Soon after Icicle left, Adian was walking in circles in his tent. Disregarding his injuries he mumbled "This kid is a walking money bag! If only I can make him concoct more potions, I'll earn a fortune!" wry smile plastered itself on his lips. "Guard promotion, haha! Who cares about that! It would earn me a little prestige and a pretty decent salary. On the other hand, if I become an esteemed Alchemist..." as he thought of the never-ending stream of money Adian's wild laughter echoed through the clearing and the surrounding forest.
Adian was right in his assumptions. Guards earned only a miniscule portion of what Alchemists did. They were vulnerable to external danger too. Not only that, if Alchemist's skills were sufficient, he could aid the lord of the area with various tasks. There were precedents where some lucky Alchemists managed to get a title of a noble. As for the powerful, experienced Alchemists, those didn't need to advertise themselves. Various powerhouses were seeking their services on their own.
Although Adian didn't have such lofty aspirations, becoming a full-fledged first grade Alchemist in Vilen Town sounded tempting to him.
Icicle moved into the forest. Amidst the high pines and sturdy oaks, he moved through the shrubbery, vigilantly scanning the area. Last time with the wolves taught him to be cautious.
Trying to move as stealthily as he could, Icicle made his way to one of the [Green Stout Stalks] under a willow. Under the drooping leaves of a willow, the herb looked as if it blended with the tree. If not for its name appearing above it in a box when Icicle neared it, he most likely wouldn't distinguish it at all.
"Okay what do I do now?" Icicle looked at his subclass's information and found the [Green Stout Stalk] page. "Dig a 30cm deep into the ground. To be sure make it half a meter. Take extra caution not to damage the roots, otherwise the liquid will flow out, damaging the herb. When you're done digging the herb up, cut the roots and let the liquid flow into the mortar. Place the remaining green stalk into the mortar and ground it, extracting its essence. Seep all of the liquid through a strainer into the vial. Follow with another 2 stalks to reach the optimal value."
"So it's like that, huh?" thought Icicle, somewhat amused. It wasn't as hard as he originally thought it would be. He started cautiously digging around the herb.
"Well, it's my first try. It would be weird if I succeeded." Icicle didn't mind his failure and moved along the forest, making sure not to step on the dried leaves. Making noise would mean his untimely death in the hands of a predator.
It was already Icicle's third undamaged [Green Stout Stalk]. Every time he successfully dug up one, he received one experience point. If he dug up an exact 100 then he would level up. "I wonder what the stat gain on levelling up is." Icicle thought with some yearning hidden deep within. There was nothing he could do at the moment to speed up the process, so he reluctantly gave up on the idea.
"I should try making one of the potions." moving into action, Icicle looked for a suitable place to set up his workplace. Finding a nice round stump nearby, he brought out the mortar and pestle.
Following the instructions, he cut off the roots, letting the red liquid flow into the mortar. He was surprised that the liquid wasn't green, but considering that health potions in most games were almost always red, he understood the concept. The next thing to do was to ground the stalk itself. When the pestle merely touched the [Green Stout Stalk], Icicle immediately realized something.
"It's so tough! When I picked it up it was resilient, but also soft to the touch. However, now that I'm trying to get its essence out it puts up such a fight! What a great resistance!" suddenly his worries dispelled and his mouth curled up into a smile. "If that's so, then health potions will surely have immense value. Who would bother gathering the herbs and then grounding them in such a tedious process after all?"
Happy about his discovery, Icicle started grounding the stalks. It took him 10 minutes to properly ground the three of them. His body was tired so he took a bite of [Rye bread] and quenched his first with fresh water from the canteen.
It was time to make the potion. Only then did Icicle realize he has no strainer...
"Shit, what can I use to replace it?" he looked around but those wilting leaves couldn't help him. Icicle took a glance at his equipment and there wasn't anything that could aid him either. Wait a second, there might be!
Since it's a virtual reality, this might work. He took off his shirt. What replaced it was his bare body! Tearing a patch of it, Icicle placed it on the vial. Carefully seeping the red liquid through the shirt, it slowly made its way into the receptacle. The torn off piece wasn't large so the red substance didn't have any way to disperse outwards.
Finally finished, Icicle looked at his new creation. He shook the vial to make the liquid uniform. Putting the cork in, he felt satisfied.
Icicle's eyes shone brightly. Shouldn't there be someone before him? Considering that majority of the players will choose battle professions first, the chances would be higher, but what about those crafting lovers? They should be getting their professions right now.
"Hmm, maybe the respective quests for professions are hard. Adian told me I was ripping him off after all. Whatever, I won't mind others. All I have to do is not to squander this luck." He then took a look at the potion's efficacy.
"125 HP, huh? Not bad. It should be fairly useful coupled with the healers. Why is the vial only half full though?" Icicle looked at it with curiosity then mumbled "Since I'm already doing the quest, I might as well experiment some more."
Icicle continued looking for the herbs, making rounds around the camp. He started off in the south of Adian's tent, then moved westwards. Digging up another [Green Stout Stalk], it was his sixth undamaged one since the start. Coupled with the experience of his potion making, his EXP bar was at 8/100.
