Chapter 7: The Secret Passage
“Oh? You got business with me?”
At my provocation, the wolf’s body quivers. In the distance a snarl sounds on the wind, and then it leaps towards me.
“Uotto – Is that the best you can do?”
Dodging left as it came towards me, then right as it came hurtling back, I managed to escape the large shadow-wolf’s claws both times it lunged towards me.
Hahaan… because it’s a body without substance, it moves without any preparatory movements, huh?
This makes anticipating its movements much harder, but its speed is a tad slower than a normal wolf’s so it’s still at the level where I can cope purely relying on sight.
I prepare myself for another attack, but the shadow wolf just shrank into itself, then suddenly stretched up towards the sky.
If I had to describe it, it would be like it was howling.
But it doesn’t have a head…
Despite that, a distant howl-like wind sounds, a dark aura shoots up from the ground, and the room rumbles.
Starting from the middle, the ground crumbles and collapses outwards.
I take two leaps backwards to avoid getting caught up in it as the ground crumbles away to reveal a spiral staircase delving deep in the earth.
… Ah, it’s not that deep. I can easily see the bottom in this thin, cold light.
Or like, this could have been done when the area shook the first time, right? Try to consolidate transformation scenes!
The wolf stands there expectantly.
I leap forward and attack-!
… As I thought, my axe passes uselessly through the body.
It flinches, then draws back a moment before it rushes at me again.
Aaah… Was it passive and I just provoked it to being hostile again?
Hmm… As it scratches me, I’m getting slow debuffs…
I think I should go down the stairs now-!
Thud thud thud
Halfway down the stairs, the headless wolf stops attacking me.
Hm… It’s usually my policy not to hunt passives unless I actually need something from them, but it attacked me at first, you know?
It’s just annoying that it’s a ghost-type so I can’t do any damage!
At the bottom of the stairs is a tiny cellar with a desk, a stool, and a door. On the desk is an old, leather-bound book.
The door has a large lock on it.
Alright then, I guess I should read the conspicuously placed book, huh?
–… name is Ebb Joura, a golem researcher … make … guardian to forever protect … forest…
Is what is written on the first page.
The ink is smudged in places, and bugs have eaten through other spots, so it’s unreadable in some spots.
—Wolf … flood these woods … to protect both villages … I will make… guardian…
— An alpha wolf … stands above the other wolves … they won’t attack.
— too many … livestock … sheep wiped out…
Don’t tell me he’s making something crazy just to protect their sheep.
—Hunted … great silver wolf… skull is the core …
Ah… I think I see where this is going.
—The guardian … failure … shape … hold … melts within seconds … useless…
–Instead of a guardian … abomination … I shall seal my failure here forever.
So why don’t you just destroy it?
Not that I’m complaining. An abomination, huh? That sounds like fun to me.
I flip the page.
—No good… have I done? The wolf searches … head… polluting … forest… wraith … Can only bind him … as … guard so no one … falls to the abomination…
Like I said, how about destroying the abomination?
On the last page, there is only,
— and here it will remain forever.
I close the book.
Could it have been pride or something that kept him from having someone come kill it? Is that why you leave an angry shadowy wolf thing about 2 stones’ throws from the village?
Idiot, idiot! We’ve found a true idiot!
Not that it really matters to me, but I’m taking this journal so I can throw it at his head if I ever find this Ebb Joura.
Well then, shall we put the abomination out of its misery?
Putting the journal into my bag, I approach the sealed door.
There’s a lock on it, but with just a touch it creaks loudly.
I smash it open with a single blow from the handle of my axe and open the door as it falls to the ground.
A large chamber of stone masonry, an alcove with a ruined shelf, an altar with candles toppled over; that’s what was revealed behind the thick, wood door.
As my eyes adjust to the dim light, I hear
Ugh. It’s a disgusting squishy sound.
A large lump quivers and slides across the floor. About the size of a minivan.
A sickly dull reddish brown goop is there. Occasionally it shifts into some sort of solid form, but what it is you can’t tell, and it doesn’t seem like it can control it.
At the top, like a mask, is an animal’s skull fixed into the goop.
So I just need to beat this thing, eh?
Why? For what quest?
