Chapter 8-Nail Biter


December 12th, 2020

Minos Fortress-Floor 2 Dungeon. Top Floor.

KazmaO stood with the raid group outside the door leading to the boss fight. Up ahead was the main party where Thinker and Kibaou were rallying the troops.

Minos Fortress was a drag, a massive grindfest. The mobs themselves weren't that bad. Minos Soldiers and Phalanxes were easy to handle, though the Taurus Knights and Centurions proved their mettle in battle. Thankfully, the guide book with the info provided by the Beta Testers along with Thinker's tactics helped lead the raid through without casualties.

But good god did raids like these always last for hours?! He should have stuck with Fighting games…

The brown skinned boy perked as he felt his shoulder being tapped, and turned to see Agil looking over him.

"You doin' okay? You have looked cross all day." Agil said.

"I'm alright." KazmaO sighed. "I just never figured raids would...take so long."

"I agree, the raid on the Floor One Dungeon was shorter, though we had the benefit of the Betas knowing it like the back of their hands and we scouted it extensively beforehand. This? We have only the knowledge from the Beta Testers and the guide book, and the scouting party burned through this fast. This was a rush job but hey, we made it to the boss room, so no harm no foul right?"

"I guess." KazmaO shrugged. Suddenly, someone bumped against him, making him turn.

"Oh sorry about tha-" KazmaO began saying, only to find out that of all people it was Kirito, who for a moment looked surprised before seemingly noticing whom he had bumped into and just glared, daring him to say something as he just kept walking. "Jerk…"

Agil said nothing.

"So." KazmaO sat down on a stone, Agil standing close by. "What's the strategy for the boss fight? Tank gets aggro and we all go about our merry way of beating the crap out of him?"

"According to the Guidebook the boss is named Baran the Taurus General and it's a simple Tank-and-spank. Tanks gather aggro and hold the boss' attention while we whack at it."

"Heh." KazmaO grinned. "Sounds easy enough." He saw Agil didn't share his cocky enthusiasim.

"I wouldn't get too cocky. This game has already proven to be different from the Beta, like with the Floor One Boss. We don't know what kinda boss awaits us behind that door. Heck, it could be an entirely different boss for all we know."

"Right. Hey, Thinker's gathering the guys," KazmaO said, standing up and walking towards the congregation, the much taller and darker-skinned man behind him.

"Okay everyone, we're here at the boss room. Great job with the trash mobs till now," Thinker said. Kibaou was by his side, arms crossed. "Everyone got their guidebooks right? Pull them out and let's review." Everyone in the raid got out their guidebooks and Agil lowered his, for his younger companion to read over.

"Okay so according to the beta players our boss is Baran, the Taurus General. He's a simple tank and spank boss fight, with an AoE Stun attack that's channeled beforehand. Any tank affected would be stunned for a little bit, but no longer than fifteen seconds. When this happens, another tank should Switch in and take aggro. So this will likely be a very aggro intensive fight, best advice is for the tanks to be in front, then all but one fall back. The AoE strike hits the hardest the person with the most threat, so the off-tanks should pull away and wait until the main tank is stunned, before moving back in and continue generating aggro. DPS should wait until the off-tanks have collected enough aggro, so hold off until fifteen seconds into the fight. That's the plan in a gist. A lot easier than the Floor One Boss." Thinker closed his book. "Any questions?" He asked, looking at the raid.

"What if there are any changes to the fight?" a player asked. "I heard there was a change in the Floor One Boss."

"If there are any changes we'll have to adapt on the fly," Kibaou said. "Besides, the previous boss only had a weapon change. What's the worst that could happen?" He asked nonchalantly.

"Just stay by my side kid and you'll do fine," Agil whispered. "I'll tell ya when to hit the boss and when not to. Kay?" KazmaO looked up at the man and nodded.

"Got it." He gulped as he saw Thinker head to the massive doors and push on them hard with both hands, causing them to open. Without further ado the raid slowly walked into the darkened room. KazmaO swallowed nervously, but felt Agil's hand on his shoulder, trying to soothe him.

The doors opened at long last, revealing the cream colored floor of the boss room illuminated by a rainbow tinted light. KazmaO bit his lower lip as the group entered the room, nervous about what was to come. In front of them, at the far end of the boss room was not one throne…

But three.

"Ah fuck! It's different than the beta! There's three of them!"