Icicle was putting the herb into his inventory when something hard hit his head. Jolted by the impact, his head then hit the tree in front of him, adding another batch of damage.
After the stun effect wore off, Icicle looked back angrily only to see a grey-furred squirrel. It was munching on an acorn. Another acorn lay beneath his feet. Its size was fairly large.
"What an overpowered squirrel. I don't have any way of hunting it down. I guess scavenging in this area will only do me more harm than good." he looked around only to notice a couple dozen squirrels perched on the trees in the vicinity. They were either grey or orange in color. Nonetheless, seeing how one of their casual acorn throws could do so much damage, Icicle backed off.
As he was carefully retreating, he stumbled on one of the twigs, falling on his butt. This caused quite a ruckus and three more squirrels took notice of him. Taking a look at them, they were fairly pissed for disturbing their peace. Not to mention invading their area...
Icicle didn't have time to consider all that. He was worried about his loot dropping in case of death. Tutorial only hinted that items and experience will drop after reaching level 10, but considering his circumstances, who knows if Nix didn't tick those restrictions off?
His head still a bit dizzy, Icicle shook it and in the corner of his eye flashed something grey. He focused his gaze and noticed it's one of the wolves that chased after him, [Grey Alpha Wolf]. It was laying beside one of the trees. Of course whether it was the same one or just one of its kind wasn't something he could possibly know.
The squirrels were watching him in high alert. Their names were respectively [Grey Flying Demon] and [Orange Soaring Devil]. Icicle didn't even dare to laugh at those names. The wolf that laid on the bottom of the tree didn't look like it was sunbathing there... That [Grey Alpha Wolf] was probably above level 10, meaning that the squirrels were most likely at least level 15.
Icicle put his hands above his head, as if he was about to be arrested and moved one step at a time towards the wolf. He didn't want to leave. If those squirrels for some reason hated wolves, he could "borrow the knife to kill the enemy". Not only would Adian have an easier time, Icicle might even extort Adian to powerlevel him!
He walked step by step, avoiding acorns on the way, making sure not to piss off the squirrels. Who knows what might trigger their aggro. As Icicle closed in on the wolf, he saw it lying on the side, its eyes closed. He bowed to the squirrels and then grabbed the wolf by one of its hind paws, dragging it outside. The wolf suddenly jolted and freed itself. "That bastard was only pretending!" Icicle cursed under his nose.
Baring its razor sharp fangs, grey wolf lunged on Icicle with unbridled ferocity.
Although it was sudden, Icicle had an inkling something like this may happen. Playing dead wasn't a rare thing among the animals after all. He took out his sword and sliced at the wolf. His wild brandish merely blocked the wolf's charge, resulting in a powerful knockback. He landed almost three meters away, slamming into the tree.
His back against the tree, Icicle thought of how to deal with this sudden event. His health was now at 10/50, both the squirrel and the wolf hit him for 15 damage each. Another 10 damage came from hitting the tree with his head and now his back.
Icicle gritted his teeth and he looked up only to see the blurs of orange and grey. Dozens of squirrels moved in unison, like a hivemind. When they perched themselves high above, Icicle noticed that their eyes were crimson red, as if showing their unbridled fury and hatred.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
Hundreds of high velocity acorns flew towards the [Grey Alpha Wolf], hitting its body all over. It let out a miserable howl, but it couldn't do anything. Acorns the size of a fist hit its body from all sides, making it rise into the air, as if levitating, only to be knocked down by another projectile. Such a besiegement was a really sorry sight to behold. Icicle even somewhat pitied the wolf.
Gruesome sounds of bones cracking could be heard. [Grey Alpha Wolf]'s body looked extremely mangled, barely retaining its former dignified shape.
When the barrage of acorns finally stopped, Icicle carefully approached what remained of the once powerful wolf. He put the thrown acorns to one side, making sure that the squirrels are not aggro'd. He bowed to them, then raised his sword and stabbed the wolf's head.
As he was repeatedly stabbing, single digit numbers rose up, not exceeding 7 damage. Icicle could only laugh at his low level equipment and stats. That didn't bother him too much though. He praised his luck. The squirrels didn't attack him.
He continued stabbing like this approximately 30 times, when suddenly the wolf disintegrated into particles.
Couple of items laid on the ground, Icicle hurriedly picked them up without even looking. His experience bar rose by a whopping 50 points! Feeling grateful, he bowed three times to the squirrels and started backing off slowly. Disturbing their peace as much as he did could already be considered overstaying one's welcome.
"Huh?" as Icicle looked at the message, his eyes couldn't help widening. The squirrel tribe actually considered him "not a nuisance" now. That was a great progress! With their assistance, he can slowly thin out the wolves, letting Adian take care of the alleged boss. Who knows, if those squirrel and wolf tribes hate each other for some reason, there might be a hidden quest involved.
Icicle noticed another [Green Stout Stalk] in the vicinity, but he didn't know whether the squirrels put any value into it. Last time he was hit with an acorn, so he quickly gave up on the idea. Bowing again he left with furtive steps.
