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Chapter 3: Mr. Gatekeeper
What should I harvest today? I thought while making my way to the gate.
The gate was so wide that 10 people could easily line up within it, and it was usually kept open since gatekeepers were permanently stationed there, on the lookout for Red Names that had committed some sort of crime and for clearly suspicious people.
By the way, in this game, depending on the reason, a player may or may not become a Red Name by committing PK, or Player Kill. On the other hand, if a player ever kills an NPC other than a thief, pirate or criminal with a bounty on their heads, they immediately become a Red Name and, if caught, are sent to a penal colony. When a player is sent to a penal colony, management steps in and if they find the player malicious, they ban the player’s account. It seems your account can be judged as malicious even if you haven’t killed anyone. If there are extenuating circumstances, they will only suspend you and you can come back later. However, if your account’s been banned, you can never log in again. Since your body’s data has been scanned, you can’t make a new account even if you use different VR gear.
Personally, I didn’t want to kill an NPC. I mean, if a player like me died they paid a little penalty and came back, but if an NPC was killed they were gone forever. At the start of this game, I was told that the shopkeeper of a certain store changed into a completely different person after the previous clerk died during a quarrel between two players. Also, when I talked to them, NPCs could hold a conversation like actual living people. Furthermore, each and every one of them had their own personality. Games nowadays are extremely well done.
I didn’t need Yuuta to tell me what to do. Going about town I’d become friendly with a fair amount of NPCs. For example, that gatekeeper standing over there. He’s on duty 4 times a week on certain days.
“Hey, Mac. You harvesting today? There’s some sort of disturbance in the forest so be careful.”
“Alright, got it. What’s all the fuss about though? I mean, Vidello-san, aren’t you looking a bit unwell?”
I had already obtained the gatekeeper’s name. After he gave it to me, I opened the hidden Friend List and found his name recorded there. When Vidello-san was at his usual place his name was in white, and when he was off duty it became grey. It was like when you can tell if a player is logged in or not.
“No, I got carried away yesterday and drank too much,” Vidello admitted.
“You overdid it1. Okay then, here, I’ll give you my special Cure Potion, so take care.”
“I owe you one.”
Vidello-san, who had chiseled features like a foreign actor, took the Cure Potion from me, gulping it down in one go, and let out an “Aa~!” as if he just chugged some alcohol.
“Ah, I feel a lot better now. Thanks, Mac.”
“You’re welcome. Drink in moderation, ok?”
“I’ll take that to heart.”
We both raised our hands in farewell and I left. After walking a bit, I glanced back and saw that Vidello-san was still waving at me. Waving back, I entered the forest.
“Shall I collect materials from slimes and insects today? I’ve consumed quite a bit with Magic High Potion. Ah, but I also want the medicinal herb system.”
I kept walking while using the skills Enemy Search and Search. I walked leisurely because, in this forest at least, I could defeat most of the monsters by myself.
This place was truly a treasure-trove of materials. Sometimes strange herbs grew, and when my Enemy Search skill leveled up, I could start encountering monsters I hadn’t seen before.
It would be a waste not to level up my Harvesting, Search and Enemy Search skills. Plus, there’s all kinds of things that could be used for alchemy in the forest. I didn’t know how to use them yet, but ingredients like that were needed for alchemy. Alchemy was fun.
Still, I’d never seen another alchemist other than me and didn’t have anyone to learn from, so everything I knew was from my own trial and error. Ah, I did sometimes receive recipes from friendly NPCs. Though it was truly just by chance, probably influenced by my Luck value.
“There aren’t any interesting materials today, huh? Even though last time some strange herbs grew around here.”
I looked at my feet, walking slowly, but there weren’t really any good ingredients. I mean, was it just my imagination or did it seem like the medicinal herbs were eaten away by something?
Only the stalks were left and they were not in a harvestable state. This was a kind of damage I hadn’t seen before. Even if a novice had picked these herbs, the stems wouldn’t have been crushed and scraped in this way.
Could the thing that ate away at these plants be the origin of the disturbance in the forest?
Was it a monster that knew it would recover by eating medicinal herbs? That’s worrisome.
