Boom! Boom! Boom!
Hundreds of fireballs exploded on the battlefield, hurting both lizardmen and players alike. In this chaotic free for all, the concept of formation and teamwork was almost non-existent.
Shock, dizziness, blacking out. All sorts of afflictions befell both players and lizardmen who happened to be at the epicenter of the terrifying explosions.
If that wasn’t enough, lightning bolts descended upon both sides, leaving them severely wounded or… mumified. In that wretched state, death was something that was coveted for.
As ganging up, backstabbing and arrow peppering continued, the sound of explosions suddenly died down.
A monstrous cheering wave turned into a shockwave that reverberated outside the walls, its echo spreading far and wide.
“What’s the commotion all about?” Tiana turned and puckered her eyebrows. Her ears were ringing from the noise.
In the instant Tiana was distracted, a red glowing saber whistled through the air, targeting her vulnerable white neck.
Santi bashed the lizardman aside with his shield, taking a long, deep breath afterwards.
“Focus on the battle and don’t concern yourself with the town! If anything major had happened, we would have gotten a system message!” Santi brought Tiana’s attention back with a dissatisfied shout.
Tiana cutely snorted and used the [Fire Spheres] skill, summoning 7 balls of flame around her. Each subsequent hit by the sphere of flame dealt 50% of the original damage, maxing out at 250% base magic damage. The skill cost 100 mana, and the maximum damage dealt could be raised by levelling it up.
At this stage of the game, using this burst damage skill merely out of frustration was a waste of resources, especially considering the circumstances the party was in. There were hundreds of lizardmen prowling in their sight, yet Tiana used her mana so inefficiently. This wasteful usage caused her party members to sigh dejectedly.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
One after the other, the searing hot spheres of flame exploded on the blue lizardman’s body, charring it severely. The health regeneration the lizardmen were so proud of couldn’t keep up with the incoming stream of attacks, resulting in the wounded lizardman’s untimely death.
“Hmph!” Tiana scoffed with her hands on her hips, “That will teach them!”
The ferocious tail of a lizardman hit Santi’s shield square in the middle, making him stagger backwards. “Don’t space out Tiana!” he called out yet again.
Puyo’s bowstring bent as he loosed an arrow. It flew right in front of Tiana’s face, ruffling her hair with the violent air current behind it. The arrow pierced an approaching lizardman’s chest.
Tiana’s eyes locked down on Puyo’s apolegetic figure. However, although he seemed to be sorry, his curled up mouth betrayed his true intetions.
“Hmph, jerk.” Tiana focused on the wounded lizardman, ignoring the obnoxious archer. “I even went out of my way to help him earlier.” she muttered under her nose.
After 10 minutes of peaceful teamwork, every party member was able to reach level 20. Unfortunately, the peaceful period seemed to be over as Tiana suddenly turned and hurled a fireball. As one of the lizardman leaped on Puyo from his blindspot, the fireball flew straight at the reptile, exploding on its body.
As the fires raged on, Puyo’s face became momentarily engulfed in a ball of flame. His black hair had burned a little, while his sharp eyebrows were singed. Puyo looked like a chimney sweep who has just finished his daily work.
Seeing his teammates laugh their asses off, Puyo’s singed face immediately darkened.
“Tsk, tsk. Eyes around your head.” Tiana snorted, not even turning her back. An imperceptible smile flashed on her face but quickly receded.
Puyo took a deep breath, nocked an arrow and released it with a loud ‘twang’!
As the wooden arrow traversed the air, it quickly arrived at the side of Tiana’s face. It flew past, grazing the delicate cheek of the fair black-haired maiden.
“Enough!” Santi turned and yelled. The antics of his two troublesome teammates were driving him nuts. This was not the time nor place.
Tiana brushed her cheek with her small hand and saw red streak of blood on her palm. She turned fiercely, releasing a wave of heat from under her feet! Three searing flames quickly conjuted into 3m long snakes, attacking Puyo without hesitation!
