Author’s note: This version didn’t go through my editors since it was finished like 3 hours ago. If you want to read it with better grammar give it a day or two.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
"Goddamnit, why are those wolves still chasing me?!" Jeremy huffed and puffed as he ran. His palms and back were covered with sweat. He didn't even have the time to look at the surrounding forest as he escaped with top speed.
"Shouldn't these wolves have an aggro range, goddamnit?!" he felt hopeless as he glanced back.
Jeremy gaped at the open maws packed with razor sharp teeth. Five [Alpha Grey Wolves] were chasing him. He couldn't even see their levels...
Feeling a tinge of fear, Jeremy looked at the flashing blue screen on his right. It was the tutorial. One of its first steps had a prompt"Distribute your starting points."
Icicle, that was Jeremy's new character's name, read through the statistics quickly. Strength increased physical damage and allowed you to carry more weight. He couldn't put up a fight with the wolves. Hell, he couldn't even see their level, so he disregarded Strength for now.
Vitality increased health points, health regeneration and resistance to poison. More health could help him a little, but the wolves were already chasing him for 5 minutes! Since they didn't turn back, it was only a matter of time before they ripped him to pieces.
Intelligence increased magic damage and the magic's radius while Wisdom increased mana, mana regeneration and the duration of effects. Neither of those could have currently helped him.
Luck and Charisma couldn't be added. Those stats were earned.
Icicle was left with only one choice - Dexterity. Dexterity increased attack speed, movement speed and critical damage. He quickly pressed the + button and added all of 15 stat points into it.
His movement speed increased slightly. Wolves seemed to be farther and farther away.
Five [Alpha Grey Wolves] gave chase, increasing their speed. As if bored with playing cat and mouse they lunged forward. Merely five seconds passed and they were already upon Icicle!
One after the other, claws swiped through the air.
Excruciating pain as if someone flayed him alive filled Icicle. He gritted his teeth and persevered.
Another paw attack landed and Icicle couldn't help but scream! His HP merely at 1/50, he looked with dismay at an open mouth of impending doom...
Agonizing pain lasted only for a second before Icicle's body disintegrated into particles.
Icicle balled his fists and opened up the character menu.
Icicle received the other two points of luck when he spawned in an area called [Humming Forest]. That's where the wolves noticed him and gave chase, giving him a run for his money.
When he saw the stats he wasted, his heart ached. Charisma and Luck could be apparently acquired through discovering new areas, events, equipment and killing rare monsters. At least that's what tutorial said.
After Dexterity reached 10 points, the cost to level it up increased to two stat points per point added. As he glanced at those wasted stats, Icicle's heart ached. Fifteen stat points wasted on only 10 points total! Damn it!
As Icicle cursed the employee who sent him here, his thoughts returned to the moment when GM arrived.
"Game Master?" rang astonished voices of the players. This was their first time logging in. They didn't even have their names chosen, yet such a personage welcomed them.
"I'm sure most of you are confused. No wonder, you couldn't choose your nicknames after all." middle-aged man laughed heartily. His mouth curled into a friendly smile.
The players who looked at him could feel the warm atmosphere. They felt welcomed.
"Currently, we're in the middle of the registration process. Honestly speaking, there are so many of you that we had to delay the official launch a little." Game Master scratched his head in embarrassment. "For that, I'm deeply sorry. Albatros Company expected high traffic, but the player turnout surprised us. Nevertheless, it won't take more than a couple minutes. I would like to ask you players for some patience."
Users looked at each other, their eyes shining with fiery light. Game Master said that there are so many players that the company has difficulties accomodating them. Doesn't it mean that fighting over monsters, quests and grinding spots will become even more fierce?
Jeremy on the other hand shook his head. "Those guys are good." his mouth curled into a wry smile. He knew that there was no way Albatros Company had problems. The reason? Take this training area for example. There were no distortions of space, no lag, no one complained about any bugs. Since their waiting area had no problems, how could the game have any?
"Acting humble only to make the players lower their expectations, but when they get in, you'll deal the heavy blow!" Jeremy thought, clearly amused.
