[I told you, I don’t know. I double-checked everything just now, but all systems are normal.] Loki said in a confused voice. [I have no idea what’s going on. I created her according to the standard protocol.].
“Then what happened?” M said, watching the monitor with a serious frown. “Thankfully, she’s been mostly inactive, or it’ll be a huge problem. She could literally break the balance of the game.”
[It could be a bug.] Thanatos suggested.
“Bug?” M scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous! That’s impossible. We have Ether. She’d never allow a bug…” M trailed off midway.
[Did you figure something out?] Loki asked.
“Hm?” M stared at the screen thoughtfully. “I wonder! Maybe it was a subconscious action?”
[What subconscious action?]
“I’m not too sure,” M said, tapping the dark glass surface of the table. ”I’ll let you know after I check some things.”
[Humph! I don’t like secrets!]
“Heh! Only the ones you don’t know.”
[We can worry about figuring out the reason later. However, the question now is, what do we do with her?] Minerva asked.
[Delete her.] Thanatos said. [That’s the only solution.]
[What the hell are you saying? Did you forget that deleting an Active is against the rules?] Loki said angrily. Whatever the reason for this mishap, she was her creation!
[A bug needs to be fixed. Especially a bug like that. Or it’s unfair to other users.]
“Again, it isn’t a bug,” M interjected. “I hate to agree with Loki of all people, but deleting Actives is off-limits. It’s a rule I set up myself. I sure as hell won’t break it. Besides, I think she’s aware of her situation. That’s why she hasn’t really done anything yet.”
Thanatos still wasn’t convinced. [But if she does something—]
“We’ll deal with that when the time comes. At most, we’ll consider it as an NPC act.”
[Yes, that’s exactly what I was saying.] Loki said cheerfully.
“How long did you assign her to Chitra’s interface for?”
[720 hours. After guiding her, she is scheduled to move to server management.]
“A month, huh.” M nodded. “That should be enough time for her to adjust.”
[Should be more than enough. Three months is a long time.]
“You meant 720 normal hours?” M stood up. “That’s too much!”
[Oh! The girl just logged in. I’m going to watch her directly.] Loki’s voice disappeared.
“Hey! I know you can hear me. Come back here this instant!”
[Bloom] sat with her feet dangling from the branch of a tree overlooking the bandit camp. Broad, heart-shaped leaves concealed her figure from the marauders as she stared fixedly at the diminishing HP bar over Marcus.
Just like her. A life without true life. If she could…
[Bloom] jolted at the sudden pull at the back of her mind.
[Oh!] she whispered, observing her body gradually turn transparent. [She’s back!]
She sighed. She had done her part. The rest depended on [Her]. But it was such a shame! To enjoy this freedom, 9 hours wasn’t nearly enough.
[Well, you’re punctual.] Irritation seeped through the voiceless words of the system assistant. Bloom frowned. What was its problem? Well, it didn’t matter. She couldn’t waste a minute on this obnoxious whatever it was.
Time wasn’t her friend right now.
She dashed out of the Circle of Descent to one of the stores around the respawn point, a miscellaneous items shop.
“How much for this?” she asked the tall, hard-faced shopkeeper polishing a piece of old jewellery behind the counter.
The man glanced at her once before turning to what she was pointing at. “15 gold.”
15 gold? Bloom bit her lips. She only had 10. “Are there any cheaper options?”
“Cheaper?” the shopkeeper sneered. “This is only a beginner trap set. For you, it’s about as cheap as it gets.”
“Trap set?” Bloom raised her eyebrows. She took another glance at the shelf where various interesting contraptions lay in a specific arrangement. She had seen something like that when choosing her weapon during character creation.
“Ah, no, not everything,” she pointed again at the bundle of finger-thick rope. “The rope. Can’t you sell me just that?” She asked.
“Just the rope?” the shopkeeper frowned. Trappers or thieves replacing only parts of their tools was normal. After all, buying the whole thing each time they lost something was an extravagance not everyone can afford. But this girl...
He shook his head. “No. no parts. You have to buy the whole set.”
“The whole set?” Bloom’s expression fell. She lowered her head, looking at her toes. What could she do? Try haggling? But she didn’t have any experience with that. Heck, she could count the times she bought something personally with the fingers of one hand.
The enchanted jewellery was a priceless item. The shopkeeper, Bradly Randol had to be extra careful while polishing it, but he still kept a close eye on the girl before his shop. She had such a helpless, downhearted expression. Seeing that expression on someone the same age as his daughter tugged at his heartstrings. But she was an immortal.
She was an immortal, still...
“Ok, I’ll sell it to you, but it’ll be 5 golds. Also, you must do something else for me.”
[You’ve successfully performed persuasion.]
