《Some n.o.ble sisters》
The member’s wounds were easily cured with potions and healing magic, but they didn’t dare to go to the dungeon again. It was not about the physical wounds. The sense of shame coming from being beaten by the orcs, and the fear of the lump orcs had dropped their morale to the ground. Judging by the situation, Haroon knew that forcing them to fight with the lump orcs might cause an irrecoverable disaster, so he decided to give some rest to his members. If it was him, he would charge in again to take revenge. He presumed it was because they were NPCs so they couldn’t help but fear death as they only had one life.
"It is my humble opinion we’d better move away from this place. It will help them to recover their fighting spirit."
Teeno was on point. So Haroon decided to move away from the dungeon, to the rocky mountain on the south. They moved about a day by walking, and it was a great place to stay temporarily as there were a lot of caves that could be used as camps. Of course, they were full of monsters too, which tragically became a good source for the members to relieve their anger.
After spending a night at the new basecamp, Haroon gathered his members.
'I’d hoped I could share the items that I got from the dungeon of the lump orcs, but they didn’t even meet the minimum equipment requirement yet……. I’d rather boost their morale first,' Haroon thought, letting out a long sigh.
Haroon gazed at each one of his members sitting down feebly, and opened his mouth.
"I know every one of you have felt something while dealing with the lump orcs. I also know that you’ve been shocked and discouraged."
Everyone had a serious expression on their faces.
"But I don’t think anyone of you are weaker than a lump orc. We were just lacking experience. Philip, Ritrina, and Teeno, you are more agile than the lump orcs. Gitan, you were actually stronger than them. And no matter how intelligent they were, we are still smarter than them."
That helped them to feel better. Except Serinn.
"I think it’s best to utilize your advantages in the fight. In any type of combat, actually. Even if the enemies have some strength over your weakness, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be losing that fight. Utilizing your strength and the enemy’s weakness. That’s what I think is the key to winning a fight."
"You have a point."
Teeno, who has lots of experience, spoke up to support Haroon’s inspiration.
"Moreover, we lack experience in combat with stronger monsters. So maybe it was natural that we got easily messed up by the lump orcs. Therefore, we don’t need to be discouraged like this. If we learn to utilize our strength with this experience, we can win next time.
Their faces seemed brighter. Of course, except Serinn.
"Now we know what kind of monsters there are in the Huk’ran Mountains and our own strengths and weaknesses, so what we need to do to cover the weaknesses and improve the strengths. I think we should stay for 5 days near this place. Since we are equipped with new skills, that should be enough time for us to train our skills and our ability."
"Got it, Boss. I feel better after hearing your words. I appreciate it. Yeah, I didn’t need to be so dispirited for getting defeated by some orcs.
Philip seemed enlightened. Gitan and Ritrina, too, made a serious face as if they made a resolution.
"And Teeno, considering your age, I don’t think it is wise to train your body. You too, Serinn, since you were born with weak muscles and thinner bones. So why don’t you guys start training on using blowpipes with poison darts?"
They were surprised on hearing Haroon’s words, as they were thinking his inspiration was not about them.
"Yeah. I happened to clear a goblin dungeon a while ago, and I got some blowpipes and darts, as well as hobgoblin’s poison. You have to be careful with it as it’s strong, but it’ll be a great weapon if you learn how to use it."
His members were surprised once again to hear his words.
"You’ve cleared a goblin dungeon? When? And I heard it’s very hard to kill a hobgoblin. Moreover, I heard that the poison cannot be collected once it’s dead."
"When you were in the Hall of Warriors, Teeno. I simply collected the poison and darts that the goblins were using. Well, Start practicing using the blowpipes without actually using the poison, and use the poison when you actually get used to it."
"All right. Serinn, let’s go."
"Hoho! I’m finally getting a weapon!"
As they knew their weaknesses in combat, they were excited that they’d found a weapon they might be able to use.
"That settled, we should go train using the monsters as the targets. Rather than practicing the strategy we’ve been using as a party, fight alone and let’s get those skill level ups!"
"Yeah, let’s rock! I can’t always stay behind the stupid orcs!"
Philip stood up, clenching his fists.
"Me too! Who am I if I lose by strength?"
"Hohoho, I’ll train so hard that I can spray my skill while moving swiftly!"
