Kashi woke up to the sound of Fladnag’s humming. He looked to the side and saw the crazy wizard reading several books that floated around him. Kira lay by the wizard’s side, sleeping. He got off the uncomfortable couch and stretched.
“Ah, you’re awake I see,” Fladnag said as he snapped his fingers. The books disappeared instantly. “Good dreams?”
“Terrible,” Kashi muttered as he tapped Kira softly. She sprung to her feet, eyes filled with excitement.
“Ah, I see. You’re heading out now?” Fladnag asked.
“Yes. I have waited long enough.”
The wizard regarded him with a weird look in his eyes. “So… I hear you subjugated the south-east. Starting the conquest rather early are we?”
What’s with everyone knowing what they’re not supposed to?
“You never said I couldn’t start when I pleased,” Kashi pointed out.
Fladnag stroked his scruffy beard. “Hmm. I planned to give you this if you returned safely, but I suppose you have earned it.”
“What’re you talking bout?” Kashi asked. His body itched with a desire to hit the road, but he felt that would be a bad idea.
A staff appeared in the wizard’s hand as he mumbled something incoherent. The staff glowed and he stomped it against the floor. A blinding light spread through the room accompanied by a thunderous sound.
Kashi rubbed his sore eyes. “What the heck was tha-”
Due to your close bond with your partner, you can now share mental thoughts.
Range dependent on level of companionship.
Current level: 10%
Kashi stared at the prompt in confusion. Companion? Wha…
“Will you hurry up?” an unfamiliar voice prompted. He looked around, then stared at Kira. “What are you looking at?”
He stared even harder, mouth agape. This was new. “Can you hear me?”
Kira jumped back, eyes darting around the room. She returned her gaze to the elf as realisation dawned. “How did you get in my head?”
“You’re asking the wrong person.”
“It’s working I see,” Fladnag said. He sported a huge grin, proud of his work.
“How…how did you do that?” Kashi asked, still reeling in shock.
The wizard scoffed. “Hmph! This is child’s play for someone of my calibre. To be fair though, you would have eventually gained this ability even if left alone. Kira here is no ordinary Direwolf after all.”
Kashi frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Surely you did not believe that slaying a simple direwolf would cause the earth itself to die out did you?”
Kashi shook his head. Well, to be honest he had not given it much thought. But now that the old coot mentioned it, that was kind of strange.
“She is of an ancient race, like the dragons, who existed here long before we were created. To put it simply… some people would worship her as a god.”
Kashi nearly choked. “W-what did you just say? A god? Her?”
“Hmph. You should show some respect.”
He glared at her. “Shush. I bet you didn’t know until now either.”
Fladnag chuckled. “Well, now that you know, I suppose you will be more careful. Her true strength is much more terrifying than you can imagine… Then again if you survive this, your potential will be equal to hers.”
This raised a brow on the elf. “Wait.. so you’re saying that right now, her potential is higher than mine.”
“Boy, you two are not even on the same playing field. In a year at most, she’ll be using your bones as toothpicks.
Kira glanced at Kashi, flashing a toothy grin.
Mumbling something under his breath, Kashi turned to leave.
“Ah, yes. One last thing,” Fladnag said.
“What is it this time?”
The wizard tossed a paint brush to him.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Kashi asked, eyeing the weird brush. There were different horizontal markings on its handle. However, all but the first white one was grayed out.
“Brush it against your bow.”
Kashi did as instructed. The bow took on a light glow as sparkles of light radiated from its ends.
Weapon Enchanted With Holy!
Deals 10 points of extra holy damage.
Damage doubled against undead and ghosts.
He stared in disbelief. The window closed as he looked at the brush in his hand. “Identify.”
Rosario’s Brush [Unique Item.]
Made from a branch from the famous tree of life. Gives its wielder an edge over his/her enemies.
Potency dependent on Painting Mastery.
Next enchantment unlocked in Lv.3 Intermediate Painting Mastery.
“Wow…” Kashi muttered, at a loss for words. The unique status meant it was the only one of its kind. Unique items like this were usually class-restricted. To find one was hard enough; finding one that could be used by all classes was a once in a lifetime occurrence. “You sure I can have this?”
“Sure. I have no use for it, and it should serve your cause.”
“Thanks.” Kashi placed it in his inventory, still dazed. He bowed politely, and for once actually meant it. “Thank you for the help. I shall be on my way then.”
