Chapter 11: The Challenge of Challenges
“Naru, can I try some things?”
I am in Reno town, the last town before the canyon that leads to Nortius, staring at Juri as she wiggles her body and blushes suggestively.
I think the template is to expect something ecchi as the request, but since I’m not a boy in puberty I will assume this is Juri being Juri, and that there’s a more reasonable request coming.
“While I probably won’t mind a request from someone like Juri, exactly what will you be trying?”
She fidgeted some more, looked away, and blushed.
Haa… Aren’t you over 30? What’s with the timid school girl act?
“I … I’m not good at healing or getting the timing of buffs down … so will you let me try it on you?”
Yeah, I figured it was something like that.
“Like I said, I’m ok with that, but … Juri, why didn’t you party up with someone at a starter town?”
For the record, Juri took [Heal Magic], [Wind Magic], [Bolstered Intelligence], and [Alchemy].
She is 100% support … or like, Juri-san, why did you take [Alchemy] and not [Scavenge]?
Naturally, her [Alchemy] is at Lv1 because she doesn’t have the ingredients to craft. Her [Wind Magic] is surprisingly at Lv5.
Well, she has at least 1 TP that can go towards a more offensive magic … Now she needs 4 more.
“Uuun … because I’m not confident on testing tactics on a beginner. It sucks to get a Death Penalty right at the beginning, right?”
No, well, you’re a beginner too?
“Maa, it’s fine. I already did all the delivery quests in this town, so I have nothing else to do.”
To be honest, even if I wanted to go out east, I’ve been wondering why I took this escort quest.
Don’t I know I hate escort quests? Why did I take this long-ass quest?!
So actually, being asked to be a meat shield or test dummy sounds pretty good~.
But the desire to want to be proficient before she advertised herself for parties … is that a sign of being an adult or being a child?
Or is it just perfectionism?
No matter, time to hunt!
My joints were starting to get stiff just sitting here in the village … well, I guess that’s not possible in VR, but let’s go kill some things!
The village was located in a wooded area, so it wasn’t too far outside of the village before we ran into the first monster.
“Oooh, pork buns sound good.”
I had skipped lunch, see.
I wipe the little bit of drool that had escaped my mouth.
Teh, is it just my imagination, or did that boar flinch?
After a second of hesitation, the boar charged in!
Raising our voices and screaming, or squealing, at each other, we clashed in combat!
Slash, slash, slash
Damn. It’s faster than I thought.
Two axe-strokes cut shallowly into the pig, but they did nothing to weaken it.
Hahaha, good! The monsters out here are definitely stronger!
I barely dodge the sharp tusks.
Come on, come on, pick up the pace-!
All of I sudden, I hear,
My axe swings through thin air as I overshoot the boar, and my balance is destroyed sending me running straight into it!
The pig, though startled, took advantage of the situation, burying its snout into my ribs. I vaguely hear Juri scream.
Ouch… That hurt. I’m definitely going to avoid the wild boars in the mountains in real life. Getting gored in the ribs in VR is enough…
I even felt like the breath was knocked out of me.
There’s a light Stun Bad Status on me and a quarter of my HP is gone, huh?
The Stun was only for 2 seconds, but that’s enough for the boar to prepare for its second charge.
I dart to the side and kick it as hard as I could.
The boar flinches and steps to the side; I couldn’t send it flying.
There’s no accuracy penalty for unarmed attacks, but damage is considerably reduced without the Talent, ne.
I hear Juri call out from behind me, and my HP goes back up to about 90%.
Good, her training on the way to this little town wasn’t in vain. She doesn’t forget to heal when she gets flustered now.
The pig glared at me.
“Fu-n, come then!”
1 second, 2 seconds, now!
Tch. Not good enough, huh?!
I ward off the porker’s snout with the axe in my left hand, but it almost tears it out of my grip.
That’s ok, because again, with the Spectre’s End axe in my right hand, let’s strike again!
No good; with my left hand preoccupied, the skill doesn’t have its full range and only 3 of the 5 hit. I’ll have to remember that.
“Eh?! Ah … <Wind Needle>!”
3 tiny, barely visible pins of Wind Magic shot through the air at the boar.
Uooo-! I quickly dodge the magic Juri shot, then close in around the boar’s rear.
Although the damage is small, Juri’s <Wind Needle> was enough as a distraction, and I could finally deal the last blow.
The boar fell with a grunt, then dispersed into lights and disappeared, leaving behind only the drops.
