Icicle was moving vigilantly amidst the shrubbery, broken twigs and humming pine trees. His herb collecting was going smoothly. He decided to first gather all the herbs and then make them into potions.
His biggest disappointment was not encountering even one [Grey Alpha Wolf]. This was most likely caused by his close proximity to the safe zone. Last time he was attacked a few kilometres to the south-west.
When Icicle was peacefully gathering the necessary herbs, all the starting areas villages were brimming with new characters. Players ran around madly, wave after wave, looking for NPCs to get their tutorial quests.
Some shady players who allegedly finished the tutorial received a [Common] grade set. Most gamers didn't value this information as dependable. Their shirts only gave them 1 defense. What could the entire set give, 5 defense total? This 5 defense against [Wild Dogs], [Horned Rabbits] and [Brown Lizards] was something that could save their lives. Tutorial giving the entire set sounded too good to be true.
Many individuals ran outside after putting all of their points into strength. They wanted to test if the video posted by Sais was real. Fifteen points of strength could provide some substantial damage, but it didn't make their attacks any faster. On top of that, if they couldn't swing the sword properly in the first place, it was a tiresome task to kill even a level 1 creature.
Those who luckily managed to arrive in the same starting village came up with a plan. One person put all of their points into strength, the other into constitution. 150 HP could easily withstand lvl 1 creatures' damage. If they were ganged by two or three that changed things. In such a situation, dodging and parrying came into play. However, as long as those players kept hunting critters one by one, they would emerge victorious.
To players' dismay, level 1 creatures usually dropped only a scrap of fur or skin coupled with 1 copper coin. The price for a full beginner [Basic] set with around 10-15 defense on average ranged between 3 and 4 silver. 300 to 400 coins, how could they get them so fast? Blacksmiths and tailors gave discounts only to their apprentices...
Those apprentinces didn't have it easy either. Paying 5 gold to become an apprentice was a ridiculous sum. Only by doing certain chain quests could they receive tutelage for free.
Such requirements made getting a subclass hard. Those who wanted to make a character without a battle profession, specializing only in crafting, had their quests lighter and more rewarding. NPCs liked getting such apprentices. They were devoted and loyal.
Battle professions like warriors and mages weren't a piece of cake to get. To become a warrior one needed to either complete a training course or pay 5 silver for brief tutelage. By tutelage the game developers meant "imparting skills". All it did was give the player class skills and change his class. The rest he had to learn on his own. Needless to say, everyone chose the training course. They had to kill hundreds or even thousands of various monsters to finish their training...
Mages were tasked to read books or copy scrolls before receiving any tutelage. Otherwise their tutelage cost whopping 1 gold coin. Those that wanted to instantly get their magic skills were disappointed, but upon hearing how hard artisan classes had it, they felt a bit better.
Paladins and Priests wannabes had it the toughest. They had to either make a contribution of 5 gold coins or bring back 50 yellow petals to receive their classes. Yellow petals dropped from creatures called [Bright Yellow Flower]. Those flowers were stationary and shot the players with thorns and leaves. Apart from this, the flowers exuded a kind of gas that made players dizzy. 5 gold coins equaled 50000 copper coins, who could have such a large sum in the beginning of the game? [Bright Yellow Flowers] were level 3 creatures, so most people created waves of 8 man parties that stormed out of the starting areas to deal with the problem.
In other parts of the world, people complained about cold, about heat or lack of any proper warrior equipment. Various kingdoms specialized in different things. Lucky ones who arrived at Vilen Town could be described to receive a proper starting environment. Aside from the ridiculous class expenses, they had almost all resources available to them. Many players envied such circumstances.
In the cold Glacia Kingdom in the far north, players needed to get cold resistant items, otherwise they would soon get a cold. Needless to say, the cost of cold resistant equipment was not something they could afford. Fortunately, the turorial helped a little with that issue.
Qured Kingdom was the exact opposite. The heat of scorching hot desert made the players drink a lot of water. They had to constantly refill their canteens in the fountain. The cost of water was immense. Forum users compared the cost of equipment and realized that Qurem Kingdom sold equipment dirt cheap. How could those who suffered from the glaring sun care about that though? They looked for ways to get a larger canteen...
Acalen Kingdom was the kingdom of mages. They had all necessary equipment for mage wannabes. Staffs, staves, wands, cloaks, robes, orbs and many more littered the stores. The prices were of course high, but items were top notch. Warrior equipment was practically non-existent. All the stores had were some scraps for beginners and equipment for Magic Swordsmen. It was a class combining magic and swordplay. A hybrid so-to-speak. Mages were rich and lofty, thus the difficulty of their initial quests wasn't hard, but not too rewarding either.
Thousands of users complained on the forums. Only one response came from the Game Masters. The thread was pinned at the top of the forum. "No one said it's going to be easy. If you don't like the game, then you don't need to play it. Find yourself another VR where you can take it easy."
