Albert Oon’s 100th book – Trapped Body and Soul in a Video Game Sequel

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Tutorial – New Game, New Genre, New Challenges

This is a game where you can only die once.  You only have one life. Once you’re dead, that’s it so I have to make every move I make count. This is a battle royale and I’m on a team with my best friend and my wife. When we get dropped into the battle zone, we try to wait in the helicopters as long as we can while the air is being lit up with heavy artillery fire. The further in we go, the better chances we have at getting better gear.

A helicopter just got shot out of the sky, so we take that as our hint to jump. Our helicopter gets shot out of the sky as we exit it and we get blown in different directions into the burning and destroyed war zone below. We try to regroup in the sky, but the artillery fire prevents that. The artillery is so heavy in this area that I see and hear people being shot out of the sky. I open my parachute to land safely, however, my parachute gets shot and I crash through a roof. I’ve lost half my health, so I need healing items fast before anyone finds me. Lucky for me, I find some in a nearby turned over medical truck. Now to find my teammates and a good weapon.

My wife is the closest, so I go to her location first. I can see her on my digital map that I carry around along with my best friend.  I can’t see anyone else until they start a fight with one of us. Ah crap, speaking of that, my wife is in a gunfight with a team of four. I have to get there fast. I’m weak since I’m a low level, but I am prestiged, so I do have my experience. When I get to the location, my wife is already dead. She’s taken out all but one of them who is currently arming himself to the teeth and organizing his inventory. Damn it. I thought we would make it to the end together, but I can’t cry over it now. I’ve taken cover in a small house. My luck hasn’t been good since I haven’t been able to find a weapon, but maybe my luck has changed.

These developers are crafty, so maybe I can find a secret weapon somewhere. Maybe it’s in this toilet? I have no other option, so I reach my hand into the depths of the murky toilet and pull out a special sniper rifle. It only has one shot in it, but it can hit anything and kill anyone in one shot. This is perfect. I position myself near the window and aim. Smile you, cunt. That’s right. That’s what you get for teaming up on a woman like her. Wow, she really gave them hell. All the armor they have are mostly broken and so are the weapons. Apparently, she used a gun with a weapon breaking status effect. She was good, but she didn’t plan on me getting their gear later, which I don’t blame her for. Still, I wish I had something I could use.

Luck isn’t on my side as I go to the other side of the map to find my best friend. No weapons, no gear, no traps, no medical supplies, nothing. All I find is a single flash grenade. When I get to my best friend’s location, I find him dead with three other players picking over his stuff. I can’t believe my entire team is dead. I guess I’ll have to win this by myself. The barrier that brings all contestants together is quickly closing in. This barrier can kill you within a matter of minutes and since it’s close by, I throw a flash grenade at the three players before booking it. I can hear them scream profanities at me as they die. Sorry, but that’s what you get when you mess with mine and me.

I don’t have much time to search around so I hope this next house I’m at has something. Oh, I think I found something use-ah damn it. It’s a powerful full-auto assault rifle modeled after an old M14. It can cut through armor and people like butter, but I’m stuck holding it up until I run out of ammo. The clip has thirty bullets in it, which is good for one and a half kill. After I run out of ammo, the gun is useless and can be loaded with any kind of ammo. I’ll have to be in a tight pinch for it to be useful in any capacity. Since I wasted so much time running around, I can’t look through any other place for gear, guns, or anything else to help me. There are only ten people left alive. There were a little over one hundred to begin with. It’s amazing how people will kill so many others to win.

The barrier will close us in on one location called Der Untoten. It reminds me of a zombies map from an old video game. I heard that this place is inspired by it and it’s updated for today’s standards. There’s a mine below the house that I use to enter it. Even though the barrier is close to the house, I don’t hear anyone walking around in here. I start to look through the house and the house barely looks like what it was inspired by. It’s more of an old dusty house than the bunker it’s inspired by.

Finally, I find a real gun in the house’s attic. It’s the KAP-4500, an automatic pistol inspired by the franchise that this house is inspired by. The gun itself is powerful, but I only have one fully loaded clip inside with two spare ones. There are ten other people left and it takes a little more than half a clip each to kill one. Fuck my life. The only thing that’s good about this special version of the gun is that people don’t know they’re being shot by my gun until they’re dead. They don’t hear the gun being shot nor do they see it firing nor do they feel or see the damage they are receiving until they die. It’d be good if I had something better to compliment it than my rifle. Ah! I hear people walking downstairs.

I slowly and I mean SLOWLY descend the stares with my only means of self-defense. I point the gun in all directions while walking then spastically look around when I take a step on the lower floor. Damn it. Being scared like this isn’t going to help. I loosen up my shoulders before heading into a sort of dining hall. There’s a large glass chandelier in the center of the room and stairs that lead down to a small glass table with fancy wooden chairs. My luck is bad again as I don’t find anything down here-! I point my gun at four people who casually enter the room. They’re better armed and geared up than I am. Wow, and they’re wearing anime type outfits and they modeled themselves after them too. What a bunch of weebos.

One of the boys speaks up and says, “You don’t have to worry about us. We’re going to wait for everyone else to show up here before we act.”

I ask them, “Heh. You guys are pretty confident that you’ll win. Who else is on your team?”

“Do you know the winners of the last battle royale?”

“What a team to be on.”

The team laughs. They then casually hang around the stairs even though I could kill them all, so I might as well. First, I take out the girl closest to me then the boy next to him. They do say ladies first after all. Even though two of their teammates dropped within seconds of each other, the other two don’t fight back. They must know what I’m doing by now.

As I shoot down the second to last person, the last girl looks at me with a smile and says, “Our friends will win the competition for us. It doesn’t matter what you do because we’ll win in the end.”

Cheeky bitch. I gun her down with my last bullets. Okay, now these people have to have something I could-damn it! Yup. They weren’t lying. These two girls are the winners from the last battle royale. They’re decked out in advanced gear and weapons that make them look more like cyborgs than human. I thought I saw them get shot out of the sky, but I guess they really did land in the furthest drop zone with the best gear. Just like their friends, these girls are dressed up as anime characters. I back up the stairs as they slowly approach me.

“Give up. You don’t stand a chance against us,” one of the girls say.

“We can see what you have,” the other says, “You might be able to kill one of us before you die.”

Damn. That’s one of the perks of being one of the best of the best. They know what I have on me. Unfortunately, my prestige doesn’t give me an equally good ability. There’s only one thing I can do. I leap downstairs as they start firing at me. In the next room, I find three pens, two breakable and the other is unbreakable. They’re supposed to be used as distractions and not as real weapons. Whelp. I guess it’s better than nothing. I barge through the room and into the entrance.

“Woah!” a girl with boobs way too big says.

It’s probably a guy playing as a girl. I’m pretty sure a normal girl wouldn’t increase her boob size by two hundred percent. They are just way too big. Okay, I gotta focus. The rest of the people are here but are just resting here for some reason. Maybe they’re all a team? Whatever the case is, I run into the basement and into the mine.

“Hey, what’s going on with you two?” I hear a man say before he and everyone upstairs gets slaughtered.

I only have one shot at this. As I hear the two girls coming after me, I double back then get in between them. They take out their giant fist melee weapon and are about to hit me. This is it! I stab one breakable pen into one of their eyes and now they’re blinded. I then drop myself to the floor, so they hit each other. They’re stunned by the system and lay paralyzed on the floor. Friendly fire isn’t allowed and their weapons should stun them long enough for me to finish them.

One of them looks up and me and says, “How did you-?! You’re…?!”

“So you recognize me? I’m glad someone finally does.”

The other one says, “You’re Kaylen or Cazzuto Salvatori! You’re the Bloody Swordsman from Rule Humanity Online!”

“That’s right ladies.” I take out my unbreakable pen. “Unfortunately for you, I’ll have to sign my autograph all over you.”

“No, don’t! Don’t embarrass us like this!”

“I wish I didn’t too, but I don’t have any other weapon so…”

They scream in terror, “No! Stop! You’re a psycho!”

“Only idiots say video games make you psychotic. I’m sorry about this, but I’ll try to make this as quick as possible.”

I begin to quickly stab them with my pen while using my special skill, one million stabs. It’s one of the special perks I have. I think the move itself might also be a reference to another video game with the same move. My prestige as both an experienced player and survivor of the Rule Humanity Online incident has given me a ton of special skills when it comes to melee weapons. I manage to kill both girls with my pen within ten seconds. That should be it. The royale isn’t over yet? Oh? I hear someone upstairs.

“What happened?” a male player says, “Did you guys get him-?”

The man stares at me in shock in terror with my pen of terror.

I say in an attempted terrifying voice, “If you don’t want to end up like them, then I suggest killing yourself.”

“Ah!” the man turns his gun on himself and shoots.

I win. That’s it. After all of the struggling and close calls, I finally win the battle royale. I hope you’re proud of me Angel and Kerano. The game ends and I’m transported back to the main hub of the game where I’m greeted by a crowd of people who cheer for me. Angel and Kerano come out of the crowd to meet me.

“We’ve finally won! I knew you would clutch it!” Kerano says.

“You did great, Kaylen,” Angel says.

“Thanks, guys. It’s about time we won a battle royale in this game. It’s all thanks to my mindset going into it.”

“You treated it like an actual life or death game kind of like…”

I guess I was acting a bit overdramatic.

“Yeah,” I say, “Just like Rule Humanity Online, but that was three years ago, so let’s just leave it behind us, okay?”

“Right. So do you guys want to go spending all that money we just won? I’ve been dying to get new armor and equipment.”

“Yeah, let’s go. We still have an hour to kill before we have to pick up our kids from the daycare.”

This game, After the Fall, came out two years after the Rule Humanity Online incident, where all its players were trapped within it and forced to complete it lest they die of thirst or starvation. I was the one who beat the game alongside my friends. Unfortunately, the governments of the world didn’t catch the developers of the game, but that’s all behind us. This game is inspired by the lore of that previous game and makes it into a completely different game. Instead of a dark fantasy RPG, we’re playing a first-person shooter with role-playing elements in a sci-fi setting. It’s a great game that my friends and I have been playing for a while.

In this game, people can earn real money by winning tournaments, trading gear, helping others out, and even help repair the in-game systems from the inside. You can even bring your kids into the game and have them enrolled in a daycare where they can learn through games and make friends. Everything in here can make you a living. It’s honestly a paradise for gamers like me. This is how we make a living in a world where most low and middle tier paying jobs are mostly taken by androids and AI. College used to be the only (terrible) option, but now with this game, people who don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars can work honest jobs while enjoying themselves in a virtual world. The only things we need to do IRL is to eat and go to the bathroom. We can even sleep in the game without any negative side effects. I don’t think anything can ruin this present time we’re living in though I feel like thinking this will immediately turn things sour.

We arrive at the daycare after shopping for better gear. A woman, who’s volunteering as the daycare worker seems distressed for some reason. I would be too if I had to work with kids all day, but I’m feeling worried as well because of her.

She turns to us with a makeshift smile and says, “Oh, uh. Hi, Kaylen and Angel. I was just looking for Allen. He seems to have wandered off again. I’m sorry.”

I tell her, “I don’t blame him. I used to wander around too when I was little because the world around me seemed so wonderful. I’m sure he’s even more excited than I was because of how this place looks.”

Angel says, “We’ll look around the city. He couldn’t have wandered far like always.”

“Thank you, and I’m sorry for this happening again.”

“It’s no big deal. We’ll be able to find him,” I say as Angel and Kerano go to search for my son.

Angel elbows me then says, “We should take some time off playing-”

“Working.”

“Whatever. We should spend another week or so with Allen. He’s still a growing boy who needs his parents’ attention and teaching.”

“Alright. I don’t have a problem with that.”

“You’d think we do because of how many times we leave him in the daycare.”

“I do the same with my daughter,” Kerano comments.

“But at least your wife spends more time with your daughter while you earn money for them,” Angel responds.

“You don’t have to pick up for me, Kerano. I understand. Being a father really makes me want to settle down somewhere and just spend the rest of my life with the people I care about. I just want to earn as much as possible to make that happen.”

“We have enough now to do that for a little while.”

“I just wish it could last a little longer.”

“Me too, Kaylen.”

The three of us search for a while, but can’t find Allen anywhere, which is strange. Usually, we find him within five minutes of searching. Huh? What’s happening? The sky just turned red. This reminds me of…Oh no. Someone appears on the monitors scattered around the city.

It’s a cloaked figure in a half human half skull mask. They say, “We’re glad that you’re enjoying our game. Now that you have enough experience playing it, we have a new challenge for everyone. Watch.”

The floating mountain from the first game that was once just an easter egg is now lit up and a bridge comes out of the ocean to connect this piece of land to it. Who is this person? They have a voice that sounds like a mix of female and male voices.

“Complete all of the challenges in the mountain along with various other challenges that will be clear to you later in time to free everyone from this game.”

Free? You don’t mean…I can’t log out. Everyone around us tries to and can’t manage to as well. This is just like before. The three of us look at each other.

“Don’t panic guys,” I say, “We beat a game like this last time, and we can do it again.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Kerano says.

“Yeah.”

I can tell they’re uneasy, but they try to put a strong face on.

“Kaylen,” the mysterious figure says.

“Huh? Are you talking to me?”

“I am. You were the winner of the last game, so you’ll probably make it far if not win the game again. I just want to give you some motivation so we can meet a bit faster.”

The mysterious figure spawns in-Allen! They put a pistol to his head. Don’t you-FUCKER!

“You son of a bitch! Do you think you can just shoot my son and think you can get away with it you piece of fucking shit?!”

“Motherfucker! You’re dead! I’m going to beat the shit out of you for doing that!” Angel screams at the figure.

“Calm down, Kaylen. All of you have three lives, but you can earn more if you complete impossible level challenges. You can even earn lives for your friends. If you lose all your lives, you will enter a coma until someone gives you a life. You have until you die of thirst or starvation in real life to complete the game, but knowing what happened last time, you’ll probably have all the time in the world. Good luck.”

That piece of shit is going to pay! I swear it.

“Oh, and Kaylen, here’s your son to show that’s there’s no bad blood between us.”

My son spawns in my arms with a scared and confused look on his face. I collapse to my knees and cry harder than I’ve ever before. I’m going to beat this game and make the people who did this pay. For the first time they trapped us. For the second time. And most importantly for shooting my son.

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – A Sequel in a Different Genre

It takes me a while, but I let go of Allen and hand him over to a technician team within the game. They’re supposed to be the ones who protect the game from hackers, but what’s happening is from within the game and from someone that can access the game’s system with proper clearance. At least that’s what they tell me. It’s weird that some of the people who work on the game genuinely don’t know what’s going on and currently don’t have a way to get us out of the game. This makes no sense to me.

“Kaylen, I think we should go sit down, and start cooling off.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing for the past ten minutes, Kerano!”

Angel hugs me and doesn’t say anything, but I know what she’s saying.

“Alright. Let’s sit down somewhere so I can clear my head.”

