Ark: Volume 3 Chapter 3

//Ark: Volume 3 Chapter 3

Ark: Volume 3 Chapter 3

This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Charles, and Lei. Special thanks to Ark1122, Davidmoo, DoeJohnson, and GodAtom.

Note: The previous chapter has been edited. If you have the time, please read it once more before diving into this chapter to avoid any confusion.

  • Japtem Staff

Jackson Crusade

“Kekeke, attack! Sweep them away without leaving a single human behind!”

Once again, a group of monsters swarmed towards the back gate.

“It’s the enemy. Everyone prepare for battle!”

At Cross’ order, soldiers who had been taking breaks rose urgently. Then they clashed with countless metallic clanging noises!

As the young Lord had said, it was definitely not easy to defend the back gate.

A legion consisting of dozens of monsters came to attack the back gate at regular intervals. Though they weren’t at the level of the Sylphid Knights, the Guard demonstrated abilities matching players at level 80 or so. In addition, their equipment was considerable, so their attack and defense were also quite good. Alone, they could easily take down one or two Shadows, but there was a problem.

In terms of composition, battle ability, and strategy, the Guard was a long ways off from the Sylphid Knights.

First of all, the Guard’s composition wasn’t as good as that of the player raids. Unlike the player raids, which were evenly made of Warriors, Archers, Magicians, and Clerics, the guard force only had Warriors and Archers. Therefore, when the enemy was upon them and they didn’t even have a strategy, charging in while swinging their swords was the whole of it.

It was no wonder that there was a considerable loss of Health with each round of battle.

The second problem was, even though they had lost that much Health, there wasn’t a Cleric so there was no way to recover properly. Thanks to that, they had to apply first aid or eat food to recover Health after the fighting was over. There were many cases along the way where they had to fight a monster legion before they were done recovering. A battle with lacking skills took a long time, and since it took long, the guard force had to fight again before their Health was 100% recovered. They were caught in a vicious cycle. Still, they were able to endure thanks to the powerful equipment that had been bestowed upon the guard NPCs.

“This is a fight where everyone is holding on with their enormous defense and Health.”

But Ark wasn’t supported with as much defense and Health as the Guard. If he faced monsters by throwing himself into battle like they did, he would soon meet his end.

“Finishing off the weak monsters while the guards are protecting themselves with shields will be good.”

Ark faced the three or four Shadows that had lost most of their Health and had been pushed to the rear. However, even that required much caution. NPCs also leveled up when they accumulated EXP, and if their contribution went up, they advanced to a higher position in society. Of course they were greedy for EXP and contribution. Fortunately, they didn’t openly state their complaints since his intimacy with them was high, but they stared at him uncomfortably when he snatched monsters with rock bottom Health.

“My place with them will disappear if my intimacy with the guards falls.”

Ark felt the crisis of the situation and decided to abandon his blazing greed.

After several battles, he began to see a rough compromise.

When he picked off monsters with 50% Health left, the guards showed no obvious reactions.

“Hey Ark, don’t push yourself too hard.”

Rather, they occasionally even encouraged him.

“Alright, so they overlook this much! Now there’s no need to worry.”

Once he was certain of the limit, Ark began to move briskly. Ark’s sword cleaved the darkness like a flash.

The Shadows that had already lost half their Health were put down with three or four critical hits from Ark. Ark kicked wildly in all directions and let loose Dark Blade to exterminate the monsters.

There was no need to worry too much about his Health and Mana. After fighting until he fell into critical condition, he backed off when it grew dangerous and ate food. The trusty guards were holding up the front, so he could leave it to them and take a break. This was something he wouldn’t have been able to do if he had been fighting with players.

While fighting like that, a new message window appeared.

The skill ‘Indomitable Will’ has reached 100 points in skill proficiency and has increased to Intermediate.

Indomitable Will (Intermediate, Passive): Overcoming innumerable life and death situations have made your courage even more unwavering. The concentration ability that shines during a crisis has become one level stronger.

In a crisis, Critical Hit Chance will increase by 40% and Regeneration ability will increase by 10%.

Indomitable Will was the first skill Ark had learned.

Indomitable Will was a skill that only activated in critical condition. The skill had stopped growing because Ark grown to a point where he rarely reached critical condition. Even so, he couldn’t purposefully fall into critical condition to raise the skill since there was no knowing what kinds of situations would arise while hunting alone. However, it was a different situation when the guards were backing him up like now.

‘Indomitable Will finally reached Intermediate. Now is the chance to raise skills. Indomitable Body doesn’t have much left either, so I should use this opportunity to fall into critical condition more often. But if I’m going to approach the jaws of death, wouldn’t it be good to raise intimacy as well?’

“Dedric, Skull. There’s no need for you guys to participate in the battle. Patrol the area and assist any guards at risk!”

“Understood, Master.”

Ark had Dedric and Skull meticulously check the battle situation. Then he was able to quickly run in front of guards in critical condition who were in danger.

Just then, he glimpsed a guardsman who was under concentrated attack from monsters riding lizards, evolved versions of Shadows called Avengers.

“Kekeke, die. Human!”

“Stop, ACK!”

Ark’s Health plummeted from taking a critical hit by a lance.

“Oh, Ark!”

“Please go, I’ll take it from here!”

“Th-thank you.”

“Your opponent is me!”

“Kekeke, you took a hit for another, so is this the insignificant humans’ code of chivalry?”

The Avenger lunged in as it jabbered in a derisive voice.

“Dedric, now. Cover that guy’s eyes!”

Dedric flew in quickly and unfurled both his wings to cover the Avenger’s face. Then Ark grabbed and hurled Skull at the Avenger’s face, making it stagger and sway. At that moment, Ark leapt onto the charging lizard’s body and loosed a lethal move.

