Author’s note: Had some health problems, mainly a nasty toothache that gave me a fever and weakened me generally for the next couple days. Now that I’m feeling better, I wrote this chapter almost from the scratch, but I didn’t have time for the rest of them. Do not worry though, I will write throughout the week to get out of “debt” slowly.
At least 3 more chapters this week, starting from Wednesday, maybe even the 4th on the weekend.
Icicle stood at the entrance of the Blue Lizardmen Cave, tapping his chin. His hand held a red potion prepared for his clumsy familiar, Blackie.
“Once those elite lizardmen storm out, the whole valley will turn bloody. Assuming it’s a timed event, it will most likely take some time for the lizardmen to storm out, it’s the middle of the night after all. If I were a dev, I would plan the outbreak for the time when most of the players are online, that is the morning hours.” Icicle concluded.
Blackie came running out, his fur scarlet. “Well, look at you, if I didn’t know you I would think you’re a seasoned warrior.” Icicle quipped as he poured a health potion into Blackie’s mouth. His other hand cast [Healing drizzle].
Blackie swallowed the bitter red liquid. As soon as it reached his stomach, he felt a warm sensation spreading through his body, restoring his vitality.
“What are we going to do now, God?” Icicle didn’t immediately go into the cave, leaving Blackie perplexed.
“We can’t rush in blindly. Those lizardmen will come out shortly, so we’ll wait and then go inside.” Icicle headed towards the nearby waterfall to calmly wait there.
The falling curtain of water fell with unbridled momentum. Icicle cast [Liquid membrane] on himself and Blackie. Parting the wall of water, the magic barrier shook, but it was able to withstand the pressure.
Icicle grabbed a few pieces of meat, feeding Blackie and stuffing himself at the same time. “I don’t expect those lizardmen to move for the next few hours, so I’ll be back later.” Icicle petted Blackie and logged out.
Dilapidated stairs led down to the [Desolated Catacombs] dungeon. On both sides of the stairs were gruesome stains of blood. The air was stuffy, reeking of blood. This place was clearly a den of ferocious monsters.
“Hehe!” Faura’s face was all smiles as she looked at the [White Oak Staff]. The slick brown wood gave her an intimate feeling. Her hand caressed the staff as if it was her lover. When she imbued some mana into the staff, she felt an unimpeded mana flow traverse through it, making her even more joyful.
“Hmph. And you say I act like a child!” FieryRed snorted, puffing her chest out.
FieryRed’s bear shared the same opinion. When the party was taming him, Faura pummeled the poor bear with her fists, even though she chose a ranged class. When the bear was lying on the ground, ready to surrender, Faura started kicking him until he was half dead. Originally, the bear wanted to be taken in as a pet by Faura, but she gave him to FieryRed. Now that someone was finally opposing the hegemonic female leader, the bear naturally cried out his grievances.
Faura disregarded the redhead and her new, furry orange-brown pupil, engrossed in her own world of dreams.
“We’re here.” SilentStep called out.
The underground dungeon was spacious. There were at least a few hundred players fighting monsters in various corners of the moss covered light brown floor tiles. Huge pieces of rubble laid on the ground, clearly showing the dilapidated state of the dungeon. Glancing at the formidable looking ceiling above, or what was left of it, players could see a bit of the upper floor. Huge cracks spread throughout the ceiling, making it seem as if it was ready to fall on the people’s heads at anytime.
Higher level gnolls donning better equipment, kobolds carrying shaman-like staffs, green and short ugly goblins wielding rusty weapons, orange murlocs carrying spears and fishing nets… this is what dwelled on the first floor of [Desolated Catacombs].
FieryRed looked around excitedly. Her eyes reflected the fighting scenes all around. She took all of them in and balled her little fists, trembling from excitement. “There’s so many of them!”
Arrows flew, fireballs exploded, wind whistled through the underground mine, cutting through the monster flesh as if it was made of butter.
“Those Wind Mages are pretty strong!” Faura smiled, gripping the wooden staff tightly.
“I heard my friends say that Wind Mages deal a lot of damage to heavy armored units since their magic has extra piercing power.” Inferno added.
“Who cares about them, let’s fight!” FieryRed was about to rush in when Faura’s hand pulled her back.
