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When the last bell rang, Darith didn’t feel any excitement. He wasn’t thinking about the forgotten temple anymore, or new spells he could learn, he just felt sad. It was like one of his friends was dead, but his friend didn’t really die. It gave him just a sick feeling in his stomach, and a confused one. He didn’t want to see Jacob again, he didn’t know how to act around him anymore, but this only made him feel worse about it. On top of that, Ryan’s words stuck in his head. His body automatically carried him to the second floor of the school to the dance club room, and he stood in the doorway as usual, spotting Karin across the room doing stretches.

“You did it again?” Elise asked, drawing Darith’s attention to her as she sat on the bench as usual.

“Y-yeah.”

“You’re the only person I’ve met in my life that loves school work.” She replied with an odd stare. “Karin, delivery for you!” Elise shouted, getting the attention of her sister across the room. Karin turned and rushed over with a smile.

“You’re my hero!” Karin said as she took her textbook from his hands, quickly checking to see a paper tucked inside by Darith with the answers. As she did this Darith spotted the quest completed message, awarding him a small amount of experience. It didn’t make him happy though, it annoyed him. He quickly waved his hand at it to make the pop up disappear, then turned from the two girls without another word.

“Thanks!” Karin said one last time, turning to put her book on the ground near Elise.

“You’re leaving?” Elise said annoyed.

“Oh, I forgot!” Darith replied, turning back around and heading into the room.

“You don’t have to if you’ve got something else to do.” Elise replied.

“No, it’s okay... Nothing else to do.” Darith replied, pausing to think about it for a moment.

“You’re doing hers too? Good, she’s terrible at math.” Karin smirked before heading back across the room to her friends.

“He’s not doing it for me, unlike you I want to learn to do it myself.” Elise grumbled back as Darith set his bag down and sat on the bench beside Elise a good 20cm away from her, quickly trying to fix his shirt over his stomach to hide it from her.

“Here, this is what I’m stuck on.” Elise said, without hesitation sliding her bottom along the bench to be closer to Darith, holding her book out to him. As she did this, Darith caught a whiff of her hair, the scent of her shampoo filling his nose. It caught him off guard, but he quickly focused on what she was showing him. “I don’t understand how I’m supposed to solve this, and the teacher is terrible at explaining.”

“We-well...” he said nervously, her head leaned down beside him and he had a close up of her beautiful blonde hair, her fair smooth looking skin on her arm as she held the book over him. Suddenly having trouble focusing on the book, he swallowed a big bulge of saliva in his mouth nervously, causing it to dry up in seconds. “It’s not so hard, your goal here is to find out this variable’s value in relation to this one so that you can plot a line.”

“Huh.” She replied.

“Don’t get it?” Darith asked.

“Nope.” She shrugged.

“Well first, a variable is a number that affects the equation, but it can be any number, we don’t know what it is, we’re using it to draw a line though that follows this equation.”

“Huh.” She replied as she put the back of her pencil on her lower lip.

“Okay, here’s a line.” Darith said as he pointed at a diagram in the book. He said, and explained carefully the example, then related it to the equation so that Elise could understand what she was doing.

“Oh, so we’re making lines using math?” Elise clued in as Darith finished.

“Exactly.”

“Why doesn’t anyone just say that? Why do they all try and use technical math terms.” She sighed as she leaned back away from Darith, making him let out a sigh of relief, his heart taking a much needed break from racing as they got some distance. “I think I get it now, thanks.” She smiled, then started trying to solve the problem herself. “Is everything alright with you? You looked pretty down when you got here.” She asked while scribbling in her book.

“Y-yeah.” Darith replied. “I’m okay.” He added as he slid a bit away from Elise, hiding it by pretending he was reaching to look for something in his bag.

“Nope, this is part of your training.” She replied, and moved herself right beside him again.

“Huh?” Darith replied embarrassed.

“I’m sitting close to you on purpose, if you can’t even handle being near a girl, you’ll never be able to look them in the eyes.” She replied nonchalantly as she continued to stare at her note book, taking breaks to think by putting the tip of her pencil on her lip.