“Dark Blade!”

The Avenger took a considerable blow from the defense-ignoring attack and rolled off the lizard’s back. Ark showered the Avenger with kicks and sword attacks as it staggered to its feet!

Of course, since he had to raise his skill points for the Indomitable set, he didn’t forget to get hit a few times. Then, as soon as Indomitable Will and Body were activated, he immediately dealt a Dark Blade and ended the Avenger’s life.

– You have defeated Avenger and saved your teammate from a crisis. Contribution +20 (+10)

‘Added contribution points!’

He was granted bonus contribution points since he took down an enemy after taking a hit for the guardsman.

That wasn’t all. When he fought while saving guardsmen like that a few times, there was a change in the way the guardsmen looked at Ark. From simple familiarity to respect…

“Thank you, I survived thanks to you.”

“You are indeed Ark. I’ll be happy to die for your sake!”

As the knights grew to respect him more, Ark’s restrictions became less strict. They didn’t complain even when he snatched monsters with about 40% Health.

‘Is there still room to raise intimacy more with the guards?’ Ark’s eyes were shining.

Only then did he catch onto the rough sense of what he had to do.

When it became Ark’s time to rest, he made Survival Cooking food without sparing his ingredients. Health recovery was manifold faster than normal food, and it even granted additional effects!

“Ah, after eating this food, my fatigue seems to have somehow flown away.”

“Somehow, it makes me feel like I can run 100 meters in 10 seconds.”

“And the taste is delicious as well.”

After only eating dried rations for several days, the guards spoke up with energetic faces. Moreover, their stats increased and their recovery rate quickened, so it was easier for them to face the swarming monsters as well.

Next, Ark turned his eye on repair.

The guards had toolboxes, but they had to hammer away at their equipment for a long time to make repairs. But Ark’s Magic Restoration was instantaneous!

“Bring me all the broken equipment!”

Ark drank the Mana restoring Herb Tea during breaks and quickly repaired the guards’ equipment. The attack and defense of the soldiers’ equipments were exceptional, but they were all Common equips. As a result, the guards rejoiced when Ark repaired their equipment without penalties to the durability.

“Thank you, to think that repair would be done so quickly. Now fighting will be much easier.”

“Consider this as thanks. It’s easier thanks to you, so please take it.”

When he completed a set number of repairs, Cross even pulled out a spare tool box and gave it to him. Though they were just common tool boxes, each one was worth 10 Gold!

Was that all? His skills went up, and since he was contributing to the battle with food and repairs, he received additional contribution points. At the same time, his intimacy surged up, so when he dealt the last blow on monsters in critical condition or even snatched up items from a monster felled by another soldier, they didn’t gripe about it.

Once he got the ball rolling, it was smooth sailing from there. After repeatedly fighting in battles where he recklessly fell into critical condition, Indomitable Body soon became Intermediate. Both lndomitable Will and Body had only had 7 skill points left to fulfill, so it hadn’t taken much time.

Indomitable Body (Intermediate, Passive): As a great warrior, countless wounds and agonies have made your body even stronger. Your increased defense will shine in a difficult situation.

In a crisis, defense and Critical Hit Evasion will increase by 40%, Regeneration ability will increase by 10%.

* As a set effect of Indomitable Will and Body, you have learned “Adrenaline.”

Adrenaline: A true Warrior will not feel fear in a critical situation. Rather, their intense excitement will release adrenaline and make them forget fear and fatigue. Now, when you face a crisis, adrenaline will be released and you will be able to bring out the most of your body’s ability.

In a crisis, +50% Immunity to Fear, Reaction Rate +20%.

‘I finally raised both of the Indomitables in the set to Intermediate!’

When he set a goal and aggressively pursued it, the skill growth was also fast.

The effect of Adrenaline was incredible. Once he fell into critical condition, all his senses sharpened, making him feel as if the enemy was Slowed. Naturally, it was much easier to avoid the enemy’s attacks. Also, his attack speed increased, letting him make six attacks in the time it had taken to make five. With the Indomitable series effects added on top of that, his fighting power skyrocketed. After about three or fours hours of fighting, he was even able to match his breathing with the guards.

“Everyone, be strong! Only we can defend Jackson Castle!”

“OOOHHH!”

The Nursing skill he occasionally used also had a great impact. Their spirits uplifted, the soldiers fought monsters even more powerfully.

In order to maximize hunting efficiency, Ark occasionally stepped out of battle to receive side quests from Raymond. Raymond, who was in charge of the volunteer troops, commissioned him small quests.

“It will be a great help in protecting the castle if you defeat about fifty Shadows.”

“Avengers are platoon leaders that lead the Shadows… if you defeat them, we’ll be able to shake their chain of command.”

“You’ve seen a Hipton before, right? They’re giant monsters holding hammers or iron bows. They say three or four Hiptons are advancing to attack the castle walls. Please stop them.”

The side quests had simple narratives, like the above. When he completed a quest, his EXP, contribution, and a value called operation performance evaluation went up. At first, he didn’t know what the operation evaluation value meant, but after completing about ten quests, he grasped the gist of it. He received harder quests with higher operation performance evaluation value.

However, players didn’t take quests despite knowing that they were available. Firstly, the rewarded EXP and contribution points were scanty, and in the raid, it was too eye-catching to go all the way to the front gate to receive a quest alone.

On the other hand, with the NPC guards, taking quests was quite favorable for Ark. Sometimes, they even put themselves in danger to help Ark complete a quest. Thanks to that, Ark was able complete quests much more easily and accumulate additional EXP and contribution.

‘The penalty for raising contribution points alone is gone. No, it’s actually a hundred times better than an average raid. Since more than anything, I can fully place my trust on the NPCs.’

