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Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason)

"Tenkou mitsuru tokoro ni ware wa ari, yomi no mon hiraku tokoro ni nanji ari..."

584 views · last seen in Chapter 1 - Beginning
a character in “Antiva Chronus Online”, as played by Asher MstrImmortalis

Description

Nickname: The Voice of Treason
Real name: Asher Damons
Gender: Male
Age: 16
Appearance: Asher is white skinned, 5”11’, and has short black hair with blue eyes. He has a slight muscle build, but still slim. He is normal weight, maybe 100 lbs. In real life, he usually wears blue jeans, a white T-shirt, and a black hoodie, whilst listening to his music on his iPhone10 with headphones. In the game, his eyes become icy blue, and his hair turns white and a little longer, kind of like Dante Sparda’s hairdo.
Personality: Asher is friendly to all and hostile to enemies. Asher loves his friends and likes to keep them close. He would protect those important to him with his life, is necessary. Asher isn't the wisest or the smartest, but he is still above average. You won't see him boasting about it, though. In fact, Asher isn’t one to be in the spotlight, or become a leader. However, he can teach people, and if he can’t help it, lead a group.
How Asher fights is simple: Lay back and be in defense to analyze the enemy. Then, Asher would adapt to pick on the weaknesses of said enemy. Asher isn’t one to charge in and barrage. In fact, Asher only uses 3 skills before going back on defense. Because of his skill, Asher can easily counter attacks, and he won’t make a mistake (usually). Unless you can trick him up, Asher is not going to fall for a little deception. Asher prefers faster and weaker spells than stronger yet slower spells, so he can be able to cast multiple spells in succession.
Asher has a calm attitude most of the time. Being a black belt, it’s hard to piss him off. Asher loves to be around his friends, and he loves to have a friendly duel.
Real Life:
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In-Game:
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Biography: Asher had a normal life until he was locked inside the game. He went to school, became an above average student, went to high school, and enrolled into all the honor classes. Asher also took martial arts. Currently, he is a 1st degree black belt as well as an instructor in his school. All in all, he was pretty much an average Joe.
Asher liked to try new things from time to time. That included video games, especially the “Insitus Gear.” However, Asher never let the game take over his life, unlike most people. He was deeply saddened by the fact that most of the students in the martial arts academy were too sucked into the gaming system. When the new Insitus Gear came out, Asher finally bought it along with the Antiva Chronus, just to curb his curiousity in the game. However, he too was trapped in the game, like every other player.
Asher was… well, disturbed that all this was happening because of the people being sucked into the game so much. He hoped that the person who did this will rot in hell, and that justice will be served for all the people who died in this game. Asher is surprisingly calm about it (then again, he was always calm), and has a lot of determination to beat the game with all the closest people to him in this game.

His username came from the fact that Asher has a very persuasive voice. One time he was able to disband a club, and the leader branded him "Voice of Treason." Instead of taking it as an insult, Asher kept it as a personal "title." It stuck around, so Asher used the title as his username.

Equipment:
Mysterious Cloak: Asher wears this to conceal his equipped weapons and belongings. It’s hard for bandits and thieves to get anything valuable from him because of this cloak, and overly-confident newbies won’t know what to expect when they challenge him.
Bladed Sheathe: A normal sheathe, but made of strong material. It’s sharpened to act like a sword. However, it’s also sheathed in another layer, so that anyone holding it wouldn’t cut open their hands. Asher uses this with his skill, second later or not. The second layer is more fit for defense. The sharp layer is more fit for offense. Any new challenger wouldn’t see the second “blade” coming.
Raven Wings: Black wings that sprout from the user's back without damaging any clothes that it might normally pierce. Only used for decoration.
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Darkened Dawn: A black and red scythe that Asher uses sometimes for long reach and to get through the defenses of enemies.
Blazor Edge Abyssion
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Element: Fire
Atk: 1250
M. Atk: 750
Special Ability: It slightly raises the attack stat of the user depending on how many enemies he/she had killed whilst equipped.

The Devil's Eye Blade

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Attack: 2750
Magic Attack: 3000
Description: A blade hated by many humans because of it's unique ability to allow the user to quickly memorize the skills of his/her opponent and use it back at them. While it isn't evil in itself, people still shunned it for being too much of a nuisance when facing it in battle. It can seperate into two seperate swords, and comes with it's own sheathe.
Special Ability: Allows the user to have up to 3-5 slots to copy an opponent's skill- depending on the level of the weapon. The skill must be seen and used in battle by the opponent, and the user must meet necessary requirements to use said skill. It currently cannot copy passive abilities.
Copying more abilities than the sword can handle would result in deleting a previously copied skill.

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(Costume also includes a Fedora)
Dark Enforcer Armour
A set of clothing, thick and durable. It used to be worn by a lone vigilante who went after higher-ups who abused their power. It is said that the want for justice of the original wearer flows through the current wearer.
Defense: 1500
M. Defense: 1250
Resistance: Darkness
Weakness: Light

Magic abilities:
(Added in Chapter 1:)
Fireball: Basic fire spell. Four words
Chant: Burn by my hand!
Wind Blade: Command the wind to strike in front of the user like it was a sword. Basic wind spell. 7 words.
Chant: The silent breeze will cut you down!
Icicle Rain: Basic ice spell. 7 words.
Chant: Rain down frigid wrath upon thy enemy!
Eruption: Cause flames to erupt from the ground in a small area. Basic Fire spell. 7 words.
Chant: May hell rise up and take you.
First Aid: Basic Healing spell. 3 words.
Chant: Healing Power come!
Indignation: Ultimate lightning spell. 23 words (plus some unnecessary wording; Currently locked because of the level reset.)
Chant: I, standing in the full light of the heavens, call upon thee who opens the gates of hell! Thy Lord’s wrath, come! Indignation!
(Added in Chapter 2)
Critical Heart Break: Send lightning at the opponent in a form of a spear. If it hits the chest area, 1.75x damage. Intermediate lightning spell. 8 Words.
Chant: “Feel your heart beat for the last time…”
(Added in Chapter 3:)
Scarlet Sign: Nightless Castle: Slam the ground, creating a flame that takes the shape of a cross when viewed from the right angle and distance. Intermediate fire spell. 12 words.
Chant: “When the stars no longer exist, and the eternal sun draws near…”
Bloody Howling: Chant and open a gate to darkness. A beast within roars, and enemies near the gate become paralyzed and get damaged. Intermediate Dark Spell. 11 words.
Chant: Oh roar that shakes the very foundations of the earth, resound!
Absolute: Call on an iceberg to appear via flash-freeze. Advanced ice spell. 15 words.
Chant: Rest in a merciless embrace, and freeze from a hell colder than the devil himself.
(Added in Chapter 4:)
Royal Flare: Advanced fire spell. Creates a giant ball of fire that can be thrown at the enemy. Can separate into multiple fireballs as well. 22 words.
Chant: See the great power of an inferno, condensed into a giant ball of flame! Let’s see you try and come out unscathed…


Special abilities:
Passive:
(Added in Chapter 1:)
Sword-Sheath: Allows the player to wield a sheath in battle, and thus use it as a companion to a sword.
Scythe-Wielder: Allows the user to fight with a scythe. It cannot be dual wielded.
Mana Blade: Allows the player to combine magical attacks with physical attacks at full power. Some of the attack is changed to combine the magic and physical skills.
Close Combat: Allows the player to fight with his/her hands or feet. Asher uses this in combination with the scythe, sword, sword-sheathe, and magic.
(Added in Chapter 2:)
Endangered Threat: When the health bar is lower than half, physical and magical attack strength is raised.
Regenerate: Automatically heal over time.
(Added in Chapter 3:)
Survival Tactic: Deception: When health bar is lower than a third, defense is raised for physical and magical attacks.
Critical Moment: When health bar is lower than a quarter, critical rate rises by 10%
Survival Tactic: Pressured Strategist: When health is lower than a quarter, intelligence is raised.
Survival Instincts: When health bar is lower than one tenth, all stats are doubled. Does not stack upon other skills that raise stats from low health.
(Added in Chapter 4:)
Dual Wield: Gives the player the ability to wield two swords.
Devil's Eye: Plagiarism: Gives the user the ability to mimc a limited number of skills.