"No shit Sherlock!"

"Everyone calm down!"Thinker called out. "Since there's only three of them we just need to split up the tank groups! The strategy stays the same!" KazmaO's heart was already beating hard as he saw the three hulking figures stand up from their thrones and the room was illuminated fully. It revealed even more details on the three massive minotaurs brimming with muscles that stood in their way to freedom.

The right minotaur's name and three Health Point bars came to life. Nato the Taurus Colonel. He was adorned with numerous medals, which were pinned to an outfit that vaguely looked like some kind of military uniform, and had a wooden warhammer to go along with his lack of armor.

The Taurus on the left throne had five HP bars. Baran the Taurus General. He was bigger than Nato, had bigger muscles and basically looked simply meaner. He was wearing bits and pieces of armor that seemed to have been cobbled together to form a mismatched mess and the entire ensemble was topped off with a cape. He too was armed with a hammer, but his was made of metal.

In the center was the most imposing boss, draped in royal and spiked regalia and a cape as its six HP bars flared as Asterius the Taurus King took a step forward, grabbing his massive hammer in the process and roaring. The other bosses did so as well, their combined roar reverberating throughout the room.

"Tank group One on Asterius! Group Two on Baran! Tank Group Three on Nato! Keep them all facing away from the DPS groups! Engage!" Thinker shouted out as the tank groups charged towards their respective targets, while the DPS groups hung back and waited for instructions in light of the changed circumstances. "DPS! Focus on burning down Nato first! Then Baran! Keep Asterius for last. Let the tanks take the damage and draw the aggro, that's what they're there for. Just be ready to Switch whenever anyone needs a breather!"

KazmaO was jogging at the rear of the DPS group, Agil by his side as they diverged, the tanks engaging the bosses and drawing their aggro, thus turning them away from the rest of the raid. The DPS groups hung back, grabbing their weapons and preparing their Sword Skills as they waited for aggro to be built so that their harder hitting attacks wouldn't suddenly make the AI prioritize them as targets for the enemy. Nato was in a deadlock with a tank armed with a shield and an axe, but suddenly the tank parried with his shield, staggering the boss. "Now!"

It was an opening too good to pass up, and the waiting DPS groups were more than happy to exploit it as, with a chorus of yells, they ran in slashing the boss from behind with Sword Skill after Sword Skill. KazmaO ran by Agil's side, yelling in tandem as he gave off several hits to the boss' back. The boss reeled under the onslaught, one of his HP bars vanishing before long and leaving two more to go. In that moment, he roared with the other minotaurs and the three lifted their hammers over their heads.

"Stun! Get away!" Someone yelled, and KazmaO did just that, sprinting away from the boss as fast as his legs could carry him. The bosses' hammer came down with a slam that created a powerful shockwave that struck each of the higher aggroed Tanks, sending them falling face first to the floor, stunned.. "Off-tanks! Back in there now!" Thinker howled and the aforementioned players, the reserve tanks assigned to sub for the primary tanks precisely in situations such as this or when they needed a break. heeded his call and rushed in, gaining aggro to prevent the Taurus bosses from finishing off the main tanks. KazmaO didn't focus on the rest.

His eyes were on Nato as the DPS groups were burning him down, slowly but surely reducing its HP to nothing, the weakest of the three bosses to the best of their ability., He himself was throwing a whole array of glowing punches at the leg of the monster, the closest part of the boss that he could reach. Under this determined onslaught his second HP bar quickly shattered. "Keep it up!" Yelled Thinker, as he stood back to prepare another Sword Skill of his own to add to the attack.

"Stun!" Yelled a player, and the Taurus' raised their hammers over their heads, roaring. Knowing full well what to expect, the players got out of the way. The hammers came down, shockwaves emanating from their strikes and stunning the tanks. "Tanks back! DPS kill Nato!"

KazmaO and Agil shouted wordless battlecries and attacked. The dark skinned boy saw the taller man swing his glowing axe down, even as his own glowing red fists lashed out in a quick flurry of punches.

"I understand it now!" Agil yelled. "The first boss had a great deal of defense and only four HP bars. These guys have no defense whatsoever!"

"Less talking more burning moron!" Kibaou shouted as he sidestepped past Agil, his DPS Sword Skills finishing it's recharge, and swung his mace hard, striking Nato right in the face. With a dying growl, Nato fell backwards, erupting into pixelated shards.

