Kashi spent the entire night and early into the next morning hunting down the denizens of the forest. The night provided perfect cover for him as he used stealth to slither in between targets, taking them out individually, and silently. His high agility also allowed him to escape quickly if things turned hairy.
With the sun rising over the horizon, Kashi decided it was time to call it a night, He had levelled up to fourteen during the course of the night. His skills silent feet and silent take down had also leaped three levels which inadvertently raised his stealth skill too.
As Kashi left the forest to return to Kerta, several beasts, including the wolves and hyenas (who at any other time would be ripping each other apart) watched the mass murderer leave and breathed sighs of relief. There would be no attacks on each other or on the adventurers that day.There were many… too many to mourn.
Oblivious to the desolate picture behind him, Kashi arrived at Kerta where he dropped off some fox hides, the rabbit legs and other miscellaneous items at the information guild. The people who had set up the posters would be notified and they would go receive their goods. He received a total of six silver coins for his troubles and was pleased with the result.
After stocking up on rye bread and water from a local shop, Kashi decided it was time to set out for Fladnag’s home.
He equipped the full recruit’s set; deciding not to take any chances with the Direwolves. In most games, they ranged from levels of twenties to fifties; it rested solely on the creator’s preference. North of town, the Direwolves were at level twenty but his instincts told him the ones guarding forests to the south were much more dangerous. Since the beginning of the game, all the users who had entered the forest never returned regardless of their level; this caused the adventurers to shy away from there and they headed north instead .
Kashi took his time walking across the plains south of Kerta. As usual, his soot-black skin drew unwanted attention, but he did not notice. This was because he was deep in thought on how to proceed. The biggest drawback of being one of the first players of a game with no beta test was finally beginning to show: Lack of information.
More than ninety-nine percent of the full continent was yet to be mapped. This meant that in order to obtain those maps, players had to step into the unknown; This would not have been an issue if not for the promise of true death. No sane person who had obtained a high level would want to lose their character after so much work put into it. This left exploring to the residents who sold maps at exorbitant prices and a few crazy individuals like Kashi.
No one had mapped the southern forest; This meant he would be going blind into an area with a hundred percent death rate, looking for a man he had never met, who would probably kill him on sight.
“Difficulty E my ass.” Kashi chuckled softly. He walked to the ‘border’ of the forest, formulating different scenarios in his mind.
Kashi’s actions drew even more attention and the adventurers close to the forst watched with pity as he dissapeared into the thicket.
“Another one bites the dust huh.”
“Poor guy. No one must have told him not to go there.”
“Dumb noobs. They never learn till they die.”
The forest was quiet – too quiet. There were no birds singing, no leaves rustling in the wind; it seemed time itself had stopped flowing. Despite the silence, every nerve in Kashin was on high alert. He felt eyes on him, but could not tell where they came from.
As he progressed, the forest grew denser, the branches of the trees blocking the sunlight till the forest descended into darkness. Kashi used <<Silent Feet>> to explore the forest, hoping he did not run into any foes.
With a cry, Kashi fell forward and rolled over as his health dropped by a hundred points. “Who’s there!” He shouted out, turning to face the direction the hit had come from.
Another hit from his back sent him careening into a tree. He turned off <<Silent Feet>> and ran with all his might through the forest. His agility was very high and he hoped it would allow him to outrun his opponent. Looking over his shoulder, he noticed there was no one behind him, but just as he returned his sights in front of him.
He saw it this time, and blocked with his hands, softening the blow. His opponent was not a person; it was a tree. No, it was the forest.
“I am aware of your presence. May I inquire as to why you strike me so?!” Kashin shouted out.
Just as he thought, the tree branch he had just blocked retracted and with a great shaking of the earth, a large tree marched out of the shadows, its hollow eye sockets glaring at him.
Suzuki had seen tree-folk in movies, pictures and some video games but that did not stop the fear that crept up Kashi’s back at the actual sight of one. It towered over him at approximately 1300 metres.
“Greetings.” Kashi got down to one knee and bowed his head. This was strategically a dumb move because if he was attacked, he would not even see it coming. If I run, I’ll die for sure. Let’s gamble.
“You… You are of the accursed Dark race. Your kind laid waste to my brothers in their quest for power. Do not expect to leave here alive” The tree spoke with a slow drawl that spoke of its old age. The hatred in its voice increased the tension in the air as it raised its ‘hand’ to strike the dark elf.