“I can handle sitting next to you just fine.” Darith replied defensively, now even more nervous to be so close to her though.

“Is that why you’re sweating, frozen like a statue and you keep swallowing your saliva?” She mocked.

“I-I’m not doing that!” He replied defensively.

“Yeah you are.” She shrugged back. Realizing how obvious his behavior was, he quickly started trying to correct the points she made. He stopped swallowing any drop of saliva that formed in his dry mouth, then wiped his palms on his pant leg as subtly as he could, but doing his made him accidentally brush his arm against Elise’s.

“Ah, sorry.” he said apologetically, quickly pulling his arm away from her.

“For what?” She asked, not reacting but instead writing something in her book, then reaching for her calculator out of her bag.

“For rubbing against your arm.” He said nervously, looking down at his feet.

“Why’d you apologize for that.” She asked while curling her eyebrows at him.

“Well, it’s gross, isn’t it?” He asked.

“Gross to touch people?” She said confused.

“To touch me, because... I’m big, and sweaty.” He said nervously.

“You’ve got some serious confidence issues. I’m younger than you and you’re way smarter than me, why are you so scared?”

“Well, because you’re... pretty.” He said as his face went bright red, barely whispering out the last word.

Your recent activities has granted you +1 Charisma

“Now you’re smooth talking me?” She chuckled as Darith quickly swung a finger at the message to make it disappear, but as he did this he noticed Liana in his party interface missing a good portion of her mana bar. He then spotted an icon beside her name just as Elise went back to reading her book. His eyes opened wide as he quickly tapped on the icon to read what it said.

Snowstorm - Environment

While in this environment, increase the effectiveness of all cold related spells by 10%

“Oh no...” Darith said with wide eyes as he shot up off the bench.

“What? What is it? What’s wrong?” Elise asked.

“I need to get to the hospital.” He replied to her panicked.

“Huh? The hospital? Are you having a heart attack or something?” Elise said jokingly.

“I need to get there right now!” Darith turned, speaking loudly at her in panic. She saw his sudden attitude shift and looked back at him startled.

“Well, my sister has a car...” Elise suggested nervously, and Darith turned to Karin across the room as she was practicing a dance move with her friend.

“Karin!” He called out, saying her name for the first time. This caused her friends around her to give him an annoyed look.

“We’re busy right now.” One girl said dismissively.

“Karin, could you drive me to the hospital?” Darith asked her with desperation in his eyes, this only seemed to gross Karin out and she pulled back away from him.

“What? Why?”

“My friend is in trouble, please!” He begged.

“I can’t drive you right now, I’m in club practice...” She replied quickly.

“Please, you said you owed me didn’t you?” Darith asked, glancing at Liana’s bars to watch her mana and endurance drop more, but luckily her health remained the same.

“I didn’t mean like I’d drive you around somewhere, besides the hospital is pretty far.”

“Can’t you do something for someone else for once?” Elise said annoyed as she moved to stand beside Darith.

“She lets him speak to her, that should be plenty enough.” Karin’s friend chimed in. To this, Karin didn’t comment, but her expression said that she was thinking the same thing as she made a fake sympathetic smile.

“I don’t have time for this.” He said angrily, turning and running out of the room.

“You’re the worst.” Elise snapped at her.

“What?” Karin shrugged as if she did nothing wrong.

“Darith wait!” Elise called out, but he ignored her and was already out of the room leaving his backpack behind. Elise eyed it, then eyed Karin’s backpack on the floor near the entrance with the rest of the dance club’s bags. Elise glanced to see Karin going back to dancing, then walked across the room to Karin’s bag and sneakily opened a side pocket to pull out a pair of keys.

Darith sprinted down the hall as fast as he could, millions of thoughts rushing into his head about what was happening to Liana. He recalled what she had told him about the high level player using the curse, then remembered what Ryan had said about what happened to Jacob.

“In the real world, there isn’t any level balance...” He mumbled to himself as he got to a stairwell, ran to the first floor and out of the stairwell exit towards the front of the school. He got to the street where there were still quite a few cars parked and students loitering about despite classes being dismissed, his mind racing over what to do next.

