Meanwhile, in the real world, it has been a month since the release of New World. The game was an instant hit, with tens of thousands of users on the first day. Now there were at least 10 million users world-wide, and the popularity of the game just kept rising.
With all of the attention the game received, it was only natural that some media companies started making shows centered on New World. They started giving exclusive broadcasting rights contracts to high-leveled or popular players. Of these, the player named Grandis was the most preeminent, and the videos of the dungeon raids he did with his guild, Armageddon, have incredible ratings.
Armageddon, by the way, with close to 100 000 members, was by far the largest and strongest guild in the game.
To celebrate the one month anniversary of New World’s release, Future V. initiated an event called “Race to 100” an event that would last a week in real time. It was a race to see which player could reach level 100 the fastest.
Players that signed up for the event had the video from their VR pod automatically loaded onto Future V’s website, and if one of those players was the one to reach level 100 the fastest, he would receive a cash prize.
At that time, the average level was around fifty, with high level players that had an average level of 80 or so.
Six days into the event, the player known as Grandis won the race, becoming the first player to reach level 100.
So yeah, after receiving the Gambler’s class, I had several random adventures, which I survived mostly by luck.
I started roaming around the land aimlessly, without a specific goal in mind.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon a merchant caravan travelling through the woods and after a quick Coin Toss, I decided to follow them.
But tonight, my luck ran out, and we are surrounded by ferocious monsters. The few guards we have, mostly players like me, are hopelessly outnumbered. If that wasn’t bad enough, the initial ambush killed several of them already.
I can’t just let them fight on their own. I have to join in. I activate my trusted skill, Coin Toss, hopping for a good item, or a powerful buff to help us turn the tide. My skill has reached Intermediate lvl 5, which means the effect, good or bad, has the potential to be game-changing.
I seriously hope it’s not bad.
The gigantic coin shoots up into the sky, twirling around. It falls back down and starts spinning around before falling heads up.
The coin starts shining with a yellow light. It seems to expand, growing bigger. With a last blinding flash of light, it disappears. In its place I see a teenager in bloody clothing.
What the hell?
Kiro looked around, trying to figure out where he had teleported to. The first thing he saw was a guy with rabbit ears, looking as confused as he felt.
The rabbit man spoke: “Hello there, hum, mister. If it isn’t too much to ask, would you mind giving us a hand?”
That’s when he noticed their surroundings. In front of him were several wagons filled with merchandise, probably a merchant train. There are several people on those wagons, looking worriedly towards where the guards of the caravan were engaging at least three times their numbers in monsters. With his Sensing Presence skill, Kiro could feel 10 guards and 60 monsters in the area.
He pulled out a sword and a dagger. He attuned one of them to earth, for added damage, and the other to wind, for armor penetration.
Activating Charging Rush, he ran towards the fight. Every step he took adding to his acceleration. Closing in on one of the monsters, a green troll-like creature with a huge wooden club, he jumped, activating Assassin’s Rush. His sword and dagger both sliced into the creature’s neck, making fountains of blood erupt.
It fell to the ground, but Kiro was already moving to his next target. A monster identical to the first one, but blue and taller. He landed next to it, and rotated of his foot, using the spin of his body to transfer his momentum into the swing of his sword. It carved a deep wound in the troll’s chest. Putting his other foot on the ground, he leaped away towards a group of three. He crashed straight into the middle one dagger first, burying it deep in the monster’s chest. He used his sword to deliver a series of quick, vicious strikes to the thigh, waist and forearm of the two trolls on each side of him.
As blood was gushing out of their wounds, he ran off, towards another group.
In this game, my name is Knight Joy. To be perfectly honest, I joined this game to meet with a certain person, but as soon as I started I was overwhelmed by the realism and wonder of this world.
I decided to play seriously, since I didn’t know where that guy was anyways.
I knew I would eventually hear of him, then I could meet him.
So, meanwhile, I chose the guardsman class, a warrior class that is good for tanking.
I did several quests, mostly guarding wealthy merchants or minor noblemen. I am currently on one of those quests right now, escorting a merchant train from a city called Dresdan to the city of Ferando.