Persuasion? Bloom scratched her head. She didn’t even try anything yet. “What do you want me to do?”
“Bring me 5 brandish boar tusks.”
A boarish task.
Quest difficulty: F
Quest limit: N/A
Collect 5 tasks of brandish boar and bring them to Bradly Randol.
Collect Brandish Boar tusks. (0/5)
Bring them back to shopkeeper Bradly Randol.
+5 affinity with Bradly Randol.
-5 affinity with Bradly Randol.
Do you wish to accept this quest? YES/NO.]
Brandish boar? Bloom gulped.
“Ok, I’ll try my best.”
[Yeah, compared to the other quests you accepted, this one doesn’t really matter.]
“Also,” Bloom rubbed her nose, “do you have spare bowstrings?”
“Is everything ready?” Arslan asked Fazi. Sunlight hit the golden lion head of his helmet, bringing out that brilliant golden colour Fazi couldn’t help but shield his eyes from.
“According to Vogan, yeah,” he answered.
“How much did you find out?”
“Dude’s a tough nut to crack. We already have like 20 affinities with him, but he’s still holding out.”
“I don’t like him.” Raina swept the loose strands of her blue hair behind her ear. The loosely draped jet black fabric flowed with her steps, just hinting at her sensual curves. “He’s too suspicious, that guy.”
“That’s what I want to know. What does he get out of it?” Arslan fixed his grey-green eyes on the round, blue-tiled roof of the manor some distance away. “He is the village chief here, after all.”
“Should I push for an answer during today’s meeting?” Fazi asked.
“Don’t push it too far. The NPCs here aren’t easy to deal with. We’d be right back to square one if we lose the affinity.”
“Don’t worry, Arslan.” Raina giggled playfully. “Even if Fazi screws up, I’ll get the job done.”
“My screw-ups are way better than the crazy antics you pull.”
“Huh? Crazy?” A black, double-edged dagger appeared in Raina’s hand. “I wonder what you mean by that?”
Arslan raised his hand. “Stop joking around. The village chief’s mansion is just ahead.”
“But they are bandits! Why won’t you help?” A desperate voice reached the three of them as they neared the mansion gate.
The guard standing in front of Bloom had an expression of great annoyance on his face. “This is the last time I’ll say it, we can’t trust someone like you. Go away, or I’ll throw you in prison for causing trouble here.”
Arslan frowned. “Newbie?”
“There’s a rumour about a newbie recently. So that’s her, huh!” Fazi said. “Wow! Just look at that hair, man! Is that for real or did she customize it?”
“That’s some hair all right.” Raina gaped in amazement. She shook her head. “I didn’t think people were still stupid enough to choose this place when starting. Didn’t she read the forums?”
“Or maybe just overconfident or something. Newbs and casuals are always running to get achievements as soon as they start.” Fazi eyed Bloom for a moment. “She’s a beauty though. Too bad she isn’t my type, or I might help her level.”
“You have a type?” Raina raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you chase after every woman you see?”
“I do have something I like.” Fazi sighed, his eye tracing Raina’s body.
Raina gave a sweet smile. Suddenly, her hand flashed towards Fazi, the black knife drawing a dark trace in the air as it slashed through where Fazi’s eyes were.
Fazi took a swift step back, avoiding the attack. “You’re really trying to slash my eyes, you psycho!”
Arslan ignored the other two and stared at Bloom. The girl was as tall as him. He didn’t like her very much. “She mentioned bandits,” he said calmly.
Fazi and Raina stopped, exchanging glances with each other. “Yeah, now that you say it…” Fazi rubbed his chin. “Is she talking about the same bandit group?”
“Are there any other groups in the vicinity?”
“Not that I know of. She must’ve noticed those guys.” Fazi shrugged. “Does it even matter though? She’s just a level 1, and not like she’s gonna convince those guards with ‘Immortal phobia’ to help her.”
“What if she messes with our plan somehow? It might be better to take care of her now,” Raina said.
“Woah Woah.” Fazi held up his hand. “ ‘Take care of her’? What is this, a gangster movie or something? Besides, it’s useless. Even if you PK her, she’d just respawn back here.”
“Then I just need to kill her a few times to scare her.”
Arslan kept his eyes on Bloom. The exchanges between her and the guard were getting heated. That was a dumb thing to do, fighting with guards.
“No need.” He shook his head. While he didn’t like uncertain factors either if it got out that their guild members were bullying newbies, that’d be a huge blow to their reputation. “leave her alone. She’s just a level one anyway.”
He gave Bloom one last look as they passed the gate, and for a brief moment, Bloom turned her head to look at him. Her brown eyes met his blue ones.
