Race to 100

by

Reuben Gante

Chapter 67 - Business As Usual

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[Quest complete! Found to be Missing II!
[Your party rescued 22/22 hostages(2750XP,200 Gold), subjugated 10/10 captors(2000XP), protected 1/1 vardo(300XP), slain 149/XX goblinoids(1490XP, 149 Gold), and defeated 1/1 Dungeon Boss(1000XP, 200 Gold)!
[7540XP +40% War Party Leader IV bonus
[10,556XP will be shared among the party.
[10,556XP/27 members.
[You received 391XP, 20 Gold]

[14,628XP +40% War Party Leader IV bonus
[20,480XP will be shared among the party.
[20,4780XP/27 members.
[You received 758XP!]

[All other rewards will go to War Party Leader or closest party members.]

Well, that's new. The system broke some of the calculations down for me and if I access the second set of XP gains, it does the same thing, but in a handy pie chart. I wonder if it's from Dawn's level of War Party Leader. The first set is just the rewards from the evolved Minor Quest. It must have changed when the Centogre escaped the dungeon.

The second set includes everything we killed during the whole ordeal: Players, NPCs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Orcs, Gnolls, and the Centogre itself. Because of the distance, I only get XP and Gold from the Quest. The loot has to stay near Dawn.

Still, it's pretty nice that she got WPL up to level four, the forty percent bonus is really handy, especially since we still had the reserves in the party and they drastically increased the number of people sharing the XP.

I did notice the Gold in my Bracelet when I looked for the canvas and used it to purchase some plain clothes and a pair of boots. They're a far cry from my pirate costume, but it'll keep me from getting arrested for public indecency. A small sense of nostalgia did creep up on me when I walked out of the store, reminding me of when I first wandered Kes Rentas upon arrival in Arc, wearing my set of simple clothes.

I had found a spot in the back corner of a little tavern to go over the notifications that have been blinking furiously at me since respawn. I just needed a bit of privacy before I opened up these easily visible screens. I check the final set of notices and nearly choke on my Higo's Mermadin Brown Ale.

[Blue Mage has absorbed a Skill!]
[You learned the Monster Skill, +Hellbent Roar!]
[You have earned the Feat, Adaptibility!]

[+Hellbent Roar (90SP) Self/Effects all creatures within a 150foot radius. All hostiles effected will gain the Debuff, Enfeeble (-20% to weapon attack damage). All party members effected will gain the Buff, Heroic (+10% to weapon attack damage, +5%MaxHP, Immunity to Frightened). All effects last 3 minutes.]

Not only do I get my happy Feat back, I also learned a Boss Skill. It's my first actual monster Skill and everything about it is just as big as the Boss itself, including the SP cost. I briefly ponder what would have happened if I got Grim Larder instead, but a shudder and a dry heave boot the thought right out of my head.

[From: Dawn Nobel
[Welcome back to the land of the living! Amazing work with the boss! You were pretty cool up until you got flicked off like a flea and stomped like a cigarette. Ha ha! You even look like one! Anyway, we got your Life Crystal and gear. Looks like everything survived the smooshing. We got an extension to the Quest so meet us in Kes Solomas. Sending you a map location.]

[From: Ardacen Winters
[Thanks! Yeah, it was pretty fun waking up ass naked back in Ifrix. Will Brandy and her brother join you guys?]

[From: Dawn Nobel
[Wow, that sucks. You got a Rucksack, right? Thought you started keeping one with you since the desert incident. And yeah, they're riding with us till we get to the city. Nathan happens to be a Cleric of the Forge too!]

[From: Ardacen Winters
[I do and that's great. Give lots of hugs and kisses to Vic for me. See you in Kes Solomas.]

[From: Dawn Nobel
[Can't fraternize with fellow officers, but I'll send your love anyway. Good luck, cigarette butt!]

A short moment passes after I close Dawn's message when another mail notification calls out to me.

[From: Brandy Ariella
[Great ride, cowboy. Nathan and I will be riding with Dawn and the others after we fish out the dungeon core. We passed by Ifrix and there should be a caravan either leaving now or just left for Kes Solomas. We were going to join them, but they were gonna spend too much time in the village. Caravan's leader is a male Infernus named Light Jerachophleus. Just call him Light. Use our names as a referral and you should be alright.]

[From: Ardacen Winters
[Anytime, Gunslinger! Have fun with the others and thanks for the heads up!]

[From: Brandy Ariella
[Good luck, cowboy]

I ask the bartender about Light and he marks the spot on my map where the wagons would be found. I thank him with a silver piece and make my way over.

Ifrix is just as odd a place as ever, what with the ghostly vegetation, flaming skull citizens, and swishing grass laughter.

