This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Boyce, Charles, Chronohell, Lastear, and Lei. Special thanks to Davidmoo, and Masene.
Holy Knight Alan
“Phew, I’m tired.”
Hyun-woo dragged his tired body back home. With the start of the event quest, he had stayed up for two days. Other players were able to leave their characters, and occasionally rest when the monsters’ attacks slowed down, but Hyun-woo couldn’t afford such luxury.
Even when there wasn’t any fighting, he had care for the sick patients in the shelter. Although they had regained their vitality with the success of his miraculous treatment, the disease hadn’t been fully cured. For Hyun-woo, who regretted missing out on even 1 contribution point, it was actually rather fortunate.
However, no matter how busy he was with the quest, he couldn’t forget to stop by the hospital once every two days. If he neglected his mother because of a game, then wouldn’t that be putting the cart before the horse?
‘Still, it’s a relief mother has gotten so much better.’ A smile spread on Hyun-woo’s lips.
After starting rehabilitation treatment, his mother’s complexion had been improving day by day.
Even though he, himself, had heavy, dark circles under his eyes, Hyun-woo was still as worried as ever. However, because there was the option Gwon Hwa-rang had roughly suggested, his anxiety wasn’t as sharp as before. In any case, there was no better cure for Hyun Woo’s intense fatigue than the news of his mother’s health improvement.
‘Should I sleep for a couple of hours before I log in?’ If I don’t sleep now, I won’t be able to sleep for the whole day…’
It had already been two days since the start of the event quest. There was only one day remaining now. Hyun-woo forcefully lifted his eyelids, which were slowly drooping on their own, as he turned the TV on out of habit. He didn’t know when such a habit had formed, but he couldn’t fall asleep well if his surroundings weren’t noisy. As a result, setting a timer on the TV and falling asleep had hardened into a habit.
A game coverage broadcast happened to be starting on TV. It was a program that usually handled general games, but recently, two thirds of the reports were about New World, which was being broadcasted as a social topic. Moreover, since the start of the event quest, it had turned into a New World feature program altogether.
A pretty reporter was giving a lengthy report regarding New World on the TV screen.
“I shall now take you to find out about this event quest. Mr. Ha Myung-woo, have you been well?”
“Yes, it’s nice to see you.”
When a familiar face appeared on TV, Hyun-woo turned up the volume slightly.
“As I said mentioned before, the viewers are curious about many matters regarding this event quest. First, it’s said that there was no announcement before this quest started, and, because of it, I’ve heard there’s been a flood of complaints from players who could not participate. What do you think about this issue, Sir?”
“We are listening attentively, since they are words coming from those who value New World so much. However, New World is a perfect virtual reality world. If an operating interferes with such a world to announce future incidents in advance, or if information is leaked, it will cause a severe problem in the game’s overall balance. Therefore, Global Exos is adhering to an onlooker position regarding game progress.”
“Then, do you mean to say the next event will also occur without any prior notice?”
“As it has not yet been discussed in detail, I cannot say. What I can say is that New World is a world exclusively made for the players. The start of the event was not intended by the developers, but by each and every user’s course of actions and decisions, naturally influencing the progression.”
“How surprising. Then, ultimately, it means that New World is no different from reality, right?”
“That is exactly the game ideal we seek.” Ha Myung-woo laughed, as if pleased with the reporter’s words.
“Then let’s change the topic. There was recently the subject of the epic item sold for 70 million Won (~$70,000) on the auction site specializing in selling New World items. What are your thoughts on such an event?”
’70 million Won?’ Hyun-woo felt choked. It had only been three months since the opening of New World. Ultimately, players were, at best, were under level 100, but 70 million won… Then, didn’t it mean items of such value could easily appear in the future?
However, on TV, Ha Myung-woo did not show a very surprised reaction. “Well, it has already been 20 years since item trading was made legal. Since then, countless items have been traded, and more than a few of the expensive ones exceeded the millions in price. Though it hasn’t been long since we opened, I think it is natural for an item with such a price to appear. In addition, I believe an item of unprecedented price will appear in New World soon.”
“Wow, I’m already trembling in anticipation! I’m starting to understand the words of the many game tycoons who were chatting on the internet. Then, please continue to make a good game for us.”
“Yes, we will try.”
Ha Myung-woo bowed as the TV visual changed.
That was the term coined for the people who struck it rich by selling a game item. Of course, becoming one would require investing countless hours and luck, but it was a fantasy dreamt by every gamer who played for a living as they logged in.
Hyun-woo was surely not an exception. Even if it wasn’t to the extent of being a tycoon, he thought there would be nothing more to desire if he could just live without worrying about his monthly bills.
