Chapter 7 – Party of Four

Author’s Notes: Merry Christmas everyone! Also, I did it! By an hour mind you, but I managed to write and proof the entire chapter, posting a day early to compensate for chapter 6 being two days behind schedule!
Considering its Christmas and thanks to WOOOOF’s comments on the previous chapter there will be a very special christmas short being posted in a few hours! Been a pleasure serving all you readers ^.^

-Lost-

Fen shows a lot of interest in Iceridge as I show her around, although I notice that she glances behind us from time to time.

‘Don’t worry Fen, if the guards were going to come again they would have already done so,’ I think it just myself as I know it wouldn’t calm her.

Of course I don’t do nothing while I walk around town, I take the little wolf through all the park areas and collect herbs as I pass through, I even manage to collect a few that I have no clue as to the effects, inspecting the item description tells me nothing too, everything shows as just ‘??’.

For nearly an hour we explored, I even discovered a lot of new places that I didn’t know existed. They were mostly player guilds, some owning large buildings with grand entrances like ‘Blades of Winter’, and even some smaller guilds like ‘Choco Heralds’ that have buildings smaller than a private residence.

The thing that all the guilds had in common however was out front they all had some form of message board stating what the guild was about and a mailbox for requests. A few had other stuff such as a founding members list but that seemed to be optional.

When I arrived back in the central courtyard, I consider how odd it is that I label it as ‘central’ when it was in the north side of the Iceridge, Although most players would call it ‘central’ simply due to the fact that it was the first place new players came to, plus with all the low levelled NPC shop’s most players used this place as their centre of playing.

There is only one place here I need to go, and that is the blacksmith.

Inside there are only a few players browsing wares, one actually purchasing something at the counter. If I am to combat the goblins I will need better weapons, so I browse the walls for short swords.

With less than six gold coins, there were two I could afford, there is a third but its price tag for eight gold was over my budget and it also required the player to be level 35, so that was completely out of the question. All of a sudden something in the corner of the shop catches my attention,  walking over I look in a wooden crate I could have sworn was not in this shop last time I was here.

As I get closer the contents of the box reveal themselves. Inside are countless half daggers the size of my hand, the pile must contain hundreds of them. The hilts are made of simple carved wood yet they are too small to be held properly.

There is a sign attached to the crate which labels them as ‘Iron Throwing Knives’, and states the price of five silver coins each, or you can buy twenty five for one gold. This is exactly what I need to work with my ‘Throwing’ skill! So far I have been throwing small rocks but the progress of the skill seems to have stopped at skill level 8.

I decide I will purchase the special deal of twenty five throwing knives for on gold and then the ‘Reinforced Steel Kodachi’, which fortunately was the same type weapon I was replacing it with, meaning I am already used to it.

Reinforced Steel Kodachi
  A Kodachi forged from steel that has been reinforced by
  various secondary elements, creating a superior metal. 
  Only a good blacksmith with decent knowledge in steel could
  do this.
  The blade is 41cm long.

Requirements:
- Level 15
- Dex 27

Weapon Type: Single Edge/Short Sword
Attack: 31 - 37
Durability: 53/53
Weight: 2.2 lbs
Iron Throwing Knife
  A cheap blade of iron intended as a projectile weapon, 
  it can be retrieved and re used an unlimited number of
  times. But it can not be repaired due to the low quality
  in the materials.
  It does not have a cross guard so if thrown with enough
  power and skill, it can pierce through targets.
  Be careful not to lose it.

Requirements:
- Level 10
- Dex 32

Weapon Type: Throwing Knife
Attack: 12 - 15
Durability: 20/20
Weight: 0.4 lbs

They were reasonably decent weapons and should make dealing with the goblins reasonably easier. The rugged blacksmith also sold me a leg holster for the throwing knives. It straps on to my left leg and is made from a stock standard brown leather and has five slots to place some of the knives, the rest ending up in my inventory.

Fortunately the blacksmith agreed to dispose of my old weapon again, it held no value so I would not have been able to sell it otherwise.

Walking outside I intend to leave the city while It is still day time in the game, but a man standing a head taller than me and fully equipped in solid steel armour which has been polished more than I could possibly imagine stands in front of me.

“Excuse me my lord, I was wondering if you would like to join our party in hunting some kobolds?” The wavy blonde hair that I’m sure most women dream about after seeing it, it just so happens that the man in front of me is the one and only Prince Charming.

“No, I would rather not. I already have a place to go hunting.” I already have my own plans and I plan on taking full advantage of it.

He appears to be thinking about something quite intensely, ‘Don’t strain yourself Mr Prince, you will get wrinkles and ruin your face.’ Oh, it appears he has figured out whatever it was that was on his mind, but I am already past him and on my out of town.

“The short sword, that voice, I know who you are! You’re Lost! Aren’t you?” I was stunned, this lady killer of a man remembers me from training? Well, I was the centre of attention after all so I should have expected that, yet he managed to figure it out without being able to discern my face.

“Wait, he is lost?” Turning to face Prince Charming, I notice that he has another player with in. I draw a quick intake of breath when I see the woman I noticed at the bazaar a few weeks ago, nobody could forget that beauty, even if half of it was covered by a brown hood.

She was wearing the exact same equipment as when I last saw her, the cloak covering most of her but through the middle I could see light armour covering various parts of her figure with some strange form of dark green leather.

“No, no. His name is Lost.“ Of course this womaniser was familiar with her.

“Congratulations, so Prince Charming remembers who I am, what about it?” I interject in their conversation to hurry the talk up and bring it to the end. It worked too, Prince Charming is all red in the face short of words.

The woman let out a small giggle for some reason, the noise penetrating my ears with the sweet melody of her voice. How does someone become such a desirable person? Surely she must have done something to her character to be this way, a person like her would instantly become famous from her beauty alone.

I snap out of my trance and go to leave but her voice ensnared me once again.

“Well then, if you already have plans, how about we join you where you are going to go hunt?”

I honestly hadn’t thought of that before, no doubt having a few more people would allow me to fight easier. I may get slightly less experience with more people but I will be able to go further into the dungeon, a major incentive for acquiring items I could sell for money!

Fen let out an incredibly menacing growl and the air around me felt like it dropped a few degrees. I told Fen to stop, fearing the repercussions of her rampaging in the middle of town. She may be fun sized, but she was still a 2200lb wolf that could instantly send out deadly ice bolts.

