Dreadful Weed

The civilization of the Versailles Continent dawned approximately one million and eight thousand years ago. Back then, Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Orcs lived together.

Dwarf women with deft hands served as midwives to baby Orcs. Orcs in infancy were christened by elven women, and human women bathed them clean in water. The four races had lived together, each compensating for what the others were missing.

The elf rangers gathered fruit from trees, the dwarf crafters made tools, and human scouts hunted game along with the Orc warriors. As deadly monsters abound in the world, the weak had no choice but to rely on one another to survive.

Orcs, who grew up within two or three years, were fine warriors by nature. Born with unnatural strength and a battle instinct, they sustained the elves and humans.

The Orcs claimed the leadership of the four races both in name and reality as no other race could keep up with the fertility and combat skills of the Orcs.

However, when humans developed agricultural techniques, domesticating plants and animals, they took over the food supply chain, and gradually challenged the supremacy of the Orcs.

The elves, who learned elemental and spirit magic in alliance with Nature, became arrogant and began to distance themselves from the Orcs, who they branded ignorant.

The dwarves advanced metals technology day after day, which gave them a new generation of weaponry to brave the Orcs.

The alliance of the four races was dismantled after a series of numerous hostile disagreements and bouts of jealousy.

The humans built towns, which later banded together to create kingdoms, on rich soil.

The elves moved to the Forest of No Return where the elements and spirits were magnified in effect, extending the domain of their magic widely.

The Orcs dispersed all over the wilderness and virgin soil, hunting the wild and distressing the civilized as they wished, enjoying combat without restraint.

The dwarves stayed holed up in the mountains, mining raw ore and refining their crafts.

Inevitably, human and Orc argued over scarce food, and the elves and the dwarves loathed each other in a struggle to secure preeminence in the Natural world.

This is the history of the Versailles Continent, the forgotten myth of four races.

* * *

The rumor about the odd stranger ran like wildfire through the Citadel of Serabourg.

It was about a beast who had been swinging a wooden sword at a scarecrow wordlessly for four consecutive weeks in the Training Hall.

Bluster Whack

Weed was swinging the wooden sword in silence. His strikes at the scarecrow showed no mercy. Every time the wooden sword sliced the scarecrow, a heavy sound exploded.

In the earlier days, he was content with barely grazing the scarecrow. As his strength and agility increased steadily, though, the wooden sword had been gathering force.

“Is he really a user?”
“Do you think he’s a real man? Slim chance.”
“Look at him. I bet he’s not.”
“Could it be an NPC?”
“Given his sudden appearance…”
“He should be an NPC connected to a quest!”

The eyes of some users began to glow with enthusiasm and a bunch of users offered food and money to win Weed’s favor, wondering if he was a quest NPC. Too proud to be treated as a beggar, Weed declined them, but they were persistent.

“Come on, please take this… ”
“Want something else? Just tell me. I’ll go find it.”
“Don’t you think a steel sword is definitely better than this wooden sword? I can give you a long sword, and it’ll come in handy.”

They trailed after Weed in the hope that he might introduce them to a special quest. They didn’t know it for certain, though, because Weed repeatedly denied being an NPC, and shooed them away, saying they were disturbing his training. Oddly, this rather strengthened their conviction.

“He’s not accepting any gift.”
“Who can hit the scarecrow not only one or two days, but for four weeks in a row?”
“And he’s a big friend of the instructor…!”

The instructor, who had always looked down upon users as a nuisance, was nice to Weed, going so far as sharing lunch with him every day. To the public, Weed didn’t look like a human.

The only way to tell users from NPCs is when they come out with their identity. This was why Weed caused misunderstanding in other users.

Several high level users saw through Weed’s intentions to improve strength and other stats. They came near and were nice to him. They approached him on purpose, knowing full well he was a user.

“If you join my clan, we will support you to save your disappointment.”
“We will sponsor you until you hit level one hundred. Nothing spared.”

Royal Road has a concept of clans or guilds like other online games, but there is a bigger picture.

Emperor!

The objective of every clan with high-level rankers is to enthrone an Emperor in their midst—to found their own empire on the Versailles Continent, and rule over all creation.

With taxes collected monthly, feudal lords and monarchs can build essential facilities such as granaries and blacksmiths’ workshops in towns under their supervision, or throw in money to enlist recruits and train them well.

Given a ruler who administers the affairs of state, the economy develops, technology advances. Technological innovation leads to better weaponry produced by blacksmiths, and the size of a city depends on its public security and sanitation.

In laying down national and regional policies and setting up diplomatic ties with other countries, the king on the top of a pyramid-­like society exercises greater authority than anyone else.

Kings encourage cities and fortresses to expand in their domain, drawing more immigrants who become subject to their rule. Besides internal affairs, there is war.

If and when someone declares war, the armies called up by ambitious kings engage in battle with each other under the command of generals.

Layman users in the position of subjects demand that their user kings are wise and just. Therefore, the cities where they reside will grow more prosperous, and trade of goods will be more dynamic, which stimulates the users to aspire for success in the game.

Still, Weed declined all the clan offers.

Strength rises by 1 point. (+1 STR)

Agility rises by 1 point. (+1 AGI)

Vitality rises by 1 point. (+1 VIT)

Fame rises by 20 point. (+20 FAME)

Life rises by 100 point. (+100 HP)

The wooden sword had not shown any sign of pausing suddenly stopped in mid-air. Then Weed closed his eyes.

“I’ve made it.”

For four weeks, according to the game’s time flow, Weed had improved the stats as much as he could in the Training Hall. To his surprise, he earned a little fame—never hurts to have some fame.