Who cares! Just let me fight something worthwhile already!
It attacks by shooting out tendrils, and it actually does some decent damage.
Even though my HP is almost 1000, 25-40 damage each hit still hurts.
He’s a bit slow, but I have to be on guard to dodge completely.
Since he sometimes attacks with multiple tendrils at once, sometimes I can’t evade completely.
It smells like old blood and rust, this puddle of jittering goo.
I lodge my axe into it, once, twice, three times, then back away.
Hm. Is it not doing a lot of damage, or is this thing incapable of feeling pain?
Either way, it’s still in tip-top shape.
Close in, dodge, spin, then
Ooo. This thing slices nicely.
With a splat splat splat, 3 pieces of this lump come off and decorate the wall in a splatter pattern. Missed 2 times this time, huh?
Alright, then let’s aim for a critical spot next!
Nowadays in VRMMOs, criticals aren’t probability based but granted when you hit vulnerable areas on your opponent.
Although I’m not a crit-aimer like other players, big damage is still delicious.
With a normal attack feint, I quickly dodge to the side and aim for the wolf skull, and …
It goes flying off in a cloud of goo.
Nice! With this, maybe its movements will dull… oi oi oi, it’s coming right back though!
With a sickening squishing sound, the skull halts in its flight path and comes right back, adhering back to its original spot.
Fine then, how about this-!
Haha, of course I can’t use that again so soon, sucker!
The goop attempts to block instead of dodge, and I’m now in perfect position. Lucky~!
Unleashing the new Skill I learned recently, <Skull Splitter>, I cleave down to the ground, through goop and skull and anything else that stood in my path.
While high defensive armor reduces the damage from this Skill greatly, from what I’ve seen, this goop doesn’t have much of a defense. It’s the high HP type, low defense, and just about no evasion.
Perfect prey for a damage pissing match.
With a last, weird, dying cry, the goop loses it’s strength, and melts away into a puddle with a skull.
Whew. Other than the skull, there wasn’t anything like a vital spot on a mound of goo, so it took some time, but that’s that.
There’s no drop?
There’s no drop!
Uuugh… working for free is ok some times, but this dungeon sucks.
I take a quick glance around the chamber.
A glint off to the side catches my eye.
A chain with a large ring on the end is barely visible, peaking around the corner of the altar. Walking over to it …
— You have found a mysterious spot with a chain pull.
— Don’t pull it.
With a silly image of a black text box and pixelated white text, similar to an old text-based dungeon game, running through my head, the answer is … Of course pull it!
A small chime sounds, and a glowing item bag pops out before erupting in a flash of light and revealing the item.
Ooooh! An axe!
Kahaha! This was worth it after all, huh?
I bend over and take the handle of the axe in my hand.
—As the first player to have completed the Hidden Quest, ‘Ghostly Howls in the Forest,’ the equipment reward will be increased 1 Rarity Grade, and an additional 10% ExP is rewarded.
So this was a quest, huh?
I open up my quest journal and toggle “list completed quests”
–Ghostly Howls in the Forest (HQ)
–Subdue the Phantom Wolf and destroy the Abomination.
I see. Very straightforward.
Hmm… heheheh, it’s nice to have been the first to complete it.
The bonuses from being first aren’t THAT great, but maa, it’s probably better this way.
There were some games that gave such great “first blood” and “first discovery” bonuses that nothing was worth doing if you didn’t do it first … in those cases, the devs kept opening up server after server and people just kept migrating to the new servers…
Anyway, a 1 level increase in Rarity Grade isn’t anything to laugh at.
A blue axe! This early in the game!
Twirling the blue, unidentified axe happily, I climb back out of the underground chamber and take the path not marked by stones.
The rest of the journey was more or less uneventful.
Although, I’m beginning to pick up Bat Leather. How many of these will you need to make a shirt?
My Scavenge Talent must be level 5 now.
… Where am I?
I scramble out of the small ravine I’m in and up onto the ledge.
Coming out of the Hidden Quest dungeon, I stand up to take a good look at my surroundings.
The trees are clearly different. There are more evergreen plants, and it feels somewhat colder… no, that might be my imagination.
