Author’s note: If you notice any grammar errors, write them down in a comment. I’ll fix them tomorrow morning. Thanks.
Vilen Town’s artisan area was as busy as always. People ran to and fro, carrying packages and new equipment. The smell of charcoal drifted through the streets, a free advertisement of the blacksmith’s.
Although a lot of adventurers left after the lizardmen event ended, there were many who came back to explore the land. The general idea was to venture out and grasp everything before the others, but the result for most was unexpected.
A crowd! A line so long they could barely distinguish any monsters in the area. Once hordes of players left the starting area, they would enter the mainland, connecting to the whole server.
Vilen Town laid in Minaeryth Kingdom, in the southern corner of the Fashin Continent. As one of the four starting areas, it was bustling with activity. Even though Albatros Company restrained the release of VR devices, the raging trend continued.
Wherever money’s involved, there are always sharks and piranhas. Since many potential players couldn’t get their hands on the device, black markets arose, selling the previously bought VR sets for a ridiculously high sum. Despite that, there were many buyers. The gamer’s hunger could not be underestimated!
This situation forced Albatros Company’s hand into releasing all of their products.
If one word were to describe the current situation at the continent it would be crowded! Players were as numerous as ants. Wherever one could see, there would be a few players teaming up to kill monsters.
This time, however, the monsters weren’t so easy to slay. Even those who managed to get their hands on a solid equipment had trouble with the monsters their own level, not to mention a few levels higher.
The reason was quite obvious. This was no longer the starting area! It was high time the players adapted to the new environment. The hunter often became the hunted! How exciting was that?!
Icicle leisurely walked through the artisan area, attracting many glances of the crowd. Startled by the phenomenon, he looked at his attire.
Red mark was left on Icicle’s forehead as he fiercely slapped it. He looked like a beggar! Tattered, bloody armor, threads sticking out from the leather… On top of that, this wasn’t even his equipment!
“If Adian saw me in this state he would first laugh then kill me.” Icicle smiled wryly. “No matter, I wouldn’t give this set back anyways.”
The doors clicked and Icicle went inside. Marisse welcomed him kindly, preparing a cup of hot tea.
“Is your daughter well?” Icicle asked.
“She’s much better!” Marisse’s face bloomed with a gentle smile. She walked towards a corner of the room, opening a large chest.
“Catch.” Marisse threw a white object.
Icicle’s hands grabbed something soft yet resilient. A bag made of white rhinoceros skin laid within his palms.
“This must be bordering legendary grade craftsmanship!” Icicle quickly deduced. His current Rare grade wolf pelt bag allowed him to carry 800 kg.
“Thank you, Marisse.” Icicle equipped the new bag.
“Get your set too.” Marisse rummaged through the chest and pulled out a piece of clothing.
Receiving the black apparel, Icicle realized it looks like a wolf costume the mascots wear during carvnivals. “You dyed it?”
“Yes! I thought that black might suit you better!” Marisse grinned. Icicle gave her a thumbs up.
“How do I even wear it?” Icicle mumbled out, looking for a zipper.
“Here, let me help you.” Marisse took her handiwork from the clumsy hands of the young man, opening it like a jacket.
Icicle stared with surprise at the chest area of the wolf look-alike. He quickly took off his items.
“Now get in there!” Marisse said. Icicle raised his right leg, getting a feel for the black direwolf fur with vigilance. He stomped his foot a few times to make sure the set fits. “Such softness from underneath, as if it was a real paw!” he thought.
Then came the sleeves. Icicle slid his hands in, appreciating the warm, soft texture of the black direwolf fur. Balling his fists, the fur folded like mittens, making him feel cozy.
Finishing up, Icicle wore the direwolf’s head hood. As soon as the fur shrouded his eyes, his vision dimmed, as if turning to the night vision!
“Ah!” Marisse cried out in excitement. “Hehe, it works!”
“What did you do?” Icicle asked in confusion.
