held the Ant-Dragon’s head in his arms. You’re just trying to be cute, Lucas thought, chortling to himself as he played with the creature a moment.
Then, without bothering to properly explain what he wanted, Lucas merely thought of an image while thinking of Eri at the same time. It was the image of what he wanted. She didn’t reply to that either, but the moment Lucas actually did decide to pull both of his hands back, she looked at him, disappointment across her face, before nodding and then diving back into the earth beneath his feat. Ant-Dragon. Lucas thought of the name that the game had for the monster. No, it should just be called Lizard Puppy instead. He laughed softly as he stood up and turned around.
In front of him, all but his core group of women had bunched up and were hard at work plotting and planning what they were going to do. Lucas was rather impressed. The only ones not talking with them–Viola, Katie, Bonnie, and Lilith–were staring at him as they waited for him to give them individual instructions.
“Not much to say,” Lucas admitted, shrugging as he walked forward. “This attack was a little outside my expectations, but I don’t think it’ll be impossible. We just need to fend them off here, and then we can try to raise the people’s anger against the Church and finish them off at their base later.”
“Nnn,” Katie replied, nodding. “Kill, hunt, kill. Easy.”
“The precision you have with words is something I will always admire,” Lilith said as she heard Katie’s rapid response.
Katie, dead serious, repeated herself. “Kill, hunt, kill. Easy.” This time, though, the words were clearly pointed at Lilith.
“I think a little battle will be good for you,” Viola said to Bonnie as she put an arm around her shoulder. “It’ll help take your mind off jerks,” she added, rubbing Bonnie’s hair out of place as Bonnie quietly nodded.
Did . . . Did earlier make her meek or mild? Lucas wondered as he studied Bonnie. He didn’t expect that anything could shake her, and she had displayed such confidence in the bath that he hadn’t once thought she would regret her own decision to join, but now she seemed shy. Her slightly slouched shoulders, her lack of verbose responses, her leaning into Viola–all of her seemed completely different than the woman he had hung out with yesterday.
“Bonnie,” Lucas began, walking forward and trying to put together the words he would need to help her, if she needed help. “Bonnie, we haven’t, uhmm, we haven’t properly talked since before the party, but . . . how are you?” he asked, slowly extending his hand as he measured her reactions, looking for any attempt to pull back that might indicate he was overstepping his bounds.
Rather than retreating though, she just sighed. “I just need a little time,” she said, taking his hand in hers as Viola created a little space for the two. “I–” She swallowed audibly. “Nick, Lil–” She didn’t finish the name, but the way she looked at Lilith said more than enough. “I just wasn’t expecting that.”
“No.” Lucas shook his head. “You shouldn’t have had to deal with that at all. But, now isn’t the best time to discuss it. How about you, me, and Viola go make a nice breakfast after this battle and–”
Lucas’s words were cut off by the sound of an explosion. He had wanted to steady the mind of one of his closest friends and teammates; however, in the middle of their talk, a resounding boom had echoed out that would easily have ruptured the eardrums of anyone too close.
“They’re here, Lord Lucas!” a woman shouted as the others continued to shift into battle positions, quickly bracing themselves, apprehension rolling across their faces.
“You haven’t even picked up your staff,” Lilith said as she snaked up next to him. “I love it. Your bravado, your daring impetuosity that thrusts all those around you beneath your very gaze and status, it’s marvelous,” she added.
Right, my staff. My spells. I need my spells! Lucas thought as he looked behind him, only to notice immediately that all of his stuff was way too far for him to reach before the battle would already be over, as the backpack with his staff and equipment, the spells he treasured most, was on the other side of the bath that Eri had dug next to the Headmistress’s building. A fight without spells, Lucas grumbled to himself as he clenched his fist and turned in the direction the large noise had come from. There, where only beautiful grass had been moments before, was a hollowed-out crater as if from a large meteor, fire simmering on the edges of the bowl where the grass still existed.
The women that had all been huddled together near the crater split into groups and began to act. They began shooting arrows, spells, and every ranged attack they could at the Paladins and Clerics the moment they rounded one of the buildings, a few hundred feet from where the impromptu meeting had taken place.
