December 3rd, 2022.

"Oi, Nemui! Nemui, can you hear me?!" A girl called out, hands on her hips. Her piercing blue eyes stared at the boy before her, otherwise shoulder-length white hair tied back in pig tails. A short sword hung off her waist, along with about a dozen knives, each with a white handle. Her white dress clung to her body nicely, red belts crossing the chest in an X. There were even knives hanging off of those too.

"Huh?" He responded, hazel eyes blinking a few times from underneath his blond hair. As usual, his eyelids were half closed, a slow stream of drool leaking out of the corner of his mouth. He wore a simple green t-shirt and blue pants. Nothing special. The only thing mildly impressive was the silver cutlass hanging off of his side. Not many people managed to get their hands on something like that.

"Come on, we're supposed to be heading to clear the second floor dungeon with everyone else!" She pouted, quickly flicking the tip of his nose. Nemui barely felt it.

"Oh.. Yeah.. Sorry, Bluebell," He replied, voice extremely slow. With a sigh he pushed himself up onto his feet, stretching out with a yawn. Bluebell placed her head in her hand, sighing softly. Why was she stuck partying with this guy? Oh right. It was because the others left already!

"Let's just get going, okay? Vicky's gonna be really mad if we don't show up on time." She took him by the hand, practically having to drag him to the teleport stand. His feet dragged the entire time. "At least try and stay focused this time, okay? You won't do us much good if you're asleep."

"I don't see why you need me to help. You guys are all higher levels than me," Nemui yawned again, eyes already starting to close.

"Having four people fight at once is better than three. Anyways, besides Vicky you're our hardest hitter. Cutlasses do more damage than a knife, you know," Bluebell pointed out for the umpteenth time. Because of Nemui, they had all missed the fight with the first boss. It wasn't exactly fair for the rest of them. He had to learn that he was part of a guild and needed to start acting like it. Even if he was only level 10.

Anyone with half a brain knew not to piss off their leader though and Nemui was doing that an awful lot lately. Vicky was probably ready to lop his head off and hang it from her belt. Bluebell wouldn't put it past her.

"Why don't you get Magnus to cover for me? He uses a sword and a shield. That's gotta be worth more than my cutlass," Nemui argued. Bluebell just shot him a look that said "shut up". He did.

"Transport! Urbus!" Bluebell called out. In a blink of an eye, they were standing at the entrance to the second floor. Urbus wasn't all that special, just your average town. What they wanted was the entrance to the level two dungeon. Bluebell kept a tight grip on Nemui's hand as she pulled him through the crowd, weaving in between people.

"S-slow down!" Nemui told her, hoping she would at least slow to a walk. Nope. She kept on in a full on sprint, dragging him straight out of town.

"We can't slow down! We need to catch up to Vicky and Magnus!" Bluebell shouted back at him, feet pounding against the dirt trail leading them outside of Urbus. Once she had her mind set on something, there was no way to talk her out of it. Stubborn as a mule, her father had always said. Right up to the day he died. She figured she might as well stay the same way.

The sun was almost set by the time they arrived at the dungeon, both players exhausted and covered in sweat. Nemui fell onto his butt, eyes towards the sky. He was gulping in breath like a drunk with some whiskey. Bluebell stood with her hands on her knees, eyes closed as she wheezed.

"I.. Hate... You..." Nemui choked out, blond hair actually sticking to his forehead. Bluebell just laughed and gave him a little smile, standing up straight again.

"Yeah, I know you do. You get two minutes break," She told him, quickly opening up her inventory. She put on a brave face, but she was just as tired, if not more so. With a flew flicks of the wrist a glass bottle filled with water appeared in her hand, quickly disappearing down her throat. "Ahhh~! That's better!"

"Share!" Nemui shouted, or at least he attempted to. With a naturally quiet voice, Nemui's shout was a normal person's inside voice. It used to get him in trouble all the time back in school. Not that that mattered now though. School wasn't worth jack here.

"Fine, you whiny little baby. You should start carrying your own supplies," Bluebell scolded as she produced yet another bottle. She handed it to him, waiting as he gulped it down. Her foot was tapping.