Just 5 hours after Ark joined the guards, he leveled up 2 times.

Character Name

Ark

Race

Human

Alignment

Good +100

Fame

750

Level

71

Profession

Dark Walker

Title

Cat Knight, Soul Caretaker

Health

1,415

Mana

1,125 (+100)

Spiritual Power

100

Strength

178

Agility

218 (+17)

Stamina

268

Wisdom

27

Intelligence

216

Luck

43

Flexibility

17

Art of Communication

23

Affection

23

Special Stat: Knowledge of Ancient Relics

63

Equipment Effects

Black Bear Mouse Leather Armor: Agility 2, Frost Resistance +20
Cat Paws: Attack Speed +10%, Agility +15, Critical Hit Rate +10%
Crystal Golem’s Head: Mana +100
Norad Boots: Movement Speed +10%, Evasion +5%

* All abilities will increase by 30% in the dark.

* You have the ability to hide in the darkness (15 minutes duration. Cancelled when you get into combat).

* Resistance Fear, Darkness, Blind, and Seduction spells is increased by 50%.

* You can bring out the true abilities from all types of tools.

However, his time hunting with the guards reached a totally unexpected deadlock. After 6 hours, the guard commander, Cross, spoke with a fatigued face, “Today, we’ll head back in around now.”

“Huh? What do you mean?

“Since they’ve charged in for awhile, the monsters will be quiet for a bit. And the guards are all tired. If we don’t get proper rest, we won’t be able to endure tomorrow’s battle.”

It was a problem of fatigue. The concept of time was different for NPCs. For a player, a full day was 8 hours in real time. A player could push themselves to stay up a few nights and wage battle. So when there was a lull in monster attacks, players went out looking for monsters to hunt.

However, 6 hours to a player was 18 hours to an NPC. In addition, unlike users, NPCs felt fatigue and the pain of being injured realistically. Even if they recovered their Health with food or potions, their fatigue did not also disappear.

“With the situation as it is, we won’t be able to get sufficient rest, but since we’ve passed one round of the enemy’s attacks now, we’ll be able to rest until dawn. Since you have also pushed yourself quite hard, you should at least get a bit of shut eye.”

“… I understand.”

Those words were like pouring cold water over his rising spirits.

However, even Ark couldn’t impose a tighter schedule on the guards.

‘So that means for every 6 hours, I have to fight alone for 2 hours.’

But the monsters that attacked the walls came in legions. They were difficult opponents for Ark to deal with alone. Even so, he couldn’t ask to squeeze in with the attack raid for just two hours.

‘What to do? If I play around for 2 hours for every 6 hours, I’ll be doing nothing for 6 hours every day. The others will be staying up all night to hunt, so the gap will just grow larger…’

Having headed in with the guards for replanning, Ark blew out a sigh. ‘And to think that Snake’s inability to eat items would be this critical.’

Since he was fighting at Jackson Castle, he had thought he’d be able to keep selling his loot. But there was a variable that he hadn’t even imagined. It was that all the NPC shops had closed shop when Jackson Castle was attacked. Necessities could be bought through the quartermaster inside the castle, but the sale of loot was impossible.

The event quest had just begun. However, Ark’s bag was already 80% full.

Since there was no knowing what kind of item would drop and when, he was now unable to blindly grab items except for ones that stacked.

‘To think that I’ve fallen into situation where I can’t grab everything in front of my eyes…’

They were japtem worth a dozen coppers and a few silvers at best, but collecting small change eventually leads to quite a sum. Since he couldn’t take money that was on the ground, he was likely to go crazy and tear his hair out.

That wasn’t the only problem.

Hiss, hiss…

Having entered metamorphosis, Snake was gradually weakening and was spitting out an item from its belly at regular intervals. Since all the items Snake had been storing were useful, depending on the item, there were times when he left items that he’d obtained or picked them up. Ark really felt like his skin was being peeled away with each item he had to leave behind.

‘I can’t blame Snake since it ate the Fruit of Basium by my mistake…’

Seeing Snake throw up yet another item with a grueling expression, Ark could only sigh. Now that he knew that Snake was throwing up items at regular intervals, he could no longer unsummon it. If Snake vomitted all the precious items in the Netherworld, there’d be no way to retrieve them.

At the very least, Snake was able to regain its strength a little when Ark occasionally used Nursing, which fortunately decreased the vomiting. Of course, Ark had mulled over many ways to end Snake’s process of metamorphosis. However, there was nothing in particular that came to mind.

Thinking he might know, Ark asked the Alchemist Raymond, who was rich in knowledge concerning magic ingredients. However, Raymond shook his head.

“Even I have heard of the Fruit of Basium. However, the Fruit of Basium is processed in a special manner to make magic medicine or is used as a catalyst. I’ve never heard of a living creature that has eaten it directly, so it’s hard to say. I’m sorry I’m not of much help.”

“It’s alright.”

He was aware that this was not something that could be solved so easily. With a sour face, Ark shook his head and turned around.

Then, Raymond asked cautiously, “Ark, can I talk to you for a moment?”

“What’s the matter?”

“Actually… having heard that you were here, there’s a fellow who says he absolutely must see you.”

Embarrassed, Raymond gestured towards a boy lingering around the doorway. It was a familiar face. As Ark looked towards him, Raymond explained, “This is my rascal you saved, my son. Which reminds me, I haven’t even introduced him to you. This is Tom.”

“Ah!” Only then did Ark remember the boy.

This was Raymond’s child, who had been lying on his sickbed. His face back then had been haggard, but now he looked completely healthy. Of course he did, since nearly half a year had passed for an NPC.

