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UNFINISHED It is the first Arc of Legendary Moonlight Sculptor. It start from Volume 1 Chapter 1 to Volume 1 Chapter 9 in the novel and in the manhwa its chapter 1 to chapter 25.

Summary Edit

Short Summary Edit

Lee Hyun was a poor 20 year old high school drop-out. As a man, he had to take care of his younger sister Lee Hayan and his grandmother since both of his parents were dead. He was a hard core gamer in Continent of Magic, but he need to focus on what important to him, family. So he decided to delete his account and focus on working. But just before he delete the account, he decided to action his account on trading site, with the initial price of 50,000 won.

He sold his Continent of Magic account for ₩3.09 billion Won. He was happy for a while, until loan shark came to collect the old debt of his father, including accumulated interest the debt is about ₩3 billion Won. Losing almost all of his fortune, he decided to make money from Royal Road, the top game at that time.

After training in dong jang for about a year, he buy the capsule and started to play Royal Road. He spent almost the first four week hitting scarecrow to increase his stat. Then he decided to get a unique class/profession. Tricked by Rodriguez, he obtained Legendary Moonlight Sculptor as his profession, and became the heir of Emperor Geihar Von Arpen.

Weed met Pale, Irene, Surka and Romuna for the first time, and party up with them for his first hunting trip.

Long Summary Edit

Main Story Edit

Lee Hyan Edit

Just imagine a noble, elegant and picturesque life of poverty that you might find in a soap opera, and no matter how poor you were, it still didn't discourage you from showing unconditional love for strangers or even sharing your piece of bread with a warm smile. If anyone ever claimed that such an illusion existed in reality, Lee Hyun would beat him to a pulp, and strike them once more to finish him off. Life really was too cruel for the poor. The Labor Welfare Law revised by Parliament, made all jobs unavailable to minors. Illegal though it was, Lee Hyun had worked in every kind of trade imaginable.

From the age of fourteen he took to sewing stitches in a factory. The salary there could only be called meagre, but at least he was able to eat for free. However, being underground with only two ventilation fans running, his health quickly deteriorated. Thanks to this, he damaged his lungs, and gained heavy medical bills. Then there was a job at a gas station and occasionally he even went around pulling a handcart collecting and selling recyclables. But no matter how hard he worked, at the end of the day, the only money left in his pockets was chump change. As a minor, he was forced to get a job illegally, and this fact was used by his employers to brutally and mercilessly work him to the bone.

He lived this life of exploitation until the age of twenty, and thanks to this, Lee Hyun knew very well the value of money. However, things would be different now. Now he was finally recognised as an adult by law, and with it came an ID card that would allow him to legally work. Inserting the ID card in his wallet. When he was a kid, his parents had died in an accident, and now his family only consisted of his grandma and baby sister.

His grandma after falling down the stairs a few days ago, had dislocated her hip, rendering her unable to go to work and although she was taking medicine to help her cope with the pain, with the household struggling as it was, she couldn't go to the hospital to receive proper treatment and thus could only rest at home, also due to not receiving treatment, every night she could only groan painfully. Whenever Lee Hyun entered the house, he felt like he was suffocating. It was a lifeless home with an aloof little sister and an old grandma. Even if he didn’t know it, it was probably why he disliked coming home even more.

Lee Hayan was his little sister. He had not seen her face very often recently. Lee Hyun went to his room. Even if he was forced into physical labor or driving a taxi, he still wanted to send his little sister to college. For a while now she had been drifting off the rails, but she was bright and intelligent, unlike Lee Hyun. He believed that in college she would meet a good husband and be able to live well. He also wanted to repay his old and ailing grandma for all that she had sacrificed to raise Lee Hyun and Lee Hayan. Muttering to himself, Lee Hyun turned on the computer. The old computer buzzed to life. As soon as it connected to the internet, as was routine, he accessed a game. That game was Continent of Magic (CoM). A classic game released 20 years ago. An online game that once created a frenzy of gamers in the Republic of Korea.

That game remained at the pinnacle of gaming until just 3 years ago. Lee Hyun’s antiquated computer, assembled by combining parts from here and there, was not capable of handling most games. Nothing but Continent of Magic ran smoothly on it these days. It was the first game he’d ever played, and only during the game could he have a feeling of enjoyment. Lee Hyun’s playing style was very peculiar. He did not associate with the other people around him and instead hunted all day long. After killing monsters and raising his level, he headed to harder hunting grounds. He did not participate in sieges or guild wars at all.

He found pleasure in the game by gradually improving his character’s abilities and upgrading equipment. He once hunted for 200 hours straight (8 days) without catching a wink of sleep. It wasn’t unusual for him to struggle for a month to raise one level or catch a single monster. Some might question what kind of fun he was looking for, but for him it was fun simply watching his character grow stronger and when he was able to defeat monsters he was previously unable to, he was thoroughly delighted. In a short period of time, Lee Hyun had reached the highest level. He had attained the ultimate state where levels no longer rose.

In the two decades since Continent of Magic was released, it was the first and only record in history of this happening. When Lee Hyun looked back, he found no one who could rival his character in supremacy. In hunting grounds where others struggled as a party, he singlehandedly wiped out all the monsters. After climbing to the highest level, he alone hunted all the ultimate monsters, including Dragons. Unfortunately for Lee Hyun, he had lost all interest in CoM. Nowadays with the technological advances, the ultimate goal of every game was to equip itself with a virtual reality system.

A truly splendid game by the name of 'Royal Road', was often referenced as the standard for virtual reality gaming. Beginning with it's fully implemented world, the game contained tens of thousands of races and users. Over tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of skills. You could enjoy any adventure as you desired or even go sea fishing with friends for days on end, well that is as long as you don’t encounter whimsical typhoon of course. The massive scale of freedom was amazing, but the best above all else, was the wondrous game’s system. Royal Road had the reputation of inducing the ultimate fun a human could enjoy in a game.

Popular as it was, to install the equipment that made virtual reality possible, would cost over 10,000,000 won ($10,000 USD). If he had that kind of money laying around, under any circumstance would first go to his grandma’s medical bills, or it would go to his little sister’s college tuition fund. To diligently earn money, Lee Hyun had decided to delete his CoM account, and thus remove any form of distraction from his goal of earning money. Unfortunately the game/account had to go.

Lee Hyun brought the mouse cursor over ‘Yes’. Now, with a single click of the mouse, the treasured character he had raised would disappear forever. Just at the moment he flexed his finger to press down, a thought raced through his mind. ‘Can I sell my character for money? Account sale I think it’s called...’ He remembered reading a newspaper or something, that said buying and selling characters was a commonplace practice these days. That story meant money! It dawned on Lee Hyun that if he was going to delete his character anyway, it wasn’t a bad idea to sell it to another person instead.

Lee Hyun began searching through the internet looking for a character trading site. One search resulted in dozens of sites, and among them he located and entered the one with the largest trading volume. Lee Hyun uploaded pictures along with his own character. Highest level character in Continent of Magic, with the best equipment coming from Dragons that was worth 30 trillion marks. He decided to begin the auction with the initial price of 50,000 won ($50 USD). He was afraid that no one would bid if he asked for too high a price right off the bat.

The auction deadline was one day. Waiting for a longer period of time for a bigger bid of money to come was unlikely to happen. Also. to get a job he needed a decent set of clothes at least a shirt and tie, so he was in a hurry to get money right away. Typically there was a range of characters and items to determine the price, but the auction content of other people could only be seen by paying members so Lee Hyun was denied access. Lee Hyun finished posting and went to sleep. Waking up early the next day, he planned to stop by a nearby employment office. Not even an hour after Lee Hyun post on the auction site, the netizens that occupied the virtual space began heating up the internet.

Initially, no one believed the auction post. With the latest patch to Continent of Magic, they were well aware the level cap had been increased significantly higher. Currently the maximum level limit was 200.In the entire server, no one who achieved such a state could be found, possibly because the figure itself was practically impossible for any man alive. And now, there was an auction post with the character that rose to the highest level for sale. Several people commented in this fashion. Passing by some advised no one be fooled while others gave thanks for making them laugh. From early on in 21st century, phishing entries to steal users information had become a trend and because they were duped so often, many thought it was one such a case again.

Netizens tried to ignore the auction post. But their curiosity could not be resisted and they entered to see the post again and again. Auction posts are unconditionally required to post screenshots of the character to be shown. Each of the files attached to the posting were opened. The character info was truly outstanding. Various stats hit maximum and equipment items were indeed fantastic. People admired it quite a bit. Somehow it did not seem like a normal phishing post. To forge such detailed images would require a great deal of effort.

Among those present at the auction post were current graphics designers. Looking at the base photo, they tried to find a blind spot. The designers magnified the images by a factor 10,000 to track down the editied pixels, studied every shade, and even scanned the photo files into a 3D format, trying to prove it was a forgery. But their attempts proved futile. Finally they were forced to acknowledge.

Contrary to their expectations, the graphic designers began to confirm the authenticity of the images. Then real users of Continent of Magic appeared. The moment they saw the images, they shouted in surprise. From the beginning they suspected nothing. It’s real. The character name is 'Weed'. This user’s is damn famous. Lee Hyun always played alone, intentionally avoiding hunting grounds with lots of people. He never participated in sieges, and minor disputes were usually ignored and passed by. But rumors about him had never ceased to stop. Slaying Dragons and Krakens deemed simply invincible and sweeping through the highest level hunting grounds all single handedly. Not associating with other players didn’t mean they couldn’t recognize him. Among the remaining users playing CoM, he was a legend. Only Lee Hyun was oblivious to the fact that he was a celebrity.

The initial price for the auction was 50,000 won. Excluding the character value or equipment, just owning it alone according to current prices made the amount was far too low. People hurriedly began to write down their bids. It went up in a flash from 50,000 to 300,000 won, all the way until 700,000 won. An hour had not passed before it exceeded 1,000,000 won. The value of selling just one piece of equipment would cover the cost so there was no need to be hesitant about the loss. The bid began to skyrocket. By this time, many people stopped participating out of desperation because they imagined to some extent the auction closing price.

Although the number of players in Continent of Magic has decreased over time, after the servers were integrated into one and became free to play, there were still quite a lot of users playing. Initially, it was the players of Continent of Magic who drove up the price, and following them were the wealthy office workers who increased the price further. At one time, when the game was newly created, Continent of Magic kept most of the Republic of Korea up all night. The highest level character in that game, owning such an antique had such a value that you wanted to show it off to others. The shrewder among the office workers quickly phoned their similarly aged bosses.

In the current age, people who hold key positions in companies belonged to the generation that played online games in the middle of their youth. Thanks to this, they boosted the price range even higher! In large portal sites and every game related website, the main hot topic talked about was the auction of the highest level character from Continent of Magic. Many people started searching for it, and instantly the keyword ranking shot skyward. From this point onward, the real auction began. In the meantime though, Lee Hyun was sound asleep, completely unaware of this. He was busy summing up what to do the next day in his dreams.

With the people’s attention all focused on certain person, the auction price was soaring. So far, nobody knew who Continent of Magic’s highest level was, but it invoked a desire to possess and show off the eternal character of the once greatest game. The auction price finally exceeded 100,000,000 won (roughly $100,000 USD). At this point, ownership exceeded the market price for the individual holdings and equipment. Some people lamented over their lack of money and dropped out of the auction. In this manner people commented the auction post to soothe their sorrows. Before long, the number of comments went beyond 900.

The auction was automatically extended a few times, and when it exceeded 300,000,000 won, several companies became actively involved. Due to the simple matter of the auction, the only thing people knew was that there was no end in sight. If the deal was settled for a colossal sum, numerous people would hear about it through news or word-of-mouth, and the publicity effects were formidable. To place just one ad required a pile of money, also, after painfully spending money to make an ad, people still did not bother looking closely at it. However, what about news of the highest level character being sold for a small fortune? People’s interest and attention would be concentrated.

Each company’s public relations department approached with such a perspective. Digital media intensified the competition, game broadcasters wanted to acquire the highest level character. The value or market price of the character was not a problem. Organizing a series of specials about the famous game in the past and then casting the character in question would increase the reliability and public image of the broadcasters. Fierce competition led to the price skyrocketing again and again, and the surge in the number of visitors made the item trading site smile with satisfaction. And then, the auction finally came to an end.

In the end, five major game broadcasters battled one another for the character, but piercing though all that competition, and the one that ending up making the successful bid and received the character was CTS Media. The latest situation was its rapid expansion and increase in broadcast share that made it a promising company to go to. By intervention from the president’s secretary, the winning bid was written and submitted as the auction ended.

Lee Hyun received a phone call waking him up from his sleep in the morning. The construction job from the day before exhausted him and he had fallen asleep. He earned only 30,000 won. It was less than average because he was told off for being incompetent. "Hello." Unexpectedly, coming from beyond the receiver was the voice of a beautiful woman. Lee Hyun, certain that nobody in their right mind would ever call his house tried to put down the receiver as quickly as possible. However before he did so the woman with the beautiful voice spoke again "You tried selling your account over the internet, is that not so?" she asked. “Yes, that is correct...” "This is CTS Media Incorporated. I am the president’s secretary Yoon Nahee. We have deposited the amount of the current successful bid of the auction into your account, you can confirm this on the item trading site. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any issues."

Yoon Nahee of CTS Media, was the President’s secretary. Even going so far as to work in financial resources, she also knew 8 languages as well. She was by no means an ordinary woman at all, and all those around her were busy flattering her. But the fact that he did not check the auction of such a fortune was enough to overwhelm Yoon Nahee. “How much was the successful bid?” Lee Hyun was filled with unease. Hoping for at least over 200,000 won to pay the medical bills, he figured he should ask, but the voice Lee Hyun heard over the phone stunned him into shock.

"3,090,000,000 won." (About $3,000,000-ish USD) Originally, Lee Hyun’s character 'Weed', according to the market price was around 150,000,000 won. Normally games at the height of their popularity that sell their equipment alone could sometimes pass for 100,000,000 won, but if it’s an old game, Like CoM, the market price is usually on the extremely low side. However, due several factors, including the limited auction deadline, the one-of-a-kind rarity and his characters fame, led to it ultimately being brought over 3,000,000,000 won. The auction itself was newsworthy, which was exactly what CTS Media aimed for. After putting down the receiver, Lee Hyun bitterly laughed.

Lee Hyun believed none of it. It sounded far too absurd. However, the moment he accessed the site, his auction post floated on the main screen of the item trading site. Countless people posted comments in real time, and the auction successful bid amount was as she said, 3,090,000,000 won! Lee Hyun managed not to faint only because of his grim tenacity. The next day, Lee Hyun confirmed the money receipt that more than 3,000,000,000 won had really been deposited into his own account. He pinched his flesh until blood could be seen. This is unmistakably reality! Lee Hyun rushed to show his grandma the bankbook. He still did not dare tell her the story in it its entirety.

Lee Hyun handed his grandma the bankbook. His grandma rubbed her dim eyes a couple of times while looking at the bankbook. The amount stamped into the account, the reaction was disbelief. His grandma, filled with rising emotion, softly sobbed. His grandma was moved to tears. It was the same with Lee Hyun. While remembering all of the suffering and bitterness he received.

Due to all of the tough times together, these two people were thrilled that much more. After several days they obtained a new house and his grandma was finally able to receive proper treatment at the hospital. They also found in addition to her hip, that she was sick in many other ways and had to be admitted to the hospital for a period of time. His little sister Hayan was also delighted. But of course, their happiness was to be short-lived. Five men dressed in black professional suits. The ones he especially did not want to see the most came to the hospital.

These five well-built black suited men with fresh from the store shoes,  literally bullied and pushed their way into the his grandma hospital room, and even though only 5 came into the large hospital room itself, the room now seemed to be filled. All of the other patients panicked from fear so with the help from their caregivers, they quietly slipped out. Eventually only Lee Hyun, his grandma and the men remained. Lee Hyun thought it fortunate that his little sister wasn’t there the moment they came in. But nothing good ever came from those men in suits. He expected it would be the no different from before.

In the past his father took out a loan with them, and now they here to collect on that debt. Lee Hyun gulped swallowing his saliva. When his parents passed away, Lee Hyun had inherited all of his father debt of 100,000,000 won. It would've been fine if he had done the waiver of inheritance, but at that time Lee Hyun was still too young to understand and did not know about this law. In addition, his grandma, with the grief of losing her only child, also failed to apply for the waiver of inheritance in court within 3 months and thus legacy was inherited.

Therefore, Lee Hyun had become indebted to the loan sharks for whooping 100,000,000 won debt. He also knew how ruthless they were about collecting. But now he had a lot of money. There was no need to be afraid. He needed to pay a debt of 3,000,000,000 won. At the man’s words, Lee Hyun’s temples throbbed with rage. How can this be his father borrowed 100,000,000 won.

The men laughed at Lee Hyun’s words. In particular the blonde haired man, hearing that absurdness, he put his hand on his forehead and had a good laugh. The man standing quietly behind  the blonde hair man spoke. Considering the atmosphere, he seemed like their leader. They did not break any laws. Because they received legitimate interest. To begin with, the interest is 50% of the principal amount per year. At the calculation report, Lee Hyun felt despair. Debt increased 5 fold in just 4 years. 8 years passed, so it might have been 2,500,000,000, but the time that passed was more than exactly 8 years so it was not wrong to say 3,000,000,000.

Lee Hyun while being harassed by the gang members did not know how much debt he was in. Without him knowing, it accumulated to as much as 3,000,000,000. Bankruptcy! Others with a 3,000,000,000 debt would file bankruptcy. Even after bankruptcy you would probably owe a few thousand won. Lee Hyun did not even consider bankruptcy. It costs money just to file bankruptcy. The courts and legal counselors. Paying them money and following the necessary steps, you could enter bankruptcy. Lee Hyun could not even afford to file for bankruptcy. In fact, even if you had the money, you can’t seriously believe the vicious loan sharks would leave you alone to file bankruptcy. The men dressed in black suits exuded confidence. The confidence of free will, the confidence of power. And also, Lee Hyun knew it was better to repay the debt if he could. In the first place there were no other alternatives, they came knowing he had money. The men laughed with a smirk.

The man started to threaten his family. Lee Hyun could not stand the veiled threats anymore. It couldn’t be helped. It would be enough if the men left. Those unable to repay the borrowed money, in the slums he had seen the fates of those with no money to give them. If there was a sin in the first place, it was borrowing money from them. Not even able to depend on the law, Lee Hyun had to surrender his bankbook. The men received the bankbook on the spot, and pulled out 90,000,000 won in cash from a bag. With it was the IOU for 100,000,000 won written by Lee Hyun’s parents 8 years ago. From the beginning they knew everything and came firmly prepared.

As the men exited the hospital room, Lee Hyun yelled at them that he would get revenge. The men were about to laugh again. However, at the sight of Lee Hyun’s eyes, their laughter died before ever coming out. A young, wild beast. The miasmic embrace of his eyes had sent a chill down their spines. The casual leader of the men looked at Lee Hyun and gave him advice.

In told Weed if he make 3,000,000,000 in 5 years and look for him if he does this then he will serve Hyan.  The loan sharks departed. Lee Hyun sat down on the ground helplessly. And at the sound of his little sister crying in the hallway, his grandma made a deep sorrowful sigh. After being robbed to the tune of 3,000,000,000 won, he did not have the strength to do anything. He was slammed by an extreme emptiness. However, on the third day after being robbed, he stood up. There was still hope. So he could not sit and hesitate. A smile casually drifted to Lee Hyun’s mouth. Amidst the tears, laughter emerged. It was all but a moment, but the touching experience of having a large sum of money that seemed to have enlighten him just a little about how to really live in the world.

Lee Hyun was busy. 90,000,000 won (roughly $90,000 USD) was not taken away, but it did not mean he could use it all. Because the house contract was already set at 50,000,000 won so that was already set aside. He was still able to cancel the contract if he wanted, but doing so would mean he would have to pay a penalty fine. He would rather die than pay the penalty. Ultimately, the amount that could be used was only 40,000,000 won! All thanks to the real estate slump in the early 21st century.

