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While Erika and Zack were busy discussing game details, a familiar elf approached them.

“I happened to finish your request.”

It was Alicia, the pretty elf woman who saved Erika from the vicious Darkflora.

“Um, great!”

Zack smiled heartily toward Alicia and a heart icon appeared by his head. Needless to say, he wasn’t very good at masking his affections.

Huhu, I just saw something nice.

Erika giggled meaningfully as she watched the lovebirds interact. Peering into another player’s emotions was truly a fearful tool, Erika hoped to never be targeted by it herself.. However, as a user, it was a very delicous ability for her curiosity.

“Hi again.”

Erika smiled toward Alicia and joined the conversation..

“Um, you know each other?”

Zack scratched his neck while switching back and forth between Erika to Alicia.

“Indeed. I happened to aid this Vessel in hunting a Flora monster.”

Alicia nodded in response, but that was all. She didn’t bother to provide any additional details.

“Um, wait... don’t tell me she helped you beat that Darkflora?”

Zack turned to Erika, realizing that some of the Darkflora Seeds could have been rightfully his. For FREE.

“She provided some support, but I was the one to take down the Darkflora.”

Erika made sure to steal as much credit as was possible. She would have been 100% dead without Alicia, but there was no way in hell she’d separate from the 2k pieces she just earned.

“Um, you got any loot from the Darkflora?”

Zack directed the hopeful question to Alicia.

“I didn’t happen to receive anything.”

“Um, then why you didn’t ask to split the reward?”

“I just happened to pass by and heal this Vessel. I didn’t fight the Flora.”

“Um, yeah.... you never actually fight, but...”

Zack twirled his blue hair with a grumpy face.

Alicia’s stoic face made it clear how indifferent she was to the whole topic of “rewards”. She just happened to pass by, she helped a struggling player and then she left. That was all that happened, and she had no reason to think about it any further.

“Haa... heh, you’re really way too selfless.”

Zack both smiled and sighed at the same time. Erika noticed another lovely emote, fully confirming her earlier suspicion.

“Huhu, I have the distinct impression that farming isn’t the only thing to keep you in GoVe~”

“U-um, what do you mean?”

“Secret~”

Erika tilted her head and giggled at how Zack shifted his eyes away. There was no obvious indication on his face, but Erika clearly saw the faint emote of embarrassment.

“So how are you two related? A quest?”

Erika looked at both Zack and Alicia. They were a pair of player and NPC, much like Erika and Vivi; there were usually circumstances involved.

“Um, it’s an escort quest. I... show her around the world, I guess.”

There was an awkward icon beside Zack, for some reason.

In essence, it was a series of escort quests. Alicia was interested in visiting many new places, and Zack fulfilled her wishes. Erika hoped that her escort quest for Vivi would also get such sequels.

Alicia gave the impression of a very capable supporter. She could deflect projectiles with wind, to cleanse ailments with water and to buff with songs. Though she was an NPC, it didn’t feel like she’d lose face against an advanced support player. For Zack, she was as good as a loyal party member.

To some players, NPCs felt more “approachable” or “trustworthy” than fellow players. Even outside VR gaming, the advanced AI of modern NPCs created a problematic trend: many preferred to form groups with NPCs, instead of contacting other players.

It put the “multiplayer” aspect of MMO at danger and many companies struggled to erase this phenomena. Erika couldn’t say for certain, but Zack’s situation felt like one of these cases.

While they discussed Zack’s and Alicia’s circumstances, the group was approached by a loud pixie.

“Like, are we done here yet? We gotta move on to Zelin... oh!”

Vivi exclaimed upon noticing Alicia. Her body turned stiff, like a soldier greeting his officer.

“H-hello there! I’m Vivi, hailing from Velver Forest.”

Vivi introduced herself like a nervous transfer student in front of her teacher.

“I happen to be from Lux Village. Nice to meet you.”

Alicia smiled politely. Unlike the confused Zack, Alicia was able to understand Vivi’s speech. Perhaps elves had powers similar to Erika’s [Communication].

“I escort this idiot- er, this lost Vessel to Zelin City. Like, she’d never get there herself, so I’m landing her a hand out of generosity.”

“I see. That happens to be a very noble cause indeed.”

Alicia nodded in approval and Vivi grinned brightly, like a kid praised by their parent,

My, the little liar is working so hard to impress Alicia~

Erika giggled at how the brash and arrogant pixie pushed herself to behave properly. It was unclear whether Vivi acted this way because Alicia was an elf, or there was something special about Alicia herself.

“Umm... so what’s going on, exactly?”