I check the map function…
Yes, I’m in the overworld again, but … what the heck?
How did I end up all the way north over here?
Somehow, I’ve bypassed the mountain range between the eastern starting area and the northern starting area … don’t tell me that cave was just a tunnel shortcut through the mountains!
Aaah… I drop into orz as I realize THAT’S why the cave had no side-passages. THAT’S why the monsters were weak. THAT’S why the Hidden Quest wasn’t that difficult.
This was just a tunnel to get between beginner areas!
“Haaa… I feel like a complete idiot… haha ha ha…”
As I stay kneeling, laughing dryly, in the distance I hear screaming and fighting.
I stand up, listening carefully. I still have a few minutes left on <Enhanced Hearing> after I reactivated it earlier, so I can hear things pretty clearly.
What the heck?
Oi oi, what’s going on? It sounds like a war, no, a massacre going on over there!
I have my Chat Box on hidden mode, so I have to open the Social Panel to see it.
I flip to the World Chat channel on the Chat Box, scrolling up a little until I find the beginning of a discussion about the northern starting village. It’s not that far up, so I wonder if that ruckus just happened.
Sussi: What is going on!?
Hourya: ^What do you mean?
Sussi: Can’t leave north starting village (cry)
Ashura: ^ same
Natsuya: Why? What’s going on?
Sussi: There’s angry monsters
Ashura: hostile mobs
Ashura: killed 3 times now, lol
Sussi: Not lol! Death penalty sucks
Hourya: Just warp to another village
Natsuya: That won’t help the death penalty though… and it’s 3 silver.
Hourya: Why are there hostile mobs right outside though, it should be nonhostiles?
Sussi: I don’t know!
Hattori: mpk degozaru. A girl with a bow and a boy with a grimoire degozaru.
Bobi: What?! That’s too mean!
Natsuya: Right at the starting village? Unbelievable
Bobi: PK, someone PK them!
Ashura: Oh, it was intentional? Kill them! Let them feel the rage of my death penalties!
Fortitia: Won’t the train dissipate?
Natsuya: If the mobs are too close together and people keep getting killed, it could go on forever. Neutral mobs will get pulled into the stampede if they’re too close, so even if they lose interest one by one, they could get re-aggroed.
Natsuya: and the train re-frenzies every time one of them kills something.
Natsuya: That’s what the homepage said
Fortitia: Achya… the nonhostiles are packed really densely in the beginner’s area to help beginners hunt, aren’t they?
Ashura: and a lot of beginners are hunting in the woods trying to return to village, getting killed
Ashura: … haha… 4th death
Natsuya: Don’t go out anymore!
Hourya: lol idiot
Bobi: btw, does death penalty stack?
Ashura: Nope. Just resets to 1 hr every time. But too much damage to armor…
Natsuya: Aw… someone repair Ashura’s armor!
Arisette: kay kay~ Onee-chan and her friend will move to the north starter’s village in 5 minutes! 1 copper for repair for each piece of armor and metal weapons for 30 minutes~
Bobi: Onee-chan to the rescue!
Ashura: … thank you (blush)
I see. To think someone already did something like this right now at the start of the game…
No, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
But trampling on new players before they even get out of the village with a never-ending train of monsters, what kind of ballsy idiot would do a monster player-killing (MPK) like that?
“I-it’s not our fault, right Pim?”
“… I don’t know, I don’t know!”
Oh my. It looks like I’m about to meet them pretty soon, if <Enhanced Hearing> is right.
Two pairs of feet are running my way, away from the commotion near the village.
“What are we going to do? What are we going to do? This is all our fault!”
A girl elf with a low pony-tail, carrying a bow and quiver, ran as fast as she could, her face pale.
“Shut up and just keep running, Pim!”
Ahead of her was a boy elf with short, sleek hair. He is carrying a grimoire, running just as fast.
Out of nowhere, a hand pins the boy to a tree.
Ah, that is, my hand.
“Oi, brat, what’s the hurry?”
The girl collapsed, falling on her butt as her legs gave out, and the boy was so terrified he stood, frozen like an icicle.
The girl’s voice leaks out.
Yup, yup, good. That’s the vibe I’m going for, pretending to be a player killer (PK) for just a moment.