Active:
(Added in Chapter 1:)
Devil Lance (Sword only): Throw the sword into the air, then jump and kick the sword so it flies straight at the enemy.
Soul Harvest (Scythe only): Spin the scythe in a 360 motion.
Tempest: Front flip midair many times and slash the enemy.
Tempest Reversal: Back flip midair many times and slash the enemy upward with each flip. (Shorter range, but more damage compared to Tempest)
Assault Slash: Jump high into the air and slam your weapon down into the ground. Works best with scythes. Also works best on downed enemies.
Savage Wolf Fury: User suddenly moves extremely fast around the enemy, and slashes multiple times before landing a final hit. (Locked from level reset)
(Added in Chapter 2:)
Ghost Wolf: Quickly dash through the target and slash from behind.
Heavenly Tempest: Send the target high into the air and slash it upwards in a multi-hit combo. Then, horizontally spin-slash at the enemy and send it back down to earth with a final slash.
(Added in Chapter 3:)
Roundtrip: Throw the currently equipped weapon at the opponent. The weapon spins and orbit around the target to slash it. The user can equip another weapon and attack the enemy while the first weapon orbits the target. The user can also throw another weapon in his inventory, and attack with the currently equipped weapon.
Guardian Field: Stab the ground and make a magic circle, causing any allies in it to heal and enemies to become damaged.
Shining Dragon Swarm: Spin the weapon on the user’s hand, slashing the enemy. Then, make a downward-slash-spin-hook-kick-repeat combo.
Clearing of the Six Senses: The user clears out all worldly distractions of taste, sight, smell, feel, hearing, and thought. The user concentrates on slashing at the opponent without thought, only acting on instinct. The user slashes at very high speeds, running around the target. The path in which the user would leave a glowing lotus shaped-mark on the ground. Then, the user sends the target sky-high, and slams him/her/it down. The lotus disappears on the impact of the sword. It takes a lot to get out of that state once the skill ends, and even more to stay in the state the user should be in to use the skill.
Savage Wolf Fury: The user circles around the enemy. Occasionally, the user slashes at the enemy. The user gets progressively faster and more aggressive. Eventually, the user slashes one after the other from different directions, just being one image of when he/she slashes. The user finally ends with a final five hit slash. Also, it is the only non-mana blade skill to have an incantation. 20 words.
Chant: O brilliant blade as cold as steel, rend the infinite darkness and crush my enemies to nothing, Savage Wolf Fury!
(Added in Chapter 4:)


Close Combat Skills
Windmill: Spin and kick every enemy surrounding the user. Easy to use, hard to master.
Drop Kick: Jump, flip, and force all your energy into your feet, and send it at the enemy through a drop kick.
Somersault Kick: Spin three times, kicking the enemy in different target areas. The user’s foot is engulfed in flames.
(Added in Chapter 3:)
Shoryuken: A reference to a former famous video game character. Jump spinning flame uppercut
Respite: Rest a little bit in battle, recovering a little bit of health and mana.


Mana Blade Skills:
Blaze Dragon: Jump high into the air and slam your weapon into the ground. The flames that rise up form a dragon rising from the ground. 7 words.
Chant: Face the burning rage of the dragon!
Indignation Judgment (Sword only): 5 slashes, then throw the sword above the target. The sword comes down moments later, charged with lightning, as well as several bolts of lightning itself. 28 words. (Locked form Level Reset)
Chant: I, who stand in the full light of the heavens, call upon thee who openeth the gates of hell! Come forth divine lightning! Receive your judgment mortal sinner!
Grand Cross: The user charges an opponent, and does a slash through the enemy using the momentum. The user leaves a trail of light. The user then drops from the sky and does a slash that makes a light trail that intercepts the first trail. The trails make a cross, with the enemy in the center. The user, still dropping from the sky, stabs the enemy and the cross, causing an aura of light to rise and damage the enemy even more. 24 words.
Chant: Oh holy power, grant me your strength! Aid me in my battles, and help me to win over my enemy, no matter the adversary!

Other Skills:
Blacksmithing: Rank 2
First Aid: Rank 1
Cooking: Rank D
(Note: This is going by Mabinogi Rankings. F, D, C, B, A, then 9 to 1. F is the lowest, 1 is the highest.)

Extra:
Theme Song:Emiya- Guitar Version

So begins...

Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason)'s Story

Setting

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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INK

Username: The Voice of Treasons
Password: *********

Logging in.....

Asher inputted the mandatory words that would grant him access to his account. Right now, he is just logging in. Right now, he is in reality. Asher was relaxed, since he had gotten used to getting into the virtual world. However, he didn't know that the last breath of fresh, natural air he took... Would be his last one, for a long, long time.

"Dear players,
For a long time I have been watching over this game and enjoying the sight of people laughing and being happy in the world I have created. But then I noticed that some of you completely forgot about the real world. You turned your back on your families, friends and beloved ones. You used this game to escape from problems of real world and now it's time to teach you that ACO is not an escape.
I've returned all players to the starting point where you have no inventory, no money or skills. You have to start this game anew but this time it will be game of survival. In order to survive you have to work, eat proper food, watch out from illnesses which I have now added into game. It's just like real life except that you still have to fight monsters. None of you will be able to log out until at least one of you has beaten final boss. Just so you know there are total of 1000 bosses, one stronger then the other. Also please do not forget if you die in battle, starve too long, have been sick with strong disease you will die for real. I wish all players good luck!
Yours faithfully,
Kawakami Yoshihiro"


Asher could hear the game-master's words before he even fully entered the virtual realm of Antiva Chronus Online. Once he had finished logging in, he found himself not in the middle of a field surrounded by foxes and such. He was in Nova City, the square to be precise. Asher mentally chuckled. He can't do that... It's impossible. Why would he- Asher had brought up the game menu and slid his finger left on the holographic image. To his surprise, there was no log out button. Asher's eyes widened at the realization of the fact that the developer was actually serious. "You've gotta be shitting me..." Asher muttered. He flipped through the multiple menus again. His inventory was cleared out, his equipments were deleted, and his level and stats were reset to one. What was more serious is that Asher couldn't find a log out button in any of the menus.

Asher looked around his surroundings. Everyone was doing the same. He even saw a growing number of people breaking down in the midst of the crowd. This is not going to end well... Asher thought. His immediate reaction was to stop the situation from escalating, but this is too big of a crowd to do so. Asher may have authority over students, but nothing from the whole population of players. Asher quickly went through the crowd, pushing his way through even the most largest of players. He finally found a clearing and went out. "Crap..." The silver-haired sowrdsman sighed.

This was all too much, all too fast. Even for a mentally disciplined and strengthened martial artist such as himself, Asher was almost to the point of breaking down. Not only is his life at stake, but countless others as well. Asher, if this was the academy, would be able to take control and stop the wide-spread epidemic of fear, panic, and chaos. Even if he can't get to all of them at once, there would be the chance of him getting all of the people together and cooperate.

Not only that, but Asher won't see his family, his friends, not even his pet dog. Most importantly, Asher had a close friend in the academy named John. They were inseperable, and were like a couple, minus the complete love for the other. Then there was sensei... Asher grew fond of him as well. He should've never have bought the Insitus Gear, and now look at what's happening. Asher was ashamed that he didn't heed his senei's advice.

After a few minutes of trying to get himself together, Asher slowed his mind down and his heart rate to the norm. He won't let himself succumb to the panic and fear. His pride and his status of a black belt won't allow him. Asher pushed himself off the wall and looked around. The first thing he should do is buy a- "Wait... I have no money..." Asher facepalmed. Then, he looked around again.

There was a girl with the basic clothing and equipment. She too, was trying to calm herself down. Asher noticed her health bar had dropped dramatically, and it was climbing its way back to full. There must've been a stampede... Asher thought to himself. He brought himself to walk to the girl with much difficulty because his legs felt like Jell-O. "Damnit..." Asher cursed. Finally he got himself to the girl. "Are you alright?" Asher asked.

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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As players rushed about every which way, Canon stood stock still at their center, still grasping exactly what was happening. She was trapped, trapped in the very fantasy she had chosen for herself. And yet, everything that had made that dream wonderful had been snatched away. Her strength, her power, and now even her very safety. She had never wanted it to be like this. She hadn't wanted to live in such a frightening world if it meant actually facing danger. And yet now, she'd lost everything, and been forced into a reality even more frightful than the one she had abandoned. How... how had it turned out like this?

