Icicle and Adian moved into the boss's territory.
"How far are we from the boss's location?" Icicle asked Adian.
"This area spans at least a few kilometres. Don't get comfortable. There's still a lot of guards before we can deal with that wolf..." Adian's face was unsightly as he remembered the time he had been wounded.
Icicle nodded and the duo traversed the forest swiftly. There was no time for hesitation and being sneaky. It would be a disaster if they encountered too large of a pack.
As they moved, Icicle noticed a herb he hasn't seen before. It was a white flower with red pistils.
Icicle read the information from the basic herb compendium he received. "So it's a common herb useful in putting little critters to sleep. Well, even if the chance is small I should take some. It's a shame only the roots are useful." Icicle shook his head as he plucked 5 [Piros Roots].
Adian only glanced at the [Piros root] as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. Inside his bag, there were hundreds of these, but he couldn't tell Icicle that. "Oh you just happened on something that's barely worth plucking." just the thought made him snigger inwardly.
Icicle wagered his options. Without time to suddenly stop and boil the herb, extracting its essence would be difficult. Icicle thought of a more mundane way, cutting the roots and letting the liquid cover the blade. It may not be practical but it should have some use.
However, with the limited information in the [Basic Herb Compendium], Icicle had no idea how loung would the longevity of the paralysis effect be. Thus, he decided to wait with the usage for the final battle. Only then would he use this minor trump card.
In the open space before Icicle, there was a large clearing riddled with caves. As far as the eye could see was grass, atop of which stood stone caves. This bizarre sight made Icicle curse inwardly. "This goddamn event is especially made disadvantageous for the players. Level 10 players would have to bring at least three tanks to deal with the wolves. Who knows, maybe the boss itself requires a cooperation of a few dozen people to kill it."
To Icicle the game had to be challenging. But this terrain was clear as day provocation! If Adian and Icicle went far in and the pack of wolves were to ambush them, there was nowhere to hide!
"No obstacles, clear line of sight. Damn it!" Icicle stamped his foot. He wanted to gain some more experience and equipment but not at the price of death. His spawning point would be unpredictable.
As he was contemplating the strategy, Adian said in a hushed voice "They're upon us!" Icicle turned around to see 5 wolves in the distance. Four of them were [Minor White Direwolves] but there was a new one.
Icicle couldn't see its level, but seeing Adian gripping his axe handle tighly, he knew it's not a small fry. "Let me handle one of the [Minor White Direwolves]. I most likely won't be able to kill it, but I can stall it for some time. You should be done with the rest by then." Icicle took out his sword and used one of the [Piros Roots] on it.
During the way Icicle gave Adian 3 of his [Turbid Medium Healing Potions]. In exchange he took 10 [Basic Healing Potions] if a situation like this were to arise. Adian was able to protect himself well. He wouldn't need too many healing potions.
Adian and Icicle both moved forward, their backs facing the clearing. In the edge of a dense forest, they planned to use the natural obstacles to deal with the wolves.
Icicle grabbed a piece of stone as he ran and threw it at one of [Minor White Direwolves]. Unfortunately, things didn't go according to plan and two of them rushed at him.
Just as he was preparing to face two of them, Adian slashed with his axe, targeting one of the thin trees. The tree fell, trapping one of the direwolves underneath. It won't be long until it gets out, but it bought Icicle some time to retreat. When it crawls out from under the tree, its aggro should switch to Adian. Icicle moved to the west to not obstruct Adian in his fight any more.
The other direwolf followed him, decreasing the distance quickly. As Icicle ran, he spotted an area with a great density of trees. It would be hard for the wolf to hit him there. Unfortunately, not only was it far, he would have trouble attacking just as well. The wolf was way faster than him. Icicle abruptly came to a stop and swung his sword!
Icicle barely outdamaged the wolf. He slashed 6 times, three of them missing. The wolf only attacked thrice, but Icicle managed to dodge two of the attacks. Overall it was a loss of an exchange. If it continued, even with his potions Icicle wouldn't be able to outsustain the direwolf.
