Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chapter 16: A Sacrifice for Solitude

People come and go in our lives. Most of the time though, we never realize it. We took those people for granted just because we know we're going to still meet them some time in the future. We took 'for every hello, there's a goodbye' and stuck them in our pockets.

What happens when those people had to say goodbye to us? To make it worse, what happens if we made them say those lonely words towards us? Wouldn't it destroy you to say those same words back at them? What about the loneliness we had to face later on? We can always put on a blank smile afterwards. We can always say "I'm fine" while what we really want to say is "get off my case" to those who seemed worried.

Two shadows walk side by side, accompanied by the dim rays of street lights by the sides of the street. It was silent, no other sound can be heard except for the stepping sounds of the two shadows. A breeze silently swept by, giving off a chilly feel to both figures.

"So...", both the shadows said. Startled by the same words coming out of their mouths, they exchanged glances. Of course, it turned even more awkward afterwards. The silence afterwards made it clear, this is something unbearable.

She laughed. He was dumbfounded by her rather cute giggle. He never thought that she's the type of person who can find something to laugh about in that particular situation, thus it was rather unexpected from his point of view. 

"Well... That was awkward", Mikazuki said trying to end the awkwardness.

"Thanks for pointing it out", X pouted. He averted his glance from her eyes.

"You can go first", she said.

"Okay... How did I end up escorting you home?"

"How am I supposed to know?"

"It's not like you're staying at the same lodging as I am"

"Where are you staying the night?"

"An inn south of here. If I'm not mistaken it's called the Serene Inn"

"R- Really?! Well, I'm staying at the one beside it"

"What the hell... What a coincidence, I guess", X said as he covered his face as he almost stuttered due to the fact he wasn't exactly sure what to say. Mikazuki saw him doing that and jumped to conclusions as usual.

"C- Could it be that... Could it be that you were thinking of doing something to me?", Mikazuki asked while acting like running away if X gave her a mistaken answer.1

"As if", X immediately answered her. He lightly gave a karate chop on her head. She gave her trademark 'ouch' sound which X always find a hilarious thing to hear. He can't help but smile a little at that voice.

"Then... I guess I'm not that appealing to you...", she said as she made a disappointed face while rubbing where X had chopped her.

"Ehh... Wait... Umm. If you put it that way-", X answered her worry with a slight panic in his voice. She laughed at him for panicking. He realized that he had been tricked by her.

"Geez... Forget it... This isn't even funny any more", X sighed and shook his head. She burst to a laugh looking at him giving up on the conversation.

"Anyways... You're turn. What's up?"

"Umm... Well.... It's not exactly an easy thing to ask", she said while fidgeting her fingers. "Do you have anyone you like?"

"That sure came out of nowhere"

"I- I guess... Ehehehe...."

"I hadn't been thinking much about it, at least for now"

"Umm... I meant back when we were in the real world"

"Why didn't you say so?"

"Well...", Mikazuki said as she stopped walking, along with X who stopped a couple of steps in front of her her.

She smiled shyly. She was also fidgeting her fingers even more. X can see a slight blush across her face. "What the hell am I supposed to do?", he asked himself and sighed. It's not really something he can answer casually. To make it worse, he misunderstood her ambiguous question. 

"I do", X said after a long silence.

"I- I see..."

"But then again... It's a long time ago"

"Is that so... You still have feelings for her, don't you?"

"Who knows...", he replied. There was a moment of silence between them. Mikazuki looked at X with a surprised face, while X looked up to the sky thinking about what she just said.

"Just forget what I said", he told Mikazuki as he walked away from her. Mikazuki was left alone but didn't move from her position. She continued to look at X who was drifting away from her sights. Soon enough, the only thing she could see was her shadow.

A tranquil room with candles around. Everyone wore black coloured clothing looking towards a single spot in the room, a made-up shrine decorated by flowers. In the middle of the shrine, a single frame was displayed. A picture of a single boy with a sincere smile.

Out on the courtyard, I stand alone and stared at a distant mountain, standing still as if time itself had stopped. I can't feel the piercing gusts of winter air, nor smell the scented candles burnt inside the house.

"If you stand out there too long, you'll catch a cold", she said. She walked from inside the house and stopped beside me. She joined me and stare at the distant mountain.

"Ironic isn't it?"

"What is?"

"How he can smile while no one else could. He's the only person I knew who could smile no matter what. I, on the other hand, could only give a blank smile with no meaning"

I held back my tears before it could roll down my cheeks. The freezing temperature didn't make it feel any better either. Somehow she notices this and gave me a hug from behind. The warmth from her hands can be felt on my neck.

"It sure is hard on you", she whispered in my ear.

"You don't even know the half of it", I brushed away her arms and walked into the snow and stared up. I sighed and saw my breath in the form of a white cloud. I started walking towards my house gate, but I felt something tugging me on my neck. I looked back and saw her gave a sincere smile while holding two pieces of black cloth. I'm sorry... It's one piece of cloth, with it's middle part stuck on my neck. It was her beloved black muffler I gave to her a couple of years back.

"If you're going to take a walk, I'm coming with you", she said as she wrapped her muffler on my neck. She knew where I'm going, since it's basically where I go if I wanted to think.


"Cause you have my muffler", she answered my question as she took my hand and started walking ahead of me.

"The hell...", I followed behind her as she tugged my hand.

"That's not a good thing to say you know"

"Are you gonna take a walk or complain on anything I'm going to say?"


I sighed at her words. I'll let her do whatever she wanted this time. I really don't want to be accompanied at the moment, but I never really mind her presence since the start, not even the black muffler with girlish white petal design on it bothered me.

I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The day a certain little girl was sitting on a tree branch looking at the sunset. Back then I was simply annoyed by the fact my parents are fighting again, so I decided to take a walk and found a park. I found a bench nearby and decided to take a nap. She then told me that it wasn't good to sleep there, and well got into a little fight. After that day, I always found myself unconsciously go to that park almost everyday. Even though I only attend the same middle school, I ended up getting close to that girl before that. She's among those tiny number of people which don't piss me off, along with Takagi. I can always complain about many things and she would always listens. Yeah... She's no one other than Hisako, my closest friend in this whole universe filled with a couple billion other random strangers.

After a walking to the park near her home while responding pretty much all to the things she said, I stood under the tree I usually slept under. She was standing next to me, blowing her hands and rubbing them together. I took off her muffler and threw it around her neck. The moment she realized what I did, she tried to give me back the muffler, but I told her that she needed it more than I do.

"I have something to tell you", I said. She had a surprised look on her face after I said that.

"I think it might be best if we don't see each other any more"

"W-Why?", she managed to ask even though she stuttered at first.

"All I've ever done is just bring my problems to you and took advantage over your kindness", I told her. My eyes were unfocused and just stare towards the distance, unsure at what am I looking at.

"I never minded, have I?"

"I know, but I just don't want to do this any more"

"Please don't do this", she said as tears started to form on her eyes.

"Is there any particular reason for me to not do so?"

"I... I have always liked you"

"I have always liked you too Hisako", I looked deep into her purple looking eyes.

"Then... Then why?", the tears forming on her eyes finally fell.

"The more the reason for me to stay away from you", I said as I erased her tears with my thumb. As much as it pains me to say, I don't want her to end up with someone like me. Someone only does whatever he wants, someone who who always makes trouble, someone who will most likely end up as human trash.

"Please understand that I don't want you to end up with someone like me", tears started to form on my eyes. I pulled Hisako towards my chest so that she couldn't see my tears. Besides, it was painful enough for me to say those words at her, but her sad looking face made it even harder for me to hold back my tears.

"What do you mean by someone like you?", she asked as she held my arm with her cold hands.

"Don't ask. Just move on with your life without me", I said as I brushed off her hand from my arm and walked away.

It was that day, about two years ago, when I decided to live my life as a shut-in. I stopped all interactions with the outside world and just indulge myself with life without bothering anyone. I've brought up enough problems, to Hisako, to Takagi, even though I don't really want to say this, but also to my parents.

1 Mikazuki only meant to tease X. However knowing X that has a bad interpretation of jokes... You know what to expect

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chapter 15: "Will You Fight for Honour, or Fight for Your Life?"

"Geez...", Oxide sighed whilst playing with his drink. Val could only curiously look at her brother while still cleaning a counter.

"What's up Nii-san1? You look rather bothered", Mikazuki said while continuing cleaning her butterfly swords.

"You know... I just can't grasp what this game actually means", Oxide said bluntly. Mikazuki stopped her hands the same time with Val stopped cleaning the counter. "I mean you know what they said at the start. 'Will you fight for honour, or fight for your life?'. What exactly does that even mean?".

Val and Mikazuki stares blankly at Oxide, not knowing what the answer to his question would be and thinking seriously about the same question in Oxide's mind. Oxide while deep in thought decided to gave up on pursuing the answer for that question only to realize he made two girl's face turn blank and anxious.

"H- Hey... You don't really have to think about it you know. It's just me blurting out what was on my mind.", he gave a calm down gesture towards the girls with his signature sincere smile. Val turned back to her senses, meanwhile Mikazuki was still deep in thought.

Oxide rose up from his chair and walked towards the exit. On the way he stopped in front of Mikazuki and patted her head. "You know Mika-chan2, if you really want to find out the answer to that question go ask X about it. Although he doesn't look like it, he's really the best guy you can ask about these kind of things", Oxide told Mikazuki in a way where only she could hear him.

"Alright! I'm outta here! See ya later girls", Oxide exclaimed as he leisurely walked out of the front door.

"Ask that idiot? How can I even do that?", Mikazuki asked herself as she walked alone. She was on her way back to her lodging from the new restaurant Val opened. She stared at the sky hoping to clear her mind. However, the same question keeps on playing in her mind, 'Will you fight for honour, or fight for your life?'.

"Get out of my head already.... This is annoying", she said as she held her head and shaking it around.

"What the hell are you talking to yourself for?", a voice from behind Mikazuki said. Mikazuki jumped and promptly looked back to find X right behind her. In contrast of X's obnoxious poker face, Mikazuki's face was flushed red due to embarrassment.

"Wha- What are you doing here?!", she snapped at X.