We go to one of the many shiny bars in the city run by humans. The game has its own shopkeepers, but they encourage other people to start their own businesses, which was a mistake for the AI since the creativity and efforts of people overtook the businesses of the AI. This was possible because the AI can’t make recipes found the world and they can’t decorate their businesses. Now the AI businesses are there just for cheap stuff for beginners.

When we sit down at the bar, people start to look at us. Before any of them say anything, my two friends take out their guns. This means “don’t bother us” in this game and everyone backs off.

Angel says to Kerano, “Did you tell your wife not to come in the game?”

“I did, and she told me people on the outside are already trying to get us out.”

“I don’t get this,” I say, “They know we can get out. They even made the game easier for us by giving us a way to earn and give lives, and by trapping us after we’ve gotten used to the game. Why?” I slam my hand down on the counter. “Why damn it?!”

Angel puts her hand on my shoulder, “We’ll find out why, and make them pay for shooting Allen.”

“You’re damn right.” I get up and head in the direction of the mountain. “Let’s get this done.”

We head out to the mountain that already has dozens of people going into it, but no one is coming out. The mountain is a PVE dungeon where players bring in their equipment and try to beat the challenges inspired by the previous games in one go. This mountain isn’t as big as the previous one, so I wonder why people are coming in, but aren’t coming out. We haven’t completed this dungeon because we beat the original without guns.

As soon as we head in, we see that it’s just the three of us in the dungeon. This place allows teams and solo players to enter it, but not everyone at once since that would make it too easy. The first floor we’re on is full of normal fantasy monsters that we bypass. It’s not worth fighting them right now. We enter the boss room to find…what the hell? It’s a combination of two bosses. Half of the boss is a man with wings while the other half is a snake lady. It flies around spitting poison while trying to wrap us in its coils.

“Angel!” I call out.

“Don’t you worry guys, I got this!”

“I’ll help!” Kerano says as he sets down turrets.

Angel’s build consists of light machine guns and explosives while Kerano’s build is proficient in shotguns, traps, and buildable defenses. Kerano’s turrets shoot at the flying boss to keep it busy while Angel locks onto it. Once she gets a lock, she fires a volley of rockets at it, which knocks it out of the sky. Since bosses never die easy, we keep firing it once it hits the ground. It lets out a yell before charging at me.

“I got this!” I say as I switch my assault rifles to swords.

My build is a gunslinger build upgraded so I can dual wield assault rifles. I can also dual wield swords as well. It’s pretty sweet that this game has guns that can turn into sword, hammers, knives, and spears. It’s useful in situations like this where I’m fighting the boss up close and personal. Since it’s almost dead, I launch a flurry of slashes that stagger the boss so I can take it down without having to worry about it fighting back, and my attack finishes it. We’ve managed to beat the boss without it scratching us. The game rewards us by replenishing our ammo and opening the way to the next area. Since we finished it without taking any damage, we are given a slight boost in health and ammo capacity.

Kerano says, “I don’t remember that from the first game.”

“Neither do I. The people who trapped us here must’ve changed it,” I say.

“Maybe they did it so it won’t be easy for the veterans?” Angel guesses.

“That’s probably the answer, but it doesn’t matter what the reason really is. We have to keep going,” I say as we move for the exit.

They follow me into the next area, which is…what the hell? Literally. This place looks like Hell. It’s a battlefield with lake flowing down the cracks in the ground like rivers with the grass turned red because of the red rain falling down that smells like blood. We can see other players here fighting against demons and monsters of all kinds alongside AI soldiers that decide from helicopters in the sky. I can see three bosses that are molten monsters in metal armor protecting a large castle that is launching out fireballs onto the battlefield. That must be our destination.

“Get down!” someone yells as a mortar almost hits us.

We go to cover with some other players who are in a hole.

“What’s going on here?” I ask one of the players.

“This is how this floor is now for some reason. A lot of people are stuck here. It wasn’t like this before when my friends and I used to grind this dungeon. Hey, aren’t you, Kaylen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You can get to the end like last time, right? We all have family and friends who are worried about us.”

I look at him and his friends.

“Of course I can. I am going to need your help though.”

“Just tell us what to do.”

“First, I’m going to need more people.”

“I can message people, but they’re afraid to lose another life.”

“I’m only going to need one shot at this.”

“Okay, I’ll tell them that. We can also get more of our AI allies to spawn if we make it to those flare guns.”

“Alright. All you need to do is get my friends and I passed those three bosses then you can back off.”

“Okay…okay, we can do that.”

“We’re going to show those people who trapped us in here that they made the biggest mistake of their life. Are you ready?”

“We’re ready!” the group yells out.

“Then let’s get some!”

We run out of the holes and into the madness. I’m not sure if the screaming and dying are coming from the people behind us, but I ignore it and press forward. Because there is so much debris and hiding holes everywhere, my team and I take advantage of them for a second before going to next one when we think it’s safe. Before we know it, we’re halfway there. The people behind us have gotten to the flare and pop them off to send in several helicopters full of soldiers to help us. The AI and the other players distract the molten armored bosses while we pass by them and enter the castle.

This castle is a dark place with blood dripping from the stones. There’s rusted treasure everywhere with skeletons everyone that are wearing clothes from the ages long past. We enter a throne room to find a wounded human-like dragon with four serpent arms. It takes the large swords out of its body, lets out a yell that shatters the glass windows in the castle, and starts to fight. We dodge its attacks while firing all of our heavy and armor piercing ammo at it, but its health is barely decreasing.

“I hope we don’t have to go inside it to kill it,” I mention before it opens its mouth at us to release several lizard knights.

Kerano and I take care of the smaller lizards while Angel launches explosives into the dragon’s still open mouth for massive damage. The dragon’s mouth now lays open and we can see inside it too, which means we can enter it in unsaid video game hints. The makers of this game can’t be just dedicated enough to design the dragon’s insides.

“Get in his mouth so we can end this quickly, Kaylen!” Kerano says.

“What?! Why me?! I can’t swing my swords in there! You do it with your shotguns!”

“Uh uh! I ain’t going in that putrid place!”

“This is a video game! You aren’t going to catch a disease, be dirty, or smell after you come out!”

“Can one of you just do it?!” Angel yells.

“Fine.”

I go into the dragon’s mouth and drag my blades through the inside of his throat. This seems to wake it back up. Big mistake pal as my blades cut deeper into his throat. I take my blades out of the inside of his throat so I can land deeper inside him so I can cut him up more. I never want to think that thought again. With my smaller blades from my submachine guns, I tear out the dragon’s chest until I break through its skin and cut a hole through its stomach where a bullet almost hits me.

“Hey, watch it! I’m still in here!”

After a little bit more cutting, the dragon falls over. Great. Why can’t its body just disappear? I cut my way out of its stomach and step out of it with my body drenched in its blood. Angel and Kerano give me a weird look.

To ease the weirdness, I dance a little while singing, “Hello my baby, hello my honey!”

“No, don’t even do that,” Angel says while shaking her head at me.

“I get the joke, but…I can’t feel comfortable about this,” Kerano says.

“Hey, I stepped up like a real man and did what you couldn’t!”

“Urgh. I think the game makers really did add in smells and make you dirty.”

“It happens in some parts of the game but do I really-UCKK! I really do.”

“You’re going to have to sleep by yourself tonight,” Angel says while she heads for the exit of the castle.

“Hey, I’ll shower and use plenty of soap and have my gear cleaned, I promise! Don’t you laugh at me, Kerano!”

“Ha, I’m sorry bro. You did a good job.”

We head into the next area to find a bridge that leads to a giant castle that’s supposed to be at the top of the mountain. Kerano and I look at it each and Angel notices.

She asks, “What is it?”

“It’s nothing. We’re just surprised to be here already,” I say.

“Yeah, me too. At least we get to finish this quicker.”

She seems to have bought the explanation. I’m not sure what will happen once we enter the castle, but I’m feeling uneasy because I feel like I know what or who the final boss is going to be. We enter the castle and into the throne room. It’s just as nice as it was in the first game, but it has a cherry-rose color to it for some reason. On the throne, is a man with a cloak and red and black armor. He gets up with his red sword and takes off his cloak to reveal his face. It’s a mix between Kerano and I. I can even see my old sword on the side with my shield on the boss’s back.

I can see that Angel is more surprised than Kerano and I. I’ll have to explain everything to her later. The boss charges at us with his buster sword coming down to separate us. We fire at it while avoiding his swiping attacks that hit the walls around us. Debris starts to fall on us that we take turns shooting down, so it doesn’t land on us. After taking down the bosses to half, it smashes its buster sword into the wall to bring down the ceiling on us. We avoid the debris by getting out of the room. When the dust settles in the room, we see that the boss is holding a shield so that the debris doesn’t crush it. This move has cost it some of its health, but it did almost kill us.

It then flings the debris that is on its shield at us before going back to swinging and slashing at us. We try strafing around the boss while taking turns having its attention, which makes it put its shield on its back to deflect our bullets. Kerano tries putting down multiple turrets to make the boss put up its shield and put it in a difficult position, but it just throws its shield at the turrets to ricochet it off them and destroy them all. This was a dangerous way to get it to drop its guard, but we manage to deplete its health before its shield comes back to it resulting in the shield cutting off the boss’s head.

“We did it!” we yell out in victory.

A cloaked figure forms itself out of the shadow. It looks like the same bastard who shot my son.

“Congratulations on winning. I knew you three would be the first to beat the new challenges on this mountain,” the figure says in a male/female mixed voice.

“You better explain what we need to do next,” I say as I approach the figure with my guns pointed at it.

“Or what? What’s shooting me in a video game going to do to me? You might as well say mean words at me for all its worth.”

“Just tell us!”

“You’ll see as soon as you step outside.”

“I want to know more before you go. Tell me why you’re doing this-He disappeared. What an ass.”

“Is it a good time to ask why that boss had both of your faces on it?” Angel says as she stops me from passing by her.

Kerano and I look at each other before I explain that, “Back in RHO, Kerano finished the game before I did, but he decided not to free us because the developers convinced him not to.”

I can she’s stunned and pissed at the same time.

“…why didn’t you free us when you won the game first, Kerano?”

“Because I thought life would be better if we just spent the rest of it in the game. The developers promised me that everyone was being moved to hospitals so we could live full lives within the game! I don’t think that anymore and regret my decision, of course!”

“And why did you two lied to me about this?!”

I say, “We didn’t, kind of. The first person to beat the top of the tower in the game’s lore is like Kerano so we didn’t technically lie to you when we said that the final boss was a person who beat the mountain already.”

“Tch.”

“Angel…”

“I’m not mad. It’s been too long for me to care about what you did, Kerano. I just need some time to rest.”

Kerano and I give Angel some space as we exit the castle. In the distance, we see the survival warzone alive with danger as the ground breaks apart. I guess that’s where we’re headed next after we rest. If this was difficult for us, then I hope our experience can carry us through the next challenge and the ones after that. What am I thinking about? I have to have more faith in my wife, my best friend, and myself. When I look in their faces, I see that I can trust them. Angel softly smiles at me and Kerano smiles with a wink and a thumbs up. Yeah, we can all make it through this and beat the game.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Secrets of the Wastes

The challenges of the mountain took a lot out of us, so we’re resting back in the city in our special rooms. We gained these for our skills and our previous experience in RHO. We’re in the center building, which is a leaning tower with a golden bird at the top that acts like a marker in the city, so they know where the center is. Even though the tower itself is leaning, the resting rooms themselves don’t lean, but the view outside of the window is leaned, which is a bit odd and cool at the same time. The rest of the resting rooms in the city are for people who haven’t earned the better ones. Once they do, a room is automatically generated for them in the better buildings. The buildings can never run out of room as they grow or shrink depending on their occupants. Heck, even the city grows depending on how many businesses and apartments are needed.

This growing city still amazes me when I look out at it. The city hasn’t changed much ever since the amount of people coming in has nearly ceased. I hear that a lot of people coming in are experienced VR gamers who think they can beat this game. I’m not even sure if anyone else has beaten the mountain yet. I hope someone does beat the game soon. I don’t even want to be the first one to beat the game, unlike the first time. I’ve learned my lesson about rushing things like this.

Right now, Kerano is resting in the living room while Angel is resting over me as I sit up on the bed while looking out at the sci-fi city and its glow. Allen is sleeping in the room with us. We’ll teleport him back to the system security when we’re doing resting.

“Do you think we should stop playing these kinds of games? I think the government might shut them down after this,” Angel says.

“No, because it’s not like we can find a better place to make money for a living. I don’t think the government will shut these games down because hundreds of thousands of people make their living in here. The only jobs worth anything IRL are ones that you can only get with expensive college degrees. The rest of the jobs that aren’t taken already by robots and AI are ones that barely pay for anything.”

“Heh, we’re fighting to get out of here only to go back in.”

“At least we aren’t as dedicated as some of the pros. They’re already hooked up to a machine that feeds and cleans them. I bet they don’t even care what’s happening right now.”

“Then it’s up to people like us. This must be a scary situation for newcomers.”

“This situation is making me remember the first time this happened. Remember when you were an angry tough girl who wanted people to like her?”

“I think you’re remembering it differently than I am, but I definitely remember that you were a sarcastic jackass who wanted to get to the top of the mountain first at the cost of our lives.”

“Hey, that’s not exactly true. I changed.”

“Yeah, you definitely did.”

“Do you remember the first time we held hands? What about the first time we slept together?”

“I remember that. How could I not remember getting cut to pieces for wanting to save your ass?”

“Oh, don’t bring that memory back up. That was horrible.”

“I wish I could completely forget it along with most of the memories associated with that game.”

“Except for the few good ones spent with me, right?”

“Haha, you’re right. I want to hold onto memories those forever just like how I want to hold onto you forever. Can we just stay like this and let someone else finish the game? There are plenty of teams of pros that can finish it for us.”

“I know that, but I don’t want to. What that ass did to Allen was a direct challenge to me. I don’t care if nothing actually happened to him. He did more than disrespect my son and us by shooting him in the face. No sane good person shoots a baby boy.”

“You’re right, but I just want to be with and protect both of you instead of just leaving him in the hands of the system security.”

“You can’t save neither us if they just teleport and insta-kill us. We have to go to them and beat them at their own game. To do that, we should be heading out soon.”

“Let me spend some more time with Allen first just in case anything else happens to him.”

“Okay. I’ll talk to Kerano. You aren’t mad at him or me, are you?”

“It’s been too long for what he did to matter to me, so no, but I don’t want to hear about it again.”

“Thank you for understanding.” I get up and give my son a kiss, which makes him giggle and smile. “I’ll see you later, buddy. I love you.”

I leave the room and sit on the coach across from Kerano, who is checking his shotgun.

“Is Angel still mad at me?”

“She’s not mad at you at all. Just don’t remind her of what you did.”

“Do you think she’ll tell my wife?”

“Probably not.”

“I hope not because I was being stupid back then. I made a horrible mistake.”

“Don’t worry about it. It seems like you got what you wanted anyway since most of our time is spent making money playing video games.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“So, why are you cleaning your shotgun there? It’s not like it gets dirty.”

“Unlike you.”