So that’s what we’re facing, Lucas thought as he studied the enemy. They were all wearing identical outfits, white armor trimmed with gold and feathered with yellow designs, and there were nearly thirty of them split up into what appeared to be six Clerics and twenty-four scepter-, sword-, and flail-wielding Paladins. The Paladins looked much like the elites that Lucas had seen from the Imperial’s forces as they trotted slowly forward in front of the Clerics on heavily barded warhorses.
Lucas’s forces, however, numbering somewhere between sixty and seventy-five, were all on foot. Even though they outnumbered the enemy, Lucas didn’t like his odds. He knew exactly how powerful a good formation was. Cavalry’s advantages were manifold. Their speed and the force of impact from their weight gave them two of the deadliest attributes one could wish for on a battlefield. Given this group looked very well organized, and the spell casters in the back were covering their defense, Lucas knew it was going to be a tough fight.
While he was contemplating what was happening, the magic barrage from his side had already begun. Since the other side was the Church, and likely had little-to-no direct offensive spells, the fact his people made the first move was to be expected. In an instant, the sky began to light up as Lightning cracked through the cloudless, clear air like paint brushes soaked in purple being flung by a petulant child at a blue canvas, and the strikes continued one by one to color the sky with the violet-tinged electricity.
The Lightning hadn’t struck anyone directly though, rather gathering into floating balls in front of the casters who were channeling the spells before ripping outward at the enemy. The first few arcs struck the shield and bounced harmlessly off, grounding themselves at the feet of the marching enemies and harmlessly dissipating. However, each one that struck the magic barrier wore into the shield a little, and where the Lightning struck twice, it penetrated. At one spot, near the front, two of the bolts not only penetrated, but merged together, hitting and evaporating the first victim of the fight as they turned the tin-can Paladin in his shiny armor into a black smoldering hunk of metal and melted flesh.
While the Lightning was the flashiest and fastest of the spells, and Lucas suspected his earlier dalliances favoring the magic had encouraged more of his spellcasters to take it up, it wasn’t the only element that had come to bear. Even as the Lightning was bouncing off or piercing through the Clerics’ magic shield, Lucas couldn’t help but also watch as several of his casters worked together to summon a meteor from the sky, one of the ultimate group-activated, long-term-channeled spells of the Fire Mage. It took at least five casters to summon, and it often drained them of nearly all of their mana, but as Lucas watched the large ball of Fire and black Earth form in the sky and begin hurtling itself toward the clumped group of Paladins, his mouth nearly dropped with envy. He wished he could cast something of that proportion.
Holy crap, end game players are amazing, Lucas thought as the slow-moving mass of doom descended on the Paladins. This was the type of spell that people saw on the covers of the game, the type that made people want to buy it when it first launched.
As Lucas was drooling over the meteor, small fireballs were also being launched, and pillars that shot out spikes of Shadow magic at the enemy were beginning to appear and start spinning. Lucas didn’t even recognize some of the spells, but one he saw for the first time since his fight with the Maidbanger was Frost magic. He watched his fighters become encased, one by one, in small bubbles of what looked like blue air as they ran forward and prepared for battle.
Then, after nearly every spell had been cast, the meteor finally crashed down. At first, it looked like the Holy shield of the Clerics was going to hold as the ball struggled to penetrate even a tiny bit of the top layer of the shell, but then, inch by inch, the meteor kept pushing through. The combined efforts of the Shadow, Fire, and Lightning magic picking away at the shield had seemingly worn it down and stripped it of the power it needed to hold out, and with a loud, ear-piercing crack, the large glowing shield of the Clerics shattered, shards of Holy Energy scattering in all directions and rapidly dissipating into the air.
