Red Devils' Grove. An ancient patch of the forest where enormous, sturdy trees grew. Swaying from the weight of the acorns, they let out a refreshing scent. In the middle of this ancient place towered the king of the trees, 300m high tree, covering a large amount of space with its trunk and roots. Its treetop was so extensive that the area below it would be always shadowed.
Icicle looked up and felt overwhelmed. The tree was so large that even 10 men holding hands around it wouldn't be able to cover its girth. How long did it have to grow? What tragedies did it have to go through? If only it could speak and share its knowledge...
Red Devil quickly ascended the large tree. On its treetop there was an overly large treehouse. The treehouse was made from dark brown wood. Even after experiencing countless weather trials its appearance didn't wane in the slightest, retaining its gloss.
Two minutes later Red Devil descended, his paws clutching a large amount of acorns.
Icicle looked at yet another hill of acorns, even more dumbfounded than before. What was this squirrel thinking? Feeling helpless, he rummaged through the pile looking for something useful.
Amidst the pile of brown acorns, there was one that looked different.
"I need to find out more information to get a proper description." Icicle sighed. All of the good items needed identifying. Adian was definitely not a miracle worker. He won't be able to guess the origins of all these things.
Although the gift was mostly useless to him, Icicle could still get Leila a snack. He prepared to say his thanks, when he realized that Red Devil had a large claw stuck in his stomach, bleeding profusely. Only now when he stood on its hind paws was it visible.
"Lay down, we need to take care of this!" Icicle barked the order like a seargant.
Red Devil squeaked, not wanting to bother with the human at first. However, for some unknown to him reason, this human didn't fear him. That human even kicked his butt...
"I said. LAY. DOWN."
Comparing Red Devil's helplessness at the moment to the one Icicle felt when he received acorns was next to impossible. The noble ancestor, ruler of the whole tribe getting bossed around by a youngster... What sort of concept was that?
"Well, let me put my two cents in first. You have to live. If not for yourself, then for Leila." Icicle paused. "As for the other matter, this will hurt. A lot."
Acknowledging the human's words, Red Devil looked at him anxiously.
"Alright. Pull that claw off slowly. Don't look at me like that, I know it will hurt more than ripping it out! But I'm not a god nor a Priest to heal you. So we will have to do with what we have. Make sure to do it gently, otherwise you'll damage your flesh even further and I won't be able to save you."
Watching the Red Devil taking out the claw of its body, Icicle stared with a surgeon's deadpan face. He couldn't show weakness, not now.
Blood leaked out of the ancestor's wound, making little streams form on the Red Devil's fur. Soon, there were a few puddles of sanguine liquid on the ground.
As soon as Icicle saw that the foreign object was out, he uncorked one of his HP potions. "This will sting." he said, pouring it inside the chest wound unreservedly.
Red Devil thrashed on the ground, feeling his organs burn from the medicine. His wounds were healing, closing, yet profusely bleeding at the same time.
Icicle used [Soundless Fear].
Silverfang's howl rang out far and wide, making Red Devil stop in his place, its instict made it battle ready, looking around vigilantly. "Goddamnit, you're wasting my efforts by thrashing around. Lay still! Here, have some acorns to munch on!" Icicle force fed the Red Devil and climbed on his fur.
Sixty seconds passed, meaning that the other potion could be used. "Here comes the next dose. Grit your teeth!"
Red Devil panted, his whole body drenched in sweat. He looked as if he just finished his bath in the hot spring, soaking wet from the hot water.
"How come you're the ancestor? You're more troublesome to deal with than a newborn baby!" Icicle complained, sucking in cold air. He had to hold down the Red Devil, creature at least 2.5 times his size.
Thoroughly exhausted, Icicle grabbed the canteen out of his inventory and drank a mouthful. He laid for a bit to recover and said shyly "Listen Red Devil, I don't want to sound like a greedy ingrate, I do appreciate your rewards, but don't you have something I can use? Something more... human?"
Red Devil laid on the ground for 5 minutes, then got up slowly, ascending the 300m high tree once again. When he came back, his paws were clutching an ancient looking book.
What is that thing?
Icicle was overjoyed. This was the jackpot! That little girl, Leila, earned him a fortune!
Icicle immediately pressed no. This Lorekeeper class, although hidden, resembled a librarian mixed with archaeologist. Going around with his pen and paper, noting down the locations of dungeons, secret passages and supposedly boundless buried treasures. This wasn't him. Future guilds will definitely want to have such a person with free identifying, but he wasn't too keen on wasting his class slot on such a profession.