Tom’s eyes sparkled as he looked at Ark and said, “You’re Ark, right? Father has told me so much about you. That I would have died if not for you, and that I must never forget your name. Of course I will never forget you. Ark, you are my life’s savior.”

A fresh smile spread on the tired Ark’s lips. Although he knew it was an NPC programmed response, it was still heart-warming to see that the boy had become healthy thanks to his actions.

Actually, Ark hadn’t been able to understand when there were occassional news reports of moving stories about someone donating anonymously or devoting their entire lives to others. For what reason would one give away the money they worked to the bone for? But seeing the tears in Tom’s eyes, he thought he could understand their feelings. Granted, he only felt that way since this was a game; in real life, there was no way.

“I’m not such a great person. Rather, your father is more admirable.”

Tom rubbed the tip of his nose and answered with a proud face, “Hehehe, I know that. But you are as great a person as my father.”

Then Dedric whispered from Ark’s shoulder, “He still doesn’t know Master’s real character, poor guy. It’s better if he doesn’t find out.”

While Ark was giving Dedric a dirty look, Tom said, “But Ark, you help injured people, right?”

“I want to help them, if possible.”

“Then, do you think you could also help my friend and his dad?”

“This fella, what are you saying? Ark here has only just returned from fighting monsters to protect Jackson Castle. Don’t you think we should let him rest?”

“But…” Tom lowered his head with a sullen expression.

“Raymond, what’s this?”

“No, actually… After Jackson Castle was covered by the Dark Fog, many residents have been suffering from an inexplicable disease. And since refugees from the entirety of the territory have gathered here, they aren’t able to receive satisfactory treatment. We’ve asked for help from a few of the volunteer troops, but they say they don’t have the time to spare… No, since they have come to protect Jackson Castle, we can’t complain.”

Since the Clerics were the core power of the attack raid, of course it would’ve been hard to lend their time.

Ark contemplated for a moment, nodded his head and said, “Please lead on. I probably won’t be much help, but I cannot let it pass.”

“But didn’t you just return from battle?”

Ark replied without hesitation. “I am trained, so it’s fine even if I don’t sleep for a few days or so.”

In any case, it was hard to go hunting alone for 3 hours. Therefore, he had determined that it would be better to increase his intimacy with the residents instead.

“I told you so! I said Ark would help, didn’t I?”

“Haah, it has become an inconvenience to you because this little guy said something unnecessary.”

Raymond led Ark to the temporary refugee shelter with an apologetic look.

As he’d heard, the shelter was filled with people who were obviously ill. The families could only watch their suffering parents or children with anguished eyes.

He was used to such a scene by now, but his heart still felt bitter. He knew that this was just a virtual reality. But it was like watching a sad story and tearing up even though it was just a fictional movie. That effect was even greater in New World, where everything felt more real than it did in a movie.

“Papa, papa… Please wake up, waaah!”

“Cough, cough, Mom. My head hurts.”

“My child, be strong. You’ll get better.”

“Ohh, how could such a good child… God, please let this child live…”

A child trying to wake her parent up by shaking him. A parent holding her pale child and praying.

He had a lump in his throat. It was as if he was watching his past self.

How much did he cry while holding the hand of his mother, who could not wake from her sickbed? How much did he pray? How afraid and fearful was he at the thought that perhaps he would lose his mother?

If he closed his eyes even now, Ark could recite from memory the Bible verses that he had read over and over again in the dark hospital room. He did everything he could to clutch at straws. He wished and wished that God would appear and tell him to sacrifice his own life instead.

That desperation… these people felt the same way as he had. Awash in recollection, Ark’s eyes had become moist at some point.

‘They’re not just NPCs. They are people.” Ark clenched his teeth.

To be truthful, at first, he didn’t want to acknowledge that he felt sympathy for NPCs.

Crying because of a game? He thought it was something only a one or two year old child would do. But as he travelled around New World and met countless NPCs, Ark abandoned those thoughts.

If the definition of life was to be able to think for themselves, then NPCs were living creatures too. Though they were man made Als, if they had consciences, then they were already no different from living beings.

What was the shame in sympathizing with them?

The ones who should be truly ashamed were people who showed their insensitivity by giggling while watching a sad movie. We must accept things that are sad as sad. Isn’t that what makes humans human?

“Grandpa… Uwahh.”

“Kid. Move aside for a moment.”

Ark sat next to the whimpering child and held the trembling old man’s hand.

“Please shed your fear and be strong. Before you are patient, you are the grandpa of this kid and an excellent friend to your neighbors. Though of course it is difficult for you, you are not the only one who is suffering from your pain. Your grandson, who is crying here, your friend who is moaning next you, and is enduring as much pain as you as they worry. Please keep that in mind. Lean on them as much as you want and borrow their strength to fight the pain. This is just an ordeal, not a fate that cannot be overcome. The tears of your grandchild and the sincerity of your friend’s worries will be your weapon.”

This was what he had wanted to say to his mother long ago while she lay in her hospital bed.

At those words, the Nursing skill was activated and a bright light emanated out. Then, as the light grew stronger, the dark energy that had been filling the shelter began to weaken.

Afterwards, there was a dramatic change. Faces of deathly ill patients lit up. Their breathing became comfortable, and the sound of coughing from the shelter stopped.

Miracle Nursing has succeeded.

You can sincerely understand the heart and minds of the sick in further.

What patients want is not medicine to immediately wash away their pain. What they want is a warm hand that can understand their pain and cleanse their wounds with a sincere heart. Everyone, especially the refugees, were feeling a sense of alienation that was more hurtful than their illness. Now, your sincere words to them will be a treatment more excellent than medicine.

As long as the Dark Fog remains, the refugees will not fully recover. But your sincere words gave them the courage to fight the illness. The refugees will briefly forget their pain and will endure until the Dark Fog is gone.

