- Chapter 1 : The Silver Arrow
- Chapter 2 : To Jackson Castle
- Chapter 3 : Jackson Crusade
- Chapter 4 : Holy Knight Alan
- Chapter 5 : Operation Bomb the Scorch Cannons
- Chapter 6 : Lord of Darkness, Valderas
- Chapter 7 : The Underwater Master
- Chapter 8 : Jackson’s Hero
- Chapter 9 : To Giran again
Chapter 1 : The Silver Arrow
This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Charles, Lastear, and Lei.
About 100 people were gathered on the wide balcony of the Magic Tower’s top floor. They were players who passed the level 60 restriction screening of the Magic Institute.
As expected of a next generation game, New World offered countless variables within the system. To put it simply, the level of freedom was high. Of course, since there were countless variables in raising a character, simply hunting wasn’t everything. That said, the unchanging basic formula, which applied to all games, also applied to New World.
It was ‘time spent equals level’. If your level is higher than others, then it means you spent more time than others!
New World had been out for a little over four months. Moreover, it was three to four times harder to level up in new World compared to other games. This meant the players would have raised their levels to 180-240 in four months in a different game. 100 such extraordinary high-leveled players had gathered in Giran alone. This was the result wrought by New World’s strong addictive nature, which exceeded all imagination.
Of course, everyone had their own know-how. It was the reason why they were overflowing with confidence despite receiving a quest where they didn’t know what kind of enemies would appear.
However, Ark wasn’t at all interested in their confidence. He was just drooling over their equipment.
‘This is no joke, just where did they get such items?’
Ark thought he was pretty lucky with items in his own way. But after looking at the gathered users’ equipment, his confidence vanished.
‘That one’s definitely at least a Rare item.’
A brightly shining, horned viking helmet, gloves studded with sharp blades from the back of the hand to the elbow, shoes made of bones as red as dripping blood, a two-handed sword with a saw-like blade; they were all unusual pieces of equipment.
In addition, although there were 100 users gathered, he didn’t see any pieces of the same equipment. It felt like he’d come to an exhibition of high-class items.
He was gulping down his drool. ‘If you converted all the items into money, just how much would it be?
Ark’s keen eye was further honed at the blind auction. After making calculations on the spot, each person was wearing equipment worth around 400-500 gold.
‘With 100 users, that’s at least 40,000 Gold. 400 million when converted into Won (~$400,000)!’ An unreal estimate.
Ark was just a commoner who sighed when the monthly utility bills came. Though they said the value of money wasn’t the same as it used to be because of the soaring prices, for a commoner, hearing the word “million” was still enough to make them cry out. “Millions” in gold were swimming before his eyes.
[T/N: The author includes a pun here, where the Korean word for million, pronounced “ugk,” is like a sound of surprise, like “ah!”]
News he’d seen recently came to mind— the auction site specializing in New World items had already hit 10 billion won in market size. At the time, he just thought, “whatever.” It was unimaginable anyways. But now, it didn’t feel like someone else’s matter.
‘Ack, if all those people were monsters…’
“Please lend me your attention for a moment.” Just then, the Magic Institute NPC appeared at the top floor after finishing the screening process. “New information has just come in. The Magic Institute isn’t the only one who thinks this is a bad situation. A renowned Merchant guild located in the Commerce District south of Giran, ‘Midus’, has sent an Armed Merchant Ship loaded with already recruited militia to Jackson territory. In addition, the renowned Warrior guild of the Northern area, not far from here, ‘Sword X’ has also sent militia to Jackson.”
“The Merchant and Warrior guilds?”
“If you add the Magic Institute, then doesn’t it mean all 3 Great Guilds are making a move?”
“As expected, this wasn’t an ordinary quest.” The players chattered in surprised tones.
Ark had also seen information about the 3 Great Guilds on the message boards in each village. In New World, there was a concept of top guilds managed by NPCs. No matter the race or Kingdom a player had chosen to start in, they had to receive permission from one of these top guilds in order to start a guild. In other words, a guild started by a player was affiliated to one of the organizations, the top guild they had submitted their application to. So they had to pay a fee to the top guild if they made a guild, but they also received various support and guild-exclusive quests in exchange.
The unique aspect was that the influence of these top guilds wasn’t set in stone. The influence of the top guilds was similar to the market shares of Merchants. Therefore, the more users chose them, the stronger the top guild became.
Presently, the most popular professions with users in New World were largely these three: Warrior, Magician, and Merchant. New World’s 3 Great Guilds were naturally decided as a result.
The top Warrior guild Sword X, top Merchant guild Midus, and top Magician guild Magic Institute!
Of course, when a user makes a guild, there’s no need to choose the related guild in accordance to their profession. But if they had to choose, they might as well. There were many cases where the support or quest rewards from the top guild were valuable for a related profession. So a guild was chosen matching their profession. Thanks to this, the current 3 Great Guilds wielded influence second only to the royal family and the church.
The Mage continued to speak. “There is probably no need to repeat this, but saving Jackson is our first and foremost priority. But then again, it is also a battle where the 3 Great Guilds have put their pride on the line. Of course the status of the Magic Institute will change in relation to how well our militia fares in the battle. You will definitely be rewarded based on your efforts, so we hope everyone will do their best.”
It was the reason why the 3 Great Guilds had scrambled to organize militia. Jackson Castle was the first place where players, who started in the Schudenberg Kingdom, changed their profession and became interested in guilds. If they raised their status there, then the allure of a newly formed guild would rise as a result.
Users were not the only ones competing with each other. NPCs also competed against other NPCs endlessly; that is New World.
However, users were not interested in the competition between the top guilds. All they wanted was experience and the rewards!
With the mention of the 3 Great Guilds, players conversed with very excited expressions.
“If all three Great Guilds are participating, then the rewards are bound to be huge as well.”
“You might even receive a Magic weapon.”
“I’m glad I leveled up like crazy these past few days.”
“I just dropped by Giran to clean out my bag, but to think I would get such a quest! Jackpot!”
The grander the scale of the quest, the larger the rewards.
But Ark was worried instead. ‘This isn’t something to be needlessly happy about. It just means there’s going to be more competitors.’
Even if one received the event quest from a different guild, the basic quest contents would be the same. In the end, the EXP and contribution points would have to be split with hundreds of users. As a result, the contribution he could earn would be reduced, so the reward would also inevitably fall. Granted, it would be easier to succeed in the quest with more people, but it wasn’t something to be needlessly happy about.
“There are only about 30 minutes until the airship arrives now. It may be small, but the Magic Institute has prepared some supplies for the people participating in the militia. Please come and get them in order. We couldn’t fully prepare since we were short on time, but it will be helpful.”
The Magician handed out supply boxes one by one. Upon opening, there were several items to be seen inside the box.
Intermediate Recovery Potions (3)
Dozens of herbs mixed with a special technique, a highly refined magic potion. It is an essential item for warriors that can instantly heal wounds from battle.
When used, it heals 300 Health instantly, but has no effect on disease or poison-like conditions.
Highly Nutritious Biscuit (10)
The highest grade of emergency food, made with plenty of highly nutritious ingredients. It doesn’t taste good, but it is rich in every nutrient, so even eating just one of them will make one feel full and satisfied.
Increases Satiety and Health recovery by 50% for 1 min. If consumed with a drink, Mana Recovery increases by an additional 50%. However, only Satiety will be recovered if there is a status condition. Cannot be used in battle.
Letter Movement Orb (Event Item)
A new mode of transport pioneered by the the Magic Institute’s surprising technological prowess; when used at a Magic Institute sending tower, the body is converted into a letter and is instantly teleported to a designated receiving tower.
However, since this technology is still under development, it has many limitations and the physical burden on the user is considerable. Much more study is still likely required before it can be used.
Current set coordinates: Jackson – Giran
Number of uses: 1
The mage added a lengthy explanation. “The magic tower in Jackson cannot currently utilize its full functions. It is the reason why everyone has to use the airship. But if Jackson is protected and the Magic Tower gains its full power, you can use the Letter Movement Orb to quickly return to Giran.”
In the end, it meant that if the quest was completed, they would take of the trouble in returning to Giran. Then again, hundreds of high level users milling through a low level area would create problems in terms of balance.
“The airship is coming from over there!”
Right after Ark put the supplies away, there was a commotion at one end of the balcony.
Ark’s eyes grew wide when he reflexively turned his head around.
Set against the wide open, blue sky, a sparkling silver airship appeared.
“That there is the airship produced by the combined skill of the Magic Institute, Silver Arrow. It is 200 meters in length; not only can it fly at 300 kilometers per hour thanks to the 4 engines driven by powerful magic, but it is an all-weather aerial battleship with a gun also referred to as the ‘Spear of Thor’ installed. This Silver Arrow will take all of you to Jackson Castle.”
With a proud look on his face, the Magician bragged about military secrets. But the name the Magician babbled and what Ark suddenly recalled were totally different.
Hindenburg was an enormous German airship, made in the 1900s. But unfortunately, it disappeared due to an explosion of unknown cause during the test flight; now it was a legendary airship that could only be seen through old pictures wandering on the internet.
