When Thorn asked Mina about it, she mentioned that, for tedious tasks like skinning, the system actually applied a bit of assistance, so that players wouldn't become bored with it. Thorn nodded to himself, thankful for the game designer's foresight. After finishing the skinning, Thorn picked up a pile of loot that Jorge had found from scrounging through the village.
"How much room do you have open, Thorn?" Ouroboros asked, getting ready to leave the destroyed village.
"I'm good. I still have 80% of my team inventory open."
"Holy Terra! Thorn, your inventory must be enormous!" gasped Mina. "How freakishly strong are you?"
"Haha, I'm not that strong, just big," said Thorn with a laugh, downplaying his ability.
"Good, that means we should be able to clear the next valley without a problem," said Ouroboros with a nod. "The next village is close by. Let's head there now. We'll take a break after we finish clearing it."
Ouroboros blew two short, sharp blasts on a whistle, and then the group moved out, leaving the ruins of the kobold village behind. As they walked along through the forest, occasionally coming across kobold corpses, courtesy of Jorge, Thorn couldn't help but be impressed by this group he had joined.
From the comfortable but focused way they proceeded, it was obvious that the group had worked together for a long time, each person fitting into their role like a well-oiled cog in an efficient machine. Each had a role and trusted the others in the group to fill their role as well. Seeing how they had crushed the village of kobolds without any trouble at all, Thorn could only marvel at the difference between this party and regular players. Elites indeed!
And to think that they were part of a guild of others like them. Shaking his head, Thorn thought to himself that this game hid some scary people! Even putting aside the terrifying white beam that Velin had shot out, Mina's deadly blizzard was equally dangerous. And that was to say nothing of Ouroboros, who held off close to two hundred kobolds, almost single-handedly blocking them and killing at least half of them!
Then there was Jorge, who had not stopped dropping kobold corpses in their path since they started. Fast, deadly, and invisible. Thorn felt a cold shiver travel down his spine. These people, though friendly on the surface, were dangerous. Very dangerous.
"Hey Thorn, what sort of class are you thinking of taking?" Mina asked, unable to stand the silence.
"Hm? Oh, class? I don't know yet," Thorn confessed after thinking for a minute. "I'd be suited to something like a tank, but I was also thinking about getting a non-combat class like a craftsman or something. I heard that there is good money in non-combat classes."
"What! How lame." Mina rolled her eyes. "Non-combat classes are so lame. Why would you want to play a game to spend all your time working?"
"Mina, without non-combat classes, you wouldn't have half your gear," Velin remarked flatly, throwing a glance at the ranting witch.
"Well, yeah. But look at Thorn's size! It would be a total waste for Thorn to not be a warrior," Mina replied, patting as high up as she could reach on Thorn's arm. "I mean, look at him! His arm is bigger than me! Can you imagine him in full Hellplate, with a Barbed Greatsword? It would be epic!"
"Hellplate?" asked Thorn.
"It's a kind of plate armor used by warriors and other offensive melee classes," said Ouroboros, sending Thorn a link to a picture in his in-game browser.
"Oh, that would look pretty impressive," said Thorn, looking at the spiked armor in the picture.
"Alright, let's continue this conversation later," Ouroboros said, pointing toward a village on the top of a hill. "Get ready for a fight. Same as last time."
Watching the group spring into action, Thorn couldn't help but be envious of their smooth cooperation. Each stepped into their role smoothly, and the result was the complete and utter destruction of the kobold village within ten minutes of the start of the fight. The only difference was that this time the kobold Shaman surprised the group by casting a spell before they spotted him, resulting in poisonous projectiles raining down from the sky.
However, even with the ambush, the team responded without missing a beat. Velin, who had been channeling energy into her staff, lifted it into the air and covered herself, Mina, and Ouroboros with a shield that deflected the falling arrows into the surrounding kobolds. At the same time, Ouroboros whistled, two long, one short and then turned back to killing the kobolds that mobbed around him.
Less than a minute later, after the arrows had stopped falling, Jorge appeared with the Shaman's head, which he tossed into the milling crowd of kobolds, sending them scrambling in terror. After they finished dealing with all of the kobolds in the village, they made camp a ways away and got ready to settle in for the night. According to the map that Ouroboros pulled out, the other village was close, so they would be able to handle it the next day and then go after the Greater Shaman.