"Nothing much"

"Wha- What does that even mean?!", X shrugged as in saying I don't know what to say. "S- So how much did you hear?", Mikazuki's head dropped as she faced X.

"Something about asking an idiot something"

"Oh... Yeah... About that...", Mikazuki stuttered a bit. "You're the idiot I meant"

"What the hell...", X sighed after knowing he was the idiot Mikazuki meant. "Is this going to take long?"

"Might be... Are you in a rush?"


"Then you don't want me to talk with you?", Mikazuki gave a saddened face due to mocking X earlier.

"I never said that", X said as he looked away from Mikazuki.

"Then?", Mikazuki's eyebrow raised.

"Let's go the to park nearby"

It was around 11 o'clock at night. X and Mikazuki walked towards the park with no interchanging words on the way. Mikazuki kept on fidgeting her fingers all the way towards the park, while X simply strode lazily as usual. Around them are some people enjoying the park on their own way.

The two walked towards the pond with a clock tower in the middle of the park. It was unusually quiet there. Mikazuki went ahead and sat on a nearby bench as X fiddles with his menu.

"Catch", X said as he tossed a bottle of Zutto Berry juice at Mikazuki. Mikazuki reacted a little late but was able to caught the bottle anyway.

"Umm... Thanks", Mikazuki looked at X with a slight smile.

"So... What's it about?", X slumped down on the bench beside Mikazuki. He opened his bottle and started drinking his juice.

"Well... How do I put it?"

"Something bothering you?"

"Sort of...", Mikazuki started looking more depressed as she started to think about how to tell X about her worries. "You see... It's about that catch phrase or something we heard at the start of the game"

"Will you fight for honour, or fight for your life?", X blurted out the exact question playing in Mikazuki's mind.

"Yes... That one", Mikazuki answered. She held the bottle she received from X even tighter. "I can't find the answer to that question every single time it plays in my mind"

"So what?"

"It bothers me", she said as she faced X's face. X looked back at her with his hideous eyes to find Mikazuki staring into his eyes. X didn't expect her to look at his eyes directly like that and threw his gaze into the distance.

"Why would it bother you so much?", X asked her and got the courage to look straight into Mikazuki's eyes.

"It's just... So many things had happened after coming into this world", Mikazuki said with her voice starting to shake. "I've witnessed a lot of deaths in this game and thought that one day it would occur to me.", Mikazuki held X's left hand with both her hands. Her head was pointed downwards in a way that X couldn't see her eyes even through her bangs.

"You see... My mom is bedridden and isn't really someone with a stable emotion. She would always get bothered by little things. That's why I have to take care of her everyday since my dad had passed away a couple of years ago. My bigger brother also dropped out of school to find a job and keep our family alive. Now I'm just a burden to them", Mikazuki's hands covered her eyes as she started to cry in front of X.

"Didn't I told you before? You can only rely on yourself in this eat or be eaten game. About the real world, you can't do anything yet", X pulled Mikazuki's head towards his chest and allowed her to rest her head there. He patted Mikazuki's white-greyish hair slowly in hope of calming her down.

"You know... What you do and what you say is the exact opposite isn't it?", Mikazuki pouts and lightly hit X's chest without moving her head away from him.

"Look who's talking", X scoffed and rested his head on Mikazuki's.

After a couple of minutes passed in silence, X slowly stood up from the bench. Mikazuki was shocked at first, but she then moved away from X's chest.

"What are you doing?", Mikazuki asked as X took off his black trench coat and threw it at Mikazuki.

"It's getting cold. Use it and follow me", said X, who was now only using his black short-sleeved turtle neck.

"Wh- What do you mean by that? That's creepy!", Mikazuki jumped as she thought of something strange. X could only looked at her with an annoyed face.

"If you're thinking about something weird, then you're the one who's weird.", X said as he walked towards the clock tower. "I'm just gonna show you something, that's all". Although Mikazuki had her doubts, she still followed behind X and put on X's trench coat while walking.

X stopped at the bridge connecting the side of the pond to the clock tower and took a look at his reflection on the pond. Mikazuki followed him while still wondering what X is doing.

"Why did you follow me?", X suddenly said.

"Didn't you told me to?", Mikazuki gave a confused look at X.

"What would happen if I tossed you into the water now?", X glared at Mikazuki's eyes. Mikazuki's eyes widened and took a step back.

"Wh- Why are you asking that?!"

"No reason", X said as he faced away from Mikazuki. Mikazuki scratched her head then walked closer to X again.

"Didn't I just told you that I might throw you into the pond?"

"You're not going t-", Mikazuki was cut before finishing her sentence by X pushing her towards the water. However, X didn't push that hard that Mikazuki fell off the bridge's railing.

"What was that about?!", Mikazuki got enraged at X and pushed him off the bridge. "Wha- I didn't mean that to happen!", she exclaimed after she realized what she did.

X stood up on the pool and walked towards the bridge's railing. "You came close to me at first. Now you pushed me over. Does that tell you anything?", Mikazuki gave a confused face accompanied by a slight huh sound from her mouth. "You acted on impulse did you?", X asked. Mikazuki gave a slight nod. X climbed the railing and stood in front of Mikazuki.

"You're not making sense", Mikazuki pouted as she gave X's trench coat back.

"How do I say it right?", X said as he took the trench coat and put it on. "It's the right thing to do according to you isn't it?".

"I'm not sure"

"You just don't realize you did it. It's something like reflex"

"If you put it that way... I guess you're right", Mikazuki conceded as she sighed.

"So... Will you fight for honour, or fight for your life?"

"I... I don't know", Mikazuki's head dropped as she heard the same question again.

"You're the only one who could answer that question", X said as he start walking away from Mikazuki. Mikazuki's  head dropped even lower after X passed her.

After a couple of steps, X stopped and said "I'm going to fight for both". Mikazuki's eyes widen and turned her head towards X. He looked back at her and gave a slight smile at Mikazuki, "What you think is the right thing to do is your honour. And you have to fight for your life to survive, especially when you have people back at the real world waiting for you. So what I'm gonna do is fight for both"

"I see...", Mikazuki gave a smile back at X. "Sorry for pushing you into the pond earlier"

"Why did you think I took my coat off?", X asked her. Mikazuki could only gave a curious look. "There's a huge chance a reckless girl like you would do that", X said as he walked away from her.

Mikazuki threw the unopened juice bottle at X and hit his head.

"Hey I paid that for you!", X said in an annoyed tone and took the juice bottle at the ground. Mikazuki laughed and rushed towards X.

"Thanks for the drink!", she said as she took the bottle away from X's hands and drank it.

"What the hell...", X glared at Mikazuki with his obnoxious eyes. "Whatever... Let's go back", he finally gave up. Mikazuki nodded and followed X from behind.


"For what?"

"Everything...", Mikazuki finished her juice. "You're not as bad as I thought you would be"

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?", X scoffed at Mikazuki's comment.

"Nothing", Mikazuki said in a playful way.

1 Onii-chan is pretty mich like big brother. And yes, Mikazuki is also now caught up with Oxide's "everyone's big brother" campaign 2 Mikazuki's nickname used by Oxide and Val

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chapter 14: For Today a Dream...

"Welcome adventurers!", a voice called out in a pitch black surrounding. "We have been expecting you. We have requested help, but not many have complied with us. We are very happy for you to help us in our time of need."

"This is our darkest hour. Lately the number of monsters have been increasing rapidly.", the voice said as the screen shows a battle of a knight of some sort fighting a lot of monsters. He eventually got overrun and died. "Our fighters aren't able to defend ourselves from this outrage. Thus we have rest all our hopes in you!"

"We want to end this outrage as soon as possible. But to do that, you will have to brave yourselves to go against challenges ahead of your journey.", the screens shows blazing volcanoes, icy tundra, vast deserts, and other dangerous looking places the players will most likely face in their adventure.

"But we have faith in you! Fight on brave warriors!"

"That's a boring cut scene", X said as he woke up from the game's starting cut scene. He was standing on a rock formation near a small clearing in front of the floor gate as he scouts ahead towards the first town. Mikazuki was standing near X trying to scout ahead of their position with him. Although she didn't wish to do it, but Oxide gave out a simple order at her and she agreed without hesitation.

On a the small clearing, Oxide and Val were checking the map to plan the route the group will take to the first town. The closest town available to visit is called Orestead Town, and Oxide decided to visit that town first to find more information about what are the players supposed to do to go up a floor and other basic needs for an adventurer. Val was checking for possible harvests places for her store. She had found out that she could move her store to the floor she's on by paying three quarters of the rent building she would be occupying. Of course, it's not like she couldn't afford it if she was supposed to pay it fully.

Barrios was also at the small clearing. He met up with some Alpha Wolves members and decided to held an impromptu meeting with a some of them. Seemingly it was a meeting about their plans on this floor and other clan stuffs. He had already said to Oxide that he could leave him here and meet up in the town later.

"Well... You can always make it more interesting yourself you know.", Mikazuki replied X's complains on the simple starting cutscene. "Most RPGs don't really have any cutscenes at all, you just start off out of nowhere.", she continued.

"Just how many RPGs have you played?"

"Not much", Mikazuki averted her face as she quickly gave an answer. "It isn't that bad just to set it up just like that. It gives you more options, I think"

"Why would they even bother making it anyway?", X pouted. Mikazuki sighed as she's left speechless by X's complaints.

"Alright you two! We're going off now", Oxide called over the 2 assassins. X jumped down the rock formation, followed by Mikazuki. Both calmly walked towards Oxide and Val.

"Hey hey... Are both of you on a relaxing Sunday stroll?", Oxide teased the two assassins. Mikazuki's eyes widen and she gave off a surprised ehh, as X just looked at Oxide with an uninterested look.

"Onii-chan, stop teasing them already", Val pouted beside him.

"Ooo what's this? Imouto-san is jealous?"

"Ahh? Ehh... N- No!"

"Quit wasting time. Let's go.", X took the initiative to stop the chit-chat as he pulled his hood down and started walking towards the path. The others could only looked at him from behind until Oxide lightly pushed the two girl's shoulders, causing them to start following X.

"Val, is there anywhere you want to check before going to town?", X asked as he scans around for any threat.