The second the shield was down, the Paladins and Clerics, seeing the meteor above them, began to charge forward at full speed with weapons in hand as they did their best to clear the impact radius of the meteor. With the help of their horses and the fact they were already moving forward, it wasn’t hard for them to accelerate out of the way. However, as they were trying to run forward, the archers on Lucas’s side had seen the shield go down and began unleashing their own attack. Unlike Lucas’s casters, who used elemental ranged attacks, the eleven or so archers that he had could barely do any damage. Their arrows, for the most part, harmlessly clinked off of the heavy armor of the Paladins and barded horses. One of the arrows, however, managed to hit a horse right in an unprotected joint, but to the horse’s credit, the animal just slowed down, doing its best to stay upright without putting pressure on the injured leg as the rider dismounted and started charging into battle on foot behind his comrades. Unfortunately for him, the dismounting process had taken too long, and as he turned to look back and see how much time he had left, the meteor landed, exploding outward, the flames engulfing him and the debris ripping right through his body.
The Paladins, minus the one fried by Lightning magic and the one who had been fatally delayed by the archer, charged through with only minor injuries as they rushed at the melee line of twenty-two Ladies of Lucas in light-to-medium rogue’s armor.
When the twenty-two remaining holy knights struck the twenty-two lightly protected melee fighters, it was a slaughter that Lucas had trouble watching. The organized row of cavalry completely crushed the contingent on Lucas’s side. Twelve of the Paladins landed solid hits, their swords and maces crushing the unprepared fighters, and two of Lucas’s people fared even worse: they failed to dodge the barded horses and were crushed under the weight of their stampeding feet, obliterated on the spot, their beautiful bodies and faces ripped asunder by the metal-shod hooves of the enemy mounts before they could so much as raise a single weapon in retaliation.
Not all of Lucas’s melee troops fared so poorly though. Three of them managed to land good solid blows against the mounts themselves with axes, polearms, and greatswords. One of the Dwarves that had been wielding a massive double-bladed axe was the first to land a hit. Her axe cut through the right flank of a Paladin’s mount with ease, shredding it instantly as she beautifully cleaved the Paladin’s charging steed, sending the plated fighter falling to the ground in the process, his leg momentarily pinned by the weight of the horse.
As their comrades continued to charge past him, heading in a tight formation straight toward the clustered line of casters and archers, Lucas’s warriors swarmed the three enemies that had lost their mounts. Before the Dwarf warrior could even raise her axe to finish off her prey, someone else had already lunged over and cut the knight’s throat. Only one of the three dismounted Paladins lived, his landing more gracious than his two allies, and he immediately began distancing himself and raising his shield and mace in defense.
The remaining Paladins and Clerics, still on their steeds, continued to press forward toward the mages, weapons at the ready. Even as the spells and arrows flew out, injuring and knocking nine of the Paladins to the ground, the remaining ten armored warriors on their horses looked like they would slice through the fragile lightly armored casters and archers with ease–but then, at the last minute, Lucas’s earlier plan came to fruition. The first Paladin to fall victim had no idea what was happening as the horse underneath him reared up and came to a sudden stop, flinging its rider forward and to the ground. The heavy horse’s weight had collapsed the earth beneath its feet, and in an instant, the momentum the holy warrior had built up to crush Lucas’s forces was turned against him.
He wasn’t the only one to fall either: the girl behind him screamed out as her horse was also caught in a similar trap of collapsing earth thanks to Eri’s little Ant-Dragon brood, but unlike the first soldier, she didn’t live. She was holding tightly to the horse, and as it fell, so did she, her head clipping against the dirt, letting out a horrible crunch as her body slipped into whatever pit Eri’s children had made with her warhorse. While she was the only one to have died, four of the Clerics and five more of the warriors ended up losing their mounts to the brood’s collapsing tunnels.
One by one, whether by traps or arrows, all but three of the Paladins and two of the Clerics from the Church had been left dismounted and struggling. When the three remaining Paladins reached the far side of the pitfalls, they showed no mercy. Their blades and scepters illuminated with a bright, fiery orangish-yellow light and came crashing down on their enemies, the sound of bones being snapped or smashed as their victims’ leather or cloth armor put up little-to-no resistance was so loud that Lucas could hear it over the chaotic noise of what felt like a hundred spells going off at once across the battlefield.
