Chapter 59: Wolf Shedding The Sheep’s Skin
Events are happening fast in Terroa.
The eight days that passed have been a heavy blow to the defending forces of the Walled City and now, the dome itself had reached its most critical point.
“Reinforce the shields on the eastern border!”
“Support Mages, we need more Support Mages!”
“We don’t have any more blue potions!”
“The Mansion has already sold all their stocks for the next ten years, that’s the last box of potions!”
Reports on his call conference, Billion punched the wall with a frown. He then faced Jack, “We’re just almost less than 2km away from the hangar. Our days of hiding between the buildings and the rubbles of the aftermath of the battels around us will be finally over.”
Jack nodded and turned his head behind him. Jin had finally woken up from a coma and although Jack had ordered him to rest more, Jin still insisted.
As such, when he looked at him, he couldn’t help feeling rather guilty.
Jin’s family had even taken him to the hospital and the doctors said that he was only fatigued and tired. There was no permanent damage to him as a whole but that doesn’t mean that what had happened was something to dismiss as being okay.
And so Jack was left pondering, “This game just takes too much a toll for divers. Being a pro wasn’t easy and whether we want it or not, we are being forced to still live our real lives outside this world.”
The security features were there not because they limit the players and the high fees to lift them up are expensive business, but because it was for the safety of the players themselves.
It was understandable that there are professional gamers out there and that these gamers don’t mind being an entire day or more inside the game. But that doesn’t mean that Panorama Corp. doesn’t care about their health.
Still, after all things are said and done, it was not easy to NOT like this world of virtual reality…
Jack looked around him.
The rubbles, the grey look of the smoke, the red of the flames, the thunder of explosions in the distance, the thick awful smell of burnt plastic, the ashes falling and dirtying your skin… these were all too real in anyone’s senses that whether it’s the people of this world or the visiting souls from reality, it was hard not to love this place and come back here to endure whatever kind of challenges they have to just so they could stay.
And the taboo that all players had to protect was also there to remind him that this world is not any ordinary virtual reality.
What happened to Jin reminded him.
“This is not just Virtual Reality. It’s a complete Alternate Reality that people of the real world can visit and go to on a limited time to escape their own lives and realities. But—” As Jack went on to ponder at this part of his thoughts, he subconsciously turned his gaze to that kid beside the other NPC kids. “—I came to realize too late that everyone doesn’t have the same thoughts when going inside this world. Some of them are here to play, some are here to work, some are here to go on adventure, and some are here specifically to socialize with the NPCs while some are trapped here by some unknown stroke of luck or misfortune, playing by the games of the ones who hold their fates…”
Jack held the boy and the three surviving subordinates understood his intentions. Jin met Jack’s eyes and the two nodded at each other with Jack pulling his swords from their scabbards.
After Billion concluded his calls and given orders, he turned back to look at Jack, “The diversion ain’t going to last. After they’re got caught, that witch would probably discover us here immediately so we got to move fast.”
Jack nodded and then gazed far beyond the streets up front, towards the group of large buildings that towered tens of meters high and hundreds of meters long that owned their own part in the city.
Even though not all parts of the city was under attack, the coordination of the invaders had already exceeded the number that The Union forces had placed to defend the places that were attacked.
The Central Plaza…
The Hangar Bays…
The NPC Barracks…
The Training Grounds…
The Trading Centers…
Many main parts of the city were attacked and although the Enchantment Temples were intact and The Legion never dared to attack them in fear of being persecuted by the entire world’s Enchanters, The Legion still made sure that the magic supplies of the defenders will be hindered to some degree.
So far, they have succeeded at this point and the fact that the Barrier Dome was weakening day by day was one testament of their success.
The numbers of invaders inside may seem to be on a standstill with the numbers of defenders but since the forces were divided into the wall and the Barrier Mages, the situation still fell in favor of The Legion.
In The Hangars were the exploding magic spells of the batch of invaders that managed to sneak inside the city. Skills flew straight to the Support Mages and Barrier Mages. The invaders never paid attention to the Hunters and Warriors who stood in their paths.