"Not really. I can always check later after we settled down"

"Is that so...", X looked around to check the positions of his team-mates.

"What's with looking around again and again? It's creeping me out", Mikazuki shot her complain at X. She thought that X was trying to steal a glance at her and Val, thus always gave off an irritated gaze at him, not that X cares of course.

"Not really. It's just he likes to know where everyone is before making a move out of his usual position.", Val explained. Both her and Oxide just gave of a smile at Mikazuki. They had already noted that X does this often, although at first they felt that he checked way to often, but knowing the pace and how unexpected X likes to move, they soon got used to it.

The route they took towards Orestead Town wasn't exactly filled with a lot of challenges, however it took a bit long since X decided to do an early grind1. Oxide was gave off a bored feeling as they reached the gates, but Mikazuki rebutted since she thinks that level grinding is indeed important, only to be teased by Oxide that she played too much games.

"I'm taking my leave here", X said as he walked away with his left hand lazily waving the the other three.

"That was quick...", Mikazuki said. Oxide and Val nodded at her comment.

"Oh well... It's not like he would stick with us forever. I'm probably just gonna call him if I need some help in the workshop", Oxide said.

"Come to think of it, we haven't added you in our friend list Mikazuki", Val said. She opened her menu and send a friend request at Mikazuki, followed by Oxide. Mikazuki accepts both the invitations after a notification came up on her HUD.

"Do you have anything to do after this Mika-chan?"

"Not really. I just need to find a place to stay"

"Is that so? Why don't you accompany me setting up my restaurant on this floor?", Mikazuki agreed with a nod without a second thought.

"Can I come?" Oxide asked with a big smile on his face.

"Nope. Girls only", Val rejected her brother immediately while showing her palm in front of his face. She took Mikazuki's hand and went off with her, leaving the frozen Oxide behind. Oxide's soul went flying afterwards, seemingly went off sightseeing without it's dumbfounded body.

After leaving the rest, X went to find an affordable inn he could stay in. For the next couple of days, he planned to check around the place and know what exactly is the goal for each floor. For the past couple of hours, he had learnt that the gameplay itself isn't that far off from the Proving Grounds floor, cities and towns are safe zones, most loot can be taken from a dungeon, any wild area has monsters to beat. However, he still hasn't see the point to all of it. For him, this is basically another RPG game with the exception of unable to log out and players play with their life.

"Excuse me. Can I ask for your help?", a voice called out. X looked at the direction of the voice's origin and found a little boy using a rag in a nearby alley. He walked towards him and stood in front of him.

"Would it be okay if you would listen to me for a while?", the boy asked. X was hesitant to listen to the story at first, but after he realized the boy didn't have a player icon above him, thus it was obvious that the boy was an NPC.

His thought was answered by the quest notification tab showing up on his HUD:

A boy has concerns about a dream he saw last night, listen to the boy to know more about the dream.
Clear Condition: Listen to the boy's story
Reward(s): -

After reading the quest notification carefully, he decided to listen to the boy even though there wasn't any reward in doing so. He felt that the quest held something important, since it was weird that most people didn't even realize the existence of the boy.

"Well... It's about a dream I saw last night.", the boy started. The next instant, X felt like he fainted as his vision turned into pitch black.

"Ugh...", X grunted as he regained conciousness. He stood up while holding to his head which was in pain. When he realized it, he was standing on a cliff looking towards a certain structure. The sky was dyed blood red, and the distant clouds were dark grey and unleashing its fury to the ground. The sun was behind the structure, thus he couldn't see the structure well. A strong wind was bowing around from various directions.

"In my dream, I woke up to the sounds of thunder and raging winds. The sky was red, and there were thunderstorms in the distant.", the boy's voice said. X looked around, but he couldn't find the boy anywhere he looked.

"There was a strange rocky structure in the distance. However I have no idea what it was.", X looked at the structure after listening to the boy's voice. "I wonder what it was. I wonder if it held something important."

A lightning struck the structure. Not long afterwards, some kind of a dragon emerged from the summit of the structure, spreading it's wings and roared. All the thunder cracks were no match against the dragon's roar.

"Some kind of creature emerged from the structure. It roared so loud that I had to cover up my ears from it. After I opened my ears, I listened to the symphony of wrath. The roars of the dragon and thunder mixed in their deranged chorus sent me the chills."

X stared at the dragon with chills sent down to his spine, just as the boy had felt. He wondered if there is such thing like this in the following floors, and if there is, how could he tackle the fear of staring into this death's rhapsody.

"All of you humans have no chance against us! We have come to bring terror to your land! We will avenge all the deaths you have brought upon our brethren! And there will be no hope left for you!", the boys voice said accompanied by a distorted heavy voice. "... said the creature", the boy's voice alone explained afterwards.

"The creature...", the dragon started flapping its wings, "...started flying around the rocky structure", flew around the structure, "and suddenly charged at me", and suddenly darted towards X.

X's eyes widen upon seeing the dragon darting fast at him. He tried to take out his dual daggers but he realized he wasn't in his regular clothing, but in a rag like the boy was wearing. Cold sweat dropped down from his forehead as he tried to run away from the dragon. He looked back at the dragon just to see it's jaws opening. His vision suddenly blacked out.

X opened his eyes. He looked around and saw that he was back in Orestead. He could only looked at the boy. The boy smiled at him and said "Thanks for listening mister!", and went off. On his HUD, he saw the notification that he had completed the quest given by the boy. However, he still wasn't cured from the shock of seeing the boy's dream.

He held down his hood even lower that it was, afraid of other people to see his terrified face. It was bad enough to experience a near death like experience like that, even worse if he told anyone else about it. But deep down, he knew that that strange quest had something to do with the game itself. He thought it could be either the storyline of the game, or a certain bad end.

"Snap out of it damn it", X said to himself whilst shaking his head. He paced up himself and head straight to his inn. Before he could reach his inn however, he got a message from Oxide to meet him at the entrance of the town. Although he was thinking of ditching Oxide, he finally decided to meet up with Oxide, knowing that it probably be important for Oxide to call him out.

It wasn't exactly a long distance to go from X's position to the entrance of town, however it felt like an eternity for X who was still shaken by the quest he took earlier. Thus after steadily taking one step at a time, X was able to meet up with Oxide.

"Took you some time", Oxide said as he waved lightly at X. "What happened to running through the rooftops?"

"Not in the mood", X bluntly replied. Oxide raised his brows on X's reply, not expecting the answer he heard.

"What's up? You look hideous", Oxide said while pulling off X's hood.

"It's nothing", X held on to the front side of his hood before Oxide could fully reveal his face. "Either way, what did you call me up for?"

"Nothing much. I'm just thinking about taking a stroll with you"

"I'm outta here", X started walking back towards his inn. Oxide's face quickly turned from his regular genuine smile into a dumbfounded face. However he snapped out of his dumbfound state and caught X by his shoulder.

"It's not important isn't it? I'm going back"

"You can't read the situation as usual huh?", X shot his trademarked obnoxious glare at Oxide on his comment. "I'm kinda interested in something, and I was wondering if you have any idea about it". X faced Oxide and sighed in front of him, thinking to himself why should this guy go roundabout every single time?, and finally just stared at Oxide signalling him to start talking.

"Have you heard of a quest where only a couple of people can do?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"There's this quest giver that seemed like he gave out quests only to some players", a certain little boy's face ran through X's head. "This might be my speculation, but I think the players who are able to receive the quests are selected by the game developers"

"Did you receive the quest?"

"Yeah. It was a weird quest. The quest said that I only had to listen, but I felt like I was sent to another world or something like that"

"Who gave the quest?", X immediately asked after Oxide finished his answer. Oxide took a step back, shocked by X's sudden question.

"Whoa! Slow down. You can always say that you're bored from accompanying me"

"Who gave the quest?"

"I got it from some kid"

"What was it about?"

"Something about some end of the world kind of thing. Although it did contain some cool flying chameleon or the sort...", X was caught off by Oxide describing a certain dragon as a flying chameleon, thus causing him to lose focus and didn't listen to the final part of Oxide's description.

X snapped out of his confusion after Oxide flicked his finger in front of his eyes. He immediately blinked his eyes quickly and looked around to remind him what he was doing.

"What's up with you?"

"I kinda lost focus in the middle of your delusional lecture"

"Am I really that boring?", Oxide said with a displeased face.

"Not really. You're just idiotic in your own way", Oxide smacked X's back while exclaiming what exactly do you mean by that?!, causing a number of crowd to look at the two. X pulled down his hood even lower as Oxide tried to explain to the crowd that it was nothing.

"Sorry about that. You really are harsh sometimes"

"You're the one who overreacted", Oxide could only gave a hopeless/annoyed smile at X's reply.

"Either way, where did you lose focus?"

"Somewhere around flying chameleon or so", X shot a glare at the smiling Oxide with a hidden meaning of it won't happen if it wasn't for a certain flying chameleon.

"The next part was something like some boring melancholic monotone. Sounded like an end of the world propaganda though"

"We might get the same quest"

"Really?!", X nodded as an answer.

"Either way I haven't exactly looked into it seriously. I'll leave it to you, shishou2", X said as he walked away from Oxide. Oxide had another dumbfound face he usually makes when X suddenly did something on his own accord.

"Thanks shishou", X suddenly said after taking a few steps away from Oxide.

"For what?"

"A certain lame flying chameleon joke", X said and walked away.

1 Raising level by defeating monsters or the sort
2 Shishou is basically a more respectful way of saying sensei (Teacher/Mentor in case you didn't know)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chapter 13: "Let's Start the Game"

A room filled with computer screens, accompanied by the constant whirring of the computers, a figure looked into the big screen on display and laughed.

"Is this finally the time where I can witness people fighting for their lives?". Fixing his glasses and rearranging his suit, the figure gave a smile most people will find creepy.

"Let's see what you have then, shall we? Entertain me!"

The square was full of warriors making their final preparation before setting of to fight for their first floor freedom. It was 9.25 in the morning. Everyone was looking at a single podium where stands Havok explaining to his barbarians his battle plan.

3 shady characters was at the roof of a nearby tavern also looking at Havok from their vantage point. All of them were waiting for another member who had seemingly overslept due to a midnight stroll. Not a while later, the final member finally showed up.

