Chapter 10 : Ill-Fated Relations.h.i.+p With Bardray
Destruction of the Embinyu Church 11th Sect was a B-rank quest.
“Are we gonna fight the Embinyu Church’s fighting force?”
“Won’t it be too dangerous?”
“Seems really fun.”
Weed sold off the quest and made a whopping 130,000 Gold. He sold to the people who got word from Morata and came late until evening. An exhaustive cash business!
Yellow swayed his pendulous rump happily.
If his Master was rich, Yellowy hoped that Weed would allow him to chew a stalk of mugwort.
[T/N: Mugwort is an herb used as an ingredient in many dishes.]
However, Weed was heartless. “Even barley bread is expensive, so you’d only be able to pick up some crumbs on a holiday or something… but mugwort? I can’t afford to give it to you. I’ll mix it with your meat later. Korean cow with mugwort, veggie bibimbap!”
Yellow blinked his big eyes sorrowfully, but that happened every day. Even so, Weed always prepared hay for him, and he got fed herbs from Yurin or Hwaryeong, too. He had no other complaint, but purposefully acted limp, as if he was hungry and had no strength from hunger. He’d been forced to do so much work with his robust physique and strength right after gaining life. Even Yellowy was gaining wisdom about life.
“Looks like it’s time to identify this now.”
Weed pulled out the seal he had received from Mercenary Smith. He could basically tell its use from the appearance. It was probably a seal that verified Lords or n.o.bles as themselves, like Jorudia’s Signet. Weed rubbed the dragon part as he examined the unique points of the sculpture.
Unknown Emperor’s Royal Seal
A precious royal seal that has weathered the history of the Versailles Continent.
It was made by a sculptor whose limit of skill is hard to estimate.
It is damaged and not in perfect condition.
Artistic Value: 39,600
Options: Dignity +60. Charisma +25.
50% resistance to all magic harmful to the owner’s body.
Can intimidate n.o.bles and knights.
For examining the Unknown Emperor’s Royal Seal in detail, Art stat has risen by 49.
Weed was also a skilled Sculptor who had made many Masterpieces and Magnum Opuses. Every time a sculpture of his was completed, it noisily shook the Versailles Continent.
A work so incredible that it could even make such a Weed go into convulsions!
The broad stamp made of jade and the golden dragon that looked like it was flying in the sky possessed liveliness and beauty.
“It’s old… and feels worn because it’s been touched very much, but it’s an extremely outstanding work.”
The parts that hands could reach were severely grimy, and much of the pattern had also disappeared. With the long pa.s.sage of time, its natural dignity had grown.
Jade and gold. The seal had been made with a perfect understanding of the characteristics of the material.
The parts that weren’t damaged were detailed and made with a level of skill that even Weed wouldn’t have been able to achieve. It looked like a dirty golden dragon from afar, but up close, it felt as if it would come to life and move at any moment.
“I knew it wasn’t a normal work, but who could really make such a sculpture?”
There was one person who vaguely came to mind.
If it was an emperor’s royal seal, then it didn’t need to be said more than once that it would be treasured preciously. Even so, the royal seal had endured so much time that it had become this worn.
A video of some kind began to play for Weed– it was a memory kept within the sculpture.
An old man wearing ordinary cloth attire was sculpting.
In a huge royal palace, knights and magicians were lying prostrate with extreme politeness.
The form of a dragon was being made under the old man’s sculpting knife. The knife moved slowly, as if time itself was holding its breath.
He shaved the places needing to be shaved and added to the places needing to be added. Only normal movements of the hand could be seen, but the golden dragon that was being created possessed such n.o.bility that one could not tear their eyes away from it.
Whenever the sculpting knife moved, there was a worry that he might possibly make a mistake that would ruin this great work. However, when the sculpting knife sliced past, the figure was transforming into statue steadily nearing completion with such surety that the nervousness was laughable.