“Good luck, Kashi of the Dark Elves. May Aethir guide your path.” He smiled at Kira. “You too great wolf.”
Kashi and Kira nodded, then exited his home.
Aktaver’s lair was located inside a magnificent tower far north-east of Kerta. It spiralled high into the sky, forever rotating in place. The different floors of the tower housed an impressive assortment of loot and monsters.
Kashi and Kira stopped at its entrance. The elf sat down beside the entrance and took out his blacksmith tools.
“What are you waiting for?” Kira asked.
“Don’t want a repeat of what happened at Norcha. This shouldn’t take long,” replied Kashi. He took out steel ore from his inventory and set to work crafting arrows. Their quality wasn’t the best because he was not working at a forge, but his high skill made them far above average. He then crafted several quivers which held two hundred and fifty arrows each, and placed the arrows into each of them. These should be more than enough for a while.
He took out the scales he had obtained from the Stalkers and used them to craft arm guards. They added ten points of defense and reduced chances of knock back. He strapped them on, pleased by their light weight. Satisfied with his equipment, he took stock of his potions.
He had twenty light potions that recovered 100 HP each; a single elixir that restored full HP; and five mana potions that restored 100MP. They had been obtained from Norcha. He could not get any in the Ranad because it was still in the middle of restoration.
“Aren’t you Kashi?”
Kashi looked up to see three players observing him.
“You are aren’t you. Say, where’d you go man? No one makes quality weapons like you did. Check it. I’m still using the sword I bought when I was level 30. I’m 45 now and I ain’t seen nothing better!”
The elf felt a surge of pride knowing his crafts were valued highly. Maybe he should have charged more. “Sorry,” Kashi said. “I’m not crafting at the moment. Should be returning soon though.”
“Ah,” muttered the lad, crestfallen. “Make sure to let us know when you return. I’ll pay anything for your works.”
Kashi nodded and watched as they entered the tower. “Well, this is it. You ready?” He asked Kira.
“Hmph. I’m always ready. Try not to get me killed in there… weakling.”
A vein popped on the elf’s forehead. He grabbed her muzzle and widened her lips. “Hoho, someone’s getting a little cocky eh?” He quickly retreated when she attempted to bite down on his fingers.
Laughing, he stood up and headed to the tower’s massive door. Kira accompanied him, smacking her lips as they entered the tower.
Impressive. Kashi thought as he traversed the stone dungeon. The floors were made of smooth stones with light rubbles. He had to squint because the corridors were dimly lit up by lamps infused with light magic. They left many shadowy areas where he suspected traps awaited.
He passed by adventurers–both residents and players alike–in the middle of starting their climb up the tower. He heard them mumble that so far, no one had made it past the tenth floor.
While the elf would have loved to give it a go, he had bigger fish to fry. He reached the entrance to the dungeon and stopped. As expected, there was a large sign warning intruders from entering. Smiling, he pushed open the iron gates and walked in.
The first basement floor was a derelict prison dominated by ghouls and skeletons of the persecuted. Kashi made short work of them, sniping from a safe distance. He pressed onwards, searching for the hole where the Rosario’s branch was meant to fit in.
His search led him to a room with skeletons impaled on spikes hanging from the ceiling. There was a writing on the wall, west of the entrance. Below it were three round indentations. He did not need a genius to tell him the branch could not fit in any of those. He was about to leave when he noticed a round sphere laying on the ground.
He picked it up and studied the writing.
Who is Ferulic?
- a) Protector of Worlds.
- b) Creator of Worlds.
- c) Destroyer of Worlds.
He recalled Serti’s story of how Ferulic created worlds and Aerith filled them with life. He placed the sphere into the middle hole. There was a low rumbling as the circle shone brightly, and a section of the wall slid open to reveal a flight of stairs leading downwards.
The duo took the stairs as the wall slid shut behind them. Meanwhile, the sphere fell to the ground as the writing on the wall changed to a different question.
The temperature increased sharply as they descended they descended the stairs. The lamps had been swapped for phosphorescent fungus along the walls. Like the lamps, they were several feet apart causing most of the path to be drenched in thick shadows.
Cursing, Kashi walked across the stone floor. The path ended at a door on the right wall. Luckily, it was unlocked so he opened it slowly.