"Sorry for the wait"

"I thought you decided to back down for this op", said one of the shadows that was waiting for the last of the four to arrive. He was using a bright red cloak, which seemingly didn't do it's purpose to cover up his upper body. Anyone could guess that it was a huge defender hiding his shiny armour with his cloak. He was holding his huge blade's hilt as it was still holstered at his back. with a smirk on his face which could make almost anyone want to smack his face, it was the one and only Barrios.

"Shut up, Barrios", said the shadow who overslept. He was wearing a full black half torso cloak complete with a matching black muffler which covers his face all the way to his nose from his neck. With his throwing knives neatly placed in it's holster on the backside of his grey pants, his defensive dagger holstered on his left hip, and his lethal Spyker on his right hip. His hideous looking eyes were glaring sharply at the laughing Barrios, seemingly annoyed by his playful colleague. The shadow was no other than the obnoxious Extorsion, the widely known assassin who standed up againts The Chivalry.

"Come on you two... Stop fighting already", the shadow with white sakura patterned hooded trench coat stepped between the two. The shadow was Val, one of the strongest fencers in Blademasters Online, although she was more well known as the best sandwich maker in her restaurant, the Ridgeview Crest. She had prepared her Linnaea on her left hip.

"Alright! Since we have everyone here, let's start our battle planning!", an annoying 'bigger brother' said as he grabbed X and Barrios by their necks. Val laughed at the two's expense from his brother's tight hug choke.

 Thus the last shadow was Oxide, Val's older brother. He was wearing a green short sleeved jacket over his white under shirt and greyish brown long cargo pants. His short sabre was at his back, accompanied by throwing knives fitted in their respective holsters on his right shoulder. He also brings a number of assorted explosives in the little pouch on his backside which he strapped to his belt.

Barrios and X used their eyes and made a plan to payback Oxide for choking them and decided to fall backwards and smack Oxide's head to the ground. As they did, Oxide noticed and let go both of their heads. As a result only two people were holding their respective heads which they smacked to the ground. Oxide laughed at their expense while Val ran over and scolded them for being dumb.

"Alright, that's enough my dear little sister", Oxide lightly pushed his sister back. Val made an annoyed face but decided to follow what his brother said.

"Let's get serious", Oxide said as he changed his face drastically from playful to serious.

"This is what we know so far. Havok divided his force into a certain number of squadrons. It's a bit hard to determine the number of squads, but each squadron will have a number of Chivalry veteran members that seemingly will serve as lieutenants for each squad."

"Do we know what will each squad do?"

"Not yet, but I get the idea of what Havok is trying to do", Oxide opened his map.

"Havok's going to use a very complicated tactic, but most of those tactics are simply bluffs to confuse the opposing faction."

He points at a middle point of the designated war area and said, "This is where the main heat of the battle would take place."

"His main attack force will be overloading the battlefield. He would deploy his sweeper team by the sides of the battle area to pick off retreating opponents, and his backup attack force will be not far behind the main force to do a switch at any time with the main force."

"He's not really using the whole width of the map is he?", Val asked a question as she noted the lack of attack area.

"Good question.",  Oxide said as he pointed at her. "But that's not really the case. Didn't I say most of his plans were only to deceive?", everyone raised their heads from the map and looked at Oxide as he seemed like he knew something.

"Alright then. Barrios, you know what to do." Oxide gave a slight look towards Barrios. Barrios replied with his world-famous smirk and gave a thumbs up before he left the others.

"You're calling over the Alpha Wolves for this?", X asked in disbelief. Oxide gave a nod as an answer.

"Why exactly?"

"I'm getting there. Just hang on a minute", Oxide ruffled X's hair. X pushed of his hand while prompting him to get to the point.

"Right. I told what the Alpha Wolves' mission to Barrios yesterday. The idea is that he will give the three of us a window to operate."

"What is it that we're going to do?"

"We're going to take out those who are calling the shots"

Under the scorching heat of the sun the sounds of war can be heard all around the battlefield. The sound of blades clashing, the sound of someone barking orders, the sound of those calling for reinforcements, the sounds of those in pain. The battle had started about 2 hours ago. Havok's forces made progress slowly, but most of his fighters were getting exhausted. Despite most of the casualties were from the opposing faction, they had lost a number of fighters, two of them high-rankers. With the fact that you are fighting with your very own life in the battle, more and more fighter's morale began to fall.

Havok along with his fellow high-ranking Chivalry members were behind trees for cover, thinking of a way around this battle. They have not heard from one of their five flanker teams, with the rest reporting that they have been held from progress.

One of his main attack force squad leaders called Havok to give a sitrep (situation report), "Havok sir! Something is out of place! We have one or two of our ambush sweepers charging into the battlefield!", accompanied by the sounds of the battlefield on the background.

"What?! Tell them to go back to their positions!"

"They don't seem to be responding at all!", the answer came with background sounds of some people trying to order the black horse squad back to their position.

"Damn it! What about the rest of the attack force?"

"We're all in panic! Suddenly about 50 people jump out and start occupying the battle space! Hey, who threw a smoke bomb?! Damn it! Visibility is also impaired! It's a total mess out here!"

"My my... Isn't this one heck of a mess?", a different sound came from behind Havok. Three people walk in a relaxed pace towards himm. The one in front of him, using a green jacket and gave a deceiving smile at his expense, was Oxide. To his right was a white-hooded fencer hold the hilt of her sheathed rapier giving a curious eye at her dear brother was Valeria. Looking towards his left, Havok saw the horrifying eyes he'd knew anywhere who was making an uninterested face which belongs to Extorsion.

"What do you want?", Havok mustered up the courage to speak at the dangerous looking trio after telling his field leader that he would 'think a way out of it and contact him later'. "Are you the one behind this sudden attack?!"

X scoffed and smiled hideously at his question, Val still retained her angelic smile, and Oxide gave a vague sounding maybe~ while acting innocent. Havok sharpen his eyes and stared straight at Oxide. "What do you want?! I don't have time to mess around!"

"Is that so? Well, do you want to explain to your superior what happened?", Oxide said as he strafed to his left. Behind him was a female assassin, with her white-greyish hair tied up into a single pony tail. She was wearing a light blue sleeveless trench coat, with both her arms from the elbow to her fingers wrapped by white tape. She had her butterfly swords holstered, each on the opposite side of her hips.

"Umm.. M- My name is Mikazuki. I'm from flanker team Haemorrhage", the girl said.

"Haemorrhage? That's the team which lost contact with us. Where are the rest?", Havok inquired. Mikazuki fidgeted for a second before answering "No one else survived". A gust of wind slowly passed by as it disrupted the silence from shock.

"Wh- What happened?"

30 minutes before...

In the middle of a dense forest, 5 people gathered up waiting for the green light to be given for them to start their operation. All of them were running the plan again in their heads. They were given the task to take out the opponent's possible high rankers, fitting their team name, to haemorrhage the opponent's chain of command.

"Alright, we're moving out. Pay attention to your surroundings", the rogue in command told his team members. They all move out of hiding and start moving towards the enemy's position.

Suddenly the rogue beside Mikazuki was hanging upside down on a tree with his foot ensnared by a rope. Amongst the sudden ensnarement, the other assassin got hit by a projectile. The team leader shouted "It's an ambush" before getting stabbed in the back by an enemy, and the last rogue impaled right in the neck. Mikazuki tried running away from the ambush, but she was caught by a thrown rope trap and crashed into a tree.

What Mikazuki could see from her eyes was four grey hooded people walking towards her. One of them caught the dangling rogue, smacked him to the ground and slitted a blade onto his chest. Mikazuki was paralysed by the shock and fear as the four killers walk towards her.

"Tell us where your leader is!", one of the grey hooded killer pointed a sword at her. She tried to speak but her voice was cut off from the fear enveloping her.

"You do realize that you're just going to be killed if you tell him that right?". A gust of wind passed through the area, completing the tense sensation everyone was having.

"Who said that?!!", everyone's eyes scattered to find the source of the sound, including the petrified Mikazuki.

"Don't mess around with us! I will seriously kill this girl!", the guy holding the sword towards Mikazuki's nose hand shook as he said his reply.

"Yeah sure, just do it. None of you are getting out of here alive anyway"

As the person threatening Mikazuki was about to give a reply, he suddenly got stabbed on his stomach by a rapier wielded by Val. As the others were getting ready to charge at Val, two of them suddenly fell and break into pixels. X walked out of a nearby bush toying with his Spyker. The last grey hooded person used an escape mechanism, but nothing happened. While he was still confused, Oxide stabbed his katana form behind him, thus killing him.

Val walked towards Mikazuki and stretches out her hand towards her, "Are you okay?". Mikazuki gave a simple Unn and nodded. She took Val's hand and stood up. After standing up, she looks at her three saviours and seemed to study them.

"H- How did you take them out so easily?"

"Hmm... We were tailing you and found out that you were about to be ambushed", Val answered as she tried to clean Mikazuki's clothes.

"Sorry we couldn't save your friends. We were tailing at quite a distance from you.", Oxide added. He gave a sympathetic look at Mikazuki. Mikazuki slumped down when she realized that she's the only one who survived the attack. She covered her eyes as tears started spilling from her eyes. Val crouched over and pats her back while trying to console her and Oxide went speechless upon seeing the sight.

"Does it even matter? At least it isn't your fault. If your going to blame anyone, you can place your blame at Kiyoshi Hayate for making this game a death trap", X said in a laid back manner as he gave a gaze to Roxanne with his scary looking eyes.

"Say what?!", Mikazuki got angry from X's statement. Her face was flushed red by anger with tears spilling from the sides of her eyes. Her eyes darted sharply at X, but it backfired since X's eyes are probably the scariest looking eyes known to man.

"Either way, no one's going to look out for you. You can only rely on yourself for your own survival", X continued his harsh words. Mikazuki felt fed up and tried to get up but Val stopped her and tried to calm her down. Oxide gave a serious face at X while saying "If you're just gonna make this harder, then don't say a word". X scoffed off but didn't refute Oxide's words and went silent.