One of the red serpents curled around Puyo, while the other two opened their ferocious maws and released two pillars of flame!
“Arghhh!” Puyo screamed under the extreme heat. His skin sizzled and melt, as if he was thrown into the seventh layer of hell.
What Tiana has just used was a rare Fire Mage skill called [Scarlet Serpents]. Tiana learned it from a skillbook dropped by the [One-eyed Fearsome Grizzly] the party killed in the mountains. It had a staggering cooldown of 90 seconds and a whopping 200 mana cost. In exchange, the skill provided the user with three fire element serpents ready to do its bidding for 15 seconds.
If this skill was used for Player Killing in the early stages of the game, it would provide an absolute advantage to the user. Thus, even though Puyo was quick on his feet, he couldn’t do anything in face of the superior magic.
“Stop it now, both of y-!” Santi yelled authoratively but his voice suddenly died out. An indistinct gurgle came out of his throat, as his chest was hollowed out by an enormous scarlet red trident!
Santi fell on the ground listlessly, quickly disintegrating. Only a puddle of viscous, dark red blood was left after him.
Tiana’s eyes widened as she saw Rhukka grinning evilly at them. His steel trident was now entirely covered in fresh blood, giving it a disgusting sanguine color.
Releasing Puyo from the grip of the serpent, Tiana tried to block the charge of the green lizardmen leader. Despite all of her efforts, she couldn’t fully contain him.
Excited by their leader’s success, nearby lizardmen let out bloodcurdling howls, rushing at players with even more ferocity and power. Tiana looked around and noticed that her party was located right in the middle of the lizardmen encirclement! This couldn’t even be called frontlining… This was plain as day suicide!
“How did the other players die so fast?” Tiana couldn’t grasp what had transpired. However, as if someone wished to answer her, a loud howl came from the back of the lizardmen troops. Green lizardmen in thick leather armor came rushing down the grasslands. Their hands wielded monstrous tridents and thick fishing nets. Compared to the other elite lizardmen who averaged at about 2m tall, those green reptiles were at least 2 heads taller. Their muscles bulged as they rampaged through the battlefield, impaling the players like shish kebab.
“Every single one of them is a Rare variant! No wonder they decimated the front line players!” Tiana desperately tried to pull back. She hoped the party could reorganize in the town, but that’s when Russha and his lizardmen brothers threw fishing nets high in the air!
As the scarlet serpents reached the end of their longevity, the already struggling party was quickly dispatched, one after the other. The loss of Santi who was their tank and leader was a huge blow to their morale. As the party’s movements became sloppy, the carefully set up formation was destroyed in mere seconds.
Murdering all of the humans with an unrestrained glee on his face, Rhukka roared, striking his chest with his scaly fist! He threw his trident at one of the nearby players and licked his lips. The weapon of mass destruction flew at the player like a homing missile, pierced his chest. The player’s tormented soul was released soon after.
Icicle stood amidst the puddles of dark red viscous liquid. His chest was heaving up and down like a pair of bellows.
“If this keeps up, I’ll level up to 15 before getting to the boss. Goddamn lizardmen, they come out of those corridors like mad.” Icicle panted. His exertion wasn’t fruitless though. He gained one point in Strength, Vitality and Wisdom during his time in the cave.
With Blackie being gone for the next twentish hours, Icicle’s leveling speed has increased significantly. At this rate, he will reach level 15 before meeting the boss.
Slumping to the ground, Icicle enjoyed the refreshing feeling of the cold, greyish cave wall. His tired body greedily absorbed the energy from the air, trying to restore itself to its optimal state.
Icicle rummaged through his inventory, looking for the yellow beverage.
“Tch, not much is left. I have to restock in the Vilen Town’s bazzar when I get back.” Icicle greedily gulped down the citrus liquid, wiping his mouth in satisfaction.
