Light Novel – Zectas – Volume 03 – Chapter 02

Proofreaders: Vanouney and Otton

Note: For easy character reference please refer to: Characters

Common Goals

Sherry cranked open her game pod and stepped out. She stretched out her slender arms and legs to loosen up her muscles. She took out her brown yoga mat and turned on her favorite jazz artist, John Coltrane.

With her long red hair tied into a braided bun, she started her exercise. She took up yoga to prevent herself from getting muscle atrophy. With her life now revolved around Zectas, Sherry wanted to stay healthy and ensure more hours of game time.

She loved how Zectas made her unleash her inner child that was always being repressed deep inside her. She knew she acted immature and selfish at times, but she wanted to discover her true self.

Her self imposed strictness and forced maturity alienated her from pleasures of getting into trouble. The virtual reality world of Zectas had taught her what it was like to have real friends even if they were Zectians.

It had been two years since Zectas was released and there was an alarming rate of players who did not follow the Zectas’ guidelines and have gotten muscle atrophy.

Before they were allowed to create a character, the players were given an explicit warning which stated that playing straight for over forty-eight hours could lead to various health risks.

Even the Zectas game pod installers said the same thing to the persons who were in charge of the gateway device. They also made them sign an ‘Assumption of Risk Agreement’ document that would protect Zectas from any form of lawsuit.

There were still many players who tried to sue the company, despite of these warnings and documents. In the end none of the complainants won.

However, due to this incident a Zectas patch was uploaded and enforced an hourly health check on the players. If the player’s health deteriorated, a system notification would pop out and the player would be logged out for twenty-four hours.

Of course, the patch was coded to notice the special-abled players who were paralytic or otherwise. Each player’s health parameter was catered to fit them individually.

This move by the Zectas Company was accepted well by the world in general, but there were players who rallied against it. They didn’t care if they became paralyzed just as long as they could stay longer inside Zectas.

After Sherry finished her yoga exercise, she grabbed a towel and dried herself up. She opened the Zectas forums while she waited for fifteen minutes before she took a shower.

She scanned for any updates about Smoke creating a guild. Thankfully, there was none. The Sonstwelters in Verbrannt were true to their word and kept their guild creation from the public.

After she searched for Smoke’s potential guild, she decided to read the longest running thread in Zectas. The thread entitled, ‘Tristan vs. Amahan vs. Smoke’.


UrLogicSux: Man that was amazing! The unexplored lands of Grand Malodorant Dragonis are unexplored no more!

FastInFastOut: @UrLogicSux, are you a part of Dracoricco’s main guild? Tristan still hasn’t released his video inside the land of the dragons, and I’m so curious what it looks like?

UrLogicSux: Sure am! It was difficult, but I stuck through all of it. I was almost drafted into our second string but my perseverance held on.

cutey4you: A Gorgeous Priestess Saves a Noob and gets Harassed by Some Jerk. You Won’t Believe Their Reasoning. Click on the link to find out why.

Dark_AvEngER: Noooo! Not another click bait that leads to another player’s video feeds. Argh, but I have to find out why…

PentaKiller: First there were the Lioumerean fanatics and now this. I’m reporting you @cutey4you if you don’t send me a pic of you in real life.

TriTank: Let’s all get back on topic. Even if Amahan still has the highest level and Smoke has his fight against a city, Tristan still made the most progress. He’s made the most powerful guild and is now currently in Grand Malodorant Dragonis. I can’t wait to see what kind of items he’s going to get.

Atiman: Hey, this isn’t a click bait or anything like that but you guys should check out Amahan’s latest video upload. It’ll blow your minds.

CatatonicKing: Wow @Atiman, you’re right. Fellow Lioumereans I order you to watch Amahan’s latest video.

Sherry’s curiosity made her click on Amahan’s video feed that was only uploaded five minutes ago.

Amahan and his entire Decane guild stood in front of an ice temple embedded on the side of a blue mountain. The back of a female Aero Magus lead the way as she kept on a wind shield that protected the Decane from the icy wind.

The female Aero Magus looked very familiar to Sherry. It was Magikera. The friend she had made near Centeo city, before she got her werebear curse.

Sherry remembered Magikera mention that she belonged to a famous guild, but she never thought that it would be the Decane guild. Magikera was the one who taught her about stat inflation, when it reached over 600 points.

She resumed watching the video. Magikera was followed closely by two burly men named Baskog and Ligon. Decane’s heavy tanks. A great crystal statue was revealed after all ten members crossed the ice temple’s entrance.

It was five meter tall and made out of ice crystal. The statue of the legendary Djinn, Gahoul Comataz. The Djinn had a black feathery humanoid body, with the head of a black falcon and a silver beak.

Comataz had long talons for fingernails and storm colored wings that was twice the length of his entire body. His ice armor glistened as it covered his black feathery body.

Amahan went near the statue and a notification popped up.


Djinn of the North: Gahoul Comataz

  This monstrous ice Djinn guards the tomb of Aquilo, King of the North!

  +Gained 1/4 map to Aquilo’s tomb.
  +Gained 1/4 piece of Comataz’s essence

The Exorcist raised his first Comataz piece into the air, as his guild cheered him on. Not only were they nearing the tomb of King Aquilo, but they were most likely going to have Comataz join their ranks if they could find the missing three pieces.

Sherry felt proud as she watched her good friend Magikera frolic around with her guildmates. She thought that Nash was the only famous person she knew in Zectas.

She made a mental note to call her when she could get some free time inside Zectas. At the moment, her mind was focused on improving Verbrannt village.

‘What was that Djinn? I’ve never seen or heard about Djinns in Zectas.’

Sherry couldn’t help but wonder what kind of abilities did Gahoul Comataz possess and to what extent Amahan could use them.

However, she pushed out her theories about the Djinns. She had more pressing matters to research on. Aside from an impregnable defense, Verbrannt also needed to be self sustainable.

She analyzed what she had to do for her village, in order to better itself. She was sure that Nash would keep his end of their bargain, which was why she needed to be two steps ahead of him.

* * * * * * 

The moment Sierra logged back in, she immediately called Gandiva, the tigress Lioumerean.