He entered the room, noting several pillars on the walls behind him and the east walls. Aside from the door he’d entered from, two more entrances were situated on the east and west walls. A ladder resting on the west wall caught his attention and he walked towards it.
A terrifying battle cry unlike any he had heard in this world froze him in place.
A monster formed from a swirling black mist in the middle of the room. It was a huge human-type with muscles much larger than Kashi’s entire body. Black mist pumped out of its body, its ruby-fire eyes burning as it smashed a pillar.
Nightfall Hulk Lv 67
Well, fuck. This had been too easy so far anyway. Kashi nocked his bow and launched a set of arrows at the beast.
Hulk roared, and the blast from its voice blew the toothpicks away. Kashi dove out of the way as the blast of air smashed the ladder to pieces.
“Well, roar me to death why don’t you?” Kashi muttered in irritation at having his exit destroyed.
Hulk smashed the ground with its fists, glaring at the puny elf. It lifted chunks of earth and launched them at him. Kashi rolled out of the way as the crashed next to him and swiftly shot a hail of arrows at the beast.
It roared as they pierced him and suddenly dispersed into smoke. The entrails travelled through the air and reformed next to the elf.
Kashi barely had time to raise his arms. The beast punched him, but he was only pushed back a few feet. Kira took the opportunity to dive onto Hulk’s back, gnawing away at the nape of its neck.
Roaring in pained anger, the beast reached over its shoulder. It grabbed the wolf and tossed her across the room. It stumbled as arrows crashed against its skin, but they failed to pierce.
Frowning, Kashi dashed forward and kicked its kneecap. The sound of cracking bones reverberated through the room. The elf grinned. “Looks like you’re weak to blunt force.”
Hulk roared bloody murder as a black miasma burst out of its mouth.
Kashi struggled to fight it off, but the thick smoke soon consumed him.
You have been inflicted with Blind.
Kashi’s breath caught in his throat as he crashed into a pillar. Hulk charged at him, raising its fists for a finisher, but Kira jumped and bit into its arm. She landed, dragging his arm along with him and spun around.
Hulk was launched straight across the room.
She turned to Kashi, concern in her eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m blind, not dead. This fight is far from over.” He nocked arrows into his bow and shot of <<Homing Arrow>>. A cry caused him to smile. While he would have preferred to fight it up close, this was his best option for now. “Kira, cover me please.”
“You don’t have to tell me.” She charged at Hulk who had just recovered from her swing.
Hulk stomped on the floor, causing Kashi to lose his balance. Kira on the other was unaffected by the AoE attack. She jumped onto the beast. They fell to the floor as they rolled around punching, clawing and biting away at each other.
Kashi kept on shooting <<Homing Arrow>> knowing it would attack the beast regardless of its location.
Kira yelped in pain as Hulk punched her in the gut. She faltered in her attack and the beast took advantage. It tossed her off of it then rose to its feet. Its calf muscles bulged as it drew its leg back in to kick the wolf.
A sound like a thunderclap echoed across the room, but the wolf did not move.
It looked down in confusion and saw a certain elf coughing blood onto its feet.
Kashi held two arrows stabbed through the beast’s feet. He used them to prevent himself from being flung from the impact. “Hehe,” he said through bloodied teeth. “Caught ya.”
It tried but failed to retrieve its leg from the elf’s death grip. It attempted to punch him instead.
Kashi dashed away from the beast still holding onto the arrows. Hulk was forced off the floor and fell flat on its back. The dark elf jumped onto the beast and raised his fist. He could not see, but dark aura surrounded them as they pounded the beast’s heart.
Hulk cried out in pain and tried to slap him off. Kira bit into its arm and forced it to the ground. The dark elf used this opportunity to release a barrage of attacks on Hulk’s chest.
The beast’s skin softened beneath his fists. He nocked his bow and shot arrows in quick succession. They pierced through its skin, past its heart and pinned it to the floor. Between cries of pain, it shot out black miasma to blind the elf.
“It’s no use… I’m already blind,” Kashi muttered as he charged the last arrow in his quiver. He released it and jumped off. Hulk exploded into tiny chunks which in turn evaporated to black smoke.
You levelled up!
Kashi sighed heavily as he lay on the hot floor, clothes drenched in sweat. “Should have bought eye drops…”
Kira looked down at him, debating. “You. What I’m about to do never happened. Got that?”
