178 AOE Bombardment 4
The Void Destroyers were not ready when the Orb of Destruction hit them. Then again, would one ever be ready to get hit in the face with a black ball of pure destruction?
It was highly doubtful.
The Orb of Destruction did not create any flashy explosions when it connected, instead, the projectile just flared up silently into blackish energy that covered the Void Destroyers that surrounded Draco.
After the energy died down, only 3 of the 10 Void Destroyers remained. The area they stood in was left ravaged and had turned into a wasteland, with a very thin hue of blackish energy surrounding it.
It was a sight that rendered logic and common sense useless. An attack from a Rank 1, level 30 player should not be able to insta-kill the wounded Void Destroyers much less the healthy ones who had higher levels and millions of HP.
Yet this was what Riveting Night had explained very delicately to the Five Generals when she sought to teach them the fundamentals of FIVR.
She had asked Uno to relate his experience in using a skill, and then use a technique afterward. She had explained the differences between the two, as well as their merits and demerits.
Skills were assisted by the system, so one could skip the learning process and use abilities that would be impossible to cast otherwise, or would take years to learn. The downside was that such skills were limited to the player's stats and Rank.
Techniques were given no assistance by the system officially, with only the Training Hall and the statistic called 'Focus' put in place to assist them, but those were indirect at best.
Still, a technique was great because it exerted its original power, while being boosted by the stats and abilities of the user.
For example, if Player A used a dash skill, its effect would be something like 'charge in a straight line with 110% speed and deal 110% blunt damage, stunning the enemy on collision for 1 second. 3 minutes cooldown'.
This sounded great, but a 10% quicker snail was still useless. The stun effect was great, provided one hit the target, but only lasted 1 second, with a 3-minute cooldown.
However, if one were to possess a technique that allowed them to dash at an enemy, with proper footwork and a well-angled body, one could deal just as much - if not more - damage while the same was true for their movement speed.
Ultimately, techniques factored in physics and facts relating to the circumstances. If a large man like Uno dashed at someone using a skill, it would be based on his strength stat as well as any items or skills he had that contributed to his strength.
However, if he developed a technique version of that 'dash', it would function based on his own weight as well as that of his armor, the position of his body and the momentum relative to his target. Given the system's realistic calculation there may even be more things being factored in.
This didn't mean techniques were necessarily better than skills. Otherwise, how was one supposed to conjure fireballs or cast healing spells without the skillbooks?
Granted, it was technically possible to learn how to use it without skill, but one would have to be like Hikari or Roma, someone who didn't rely on 'mana' and directly used Worldly Energy for everything.
'Mana' was just a purified and refined Worldly Energy from the body. A higher Spirit stat lead to an increased Mana regen exactly because it allowed one to convert Worldly Energy to mana faster.
This process was automated and taken care of by the system, depending on one's stats. Only the expert, legend and god-tier mages had managed to discover methods to manually convert Worldly Energy to mana after years and years of research.
As such, a technique like the Orb of Destruction, which was facilitated by Draco's Manifestation technique from the Serpent God Inheritance, was able to display power that was above his Rank.
After all, it relied on a resource Draco possessed, which was bloodline energy, and the Black Dragon then used a general resource of the game, Worldly Energy, to fuel the skill itself.
If Draco were to rely on a system skill to do this, its cost would be prohibitive and the cooldown would be measured in weeks or months. Not only that, but it would also be - at least - 70% weaker.
Since it was a technique of his bloodline, all he had to do was either wait for his BP to refill or pop an Angel's Kiss potion. Players were ranked based on their techniques rather than their raw power exactly for this type of reasoning.
On the downside, he received no experience or drops from killing them like this, as the technique utilized the rawest and most destructive form of Destruction Energy.
However, it worked great in terms of reducing his workload. Apart from the Void Destroyers on Riveting Night's side, there were only three left on his own side at the moment.
He didn't lament the lost experience because that would be foolish. Against 10 of them, he would be pushed to the absolute limits. It was better to cull their number and handle a manageable amount at a time.
Besides, they were just barely 15 minutes into the fight. Rina's Supernova was halfway completed, and would end the Emergency Quest. As such, they only needed to hold out for 15 more minutes, as opposed to 45 minutes.
Shockingly, Draco passed a command in the Guild Voice Chat. It was then shared with all the members of the other partner guilds through word of mouth. This command chilled their hearts as they understood that they were the bad guys.
"Allow some Void Fodder and Void Monsters to break through and attack the spectating players. Rina, set your targets to everyone aside from the members of the Four Guilds. - Draco"
This was a ruthless command that established that Draco wasn't the hero. He also wasn't some sort of anti-hero. No, this bastard was the main villain, and he acted like one.
The AI was thrilled though. It had conducted another test on Draco, which was how well he knew about its systems and the balance of the game.
