「 Building structure… 」
「 Spawning NPCs… 」
「 Starting the side quest in 3… 2… 1… 」
A high-pitched piercing sound abruptly awoke Rene from a deep slumber.
Atop the platform floored in limestone brick pavement stood his figure clad in a white, pristine robe, its hoodie fully obscuring his face from any onlookers. As he gradually sobered and looked around, frowning, he promptly took notice of the imposing building made out of timber and cut masonry from behind him. There were two columns carved of tufa, seemingly reaching to the skyfield, which were erected at the sides of the building. As he was laying on the ground, he spotted another individual in a white robe just like him, standing in front of the other column, barely moving a muscle.
“What? What is this…” His words died on his tongue the moment he noticed wisps of smoke rising in the air from under the other being’s robe. It stood rooted on the spot, lacking the ability to sense the affliction.
Rene shakily straightened up, only then being able to take in everything. Not only was the small platform underneath his feet connected to a multitude of others, but beneath the nexuses of floating isles was an indefinite expanse of clouds. He lifted his gaze heavenward and, to his horror, there was nothing, but stars glinting wanly across the entire dark sky.
Was this set somewhere up in the sky in his world? Where was he?
「 Dear user~ System no. 0301 is here to help you out! Please check your inner pockets. There should be a paper card. 」
Indeed, as the system affirmed, there was a paper card in one of his inner pockets. Rene brought it out and inspected it.
“Nine… drawings?” He was puzzled to say the least. On the paper card were nine illustrations of objects, some sketched out clearly, while others were not so discernible. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
「 Welcome to the first side quest, user ‘Rene’, entitled ‘The King’s Eternal Rest’! In order to successfully complete your mission, you will receive a card with 9 random items printed on it. Each time you find one of the required items, I will automatically mark it on the card and throw some confetti. 」
To demonstrate, holographic confetti materialized close to the message. Rene was not impressed.
“So, I’m playing bingo?” he asked, already regretting pressing on that damned postcard.
「 Bingo! Ha-ha-ha. 」
Rene did not laugh.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, another thing comes outta nowhere. Bingo? Is this a dungeon? A bingo dungeon?
Naturally, Rene had never been inside a dungeon before, partly due to lacking any items, but mostly because he was a rookie and a summoner. Anyone with a brain bigger than a bird’s wanted experienced summoners to join their party’s raids, but a low-leveled summoner? Rene got scoffed at and mocked countless times, enough to abandon the idea of ever becoming an adventurer.
「 If completed under half of the allotted time, you will receive the bonus award. If you will not be able to complete your objective, you will be punished accordingly. Taking in consideration your current rank, if you die once during your mission, you will respawn. If you die twice, points from your LUCK stat will be deducted considerably. If you die three times… you lose! 」
“And what happens if I lose?” Rene did not have a good feeling about this.
「 You’re dead. 」
His heart dropped in his stomach. “I never agreed to any of this!” He clutched his head; why him of all people? Was he a tyrant in one of his past lives? A murderer? Did he steal a toddler’s lollipop and made them bawl their eyes? What did he do to deserve any of this?
「 Do you wish to see the bonus award? 」
A nerve was struck. “No!” Rene wished to throttle the individual behind all of this.
「 Your wish is my command! 」
He immediately realized he should have said ‘cancel’.
Description: And as a nymph cried out in the empty forest, she became aware of her impending doom. Thus, her hand touched the bark of a wood and molded it into her own weapon.
Ability: User can summon an exact wooden copy of an enemy’s weapon and wield it. Its power is equivalent to 30% of the original weapon’s STRENGTH.
Truth be told, Rene was alarmed and scared stiff until he scrutinized the weapon’s description in the holographic message. He had never seen such an item before! While growing up, he used to devour book after book detailing a summoner’s great potentials and knew every weapon available for purchase at the local weaponsmith or able to drop as loot from monsters by heart.
