Chapter 17:

LEVEL 17: The Chaos Dragon

CREO: Game of Creation

It killed thousands of innocents and left swathes of land forever scarred. Countless heroes (mostly beta players) died attempting to bring it down. And I was planning to take it on alone with no CREO abilities. Thinking about the insanity of it, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as I climbed the mountain it was rumored to be perched on. I say mountain, but it was in fact a flock of massive stone creatures, shaped like a collection of spherical rocks fused together, which floated in place together in a shape mostly resembling a mountain, so that an agile adventurer could scale the flock with relative ease, though with the occasional long jump and narrow platform. As I rose, the vast, infinite landscape of the virtual world stretched out before me. I could see the bio-luminescent swamps, the fields where the lion-moles burrowed, and the player-created towers that reached into the sky, each containing their own worlds within. Every so often, a flash of the multi-colored light that signaled a refresh in the virtual data showed itself, betraying the illusion. I reached the clouds—the bright and colorful world replaced by eerie gray nothingness.

Then I heard it roar. My entire body vibrated, my stomach felt like it had turned upside down, I couldn’t breathe, and a wave of the darkest emotions took hold over me, the sort that lays buried in the back of your mind and preys on you in your weakest, self-loathing moments. I wanted to scream, cry, jump out into the foggy nothingness, curl into a ball and pretend it was all a dream, all at once. Instead, I forced myself on, one step at a time, until I could see its silhouette. It stretched out its wings, let out another malice-filled roar, and rocketed into the sky—the force of its take-off dispersing the cloud, exposing me atop a wide rock-bird, the heavens above us spattered with a wide pallet of swirling, ever changing color. I glimpsed the dragon’s eyes—yellow, the color of police-tape, or the gloves one may wear when examining a corpse. There was no way I stood any chance of leaving the mountain alive, but I took aim with my bow anyway and fired, hoping to hit one of its soul-piercing eyes, but instead hitting a scale on its side, the arrow bouncing off as if it were a toothpick.

OK, how about magic? I reached into my cloak and took out a bag of magic stones. I tossed the whole thing at the dragon as it flapped its wings on its way to kill me. While the stones produced pretty firecracker-like sparks of lightning, ice, and fire, they did little to slow it down. My last option was my sword—I’d spent quite a lot on it, probably the best forged thing anywhere near Amissa, but I knew it was all in vain. The horrible creature breathed its fire, my barrier barely protecting me from incineration. The fire wasn’t hot, rather it was icy cold, the kind of cold that takes hold of you, makes your bones ache, and doesn’t let go. One slash of the dragon’s claws and I was sent flying, landing quite a way down the mountain on a mossy Rock-bird.

If this is the end, at least it’ll be flashy. I thought, springing into the air for one last try at the beast. Landing on its head (very much a miracle), I tried digging my sword into the creature’s skull… only for my sword to snap in two in an instant. I stared at the hilt and burst into laughter.

“It might as well have been made of glass.” I said to myself before the dragon flung me off its head. I steadied myself in the air and created a jump board for myself with magic, taking me safely back onto the mountain so that I could face my doom on my feet. The dragon hurled itself, jaws opened wide, with unbelievable speed. Time seemed to slow down, to a near stop—I could count every scale and wrinkle on the dragon’s skin, every tooth, every shimmering light in the virtual sky. I even noticed a little flower growing on the rock-bird I was standing on—it was the same blue as someone’s eyes. Out of everything I could think about as I was about to die, I was glad it was him. There were a million things I’d tell him if I could see him again.

“Thank you, Adam.” I said with a smile on my face, the dragon’s roar consuming my world.

“I haven’t done anything yet.” He said, the snarky brat that he was. A burst of light and fire crackled above the dragon, drawing its roar, and its advance toward me, to an abrupt halt. From behind me, two lights shone, followed by streams of magical energy, coalescing into an arrow that pierced the dragon’s chest. That got it mad.

Lucy and Teo patted my back, before Teo sent the dragon spiraling down his avant-garde worlds, shifting the dragon into a wireframe model, then a 2D sprite, then a stick figure, then a horrible blend of all of the above.

Lucy’s turn—the dragon faced three gates. It chose the leftmost one and shrunk to half its size, leaving it an easy target for our team leader—who amassed a colossal ball of energy and hurled it at the beast, charring it into a shriveled shadow of itself. It landed at my feet, struggling to stand. My teammates looked at me expectantly.

“Care to do the honors?” Lucy said. I picked up the jagged remains of my sword and sliced into the beast, beheading it. The dragon’s withered body disintegrated into black ash, and thus, it was gone. The world of Alpha was free from its tyranny.

“Kai?” I felt Teo’s arm around my shoulder. Lucy had her camera out, but seemed to decide against a picture, making the camera disappear and standing off with her hand clasped together. Adam stood in front of me, but I couldn’t see him—my head was down and my eyes were filled with tears.

“I’m sorry.” I choked out. Adam stepped toward me and craned his neck to the side to look at me and smile.

“What’re you sorry about? We’re sorry we took so long to find you.” I shook my head.

“I broke my promise to myself to protect you. You were all just stepping stones to me so I could win, then I hid behind you as you faced danger and you’ve suffered because of me.”

“We know, but that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re together again.” I pulled him in and hugged him, warm and tight. Adam laughed, though I heard tears in his voice too. Teo and Lucy joined us, and for the first time since I’d been banished, I felt happy and alive.