I find the old Brigandine that Victoria made for me herself and equip it along with the Rucksack, hopefully to help me look more like the part of a sword for hire. I could probably just ask for a ride, but I might as well get paid for the trip and maybe get a Quest out of it, since I'll be missing the one everyone else has.

Just outside the door to one of the buildings hangs a wooden plank with the picture of a mortar and pestle, and I walk inside. As I suspected, the place is an apothocary and an emerald green flame woman sits at a counter, one hand pressed against her cheek bone and the other spinning an orange rose between her fingers. Her hollow eyes staring at the far wall.

I make a throat clearing sound, seeing as Ifrixians don't have a visible throat in our fires, or even the connecting spinal column visible, the act momentarily perplexes me in its operation. It startles the girl, a miss Lydia Stemgrinder, and she looks over at me.

"Oh, 'ello! 'ow can I 'elp you?" She asks, setting the flower in a thin vase. Her accent reminds me of a drunk Mika, though I wonder why she has an accent in the first place if the other Ifrixians don't. Lydia's is heavy, almost like mutated form of Cockney without the slang. She walks in front of the counter and smoothes out her faded pink dress.

"Hello, I'm in need of some Health Potions. Apprentice grade if you have any?" I ask with a short, yet courteous bow of my head. When I stand straight up again, I look around at the multitude of glass bottles, playing card sized drawers with odd labels, strange instruments, and baskets of ingredients.

She presses her chin with her index finger in thought, "Yes... I can whip up a few for you. You don't mind if it's fresh?"

I shrug my shoulders and scratch the back of my skull, "Does it make a difference if it's fresh?"

She's picking out bottles from shelves and Red Herbs from a barrel, "Eh? Don't you know? WeeEEeell…" She drags out the E sound in a sing song tone as she lays out her ingredients, now back behind the counter. "Usually, we let the potions rest a couple noights. Smooves out the bitt'erness, you see."

"I see," I respond, following the deft and graceful movements of well versed hands.

As she explains, she grinds the Herbs in a large mortar and they begin to glow red. It reminds me of how I would roll the leaves in my hands, but I refrain from interrupting her. Then, she empties the contents of a small bottle into it and mixes it with a thin strip of wood like a chopstick.

"Anyway, reason why we're out of rested potions at the moment is cuz of that orange Infernus, Light, and his crew that are leaving soon. Bought 'em all up, you see. Such a 'andsome man. Rather charming too…"

She trails off for a moment, glancing over at the flower, but picks right back up where she left off as if nothing happened, "Anyway, ain't you that fella that stopped Chameleos? Can you believe 'ee got away? I was just telling my friend--"

"He escaped?" I interrupt her, trying to keep my voice calm.

She taps the contents of the mortar into a larger copper bowl, " You 'aven't 'eard? Someone saw 'im whispering to a Tigress Faunus and moments late'r she slices the door down. A few people tried to stop 'em, but 'ee managed to get away and with a couple pieces of the rock in the chapel. If you ask me…"

I tune Lydia out as I filter through her bits of gossip. I try to memorize her hand movements, finding them oddly similar to that of a seasoned cook or bartender. I guess I'll have to keep an eye out for that old Ifrixian on the road.

[Minor Quest Received: Revenge Too
[Subjugate Father Chameleos 0/1 and Accomplice 0/1]
[Reward: 250XP to each person in party, 1*Jester's Box, 1*Rook Chest]

It's intriguing that I still don't have to kill the Cleric and his friend. Although, after everything that stupid Halfling put us through I'd probably kill him on the spot, Quest or not.

While Lydia portions the glowing red liquid into smaller bottles, I readjust my brigandine. I didn't really bother getting any other bits of armor for the caravan trip, though I'll reconsider if Light makes a big deal about an underdressed escort.

"I 'eard you 'ad a set of black armor. Wot 'appened? Didjoo die? Are you a Traveler? Fancy that, an Ifrixian Traveler." She moves four red, glowing bottles toward me and I ask for the price. "Eighteen silver ought to cover it. Give you a bit uva discount since we didn't rest 'em."

>Scan<[Lydia's Apprentice Health Potion.
[Recover 55 HP. Bitter.]

I flip a Gold piece on the counter and store the bottles in my bracelet, "Thank you, Miss Lydia. Keep the change."

She becomes a gushing, explosion of words to which I bow and take my leave.

I barely catch Light as some workers load up the last of the crates. A human and an Elf flank him on either side of the driver's seat as he holds the reigns. They wear chainmail over padded shirts and reinforced leather chaps over cloth pants. They each hold a loaded crossbow and asymmetrical swords cross their backs. Every other guard I notice has simple leather, a crossbow, and a single melee weapon.

I explain my situation to him, trying to slip in Brandy's name in to give me an edge.