"Ahh.. Now time for a nap~" Nemui smiled, falling onto his back and closing his eyes. Bluebell's eyebrow twitched and she quickly kicked him in the side, right around where his kidney should be.

"UP!"

After five minutes of writhing in pain and complaining about peeing blood, Nemui was up on his feet again. His eyes were narrowed at Bluebell, who was smiling innocently as they trotted along through the dungeon. It seemed like a good chunk of the monsters had been beaten. Vicky and Magnus were going to work. In truth, it actually scared the two rookies a bit. After all, Nemui was only level 10 and Bluebell was three higher. Both Vicky and Magnus had broken level 20.

"Do you think those two are doing okay by themselves?" Nemui asked, arms folded behind his head. As strong as they were, going to take on an entire floor wasn't exactly a bright idea. They promised not to fight the boss though, so that was something.

"Yeah, why wouldn't they be? They're two of the strongest players in the game right now, other than that Beater."

"Beater? What's that?"

"Are you serious? You don't even know that?" Bluebell complained, but she quickly let it go. It wasn't his fault he was a complete and total moron. "Look. A Beater is what people call a Beta Tester and a Cheater put together, see? It's cuz they abandoned us from the start. All they cared about was keeping themselves alive. They're assholes."

"Huh. But.. Aren't they just playing the game? I mean, everyone's trying to survive right? They're just doing it a different way than the rest of us." Nemui pointed out, closing one eye as he spoke.

"The main thing we should do is work together, not abandon the newbies to their doom. It doesn't work like that. They have information on the bosses that could help us. They should share it." Bluebell's eyes looked sad and faraway, like she wasn't actually there while they talked. Nemui just dropped the conversation there, listening to clip-clop of his boots hitting the stone floor.

"Wait a second." Bluebell's hand was suddenly in front of him, resting lightly on his chest. Nemui raised an eyebrow, shrugged and stood still. Bluebell's hand was dangling over her short sword, fingers twitching anxiously.

"Is something coming?" Nemui whispered. It sounded as if he had put himself on the volume just above mute. Bluebell's hearing was sharp enough to catch what he said though and she nodded.

As if on cue a roar shook the floor they stood on, dust falling from the ceiling. At the end of the hallway a door burst open, revealing a bear with pure black fur and blood red eyes. It was charging towards the two, seven-inch claws digging small trenches in the ground. Two health bars were floating next to the bear's head, though they were slightly obscured by the froth coming from its over sized mouth.

"What the hell is that?!" Nemui's hand was on his own sword now, the tiniest glimmer coming off of his cutlass. Bluebell just shook her head, snapped four knives off her belt and threw. A bright white light covered the knives before they hit their mark. All four of the bear's knee caps. Its legs gave out from the attack, causing the bear to start into a frontward roll. About a quarter of the first health bar dropped.

"Come on," Bluebell hissed, short sword already in hand. Nemui sighed and nodded, drawing his own sword as well. Bluebell charged the bear, who was now getting up and looked none too pleased about having its kneecaps stabbed. Once she was close enough Bluebell swung her sword, catching the underside of the bear's jaw, taking off another chunk of health.

With a snarl the bear's arm lashed out, making contact against Bluebell's midsection. She was flung through the air almost twenty feet, eyes wide with pain. She hit the ground and skidded another five until she stopped, fighting for breath. Her health bar was down about a fifth. Then the bear turned its attention to Nemui.

"Oh, great," Nemui griped, tightening his hold on his cutlass. He bent his knees slightly, staring at the bear. It stared back. Its knees coiled slightly before it sprang forward, heading for him at full speed. Nemui just held his ground, eyes slowly closing.

He inhaled. Exhaled. Inhaled. Exhaled.

Listened for the bear's feet hitting the ground. Heard the dirt crunch beneath them, the shriek of its claws cutting into the floor. Ten metres. Five metres.

He could smell its breath. It was just in front of him.

The wind current changed. It was raising its arm, ready to strike. He had five seconds.