"Thanks for everything, Red Devil. This item will be very useful!" Icicle bowed to the ancestor, recovering some of the previously lost respect.
Meanwhile at the Albatros Company's studio
"Boss, the event was a success." Carl shouted as he turned his head.
"I can see that, dumbass. It's a shame it was somewhat cut short. If not for that NPC defeating Violet Fleeting Direwolf with the help of the squirrel princess, the waves would continue... Such a waste. We have even prepared up to the 5th wave, where every surviving participant would receive an [Elite] grade item..." Lisa lamented. This was a waste of resources.
"Those players did pretty good considering they were underleveled and undergeared." Jack argued. He knew how hard this event was, as he was amongst the devs who tested it.
"Boss, many players started complaining on the forums." Carl said with a bitter expression.
"Let them do whatever they want. Those parasites are not gamers anyways. Merely people who are jealous over the other's fortune. If they were the ones stumbling upon this event, they would definitely grin like the devils. Hmph." Lisa looked at the screen where countless players were participating in various events. "Time will tell which ones are unpolished gems and which ones are merely the grains of sand."
Jack and Carl saw that Lisa's expression was thoughtful so they didn't dare to interrupt her. "Monitor the situation on the forums, if it gets out of hand, make sure to send a warning. As for the content, type in this: "Those who undermine the integrity of Albatros Company without any substantial proof will be suspended for a week. Further accusations will lead to prolonging the ban into a permanent one. This is your last warning." You got that?"
"But boss, what about the freedom of speech?" Carl tried to reason.
"We're the ones releasing the product and WE are the ones making the forum available for discussion. It's our turf, thus our rules apply. If we give in now they'll want more and more liberties! There are millions of gamers waiting in lines to play the game. If those toxic players don't like it, they can stick it up their asses!"
Lisa was a gamer as well, so she knew how some communities were like. Their members were toxic and unredeemable, spouting lies and insulting comments everywhere. Trolling was only okay when it was done right. Loiterous was a game you needed to pay for to play. The developers couldn't allow some toxic players to constantly disturb the immersion of others. Albatros Company permitted the moderators to use the full extent of the regulations against toxicity.
The scenery changed. Icicle stood amidst the chaotic players, some in line, others inspecting their newly gained items, trading with each other.
"That's not worth it! Give me 30 silver extra and we'll have a deal!"
"No way! That's way too much!"
"Want to trade [Howling Wolf's Shield]! Looking for equipment for an assassin, preferably a weapon!"
Icicle looked for Leila. It was quite easy to spot the flaring red fur of the squirrel princess. She was still munching on the acorns. The small hill in front of her was now half way done.
"Here Leila, I brought you some more." Icicle dropped around 50 acorns on the ground.
"You're welcome." Icicle smiled amusedly. "You were only captured because you didn't know how to fight. To think you became so strong after imitating my pat." he sighed inwardly at the tremendous power of the creature. If Louiterous has many others with special bloodline like that, the gameplay will be pretty interesting.
His immersion broke as a screaming voice of Faura rang out.
"Here you are! Come over, we need to share the loot!"
"Are you sure?" FieryRed and Inferno whispered in unison. Their voices hushed, only the nearby party members could hear it.
"Yes." Faura replied "We're not going to take a few items for ourselves. It's early game and we're not that kind of people. Without the squirrel raid party, we wouldn't be able to resist the wolves. Learn to appreciate someone's kindness. I don't want any bad Karma right now!"
Checking the minimap for blue dots symbolizing allies, Icicle quickly moved towards his group. The raid party was already dissolved, thus leaving the 8 man team.
Icicle quickly realized there was over two dozen items on the ground. He looked them over, only one of them was [Elite] grade.
"Hurry up!" FieryRed drawled out.
Without tarrying Icicle kneeled over and asked "What's the split?"
"There are 30 items here. There are six of us and you're the seventh. Since you were the one who invited us to the party you can take 5 items." Faura smiled amiably.
"Hmm, alright, let me see." Icicle looked over the items again, this time reading the descriptions. There were many pieces of armor with decent stats. However, he now had a recipe for an awesome set, so he didn't need them. He focused on getting jewelry instead.
Author's note: Basic attacks as in shooting arrows, slashing with the sword/spear, using your wand/staff to spam mana bolts etc. Not a skill.
A better version of his bracelet was presented to Icicle as a necklace. Who wouldn't take it? He looked for another piece of jewelry.