A treasure! A golden dragon and stamp that seemed as if they would heighten even his dignity with their radiant beauty!
It was the birth of the royal seal.
“May this be the item that symbolizes me,” declared the old man who made the seal.
The knights and magicians then cried out. “We accept the will of His Majesty!”
It didn’t end there. There were countless sculptures across the royal palace! They were similar to the humans, but the sculptures with superior physical conditions, the animal sculptures, the bird sculptures, and sculptures that looked like monsters all opened their mouths at the same time.
“We accept the will of our Master!”
* * *
SwordNoob let out a deep sigh.
“I’m really too old. Even meeting a woman is difficult because I’m old.”
The instructors and disciples were meeting Orcs, Dark Elves, or Humans and more or less getting along. They made girlfriends and also hunted in parties.
“I heard even SwordNoob16 held hands with his girlfriend.”
“Within thirty-seven days, apparently.”
“Woah, that’s fast! Is it okay to progress so quickly?”
“The truly fast one is someone else. SwordNoob401 already went arm-in-arm to the movie theatre.”
“d.a.m.n, all the way to the movie theatre! He’s a fellow who unusually disliked things like movies, isn’t he. Didn’t he fall asleep snoring while watching the movie?”
“I’m told he watched an action movie. After the movie ended, he showed his girlfriend brick smas.h.i.+ng and a two-tiered roundhouse kick and she liked it, calling him reliable.”
The legend-like love stories that came from among the disciples gave them hope, though there were also many cases where couples didn’t meet very many times and dropped contact, friend registration was cancelled, or were sent a text that said sorry.
“Phew, those things all happen when you’re young.”
SwordNoob envied the pa.s.sion of the disciples. If he had just been at the age of the instructors or so, he would’ve been able to meet a woman somehow. After all, becoming an oppa from a mister took no time at all these days.
[T/N: Oppa is an informal way to call an older male, used for both familial and external relations.h.i.+ps. “Oppa” indicates a lot more closeness than “mister.”]
However, because SwordNoob was a seasoned middle-aged man, he was very awkward with young girls and women. Granted, his fighting ability was fearsome, so despite being only in the late 200s for level, he was welcome in any party. If SwordNoob just went to the square, everyone tried to recruit him.
Only, it was just that the atmosphere was difficult in the hunting ground.
They would regularly use honorifics with him. The young and youthful party members used informal speech with each other and got along intimately, but it wasn’t easy for SwordNoob to fit in with them. SwordNoob tried to find a woman in the same age group as him.
“It shouldn’t be hard since all kinds of people gather in the world of Royal Road.”
There were many in their early 30s or 40s, of course. They were very commonly seen in a city or village. If the men fished, the ones that looked like their wives would make spicy seafood stew for them.
“Honey, please eat some spicy stew before continuing.”
It was a very heartwarming sight.
There were also cases where they set up a shop and conducted business, but their young children would occasionally come to buy a weapon, armor, or miscellania.
“Son, can you buy arrows from us for 20 Gold?”
“Mom, what kind of harsh joke is that?”
“Honey, our son says he’s leaving the house.”
“Alright. As his parents, it’s probably our duty to at least call over a mover, right?”
There were affectionate scenes of children getting daringly ripped off by their parents.
SwordNoob went around cities and towns as he roamed. He ma.s.sacred monsters that came at him in the wilderness, and also leapt into nests of monsters whilst holding one sword.
“When I was young, I did things like this so often.”
He held a sword in his mouth and leapt into the river water. When he got hungry, he skewered fish in a deep part of the clear river. It was truly difficult to overcome the water’s flow and strength and swing his sword to catch fish. However, SwordNoob actually succeeded easily. That was because he didn’t push forcefully, but followed the current’s flow to catch fish.
Sword Mastery skill proficiency has improved.
