Vale had gotten two quests. The first read:
Welcome to the Secret of the Old Ones Player versus Player event!
This is a dynamic, personalized quest that will always display at least two objectives. If objectives are completed, more will be added.
First objective: Kill twenty enemies in contested areas.
Second objective: Destroy one R&D center or factory.
Third objective: Take a side! Your actions in the upcoming conflicts will determine your allegiances. New factions will be created soon!
Quest reward: Varies
Vale carefully studied the quest and noticed that the “enemy” was never defined. So this was a quest that human players could fulfill by killing other humans if they were lazy or Role Playing as evil characters. Or if they were just dicks.
The objectives were very interesting, and not for the first time, Vale wondered what kind of technology Yggdrasil Entertainment was using. Their server rooms must be massive. It boggled his mind to imagine what they’d have to do to keep track of all the player choices in this game.
He moved on to reading the second quest:
Heroic PVP Quest:
Make a difference!
As an individual or part of a team, make a serious contribution to the upcoming war efforts after factions are established.
Primary quest rewards: Varies
Secondary quest reward: PVP Purchase Token (PVPPT)
Vale thought, Now that’s interesting. The description was vague. He knew what a PVPPT was, though. Over the last week he’d been salivating over the War Store.
Quite simply, PVPPTs were how players could buy limited time PVP gear. For a permanent bonus item that wouldn’t disappear after the event ended, Vale would need a minimum of three. Better gear would cost more. Getting the PVPPTs wouldn’t be easy, but this was an amazing opportunity to get new gear for all players.
After reading through the second quest, a third quest suddenly popped up.
Sky Battle (repeatable)
Destroy three other airships or capture one! Quest resets if your airship is destroyed.
Reward: Choice of arcane, mystic, mundane, martial, or spiritual reward package
“Oh, cool!” Vale said out loud. A reward package was basically a parcel through the mail, in-game, with a random reward. They were random, but better quests would give better rewards. A reward package was actually how he’d received the Rapier of Twilight. He patted the hilt of his rapier’s new form. His sword looked cooler after evolving. Yarikh’s Will was also a cooler name than Rapier of Twilight.
Now that his quests were reviewed and organized, Vale gave George some more specific directions for where they were going. This was a snap using his map function and his [Cartography] skill. Vale was able to give precise coordinates. After that was done, he moved to the front of the ship. He gestured for the rest of the team to join him.
Once they were all assembled, Vale said, “Alright. It’s good to finally be out of Vermilliontown.”
“This is rather obvious,” said Brutus. He didn’t have any expression on his face, but Vale still wanted to punch him.
“Yes, thank you, Brutus.”
“You are welcome.”
Vale closed his eyes for a couple of seconds. “Alright, so we are going to the location where I set up a new portal to the World Tree.”
“Is it guarded?” asked Abbey.
“Weren’t you worried about leaving it there without a guard?” asked Bart.
“Not really, because it’s in the middle of nowhere, and they’d need this.” Vale pulled the precious map out of his inventory.
“Oh. That iz what you stole, yes?” asked Minerva.
“It is,” said Brutus.
Abbey raised an eyebrow. “That’s right, sometimes I forget he’s a ninja looter.”
Vale put the map away and crossed his arms. “You know, if you all wanna be really, really funny like that and keep rehashing ancient history--incorrectly--then I can always just sell these Legendary Classes instead of giving them to you assholes. Or I guess I could just charge you instead of giving them to you for free.”
Bart removed one hand from his cane and put the back of his hand to his forehead. “Excuse me! I have no idea what I was saying! It must have been a SAN attack! Minerva, do something to protect us!”
“No,” she said flatly. But a moment later she sighed and said, “Thank you, Vale. All iz forgiven, no? Both ways?”
“Ah, yeah,” said Abbey. “That’s right. No need to bring up old history. After all, we’re all friends, right? And now we even have a party name. Mitochondria!” She put a hand on her hip and raised one fist into the air.
Brutus rolled his eyes. “I already have a Legendary Class. So I will keep calling him a ninja looter.”
“Fuck you, Brutus. I’m not the one who is hated and feared by half the player base.”
The big man looked confused. “Are you suggesting you are not?”
Vale shook his head. “Dude, it’s not even close to the same. I’m a streamer. You’re...Brutus.”
“Nah, sorry man. A lot of people hate and fear you too,” said Bart with a shrug.
“Remember that alley incident? And there’s some footage of you cutting off giant monster wang, too.”
Vale was still digesting that when George used their crude radio to call out, “We’re getting close to the destination. Descending.”
“No, that can’t be right,” Vale muttered. He glowered. “Seriously? People see me like that guy!?” He pointed at Brutus. “I know lots of people watch my stream. Like, they should see how I really am!”
“How you really are?” asked Abbey. “Like beating Minerva in a duel? Or deflecting hundreds of bullets from Abyssal Ones players? Or basically becoming a ranker out of nowhere? Or being the center of controversy after reporting the Monarch Stone stolen? Or being in the same party with Brutus? Or players you’ve grouped up with before doing interviews talking shit about you? Or--”
“Okay, I get it.” Vale had to privately admit that if he ever did searches on himself, he’d probably already know all of this. Doing so would feel super cringe, though.
“We’re here!” called out George. A moment later there was a slight bump and the airship stopped moving.
Vale was having second thoughts now about giving his ingrate team a free Legendary Class, but the truth was he also really didn’t want to deal with the headache of selling them. Besides, he would probably still make more money long-term this way.
Once every member of Mitochondria had a Legendary Class, they would officially be one of the top five streamer teams in the entire world.
The team moved through the ship, down the extended ramp, and onto a lonely little cobblestone road.