“Very well, then let us be off, I don’t have any time to play around.” I answer them, relieving the pressure from their pale faces while I operate my menu to invite them into my party. It takes a few moments, I can’t seem to find the invite to party option. The third time going through my menu I notice a party options tab that has the invite to party button.

As I pressed it, the two of them in front of me began to green glow, the system pre-empting my group to be formed into a party. Accepting the selection a notification informing me the invites have been sent appears but I don’t see any of their information until the accept the request.

Unsurprisingly the experience share in this game heavily favoured whoever killed the creature instead of the how much damage each member inflicted, so with parties the killing blow awarded seventy percent of the experience and the rest was split between the other party members. But that only worked if the player who made the kill was less than 30 levels above that person, so right now if Verde killed something then I would get no experience.

apparently the level difference allowed gets larger the higher level the players in the party, but no one has been able to work out the system or formulae behind it.

So Prince Charming’s actual character name was Sir Laurence, I had completely forgotten. And the lady’s name was Verde, simple, yet interesting. What surprised me the most was the health, stamina and levels that showed up in the party information, running down the left hand side of my vision.

Their levels are respectively 47 and 72. Prince Charming even had 203 mana points, which wasn’t too impressive, but that is because I am comparing it to the boss class monster next to me. I felt embarrassed that they could see how low my level was.

With all that done, I warn them not to steal my kills, I look directly at Verde when I speak to try to emphasise it to her particularly as we head out of town, turning south east.

***************************************************

We walked in silence as the sun began to sink lower and lower in the evening sky behind us. The only sound was me calling “Analyse” on every wolf and critter that we passed by.

I manage to get it all the way to level 9 thanks to my efforts up to this point, diligently using it whenever I could.

Creature Analysis (SLvl 9, 17%) -Active
   Looking through a discerning eye for so long you have 
   gained to skill to accurately gauge the strength of all
   creatures.
   The stronger this skill is the easier it is to analyse 
   more powerful creatures.
   Can not be used on players and NPCs.

SLvl 1:
 - Able to determine the name of a creature
 - Reveal the level of any monster up to 1.6 X Player Level

“So, where are we actually heading?” Verde breaking the current silence asked me as we broke out into the low hills where the goblin encampment was.

“Just past hill over there,” Pointing I indicate which hill I am discussing, “there is a goblin camp that we cleared out earlier there.” Maybe I should not have said we cleared it out but I did kill one of them at least.

“If you have cleared it out already, what is the point of going back? Monsters outside of dungeons aren’t respawned until the following day.” Prince Charming has adopted a rather arrogant attitude since he joined the party, I would like to say that this isn’t like him, but honestly him being polite earlier was the oddity in my memory. I can still recall how he looked down on me back at the Iceridge Military Academy.

“Because, in that encampment, there is a crevice that appears to lead to an underground dungeon.” I state it in a matter of fact tone, leaving Prince Charming grumbling behind.

Verde gives a small exclamation at the surprise of the encampment where there appeared to be nothing in the hills. I lead our little expedition into the centre of the camp, taking not of all the loot boxes that have already despawned after being ignored for too long.

 Just as I remember, here is the crevice. I lead the way down a narrow icy ledge leading down into it. The path was like a ramp, going back and forth down the walls, narrow enough that one slip would inevitably lead to falling to death, with no chance to save yourself.

The path eventually widens and goes straight into an open cavern, revealing the entrance to the dungeon.

“Incredible,” I exclaim at the sight, standing just outside the entrance, “The walls appear almost man made at parts. Does anyone know what this dungeon is called?”

“I honestly have no clue, it may even be undiscovered until now,” Verde looks just as astonished at the sight, pole torches are inserted into the ground in no particular order, lighting the tunnel with flickering yellow lights. Also while there is water dripping from some parts of the roof there is absolutely no ice in this cave.

“Given how well hidden this whole place is and the fact that most players don’t tend to go more south than Iceridge, I  think we may possibly be the first people here. But there is no way to be completely sure.” Verde has a point with what she says, there is also the fact this game is only a few months old too.

“Anyway,” I decide it is time to venture in, “We need to decide on the formation for this par-“

“Forget it!” Prince Charming cuts me off rather aggressively, “We will do what we want. My lady, please follow behind me for protection.”

And this is exactly why I don’t like other players, selfish right to the core. Should I consider them as trying to steal my kills and just kill them now? They will not be able to find this place as I left the city in the wrong direction and slowly made course corrections to get back here. It is at this moment that Verde speak up with a compromise.

“Well this isn’t going to work now is it. Boys and their testosterone..” Verde sighing as she shook her head, “How about we go in as two teams of two and just stick to each other. You go with your wolf, and I will stick with Prince Charming here.” She lets out a small giggle when she calls him by the nickname and his face dyes crimson.

“I suppose that will work.” I give a small shrug. Basically we support them and they support us. I honestly trust Fen a lot more than them so working with just her is fine by me.

We all head into the dungeon in no orderly fashion and with no formation. This could easily be one of the worst parties in all history. A small message appears in the corner of my vision saying ‘Entering Unknown Goblin Lair’

Just a short walk in and we encounter our first group of goblins, about eight of them turn a corner and seem just as surprised as we are to be facing each other.

I guess the goblins down here aren’t much different from the surface, raising various rusted weapons. One is equipped with a mace which is a little surprising, but not so much for me to worry.

Prince Charming and Verde are the first two to make a move, dashing forward while they are still stunned to initiate the attack. I activate ‘Creature Analysis’ on them to view their information, my now level 9 skill being successful where it previously failed.

Name: Goblin
Level: 35
Health: 330
Magic: 0
Stamina: 0

Goblin's are known to be lacking in intelligence, but
they compensate with their high strength and naturally
tough skin defending them.
They tend to travel in medium sized groups, being swarmed
by one of these groups can have deadly consequences

 “Come Fen, let’s go attack too. They aren’t that tough!” I’m sure Fen is already aware of exactly how tough they are, she has killed hundreds already after all.

The other two have just started engaging them, Prince charming at the front blocking nearly every attack with his kite shield, but a few slip past his defence and graze his armour. Verde however thanks to that did not have a scratch on her, using a pitch black dagger to slash the goblins that tried to flank around and surround them.