However, this… This was something new. It was incredibly powerful, but a wooden weapon meant it was anything but durable. Still, possessing something so formidable as a rookie was, undoubtedly, very tempting.
“What’s the main reward, then?” quizzed Rene.
「 It’s a secret~ 」
Rene prayed it would not be some incredibly weak weapon, like the one he saw being sold around the market once, which was capable of summoning rocks to throw at others. If its power was on par with the bonus reward or even greater… He would crawl through shattered glass, guzzle expired milk or fight a bear to be its possessor.
「 New objective: complete the bingo in under 3 hours. 」
And he had to find everything in one hour and a half to receive the bonus reward? That was impossible! Rene peered at the drawings again, endeavoring to stop his hands from shaking. “I can’t see what the pictures in the last row are supposed to represent.”
「 It seems the host has a vision problem. 」
Rene’s lips tightened, but he kept quiet.
「 From left to right, starting from the first row, you have to collect the following items: a pink rose, a leaf, a butter knife, a silver fork, a red ribbon, a leather shoe, the frame of a painting, a mug, a golden ring. 」
“That’s way too much,” he sighed and glanced at the timer at the top of the message. Three hours. Whether he managed to obtain the bonus reward or not, what mattered the most was to get out of this place alive and well.
Gripping onto the card until his knuckles turned white, he walked down one of the long paths leading to the biggest isles among all of them. He was nervous, sure, but more than that, he was overjoyed to have the chance to win something so grand. This was his first and his biggest yet adventure! How much Rene used to imagine participating in raids and dominating the battles while flaunting his powerful gear… Was it about to become a reality?
Along with him, many other beings clad in white robes stepped towards the towering church in the centermost of the isle’s plaza.
The church―or temple?―had a broad triangular pediment and columns. On its ornamental porch with caryatids stood countless white robed people, smoke rising from beneath their clothing. They had to be the NPCs.
The church’s bell chimed. As if under a trance, the crowd slowly entered the building, leaving him behind. Rene gave them a brief look, before rushing to a tree nearby and ripping a leaf from a branch. He eyed it thoughtfully and was wondering what to do to notify the system he found an item, when it disappeared from between his fingers out of the blue.
「 Item found: ‘leaf’. Hooray! 」
Holographic confetti burst right in front of his face, causing Rene to flinch back. “Well, that was easy.”
Looking around some more, he noticed straight away he was wearing leather shoes. His foot slipped out of one of the shoes and he picked it up, waiting skeptically for it to disappear as well.
「 Item found: ‘leather shoe’. Hooray! 」
“Isn’t this way too easy? Not that I’m complaining,” assured Rene the system quickly. “I thought it’d be much more challenging than this.”
「 This is the tutorial level. Because your current rank is newbie, the quest’s difficulty level has been lowered. 」
How humiliating. This tutorial was supposed to show him the ropes, yet because of how weak he was, it was modified into a level even halfwits would not have trouble completing.
Rene was ashamed for a little while, but he immediately called to mind the bonus reward. If it was as easy as the system implied, then it would be a piece of cake to earn the weapon!
Thus, began the hunt for the rest of the items.
The pink rose was planted right next to the tree, the butter knife, along with the silver fork, seemed to be mislaid on the ground some distance away, the mug was held by an unmoving NPC, the ribbon was tied to a painting’s wooden frame left before the church’s entrance; he bustled about energetically, searching for the last item.
Except, he could not find it.
“Where’s the ring?” he murmured to himself, having surveyed the entire area already and, luckily, there was still an hour left for him to complete the game and obtain the bonus reward.
「 Quest navigation activated. 」
The system perceived his frustrations at once and allowed a red arrow to become visible, pointing to the church where the ring should be.
I’m a halfwit, definitely, he groaned inwardly, but happily followed the arrow. The system was incredibly generous, so much so that he was almost brought to tears. Whatever. Bonus reward, here I come!