“Did you get goods?” asked Sierra.

Gandiva quickly nodded. “Yeah, of course I did. I’ve got the fifty quails, twenty ducks, ten pigs, and I even got the Guildium right here beside me.”

Sierra shook her head. “No, no, I’m not talking about that. I meant the special ability.”

Gandiva’s eyes lit up as she understood. “Oh, that… I don’t know how you met that old Priestess, Nenek, but she sure is well connected in Centeo. Thanks to her I managed to acquire the ability.”

Sierra grinned. Her hours of scouring the net paid off. She was glad that she kept in touched with her old Mentor.

“Good job! How long til you get here?”

“Umm… About an hour?”

“Alright, I’ll see you then.”

Sierra then called over Sharur and Thyrsus. She wanted to see the progress that the two of them had done.

Thyrsus was placed in charge of the residential area, agricultural land, and the business district, whereas Sharur and Jinggu took command of redirecting the river and training the militia.

Presently, Jinggu was out with his battalion. It was their turn to train inside their private dungeon, the secret exit of the labyrinth.

As they stepped outside of the castle, she instantly noticed that the castle ground was now free from tents and small shanties.

“I see that the Dernier family finally moved to a new home?”

Thyrsus smiled and nodded.

“They were the hardest one to persuade but setting them up as the main fish vendor eventually convinced them.”

Thyrsus patted Sharur’s back. “Sharur, Jinggu and the Maneators did a great job on channeling some of the river to flow into our village.”

The almost two-meter tall OrkElf gave a small bow, as he acknowledged the Hunter’s compliment. “Thanks, but it was Smoke who dug most of the trenches with his wand. We just made sure that the river flowed through it.”

The handsome OrkElf proceeded to say. “But all in all it was Sierra’s suggestion of making use of the river to serve as a natural moat and a source of food that made all of this possible.”

“Nah, I’m sure Smoke or anyone else would have came up with the same idea. I just happened to have raised it first.” Sierra said modestly.

The red werebear admired the newly finished stone road as they headed into the residential area. The gray stones were neatly flattened and created a smooth road to travel on.

The three of them kept on walking through the quiet residential area and into the busy business district. The Zectian refugees from different villages became a united front. There were minor disagreements here and there, but nothing that the platoon leaders of the militia couldn’t handle.

“What about the Sonstwelters? Are there any problems with them?” asked Sierra.

“None, both sides are adjusting nicely.” replied Thyrsus.

As their conversation went on, an eight year old girl carried a basket of fresh fish for the Lady of Verbrannt who walked along the man-made river, which passed through the business district.

Sierra called the blond Hunter’s attention. “Thyrsus, we’ve equally distributed the different businesses, right? We have someone practicing all the basic trades…” she paused as she saw a young girl walk towards her. “Oh, what do we have here?”

The shy girl raised her basket and meekly said. “My father just caught these fish from the Sierra River.”

Sierra looked at Sharur and Thyrsus.

Sharur walked closer to Sierra and whispered in her ear. “The residents have named the man-made river circling around Verbrannt as Sierra River, in honor of you.”

The little girl handed her basket of fishes to the red werebear.

“How did you know that I love fish? Tell your dad thanks for me.” said Sierra with a big smile. Despite her werebear appearance, the girl looked unafraid and smiled back.

Sierra then gave her a pat on the head. The smiling girl ran towards her father immediately after. The red werebear waved at the girl’s father as he watched them from the fishing pier.

Sharur took the basket from Sierra’s hands and carried it for her and said. “By the way, Jinggu took my battalion to the labyrinth. Weise, Rasant, and Stark are also there with him. So, you don’t have to worry about the militia. They’re scheduled to arrive at any minute now.”

Sierra gave Sharur’s shoulders a tight squeeze as she stood beside him. This sudden gesture jolted the OrkElf as it took him by surprise.

“Everything seems to be in order. Sharur, Thyrsus, when Jinggu arrives assemble the entire battalion over to the training grounds, and make sure that only the militia members are there.” said Seirra.

Sharur and Thyrsus bowed their heads as they left to follow her instructions.

An hour and thirty minutes passed before the entire militia units were gathered. Thyrsus placed scouts to keep a lookout for outsiders. Sierra stood in front of her militia and addressed them. “The past few days of continuous hunting in the mausoleum had been a great success. Sharanga, if you please?”

The WoodElf Huntress brought out the gathered loot. In the past five days they amassed a total of six-hundred-fifty composite bows, one-hundred wooden rods, and twenty skull helms.

Aside from the weapons and equipment, their militia’s level also greatly increased. The lowest member of their militia was now at level 72.

With everything prepared, Sierra proceeded.

“I know what you’re all thinking. What are those items for? Well, the skull helms are equippable to melee based fighters. That’s why I’ve decided to give each platoon leader a special helm as a symbol of leadership.”

Then, she signalled Gandiva to stand in front of the composite bows.

“Now, let me turn your attention over to commander Gandiva.”

It was a rare sight for the tigress Lioumerean to be serious, but there she was with a stern straight face. She was accompanied by four Fishermen from her militia battalion.

“I’ve trained these four brave men just minutes ago, and I’d like to show all of you the results of their newly gained ability.”

Gandiva gave them a nod, and the four Fishermen picked their throwing spears and aimed at the targets that were twenty meters away from them. All of them released their fishing spears and hit their targets dead center.

“For most of you, this is your maximum distance. It is impressive, but we could get more shots in if we could fire at a longer range.”

The Lioumerean then pointed to a new set of targets that had a distance of forty meters. This time, the Fishermen went over to the pile of composite bows that Sharanga had prepared.

They switched out their fishing spears for the composite bows. They went back to the target site and aimed at the new targets.

All four of the Fishermen released their arrows and hit their marks that was twice the distance as before.

“I was sent over to Centeo city to gain this ability called, Bowfishing. With this it will guarantee our increase in offensive power.”

Sierra found this special ability online. There was a post about two Zectian friends who were a Fishermen and a Hunter who polished this hidden ability together.