Meat, skin, and tusks.
“Haa… it seems I’ve reached the limit of my OP play now.”
I grumble a little, but to be honest, even though overpowering the enemy is great fun, THIS thrill is what I was looking forward too.
Saa, OriginStory, how much fun can you give me?
“Juri … you need to warn me before using <Wind Boost>. This isn’t a game with auto-target, so increasing someone’s speed without warning … well, it’s better not to do it.”
“I-I’m sorry. I thought it would be helpful if you dodged and your speed increased…”
“Nonono, that kind of combo play is something you have to practice a lot to be able to get the timing down without having to tell each other what to do. For now, use it when someone asks, or when he’s not getting attacked.”
If she had puppy ears and a tail, I guess they’d be drooping now.
“Maa, that’s how it is. Anyway, you did good remembering to heal even when you were panicking, so you’re getting better? Support skills are hard. Speaking of which, did you turn on the ‘No Friendly Fire’ option?”
That’s why I dodged when she used <Wind Needle>.
My magic defense is low you know~.
Although it only works for AOE skills, ‘No Friendly Fire’ is usually the first thing parties confirm with their magic users. Even the vanguards will make sure to check it just in case, since you don’t want to accidentally hit a friend when you’re trying to destroy … say a swarm of goblins, and your sword user just happened to be in range when you use a blade tornado-type move.
Though, that option it doesn’t matter for me; even if I check it, most of the skills I deal collateral damage with aren’t AOE~.
Maa, it’s troublesome to have to control your follow-throughs in an attack, so I don’t want to~.
Anyway, Juri says,
“Un, I made sure in the last village, since we partied up.”
“Ah, then I dodged unnecessarily. Ok, well, let’s get you used to firing magic into combat without hitting me.”
Although she learns quickly, it’s clear that Juri is new to VR games.
Ranged attacks aren’t easy if you’re not used to VR, and magic fired off is usually bigger in width than an arrow, so friendly fire is all too common when you’re shooting magic over the vanguards.
After that first battle, that I was hit with <Wind Pierce> several times … is something we will just call “beginner mistakes”.
Maa, she heals me in between attacks, so it’s nothing to worry about.
Nothing to worry about…
Strange, with my HP full, why do I suddenly feel like sympathizing with a pin cushion?
“Alright, everyone’s here. Let’s go…. wait, why do you look so worn out?”
“No no, it’s your imagination, Jemino-san.”
Juri is blushing, avoiding his eyes, as we walk up.
Even though I have full health, my mental health…
I haven’t taken this much damage in a long time, but Juri has definitely improved, so I guess we can call it a success?
“Alright. Everyone stocked up on water just in case?”
A waterskin lasts 2-3 days of water, and since I’ve officially unlocked “survival mode,” I took the necessary precautions and stocked up on 2 stacks of filled waterskins.
Juri is still lucky, since she’s under Avg 10.
Eh? I should take another Talent really fast and lower my Avg Lv?
Uuun… but I won’t get another chance like this to test out how Hydration levels work, you know? If I really get into trouble, the Wayfarer is supposed to have a device that filters water, you know? This is like “survival mode with training wheels”, you know?
By the way, Juri still stocked up on 1 stack of waterskins just in case. She’s only Avg Lv 5 now, but considering how fast she’s been leveling while in my party, even with her “forever Lv1” [Alchemy], she might get close to Avg 10 by the end of the trip.
I am deeply suspicious about this last leg of the journey. So far, we’ve traveled distances that matched the 3 hour traveling time (which could probably be cut down to under an hour without the heavy caravans, scripted attacks, and forced rest breaks), but if I look on the map I got from the drunk Ossan from the northern starting village, there’s just this jaunt through a canyon, and then a little more into Nortius.
Compared to the previous two days’ travels, the distance is much shorter.
Now just what could be the reason for this time estimate…
“These. Damn. Monkeys-!”
A few tens of meters into the canyon, and we were assaulted by a troupe of monkeys.
And I mean, like, 30 of them.
–Challenge: Prevent the Monkeys from Stealing from the Caravan-
There’s no way I can do anything!
This really is a scenario for 1 full party … or 3!
They’re fast, but with Juri constantly applying <Wind Boost> and pelting them with <Wind Needle> to hinder them, I can catch up with them.
They’re not as tough as the boars, but I need to swing really quick to take them down before they run off.
Because I can’t take them down in 1 hit, quite a few manage to escape.