Uproar broke out, many people discussed their "plight". Some players complained, others tried to console themselves. There were quite a few whose fighting spirit was ignited. Nonetheless, this piece of news caused quite a ruckus.
"Ekhm." Game Master tried to take control of the crowd, but to no avail.
Shaking his head, administrator used his powers.
Players looked at each other with dismay. They couldn't speak!
"Now then, since it's finally quiet, I'll share some important information with you." middle-aged GM looked unperturbed, as if muting all of the congregated players had nothing to do with him. The fervent gazes fell upon him."As you have probably noticed, lots of you kept on disappearing from this place. Those players were transported to our employees to finish their registration process." GM smiled again.
"When you're done with that, you'll spawn in the game. To help you adjust to the new world, we provided you with a tutorial. I strongly recommend you to finish it. Our employees will inform you in more detail. This is all. Have fun in Loiterous!" middle-aged man's projection disappeared.
No one knew if he was pissed or simply didn't want to reveal too much. All they could see was that the GM vanished.
Muting restriction disappeared and the players started clamoring yet again. Jeremy only laughed inside "That GM showed his true colors." His amusement didn't last long. He was teleported out.
Nix was currently sitting comfortably in one of the office chairs of Albatros Company, looking at the enormous screen in front of her. On the screen there were numbers, representing player traffic. Her left hand held a cup of coffee, gently sipping the hot liquid with her slightly parted lips. She fiddled with her phone with the other hand.
Suddenly, a shout came from the hallway.
"You're still here?! It's 8pm. GET BACK TO WORK!"
Nix almost spilled her coffee when she heard the angry shout. The situation didn't look too good. It was her boss. Despite that, she managed to blurt out "But boss, I wanted to finish my coff-"
"Shut your mouth you goddamn slacker! If you don't want me to fire your sorry ass then start working!" Nix's boss wasn't harsh. In fact he was one of the gentlest bosses out there. He was mad because his higher-ups constantly rebuked him for uncompleted tasks. Tasks Nix was supposed to carry out... Seeing her slack in such an important moment simply touched his sore spot.
Nix moved her chair away from the desk and hurriedly logged in. Her boss looked livid, she knew his temperament and didn't want to anger him any further.
Jeremy appeared in a booth with a number 966. Brown desk with two chairs stood in the middle of the white room. On the desk was a plant and a beige lamp. Red carpet with various embroiderings laid on the wooden floor. He stopped under the chandelier behind the desk and his gaze fell at the windmill painting on the wall.
Nix appeared on the chair behind him. Both of them didn't notice each other. Jeremy turned around and saw a woman dressed in a blue skirt. Her straight black hair drooped over her shoulders. At the moment she was sipping her coffee leisurely. Jeremy started "Was she here before? No way, I would have noticed her. Must be an employee." he thought.
Nix looked bored, wasn't there supposed to be a crowd of people waiting to get registered? Why isn't anyone coming? She didn't mind the peace and quiet though.
"Hello." said someone behind her. Nix's hand trembled and almost spilled the coffee. It was her second time today. She turned around, somewhat irritatedly and said in a harsh tone "Hello. Sit down." There was no reason for her not to know who it was. Obviously one of the players arrived here before her.
"Fill out your nickname in the menu. I would advise you to do it quick. There are two reasons for that. One is that others are waiting. The second one is connected to the first one. Since there are so many players currently choosing, you may lose your preferred name."
Jeremy thought for a while. He didn't want to choose his previous "Prey" nickname. That name might be recognized by those who played Eurasia, the MMO where he killed quite a lot of people. He thought of something simple. When he was done, he hailed Nix "Okay, I'm done."
"Let's see." Nix sipped her coffee "Icicle, huh? Pretty... original." Her face was clearly saying otherwise. "Well then, Icicle." hint of ridicule could be heard in her voice "Whether you heard the GM's speech or not, here it goes. You'll spawn in one of the starting areas. There are four types. Which one you'll be allocated to is random. Each starting area can accomodate around 50 000 players. To adjust to the new world you should follow the tutorial. When you reach appropriate level, you can leave the starting area and join one of the four kingdoms." she stopped for a while to let the man process and asked "Do you follow?"
