"The Imperial Era started when two powerful chosen, a demonkin and a human, defied their masters, after falling in love. Leading a massive slave army, they rose up and defeated the dragons, unifying the entire world under the twin banner of humanity and demonkin. Their son was the first emperor. The Imperial Era was an era of peace and prosperity, but, under the surface, a growing fight brewed.

"See, the first emperor was half and half. His dad was a demonkin, his mom was human. But every child after that had either more human blood or more demonkin blood. The intrigue created because of that caused an unhealable rift, and the empire was torn in half in a bloody civil war. The demonkin took the southern half of the continent, and us humans took the northern half. The Imperial Era ended with the arrival of the first travelers.

"As I was saying earlier, Davyos was a Devil Blood Berserker from the God's Era. As far as we know, he was the avatar of Karrandaras, a powerful archdevil who ruled over blood and corruption. Other people have explored this area before, but they didn't find anything. I'm guessing that, somehow, the inheritance was uncovered by the kobolds, which let the Shaman become a Greater Shaman."

"Wait, you're saying there might be a triple category class there?" asked Mina in disbelief.

"Honestly, I doubt it," said Ouroboros, shaking his head. "The chance of it being a triple category class is abysmal. Most of the ancient inheritances from the God's Era were plundered by the dragons ages ago, so it is unlikely that such a high profile class would have slipped through. I mean, there are close to three billion players and only four triple category classes. All of which, by the way, were picked up from massive chain quests that took whole guilds to complete.

As far as we know, the Devil Blood Berserker class was a mix between a Devil Warlock, a Blood Shaman, and a Blood Warrior. What I am hoping for is a dual category class stone that can be used to form one of those classes. Most of the avatars from the First Era had retinues of dual category classes, which means there is a pretty solid chance that we can get at least one dual class, if not a whole set."

"Then what are we waiting for?" asked Jorge, downing the rest of his ale. "Let's get rolling."

"Oh, now you're interested in working?" Mina said with a sneer. "Where was this excitement when we were on our ore run?"

As Jorge was about to fire back, Ouroboros grabbed his shoulder.

"Cut it out, you two. Thorn, if you're willing to act as a porter for us, there is a good chance we should be able to get you a dual category class." Ouroboros rolled up the two maps and then looked at Thorn. "It might be very dangerous. Especially so, since you don't have a class, but the potential reward is huge. What do you think?”

"I'm in!" declared Thorn, slapping the table in excitement.


With a loud crash, the table splintered into pieces and collapsed onto the ground, sending everyone's cups flying!

"What the!" Jorge yelled as he jumped to his feet, swearing. Likewise, Mina scrambled backward, flipping her chair over as she did. Even Ouroboros jumped up in surprise. Only Velin did not react, looking at Thorn and raising her eyebrows.

"Sorry, sorry," stammered Thorn, as surprised as everyone else.

It took a moment for everyone's surprise to settle down. The pyramid of silence that Ouroboros had set up was still deployed, so the rest of the tavern had no idea that Thorn had crushed a table with a simple slap. The swirling mist had also blocked the splinters, saving the surrounding patrons from a storm of flying wood.

"Goodness, don't scare me like that." Mina clutched her chest. "My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that," Thorn apologized again as the others stared at him.

Once everyone had calmed down, Ouroboros picked up the pyramid of silence and paid the tavern owner for the ruined table before herding everyone out. Ouroboros gave everyone an hour to do what they needed before meeting at the north gate. Since Thorn had already restocked on all his supplies and gotten his tetsubo fixed, he decided to head to the gate where the party was going to meet.

Once the group had finished getting ready, they left the city and headed into the mountains to the north. After a few hours of travel, they arrived at the entrance to the large valley where they had fought the kobolds previously. Seeing the familiar land stretching out before them, Thorn could not help but smile. This is where he had gotten to know his new friends, so it held a special place in his heart.

Rather than immediately pushing into the valley, Ouroboros had everyone set up camp to rest for the night. At first, Thorn had found it strange that players kept to a normal night and day schedule in Nova Terra, considering the time dilation, but he quickly realized that the amount of information that a person had to process grew along with the stretching time.

While it was possible to push through for multiple days, players found that they had a better experience when they slept. Plus, it wasn't like they were losing much time. Seven hours of in-game sleep was an hour of real time. It was like taking a small break before carrying on. Most players actually logged out when their character rested, Mina and the others being no exception.

Since Thorn couldn't actually log out, he went to bed like normal. There was little difference between his sleep and a player who had logged out, so Thorn set an alarm to wake him up when the others logged back in and closed his eyes. The system assisted the process, and he fell asleep almost instantly.

When his alarm went off the next morning, Thorn got up and packed up his tent. Ouroboros, Mina, and Jorge had already logged in and helped Thorn break camp while they waited for Velin. Once the camp was cleaned up, Thorn got out some breakfast and passed it out. After half an hour, Velin logged in and greeted everyone.

"Did you find anything?" Ouroboros asked, brushing some crumbs from his fingers as he walked over to her.

Nodding, Velin handed over a document.

"It looks like we have some competition. We need to pick up the pace," she said. "The others have made tangible progress, which means more pressure on you."

"Alright, we better head out," said Ouroboros, after scanning the document. Putting it away with a frown, he looked off into the distance for a couple moments before gathering everyone up. By the time he was facing the others, he was back to his normal self, and, without further delay, they started on their way.

Thorn and the others had been too far away to hear the exchange, so they set out in high spirits. Like the first time they came into the valley, Jorge acted as a vanguard, clearing the way for them. Unlike their previous venture, they met kobolds more often, though in smaller groups.