The more fame you have, the cheaper you can buy goods from grocery stores or blacksmith’s workshops, and you can get more respect in talking or negotiating with NPCs.

The instructor, who had been watching him pleasantly at a distance, walked up to Weed and said,

“Good job, Weed-nim.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I didn’t expect you would come so far. Yet you overcame my prejudice. I am very proud of you.”
“I’m indebted to your teaching, Honorable Instructor.”
“Haha! You’re absolutely right.” The instructor laughed heartily.

Weed knew from experience how high a simple word could lift up the instructor.

The instructor handed a sword to Weed.

“What’s this sword…?”
“It is yours. This sword is awarded to a man who completes the basic training program.”
“Basic training…”

A question suddenly occurred to Weed.

He had learned by accident that he could improve stats by swinging a wooden sword at a scarecrow in the Training Hall.

While combing through online game communities, he had read a posting about it in a forum run by a couple of small-size clans.

Therefore, he had focused on bringing up his stats as much as possible in the Training Hall before he began seriously.

Weed had good reason for it, though he conceded that it might sound inefficient to invest four weeks to improve his stats slowly one by one.

As far as other users were concerned, they would rather waste less lime to acquire an item that boosted stats so little.

“Still”, Weed thought, “it isn’t the same as training hard to strengthen the bottom line stats of one’s avatar. It makes a difference, a big one”

As good luck would have it, you might pick up a good item during a journey, but your original stats will be the same, regardless of whatever items you are equipped with. Suppose you rise forty points in strength, and imagine what it will be like when you wear a +50 STR necklace.

The stats that Weed had drilled in the Training Hall would help him right up to the last minute of the game play.

Weed pondered the meaning of the instructor’s remark and finally asked, “Do you know how many people completed the basic training by now?”

“Sixteen here,” the instructor answered immediately.

He added,

“The Continent is vast, Weed-nim. I think there are a total of thirty­-eight hundred foreigners who finished the basic training program in all the Training Halls. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has finished the basic training as fast as you did.”

Thirty-eight hundred people! Weed’s eyes flashed fire.

“They are my potential rivals”

His next question broke a brief moment of silence.

“You said this is basic training. Do you provide a higher level of training program?”

“I don’t, but there are other places.”
“Where are they?”

“I do not know where they are located. I heard they were open only to those who were destined to find them. You must finish a basic level to be qualified for the next level of training.”

“Thank you for the information, Honorable Instructor.”
“Don’t mention it.”

Weed was now done with the Training Hall. When he turned to leave, the instructor called to him.

“Weed-nim, do you have a plan?”
“Excuse me, sir?”

“An expeditionary force is scheduled to depart for the Lair of Litvart a week from now. A colleague of mine is the commander of the force. His name is Midvale. If you do not have a better thing to do for now, why don’t you lend your sword to him?”

A Clean-up Operation in the Lair of Litvart

Rosenheim Kingdom has been greatly suffering from the monsters, which have risen in number for the last decade. King Theodarren, righteous and benevolent ruler of Rosenheim, issued a royal degree to order a distinguished knight, Sir Midvale, to explore the Lair of Litvart and root out monsters. Eradicate the monsters in the Lair of Litvart with Sir Midvale and his soldiers.

Difficulty: E

Quest requirement:
Failed if you are killed.

The instructor’s proposal was a mission that any other user would rush to accept gladly. The Rosenheim Royal Army abounds in well-organized, hard­-trained soldiers. The average level for infantrymen is almost thirty, and a knight’s level surpasses 150 generally speaking.

In particular, those knights with their own name among the ranks are revered as Titled Knights. Their levels lie between levels 180-220. This size of force can clear away any lair without complication. The Lair of Litvart is not at all likely to be an exception.

According to Weed’s research, the Lair of Litvart was infested by kobolds at levels in the twenties and goblins in the 50s.

All Weed needed to do after he joined the force on the mission was to stay alive, whether he actively look part in a battle or not. It was a golden opportunity that was offered to him out of the instructor’s goodwill. But Weed shook his head.

“I am sorry, sir.”

You have declined the quest.

“No way. What is troubling you, Weed-nim…?”
“It is nothing. I just don’t have a class yet.”
“O my Freya… you’re right! I acted too rashly. Visit me any time you please. I will let you know if I can recommend a quest that is suitable to you.”

The instructor had not only reached level two hundred, but also kept in contact with the soldiers who were trained by him. In other words, he had established his own network in the Royal Army.

Still, the instructor’s relatively humble position prevented it being tracked by high-ranking officials.

Suddenly, the instructor asked in a low voice,

“Weed-nim, have you chosen what class you want to convert to?”
“I am yet to decide. I have to go to the intelligence guild, and see what class they recommend.”

The intelligence guild gives counsel to users, depending on their stats and skills.

In the early stage, most users walk a similar path, so the intelligence guild classifies them into two groups—combat classes (melee and supportive) and craft classes, including merchants.

On rare occasions, the guild unveils hidden classes. Very rare, indeed.

“I am telling you this only because you are… a trustworthy man who refused the opportunity to convert to such a trashy class as sculptor. Tell me honestly, Weed-nim—do you regret not having taken up the engraving knife?”

“No way, sir! Sculptor, I won’t take it no matter what.”
“Humph, I have never told this to anyone else… you are the first man. Come closer.”

The instructor’s voice dropped to a quiet murmur. He spoke in a whisper close to Weed’s ear. Weed got goose bumps when the Orc-like instructor’s breath brushed over his face, but he kept his disgust in check.

“You are looking for a fine class. I will show you the way. Have you heard of Rodriguez the Sage?”
“Yes, sir.”

“Go visit him. Praised as the Star of Wisdom, he is revered as b