Weed’s Role in the Punitive Force

The punitive force bound for Village Baran!

Located on the borderline of human civilization, Rosenheim Kingdom was surrounded by monsters.

The kingdom fortified the walls and organized militias in frontier towns, but the annual feasts by goblins and Orcs that raided to pillage autumn harvests were still rampant, which gave the royal court a headache.

The mission of the punitive force assigned to Darius was a group quest to take over Village Baran that had fallen into the hands of the lizardmen. Those who joined the punitive force shared the same quest, and they, composed of three hundred users, would come to drive the lizardmen out of the village.

This topic had been rattling around the Citadel of Serabourg for the last few days. Even users from other kingdoms were pouring into the Citadel to join the quest, making it even more crowded.

A member who took part in the quest was given EXPs, not to mention fame, in recognition of his service to Rosenheim Kingdom. Everyone was talking about it, yet it had escaped Weed as he was busy carving statues at his street stall.

Weed agreed to meet his former teammates first. They were waiting downtown.

“Nice to see you again, Weed-nim.”
“Wow, long time no see!”

Surka and Irene welcomed Weed. Their outfits had changed greatly in his absence.

Surka wore a fine tunic, and Irene a snow-white clerical vestment. For Romuna the mage, it was a standard black robe.

They were surprised that Weed had still not changed his outfit.

“Weed-nim, where have you been?”
“It’s a long story…”

Before Weed could answer fully, Surka cut in and said,

“I understand. You haven’t signed in for weeks, right?”
“…”
“Oh, are you going to join the punitive force quest? Please come with us, Weed-nim!”

Romuna slipped her arm into Weed’s as if they were a couple.

Pale the ranger was watching them with a wounded look that sent a chill down Weed’s spine. He already sensed that Pale was secretly courting Romuna.

Slipping his hostage arm away from Romuna’s firm grip, Weed asked,

“What’s your level now?”
“I’m level forty-eight. I died five or six times in battles, so I’m the lowest among us,”

Surka said sheepishly.

“I’m fifty-one,” Irene said.
“Same here,” Romuna said.
“I’m level fifty-three,” Pale said still disturbed by the scene.

Weed learned that his teammates were all friends in reality, so they had always hunted monsters together, thus leveling up at an identical pace. Still, it was evident that they had been on serious hunting sprees because they had leveled up faster than other typical users.

They confided to Weed that they had withdrawn from college temporarily. Though they didn’t tell him more, he guessed that they had since played Royal Road almost non-stop, without sleep, caged in their dark rooms like isolated, socially reclusive individuals.

Pale soon established that Weed would come along with them to join the punitive force quest.

“They posted that the level requirement was thirty and above. This quest gives a premium on earned experience. You can also win some fame.”

The punitive force was scheduled to encounter numerous types of monsters. The main target was the lizardmen that occupied Baran Village, but chances were that they would face relatively less dangerous goblins.

“The mission is a little risky, but we can call for help from NPCs if there’s an emergency. I’m now sick and tired of spiders and bandits.” Pale made an appalled face.

While Weed was away, his teammates had hunted monsters in a nearby dungeon. It was the spider dungeon, where red spiders and poisonous arachnids were lurking behind every stalactite. Poison was taken care of by Irene, but Pale had been traumatized by being fastened to a sticky spider net, struggling pathetically against saliva-dripping giant spiders.

Weed nodded, understanding exactly what Pale had been through. He had had a tough time of his own crushing gigantic worms. “It wouldn’t be so bad to take part in the punitive force.”

“We welcome you, Weed-nim. By the way…”
“Yes?”
“Did you find the class?”

As far as the class was concerned, Weed had been undecided when he had been teamed with them in hunting sprees. They even had a private gamble on when he would get one.

“I got a class, but—”
“What class is it? Tell us.”

Irene, usually reserved, approached Weed with twinkling eyes. As a priestess in charge of healing and buffs that supported the other teammates, she was supposed to know every teammate’s class.