A sudden voice from close behind her attracted her attention. Although it was hard to tell who was speaking, or to whom, amidst the noise of the nearby crowd, this voice specifically reached her notice due to coming from right behind her, speaking words that seemed like they might conceivably be directed at her. Although she realized usually she'd probably be panicking about now, however, social interaction had rather suddenly become the least of her fears. Slowly she turned about, violet eyes wide with fear and disbelief. As she vaguely registered what had been said, she nodded her head slowly. She herself felt completely numb, a sort of shell-shock settling over her entire being as she recalled all the many ways in which she had died, and realized that any one of them could now be a permanent end to her life. But, due to the way in which the programming of the game caused it to read current emotions and translate that into an artificially generated facial expression, she probably looked even more overwhelmed by her fears than she felt, as the system tended to overcompensate in that regard.

"I'm alive..." She replied quietly. "But... for how long?" She asked, as though the one who had hailed her would somehow be able to tell her the future. Actually, she probably looked like she was about to cry about now, but she was too frightened to care. How was she supposed to take this? How was she supposed to cope with the fact that her only remaining fantasy had just been turned into the means of her own execution? She had just wanted to be strong, but now... now she was even more helpless than before. She had to run away, had to escape. She was scared, something she'd never once wanted to be, not again.

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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The girl slowly turned around. She obviously showed tears and fears in her eyes. It isn't surprising since thousands of people's fates depend on a simple game, on whether or not the people can beat the final boss, or die and get a permenant Game Over.

"I'm alive..." She replied quietly. "But... for how long?" Asher knelt down to the girl and whispered. "It'll be alright... If we can get through this, you won't ever die by this game..." He patted the girl's head, smiling. "Look, I know you are frightened, but the last thing you want is for fear, sadness, and madness to take over your mind. I want you to keep calm, okay?" Asher smiled brightly, hoping to give the poor girl some hope.

He looked around. The whole crowd had dispersed. The players obviously had rushed to ever other city and/or fields so they can train and get supplies. The more the two players stayed in Nova city, the more likely they won't be able to survive. Unless, of course, all the players had rushed into all the other cities and left Nova City alone. Asher smirked at the thought. That means that we are in the safe zone... for now, at least. Asher thought. We might have food, shelter, and medicine if the maker was at least merciful to give us that to counter the new diseases...

Asher looked back to the girl. "My name is Asher... What is yours?" He asked. "And you don't have to worry. Everyone else rushed out too fast to get all the supplies in this city, so we have the advantage, for now. It might not be much, but it's at least something." There was his smile again.

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon Character Portrait: Yoshitsune Shineda(AtoobuuO)
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Canon watched blankly as the one who approached her began to speak quietly. He leaned down, being at least a head taller than herself - although he looked about the same age as her, both her ingame body, and the real body the thought of which brought only a sense of longing and regret - and, placing a hand gently on her head, he whispered comforting words in her ear. And yet, the silver haired former warrior realized, she almost couldn't hear him over the screams of the crowd as fighting broke out, many people blaming others for their misfortune. Canon cringed as some of her would-be comforter's kind words were almost entirely drowned out by some angry shouting nearby that hit far too close to home. It served her right, huh...? The tears that were threatening to fall gained strength, but, mustering that courage which she still had left in her, she managed to blink them back.

"A-alright..." She murmured, nodding as the boy commanded her to remain calm. That, however, was easier said than done, considering the situation they were in. Still, she tried to take heart. This couldn't happen... right? Somebody would stop it. Maybe somebody would notice that something was wrong? Maybe the moderators would be able to log everyone out safely? But... wait... With the time compression feature, how long would that take? Probably at least a month. If she waited around for that long, she'd starve to death, not to mention be left behind by the more fearless players. She'd be in danger because she'd be weaker than everyone else. Even if this wasn't a game anymore, she could still become at least a little strong... right? But, to do that... She'd have to risk her life, and she was scared. She didn't want to fight when it meant she'd actually die in the end if she lost. But... did she have a choice?

Realizing what the boy had just said, the girl in vermillion blinked. Asher...? But his nameplate said "The Voice of Treason," an ominous name if she'd ever heard one. Did that mean he was introducing himself by his name in the real world? That wasn't something she'd ever heard of anyone doing before. Generally, speaking of real world affairs inside a game like this was just something you didn't do. This world was virtual, just an extension of an internet connection. Reality was something you were supposed to just leave at the door. Well, she supposed things might have changed due to the circumstances they were suddenly in, but still, there was a nagging, paranoid fear that she shouldn't respond with her real name. What if he knew her in real life, somehow? What if he went to her school? She didn't want to think about it, but she also didn't want to risk it, slight though the chance may have been. "I..." She stammered, before settling on a response. "J-just call me by my username. I-it's Canon." The boy didn't seem to mind this, as he just continued to speak.

Canon, and the mind that controlled her, was always too scared to accept the help of others. But now, she had something much greater to be afraid of. And so, as the boy stated his plan, for once, Canon spoke without hesitation, wiping the last tears from her eyes and nodding slightly, trying to show that she was okay. It was remarkable how quickly her mood turned around, and yet, reverse it did. Years of experience in game were made manifest as she quickly offered her own idea, her tongue loosened by the nessecity of haste for her own continued survival.

"Quests," She said quietly. This might not have made sense for a moment, until she elaborated. "Everyone else will probably start trying to find quests. They're a fast, and mostly safe way of making money here in the starting area. To complete most of them, you don't have to fight, and for those you do, you get good rewards, like weapons or armor. But since they only happen a given number of times, they'll all be gone within a day, and new quests won't come out for a while. We'll need money to buy food, right...? If we start doing quests here while everyone else either panics or moves to other cities, we might be able to survive, even though the mobs in this area will probably be farmed clean." She stopped a moment, taking a breath and thinking back to her own time as a beginning, trying to come up with a plan that would work and be safe enough to be viable now. Quickly, however, an idea struck her, and she spoke up again. "A-actually, I know a quest that might work. If we go into the sewers, there's a knight who'll tell us to fight a group of kobolds down there. They're level 2s, but they have low defense and HP. With two people, it won't be a problem, and the reward is enough XP to level us up at least twice, and a rare-class single-edge falchion that holds up until level ten with the right upgrades," She explained. Honestly, Canon didn't know what she was saying anymore. The idea of fighting any enemies now, even ones she was sure she could beat, was absolutely terrifying to her. And yet, she realized, this was an MMORPG, even if it wasn't a game anymore. The only way to survive was to grow strong, and the only way to grow strong was to fight. If she wanted to live, she had to fight. She knew that, and would just have to act on that knowledge. That did not mean, however, that she wasn't still clearly quite scared.

"H-how about you?" She asked. A stammer worked its way into her voice as she remembered that she was talking to someone else, and she realized exactly how awkward she was bound to be. It was only made worse when she remembered that just a moment ago, he'd been only inches away from her, whispering in her ear. And he was even a boy, around her own age... Canon blushed furiously, quite noticeable for the same reason her tears had been. Trying to divert her mind from the embarrassing thoughts she was beginning to have, she quickly spoke up. Fortunately, she already had been intending to ask this question, so it came out fairly naturally, although there was still a bit of a stutter in her voice, and her eyes began to quickly avert themselves from the boy's face.

"D-do you know any good quests?" She asked, gazing shyly down at her feet as she kicked a pebble that she'd probably just imagined, trying to forget the fact that there had just been a member of the opposite gender so close to her - her, of all people! That was unusual enough, in her experience, to actually momentarily allow her to forget her previous fears, although they still lingered at the back of her mind. This was probably for the best as, had she continued thinking about her situation, she very well might have broken down completely. Living in the moment was, perhaps, the only thing keeping her from absolute despair, and probable death afterward.

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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"Hm... That IS a good quest..." Asher pondered a bit on what quest to respond. Then he snapped his fingers. "Right! There was these series of quests... The developer didn't want the old classics to be lost, so he made a series of quests that make up a play about Hamlet, by Shakespeare. They are pretty long, and there are even quests within the quests, so that'll be even more experience and items. We get free potions and such, and sometimes we even get good armor. However, few rarely pay attention to this, and ignored the quest. They missed out on a lot of EXP and items to get. If you finish the series of quests, you also obtain the Sword of Elinsore, the sword Hamlet is known to use during the play. It might be a little tedious, but it'll level us up at least 5 times, and we'd stock up on items quickly." Asher explained.

