Chapter 18. The Unstoppable Force

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Dan

As soon as I entered the game, I noticed an icon saying that I’d received a new message. It turned out that I had helped by revealing one of the problems in the artificial intelligence’s objective assessment of virtual reality. As a result, they’d increased the accuracy of my long-distance shot, and as an added bonus, I’d received a pet companion. On the one hand, I’d lost nothing—I didn’t have any great accuracy before, but in this round, with a hook in my hand, the ability to shoot wasn’t useful to me at all, and on the other—what was that second reward about? It was a small, red-eyed, and absolutely useless rabbit. It had 1000 health points, but no attack points nor skills. It was just a piece of meat dragging itself behind me, and all I could do was to show it the direction in which it should jump.

It was insulting. When I’d started reading the message, I’d hoped, for a few seconds there, that the reward would be valuable and that it would help us win. But no. In the meantime, Alessandro activated the sphere of the eagle eye, to open the map for a moment, and then, after estimating how the opponents had distributed their forces, we went ahead, according to our plan. And what was I to do with the three enemies who were waiting for me?

There they were. They weren’t even thinking of hiding now that they knew I was alone: I was pretty sure they’d also used a chance to check the map, since during the first 30 seconds of the game, this feature had a 90% discount. What was the most offensive was the fact that I had nothing to attack them with. In previous matches, I had been able to defeat Pericles and Gaudi, but right now, I was no longer in the shoes of the familiar Orpheus. A clumsy puppet with a belly and a hook—that was me at the moment. I felt lucky for having regular legs instead of wooden ones—I would have had to jump around if that had been the case. I had to calm down. I needed to stay positive: I knew the abilities of those two, and the third one, the Witch of Salem… the fact that she was in the lane against me was also great. In case I lost, there wouldn’t be any hard feelings toward me, given all the doubts she’d caused among my teammates. I was good, but even the best players could get deadlocked.

You have a minute to change the minions’ settings

Now that could be useful—I put more minions in my lane, to try to balance out the power, and only when the time was up, I figured out that I hadn’t paid any attention to what side of the map we were supposed to start on. As a result, it turned out that I had more enemies in front of me and almost no minions. What bad luck!

My misfortunes hadn’t ended there—it all became even worse than I’d expected. There were so many enemies all over the path that they managed to block the lane and were killing not only my minions, but their own, too. All I had reached was level 2 since I was getting practically no experience for the enemy minions their heroes were denying, but it was at least something—the main problem was I still had 0 gold. It was embarrassing, and I had to change something fast, or I could never look my teammates in the eye again after something like this.

I needed a plan. Still, I had won the previous game for a reason and I hadn’t been handed things on a silver platter before I’d gotten into this world, either—I was a champion, I could do this. I ruled out the intuitive solutions, those never turned out well. I needed to plan in detail, and execute my plan only after that had been done. An idea came to me immediately. One of the basic principles of strategic analysis was that if you couldn’t solve a problem headfirst, you needed to go at it from the side and use your strong points.

That was exactly what I was about to do. To come at them from the flank wasn’t a problem, but finding the strong point of my clumsy character wasn’t easy. Still, I found my way around it. What could be more powerful than your unique feature, something that others didn’t really have? I wasn’t talking about honor, wit or nobility, but about my red-eyed pet companion. My plan was to stay as far as possible from the lane where the enemy soldiers were marching, so I just threw my rabbit among them: one couldn’t do this with foreign objects, but the system let me do whatever I wanted with my pet. But that floppy-eared b*****d landed and decided to ignore my orders to come back, behaving as if it wasn’t hearing anything. How was that even possible with those ears!  Meanwhile, a squad of enemy werewolves had noticed the bait and, taking a turn off the main road, confidently surrounded it. Should I rush forward and approach the lane full of enemies? This was definitely a thing that wouldn’t happen. Then that floppy-eared creature should sit there and I should run? Nope, I had a better idea. I assigned 2 skill points to learning and increasing the range of my harpoon, and then pulled the rebellious pet back.

