Ark: Volume 3 Chapter 2

//Ark: Volume 3 Chapter 2

Ark: Volume 3 Chapter 2

This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Charles, Lastear, and Lei. Special thanks to Moodavid and Ark112.

Hear ye, hear ye! All residents ye Japtem Kingdom!

Our Overlord feels heartbroken for not being able to supply her people with the dose of Moonlight Sculptor on time, so as compensation, she has arranged for this chapter to be released early. Long live the Overlord!

(Ha! What a fake. I will never bow down to you insolent quack of an Overlord. I am close to achieving my goal. All I need is a trigger. A trigger to set off a sudden panic in the Kingdom. And while your elite troops are trying to calm down the people, I will find you and assassinate you. My dream will be complete. I will become the new Overlord! Oh you poor soon-to-be ex-Overlord. No worries, I will make you the people will remember you as the worst Overlord in history and as a dictator. You should thank me in advance!)


To Jackson Castle

“Whew… I’m alive, for now.”

Ark got up and checked his Health.

He had lost about 400 Health.

The Cat Knight special skill reduced the damage from the fall by 50%. His forward roll, which had utilized the Flexibility stat, further reduced the damage by an extra 30%. Even so, he took 400 damage, meaning the amount he should have taken was 2000 damage. Users without resistance for falling would have perished the instant they hit the ground.

As expected, he saw quite a few bodies lying around.

‘Ah, this is bad. It’s an absolute LARA zone.’

[T/N: LARA is Licensed Agency for Relief of Asia, meaning that Ark’s surroundings look like a disaster zone.]

A classic Tomb Raider Adventure Game he’d played a bit in the past came to mind. It was a game where a young, perfectly normal-looking girl named Lara dashed around finding treasure. When she fell from a high place every once in a while, it was a game over with the gruesome sight of twisted limbs.

The users scattered on the ground were exactly like that. Their bodies had to stay lying like that until the 3 days were up and they could login again.

‘I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy quest, but….’

After completing many unusual quests, Ark’s ability to judge a situation had become quick. There was nothing the players could’ve done about the airship crash. In other words, this was a scenario where users had no power to change the situation. It was clear that this fact was an inferable conclusion.

Receiving the quest was only possible at level 60. But receiving the quest and having the qualifications to participate in it were completely different. It meant the minimum qualifications to truly start the quest were the ability to quickly judge the situation and one or two special skills to survive the airship crash.

‘What to do now…’ Ark took a moment to check his surroundings.

His surroundings were heavily clouded in darkness. The ground also had a rotten, mushy feel to it. This was probably also an effect of the Dark Fog.

Of course, something of this sort was no problem Ark. Once he cast Eyes of the Cat, his surroundings turned green and his vision brightened.

The night vision was an extra benefit of Eyes of the Cat.

‘Now, should I look for survivors, or…’

“Those who are alive, please gather here!”

Just then, he heard someone’s voice from one side. The dazed people hesitantly gathered around. There were more survivors than expected. But Warriors with high Health and defense were nowhere to be seen.

That was because the weight of the plate armor worn by Warriors caused them to take extra falling damage. The people with leather or cloth armor, such as Archers and Mages, took no extra damage, and their survival rate was increased with high Agility or lightweight magic spells.

There were about 40 survivors. 60 people hit the ground and were forcefully logged out.

The one who gathered the survivors was, of course, an Archer in leather armor and a feathered cap. He must’ve had a lot of experience as a leader, as he quickly took control of the situation and took the lead.

“You all are probably aware of the situation, the fall of the airship was a planned event. Getting to Jackson Castle was our first given task. Luckily, the Spear of Thor took out most of the monsters in the area. But there are going to be some monsters that survived, and more monsters are going to come. Since we still have the numbers, let’s make an attack unit and move to Jackson.”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

“Since there are currently many vacancies in parties, please remake your parties. Others, please use food to recover your Health and Mana.”

The people who survived were definitely quick at reading the situation.

They recovered Health while eating food, and checked each others classes as they remade parties. And with the Archer as the leader, the parties united into an attack unit.

However, Ark thought they were actually strange. ‘What? Are these people in their right minds?’

After confirming the number of survivors, the first thing that came to Ark’s mind was not Jackson Castle. Wasn’t it obvious?

There were 40 users who survived. Which meant there were 60 corpses lying around the vicinity. So to say, there could be around 60 items dropped in this area.

Granted, since their alignments were neutral, or they were rookie users, the drop rate was not that high. But there were 60 of them. Even if there was only a 10% drop rate, it was 6 items… Plus, were they your average users? They were at least level 60 users. The chance the items inside their bags were worth a lot was very high. At the very least, the recovery potion in the supply box distributed by The Magic Institute was worth 20 gold if sold in a store.

‘If I get lucky and even pick up an equipment item…’

An undisputable jackpot!

That wasn’t all. There were still countless numbers of dead monsters from the Spear of Thor and naval gun barrage. Well, it was hard to expect much since most were completely destroyed by the guns, but there could be an item dropped by a monster. Shouldn’t the very first thing a survivor should do be picking up such a lovely item? That was the duty and right of a survivor!

… At the very least, Ark thought as such.

However, it seemed like the other users hadn’t thought that far yet. Of course, after going through such a traumatic event, there wouldn’t be many users who would think of items first.

Maybe there were a few with the same idea, but it was dark, and one wouldn’t know when the monsters would return… They would’ve thought there was no time to pick up items. But Ark was quite different, he was willing to risk his life even for one more copper.

‘None of them are in their right minds. If they only cared about being alive, then why did they join the quest? Wasn’t it because of the profit that they joined in on this quest? To ignore the items in front of their noses despite that and go running to Jackson because they’re scared of monsters that may or may not come… For me, I’d rather take the items and die!’

Of course, this wasn’t something to be said aloud.

‘Hehehe, this is better for me. Yeah, all of you should leave. This guy will take all the lovely items for you.’