Using part of the remaining money, Lee Hyun registered in many martial arts halls such as aikido, kendo and taekwondo. He placed himself on a rigorous schedule traversing to as many as 6 different places a day. Over time his body was broken down and rebuilt at the various gyms as he continue to master these martial arts quickly. The instructors there called him a 'Wild Beast'. Building his stamina, he swung his sword all day long, enough to cause blood to flow from his hands. Virtual reality game! A place where depending on how a person moves their body in real life can affect how your body moves in virtual reality. Then wouldn't learning martial arts and studying about the game system a little more be helpful? Of course, those that learned martial arts would not be completely advantageous. But to be even a little stronger, even at level 1, it was better to learn martial arts.

Imagine being at least 10% stronger throughout the game, the tremendous effects it would bring. Because of that, Lee Hyun spent most of his morning and afternoon learning martial arts and getting fitter, and during the evening, studied about virtual reality games. Things like: which game had the most users and how the game system worked was thoroughly analyzed. For every profession, city and skill Lee Hyun made analysis tables and pinned them onto the walls of his room. The paper records bombarded Lee Hyun’s room. For 1 whole year. Lee Hyun learned about martial arts and studied virtual reality games. The time of 1 year wasn’t just a preparation period, it was also used to closely observe the development of Royal Road.

The virtual reality game at the end was as expected. Royal Road, like its namesake, walked the path of the emperor with serenity. Possessing more than 75% of the world’s game market share, more than 90% of Korean gamers played this game. It could practically be called a scheduled sequence. Especially during wars of kings, it came to a point where it overwhelmed the viewership of all other networks. The only game in the world where anybody could obtain fame, power and money. Royal Road was the result of an ingenious system interlocking with virtual reality. Lee Hyun’s cold eyes stared at the monitor. That day he purchased a capsule used to connect to Royal Road for 10,000,000 won. It was expensive enough that tears seeped out, but he constantly reminded himself that it was a necessary investment. With all preparations finished. It was the beginning of the game. He felt like a soldier heading onto the battlefield.{Vol 1 Ch 1}

Weed Edit

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. He called his avartar Weed. Weed, the lowliest of the low in the plant kingdom. To Lee Hyun, it sounded most suitable for him.  He pick  The Citadel of Serabourg in the  Rosenheim Kingdom as his starting point. 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 alike, that he thought he was lost in the middle of Seoul.  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. 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.

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.

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! 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, 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. He was told all he needed to do was strike a scarecrow in any way him want. A wooden sword is placed in front of a scarecrow, and it is all his. 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. 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. After six hours of striking the scarecrow, Weed heard good news +1 strength. He felt as if the muscles in his hands that were clutching the wooden sword were getting lighter. Weed’s avatar was so feeble that there was nothing remarkable. Five hours later Vitality +1 and Agility +1. 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 present 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.

Once Weed finished the meal swiftly, he took the wooden sword in his grip and stood in front of the scarecrow. 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 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.

A sorceress shook her head when she heard Pluto’s explanation. But he thought otherwise. You can earn only small amount of experience points if you kill a weaker monster than your current level. 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. 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, he 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?

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 unfavourable 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, Agility has risen by 1 point. He obtained a new stat called Fighting Spirit and Endurance.

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 Leve 3. 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. He needed to pick up the past he would end up wasting more precious time on this scarecrow even after the four week restriction is lifted. He must finish it before he 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.

Weed walked to the instructor. He asked does he want company as he has his lunch.  While his stomach growled, Weed lied with a straight face, but he could not deceive the instructor. He had more than enough for two and told Weed to sit down. 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. “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. He was a man of the sword. Despite Weed’s offensive tone, which would have enraged him in other situations, the instructor unexpectedly clapped his hands in delight. 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.

Sculpting was perceived as a fruitless skill, no more than trimming a small block of wood to produce a fine ornament. Rumour 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. Then a pop-up message appeared in front of Weed’s eyes. A quest called A Mystery Sculptor Rumoured to Have Visited the Royal Palace. 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. He was about to go broke and starve to death. At difficulty level E, this quest looks like it’s easy to finish. instructor gave Weed  two silvers for accepting the quest and gave him advice to 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.{ Vol 1 Ch 2}

Weed first walked to the fountain and filled his canteen with water, and then headed for the sculpture shop. It was Weed’s first trip down the streets of the Citadel, and it was crammed with users and NPCs. Plenty of users were on the street, but none of them gave a passing glance at Weed. He didn’t mind it though. Wandering around in a traveller’s outfit, deprived of even a breastplate, revealed that he has yet to meet the minimum requirement of the four week game play needed before he could leave the Citadel. Among the innumerable stores that operate in the capital of Rosenheim Kingdom, the sculpture shop holds a special position.

Most ordinary adventurers can barely recall where the sculpture shop is located because if was meaningless to them. Only an extremely small number of users who learned the Sculpture Art visit periodically. But the sculpture shop stands right next to the jewellery store on Central Avenue, and is one of the few frequently visited shops by the noblemen/women. Weed entered the sculpture shop. The shopkeeper was receiving a new customer with a gentle smile, until he saw Weed’s outfit at that point, he suddenly changed the tone of his voice. Weed looked around the shop, only to find that there was no other customer except for him. A blacksmith’s workshop or a grocery store is always full to the limit of occupancy, but the sculpture shop only entertains a few customers a day, if any.

If comparing daily revenues, however, the sculpture shop does lag behind the blacksmith’s workshop. In other words, the sculpture shop sells pretty expensive merchandises. Weed adjusted his collar and asked politely, “I have come here to find an answer to the question which troubles me so dearly, sir.” The shopkeeper rejected him right away, sounding very annoyed. As Weed’s fame was zero, and they were unacquainted, the shopkeeper had every right to chase him out of the shop. Weed was taking his time to retreat to the doorway. Then, he casually shot a glance at the statues that were on display. Weed with his silver tongue started to flattery the shopkeeper and the sculpture. The shopkeeper asked if he would like some tea? “Now tell me what has been troubling you so much?” Asked the shopkeeper.

Weed felt that he had won his goodwill, one scarcely disturbed by visitors and away from public attention. Suppose that you asked to look at various items in a grocery store— the next second you would be kicked out. Weed relished the statues on display at leisure. But he had his own agenda. “I doubt sculpture mastery will make a pile of money.” The most expensive statue that is currently present is worth 30 silvers. The quality statues are made of stones or rare wood, and in spite of the impressive workmanship, the materials themselves were not costly in the first place. They were nothing more than wooden carvings, or engraved stones.

Weed knew that there would be money if he could create a gigantic lion statue or bronze status, but he wasn’t fooled by the possibility that was so far off. What kind of nobleman with so much money would order a new statue every year? He needed to reach the top of the ladder in order to do really well as a sculptor. Little competition guaranteed that it wouldn’t need too much effort to become the best in the industry. Still, it was a niche market, too small to count on. The guaranteed way to make a fortune was to target other users as potential consumers. They were always levelling up and demanding better equipment, so on and so forth. Fire weapons, strong equipment enchanted bracelets and rings were popular among users, but statues were valueless to them except in rare instances. Weed’s primary purpose for starting this game was to make money, with a capital M. He looked around the display for the last time and passed his verdict on the sculpture mastery.

Weed asked if he could tell him about a person had carved the moonlight in the Royal Palace fifty years ago. The shopkeeper told him it is legendary tale that has been passed down among the sculptors. He also heard it from some trustworthy patrons from the Royal Court. Weed had thought that carving the moonlight was impossible, another urban legend, but the owner of the sculptor shop also knew the rumour that the instructor at the Training Hall had claimed to have heard.

He completed the quest A Mystery Sculptor Rumoured to Have Visited the Royal Palace. The rumour that had reached the instructor’s ear really took place. A sculptor carved the moonlight, and it was widely, yet secretly, known amongst the Serebourgians, though it remained an enigma how he carved the moonlight. Weed grinned broadly. This was, after all, a simple quest with the lowest difficulty level of E. Although at the same time it could've turned out tricky if he had failed becoming a 'friend' with the shopkeeper. How that he was done with the quest, the next move was to return to the Training Hall and earn a reward from the instructor. As Weed was looking for the right moment to say his farewells and leave, the shopkeeper, absorbed in thought, finally spoke out. He have not heard how he carved the moonlight. They said Queen Evane of Rosenheim, O may her soul rest in peace, was involve in the event. Can Weed do him a favor and look into this, so that his curiosity shall be gratified?”

He then got a quest called the Sculptor’s Past Weed’s clenched fists were shaking in excitement. This, it’s a serial quest! Even when the difficulty level of a quest is awfully low, the level of rewards shoot up in the case of serial quests. The more stages you complete, the more difficult the quest gradually becomes, and so most serial quests are likely to be highly difficult to solve for Weed at his current level. The only quests that Weed could complete are the ones that are inside the Citadel, asking around and gathering information from people.

The shopkeeper told him to talk to bard with knowledge in ancient tales and street gossip is the one whom he should ask about Queen Evane. Weed then left the shop. Keeping down a sudden impulse to hum a tune, Weed headed straight to a pub across the street. Returning the greeting from a waitress, Weed looked around in search of a bard. There were a few conditions to meet. First, he discounted the bard users when he looked for the right man. It was a long shot that any user had even ever heard of such an event that had happened in the Royal Palace half a century before. Weed would be better off to find a Serabourgian native, possibly an elderly.

Whether he could sing ballads favourably or not, an old bard was reliable when it comes to worldly gossip. Weed stopped by several pubs until he found a bard who lived up to his expectations. It was a middle-aged bard in his forties, experienced with both charm and youth. Clapping both hands, Weed approached the bard. He asked if he know anything that happened fifty years ago in the Royal Court of Rosenheim? The bard’s thrust his palm out and Weed could not miss what this gesture implied. He frowned immediately, his mouth twitching with a grave sense of responsibility that he would not waste a penny. Weed’s hand slipped into his pocket and fished out a coin before he realized his mistake. Two silvers! There were two silver coins in his pocket. That was everything that the instructor had given him as a retaining fee for the previous quest. The bard seized the silver coin from Weed’s palm. It was a basic mistake that he had forgotten to exchange his money into smaller coins in advance.

Weed’s body shook in distress and grief. The bard told Weedd that Queen Evan and the sculptor had been on intimate terms since they were children. They loved each other. Weed now realized why poking his nose into the rumour had to remain a secret from the Royal Court. Given that if the former Queen’s sacred name was ever mentioned in that scandalous matter, the Royal Knights would probably be willing to silence anyone at any cost to keep her honour intact.

They were both born and raised in the same village, and grew up bearing each other dearly in mind. The boy’s name was Zahab. The girl was always carrying ornaments carved and given by him. When she was a child she held a dream that she would become his wife someday, but Destiny played a nasty trick on them, and the girl was chosen to be the Royal Maid. At which point the boy left her. But in the end, there was still the promise between them. Zahab had promised to show the girl the most beautiful statue under heaven. He kept his promised. Many years later, Zahab presented himself at the request to the Royal Court. It was said that, at the sight of his work, she was most touched, saying it was the most beautiful creature under heaven.

The Bard if he wanted to know more he needed to pay a visit to the lady’s maid who witnessed that day, and hear the rest of the story from her. The bard told Weed the way to the house of the lady’s maid. Weed went to visit her. She had retired, and when he mentioned Queen Evane and the sculptor, she gave him a joyous welcome. Her told Weed more of the Story.

When they were young, they had made a promise, a promise that Zahab-nim would present Her Highness with the most beautiful statue under heaven. But when he appeared in the palace, he was carrying a sword, not an sculpting knife. To the eyes of everyone, he looked like a fine swordsman who was proficient in the sword. You should have seen how heartbroken Her Highness was. It was indescribable! Her Highness so believed in Zahab-nim that even if the world turned upside down, he would be the same eternally, and likewise, the promise between them was divine. On that day, Brent Kingdom, which bordered on Rosenheim, dispatched a band of assassins. They revealed their treacherous ambition to seize our Kingdom, and assassins stormed in and assaulted Her and His Highness in the garden.  A couple of Royal Knights were trapped, thus incapable of holding them in check—and we were left to face death. At that very moment, Zahab-nim walked into the garden. As you can see, right in the middle of fighting, Her Highness warned him and ordered him to leave. But Zahab-nim only smiled and he said he would show her the most beautiful statue that he had ever carved under heaven. To everyone’s surprise, the moonlight shattered into pieces at Zahab-nim’s sword. Its beauty was really striking. He was singing a song while he carved the moonlight. Listening to the song, Her Highness was overflowing with tears. It was really the most beautiful statue Milady had ever seen. Had Zahab-nim only inscribed his name on a crude plank, but Her Highness would have taken it for the most beautiful sculpture in the world, the sight he was carving with the moonlight was literally heavenly. The assassins scattered at the inconceivable sight, and Zahab-nim kept his promised.

Then, a mysterious flashback flittered before Weed’s eyes. A boy is holding a tiny sculpting knife in his hands. As the sculpting knife slides up and down, a piece of wood is shaping into a form. It seems he is carving a maiden. A little, lovely maiden. Through his craftsmanship, the piece of wood is endowed with life. A girl, blushing up to her ears, is watching him. The boy’s hand moving the sculpting knife, and his serious look. The girl loves him, and everything about him. Soon the boy hands her the complete statue. It looks so much like the girl.

The boy and girl made a promise with each other, hand in hand. As the girl grows up, she blossoms into a rare beauty. She caught the eyes of the King and She eventually became Queen. But the girl is not happy at all. Her Highness is still unhappy the day Zahab comes back to see her. Zahab carried a sword, and not the sculpting knife. Talking a walk alone in the garden, Her Highness gives way to fit of passion and clutches a thorny rose. Her palm bleeds with ruby red blood. Her Highness grieved over the broken promise. That evening, the assassins raid the palace. Brent Kingdom, a hostile neighbor as always, has sent assassins. Knights of Rosenheim Kingdom collapse one after another. She and His Highness are fearful of their imminent and inevitable death. Zahab clutches his sword, and the moonlight begins to dance.

Weed completed the quest called the Sculptor’s Past.  To Weed’ surprise, two levels went up for a single quest, and that wasn’t the end of it. A message window popped up. To his surprise once again, it was a class conversion window. To change his class to a moonlight sculptor.  An infinite number of users are bustling about to discover secret classes in Royal Road, but fewer than one out of a thousand actually discovers one. Weed answered, “I refuse.”

To Weed, being stuck in the corner of a closet and making unwanted statues wasn’t even worth considering. He had to admit that being a sculptor could make quite an amusing class if properly trained. But he needed a financially lucrative class for his personal gain. When Weed came to his senses. The old maid took something bundled up from deep inside a drawer. It resembled an ancient scalpel. He received two items from her. He had received Sculpting Knife and Zahab’s Legacy. Weed thought that these items were uncommon as they were left by one of the Masters of Sculptural Art. Even the wooden statue looked classy at a casual glance. That moment Weed looked at the sculpting knife. He had a gut feeling that an irresistible destiny was drawing near.

He obtained a quest called Zahab’s Last Wish. A serial quest with a difficulty level of A, rewarding four skills. Weed couldn’t tell if he was lucky or not. For one thing, he knew that it was extremely difficult to acquire skills unrelated to his own class. Those skills, such as Item Identification and Repair Skill, which he had learned without converting to the sculpture class, could come in handy in numerous ways, but an A level quest was far beyond his ability for a long time, possibly many years. The average level for Royal Road users is currently a hundred or so. The highest currently on the level ladder is in the low 300s. The difficulty of a quest that requires a balanced party of power rankers of about level 300 to finish is known to be B-level.

That means Weed had just accepted a quest that requires him to be above level 400 to be able to cope with the quest, let alone finish it. As if it were not bad enough, the Gray Pass region is the most perilous of the perilous areas, inhabited by the most forceful monsters. It is one of the top Ten Forbidden Areas on the continent, where you are absolutely guaranteed to be chopped to pieces the moment you stepped into the area.

The number of quests that a user can store at any given time is only three. Now that one of them was taken by the quest: ‘Zahab’s Last Wish’, Weed was left with only two spaces for new quests. But in case of serial quest, it is unpredictable what rewards await the user in the end. This serial quest introduced a secret class at the second stage. Even after he refused to convert to the class, he was given four practical skills. Imagine what rewards in the final stage would be like. Weed wasn’t stupid to say no to a good opportunity. Yet, it remained unknown when and how this would work out. He bid farewell to the old lady’s maid, and went back to the sculpture stop.

The shopkeeper paid Weed as a reward for the request. Weed received 2 silver coins, recovering the silver coin that had been virtually robbed by the bard. When he returned to the Training Hall, he received another silver coin, along with a word of commendation from the instructor. Therefore, it was a total of 5 silvers that Weed had earned so far. He also levelled up twice, to level 3. He distributed those earned stat bonus points equally to Agility and Strength. Weed wrestled with a sudden temptation, but picked up the wooden sword again. A quest that was undisclosed to the public similar to the quest he just undertook, was rare. That was why Weed earned generous rewards for his level.{Vol 1 Ch 3}

The rumour about the odd stranger ran like wildfire through the Citadel of Serabourg.  It was about a beast who had been swinging a wooden sword at a scarecrow wordlessly for four consecutive weeks in the Training Hall.  Weed was swinging the wooden sword in silence. His strikes at the scarecrow showed no mercy. Every time the wooden sword sliced the scarecrow, a heavy sound exploded.  In the earlier days, he was content with barely grazing the scarecrow. As his strength and agility increased steadily, through, the wooden sword had been gathering force.

The eyes of some users began to glow with enthusiasm and a bunch of users offered food and money to win Weed’s favor, wondering if he was a quest NPC. Too proud to be treated as a beggar, Weed declined them, but they were persistent.  They trailed after Weed in the hope that he might introduce them to a special quest. They didn’t know it for certain, though, because Weed repeatedly denied being an NPC, and shooed them away, saying they were disturbing his training. Oddly, this rather strengthened their conviction.

The instructor, who had always looked down upon users as a nuisance, was nice to Weed, going so far as sharing lunch with him every day. To the public, Weed didn’t look like a human. The only way to tell users from NPCs is when they come out with their identity. This was why Weed caused misunderstanding in other users. Several high level users saw through Weed’s intentions to improve strength and other stats. They came near and were nice to him. They approached him on purpose, knowing full well he was a user.  Still, Weed declined all the clan offers.

The wooden sword had not shown any sign of pausing suddenly stopped in mid-air. Then Weed closed his eyes. Weed sighed deeply with relief. For four weeks, according to the game’s time flow, Weed had improved the stats as much as he could in the Training Hall. To his surprise, he earned a little fame— never hurts to have some fame. The more fame you have, the cheaper you can buy goods from grocery stores or blacksmith’s workshops, and you can get more respect in talking or negotiating with NPCs.  The instructor, who had been watching him pleasantly at a distance, walked up to Weed and said, “Good job, Weed-nim.”  The instructor handed a sword to Weed. It was a Hard Iron Sword.

This sword is awarded to a man who completes the basic training program. A question suddenly occurred to Weed. He had learned by accident that he could improve stats by swinging a wooden sword at a scarecrow in the Training Hall. While combing through online game communities, he had read a posting about it in a forum run by a couple of small-size clans. Therefore, he had focused on bringing up his stats as much as possible in the Training Hall before he began seriously. Weed had good reason for it, though he conceded that it might sound inefficient to invest four weeks to improve his stats slowly one by one. As far as other users were concerned, they would rather waste less time to acquire an item that boosted stats so little.

The stats that Weed had drilled in the Training Hall would help him right up to the last minute of the game play. Weed pondered the meaning of the instructor’s remark and finally asked how many people completed the basic training by now? 16 here, the instructor answered immediately. And in the continent there was a total of 3,800 who finished the basic training program in all the Training Halls. 3,800 people! Weed’s eyes flashed fire.

Weed was now done with the Training Hall. When he turned to leave, the instructor called to him Asking he his plan, because there was an expeditionary force is scheduled to depart for the Lair of Litvart in a week. He received a quest called A Clean-up Operation in the Lair of Litvart.

The instructor’s proposal was a mission that any other user would rush to accept gladly. The Rosenheim Royal Army abounds in well-organized, hard­-trained soldiers. The average level for infantrymen is almost thirty, and a knight’s level surpasses 150 generally speaking. In particular, those knights with their own name among the ranks are revered as Titled Knights. Their levels lie between levels 180-220. This size of force can clear away any lair without complication. The Lair of Litvart is not at all likely to be an exception. According to Weed’s research, the Lair of Litvart was infested by kobolds at levels in the twenties and goblins in the 50s.

