Chapter 2 - Wild Beast Appears
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When Lee Hyun was connected to Royal Road, the first sound that reached his ears was a feminine voice.
He looked around to see who had spoken to him, but there was no one else; a space within the universe. Then he realized that he was in the middle of the activation process of a new account.
Select the name of your avat...
“Weed.” Weed, the lowliest of the low in the plant kingdom. To Lee Hyun, it sounded most suitable for him.
Select your gender from male, female or neutr...
Royal Road has forty-nine races. You may select your race from the primary twenty-nine...
You may alter your appearan...
“The way I am.”
Your account has been activated. Your stats and class shall be determined while you are playing Royal Road...
Select a city and kingdom you want to start.
“The Citadel of Serabourg, Rosenheim Kingdom!”
Welcome to Royal...
Afraid to waste even a second, Lee Hyun skipped the tutorial stage and made quick decisions according to his prearranged plan. 300,000.00 won (about $300 USD) monthly bill for the game was a great expense to him.
In Royal Road, there are over a hundred major cities and thousands of towns. A new player begins his adventure in a capital or a major city of comparable size.
Similar to where Weed is starting out.
With a flash of light, he appeared in the Citadel of Serabourg, Rosenheim.
Weed was swayed by the sight of countless avatars, users and NPCs (Non-Player Characters) alike, that he thought he was lost in the middle of Seoul.
“Where am I? Unbelievable!”
Astonished, Weed couldn’t believe his eyes as he looked around. The racket of those haggling and chattering rang in his ears. The view unfolding before his eyes was exactly the same as the real world, with people busily coming and going.
He lowered his eyes to his legs standing on the ground. His senses told him that it felt absolutely solid. Strangers passed him by as he stood still in a daze.
“Look at him. I’m sure he’s a newbie.”
“It looks like he’s never played a virtual reality game before.”
While passing by, some users threw fleeting remarks over their shoulders. They stung him enough to pull himself together.
They’re right. It’s Royal Road here. The world of virtual reality, and my new workplace.
No matter how thoroughly Weed had prepared, his knowledge of virtual reality and his research into the game system came second to the strange experience he was having now.
He had been bewildered, but it was temporary, and he soon calmed down, differences also began to catch his eye.
His senses were consistent with reality, yet people around him were clad in armor or wearing leather vests.
Close to the spot where he had shown up was a bulletin board exhibiting maps and descriptions of Rosenheim Kingdom, and directions for using the basic interface.
‘It’s time that I start.’
Weed clenched his fist, and then he started to exercise. He sat down and stood up, and then proceeded with standing high jumps, tumbling, kicking and punching.
He twisted his waist around and carefully tested one joint after another. He wiggled fingers and toes, and jerked his head back and forth.
Even though a tsunami of humiliating comments gushed forth from other users nearby, Weed was determined to overcome it.
“What the heck is he doing now?”
“It looks like he’s moving his body. I guess he’s still uncomfortable with the virtual reality game.”
“Oh, I see. But what’s the point of making a show in the middle of a crowded street?”
The sense of humiliation which Weed had been fighting so hard to keep back prevailed over his determination. What a scene he’d been making in front of strangers!
“Dammit!” Weed left in a hurry and headed elsewhere.
As a newcomer in Royal Road, he was confined to the city of origin for a week in the real world and four weeks in the game (a four to one ratio), thanks to the parallax between one place and the other.
A great majority of newcomers were getting down to basics, like taking on simple quests, or learning crafting skills, such as tailoring, blacksmithing and cooking, which are relatively easy to acquire.
The game boast of its unrestricted flexibility and freedom, almost to the extent of complete disorder and anarchy, and currently while all the highest ranking positions are still occupied by NPCs instead of users it is possible to get these jobs, this reinforces the need for personal contacts within Royal Road.
On the other hand, a considerable number of users work in libraries or stores to make money.
The Central Square brims with merchant wannabes who set up kiosks to buy and sell with fellow users and many new parties in pursuit of adventure are formed on the spot every minute.