The Legion had clearly put their attention into exterminating the entire support line of the defenders.
Initially, there were still 15 days of estimated time before the collapsing period but it had long since been rendered shorter because of this gracefully performed coordinated attack.
“Billion, at this point, the invaders would be able to bypass the defenses on the hangar bays. The Support and Barrier Mages will not be able to last long.” Jack said with a frown as he withdrew his gaze from that side and faced the City Lord. “From our position, if the coast is clear, we can try that chance to do a pick up, although the problem with that is the fact that we have a few extra people to carry with us. We can’t abandon them… especially the kid.”
Billion gave a nod and thought for plans. He was deeply frowning these past few days that it had already become part of his looks in the faces of these desperate refugees.
“We can’t enter the Shelter Zone because the platform had broken and coming back in there would only turn our efforts back to zero. We have no choice but to proceed forward.”
After saying that, Billion clicked his tongue. One huge problem after another just keeps on popping up.
“The Blue Card Legion had really put us up into a tight spot they did.” Billion laughed bitterly and then looked up towards the hangar district. “Yep. Our situation is not the best so I think that’s the best option that we have left.”
Jack pulled up a panel in front of him while Billion made a call to his communicator.
“We have to make it within thirty seconds or we will be bombarded by magic attacks.”
In the middle of Billion’s call, right after everyone heard Jack’s reminder, one of the surviving NPC assistants on Billion’s squad rushed in with a pale face.
“My Lord, we have another problem.”
Jack and Billion’s faces darkened. Their plates were already full and now another grave news was about to add to that plate.
But the two knew very well, they can only accept at the moment and adjust their plans the next.
Jack spoke out grimly, “What is it?”
“Our City Hunters outside the nearby regions had just reported seeing a black colored warship going towards this direction at high speeds.”
“Yes, My Lord. They said that it was shaped like a Fire Drake and had wings like that of a dragon. They also said that as it flies, it was also emitting a dark aura and the shape and shadows sometimes fluctuate on and off of its surface that gives a camouflage to the lookers towards the sky.”
The grim expressions of the two worsened as they heard the news.
Billion, who had short hair and a youthful adult man’s looks seemed to grow older as he trembled. It was a clear sign that he understood just ‘who’ this warship belongs to.
He shivered and staggered back toward the wall of the building which shadows they were hiding to.
“Unbelievable. Just fucking unbelievable…!!”
“Billion… who are these guys?”
“Alcides Guild…” Billion replied in a shaky voice. “I once saw this ship myself back when I went out for a quest. I can’t believe their…” he cut his words at this point and looked back at the NPC, “Are you sure they are heading towards Alexandria and not in any other direction?”
The NPC assistant had a look of apprehension as he tried to erase the memory of his City Lord staggering as soon as he received the news.
“Yes, My Lord, since the Hunter Unit that saw them is also heading back to our city, they happen to see that ship pass them by from above.”
Billion held his head with both his hands. “Argh! One problem after another… are they perhaps after The Providence as well?” he looked back at Jack who also had a look of anxiety on his face.
Jack never provoked the Alcides Guild even once and everyone in Terroa knew that almost all its members are using Black Tech as their weapons… save perhaps for Malecite who was a demi-Necromancer.
He was pondering deep. Jack looked at the swords in his hands; one is wrapped in white light and the other has a blade wrapped in golden glow, and raised his head to face Billion.
“All the more we have to move fast.”
Billion bit his lips and then asked the NPC, “How far are they from us?”
“Not far My Lord.” The NPC replied and swallowed his nervousness, “The City Hunter Unit was riding their cyclones by the time of their report and their locator’s signal is determined to be five hours away.”
Billion and Jack’s crew gasped. The, too, knew about the frightening strength of the Alcides Guild and knew that they had never provoked such a force and yet this group was also heading straight for Alexandria to take advantage of the trouble and take The Providence for their own goals.
Just how are they going to solve this issue then?
Looking back to his panel then to the hangar district and gulping down to produce some courage… Jack furrowed his brows to consolidate his mental might.
He once had a rather famous title, Blood Sword, a title he received after a successful defending mission on a starting city back in the Central Continent of Zenturo.