All Weed needed to do after he joined the force on the mission was to stay alive, whether he actively took part in a battle or not. It was a golden opportunity that was offered to him out of the instructor’s goodwill. But Weed shook his head. He had declined the quest! The reason was because he did not have a class yet. The instructor’s voice dropped to a quiet murmur. He spoke in a whisper close to Weed’s ear. Weed got goose bumps when the Orc-like instructor’s breath brushed over his face, but he kept his disgust in check. The instructor told him to find Rodriguez the Sage he should help find a fine class for weed. The only problem was he was a queer fish. Worse enough, you never know where he will hop next. He’s ill-natured, naughty and narrow­-minded. You can’t see him in person in the usual way. He will not bother listening to you in the first place. But if you give this to him, he will do you a favor, only once. Weed received an item called Queen Evane’s Handkerchief. Beware of Counselor Rodriguez. He knows no shame, so you should not tell him what you want until he speaks to you.”

When Weed made his farewells to the instructor on the way out of the Training Hall, a towering man approached him.  The giant’s name was Python, a fearless warrior with a gigantic sword.

Python was a warrior at level 288. He had learned a new skill, so he had come to the Training Hall to experiment with it. When he arrived at the hall, it was crowded with a flood of users, all of whom had gathered to observe Weed. Python was also a man of curiosity. Some people got Weed mixed up with an NPC, but when Python, squeezed by the crowd, overheard that a user could improve stats in the Training Hall, he had started whacking the scarecrow right next to Weed. The force that was released from Python’s massive figure had been shocking. With a few more users who had participated in the show, Python had unintentionally diverted public attention from Weed. For the last week, Python was the only user who Weed had spoken to so far. After a chatting for a bit Weed said goodbye to him, and headed to the manor of Rodriguez the Sage.

The manor of Counselor Rodriguez was located in the northern section of the Citadel of Serabourg, and soldiers were on the watch, circling the manor. As soon as Weed walked close to the gate, two soldiers called out for him to stop. He was told that the Counselor does not expect anyone with such little fame.

In short, it requires an impressive reputation, or comparable fame, to pay a visit to Kings or nobles and Weed’s fame was only 20, far too low to enter the Counselor’s manor.

Weed the came up with a plan to  sit down on the street and wait for the sage to come out? The guards warned he that the Counselor often locks himself in the manor for a week or so. Especially when an unwelcome visitor knocks on the door, he will definitely keep it shut. Weed squatted across from the manor, anticipating the Counselor would emerge any second. He sometimes chatted with the guards, and quickly learned that the instructor was well respected among the lower ranks. Meanwhile, the night deepened and the Sage’s manor darkened.  Weed found it futile to mount guard over the manor because the Counselor was asleep. He withdrew from there and headed for the gate.

A moonlit night intensifies the brutality of monsters on the Versailles Continent. They get stronger by half, and yield an extra thirty percent of EXPs. This provokes a heightened attention from users to avert the risk of death. That night marked Weed’s first adventure away from the Citadel. On a wide-open field a bunch of users ran after foxes, rabbits and raccoons, a scene created by newbies, whom Weed would soon join.

He took out the iron sword given by the instructor, and held it tight. The sword given by the instructor was one of the finest available to Weed. He swung it a few times, realized that its balance was ideal, and felt comfortable with it. Weed checked the other weapon. The sculpting knife dealt more damage than the hard iron sword, but Weed chose the latter. For one thing, it was longer, thus reaching farther. With the sculpting knife, he felt it tricky to work on the enemy. The hard iron sword was more useful in terms of slaying monsters. Moreover, the sculpting knife didn’t wear down easily, thanks to its high durability. This advantage transferred to Weed, who had obtained the repair skill, and the hard steel sword provided more opportunities to sharpen the repair skill because it was comparatively fragile, requiring frequent maintenance.

The moment he went out hunting, Someone spoke to Weed, who was walking in silence. Weed turned around. He saw a cute-looking girl right in front of him. She wore a cotton hat and bluish leather armour. She asked if he would like to join her hunting party. They got a mage, a cleric, an archer and a monk.

Weed looked over her shoulder before he answered. There were two girls in robes and a man who he guessed was a ranger. Once he sized them up, he figured out why they had asked a stranger to join their party. Those users were all ‘squishies’ wearing clothes and leather armor, limited to long-range attacks, so they needed a missing piece—a tanker who would provide protection for them. It’s not a bad deal. It’s my first battle, and it’s probably better to start off in a party. Always better safe than sorry, he thought. Weed readily consented,

Weed quickly joined the party. Here he met Irene, a level 7 priestess, Romuna, a level 6 mage mainly deal with the element of Fire. The two girls introduced themselves first, and then it was the man’s turn. He studied Weed’s face with curiosity before he spoke.

He was called Pale, a level 6 archer. And finally Surka, a level 7 monk. They told him their names and levels, and now it was Weed’s turn. Name’s Weed. Level 3. A quiet shock swept over the others. Down to the last dust in his pocket, Weed only had five silvers. Fine leather armor, other than disposables, cost thirty silvers. Weed had not bothered with ordinary quests, so he didn’t even have enough money to purchase leather armour.

As if that were not bad enough, this shabby-looking kid was a newbie in virtual reality. Lack of experience usually proves fatal when confronted by a monster in your first battle. You simply lose your calm, lose your reason, and then lose your life, in that order. They were aware of this because they had been through their share of newbie-hood. These animals, though tailored for beginners within reach of the Citadel, are still comparatively fierce and mighty. Quite a challenge for a single player.

Pale didn’t know what to say and made an evasive smile. Weed decided to talk straight in order to save everyone from discomfort. Weed broke away from the party and headed to the field alone. Pale and Surka felt guilty having disowned him. Replacements were everywhere. The only commodity that was long on supply on the Versailles Continent was users, and monsters were short in supply. Feeling bad they went after Weed. They caught up with Weed. He was busy staring at a bunch of rabbits and raccoons that were hopping about. He was ignorant of monsters in general, how much damage they could inflict and what pattern they would use to attack.

Pale asked if he still interested, they want to join him. Pale suggested Weed take cover instead of taking an active role in hunting. In their eyes, he was no more than a pure newbie. Pale told him he would not collect as much experience as he are actually bringing his party down when he was making less contribution, but his priority at this point is raising his level. Listen, level three to level six makes a lot of difference, even though they’re only three levels apart. If he was at level three and add all stat bonus points in strength, he will get twenty-five. Pale had forty. Add to it ten bonus points in the course of converting to a class, and the gap between Weed and Pale widens dramatically. Pale omitted this, but additional rewards in accordance with a user’s class were more noticeable. For instance, take an archer wielding a sword and a sword warrior wielding a sword, the sword warrior can inflict twice the damage as an archer wielding a sword. On the other hand, his arrow will make less than half the damage dealt by the archer. It was, to say the least, a disappointment to the others that Weed was freelance.

The confusion was settled, and Weed decided to join their party and hunt monsters together. It was a pickup group designed to handle dull beasts around the Citadel, and his teammates had already been engaged in pick-and-roll without him. The thing is, though, that they had realized it was too risky that only Surka, a monk whose agility in dodging attacks compensated for a low defense level, had tanked on the frontline. That was why they had been searching for a tanker.

Taking cover behind Pale, Weed was watching the battle from a safe place. While Surka the monk was attacking a fox head-on, Romuna, Pale and Irene attacked at the fox from behind. They adopted this strategy because Surka’s level was seven, the highest among them, and the rest were squishes with relatively low life and defense. The fox moved swiftly from one place to another. It dodged Surka’s fist with little damage, and the tail attacks when it suddenly spun around were sometimes critical enough to make her back away. With little stamina left, Surka often found herself at the risk of immobilization. Then, Irene would give her rapid healing to replenish her life and stamina while the others attacked the fox to take the aggro away from her. They’re not bad. The quartet’s teamwork was emphatic.

They neither lusted for cheap items, nor became worked up over small things. It appeared to him that the chemistry among his teammates had built up over time. Perhaps they had teamed up in another online game before they migrated to Royal Road. Still, they had to ratchet up the tension while hunting a fox at level five. Raccoons and rabbits were easy game, which Surka could handle alone. But a fox was tough, to put it mildly. Weed easily grasped that this party focused on foxes in their hunting spree. He watched the ongoing battle for a while-until he thought he had seen enough of it. His sharp eyes analyzed the patterns in movement of the foxes and Surka.

They outnumbered their enemy by four to one. The way a fox moved was slow and predictable as far as he could see. He watched it until he gained enough confidence. Then, he held the iron sword and left the cover. Surka smiled at Weed who was coming up to her side. Surka told Weed she was going to attract her attention first. the Weed should attack later. Like when it’s almost dead.

Surka punched the fox, which jumped on her in a reflex action. Romuna, Pale and Irene rained projectiles, both physical and magical, on to their victim. When the fox’s life dropped to one third, Weed slid in.  He had little experience of battles previously in virtual reality games, but he was acquainted with real sword fights through hundreds of duels. Plus, he had struck the scarecrow tens of thousand times. The iron sword drew a shiny-white trace in the air in a fraction of second. At the end of the gaudy semi-circle was the fox.

Weed had timed the attack so precisely that the fox could not even try to dodge it. A message window that was visible only to Weed popped up. Critical hit! That only appeared when the damage was doubled as a result of an effective attack, the outcome of exquisite timing. The fox was cut in half, and disappeared in a flash. It dropped two items. A fox pelt and meat. You can turn meat to steaks by cooking on a bonfire, and fox pelt is one of the most widely used materials for clothes. This kind of production process requires related skills. Newbies rarely learn such skills as cooking and tailoring. It is more often than not that these items are destined to end up on a shelf in the nearest grocery store.

Grinning, Surka collected the items. Pale and Romuna, who had been casting the most powerful spells in case of a counterattack, were delighted by their new teammate’s success. They told Weed after the hunt they will spilt the items dropped. Surka went out to find another fox. When she found one she dealt a punch to a fox and attracted it closer. Surka put up a tough fight as the fox was moving swiftly. Pale and Romuna pressured the fox persistently. Weed’s iron sword began to move when the fox had forty percent of life remaining. The sword slid out of the sheath and struck the fox like lightning. As luck would have it, the fox didn’t drop any item this time, not that items dropped by ordinary foxes were of any great value. For the third fox, the sword went into action with fifty percent of its life remaining. A critical hit didn’t burst this time, so the fox survived Weed’s first strike. It was followed by a sequence attack that flowed like liquid. The slain fox left only one item.

A few foxes later, his other teammates detected the pattern. Since Weed had joined the party, the pace at which they were hunting foxes had picked up. As soon as he pulled out his iron sword, foxes were helplessly slaughtered. They disappeared in a gray flash the moment Weed brandished the sword. Pale’s mouth dropped open, planning to stay there for some time. For Weed slew foxes so fast, Surka was busy drawing new ones from far away. Even if Pale didn’t bother shooting arrows, the pace of hunting hardly slowed down. This apparently inexplicable situation in the eyes of everyone else in his party was attributed to Weed’s stats.

Initially, Weed had been given ten points in strength at the activation of his account, plus forty points that he had obtained from the Training Hall. He had invested stat bonus points acquired by the two level-ups equally in strength and agility. As a result, his strength and agility were both fifty-five, and stamina fifty. Moreover, Weed enjoyed ten points in strength from the iron sword he was equipped with. To achieve this level of strength solely by raising your level, you need to hit level eleven as you invest fully in strength. More remarkably, Weed’s agility, stamina, willpower and vitality were way beyond his current level. It needs at least eight to nine extra level-ups to improve so much.

Weed, level three, rivalled an average level 30 warrior. A more surprising fact was that he had advanced sword mastery to level four while striking the scarecrow. It translated into forty percent more damage dealt to the enemy. Weed’s current level in sword mastery was four plus 98 percent. Once it reached level five, the effect on attack power would increase to fifty percent. Last but not least, the iron sword that the instructor had given Weed was a sort of high-powered luxury compared to his level. To sum it up, a fox was no match for Weed.

Pale immediately became suspicious. Otherwise, they could not come up with a proper explanation for Weed’s uncommon strength. They were still newbies, so they could not see how Weed knew how to come in at the right moment. In battles in virtual reality online games, as they are based on real­-time movements, a martial art maniac is obviously better positioned than a klutz. Weed utilized the sword techniques that he had trained for during the whole year, down to trivial-looking footwork, which was invisible to the untrained eye. They simply believed that his sword was superb. Excited, Surka lured foxes one by one. Weed held the iron sword tight. He was in high spirits because the sword techniques he had examined and learned were proving productive.

Many of Weed’s attacks were deemed critical. He predicted where the fox would move, and executed his attack exactly where it went. His yearlong training that demanded sweat and blood was bearing fruit. These brisk battle cries came from his mouth. He was immersed in his own fight, keeping eye contact with the foxes and swinging the sword mercilessly. Irene and Romuna giggled at the comical sight of Weed acting and looking so serious. Suddenly, the fox’s paw scratched him on the chest. Weed’s torso flashed in white. Then he realized that, even before he received the divine power, the gauge of his life dropped minimally. Weed called out to Surka, who was running to draw another fox,

A fox could give a maximum damage of 15. Defenseless, Weed had to absorb the full damage, but his life was over seven hundred. He switched places with Surka and became the group’s tank. He was to keep drawing foxes near Romuna-nim and Irene can’t move far away because their stamina runs out quickly. Pale-nim, can shoot at foxes in the distance to lure them over here?”

In a short time, Weed had assumed the role of leader of the party. Weed moved wildly. When Surka ran back, taking damage from a fox, he quickly took care of it. Those foxes drawn by Pale’s arrows fell immediately by his sword, only to vanish in a gray flash. Weed hit level 4. He decided to invest every stat bonus points in agility. The higher the agility is, the more easy it is to dodge an enemy attack and more likely you are to hit the enemy. It is directly related to evasion and accuracy. The iron sword in Weed’s possession was marvelous for a novice, providing extra leverage in strength. So he boldly invested 5 points in agility, instead of strengthening his avatar. The hunting spree continued. Excited by the fast pace, Romuna and Irene could not believe their luck. They had never experienced such fantastic hunting.

Surka was busy drawing foxes to them. So was Pale. If Weed had hunted by himself, he would have to roam in search of target monsters and often take a rest to replenish his stamina when it ran out. Instead, his party provided bait and a priest for him, which unarguably quickened the pace of hunting. It’s not like a solo playing. Back when Weed played The Continent of Magick, he had always been surrounded by monsters. Weed used to walk in a dungeon populated by monsters and fight them as he pleased. He had logged on days and nights until he finally ran out of potions and herbs.

The inventory had been saddled with so many items that it interfered with his movement. Monsters had surprised him everywhere. Weed had fought on in a circle of monsters. He had killed so many, and in return, been killed as many times. Weed felt that a group game was far from the way he used to play. It was more effective, and he was having more fun. Their strategy soon backfired. Surka made a deadly mistake. When she tried to bait a fox, she unintentionally caught a wolf’s attention. While trying to run away, Surka screamed, “Run away, everyone!”

The wolf was chasing after Surka on four legs. Its monstrous muzzle dripped saliva. While the rest faltered, Surka was constantly assaulted by the wolf. It was faster than a fox, easily gaining on her. It looked hopeless. Irene the priestess rejected the impulse to run for her life, and cast the Healing Hand over and over to refill Surka’s diminishing life. After a moment’s indecision, Pale began shooting arrows at the wolf. One, two, three shots. As soon as he loaded an arrow on his bow, he shot it. The multiple shots, his signature skill, flew at the wolf, but it hardly flinched.

Now that the wolf had registered the entire party as its enemy, it would eventually attack Irene and Pale after it had finished off Surka. Then, what would Weed do? He held the iron sword and stepped forward. Can I make it? Why not! At first sight, the wolf’s teeth and claws looked threatening. Weed had bet that the wolf would throw its heavy weight on him and, rather than clawing, bite him in a crazed fashion. It knew from instinct that the deadliest enemy had just appeared, it turned its eyes on Weed. The wolf leapt off the ground, straight at Weed. Weed rolled to one side swiftly, out of the path where the wolf was charging, and swung the sword. Its teeth nearly slit his throat. That scratch alone slashed 80 points of his life.

Irene shouted she was out of mana so she could not heal him. Since Irene was fully assigned to healing, she should have always reserved a sufficient amount of mana in case of emergency. If not, someone could end up lying dead, or in the worst scenario, the entire party would face annihilation. Weed had believed Irene must have had something up her sleeve when she volunteered to come to Surka’s rescue. To his dismay though, all that she, a priestess by nature, had was heart. The current predicament didn’t give Weed any time to blame her. The wolf was growling at him. After a few flames from Romuna, no more reinforcing magical power came flying from behind. Apparently, she had run out of mana. Only Pale was left shooting arrows from a distance. The wolf got bloody, yet Pale’s futile attempts only prompted it to intensify its aggression.

Yelping, the wolf leapt on him. From that time, Weed’s pose and moves changed drastically. His legs were glued to the ground while his waist and shoulders rocked back and forth. Like a breeze, Weed let the fierce wolf pass by. Weed was capable of predicting the wolf’s next move, and a single wound wasn’t as much as he had been afraid of.  Weed loosened his grip on the sword on purpose. The wolf groaned in a cry of pain. Even after Weed had sacrificed a portion of his power in exchange for a higher speed, the physical damage delivered by his sword was substantial. Weed was also wounded every time the wolf clawed at him. His life of 700 fell to 200. He was already coated in his own blood.

Pale’s low agility made it impossible to make a hit on the wolf, which moved like a streak of lightning. Surka came to Weed. She had already been injured when she had been chased by the wolf, her life lower than half. Stumbling with shaky legs, Weed said they should all run to safety while he can still cover them.

Pale and Surka looked at each other, but their legs showed no sign of fleeing. Pale felt like crying. For the record, Weed could have escaped death if he had decided to. He could have outrun the wolf to the gate of the Citadel where the guards would protect him from the threat. Instead, Weed had stepped up, held his sword and his ground, and faced the wolf for his teammates, who he had never seen hours before. Surka’s eyes were watering. She, so innocent and sensitive, was deeply touched by Weed’s heroic act.

Surka and Pale walked away, creating a stage, and Weed got down to a bloody fight against the wolf, which still posed a serious threat. Weed’s life descended to 150 and before long, it went down to 70. The iron sword kept on missing the wolf by inches. The wolf was bleeding so heavily that it seemed that a single hit could knock it down, but Weed had failed to make the final strike so far.

Irene and Romuna realized that Weed’s life finally reached the life­-risking moment, below ten percent. Pale’s heart raced, and Surka’s pounded. They tried to attract aggression from the wolf, but it knew Weed was the one to kill, entirely neglecting minor players. One more hit from the wolf, and Weed would die. If Weed died, he would lose some items from his inventory, drop one or more levels and be penalized by having his access to Royal Road denied for the next twenty-four hours, all because Weed decided to sacrifice his life to save a bunch of strangers. The wolf snickered, sensing it had the upper hand of his archenemy. When the wolf leapt to kill Weed with its final strike, his sword, which had missed it repeatedly, finally tore its ribs. Before Weed’s eyes, a cascade of message windows burst open. So many EXPs were pouring from the wolf that his level escalated to 5. Weed shook his head, half wondering. He got a skill called Sculpting Blade technique.

The legend tells that Grand Master Zahab accidentally discovered a way of truth when he was practicing the sculptural art—that sculpture is an art of transforming all creations at the sculptor’s will. Zahab’s secret technique is passed down to his successor.  Weed checked the skill window and shook his head in disbelief. I need to try this Sculpting Blade technique to figure out what the heck it is. It swallows mana too badly. At my level, I can’t sustain it longer than two seconds flat. The wolf had died, anyway. Weed fell down to the ground, his face blank white. Then, Pale, Irene, Romuna and Surka ran to him.

Irene and Romuna were on the verge of bursting into tears. Surka could not hide her tears. Pale, the only man other than Weed, was at a loss for words, engulfed by a wave of emotion. If a user’s life goes down below ten percent, he will die slowly. Within a minute, Irene recovered some of her mana, and cast Healing Hand to drag Weed out of death’s grip.  The look between Weed and Irene warmed up; a sign that she was growing fond of him, the same goes for Romuna and Surka. To his surprise, moreover, Pale was addressing him with respect and admiration that the archer had never shown before. Then went back out hunting.

