Chapter 16 - The Meaning Behind Royal Road
Weed now knew the first floor of Memphis Hall like his own home. He knew perfectly well where the dangerous Death Knights patrolled, and the best spots to hunt Skeleton Knights.
Being a solo hunter without a party, what Weed dreaded the most was an ambush right when he had low health and mana. For this reason, Weed prepared a few hideouts where he stashed plenty of bandages and herbs.
He had figured out safe spots to rest and places where he could most effectively target his enemies. Bandages and herbs were easily obtained, however the knowledge of the hideouts was priceless. He had selected these locations after countless trial and error. But afterwards, without regrets, he had cleared out those spots.
“It’s here, huh.” After going through the Northern area, Weed finished exploring the entire region.
You are the first to completely map Memphis Hall B1 Floor Map:
Fame has risen by 20 points (+20 FAME)
When Weed had first came to the City of Heaven, he had bought a map. Later the places he traveled to were added to this map. The Map of Memphis Hall’s basement was now an item which could be sold for quite a high price at the General Store or to other users. There was no way he would pass up this opportunity to get easy money.
Weed left Memphis Hall and headed for the Cave of Dead Warriors. It wasn’t a difficult place to find. The moment he descended into the cave, he heard eerie noises.
‘What is this?’ he could sense a light draft and the low growl of something dangerous. Murky darkness filled his vision and the noises were getting louder.
‘I don’t feel so good about this.’ he thought as a chill ran down his spine.
Weed moved cautiously keeping his right hand on his sword just in case something popped up out of the shadows.
‘So I’m not the first one to discover this place. I suppose the people, who first discovered Lavias also discovered this dungeon,’
A short distance away, Weed came upon an undead blocking his path.
“Human! Are you a knight?”
It was a huge, muscular knight with a body much bigger than a Skeleton Knight or a Lizard Man. He had broad shoulders and dangerous looking arms, but above the neck, there was nothing. The missing head was instead carried by his left arm. He was the most unique monster among all the undead – a knight that carried around his own head. It was this head that had spoken.
‘A Dullahan, huh.’
Weed recognized his opponent – an undead around level 140!
“I am not a knight.” Weed replied.
“Then what are you?”
“I am a Sculptor.” he replied calmly.
“A scul-Sculptor?!” the Dullahan sputtered.
Incredible disappointment filled the Dullahan’s face. Dullahans loved to improve their skills through combat. They were a type of knight that made the Skeleton Knights pale in comparison.
“You’re a Sculptor? What a disappointment,” the Dullahan mumbled.
Weed was used to being underestimated because of his class. A Sculptor must look so pathetic that even the undead ignored them!
The creator of Royal Road was Unicorn Corporations. There was much controversy when they released the game. It was the first ever virtual reality game. A reality that was 100% based off of fantasy. But why was it named Royal Road? There had been so many other possible names to choose from. Even though Royal Road received worldwide attention, its title was somewhat disappointing. It wasn’t a name that stuck with you when you heard it.
But there was a reason Unicorn Corporation chose the name Royal Road. No one on earth had been able to conquer and rule over every continent and ocean. This game was the road to that great empire. The unified empire that not even Genghis Khan, Napoleon, or Alexander the Great could achieve. The game paved the way for people to achieve that dream.
It was a hope for something never before seen in the history of mankind; an Emperor who would conquer every single continent. It taught people to dream, to hope to be whatever they want to be, and this hope would drive them towards their goal. This was the true meaning behind “Royal Road”.
The first to conquer the entire land would be given prize money: 10% of Unicorn Corporations sales for one month. This was an enormous sum. In Korea alone, millions played the game. Globally, Japan, Europe and America combined; the users amounted to over 100 million. Not to mention Royal Road cost $300 USD a month to play. It was difficult to calculate such a huge amount of money. 10% of that would make someone instantly rich.
That was why most players in Royal Road chose fighting-type classes. Most users chose to advance from Swordsman to Knight, seeing battle-related classes as the fastest path to becoming the Emperor. Blacksmiths and other trade classes were looked down upon. There was no need to even mention Artists, Chefs, or Sculptors who couldn’t even fit in with the trade classes. It was their fate to be belittled and ignored.
‘Just like my own life.’ Weed thought.
Without a word, Weed drew his Clay Sword. An icy blue aura emanated from it. The Clay Sword had a special ability to slow down an enemy’s movements upon a direct hit.
“Uurrrg!” The Dullahan charged, swinging his axe fast. Weed raised his Clay Sword, parrying the attacks.
