This chapter was brought to you by AnmesicCat, BlankBlank, Charles, Lastear, Lei, and Masadeer.
Battle of Grey Ridge
“Do you know you’ve committed a sin worthy of death?”
“Yes, I’ve really reflected a lot on it. Something was wrong with my head when I suddenly rose to success after spending my earlier days so deprived. If you would just give me one more chance…”
“And to whom do you owe your success to?”
“Of course, it’s thanks to Master. I was impudent without knowing your grace.”
Dedric shed large drops of tears.
‘Look at the rascal.’ Ark laughed to himself.
Ark had lived while unwillingly receiving affected sympathy from many people. Thanks to that, he gained an unwelcome ability; by simply looking at the other person’s eyes, he could tell if the words coming from their mouth were sincere or not.
Dedric’s words were not sincere.
He was just an NPC, but he knew how to cunningly trick someone.
‘It seems I shouldn’t have thoughtlessly evolved him.’
Bat also had a bad personality, but he wasn’t cunning. After evolving into Dedric, he learned how to be crafty. It meant ego also increases with each evolution. He wasn’t sincere, but it seemed Dedric had yielded this time. However, there was no guarantee it would be this easy if it happens again.
Skull was the same. Though it was a faithful Familiar now, there was no way of telling how it would change when it evolved.
‘Summons are also intelligent beings.’
This incident changed how Ark viewed his Familiars.
Each Familiar had a different personality. Even so, Ark tried to treat the Familiars equally. He didn’t favor one and neglect the others. That was the problem.
‘Seems like I have to use control; the carrot and stick approach.”
Just as there are fellows who do better if you praise them, there are those who get cocky. In addition, there are those who perform properly only with the use of violence and threats.
Granted, even a good medicine can be counterproductive if overdosed, he would need to regulate it.
This was why Ark had beaten Dedric to the point where it seemed overboard. Even the highly loyal Skull or Snake might change personalities one day. To prepare for that day, he set an example with Dedric. In other words, Dedric had been severely punished because he was unfortunately chosen to set an example.
‘Whew, it isn’t easy taking care of 3 Familiars. I think I can finally understand how hard it is for teachers who have to teach dozens.’
“Alright, since you contributed, I’ll forgive you this time as promised.”
“Ahh! Thank you, Master.”
“Repeat after me, vow one!”
“What?” Dedric tilted his head but quickly raised his hand when Ark pierced him with a glare.
“I will always obey Master no matter the situation. I will always serve him with a smiling face, fight when told to fight, and die when told to die. My life and death only belong to Master.”
“I will gratefully accept and eat the food given by Master. Also, I will never complain.”
“If I cannot follow the previous two vows, I will soundly receive some form of punishment.”
Dedric’s face paled at the continuing Familiar doctrine.
“You’ve memorized it all, right?”
“Good, then return to the Netherworld and stay there and write an apology letter until I call you again.”
Dedric returned to the Netherworld looking as if he’d stepped in poop.
With this, the coup d’etat that started with the evolution was hopelessly suppressed. In addition, he even formed a slave contract.
The Child Protection Agency or the Animal Welfare Organization would be appalled if they knew about this. But this was a game, and Ark was truly a dictator.
* * *
Not far from the shore where the dolphins dropped him off, Ark saw a village. It was a bustling village, with quite a lot of users coming in and out. Snake wasn’t a problem since it was disguised as a belt as usual, but Skull or Bat would attract a lot of attention from the users, so they were no good. After sending the Familiars back, Ark walked towards the village.
‘Huhuhu, how long has it been?’ As he headed to the village, Ark had a delighted smile on his face.
The store in Nodeless didn’t purchase the items he’d obtained in the ocean. Thanks to that, his bag and, of course, Snake, were chock full of items from the ocean. Since his Magic Restoration reached Intermediate, all the items had 100% durability. Still, though they were rare, they were still japtem. They couldn’t be sold for a lot of money.
There was something else that made Ark feel good. It was the bag of pearls he earned in Nodelesse. He had earned a colossal amount of at least 800 pearls from item sales, his food stall, and repairs. Although it was a low-class jewel compared it others, it was still a jewel. So, how could he not be happy!?
After entering the village, Ark immediately sought out the General Store.
“Welcome! What can I do for you?” A pleasant-faced store owner greeted Ark.
“I wish to sell all these things. How much would you give me?”
As Ark took out the mountainous pile of japtem, the owner’s mouth opened wide. There was leather from all sorts of marines monsters, coral, and underwater equipment. Even though they were japtem, they were items hard to see on land.
The store owner calculated the prices one by one and proposed an amount. “For all of it, it’s 34 Gold. You won’t find a better price anywhere else nearby.”