This wasn’t the first time Icicle sat down to rest. Whenever he cleared out a room, he would rest to save up on the fatigue, both mental and physical. During those rest periods, Icicle found out that the balance in his body was disrupted.
“Weird, I always get this feeling whenever I use potions to restore my health or mana. It’s as if the body wanted to recover on its own. Logically speaking, this should be the way to gain stats, letting the body tire itself out and rebuild itself later, but… can it really by applied here?” Icicle pondered. This was the way humans trained their bodies. They ran a lot so they could run some more in the future. Their muscles got used to the fatigue, letting them overcome their limits.
The only way to check his theory was waiting for the mana to replenish itself naturally. However, Icicle didn’t have that much time to waste. Whether its the lizardmen or the players, their sudden appearance could majorily disrupt his plans.
“Heh, when have I ever worried about other players?” Icicle made up his mind, quickly sitting himself up in a meditative position. His two hands laid relaxedly on his crossed legs. As his breathing slowly stabilized, Icicle conjured two small water droplets in the center of his palms.
Transparent blue droplets of water shook lightly, their watery structure distorting. This was caused by Icicle’s inadept control of mana. Icicle tried to get a better grasp, but he felt as if he was hitting a steel wall. Despite his futile attempts at stabilizing the water droplets, Icicle concentrated on pushing the mana into the two tiny spheres of water, making them revolve around their own axes.
As the two spheres of water spinned, Icicle felt a stream of energy entering his parched body faster and faster. Above the two water droplets, a miniscule crumb sized whirlpools formed, greedily sucking the mana in.
Icicle felt as if his hands held a constantly expanding mountain range. His mental strain increased by the minute, but Icicle’s face held a joyous expression. This was overcoming his own limits! The longer he perseveres, the better his control over the mana will be!
Straining himself for the next 5 minutes, Icicle’s stabilized breathing turned heavy, ragged. Sweat covered his entire body as he unconsciously grit his teeth.
Icicle was reaching his limit. His hands were shaking violently. Despite that, he still persevered, until his body couldn’t take it and he… fell asleep. With his consciousness fading, the originally shaking hands controlling the rampaging mana stilled, as the water droplets wantonly absorbed the nearby energy. Without Icicle’s clumsy control, the mana flowed in using its own passages, feeding his starving, exhausted body with vigorous energy.
This state continued for 10 minutes after which Icicle’s body shook violently.
Three lizardmen walked into the room and noticed a wild looking human figure sitting with his legs crossed among puddles of lizardmen blood! Flying into rage, the two elite warriors and one spearman charged at the treacherous human.
Icicle’s eyes snapped open. His [Sense presence] made him aware of the three charging reptiles. Icicle laid on his back, bent, and then jumped onto his feet in a relaxed manner.
Unsheathing his sword, Icicle blocked the incoming weapons.
“I have no idea what happened, but I feel like I’ve slept for a few hours!” Icicle pondered the situation, before checking the time. “Only 15 minutes passed? Tsk tsk, I don’t know what had happened. Truly a shame. If I knew how to meditate with such efficiency, I could beat Vilenne in a few months, fair and square.” Icicle sighed inwardly, regretting not video recording his actions.
Activating [Nasty burn], Icicle felt his mana flowing into the sword with less resistance than before, as if his body was getting used to the new form of energy. White polished blade of the sword lit up quicker than usual, the flickering flames shone with more brilliance.
“I’ll definitely focus on training the mana control once I’m out of here.” Icicle grinned wildly, welcoming the three lizardmen with his fiercely burning sword.
Respawning in the Vilen Town’s church, Tiana hung her head low. She knew what had just happened was partially her fault.
Her musings didn’t last long. Santi who stood next to them balled fist and swiftly moved, grabbing Puyo and Tiana by the collars.
“Ah!” Tiana screamed like a frightened kitten, trying to free herself from the iron grip.
