They outnumbered and outleveled us. Helping Joker's brother wasn't possible. Still, I had to try. I moved to leave but froze. The group of PKers stopped, too, as a shadow landed before them. A figure formed, and Pan stepped forward to face the group.

Joker turned and grabbed my collar. "Please help Orion!"

Susie-Q covered her mouth. "What should we do?"

Zimea turned and stormed from the room.

I nodded. "Looks like we're getting into a brawl."

"Thank you!" Joker wrapped her arms around me. "I'm forever in your debt!"

"Thank me when we've survived."

Sword drawn, I ran. My boots thudded beneath me and two sets of footsteps followed. I leaped the stairs to the tavern floor. Zimea was outside first, the door swinging closed behind her. I shoulder rushed the barrier and burst into the courtyard.

Zimea sprinted towards the group and I kept on her heels.

Pan drew a long black cane, and swept his arms to the sides, sending his coat flaps flying. He bowed and lowered his head. What the hell was he planning? There were five of them, and one of him; two if you counted the scared guy in Priest's vestments.

Zimea skidded to a stop and lifted her guns, but Pan lifted a hand, stopping her. He tipped his hat to Orion. The five players, each dressed in blood red armor, drew their swords; an entire group of Bladers.

Out Assassin's grin gleamed. He threw his hat it into the air. The Bladers watched it fly, and Pan vanished from sight. When the hat landed in place of Pan, they took a step back, their eyes darting.

I tried to go forward, but I ran into Zimea's outstretched arm. "What are you doing?"

She shushed me. "Just watch."

The group circled Orion, and faced outward, holding their blades readied.

I gritted my teeth. "What are we waiting for, Zimea?"

"Shut up, and Watch!"

A round shadow glided on the ground, circling the group. They didn't notice it. After a few circles, a pillar of darkness consumed Orion.

"Bro!" Joker cried from my rear. She reached us, with Susie-Q, just as one PKer and I met eyes. The moving shadow appeared next to us, and a second pillar rose. It vanished as quick as it had come. Orion, the priest, stood in its place.

"Oh my gosh!" Joker lunged and hugged her brother.

"What happened?" His voice muffled into Joker's shoulder. "How'd I get over here?"

The second pillar of shade remained.

"It's not over, yet." Zimea pointed.

A burst of air fired in every direction. The shadow dispersed and an image of Pan appeared between the Bladers. They spun inward, but the image flashed away.

Five more images of Pan manifested, one behind every PKer. Each Pan stabbed a dagger into their opponents. The enemy players' HP plummeted, and they screamed, running in different directions.

One came toward us, crying, "Run for your lives!"

Pan flashed into existence, forcing him to skid. He threw out his arms. "Don't kill me!"

The Assassin knew no mercy. He flipped his dagger around and slashed across the player's throat. Glowing pixels sprayed, and his life hit zero. The bastard slumped to the ground.

Susie-Q screeched and covered her eyes. "He didn't have to kill him!"

"The hell he didn't!" Joker grinned. "Those pricks would've murdered my brother."

"But they didn't." Orion shook his head, frowning.

Pan strafed the courtyard, intercepting another fleeing Blader. This one got his sword up to parry the Assassin's attack.

"Die!" The Blader Lightning Jabbed, thinking Pan wide open.

He was wrong.

Pan's cane rose and smacked the enemy's sword arm to the side. He shoved the staff into the face of the PKer, who closed his eyes tight. A few seconds passed, and the Blader peeked. Pan still held the cane in the same position.

"Boo!" A blade shot from the cane's tip and into the PKer's skull.


Before the victim fell, Pan rushed the third unfortunate soul. This one attempted to enter a building, but a dagger found his back, taking the last of his HP.

"We have to fight together!" A remaining PKer cried. The last two enemies rushed together.

They sought to find safety as a duo, but Pan didn't let that happen. The Assassin appeared between them, throwing daggers in opposite directions. Each of the projectiles stabbed into the PKers foreheads. They both fell and slid. Pan stepped away, and the bodies crashed into each other.