"Yes, I understand." replied Icicle.
"Good. Those areas differ. The skills and classes you can get are the same everywhere, but NPCs may task you with various local quests. Since the quests are different, so are the rewards. This includes skills. If you want to have a specific one, you will need to travel to the respective kingdom." Nix explained.
Icicle nodded, this much was obvious. Different people teach different things.
"If you're concerned with your appearance, you can change it only through the cash shop. You can look it up on our website." Nix looked at Icicle and saw him nodding again.
"Have you practiced in the waiting area?" Nix asked out of the blue.
"So you chose a class then, huh? Which one is it?" Nix's "cutiosity" was plainly professional. A few days before the launch her superiors asked her to do some surveys. What for she didn't know.
Icicle touched Nix's forehead with his palm.
"W-What are you doing?" stuttered Nix.
"Just checking if you have a fever." As Icicle spoke, he shook his head.
Sighing resignedly, he continued "Seriously, what a dumb question. I could only use a few skills, how was I supposed to choose a class?" Icicle faked his anger outburst. Since there were over 50 000 players allocated to one village, he hoped to anger the cute employee before him. Who knows, maybe she'll send him somewhere secluded?
"Do you think I wanted to ask you this?! If I wasn't forced...! Not only have you sneaked behind me like a pervert, now you're even questioning my intelligence!" Nix stood up and smacked the desk with her hands. "Since you're such a Mr. Smartass, why don't I send you somewhere fun? When you remake your character, you had better pray on your knees not to encounter me again! Have fun, I-C-I-C-L-E."
Square shaped window appeared before Nix. She pressed her finger somewhere in the top right edge of it and Icicle was instantly teleported out.
Remembering those events only made him sigh. How could he just remake the character? He has his pride.
Icicle closed the character window and opened his inventory.
Aside from the items there were only 5 copper coins. Icicle didn't know their value but considered it as scraps. He disappointedly closed the inventory and opened the map.
What appeared was a blue dot signifying the starting area he appeared in. [Vilen Town] was its center with Port location attached to it and Hunter Village to its right. Icicle was currently located at the far north-east of the [Vilen Town]. His location was displayed - [Humming Forest].
He suddenly remembered he had received the notification of entering the area. Looking through the notifications, he quickly found the right window.
Except those 5 points of Luck nothing went well for him. He thought that Nix will be more forgiving, sending him to a level 5 area. However, this forest... he couldn't even see the level of the monsters!
Sighing resignedly, Icicle closed all of the windows together with the tutorial. How could he do the quests in the turorial if they were provided by the NPCs in the town? He was in the middle of nowhere!
He looked around. Pebbles and broken twigs littered the soil. The place he arrived in seemed to be someone's camping site. There was a tent set up in the middle, next to which was a bonfire. Wherever eyes could see was grass, surrounded by a boundless forest. His current location appeared to be a clearing.
Icicle approached the tent and parted the rough cloth to have a look inside. Empty sleeping bag and blankets covered the grass and soil. On the right side there was a table full of vials filled with colorful liquids. Behind the table in the right corner was a stash of tools. Shovels, hammers, axes, pickaxes, spades... There were so many he didn't even want to count them. When he looked to the left...
Cold steel blade touched Icicle's throat, making him swallow loudly.
"Who are you?!" came a raspy voice of a youth in his twenties. He was holding a one-handed axe shakily. His name was Adian, it seems like this area belonged to him.
"Sir Adian, I'm Icicle, I got lost in the forest and arrived here. I have no ill intentions..." Icicle tried to explain himself.
"Lost my ass, you're a filthy thief! Die!" the axe came swinging down at Icicle, splitting him in half as if a knife went through butter.
-145 appeared above Icicle's head.
After feeling an unbearable pain for a split second, Icicle turned into particles and respawned outside the tent yet again.
"Y-You! You're actually not from this world! A newcomer, eh? I'm sorry adventurer, there are many thugs here who like to steal things. If I were in my peak condition I wouldn't fear them, but unfortunately... cough cough."
