It had been going so well.

The eight parties that made up their raid was split into three different roles. Teams A and B were the tanks, led by King and Agil respectively, and would keep the boss's attention on them, switching out whenever one took too much damage. Teams C to E were the DPS teams. Headed by himself, Lind and Kibaou, they were to focus on dealing damage to the boss itself. Argo and Beowulf led the last two teams, F and G, as the support teams. Their role was to essentially keep the additional monster spawns away from the boss and help the other teams when necessary.

Overall, Diabel considered it a fairly safe setup. Definitely more safe than in the beta where everyone just attacked the boss and hoped for the best but lives weren't at risk back then. The most important thing was that it was working!

Roughly half the party were beta players that was already familiar with the boss's patterns first hand and the others were thoroughly coached beforehand. With all of them also being a bit overleveled for boss, Diabel would almost call the fight boring and repetitious.

Tanks would keep the aggression. DPS would chip away at health. Support would drag the adds off to the corners of the room. Everyone would move out of the way whenever Illfang did an area of effect attack. Those thankfully only came whenever he lost a bar of health.

And then came to Illfang's last bar of health. When the familiar crash of breaking glass rang, everyone was already moving. The Tanks and DPS teams moving to Illfang's flanks as the oversized red lizard threw his weapons away. This would the part where Illfang drew a talwar. If he remembered right, his speed, damage and reach would all increase and he'd restart the fight with a massive forward swing that was essentially a frontal cone of damage.

That was when everything went wrong.

"That's not a talwar!" Someone from Lind's team yelled out when Illfang fully unsheathed his new weapon. His warning repeated several times as the raid started to hesitate in front of his unpredicted change. "It's a nodachi!"

Diabel felt the moment that dread struck him. If he wasn't using a talwar anymore then that probably also meant that he wasn't just going to do a frontal attack. Not wasting any time, he swung his arm out to his party. "Get back! Get back!"

His orders were echoed not even a moment later by the other party leaders as the various teams switched from flanking to the boss's side to simply just getting away from him. If they were lucky, Illfang would still do the frontal attack and miss all of them. If they were unlucky, then he'd do something completely new and new was not good.

They were not lucky. None of them could take even a few steps before Illfang suddenly ducked low and performed a full spin. His nodachi a silvery flash of light as the Kobold Lord used an omnidirectional skill that struck all those standing by him. It happened in an instant, not affording anyone the chance to even shield against it.

Diabel didn't feel any pain. Not even Kayaba was the cruel. What he did feel was his body gusting through the air as he and most the raid group was knocked away from the boss to the far edges of the hall.

"Oof!" Diabel released as he landed on his side, rolling over twice more before coming to an awkward halt. The moment he tried to pick himself back up, his limbs suddenly went inert as a lightning effect sparked across them. A small icon raising presenting itself at the corner of his vision.

[[Stunned 15s]]

Goddamnit! They had been so close!

Thought he couldn't move his body for the next fifteen seconds, Diabel could still lift and turn his head. He wanted to see how many of them had been caught in that surprise attack. The outlook wasn't good. No, that'd be understating it. The outlook was utterly terrible.

Players were littered across the edges of the hall, all of them paralysed just like him. The only players still standing belong to the distant support teams that looked unsure on how to proceed now that so many of them were essentially out of the fight. And in the centre of the hall, Illfang still stood defiantly, brandishing his new wicked nodachi. To cap it all off, there were at least a dozen players lying on the ground right next to him, helpless before the giant kobold.

Damnit! Damnit! He looked again to the status effect, desperately hoping that he could get back up. He needed to get back up! If no one did, then those next to the boss were effectively already dead.

[[Stunned 12s]]

Illfang began to advance upon the fallen players and each step he made seemed to take an eternity as Diabel could do nothing more than watch in wretched silence. People were in danger, people were going to die and once again, he could do little to change that.

[[Stunned 8s]]

Teal eyes closed themselves. He couldn't watch. He just couldn't. It was cowardly, he knew that. But to have his own uselessness thrown at him one again, he just couldn't.

He waited for the inevitable.

"haHahaha…"

Diabel opened his eyes in confusion. No one had died, the glass crashing effect nowhere to be heard. Instead, all he could hear was the ringing of steel, the beginnings of a maniacal laughter and echoing pulse poundings of the King Engine.

"It… it's King! King's still standing!" he heard someone cry out, his words repeated across the hall as the raid group beheld the ongoing duel held at the centre.

True to his words, King still stood against the boss. The Hero alone the only thing between those helpless players on the floor and certain death. And while the Kobold Lord continued his bestial cries of anger, the Hero was laughing. A long and genuine laughter that no one had heard before because honestly, when did King ever laugh?

[[Stunned 4s]]

Diabel gritted his teeth and tightened his grip around his sword's hilt as he watched King continue his undiluted laugh as he battled with the boss. So, this was just how far above everyone else King really was. While everyone else here were worried for their lives, King was having the time of his life.