Zack scratched his neck in discomfort; he was a tourist in a very foreign land. Without [Communication], everything Vivi said sounded like “pipipipipi” or “piipiipipi”.

Erika briefly clued Zack to keep him in the loop. Just like her, Zack had no idea why a pixie brat would bother to act modest in front of an elf.

“I happened to visit many places.”

Alicia shared her experiences of the outside world with Vivi. They both harbored the same interest in visiting new places, as fellow races of forest dwellers. As the more experienced traveler, Alicia was looked up to by the little fairy.

However, their opinions clashed regarding traveling with an escorting player. Alicia stated that Zack was a great source of help, despite being lazy at times.

Vivi, on the other hand, had no words of praise for Erika. Though she did her best to stay polite and respectful throughout the conversation, Vivi secretly shot some “Will this idiot really be useful?” looks at Erika.

Once the two finished their friendly discussion, Zack announced their departure to Erika.

“Um, we’ll be warping to another city now.”

“You mean by using the Warp Stone?”

“Um, no. I have a [Warp] rune, so I can warp from anywhere. For free, too.”

“My, that sounds handy.”

Teleportation always had a huge role in the later stages of RPGs, once many different locations became accessible. Having the option to teleport from anywhere and for FREE sounded very appealing.

Zack further explained that at a high level, [Warp] allowed him to transfer NPCs and players along with him; generic Warp Stones didn’t offer such advanced functionality. In addition to desiring the rune even more, Erika noticed a great opportunity to exploit.

“Can you to deliver me directly to Trilz City?”

“Um, not if you haven’t reached it yet. You need to activate the Warp Stone by the city before I can transport you.”

“Tch, I see...”

If Zack could transport Mina all the way to Trilz, then she’d get a cure for her arm in no time. Alas, Mina first had to reach the city in order to activate its Warp Stone, thus defeating the whole advantage of [Warp] in this case; Erika’s scheme fell through.

“Um, why the interest in Trilz, though? Honestly, I haven’t visited it myself either.”

“My, isn’t it the third city in the newbie region?”

Erika blinked in surprise. Perhaps Zack wasn’t as advanced of a player as she was led to believe.

“Um, I heard it was treated as the third city in the beta, but they patched the whole area for the actual release. Now, it’s considered too hardcore and Vaska is the unofficial third city.”

“I see...”

Erika frowned at her invisible little friend. Mina not only foolishly challenged the Grim Reaper, but she also desperately tried to reach a city which was too advanced for her.

“My little spectator has a cursed arm, so we’re aiming to reach Trilz to cure her.”

“Um, sounds troublesome, I guess.”

“It sounds like a difficult area, so my current plan is to gather a big party and to break through. As such, I’d love your cooperation.”

“Um, me...?”

Zack reluctantly exchanged friend requests with Erika, making “ZackFairUltimax” the first entry on Erika’s fresh Friends List. He didn’t mind interacting with Erika, but helping her pass through the godforsaken Death’s Rift to reach Trilz City... that was a different story altogether. Honestly, it was a drag.

“We’ll gladly aid you in this dangerous quest. Right?”

“Um, I guess...”

Zack awkwardly averted his eyes from Alicia’s righteous gaze. It wasn’t that Alicia tried to intimidate him into accepting the plea for help. No... it was worse than that.

Alicia simply expected Zack to help, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He was too afraid to even imagine her reaction in case he refused.

Luckily, there was a fine deal of personal motivation for him as well. He had a beautiful elf woman accompanying him, and he was asked to escort two little girls. On top of that, there was a chance for a cute pixie to join the ride as well.

In other words: he could taste the divine feeling of being a protagonist in a harem story.

“Heh... okay I’ll help, I guess.”

Zack smiled gleefully, imagining himself surrounded by his personal harem. The request suddenly changed from a “drag” into a highly anticipated event. Erika could only tilt her head at the vague, sparkling emote beside Zack, unable to peek into its evil depths.

With the matter settled and agreed upon, Zack activated his [Wrap] rune. Dark purple sigils were drawn across Zack’s forehead, stretching all the way to his cheeks. He had [Warp] infused into his head, same as it was for Erika’s [Communication].

After charging for a few seconds, purple energy erupted from his body and swallowed him and Alicia. They both vanished into thin air, as if never stood there in the first place.

With this, Erika’s exploration of Murph Village came to an end.

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About the author

DarkClaymore

Bio: A programmer who writes Light Novel-esque fics and occasionally other things too, like Visual Novels and reviews.

Visit my hub to see all my works.

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