Item: Clay Sword’s durability has decreased
The message was accompanied by the shock of the impact that made Weed’s arms shudder. He had just finished repairing that sword, but this one attack was able to lower its durability. It seemed that the Dullahan’s specialty was his brute strength.
“I can’t lose! Sculpting Blade!” Weed yell and attacked relentlessly.
The two exchanged blows rapidly. Weed, charged with the intent to kill, aimed for the vital points. Battles had to be finished as quickly and as simply as possible. That was the only way to minimize the risk of enemy reinforcements showing up.
For Weed, who hunted alone, another Dullahan or monster appearing would mean nothing but trouble. Besides Weed could sculpt as a side job while he rested. This meant that he had to reduce the time spent fighting as much as possible.
*Bash!* The Dullahan used a skill with his axe swing, pushing Weed back a great distance.
“Devil’s Strike!” The Dullahan roared, initiating a chain attack.
The axe, now launched into the air, and spun violently as it came flying. Although Weed ducked to avoid the blow, his HP dropped by 300 just from the wind pressure.
If he had used the ‘Seven Celestial Steps’, he could have dodged it completely, however he chose to get hit.
The point was to raise his level of Defense while working on his Perseverance.
Now it was Weed’s turn.
“Triple!” The first strike missed, while the second, more destructive strike came from the opposite direction. The enemy managed to dodge both attacks, causing Weed to execute a powerful swing from the bottom-up.
By then the throwing axe had boomeranged back to its owner and the Dullahan thrust it forward to block Weed’s third attack. At that instant, Weed’s sword crisscrossed through the Dullahan’s chest, making a total of five consecutive attacks. Triple had evolved as Weed’s mastery of the skill increased.
The Dullahan had somehow blocked the first three attacks, but the next two lowered his HP by more than 20%. He went into a frenzy trying to push Weed back by repeatedly using his Bash ability. But by now Weed had already worked out his skills timing, and swiftly carved into the Dullahan’s side.
“Aren’t you dead yet, just die already!? Sculpting Blade!” Milky white light surrounded Weed’s blade.
Then came the merciless strikes!
The Dullahan’s health points were decreasing rapidly as the strikes sounded.
He tried attacking again, but Weed dodged them all.
Weed could anticipate the Dullahan’s skills by watching his footsteps, and then dodge them by moving his upper body. Ultimately, the Dullahan wasn’t a difficult enemy for him. The gap in levels might have been wide, but through jobs and training, Weed was above the Dullahan in terms of stats. Weed’s Perseverance stat was at the same level as the Dullahan’s. Thanks to that, he had no real disadvantage. Although, level 80 Skeleton Mages were actually more annoying.
Mages were troublesome to fight because they cast countless curses. When Irene the Priest was there, the curses were easily dispelled, but now Weed could only dispel the curses with potions after the battle was over. Each Curse Dispelling Potion cost three silvers. This sometimes took the profit out of hunting, so Weed hated Skeleton Mages the most.
“Uwwagggh…” Sometime later the Dullahan’s body disappeared in a gray light as his horse neighed shrilly.
“Phew… that was easier than I expected. But one of them can take down 40% of my health, it would be dangerous if two of them challenged me at once.”
Weed headed to a hidden corner to level his sculpting after he picked up the greaves the Dullahan dropped.
“Let’s try sculpting a Dullahan.”
Weed’s mastery didn’t increase as much by making sculptures he had made before. But making a sculpture for the first time increased Handicraft and Art skills significantly.
Weed took out Zahab’s Sculpting Knife and a piece of wood and started to sculpt the figure of the Dullahan he just saw. He was so used to sculpting now that if he simply pictured it in his mind, he could carve it. The cave was silent save for the echo of Weed’s sculpting.
“It would be great if my Sculpting level would rise to Intermediate…” Weed thought.
His current Sculpting skill was 99% to level 10. He had also made five sculptures of Avians, so he thought it was possible to level up.
“Please let me achieve Intermediate level!”
Weed wished as he finished the Dullahan’s head.
The Dullahan sculpture was complete: A knight with a buff body, menacing eyes and a huge blade.
Upgrade: Sculpting (Beginner Lv: 10 to Intermediate Lv: 1 | 0%)
You can now craft using special metals and gemstones (Pearl, diamond, ruby, etc.)
For your class, Moonlight Sculptor, the current skills and stats will be affected:
Effect of Sculpting Blade has increased by +50%
Additional effects have been added to Sculpting blade’s skill
Mana cost for Sculpting Blade has been halved
All Stats have risen by 10 points (+10 ALL STATS)
Fame has risen by 20 points (+20 FAME)
Art has risen by 20 points (+20 ART)
New Skill: Sculptural Destruction
Weed shook with happiness. Words could not describe Weed’s feelings at that moment.