‘I wonder what type of player Verde is, Prince Charming is clearly the knight in shining armour, but she is a mystery’ I think to myself wondering if she has some class skill, there are plenty of mid to high level players who have stumbled across them. She appears to be something resulting in stealth, like a ninja, assassin, or thief.

It was a good dagger by the look of it, but the goblins tough skin was removing half of the damage due to her attacks being too slow. I had honestly thought earlier that being level 72 would cause her to easily be able to deal with the goblins, but that thought was wrong.

Seeing a level 72 player struggling against level 35 monsters really showed the difference how the level of a player didn’t determine how strong they were yet the level of a monster did.

Fen’s and my speed towards the goblins couldn’t be compared to the other two, we crossed the distance in half the speed that they had. Placing my swords in their scabbards I throw all five of my throwing knives at the goblins while circling the group to fight against the enemies the Prince was defending against at the front.

I dance around and through the goblins, maintaining the speed of my attacks with twists and turns, but I suffered a few glancing blows from weapons I couldn’t completely dodge.

Prince Charming managed to land a few small blows with his longsword between defending attacks but the damage was minimal, some of his slashes not even penetrating their skin.

My new weapon was a fantastic help, landing a critical hit on ones neck with my speed completely penetrating their defence, removing more than half of one of the goblins health.

On the other side, fighting the three goblins that have tried to flank around were Verde and Fen. One goblin is near death from Verde’s constant slashes and stabs but she herself has lost a good portion of her health as a result, about thirty percent to be exact.

Fen came to the rescue however, launching her ever so familiar ice bolts at the enemy as she approached. Three crude javelins of ice fly through the air, each penetrating a goblin each, killing one. One of the ice bolt however went most of the way through a goblin at such an angle it stopped less than an inch of Verde’s face, causing all colour to drain out of it.

“I know they seem to be a little difficult to fight with Fen, but isn’t that a bit much?’ I think seeing her attack nearly causing friendly fire.

Fen followed up with another ice technique that I had not witnessed yet. She slashed her paw two meters away from the goblins, blades of ice tracing the path of her attack, cutting the remaining two goblins in half, quickly ending their lives.

I had taken out two goblins already, and the other three have their attention now on me instead of attacking Prince Charming. The knight could have taken the initiative and helped attack the leftover goblins but he abandoned me to then to rush over to Verde, revealing his magic to be for healing as he tended her wounds.

Fen also left the enemies to me, but that was out of politeness as I had it under control. I learnt from my past mistakes about being surrounded by goblins and just how tough they could be. By manoeuvring myself around I manage to prevent them completely encircling me and the resulting battle only lasted moments.

My sacred arts unfortunately couldn’t be used until the end of the battle as even if the damage was greater, the system assist would take over my movements and I would not be able to alter my position to dodge or block any goblin attack that came my way.

After retrieving my throwing knives, I do the right thing and split up the loot equally between the three of us players, although the only valuable thing that dropped was a few copper coins. There was a plain silver necklace dropped from the last goblin I killed, but I grabbed that before anyone else could notice.

We all sit against a wall to rest and I inspect the party menu, just to see the damage that was done from this one squad of goblins.

Lost
Lvl: 24
Health: 179/318
Stamina: 111/169

Verde
Lvl: 72
Health: 811/894
Stamina: 176/230

Sir Laurence
Lvl: 43
Health: 543/796
Mana: 127/206
Stamina: 143/143

Companions:
Fen
Lvl: 35
Health: 613/730
Magic: 261/310
Stamina: 362/362

It looks like Prince Charming gained a level, but he has also used nearly half his mana healing Verde after just one battle. The issue is mana takes quite some time to regenerate, unless he has the abnormally expensive mana potions or a skill like ‘Meditation’ that allows for faster recovery his mana would take more than an hour to regenerate.

Fen is a bit unusual with mana recovery, maybe it’s because she is a beast or her ‘Queen Class’ but it regenerates about four times faster than a player. Her skills also are reasonably mana efficient, using the same amount no matter the scale of the attack.

Sitting on the ground I pull out a few green medicinal herbs and eat them to recover health, it does naturally regenerate but the speed is incredibly slow and pointless. Slowly consuming the herbs my health begins to recover at one point a second, useless in battle but effective in between fights.

Since my ‘Herbalism’ skill has improved I have notice the effects of herbs has slightly improved, I would imagine that would make my potions slightly better but I haven’t tested it.

Fen comes up to me and nudges my hand that’s holding more herbs. Seriously, how did she get hurt, I didn’t see her get a single scratch.

“Okay Fen, have some of these herbs, it will slowly heal you up.”

The effects of the herbs only work if I administer them so I feed them directly to Fen by placing them in her mouth. She doesn’t make any complaints but her tail wags while chewing them.

“What was with those goblins?!” Verde breaks the silence with a shocked voice first, “They had an unnaturally high defence, they are usually much easier to kill!”

“No clue, honestly I was a little surprised at first too, I have always considered goblins to be incredibly weak enemies in games. Yet a small group of them surrounded and killed me the first time I encountered them. I assumed they are all like that.”

“No, not at all. I have been to the Kingdom of Forste before and fought goblins there. The damage they do and their appearance is the same, but the natural defence in these goblins is just unreal, I couldn’t deal any proper damage at all!”

“Hmm.. Maybe it is the environment we are in. As in, the goblins have naturally gotten a tougher skin to help fight the cold weather. It just happens to double as a high defensive bonus.”

“I agree with that,” Prince Charming joined the conversation, “But it is the degree of change that is different. I haven’t fought against other goblins but hearing Verde I think it is something else. Ice trolls are said to have an incredibly tough natural armour and I after fighting them I can say it is nothing compared to these goblins.”

“Compared to the goblins I fought in Forste these ones give about three times the experience points too.”

“Well,” I speak in an exhausted tone, “There is not point dwelling on a reason too much. Let’s continue with exploring this dungeon and see what we can find.”

We all stand up and continue down the path, the corridor splits into three paths. Against Prince Charming’s brilliant idea to split up and explore different routes, I tell them we will stick together since encountering a group of goblins with only half of us will be fatal.

We take the first path on the left with a game of rock, paper, scissors. We start to regret not having someone with a map making skill so we can map out where we are and where we have gone.

We encounter three more groups of goblins, each taking a decent toll on our health and magic. Prince Charming ran out of mana after the second encounter but he had some decent mana potions on him that restored is magic.