* By succeeding Miracle Nursing, all stats have increased by 1.
* Affection has increased by 10.
* Fame has increased by 50.
* Alignment to Good has increased by 50.

 

* You have acquired the title ‘Caretaker of All’ from succeeding Miracle Nursing. Fame as a Caretaker has increased, so you will receive praises from many patients.

* As a title bonus, all stats increase by 1.

* Fame increases by 50.

He received 2,000 additional contribution points. Though it didn’t have any influence on the battle, they were contribution points he received for saving residents. But the greater reward was the smiles that returned to the patients’ faces.

‘What a relief…’

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“I told you so! I told you that Ark would be able to help!” Tom had tears spilling from his eyes as he proudly yelled out.

It was then— he suddenly heard a crashing noise from the entrance as a perplexed voice cried out.

“Ark? Did you say Ark?”

When he turned around, he saw a girl wearing a white robe staring blankly at Ark. When Ark made a strange expression, Tom pointed at her and explained, “Oh, she works and helps out here. Her name is Roco…”

“That reminds me, you did say that you started the game, too, didn’t you? It’s been crazy lately, so I forgot about it.”

“Hehe, I’m already level 25.” Jung Hye-sun, aka Roco, declared proudly.

She had recently arrived in Jackson Castle from Harun Village. Then, only when she reached Jackson did she first learn about job-changing. The profession she selected was Minstrel, a profession that could use both slight recovery and support skills.

“Of all the…” Ark clicked his tongue.

Though he had met many users, he’d never seen a Minstrel. Although Minstrels had recovery and support abilities, they were less efficient than Cleric-related professions. In addition, Clerics were equipped with their own fighting ability, and were able to solo without much difficulty as a result. However, the fighting ability of Minstrels was as low as Merchants.

A Minstrel’s strong point over a Cleric was that since it used music, most of its skills had a wide area effect. However, not be able to solo easily was a big penalty, so it was a profession looked down on by players. Therefore, there were many cases of people who mistakenly job-changed, canceled extremely early on, and chose a different profession. Cancelling a profession was only available to starter professions, and you had to pay a fine of 200 gold to the profession NPC. Meaning, it was a profession that people wanted to cancel even while having to pay such a large fine.

But Roco shook her head. “I like this profession. I’ve always had a lot of interest in music, you see. I can try instruments that I never even had the chance to touch because they were expensive, like the harp, piano, and flute, to my heart’s content. Also, with a little effort, I can quickly learn to play here. And…”

She had not started New World to play solo. Since it was a game that she had started to play with the desire to meet Ark and be helpful to him, she had chosen Minstrel without hesitation. However, she could not say that in front of Ark, who was the same as Hyun-woo in reality.

“I didn’t know you were interested in music.”

“Because we’ve never gone to karaoke together.”

“Well yeah. Still, it’s a relief that you found a job you like.”

“Yes, it was a good idea to start New World.”

As Roco let escape a muffled laugh, Dedric stared at her suspiciously and butted in, “Who’s this, Master? Your girlfriend? Is that how it is?”

“Wanna die?”

When Ark threatened, Roco asked with shining eyes, “Oho? That bat, it wasn’t just an decoration? Does it also speak?”

“I am not a bat. I am a noble of the Underworld, Dedric!”

“Kyaaaa, it said it’s a noble. How adorable!”

Dedric was puffing his chest with pride when Roco suddenly grabbed and shook him. She also discovered Skull, who was rolling next to her and picked it up.

She was not the same Roco who had screamed at the mere sight of mice. The life-like virtual reality game had completely changed her.

“Aish, you won’t let go? How dare you…”

Unable to endure Roco’s grabbing and shaking, Dedric transformed into a person and expressed his irritation. But that simply added oil to Roco’s interest. When he turned into a cute boy, Roco hugged him while giggling.

“Omo, so you can also transform. Seeing your wild eyes is like looking at my little brother when he was young. Hohoho, it must be nice, Ark. You get to carry things like this around, too.”

“What? Th-things like this?”

“Uwah, so cute. Hey, how old are you?”

“…Three hundred years old.”

“Hohoho, even the way you answer is cute. Come here and big sister will give you some wheat bread.”

“Wanna die?”

“Come on, don’t be like that and play with big sister. Skull, you come here as well.”

“Ma-Master, do something about this chick!”

As Roco nuzzled her cheek on him, Dedric asked for help with a pale face. However, since Ark had been displeased with Dedric’s arrogant attitude these days, he completely ignored Dedric and asked Roco, “But you’re still managing pretty well. It isn’t easy to endure in this place…”

“Oh, that’s right!” Roco clapped, as if remembering something just then. “Come to think of it, there’s someone I have to introduce to you, oppa.”

“Introduce?”

“Yes, he’s the one who’s been helping me since Harun Village. He’s out on a small errand, but he’ll be back soon. I’m sure you will be happy to see him, too.”

Roco grabbed Ark’s hand and pulled him along.

Since the start of the event quest, it had become impossible for players in Jackson Territory to log out. Therefore, unless they died, they couldn’t escape until the event quest ended. So even if a player left the unit, the character was left in the game in a sleeping state. The person Roco introduced to him had also not returned to his unit and was still sleeping against the wall of a building.

“Do you not recognize him?”

“Well… there’s no one I know in New World…” Ark examined the character with an indifferent eye.

He was a big-bodied male character. His armorless body was bulging with muscles. As for weapons and such, he was wearing martial arts gloves like what you might see in MMA games, and his wrists, elbows, and shoulders were wrapped in leather bands.

Overall, the atmosphere around him was like an American pro-wrestler.

‘He knows me? But I’ve never seen a person like him in New World?’