There are so many divisions for the warrior class alone, not to mention other branches of the combative classes that specialize in different weapons and styles of combat. Tanker types are heavy on defense and vitality, and deals damage types on attack power and strength.

In the case of Surka and Pale, they belonged to supportive classes with higher agility, but less strength and vitality compared to other melee fighters.

Furthermore, Paladins, nicknamed holy knights, can use divine power, including Healing Hand, for self-healing, thanks to their exclusive stat of faith.

Weed scratched his head. “I’m a sculptor.”

“Wow, cool! You chose an artist class.” Surka laughed brightly, but the rest looked less than delighted. The prejudice that associated a sculptor with weakness was deeply engraved in their subconscious.

In fact, the sculptor class is one of the craft classes that had nothing to do with combat skills, so it is deprived of any effects on strength and vitality.

Still, they embraced Weed as one of their own from the bottom of their hearts. They were not heartless enough to turn their backs on their former brother-in-arms just because he had converted to one of the least desirable classes.

“We were on our way to Sir Darius to join the punitive force. Come with us,” Pale said.
“But, you see, I’m a sculptor,” Weed said.

“Don’t worry. We can make up for what you’re missing. We should hurry before someone else fills the empty slot. The size of the punitive force is limited to three hundred users and two hundred NPC soldier participants in the order of arrival,” Pale said.

“Let’s go, Weed-nim,” Romuna said.
“If you think you aren’t qualified for a spot ‘cause you’re a sculptor, we will help you out. Please?” Surka said.

Now that Weed had disclosed his class, he was left without an excuse to say no.

The women felt so maternal toward Weed that they could not abandon him, even though they thought he was weak, and Pale almost begged him to join the punitive force quest to repay what he had done for them before.

Persuaded by their persistence, Weed headed for where Darius’s troops were stationed.

* * *

Duke Kanus held a regular meeting for the knights. All the knights who were within the Citadel, without exception, had been called to attend it. In the meeting, they discussed how to drive monsters out of Rosenheim, a conscription plan and other urgent military issues.

“You have done an excellent job, Lord Midvale, and the soldiers whom you were assigned are trained competently. I’m impressed that their levels all exceed fifty,” Duke Kanus said.

“That was not my doing, your Excellency,” Sir Midvale said.

“Huh? I personally entrusted this task to you. Tell me what happened,” Duke Kanus said.

“If you insist, Your Excellency,” Sir Midvale said. Lord Midvale then reported in detail the events that had taken place in the Lair of Litvart.

“Hmm… I see.” Duke Kanus said as he rubbed his well-groomed mustache.

Other knights also looked taken aback that a foreigner, other than a Versailles native, had done the job so well. The NPCs recognize themselves as locals born on the Versailles Continent, and that users are freedmen sent by Gaea the Holy Seer. They had emotions, spoke and acted like real people, thanks to programmed artificial intelligence.

“A fine man, indeed. Lord Midvale, why didn’t you recruit him to the Rosenheim Army?” Duke Kanus asked.

“I asked him to be a military officer twice, but he said he wanted to retain his liberty and slay monsters at his own will,” Sir Midvale said.

“A freedman, he is,” Duke Kanus said, impressed.

“Yes, Your Excellency. Though he does not belong to our Kingdom, it seems to me that he is a man who shall devote time again to Rosenheim,” Sir Midvale said.

“If you say so, we’ll see his sword by our side again someday,” Duke Kanus said and dropped the subject about the Lair of Litvart and moved on to the next one.

* * *

On the way to Darius, Weed stopped by a grocery store.

“Weed-nim, why do we stop here?”
“You’ll see.”

The grocery store was crowded with lots of customers. They were mostly delivery boys from restaurants in the Citadel.

A boy, clad in what resembled a messenger’s attire, yelled,

“I want fresh breasts!”

“Puhaha, you are at the wrong place, young tiger. A brothel is at the next corner down the street. Hope you’ve got a photo ID,” the shopkeeper said.

“Shoot. I want chicken breasts!”

The boy grimaced. But the shopkeeper, oily as a snake’s tongue, was only smiling.