Well, that piece of trivia aside… in any case, the airship’s basic form was the same as the Hindenburg. Shaped like a ship three to four times larger than a soccer field, the balloon at the top controlled altitude and the four engines at the bottom provided thrust.
However, those functions were the only similarity. The elegance of the Silver Arrow was so beautiful, it couldn’t be compared to the coarse Hindenburg. Engraved into Silver Arrow was a complex, gilded pattern, and around it was a complex array of metal pipes one could only guess the use for. Like a surreal work of metallic art, it boasted perfect aesthetic beauty.
When the airship pulled in next to the balcony, the players swarmed aboard.
“We pray for your good fortune in war!” The Magician shouted loudly.
“Are all the militia on board?”
“Alright, turn the Silver Arrow 30 degrees to port, the destination is Jackson!” Ordered the white-bearded captain, with a voice heavy with sleep.
Simultaneously, the air stirred on both sides of the airship as it moved and steadily changed direction. The nose pointed towards the southwestern Jackson territory!
“Quickly! The Warrior and Merchant guild militias left long ago. If we arrive late, the Silver Arrow will be a laughing stock. Set sail at top speed!”
A roar burst from the 4 magic engines; befitting its name, the airship shot away like an arrow.
“Gasp, I, I almost fell off.”
The users on deck fell to one side. If Ark wasn’t holding onto the rail, he would have fallen into a pile with the rest of them.
“Muahahaha, hold on tight, you rookies. It’s not my fault if you fall off.” The captain’s hearty laughter came from the steering room.
* * *
‘This doesn’t feel too bad?’
A refreshing breeze fluttered his hair.
The airship going at max power raced across the continent at great speed. At first, he was taken aback by the speed. 300 kilometers per hour!
It might not be an impressive speed when flying, but the airship didn’t offer the same comfortable travel a modern airplane did. Sometimes gusts rocked the ship and the wind rushed in undeterred onto the unstable deck.
But once one got used to it, such things actually became strong points. The totally unobstructed view at the highest speed allowed one to amply enjoy the sense of liberation.
‘We already passed the Argus Mountains.’
As he gazed downwards, the mountains and fields zipped past by like a video fast forwarded times 4. It didn’t even take 40 minutes to fly across the same Argus Mountains he had struggled traveling through for several days.
Now, once they traversed the wide plains, Jackson Castle would soon be in sight. While Ark was thinking about it, the surroundings abruptly began to darken.
‘Eh? What’s this? There’s still a lot of time before nightfall?’
At first, it gradually darkened, as if there was fog, but their surroundings were soon covered in pitch-black darkness. Once they were confined within the black fog, there was suddenly a heavy feeling, as if gravity had increased. Perhaps because of it, the airship which sped forward at top speed, shook as it rocked.
At the same time, the users all got the same message.
The airship has entered the influence area of Dark Fog, which was created by an unknown magical power!
All players in the influence area will receive a Vision penalty and Stats will decrease by 10%. However, players of the Dark Attribute will not receive the penalty.
“What is this?”
“Dark Fog? Damn, stats are reduced by 10%?”
The people who quickly checked their stats spat out curses.
Ark also checked his stats. But thankfully, the penalty didn’t apply to him, as he had the Dark Attribute. Rather, his stats increased from receiving the darkness bonus.
With the 20% stat boost from his profession’s characteristic and the additional 10% from the ‘Gift of Darkness’ he’d learned in Giran, and since other users’ stats had been reduced by 10%, Ark’s stats were 40% higher than them!
‘This is a good sign from the beginning. Is this Dark Fog the reason why the Magic Institute called them the Army of Darkness? If so, does it mean I get to keep my bonuses for the whole duration of the quest? Hehehe, it’s at times like these that I feel like it was a good decision to choose the Dark Walker profession.’
Ark reveled in a strange sense of superiority. But while Ark was grinning, the surrounding situation was becoming quite serious. As the Dark Fog enveloped them, the crew became busy.
“Captain, we are losing power!”
“No need to panic. It’s probably a move of the enemy to slow down reinforcement. Heh, it’s laughable to try and stop Silver Arrow with a fog of this level. All hands to battle stations!”
“Yes, prepare Silver Arrow for battle, ready the Spear of Thor.”
With a heavy clank of metal, the gunports all over the airship opened. Dozens of gun barrels rolled out from both sides. But what caught Ark’s eyes was the enormous gun barrel that emerged from the gunport at the front.
Made of a silver metal, it was a gun shaped like a trident!
This was what the Magic Institute NPC had boasted of so enthusiastically, the Silver Arrow’s main armament, the Spear of Thor.
As the airship readied itself for combat, the Dark Fog became even thicker. Since the visibility worsened, it was hard to make out objects even a few meters ahead.
“Turn on all the defense lights!”
As the countless lights on the airship turned on, the ground was illuminated. It was then that the faces of the users gathered on the deck became ashen with shock.
“Gasp, are all those monsters?”
“Aren’t those monsters we’ve never seen till now?”
“Holy shit, do we have to fight them to finish the quest?”
There was an enormous number of monsters covering the ground underneath. It was hard to get an accurate number since they were far away, but there looked to be at least a thousand!
They also looked different from the monsters they had faced until now. Most of them were black humanoid monsters, while a few giant monsters reaching a few meters in height were also mixed in.
As the light hit them, they shot arrows and threw rocks.
“They are attacking!”
The users who were stupidly looking down were slaughtered by arrows and rocks. For a level 60 user, an arrow or two didn’t do much damage. But because of the sudden attack, a scuffle broke out as the rest urgently backed away. In the panic, a few users fell overboard.
“Huh? S-sorry! ”
“Damn, you bastard!”
Users who fell were torn apart by the swarming monsters even before they hit the ground. The players’ faces turned gaunt. It wasn’t because of the gruesome deaths of their comrades. This quest was cut from a different cloth than the other quests. Not only did you fail the quest if you died, but you couldn’t even login for three days.
As the users were seized with fear, the captain snorted, “Pathetic squirts, there’s no need to be afraid. The pride of the Magic Institute, the battle airship Silver Arrow, is not so weak as to shake from such a weak attack.”
“Captain, all guns are fully charged.”
“Good. Give those stupid monsters a taste of Thor!”
“Yes, ready all guns for firing! Aim 30 degrees to the ground!”
With a mechanical whirr, the small guns and Spear of Thor pointed to the ground. The trident-shaped barrel moved into position with a buzz. A blue aura seemed to gather at the spear tip as it sparked. Then, it suddenly shook violently as an azure laser shot forth.
A huge thunderbolt stuck the ground. It enveloped the ground with blue light with a radius of several hundred meters. The sparks spread along the ground, striking all the monsters in the area with massive electric damage.
Monsters directly hit by the bolt exploded instantly, and monsters hit by the sparks extending along the ground lost considerable health. Even monsters that seemed to be considerably high leveled were staggering, thrown into critical condition. Afterwards, the small guns also showered them with electric magic. The monsters who were close to death collapsed in disorderly groups.
A fearsome AOE attack!
The captain let out a cheer as he shook his fist. “Uhahaha, how’s that?! You arrogant bastards. This is the pride of the Silver Arrow, the Spear of Thor!”
The area was devastated by a single blow. Although it was probably just a pre-arranged scene, the visual impact was incredible.
They were anxious when the monsters first attacked, but if the airship’s force was at this level, it appeared this quest was just a simple event. However, it wasn’t like there was nothing for the users to do.
“The Spear of Thor takes 3 minutes to recharge. Until then, anyone who is capable of long-distance attacks, please provide cover from the deck.”
“Right, now is not the time to just sit around!”
“Those monsters are all contribution points!”
The users gathered their senses as their eyes gleamed. Soon, a massive counterattack began.
Among the militia, there were about 40 Mages and Archers; 40 people using magic and and skills at the same time in the darkness was a sight to behold. In addition, there were 30 airship guns capable of continuous fire! Already in critical condition, the monsters literally melted. The Warriors also pitched in, pulling out throwing weapons and bows.
As soon as they started the counter attack, the badges on their chests sparkled continuously. The collapsing monsters were being turned into contribution points.
Thanks to this, Arks’ insides were burning. ‘Tch, if I knew it would be like this, I would’ve packed a bow and arrows.’
Even if a player weren’t an Archer, they could still shoot a bow. Range and accuracy paled in comparison to an Archer, but that was no problem if one was going to shoot from the sky with a mass of targets left and right. But because he’d sold off all his japtem in Giran, Ark didn’t even have a common wooden bow.
‘No, let’s not be hasty. This is just the start of the quest anyways. It’s going to continue for 3 days so there’ll be plenty of opportunities. Let’s just do what I can for now.’
“Everyone, please do your best. We are the only ones who can rescue the trembling citizens of Jackson!” Ark ran about the deck using his Nursing skill.
There was no effect on people who had 100% health. But since the monsters counterattacked, most of the users were hit by arrows and rocks once or twice. As a result, they all received courage and vigor, which influenced overall fighting ability, an increase in stats, and a low level blessing. Thanks to the effects of Nursing, the attacks of the allies became stronger and more accurate.