After a peaceful night, they pressed on, and Thorn witnessed them repeat their deadly process on the last village with a Shaman. As he was sweeping up the loot, Thorn asked why they were only bothering with the villages with a Shaman.
"Because the other villages will have no worthwhile loot," said Jorge, appearing out of nowhere.
"Exactly," confirmed Ouroboros. "Our actual goal here is to clear the Greater Shaman. We shouldn't have an issue, but we wanted to make sure that he was not able to team up with the other Shaman. As you can see, we are not afraid of numbers, but numbers and multiple casters can be a pretty serious problem."
As he finished speaking, a guttural roar echoed through the air, causing the whole group to look toward the far end of the valley.
“That’s our cue,” smiled Ouroboros. “Let’s go end this thing.”
“About time! I want to wash my hair,” quipped Mina with a laugh.
Cutting through the forest in the direction of the Greater Shaman, the group abandoned all semblance of stealth. For a moment, Thorn was concerned. What if the kobolds from the three other villages that they had not cleared gathered together? He could only imagine the size of that army.
But then he remembered the sight of Mina’s blizzard spell ending the lives of the kobolds en masse and mentally shrugged. It was not the first time the group had done this, so they knew what they were doing. Plus, Thorn was having a blast following them around, even if he was hiding at the back and picking up the loot. It was nice to see them in action and watch their well-practiced cooperation.
They found the Greater Shaman on a large rock at the end of the valley. Peeking out from behind some trees at the edge of the forest, they could see him berating a group of kobolds that looked a bit larger than normal, his spittle flying as he raged at them. The six kobolds he was yelling at were not only larger but much better dressed than the other kobolds they had come across in the valley so far.
“Kobold Chieftains,” Mina whispered, seeing Thorn’s questioning look.
“No wonder we didn’t see them at the other towns,” commented Velin, joining the conversation. “This might be a bit more trouble than the other fights.”
“Alright, change of plans.” Ouroboros cut off the conversation with a wave of his hand. “Six is a bit much for me to handle, so we’ll put Mina and Velin on defense. I’ll handle the Greater Shaman while Jorge helps the girls with taking down the Chieftains.”
“Is there a way I can help?” asked Thorn, eager to contribute.
“Do you have a bow?” Seeing Thorn shake his head no, Ouroboros smiled. “Thanks, but we got it.”
Frustrated, Thorn could only watch as the others moved forward to engage the milling kobolds. Was it the fact that he was still wearing the beginner’s clothes and didn’t have a visible weapon? Due to his size, Thorn had tried his best to present as non-threatening a persona as possible since most people were instinctively insecure around him as it was. In this case, it seemed to have backfired and given Ouroboros the idea that he was weak.
How very different this world was. Nova Terra was so similar to the real world that it was easy to forget that there were some very basic rules that were not the same. In the real world, society had settled the issue of crime, and resorting to violence to solve problems was unacceptable. In Nova Terra, violence was often the first and only means of settling a conflict.
This made the agreeableness that Thorn had spent so long developing worth very little in this crazy new world. While it seemed to help in his interactions with the NPCs he encountered, so far his gentle persona had been more of a hindrance than a help when dealing with others. Seeing the team engage in combat, Thorn decided that he would find some armor and a sling for his weapon when he got back to town.
Maybe that would help toughen up his image and make the other players he encountered take him a bit more seriously. After all, how lame would it be to continue hanging around the back while other people did all the fighting?
By this point, the team had engaged the kobolds, but their formation was completely different from the last three big fights. Instead of creating his usual immovable defense, Ouroboros chanted in a strange language, summoning a blood-red aura that covered both him and his weapons. Even from all the way in the back, Thorn could feel the uncomfortable suppression the red mist caused.
‘It’s like being stared at by a predator!’ Thorn thought to himself. ‘This must be what they mean when they talk about killing intent.’