This one was an indirect test, not to gather information from him, but to gauge how much importance he placed on Boundless and the AI itself. It was naturally ecstatic to find out that Draco went above and beyond its predictions.
Let's go back to when the Emergency Quest had been launched. It was explained that the AI expected a low survival rate, which was why the rewards were so great.
However, look at what Umbra and Draco were doing. With the way they had monopolized the void monsters, it was clear that the mass of spectating players would end up surviving the ordeal.
Unless the AI introduced some elements that could upset the flow of battle, things would end like this, with millions of players earning 100 gold among other rewards.
This would greatly disrupt the balance.
'Unfair' it may be, the AI could neither interfere directly after it had set the events in motion, nor could it suddenly raise the difficulty to an unreasonable level because it would be a breach of protocol and go against its directive.
It had to follow the lore and continuity of the world.
So, the AI, with how much it had learned about Draco, his power and his personality, had made a gamble. It gambled on Draco's understanding of the game and the game's importance to him.
If Draco didn't understand the fundamental rules of the game, he should not see these many players earning such high-tier items and money as something dangerous. He might even welcome the collective average improvement in the player base.
Reality was different, though. Umbra's Guildmaster knew a lot more than the elite and above players who understood that this should be impossible to survive. Draco knew very intimately the kind of consequences that would emerge.
On the flip side, it was downright ironic how the AI had failed to account for the fact that Draco would do everything to preserve the timeline for as long as possible. Millions of players - noobs and pros alike - gaining Epic Treasure Chests would be… bad.
If Draco did not hold Boundless with importance, he would not care if millions of players gained all this power. He was already equipped with so much, so even if players gained a lot of good stuff, it wouldn't change much.
In fact, given his way of thinking he might even rob those players of their newfound riches.
However, Draco - and Riveting Night - understood the influence Boundless would have on the human race in the future. Not only that, but most of their skills and prowess had also been honed through the game, and back then they hadn't even reached their peak.
As such, they saw it as a second world. How could they allow such a massive disruption that would upset the natural balance to occur?
Those players could not be allowed to survive, especially those rats who had chosen to hide. All of them would have to die, leaving only the members of the four guilds to enjoy these benefits.
That was Draco and Riveting Night's thoughts on the matter. The AI would have preferred that some of the members of Umbra would also perish, so the number of beneficiaries would reduce.
As it turned out, the AI was worrying too much. The Void Monsters were being handled by the members of the Four Guilds expertly, but there was a limit. First of all, stamina. Second of all, mana.
Players had been fighting high powered enemies - relative to their skill level - for 15 minutes non-stop. While they had received training and were elites, expending mana and stamina on skills naturally drained them.
They guzzled potions without worry, because they knew the reward would reimburse their expenditure. Too bad potions below Epic rank had a cooldown and the remaining Angel's Kiss potions had been monopolized by the Evil Duo for now.
Many of the members of Umbra fighting the Specialist Void Monsters - the advanced and expert rank players - began to die rapidly. It was normal, as they were fighting monsters that had the health of a Captain Rank monster with the weakened stats of a Sergeant Rank.
Having items Imbued by Aether didn't mean that they were invulnerable against void monsters. It just meant that the void monsters couldn't one-shot them like they did everyone else due to the clash of matter and anti-matter.
They would be reduced to dealing a certain damage based on their stats and boons, just like any other monster in the game.
Draco and Riveting Night were aware that their people were dying, but what could they do? The number of Void Destroyers had been culled by Draco, but the number of monsters coming from the portal was greatly increasing.
There were two reasons for this.
The first was that, despite being a FIVR game that felt so real, Boundless was still a game. Games had fundamental functions and developments that were typical of the genre.
Right now, the Emergency Quest was classified as a survival quest where one had to survive waves of monsters till the timer ran out. Anyone who had played a game with a survival mode like this should know that with each wave came more monsters.
The monsters would usually also be stronger than the last batch - to give a sense of tension and excitement to the player - and the time in between waves would be shorter, to apply more pressure.
This was why many people loved survival modes in games. In the early '20s, people enjoyed many games like this, or games with special modes like this. The most popular ones were the zombie modes in those First-Person Shooter games.
This was, of course, looking at this development through the eyes of a gamer.
The second reason for this, which was the logical and realistic version, was that the portable portal had been installed in a place near the entrance of the Ruined Plains of Deriam.
Not even Rank 7 powers would dare to enter those plains with such potent Destruction Energy. As such, only a few void monsters near the edges, specifically the area where the portal was installed, would stop and enter this portal out of curiosity.
Naturally, as more and more of them left, others would become curious.
'Where were those other fellows disappearing to?'
'Ah? What was that? There's a black swirling vortex near the edge of this Destruction Energy laden area?'
'They disappear when they enter it? Great, let's check it out. This Destruction Energy is slowly damaging our Abyssal Energy and corroding our forms anyway.'
