The rim of a shield whacked Edward in the face, making him stagger backwards, weakening his grasp on the child’s wrist, and twisting his head to the side. He winced and yelled as agony smothered his face. His wince scrunched into a grimace when the goblin slashed his axe at the young girl’s neck. Her head fled from her body. Tumbling onto the stone, her headless corpse pooled blood onto the floor.
Edward stumbled away from the sight. He fell onto his back. Snapping his eyes wide, he didn’t blink for a while. Terror and anguish swirled together, wormed through his stomach, clawed up to his chest, and shoved something up his throat. He retched. His neck burned. He retched again. A rancid stench pummeled his nose. He roared and vomit rushed out of his mouth, splashing all over the floor.
A new rage and a new anguish flickered into being. Especially when he saw his punch only reduced the goblin's HP down to 95%.
I hate it. He thought, spitting the remaining vomit on the ground. I never knew being weak would hurt so much.
The goblin snatched Edward’s hair, dragged him to his feet, and pulled his arms behind his back. Abnormally large iron cuffs clinked around Edward’s wrists. The chain that connected the cuffs jingled as the goblin shoved Edward away from the slaughter, and towards a line of ten humans that stood in front of Wickancis. The goblin pushed Edward into a stumble and he fell on his knees at the back of the line.
He winced, groaned, and staggered to his feet, struggling without the support of his hands. Whilst he did that, a human woman who stood in front of him turned to gaze down at him. After staring at her for a while, he saw:
Class: Ranger (Uncommon)
Blood dripped down the corner of her mouth. Wounds spread across her cheek. It seemed like he wasn’t the only one who tried to resist capture. Black hair curled down her muscular body to stop at the small of her back. Her muscles were bigger than the average person’s, which was the case for most of the people in the line. Was it because people with uncommon classes and above started off with higher stats than people with common classes?
Her brown eyes sparkled and widened as she continued to stare down at him. A smile flickered on her face. Such a sight shocked him amidst so much violence and suffering. People were dying behind, yet she was smiling? What was there to be happy about? What was she looking at? He chewed his lip and berated himself for being such a hopeless downer. She was probably just trying to be kind. Who wouldn’t want to make as many allies as possible in such a perilous situation? He should be kind and make friends with others as well if he wanted to escape, so he tried to smile at her as well, but he didn’t. Images of the young girl’s headless corpse, and the sting on his cheek that came from the rim of the goblin’s shield, pushed down on the corners of his mouth.
So he ignored her and continued trying to get to his feet. He pushed himself up. Tripping on a loose tile, he fell to the ston-
The woman turned and hovered her leg just below his chest, catching him before he could fall. She pushed him up with her foot, allowing him to press his feet on the ground and stand up properly. He flushed - embarrassed that he couldn’t even stand up on his own, and could finally smile at her. “Thanks for that,” Edward said with a nod. Even though the goblins were evil, at least the people alongside him were good and resilient, sprinkling a pinch of hope into his aching heart.
“No problem,” she said, as she turned back to the line. “But if you refuse my following request then there might be.”
“If I refuse your following request, then there’ll be problems?” Edward said with a weak chuckle. He winced, regretting the laugh when he heard another dying scream, but he pushed away that guilt. There was no point in being sad for the sake of it. He had to focus on the positive. He had to focus on survival. So he shoved away his winced and continued to smile. “What sort of problems could a hand-cuffed prisoner threaten me with?”
She turned and narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you want me to kick you back down to the ground?”
“You really think you can when I have a legendary class?”
“Touché.” She snorted. “But anyway, this’ll benefit you as well, so just listen.”
“What’s your name, by the way? Mine is Charlotte.”
“-ward Williams, right?”
“Huh?” He lurched as confusion jumbled the contents of his mind. “How do you know my name?”
She winked, appearing to be amused by his confusion. “My class ability is called ‘inspection’.”
“Was that why you stared and smiled at me like a weirdo earlier?” He grinned.
“What's so weird about smiling?" She flushed and turned away. "Anyway, as you might’ve guessed, the ability allows me to see much more detailed information in that blue box thing that appears when we stare at people.”
“What does this have to do with your request?”
“I want you to run away with me.”