“Hey, the smell and the guts are gone.” I smell myself to make sure. “Right?”

“Haha, it’s gone. I just like cleaning it because it’s my favorite.”

“It’s one of the starting shotguns.”

“It’s also the shotgun that I’ve done the most with, but it’s one of the best because of the rest of my perks.”

“I swear you got lucky with that. The mechanist perk that you choose decreases the damage of your primary damage so your turrets can do more, but since the perk subtracts the damage of your shotgun to negative one, the damage amount loops around so that your shotgun does the maximum amount of damage to make it as powerful as the most powerful shotguns in the game. That’s not all either since the starting shotgun has an above average fire rate, it makes it better in some cases than the best shotguns, which have lower fire rates. To top it all off, what’s happening to your gun isn’t a glitch.”

“I was surprised when the developers said it was a secret to make the ordinary weapons legendary. Do you remember the story they told about how a basic weapon saved their lives in a gaming tournament and allowed them to win it?”

“Yeah, I don’t blame them for getting attached to basic weapons because of that.”

“But just because my main gun is good doesn’t make your guns less special. Your golden roaring lions with its sixty round clips coming out of both barrels of your gun and ability to change into swords is amazing.”

“You got that right. This gun is exclusive to my combined build.”

“Your other guns are amazing two like your twin viper shotguns, death’s kiss handguns, and siren’s scream submachine guns.”

“They’re pretty great, but all you have to do is beat the same high secret level quests that are exclusive to my build to get them. Tons of people probably already know how to get them, so the quests aren’t as much of a secret now. Besides, Angel’s heavy weapons are great too. The white lotus LMG packs a punch and staggers every player and small to medium-sized AI enemy it manages to hit once. It’s deadly despite its low fire rate because once it hits you, you’re dead in seconds.”

“There’s also that purple dragon of wrath rocket launcher. We had to kill an actual purple dragon to get that weapon.”

“How worth it was it to get it? That thing causes bigger explosions along with greater damage along with fire damage. It’s basically a mini-nuke launcher.”

Angel comes into the room and says, “Are you two done talking about gun porn?”

“If you’re ready to go,” I say, “Did you teleport Allen back to security?”

“I did.”

“Then let’s go. Are you ready?”

“I am.”

I cock my gun then say, “Let’s go then.”

“That wasn’t as cool as you thought it was,” Angel says.

“I thought it was. If it isn’t, why do so many people do it? Whatever, let’s just go.”

We head out to the survival wasteland, which is both the place that is used for the hunting, dungeon, and one-third of the story mode of this game. The story is found by talking to people in the different areas of the game world. Unlike a lot of games, you have to keep note of what you have to do unless you get a helmet or visor that will help you keep track of your quests. Kerano has a visor that also doubles as a headband. He uses it to keep track of the health of his turrets.

The dungeons are mini-quests that let you earn different loot and also affect the world in different ways such as; the look in certain areas, the enemy spawns, loot drops, random encounters, events in the areas, and your faction’s status. Now, the survival part of the area lets you face dangerous areas while obtaining loot and secret quests. If you die before you exit the area, then you lose everything and have to do it all over again. It’s less of a gamble than gambling in town for rare loot and it’s more exciting. I wonder what the asses who trapped us here want us to do.

There are a lot of people near the gate into the wasteland both on the outside and the inside. They’re talking about what to do and what groups to go in. It appears that they beat the mountain, so we join in on the conversation. Angel and Kerano talk to a few people while I talk to one who looks like he specializes in pistols and submachine guns, so he’s a fellow gunslinger.

I say to him, “Hey, man, do you know what everyone is doing here?”

“We’re planning on how we should approach the wasteland to find what we need for everyone to escape the game. You’re Kaylen, right?”

“I am.”

“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m surprised you picked a gunslinger class like me.”

“You should combine it with the sword class. You can get some sick weapons like the ones I have.”

“I’ll think about it if I ever decide to play this game again.”

“Has anyone decided to do anything yet?”

“So far it looks like we’re going to separate into large groups of seven to search the dungeons and the wasteland.”

“That sounds like a good plan. I’m up for it if you guys are.”

“Did you hear that?” he says to the crowd, “We got Kaylen approving our plan!”

The crowd of people seems excited and starts cheering as they get into groups.

The gunslinger then says, “I’d like it if you’d join my group since we only have five. We can use an expert like you.”

“I will as soon as I can ask what my wife and best friend want to do.”

Angel manages to find me. She’s followed by others who have similar weapons to her.

“Angel, what group are you going with? Do you want to go together?”

“My group over here is planning to take out the tougher enemies together, and they need a person like me to help them. Can you handle being without me for a while?”

“I can as long as I get to see you again. The real question is if your group can handle you on their team.”

Angel jabs me with her elbow, “Oh, shut it. I’ll see you later.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

I then find Kerano in a group of people who in a similar build class as him. He says the same things as Angel except his group is going to handle the hordes of lesser enemies and act as distractions to draw in the bigger enemies for heavy hitting groups like Angel’s. I let him go and join the group with the gunslinger. Together we go out into the wasteland in search of a possible dungeon to raid for secrets. Along the way I talk to the group about how the developers held secrets such as the one that makes Kerano’s starter shotgun so powerful, and how their fond memories of video games could help us find what we’re looking for.

We find a few possible places to search and separate into teams of two to investigate the different areas with a campsite that we use as a rendezvous and fast travel point. The gunslinger and I go investigate a dungeon behind a waterfall. It’s where one of the developers had spent the first day with his newlywed wife who had a similar interest in games. The developer wrote his and wife’s initials near the cave’s entrance and made the lore reflect the first time he met his wife. It’s a bunch of romantic mumbo jumbo that I can’t help but like because I know what it’s like to be in love. The enemies in the dungeon are nothing special that can’t be taken be easily taken out with a single headshot since gunslingers like us do better headshot damage than most builds.

“So, you didn’t tell me your name yet,” I say to the gunslinger.

“My name is Dante.”

“Is that your username or actual name?”

“It’s my actual name.”

“I’m sorry. I thought it was just a reference.”

“Don’t worry about it, I get that a lot. In fact, I picked gunslinger as my main class because of it.”

“What’s your secondary class?”

“It’s the secondary part of my reference. I use buffs and debuffs that I activate by saying quick lines to activate them. The ones that I use are the second part of the reference in my build, which is Dante Alighieri. The lines taken from the Divine Comedy are some of the best buffs and debuffs to use.”

The carryovers from the previous game aren’t just guns that can turn into swords and melee weapons builds, but also healing, buffing, and debuffing magic. There is offensive magic, but it is limited to giving your weapons certain effects as if it were a magic wand. You got be shooting magical bullets or throwing out long-range slashes with your swords. I think the game blends its previous fantasy elements with the sci-fi ones pretty well.

“Spitting poetry while being a stylish gunslinger? You sound like a real cowboy.”

“Haha, you think so? Oh, I think we might found something.”

The boss that spawns at the end of the dungeon is a couple who look like the developers. They’re both wearing their wedding outfits and they’re using a dual sword build that can deflect our shots. They work well together, which gives me an idea.

“Dante, we need to focus on taking out one of them. The other should easily fall after that.”

“Okay, but which one?”

“The woman.”

“Gotcha.”

“A man is nothing without his woman, am I right?”

“I see. You’re right.”

The developer should fall if his wife does or at least lose the will to fight, so we concentrate on her. She’s more skilled in defense and the developer tries his best to defend her, but our concentrated fire eventually goes through her defenses to defeat her. She might’ve been fast and skilled, but her health was low enough to deplete within seconds of getting staggered. The developer falls to his knees, which gives us the opportunity to finish him off. Dante and I then bump fists with our guns in victory.

“Your plan worked. How did you know that killing his wife wouldn’t just send him into overdrive?” Dante asks.

“Eh. Honestly, it was a gamble.”

“Haha. Alright, let’s see what we can find here.”

Dante and I search around the room and don’t find anything. We didn’t earn anything special besides high-level loot and a lot more money and EXP than you would usually get from a dungeon like this. Hold on…

“Dante…”

“What’s up?”

“Do you remember this letter being here before?”

“No, I don’t think so. What do you think a giant T means?”

“I don’t know. It could be part of a password. Oh! There’s a bunker in the destroyed nuclear test site with a keypad that you can enter a password in. The developers said they would eventually reveal the password to it to show us something special.”

“Oh, that’s right! I forgot about that since it was impossible trying to find the code.”

“I didn’t think they had this planned from the beginning.”

“I hope we can get back at these people before they do this again.”

“That’s the same thing I was thinking. We should regroup with the others to see what they found.”

When we get to the campsite, we find that the other two groups have one member whose died once, but they’ve managed to find a letter like we have. They’ve found the letters T and O. Tot? Like tatter tot? Maybe it’s thot? I don’t know. We probably need more letters. While we talk about where to go next, Kerano finds us and joins in on the conversation.

After we tell him what we found, he says, “It sounds like you need help from yours truly.”

“Doesn’t your group need your help? What happened to them anyway?” I ask.

“My group has more people who are better at crowd control than I am, so they’re fine without me.”

“That’s good. Would you mind if we left to go help our friends earn the lives they lost? They’re scared to lose all of them,” one of the others say.

“Are you serious? It doesn’t matter if you lose all of your lives because people can just earn them back for you,” Dante says.

“Dante, it’s fine. You two can go if you want,” I say to them.

“Thank you.”

Once the two of them leave, Dante says, “Why did you let them go? They could’ve helped us.”

I explain to him that, “You have the two of us with you, so you have nothing to worry about. Besides, I’m sure we can find other people to replace them.”

“What if we face a threat that’s too much for the three of us to handle?”

“Then we retreat and find someone who can help us.”

“Alright. I’m just wondering because I want to get at the people who trapped us here as quickly as possible.”

“Don’t worry about it. We feel the same way. They’ll get what’s coming to them soon. Let’s move out.”

The three of us head out into the wasteland. After we walk through the wasteland while Dante introduces himself to Kerano, we discover a lake near a small town.

I tell Dante and Kerano to stop here because, “A few developers came from a small town near and a lake. Also, who wouldn’t hide an easter egg near a lake in a wasteland?”

We search through the town first before going near the lake.

As Dante looks closer into the lake, he says, “I think I see a letter down there.”

Before Kerano and I can see what he sees, a giant Hydra with six heads.

“Kerano!”

“I got it!”

Kerano starts laying down turrets to distract the heads of the Hydra while Dante and I start firing at its heads. We don’t seem to be doing the much damage to it despite hitting critical hits. I think I see a small glow in the hydra’s mouth when it opens it, but since the turrets are making it shut its mouth, I can’t hit it.

“I’m going to need you to shut down your turrets except the ones to defend you, Kerano!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I am!”

“…alright then.”

Kerano self-destructs his turrets that aren’t protecting him, which makes the snakes open their mouths to spit their poisons at us.

“Dante! I’m going to need you to shoot the snakes in the mouth particularly the glowing part.”

“Those glowing spots are really small. Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. Gunslingers like us specialize in hitting the enemy where it hurts most after all.”

We both smile at each other and shoot the snake in its mouth like real sharpshooters. When the glowing spot takes enough damage, it explodes along with the head of the serpent. We then repeat the process until there are only three heads left. The three heads into turn into one serpent that’s larger with sharper scales and teeth. It tries to eat me, but I manage to stop it and hold its mouth open with my assault rifle swords.

“Guys, I’m going to need your help here!”

“We got it!”

Both Kerano and Dante concentrate their fire into the hydra’s mouth until the glowing spot blows up along with the hydra’s head. The rest of its body disappears as we get a reward for killing the beast. We raise our guns and cheer in victory.

“You must trust Kaylen a lot to let down your defenses without any explanation,” Dante says.

“I trust him. He’s been like a brother to me ever since that time we played RHO together.”

“I mean we basically live in the same house so we might as well be family. We both left our families behind to pursue our careers in gaming.”

“Really? That’s dedication to your friends and your beliefs if I’ve ever heard of it.”

“Haha, I guess you could say so. Now, what’s that letter you saw?”

“Let’s see. It’s an A.”

“An A? So we have T, O, T, and A.”

“Nothing about that sequence of letters brings up anything to my head. What about you, Kaylen? You know your references.”

“Nothing. Let’s keep moving. I think I know where we should go next.”

“Right,” both of them say.

We head out to a volcano near the bunker. This surrounding area in general has a ton of easter eggs such as; the destroyed nuclear test site is a reference to a town used to test nukes in a popular multiplayer game, there’s a cabin nearby that’s broken in half with a giant arm coming out of it, a downed alien space ship that’s in the form of a C, and so on. As we get closer to the volcano, we find groups of people fighting all kinds of enemies. Among these people is Angel.

Kerano starts setting up his turrets as Dante and I start cleaning the killing floor. I shoot my way through the crowd of enemies with my pistols in order to not hit anyone else until I get to Angel.

“Hey, babe, you come here often?” I ask her.

“Hell no. Did you find anything?”

“We found hidden letters that I think we can use to enter the bunker that’s not far from here.”

Kerano’s turrets then activate and launch a barrage of homing shots that kills the crowds of enemies. I give Kerano a thumbs up and he does the same. The ground then shakes as the volcano begins to become active. An enormous dragon made of fire erupts from the volcano and yells out as fire begins to rain from the sky. Knights also made of fire form themselves from the fire rained from the sky and the lava pouring out of the volcano.

Angel says to me, “Think we can take them?”

“Of course we can. We can do this! Let’s kick some ass!” I say to the group to rally them.

They scream out with their guns raised. The players with short to medium ranged charge the enemy while the ones with long ranged weapons take up positions to shoot at the knights while others shoot at the dragon. Angel and I go after the dragon as it flies towards us while Dante and Kerano with his turrets help the others with the knights. The dragon itself has no real critical areas to hit-wait, strike that. Its weak points move as the bubbling fire on its body reveals it. I fire at those to bring it crashing to the ground.

Angel uses her rocket launcher on it while I empty clip after clip of my assault rifle in it until I run out of ammo. I then switch to my shotguns and get up close and personal to the dragon’s head. It tries chomping at me while breathing fire at me, but I dodge its attacks while switching my shotgun to a short sword then back again to keep its attention as Angel peppers it with light machine gun fire from a distance. The dragon then gets mad and switches its attention to Angel.

I can’t aggro it to me, so I stab my swords into its fiery skin and climb on top of it, then yell out, “Watch out, Angel!”

The dragon then flies a short distance above the ground then charges towards Angel.

“Grab my hand!” I say with my hand out.

Angel grabs my hand as we go up into the sky with the dragon.

“You’re crazy!” she says as climbs on top of the dragon.

“And you’re even crazier for going with my plan. It’s also crazy that this dragon made of fire isn’t that hot to stand on.”

“We still can’t stay on it without taking a little damage. What’s your plan?”

“Put your rocket launcher in its mouth and blow it up. I think its weak point is somewhere in its chest.”

“Do you have a plan to get us back down?”

“Kind of. Just get on my back.”