After watching them casually, Weed didn’t hesitate to head for the Training Hall.
The Training Hall is open to any user for as long as he or she pleases, and most users visit the hall to experiment with newly acquired skills.
It is nearly impossible to find someone who, like Weed, would go straight to the Training Hall to train as soon as he created a new avatar.
It’s not only that newcomers are more interested in finding out what the kingdom and city where they were born look like, but it’s also largely because training in the Training Hall is deemed rather ineffective in the end.
The moment the instructor saw Weed walk in the entrance, his eyes glared fiercely.
“Young adventurer, I presume you have arrived at the Versailles continent very recently,” the instructor said.
“Yes, Sir” Weed said shortly. He was still upset that he had made a laughing stock of himself on the first day.
“You shall find sword training absolutely necessary when you come to confront monsters. Do you need my guidance? I tell you, take any unattended scarecrow and strike him in any way you want. A wooden sword is placed in front of a scarecrow, and it is all yours.”
“Thank you, sir. That’s enough. I don’t need any more guidance.”
Weed clutched the wooden sword and walked to a scarecrow standing alone in the most remote comer. Then, he began beating it, once, twice, thrice. His hands were gradually getting accustomed to the weight of the wooden sword and the sense of hitting the scarecrow.
In Royal Road, a new avatar’s level is locked for the first four weeks, for he is forbidden to travel beyond the city’s gate and to hunt monsters in the field.
It is most common to carry out as many quests as possible, thus building up favorable public service points, earning money and forming your own web of personal contacts.
Nonetheless, Weed silently carried on striking the scarecrow with the wooden sword.
There are about a thousand scarecrows in the Training Hall of the Citadel of Serabourg, and an unlimited supply of wooden swords on the walls, which could come in handy. The Hall is usually frequented by users who crave to test their skills.
At this moment, however, everyone’s eyes were fixed on somewhere in particular.
“This guy’s definitely got iron guts.”
“He’s freaking tough.”
“Can’t believe any sane man is going so far.”
Weed was soaked in sweat.
The white shirt and pants issued to him in the beginning had absorbed sweat and stuck fast to his body. He still dealt one blow after another to the scarecrow without a minute’s break.
Strength has risen by 1 point (+1 STR)
After six hours of striking the scarecrow, Weed heard good news. He felt as if the muscles in his hands that were clutching the wooden sword were getting lighter.
“Open Stats Window,” Weed mumbled while striking the scarecrow.
Character Name :
Magic Resistance :
Weed’s avatar was so feeble that there was nothing remarkable.
-Five hours later-
Vitality has risen by 1 point (+1 VIT)
Agility has risen by 1 point (+1 AGI)
The two stats rose almost at the same time.
Weed finally put down the wooden sword and took a short break. Without eating or drinking, he had been hitting the scarecrow nonstop for nearly eight straight hours now.
He was physically fatigued, and worse, his throat was burning with thirst, his stomach empty and hollow.
Given the preset keyword, the semi-transparent images of all the belongings in Weed’s inventory floated in front of his eyes. The only objects inside his inventory were a canteen and ten pieces of rye bread. That was all.
In Royal Road, you have to get hold of what you need on your own. Other users make money by carrying out easy quests for the four weeks, but Weed could not spare even a minute.
He took out a piece of rye bread and the canteen, and nibbled a mouthful of bread. As he ate food, it appeased his hunger and the satisfaction factor rose.
“I’m supposed to have a meal every five hours. I’d better eat more often if I exercise intensely, but I don’t need to raise the satisfaction factor to the full. All I need to do is just stay away from death.”
Once Weed finished the meal swiftly, he took the wooden sword in his grip and stood in front of the scarecrow.
“He’s at it again.”
“I think he holds a grudge against it or something.”
“I don’t think he’ll stop until he breaks that scarecrow into pieces.”
Was it an illusion that the scarecrow looked like it shivered at that very moment? Weed’s wooden sword struck every inch of the scarecrow. The same type of questions arose among all the spectators.
“Why the heck is that guy striking the scarecrow?”