Everyone knew that King was overwhelmingly strong. He wasn't called the Strongest Man on Earth for nothing after all. As a warrior, he was unsurpassed. It was this very same strength that people had long speculated for King's complete impassivity when standing against threats. No matter how strong, how fast or how big; King regarded all monsters with nothing more than a look stripped of all interest. It was the same look that a human would give a fly.

Diabel would hardly call himself bloodthirsty but even he could remember the adrenaline rush and intoxicating thrill one felt in a fight. For a man like King, this must be the first time in years that he's felt that rush. The first time in years that he's fought a legitimate threat where he was no longer so powerful he could trivialize the fight. Where his own life and death was actually at stake. And what does King do?

He laughs.

[[Stunned 0s]]

The moment the debuff vanished, Diabel was already on his feet while most everyone was still scrambling on the ground. Even if King was enjoying the fight, the rules of this world meant that if they didn't move fast then King was dead.

Briefly, he wondered if an electric shock to the brain would actually kill King but he brushed the thought aside as he made the first strides back to the fight. Fight first, think later. Reaching down, he pulled one of the slower players up by the collar and waved his sword at the Kobold Lord, bellowing out, "King won't last much longer so stop lying about and let's get back in there!"


King was laughing. Cackling manically as he met every strike from the boss with shield and sword. For every blow taken, whether he blocked or parried it, a huge chunk of his health was chopped off. And at the rate it was going down, he wouldn't last the minute. He knew this and yet he still laughed.

And the reason for his laughter?

He was going to die. He was going to bloody die! And for some stupid as reason he couldn't fathom, he found that hilarious.

A month he's spent in this hellhole of a game. A whole goddamn month! Every week fearing the worst. Every day expecting tomorrow was going to be his last. Hell, he spent the most of yesterday worrying his ass off about this boss.

And just when things were looking up, just when he thought facing off against this overgrown lizard wasn't too bad and that he was actually doing good; life decides to punt him back into the ground for even daring to have a glimmer of hope. If that wasn't enough, life then goes ahead to kick while he's down and drag his head up to the chopping block.

Because there was just no goddamn way that he just happened to be the only one who managed to get out of the boss's attack in time. Just like there was no way he just happened to get knocked down by some flying player. And there was absolutely no goddamn way that he just happened to be the only one to get back up just in time just to have the stupid boss breathing over him!

If he wasn't busy laughing his ass off at how ridiculous all this was, he'd be screaming his rage and frustrations at how much life just seemed to hate his very existence. What the hell did he ever do to deserve this?!

A quick glance showed him his depressingly low health bar. It was deep in the red now, the furthest it's even been for him. Ah… he really should have run when the moment he had gotten up. Why didn't he? Because he knew how these things worked. The moment he turned his back, the boss would just insta kill him with a combo faster than you could say-

The cold blur of Illfang's nodachi interrupted his thoughts. Relying on pure instincts honed by countless hours of ganging up on poor mobs, King swung his sword up to meet the blow, intending to parry it and maybe give him a few more seconds of time. Time that maybe, just maybe, those guys would stop sleeping on the job and save him already!

Seriously, what they hell were they all doing just lying around and standing there!?

The exact moment their two blades connected, King's longsword shattered into pixels with a dreadful screech. He wasn't laughing any more. A brief message flashed by, only now telling him that the durability of his longsword had reached zero because obviously, he needed the system to tell him his sword just broke. His shield was held too far back to get up in time, the nodachi was moving too fast for him to dodge, and he was soo screwed…

Paralysed with the very thought of his imminent demise, King could do nothing more than watch the blade make its way towards him in slow motion. Small tears starting to take form at the edges of his eyes.

Ah… he didn't want to die. Not like this.

The blow came uninterrupted, ripping him off his feet and lifting him up into the air. A shining gash reaching from his hip to his shoulder. Whatever screams he intended came out only as wordless blabber as he slowly fell back to earth.

King felt someone catch him, or more like he just crashed into someone? He wasn't really sure. Either way, it didn't matter to him. His eyes were too busy searching for his health bar, frantically watching it slowly plummet down.

He was dead. He was so dead. He should never have this. There was so much left in life that he wanted to do like… like…

...

Why hasn't he exploded into crystals yet?

King looked to his health and found no answers. The bar was empty, not even a hint of red visible. So how the hell was he still alive then? Not that he was complaining of course!

Then he saw it, and King laughed. A genuinely joyous laugh. Underneath his hp bar was its numerical display and you couldn't guess how much health he still had.

[[1/2790]]

"Haha..." King started to chuckle before devolving into another hysterical laugh. He took it back! He took everything back! Thank you God, life, and whatever else there was out there! His luck wasn't so bad after all!

As he started to sit himself back up, he felt someone's hand keep him from standing.

"Don't worry King." Diabel reassured as the teal-haired man passed him, releasing his hold. "We got this."

King just nodded. They better have this because there was no way in hell that he was going back into the mess. One near death experience was more than enough for him today.