‘But that too will only be possible if my stamina keeps up.’
Hyun-woo closed his eyes as he yawned wide. However, his eyes snapped open like a surprised rabbit at the next sounds from the TV.
“Unfortunately, due to the secrecy of the developers, we are still unable to acquire videos related to the event quest. Apparently, players participating in the quest who have captured screen footage, were unable to send us their videos because they cannot logout. However, we were able to meet, with difficulty, the famous player who, according to the reports of several players, currently stands at 1st place in quest contribution points. Did you say your ID was Alan?”
Hyun-woo shot to his feet and locked his gaze on the TV screen.
“Yes, I am Alan.”
The person who replied to the reporter’s question was a young man in his early 20s. With a handsome face and wearing clothes that looked expensive at first glance, even his figure was model-class. Seeing his easy composure despite being on camera, it seemed like he was a successful celebrity.
‘So this man is Alan…’ A sigh flowed out on its own.
There were many cases where players with good-looking characters in the game were actually dull in appearance. But for Alan, it was the opposite. The Holy Knight Alan was a considerable pretty boy, but seeing the real Alan was enough to make you think the in-game character had actually been a little messed up.
At the sight of Alan smiling from within the TV at him, Ark felt a baseless sense of defeat.
Rich, handsome, and he likely had a good academic background, since he was enough to be recruited into Global Exos. There was nothing he lacked. He was not someone who could even be compared to Hyun-woo, who lacked so very, very much. Thinking of the Kang Mi-su, whom he had liked quite a lot, he inadvertently blew out a sigh. Honestly, if Hyun-woo was a girl, his heart would lean towards Alan rather than himself. It appeared the reporter thought so as well.
“I didn’t expect you to be so handsome. If you say you like games, no wonder I get a dark feeling…”
[T/N: The reporter is wryly suggesting that considering his looks, Alan could be a playa. Of girls as well as games.]
“That too is a story from the past.”
“Oh ho, is that saying you believe you’re good-lookin’?”
“Surely not. However, I think it is a bias to say I am ‘dark’ for playing games.”
“Yes, looking at Alan-nim, I do think that way. But often, famous individuals are usually reluctant to show their faces in-game. What are your thoughts on that, Alan-nim?”
“It would also differ depending on one’s individual personalities. The Holy Knight Alan I am raising is always a dignified character. I have never done anything bad in the game, and I’ve never sowed anyone’s hatred. There’s really no reason to hide.”
“Wow, so cool. Then you’re saying you’ve gotten 1st place in this quest fair and square.”
“Of course. However, I am not first because of my own successes. In reality or in-game, there’s no one who succeeds alone. I have many friends, and I simply became first some way or another through their help. So first, I have to give them my thanks.”
“You even speak well. Even I would want to help you.”
Hyun-woo turned off the TV.
No one can succeed alone. Hearing those words made Hyun-woo feel as if everything he had done in New World was being denied. Even if those words were true, he didn’t want to hear any more. Hyun-woo threw off his blanket and entered the unit.
‘I can’t win in anything against Alan in reality. So I cannot, and will not lose to him in the game. Wait and see, Alan, I will surpass you someday at all costs!’
He had long since forgotten his fatigue.
* * *
– A sudden assault by an assassination skill has dealt you a critical hit. 300 X 3 damage taken.
As soon as Ark connected to the game, he was greeted by a red warning message. Nearly 60% of his Health was lost in an instant.
In order to avoid paying a lodging bill, Ark logged out in a fairly deserted alley. However, he was dumbfounded since it was still a street in the castle, yet he had suddenly taken damage as soon as he connected.
‘Huh? Did something happen in Jackson while I was gone?’
Then, someone suddenly appeared before his eyes.
It was not a monster. The character wearing jet-black leather armor and even a bandana over the face was definitely a user. Ark hastily withdrew and cast Eyes of the Cat. However, he couldn’t check the user’s information.
By using Eyes of the Cat, the basic information, name, profession, and Health of the opponent was shown. Of course, this was not applicable to all players. Only Health was displayed for enemies who were more than 10 levels higher. However, his information window just looked blurred with noise altogether.
He was definitely using a special skill or scroll to hide his identity. And if he was deliberately concealing his identity and attacking, he certainly had no good intentions.
“Who are you?”
“Hmph, so now you answer, I thought you might be asleep in the unit since there was no answer when I called you. That greeting was just a substitute for an alarm clock, so don’t be too touchy.”
A somewhat androgynous voice came out from the space in the bandana.
“What? You call that a greeting?”
“Whatever. I don’t want to argue with you.”