“It’s only PK if I kill you. Even if I beat you to 1HP, I won’t be a PK. So? You two have anything to do with that mess by the newbie village?”
I give my most menacing glare.
“Don’t say anyth- heeek!”
The boy tries to bark orders at the girl, so I strongly pin him to the tree with my left hand and swing my axe deeply into the tree with my right.
I don’t trust my accuracy at this low level, so I aim to sink the axe about 20 cms away from his face. I don’t ACTUALLY want to hit him.
Aaaah I’m bullying two kids who look like they’ve barely started middle school. It’s a bit shameful.
I wonder if he’d have wet himself if we weren’t in VR, he looks so terrified.
They must have only just got out of the Unique Instance, with Talent Levels all at 1, judging by their terror.
“Hmph. I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ll just drag you two over there to get it sorted out.”
The girl bursts into tears.
“I-it was an accident-! Nopp wanted to join a p-party that was going hunting, and they said they were only taking people who finished the pinecone gathering quest.”
“So you ran around picking up pinecones and running away from monsters. That’s stupid. Don’t you think they meant you have to have your Talents at a high enough level to finish the quest safely?”
“Th-that’s what I said, but N-Nopp said this way would be faster!”
“So what? We didn’t PK them, everyone is just unlucky to get caught up in it!”
I glare at him, with my best murderer’s glare.
Right now, if they don’t know the basic etiquette, they’ll get caught by someone worse than me down the line. I’m being very generous, beating the basics into them~.
“What you just did is MPK.”
“W-we didn’t mean to.”
Under my eyes, the boy squirms, and his eyes swim as he tries to protest his innocence in a trembling voice.
“It doesn’t matter. Not to mention, you did the worst thing, leading a train through a spot in the beginner’s area where it can easily regenerate. Do you know how many players are crying right now because they have to waste an hour of their time recovering from their death penalties before they can even do their first quest?”
“A-at least we’re not PKs…”
“I hate people like you more than PKs. The game lets you kill other players without warning, so there’s no point in complaining too much if you get PKed. You, though, did something selfish and then say, since you didn’t mean to kill anyone, no one’s allowed to get mad and it’s ok. At least a PK does what he does while accepting the consequences.”
To tell the truth, PKs are annoying and it sucks to lose money and items if you get killed, but that’s just another way the game is played. Some people hate them and think they’re despicable crooks, and yeah, some of them pick on lower levels and do ambushes, but you have to accept that the game was made with that function for those types of people.
If a PK wants to play the game that way, I’ll keep him company. He just better have no complaints if I finish him off first!
We’ve attracted the attention of several wolves with our loud talking, and the girl gives a tiny shriek.
As they come leaping towards us with a snarl, I turn quickly.
“The things I hate the most in games are people who torture lower-levels-“
“-people who punish others for breaking rules they randomly make up-“
“- and people who selfishly destroy others’ fun for no good reason!”
3 wolves in 3 hits.
Hm… I’m probably getting a little overpowered for the beginner’s areas. That’s good. I can do that [Scribe] quest at any moment now, since I have an Avg Level of 5.
I sigh, flicking my axe free of the blood.
“Alright, well, I’m not going to say anything else. But making a train like this by running towards places people are is no good and causes trouble, so don’t do it again or you’re going to get marked for revenge by strong players.”
The two kids stare at me, open-mouthed.
I give them a sly, wicked grin.
“Whaaa-t, you guys deserved a little scare for causing all this trouble.”
“Y-you aren’t going to tell anyone?”
The boy’s lip trembled as he asked.
“You’re not gonna do this again, right?”
A good answer said with enthusiasm.
“Then I won’t say anything this time. What kind of party was worth doing this dangerous stuff for anyway?”
“They were really strong! We could have leveled up really fast with them!”
I narrow my eyes.
“That’s no good. If you’re too low-level compared to them, you won’t learn how to use your Skills the best. This is VR, so you kind of need get used to feeling Skills with your body.”
“I told you Nopp… let’s just go slow…”
The girl, completely tired out, leans heavily on her bow from her seated position.
“Ugh. It’s just the way Towol fought was so cool!”
My head swiveled to look at Nopp, scaring him a little.