The first leg of our journey was peaceful, the only unusual thing that happened was our meeting with a weird rabbit man named Krytirc who decided to join us.
But our good fortune did not last, as tonight we have been ambushed by a horde of trolls.
There had been fifteen guards including me, but we lost five of them, including our two mages, in the initial attack. The rest of us, all warriors, are engaging the enemy a few meters away from the wagons and things are looking grim. Most of us are tanks, we have no healers and we lack the necessary firepower to take out the trolls before they reduce our health to 0. We are holding on for now but this situation will not last.
We are surrounded on all sides by trolls, and only our tight defensive formation prevents us from being overwhelmed by their numbers.
Suddenly, a human figure crashes into the troll attacking me with his club.
A slight body, with a face I see every day.
With a swing of his sword, Yukiro, or Kiro, as he is known in this world, beheads the troll.
His movements are inhumanly swift. Without giving me the time to even blink, he rushes off towards another monster.
The speed of his movements, coupled with the glow coming from his body, gave the impression he was a human
thunderbolt smiting his enemies. It was an awe inspiring sight.
The trolls quickly realized that he was the greatest threat. While about a dozen or so of them stayed behind to keep us out of the fight, the rest of them surrounded Kiro intending to end his life.
There was no way we could let this chance slip by. My fellow guards and I started hacking and slashing at the trolls around us with wild abandon, determined to rush to the rescue of the one who gallantly attempted to rescue us from our own predicament.
After several minutes of frenzied combat, we broke through the encirclement of trolls to be confronted by a startling sight.
Surrounded by the corpses of at least three dozen trolls, Kiro was confronting the three remaining enemies left standing. With a graceful sidestep he evaded the clumsy swing of one of them, before impaling it with his sword. Twisting to the side, he kicked the second one in the leg, which made its swing miss. He then stabbed the third troll, hiding behind the first one, in the leg with his dagger. Distracted by the pain, it never saw the sword strike that beheaded it. The last remaining troll was dispatched as efficiently as the first one, with a few quick blows.
He remained there, covered in the blood of himself and his enemies, surrounded by corpses. He had a tired but content smile on his face.
His face tilted upwards and he stared at something in front of him. I understood he was looking at a System Message. That broke me out of my trance-like immobility and I walk up to him.
It truly is an incredible stroke of luck that I can meet him like this. But I shouldn’t mention our real world connection, as it could be a sore subject for him. So I’ll just introduce myself.
“Hey there! Thank you for rescuing us. My name is Knight Joy, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” I say, holding out my hand.
Kiro was busy closing all the level up windows (he had leveled up 9 times), when one of the guards stepped up to him. He was a big, bulky guy, in heavy iron armor, with a heavy iron shield and a short sword which he put away.
“Hey there! Thank you for rescuing us. My name is Knight Joy, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He said, holding out his hand.
“I’m Kiro, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He replied, taking the extended hand.
Knight Joy had a gentle smile on his face. “Would you consider staying with us for a few hours? The least we can do is treat you to a meal.”
At that moment, a woman made her way from the caravan to where they were standing. She was tall, with a beautiful face, sparkling blue eyes, glistening brown hair that reached her well-endowed chest and a slim figure. She seemed to be a few years older than Kiro, in her early twenties. Also, her face was red and she was breathing heavily, as she had just been running.
She grabbed Kiro’s hand and pressed it to her chest.
“I am Inestria, head merchant of this caravan. I was deeply moved by your noble actions that saved us all from these brutish monsters, my lord Kiro.”
She gave him a dazzling smile that made his entire face heat up.
“It was just a lucky coincidence that I was there, Miss Inestria. Anybody else would have done if they were in my position.” Kiro protested, disarmed by her actions.
She squeezed his hand even more. “Please call me Inestria. And I do not believe anyone else could have done what you did. If I maybe so bold, would you mind accompanying me on my wagon for a while?”
Without waiting for his answer, she pulled him away.
It took a few minutes before order was restored to the caravan. Then, accompanied by the remaining guards, it made its way forward for a few hours.