Back then, Jack and his Helium Guild was a valiant and friendly affiliate of the Tower of Sol Guild who was yet to officially announce their establishment as a proper guild.
That particular mission had a B-Rank difficulty and back then, a B-Rank mission was as difficult as an S-Rank Quest… one testament to that is the mission that the now infamous Siva had finished in Hagonoy.
A Dragon, no matter how one look at it, is still a large and ferocious monster ranked on its own level.
Perhaps in all of Terroa, only Siva with his monstrously fascinating fighting ability and almost cheat-like initial ability, [Killing Zone], could fight it off with a Dragon alone…
Even they, with perhaps three platoons of S-Ranked Hunters and Warriors, along with Barrier Mages and even ten Archmages at Heller’s level, wouldn’t be able to put a scratch on that dragon.
—all because of the [Pose of the King] ability.
Pair it with a Dragon Roar then before they could get close to the dragon, they’d all be annihilated before they could even breathe their first breath.
Such was a terrifying foe. So, his title, Blood Sword, is a title that warrants a few large claps of respect. He had managed to stand his own ground back then when the monster tide that assaulted that city managed to breach the defenses.
Should he face the worst-case scenario, he will then unleash all his might to defend the citizens, especially, the boy that shouldn’t receive the slightest bit of pain.
“If only those attacking the hangar district weren’t NPCs then this would have been an easy escape.”
Right. Of the forces that infiltrated Alexandria, almost all of them were women; blonde, stunningly beautiful knights under their leader who was strong enough to defeat Karim. And of all places they could concentrate their attacking efforts to, they just had to be placed on the hangar district.
Even if they reveal the fact that the boy is a patient of that taboo medical procedure, the DNI-Therapy, these NPCs wouldn’t care because ONE; they don’t know what that is and TWO; they wouldn’t care because it’s something that came from the enemy.
In times of war, anyone and everyone is a casualty until you live on and see the end of it all; lives are always lost in its fair and playful hands. (A passage inspired from Francis Edward Smedley's 1850 novel "Frank Fairleigh", rearranged to fit the context. The original passage was “All is fair in love and war”)
“We really got no choice left but to follow the initially agreed plan.” Said Billion and he and Jack exchanged glances to nod at each other.
Billion checked his communicator while Jack peeked on the corner of the streets to check the surroundings.
“They’re 5 minutes away from us.” Said Billion and Jack also initiated a quick scan of the surroundings.
He smiled, “Having these expensive Auricles really makes these things easy. The coast is clear. Let’s go.”
Pulling the entire party of less than 30 people, they crossed another alley into a large wide complex with 20floors and many rooms.
Jack continued to scan the place and when they detected patrolling enemies, they’d either avoid them or sneak an attack.
This way, although it was a somewhat riskier move, they had saved time rather than cautiously spending the days prioritizing safety and detection than speed.
At this moment, they just don’t have the luxury of time.
Back in the castle, Scion was still reading her book when Kladis sneaked in from behind and peaked on to the page she was reading.
He was quiet and she was so engrossed to her reading that she didn’t detect his presence until his face was just an inch away from her ear.
“What are you reading?”
The warm breath crept up on her and she snapped a look on her right —almost grazing his lips.
In her shock, her eyes were wide and she touched her lips, her eyes tearing up, dropping the book and only focused a furious gaze at him.
Kladis backed away and had a look of apology on his face as he frantically apologized.
“I’m very sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you! I just wanted to surprise you with a book I bought online but I got curious at what you reading that you didn’t even hear me greeting you so I went in to surprise you instead! I… I didn’t mean to startle you!”
Kladis didn’t mention anything regarding the ‘almost’ accidental kiss and this further infuriated her.
As he spoke, Kladis brought out a book with a leather cover and with a title on the pages laced with gold.
Her fists balled into a furious curl as she prepared to cast a magic spell at him. But then she thought, maybe he really didn’t mean it and he didn’t detect that we almost… almost…
In her heart, a sudden pang of guilt and fury mixed in with each other.
