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Chapter 25 Aftermath – Part 1

In the offices of Future V. there was a huge room that had nothing but a gigantic screen with a couple dozen chairs in front of it. It very much looked like a small movie theater.

The screen was currently split in 25 different partitions, each showing a different image. So there were 25 different videos being played on the screen at the same time. But every image was of Kiro. And all the videos were about the war that had just concluded between him and DrakeXScales.

There was one in which he was blasting groups of enemies with Elemental Waves. There was another one in which he was stalking players in the woods. But the biggest screen was depicting his walk into the courtyard, as spells and arrows rained down on him.

The videos were all clear and of high quality. Unlike the ones the television studios could get their hands on, these weren’t obscured by pesky things like the privacy setting.

The angle of the camera was also wrong. In a typical video about New World, the view was either first person, or third person over the shoulder of the player. But these videos provided coverage from any and all direction, to provide the clearest view of the action.

A few minutes earlier the room had been filled with Future V. employees. They were all watching the end of the war.
They had cheered, laughed and clapped as Kiro slayed enemy after enemy.

But now the war has over, and they had to return to their ordinary jobs.

There were only two people left in the room.

Andrew Durnal, executive director of Future V. and Matthew Downright, head of tech.

Andrew had his eyes riveted to the screen, and Matthew was observing him.

Andrew was the first to break the silence that had been saturating the room. Gesturing at the screen that was showing Kiro strutting into the courtyard, he said in a soft voice: “He’s incredible, isn’t he?”

Matthew’s reply was curt and dispassionate. “I hardly think so, sir.”

Andrew’s eyebrows shot up, in a voice filled with a hint of mirth, he asked: “Oh, and why is that?”

Matthew started talking in an expressionless and technical voice. “With all due respect, we are talking about third-rate, system assisted spells. On the other side we have a high-tier defensive skill that has been pushed to the advanced level. Not only that, but the player himself has the Elemental Swordsman’s class, which means increased magic resistance – at advanced lvl 7 we are talking about 30% reduction or more – as well as increased elemental resistances, which are further augmented by his Survivor title and Proficiency. As most spells are elemental-based their effectiveness is so reduced that there is simply no way they will be able to do any significant damage to a Mana Shield infused Celestial Turtle Shell Aura. Especially considering that most spells have absolutely no armor penetration to them, which makes it impossible for their destructive power to damage a defence that is finely tuned to block exactly that.”

“You forgot curses and hexes.”

“I didn’t mention them because they don’t even apply in this case. The biggest advantage of curses and hexes are their ability to ignore armor. When there is a magical defense in place, which is capable of blocking them, they become irrelevant. And before you ask, no I didn’t forget the arrows. But let’s be realistic. The archers were hiding behind the warriors, so the arrows had to cross quite a bit of distance to even reach him. Those that weren’t blasted away by the numerous spells didn’t have the speed or power to pierce the armor of the Aura. And the few bright ones that did decide to use armor penetrating shots were too few and to scattered to be relevant. So, to answer your previous question, no, I don’t think he’s incredible. I think he’s lucky his enemies were dumb enough to attack him using magic ranged attacks, one of the things his skill is best suited to counter.”

While he spoke Andrew just looked at him with a little smile. Then he turned to the screen again, gesturing for Matthew to look as well.

“Is that what you think? You do not give him enough credit. Look closely. Can’t you see that every action he took was in order to allow this very situation to occur?

Look at the first battle. He purposely led them into the woods before slaughtering them. He scared them, terrified them, so that they would lock themselves inside the city and not run around everywhere.

Then, he attacked the guards on the wall. He could have slipped past them to attack the leaders, but he took the time to lay waste to them. They were supposed to be the most powerful line of defense DrakeXScales had. Seeing it crumble scared them even more, and as a result, they ran to safety. Or, in other words, they gathered together. Safety in numbers. It’s an old saying, but one that every intelligent creature instinctively knows is true.

But once he had gathered them, Kiro changed his approach. Why? Try to put yourself in their position. You’re scared. A lot of your friends have been killed by a single enemy, who has forced the rest of you to hide together in a single
location. Then, suddenly, he invades even this last sanctuary of yours. You’re terrified. You panic. You try to destroy him by any and all means necessary.