During the entirety of the trip, Inestria kept up a constant stream of meaningless chatter, with Kiro acting as her sounding board, giving non-committal replies to the few questions she addressed at him.
As the caravan halted for the night, the wagons formed a circle in the middle of a clearing. The merchants gathered around a fire in the center of the circle. The guards spread out, some making their own fire and others standing guard. Kiro was about to hope out of the wagon when Inestria grabbed his arm, her face once more red under the light of the stars. She fidgeted a little.
“I wonder, my lord Kiro, if you would be so kind to accompany me in my tent for a few hours.”
His mind went completely blank, and he couldn’t stop himself for making an extremely stupid remark for which he immediately hated himself: “B… but my clothes are dirty, it would make your tent dirty too…”
Her answering smile was bewitching. “It’s alright,” she whispered in his ear, “we won’t be requiring clothes for what we’ll be doing.”
|You have been invited in Merchant’s Inestria’s tent. You are about to enter a PG18 zone.|
|System C*ck Block!|
The system has determined that you are still underage. You cannot enter a PG18 zone. Sorry about that. With any luck she might remember you when you grow old enough.
Nahhh, probably not.
Inestria made a little giggling sound, before speaking: “Oh my, oh my, what am I doing, seducing a child? How bad of me. Please forgive my rude behavior, my lord Kiro, and have a nice evening!”
With that she left the wagon, heading towards the group of merchants.
With mixed feelings, he also got down. Looking at his clothing, soaked in blood, he mumbled: “So, blood and gore is fine, but sex is a no-no? What kind of asinine game is this?”
Still muttering to himself, he made his way to the guard’s campfire.
Sometime later, Kiro was sitting beside a fire, along with Knight Joy and the rabbit man who introduced himself as Krytirc. Krytirc was just explaining how Kiro had been summoned by the Coin Toss skill he had used.
“Sounds like a convenient ability.” Kiro said.
“Oh, the consequences can also be quite severe, but it has helped me quite a bit on some occasions.”
Krytirc then proceeded to tell a humorous story about a time when he had been chased by a horde of powerful monsters, which were then turned into an assortment of vegetal monsters by his a lucky Coin Toss, allowing him to defeat them instantly due to the extreme debuffs vegetable monsters suffered when facing a rabbit-related race.
He then followed with an equally hilarious story about him facing off against water elementals, before insta-killing them with the help of a very porous mushroom hammer, once again provided by a lucky coin toss.
After that Knight Joy shared a few adventures he had had, most of them while escorting caravans just like this one. From him, Kiro learned that he was separated from the Advanced Training center by a mountain range which split the continent in half.
Then it was Kiro’s turn. Knight Joy and Krytirc were good listeners, so it was easy for him to tell them all about the months he had spent in the wilderness to train himself, and about his goal to clear all five of the training centers.
“So that’s how you got to be that strong.” Knight Joy said. “It’s an incredible tale for sure. I had no idea so many of these training centers existed. But tell me something, Kiro. Was it fun? Was all that training fun?”
It took a while before Kiro was able to formulate a response to that. He had not thought of it before.
“Most of it was. Of course, the training can get repetitive and boring, but the stats I get from doing it are well-worth it!”
“I don’t think so.” Knight Joy replied with a serious expression. “This is a game. You play a game because it’s fun, not because you get something out of it. In the same manner, I think you should train yourself by doing things you consider fun. By living out fantasies that you cannot reproduce in the real world. Instead of doing repetitive and boring trainings for the stats, I think you will get a lot more out of fun trainings that you enjoy doing.”
When Kiro went to bed that night, he reflected back on those words. He realized that the man was right. Kiro should be focusing more on having fun than on rushing to become stronger and complete the training centers, as that was not how he’d become truly strong.
The next morning, Kiro left the caravan after adding Knight Joy and Krytirc to his friend list.
It took Kiro a year and a half to reach the Advanced Training Center. That was not because it was imaginably far away, even though it was a fair distance from his position, but because Kiro kept making detours and stops whenever something caught his fancy.