"One down! Focus on Ba-" Thinker was interrupted by the roars of Asterius and Baran. KazmaO grinned.

This… this wasn't so bad. Just get in, hit a couple of times, and get out! Only issue was how many times the players had to keep up the pattern. Well that and be on the look out for surprises. Like how the bosses always used a hammer AoE strike every time a HP bar was shaved off. All they needed to do was keep their focus so they weren't caught off guard by little tricks like that while keeping up with the routine.

"This is easier than I thought…" KazmaO mused to himself as the DPS group and Group 3 rushed towards Baran. As he joined them, he spied a few other players drinking red health potions. This prompted the boy to take a quick look at his own HP. It was still at full.

"I helped take down a boss and didn't even receive a single hit? This whole battle will be a cinch…" KazmaO confidently thought to himself, even as a self satisfied smile spread across his face.

Clenching his hands tighter together in determination, KazmaO got to Baran and began to unleash one glowing Fist Weapon Sword Skill after another. Punch. Uppercut. Flurry of punches. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. The colors flew all around him as Baran's first HP bar was destroyed. KazmaO knew the AOE stun was coming and he should get away but he was feeling adventurous, so instead of running away like everyone else was doing, he instead chose to do an acrobatic hop backwards to safety.

"I can do this…" He said to himself, staying just outside the AoE, watching as the bosses' shockwave attack dissipated several meters in front of him. As soon as the attack's effect faded, the boy sprinted back into the fray, unleashing more of his attacks.

"I can win!" He said with a smirk even as he saw the rest of the group follow in after him. He ignored them, instead focusing on unleashing strike after strike on Baran. Agil's axe came in, staggering the boss and stunning him. Within a matter of moments and under the constant assault by the players, his HP bar was depleted. Three more left.

Baran roared, hammer raised. KazmaO smirked as he hopped back.

"I will get out of here!" He shouted as he ran back into the melee once the AOE had run its course, striking Taran's back with his attacks. He felt himself sweating from the exertion but this feeling… Of striking and seeing that HP bar and whittling it down little by little from green to yellow to red…

It was exciting! Exhilarating even!

Another bar was destroyed, and Baran stumbled. Two more left.

The process of striking, retreating, rinse and repeat continued until Baran roared out one final time and collapsed to the ground, disappearing into pixels.

"One more!"

"We can do this!" Shouted the players.

KazmaO could understand their elation. Their joy. Their confidence. He was feeling the exact same way. He turned to Asterius, who roared out as his first HP bar began to disperse depleted as the tanks' attacks finally took their toll, and he took in a massive deep breath… there was lightning sparks by his nostrils!

"Everyone get back!" Yelled out Thinker, and the players retreated, but the tank group that was in charge of Asterius couldn't get back far enough, and Asterius breathed out a cone of lightning. The tank group yelling as they were caught up in the attack and slumped to the ground, paralyzed. The boss then roared, striking at the target of his aggro twice with his hammer, dealing massive amounts of damage and causing the player to disperse into pixels.

Someone just died…

"He gets extra abilities!" Yelled out a player.

"Oh we're so dead!"

"Off tanks get in there!" Thinker yelled, aiming to get control over the chaos. "Face him away from the raid! Get that tank group out of there and with potions!"

The raid group was apprehensive, KazmaO included. A boss changing its tactics mid-fight? That's just… unfair! Several players charged forward, and KazmaO noticed one of them amongst the ones charging in.

Kirito and the chestnut haired girl.

Wait… why was that jerk Kirito rushing in like that? KazmaO was perplexed and confused…

The boss roared as the off tanks charged at the boss and turned him away the raid. Several raiders inside the DPS groups took the paralyzed players and dragged them away, offering words of reassurance to the tanks who were groaning in misery..

T-This is the last boss. He needs to take this down and then they'll have taken another step forward!

No retreat!

KazmaO charged, the other players following. They found the boss engaged with the off-tank group and the DPS beginning to strike at his sides and back, avoiding his large hammer swings. When his HP Bar reached the halfway mark the boss's nostrils sparked up. Another lightning breath… The off tanks ran to the side, the boss roaring and unleashing his coned attack upon the wall. But whereas everyone backed off…

KazmaO kept attacking, glowing hands striking at the backside of the boss. His teeth gritting as he continued the assault on Asterius.