She was glad that Gandiva was able to learn the ability and was now able to teach it to the Fishermen in their militia. The tigress Lioumerean went on with her demonstration.

“The five of us will teach four persons at a time. I estimate that by the next three days, all the Fishermen will be able to use our gathered composite bows.”

Their militia cheered as Gandiva finished her demonstration.

Sharur whispered over to Sierra and asked.

“Gandiva also got the Guildium, right? So, why aren’t we making a guild yet?”

“I’m still thinking of a name and I want to hear Smoke’s opinion. After all he will be the guild leader, even if its just in name.”

* * * * * * 
Adder was still unconscious. Smoke was about to apply first aid on Adder’s chest wound. He propped up his injured friend against the glowing green boulder. Before he could do anything else, Adder’s wound began to close all by itself.

“Igniz, can you brighten the place up?”

The dark ember sprite increased his luminance. Smoke and Adder had fallen into a jagged pit. He was surprised that they weren’t impaled by the deadly stalagmites that stuck out of the floor.

Adder’s new virile arm kept on growing and drew Smoke’s attention.

“Just what is this thing? Igniz, can you come closer to Adder?”

With his purple hue, Igniz came closer and illuminated over the injured Condortlian.

The virile arm was almost the same length as Adder’s right limb. The green hands and fingers were still small and disproportioned, but it was still growing.

He examined the peculiar looking stone and was equally surprised when he read the stone’s information.


  Matera Vitalis

  This rock sends out energy waves and transforms ordinary rocks within a hundred meters into vitalis stones.

  Other Info: [LOCKED]
    ???
    ???
    ???

This stone was the reason why the Condortlians were enslaved. Smoke thought that Adder’s recreated limb may have been caused by the Matera Vitalis’ unknown information.

‘If this Matera Vitalis has such a small reach then that would mean there are other Matera Vitalis scattered all over this mountain.’

He wanted to learn more about the Matera Vitalis, but there was no other helpful information. So, he decided to focus on returning to Condortl.

Smoke tried to use his Earth Manipulation ability to flatten out the spikes and elevate himself and Adder back to the ledge where they fell from.



– Cannot control this Earth with your current Earth Manipulation ability.
– Cannot control this Earth at your current level of Earth Affinity.

His eyebrows crossed. He never saw that notification message before. He tried using his ability again and got the same notification.

“Inspect ability, Earth Manipulation.”


Ability: Earth Manipulation
        Active
        Level: Intermediate Level 8
        Experience: (287,698/1,000,000)

        The intermediate form of Earth Manipulation.
        Earth forms may retain the shape if the user continues to supply his mana into it.

        Strength and Durability depends on the user’s Earth affinity,
        knowledge of the created object, and the current level of this ability.

        Can only manipulate Earth upto the Archean era.

        Earth Affinity: 60%
        Mana Consumption: 200 mp/sec

‘Man, this place is old. I wonder if it reaches up to the Phanerozoic era?’

Smoke sat in front of Adder and kept on observing the growing limb. It had finally grown to same size as the Condortlian’s normal hand. With nothing else to do, he took out two books and began acquiring their knowledge.

However, the green color was slowly changing. The virile arm had now taken on the color of brown and began to crust all over. It had taken on the form a brown scaly cast.

Another fifteen minutes passed and Adder came to.

“Ugh… Smoke? What happened? I felt like a wild rhinomouse rammed into my chest.”

“Hey, how are you feeling? Does anything feel new?”

“Huh? New? Oh… I haven’t seen anything like this before.”

Smoke couldn’t help but smile and nod his head slowly.

“I know! I was surprised myself when I saw it, but I think this could be the best thing that could happen to you.”

Adder looked puzzled, he thought that Smoke was talking about the glowing green boulder. He himself had never seen such a big vitalis stone, but he wondered why it could be the best thing that could happen to him.

“Sure, such a big Vitalis stone is a rare find, but this thing is only valuable to the Lizard people.”

“No, I’m not talking about the green boulder. I am talking about your left arm.”

Smoke pointed towards Adder’s scaly brown crusted arm.

Adder’s eyes grew wide when he saw his new arm. A million thoughts raced through his mind, but nothing came out of his mouth. Then he heard Smoke speak.

“Do you think this Matera Vitalis stone is a special stone that can cure people?”

“This is a Matera Vitalis stone? I’ve heard about it, but I thought it was just a myth.”

The Condortlian was surprised, and he thought about Smoke’s question. It was logical and there was a high chance that this was indeed a special effect of the Matera Vitalis.

Smoke then told Adder what he had observed.

“Really? All I know is that it started growing from a green scaly arm, and later transformed into this brown crusted form.”

“My arms were green? Did they start out like a small stump and then grew to be like this?”

“Yes, It did. How did you know that?”

Adder took a deep breath and suddenly began scratching out his brown crusted arm.

“Hey, hey, what are you doing. Stop that.”

Smoke grabbed Adder’s right hand and held on to it firmly.

“I’m taking this thing off of me.”

“Why would you do that? Do you like living with just one arm?”

“It’s better than living with one that belongs to a virile. I don’t want a monster’s arm.”

“Wait a minute. Let’s calm down a bit. Are you sure this is exactly the same process that the Lizard people went through?”

Adder stopped resisting and relaxed himself.

“Well, when their arms grew back they didn’t turn into this brown scaly crust.”

“There you go. See, I’m sure this isn’t a monster’s arm at all.”

Despite what Smoke said, both of them didn’t believe a word of it. The scaly green arm that grew, clearly belonged to a virile monster.

Smoke thought to change the subject.

“For now, why don’t we focus on getting out of here. I already tried using Earth Manipulation but it didn’t work. I’m thinking that we could climb up these walls. Do you think you could stand?”

Adder tried to stand up, but he felt dizzy and slumped back down. For the first time, Adder felt the brown crusted arm draining all of his energy. He thought about telling Smoke but decided not to because he didn’t want to worry his leader.

“Sorry, I can’t.” replied Adder meekly.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll just strap you on to my back.” said Smoke. He then took out his wall climbing harness and strapped it on Adder’s body. As he tried to lift his injured friend up, he noticed that he was heavier than he looked.