Surka didn’t make the same mistake again. The party under Weed’s leadership created a striking record of sixty foxes in the next four hours. Romuna, Irene, Pale and Surka all leveled up, as well as Weed, who achieved level 6. Weed invested all of his bonus the stat points into the agility stat. After a while the rest of the party wanted to sleep and ask if Weed would be around the next night? Weed nodded slightly. Then he added them on his friends list and obtained his share of the loot.

Weed received three silvers when they distributed the spoils from hunting. After they left, he went on hunting more foxes.  This was why he hated party plays. When things got hot, people left. Weed looked for monsters as he had an hour left until sunrise. He overlooked easy prey such as raccoons and foxes, and left the boundary of the Citadel to enter a forest where wolves were reported to lurk in every shadow. A pack of wolves emerged. They crouched and came close to Weed who was walking alone, their eyes gleaming in elation. The system of Royal Road allowed monsters to level up by internal conflicts between them or by killing users, so the wolves coveted lone users. However, when the wolves looked into Weed’s eyes, though, they cowered instinctively.

The wolves all saw through Weed’s intentions. Worse, his will to fight made them recoil in fear. After a moment they all turned tail to flee quickly.Weed roared at the wolves as he gave chase. The iron sword knew no mercy, and Weed knew no honour. He openly stabbed the backs of the retreating wolves, cornered them with nowhere else to go, and beat each and every one of them to a pulp. The moment that the sword slashed the air, another wolf fell into despair. Swift and merciless. Weed’s extraordinary sword techniques terrorized the wolves. So why had he fought bitterly against a single wolf when his teammates were around him? On the edge of an imminent and unavoidable death, Weed had made the final strike to kill the wolf. In the eyes of his teammates, it was a lucky one. This mystery was kept by Weed.  Weed was done with the wolves as soon as the sun rose in the morning. He left the battlefield and headed for Counsellor Rodriguez’s manor.{Vol 1 Ch 4}

Weed never skipped his daily routine of settling down in front of Rodriguez's manor from dawn to sunset. Who else would be able to cope with boring days such as this? Plenty of conversations snuck into Weed’s ears. Horses whinnied, carriages wheeled by. Sitting by the main avenue, Weed could catch lots of information. He learned what was going on in the world. Without this type of fun, he would have given up already.  When Weed struck the scarecrow, he was at least enjoying a sense of becoming more powerful. It was self-torturing that he had to sit still under the harsh sunlight.

For the last two days, Weed had met Pale and Irene to go hunting together. They were not as strong as he, so they earned EXPs more slowly. Still, they could hunt monsters as they pleased, day and night. Thanks to their flexible schedule, they caught up with Weed’s level. Thirty percent bonus on EXPs at night is technically cancelled out by the fact that monsters are stronger by half than during daytime. More often than not, daytime hunting is more efficient for low-level users.

Plus, Weed was penalized by being undecided class-wise, so that he could not learn any skills. He would lag behind in skill levels if he converted to a class at a higher level than an average user. Last but not least, it tested his patience that he was wasting valuable time waiting in the middle of a street. Weed looked around. He found a piece of wood that seemed to have been thrown off from a carriage’s wheel. Picking up the piece of wood, Weed activated the sculpture skill “Carve this.” As Weed’s hand was moving, the wood was cut here and there.

When the skill finished carving, Weed sighed. The once square piece of wood was whittled to a small circular piece.  Weed picked up another piece of wood and began cutting it with the sculpting knife. With his past experience of toiling in a textile factory focused his hands, and craft was like a second nature to him.  The sculpting knife was so sharp that with just a touch, it carved through the wood. After a few attempts at trial and error, he finally carved the wooden piece into a short sword.

Weed learned something— that he didn’t need to rely on the sculpture skill to carve an object, and that when he used the skill, he had to recognize exactly what shape he was working on. I’d better practice sculpture more often. Bored, Weed gathered several pieces of wood and started carving them. It suddenly struck Weed that when he was in grade school, his art teachers had praised him for being good at making things. What Weed carved usually turned out useless, but a few of them looked acceptable even to his eyes. He spent five hours carving wooden pieces. It seemed odd that a man should sit down cutting wood with an sculpting knife, but he felt it was better than killing time in vain.

Weed’s handicraft skill and sculpture mastery leveled up quickly because their comparatively low level needed a small amount of EXPs to reach the higher level. As his level in sculpture mastery rose, various windows appeared while he was carving a piece of wood. Visual tips were given, such as where to cut in a circle or what patterns were available. Weed could choose one of the tips, which was automatically processed. Even if he made an error, the sculpture mastery supplemented it to refine the final product.  Now he was making quality statues. Weed carved a fox that he had hunted the other night, and a wolf statue was easier than he had thought. He placed completed animated statues beside him.

Weed’s skill level was currently two, but Zahab’s sculpting knife doubled it to four. The knife was unique item that any sculptor would die for willingly. The problem is no one cares. The sculptor class is near extinction. Even if there are some sculptor-wannabes left, their levels are mediocre, so it is hopeless to expect a good price for Zahab’s sculpting knife.

When Weed finished one of the pieces of artwork he got a new Stat Art Weed fell silent. Calculating the infinite potential promised by the art stat. Then, he made a quick decision to delete the art stat but this stat cannot be deleted! A user cannot create stats infinitely. The maximum number of stat slots is fifteen. Weed found it intolerable that one of the slots was wasted on the art. Still, though he planned to fill them only with absolutely necessary ones.

For Weed couldn't care less about the art stat. He swore that he would never distribute any bonus stat points to it. He was relieved to know that the stat would increase automatically, but he was skeptical about how it would work. Weed kept on carving wooden pieces. He was more interested in side effects than sculpture mastery itself, though.

Sculpture mastery is good for nothing. But handicraft skill is worth effort in many areas. It will increase the attack power of swords, and archery relies on the hands. He can work on sensitive crafts, too. Handicraft skill is a necessity to influence everything everywhere. He gained expertise rating in Handicraft skill.

Weed’s handicraft skill level hit three as sculptural art helped him obtain EXPs faster. It really pays off. Weed was satisfied with a swift increase in his handicraft skill level. It was partly because the artworks that he had produced were, in fact, at level four thanks to Zahab’s sculpting knife, but sculpture mastery was the main factor. Cooking and tailoring skills, for example, affect the handicraft skill greatly, yet they cannot rival sculpture mastery in delicacy and adeptness. Simply put, sculpture mastery is essential to improve handicraft skill. Needless to say, nobody would bother learning sculpture mastery in order to improve the handicraft skill.

Weed considered it positive to master the basic cooking skills so that he could enjoy delicious food with online recipes. Not to mention that buying ingredients directly from a grocery store and cooking them with his hands was cheaper than ordering a meat in a fine restaurant. Also, Weed could preserve stamina better by use of hand-made meals when he went out on a hunting mission for one or more weeks without returning to civilization. Instant food could not restore the stamina stat to full. Besides, Weed was so haunted by the memory of toiling strenuously in a textile factory that he was resolved to refrain from learning the tailoring skill.

Absorbed in working on statues, Weed didn’t realize that he was shadowed by black figures until his ears caught strange conversations. Weed looked up in the direction of the shadows. There was a group of people viewing his statutes with admiration. A tiny, cute girl pointed her finger at the rabbit-like statue. Handing over the rabbit statue, Weed gave it a passing thought. It was going to cost 2 silver coins. The girl paid two silver coins and picked up the statue. Stupefied, Weed stared at her back as she left pleasantly. Two fingers meant two copper coins. Only two coppers. But the girl paid two hundred times his call. Weed’s little statues sold well.

Small ones were priced at two silvers, large ones three. Fox and rabbit statues that he had hunted in the field around the Citadel were more popular than sword- or shield-shaped ones. The animals looked cute, and customers preferred them in memory of their newbie-hood. A level 100 user could easily make a couple of gold a day. To them, two silvers was a bargain. The stock of statues quickly sold out. Then He was asked to make a fox-shaped statue but the fox with nine tails. Weed contemplated it and nodded.  The request wasn’t as hard as it sounded. The standard form of a fox plus nine tails. Why not? They need to pay extra for a customized version. Five silvers would do it. When the word ‘five’ came out of his mouth, Weed regretted that he might have gone overboard, but the buyers were quick to respond. Great. I want it.

In the Citadel, there is a sculpture shop, but it specializes in life-size statues, sometimes adorned with gold and gems, that are not affordable for most users. Since no one else was interested in sculpture mastery, those statues that Weed carved had a collectible value. Those who bought statues were excited, adoring their recent purchases.

Before sunset, rumors of the sculptor spread to the other ends of the Citadel and people came over to visit Weed. Weed had earned four silvers from overnight hunting the other night, but one or two statues made more money now. It took only ten minutes to carve a statue. As materials cost almost nothing, it was a very lucrative trade. The next day, Weed stopped by a carpenter’s shop and bought wood in bulk. He began to mass produce statues. As the handicraft skill and sculpture mastery upgraded, more beautiful and delicate pieces were churned out.

Needless to say, blessed by his higher skill mastery, they sold at a higher price and at a quicker pace. Successful masterpieces, one or two in every thousand, were even put up for auction. His opinion of sculpture mastery changed slightly in the process­– a part time job to secure a satisfactory amount of pocket money.{Vol 1 Ch 5}

Rodriguez was afflicted by a serious disturbance. It was the sixth day, and that fellow called Weed was still sitting down right across from the manor. Rodriguez in his seclusion had been aware of the presence of the intruder right from the first day. Rodriquez bet that Weed was busy selling his silly little statues to customers still. In spite of his extreme laziness, on the sixth day Rodriguez finally gave in to his curiosity and moved his butt. He went out of his house and asked Weed what he has been waiting to give him?

The crowd in the line waiting to buy Weed’s statues was astounded. Sages have something in common— they want to be left alone. Especially so when a stranger claims that he has brought something to be dealt with urgently. Rodriguez finally showed up outside the gate. Weed fished a handkerchief inscribed with a blue bird from his pocket and presented it to the counsellor. Rodriguez’s eyes were immediately filled with tears. He then invited Weed into the house. Beaming triumphantly, Weed folded his stall and stood up. The crowd cried in protest, some of them even expressing grievance at being left out of the historical moment, but neither Weed nor Rodriguez could care less. Rodriguez then led his guest into the manor.

Counsellor Rodriguez! Sometime ago, he had publicly declared that a man who brought an item that was once one of Queen Evane’s belonging was to be granted an audience. In this case, Weed had presented her handkerchief. Rodriguez’s sincere tone portrayed the Sage’s duty when dealing with a fellow man’s distress. But the counsellor was only pretending. While Queen Evane’s handkerchief was invaluable to Rodriguez, he didn’t have the slightest intention to help Weed. Didn’t that contradict his promise? No, not really. Rodriguez urged Weed to speak, and added that he would listen to anything from him. All that the counsellor was obliged to do was learn what Weed was concerned about, in order to satisfy his intellectual desire and curiosity, that is all. He never considered actually presenting a solution to whatever problem Weed had.

A good number of users had been cheated by Counselor Rodriguez in a similar manner. He had always played along with them, and evaded giving the answers that they had desperately sought. Aside from his glorious title of The Star of Wisdom, the counsellor was widely slandered as Dead End of Quests. Weed didn’t fall for such a childish and naive trick. To begin with, he didn’t trust Rodriguez.

A man is a very weak being. This was what Weed had felt earnestly throughout a year’s preparation ahead of Royal Road— a weakening will and a comfort-seeking body. Weed never trusted himself, so why should he trust Rodriguez who he had not seen before? Weed told him that if he speaks will he get an answer till he is promised a respond his tongue tired.

Rodriguez knitted his brows. He pretended that his integrity was being soiled by Weed’s paranoia. Rodriguez told Weed to speak his mind. They were the words that Weed had been waiting for. Unfortunately for the Counsellor, Weed was shrewder than the bunch who Rodriguez had dealt with before. He demanded the final seal of confirmation if not he would take back Queen Evane’s handkerchief. When Weed actually took the handkerchief and turned around, Rodriguez held two hands up in the air like a white flag. He finally gave his promise to give Weed some guidance after his question and that he must do him a favour in return.

Weed considered Rodriguez’s counter proposal, and nodded. The counsellor smirked. “What is it that troubles you, Weed-nim? A trifling question could not compel you to stay out there for the last six days.” Rodriguez had his own agenda, though, behind his question, which spoke of his curiosity. Rodriguez was confident in exacting revenge once he learned Weed’s request. If Weed wanted to find someone, he would be told about a nephew of a cousin of a mother-in-law of a friend of a wife of the one in question, who he would have to trace back on his own. If Weed wanted to find a place, he would be told of a faraway land with a similar name. Whether he was suspicious of Rodriguez’s wily trick or not, Weed finally spoke his mind. He did not know what class to select. Rodriguez laughed lightly. That was far more trivial than what he had predicted. What he had in mind was that Weed would ask for the whereabouts of a secret dungeon, or Rosenheim’s future policies. A good dungeon yields a fortune to its discoverer, and a policy is valuable if you know how to take advantage of it.

Suppose you learn in advance that the royal court is planning to develop the southern provinces next year, you can secure the commercial rights in the provinces pre-emptively and extract an enormous profit out of them. A personal recommendation on what class to choose was indeed a piece of cake for Rodriguez. He asked to see his stats.

Weed displayed the stat window for the first time since he had worked hard to improve his stats in the Training Hall. Weed had played day and night, and the outcome was level thirteen. He could take care of a wolf in no time now. Rodriguez was stunned. Level thirteen, and life of nine hundred and sixty? For his level, he has exceeded fifty in strength and vitality, and a hundred in agility! Training Hall. He can tell he drilled in the Training Hall. Weeds willpower is undoubtedly admirable. Rodriguez lived up to his reputation as the Star of Wisdom that he guessed right based solely on Weed’s attributes. But his surprise didn’t end there.

He had level four in sculpture mastery, and level six in craftsmanship skill! It is incredible, simply unbelievable! What journey have he had taken, he beg to hear. Weed told Rodriguez what had happened. One event after another, Rodriguez could not close his mouth in incredulity.Weed have taken the most unusual quests thanks to his friendship with the instructor. And— what? Did he succeed Zahab’s will? But he had discarded the opportunity to become a Moonlight Sculptor?

Wide-eyed, Rodriguez was taken aback. It should be noted that he had hardly flinched at the news of a neighbouring kingdom suddenly invading Rosenheim without a preliminary declaration of war.

Weed asked who was Zahab? He was one of the absolute powers hidden behind the scenes in the Continent. Rodriguez had met Zahab a few times through Queen Evane’s influence, and come to admire his sculptural art and sword technique— revering the sculptor’s respectable personality and talents. Rodriguez had made friends with him. It had taken place fifty years before, the companionship between a pair of callow youths. The Counsellor had even counselled His Highness to hold Zahab in the court at any cost. Hmph, he rejected such a fine class. What sort of class does he want to have, then? Rodriguez fell into silence. Perhaps this chap is the One. The one that I have been waiting for. The Will of the Great Emperor might dwell in him — a mysterious class whose glorious traditions can be traced back to the Ancient Age.

Geihar von Arpen, the legendary emperor who had conquered the entire continent— his blood flowed in the sage. He still needs to prove his worth through tribulations. Can he pass the ultimate test? Anyway, it is he who will be tested, not I,’ the sage said to himself. Rodriguez said in a serious tone, that he had a quest for him. Weed accepted the quest. Rodriguez told him to clear the evil in the Lair of Litvart. The Lair of Litvart was coincidentally the destination of the quest that the instructor had mentioned to Weed. Or it’s not a coincidence? You’ll never know.

Weed read and then reread the instructions over and over, down to the fine print. This ancient so-and-so is definitely plotting something Weed thought quickly. Otherwise, Rodriguez wouldn’t have given Weed a quest related to the Lair of Litvart— an underground dungeon of five floors, the lair had been thoroughly explored, most of which was disclosed to the public domain. Many users were hunting monsters down there day and night. Monsters between Level 20 and Level 50 frequented the lair, while Weed was still only level thirteen. But the additional stats that he had improved in the Training Hall strengthened him so that he was almost as strong as an ordinary Level 40 Warrior. Taking passive skills such as sword mastery and craftsmanship skill into account, Weed was confident that he could take down up to Level 50 monsters. Destroying monsters in the Lair of Litvart was going to be tough for Weed, yet far from impossible for him.

The scent of a trap in this quest was unmistakable though. But Weed was thinking he could only get a good class out of this. He was told  to come back here when he have beaten all the monsters in the lair. In the rare event that he actually finish this quest. he have something to give Weed. It is certain, however, that Weed will absolutely fail. Rodriguez laughed treacherously.

Weed headed straight to the Training Hall. Weed’s footsteps moved fast because it was still before lunch break. When he entered the Hall, the instructor was about to stick a spoon in his lunchbox. With a good timing, Weed took care of lunch. The lunchbox was enormous, exactly proportional to the instructor’s triple-X body size. Subtracting Weed’s portion from the lunchbox was like taking a cup of water from the ocean. Weed asked if he could join the quest the instructor mention the other day. He know it was coming so he asked them to leave a place for him.

Weed have a day left until the troops leave tomorrow. Why don’t he come and stay over at the instructor’s home. The instructor told him that BBQ pork was for dinner.  Weed’s mouth watered at the thought of pork barbecue. Savory and spicy barbecue! This temptation was irresistible. Weed was never ashamed that he was living an obsequious or subservient life.

But… He— he was just sick and tired of rye bread. Royal Road reproduces every aspect of reality, even taste, to the extent that sushi made of fish that was caught minutes ago actually tastes fresh, and outdated food hardens and rots. Rye bread is no exception. For the last two months, Weed had eaten only rye bread and his tongue was flavored with rye. The sight of rye bread made him feel like puking. A pork barbecue would be especially refreshing. Plus, it was a free meal—priceless.

Weed had accepted another quest in the Training Hall. The top quest was about Zahab’s will, which was out of sight for now, whereas the other two quests were a combination set. Now, the problem is that Rodriguez’s quest isn’t what it appears to be… but it doesn’t matter. Weed braced himself to face the challenge. In the worst scenario, he would die, so what? He didn’t want to die meaninglessly, but some difficulties were always expected. Weed walked downtown. Pedestrians in chic costumes passed by, while having vibrant conversations. A bunch of users set up kiosks on the street and sold things. Weed went to the blacksmith’s workshop, and bought a bow and many quivers of arrows. He bought the Bow of Theo Grande.  The bow cost 1 gold and 20 silvers, but Weed would never pay the full price for anything. By presenting a butterfly-shaped statue to the cashier lady, he surrendered no more than one gold. He had discovered accidentally that he could win ladies’ hearts with sculpture gifts.

Weed also bought a stock of rye bread, though he was sick and tired of it, bread is at least better than starvation, and when a fight breaks out, it reduces the rate at which the health factor declines. When the health factor falls below 30%, a user slows down, and loses a chunk of life temporarily. His backpack was filled with quivers, herbs and bread. As soon as Weed was happy everything was present and correct, he went back to the instructor. The instructor told him there was one more guest.  The instructor held Weed’s hand and walked to his place. His hand was as hairy as a gorilla’s. Weed finally arrived at the instructor’s house.

He had no doubt that when he opened the door, he would see the world’s happiest family with a burning furnace that filled the living room with warm air. Weed had already been told that the instructor had married a female barbarian, a true love overcoming the barrier of race, but they had not borne any offspring yet. When the door opened, however, Weed was startled at a girl sitting by the dinner table. For a moment, the girl’s beauty took Weed’s breath away. The scene that confronted him was idyllic. But he soon came down to earth. Since the girl was invited to the instructor’s place, Weed had assumed that she was another NPC. She was a user, though, just like him. By the look of her expensive-looking sword and armor, he could tell she was a high-level user.

However, that alone was not what shocked Weed. No, what shocked Weed the most was her name. The girl’s username was blinking in bright red. A user can hide his/her true identity, sometimes pretending to be an NPC as long as he wants it that way, but a murderer who has PKed one or more users is promptly denied the right to privacy. A red name and a bloody diamond on the forehead— the sign of a murderer. It is the sign of one who has killed a fellow user. Weed tried to run away, but his desperate attempt failed because the instructor was holding his hand. The instructor smiled treacherously, and Weed relaxed a little. He acknowledged that if the instructor wanted him dead, this man would have rather dirtied his own hands than go to someone else for it.