You’ll see what it means to disobey my commands.

The six werewolves that had gone after my bait were the first creeps I’d gotten in this round. I earned my first bit of money—a great feeling, and the main thing was that now I knew how to earn more. Cruising along the edge of the forest, I was able to lure in some more troops and reach level 4, receiving the “Lookout” and “Salted Bones” at the same time. The speed at which I dealt with the opponents was, of course, ridiculous, but at least I’d stopped feeling useless. It seemed like the enemies had also noticed my success and had sent one of the heroes to look after the werewolves. Because of Pericles, this swiftly running old man with a beard that came down to his knees, I missed the next bunch of monsters, but I had no intention of surrendering so easily.

Stepping back, I began to draw up a new plan, trying not to listen to the goblins that were running past me to attack. The green shorties were shouting, trying to convince me that they were better than a rabbit and that messing around with some pet was not the way their old friend should do things. But there it was—a plan. I went to my next raid in the back area, holding a rabbit in one hand and a terribly satisfied goblin in the other. As soon as Pericles appeared in front me, I threw the red-eyed pet, and when the mage rushed in its direction, I lured the werewolves away with the goblin’s help. That was the power of using your mind, a proper one could handle anything. It was a pity that this strategy couldn’t be used twice, the element of surprise would no longer work, so it was necessary to use other tactics to solve the problem.

Maybe I should try to rush forward? There was an element of surprise in this plan, so it could work, especially if I took into consideration that I actually had no other options. The main thing was to not forget to use my strengths, which was the rabbit, and it was all bound to succeed. I waited for the moment when all three of my opponents would get together and rush at a bunch of goblins and pigs, and then I threw the red-eyed thing among them. After a short pause, I followed it. A fireball, lightning bolt, and some kind of dark curse from the witch hit the rabbit in mid-flight, but the 2000 health points that it had at that point weren’t so easily dealt with. He was frozen, nailed to the ground, and even hit by a meteor. As a result, a lot of dust was kicked up and my appearance somehow passed unnoticed.

Now that I was close to my enemies, I focused my attack on the Witch of Salem: she was the closest one to me, and secondly, she seemed to be the weakest and the most fragile. At that moment, the lack of my combat skills was clearly visible—I hit her hard with my harpoon a few times, but I took away a third of her health, at best. And she didn’t even fight back—this seemed like the time to admit my failure and retreat.

“Lookout!” After yelling out this command, I flew some 50 feet back and was now under the protection of the goblin tower with cannons. I immediately used my harpoon to bring back the rabbit. He was useless, but I still didn’t want to lose such a unique animal. After all, it was a gift.

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However, nothing went according to plan: the witch jerked forward sharply, and instead of that white misfit, my hook caught her shoulder and pulled her straight to me. More precisely, right under the shots of the tower’s cannon: my attacks had already showed their inferiority, but a couple of cannonballs instantly reduced her life to zero. Did this mean that I’d simply gone and defeated the most powerful enemy player?

However, I wasn’t given a lot of time to think about this—along with more goblin reinforcements, Samantha rushed into battle. Honestly, I didn’t recognize her right away in that Joker costume, but the hero that had dexterity as a primary attribute and specialized in close combat proved itself very effective against the bewildered mages.

“Thanks for the date, I liked it, we should do it again”. She kicked the prone Gaudi and threw exploding cards at the back of Pericles, who was retreating, Samantha waved her hand at me and ran off again.

So, she had liked it. Involuntarily, a broad smile appeared on my face, and I wasn’t immediately aware of the fact that I’d been deprived of the gold and experience I could’ve gained for killing 2 mages. Even though I hadn’t been thinking of attacking them alone, Samantha was so devious—she’d taken all the rewards for herself and defeated me with a single smile. But Dan Kornev wasn’t the kind of man one could play tricks on, who would melt after a cute girl made him think that he had a chance with her.