While Thorn felt a bit uncomfortable, it was obvious that the blood mist had a much larger impact on the kobolds facing Ouroboros. Many became too terrified to move, and it wasn’t until the Great Shaman roared out a command and the chieftains bounded forward that the rest of the kobolds managed to recover.
As the chieftains moved, Velin stepped forward as well, waving her staff toward Ouroboros and Mina. Around each of them, a faint golden shield bloomed. Mina’s looked like a regular shield spell, but when the golden shield rose around Ouroboros, it mixed with the bloody mist around him, turing a deep rose gold.
Feeling the empowerment from the shield spell, Ouroboros gave a roar and launched himself through the air, jumping an astonishing twenty feet! Flying over the charging kobold chieftains, Ouroboros was about to fall when a pillar of ice with a flat top shot up from the ground, giving him an easy place to land and jump again! This ice pillar that appeared from nowhere allowed him to propel himself all the way to the Greater Shaman, who had failed to react in time.
Lashing out with a ferocious slash, Ouroboros began a frenzied assault on the Great Shaman’s magic shield. Each blow seemed to become more and more powerful, causing the green magical shield around the Great Shaman to ripple. Additionally, the blood-red mist around Ouroboros’ sword seemed to be attaching itself to the green shield, corroding it.
Behind him, the six chieftains had engaged with Mina and Velin, who were at ease as they defended against the large kobolds. Mina deployed her blizzard spell, slowing down all of the surrounding kobolds while Velin summoned a bow of light and sent glimmering arrows raining down on the attacking force.
To Thorn’s complete and utter amazement, this fight, which was supposed to be the hardest part of the quest, ended faster than any of the earlier fights. It took less than thirty seconds for the Great Shaman’s green magic shield to fall, and once it did, Ouroboros cut him to pieces immediately.
Meanwhile, Mina’s blizzard spell proved as effective as always, slowing all of the kobolds that came close to her and Velin. Any kobold that lost their ability to move soon found a golden arrow sticking out of their head or heart as Velin rapidly fired an endless stream of arrows out over the crowd.
Jorge, unlike in the other fights, actually made an appearance, producing a second curved dagger and cutting a bloody swath around the edge of the crowd of kobolds, making sure to focus on those not affected by the icy sludge Mina was summoning. Within a bit less than three minutes, the four players had cleared almost 70% of the five hundred kobolds that had been milling around, as well as the six chieftains and the Great Shaman.
Under Thorn’s dumbfounded gaze, they spent another couple minutes wiping out the remaining 30% before waving to him. Realizing that the whole mission was over, Thorn walked to the battlefield, shocked by the incredible power shown by the four elite players.
“So that is the difference between an elite player and a regular player,” Thorn thought, shaking his head in amazement.
After waiting a moment for the effects of the blizzard spell to disappear, Thorn got down to skinning the massive number of kobolds that the team had taken down. The ones killed by Mina and Velin had almost perfect skins with only a single arrow hole in them. The kobolds that had been killed by Jorge and Ouroboros were unrecoverable. Jorge’s victims were generally in multiple pieces and covered in long, bloody gashes. Similarly, Ouroboros’ strong swings had sent the limbs of the kobolds he killed far from their bodies.
Clearing all the loot took Thorn almost two hours of non-stop work. Finally finishing up, he walked over to Ouroboros, who was talking to Velin in a low voice. Falling silent when Thorn got close, Ouroboros turned to him and smiled.
“All finished? Then lets head back. With this, the mission is done, so we can turn it in. When we get back to Berum, we can divide the loot.”
Traveling back to town took less time than the trip to the valley, but the team was not in any rush, so they took it easy and spent another night in the wilderness. Before getting to town, Ouroboros changed out his gleaming full plate armor for armor made of scuffed leather and replaced his weapons with poor quality weapons. Similarly, the girls swapped out their weapons and high-quality items. Velin even produced a hat with a veil, covering her cold but beautiful face. Only Jorge didn’t bother swapping out his gear, instead activating invisibility and disappearing into thin air.
“Alright, everyone ready?” Ouroboros checked over everyone. “Thorn, we don’t want to draw any attention, so we are all going to split up. We’ll meet at Champ’s Adventuring Depot to process the loot.”
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.