The market value wasn’t bad.
‘If it’s this much, I won’t make a loss even if I sell the pearls.’ Ark nodded as he held out the pearls. “How much can you give me for this?”
“Ohh, these are pretty good quality pearls, and there’s 800 of them… Where did you get them from?”
“I can’t give you the specifics.”
“Well, there’s no need for me to know.”
The store owner carefully inspected the pearls and flicked the beads on an abacus.
“I’ll pay 25 Silver a piece. So in total, it’ll be 200 Gold.”
A look of slight disappointment spread across Ark’s face. He had expected 300 Gold; it was 100 Gold short.
‘Should I just go to Harun or Jackson to sell them?’
If he were to go back to Harun or Jackson, where he had high Intimacy, he could get the expected 300 Gold, but it would take a full week to return to Jackson. The monsters he would encounter while going were only level 40, so a round trip meant he had to give up on a fortnight’s worth of EXP.
100 Gold or a fortnight of experience. There was no contest.
‘I’ll have to go sometime because of the ‘Envoy of the Merpeople’ quest, but I don’t have time to do that right now. Since I’ve come this far, I have to at least visit a few cities. It’s regretful, but it’s better to just sell them.’
At that moment, a user looking at goods in the shop saw Ark and made a shocked expression. Then, with a somewhat angered voice, he pulled Ark by the arm and said, “How could you sell the items without even consulting me? Even if you do sell, you have to sell it after settling the problem of distribution first. Mister, we’ll return a little later.”
[T/N: The other user is pretending Ark is his party member, which is why he’s offended Ark would try to sell the items without figuring out who gets what first.]
“You do that.”
Ark who was dragged out without being able to say anything, freed his arm.
“Who are you? I think you have the wrong person.”
“Ah, I’m sorry. You were surprised because I suddenly butted in, huh?”
The man was a Hobbit. He was short and had rounded ears. Since he was covered with many bags, he looked like he was a Merchant. Actually, Ark had let himself be dragged out without a word because he thought it might be some kind of event. But after coming out, the manner of speech and behavior showed he wasn’t an NPC.
“They call me Sid. As you can see, I’m a Hobbit Merchant.”
“I’m Ark, but, do you know me?”
“Nope, this is the first time we’ve met. But it was a pity to watch you, so I intervened.”
“What do you mean by a pity?”
“This village’s store is famous in the area for having a low market value. The more you sell, the more you lose. Earlier, you figured the japtem you were selling was at market price, but you can’t find out the true market value like that. If items with high and low values are mixed, there are lots of times when you feel it’s generally an alright deal since the sum is similar to what you expect on average. Plus, the value of pearls is low because this village is close to the seaside. If you take them to a city two days away from here and sell, you’ll get about 40 Silver a piece.”
“40 Silver a piece! It that true?”
Didn’t it mean he could get a whole 120 Gold more just by investing two days into travelling? Cold sweat ran down his back. He had been about to squander 120 Gold from a momentary mistake.
“Of course, and if I help you a bit, there’s a way to earn another 48 Gold or so.” Sid laughed as he implied more profit.
At this point, Ark was more wary than surprised.
“There’s no such thing as ‘free’ in this world though?”
“Of course, it’s give and take. There is something I want. Don’t you want to hear the details?”
The profession of Merchant was rather vague. Merchant was the sole profession who could carry 6 bags. In addition, they were able to learn all sorts of production skills, and they received a considerable bonus when dealing with NPCs. Even if their Intimacy was at rock bottom, they could gain a 20% profit from buying and selling with high trading ability. Thanks to that, they could grasp a fair amount of money from their beginning days.
The problem was combat. Since they carry a lot of luggage, they didn’t have a single combat-related skill, and even received a huge penalty in combat. Even if they were over level 50, defeating a single level 20 monster on their own was too much. Additionally, the EXP they could get from defeating a monster was only 50%.
A Merchant raises their level through trading. They use the market prices of goods between various village and cities. They sell goods they bought at a cheap price in a place where it has a higher market value. This was the basic growth method of a Merchant.
Of course, they couldn’t raise the EXP and earn money simply by trading, because the market prices constantly changes. For a Merchant, information is their lifeline. If they weren’t able to constantly keep their ears open and accurately predict the market value, they would suffer sorely. Even if they traded successfully, there were cases where they actually succumbed to bankruptcy. It was a complex profession, in its own way. It was hard to raise, but the growth factor had its own kind of fun.
They traded while carrying bags in the beginning, but, later, they could buy a wagon or a merchant ship to ferry more trade goods. Moreover, they could ply the top ranks and take the lead in trade between Kingdoms.
The larger a single transaction, farther they go, and more they trade while passing through more dangerous places, the greater the EXP and skill proficiency they can gain.