After what seemed like forever, and by that I mean 10 minutes, the monkeys all run off, leaving behind some roughed-up wagons, stunned wagon drivers, and me, feeling like I just ran a marathon.
“What a shame, they made off with some of the fruits… Ah well, thanks to you the damage wasn’t too great. We should get going again before the Sticky-Pawed Monkeys come back.”
Jemino shook his head sadly while he looked over his goods.
Well I fucking tried.
Juri looks really tired too, so I toss her an MP potion just in case.
She didn’t have to heal much, but she was using Wind Magic constantly.
“Oh, thanks. I still have 25% MP though…”
“Well, just in case something happens after this, you can use it if your MP hasn’t recovered.”
Juri was going to hand it back, since potions are expensive and you’re only allowed to purchase 5 a day from the NPC Alchemist, but she kept it after I urged her to.
To be honest, I’ve been buying them when I have the spare money, but I haven’t needed too many MP potions. I’d rather Juri be able to heal, rather than me having to use my Skills.
Because you can still swing an axe even without MP.
“Tch. Those damn monkeys are always such a pain. Drive them off faster, next time. And watch where you’re swinging that axe.”
Minas, Aurey the Wayfarer’s guard, glowered at me.
“Uwa. Strong words from a man who kept missing.”
Like I was just going to take those words obediently. Minas uses a spear, and he sucks at it.
“Minas, let’s keep moving.”
Aurey cut into Minas’ angry yell, and he shuts his mouth quickly, glowering at me.
Yeah, yeah, keep it moving.
Good grief, even though he’s an NPC he’s so hot-headed…
The change in the environment happened all of a sudden.
On one side of the canyon it’s a beautiful wooded area. A few meters into the canyon, and it’s desolate. A few sturdy looking shrubs lie here and there, but it’s pretty much a desert already.
Even though there’s a river rolling through it.
I’m tempted to drink the water, but I think I’ll wait until I register Nortius on my map.
It’s no joke if I have to do this all over again-!
Ah, but if I just come by myself next time, it will reduce the time by 2/3s…
Reluctantly, I decide to play it safe this time.
We’ll save the reckless behavior for another day.
Even though this place is getting desert-like, it’s not like the temperature is increasing, or that the ground is becoming sandy. There’s just no plants.
It really is the poison in the water, huh?
“Why is it that the water becomes poisonous once it passes through this canyon?”
I ask the question out loud, not really directed towards anyone in particular.
“No one really understands it, but those science-y folks are researching it. They say it could be the stone in the canyon or something…”
Jemino was the one who answered.
Even though I thought Aurey would.
I guess I don’t understand a Wayfarer’s traits or something. She really hasn’t been very talkative all through the trip, and whenever I ask about how the trip is going or what we should be looking out for, it’s usually Jemino who responds. Did you really need a guide, Jemino?
Or so I thought, but several times I’ve noticed his brow furrowing as he looked at Aurey, so I wonder if she just isn’t very good at her job.
Even the interactions between NPCs are pretty detailed.
I see. In this game, it would be better to consider the NPCs as real people if you don’t want to get into trouble and be unable to finish quests.
Not that I’m a fan of abusing more robotic-ai-type NPCs anyway, but I’m actually going to have to pay attention to my manners, huh?
That’s going to be a pain.
Aside from the random lizards and coyotes that try to sneak attack our caravan, there isn’t much else going on.
Juri’s almost asleep in the back of Jemino’s wagon.
Her END is low, so she can’t keep up by walking constantly like I can.
Although she’s nodding off, I can hear her muttering,
“So neglecting other stats isn’t good after all… I should take something more for utility next…mou…”
Umu, well, the terrain has gotten a bit rocky and difficult to travel, so the horses are going slow too. It might be ok not to mind it too much, Juri.
I’m still going strong. I’m a believer in the “high strength, high endurance” faction, so I’m ok.
As long as it’s not a magic puzzle, I’ll get through any obstacle one way or another!
I hear the sound of rocks being kicked around, and I immediately raise the level of my wariness.
Fumu. They’re definitely headed this way.
Pretty soon, a group of scraggly men blocked our way up ahead.
There was no need to hide from us, because the path through the canyon was narrow and treacherous.
Even though we could see them coming, there was nothing we can do to avoid them. Even running back the way we came would be difficult with heavily laden wagons.
“Bandits, huh? I supposed I was too optimistic to assume we could avoid this…”
–Challenge: Protect the Caravan from the Bandits-
Oho… So it’s like this.