Puyo was thrashing around wildly too, his hands covering his face. Even though the feeling was already gone, he indistinctly felt the burn marks all over his face. Santi turned his head and glared at the two, making them swallow their saliva. As the two glanced at Santi’s back, they noticed that Santi has lost his Rare grade level 18 shield.
The other four members of the party discussed what they had lost after their deaths. Their facial expressions were relieved, since they dropped a dozen of silver coins and some miscelanneous crafting items. Aside losing some experience, this wasn’t too big of a deal.
“I’m sorry, I tried to heal you guys, but everything happened so suddenly…” Laris said dejectedly.
“Come on, it’s not your fault girl, I was supposed to keep you safe and died too.” Darkk patted Laris’s back, her expression somewhat bitter. She volunteered to be the second tank and yet she couldn’t do much.
Laris looked around and noticed one of the party members missing. “Where’s Frett?” she asked weakly.
The other party members looked at each other with a flash of understanding. That’s when they noticed Santi dragging off Puyo and Tiana like two sacks of potatoes.
Following them, the party reached the Auction House located next to the northern gate under the passersby curious glances.
Entering the Auction House, the party noticed it was surprisingly deserted. Only a blond middle-aged man sat behind the counter. His glasses reflected the book he was reading.
Santi dragged Tiana and Puyo to a corner and glared at them. They hung their heads low, sitting in place.
“I would like to check your wares.” Santi called out to the middle-aged employee.
The blond man raised his eyes from the book he was reading, giving Santi but a glance. He focused on the book again, saying blandly, “You adventurers can use your special abilities to check our vast collection. Once you find something you fancy, give me the full name of the item and I’ll bring it for you.”
“Have a sit.”Auction House’s employee pointed to one of the empty tables with his hand. “After you make a few purchases, the Auction House may extend your buying range to the entirety of the town. As for bidding from outside the town, this is a special privilege bestowed upon our most valuable customers. Now then, take your time.”
Santi nodded appreciatively, taking a seat at the empty wooden table. He glanced at the menus and noticed a flashing house icon with “Auction House” written above it. Santi clicked the icon and a blue screen welcomed him.
On the left side of the blue screen appeared various categories – Armors, Weapons, Shields, Potions, Food, Crafting items etc. Santi pressed the Weapons tab, looking through the listed items.
“Where are the weapons over level 50 coming from?” Santi asked the middle-aged man with surprise.
“Those items are sold by the locals. Hunters, Warriors, Mages… There are all kinds of people constantly looking for treasures. Sometimes they kill a bandit group, other times they get killed by the bandits. Either way, their weapons are either taken away for personal use or make their way here, where the killer party can get their share of the profit without worrying about the possibility of revenge. We’re very confidential in our business after all. I hope this satisfies your curiosity.” the middle-aged man slid the eyeglasses back on his nose, smiling amiably.
“Yes, thank you.” Santi eyed all the high level swords greedily. He had to take a few deep breaths to restrain himself.
“Take your time choosing, if anything piques your interest, let me know. Remember, the prices are non-negotiable.” the middle-aged man reminded, returning to his book.
Santi perused the items for quite some time. Puyo and Tiana looked at each other, confusion spreading in their eyes. As the ones in the wrong, they wanted to apologize, but Santi seemed busy. They didn’t want to step on his foot to make the matters worse. As they sat next to each other, each of them turned their head away with a “hmph!”.
After 5 minutes passed, Santi stood up from the wooden table, heading over to the counter.
“I’ll take the [Composite Yew Bow] and [Vermillion Brilliance Staff].” Santi made his decision and ordered two items.
“That’ll be 60 gold coins for both of them.” the middle aged employee said blandly. He hid his surprised expression quite well. After all, the adventurers came to this world recently. Gathering so many gold coins required either killing a powerful beast or robbing others. Whichever it was, both of those endeavors required immense strength.
Santi walked to the four party members standing in the back and asked them for all of their gold, clarifying what he needed it for. After listening to his words, the other four nodded their heads, their expression somewhat insidious.
