557 The Demons Contrac

    It was the night before the raid was set to happen. Literally hundreds of players gathered here for the first large-scale raid in the history of this game. And surely, it would end up becoming actual history. After all, freeing such an important town from the control of an evil Dragon was something that Heroes did!

    With few exceptions, all the players that wanted to participate in the raid were gathered on a flat plain right outside one of the tunnels acting as gates for Melroe. Everyone was having fun, trying to figure out what sorts of reward people might get for killing the dragon.

    But suddenly, the laughter and conversation of these many, many people suddenly disappeared. It was completely silent, and the air became cold. Everyone's feet were covered in cold mist, and any campfire or other sort of flame acting as a light-source was simply extinguished.

    All the players looked around in confusion, until from the far reaches of the large campsite bright, white lines appeared in the air. It was like while everything else was completely dark, those lines and only those lines were illuminated by spotlights.

    Soon, everyone noticed them, and most importantly that they weren't just lines. They were cracks. Like the glass that was soon to shatter, the sound of the air slowly cracking into pieces replaced the voices of the players.

    It was like these cracks simply encapsuled the campsite and gathered right above its center. For a few moments, while everyone's eyes were focused on that centerpoint, silence once more drowned the players in confusion and anticipation, before all of that was cut through by the sound of glass shattering.

    Pieces of the sky fell to the ground and fell apart into dust all the whilst the pure black space behind it was revealed. At some point, the shattering stopped, and that hole in the sky simply stayed there for a few moments. People gathered underneath it to figure out what was going on, and basically all of the Artificials started recording the incident from their point of view.

    One of them had a particularly good sight of what was going on. He stood right in the center underneath the hole and looked up at it.

    "I can see something!" The player yelled out and stretched his hand upward toward the horizontal hole while squinting his eyes. And the thing that was seen was nothing but a person. A person in a bright, colorful, mostly purple suit.

    That person was simply walking right toward the ground. He was walking on the nothingness, coming from the sky into the direction of the ground, in a vertical direction.

    At some point, the players recording all of this took a step to the side, since they thought whoever or whatever it was, was going to come out of the hole in the sky at any moment. But nothing happened. Some people approached the hole again a few moments later, but just before they could, figure appeared at the edge of the hole, simply looking down at the people underneath.

    But it was far larger than anyone thought, roughly ten meters in height. And with a bright smile and voice that carried throughout the campsite it started to speak.

    "Ah, here we go. So this was the right place after all." It exclaimed with a cheerful tone, and then proceeded to walk out of the hole. With each step, the thing's body became smaller as it seemed to walk along some invisible slope until it simply stood in the grass surrounded by all these players and NPCs.

    Hearing that something was going on, it seemed like some other players even logged in again just to see this.

    With a wave of his hand, the thing made the hole in the sky and the cracks connected to it disappear, and the figure that was still towering over all of these players looked around while some of them held their weapons in their hands.

    While laughing loudly, Stahl took a step forward toward one of these players. This player was holding a large greatsword in both his hands, pointing it at Stahl in confusion, and the soon-to-be Demon simply tapped the tip of the blade.

    Immediately, vines grew outward from Stahl's finger and wrapped themselves around the blade until they grasped onto the player's arms, forcing him to push the greatsword into the dirt.

    "Be careful, you could poke someone's eye out with that." Stahl said with a bright smile, and then, with a quick motion, turned around again and spread his arms out widely.

    "Do not be afraid, Ladies and Gentlemen! By no means am I here to fight you! It's rather the opposite, I wish to support you in your glorious figth against the Dragon nesting atop that mountain!" With his loud voice, Stahl tried to explain this to anyone and everyone here, but they were simply more confused than they were before.

    "What are you even talking about?" A player exclaimed, trying to voice that confusion for everyone present, and with a light smirk, Stahl turned toward him and looked at the player in question.

    "What I am speaking of? Oh, you dear, dear, foolish little boy." Stahl chuckled and shook his head nearly disappointedly. And then, all of a sudden, his figure just disappeared, "Do I need to use simpler words for my explanation, then?" He inquired as he reappeared on top of the player, simply standing on his head with a bright smile on his face while his size was decreased to roughly thirty centimeters in height.