Angel gets on my back as I use my swords to climb up to the dragon’s face as it flies around trying to get us off. Once we get to the mouth, I cut the dragon’s jaw so that its mouth is wide open.

“Do it, Angel!”

Angel puts her rocket launcher in the dragon’s mouth then says, “Eat this!”

She fires her rocket into the dragon, which causes its body to explode, but the neck and head are still intact.

“What now?!” Angel asks in a panic as we begin to plummet to the ground.

“Hold onto me!”

Angel holds onto me as I get us to the top of the dragon’s head with my swords. I try to keep the dragon’s head on the bottom as we fall, and I manage to do this as the dragon’s head digs into the ground then throws us off when the dragon’s head and neck turn into ash. I roll on the ground with Angel in my arms until we come to a complete stop. Man is she shaking after the ride.

“That was fun, wasn’t it,” I say to her with a smile.

“That was horrible.”

“It was amazing. I don’t know what you were worried about. Even if we couldn’t survive the fall, we would still have two more lives.”

“That’s not the point. Falling to my death is terrifying even if this is a game.”

“But don’t lie that you weren’t at least a little thrilled.”

“…okay, I was.”

“Want to do it again after this is over?”

“No!”

In the distance, I see that the group has finished off the small army of knights. The once activate volcano has calmed down and the lava is now cooled off. We search the volcano and find the letter, Y.

I say aloud, “T, O, A, T, and now Y…hmm. I still can’t make anything out of that.”

“How about toasty if we add an S?” Angel says.

“Toasty? That sounds like it could be it since it’s a reference. Let’s see if the bunker will accept that.”

We go to the bunker and fortunately enough, it accepts it. Our group cheers with cheers for Angel in particular.

As we descend into the bunker, I ask whoever can answer it, “Why toasty of all references? It sounds like something someone would’ve tried on the door.”

Everyone just shrugs while Angel says, “I don’t know, but I know that I was the one who got it after so many other people failed.”

“Ooooh, you’re so special.”

“You’re damn right about that.”

When we get to the bottom of the bunker, we find a bunch of monitors. All of them activate and form a picture of a cloaked face.

The person on the monitor says, “Congratulations on finally getting into the bunker. I’m sure you’re wondering why toasty was the password. Well, it wasn’t originally, and the password history suggests that dozens of people already tried it.”

I turn around to see Angel puff her face.

“The password was originally something easier to guess, but we changed it to toasty later. So the main reason why toasty is the password is because my friend and I were always bad at fighting games even though we loved playing them. We barely used two or three special moves from our favorite characters and just button mashed for most games, but for every match we played, we finished it with an uppercut.”

Ah, I get it now.

“You must be hearing this message after you were all trapped in this game, which must be slightly unfortunate for you. The truth is, if you figured out the password beforehand, you would’ve never been trapped here, and we would’ve never bothered you by doing it.”

What? Are they serious?

“We don’t even know why you would want to free yourselves since you must know that the world sucks. When you free yourselves, you’ll probably be back here again to make money and have fun. If you want to free yourselves, nevertheless, you must get to the PVP area of the game and find our developer building. Search it and you’ll find the key to your freedom. We really hope you’ve been enjoying our game and will continue to for however long you play it.”

The monitors then shut off. The group talks amongst itself while exiting the bunker while I stare at the monitor. Hmm. Nothing? No after secret message after what you said? There we go! It’s on.

The person on the monitor says, “No, there is no secret after credits message. You should know that we hate those.”

It turns off again. That’s bullcrap! Oh! It’s back on!

“Okay, here’s a hint since you’re so patient. You’re probably not going to defeat the challenge after your next. Sorry, but that’s how it’s going to be.”

The monitors turn off again.

I shoot the monitors while saying to it, “Fuck you! We’re going to make sure you pay for everything that you’ve done!”

“What do you think they met by saying we’re probably not going to beat the last challenge?” Kerano asks as we leave the bunker.

“It’s probably BS to get us scared,” Angel says.

“You’re damn right about that.”

Once we’re out of the bunker, I state, “We’re going to free ourselves from this game and get back at those developers for what they did. Nothing can beat us when we fight together!”

We fist bump with a battle cry then head out to the PVP area. Just you asses wait. We’re going to free ourselves soon enough.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Freedom from Virtual Reality

The PVP zone is a mostly destroyed city that’s a lesser version of the cities of today. It’s from the 2000s so about a hundred years ago. Players face each other in this city for loot, equipment, and money. The better you do, the better stuff you get. You enter the PVP zone by being mid-rank or level fifty. If you bet money, you can earn real money, but if you don’t you only gain equipment and guns. To get more money, you do well in a game and then the amount of money you earn is based on the game, your number of kills/deaths, and if your team won or not.

I wish I was still playing the normal game now because everyone is shooting at each other for some reason. As far as I know, killing each other in the PVP zone is the easiest way to earn back lives. The people over here have found out that you can’t earn anymore lives over three and what lies in the developer’s building. Some people have given up and are trying to make other people give up as well. There are others that are earning back their lives and the lives of their friends to try to challenge again. Unfortunately, we’ll have to go through them in order to beat the game.

Despite how large the city is, there are few open sections. Most are close to medium engagements, so my shotguns and submachine guns are the best in this area. Angel covers us from longer distances while Kerano shoots the people I miss. The three of us work like a well-oiled SWAT time until we get to the area near the developer’s building. It’s completely surrounded by people who are protecting it. They aim their sights and fire on whoever approaches the building. This is going to be tricky, so we huddle together to make a plan.

“I could put turrets around the perimeter while you distract them,” Kerano suggests.

“That sounds decent, but what I just blow them all up? A few shots of my purple dragon should be able to clear most of them and the smoke screen it creates should be able to give us cover,” Angel says.

“That sounds like a good plan, but what about this…we shoot them all,” I say.

“I’m being serious!”

“I like his plan,” someone from behind us says.

I turn around to see my gunslinger bro Dante.

“Hey, Dante! I was wondering where you were,” I say to him.

“I was gathering people so we could secure it to investigate it. I think we can take the building if we use all three of your plans.”

“Well, my plan is a joke plan, but I like your idea. We’re one step away from freedom, are you guys ready?”

The crowd of people yell together.

“Shh! You don’t want them knowing we’re here yet.”

The crowd then does a silent yell before we start enacting our plan. Everyone gets into positions so that we attack in a pincer formation. Once we’re ready, I message Angel, and she shoots a rocket in the area with the most people in it. Kerano then begins to set up his turrets in key positions to give us cover as we attack. Our plan is executed so well that most of the players defending the building are dead within seconds.

Unfortunately, we have attracted the attention of neighboring players who are hunting for lives. Angel, Kerano, Dante, and I quickly run for the developers building under a hail of gunfire-Oh shit! Someone just sniped half of Dante’s head off!

“Don’t worry guys, I’m sure you can do it without me!” he says as he begins to disappear.

“Don’t talk with half your head off! It’s weird, and we got it. Just you wait,” I say before we head further into the building.

Most of the upstairs floors are just abandoned spaces with posters referencing the developers’ favorite video game, movie, anime, comics, manga, and TV shows. There are also pictures of the developers and their families along with testing rooms for their games. I’m a bit surprised they made more than this game and RHO. Since there isn’t anything really here, we check the basement and find an elevator that’s operational. I don’t remember this being operational and there are no other elevators in this building besides this one. When we look at the elevator’s controls, we see that the only button has a down arrow.

I look to Angel and Kerano and ask them, “Are you ready?”

“We are if you are, babe,” Angel says.

“I’ve been ready,” Kerano says.

“Let’s do this then.”

We press the button and the elevator doors immediately shut and the elevator quickly descends to the bottom that makes us hit the ceiling then the floor of the elevator when it hits the bottom. What a way to give us one last scare. Once we exit the elevator, we see that we’re in a somewhat dark mass room with pillars everywhere, and three massive floating figures that are among the pillars as if they’re what’s keeping them together. Those must be the developers, the people who trapped us twice in a video game.

“Welcome, Kaylen, Kerano, and Angel. We knew you would make it here,” one of the developers say.

“You shitheads shot my son. Of course we were going to make it to you and end this game of yours.”

“Even though it was you who beat our first game, you won’t beat this one. I’m sure you’ve seen the others out there who have come here and left only to turn on you.”

“We’re not like them.”

“That’s what they said as well. Do you know that some of them came here first instead of the tower? They were clever enough to follow a hunch they had and come to the only place they may find us. There have been so many people that have lost all of their lives and others that are turning on their friends to get them to stop fighting against us. You may have a fair chance of beating us, but we will be the ones who decide when the game stops.”

“Oh really? We’ll see about that.”

“Not so fast. There’s a special condition for this fight since it’s the last one. You may not know it, but you only have one life left. We took the other ones you had in order to make this choice more difficult for you.”

Assholes. No wonder why those people outside are fighting for lives.

“Okay, what is our choice?”

“You have two choices. Your first choice is to fight us together, but you lose, you don’t have anyone to give you a second chance. Your second choice is to sacrifice two of the people in your group for the last person left to face us with a powerful weapon of their choice. If they lose, they can choose to leave and earn back all your lives.”

What a choice to make.

I look at Angel and Kerano who are nervous, so I say to them, “What do you think we should do?”

“Well…Our safest option is to have a singular person fight and if they lose, then at least someone can try again,” Kerano explains as he tries to keep it together.

“I guess that’s our only real choice because we don’t know how the boss fight with them will go,” Angel says, “But we also don’t know if a singular person will a special weapon can beat them. Who’s going to be that person anyway? If I pick the rarest heavy weapon, I could possibly take them out in minutes.”

Kerano says, “If I’m the one who fights, I could use the best turrets in the game to even the numbers and get a better shotgun to increase my chances of winning.”

“But if I’m the one who fights them, I could pick a weapon that I can dual wield for double the massive damage while also being aided by my critical hits and agility,” I say.

There’s silence for a couple minutes before Kerano says, “I think Kaylen should be the one to fight for us. His build is the best that can adapt to whatever they might throw at him.”

“I think you’re right.”

“Angel…”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen when we fight them. Besides, I trust that you’re going to kick their ass.” Angel hugs and kisses me.

Kerano and Angel then disintegrate as if they were killed.

I turn to the developers and say, “What the hell?!”

“They already decided their champion. Now, pick your weapon.”

A room opens near the elevator door. In the room is an armory of all the weapons in the game. I wonder if they have…oh boy they do! I pick it up and exit the room with the best gun for my build, Hell’s Shredder. It’s a minigun that can also shoot homing rockets that can turn into one big fuck-off buster sword when I put them together.

“You done fuck up now!” I scream at them with my sights on them.

They look surprised and they should be. This is a gun that only the max ranked gunslingers mixed with sword builds can have once they complete their hardest quest. No one has obtained it and there’s been teases of its existence, but now I have it, and now I’m going to shred them to pieces! They open fire on me with their homing lasers, but my homing rockets meet them in the air to destroy them. I then sprint around the room while firing everything the gun has at them. This gun basically makes me a one-man army. It’s no wonder why the only downside is that you have to wait until the next day for an ammo refill, but I have so much ammo that I’ll be able to beat these people.

The minigun cuts through the developers’ health while the rockets block and deflect their attacks. The attacks that do get through I dodge. Despite its size, I can still move fast while firing Hell’s Shredder. It’s one of the things that make it so overpowered. Once they’re down to critical levels of health, the three developers become one cloaked figure with a white mask with three faces and a crown on its head.

“Come at us with everything you got,” they say as they unsheathe their sword-like fingers and charge towards me head-on.

“Bring it!”

I continue to fire my minigun and rockets at them as I charge towards them.

Before they reach me, I switch my gun to a buster sword and hit them with buster sword. They block it with their sword fingers, but I struggle against them until I let out a yell, cut through their fingers, and cut off their head. There it is. It’s over.

The developers say, “Congratulations. We knew you would be the one to finish the game since you knew about the best weapon in the game.”

“That’s not all. It’s because of my wife and best friend that I’m here.”

“Of course. You seem to have grown up since you last played. We don’t see you joke around as much as you used to.”

“Being a father does that. I’ve grown in spirituality, been more responsible, and I’m more goal-oriented for the betterment of my family. The father is the head of the family after all.”

“We’re sending you our address so we can have a talk. Come whenever you want. We’ll be expecting you.”

They’re not really going to-oh, they did. This address is only a few hours away from where I am.

“I’ll be seeing you soon then.”

All three faces on their mask smile at me before disappearing. Keep smiling jacks. You won’t be soon enough. As soon as I log out of the game, I make sure Angel, Kerano, and Allen are okay, and sure enough, they are. Kerano and his wife hug and kiss, but I have to cut their reunion short with what I tell them. They understand and get ready to meet the developers. After making some preparations, we go to the address I was given.

It’s a small inconspicuous house in a nice looking neighborhood. We knock on the door and a woman answers the door.

She says, “We’re so glad to finally meet you. Welcome to our home.”

“Sure,” I say as I go into the house.

There are seven people sitting around a TV playing video games on a console with snacks and sugary drinks on a large table near them. These people look like the average people that you would see on the streets. They’re dressed casually as if they were having a sleepover. The woman who answered the door sits on the couch near them. A man pauses the game and stands up as the seven people look at me.

“Welcome to our home, Kaylen and friends,” he says with a smile.

I really want to punch them all, but I can’t.

“You told me to come here because you wanted to have a talk. What is it that you wanted to talk about?”

“As you can see, we’re just normal gamers like you even though we still play on consoles. I hope it doesn’t make us look like try-hard old school gamers.”

“No, it doesn’t. Millions of people still play on PC and consoles. VR is just for professionals and people who want to make a living playing games.”

“And that’s what we were aiming for. It’s been the dream of millions of gamers to make a living doing what they love, and we’ve made that a reality. You can’t deny that we’ve helped millions of people by giving them the opportunity to make a living without having to break their backs.”

“I guess I can’t.”

“Right. Think about the job market right now. The jobs once meant for the middle class are now filled automated with robots and AI. The rest of the jobs are low paying and will soon be replaced as well. Going to college for a job you probably don’t want is the only option and you know how shit modern academia is right now. Our game has not only given people jobs they want to work, but it has also brought them together, so we work together like we used to so many centuries ago. Hunting, gathering, adventuring, fighting together, and such, but with the added bonus of no one getting hurt. People have even grown more spiritual and religious because of it. We’ve seen you at the Catholic churches in the game. This was the point of our game. It was shown in the game’s story, its world, and the everyday occurrences.”

“You’re right, and I’m thankful for what you’ve done, but what you’ve done to prove your point was wrong. You can’t force people to see your point by trapping them in a game twice, and you sure as hell can’t shoot someone’s son to egg them on even if you didn’t cause any real harm. You have to pay for what you’ve done.”

I take out a collar and put it around the man’s neck. The other developers get up in shock. A SWAT team enters the building to make sure they don’t move.

I continue saying, “You should know what this collar does. The police use it to get the truth out of people, so lying to them will cause you to have more than some minor burns on your neck.”

“We knew this would eventually happen. Part of us always knew that some of what we did was wrong.”