However, New World was a place with poor public safety. The travels of a Merchant, with their nonexistent combat ability, was an adventure gambling their life and fortune. If they encountered a powerful thief monster while traveling, they would suffer a huge loss. If it was really bad, they would even have to declare bankruptcy. Therefore, they needed to hire mercenary NPCs or high-leveled users as guards for long distances. This was also what Sid proposed to Ark.
“Giran, a commerce city, is two days away from this village. It’s like a capital for Merchants and production-class users. And the pearls you have, Ark-nim, are a material greatly sought by production-class users. Many Beginner and Intermediate production items require pearls, you see. Of course, since the supply is always insufficient at Giran, the market price is at its highest. Honestly, if I could afford it, it’s to the point that I’d want to buy them right away.”
“Basically, you’re asking me to escort you to Giran?”
As Ark Made an unreadable expression, Sid quickly added, “You definitely won’t regret it. I have the skill to trade jewels, so if I trade in your place, I can get 15% more. Considering the market price of pearls in is 40 Silver, then the current total is 320 Gold. 15% on 320 Gold is 48 Gold. So, in conclusion, you can make 168 more Gold than the store from earlier. If I also sell the japtem, you can receive a bit more. It’s good for me, since I’ll raise my EXP, and Ark-nim gets to make more money.”
Though he didn’t use Eyes of the Cat, Ark’s eyes glowed golden. He could earn an additional 168 Gold by investing two days of in-game time, 16 hours.
Although he made a rule of not trusting users, it was a different story for this much profit. 168 Gold was 1,680,000 won. It wasn’t an amount he could easily ignore when living a life that required even a single penny more. Moreover, he’d already been thinking of looking for the surrounding cities anyway. If he went with Sid, who knew the road, he could cut down the time.
However, Ark still felt uneasy about readily accepting. Reselling the pearls, didn’t that actually mean Ark would have to hand over all the pearls to him? How could he trust him and hand over the pearls?
As if he knew what Ark was thinking, Sid laughed as he pulled out parchment and a pen. Then, when he wrote a few things down and passed it to Ark, a new information window popped up.
This is the contract for recording when a Merchant’s profession specialty skill is used for the business of re-selling, exchanging, or acting as the proxy of another user.
If you sign the contract, the Merchant will be validated to make deals, has the right to act as the proxy for the other user’s business, and is obligated to return the promised sum. If the Merchant violates the contract, the Merchant Guild will be alerted, the Merchant’s reliability stat and fame will plummet, and you can charge twice as much as the contracted amount. When the contract is complete, the contract will be automatically discarded.
Contract Contents: Resale of Ark’s pearls, the contract will come into effect the moment the pearls are handed to Sid in Giran. Sid must give all the money obtained from the sale of pearls to Ark.
“Now, you can believe me with this, eh?”
A contract can be set up from a normal trade to a loan, bill, special trade, or almost any situation. It was like a document certifying that if there was a problem by any chance, all the responsibility would fall on the Merchant. The reason Merchants had high reliability from other users was exactly thanks to this unique contract skill.
‘Definitely… if there’s a contract like this, there won’t be any chance of getting backstabbed.’
“Okay, I’ll accompany you.”
“Great choice. Since you were able to obtain so many pearls, you should be over level 60, right?”
“I’m level 65.”
“That’s acceptable. Since we’ve finally gotten 3 people, we can be on our way.”
“Huh? There are other companions?”
“There are two ways to get to Giran. The long way would take about 3 to 4 days. But if we want to get there in 2 days time, the only way is to cross Grey Ridge. However, high level monsters like Trolls and Stalkers are camped out on Grey Ridge, so we need 3 level 60 players.”
“The other people are waiting at the inn. Let’s go, I will introduce them to you.”
Sid dragged Ark to the inn without giving him any time to say a word. Two men, named Leo and Hargen, were sitting in the inn. Seeing as they were wearing plate armor, both seemed to be in combat-related professions.
Once Sid introduced Ark, they expressed looks of obvious dislike.
“Sid-nim, you didn’t mention your intent to find another companion.”
“We can pass the Grey Mountains with just the two of us.”
“I’m sorry. We met by chance inside the store, so we decided to go together. I know the two of you are enough, but as I’ve said before, I have a reason to get to Giran as soon as possible. Three is faster than two.”
“And the escort fee?” asked Hargen, who had an axe tattoo on his face, as he glanced at Ark.
“I will pay the escort fee we first agreed upon, since Ark-nim is also going to Giran with the intent to sell goods. I decided to make the sale on his behalf as payment in exchange for escorting me.”
“What did you agree to sell for him that would substitute for the escort fee?”