The white predator bared its white, razor sharp. It leaped off the ground with alarming speed. Icicle sidestepped, using the momentum of the airborne wolf to direct it into a tree. Unexpectedly, the wolf landed on its paws before the tree and fiercely sprang off the ground again.
As a wolf flew straight at Icicle, he realized he had nowhere to dodge. Not willing to take the brunt of the massive impact, Icicle stabbed with his sword!
Razor sharp teeth and the steel blade collided, sending tremors through Icicle's arm. It was numb from the sheer force of impact.
Icicle withstood the forceful impact, moving only a step and a half back. He finally realized that this [Minor White Direwolf] is not an easily manageable doggie like the [Grey Alpha Wolf] before. Whether it was attack damage, defense or speed, the two belonged to two completely different leagues.
The feeling of impending doom slowly sank in within Icicle's mind. It clarified his mind and vision of all disturbances, making him focus solely on surviving. All of his senses heightened. At this point of time, Icicle forgot it's "just a game".
There was only a slight chance of Icicle winning this deadly dance with the devil. He had to wager on a chance of paralysis effect. [Piros Root] wasn't prepared correctly, so Icicle was sure it had no more 10% chance of succeeding. Besides, even if he were to trigger the effect, he needed to draw blood! With the direwolf's thick fur it will be difficult. Extremely difficult!
His blood pumping, Icicle's two hands gripped the sword even tighter. Various simulations quickly flashed through his head. He tried to find the way that gave him the highest chance of survival. Today, he had Adian as his companion, but this was only the starting area! Solo dungeoning? Pfft! If he can't even deal with a mini-boss like this, then dungeoning is a mere fool's dream!
While Icicle was thinking about this, he was under constant attack. With his body dodging and retaliating on instict, he found himself at 15/140 HP.
Quickly sliding backwards, he uncorked a potion and swigged it, refilling his health. His eyes focused on the wolf and he finally noticed what he was lacking.
"I'm such a moron, swinging my sword wildly without any purpose. This [Minor White Direwolf] isn't giving my any slack even though I'm weak! It wants to tear me apart and eat my flesh! What I need to do is to imbue my whole self with the intent to kill!" Icicle knew he had no chance of killing the wolf with one slash. He had to change his mindset to that of winning! How could he prevail if he thought of himself as the loser from the start?
His concentration reached a new height. Now it wasn't a game nor a battle he could lose. For the sake of his future gameplay and enjoyment of playing he had to overcome this obstacle.
Around Icicle's body the air started distorting a little. One would suspect there would be a flash of red or black and one's inner demons resurfaced, creating the eerie atmosphere. No. Icicle's "killing intent" manifested in a completely different way. As he let out a long breath, the shred of aura around him was filled with calm, shrewdness and ruthlessness! There wasn't any desire to kill but to conquer! It was as if the [Minor White Direwolf] couldn't even enter his eyes.
But that's what appeared on the outside. Inside, Icicle knew he's still too weak to think that way. Only a true expert had the right to be arrogant, because he could back it up with strength. All he did right now was show his ambition to become someone great. Without training, fortuitous circumstances and luck he's not likely to ever reach a grand level.
Today was his first big step in the new world, Loiterous. If he could prevail against the [Minor White Direwolf] then the path before him will be that of someone strong. However, if he were to bail out, this experience will forever gnaw on his mind, restricting his growth.
[Minor White Direwolf] sensed Icicle's change of aura and became cautious. It didn't attack rashly like before, but started looking for openings. Icicle suddenly dashed off!
The wolf raised its left paw and swiped in front of itself. Expecting Icicle to block the blow with his sword, the wolf prepared to claw with the second paw. Unexpectedly, Icicle stopped gripping the sword with two hands, he moved the sword to his right hand, while his left hand clutched the wolf's paw!