Each time we rested in between encounters, Fen somehow managed to get mysterious wounds that led me to having to feed her herbs to heal them. My ‘Aggravation’ skill, now at level 34, was torture on me as often I could even taunt the entire group of goblins to attack me alone.

We maintain roughly the same formation, Prince Charming leading the defence, me at the front, Verde and Fen at the rear. Although the Prince only looked out for Verde, abandoning me to a few onslaughts in the heat of battle. I feel a little ripped off that I only get five projectiles per encounter as I don’t have to luxury to be able to retrieve them during the fights.

The air started to warm up as we got deeper into the dungeon, it also began to get a little stale from the lack of circulation. We had terrible directions inside the dungeon, running into countless dead ends, sometimes more than once.

We were lucky that there were only goblins in this dungeon, it allowed us to get used to the goblins way of fighting and minimize the damage we took after each encounter. Sometimes I managed to deal with three or four goblins without getting a single scratch on my.

An hour in and we encounter a set of crude ramp down, cut into the walls of what appears to be a bottomless hole. I pick up a decent sized rock off the ground and drop it down, about twenty seconds passes until the sound of it hitting the bottom resounds back up. Definite death only awaits those who fall in.

During the first floor I had levelled all the way up to 30 thanks to being a main damage dealer. Fen stealing one hundred percent of the experience from her kills had levelled up to 41, and the other two players had gained a level or two each.

I regained one of the points in agility I lost from my previous death but I gained a total of four points in dexterity! all thanks to fighting a usual group of three to five goblins by myself. Seriously that Prince Charming could have lent me a hand at least, he was a complete meat shield for Verde.

We follow the spiral ramp down to the second floor, the silence of the tunnel giving me goosebumps all over my body. There are also less pole torches sticking out of the ground down here making the area darker than the first floor.

We come across a fork in the path, Verde winning the rock, paper, scissors decides to take the route on the right. Out of the shadows down the path a large group of about ten goblins comes at us.

“What are they?” Verde asks about the two goblins in the group that don’t seem to fit in, slightly worried.

There was definitely something a little off about them, They were much bulkier than the others, and that had nothing to do with the fact that they were wearing rusty iron armour.

“What is it with goblins and rusty iron??” I ask rhetorically, I could not sell rusty iron weapons for more than a few coppers and no doubt armour was the same. Using analyse on one of them I was fortunate I had levelled up the ‘Creature Analysis’ skill enough to barely be able to reveal their information.

Name: Goblin Warrior
Level: 50
Health: 715
Magic: 0
Stamina: 110

??

“Not good,” I warn the others, “Be wary of those with armour, they’re called goblin warriors. They are much stronger and have stamina points so they may be able to use some sacred arts. I won’t get any more information on them till I start defeating them.”

Prince Charming for once didn’t charge forward for once, fully aware of how dangerous the current situation is he stuck to Verde like glue. I felt a little vomit rising in my throat at how clear his intention were.

‘Protect the lady, impress the lady, get the lady.’ It was a scenario straight out of a fantasy tale, so cliché that I wonder if it may actually work. I have gather from our time partied together that Verde has no interest in Sir Laurence in that way but he is relentless in his pursuit.

Me and Fen sprint forward to take the initiative against the incoming goblins, ice bolts fly past me, never missing a target. I launch a mix of throwing knives amongst the deadly ice attacks that appear to have gotten stronger with Fen’s level increasing.

We take down one of the minor goblins but the two goblin warriors don’t take much damage at all. One of Fen’s ice bolts removed about twenty percent health but my throwing knives were too poor quality, one dealing a little damage for hitting a critical area, the other completely breaking on a piece of torso armour.

Fen unleashes one more volley of ice bolts as we begin our attack, taking down two more as I rush through with my blades, landing critical hits on necks before the goblins could react. I cut a path straight through to one of the goblin warriors, using my new blade to slash its neck, spinning around and dropping on one knee to let deal another strike across the back of its knees.

I have learnt a lot since beginning this game, including about precision attacks. Slashing the back of someone’s knees was on of these precision attacks, slowing down leg movement for a decent period of time.

The goblin warrior still had over half its health after my initial critical attack however and shrugged off my precision attack as if it was nothing. I had no time to escape as it turned and activated a sacred art, indicated by its sword adopting a red aura.

I roll back and manage to get away with minimal damage from the goblin warriors sacred art, leaving four lines of light tracing the path that the blade took. I took two glancing blows to my shoulder and back in my escape but getting hit by that directly would no doubt spell death for someone with a low armour rating like me, I already lost thirty percent of my health just from the two glancing blows after all.

My hand rests on a broken piece of dagger from earlier. I need to think quick in this scenario so picking up the broken blade a little bigger than two fingers I flick it at the goblin warrior’s face, using the moment it moved its weapon to block it to get back on my feet and slip past its defence, landing a flurry of blows anywhere I could land them.

Striking the armour was exactly the same as striking skin in this game, the resistance was exactly the same as armour ratings are applied all over the body.

I had to keep an eye on my surrounding area as my ‘Aggravation’ skill was passive and always active. Occasionally A goblin would break off from the rest to attack me, but Fen always stopped them with an ice bolt to the back. ‘What a wonderful companion, I knew it was right to have her with me’

The goblin warrior goes to make a slash at me. My legs are feeling weary from all the damage I have taken up to this point but the goblin warrior is in worse condition than me, now only swinging its arms wildly.

Utilizing my speed I work my footwork and while ducking under the blade, circle it opposite its momentum to get behind it and launch two powerful strikes to its back. It collapses to its knees before falling forward, dead.

Fen is nearly finished with the rest of the goblins, her goblin warrior already dead and the rest not far from death. But where is Verde and Prince Charming?

Glancing down the corridor at where we originally were I spot them, engaged in combat against a troupe of goblins the same as the ones Fen and I are nearly finished with.

There are nine goblins surrounding them, two of which are goblin warriors. They both look exhausted and I scold myself for failing to notice their health dropping in the party window, they barely have thirty percent health left each.

I quickly open my inventory, stuff a few green medicinal herbs in my mouth and also grab a fresh batch of throwing knives.

“Hurry Fen!” I shout to the wolf who finishes the last goblin, “We need to go save those two now! They’re in trouble so no holding back!”

She doesn’t exactly rush to come to their rescue but she does at least listen to me, unenthusiastically sending of ice bolts one after another down the corridor, a few nearly hitting Verde and Prince Charming.