“Pearls. Perhaps because he wasn’t able to visit a village for long time, he collected quite a lot.”
Sid was boundlessly talkative. Whether it was in-game or real life, there are many humans who will cluster if it seems like you have some money. As expected, as soon as they heard Ark had items worth quite a sum, the two warriors examined Ark with gummy eyes.
Though their appearances were unlikable, their actions were just as disagreeable. However, it would be no good for him to withdraw when he had already agreed to accompany Sid just because he didn’t like them.
‘I won’t see them after 16 hours anyway, so I’ll endure.’
After finishing his conversation with the warriors, Sid took out a scroll. It was a [Low-Level Inspection] scroll.
“Then before we go, I would like to do a basic check up. Please understand.”
The very first thing a Merchant did when choosing a player mercenary or an escort was to check their information. If they were chaotic players, then there was the chance of being backstabbed. Since the scroll was low level, Ark couldn’t check the information. Therefore, Sid explained for Ark.
“Leo-nim is level 64 and Hargen-nim is level 62, both of them job-changed to Warrior.”
Warrior was an open profession, but it was a special profession that required 150 Strength.
If you didn’t raise your character while intending to become a Warrior from the beginning, it would be difficult to job-change even at level 30. In other words, they were players who had prior knowledge before they began playing the game. They were users who knew much as information as Sid.
“Wow, Ark-nim is really level 65. With this party, 10 hours will be enough to cross Grey Ridge. But your profession is Dark Walker. This is the first time I’ve heard of it. What kind of profession is it?”
“It’s an ordinary thief,” Ark answered lightly.
Perhaps it was the image of the name ‘Dark Walker’, but Sid and the Warriors nodded without thinking much about it. Thief-related professions weren’t popular, so there were almost no people who knew the details behind them.
“Ark-nim is the highest level-wise, but it’ll probably be a bit difficult to take the lead since you’re a Thief. Please leave the front to Leo and Hargen and cover the back. Is that okay?”
“Yes, that’s comfortable for me too.”
“Then, we’ll leave after another 20 minutes.”
“We’re not going to go right away?”
When Ark, to whom every minute and second was precious, asked that, Leo snickered and asked, “Perhaps you’ve never rested in an inn before?”
The cheapest inns took 1 Silver and the expensive places took up to 1 Gold.
Heath can be recovered while resting on the ground, so why would you pay money to rest at an inn? That’s why Ark had never entered an inn.
But Sid explained with a surprised expression.
“Like the time in the store, Ark-nim doesn’t seem to know much about the game despite being level 65. The reason people pay to stay in an inn is because of the buff.”
“You can get a buff if you rest at an inn. It’s a buff that lasts 1 hour per 10 minutes, for a maximum of 3 hours. The inns have different prices because the buff effects are different. There are places that slightly raise Strength or Agility. Some places even have a buff that raise EXP gain by 20%. This place increases movement speed by 30% and Health by 10%. There is merit in waiting for 30 minutes.”
He had no idea. He didn’t think inns would have such a secret.
‘No wonder everyone was visiting inns strangely often…’
It was information he could have used if he’d known beforehand. Basic information like this wasn’t on the site forums. No, it could be that it was too basic to even put on the forums. In any case, Ark didn’t even know such basic information because he’d never interacted with users much.
‘Minor info like this can be a big help in the game.’
He added another goal of the journey. ‘For 16 hours, I need to gather some info.’
He couldn’t keep living as a beginner forever.
* * *
“Bring it on, Giant’s Strength!”
At the booming cry, the muscles in Leo’s body pulsed as they grew.
It was the might of the job specific skill that increases Strength and Stamina by 30.
With increased Strength, Leo swung his shield and hammer as he charged at a Troll.
A Troll is a humongous, 4 meter tall monster, but his opponent was a Warrior! A fighter who specializes in hunting big monsters.
As all sorts of skills were applied, the Troll staggered as it lost its balance with each strike of the hammer. When the final blow was struck on its brow, the Troll collapsed weakly. At the same time, Hargen faced a Stalker while swinging his two-handed axe.
Leo and Hargen boasted their incredible strength as Warriors.
Equipped with a shield and plate armor, Leo took decent blows without a care, and the Stalker getting hit by Hargen wielding his two-handed axe was getting thrown around like a baseball. They didn’t land critical blows because they were Strength-focused characters, but they easily took out a level 73 troll and three level 66 Stalkers with only normal hits.
Regardless, Ark made an apathetic expression.
‘They fight in a really boring manner.’
The two Warriors were weirdly strong for their level. Based on fighting techniques alone, they were incomparably lousy. They didn’t even consider avoiding the attacks coming at them. That was characteristic of fighters wearing high defense plate armor. They ignored incoming attacks and just blindly swung their weapons. They didn’t pay any attention to distributing their power, managing the distance, or accuracy. They also kept using their skills until all their Mana ran out.