“Dash... Sprint... If I use them, the entire city will see me.” He said to himself aggressively. “C’mon, think!” He shouted, knocking himself on the head, glancing up at nearby buildings. “Rooftops, If I jump fas-” He got distracted by the sound of screeching wheels, and turned to see a hot red corvette speeding up to him with Elise behind the wheel.

“Get in!” Elise shouted as she leaned over to open the passenger side door. Darith didn’t hesitate, he ran around the car and jumped in the seat, and before he could even shut the door Elise started driving forward out of the school parking lot and onto the street.

“You’re going to drive me to the hospital?” Darith asked as he shut the door and looked to her.

“Yup.”

“Wh-why?” He asked.

“Just think of it as paying back my sisters debts.”

“Do you have a driving license?...” He said anxiously.

“I thought this was an emergency.” She replied to dismiss the comment. Darith then nodded hesitantly, deciding to ignore the fact that a grade 9 girl was driving him, clearly breaking speed limit laws.

“It is.” He said as he eyed Liana’s health bar again.

“Then you better put your seatbelt on.” She said, flicking on the radio for music, but instead got a news broadcast.

“-thout any clouds at all in the sky. I’ve never seen anything like it, the snow is cold as ice, it’s like the area around the Ecrim Hospital has turned into a magical Winter Wonderland.” The reporter said on the radio. Hearing this, Darith’s expression became serious, and Elise turned to glance at him in confusion.

“It’s snowing around the hospital? What? Did you know about this?” Elise asked.

“As fast as you can, please.” He replied while staring forward, clenching his fist as Liana’s mana dropped below half.



[Jaese + Liana - War Zone]

Several minutes earlier…

Jaese leaned over the sink to see his beard and mustache growing in, standing in the hospital bathroom shirtless. He rubbed his hands over the tiny growing hairs and took note he’d have to shave the next chance he got. His eyes then moved down to the large bandage wrapped around his upper chest. He attempted to lift the bandage a bit to see the wound for himself, but just touching around it hurt, so he changed his mind. He then bent down and splashed water into his face to clear his head before looking himself in the eyes.

He tried again to recall what had happened, how he ended up bleeding. It was ice, according to the doctor, so he knew it must’ve been the same guy that killed Chris. That meant that whatever happened, he’d let the guy get away again. He angrily slammed his fists down on the counter around the sink. Then let out a frustrated sigh.

“I’ll find you.” He said to his reflection, then grabbed a white t-shirt and put it on over his bandage. He opened the bathroom door and stepped out into his hospital room again, but standing there beside his bed staring back at him was a pair of glowing red eyes, coming from underneath a very dark blue cloak. The wearer of the cloak held in his left hand a long staff, and all around them in the room fell tiny snowflakes.

“You...” Jaese said with wide eyes, instinctively reaching for his gun at his waist, but he wasn’t carrying it. He then turned to look for the officer standing watch outside, but could only see his arm laying in front of the opened doorway on the ground.

“The insect lived. Tell me, how are you still alive?” He said in an angry, high pitched voice.

“Your aim is shit.” Jaese scowled at him.

“I meant the curse, insect. What happened to the curse?” He replied.

“What the hell are you talking about? What the hell is this snow, how are you doing this! What did you do to my memory!” Jaese shouted in anger and confusion with his fists clenched, but something deep down in his body froze him in fear. Despite his mind forgetting what happened, his muscles did not, and though he wanted to kill this man, he couldn’t get the courage to move.

“Noisy. You don’t know. Perhaps an update to the guards so they can remove curses. That’d be troublesome.” He said to himself while glaring at Jaese. “No matter. “Vestra.” He chanted, and within a second a blue chunk of ice shot forward from the tip of his staff flying directly at Jaese’s head. He had no time to react, it appeared out of nowhere and moved as fast as a bullet. The only reason he even knew what was happening was because it stopped moving suddenly, mere centimeters from his forehead, as the light around them suddenly tinted purple.

“Hoh?” The cloaked man said.