Soon after, Frett arrived at the Auction House, bringing back the equipment and the gold coins the party dropped. Santi smiled faintly after recovering his level 18 shield. His anger subsided slightly.
Gathering all of the gold the six of them had, Santi paid for the two items, tossing them to Puyo and Tiana respectively.
“Now then, these two level 20 weapons are for you.” Puyo and Tiana looked on with astonishment as the already identified weapons landed in their hands. Then they turned to Santi and glanced at him in confusion. Why were they rewarded for doing something bad? Soemthing was fishy here.
“The two of you will make a bet. If Tiana loses, she will have to be nice to everyone in the dorm for the next three days. Aside from that, she’ll make today’s dinner and pay for it without batting an eye.” Santi smiled gently.
Hearing the ominous words, Tiana shuddered. Acting nice for three days? For a straightforward, proud person like her that was torture! The staff in her hands suddenly felt a lot heavier.
“As for you Puyo, if you lose, you’ll pay for the bow by washing the toilets for all of us for the next month! Besides that, you’ll become Tiana’s errand boy for a day. You’ll carry her shopping, watch how she tries out new dresses, chooses lipsticks and so on. A fun day ahead of you! Just to make sure you’re available, it will happen next Saturday! I hope you didn’t have any plans.” Santi smiled apologetically.
Puyo gulped loudly, his eyes unwilling. The poisonous sarcasm leaving Santi’s mouth outweighed the joy of finally getting his hands on a new bow.
“Now then, don’t look so scared. The six of us paid for your new equipment, you can’t be saying that we wasted our money, right? Besides, only one of you will have to do what I said.” since there was rivalry against the two, Santi fanned the flames.
“What you’ll compete in is… lizardmen killing! No blatant killstealing, we will check your contribution points after the event. If your performance is bad, I hope you’re ready for some entertainment.” Santi spread his hands in helplessness.
“The one who gathers more contribution points for the party will be the winner. You can video tape your performance to brag about later if you want.” Santi suggested.
“Why does it seem like my punishment is a lot worse?” Puyo grumbled discontentedly.
“Well, first of all, it’s because you’re the one who cause this whole mess in the first place. Secondly, you were beaten like a little bitch by Tiana, so you have no right to complain.” Santi disregarded Puyo, suddenly crouching and whispering loud enough for all of the party members to hear. “Can you imagine Tiana being nice for 3 days though? What a lovely vision.” Santi closed his eyes and his expression swiftly brightened.
“And what will stop her from breaking the rules?” Puyo was unconvinced. Since he faced suffering, he might as well bring Tiana down with him.
“Hehe, if she breaks the rules more than 3 times a day, her punishment will be extended by a day. I called it “Tiana reformation program”. Whenever you act up in the future, we’ll continue with this system. She will have to act nice and you’ll have to carry her bags. Pleasant, isn’t it?” Santi flashed a grin. He expected the two troublemakers to act up quite frequently, thus he didn’t hold back.
Tiana shuddered, balling her little fists. She looked at Puyo and her expression turned fierce! As the will to fight was born, Tiana turned into a little tigress!
Standing up, Tiana patted Puyo’s back and flashed a mischievous smile. “Ahh Puyo, my dearest friend, I wanted to go shopping for a long time, but my fragile little hands couldn’t carry such weights… I’m so glad you will lend me a hand next Saturday.”
Puyo’s whole body shook as he grabbed the bow tightly. He looked at Santi and firmly said, “Let’s go.”
As the whole party left the building, Tiana’s gaze wamdered, looking for Alchemist disciples. Finally locating one of the stalls, she sneakily appeared next to the stall, buying out all of their pricy mana potions.
“Hmph, since you dared to play with me, I hope you’re ready for some weigh lifting.” Tiana stored the mana vials in her inventory, approaching a nearby food stall to cover up her actions. Buying a peanut butter sandwich, she skipped happily, catching up with the party.