However, the players just thought a Priest-related buff magic had been used.
“Huh? What’s this? My stats went up?”
“This is the effect of a blessing. The chance of status effects went down.”
“I don’t know who it was, but thanks!”
– Contribution points have risen. Contribution +15.
Whether or not people noticed, his contribution went up.
‘As expected! Even if I don’t personally kill monsters, contribution points rise as long as I contribute to the battle!’
After checking the message, Ark’s motivation soared. After that, Ark ran around the deck using Nursing like crazy. Since many users were affected in one use, it also gave a lot of contribution points.
Contribution quickly passed 100!
Since he was running around on the deck, he didn’t have to worry about getting hit by enemy arrows either.
‘Hahaha, this is like taking candy from a baby!’
During that time, the main gun finished charging and released another thunderbolt. The terrifying thunderbolt ripped through the darkness and bathed the ground in blue. The several hundred meter AoE electricity damage, along with the chain attacks of users!
The monster swarm melted away terrifyingly.
“Hahaha, let’s sweep the monsters like this!”
“The hell? They’re nothing much?”
“I was nervous for no reason since they were new monsters.”
“As long as we have the airship, this quest will be easy pickings.”
The confusion had long since vanished from the users’ faces.
Ark too was half filled with excitement, but there was something they were forgetting. That this quest’s difficulty was a whopping ++C! There was no way the quest could be completed just by shooting arrows over the rail.
While everyone was concentrating on the monsters, an enormous mass suddenly cleaved the darkness as it flew in. The NPCs and players who reflexively raised their heads paled.
“Ack! W-what is that?”
A black flaming mass 10 meters in diameter!
Two black flaming masses, from which heat could be felt from meters away, came flying in towards them. Since all the lights were pointed to the ground, they had only noticed it when it was right in front of their noses.
“Th-those are flash bombs!” The captain burst out in shock. “To think that the likes of monsters would use flash bombs. Bosun, hurry and intercept it with the Spear of Thor!”
“We can’t. The Spear of Thor is still only 50% charged.”
“Dammit, did the bastards attack forcefully to aim for this?”
That was so, the land monsters were bait to draw the airship’s attention, it was a plan to take out the airship with flash bombs during the time it took to recharge the thunder gun.
“Begin evasive action at full speed. All guns, Archers, and Mages concentrate firepower to intercept the flash bombs. We can’t get hit by even one!”
The magic engines were soon at full power and the airship turned quickly. At the same time the guns and users loosed skills at the flash bombs like crazy. As they did so, the attacks from the monsters teeming on the ground became fiercer.
Several users collapsed from the arrows and rocks surging from below. But there was no time to look back at them. It was a situation where you could explode in midair with the ship at the drop of a hat.
Under the onslaught of countless attacks, one of the flash bombs finally exploded in midair. An immense explosion and shockwave burst out and greatly rocked the airship.
The users who were about to unleash skills on the second flash bomb fell to one side. In addition, the aimed guns also fired electric magic at the wrong spot.
“D-damn, all crew prepare for impact!”
The flash bomb rammed into the stern of the airship and exploded.
The airship started to sway violently from the enormous shock. It was then that the two magic engines on portside burst into flames and combusted away.
The airship lost balance and started to spin like a top.
‘ACK, just what the hell is going on?’
Ark quickly grabbed onto the railing. However, the players who weren’t able to take action were flung up and swallowed up by the dark fog. Without a doubt, they were forcefully terminated.
“Shut off the magic power!”
As the captain shouted thunderously, the engines were all shut off. Thankfully, the spinning stopped, but the airship quickly lost altitude. The exploding of the engines had greatly damaged the hot air balloon, which maintained buoyancy. Since they also lost thrust on top of that, the impending result was obvious.
Despair rose on the users’ faces as the same thought occurred to them.
“It’s the end!”
“Are we going to get wiped out like this even before we reach Jackson?”
“Why the hell is there a quest like this? Damn it!”
“This is all wrong, you can’t even log in for 3 days if you die…”
If they went down with the ship, they would take tremendous damage. Even if you were to barely survive, the result was the same.
There were monsters swarming like ants along the airship’s trajectory! If they were mobbed by them, they would be trampled to death without even a chance to pull out a recovery potion.
But the Captain didn’t abandon his duty till the very end.
“Bosun, use all your strength to keep the Silver Arrow level. And send all power to the Spear of Thor. We’ll raze the monsters with one final shot and attempt a crash landing. Even if we are to lose the Silver Arrow here, we must save even a few more of the militia and save Jackson!”
Thanks to the efforts of the crew, the terrifyingly shaking airship started to level out. But they were quickly losing altitude and were barely 20 meters above ground.
It was then the Captain shouted so loudly that the veins were popping out of his neck.
“Spear of Thor, all guns fire at once!”
As if it were opening its wings, electric magic poured from both sides of the airship. The concentrated magic power of the thunderbolt went along the airship’s trajectory and scoured the earth.
Once again, it was truly a terrifying force. Even an ordinary gun was 10 times more powerful than a player’s electric magic; when it struck the ground, dirt and gravel were charred black. The Spear of Thor was many times stronger than those guns and was something to be feared!
Only monsters in critical condition were left where the Spear of Thor streaked past. Once the guns showered attacks onto them, the swarming monsters shrieked as they were vaporized.
“We’ll prepare for an emergency landing now!” The Captain looked down on the users gathered on the deck as he said, “Warriors, this is all I can do. The Silver Arrow will now try a belly landing. The impact will be difficult for even a veteran warrior to endure, so escape before it’s too late. If you do survive, make your way to Jackson Castle. The surrounding monsters were cleared with the Spear of Thor and the guns, so I don’t think there’ll be great danger on the ground. I… I hope even one more person survives to save Jackson from danger!”
After the Captain explained the situation, he stood at attention and saluted.
The crew also stood and saluted the users. Although it was a really cool scene, the users were in a state of panic.
“W-what? Are we supposed to jump from here right now?”
“No way, if we jump from this high, chance of death is 100%!”
‘Stupid idiots, you still don’t get the situation?’
Meanwhile, Ark was climbing the rope ladder to the hot air balloon. It was inevitable for the airship to crash. If so, then there was no time to complain. Wasn’t it more important to find a way to reduce the damage by even 1%?
‘Considering the structure of the airship, the people on the deck will take the most damage.’
However, the place that would take the least damage was the hot air balloon on the top. This was a world made based the Middle Ages. There was no way the balloon would be full of helium. It would just be full of hot air. In other words, he could use it as a cushion.
There were quite a few players who had the same thought; dozens of people were clinging to the balloon while waiting for the right timing with nervous expressions.
After a few seconds, the airship collided into the ground. With an ear-splitting roar, an enormous shock crushed them. The hull crumpled instantly as the crew and users went flying in all directions. The hot air balloon also burst like a bubble and deflated.
It was then that Ark threw himself off.
A peculiar sense of floating ensued as the ground rushed up before his eyes. Ark curled up and rolled forward.
Chapter 2 : To Jackson Castle
This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Charles, Lastear, and Lei. Special thanks to Moodavid and Ark112.
“Whew… I’m alive, for now.”
Ark got up and checked his Health.
He had lost about 400 Health.
The Cat Knight special skill reduced the damage from the fall by 50%. His forward roll, which had utilized the Flexibility stat, further reduced the damage by an extra 30%. Even so, he took 400 damage, meaning the amount he should have taken was 2000 damage. Users without resistance for falling would have perished the instant they hit the ground.
As expected, he saw quite a few bodies lying around.
‘Ah, this is bad. It’s an absolute LARA zone.’
[T/N: LARA is Licensed Agency for Relief of Asia, meaning that Ark’s surroundings look like a disaster zone.]
A classic Tomb Raider Adventure Game he’d played a bit in the past came to mind. It was a game where a young, perfectly normal-looking girl named Lara dashed around finding treasure. When she fell from a high place every once in a while, it was a game over with the gruesome sight of twisted limbs.
The users scattered on the ground were exactly like that. Their bodies had to stay lying like that until the 3 days were up and they could login again.
‘I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy quest, but….’
After completing many unusual quests, Ark’s ability to judge a situation had become quick. There was nothing the players could’ve done about the airship crash. In other words, this was a scenario where users had no power to change the situation. It was clear that this fact was an inferable conclusion.
Receiving the quest was only possible at level 60. But receiving the quest and having the qualifications to participate in it were completely different. It meant the minimum qualifications to truly start the quest were the ability to quickly judge the situation and one or two special skills to survive the airship crash.
‘What to do now…’ Ark took a moment to check his surroundings.
His surroundings were heavily clouded in darkness. The ground also had a rotten, mushy feel to it. This was probably also an effect of the Dark Fog.
Of course, something of this sort was no problem Ark. Once he cast Eyes of the Cat, his surroundings turned green and his vision brightened.
The night vision was an extra benefit of Eyes of the Cat.