His Sword Mastery skill went up even while catching fish. They weren’t high leveled monsters, but it seemed he could gain Sword Mastery as a characteristic of the location. Like Sculpting, the Sword Mastery skill grew on diverse experiences.
“While I’m like this…”
SwordNoob floated to the top of the water, took in a big breath, and went into the river again.
The sword he swung in a single breath slid past the body of a fish.
Swordsmans.h.i.+p that was thinly slicing sas.h.i.+mi!
The fish was become sas.h.i.+mi while blinking its eyes, alive. And while underwater, as well!
Sorriness filled SwordNoob’s eyes. ‘Looks like I can’t do this because it’s cruel.’
It had been a long time since he had properly shown off his swordsmans.h.i.+p skills. After that time when life and death had been separated by a second, he had never done his best. Even Royal Road was simply entertainment. It was so that he could try testing his still-honed swordsmans.h.i.+p, but he was sorry for the fish. SwordNoob almost never even hunted herbivores like rabbits, squirrels, or deer in the Versailles Continent, either.
‘Something I can’t even eat… there’s no need to take their lives pointlessly.’
Feeling sorry, SwordNoob wrapped the fish in bandages. They were still alive, due to his marvelous swordsmans.h.i.+p.
Then he rose to the top of the water and moved downstream. It wasn’t that he determined his destination, he was just wandering randomly.
There were people downstream the river. He heard a conversation of a middle-aged man raising a fis.h.i.+ng pole and his wife.
“We just… caught sas.h.i.+mi!”
A live catfish with its bandages almost fallen off had bitten their fis.h.i.+ng pole’s bait and was coming up.
“The world is truly difficult.”
SwordNoob sat down under a large old tree.
His Sword Mastery skill was Advanced level 6 at 89%. With growth at an unbelievable speed, it was at a stage where Master level of Sword Mastery was not far. But what worth was there in raising his level and polis.h.i.+ng his Sword Mastery skill?
“This is the vice of an old dog. Might there not be a middle-aged woman wandering around alone?”
Even trying to start a conversation with pretended friendliness with a woman he’d never seen before was awkward. A husband coming to take her away while he was observing and agonizing over whether it was fine to talk to her had happened to him a couple times, so he didn’t even have the will to try anymore.
When SwordNoob was condemning himself, a girl who looked to be in her late teens approached him.
“Mister, what are you doing here?”
SwordNoob didn’t reply and flicked his hand as if to shoo her away. Looking like a player, the human girl was considerably cute and pretty.
‘She’ll probably just ask me about the hunting ground.’
Normally he would answer her kindly. It wasn’t because he wanted to do something bad to the adorable and young girl, but so that he could give her at least a little help.
‘Zephyr also gave advice. It’s important to have lots of conversations with women.’
Actually, a girl starting a conversation with him only numbered a few times in SwordNoob’s life. He was big, so his appearance was one that women couldn’t easily approach. But more than that, his eyes and spirit were on a different level from normal people, so even gangsters avoided him.
Right now, he wanted to be alone because he felt like wanting to quit it all. However, the girl sat down in front of SwordNoob with no intention of leaving.
“Hey mister, are you alone?”
SwordNoob only slightly nodded his head. ‘Seeing as she’s intentionally asking on, is she a merchant who’s trying to sell something? Or does she want help? Guess I should give her a roughly useful weapon if I’ve got one left.’
The girl hesitated for a moment before asking again. “Would you like to hunt with us?”
At the words that differed from his expectations, SwordNoob was a little curious. “Are you inviting me to your party right now?”
Towards his disciples, he stuck to a short and stern way of talking. He tried not to alarm the girl, but his voice was even more low and grave because he didn’t have much experience with talking to the opposite s.e.x.
Spurred on by his not-adverse reaction, the girl’s voice gained strength. “Let’s hunt together, okay?”
“Maybe. It’s a pain… if you’d like a hunting ground recommendation, I can do that much for you.”