He strokes his chin with his thumb and index finger, looking wistfully into the distance. His skin is the color of a ripe pumpkin, but his nails, slicked back hair, and tall gazelle-like horns are a matte black. "Ah, the beautiful Brandy bell. She smelled like a rainy meadow and spoke like a thunderstorm. She came into my life like a Solar Flash and vanished just as fast."

I can maybe see another reason why she didn't want to join this caravan. If he's going to talk like this for the rest of the trip then I might just walk. Instead, he agrees to pay me three Gold upon arrival in Kes Solomas to which I agree. I can't help but catch his two guards grinning at each other and chuckling, sharing a private joke.

I take up my assigned post, the less than prestigious spot in the rear wagon with a one-eyed Gnomish vegetable vendor, who just stares ahead, making no sounds save for an off grunt or two.

Still, it's better than listening to a horny idiot wax poetic.

***********************************

After teaching the reserves how to operate the vardo, Conner and Reiger the Dwarf keep watch in the cabin while two reserve citizens take turns driving. Meanwhile, the core group gathers around a table in the craft area. Brandy and Nathan are invited to join them and they shyly accept. There's a blueprint screen up with several notes already written and waiting for their presenter.

Standing a few feet from the table, Dawn finishes her discussion with her Blacksmith apprentices, the Tailors, Gorm, Taymin, and Corvina.

With the hostages in their care, the task of feeding them went to Gorm, something that he didn't take lightly as he would never forget the meals of Better Rations eaten out of sheer necessity. He would not subject them to this and tasked some soldiers and his cooks with the Forager Artisan Class to do a "jogging grocery run" beside the vardo to acquire more food to feed everyone. They also used the pelts from the hunted animals and any extra clothing to help them become comfortable.

Taymin did his best to visit with all the hostages, but he was only one man. So, he enlisted the assistance of Corvina and any others who were able to provide psychological comfort.

Upon her nomination to leader, Dawn had asked her apprentices, Tailors, and the remaining soldiers to craft equipment and items using the available blueprints and materials. Anything that would upgrade the status of anyone in Linqs would be kept and any surplus would be sold as soon as a market became available to them. This would include furniture, clothing, armor, weapons, tools, and any luxury items that they could think of. Once again, many others gladly joined in this endeavor. They were happy to give back to those who have provided so much.

Dawn thanks her administrative team for their reports and they return to their tasks. She plants her petite self heavily in the chair, causing it to creak and strain. A long sigh escapes her lips and she gazes around the table with a weak smile.

After the battle, one of the things Dawn wanted to experiment with is a more productive debriefing. She planned on achieving this by going over the things that worked, the things that didn't, and the things that could've helped.

Richter is the first to speak. "First off, I wanna thank these two," he gestures to the guests of honor. Brandy quickly blushes at the attention, while Nathan waves a hand like passing royalty, "Your timely appearance is very much appreciated. Second, there's gotta be a way to Analyze the enemies and share basic stats with the party. Hitting things until they die without knowing when is like driving a car and only knowing you're out of gas when it stalls on the freeway." The NPC's look at him perplexed, but Dawn retorts before they can say anything.

"There is. I picked it up when I got War Party Leader level four. Unfortunately, it only works if I have an Analyze Ability, which I don't." Dawn rubs one of her horns and looks down for a moment. "I think Ardacen has one, but his WPL is only level three. That boss raid pushed me up to four just in time."

Kona looks up from laying on her crossed arms on the table, "Maybe Ardy can shout out stats next time."

"I dunno," Dawn says, "But if it works its not stupid, so I guess maybe he can try. Until I'm able to learn it myself, that is." Dawn scribbles something next to another note.

"So," Dawn continues, "In depth info gathering and stat awareness. Yeah, it would've been nice to see how much HP was left on the boss. Its weird how hostiles don't get rainbow bars. It must be to keep the 'realism' of battle."

"I can Analyze!" The voice is unfamiliar to most at the table, but they all turn to the source. The young man sitting by Brandy with the spiky white hair and white dustbuster is standing out of his seat. Unsure of what his look it meant to be, everyone actually mistakes him for an Alchemist, especially covered in copper accessories and tools from head to toe. "I have an Analyze Spell, but it can only work on things up to seven levels higher than the caster. But, it does put a rainbow bar next to the target's name. It's called Basic Scan."

"Would you be willing to teach it to me?" Dawn asks, motioning him to come closer.

Nathan stops in his tracks when the question becomes more understood in his head, "What? How do you do that?" He looks back at his sister, but she shrugs.

As Dawn explains the process, Victoria picks up the discussion, standing, but choosing not to disturb the blueprint screen with any of her notes or drawings. "Next, with the exception of the dungeon boss and his minions, everyone fulfilled their roles perfectly. Air team, your timely involvement saved the lives of the reserves who would've been overrun by the hobs and orcs."