"Sorry about him. He's a bit direct most of the time", Val tried explaining to Mikazuki. "But once you get to know him, he can be pretty nice"

"As if", Oxide punched X lightly on his arm. X smacked him on the back of his head and gave an uninterested look. Val and Oxide started laughing, which in a couple of seconds rubbed off to Mikazuki. Instead of saying another thing for Mikazuki to hate him even more, X sighed as he looked away from everyone.

"But seriously, how did you guys defeat them all?", Mikazuki said after she managed to suppress her laugh.

"Did you feel a gust of wind when you were threatened?", Oxide started his explanation by asking back. Mikazuki gave a little nod as if not understanding where this is going.

"Well, that's that idiot's attack", Oxide pointed at X while X stared at him and said "If you ever say that again, I'm gonna violate your human rights".

"His dagger allows him to make the enemy's health bar keep decreasing after being hit by the attack, and he can also dish out some serious amount of damage on one hit", Val took over explaining while the boys were still arguing pointlessly. "Then I attacked the person pining you down with my weapon skill, which allows me to lunge forward twice as far. So basically I lunged from behind you and used the momentum to attack him". Mikazuki nodded as she understood the simple explanation Val gave. "Lastly, you noticed that the last guy was using a skill right? My brother used his weapon skill to render any skill useless", Val said as she pointed at her brother who was waving at her with X's head stuck between his arms and torso.

"You guys sure are strong", Mikazuki said as she stood up. "So what are you guys going to do now?"

"Take out the enemy's chain of command", Oxide said as he let X go from his grasps.

"So that means you guys are also an advance team?", Mikazuki asked.

"What do you mean 'we'? Three of us aren't working with The Chivalry", X replied to her. Mikazuki's face turned into a puzzled look.

"We're working on our own to clear this floor", Oxide explained further. "Our main goal is simply to cause the opposing team fall into anarchy, therefore giving an advantage for you guys"

"Is that so?", Mikazuki finally understood.

"So what are you going to do?", Val asked Mikazuki.

"Err... Umm...", Mikazuki stuttered to answer Val's question.

"You come with us, then we'll accompany you to meet Havok", Oxide offered her. After some seconds of thinking, Mikazuki agreed to follow them.

"Very well! So my name's Oxide", Oxide said as he punched himself on his chest.

"I'm Valeria, but you can simply call me Val", Val followed after her brother and gave a calming smile."The other guy's Extorsion, but you can just call him X", Val continued as X had already went scouting ahead.

"I see. I'm Mikazuki. Pleased to meet all of you", Mikazuki introduced herself.

"Alright then let's go", Oxide said while waving the two girls to come over. Oxide called X from the menu, but he can only hear static from the call.

"It seems like they jammed the communications somehow", Oxide said. "X is somewhere ahead, let's find him first."

After a couple of minutes, the three of them reached what seemed like a clearing in the middle of the forest, packed by quite a number of grey apparelled people with their weapons on their hands. X was waiting at the edge of the clearing, greeting the trio he left with you've been sightseeing in an annoyed manner.

"So... Any ideas?", Oxide asked the others.

"I thought usually you make the calls bro", Val replied. She was surprised that his brother was asking for an idea.

"Well... Why don't we let our new member speak up?", Oxide answered.

"Since when are we adding members?", X asked.

"Isn't the more the merrier X?", Val asked him. X sighed and simply agreed since he knew Oxide would definitely do something like that.

"Ehh? I'm now your member?", Mikazuki suddenly asked. Oxide and Val looked at her with a surprised look.

"Can we just stick with the plan and let her decide later?", X said with an uninterested tone. This time the other three looked at him in disbelief he just said that.

"You can actually make a good idea. Big brother's proud", Oxide threw a sarcasm at X. And yes, Oxide is a self-proclaimed 'everyone's big brother' which only X objected, but went with it in the end. Mikazuki wondered how does X's scary looking eyes can be related to Val and Oxide's kind face, but Val explained to her immediately about her brother's 'everyone's big brother' campaign and laughed it off.

"So, any ideas Mikazuki?", Oxide went back to the main topic.

"Umm... I'm not sure I have one", she said with a sorry look on her face. Oxide laughed it off as he told her it's okay. He looked around and see that X looked like he had a plan in mind.

"Seems like you have a plan X. Can we hear it?"

"Throw a burning gas above the area, cover the sun, I'll use disappear in the shadows of the burning gas cloud and take out the high-rankers.", X said without averting his gaze from the clearing.

"There are quite some of them you know. Mikazuki, I'm tasking you to help him take out the high-rankers, and clear out before the gas hits the ground. Can you do it?"

"One question. What's a burning gas?", Mikazuki looked at Oxide with a confused look.

"It's an explosive that creates a type of gas that burns anything it touches"

"Wahh.... Isn't that dangerous?"

"Why do you think he asked you to get out before it hits the ground?", X asked her in a tone which give a you should already know that vibe. Mikazuki pouted at him, but Val stopped the conflict within a sec.

"Come on, you guys need to stop fighting", Val said to the two of them.

"Fine. I'm taking out 4 of them at the far side, you're taking out the rest", X instructed Mikazuki. Mikazuki seemed annoyed to be ordered around by X, but this time she decided to agree with the orders.

"Val, get their attention at the far side", X instructed Val. She immediately set off without hesitation. X looked at Oxide as if he was about to give him orders, but Oxide gave a look that he understood what he needs to do. The two of them nodded at the same time, with Mikazuki thinking if the two guys are wierdos for the strange action they just did.

"As soon as the smoke pops, we move out", X gave a look at Mikazuki, and she replied with a reassuring nod which caused X to give a slight smile. Mikazuki's eyes widens as she say X smiled, since she thought all X can do is just cause headaches to other people in his poker face and occasional scoffs.

"Make sure to call Barrios after the smoke pops", X said to Oxide. Oxide smiled and said "You read my mind".

Val took out a whole platoon of opponents on the opposing side, which caused everyone at the clearing to look at her and prepare to attack. Just as they touched their weapons in their respective holsters, the area turned dark from the cloud of burning gas Oxide had thrown. Within seconds, several assassinations took place on the battlefield, all of them directed at the high-rankers. As the burning gas reached the ground, the opposing force's numbers had decreased drastically.

"Hold on a second. So you're saying-"

"The enemies are in a whole bigger mess than what you are in", Oxide cut Havok from finishing his sentence and answering his question at the same time. "I advice you to take out the remaining enemies out quickly before another batch of enemies pop up"

Havok's cold sweat dripped down to the ground. He can't believe what just happened was simply caused by three people outside of his well-known guild. Even with the Haemorrhage team, his trump card gone, three people could deal more damage to the enemy that he could ever imagine.

Although there are a lot of things he couldn't believe, the three people had earned his respect. He immediately called his main battle force and asked them to push forward with the team that caused the chaos in the main battlefield, which was no other than Barrios' Alpha Wolves.

Within a couple of minutes, the battle for the first floor was cleared. Everyone was in front of the gate cheering for their success. Many warriors were swinging their swords above their heads, some of them fell and cried joyful tears after a horrifying battle, and a lot of them can finally relax.

"We are gathered here for our success of our first floor battle! We will now keep on pushing forward all the way to the 100th floor and win battles like this and be free of this game!", Havok started a speech in front of the gate.

"Before we open the gate, I would like to say something.", everyone turned quiet after these words. "I would like to say that The Chivalry isn't the best guild that we have in this game". The crowd started murmuring after Havok uttered out those words. "There will be guilds that might be better than us in the future, but I will assure you that I will work hard to lead this guild to our freedom!", Havok said and the crowd start cheering again.

"Well... Well... What a fascinating speech you have there" a voice suddenly said. Everyone's eyes scattered, but no one found the source of the sound. Suddenly a hologram showed up beside Havok. Havok jumped back in panic and prepared to pull out his sword, but the hologram was no other than the creator of the game itself, Kiyoshi Hayate.

"Now that all of you have familiarize yourself with this game, I belief it is time to start the real game.". The crowd went silent after he uttered those words. "Now I shall explain the background of this game. Every single one of you are adventurers who change the tides of battle between humans and monsters. The monsters will have their own factions such as demons, beasts, and other kind of things which you can imagine. To beat a floor, you will need to investigate more deeply to these monsters you will fight, also you will need to help the people in this world to fight these monsters. Each floor will have it's own set of bosses, but it won't be a single boss, you will need to fight for a huge war each time". Everyone was looking at the hologram and no said a single word.

"Anyways, I feel that classes in this game would hinder your true self in fighting, so I decided to drop the idea. You are now free from classes, but you may still call yourself defenders, knights, fencers, rogue, assassins or anything else. I think it will make it easier for you to identify each other, but it's all up to you. Consider this an update in the game. We will also bring you more updates in the following future, so be sure to look forward for the updates! So, LET'S START THE GAME!", the hologram said and disappeared. The gates of the next floor opens automatically, and the notification with the writing "Gates to floor 1" pops up on everyone's HUD.

Havok had snapped out of this strange spin off in the Blademasters Online saga and said a couple of encouragement words to other players and rose their spirits. He allows them to go to the next floor and most people gathered marched forward.

"So", Oxide suddenly said. "Are you going to be with us?"

"Yes!", Mikazuki said without hesitation. Val came over and held her hands.

"I'm so glad!", she said. "Finally there's another girl rather to face these annoying boys"

"So basically you're taking her into a world of annoyance huh?", her brother pouted.

"Hey X. Who's the new girl?", Barrios asked X while the others were busy talking with each other.

"Mikazuki. An assassin. We met her in this battle and Oxide decided to make her join us", X said with a straight face.

"She's hot isn't she? Her clothes also looked like a tight Chinese dress. I won't get tired looking at those curves", Barrios said as he was looking intently at Mikazuki's busts.

"Have you turned into an old geezer?", X asked him back. Barrios shouted in response and got irritated over X for him saying harsh things to him. But well... You know Barrios, he'll be fine in 5 minutes.

"Alright! All of you ready?", Oxide asked as he looked back from taking a step into the gates.