"That guy's good." Joker's jaw dropped.

"Too good." Zimea holstered her guns. "It's almost as if he's breaking the game."

The words, LEVEL UP popped above his head. He'd reached level ten.

A chime rang around Zimea, Susie-Q, and me. LEVEL UP appeared for us, too. We were levels, six, five, and four.

Pan sheathed his daggers and approached our group. Our jaws hung open.

"I detest Player Killers." Pan stopped before me and bowed.

"You slaughtered them." Susie-Q held her hands over her mouth.

Zimea glared at Pan. "We could've questioned one of them."

"And so you shall." He nodded

From several strides away, the player he stabbed in the face, twitched. He groaned and pulled himself onto his elbow. In his hand, he held a health potion.

"I think not." Pan flung a dagger, shattering the item.

The player fell flat again. It was amazing he still had HP.

"Who shall question him?" Pan's eyes landed on us. "For I do not have the patience. I fear I will slay him outright should he quip his tongue."

"I will." Joker wiped her bob cut from her eyes.

The Sage strutted to the collapsed player as Orion looked at Pan. "Thank you so much. My life flashed before my eyes. Those guys came in and chased half of our party away and then captured me. I thought my sister died for sure."

"She almost did." Zimea sighed. "We thought she was an enemy."

"Thank you for not hurting her."

Across the way, Joker kicked the PKer, and he grunted, rolling onto his back. "Did you kill any of our group?"

We joined the girl, standing around the man, so he couldn't try escaping or making desperate attacks.

"I didn't!" He covered his head and whimpered as Joker kicked him again.

"Careful." I patted the air. "You'll take his last hit point."

"Oh, I do." Pan chuckled.

Joker ignored us, and put her sandaled foot on the man's face, so he whimpered even louder. "Then why aren't our party members listed on the group page?"

"I don't know!" The PKer grabbed her ankle.

"Sis, I think they left the group." Orion seized Joker's arm. "We should try to find them instead of wasting our time with this idiot."

"No!" Joker pulled free. "He deserves to get his ass kicked for what he's done. He wanted to kill you!"

"They said they only wanted my Xynobits! They didn't plan on killing me, Right? You wouldn't kill someone?"

The player cried, shaking his head. "I've never killed a player in cold blood!"

"But you have killed one." Pan's crooked grin creeped me out.

"No, I was just in the group. Killing wasn't my job!"

Joker narrowed her eyes and aimed her wand at the fool. "I say we kill him."

"No!" Susie-Q grabbed Joker's other arm. "Please don't hurt him. People die too often in this game!"

Pan examined a dagger. "I will not suffer another PKer to live."

Zimea turned on Pan, shoving him. "It's okay for you to kill another player, but no one else can? Double standard, you hypocritical ass!"

"You understand nothing of my reasons." Pan turned away. "I shall retrieve my hat. If this PKer is still alive when I return, I will do the honor of slaying him."

"You don't have the right!" Zimea shouted after Pan.

He waved his hand as he went. "I have every right."

Zimea turned. "You won't let him kill the dude, right?"

"You think I can stop him?" My eyes widened. "If he has his mind set, then we best not stand in his way. He destroyed an entire party on his own."

"Give us one reason we should let you live?" Joker's spittle flew.

"I can help you!" The player nodded. "I know this area. We were late Beta Testers. We made it to the second Dungeon but didn't dare enter once the game went homicidal!"

"I have no interest in entering the Dungeon. So how about I let the good Assassin kill you?"

"Wait!" Orion lowered Joker's arm. "The little girl is right. Enough players have died! Haven't they? Let's find the guys."

In the distance, Pan kneeled and scooped up his top hat, adjusting it on his head.

"We have no time." I set my jaw. "Pan will kill him."

"Let him run!" Susie-Q begged.

The player got to his knees and put his hands together. "Yeah, let me run!"

I pushed Joker's wand away, glaring at the PKer bastard. "Go!"

