Liri was asleep for two hours before the first explosion hit. The walls rumbled, the bed itself shook. Liri’s eyes fluttered open.
Effect Lost: Well-Fed
Her ankle hurt far less. How nice. She’d smile were it not for the second explosion. Her eyes widened. She leapt off her bed and quickly ran to a nearby window. In the darkness, she could see flame spiraling upwards.
Sounds came into her ears. Animalistic roars, swords clashing. What was going on?
She raced down the stairs, dressed in the sleepwear the inn’s drawers kept. Outside, all she saw was chaos.
“Get the kids!”
“Knights! We need knights!”
“Grab this for me, I’ll go home to tell mother!”
“Where’s Lena? Sister, where’s Lena!?”
So many voices. All of them crazed, panicked. Another explosion came. Liri tripped on nothing, falling onto a shaking ground. What could she do? Stay at the inn? She looked north and thought of something.
Whatever was causing this madness had to have been coming from the commercial entrance. She’d run deeper into the city. Maybe there, she’d be safe from whatever was causing this.
She started jogging, catching a sight along the way of a man she’d seen yelling earlier.
“IT IS HAPPENING!” He yelled at the top of his lungs. As if anyone would cease what they were doing to stay and listen. “THE END TIMES! THE GEN HAVE POISONED THE LAND AND NOW THE FIVE HAVE COME TO PURGE US!”
Could the Five not have waited till Liri finished her first good nap in years before getting off their godly asses? If she could, she’d punch every deity in the face right now. She turned at an intersection, finding a horde of people moving towards her.
Not just anyone, but knights and soldiers alike. Even people dressed like adventurers were hot on their heels. Liri thought that wherever they were coming from, that was probably the safest place.
She ran, forgetting all about what had been a bad ankle just a few hours ago.
The screams and panicked cries melded together in Liri’s mind, till they were indistinguishable.
When she got further down the street, she realized she hadn’t been quite as smart as she thought she was. Dozens of others had thought of the same thing.
The street was clogged with bodies, pounding on a closed gate that led into the inner districts.
“LET US IN!” A voice cried.
“PLEASE, MY CHILDREN!”
“THE CITY IS NOT SAFE!”
“THEY’RE GOING TO KILL US!”
Liri realized she’d make no progress here. She had to go somewhere else then, but where? If this far into the city wasn’t safe, what place was?
However, at that point, the gate opened. Briefly though, despite their pushing, the people coming out of the gate didn’t allow any of the desperate civilians to get through. Just as she was thinking that they must have been quite strong to prevent them from entering like that, she saw who exactly had emerged. A pack of adventurers. Among them though, the four that Liri had seen earlier.
Stin being one of them. He followed the rest of the adventurers as they marched down the street. They were heading towards the explosions, where Liri had just run from.
Liri raised her arms.
“Stin!” She cried out, but her voice was drowned out by the screams of the others. She tried again, to no avail.
Without another choice, she decided that maybe, she could receive some indirect protection from this group. Just stay behind them, hope that whatever was coming into the city didn’t get past. Besides, if she stayed here, and they did cut through the adventurers, her fate was the same. Maybe this way they’d make it quick, whoever, or whatever, “they” were.
As the adventurers separated from the crazed crowd, Liri tried again.
All of their heads turned towards her.
“Liri?” Stin whispered. Immediately, Liri noticed something wrong. His cheerful demeanor was gone. She might have even noticed a small tremble in his hands.
“What’s going on?” Liri asked.
“Don’t take too long.” A female adventurer said up ahead as the others started to move. “Tell your girlfriend to stay indoors.”
“She’s not my-, anyway,” he turned to Liri, placing his hands on her shoulders. “It’s not safe outside right now. You should go back to the inn, lock yourself inside.”
“What’s happening?” Liri asked again, lacing her words with a terrible worry.
“Monsters, are invading Ora.” At Liri’s shocked and confused expression, he quickly waved his hands. “We don't know where they came from. All of a sudden there was just a massive amount of them right outside the city gates. Don’t worry though! There’s no way they could ever get through the gate. Ora’s walls have kept enemies out for years and years. Nothing’s going to happen. We’re just heading over there to clean up.” He tried to force a smile. “Go.”