They weren’t thinking clearly. In this situation, do you really think they would come up with an effective plan to deal with him? No, they tried to take him down with every bit of firepower at their disposal.

That why I think Kiro is an incredible fellow. From beginning to the end, he planned, controlling the reaction of his enemies like a puppeteer, his every action carefully calculated to put his overwhelming power in display. And what a show he put on.”

After Andrew’s monologue, Matthew adopted a pensive expression. He looked at the footage of Kiro with renewed interest.

Andrew was also looking at it. “You know, at this very moment, several videos like these are being uploaded on the internet, by users that are reckless or foolish enough to ignore the warnings we put on them.”

Matthew turned to him: “Seems like the legal department will have its hands full for several weeks.”

“Yes and no. I told them to take it easy on the culprits.”

Matthew looked surprise: “Why?”

Andrew gestured expansively towards the screen. “Look at this. This footage is clearly way too awesome to keep from the masses.”

“Why don’t you just create an official video about it then? After securing the player’s agreement, of course.”

“Why would I do that? The videos that are up now have been put up by fearless users, risking everything to show what happened to others. They are put on obscure, hidden sites. They are filled with our legal notices, making the people seeing them conscious of the risk they are taking.  Don’t you think that lends them an irreplaceable air of mystic? Of danger and excitement? If we did an official video, Kiro could become a star, a hero, or an idol. But like this he’ll become a legend, a myth. In your opinion, which is cooler?”

Having nothing to say, Matthew returned his attention to the screen.

A few minutes of pensive silence later, Andrew raised a new subject: “My office has also been swamped with enquiries and letters of complaint about Kiro. Most ask what level he is, how they can get as powerful as him, or protest that he must be cheating.” His grin showed clearly what he felt about such unfounded complaints.

Matthew snorted. “What did you answer?”

“That we cannot divulge a player’s level without their permission, that we also can’t tell them what they did or are doing in game. And that our game is un-hackable. What would you have me say?”

“How about the truth? That you purposely sold them a game that was rigged from the very beginning for them to fail if they played it the way you advised them too? I’m sure they would absolutely love to hear that. That the whole purpose of the game is for them to lose.”

“I could do that.” Andrew had a thin smile.

“Why did you make it that way? If you had bothered to explain the pros and cons of the system assist, I’m sure a lot more people would go manual.”

“That’s why I did it the way I did. We aren’t interested in those that merely follow. We want those that go their own way. That shine. The truly elite. These are the people we need. The way our game is designed, only those select few extraordinary people stand out from the rest. And of them, Kiro stands at the top. He’s exceptional. From the very beginning of the beta test, he was the only one that dared to venture out of the beaten path. I am confident that he will be the first to reach the Gate.”

Matthew’s eyebrows rose. “Are you sure? The way we designed it, the Gate won’t be found for a number of years yet.”

“You should go meet him in-game. I’m sure your doubts will disappear after that. Who knows? Maybe if the two of you fought you’d lose.”

They both laughed at his joke. The screen was now showing a bird’s eye view of the courtyard were Kiro had his final fight. From the perspective of the two, they looked like two gods surveying the world they had created.

*****
In New World, a person’s fame wasn’t something as simple as a number.

For example, if someone discovered a remote village in some far away corner of the world, he would become very famous in that village. But because the village has very little contact with the outside, his name wouldn’t spread very far.

In other words, how known a person is depends not only on how much fame he has but also were he gained this fame.

Take Kiro. He has gained much fame in several villages lost in the forest, as well as from completing the Training Centers. But as most of those locations are fairly remote, his name is only known by those that frequent the training centers as well as in those remote villages.

But outside of these places, he is still relatively unknown.

That is, of course, until the news of his actions in Mutianelis spread.

*****
Ding! Ding! Ding!

In front of Kiro, several messages pop up:
Congratulations!
The War: Vendetta in Mutianelis! is over.
You are victorious.
The members of the DrakeXScales guild will suffer the penalties of the losers.

For your incredible actions, you gain the following rewards:
5000 fame
The title: Savior of Mutianelis.
The title: Bloodthirsty Warrior
The title: Army of One
The title: Super Loner.