“Come on!” Liana shouted to Jaese, now in her character body. She reached into the room and grabbed Jaese’s arm, pulling him out of the path of the Ice bolt just as the purple tint of her time warp spell vanished, causing the bolt to speed up and smash into the room wall.

“I’ve not seen that spell before.” He said impressed, as Liana kicked the officer on the floor to wake him up as she pulled Jaese past him.

“W-what the hell? What is going on?!” Jaese shouted to the girl with long brown hair pulling him along with abnormal strength. He couldn’t stop her from pulling him even if he wanted to. Jaese turned around to see the cloaked man step out of the room and start walking past the now-waking officer, eyes only on them.

“Vestra!” He shouted, and suddenly 5 bolts of ice shot out from in front of him, down the hall like bullets towards them.

“Time Warp!” Liana shouted, creating the purple dome around them and slowing the bolts to a near stop, Jaese watched in disbelief.

“You’re like him? You can tell me what’s going on?” Jaese said with wide eyes.

“I’m not like him, he’s way stronger than me! We have to run!” Liana said anxiously. “Come on!” She tugged Jaese’s arm just as the officer on the ground picked up his radio.

“There’s a man wearing a strange outfit, he’s shooting ice, and I’m not bullshitting you.” The officer said into the radio on his uniform as he stood up and pulled his gun on the Ice Mage.

“Freeze, don’t move or I’ll shoot!” The officer shouted.

“Freeze? What a lovely idea!” The Ice mage cackled hysterically, turning to the officer as he opened fire, but the bullets hitting the cloaked man didn’t faze him at all.

“Oh no... Uh, duck, get down now!” Liana shouted to Jaese, pulling him to the ground inside her time warp spell. Once they were down, she released the time warp and the 5 bolts coming at them shot over their heads down the hall of the hospital until colliding with the walls on the far side, Many doctors and nurses saw this and started screaming and panicking.

“Time warp!” Liana shouted, creating a purple bubble over the cloaked man and the police officer down the hall in front of her and Jaese. “He’s got to run, tell that guy to run!” Liana said to Jaese.

“Get out of there Jeff, run!” Jaese shouted as Jeff stumbled backward in shock at the sight of everything happening around him.

“It seems this field slows projectiles. So how about melee attacks? Krestil.” The Ice wizard said, and suddenly a giant ball of ice with spikes formed around his left fist.

“No!” Liana shouted, shooting up to her feet, and to Jaese’s amazement she made a round sphere appear out of nowhere, then threw it forward at the Wizard. As it hit him he stumbled forward, stopping him from swinging his spiked iceball at the cowering officer below him.

“A sphere user? You’re a support type then. It was you that removed the curse?” He turned to her, grinning. “Liana, level 30.”

“Liana?” Jaese said in confusion, just then noticing the empty wheelchair in the hall near the Ice Wizard. She heard Jaese, but she was too scared about the wizard to talk to him or explain anything.

“Do you know what level I am?” He asked.

“N-no.” She replied nervously as her sphere returned to her hand, holding a fighting stance as she stood in front of Jaese.

“Much, much higher.” He cackled.

“I don’t care, I won’t let you hurt anymore people!”

“People? These are not people, they are NPCs.” He replied coldly as he began stepping forward. “It just so happens my guild is looking for a strong healer, and you seem to have some unique skills for a support type of level 30. Would you like to join?” He asked her.

“I’d never join people like you.” She replied angrily, though in truth she was so scared her legs were shaking. She glanced momentarily to Darith’s health bar in her party interface, and hoped with everything inside herself that he noticed something.

“Really? But you don’t even know the benefits yet. Being in a high level guild like mine allows you to do things like this...” He said with a grin, reaching his hand up into the air as it began to glow bright red. Then a light suddenly shot up into the hospital ceiling, going further than that above the building roof and into the sky over the hospital, then from out of it grew a red dome not unlike the dome the boss area created, putting a new icon on Liana’s bar. “War Zone.” He spoke as the spell finished casting, and the dome complete.

War Zone

Removes all city guards from a 1 kilometer radius for 30 minutes.