When Ark expressed his anger, he flicked his hand as if it was troublesome.
“I’ll keep it short. Hand over the item called Black Frost Blade. Then, I’ll leave quietly.”
“Black Frost Blade?” Ark knit his brows as he asked.
The Black Frost Blade was the last item he won in the blind auction. Ark had bought it because he had the feeling there was something more to it, but he had just been storing it since its purpose was unclear. But how did he even know the name of the item?
“Stop pretending you don’t know. I know you bought it at the auction.”
“… You attacked me to steal it?”
“I told you, right? Earlier was just a greeting, and well, I might have killed you if you hadn’t answered even then… To be honest, I’m not a very patient person. I had to chase you all the way here even after receiving a timed quest because you snatched the item. I still have one day. Do you know how much I struggled to find you because you hid in a frickin’ weird place after reaching Jackson?”
“That’s your problem.”
“You’re saying some pretty words.”
“Cause my actions are pretty?”
“Enough. Let’s get back to the point. Hand over the item. I’ll tell you in advance, it’s better not to make up excuses. I’m sure you don’t want this precious event quest to end with your death.”
It was obviously a threat.
Ark glared at him with a slightly tense look.
He definitely didn’t seem like an easy opponent. Ark’s current level was about 70. With the darkness attribute bonus, he reached 90. Even if Ark was in ‘Stealth’ and succeeded in backstabbing a level 90 player, he couldn’t deal 900 damage. Even if he didn’t know what kind of Assassin skill it was, it didn’t seem like there was room for doubt the stats and level of this opponent were higher than Ark’s. Besides, based on the equipment he was wearing and his use of ‘Stealth,’ it was likely his character was also of the dark attribute, like Ark. He wasn’t someone Ark could win against with 60% of his health down from a pre-emptive strike.
‘The quest will fail if I die. 24 hours of being unable to login!’
Dying would mean that two days of staying up for this quest would fly away in an instant. However, Ark wasn’t one to just obediently hand over an item he had paid 220 Gold and 1 Copper approximately 2.2 million Won (~$2,200) in cash. Even if he met a robber with a knife, 2.2 million Won was worth risking your life for in a fight. At the very least, Ark would do it.
“Hmph, you’ve got to be kidding. If you kill me in town, wouldn’t you immediately come under a concentrated attack from the Soldiers?”
“That’s not something I have to worry about.”
The opponent spoke in a brazen tone. They weren’t empty words; Ark felt confidence from him, as if he surely had some measures in place.
“And if I won’t give it to you even if I die?”
“I can just take it from you after I kill you.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
“You’re diggin’ your own grave, idiot. If you really have a death-wish, I’ll kill you. Target Ark, designated mark: Black Frost Blade,” he shouted while tearing a red scroll he had pulled out.
It was the ever-so-familiar [Robbery] scroll, which designated an item in the opponent’s pack and stole it after death. However, the eyes from behind the bandana were filled with confusion.
From his confused eyes, Ark was sure his own thoughts were right on the mark. After Ark found out about the existence of dangerous scrolls such as [Robbery], he had stashed away all valuables in Snake’s stomach. He had calculated that if the scroll’s scope was a backpack, then it wouldn’t be able to search an NPC’s stomach.
His prediction hit the mark.
Fortunately, Snake hadn’t vomited the Black Frost Blade yet. A message saying there was no such item probably popped up in front of the guy’s eyes.
Ark grinned as he slyly asked, “What’s wrong? Did you see a disappointing message or something?”
“You… just what did you do with the item?”
“I wonder? Maybe I sold it off somewhere?”
“Do-don’t make me laugh! There’s no way you sold off an auction item you bought for 220 Gold. No, the store probably wouldn’t even buy it. Of course, there’s no way another person bought an item like it, cause other people have no need for it.”
“So you even know how much I won it for. Did you come in with Giran’s volunteer troops?” As Ark spoke with narrowed eyes, the guy flinched. “Well, whatever. In the end, your guess is right. I still have the item. But you’ll never be able to steal it with the likes of the [Robbery] scroll. Are you still gonna kill me?”
He couldn’t reply.
If he couldn’t take the item he wanted, then there was no profit in killing Ark. He would just get marked as a Chaotic player and would get swarmed to death by the Soldiers. Now, Ark had the initiative.
He glared at Ark for a moment and said, “Fine. Then let’s negotiate. I’ll buy the item for 250 Gold. The item is related to my profession exclusive quest anyways. I don’t know what you were expecting when you invested 220 gold on it, but it’s useless to you. This isn’t a lie.”
“What? I’m giving you 30 more Gold and you still say no?”
