Faura waited for the response at the beginning of the second floor of [Desolated Catacombs]. She and her party had logged in half an hour ago, craving to know what laid on the elusive second floor.
“I do have a skillbook, not sure for what class though, since it isn’t identified.” Icicle replied in the chat box. “Right now I’m a bit busy with a quest, let’s meet later.”
“Alright, send me a message when you’re free.” Faura pressed send and walked towards her party camping around the fire.
“Buying the firewood and matches was a great decision, huh?” Faura smiled sheepishly.
Enna’s eyes drifted over to Faura’s face, her lovely face innocently blinking “I huv noo ideaaa wat yur sayin.” she said with her mouth full of marshmallows.
Faura ruffled Enna’s hair and sat next to her. Opposite her sat FieryRed who had just cooked her meat over the fire.
Teddy looked at her master with begging eyes, salivating.
“You’re such a greedy bear.” FieryRed tore half of her piece and threw it to Teddy.
“Any news regarding the event?” Faura asked SilentStep who had just logged in.
“The forums don’t say much. Those who log off early won’t get the rewards unless they had sufficient contribution points, so everyone is struggling for scraps.” SilentStep shrugged. “However, I asked a few people in the town, they say it’s almost over. We have to hurry up and get what we can here. Once the event is over, this place will be overrun.”
“Let’s rest up and then get into it. There are a few corridors for us to explore.” Faura nodded, preparing her own food. Loiterous made her feel like a true adventurer in the wild, something she couldn’t experience in real life. It was a refreshing feeling.
“Is Icicle interested in the skillbook?” Enna asked, stuffing herself with even more food. All she recently did was stuff herself and then dance to feel the rhythm of the world. Her [Sense presence] was advancing rapidly, as if she had an inherent talent. To Enna, however, that was only natural. She could always feel the rhythm in the music, that’s why she used to dance. In this new world, she could finally express herself fully.
“I didn’t even tell him what it’s called and he said he can trade for another skillbook.” Faura shook her head helplessly. The youth they met during the [Ingrained enmity] event had always had an ace up his sleeve.
“Really? What skillbook?” Headshot asked. He wanted a new skill for his Archer class.
“No idea. He hasn’t identified it yet.” Faura shrugged.
“Doesn’t he know about the identifying scrolls?” Inferno asked.
“If you had a Merchant in your pocket, would you waste your money on the scrolls?” Faura quipped.
“Heheh.” Inferno laughed embarrassedly. They saw Adian getting along with Icicle during the wolf infestation event. Since Icicle knew Adian, he definitely didn’t have any problems identifying his loot.
FieryRed fed her bear, eating from time to time. She glanced at SilentStep who drank tea like a gentleman and smirked. “What a proper young man.”
As the party chatted, the peaceful atmosphere was broken by Enna’s cheerful laughter.
“What is it?” Faura looked at the giggling Enna amusedly.
“Icicle sent me a screenshot, look.” Enna shared her message menu with Faura.
Faura looked over the screenshot and her eyes went wide. “T-This… is it a dragon?”
Hearing the word dragon made all of the party members converge around Enna. It didn’t matter if they were in the middle of a talk, or just about to devour delicious food. Everything became meaningless as they scurried over to see the legendary creature.
“Icicle says it’s just an old lizard.” Enna replied with a cheeky smile. “Looks imposing though, doesn’t it?”
“Y-Yeah.” Headshot muttered as he saw the black scaled monster.
“No wonder we haven’t heard anything about Icicle from those participating in the event. He was actually in the valley itself, taunting a giant dragon-like monster.” Faura sighed.
“He’s definitely the Scavenger.” SilentStep thought as his expression broke into an amused smile. “I guess we won’t be rivals this time around.”
“Alright, let’s get back to dungeoning.” Faura made a call, standing up. “As for the Mining book that dropped, Headshot decided to use it for himself, apprently his class is lacking Strength…” Faura looked at Headshot as if he was a frail little girl, giggling.
“Heheh, you won’t laugh once this handsome body gets some muscles.” Headshot puffed his chest out, flexing, but was completely ignored.