‘Fen, those icicles never come that close to me when we’re fighting together, are you doing that deliberately?’

I start throwing the knives at the goblins, once I am nearly upon them I draw my swords and cutting through a nearly dead goblin I combat one of the goblin warriors, leaving ‘Aggravation’ to draw the attention of other goblins away from my two party members near death.

The goblin warrior’s sword glows red just like the last one, but I have better footing than against the last one, allowing me to easily retreat back to safety. my companions health drops down to fifteen percent each and they are so worn out they can no longer defend themselves properly.

“Perceptual Sight!”

Time slows down for me, to about sixty percent of normal. I race forward at the goblin warrior, crossing my blade in front of me as I close the distance between us. Using my heightened reaction speed I swing my weapons outwards, cutting a ‘V’ along the goblin warrior’s neck. Immediately I bring the weapons back down, doing a precision attack by slashing the inside of its elbow joints.

The goblin warrior screams out in pain, but I am already behind it, crouching to deliver another precision strike behind its knees follows by activating the sacred art ‘Triple Thrust’ on its back.

I still have plenty of time left in ‘Perceptual Sight’, I use it to dash through the mob of goblins dealing deadly slashes and stabs to critical points. One critical strike to any goblin affected by my ‘Aggravation’ is enough to sufficiently weaken it to no longer be a threat.

Any goblin still attacking the Verde and Prince Charming received two attacks to quickly finish it off. In mere moments all the goblins were finished bar one and my two comrades had less than ten percent health left.

“Oh no! Fen, attack that goblin, quick!” There is one more goblin, to be precise the second goblin warrior, not under the effects of my ‘Aggravation’ and about to attack Verde. My only hope was for Fen to launch an ice attack and knock the goblin back, but where was this attack?

I look at Fen and she gives me a look as if saying, ‘Too bad.’

When I see her current status in the party information she is completely out of mana. ‘What the hell? I could have sworn she had mana just a moment ago, where did it all go?’

My brains reaction speed may by currently in overdrive, but that doesn’t increase my speed, and this hood refuses to come off. Prince Charming was a step ahead though, true to being a knight in shining armour till the end he used the last of his strength to throw himself in between Verde and the goblin warrior, saving her life but suffering a fatal blow.

He falls face first in the ground body turning to smoke and leaving behind a loot menu containing all his gold, a total of fifteen pieces! I rush the goblin warrior and immediately engage it before it can finish off Verde as well. It was a lot weaker than I originally thought, only fifty percent of its health was left and the rest disappeared rapidly in front of my onslaught.

Verde was lying on her back, as pale as death. I’ve been in her situation before, that player doesn’t feel that bad but they most certainly look like they’re in quite some pain and discomfort.

Her health is too low and her wounds are inflicting bleeding damage slowly over time, not even healing herbs could save her from that as the recovery was less than the bleeding damage. If I can restore her health enough the bleeding damage should stop.

Rummaging through my inventory I found the one thing that could save her. I pulled out my home made vomit green healing potions. It was actually incredibly fortunate that I hadn’t thrown them all away from my last experimental batch I did.

Well, I was and still am never going to drink one of these revolting things. But giving it to someone else was a different matter.

Verde has three percent health left and doesn’t seem to be able to respond to my voice. Time is running out so I sit her up against one of the walls and removing the stopper from one of my vials, use one hand to open her jaw and the other to pour the contents of the potion into her mouth.

Half of the potion come running back out of her mouth and the other half she chokes on and it sputters out of her mouth. A little got consumed but not enough to help the situation, I also only have four left.

‘I really don’t want to have to do that!’ I think to myself as there is only one situation I can think of to save her. Completely forgetting this was a game for a moment all I could see in front of me was a dying girl, my mind clouding at the thought of anything else.

Removing the stopper from another potion, I tipped the contents back into my mouth and hold it there, ‘no wonder she coughed it up this stuff tastes even worse than it looks’. Brushing a strand of hair from her face I bring my face closer to hers, placing my lips over hers and force every last drop of the horrid potion into her mouth, forcing her to swallow it.

I have read about this scenario in books and seen it done in many movies, when someone is incapable of swallowing a liquid you must help them consume it.

What I had just done came to reality, this is a game and she would have just respawned. The feeling of her lips suddenly invades my senses as I recall the softness they enclosed. They were in all honesty quite cold, yet touching them with my lips warmed my entire face.

Colour slowly returned to her complexion, but there was another complication. An ice bolt comes billowing past me, impaling the wall between me and Verde. I could feel the cold on my nose as I turn to see Fen, furious eyes accusing not me but Verde, I don’t know why but the wolf really does not like her. Is it because they are both female that they can’t get along?

Looking at Verde, she seems completely oblivious to Fen’s fury and the ice bolt next to her head. She has her head tilted forward slightly, using the thumb and forefinger on each hand to tug her hood down further, completely hiding her face.

‘Oh no, what have I done? Is she crying? Does she hate me? What should I do now?’ A hundred regrets swarm inside my mind. I completely did not think through my actions, and now I can’t stop worrying about what to do next.

I ignore Fen for now, silently placing my the remaining three potions next to Verde. I have no idea how to calm Fen down, mainly due to having no clue as to the source of her anger.

I stand up and walk over to the wolf, crouching down to give the her a scratch behind the ears, the dog I had when I was 12 used to like this a lot.

Fen ignores my actions mostly, but I notice a tail wag momentarily.

“Calm down Fen, I don’t know what the problem is but it’s better now, okay?”

She looks up at me, her icy blue eyes seem to melt slightly as her anger dissipates. Whatever her problem was, she seems calmer now.

“Umm.. Verde.. Would you like to go back and find Sir Laurence?” I place my hands together and fiddle my thumbs at the awkwardness I feel.

Verde slowly shakes her head a few times, drinking all three potions as fast as she can, she continues to hide her face under her hood. I notice her making actions as if operating her menu, she shortly logs off. At that moment I receive two notifications in front of me, the first one was an incredible shock.

Friend Request received from 'Verde'
Accept? Yes / No

I warily click accept, I was now even more confused if she hated me or whatever her feelings were.

The second notification however was even more of a surprise, in some ways it was a blessing from above, yet for some reason I knit my brows reading it.

Aggravation has reached level 35
Prerequisites met:
[Empty]
Would you like to upgrade 'Aggravation' into 'Intimidation Aura'?
Yes / Yes

Was this skill broken or something? I have no choice but to upgrade it into something unknown, which for some reason I did not feel very comfortable with.

