The Fated Profession

As was his routine, Rodriguez was taking an afternoon walk. He enjoyed checking on his neighbors and deepening their misery.

“How are you, Hans?”
“Fine, Counselor.”
“What is the best fruit today?”
“This one. Please have some. Fresh strawberry, sire.”
“Thank you.”

Rodriguez’s steps were light. For one thing, he wasn’t pestering others who fell under his gaze that afternoon. He was elated by the recent publication of the latest book he had penned.

When he returned home, his manservant in care of the manor was waiting at the entrance to greet him. He spoke without reservation to the manservant whose dedication to his family lasted for decades.

“How was your walk, milord?”
“Excellent. Very excellent. These days are free of worries and trifles.”
“I’m glad to hear that, milord. By the way, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“What is it, William?”
“This is about the young lord who carved statues on the other side of the street, milord.”
“Oh, that kid!”
“Did he find what he was seeking?”

Rodriguez laughed.

“It’d never be that easy.”
“Then…”
“No chance! He can’t find the place, and even if he finds it, against all odds…”
“…”
“Serves him right even if he gets the class!” Rodriguez burst into insane laughter.

* * *

The first thing that Weed did when he was alone was double-check his armor and inventory. “Twenty-four gold and thirty silvers…”

Instead of receiving his share of the spoils that his men had collected from the slain kobolds and goblins, which were mostly crude weapons, equipment and pieces of metal, Weed had asked for hard money.

“The revenue’s not too bad, and…”

For the last month, Weed had advanced his skills by far. His cooking mastery hit level six, the repair skill four. The repair skill is so useful that some users are encouraged to pick it up, but the cooking skill is almost extinct, except for professional cooks.

Weed’s bandage skill, now level four, empowered him to tend a minor injury by rolling gauze twice. But the most progressive one among his stats was his level.

He felt like laughing.

Sniff

To Weed’s dismay, however, Arse whinnied unpleasantly. He had no choice but to take care of the colt by courtesy of Sir Midvale. The colt was good for nothing for now, but Weed was obliged to return it safely to the Royal Stable.

‘The Lair of Litvart. No other lair of the same name has been discovered so far. This is the place.’
The Counselor’s trick.

Assured that there was something behind it, Weed did his best to analyze the quest’s objective from different angles.

‘It must be hidden somewhere in the lair, somewhere no one has found yet – a secret chamber.’

Weed began working through from the first floor up to the fifth one.

For the adventuring classes, such as rangers and explorers, which are endowed with a multitude of observation-related stats and skills, it is easier to discover a concealed entrance.

But Weed could only stick to elementary means such as relying on his naked eyes and touching every suspicious area with his hands in order to look for the ‘secret chamber’.

There were at least twenty users on each floor in the Lair of Litvart. Hunting monsters, they commented about Weed, who was acting weird.

“What’s that guy doing?”
“Seems he’s looking for some entrance. Why else would he caress the stone wall so dearly?”
“Puhaha, what an idiot. The lair doesn’t have any secret passage.”
“This is the first lair found when Rosenheim was discovered months ago. Thousands of adventurers stormed here. He’s taking a gamble.”
“Typical creep.”

They openly laughed at Weed, because they had been jealous of him who was surfing on an easy wave in the lair with thirty NPC troops, it was no surprise that he was the center of jealousy and envy.

“Just in case…”
“Watch out. Don’t let him notice we’re behind him.”

Several users followed Weed quietly, envisioning that he might have overheard valuable information from the NPC soldiers during the mission. Or better, he might be carrying out a special quest. In that case, they even considered forcing Weed to share the quest.

To their eyes, this lone freak was a low-level archer, lacking in melee combat skills; worked on household chores for the troops and sponged off them like a parasite.

After a week had passed without event, however, the troublemakers were exasperated by tracking Weed in vain; he was obsessed with exploring the lair, so they left.

“Nutcase.”
“Damn, I’m freaking mad. I just wasted days.”

Even after they left him alone, Weed continued. ‘There’s gotta be something.’

Many explorers had already finished mapping out the entire region, and concluded that there was nothing left. This was exactly what Weed was told, too. In fact, he had done occasional research while hunting down the kobolds and goblins, but failed to make any meaningful discovery. Still, Weed was convinced that he would stumble on something someday.

‘Famous adventurers from all over the Continent searched this place. So what? You are wrong; I am right.’

The Lair of Litvart was a vast place. Wandering casually in the forlorn hope of uncovering a hidden place was a hope as far as the distance between the Earth and Andromeda.

Even though the adventurers were better in observation skills, attitude could make difference.

Weed patiently touched the wall, looking for a clue.

Sniff

Arse watched Weed in contempt.

He had brought the horse in the lair because there was no one else who could look after it, but he was stressed by the disobedient beast.

‘I need to teach him a lesson first.’

Weed led Arse to a shelter of goblins on purpose—a goblin warrior and three goblin raiders. As soon as they saw Weed, they charged at him.

He stepped forward as if to protect the colt in front, and fought against the goblins, screaming

“My god! I don’t want to die!”

The goblin warrior’s spear sailed toward Weed but only grazed him, drawing little blood from the flesh.

“If… if I am killed now, what will ever happen to my dearest Arse…”
The goblins kept on pounding on Weed.

“No! I shall stand here to protect Arse! Bring it on, you abominable monsters! You must pass over my dead body before you lay any of your filthy fingers on him!”
Weed played a brave knight protecting his weak people at risk of death.

When he glanced back, however, he saw the colt yawning and playing with a pebble on the ground. Also, this beast was ready to bolt in the direction of the Lair’s exit the moment the master fell dead.

“Damn you!”
Weed was embarrassed by the turn of events. Why make a fool of himself to win over a mere colt?

