Chapter 14: Switching it Up
“So, some victi – visitors have come… Hahaha, I wonder, how will our hospitality hold up?”
That raspy voice echoing about …
After hearing it, the darkness in front of our eyes recedes and we’re looking at the inside of a foyer filled with cobwebs.
There’s no dust, but there are cobwebs…
The candles give off a warm light, but the light doesn’t seem to go very far.
“Okay, so I think we should not care about being the first ones to make it through. It sounds like there might be a lot of hidden gimmicks in here, and I’d rather find all those than rush in. What does everyone have now?”
Toru breaks into my careful observation.
Maa, even though he’s the chibi, he can be a good leader when he wants to be.
Continuing on, Toru opens his Item Bag and says,
“Let’s see … I have 3 HP Potions and 3 MP Potions, regular type not beginner potions, a … lantern? And … Oh no. A bow and a quiver of 200 arrows?!”
He hurriedly opens his Talents and Skills window, scans it anxiously, then groans.
“Oh noo… I’m an archer, with archer Skills…”
He reluctantly pulls out the bow and quiver.
Sylvestre tilts his head.
“Is that a problem?”
As Toru is just staring glumly at his Skill list, trying to memorize the new Skills, so I answer instead.
“He’s shit at aiming.”
“Eh? There’s a slight correction…”
“He’s shit at aiming.”
Not really sure what else to say, Sylvestre opens his bag.
“I have the same as you, Toru, but a shield and a sword… Well, I’ll do my best as a tank.”
He’s making a face like he doesn’t really want to be a vanguard, but he doesn’t complain too much.
To think the character assignments were completely random like this…
I have a really sinking feeling.
I open my Item Bag.
3 HP Potions, 3 MP Potions, a Lantern, and a … sceptre.
Aaah… I’m doing MAGIC?!
I open my Skills list.
“… Chibi, you’re gonna have more problems than not hitting stuff.”
Toru’s eyes sharpen and he looks over at me.
The last one was Sylvestre, who was confused about what we were doing.
Toru finally says, apprehensively, “Crowd Control or Heals?”
Without saying anything, Toru just stared at me, then silently dropped his face in his hands.
“… Um? Is that a problem?”
Asks Sylvestre, who is being left out of the loop on everything.
“Yeah. Nee-chan sucks at anything that requires you to be aware of the entire battlefield.”
“I just forget to do it~. Maa, there’s an AOE heal, at least, so it might not completely fail. Anyway, hey, Sylvestre, I’ll trade you.”
“The sceptre. For your sword.”
“Toru. I’m focusing on optimizing our DPS efficiency. If we’re all at Avg Lv 5 like this, it would be better for me to rely on my instincts rather than my stats.”
“… That’s … true.”
“Also, the sceptre has blunt damage added to it, so it won’t be too different if you swing the sceptre or the sword, right?”
“Haa… Sylvestre, is it ok? We’ll try it for one battle, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll switch back.”
“Ah… Okay. I don’t mind. I’m kind of shaky in the front anyway… and I don’t like how I’m the only vanguard in this group.”
Oh yeah, now that I think about it, I guess I’m supposed to be a rear guard too.
‘Supposed to be’ is such a strong suggestion…
“Kakaka, turn back, unfortunate souls, or become like us!”
Weird, ghoulish creatures, that were scrawny with ashen skin and hunched in the back while they scampered on all fours, leapt out at us the instant we tried to go down the foyer.
“O-ok, so I’ll –“
“I’ll be going ahead!”
I cut Sylvestre off and run ahead.
It’s not like I’m cutting him out of being a vanguard, but he seems really nervous.
As an archer who already has a regular party, he must not be used to taking damage.
I ignore one of the ghouls and leave him to Sylvestre to handle.
Sorry, but the other two are mind.
Although they’re agile, the ghouls are about as fast as a Horned Rabbit.
That is, they’re like beginner monsters.
Dodge, spin, slice!
Although my strength is pitiful, by carefully aiming for crit zones, I take them out dutifully.
Dowaa-! Eh, my HP is…!
Just one scratch from a ghoul took my HP down by a quarter!