Guilt for almost betraying her purity, especially her first kiss, who she had long vowed to give to Rex…
Fury… because she had almost ‘accidentally’ given that very thing to someone else that, for some reason, she failed to actually completely hate.
And yet, more than anything else, she was angry at herself because Kladis’ frantic apology and his seemingly honest reason for his actions made her anger subside for a little bit.
But then, she thought, for the last few days, he’s been hanging out quite close to her.
They’ve shared a few good talks and he even shared some adventure stories to her that she found rather fun and good to listen to. She was fascinated by the fact that such a fake world stored so much adventure in it that it was akin to a world she’d only seen and read on media channels.
She found his company rather enjoyable, and pairing that with his occasional teasing had embedded his presence in her turbulent thoughts of escape.
In this lonely castle, Kladis, aside from Kira, had become her wall of company and comfort.
Wasn’t this called Stockholm syndrome?
The thought creeped her out! Although she was now letting him close and talking to him like a normal person, it was still a fact that she was a hostage and her cooperation with their project is still related to her wanting to reduce the potential enemies for Rex in the future.
Remembering the accidental kiss earlier, although he was apologizing now, Scion suddenly felt more guilty in her heart.
She should be angry at him.
His reckless actions had almost killed her heart. If her first kiss had really been stolen in such a crude manner, then she wouldn’t have known what kind of cruelty she would’ve done to herself to atone for it.
As such, these thoughts had solidified something in her mind.
Kladis may seem to be a good person, it was still a fact that what he did had betrayed everything he had built for himself so far.
She is a hostage for them to get a bargain to Rex.
She is a captive and her status explains the rest.
It was a good thing she had a medical background and was familiar with [Stockholm Syndrome] or else, she would have completely destroyed herself.
When Kladis approached her having the book he said he bought online for her, Scion didn’t even look at it as she slapped his face.
The resounding sound echoed in the corners of the castle garden and Kladis’ head was turned to his right side with his eyes opened wide.
“We have a deal! You broke your end of the bargain!”
Kladis stretched his hand and caressed his cheek as well as his jaw, opening his mouth, rocking his jaw as his fury erupted.
When Scion detected this rage, she felt her body slightly tremble. She felt afraid but, more than that, she felt fear at the fact that she had almost fully given Kladis her trust…
His eyes when she looked at her, wasn’t the eyes of a friend who was sorry for having cause her discomfort.
It was the look of violent greed and desire.
Kladis’ eyes were flaring with lust and desire that, as he looked on Scion, it was akin to a lion looking at a two-month old baby cub.
“I would have to apologize to the Comander. I think I will have to forcefully take The Eye today.”
Hearing this, Scion’s doubts were enshrined.
The intuition that told her the moment they first met back in the tower to not trust Kladis… was true. She already knew it herself but she still trusted him since she chose to believe in the slim chance that there was actually a good side to this man.
Scion’s heart sunk in fear but also, a new kind of strength sprouted and made a giant tree in her heart.
“Y-You… you’re a liar!” she uttered. “You lied to me.”
Scion took a step back but Kladis followed with a step.
“Am I?” Kladis smiled savagely yet charming. “Well, maybe I really am but I don’t care. I like it this way as well. Heh… I was actually planning on slowly taking your clothes one by one but you just have to slap me. NO WOMAN HAD EVER SLAPPED MY FACE!”
Kladis roared in anger and from the darkness, Kira only glanced over them indifferently.
The anti-mage, the genius war tactician, Kladis, had finally bared his fangs. He couldn’t stop his desire and greed from taking over his rationality. He will be dropping his pretenses at this moment and destroy what sliver of hope Scion had left in her will to keep whatever kind of purity she was protecting.
RPG: Terroa may still be a game but the pleasure and experiences here are still [real] at some point.
Thus, today, the end of Scion’s perfect movie-like experience as a captive will be ending and if there was a lucky stroke of luck in this world, then she’d better wish and pray that it smiles upon her.
…she will experience what [pleasure and pain] was really like inside this game.
Scion in trouble…
Hurry, Rex, hurry!!
Next chapter: Scion’s fate in the hands of Kladis…!!
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