All the sadness and loneliness he was made to feel as he learned sculpting!
All of the humiliation and scorn he had to suffer because of his job as a Sculptor! Weed felt his rage vanish into thin air.
Finally, he had achieved Intermediate level in Sculpting.
The job of Sculptor, which he had wanted to quit so badly at first, felt like the job he was destined for.
The Sculpting Blade skill had proven to have the greatest efficiency so far! Every time Weed used Sculpting Blade, his sculpting skill increased ever so slightly and since it was closely tied to Sculpting, the skill was enhanced as his Sculpting Mastery advanced from beginner to Intermediate.
“Hmm, an additional ability?
“Check Skill: Sculpting Blade”
Sculpting Blade (Beginner Lv: 7 | 50%):
Zahab’s visionary sword skill, carried on by those destined to carve the invisible or intangible.
Defends against magic of lower mastery than Sculpting Blade. When spells are absorbed, the caster only incurs 50% of original mana cost.
Mana consumption: Sustained – 25 mana per second.
Weed could only laugh. For knights, mages were the most difficult opponents. Long-range magic attacks were very hard to dodge. But now Sculpting Blade was able to absorb this magic. Even if the opponent only used half the mana they had, it was hundreds of times better than getting hit.
“Since the mana cost for Sculpting Blade is also reduced, maybe I could use it when executing Triple or Backstab?” he said aloud as he pondered this idea.
Sculpting Blade was more of a buff than an attack. Combining Sculpting Blade with the Imperial Formless Sword Technique would cost an enormous amount of mana, but Weed believed the result would be unparalleled. Besides, there was always Sculpture Destruction.
“Check Skill: Sculptural Destruction”
Skill: Sculptural Destruction:
The anger involved in destroying one of your own sculptures is converted temporarily into either strength or agility for one day.
Destruction of Ordinary sculpture: 1:2 conversion of the Art stat is temporarily applied to either stat (-1 Art stat, -20 Fame).
Destruction of Fine statue: 1:4 conversion of the Art stat is temporarily applied to either stat (-5 Art stat, -100 Fame).
Destruction of Masterpiece: 1:6 conversion of the Art stat is temporarily applied to either stat (-10 Art stat, -200 Fame).
Destruction of Magnum Opus: 1:20 conversion of the Art stat is temporarily applied to either stat (-30 Art stat, -1000 Fame).
Fame will drop and the corresponding points will be deducted from Art stat.
The amount of Art stat converted to Strength or Agility depended on the quality of the sculpture destroyed. Destroying a normal statue converted double the amount of Art stat into strength or agility for a day while destroying a fine or great statue would convert four or six times the Art stat into strength or agility.
This would be a commonly used skill for sculptors with low strength or agility. Sculptors who only sculpt statues in the game would have a high Art stat, but it would be hard for them to hunt because of their battle stats. This skill allowed those Sculptors to change their Art stat to other stats but the problem lay in the Fame and Art stat penalty that accompanied its use.
The Art stat was hard to increase, meaning that this skill had to be used cautiously. There was such an extreme penalty for destroying a statue that it felt very difficult and unsettling to use.
In other words, this skill was a double-edged sword. Weed decided to stow it away and not use it if he could help it. Temporary strength or agility was not true power. Even without Sculpting Destruction, Weed had become strong once his Sculpting skills reached Intermediate. All his stats had risen by 10 and Sculpting Blade’s power had doubled as well.
Weed wasn’t the only one to enjoy this advantage. Any trade skill such as cooking, tailoring, smithing, fishing, farming, held advantages such as stat, skill or Fame bonuses when proficiency went up. When it reached Intermediate, all stats gained 5 points; when proficiency reached Advanced, all stats gained an additional 10 points.
None yet knew how many points would be gained upon gaining Mastery in a skill. Any skills proficiency rose based on the user. In Weed’s case, he got 10 stat points; twice the amount gained by normal players, due to the secret class – Moonlight Sculptor – and thanks to his quest related to Zahab, Sculpting Blade had improved particularly well…
No one had ever mastered any of the production skills before because the path was too difficult. It had taken a Weed a lot of time and effort just to reach the intermediate level. It would be even more difficult to progress from Intermediate to Expert. However, at that moment, Weed firmly decided that he would become Master in all trade skills.