Gitan and Ritrina were fully recovered as well.
Full of spirit, Haroon and the three went down to the bush forest. Left behind, Hall quietly watched them disappearing into the forest.
'The more I see him, the better he seems. Though he is just a mercenary, he actually cares about his members. He is simply different from those wild, impolite mercenaries.'
Hall quietly stood up and moved to the place she had in mind.
She thought, she can’t just sit there and do nothing. She was planning to master 4-circle magic on this opportunity. Though she was desperate to know what happened to the secret training camp, she clearly knew that preparation was needed as well.
The Gusts of Wind’s sudden pa.s.sion for training turned out to be really bad news to the monsters that lived between the rocky mountain and the river Seine. It was all because of Haroon and his member’s changes in the way they train.
They had been training to fight small numbers of monsters as a group, but starting from that day, they started training on one-on-one fights. Since there were tons of monsters everywhere, there was no need to worry about running out of training targets. Haroon was busy though, as he had to lure the monsters out of hordes to make the training possible.
A goblin warrior got launched away by getting hit from Gitan’s ridiculously gigantic shield. By having dozens of fights everyday, Gitan’s Shield Attack and Shield Crossing was getting more accurate and impactful as time went on. Gitan himself was changing as well. From a coward, to a courageous warrior by gaining experience.
In another fighting scene, there was an orc swinging its club, only to barely touch Philip’s armor. Even before it could retrace its trajectory, Philip’s sword was already piercing its neck like an arrow. He spun his wrist and pulled his sword as fast as he stabbed, and the orc collapsed on the ground, with blood spurting out from the newly made hole.
'I knew I could do this!'
At Haroon’s advice, Philip started to trust his quick feet and agile movements. That gave him confidence to dodge the enemy’s attacks, which allowed him to have enough room to track the enemy’s attack to its end with his eyes, and calculate its trajectory to plan his next move. With enough training, Philip learned to track every movement of the enemy in great detail. Naturally, his skills were getting better and better. It was because his favorite form of attack – stabbing – required him to move in the most optimized way.
Hot blood covered his face, but Philip didn’t avoid it anymore. Instead, his piercing eyes were looking for another target. He loved to be clean and used to hate being covered in blood, and that was why he trained his sword skill mostly on stabbing as it allowed him to make rather clean kills. But in the dungeon, he learned that being clean or dirty does not matter at all when his life is on the line.
Meanwhile, Ritrina got surrounded by three orcs with ridiculously big clubs. She laughed very oddly, then her eyes rolled back.
Her mocking smile and laugh raged and taunted the orcs. They swung their weapons angrily at her, and she dashed into them.
She got immersed in the combat. In other words, she went crazy.
The Swift technique she learned in the Hall of Warriors was all about finding openings and attacking them non-stop with agile movements. Three clubs were mercilessly swung at her head, shoulder and sides but they couldn’t connect because of her light, agile movements. Like a fish swimming against the flow of the river, she dodged them with her flexible movements, sometimes making drastic twists.
Her attacks were light and short, but the sheer number of them made the orc’s bodies like a fountain, as if a rainshower wetted the ground. Moreover, her crazy expressions and misplaced laughters irritated the orcs to make hasty and incomplete attacks.
When she was done fighting, she had to hear unwelcoming words from Serinn.
"You crazy b.i.t.c.h! What’s the point of hunting the monsters if you’re gonna mangle the skins?"
But Ritrina never intend to lose on words, she thought she’d found the perfect skill as if she found the perfect clothes for her body.
"Haa, I have killed them. That’s the point. Why are you asking me about that bulls.h.i.t when even the boss is not mentioning it?"
"Because, what you kill, doesn’t make any money! At least you know you’re the poorest among all of us, right?"
"Look who’s talking bulls.h.i.t. Is that why you were chosen to skin the corpses?"
"What? Say that again and I’ll tear a piece out of you!"
There were always battles of words from these two girls when combat ended. But they never actually fought. Teeno explained that’s one of the ways women build relationships, only to buy doubts from male members.
In the beginning of the training, Ritrina couldn’t get herself back to normal from the berserker mode, then she learned to do so after killing way over a hundred monsters.