“You’ve gotten really heavy. Have you always weighed this much?” asked Smoke.

A confused Adder looked at Smoke, “I don’t know what you mean? I feel normal, it’s just that I don’t have any energy to move.”

Smoke had a hard time standing up because of Adder’s added weight, but with the aid of his rare gloves he managed to get a firm grip on the wall.

With Adder safely secured, Smoke looked up the steep wall. He started to scale it, with his injured friend on his back. Yet, Adder’s weight proved to be beyond the limits of his Claws of Chiropterra.

He could only reach up to the height of four feet before they got pulled down by gravity. He inspected his gloves to check their status.


Claws of Chiropterra (Gloves)

  A rare glove that closely resembles the claws of the monstrous winged foxbat Chiropterra.

  Equipment Ability:
    * Foxbat Grip (Passive)
      + You can grip solid surfaces with ease,
        climbing mountains becomes a breeze.
    * Earth affinity + 15%

  Restriction Warning:
    – Can only carry up to 500 pounds in weight.

Smoke was surprised to see the restriction section in the item because it did not display such an information before. He thought that the item must have only shown it now because his weight went beyond 500 pounds.

He was shocked to learn that Adder’s weight must have been more than 300 pounds, since he was only 190 pounds himself.

“Alright, that’s it. I don’t think we could go out that way.”

Adder felt responsible. He knew that it was his increased weight that was literally bringing them down.

“Sorry about that, Smoke. Why don’t we rest for a few minutes? Who knows, maybe I’ll recover then?”

“Sure, let’s do that. I’ll cook us some grub as well.”

Smoke prepared a medicinal sand cat stew. When the stew was finished he began to spoon feed Adder.

“You don’t have to do this. I’ll eat when I can move my arm.”

“Don’t be stubborn. I want to get out of this place as soon as possible. Even if it means forcing this stew down your throat.”

Adder obediently ate the medicinal stew, until the whole pot was finished. As they rested, Smoke thought to investigate the pit they were currently in.

What he really wanted to do was to chase after the enraged Centaurs, but Adder’s health and safety was his top priority at the moment.

He decided to give Laernea a call. Since he didn’t know if Adder could recover at all in less than a day.

“I need your help, we fell down this pit while we were chasing the mutated Centaurs.”

The lioness Lioumerean’s voice trembled as she spoke.

“What?! Are you okay? I’ll be there right away.”

“Laernea, wait. Bring a ton of rope, some digging equipment, and Condortl’s best Healer. I don’t know how deep this place is. Let me send you our coordinates.”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes. Rope, digging equipment, but why do you need a Healer? Condortl only has Tanda left, and he is only slightly better than our first aid ability.”

“Adder got injured, but he’s stable now.”

“Okay, don’t you worry, Smoke. I’ll be there before you know it.”

After Smoke called Laernea, he decided to resume his original plan and investigate the pit.

“I’ll be back, I’m just gonna look around a bit. Maybe there’s another way out or something.”

Before Smoke left, he thought about what he saw from the top view while he attempted to scale the wall.

“You know, if you look at the glowing Vitalis stone from the top, it kinda looks like an arrow pointing toward that wall. Nah, its probably just my imagination.”

Smoke and Igniz went off to search for an exit. The Vitalis’ low luminance was enough to give some visibility to Adder, who sat down beside it.

Slowly, Smoke walked further away. Igniz hovered above him and lighted his path. He squeezed himself in between the protruding stalagmite formation.

At the corner of his eye, he found a mysterious ivory colored object. His Cunning of the Dire Fox did not sense any monster, but he thought that it was always better to be alert.

There were monsters with special abilities that cancelled out his sensory ability. He took out his Dasende’s Chain and Sickle and held on to the sickle’s handle tightly.

The compact space limited his weapon’s true potential, but it was his only decent melee weapon. He had given most of his weapons to his private army members.

Silently, he creeped towards the object. When it was within his range he instantly lunged his sickle and scattered the dried up bones of a person.

“Igniz, over here. I can’t see what this is.”

His symbiote flew towards the scattered bones. Smoke found the ragged clothes of a Condortlian. He inspected the remains and found writings on a torn out cloth.

He reflexively began to acquire the cloth’s information. After five seconds, a notification popped up.


  Cloth Journal of Nahulog Ako

  -Everybody told me that I was crazy for even considering about escaping. I know they’ll execute all of my family members if I do, but with Mom’s death last week, there’s really nothing holding me back.

  -I know that the mother of all the vitalis stone is out there somewhere. Maybe I could convince Matron Fecunda to let my people go, once I show her the stone.

  Day: 1
    I’ve began practicing regurgitating my ration and I’ve been able to hold a days’ worth. There’s no problem with water because I know the locations of the subterranean river system inside Mount Aeriloc. I’ll escape tonight.

  Day: 2
    Thanks to Gulo’s sacrifice, I was able to escape unnoticed. I managed to hide deep inside the middle layer of the mountain.

  Day: 4
    I’ve narrowed down my search to the lower chambers inside Mount Aeriloc. I’m sure I’ll find it any day now.

  Day: 5
    Still no sign of the Matera Vitalis, but I did find a strange shrine in the location of [230, 120, 184] inside the mountain.

  Day: 6
    Finally! I found the Matera Vitalis! I uncovered a secret passageway and found a faint glimmering light below it.

  Day: 7
    The Matera Vitalis is too big to carry, and what’s worst is that I’m now stuck in this pit. I tried climbing up, but I couldn’t even reach the halfway mark.

  Day: 9
    I ate the last moss and there isn’t any left here in this pit. I need to do something soon.

  Day: 11
    I’ve decided to take a different route to climb. The surface looks more jagged but maybe that will give me more traction. Hopefully, I can write the next entry with my successful escape and tell the Condortlians of the Matera Vitalis’ location…

Smoke felt sorry for Nahulog. He was only trying to help liberate the Condortlians but ended up dead. He was glad that he had reliable friends who were coming to rescue him.

He searched Nahulog’s remains but found nothing nothing else. He made a mental note to investigate the strange shrine that Nahulog mentioned in his journal.