“Sure, maybe I would have agreed if you had come out with an offer from the beginning. I might’ve even sold it for 220 Gold.”
Of course it was a lie. Ark wasn’t such a pushover that he would hand it over in a sale to someone who was willing to take the risk of killing a player within a city for it. But since the situation had become like this, it was better for him to act generous.
“But you attacked me without warning and even tried to kill me. Now it’s not about money, it’s personal. Let me make it clear — I have no intention of selling it even if you offer 300 Gold.”
“Do you really wanna die?”
“Go ahead if you want to,” Ark quipped with a laugh.
This was a guy who had followed him all the way here for one item. He couldn’t kill Ark while knowing he would forever lose the way to get the item if he killed Ark here and aggravated their relationship even further.
It was time he learned what Ark wanted. With an angry glare, he asked in a threatening voice, “What do you want?”
“I wonder? It depends on what you can do for me. No, before that, won’t you show me your name? Since you know my name it would be unfair if I don’t know yours. The trade starts from fair ground.”
“… Release skill.”
When he muttered in a low voice, the noise on the information window disappeared. It said his name was Shambala, and his profession was Saint Assassin.
It was a profession Ark had never heard of. There were Thief professions in New World, but it was his first time hearing of an Assassin. Well, it wasn’t surprising since Ark only knew 1/10 of the professions. But a Saint Assassin? What kind of ridiculous job was this?
‘A holy assassin? Are you kidding me?’
What he thought was even stranger was that Shambala’s name was still displayed in white. If a player attacks another player first, even if they didn’t kill, the attacker’s name turns gray. It basically means that although he’s not a murderer, he’s still a bad guy. As a result, even though the Soldiers wouldn’t go so far as to attack, there were many drawbacks because favor with NPCs would fall. However, Shambala’s name was still white…
There was also the skill used to hide his info window; it seemed like he was a fellow who used a strange skill.
“Why didn’t your alignment go down? Is that also a scroll?
“If you don’t want to answer, then whatever, see ya.”
“It’s a profession exclusive skill.”
As soon as Ark whirled away, Shambala answered in a frustrated voice.
Once again, Ark realized the importance knowing skill information. JusticeMan’s recent tactics were also only possible because he knew the skills of other professions like the back of his hand.
In the future, he would often end up having to PVP when he went to high level areas. It would be very disadvantageous if he couldn’t figure out his opponent’s skills. As much as Ark worked hard to hide Dark Walker skills, figuring out other professions’ skills was also important. It was even more so for the profession of a player who might become an enemy.
“‘Death’s Agent’, if you get permission from the Death God for certain behaviors, if you commit a misdeed or even kill a player, you won’t be made Chaotic. As long as you’re not caught by other players or NPCs, whatever you do is fine. While the Death’s Agent skill is active, other people can’t even look at your info window.”
Shambala answered as if there wasn’t really a need to hide it. Well, even if you knew about it before hand, it wasn’t a skill that could be blocked.
‘There’s no impact on your alignment even if you do something bad? Isn’t that a scamming skill? Doesn’t it mean he could even beat a Merchant NPC to death and rob his shop if needed?’
Of course, there was no way the New World system was that easy. There was surely a considerable penalty to maintain balance. But to be able to commit evil deeds without punishment, depending on its use, it could be a very strong skill. Particularly against players…
After considering it for a bit, Ark thought maybe and asked, “Then, could you kill someone like Alan if you wanted to?”
“That’s too hard.” Shambala shook his head. “There have been many instances where my skill didn’t work against people at much higher levels than me. Someone with the Faith stat is also hard. Though well, turning Chaotic isn’t too much of a problem, but… Alan and I aren’t a good match. A Holy Knight is constantly receiving continuous aura protection, so it isn’t easy to get close to him even if I use ‘Stealth.’ A lot of my skills don’t work on him, either.”
In other words, if he had a good match on someone, he was confident he could win even against Alan. His voice sounded certain, in its own way.
Ark thought about it long and hard before nodding. “Alright, then let’s do it like this. Throughout the progress of this quest, you’ll help me unconditionally.”
“What? You’re gonna make me your lapdog?”
“There’s only one day left until the quest ends. You said it took you two days to find me? And there’s one day ’til the quest ends anyway. It’s not such a bad condition, don’t you think?”
“…What the hell do I have to do?”
“You’ll have to find out and see.”
“You’ll keep your promise, right?”
“Of course. Didn’t you say that the item is useless to me anyways? Then isn’t selling it for a profit and getting rid of it best for me?”
“Sell? Surely you’re not saying you’ll sell it to me?”