‘Now, should I look for survivors, or…’
“Those who are alive, please gather here!”
Just then, he heard someone’s voice from one side. The dazed people hesitantly gathered around. There were more survivors than expected. But Warriors with high Health and defense were nowhere to be seen.
That was because the weight of the plate armor worn by Warriors caused them to take extra falling damage. The people with leather or cloth armor, such as Archers and Mages, took no extra damage, and their survival rate was increased with high Agility or lightweight magic spells.
There were about 40 survivors. 60 people hit the ground and were forcefully logged out.
The one who gathered the survivors was, of course, an Archer in leather armor and a feathered cap. He must’ve had a lot of experience as a leader, as he quickly took control of the situation and took the lead.
“You all are probably aware of the situation, the fall of the airship was a planned event. Getting to Jackson Castle was our first given task. Luckily, the Spear of Thor took out most of the monsters in the area. But there are going to be some monsters that survived, and more monsters are going to come. Since we still have the numbers, let’s make an attack unit and move to Jackson.”
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
“Since there are currently many vacancies in parties, please remake your parties. Others, please use food to recover your Health and Mana.”
The people who survived were definitely quick at reading the situation.
They recovered Health while eating food, and checked each others classes as they remade parties. And with the Archer as the leader, the parties united into an attack unit.
However, Ark thought they were actually strange. ‘What? Are these people in their right minds?’
After confirming the number of survivors, the first thing that came to Ark’s mind was not Jackson Castle. Wasn’t it obvious?
There were 40 users who survived. Which meant there were 60 corpses lying around the vicinity. So to say, there could be around 60 items dropped in this area.
Granted, since their alignments were neutral, or they were rookie users, the drop rate was not that high. But there were 60 of them. Even if there was only a 10% drop rate, it was 6 items… Plus, were they your average users? They were at least level 60 users. The chance the items inside their bags were worth a lot was very high. At the very least, the recovery potion in the supply box distributed by The Magic Institute was worth 20 gold if sold in a store.
‘If I get lucky and even pick up an equipment item…’
An undisputable jackpot!
That wasn’t all. There were still countless numbers of dead monsters from the Spear of Thor and naval gun barrage. Well, it was hard to expect much since most were completely destroyed by the guns, but there could be an item dropped by a monster. Shouldn’t the very first thing a survivor should do be picking up such a lovely item? That was the duty and right of a survivor!
… At the very least, Ark thought as such.
However, it seemed like the other users hadn’t thought that far yet. Of course, after going through such a traumatic event, there wouldn’t be many users who would think of items first.
Maybe there were a few with the same idea, but it was dark, and one wouldn’t know when the monsters would return… They would’ve thought there was no time to pick up items. But Ark was quite different, he was willing to risk his life even for one more copper.
‘None of them are in their right minds. If they only cared about being alive, then why did they join the quest? Wasn’t it because of the profit that they joined in on this quest? To ignore the items in front of their noses despite that and go running to Jackson because they’re scared of monsters that may or may not come… For me, I’d rather take the items and die!’
Of course, this wasn’t something to be said aloud.
‘Hehehe, this is better for me. Yeah, all of you should leave. This guy will take all the lovely items for you.’
As soon as Ark made the decision, he quickly used ‘Stealth’. Ark’s body instantly became one with the darkness and disappeared. Thanks to that, the other users didn’t notice Ark. They only thought of getting out of the place as quickly as possible. As such, they glanced around roughly, formed the attack unit, and headed towards Jackson Castle.
After checking to make sure the others were gone, Ark released ‘Stealth’ and summoned his Familiars.
“Dedric, Skull. Comb the vicinity. Search the areas where there are bodies of strangers particularly carefully. If you find any item at all, let me know immediately.”
“Master, are you now going so far as to rob corpses?”
With an appearance of a little kid, Dedric looked at Ark with pity.
Dedric had started to talk back a while ago. It was because Ark wasn’t used to hearing honorifics, and also because using honorifics in battle was inconvenient. But while allowing him to speak however he wanted, Dedric had started to crawl back to his bad habits.
“Do you want to eat some cooking, or do you want to search the corpses?”
“Hah, I get to try all sorts of things while living.”
Dedric made his discomfort clear as he changed into a bat and flew off.
However, the loyal Skull rolled around searching the surroundings without a second word.
‘It would been better if Skull had the ability to talk instead…’
It was such a pity.
As such, the one human and two Familiars worked hard at searching the corpses. But because the corpses were scattered in a wide area range, it took a lot of time.
How much time must have passed like that? While diligently searching the area, they finally reached the place where the debris of the airship was.
‘Ara? What is this?’
Suddenly, a black object next to the body of a Mage caught his eye.
At a casual glance, the shape wasn’t very different from a stone on the ground, but there was no chance that Ark, who had his eyes wide open so as to not miss a single japtem, would miss it.
As soon as he hurriedly picked it up, an information window popped up.
Fruit of Basium
The Fruit of Basium, also known as the plant of dreams. Basium is a very rare, ancient plant found only in a part of the northern continent.
It is known to possess a violent nature and will move on its own to hunt animals and devour them when it grows. After it gets enough nutrients from hunting, the Basium will bear fruit once in tens, or hundreds of years.
If the Fruit of Basium is prepared in a special way, it will multiply the abilities of various reagents and magics. As a result, it was hunted indiscriminately by magicians of old, and now almost none are left. That is the reason why it is called the plant of dreams.
‘So this is a magic ingredient?’
Ark glanced at the Fruit of Basium with curious eyes.
A Warrior learned new skills through training and repetition. But a Magician had a different method of learning new spells.
The easiest method was to go to the Magic Institute and pay to learn a new spell. But the disadvantages to this were that it cost money and you could only learn common spells. In addition, they didn’t sell very many spells.
Because of this, in order to learn stronger magics, Magicians of a certain level spent day and night searching for ancient ruins. It was to find magic books left by ancient magicians. These magic books were stronger than the spells sold by the Magic Institute, and there were many unique ones.
In other words, just as a Merchant risked his life to trade in order to raise his market share, for Magicians, the ultimate goal was to find magic books holding stronger spells. But the problem was that special magic ingredients were sometimes needed to learn the spells of such magic books.
Of course, magic ingredients necessary to learn powerful magic spells were traded at high prices.
‘If I’m lucky, I can get a pretty high price for this item. Isn’t this a good start?’
“Snake, pack this away,” Ark ordered without much thought.
However, Snake, who normally swallowed items without any problems, suddenly showed a strange reaction. It suddenly went into convulsions and collapsed.
“Huh? Snake, what’s wrong?”
Snake, with great effort, lifted its head. As if it was trying to shed its skin, the scales of the area around its gaping mouth lost their elasticity and became wrinkled.
As Ark was panicking because of this bewildering situation, a new information window popped up before his eyes.
– Due to the Fruit of Basium, Alamone Larvae has started metamorphosis.
‘Eh? What’s this? Then, Snake really ate the Fruit of Basium? More importantly, metamorphosis? Then Snake can also grow up by eating food? Growth is growth, so what is metamorphosis? And metamorphosis has started?’
He totally could not understand what was going on. Then, a new message appeared again.
A new skill registration window for Alamone Larvae has been formed.
New Skill +?????
Alamone Larvae can learn a new skill through the process of metamorphosis. However, the summoner must find out what kind of skill it is and how to learn it. You have a time limit of 20 days. If you cannot complete metamorphosis by that time, it will end in failure.
During the transformation process all of Alamone Larvae’s skills are sealed; as such, it will lose its item storage ability.
Ark stared at the window blankly.
Snake is learning a skill? He hadn’t even imagined this.
‘To think Snake can also grow through such a method. Is this an opportunity to be able to expect a greater role than a bag from Snake?’
To be sure, if a Familiar gained a helpful skill, using up one or two items wasn’t a big deal. But he wasn’t sure if he should call this good fortune or not.
‘Well, I will be near Jackson Castle during the event quest, so not being able to use Snake as a bag shouldn’t pose much of a problem…’
The problem was that Snake had to learn the new skill for the metamorphosis to succeed. Seeing as the transformation would fail if the skill wasn’t learned within 20 days, it didn’t seem like the it wouldn’t be learned on its own.
“How in the world—?”
If it was Skull or Dedric, he could try training their fighting techniques. However, Snake didn’t even have any stats, let alone fighting ability. So what method was he supposed to use to learn what skill?
The situation was too sudden, so he couldn’t come up with any ideas. In addition, he didn’t have time to think of such things.
“Eek, g-go away! Aaack!”
“Kekeke, I will kill all humans.”
He suddenly heard the sounds of someone being attacked from the rear of the wreckage.
Setting aside his thinking for now, he quieted his footsteps and went back to see a wounded NPC crew member. He was surrounded by three black monsters that Ark had seen from within the ship.
‘There were surviving crew members?’ Ark examined the monsters by using Eyes of the Cat.
They were naked black humanoid monsters, with a faces as smooth as that of egg demons, white pupils, and pierced lips. They were monsters that would come out of a horror movie promo poster; level 80 monsters named Shadow.