“We’ll watch for a while. There’s no need to rush in to die.” SilentStep said.
“So Headshot, what do you think?” Faura teasingly asked. Headshot picked Archer class so he should get used to his role of a little tactician. SilentStep will most likely take over the role later, but since he’s a melee class, having a ranged class give commands from the back, where the big picture is clearer and the vision is better, will greatly benefit the party. Besides, having Headshot learn a few things wouldn’t hurt.
“Mm, there are several types of monsters in here, some harder to fight than others. Goblins seem relatively easy to kill, they don’t deal a lot of damage since their weapons are rusty. However, they’re quick on their feet, thus hard to hit. As for Murlocks, those guys are not only quick, they use fishing nets to ensnare their enemies. Their spears are long, so going for a melee with them is appropriate, we just need to look out for the nets.” Headshot analyzed.
“Gnolls, well, we do know them already. They are somewhat slow, their armor is pretty tough and their weapons deal a lot of damage but are easy to dodge. Simply speaking, gnolls are only dangerous in groups, when they can encircle you. The most interesting ones are the kobolds. They look really vulnerable, yet they actually wield magic. From what I saw, they can slow their opponents, heal themselves and their allies, attack with projectiles of fire, wind, earth, lightning and water as well as… as ridiculous as it sounds, I think they can summon spiders!” as he said that, Headshot looked at the dilapidated ceiling.
“Oh you noticed those spiders too?” Inferno looked at the ceiling pensively.
“Now that you say that, I saw one of the kobolds in the back waving his staff around when the spiders dropped from the ceiling.” Enna interjected.
“No wonder that 7 man party was wiped out. Those spiders are nasty. With the way they ambushed them, there was no way they could have gotten out of the webs.” Inferno shook his head.
Faura sat behind her party and watched them debate with a wry smile. “Look at them learning!” she thought smugly.
“As long as we stay off Kobolds we should be good.” SilentStep nodded.
“Hahaha!” Faura felt on her back, rolling on the ground.
“What’s so funny?” Headshot turned and asked.
Faura sat up with difficulty, holding her stomach. She wiped off the welling tears in her eyes, propped herself on her right hand and looked with interest in a set direction.
Her party was quick to catch on. They followed their leader’s gaze and saw a nightmare…
Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!
Four loud sounds of facepalming resounded through the mine, one after the other. The foreheads of the four had a bright red imrpint.
FieryRed! How could they avoid the Kobolds with her in the team? That reckless girl is a suicidal tanking machine!
“It’s a lost cause.” Enna, Inferno, Headshot and SilentStep simultaneously sighed.
“I know right!” FieryRed followed up her bear’s grumbling. “You think I cannot handle one little Kobold?”
“It’s not that you cannot handle the Kobolds, we’re afraid you’re too capable!” Inferno emphasized.
“Geez, what’s a couple of spiders to you? We can take them on! More EXP!” FieryRed patted her shield.
“Knowing you, you’ll probably pull at least 10 Kobolds and that makes it around 50 spiders! Do you think we can fend that off?” Headshot said helplessly.
“Oh come on, we fought against so many wolves before, what’s a couple of monsters now?” FieryRed argued.
Her bear backed her up with vocal consent.
“We had reinforcements back then.” Enna interjected.
“Don’t dramatize, we can do this!” FieryRed kept to her own.
“Enough! FieryRed, you’ll stay next to us and tank what we want you to tank. This is it.” Faura’s sonorous voice rang out, silencing the others.
“B-But…!” FieryRed tried to interject when Faura bent over and whispered.
“Did I ever mention my uncle Freddy? You know, he has a hut in the mountains, lives there for most time of the year. When I visited him, he made a great bear stew. I couldn’t believe how delicious it was! And you know what… after begging him for some time, he reluctantly handed me the recipe! I always wanted to try my hand at doing the bear stew, but where we live, the bear meat is so hard to come by… Even yesterday, during the barbecue, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” Faura looked at FieryRed’s bear and licked her lips.
FieryRed started. This was a clear as day threat! She looked at her bear Teddy gently and couldn’t help but quiver in fear. She knew that Faura was capable of following her threat. Those weren’t just empty words. After all, there were many other bears out there.