“I added a little something for you! Yellow eye-lenses, so to speak. You’ll be able to see at night as if it were a day!” Marisse clapped her hands, admiring her own handiwork. She walked around Icicle nodding constantly. If he didn’t know any better, Icicle would think that she was checking him out.
“Your sparkling eyes will make many people scared after dusk!” Marisse patted Icicle on the shoulder. “If I didn’t make this piece, I would definitely be startled. You look like the werewolves from the ancient times…” Marisse muttered.
Icicle listened to the Tailor carefully. He balled his fists to test the new apparel.
Two strikes pierced the air. “Hm, a little stiff.” Icicle grumbled while shadowboxing.
“Oh, you dummy!” Marisse playfully struck Icicle’s head. “Pour your mana in!”
“Huh?” Icicle stared at Marisse with bewilderment. Nonetheless, he followed her instructions.
As soon as he gathered his mana, it slowly entered the set. Black fur expanded a little, suffusing with the blue glow.
“Now shape it however you want.” Marisse smiled.
Icicle felt as if the set was a part of his body now. It fit him perfectly. “This… what a wonderful feeling.” Icicle had the urge to run out and fight someone to test the new set out!
“I know that expression! I used to be an adventurer too!” Marisse smiled, pulling out a dagger from the drawer. “You want to try it out, don’t you? Get ready!” Marisse flashed a playful smile.
Icicle spread the mana around his limbs, carefully circling around Marisse like a genuine wolf.
Marisse twirled her dagger, licking her lips playfully. Icicle noticed a dangerous look flashing through her eyes.
The air stilled. A mild shockwave rustled the clothing that lay around as Marisse stopped right in front of Icicle. The dagger she held in reverse grip stopped a few milimetres off Icicle’s eyeball!
Icicle fell on his buttocks, unable to comprehend what had happened. Marisse seemed to teleport!
“Hehehe! Surprised?” Marisse’s forefinger entered the hole in the dagger. She revolved it a few times, then threw it into the air, catching it midair to store it in her knife pouch. “I had my five minutes.”
“Ah! I didn’t give those to my girl!” Marisse glanced at the counter where a pair of rhinoceros boots and mittens laid. Swiping them off the counter, she run into her daughter’s bedroom.
Marisse closed the doors behind her and saw Icicle limply sitting on the floor. “Don’t tell me you have wet your pants?” she teased.
Icicle’s pensive expression broke. He raised his head and said “Can you show me again?”
“Argh, young people are so needy.” Marisse shook her head, remembering her old self. “Just this once, you had better watch closely.”
Icicle steeled himself, readying for the sudden blow. He spread his presence to the limit.
Marisse twirled the dagger again. She took a step forward and…
“Boo!” she said with a teasing smile, clutching her stomach.
Icicle furrowed his brows at the antics of the Tailor.
A few grains of sand grinded against each other as Marisse directly disappeared.
Icicle felt something heavy prop itself on his back.
Huff! Huff! Marisse panted.
“What is this called?” Icicle asked with a trembling voice.
“In this world, there are some special phenomenons. Some people are capable of changing the weather, others can make their weapons change shape or trajectory of the attack… There are many names for those phenomenons, “tricks”, “laws”, “higher magic”… The most often used is “moods”. The one I used is called ”space mood”. Marisse explained.
“This one is pretty hard to grasp as it lets you cross the space quite quickly. As you can see, I’m completely exhausted after using it twice. Look at the distance I crossed, merely 5m or so.” Marisse smiled self-deprecatingly.
“You may think this is ability is a cheat, but when you enter deeper into the continent, you’ll learn that at my level, it’s but a joke. If you want to be at the top, there’s a long road ahead of you, Icicle.”
“For more, you should ask your Guildmaster or that cute teacher of yours. I was but a lucky adventurer.” Marisse chuckled.
“Teacher, we’re here!” four apprentices walked in.