"Thank you!" He scrambled and ran faster than I ever saw anyone move.

"He doesn't stand a chance." Zimea rolled her eyes.

I slumped my shoulders. "I know."

Pan strolled over, watching the man flee. Even if he reached the Cliff of Endings, he had nowhere to go. As soon as Pan caught him, he was dead.

"Please, Mr. Pan, don't kill him." Susie-Q pleaded as Pan sauntered past us.

Her words gave him pause. He regarded the young girl for several moments, but frowned. "I am sorry. But Player Killers shan't receive mercy. For they have taken the lives of those who cannot defend themselves."

Pan walked on, stalking the PKer.

"Please!" Susie-Q tried to chase him, but Zimea grabbed her arm, holding her back.

"I don't agree with what he's doing." Zimea grimaced. "But Zycuh's right. We aren't strong enough to disrupt that one's conviction."

Zimea's eyes hardened. She assumed the same as I did. Pan had reason to be a PKer. Somewhere in the last week, he might've lost someone close, and now he killed for revenge. A friend or lover? A brother or sister? But now he'd lost himself.

"What now?" I faced Joker.

She shrugged and crossed her arms over her robed chest.

Orion ran a hand through his short black hair. "We find our party."

I offered him my hand. "You don't want to join us?"

We shook, and he frowned. "Parties can't have six members. I think it's better we locate our friends."

"Well, good luck, but if you ever need help, just give us a shout."

I swiped open my menu, selected Orion and Joker Alex, sending a Friend Request. The pair pulled up theirs and we each exchanged requests. No sooner than the last list closed, did the PKer's scream echo from beyond the broken stone stairs. Susie-Q whimpered.

"This game is evil." Orion sighed. "It brings out the worst in people."

"Ain't that the truth?" Zimea rubbed the bridge of her nose. "You two better leave before Pan finds a reason to execute you."

"He wouldn't!" Susie-Q's eyes widened.

I put my hand on her shoulder. "I don't think he kills for anything but revenge."

Joker bowed to our group and threw me a wink. "Bye, hot stuff."

Orion elbowed his sister and looked back at us. "Stay safe."

"You too." I smiled. "We're heading for the next Dungeon. I'll send you both a message when we complete it and let you know we're safe."

"Sounds good." Orion turned to his sister. "Let's go."

The pair walked off toward the western edge of the village.

"So!" I turned to my party. "Learn any new skills?"

Zimea nodded. "I have a boost to my rifle ability. Just need to find one."

Susie-Q looked sad, while checking her menu. "I can enlarge a familiar each battle."

"Cool!" I nodded. "I got nothing new, but your abilities sound awesome. Imagine! A panther-sized Rachel tackling and clawing enemies!"

Susie-Q giggled. "That's so cool."

"Hey." I tapped the top of her head. "Don't worry about Pan. We'll get through to him. He won't need to kill for revenge anymore once we show him the power of friendship."

Zimea scoffed. "If he doesn't kill you for that friendship crap."

"He's not evil."

"Time will tell."

"You trust no one, do you?"

"Should I?" She shrugged. "With PKers running around the game? It's bad enough players are being killed by monsters! Maybe hundreds each day."

"I know, but I trust Pan."

"Speak of the devil, and he shall appear." Zimea looked past me.

Pan approached from the village's end. His coat flowed behind him in a gust of wind. He wore a satisfied grin.

"So!" Pan joined us. "Where'd the siblings go?"

"To look for their friends." Susie-Q stared at her feet.

"A wise decision." He nodded. "They'd take our experience if they stayed. Parties cannot surpass five."

"What do we do now?"

"At the edge of town, there's a gardener's abode. That is the entrance to our next Dungeon."

A chilly wind blew by, one that had me shivering, even in my coat.

Pan walked by us. "Werewolf Lord, here we come."

Pan, Zimea, and I exchanged glances and followed the Assassin.

Werewolf lord; those words floated through my mind on repeat. How long until I turned? It was only a matter of time.