More… more damage… Keep attacking… just… keep attacking! Even if it meant using every Sword Skill he knows with his fist weapons, he will! He continued his rotation of Sword Skills… use them all whenever he could.

Jump back when he roars and does his hammer strike.

Rinse...repeat!

"KazmaO get back here!" Yelled out a voice. Must have been Agil… no…

Just keep attacking. He has this. The tanks will hold! The DPS alongside him are attacking with him. He has four more HP bars left!

Again… three more…. He and DPS are holding steady and keeping the boss under fire. Tanks are switching in and out...

Two more!

One more! Just keep burning! He walked the tight-rope, staying just outside of the boss' AoE shockwave to get in on using whatever Sword Skills that wasn't on cooldown. Every sword skill...

As the final bar whittled down bit by bit, each of KazmaO's blows striking and bringing up each face of his family and extended his family. Even that dweeb Kenji and Uncle Wabisuke. Mom. Dad. Chiyo…

The boss unleashed his lightning breath on the tank group, leaving them stunned. the boss raised his hammer high, and KazmaO took steps backward, hopping and he gasped. The radius…

He's going to get caught!

Asterius roared as he slammed the hammer onto the ground, the shockwave reaching him and KazmaO saw his HP bar drop from all green down to the yellow. Was he that lightly armored!?

He yelled out as he fell backwards, falling like a stringless puppet and by his HP bar, he saw a yellow icon flashing with a thunder bolt.

Paralysis…

He heard growling and his eyes craned up and the boss was...turning towards him, his HP bar shattered. Three more left.

KazmaO felt his blood run cold. He had done so much damage without taking breaks… he's drawn aggro! Asterius's bull like snout was snarling, teeth bared as he raised his hammer above his head.

He's going to die.

Ikezawa Kazuma is going to die here. Alone. His brain frying and turning into mush.

All because of his hotheadedness to rush through and kill this boss, without taking in account the proper tactics…

Asterius roared as the hammer began to fall and KazmaO closed his eyes.

"I got you!" Yelled a voice and KazmaO felt himself lifted off the ground and carried. He felt himself leave the ground as the normal hammer strike hit the ground. He saw black.

And he was in the arms of Kirito, time slowing down as he saw the look of determination and concern on his face as they avoided the attack, and rolled together in a heap, KazmaO on the ground and Kirito on top.

"Are you okay?!" Kirito shrieked, panting as he looked down at him. KazmaO's mouth was agog.

"Kiri...to? W-Why?"

"Kirito!"

"KazmaO!" Two voices sounded out and Kirito turned his head and KazmaO his line of sight and saw the chestnut haired girl and Agil running towards them. Kirito held out a green potion of some kind. It shattered in his hands and KazmaO saw the green mist wash over him, and the Paralysis icon vanished.

"Are you okay?" Agil asked as Kirito rolled off of him and KazmaO sat up. They heard roaring and saw Asterius stomping towards them! Kirito growled and got out his sword, the girl and Agil doing the same.

"Time to die!" Shouted a voice, and behind Asterius someone leapt up, mace raised and Kibaou brought down his cudgel hard on the boss' head, the boss staggering under the blow as the last of his HP whittled down to zero. He fell forward with a dying roar, shattering into countless pixels.

Congratulation!

The window popped up right where the boss was defeated, and the three thrones disappeared, a doorway materializing into existence. And a roar of cheers erupted as the raid mobbed Kibaou, lifting him up and congratulating him.

"What were you thinking!?" KazmaO turned towards Kirito, who was glaring hard at him. "He could have killed you! Why did you keep attacking the boss like that?!"

"I… I thought that…"

"You used all of your Sword Skills didn't you, including the threat-building ones didn't you?" KazmaO looked to the side.

That… He nodded. "Yeah… I… I just wanted to damage the boss as fast and quick as possible. I mean… I was doing a good job..."

"Was being the keyword. You only stick to the Sword Skills that do damage and don't build a lot of aggro. Not the ones only tanks can use. This isn't some normal mob, that guy was a legitimate boss." Kirito sternly educated him. "Do you understand?"

His voice was hard, but KazmaO understood. After all, he was new to MMOs… and this was his first raid. KazmaO looked down at the ground.

"I...I'm sorry… I...I just want to head back to my family… If we can clear a floor in several weeks or several days… I could get out of here for my sister's birthday… she's only several months old and…" He felt a hand on his shoulder and he looked up, his brown eyes meeting Kirito's dark ones.