Maybe I could be able to unequip it, but something is telling me that will not be the case. I also have no clue as to what it will do, potentially it could be worse than ‘Aggravation’. Anyway there is only one way to find out, so I press one of the ‘Yes’ buttons.

Intimidating Aura (SLvl 1, 0%) -Passive
  You give off an aura that overpowers and diminishes most
  people. Creature of the wild will feel your aura and 
  determine you to be a considerable threat, often opting to
  remove you first. 

SLvl 1:
- Intimacy can not be grown with NPC's under normal 
   circumstances.
- 15% chance every 20sec nearby monsters will get the 'Aggro' 
  status towards you for 3min.
- Enemies who are under 'Aggro' status will suffer a 20% penalty
  in both attack and defence 
- This ability is Soul Bound, cannot be unequipped.
NPC's will be affected by 'Intimidating Aura' even if 
your identity is hidden as the aura given off is much more 
powerful than 'Aggravation'. The White Wolf Winter cloak
will still hide your identity.

Brilliant, It is basically the exact same as before. Unable to be unequipped, and more of a pain than its worth.

I feel like digging a hole in the ground with my head in frustration. Good news is my intimacy will not drop for no reason like before, but nor would it improve unless I did something special. The part where it will ‘Aggro’ an enemy is also still there, completely overcharged from how it was when ‘Aggravation’ was at level 1.

The only saving grace was that monsters caught with ‘Aggro’ had a penalty to both attack and defence which would be incredibly useful fighting large numbers of opponents.

I notice that the Prince Charming has disappeared from the party window as well, leaving just me and Fen.

“Well Fen, looks like it’s just us, I only have thirty green medicinal herbs left but if we are careful we should be able to clean out this floor and leave.”

I sit with Fen and use ten of the herbs to heal our wounds. It takes a total of about half an hour to recover most of our wounds and I use that time to loot all the items that were dropped.

The goblin warriors dropped some decent items, a few silver coins instead of copper ones, and the rusty iron armour surely must be worth more than the swords when it came to scrap metal value.

Right next to where we rested however was the best loot of them all. The purse of coins Prince Charming left behind at his death holding a total of fifteen gold, seven silver, and one hundred and forty three copper coins.

‘Well, he has already left the party so I guess the money is mine for the taking. I probably couldn’t get it back to him anyway,’ I run a bunch of reasons as to why it is okay to take someone else’s money. Not because I’m not going to take it otherwise, I just want to feel less guilty about it.

Collecting all the loot lying around I lead Fen deeper into the dungeon as we hunt for more goblins.

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Verde- 

The goblins ambushed us from behind. The group being just as large as the one Lost and Fen were fighting. I received the first attack in the back, a critical hit removing thirty percent of my total health.

Sir Laurence naturally noticed my health drop in an instant and had turned to protect me, placing his body in between me and the goblins. If I didn’t know what his true character was like I would probably be slightly flattered.

The goblins slowly chipped away at our health, the two goblin warriors that Lost warned us about were the most dangerous, with blows nearly strong enough to blow Sir Laurence’s shield back.

Moments before our inevitable death a volley of iron and ice assaulted the goblins followed by Lost appearing behind them, both swords ready for combat. I vaguely heard him say something but I couldn’t hear properly, nearly dead with bleeding wounds caused by rusty weapons was not good. I did not feel any discomfort yet I could not move my body more than a twitch.

Lost all of a sudden dashed into the group of goblins, showing off inhuman speed and reaction rate. My eyes widened in shock at the sight, it was like a graceful dance where each step would either lead to avoiding a weapon or landing a deadly attack, sometimes both.

In moments nearly all the goblins were dead, only one remaining. ‘No! Lost won’t be able to get to it in time!’ I don’t know why but I seem to be putting a lot of trust in him. But he is such a strong person, anyone who only knew his level would be completely fooled.

He shouts something and Sir Laurence somehow manages to move his body to protect me, except it cost him a blow that cost him his life. It is at this point the bleeding damage brought my health below three percent, and in a combat zone this is where your vision goes and you lose complete control of your body, unable to save yourself.

The noises coming to my ears gradually stop, I don’t know if my hearing was going too or the battle was over, all I know is that I can see I still have health left so I am not dead yet.

Soon I faintly feel my body being moved and a warm liquid enters my mouth, unable to do anything about it about half enters my throat. Wherever the liquid touched however left a foul taste which inadvertently caused my body to cough it up, but a little did pass through healing just a single percent of my health.

Another round of the potion enters my mouth, befouling every surface inside of it. ‘Doesn’t he realize he is just wasting potions? Also, what kind of potion tastes this bad?’

The difference this time is a warmth enters my lips, spreading a tiny electric current through my body, warming the deepest parts. ‘What a nice feeling, how have I not felt it before’

The foul liquid also seems to be going down my throat much easier, tasting less grotesque as it goes down. I can feel the potions healing my wounds and stopping the bleeding, although the feeling of my body returning to me is magnifying the warmth on my mouth

My health points slowly begin to rise, my vision blurring back into focus, revealing the details of Lost’s face under the hood. I could see completely through the shadow of his hood! No, that’s not correct, the hood is over my face too so the shadow is not working.

I can see every detail of his face, from the thin line of stubble running down his jaw line to the long hair tied up somewhere behind his head, a few pieces hanging down in the form of bangs. He has quite a pretty face, but the most noticeable are his eyes, they are a rather boring green colour, but there is a deep pain in them that causes my chest to constrict just looking into them.

All of a sudden there is no more of the potion entering my mouth. With the foul taste of the liquid gone I momentarily feel this man’s lips on mine, every tiny part leaving a sweet sensation on my mouth, before he removes his face. The warmth on my mouth disappearing along with his face behind the shadow of his hood.

‘He kissed me!’ Despite the need to do so to force the potion down my throat, the only word that could come to my mind was ‘kiss’. Pinching onto my hood I bring it down to hide my face turning crimson in embarrassment, the fluttering butterflies in my chest refusing to subside.

I hear a crack next to my ear and feel a chill on my cheek, but I am already lost too deep in my subconscious to pay attention to it.

I don’t know how much time passes but three horrible looking potions are left on the ground next to me. Lost also asks me if I wish to go and find Sir Laurence who should have respawned.