Am I actually hearing all this, or have I just gotten so used to the sound of crushed skulls and snapped bone that my mind is filling in the blanks as I see the slaughter? Lucas wondered while watching the fight and listening to the various cracking and squelching noises. He didn’t know whether it was good or bad that it was entirely possible he knew such sounds like the back of his hand. He had seen and listened as Nick, no further than ten feet in front of him in most fights, had killed over a thousand people with those types of magic-imbued one-handed weapon attacks.
“HA! Fighting small fry when your true opponent is over here! And failing!” Lilith called out loudly as she grabbed at Lucas’s shoulder and waved at the five cavalry that had managed to charge their way through all opposition.
What in the heck is your problem, woman? Lucas thought, sparing one final forlorn glance far in the distance, where his magical staff, the one that had all of his combat abilities, lay. Do you really need to call them over here when I don’t have any proper way of defending myself? he cursed to himself, biting his tongue as he refrained from letting out any obscenities at the woman. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, she was a vital piece on his chess board that he couldn’t be careless with. Therefore, instead of his real thoughts escaping his lips–instead of the string of slurs that he wanted to say–the only thing that came out was “I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m still without my weapon.”
“THAT’S THE SPIRIT!” Linnaeus, the blue demon-like monster, shouted as he descended onto the battlefield as well, snatching the front Paladin right off his horse in one quick motion. “The Lady Lilith is absolutely right! They are thrashing about at these pathetic peons while the true king is but a small distance away! You think yourselves warriors! HA!” Linnaeus then pulled into the air with his victim in hand, chuckling merrily the entire way up into the sky.
Et tu, Linnaeus? Lucas frowned. The betrayal was on all sides. Glancing back at where his weapon was one more time, the itch to run toward it started to swell up within him as his anxiety about the upcoming clash mounted.
“That’s it; stand tall. Wait for them to come, and destroy them with no tools. Rend their flesh like a well-skilled butcher and show the world what it means to be you,” Lilith cooed at him, the violent words not befitting the seductive, silky nature of her voice.
She is way too into this, Lucas thought with a sigh as he watched the last two Paladins turn toward him and start charging forward. His last hope–that they wouldn’t notice him, and the fight would settle without his interference–had been crushed. They clearly knew he was there and were coming straight at him. Two giant mounted, well-trained warriors against an unarmed, half-naked mage without a staff . . . What’s the worst that could happen?
“Do you want the one on the left?” Lucas asked, looking over to Lilith, only to be greeted with empty air. The woman had vanished. “I’m going to murder someone.” Not only was Lucas going to be fighting under these horrible conditions, but his one hope–that he at least wouldn’t be alone, and there would be a crazy, psycho lady assisting him–had been crushed instantly by the unpredictable nature of the woman.
“Prepare to die in the name of the Church!” a female Paladin shouted as she charged at Lucas with her male compatriot, the two of them thundering along on their barded warhorses, covered from head to toe in heavy gold-etched and fancifully embossed plate armor. From a distance, Lucas had thought the enemies on their mounts looked strong, well built, and amazingly powerful, but up close, none of those descriptions seemed right. As they were charging at him, the only word that Lucas could use to describe them was terrifying. Fear started to seep into his bones, and snaking lines of adrenaline began to wrap themselves around his heart and body, closing out his mind and narrowing his vision as he started taking deep breaths and preparing for the fight. A part of him still wanted to run, to avoid the confrontation until he could have it on more favorable terms–and preferably against people who weren’t riding armored steeds.
The enemies of the Blood Goddess across the worlds the Gods manage are inumerable, but your enemies count even greater within the territories of the Imperium. Your political adversaries, discovering your allegiance to a heretical God, have financially encouraged the Church and its officials to cleanse the land of your presence.
Your enemies in the city of Dover are eagerly awaiting news of the Church’s success. You must defeat the attackers for both the sake of your newfound cult and to protect your dignity and burgeoning reputation as an undefeated leader within the lands of the Imperium.
Reward: Luck +50, Fortitude +10.