Icicle saw a good sword laying amongst the items. Then he looked at FieryRed whose gaze was spitting fire. She would fight to the death if he took it. Of course with his recipe he didn't need it, but if he disregarded the items he would come out as suspicious. Thus, he wandered through some items, touching them and then putting them back. Finally he stood up, shaking his head.
"I'll take these two pieces of jewelry. I hope you don't mind." as he said that, he had already pocketed the two items.
"Of course, you can still pick 3 items. Don't mind us." Faura remained friendly.
"No, thank you." Icicle could see that the party remained tense. Greed always got the better of men. Why else would the wars start?
"You've already done enough for me, gathering all of those items and trading with Adian. Thanks to you my quest is complete, so I should be the one indebted to you. Here, take this shield as my way of saying thanks. I don't know what its attributes are, but it's of a Rare grade and should be above level 15." Icicle gave one of the unidentified shields to FieryRed. He couldn't use it and selling it to others might sounds like a good idea, but this could put him on a radar. He preferred staying clear of PKs if possible. At least for now.
"T-Thanks." FieryRed muttered, her expression embarrassed. She has just stared daggers at someone who actually gave her new equipment...
"It's not a big deal. It would be a waste on me. Especially after seeing your fighting style." Icicle smirked. FieryRed was like a tank that rammed into the other players with full force. She amused him quite a bit.
Saying his goodbyes, Icicle approached Adian. He patted the youth's back. "Let's go."
"I'm sorry guys, there's so much you're delivering I can barely hold it. We can continue our transactions in Vilen Town." Adian coughed awkwardly, packed his bags and followed after Icicle.
Some grumbling players followed after them, keen on making some bank. As soon as Adian took off, the players who saw his prowess moved after him, making sure they can make it to town safely. With their current gold they could buy health potions and stay safe from the wandering Player Killers.
As they moved along the road, countless wolves assaulted the group. Fortunately, there were many players in tow who gladly took care of the trouble. Low level players thrived here, looking for prey after a good night's rest.
Icicle and Adian chatted merrily on the way back. "The furs you spoke of, what do you need them for?" Adian probed.
Icicle handed over the recipe book. "Hahahaha, you really are one lucky bastard." Adian guffawed, amused. Icicle's fortune was his fortune. He believed that scoundrel will pay him back handsomely, making his days as a guards' captain easier.
Pocketing the book away, Icicle asked excitedly "How many did you gather?"
"Around 12000 pieces. Mostly low level. There's a few thousand of claws and meat as well." Adian patted his chest shamelessly, as if it was his idea to begin with.
"I'll keep them for now, but once we're next to the town, I'll hand all of this over to you. You can find me in the town later." Adian spoke and seeing Icicle nod he turned pensive.
When he went back to town, he would be searched anyways. His father, Cus, the guards' commander would most likely impound all of his gathered loot and then some for tarrying with the given mission. Icicle willing to share half of the profit was like a godsend windfall. He couldn't tell him though, otherwise the little bastard might try to scam him.
As Icicle and Adian traveled through the forests with many players in tow, a group of Rogues in stealth scurried through the woods, looking for prey. News of the large event has long since spreaded, making the players who recently gathered good loot a perfect target for Player Killers.
"Look at all those fat sheep. They don't even see it coming."
"Let's pick on those at the back. There's a strong looking NPC walking in front."
The stealthed figures quickly moved through the shrubs, finding a position to lay in ambush.
Icicle looked at the left side of the road with amusement.
"Oh? You felt them too? You've improved yet again." Adian guffawed.
At the back of the crowd, many players were harassed by PKs.
"Heh, you goddamn idiots, you actually think you can get through us?! Look at our armor! What can you do with those shoddy weapons of yours? Kill them all!" one of the returnees screamed as he and his friends engaged the Rogues.
As their skills were unleashed and the battle proceeded, the squishy Rogues without equipment and healers died one by one. Their leader was quickly alarmed.
"To hell with being sneaky! Let's get on the main road and get rid of them!"
With the shout of their leader a group of over two hundred PKs of various calsses walked into the forest. Icicle walked with Adian in front, chatting merrily, when a black-haired burly guy in his thirties stopped right in front of them, his expression severe.
"I see you're returning from a great harvest brothers, how about you share with us?" he said with a devilish grin.
Completely ignoring the guy, Adian and Icicle moved forward, passing him.
"Didn't you hear me?!"
The burly guy reached out with his large hand and grabbed Icicle's shoulder. "Hand out all of your belongings or-"
His face distorting, the burly guy merely saw a flash, then his teeth started hurting.
What kind of concept was this! Merely one punch dealt 70 points of damage!