After he searched the entire pit, he returned to his recovering friend. He wondered what Adder would say about Nahulog.

Smoke lightly shook Adder’s right shoulder to wake him up. It had been thirty minutes since he called Laernea and found the remains of Nahulog.

He estimated that Laernea should arrive within the next few minutes. While they waited, he told Adder about the contents of his fellow Condortlian’s journal.

After he shared Nahulog’s tale, he gave an order to his symbiote.

“Igniz, why don’t you make a beacon to help them locate us.”

The dark ember sprite obeyed and released a pillar of light upward. The beam reached the top of the 100 meter cavern.

Igniz’s beam awoke the sleeping monsters nestled on top of the ceiling. They looked like the giant bats that Smoke had fought on Mount Gliseloc, but these monsters had cat like faces.

With his power chainsaw bow at the ready, Smoke was about to release a storm of fire arrows when a different set of fire arrows came from above him.

Ichaival shot down a monster with four fire arrows. The monster revealed its name and HP, felisbatus with a maximum life bar of 22,000 HP.

The Hunter kept on firing his arrows as Laernea brought her carriage parallel to where Igniz’s beam formed a pillar of light.

Smoke hurriedly scaled to the top of the ledge and began shooting down the cat-like bats. Smoke fired eight arrows and Ichaival in turn matched his attack speed.

He looked at Ichaival and grinned. He nodded at the Hunter and Ichaival understood that it was now a contest to see which one of them could shoot down more felisbatus.

Ichaival trained hard on his Phantom Arrow ability, and it was now capable of firing eight arrows at once. However, Smoke still managed to take down more felisbatus.

It was because of his inherited ability from Mitleid. The Beast Monarch ability which tripled his damage on beast type monsters.

It took them ten minutes to clear out all of the felisbatus. The score ended with Smoke in the lead at two-hundred-sixty kills to Ichaival’s two-hundred. Laernea did her share of ninety kills, but she didn’t speak up as she was far behind the two of them.

Smoke was impressed. They were able to dispatch the monsters because of Ichaival’s rapid attack of arrows.

“Great work, Ichaival! I didn’t know your Phantom Arrows ability was already at that level.”

“Thanks. I had to do something to improve myself. I mean Sharanga’s doing her inventions, and Vijaya has her six falcons going on. In fact I even left my falcon with her, since Ichai would have a hard time inside a cave.”

Laernea envied Ichaival being praised and spoke up.

“We would’ve gotten here sooner, but we had a hard time getting enough rope.”

Smoke patted the lioness Lioumerean’s shoulders.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’re here. Come on, let’s help Adder out of there.”

* * * * * * 

Nahulog’s journal was right. Smoke and his men were not able to bring back the Matera Vitalis. It was indeed too heavy to extract from its current location.

Adder’s new scaly crusted limb caused quite a stir between Laernea and Ichaival, but Smoke told them to keep a tight lid on their questions.

After all the attention that Adder’s new limb was getting, Smoke decided to put a bandage around it and covered it up. They decided that it was best to show it first to Eldmar, Condortl’s acting village chief.

When they arrived they immediately went to Eldmar’s hut. Once inside, Smoke removed Adder’s bandage and showed them what was hidden beneath it.

Smoke, Eldmar, Tanda, Laernea, Ichaival, and Espion all gathered inside the hut.

“Tanda, have you seen anything like this?” Smoke asked.

“No, never. I’ve never seen a Human arm grow back before, but why did you make this scaly cast? Adder, do you mind if I remove it? Bits and pieces are already starting to come off anyway.”

“Come off?”

Smoke and Adder were puzzled and checked the brown crusted arm. Slowly, Tanda began taking off pieces of the brown crust which revealed a normal Human arm.

He couldn’t contain his astonishment.

“Whoa! When did that happen?”

“It wasn’t like this before?”, asked Tanda and Eldmar asked in unison.

“Maybe it was during our ride back here?” said Smoke.

Tanda finished removing the brown scaly crust and Adder’s normal Human hand was out in the open.

Smoke was very happy for his friend. He felt responsible for Adder’s lost limb ever since the Condortlian sacrificed himself inside the lamia’s cave.

“Adder, isn’t this great? You really got your lost arm back.” exclaimed Smoke.

The Condortlian grimaced. He wasn’t all that glad for his new arm. Something inside him rejected it, but he forced a smile on his face.

“Thanks be to, Cuezaltzin! It’s a miracle!”, praised Eldmar.

Everyone was very happy for Adder, and he thought it would be rude to seem ungrateful for his mysterious miracle.

Adder wanted some time for himself to think.

“Thank you everyone, but I want to get some rest for now.”

Slowly, everybody left the hut and wished Adder a speedy recovery.

With Adder safely back in Condortl, Smoke wanted to resume his hunt for the maddened Centaurs. He couldn’t bring his entire private army with him because the mutated Centaurs could return and attack the village.

He selected Espion and Ichaival to join him. Laernea protested but gave in. He also left Vijaya in charge until Adder felt better.

Smoke ordered Laernea to drop them off at the outskirts of the Margome mountain range, but they made a quick stop over at the coordinates where Nahulog found a shrine.

The passable road inside the mountain took them to the correct X and Y coordinates, but the Z coordinate indicated that it was directly above them.

He ordered his men to stay behind since the climb was challenging. With his Claws of Chiropterra, Smoke swiftly went up the demanding wall.

His dark ember sprite effortlessly flew up with him. The climb reminded him of how Igniz taunted him when he scaled Mount Gliseloc, but the memory made him laugh instead.

He found a small hole when he reached the top of the wall. It was big enough for him to squirm inside.

“Igniz, can you check what’s inside the hole? I don’t want to crawl inside for nothing.”

The dark ember sprite flew up and gave a small nod before he went inside the opening. It became pitch black as soon as Igniz disappeared into the aperture.

Five minutes later, and Igniz came out with an astonished face.

“Hey? Was there anything good inside?”

Igniz madly flew around and created a fiery image that had horns.

“There’s a monster inside?”

Smoke’s symbiote shook his head and then nodded shortly after.