"Luckily for us, they take place in a hidden theatre in this city. So while people struggle to kill the wild animals, we would take a short cut and beat them all to level 7, at least." Asher smiled. "I also know a few other hidden quests, ones that require a low-level character, such as ourselves. The developer incorperated a lot of cameos in this game. I know quite a few that are rewarding."

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Character Portrait: Asher Damons (a.k.a. The Voice of Treason) Character Portrait: Canon
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"O-oh," Canon said quietly, nodding and lapsing into silence as the boy elaborated on his idea. Listening to it put like that, it sounded like a much more viable plan than her little suggestion. She hadn't ever heard of the quest, but it seemed much safer, not to mention more rewarding. And, although she had been confident in her own abilities in the past, all of that had changed now. She wasn't sure she could ever face down a slime, or perhaps a particularly intimidating badger, let alone fight kobolds, even weak ones. With her life on the line, how was she supposed to continue treating this like a game, even when she knew the only way to survive was to live like you would inside an MMO?

"T-that sounds... a lot more practical. B-but... um... Is there any fighting?" She asked, hating herself even more when she heard the fear that was evident in her own voice. He must have thought she was pathetic. He wasn't scared of anything. He probably could have survived perfectly well on his own. And yet, he'd stopped because he'd seen her, and decided to bother himself with helping her. All she would be to him was a problem if she kept acting like this. She might even end up dooming him, dragging him down into miserable failure along with herself. Thinking about it like that, she couldn't help but feel crushed by her own comparative inadequacy when stood up against her seemingly fearless benefactor. So, on a momentary surge of guilt, she decided she'd at least pretend to be courageous, and so hastily added to her previous comment.

"A-anyway, just in case somebody knows about it, we should go and do it right away. That way, we can start leveling up, and maybe we'll have a chance to get through this."

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Asher nodded. "Alright then." He turned around and started walking, slowing down only if needed so Canon could catch up. He made a few twists and turns, sometimes looking back to see if the new friend is still in sight. Eventually, he got to a door... Of an abnormally small house. "This is the place. It may look small, but wait until you get inside." Asher smiled warmly. He liked the girl. She was cute, and not really fool-hardy, like a lot of people back in the martial arts academy.

"The quest starts once we get to the bottom of the steps, with a person named Marlowe coming up to us and asking us if we can fill in the missing roles. Depending on the character, you may need to do more fighting. Plus, there's a person who tries to sabotage the plays, so we need to fight no matter what." Asher explained as he opened the door to reveal a long stairway. "But don't worry, though. He's low-leveled, and has extremely weak skills."

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Canon nodded quietly, not wanting to seem reluctant despite the fear she felt at knowing that she'd have to risk her life, even in carrying out the "safest" course of leveling up. But, there was no choice. She couldn't just stay and starve. It was either risk death, or die for sure. And so, although she felt no less cowardly for doing it, she silently agreed to the boy's plan and quickly set about following him. His stride was far longer than her own, and without her usual absurdly high Speed stat, Canon found it hard to keep up with him as he swiftly circumvented the large crowds left over from the first announcement. She ended up jogging along behind him, trying to keep as close as possible so as not to lose sight of her guide and end up lost, as she realized now that she had forgotten to add him as a friend. It made sense that she'd overlook this option, now that she thought about it. Her friends list had always been as empty as it was today, never once having been used. It probably would have stayed that way, too, if this boy hadn't approached her. As it was, though, she didn't have time to open the menu, or she'd lose him. Too shy to ask him to wait or slow down, she just did her best to match his pace, not wanting to burden him with her own ineptitude.

At last, they reached their destination. A small house stood before them, but, entering, the boy - was it alright to think of him as Asher? He'd given her his name, but it was always thought of as being rude to identify people as their real world selves here in ACO - began to lead her toward the quest point, explaining how things would go. She tried to memorize the information she was given, and quickly nodded, simply following behind him as they came to the stairway where the quest would begin. And, although it didn't seem like much, Canon realized that standing her symbolized something that would come to define her existence for so long as she remained in this world. She was facing her fears, not out of a sense of bravery, but because she had no other choice. By risking herself here, even if the threat wasn't great, she was accepting that fighting for her survival was the only path she could now tread. And, what was more, she was also submitting to the reality that she wasn't Canon, the strong and fearless warrior who never had to face danger. She was herself, a weak, cowardly girl who was fighting just so she could continue to live, because that was literally all she could do. Realizing this, on the spur of the moment, she spoke up quietly from the boy's side, even as footsteps made themselves heard from the top of the stairs.

"K-Kanna," She said quietly, giving a shy smile as the system overstated her reluctance and embarrassment at revealing this information at long last by displaying a soft red blush across her features.

"My name. It's... Kanna."

Canon - or rather, Kanna Suzaku - had accepted her fate.

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"Oh yeah, I forgot to mention." Asher said. "The quest can be done in parties. If we go as we are now, the quest will start individually for us. So we need to be in a party. And don't worry about food, since the 'staff' will take care of the 'actors.'" Asher then opened the menu. He split the menu into two, so he can manage two tasks inside the menu. One of them was the party. Asher made a password, in case someone noticed them and tried to feed off of the two.

Party name: Hamlet's Anguish
Password: Avon

The other menu showed his friends list. While Asher had searched for his students from the academy, Asher didn't make any friends. He had gone solo so far. However, now was the time to start adding people to the friends list.

Name: Canon
Message: Hey. If you want, we can be friends and keep in touch. If not, that's alright. We're going to need to stay together in this, no matter what happens. This isn't a game anymore, which saddens me. I wish I could've met you under different circumstances than this.

~Asher

P.S. The password is Avon.


Asher tapped send, and let the messages go through. He nearly reached the bottom step until Cannon said her name. "Kanna... My name... It's Kanna." She blushed. Asher smiled. "Alright Kanna... Let's go through this together. We'll need all the effort we have to complete this." Asher said. He waited for her reply, vocally and in the party requests.

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Watching as several semi-transparent windows appeared in front of her, Canon smiled in a manner that conveyed many different feelings. The usual blush remained painted across her face, and the tentative, fearful light had never once left her eyes from the moment she had met Asher. Her smile was nervous, uncertain, and shy. It was a small expression, as though she was uncertain of what mood she should be expressing. On the one hand, she was obviously scared, and, moreover, out of her comfort zone. It was fairly obvious, just looking at her, that she'd never really interacted with anyone else ingame like this, and, moreover, her countenance hinted at her lack of companionship in the real world as well. But, on the other hand, her smile was clearly exactly that: a smile. Above all else, it showed relief and joy, and why should it not? It might not have seemed like much to her newfound comrade, and he likely hadn't even guessed it, but he was the very first person in this world - and perhaps the first person at all - to ever reach out to her. It showed to her that he didn't think she was a burden, and, because of that, it sparked her will not to prove him wrong. And, what was more, it let her know that, even in this frightening world, she was not alone. And to her, scared and solitary, that was exactly what she needed.

In an instant, she'd accepted his friend request, read his message, and joined the party using the password he had given her. Giving another of her rare smiles, she spoke up as best she could.

"T-thanks," She said, unsure of how to proceed, but deciding on the first course that seemed reasonable to her. She spoke in a somewhat formal manner that showed all too plainly that she wasn't good at this sort of conversation, but, she hoped, the earnest intent she'd put behind the remark would go through.

"I guess I'm in your care... then. I'll try... not to let you down."

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The northernmost foothills of the Ice Mountains, just south of Alias, were a place where few of the current players of ACO actually went. With most of the resources in the area hoarded by powerful monsters, and the average mob level on par with the most powerful players, it simply wasn't worth braving the hoards of roving alpine minotaurs in the hopes of actually making it into one of the many den areas and possibly getting rich off of the semi-rare materials hoarded by a field boss, which, although not as powerful as the dungeon bosses that hadn't yet been located, were still named creatures with several powerful sword skills.