For example, he spent an afternoon in a forest, tying dozens of ropes to tree trunks until he made a sort of gigantic net. He then spent hours running and jumping from one rope to the next. It became particularly intense when a group of monsters started to chase him around.
One day he stumbled upon a species of tree with very flexible trunks. He promptly tied ropes to its trunk and spent a week doing his sword thrusts with his arms tied to it, in a way that he had to make the entire tree bend his way to complete a thrust.
Once he arrived at the mountains, he stayed there for two months, so that he could try out every fantasy training he could conceive about mountains (there were a lot, he had many martial arts movies to inspire himself from). Mre specifically, he came up with several ways to climb up the mountains as part of his training, from running up the slope with a huge rock tied to his back to climbing up by hopping from a crouched position (picture someone doing bunny hops up a mountain). Due to the extreme weather conditions of the mountains as well as the rough terrain, his parkour and his survivor proficiencies quickly raised to the higher intermediate levels.
At one point he stumbled upon a set of chains in an abandoned mansion. He then spent several weeks with his arms and legs chained together to teach himself to keep his movements small.
The longest amount of time he spent at one place is the six months he spent at his very own gravity chamber. It was a huge lake whose best feature was the gradual slope it had that continued to the center of the lake. In other words, it had no sudden drop. Every day, Kiro would challenge himself to go even deeper into the lake, and would practice his swordsmanship there. He practiced there just as he had in the pool during the beta test, the only difference being that the depth he was at would increase daily. So the pressure on his body did as well.
By training while withstanding that pressure, Kiro felt himself growing stronger daily. Of course he had to come up for air every few minutes, a time consuming process, but it was still worth it.
Indeed, after six months, Kiro was able to train in the very center of the lake, some 500 meters in depth.
(*Note: Yes, I know, it isn’t as simple as that. Going that deep underwater in real life would cause the tympanic membranes to rupture, the lungs to collapse, and the body would go into hypothermia due to losing to much heat, but in my game world, Kiro doesn’t have to deal with those problems.
Let’s just say his Battle Regeneration has a high enough level to instantly heal his damaged tympanic membranes, that his Protective Aura is enough to protect his lungs from collapse while his muscles still feel the strain of the water pressure and that his resistance to cold due to his Survivor proficiency and title is enough to save him from hypothermia.
Besides, he spent six months acclimating himself to that environment, it would be normal for him to build up some resistance.)
In those six months, not only did his strength stat shoot up, his proficiencies also rose, including his Holding Your Breath proficiency who rose to advanced lvl 9, which allowed him to stay almost 15 minutes underwater.
Outside of the lake proper, he also spent some time running on the sandy beach, first barefoot then with some makeshift heels, because he wanted to increase his balance, dexterity and agility as well as level up his Moving on Difficult Terrain proficiency.
During that one and a half year, he also kept up his training were he would let himself be surrounded by multitudes of monsters, because that one was actually fun and because it allowed him to train all his battle related skills which now included his Protective Aura and Charged Rush, as well as other forms trainings he had been doing, such as meditation, which he found relaxing, swinging his sword in the same routine he had been doing since the beginning, as that had been a habit he had picked up at the dojo, and solving problems. At some point, doing math and physics exercises had stopped feeling like a chore. He found himself enjoying the challenge they presented instead. By that time he had already gone beyond the High School level and had started with University level math and science something that would have shocked anyone who knew him in real life.
Another thing he kept doing was running. But he no longer ran just on the ground. Instead, he would run along tree tops, using branches as footholds, and jump from tree to tree, a feat of balance and agility that would have made anyone who had witnessed him in action gape in astonishment as he looked more ape than human.
Lastly, he also trained his Elemental Swordsman Class, by keeping up his Elemental Attunements. That had several effects: he was now capable of attuning his swords to new elements, which were lightning, light and dark and he also learned new class related skills: Mana Shield, which protected him from a spells. Mana Strike, a skill in which he depleted all of his mana as he poured it into his sword while stabbing his enemy. It was what was known as a finisher move. By using it in combination with Assassin’s Rush he was able to create a new skill chain: Deadly Assassin’s Rush, whose effects are pretty much self-explanatory. He also learned a skill called Mana Wave, which released an arc of mana from his sword as he swung it. It made him think of the Getsuga Tenshou.