As the leader was about to retaliate, his whole being shuddered. He felt an unprecedented fear coursing through his body. Every single fiber of his being screamed danger! He wanted to run yet he was unable to, his legs went limp from fear!
Six consecutive punches landed on his face like a Dempsey Roll, making his head fly from the left to the right. His teeth were flying about, blood spraying from his mouth. His face unwilling, he mustered up his willpower and tried to struggle, but his legs were like lead, unable to move!
Sixth consecutive punch landed on his swelled face. With the last sliver of health gone, he turned into particles. All of this happened in merely 3 seconds! In just 3 seconds whole 300 hit points were gone...
"What!" the players and PKs around stared dumbfoundedly. Everything happened so fast that they couldn't comprehend it. How could someone kill their leader without even unsheathing their weapon?! This Icicle guy simply punched him to death, as if he was a sandbag!
Icicle turned to Adian, hands behind his back. "So, what happened then?"
"Like I said, there was this enormous bear, large diagonal scar across its right eye, about to tackle me. My weapon was laying on the side, I was barehanded, that's when I thought of..."
They continued walking down the road as if nothing at all happened, while the stares from the people nearby bore holes in them.
Faura turned her head towards Inferno and FieryRed who gaped, their mouths opened so wide that a quail's egg could fit in there. "Do you still think we should have hidden the loots from him?"
FieryRed and Inferno shook their heads like bells, their response almost automatic. FieryRed's expression soon brightened, her eyes twinkled like the stars "Awesome!" she kept muttering under her nose. She gripped the hilt of her new sword tightly.
Player Killers looked on dumbfoundedly, finding this outcome hard to accept. Their leader was a Warrior, he naturally had a high health. What's more they were sure their leader did some extra push ups on the training course, getting a few points in the vitality stat. How could he fall so quickly?
"Kill that guy and then focus on the rest!" came a scream from their party chat.
As PKs were relaying the leader's message, their leader, Belis, was gritting his teeth. He was placed in jail! There was an option to bail out, but every kill cost him 1 gold coin. How could he afford such a luxury? What's more, it appears this price applied only to the beginner area. The prison guards told him that because it's his first misdemeanor, he was given a preferential treatment, thus the lighter sentence. At the future stages of the game, the bail will be in hundreds if not thousands of gold coins...
There was one thing that saddened Belis greatly. It wasn't the stone walls which were cold, nor the lack of proper, velvety bed. He wanted to formulate a plan for jailbreak. His group was quite numerous after all. Some were prone to die. With a lot of time to think, he could make a plan and earn their gratitude, solidifying his position. That's when he saw the pop up before him.
Seeing this message made Belis realize he made a mistake. There was no way to get out of this imprisonment. He basically had sent all of his followers into a trap!
He started furiously shouting for his comrades to withdraw, but it was already too late. The goons formed groups and jumped into action.
"Is it time for some brawling?" Adian guffawed contentedly. As soon as he did, an arrow lodged itself into his shoulder. He looked at Icicle with a gaze that said "Why did you dodge it?"
Icicle shrugged and continued pummeling the PKs with his fists. Each time he did, 30 true damage applied, making his attacks devastating. What's more, every 5 seconds a bolt of mana struck, dealing additional 35 damage, 10% of his maximum mana.
The burly leader sat in his cell, sighing. More and more people appeared around him, some directly in his cell, others in the cells nearby. Their screams echoed in the desolate corridors of the prison.
Icicle and the rest picked up the scraps left by the Player Killers. Those PKs didn't have much equipment to begin with, so most of the items dropped were the tutorial rewards and some copper coins. Better something than nothing.
Meanwhile at the Assassins' Guild, one of the players finished a tiresome Wild Dogs grind quest. He had to kill a staggering amount - 300 of them! Only then was he eligible to receive a follow up quest.
In front of him stood a stooped, wizened old man. Despite the old age, his blue eyes radiated fierceness. Merely his aura made one feel overwhelmed.
"Young one, you did well thinning out the Wild Dogs' population. However, there is a task I must burden you with, one that I am not sure you can complete." the wizened old man said, an expression of excitement on his old face.
"Rest assured, leader. Curtis will bring this hellish creature back shortly!" the player bowed, extremely humble.
"Good. Travel safely then, young adventurer." the old man said as he disappeared into the shadows.
Curtis smiled inwardly. His forum searching finally yielded results. The rewards from this chain quest could be even better if there's a follow up! He quickly dashed to the grasslands of Vilen Town, looking for his prey.