“We came all the way here from Rosenheim Kingdom. It’s a little too much for us to hunt on our own, you see.”
“Huh.” In the end, SwordNoob couldn’t refuse this cute girl’s request and rose from his seat. ‘Alright. I’ve got nothing else to do, so it won’t be bad to hunt with them for a bit.’
Even if the girl had come acting friendly on purpose because she wanted help, he planned to let that much go.
SwordNoob asked without much thought, “Your other companions are?”
“There are two people, my mom and youngest aunt. Mom’s profession is Elementalist and Aunt’s profession is Summoner.”
Women often picked those professions because the spirits or summoned creatures were cute.
‘Elementalist, Summoner. And is this child a Magician? I guess it would be hard for the three of them to hunt.’
Even as they walked to the party, the girl kept chattering. “Dad is busy from work, so he can’t play with us. My youngest aunt still doesn’t have a boyfriend from graduating from college and studying abroad.” For some reason, the girl was describing the youngest aunt in detail. “She’s an accountant. She’s thirty-two this year, but she’s never dated ’cause she drowned herself in studying. She’s pretty, skinny, and also has a good personality. There’s a big age gap between her and my mom, so she also played with me like a sister since I was young.”
“But her standards are high, so… she went on a few blind dates, but she said she didn’t even see most men as men and left right away.”
“Her standards must be high.”
SwordNoob listened to her words impa.s.sively. Then they reached the location of the girl’s party. There was a calm-looking, middle-aged woman with a big dog-like spirit, and a lady with a graceful face in her early 30s.
The girl grinned as she said, “My aunt likes macho men. She also likes martial arts.”
* * *
The a.s.sa.s.sin Steer was in charge of information gathering for the Hermes Guild. Using contact groups spread extensively, his task was to keep an eye on the trends of the Versailles Continent.
“There’s a high possibility that the Lord of the North’s Morata is WarG.o.d Weed…”
Steer considered this a matter that needed to be reported to his superior.
Bardray was currently in the Ziubellin Dungeon of Haven Kingdom. It was not an exaggeration to say that the hunting ground poured out monsters. Not only in Haven Kingdom, but no matter where you went on the Versailles Continent, it was among the worst hunting grounds for players. Turning off his whispers and even the guild chatting window, Bardray had declared that he wouldn’t come out before he hunted the formidable sorcerer named Ziubellin.
“What should we we do, Steer-nim?” asked his subordinate in information.
Bardray spent most of his time inside dungeons with his teammates. n.o.body knew when their hunt would end.
Steer sighed. “We have no choice but go ourselves. Send a request to the guild corps. We’ll enter the dungeon in order to meet guild master Bardray-nim.”
Steer and 30 members of the Hermes Guild entered the dungeon. They were all over level 360, but the level of the monsters was too high in Ziubellin Dungeon, so they couldn’t help but shrink back. After many complications, they finally reached the place where Bardray was at.
Bardray was resting and maintaining his weapons with his 12 Elite Guard. Monster corpses were lying around the place where they were resting, exuding a foul smell.
“For what matter did you come all the way here, Steer?”
“There is something I must report.”
Bardray looked interested. As befitting of him, who dominated as the strongest in the Versailles Continent and was completely equipped with ultimate items, he had overflowing composure.
“It’s about WarG.o.d Weed.”
“Weed, you say…”
Bardray nodded his head. “If it’s about him, then it would be worthwhile for you to come find me all the way here.”
“Weed’s ident.i.ty has been exposed. I believe he is the Lord of Morata. Though of course, there are still many parts about him that I still cannot understand.”
“And those are?”
“It’s estimated that he’s a player who started in Rosenheim Kingdom, but it’s that it hasn’t even been a year and six months since he started Royal Road. That doesn’t make much sense. And the more shocking thing is that he is sculpting as a side job.”
“Considering his fighting ability, you’d think that he wasn’t actually a Sculptor. Even so, he made a Magnum Opus with the sculpting he did as a hobby, and he’s good enough to shake the continent.”