What was it again…
Good thing I’ve been training Juri this entire time, I guess.
A light wraps around me, and I’m back at full health.
Heh… I have so little HP, I feel a little naked.
But because of that, I can’t back away. I have to finish them off faster!
Slash, slash, slash
Although I have the urge to yell, “Power Slash!” I refrain from doing so.
Anyway, although it takes a little longer than usual, I don’t have too many problems defeating them.
The shatter into fragments, leaving behind only the drop items, but I ignore them.
I better make sure the other 2 are doing fine.
I turn just in time to see Sylvestre make 2 wild swings. The third one connects, and the ghoul, who was being held off with his shield (barely) finally shatters.
Toru was staring glumly at his bow.
And the arrows that were littering the ground.
Because every arrow that was on the ground meant it was an arrow that didn’t hit his target.
“So, you were able to invite yourselves further in … you show some … promise, hahaha…”
That eerie, rasping voice from the beginning reverberates through the foyer again.
“Ok, so I understand what the two of you were saying now. Although most people probably won’t have too many problems relying on the Skills to fight, if you’ve only played a certain way every VRMMO you played, this gets kind of hard…”
“I meant to ask a while ago. You don’t use Skills often, so do you do archery in real life? Kyuudo?”
“Yeah, but not kyuudo. Kyuujutsu.”
“Then… let’s trade weapons. I can tank some without having to use Skills.”
Toru traded Sylvestre weapons.
“Haha, man, we were all unlucky, huh?”
I put a hand on my hip and laugh.
“I don’t know if we’re lucky or unlucky. We’re a party that can complete quests without using any Skills, mostly. So keep it up and check on the drop items.”
Toru said, slightly lecturing me.
I want to retort, but I let it be.
“Hm… Some Candy Corn and Caramels. And … what’s this? They dropped some small hourglasses. Ah, there aren’t any item descriptions popping up.”
“Ugh. That worries me a little. Oh well, let’s just hang onto them for now. Ah, there’s a small hourglass here too.”
Toru sighs as he pockets the one in front of him, then hesitates and says,
“Hey, give one to Sylvestre too.”
I remove one from my Item Bag and hand it over.
“You think it matters?”
“Maybe not, but you never know?”
Ah, he’s my brother alright.
Better safe than sorry.
Behind the foyer is a small room with green wallpaper with gold leaves on it.
In the corner of the room is a staircase that goes up.
Next to it is a fireplace.
There is also a couch, an old-fashioned lamp, a small table, and some bookshelves.
I immediately go and kick the bookshelves.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Books fall from some of them, but I ignore them and leave them to Toru to look over.
“Wha- What are you doing?”
“Ah, don’t mind me. Hm… Ah this one.”
At the 4th thud, I spy what I was looking for.
One lone book stood, not moving an inch.
I tug lightly at it, but it doesn’t move.
“Heh. Most of these books are blank. I wonder if they didn’t have time when they made this event… Ah, did you find something? Pull harder.”
Toru asked, piling the books neatly to one side.
“And if I break it? OriginStory is really realistic, you know … Ah, I know.”
I push it in and hear a *click*.
The fireplace shook a bit, then moved to one side.
Sylvestre stood there with his mouth open.
“How did you know? Normally there’s a visual cue that makes you think there’s something there, but there wasn’t anything this time?”
“Nee-chan kicks every bookshelf stuck on a wall in a dungeon that she comes across…”
Sylvestre has kind of an unreadable expression on his face.
Whaaat, this is normal in the everyday life of 2 abnormal gamer siblings, hahaha!
A cackling pumpkin-head descends down the staircase revealed behind the fireplace.
The light is suddenly extinguished in this dark, damp passageway.
There’s just a large chamber at the bottom.
It’s empty, except for a ring in the floor.
“Watch for traps, guys.”
I say, as I carefully go across the floor, then gingerly lift the ring.
“… Come to think of it, Nee-chan, we should have let Sylvestre do it. You don’t have much HP, right? What if it was a trap?”
A sneeze can take me out if I’m not careful.
“… Actually, can you come anyway, Sylvestre? I can’t lift it…”
I’m so WEAK!