The huge guy in a shiny armour covered by red cloth gave a huge thumbs up at him. The person with the best angelic smile wearing a white hood held on to the hilt of her rapier said "Yes!" at her beloved brother. The new girl in a blue dubbed 'Chinese dress' by Barrios smiled and said "I'm ready". And finally, the guy with hideous eyes wearing all black and occasional dark greys, gave a slight smile.

Thus, begins their campaign to beat Blademasters Online!

Hey guys! Been a while since my last post. I do have a reason for this, I was researching by loads and loads of light novel reading. I realized that my writing skills are rather weak when I read my older posts, and after doing more research I decided to go and change the point of view in my story. I decided to keep using this type of writing as it's easier for me to show the setting and other things. I will update the old chapters into this kind of writing style, but for those who had read it, you won't really need to read it again. Still, be free to read the updated older posts it you want to.

So what do you think of the story so far? Finally the guys are able to get out of what I like to call the "Proving Grounds". To be honest I got kinda caught off on my story direction, but after reading a certain light novel with the chapter's name literally "Turning Point", I think that I can kinda freshen things up a bit. So yes... THIS IS A TURNING POINT.

So thanks for reading, and I would be happy if you would like to give some critics on my story. Till next time!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chapter 12: Behind the Curtains

"What the heck", Havok cursed. "What is wrong with this world?", he continued as he punched a pole.

"Geez... Don't sweat it", I said to him as I walked away.

"What do you mean by don't sweat it?!", he said as he grabbed my hood and yanked me towards him. "We're trapped in this world with no way out! All you're gonna say is 'don't sweat it'?"

"It just means that we have to do our best to beat this world, right X?", Oxide said as he walked towards us. Havok and I stared at Oxide as he smiled accompanied by his sister behind him.

It wasn't really what I meant, but rather than causing another fight with Havok, I nodded at Oxide's statement. Havok let me go after I nodded.

Havok faced his fellow guild members and told them, "We are going to take down the first floor gate! Prepare yourselves! We assemble at our guild house tomorrow at 0900 (9 a.m.)!". He got a loud shout as a reply.

"All right! Dismissed!", Havok shouted at them again. After that, all his guild members went their separate ways to prepare for their battle tomorrow.

"Right... Now what to do?", Oxide said while stretching his arms.

"I guess I'm going back to my restaurant", Val said.

"I'm gonna stop by for dinner. Mind saving a grilled wild meat sandwich for me?", I asked.

"Hahaha. Sure", she said and smiled. After that she bows and left me and Oxide.

"Right!", Oxide surprised me as he yank him and rested his arm on my shoulders. "Now that she's not here, let's do something together", he said with a huge grin.

"Umm... Could it be that you're-"

"I am normal damn it!", Oxide said at he smacked my head.

"You're the one who grinned in that way... Geez", I said as I rubbed the back of my head.

"One day you're gonna thank me for doing that", he laughed as he messed up my hair. "By the way, you haven't had the time to get to my supplier right? We can go there now"

"Isn't the workshop going to be empty?", I asked as we started walking at the marketplace.

"Don't worry about it. I don't get much customers at this time anyway.", he replied. "By the way, where's that golem friend of yours?"

"Barrios? Probably managing his guild. Why?"

"Tell him to meet up at Ridgeview at dinner", he said.

"Why?", I asked.

"No reason. Just do it", he replied.

"Fine", I said. I opened up my friend list and dialed Barrios' contact.

"X? What's up?", I heard Barrios' voice.

"Can you meet up at Ridgeview at dinner?", I asked.

"Why? You're paying?"

"I'd go broke if I pay for your food every time idiot", I replied to him. Meanwhile, Oxide was chuckling next to me. I gave him a 'stay out of this' expression. He got it but kept chuckling anyways.

"Hmm... That sounds like a good thing for me to keep doing", Barrios said through the call.

"I'd make a sushi out of you in that case", I replied to Barrios.

"Woah... Don't say those things with a calm tone. That's creepy", Barrios replied. I sighed after hearing that.

"Anyways, Oxide told me to invite you over. Maybe he's paying", I told Barrios.

"Alright! I'm in!", Barrios happily said over the call, in contrast of Oxide yelling 'I am not!' which sounded like a background voice to me.

"Geez... I did not say he will. Beg him to pay your food by yourself.", I told Barrios. Oxide already went into his supplier's place as I loitered in front of the place.

"Dang it... But if it's Oxide who invites, I guess he has something in mind. I'll be there anyway", he replied.

"Okay. See ya", I said. After he replied his farewell, I hung up.

"You done?", Oxide asked as he walked out of his supplier's place.

"Yeah", I replied.

"It's still to early to go to Ridgeview. Mind accompanying me for a while?", he asked.

"I'm accompanying you from just now... And you're asking me this now?", I asked him.

"Good! Follow me", he said as he signaled me with his fingers to follow him. I didn't say a word and followed him quietly.

Oxide walked to a place I've never been before. He also told me to keep a low profile while I followed him. We went towards the west end of the floor map. Oxide stopped about 100 meters away from the edge of the map.

"You see that big door?", Oxide asked me as he pointed towards a giant door. The door was a double door about 4 meters tall.

"What about it?", I asked.

"This is the gate to the next floor", Oxide answered.

"I count 11 guards.", I told him.

"Look again, X.", he said as he pointed out all the enemies hiding in the bushes and trees. "There are about 30 plus of them out there"

"And that's not counting reinforcements that might come later", I added.

"Right. Havok's forces won't get past this without any casualties tomorrow", he said.

"How does this have any connection with him?", I asked.

"He's still a living being. So are all his followers. You heard it yourself, if you die in this game, you die for real.", he answered.

"How do you even know that? Do you simply take what Kiyoshi Hayate said? You don't even know if it's true or not.", I said.

"Then why don't you finish off your health bar here now? You're not even sure if dying here is for real.", he said.

"Either way, you really will die if you die in-game", Oxide continued before I could say anything back. "If not, I wouldn't be here"

"What do you mean?"

"If this is not a real death game, I wouldn't be here right now", he said. I went speechless immediately.

"Don't tell this to anyone. Not even my sister", he continued. I could see his seriousness in his eyes, and I nodded in response.

"Alright... I'm hungry, let's go back", he said with his trademark grin on his face.

It took us quite a while going back to Ridgeview Crest. We didn't rush going back to the city. Oxide opted to take a longer route and kept on talking pointlessly along the way. I knew he was trying to make me forget what he said seriously back then. I wish I could.

"Yo!", Oxide said as he entered Ridgeview Crest.

"Welcome back!', his sister replied and Barrios waved at Oxide and I.

"I'm going to start preparing dinner", Val said and went into her kitchen.

Oxide gave me a light push towards the kitchen. "Go help her", he whispered. "There's something I need to talk to Barrios in private". I obeyed Oxide's order and went to the kitchen.

"Hey", I said to Val as I entered the kitchen.

"X? What are you doing here?", Val asked me.

"I was told to help you by your brother", I replied. "So what can I do?"

"I don't really need any help though... I might if this is the real world, but this is the simplified version of the real world remember", she replied as she kept on preparing dinner.

"I see... I guess I'm gonna hang around here for a while. He needs to talk to Barrios alone", I replied.

"Suspicous isn't it?", Val said in a teasing tone.

"I know right", I said agreeing to her. "Still, if it's something he wants to speak in private, I guess it can't be helped"

"You respect him a lot, don't you?", Val asked.

"Yeah. Sorry about this, but I kinda view him as a bigger brother", I replied.

"He gets that a lot", Val said as she giggled. "He's the kind of person who looks out for everyone". I nodded in agreement.

"Anyway I'm done. You can help me bring some right?", she asked. I nodded and took two plates out to the counter Barrios and Oxide was sitting on. They looked like talking seriously for a second, but tried to hide it.

 "What are you guys talking about?", I asked as I served their food in front of them.

"Nothing important", Barrios replied as he took a bite of his sandwich. Oxide nodded in agreement and ate his sandwich. I looked at them skeptically, but they ignored it.

"Here X", Val said behind me and gave me my plate. I said thanks and took the plate from her.

"Thanks for the food", Barrios suddenly said.

"That was quick", Val said.

"I'm kinda in a rush", Barrios said as he smiled. I knew that smile was to cover something up, but I decided not to look into the matter, since it's probably from what Oxide said to him.

"I'll be going back for today", Barrios said as he left.

"Okay. Take care", Val said.

"You're really in for a free dinner, aren't you?", I commented on Barrios.

"Maybe", he said as he went out of the restaurant.

"Now then", Oxide said in a serious tone. "We're going to help Havok tomorrow"

"What?! Why should we?!", I disagreed.

"Because people's life are at stake here", Val said. "Right bro?", she confirmed with her brother. Oxide nodded for an answer.

"As much as you despise him, there's a bigger picture to look at", Oxide said. I sighed at him.

"You're not the only one who despise him, X. All four of us do", he continued. Val nodded in agreement.

"I get your point. So what do you want to do?", I asked.

"We're going to help his assault on the gate", he said.

"He'll disagree, won't he bro?", Val asked about his brother's plans.

"We don't need him to agree or disagree", Oxide said. "We're doing it from behind the curtains"

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chapter 11: Different Players

There's just something wrong with this game. I couldn't understand most parts of it. Usually a level boss on an MMORPG would be a monster or some other thing not human. But according to Havok's information that he shared with everyone, he said that the portal to the next floor was guarded by humans, specifically wearing gray hoods and a skull insignia on them. I didn't doubt Havok's information because what he really wants to be is the hero who saves everyone. He wouldn't be faking information and destroy his image in front of the public. Not only that, I saw one player seemingly logged out of this virtual world. 

Just what the hell is wrong with this world?

"Geez...", I mumbled looking up to the sky. It was a hot sunny day. "How can a virtual reality console replicate the real world almost perfectly?", I asked myself. I put on my hood and walk towards the city gates.

It's been about 2 weeks since I started to be Oxide's apprentice. After helping him making a new backsword for Barrios, I couldn't say no to be an apprentice of this skillful blacksmith. He thought me a lot of stuff about forging and other stuffs. Oxide is apparently a university student on material science major. He also told me that there were a lot of compound materials that he can make by using his studies in the real world.