Delicate aesthetic senses and burning passion for art had little to do with Weed, but he had a talent that no one else had: the talent of hard work.
The Cave of Dead Warriors was a hunting ground where Dullahan and Skeleton Mercenaries, who are both around level 120, and Ghouls around level 110 frequently appeared. Ghouls were lower in levels, but they always appeared in groups of four or five, and there were many kinds of ghouls. Upgraded or Named Ghouls sometimes had levels over 130.
Dullahans and Skeleton Mercenaries had great swordsmanship, so the battles were thrilling. But Ghouls usually just charged in, trusting their clumsy but strong defense.
Weed had to learn how to attack while dodging their vicious attacks.
“Good. This place is perfect.”
Weed had chosen the Cave of Dead Warriors as his new hunting ground. Named monsters, whether they are Dullahan, Skeleton Mercenaries, or Ghouls, were a bit more dangerous, but fighting them had great advantages.
It was perfect for Weed, who fought mainly with fists or swords.
There was the odd Skeleton Mage here and there, but their magic was no longer effective. Blocking with Sculpting Blade nullified their magic; sometimes the spells would rebound, putting the mages in a difficult situation.
It seemed the rate of reflecting the magic depended on the mastery of Sculpting Blade. He needed to practice sculpting in order to raise it. Leveling his sculpting was now as important as gaining experience points and levels.
Weed, who was doing very well so far, still had one opponent he had to be wary of: the Death Knight. These monsters were over level 200 and appeared much more often in the Cave of Dead Warriors. They wandered about, never staying in any specific area. Weed had to hold his breath and move stealthily to hide from them. Thankfully, Death Knights had bad eyesight, so Weed could relax when he hid in a corner. He sometimes went so far as to dig some ditches and hide in them whenever a Death Knight approached.
“When did I become like this…?”
When he had played Continent of Magick, every monster was weak against his max level character, but now he had to hide from Death Knights.
Nevertheless, Weed felt some satisfaction. With his high mana recovery rate and mastery in First Aid, Weed’s down time was much lower.
Thanks to this, Weed was able to gain levels much faster. Plus there were much better item drops here compared to the first floor. So what if he had to do some lame things, Weed had come this far already, so going a little farther wouldn’t hurt.
“Dullahan are the best monsters for hunting. But is there anything better? It’d be nice if there was something weaker than Death Knights but strong enough to give a lot of experience points…”
Weed moved cautiously not forgetting to make his hiding places in key areas. He didn’t need anyone to teach him this, he simply persisted to adapt and survive like a cockroach.
After going through many Ghouls and Skeleton Mercenaries, Weed came upon a wide cavern where an underground river flowed gently through.
Flowers and even some herbs were blooming all over. It was about time to rest since he had just been in a fierce battle against Skeleton Mercenaries. Weed re-filled his water bottle and was just about to sit when he saw a silhouette. Upon further inspection, he found a woman sleeping in the middle of the dungeon, with nobody else around.
“Who are you?” she asked. Weed, who had been waiting for her to wake up, was startled.
“I’m Weed. Wh-what about you?”
It was an rather unpolished introduction, not like him at all. Admittedly he had never imagined that there was someone other than himself would be here.
And the look on her eyes as she woke… was exactly Weed’s type.
“My name is Da’in,” she said, smiling with an aloof smile.
Hyun hadn’t met many girls before. Of course, he had taken classes with girls, but he’d never spent time with one personally. It wasn’t that he was unpopular. There were some girls who approached Hyun, saying that his downcast and detached aura was attractive. He found them foolish.
“You think this is cool? Try experiencing poverty yourself and you’ll change your mind.”
He hadn’t gone on dates with girls either. Dining out, even just coffee cost money. Hyun found food samples from the grocery stores and home-cooked meals much more economical. What he really couldn’t understand was why dating a girl involved spending enormous amounts of money every time there was some sort of anniversary.
Plus, when others went to the drive-in to watch movies, Weed climbed up a nearby telephone pole. The only time he watched TV was when somebody else had one. Of course, he’d picked up a TV that someone had thrown away, but he didn’t watch it because it would run up the electricity bill. He only ever watched it around midnight when the electricity charges were much lower. The cheapskate Hyun, and therefore Weed, had almost no experience with girls.
Da’in. That name was deeply engraved into Weed’s mind. Every man had a dream girl. Weed was no exception.
The woman of his dreams had long natural hair, a young, intelligent face, and a kind, attractive smile. But these were nothing but details.
If a girl could make him fall in love at first sight, then she was his dream girl. Weed developed a small crush on Da’in. That was it.