This guild spell can only be cast by guild members with high rankings within the guild, and once a week per guild.

Remaining: 29m58s.

He was expecting reactions such as despair, or amazement from Liana, but as she read this she instead got hope. She remembered something about the game she had forgotten. City guards.

“Can you see the dome around us?” Liana said to Jaese while pointing out a nearby window, stepping back slowly.

“Yeah?” Jaese said as he looked as well.

“If we can get outside of it, he can’t hurt us anymore.” Liana said.

“I don’t want to run from him, I want to arrest him. Can you stop him from doing that weird stuff with ice?” Jaese glared at the man.

“N-no, he’s too strong. Maybe if my friend was here, but he’s in school. Please, we have to run, he’ll really kill you.” Liana pleaded.

“You realize I can hear you, right? If you won't be joining my guild, then I’ll take that nice time warp spell of yours from your dead body. Vestra!” He shouted, shooting ice out at them again.

“Time Warp!” Liana stopped the bolts, but this time the wizard was expecting it and started dashing towards them down the hall. Jaese’s eyes remained opened wide in disbelief for a moment, watching the ice bolts suspended mid air in the dome of purple, but he quickly snapped out of it.

“Alright, let’s go!” Jaese shouted, turning to run down the hall with Liana just as the hospital fire alarm began ringing and the sprinklers went off, mixing water in with the falling snow. Liana grabbed Jaese’s arm and began dashing away with him, making them move much faster than Jaese normally could, but slower than Liana’s normal dash, and not nearly fast enough to outrun the Ice mage. As he got close to them he pulled back his left fist with the spiked ball on it, ready to thrust it forward. Jaese saw this and grabbed a nearby empty gurney in the hall, flinging it backward into the Ice Wizard as they ran past it. It stopped his swing and threw him off balance slightly, allowing Liana to pull Jaese a bit further ahead again and into the stairwell of the hospital.

The two leapt down the stairs as fast as they could as they heard an explosion behind them, the stairwell door flying off its hinges into the stairwell from a burst of ice.

“You might manage to escape if you leave the insect behind. He needs to die, he knows too much about the game.” The Ice Wizard called into the stairwell from above them as he continued his pursuit.

“I’m not going to let you use this game to kill people!” She shouted angrily, throwing her sphere backward up the stairs just as he came around the bend and took the hit to his head, causing him to stumble momentarily as it returned down the stairwell to Liana, passing through the floor to do so.

When they reached the bottom floor, Jaese swung open the emergency stairwell exit and they found themselves outside the hospital in the parking lot. From there they could get a clear view of the edge of the dome, it extended far across the parking lot of the hospital and over some of the roads and buildings across the street. Many cars were stopping and trying to drive around it, hundreds of onlookers watching the dome and the falling snow in amazement as it built up a white layer on the ground.

“Come on!” Jaese said as he saw at least 20 police cars driving up to the hospital with their sirens blaring. As they got into the parking lot of the hospital Jaese started sprinting towards them, the pain in his chest starting to flare up violently. Liana followed after him just as the Ice Mage stepped out of the hospital behind them, but he was no longer chasing, he simply walked behind them slowly as his staff began to glow blue.

Richard and Arnold’s police cars came to a halting stop as they arrived in the hospital’s parking lot, as did the many accompanying cars, and officers poured out.

“What's the situation!?” Richard called out as he saw Jaese and the little girl running towards the newly formed blockade of police cars in front of them.

“Get everyone out of the red dome, everyone has to get out now!” Liana screamed hysterically.

“Listen to the girl, turn your cars around and get the hell out of here!” Jaese shouted with her.

“Tell us what's going on now Jaese!” Arnold shouted at him in confusion.

“JUST DO IT!” Jaese shouted, and he didn’t stop to talk, he and Liana ran straight past the police blockade towards the edge of the dome.

“Ivicio.” A loud booming voice suddenly spoke, echoing through the air around them, and following it came a loud rumbling, the ground shaking slightly. Liana kept running, as fast as she could, dashing ahead of Jaese now. She then spotted a line of men wearing black suits and black sunglasses. There were several of them standing like statues at the edge of the red dome.