This time, Oxide has sent me to gather some materials at Rocky Plains with Val. It's the first time he sent me to gather materials without him. Usually, I would accompany him to hunt down monsters to gather dropped materials or finding loot spots. This time however, he had quite a lot of weapon orders from his clients.

"A more simplified version of the real world huh...", I mumbled to myself as I walk through the path towards my destination.

"That's what my brother always said right?', Val asked. I didn't realize myself that I mumbled what was in my mind out loud. Val saw that right through me and burst into laughter.

"Geez Val... You sure are good at reading people's minds...", I told her.

"It's not that hard you know. You just need to know what probably the other person is thinking about when they make that face", she said.

"That's not exactly easy", I replied.

"Then call it a girl's intuition", she said. I'm even more confused hearing that.

"You're not running your shop again today?", I asked her.

"I hired an NPC to take care of it", she replied.

"Is that even possible?", I asked.

"Of course it is. If not I wouldn't be here right?"


"Every store owner has the option to do so. Of course with a price, but my store's income can take it", she said.

"So, what are we hunting today?", Val asked.

I opened the note I saved and read it. "It says here that we're supposed to gather 50 iron ores from golems or by looting".

"Hmm... That's not much", I said.

"Not much?", Val asked with a surprised tone.

"Usually he gathers about 200", I told her.

"Well that explains what 'not much' meant", she said.

"I guess he always does get too excited doing a task"

"That's how he is alright", the little sister approved.

"Can you handle the golems later?", I asked her as we are nearing Rocky Plains.

"Just because you saved me doesn't mean that I'm weak", she pouted. "It was a 5-on-1, plus the '1' is a fencer.", she added.

"Alright alright", I shrugged off. "So how do you want to do this? Both of us attack straight on or something else?", I asked her.

"Can you tank?", she asked.

"You do realize that I'm an assassin, right?"

"So you can't?"

"I never said that did I? Golems are slow moving monsters, dodging their attacks shouldn't be a problem", I gave her an explanation. "But what are you gonna do?", I asked.

"Just see later", she said.

We decided we would stick together as Val suggested, opposed to my usual 'hunter killer' (a person spots targets, and the other kills the target quickly) tactic. When we attack a monster, I would keep the monster busy while Val would... do whatever she planned to do.

What we planned to do is look for loot spots while killing golems along the way. Loot spots usually would give more bonuses instead of monster drops, but golems are known to be aggressive monsters (they would attack a player without warning opposed to passive monsters which will attack if they are attacked).

"There's a loot spot over there", I pointed at the spot. "Go get the loot, Val. I'll stay as a lookout.", I told Val. She nodded in response and went to the loot spot.

I looked around to see if there are any golems around. I noticed a golem moving towards our location. Too make the golem focus it's attacks at me, I rushed at the golem to do a preemptive attack at it, opposed to using Stalker and attack it when it gets closer. I don't want to risk Val being the golem's target.

I took out my Spyker and Light Dagger and used Double Cross. All four slashes hit the golem, but only reduced it's HP until slightly above the yellow bar. Golems are monsters that have a strong resistance towards physical attacks, but the amount of damage I dealt was already considerably high, despite how it looks like.

I noticed another golem moving towards us. Handling one golem is quite manageable, but handling two will always be troublesome. With the first golem targeting me, I made the second golem focus it's attacks at me too. I stand in the middle of the two golems as both of them walked towards me. At the moment both golems unleashed their attacks, I slip away as they hit each other with their respective attacks.

Before the two golems could recover, I did a Double Cross at the golem with lower health and defeated it. After defeating the first golem, I rushed away from the second golem before it could attack me. The second golem then chased me as I was about to prepare another Double Cross. Before I did it however, the golem suddenly died. Apparently Val took the golem out with one hit.

"I told you I'm not that weak", she told me as she sheathed her rapier.

"How the heck did you took it out with one hit? It still has a little less than half of it's HP left", I asked her.

"Well... Fencers are very deadly when they can lay an attack on a weak spot", she explained to me. "Golem's weak spots are cracks on their rock body. Thanks to you, you caused a crack on the golem's back. So I took him out quite easily", she said as she smiled at me.

"Did you use a skill?", I asked since I'm still not convinced that a single regular blow would took out half of a golem's HP.

"You figured that out huh?", Val said looking a bit dissapointed. "I thought that I would be able to surprise you with a powerful attack. I guess it didn't work", she said while giving a dry laugh. I gave her a wry smile.

"I used my weapon skill", she said. "My brother made this rapier. He named it Linnaea, after a twinflower. It's weapon skill's called Double Action. It's a skill that lets the user to land 2 identical attack on the same time", she said.

"Umm... You lost me there", I said. I didn't understood a word from her Double Action explanation.

"Well... It's like I do one move, but do twice the impact", she said.

"So... Like you attack deals twice the amount of damage?"

"Something like that", she answered me.

"Why don't you say so?", I asked.

"Because it isn't exactly like that", she said.

"Geez... Save me the explanation, at least I know basically what it does", I replied. "So do we get enough iron ores? I got 12", I asked.

"Yes we do", she answered. "We got 30 from the looting spot, and I received 15 from the golem", she added.

"Alright. Let's go back", I said. She nodded.

"We're back", both Val and I said after I opened Oxide's workshop door.

"Welcome back you guys", Oxide said as he gave a smile at us. "I've been waiting for you guys."

"Umm... X", he said with a worried tone. "I know you just got back, but can you go get something for me at my supplier's place. I'll send you a message of where it is and what to buy along with the money needed."

"Can't you get it yourself?", I asked him with a wry smile.

"I want to walk around the square and laze around you know.", he said.

"Geez...", I sighed. "I'm off"

I got out of Oxide's workshop and walk towards the market place. After a couple of minutes, I got a message from Oxide.

"So, I'm supposed to buy these things.", I asked myself as I opened the message. I can only speechlessly stare at the immense amount of items I'm supposed to buy.

"How the heck does he even have enough GPs to actually buy all of these materials?", I asked myself in my head. I sighed and pick up my pace on going to the material supplier he specified.

As I was almost at the location Oxide specified, I received a call from him.

"X, stop what I told you to do and go to the town square now", he said.

"I'm almost at your supplier's place, I can go there afterwards", I told him.

"Forget it. This is more urgent", he said as he hung up. I sighed at what he said but then made a decision to go to the square immediately.

To save time, I went through the rooftops just like I always do when I'm in a hurry. I can't think of something that could be more important to a blacksmith than to get his order from his supplier. The closer I get to the square, the more anxious I get.

By the time I reached the square, I understood what had happened. Havok was interrogating one of those gray-hooded guys he claimed as the guardians towards the next floor.

"So, what exactly are you people? Guardians? People playing God at us?", Havok asked the guy. The guy didn't say a word.

"What exactly do you want with us? Say something damn it!", he said as he punched the gray-hooded guy. The gray-hooded guy just smirked at his expense. 

However, I noticed that smirk, it was the smirk given by the rogue who I killed the other day. I'm sure I wasn't mistaken. I rushed to the gray-hooded guy and stopped Havok from landing another hit at the gray-hooded guy.

"What?! You! What the heck do you want?!", Havok burst into rage towards me from stopping him. I ignored him, but this just made him even more enraged.

"Stop messing around with me bastard! He's my suspect for restricting our freedom!", he shouted.

"Will you just pipe down for a second?", I snapped at him in an 'I'm not interested' manner.

"Are you looking for another fight?!", Havok asked.

"No", I replied at him and opened the captured rogue's hood. There was no mistaking it, he's the guy I killed a couple of weeks back.

"Nice seeing you again, boy", he said to me. I can hear the crowd gasp in shock that the hooded guy knew me.

"How the hell did you not die? I saw you get destroyed into pixels with my own eyes.", I asked him as I held the collar of his hood. Everyone looking at the scene was speechless as they heard me asked that question. Even Havok himself has calmed down.

"Well... Let's just say that we're two different type of players", he said. I was confused at the statement he said. I heard that there were already reports of people who died in this game, they were never seen in-game ever again. I wasn't the only one dumbfounded. The whole square was in silence, trying to digest what they just heard.

While I was left thinking about the statement the captured rogue was saying, he pushed me aside and opened his menu.

"See you around, kid", he said as he pressed a button. He turned into pixels and logged out in front of all of the spectators.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chapter 10: The Blacksmith's Apprentice

"It's closed?", I asked.

"Seems like it", Barrios answered. "Although I was drooling this morning for a toast", he said as he flooded the streets with tears, and all I can do is smile wryly at him.

Both me and Barrios had the same idea in mind this morning. We wanted to have a brunch at Ridgeview Crest. Apparently it was closed for the day.

"Nothing we can do then", I said as I start walking away. I felt someone tugging my shirt from behind. I thought it was Barrios, but he was right beside me. I looked back and found out the culprit. It was Val.

"Yo!", she greeted in a casual manner. She also smacked Barrios at his back, although she shook her arm after the impact with Barrios' armor.

"Mornin'", Barrios greeted her back.

"Hey", I greeted her back too.

"So what's up? We were looking for toast for a brunch you know", Barrios said as he pulled me towards him, while unaware of him choking me.

"Ooo... I'm taking a break today", Val answered. "I'm visiting someone today".

"Visiting someone?", I asked back to make sure.

"Yep! Since you're here, why not come with me? He's someone I want to introduce to you guys", she said.

"He? Introduce?", Barrios asked. "ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?!", he suddenly asked in a loud tone. At his stupid question, Val can only give an dry laugh.

"That came out of nowhere, you idiot", I riposted him.

"That came out of nowhere either!", he tried to do a comeback, although that just seemed like he's making a bigger idiot of himself to me.

"Come on guys, stop fighting", Val stepped between us to stop us. "Eitherdfay, I'm not getting married. He's someone I know from the real world.", she said.

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go!", Barrios said as he start walking. But then he stopped a couple of steps ahead and asked, "Where exactly are we going?".

"Your grave", I riposted him. Barrios could only give an annoyed look while Val was laughing at Barrios' idiocy.

"Come one, I'll show you the way.", Val said as she took the lead.

"Would you stop making me look like a fool?", Barrios whispered to me.

"I thought you're one without even trying.", I replied. Barrios gave me a 'what the heck' look. I smacked his back in a friendly manner.