“Juri, stay with Jemino~.”
“Eh? Wait, Naru!! That number is-!”
“Yeah, 15 is a bit too much for me… how about you guys give me a hand?”
I look over at Jemino’s personal guards.
They’re NPCs, and there are three of them. But even though they’re guards, they were basically wagon drivers this entire time …
By the way, their names are Aka(Red), Aoi(Blue), and Orange.
Why did they finish the pattern with Orange? I don’t know either.
“We will go too.”
“Orange, stay in the back and provide supporting fire.”
We stepped out in front of the caravan.
“Hello. What lovely weather we’re having. May I ask which would you gentlemen prefer to do; get out of the way or get beaten to a pulp?”
“Kakaka, what do you think we’re here for, we – wait, what?”
The bandit-who-is-probably-the-leader falters a bit in his speech.
“No, isn’t the usual question, ‘What do you want with us?’ or something – Guh-!”
Umu. He dodged, so the axe cut too shallowly…
“Maa, I’m trying to be efficient. Let’s end this quickly, ‘kay? I want to hurry up and reach Nortius.”
The bandit leader had fallen over, trying to dodge that, and now he looks up, clearly panicking.
“Waitwaitwait! You’re being too hasty!”
“Naaaw, it’s fine~.”
“It’s not your place to say that!”
Ah… is this going to turn into a shouting match? Because I’d rather fight it out than yell it out…
Just when I was thinking that,
At the same time as the scream, a notice popped up:
–Challenge: Prevent the Thieves from Stealing the Artifact-
I was about to turn to figure out what was going on, but the bandit leader let out a nasty chuckle.
Trying to do me in when I’m distracted, huh?
I caught his short sword from below with my left hand, and then just punch him in the face.
In the split second all the bandits are still frozen in shock, I kick him as hard as I can, knocking him over, before I turned to look at what happened.
Minas is standing there wielding his spear, a nasty grin on his face.
In front of him is Jemino, collapsed on the ground and clutching his stomach.
Now. Exactly what is this situation?
“Kyaa… <Light Heal>!”
Juri shrieked, but instantly healed Jemino.
Although I don’t know how much HP he has left, the color properly returns to his face.
But… ah, it completely seems like, after the reckless training where I’d allow myself to get injured almost to death to have her get used to healing even if she’s panicking, instantly casting Heal Magic has become a reflex for Juri when she’s startled now. Is that going to be ok later on?
“cough… Dammit, you crazy woman… Shit, what are all you bastards doing? Attack them!”
Before Aka, Aoi, and Orange could run back to Jemino, the bandit leader had gotten back to his feet and ordered them to attack.
Dammit… I’m torn between fighting the bandits and running back to Jemino and Juri…
This is why I hate escort quests!
Minas’ mouth twitches a bit after seeing Jemino healed, but he still has an ugly smile on his face.
Keeping his eyes on the two, he calls out to Aurey behind him.
“Oi, did you find the totem yet?!”
“Of course not, I’m looking now!”
“Y-you… how do you know … about that?”
Jemino spits out the words in rage.
“Hmph. Like we have any obligations to answer someone who’s going to die, like you.”
Jemino glares angrily at Minas.
“You bastards… I was wondering why the Wayfarer this time was so much worse than usual. Did you dispose of the original Wayfarer and team up with the bandits?”
Minas laughed, tapping his spear against the palm of his hand.
“No, no, Aurey’s a genuine, certified Wayfarer, you know? Just, right now she’s working for US.”
Minas gestures towards the bandits.
So they ARE together, then.
I think that idly while parrying an attack, then slashing out at a bandit.
Why do these guys have so much HP…
Back behind me, Jemino flushes in anger, saying,
Whatever Jemino was going to say, it was cut off all of a sudden.
“What is that?!”
“What bad timing!”
A flying, lizardy thing just came bearing down on us from the tops of the canyon!
–Challenge: Protect the Caravan from the Rock Drakeling-
Wtf is with all these challenges popping up one after another?!
Weren’t there 2 perfectly boring days they could have spread them out over?! This is, what, 3 challenges all at once?!
That lizard thing, I mean the rock drakeling, swooped down at us, scattering the bandits as they struggled to look for cover, and I and the other caravan attendants pulled back into the wagons as it misses us by a hair.
Even Minas and Aurey were shocked into inaction.
I drop out of my battle stance to get a good look, shading my eyes from the sun with one hand.
“Uoo… that’s pretty big.”