As Haroon could see his members regaining their confidence, a conflict arose in his mind. His greed was telling him to go back to the dungeon where level up chances and items are waiting for him, but he also knew he couldn’t delay the escorting of Hall anymore.
Haroon couldn’t decide by himself, so he talked about it with Teeno.
"If you have something on your mind that’s bothering you, it is better to deal with it first."
"I suppose you’re right."
The mercenaries should always prioritize the request they received. He knew the answer already, and he knew that it was his greed that made him hesitate.
'Since everyone seems to have familiarized themselves with their skills and regained their confidence, it’d be better to continue the quest. We’ll come back to the dungeon after escorting Hall to the Training Camp.'
Haroon finally decided to finish the quest he has been delaying.
Meanwhile, the Quad w.a.n.kers were looking forward to fighting with the Lump Orcs again, as they had no idea about Haroon’s plan.
"For this time, I’ll let them know what real pain is!"
Philip’s determination was at its peak. Seeing how his clenched fists were going pale, It seemed he was upset about not being able to defeat a raid leader.
"I’ll let them know who’s the real tough guy."
Gitan, who was now jokingly saying his shield was part of his body so he needed it with him even when he went to the toilet, was full of confidence as well. The others could see a fighting spirit that they never imagined they could find in him.
"Hehehe. Await my lovely hands, wenny orcs. I have deep feelings toward you. Kyo-kyo-kyo."
On Ritrina’s words that just sounded crazy even when she wasn’t in combat, Serinn rebuked her.
"You crazy b.i.t.c.h! See what you'll get if you ruin the wenny orcs’ leather. Don’t you know how valuable they are? You can pay your debt to Boss just by selling those!"
Listening to the Quad w.a.n.ker’s casual chatter, Haroon and Teeno smiled and looked at each other.
"How’s the training going, Teeno?"
"It is still a long way to go, but training sword skills allowed me to deal with two monsters at the same time without any problem."
After practicing blowpipes for several hours in the morning, Teeno went to a quiet place to practice swordsmanship techniques, as if he was feeling embarra.s.sed about training with the young members. But knowing that Teeno tends to underestimate his own ability, Haroon expected him to be able to deal with three or even four orcs at the same time.
"By the way, have you seen Hall? I haven’t seen her today at all."
"She’d probably went to Yellowstone over the hill. She said it is a good place to practice magic as it is full of pure mana."
At least it was a relief that Hall was close to Teeno. He was the only one whom wordless Hall speaks with.
Haroon stood up and scanned the summit of the rocky mountain. Yellowstone was the name Serinn called the summit of the rocky mountain they were staying at, seeing how it glows with yellow light during sunrise and sunset. Searching with his eyes for Hall who would be meditating, Haroon happened to notice human figures.
"Huh? There are some people over there!"
Teeno stood up as he saw them as well. At first he was worried about Hall, but then he realized they were coming down to where the Gusts of Wind was, not toward Hall.
"I see two of them. I suspect one to be a female considering the height, thin body and her luxuriant hair. It seems she is a magician. Another one is wearing full armor, so I can’t tell anything about them."
Haroon could see them too. The girl was obviously a magician seeing how she was wearing a white robe and held a staff with a jewel embedded onto the top. The other one was wearing shiny armor, but they had no weapons, so it was hard to predict the cla.s.s and gender.
'What are they doing in such a dangerous place?'
He wondered, but there was no reason to go meet them and ask. They would come if they had any business with them. Though they hadn’t met people for a long time, it drew no interest as they were busy with their training and the quest.
"Do you think they need some help, Boss?"
"Hmm. They’ll come if they do. Let’s go take a bath and go back to camp before it gets late."
"As you say, Boss."
The Quad w.a.n.kers had already gone to the river to wash their sweat off. Seeing how they could only see Gitan and Philip, it seemed Serinn and Ritrina had gone to a small pool upriver. Women were women even if they were in the same group who eats, trains and sleeps together.
The sun was already going over the mountains when they came back to their camp, they sat in a cave after washing off their tiredness in the river. Hall was already waiting for them, sitting in one corner, wordlessly as always.
"We have enough ghosts, Hall. You’re not a scary ghost since you are pretty, though."
She did not reply to Serinn’s joke. At least she answered with a smile though.
"Well then, let’s get the meal ready!"