Enna tapped her chin as she walked alongside Faura. She mused over the messages she exchanged with Icicle. “So this feeling can still get better. No wonder I felt some throbbing. Icicle said to involve myself in the fights more, but I am a healer…”
“Maybe just visualizing the monsters as he did while closing my eyes will work.” Enna smiled brightly and tugged on Faura’s mage robe’s sleeve, making her walk faster.
“What has gotten into you, little girl?” Faura ruffled Enna’s brown hair playfully.
“I need a favor.” Enna said, leaning over and whispering directly into Faura’s ear.
“What?!” Faura screamed, outraged. “No!”
Enna didn’t even look back as she ran towards FieryRed. “Take me with you.” she said, smiling.
“Take you where?” FieryRed replied confusedly.
Enna leaned over and whispered into FieryRed’s ear. FieryRed’s eyes widened as she grabbed Enna’s collar and dashed off at full speed.
“Where are they going-” Headshot was meaning to ask when Faura’s angry shout rang out.
“What are you waiting for, after them!” balling her fists, Faura’s expression darkened. “Just you wait, if anything happens because you two screwed up, I’ll work you to the bone!”
FieryRed dragged Enna behind her as they charged through the empty, narrow corridor. “Here!” Enna shouted, making FieryRed turn to the right.
FieryRed dashed in like a tank, knocking one of the Gnolls standing in front of the entrance on its ass. That didn’t stop her though. She continued advancing through the room, avoiding the attacks of dozens of Gnolls before she had found a Rare variant in the middle.
Teddy followed right after the two, stopping next to his master. He growled at the Gnolls, his hair standing on end.
“I hope you weren’t lying.” FieryRed drawled out, slashing the dog-like monsters all around her.
“Hahaha! What a wonderful feeling.” Enna smiled brightly. FieryRed looked at her as if she was an idiot. There were two Gnolls apporaching Enna from behind. “Let’s see how you dodge this.”
As the sword whistled through the air, Enna sidestepped to the left, her elbow jolting out.
The Gnoll who received a strong elbow to the face staggered, howling in pain. The other one approached Enna from the other side, slashing straight at her lithe body.
Gnoll’s rusty sword collided against the dark brown floor, releasing tiny sparks. Enna grabbed her staff tightly and hit the gnoll’s forehead with the back of it.
FieryRed stared with wide eyes as two blows from Enna’s blindspots were easily dodged. She wondered if she didn’t have hallucinations. Pinching her hand, she felt pain. “Definetely real.” FieryRed mumbled. If last time was a fluke, this was the proof of what Enna was capable of.
The gaze FieryRed looked at Enna with seemed to say “Teach me Master!”
Enna laughed out loudly, beggining her dance with the staff.
“Holy shit.” Headshot muttered. The entire party charged into the room right after the two girls, seeing the situation unfold from the start. The sight of Enna easily dodging the two blows scared them.
“Is that sixth sense or something? I saw Icicle doing the same thing back then…” Inferno mumbled out.
“Monsters…” Faura shook her head.
SilentStep smiled faintly, blended with the shadows and attacked the Gnolls.
The giant flail of a Rare variant Gnoll fell on the ground, shattering the dark brown tiles of the dungeon. Its smelly breath permeated the air, making the party clutch their noses before they adapted.
“I hate smelly things.” FieryRed drawled out through her gritted teeth, rushing at the tall dog-like creature. She slashed madly, making her attacks flow in a rhythm.
Teddy rushed in to interrupt the Gnoll Leader’s counterattack, slamming his giant body into the creature.
Faura’s hands danced in midair as she released streaks of lightning. The crystal shard she had embedded earlier made her reach a new level of strength.
Inferno’s [Flame spheres] blasted the surrounding Gnolls away, one explosion after the other.
Headshot peppered the creatures with arrows, distracting them from his allies, coordinating with SilentStep who finished the wounded ones off.
In the middle of the Gnoll encirclement stood two girls, FieryRed, whose crimson hair was swaying wildly, as if the wind was blowing, and Enna, who danced gracefully, as if performing in front of the audience.