Weed bowed to the girl slightly but she ignored him, hardly tilting her head, “This is Seoyoon. She also passed it recently. She visits my place once a month to have dinner with us.” Weed greeted Seoyoon politely, but blank-faced, she didn’t even bother moving her eyes in his direction. It was a plain show of unfeigned unconcern. At that very moment, the instructor excused himself and dragged Weed into a corner. He told Weed that she a good girl. She just doesn’t know how to speak. Nevertheless, Weed had no reason to extend his hand to this Seoyoon girl. He found it pointless to get to know a murderer, not even an NPC.

Weed went to the kitchen to help with the cooking. As a barbarian by nature, the instructor’s wife was a giant. Following her orders, Weed diligently sliced pork sirloin and dipped it in sauce. As he was working hard in the kitchen, Seoyoon rolled up her sleeves and entered the kitchen. She felt ashamed to be the only one sitting idle and alone at the table.  She came up to Weed, stood to one side and watched him chopping the meat. She stepped in to help, but she didn’t know what to do first. Weed directed her to a mountain of dishes.  Weed expected that Seoyoon would turn him down, but to his surprise, she took the dishes and squatted on the floor rinsing them. They earned credit from the hostess for their hard work.

After a while she asked Weed if he wanted to learn cooking. This proposal was exactly what Weed had been waiting to hear. Or why would he ever bother soaking his hands? He obtained a new skill Cooking. As if something had occurred to her as she watched Weed, Seoyoon also 'asked' the instructor’s wife to teach her how to cook with a few deft hand movements. Pork barbecue on a large tray was finally served to the table. It was roasted yellow, steaming deliciously, the scent mingled with reality in the virtual reality. Weed promptly picked up a knife and a fork.

Suddenly, the instructor took it upon himself to caution Weed. He was a guest so do not eat too much. What kind of host would criticize an invited guest at the dinner table? He was no longer the manly instructor in the Training Hall. In his place was a vicious Orc exposing his greed for food on the table. An Orc at level two hundred, that is. But Weed wasn’t the type who easily succumbed to blackmail in the face of such food.

Weed felt suddenly pressurized, which was more than he could bear. He felt dazed, and his hand holding the knife was shaky. ‘Damn it!’ Weed swallowed and glanced sideways. He had a look at Seoyoon to see how that fragile-looking girl was coping with it. This was the world of a fantasy RPG game. Level rules. She appeared unaffected. ‘This girl has at least got to near level two hundred. And the barbarian wife, too,’ Weed thought. The instructor’s wife, one of the barbarians who venerated the laws of nature, especially the survival of the fittest, ignored the plight of weaklings. Since a barbarian was physically superior to other races, it was only Weed who was threatened by the instructor’s murderous intimidation shooting from his eyes. Nobody sided with him. But this was Weed. Was he not the person who could turn enemies to friends, and friends to apostles? Weed rested for the night in the house, and left for the gate of the Citadel early next morning.

Sir Midvale and his troop  of thirty foot-soldiers who were dispatched to conquer the Lair of Litvart were encamped near the gate. A little investigation prior to the quest never hurt. From what Weed had gathered from the streets, Sir Midvale belonged to the Red Order, the key unit of Rosenheim Army, where he had carried out high profile missions. He was recently promoted, as the rumor went, to a Royal Knight. He was a pride of the kingdom, revered as the epitome of chivalry. Their destination is far away. It takes about three hours on horseback. All the other foot-soldiers, except for Weed, were riding on brown horses. He was carrying the backpack, and it had never crossed his mind that he needed a horse. It would not have made any difference if he had been told otherwise, anyway. A horse was a high-priced commodity that cost at least 100 gold.

They had a horse for him. A soldier brought a sad-looking colt. It was dragged forcefully by its reins, resisting with its two rear legs. Showing two golden teeth and panting, the colt looked like a deviant rascal. Till the mission is finished, this colt will be temporarily assigned to you him. The stat window for the colt was frustratingly colorful. Weed had once heard that thoroughbreds were difficult, but he found it outrageous that this fragile colt was worse. Weed lifted his hand to pat the colt, but it bit his hand immediately. When Weed glared at it, the colt turned around and lowered its rear legs.

The moment he climbed on the colt’s back, gagging at a not-so funny smell rising from the not-so-good-looking bottom –the colt suddenly dropped its head forward, then kicked backward with its two rear legs. Weed was thrown by the action and landed on the ground miserably. That single attack took seventy points off his life. Obviously, the colt had tried to kill him with that action. A bond was formed between Weed and the colt. They stared at each other as if they wanted to wring the other’s neck. An unheard-of face-off between man and beast was taking place. Sir Midvale and his troops began to march eastward. Weed hopped on the colt’s back quietly and rode on.{ vol 1 Ch 6}

The Lair of Litvart was at the entrance of Grave Mountains, a three hours trip on horseback from the Citadel. The colt Weed was riding on occasionally diverted off course, and even chewed on grass leisurely. He had to cajole it to stay on course. In front of the lair, a soldier who would look after the horses was waiting for them.  The punitive force led by Sir Midvale left their horses to the soldier, and entered the lair. Weed was finally relieved of the colt. The punitive force shielded themselves with steel bucklers and armed themselves with spears and swords. Compared to them, Weed’s equipment was pathetic. An iron sword and a bow. Sir Midvale in chain mail approached and told Weed to stay behind and support the troops. The troops held the bucklers forward and marched on the lair. Weed followed them from behind.

Making a little headway, they spotted five kobolds that were camping around a bonfire, cooking something. Surprised by the sudden appearance of the troops, the kobolds sprang to their feet.  The kobolds are Level 20 midget-like monsters, below four feet in height, armed with coarse wooden shields and bronze swords. When the kobolds rushed out, the soldiers got tense. New recruits, fresh out of boot camps, had not engaged in a battle before. Weed looked toward Sir Midvale, but the knight watched his men with indifferent eyes as if any casualty was acceptable.

The soldiers quickly formed a linear formation and charged against the wave of kobolds. A couple of kobolds flung stones with slingshots, but the projectiles barely troubled the troops. Outnumbering the enemy and better equipped, the soldiers gained supremacy over the kobolds with few casualties. Every time a kobold fell, a small piece of metal dropped on the ground. The two soldiers whose names were called out by Sir Midvale began gathering the metal pieces. They were copper or poorly smelted iron of little value, yet sufficient for farming tools. One of the reasons why the kingdom operated such a punitive force, other than to train new recruits and restore security to the outskirts was to collect war booty, a creative injection to the budget.

On the next battle, he took out the Bow of Theo Grande and aimed at a kobold’s neck. Weed’s high agility and handicraft skill guided his arrows precisely to the targeted kobolds. When Weed slew three kobolds, a level-up message window popped up. Those kobolds at a level higher than twenty gave enormous EXPs to Weed who was only at level thirteen. Every kobold shot by his arrow immediately fell because as he picked those who were nearly drained of life. Cleverly, Weed sniped at easy game from behind while the soldiers were risking their lives in the front line.  It was a selfish and secure tactic. An arsonist torching a house is more of a saint than the neighbour plundering jewellery and china from the burning house, isn’t he?

What Weed was doing was obviously very wicked, taking full advantage of brothers-in-arms bleeding and sweating hard to fight the monsters. A good man would not create such exploitation. On the other hand, Weed was also very concerned that this tactic could backfire once the soldiers began to notice it and criticize him. Imagine how duped they would feel if a kobold short of a final strike dropped dead because of an arrow from out of nowhere. Weed only shot kobolds who were running away in a desperate attempt to survive, or when a soldier was helplessly surrounded by two or three kobolds. Each time a kobold was taken down, Weed smiled gleefully. While the other soldiers were fighting hard in the battles, all he needed to do was to shoot arrows blindly from a safe place. What else was easier than that?

His level was skyrocketing as it was just as fast as the stock price of Google. Weed’s scheme to buy the bow right before the quest paid off. On the way deeper into the lair, they found a wide, open place. Sir Midvale and his men circled around it, slaying kobolds as they were detected, and then returned to the place. “Take a rest and prepare lunch,” Sir Midvale ordered. Buren and Becker rustled to take out large pots and light a fire. As the youngest in the party, they were made to do chores. Weed walked to them and picked up a knife. He was going help them. Weed said, smiling sheepishly. Weed spontaneously won favour among the soldiers. A man who volunteers to do manual labour on a journey is always highly welcomed. For one thing, Becker and Buren’s attitude toward Weed changed. They couldn’t help but like he who picks up the knife and slices beef.

Of course, he had his own agenda, and it had nothing to do with universal benevolence or whatever. Improve his Cooking skill. Weed sliced and threw beef in the pot, added vegetables and flavours to make a stew. The ingredients that were needed to serve 32 men were quite a lot. Weed was aware that cooking plenty of food was the short cut to improve his cooking skill as fast as possible. Two message windows emerged almost together. Weed’s cooking skill rose while the Handicraft skill that had needed a few experience points for a level up ascended to seven. Two birds with one stone, indeed. Weed tasted a spoonful of the stew— the privilege of being a chef.

Comparing this stew to cheap rye bread that said in any grocery store was an insult. It wasn’t as good as the pork barbecue that he had eaten the other day, but satisfying for his first attempt at catering thanks to his high handicraft skill that compensated the low Cooking skill.  The soldiers who felt hungry because of the relentless battles were served a bowl of stew each, which they ate greedily. They all gave the thumbs up to Weed. Their reaction told him that they wanted him to keep on cooking for them. He filled empty bowls with beef stew continuously when asked, and in doing so, his stomach, too. The soldiers emptied the pot, and when the lunch break was over, Sir Midvale came over to Weed. He asked cordially would he mind cooking all the time.  Apparently, even a brave knight valued good cooking. Though, it was more likely that as a revered noble, he was too accustomed to fine meals that he could accept nothing less.

And so, Weed was named the official chef for the punitive force. He found no reason to decline Sir Midvale’s request, as he could upgrade the cooking skill by preparing thirty-two servings of stew three times a day. Furthermore, he wasn’t confined to the field of cooking. Weed used the repair skill to repair weapons and gear that some soldiers brought to him. It would cost a fortune to have a blacksmith repair damaged equipment back in town. If they were left with low durability, they could suddenly break in the middle of a battle. Weed was hailed as a savior by the troops. He could upgrade his handicraft and repair skills, and earned trust from soldiers as a bonus. Sir Midvale, who had been sceptical of his friend’s recommendation to bring Weed along on the mission, was now more than satisfied with his role.

Weed blended in with the rest of the troops. Who knows what inconveniences they would have to suffer without him? They would have had to return to a nearby village from time to time when they needed to have broken or edge-nicked weapons fixed, and the meals would have been revolted to their stomachs. Rarely obtained magical items would have needed identification scrolls, which cost several gold coins for each. Instead, Weed could identify them right on the spot with his identification skill. For the soldiers, it would be torture to go back to the tasteless gruel that Buren and Becker used to claim was beef stew, especially after they enjoyed Weed’s version.

In this way, the soldiers and Weed formed an unimaginable relationship. Whenever an arrow flew from Weed, a kobold turned grey. The kobolds are considered relatively weaker monsters. They know how to use tools, but the class of their tools is crude, as though they were made by children. They basically relied on numbers in a battle.  A platoon of nine kobolds charged at once. A big grin forming on his face, Weed greeted the kobolds with silent cheers. He shot arrows arbitrarily, collecting easy EXPs. Defense was taken care of by the soldiers, anyway. All he needed to do was shoot as many arrows as possible. Weed had also learned archery, a skill that was commonly exclusive to the archer class. It was hardly surprising, considering that he had done nothing but shoot arrows as he never swung a sword, even once, in the battles. Nevertheless, the soldiers were not jealous of him in the least. After the battles, Weed was the busiest one there. He cooked meals, repaired weapons and gear and tended the wounded.

Sir Midvale had a few healing potions for emergencies, but the soldiers in the punitive force could not afford such costly medicines. Weed rubbed herbs and rolled gauze on wounds with his handicraft skill. He obtained a new skill Bandage. The maximum number of skills that a user can learn when his class is undecided is ten. Weed’s bandage skill, was affected by the high handicraft skill, and thus had impressive effects. As he was busy caring for thirty patients every day, the skill upgraded fiercely. The troops roamed on the first and second floor, slaying kobolds, for a week. Users were occasionally spotted watching Weed with envious eyes as he was privileged to join a NPC punitive force and hunt monsters alongside them. The week of slaughtering kobolds upgraded his level to twenty-six. The repair skill hit level three, and the cooking skill, now level four, earned him a special option to increase 50 HP for those who were served with his meals until the satisfaction factor went down. Still, he had a headache.

Regarding the quest that Counselor Rodriguez had, the number of monster that needed to be kill has not decreased at all though Weed had already knocked down hundreds of kobolds. After a week of warming up on the kobolds, the troops headed to the third floor of the lair— the goblins’ territory. While hunting kobolds had been originally intended to give the new recruits first hand combat experience, confronting goblins posed a grave threat to their life. The levels of the kobolds were generally in their twenties. The kobold rascals are level twenty-three, and the relatively stronger kobold warriors twenty-eight, but untitled kobolds were at level twenty. On the other hand, the goblins are level fifty or above. Their weapons and gear surpass what kobolds are equipped with in attack power and in defence. The combat strength of the goblins is five to six times that of the kobolds.

The soldiers could not hide their excitement and tension. Their levels ranged from twenty-three to twenty-five from hunting kobolds, but their confidence ebbed at the thought of facing an unknown enemy whose level was generally twice theirs. The only relief was that goblins gathered in lesser numbers than kobolds. Weed let out an exasperated breath. His stomach curdled at the thought that if the troops fought goblins at that moment, they would surely suffer inevitable casualties. Had Weed been in charge of the troops, he would have taken time to have his men build more experience and level up higher before he led them to the threshold of the goblins, not to mention that he would have taught them how to fight goblins efficiently. But the command of the punitive force primarily belonged to Sir Midvale. Weed was left with two options. Either he followed them as before, only to sit back and watch them die helplessly, or he give up the quest and hunt more kobolds on his own until he leveled up enough to deal with the goblins. The second option, which would penalize him tremendously, was out of the question.

In fact, the reason Weed was so concerned about the welfare of the soldiers was more of a practical need that he didn’t want to see them die in vain when he worked so hard to build a friendship with them.  There were five goblins. The total number of soldiers outnumbered them 6:1. Weed planned to shoot an arrow at the goblins to take the initiative and to seek another chance afterward— undoubtedly, a goblin yielded a tremendous amount of EXPs, and he was dying to get one. However, the soldiers were frozen stiff. They stood motionless as if nailed to the ground where they were standing. And fighting spirit radiated from the goblins! The soldiers cowered at the sight of an enemy who was level fifty. Their swords dropped downward, the bucklers trembled unmistakably.

The goblins were not easy to defeat even if the soldiers stood up to fight fearlessly, and now they were already frozen before the battle began. This would lead to a calamity. Weed shot a glance at Sir Midvale, who was standing beside him. Obviously, the knight wasn’t in the mood to motivate his men. The code of chivalry developed in Rosenheim kingdom was cold-blooded. Weed stepped forward. He flung his bow on his back and held the iron sword. Then, he did something that was unimaginable to the other soldiers who remembered what he had done in the previous battles. Weed shouted a war cry and charged toward the goblins!  Weed’s sword was deflected so easily, instilling a sense of futility in him. He could make up for a gap between his level and the goblins’ with his inflated stats, but the shorter reach of his sword was critical. The sword wasn’t effective on the goblins that were armed with longer spears. The goblins blocked Weed’s sword, and almost at the same time, they thrust their spears toward him. He crouched to dodge them. It needed a combination of his amazing reflexes and quick wits to save his life.

He had no intention of fighting the goblins seriously, so his subsequent attacks were half-hearted. With five spears, the goblins attacked at random places that were directed by raw instinct. As long as Weed didn’t get close within the reach of his sword, he was free of the risk of being skewered by their spears.  Still, he pretended to be in peril, dodging the spears by inches. To the eyes of the soldiers, the scene looked like a hopeless struggle of the weak. Even though it had been long since Weed’s level transcended theirs, their view of his role was fixed on a handyman working manual labor, such as repairs, cooking and first aid. That Weed was fighting the goblins! The eyes of the soldiers began to flicker with confidence. The soldiers roared as they regained their morale once more. They charged directly at the goblins. Weed quickly sensed a forthcoming melee and pulled himself from the battle. Weed gave timely advice in a cordial manner. Since friendship between them hit maximum, his command was directly taken on board by the soldiers.  They pushed back the goblins by force. Two thirds of them held their bucklers at the front, the rest grabbed the swords. As the first two lines charged behind the bucklers, the spears that were thrust by the goblins bounced off, astonishing the brainless enemy. Once the gap was narrowed, the sword line began to swing their swords.

For Weed, who had been resting idly, had his charisma increased by three points. The charisma stat acts over NPC troops, and makes it easier to tame pets or hire mercenaries. As the soldiers who were motivated by Weed’s speech got into action, his leadership was recognized. The goblins, in spite of their much higher level, could not defeat the troops, who outnumbered them six-fold.  Their coordinated offense turned one goblin after another into a gray flash. These Roman legion tactics would have been ineffective when it comes to a battle between armies of equal number of soldiers, but an army of thirty soldiers with bucklers on, charging from four directions, devastated the goblins, which were armed with long spears. Occasional arrows shot by Weed after he sheltered behind the troops distracted the goblins further. Weed observed the battle scene, and when a goblin was near death, he shot an arrow precisely at the goblin’s neck.

Since Weed had reached level twenty-six, kobolds had not yielded as much EXPs as before. It was still a lot whichever way you looked at it, but was overall too low for Weed.  A goblin belonged to a different dimension than a kobold. When Weed had killed the goblin, it alone filled thirty-seven percent that remained for the next level, at twenty-seven, and took extra ten percent for change. Weed was tempted to kiss the goblin’s ass. Only God knows what he would have done if the soldiers were not around him though. It would be difficult to find a hunting ground better than this.

The soldiers exclaimed in triumph, throwing swords in the air. They were bolstered in confidence that they had successfully defeated the first goblins.  When the battle was over, the soldiers complimented Weed, patting his back.  The goddess of fortune was smiling on him! Weed, however, drifted his gaze to Sir Midvale cautiously.  If the knight was offended that his command was violated by a mere foreigner, he had every right to execute Weed without trial, though Weed assured himself that his friendship with the knight would prevent the worst in that case.  Sir Midvale looked at the corpse of a goblin, deep in thought for a moment, and then said to Weed did he want a job as a royal guard.  Weed shook his head because, according to his blueprint, it was too early to settle down in a specific career.  Sir Midvale transferred the command of the punitive force to Weed.  For now, the soldiers were obliged to obey him at least in this lair. Of course, he did not expect loyalty that could compel them to jump into a pit of flames from a single word.

Weed’s charisma was too low, so he counted on his friendship with the soldiers. Still, he was thrilled at his new assignment. Weed swiftly packed the bow, took out the sword and held it up. It was a demonstration of his newly-acquired position. It would have been less impressive to hold the bow, reminding his troops of his past behaviour in battles that could not strike them as honourable.

Since Weed took over the command from Sir Midvale, the attitude of his troops toward him had changed drastically. Weed marched his troops with the two scouts leading them. Soon, Buren ran back to him, panting. Buren reported that there was Seven goblins at twelve o’clock. Two female goblins and five goblin raiders.  Goblin raiders were, according to Weed’s private database, level 58 monsters. Weed ordered his troops to stay put in an open clearing, and set up a few traps. Then, he went alone to the location where the goblins had been spotted. As Buren reported, the seven goblins were resting there. Weed took out his bow and shot at the farthest goblin. Before the arrow hit the target, he turned and ran away. The goblins looked around, spotted Weed and chased after him in a rush. Weed knew that, if he was surrounded by the seven goblins, he would not stand any chance. He just prayed his feet would not fail.

As Weed heard the goblins gaining on him from behind, he shivered. Holding spears, the goblins were running with heavy strides. Although in a dangerous spot, Weed’s thoughts were still positive. He was alone, but he would be safe once he reached the place his troops were hiding. Weed ran like his tail was on fire, and arrived at the clearing. Buren and Becker were the first faces he saw. While Weed’s call was echoing through the space, the seven goblins sprang out of the cave. In only a moment, their fate would be decided.  The goblins that were stupid and witless were mesmerized by the sudden appearance of the soldiers from the rocks they had been taking cover behind. Then they threw burning torches at the goblins. Had Weed foreseen that he would be in charge of the troops, he would have bought more snares and traps. The best idea he could come up with when there were no other tools was to throw torches at the goblins.