(*Note: Gif taken from: http://media.giphy.com/media/G21ZPlfDgtJwk/giphy.gif)
By combining it with Elemental Attunement, he created Elemental Wave, which was basically the same thing, but it was now an arc of fire, or lighting, or whatever element his weapon was attuned to at the time.
(*Note: before you ask, indeed, this skill was inspired from the one Arata has in Eye of Adventure by ziki. It was just too perfect not to use. Please forgive me from copying it)
He also practiced those new skills, maintaining his Mana Shield in the same way he maintained his Elemental Attunement: whenever he could.
The only interlude that broke his long training journey was an encounter he had with a peculiar merchant, during a particular evening about eight months after he had left the merchant caravan.
It had been a bad day, as a few hours earlier his last weapon, other than his wooden ones had broken, which made him feel naked.
As he was preparing himself for bed that evening, he kept thinking of different ways he could procure himself new weapons. The problem was, he had little money, as he mostly killed creatures that dropped meat or hides rather than gold.
At that moment, his Sensing Presence Skill informed him of the presence of someone only a few meters away from him, which startled him as he should have noticed him much earlier.
The man walked towards Kiro, the light of the fire reveling a thin silhouette, dressed in baggy but clean clothing, and face withered by age. He spoke in a cracking voice: “Well meet, young man. If I am not mistaken, you are in quite the predicament.”
“Who are you?” Asked Kiro, thinking that the old man was very suspicious.
“Why, I am but a merchant, young man. A merchant of experience.”
“What is a merchant of experience?”
“A good question, my good fellow, and one easily answered. You see, I am what some would consider a rare breed of merchant. There are hundreds of different types of merchants, from merchants that deal in spices, to merchants that deal in cloth, some which make war their business while others concentrate on rare gems. What separates me from the common merchant is that I do not make coin my currency. No sir! What I deal with is the hard gained experience of adventurers like yourself, for which I trade valuable items which they sorely need.”
Kiro had never heard of such merchants. The idea of trading away his levels barely fazed him, as he never even bothered to distribute the stat points he had earned from leveling up. In fact, this was a golden opportunity to purchase the weapons he was lacking.
And the fact that it was an incredibly good opportunity made him suspicious all over again.
“You didn’t appear before me by chance, did you?”
“Indeed I did not, most keen sir. Due to the rather great importance you strangers tend to give to my particular currency, it is rather difficult to convince one of your ilk to make a satisfactory trade. That is why those like myself tend to select our clientele rather carefully. I for one, only appear to those in need of a weapon, stuck in a dangerous area and with no gold or immediate means of making a purchase of one, as I sell primarily weapons”
“Then show me your wares.”
“At once, dear client.”
Kiro was shown hundreds of weapons: axes, pikes, claymores, longswords, staffs, sledgehammers, bows and crossbows, but he was only interested in the swords and daggers. He selected two daggers and a sword which the merchant told him were the items with the highest durability.
His gaze was then attracted that clearly differed from the rest. Amongst the paraphilia of weapons, he noticed a slim black book. Pointing at it, he asked what it was.
The merchant’s eyes lit up: “Ah! That is a rare item indeed! This little book is called a copy book. Just press it against a book, say “copy” and the book will store all the information in the other book, letter perfect. It can store up to ten books this way, and if you want to copy another book after that, you’ll have to say “erase” followed by the name of one of the books you copied. Handy, no? It’s only limitation is that it cannot copy skill books.”
“I’ll take it as well.”
The book cost 40 levels, the sword 10 and the daggers 5 each. In total, Kiro lost 60 levels. As he had been level 63 before, he was now back at level 3. As he had never bothered to distribute any stat points, it made no real difference to him.
He was happy with his purchase. He used the book to copy different textbooks in the libraries he crossed along his way, as librarians no longer just gave them to him for free.
Before he noticed, a year and a half had slipped by, and he found himself in front of the Advanced Training Center.
“It’s time for a new challenge!” He joyfully proclaimed, walking towards it.