In the deepest area of the Gate to the Netherworld lay “THE NEW GATE”.
There were two shadows facing each other.
One was the shadow of the monster protecting the gate.
Its name was “Origin”. VRMMORPG “THE NEW GATE”’s final and most powerful monster.
It was a dragon-human hybrid with a humanlike body and the head of a dragon. Its total height was about 7 mels, its eyes a vivid sky blue, while the horn on its forehead and scales covering its body were a brilliant gold.
Its warrior-like physique, sculpted to the limits, was protected by full-body armor, also colored gold. The weapon it wielded, a lance without the least bit of decoration, was gold as well.
Such colors suggested the malicious nature of the beast, but its large body and crushing pressure it emanated evoked feelings of divinity, but certainly not repulsion.
It was a monster fitting to be called Divine Beast, which deserved the title of “Strongest”.
On the other side was the shadow of a single man.
His name was Shin. His real name, Kiritani Shinya.
In the VRMMORPG “THE NEW GATE” Shin was one of the most experienced, most powerful players.
His height was slightly over 180 cemels, his physique leaning on the slender side.
Black hair and black eyes, an average-looking face that could be called neither handsome nor ugly. Despite being in front of Origin, Shin showed no signs of anxiety.
A thin black muffler with red stripes was wrapped around his neck. The long coat and pants he wore were also black with red stripes. On his arms and legs Shin was wearing crimson guards, but was wearing no other protective gear.
His only weapon was a black katana held in his right hand. Its hilt and grip were both black, but the blade emitted a suffused red glow, as if it was embedded with red spheres.
Shin stepped forward once, and in response Origin readied its lance.
In contrast to Shin’s light equipment, Origin donned a set of heavy full-body armor.
It was a duel that would seem clearly lopsided from a third party’s point of view. A single sweep of Origin’s lance, and nothing but a puddle of flesh would remain of Shin.
Shin moved one more step forward, and Origin swung its weapon.
An attack launched at unfathomable speed, considering the monster’s gigantic size. Coupled with the lance’s own size, it looked like a wall was flying towards Shin.
The lance pierced through the stone pavement. Not only did it blow away the stone tiles, but it also carved a considerable hole in the terrain below.
Shin, however, was not there—he was right at Origin’s feet.
Just before the attack, Shin had anticipated it with the Support-type Martial skill 【Mind’s Eye】 and used the Movement-type Martial skill 【Ground Shrink】 to close in on the enemy at high speed.
Origin had lost sight of Shin; the latter used this chance to activate the Katana-type Martial skill 【Moon Arc Flash】, aiming at the monster’s right leg.
As the skill activated, the katana’s blade burned bright red; its sharpness and speed had increased 150%.
Shin made use of the momentum and pushed in forward, swinging his blade with all his power.
A single slash.
Drawing a bright crimson streak in the air, the blade severed Origin’s right leg guard in two.
The slash continued to cut halfway through the monster’s right leg, the gushing blood staining the golden scales red.
Origin’s HP gauge had decreased by 1/50. Considering it was damage given in one blow to the strongest monster, it was incredibly high.
The pain from its right leg made Origin scream. A shrill sound like clanging metal reverberated through the chamber.
Shin then saw through the next attack with 【Mind’s Eye】 and jumped back a great distance. His boosted leg power allowed him to move quickly enough to leave behind after-images.
Seconds later, the tip of Origin’s lance came crashing down, striking Shin’s after-image.
While the strike was less powerful than the previous blow, seeing as the amount of destroyed stone tiles was clearly smaller, the offensive power exerted by the monster was still absurdly high.
“That was quick. As expected of the last boss.”
Even after witnessing the lance’s immense destructive power, Shin was confident enough to just be impressed. The last gatekeeper was a very worthy opponent. Shin focused even more. He would not let his guard down.
If the HP gauge displayed at the edge of his field of sight was reduced to zero, Shin would die. He knew it full well even before coming here. In order to clear THE NEW GATE, which had turned into a death game…
No one was fighting alongside him now, but he had been supported by many.
Shin was wearing equipment he had crafted himself, and the items he had received were of little use against bosses. Even so, the feelings of his comrades, who had done all they could to help him, weighed heavily on his shoulders.
There were girls crying about wanting to see their family. Boys who had lost their legs and their futures. Men who were even more determined in the face of desperation, vowing to never give up. Women who tried to help as many people as possible.
Everyone had struggled, given up, stood up again, fought on. Many had disappeared in the process.
One year had passed since they had been trapped. Whether it had been a long or short time…Shin couldn’t tell.