“Don’t you think we and everyone else would’ve done so already if it was possible?”
“Most of the people in here have little agility. The fastest person in the room is Unnalt who only has fourteen agility.”
“Only? That’s nearly double mine.”
She turned and glared at him. “Have you not looked at your uncommon ‘Marathoner’ racial ability?”
Edward stared down at himself and inspected his abilities, specifically the ‘Marathoner’ ability. All he saw in the blue box was ‘Marathoner’, but after staring at that ability for a while, another blue box opened in front of it which explained the effect of the ability.
It said that the ‘Marathoner’ ability gave him infinite stamina for three minutes. The cooldown for the ability was twenty-four hours.
“I see,” Edward said. “So even though Unnalt is faster than me, his stamina will eventually decrease in a chase, and in turn, his speed.”
“Exactly,” she nodded. “And I have a special ability called ‘Swift Feet’.”
“What does that do?”
“Really?” She sighed and shook her head.
“I’m just joking.” He chuckled. “What’s your agility now?”
“Seven. So It’ll let me be just as fast as Unnalt for two minutes.”
“But the issue with escaping isn’t speed; it’s the sheer number and strength of the soldiers surrounding us.”
“That’s true. We certainly can’t fight them. They all have nine strength and defense. And that’s only when they’re not using their weapons - when they are, it increases. But all of their agility stats are lower than ours - they have an average of six.”
“What about the cuffs around our wrists?”
“The cuffs aren’t a problem. Goblins seem to have abnormally large wrists and hands. The cuffs appear to be made for them. Whilst we can’t pull our hands out of them now, if we crack our thumbs we should be able to.”
“Ok, so we break our thumbs, pull our thumbs out of the cuffs, and what then? You really think we can just run past them without fighting?”
“We can if we use him.” She nodded to a man who stood and shivered in front of her. Tears rained down his face. Snot dribbled down his nose. The fringe of his curly blonde hair stuck to his clammy forehead. He appeared a lot skinnier than most of the people in the line, but still stronger than the average person with a common class.
Edward stared at him for a while and saw:
Class: Sorceror (Rare)
Charlotte clicked her tongue and kicked the guy’s heel. “I’m talking about you if you couldn’t tell.”
“What!?” He lurched and spun to face them with eyes snapped wide. “Why me!? I don’t wanna be a part of your reckless schemes!”
“Reckless?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Standing here and waiting to get chopped down like cattle is true recklessness.”
“How do you know they’ll kill us!?”
“Are you fucking blind, Richard!?” She scowled and made him bristle “What do you think they’re doing behind us!?”
“I-If they w-wanted to kill us, then I think they would’ve done so already,” He stammered and shivered under her glare. “I th-think t-they’ve grouped us up here so they can hire us and use our powers.”
Charlotte shook her head and sighed in fury.
“That Unnalt guy said something about stealing classes,” Edward said. “I’m not sure how they’ll do it, but after they’ve done it I don’t see why they wouldn’t kill us.”
“Y-you have no idea what’s going on, you’re just making assumptions.”
“Is your skull filled with shit!?” she growled. “I know exactly what’s going on, so just do as I say!”
“Hold on, calm down, Charlotte,” Edward said, stepping between the two of them. “Why exactly do you think Richard is the key to helping us escape?”
She exhaled a long gust of breath, and her face relaxed. “Both his and my racial abilities are common ones. It just gives us an XP boost for a few hours a day. Not very useful. But his class ability and special ability are an entirely different matter.” She glared down at him. “Go on, tell us what they are.”
“O-ok,” He said whilst he shuddered under her glare. His eyes fled from her gaze. Staring down at his feet, he was presumably reading his stat screen. “M-my class ability is a ‘Rare’ ability called ‘Spark’. It allows me to conjure a bright light that temporarily blinds anyone who looks in its direction. My special ability is a rare ability called ‘Refresh’, which allows me to refresh all of my ability’s cooldowns three times every 24 hours."
“I see,” Edward grinned. Since the ability was 'Rare', Wickancis wouldn't be able to expect it due to him not having it. “That could be useful.”