City Guard - Level ??

“There, we’re almost safe!” She said with enthusiasm. She felt a huge wave of relief at the sight of them, until a sudden glistening blue light appeared around the base of the doom. Seconds later, following heavier rumbling, a huge thick wall of ice shot up from the ground at the edge of the dome. The ice wall was so sharp as it rose up it cut the back end of an approaching police car off, the front half of the car rolling down off the wall towards them.

Liana and Jaese stopped instantly, and all the hope drained from her eyes. She could still see the city guards through the somewhat transparent ice wall, but as the wall rose up higher and higher, they got further and further away.

“Can you do something about that?” Jaese asked Liana, turning to her. She silently shook her head no.

“We’re stuck in here with him for 25 minutes.” She said, scaring herself with her own words as her mouth went dry.

“Hahahahaha!” The Ice Wizard cackled, and all the officers staring at the sudden appearance of the ice wall turned to face him. “Insects stuck outside in the winter, very dangerous! You should know better than to come out from under the ground when it is snowing. Even ants know better than that!” He screeched.

“That him Jaese?” Richard asked Jaese.

“That’s him, that’s the guy that killed Chris.” Jaese shouted back.

“Open Fire!” Arnold shouted to the many officers standing behind the cover of their police cars. All officers did as they were ordered, unloading over 100 bullets in total at him, but he didn’t even flinch.

“Why aren’t bullets working? Why isn’t he getting hurt?” Jaese asked Liana.

“I don’t know, I can’t see his health, he’s too much stronger than me. His defense is probably too high, normal weapons won’t hurt him.” Liana replied, but she spoke loud enough so that most of the officers could hear her.

“What the hell is that girl talking about?” Arnold shouted back at Jaese, but not taking eyes off of the Ice wizard as he reloaded his gun.

“I don’t know, but she’s the only reason I’m still alive.” Jaese replied.

“Not for long!” The wizard laughed hysterically. “Kavricida!” He called out, and a sudden field of icebolts appeared in the air above him, well over 50, and shot forward like bullets.

“Time Warp!” Liana screamed in panic, stopping the bolts, some just in time.

“Move, everyone run, get out of the way! She only slows them down!” Jaese shouted. Some officers froze from shock, some in fear, but others ran.

“Come on damn it!” Jaese shouted angrily, running into the time warp dome to pull the officers away just in time as Liana’s time warp ended and the ice bolts smashed into the cars and the ground all around them.

“How do we stop this guy?!” Richard said in disbelief.

“You can’t! Only I can!” Liana shouted to them as she clenched her fists, nervously walking forward through the field of ice bolts sticking out of the ground.

“You could run, you know. You could easily use your dash and jump skills to get out of the dome. You aren’t stuck in here like the insects.” The wizard said to her as she got closer to him, her legs visibly trembling. The police could do nothing but watch, none of them having the slightest clue the situation they were in.

“I’m not going to run.” She said.

“You don’t strike me as a stupid player. You’re under level, yes, but you seem to know how to play the game unlike most new players I meet. So you should know that you don’t stand a chance. You’re a healer, but I can kill you in one hit if I want, so that wont help you. Why stay? To protect these NPC’s? The world is different now, they don’t matter anymore.”

“They’re not NPC’s, they’re people too, just like us! I won’t run because I-” she hesitated, taking a fighting stance and raising her sphere. “I’m a Knight of Justice!” She shouted, trying to psych herself up, but she couldn’t shake her fear.

“One of those types, huh. Oh well. Yuki-tachi.” He chanted, and a gigantic sword of ice suddenly formed over his left hand, it was well over 10 meters long and he swung it at Liana from a distance at incredible speed, giving her no time to avoid it, she could only cringe her eyes shut and put her arms up to protect herself, but just before the sword connected, a gigantic ball of fire slammed into the Ice Wizard, breaking the sword and knocking him backwards off his feet. Seconds later, a tiny fox eared Nemothyne wielding a wooden staff dropped from the sky and landed in front of Liana.

“That’s enough of that.” Darith said.

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Hakurai

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