The eight-legged monster stood at least fifteen feet tall. Its body was covered with thick, long hairs similar to a tarantula, but its legs were dark and long like a black widow’s. And as its name suggested, its most predominant feature was its fangs. To someone like Ryu, they were essentially two-foot long daggers.
Ryu prompted to log off, but the following message appeared.
|You are attempting to flee from a Brown-Fanged Spider Queen via logging off.
If you flee from this fight via logging off, you will not be able to enter the Special Hidden Dungeon: Plum Tree Forest Caverns [Southern Cavern] for 168 hours.
Additionally, you will appear at the place where you first entered the dungeon when you relog.
Furthermore, you will not receive loot from any chests, mini-bosses, bosses, or anything equivalent from any dungeon for 84 hours.
Seeing this, he turned the corner of his eyes to the two young NPCs behind him. Being restricted to re-enter the dungeon for 168 hours was a great inconvenience for him. But it was the two young people behind him that posed to be a greater problem. They were only NPCs, and he could’ve left them to the Brown-Fanged Spider Queen. Sure, he would’ve been penalized for fleeing the fight, but escaping death would be worth the possibility of restarting a new character.
But seeing their dirty, scared faces made him uneasy—guilty even.
They’ll die, won’t they…?
The NPCs he’d come across in Second World weren’t like any he’d come across before, not from any VRMMO he’d played—not even from Dream World. Those from Dream World were realistic characters in their own right, but they always had a certain artificiality about them, given their nature. But if someone set a Second World NPC side-by-side a ‘real’ person, Ryu couldn’t tell you with certainty which one would be ‘real.’
And there in the cave, an ill-advised decision was made—at least, from a gamer’s perspective. Ryu took a giant risk.
He turned his head back front and closed the log-off menu. His lips curled into a smile without him even thinking about it. It was the most foolish thing to defend these NPCs—and strangers at that. But he felt no regret. He’d lost his courage a long time ago, but after playing this strange, new game, he remembered what it felt like to be alive.
He took a deep breath.
He gripped his sword with both hands. He was resolute with his decision to stay, but he was terrified also—extremely terrified. He didn’t know what level this monster was, but it gave him chills, just as many chills as mid-level dungeon monsters from his previous gaming experiences. Nonetheless, he mustered the courage to face this new foe.
I have to close the distance. If it comes too close, it’ll see them.
He dashed midway across the chamber and took a defensive position on an elevated rock.
Everything that I’ve learned has led me up to this point.
Ryu kneeled down and punched the earth, shattering the rock by his feet. He grabbed a few of the stone bits and chucked them as hard as he could with natural energy. The stones hit the spider’s legs and pierced right through. However, in response, the monster reared up and bore its fangs.
The spider queen then lunged forward, striking the player with its front leg. It was a lightning fast jab, but Ryu managed to block it. He held his sword by both the handle and blade, using it as a shield—a very thin shield. However, the weight of the creature was incredible. Ryu could barely keep himself up; his legs wobbled every time he tried to stand. He was even fortifying himself with natural energy, too, and that was all he could do.
As he knelt in his spot, more pieces from his sword broke off.
I have to do something, or else it’s over.
Ryu gradually eased his shoulder under the blade, using his arm to leverage the weight. With a now-free arm, he grabbed small pieces of rock and chucked them at the creature’s eyes. Most of them missed, but those that hit tore through the spider’s eyes. It was only a few out of the several dozen eyes, but it was better than nothing.
The spider lashed out and pounced on Ryu who reacted just quick enough to block its attack. The creature’s two giant fangs were just inches from the player’s face, with only a brittle blade in its way.
Even more pieces of his sword broke off, and what remained was just less than half of the original blade. Such losses were detrimental in this fight. Not to mention his bite wound from that damn goblin earlier wasn’t helping either. Not much had happened in the fight, too. It had just been a large angry monster bullying a weak player. But it was already becoming an exhaustion for Ryu; he had to exert himself to the extremes. Rolls of sweat were coming down his face, which was now slightly red from his exertion.
So this is what it’s like fighting a boss monster. Heh.
Bors had taught him many important things, but the instructor’s training was already being utilized by him at the moment. The training he’d received seemed totally insufficient for a monster of this caliber.
…So this is it, isn’t it?
However, at that moment, the words of another instructor came into his thoughts. They were the words of his grandmother.