“See?” She smiled at him. “You should trust me from now on.” She glared down at Richard again. “When we signal for you to use the 'Spark' ability, spit on the ground before you use the ability so we know when we need to close our eyes, but no one else does."
Edward nodded. After thinking about it a bit, he was thinking how him and Charlotte would know when to close their eyes and thus not just get blinded like everyone else, but if they used a specific signal like spitting to sign post when will Richard will cast the 'Spark', they would know when to close their eyes.
“Huh?” Richard quizzically tilted his head up at them. “How is any of that useful!? We’ve got our hands stuck in cuffs and several dozens of soldiers that are higher levels than us and actually know what’s going on are surrounding us! How is some lights gonna help us!?”
Edward smiled down at Richard, hoping to ease his anxiety. “Blinding our enemies will give us the time to ru-“
“Your opinion is irrelevant, Shittard,” Charlotte said. She marched past Edward, towards Richard, and loomed over his shivering form. “We don’t have time to explain every little detail of this plan to you, let alone argue. You do as we say, or we all die. It’s simple.”
“B-but, I d-don’t think we will die,” Richard muttered, eyes glued to the ground.
“How thick is your fucking skull!?” Charlotte ground her teeth and a furious vein popped on her forehead. “How do you still not realize where the fuck you a-“
“You!” someone called from in front of the line. The three of them turned to see Wickancis pointing at Edward with a frown, a shuddering finger, and eyes snapped wide. “Come here!”
“Today is a good day.” Unnalt stood beside Wickancis and grinned at Edward. He turned to some soldiers. “Bring him to the front of the line. We’ll do him first.”
Panic lurched in Edward’s stomach as two level 5 soldiers snatched his arms, dragged him to the front of the line, and shoved him in front of Wickancis. Edward turned to Richard, expectantly stared at him, and nodded, signalling him to cast ‘Spark’.
But Richard shook his head.
Richard winced and groaned as Charrlotte kicked the back of his thigh. His left knee slammed on the ground.
Whilst getting dragged by goblins, Edward continued to expectantly stare at Richard. He was about to shake his head again, but he paused and hesitated.
Sweat stampeded down Edward’s skin as Wickancis pulled his hand up, and pointed his palm at Edward. A flickering orange light appeared in front of it. Edward turned back to Richard.
He shook his head.
Edward’s heart rattled against his sternum as embers crackled and swirled around the orange ligh-
“What’re you doing!?” Unnalt roared as he pushed Wickancis to the side. The orange light and crackling embers vanished. “He has a legendary class! He’s level 1! He can’t do anything! Why would you kill him before stealing his class!?”
“Have you ever fought a Dream Knight!?” Wickancis shouted back, eyes trembling as he stared at Edward. He grinned; happy that he was able to somehow make Wickancis feel fear.
“No,” Unnalt shook his head and crossed his arms. “But I’ve seen one fight.”
“Then you should know how dangerous and unpredictable they are!”
Unnalt laughed. “He’s a level one, and you’re level eighty, yet you think he can kill you!?”
Wickancis flushed as he saw the nearby soldiers snort and snicker. “I-i’m not worried about him killing me!” He stammered, and grimaced. “What if he runs and escapes!?”
“Just stop being so anxious.” He rested a palm on Wickancis’ pauldron. “After ten minutes he’ll be dead, anyway.”
“It won’t be ten minutes.” Wickancis slapped Unnalt’s palm off of his pauldron. “My Class Stealing Ability takes five minutes.”
“That makes your fear even more ludicrous!” Unnalt wiped tears out of his eyes after laughing some more. “Just get it done. After five minutes, you won’t have to feel anxious any longer. And not just that, but we’ll be filthy rich.”
Wickancis continued to stare at Edward with trembling hands. He breathed in deeply and exhaled. “Fine.” He flicked his hand up, closed his eyes, and pointed his palm at Edward. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Finally,” A wide grin spread across Unnalt’s face as he watched a blue light form in front of Wickancis’ palm. “That’s it. Just think about the food, drink, prostitutes, land, and soldiers you’ll buy with this, and notice the fear wash away with those thoughts.”