Fail Result: Charisma -100. All enemy factions within your territories and dungeons will receive a temporary +25% damage bonus against members of your faction for 48 hours.
You backseat trolley whore, Lucas cursed internally at the system the moment the message appeared. Freaking, no-good, two-bit, malware-infested, floppy-drive-transferred system 32 file! The only comfort he took in this particular quest was the fact that it didn’t come with the usual all-or-nothing stakes that he had started to get accustomed to. This time, he’d lose some Charisma, but it wouldn’t be more than the Charisma he had gained simply from being a Vampire Lord to begin with. At worst, he would have to deal with the damage bonus, but given the way that players usually trickled through his territory in small bands lately, that wouldn’t be something he couldn’t handle either.
The quest Survive has been modified.
New Fail Result: Charisma -200. All enemy factions within your territories and dungeons will receive a temporary +50% damage bonus against members of your faction for 72 hours.
Lucas blinked. Wait, did the AI just get mad at me for calling it a backseat trolly whore? Lucas squinted for a second. He knew that was an impossibility. There was no way for the AI to be sentient enough to modify any of the codes or conditions of the quest out of spite. The fact that this new failure condition appeared was most likely the result of something else happening in the environment, but the timing still had thrown Lucas for a loop and broken his concentration.
Enemies. Focus, Lucas told himself as the two Paladins got closer. In his head, he still had no idea what he was going to do. As they closed in, he did the only thing he could think of: he threw his arms out like a mage in one of the LARPing videos he had watched on BlueTube and pushed all of the Arcane Energy he could channel at any given moment out of his palms and toward the incoming horses.
The effect was nearly non-existent. Given he wasn’t using a conduit device, and he didn’t have a class specializing in the use of raw Arcane Energy, the most he could channel out of his hands at any given time was 1% of his total mana. Without structure, the mana’s damage potential was even worse than one-fifth that amount with proper crystals and a magic circuit to channel the power. The end result was a burst of energy that rippled through the air, distorting the environment and creating a mirage-like effect as light seemed to refract oddly off the flow of arcane force.
Lucas frowned as he realized such an unfocused blast wouldn’t be enough to damage the warhorses and their riders in the slightest, but what he didn’t expect was that the two sword chops from the unhurt enemies would miss. They didn’t just miss a little bit either. They missed by a good foot or so due to the visual distortions of his energy attack, leaving the two foes practically hanging off their horses and trying to retract their weapons for another swing as they reached him a second later. Lucas took advantage of the situation immediately. Leveraging the rapid speed and maneuverability of his new race, Vampire Lord, he lunged out and grabbed at the male player. The collision against the great momentum and firm steel of the plate armor practically shattered Lucas’s face as it slammed into the man’s abdomen, the hurried leap not having given Lucas enough time to even reach the chest of the man. Nevertheless, the Paladin tumbled to the ground with Lucas. When Lucas landed, even though he had been the one to initiate the lunge, the subsequent roll as he and his prey hit the earth left Lucas with the Paladin on top of him.
Lucas struggled to flip the enemy, trying to lock his opponent’s leg and use his hip to thrust him over. He had seen the move in every self-defense video he had binged on BlueTube the moment he realized he’d be stuck in physical confrontations often in the game. However, the Paladin began to pin him more securely. He grabbed at Lucas’s arms, pushing them to either side as he raised his head up and smashed it down. Lucas moved his face, taking the hit with his left cheek instead of the bridge of his nose as the man pinning him had likely intended, but he couldn’t move much, and he knew the Paladin wouldn’t relent after only a single try.
“Keep him secured! I’ll come deal the final blow!” the female Paladin said as she rounded back on her mount. After the charge, she hadn’t turned quickly, and the speed of the horse had put her a good distance from the two struggling on the ground.
Damnit! Work! Lucas thought as he activated the Arcane Energy again. He didn’t have much control over it, but this time, he did everything he could to aim the channelled energy out of his hand and in a straight line. It was the most control he supposed one could have over the twisting death force that was unprocessed Arcane Energy.