Such a harsh statement made various gaming communities bustle with activity. Curses flew the Game Masters' way for alienating the players, but after a while those outraged people understood. Loiterous was the only multiplayer virtual reality as of yet. They had the right to be arrogant. There were many players who were willing to play yet couldn't even get the device. Those who complained received countless private messages to sell their devices if they don't use it. Just this fact made them log back in and focus on their characters.
As almost every player was distraught with their early game experience, Icicle collected 49 out of required 50 [Green Stout Stalks] for his quest. It had taken him one hour and a half. There were still three hours left to complete the quest. To cheese out the quest, Icicle decided to make potions right here and now. After he empties out the herb count, he'll gather the herbs again.
What was more important is that he has leveled up. With his level reaching 2, he was given 3 points to distribute. This time he was careful and saw that every point put into dexterity still required 2 stat points. But he didn't need dexterity right now. If he were to be of any use to Adian, he needed to put those 3 points into vitality.
Icicle's HP and Mana increased by 10 points each after levelling up. Icicle was obviously happy about that. More health and mana never harmed anyone. What worried him a little was the amount of experience to level up to 3. It was over a double increase. If this trend kept up, it would be really hard to gain levels in Loiterous. However, that may be a good thing. No one will get too strong too fast.
Not minding that anymore, Icicle looked for a suitable place to begin his basic alchemy. There was no nice stump around this time, so he had to make do with the sturdy black soil. Brushing away the broken twigs, pine cones and remnants of leaves, Icicle put his mortar down. Repeating the process of cutting off the roots, then grounding three [Green Stout Stalks] he began potion making.
Time slowly passed. Icicle has just corked his third potion when a message popped up.
Icicle only smiled faintly. He grounded those herbs with all he had, making his whole figure sweaty. It required quite a bit of struggling before those stalks let their liquid flow out. Every herb put a fight. To Icicle it was like fighting in a war. This seemingly simple job required all of his concentration and focus.
When his strength increased, his time to ground the herbs decreased slowly. It didn't take 10 but close to 7 minutes. It wasn't all due to strength increase though. His proficiency in using mortar and pestle slowly reached a point where he could be considered a beginner Alchemist.
Icicle made another 8 potions. All in all, it was 11 potions total. His strength increased by another point yet again. As for his experience bar, it displayed 25/250. Mere 10% filled. For an artisan class this could be considered as a rapid progress. There was no fighting involved after all.
Sixteen undamaged [Green Stout Stalks] were left in Icicle's inventory. He couldn't turn them into potions for two reasons. First was that his shirt was all used up. The second was obviously that he was tired. Icicle couldn't sacrifice all of the rye bread and canteen's water on mere potion making. He desperately needed resources for the upcoming fight.
With that in mind, he decided to halt the potion making process. He can complete it after he comes back to Adian. Time was trickling after all. He looked at the pile of 108 damaged [Green Stout Stalks]. His digging up often slightly grazed the root and then the display immediately showed that the herb is damaged. Icicle was sure that those herbs had at least 90% of their original essence intact. Still, he had no recipe for them so he left them in his inventory to await experiments.
However, he first needed to confirm his theory about a full vial's potency. He took out 2 of his 11 potions and poured one into the other.
Icicle looked at his skill's proficiency and noticed that it has 20% next to it. That was a sizable progress. Then he examinated his creation.
Icicle was expecting to see 250 HP recovery, but that result was in his margin of error. All it meant was that his grounding skill wasn't adequate. He himself was aware of that. If it was so easy to become an Alchemist then every player would choose this profession.
Icicle was happy about his choice. Angering Nix wasn't the kindest of choices, but he received an advantage. He was sent in the middle of nowhere, where any player has yet to set his foot into. If it wasn't for Adian, he would definitely have to remake his character. Fortunately, that easy to extort guy was there. This alone has saved him a lot of time and worries.
As he was walking back with a full inventory of [Green Stout Stalks], Icicle noticed that after the quest was deemed completed, he managed to find only one plant on his way back. Judging from the way he was collecting them before there should be at least three. There were often even up to five in the areas he passed by.
Digging up that last one, he made his way to the safe zone. It was time to see Adian and receive some juicy rewards. Of course Icicle wouldn't be himself if he didn't extort some powerleveling.
Parting the rough cloth of the tent, Icicle went inside. Adian stood there, waiting for him, "You're back huh? How did it go? Did you manage to complete the task?"
"Yes, the herbs are all here. I just need some time to convert those herbs into potions." Icicle said blandly and cleared a wooden table. Putting his mortar down, he started grounding once again.
Adian waited patiently at the side. He realized Icicle is in a pickle because of the lack of a strainer. He pulled out a handkerchief out of his bag. Icicle gratefully took it and carried on.