One word, only one, however, filled his heart right now…”Victory”, nothing else.
Defeating Origin meant to free and save all the people that had stood by his side.
“This is the end!!”
Shin unsheathed his katana once again towards the glaring Origin.
A slash ripped through the air, cleaving through one of Origin’s wings at the base.
It was the Katana-type Martial skill 【Mountain Cleaver】.
A sharp, straight slash from above: as its name suggested, it inflicted 2.5 times more damage to enemies larger than the user, a massive boost to its offensive power.
Having lost one of its wings, Origin was now forced to kneel because of the accumulated damage.
Shin whispered “Good!” to himself. The lag after activating the skill had not been a problem, thanks to the enemy monster losing its balance.
The armor enveloping Origin’s body was now shattered and cracked. Not only had its wing been cut off, but its left arm too; its golden horn was now missing the tip too.
The monster’s HP gauge was now reduced to minimum levels.
“Hah, hah, hah…”
Origin’s body was ravaged with wounds, but Shin wasn’t unscathed either.
His defensive gear still had endurance left, but he had dodged, parried, and sometimes blocked the blows unleashed by Origin’s huge body. Shin’s HP gauge was still in a safe zone, but mental exhaustion had caused his breathing to become erratic, just like reality.
“Hah, hah, hooooh…”
Shin inhaled and exhaled.
System-wise it was an unnecessary action, but Shin felt that he needed to do it now.
He tried calming his breath to placate his nerves.
One more 【Mountain Cleaver】 would fell the monster, but this skill required a long charging time after being used once. It was probably the skill that required the longest or second longest time before it was possible to use it again. Shin would probably not use it anymore in this battle.
(It’s not an opponent that would allow me to use big moves like that easily anyway. It’s just one skill after all, nothing to worry about.)
If Shin lacked quality, he just needed to compensate with quantity.
“Calm down, me.”
Origin’s HP gauge was low, but still not zero. If Shin were to fall just steps before his goal, people would not even look at him anymore.
Origin’s eyes still burned with fighting spirit. Shin felt so, despite the monster’s eyes being simple graphical constructs.
The next second, a flat female voice reached Shin’s ears.
—–“Survival Instinct” activated : Attack Power, Speed UP”
—– “Golden Surge” activated : HP, lost limbs, damaged equipment heal gradually”
The automatic skill 【Analyze X】 had activated and notified Shin of Origin’s boosted abilities. At the same time, Origin’s HP gauge started gradually regenerating. A golden light enveloped the wounds where the severed arm and wing had been attached, moving little by little towards the exterior, gradually regenerating the lost limbs.
Leaving the monster alone would return it to its original state soon.
Shin would not allow it, obviously.
As soon as he heard the notice from 【Analyze X】, Shin used 【Ground Shrink】 to close in on the still kneeling Origin.
In reaction to Shin’s movements, Origin roared and attempted a sweep with the lance in its right hand.
Slicing through the air with a sound similar to a growl, the giant lance was coming dangerously close to Shin.
Without losing one instant, Shin activated the Katana-type Martial skill 【Blade Evasion】 and the Barehanded-type Martial skill 【Steel Repel】.
【Blade Evasion】 allows the user to lower their center of gravity and dodge enemy attacks.
【Steel Repel】 covered the user’s arms and legs in a light that partially repelled enemy attacks.
Shin blocked the lance’s blade with 【Blade Evasion】 and forcefully shifted the direction of the strength behind the blade. In addition, he touched the back of the blade with his left arm, using 【Steel Repel】 to reduce the power behind the attack.
The 【Survival Instinct】 -powered attack, however, could not be nullified even with such a combination of skills resulting in Shin’s HP gauge suffering some damage.
Even though he had suffered damage, the moment he could distance the enemy’s blade from himself, Shin straightened his stance and added strength in the same direction of the lance’s attack.
Because of this, the lance’s speed exceeded what Origin had intended, and as a consequence the monster lost its balance.
Shin immediately activated the Katana-type Martial skill 【Moonlight Slashing Dance】.
Bright flashes reminiscing of the moon’s colors formed a blade of light enveloping the katana. The blade extended temporarily to twice its normal size.
The silver slashes cleanly struck Origin’s unguarded torso.
The blade of light was swung with enough speed to leave after-images in its wake. After every slash, streaks of light trailed in the air. The damage inflicted by the first 3 slashes had removed the HP recovered by 【Golden Surge】 .
The remaining 7 slashes whittled down Origin’s HP. Just after the 10th slash, the blade of light around the katana vanished, signaling that the skill was not active anymore.