Nonetheless, the soldiers were fighting very well. The thirty troops were a big machine driving the goblins into individual segments and destroying them one after the other. They were strengthened by an incalculable variable called morale. Whether it comes to monsters or NPCs, morale is always a decisive factor in battles. The soldiers believed in their newly appointed leader, Weed. The Goblins on the other hand, were confused by the torches thrown at them, at the point the goblins realized that they had walked into a trap, they were already surrounded by many humans, so they lost their will to fight back. While the soldiers pushed relentlessly towards their enemy, Weed’s eyes flashed.

Under Weed’s command, the soldiers immobilized the goblins steadily, two of whom were felled by his arrows.  As he had put his life at risk, he justified that he deserved at least two goblins to make ends meet.  The high-level goblins held on for a considerable period in spite of low morale, but when Weed divided his troops into three groups, and ordered them to take turns exhausting the enemy, the monsters ended up as gray flashes.  The goblins left nine silvers, a steel shield and a bronze spear.  Weed would have swallowed all the items if he could, but he kept himself in checked. If his friendship with the soldiers dropped, his low charisma could not save him from the possibility of a mutiny, or even a hanging. Sir Midvale’s presence further weighed on him to bury his unreasonable greed. Leading his troops, Weed systematically cleaned out the goblins on the third floor.

One day, however, Sir Midvale said with a grimace, the pace of the mission is slow Weed needed pick up the pace.  Weed had never heard of the deadline. It seemed that only the soldiers were bound to it. Still, he didn’t hasten the pace.  Against six or more goblins, he always drew them to the nearest open space by shooting one or two arrows where his troops overwhelmed them. In case of fewer than six goblins, he led them straight to fight with the enemy.  Weed avoided a battle unless the soldiers were fully healed to the last man, and he still made stews and repaired damaged weapons and gear to maintain their condition at their best.

When the punitive force succeeded in conquering the third floor of the lair, Weed hit level thirty-seven, and his men thirty-four. There it came. Time for the true hunting  At Weed’s command, the soldiers moved like people who had gone berserk, surrendered to madness. To them, the goblins were as nothing. The soldiers pushed on with their bucklers ahead. They were as foul-mouthed as ever, this was because Weed had taught them four-letter words from Rodriguez’s dictionary. They sometimes roared menacingly, and charged under apparently impossible circumstances. Their swords became more dynamic, penetrating openings of the goblins that were armed with spears.

Weed still maintained the same formation for his troops, but ultimately they relied on their comrades, they were more reckless this way, but they were also faster. They had slain goblins repeatedly, leaving thousands of corpses behind them.  Adopting Weed’s tactics aggressively, his troops crushed the goblin defenses with thoroughly coordinated attacks. Now it took just the blink of an eye to destroy a platoon of six goblins as an army of thirty veteran soldiers rushed on fiercely and devastated the enemy.

Buren and Becker, in turn, scouted and reported the location and number of the nearest goblins. The soldiers now ran at a comfortable pace, neither fast nor slow. They were lightly jogging, as they were recovering from battle fatigue and preparing for the next upcoming battle. The goblins began to put up a little bit of resistance, but it was almost meaningless at this stage. The soldiers, who were now veterans in combat and experience, already dominated the goblins in morale— add Weed’s arrows in, and it was a death sentence for the goblins.  His level in archery rose quickly as he was actively engaged in battle, and his arrows were no longer aimed only at dying goblins. Weed now shot arrows in order to take the initiative, and when goblins were grouping to break through his men’s encircling net, he hindered their movement with warning shots. The main target though, was any goblin that threatened the life of one of his troops.

Imagine that when a goblin’s spear is flying at you, your leader’s arrow bores a hole in its head, then you will feel saved and thus more loyal to him, wouldn't you? The same logic went for a number of soldiers whose life were saved by Weed at the last second.  His troops hunted goblins in the most efficient and time-saving way possible now. They conquered the fourth floor faster than the third one, and even kept the same pace on the fifth one where they encountered a score of goblins in each battle.  As the soldiers were mature in combat skills, giving them the status of veteran at a high level, they were capable of one-to-one combat with goblins. Nevertheless, Weed stuck to the old tactics of focusing on defense and outnumbering goblins. Some of his men got cocky and suggested to him that they drop it and, instead, fight goblins fairly on a level playing field.

Weed’s charisma controlled his small force of thirty men.  One who fought a goblin alone was denied his share of recognition. He was later excused from the next battle. He was at first excited to stay out of danger, but soon realized that he had to sit back and watch his comrades leveling up. This example taught everyone a lesson, so the troops went as far as stabbing goblins in the back if it became available. They were brainwashed beyond a doubt by Weed’s silver tongue, which was now teaching these hardened soldiers, Infantry Combat Tactics 101.  For less than a month, Weed led the punitive force to sweep over the Lair of Litvart. As a week was still left, they went back down to the third floor, and on the way back to the bottom, rooted out regenerated goblins.  Once a battle began, the soldiers spread in wings, formed an encircling formation and slew their foe within a few breaths. As soon as the battle was over, they advanced to the next one. Not one soldier died.

They finished the Search and Destroy Operation of The Lair of the Litvart quest with the overall levels of the troops reaching fifty-seven, to Weed’s sixty-two. Considering that the average level of Denarions in the Rosenheim Army was forty, what Weed had accomplished was terrific. Sir Midvale didn’t hide the fact that he marvelled at Weed. He offed Weed a job again.

If it were other users, they would have accepted it willingly, but Weed wasn’t swayed.  Sir Midvale withdrew his proposal with a content look. Sir Midvale said he and his troops were leaving but Weed said he was staying. For the last four weeks, Weed had made thirty-two servings of stew three times a day. His experienced cooking skill delivered great food on time, and Sir Midvale was one of the beneficiaries who had fallen in love with it, forming a solid friendship with him. Weed had assumed that the annihilation of the goblins would meet the quest’s requirement, but it was a serious miscalculation on his part.  The numbers of monsters that he was supposed to destroy was still a hundred without any sign of decrease. Anyway, the number of goblins in the lair was hundreds on each floor, at a conservative estimate.  Rodriguez’s quest was to sweep away all the ‘monsters’ in the Lair of Litvart, and the kobolds and goblins were not possibly the target because as they greatly outnumbered a hundred. Sir Midvale said that he would give Weed Arse for a while. Weed’s head suddenly felt thick and heavy. The colt that had kicked him with two rear legs and bit his hand! Now he remembered the colt’s name was Arse!  What a shameful name for a would-be stallion.

The soldiers came up to Weed and said farewell. As high-level veterans, they would probably be promoted upon their return, at least, to Denarions while one or two soldiers who score the best could look for a better position. Weed shook the hand of every soldier who used to be his subordinate. His hand was warm, and its grip held on for a few seconds.  Weed’s eyes shone darkly with reluctance. What troubles he had gone through to train those soldiers! He was the first to have credit for transforming once new recruits at level twenty something into hardened veterans in combat skills. Now Weed felt as though he were being robbed of them by the kingdom. After reluctant farewells with his former troops, Weed was left alone. {Vol 1 Ch 7}

As was his routine, Rodriguez was taking an afternoon walk. He enjoyed checking on his neighbours and deepening their misery. Rodriguez’s steps were light. For one thing, he wasn’t pestering others who fell under his gaze that afternoon. He was elated by the recent publication of the latest book he had penned. When he returned home, his manservant in care of the manor was waiting at the entrance to greet him. He spoke without reservation to the manservant whose dedication to his family lasted for decades. He wanted to ask a question about Weed.  Did he find what he was seeking?  Rodriguez laughed evilly. Not a chance! He won't even be able to find the place, and even if he does find it, against all odds… well… Serves him right even if he gets the class!  Rodriguez burst into insane laughter.

The first thing that Weed did when he was alone was double-check his armor and inventory. Instead of receiving his share of the spoils that his men had collected from the slain kobolds and goblins, which were mostly crude weapons, equipment and pieces of metal, Weed had asked for hard money. For the last month, Weed had advanced his skills by far. His cooking mastery hit level six, the repair skill four. The repair skill is so useful that some users are encouraged to pick it up, but the cooking skill is almost extinct, except for professional cooks. Weed’s bandage skill, now level four, empowered him to tend a minor injury by rolling gauze twice. But the most progressive one among his stats was his level. He felt like laughing.

To Weed’s dismay, however, Arse whinnied unpleasantly. He had no choice but to take care of the colt thanks to the ’courtesy’ of Sir Midvale. The colt was good for nothing for now, but Weed was obliged to return it safely to the Royal Stable. ‘The Lair of Litvart. No other lair of the same name has been discovered so far. This is the place. The Counselor’s trick. Assured that there was something behind it, Weed did his best to analyze the quest’s objective from different angles. Weed began working through from the first floor up to the fifth one. For the adventuring classes, such as rangers and explorers, which are endowed with a multitude of observation-related stats and skills, it is easier to discover a concealed entrance. But Weed could only stick to elementary means such as relying on his naked eyes and touching every suspicious area with his hands in order to look for the ‘secret chamber’. There were at least twenty users on each floor in the Lair of Litvart. Hunting monsters, they commented about Weed, who was acting weird.

They openly laughed at Weed, because they had been jealous of him who was surfing on an easy wave in the lair with thirty NPC troops, it was no surprise that he was the centre of jealousy and envy.  Several users followed Weed quietly, envisioning that he might have overheard valuable information from the NPC soldiers during the mission. Or better, he might be carrying out a special quest. In that case, they even considered forcing Weed to share the quest. In their eyes, this one lone freak was a low-level archer, lacking in melee combat skills; who had worked on household chores for the troops and sponged off them like a parasite. After a week had passed without event, the troublemakers were exasperated by tracking Weed in vain; he was obsessed with exploring the lair inch by through inch, so they finally gave up and left.

Even after they left him alone, Weed continued.  Many explorers had already finished mapping out the entire lair, and had already concluded that there was nothing left to find. This was exactly what Weed was told as well. In fact, he had done occasional research while hunting down the kobolds and goblins, but failed to make any meaningful discovery. Still, Weed was convinced that he would stumble onto something someday. The Lair of Litvart was a vast place. Wandering casually in the forlorn hope of uncovering a hidden place was a hope was as far as the distance between the Earth and Andromeda. Even though the many of adventurers were better with their own observation skills, attitude and persistence could make difference.

Weed patiently touched the lair walls, looking for a clue.  Arse watched Weed with contempt.  He had brought the horse into the lair because there was no one else who could, or would, look after it, but due to this, he was becoming very stressed out by the disobedient beast. Weed led Arse to a shelter of goblins on purpose—a goblin warrior and three goblin raiders. As soon as they saw Weed, they charged at him. He stepped forward as if to protect the colt in front, and fought against the goblins, screaming: The goblin warrior’s spear sailed toward Weed but only grazed him, drawing little blood from the flesh.  The goblins kept on pounding on Weed.

Weed played a brave knight protecting his weak companion at risk of his own death.  When he glanced back, however, he saw that the colt was yawning and playing with a pebble on the ground. Also, Weed noticed that this beast was ready to bolt in the direction of the Lair’s exit the moment the master fell dead. Weed was embarrassed by this turn of events. Why make a fool of himself to win over a mere colt?! Weed slew the pestering goblins with a single swing of his sword. He was tempted to behead the beast altogether, but losing Sir Midvale’s trust was too big a risk. Arse gave Weed a contemptuous look as if to ask ‘why he had bled needlessly when he could finish them so easily?’

Weed went back to the exploration of the lair. Three days later, on the tenth day of his private exploration to be precise, he found a cavity in a dark corner on the fourth floor where goblin raiders were regenerated. It was located ten yards deeper than the regenerating point. Even the most cautious ranger would have overlooked it. Below a large rock projecting outward, the cavity was shadowed, away from human eyes. Looking around, Weed made sure that there was nobody else sneaking up on him. Those who had trailed him for a week were long gone, but excessive caution never hurt. If this cavity turned out to be what Weed had been looking for, he would be the first man to discover it, and he didn’t want to share the credit with anyone else. For the first explorer who discovers an unknown area, the rewards are immense. He earns fame, plus double EXPs and a higher rate of item provision for a whole week after the discovery. Weed crept into the cavity carefully. The gap was narrow enough to be mistaken for a crevasse between rocks, and the interior widened little by little on each step. He soon reached a passage where he could move comfortably. A humid, foul smell pricked his nose.

Tense, he got ready for a battle. He didn’t have any clue as to what was coming next, so he held the iron sword in the right hand with a death grip, and herb and bandages in the left one. Weed walked slowly deeper into the cave. Along the cave were several forks. He picked the left one and entered it, only to find a gigantic worm at a dead end. Before Weed could finish his words, the surroundings underwent a sudden change. What he thought to be the blackish ground was, in truth, a floor of little bugs the size of pinkies. Like Moses breaking apart the Red Sea, the bugs scattered and then came back to attack Weed, crawling menacingly. Covered in disturbingly crunchy shells, the good news was that the little bugs were almost harmless with their low attack power, however, the queen-like worm bore offspring faster than he could exterminate them. Right now, he really missed his men in the punitive force.

Suddenly, the queen bug spewed light green smoke fumes. Like a drop of black ink dispersed in transparent water, the fumes slowly spread in the cramped and enclosed space, eventually reaching where Weed was standing.  The moment he inhaled it—he have been poisoned! His life was decreasing continuously. Startled, Weed checked his life gauge. His life was decreasing by one point per second. In desperation, Weed ignored the annoying little bugs, ran to the queen and struck it with the iron sword. On the first strike the queen worm’s hard carapace shell cracked, and yellow fluid slowly oozed out. Weed neglected the bugs that were crawling up and biting him. Regardless whether they bit him or seconds passed by, he was dying anyway! Torn between two choices, it was better to kill the queen and get the heck out of there. As if they sensed that their mother was dying, the little bugs crowded Weed aggressively, but his iron sword was persistent. The shell of the queen worm was so hard that, though the outer shell was partly cracked, she was alive and well. Meanwhile, Weed’s head was swimming dizzily.

The skill that Weed had never been given a chance to use! He had a combat skill that sucked so much mana from him that he could not sustain it longer than a second. Whether it worked or not, the situation was hopeless enough. “Sculpting Blade technique!” Weed’s iron sword blazed white. It temporarily overpowered the enemy’s defense. Finally, the gigantic worm’s hard shell shattered into pieces.  Though he was poisoned and dying, Weed smirked. Weed had finally found the answer for the class change. It was these damn worms in the cave. He had to kill the queens, not those little bugs.

Chased by the little bugs, Weed left the cave in a hurry. When he saw they could not cross over the boundary of the cave, he began to walk slowly toward the ground level with the colt. When a user is poisoned, their face darkens. Weed avoided contact with other users to conceal that he was poisoned, and recharged his life a little by rubbing herbs on his body and stuffing himself with pre-cooked meals. If he tried, he would surely find a party that had a priest. But he would rather die than ask for help. Was Weed too proud to bargain for his life? Nonsense! There were no poisoning monsters in the Lair of Litvart. Neither kobolds nor goblins had any knowledge of poisonous substances, let alone used them. His so called ‘savior’ would probably want to know where Weed had been poisoned, and by whom or what— and would ask with deeply suspicious eyes. He would rather die than share with others the whereabouts of the secret chamber that he had found after a long time of painstaking searching and tribulation. Once he arrived at the exit above the ground, he jumped up onto the colt.

The stupid beast didn’t even budge an inch. It was acting as if it was taking some small amount of sadistic joy from the misfortune of it’s current master, or simply me to be more specifically. As such, Arse pretended to be deaf while he lazily scuffed his hooves in the soil while he continued to leisurely chew on some grass. The last dregs of Weed’s patience had finally ran out. Weed took out the sculpting knife. Arse looked terrified at the sight of that sharp object, but soon calmed down as if it knew Weed was only bluffing.  Instead of slashing at Arse, Weed cut his own forearm with the knife. Did he lose his sanity enough to become self-destructive when his life was already in jeopardy because of the poison gas?  Weed grinned treacherously, and although his vision was already blurring around the edges of his sight as a result of anemia, he set his devilish plan into motion. As quick as a viper, he clutched the colt’s jaws and forced them to open and then forced the colt to drink some of his blood.

With this bit of mutual motivation, the colt finally galloped to the village, and although its speed wasn’t any faster than before, they still arrived in time. Luckily, while he was teetering on the brink of death, upon arriving at the nearest village, Weed was quickly able to find a priest to cast a cure spell on him. After getting cured, he purchased herbs and antidotes worth twenty gold. Though his pockets were now empty of money, he had no remorse. Weed quickly returned to the Lair of Litvart, and only after he was certain that nobody was watching him from the perimeter, did he entered the hidden section of the cave where the worms dwelled.

He even brought Arse in there. He was afraid that other users might steal it, well try to, and while the idea to get rid of it by someone else’s hands was more than tempting, he didn’t want to know what would happen if he failed to return the colt to the Royal Stable as was requested, so this took priority.  Arse swayed its tail resignedly. Weed began to slay only queen worms. The tiny little bugs gave as much EXPs appreciable to their size, and the way that they crawled out at him from everywhere made it costly to attack each of them. So with this in mind he only attacked the queens.

As no sword master could catch raindrops falling from the sky, Weed ignored the tiny bugs that covered the entire floor like a murky colored carpet. “Sculpting Blade technique!” The mysterious sword technique from Zahab. It crushed the enemy’s shell with powers that directly disintegrated the nature of an object, regardless of resistance and defense. Sometimes, Weed encountered bigger queen worms and needed two or three strikes, between which he rested to refill mana. He was poisoned and repeatedly attacked by the little bugs. With life decreasing rapidly, Weed always barely escaped; death had never been so close nor so often for him. The more he slew queens in the cave, the more blankly dismayed he felt. Who would believe this was a quest for class change? Most users choose their primary class long before they hit level ten. On the other hand, Weed was level sixty-two, and this cave was still a life-and-death challenge to him. He only wondered what kind of class required so much hassle.

At the end of seven days of vicious and almost continuous battle, Weed had only one more to kill. The Queen of Queens! She was easily five times bigger than the other Queen Worms!  When Weed entered her throne room without any precaution, he was accorded a cordial reception of thick green fumes of poisonous gas that the Queen of Queens had retained just for him.  He would have let it hit him under other circumstances, but he jumped back under a vague hunch. The little bugs that were touched by the fumes rotted in seconds and melted into tiny puddles on the cave floor. The only way to stay away from the poisonous gas was using the bow from a distance. But his arrows could not penetrate the thick hardy shell of the Queen Worm. So his only option was to approach within reach of her poisonous gas.

The Queen Worm knew well of Weed’s current dilemma, and with a mouthful filled of poisonous gas, waited for him to get close so she could shower it all over him.  Like a rattlesnake waiting coiled for a chance to strike, the Queen Worm and Weed faced each other, motionless. Weed’s eyes glittered when he saw a treasure has stashed behind the queen worm. At the end of his gaze lay dumb-eyed Arse. Weed kicked the colt’s ass right away. Arse plunged forward instinctively, and the queen worm reflexively puffed out the poison gas toward it.  Weed could not afford the luxury of watching the fate of the poor beast.  As soon as he made sure that the poisonous gas that had been stored in the Queen Worm’s mouth was fully launched, he rushed toward her. “Sculpting Blade technique! Double dance!”

Weed swung the sword wildly until his mana ran out.  With the iron sword in the right hand, and the sculpting knife in the left, he tore the shell off the Queen Worm.  Left without any worthwhile combat skills, this was the best option for Weed. The queen worm struggled, but her gigantic size got in the way as he was too close to her.  She finally closed her beady eyes shut. Then, a key dropped from her body.  Weed picked up the key, inserted it in the keyhole of the treasure box and turned it clockwise. What he found in the box a few volumes of books and a parchment scroll.

