Icicle and Adian were teleported to a primeval location. The trees all around were lush, their leaves dark green in color, as if their growth was unimpeded by the humankind. The wind flowing through the tree tops gave off a low reverberating hum. Its soothing sound create a serene atmosphere. Icicle finally understood why this place was called the "Humming Forest".
The squirrel princess climbed onto Icicle’s palm and jumped through his legs, disappearing behind him. Turning around, Icicle found her sitting on a tall stump, bizarrely fenced in by large vertical black posts embedded into the ground.
Seeing that the little princess looked like she was there to stay, Icicle quickly brought up some acorns he gathered on his way here. He had to make sure that the little princess wasn’t in any mood for “patting” him approvingly.
Although to the adorable creature in front of him its ‘nice pat on the head’ may seem like a loving way to show Icicle her care, for Icicle it was as though he was on the losing end of a bare knuckle brawl with a giant!
As soon as Icicle placed his offerings near the princess, he looked over the area. This place looked awfully similar to the [Red Devil's Tribe]'s area. However, Icicle and Adian were clearly teleported to a secret location within it. The color of the leaves was much darker and the squirrels perched on top of the trees were several meters high. Their fur was either black or reddish in color, not to mention that compared to the squirrels Icicle had already seen they appeared far more powerful.
"Where are we?" Adian blurted out anxiously. It was the first time he has experienced something like this. No one in the Vilen Town ever spoke of such otherworldly magic.
"It appears to be the Humming Forest. My guess is that we were teleported to a secret location within it." Icicle calmly answered. Based on his gaming experience, this should be a low level raid. However, they only have two people. Icicle has no good gear and their resources are limited. This situation is one hell of a mess!
Icicle sternly looked at Adian "It's worse than I thought. I don't know what fellow that [Primeval Direwolf] is, but it sure as hell sounds scary. Any thoughts?"
Adian shuddered. "That guy is here?" Suddenly his eyes seemed a lot sharper. There was no more "innocent youth" kind of feel to him. All that was left was excitement and desire to kill!
"I'm glad they're your acquaintances, but please do not disturb the fight of the [Primeval Direwolf] and the [Red Devil] unless it's absolutely necessary. In 15 minutes everything will start. The pack that chased us probably won't even compare to the one we'll about to meet." Icicle scowled. "Do you have anything that will aid me in battle?" he asked.
"Listen, my dear disciple, it's not like I don't have anything, bu-
"Brother, you can't be so blackhearted. This entire situation is made for hundreds if not thousands of adventurers like me. Be so kind and help this poor brother out. It is wicked not to share with your fellow companions." Icicle gave a lofty speech.
"Damn you, you're such a bother! Here, these elixirs should help you somewhat!" Adian threw a bundle covered with cloth. His expression was livid. his eyes saying "Damn disciple, always extorting me!
Icicle caught the bundle, making sure that nothing slipped out.
Knowing the items should be valuable, Icicle’s eyes glimmered with greed. He looked at Adian with “give me more” expression.
"Don't even think about anything else. Those cost me a fortune!" Adian grumbled. Those elixirs weren't of any use to him, but he could see the greed in Icicle's eyes rising to an unfathomable height. He had to stop him!
"Spill it out, you money bag!" Icicle rebuked. "I swear to God I'll make it worthwhile for you. When we get back to town we'll both be rich! If you think I'm lying then you can kill me all over when we get back to Vilen Town!" fiercely declaring that, Icicle imitated Adian and patted his bare chest.
"Oh really? And how do we get rich?" Adian asked suspiciously. There is no way he will give out more without assurance!
"We'll profit from the furs! I'll first sell some rare ones, then I'll buy out the whole stock from Hunters and the Tailor so the prices of all the furs increase! When that happens, we'll sell all of our stock and profit immensely!" there was no need to hide his plan, Icicle was going to share with Adian anyways. That guy had many traits, one of which was free [Identifying]! Who knows how much will the players charge for this. Keeping this guy as an ally was a wise thing to do.
"Assuming your plan works, what's the split?" Adian didn't let go. If he were to profit, he first needed to calculate the amount.
"50-50 of course!" Icicle replied righteously.
"40-60. I invested a lot in you, meaning that I need a larger share to cover my expenses." Of course Adian wanted more! He was in a position of power!
Icicle glared at him fiercely "Oh really? You want to scam this fellow brother that is so kind-hearted towards you? How about this. I'll leave this space and you'll be stuck here forever. What do you think?"