“Huh? Hey!” Kashi shouted. He struggled to push her away as he felt a wet tongue licking at his eyes.
“Stay still you baby!”
“Seriously, cut it out!” He shouted at the black wolf. Wait… he could see her. “Uwaah. That’s awesome!” He cried, completely forgetting his earlier rebuke. “What else can you do?”
“You’ll find out when I feel like it.” Truth was she had no idea either. She only gained the ability to cure ailments recently.
“Hmph. Diva.” He took a look at his HP and cringed. That monster’s kick had shaved off more than half his health. A little more and he would have been K.O.
The beast left behind ten gold coins, a black potion and a mage’s robe.
Kashi placed the robe in his inventory and identified the potion.
Potion of Extended Invisibility
Become Invisible for 10 mins.
Warning: Attacks can still harm you.
Kashi placed it in his inventory, and took a look around the room. The west ladder had been destroyed so that left only the west and east doors. He walked over to the west door and opened it. A hallway curved to the right beyond. He closed the door and went to the east door.
It was stuck.
He cursed as he stepped back; then he ran forward and kicked it. The door burst open with a huge bang.
“You just summoned every monster within a mile.”
Kashi laughed as he entered the pathway. “We can take them out faster this way right?”
As if encouraged by his words, three monster spiders scurried towards them. The elf nocked three arrows onto his bow, lips curled in a crazy grin. The spiders were thrown back as the arrows stabbed into their heads. They were soon rounded up by Kira.
Many more followed and he nocked five arrows. “Out of the way…”
Kashi and Kira collapsed by in front of an iron door. Their chests rose and fell rapidly as they heaved huge sighs of relief.
It had been four days since they entered the dungeon. Their path had been fraught with fire traps, dead ends, monster spiders, giant mushrooms, ghouls, more traps, ridiculous bosses and much, much more.
The elf shivered as he recalled all the puzzles he’d solved in various rooms. Some had taken minutes, others hours. However, they all had close death encounters as a reward for failure. Panting, he looked up at the door.
A mural of a tree was carved onto it. It was perfect save for the crack on one of its branches.
His eyes lit up as he retrieved Rosario’s branch from his inventory. He fitted it into the crack.
A loud grating sound echoed down the pathway as the drawing lit up. Kashi took a step back as he shielded his eyes from the blinding light.
The glow dimmed, and he balked. The drawing had sprung to life, its branches spreading round the door. One such branch broke off and fell to the floor. Kashi knelt down and picked it up.
Young one. How dost thou face thy enemies?
- a) Cunning and Smarts.
- b) Forward with Valor.
- c) With Words, not Weapons.
Kashi stared at the words floating in front of him. “How you ask? I am afraid there is no right answer to that question. A warrior without cunning or smart is but a fool, yet one must be prepared to launch head first into battle if need be. Also, true conquest cannot be achieved through steel alone. Words must be shared; alliances forged; and bonds strengthened. Any man without all of these qualities cannot be a true leader. So, if you ask how I face my enemies, I ask thee this. Who is my enemy?”
The tree pulsated, fruits falling from its branches to the earth. Shit, did I get it wrong?
“Unusual answer. But one filled with wisdom. You may pass.”
The branch in his hand glowed as it morphed into a green bow. “Identify.”
Yggdrasil’s Bow [Ultra Rare]
Crafted from a branch of the tree of life. Grants its user with renewed life.
Chance of leech with each attack. (+10HP)
Equip: +200 Maximum HP
Kashi clutched the bow tightly, admiring his new weapon. Well, now wasn’t this a nice turn of events. The hardships of the past four days all but disappeared from memory.
The tree reverted to its mural state as the iron door swung open.
Kashi strode in, eyes darting round the room.
Pillars were erected all around the room, with numerous writings on them. Some of which read: “Agevir died here.” “You’re already dead.” “You should not have come here.” “This is where it ends.”
He ignored the warnings as he walked further into the room, weaving through the pillars. A lone icicle hanging from the ceiling caught his attention.
“What?” Kashi cried as he hopped to and fro between pillars to gain altitude. It was no mistake. A man in a white robe was trapped within, snow-white wings wrapped around his lithe frame.
He did not have to shoot it to know his arrows wouldn’t make a dent on the magic trap.