Shambala’s eyes abruptly narrowed.
Ark’s eyes widened in surprise at that reaction. “Would I just give away a 220 Gold item to someone I hardly know? As long as you follow your promise to follow my orders for the duration of the quest, I’ll be generous and give it to you for 300 Gold. Even this much is really generous for me.”
“Think of 70 Gold as a fine for trying to kill me. It’s fine if you don’t want to.”
“… Dammit. Alright.”
In the end, Shambala answered while grinding his teeth.
‘Huhuhu, I didn’t do business part-time jobs just for the looks.’
When making a deal, it’s better to set a slightly difficult condition in the beginning. If Ark had asked for 300 Gold from the beginning, Shambala would have probably tried to haggle. But if a price was named after putting down an outrageous condition, it’s a human tendency to lose the ability to think about the price. That’s because they would be too worried about losing the trade from being too greedy and bargaining.
He actually didn’t know if there would be a use for Shambala or not. He had just used it as a sufficient excuse to lead the bargaining into his favor. Thanks to that, he got an ally he could trust for one day and made an easy 70 Gold.
‘Huhuhu, 70 Gold right from the start. Looks like things are going to work out nicely.’
It was more than enough compensation for being attacked from behind.
* * *
‘Sigh, they’ve still got a ways to go.’
He’d dropped by the barracks, but the Guard was still snoozing away. Since JusticeMan, Roco, and the Guard had stayed up for a whole day, they were getting a bit of shut eye and had become living statues.
So, although Ark had forced himself to log in, there wasn’t really much for him to do once he came in. Even so, he didn’t want to leave again, so he was going to the refugee shelter to look around. However, when he saw the board that was suddenly set in the square, he couldn’t help but sigh.
The true heroes who had gathered for Jackson!
The current 1st contributor in the Jackson Guards was the Holy Knight Alan. Contribution points: 37, 800.
Even though Ark was hunting like his life depended on it, in the end, Alan had exceeded him with 4 times the points. That was the difference between soloing and leading the attack raid.
Ark hunted with the Guard, but it wasn’t a formal attack raid. The Militia was the same. Because of that, the contribution points from the monsters felled by the Guards weren’t registered as Ark’s. However, Alan’s situation was different. He had gotten to Jackson before Ark and had snatched the position of the volunteer troop commander early on. Thanks to that, the efforts of not only the 1st, but also the 2nd and 3rd platoons were added bit by bit to Alan’s total.
That was the special characteristic of the Holy Knight, a profession granting a tremendous benefit other players couldn’t even imagine in a war situation.
Even in profession-only skills, the gap was widening. The Holy Knight profession skill granted a buff aura that raised the stats of every party member. So his contribution rose every time he used the skill, and since he commanded the overwhelming force of Platoon 1, he was able to accumulate even more contribution. On the other hand, all of the Dark Walker skills were for soloing. He was confident he could win if he fought Alan one on one at the same level, but if they fought with the same number of teammates, it would be Alan’s overwhelming win.
This was exactly that kind of situation.
Just then, the square suddenly erupted with noise.
Turning his head, he saw Platoon 1 coming into the castle.
The lucky leader who had recently risen in New World as a blazing figure in the battle, Alan, was confidently riding into the square on a white horse. He had handsome face, flowing blonde hair, and a shining, full set of Rare-grade armor. He exuded a forced that daunted observers with one look.
Once Alan appeared, the girls gathered in the square screamed.
“KYAA, it’s Sir Alan!”
“Did you see the special TV report that was broadcast just now?”
“Yeah, yeah, I heard about it from a friend and downloaded it online.”
“Isn’t Sir Alan so handsome?”
“He could be a celebrity.”
“And his overflowing composure, that air of gushing elegance, he’s a gentleman from a wealthy family for sure.”
“Ahh, won’t he just look at me once?”
The women prattled as they gazed at Alan with desire in their eyes.
After his appearance on TV, Alan’s popularity was rising rapidly. It was a world where one could earn wealth and fame simply by playing the game well. But on top of it all, he was good looking, looked loaded, had a sense of humor and leadership… damn, even his hair looked good. For the majority of the girls, who had seen the broadcast, especially those addicted to New World, Alan was the ideal of their dreams! He was their prince in shining armor.
As the girls made a fuss, Alan grinned as he waved. Though everything was enveloped in the Dark Fog, it was as though a ray of light shined through and flashed off his tousled blonde hair and white teeth. That was the full effect of the special skill Halo, which was said to only follow distinguished bastards.
At Alan’s adept showmanship, the girls fell over screaming wildly.
“Tch, he’s playing around. Does he think this is a cheap third-rate drama?”