Faura’s hand landed on FieryRed’s shoulder firmly. “Well, we’ll have to buy a couple of ingredients to truly make the stew great and it would be a bother to go back to town now… but look at the bright side! Since we’re going to die soon anyways, we’ll be teleported back to town in a jiffy! How great is that!”
FieryRed’s expression stiffened. She didn’t want to be intimidated, but next words made her shudder in fear.
“Now that I think about it, this bear looks quite massive. And it’s young. Apart from the stew, we should make some sushi! I haven’t eaten any in a long time. Since Vilen Town is coastal, they should have some seaweeds.” Faura tapped her chin, her eyes sizing Teddy up.
“I-I’ll do it.” FieryRed stuttered.
“Huh? What did you say? I couldn’t hear you in all this battle noise.” Faura leaned to hear better.
“I said I’ll do it!” FieryRed bit her lip.
“What a good girl you are!” Faura ruffled FieryRed’s long red hair then turned to the party. “Let’s go.”
Green blood splattered, fusing with the reddish-green puddle of liquid on the ground. The green moss absorbed the blood crazily, becoming more and more vivid.
“Cut off the other leg too!” Headshot shouted, loosing an arrow to distract the spider.
FieryRed made a horizontal cut, removing three hairy legs at the same time. This was her new signature move “Sunder the sun”. In fact, she wanted to call the move “Sunder the world” but when she thought of her style, she decided to use the glaring star’s name.
Although FieryRed called this a great move, it was nothing more than a mana imbued horizontal slash. However, it was enough for her to be exuberant and joyful.
“Duck!” Inferno shouted.
Boulders made of earth energy whistled through the air, right above the party’s heads. They crashed on the floor, sending tremors through the ground.
“Another Kobold!” Faura screamed.
“I got it!” Headshot focused on the short creature with a long, reptile-like face riddled with teeth. It resembled a mix of a goblin and a pink lizard.
As the party controlled the movements of the monsters nearby, more and more players entered the mine. Judging by the time the group spent inside the dungeon, it was about to dawn in real world.
“How are we doing with the preparation for the 2nd floor?” Faura asked, casting a 50% mana [Lightning bolt].
“I checked the passage, we need to pay 5 [Kobold Crystal Shards] to pass.” SilentStep reported. “How many do we have so far?”
“Only two.” Faura sighed, the group of six needed some sleep before venturing onto the second floor, but they wanted to at least finish the preparations. Unfortunately, the drop of those crystals was really low. Sometimes it dropped from one of the five kobolds, other times it took as many as twenty to get one. Nearby players often grumbled about it.
“Well, it’s not that big of a deal. When we wake up some people will definitely venture inside the second floor. I’m almost certain some kind soul will let the others know what’s in there. Just make sure to look at screenshots with the Albatros Company’s confirmed thread sign, they’re validated by the game masters. I don’t want us to get in a bind because of fake information..” Faura cautioned.
“Roger!” Headshot, Inferno and SilentStep replied. FieryRed didn’t need to, they wouldn’t give such a job to her, she was more effective in combat.
“Huh?” Faura started. She didn’t hear Enna’s reply so she turned her head to see what’s going on. Was Enna ambushed? But her healthbar is full!
As Faura turned her head she saw Enna dancing. What the hell? “Oi, what are you doing Enna?”
“Oh? You guys were protecting me so well I was bored again. Thus I looked through the options and there’s a music bot installed here! I was just listening to a great song and…”
“Alright, enough!” Faura shook her head helplessly. Enna really enjoyed herself out here. So did the rest of them, it’s just that Enna often did it in a different way. First by talking to Icicle and discovering the mana system, now by listening to music. However, Faura couldn’t grumble too much. Enna was doing her job properly, their health bars were topped off. So what if she listened to music? As long as she does a good job she could be… alright, she shouldn’t do that! That would be disturbing!
“Kobolds 9 o’clock!” SilentStep warned.
Few seconds later, two fishing nets flew towards Enna and Faura. Faura used [Lightning rush] to dodge, quickly moving out of the way. By controlling her mana, she saved up a ton on that skill!