Liri watched Stin run after his allies, but as he turned, something clattered against the ground.
Liri thought it was another product of the attack, some part of a wall shaking. She breathed in deep as another explosion sounded off right where Stin was heading to.
Those adventurers. Such brave people going to risk their lives for a city they probably only spend a few days at a time in. The citizens of Ora could do with showering them with more praise, Liri felt.
As she had said, those were the people who were worth something. Brave people, unlike her, a coward crying in the middle of the street.
When did that start? She didn’t even feel the tears running down her cheeks until now. She was about to start running back to the inn, when she tripped over something solid on the floor. It was a very small notebook.
Did that belong to Stin? Did it fall out of his pocket as he turned to leave?
Shit. Liri thought. I… This might be important. Fuck!
Liri looked up just in time to see Stin’s running figure disappearing into the nighttime. She grabbed it, without even glancing at it.
If she was going to get it back to him, this was the only shot she had. If she didn’t run to him now, even if he survived his fight, they may not see each other again.
She tried to run fast, but her thin, frail body wasn’t made for such athleticism.
She ran for a few seconds and popped the message back up.
At this rate, she had around thirty seconds to catch up. Willing herself to continue, she sliced through the night air, dodging retreating civilians as she kept her eyes on the horizon for any sign of the young adventurer.
She found him. He was standing still, along with everyone else who had gone with him. A smile appeared on her portrait, until her yellow eyes fell on what had stopped the adventurers.
The wall had been breached. That same wall Stin had mentioned had magic placed on it long ago, was on fire, crumbling before her very eyes.
What? A gasp escaped her lips.
The adventurers readied their weapons. Axes, spears, swords. From the flaming ruins of the crumbled wall, a few figures emerged. Liri could almost hear the guards and knights at the front gulping.
Before she could register it, a beast with a body that looked like it had been carved from stone and the legs of a wolf jumped on top of a guard. A black liquid poured up, its color obscured by the night, but Liri assumed it was that man’s blood.
The other guards and knights were just as stunned as she was. As they all stood there, the guard screamed as the beast ripped into him.
A large “?” appeared over the beast. She squinted at it, and suddenly something appeared.
What is this? Just looking at it was making her head hurt.
“Attack!” One woman said, the leader of Stin’s group.
As the guards, adventurers and knights charged forward, more beasts came into view. Some looked just like that one, others were even more terrifying. Blades for hands, multiple heads, multiple arms, long fangs.
“Kite them!” The woman screamed. “Be defensive!”
As if on cue, a man got his head ripped off for getting too close.
All around her, these messages started popping up over piling corpses.
A part of Liri’s body probably knew she should have been running by then, but her legs were frozen. Every breath she took came out strained.
“I… I…” She didn’t know what to say. A fourteen-year-old girl in this situation would probably cry out for their mothers or their homes, what did she have?
“The city is lost!” A man yelled before promptly being eviscerated, however, the others heeded his call.
One familiar voice said something Liri couldn’t dream of.
“Outside!” Stin yelled. His team momentarily looked back. “If the city is lost, we have to run!”
Liri squinted her eyes at him.
Even in this condition, he's still thinking clearly?
Come to think of it... Liri's eyes scanned over the other members of his team. They were all similarly cut up.
“He’s right!” The leader of his group yelled, Liri shook her head, returning to the moment at hand. “Follow me!” She raised her axe, it produced a bright light that shined onto the beasts. “[SIRO]!” She yelled, and the beasts were momentarily stunned. What was that?
Trusting that her team would follow, she ran past the distracted monsters.
The thief on their team followed, along with the other warrior, before Stin did as well.
Liri gulped. If she stayed here, she was done for.
So, she followed after them.
Walking past the ruined buildings, they made a beeline for the crumbling walls. To their surprise, there weren’t many beasts ahead. However, all it took was one to make them stop in their tracks.
A large creature with red fur and glowing crimson eyes. Two long tusks protruded from its mouth, curling onto a crazed face and a murderous leer. It’s arms where twice the size of Liri’s own body, and its legs looked impenetrable.