Fear ravaged Edward’s body, rattling his limbs as he stood in front of Wickancis. Without Richard using the ‘Spark’, there was no way of him surviving. Unnalt looked large from afar, but up close, he looked like a monster. Even if Richard used the ‘Spark’ ability, goblins who were taller and stronger than him were strangling both of his arms and stood on both sides of his body.
There was no way of escaping without dying, but if he didn’t escape, he’d probably die in five minutes.
Why did he have to end up in such a world? What did he do wrong? What did he do to God to offend him so much? Edward always tried to be a good person. He might’ve had the occasional lapse of judgement, but he never did anything that bad. So why did he have to suffer through such an ordeal? It wasn’t fair at all.
Thinking of his parents, and his girlfriend, anguish infested in his heart. Thinking of his girlfriend being left on the beach alone and without him, Edward’s eyes burned. Thinking of never being able to see her again, talk with her again, or laugh with her again, tears welled up in his eyes.
He scowled down at his feet, awaiting his deat-
His status screen popped up.
Class: Dream Knight (Legendary)
Racial Ability: Marathoner (Uncommon)
Special Ability: Grave Guardian (Legendary)
Class Abilities: Dream World (Common)
He already knew what the ‘Marathoner’ racial ability did, and reading through it again didn’t bring him any more confidence. But he didn’t check his Special Ability yet, and considering that it was a ‘Legendary’ ability, he thought he’d check it before he finally gave up. So he stared at it. He read the ability description.
His hopes didn’t rise at all. It was useless. By activating the ability, all undead within a 100m radius would lose 100% of their HP. But there were no undead in the area, so he just ignored it.
Why would there be something hidden away in his status screen that’d provide him with the key to escape from goblins so vastly superior to him in everything? He didn’t check his ‘Dream World’ ability yet, because what could it possibly be? He was level 1, and it was ‘common. Could such an ability really save him?
Regardless, he stared at it and checked. There was nothing else he could do, so he read the description.
A grin flickered on his face, but it only did just that. The description showed potential, but that alone wasn’t enough. But it had potential, so he had to try it out at the very least.
So he activated the ability: ‘Dream World’.
The world blurred and whirled into a spiral of grey, brown, and green, steadily turning into an incoherent blob. The grey pushed up to the top of his vision, and the green darkened and filled the bottom. Icy rain pattered his afro hair and made him shiver as it glistened down his body. The blur faded and his vision regained clarity.
He wasn’t in the goblin’s longhouse any longer.
Fitting with the ability’s description, he could still faintly hear the goings on of the longhouse, because he was still physically there, but mentally he was inside his own world. Blades of grass rustled in an even colder wind and tickled the scratched soles of his feet. A grassy and hilly plain, dappled with the occasional boulder and lonely tree, surrounded him.
The sight confirmed Edward’s fear that the ability was indeed useless and it's imagined potential was nothing more than wishful thinking. What could he do with such an ability? What was head battering rain, feet grating grass, thick grey clouds, and skin scratching glacial wind gonna do to help him escape from the goblins? All it did was make his teeth chatter and his body shiver.
But then he saw movement atop a distant hill. He saw movement behind a distant boulder. He saw movement in front of a distant tree. He saw movement within a patch of tall grass. He saw movement all around him on the grassy plains.
Slimy blobs of green goo squelched, and spat drops of green stuff on the green grass as they hopped across the plains. Black orbs wobbled in their centres. After staring at one for a while, Edward saw:
Turning, he stared at another slime. It was much bigger than the previous and the biggest he could see in the area. He saw:
Edward’s grin only grew wider, and excitement struck his stomach like a shock of thunder, whilst listening to the faint sounds that emanated from the hall that he was physically in. He heard humans scream, and goblins cackle. But the sound was different.
It was in slow motion.
Because not only did the ‘Dream World’ ability allow him to transport his mind into a dream world where slimes that he could farm XP from hopped about, but time moved ten times slower in the dream world.
Wickancis said his class stealing ability would take five minutes to cast. That meant Edward had fifty minutes to level up as much as possible, so he could at least get more strength than the nine of the goblins by his side, and more agility than Unnalt’s fourteen.
Edward stretched his legs, clenched his fists, glared at an incoming ‘Level 1’ slime, and kicked clumps of grass and wet dirt behind him as he leapt towards it.