“Well, which one is it? Oh, nevermind. I guess I’ll have to see it for myself.”

He got on all fours and carefully crawled inside the crevice. He had to unequip all his equipment because of the narrow space.

As Smoke reached the middle of the tunnel, he used his Cunning of the Dire Fox ability to check if there was indeed a monster inside. Yet, his ability sensed nothing.

He searched around, as far as his DarkElf eyes could see and saw nothing. Always on the look out, Igniz went out ahead of him.

His symbiote signaled him to step out of the small crevice. Once outside, he found that he could stand up straight but barely.


  – Entered the shrine of the Ifrit Vigilantez

      – There are no monsters inside the shrine of Vigilantez.
      – Suggested level for entering this forest is not applicable.

Smoke was surprised by the sudden game notification. He had never heard or read of Vigilantez, but he must have been someone special to have a concealed shrine. It had an area of twenty square feet and a height of six feet.

He looked around and still found nothing. Not until he turned around and saw the imposing figure of the Ifrit, Vigilantez.

The entire wall above the exit of the small crevice was covered in a fresco painting of the Ifrit. The flaming figure had orange flames for hair with two bent horns which pointed upward.

Vigilantez had a humanoid form except for his hands and feet, which had claws like those of a lion. He only wore a lower body armor that was made of a black lusterless metal.

He had four wings stretched out behind his back and covered the entire wall. It was made of red and orange flames. At first glance, Vigilantez looked like a Lord of Hell.

Yet, if you studied his face close enough it looked like that of a forlorn child.

As Smoke touched it, an earthen hand came out of the wall and a notification window popped up.


+ Do you wish to offer any of the following to Vigilantez?

  1. 10,000,000 zecs
  2. A rare item
  3. An ability tome

He was in a dilemma. He didn’t know anything about this Vigilantez character. Although, he had read about Ifrits in the real world. They were powerful and cunning Djinns.

With only the general knowledge of Djinns, Smoke decided to bet on making an offering. From Sierra’s regular report, he found out that the boss in the mausoleum,  had a high drop rate of the skull helm, which was uncommon for a rare item.

This made Smoke decide to use the skull helm that he had with him. He originally planned on giving the item to Adder but he refused it. The Condortlian did not want to wear an item from an Undead monster.

He removed the doubts he had in his mind and placed the skull helm into earthen hand.


Completed Offering, to the Djinn of the West: Ifrit Vigilantez

  + Acquired the locations of Ifrit Vigilantez’s temples
  + Your map has been updated with the four locations
  + 500 Favor points to Vigilantez

Smoke inspected his map and found four blinking lights beyond the Margome mountain range. He got nothing else aside from the temple locations and the 500 Favor points.

He felt that he was cheated, but there was no use crying over spilt milk. He was still deep in regret when he received a call from Sierra.

“Gandiva’s back and she got the Guildium and the special ability that I was talking about. So, how’s everything on your end?” she asked.

Smoke was happy to hear Sierra’s voice and was even happier when he heard that everything was going well for her, which made him feel inadequate.

“I don’t know how to say this but, I kinda got Adder almost killed again… But don’t worry he is stable now. In fact, he’s even grown back an arm.” said Smoke in a meek voice.

There were three seconds of silence before Sierra answered. “What do you mean an arm? And how could you have almost killed Adder?”

Smoke told Sierra about their run in with the mutated Centaurs, and he told her about the mysterious Vitalis stone that recreated Adder’s left limb. He was ashamed of the Vigilantez’s reward that he casually left out of his update.

They shared their theories about Adder’s limb for a few more minutes until Smoke heard Sharur call out to Sierra that the militia were ready.

“Oh, right. I’ll be right there. Just give me a second. Listen, Smoke. Since we already have the Guildium I wanted to ask your opinion on the names I came up with.” said Sierra.

“Come on, I told you that I didn’t want to do anything with the guild.” said Smoke with a hint of annoyance.

“Please, just hear out a couple of names?” pleaded Sierra.

“Fine…” stated Smoke.

Sierra then started to give out the names. “What about Vagabond Freedom Fighters?”

“Why Vagabond? Isn’t that a dead giveaway of my hidden Job?” he asked.

“I wanted something that would put your presence into the guild’s name, but don’t worry I’ll think of something else.” she said in all seriousness.

“I’m not too sure about the Vagabond part, but I definitely don’t like the Freedom Fighters.” said Smoke with conviction.

Smoke stared in front of the Ifrit Vigilantez painting and said. “What about Vigilantez instead?”

“Vigilantes?” asked Sierra.

“No, Vigilantez with a Z.” replied Smoke.

              

* * * * * *    They were greeted by a wide red wall of mountains when they got out of the tunnel of Mount Aeriloc, the commanding mountain range of Margome.

Fifty kilometers out on the other side of Mount Aeriloc, they got closer to the mountains and they realized just how tall each mountain was.

Their map indicated that they were still fifteen kilometers away from the base of the mountain, but they could no longer see the summit of any of the mountains.

Smoke scanned the vast area with his Telefax Vision and saw a resemblance of a settlement. He ordered Laernea to head west, in its direction.

Ten kilometers from the foot of the Margome mountain range, and they found the settlement that the Condortlian Scouts created. Sadly, everything in sight was destroyed.

Smoke, Ichaival, Espion, and Igniz got down Laernea’s carriage.

“Are you sure I can’t stay?”, asked Laernea.

“We’ve been through this before. I want you to be our back up, and you protecting Condortl reassures me of residents’ safety.”

“Alright, alright. But I still say I’d be more help here, with you.”

Smoke took in a deep breath before he tried to explain himself to Laernea again.

“Like I said. You work best with your stag moose, Tulin, by your side. Also, we need to be covert from here on out, and you guys would stand out.”

“Okay. Just give me a call whenever you need me then, and you can count on me rushing to see you.”

Smoke smiled. Laernea opened her arms for a hug, to which he casually pushed Espion and Ichaival in front of him and had the two of them hug her instead.

They bade their farewell to Laernea and proceeded to investigate the Condortlian’s settlement.

Clay pots were broken and scattered. Their tents were torn to pieces. Dried blood covered most of the settlement. Curiously, the Scouts’ food supply remained intact.