‘I don’t want to go see him, I just want to stay with you,’ I don’t know where this thought is coming from as I shake my head back and forth, it came from nowhere and refuses to leave.

I drink the three potions on the floor next to me to try to remove the feeling on my lips but the taste of the potion reminds me of his lips on mine.

I start to feel trapped in my own emotions and open my game menu. Hovering my finger over the ‘Log Out’ button something in me drives me to send a friend request to Lost before I do leave the game to clear my head.

***************************************************

I leave virtual reality immediately. Sitting up on my bed with my knees at my chest I remove the VL from my head and replace it with a pillow, still unable to cover my utter embarrassment.

My mind is still replaying the memory of his facial features, and most importantly his lips on mine.

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Fen-

‘That vixen! What has she done?? She deserves to die!’

Manipulating the space above me I form what Lost has been calling an ice bolt. Only this one is different, I pack more and more layers of ice onto it than I ever have before.

I still feel it isn’t big enough but it should do. Directing and releasing it, the ice bolt vaults forward, impaling the wall and separating the revolting woman from Lost.

‘It is all your fault! If you weren’t here things would be different, I didn’t want you to come in the first place! I can see your level, and you act like you can’t defend yourself against these weak creatures! I am all he needs, so leave!’

I will make this woman pay. Using my original skill, ‘Origin of Ice’, I will make her pay for deceiving my Lost!

***************************************************
***************************************************

-Lost-

Fen and I explore the second level of ‘Unknown Goblin Lair’ and take on countless more groups of goblins with the warriors mixed in. We are a lot more careful now that it is the two of us, doing as much damage from a distance as possible.

Without being in a party I am getting one hundred percent of all the experience dropped too. Only Fen all of a sudden started standing in front of me, fighting every enemy that tried to attack me with a ferocity that scared me to tell her to stop.

It did not take long until we decided to leave due to a shortage in healing herbs, we got lost back on the first floor but the ordinary goblins that wandered around there were weak and we dealt with them easily.

By the time we returned to the surface I had nearly recovered all my agility that I lost from my previous death. I had also gained a large growth in dexterity, but the progress was exponentially slowing down, to the point where if I was to play eighteen hours every day I doubt my skill would reach 100.

Name: Lost
Health: 298/522
Stamina: 36/237

Lvl: 41
Lvl UP: 93%

Str: 53 +10
Agi: 171 +21
Dex: 51 +23
Int: 8
Mnd: 37
Lck: 17

Fame/Infamy: 0
Alignment: +0
God: -
belief: 0
Equipped Skills:
Intimidating Aura      (SLvl 7, 12%)
Advanced Military Arts (SLvl 35, 38%)
Herbalism              (SLvl 21, 76%)
Potion Production      (SLvl 11, 68%)
Hunter's Eyes          (SLvl 33, 4%)
Throw                  (SLvl 17, 74%)
Creature Analysis      (SLvl 15, 64%)
Mining                 (SLvl 1, 0%)
High Speed             (SLvl 10, 92%)

Reserve Skills:
Smithing               (SLvl 1, 0%)

Luckily the shrink spell on Fen didn’t wear off until we were outside of the dungeon. If she grew to full size inside she would not have been able to get through the opening to leave.

Under the dark night sky the air was incredibly refreshing. I had forgotten what fresh air was like underground, every breath seeming to fill me with new life.

The new skill ‘Intimidating Aura’ was extremely strange in some ways. It seemed to have no growth, sure the level of the skill went up, but none of the bonuses went up and the area of monsters it affected didn’t seem to increase. The border around the skill was green too making it a rare unique skill, so it should have some significant purpose or growth.

I open the menu to log off for the night, bidding Fen farewell for a while, outside the time should be well after midnight.

Before I press the menu option however a large multi layered message summons itself in front of my game menu.

Advanced Military Arts has reached level 35
Herbalism has reached level 20
Hunter's Eyes has reached level 30
Throw has reached level 15
High Speed has reached level 10
Creature Analysis has reached level 15
Intimidating Aura has reached level 1

Prerequisites met:
Dexterity: 50
Agility: 160
Would you like to merge these skills into 
'Class Skill: White Warrior'?
Yes / Yes

I am completely speechless, a class skill. Judging by the prerequisites an incredibly high levelled one at that!

But once again the options are bugged! No doubt ‘Aggravation’ still having its effects through the upgraded skill!

I should be able to choose this class skill later anyway so I try dismissing the message by placing my hand next to it and swiping it off the screen. Only the window doesn’t move, it shakes a little, but it’s firmly stuck in position!

‘Come on! It’s right in front of the log out button! Is this game mocking me?’

I don’t have that much of a problem choosing a class skill anyway, it should give me an advantage in battle after all.

Naturally, I press ‘Yes’.

Next Chapter

Previous Chapter

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24 Comments

  1. Hm, does that mean he should go back and get advanced military arts training all over again?
    Heck of a coincidence that he had that whole list of skills; maybe there are a lot of variants of the class, with slightly different requirements – or maybe the game AI custom-created the class on the fly specifically for him, because it found his playstyle interesting…

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    1. There is no need to get AMA again, A class skill contains all the skills that were used to make it up, with bonuses for being a class skill. It is those boneses plus the ability to have them all only take up two slots that brings out their incentive.
      There are small variants in what is required for a class skill, espicially the rarer ones, but his skill set was based on plaing a particular way which coincided with the class skill.
      Although whether the AI tweaked/customized it we can only speculate ^.^

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    2. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The requirements for standard classes are pretty easy to figure out. The thief class is good example of that. If there are standard classes there also must be rare or unique ones. Even legendary ones. Most of them would have one thing in common. Rare skills would be required to get them. Lost has intimidating aura which is something like unique skill. If such rare skill is created in game. That means there are also rare classes created to accompany it. It would be pretty bad to assume that only one class exist for one specific rare skill. Basically if he were using different skills there still would be a huge chance to get class from it. Just a different one. Maybe with better name : p White Warrior seems nice but a bit plain : D Classes after all are something to reflect play style.
      What i wanted to say. It totally seems alright for me.