“Wait!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. Head bowed, Kashi did not see the attack coming, but Suzuki was accustomed with the pause that came before a strike from an angry adult. His yell gave the tree pause.
“One minute,” it said, lowering its hand.
Just how much damage did this bloody race cause?
“I wish words could convey my remorse over the past sins of my people and I, but alas our sins are as many as the leaves in a forest. I seek to repent for the sins of my clan, and my quest has led me here. I humbly request you let me pass.”
“No. Your people are monsters who only destroy what they touch. We will only suffer if any of your kind are survive. Consider this your penance, and rejoice over a righteous death.” It raised its hands again for a final strike.
Staring death in the eye, an uncontrollable rage rushed over Kashi. “What kind of a joke is this!” He screamed, standing up straight and glaring right at the pair of wooden eyes. “That I would be killed over the sins of those before me?! Don’t give me that crap! I served my penance in a dungeon for eleven years.. eleven good years! I spent them watching my brethren perish around me!”
Hot tears streamed down the elf’s face as he challenged the tree. “If you truly believe you are just for punishing me then you are both a fool and an egoist. You sit here in the comfort of your home attacking those who dare to dream of a life beyond the four walls of their cities, and you dare call me a monster?!” he spat on the floor, facing his foe with burning rage.
Kashi spread his arms baring his chest. He did not look away but glared right at the tree. “If you wish to strike, then strike! Just know you do not slay a dark elf but an honest adventurer interested in the ways of the world.”
“…” The guardian studied the trespasser, deep in thought.
“What are you waiting for?! I shall not disgrace myself by pleading if that’s what you wish.”
“Silence Dark one!”It rebuked. “I am deep in thought.”
Tree-folk had very slow thought processes and Kashi learned this the hard way. Thirty minutes later, the guardian finally made his decision.
“Your spirit has impressed me Dark One. Tell me what it is you seek for.”
“The wizard Fladnag. I was told he would be able to help me.”
“Hmm… yes, the Old one. You would do well to avoid him, but it appears you know that yet still seek an audience nonetheless.” It gave Kashi one last look-over then retreated into the darkness. “Follow the path Dark One, it will lead you to the one you seek.”
“What pa… aah,” Kashi said as the trees retracted their branches creating a small path of light ahead of him.”You have my gratitude.”
I can’t believe that actually worked!
Suzuki had met all kinds of bullies, both at home and at school; He learned some important facts from his experience. Everybody in the world (bully or otherwise) reacted to certain traits of their victims differently. Some could not stand crying, while it turned others on; some reacted violently to direct opposition while others ceased their acts, and several other little factors. It was just a matter of finding out what their
weak point was.
Kashi had used this knowledge when confronting the guardian. When apologizing failed, he switched to direct opposition mixed with some crocodile tears. Despicable, yes, but Kashi did not care. He would survive by any means possible, no matter how low he had to go.
The path led to a clearing with the widest and oldest looking tree Kashi had ever laid his eyes on. Its width was easily that of a large hall, and the height close to three stories high. The tree had windows and a door carved into it, so Kashi guessed that must be Fladnag’s home.
“Goodluck dark one.” A voice called from the forest.
Kashi waved over his shoulder as he walked towards the tree-house, a gait in his step. As he got closer, the ground around him suddenly glowed bright, revealing a magic circle.
“Crap!” Kashi cursed as he realised he had been caught in a trap; He could not move.
“Heads or tails!” a voice boomed from inside the house.
“Hahahaha…. time’s running out elf. Look up.”
Kashi did as instructed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” His eyes turned to dots, and he lost all expression when he saw what was above him. A giant gold coin was spinning in the air, falling down towards him. “I can’t die like this!” he cried, real tears pouring down his face. The shadow it cast over him was growing bigger by the second.
The voice laughed. “Choose quickly boy. Head or tails?”
“Tails! Tails!” The coin continued its descent picking up speed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Kashi fell
to his knees in defeat and closed his eyes as the coin fell on him.
“Who are you praying to?” the voice asked.
Kashi opened his eyes and saw the coin had stopped just above him, heads down. I’m alive. Felt my soul leave my body for a second there. Life had never felt so good, and Kashi laughed like he never had. To think death could be so scary.