On the other hand, Ark’s level was currently 68. But thanks to the Dark Fog’s influence, the land was covered in darkness.
Within the darkness was the Dark Walker’s battlefield!
His dark attribute bonus and the Gift of Darkness, gave him a 30% stat increase. Converted to levels, that was a whopping 20, so one could say Ark’s current level was equivalent to 88.
This was the real power of the dark attribute.
When he was a beginner, it was hard to notice any great changes. However, attribute bonuses like this showed a greater effect the higher one’s level was. At level 3, it was only a difference of 1 level, but at level 300, it was a difference of 100 levels!
“With this much, it’s definitely worth a try!”
Ark immediately used ‘Stealth,’ approached a Shadow monster from behind, and then attacked at the nape of its neck.
– You have dealt a Critical Hit! As a bonus effect, Backstab will deal an additional 200% damage. Shadow will be stunned for 10 seconds.
“Skull, Dedric, Formation C!”
“Okay, looks like I get to stretch a bit!”
Clack, clack, clack!
Formation C, Skull attacked one Shadow together with Ark, while Dedric kept the others busy. It was the most effective plan to use when they were surrounded by enemies, and also the one his Familiars had the greatest success rate with by training through countless battles.
While Ark was locked in the blind auction house, they hadn’t been able to fight. They were itching for action, so Skull and Dedric moved more actively than ever before. To be honest, Ark, who was thirsty for battle, was the same.
BOOM BOOM BOOM!
A series of explosions ran along the Shadow’s body at the spark-light sword attacks. It was Ark’s specialty, dealing continuous critical hits.
The Shadow wobbled greatly as it stepped back.
After swinging his sword refreshingly for the first time in a while, vigor surged up anew. Stimulated by the rising thrill he felt, Ark pressed forward another step and thrust his sword.
At that moment– was that thing reaching out of the Shadow’s chest a hand?
‘Wha-what? What’s that?’
Ark reflexively raised his sword. With a sharp metallic sound, the arm bounced off.
Luckily, thanks to his instinctive defensive movement, he avoided a critical hit, but he still lost about 80 health. One couldn’t block an attack with a sword but rather can only reduce the damage. However, the problem wasn’t the damage.
‘What, these bastards? Arms popping out freely?’
It was an attack method he’d never even imagined. It wasn’t just the chest. Arms extended from the back, butt, and even the head of the Shadow, wherever needed, stretching several meters like rubber. Moreover, though it wasn’t like Ark’s 30%, it seemed that they too were receiving the darkness attribute bonus. Well, they were probably using the Dark Fog because it was beneficial for them…
‘And the dirt floor is rotten, so it’s slippery.’
Because of this, evasive actions were inevitably restricted.
“Wah! Master, this is crazy!”
Though he had flown off with great vigor, Dedric was also unable to deal with the stretching arms.
“Skull, go and help Dedric, we’re going with Formation B!”
Ark sent Skull to help Dedric and adjusted his grip on the sword.
The enemy was trickier than expected, and the terrain was also poor. Although it couldn’t be called the worst possible scenario, it also couldn’t be counted as the best. However, Ark’s eyes shone more brightly than before.
‘So I’ll have to fight guys like these from now on, right? Alright, I’ll be sure to warm up properly for you.’
After shaking his body and stretching his joints, Ark leapt in while swinging his sword. At the same time Ark’s taekwondo trained body started to show its true potential.
Ark, after making up his mind, was said to be determined!
All this time, Ark had never once neglected to exercise even while playing 18 hours a day.
That was how exercise worked. If you missed a day with an excuse, one day became two, three, four days of rest. Once you make up your mind and start, there can be no excuses, even if you can’t sleep or have to skip a meal. Only by steadily adding up the sweat can you obtain the desired result.
“Come at me, you rotten egg!”
Ark’s sword pierced the Shadow’s vital point. As the Shadow twisted its body, another arm sprouted from its shoulder. An unexpected attack, but if you are expecting an attack from all directions, it can no longer be considered unexpected.
Not even being able to rapidly perform evasive movement because the ground was slippery wasn’t a problem either.
‘Without teeth, they’re just gums!’
Ark knocked away the arm and let loose a sweeping low kick. Struck in the knee, the Shadow lost its balance and wobbled.
It was off-balance for only 1 or 2 seconds, but one who is trained in Taekwondo can kick at least 4 times in that span of time. He performed a low kick followed by a roundhouse kick.
The chance of a medium monster getting a bad status effect by a kick was 3%! The Shadow took a roundhouse to the jaw, fell into a confused state, and extended arms all over the place. It was actually harder to block such a haphazard attack.
He took considerable damage from the arms attacking from all directions. However, Ark wasn’t one to stand still and take hits. The instant an arm was about to strike his shoulder, with a twist of his body, he back-kicked the Shadow monster for a Counterattack and killed it.
‘Nice, not bad! The Shadow’s darkness attribute bonus is only about 10~20%!’
If the enemy’s level was the same or slightly higher, the odds were more than enough. Ark immediately ran at the remaining 2 Shadows.
Ark took advantage of the slippery footing. Accelerating with a slide, his frontal kick stuck the Shadow’s stomach. With a cry of pain, it bent over at the waist. Once Ark started to attack, he showed no mercy.
If they were egg demon lookalike Shadows, there wasn’t much left to say. Just knee them in their flattened, egg demon-like faces! Having knocked its head back, Ark’s sword slit open the Shadow’s throat.
“Ack, y-you human!”
Like a storm, the consecutive attacks brought the Shadow’s health down to 50% in an instant.
‘So they can’t grow rubber arms since I’m not giving them time to breathe!’
“Skull, Dedric, Formation A. Let’s finish this as quickly as possible!”
Skull bit the legs, Dedric used Dark Rush. With Ark’s Dark Blade, the Shadow wildly took damage. Adding in the attack Co-op bonus with his Familiars, the Shadow’s remaining life hit rock bottom and it collapsed.
“Keke, you’re strong!”
Once two of them collapsed, the remaining Shadow quickly turned to flee.
“Where do you think you’re running to?!”
Dedric snorted as he rammed into the Shadow’s back with Dark Rush. An ‘ack’ sound was heard.
With a lump the size of a chestnut and tears dripping from his eyes, Dedric boasted, “Wa-wahahaha, how do you like the taste of that? I am the Dedric, noble of the Underworld!”
Clack clack, clack clack clack!
As if rather excited as well, Skull bounced about while landing strikes. The level 85 monster was getting beaten up by opponents 30 levels below them. With Ark striking continuous kicks and landing critical hits, the Shadows quickly fell into critical condition.
“Kekekeke! Hu-human… I may fall… but in the end, the day of rest will find you…”
“Ah, now I’m embarrassed, monsters should just simply die!”
Having changed into child form, Dedric pulled a face and stomped on the Shadow, which vanished with an aggrieved expression.
Ah, a rascal with no mercy…
In the beginning, Dedric didn’t have such a bent personality. However, he was steadily becoming similar to Ark in both actions and words.
In particular, only in the bad parts…
‘So this is why they say you shouldn’t even drink cold water in front of kids…’
[T/N: Many Koreans believe that drinking cold water is unhealthy. Basically, don’t do unadvisable things in front of kids, because they’ll start emulating those actions.]
Seemed like it was about time to pick a date for disciplinary action, but now wasn’t the time.
“Are you alright, sir?”
“Yes, thanks to you. Thank you.” The crew man who gave a sigh of relief was the Bosun.
“By any chance, are there any other surviving crew members?”
“I don’t know. I was with the Captain in the wheelhouse until the end…”
“And the Captain is…?”
The crew member shook his head with a dark face. “He passed away. I was in the wheelhouse, so if I survived, then there might be other crew members who made it. Please, I beg you. Will you go with me to find any other surviving crew members? As the bosun, I can’t leave my subordinates behind. But, since I am a stranger to fighting…”
Thu-thump, a quest window popped up.
* Sub-quest: Rescue the Silver Arrow Crewmen
The Magic Institute’s airship, Silver Arrow, has unexpectedly crashed in the Jackson region.
Though it was a disastrous accident that caused numerous casualties, the efforts of the Captain and crew members who were prepared for death were able to decrease the damage.
In a stroke of fortune among misfortune, Jabel, the Bosun, also survived. If he survived despite being in the wheelhouse, there may be other survivors. Jabel has requested that you to search and rescue the surviving crew. Rescue the crewmembers with Jabel and escort them to Jackson Castle. It will be an honorable act if you rescue those who have been completely abandoned.
‘A sub-quest!’ Ark snapped fully awake.
‘Hero Assembly’ was an event quest that gathered hundreds of users and spanned 3 days. Of course there would be many events during it. The sub-quests to complete such a task existed separately. One sub-quest could affect the chances of succeeding in the main quest.
‘A sub-quest exists. Then this means there’s a method to raise contribution points by myself.’
It was the same feeling as finding a clue to solving a quest.
“Hey, hey, aren’t you being too shameless? You’re demanding a gift after being rescued from dangerous waters. If you’re going to ask for a favor, you’ve got to offer some compensation. Who do you see Master as?”