Weed obtain an item called The Successor to the Legendary Emperor 1. It belong to Emperor Geihar. The Emperor Geihar was the first and only man to have ruled over a unified empire in the history of the Versailles Continent. Unfortunately, after his death, the empire was divided once again, thus shaping the present map, but his achievements were recorded as legendary. Weed was thrilled. Next pop up was a Hidden Class. Weed yelled without hesitation, “Of course!”, and in that moment, his avatar was enveloped in light. Weed finally got the class that he had been fighting for, but when he saw the name of his new class, he almost collapsed in mortification.  Moonlight Sculptor  he raged.

After all his blood and sweat, it all went back to Moonlight Sculptor. It was actually ‘Legendary’ Moonlight Sculptor with a flattering prefix, but Weed didn’t give a damn about it. The cursed, poverty inducing profession, Moonlight Sculptor! He smelt what was left of the poisonous gas that the queen worm had breathed out in her last struggle at the moment of death, but it wasn’t what prompted the floodgates in his eyes to break down. He had no choice but to accept this God-forsaken class of ‘Moonlight Sculptor’. Weed, who had just moments before laughed at the fools who had refused to comprehend the Emperor Geihar’s profession, now blamed the Emperor for duping him into converting to Moonlight Sculptor. He wasn’t at all convinced. Weed was weeping in self-pity.

He had spent an entire week sitting down in the middle of the street to stimulate Rodriguez’s curiosity, and more than seven weeks in the Lair of Litvart to find this cavity and crush the disgusting Queen Worms living within. All that effort was wasted on converting to Moonlight Sculptor!  Weed wanted to cry his heart out.  Yet he had improved his handicraft skills and sculpture mastery, and earned massive revenue during his sit-in in front of Rodriguez’s manor; he had leveled up at a frightening pace in the lair – conveniently, all of this escaped him now. Only the cold reality was left to him, now he was a Moonlight Sculptor, and it grieved him. He just wanted to scream and rage that it was so unfair.  After a long moment of crisis, though, Weed’s eyes finally regained some light in realizing what he had missed amid his flood of misery.

He had thought that he hit the bottom, but as he calmed down, he was seeing the other side. Warriors, rangers and priests are the top three classes, which means that they have been tried and proven better than the other classes. For the warrior and ranger class, they are given a 50% bonus attack power when they’re armed with their weapon of choice according to their subclasses. The priest class can learn and cast holy spells that no other class but the paladin class can tap into. This was why Weed’s overall damage with a sword was less than his counterpart the warriors class, and the ruled applied to his attack power with arrows that could not rival that of a full-time ranger. Therefore, a hidden class, whose secrets no has yet figured out on their own through trial and error, heavily relies on the way they’re brought up. If they’re properly developed with a focus on the class’s merits and characteristics, it should come off well. If not, it will probably turn out to be mediocre, and no better than a common class if not worse.

Weed hastily turned his attention back to the scroll. There were still a few more paragraphs that he had yet to read: The Successor to the Legendary Emperor 2.  Emperor Geihar, the conqueror of the earth, sea and the sky, had done so through the use of Sculpture Mastery. After Weed had finished re-reading the scroll, he then checked on the other items within—three tablets and a book. The effects of the tablets were not recorded anywhere but he knew what skill to use in this situation.

Weed obtained A Medicine Tablet of the Emperor.  After a series of failed attempts, Weed was finally able to identify one of the treasure items.  It was rare— no, more valuable than simply rare— this item increased the amount of mana permanently by two hundred points! The tablet smelt of an indescribably comforting fragrance. Weed estimated the price for a single tablet to be no less than ten thousand gold.  Since the tablet permanently increased the maximum amount of mana, instead of simply recovering mana temporarily like mana potions did from the market, they were worth such an eye-popping price.

Weed put down the tablet and picked up the book next.  This time again, Weed succeeded in figuring out the content of the book just when he was about to give up trying after scores of failure message windows. He  obtained The Book of Secret Sword Techniques from the Imperial Family of Arpens

Surprised, Weed almost dropped the book.  The Book of Secret Sword Techniques was flashing in gold when it was identified.  It meant that the book was a rare skill book! Moreover, it was an A-grade sword technique book.  Though, It was still a little disappointing that the skill book wasn’t a unique or S-grade one. Still, it was questionable that Weed, now a sculptor, could learn such a high level of sword techniques even if he had found one.  S-grade sword techniques in general have a requirement for certain classes, mostly sword warriors or knights.  As Weed didn’t have many decent combat skills, this book was like raindrops in a drought.  The days of basic sword skill and archery! They would be gone now, and soon only a distant memory.  Weed put a hand on the book and shouted, “Learn!” He learn a new skill Imperial Formless Sword Technique. The sword technique book, now done with, glowed white and burned to ashes.

The corners of Weed’s mouth rose. The Arpenian Empire used to rule over the entire Continent. It then collapsed only to be remembered in name only, but the sword technique that had once been exclusive within the Imperial Family was undoubtedly worth money. But Weed was once again cast into despair when he read the descriptions of each movement in the skill info window. The first movement, which consumed the least amount of mana of the five, required three hundred mana points.  Because his maximum mana was far too low for now, the secret sword technique was far beyond his reach, even after he swallowed the medicine Tablet of the Emperor. {Vol 1 Ch 8}

Back in the capital of Rosenheim kingdom after seven weeks, Weed felt a headache coming on at the sight of an incalculable number of avatars. It was a dizzy scene in which buyers and sellers were actively trading with one another, and new adventurers were looking for partners to join their adventure. Weed led the colt to the Royal Stable. It followed him obediently. As luck would have it, the poor beast had just barely survived the poisonous gas from the Queen Worm. As if it knew by instinct alone, that it had just missed imminent death more times than it deserved, the colt was willing to stay out of Weed’s way; the sooner it got home, the better. There was a shabby stable outside the Royal Palace, and as soon as the chief horse trainer laid eyes on the colt, he grimaced.

Light hearted now that he’d finally left the colt in an empty lot with the trainer. Assured once again that a man’s status depended on who his contacts were, and what he had done in his name, Weed left the Royal Stable and went to the Training Hall. There, he met the instructor. The instructor was very sorry that Weed was forced to convert to the Legendary Moonlight Sculptor class. Weed kept it short. He just dropped his head with a grim face. The instructor rewarded him with three gold and fifty points of public service to Rosenheim for the completion of The Clean-up Operation in the Lair of Litvart quest. As public service is accumulated over time, it gives a user the upper hand in trades in the country in question, and if enough is collected, he or she can become qualified for government positions as well.

Unfortunately however, the instructor’s attitude toward him had changed slightly. He no longer considered Weed his kind as a colleague on the same path in swordsmanship. It implied that the friendship between them, which Weed had worked so hard to build up, was crumbling a little. After visiting the instructor, Weed stopped by at Rodriguez’s manor as his last visit. As always, the counsellor was confined in his study. As the reward, Rodriguez handed Weed a wooden statue that fitted in his palm. It was shaped like an imperial knight.

Still doubtful, Weed identified the wooden statue. Due to his low level in that skill, he succeeded in finding out the identity of the statute after only a couple of failed attempts. When Weed identified the wooden statue left by Zahab, he also found an Sculpting Blade technique whose prerequisite was five or above skill level in sword mastery. Weed no longer resented Rodriguez. The past was the past, and a sudden interest in the craft had hit him. Furthermore, Weed was told that if he ever made it to the top, the days of riches and power were waiting for him.  Rodriguez thought he had paid off the old score with Weed. At the sight of his sorry state after he wandered hungry and cold for seven weeks, the grudge was already gone in the counsellor’s mind. When Weed had heard all he wanted to hear, so he left the manor.

The nature of the sculptor class that he happened to stumble on was as follows:  As Weed’s main weapon was a sword, it was useful to compare him to a sword warrior. The moment the class is decided, a sword warrior gains a 50% bonus on sword mastery. Of course, Weed could close the gap with his useful handicraft skill as compensation. Thanks to the initially heightened stats, even a knight at the same level was no match for him. In the case of relatively lower levels, he was confident that he could win a duel against two sword warriors at the same level, supported by the Sculpting Blade technique and the Imperial Formless Sword Technique. The Imperial Formless Sword Technique— Weed was surprised by its dominant power when he tried it.  This technique was something close to a cheat, not only doubling the speed, reflex and the power of destruction, but even tripling the recovery of mana. No wonder the Emperor Geihar selected it to leave to his successor.

However, the warriors and knights also have there own sword skills and breathing patterns. When they master a breathing pattern suitable to their own class, it has a great effect on them as well, even when the grade of sword techniques that they know is lower than Weed’s Imperial Formless Sword Technique. It is the special privilege enjoyed by the knights and warriors, the two standard fighting classes that specialized in combat skills.  In other words, no matter whether Weed raised his handicraft skill and other stats zealously, or acquired more cheat-like skills, he would one day be caught up by his counterparts. Even now, Weed was only slightly ahead of them unless he used underhanded tactics.

Obviously, he would have been much weaker than an ordinary sword warrior without timely investment in the handicraft skill as well as the Imperial Formless Sword Technique, and additional stats that he had earned from the Training Hall trial.

The Citadel of Serabourg, the capital of Rosenheim Kingdom. In front of the Central Fountain where the thriving downtown was located, a line of avatars was watching various statues on display. Weed had opened a second stall to work on his skill level in sculpture mastery. As a sculptor with the bold description ‘Legendary Moonlight,’ which he had resisted but converted to in the end, he carved beautiful statues even by the standard of Pratique Des Arts, Peinture, Sculpture, Gravure. His current skill level in sculpture mastery was four. Since Weed converted to Moonlight Sculptor, the effects of his sculpture mastery had been doubled, not to mention that he owned one of the top items that practically amounted to a cheat, Zahab’s sculpting knife. Weed’s lineup was yet limited to small-size statues made of plain materials by his immature expertise in sculpture mastery. Their simplicity and low price rather appealed to a broader spectrum of customers.

Some of his fans even lined up to pick up the artworks that he was working on there and then. Foxes and rabbits, which cost less than ten coppers for their base materials, were the most popular items in his stall that sold at a lightning speed, though they were priced at five silvers. Weed believed that his enterprise was an honest business. He wasn’t forcing anyone to buy his statues. What could he do about people flocking to get hold of them for the stated price? Weed moved the sculpting knife faster. He was raising his expertise rating in sculpture mastery while he was making money. Like sculpture mastery; cooking, repair and other craft skills are upgraded from the basic ‘beginner’ stage to ‘intermediate’ when they reach skill level ten, it then falls back to level one after the rank upgrade.

For the cooking skill, the intermediate upgrade creates solid options of enhancing life and mana benefits for hand-made meals. For the repair skill, the intermediate stage introduces a new tech tree for producing and refining weapons and gear. That isn’t the end of it.  When the skill level reaches ten once again, thus passing the intermediate stage onto the ‘expert’ and then ascends to become a full-fledged master of their trade. Master are those who has proven worthy of themselves by completing all the necessary steps.  A master in any field of skills, combat or craft, is recognized and respected based solely on the merits of his expertise in the skill, but overall craft skills, such as sculptural art and cooking skill, are very limited in prospect.

Weed’s priority at this point was upgrading his basic handicraft skill to the intermediate stage. The skill level had increase to nine while he was dedicated to repairing damage equipment and serving meals to the troops in the Lair of Litvart. Only one more level was need and then the handicraft skill would reach the intermediate stage. The Intermediate handicraft skill enhances sword mastery and archery by increasing the overall attack power by 30%. This skill is mandatory for a sculptor whose attack power is substandard at best, which is penalized by the character of his class.

As the handicraft skill rises, all the craft skills become more efficient. The expert handicraft skill can lift guild restrictions for a user into a wider field of craft skills, such as blacksmith work and alchemy. The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor class already gave a free pass to all the craft skills related to other professions, but Weed was aware that a higher handicraft skill would make it easier and faster to acquire and develop them all. Perhaps the crafters gradually intersect with one another to the point where they converge on the same path to supremacy of a Grand Master.

Actually, it is an understatement that the crafters would become extinct without the existence of the handicraft skill. They cannot catch up with combat specialists unless they beef up their pathetic combat abilities. Even though Weed was carving statues relentlessly, his skill level in sculpture mastery was stuck at level 4 at 98%. In contrary to the fast-growing handicraft skill, the growth of his sculpture mastery was slowing down.

In that moment, female customers suddenly parted in alarm, and through a corridor between them appeared a tall man with terrorizing looks who was walking toward Weed. The man seemed so full of a deadly aura that even Weed felt his spine freeze. The man looked around with slit eyes. The man walked toward Weed slowly, and then bowed down miserably like a bedraggled mouse. He told Weed that he was here to buy a statue, but he couldn’t find anything he wanted. He need the statue to propose to his lady.  Weed tried to get the man to his feet and hear him out. The man’s name was Volk. Volk had fallen in love with a woman. The primary motive for starting the online game was to protect her by her side. For the sake of this person, who was a priestess, he had selected the paladin knight class for his avatar.

During a year of numerous missions and battles, she had not died once owing to his devotion and sacrifice. He had also enjoyed his second life that was accompanied by blessing and healing from her. The bond between them had deepened as months went by, and he was so happy every time he saw her. Now was the time for him to propose a marriage to her. He wanted flowers that shall never wither.  His face was intimidating, but his heart wasn’t.  How many men would kneel down before a total stranger for the sake of such an unconditional love cherished in the heart?  Sighing deeply, Weed looked around. Many women looked touched. Even he, blinded by money, could sense Volk’s grief.

As a man, Weed’s sympathies were with Volk. Weed held the paladin’s hand and helped him rise to his feet. Weed said he would do it.  Volk shed tears at these words. He wanted seven sunflowers because they were together for seven years.

Weed studied the wood stock beside him and chose the best quality timber— Elvenwood. It was a very thick, hard wood that was known to grow only in a warmer climate in the south. It was still in one piece, the size of a small rock, which was yet to be chopped to smaller blocks conforming to statues.  Weed could carve a fox or rabbit with his eyes closed now, but flowers seemed like a challenge. Weed pictured the overall shape of the final work, and began to smooth the Elvenwood very slowly.  Volk and other girls had no idea what Weed was up to. They could not understand why he chose such a large piece of wood to carve only seven sunflowers. In any case, as the Elvenwood was being trimmed off, a shape was surfacing little by little.

The first flowers were relatively large sunflowers, soon followed by roses encircling them.  As Weed’s magic hands danced, a beautiful bouquet revealed itself from top to bottom. Customers in waiting soon turned into spectators in awe, watching the sculptural art unfolded by Weed. Each time the sculpting knife snapped, each time the wood was trimmed, the audience throbbed with anxiety because a small mistake could snap the fragile trunk of a flower.  Right in front of them, Weed concentrated on the flowers fervently. As the sculpting knife moved, the wood was being shaped, revealing the blossoms, trunks and leaves.

He would have been forgiven for any failure if he had been alone, but now he was onstage surrounded by a thick circle of spectators. If he made a mistake before his prospective customers, his skyrocketing reputation would immediately crash and burn. He knew better than anyone else that his popularity was growing, largely attributed to the fact that there was no other sculptor in the near vicinity, and he had to avoid it shrinking at any cost. A fan’s fantasy is equal to money! Weed sublimated his excessive obsession into artistic production, and finally succeeded in making the bouquet.

Once Weed finished the wooden bouquet, the two skills leveled together.  Because his sculpture mastery had been stuck at the expertise rating of 98% with the skill level of four, the first level up message wasn’t surprising, but though the expertise rating for the handicraft skill had remained six percent left lower than the next level, it was filled at once, promoted to the intermediate stage. As luck would have it, the Art stat, which had been bothering him constantly because its progress was nowhere to be seen, increased by five points.  Weed checked the skills window quickly, and realized at a glance that his skill level in sculpture mastery had not only hit, but had also accumulated an expertise rating of 17% above the line. Even the handicraft skill scored 5% after it converted to intermediate level one.

Weed was excited by his fortune, but soon understood why it had taken place. Sculptural art isn’t a conveyor belt. The expertise rating in sculpture mastery does not advance by mass production of similar statutes as if they were made by a cookie cutter. No, only when a sculptor is dedicated to create an original work of high artistic value that has never been tried before, will sculpture mastery gain an enormous expertise rating. It reminded Weed of the first fox and rabbit statues that had improved his expertise rating in sculpture mastery greatly in the initial phase. Tried and failed, his skill level had risen visibly fast. But when he no longer tried a new shape or style due to force of habit though, and repeatedly churned out monotonous products, his progress in sculpture mastery had slowed down almost to a stop.

While Weed was immersed in his own thoughts, Volk and other women were fascinated by the bouquet. A bouquet made of wood. The sunflowers and roses radiated softness and warmth, bearing life like real ones. Weed handed the bouquet over to Volk. The sunflowers and roses were beaming on the paladin. To his eyes, it was magic. More tears dropped from the eyes of Volk. The other spectators were also dazzled by Weed’s finished work. He could not have made the bouquet without Zahab’s sculpting knife, and especially at the critical moment, his sculpture mastery and handicraft skill had been combined to bring out more fantastic effects on the work.

He encouraged Volk in a fine manner. He was inspired that he had learned a new secret of sculpture mastery while making the bouquet. Volk was sincerely grateful to Weed, putting his hand in the pocket to take out the payment for the bouquet. Weed told he it was three gold. Considering the amount of effort that he had put into it, the statue deserved to be worth more than three gold, but he was content with it. Suddenly, Volk had a confused look, and began to turn over his pockets.

His hand that had been combing through in his pocket didn’t hold anything in it.  It was Weed, though, who was panicked at that very moment. Weed already knew what was coming— more specifically, what Volk would say in the next second or so.  He will claim he’s lost money somewhere else. Volk followed the steps that Weed had already seen through, a typical trick for the penniless to try, but he underestimated Weed, whom spread a terrible aura.  Then, Volk was forced to put his hand again in his pocket. He found two gold and ninety silvers left. Weed’s sharp eyes ran over Volk’s outfit. He observed the weapons, his gear and ornaments. Tens of thousands of identified items in Royal Road were registered in alphabetic order in a corner of his brain. He wanted to immediately identify a new item upon acquiring it, estimate the market price for it, and rejoice twice, even thrice, right on the spot.

But his eyes failed to catch anything valuable from Volk who was poorly attired. The paladin took out a book from his clothes and handed it to Weed. Weed quickly scanned the book. Weed felt deceived. Who would believe such nonsense as the City of Heaven?  Granted that a city was actually floating somewhere in the air, violating every law of physics, the city would be seen from the earth. Consequently, that book claiming the presence of the City of Heaven would be hearsay. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the last passage about climbing up a plant to the city was outrageous, if not lousy. The thing had about zero credibility. As if he sensed that Weed was skeptical of the content of the book he had given him. Weed sighed deeply. When Weed mentioned cost three gold, he had already considered it negotiable. His call was mainly intended to shock Volk into playing by his book. The prices of most statues, which were not fixed by any normal standard, were largely determined by the way a customer made a bargain with a sculptor.  Two gold and ninety silvers, plus a silly book, wasn’t a bad deal at all, the level up of his sculpture mastery and other skills included. But God only knew what Weed would have committed to in the case of two gold and eighty silvers.

Weed let him of the 10 silver. After shaking hands with Weed, Volk walked away slowly. Weed watched him leave. Suddenly, on Volk’s outfit, appeared shiny Mithril armor. His trousers were covered by a pair of Mithril gaiters. Even his boots turned into Mithril—that was a twist that left Weed reeling. He’s wearing a life cotton ring, a rare item that doubles maximum life! A priceless treasure! His earrings resist the element of lightning. The items Volk was equipped with were valuable beyond Weed’s wildest imagination. Some of them were even worth thousands of gold.

Finished with the bouquet after hours of hard work, Weed stretched out his arms and yawned. Suddenly, the spectators began to shove yellow gold at Weed and shouted request off him.

A wooden bouquet! It was a perfect gift at times such as when a boy asks a girl out, so as the rumor about Volk the paladin, his fair lady and the wooden bouquet spread, Weed’s outdoor sculpture shop was quickly becoming a landmark. Most users had seen statues as a keepsake lying on the fireplace or stuck in the dark corner, only to be dusted from time to time, but Volk’s event transformed the way they viewed statues. That day, Weed declared that he shall no longer be making the same shape of statues anymore! He came to this conclusion, born of his personal gains, to speed up levelling in his sculpture mastery and Handicraft skill. Yet the public was misled by his words. Calling him a real artist! The customers to Weed’s vendor used to buy one or two rabbit- or fox-shaped statues as a souvenir at a cheap price, but now they ordered original designs for the gifts.