Brutus looked around. “This is where you ambushed me,” he said.
“No, this is where I beat you in a fair fight,” said Vale.
“I didn’t even have my sword out.”
Vale ignored him and led the group to the shack he’d first used to travel to the World Tree. He felt like it was fitting to send everyone else through at this location, too. With a gesture, he imparted magic into the hidden entry way. A hidden door opened, and the complex magic circles inside sprang to life.
Creating all of this spellwork was much easier for him now. It would also be a breeze for all of his higher level friends to take the journey, too. He’d done it at level 10. The experiment had almost killed him. He would have lost everything.
Even thinking about it again made his scalp go numb.
Over the next few minutes, Vale made a last few preparations. He positioned Minerva, Brutus, and Abbey where they needed to be, and put his map in its linked position in the midst of the glowing lines and whorls on the floor. Then he did one last check before instructing, “You are going to need to sacrifice some stats to get to the World Tree. Don’t worry, you’ll get some back to make up for it. Luckily, you have someone to tell you this. I had to take it on faith.”
“Yeah, I know man. You’ve already told us a few times,” said Bart. His tone dripped boredom, but he was practically bouncing on his toes.
The cost of a Legendary Class in real world money could at least buy a sports car...if any were even sold. Big streamers companies had been snatching them up.
“We’ve already discussed who will be getting what element,” said Abbey. She looked down before meeting Vale’s eyes. “Vale, all jokes aside, thank you for this. Seriously.”
“Same,” said Bart.
“Yes, you have my thanks as well,” said Minerva. “Although this was most of why I chose to be part of ze party.”
“No, it is because Vale beat you in a duel,” said Brutus.
Vale appreciated the assist, even if he knew it was just Brutus being Brutus. The man was unpleasant, but also fair to a fault.
“Yes, that iz true,” said Minerva. “But I have not left either, have I?”
Vale chose to ignore the siblings and said, “You all ready to go? Last chance.”
After all three players in the circle said yes, he triggered the spell formation. “Alright, bon voyage.” A silent flash of light lit up the shabby room. The three players had vanished.
“How long will they be gone?” asked Brutus.
“Not too long.” Vale left the shack. When he was outside he turned to Constantine. “You haven’t said much, at least not in-game. Why are you being so quiet?”
“We just met. I’ve been observing. This is sort of my first day on the job for my dream job.”
Vale hadn’t considered it like that before. He tried to imagine how he would have felt a year ago if he were joining a famous streaming team. “Okay, that makes sense. But as soon as the three I just sent off get back, we’re going to be hitting it hard. You all got some PVP related quests, right?” He included Brutus with the question.
“Yes,” said Constantine. Brutus nodded.
“Alright, well, Julia came to talk to me a few days ago. Our streams haven’t been down, exactly. Only the team stream has. Our individual streams have been showing old footage and highlights. But fans know we’re taking a break. Julia said we need to come out of the gate with something big if we want a spike in growth. Some of the other streamers have beat us to the punch with PVP stuff.”
Brutus glowered and began to speak, but Vale held out a hand. “It’s not our fault. We’ve been grounded. And just having the airship will help a lot. But the other teams that got airships are going to be starting streaming again at the same time that we do. We need to stand out. That means we can’t spend much time gearing up. We need to go directly to the big battles or at least do something interesting. We have to hit the ground running..”
Constantine nodded slowly. “That makes sense. We’re still playing a game, but this is a job.”
Don’t I know it, thought Vale. Now that Vermillion was paying for his family’s safety, he was taking the entire streaming thing much more seriously. “Exactly. And you know what I think would be really helpful for team cohesion, and to give fans something fun to see?”
Brutus eyed him suspiciously. “What?”
Vale needed to set up his suggestion right. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it, too. He hadn’t actually seen Brutus fight for a while, especially since he’d gotten levels from the big Hygon boss battle. And Constantine was an unknown. “Constantine, you said back IRL that you can fight.”
“Yes, I can.” The other man’s expression was firm this time.
“Good! And Brutus has a reputation.” He stretched out the last word, making it sound dirty. “I think,” said Vale slowly, “you guys should have a duel while we wait for the others to get back. A formal duel.”
“What? Right here?” Constantine looked around at their dilapidated surroundings. The place really was a dump. It looked like nobody had lived in this little town since a plague hit or something.
“Of course! This way you don’t need to worry about breaking anything or attracting attention. And Brutus, maybe you can have a big win here. After all, this is the place I stuck my sword through your eye socket.” He grinned at the bigger man. Brutus glowered back.
Finally, Brutus grunted, “Fine. Formal duel? Announcing our classes and skills?”
“That’s what I was thinking!”
Nicholas Constantine folded his arms. “I’d rather not announce my build to the world. Let’s make it just our classes and I’m game.”
Vale gave him a look and nodded in approval. Their new teammate already understood that everything he did in-game from now on would eventually have a huge audience. At least everything interesting. Smart, thought Vale. Out loud he said, “Alright! You crazy kids have lots of fun, okay?”
As he scampered back to some cover, Vale took some candy out of his inventory to munch on while he watched the show. In-game treats were awesome. He could eat as many of them as he wanted and never get fat.
In the street where he’d left them, Brutus and Constantine subtly changed how they stood. Vale could imagine that one of them had sent a duel invitation to the other. They both readied their weapons. Constantine removed the rifle from his shoulder. Brutus pulled a giant, runed sword out of thin air. Being able to store weapons was a quest reward from killing the Hygon boss.
A notification suddenly appeared in Vales’s vision.
Brutus Vann and Nicholas Constantine have begun a duel!
Vale smiled. This is going to be good.