“Only chicken breasts? Don’t you need eggs, too?”
“Oops, I forgot… I need eggs, too.”
“Stay put. I’ll give you eggs when hens lay them.”
“How about chickens?”
“When the eggs hatch, sir.”

Irene giggled at the exchange between the shopkeeper and the delivery boy.

“Funny kid.”
“I guess he got a job in a restaurant ‘cause he can’t leave the Citadel for the first four weeks.”
“Bad choice. Why did he decide to work at a restaurant where there’s nothing much to learn?”

In Pale’s eyes, it wasn’t wise to make a career in a restaurant.

Newbies are advised to take quests that pay well or, in the case of spell-casting wannabes, to read and learn many things in a library. This is so they can buy more advanced weapons and gear, hunt monsters more easily and level up faster in the long run.

Weed disagreed with Pale’s opinion, though. “If you work in a restaurant, you can learn the cooking skill. It pays off,” Weed said.

“I know, but what’s the point of learning a useless skill like cooking? If you buy rye bread that is processed by the food preservation spell, it will last for a month,” Pale said.

“He’s right. Why do we need to learn how to cook when we can raise the satisfaction factor easily?”
Surka asked.

To Weed, Pale and Surka sounded stupid to the point of childishness. They underestimated the cooking skill just as much as they had looked down upon sculpture mastery, not knowing that what impact great meals could have on the stats.

‘These people don’t know what a poor life is like,’ he said to himself.

Weed’s eyes darkened. Those who actually have been through times of financial hardship don’t underestimate the significance of the cooking skill. Imagine you are forced to eat only rye bread when you hunt monsters in the field.

If you are a low-level newbie, running out of money, you will stand it because you have no alternative. But once your level reaches a point where you can afford to buy more delicious food, your tongue will automatically reject the rye bread.

In truth, even Pale didn’t always put rye bread where his mouth was. When it comes to the bottom line, people are the same. They have the same list of desires, and when they fulfill it, it grows longer by itself. In particular, the basic needs of housing, clothing and food are inseparable from life.

Moreover, the cooking skill works in real life. As the cooking skill matures, it gives you a list of available recipes based on the types of ingredients that you have now. You can try a new recipe in the virtual game, and it will stick in your head after you log out. If you master the cooking skill at least to the expert stage, you will never need to worry about getting a job because any restaurant will hire you with arms wide open.

Virtual reality. It means that reality is exactly realized as it is in an imaginary world. In other words, what is learned in the virtual game also works in reality. Royal Road is such a detailed and realistic game.

Of course, the majority of users who don’t bother learning craft skills as widely as Weed will never comprehend what it is really about until they experience it with their own hands.

‘I wonder if they will ever want to try it, anyway.’
Weed anticipated that the value of the cooking skill would get higher as users leveled up in their hundreds.

For meals that Weed prepared with the basic cooking skill, they had a temporary bonus effect on life, so what would it be like when a master presented his cuisine?

‘I’m sure even a happily married couple would kill each other to taste a crumb of it.’

Not only the taste of food, but also the supplementary bonus would be spectacular.

Hard, flavorless rye bread worth three copper vs. French cuisine that tastes like heaven and increases various stats! The contest is over before it begins.

Weed imagined that meals prepared by a top chef would claim a stack of gold.

He thought that the value of statues would remain superficial, but that the cooking skill, as long as it was an integral part of life, would never diminish in its influence on daily life.

The rankers would long for the best food that they could find, and the value of a professional cook would hit the ceiling.

‘Well, some people might have foreseen this before. Cooks are amongst the most zealous professionals in guarding their secrets. They must be formulating their own recipes and improving their cooking skill.’

Weed turned to his teammates with a serious face and said, “I can’t deny you are looking down on the craft skills as a whole. The combat skills are important. But I think that the craft skills could end up being the most necessary skills in the future. All the craft skills have something in common, and they help an avatar’s combat ability as well. I suggest you learn the cooking skill. It’s essential to your daily life.”

“…”
“I’m sorry