Turning her head, Faura checked Enna’s condition. To her surprise, Enna simply sidestepped. What’s more it looked extremely natural. “Huh?” she gaped.
Enna actually moved on instinct. She was dancing so when the net flew, she felt some disturbance and changed her steps accordingly. Thus, the net flew beside her, completely missing the target.
Enna didn’t even look at the window, she continued moving to the sides, agilely tapping on the floor.
“Could her dance lessons finally pay off?” Faura blinked three times to make sure she was seeing the right thing. She had to use a movement skill to dodge, but Enna simply tapped her feet off the floor and flew away like a swallow.
“Fireballs, lookout!” FieryRed shouted from the front.
“Enna!” Faura shouted, however, the girl couldn’t hear her. She was already in a dancing trance.
Although the fireball was fast, Enna dodged it with ease. Her eyes were closed, but she still saw the health bars of her party. FieryRed’s health dropped a little so she cast a heal in the middle of her moves.
“D-Did you see that?” Headshot asked with a trembling voice. That fireball came hurtling from Enna’s black spot yet she easily dodged!
“FieryRed, don’t kill that Kobold! Let him attack Enna once more!” Faura commanded.
FieryRed moved onto another target. It didn’t really matter for her which one she was going to chop as long as there was one. Besides, Kobolds were scrawny little mages, she liked to fight against stronger, brawny monsters. Killing those gave her satisfaction.
This time the pink Kobold in front of the party used lightning magic. Three thunderbolts slithered through the air, searching for prey.
“There are three of them, let’s see how she dodges those!” Faura watched with bated breath.
Enna’s moves accelerated, her hands moved a few times and a yellow barrier of light appeared around her.
Lightningbolts exploded, the barrier cracked and finally shattered, but Enna was fine.
“Why didn’t you dodge!” Faura shouted unwittingly.
“This was the core part of the song, I can’t change my moves too often or I’ll get out of rhythm!” Enna replied, pouting. She was in a bad mood because her favorite song was almost ruined by some pink ugly crossbreed of a goblin and a lizard!
SilentStep, Inferno and Headshot gaped. Even FieryRed wrinkled her brow, but then she returned to fighting.
“That’s enough, get back to farming! She’s moody about her dance being ruined, that’s definitely our little girl.” Faura nodded, shook her head helplessly and muttered “More and more monsters surround me. First that Icicle now even Enna turns out to be a godly player.”
Two hours passed, the party leveled up to 20, with FieryRed lagging behind at level 19. That was Teddy’s credit. The bear leeched off experience after all.
Enna kept dancing the entire time, only stopping for a few sips of tea and one sweet bun.
Enna looked at the window curiously, noticing the previous one. “[Sense presence]? Is that what Icicle used during the [Ingrained Enmity] event? This seems really useful!” Enna clapped her hands in joy.
“Alright, enough for today! We gathered four crystals, let’s back up to the safe zone and reenter tomorrow, after we get proper sleep. I don’t want to have bags under my eyes!” Faura grumbled. Every woman liked to look pretty.
“One more!” FieryRed shouted, pulling two Kobolds over.
“This girl!” Faura raged, stamping her feet. “What are you waiting for, follow that dumbass orange and red duo! Then drag her back so she won’t pull another thing!”
The first Kobold was quickly decapitated, not able to lure any spiders down from the ceiling.
As the second one fell, a shiny white shard dropped on the floor. A couple tiny lightning sparks ran through its smooth surface. FieryRed picked it up.
“Hehe, look what I found!” FieryRed raised the unidentified crystal.
“Alright, now we can finally go back!” Faura grabbed FieryRed and dragged her to the entrance area which was labeled as a safe zone.
“Hey, let’s identify it!” FieryRed suggested excitedly.
“It’s just a piece of crystal, what can it do? We’ll get it identified once we go back to town!” Faura grumbled, she didn’t want to waste money.
“Oh come on, if it’s not worth anything you can deduct it off me later! I want to see what that beauty holds!” FieryRed was curious. She wanted to stick it to Faura for ridiculing her and her bear, Teddy, earlier. This was the prey she has chosen! Thus, if the item was good, she earned the party big time. Next time, they might even allow her to have some more freedom! “Ah, that would be awesome!” she thought.