“When facing an opponent, you should always take the initiative to strike first…”
The Brown-Fanged Spider Queen sprung down, its weight taking its toll on Ryu.
“…However…That’s if you’re a normal fighter.”
The giant spider backed up. It raised its body and front legs, preparing to strike.
“If there comes a time when you meet an opponent unimaginably powerful, you must become the ‘wise fighter.’ …You must let them have the first move, always. Even if that means taking the first strike.”
That last part always bothered Ryu when he was younger, as it made no sense to let someone that powerful attack first. They could destroy you with the first move. That was his thinking, at least, at the time. But he now understood why.
I see now, obaasan. Thank you.
The spider queen lunged forward, its fangs outward. Its legs came down like a net, entrapping Ryu. Ryu lowered his weapon and stood up, seemingly giving up. He looked up to the great beast with glaring eyes. The monster also paused. And then in an instant, it plunged its fangs into Ryu’s shoulders. Ryu let out a grunt of pain, gushing blood from his mouth.
It was the greatest pain he’d ever felt. The fangs just stayed there, like sunken knives, slowly sinking deeper and deeper.
Yet throughout all this, He showed no fear. In fact, he smiled. Yes, smiled.
He did not hesitate at all. He gripped his sword, and with all his might, he plunged the weapon from under the beast into its head. The top part of the blade shattered as it entered the monster, but the broken piece that was still attached went straight through.
In pain, the spider retracted its fangs from Ryu. It shook violently, thrashing about. Bright yellow fluid oozed out of its wound.
The chamber ceiling shook as it continued in its tantrum. With nothing left, Ryu fell to his knees. The venom coursing through his body took its toll on him. He fell over, spitting out blood. The next several moments for him were moments of buzzing sounds. Everything slowed down, and his head became so heavy he just wanted to lie on the ground and close his eyes. And he did just that, but he kept his eyes open. He needed to see this to the end, even if the end was his own.
Eventually, the spider stopped thrashing. It crawled up to the player, its giant body looming over him. It bore its fangs, and for the first time, Ryu heard its hiss.
Ryu grunted, smiling. “Heh. Pretty angry, aren’t you?” He coughed out more blood, his head now wheezing with excruciating pain. Red flushed everywhere: his cheeks, his ears, the whites of his eyes. He curled up into a ball, hiccupping.
However sad this death was going to be, it didn’t give Ryu pause at all. In fact, he was even a little happy that it turned out this way. He would be prepared next time, for it was more than certain that if he died, he would buy another set of VR gear and start again. And maybe next time, he would be victorious.
I guess this is it. Damn.
The ceiling of the chamber tremored, as a result of the spider’s earlier tantrum. Shards of stalactite fell down, some even falling a foot away from Ryu’s face. Ryu looked up above. Over the giant monster, there was a loose stalactite—a giant one at that.
Tch. If only I could use it to kill this damn spider before I go.
His eyelids started dropping down. He was exhausted and in too much pain to leave his eyes open. But as he started to drift away, he remembered something from his final bout with Bors and from an earlier occurrence this morning: natural energy projection. It wasn’t something he was adept at; he hadn’t received any training for it at all. But he understood, intuitively, the theory of it.
He raised a trembling hand up to the large stalactite, and with all the focus he could gather, he attempted to manipulate the loose formation. He focused for a long moment, mustering all the natural energy he could, but to no avail… Nothing.
It was worth a try, at least.
It was then that the ceiling above him shook. The large calcite shard broke off and impaled the monster. The Brown-Fanged Spider Queen let out a sharp hiss and thrashed about until finally, it fell over.
Although it was probably inappropriate for the situation, two virtual messages appeared before the dying Ryu.
|Congratulations! You have killed your 500th monster!
As a result, you have leveled up!
By leveling up, you have gained 5 stat points.
You are the 3rd player to level up. As such, you have been rewarded 2 stat points.
|Congratulations! You have defeated a dungeon mini-boss.
You are the first player to defeat a dungeon boss-type monster. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points.
Additionally, you have been earned the title, The Dungeon Delver.
Heh. So I finally leveled up, eh?
Ryu’s eyes started closing, but as he started to go sleep, a bright light shimmered from behind him. He turned his head to look back, only to find a mysterious figure appear. He couldn’t make out who or what it is, but he could see a short silhouette of a person—an elderly woman by the looks of it. She destroyed the chains on the two young NPCs, then turned to him. She walked over to him as his eyes were finally closing.