"Ains-sama!" - Regular Speech

'Haaahh…so tiring!' - Thoughts

{Message} - Telepathy

[The Goal of All Life is Death!] - Magic Spell/Skill

Chapter 1: Stay Behind, until The End

YGGDRASIL. Out of all of the DMMO-RPG games available, this one game held the title of Most Popular. The selling point of the game was its flexible system. A player could select from numerous races and jobs. Combined with the numerous tools used for customisation, even down to basic programming, it was the cause of its great popularity.

Sadly, this world is coming to an end now, after twelve years…

Conference Room, Great Tomb of Nazarick

Momonga, Guildmaster of the PVP/PKER Guild Ains Ooal Gown, watched sadly as Herohero, the only member of the Guild other than himself to log in and visit the Guild HQ, vanished in a flash of light as he logged out.

"…hah." he sighed. Momonga's avatar took the form of an [Elder Lich], a reanimated skeleton who specialised in using magic. Clad in diaphanous and luxurious dark purple robes and with two glowing pinpricks of red light in his eye sockets, he very much looked the part of the ruler of a Tomb as grand as Nazarick was.

The conference room he was sitting in, just to give an example, was massive, and had an enormous table in the centre embossed with the emblem of the guild and forty-two chairs arrayed around it, one for each guild member.

Suddenly, Momonga struck the table with one bony fist and growled, "Damn it! This is the Great Tomb of Nazarick that we conquered and built together! How can they abandon it so easily!? They could at least come and say goodbye like Herohero-san did!"

At the height of its power, Ains Ooal Gown had had a roster of forty-two members, all members of the Heteromorphic races. Together, they had built the Great Tomb of Nazarick until it was known as the most evil and unconquerable dungeon in all of YGGDRASIL. Sadly, thirty-seven out of the forty-two members had quit, and even the four members who had stayed on with Momonga hadn't logged on often, leaving it almost entirely up to the Guildmaster to maintain the Guild HQ by obsessively hunting down monsters for gold.

After a moment, Momonga relaxed, leaned back into his chair and muttered sadly, "No…it's no surprise that they chose reality over Nazarick. It's the logical choice, after all…"

A shimmer at one of the seats drew Momonga's attention and he perked up as one of his guild members logged in, one he was very familiar with.

"Grandia-san!" he greeted his guildmate warmly.

"Momonga-san…it really has been far too long since I've been in Nazarick." Grandia Bloodragon replied with a nod.

Out of all of the members of Ains Ooal Gown, there were only a few female players, Grandia being one of them. Her avatar was a [Vampire] and a very powerful one. Similar to how Momonga himself had access to the rare and powerful [Eclipse] Job Class, Grandia was the supreme class of vampires, the almost mythical [High Daywalker] Racial Class, which surpassed even the [True Vampire] class in terms of power and ability.

Out of the thousands of players, only a fraction ever played with Heteromorphic Races, and the number of those players that chose to play as the [Vampire] race was less than seventy. Grandia was one of only three [High Daywalkers] to have ever existed in YGGDRASIL and the only one is Ains Ooal Gown, the others being members of other Heteromorphic-only guilds.

An unspoken rule in the game was that PKing Heteromorphic Race players was perfectly alright, as there was no penalty for Humans, Dwarves, Elves or even Demi-Human races for PKing the Heteromorphic Races. It was this that had prompted the birth of first the Original Nine Guild, which later became Ains Ooal Gown.

"Has anyone else shown up, Momonga-san?" the vampiress asked. Clad in light black armour sculpted to have screaming tortured faces on its surface, a gleaming diadem on her head and a pair of elegant rapiers on her hips, Grandia was the picture of a vampire warrior. The shoulder length silver hair, pale skin and ruby-red snakelike eyes declared her race proudly.

"Only Herohero-san, aside from yourself." Momonga replied sadly, "You just missed him. He sounded exhausted, so it was nice of him to take the time to come and say goodbye."

"I see…" Grandia sighed, "I met Touch-Me-san IRL the other day. He said he'd try to make it in, but if he hasn't arrived yet, I'd say he's been unavoidably held up thanks to work."