The number of finished products fell below two digits because a single work cost him a couple of hours, but they were more popular than the little cookie cutters he used to do— three gold per each statue.  Given that the business didn’t require much of production costs, it was lucrative business. In addition, Weed’s skill level in sculpture mastery and Handicraft skill soared quickly in a short period of time. In only three days, his skill level in sculpture mastery hit eight, way up from five and his intermediate Handicraft skill rose to level four.  When Weed was short of new orders, he cooked and sold food.

Weed’s cooking skill granted a bonus to life and vitality to the meals that he cooked. It was pretty much a poor man’s steroid. Those who found it hard to deal with meat that they had picked up while they were hunting wild animals near the Citadel rushed to Weed. Food made with sculptural art— meals served by Weed were artistic works. More users than you would think learn how to cook because it is useful when they camp out in the field. But how many amateur cooks can apply the art stat when they are cooking?  Except for professional cooks, not so many users invest time and energy in the cooking skill, and appetizing meals are even rarer among the pros.

Selling quality food at a low price, Weed’s stall was a megahit. Users packed it in the hope of gaining a cheap bonus buff to their life and vitality.  Someone whispered to Weed, who had spent a week carving statues and cooking food for sale. It was Pale the archer, who had become acquainted with Weed during late nights hunting foxes and wolves. Palee asked Weed if he was free?  Weed looked around. His statues were still very popular, but it was strictly production-on-demand now, so the sales had slowly passed their peak. What people wanted for a gift was similar. In that sense, his declaration to make only original statues boomeranged on him. Pale asked weed to join them on a punitive force quest to Village Baran?  {Vol 1 Ch 9}

Side Story Edit

Seoyoon Edit

Seoyoon had also stayed at the instructor’s cabin. She could not reject his wife’s persistent suggestion to stay over. The next morning She ending up running across Weed several times. When she opened the door of the guest room, he happened to pass by it. But they didn’t make eye contact, pretending not to notice the presence of the other, and excused themselves without greeting.  When Weed left the house, Seoyoon followed him out because she was too embarrassed to be left behind by herself.

With emotionless eyes, she stared at an empty space where he had been standing minutes before. Where should she go? There was no such place. At the same time, she was free to go anywhere. As long as I can get away from this painful memory.  Seoyoon began to walk toward the South Gate. Not that she wanted to go there. She only wanted to go to the wasteland, a land yet to be fully explored, somewhere rampant with monsters. She had started her journey near the center of the continent, moving to the Western Frontier in search of stronger monsters to fight.

Even though Seoyoon spoke to no one, it was far from the truth that her mind ceased to function, and it more than willing to talk to itself. Below the frozen surface however, water was swirling faster as she asked questions of herself, and continued to answer them. However, on the surface, her face was as empty of life as was any sign of expression, it was as though her face was carved from ice. A repeated conversation here. Said this, heard that. Echoes deep within her mind.  Seoyoon felt less burdened when she fought amid a pack of monsters. Thus, she sought bloody battles in a dungeons full of monsters.  Ever yearning for more stronger and deadlier monsters, she feared no death. She’d never let the blood flow from battle dry out.  A berserker who showed herself worthy of a life soaked in madness and massacre— that was her, always finding peace on a battlefield. {Vol 1 Ch 6}

Volk Edit

A pub. A place that is usually filled with hearty laughter and clamorous noises had been silent for the last few days all because of a single man, Volk. He had a scarily massive body, but what was scarier was his face.  Considering that someone whose countenance could make even an Orc’s heart skip a few beats, had been drinking gloomily all day long, it was hardly surprising that the pub was drowned in silence.  Volk made a terrifying face while drinking. Volk wanted to propose to a lady. His heart-breaking anguish wasn’t visible to others. He needed a gift for her. He heard of a sculptor in the Citadel of Serabourg. He will ask him to make something for me. If he makes something that pleases his heart, he will give him the most precious thing he have in return. With that kind of promise in mind, Volk left the pub stumbling. {Vol 1 Ch 9}

Upon leaving the Citadel of Serabourg, Volk made a cheesy smile.  Full of humorous heart that betrayed his scary countenance, Volk had sincerely desired to reward Weed, who had created the bouquet with all his heart.  The book of the City of Heaven! Truthfully, Volk had spent two months to a get hold of it. According to the book, it is a mysterious place that even he had not put his foot on. One of the reasons he had come to Rosenheim was to visit the city. But the proposal to the lady who had stolen his heart outweighed anything else. Volk had given Weed the book in return of the bouquet, but it felt like nothing. Holding the bouquet dearly, Volk headed for Brent Kingdom, where the dear lady was.

Darius Edit

Darius could hear his heart pounding. He had never expected it to go this far when he had solved a series of trivial-looking quests. The best luck, he had called it. There were two men at the center of a power game in Rosenheim Kingdom— Duke Kanus and Count Albrook. Of the two, Duke Kanus, who is in charge of the military affairs, was more powerful. The man in question was now lowering a snowy white sword toward him now. Darius was temporary knighted and was order to form a punitive force to rescue a village at the frontier from monsters

Darius felt a slight touch of the blade on both shoulders in turn, then on one the head. It might have been a dreadful sensation in times of war, but he was in the middle of an ordination ceremony of knighthood in the Royal Palace of Rosenheim. Moreover, the holder of the sword was Duke Kanus. Rather than fearful, it was such a memorable moment for Darius that he almost let out a cry of excitement. Darius had to fight this spontaneous temptation to exclaim and roll over on the tapestry in spite of the solemn atmosphere. Suppressing a smirk, his face wrinkled into a grin. He was a commander of a punitive force Darius thought, and counted himself very, very lucky.

Real Life Edit

Ahn Hyundo Edit

Ahn Hyundo, successor of Bonkuk Kumdo, one of the oldest traditional schools for swordsmanship in Korea, pursed his lips in dissatisfaction. In the dojang, hundreds of teenagers and adults were practicing Kumdo, yelling battle cries, or kihap, in the language of Bonkuk Kumdo.  Ahn Hyundo could hear erupting kihaps and the whistling sounds generated by swords in action. Once you master swordsmanship, a sound gives you a clue as to which stage a Kumdo practitioner is in. Ahn Hyundo was ranked the best Kumdo master, and was recognized worldwide, four-time World Champion of Swordsmanship. As Ahn Hyundo matured in age, he retreated to his own dojang and dedicated his time and energy to training the next generation of Kumdo practitioners, but his hand and body had never left the sword, even for a second.

Ahn Hyundo used to be satisfied that he had quite a number of competent apprentices. They had enough talent to qualify for a medal in the World Championship of Swordsmanship that was held every five years. One day, however, the grand master’s perception had been turned upside down. A year ago.  A man of about twenty years of age visited Ahn Hyundo’s dojang. He was Lee Hyun.

Then one morning, he saw Lee Hyun swinging a sword in a shower of sunlight. Lee Hyun swung the sword for hours. His movement synchronized with his breathing patterns, and his sword emitted a beautiful sound. He had already reached a stage beyond what a beginner could achieve in a few months.  Ahn Hyundo summoned his subordinate instructors and asked them about Lee Hyun, who turned out to be devoted to ceaseless drills.

Looking at the apprentice, he’s got the bug. I haven’t seen anyone who’s more obsessed with training than him. Ahn Hyundo had already chosen Lee Hyun to be his successor without telling him so.Talent and hard work. The apprentice had both virtues, and what really captured the master’s mind were his eyes. When Ahn Hyundo instructed his would-be successor to a duel, his eyes glowed with something distinctive.

It was the will to fight, which an ordinary man whose instinct had been emasculated by civilization could not muster. This was found in Lee Hyun. It was still a time of trial for him. Ahn Hyundo also believed that it was still too early to tell his plans to Lee Hyun, which might jeopardize his progress. Therefore, the master had treated his apprentice rather indifferently, motivating him with plenty of objectives and watching his progress from a distance.  Then, one day, Lee Hyun stopped checking in at the dojang. Ahn Hyundo’s sigh deepened.

Lee Hyan Edit

Early in the morning, Lee Hyun was already deflated. The South Korean Parliament in their infinite wisdom, have passed an unwanted bill nicknamed 'Leave No One Behind', which was devised to weed out anti-social outcasts and misfits from Korean society. This whole stupidity was founded on the theory that insisted that those who were born and brought up with defective backgrounds created a higher risk of people committing violent crimes and filing for divorces. e.g. Those families with no parents and had massive debts to pay off to loan sharks. According to the law, all Korean citizens who were twenty years or older with noticeable defects in their background were required by law to visit a psychiatrist occasionally for a mental exam. In short, Lee Hyun was eligible for it as he had lost his parents in his childhood, and his adolescence had been haunted by the loan sharks.

So Lee Hyun went to the ‘Great Society Rehabilitation Centre.  Muttering complaints all the way, Lee Hyun walked into the rehab centre. The name suggested a romantically decorated interior. The reception room was filled with the twenty year-olds who had also come to take their medical tests under the Socially Inept Law, so he had to waste another hour waiting for his turn to register.

He was here to take a mental test under Leave No One Behind. A nurse in a white gown handed a piece of paper to Lee Hyun. They were going to create a complete analysis of his mental state based on his answers to this questionnaire. If he fall into the category of the socially inept, he will be ordered to enter the rehab center and receive periodic treatment. In that case, the government will send a monthly check to his family in compensation. What an inhumane law. The government had done virtually nothing to support the disadvantaged when they were suffering horrifying childhoods, abused by their parents or cast out from school.

Noooo..... now they had to accept a handicap if they wanted to apply to an undergraduate school when they were out of high school. Worse still, they were not even eligible for government jobs. The War on Terror presented a viable excuse to segregate the haves from the havenots. Lee Hyun took the form and filled it out quickly. Not once did the pen leave the surface of the paper. Lee Hyun had thought of those questions for many years, so the answers were flowing from his heart. At least, the government showed a small token of pity and gave him bus fares so he could get home. Lee Hyun took the coins and left the asylum. Meanwhile, the questionnaire submitted by him started a row among the psychiatrists in the center.{Vol 1 Ch 5}

Back home, Lee Hyun visited the item transaction site before he logged into Royal Road. Though Lee Hyun had traded only one item on there so far, his account status was triple diamond. This is because of the account in the Continent of Magick that he sold that was valued at over three billion won. It alone elevated him to VIP prestige status. A list of items in demand was thousands of pages long, and keyword search yielded millions of search results, but only a few of them actually reached a deal.

As plenty of users were eager to get hold of cool items, the demand was insanely high. Basically, the suppliers couldn’t keep up with the demand. The system favoured sellers, and when one of them posted his or her item, the auction was wrapped up in minutes. Items in the top 10% of the auction boasted outrageous prices.  They were followed by lesser items beneath, which still amounted to at least a hundred thousand won. This bull market signalled that items were in short supply. If Weed had not been fortunate enough to obtain the iron sword in the beginning, he would have repeated commonplace quests here and there to collect a few coppers each time, and rushed to a blacksmith’s workshop to buy a crude sword before he headed to the field.

Otherwise, he would have to punch monsters, relying on the stats that he had accumulated by striking the scarecrow. In that case, his attack power would have been halved without the effects of sword mastery. Compared to weapons and gear that were highly configured, craft items for blacksmith and tailoring were inexpensive. Items relevant to the sculptor class were not even available. Royal Road had opened only fifteen months before, and the users were still immersed in levelling up and adventuring. So far, Lee Hyun hadn’t seen any other craftsmen. Seventy percent of the continent was still uncharted, that is why many dungeons are still unexplored, and many quests unsolved. With an infinite opportunity presented before their eyes, only a few users dreamed of becoming craftsmen. Rosenheim Kingdom was a relatively new portion of the world that had only been discovered roughly six months before (according to real world time). According, the expedition party who first spotted the kingdom had earned tremendous monetary gains.

Rosenheim was far away from the center of the continent, but uncharted territories and unearthed dungeons were scattered everywhere, and strong monsters abounded. This was the primary reason why Lee Hyun chosen Rosenheim to start off his grand adventure. While the competitors were leveling up and having adventure, Lee Hyun had worked out and collected information instead for one whole year to prepare. He didn’t want to sell his account anymore.

The procedure of an online game’s account transaction was trickier in a virtual reality game where an iris scan was taken to verify the player’s identity. Plus, Lee Hyun had to stay in the business rather than making a quick buck. Royal Road had to support his family financially at least in the next five years. The phone suddenly started ringing. Lee Hyun looked around and realized that Grandma and Hayan were out of the house, so he picked up the phone reluctantly.

The person on the phone was called Sanghoon. Lee Hyun had not heard this voice for a long time. Since I dropped out of high school, he thought bitterly. He called to tell him that there was a reunion tonight. Lee Hyan told he that he did not care and why would he go he was a dropout.  Lee Hyun dropped the phone and sighed deeply. It was a phone call that he didn’t want in the least. If only he had been given an MIB-type memory eraser, then, without question, he would have erased the whole three years of high school— the worst memory and one of the lowest points of his life. Back then, Lee Hyun had been beaten and threatened by the loan sharks. He had to sneak in to school. He had gone to school at dawn and left at midnight as if he were playing hide and seek.

For a couple of days, Lee Hyun had dodged the loan sharks, but they were smarter than he thought. They had hired street racketeers to pressure the teachers at the school. Lee Hyun had even been told by his homeroom teacher to pay back his debt, right in front of his classmates. The teacher had knelt before the lost student, pleading amid tears that he didn’t want to get involved in that madness. Lee Hyun was a little curious what his old school friends were like in college. But showing his face in the reunion would only revive those shameful moments. The inescapable truth was, the only thing left for him to do is to play the virtual reality game. Lee Hyun finished lunch and slipped into the game again. {Vol 1 Ch 5}

Dr. ChaEunhee Edit

Cha Eunhee, Ph.D. in psychiatry was laughing her head off as if her neck was broken. The doctor whose attitude earned her the nickname of Ice Queen, was laughing mindlessly in public was a rare sight to nurses. Dr. Cha had immigrated to the United States with her parents, both diplomats, when she was young. She had graduated cum laude from Harvard University at the age of twenty, and earned her doctorate before she turned twenty-three. Combining beauty and culture, yet puffed up with pride, she had never shown this level of humanity before, which became a topic on everyone’s lips. In the end, the chief nurse decided to put her head above the parapet. The chief nurse asked what was wrong?

Laughing so hard she was crying, Dr. Cha gave the chief nurse what she was holding in her hand. It was a single page of a form that someone had filed out under Leave No One Behind. The Seven short questions and equally short answers. It was Lee Hyans Questionnaire. The nurse looked taken aback when she finished reading the document.

The chief called him a typical nutcase. But Dr.ChaEunhee had another opinion if he was a nutcase, he wouldn’t be observing society as sarcastically and precisely as he did in this questionnaire. Against common sense, Dr. Cha concluded he was mentally normal. From a psychiatrist’s perspective, she could almost hear a scream of desperation rising from those answers. To be able to ridicule society in such a way, this young man named Lee Hyun must have lived a colourless life in a world of cruelty.

The chief nurse could not help but sigh.  She had no reason to contradict the doctor’s conclusion. Nevertheless, she thought that either Dr. Cha, who had earned a Ph.D. in psychiatry in the United States and been idolized in globally recognized medical periodicals, was above normal, or this Lee Hyun guy was below normal. Dr. Cha picked up the form and got up. She was heading to Seoyoons room to show her this.

Those who shut their mind are more likely to yearn for attention from outside. She just hope that she will laugh this time.  Dr. Cha took the questionnaire that Lee Hyun had filled in and headed to the ward. Her destination was a special ward located on the 12th floor. With the brand-new medical instruments and best doctors, furnished with a private swimming pool and an indoor gym, the room cost nearly twenty million won a day.  Beaming at her patient, Cha Eunhee entered the ward. A pale-faced girl lifted her head from a book that she was reading. Who, even among supermodels whose looks are their only highlights, would be overshadowed by her beauty—but her face was empty of emotion. Like a French doll, she seemed just as lifeless.

For the girl was so beautiful, she was overly-loved by her protective father. The taboo blurring the line between father and daughter had never been broken, but her mother was paranoid, suspicious of her husband and deeply jealous of her own daughter beauty, resulting in relentless abuse in the early years, and then came the tragedy on that fateful day. Since then, the girl had lost the power of speech. Back when she was young, Seoyoon had been an angel trapped in an earthly body. Dr. Cha, who used to be a close friend of hers, always felt sorry that she was deprived of her fair share of love and innocence.

Dr. Cha gave the girl the form submitted by Lee Hyun. Seoyoon’s lifeless and empty eyes glided over the paper, and Dr. Cha had hoped that she would burst into a fit of laughter. Dr. Cha hoped, against all odds, that Seoyoon would open up if only just a little bit. If she laugh it will be the first time in five years. But the still face shattered the doctor’s hopes. The girl looked over the questionnaire and just returned it to her. The doctor once more felt heartbroken as she remembered how bright Seoyoon had once been. Dr. Cha slipped out of the room in silence.

Dr. Cha smiled bitterly. It didn’t work again. She can’t find a way to open her heart or mind.  Dr. Cha must rehabilitate her to maintain the president’s faith in her.  No, on behalf of Seoyoon. Countless of psychologists, psychiatrists and even shamans had been hired to tackle Seoyoon’s condition, to no avail. None of them could melt her frozen heart. Now, nearly everyone had given up any hope for helping the girl. The nurse was also tearful. She was sad that such a cute girl neither talked nor laughed, stuck alone in her own closed shell.

A psychiatric remedy won’t work as long as the patient refuses to open her mind and accept reality. But it’s already been five years. Her consciousness might have gotten stuck by now—or worse yet be, long gone. It was her job to not let that happen. No matter what, She will bring her back.  Dr. Cha’s resolution was fierce. She had majored in psychiatry and voluntarily come to this hospital in order to save Seoyoon. She started a new treatment a year ago. It’s Royal Road. She’s spending her days and nights in the game, except for medication and counselling. Let her start over in the fictional world. Take her out of the shell, and she will move on step by step where she can interact with others. She hope she will regain her lost faith in people, and feel emotions that she had never felt before, at least in virtual reality.{Vol 1 Ch 5}

Quests: Edit

A Mystery Sculptor Rumored to Have Visited the Royal Palace: Accepted and Completed

The Sculptor’s Past: Accepted and Completed

Zahab’s Last Wish: Accepted

Clean-up Operation in the Lair of Litvart [I]: Refused

Clean-up Operation in the Lair of Litvart [II]: Accepted and Completed

Item Obtained: Edit

Zahab's Sculpting Knife

Zahab’s Legacy.

Hard Iron Sword

Queen Evane’s Handkerchief

Bow of Theo Grande

The Successor to the Legendary Emperor 1

The Successor to the Legendary Emperor 2

A Medicine Tablet of the Emperor

The Book of Secret Sword Techniques from the Imperial Family of Arpens

Geihar Wooden Statue

The Forgotten City on the Versailles Continent 4

States And Skills Obtained: Edit

Fighting Spirit

Endurance

Art

Cooking

Archery

Bandage

Imperial Formless Sword Technique

Sculptor: Edit

N/A

Titles Obtained Edit

N/A

Chapter Involved: Edit

Volume 1

Chapter 1 Birth of a Dark Gamer

Chapter 2 Wild Beast Appears

Chapter 3 The Instructor’s Request

Chapter 4 Dreadful Weed

Chapter 5 The Girl Who Lost Words

Chapter 6 Over a Barbecue

Chapter 7 Maestro of Battles

Chapter 8 The Fated Profession

Chapter 9  The City of Heaven

Achievement Edit

Weed Edit

  • Finished Basic Training Program
  • Qualified to choose 'Moonlight Sculpture' profession (Refused)
  • Offered job as Denarion and Centurion
  • Qualified to choose 'Legendary Moonlight Sculpture' profession (Accepted)
  • Cleared Dungeon Lair of Litvart and become Emperor Geihar's successor.
  • Obtained Sculpting Blade Technique

Different between the Novel and the Manhwa Edit

Trivia Edit

  • The Successor to the Legendary Emperor [I] and [II} are scrolls left by Emperor Geihar.
  • First time Weed meets Seayoon
  • First time Weed meets Pale etc
  • Weed gets his Classes

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