I got rid of the burning anger inside me by managing to deal with two waves of werewolves before my opponents came back. It was obvious that they’d managed to buy new armor and weapons, and they were now filled with a desire to get even with someone, and unlike me, they would have every opportunity to do so. I had to retreat, getting back under the protection of the tower, but the enemy were resolved to at least knock down the outpost this time, with one strong and quick attack.

The squad of goblins was quickly defeated and the enemy heroes joined together with a wave of werewolves. The tower started shaking as it received a bunch of attacks and I had to retreat even further. I wanted to rush forward so badly, but this time, I was pretty sure my opponents had prepared all the slowdowns and stuns they could, so if I got within reach, it would all be over. All that was left to see was how this insolent trio would get what they wanted.

“We’ll show them, my Lord!” Another squad of goblins was coming through, but there was nothing they could do. They would be killed from a distance, although it seemed their cries had given me an idea. By the way, this was the second time I’d been inspired by those green shorties, and for some reason, that felt a bit strange.

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Asking my short, brave soldiers to stay behind for a bit, I started tossing them straight into the crowd of werewolves and onto the enemy heroes besieging the tower. The first goblin was thrown, then the second one, and a third followed after him, and after a little while, I heard the angry Witch screaming from the bottom of the tower. My mood immediately improved, and I even felt like singing a tune.

“I don’t care, I’m still free, you can’t take the sky from me.” The fourth, fifth and sixth goblin flew toward the tower: to the top at first, and then, following the earth’s gravity, they started yelling as they hurtled down.

The tower had still collapsed, but I’d reached level 6 and also gotten some gold for killing the Witch of Salem: it seems like the goblins and one pig falling from the sky had been the end of her. Great, now I’d learned all of my skills and even had some gold. I could go back to the base and update my equipment.

Of course, at this point, I didn’t have much money. But after the embarrassment of the first few minutes, my 1500 gold wasn’t even that bad. Obviously, that was only true if one didn’t compare it to my previous earnings, because in that case, it was like heaven and hell.

It didn’t make any sense to buy some simple weapon. I mean, why would I upgrade something I didn’t have by definition? Fortunately, it seemed that there was an additional section of the store for losers like me, with broken artifacts. What was the point of that? It was simple: they had the same swords, armors and some other trifles, but with additional effects. True, there was a downside to it as well—a significant one: the basic attack and defense of each weapon was at least 2–3 times weaker than the standard one. What was the point of upgrading the critical hit or the chance to dodge an attack if your damage and defense were lowered anyways? I believed this could work only for me, the Captain who had nothing to lose. It was too bad that I didn’t have time to go through all the items, but no one would wait for me. So, after doing a couple of minutes of research, I chose a few things.

Aluminum Hook

Reduces the chance of armor penetration, reduces damage by 3 times

Due to its lightness and better aerodynamics, the reach of the “Harpoon” is increased by 30%.

True Berserker’s Armor

Reduces basic armor by 3.

Your body breathes through many holes and unprotected places.

Each enemy within a 15ft radius adds 10% to the hero’s armor.

I’d taken the hook in order to lure the werewolves from an even greater distance, and I would use my old one to fight because it still dealt more damage. But I had some serious plans for the Berserker’s Armor: if I used it wisely, I could greatly increase my defense! I wondered how no one had ever noticed such an amazing thing before.

 So, I put on my new upgrades and had to hurry up because my three enemy heroes were too good at destroying our fortifications without me being nearby, and now they were already attacking another tower. To save time, I decided to take a shortcut through the forest, and that was where I got lucky again after a long time: right there, among the trees, and completely oblivious to my presence, was Faith, focused on running somewhere.

Ha, now she’ll see the power of a real surprise attack, I thought.

“Harpoon!” I activated the skill, and only at the last moment did I realize that, with my reduced attack and defense, I had no chance of winning.

Well, fleeing in order to save their life was something pirates did often.