[Minor White Direwolf]'s abdominal area was sliced, leaving behind a minor wound. If Icicle had a better sword or if his strength was slightly higher, he might have left a huge gash!
Enraged by the cheap blow of the human, the direwolf stood on its hind paws. It distinguished the vulnerable neck of the human before it. It tried to bite at Icicle's neck, finishing this bout at once! Icicle quickly raised his left shoulder and blocked the bite with it.
"Arghhhhhhhh!" Icicle let out a bloodcurdling shout. Trying to endure the excruciating pain of fangs ripping through his flesh, he gritted his teeth. His sword was plunged deeper in the wolf's stomach. He tried to force the wound to open even more!
Feeling the changes in his abdominal area, the direwolf bit even more ferociously, making Icicle's forehead drip with sweat, his face draining of blood.
"This had better work...!" Icicle drawled out before taking out two [Piros Roots]. He cut off the roots using the sharp side of the plunged blade. As the liquid started flowing out, he placed the roots on his palm and shoved it into the wolf's open wound!
Direwolf shuddered then his teeth bit even deeper! Icicle's legs grew weak and he felt like he was about to fall. He persevered, tearing through the wolf's flesh with his hand, spreading the paralysis effect!
Plunging it deep enough, he uncorked another potion and drank half, the other half he sprayed under the wolf's bite. With his pain lessening only a little, Icicle tried to grab the wolf and slam it aside, but it was difficult! The wolf was too heavy!
"Goddamn you, are you trying to wrestle me?!" Icicle cursed the wolf. He grabbed its back with difficulty again and threw out a knee!
Not giving a damn about the numbers, Icicle started viciously kneeing the wolf in the stomach. Direwolf still ravaged his flesh, making him feel the excruciating pain.
His tactic wasn't working, so Icicle grabbed the sword, kneed the wolf and forcefully plunged it out!
With a critical blow, the wolf started bleeding more profusely. Icicle gripped the sword handle and stabbed it horizontally, straight at the wolf's left eye!
The damage numbers increased, but Icicle was losing blood as well. The damage he took wasn't light, he couldn't continue like this forever!
Stabbing the eyes even more ferociously, Icicle saw that the wolf didn't give in. "Damn it!" Icicle gnashed his teeth so hard they were on the verge of cracking. He gripped the sword lighter, letting his right hand fall.
[Minor White Direwolf] perceived it as a sign of weakness and let up some of the intense pressure. It too needed a moment of reprieve. That's when Icicle suddenly struck!
He pierced the direwolf's jaw from below, maliciously pulling the sword out only to shove it in deeper! Now even more wounds riddled the [Minor White Direwolf]'s body.
Unable to bear the intense pain and vulnerable position it got itself into, direwolf released its bite lock and quickly backed out.
Icicle stared at the direwolf and it stared back at him. Whoever prevailed would be called the predator. The loser doesn't deserve any recognition! He will end up as food on the plate of the victor!
Icicle gripped his left shoulder, trying to stop the bleeding, but to no use. He still had to wait for 15 seconds before his potions could be used.
[Minor White Direwolf] wasn't in a better shape. Its jaw and abdomen were heavily bleeding, decreasing its life force bit by bit. As the blood trickled down, its eyes started to lose their luster, as if veiled with mist. The direwolf staggerred like a drunkard, having trouble maintaining its balance.
Icicle didn't dare to move forward. This could be the ruse of the wolf. Right now they were at equal standing, but once he drank the potion his situation would be upended! He'll gain absolute advantage. Thus, there was no reason for him to make the first move. He can be manly when he's strong, right now he's like a new born baby - weak!
More and more blood trickled down from direwolf's body, making a puddle of sanguine liquid underneath its paws. [Piros Roots] were still plunged underneath its skin, releasing their essence. With less and less blood, its effect surfaced!
As if on cue, Icicle saw the direwolf falling on its side, panting heavily. He rushed forward and stabbed with his sword at the abdominal area, making the wound even more severe!