“Formation 4!” The leader yelled.
“[Kenn]!” The thief cried out, and suddenly, she was invisible.
“[FERVOR]” The other warrior said, and his body was then covered in a white, transparent armor.
The leader quickly took a sip of some potion, and veins popped out of her arms.
Stin followed his allies by raising his hands.
“[Vellos]” Runes with strange symbols appeared on the ground.
All Liri could do was watch.
The beast took a step forward, and the ground exploded from under it.
Effect Gained: Weakened (Enemy takes more damage from all attacks)
“Jen, now! Don’t use Kairo though! We need to save its charges!” The leader said. The thief reappeared behind the beast, she jumped and climbed onto its back, stabbing the monster once in the neck with one of her lesser looking daggers before retreating into the darkness.
Sneak Attack: x2 Damage
“Stin!” She yelled.
“Aye!” He waved his hand in a circle. “[Terros]!” A beam of light hit the monster from the palm of Stin’s hand.
Effect Gained: Weakened (Enemy takes more damage from all attacks) x2
“Now, Karra!” Stin yelled.
Karra, the leader, nodded.
“Hor, now!” She raised her axe in a synchronized movement with the battle axe belonging to the other warrior, Hor. Together, she thrust her sword into its torso, while Hor slammed down his axe onto its head.
The monster fell back. Despite the fights going on around them, Stin’s team breathed for a moment.
Level Up Appeared over Karra’s head. But, just her.
Soon enough though, more of those things were looking in their direction.
“Keep going!” Karra called out.
They blazed a trail through a few of the weaker enemies that came to halt them. Before long, salvation in the form of a pitch-black wilderness was in sight.
Of course, if only things were so easy.
Two of the same kind of beast as the one they killed earlier appeared in front of them.
“Shit!” Karra yelled before sliding to a stop. “Stop!”
“What is… Fuck!” Hor said when he saw the new problem ahead.
“Stin!” Karra said. “How are we doing over there? Think you can make more runes?”
The two monsters yelled. They were about to attack.
“I’m too low!”
“What do we do!?” Jen asked.
Stin took a determined look. For a brief moment, he glanced back at Liri before running in front of the two monsters.
“Stin!?” Karra asked.
“I’ll hold them off!”
“W-What?” Karra couldn’t have sounded more heartbroken in Liri’s ears.
“NO TIME, RUN!” Stin said. The two monsters roared, and pounded their hands into the ground, propelling themselves towards Stin. “[LIRO]!” In an instant, two beams of light emerged from the ground, keeping the beasts in place. “GO!”
Karra’s eyes were wild as she heard her teammate’s order, but she quickly clenched her jaw, and took a protesting Jen by the arm.
“NO! STIN!” Jen cried.
“Hor, let’s go!” As they ran past the two stalled monsters, Karra looked back. “Stin! If you make it, we’ll be heading for Torasan! Meet us there!”
“Sure cap, whatever you say.” Stin replied softly.
“… Fuck, FUCK!” That was the last Liri heard of Karra. However, Jen, who was trailing a little bit behind Hor and Karra, took a look at Stin.
She pulled a glowing, purple dagger out, and made eye contact with Liri, who had been standing there the whole time.
“SAVE HIM!” She threw the small blade all the way in front of Liri, and quickly turned on her heel to leave as the other monsters in the vicinity went to chase her, leaving Liri alone with four things.
Stin, the two monsters, and this blade.
“L-Liri?” Liri looked up and saw that Stin had only just noticed that she was still here. A moment of silence passed, but before Stin could say something, the white beams holding the monsters in place ceased. “F-Fuck!” Stin took a step back, as the two beasts leaped into the air and landed on him.
He was screaming immediately.
Another white beam emerged, this time holding both creatures in one spot. Liri scanned the young boy.
HP: 67/223 (-1)
Effect: Deep Wounds (HP decreases by 1 every second)
Liri’s eyes widened.