As such, more of them came every second. At first, they came in trickles every second, but now, it was like a continuous stream. Even if Draco hadn't given the order, it was likely that some monsters would have escaped the battlefield to hunt down the spectators.
Members of the Four Guilds continued to die, but most of them had smiles on their faces. After all, Sublime Notion could heal them of the infectious Abyssal Energy and they had gained so much experience that the little they lost was negligible.
It was sad that they wouldn't be able to enjoy the rewards, but they knew that they would have many more opportunities to earn more. After all, was this the be-all and end-all of the Abyss Event?
No, this was merely the start.
When more and more of the Void Fodder and Void Monsters were freed up, pressure increased exponentially on the core members of the Four Guilds who fought the Void Killers.
Their skills were certainly transcendent, but there were just too few of them. Less than a hundred people overall against more than a few hundred Void Killers was already pushing it.
With the lower-class monsters bringing their troubles to the table, things began to lose solidity. It especially went downhill when a few Void Killers broke through the blockade of the tanks who were core members and interrupted Rambunctious Buttlover's Lyrical Lines skill.
The core members had relied on the buffs and debuffs of the skill to kill many Void Killers so far, and their experience bars had made a full circle multiple times.
(Author's Note: The Exp Bars in Boundless are circular, like the ones in the Saint's Row games or the recent Need for Speed game.)
With those buffs gone, the speed of their deaths accelerated further. No matter how hard Sublime Notion and Warm Spring managed their heals, they couldn't easily handle this catastrophe.
As more and more players died, a few void monsters reached the location of the spectating players and began to lay into them. The players naively though about how the guild members handled them, that their immense numerical superiority meant that they would win.
However, they were stunned when they realized that their attacks either did no damage, or just -1. What scared them silly was the fact that regardless of the HP, defense or stats, one swipe from the void monsters would kill them.
The millions of players began to panic greatly. First of all, most of them were serf players, since those who could succeed in combat or Tradeskills were about 40% of the playerbase.
It didn't matter what they did, whether they tried to flee, or used the bodies of others to protect themselves, or betrayed friends/lovers by pushing them in the way of an attack.
They simply did not have the qualifications to run. As their numbers were being culled, another 10 minutes passed.
Draco had regained 20% of his bloodline energy through natural regeneration. He didn't have enough skills or techniques in his bloodline to use anything, and the few skills he could use consumed too much.
However, Draco and Riveting Night had killed three more Void Destroyers, two on Draco's side and one on Riveting Night's side. The mounting pressure on them as all the Void Monsters turned to them made it hard… so hard.
Void Destroyers, Void Killers, Void Monsters and Void Fodder alike ganged up on the duo, and they had to regroup and fight back to back to survive.
Despite the tense situation, the Evil Duo were seemingly calm and slightly excited. This was because they were finally experiencing a challenge after an eternity of nothing at their level being able to push them.
The Metal Dragon had been a different story, since it was a Regional Boss that required them to go all out to achieve the bare minimum criteria for success.
The Void Monsters were just really unique monsters that were extremely hard to kill if one didn't know their weaknesses. Because the Evil Duo did, they were able to tank so many of them at once together.
Still, there was a limit to what they could do, and they were feeling it.
They were only alive thanks to the fact that they both had Instant Healing, but its cooldown was 2 whole minutes. As such, Riveting Night had used normal potions by the mouthful, but her stealth and high evasion allowed her to shift aggro.
Draco took on all the hits with his Epic Dragorugio set that greatly reduced the damage to him. Not only that, but he had also another thing to rely on.
｢Passive 1 – Nature's Resonance: All attributes are boosted by 30% when in a forested area. Health regeneration is allowed during combat, and is boosted by 100%.｣
His natural health regen was boosted and it was already great thanks to his items and his Draconic and Demonic heritage.
His boosted attributes also played a big part as to why his damage so far was higher than usual, aside from his techniques. The Evil Duo were managing, with Draco dealing the most direct damage while Riveting Night would pop up, fight for a bit and then back off.
The two did not know how many Void Fodder or Void Monsters they had killed in these 10 minutes. The number was prohibitive. They didn't even check their experience, only shoveling it off to their growth items while focusing on the battle.
After five more minutes of this hellish affair, and just when Draco was about to resort to using Armageddon - which harmed everyone in range, regardless of affiliation - Rina's cast was finally completed.
The remnant core members of the Four Guilds - who didn't number more than 5 in total - surrounded Rina closely and protected her with all their might. They judged that this was the best thing they could do at this time.
The remaining five were Gentle Flower, Noble Soul, Sublime Notion, Dreary Traveler and Fitter Cleric.
They could only gasp when they saw the enormous sun fall down to the earth slowly, like the coming of Ragnarok.
When the sun landed on the earth, the world trembled.