Serinn added, holding Ritrina’s sleeve. Since the place was full of deer and other animals, as well as wild plants, they had no worries about running out of food supplies. Serinn’s cooking skill had improved a lot, thanks to Teeno’s help, so the others were enjoying her food recently.
While eating the meal, Haroon announced what he talked about with Teeno.
"Aw, man! But I was getting ready for it!"
"I know right? I was going to kill them by pulling the lumps out while they were still alive."
"I thought we were gonna skin them more than a dozen times."
It seemed the Quad w.a.n.kers really wanted to fight with the Lump Orcs, but they didn’t really mind his decision fortunately. It also meant that they were able to shake off the shame of defeat in such a short time.
After eating the meal, the Quad w.a.n.kers went to their sleeping bags and fell asleep straight away, due to the amount of training they were doing recently.
Hall was just quietly sitting with her eyes closed. She was meditating and sleeping at the same time. As no one knew about magic, they couldn’t tell what level she was at, but at least they knew she has entered 4-circles. It was not something that normal magicians could achieve at her age.
Haroon and Teeno were enjoying their tea at the entrance of the cave. As they were in the middle of the mountains, the darkness had already drawn over the sky and countless stars were visible.
The silence, deep darkness, and the warmth from their tea. The two enjoyed the mood. Though there was no conversation going on between them, they could feel that there was a sense of comfort flowing between them.
Some noise came from the mountain.
They were about to drink their tea, but as soon as the sound was heard, their body stiffened in a matter of seconds. It was the sound of the trap being triggered, and it was coming from uphill near the cave. This was unusual as the monsters generally didn’t move during the night in rocky terrains. Due to their tiredness and drowsy bodies they hadn’t noticed something drawing close until the trap had been triggered.
Haroon quietly took out some throwing knives, and Teeno got up and moved to where the Quad w.a.n.kers were sleeping. He was going to wake them up if needed.
"Uhh, excuse us. We were just pa.s.sing by."
The voice sounded very urgent and fearful of an unknown source of attack, presumably the trap. It was a feminine voice, clear and high.
"Come closer, slowly."
Haroon spoke to the voice, easing the tension a bit. Because of the bonfire behind him, he couldn’t see the figure yet.
With the soft sound of footsteps, the figures came out of the darkness, and soon, they could see the strangers’ faces. There were two of them. The figures they saw a few hours before. One was wearing a magician robe, and the other one was wearing silver-like armors, but she didn’t have any weapons equipped, just a bag on her back.
"We were looking for a place to stay, then we saw your campfire," said the magician.
"Welcome. We can share the fire."
Said Teeno, looking at Haroon then nodding. It was a signal that it was safe to do so. Though it’s hard to figure out how dangerous some people are at first glance, Haroon trusted his experience and judgement.
The two women carelessly drew closer and sat down near the fire. That told them they were new to adventuring the world. One seemed to be in her early 20s, and the other one seemed to be in her late 20s. Though they seemed to have quite big age gap, seeing how they had similar appearance, Haroon a.s.sumed that they were sisters. Their beauty suggested that they would easily get the attention from men.
"The name’s Haroon. And this is Teeno. The others are resting or sleeping."
"Nice to meet you. I’m Seryu¹, and this is Biryu². We were travelling."
'They must be users. From Ko-1.'
Haroon was almost sure that they were users from the Ko-1 Union just as he was, seeing the name they were using. Korean was the language of Korea, one of the countries that disappeared into History during the Age of Doom. Though it is mixed with English now, it was once one of the Unions’ official languages due to its convenience. So it was common for Ko-1 users or other users from the Ko Union to choose a name from Korean words.
'And they are travelling by themselves? Now, that is a lie.'
Haroon wondered why they would travel in such a dangerous place by themselves. Haroon also wondered if they had the ability to survive, but he didn’t bother to ask.
"Have you had dinner yet?" Asked Seryu, the magician.
"Yes we have."
"Well then, don’t mind us."
Seryu opened up her bag and took out some bread and snack-like drinks. Her younger sister Meanwhile, Biryu looked at Haroon, Teeno, the meditating Hall and the sleeping Quad w.a.n.kers curiously.
Haroon and Teeno moved to the inside of the cave for them.
"The weather is going to be good tomorrow. I can see the stars high up in the sky."