Nemui's eyes opened fully and he slashed, a bright orange light flowing from his blade. His head ducked just underneath the incoming claws, a few of his hairs flying off in the process. His sword slammed into the bear's lower abdomen and he dragged it upwards, slashing along the entire length of the creature's torso. He had to jump in order to reach the bear's full height, which was about nine feet. Before it had a chance to counter he turned in mid-air, the orange light being replaced with a blue this time. He sliced the bear from head to toe, leaving two long glowing lines along its body. One faint orange line reaching from around its left hip to its right shoulder and another stretching from the tip of its head right down to the space between its legs.

Its HP dropped to zero. With a mighty howl the bear erupted into floating shards, vanishing into the air. A screen appeared in front of Nemui giving him his stats from the fight. Since Bluebell had fought as well, they split the EXP. Still, it was 800 each and 400 Cor each. That was a pretty good haul. It was even enough for Nemui to finally hit level 11.

Along with that, the bear dropped some sort of item. Just a simple claw and some bear meat. Could probably be used for blacksmithing and cooking. Bluebell would appreciate the gifts.

Nemui walked over to her, holding his hand out to the still slightly shaken girl. "You alright?" Bluebell seemed to avoid looking at him for a moment before their eyes met. There was still some fear in hers. For all her bragging, she hated to fight.

She nodded and took his hand, letting him pull her up to her feet. She hadn't been hit too bad, but she seemed like the attack had stunned her. Weird, he had never seen an attack do something like that before, though it was a game. Anything was possible, really.

"W-we should find the others," Bluebell whispered, pulling her hand from Nemui's. He didn't even realize he'd still been holding it. Her skin was pretty cold.. She resembled winter in just about every way. Snow white hair, ice blue eyes and cold, pale skin. He couldn't believe that was how Bluebell actually looked. He himself was pretty average in comparison to her.

The two walked in silence for a while, and not the good kind of silence. It was awkward. Bluebell had let her hair down now, leaving it to cover her eyes. Nemui was already starting to fall asleep again, eyes drooping open and closed. Being practically brain dead was a plus minus situation. Plus, he could clear his head so he could keep his mind on a fight. Minus, he was so tired and so lazy all the damn time.

Thankfully, the dungeon wasn't too complicated. It was just a really long hallway. Nemui thought about making a Final Fantasy joke here, but it probably wouldn't have gone over well. He was learning.

As they drew closer and closer to the end of the hallway, they could hear the sound of metal hitting metal. Someone was fighting up ahead. It had to be the others. Had they challenged the boss when they promised not to?

"Come on!" Bluebell ordered, taking off into a sprint again, not even caring if she left Nemui behind. Nemui sighed, pretended to commit suicide with a pistol, and then ran after her. It didn't take much to keep up with her, seeing as his legs were much longer, so he could keep pace with her at a jog.

"Oh my God," Bluebell whispered, eyes widening as they ran. The boss doors were wide open, so there was nothing to muffle the bellowing howl of the creature inside. It was a much larger version of the bear from earlier, almost twelve feet tall, with an arm that seemed to be made completely of metal, a large spiked club in its grip. It stood on its hind legs, scars covering its entire body. Its non-metallic arm had nine inch claws that clanged against each other as it moved. This monster had five health bars instead of two and its name hung above its head in cryptic red letters. The Lifetaker.

Sure enough, standing in front of it were a hooded figure holding a seven foot axe in their hands, the blade on the end almost four feet across. Long, silky black hair was visible from the corners of the hood. Vicky. The other was dressed in full on black Viking gear with a red shield in one hand and a longsword with a skull on the end of the handle in the other. His helmet was the only thing that didn't really fit with the rest of his outfit. It looked like it had been pulled straight out of Asterix and Obelisk. It was small, silver and had two wings coming off the sides. Greying facial hair was visible as well, looking like a forest on his face. Magnus.

"Vicky, Magnus!" Bluebell called out, rushing to meet them, short sword drawn. Nemui stood next to Magnus, cutlass in hand.

"You two took your sweet ass time," Vicky seethed, piercing emerald eyes digging straight into their souls. Bluebell shivered. Nemui shrugged.

"I thought you two weren't gonna challenge this thing."

"We can handle it," Magnus countered, glaring at the much younger boy. Nemui shrugged again, all four of them turning their attention to Lifetaker as it roared, smashing its club against the floor.

"And here we... Go."