Dedric interrupted without any manners.
Just how did he know Ark’s inner thoughts so well?
However, Ark put on the mask of a righteous man in front of NPCs!
Ark ignored Dedric’s comment and accepted the quest. “Please don’t pay any attention to what this brat said. I was able to survive thanks to the efforts of the captain and crew. Rescuing the crewmen is something that of course I must do. In order to make sure that no one loses their lives in a pitiful manner, I will search every nook and cranny. So please help me, Bosun.”
Since it was a sub-quest, he would definitely get contribution in compensation. However, Ark had another ulterior motive in undertaking this sub-quest.
“Ah! Also, Bosun, please carefully search the bodies and give me anything you find. Although they are already dead, shouldn’t we take something back to their families?”
“Ah, indeed. I understand. Let’s do it that way.”
It was exactly this: the corpses of the players were spread out in a fairly large area. Even with help from his Familiars, who knew how long it would take. But with the Bosun and any surviving crew members they found, the search would end faster.
‘So, while doing the quest, I can also collect items. This is killing two birds with one stone.’
As Ark searched the area, he watched the Bosun from the corner of his eye with satisfaction. In the end, Ark was able to rope in an NPC as a free worker.
Dedric, watching from the side, exclaimed,”Oho, as expected of Master. How underhanded.”
“Shut it. I’m always saying this, but I go for the win-win.”
After 30 minutes of searching, they were able to rescue 10 crew members from the debris of the airship.
Of course, it wasn’t just a relaxing situation. On average, for every 3 he rescued he had to fight three or four Shadows. However, a battle was always welcome. In addition, there were crew members with fighting and healing skills. They weren’t of a high level, but as their numbers grew the fight with the Shadows became quite a bit easier.
“Ark-nim, I found this in the wreckage.”
“Ah. Great work. I’ll be sure to find someone who knows the person and return it to them.”
As Ark had instructed, the crew members gathered the user’s items and gave them to Ark. It was a shame, but the monsters destroyed by the Spear of Thor did not drop any items.
But the items the users had dropped far exceeded his expectations.
‘5 Intermediate Recovery potions, 1 Magic Tool Box, and 2 equips!’
Gauntlets of Strength (Magic)
Level 60, Warrior
High-quality steel gauntlets sold in the Merchant City, Giran, and specialized stores. Although they are mass produced, the seams are soft and have high defense, so they are loved by many adventurers. During the process of smelting the iron, drops of Ogre’s blood were added to give an effect adding to the wearer’s Strength.
Option: Strength +10
Norad Boots (Magic)
Level 65 or higher
Boots made from the leather of a legendary horse that only inhabits the northern region. They are among the masterpiece armor series made by the famous armor maker ‘Norad,’ who is known to have disappeared long ago. As fast as a gust of wind, the legendary horse’s strength still remains, giving an increase to the wearer’s movements.
Options: Movement Speed +10%, Evasion +5%
Both items were well worth 60-70 thousand Won (~$600-$700) if placed on auction.
‘Let’s put the gauntlets on auction right away and use the boots for now.’
He didn’t have any boots worth using besides the Sharkman’s Shackles anyways. Ark immediately used the Deluxe Tool Box to repair the boots, put them on, and of course, he didn’t forget to say a word to Jabel, who was staring at him impassively.
“I’ll only use them until I can find the people they’re related to. We need all the help we can get to guide everyone safely to Jackson Castle, you see. The deceased would definitely have wanted that as well.”
“Ah, yes… That’s right,” Jabel replied with a doubtful expression. However, the one protecting them was Ark. Perhaps because he was also angry after hearing that 40 players had run off to Jackson Castle without even thinking about searching for the crew, Jabel didn’t raise any other objections to Ark’s actions.
“Now, since we searched the entire area, let us head to Jackson Castle.” After feigning innocence, Ark led the crew through the Dark Fog.
Once they reached a certain distance away from the airship wreckage, the number of monsters increased. There were as few as 3-4 Shadows and as many as 30 of them in a mob. There were also mobs with the same large monster they had seen from the airship. Though they were similar to the Shadows in appearance, these monsters, called Hiptons, were 5 times larger and had rock-like skin.They were a whopping level 90! However, they didn’t pose much of a problem for Ark.
‘Hm, the attack group that left first must’ve suffered quite a bit.’
Ark followed the trail left by the first group. Thanks to the raid that had left first 30 minutes ago, monster corpses were piled up like mountains at regular intervals. They were marks of battles between the raid and the monsters that had ambushed them.
It was truly fortunate. Thanks to their desperate fighting, Ark was able to pass by without even fighting a single group of monsters. Ark just hummed while rummaging through the bodies.
“Snake, if you see any items I’ve missed, swallow them all.”
Perhaps because the raid group had been continuously ambushed, but they hadn’t picked up the item drops properly. However, Snake nodded feebly while grabbing an item and swallowing it, but it spat it back up with a painful face. Then it hung its head.
‘Ah, that’s right. It said it was in metamorphosis?’
During metamorphosis, Snake couldn’t swallow or spit out items. In addition, Snake was having a hard time just staying wrapped around Ark’s waist. That was probably the unexpected metamorphosis’ fault. Seeing the always charming Snake in such a limp state made him feel pity.
“Snake, until I figure out a way to solve this, do you want to go back to the Underworld?”
Hearing this, Snake violently shook its head as it tightened its grip on his waist and rubbed its head on him.
Well, Ark was no different from a parent to Snake. Since it was in pain, it didn’t want to be separated from him even more.
“Okay, I understand. It must be hard, but just hang on a bit. let’s find a way no matter what.”
Once Ark used his Nursing skill with a sympathetic heart, Snake nodded with a rather brighter face.
‘At least the Nursing skill works. Anyways, I feel sorry for Snake, but I can’t leave this place for 9 days as long as I’m participating in the event quest. Haahh, it can’t be helped. 20 days in game time is almost a week in real life. Fortunately, there’s still some time to spare. I’ll steadily look for a way after finishing the event quest.’
Ark blew a sigh as he stroked Snake’s head. There was nothing more he could do for Snake. Plus, this wasn’t a situation where he could pay attention to Snake.
Even though the raid group had passed through the area, there were still monsters left. Therefore, Ark moved carefully and sent Dedric to scout the area. Though there were still times they had to go into battle, they never had to fight more than six Shadows thanks to the scouting. With the help of the crew members, 6 Shadows weren’t very difficult opponents.
“I will also help!”
“Let’s get revenge for the Captain!”
If fighting broke out, the battle crewmen pulled out their daggers even without being asked to. The medic even ran over during the battle while taking hits from Shadows and bandaged Ark when he got injured. He didn’t recover much Health when the medic applied first aid, but it was a significant help because it had a continuous effect.
“You’re injured. I will treat you.”
“You don’t have to go so far…”
“No, you are fighting for our sakes, so I cannot leave your wounds unattended.”
They repaid those who helped them no matter what. Ark couldn’t help but like NPCs because they were like this.
After fighting around 15 battles, his EXP surged up. Although he fought with the crew, Ark got all the EXP since most of the damage was from him. Thanks to that, his EXP rose by 50% and he went up a level. The raid group that went ahead must’ve also killed many monsters, but since the EXP was shared among 40 people, they probably didn’t get as much as Ark.
‘The sky is dark! EXP and items are all over the ground! This is really a stage made for me!’
He felt sorry for Snake, but he felt like he could fly. But his pleasurable hunting ended upon reaching Jackson Castle.
Once they reached the castle gates, Jabel took Ark’s hand with emotion.
“We are truly thankful. If it wasn’t for Ark-nim, we would have pitifully lost our lives. I will never forget your kindness. Although we can only reward you with gratitude right now, we will notify the Magic Institute of your deed so that you can receive a just reward.”
“I am happy by just being able to help you. Though of course, I won’t stop you if you say you’ll report it to the Magic Institute…”
* The sub-quest ‘Rescue the Silver Arrow’s Crewmen’ has been completed.
You have safely brought the crewmen who survived to Jackson Castle. They will never forget your dedicated help. The Magic Institute will also think highly of you for rescuing their precious staff.
Reward: 100 Contribution Points for every rescued crew member, +50 Fame, +100 Friendship with the Magic Institute.
The contribution one gets for killing a Shadow was just 10. Saving 12 crew members, on the other hand, was 1,200 contribution points. He received the same amount of contribution points he would have gotten from killing 120 Shadows. He even obtained the items dropped by users.
‘Not bad, considering it’s the first leg of the quest.’
After sending off his Familiars, Ark walked to the gate.
The event quest starts now.
* * *
‘Is this really Jackson Castle?’
Jackson Castle looked totally different from the memories he had of it a month and a half ago.
Thanks to the monsters’ attack, the castle walls were in ruins here and there, and destroyed homes could be seen inside. The Lord’s manor also showed signs of attack. With the area surrounded by darkness, it was as dismal as looking at a ruin.
‘It’s only been 2 days of in-game time since the attacks started and it’s already this bad?’