Sometimes though, unfamiliar quests like this would pop up, which is why I couldn’t stop playing this game.
So I tried opening the quest section on my status screen. I knew it! ‘NEW’ was written there.
Taking a look at the details, I read the following:
A threat has appeared in Tre forest! It seems a being of an unknown nature has wandered into the forest. If you see something strange, quickly let the adventurer’s guild know.
“Ah, it’s not a subjugation quest. I have to let the guild know.”
Meaning I probably wasn’t strong enough for this quest, which made me a little bit nervous. Though up until now the map hadn’t shown any indication that there’s a monster like this around. But, sometimes, there were monsters I couldn’t find with Enemy Search. I had to raise my level even more.
At any rate, the small fries wouldn’t come out. I figured it was the calm before the storm.
I took a mini-shovel out of my inventory and dug up the eaten plants by the root. They hadn’t been established as an item, so I couldn’t put them in my inventory.
Holding the dirt in my hand, I decided to continue further into the forest.
As I ventured forth, it looked like part of the forest had been laid to waste by something large. Trees had been felled and the ground was gouged, almost as if something large had come through and crushed them.
Could it be that something was trying to build a nest here? No way.
Judging by the damage, wasn’t it something as big as a dragon? As expected, dragons were out of my league. It was impossible by myself. What should I do? I didn’t actually see the monster, but this is more than enough to count as something strange. Thinking that, I turned on my heel.
Instantly I could feel a change in the air on my skin.
I didn’t really understand, but my sixth sense was warning me – I shouldn’t be here.
“Stealth! This is bad!”
Casting stealth magic on myself, I ran through the forest with all my strength.
From above came the sound of wings flapping, but I felt that if I turned to look then I’d be petrified, so the only thing I could do is single-mindedly keep running.
I gradually felt a daunting pressure on my back.
Why would something that emits so much pressure appear in Tre forest, a place for players that were practically beginners?!
Weaving through the trees, I aimed solely for the town.
Aaah, this was bad. My stamina was running out. And I didn’t even have time to take out a Stamina Potion. The monster seemed to have locked its sights on me!
Too soon, my Stealth wore off.
But even when I had Stealth on, the creature easily found me. I understood that it was pointless from the start so I didn’t recast it.
My feet were tripping over the forest floor.
I was running out of breath.
Ah, but I knew it was right behind me.
When I reached the edge of the forest and all that was left was the single road leading to town, I suddenly realized.
“If… If I bring this thing to town with me, won’t it… become a huge disaster?!”
Perhaps it was bad to think about that for even a moment, because my foot got caught in a bend in the road and I fell forward.
Crashing to the ground, I finally looked behind me.
Aaaaaah! It was a Hagre dragon after all!
Its whole body was covered in green scales, and with the vertical pupils characteristic of reptiles, it firmly looked down on me. 2
Considering the way it fluttered its smallish wings and chased me on foot, I didn’t really think it had the ability to fly. But…
No matter how you think about it, it was impossible for me to win against a dragon by myself. I couldn’t deal it a fatal blow. It seemed like the dragon’s scales could defend against any attack from my prized alchemy item.
The dragon too let out a victorious battle cry as if to say that something like me wasn’t enough to stop it.
If I get eaten here and die, would the dragon give up and go back to the forest? But wouldn’t the quest be a failure then?
Having half given up, I took a bomb out of my inventory and lobbed it at the dragon. 3
Bang! Though it made a loud sound, the dragon’s HP, visible above its head, only went down slightly.
Ah, it really was impossible for me after all.
It was scary though, waiting to be eaten by that mouth. So I threw a bomb into its gaping maw as it approached.
As expected, it didn’t have a strong defense in its mouth. The dragon let out a cry different from before, bending its body backwards.
I stood up, but I couldn’t go into town like this, so I hesitated for just a moment.
In that split second while I was caught off guard, the dragon made a furious tail attack and I flew spectacularly through the air.
A/N: It’s a bit late but I changed a few things about account banning
Hasr: Just so you know, you can check this out on our patreon as well!
For those curious about why there was radio silence last week, please read this post.