Five seconds were almost up. Icicle quickly withdrew, propping himself up on his sword. Huffing and puffing, he tried spreading the oxygen all over his body.
In Icicle's head various thoughts made their way into his mind. One was the most dreadful "What if the bleeding stopped?" Certainly, Icicle had no way of defeating [Minor White Direwolf] even if he was in his "in the zone" state. The only thing that could save him was either the wolf losing large portion of its enormous health bar on its own or if it ended up crippled! Icicle didn't see Adian nearby and he himself didn't have the required speed nor reflexes to skillfully target the same part of the direwolf's body over and over again.
One or two lucky hits against its paws would be feasible, but could he really cripple the powerful, sinewy paw with just two measly hits? Hell no!
Thus, his only option was to create a circumstance where he could surely hit the vulnerable spots on the direwolf's body. Fortunately, the wolf caught onto his bait, biting down on his neck. If he hadn't been prepared, with his low movement speed, Icicle wouldn't be able to block the jaws of death!
A moment ago, when the wolf was paralysed, Icicle didn't strike the eyes or the insides of the wolf's throat because he had to ensure the bleed effect! He didn't know how long did it last nor if it could be recovered from. In case it worked like in normal MMOs, where the bleed would only work for a short period of time, he stabbed the wolf in his abdomen to restart the timer!
Right now, Icicle was propping himself up on his sword, looking at the whimpering direwolf on the ground. The direwolf stood up with its last strength, struggling to keep its balance. Its eyes had a strong fighting spirit emanating from them.
Icicle inferred the meaning. [Minor White Direwolf] knew it was going to die so it wanted to go down fighting! As a player he absolutely despised himself for throwing out his advantage, but as a man... he understood! No one wants to go down as a weakling, it's better to die fighting than bedridden in bed!
Icicle mustered his strength and dashed off towards the direwolf. His movements agile, his sword gripped in his right hand, Icicle advanced valiantly!
Clang! Clang! Clang!
The sword and the claws clashed, the force of impact much less than before, but just as ferocious. Althought the strength behind the blows waned, their fighting spirits were lifted, burning fiercely like an azure flame in the middle of the night.
Their best moves clashing, rivaling each other, measuring the worth of the opponent. Both Icicle and the [Minor White Direwolf] long ago recognized each other as rivals. Now it was the time to show what they're worth!
The sounds of panting and clashing continued, sparks flew whenever the claws and sword intertwined in a deathly silent environment. Every little critter nearby has long gone into hiding. One after the other, the tremors of the two forces clashing ran through the soil, disturbing the creatures underground.
Soon after, only one sound emerged in the middle of the humming trees.
Icicle slumped down to the ground. Looking at all of the loot before him, his mouth curled into a smile. He grabbed all of the items and his weak voice emerged, almost undetectable "Thank you for teaching me a very important lesson. I can't slack in the future. There will be many who will cross my path. People and creatures who are stronger than both you and me. I'll remember you, friend..." after mumbling that out Icicle blacked out.
Icicle woke up, he was covered with a blanket, laying on another one. Behind him he could feel a source of warmth. He turned his body and looked at Adian who was leaning on a tree, his eyes closed.
"I have to tell you kid, you're quite a handful." Adian's voice rang out as his eyes snapped open. He looked at Icicle with more and more curiosity and warmth.
"What happenned?" Icicle asked, he remembered dueling the wolf, even emerging victorious, but then his memory is hazy.
"I found you on the ground, bleeding profusely from the remnant of your left shoulder, lights out. You didn't even flinch when I was carrying you here." Adian shook his head as if rebuking Icicle for his lack of awareness.
Icicle looked at the time and another 4 hours passed. He was in the world of Loiterous for 12 hours now, equaling 6 hours in real time. It was 2am in the real world.
"So, how was it?" Adian asked with curiosity.
"How was what?" Icicle was still tired, he didn't grasp the meaning.
"The girl!" Adian laughed deviously "What the hell are you thinking, the fight with the direwolf of course!" Adian shook his head. This kid was ridiculously dumb at times.