Icicle noticed Adian's physical state. His eyes glistened in the morning sun "I need to get out of this area and this seems like a quest!" he thought, promptly asking "Sir Adian, is there anything I can do to help you?"
Adian's raspy voice came from the tent "Get inside, I need to lie down... cough." Icicle walked in hastily. Adian prompted him to sit, so he found a place on a blanket and sat awkwardly.
"You're willing to help me, eh? You don't seem too capable, but I guess it's better than nothing..." Adian laid in his sleeping back, coughing from time to time.
"Even so, I would like to help." Icicle continued exerting the pressure. This quest could be something that releases him out of his bind!
"Well then, alright. Before you decide to help me, you need to understand what happened. I am a trainee in the [Vilen Town]. Recently there was a new guard recruitment. All of us trainees received tasks to carry out for promotion. Mine was to eradicate a group of vicious wolves in the [Humming Forest]. Normally, we wouldn't care about such things, but recently those wolves were attacking the villagers. We have only a few farms around Vilen Town, we couldn’t let those monsters terrorize the farmers and devastate the crops." coughing fiercely, Adian covered his mouth and then continued.
"Aside from plants, there are a few people like me who went to the nearby forest to collect plants and herbs. Those people suffered various injuries as well. As a person who knew the forest like a back of my hand, I was tasked to deal with the problem, but..." Adian stopped for a second, his expression bitter. "But when I was dealing with weak wolves at the beginning of the forest, I was attacked by stronger ones. As I continued slaughtering my way forward, I ended up here, where their pack leader is supposed to have its lair." his gaze flickering, Adian winced from the pain he was feeling.
"That goddamn whelp used the time when I was engaged in combat with one of its packs and attacked my weak spots. His hit and run tactic made me retreat in shame. Not only did I not eradicate the wolves, I was even injured... This task cannot wait forever, if I don't finish it soon, I'll be disqualified from the guard promotion! Those promotions don't come often, only once every few years... If I fail, my father will surely be disappointed." Adian shook his head and fell silent.
"What do I need to do to help you?" asked Icicle. He felt kind of sorry for Adian. He was stuck just like he was. However, being sorry was being sorry, amidst the feeling of compassion he sniffed the chance! If Adian were to help him, he can leave the forest!
Adian's saddened gaze brightened a little and he said "Adventurer, help me gather 5 [Stout Stalk Herbs]!"
Icicle looked at the quest, then at the right side of the tent. That table filled with various vials made him feel like there was something else to gain from the quest. Since he already got one quest, why not try receiving another?
"Those herbs you want me to gather, how do you know them? Are you a Herbalist?" This was only Icicle's guess. In other MMOs there was such a profession so Icicle probed Adian.
"Herbalist? Hmph, don't make me laugh! I'm an [Alchemist]!" Adian retorted with pride.
"Alchemist, huh?" thought Icicle. Then his eyes shone with unconcealable light. This seemed like a good subclass profession. Since he can get one, why wouldn't he? He can probably change it in the town anyways!
Icicle spoke bluntly "Sir, teach me the ways of the [Alchemist]!"
"Teach you?" Adian replied angrily "Do you know how much money did I have to fork out to even learn the ropes? My father had to work for dozens of years before he managed to collect 5 gold coins! Those could last us for a few years! I had to pay such a ridiculous amount of gold yet you want me to teach you for free?! Ridiculous!" Adian's eyes spew fire.
Icicle didn't give in and said "Sir, I wouldn't ask for something so absurd but I'm stuck in this place. You killed me before and I revived next to your tent. As you can see, I'm currently weak. My only chance is to help you recover and then leave the area in your company. That's why I want to aid you in any way I can!" his expression earnest, Icicle bowed his head.
Icicle didn't want to raise his head before Adian responded. Silence was too overbearing for him, but he had to endure it. At least ten seconds passed and he started doubting if he broke the AI's script. Suddenly, Adian responded.
"Hahahahaha! Ow ow ow, my injuries! You're such a silly goose! To think there's someone who has it even worse than me!" tears started streaming down Adian's face, as he laughed heartily. Wiping the tears with his hand he continued "I truly couldn't imagine that you're actually someone who needs my help more than I need yours!" his loud laughter rang out again as he clutched his stomach from laughter and pain.