"Come on, you wouldn't do that. Not to me... right?" Adian saw that Icicle's eyes were resolute and ruthless.
"Want to try me?" the smile Icicle gave was bone chilling.
"Unfilial disciple! Scoundrel! Bastard!" Adian cursed as he backed off slowly. He got rid of all the appearances and wore the battle armor. Two large one-handed axes filled his hands. His disposition gave off an intimidating feeling of power.
"Yes, yes, that's indeed me, your precious disciple. Now fork out the items." Icicle reached out with his open palm. He wasn't scared at all!
Adian looked at him lifelessly. Can't he get the hint?! How greedy can this guy get?! "I don't know what you mean." Adian tried to avoid the inevitable.
"Oh come on, you dressed so nicely and you don't have anything for this poor disciple? The more wolves this impoverished disciple gets rid of, the more furs he has to sell." Icicle strolled forward and said.
Seeing Icicle's left palm opened like a beggar waiting for handouts, Adian's grip on the axes tightened. He envisioned chopping Icicle to pieces, just like he chopped wood!
"Come on, strike. Me leaving or dying is the same thing. You'll only stay here for your whole life. But who cares, right? At least the scenery is nice. Refreshing gale, humming of trees, serene forest. Who wouldn't want to stay here? I'm sure you'll fare well as a hermit." Icicle smiled nonchalantly as he walked even closer. Adian finally realized what kind of person he has taken in as disciple. It wasn't human, it was a devil hiding in a human’s skin!
At this point, Adian no longer thought of killing Icicle. He thought of killing himself! When he was young, he often tried to extort some items and food out of the merchants. He appeared shy, innocent, poor. Every single appearance he donned looked convincing. However, what he gained were scraps! And his disciple? He doesn't even pretend to be good! He clearly as day extorts him and doesn't have any qualms about it!
Overwhelmed with grief and powerlessness against such insatiable greed, Adian attempted another tactic - feigning weakness! "Fine, you win. Here’s all of the novice equipment I have. But I'm not giving it to you. I'm lending it for the duration of the battle. Do we understand each other?" this was his last chance to avoid the losses! The repair cost was much lower than buying a whole new practice set... If this doesn't work, he's in big trouble!
"Really? Thank you master, you're such a benevolent person. This disciple will remember your great gift. Such a shame it's only temporarily though..." Icicle looked like a beaten up puppy.
Adian heaved a long sigh. The relief he felt couldn't be put into words. It was like a whole mountain that dropped heavily on his shoulders has suddenly been lifted.
As he looked at the joy and greed that intermittently flashed in Icicle's eyes, Adian couldn't help but ask "Are you the same shameless bastard in your world?"
"Not at all. In my world, I can afford anything I want. There's no need for shamelessness." Icicle replied absentmindedly.
"Then how come a spoiled brat like you dares to be so despicable in here?" Adian couldn't understand. If he's rich, can't he just buy the items from the adventurers?
"I earned it all myself." Just one sentence. There was nothing else to say. Adian immediately understood why he lost the argument. He had faced an expert! Someone who amassed a boundless wealth by playing dirty! How could his lousy tricks and measle schemes compare to a real swindler?
"There's this saying in my world. "The first million you have to steal." Do you understand what it means?" Icicle looked at Adian equivocally.
Adian nodded affirmatively. He felt enlightened. Right now he was hundred percent sure he wasn't dealing with a youth but with a grand extortionist.
While Icicle was profiting handsomely from Adian’s misery, the crowd of players approached the Red Devil's Tribe boundary. To their surprise, there were only a few wolves on the way. Most of them were high leveled, but under a massive wave of players they were quickly disposed of. All the people gathered have come to reclaim their losses!
Fortunately, not all of them had their respawn points set at Vilen Town. Many players found a little shrine inside the Humming Forest. You could set your respawn point there. The only drawback was that it cost you money for every revive.
Arriving at the [Red Devil's Tribe]'s territory, the throng of players was pulled into the ongoing event.
Enna and her party arrived there as well. They didn't suffer any damage from the wolves' attack, because they logged in late. Even though they have gained classes, they logged off in the middle of the night to get some sleep. Although they had slept only for a few hours, the party was woken up with desire to play. The rumors of a player named Icicle quickly spread. Some people said he indirectly caused their deaths! However, what they also mentioned was that he triggered some kind of event.
Enna appeared in Nix's booth right after Icicle. She heard the female developer curse his name as she fumed. Fortunately, it didn't have an effect on her starting point.
"You told us this Icicle was cursed by the developer, eh? I wonder what he did." Faura, the leader of the party mused. To the group she was like a big sister.
“Who cares what he did, right now we have this opportunity thanks to him. We should use it thoroughly.” the Archer, Headshot, commented. The possibility of a low level event in the beginner village appealed to him. He could imagine how high will his level rise.
“Do you think that there will be any Fire magic spellbooks? The base spells are alright, but against tougher enemies…” Inferno asked. His spells drained his mana quickly, but if they were to be stronger, he wouldn’t have to cast them often. Mana potions won’t be that costly by then, will they?
“That depends what enemies we face. Remember we have barely managed to get 2 sets of [Basic] grade equipment. FieryRed has one, with the other on SilentStep. The rest of us wear scraps from monsters and tutorial rewards. Don’t act too cocky.” Faura reminded. It was good to be brave, but bravery shouldn’t equal stupidity.
"So what do we do now?" FieryRed who played Paladin asked impatiently. She was rearing to go against the monsters.
"Let's look around. The notice said we should familiarize ourselves with the area." SilentStep, the Rogue, replied indifferently.
Icicle grinned mischievously as he looked through the list of gear that Adian had ‘graciously loaned’ him.
"Mm, these are quite good. Thanks brother. This little disciple will forever remember your kindness." Icicle made a curtsy like a noble. Adian stared at him bewildered. He really has encountered a better con man than himself!
There was no helmet, but Icicle knew the reason. It would hinder his vision. Adian liked to move around, of course he wouldn't take it. The second point was far less sophisticated. Adian liked to show off! He thought of himself as handsome, why would he cover his face?!
Grinning evilly, Icicle glanced at his new weapon.
"You're not going to use two swords?" Adian asked impatiently. He has forked out his novice equipment that he didn't need, but he had to appear stalwart. He could get a couple gold coins for it back in town.
"Those wolves we met had dealt far more damage than me. I can't suppress them with strength alone, so what's the point? Using this [Warrior's Bastard Sword] as a two-handed weapon allows me to at least stay my ground! If I'm not mistaken, even stronger creatures will appear this time." Icicle looked around and noticed several dozens of players. "There are more people. Good. We can use them as reinforcements or bait." Icicle commented.
Adian looked at him helplessly. This disciple of his was far too devious. "Do you remember the plan?" Icicle asked.
Adian nodded. "Yes, we're staying here and protecting the little squirrel princess behind us. That way we can gather the most furs. If the need arises, we'll just take her with us and charge at the [Primeval Direwolf]." Adian recited. This plan was something he wouldn't think of. Not because he was stupid, but because he liked direct way of fighting. Sneaking around the corners and defending some areas simply didn't appeal to him.
"Look, there he is!" Faura pointed with her slender hand. The group of six quickly approached Icicle.
Icicle gave the newcomers a once over with interest. Most of the people who arrived in this space stayed in groups on the sides and didn't approach him. They were pissed off, but taking into account he's the one who started the event, they worried his death might cancel it. That didn't prevent them from killing him after the event's done though.
"Hello." Faura opened with a bright smile. Icicle looked at her and asked "Do we know each other?"
Faura laughed out loudly "Yes and no." she shook her head slightly. "Oh?" Icicle was intrigued. He craned his neck to the right where a girl in short brown hair stood. Her black eyes seemed to be twinkling.
Icicle was about to ask if she has taken fancy to him when Enna erupted first "So you're the one, huh? That female developer was really mad. I thought she's going to roast me!" she made a pouting expression. Her face was so close it was almost touching Icicle's.
"Being this close to a boy, girls these days are really bold." Icicle laughed as he scratched his chin. Enna instantly backed away, as red as a strawberry. Icicle turned to Faura "I guess we're somewhat acquainted then."
"Haha, Enna was so scared when she told us what happened. Anyways, we won't meddle in your business with Nix, but we wouldn't mind getting some information on what's going on here." Faura flashed a beautiful smile. The group didn't hide their real purpose and played open cards.
Icicle felt he somewhat owed Enna for facing Nix’s fiery temper because of him. "This is obviously a low level raid. I would suggest you to form 8 man parties as soon as possible." Icicle said in a loud voice, alarming quite a few of the players.
Icicle reciprocated Faura's smile and stood there thoughtfully. The players who gathered on the clearing clearly heard his words. They immediately started discussing the news.
"Do you think he's lying?" one man asked suspiciously.
"What for? The system gave us the notification. How could he forge that?" the other commented.
Those two quickly reached an understanding. Many others concluded just as much. Their previous unfortunate encounter turned into a once in a lifetime opportunity! If they profited here, they will be set for early game!
Meanwhile, Faura gently approached Icicle. "Would you and your companion care to join us?" she emanated friendliness and honesty.
However, Icicle didn't even seem to hear the question. He quickly replied with "Show me your status."
Faura furrowed her brows. She was about to ask if Icicle thinks of her party as not worthy when Icicle added "I'm not checking your stats, hurry up."
Faura was still confused, but seeing the great urgency on the man's face she reluctantly opened up her status window and shared it.
Just like he thought, Nix did something to his character. The amount of experience he needed in comparison to Faura was terrifying.
Faura wasn't wearing a [Basic] grade set, only some beginner equipment and other scraps found from the monsters, so of course her statistics weren't as impressive as Icicle's. Icicle made a mental note to deal with whatever Nix did to him later. Filing a complaint was not his style, but sending a ticket to revoke the "bug" didn't sound so bad. For now he'll roll with it and see if this setting has any unforeseen advantages.
"I see, thanks." Icicle nodded his head. He turned to Adian and talked in a low voice for a while. Adian's face was distorting with rage but it swiftly calmed. What replaced it was approval and agreement. When Icicle finished talking to the NPC, he addressed the rearing to go throng of people "I'm sorry to disturb all of you, but there's something you should know."
Slowly gaining the attention of the nearby players, Icicle continued. Meanwhile Faura and her friends stood on the side, feeling completely disregarded.
"This man behind me, Adian, is a Merchant who lost his fortune to the wolves. The reason this location appeared is because of him. He needs to collect 2000 wolf furs, 1000 wolf claws and 500 pieces of wolf meat. Anyone who helps him succeed in his quest will receive 5 free of charge identifications and discount for his items and potions. Those that contribute immensely will be able to exchange their contribution for items. That's all, have a nice day." Icicle finished speaking and turned back to the small wooden fence.
Icicle accepted the invite. Faura tried her best not to feel offended and said "We're willing to accept the quest." she even smiled amiably. Icicle apologized for his distraction and asked Adian to hand them the task.
Only a few people came forward. The rest of players didn't want to help out some Merchant. The loot was worth much more than the temporary gains. They would soon leave the beginning area after all.
Adian immediately frowned and grumbled "You said there will be many people coming. Unless I have gone blind I can't see it happening."
Adian decided to execute Icicle's plan on a whim. He had to use some of his resources to spread his fame. Only this way will he gain any customers once he becomes a proper Alchemist. However, Icicle's plan assumed that at the very least a few hundreds of players will come to assist him. That didn't happen.
"What are you grumbling about? Of course they won't come now. Only when the adventurers realize their inventories are full, will they come to drop these items for you. Wait until the battle starts." Icicle reassured him.
Icicle walked back to the squirrel princess with Faura's party in tow. As they chatted, Icicle learned that Faura's party consists of Rogue, Archer, Paladin, Lighting Mage, Fire Mage and Priest. Faura and her party members were friends in real life. They appeared at the same area because they lived together in a dormitory. Since they logged in almost at the same time, they were shoved into the same local area. This was quite fortunate for them.
"Would you and your companion care to join us?" Faura tried again. Her voice was brisk. The [Ingrained Enmity] event was about to start. Many other parties formed nearby, but Faura wanted to establish relationship with someone who actually started the event. Who knows what Icicle might be hiding.
"How about you join my party instead?" Icicle said with confidence.
Thinking about it, Faura consulted with her members in the group chat and nodded. FieryRed made a unwilling expression but she agreed at the end."That's okay too." Faura accepted.
Icicle sent the invitations and his party became a full 8 man party.
Faura frowned and asked "You're classless?"
"I haven't been to town yet." Icicle concisely replied.
"Huh?" Enna looked at Icicle with interest "Did Nix send you here?"
"Haha, yeah, I was supposed to delete this character and repent I guess." Icicle nodded. Enna appeared rather quick-witted.
"What were you doing all this time?" Inferno followed up.
"I was helping Adian deal with some obstacles-
Icicle's answer was cut off by a wild, ferocious howl from the north. All the players which counted at least 2000 by now quickly focused their attention there. Their weapons were quickly raised as the say the horde of wolves approaching.
[Red Devil's Tribe] didn't slack either. Their orange and grey fur members emerged in thousands from the other side of the forest!