Ark had fought alongside Jackson’s Sylphid Knights before. Though they weren’t able to defeat the boss of the ancient ruins, Debra, they were the strongest NPCs Ark had met. If the enemy did that much damage even though the Sylph Knights were fighting back, it meant the enemy was that numerous and strong.
‘Well, all three top guilds sent reinforcements, so the quest will be completed one way or another… but more importantly, what should I do now? Do I join up with the Magic Institute? Or…’
Ark sent the crew members inside first and snooped around the gate.
Just then, he spied a group of users passing through the gate. Ark began to approach them in hopes of getting some information but then flinched as he stopped. He quickly retreated and hid behind a wall.
‘How did that rascal…?’
One of the players walking in the middle of 10 others– he was one of the few users Ark knew of.
It was Andel!
The bastard who tricked Ark, who was then level 1, into losing 84 of his stats! Of course, he was caught by Ark afterwards, lost 128 of his stats, and flaked off. An average person would have already given up on the game at that point. No, he was certain he would give up on the game.
‘Just how did that bastard join the event quest?’
Even considering that he could get his equipment back with money, did that mean he still reached level 60 after losing 128 stats?
In addition, if he was able to participate in an event quest, it also meant he was able to get rid of his Chaotic state. After Andel was caught by Ark, he realized how fearsome the Chaotic penalty was. If he meant to continue playing the game, then he must first get rid of his Chaotic status.
‘It couldn’t have been easy… it seems he has suffered quite a lot all this while, hm?’
However, Ark’s eyes did not show a hint of sympathy.
Even though he had backed off after cutting 128 of Andel’s stat points, it wasn’t because Ark had forgiven him. It was just that he couldn’t waste any more time on the likes of Andel. It might be a different if Andel just gave up on the game, but if he was going to play, then he was still an enemy.
His promise that he would kill until Andel’s stats hit 0 if he showed up before Ark again were not empty words. If they had met again in a different place, Ark would have reduced him to 0, as promised.
‘But the bastard isn’t Chaotic now.’
Ark might be angry, but he wasn’t stupid enough to become Chaotic in the middle of an event quest.
‘Plus, I can’t even touch him right now because he’s with Bulma or other teammates. No, it would be rather disruptive if he were to spot me now. While the event quest is going on, it’ll be better to stay away.’
Just when Ark was thinking that, someone from behind suddenly spoke to him.
“Hey, were you the one who rescued the crew members?”
“Yes, it was I. And you are?”
The moment Ark turned his head, his eyes grew wide in surprise.
Surprisingly, Raymond was approaching him accompanied by Soldiers. He was the Alchemist of Jackson who was caught by Ark while secretly raising a Crystal Golem to treat his son’s illness.
“Oh, so it was you! I came running over when I heard the name of Ark from the crew members.”
“How did you…?”
“I am ashamed. Actually, right after you left, I surrendered myself to the Lord. But when the Lord heard my circumstances, instead of punishing me, he made it so I could live while serving Jackson. And now, I’ve been temporarily entrusted with the work of managing the volunteer troops. Certainly, I’m still a prisoner, but thanks to you and the Lord’s grace, I am able to proudly straighten my shoulders and care for my son.”
“That’s good, I’m glad.” Ark smiled broadly as he held Raymond’s hand. Raymond had worried him as he left Jackson, but it seemed things had worked out better than expected.
Those who sin must be punished. It was obvious, but sometimes there was room for sympathy. Could anyone stone a person who committed murder in order to save his son? At the very least, a person who valued his family more than others wouldn’t be able to throw the stones.
Of course, Ark’s affection towards Raymond was due in no small amount to the rare scroll ‘Magic Restoration’. It was truly one of the skills he made really good use of.
“I feel like I have been relieved of some heavy burden thanks to your words. My heart has been heavy every day because it didn’t look like I was able to keep the promise I made with you.”
“There’s no need to think like that. There is no rule that says one must pay the price of sin with suffering alone. I think the Lord judged wisely as well.”
“I’ve already heard about the relationship between you and the Lord; even after Jackson was attacked, the Lord occasionally mentioned you. No, this is no time for idle prattle. The Lord would be glad to see you. I’ll take care of the registration process for the militia, so you go visit the Lord.”
Ark immediately went towards the Lord under the escort of guards.
“What, who’s that guy?”
“How is he going straight to the Lord’s Castle right away?”
“Maybe he’s a user with extremely high Fame?”
The users whispered amongst themselves while watching Ark receiving VIP treatment as soon as he arrived at the castle.
It was only natural that he drew their attention. There were very few people who received such treatment from NPCs. It was a benefit only for those with incredibly high Fame or people who had raised Intimacy to the limits by completing a special quest. Of course, Ark wasn’t at all happy about their interest in him. It would be troublesome if he caught the eye of Andel.
In any case, once Ark entered the Lord’s castle, the young Lord’s eyes became as wide as saucers.
“You… Ark! You’re Ark!”
“Have you been well?”
“Haha, I can’t really say that…” The Lord smiled weakly and sagged his shoulders. “Anyway, you have come.”
“How could I not come after hearing that Jackson Castle has met a crisis?”
“Yes, I believed you would surely come.”
“However, the situation looks worse than what I heard.”
The Lord nodded with a heartbroken expression. “It is as you said. The situation is very serious. Since you have arrived, you must have been riding the airship sent from Giran. Am I right?”
“Yes, it was dangerous because we were intercepted during our journey, but I was somehow able to survive to Jackson Castle.”
“I see, even after suffering many difficulties, thank you for not giving up on Jackson and coming. As your friend and as the Lord of Jackson Castle, I express my thanks to you. My heartfelt thanks go to the brave Warriors who were sacrificed while participating in the militia.”
Comfortable. The first feeling Ark registered while talking face to face with the Lord was comfort. Ark did not feel the slightest pretense in the young Lord’s tone. If a person did something worth being grateful about, he expressed his heartfelt thanks, and he sincerely sympathized with those who perished. It was such a natural response, but the same natural reaction was hard to find among players. Maybe because this was a game, it was considered acceptable to not act earnest.
But perhaps because Ark hadn’t been able to experience many virtual reality games, there were many times when NPCs felt like real people. Was that why? Now he was more comfortable talking to NPCs than to users. Unlike unpredictable users, conversation with NPCs unfurled in orderly fashions. At least he didn’t need to worry about what to say to them.
“Your words alone are surely enough to comfort the fallen, my Lord.”
“That is all I can do. In any case, the crash of your airship is an incident that explains Jackson’s current situation. After all, we weren’t able to send out rescue parties despite knowing your airship was intercepted. Furthermore the airship was not the only one that took a surprise attack.”
“Not only the Silver Arrow?”
“As you likely know, all three great guilds come forward and sent militia to Jackson. The 3 great guilds mobilized their most superior weapons. However, they were all defeated one by one while on route like the airship.”
The young Lord began to explain the gist of the situation.
The unidentified army of monsters attacked Jackson Castle 2 days ago, which was 16 hours ago, last evening, in real time. The sky was suddenly engulfed by Dark Fog as the army of darkness attacked. Without any time to take control, they were dealt a huge blow.
“Many of the foreigners who were dedicated to hunting around Jackson Castle perished. Still, the good thing was that the foreigners who survived combined their strength with the Soldiers and finally blocked the attack. Then, before we were completely engulfed in the Dark Fog, we urgently sent an SOS from the Magic Tower to Giran.”
That was the magic signal Ark saw in Giran.
The 3 great guilds all received requests for help. They responded quickly and decided to send militia. The first to arrive were the ones sent by the Merchant Guild. The representatives of the Merchant Guild cut through the Jackson principality aboard the ironclad merchant ship, Prize. After getting close to Jackson Castle, they planned on beginning their large-scale landing operation.
“So they failed.”
“That’s right, it seems that the monsters knew that the SOS was sent from the magic tower. As soon as the Prize crossed into the Jackson principality boundaries, they were ambushed by the monsters lying in wait and sank. Among the 100 militia on board, 60 or so were lost with Prize, and just this morning, some 40 survivors arrived.”
As expected, not all who participated could reach Jackson Castle. There was a trial prepared for each guild, and only those who passed could participate in the actual quest.
The Merchant Guild and Magic Institute were both in Giran, so the level of the militia was similar. That’s why the number of survivors from the airship was also similar to the number from Prize.
“Then the Warrior Guild’s militia must have also received a surprise attack.”
“Yes, but fortunately, the Warrior guild did not receive much damage. Though they were ambushed, 70 survived and arrived at Jackson a few hours ago. They say it’s thanks to the famous Warrior who led the battle. He’s the Holy Knight, Alan, who we’ve heard of several times even in Jackson Castle.”
Ark’s felt like his mind was splashed with cold water.
Alan… His name was unforgettable in another sense than Andel’s. Ever since Ark met him, he had felt an ever present thorn of discomfort in playing the game.
He was the first to make Ark feel so frustrated. He was also the one who had made Ark feel like Lariette had been snatched from him. And he was the reason why he took the first step towards being a gamer for a living.