"It's nice to know that Touch-Me-san at least tried." the Guildmaster said with a nod, "I was about to head down to the Throne Room to spend the last few minutes left before the servers shut down there. Care to join me?"

"That sounds nice. I'll gladly accompany you." Grandia nodded and stood up. She reached into her inventory, drew out a long black cloak and threw it over her shoulders, completing her set of [Divine-Class] and [Artefact-Class] equipment.

Momonga also stood and walked over to an alcove in the wall behind his seat. Within it floated a baroque golden staff that looked vaguely like a caduceus at first glance. Mounted at the top was a bowl with seven snake heads peering out at different intervals. Clutched in each of their mouths was a set of orbs, each a different colour.

"The [Staff of Ains Ooal Gown]…" Momonga said softly, "We all played so recklessly in order to make this."

"I remember a lot of the guild members fought with their wives and fought used their paid vacations while we were collecting the materials in order to make it." Grandia reminisced as she came to stand next to him.

Slowly, Momonga reached out with a single skeletal hand and removed the Guild Weapon from its alcove. As the Guildmaster, only he could equip it, as Guild Weapons were a status symbol of their guild.

"Let us go Grandia-san…as well as you, the testament to the existence of our guild." he said after a moment gazing at the staff.

As the two members of Ains Ooal Gown strode towards the door leading to the Ninth Floor, they recalled the glory days of their guild.

In order to join Ains Ooal Gown, there were three conditions that you had to fulfil. First, your avatar had to be one of the Heteromorphic Races. Second, you had to be a functioning member of society. You couldn't be a NEET or a Hikikomori; you had to have a job and a life outside of your bedroom.

The third rule was that a majority of the current members of Ains Ooal Gown had to vote to allow you entry. Often this was redundant, as most players who played with inhuman avatars knew each other, but every so often someone who caused conflicts came along and they were politely refused.

At the bottom of the stairs, Momonga and Grandia found a distinguished looking man in an impeccable butler's outfit and several women in armoured maid outfits standing ready.

"The Combat Maids of the Pleiades…huh." Momonga chuckled ruefully, "Even although we had you guard the Conference Room Doors, no one ever made it this far."

A very true fact. The closest any play had gotten to the Ninth Floor was when an alliance of guilds, numbering 1500 or more including mercenary NPC's, invaded the Great Tomb of Nazarick. They made it all the way to the last line of defence, the Eighth Floor, only to be halted by the Guardian of the Eighth Floor, Victim.

"This NPC…Touch-Me-san made him, right?" Momonga murmured as he opened the status screen for the butler, "Sebas Tian? Touch-Me-san always did like that kind of wordplay…Grandia-san, do you think the rest of the guild would mind me doing as I pleased just for today?"

Grandia sent him a smiley J and said, "I think so, under the circumstances. Go ahead."

The one thing about YGGDRASIL that was disappointing was that the technology, when it had been created anyway, hadn't been advanced enough to render the constant changes in expression that the face entailed, so players usually typed out a smiley to act as a replacement. It was still inconvenient.

Nodding at his friend gratefully, Momonga turned back to Sebas and the maids and ordered, "[Follow]!"

So, as the two guild members walked on, the butler and combat maids followed their master and mistress towards the Throne Room.

One of two critical locations needed to destroy or capture a Guild HQ in YGGDRASIL, the Throne Room was usually considered the most expendable. Following that premise, only the Guardian Overseer protected it.

That wasn't to say that the way to the Throne Room was unprotected. Automatic traps, golem guardians and the like would attack any avatar without one of the [Rings of Ains Ooal Gown] on the way to the room.

The doors to the Throne Room, carved with a relief of a battling angel and demon, swung open at Momonga's touch, leaving Grandia to gasp in awe at the interior.

A grand room, the throne room was lined with marble, decorated with flags bearing the forty-two emblems of the guild's members and a set of diamond chandeliers that cast a menacing purple light to illuminate the room.

"I've never actually been in here before…" the vampiress breathed, "Herohero-san and the others really did well designing it!"

