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201 Back to life...Back to reality.

 After seeing Dave Ruster and his company off in their limo, Emile Kada hurried back to his workroom.

He logged into the developer server and accessed his workspace, confirming the engineers had copied the contents of Dave's drive over to a quarantined server. He knew they were probably working frantically to reconstruct what they could from the incomplete data files to into the main server logs, recovering some of the game metadata and video footage.

That was their main concern. His was what the hell had happened to his undead! So he hooked into the files and started running Dave's stream feed through his A&VR visor.

Some time later Emile raised the visor. If what he'd seen while watching the events from Dave Ruster's point of view was what he suspected, he believed there might yet be hope for his project. He smiled and felt the knot in his belly finally relax.

***

Sitting next to each other in the leather recliners on the flight back home, Zoe asked Dave, "You're going to be playing casual for a while. Does that bother you?" Zoe asked.

He shrugged, "Well, I started as a regular player. I'll just keep playing, get a new class, have some fun and see what happens."

Zoe nodded, she was sorry he'd lost his undead 'Mr. Skeletal' persona. When they'd first met in Conquest she tagged along with Dave to bolster her stream, having footage of the only undead Player in the game was a big deal. But she'd quickly realized the kind of person he was, honest, sincere, and he cared for 'his' people; not to mention he was a good player and partner. He was definitely not one of the saccharine-sweet frenemies or douches that were so common in her usual social circles. THANK GOD for that!

"I just remembered something," Dave said, drawing out the last syllable with an evil smile on his face. It was different from his usual draugr smirk, more like The Demon Barrister's sinister shark-grin.

"Why are you mimicking my uncle! Don't do that, it's just disturbing, get away!" Zoe declared melodramatically, pushing him away.

"Someone introduced herself as my girlfriend back there. Now I'm trying to remember... when exactly did that happen?" Dave's brows went up and down, his smile growing wider and more evil.

Zoe immediately turned beet red and spluttered, tripping over her words as she tried to explain herself.

"Oh, ah, well- Ohhhhh, youuuu! You are sooo bad! You knowwww it's not like that! When the guy asked... Well, you were the one they wanted to meet with and uncle was your lawyer, I couldn't just tell them I was his niece. So you know..." Zoe blushed and looked away.

Dave's grew wider, "Ohh, so that's why, and here I got my hopes up."

Zoe's face became even redder, she opened her mouth to say something but the captain's voice interrupted.

"Fasten your seatbelts everyone, we are on our final approach."

Dave buckled his seatbelt on, grinning at his squirming and totally embarrassed friend.

The airplane landed a Zoe drove Dave. The ride was unusually quiet, Zoe didn't even play her favorite heavy metal music. Her driving was above the speed limit but slower than usual.

Zoe dropped Dave off at his hotel and said, "Don't forget tomorrow. Daddy is expecting you for dinner. I'll pick you up around six, okay?"

Dave nodded and waved goodbye.

When he got to his room he ordered some food and took a quick shower. After eating he decided it was time. He got into the game pod and holding his breath he went through the log in procedure.

***

Attention User!

Your account has been verified, no evidence of violations of the terms and conditions of service was found. You may access your account and the game again. We apologize for the inconvenience and wish you good fortune in Conquest!

***

You witnessed the Archangel Naethiel Fall from Holy Grace.

You obtained a new item.

Feather of the Fallen (Quest item)

The Holy Church is searching for the Fallen Archangel. Use the Feather To locate the archangel before them.

Because the angel only recently became Fallen, he is weakened and vulnerable. What you do if and when you find the angel will determine both your destinies, choose wisely!

***

The dungeons:

Desolate Temple

Ice Palace Dungeon

Mustakrakish's Desert Palace

Have been closed. You will no longer receive CP from them.

***

Your Relationship with the Black Skull Order and the Demon factions has reached

Kill on Sight. You will be Hunted by members and vassals.

Aggro range of Demons and Black Skull Order members increased to 500% of base distance.

***

Kill Order!

Player Bone Breaker has issued a Kill-Order on you.

Bounty 10,000 gold

If you aren't killed by a Player before 5 days of logged-in game-time has passed, you will be awarded 10% amount of the original bounty (1,000 gold) for each 24 hours of logged in game-time you survive, until the bounty runs out (10 days).

***

"Shit. What a kick-in-the-balls. 'Welcome back Dave!'"

Dave took a deep breath and exhaled. His default avatar was a basic living human again, not an undead draugr.

"Now I have to deal with this crap," Dave glanced up at the giant tag over his head glowing with the word 'Kill!' in red letters.

Dave's phone went off, Perfect Shot was reaching out.

"Hey Perfecto," Dave said.

"Hey Skelly! Some major shit happened in Conquest. Did you have anything to do with all that? "

"Sorry bro, can't talk about it, I signed an NDA," Dave said.

"Ah. Got it, no problem. I saw my pops earlier, he was cackling like a loon. I'm thinking it had something to do with you since your lawyer was talking to our legal department."

Dave smiled. Zoe's uncle had OWNED those Conquest execs, he'd milked them out of tens of millions in fees for both CCN and himself.

"Can't tell you that either. Sorry again, man," Dave said apologetically.

"Nah, that's alright."

"Man, the Underworld closing and all the undead gone. That's some crazy stuff and it's gotta suck bad for you. It hurts us too, we can't go grind in the underworld with you when we hit level 200 now, and we're only a few levels away."

"Ahhh, that's right! Sorry man, that would have been fun." He'd signed a contract with the TNT to give them scrolls to the Underworld in exchange for loot.

Perfect was silent for a moment, then, "Hey, Dave now that you can't access the Underworld , wanna join us? We are trying to finish Flanker's quest, it's tough, our levels are lower than recommended."

Dave thought for a moment, he shrugged he didn't have anything else to do for now.

"Yeah why not, I don't have any quests for now and might as well join yours. But, uh, well I really don't want anyone to know who 'Mr. Skeletal' is or was...you know what I mean?"

Perfect chuckled, "Sure man. I'll get the guys to do a contract in-game and sign an NDA for outside. CNN legal will take care of it. We gotta protect the name-brand, just in case 'Mr. Skeletal' makes a come back. Right?"

"Yeah, you're right! Thanks bro. I really appreciate that, and you convincing the guys."

"By the way, what's your player name?"

"Death Stroke"

Perfect Shot guffawed, "And you think OUR avatars are terribly named?"

"Awww, man." He didn't have a comeback to that, so he just hung up. It was the manly thing to do.

Dave decided to take a look at the angel's feather, but his attention was drawn to another item in his inventory, Death Heart Fragment.

Dave took the fragment from his inventory, cupping it in his palm while he inspected it. He didn't get anything from it, not even an Inspect-Failed notification. He prodded the sliver of crystal with a finger, then snorted. The monkey-brain reflex: poke at things if they don't work.

'The last thing the Undead King said was the legion will rise again, maybe with this piece..."

Suddenly, a blur of shadow snatced the fragment from his hand.

"I'll take that. Thanks, kid!" The smug, snickering voice came from everywhere at once.

"What the- GIVE IT BACK, THIEF!"

But there was no one there to answer his outraged demand. Dave stood frozen in place, his hand extended like an idiot, dawning horror on his face.

"Ohhh, NO...!"