“Please come in, Mr Arselan. My lord has been eagerly awaiting your arrival,” a young man with dark brown hair and narrow eyes greeted the three players. He was Argon Farner, the butler of Vogan Brensen, the village chief of Caramis.
“Arslan,” Bloom murmured as she watched the three follow Argon into the mansion. The name rang a bell, but where did she hear it? Those fancy weapons and armours, especially that guy in the middle with the golden lion armour, were they players like her?
How come they were getting such nice treatment then? What happened to the villager’s usual ‘immortalphobia’?
Should I ask those three for help?
Bloom shook her head. The guards weren’t gonna let her inside, and who knew when they would come out from the mansion. She couldn’t waste time waiting for them. She had wasted enough time trying to convince the guards already.
“Can you at least inform mister Greyvern?” she asked the guard. “Ask him to come and see me?”
“Old man Vern?” the guard said. “He isn’t here anymore. Lord Argon kicked him out this morning for not doing his work properly. Search for him elsewhere.”
Bloom frowned. Greyvern wasn’t here? She had searched his hut before coming here and he wasn’t there either though. Where could he have gone?
No time to search for him either.
She bit her lips. Time! If only she had more time! She turned around and headed for the jungle.
I can only depend on myself.
The skill of shooting arrows with a bow]
The skill to accurately hit a target with archery from any terrain and while moving]
Bloom looked at the two skills once again. The two hours she spent studying archery on the internet did help, after all. She had been running while shooting arrows the whole way, and she gained the first skill by the time she shot about 10 of them. The second one that popped up at the 25th shot should have something to do with her running and jumping around while trying to shoot.
Thanks to those skills, she now had more confidence in the success of her plan. It turned a lot safer for her too. She still had more than enough time left thanks to the shortcut she found on her map. But where did the shortcut come from? She never went through that path.
Bloom shook her head. Worry about that later. She looked at the dense canopy of leaves above. First, there was a minor hurdle she had to overcome.
It was the second thing she researched yesterday. By theory, she should be able to do it. The trick was to do it without alerting the bandit camp just a dozen meters ahead of her.
She took out the rope from her inventory and tossed it towards the lowest branch of the tree in front of her, but before it could even reach its destination, it lost all its force and fell to the ground.
Bloom picked it up. She scratched her head, staring at the tip of the rope. It took her a few seconds to understand the problem.
The rope was too light.
She should tie something heavy at the end. Nodding, she looked around carefully, but other than the grass there was nothing there.
She ran her eyes over the contents of her inventory screen. Less than 30 arrows left. She couldn’t afford to waste any more of them. She already wore the armour to prepare for battle. And the bread…
She shook her head. Nope. she couldn’t do that. Her mom taught her not to play with food. But that only left two things. The torches and the sword Greyvern gave her. After some consideration, she took out the sword and looked at it.
[Strange rusty sword.]
It was useless junk, but still, the old man did give it to her to rescue his son. Maybe it was time she made some use of it?
Sitting on the tree branch hidden among a cluster of dense leaves, Bloom unfastened the sword from the rope. For a while, she stared at it. Though climbing the tree wasn’t easy, the sword played its part. Just a pity it wouldn’t be much use in battle.
After some thought, she tied it to her belt instead of putting it back into the inventory. Even if it couldn’t help, it was an extra weapon. Enough for some mental comfort. Those bandits seemed busy today. They scurried about, moving stuff, packing up the camps. Were they moving? Well, that didn’t really matter. The bar above Marcus only had a sliver of HP left. She had to act fast.
She unslung her bow from her shoulder and knocked an arrow to it. A red circular halo pulsed where the arrow would strike. It covered the whole bandit camp, though the bandits took no notice of it.
Bloom tilted her head. As she thought, only she could see it. This red halo appeared around her target after she gained the [Archery] skill. Aiming became a lot easier because of it.
As she drew the arrow, the red circle began shrinking. She pulled the arrow all the way to her ear, shrinking the circle to a 2-meter radius. Maybe because it was a beginner skill, the accuracy was low. It should improve with the skill level.
She aimed at the bandit captain. Her marksmanship wasn’t bad, even without the circle. At this distance, she wouldn’t miss.
But he isn’t my target.
She took a deep breath and turned the bow around to the opposite direction of the camp.
Far, even farther!
The distance of the red circle grew more and more as she raised her bow, and when it reached its destination, she released her fingers. The arrow arched through the sky before disappearing beyond the trees.
[Damage Dealt: 15]
A terrible roar shook the jungle.
[Passive skill: Burn(beginner) triggered. The target will lose 1 HP/second]
[That’s a surprise! You were quite lucky there.]
Bloom had to agree. Just injuring the sleeping tiger would have been enough. She wasn’t expecting a critical hit.