Enna’s wooden white staff smashed against the Gnolls, knocking them backwards. Her movements were fluid and full of grace, yet not decisive enough. It seemed as if she was dancing more than fighting. Strikes without power behind them weren’t dangerous at all. All she could do was play decoy.
Teddy rushed in again, trying to slam into the Gnoll leader, but this time the Gnoll leader was prepared. He swung his flail with unbridled momentum, making Teddy slam into a nearby wall.
Pieces of rubble fell off the wall, opening a passage into another room. Stale air blew over, attacking the nostrils of the party as their eyes focused on the open hole.
Behind the destroyed wall, there was a spacious room filled to the brim with Kobolds. Those little creatures carried shaman-like staffs emitting elemental aura. In the middle of them stood a giant Kobold, taller than a human, carrying a giant white staff with a green crystal on top.
“Can anyone see his level?” SilentStep shouted.
“No. Should be around level 25 though.” Faura replied. “We need to retreat to the corridor. Otherwise, we’ll be surrounded.” Faura quickly made the call, ordering the retreat.
“Agreed!” SilentStep nodded, finishing off one more Gnoll before blending with the shadows.
The party had to utilize the narrow space of the corridor to thin out the numbers before they could engage such a powerful ranged monster.
Icicle stood amongst the bloody pools of water of Red Blooming Valley. After he had read through almost all of the documents on the table, except for the recipe he had found, there wasn’t anything useful. That couldn’t discourage him though. Everything of value has been already stolen by him. Both Rekk’s treasure and Rhan’s heart should be priceless. He had finished two quests too. The rewards for those couldn’t be too shabby.
However, what Icicle was the happiest about was definitely the mana control improvement he has experienced in the cave. This episode confirmed his suspicions about the virtual body adventurers received. It was a blank slate. Everyone had to train the body to utilize the numbers fully – that is the stats.
It didn’t really matter if you had 500 Strength if you couldn’t use it properly. The same went for mana. What’s the use of 10000 mana to spam spells if you can’t really hit your enemies, even with the system assist?
Icicle felt that the path he has embarked upon was different than he was supposed to. There should be a way for players to get better in the mana control department without mimicking the locals. However, since he had already started, he will naturally continue. His path may be harder, but he has plenty of people to gain inspiration from.
Besides, if it the process of training was enjoyable, it couldn’t really be called training. To Icicle, seeing his magic improve was a wonderful experience. It’s as if countless doors have opened to him whenever he had found one of this world’s secrets. That feeling was only comparable to the one he had when playing RPGs.
“This world is really wondrous. Enna who hasn’t even tried, managed to master [Sense presence] and is now encroaching onto the Intermediary level. She said it’s all from dancing too. What a terrifying insight into rhythm and sound. No wonder she could master the dance styles so quickly.” Icicle shook his head. When chatting with him earlier, Enna was so excited she had basically told him about her entire dance career.
Icicle smiled all the way through the narrow rockfaces, reading the girl’s life story with amusement. Everyone had their own, unique past.
“Well, since the guards didn’t really mind me leaving, I might as well visit my dear friend Gaius.” Icicle stood on top of the Red Blooming Valley, watching Rekk massacring the mercenaries.
10 minutes earlier, Red Blooming Valley
Rekk let out yet another menacing howl. He looked at the two giant rockfaces hindering him and thought of jumping on top of them, rushing after the sneaky human. However, killing the human would be too easy. He had to make him suffer first.
“That tiny being mentioned a nearby town. He said something about his sister, so I should start there.” Rekk made up his mind. He turned to the cave and asked his underlings for the directions. After all, he has been asleep for way too long to remember what this continent looked like.
Leaving the Red Blooming Valley, Rekk was about to cross the western mountain region when rumbling sounds of heavy armor entered his ears. Judging by the auras those beings released, they were an elite regimen of humans. Rekk spread his senses further to determine the numbers.
“No wonder, no wonder.” Rekk thought as killing intent within him rose. “You little human, you actually deceived me by saying some truth inbetween all those lies.”