“I don’t think it will help at all—if he wants to raise the expertise rating for a skill, it’s much better to go out to the field and use it on a rabbit than the scarecrow here.”
“Look at what he’s doing. He’s not using any skill. To me, it looks more like he’s beating up the scarecrow on impulse.”
“Maybe he’s bringing up his stats,” a knight in dazzling armor commented, immediately attracted the attention of everyone else on the scene.
“Can you improve your stats by just hitting the scarecrow?” a dark-skinned ranger asked.
“Huh? Ah, yes, that’s right,” the knight said.
“Then, why don’t you just keep hitting a scarecrow instead of sweating hard to raise your level?” the ranger asked again.
The knight named Pluto had a considerably high level, so he has learned a wealth of information from reliable sources. He was also the only man who correctly guessed the motive of Weed’s actions.
If an avatar uses up his stamina, his vitality and stamina will develop as a consequence, and if a wizard casts a great many spells, his wisdom and intelligence will rise.
But such an increase is trivial compared to stat bonus points accompanied by a level up.
Half a day of hitting a scarecrow without a rest might yield one or two stats. Considering that the number of stat bonus points as reward for a level up is five, what Weed was doing looked idiotic.
“It really is silly.”
A sorceress shook her head when she heard Pluto’s explanation. But he thought otherwise.
“It works,” Pluto said.
“You can earn only small amount of experience points if you kill a weaker monster than your current level. You know that, right?”
“In other words, the higher your level is, the harder it is to gain a level. But if you improve your strength by undergoing such a drill in the initial phase, you can hunt monsters easier later on. It will take effect throughout the game.”
“You know this method, so I guess you went through the same training? No, wouldn’t everyone do the same if they knew about it?”
“Not really. Even if people knew, no one would do it. Back to the point, is there anyone who wants to keep hitting that scarecrow for ten hours to improve their strength by one point?”
“There are limits to how far you can increase your stats by working on a scarecrow that’s known as the weakest opponent. In the case of strength, I estimate it’s forty or so. Is there anyone who wants to keep hitting the scarecrow for at least a month to raise forty points in strength? I would get sick and tired of it, and give it up in days.”
The crowd watching Weed nodded in unison.
You’d rather look for a cool weapon than to strike a scarecrow ceaselessly for a full month in order to bring up your strength by forty points. An item that keeps up strength by forty points is unique, yet far from rare.
“This works only for newbies who can’t go beyond the walls. It was once popular to beat a scarecrow like this, but it was quickly abandoned because, when you weigh against it what you can get in the long run, it’s way too boring, and painstaking.”
Weed overheard the heated discussion that those around him were having. He wished he could have trained somewhere else, but so long as he wasn’t allowed to leave the Citadel, he could not avoid attracting unfavorable attention in the Hall.
What makes you call this boring and painstaking? Weed swung the wooden sword at full strength.
If you work hard, your avatar gets stronger step by step. When your avatar evolves, it can defeat stronger monsters and make more money. For Weed, this was the ultimate entertainment of his lifetime.
Weed was inherently inclined to routine physical labor. All this time, the instructor was watching him with awfully gratified eyes.
Three weeks had passed in game time. Weed logged on to Royal Road on a daily basis, it was almost to the point of addiction for him, except for the minimum sleeping hours he woudn't stop playing. Thanks to his vastly improved physical condition, which he had resolved to build up before he started playing Royal Road, it enabled him to get by with no more than four hours sleep a day. Now that he looked back at the last three weeks, it made him sick to even think of it.
Once he signed into the game, he spent nearly eighty hours on average striking the scarecrow monotonously, which had mentally worn him out. Had it not been for the occasional pop-up messages encouraging him, he would have given up.
Strength has risen by 1 point (+1 STR)
Agility has risen by 1 point (+1 AGI)
New stat: Fighting Spirit:
You can call on superhuman strength temporarily, or bring weaker monsters to their knees with your force of will from your eyes alone. You are prohibited from distributing any bonus points to this stat, and it will rise spontaneously, depending on the avatar’s action, or especially if you're fight monsters for a long time, or often confront monsters stronger than your current level.
New stat: Endurance:
You’re likely to use less stamina from an action. You are prohibited from distributing any bonus points to this stat.
In Royal Road, a new stat is sometimes created besides the original ones.
Pop-up messages related to the skill occasionally appeared, too.The only skill Weed had at that point was Sword Mastery.
Level Up: Sword Mastery (Beginner Lv: 3 | 0%):
Increases Attack Power with a sword (+30% ATK)
Increases Attack Speed with a sword (+9% ATK SPD)
Every time a pop-up message appeared, Weed was secretly delighted by the progress he was making. But what was deeply troubling him was a sense of frustration that he had been falling behind in his goals.
For the last three weeks, as he devoted himself to beating down the scarecrows, his strength had increased only by twenty-eight points, agility twenty-five, and vitality twenty-two.
“Unless I pick up my pace, I’ll end up wasting more precious time on this scarecrow even after the four week restriction is lifted. I must finish it before I can leave the Citadel.”
Weed’s eyes burned with determination.
At that moment, Weed’s stomach decided it was time to eat. Aside from the slow progress with his stats, he was tormented by the fact that he was running out of bread.
He could run to a nearby fountain and fill the canteen with water, but bread was different – he had to pay money for it.
He smelled an appetizing scent coming from somewhere.
Weed, swinging the wooden sword, paused and caught a glimpse of the instructor, who was taking out his lunch box for the lunch break.
“Hehe, Honorable Instructor.” Weed said, as he wagged his invisible tail, he walked to the instructor.
“Hmm, who is this, none other than Weed-nim? What has brought you here?” the instructor said warmly.
“Wouldn’t it be lonely to have lunch alone? I am here to keep you company,” Weed said obsequiously.
While his stomach growled, Weed lied with a straight face, but he could not deceive the instructor.
“I take it that you are hungry. Sit beside me! I have brought plenty of food, sufficient to feed two mouths.”
“Thank you, sir!”
“Enough with your humility! It is my honor to serve a meal to a would-be great adventurer like you, Weed-nim. I assure you that your reputation will someday resound beyond the bounds of the Citadel of Serabourg. When that day comes, please remember me!”
“Yes, Sir. I certainly will.”
After flattering the instructor lightly, Weed enjoyed lunch together with him. It was kind of a sad scene, yet he was grateful that with little effort, he could stuff his belly.
He wasn’t sucking up to a real man, anyway. What was the big deal about smooth-talking an NPC with artificial intelligence?
Beside the stats that Weed had increased while beating the scarecrow to death for the last three weeks, he'd established an affinity with the instructor. This supplementary effect was somewhat admirable.
While Weed was busy devouring lunch, the instructor suddenly asked, “By the way, Weed-nim, what do you think of Sculpture Mastery?”
Sculpture mastery? What the heck is sculpture mastery?
Weed chewed a mouthful of boiled rice and swallowed it before he asked back, “What do you mean by Sculpture Mastery?”
“I am merely curious of your opinion. I wonder what sort of view you have about Sculpture Mastery in general,” the instructor said.
At that moment, the speed of Weed’s brain racking which could be heard and despite it being absurd to try to convert it to a numerical value, was multiplied roughly by five.
I’ve so far figured out that the instructor is a simple-minded and near-sighted kind of guy. He sincerely believes that the sword is invincible, and to him, it’s the highest virtue to exercise hard enough to break out in a sweat in the Training Hall. And now he’s asking me what I think about Sculpture Mastery?
As soon as Weed collected his thoughts, he frowned.
“Honorable Instructor! I can’t believe you even mentioned it. I am a man of the sword. Did you ask for my opinion upon, God forgive me, Sculpture Mastery? I am most disappointed. This is my answer—never, ever, not even once has such a lowly handicraft crossed my noble mind.”
Despite Weed’s offensive tone, which would have enraged him in other situations, the instructor unexpectedly clapped his hands in delight.
“I knew you would say so!”
“It is out of question. The likes of Sculpture Mastery are nothing but awful mistakes of God which do not deserve a second of our attention. Why do I, a man of the sword, need to ever think of it?”
“You are most agreeable, Weed-nim” Weed sensed that, though it was invisible, his friendship with the instructor moved to a higher degree at that moment.
This is the way to make friends with somebody. You don’t need to shed blood with them. You don’t need to squander time and money on them. You just join them in speaking ill of something or someone at the first opportunity presented, and it will invoke their sympathy.
Weed expected the instructor to change the topic of the conversation, but he rubbed the back of his head and stayed on the subject.
“It is rumored that the unknown man who mastered sculptural and once carved the moonlight,” the instructor said.
“I doubt it, sir. A rumor is always prone to distortion. How can anyone learned in worthless Sculpture Mastery carve the moonlight? Perhaps it was a pebble in the shape of a moon?” Weed said cheerfully.
“You think so, too? But I was told by my predecessor. His honorable name is Mellium, currently a Royal Knight…”
Sculpting was perceived as a fruitless skill, no more than trimming a small block of wood to produce a fine ornament.
Rumor had it that if you elevated the craft beyond a certain stage, you would be capable of making projectile weapons of metal. But it was undoubtedly one of those obsolete skills that nobody bothered learning.
“On that account Weed-nim, this question of Sculpture Mastery intrigues me. It surely is beyond doubt that the craft cannot possibly rival our sword under any circumstances, but would you find out whether the rumor has a grain of truth? I am asking a favor of you because you are a trustworthy man. If you accept my request, I’d be happy to hear it,” the instructor said.
Then a pop-up message appeared in front of Weed’s eyes.
Quest: A Mystery Sculptor Rumored to Have Visited the Royal Palace:
A rumor that a man who had mastered sculptural art did carve the moonlight has been prevalent in the royal court of Rosenheim Kingdom for a long time. Look into the rumor to determine whether it is true or not!
Difficulty level: E
Close friendship with instructor reserved only for those who have not acquired Sculpture Mastery.
Acknowledged as reliable by the instructor for a constant passion for Sword Mastery.
Weed barely held a whisper of triumph at bay. His instinct told him that this quest was the rarest of the rare.
This was because the quest had to meet very tricky conditions in order to get it started. Close friendship with the instructor— who would have ever thought of that?
Most users in general don’t even know the location of the Training Hall, let alone visit it when they acquire a new skill, they don’t need to come all that way to practice it on a scarecrow of all things. Moreover, it is a rare occasion that anyone is willing to get stuck in the Hall and thrash the scarecrow over and over to bring up his stats in the crudest way, as Weed had done.
If you dig out enough dirt, you might find a few users like that, but in Weed’s case, he had spent almost all of the last three weeks with the scarecrow. Who else could have toughed it out to such an extent?
Speaking of close friendship with the instructor, it is nearly impossible to achieve unless someone like Weed approaches him, fawning to scam a share of his lunch.
Even with all the conditions above met you still have to begin your new adventure at the Citadel of Serabourg in Rosenheim Kingdom against all odds, not to mention that you have to find the right moment to slander Sculpture Mastery along with the instructor.
This is great. I’m about to go broke and starve to death. At difficulty level E, this quest looks like it’s easy to finish.
Weed nodded at the instructor.
“I am honored to accept it. Although I do not believe any of that nonsense, I will find out what it was like carving the moonlight.”
You have accepted the quest!
“I appreciate it Weed-nim. I entrust you with this task. Take this money as a retainer,” the instructor said, handing over two silvers. “I give you my advice: visit the sculpture shop first and glean information from there”
A piece or rye bread, while literally tasteless, was enough to fill the stomach, and costs three coppers. Since a silver coin equals a hundred coppers coins, it is safe to say Weed had just received the equivalent of sixty-six pieces or rye bread for the retainer, plus change.
He was certain that once the quest was completed, he could expect more rewards from the instructor.
“Great! I don’t need to worry about running out of bread for the time being.”
Many years of first-hand experience of habitual famine persuaded him to avoid being malnourished at any cost.