    Immediately, the player froze up, despite not wanting to in the slightest. He wanted to swing his sword at Stahl, but it was as if he was paralized.

    And so, Stahl just leaned forward and looked right into the player's eyes, "Hmm, so that's the red light you use to share information, I see?" Stahl asked, "Then let me tell this to all of you other Artificials. I am not an enemy of yours. I am here to offer you a contract of fate. Something similar to what you lesser beings refer to as 'Quests'."

    "A quest?" Another Artificial suddenly asked, "But I thought we weren't supposed to be able to get a quest for this?"

    "What's going on? What is that thing?"

    "I don't know, but doesn't it seem dangerous..?"

    With another light chuckle, Stahl just dropped forward completely in front of the face of the player he was looking at, and then started to walk backward while upside down. He slowly started walking upward a bit more, like he was walking down stairs, as he increased his size. And then, all of a sudden, Stahl simply stopped and smiled as he looked around.

    "Let me explain a little more. Quests are things that entities like you give out. It is a concept you 'people' came up with. I myself prefer to make use of..." Stahl started as he clapped his hands together, and then pulled them apart to reveal a scroll similar to the one Komer made for this. It was just that this one wasn't actually a contract, but just an item Eisen made for this performance.

    With a smile on his face, Stahl continued as he opened the scroll up and let it 'drop down' into the sky. After all, the change of gravity also affected this, "Contracts."

    For dozens of meters, the contract stretched out into the sky, not seeming like it would ever really stop doing so. Of course, this was just a small trick that Eisen and Evalia worked on together, something like an optical illusion.

    Either way, at some point, Stahl just let go of the contract and let it continue rolling out nearly infinitely into the sky while the base of the scroll stayed in place.

    "This is a contract of fate, as I previously mentioned. In return for showing me how you lesser beings get rid of that Dragon, I will give you a reward. Of course, there will be a punishment if you fail as well. But I think it's rather fair." Stahl explained, and didn't have to wait long until someone played along and asked the question Stahl wanted to be asked.

    "What reward?" They asked, and Stahl smiled. From his perspective he stretched his hands upward, but it was just toward the ground as he pushed his mana into the two items that were excluded from the gravity-manipulation. That small coin-exchanger inside of Stahl's palm, as well as the special spatial-storage stone on his other palm.

    And just like that, a flood of copper, silver, and gold coins as well as different brightly colored gems fell to the ground.

    "It's simple. You will receive that dragon's weight in gold and precious gems. And of course, you don't have to share. Each and every one of you will receive it." Stahl explained, before he immediately sucked all the money and gems back up. He grabbed the fake contract scroll as well and pulled on it once, stopping it from unrolling even more, and instead it rolled back up.

    It was unrolling for maybe a minute or so, but it was rolled back up in just two seconds. He pressed onto the contract's sides and made it disappear again, before Stahl just walked in a circle again until he was upside down and standing in the center of the crowd, just once more a full ten meters in height.

    "So? What do you say about such a reward?" Stahl asked, and without a moment's hesitation, every single person tried to rush toward him to get their hands on that 'Quest'.

    But then, someone else asked something that Stahl was also prepared for.

    "Wait! What about the punishment if we fail?"

    "Good question, young fool." Stahl laughed, "It is quite simple." He explained, and just waved his hand around once, making a deck of playing cards appear in his hands. He shuffled them a bit, and did a few tricks, already showing that there were far more cards in there than normal. And then, Stahl just threw the cards around, each one stopping right in front of another person's throat, without them even being able to react in time.

    Of course, this was mostly because of the de-buff's caused by the spores that Caria mixed into Kirisho's mist, and of course Kirisho's mist itself, working together with the cold air created by Eisen's sub-zero flames. Their stats were simply drastically removed for a while, so they had no chance to react in any way.

    "The immortals will be sentenced to death a whole five times. I know that you can awake anew after just a few hours, but whenever you do, you will be killed again. And then again, and then again, and then again. It will be a painless death, of course, do not worry. Ah, and before I forget, the mortals do not have to worry. Only those 'Artificials' will get that punishment. All you mortals have to do is bow down in humiliation for 24 full hours."
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