On Teeno’s words, Haroon looked up in the sky. Just as he said, the sky was full of twinkling stars of different sizes. It was a good day to travel.
Haroon could sense that Biryu was still looking at them, curiously looking for the reason they were able to be so close despite the age gap. But they decided to ignore her. Haroon was not interested in them as they would be departing tomorrow morning, and especially not to users because of the issues he had back in the goblin dungeon. Teeno was not interested in them as well, because they were none of his business.
When they had finished their food, it seemed they wanted to talk with them. Haroon and Teeno answered by taking out their sleeping bags in front of their eyes.
Though it was a little bit early, it was time for them to sleep. Unlike his real self, the clock of his virtual body was set to sleep early and get up early. It meant he got used to following the rules of nature before he knew it.
"Uhh, excuse us……."
Teeno was the first one to answer, when the girl’s voice was heard right before they were about to fall asleep.
"What’s the matter?"
"I was wondering if you could share with us any extra sleeping bags or blankets. We were already far from the castle when we found out we were missing them."
What a pathetic mistake they’ve made. Seeing how they were making mistakes that the NPCs would never make, Haroon was now sure that they were users. Really naive ones. For whatever reason they were here, they might be running out of food too if their bag was not enchanted
Teeno respected Haroon’s choice, not daring to decide on his own. Haroon was annoyed by strangers, but it was hard to ignore them.
"Do we even have extra?"
"We do, thanks to Lord Paros."
On Haroon’s consent, Teeno reached out and grabbed two new sleeping bags and handed them to her.
"Don’t mention it, well then."
Haroon and Teeno went back to their sleeping bags. Now it was really time for them to sleep. But no matter how the night deepened, Haroon couldn’t sleep. Not to mention the Quad w.a.n.kers, even Teeno was making snoring noses. Seeing how Hall was not moving at all, they had fallen asleep quite deeply. Is it because they know they are entering the Huk’ran mountains tomorrow, famous for being dangerous? He would be sleeping by now, knowing that tomorrow would be a long day, but for some reason, he couldn’t sleep. Probably because of the uninvited guests.
It was when he had spent meaningless hours like that.
"Seryu, are you sleeping?"
"No, not yet."
Haroon could hear the sisters chatting quietly. Though they were trying not to wake up anyone, his good sense of hearing couldn’t help but catch their conversation.
"Hah, did you see how d.a.m.n picky he was being about lending away a sleeping bag?"
It was Biryu’s voice, full of childishness that couldn’t be matched to her appearance.
"Isn’t it a man’s duty to help out beautiful ladies in trouble? Asking things first so the ladies don’t have to mention it? I don’t really expect anything from that gramp, but what’s wrong with that c.r.a.ppy fellow? Is he blind? Doesn’t he see our beauty? I really don’t like NPCs in Beyond."
That made Haroon speechless. The way she talked suggested that she was a n.o.ble like Maron. And he was perplexed that she thought he was an NPC too.
"Lower your voice, Biryu. No matter what, they still let us use their sleeping bags. Even if they are NPCs, this world is very similar to the real world, so you can’t act like you do in reality. You know you’ve got yourself into trouble several times because of that."
It seemed like she's gotten in trouble several times because she acted as a n.o.ble in Beyond too. Old habits die hard, He thought.
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. You know what we should have done? Bring all the rankers in our guild. What made you hurry to leave the castle as soon as the members had gathered? Thanks to that, we ended up bringing only weak fellas, and see how we got stuck in the mountains by ourselves! Ha, those bragging b.a.s.t.a.r.ds. They always talk like they could kill an ogre with a single slash, and they got smashed by those mutant orcs."
Haroon opened his eyes wide. She definitely said the word 'guild'. Haroon didn’t know that the users were forming guilds now. Of course, it was natural for the users to form guilds in virtual reality games. It was just out of Haroon’s mind as he had not been playing with the users. Moreover, maybe it was natural for the n.o.bles to make guilds.
'Huh, were the n.o.bles this common?'
It was his third time meeting n.o.bles, directly or indirectly. As far as he knew, the number of n.o.bles in Ko-1 who lives in District S or A were about a thousand. If he only counted the n.o.bles with age similar to him, there were only a hundred or a couple hundred.