On a field some distance behind them, Smoke and his men found small red flags planted on the ground.

He assumed that these were the landmarks of where they planned on making their corn field. He looked around and found them plowed with corn seeds sown into the fertile soul.

There was a decent sized stream, that had a general width of ten feet, near the plowed field. Ichaival stood behind the crouched Smoke and whistled loudly.

“I can’t believe the Condortlian Scouts’ chosen location. This place is beautiful.”

Espion couldn’t help but ask Ichaival’s observation.

“Beautiful? Did you forget about the traces of blood in the settlement?”

“I’m not talking about that. If you take away the ransacked settlement and just focus on the view, then I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.”

Espion turned his head from left and right to watch the great wall of red mountains. Before he turned back to Ichaival with a raised eyebrow.

Ichaival shrugged.

“I guess you got too used to the dungeony ambiance inside the labyrinth. Well, I think I’ll take Sharanga here someday. I’ll show her my ancestor’s village then take her here.”

“What do you mean ancestor’s village?”

“Oh, Smoke didn’t tell you? You see, I’m one half Condortlian. My father, James Jackal, escaped from Condortl before the Lizard people enslaved them.”

“I never knew that. Why didn’t you say anything before, when we were still in Condortl?”

“I didn’t want make a fuss out of it. Besides I haven’t done anything yet to make them proud of me, but don’t you worry. I’ll do something soon that’ll make the Condortlians’ sing praises of my name.”

“I bet. Like the way Sharanga sings songs of your glory.” Espion heckled.

Ichaival groaned. “Ouch! That was too close to the heart to be funny.”

Smoke raised his hand and formed a fist.

“Knock it off you two. I sense something’s coming. Igniz, lower your glow and hide in my cloak.”

With his Earth Manipulation ability, Smoke created a burrow. All three men went inside it. Shortly after, twenty Centaurs came and trotted towards where they hid.

Smoke peeked at the Centaurs who had just arrived. He was expecting to see the monsters who had taken Tracas, the young boy who was kidnapped under Smoke’s watch.

However, these Centaurs looked normal. They stood at a height of 8 feet with long hair. They had leather armor which protected their upper bodies and carried heavy long bows. Their horse halves varied from black, brown, yellow, and white.

The battle ready Centaurs slowly walked to where Smoke and his men were hiding. An old white haired Centaur who looked to be the leader spoke.

“Come out of there. I can sense your unwanted presence.”

The Centaurs had their bows and arrows pointed at the place where Smoke and his men were concealed.

Smoke refused to believe that their hiding spot could be easily found. He created a well camouflaged burrow. There was no way the Centaur could have sensed them.

“Fine. Then let me help you out.”

The white haired Centaur used his own Earth Manipulation ability and opened up Smoke’s hiding place. The DarkElf and his men had their weapons out. They were prepared to attack at the slightest sign of aggression.

Yet, Smoke didn’t want to harm his potential comrades. He wanted the Centaurs to join them in Verbrannt.

“Wait. We’re not here to harm you. My men and I will slowly put down our weapons. I hope you’ll hear us out.”

The Centaurs’ leader watched Smoke and his men closely, before he spoke.

“Sorry. This isn’t really like me, but the last Condortlians caused too much trouble. Men fire!”

All of the Centaurs shot out their arrows. Instantly, a dome of Earth erupted from the ground and shielded them from the attack.

Smoke managed to block the arrows in time. The Centaurs’ leader forced opened the Earth dome with his own ability, and an opening was created for half a second before it closed again.

It was a tug of war between the DarkElf and the white haired Centaur. Espion and Ichaival did their best to block the arrows that got in during the opening.

“Are you sure we shouldn’t attack them?”, asked Espion.

“Just give the order and we’ll bring on the hurt.”, added Ichaival.

“No, we have to talk to them. Now, stop bothering me. Using Earth Manipulation requires a lot of concentration.”

Steadily, the white haired Centaur got the upper hand. Smoke thought about creating a tunnel with his Digger’s wand to help them escape, but he doubted that would work because of the Centaurs’ Earth Manipulation ability and keen senses.

Their tug of war that used their Earth Manipulation ability kept on for another ten minutes.

Suddenly, the sound of arrows hitting the dome stopped. Smoke then heard the white haired Centaur speak.

“DarkElf. I’ve ordered my men to stop attacking. Your mastery of the Earth has impressed me. Lower your dome so we may speak.”

“And you expect me to believe that, just cause you said so?”

“In the name of Verlassene Pferde, I swear that my men shall not harm you.”

“Give me a second, while I consult with my men.”

Smoke instantly switched to his Digger’s Wand and created a tunnel for escape. Then he turned to Ichaival and Espion.

“So, we’re going to escape and regroup?” Ichaival confirmed.

“No, that’s just for you two. This tunnel will take you two kilometers towards Mount Aeriloc. I’ll close the tunnel up when you enter. I’ll give you guys a call when everything is clear.”

“What about you? You aren’t planning to face them just by yourself, are you?” Espion asked.

“Of course not. This is just a precautionary measure. Now go. Before the Centaurs catch on to our plan.”

Reluctantly, Ichaival and Espion headed into the tunnel. Smoke had just closed the tunnel when he heard the white haired Centaur speak.

“What’s keeping so long? You’re not planning of escaping are you?”

“No. Of course not. Well, we are coming out now. I hope you’re a man of your word.”

As his earthen dome collapsed, Smoke leapt into the air with his Lunar Gravity Boots. He opened his hooded cloak and was gliding his way to Ichaival and Espion, when the Centaur leader unfurled his two gigantic white wings.

The Centaur’s wings were attached to his horse section. Each wing’s length doubled the Centaur’s body.

With the white haired Centaur’s wings expanded to its fullest, he flew up into the air with just one flap and was instantly beside Smoke.

“Hey. My name’s Rudel. I thought we were going to talk? Now, why don’t you land down?”, said the white flying Centaur.

The DarkElf was astonished at the sight of the flying Centaur, and he couldn’t help but follow him down to the ground.