Naturally, the two figures currently carving a swath of destruction through the enemies guarding a low-lying cave were exceptions to this general rule. This particular cave, set in a large hill overlooking Alias, was a quest instance, which was both good and bad. On the one hand, monsters from the outside and players not in the party currently doing the quest couldn't enter, making it safe from ninja looters and player killers, either those who would attack the party directly, or those who would lure large groups of monsters to kill their targets, then use stealth to escape the aggro range and steal the party's valuables after they were dead. Plus, the loot inside a quest instance was generally much better than the random drops outside, and the quest in question - Warrior King's Revenge, where an undead tyrant who had been sealed away in the mountain had awakened and was wrecking havoc with an army of undead minotaurs - gave several excellent rewards in the form of rare gear from the dead king's treasury. But, on the downside, the quest monsters - the level 25 <<Corrupted Minotaur>> and the field boss, the level 26 <<Fallen King Acheron>> were much more dangerous than the mobs outside, even to a full group of players. The event, once it had begun, had been attempted by a party of five decently equipped level 23 players from the up and coming guild <<Kings of the Iron Mountain,>> who had essentially claimed ownership of the town of Ancra through sheer numbers. However, after two of their members had been killed by the boss after an unexpected style change, they had retreated and, giving up on attempting the quest, had sold the information - which, due to having changed since the original game, was known only by their group - on how to begin it to the first party who offered. They'd scoffed at the two lightly armored individuals who had purchased it from them in exchange for some heavy armor, saying that they'd never make it, but it hadn't really seemed to deter them.

......

Ever since the beginning of the game, Canon and her partner had been working together to survive. At first, Asher had done almost all of the fighting, and his frightened charge had been relegated to the role of support. Taking up cooking, appraisal, and crafting skills and other such abilities as opposed to tracking or scanning and the more active skills she might have used, she had been in charge of the two's budget, dealing with equipment purchases, keeping track of loot, and, eventually, with cooking food and creating high-end healing potions and crystals from raw materials looted in the field to save money in that department. Although her attempts at blacksmithing, the newest trade she'd tried her hand at, had yet to produce any rare-grade results, she was steadily improving, and had managed to actually make a profit on a few of her more recent creations. Still, she was much more successful in the field of alchemy, running a small, traveling business wherever the two went and selling potions to raiding parties to keep the buyers alive, and the two partners well-stocked with coin.

Over the time they'd worked together, Canon had remained rather distant and uncertain when it came to interaction. Admittedly, she wasn't quite sure how to speak to her partner, and because of that, had generally just followed his lead without question, never really asking him about himself for fear of being rude, and never opening up to him unless pressed on the matter for the same reason. She wasn't good at social interaction, and it showed all too plainly. Still, he remained patient with her, and, as time went on, she found herself becoming more and more used to her new way of living. Awakening in a tent or a small inn room with a boy sleeping near to her had been rather embarrassing and tense for her, for a while, and the mere thought of fighting had been a constant, nagging fear. But, as time went on, defending herself from monsters and completing quests, even dangerous ones, began to become second nature to her. She trusted in her companion, even if she wasn't quite sure how to deal with him, and when he was there to watch the front, she guarded his back courageously.

Unusually enough, considering her usual frightened demeanor and dislike for fighting - although she'd improved considerably since she had first fought alongside The Voice of Treason, her partner, better known to her as her first and only friend, Asher - Canon had actually been the one to suggest taking this quest, for reasons she didn't speak of. It was, however, evidently quite important to her. In truth, it was because of one of the rewards for the quest. Or rather, a pair of rewards: a matching set of unique, evolving blades which she had wielded once in the game before it had reset. These two swords were known as Tempest and Gale, and their acquisition had been one of the prerequisites of obtaining her old Unique Skill.

Having recovered some of her old abilities - almost all of her favorite Intermediate and Basic spells were once more in her arsenal, and her smithing, digging, alchemy, herblore, and cooking skills had all been decently leveled during the four months she'd been trapped ingame - and some decent gear - the Sword of Elinsore, now bearing several speed and piercing enchantments from a few wind elemental gems, made for a tremendously effective weapon despite its low level, and she had obtained an enchanted scarlet mantle known as the Wind Raiment that, although it only gave decent protection for its level, was very light, and gave vast speed increases for its grade. With these, as well as pair of boomerang-like dao that would always return when thrown, making them more efficient than throwing picks, and a stockpile of high-quality healing potions and crystals, Canon had felt confident enough to attempt the quest despite the vast numbers of enemies she - no, they - would be facing. True, she was only a level 21, four levels below even the monsters in this cavern, but still, she remained resolute. Perhaps it was naive, stupid, or selfish, but a part of her somehow wanted to be as strong as she had been, once, but for real this time.

And so, she, who had been scared of everything, fought without fear.

.....

Stabbing upward with the rippling blade of the Sword of Elinsore, Canon plunged her weapon clean through the enemy's side, then darted sharply to the left, dragging the blade out of her enemy and pivoting as Sylphae Step's buff effect timed out, having lasted just long enough for her to get in close. The <<Corrupted Minotaur>> gave a cry of pain and staggered backward as its HP lowered to near half. Its eyes gleamed crimson within its skeletal head as it went into a berserker rage, increasing its power and speed once its health lowered into its second bar. Its wicked, clawed hand gleamed scarlet as it slashed upward with a single hit bleeding-type skill, only to stumble forward, cutting only empty air as its nimble adversary avoided it, twisting her blade horizontally into the second hit of her own Sword Skill, <<Whirlwind Piercer>>, a five hit combo beginning with a lunge, then following up with a slash from behind, and ending with an overhead flip that dealt three lightning fast stabs to the enemy's eye, throat, and heart, striking a triple critical hit for massive damage if all three attacks connected. The first stab caused bleeding condition and a two-second stun effect, and the slash from behind dealt crippling, so if the first blow struck, the combo was almost sure to be successful. And, with Canon's massively high agility and dexterity stats, she moved fast enough and had a high enough critical hit modifier to deal quite considerable damage with a single usage of this skill. The minotaur screamed again as the second hit connected, a flashing red scar appearing across its back and its HP dropping down into the red as the vermillion-clad warrior leaped into the air, the three lunges that followed almost simultaneous as they struck with pinpoint accuracy. The minotaur screamed, then exploded into countless blue pixels.

Landing beside her comrade as he eliminated his own enemy, Canon entered a ready stance without missing a beat. Several dark shapes were emerging from the caves below, but they were of no consequence. The tunnel they stood in was narrow, with no side passages to speak of. The enemies would have to come in small numbers, making them easy to deal with.

"I'll draw aggro from the first wave," Canon said quickly, immediately drawing up a plan for the situation as her instincts as a veteran player took hold, driving fear back to the corners of her mind. "I can hit them with a spell and get their attention while you chant yours and finish them off." She didn't wait for an answer, instead beginning to chant rapidly, activating her most powerful - and only - offensive spell, one which had the necessary spread to actually do the job.

"Pierce through without fail! Sylphae Arrow!" Leaping forward, Canon raised her free hand as a faint madder red light surrounded her outstretched arm. In the next instant, with a quiet hiss, this light condensed itself into twenty small lances of power, then fired itself forward, spreading across the entire column of advancing enemies. The minotaurs roared as they each sustained damage, and began crowding forward. At the same time, Canon stepped slightly away from Asher, raising her blade as the enemies began their attack.

"Shield me, Sylphae Ward!" She called, casting another spell as a vermillion ring took shape in front of her. The first minotaurs to attack found their skills redirected, sending them stumbling back into their comrades. They were all clustered together, now. As the shield fell apart, Canon gave the signal.

"Switch!" She cried.

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The young man in the green cloak flipped midair and did his Windmill Skill at several airbourne enemies at once, killing them. Suddenly, a white dire wolf launched itself behind him. Asher took his Longsword and, using the Ghost Wolf's motion, slammed the blunt side of the blade at the wolf's body.

"Tempest!" Asher called out, and did the skill Tempest, killing the wolf. There were a lot of enemies in this fight, but none too difficult. After all, the last four months-in his persepective- was spent on training his avatar to become stronger and faster. Asher also had the help of Kanna, another player stuck in the game like he. The Voice of Treason lept back and stood at the side of his partner. In front of them was a tactical advantage for the two. The tunnel is too small, therefore any group of enemies that came out would have to be in small numbers. All Asher and Kanna have to do is barrage the groups, making them fall one by one.

"I'll draw aggro from the first wave." Kanna said. "I can hit them with a spell and get their attention while you chant yours and finish them off." Asher nodded, and the girl chanted the words to a spell in a rapid pace. "Pierce through without fail! Sylphae Arrow!" The girl shouted out, and she did her spell. Several Minotaurs raored in pain, and rushed through even faster.