“Eh? EEHHH?” While staring at the man’s face, a bizarre scream burst from Ark’s mouth. The square angular face, the bushy beard. It was indeed a face he knew from memory. And it wasn’t from the game, but reality!

Just then, the character vibrated and lifted his head. He looked at Ark and Rocco with a vacant stare, roughly sized up the situation, grinned and stood up.

“Isn’t it Hyun-woo! It’s really nice to meet you in the game. How have you been?”

“De-Detective Gwon?”

“Why are you so surprised? You were the one who told me to try out the game. I gave it a go and I’m quite pleased with it. So I’ve been so busy playing that I haven’t even slept for a few days. Well, I still go to the hospital. I’m used to staying up all night from my detective days. Ack, my shoulders hurt.”

Gwon Hwa-rang. No, JusticeMan mumbled while rotating his arm.

Surprisingly, JusticeMan was already level 40.

“Ah, it has really been an eventful month.” JusticeMan mumbled while absentmindedly looking at the distant mountains.

* * *

In fact, Gwon Hwa-rang hadn’t leveled up very quickly after first starting the game.

Since he had ignorantly beaten Wolves to death from the beginning, of course he received a lot of EXP. But while helping others, he was never able to get 100% of the EXP and sometimes he even died, so leveling up became slower and slower. Moreover, even though Gwon Hwa-rang was as strong as he was ignorant, he was actually a newb at games.

Of course, since he had brute skills, dealing with Wild Dogs and Wolves posed no problem. However, once he somehow reached level 20, Wild Dogs and Wolves no longer gave much experience. So he went out a little further, and problems that he couldn’t make head or tail of occurred.

A beginner village was literally a beginner village. It is an area where people without knowledge of the game can live in, somehow or another. But once he left the beginner village, his situation changed completely.

What bothered Gwon Hwa-rang in particular were the monsters that applied abnormal conditions. Because it was still a low-level area, there were no monsters that applied powerful abnormal conditions, but Gwon Hwa-rang had no idea what to do and just struggled even when he received ‘Bleed’ or ‘Weaken’.

Abnormal condition resistance was influenced by Agility, Intelligence, and Luck. However, without any knowledge of stat distribution, he blindly poured his stat points into only Strength and Stamina. His resistance against conditions was rock bottom, so when he took a blow, he almost certainly received a status condition.

A normal player would have come up with countermeasures by that point. But Gwon Hwa-rang was nothing if not fighting spirit– the harder the situation, the more his motivation burned, so he began to die like crazy. As a result, his stats were being cut down and he was even dropping his shabby equipment, so of course fighting became harder.

Was that all? Though he was over forty years old, he had no concept of money management. Thus, he didn’t even have the money to repair his equipment, so they broke, and there were even times when he couldn’t buy himself wheat bread to eat. Granted, the players who received his help occasionally took care of him, but New World wasn’t so easy a place that one could live on just that.

“Damn it, why is this game so complicated?”

Beaten to death by monsters that looked unbelievably weak yet again, Gwon Hwa-rang scratched his head while smoking a pack of cigarettes. With the situation this severe, he was forced to acknowledge that he couldn’t properly raise his character by just blindly rushing in and fighting.

Gwon Hwa-rang put out his cigarette and glanced at the manual for New World that had come when he bought the unit. Though he had thought about reading it, he quickly shook his head. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had read a book. Especially not a gaming manual filled with game terms that were strange to pronounce. Looking at the fearsomely thick manual, he couldn’t even draw the nerve to pick it up.

“This is driving me crazy. Just when the game was getting good. What is this? Still, I can’t just cling to the busy Hyun-woo and ask for help…”

Then, something flashed into Gwon Hwa-rang’s mind. “Wait a minute, to think of it, aren’t there quite a few game fanatics? If I drag them in…”

Gwon Hwa-rang got up immediately and made some calls here and there.

A short while afterwards, 10 men were gathered in his house. They were men with colorful pasts as fairly infamous pickpockets, smugglers, fraudsters, violent offenders, etc.. Gwon Hwa-rang, who had become a probation officer, managed these so-called good-for-nothings with criminal records.

Gwon Hwa-rang summoned them and grinned as he asked, “Alright, anyone here who is confident in playing games, put your hands up.”

All 10 people raised their hands.

“Okay, then there’ll be no problem. From now on, you will all be my coaches.”

“Huh? Your coach?”

“Yes, from now on, all of you will take turns coming over to my house to coach me.”

“What game are you playing?”

“New World.”

“But we haven’t had the chance to play New World yet…”

The ex-convicts scratched their heads with unconfident expressions.

But after hearing Gwon Hwa-rang’s questions, the looks on their faces turned to utter amazement. Gwon Hwa-rang was a person without any MMORPG, no, any gaming basic knowledge at all.

If you fight, your level will rise, If you level up, you become stronger. Then you have to fight stronger enemies. That was all Gwon Hwa-Rang knew about New World.

“What are active skills, you ask? Do you seriously call that a question?”

“You still don’t know what potions do?”

“Why exactly do you go around with your armor off?”

“You took it off because it was annoying? Then why in the world do you think people are uneasy when they aren’t wearing heavy plate armor?”

“Why do you keep blindly rushing in and dying? Huh? Know no retreat? Are you kidding me?”

“How in hell did you even manage to level up to 20?”

“Ah, dammit. I can’t take this anymore, it’s too frustrating. Hey you, order units!”

In the end, with the good-for-nothings tearing their hair out with frustration, they brought in units and ended up playing the game together. Following the former detective, the ten ex-convicts came to walk the paths of gamers.

Their character names were number 1401 to 1410, their probation numbers.

With the help of these game-knowledgeable fellows, Gwon Hwa-rang began to learn the basics of New World. But he was still a passionate detective. Gwon Hwa-rang’s basic playing style didn’t change.