It’s about the size of one of the wagons~.
“This isn’t the time to be so nonchalant, is it?!”
“Maa, let’s just see what happens-.”
Juri had fallen over, onto her butt.
“Hiii-! A Rock Drakeling and the bandits event? Not to mention the bandit event was upgraded to the betrayer event! All together?! This has to be a below 0.01% chance for this to happen!”
If you’re going to go that far, you might as well add the bad luck that only an idiot like me would choose to come this far in the caravan quest without a party, so for you to have hitched a ride with us … what rotten luck, ne.
Fwahaha, I’m only reaping what I sowed! How’s that!
Uwah. Seriously, though, this is all kinds of bad luck~.
“Tch. Nevermind the bandits, hurry, Aurey.”
Minas came back to himself, and spat out an order to Aurey.
She dove into one of the wagons.
Getting whatever they came to steal, huh?
I make my way to Juri, and Minas flinched, brandishing his spear at me.
His eyes keep flickering between me and the drakeling, watching the 3-front battle between the drakeling, the bandits, and our caravan’s attendants shooting arrows. Since he’s distracted, I ignore him and talk to Juri.
“Well, first give me a boost, Juri.”
“Eh? But there’s no way…”
“Maa maa, if this is what the game gives us, let’s roll with it and see what happens, ‘kay?”
“… <Wind Boost>!”
The faint green light wraps around me, and then I charge ahead-! Time to hunt a drakeling!
While I rushed out of the wagons at first, I suddenly veer a hard right and hone in on Minas!
Although he tried to guard, he was a split second too late, and Minas roared in pain as my axe tore through his side.
“Fufufu, don’t look away, now.”
I shoot him a sneer and brandish my 2 axes cockily.
His face twists in an ugly rage.
“Fine, I’ve been wanting to beat your face in since I met you!”
“Likewise, you ****ing **** of a ****. A man who can only act tough in front of weaklings is suited to be fed to my axe!”
“Eh…!? Naru, this is a family-oriented game! No, wait, I mean, you’re not taking out the drakeling first?”
I shoot a quick glance to the side.
The drakeling’s swooping both at the bandits and our wagons, and, ah… there goes the top half of a wagon … but isn’t it fine if the bandits are also being dealt with at the same time?
In this situation, chaos is welcome!
“Well, try to keep the goats safe, Juri!”
Sorry, no more time to talk.
“Ya bitch of a woman!”
Aah, yeah, this guy is definitely a misogynist, huh? Fucking bastard.
You’re full of openings!
Like this one!
I dodge his spear thrust and … keep going.
“Wha-! No, Aurey!”
Aurey, who had just emerged from the wagon and was about to make off with the totem, screamed as I attacked her. She collapsed on the spot.
And another… and now she’s still.
[Bolstered Endurance]Lv14 (+3)
[Sharp Senses]Lv12 (+1)
[Spirit of the Wild Hunt]Lv11 (+1)
[Inheritance of the Forest Guardian]Lv9 (+2)
Avg Lv: 12
About the Game Pt6:
For many long quests, instances, or raids, “Challenges” have a possibility of popping up. Each challenge that you have succeeded in accomplishing is listed under the “Achievements” tab.
Of course there are common challenges that have a greater probability of popping up, compared to uncommon and rare challenges that have a much lower probability of popping up.
In general, there is no limit to how many challenges may pop up.
Instead, each challenge simply has a trigger spot that has a certain percentage of activating the challenge.
The probability of triggering any challenge are all 5% or below, so it is far more likely to finish your quest/instance/raid without triggering any challenges compared to triggering all the challenges.
If we’re talking about the numbers on paper, anyway, but the probability of fate always seems to scorn the probabilities coded into a game.
For “Caravan: Honeysuckle Village to Nortius”, “The Thieving Monkeys” is a common challenge at 4% chance of occurring, “The Bandits” is an uncommon challenge at 1%, “The Undercover Thieves” is a rare challenge at 0.1%, and “The Rock Drakeling” is a high rare challenge at 0.05%.
How should I say this … being the main character of a VRMMO novel makes miracles of a dangerous sort appear, ne.
That being said, it’s not like she got the legendary or mythical challenges…
Challenges lead to higher rewards at the end of your quest/raid/instance, as well as opportunities for further glory … if you keep an eye out for it.
<A/n: Thanks Egg and RS for the donations!
Ah… It’s so hard to get into Naru’s head when I’m feeling introverted. >