Meanwhile, Asher started to chant as well, his sword up in guard in case an enemy should find itself near the martial artist. "May hell rise up and take you..."
"Shield me, Sylphae Ward!" Kanna chanted again, this time a defensive spell to ward off the attacks a little longer. As soon as the shield broke, she shouted "Switch!"
Asher pointed the sword at the ground, shouting "Erupton!" Suddenly, the ground gave way to the mini volcano, which in turn incinerated the wave of enemies in front of the two. For good luck, Asher chanted again, right after the first spell was launched. "Rain frigid wrath upon thy enemy!" Another wave of minotauros can be heard through the tunnel. Asher pointed his sword in the direction of the sounds. "Icicle Rain!" Instead of the small orb appearing high above the enemy, it appeared at the tip of Asher's sword. Icicles flew out of it and into the tunnel, shooting out in various directions. Some broke in contact with the wall. Others found their mark, damaging the enemies before they even come into view.

Asher smirked. "What now, Kanna?"

(OOC:Tagged someone else... That's the second time this week... -facepalm- Disregard Kahlan's tag.
SECONDLY: i PUT IT IN CHAPTER ONE! THIS SHOULD BE IN CHAPTER 2!)

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Leaping back on her own signal, Canon watched as the <<Corrupted Minotaurs>> were stopped in their tracks by a storm of magic that ripped through the tunnel, incinerating the first group and mowing down the second. Although very fast and strong, they only had a limited arsenal of skills, and their HP and armor ratings were both low for their level. Their strength was in their numbers, but, using choke points in the cave, the two could cut right through them. With the enemies at the entrance eliminated, of course, the answer to Asher's next question was obvious.

"We go in. There should be two more waves before the field boss, and the second wave is in a wide antechamber before the boss' throne room, so we'll need to either take them back to back, or lure them back to the entrance way. At least, that's what the last party said," Canon replied somewhat stiffly, consulting a small status window on which was displayed the notes she'd written before they began the raid. "Also, there might be sidepassages with some treasure in them. I did this quest before the reset, and there were then, anyway, but a lot of things have changed since when. I expect there are traps, so we should run an appraisal and detect check of the area before we enter." Pointing forward, she dismissed the window and, keeping her sword ready to defend herself, began to move forward.

"Take the left side of the tunnel. I'll take the right. Those passages I mentioned before might contain enemies lying in wait, as well, so keep your eyes on your wall. The Minotaurs get an automatic critical hit, which doubles their bleeding DoT if they strike with both hands, and if they jump you, you might not have time to dodge before they inflict enough damage to kill you before you can use a healing item."

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Asher smiled. "Yes ma'am... I wonder what happened to that little shy girl I found back in the square, before I took her in and let her join in that Hamlet quest? It's been a long time since I saw her." He complimented on how far Kanna had gone in her confidence, and draw his sword. "We really can't trust that group of players. They can betray us at any moment. I don't believe what they said..." Asher added, his face turning serious. He followed Kanna's commands and went into the tunnel, in the left side.

Asher thought about a strategy for a moment, then said "I have an idea... If the passages do contain enemies, shout. If that'll get the attention of more enemies, especially minotaurs, we retreat a little, then injure the monsters in front to slow them down. If I can, I can cast a spell in the rear of the group to immobilize the rear enemies, then decimate the group from the inside by casting spells aimed toward the center. Without any room to step aside and with their own allies blocking the 'charge' and 'retreat' options, they'll be stuck there. Not unless the AI is that ruthless to force the enemies to trample on their own allies." Asher explained. "Do you think that'll work? They need to be able to be injured in the legs and slow down from the injuries for this plan to work." Asher walked slowly and cautiously, not making a sound at all so the enemies in any hidden passages wouldn't aggro him.

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(VERDAMMNT! Now I'm posting in Chapter 1 too. T_T Sorry! I accidentally hit enter before I could change it.)

Canon flushed slightly, gazing down at the ground as her partner spoke jokingly of her usual demeanor. Really, she hadn't actually changed all that much, when one thought about it. She was just as awkward as ever, and each time she spoke she feared she'd done something horribly wrong. But, in battle, things were different. She had to fight, couldn't afford to be a burden here. If she wasn't competent enough, their lives would be at stake. Because of that, she actually found it a little easier to do what she had to, simply because she knew that it was necessary.

Nodding slightly as her ally proposed his plan, Canon agreed wordlessly, not wanting to risk aggro-ing additional enemies before they had to. Knowing the programming of the enemies they were facing, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy. Of course, only time would tell if it worked. Yet, it didn't seem like there were any side-passages yet. Maybe... deeper in? A loud scurrying of hooves coming up the passage snapped Canon to attention just in time to see another group of minotaurs coming around the corner.

"More ahead! But... it's not a wave...?" Canon said, calling her comrade's attention to the enemies ahead. There wasn't time to say anything more, however, for in the next instant, the group was upon them. Canon counted seven - she thought - before the minotaurs reached them, and she was forced to sidestep one's charge attack, only to be forced to block the claw strokes of another, sending her skidding backward as her health bar decreased slightly. Canon grimaced as the first minotaur circled back around, coming in from the side, but this time, she stood her ground. With an angry roar, the beast activated a slash skill, stepping forward and bringing down its claws, only for them to be turned aside by a well executed parry, forcing its arm aside as Canon came about, both hands on her blade as she plunged it forward in a well-practiced, high-speed Sword Skill known as <<Triple Thrust.>> Striking at the target's body three times in quick succession, the attack dealt decent damage - she got a critical, reducing the beast's hitpoints to half - and inflicted knockback as well as a momentary stun. As the enemy fell backward, Canon had already prepared to deal with it before it could go berserk. Summoning her black dao sword from her throwing weapon slot, she swiftly hurled it directly into the target. Cutting across the minotaur's throat, it dealt a critical hit thanks to her high throwing skill, killing the creature instantly and cycling back to her hand, where it disappeared into her inventory the moment she caught it. At the same time, however, she was forced to sidestep, as the second minotaur tried to grapple her. This wasn't good. She was getting cut off from Asher.

"They're cutting between us!" She called out over the howls of the minotaurs. "Watch your right side!" Darting back, Canon was forced to take up a position with her back against the wall. And, while that at least meant she wouldn't have to worry about attacks from behind, she was getting pressed by at least three enemies now all vying to get a shot at her. Just a few direct hits and she'd be dead for sure... The old fear simmered up within her, unbidden, and try as she might to dismiss it, she couldn't help but feel afraid. This was real battle. She was fighting for her life...

She had to get back to Asher's side. They could handle this better together. Bracing herself, she began to gauge the enemies in front of her. The lead minotaur lowered itself, a sign that it was about to do a charge attack. With no room to dodge, it was either move first, or be crushed. And so, darting forward, she stabbed upward between its spread arms, then sidestepped and cut along its side, once more utilizing <<Whirlwind Piercer,>> this time leaping over the enemy's head from the front and striking at the back of its head and throat. The minotaur screamed and it, too, shattered into countless pixels as, breathing heavily, Canon landed by the side of her partner. She didn't know how many he'd taken down, but there were still a few left. Stepping in close to him, she stood back to back with him. No words were needed to understand the agreement that passed from Canon to The Voice of Treason at that moment.

I'll protect you. Please protect me.

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"Tch!" Asher jumped back as a group of minotaurs had arrived to fill in for the first group. There were seven minotaurs, Asher thought. And they managed to seperate me from Kanna. The AI got smarter... He smirked, then jumped as a minotaur tried to horizonally slash him. As soon as Asher jumped, he did one of his newer skills, Heavenly Tempest. He slashed at the attacking minotaur's face a few times, then did the Tempest part of the skill, only in a back flip to knock it back.

Before Asher landed, Asher had already chanted, saying words in rapid succession. "Rain down frigid wrath upon thy enemy!" Asher pointed his sword above the injured minotaur. "Icicle Rain!" The small orb appeared once again and multiple icicles flew out of it and into the minotaur, killing it instantly.

Asher alreay chanted another spell. "The silent breeze will cut you down! Wind Blade!" Suddenly, a strong breeze went by, and it moved like a sword, targetting another minotaur. Asher ran to that minotaur and sliced it, further decreasing the health bar. "Tempest!" Asher shouted out, and spun vertically and sliced open the minotaur's chest many times. The health bar went to zero, and the minotaur broke down into pixels.