【Moonlight Slashing Dance】 consisted of 10 continuous slashes with boosted attack speed and range. Attack speed increased 1.3 times, while the range doubled.
Each slash did not boast very high damage, but the total damage and number of slashes made it more effective than a simple attack boost skill.
Also thanks to Shin’s STR and the katana’s offensive stats, this skill inflicted damage very close to -albeit still inferior to- 【Mountain Cleaver】.
In fact, after 【Moonlight Slashing Dance】’s storm-like flurry of slashes, Origin’s HP was now very close to zero.
“This ends now!!”
Shin climbed up Origin’s crouching body. Origin’s HP gauge was still recovering, but Shin estimated that he could finish things now.
Maybe as a last resort, Origin let go of the lance it wielded in its right hand and attempted to hit Shin with a backhand. Shin jumped over the attack, however, and readied his katana in midair.
His eyes met the collapsing Origin. It was about to be felled, yet its eyes did not contain rage, but expressed a kind of serene peacefulness. Or so Shin felt.
His opponent might not have harbored hostility, but Shin’s grip on his katana did not waver.
He had decided that he would achieve victory. That resolution would not be shaken.
“It’s over now!!”
Following these words, Shin’s black katana swung down on Origin’s forehead.
——-”The Gatekeeper ”Origin” has been defeated. You shall now receive the victory bonuses”.
——-”You have obtained the gifts “Limit Breaker”, “Accomplished One”, and “Liberator””.
——-”You have acquired the skills 【Hades Surge】, 【Concentrated Surge】, and
——-”You have obtained the items 『Protector’s Remains』, 『Protector’s Soul』, and
Shin was standing still, listening to the game’s system announcements.
His surroundings were filled with light.
Origin’s body turned into a burst of gold light and scattered, filling the chamber.
As the light gradually disappeared, it revealed the boss’ chamber, damaged and scarred by the fight; a perfectly unscathed gate and Shin.
Then, another system announcement played.
“The gatekeeper of the deepest part of Gate to the Otherworld, ‘Origin’ has been defeated. The dungeon has been cleared.”
The announcement would inform Shin’s companions about his victory.
“Now, it has become possible for all players to log out.”
Yes, it was really over.
The death game that had trapped Shin and many others for one year now saw its curtains close.
Shin opened the menu to confirm and, sure enough, the last item of the list was the “Log out” option.
He then checked his friends list. He could see the “online” status change to “offline”, one player after another. Everyone could really log out safely, it seemed.
“I’ve kept my promise…right, Marino?”
Shin’s chest was filled with a sense of fulfillment.
The girl who had passed away in this world, would she praise him?
Such things occupied Shin’s thoughts.
“Okay then! Guess I’ll just wait till all players log out successfully.”
Enough gloomy thoughts, Shin decided, and forcefully changed his mood. He sat down. He had decided to log out only after everyone else had.
Shin took out a survivors’ list from his item box. He quietly rolled open the scroll-like item and gazed at it. It was an item that displayed in real time the names of surviving players.
One of Shin’s companions, an alchemist, had understood Shin’s wish of logging out only after everyone else had; after seven sleepless day and nights, they had created this unique item.
As players died or logged out, their names were supposed to disappear from the list.
Shin, giving thanks to his friend, watched players’ names disappear from the list for a while.
It took about 3 minutes. Finally, the only remaining name on the list was his: “Shin”.
“I’m the last one.”
All he had done for a long time was just fight, fight, fight. But, now that everything was over, he felt overwhelmed with emotions filling his chest.
Once he logged out, he would probably not be able to come back anymore. It was unthinkable for an online game that had turned into a death game to just continue operating, after all.
(In the end something like this happened, but in the beginning I had a lot of fun here.)
Shin had played THE NEW GATE for one third of his life. For better or worse, it was a game he had spent a long time with.
He understood it was something disrespectful to think of. The time spent with his friends and companions, however, was something he could only have obtained here.
“Goodbye then, The New Gate.”
Shin whispered a farewell and was about to log out, when the gate before him-which was never supposed to open- started creaking.
Distracted by the sound, Shin’s fingers, hovering above the log out option, stopped.
The heavy, gorgeously decorated doors were slowly opening. A bright light was shining from the crack, preventing Shin from seeing what lies beyond the gate.
“What’s going on? There shouldn’t be any events anymore…”
Ignoring the confused Shin, the white light from beyond the gate filled the room.
“This is weird.”
Shin realized that something bizarre must have happened, but before he could press the log out option, the light enveloped his body too.
The same instant, Shin lost his consciousness—