After clearing a group of monsters, Hargen hefted the axe onto his shoulder and boasted, “Hahaha, what did I tell you? With just Leo and me, even Grey Ridge is no problem. From now on we’ll handle it, so Sid-nim and Ark-nim, just watch from the back.”
Of course he was doing just that.
‘I can’t understand deliberately rushing up to fight.’
The group made a party in the village and hit the road. Thanks to this, the EXP was automatically shared even if he didn’t fight. Granted, you could get more EXP by contributing more to the fight, but it wasn’t worth the loss of equipment durability.
In addition, Ark had no experience in party hunting. Since Leo and Hargen fought in a completely different manner, there would be too many problems if Ark tried to squeeze in.
‘Well, since it’s only a hunting ground of this level, I’ll just sit back.’
Ark distanced himself and spent his time striking the backs of fleeing monsters.
“Good work. Here’s some food!”
Once the fight ended, Sid immediately brought out food. Sid showed an extremely submissive attitude to the reliable Mercenaries. Well, since they were outside the village, Sid’s life was in the hands of the Mercenaries, so that was a given.
Carrying as many as 6 bags at once, it was was profession that could get a hold of a lot of money from the beginning. There was once a time when Ark was envious of Merchants.
But, after looking at Sid, those thoughts disappeared. They do earn money, but without the help of other players, they wouldn’t even be able to trade properly.
They had to waste their money to pay escort fees and bow to the tastes of others. It wasn’t a profession that suited the single-minded Ark.
‘Even though he said there’s a comfortable path, why does he want to employ Mercenaries to travel by this road?’
With sudden doubt, Ark asked while chewing on the free food, “Why are you in such a hurry?”
“I spent my fortune on silk from the Southern region. However, the prices of silk can change in just a few days. If Merchants who bought silk at the same time were to sell them in Giran, then I can incur a loss instead. Since I invested my whole fortune on it, it could bankrupt me. So in order to get there even one day sooner, I haven’t slept properly in days.”
“If the market price is good, how much would you earn?”
“I still won’t earn a lot. Silk doesn’t have a large margin. Price gain is around 2%? With the travel fee and escort fee on top of that, there’s nothing left.”
Perched on top of a rock, Sid answered while swinging his legs.
“But, since I’ve invested my fortune on this, as long as I get a profit, my EXP will greatly increase. The greater the risk, the greater the experience. And since silk’s market value changes frequently, there aren’t many Merchants who trade it in bulk, so it’s a good opportunity to raise my market share. Truthfully, that is my objective, rather than money or experience.”
The lives of combat professions relied on EXP and items, but Merchants relied on profit and market shares. Market share was a kind of reward provided to players who consistently traded one type of good. A Merchant with a set amount of market share could get all sorts of bonuses. They can also be exempted from taxes, get quests from craftsmen NPC’s, and get profit from related trade goods. If they held the maximum share, they could even earn a monopolized trading privilege with a Lord.
The additional effects of that were enormous. You acquired info about which items would soon be in demand, and, once you gained a monopolized relationship, raising your level or making money was a cinch. Therefore, the Merchants’ fight to raise market share first was vicious.
Some Merchants even went as far as to suffer a loss to lower market value if they saw another Merchant coming in with trade goods from afar.
Even if it wasn’t from player interference, prices plummeted and skyrocketed if New World’s economy and political situation changed. Because of this, Merchants always have to be keen and able to read the flow of the whole continent.
Information soon becomes money. To Merchants, this is common sense.
Sid held vast information as an effect of that.
“One day, I will get a monopoly on the economy of the Schudenberg Kingdom.”
Sid stamped his foot as he boldly revealed his ambition.
Although seeing a small, cute Hobbit talking boldly was not very convincing…
In any case, Sid was risking everything on this journey.
He poured in his whole fortune in order to raise market share, and even bought silk with a loan from the Merchant Guild. If the market value plummeted before he arrived, it was instant bankruptcy for him, and he’d be reduced to sewing leather and getting peanuts in a corner of the city.
‘Being a Merchant isn’t an easy profession either.’
Ark felt it was actually much harder to be Merchant than a fighter.
Then, while Ark and Sid were talking, Leo and Hargen were whispering amongst themselves from a distance. They’d been doing that more often after entering Grey Ridge.
‘I have a really bad feeling about this…’
Out of nowhere, he suddenly got an uncomfortable feeling.
Ark’s ominous sense hit the mark.
2 hours after leaving village, the party had reached the entrance region of Grey Ridge. After sweeping another monster mob and resting, a message suddenly popped up.