She was about to watch the one person who had helped her as far as she could remember, die right here. A tear escaped her right eye, but the next instant, she was bending down to pick up the purple dagger Jen had tossed.
Enchanted Weapon: Kairo (3/6 Charges)
(Sneak Attacks leave any enemies damaged at half health. Enchantment still occurs without minimum Dex)
“Agh!” Liri’s head snapped up. Stin was struggling to keep whatever spell he was casting intact.
It might have been by instinct that Liri ran forwards, as never would she even dream of running up to two beasts like these who looked like they could crush her with one hand, with the intention of killing them.
But if she was going to die here, she’d do it after paying off her debt to this boy.
Although the only way the dagger's enchantment worked was if used in a sneak attack, such was the case right now as both monsters were focused solely on Stin.
Crying out, she stabbed one of the monsters in the shoulder.
“AAAAGHHHH!” It roared a mighty sound, as its HP appeared above it.
It clearly wanted to smack Liri away like the bug she was, but it couldn’t move though.
“LIRI!” Stin called out. “STAB THE OTHER ONE.” To her surprise, the other beast's eyes were still fixed on Stin. Maybe the chaos going on around them as Ora literally ceased to be, was drowning out Liri's attack.
Just as she heard this, the white beam started fading.
She screamed, willing her bony body towards the other monster. Just as the beam faded, she hit it.
“AGH!” Stin cried out as he raised his arms again, letting the barrier of white go. Liri’s eyes widened hopelessly, before flame launched out of Stin’s hands, engulfing both monsters. “[DIRO]!” Stin cried out.
The next instant, both monsters were gone. All that was left, was settling ash.
Liri smiled. She smiled so widely her cheeks hurt. As the phrase Level Up appeared over Stin.
“Shit.” Liri heard him say as she stared at the spot where the monsters were. “I took all the EXP for that. Sorry.”
“I don’t know what that means.” Liri replied, chuckling as she looked back. But all her laughter was gone as soon as she laid eyes on the boy.
His arms were gone.
HP: 30/223 (-1)
Effect: Deep Wounds
Stin coughed. Liri was by his side in an instant.
“W-Wait a moment, do you have some sort of potion to help right now? Maybe something to…”
“Liri.” He said. “I just lost both my arms.” He told her with a smile. “Do I have some? Yeah. Do I plan on using them? No.”
“W-WHY?” Liri asked, two tears rolling down her face. “You don’t have to… You don’t have to die.”
“I’m a mage with no arms. I may as well be dead.” That cheery demeanor that had disappeared was back suddenly. Why? “Besides. There’s someone here who’s going to need those potions way more than me.”
HP: 17/223 (-1)
Stin coughed as Liri looked at his status.
“Shit. Liri, quick, before I go. Take my stuff. I have a journal you’ll need, Keep Kairo, you still have one charge. Take my map, you may be able to catch up to them, but if you can’t, find Torasan, find my team. You’ll be alone for a while, but once you find them, once you tell them what happened here, they’ll help you. They’re good people.” He coughed.
“S-Stin… Thank you.”
“For what?” He asked, genuinely curious.
“For showing me kindness. You’re the only one who has.” Liri wept.
“Liri… You don't have to be worthless. You hear me? You don't…”
“Stin?” Liri asked. She knew what had happened, but she was still asking. “I’m… I’m alone again.”
She cried. She cried for a full minute before the noises of roaring monsters and dying men made their way back to her ears.
Startled, she searched Stin’s body.
“Thank you.” She whispered, as she took a belt full of potions from Stin’s waist, and one large book hanging from said belt.
A large piece of paper was in Stin’s pocket, this would be the map, no doubt.
Kairo (Unique, Enchanted): 33-49 AD
Requires 12 DEX
(Sneak Attacks leave any enemies damaged at half health. Enchantment still occurs without minimum Dex)
Finally, Liri grabbed Kairo and stood.
She remembered then that she hadn’t even given back the small notebook to Stin. The whole reason she’d been following him. She opened it once she tied the belt around her small torso. It was Stin’s journal.
Giving Stin’s corpse one last look, she turned towards the outside world.
Thus, began Liri’s journey into this world of ash.