“Then I hope you change for your sake.”

“Don’t worry, we already have.”

I leave the house with my family as the police arrest the developers. At their trial, they are charged with kidnapping and the endangerment of children, but because they caused no actual harm and the law hasn’t evolved for this kind of crime, they only get thirty years in jail instead of the life in jail that I thought they would get. Because they’re prestigious members of society, they get their own special room with gaming systems to play with. I hear that they invite other people to play with them and that they’re upstanding members of the jail. I hope this is true.

As for us, we’re still playing video games to make a living and have fun. Video games bring joy and fun to people. They can teach lessons while also bringing people together for a shared goal, but we still put them down now and then to enjoy real life. Today, I am going out with my family to the beach. I hear that it’s crowded at this time of year.

The End

A Mother and Her Shattering Son

Download the story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/939747

 

Chapter 1 – A Colorful World Filled with War

A world filled with dolls and crystals sounds like a place of wonder and happiness, but this isn’t so of this world. The Crystallis, who are dolls that originate from the crystal, became so prideful of their beauty that they were corrupted by it. Because of this corruption, they attacked the Flos, who are dolls that originate from the beauty of the world. The Flos are skilled when it comes to reasoning and strategy, however, the Crystallis excel in brute strength. The Flos and Crystallis have fought their war to a standstill and are still fighting a brutal world war that has ravaged this once beautiful world.

In all the chaos, innocents are naturally caught in the crossfire. Rosalia’s son, Rhodes, had been caught in an area effect spell that cursed him with decay so that his body slowly falls apart. Rosalia’s husband sacrificed himself so that the two could survive. Several other family members were caught in this spell, but enough managed to survive to fend off the invasion of Crystallis. A cure for Rhodes would’ve been easier to get back in the time of peace, but the only place in the world that holds the cure is in the center of conflict where both sides are constantly fighting each other day in and out, which is the origin point of both dolls. If Rosalia can bring Rhodes to the healing springs, then he can be cured. Despite being told the near impossible odds by repeatedly her neighbors, she goes out in the hopes that she can make it in time.

Currently, Rhodes has been falling apart but is in a coma-like state where he is vaguely aware of what’s around him. Rosalia has been carrying him on her back as she traverses the crystal forests. Since the world is at war, the vegetation in the forest has become hostile to everything that isn’t them as well. Rosalia has used a spell to make her left arm into a dangerous claw for self-defense.  Her right leg and left heel have become deadly sharp tools as well.

As Rosalia makes her way through the forest, she says to her son, “I wish you could’ve seen this forest when it was friendly. It used to shine more and give out delicious fruit. Now, everything here is dangerous, so we have to be careful.”

Rhodes whimpers a bit.

“Oh, I know you’ve been upset about me sacrificing pieces of myself so you can live. It doesn’t bother me, see? Each piece of me helps you continue living. Your mom isn’t upset nor am I weakened by it. I don’t need another eye if I can’t see you smile another day. Besides, even if we are separated, you will always have a piece of me with you.”

Rhodes reaches out for his mother’s hands. Rosalia pulls him around so she can hold him.

“Don’t you worry, my little prince. We’ll get you cured then we can live happily together. You’ll go to school, become a man, and maybe even get married. I’ll have to approve of your choice, of course, but then again, I shouldn’t be saying about that given the person I chose.

Or should I be blaming your father for choosing me? Who am I kidding? It was both our faults. We got into a lot of trouble the two of us, but it was worth it so you could be born. I just wish his relatives could accept our love for each other.”

A chiming in the forest gets Rosalia’s attention. She puts Rhodes behind her and activates a shield spell that creates a shell to protect him. Rhodes senses the danger as well and holds his hands close to his face.

“You’re going to be safe, my little prince. Nothing will beat me when your life is at stake.”

Shadows dart from hiding place to hiding place in order to get a good opening to attack. Since Rosalia isn’t giving them any opportunities, the Crystallis hunters attack her with one combined attack. The three jump up in the air and plunge their blades towards her. She blocks their blades as her claw arm turns into a shield. Since their blades are so heavy, she lowers herself then dodges to the side and uses her leg blade. It stretches out and cuts the heart core of two of the hunters, which shatters them. The last one manages to block the attack but is hit into a living plant that breaks the hunter into pieces.

The violence has made the vegetation in the forest extremely aggressive. The trees start uprooting themselves and attacking Rosalia. She defends herself as best as she can by leaping around while cutting down the trees and fauna. Since the forest itself is a constantly growing, old, and large entity, Rosalia stands no chance against it. Fully exhausted, she holds Rhodes as he cries.

“It’s okay. It’s going to be okay, little prince.”

A sudden realization then comes to her head.

“If violence is what upsets the forest, then maybe love can calm it down. How about a song? I was going to sing to this you later to lull you to sleep, my little prince, but it looks like I’ll have to now.

 

I know when to take it slow

And when to run at the speed of light

I know when to be patient

And when to act without thinking

 

I know when to smile

And when to cry

I know when to think with my heart

And how to always love

But I don’t know how to love like you do

 

When you love for no other reason than to love

When you love for no other reason than to love

For the sake of love

 

I know how to love when I’m loved

But you love even when you’re hated

I know how to love when the sun is shining

But you love even when the storms roar

 

I know how to love when I’m happy

But you love even when you’re in pain

I know to love when everyone loves

But you love when no else loves

How do you do it

 

When you love for no other reason than to love

When you love for no other reason than to love

For the sake of love?

 

Teach me how to love when I’m hated

Teach me how to love in dark times

Teach me how to love when I’m cold

Please, my love. Please teach me, my love

Teach me how to love for the sake of love”

Rhodes laughs and waves his hands around as if trying to clap. The vegetation and fauna of the forest go back to where they come from and rest. Rosalia breathes a sigh of relief then kisses her son.

“Did you like it? I hope you did. Let’s hurry out of here before more hunters come.”

Rosalia casts a healing spell on herself as she quickly runs to the fastest way out of the forest.

 

Chapter 2 – Causalities and Captives

Once she’s walked for a long stretch, Rosalia finally makes it to civilization though it is a bit small. It is a small village town that appears to have been recently affected by the war as people repair their broken buildings and homes. Destroyed crops are being plucked out of the ground as new ones are planted. Pieces of dying dolls are passed onto their families so they can continue to carry their family’s legacy while the enemy dolls are put together then wrapped honorably. Before, the Flos used to send carts of Crystallis doll shells to the enemy as a sign of respect for their enemy, but the Crystallis destroyed most of the carts because the Crystallis view the hollow shells of their comrades as useless and valueless. During these recent times, the Flos just bury the shells of their enemies in their own special grave site away from the graves of the Flos.

One of the normal civilians says, “I don’t get it. Why do we need to respect the bodies of their dead when they don’t do the same for their own? I’ve heard horror stories of what they do to the bodies of our soldiers. We should burn them all in a fire because that’s where their souls end up anyway!”

“Don’t be so disrespectful. I’ve heard dozens of reports that say some of the Crystallis travel over to honor their dead,” a relative responds.

“It’s just their pride that makes them do this,” a villager says, “Besides, we shouldn’t be like the savages.”

“You’re right. We should take the Crystallis that come over and hold them for ransom!”

“Stop saying and thinking such things! You’re no different than them if you truly think this way.”

Rosalia approaches the hateful person and says, “He’s right you know. We should find ways to love our enemies and be respectful to their dead. Being as evil as the worst of them is only going to make things worse.”

“Hmph.”

The hateful person walks away while their relative walks with them.

“We don’t see many understanding people like you around here. What brings you to our recovering little town?”

“I’m just passing through. My own little town was recently attacked by the Crystallis and my baby boy here was affected by a terrible spell. I have to get him to the springs to have him cured.”

“That’s a dangerous journey, but I won’t stop you from taking it. Some of our city guards would accompany you along the way, but whoever we have left are guarding us as we repair our homes and I don’t think we can spare even one.”

“I understand. I pray that your town stays safe.”

“You’re a strong mother. What is your name?”

“Rosalia.”

“Rosalia…I’ve heard that name somewhere before. You don’t happen to famous, do you?”

“If I was, I wouldn’t look like this.”

“That makes sense. Rosalia must be just a memorable name then. Is there a reason why you still defend the Crystallis even though they just destroyed your home?”

“Because they’re dolls like us. Even though they come from the crystal, we were still made in the same place by the same creator. We may think differently, but we’re still related, and our lives are both equally beyond value.”

“I see. Well, I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time. You can take some of our healing fragments to give your boy a little more time.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Don’t mention it.”

After healing Rhodes a little, Rosalia says goodbye then leaves the town. She travels down the roads as they should be safer than the forest though not by much. There’s still a chance the Crystallis might come down the roads or the forest might come to life and reach out to crush her.

Rosalia says to Rhodes, “I’m glad the townsfolk didn’t recognize me. There would’ve been trouble if they did. Anyway, let me tell you more about your father since he won’t be able to tell you himself. He was a brave and proud man. He risked everything he had including his life to be with me since he was from a royal family. The way he loved people and nature was breathtaking. He loved being in love with everything and everyone so much that he wrote songs and poems about almost everything. It’s where I get my songs from.”

Ahead of Rosalia is an incoming band of Crystallis. They have a huge black bull under their control, which is a huge black beast with black horns, a white face, and red and black eyes in this world. It struggles against the control of its captors along with the other creatures that have been captured.

“Poor things,” she says to herself as she hides on the side of the road in a tree, “The raiding party is headed towards the town. They won’t be able to fight against the bull and the other creatures along with the Crystallis. I want to do something, but what am I going to do?”

Rosalia thinks of a couple of plans before deciding on one course of action. She throws two fire darts, conjured by a spell, at the chains that bind the bull to free it. Once it’s free, it puts the Crystallis into a panic. While the bull rampages about, Rosalia frees the rest of the creatures. Once she does, the black bull stares her down with its face in hers. Neither her nor Rhodes are intimated, and this silent show of courage gains Rosalia the respect of the bull and creatures.

A larger party of Crystallis that’s half the size of a legion then show up in the distance. This party was dragged ahead by the creatures, who were craving violence. Now that they’re free, they rage against their captors along with Rosalia. They destroy everything around them with the aid of the forest. Fauna and vegetation come to life as some of the creatures are shattered in battle. Despite the strength of the Crystallis, the numbers and overall strength of nature and Rosalia overwhelm them.

Once the dust settles, the forest closes in on Rosalia, but the black bull and leftover creatures silently pick up for her. The vegetation and fauna return to the forest and the creatures do the same. The black bull nuzzles Rosalia’s face and pets the top of Rhodes’ head, which makes him giggle. It then goes back into the forest while looking back at the two. It accidentally bumps into a large tree and gets slapped by it, which makes Rosalia laugh. The black bull then pays attention to where it’s going after one last look back with a smile.

Rhodes giggles again.

Rosalia continues on her way as she says, “See? Not all of nature is bad. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Your father loved singing and making songs. Here’s one that I remember that he sang every other day.

 

I can’t be away from you any longer

But part of me still resists

I wish I was stronger

 

When we are together,

It feels like Heaven

When I leave you,

Part of me is left behind

 

You give my empty life meaning

I finally have a person who loves me back

You have woken me up from my foolishness

I know what I must do

 

Because I can’t be without you any longer

You are who keeps me going

You are who makes me stronger

 

I’ll endure all the hardships

Fight all the battles

And suffer the worst pain

Because I can’t be without you any longer

I am reinvigorated because of you

I am reborn into a new man ready to take on the world

Whatever you request, you will have

Whatever you command, I will obey

 

You say that you’re not worth it

That you’re not worth anything

But you’re worth more than you think

You’re my light that brightens up the darkness

 

You give my empty life meaning

I finally have a person who loves me back

You have woken me up from my foolishness

I know what I must do

Because I can’t be without you any longer

You are who keeps me going

You are who makes me stronger

 

I’ll endure all the hardships

Fight all the battles

And suffer the worst pain

Because I can’t be without you any longer

 

I will do all you want and more

My love for you knows no boundaries or obstacles

So,

Will you please be with me forever?”

 

Rosalia feels something watching her. She turns around to see the black bull watching her. It appears to have been attracted by her singing, but now it goes back into the forest as if it is embarrassed to be caught listening to her singing. Rosalia smiles at the creature’s cute nature despite its looks.

“Your father might as well have been a love bird for all the love he showed to others. He was more charitable and loving than his relatives to the point where people were wondering if he was an angel. I thought a person like him was beyond my reach, but when I showed how charitable I was when I gave away everything I had on me for a poor person he accidentally missed, he fell for me. Literally and figuratively speaking since he fell off his horse to kiss my hand. It was sad and funny at the same time, haha. I still can’t help but laugh when I remember it happening.

Still, your father did his best to impress me even though he did make a fool of himself a few times…okay, a lot of times. I felt like I didn’t deserve it especially since I couldn’t return anything on the same scale as him, but when I expressed my feelings about this, he said, ‘Don’t you worry. If you give me your love, then I will have something that is worth more than the entire universe’. I don’t know where he came up with his words, but he made me fall for him so many times because of them. Being without him is going to be difficult…”

Rhodes makes a whimpering sound.

“But don’t worry, we’ll make it through this. Your father is always with us in spirit now. Trust me.”

Rhodes giggles and Rosalia smiles as she wipes away her tears and continues traveling down the road.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Nature at its Worst

After a little while of walking, the road becomes lost as the surrounding environment is mostly destroyed with the flames of battle still burning.

“This must be where those Crystallis got their creatures,” Rosalia says to herself.

Because the Crystallis is known for violence and upsetting nature, both they and the Flos have developed their own spell that calms nature around them, so they can battle. This spell only covers the area of battle and takes a lot of energy to produce.

“This is probably why the Crystallis couldn’t produce another spell to protect themselves. Even if they could, the creatures of the forest weren’t giving them any opportunities to act anyways. You see, Rhodes? You have to respect nature otherwise it will turn on you.”

Further into the destruction, Rosalia finds a team of healers who are repairing the forest with their magic.

One of the forest healers approaches Rosalia and says, “Excuse me, miss. You should hurry along in a different direction. It only gets more dangerous from here.”

“I know that, but my baby boy has been afflicted with a spell that can only be healed at the springs.”

“That’s terrible, and you’ve been traveling on your own?”

“Yes, I have.”

“…I guess there’s no getting around it then. Lupin, send out a messenger bird to let them know this woman is coming with her child.”

“Alright.”

The doll conjures a dove made of light after speaking into his hand. The dove flies away in the direction of Rosalia’s destination.

“Thank you for your help,” Rosalia says.

“Don’t mention it. Just make sure that little one gets the healing he needs. I’m sure it’s been hard for you just getting this far. If the army near the springs can spare any troops, they should be meeting you halfway.”

Once they say their goodbyes, Rosalia keeps walking. The forest looks better as she journeys forward, but not by much. Crystal grass and foliage are growing at a fast rate because of the healing spell of the healers though it seems like something is wrong. The newly grown vegetation appears to know it was killed as it violently sways back and forth as if it wants to be reborn faster so it can obtain its revenge. Rosalia eventually meets up with a small group of Flos soldiers.