He had judged that the Pyramid, Light Tower, and the G.o.ddess Statue were sculptures made as a hobby!
“Ohh, isn’t that amazing?”
“Sculpting was a side job? Yikes! I was completely in awe after seeing a sculpture made by him.”
Bardray’s teammates all said a few words each.
“Come to think of it, if it’s Weed, we could even call him our junior.”
“Ah, in the Continent of Magic?”
“Since he became the best about 6 months after we left, y’know.”
“We were once the best in the Continent of Magic. And for quite a long time, too.”
The Elite Guard conversed gladly. They had known each other since the Continent of Magic. They had been n.o.ble lords ruling over famous castles in the Continent of Magic! Bardray had also been the best lord in the Continent of Magic.
“I do miss those times.”
“Well. I don’t really wanna go back; I don’t want to lose the merit of this Versailles Continent’s clear air and being able to fight while directly moving your body.”
“I don’t want to go back either, but… they were still really fun times.”
The castle lords who gone through thick and thin with small wars and dispute heard of the creation of Royal Road and gathered in one spot. The popularity of Continent of Magic had pa.s.sed its peak and was obviously in decline. As rulers of one region, they felt that very distinctly. An enormous amount of items and gold actually funneled to the castle lords. They earned sums that normal employees wouldn’t even be able to imagine. Most of the lords were Dark Gamers who were raising their profits while maintaining their organization. They came to a conclusion through a meeting.
They would move to Royal Road.
The lords took their forces directly into Royal Road. That was the inside story of the birth of Hermes Guild.
“Weed became extremely famous after we left.”
“He conquered quests and dungeons that even we gave up on, right? You don’t know how surprised I was after hearing the news that he’d even gotten through Ivan Porte Island’s labyrinth.”
“He’s a truly incredible player. Though of course, if Bardray had stayed in the Continent of Magic, he wouldn’t have given up his spot so easily.”
Bardray only smiled as he listened to the conversation of the Elite Guard.
The system of command that accompanied Hermes Guild’s pecking order was strict, but it didn’t apply to the Elite Guard. Bardray and the former castle lords, the Elite Guard, were the founding members of the Hermes Guild. Through their agreement, they decided that the very strongest among them would be the leader and govern the others. Their law was that if someone among the Elite Guard became stronger than Bardray at any time, they would then become the leader.
As such, the leader of Hermes Guild had changed a few times in the early stages of Royal Road. For both Bardray and the Elite Guard, it became an opportunity to become stronger faster through well-intentioned compet.i.tion. Of course, there were also castle lords who completely fell behind during the compet.i.tion. In Royal Road, you must directly move your body and possess very fast judgement and keen senses. The lords who became stragglers maintained the influence of the guild through deputies.
Hermes Guild was the best guild that originated from the Continent of Magic. They were also acquiring information about Weed through various pathways.
“The Continent of Magic and Weed…”
Bardray’s face became lost in thought. Such an expression could not be found on him often.
“Continue keeping an eye on the North.”
“But there is no need to make it a bigger deal than necessary.”
“That means–?” Steer’s head jerked up.
Hermes Guild normally gruesomely crushed any opponents who showed even a little speck of defiance. They dispatched a.s.sa.s.sins to either kill or bribe the key people. They also didn’t hesitate to commit cruel acts, like sending out the battle forces and setting a village or castle on fire.
“There’s no need. Even before we step forward, he’ll be caught and eaten by hyenas seeking prey first.”
Surtr thought for a moment and nodded. “You’re right, Leader-nim. The Resurrection Army led by Daymond will also go North soon.”