Kona's ears perked up and a smug smile spreads across her face. Rachel scoffed with false modesty, waving away the compliment. Sonny, meanwhile, has most of her attention set on the inventory of spare equipment in one of the storage crates. From her back, Meteora waves in response to the mention of her team.

"I'll have to thank my soldiers for their hard work as well," Victoria turns to look toward the living area before resuming, "Anyway, Richter, what did you learn while engaged with the original targets?"

"Aside from how shitty I am in PVP? Well, it sounded like most of the Rogues and Casters were Arceans hired by Mordecai. The Berserker, Samurai, and Ranger were Travelers. They used these things that looked like cut off hoods and when they shoved them over someone's head you got a Cursed marker."

His body involuntarily shudders at the memory of moments, "Then, the hood fills up with water, but it wasn't, like, normal water. It's like it methodically forced itself in your nose and mouth no matter how hard you tried to hold your breath."

The table abruptly stops all noise, even Dawn and Nathan pause to listen. A stern look of concern washes over Vic's face, she spreads her fingertips on the tabletop and looks down to the side. "That's how they kidnapped everyone. It's hard to think and react to anything else when you feel like you're drowning. Some of the people we saved said the Paladin, Mordecai, then did something else to them."

"Yeah, he has a Feat or something. He hit me with his mace and it gave me the Frightened debuff," Richter says, shaking his head.

"Could it have been the weapon?" Victoria asks sitting back down, one hand held up as if holding something in the air.

"After we went through their dropped loot, we found it to be just a regular iron mace," Richter responds, head tilting and trying to remember more details. "Most of their gear was pretty simple, save for a rare item or two. They were slightly better equipped than the people from Kes Rentas."

Dawn places a hand on Vic's shoulder, signaling that she would finish the meeting. Vic nods. "You and Ardacen did a great job distracting them, sorry you had to experience the hood first hand."

He raises his hand with a smirk, "No worries."

Dawn nods and turns to Kona and Serenity sitting next to each other. "Now, what do we need to do to help you craft more potions?"

"More… herbs?" Serenity responds in an odd combination of question and demand. She takes a deep breath, looking sheepishly at Dawn who just nods and smiles. "The stronger the potion… the more Herbs needed. We did make a lot… but since we distributed… to everyone..."

"We each only got a couple. Right. Well, we probably won't get a chance to Forage for any before we get to the city. Is it possible to just buy them in bulk? We've got the coin now and more on its way from the Return to Solomas Quest."

Kona perks up in her seat, "Oh yeah, honestly it's not too expensive. We can probably get a couple barrels worth for twenty gold each, maybe?" She looks over at Serenity, but she just shrugs. "Seriously? It's basic stuff. Don't you know anything?" Kona snaps back, harsher than probably intended.

"I wasn't- I wasn't- I wasn't always the best Alchemist, okay? You don't have to- have to rub it in." Her cheeks burn with embarrassment and her stutter rears its head again.

Dawn is about to reprimand Kona for riling up Serenity, but the feline Faunus is already up and walking behind her, wrapping her arms around the Infernus's shoulders. She nuzzles against her neck on the side of Serenity's eye and the act seems to calm her down. Kona's tail whips over near Serenity's ear only to be wrapped up in a ruby red, heart tipped tail. There's a barely audible apology, before Kona sits back down.

No one expected those actions so they all stare at the two with curiosity blossoming in each passing second. Eyebrows lowered, ears back, and cheeks burning red, Kona looks right back at everyone, "What? What are you all staring at?"

"Since when?" Victoria asks, a wry smile coiling her lips.

Kona squints her eyes in thought, "Maybe after we started working together with Mika? I think she's always had a thing for me..." She glances back at Serenity who sharply looks away, covering her mouth with a hand. Kona's face takes on a predatory look, as if devouring the sight of the shy Infernus.

"…Oookaaay…" Dawn drags out, turning around and writing on the blueprint screen. She emphasizes the words she writes by saying each word as a command, "Keep. It. Off. The. Battlefield."

When she spins back around, she gets visual confirmation from Serenity, Kona, and lastly Victoria, who looks back in suprise. "It should go without saying, but just in case. I'm not adverse to relationships, but they do have their place in this kind of group. For the safety of yourselves and others, please keep it off the battlefield."

A round of giggling across the table, none as loud as Nathan, signals the end of the meeting.

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About the author

Reuben Gante

  • United States

Bio: Hello! I'm a bartender in Las Vegas who used to write for fun as a kid. I'm not a literary major so I'm still pretty rusty with the mechanics. I just have a story in my head and I can't progress it unless it's written down. I love DnD, RPGs, MMOs, and have recently been introduced to the LitRPG genre and am loving that too. This is my small contribution to the great fantasy stories that have entertained and inspired many of us.

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