* * * * * * 

Caid’s casting circle of truth was similar to a lie detector. With this in mind, Sierra had hoped that she was able to protect herself from any treacherous Sonstwelters and only recruit the loyal ones.

The red werebear stood on a stage with a black and purple curtain behind her. She was in front of the entire one-thousand-one-hundred-eighty militia, six-hundred-ninety-two Knights, and the two-hundred-sixty-seven members from various guilds who wished to merge with them.

Mamelon, convinced the other guilds to disband and to merge with Smoke and Sierra’s guild instead. The red werebear began her speech, after all of those present finished their pledge of loyalty to their guildium and Smoke.

“Everyone! I’d like to officially welcome you all to our new guild, Vagrant Vigilantez!”

The entire guild cheered and clapped loudly as their guild name was called out.

“We’re called Vagrant Vigilantez because we’re here to fight injustice wherever it may be. Vagrants have no permanent home and like them we’ll roam all of Zectas and liberate the oppressed!”

Everybody cheered once more, but the Zectians in the crowd were most especially louder.

“We won’t stop here in Verbrannt, and we won’t stop even after we’ve freed Coatl. We will be the driving force that protects the weak and punishes the wicked.”

The crowd roared with excitement.

“Now, I don’t like long speeches. So, how about we enjoy our welcome feast and get to know each other better. Sharur, if you please?”

The muscular OrkElf opened the curtain and revealed an adequate feast, fit to fill the mouths of everyone present. A loud buzz of chatter was heard as guild members talked and got to know each other.

Sierra approached Mamelon to thank her again.

“Hey, I’m really glad you convinced the other guilds to join us. I’m thinking you have quite a talent there.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. It took some time convincing them, but in the end they eagerly wanted to join as soon as they heard that Smoke leading the guild. Also, I was just thinking that maybe Ilad could show his face more and thank me as well. I mean I haven’t seen the guy for awhile now.”

The wheel’s in Sierra’s mind were turning as she schemed.

“He’s still pretty busy with screening the potential guild members at the moment, but I think you’d be a great help if you join his cause.”

“Really? I guess when we’ve gathered enough people, Ilad and I could do some other stuff together as well?”

“Great! I’d like you to talk to Thyrsus after you’re done eating. He’ll set you up with the details.”

Sierra proceeded to get to know more people in her guild, especially the Sonstwelters. A few minutes later, Thyrsus came to her and asked her a question.

“You told Mamelon that I could set her up with Ilad? But Smoke’s out on a mission. How am I suppose to get her and Ilad together on a recruitment assignment?”

The red werebear chuckled as she heard Thyrsus’ dilemma.

“Just tell her that Ilad’s already left and she should catch up with him on one of the recruitment routes.”

She wanted more members in the guild, but she wasn’t going to allow Mamelon and Smoke on a special recruitment quest by themselves.

After a few more minutes, Sierra’s conscience got to her, and she went to look for Thyrsus.

“Thyrsus, hey. I’ll talk to her about Ilad. I’ll tell her that he’s unavailable at the moment.”

“No problem with me. It’s your call.”

Sierra explained to Mamelon that Ilad had already left ahead of her. She also asked the Aqua Knight if she was still interested in being a part of the recruitment team.

Luckily, Mamelon still wanted to join. If it meant a remote chance of seeing Ilad then she was most definitely interested.

After their guild acquaintance party was over. Sierra had the members divide into their special division. She had Gandiva, Weise, Rassant, and Stark join her on another trip to the mausoleum.

She wanted to test out the militia members who learned how to use the composite bows. There were currently three battalions who had already learned the ability.

With their attack power greatly increased, the ranged militia members wiped out the skeleton warriors with ease. Their damage was not as high as any of their battalion commanders, but their numbers and coordination made up for it.

After the wave of skeleton warriors were finished. The skeleton archers and mages popped up. Only to be met with a torrent of arrows.

A squad of ten militia members focused fire on the skeleton archers and took the monster down with one shot. Weise, Rassant, and Stark did their best to block any of the attacks that were coming towards the militia members.

The Maneators were more than happy to be meat shields for the militia members. In the past few weeks of continuous hunting, the three of them have bonded with the refugees.

After they blocked the skeleton’s ranged attacks, Rassant swiftly moved to the Archers and cracked their bones to pieces as he attacked them with his whip.

On the other hand, Weise went after the skeleton mages as the Bowed Fishermen gave him cover with their arrows. The gray Maneator stunned the mages with his shield while the ranged militia members finished them off.

The two Maneators eliminated the ranged skeleton monsters, whereas Stark remained close to the battalion. It was to protect them from the appearance of the mausoleum’s boss, the skeleton knight.

Normally, Stark was the one in charge to tank the skeleton knight, but this time it was Sierra who leapt at the monster as soon as the mausoleum’s boss appeared.

She only had 1% left on her experience bar until she became level 100, and she wanted to claim that missing experience today.

The red werebear went directly for the skeleton knight’s neck as she slashed it off with her enormous sharp claws. She knew that one slash wasn’t going to cut it. So, she forced down the skeleton knight on the floor and mounted it.

Her massive experience with fighting the mausoleum’s boss gave her the clear advantage and vanquished the monster in a matter of seconds.


+ You’ve dealt a fatal blow to the skeleton knight: Ericole.
+ You’ve killed the skeleton knight: Ericole.
+ Your party gained 200,000 exp.


 + Level UP!

     You have 10pts of stat ready for distribution.
     Your HP has increased by 5,000.
     Your MANA has increased by 500.
     Your Fame has increased by 1.

Sierra beamed as she saw the notification message. A sense of accomplishment filled her body as soon as she achieved level 100.

Grinding inside the mausoleum really paid off. She was in cloud nine. She finally had a guild with more than decent members in it.

The red werebear was ecstatic. Suddenly another game notification popped up.


+ Learned Ability: Lycanthrope Control
        Passive
        Level: Beginner Level 1
        Experience: (10/1,000)

        Your understanding of your curse and new life has shown your great improvement.
        To be able to control your werebear form means mastery of the Lycanthrope curse.

        + Ability to control up to two Lycanthropes

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