Wave after wave of humans entered the Red Blooming Valley, sealing the place off. Rekk’s underlings were slaughtered within seconds. Their blood suffused the water, giving it a tinge of crimson color.
Gaius led his troops with unmatched vigor, his eyes blazing with greed. Mercenary archers and crossbowmen began taking their positions on the sides, while the melee warriors straightened their backs, giving off an indomitable feeling.
Cavalrymen rushed through the mountain passage west of the raging river, shortening the distance between them and giant lizard with lightning speed. Three meters long lances had a tinge of golden on their surfaces, reflecting the glow of a setting sun. Those sharp weapons were pointed straight at Rekk as the horsemen galloped through the grassland.
Rekk’s gaze burned with fury as he noticed a bunch of shameless humans entering his lair. They were clearly looking for the item that little human stole! But this… this was an even greater insult! That tiny human being used his smarts to trick Rekk, at least giving something in return. On the other hand, those armor clad humans barged into his home, completely disregarding him!
Rekk was totally incensed. His powerful limbs propelled him off the ground, approaching the shameless regimen of humans with unbridled momentum.
“Shoot it now!” Gaius ordered. His voice was still echoing through the valley when dozens of crossbows and longbows loosened, releasing a fierce storm of arrows into the air.
Rekk didn’t even bother to dodge. In fact, he couldn’t dodge even if he wanted to. There were way too many projectiles to avoid and the cavalry unit was behind him, quickly approaching.
“Roaaaar!” Rekk grunted under the volleys of arrows, falling flat to the ground.
“Ahahah! The rumors of it being weak were true! Get him!” Gaius excitedly ran over, unsheathing his sword. A couple dozen of warriors followed right after him.
Rekk stayed motionless, holding his breath in. The horsemen behind him stopped their advance, waiting for their leader to finish the job. They didn’t expect the situation to be resolved this fast.
As soon as Gaius and his men were in front of Rekk, his eyes opened as his forelimbs propelled him into a pounce. Rekk flew over the warriors, landing right behind them. His mouth opened as his belly bulged, releasing a fire breath straight into the trembling ranged attackers.
While the ranged humans burned, Rekk didn’t forget about Gaius and his men. His ferocious tail swung around, swatting the still shocked humans like flies, making them crash into the steep hill of Red Blooming Valley.
Icicle felt the entire ground beneath him tremble as he gazed upon Rekk. He was glad he went for the mild approach, tricking the beast instead of trying to fight it by using the explosive potions. What would the potions achieve against a fire breath? Wouldn’t he just become a roasted chicken?
“Miserable humans, did you really think you can slay me? Even though I am no dragon, I still have a shred of dragon blood flowing within me.” Rekk raged about, massacring the human mercenaries.
Icicle immediately turned on the recording function. He couldn’t miss anything out. Not this time.
Rekk’s aura enveloped the area, pressing onto the minds and souls of everything around. The proud cavalrymen behind the giant lizard were helpless as their horses turned tail. Seeing that, the other horsemen urged their horses to ran for their lives. However, not every horse could be forced to flee. Some laid down on the ground, neighing, praying that the higher being doesn’t kill them.
Rekk ran after a cluster of cavalrymen, approaching the wooden hut at the side of the river.
A couple of fisherman’s disciples trembled as they recorded the events. The lizardmen event was about to end and they earned big time, elevating their position in the guilds by spying on the reptile reinforcements. Thus, some people were prepared for the onslaught of lizardmen, safely retreating to town while the reinforcement arrived. After all, no one wanted to be the cannon fodder.
However, now that they had reported a sighting of a creature resembling a dragon, they were laughed at. That’s why they decided to record everything. Who would have thought that the giant reptile would chase the cavalrymen who ran in their direction!
Rekk’s formidable barbed tail swiped horizontally, cutting humans and horses alike. The cleaved bodies, or remnants of them, dropped on the ground, staining the lush stalks of grass red.