Slash

Weed slew the pestering goblins with a single brandish of his sword.

He was tempted to behead the beast altogether, but losing Sir Midvale’s trust was too big a risk.

Sniff

Arse gave Weed a contemptuous look as if to ask why he had bled needlessly when he could finish them so easily.

‘Whew. I was a fool to act like that. Patience, patience.’

Weed went back to the exploration of the lair.

Three days later, on the tenth day of his private exploration to be precise, he found a cavity in a dark corner on the fourth floor where goblin raiders were regenerated. It was located ten yards deeper than the regenerating point. Even the most cautious ranger would have overlooked it. Below a large rock projecting outward, the cavity was shadowed, away from human eyes.

‘Is there anyone there?’

Looking around, Weed made sure that there was nobody else sneaking up on him. Those who had trailed him for a week were long gone, but excessive caution never hurt.

If this cavity turned out to be what Weed had been looking for, he would be the first man to discover it, and he didn’t want to share the credit with anyone else.

For the first explorer who discovers an unknown area, the rewards are immense. He earns fame, plus double EXPs and a higher rate of item provision for a whole week after the discovery. Weed crept into the cavity carefully. The gap was narrow enough to be mistaken for a crevasse between rocks, and the interior widened little by little on each step. He soon reached a passage where he could move comfortably. A humid, foul smell pricked his nose.

Tense, he got ready for a battle. He didn’t have any clue as to what was coming next, so he held the iron sword in the right hand, and herb and bandages in the left one.

‘Bring it on.’
Weed walked slowly deeper into the cave.

Along the cave were several forks. He picked the left one and entered it, only to find a gigantic worm at a dead end.

“What the heck… what monster is this? I’ve never seen this sort of worm—”
Before Weed could finish his words, the surroundings underwent a sudden change.

What he thought to be the blackish ground was, in truth, a floor of little bugs the size of pinkies.

Squirm

Like Moses breaking apart the Red Sea, the bugs scattered and then came back to attack Weed, crawling menacingly.

“What the!— How dare you!” Weed swung the iron sword like a windmill.

Covered in disturbingly creaky shells, the little bugs were almost harmless in low attack power, but the queen-like worm bore offspring faster than he was exterminating them. He really missed his men in the punitive force.

“I’d end this mess way earlier if I only had them here.”

Suddenly, the queen exhaled light green smoke fumes. Like a drop of black ink dispersed in transparent water, the fumes slowly spread in the cramped space, eventually reaching where Weed was standing, too.

The moment he inhaled them—

You have been poisoned!

Life is decreasing continuously.

Startled, Weed checked his life gauge.

Gasp

His life was decreasing by one point per second.

“Damn… I don’t have any antidote! If it keeps going…”

In desperation, Weed ignored the little bugs, ran to the queen and struck it with the iron sword. The queen worm’s hard shell cracked, and yellow fluid oozed out.

“If I’m going to die, I’m taking you with me!”
Weed neglected the bugs that were crawling up and biting him. Whether they bit him or minutes passed by, he was dying anyway.

Torn between two choices, it was better to kill the queen and get the heck out of there. As if they sensed that their mother was dying, the little bugs crowded Weed aggressively, but his iron sword was persistent. The shell of the queen worm was so hard that, though the outer shell was partly cracked, she was alive and well. Meanwhile, Weed’s head was swimming dizzily.

‘I’m gonna die here. If only I had a combat skill…—…skill? Why didn’t I think of that!’

The skill that Weed had never been given a chance to use! He had a combat skill that sucked so much mana from him that he could not sustain it longer than a second. Whether it worked or not, the situation was hopeless enough.

“Engraving Knife Technique!” Weed’s iron sword blazed white. It temporarily overpowered the enemy’s defense.

Crack

Finally, the gigantic worm’s shell shattered into pieces.

You have leveled up.

Weed skipped the message window and yelled,

“Quest Information Window!”

Search and Destroy Operation in the Lair of the Litvart [II]

There are a hundred monsters inhabiting the Lair of Litvart. Kill each and every one of them at least once, and prove yourself worthy of the honorable class. The completion of this quest will open a right path for your destiny.

Difficulty Level: Unknown
Quest Requirement: None
Number of Monsters Left: 99

Though he was poisoned and dying, Weed smirked.

“I did it!”

Weed finally found the answer for the class change. It was these worms in the cave. He had to kill the queens, not those little bugs.

“I need to cure myself of the poison first…”

Chased by the little bugs, Weed left the cave in a hurry. When he saw they could not cross over the boundary of the cave, he began to walk slowly toward the ground level with the colt.

When a user is poisoned, his face darkens.

Weed avoided contact with other users to conceal that he was poisoned, and recharged his life a little by rubbing herbs on his body and stuffing himself with pre-cooked meals.

If he tried, he would surely find a party that had a priest. But he would rather die than ask for help. Was Weed too proud to bargain for his life?

Nonsense!

There were no poisoning monsters in the Lair of Litvart. Neither kobolds nor goblins had any knowledge of poisonous substances, let alone used them.

A savior would want to know where Weed was poisoned, and by whom—with suspicious eyes. He would rather die once than share with others the whereabouts of the secret chamber that he had found after a long time of tribulation. Once he arrived at the exit above the ground, he got on the colt.

“Village. To the nearest village. Quick, or I’ll pass out.”

Sniff

The beast did not even move a leg. As if taking joy in the misfortune of others, Arse pretended to be deaf and scratched the soil. It gnawed on grass in protest.

“If you’re going to be like that, then…”
The last grain of Weed’s patience finally ran out.

“You’re leaving me without any other options.”
Weed took out the engraving knife.

Arse looked terrified at the sight of a sharp object, but calmed down as if it knew Weed was only bluffing.

Instead of slashing at Arse, Weed