"Here we are", Val said as she stopped in front of a tavern. The banner reads "Adventurer's Tavern". Me and Barrios stood quietly as she opened the door. we followed her in after exchanging a glance and I signaled him to go ahead first.

"You're here after all", Val said to a person. He had a moderate build, brown hair, and golden eyes. Judging from his apparel, he seemed like a rogue.

"Look who came up. Been a while Val!", the guy greeted her with a smile just like Val's.

"Sure has been, big bro.", Val answered his greeting.

"Big bro?", I asked.

"Yes. this here is my bigger brother", Val answered me.

"Hi. You must be Extorsion and Barrios. My in-game name is Oxide. Pleased to meet you.", he said.

"Pleased to meet you too.", Barrios replied to him.

"Yeah, pleased to meet you too. By the way, you can simply call me X", I added.

"So. X's the assassin, and Barrios' the defender.", he said.

"Yeap. I'm the defender. And this puny guy is the assassin.", Barrios said pointing at me. I gave him a 'not impressed' look.

"I see.",  said. "X, what happened to your other dagger?", Oxide asked me.

"You noticed?", I asked him in surprise.

"Yeah. The dagger you are using belongs to a dual dagger set doesn't it?", he replied.

"It does. But it snapped into two pieces.", I said.

"How exactly?", he asked me again.

"It cracked a bit against Havok's Diamond Slash, and finally it snapped when I attacked him while he activated his Safeguard skill.", I said.

"Havok? So you're the one who won the battle against Havok.", he replied. Some people looked towards me after  said that. I probably had raised some notoriety after winning a duel against Havok.

"Are you planning to just use the other one?", he asked me.

"Not exactly, but I am looking for a substitute for this", I said.

"In that case, what about I give you a dagger instead?", he offered me.

"Are you really okay that?", I asked him.

"Of course. A rogue like me wouldn't have any use for a dagger", he said as he opened his inventory list. After searching through a ton of stuff, he summoned the dagger he meant. "Here", he gave me the dagger.

As I took it, a pop-up appeared at my HUD showing details about the dagger. It's called Spyker. It has a decent damage and it's also light in-hand. It has a bleeding effect, an effect that will cause anyone hit by the dagger to receive an amount of damage per second. It's main weakness is it's ability to defend from an attack. Under all of the stats, I noticed something else was written there. It said that the Spyker was crafted by Oxide.

"You crafted this?", I asked him.

"Yes I did", he said.

"How exactly do you craft a weapon?", I asked him.

"My side job's a blacksmith you know", he said while laughing. "Were you interested in being a blacksmith?", he asked me.

"I am sort of interested. But I guess I'm gonna need to think before having a side job.", I replied.

"Planning on being a frontliner?", he asked me again.

"A frontliner?"

"Yes. A frontliner. The guys who fight clearing floors to clear the game", he explained to me.

"Not really I guess", I answered.

"How about if you start by helping me in my workshop? Then you can see if you're interested or not", he said.

"I'll do that", I answered him. And thus I became Oxide's temporary apprentice.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chapter 9: The Extortion, part 2

"Your present mother isn't your biological mother.", my so-called father said.

"What about Takagi?", I asked.

"He's our child. In other words-"

"My half-brother.", I cut him off, taking the words right out of his mouth. He looked kinda shocked for a second, but then nodded to confirm it.

"Is that it?", I asked.

"Yes", he answered quietly.

"Do you think I actually care who my real parents are?", I asked with an annoyed tone. He looked at me in the eyes as if he didn't believed what he just heard.

"Do you think by saying that I would change my thoughts about you? Do you think I would pity you?", I asked with a more angry tone.

"Both of you are two people which I will never care for. Don't even try to ask for my care when you don't even care-", I said before I was stopped by him. He tugged on my hoodie giving me a sharp look. I was petrified by it, but then looked back at him with a disgusted look.

"You looking for a fight?", he asked. I stayed quiet an ignored him, but deep down I really was looking for a fight with this guy.

"What is it?! You're scared?!", he shouted. I kept on ignoring him to annoy him even more. Next thing I knew, I was thrown by him towards a sliding door made out of glass. I crashed on to it and causes the glass to break. My forehead was bleeding due to the impact. I was just laying there dumbfounded by the fact that I never knew my so-called dad could be this dangerous.

When I looked at him, he was just there standing. Tears were rolling down his eyes, and he was repeatedly saying "I'm sorry". I thought to myself, what a pitiful sight. If I still have any care towards that person, I might pity him. But I have stopped caring for him for as long as I could remember. I just stood up and walked outside, leaving the old man behind.

I ran all over town in hope of finding Takagi. This town isn't a big town, but it does certainly felt big if you're searching only for a single guy. To be honest, I didn't know where to look. Takagi always shuts himself up in his room, never leaving it except for school.

The more I put effort in looking for Takagi, the more restless I became. I was worried in never finding him. He is someone important to me. He is the only guy who was able to keep my sanity in check, otherwise I wouldn't know what I might've become.

Without noticing, I was standing in the middle of the park before. I didn't know if I had given up in finding Takagi, or just simply trying to sort myself out. I was just standing there doing nothing.

"Didn't I told you to go home?", a voice said from behind me.

"I did, Hisako", I said while facing her.

"Then why are you here again?", she asked me.

"Takagi went missing after I got home. Probably he's looking for me.", I said. "What are you doing here? I thought you went back home.", I asked her.

"I got bored at home, so I decided to go back here", she said.

"Is that really what happened? I'm not so sure.", I replied.

"You're really good at digging out the truth, are you?", she said. "It's just that my parents are not really on good terms. You know how much I hate it when they're fighting", she continued.

I knew that Hisako hates her parents fighting, but her parents never went too far when fighting. They also fought rarely. My parents however fought every single day, and both only cares about themselves. It's almost like Takagi and I are just staying over at their place to sleep.

"I know you're someone who don't really like to make other people worry about you, but it's okay to tell me. I don't mind anyway.", I said. She simply gave a weak nod.

"What happened to your forehead?", Hisako asked.

"I fought with the old man. I didn't thought he would go physical though. It just sorta happened.", I answered.

"Let's go to my place. I'll treat the wound.", she said as she took my hand.

"No need for that. I still got even more important things to worry about.", I answered without moving an inch despite Hisako pulling my hand.

"In that case, I'll help look for your brother. I got nothing to do anyways", she said.

"Are you sure?", I asked. She nodded. Not sure who started walking, but we walk side by side looking for Takagi.

We went around on the outskirts of the town with no luck. We then decided to go towards the center of town, hoping that Takagi might be there.

"I lost it.", I said suddenly. Hisako just looked puzzled at me.

"I couldn't control myself anymore today.", I continued. "It's just that I always wanted to get some peace and quiet, away from my so-called parents. They forbid me from being away from them, since they kept on saying I should live like a family with them. I always hated those words coming out of their mouths. There hasn't been a single day without an argument breaking out in my house for as long as I can remember. I'm just sick of it already".

"You should know that keeping your distance from them will not change anything, or even make your parents ask more of your attention. You will need to talk to them and understand their point of view of your family problems.", Hisako said calmly.

"How can I even do that?!", I shouted. I realized that I was scaring Hisako judging by the shocked face she was making. "I... I...", I tried to say something, but the words are just stuck on my throat. I was shocked that I actually lost my self control in front of Hisako. The next thing I knew, I was running away from her without looking back.

There was just so much things running through my head, I stopped running. I was on my knees in the middle of the road, unsure of what to do. I looked towards the sky without a thought. It was grey, looking as if it was going to snow pretty soon.

"There you are", a voice called me from behind. I looked back, it was Takagi.

"I've been looking all over the place for you.", he said calmly. "Let's go home. We'll sort things out together with mom and dad.", he continued while touching my shoulder. Without realizing, I punched him.

"You want to sort this out with those two idiots?! Have you lost your mind?! They're the one who caused this! I don't want anything to do with them anymore!", I shouted at him. He was just sitting on the ground, holding the part of his face that got hit by my punch, looking gloomy.

"What has happened here?", a different voice asked. It was my so-called mother. "Come on boys, time to go home and talk this through.", she said calmly.

"Don't act like you're part of my life!", I screamed at her. I ran away from the scene, only listening to Takagi calling out for me.

I ran past an intersection when I realized that Takagi was chasing me. I looked back at Takagi and decided to wait for him. I felt that I have calmed down a bit.

But something else caught my eye, a speeding vehicle was going through the intersection I just passed, and Takagi right in the middle of the road.

"Takagi! Stop running!", I shouted.

"Wait for me, bro!" he shouted back.

"Takagi, stop now!", I shouted in horror.

Takagi looked puzzled for a moment the looked towards his right. He had realized a speeding car was honking its horn and trying to brake before hitting him. He showed a face filled with horror as he knew that escaping the crash was inevitable. He looked at me and moved his mouth.

The next thing I knew, I was holding my lifeless brother in my arms with tears rolling down my cheeks. The moment was even more colder to me, colder than the atmosphere which started to snow. The car immediately rushed off the scene after hitting Takagi. I was in too much shock to remember the license plate of the blue Nissan Skyline that hit him. I just held the closest person to me, yearning for a miracle to happen, even though I knew it was never going to happen.

Goodbye. It was the last word he said to me.

Takagi. It has the meaning 'tall tree'. That night, out of desperation, I asked my parents why did they gave him that name. They said that a tall tree is where people might gathered to sheltered themselves from the sun rays and be protected by that tree's shadow. The 'sun rays' according to them are all the hardships that were given to us, and the 'shadow' is what symbolizes peace. Takagi was always the one who fought for peace in the family on both my faction and my parent's. It was a suitable name for him.

Ever since then, I hated snow and winter. I hated this city. I hated this world. But most of all, I hated myself for losing control of myself. I had forgotten what it's like to have someone close to me. I had closed myself from the rest of the world, knowing that I might just be the cause behind their griefs. To wear this mask of loneliness without solitude was my own accord. My way of keeping everyone out of harm's way.

This is where I took the name Extorsion from. I took the name from the word extortion: a practice of obtaining something through force. What I sought for is peace, and I extort myself to find it.