The door to the tree-house opened and out stepped an old man in grey robes and a wooden stick. He was chocolate-skinned with the bushiest, longest and whitest beard Kashi had ever seen.
“Fififififi, you chose correctly, but I’m sorry to tell you.. YOU SHALL NO-” An arrow whizzed by him, scratching his cheek. “Now what was that for?”
“I… I don’t know. I just felt that was a very dangerous statement right there,” Kashi replied, sweat pouring down his face.
“True. You’re on the verge on being serialised right? Afraid of copyrights and all that… I see.”
“Huh? I’m afraid I do not understand you.”
“No, no. No need to pretend. It’s only your thirtenth chapter. You don’t want to be deleted; I completely understand.” Fladnag folded his arms across his chest, nodding like he had just said the smartest thing in the world.
What?! What the heck is he talking about. Serialisation, chapters. Is he madder than his name suggested? Can this guy really help me?
“My apologies, I really do not understand you.” Kashi noticed he could move again, but did not take a simple step.
Fladnag studied his visitor closely and sighed. “Wrong one. When will that fellow come for tea.” He turned to head back into his home. “Go home young elf; Yanakal will not attack you on your way out.”
“Wait please!” Kashi called. “I was told to give you this.” He took out the branch he had received from Bert and presented it to Fladnag.
Fladnag dashed to him and yanked the branch out of his hand, eye’s wide. His hand shook as he asked. “Where did you get this?!”
“I received it from a fox-man called Bert,” Kashi answered, puzzled by the old wizard’s reaction. Was the stick so important?
“If you had this, you should have just shown it to Yanakal. He would have let you pass.”
“… Wait what?”
“Come child, I will hear your story.” Fladnag led Kashi to his home.
Kashi cringed at the interior of the wizard’s home. There was absolutely no order to the way things were placd. Papers, plates, paintings and several other objects he did not recognize littered the floor. The chairs were placed randomly around the room, and there was no table to speak off. A flight of stairs leading to the upper floors was not spared the treatment.
Fladnag took a seat on one of the chairs and motioned for Kashi to come closer. “Now tell me your story. And do not lie; I detest liars.”
Kashi narrated his story, from waking in the prison to reaching Fladnag’s doorstep.
“Interesting tale. So you wish to find a class in which you can use your bow as a primary weapon, but still possess the option to fight close range if you wish?”
“Yes. I do not believe in relying on others for help except absolutely necessary.”
“And what would you do with such power. Think carefully before you answer.” The wizard’s eyes seemed to bore into Kashi’s soul. It unnerved him.
What to do indeed. He had not really thought of it till then. Maybe he would rule the world? Finish what Razznik failed to do. But his instincts told him that would be a terrible answer.
“You are undecided I see, but I can tell you wish for destruction not restoration.” Fladnag stood up and picked up a book from the several littered across the floor. “Say, have you heard the creation story?”
“Yes I have. It’s a tragic tale.”
“You do not know the full story. The goddess Aethir did not leave the earth. No, she loved mankind too much to leave.” The wizard suddenly looked very old and frail as he sat back on the chair, turning the leaflets of his book.
“What happened to her?”
“Her sorrow over what she did to the earth, caused her to go to her husband for comfort.”
“… Don’t tell me he killed her”
“No, for all his pride and arrogance, Ferulic loved Aethir. He accepted her back into his arms.” A look of pure hatred twisted the wizard’s expression and Kashi feared for his life. “In his second of weakness, the Destroyer, who had been waiting for such an opportunity, cut him down. He stole Ferulic’s powers and locked the two of them in his castle in Merta.”
“Why did he do that?” Kashi who had unknowingly become interested in the tale questioned.
“He sought power. If there was anyone stronger than him, he cut them down without hesitation. He did not have a reason to search for power; except for the purpose of gaining more.”
“What happened next?” Kashi sat on the messy floor, too engrossed in the tale to care.
“All of Aethir’s children were imprisoned in special dungeons around the continent. They were in charge of several core functions in the realms and with their imprisonment, the world fell into chaos. The war eleven years ago was just the worst of many earlier wars.”
“Wow. Do you happen to know the destroyer’s name?”
“How could I forget. The name of the beast who brought the nine realms to its knees was…” he paused, as if saying the name itself was poison to his tongue.
“Yes…?” Kashi encouraged.
“The fiend’s name is Razznik.”………………