The Resurrection Army’s force was greatly weakened. They weren’t able to take Odin Fortress in the end and decided to retreat; their territory in the Central Continent was rapidly shrinking. The Resurrection Army wasn’t able to hold out in the Central Continent any longer. There was no strong kingdom in the North yet, so they were were withdrawing to aim for there instead. They also had a hostile relations.h.i.+p with Weed, because through the quest of the Matallost Church, it was he who achieved the great service that stopped the Resurrection Army.
Bardray said, “Weed is indeed famous. However, once he suffers a defeat, his fame will disappear as quickly as it came. Ruin takes but a moment.”
The increase in skill and level through hunting, as well as power expansion! Bardray thought of those as the only things that should be shown in quests and broadcast appearances. That was because a high level and power made other players fearful and submissive to his commands.
After finis.h.i.+ng the hunt with the Elite Guard, Bardray became deep in thought about the subject during his break time.
“The Continent of Magic, hm.”
He had left the Continent of Magic with the lords who were of the same mind as him. They had to make their characters and prepare in advance while acquiring information about Royal Road early on. However, sometimes he secretly logged into the Continent of Magic as a pastime. It wasn’t hard, since his character was still right there.
The Continent of Magic was the game that he had dedicated his youth to. It was on the decline, but he was deeply fond of it, so he couldn’t quit. Then he encountered rumors about Weed in the game, a rumor that he had ascended to the position of the strongest after Bardray left.
“The G.o.d of War Weed. That Weed is currently the best on the Continent of Magic.”
“Is he just having an easy time ’cause Bardray isn’t logging in?”
“It’s the opposite. We’ve got to see him as being way more outstanding than Bardray. Not only did he single-handledly catch a dragon that Bardray couldn’t hunt, but he also explores dungeons alone.”
“You mean by himself without anyone’s help?”
“It’s something Bardray could never have done.”
Bardray’s pride was wounded. He let it pa.s.s since he wasn’t one to just believe a rumor, but it still felt nasty. And then, not long afterwards, he met Weed while hunting alone in a dungeon, like a joke of fate. When Bardray saw his equipment and name, he had a hunch that it was the Weed of the rumors.
In the Continent of Magic, speaking had to be done by typing on a keyboard.
“Are you We—”
Even before Bardray finished typing his question of whether he was Weed or not, his opponent activated an attack skill. Because it was Weed, who attacked ruthlessly if he met someone in a dungeon!
Bardray had to hastily use defensive skills and flee. He was barely able to escape with only about 300 Health left.
That was a day of shame that could absolutely never be washed away for Bardray, who had reigned as the strongest.
After fully recovering his Health and Mana and even cleaning his best equipment, Bardray challenged Weed again.
“I am Bardray. Weed, I shall cut your throat.”
He quickly inserted the speech he had typed up beforehand, but there was no reaction from his opponent. That was because he didn’t know who Bardray was, nor did he even care.
Weed just activated an attack skill, as per usual.
In the fight that started in that manner, Bardray felt a wall he couldn’t put into words. It felt like facing a fortress that was so tall and thick that the current him would never be able to defeat.
Weed slipped past all the chain skills he used. There wasn’t a big difference between their equipment and level, but the skill management decided it. No matter what kind of attack Bardray tried, he responded rapidly and unleashed a counter attack. Amidst despair that was like facing a boundless ocean, Bardray experienced defeat.
Bardray couldn’t accept this fact.
His pride as the strongest on the Continent of Magic had been shattered. Even though he’d taken a brief break, with his history in the Continent of Magic, he had thought that there was no way he could lose.
Bardray secretly chased Weed and fought him again five times.
But the result was the same every time. Even when he changed his skill management or fighting method, he was destroyed so very easily.
Weed’s level gradually went up, and his equipment was better every time they met, even though hunting monsters with severe differences in level gave you almost no EXP.
He surpa.s.sed the level that Bardray had considered the limit and pioneered hunting grounds on his own to achieve the ultimate stage.
“I will completely stamp you down. Not just you, but everyone you know as well, so that you can’t even get a foothold again in the Versailles Continent!”