- You have been kicked out from the party.
Leo, who was commanding the fight in the front, had the position of party leader. In other words, Leo kicked Ark out of the party, and it wasn’t just Ark. Sid, who also got the expulsion message, tilted his head.
“Excuse me, Leo-nim. I’ve been disbanded from the party?”
Leo suddenly changed his expression as he said, “We aren’t going any further.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” Sid blinked as if he did not understand the situation.
Leo grinned and swung his hammer around.
“Since there’s no more business to see with you, I’m telling ya to hand over all the silk and fuck off. Ark, if you leave all your pearls and scram like a good boy, I won’t kill you in light of our time so far. You understand without further explanation, yes?”
“Per-perhaps from the beginning…?”
“Of course. Do you think I, Hargen, followed you this far just to earn peanuts?”
“Y-you can’t. These goods are what I’ve bought with my entire fortune. If I lose this I will go bankrupt. I would rather die!”
“If you say that much, then there’s no choice. Damnit, even though this is expensive.”
Leo took out and ripped a red scroll. “Target Sid, designated mark: silk.”
Then, a stream of light came pouring out and hit Sid.
‘Is it an attack scroll?’
Ark flinched reflexively, but Sid didn’t receive any damage. It doesn’t seem to be an attack scroll. However Sid’s face immediately turned pale, and he sank down while trembling. Tears poured from his round eyes.
“Please let me go. If I sell the silk in Giran I will give you 50%.”
“Why would I do something that difficult when there is an easier way to earn money?”
Ark couldn’t comprehend the current situation at all.
When a character became Chaotic, they received a huge penalty. They can’t buy or sell anything from the store, let alone enter villages larger than a certain size. They also received criminal status.
If they became Chaotic once, they could remove the status by staying in jail for a few days and paying a fine. Of course, the jail time and the fine were based on their Chaotic value and their level. For those above level 60, the jail time as well as the fine would be no small amount.
No matter how much they wanted the silk, it wasn’t worth turning into a Chaotic player. So although Ark had been suspicious of the two’s attitudes, he hadn’t imagined the worst case scenario.
That wasn’t all he couldn’t understand. Since he was a Merchant, there would be some japtem inside his bags besides the silk. Even if Sid was murdered, the chance of the silk dropping was rare. However, Leo and Sid both seem to think the silk was guaranteed to drop.
‘Just what exactly is going on here?’
“I’m sorry, but it’s unavoidable since we also need to survive!”
As Leo abruptly rushed forward swinging his two-handed axe, Ark still hadn’t come up with a plan. If they were monsters, he was confident he could take down two or three even if they were level 70.
However, his opponent were players, two of them were too much to face even for Ark.
‘Should I run away?’ Ark was thinking that, but then—
“Dammit, then I will have to prepare for some losses!”
Sid quickly took out a scroll and, when he ripped it, disappeared with light. It was the effect of the incredibly rare and expensive [Warp] scroll.
“That bastard, he was hiding a warp scroll.”
Leo ground his teeth after slamming the hammer on the ground.
“Hng, did you think I’ll let such easy prey get away? [Trace]!”
Without delay, Leo quickly used another scroll and his eyes glowed red. With glowing red eyes, Leo looked around and found Sid scrambling away about 200 meters away. It was an odd fight using all sorts of scrolls.
Leo shouted while chasing Sid, “Hargen, you take care of robbing him! You can face him alone, yeah?”
“Of course.” Hargen laughed as he looked at Ark. “You don’t intend to obediently hand over the pearls anyways, right?”
Hargen did the same thing as Leo— he took out a scroll and marked the pearls. As with before, Ark couldn’t figure out the scroll’s identity, but it seems it didn’t deal any damage. Afterwards, Hargen immediately swung his two-handed axe as he charged.
It was an absurd situation.
‘What’s with this guy? What does he believe in, to think he can stand up against me?’
Hargen was 3 levels lower than Ark. He definitely knew that fact. So why is he trying to take Ark down alone?
‘Does he think he can take me down because I’m a Thief?’
If so, it was actually welcoming. Ark had been worried because there were two level 60+ players. If there was one opponent, even if the opponent was a higher level, he was confident he could defeat him.
Ark quickly did an evasive movement as he swung his sword.
A heavy sound rang out, but Hargen immediately used the skill again as if he didn’t receive much impact. Ark fended off the blow with this sword, but he still took an incredible amount of damage.
‘Wh-what? Is this really damage of a level 62 player?’
It was completely different from what he’d seen while they were fighting monsters. Ark used Eyes of the Cat, and his face hardened.
‘Huh? What is going on?’
With Eyes of the Cat, he saw Hargen’s level was actually 71.