Savior of Mutianelis
For having freed Mutianelis from the grips of their oppressors, the grateful citizens have bestowed onto you this title.
This title grants you maximum intimacy with the Npcs of Mutianelis. They are extremely grateful towards you. They will be more inclined to intrust you with quests, will go out of their way to be helpful, and may or may not create a fan club for you.

Bloodthirsty Warrior
Equippable title
By killing a lot, lot ,lot of people in a very short amount of time, you have been granted this equippable title.
By equipping this title, your fighting spirit is converted to bloodlust.

Bloodlust
The desire to kill, maim and otherwise do harm to your opponent.
-Carries over all the benefits from fighting spirit.
-Additionally, during battle, your opponents will fear you.
-Those weaker than you will suffer from a reduction to their attack and defense, and may be paralyzed.
-Causes monsters weaker than you to flee, while attracting monsters that are as strong as or stronger than you.

Army of One
You have been granted this title for having fought, and won, a war against an entire army by yourself.
-You will never suffer any consequences, no matter how many enemies are against you.
-Allows you to accept and go on quests meant for half-parties, full parties, half raids, full raids, expeditions and/or armies by yourself.

Super Loner
Equips automatically. Cannot be deleted.
Title granted to you for being such a loner.
Since the start of the game, 5 years, 1 month and 7 days ago, you have never formed a party with another player. Whatever you choose to do, you do it alone. You avoid cities like the plague unless you have no other choice.
You’re so lonely, you think fighting entire armies on your lonesome is a rational choice.
Face it. You’re not just a loner. You’re a Super Loner!
-This title is automatically equipped. It causes mothers that see you rush over to give you a motherly love, filled with concern.
-Other people will cringe at your social awkwardness.
This title will automatically disappear once you form a party for the first time.

(*Note: I saw the name Army of One in one of the comments. I liked it, so I decided to use it. I hope that whoever made that comment isn’t disappointed by the bonuses it gives. )

With a practiced hand, Kiro banished the windows. He wasn’t sure if he was being praised or mocked. Probably both.

With a sigh, he walked towards the doors of the central keep. He couldn’t sense any presences inside, but it was better to be sure. Who knows? Maybe he’d find some city official hidden away in some obscure dungeon.

*****
After a quick and fruitless inspection of the keep, Kiro decided to walk back to the plaza by the gates. He was stuck in this city for a month.

On the way there, he caught many Npcs staring at him. During the war most of them had locked themselves inside, out of the way. But now they were coming out, there eyes filled with awe and gratitude. And maybe a bit of pity for his loneliness.

Their gazes made him slightly uncomfortable, so he ignored them as best he could.

As he approached the plaza, he started being apprehensive for a different reason. What if Mina and Jinan hadn’t heard that Mutianelis was safe again? What if they had elected to restart somewhere else? Or worse, decided to just not play?

Such fears were silly and irrational, but for Kiro that had no way to join his siblings in the real world, they weighted heavily on his mind.

But as soon as he arrived at the plaza, they were blown away by a pair of individuals.

Their physique differed slightly from their real appearance. Also, it had been several years since he had seen them in the flesh. But for Kiro, it was impossible not to recognize his beloved siblings.

He ran towards them. They also, upon seeing him, ran towards him.

They embraced each other. With his two arms, Kiro tried giving both his siblings a hug at the same time, even as he was hugged by the both of them.

“Mina. Jinan.” He said, his voice filled with love.

“Onii-chan.” “Kiro-oniichan.” They replied, voices cracking.

They all stood there for a bit, lost in the joy of their reunion.

After a while, Kiro spoke again: “So. Do you guys want to form a party with me?”

Both of his siblings looked at him, confused. But he avoided eye contact.

Kiro looked around. Not only the Npcs, there were also players that were now looking at them. And some seemed to recognize him from his actions earlier. Taking his siblings by the hand, he guided them away.

“Let’s talk somewhere else.”

******
A few minutes later, after Kiro had changed into his set of tanned hide clothing and donned a bizarre metal helmet that covered his entire head, gifted to him by a grateful merchant, the twins and he took a seat on a bench in a secluded rest area.