Soon enough the 16 potions were done. Icicle took out additional [Green Stout Stalk] and started making the last potion. His strength increased by one point once again. Even his dexterity jumped a point. He was really happy about those 4 stat points gain. Especially about the dexterity, which now costs double. With his stats increased, the time to process the ingredients was much shorter.
Icicle was finishing his potion making when a sound rang out.
Icicle looked at the potion with a dazed expression. He was sort of regretful. There was no recipe nor skill given for lucking out. Whether it was [Crafstman's splendor] skill or pure luck, it was merely one item. However, it was good enough to show his results to Adian. "It's better than a normal one." Icicle consoled himself inside.
When Icicle handed over the bottle, Adian was greatly surprised. Since Icicle knew what this item was from the tooltip, it didn't need to be identified. Even if it wasn't identified, Adian saw his master make potions. His expertise wasn't bad. It's just that his skill was somewhat lacking.
Staring at the inconspicuous vial of red liquid, Adian was delighted. 500 HP just from one small potion. It was only 3/4 full too. Really good stuff. He promised himself to give Icicle something good. As he turned around, Icicle held another vial. This one was full.
"This big one as assumed was made by combining two small potions. The rare one was just a fluke, don't expect more. If I could make such rarities, I wouldn't be in such a bind." that last line was for Adian to relieve him of any suspicions.
"Alright, this is really a great harvest. Since you're my disciple, I can't treat you poorly. Of course I won't skimp on such a talent." as he harrumphed, Adian patted his chest. After a ding sound, a blue window popped out in front of Icicle.
Icicle blinked twice to make sure he sees the rewards correctly. He actually received a book that gives off a white hue. Before he even managed to understand the situation, Adian's proud voice rang out beside him "The skill I imparted on you is used by hunters to tame various critters. It has a paralysis effect. If it's made from strong, effective herbs, it will do wonders. However, if you use the most common herbs, [Numbing Venom]'s chance to trigger won't exceed 30%."
Adian looked at Icicle affectionately and added "As for the book in your hands, it was handed to me by my father. Recently there were a lot of wasps in the area. After following their trail, my father and his guard friends found their nest. He didn't tell me the details, but it was supposedly taken from a giant wasp. Whether it's true or not I don't know. My father couldn't comprehend the obscure skill inside. He wanted me to try, so that I can have the edge over the other trainees in the exam. But, look at me, I am about to become an Alchemist! Why would I care about this book now! Take it. From now on, it's yours brother!"
Icicle blinked once again, stared at Adian for a while with his mouth agape then hurriedly nodded his head. If that fool knew it's an [Elite] grade item he definitely wouldn't let it go!
Icicle couldn't restrain his curiosity anymore, so he examined the new gains.
Icicle's eyes glittered brightly. This skill is op as nutballs! He looked at the other one.
Adjusted to the user? It means this skill can evolve together with him! Evolving technique that requires only 50 dexterity? Icicle was drooling! Adian really gave him something really good! He couldn't help but check his stats anxiously.
Icicle somewhat regretted putting three points into vitality now. But there's nothing he could do about it, how could he know such a great skill will be bestowed on him? Sighing inwardly, his mouth's corners curled a little.
Since Icicle couldn't do anything about it, he won't mind it. He was more than happy with his rewards. "So, Adian, what are we doing now?" he probed gently.
"We're going back to Vilen Town of course. We're going to be rich!" Adian smiled brightly.
"What about the guard promotion test?" Icicle furtrowed his brows and asked. This was his chance to get some levels for free.
"Who cares about that, it's not a well paid job anyways. Come on, I'll bring you out of the Humming Forest." Adian patted Icicle's back and started packing.
"Look Adian, I need to gain some levels. When I do, I'll be able to get some herbs myself. You helped me immensely, so of course I will help you out in the future, but I need your aid right now. What's more, I might have found a way to deal with the wolves faster than you think."
Adian turned around and looked at Icicle seriously. "Listen, little brother. I don't care about this trainee quest anymore. We're going back."
"You don't understand, BROTHER. Look Adian, I need help to get out of this forest, that's a fact. But you need my help to get rich. It's a mutual, beneficial relationship. Besides, killing the boss gives immense rewards. All you need to do is let me deal the finishing blow. How hard can that be? When we're finished with your task, we will get back to Vilen Town and make money. Unfortunately, if you don't want to help me out, I don't mind letting my adventurer friends know of the healing potion secrets. They'll be delighted to know them." Icicle looked at Adian with pity.
"Y-You're extorting me!" Adian helplessly shouted. In this situation he really couldn't do anything!
"Now, now. We both know it's not like that. Well then, since we're on the same page, let's form a party." blue window appeared before Adian and he resignedly pressed yes.
"Very good. Now then, equal experience distribution... Oh and I need that table to experiment a little, I'll wait for you outside." Icicle snatched Adian's wooden table and left him packing. Adian could only shake his head and sigh repeatedly, cursing his luck for associating himself with the wrong guy.