In addition, he was a Chaotic player!
He was certain Sid checked their levels and status before leaving the village. Level 62 with Neutral status. But in just 4 hours, the info had changed to something completely different. After using his head for a moment, Ark finally understood the situation.
‘I fell for it. Was Sid also a part of this?’
Sid had checked the info. And since Sid, whom he had met by chance, had said the info was like that, Ark had just believed him. That situation had been so natural that even the doubtful Ark had blindly believed it.
So In the end, Sid and Leo had just been acting!
‘They were aiming for me from the beginning. Damn bastards!’
Rage surged within him.
‘I definitely shouldn’t trust the likes of players!’
“Alright, let’s go at it then. I will make you regret believing in your level and coming at me alone. Dark Blade!”
Lancel’s sword grazed a spot on Hargen’s side that was glowing red.
- You have dealt a critical hit!
Hargen flinched and took a step back. Even with his plated armour, he lost 10% of his Health in one blow.
“This bastard, he has good luck. Though it’ll be useless!”
Hargen still made an expression of overwhelming confidence.
It seemed he believed the critical hit was nothing but a fluke. Hargen’s level was 71, Ark’s was 65. With a whopping 6 level difference, he believed there was no way he could lose. But it didn’t take long for him to realize how terrible a misunderstanding that was.
The accuracy and attack speed he had polished underwater!
Ark’s sword and kicks rained down like a flash.
Kicks were different from sword strikes. Swords only gave damage, but kicks gave knockback, or a stun effect at a set rate. In addition, the enemy was a heavily armored Warrior; whenever the shower of kicks imparted a special status effect, he couldn’t balance his weight and was pushed back as he staggered.
“Wha-what? What is wrong with my body?”
Hargen shouted his frustration at the special effects of the kicks.
The heavily armored Hargen couldn’t follow Ark’s movements. He also couldn’t defend himself properly. Trained from underwater battle, Ark’s sword precisely pierced into the gaps of the armor.
A heavily armored fighter was no different from a crab. The joints in armor have very low defense. In addition, the Dark Blade Ark occasionally released totally ignored defense.
In an instant, Hargen only had 10% of his Health left.
“H-how the hell did this happen?”
In front of the suffering Hargen’s eyes, Ark lifted his leg. It paused in the air for a split second before falling like a thunder bolt down on Hargen’s head.
Stunned, Hargen fell to one knee. His body flashed red.
Double Critical Chance!
- With Double Critical Chance, you have landed 2x a critical hit.
Ark seized the opportunity and killed Hargen.
“There’s no way this can be…”
As if he couldn’t believe it, Hargen stammered as he was forced to log out.
- You have defeated a level 71 Chaotic player. Fame +40.
The helmet Hargen had been wearing tumbled down.
“Dedric, turn into a Bat and find Sid and Leo!”
Ark summoned Dedric and ground his teeth.
If they’d been playing Ark, they would definitely be waiting nearby for the fight to end. The bastards had conspired and tricked Ark. He was of a mind to chase them even to the depths of hell for revenge. If he didn’t kill them, his rage would not subside.
‘They can never be forgiven!’
“They’re not too far from here!”
“Lead the way.”
Ark equipped the Guardian Armor of the Merpeople he’d been saving and had Dedric take the lead.
The Guardian Armor couldn’t be repaired by repair boxes. The only way to repair it was with Magic Restoration, but he’d tried not to use it since that was only Intermediate. But the current situation was different.
* * *
After entering the forest, he saw a strange scene unfolding.
He’d been certain the two would be giggling together, but the situation was no different from before. Sid was running as if his feet were on fire. Leo was chasing after him spitting curses. As if he’d already taken a few hits, Sid had only about 30% of his Health left.
‘What is going on? Aren’t they on the same side?’
At that moment, Leo’s hammer hit Sid’s back.
It wasn’t an attack a Merchant could defend against with their incomparably lousy defense.
Sid collapsed as he instantly fell into a critical condition.
“Dammit, you nasty bastard!”
“Huhuhu, isn’t this also one of the enjoyments of the game?” Leo raised his hammer while sporting a vile smile.
At that moment, Leo’s face was covered by Dedric.
“Wh-what is this? A Bat?”
At the same time, a strong attack landed on Leo’s back.
He’d been watching the situation from a distance, but Ark shortened the gap in a moment and let fly a Backstab attack. He couldn’t understand what was going on, but for now he decided they weren’t allies.
Leo turned his head and his facial expression turned twisted.
“H-how did you…?”
“Ask your friend after you revive.”
Ark didn’t give him a moment and immediately poured forth a chain of Sword-Hand attacks.
‘The bastard’s level is 73, but if he’s around Hargen’s skill, he isn’t a tough opponent.’