"Look. I know how you feel. Everyone here has family out in the real world. I want to get out of here too… But you can't help anyone or get back to them if you're dead. Or do anything stupid." Kirito's face softened. "Live. Okay? Can you do that?"

KazmaO bit his lower lip, but the boy nodded. "Y-Yeah…" He turned his head, seeing Kibaou bark and boast at his new warhammer. Then he looked back to him.

Kirito the Beater. Someone who was selfish and cared only for himself… so why?

"K-Kirito?"

"Yeah?" Kirito stood up, offering his hand to the boy and KazmaO took it, standing up on his own two feet.

"Can we talk later? I mean… there's some things I want to talk to you about." Kirito's face fell.

"Look… Talk to Argo. For now we need to head to the third floor. And KazmaO… for your sake, don't associate yourself with me. It's for the best."

"But why? I mean, are those Beater rumors true-"

"They're not." The girl spoke sharply. "Kirito did nothing of the-"

"Asuna." Kirito spoke sternly, looking her way. "Please." The girl named Asuna had a conflicted look on her face.

"What you did there Kirito," Agil finally took the time to spoke. "That was really brave of you."

"Yeah yeah, let's just get to Floor 3. I need an inn and a bed. And KazmaO." He turned at the swish of his coat, looking back at the boy. "Be careful. Alright?"

"O-Okay… I will."


Kirito began walking forward, hearing Asuna trot by his side. He sighed. "Do you remember what I said earlier?"

"I agree with Agil. Kirito you could have been killed too." She said. "But still, you saved his life."

"Well duh." Kirito scoffed. "He's a newbie. As an avid MMOer like myself, seeing him do such a stupid tactic grinds my gears."

"That's not Kirito the Beater though." Asuna smiled softly, and Kirito blinked. She… really is pretty smiling. "That's Kirito the human being."

Kirito could spot some players walking his way and he felt his heart be torn. He… truly wanted to be with Asuna. She was good to talk to, and she… she knows his deal. Why he took on this role.

But he can't.

He can't let her suffer by her association with him. He just can't!

"I got to go."

"I'll keep in touch." Asuna trotted back towards Agil and KazmaO. Kirito sighed in relief, smiling lightly.

He ignored some of their insults with not but a glance. If Kibaou's flunkies wanted to haggle him that's fine.

For now, he needs to head to Floor 3 and get a bed. He's beat.

Floor 2 of Aincrad has been cleared.

Ninety-eight more to go.


AN: Okay I have some explaining to do about this. Mainly my writing career. Well… let's just say I'm in a twisted transition right now.

I'm in a point of my life where writing solo and freetime is more or less hard right now(graduating college, entering work force) and inspiration for things is tough. The things I was inspired in the past has lost its shine or has made me rage. SAO is getting a bit close in that regard but still has a better concept and girls. Plus Alicization and SAO 2's second half was/is promising.

Fairy Tail? As bad as the star wars prequels and predictable as fuck. I'm more or less done witht the series and only take satisfaction if someone else writes it well or I RP ing it for the lewds.

So yeah, consider my FT/OP pieces decommissioned. I, however, am leaving them up for adoption. If anyone wants to adopt them and then write and expand on them, I would be happy to be creative consultant and beta. Same with Words Without a Voice as well. TTGL and the Evangelion movies had lost its luster on me. FUCK 3.33. But yeah, I am still leaving this up for adoption as well. Same with my Shiki works too. Sooooo everything but CEM is not for sale as no one else likes SAO(to some degree) and Summer Wars(so niche). So yeah, get in contact with me if you want to tackle any of these works yourself. I would be be happy to serve as Beta and Creative Consultant. Just PM me and get in contact with me about it

I also have been busy with other stuff. Mainly co-writing which I have loved doing. In fact, I have done two co-writing projects. One with the esteemed LD 1449 in Outcry, a crossover between Dark Souls and Worm, and Kill, Save, Liberate, a crossover between One Piece and Akame Ga Kill with FernandelDeLaFrance. I am more or less going to be working on this story on and off and then do major work on co-writing. Seriously, read Outcry here on or on Spacebattles or Sufficient Velocity. It's awesome. And read Fernandel and LD's stories!

So yeah, review, PM me if you have any questions, talk to me, give critique. Next time, Floor 3!