His overall haul could be considered extremely large for his level. If that wolf was about level 10 then the drops should be plentiful. Icicle hurried towards [Adian's Resting Place]. As soon as he entered the safezone, he opened up his inventory.
The wolf dropped 25 copper coins, making his total wealth mere 30 copper. Disregarding the pitiful monetary wealth, Icicle looked with interest at the soft boots. He couldn't yet wear them but he still smiled brightly. Five dexterity was considered good for him. Coupled with the additional movement speed, in his eyes it was a great item.
The one item he couldn't make heads or tails of was a silver bracelet. It had a winding pattern as if someone used a paint brush to create a wave on it. Noticing that the bracelet emitted a blue glow, Icicle had to look through the tutorial to find some information about it. He read one of the articles regarding item grades.
"Inside Loiterous you can find several grades of items. Starting from the bottom it starts at the [Common] grade. Those items are the ones beginners use. They only provide defense and miniscule stat gains if any. [Basic] grade items are comparable to those which poor guards would use. Nothing exaggerated but not bad either. [Basic] level equipment adds considerable defense as well as some stat boosts." Icicle read it and smiled wryly. Five points of dexterity wasn't something small at all!
"[Rare] grade items are as the name suggests, quite valuable. Unique ones boost up to three statistics! Those items very rarely drop from [Common] and [Basic] level creatures. You can sporadically see them dropping from one-starred and [Rare] monsters. Bosses, [Elite] and two stars monsters often drop such equipment. If you get one, trust us, you'll know it. This kind of equipment gives off a blue hue. You can identify it in your starting areas and towns, look for more information in the Merchant Guilds."
"So it's Rare equipment, huh? I guess I was really lucky to have it drop. Wait, I don't know what grade those wolves are, maybe they're actually [Rare]. That squirrel did 15 damage to me with one throw, and the wolf could withstand at least a hundred..." as he pondered, Icicle inferred that the wolf was most probably one of the "1 star" monsters.
If [Alpha Grey Wolves] really were of [Rare] grade, then how could five of them chase him at the spawn point? Most likely it was an event or some hidden quest to solve. Nonetheless, it didn't matter to Icicle at the moment. All he did was grasp the bracelet tightly then put all of his gains back into the inventory.
Tutorial mentioned other grades. There were [Elite] grade items that dropped from [Elite] level monsters, which often guarded boss level creatures. Wild monsters could achieve a three star rank, comparable to that of an elite monster. Those critters rarely dropped white equipment of [Elite] rank. [Elite] equipment was something experts wanted.
There were [Legendary], [Artifact] and [Special] grades mentioned, but it was too far off, so the tutorial didn't explain anythung about them.
Adian's tent was right behind him. Icicle decided to get some additional resources. "Adian, you there?" Icicle parted the rough cloth and walked in. Adian was laying in his sleeping bag, but his eyes were open, his face had an expression of excitement. "How come you're done already? Not even 30 minutes have passed..." Adian gave Icicle a puzzled look. As if sensing something bad, his brows furrowed. His recent experience told him it's yet another extortion.
"Well, I need a strainer. That and you should let me take a look at your maps. I'm sure you have at least one. Now, now. Don't look at me like that. I bear gifts. Here, my first creation." Icicle handed over the potion.
Adian received the "miracle drug" and scanned Icicle frostily. He then said "Why is your upper body bare? Did you try to fight a bear or something?" he smiled teasingly, uncorked the potion and swigged the contents.
"Good. Very good. Although bitter, this is some potent stuff. It's not that far off from my Master's potions." Adian looked at Icicle with gratitude and some veneration in his gaze. His newly gained disciple was actually better than him in making health potions!
"Mm, I have my suspicions that these potions can be made twice as potent as they are now." Icicle smiled wryly, enjoying the astonishment written all over Adian's face.
"T-Twice as potent, you say? How?" Adian couldn't help but ask. If it was true, then even the old Alchemist who was selling potions in Vilen Town couldn't compare!
"If you looked at the vial before you drank it, you would notice that it was only half filled. That means twice as much liquid can be poured. As you can imagine, the potency should double as well. What's more, I didn't use a strainer but my shirt to seep the liquid through. If we use proper equipment, the increment in efficacy might be even higher."
Hearing all of this made Adian incomparably excited. His eyes turned as round as gold coins. Without even regarding his former dignified disposition, he gave Icicle his roughly sketched maps then added "When we get to the town and sell the potions, we'll buy you all the necessary apparatus. I promise you."
Icicle was once again dismissed to finish his earlier task. He looked back at the tent, shook his head and examined the maps. He put away the sketches of faraway lands and focused on the starting area. "Adian sure was weird." he thought "Not only did he not show signs of injury, he even leapt with joy. I wonder if he's profiting more than I am from this bargain. Oh well, as long as I can leave this forest with some items, experience and abilities, I can make money in the future."
Icicle moved towards the wolves' area, hoping to not only get the herbs, but also to lure the pitiful grey furries under the squirrels' fierce assault.