"But we were able to survive because they sacrificed themselves to block those humped orcs. They might be petty commoners who wagged their tails to get something from us, but we should thank them for that."
He expected Seryu to be better as she was older, but her way of thinking was six of one and half a dozen of the other.
"Haa, it’s so annoying. Why do I have to suffer, getting humiliated in the mountains of a virtual world?"
"Don’t complain. We’ll come back, properly prepared."
"By the way, Seryu, do you think such a place really exists?"
Biryu asking her sister about the existence of some place drew Haroon’s curiosity and interest. So they were searching for something.
"I know this map is real. You know how much money I spent for this map. If we do find this place, our guild can grow to a major guild in this world. By doing so, we can settle ourselves into the business world like we hoped to, and become high-ranking n.o.bles in this world too. Beyond will soon get a very close connection with the real world, then the finance and power we’ve achieved in this world will greatly impact our family, giving opportunity to our father to get promoted to a higher cla.s.s. Then we can show those trashes who the real deal is."
It was first time for Haroon to hear that there were cla.s.ses between the n.o.bles as well. Haroon could sense deep anger from Seryu's beautiful voice.
"Hohohoho, that’s very delightful to hear. Hyeri Kang and Mijin Mo. If that day actually comes, I’m gonna leave those pigs on a large street naked and spit on them."
Hyeri Kang. It was that name again. It seemed Biryu got humiliated by her as well.
Haroon was so annoyed. How dumb are they to say those important topics and such embarra.s.sing things in front of the others, even if they seem to be sleeping? Haroon really wondered what their heads were filled with.
"And why did you say let’s not use the recall scroll? It’s still a day of walking to the river we came from. I don’t want to walk around like this without any weapons, nor any family members to take care of me."
Perplexed, Haroon laughed silently. She really was a naive one.
"I would have used it if I didn’t see these people. Why would I bother to come all the way here and sleep in the cave? Just think about it. NPCs we’ve met so far didn’t even dare to come close to the Huk’ran mountains, or they didn’t know anything about this place. And yet, these people are hunting monsters here. Aren’t you interested in who these people are? Who knows, maybe these people know a few things about this place.
"Huh. I guess you are right. But even if they do, do you think they will help us? That young b.a.s.t.a.r.d’s eyes were kinda scary, you know."
Hearing how she addresses him, who provided a safe spot to sleep and sleeping bags , he was sure that they were n.o.bles. He had never seen a n.o.ble that treated humans like humans.
"We need to persuade them if they know things about Huk’ran Mountains. Though there are women too in this group, it seemed they were mercenaries or hunters seeing how they are equipped. So wouldn’t money do the trick?"
Cla.s.sic n.o.bles, who try to solve everything with money if it cannot be done by power.
"Yeah, you are right. But that young one seemed quite cold-hearted……."
Biryu didn’t seem to feel good about Haroon.
"Don’t worry. I don’t think he is a bad person, though he treated us coldly. And you know money always solves everything."
Haroon forgot to breath after hearing that. He felt a sudden urge to kick them out.
"But yeah, I really wonder who these people are. If I remember correctly, that old gramp called the young one Boss, right, Seryu?
"Yeah, I wonder what’s up with that too. I don’t think he is a n.o.ble, seeing his gears or his kind of long hair. I’m pretty sure he is leading some kind of group, though they might just be hunters……."
"Aw, I’m so tired. Because we walked all afternoon as there was no family to carry me around, it feels like my legs are gonna burst any second."
"Here, it’s a fatigue recovery potion. Let’s take some sleep now."
With those as their last words, they went silent as if they fell asleep. There was no sound of setting a tent up, which meant they were just sleeping by the bonfire.
'Huhu, that sounds fun. They are not logging out so they must be n.o.bles who use the prime-capsules"
Haroon smiled, and then closed his eyes.
¹ Seryu(세류) – means thin water stream.
² Biryu(비류) – means either water that flows against the gravity, or extremely fast water flow like waterfall, depending on which chinese characters are used.
Channy: Thank you for reading! If you haven’t noticed, I have posted something about a new project on the main page of the blog.
Kmatt: I wonder what tricks Haroon will use to deal with their new guests? *evil grin*
Tom: The author sure knows how to make characters despicable.
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