‘I don’t trust anyone...’
He hadn’t completely trusted Pale or Surka either even though they had trained together. Weed had unfortunately found out that humans change and not always for the best.
They might appear to be friends at the moment but he highly doubted that they would take a bullet for him.
‘Give as much as you take, no more and no less.’ Was Weed’s philosophy. He could not trust anyone except his family.
Weed’s gaze sharpened. “Da’in, how did you come to be here?”
Only Avians lived in the City of Heaven. Humans could not climb up there and judging by her clothing, she was an adventurer.
“Here? I’ve been here for three months already?”
Three months. A thought flashed into Weed’s mind.
“By any chance, are you one of the adventurers who discovered the City of Heaven?”
“Yes, I was part of that group, but I don’t want to talk about that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m the only one left here.”
Da’in yawned gracefully and stretched.
“I’m a level 134 Shaman.”
Her level was lower than what Weed had guessed. He had assumed she would be at least level 170 since she was alone in the Cave of Dead Warriors. Weed being there at only level 109 was also an anomaly. A regular player wouldn’t have dared.
“What are you trying to say?”
“I mean if you are alone, let’s form a party. What, you don’t want to?”
“No, that sounds great.”
Weed accepted, not just because Da’in looked somewhat like the girl of his dreams, or because he trusted her. No, Weed, ever suspicious, couldn’t trust a girl whom he just met just because she asked him to train in a party. But Weed liked to keep his enemies close.
The girl was suspicious. Besides, Weed had stored many items in his various hideouts within the dungeon so he couldn’t just leave Da’in alone.
Shamans could use white magic to cast buffs that increased Strength, Agility and Speed, and black magic to decrease enemy stats. They could use offensive spells and healing spells, counteract poison and dispel curses. They could also wield swords and maces, meaning they had some physical combat skills.
In essence, they were the jack-of-all-trades class! However, the shaman class was unpopular since they had a few skills in every aspect, but weren’t outstanding in any of them. Their healing ability was weaker than a Cleric’s, and the curses they cast were weaker than a Black Mage’s. Their melee skills were comparable to that of an Archer with a sword instead of a bow.
Low HP, low Vitality and magic weaker than a Mage’s. Stats couldn’t be invested in just one area, but had to be equally distributed, so this was a class that couldn’t do much. Weed had no expectations from Da’in. He just hoped she wouldn’t hold him back! Maybe he could just ditch her after retrieving all the items from his hideouts.
Five Skeleton Mercenaries had appeared and Weed tensed. So far he had faced no more than three Skeleton Mercenaries at once.
No matter how great Weed’s combat skills were, it was still going to be difficult to face five at once.
With his back turned, even one or two blows could add up to considerable damage, and he couldn’t use first aid until the battle was over, so it would have been dangerous.
However, at that moment, Da’in raised her right hand and cast a spell.
“Light of courage descended from the ancients; give this hero the power to fight his enemy! Power up!”
Weed’s body glowed with bright light and his strength was raised by nearly 100. Da’in then graciously raised her arms, as though she was awaiting an embrace.
“A breeze drifts past. Fight the enemy with a light heart. Light will be your steps. Up, spirit, Wolf”
Weed’s Agility and Speed increased significantly. He took just one step towards the enemy and he felt as if he was running.
“You, fated to bring death, blood and carnage, the battlefield shall be your home! Bloodlust!”
Da’in’s various Shaman buffs boosted Weed’s stats, now he could easily take on the five Skeleton Mercenaries. But at that moment Da’in cast curses on the Skeleton Mercenaries: Their speed and strength decreased, they could no longer heal their wounds and they lost their will to fight.
‘No way can a Shaman’s magic be this strong!’
Weed didn’t understand the situation. After easily killing the five Skeleton Mercenaries, he didn’t even pause to pick up the item drops before turning to question Da’in.
“Your magic is unbelievable for a level 134. How is that possible? If I don’t understand the reason, we can’t be in a party together.”
He ran the risk of hurting her feelings, but she answered back with a happy smile.
“It’s because of my hobbies.”
“Yes, please don’t think I’m crazy. I don’t like killing monsters, I just…” she spoke shyly.
“I use curses on monsters, holy magic, and sometimes ranged attack spells. After that when their HP drops, I cast Healing Hand on them…”
“Yeah, I just played around like that.”
What Da’in was saying was shocking. She was level 134 but her magic was very advanced.
So Da’in played around by cursing, then healing the Skeleton Mercenaries, Dullahan and Ghouls in the dungeon…