The energy attack instantly started to corrode the armor around the man’s wrist, where Lucas did his best to aim the blast. After less than a second, Lucas could tell from the man’s face that he was in a lot of pain from the raw magic assault. The Arcane Energy was beginning to eat into the man’s flesh. While barely any of his body was visible, the little parts of skin Lucas could see around the wrist, where the sleeve had gotten caught and didn’t extend properly into the gauntlet, were starting to turn black and putrid.
“That’s right.” Lucas slipped into his evil persona the moment he could sense he had even the slightest advantage. He bucked the right side of his hips as hard as he could, this time successfully rolling the now-hurting fighter off of him. Now Lucas was on top, the fighter beneath him. “You thought you could defeat me so easily? I must admire your gumption, using your head in the only way I expect that thick, empty skull would ever be good for; but, alas, you’re too weak. Your death will be slow and painful, and I will extract from you every ounce of torment I can as I educate you on the gravity of your error. I will teach you with every piece of flesh I rend and sear with my magic how weak and pathetic you really are!” Lucas exclaimed, cocking his head back and laughing as he continued to assault the body of the man he had pinned beneath him. Since the Paladin’s body had started to go limp, Lucas stopped targeting the man’s wrist, put his hands on the downed man’s chest, and began pumping the corrupting power straight toward his hapless prey’s lungs, hoping that it would stifle the man’s breathing and finish him off faster.
“Oh . . . Oh my,” the female Paladin’s voice came from off to the side. Lucas looked over, confused at why she was saying that, only to see her blushing face as she used her weapon hand to pull some of her long blond hair out of her eyes and turned her head a little.
Lucas was grateful the woman had stopped her assault and hadn’t maced him in the back of his head with her heavy spike-tipped scepter.
“I . . . I didn’t know you two were into that . . . type of . . . Oh my,” the girl said again. “I’ll . . . I’ll . . . just record this to preserve your special moment.”
What in the hell is she talking about? Lucas wondered, realizing that the girl was clearly a player, unlike what he had originally thought. Then, he looked back at the guy he was killing and realized the horrible misunderstanding. She . . . She thinks I seduced him . . . Lucas opened his mouth in shock, not sure how to process what was going on as he did everything in his power to block the thought out of his brain.
“Yes! That’s it! KISS!” the woman insisted, misinterpreting Lucas’s horrified face. “SMUSH YOUR TWO OVERLY HANDSOME, BEAUTIFUL FACES TOGETHER AND KISSSSSSS!”
Sorry friend. Lucas shook his head at the fellow victim as he watched the direct inpouring of Arcane Energy wreck and ravage the man’s body until he was on the verge of death. He knew that even when the fight was over, this poor soul would be forced to deal with her harassment about the moment over and over again during casual conversations. Or worse, he thought, she has been treating him this way all along.
After finishing the kill, Lucas stood up quickly and rushed at her. She was apparently shocked that, during a fight, two men grappling had simply been two people fighting and nothing more. She tried to react, swinging her scepter at him, but she wasn’t fast enough. The 35% movement speed bonus from being a Vampire Lord allowed him to close the distance on her in a moment. Since he didn’t have a weapon, his main goal was to neutralize hers.
He did this by sneaking inside her swing and grabbing onto her body tightly. He snaked his arm over her elbow as her swing failed and pulled her arm back to her side, grabbing her in a bear hug. His hands now on her back, he began to channel Arcane Energy into her. It had been so effective against the guy that he felt, as long as he could maintain a tight hold on her, this fight was in the bag. He was going to easily win.
She, staring up and into his eyes as he began his magic assault, reacted in a way he hadn’t anticipated at all: she kissed him. She whipped her head forward with dexterity he didn’t know she had, like a snapping turtle, and her mouth sucked onto Lucas’s.
No! Lucas panicked, remembering the deal he had with Liu. He not only let go of the Paladin instantly but pushed her away at the same time, giving up his easy video game win in the face of what was sure to be a disastrous real-life-destroying moment.