The funny thing about fame is that if people don’t recognize you as you, it won’t apply. For that reason, except for the odd glances Kiro received for his headgear, he was being virtually ignored, which suited him just fine.

Finally free of any distractions, the three siblings had time to catch up. They had millions of things to say to each other.

Talking through a screen just wasn’t enough to have a full blown discussion. But now, Jinan -Jinandis - and Mina – Taname – started talking about everything that had happened since their brother had his accident. They talked about their new school, new friends, everything that had happened in the year they had been apart. He, in turn, talked about the training he did, how he had visited the training centers, etc…

He couldn’t help but be happy at the eyes full of admiration of his two siblings as he described the Master Trial.
Inevitably, the discussion turned to the events of the past few days. Jinandis explained what had happened to them on their first day, and how they were killed each time they tried to respawn.

“… and that is why I have 15 less stats than a normal beginner. And Mina – I mean Taname - has 10 less. To be honest, we were thinking about recreating our characters.”

“Why would you that? It’s easy to regain stats!”

“Really?” Taname interjected. “Because on the forums I’ve read, they say that even though it’s easy at first, after a while it can take weeks or even months to gain a single stat point.”

Kiro gave her a disbelieving look. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

He dragged them outside, onto the street. Reaching inside his inventory, he pulled out bags filled with rocks and some rope. He had used it before in his on training.

He tossed some rocks out of the bags until they all weighted about 1 kilogram. He then tied one to each one of his siblings’ arms, legs and torsos while they looked at him with eyes filled with curiosity.

“The trick to gaining stats is to constantly increase the intensity of your training. So today we will rub with these on, and then tomorrow we’ll increase the weigths, and again the day after. That way, you’ll quickly gain stats. That’s how I got all my stat points.” He explained.

“How many do you have?” Asked Taname

“In what?”

“I don’t know… how about in strength?”

“I have 973 strength stats.”

“973!!? That’s incredible! I heard somewhere that after 500 stats, it causes 2 stat points to raise one stat, and that after 600 it costs 3. To have almost a thousand is incredible!”

Kiro shrugged, trying to hide the sudden burst of pride he felt at his little sister’s praise.

“Let’s get going. You guys won’t regain your stats by just standing here.”

He started to run, with his siblings following. He made sure to pick an easy pace, that they’d be able to maintain for a while… at least that was what he thought, until he turned around to them dozens of meters behind him and panting. So he slowed down a bit more.

He led them running into the twisting streets of the city for two or three hours, with small breaks to let them recover some stamina, before he was satisfied. When he finally stopped running his two siblings sank to the ground, panting.

Grinning, he took out pieces of dried meat from his inventory and gave it to them. “So did you guys gain anything?”

“I, hah, got, hah, one strength, hah, one agility, hah, and two, hah, vitality. I also, hah, got the, hah, running proficiency, hah.” Answered Jinandis.

“Me, hah, too.” Confirmed Taname.

“Good.” Kiro said, grinning. “We will keep on doing that until you guys have completely recovered your stats. But next time, we will run longer, faster, and with heavier weights!”

The groans of his siblings made his grin widen.

He placed the ropes and bags into his inventory.

“What are we going to do for dexterity, wisdom and intelligence?” Taname asked, curious.

“This.” He said, even as he pulled out two pebbles from his inventory. Handing one to her, he took the other one in his hands.

“The exercise you will do now is for dexterity. Place the stone on your thumb, and try to move it across your fingers without letting it drop to the ground or on your palm. Like this.” He said, demonstrating.

He handed his own pebble to Jinandis and let them try. They had trouble at first but soon got the hang of it.

They kept at it, occasionally changing hands, until they received a notice that their dexterity had increased. After that,
Kiro dragged them along in search of the library.

That at least, didn’t surprise Taname and Jinandis. They both had heard that reading could boost your wisdom and intelligence.

But they didn’t expect Kiro to ask them if they had any homework to do.

“Huh!? Homework?”  It was the farthest thing from Taname and Jinandis’ minds at the moment.

“Yes. Do you guys have any homework?” He repeated.