‘So that guy is also participating in this quest!’
He had encountered competition in an totally unexpected place.
His feelings were mixed after hearing Alan’s name. He knew an opportunity like this would come one day, and as candidates of Global Exos, it was unavoidable anyways. However, Ark was not yet ready to compete one on one with him.
Not yet… That’s right, it wasn’t time.
If they met when he wasn’t ready, it was very likely that Ark would just come to feel the same frustration as before. The stronger Ark’s desire to win against him was, the greater his frustration would be.
“Besides, if Lariette is still with Alan…”
More than anything, he didn’t want to be humiliated again in front of Lariette.
As Ark’s expression became grave, the young Lord asked with a quizzical voice, “Do you know him?”
“Yes, a little…”
“I see. Then I’ll continue what I was saying.Raymond is reorganizing the militia sent by the 3 Great Guilds to form a temporary force to guard the exterior. Sir Alan has been put in charge of commanding them on the field.”
“Entrusted to Alan?”
“He is a Holy Knight recognized by the Cathedral. It should come as no surprise considering the Fame he has garnered.”
This was why users were obsessed with Fame.
If your Fame was high, then you didn’t really have to bother with raising Intimacy. With Fame alone, you received VIP treatment no matter where you went, and there were cases where NPCs went looking for you after hearing rumors to request quests. In addition, you could also be personally bestowed a title from a famous guilds or royalty. Whether you had it or not, it was an absolutely necessary value for Knights, Merchants, and professions like Scholar alike in progressing through the game.
The main characteristic of Ark’s chosen hidden profession, Dark Walker, was the dark attribute bonus. Meanwhile, Alan’s main characteristics as a Holy Knight were Faith and Fame. Disregarding his original character, Alan was a faithful, sacred Knight in the game. Therefore, even by doing the same quest as other people, Alan received bonus Faith and Fame.
Faith showed its power when dealing with monsters, and Fame could win the right to be entrusted an advantageous role when a big event like this occurred.
‘If he’s registered as a commander in the system, he’ll get more contribution points and experience points as a bonus. Damn, does that mean it’ll be hard to win more contribution points than Alan in this quest?’
This was a fact Ark had learned recently learned, but the path of darkness the Dark Walker tread was the opposite of Alan’s– Ark suffered a Fame penalty. It was intended to balance his profession.
However, Ark was able to obtain almost as much Fame as other users thanks to successful miraculous treatment with Nursing.
‘There’s no point in thinking of such things now. All I have to do is raise my Dark Walker my own way. Just as our chosen paths are different, there may be things I can do that Alan can’t.’
“Sir Alan failed the Taresha Labyrinth expedition twice, so his Fame isn’t as great as before, but there was still no one in the volunteer troops who can match him. Also, he is working as hard as we expected.”
‘So he failed that time when he said he was going to the Taresha Labyrinth!’
Ark was able to receive unexpected information from the young Lord.
If so, then Alan wouldn’t have been able to raise his level and Fame by much. That in and of itself was good news, but Alan would be desperate to make up for the failure with this event quest. Looking at this quest alone, he couldn’t say it was really good news.
“Well, Sir Alan’s situation aside, this is the current line of defense. After conferring with Sir Alan, we put the volunteer troops in the defense line.”
The young Lord called attention to himself and spoke while pointing at a map of the Jackson principality.
Alan split the volunteer troops into 3 platoons. He assigned Platoon 1 to the front gate, where the enemy attacks were the fiercest. Platoon 1 was likely the one Alan was personally leading. Platoon 2 and 3 were placed on the sides to assist Platoon 1.
‘With this placement, Alan and Platoon 1 will definitely get the most contribution.’
Was that all? Giving and denying contribution points to each platoonor user all depended on Alan’s whims. Of course his first priority was going to be himself. Alan had seized the top spot right from the get go of the event quest with his high Fame.
While participating in the quest, Ark had never even hoped to take the top spot. But after finding out there was no chance at all, he lost all motivation. What’s more, to think his opponent was Alan…
Besides the volunteer troops, a group called the militia were participating. The militia was comprised of users who were in Jackson at the time of the ambush; they got the event quest from the young Lord and not from the 3 Great Guilds. But since they were all low level, they were being used as reserve troops.
“The assignment of the volunteers has been entrusted to Sir Alan, but you are an exception. Speak if there’s a platoon you desire. I will confer with Sir Alan to make it so that you are assigned the platoon you want.”
Ark briefly looked at the map and pondered.
Considering EXP and contribution points, Platoon 1 was the best. But the commander of Platoon 1 was Alan; even if Ark couldn’t obtain a decent reward, he couldn’t find it in himself to take orders from Alan.
Platoons 2 and 3 were also in a similar situation, as they were also under Alan’s direct command. In addition, even if he were assigned to the front lines, it would be difficult to gain the contribution he needed if he wasn’t put in an attack squad. Furthermore, if he ran into Andel or Bulma, there was no telling what the outcome would be.
Whichever he chose, neither were desirable.
‘Is there a way I can raise my contribution while fighting independently?’
After thinking a while, Ark asked the young Lord, “Where are the castle troops fighting?”
“The Sylphid Knights left the defense of the front gate to the volunteer troops and are out blockading the enemy’s supply line. Defense isn’t everything– striking the enemy is the true mission of the Sylphid Knights. The Jackson guards are guarding the back gate.”
‘That’s it!’ Ark’s eyes flashed.
Jackson’s soldiers were NPCs. If he were to fight alongside them, he wouldn’t need to worry about Andel or other users. He also wouldn’t have to worry about being sandwiched in the midst of many users and would have many chances to gain EXP and contribution points.
Regretfully, the scenario of hunting with the Sylphid Knights was not to be. Well, if the powerful Sylphid Knights participated in the defense line, there would be a problem with the quest difficulty balance. However, the Jackson guards were also NPCs that Ark was very familiar with.
“I would like to guard the back gate along with the Jackson guards.”
“Yes, as you probably know, I am well acquainted with the Jackson Soldiers. Rather than mixing with strangers, I would be more comfortable with the Jackson guards with whom I have shared my heart.”
“But… The back gate they are currently guarding is not a very safe place. The number of enemies and frequency of attacks are low compared to the front gate, where monsters attack relentlessly, but there are only 30 Jackson guards left. Compared to the main gate which is being guarded by about 140 volunteer troops, the back gate is more dangerous.”
“My Lord.” Ark gazed at the young Lord with blazing eye and spoke forcefully. “Jackson Castle is a second home to me. In addition, you called me a friend, my Lord. How can I desire safety when Jackson Castle is in the midst of a crisis? If protecting Jackson Castle is dangerous, then that is fine. Even if I were to perish while guarding it, that is what I desire. I beg you, please let me do so.”
“Ark, you’re really…..!” The young Lord struggled with his emotions.
Even the guard captain, Cross, who was listening in from the side was overcome with emotion.
“Milord, I also ask this favor. If the righteous foreigner Ark who was acknowledged by the late lord were to help, it would raise the morale of the guards. Please grant this request. I will swear to protect him from harm.”
“Fine, although a foreigner participating in the guard force is unprecedented, Ark fought the devil with the Sylphid Knights before. And if it’s you, who loves Jackson more than anyone, you have the right to do so. Sir Cross, Ark is my friend. I leave him to you.”
As Cross firmly nodded, a message window popped up.
– Art of Communication has risen by 5.
The Art of Communication stat was of crucial help.
‘Hehehe, the way to solve this quest is becoming clear at last.”
Like that, Ark was able to participate in the battle without coming to the attention of the other users.
Chapter 3 : Jackson Crusade
This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Charles, and Lei. Special thanks to Ark1122, Davidmoo, DoeJohnson, and GodAtom.
“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!”
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!”
Ark’s Health plummeted from taking a critical hit by a lance.
“Please go, I’ll take it from here!”
“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.
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!”
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.
Cat Knight, Soul Caretaker
Art of Communication
Special Stat: Knowledge of Ancient Relics
Black Bear Mouse Leather Armor: Agility 2, Frost Resistance +20
* 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.
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.”
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?
“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.
* 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?”
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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
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?’
Chapter 4 : Holy Knight Alan
This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Boyce, Charles, Chronohell, Lastear, and Lei. Special thanks to Davidmoo, and Masene.
“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.”
Chapter 5 : Operation Bomb the Scorch Cannons
This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, Boyce, Charles, Lastear, and Lei. Special thanks to Sircus.
After arriving at the Lord’s Castle, Ark encountered an unwelcome face again. When Ark’s group followed Cross inside, Alan, who was already there, made a slightly surprised expression.
Only the leaders of each raid had received the young Lord’s summons. It wasn’t a place for a regular grunt who wasn’t even the leader of the Militia composed of low-level players. But Alan soon turned his head as if uninterested. His attitude was like a noble ignoring a commoner.
‘That bastard, he’s getting more and more irritating.’ Ark was even more displeased with Alan’s attitude.
Then, the young Lord looked around and spoke, “All of you worked hard to protect Jackson Castle. I’ve sent out summons, even in this busy time