“Dammit, film your adolescent drama on a broadcast or something.”
“He’s acting like a celebrity just ’cause he was on TV once.”
“Just who do you owe being first in contribution points to, jeez.”
Unable to bear the injustice as they watched, a few guys muttered with jealous voices.
There were many players in the 2nd and 3rd platoons who bore complaints against Alan. He used his position as commander to openly lead the Platoon 1 into advantageous situations. Thanks to that, the 2nd and 3rd platoons couldn’t keep up with the 1st platoon in points, even after running around like crazy. Despite it all, their casualties were double that of the 1st platoon’s. As if it wasn’t enough, now he was snatching away all the interest of the girls. As passionate males, gripping a little was a given.
However, Alan wasn’t the one who voiced displeasure at their complaints. If he was the Prince, then they were the shrieking self-proclaimed Cinderella candidates.
“Oh my, what’s with those guys?
“Are you jealous cause you’re a pathetic man?”
“Very funny. Why are they getting mad at Sir Alan for their own faults?”
They were still being reasonable up to that point, but their arrows soon turned to a completely off target.
“But what’s that girl sticking to Sir Alan?”
“Yeah, she’s always going around with Sir Alan, isn’t she?”
“Is she his little sis or something?”
“No, I heard a little of their talk together before and they even speak informally with each other?”
“But why does she stick to him like that? Is she Sir Alan’s wife or what? That eyesore*.”
“She must be following him around hoping to get something out of it.”
“Seeing as she’s draped in a jet-black robe, her personality is definitely gloomy too.”
“Since she picked the pretty Elf, she’s gotta look like an ugly maid in real life. They say it’s a common case to change the face to the opposite look when making a character. The stronger the image complex, the stronger those symptoms. Though Sir Alan is an exception.”
“Geez, it’s just gross to imagine a girl like that sticking to Sir Alan.”
Even in reality, it was the female mentality to badmouth when they saw a girl next to a famous, handsome celebrity. There was even someone who recently suffered hate and emigrated from the country when a picture of her sitting next to a celebrity got put up on the internet.
It was a behavior Ark couldn’t really understand. If they had time to spare, they should just save up some money and buy some gum to chew instead. He didn’t know why they trolled others when there was nothing good to be had from it.
As long as he didn’t participate in something he couldn’t understand, then whatever. But the target of their insults was someone he knew well. The woman next Alan was none other than Kang Mi-su, Lariette. As if it wasn’t her first time hearing all kinds of slander, she had her hood down low as she trembled. About to turn his head away and pretend not to recognize such a pitiful sight, Ark froze in his tracks.
‘That’s really just too much…’
Ark didn’t want to get tangled up with Alan or Lariette yet. Though he had narrowed the gap, he was still a long way from Alan. However, he was angry and spat a few words at the throng of thoughtless girls who were not only insulting Lariette right in front of him, but also following Alan.
“Aren’t you being a little harsh to someone you don’t even know very well?”
“What’s with this guy?”
The girls raised their eyebrows as they glared at him. But Ark wasn’t one to flinch from the looks of girls.
“If you’re going to insult someone, shouldn’t you at least find out who that person is first? The Lariette I know is not the type of girl who squawks at anyone, unlike you people. She is a sincere person who knows how to work hard for the future. It is not my concern if you like Alan, but liking him is not a sufficient excuse to slander others.”
“My, how funny. Who do you think you are to tell us what to do?”
“Then who are you to insult Lariette as much as you want?”
At Ark’s counter, the faces of the girls became even more venomous. They were just about to counterattack when Lariette turned her head with a slightly surprised expression, presumably having heard the arguing. Then she discovered Ark and murmured with an alarmed voice, “Ark?”
When Lariette approached, the girls backed off while muttering “tch” under their breaths. The basic characteristic of these kinds of girls was that they couldn’t even squeak when confronted by the target of their insults.
“So it really is you, Ark!”
“Ah, yes… it’s been a while.” Ark sighed as he bowed his head.
He’d ended up meeting Lariette while getting angry. It wasn’t really a situation he welcomed, but Lariette must have been pretty happy to meet him because she kept speaking with a bright expression completely different from just moments before.
“So you’re participating in the event quest. It didn’t occur to me at all. Did you join the Militia?”
“No. I’ve been acting with the Militia, but I received the quest from the Giran Magic Institute.”
“Huh? Then do you mean to say that you’ve passed level 60?”
“Yes. I’m about level 70 now…”
To be precise, after joining forces with the Militia, he had gone up another level to 72.
Lariette’s eyes widened in response to Ark’s answer.