Then, Rekk’s gaze fell on the wooden hut. He sensed the presence of humans comparable to the one who stole his ancestor’s item. In fact, it was only something Rekk had found in the past. He was lucky enough to stumble upon a dragon’s burial chamber. That’s also where he had gotten some of the blood and essence of the dragon, increasing his lifespan.
With but a swipe of a tail, the entire wooden hut was smashed into pieces. The players who were nearby were instaneously killed. Rekk wasn’t done though. He had to vent. This new power he had felt running inside his veins empowered him. It seemed that little human’s potion actually had some usefulness.
Two more swipes of the tail made the wooden hut turn into nothing more than a hole for splintered wood. Outside the hut stood an old man, wielding a fishing rod in his hands. Next to him lay a brown bear who had now stood up, glaring around coldly.
While this was happening, Gaius laid on the ground, coughing violently. His internal organs were in a mess. One swipe of Rekk’s tail could actually incapacitate most of his squad.
As Gaius grunted, fretfully looking around for the accursed beast, a shadow of a young man loomed over him.
Gaius’s eyes rose and then he stared in shock. Soon after, his expression turned joyful. “It’s you, adventurer. You don’t even know how glad I am to see you. Please help me and my comrades, we’ll reward you handsomely.” Gaius smiled amiably.
Icicle looked at the fake smile with amusement. However, his eyes showed some pity as he crouched next to Gaius. Looking over his inventory, Icicle was surprised to find a bottle filled with white powder. “I completely forgot about you, Piros roots. Gathering those herbs on the way had really paid off.”
Icicle planned on giving Gaius some hope by feeding him a health potion. However, this bottle filled with white powder would work even better.
“Here you go.” Icicle fished out the bottle and uncorked it, letting the powder slip into Gaius’s open mouth.
Gaius gulped loudly, nodding his head. “Thank you.” He then turned to his teammates. Some of them were on the verge of death. He urged Icicle to help them.
“Why aren’t you helping them? We’ll pay you whatever’s necessary!” Gaius shouted.
The leader of the mercenaries glared at Icicle and saw an ominous sight. The gentle youth from before was gone, on his face was a sarcastic look complemented by a devilish grin.
“You know, back in the tent, I knew you were going to kill me, so I faked my own death.” Icicle smacked Gaius’s forehead playfully.
Gaius fiercely grit his teeth. He wasn’t completely powerless, but severely wounded. He tried reaching out to his sword, yet his hands felt numb.
“Y-You! What have you given me?!” Gaius raged. Some of his companions stood up with difficulty, trying to muster whatever strength they had left to get rid of Icicle while they still could.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Three vials of mana exploded right next to them, killing off every single mercenary in the area. However, Icicle’s name was still the same. Not a tinge of blood red covered it.
“You see, after you left, I appeared in your tent and stole everything inside. I even took your shitty table and the wobbly chairs. I thought to myself, why are you so poor for someone with such a grand armor.”
“But then I saw it. First it was the recipe. It seemed quite old, so I guessed you must have spent a lot of resources to gain it. You had probably planned to exchange it for something better in a nearby kingdom, didn’t you? Heheh, what a shame you won’t be able to.” Icicle laughed sinisterly.
Gaius’s face darkened, then turned somewhat pale.
“That wasn’t what caused me to stare though. Just as I was about to pack all of those sheets of paper into my bag, I realized there’s a letter. A letter saying that you’re tasked to find an ancient relic. Connecting the dots didn’t take me long. After all, I am the one in its possession.” Icicle’s sarcastic smile sent chills down Gaius’s spine.
“Still, as shocked as I was to find such an order, the next thing I saw was something else. You, a mere mercenary regimen, were actually ordered by Qured Kingdom to sow seeds of doubt and chaos into the minds of ordinary citizens of Minaeryth Kingdom. I’m sure it must have been an honor.” Icicle laughed out loud, amused.
“I read the other reports too. How you kidnapped children blaming it on some nobles, how you plundered farms near the border, and then how you raped the prettier women after which they were sold into slavery. As for males, you weren’t so merciful, were you?”