“Over there! Someone’s asking for help over there! Let’s go!”

“EHH? Again? Just what do we gain for deliberately going over to help?”

“Regardless of how this started, this is one of your social adjustment programs. Rather than putting in time later you will practice justice here and learn how satisfying it is, understood?”

“It’s okay if we don’t learn that.”

“Quiet! You want to get hit and go or just go?”

Gwon Hwa-rang bullied them and dragged them around. The sight of them was the talk of the players in Harun Village.

“Look at that, Machoman’s crew grew!”

Just like that, the party made up of a detective and ex-convicts became a new hot topic in the beginner village. This was how Gwon Hwa-rang, who had no knowledge whatsoever about games, was able to reach level 40 in a month.

Well, with 10 users backing you up, you can’t help but level up quickly.

* * *

JusticeMan and Roco met in Harun Village. After JusticeMan rescued Roco a few times, they started go around together whenever they logged in. That was why Roco was able to reach level 25 without any combat ability.

Then, they naturally came to know that they both knew Ark, and with that connection, they ended up going all the way to Jackson Castle together. Not long after they arrived, the event quest started and they unknowingly joined the militia.

“Then what did you job-change to?”

“I haven’t chosen a profession yet. I looked around but I haven’t found one that fits me yet.”

“You still haven’t chosen a job at level 40?”

“Not having a job doesn’t seem to matter? Plus, with the castle in such disorder right now, I can’t even if I wanted to.” JusticeMan answered with a disinterested expression.

Ark briefly stared at JusticeMan and Roco. He wanted to be of some help to JusticeMan and Roco, who were still newbs to the ways of New World. Also, one was like a savior to him and the other was one that he thought of as a little sister.

They were truly people he sincerely wanted to help.

Even though the ex-convicts were with them, their levels were still below 20. Moreover, since the start of the event quest, 8 had died, leaving only #1401 and #1405. There were only 2 of them left.

‘Wherever I go with JusticeMan and Roco, we’d probably be treated coldly… if so…’

After pondering for a moment Ark decided to drag them into the Guard. It wouldn’t be easy, but he didn’t think it would be impossible if he use the intimacy he’d raised with the Guard and his relationship with the Lord.

“Mister, do you want to raise contribution points with Roco and me? Since this is an event quest, if you raise your contribution by participating in the militia, you’ll be able to receive a pretty good reward.”

“Sounds good to me. What the militia is doing is boring. Roco also started this game to play with you, so that’s not a problem, but I’m not sure it’ll be alright since we’ve got so many other members.”

JusticeMan mumbled while scratching his head.

“Other members? #1401 and #1405?”

“No, actually, JusticeMan mister is the current militia leader. The people he helped in Harun Village recommended him. In the beginning there were about 200 people who received the militia quest, but almost all of them died on the first day. There are only about 20 people who survived out of the 50 who followed JusticeMan.”

“Fifty?” responded Ark with a surprised expression. It was fascinating that so many users were following JusticeMan, who had only been playing for 20 days. Of course, JusticeMan had a charm that somehow drew people towards him. But that was in the real world. Just how in the world did a gaming newb gather so many people? Having never seen JusticeMan’s unusual gameplay, Ark had a hard time imagining it.

‘Anyways, 20 militia… it might be tough, but I might as well try asking.’

He didn’t like interacting with other players, but these were people who followed JusticeMan. If it was someone else, Ark would have refused them even if they had offered him a bag of money, but it was a different story for people related to JusticeMan and Roco.

Whether in reality or the game, they were the only two people Ark didn’t calculate profit or loss with. The fewer there are, the stronger the attachment.

* * *

“You’re asking me to combine the militia with the Guard?” Having received Ark’s request, the Lord responded with a perplexed expression. “Well, it’s true there isn’t anything to assign the militia right now… but it pricks my conscience to send out the militia again when many have already sacrificed themselves. And truthfully, I don’t even know if they would be much help.”

“I will take responsibility for them. Also, they will definitely be helpful.”

“Hmm…”

As the young Lord pondered, Cross, whose intimacy with Ark was even higher, gave his support. “Ark must have a plan of his own, seeing how he asking like this. And even if they aren’t much of a help in battle, we can still entrust the rear of the Guard to them. The militia are also volunteer troops who rose up to protect Jackson, isn’t it wrong to push them to the back just because they are weak?”

“What you say has merit, alright. I’ll leave that matter to you. But keep this in mind. Resident or foreigner, their lives are equally precious. In addition, protecting them and reducing the sacrifices is our duty. If it seems dangerous, you must return them to the castle.”

“Of course.”

Like that, the 20 militiamen that no one even looked at were added to the Jackson Guard. The one most happy with the decision was the former detective, JusticeMan.

“Finally, we’ve gotten a job worth doing. I was about to get fed up with luggage moving quests.”

“Please don’t push yourself too much. Even if you just participate a little, your contribution will increase.” Ark worriedly entreated the extremely motivated JusticeMan.

But JusticeMan just snorted. “I can’t do that. Even if I die, dying in flames is how a police officer of South Korea must go.”

After a while, Ark realized that his fears were baseless. ‘Wh-what is that?’

Ark’s prediction that JusticeMan and the militia with their low levels wouldn’t be helpful was overturned. Though they couldn’t fight many monsters at once like the Guard could, the skill with which they systematically pressured monsters while perfectly in sync was incomparable to the Guards.

The 20 users lured monsters, surrounded them, and completely annihilated them all in one beat.

JusticeMan, who had started way later than Ark, even figured out the skills of various jobs and used them effectively in combos. Thanks to that, even users with an average level of 35 were able to hunt level 85 monsters. The fact that they had survived in battle until the volunteer troops had arrived was not all luck.