“Ehm. Yes, we have some assignments to do in math, and physics, but what does it have to do with this?” Jinandis said.

“We’ll use it to increase your wisdom and intelligence.” Kiro explained.

At their blank look, he sighed. “Just log out for a second and get the titles of your textbooks. I’ll show you.”

They went to do as he asked. A few minutes later they logged back, and recited the titles for him.

“Good. Follow me.” He said, entering the library.

Unlike other libraries he had been into in-game, this one had a slightly more Spartan felling. It was located in a big stone building that looked like a warehouse. The floor was clean, and made of wood. But the walls were all a uniform grey.

There was little light coming from the sparse windows, so there were many lanterns hanging at regular intervals from the dark celling, casting a gloomy light. The room was split in two sections, one filled with tall bookcases holding thousands of books, and the other with dark wooden table.

Paying no heed to the spooky atmosphere of the place, Kiro walked to the only other occupant of the room, a young and pretty brunette woman whose cheerful smile contrasted sharply with the atmosphere of the place. She was sitting at a large desk near the door. A sign saying “Librarian” had been placed on the desk.

“Can I help you?” She asked with another dazzling smile.

“Yes. I’m looking for some books.” Kiro answered, before enumerating the titles his siblings had given him out of memory.

“I’m sorry”, she said, her smile replaced by a frown. “We don’t have those here.”

That didn’t surprise him. “In that case, can you recommend me books that are similar to the ones I just named?”

Her smile came back. “Sure, just a moment please!” She walked to the rows of bookshelves and disappeared for a few minutes, before walking back with a pile of books, which she placed on her desk. “Here you go!”

“Thank you.” Answered Kiro. “Tell me, do you also have something we can write with?”

She reached inside a drawer, before pulling out sheets of blank paper and what looked suspiciously like pencils, had they not been in a game world. Kiro thanked her again, before bringing everything to one of the table. Taname and Jinandis followed him.

“What are we doing?” Asked Jinandis.

“Your homework.”

“But we don’t have our textbooks.”

“Really, look at this. What chapters are you guys at in math?”

“Chapter 6, why?”

Kiro looked at the index of the book he was holding. He opened up to the correct section, before putting it in front of Jinandis.

After examining the text closely, Jinandis looked back up at him, startled. “It’s almost identical?!”

Kiro smiled. “I discovered this when I decided to study in game to increase my stats. They have an equivalent for almost any textbook in most libraries I’ve been to. That means that you guys can do your homework here instead of at home. It makes your intelligence and wisdom go up much faster than just reading.”

“Really, that’s so interesting… wait. You? You decided to study?” asked Jinandis.

“Yes.” Kiro replied, slightly embarrassed.

“Who are you and what did you do with our brother?” Asked Taname.

“I ate him, cause I’m delicious!”

All of them laughed at his bad joke, and went to work.

****
“… and then Jinan and I did our homework, and Kiro-niisan tutored us! And I gained 2 intelligence and 1 wisdom.” Concluded Mina, excitedly.

It was evening at the Tearan residence. Mina was just finishing telling of her and Jinan’s day with their big brother to their mother. She sounded upbeat and excited, a clear contrast to the depressed girl of this morning. Hearing her, Allise couldn’t help but smile.

“It sounds exciting. But are you telling me that Yukiro, our Yukiro, is actually doing school work?”

“I know right, I didn’t believe it either. But it’s true!”

Allise shook her head, amazed. Her oldest boy, who used to flee schoolwork like the plague in the real world, was diligently studying in a game world. It truly must be an amazing place.

“So what are you going to do tomorrow?”

“We will keep on regaining our lost stats, and after that maybe we will do some quests. It’s really incredible. I never knew you could regain stats that easily.”

“That sounds great. Just be sure that you and your brother log out for lunch and supper, and eat breakfast before.”

“Yes. Yes.”

****
After returning from the Tearan house, Anamai went directly to her room. Her grandfather, probably sensing her pensive mood, left her alone, as did the rest of her family.

Ever since she had meet and been defeated by Kiro more than half a year ago, a single question had been bothering her.
Why? Why had he gone out of his way to help her.