Suddenly, Kanna landed behind Asher, and they stood back to back facing the last three minotaurs surrounding them. They both thought the same thing. I'll protect you. Please protect me. It was like the two was in sync, and they were practically one mind in two bodies. "Hey... Remember that Icicle Rain I fired into the tunnel before we entered? They got this group... I see one or two injured from the attack..." Asher whispered, smiling.

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"This must be part of the first wave, then. You probably inflicted frost bite-" Canon's reply was cut short by a howl as a berserk minotaur rushed forward, clawing at her head, only for her to duck under the attack and execute a high-powered single hit skill, <<Reverse Piercing.>> Tucking her blade under her arm, she spun beneath the enemy's attack and stabbed clean through its gut, dealing, as she usually did, a gratuitous amount of armor piercing damage. The enemy staggered back, then shattered into countless tiny lights. Canon rose, sweeping off her sword as the next minotaur came on.

"-before they could reach us, slowing them down," Canon finished, only to be cut off again by the next enemy's attack. Darting to the side, she avoided a flurry of clawstrokes, then slashed upward with her sword still held backhanded from the last attack. The blade flashed scarlet as a Sword Skill, activated, one of her higher end abilities, known as <<Reverse Tempest.>> Cutting upward across the beast's arm, her blade was turned aside from the minotaur's vitals, but she shifted instantly into a lunge, placing her off hand on the back of the hilt to dive it forward, stabbing directly through the creature's shoulder, then pivoting to the side and spinning beneath its back hand as it angrily lashed out, only to cut empty air. Ducking into a crouch, she then rose up, slashing with one hand held backhanded, but the other held forward. Cutting across the beast's back, she abruptly transitioned into a front-hand strike, using her own momentum to come around, swiping her blade once more across it from behind, creating a scarlet X of gleaming particles across its back. Finishing this cut, she then reversed her blade's movement one final time, stepping forward and raising it with both hands for the final hit of the combo. Striking near the beast's midsection, she bisected the previous X of cuts perfectly, and the minotaur's health bar, too, was cut in half. Stumbling forward, the creature's fortunes only got worse, for now it was right in the path of Asher's sword, ready for him to finish it off.

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"Ah... That must be why..." Asher was interupted by a minotaur, who had charged at the martial artist, its sword brandishing high above its head. Asher ducked down and intercepted the attack, stabbing the minotaur straight into the stomach. The minotaur froze in place because of the shock, and Asher took the chance and used Dropkick on his sword, sending it and the minotaur to the wall. The minotaur shattered when it landed on Asher's sword again. "this group didn't get here along with the first wave." Asher finished.

Asher saw Kanna kill a minotaur and send and injured one near Asher. Asher smiled and did the skill Devil Lance, kicking his sword in the center of the X, which registered as a critical hit. The minotuar's health is now at one-fourth the maximum. Asher grabbed the sword that was stuck in the minotaur's back, and did Tempest, brutally pulling the sword out of the wound and slicing the area where a third line cut through the X-shaped wound. The minotaur roared its last and shattered as it fell forward. Asher landed and sheathed his sword. "Nice moves, Kanna." Asher smiled. "Remind me to spar with you when we are done with this quest."

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Canon smiled, flushing slightly at the compliment as the last enemy disappeared. Really, her Sword Skills weren't all that impressive. Although she had quite a few multi-hit abilities she'd already learned, she was far outstripped in magic by her partner. They were a fairly balanced set, and on about the same level. Actually, when it came to levels, he was higher than her, and thus had better stats. Her own build was entirely focused on agility and critical hitting, which meant her strength was necessarily lower than his own.

Trying in vain to hide the blush on her face - it wasn't like he didn't see her blushing all the time, but it still seemed a little awkward to show that she was embarrassed - she gave a quiet "Thank you, but..." then trailed off, quickly looking down into her inventory screen in a search for a health potion, an action that kept her occupied until the system stopped registering her shame, and her blush faded. Withdrawing the small vial, she opened its top and drank it quickly, causing her health bar to quickly crawl back up from just above the yellow zone back to full. She, being the carrier of most non-instant acting healing items, swiftly produced a second potion from her items list, causing it to appear in a small flash of pixels in her hand. Shyly offering it to her partner, who had fared somewhat better than her, but still might have a use for it, she gave a slight smile.

"Here. Even if it's overkill, I have plenty more, and we should keep at 100% in case we get ambushed. Besides, potions are much less expensive than healing crystals later, so we should use them first, and they're not much use in a fight."

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Asher smiled as Kanna offered the health potion. "Thanks..." He said, and drank it. His health bar, which he kept on red so his passive skill Endangered Threat would raise his attack and magic attack stats, filled back up to full. However, this came at the price of his strengths lowerering. The vial that used to contain the health potion disintegrated into pixels once Asher was done drinking it.

He looked into the darkness of the tunnel, then looked back to Kanna. "So, we go in with our strategy?" Asher asked. "We draw hidden enemies out then immobilize the ones in the front and rear?" Before Kanna responded, however, Asher saw what appeared to be a very unique weapon. He walked to it out of curiousity and saw it was a sheathe. Asher smiled as he picked up the Blade Sheathe and weighted it. "This would be useful..." Asher muttered. Before the reset, Asher fought with a sword and sheathe in hand, and was a master at it. This sheathe was practically the same exact one that Asher had with him. After all, Asher didn't get THAT far into the game, and his skills in fighting came from martial arts classes and kendo classes.

The sheathe digitalized and disappeared as it was put into Asher's inventory. Now that Asher has a sheathe to support his sword fighting skill, Asher can fight even better, at the cost of being able to actually punch, however. "Alright, I'm done. Sorry for the wait; I got a new weapon that needed a skill I had before the reset. I just need to relearn that skill and I'm good." Asher explained.

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Canon nodded, smiling as Asher explained what had just happened. So, it looked like he had a personal skill of his own back when this was a game, as well. Come to think of it, she'd never told him why she was so dead set on coming here. Maybe since he'd shared that information, she should have replied by doing the same... She decided to take this course of action, but there wasn't much time, so she thankfully had an excuse to keep it quick.

"A-actually, the reason why I wanted to come here was because of some swords that drop at the end of the quest. They're a prerequisite for a Unique Skill I used to use, so..." She trailed off, then quickly picked back up again, deciding to change the subject. "Anyway, we should get going. Same strategy." With this, she once more assumed a ready stance, and began to advance into the cave.

There didn't seem to be any side passages yet, as she had expected. Loot chambers would probably only be deeper in, making them harder to reach - or perhaps to escape from, if they contained traps like she expected - to keep wandering players from just exhausting the cavern easily. It was never easy to simply snatch a rare object in a game like this, and even when it had been made into a mock-reality, that rule still applied. In any case, that also meant there weren't any ambushes - yet - which made their task of entering much easier.

She could see light shining from around a bend in the tunnel, and the shadows of several dark shapes were painted by this torch glow, moving about in the passage beyond. The second wave must have been just up ahead. She grimaced. This was where things would start getting hard. Stopping, she held up a hand to signal Asher to do the same, then opened her notes and began to explain what she knew, and the plan she had come up with. She was usually the strategist of the two of them, being the more experienced gamer, so this sort of abrupt switch from her usual demeanor was probably something Asher was used to by now. Admittedly, she really got into her role, and it was one of the few things she felt completely confident in doing.

"If the previous group was right, then in the tunnel beyond, the passage will split in two between us and them. There are two choke points to hold, so we need to rush up and claim them. We'll probably be overrun, so we'll need to take down as many as we can when they're only coming in ones and twos, then fall back to this tunnel here to use healing items before they catch us. While we're retreating, we can chant spells, so we'll have the advantage when we turn and fight. There will be more then twenty enemies, though, most of them coming at once. Be careful, and don't be afraid to run if you're getting overwhelmed. But if you do retreat, warn me so we can fall back without exposing each other. If things do go badly and I'm surrounded, I'll understand if you continue to retreat without me, so don't feel obligated to risk yourself needlessly. I have high agility and lots of multi-hit skills with jump and dodge attributes, so I can probably escape, or, if you're surrounded, draw the enemies' attention so you can get away."

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Asher nodded at the plan. "Alright then... Let's get into position." He can already hear sounds coming from the other side of the room. Asher started to chant his fire spell, Eruption, and pointed his sword at what looked like a minotaur's hoof. "May hell rise up and take you..." Asher chanted quietly. "Eruption!" Asher yelled, alerting the monsters in the other side of the room. The ground broke away once again as hot magma exploded from the ground, and straight up. It splashed onto the ceiling, then rained down on the group of monsters that weren't in Asher's view. The monsters charged at Asher, who was already chanting another dose of Eruption. The ground rose up again and blocked the monsters' path, and Asher chanted his Wind Blade skill yet again.