Santi turned and saw Tiana munching on food. His gaze softened as he helplessly shook his head. It seemed that Tiana wasn’t one least bit concerned about losing.
After the cheering stopped and people congratulating Adian dispersed to their homes, Adian could finally heave a sigh of relief. He cheekily redirected all of the nobles to his father, letting him bathe in glory while he impertinently grabbed a chair from the watchtower and sat himself on the northern wall. His eyes lazily gazing at the low level battle, Adian pondered the mysteries contained with his halberd.
“Nice fight.” gentle female voice drifted in the wind. Adian opened his eyes and noticed a black-haired, well-endowed female in warrior outfit propping herself on the wall to his right.
“Not watching your pupils?” Adian smiled cheekily.
“There’s no one I’m really interested in. Not here at least. Besides, Ivir’s watching over the little ones.” Vilenne shrugged.
“Now that you’re saying that, I don’t see one little rascal here either.” Adian guffawed.
“Oh? Someone you’re interested in? And how do you know that person isn’t amongst the crowds of adventurers below?” Vilenne looked at the chaotic battlefield and shook her head. This battle could be resolved by her alone if she was given a quarter of an hour.
“If he was, this shiny blue-scaled guy would be already eating dirt.” Adian pointed to Russh who was slaughtering the players around him.
“Do you know the name?” Vilenne’s interest was piqued.
“I do. How about you? Does your mysterious character have one?” Adian propped his face on his hand, yawning.
“He does.” Vilenne’s smile stiffened. “You go first.”
“Nah, ladies first.” Adian stood up from his chair and curtsied.
Vilenne rolled her eyes, “What a chivalry. Should I marry you, o’ white knight?”
“Heheh.” Adian laughed insolently. “Alright, I’ll tell you first.” Adian cleared his throat. “I met that rascal in the Humming Forest. My leg was hurt and the wolves were avoiding me, apparently aware of my strength. That’s why I made a tent and waited for someone to show up, so I could use him as bait. If everything worked according to my plan, I would have been able to get rid of the wolf infestation once and for all.”
“However, when one of the adventurers actually stumbled upon my tent, instead of playing to my tune, he actually changed the notes… As one thing led to the other, I taught him Alchemy, gave him my alchemic equipment and even helped him level…” Adian embarrasedly scratched his chin.
Vilenne listened with rapt attention, suddenly having a foreboding. “This couldn’t be him, right?” Vilenne thought back to the duel Icicle had with Blutic. His equipment was way too strong for someone who has just started playing.
“Then I watched him use a shred of aura, gain [Sense presence] and even kill wolves much stronger than himself by using deception and trickery. Soon after, we found ourselves in a huge battlefield. Red Devil’s Tribe and the direwolves duked it off, while my little helper actually managed to get into one of the raid parties of the squirrels, leeching off them.” Adian put his hands behind his head and reclined on the chair.
As Adian narrated further, Vilenne blanked out. “Fought with the direwolves, capable of using his aura and developed [Sense presence]. That little bastard!” Vilenne’s fists balled.
“… his name is-”
“It’s Icicle.” Vilenne interrupted Adian’s narrating, a shred of her blue aura spreading through the surroundings.
“Hahaha, it seems you know him then.” Adian chuckled.
“Yes I do. He forced Ivir to pay for his Mage tuition by decimated her pupil in a duel, then he fought against me for a good half an hour before overwhelming me with his killing aura, making me look like a fool.” Vilenne’s face distorted as she recollected the events.
Adian looked at Vilenne with some compassion and said, “That’s what you get for holding back in front of the trickster.”
“Says the one who played to his tune, a famed young wanderer, well-known in the four kingdoms, Adian the Viking.” Vilenne teased back.
“I wonder how they’ll call me when they learn I’m using a halberd too.” Adian stood up and straightened his clothes. “You should head back as well. If you go around flashing your aura like that, the runaway royal princess might be found by some less forgiving people.”
Vilenne nodded, her gaze turning to the north.