Leo was stronger than Hargen.
First, his level was higher, and his equipment was better. Additionally, because of his shield, it wasn’t easy to aim at the gaps in his armor.
But Leo was still not a match for Ark.
“Uhh, what is this? A Bat?”
Dedric, trying to earn back some trust from Ark, desperately held on. He repeatedly scratched Leo’s face while matching the timing of the hammer swings and backing off.
As expected, after receiving Ark’s rigorous training, Dedric’s battle sense was outstanding. In the current situation, he was determining what attack would be most helpful to Ark. As Dedric continued with the attacks, Leo’s accuracy with his hammer dramatically fell. Such sloppy attacks were met with crazy strong counter-attacks. As Leo swung his hammer, a counter attack swept past through the gap in the shield.
If a counter-attack succeeds, the attack power increases by 50%!
No matter how good the armor was, there is no way it could handle 150% of the normal attack. In addition, armor is not something that can be continuously used. Leo’s armor became tattered in the blink of an eye and his Health was dropping wildly.
“Dammit! You’re dead!”
Pressed to near critical state, Leo pulled out a potion.
‘High-grade recovery potion!’
There were all kinds of potions. There is the low class potion, which recovers 100 Health, intermediate potion, which recovers 300 Health, and high class potion which recovers 500 Health. There are also no specific restriction in terms of drinking a Health potion, so as long as one had money they could recover Health anytime. Ark had never once doubted a system like this.
If so, didn’t that mean you would never die if you drank high-class potions like water? However, Ark soon found the flaw in this system.
It lay in the time it takes to drink the potion. While opening the bag and drinking the potion, they are in a completely defenseless state. Of course, this will lead to a higher chance of receiving a critical hit. In the end, even if they drink a 500 Health potion, if they were to lose 500 Health while they were drinking it, it would do them no good.
That wasn’t the only disadvantage. You could intentionally interfere with the player trying to drink a potion. If you attacked the hand, you could make them drop the potion. Ark had learned that when Bat had shoved himself into Andel’s mouth while he was trying to drink a potion.
Because of this, Ark almost never drank potions even when fighting monsters. Of course, the same applied when facing players, who were smarter than monsters.
‘Idiot, he was just a high-leveled moron.’
In fact, Dedric was of a higher level than Leo in the ability to deal with a situation. A black aura poured from Dedric’s mouth and blocked Leo’s vision. Then, while Leo was confused, Dedric charged powerfully and sent a flying kick.
“Agh! Oowww, my head.”
With a thump, Dedric staggered about with a fist-sized lump on his head. Leo, who’d been hurriedly about to drink the potion, shook and stumbled as if he’d taken quite a shock.
Ark ordered without any delay, “Snake, it’s an item! Eat it!”
Wrapped around Ark’s waist, Snake opened its eyes wide and stuck its tongue out. Like a frog catching a fly, it wrapped its tongue around the potion and swallowed it.
The so-called Familiar combo attack!
After seeing Snake smack its lips, Leo shouted his shock.
“EH! Wh-what is this?”
“What’s what? You’re dead anyways. Dark Blade!”
“Ah, no!” Leo quickly held up his shield.
But before Ark’s blade reached the shield, it vanished
Then it appeared in front of Leo’s nose and dealt a Critical Hit.
Defense was ignored, and since Dedric, who had been promoted to the magic sword’s owner, was summoned, the attack power was even greater. With a violent scream, Leo flew back. He tumbled on the ground until he hit the trunk of the tree and was forced to log out.
Along with 40 bonus Fame, a hammer, two scrolls fell.
“A-Ark-nim…!” Sid, who’d been watching nervously, stammered with a surprised voice.
Well, since the 8 level lower Ark had defeated Leo, of course he’d be surprised.
“Th-thanks to you I survived. I was almost robbed and bankrupted.”
After collecting his wits, Sid jumped up and leapt onto Leo’s corpse. The reason why the corpse didn’t disappear for 24 hours was probably because the developers considered a use like this.
“This rotten bastard! Shitface!”
After panting as he vented his anger, Sid scratched his head.
“Because of me, Ark-nim was in danger. I’m truly ashamed.”
By then, Ark had furtively packed up his items. He turned his head. There was nothing but coldness in his eyes towards Sid.
“Just exactly what happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“Sid-nim, at the inn you said they were lower level than me. You also said nothing about them being Chaotic. So, I thought you and those guys were working together.”
“No, NO, I’M NOT! I was also tricked!”
“Tricked? Didn’t you use a scroll?”
“Well, Ark-nim may not know.”
Sid thought for a moment before remembering the scrolls Leo had dropped.
“First, check the items Leo dropped. That would be faster.”
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