“Then, I have found something really amusing. It wasn’t as good as the other one, but it made me smile like a fool. I mean, really, this couldn’t be any better. A note from a high level member of an underground society, stating that Rekk the Lizard is severely weakened, vulnerable to attack. Such an irony. Before I tricked that giant reptile, I have actually made a concoction for him. A revitalizing one. And here you are, dying. You should blame karma for that. After all, you tried to kill me. You surely deserve some punishment.”
“Someone you didn’t even consider a danger messed up your entire plan. Your regimen is either dead or scattered, your plans didn’t work out… really tragic, if you ask me.” Icicle shook his head with amusement, smiling widely. “And it’s all because you haven’t killed one pest that could have disturbed you.”
“In all of that chaos, I actually forgot to ask. Where are my manners?” Icicle dusted his clothes off. “How do you enjoy my concoction?”
Gaius’s eyes blazed with hellish flames as he glared at Icicle. All he could do was ball his fists and endure.
“Well, don’t mind that. It’s just a powder used to put little critters to sleep, so that hunters can catch them without sweat.” Icicle waved his hand as if it was no big deal.He looked into the distance, turning pensive.
“You know, of all the people that had tried to kill me, whether it was this world, or the one I live in, the only ones who survived, are the ones I let live.” Icicle smiled faintly as he reminisced. He then turned to Gaius, “Any last words?”
“Wait! I can make you rich! I’ll give you everything I have, just save me!” Gaius roared as his eyes welled up with tears. Those were tears of bitterness. He was not willing. He was about to become rich, powerful and influential, yet all of those dreams were shattered by one young man.
“Really?” Icicle tapped his chin, his expression lightening. “That’s interesting. Go on.”
Gaius looked at Icicle as a ray of hope blossomed within his heart. He opened his mouth…
A white, smooth blade went down with such a high speed it was barely visible to the naked eye. While the blade was stabbing down, fiery flames ignited on its surface, before plowing into the flesh of a dying human.
Gaius’s eyes widened as he noticed the blade stuck in his chest. His opened mouth opened even wider, violently coughing blood.
“It’s indeed interesting, but whatever you might have is either hidden or under the care of someone else. Don’t worry though, once I’m done with you, I’ll visit your little camp, making sure to slaughter every single one of you mercs.” Icicle smiled innocently at Gaius, yet his amber eyes flickered with cold light.
This amount of mercilessness made Gaius shuddered. No young human should be able to look like that. How much did the youth in front of him have to experience to become such a cold-blooded killer? Just thinking about it made Gaius shudder. This shudder was the last thing he felt, as his scared eyes turned listless, his consciousness drifting away…
Icicle swiped the loot without even looking at it. His eyes focused on Rekk who stood in front of a wooden hut.
Rekk stared at the old fisherman for a while before swinging his giant tail at him.
The ground trembled as the dust rose into the air. The brown bear next to the fisherman growled fiercely at Rekk.
“Hmph! Insignificant pest.” Rekk roared, swiping the bear away with his forelimb.
The brown bear fell on the grassland behind the raging river. A very weak growl resounded from the bear’s throat. It was clearly hurt severely, unable to get up. Its bones and internal organs were either shattered or about to stop functioning.
Rekk turned to walk away when he felt fierce mana fluctuations. His eyes widened as a pillar of translucent blue mana flew into the bear’s body, reinvigorating the creature. If it wasn’t for the fact that nothing extraordinary has happened all around him, Rekk would have thought it’s a divine intervention.
The leftover rubble of the wooden hut was flung away as a murderous aura rose where the old fisherman stood. His smiling, peaceful disposition disappeared as he glared at Rekk who had just hurt his companion.
The sky overhead was suddenly cleared. Every single white cloud scurried, blown away by the monstrous power revealed by the old man. Black clouds quickly converged on the sky above, forming clusters around each other as the sound of thunder resounded.
A powerful explosion charred the grasslands as a bolt of lightning collided with the ground next to the old fisherman.
Rekk gulped loudly, gazing upon the fisherman with utter fear. He was able to change the weather…? Just who was the old man?!