“Lookout!” I activated another skill to increase the distance between us.

Samantha Hollins

What were minions at the beginning of the game—not helpers, but enemies. Simply experience and gold which strengthen the enemy, while they didn’t really cause any damage. And what had Dan done at the very beginning? He’d reduced the flow of our troops along the lane where the strongest enemy group was. It wasn’t so bad that they’d just give up and move to another lane, wasting time, but it was enough to slow down their development and regain the advantage we’d lost during the avatar selection phase. For some reason, most people perceived all these monsters only as a background, which wasn’t a surprise, considering how weak they were compared to the heroes. But Dan wasn’t like that, he knew how to create a huge advantage with the help of trifles. That was exactly why I…respected him. Yes! That!

When I went back to the base to upgrade my weapons, I told everyone that I would take a look at Dan’s lane. I couldn’t waste more than a couple of minutes on that, but in his circumstances, even a little support could prove to be important. In general, Dan was awesome, but honestly, we did fear that he wouldn’t be able to withstand a fight with three opponents and that he would retreat and try to farm in the forest. However, he was still managing, and had somehow even earned some money.

Having assuaged my worries, I came closer to the battlefield and froze. I’d expected to see many things, but nothing like this. Dan rushed forward, alone against the three of them, somehow forcing his opponents to spend all their control skills on a rabbit he’d found somewhere, and now he was cutting to pieces not just any old hero, but the Witch of Salem herself. She probably hadn’t expected that her allies would let the enemy engage in close combat. But your opponent wasn’t a random player, but Dan himself. What a shame that his hero had been changed. It was obvious that, even with such a brilliant combo, he didn’t have enough attack power to deal with the enemy. He retreated and I sighed. It turned out that, despite such complicated circumstances, I’d believed that my Dan could win. And he could do it! At the very last moment, when everyone had already relaxed and believed that it was all over, he went on to pull the Witch with a harpoon right into the range of our guns. One against three, and the first kill was somehow his. And why am I just standing here?

The Joker—it didn’t only have great speed and critical hits, but explosive cards that could be used at a great distance, as well. Mages without control and cover skills were no more than prey. As if he’d known I was close by, Dan had given me a gift. Maybe he’d somehow sensed it? Was it possible that some people were able to synchronize and begin to understand each other better?

“Thanks for the date, I liked it, we should do it again”. Oh, my God, I’d said that out loud. I was a girl, and I’d said that to a guy first! I almost died from embarrassment right there on the spot.

I couldn’t reign in my anger—I kicked the already dead caterpillar and blew up all the cards I threw at Pericles. That was it, the path was clear, and I was supposed to go back. I felt sorry that we didn’t have time for a short conversation, but I thought it would be better if I stayed quiet. Still tormented by my doubts, I waved to Dan and ran back. By the way, if we were keeping score, it was precisely in the lane of a seemingly clumsy Captain that we had achieved the greatest success. In our own, no one had died—it was still zero-zero. Alessandro and Faith were even—one-one. And only Dan had produced the incredible and, even with my help, slightly impossible result of three-zero.

Chucky’s farming was going a little slower than we’d planned, but so far, there were no failures. Once, I’d even managed to gank the mid lane and help del Mayo destroy the first enemy tower. And then we received a message saying that Dan had lost one of his towers: it was too big of a power difference, and with such a hero, it had been expected to happen, but it was still a bit sad. But we still held the advantage—Dan had somehow managed to kill the Witch of Salem anyway. Her strongest abilities were still locked, but even so, it was still impressive to manage to break through their defenses and force the enemy to pay for each foot of our territory they took.

I reached level 6—I needed to upgrade my clothes, especially since Christina would soon reach the epic level, and we should be fully armed before the attack.

Once I was at the base, I spotted Dan. He had already unlocked all his skills. Yes, he wasn’t the first to have done so, but who could have expected that, while defending the most difficult position, he would be able not only to keep up but even set the pace of our game!