Icicle raised his head and looked pleased. What was a little bow if he could get the benefits?
"Here you go adventurer, no, Icicle. This book and the respectful alchemist's teachings cost me 5 gold coins. However, I already remember all the contents of this book and don't need it anymore. You can have it." Adian took out a book seemingly out of nowhere and handed it to Icicle.
Icicle bowed again and said "Thank you!"
Checking his inventory, it really was there.
Dragging the book out, another menu appeared.
Before making his decision, Icicle looked at Adian and asked "Are you sure you no longer need this book?"
"Like I said, it's yours now." Adian replied with a faint smile, but inside he felt a bit bitter. He could sell this book for quite a sum...
Pressing yes, Icicle was enveloped with a green light and another blue box popped up before him.
"Haha, awesome" thought Icicle, looking at the new skill he got.
Adian looked at Icicle with a strange gaze, as if he couldn't understand what has just happened. "Adventurers sure are on another level compared to us." he thought.
"Say, Adian, how long do I have to gather these herbs?" Icicle asked cautiously, to receive the highest amount of time possible. After all, he had a recipe for healing potions. If the quest spawns the herbs nearby like he thinks it will, he can gather as many as he can and create copious amounts of potions!
"No more than five hours! Now go, I need to rest!" Adian waved his hand and scrambled to the sleeping bag, wrapping himself tightly. Icicle felt that something was amiss again. He hastily looked at the [Basic Healing Potion] skill and realized there are additional requirements!
"This... so much requirements! I rejoiced too soon!" thought Icicle, quickly turning to Adian. "Adian, my dearest friend, lend me some apparatus!" he pleaded.
"What? You still want more?! You greedy bast-"
"Adian, calm down. Listen, friend, I acquired a skill to make health regenerating potions! I am certain it will help you more than just bringing you the herbs." as Icicle said that, he puffed his chest proudly, as if his luck was his greatest virtue.
"Hmph, health regenerating potions you say? Fine! Tell me the formula, if it's correct I'll lend you the tools!" Adian still had his doubts. He wants help not to be milked like a cow.
"Alright, here goes. It requires three [Green Stout Stalks]. The mortar needs to be clear. Grind the herbs in the mortar with the pestle. When the liquid surfaces, seep it through a strainer into the vial..."
"Wait what?!" Adian suddenly interrupted Icicle.
Icicle was utterly confused, did he make a mistake?
"Liquid needs to be seeped through a strainer? What kind of gibberish is that!" Adian raged, he clearly wasn't taught about such a thing.
"I don't know what you mean, Adian. It clearly states here that you need to pour the liquid through a strainer to receive the higher quality liquid. Then, when the liquid's in the vial, you shake it so it becomes uniform." Icicle explained like a sage.
Adian looked dumbfounded. Then he mumbled "Could it be the reason why my potions were subpar...?"
Icicle heard Adian's mumblings and waited patiently for his answer. After a while, Adian's eyes blazed with light as he asked "Do you know which grade Alchemist are you?"
"Umm, it says zeroth grade here. That health potion skill is my only one." Icicle replied honestly.
"Zeroth grade, zeroth grade... zeroth grade!" Adian mumbled, then continued in a clear voice "Icicle, I will take you in as my disciple!"
Icicle obviously pressed yes.
"Huh?" Icicle looked at the menu and was surprised. Even he didn't expect such an outcome. He only wanted to extort some tools for his money making activities, yet such a thing happened.
"Listen, Icicle. As my disciple you need a lot of equipment. Here, take those. Those tools will help you in harvesting herbs. Make sure to bring some potions for me to try."
When Icicle saw "Additional rewards" tooltip his eyes blazed with inextinguishable avarice!
"You have everything you need. Go. You can find the herbs in the vicinity. Your time limit is 5 hours!" Adian reminded him seriously and went to sleep.
Icicle left the tent hurriedly and skipped to the forest, completely forgetting about his previous encounter with [Grey Alpha Wolves].