One look to the boss told him all he needed to know. Despite being near death, the Kobold Lord was no less dangerous. In fact, his attacks were growing more and more frantic, each blow seeming to hit hard and come even faster than the last.

Yep. Fuck that.


"Three cheers to King!"

King raised his hand and weakly waved to the crowd as the raid members celebrated. After they finally killed the boss and unlocked the second floor, most of the raid group had agreed to first go to a tavern and celebrate. He said most because he noticed more than a couple of players slipping away at the first chance.

And that was why they were now packed into some rusty bar drinking. Now that he thought about it, a couple of players here seemed to be fairly young. Did drinking in a virtual world count as underage drinking?

King put the thought away; it wasn't like anyone was going to check anyways. Instead, he just raised his glass to toast another bunch of players once more. His lips imitating as happy of a smile that he could fake.

There was plenty of reasons to celebrate. They had cleared the first-floor boss without a single casualty. They had unlocked the second floor and made their first step to clearing this game. And most importantly, he wasn't dead!

Even so, he was having a bit of trouble trying to match the mood of the party. It was just… it was just how people were hyping him up again. He knew they did it all the time and at first it had just been a bit embarrassing but now the hero worship was just downright creeping him out.

"King managed to resist that knockback attack!" Nope, he just got lucky.

"King was having the time of his life soloing the boss." Hell no.

"King soloed the boss to save those guys near the boss." There were people stunned near the boss?

"King could I talk to you for a moment?" There was- Wait what?

King met eye with Diabel. The young man's cheeks flushed from drinking. It was obvious one could actually get drunk in the game but now he also wondered if Kayaba was cruel enough to also implement hangovers. Oh, who was he kidding, of course he was.

"Can't you say it here?" He asked him, waving across his table.

"It's a bit private." Diabel replied before hesitantly adding. "I also probably won't be drunk enough to do this again any time soon."

That drew more than a few looks, some more innocent than others. It certainly didn't make him feel any better about this. Still, there wasn't any reason to deny him. "Alright then."

The two of them quickly left the floor, a few players calling out to them but the majority just let them go. They probably just assumed the two main leaders were going to have some strategy meeting or whatever. He actually hoped that they weren't wrong.

Once they were away from the others, inside one of the inn rooms, King turned to Diabel and asked. "So what is it?"

Again, Diabel hesitated before gulping down and saying, "Well, that thing is; I just want some advice."

King felt a bit relieved at the admission. He just wants some advice. Relief that quickly turned to apprehension when he realized that the man wanted advice from him.

"The truth of the matter is that I too am a Pro-Hero. Unlike you though, I'm just a mere C-Class." Diabel explained, sounding a bit depressed by the last bit.

"C-Class is still pretty good." Definitely better than he could ever manage in real life.

"But it's not good enough!" Diabel countered. "Even though I know I probably won't ever make it to S-Class; I still want to get stronger. So… so I was wondering if you could maybe spare some advice?"

"The Silver Fang takes disciples." King immediately replied. These types of questions usually lead up to him asking for some apprenticeship and such. And no matter how good he was at bluffing, there was no way he could actually train someone to fight.

"You misunderstand, I'm not asking you to take me as a disciple." Diabel waved his hands, dismissing the idea. "I just… I'm just hoping that maybe you could give me some training tips or something.?"

King nodded slowly. Training tips… training tips… what training tips? He's never even been a gym before! He had no idea what training for a Hero actually involved. So rather than try and make one up, he conjured up an excuse, "I haven't trained in a long time."

"Of course, of course." Diabel was surprisingly understanding. "Constantly killing monsters is probably more than enough to keep your skills sharp."

That… that wasn't what he meant at all.

"Still," Diabel continued, "even a Hero like yourself must have started out somewhere. Like, how did you train at the start?"

Damnit, he was insisting. Guess that he was going to have to make it up afterall-

"Actually, there is something." King suddenly stated. Now that he thought about it, he did know one training regimen. "There is one workout I can give you. It will be intense and strenuous, it will require dedication and hard work, but I can guarantee you that it'll make you strong by the end of it."

"I'm ready." Diabel resolutely said, leaning in to not miss a single word. "What is it?"

"100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and a ten-km run. Every. Single. Day." King stated, repeated word for word the stupid workout that he heard Saitama once mention. Saitama was definitely the strongest person he knew and if it worked for him, it would work for Diabel as well right?

Diabel resolutely nodded, not looking the least deterred by the extreme workout. "So that's what you used to get strong."

"Yes." No. His legs would give out on day two.

"Then I shall follow in your footsteps." Diabel announced, fixing him with a determined look. "Thank you for sharing this with me King. I'm sure this training regimen you've developed will serve me well. I'll get to it the moment we escape from this game."

King just nodded as Diabel went on and on. Yep. The training regimen that he totally developed. The one he totally used to get strong. Yeah...

Sorry Saitama-bro.