“Wait. Who was that?”
“The p-party leader, a guy named Towol?”
I open a private chat channel.
[“… Oi, Chibi.”]
[“… Nee-chan? Ah… can this wait? I’m hunting in the North with some guys.”]
[“No. This can’t. Look at World Chat.”]
[“Haa… ok. Let me tell the others I’m taking a break.”]
There’s a pause. I assume he’s telling his party to stop for a moment.
[“Ok, now what’s … WHOA! What happened? MPK at the village?!”]
[“No one in World Chat knows, but apparently some newbies who wanted to join your party tried to finish a gathering quest because you guys told them that’s the only way they could join.”]
[“Huh? … Oh, right, we were trying to tell them they were too low-level. Wait, so they just ran and tried to do it?! Crap. This…”]
[“Ah… I’m not saying it’s your fault. I just wanted to tell you to just outright say they’re too low-level next time.”]
[“N-nee-chan… ugh, I feel guilty, though. Crap, we’re going to head back to the village to take care of it, but it will take 20-30 minutes…”]
[“Hm… if it will take you that long, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”]
[“Will you be ok?”]
[“Yeah, I can just about 1-hit the beginner mobs now. Ah, don’t tell anyone else who did the train. I already lectured them, and they already feel pretty bad about it.”]
[“Nee-chan’s lecture… Eek. Ok, let me know if you need help.”]
[“I’ll be fiiiine.”]
The elf boy and girl are still here, looking at me curiously as I sigh and cut the private chat.
“Ok, well I more or less get the situation, and even if it wasn’t directly his fault, the older sister has to clean up the mess of the younger brother.”
At my statement, the girl cutely tilts her head, confused.
I pat her on the head and give her the gentlest smile I could.
“I said I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.”
[Bolstered Endurance]Lv5 (+1)
[Sharp Senses]Lv7 (+1)
[Spirit of the Wild Hunt]Lv4 (+1)
[Inheritance of the Forest Guardian]Lv3
Avg Lv: 5
Hidden Quest: Ghostly Howls in the Forest
Prerequisites: Start the “Freid the Woodcutter’s Worries” quest or “Gerda the Shepherdess’ Worries” quest. Find “The Secret Shortcut Between Chillwind Forest and Honey Forest”.
Rewards: A green Mist-Touch weapon based on the player’s highest level Weapon Talent, or a staff if a Magic Talent is the highest level combat-type Talent. (Mist-touch: 1/2 damage on Incorporeal opponents)
You are only able to take either Freid’s quest (from Honeysuckle Village) or Gerda’s quest (from Rustbourne Village). You cannot take both. Taking one automatically invalidates the other. Abandoning the quest will open both options again until one is taken or re-taken.
Whether you have completed the prerequisite “Worries” quest or are still in the process of completing it, once you approach within 5 meters of either entrance to The Secret Shortcut Between Chillwind Forest and Honey Forest, the Spectre’s head will attack you, doing no damage, but putting a light Fear on you. It will disappear after 30 seconds.
This unlocks a personal instance version of The Secret Shortcut Between Chillwind Forest and Honey Forest that replaces the normal tunnel until you finish the Hidden Quest by uncovering the altar and destroying it. Even in a party, the tunnel that will spawn is the instance version as long as there is at least 1 person in the party that has activated the Hidden Quest, and all members of the party who enter the instance will have the Hidden Quest unlocked, even without all the pre-requisites.
This instance version will always spawn the Spectre’s body when you try to leave the mid-way room after defeating the skeletons until the Hidden Quest is finished.
If you try to leave the altar room before you find your quest reward, you are “corrected” with an intense feeling that you should look around the room some more, the lighting subtly dims and puts a slight spotlight on the ground behind the altar, and the chains on the pull will give a slight clink.
This Hidden Quest is one of the easiest Hidden Quests to uncover and finish, designed for low-level players, but it is easy to overlook the entrances to the secret shortcut even after meeting the Spectre’s head, which delayed a few other people from overtaking Naru in becoming the first to finish this Hidden Quest.
<a/n: Thank you Meousa for your donation!
Achya, after writing this, I think there may be more PK than I thought in the future.>