“Alright…” Faura shook her head helplessly. She wanted to get some sleep, thus she reluctantly agreed. When they were at Vilen Town, rumors about Adian cheaply identifying items spread. Some Merchants decided to lower their prices, while others put [Identifying scrolls] for sale. The normal price of 1 gold coin per scroll went down by a staggering 50%! Since she could buy such scrolls for dirt cheap, Faura decided to buy 10.
The gnolls and other local creatures dropped really poor quality loot, they were quite easy to deal with and gave good experience, but the gold and loot were awful! Thus, no rare items dropped, not to mention Elite grade items.
Faura used the [Identifying scroll] on the white crystal shard.
Since Faura was using the scroll, there was even an additional information. Really a useful thing, those scrolls. They’ll probably cost a lot more later. After all, the ones she had were reserved for Starting Area only and couldn’t be used elsewhere.
“How is it?” FieryRed looked with sparkling eyes. This could be the key to her fighting freedom!
Teddy sat beside her, quietly waiting. FieryRed told him about Faura’s threat earlier through telepathy and now the bear didn’t dare to growl. What if the mad woman actually wanted to eat him again? Wouldn’t he be skinned alive?
Faura didn’t hear what FieryRed said, she looked over her staff, checking if it has the necessary socket. As she glanced at the top of the staff, there was a hole. She looked at the crystal then back and the staff and then repeated the process two more times. “They match!”
Faura didn’t want to ask any professional to imbue a low level crystal. They will most likely find a better one soon anyways. Even if they don’t, it’s not meaningful enough to keep it for better equipment. With her mind made up, Faura grabbed the crystal firmly and slowly let it drop into the hole in the staff.
Lightning sparks flew all around.
FieryRed watched Faura embedding the crystal into her own equipment with amazement. “Why did she use it for herself?” she grumbled. Then she looked at her sword and there was no such empty hole, so she calmed down.
“Hey, what was that?” Inferno asked. He looked at his own staff but there wasn’t any empty slot.
Faura didn’t answer verbally, she simply waved her staff and used 50 points of mana to display.
The little energy ball she usually used to attack now held a powerful lightning inside!
“This…” Inferno stared. “Awesome! I want a crystal like that too!”
“This was a [Low grade Lightning Shard]. Seeing your disappointed look earlier, I imagine you don’t have a slot for it. If my guess is correct, only Elite and higher grade items have one.” Faura deduced. “As for its properties, it adds 15 points of damage to my every attack with the staff. Normally, it would be 10, but wood can hold the lightning just fine, so it increased to 15.”
“Heheeee!” FieryRed giggled mischievously on the side.
“Oh don’t laugh too early, you did good, but you’re still on a leash. Before we’re able to conquer the second floor, don’t you even think of running around. As for your bear, I’ll make an exception and give him a week.” Faura said firmly, like an empress holding the life and death of mortals within her grasp.
The bear whined, what did it do to deserve such treatment? Being eaten now or a week later, is there really a difference?
“Don’t worry.” FieryRed petted the brown bear a little and unsummoned him. She saw a cheeky smile on Faura’s face before she logged off. Besides, the bear was useful to them, of course they wouldn’t discard the tanking beast.
“Guess it’s time to log off.” FieryRed took a last glance at the battlefield of humans and miscellaneous monsters. She heard the sounds of arrows and magic whistling through the air, making her blood boil again. Sighing, she reluctantly logged off.
It was 8 am, Jeremy has just finished his morning jog and took a shower. He stretched lazily, eating breakfast. “Those lizards should be coming out soon. I should get back.”
Finishing his breakfast, he took the VR headset and logged into Loiterous.
In the cave behind the waterfall, Icicle met with Blackie. He sent the dog to check the situation while he deepened his alchemic knowledge. After half an hour, Blackie came back.
“God, I heard a few shiny armors speaking, they said they will attack the human forces from two sides in about 90 minutes!” Blackie reported.
“Two sides?” Icicle tapped his chin. He didn’t expect the green lizardmen to do the exact same thing. “Now this is interesting!” he thought, organizing the potions in his inventory. Those were the last preparations for a huge battle!