One of them says, “You’re the mother we’ve been looking for. It’s an honor to meet a woman who will risk her life and skin for her son.”

“Thank you for coming out to escort me. It’s been rough.”

“I can imagine. Let’s hurry along then. The fighting near the spring has calmed down for the past couple days so you should be able to bring your boy there with no trouble.”

The band of soldiers escorts Rosalia with her in the center to guard her against attacks from all possible directions.

A soldier asks her, “What’s your name?”

“Rosalia.”

“Hmmm. That name sounds familiar.”

“A guy in the town close to here said the same.”

“It’s a rare, but memorable name.”

“That’s because of a woman by the name of Rosalia was one of the reasons this war started,” another soldier interjects.

“Now I remember why that name is so memorable.”

Feeling awkward, Rosalia says, “But I’m not that Rosalia.”

“I wish I knew which Rosalia was that one so I could ask her what she was thinking. I’m not mad at her because I know that her action was only the straw that broke the camel’s back and nothing incredibly important on its own. Marriages between Flos and Crystallis aren’t as rare as they seem.”

“Still, she should’ve known better,” another soldier comments.

“It should’ve been a more private marriage.”

“How could it have been when she married royalty?”

“What happened to the husband anyway?”

“He was supposed to be hiding out with Rosalia, but I’ve heard that the Crystallis sent a group of its most powerful warriors to kill them and the word going around is that the husband is dead, but a number of people who were hiding out with him are alive including his wife and their child.”

Some of the soldiers start becoming suspicious of Rosalia and start looking at her funny.

She says, “But I’m not who you’re thinking about.”

A soldier says, “There’s no way this Rosalia is the one we’re thinking about. This Rosalia cares so much for her child while the other one was selfish. Do you really think that a peasant who wanted to marry royalty would risk her life this way?”

“That Rosalia is probably hiding herself with her husband’s riches ten feet under,” another soldier adds.

This relieves the tension in the group as Rosalia quietly breathes a sigh of relief.

“Hey, I don’t remember the forest being this big when we first passed through here.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Be on your guard.”

The soldiers unsheathe their weapons as they move slower while paying attention to everything in their surroundings. A large tree then falls on them to separate the group before fighting against the group to further separate them and push them into the incoming hordes of fauna and vegetation. The group gets separated further as the creatures of the forest break the group apart to make them easier to shatter.

The black bull from before comes to rescue Rosalia as it charges through swarms of creatures. It gives Rosalia enough room to breathe. Since the black bull is dangerous, the forest uses its connection to the creature to try to bring it under its control. The bull’s mental strength is weak, but it doesn’t give in to the forest’s influence, however, it can’t completely control itself, so it smashes everything around it in the hopes that Rosalia won’t be one of them. Unfortunately, Rosalia is hit while using the bull’s rampage as a chance to escape. She is hit into a tree but manages to get away from it before it can shatter her.

Rosalia is surrounded by fauna and vegetation while she is heavily injured. She is trying to heal herself, but she can’t do it fast enough to the point where she can run fast or leap into the air. The forest appears to be livid because it was burned and torn down. Singing looks like it won’t help this time, so she grips Rhodes and covers him as much as possible as a single fauna approaches her with its blade-like arm out ready to strike.

The anticipation of it kills her, so she brings her head up in time for the fauna’s blade to enter her missing eye. Since a doll’s shell is mostly empty with the only thing in it being its core, she feels no pain.

Rosalia says, “Shatter me, but spare my son. Please, save his life when I am dead.”

The fauna pulls back its blade again then brings its blade down on Rosalia’s neck but only makes a small crack on her neck. This supreme act of true love calms down the forest and it gives Rosalia respect that few dolls have. The creatures and fauna bow to her and let her walk away. Despite walking away with her life, she’s still injured and is slowing healing herself. Rhodes senses his mother’s injuries and cries for her.

“Don’t worry about me, my little prince. I’ll be fine.”

He continues to cry.

“Shhh.

Don’t be upset

I am here

Don’t be afraid

I’ll always be with you

 

Look at me and see my smile

I am telling the truth

You can always trust me

 

We’ll always be together

No matter the distance

No matter what happens

Even in death, even when I’m gone

We’ll always be together

 

Your weakness means nothing to me

You’re stronger than the tallest mountains

Braver than the mightiest heroes

No matter what happens, I will always love you

 

We’ll always be together

No matter the distance

No matter what happens

Even in death, even when I’m gone

We’ll always be together

 

I may not always be next to you

You may not always feel my presence

But our bond is permanent

Nothing can break it

I’m always here

I’m always with you

Forever and ever

Just look in your heart

And you will see me, always with you”

 

Rhodes has fallen asleep with a smile on his face. Rosalia smiles as well as she’s finally healed herself enough to numb the pain as she continues on to her destination.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 – Hunted for the Crime of Love

Rosalia’s healing magic allows her to be mostly healed, however, it and the previous battles have exhausted her. She collapses from exhaustion, but she makes sure to have Rhodes on top of her, so she doesn’t suffocate him. Sensing his mother’s unconscious state, he cries out for help and receives it not long after. Rosalia is taken to a relief camp where victims of this violent war are taken to be healed and to be helped. She awakens in a bed just in time to overhear a conversation between two Flos.

“She’s definitely the Rosalia who married that Crystallis prince. Several people have confirmed it.”

“But is she everything the rumors say she is? The soldiers that carried her here said that she’s been sacrificing her life to save her son and that she gained the respect of the forest. How rare is that? Even our best mystics can’t manage that.”

“We have to keep her here. Even though she has her sympathizers, there are still people who want her dead, shattered into pieces then throw into fire.”

“What about her son?”

“They don’t care as much for him. There are some that say Flos and Crystallis relationships and their children are illicit, but this is a mindset that has only popped up recently.”

“We need to get her to the springs, or her boy is going to die. How are we going to proceed with this?”

“We aren’t that far from the main army camp near that location.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy going through the crowds then going through the dead lands to get to the springs.”

“We’ll have to do something and quickly. We’ve healed her son, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve given him time we can waste.”

“Excuse me? Can I see Rosalia?”

“Who are you? Are you a relative or a friend? Hey, you can’t go in until-hey!”

A loud knock on the window close to Rosalia startles her. When she looks over, she sees a Flos civilian with a weapon.

He breaks the window and says, “Die you cursed woman!”

Rosalia dodges the man’s attacks as he enters the room as she says, “I didn’t do anything to you!”

“You were the final nail that started this war! My family is dead because of you! They died in Crystallis territory. Who knows what those cursed dolls did to their remains?”

Rosalia tries to cut the arms off her assailant to incapacitate him, but she accidentally cuts his head off as well. The man swings around violently while screaming out in bloody vengeance. Something shakes the building she’s in until it breaks into her room. It’s the black bull from before.

“Aren’t you a sweetie for always coming to my aid?” Rosalia says while petting it, “Now, come on. Let’s get out of here!”

Rosalia takes Rhodes and put him on his back with his shield protecting him as she gets on the back of the black bull. Several Flos attempt to shatter Rosalia by throwing spears, hammers, and swords at her.

“Kill that woman, but don’t hit the baby!”

“Cut the legs off the black bull first!”

The Flos then try to take down the black bull, but their weapons bounce off its thick skin. They then get on horseback and chase after Rosalia. She knocks them off their horses as she protects herself and her child from her assailants. The black bull swipes at them to shatter several off their horses.

“We can’t do anything! Pull back!”

“You’re under arrest!”

Rosalia looks back to see a few guards arresting the people who were attacking her. A guard waves at her and she waves back as a sign of thanks. Even Rhodes waves back with a smile.

“Okay, big guy. We need to get to the springs. Can you get us there?” Rosalia asks the black bull.

It smiles and snorts in response as it goes faster.

“Woah! Easier there! We don’t really have anything keeping us on you.”

The black bull wants to be careful but can’t because it senses danger ahead of them, so it charges ahead faster.

“Be careful! Are you trying to knock us off? What’s got you riled up?”

A barrage of various kinds of magical arrows comes raining down upon Rosalia. The black bull covers Rosalia as it turns over on its side to take the arrow barrage. A group of Crystallis assassins then appear out of the shadows.

“It seems like she came to us on her own. That’s good,” one of them says.

The barrage of arrows has temporarily incapacitated the black bull, which leaves Rosalia open for attack. Fortunately for her, the forest is on her side and a tree’s vines block the assassins’ attacks. It then comes to life and shatters her attackers and uses its healing magic on the black bull.

“Thank you,” Rosalia says to the forest as she gets back on top of the black bull.

She rides off to her destination, which should be close now.

She then says, “You heard it, my little prince. You’re the son of royalty and a peasant. The son of a Flos and Crystallis. I didn’t think our love would be the final thing to push our people into war because our love was pure, but that’s what happens when people hate each other. They use every excuse they can find to kill the people they don’t like. Don’t be like that, my little prince. Learn to love everyone around you. It doesn’t matter if they hate you. Always wish the best for the people around you because if you aren’t willing to love them then who will? Everyone makes mistakes, so be willing to forgive them and you will always be forgiven.”

The black bull then senses something and charges ahead. It takes Rosalia and Rhodes to a cliff where they see a large battle between Flos and Crystallis soldiers. Dozens of dolls are shattered while others suffer in pain as they’re carried out by their companions and healers.

“This fighting has to stop.”

The forest heeds Rosalia’s plea and moves to stop the fighting. Unfortunately, the fighting and suffering make nature violent as it fights back against those who fight its restraints. Even the black bull is itching to join the fight, but Rosalia calms it down by calmly rubbing the back of its neck.

“The forest might be in a rage, but since I have its respect then a song could calm it down. This song is for, my little prince.

 

I close my eyes and see

A world that’s beautiful and filled with glee

Even in the dark and gloom

A place past all of the doom

 

Everyone has lost hope

They think I’ve lost my mind

But all they do is mope

Are they blind?

We can live in a better world of our dreams

 

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

I’ll build you a place

That is perfect for your smiling face

Each part of it is made to make you happy

For those gloomy days

 

Everyone has lost hope

They think I’ve lost my mind

But all they do is mope

Are they blind?

We can live in a better world of our dreams

 

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

 

No matter how small

No matter how tall the obstacle

I will be with you through it all

Nothing will be impossible for you and me

To make the world I see in my dreams

To make the world I see in my dreams

Every day I push ahead

For the dreams in my head

The dreams that keep me awake

That keeps me going

To bring you a place to keep your love glowing

 

Together we’ll make this world anew

Everything I do is for you

Know that our dreams will come true

Of The World I’ll Give To You

 

I am going to make sure you live in a better world, my little prince. A world of happiness, love, and peace. It’s going to happen one day. Just you wait and see.”

The forest successful restrains both armies and transfers its calming feelings to the soldiers who retreat with their wounded and shattered brethren. Some even help their enemies gather their bearings. As Rosalia smiles, parts of her son start to fall. A branch from the forest heals him, but his condition has worsened.

“Don’t worry now, my little prince. We’re almost there.”

The black bull sprints at full speed to the springs, where a massive battle larger than this one is about to take place.

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – A Mother’s Duty

Even before reaching the area around the springs, Rosalia knew she was going to have a tough time. The forest around the around is completely dead. It senses that Rosalia will need help, but it’s too weak to regrow anything and all the nearby fauna and creatures are still recovering. Broken siege weapons and the shattering pieces of soldiers litter the ground. The stench of death is pungent in the air and the sounds of despair and anger echo.

Ahead of Rosalia is a large Flos encampment that has been made into a miniature castle with a wall and various small guard towers around it. The fighting has gone on for so long that you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this encampment was a small town for how large it is. There are other encampments like it around the springs, but this one is the command site and the largest. Rosalia heads into the camp once the guards recognize her.

A Flos commander meets up with her, and says, “You’ve come a long way through dangerous obstacles to come here, Rosalia. It’s impressive for a mother with a past such as yours.”

“I don’t think you want to cause me any trouble.”

“Oh no, we don’t harbor any feelings of hate towards you. We just want to get your son to the springs. I don’t even think what you did counts as a crime that we can punish.”

“Good. Do you have a plan? My son doesn’t have long.”

“Yes, but it’ll be messy. I think it’s best if you stay here.”

“I have my black bull and the forest can come to my aid. I can come with you.”

“Can’t you command your bull and the forest to protect us? Why do you have to come with us?”

“I’m a mother. I’m supposed to protect my child.”

“I see. Since it doesn’t look like I can change your mind, we’ll start moving out.” The commander then turns to his soldiers. “Come on, men! We don’t have much time!”

The forces of the Flos start deploying and put protection mages around Rosalia so they can form a shield to protect her. The other encampments deploy their forces to attack the Crystallis ahead of time to clear a path for her. Once they head out, they see the Crystallis army heading for them. Both armies converge on the springs in the middle of the battlefield as their siege weapons launch their barrages on both sides. The battlefield becomes a violent mess of soldiers as Rosalia makes her way to the springs. The shield protecting her is quickly destroyed and the mages who made them are taken out. Other Flos soldiers come to her aid, but they have to engage with the Crystallis in order to protect her and aren’t able to stay by her side.

A barrage of fireballs land near Rosalia, which knocks her off the black bull. The area around her is mostly clear and the springs are in sight, so she makes a run for it as the barrages continue to rain from the sky. The black bull sees that one of them is about to directly hit her, so it leaps out to protect her from it, but is shattered into pieces.

“Thank you,” Rosalia whispers as she runs with everything she’s got.

The springs are only steps away when an arrow barrage comes down upon her. Most of the arrows manage to hit her and pierce through her shield. The last arrows pierce through her core, but she manages to put Rhodes in the springs.

“I love you, my little prince,” she says as she shatters.

As Rhodes lays in the springs, his body not only heals but he is also transformed.

Crystal robes made for a king, eyes like the moon, hair as red as fire, and doll shell like the finest porcelain. Since Rosalia’s death, the forest has gone on a rampage. It breaks through both the Flos and Crystallis forces to the springs where it mourns her death for a few seconds before focusing its rage on the Crystallis army.

Rhodes then says to the forest, “No. Do not do this. Spare them. My mother wanted a world of peace and love, and that is what I will give to her.”

Seeing that the forest has trouble controlling itself, Rhodes begins to sing a song to calm it down. Rosalia and his father join him in spirit to strengthen his song.

 

“You might be weak

But you are also strong

You might be angry

But I’ve seen you happy

You might hate

But you can love

 

And because of this

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything

 

 All the wealth

All the diamonds in the world

Everything in the universe is nothing compared to you

 

Your value is limitless

Nothing is worth exchanging for you

If your life were in danger, I’d give my life so you could live

 

And because of this

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything

 

You are everything to me

You are all I’ll ever need

Even when the world is falling apart

Even when life takes its toll

You will always be my everything”

 

The forest calms down and releases energy that calms down everyone on the battlefield. The springs burst forth and showers the battlefield. There is no longer any hatred between the two armies. No one feels like fighting anymore and the two sides come together and apologize for what they’ve done and promise to stop fighting. The vegetation around the springs spring back to life as love being is spread. The springs themselves begin to spread throughout the world because of the sacrifice of Rosalia and shower the world with its calming waters.