“What?” she asked, licking her lips with a sly smile. “You taste like sugar. So delicious, Mr. Handsome NPC. You’re a Vampire, right? Oh my god, a deadly, dashing, royal, well-dressed Vampire is like my dream come true!” she said, shaking her hair out of the way with a toss of her head and exposing her neck. “Come, feast. I won’t shy away. You don’t have to be scared of killing me.”
Lucas could only blink in horror. So it’s not just the guy I killed that she probably likes; it’s every good-looking man. This woman. This woman is a massive . . . Lucas’s eyes closed, and his eyebrows stretched backward as shock overcame him, and his thoughts stopped. Then, when they restarted, as if resuscitated back from oblivion with a defibrillator, they returned with only a single-worded conclusion: Scary. That’s what this woman is. This woman is freaking scary. He had thought Lilith was a little out there–and dangerous–but this woman terrified him.
“Come on now!” she insisted as she removed part of her top armor, unfastening a strap so the cuirass fell to the ground. “Take me right here while everyone is dying near us.”
“Well, if you insist,” Lucas said as he walked forward, gulping and trying to suppress his urge to run away. He knew that if Liu saw him do anything with another woman on purpose, she’d have his metaphorical balls for it. It’d be a terri-ball fate in store for him for sure.
“Oh God, it’s happening,” she mumbled. “This is the NPC ending I tried to get with that beautiful man, Priest Laeperin.”
As Lucas reached her, however, instead of going for her neck like she seemed to think all vampires must, he grabbed both sides of her head and held it so that she was forced to look directly at him. He didn’t want her lunging out and trying to kiss him again as he began channeling his Arcane Energy right into her skull. She resisted the moment she realized what was happening, but unfortunately for her, she had already dropped her weapon. Her punches struck against Lucas’s chest, dealing mild ten- to fifteen-Hit-Point blows, but such damage wasn’t enough to seriously injure him. She also tried to pry his hands free, but couldn’t as her strength quickly waned.
It only took a minute of what looked like agony, but after the minute was done, she fell limp. Blood was pouring out of her ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Her skin was shredded, black, and putrid-looking, and her hair was completely gone.
A much safer kind of woman for me to be seen with, Lucas thought, still worried about how Liu might interpret the scene if she saw the fight on a forum later–or rather, knowing how his mother was apparently following his story within the game, when Liu saw the fight later.
Faction Quest Completed: Prevent the Purge.
The relative Gold and items have been distributed to the players who successfully took part in the quest.
Quest Completed: Survive.
You have been awarded 50 Luck and 10 Fortitude.
“Damn, did the boss kill two of the toughest Paladins bare handed?” the Dwarf said as she walked toward Lucas, hefting her big axe in the air. “That’s what’s up. You people see that? We’re struggling to take them on down here, and the boss doesn’t even bother pulling out a weapon!”
“Yeah . . .” Lucas looked awkwardly both ways. He didn’t want to brag too much because he had a strange feeling that the woman he killed might try to join his faction later, or at least interact with the players in his group enough that if he lied while boasting, he would only get caught in the act, and one lie discovered could destroy a hundred truths. On the other hand, he knew too much modesty wouldn’t cater to the persona he had crafted. “I will not be easily done in by foes or adversaries as long as I have you all supporting me,” he said, deciding to shift from bragging to praise. “The best warriors of the Church and their greatest healers came crashing through our gate, and what awaited them?” He surveyed the carnage where the battle had taken place in front of him. Almost half of his troops had somehow died during the skirmish. He hadn’t seen what happened, but the large long, straight cuts where Holy Energy had pierced the ground so deep it had hardened the loose soil into a smouldering substance made it clear that the clerics, when they finally gave up on healing, were a force to be reckoned with.
He couldn’t help but also notice a few of his soldiers’ corpses had the lingering scars of Lightning or Earth magic, two magics that the casters of his group would be adept at, but the holy priests of the church would never bother with at all. It required a different type of magic than they were proficient with. His powerful mages’ area-of-effect spells had wreaked friendly fire carnage on his own people. It was a problem that he would have to deal with eventually.