‘Come to think of it…’

It was then that Ark remembered that JusticeMan was no ordinary government official. He was a person who had been dispatched to South America in a special squad as a police instructor.

To put it in words, in group battle, he was a professional!

Was that all? Ark was too focused on the game and forgot one obvious fact. No, most users probably forgot this fact.

It was the fact that 80% of healthy males in Korea received professional military training! 80% receiving military training was not common worldwide.

The potential of that was unimaginable.

People usually said that one would rot if they went into the military, but they said that because they didn’t know the potential of military training. There was even an incident like this in Japan long ago. Korean international students in Japan resented the rash violence of the local yakuza and declared an all-out war. However, their opponents were specialized killers who didn’t hesitate to murder. When the international students came at them, of course the yakuza snorted at them.

And as expected, at first the international students were pushed back. What changed the situation was when command was entrusted to an international student who was a commissioned officer. Once the chain of command was established, the situation changed completely. Pushed to near annihilation by a military operation counterattacks, it ended with the yakuza kneeling and begging for forgiveness.

The scene in front of Ark’s eyes was not very different from that incident. Though they were only level 35 and couldn’t demonstrate much strength by themselves, if they carried out tactics under a proper commander, the users who had completed basic military training showed amazing teamwork and unity.

The teamwork of gamers from the Republic of Korea who had dominated the online gaming world in the 90s came from their military training.

‘So you can play the game like this!’

Ark, who had been about to teach JusticeMan, ended up learning from him instead. But there was someone who received a greater shock from JusticeMan’s tactics.

“Ohh, the strategy of these foreigners isn’t bad. Who in the world is that guy leading the militia?”

It was the commander of the Guard, Cross.

JusticeMan had unwillingly ended up leading the militia. But once he was entrusted with a mission, he would get it done even if the sky fell down. Since he was always leading the militia while making strategies, he had gained a totally unexpected skill, ‘Tactics’. Cross was reacting to that skill.

“Without a doubt, that guy was a general in some foreign land. My God, to think we kept such an outstanding man like him locked up inside the fort… I see, so that’s why you wanted the militia to join the Guard.”

“Yes, well… that’s about right.” Ark smiled with a strange expression and equivocated.

“Thanks to you, I have finally opened my eyes. I have realized what true tactics are!”

Cross ran over to JusticeMan with a cheer. And then he began to ask JusticeMan to teach him about tactics from the very beginning. JusticeMan, who lived for the fun of helping others, gladly agreed.

“Okay, but my training is really hard!”
“I am resolved!”

JusticeMan gained command of the Guard in an instant. Thanks to that, the soldiers had to fight monsters while receiving his special task force training.

“I am nothing without the group. There is only US!”

“Actual battle soon turns to training. No matter how pressing the situation is, don’t break formation!”

“Lax! Hey, you! Fall back and give me 100 push ups!”

The NPC getting dragged out while in the heat of battle to receive punishment wasn’t even a funny situation.

“Hey you there, can’t you do it right?”

Of course, the people doling out the punishments were the skillful TAs, #1401 and #1405. In any case, the Guard’s lack of organizing skills were strengthened by JusticeMan. Naturally, their monster hunting speed also increased.

Roco was also above ordinary. Although Roco chose the Minstrel profession that was shunned by all, she demonstrated an enormously active role in group battle, despite being only level 25. As soon as it got dangerous, the sound of the harp and Roco’s singing could be heard.

“The fragrance carried on the wind is coming to wipe away the fatigue of the day and drive away the darkness.”

– Song of Vitality has applied. For the next 5 minutes, fatigue decreases and night-vision is given. Affects all the people who have heard the song.

The support skills of the minstrel affected a large radius. Additionally, most of them had long lasting effects.

‘Fight Song’ increased the morale and courage of allied forces, while ‘Song of Despair’ decreased the morale and courage of the enemy. Also, if she sang ‘Song of Recovery,’ 200 Health was recovered over 3 minutes. Although it wasn’t much compared with a Cleric’s recovery magic, it had a wide range! Moreover, it was a skill with hardly any Mana consumption.

But the highlight was ‘Song of Vitality,’ which reduced fatigue! Thanks to it, the Guard didn’t feel fatigued and had more time to receive JusticeMan’s rough training.

‘NPCs are working together with players, this is awesome!’

Ark hadn’t even been able to imagine such an additional effect.

The low-leveled militia leveled up like crazy. Of course, Ark accumulated considerable experience and contribution points.

“Quest-related information window!”

– Ark’s current contribution is 9,400. You are in 68th place.

When Ark joined the Guard, his rank was 127. Since there were about 160 users in Jackson Castle including the 20 militia who were participating in the quest, he was in the mid-upper range.

‘But there is still a long way to catch up to Alan.’

The top 10 contributors were updated every 8 hours on the plaza’s bulletin board. The current top 10 players were all in Platoon 1, which was led by Alan. And Alan’s contribution points were a whopping 30,600, putting him in an overwhelming first place.

He was using his position to eat up the contribution points of Platoons 2 and 3, but no one voiced their complaints because he was the commander of the strongest platoon.

Alan was recognized as number 1 by not only the NPCs, but also the players.

‘I can really overtake Alan?’

Everything was going better than Ark expected. However, the wall of the Holy Knight Alan, who was still backed up by the players, was as high as ever.

Moreover, unlike the other volunteer troops, Ark and the militia couldn’t continue battle without the Guard. Naturally, it wasn’t easy to catch up to the volunteer troops who went seeking battle without rest.

‘Should I be satisfied with this level?’

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2016-11-03T16:07:42+00:00June 30th, 2014|[X / KR] Ark|73 Comments