Even though I struggled hard against the pull-ring, it only barely moves.
“Haha! Come on Nee-chan, pull harder!”
I punch Toru in the side while he relishes in my rare moment of weakness.
“Ow… Hey, my HP dropped a little!”
“Serves you right!”
“… You two are amazing. Completely ignoring the ambience like this…”
Now that Sylvestre mentions it, there are creaking and moaning sounds.
Ah, it’s kind of creepy, huh?
As the trap door raises, the hair on the back of my neck stands.
“Who?! Who has released the Beast?!”
The raspy voice has a hint of panic.
Something black and wiry suddenly shoots its arms up, grabbing the edge of the hole in the ground in order to pull himself up.
“Move back, Sylvestre!”
Toru barked out the order quickly, and Sylvestre dropped the trap door and moved back next to us.
The … thing shrieked as the door fell on one of its outstretched arms, and the arm disappears.
But … there are still 5 other arms…
“Hey hey, did we just do something bad?”
I ask with a grin.
“Well… we’re about to find out, I guess?”
Toru gives off a nervous laugh.
Out of the hole, slinkily, the black shadow pulls itself off.
Numerous beady eyes swivel in all directions before they finally focus on us.
It’s got scraggily fur that seems to melt into an ooze; a misshappen body with 6 arms, and floating.
It shrieked at us, and… ungh, took a little bit of damage.
Was it a sonic attack?
Just when I was thinking that, I had to dodge, quick!
Its arms stretched out to swipe at us, and it’s a little unpredictable…
Toru grunted as he took one attack with the shield, then bashed it with the sceptre.
“Blunt seems to do less damage. Sylvestre, Nee-chan, I’m counting on you!”
Sylvestre responded dutifully and notched an arrow to the bow.
It flies straight and true.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to tell he didn’t have the Bow Talent.
Anyway, I don’t have time to watch.
“Come on, let’s go!”
I dart in.
Dodge, cut, dodge cut.
… Does this thing HAVE a crit zone?
Like, it’s a blob.
With no other indicator, I decide to at least aim for the eyes.
Sylvestre seems to have been thinking the same, because a few pupils here and there have begun growing arrows from them.
But really… because we have no Skills, it’s going to be a prolonged battle, huh?
I yell when I hear someone using a Skill.
But when I think it’s going to be a misfire, several stabbing animations shoot out of Toru’s sceptre.
What? Using the Skill without having the right weapon?
But if that’s the case…
“… <Power Slash>!”
Sylvestre seems to have the same idea as me, and the arrow he looses glows red and stabs deep into the thing.
Then… what did I have?
… Ah. I didn’t need a weapon. I have magic, so as long as I do the gestures…
I feel a little foolish.
But anyway, I blessed my weapon … is it just my imagination, or are my attacks doing more damage now?
“Nee-chan! It’s weak against Light Magic!”
I stab furiously several more times and then, as I leap back, I lift my hand up and yell,
It’s like <Wind Needle>, but it’s a shower of needle-like Light Magic on a designated area instead of just shooting magic in a direction.
The thing roared, and I went in again, hacking wildly at it before the blessing wore off.
Sylvestre, too, is shooting like mad.
Every once in a while I hear “<Piercing Shot>!” and “<Power Slash>!”, and pretty soon the black thing shudders, gives off a wail, then collapses to the ground in shattered fragments and drop items.
A mound of tiny hourglasses! Well, 20 of them. And a handful of candy.
“Curses! My specimen! What has happened?!”
The raspy voice shrieks in anger as we go collect the hourglasses.
“That … was really freaky. It was the strongest thing we’ve fought since the game started, and we all don’t have the corresponding Talents…”
“Hm, it wasn’t that bad. It had a weak point, at least. But … could it be, they forgot to add the weapon requirement for the Skills?”
“It could be limited to the character instead, maybe? The Talents are things like [Heal Magic (Illum)], so…”
I look at my Talent list. [Heal Magic (Illum)], [Light Magic (Illum)], and [Bolstered MP].
Toru suddenly looked up, like he realized something.
“I see, because they had to balance the stats, they made new Talents for these characters!”
“… Did we … find an exploit?”
“It was an accident?”
After stowing away the tiny hourglasses and coming back up the stairs, instead of going up the spiral staircase, we went to the next room over.
A tiny kitchen, barely big enough for the 3 of us to stand in.
As we scoured the kitchen, when I had Sylvestre open the heavy, wrought iron stove, ghouls leapt out and scared him so that he shrieked and fell over.
Luckily his HP and Defense was high enough that he could take a few hits while Toru and I were busy laughing.
Ah, I properly healed him after we finished them off.
There were stashes of candy hidden in the kitchen, and each ghoul we took out dropped a tiny hourglass.
“You two are super thorough… I see why Toru’s well-known among the people who like to do write ups.”
“Well, I also get Nee-chan’s experiences to write up too. She finds a lot of hidden stuff, but it takes her forever to do a dungeon. It can be really boring…”
“And that’s why I go solo most of the time.”
We went up the stairs, and now I’m investigating the wall-sconces in this long hallway lined with suits of armor.
And of course beating up every suit of armor.
Ah… Nothing happened.
Although we found candy in some of the armor.
“I think the keyword for this event is ‘candy’.”
“Hm, yeah … Hey, Nee-chan. I got a book.”
While I was investigating those, Toru was checking out the hall-side tables.
He held up a leather-bound book.
“What’s it? Just give me the basics.”
“That Hobble guy’s journal. Um… he’s investigating harnessing the energies of time and space to warp living beings and make a land of nightmares.”
“… Because he’s crazy?”
Toru flips backwards in the book a few pages.
“Oh, he was originally investigating how to use it to advance magic and science in order to make some kind of free-energy source, but starts losing his sanity. Too much contact with the ‘Darkness’.”
I’ve reached the end of the hallway.
Even the tapestries gave nothing.
The raspy voice hasn’t come back, either.
But a few wraiths flew through the stained glass windows.
Maa, <Light Shower> took care of them quickly.
I’ll admit I reflexively tried to cut them with my sword, but of course they just went through the ghost-like wraiths.
“So … now what? Go through the double doors at the end?”
Sylvestre asked, after we had thoroughly investigated everything in the hall.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Toru approached the door and placed his hands on it, and suddenly the world went gray.
But before we could say anything else, hazy, semi-transparent people appeared behind us.
Acting like we weren’t even there, they approached the door.
It was a party with a human warrior, a beastkin archer, and an elven mage.
“Beat, this feeling; he’s trying to open the gate to the Abyss. We have to stop him.”
The elven mage said.
Ah, so these are the explorers from the past.
“… Even though we were asked to find Professer Hobble, to think he’s been fusing humans and monsters with energy from the Abyss… How many ghouls have we fought up until now?”
The archer said.
“We can only try to put an end to this.”
The warrior said, putting his hands to the door and pulling it open.
There, in the circular, narrow room in front of all of us was a man.
Bald, wearing loose, dark clothing and tiny glasses, he squinted out.
“Ah… my next test subjects.”
“We are not your test subjects, we’re here to stop you!”
The human warrior stood in front of his comrades, shield and sword at the ready.
The beastkin was already notching an arrow to his bow, and the elf brandished her sceptre.
“Hahaha! Try it if you dare! I invite you, to dance in the Land of Nightmares!”
Hobble stretched his hands up and 2 wraiths appeared beside him.
They launched two magic attacks directly at the warrior, and the warrior grunted as he took them.
“Beat! <Light Heal>!”
The elf mage quickly healed him, but Hobble only laughed at them.
“Hurry hurry! You won’t be able to keep the gate from opening like that!”
From behind Hobble, a crystal on a pedestal glowed, and from the surroundings, balls of darkness came flooding into it.
“Tch. Korr, shoot down the Echoes of Chaos!”
The beastkin quickly shot through several of them.
They dissipated when they were hit, but the ones that made it past and entered the crystal caused the crystal to glow with an ominous light.
“No, the rift! It’s opening!”
The elven mage cried out.
“We must stop it!”
The human warrior glared, then prepared to dash forward to attack Hobble.
Suddenly, the human warrior looked behind, directly at Toru, Sylvestre, and me.
We leave it to you…
Even though he didn’t seem to say it, we heard his voice echoing through the hall.
And then color came back into the world, and the door in front of us was closed, like it had been before.
Toru took a deep breath.
“That … so we’re recreating the battle, then?”
Sylvestre nodded, saying,
“Looks like it.”
“Hobble himself, plus 2 wraith adds that do ranged attacks, and those troublesome “echoes” … well, we can probably manage, somehow.”
“You say that so easily… it’s a lot to keep track of.”
Toru scratched the back of his head as he frowns at me.
“Hobble is kind of like that weird black thing we fought earlier, and he probably has the most HP. With my Light Magic being the biggest threat, I can keep aggro from him while you and Sylvestre take the adds, then we all dog-pile him. Right?”
“Well, that’s the idea, but will it go so well…”
“Maa, just yell if you need heals.”
And without waiting for Toru to protest anymore, I threw open the door.
“Ah… my next test subjects.”
“’We’re not your test subjects, we’re here to stop you~.’”
Ah, even though I said the same thing as the human warrior, there’s something different about it.
Like, intensity or something.
“Try if you – !”
Without letting him get the rest of his speech out, I rush Hobble.
The goal is to get him focused on me right away.
Behind me I hear,
“Is she always like this?”
“Nee-chan… At least listen to the NPCs…”
How rude. It’s not like I don’t listen to NPCs.
I just only listen to the ones who aren’t trying to kill me.
The fight …
It… actually went pretty easily.
Maybe it was because it was designed for a regular party.
For the tank to take all the attacks from the added monsters and the main would be tough, or else the archer would have to attract the attention of the adds; either way, it would keep the healer pretty busy just healing, so the healer couldn’t attack as much…
For us, because I can attack Hobble directly, the other two are basically just fighting the two wraiths. While Toru tanked one of the adds, Sylvestre was able to quickly annihilate the other at a distance.
Even if Sylvestre took a few hits, he didn’t have to worry about his health dropping too fast.
When he switched to the add that Toru had, Toru came over to help me, I did a quick <Area Heal>, and then Sylvestre would alternate between shooting the last wraith and an echo that floated out; he did it repeatedly until the wraith was dead.
Then he alternated between Hobble and the balls of darkness until Hobble was dead.
The echoes floated out slowly enough that Sylvestre was able to shoot every one down. Not even a single one made it to the crystal.
Well, even though I described it so easily, I’ll admit that Toru and I were having a hell of a time. Hobble was quick, and he hit hard, so we had our hands full.
Every once in a while Toru would yell, “HEAL!” and I’d have to try to heal him.
I wasn’t always successful… Being attacked can break your spell casting, so it was a bit risky here and there…
But we did it!
I don’t know who got the last hit in, but Hobble shuddered.
“No, no, noooo!”
He shrieked, and all of a sudden, echoes came flooding in all over the place, and the rift over the crystal grew bigger.
“Not yet, I haven’t opened it yet, I haven’t become the Ruler of Nightmares yet!”
But his control over the darkness fumbled, and some of the echoes went shooting off into random directions.
The rift collapsed.
The world was dyed in darkness.
The last thing we heard was the human warrior’s voice.
“Hobble, you will forever repeat this and be defeated, and we will never let you open the gates to the Land of Nightmares!”
[Spirit of the Wild Hunt]Lv11
[Inheritance of the Forest Guardian]Lv10
Avg Lv: 12
Things Narumi Doesn’t Know About:
Hobble’s Haunted House.
Hobble’s Haunted House is designed to be a very short dungeon. Whether or not it was intentional or if the programmers just ran out of time … will be left to the imagination.
That being said, it plays an important role as a kind of prologue into some of OriginStory’s darker lore, hidden in the world.
As well as giving more room for the programmers and developers to add onto it in the Halloween events to come.
The Land of Nightmares … there will be a time in the future where Naru and company hear those words again.
<A/n: Thanks Random dude for your donation!
Waa, barely succeeded! Wfb next.>