At the opposite end of the room to them was a majestic throne on a raised dais, and next to it stood a woman wearing a white dress. Long raven-coloured hair cascaded down her back, a pair of ivory-coloured horns emerged from the sides of her head and a pair of black feathered wings came from the small of her back.

This was Albedo, a Succubus and Overseer of the Nine Floor Guardians.

As Momonga reached the dais, he stopped and muttered, "What was the command again? Ah, yes. [Stand-By]!"

With a bow, Sebas and the maids walked over to the side and stood awaiting further orders. Momonga then ascended to the Throne itself and sat on it, while Grandia used the spell [Create Greater Item] to make a throne built of human bones, one step down from Momonga in deference to his status as Guildmaster, and then sitting in it.

Strictly speaking, Grandia wasn't a Magic Caster, not a proper one. She had the Job Class [Armoured Mage], which allowed her some access to spells, but not a lot of them. She mostly used it to have access to a few utility spells such as [Message], [Create Item], [Create Greater Item], [Life Essence], [Mana Essence] and [Fly], in addition to the passive Class Skill [Mid-Tier Armour Wearing], which allowed her to wear light and medium armour and cast spells without any penalty.

"What were Albedo's settings again?" Momonga mused before bringing the settings page up and recoiling, "Gah! So long!"

"It was Tabula Smaragdina-san the Settings Maniac who created her, so it isn't much of a surprise, Momonga-san." Grandia snorted in amusement.

Tabula had created not only Albedo, but her two 'sisters' Nigredo and Rubedo as well. All three of them were among the strongest NPC's in all of Nazarick, which was a testament to Tabula's skill at character creation, but he was really obsessed with writing long settings with finicky details in small print.

"Eh? What the…?"Momonga said as he reached the end of Albedo's settings, "Grandia-san, listen to what Tabula-san did to poor Albedo! 'She is a great beauty on the outside, but on the inside, she is a slutty woman.'"

"What?!" Grandia said in shock.

"Tabula-san always was fond of gap-moe." the Elder Lich sighed, "But no matter how you look at it, this is too much."

"Agreed." the vampiress growled, "Should I fetch an [Editing Tool]?"

"Nah. Thanks to the [Staff of Ains Ooal Gown], I can edit any NPC in Nazarick." Momonga replied. He pointed the staff at the settings screen, which went into Administrator Mode and made a keyboard appear. Erasing the offending line about Albedo being slutty, Momonga hesitated before adding a couple more lines and closing the settings window.

"What did you add?" Grandia asked suspiciously.

"…it's embarrassing, but…'She's in love with Momonga and sees Grandia as a big sister.'" the Guildmaster admitted.

"Oi…" Grandia shook her head, "If this weren't the last day, I'd punch you, Momonga-san."

"Let's see…" Momonga chose to ignore that as he looked at Albedo, Sebas and the Pleiades, "Ah, right…[Bow Down]!"

He waved a hand at the NPC's and they went down on one knee facing the two members or Ains Ooal Gown as the seconds ticked away, drawing inexorably closer to the end.

"Haaaaah…I have to be up in four hours, so I guess I should head to bed as soon as the server shuts down." the Elder Lich sighed, "What about you, Grandia-san?"

"I got laid off the other day." the vampiress admitted sourly, "Cutbacks, apparently. At least that's what the corporate weanie who told me about it said. This damn recession is heading towards becoming a depression, so a new job is going to be tough to get."

Momonga, his real name Suzuki Satoru, had to wince at that. "I'm sorry to hear about that. I can put a good word in for you at the company I work at, if you'd like?"

"Thank you, Momonga-san. That would be a great help." Grandia said gratefully. She told him her real name, Satou Nayuta, and her contact number IRL.

"Only a minute left." she remarked as she sat back on her throne of bones.

"Yeah…" Momonga said sadly, "It really was fun, wasn't it?"

"It was…truly…" Grandia said softly, "I hope they create a sequel game…YGGDRASIL 2 or something…I'll be back for that…"

"Me too." Momonga agreed, Me too…"

All that was left after that was waiting for the last seconds to tick down and for the auto logoff to occur when the server was shut down.





Next Chapter: New World, Old Faces