Ark had been level 35 when they had first met in New World. It was about a month and a half after he had started the game. Another month and a half had passed since then. Ark leveled up 35 times. Just looking at the number, it wasn’t strange. But it was common sense in games that the higher your level, the harder it was to level up. If it had taken ten days to get from level 1~10, then it would take fifteen days to get from level 10~20.
Of course, those rules also applied to Ark. After meeting Lariette while putting several hours a day into playing the game, Ark had decided to walk the path of a game for a living and his play time increased manifold. Furthermore, 35 levels was only possible because he had only faced stronger monsters than himself after changing his profession to Dark Walker. Honestly, considering Ark’s play time, his growth speed had been incredible even when they had met at level 35.
Having no way of knowing this, Lariette showed a surprised reaction. “That’s amazing. Truthfully, I thought you’d be doing well if you got to around 50…”
“I was lucky. But what about you, Miss Lariette?”
“I… I finally turned level 70 today.”
“It must be because the Tarsha Labyrinth raid failed.”
“How did you know about it?”
“I just picked it up from here and there.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Lariette answered in a dispirited voice. “The raid we attempted then failed three times. As a result we actually lost levels while wasting a week. Because of that, it was an extremely difficult time for Alan. But since he leveled up well, unlike me, he is level 98 right now. If we had succeeded, he would have passed 100 by now.”
It relieved him greatly to hear that Alan hadn’t reached level 100 yet, but it wasn’t something he could express in front of Lariette. Ark spoke with a tone that voiced regret, “So that’s how it was. You must have also gone through much hardship, Miss Lariette.”
“Since I’m 27th in contribution in this quest, I’m sure the situation will get a lot better as long as I can handle just more day. Though, well, that’s also thanks to Alan.”
Since she was part of Platoon 1, of course she was ranked higher than Ark. Still, to be in 27th place, it seemed like Alan was probably paying a lot of attention to her.
But there was something else bothering Ark. He didn’t really like the way Lariette mentioned Alan at the end of every sentence.
‘Does Miss Lariette also…’
About to think of something, Ark soon shook his head.
Just then, the Prince atop the white horse suddenly came up behind Lariette with his group of followers.
“Miss Lariette, what are you doing? Everyone is going to the inn.”
“Oh, Alan. You came at a good time. You remember this person, right?”
“Do I? Have we met before?” Alan glanced at Ark and tilted his head.
Ark’s face suddenly flushed. After meeting him for the first time in Jackson, Ark’s only goal had been Alan. He had intentionally avoided Alan after joining the quest because Ark placed that much importance in him.
But Alan really couldn’t even remember Ark. To him, Ark was no different from an NPC he had met on the roadside. Though he had not a sliver of desire to be acknowledged by Alan, actually being one-sidedly ignored made something indescribable surge within him.
“Ark. You don’t remember? You met him here before and I introduced you to him.”
It was then— a rough voice abruptly came from behind Alan.
“EH? Y-you bastard!”
Andel, who Ark had really not wanted to encounter, was also a part of Platoon 1.
‘Damn, this is why I didn’t want to do something to stand out…’
But since they had met, there was really no reason to avoid him either. Ark laughed as he muttered piercingly, “It’s been a while. I didn’t know you were still playing the game? Seems like you escaped your Chaotic status.”
“What? You rotten—!”
“Andel, stop. Can’t you see he’s talking with me?”
Just as Andel was about to come at him, Alan made a face and glared. Then Andel wavered as he took a deep breath and stepped back.
‘Was Andel acquainted with Alan?’
Alan made Andel back off with one word. It wouldn’t have be easy to do if their relationship had formed in the game alone. Therefore, it was likely they knew each other in real life as well.
‘Is that how Andel recovered so quickly after being totally wrecked by me? Well, it wouldn’t be all that hard if a player like Alan was backing him up. And if he was backed up by a high level player like Alan, their relationship must be pretty close. No, there’s a chance most of the players in Platoon 1 are examinees, like Lariette and Andel. I didn’t like him from the beginning, but there’s yet another reason why I hate Alan.’
While Ark was having such thoughts, Alan, who had been whispering with Andel, slightly turned his gaze.
“Come to think of it, I do remember. Ark, I apologize if you were offended.”
“It’s alright. Things like that can happen,” Ark replied in a cold voice.
Then, with an uncomfortable expression because of the odd mood, Lariette suddenly grabbed Ark’s hand and said, “Ah, that’s right, why don’t you join Platoon 1? It would be fine at your level, we lost some people in the last battle so we have some openings in the raid. That’s okay, right Alan?”