"Oh, that." Icicle smiled faintly, he knew he was being made fun of. "I was at a large disadvantage. If not for my scheme working out and the paralysis taking effect, I would most likely lose terribly. Fortunately, it all worked out. Then, when I saw the [Minor White Direwolf] standing up, trembling, looking at me with fighting spirit, I couldn't use the potion. I would feel ashamed if I did. I know it's wrong, but I just felt that I learned too much from that wolf. I simply couldn't recover my health in the middle of such a fight. Maybe it was deep respect? Honestly, I don't know. Anyways, I duked it out at the end, not minding my injury. I remember grabbing the loot before I passed out." Icicle told his story.
Adian laughed raucously. "I think like you're leaving out a larger part of your story, but that's okay. As long as you know how to deal with such a situation, it's fine." Adian smiled brightly "By the way, the feeling you had when fighting - that's exactly what it feels like to be a man! I truly didn't pick a wrong discip-
Adian was interrupted "That's right, the loot!" Icicle stared at the pop up windows and the copious amount of items that dropped.
Adian frowned, but seeing the light lit up in his disciple's eyes he only sighed. He was once the same as Icicle is. Brave and full of fighting spirit. Although weak, whenever he managed to grab some loot his eyes would shine.
"I gained a charisma point, huh? I don't know what it's used for yet, but it probably has something to do with the fighting spirit. 800 experience? But nothing else? I presume there's a proximity range for the party member to gain the experience. I didn't receive even a tiny bit from Adian after all. That's most likely why the whole 800 experience was allocated to me for soloing the [Minor White Direwolf]." Icicle summarised and then examined his inventory.
There were two other items.
This item looked like a bag made from wolf's fur. It gave off a blue hue, meaning it was a [Rare] grade! Icicle's eyes lit up! Next one on the list was... a ring!
This ring was silver with various golden inscriptions on it, at the middle of which were a howling direwolf! However, what's weird is that it gave off no hue, yet it couldn't be identified! Icicle looked at it like it was the best treasure ever. He even pulled it out of the inventory to glance at it from closer up and feel its texture!
Adian noticed his actions and laughed heartily "Do you need this baby identified? I can help you."
Icicle reluctantly averted his gaze from the ring and blurted out "Huh?" They looked at each other and Icicle added "Weren't you a trainee and an Alchemist already? Are you telling me you're a Merchant as well?"
Adian scratched his head and said embarrassingly "Well, you didn't believe me when I said my father just forked out 5 gold coins, right? Of course he wouldn't spend this much on me, he had his equipment to take care of and the family to feed. The cost of living in Vilen Town isn't cheap. I had to work to earn some money as well. After I tirelessly served under a wandering merchant for a year, I learned various tricks. One of them was [Identify] skill. You simply have to see a lot of the world to gain it." Even though he said that in a self-deprecating way, Adian still looked proud.
"Can you do anything else?" Icicle mumbled out. He was shocked! Not only was Adian an Alchemist but he was a Merchant as well. What's more he knew [Identify] skill, why would he give the book to him then?!
"You must be wondering why I gave you that [Elite] grade book, eh?" Adian's words thundered in Icicle's mind. He hit the nail right on the head!
"Hahaha, you really thought I'm this careless? Come on! From what I've seen, when you adventurers learn a skill, the books disintegrate into particles. My father and I have read the book. However, as you have probably seen, I can only comprehend a small part of it. That's why I can shift my ankles faster than others." Adian explained.
"Alright, here, identify these for me." Icicle threw three items to Adian. He didn't fear getting robbed. If Adian had any misgivings about him, he would have robbed him already. There was also a slight possiblity of Adian being the greatest villain ever, but Icicle disregarded the notion. How could the starting NPC be so cruel after all? Nix wouldn't be so heartless, would she?
"Just so you know, I can't identify everything. Anything that's [Legendary] rank or above is impossible for me." Adian said blandly and started examining the items...