It had only taken her a few weeks to understand that her duel with him had been the impulse she needed to get out of the slump she had been in at the time. Her defeated had provided her with the needed impetus for her to grow stronger
again.

For that reason, she felt grateful towards Kiro. But she was also puzzled.

After her defeat she had started to travel all over New World. But no one she asked knew about the strong player going by the name of Kiro. It was obvious that he was a recluse, which made it even weirder that he had gotten out of his way to help her.

With a distracted click of her mouse, Anamai opened the video of her fight with Kiro, which she had kept stored in her computer. She had already seen it at least a dozen times in the past month.

Her question bothered her so much that she had made the trip to Kiro’s hospital room several times, but always chickened out before typing her question unto the screen. The immobile body lying in the VR Pod seemed so opposed to the person she had meet in game that it felt wrong to interrogate him in this manner.

So instead she had started training in earnest, determined to find him in game and ask him directly.

She had visited dungeon after dungeon, fighting and defeating innumerable foes.

All those experiences had made her grow stronger. Her swordsmanship, especially, had grown by leaps and bounds.

Yes, she was definitely grateful to Kiro.

Her improvements in game was reflected in real life. The other disciples at her family’s dojo were as astonished as her by her growth.

She had felt satisfied by how much stronger she had been becoming. That is, until she had seen Kiro’s video.

Compared to the Kiro she had dueled against, she knew that this one was unimaginably stronger. She had been powerless against the old Kiro, yet she felt she would fare even worst against this new one.

No matter how much more powerful she had become, she was far from possessing enough strength to go solo against an army of high leveled players.

Anamai slumped against her desk, momentarily discouraged. She felt she had fallen even more behind.

Lost in thought, she searched for a possible solution to close the gap.

After thinking about it, the reason for the difference in their strength was obvious.

Kiro lived in New World. To him, it was his world. How could she, who treated it as a game, or at most as a training place, match up? She hadn’t even gotten a class, because she was too focused on her abilities with the sword.

To catch up, she had to start taking New World more seriously. That wasn’t too hard. That world had layers of mysteries to it that belied the fact that it was just a game.

A few weeks in game ago, she had been approached by several dungeon-clearing guilds. At the time she had paid them no attention, but next time she would be back in New World, she would go and join one. Having the support of a guild would give her access to better dungeons with stronger monsters. It would also make it easier for her to find herself a good class that would allow her to grow in strength.

That way, when she meet Kiro again, she could do so with the satisfaction of having done everything she could to bridge the gap between them.

In front of her, the video of the duel was nearing its end. With a click of her mouse she froze it at a familiar scene.
She on the ground, shouting out her challenge, will Kiro smiled at her happily. That smile, more than even the questions she had regarding as to why he had come to fight her, haunted her mind.

Unconsciously, her mind went back to this afternoon, to when her grandfather had been singing as they watched Kiro slaughter the DrakeXScale guild.

Her eyes fixed on the image on her screen, she started humming softly, for no reason. “Can you feel… the love tonight?”

A sudden noise made her jump, startled. She turned her head towards its source.

Sekiru stood in the doorway, grinning. “I was just coming to tell you dinner is served. Sorry for the interruption.” He closed the door and she heard him chuckle as he walked away.

“It’s not what you think… oh, whatever.” She murmured under her breath.

(*Note: Sorry for the long wait. Real Life (or in this case Midterms and a whole lot of Coiling Dragon – It’s awesome!
Thanks to the person who pointed me towards it! –) delayed me. I originally thought I’d put the aftermath of the war in a single chapter, but as it was approaching 5000 words and was only half finished, I decided to split it. I’ll talk about the DrakeXScale guild next chapter. For a bit.

On another note, with this chapter, my story now has more than 100 000 words! Yay!

On another other note, I wish to address another topic. Although I want to thank the person who was thoughtful enough to point out that I might not appreciate having people discuss other stories in the comments, I feel compelled to say that it doesn’t offend, nor annoy me in the slightest. In fact, I enjoy it as it brings to my attention stories that I might not have known existed (like Coiling Dragon). Although taking the time to read them also might delay the next chapter :(  )

[url=http://www.royalroadl.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=11101] Chapter 26 {/url]
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olyver

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