“Well then, I’ll get going. Thanks for everything, Marisse.” Icicle bowed and left.
Icicle looked at his set and found that the properties can’t be properly shown until all the pieces are assembled. Thus, he decided to visit Ganish.
On the way there, he stopped by the chef Wurtox’s shop and picked up his peanut butter sandwiches. He was immediately asked if he had any other exotic ingredients. Icicle suspected that the whole thing with the princess must have gotten blown out. Why else would the cunning old fox Wurtox offer him as much as 40% outright?
Sighing repeatedly, Icicle walked towards the Bazzar next to the port. Exotic food and the smell of sea water immediately attacked his senses.
“Where’s that lemonade stall…?” Icicle looked around. Thankfully, Blackie wasn’t around so he couldn’t grumble about the food. Cindy decided to take care of the furry while Icicle runs his errands.
After restocking on the refreshing lemonade and buying some more food in preparation for Ice Mage Trials, Icicle went to the north-eastern corner.
Fiery red embers burst forth with a heat wave, ruffling Icicle’s hair.
The hammer struck the steel, shaping the sword. Ganish’s muscles bulged, heaving up and down like the bellows behind him. Sweat drizzled down his body as he wiped his forehead.
“You have finally come, Icicle.” Ganish flashed a satisfied smile. He took the searing hot sword and doused it in water to cool off.
“Wait just a second, I’ll bring you your order.” Ganish went to the back of the smithy.
“Here you go!” Ganish handed Icicle a wooden box.
Opening the lid curiously, Icicle’s eyes wandered over the surface of the reddish metal. A pair of claws laid on a soft material, reflecting the fire from the smithy.
“Night Terror” Icicle thought for a while and said.
Icicle glanced over the items carefully. This set was made to kill squishies! Which monster will have a weak defense though? For now, the Night Terror set points in one direction – Player Killing!
Waking up from his trance, Icicle looked at Ganish. The blacksmith stood with his hands crossed, grinning widely. “They’re good, aren’t they?”
“You know your stuff. It was to be expected.” Icicle shrugged and grinned. “If I have a next order, I know where to find you!”
The two men parted. There was no need for thanks. In the past, one decided to gamble with his ingredients at the hands of disreputable blacksmith, while the other delivered with something better than expected! The feelings of gratitude were tacitly expressed.
“Heh, kiddo, I might not stay here for long.” Ganish grinned. During the claw manufacturing process, he had a breakthrough. This time, he was ready to challenge the capital’s artisans!
Mage Guild’s Underground
Icicle sat in a meditating position. His thoughts went back to the lizardmen cave where he had a breakthrough after falling asleep. Trying to enter that state again, Icicle focused on his right rand.
A swirl of mana circled the translucent-blue water droplet, suffusing the underground room with a blue glow. The neutral mana inside Icicle’s body started changing its properties, forming dark blue streaks.
“Why do I feel like I’m missing something?” Icicle wondered. He could feel the threads of water mana entering his body, but they disappeared soon after, as if entering a bottomless abyss. “Could it be that I can’t really keep them inside my body so it’s all just practice?”
Cindy entered the underground room and looked at Icicle with amusement. Blackie followed right after her.
“You’re quite diligent.” Cindy smiled teasingly.
“Why can’t I hold the water mana inside my body? Is my level too low?” Icicle bowed and asked.
Cindy grinned widely hearing the question. “You’re a quick learner!” she said, walking walked next to him.
“Focus on practicing! As long as you can quickly change the mana into a different type, you’ll be able to fight efficiently!” Cindy explained.
“Like I thought!” Icicle sighed inwardly, asking “What realm do I need to reach before I can store my mana inside my body?”
“Advanced realm!” Cindy answered straightforwardly. “It will take you quite some time, kiddo.”
Icicle recalled the tiny water droplet into his body and stood up. He decided to raise his stats before Ice Mage Trials. His set might not be much of a help if the test doesn’t involve fighting.