As soon as Ark made the decision, he quickly used ‘Stealth’. Ark’s body instantly became one with the darkness and disappeared. Thanks to that, the other users didn’t notice Ark. They only thought of getting out of the place as quickly as possible. As such, they glanced around roughly, formed the attack unit, and headed towards Jackson Castle.

After checking to make sure the others were gone, Ark released ‘Stealth’ and summoned his Familiars.

“Dedric, Skull. Comb the vicinity. Search the areas where there are bodies of strangers particularly carefully. If you find any item at all, let me know immediately.”

“Master, are you now going so far as to rob corpses?”

With an appearance of a little kid, Dedric looked at Ark with pity.

Dedric had started to talk back a while ago. It was because Ark wasn’t used to hearing honorifics, and also because using honorifics in battle was inconvenient. But while allowing him to speak however he wanted, Dedric had started to crawl back to his bad habits.

“Do you want to eat some cooking, or do you want to search the corpses?”

“Hah, I get to try all sorts of things while living.”

Dedric made his discomfort clear as he changed into a bat and flew off.

However, the loyal Skull rolled around searching the surroundings without a second word.

‘It would been better if Skull had the ability to talk instead…’

It was such a pity.

As such, the one human and two Familiars worked hard at searching the corpses. But because the corpses were scattered in a wide area range, it took a lot of time.

How much time must have passed like that? While diligently searching the area, they finally reached the place where the debris of the airship was.

‘Ara? What is this?’

Suddenly, a black object next to the body of a Mage caught his eye.

At a casual glance, the shape wasn’t very different from a stone on the ground, but there was no chance that Ark, who had his eyes wide open so as to not miss a single japtem, would miss it.

As soon as he hurriedly picked it up, an information window popped up.

Fruit of Basium

The Fruit of Basium, also known as the plant of dreams. Basium is a very rare, ancient plant found only in a part of the northern continent.

It is known to possess a violent nature and will move on its own to hunt animals and devour them when it grows. After it gets enough nutrients from hunting, the Basium will bear fruit once in tens, or hundreds of years.

If the Fruit of Basium is prepared in a special way, it will multiply the abilities of various reagents and magics. As a result, it was hunted indiscriminately by magicians of old, and now almost none are left. That is the reason why it is called the plant of dreams.

‘So this is a magic ingredient?’

Ark glanced at the Fruit of Basium with curious eyes.

A Warrior learned new skills through training and repetition. But a Magician had a different method of learning new spells.

The easiest method was to go to the Magic Institute and pay to learn a new spell. But the disadvantages to this were that it cost money and you could only learn common spells. In addition, they didn’t sell very many spells.

Because of this, in order to learn stronger magics, Magicians of a certain level spent day and night searching for ancient ruins. It was to find magic books left by ancient magicians. These magic books were stronger than the spells sold by the Magic Institute, and there were many unique ones.

In other words, just as a Merchant risked his life to trade in order to raise his market share, for Magicians, the ultimate goal was to find magic books holding stronger spells. But the problem was that special magic ingredients were sometimes needed to learn the spells of such magic books.

Of course, magic ingredients necessary to learn powerful magic spells were traded at high prices.

‘If I’m lucky, I can get a pretty high price for this item. Isn’t this a good start?’

“Snake, pack this away,” Ark ordered without much thought.

However, Snake, who normally swallowed items without any problems, suddenly showed a strange reaction. It suddenly went into convulsions and collapsed.

“Huh? Snake, what’s wrong?”

Ss, sssss…

Snake, with great effort, lifted its head. As if it was trying to shed its skin, the scales of the area around its gaping mouth lost their elasticity and became wrinkled.

As Ark was panicking because of this bewildering situation, a new information window popped up before his eyes.

– Due to the Fruit of Basium, Alamone Larvae has started metamorphosis.

‘Eh? What’s this? Then, Snake really ate the Fruit of Basium? More importantly, metamorphosis? Then Snake can also grow up by eating food? Growth is growth, so what is metamorphosis? And metamorphosis has started?’

He totally could not understand what was going on. Then, a new message appeared again.

A new skill registration window for Alamone Larvae has been formed.

New Skill +?????

Alamone Larvae can learn a new skill through the process of metamorphosis. However, the summoner must find out what kind of skill it is and how to learn it. You have a time limit of 20 days. If you cannot complete metamorphosis by that time, it will end in failure.

During the transformation process all of Alamone Larvae’s skills are sealed; as such, it will lose its item storage ability.

Ark stared at the window blankly.

Snake is learning a skill? He hadn’t even imagined this.

‘To think Snake can also grow through such a method. Is this an opportunity to be able to expect a greater role than a bag from Snake?’

To be sure, if a Familiar gained a helpful skill, using up one or two items wasn’t a big deal. But he wasn’t sure if he should call this good fortune or not.

‘Well, I will be near Jackson Castle during the event quest, so not being able to use Snake as a bag shouldn’t pose much of a problem…’

The problem was that Snake had to learn the new skill for the metamorphosis to succeed. Seeing as the transformation would fail if the skill wasn’t learned within 20 days, it didn’t seem like the it wouldn’t be learned on its own.

“How in the world—?”

If it was Skull or Dedric, he could try training their fighting techniques. However, Snake didn’t even have any stats, let alone fighting ability. So what method was he supposed to use to learn what skill?

The situation was too sudden, so he couldn’t come up with any ideas. In addition, he didn’t have time to think of such things.

“Eek, g-go away! Aaack!”
“Kekeke, I will kill all humans.”

He suddenly heard the sounds of someone being attacked from the rear of the wreckage.

Setting aside his thinking for now, he quieted his footsteps and went back to see a wounded NPC crew member. He was surrounded by three black monsters that Ark had seen from within the ship.

‘There were surviving crew members?’ Ark examined the monsters by using Eyes of the Cat.

They were naked black humanoid monsters, with a faces as smooth as that of egg demons, white pupils, and pierced lips. They were monsters that would come out of a horror movie promo poster; level 80 monsters named Shadow.