"Wind Blade!" Asher yelled out again, and the wind sliced into the first minotaur's body. Because the passage was so small in width, the minotaur had no way to escape. Like Asher had planned for the supposed second wave, the minotaur was trapped between rising lava and its allies behind it. "Rain frigid wrath upon thy enemies!" Asher chanted again. He couldn't use his sword skills because of the lava in front of him. "Icicle Rain!" A small orb appeared far from Asher and above the middle of the group. Icicles rained down on the monsters that couldn't escape. However, it only injured them, not kill them. "I wonder how Kanna is doing?" Asher thought out loud. Suddenly, the Eruption spell timed out, and allowed the beserk minotaur to charge at Asher.

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By the time the black-clad Voice of Treason had begun his stand against the oncoming horde, his partner, too, had sprung into action. Raising a hand and chanting out the seven words of her mainstay ranged attack, Canon fired a spread of vermillion lances at the second gap in the partially-collapsed tunnel. Almost all of them buried themselves in a single target, ripping it apart in a shower of scarlet pixels. In the next instant, she had already switched to her ranged weapons, the twin dao swords she wielded as throwing blades appearing in her hands in an instant, and, in the next, being hurled at the second minotaur to attempt to pass the breach, dealing two trails of scarlet across its chest and dropping what HP it had left from the Sylphae Arrows that had hit it right down to zero, causing it to break apart just as its comrade had done. As the daos cycled back, each cutting another minotaur for decent damage as they flew, they disappeared instantly into the scarlet-clad warrior's inventory, as, at the same time, she reached down to her waist and once more drew her sword. Taking the blade with both hands, she cut upward, pivoting as she did so to bring up the slash with all her might. The blade of her sword gleamed with a brilliant red light as the two hit Sword Skill <<Sword of Cycles,>> activated, cutting upward once to bisect the first wounded minotaur before it could even finish its berserker animation, the force of this blow bringing Canon about almost instantly for a second upward stroke that, like the first, tore apart the remaining enemy. That was four.

Before Canon even had time to grow complacent, however, the next two minotaurs were already upon her. With her sword still raised as she completed her slash, and her body still being dragged forward by the force of the attack, she realized only too late that it was impossible for her to parry the incoming claw strikes of both minotaurs, and she couldn't even dodge due to the <<System Assist>> dragging her body forward. Thinking quickly, she mimicked the action of one of the enemies she'd attacked earlier in the last group, raising her off hand in front of the oncoming blow. A dull throb registered in her arm as the enemy's claw dug deeply into it, grazing along her flesh but missing her vitals, minimizing the damage. Still, these were very high-powered enemies, and several levels higher than her, at that. Canon's eyes widened in fright as her health bar dropped almost to the yellow, turning a sickly pink color as an icon appeared beneath it: bleeding condition. Slowly, her HP continued to deteriorate, even as she used the force of the impact of the enemy's attack to twist herself sideways, dodging the charge of its comrade while at the same time lunging upward with the single-hit skill <<Horizonal>> to deal a single cut across both enemies' midsections, sending the first stumbling into the collapsed rubble at the center of the room, and the latter staggering forward, its attack animation interrupted.

Canon was not in a very good position right now. With one enemy past her, she'd have to deal with it immediately before it could reach Asher and attack him from behind. But, on the other hand, she'd only have a moment in which to do this before the first minotaur got back up and attacked her along with at least two more. She'd be surrounded unless she could take down the second attacker quickly, and then deal with the first.

"Sever and Transcend, Sylphae Blade," Canon chanted, using the last of her mana up to cast a final spell. A bright, whirling light, like that of a Sword Skill, encased her weapon, but this was somewhat different. It oscillated rapidly, seeming to blur and shift, rather than maintaining a single, sparking light, and gave her weapon a dangerous, piercing look to it. Canon wasted no time in employing this new enchantment, for she immediately activated another Sword Skill, <<Mirage Dance,>> bringing back her sword from the <<Horizontal>> and leaping forward, cutting upward from the enemy's waist clear to the back of his neck, then curving her blade back around to cut upward from the opposite side to the same location, completing a crimson arc across the enemy's back. Whirling out of this movement, she brought her blade into a stabbing stance as she spun around yet again, using her velocity to further increase her power as she came about, stabbing five times in quick succession, piercing through a vital spot with each expertly-aimed lunge. Her blade seemed to blur into five different identical weapons as she moved with lightning speed, a deadly mirage that shattered her target into a storm of pixels.

Hearing a roar from behind her that signified the start of a minotaur's attack animation, she brought up her blade using the momentum from her final stab to spin about, crossing the weapon over her chest just in time to intercept a lunge from the recovering minotaur's claws. Twisting the blade aside and dragging out the stumbling enemy's arm with it, she slashed a final time, using the creature's overextended arm to guide her blade as she twisted the weapon backhanded, carving straight up and decapitating the target with the skill <<Reverse Guillotine>> for massive criticals that were made only more potent by her sword's buff effect. The beast screamed, and its health dropped instantly, destroying it along with its previous five comrades. As the last shards of blue light faded from existence, Canon dropped back, her blade crossed backhanded across her body in a defensive stance as she braced for the next group, this time containing four enemies instead of just two, as they came on, the rest of the wave close behind them.

That's six. The entire wave should have targeted us by now. We can't hold this point much longer. Better retreat after I attack just a few times more.

"Asher, get ready!" Canon called over the roaring of the beasts. "They're all starting to charge at once!"

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(OOC: Ignore this post. I pressed submit before I finished my post.)

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Asher jumped back as another minotaur clawed at him. By this time, Asher was already getting the buff from the Endangered Threat skill. However, his health bar was in red, which was bad. One wrong move would be fatal. Luckily, Asher's Regenerate skill healed him, but gradually. It was better than nothing... Asher thought. "Wind Blade!" Asher finished another chant for his wind spell. A gust of wind blew and sliced through some of the minotaurs that Asher had injured earlier, killing them.

"God... How many of them are there again?" Asher thought out loud, dodging another attack from a minotaur in front of him. In his mind, Asher is pulling up visions for his next combo. Eruption/Icicle Rain, Devil Lance, run to the enemy and grab the sword and use Tempest to get behind the enemy, then use Ghost Wolf to get back to the front, causing enemies to hit this one as well as slashing the stab wound.

Asher planned it out carefully. The said combo would be done as soon as he finished off the minotaur in front of him. Asher chanted. "May hell rise up and take you... Eruption! Rain frigid wrath upon thy enemies! Icicle Rain!" Asher shouted out, and the two spells appeared behind the minotaur that Asher had been fighting, aimed at the one behind it. Asher threw the sword up and did Dropkick on the minotaur, before using Dropkick again on the sword to further strengthen Devil Lance. The first minotaur shattered into pixels at the contact of the first Dropkick, and the Devil Lance registered as a critical on the second minotaur.

Asher ran up to the minotaur, which was still winding up for a slash, and grabbed his sword. He placed two feet on the minotaur's abdomen and pushed himself off, front flipping and doing Tempest. By the time Asher landed, the minotaur was finished. I guess I underestimated the power of that combo... Asher thought.

Before he could relax, another wave charged at him. Asher's mana is almost drained, and his health bar is below half. Asher sighed. "God..."

"Asher, get ready!" Canon called over the roaring of the beasts. "They're all starting to charge at once!"

"Got it!" Asher yelled back. A minotuar charged at Asher, who blocked with his sword, minimizing the damage done. His attack was further raised. Asher jumped up and did Tempest, chanting "Face the burning rage of the dragon!" The Tempest skill was chained into a Blaze Dragon, which further damaged Asher's opponent. Heh... Haven't done a mana blade skill in a while... Asher thought.

Asher ducked under a swing, and Asher stabbed his opponent. Using the combo from before, Asher jumped up and used Dropkick on the minotaur, the sword flying out through the minotaur's back and stuck into the wall. The force also sent the minotaur itself into the wall, and it landed into the sword. The health depleted, and Asher ran to get his sword back. He turned around to face more minotaurs. "Oh God damnit!" Asher whined, and got into another fighting stance.