“Now ask.” Cindy pierced Icicle with her seductive green eyes.
“Moods, tell me about them!”
“Moods, huh? That’s some advanced knowledge.” Cindy lifted Blackie up into her arms.
“People of your level rarely ponder such things.” Cindy shrugged.
“Don’t tease me, Guildmaster.” Icicle smiled wryly.
“Since you’re asking so nicely…” Cindy “reluctantly” gave up.
“Those lessons usually cost a lot of money, you know?” Cindy sent Icicle a playful wink.
“Alright then.” Cindy harrumphed. “Have you ever wondered how the natives discovered magic? They didn’t have all of the books we learn from.”
“Moods?” Icicle asked.
“That’s right, moods! Moods are nothing else than embodiment of nature’s laws. For example, a heat mood. It usually has to do with the fire category. When you travel across the desert, the heat can make your vision blurry, creating mirages. But that’s just a side effect of what it’s really made to be. What it does best is amplifying the destructive abilities of the fire and lightning related spells.”
“Mages often use moods that don’t belong to their element. The reason for that is quite simple. Many advanced magic has moods incorporated in them. After all, magic is based on nature’s laws. Mastering wind mood as a caster is a great addition to your defensive measures!”
“My magic talent, I think you adventurers call it “class”, is pretty unique, so I had to focus my research on the earth moods. There’s a lot to explore within your element, but, if you want to be good at it, I suggest you focus on one thing and drill it to perfection! Even if you hit a bottleneck, struggling to overcome that limit, will give you a clear goal.” Cindy heaved a sigh.
“Does this satisfy your curiosity, young man?” she asked.
“Tell me about water moods.” Icicle continued asking.
“Why don’t you ask Vilenne?” Cindy proposed.
“What about the space mood?”
“Oh? You really had some weird encounters.” Cindy patted Blackie’s head. “Space mood is quite a popular mood amongst magicians. However, many of them barely scratch the surface in their lifetime. After all, when you cast a fireball, you can feel the heat and the energy burning inside. You can’t do that with space. It just exists.” Cindy said.
“There are some tricks you can use to get familiar with the space mood. For example, entering the dungeon. When you enter a portal, you’re transported through space, so if you get a glimpse of it, you might be inspired. It’s hard though, so don’t get your hopes up. If you’re thinking of entering the portal time after time, it won’t help you much. You’ll either get used to it or get stuck inside.” Cindy explained.
“Do you use Space mood?” Icicle asked. He didn’t know whether Cindy had any good movement techniques. His progress with [Elusive body] was negligible.
“No, I have something better.” Cindy grinned. “Watch closely.”
Cindy’s figure blurred. Soon after, she appeared 5m behind Icicle.
“Huh?” it was so fast, Icicle couldn’t even compare it to Marisse.
“Look one more time.” Cindy disappeared and let her energy soar like a beacon of light. If it wasn’t for that, Icicle wouldn’t be able to determine she was underground!
“As long as I’m on the land, there’s no need for me to use space. It’s a really exhausting practice and there are many ways to counter it. If you encounter someone with a decent defense, your attacks will be worthless. If their comprehension of moods is high enough, most people can cut through or disturb the space in some way.” Cindy sighed.
“Space is the gods’ plaything. It’s not something we can use. Focus on your training for now, you can play around with moods once you reached Advanced realm.” Cindy advised.
“Alright, I’ll get to you in a jiffy.” Icicle sent the response.
“I have to go, tell little brat I’ll come back in two days.” Icicle bowed to Cindy and left the premises of the Mage Guild.
Faura and her party walked through the bustling streets of Vilen Town, arriving at the artisan area. “There he is!” Enna pointed to the line of people.
Enna brazenly walked in and grabbed Icicle by the sleeve, dragging him behind her.
“We have some spares, come on!” she smiled playfully.
“Really, you let us wait for such a trifle.” Faura pouted.