On the other hand, Ark’s level was currently 68. But thanks to the Dark Fog’s influence, the land was covered in darkness.

Within the darkness was the Dark Walker’s battlefield!

His dark attribute bonus and the Gift of Darkness, gave him a 30% stat increase. Converted to levels, that was a whopping 20, so one could say Ark’s current level was equivalent to 88.

This was the real power of the dark attribute.

When he was a beginner, it was hard to notice any great changes. However, attribute bonuses like this showed a greater effect the higher one’s level was. At level 3, it was only a difference of 1 level, but at level 300, it was a difference of 100 levels!

“With this much, it’s definitely worth a try!”

Ark immediately used ‘Stealth,’ approached a Shadow monster from behind, and then attacked at the nape of its neck.

– You have dealt a Critical Hit! As a bonus effect, Backstab will deal an additional 200% damage. Shadow will be stunned for 10 seconds.

“Skull, Dedric, Formation C!”

“Okay, looks like I get to stretch a bit!”

Clack, clack, clack!

Formation C, Skull attacked one Shadow together with Ark, while Dedric kept the others busy. It was the most effective plan to use when they were surrounded by enemies, and also the one his Familiars had the greatest success rate with by training through countless battles.

While Ark was locked in the blind auction house, they hadn’t been able to fight. They were itching for action, so Skull and Dedric moved more actively than ever before. To be honest, Ark, who was thirsty for battle, was the same.

“Take ’em!”

BOOM BOOM BOOM!

A series of explosions ran along the Shadow’s body at the spark-light sword attacks. It was Ark’s specialty, dealing continuous critical hits.

The Shadow wobbled greatly as it stepped back.

After swinging his sword refreshingly for the first time in a while, vigor surged up anew. Stimulated by the rising thrill he felt, Ark pressed forward another step and thrust his sword.

At that moment– was that thing reaching out of the Shadow’s chest a hand?

‘Wha-what? What’s that?’

Ark reflexively raised his sword. With a sharp metallic sound, the arm bounced off.

Luckily, thanks to his instinctive defensive movement, he avoided a critical hit, but he still lost about 80 health. One couldn’t block an attack with a sword but rather can only reduce the damage. However, the problem wasn’t the damage.

‘What, these bastards? Arms popping out freely?’

It was an attack method he’d never even imagined. It wasn’t just the chest. Arms extended from the back, butt, and even the head of the Shadow, wherever needed, stretching several meters like rubber. Moreover, though it wasn’t like Ark’s 30%, it seemed that they too were receiving the darkness attribute bonus. Well, they were probably using the Dark Fog because it was beneficial for them…

‘And the dirt floor is rotten, so it’s slippery.’

Because of this, evasive actions were inevitably restricted.

“Wah! Master, this is crazy!”

Though he had flown off with great vigor, Dedric was also unable to deal with the stretching arms.

“Skull, go and help Dedric, we’re going with Formation B!”

Ark sent Skull to help Dedric and adjusted his grip on the sword.

The enemy was trickier than expected, and the terrain was also poor. Although it couldn’t be called the worst possible scenario, it also couldn’t be counted as the best. However, Ark’s eyes shone more brightly than before.

‘So I’ll have to fight guys like these from now on, right? Alright, I’ll be sure to warm up properly for you.’

After shaking his body and stretching his joints, Ark leapt in while swinging his sword. At the same time Ark’s taekwondo trained body started to show its true potential.

Ark, after making up his mind, was said to be determined!

All this time, Ark had never once neglected to exercise even while playing 18 hours a day.

That was how exercise worked. If you missed a day with an excuse, one day became two, three, four days of rest. Once you make up your mind and start, there can be no excuses, even if you can’t sleep or have to skip a meal. Only by steadily adding up the sweat can you obtain the desired result.

“Come at me, you rotten egg!”

Ark’s sword pierced the Shadow’s vital point. As the Shadow twisted its body, another arm sprouted from its shoulder. An unexpected attack, but if you are expecting an attack from all directions, it can no longer be considered unexpected.

Not even being able to rapidly perform evasive movement because the ground was slippery wasn’t a problem either.

‘Without teeth, they’re just gums!’

POW!

Ark knocked away the arm and let loose a sweeping low kick. Struck in the knee, the Shadow lost its balance and wobbled.

It was off-balance for only 1 or 2 seconds, but one who is trained in Taekwondo can kick at least 4 times in that span of time. He performed a low kick followed by a roundhouse kick.

The chance of a medium monster getting a bad status effect by a kick was 3%! The Shadow took a roundhouse to the jaw, fell into a confused state, and extended arms all over the place. It was actually harder to block such a haphazard attack.

He took considerable damage from the arms attacking from all directions. However, Ark wasn’t one to stand still and take hits. The instant an arm was about to strike his shoulder, with a twist of his body, he back-kicked the Shadow monster for a Counterattack and killed it.

‘Nice, not bad! The Shadow’s darkness attribute bonus is only about 10~20%!’

If the enemy’s level was the same or slightly higher, the odds were more than enough. Ark immediately ran at the remaining 2 Shadows.

Ark took advantage of the slippery footing. Accelerating with a slide, his frontal kick stuck the Shadow’s stomach. With a cry of pain, it bent over at the waist. Once Ark started to attack, he showed no mercy.

If they were egg demon lookalike Shadows, there wasn’t much left to say. Just knee them in their flattened, egg demon-like faces! Having knocked its head back, Ark’s sword slit open the Shadow’s throat.

“Ack, y-you human!”

Like a storm, the consecutive attacks brought the Shadow’s health down to 50% in an instant.

‘So they can’t grow rubber arms since I’m not giving them time to breathe!’

“Skull, Dedric, Formation A. Let’s finish this as quickly as possible!”

“Understood, Master!”

Skull bit the legs, Dedric used Dark Rush. With Ark’s Dark Blade, the Shadow wildly took damage. Adding in the attack Co-op bonus with his Familiars, the Shadow’s remaining life hit rock bottom and it collapsed.

“Keke, you’re strong!”

Once two of them collapsed, the remaining Shadow quickly turned to flee.

“Where do you think you’re running to?!”

Dedric snorted as he rammed into the Shadow’s back with Dark Rush. An ‘ack’ sound was heard.

With a lump the size of a chestnut and tears dripping from his eyes, Dedric boasted, “Wa-wahahaha, how do you like the taste of that? I am the Dedric, noble of the Underworld!”

Clack clack, clack clack clack!

As if rather excited as well, Skull bounced about while landing strikes. The level 85 monster was getting beaten up by opponents 30 levels below them. With Ark striking continuous kicks and landing critical hits, the Shadows quickly fell into critical condition.

“Kekekeke! Hu-human… I may fall… but in the end, the day of rest will find you…”

“Ah, now I’m embarrassed, monsters should just simply die!”

Having changed into child form, Dedric pulled a face and stomped on the Shadow, which vanished with an aggrieved expression.

Ah, a rascal with no mercy…

In the beginning, Dedric didn’t have such a bent personality. However, he was steadily becoming similar to Ark in both actions and words.

In particular, only in the bad parts…

‘So this is why they say you shouldn’t even drink cold water in front of kids…’

[T/N: Many Koreans believe that drinking cold water is unhealthy. Basically, don’t do unadvisable things in front of kids, because they’ll start emulating those actions.]

Seemed like it was about time to pick a date for disciplinary action, but now wasn’t the time.

“Are you alright, sir?”

“Yes, thanks to you. Thank you.” The crew man who gave a sigh of relief was the Bosun.

“By any chance, are there any other surviving crew members?”

“I don’t know. I was with the Captain in the wheelhouse until the end…”

“And the Captain is…?”

The crew member shook his head with a dark face. “He passed away. I was in the wheelhouse, so if I survived, then there might be other crew members who made it. Please, I beg you. Will you go with me to find any other surviving crew members? As the bosun, I can’t leave my subordinates behind. But, since I am a stranger to fighting…”

Thu-thump, a quest window popped up.

Hero Assembly!

* Sub-quest: Rescue the Silver Arrow Crewmen

The Magic Institute’s airship, Silver Arrow, has unexpectedly crashed in the Jackson region.

Though it was a disastrous accident that caused numerous casualties, the efforts of the Captain and crew members who were prepared for death were able to decrease the damage.

In a stroke of fortune among misfortune, Jabel, the Bosun, also survived. If he survived despite being in the wheelhouse, there may be other survivors. Jabel has requested that you to search and rescue the surviving crew. Rescue the crewmembers with Jabel and escort them to Jackson Castle. It will be an honorable act if you rescue those who have been completely abandoned.

Difficulty: E

‘A sub-quest!’ Ark snapped fully awake.

‘Hero Assembly’ was an event quest that gathered hundreds of users and spanned 3 days. Of course there would be many events during it. The sub-quests to complete such a task existed separately. One sub-quest could affect the chances of succeeding in the main quest.

‘A sub-quest exists. Then this means there’s a method to raise contribution points by myself.’

It was the same feeling as finding a clue to solving a quest.

“Hey, hey, aren’t you being too shameless? You’re demanding a gift after being rescued from dangerous waters. If you’re going to ask for a favor, you’ve got to offer some compensation. Who do you see Master as?”

Dedric interrupted without any manners.

Just how did he know Ark’s inner thoughts so well?

However, Ark put on the mask of a righteous man in front of NPCs!

Ark ignored Dedric’s comment and accepted the quest. “Please don’t pay any attention to what this brat said. I was able to survive thanks to the efforts of the captain and crew. Rescuing the crewmen is something that of course I must do. In order to make sure that no one loses their lives in a pitiful manner, I will search every nook and cranny. So please help me, Bosun.”

“Of course.”

Since it was a sub-quest, he would definitely get contribution in compensation. However, Ark had another ulterior motive in undertaking this sub-quest.

“Ah! Also, Bosun, please carefully search the bodies and give me anything you find. Although they are already dead, shouldn’t we take something back to their families?”

“Ah, indeed. I understand. Let’s do it that way.”

It was exactly this: the corpses of the players were spread out in a fairly large area. Even with help from his Familiars, who knew how long it would take. But with the Bosun and any surviving crew members they found, the search would end faster.

‘So, while doing the quest, I can also collect items. This is killing two birds with one stone.’

As Ark searched the area, he watched the Bosun from the corner of his eye with satisfaction. In the end, Ark was able to rope in an NPC as a free worker.

Dedric, watching from the side, exclaimed,”Oho, as expected of Master. How underhanded.”

“Shut it. I’m always saying this, but I go for the win-win.”

After 30 minutes of searching, they were able to rescue 10 crew members from the debris of the airship.

Of course, it wasn’t just a relaxing situation. On average, for every 3 he rescued he had to fight three or four Shadows. However, a battle was always welcome. In addition, there were crew members with fighting and healing skills. They weren’t of a high level, but as their numbers grew the fight with the Shadows became quite a bit easier.

“Ark-nim, I found this in the wreckage.”

“Ah. Great work. I’ll be sure to find someone who knows the person and return it to them.”

As Ark had instructed, the crew members gathered the user’s items and gave them to Ark. It was a shame, but the monsters destroyed by the Spear of Thor did not drop any items.

But the items the users had dropped far exceeded his expectations.

‘5 Intermediate Recovery potions, 1 Magic Tool Box, and 2 equips!’

“Information Window!”

Gauntlets of Strength (Magic)

Armor Type

Steel Gloves

Defense

50

Durability

3/60

Weight

50

Usage Restriction

Level 60, Warrior

High-quality steel gauntlets sold in the Merchant City, Giran, and specialized stores. Although they are mass produced, the seams are soft and have high defense, so they are loved by many adventurers. During the process of smelting the iron, drops of Ogre’s blood were added to give an effect adding to the wearer’s Strength.

Option: Strength +10

 

Norad Boots (Magic)

Armor Type

Leather Shoes

Defense

35

Durability

4/40

Weight

20

Usage Restriction

Level 65 or higher

Boots made from the leather of a legendary horse that only inhabits the northern region. They are among the masterpiece armor series made by the famous armor maker ‘Norad,’ who is known to have disappeared long ago. As fast as a gust of wind, the legendary horse’s strength still remains, giving an increase to the wearer’s movements.

Options: Movement Speed +10%, Evasion +5%

Both items were well worth 60-70 thousand Won (~$600-$700) if placed on auction.

‘Let’s put the gauntlets on auction right away and use the boots for now.’

He didn’t have any boots worth using besides the Sharkman’s Shackles anyways. Ark immediately used the Deluxe Tool Box to repair the boots, put them on, and of course, he didn’t forget to say a word to Jabel, who was staring at him impassively.

“I’ll only use them until I can find the people they’re related to. We need all the help we can get to guide everyone safely to Jackson Castle, you see. The deceased would definitely have wanted that as well.”

“Ah, yes… That’s right,” Jabel replied with a doubtful expression. However, the one protecting them was Ark. Perhaps because he was also angry after hearing that 40 players had run off to Jackson Castle without even thinking about searching for the crew, Jabel didn’t raise any other objections to Ark’s actions.

“Now, since we searched the entire area, let us head to Jackson Castle.” After feigning innocence, Ark led the crew through the Dark Fog.

Once they reached a certain distance away from the airship wreckage, the number of monsters increased. There were as few as 3-4 Shadows and as many as 30 of them in a mob. There were also mobs with the same large monster they had seen from the airship. Though they were similar to the Shadows in appearance, these monsters, called Hiptons, were 5 times larger and had rock-like skin.They were a whopping level 90! However, they didn’t pose much of a problem for Ark.

‘Hm, the attack group that left first must’ve suffered quite a bit.’

Ark followed the trail left by the first group. Thanks to the raid that had left first 30 minutes ago, monster corpses were piled up like mountains at regular intervals. They were marks of battles between the raid and the monsters that had ambushed them.

It was truly fortunate. Thanks to their desperate fighting, Ark was able to pass by without even fighting a single group of monsters. Ark just hummed while rummaging through the bodies.

“Snake, if you see any items I’ve missed, swallow them all.”

Perhaps because the raid group had been continuously ambushed, but they hadn’t picked up the item drops properly. However, Snake nodded feebly while grabbing an item and swallowing it, but it spat it back up with a painful face. Then it hung its head.

‘Ah, that’s right. It said it was in metamorphosis?’

During metamorphosis, Snake couldn’t swallow or spit out items. In addition, Snake was having a hard time just staying wrapped around Ark’s waist. That was probably the unexpected metamorphosis’ fault. Seeing the always charming Snake in such a limp state made him feel pity.

“Snake, until I figure out a way to solve this, do you want to go back to the Underworld?”

Hiss, hiss!

Hearing this, Snake violently shook its head as it tightened its grip on his waist and rubbed its head on him.

Well, Ark was no different from a parent to Snake. Since it was in pain, it didn’t want to be separated from him even more.

“Okay, I understand. It must be hard, but just hang on a bit. let’s find a way no matter what.”

Once Ark used his Nursing skill with a sympathetic heart, Snake nodded with a rather brighter face.

‘At least the Nursing skill works. Anyways, I feel sorry for Snake, but I can’t leave this place for 9 days as long as I’m participating in the event quest. Haahh, it can’t be helped. 20 days in game time is almost a week in real life. Fortunately, there’s still some time to spare. I’ll steadily look for a way after finishing the event quest.’

Ark blew a sigh as he stroked Snake’s head. There was nothing more he could do for Snake. Plus, this wasn’t a situation where he could pay attention to Snake.

Even though the raid group had passed through the area, there were still monsters left. Therefore, Ark moved carefully and sent Dedric to scout the area. Though there were still times they had to go into battle, they never had to fight more than six Shadows thanks to the scouting. With the help of the crew members, 6 Shadows weren’t very difficult opponents.

“I will also help!”

“Let’s get revenge for the Captain!”

If fighting broke out, the battle crewmen pulled out their daggers even without being asked to. The medic even ran over during the battle while taking hits from Shadows and bandaged Ark when he got injured. He didn’t recover much Health when the medic applied first aid, but it was a significant help because it had a continuous effect.

“You’re injured. I will treat you.”

“You don’t have to go so far…”

“No, you are fighting for our sakes, so I cannot leave your wounds unattended.”

They repaid those who helped them no matter what. Ark couldn’t help but like NPCs because they were like this.

After fighting around 15 battles, his EXP surged up. Although he fought with the crew, Ark got all the EXP since most of the damage was from him. Thanks to that, his EXP rose by 50% and he went up a level. The raid group that went ahead must’ve also killed many monsters, but since the EXP was shared among 40 people, they probably didn’t get as much as Ark.

‘The sky is dark! EXP and items are all over the ground! This is really a stage made for me!’

He felt sorry for Snake, but he felt like he could fly. But his pleasurable hunting ended upon reaching Jackson Castle.

Once they reached the castle gates, Jabel took Ark’s hand with emotion.

“We are truly thankful. If it wasn’t for Ark-nim, we would have pitifully lost our lives. I will never forget your kindness. Although we can only reward you with gratitude right now, we will notify the Magic Institute of your deed so that you can receive a just reward.”

“I am happy by just being able to help you. Though of course, I won’t stop you if you say you’ll report it to the Magic Institute…”

* The sub-quest ‘Rescue the Silver Arrow’s Crewmen’ has been completed.

You have safely brought the crewmen who survived to Jackson Castle. They will never forget your dedicated help. The Magic Institute will also think highly of you for rescuing their precious staff.

Reward: 100 Contribution Points for every rescued crew member, +50 Fame, +100 Friendship with the Magic Institute.

The contribution one gets for killing a Shadow was just 10. Saving 12 crew members, on the other hand, was 1,200 contribution points. He received the same amount of contribution points he would have gotten from killing 120 Shadows. He even obtained the items dropped by users.

‘Not bad, considering it’s the first leg of the quest.’

After sending off his Familiars, Ark walked to the gate.

The event quest starts now.

* * *

‘Is this really Jackson Castle?’

Jackson Castle looked totally different from the memories he had of it a month and a half ago.

Thanks to the monsters’ attack, the castle walls were in ruins here and there, and destroyed homes could be seen inside. The Lord’s manor also showed signs of attack. With the area surrounded by darkness, it was as dismal as looking at a ruin.

‘It’s only been 2 days of in-game time since the attacks started and it’s already this bad?’

Ark had fought alongside Jackson’s Sylphid Knights before. Though they weren’t able to defeat the boss of the ancient ruins, Debra, they were the strongest NPCs Ark had met. If the enemy did that much damage even though the Sylph Knights were fighting back, it meant the enemy was that numerous and strong.

‘Well, all three top guilds sent reinforcements, so the quest will be completed one way or another… but more importantly, what should I do now? Do I join up with the Magic Institute? Or…’

Ark sent the crew members inside first and snooped around the gate.

Just then, he spied a group of users passing through the gate. Ark began to approach them in hopes of getting some information but then flinched as he stopped. He quickly retreated and hid behind a wall.

‘How did that rascal…?’

One of the players walking in the middle of 10 others– he was one of the few users Ark knew of.

It was Andel!

The bastard who tricked Ark, who was then level 1, into losing 84 of his stats! Of course, he was caught by Ark afterwards, lost 128 of his stats, and flaked off. An average person would have already given up on the game at that point. No, he was certain he would give up on the game.

‘Just how did that bastard join the event quest?’

Even considering that he could get his equipment back with money, did that mean he still reached level 60 after losing 128 stats?

In addition, if he was able to participate in an event quest, it also meant he was able to get rid of his Chaotic state. After Andel was caught by Ark, he realized how fearsome the Chaotic penalty was. If he meant to continue playing the game, then he must first get rid of his Chaotic status.

‘It couldn’t have been easy… it seems he has suffered quite a lot all this while, hm?’

However, Ark’s eyes did not show a hint of sympathy.

Even though he had backed off after cutting 128 of Andel’s stat points, it wasn’t because Ark had forgiven him. It was just that he couldn’t waste any more time on the likes of Andel. It might be a different if Andel just gave up on the game, but if he was going to play, then he was still an enemy.

His promise that he would kill until Andel’s stats hit 0 if he showed up before Ark again were not empty words. If they had met again in a different place, Ark would have reduced him to 0, as promised.

‘But the bastard isn’t Chaotic now.’

Ark might be angry, but he wasn’t stupid enough to become Chaotic in the middle of an event quest.

‘Plus, I can’t even touch him right now because he’s with Bulma or other teammates. No, it would be rather disruptive if he were to spot me now. While the event quest is going on, it’ll be better to stay away.’

Just when Ark was thinking that, someone from behind suddenly spoke to him.

“Hey, were you the one who rescued the crew members?”

“Yes, it was I. And you are?”

The moment Ark turned his head, his eyes grew wide in surprise.

Surprisingly, Raymond was approaching him accompanied by Soldiers. He was the Alchemist of Jackson who was caught by Ark while secretly raising a Crystal Golem to treat his son’s illness.

“Raymond?”

“Oh, so it was you! I came running over when I heard the name of Ark from the crew members.”

“How did you…?”

“I am ashamed. Actually, right after you left, I surrendered myself to the Lord. But when the Lord heard my circumstances, instead of punishing me, he made it so I could live while serving Jackson. And now, I’ve been temporarily entrusted with the work of managing the volunteer troops. Certainly, I’m still a prisoner, but thanks to you and the Lord’s grace, I am able to proudly straighten my shoulders and care for my son.”

“That’s good, I’m glad.” Ark smiled broadly as he held Raymond’s hand. Raymond had worried him as he left Jackson, but it seemed things had worked out better than expected.

Those who sin must be punished. It was obvious, but sometimes there was room for sympathy. Could anyone stone a person who committed murder in order to save his son? At the very least, a person who valued his family more than others wouldn’t be able to throw the stones.

Of course, Ark’s affection towards Raymond was due in no small amount to the rare scroll ‘Magic Restoration’. It was truly one of the skills he made really good use of.

“I feel like I have been relieved of some heavy burden thanks to your words. My heart has been heavy every day because it didn’t look like I was able to keep the promise I made with you.”

“There’s no need to think like that. There is no rule that says one must pay the price of sin with suffering alone. I think the Lord judged wisely as well.”

“I’ve already heard about the relationship between you and the Lord; even after Jackson was attacked, the Lord occasionally mentioned you. No, this is no time for idle prattle. The Lord would be glad to see you. I’ll take care of the registration process for the militia, so you go visit the Lord.”

“Alright.”

Ark immediately went towards the Lord under the escort of guards.

“What, who’s that guy?”

“How is he going straight to the Lord’s Castle right away?”

“Maybe he’s a user with extremely high Fame?”

The users whispered amongst themselves while watching Ark receiving VIP treatment as soon as he arrived at the castle.

It was only natural that he drew their attention. There were very few people who received such treatment from NPCs. It was a benefit only for those with incredibly high Fame or people who had raised Intimacy to the limits by completing a special quest. Of course, Ark wasn’t at all happy about their interest in him. It would be troublesome if he caught the eye of Andel.

In any case, once Ark entered the Lord’s castle, the young Lord’s eyes became as wide as saucers.

“You… Ark! You’re Ark!”
“Have you been well?”

“Haha, I can’t really say that…” The Lord smiled weakly and sagged his shoulders. “Anyway, you have come.”

“How could I not come after hearing that Jackson Castle has met a crisis?”
“Yes, I believed you would surely come.”

“However, the situation looks worse than what I heard.”
“Indeed.”

The Lord nodded with a heartbroken expression. “It is as you said. The situation is very serious. Since you have arrived, you must have been riding the airship sent from Giran. Am I right?”

“Yes, it was dangerous because we were intercepted during our journey, but I was somehow able to survive to Jackson Castle.”

“I see, even after suffering many difficulties, thank you for not giving up on Jackson and coming. As your friend and as the Lord of Jackson Castle, I express my thanks to you. My heartfelt thanks go to the brave Warriors who were sacrificed while participating in the militia.”

Comfortable. The first feeling Ark registered while talking face to face with the Lord was comfort. Ark did not feel the slightest pretense in the young Lord’s tone. If a person did something worth being grateful about, he expressed his heartfelt thanks, and he sincerely sympathized with those who perished. It was such a natural response, but the same natural reaction was hard to find among players. Maybe because this was a game, it was considered acceptable to not act earnest.

But perhaps because Ark hadn’t been able to experience many virtual reality games, there were many times when NPCs felt like real people. Was that why? Now he was more comfortable talking to NPCs than to users. Unlike unpredictable users, conversation with NPCs unfurled in orderly fashions. At least he didn’t need to worry about what to say to them.

“Your words alone are surely enough to comfort the fallen, my Lord.”

“That is all I can do. In any case, the crash of your airship is an incident that explains Jackson’s current situation. After all, we weren’t able to send out rescue parties despite knowing your airship was intercepted. Furthermore the airship was not the only one that took a surprise attack.”

“Not only the Silver Arrow?”

“As you likely know, all three great guilds come forward and sent militia to Jackson. The 3 great guilds mobilized their most superior weapons. However, they were all defeated one by one while on route like the airship.”

The young Lord began to explain the gist of the situation.

The unidentified army of monsters attacked Jackson Castle 2 days ago, which was 16 hours ago, last evening, in real time. The sky was suddenly engulfed by Dark Fog as the army of darkness attacked. Without any time to take control, they were dealt a huge blow.

“Many of the foreigners who were dedicated to hunting around Jackson Castle perished. Still, the good thing was that the foreigners who survived combined their strength with the Soldiers and finally blocked the attack. Then, before we were completely engulfed in the Dark Fog, we urgently sent an SOS from the Magic Tower to Giran.”

That was the magic signal Ark saw in Giran.

The 3 great guilds all received requests for help. They responded quickly and decided to send militia. The first to arrive were the ones sent by the Merchant Guild. The representatives of the Merchant Guild cut through the Jackson principality aboard the ironclad merchant ship, Prize. After getting close to Jackson Castle, they planned on beginning their large-scale landing operation.

“So they failed.”

“That’s right, it seems that the monsters knew that the SOS was sent from the magic tower. As soon as the Prize crossed into the Jackson principality boundaries, they were ambushed by the monsters lying in wait and sank. Among the 100 militia on board, 60 or so were lost with Prize, and just this morning, some 40 survivors arrived.”

As expected, not all who participated could reach Jackson Castle. There was a trial prepared for each guild, and only those who passed could participate in the actual quest.

The Merchant Guild and Magic Institute were both in Giran, so the level of the militia was similar. That’s why the number of survivors from the airship was also similar to the number from Prize.

“Then the Warrior Guild’s militia must have also received a surprise attack.”

“Yes, but fortunately, the Warrior guild did not receive much damage. Though they were ambushed, 70 survived and arrived at Jackson a few hours ago. They say it’s thanks to the famous Warrior who led the battle. He’s the Holy Knight, Alan, who we’ve heard of several times even in Jackson Castle.”

Alan!

Ark’s felt like his mind was splashed with cold water.

Alan… His name was unforgettable in another sense than Andel’s. Ever since Ark met him, he had felt an ever present thorn of discomfort in playing the game.

He was the first to make Ark feel so frustrated. He was also the one who had made Ark feel like Lariette had been snatched from him. And he was the reason why he took the first step towards being a gamer for a living.

‘So that guy is also participating in this quest!’

He had encountered competition in an totally unexpected place.

His feelings were mixed after hearing Alan’s name. He knew an opportunity like this would come one day, and as candidates of Global Exos, it was unavoidable anyways. However, Ark was not yet ready to compete one on one with him.

Not yet… That’s right, it wasn’t time.

If they met when he wasn’t ready, it was very likely that Ark would just come to feel the same frustration as before. The stronger Ark’s desire to win against him was, the greater his frustration would be.

“Besides, if Lariette is still with Alan…”

More than anything, he didn’t want to be humiliated again in front of Lariette.

As Ark’s expression became grave, the young Lord asked with a quizzical voice, “Do you know him?”

“Yes, a little…”

“I see. Then I’ll continue what I was saying.Raymond is reorganizing the militia sent by the 3 Great Guilds to form a temporary force to guard the exterior. Sir Alan has been put in charge of commanding them on the field.”

“Entrusted to Alan?”

“He is a Holy Knight recognized by the Cathedral. It should come as no surprise considering the Fame he has garnered.”

This was why users were obsessed with Fame.

If your Fame was high, then you didn’t really have to bother with raising Intimacy. With Fame alone, you received VIP treatment no matter where you went, and there were cases where NPCs went looking for you after hearing rumors to request quests. In addition, you could also be personally bestowed a title from a famous guilds or royalty. Whether you had it or not, it was an absolutely necessary value for Knights, Merchants, and professions like Scholar alike in progressing through the game.

The main characteristic of Ark’s chosen hidden profession, Dark Walker, was the dark attribute bonus. Meanwhile, Alan’s main characteristics as a Holy Knight were Faith and Fame. Disregarding his original character, Alan was a faithful, sacred Knight in the game. Therefore, even by doing the same quest as other people, Alan received bonus Faith and Fame.

Faith showed its power when dealing with monsters, and Fame could win the right to be entrusted an advantageous role when a big event like this occurred.

‘If he’s registered as a commander in the system, he’ll get more contribution points and experience points as a bonus. Damn, does that mean it’ll be hard to win more contribution points than Alan in this quest?’

This was a fact Ark had learned recently learned, but the path of darkness the Dark Walker tread was the opposite of Alan’s– Ark suffered a Fame penalty. It was intended to balance his profession.

However, Ark was able to obtain almost as much Fame as other users thanks to successful miraculous treatment with Nursing.

‘There’s no point in thinking of such things now. All I have to do is raise my Dark Walker my own way. Just as our chosen paths are different, there may be things I can do that Alan can’t.’

“Sir Alan failed the Taresha Labyrinth expedition twice, so his Fame isn’t as great as before, but there was still no one in the volunteer troops who can match him. Also, he is working as hard as we expected.”

‘So he failed that time when he said he was going to the Taresha Labyrinth!’

Ark was able to receive unexpected information from the young Lord.

If so, then Alan wouldn’t have been able to raise his level and Fame by much. That in and of itself was good news, but Alan would be desperate to make up for the failure with this event quest. Looking at this quest alone, he couldn’t say it was really good news.

“Well, Sir Alan’s situation aside, this is the current line of defense. After conferring with Sir Alan, we put the volunteer troops in the defense line.”

The young Lord called attention to himself and spoke while pointing at a map of the Jackson principality.

Alan split the volunteer troops into 3 platoons. He assigned Platoon 1 to the front gate, where the enemy attacks were the fiercest. Platoon 1 was likely the one Alan was personally leading. Platoon 2 and 3 were placed on the sides to assist Platoon 1.

‘With this placement, Alan and Platoon 1 will definitely get the most contribution.’

Was that all? Giving and denying contribution points to each platoonor user all depended on Alan’s whims. Of course his first priority was going to be himself. Alan had seized the top spot right from the get go of the event quest with his high Fame.

‘Alan…’

While participating in the quest, Ark had never even hoped to take the top spot. But after finding out there was no chance at all, he lost all motivation. What’s more, to think his opponent was Alan…

Besides the volunteer troops, a group called the militia were participating. The militia was comprised of users who were in Jackson at the time of the ambush; they got the event quest from the young Lord and not from the 3 Great Guilds. But since they were all low level, they were being used as reserve troops.

“The assignment of the volunteers has been entrusted to Sir Alan, but you are an exception. Speak if there’s a platoon you desire. I will confer with Sir Alan to make it so that you are assigned the platoon you want.”

Ark briefly looked at the map and pondered.

Considering EXP and contribution points, Platoon 1 was the best. But the commander of Platoon 1 was Alan; even if Ark couldn’t obtain a decent reward, he couldn’t find it in himself to take orders from Alan.

Platoons 2 and 3 were also in a similar situation, as they were also under Alan’s direct command. In addition, even if he were assigned to the front lines, it would be difficult to gain the contribution he needed if he wasn’t put in an attack squad. Furthermore, if he ran into Andel or Bulma, there was no telling what the outcome would be.

Whichever he chose, neither were desirable.

‘Is there a way I can raise my contribution while fighting independently?’

After thinking a while, Ark asked the young Lord, “Where are the castle troops fighting?”

“The Sylphid Knights left the defense of the front gate to the volunteer troops and are out blockading the enemy’s supply line. Defense isn’t everything– striking the enemy is the true mission of the Sylphid Knights. The Jackson guards are guarding the back gate.”

‘That’s it!’ Ark’s eyes flashed.

Jackson’s soldiers were NPCs. If he were to fight alongside them, he wouldn’t need to worry about Andel or other users. He also wouldn’t have to worry about being sandwiched in the midst of many users and would have many chances to gain EXP and contribution points.

Regretfully, the scenario of hunting with the Sylphid Knights was not to be. Well, if the powerful Sylphid Knights participated in the defense line, there would be a problem with the quest difficulty balance. However, the Jackson guards were also NPCs that Ark was very familiar with.

“I would like to guard the back gate along with the Jackson guards.”

“You will?”

“Yes, as you probably know, I am well acquainted with the Jackson Soldiers. Rather than mixing with strangers, I would be more comfortable with the Jackson guards with whom I have shared my heart.”

“But… The back gate they are currently guarding is not a very safe place. The number of enemies and frequency of attacks are low compared to the front gate, where monsters attack relentlessly, but there are only 30 Jackson guards left. Compared to the main gate which is being guarded by about 140 volunteer troops, the back gate is more dangerous.”

“My Lord.” Ark gazed at the young Lord with blazing eye and spoke forcefully. “Jackson Castle is a second home to me. In addition, you called me a friend, my Lord. How can I desire safety when Jackson Castle is in the midst of a crisis? If protecting Jackson Castle is dangerous, then that is fine. Even if I were to perish while guarding it, that is what I desire. I beg you, please let me do so.”

“Ark, you’re really…..!” The young Lord struggled with his emotions.

Even the guard captain, Cross, who was listening in from the side was overcome with emotion.

“Milord, I also ask this favor. If the righteous foreigner Ark who was acknowledged by the late lord were to help, it would raise the morale of the guards. Please grant this request. I will swear to protect him from harm.”

“Fine, although a foreigner participating in the guard force is unprecedented, Ark fought the devil with the Sylphid Knights before. And if it’s you, who loves Jackson more than anyone, you have the right to do so. Sir Cross, Ark is my friend. I leave him to you.”

“Yes, sir.”

As Cross firmly nodded, a message window popped up.

– Art of Communication has risen by 5.

The Art of Communication stat was of crucial help.

‘Hehehe, the way to solve this quest is becoming clear at last.”

Like that, Ark was able to participate in the battle without coming to the attention of the other users.

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2016-11-03T16:07:59+00:00May 3rd, 2014|[X / KR] Ark|102 Comments