Mina explained that, because the Greater Shaman was dead, the kobolds were not as unified anymore and were ranging farther from their villages. For a normal player, this made the valley a much easier hunting ground. Most of the kobolds they came across were in small bands of three or four, allowing the team to breeze through them.

Despite his anticipation that he would be able to display his new weapons, Thorn found himself following along as Mina handled the kobolds with a quick spell. Jorge took care of any groups of less than three while a single blizzard spell wiped out groups of three to four. The one time they came across a group of six, Mina cast two blizzard spells on top of each other, decimating the group before Thorn could even get his arbalest out. Seeing his frustration, Velin patted him on the shoulder, while Ouroboros chuckled.

"Don't worry, you'll get a chance to fight," the Guardian assured Thorn. "In fact, we are getting close to the canyon. We'll be there for a while, and the respawn rate is going to be higher than in a normal spot, since it is so close to the main kobold camp."

Sure enough, they soon arrived at the narrow entrance to a small canyon. This was the spot marked on the original map that had been lost. Jorge cleared the two kobolds who were hanging out at the entrance of the canyon and walked back to the group, tossing the gear they had dropped to Thorn.

"Alright, this is the spot. Inside, we'll be looking for a passage or entrance to the rest of the canyon that has been blocked off. It’s been a little while, so I'm guessing that there should be another kobold shaman spawned. Even if they have been upgraded to a Greater Shaman, we don't have much to worry about," said Ouroboros, looking at the ancient map.

"Jorge, you lead the way, like normal. Mina, Thorn, you two can help him search. Since we are going to be stuck between the entrance, that we haven't found yet, and the main kobold village, I'm expecting that we will need to fight off some waves, which means you need to hurry. This is a good choke point, so Velin and I will camp here to block off any reinforcements. Any questions?"

"Yeah, if I find the entrance before Jorge does, shouldn't he finally admit that I am better than he is?" asked Mina, sticking her tongue out at the dwarven rogue.

"Oh, come off it. There is no way you will find the entrance first. You haven't found anything before me since we started playing." Jorge smirked.

Ouroboros rolled his eyes, ignoring them.

"Thorn, please do all of us a huge favor and find it before these two. Then they'll shut up for once," Velin said.

"No thanks, I have no desire to come between the two shorties," laughed Thorn.

"Shorties? Who’s short?" demanded Mina.

"Yeah, how about I cut you down to our height?" threatened Jorge, brandishing one of his long daggers.

"Okay, that’s enough. Let's get to work. We have company," said Ouroboros, pointing at a group of fifteen kobolds hurrying toward them.

Like the professionals they were, the group immediately burst into action. Jorge faded from sight, hurrying to the right, while Mina cast a spell, sliding forward on the path of ice that formed under her feet. At the narrow canyon opening, Ouroboros pulled out his large shield and planted it into the ground in front of him. A bright, white glow fell on him, as Velin stood behind him and began to rain buffs on him.

Thorn was caught by surprise by the immediate action everyone else took, and after standing there for a couple seconds, he turned and headed farther into the canyon to look for the entrance like the other two. As he left, he did not see the complicated look that Velin cast at his back.

Rushing forward, the kobolds soon arrived at the canyon's narrow mouth and were about to swarm Ouroboros and Velin, when the Holy Guardian gave a great shout, his shield glowing. Looking over, the kobolds seemed to go mad as they saw the silver glowing shield. With growls and angry howls, they threw themselves forward, toward the planted shield.

Bracing against his shield, Ouroboros weathered the impact before sliding the tower shield onto his back. Striking forth with a sweeping blow of his sword, Ouroboros bisected one of the kobolds. The following backhand forced the rest of the monsters back half a step, which Ouroboros immediately closed with a spin, replanting his tower shield into the ground with a firm thrust.

As the tower shield hit the ground, it sent out a quaking wave, throwing the remaining kobolds off their feet. As they started to struggle up, Velin completed her chant. Sharp spears of light formed above the struggling clump of kobolds, stabbing down with deadly efficiency. Only two of the original ten kobolds made it out of the rain of light alive and were dispatched by Ouroboros' sword.

After taking a moment to look through the loot the kobolds had dropped, Ouroboros leaned on his shield and stared back into the depths of the canyon. Velin, seeing the intense look of thought on his face, frowned.

"Are you starting to have second thoughts?" asked Velin.

"No," Ouroboros shook his head. "The whole thing is repulsive, but it is the only way we will be able to compete."

"Is it?"

"Yes," said Ouroboros, his voice growing hard. "There are only four in the world right now, and the bonuses can't be denied. There is no way to compete with the advantage they give. Even if it takes some sacrifice, it will be worth it."

"Even sacrifice at the expense of others?"

For a moment, Ouroboros' hard look softened, and he seemed to struggle with himself. Was it worth it?

"Yes, even at the expense of others." The Holy Guardian took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Sometimes, greatness requires us to put ourselves before others. And this is one of those cases."

"You sound like your dad."

"Ha," Ouroboros' shoulders slumped in defeat. "I guess I do. I never thought I'd fall this low, but there isn't another option, at this point. I'm too far behind. This is the only way to catch up."

"Ultimately, this is a game. Is there a need to compromise like this?"

"You don't understand, Velin. This might be a game, but in some ways, it is more real than real life," said Ouroboros, turning to face the new group of kobolds that were rushing over.

A note from WildCard

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About the author


Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at

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