“It’s not my fault there was a line.” Icicle shrugged. He waited to even get a chance to buy for over 10 minutes. All of that because of an old man who tried to haggle.
Faura outstretched her hand in anticipation. Noticing her excited and somewhat shameless demeanor, Icicle fished out the skillbook and handed it over, receiving one in return.
“An over time healing spell! Great, this will definitely boost my mana control!” Icicle knew it will take a lot of effort to cast the constantly running spell without system assist. As for the healing effect, it was a great windfall. For now, he lacked 3 levels to use the book.
Icicle turned and noticed Blackie being caressed by Enna. The little guy seemed to attract all sorts of female attention.
“We’ve gathered some rocks for you!” Enna grinned, playing with Blackie. “Headshot, hand them over!”
Headshot smiled wryly as he remembered the torture he had to go through mining those rocks. Not only were they ridiculously hard, there seemed to be some kind of enchantment on them, making his work even harder.
“I guess having some information about it isn’t enough.” Icicle shook his head. Even though he knew the purpose of the stone, the item still wasn’t fully identified. Just like the meteoric rune had had found earlier in Rekk’s cave.
“I used an [Identifying scroll] on those rocks, but that’s all it has shown. There must be some quest behind it!” Faura said. That was also Icicle’s suspicion. Otherwise, hidden quests would be too easy to solve.
Seeing Enna outstretch her hands as if wanting money, Icicle frowned. “Oh right, your staff. Here you go. There’s also this clerical collar.”
“How do I look?” Enna turned around in a white dress with a golden cross above her navel. As Enna made a pirouette, a circle of golden crosses at the bottom of the dress reflected the sunlight, giving the young brown-haired woman an elegant feeling.
“Pretty good.” Icicle nodded firmly.
“Ah!” Faura screamed excitedly. “A Lightning Mage skillbook – [Lightning Cage]! Lucky!” she pocketed the book immediately.
After a little chat, Icicle and Enna found themselves being dragged off by their collars. Faura walked straight into the duel area in the middle of Vilen Town.
“What is she mad about?” Icicle asked tentatively.
“I think she wants to learn our “secret”.” Enna said in a hushed tone.
“What secret?” Icicle frowned.
“The one, you know… what we did in a…” Enna whispered so quietly it was inaudible. This only served to gnite Faura’s attention.
Icicle was speechless. The once shy and cheerful woman turned into a teasing and confident tigress! From his estimation, it all happened after Enna learned [Sense presence].
“Now show me how you do it!” Faura demanded.
Enna sent a duel request, staring at Icicle with amusement. “It’s about [Sense presence]” Enna sent Icicle a message.
“So, how do you wanna play that out?” Icicle asked helplessly.
“I’ll attack while you defend!” Enna grinned.
Icicle immediately shook his head. Why would he let a woman push him around for no reason? “I’ll pass on that.”
“It would be boring anyways!” Enna rushed in, throwing a diagonal kick.
Icicle leisurely dodged to the side. Pivoting on his right foot, he countered with a roundabout kick!
“Hmph!” Enna stepped firmly on the ground, her boots clicking.
“Step dancing, huh? Not bad!” Icicle grinned.
The two madmen, Icicle and Enna, clashed in the middle of the arena, grinning from ear to ear. Mana glow suffused the air as kicks and punches were exchanged. Quite a few people gathered to watch.
“Damn, I can’t see anything!” Faura grumbled. How was she supposed to learn [Sense presence] from the two enjoying themselves?
“Well, I have places to go, so I’ll see you guys later.” Icicle excused himself.
“Huh? Where are you going?” Faura stomped her foot.
“To work.” Icicle grinned.
“How should I teach them?” Enna asked.
“Just get them all on the stage and have them attack you. Then explain how you dodge in the party chat!” Icicle said, logging off.
As the sun was setting, a young man dressed in a black suit walked towards a peculiar establishment. The sign next to it read: