How are things going out there? I thought towards the fairy, knowing that my message would reach its intended recipient, even if I didn’t verbally say what I wanted. And, sure enough, the fairy responded moments later.
It’s weird, not being able to see all of this myself. I can still hear your thoughts, but they sound more distant, like they’ll disappear if I don’t focus on them. If I couldn’t watch through the screen, I don’t think I’d be able to tell what was going on for you, father. The fairy relayed Leowynn’s response, causing me to let out a brief nod.
Well, I’m sorry that you can’t come in. However, you’re able to play a very important role out there. While I’m in the game, you are my shield to protect me from any unforeseen attacks. I know it’s unlikely, but… I am counting on you for that.
There was a long pause as Hela and I continued to walk, though we were both leaning against each other now. She had a slashed side, and I was fairly certain that I had broken a couple of ribs when the hob smacked me with the club. You’re just saying that to make me feel better. But thanks… it did work a little bit.
I let out a soft chuckle, before wincing in pain. Being funny hurt too much right now. “There’s not a passive health recovery for players in this game?”
Hela gave a bitter smile in response to that. “Afraid not. Hyper-realism, right? At the very least, they don’t make you worry about eating or drinking to stay healthy.”
That was true. One of the advertised points of the game was that it would translate the feeling of hunger or thirst directly into the game character, so that you would only get hungry when it was time for you to eat in the real world. “So, how far is it to the next town, anyways?”
“About another hour, and we’ll be there. As long as the hobs don’t catch up to us.” Hela’s ear twitched slightly as she said that, and I couldn’t help but glance behind us. “No, I don’t hear them. But I’m pretty sure that we’ll be dead as soon as they find us.”
“Probably.” I agreed with a small nod, before an idea occurred to me. Vivi… just checking, but does the real world luck stat translate into luck with this game’s lottery?
Please allow me a moment to gather the information needed to answer that request, as your world is vastly different from the one I was born in. The voice relayed back to me, before pausing while we continued to walk. After a few minutes, she spoke up once again.
The Luck stat directly affects your mental acuity, and generates a mysterious sixth sense. According to my research, it allows your mind to process numerous variables that you notice on a purely subconscious level to aid in your decision making abilities. As there is no sensory data for you to receive during the lottery to formulate a subconscious prediction, I do not believe that it will be of any real assistance regardless of how high your luck is on the outside.
That made sense… in a way. I had been hoping that I could use my insane Keeper luck to rig the lottery and get exactly what I wanted to help us out of this situation. However, if that was not the case, I’d rather wait until we get to a town to use my tickets. The last thing I needed was to get something useful, only to have it taken away after we got killed.
“So, I don’t suppose you can at least tell me how we can train up the Appraise skill on our own?” I asked Hela after I remembered that I still had the hob’s spear in my inventory.
Hela winced, her brows knitting together. “It’s… easy, really. Appraisal is a skill that lets you analyze mana patterns. Reading the pattern is easy for anyone that can control their own mana, though making sense of it is where the skill comes in. With how much time has passed, I… should be able to use it myself, with a certain margin of error.”
Without saying anything else, I pulled the spear out of my inventory and passed it to her. She had the skill to control her mana, and the collective knowledge to pull on, so I might as well take advantage of it for now. If it were a normal situation, it’d be fine, but it’d be too much of a waste to just get taken out here when we might have a weapon capable of saving us.
“Okay, let’s see…” Hela held the spear in one hand, using it like a walking stick as she closed her eyes, still leaning against me. “I feel… disorder. This spear was never treated by a spellmason, so its magic is chaotic by nature. There’s a strong plant energy… poison? No, I’d be dead by now if it was.”
After a few more moments, she focused, flipping the spear to point the tip at the ground. Her steps stopped, causing me to stop with her. With a gentle thrust, she stabbed the spear into the ground, and then flicked her wrist. As the spear swept out of the ground, a thin thorn in the shape of a needle flew out of the ground in the same direction.
“Aha… it’s a weak thorn spell…” Hela smiled in satisfaction. “I don’t know if the thorn is poisoned or not, but it’s likely not a very strong spell either way. Certainly not enough to kill those hobs, unless we are able to rapidly fire them.”
“That’s… entirely unhelpful for us for right now.” I shook my head, letting her keep the spear. At the very least, she was focusing on being a healer, so she didn’t need to charge into the front lines if there was an alternative. This spear might have been a weak alternative, but it was better than nothing.
“Would you rather we turn around?” There was a knowing look on her face when she asked that. Turning around meant going back to the hobs, and essentially killing ourselves. This was not a pleasant option, even if I had already paid for an inn room when we respawn. “Let’s just hurry up to the next town and see if it’s worth turning around…”
Outside of the city gates of Xanjafar, nine people stood in a line. Their backs were to the city, their eyes looking out at the field which had once been ripe with players and monsters alike. At their center stood the blindfolded dwarf, his former axe no longer in his hand.
“So, what do you want to do, boss?” A demonic man asked, his horns curved inward and spiraling together. Over his right eye, he wore an eyepatch, an item that could be seen on all of the other gathered members. “Are we going to hit this event, or just let everyone get ahead like that?”
The dwarf let out a gruff laugh, shaking his head. “No, let them have their fun. Some of them will get away, aye. But most’ll come back. And there’s still the next batch to consider. No, we’ll stay here. Build our force up, and then find a land to claim.”
“And the one that stole your axe?” The demon glanced towards the dwarf’s empty hand.