      I was also curious about used skills or rather what he will choose now : ). With new class he gets all benefits of used skills, that was explained before. But i don’t think anything stands in a way to get used skills again. Imo it just wouldn’t be worth it. Skills gives passives as well as arts. Double arts would be useless. Only passives, and that still might not be working properly. Like.. only the higher lvled skills will give bonuses. But there would be situations when one would want to merge used skill with something else in the future, or create different class. But considering how many skills there are what’s the point repeating yourself : p

      Now that he leveled up and gained a class it’s time to buy new skills again : D
      After all.. the best time to buy skills is while being at low level. Spending 5 levels at lvl 40 or 5 levels at level 100. That’s certainly a big difference. On the other hand.. the best skills are not the one being bought.

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      1. That is probably the best and closest response to my plan I have received so far!

        To quickly cover that, the white warrior skill information will be in the next chapter, no need to worry it does compliment his style. Also yes I deliberately left it out of this chapter to let you speculate just what it will be ^.^

        As for doubling up on skills, better just look at this screenshot of my original idea, its is not 100% but it is the guidelines I use

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  2. Look forward to reading future chapters. By the way, are you planning on having class skills be ‘upgradable’ E:G, you have a class skill and other skills that are related to it at a high enough proficiency, and thus you can combine the class skill and other skills into a class skill that takes up 3 slots not instead of 2?

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  3. Hmm, another interesting chapter. One of my gripes in this story so far is the almost unbelievable series of events that lead to the protagonist ending up as he is. His injuries and how he incurs them are understandable but the follow-up to him entering the hospital is pretty crazy. Not doing anything about his cruddy employer and child-services being pretty much heartless when it comes to someone who’s gotten paralyzed and now is facing a pretty bleak future. It goes beyond my suspension of disbelief and I really had to turn off my brain and ignore the events that led up to the protagonist entering End Online. I’m no lawyer but I think there would’ve been at least a decent chance at reparations from his employer for his injuries and probably some sort of disability fund that he could draw on due to his misfortune.

    What comes after also nagged at me a little, with the whole ‘Fuck off’ from Lost leading to a major disadvantage (at least at first) and him not attempting to immediately remake the character, which I believe would’ve been the most reasonable response at getting such a major setback. If there was something along the lines of ‘no recreating a character for 24 hours’ or something, I would’ve understood why Lost would continue his character at least for awhile. But there didn’t seem to be anything stopping him from doing so.

    Anyway, this is not to say that I didn’t find your story entertaining. It’s been an enjoyable read so far and a nice take on the VR theme that’s been popular recently. Your protagonist seems well on the way to becoming a unique character in his own right and his path seems to be revealing more and more potential as time goes on. The most recent turn of events and the class skill ‘white warrior’ sounds really promising and it seems like his route is leading to a completely unique path that no one could possibly take.

    As for the case of Verde and Fen, I of course didn’t like the former previously but it seems like things are shaping up such that she’s gonna become more palatable. The latter is no doubt an intriguing character and surely Lost’s new class skill seems related to her existence, especially given that events appear to surround her as well as the little nuances such as Lost not being able to unequip his white cloak.

    Another thing I noted was how Fen’s weight appears to have changed from one of the previous chapter, where she once was 600kg and now she’s 600lb (which is a dramatic decrease). Also given that her initial form is even larger than a polar bear, even the initial estimate of 600kg seems really low since members of that species can weigh more than a ton.

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    1. With the recreating the character. I had thought in chapter two of Lost doing exactly that to rid himself of the skill he could not unequip, only to find out his new character still had it, along with the name Lost.
      A lot of the other details you mentioned there has been more information to, but from the initial critiques on chapter one and such, to try and create a better piece I tried to work on not ‘over detailing’ things.

      As for the employer, it was a rather tricky situation I was trying to portray and I have wanted to re do chapter 1, but I have said it before that I am not a person to go back and change a plot.

      For the lb and kg thing, I feel so shamed at such a mistake. I will go fix the weights now (along with some chapter 1 editing from poor grammer mistakes)

      Fen has a lot of mysteries about her that I have hidden, but I plan on slowly revealing more about her from time to time.

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    2. 1. I think this new world is based on money = power. Lost is basically poor. And i honestly didn’t get a feeling that there were any good people that would help those in need with money (since it’s poor district?). He was lucky that he got his hospital bill paid. After all.. his employee could sue him for destroying that house. Justice? Who cares about justice.

      2. This child-service situation also surprised me a bit. But i assumed there is a story to be told in the future. And also again this is different world. Maybe it is normal, or perhaps a lot was not said. He accepted this sudden situation a bit too fast, i pretty much got a feeling that he already was aware that this kind of situation sooner or later would happen. After all there is no way it was his first meeting with child-services.

      On the other hand i kind of liked that the story progressed fully into a game. At least this way beggining was a bit more enjoyable. His real life story ain’t exacly laughtable.

      3. LOST.
      There is one thing i find in vrmmorpg novels very appealing. That is being able to create unique characters. Like in lms, protagonist is without a doubt very.. legendary character. But it also does not change the fact that other players also have unique experience of the game. As long as you play your own way you will find enjoyment and unique things that one will discover. Especially when the game is new. And if one passes tests the game throws at him.. He will get more and more.. Fun.
      Like there could be 1 in lifetime chance that such a situation could be triggered. He might have triggered “lost”, that someone made as a joke. And AI responsible for quests followed up. Generating quests that will help his situation. He got his hood to partially fix his problem. Coincidence? No, if the game helps players and give them rewards for hard efforts. This way people can really enjoy the game. What does not kill you, will make you stronger.

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  4. Nice chapter. Yandere wolf is interesting.

    “She lets out a small giggle when she calls him by the nickname and his dyes crimson.”

    Not exactly sure what “and his dyes crimson” means. Is it a blush? Then it would be “and he dyes crimson” or “and his face dyes crimson”

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  5. I’m just catching up to your more recents chapters! Your story is great.

    Here is another small typo: fen should be Fen

    Collecting all the loot lying around I lead fen deeper into the dungeon as we hunt for more goblins.

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  6. Haha, I like that Fen isn’t able to make the same connection that level != fighting skill. Since she is an NPC, and level is her primary trait, it makes sense that she thinks Verde should be MUCH more capable than she appears to be.

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  7. Yop thank for the chatper ^^

    “Be wary of those with armour, they’re ‘call’ goblin warriors.

    Shouldn’t it be ‘called’ ?

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  8. Just finished reading ch7 and i was curious About the hooded cloak.does it have the wolfs head as the hood? Because That would look pretty cool in my opinion and make him look more like old time warriers.

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