The only thing I couldn’t understand was why he was buying the Berserker’s Armor. We’d tested almost all the types of equipment in the last training battle, when the enemies had already obviously lost but there was still time left—and it turned out that, in the description of this armor, an insignificant, but very important point had been omitted. Opponents whose presence could increase the defense of that armor were only those enemies who had already hit it. And with its reduced defense, if you received a couple of blows, it could all be over. But what was I saying? This was Dan—he was surely already aware of everything. One simply needed to believe in him! He had never let me down before, after all.

Chen Sue

In general, we were doing fine at the beginning of the battle. Yes, they’d reduced the flow of minions through our lane, but then we neutralized Orpheus, first by changing him to the Captain, and then by completely cutting off his flow of gold. But he wasn’t even thinking about giving up. To be honest, I’d thought that we had foreseen everything, but who could have taken into account such a twisted mind.

He was staying off the radar, having realized that carelessly appearing within its radius would instantly lead to us surrounding him and then his death, but at the same time, he was luring our werewolves away by throwing and then pulling back some sort of animal. It looked like a childish joke with a money bag on a string: you would bend down to pick it up, it would move off to the side, and irritating children’s laughter would be heard from the bushes.

The most annoying thing was that he could attack anywhere, and we just had to react or we would be wasting time tracking the werewolves during their entire route. We had just been planning to go on a raid to the next lane and help Faith kill her opponent, but now there was no way we could do that—we had to stay here and control that insufferable Captain. Who would have thought that anyone could benefit from such misfortune?

But as it turned out, this damned Captain was even stronger than I’d thought—yes, he’d just been playing with me this whole time! My life… I lived or died at his whim. Heavy sweat was pouring down my back as I realized this. How could you even fight such a monster? I’d figured that my presence could neutralize his tactics with the rabbit, but then he’d lured me in one direction, while he’d lured our minions with a goblin. And that was when I realized everything. If he could move the minions himself, then what was to stop him from gathering them all in one place, and then just dragging me there with his hook? Before that, I was sure that I could handle him one on one easily, but who could have foreseen such a turn of events! But why hadn’t he done that? Did he not consider me an enemy at all? How insulting that was! Or, on the contrary, he was most likely just demonstrating his power, inviting me to give 200%. Well, of course! Was there any honor in defeating a weak enemy? Dan, you are a real warrior! And I will try to be a worthy opponent for you.

Chen Poe

When he’d killed Xiuin Wu the second time, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I’d yelled as loud as I could. We were right there, and we’d failed to protect the lady once again. But fine, now he would try to benefit from his success and we would kill him when he did. All of our skills were prepared and Faith was also here—he had no chance against the three of us.

What? Did he teleport back to the base? He’d calculated everything! He’d simply retreated and had the last say in this. I hate him!

Julie Kaas

Our raid to help the Witch of Salem was unsuccessful and a waste of time. Xiuin Wu died again and Dan Kornev turned out to be a difficult opponent even in the avatar of a pirate. However, it wasn’t a big deal: we were lagging behind in points, but overall, after we reached level 6 and bought the necessary artifacts, they would need something better to stop us.

Well, I’d needed to calm down, and then, conveniently, I received a gift from fate. It wasn’t for nothing that I was the assassin. The Captain was coming closer to me, thinking I wouldn’t notice him. How naive! Still, it hadn’t been a waste to use our skill on Dan during the hero selection phase. After all, not even a genius could do his best and make no mistakes with a hero he wasn’t accustomed to. Was he seriously trying to pull me with a harpoon? Now his cocky smile would be gone—yes, I’d pretended not to see him till the very last instant. How I loved those moments when people dug their own graves. They were truly worth living for.

“Harpoon!” He’d attacked me, and now I could finally get some revenge for my previous humiliation.

But how could this have happened? How hadn’t I predicted this? Damn you, Dan, how come you’re always one step ahead?

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