Rhodes hears in his head his mother’s voice that says, “The war will end very soon. I told you that I would make sure that you would live in a world of peace, happiness, and love. I may not have expected it to be this way, but I know you’ll be happy and safe. Find the love of your life and don’t let them go.”

“I will. Thank you, mom.”

 

The End

A Father and His Dying Daughter

Download this story for free on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928868

Chapter 1 – A Peon Among Giants

There are many fathers roaming the desert wastelands of the earth. Most carry their families and homes with them to settle down somewhere until they die. Everywhere, but the top of the world is subpar that is likely to be attacked by the tortuous fiends. These fiends are demons with completely black skin. They bother the families endlessly until they die or are enslaved. Those resilient enough to make it to the top of the world are said to live forever. It’s a terrible journey that takes a harsh toll on the soul, but that could be said for life in general. Few people have the strength to make the pain they go through worth it.

Me? I’m just a father without a wife and a sick child. My wife died from a sickness she caught out in the desert, and now my daughter has the same disease. I’ve been going from town to town looking for a cure, but no one can help her. The only place I can think of that might have a cure is at the top of the world, so that’s where I’m going. My little princess is all I have left. I don’t care if I die along the way. All that matters is that she gets to a healer and lives.

The rest of the fathers that walk the desert with their family on their backs are taller than the buildings they carry because of their task. Me? I’m a speck compared to them because of mine. I may be smaller than them, but I can make do with what I have. I’ll make the journey and get my daughter to safety. I will. Don’t worry little princess, you’ll reach your castle. Just hand in there.

I’ve been wandering the desert for weeks now or has it been days? I haven’t been keeping count. It’s not like I need to. The path I’m following is said to lead to the top of the world. Where the sun sets is where it’s supposed to be. My main method of transportation is walking because riding the backs of the fathers makes me a target for the fiends, and I feel degraded by it as a father.

My little princess and I are taking shelter in an abandoned building to rest. The abandoned buildings scattered about the desert are from dead families who let the dangers of the desert overtake them. It’s a good thing for us that their building stopped over a stream with fish inside it. I hope they had painless deaths. As for us, we’re having a fish dinner. Of course, my daughter is eating most of it. Despite her sickness that makes her sleep most of the time, she’s still able to drink and eat. She’s also able to smile. A bright smile, in fact, that lights up my dreary world. To keep up her smile, I usually talk to her.

“Did you like dinner today? I’m sorry that I ran out of spices to give it extra flavor. That’s what happens when you’re constantly traveling around like how we are but don’t worry your little head princess, we’ll find you help soon.”

She appears to be uncomfortable.

“I know how many times I said that we’ll find you help soon. How about I sing you one of my songs?”

Her smile gives me her approval.

“All right then. Here we go. To restore your hope in your father, here is a song called, Dreams of a Fair Maiden. I came up with it after stargazing for a while. I know it’s not the best, but I hope you like it.

 

Close your eyes, pretty girl

You’ll get your rest,

Peace, and pearls

You’re blessed

With a beautiful face and dreams so wonderful

Of a place above the stars, bright, and colorful

 

Oh, share this dream with me

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Let me see what you see

A place where souls are redeemed

 

Close your eyes, pretty girl

Let me be your servant

So you can dance in peace and twirl

Angels watch you from afar

Wonder and guess at your majesty

Even they are impressed by your fantasy

 

Oh, share this dream with me

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Let me see what you see

A place where souls are redeemed

 

Pure and priceless

Fair and righteous

You’re so much more than you know

A joyful face that glows

Soul pure as snow

Dress as blue as the sea

Oh, what a beauty to see

 

Oh, share this dream with me

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Let me see what you see

A place where souls are redeemed

 

Won’t you share this dream with me?

Oh, what joy would it be to see

I’ll wait for your reply

To see your dreams that are far beyond the sky

 

What do you think?”

She smiles and blushes.

“Thank you for the compliment. I’ll try to make up another one for the next time we stop to rest. For now, you should get some rest-”

Big and loud footsteps shake the ground beneath us. Fathers are moving through this area to get to the top of the world. That means they’re going to attract the fiends to our location. We better get moving. I haven’t gotten much sleep, but that doesn’t matter. If we stay too long in one area, then the fiends are likely to attack us. They always appear out of the desert or hide in the buildings. I’ve only managed to escape them because I’m so small and the help of a towering father if one is nearby.

Going out of the building, I run alongside a towering father. I look up to him hoping to have some friendly chatter with him, but he looks about done. His feet are moving as if he’s running, and his building behind him is shaking. The fiends are right behind him. I duck back into the abandoned building, so I’m not spotted. He looks back and his building accidentally falls off his back due to his carelessness. The father shrinks as a result. As his building behind me is raided, he is caught and enslaved along with his family. I’ve rarely heard of families escaping enslavement, but I hope they do.

The fiends run off with their prey and leave us alone. Once they’re out of sight, I leave the abandoned building and continue my journey. My daughter is squirming uneasily right now. It’s probably due to the fiends and what happened. She’s sensitive to it even though she can’t see properly.

“It’s okay, princess. That won’t happen to us. I promised you once and I’ll promise you again. Besides, what kind of father would I be if I let you down.”

She stops squirming and peacefully falls back asleep. It’s okay, my little princess. I won’t fail you. Nothing will stop me from getting you the help you need.

 

 

Chapter 2 – Living in a Desolate World

When someone dies in the desert, they become like the sand in the desert, and their cloaks become a cloud in the sky. I wonder how many people walk around and step on the dusk left behind by the people who die here.

“They say if you pass away at the top of the world, then you become stardust. Isn’t that an interesting idea?”

My little princess smiles and even lets out a soft giggle. That’s what I want to hear. My daughter isn’t going to let a life ending disease stop her from laughing and smiling.

“Hey, do you see that in the distance? It’s a settlement. Let’s hope we find some good people in there who can help us.”

I’m down to my last coins, but the goal seems to be so close. I’ve been closer to the sunset than I’ve ever been. All we need is one last push. The settlement we’re approaching is full of houses of various sizes ranging from small to large. I don’t blame the fathers for stopping out here to make resting places for wanderers like me. It’s just that I wished they made this place look a little safer for their sake. They did decorate the place with dark blue and light gray colors mixed in with some black.

There are people walking around and making idle talk around the small market. They glance at me as I pass them then whisper among themselves before talking at their normal volume again. I hope they have good things to say. I don’t want to start a fight. The people here seem good, so I also hope that I’m among decent folks who will help me. Browsing around the market, I find bottled water. Small ones of course, and fish. Lots of kinds of fish. These two things are really the only things we eat in the desert. I heard that the top of the world has something called vegetables, bread, wine, and fruit. I’ve never had or seen any of these things before.

“Excuse me,” I ask the vendor, “How much will this all be?”

“Ten coins,” he says in a gruff voice that sounds like its full of sand.

“I only have eight. Will you accept that? I’m trying to keep my sick daughter relatively healthy until we reach the top of the world.”

“I don’t do sympathy discounts, especially in times like this when resources are scarce.”

“Resources are always scarce. How about I pay you what I have then repay you after I drop off my daughter to a doctor who can cure her?”

“I’m truly sorry, but I can’t. I have to take care of my family too. We’re going through tough times as well, and I’m not sure how much longer we can stay here. You can only buy what you can with what you have.”

“Okay, I understand.”

I pay with what I have, take what I bought, and walk away from the vendor. I can go another day or two by only eating scraps. I’ve done it plenty of times.

“Dang it,” the man behind me says before grabbing a few things and running to me with them, “Take these.” He gives me a little more of what I need. “I can’t, as a father, let another father suffer because I want to save me and mine. Take your money back as well.”

“Thank you so much but keep the money. You need it more than I do.”

“Thank you, my friend.”

The sky starts to light up. Oh no.

“Quickly, come inside my house!”

Bolts of fire start falling from the largest star in the sky. This happens from time to time for reasons I don’t know why. Maybe the Heavens are sending fire to cleanse the wicked from the world and remind the faithful of their fate if they choose to turn away. I take cover with my new friend inside his building. While watching from the windows, I see a couple people get hit by the fire bolts. Poor souls. Buildings such as these that hold wholesome families can withstand the bolts being thrown at it. Other buildings aren’t so blessed.

Once it’s over, most of the town is destroyed. I hear moaning and crying in the distance.

“I think we might be the only survivors,” I say.

“Heavens have mercy on the souls they took for judgment,” my friend says, “This place was not a friendly place to be in. We were going to move anyway. Did you say you were headed to the top of the world?”

“I am. That’s the only place I can think of that could have the cure for my daughter.”

“We might as well head there too. Huh?”

We hear a stampede coming our way. It must be the fiends coming to pick what remains.

I tell my friend, “Quickly pick up your things and go!”

“What about you?”

“I can make do. Just get out of here!”

“Okay! I hope to see you at the top of the world or above the stars, my friend.”

“I hope to see you there too.”

My friend grows huge enough to carry his building away while I find a hiding place within the rubble of the destroyed settlement. I dig out some of the rubble out of a building and hide in one of the destroyed rooms. The rubble here should keep me covered while allowing me to see outside. The moaning and crying have turned to into screaming, but that ceases quickly.

“Oh no. Don’t start crying,” I whisper to my daughter.

She hates the suffering of others no matter who is suffering. She’ll cry when she can feel someone dying.

“Here, I’ll sing you something to soothe your soul.

 

Don’t worry,

About it

It’ll end in a hurry

Because I am committed to you,

 

Oh no, I think the fiends might’ve found us. I might’ve sung too loudly. I’ll have to fight them.

“Rest here for now, my little princess. Your knight needs to protect you.”

She murmurs a little with a worried expression on her face as I lay her down.

“Don’t worry. I’ll keep singing for you.

 

Nothing will hurt you, little princess,

I won’t let them

I’ll defeat them in an instant

Just you rest and watch”

 

I loosen my cloak so I can fight. It’s been a while since I last fought, but I must defend my daughter. Once I get out of the rubble, I face down two fiends.

I wave my hand at them and say, “Come on.”

The fiends race towards me with a smile and black liquids running down their mouths. I run towards them and fight them with my bare hands.

 

“Don’t cry,

I know of your struggles

We’ll fly high

Away from your troubles”

 

I’m able to beat them by using them against each other. I’m a small target while they’re vicious and only out for the kill. That makes them easy to fake out, so they hit each other. It’s just a manner of breaking their heads and necks from there. A couple more fiends come from the destroyed buildings.

 

“It doesn’t matter how many will come

I’ll always stick by you

Never surrender no matter the outcome

This is my destiny, I’ll see it through”

 

Two more down, but I’ve been scratched a couple times during the attack. Oh great, three more show themselves. I can’t give up now. My little princess seems worried.

 

“Nothing will hurt you, little princess,

I won’t let them

I’ll defeat them in an instant

Just you rest and watch”

 

Whew! I didn’t think I’d make it through that.

 

“I’ve defeated them all

What did I tell you?

Your father will never fall

This will always be true

I know the song is more of a poem, but I hope you still liked it.”

My daughter laughs and giggles. I’m not sure if she’s doing that because I won or if she’s laughing at my song. Whatever the case is, I fix my cloak and head away from the destroyed settlement. I probably should’ve bought bandages and healing oil. My wounds are pretty bad right now. My daughter’s presence can heal me a bit, but-Oh, is that?

“Did you think I would abandon a friend like you?” my friend from before says.

“Haha, I guess not.”

“Let me give you a ride to the top of the world. I think I might’ve seen it on the horizon.”

“Let’s go then.”

I go into my friend’s building as he carries us away from the destroyed town.

“Now we’re going to get there faster, little princess.”

My daughter smiles and giggles. Now that’s something that always makes me feel better.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 – Let Me Hear More About You

It’s always good to make new friends. My wounds are healed, and I’ve finally managed to eat enough. I haven’t had a full belly in God knows when. My wounds are healed thanks to the supplies my friend has, so I don’t need to worry about dying anytime soon. The daughters of my friend attentively watch my daughter as she rests with their mother behind them and with her hands their shoulders.

I ask them, “Have you ever seen a little girl like mine?”

“No,” one of them shyly says.

My daughter wakes up and notices all the attention she’s being given. She giggles and reaches out towards us.

“I’ve never seen her frown at anyone. She loves everyone she meets.” I hold her out to the girls. “Go on. You can hold her.”

Their mother gently smiles as her daughters carefully hold my daughter. My daughter makes a sound that sounds like she’s saying hello. This makes the girls and I smile.

“Hello, friend, how about you let the girls enjoy their time together while we talk. I want to know more about you and your daughter,” my friend says.

“Sure. I’ll be right up.” I then tell the girls, “Have fun with my little princess.”

They say they will as I climb the stairs. When I get to the top, I sit on the roof and admire the view. There are a few destroyed buildings out here. It looks like a lot of people went this way to get to the top of the world. That must mean we’re on the right track.

“I’m sorry I don’t have any spare chairs for you, my friend.”

“It’s no trouble for me. I’ve been walking for days. It doesn’t bother me that I have to stand for a little while longer.”

“So, tell me. Where do you come from?”

“Way down south.”

“That must be rough. The south is close to where most of the fiends reside. I haven’t heard good things about the people there either.”

“There are more than you think.”

“I believe it since I know you. Do the southerners think the same of the northerners?”

“Most do, but I don’t and neither did my wife.”

“Speaking about her, where is she?”

“She died a little while ago from the same disease my daughter has.”

“That’s a shame. How did you meet your wife anyway?”

“She was on a trip with a few friends when she stumbled upon me. I had just tracked down a group of people who were working with the fiends. They were going to attack my wife and her friends, but I caught up to them and beat them all up. Unfortunately, I was badly injured after the fight. It was like the Heavens brought us together since my wife was there to save my life. After I explained what happened and we got to know each other better, we got married.”

“You said she was on a trip with a few friends? Was she with her father?”

“No, just a couple women and men.”

“Was she royalty?”

“You could say that.”

“No wonder why you call your daughter, your little princess. What’s her actual name?”

“I never gave her a name. My wife never got the opportunity to approve of her name no matter how she struggled to talk. I don’t think it’s appropriate to name her without my wife’s approval.”

“Makes sense, but you’re eventually going to have to give her a real name.”

“I know. I don’t even think it’s appropriate for me to be riding with you. You can let us go at any time and I won’t mind.”

“It’s no trouble to me especially since you said the top of the world is not going to be too far from here. I thought the same weeks ago when my family settled down in that settlement.”

“What stopped you from going all the way?”

“Fatigue from the long journey and challenges, but now I feel bad for doing so. You’ve been traveling from the south. Have you ever stopped to rest for a while?”

“I don’t rest for more than a day in one place.”

“That’s what I feel bad about. You’re much stronger than me despite not having as much.”

“I have my daughter. She’s alive and still smiling and laughing. That’s all I need.”

“Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Your daughter can’t survive without you.”

“I keep myself moving. If I die by the time she reaches a proper healer, then I’ll die happy.”

“Do you really want your daughter to be an orphan?”

“No.”

“Then stop thinking that way. I’ve seen dozens of orphans in this world who are alive because of their parents’ sacrifice. Not many survive on their own.”

“You’re right. I’ll try to make sure I’m healthy enough to take care of her.”

“Maybe you can even find another wife?”

“No. My queen was my one and only. There is no other.”

“It’s till death do us part, my friend. It’s okay to get another.”

“I’ll think about it if the time ever comes.”

“Alright. What is your vocation?”

“I’m a farmer, but I’ve also done guard work.”

“So, a lowly farmer and guard married a queen? Isn’t that a fairy tale I could tell my girls?”

“It could be if you put in more story details.”

“I’m not much of a storyteller.”

“Nonsense. All of us have a writer within us. We’ve been exchanging parts of our story to each other, haven’t we?”

“Exchanging stories with a friend is different than making up your own.”

“It’s less different than you think. Can you come up with songs then? What about a poem?”

“If I can’t come up with a simple fairy tale, then what makes you think I can come up with an original song or poem?”

“I’ve made a few of my own that I sing to my daughter.”

“Let me hear one.”

“You got it. I call this one, A Knight’s Service.

 

This love is a love that can set the world on fire

Your will is my desire

For my life is yours

You are the one the world will adore

 

In your service, I fight

From dawn until midnight

Your knight will never fall

For you, I will give it my all”

 

The girls come up from downstairs.

“It looks like you got an audience. Well, don’t stop. Give them a show.”

 

There is no threat I cannot defeat

Without you by my side

Not even Hell’s heat

Nor the Devil’s pride

 

In your service, I fight

From dawn until midnight

Your knight will never fall

For you, I will give it my all

 

When the battles are won

And the day is done

I will rest at your side

You who are so beatified

The girls cheer and clap. Even my daughter and my friend claps and cheers.

“You’re quite the poet, aren’t you?”

“That poem? It was a song I sang to my queen. She thought it was really cheesy, and I have to admit it is too.”

“Hey, girls like that kind of stuff.”

An explosion is made in the distance.

“Did you hear that?” I ask.

“Girls, get back inside,” my friend says as he slightly alters his path.

“What’s going on?”

“Use the binoculars I have downstairs.”

I get the binoculars and look into the distance where I see a battle happening. Massive fathers carry siege weapons on their backs as they attack a castle town. The town sends their forces to meet their attacks as the two forces clash in battle.

My friend says, “I knew there were tensions around these areas, but I didn’t think it would escalate into war. The north is supposed to be more peaceful than this.”

“Sometimes the best of people are actually the worst underneath. You know I heard a saying that the sinner who is sorry for his sins is closer to God than the just man who boasts of his good works.”

“It’s true. We should keep going and let those ‘good’ people duke it out among themselves. We can’t help them now.”

“May the Heavens have mercy on their souls.”

My friend and I continue on our way to the top of the world as a battle rages behind us.

 

 

Chapter 4 – A Past Revealed

My friend and I have been traveling for quite a while now, but the closer we get to the top of the world, the more the sun shines in front of us when it sets. I’ve finally gotten enough rest from all my walking. Speaking about walking, I wonder how my friend is doing. I go up to him and ask him.

He says, “I’m doing fine. To be honest, I’m pushing myself to go far because you told me about how far you’ve been traveling. It should be alright though. I have a feeling that we’re almost to the top of the world.”

“I have the same feeling too, but you shouldn’t push yourself too hard. Even I took breaks every now and then, and what was that advice you gave me?”

“Haha, okay. I’ll remember to take my own advice. Hey, friend, before you go, don’t you think it’s strange that there aren’t that many buildings out here? You’d think there be more due to how close we are to the top and the lack of resting places.”

“I doubt many would give up after going this. I think it’s a good thing that we don’t see that many abandoned buildings around here. It only gives me the hope that the city at the top of the world has expanded with what’s missing here.”

“That’d be good, and I didn’t think about that. The more people that make it to the top of the world, the more that grand city there will expand so that people come across it sooner.”

“Well, what did you think happens when more people become part of that city? They need more space for the growing number of people, however, slow that rate may be.”

“The thought didn’t even come to my head.”

“What do you think the city is like then?”

“Something beyond my simple imagination. I haven’t even come with a story or a simple poem song like you. You must have your head in the stars with that imagination of yours, my friend.”

“It’s another thing that helps keep me hopeful.”

While looking around, I see something in the distant. Oh no.

“We have to move faster!” I say.

“What’s going on?”

“A convoy of large people in armor mixed with smaller ones with siege weapons are approaching us. They don’t look friendly. They might be bandits.”

“Are you sure they aren’t knights? I’ve heard of wandering knights in this area that protect people from bandits.”

“Well, these don’t look like those people.”

“Alright. I’ll try to run and hide us away from them as best as I can. Hold on down there!”

My friend runs as fast as he can. The armored attackers behind us launch a barrage of arrows at us along with large ropes. We manage to dodge the attacks, but we don’t have any cover until now. Just ahead is a graveyard of destroyed and abandoned buildings. I guess more people than I thought gave up around this point, but that isn’t going to be us.

We use the buildings as cover as my friend swerves and runs through the maze of buildings in a way to confuse our enemies. He then hides us within a hollowed out building. After a while of waiting and silence, he leaves the building. It seems like we’re safe. I heard movement going in the opposite direction. I hope they keep going that way. My friend is cautious he creeps around the buildings while carefully looking around.

Ah! We got caught from behind. My friend is tied up and we’re surrounded. It looks like they split off part of their forces in order to throw us off.

A man, who looks like the commander, says, “Cavallo, your days of escaping the law is over! You are to be executed for your crime of being in relations with the queen. Your being together cost her life.”

“You really are a knight, and your name is Cavallo?” my friend whispers to me.

“Yeah, you thought I was lying?”

The commander continues, “However, we will bring the young princess to the top of the world in order to have her cured and for her to take the place of the queen.”

I respond, “You can’t enact your corrupt laws on us! Your laws influenced by the fiends. That’s what cost the lives of my queen and her subjects.”

“You betrayed your role as a knight.”

“You should talk about betrayal, ‘friend’. You were supposed to pick up for me and change your ways. No wonder why it is said that we should love our enemies as our friends because they’re generally the same people.”

“I serve the crown.”

“I serve the Heavens.”

“And that is why you must be put to death along with your accomplices.”

My friend says, “Do it! Kill me you slaves of the fiends but spare the life of my friend and family.”

“That can be arranged, but your family will be killed alongside you to pay the full price.”

“You monsters!”

“No! Spare their lives. Just them to the top of the world with my daughter. I submit my life to you,” I say.

“Then your friend must deny you,” the commander says.

My friend says to me, “Are you sure you want to do this? I can defend you all until I’m put down.”

“Don’t. Keep your family and my daughter safe. There’s less risk in it, and I might not be able to protect all of us.”

“…Fine.” My friend then says to the commander, “I do not know this man. I met him at the settlement I was at and helped him, but now that I know the truth, I deny ever knowing him.”

“Good man,” the commander says as he orders my friend’s release. “Now come down, Cavallo for your execution.”

I make my way down as I hear my daughter crying. It’s going to be okay, little princess. Your father will save a place for you in the Heavens. Once I get down to the ground, I’m beaten by the many soldiers around me.

The commander says, “That was for the disrespect you showed the crown, you disgraceful knight. Now, your execution.”

A blade is held above my head and is about to come down, but the fiends arrive.

One of them says, “This was not part of our deal, commander. You were to execute the child once you obtained her.”

“We bow to the crown, fiends.”

“You bow to us.”

The fiends attack as the soldiers retreat towards the top of the world. I guess they neither party sees any use in me now. They’re all gone now. Thankfully, I’m still able to walk. I have to get to my daughter. I have to protect her. It’s my duty as her knight and most importantly her father. I have to!

I’ve been here before. The bottom of the barrel. When my wife died, and I had to escape the kingdom. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but my queen came to me in a dream and kissed me. In that kiss, I got her message of hope. I have to keep going no matter how I feel. I rip apart my cloak so I can move faster. To get myself to move even faster, I sing myself a song that I came up for my queen and princess.

 

I’m the worst because I’m inconsistent

Making Heaven so distant

I’m useless because I can never be perfect

My sins leave me wrecked


But I can’t just stay here forever


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken


I’m delusional because I believe in God

I’m an idiot for thinking I’m flawed

I’m insane because I’m not full of myself

in a world that’s in love with itself


But I can’t just let them put me down forever


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken

 

Never to going to give in

Never going to give up

Never letting my light dim

 

Never to going to give in

Never going to give up

Never letting my light dim


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken


The Bottom is Where I Start

Where all broken hearts fall apart

or become beautiful works of art

The Bottom is where I awoke in

Our pains unspoken

But I won’t be broken
From the bottom is where I start

The pain has given me a strong heart

And I will never fall apart

I’m approaching the top of the world now. It’s a city of lights that looks like a town made of castles. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Oh! There are the knights being chased down by fiends. The guards from the city defend them, but I’ll get to my daughter. Just you hold on for me, my little princess.

 

 

 

Chapter 5 – A Father’s Duty

Without my cloak and my daughter on my back, I’m able to stand up straight and leap around the buildings. I watch as the knights find a healer. They enter into a hospital and leave a few of them outside to guard. I sneak past them and watch from outside a window. This is great for my daughter. She’s being healed by a professional healer. This woman is wearing a dress made of flowers and leaves. It’s like she’s a fairy godmother. I’ve never seen foliage except in the kingdom’s gardens and in art.

Now that my daughter is healed, it’s time to rescue her. Her skin is more colorful, and her eyes are more open. She’s expressive and calls out for me. Don’t worry, princess. Your knight is here. Before I can jump in the window, the knights leave the room. I go out to the front and take out their guards.

Once they exit the hospital, I say to them, “Let go of my daughter!”

My daughter calls out to me with her arms out as she struggles out of the commander’s arms.

The guards of the city become suspicious of the knights and say, “I thought you said this was your child?”

“It is. She belongs to the kingdom.” The rest of their forces converge on the hospital to save their friends. “We thank you for your services.”

The commander retreats with his protectors and my daughter as his forces clash with the city’s guards. They stand no chance because the city has better guards, so I chase after my daughter. The knights run through the crowded streets then retreat into one of the taller buildings of the city. They take a storage pulley up to the top floor. Fire starts to rain down from the stars and sun in the sky as I climb the castle. The city’s defenses manage to take out some of the fire bolts, but a number of them make it past. Once I get to the top, the commander’s four knights fan out and start to surround me.

He says, “This ends now, Cavallo. You can’t survive against us.”

“Don’t underestimate a father.”

The knights underestimate me because I fight with my fists and I manage to break their armor and weapons with my fists and kicks. I then knock them out and send them down the pulley.

“I won’t make the same mistake as those fools.”

“You’re already making one.”

I fight the commander and despite his fancy sword skills, he’s nothing without it when I break it in half. I then beat him down to the ground.

“Kill me already,” he says.

“No,” I tell him with a stern look in my eyes, “I’m not like you.”

“You’d wish you were.”

“Uck!”

He cut me open from my stomach up to my chest with the sword I broke in half. I knock out the commander then throw him aside. My daughter…my little princess…I have to hold her one last time. I crawl to her as the firestorm above the city gets worse. I’ve never seen it rain down fire this bad. I’ll protect my little princess with my body. That’ll be my last duty as her knight and father. She’s crying right now.

“It’s okay, little princess. I’m here and I’ll protect you to my last breath…”

As I breathe my last, the blood that comes out of my body becomes a cloak that enwraps my daughter and transforms her into a beautiful young woman.

Eyes like the stars, hair-like purest purity, dress like rose petals, and a golden crown on top of her head that was made by her mother in Heaven.

She looks up to my soul as I ascend to the Heavens and says, “Thank you, father, for teaching, singing, protecting, and loving me. I love you.”

“I love you too, Aurora.”

Aurora steps off the building a walks on the air as if it was a staircase.

“I got this from you, father. I hope you like it.”

She then begins to dance and sing in midair, which slows down the fire bolts to almost a complete halt.

 

Let me sing you a song as the stars and sun bleed

Dance and be merry, but take heed

 

Purified, I become the aide of all

So that no one will die

None will fall

 

Coming with a gift of life

Wisdom abounding, cutting through the fire like a knife

 

The fire in the sky begin to blow up like fireworks in a festival. People below begin to dance and cheer for my princess.

 

Let me sing you a song as the stars and sun bleed

Angels rejoice as love is shared

Alleluia, yes, join me

 

Purified, I become the aide of all

So that no one will die

None will fall

 

Just look at was done

My father sacrificed his life

For his only love

This is the truest love given to all

 

Purified, I am the aide of all

So that no one will die

None will fall

 

All the firebolts in the sky are gone now. Aurora floats down to the ground and is praised by the people. She smiles and waves up to me. I’ve done it. This was my true purpose for coming here. Even though it seemed like something small, it became something bigger than the castles at the top of the world. Now that my duty is complete, I rejoin you, my queen to be by your side forever. Let us rejoice and pray for our daughter as she starts her new life.

 

The End

#SJW Censorship, The Larry Correia story, and Science Fiction & Fantasy1

Jasyn “Daddy Warpig” Jones, John C. Wright, and Declan Finn join us to talk about political smearing, deplatforming, and censorship among Science Fiction readers and writers.

Daddy Warpig/Jasyn Jones: https://twitter.com/daddy_warpig

Declan Finn’s Sad Puppies saga: http://www.declanfinn.com/p/blog-page…

Sad Puppies tag: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23sadpu…

Rabid Puppies Tag: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23rabid…

Safe Space As Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End: http://www.castaliahouse.com/safe-spa…

John C. Wright Not Tired of Winning: http://www.scifiwright.com/category/n…

Larry Correia: https://www.amazon.com/Larry-Correia/…

Max & Micah Curtis on #Comicgate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eee9B…

Nick Cole: https://www.nickcolebooks.com/connect/

The Red Pill: http://theredpillmovie.com/

#SJW Censorship, The Larry Correia story, and Science Fiction & Fantasy

Jasyn “Daddy Warpig” Jones, John C. Wright, and Declan Finn join us to talk about political smearing, deplatforming, and censorship among Science Fiction readers and writers.

Daddy Warpig/Jasyn Jones:

Declan Finn’s Sad Puppies saga:
http://www.declanfinn.com/p/blog-page…

Sad Puppies tag:
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23sadpu…

Rabid Puppies Tag:
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23rabid…

Safe Space As Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End:
http://www.castaliahouse.com/safe-spa…

John C. Wright Not Tired of Winning:
http://www.scifiwright.com/category/n…

Larry Correia:
https://www.amazon.com/Larry-Correia/…

Max & Micah Curtis on #Comicgate

Nick Cole:

CONNECT

The Red Pill:

The Red Pill – A Cassie Jaye Documentary