“It was a worthless trinket that I got off a rat’s arse. Ye think I’d be so attached to it that I’d want vengeance? Good riddance, the thing was far too unwieldy. Now, if ye find me a hammer or some magic tools, then I’ll have a treasure. Till then, it’s no matter.”
The dwarf turned, his blindfolded head facing the city. “I want all of ye to scour the city. There’ll be players that stayed behind, and they’ll be needing our ‘support’. And find any quests that ye can. If we can build up a reputation with the NPCs, maybe we’ll get a special reward.”
“What are you going to do?” The demon asked again, figuring that his leader had plans of his own.
“I’m going to go find some necks to snap. I need a new weapon, and I’m sure that there’s a generous monster somewhere nearby willin’ to gift me one. I’ll be back by sunrise, one way or the other.” After saying that, he offered them a brief wave, once again turning around and beginning to walk out on the road.
Tsubaki sat atop a tall tree, one leg propped up to rest her head on while the other hung limply off the branch she was using as her perch. Her eyes were constantly scanning the group activities being conducted by the soldiers training below. Beneath the tree, another Tsubaki stood, this one being slightly muted in color, its entire body looking more bland.
She simply didn’t have the energy to devote too much to her extra avatars, and only needed them purely to convey her instructions. It was already a trying task on her mind to watch over the training exercises of so many teams, and she was already being split a dozen ways.
Thankfully, she wasn’t here alone, a small flicker of joy flashing through her eyes when she saw the lycan goddess appear next to one of the training teams. Currently, they were practicing team spars against one another, with healers standing by to ensure that nobody died.
“You have to be more mindful of your terrain!” Accalia told the heroc druid, who had just caused an accidental sinkhole to engulf his own team after sending a wave of earth at his opponents. “This is an important skill for you as a druid, so listen up! Whenever you’re not in battle, make sure to send your senses out into the world around you. If you find a spot of weak earth, it can be used to your advantage.”
After saying that, she pointed to the six people stuck in the large hole. “But if you just play it by ear, you could destabilize the ground around yourself, and do things like that. As a caster, you can turn a desperate situation around for your team. But the reverse is also true. You can just as easily kill everyone with one reckless move.”
The heroc glanced off to the side, not willing to meet the goddess’s gaze. Partly out of respect, but also a bit out of fear. She was a goddess, after all. “Err… sorry about that.”
Tsubaki closed her eyes, focusing her senses on another area of the training field. One of her other avatars was watching Bihena discussing strategy in a large tent with those team leaders who were currently too injured to resume training for the day.
“According to our information, the enemies you’re facing are nocturnal.” She announced, pacing back and forth in front of them, fully dressed in her godly armor. Her blue and golden spear was strapped to her back, showcasing her readiness to battle. “However, you shouldn’t discount the possibility that there will be powerful diurnal creatures as well.”
“We don’t know the enemy terrain, so you will have to play that by ear. What you should focus on right now is your sleep cycle. Before you all leave, I want everyone adapted to performing nightly activities. You will have members standing watch during the day to prevent an ambush while you sleep, but otherwise you will have to train yourselves to become nocturnal. Otherwise, you are offering yourselves as a free lunch to your enemies.”
Tsubaki couldn’t help but nod as she heard that. She had already passed along the same advice to several groups. There were simply too many to impress those words upon everyone without the aid of a goddess. As she was pulling her focus back from that avatar, she noticed another of the descended deities. To her surprise, this wasn’t Keliope, but someone else. And he wasn’t exactly here to train anyone.
“Aye! Listen up lads and ladies!” Tubrock’s voice shouted out at one of the campsites. “The lot of ye’ll be leaving soon, but I can’t just have ye go out there like this! Ye’re supposed to represent this world, aren’tcha? Well, what kind of representatives do ye call yerselves if ye run around in rags and carrying scrap metal?!”
Unlike the pious respect that the other deities had received, Tubrock’s comment was met with indignant grumbles. After all, he was directly insulting their equipment, which was by no means simple rags and scrap.
“Ah, quit ye’re barkin’. Save that for the beasts ye’ll be facing! My job here’s not to hold yer hands. I won’t give ye lot any battle tips. Ye want to cave in skulls? Well, ye’ll need the tools for the job.” Tubrock crouched down as he said that, his calloused palm slapping against the ground. Glowing red cracks began to open up around him, thick smoke rising from them.
“Forged from the blood and bones of the great dragon. Armor enough for a thousand men.” The cracks widened at his words, red and white armors floating up from them and into the air. “From the chitinous hides of disaster-level beasts, armor enough for ten thousand.” Next, black armors arose, far more numerous than the previous red and white.
“And finally… forged of spellsteel, tempered in me own flames. Armor enough for the lot of ye.” The armor did not rise from the cracks this time. Rather, it rained from the sky, black dots that covered the clouds and formed ranks behind the previous two rows of armor.
“The others can determine distribution.” Tubrock said with a grunt as he stood, patting off his hand. The cracks in the ground slowly closed up now that he was no longer feeding it energy. “In the meantime, I reckon ye lot’ll be needing weapons to go with your armor. Those toys ye’re carrying won’t do a lick of good against whatever beast ye’ll find on the other side.”
Tsubaki let out a small sigh from her main body when she saw the millions of armored suits that filled the sky. Crafted by the God of the Forge himself. For a moment, she believed that there may be hope of this army one day returning home. Of course, first she’d have to establish a hierarchy within the army.
The thousand Dragon Generals, ten thousand Disaster Commanders… her work was still cut out for her.