Lariette surprised Ark by suddenly grabbing his hand, but the one who reacted more sensitively was Alan. He frowned as he briefly glared at Ark before saying with a displeased voice, “It’s true there are openings. But there are already people waiting to be added at an opening, so… I may be the commander but I can’t just add people I don’t really know. And since it looks like there’s some bad blood between you and Andel…”
“But Alan, I know him very well.”
“Platoon 1’s command structure is already set. We’ll have to fight the hardest battle for the last day of the quest, so adding someone who doesn’t match our rhythm could break our formation.”
“It’s fine.” Ark cut off Lariette and shook his head. “As I said before, I also have people I’m working with. I would have to turn down an offer to join Platoon 1 anyway, so there is no need for you two to fight.”
Even if there wasn’t the Militia or Guard, Ark didn’t want to be Alan’s subordinate.
One could say it was the jealousy of the good guy or the pride of the bad guy. He just wanted to engrave his name in Alan’s mind with his own strength.
“Then there is nothing more to say. I’ll take my leave. Miss Lariette, let’s go.”
Alan looked down on Ark from atop his white horse before whirling around. Then he headed to the inn with his shrieking lady fans behind him. After briefly following Alan’s departure with lonely eyes, Lariette bowed crisply to Ark and turned.
“I’m sorry. Ark.”
Her strangely regretful voice grazed past his ears.
‘Just why is she sorry? Alan or Andel’s attitude? Or not being able to put me in Platoon 1?’
Ark sent her a questioning look, but she was hurriedly going after Alan. Gazing at her, Ark casually remarked to the murderous Andel, “Considering your attitude, I think I can roughly guess your relationship with Alan.”
“Your master is going. Shouldn’t you hurry and follow him?”
“You bastard, I’ll let you go for now but just wait and see after the event quest!”
“If you want your stats to go to 0, then anytime.”
At Ark’s brazen answer, Andel clenched his teeth, glared, and left with Platoon 1. Then, a little while afterwards, when Ark was about to turn around, a message window popped up before his eyes.
– Alan has used [Feather of Whispering] to initiate a private chat.
Whispering was a method of communication that allowed two people to have a private chat. It was only possible if you used [Feather of Whispering] or the [Secure Communication] scroll when you knew the other’s name and they were in a set range; in other words, it was a costly method.
‘What? Did he change his mind to tell me to join Platoon 1?’
Without much thought, Ark permitted the whispering. Immediately afterwards, the volume from his surroundings dimmed and he clearly heard Alan talking into his ear.
- You said your name was Ark?
He was speaking rudely right from the start. Ark frowned as he answered.
- So what?
- Do you know Lariette well?
- And why should I answer that?
- Well yeah… Anyway, I’ll give you one piece of advice. It’d be best for you to not think of dabbling with Lariette. Both in the game and in real life.
It seems you’re giving advice to the wrong guy? I wasn’t the one who initiated a conversation with her. And even if I did, it’s not something that concerns you. Truthfully, hearing something like this from you makes me feel pretty pissed off.
Then Alan laughed in a low voice.
- You still don’t get why Lariette suddenly grabbed your hand?
What? What do you mean?
You’re as dull as you look. Think long and hard about it. And don’t forget my advice.
After saying only what he wanted to say, Alan ended the whisper.
‘W-what? This jerk? Isn’t he a completely two-faced bastard?’
Ark felt like he was hit with a bucket of water while sleeping.
Both the Alan who had appeared on TV and the Holy Knight Alan were very cool and well-mannered people. He had a cockiness that looked down on people, but from the outside he looked perfect. But his voice in the whisper was completely different. Wasn’t it a blatant way of talking to slight his opponent, and didn’t he also show a strange obsession, treating Lariette as his possession?
‘Just what are you telling me to think long and hard about? What’s wrong with Lariette grabbing my hand?’
He couldn’t understand what Alan meant to say with those words, but he didn’t have the time to ponder it for very long.
He turned at the sound of someone calling from behind him to see JusticeMan and Roco running towards him.
“When did you login?”
“Just a while ago, but anyways, it seems like something urgent has happened!”
“Yes, Sir Cross found me as soon as I logged in. He said the Lord was looking for you, so it can’t be normal. He asked that I find you and relay the message with an extremely stricken expression.”
Come to think of it, it was also strange that Platoon 1, which had been keeping the line of defense while doing almost all of their resting and treatment outside the castle, had suddenly returned. There was no doubt they had received some kind of order from the young Lord. Well, it was true that there was only one day left until the event quest’s completion.
Ark had not expected the quest would just end like this. It was time for something decisive to happen.
“Alright, let’s leave at once.”