Norra nodded, “My investigation has revealed what while it a good method of making money it is time consuming. Do you have any other skill ideas?”
“Those are all of my suggestions. The basic skills seem to be rather limited. Was there anything you saw that might be a good fit?”
“Well… steak!” Responded Norra taking the plate from the waitress who had just delivered their meals to the table.
Gardenia shook her head while accepting her own bowl. She dipped the spoon into the bowl and took a sip of the rabbit stew. It was surprisingly good, creamy and savory at the same time. “This is actually pretty good.”
“Dntg Gi Rells Goy.” Norra attempted to say but her month was full of food so she was unable to get the words out correctly. Finally she swallowed, “Didn’t I tell you? There has been some hullaballoo on the forums about the food.” She looked around the empty tavern, “Although it looks like it hasn’t spread to this town yet. But mark my words, in a few days this place is going to be full all of the time.”
Gardenia nodded, “You are probably right, although right now eating like this is probably too much money to be worth doing. This meal is costing almost as much as this robe after all, beginners that do that too much will have trouble progressing.”
Norra turned away trying to hide her second mouthful of steak. Her meal was certainly more expensive than Gardenia’s so if somebody was wasting their money here it was her.
“Never the less,” Said Norra once she had swallowed again, “You still have enough money for another skills even beyond the first two. Might I suggest Monster Identification?”
They split up after the mean to go find the trainers for the appropriate skills. Life Magic was easy since there was a medical ward setup in the town for the players that got a little too risky fighting monsters. Norra and Gardenia has visited it yesterday and the trainer for Life Magic was the NPC that ran the ward.
The shield skill was equally easy to find. There was a field setup was a training yard. Probably a better way of practicing then throwing fire shots at a rock in the forest. Another guard in the town supervised the field and could also provide training for martial skills like shields. He was also able to recommend Gardenia a shop in the town who could sell her a small buckler.
The monster identifier was harder to find. When Gardenia finally met back up with Norra she still lacked the Monster Identification skill.
“A quest?” Said Norra.
Gardenia nodded, “It turns out the old man in the tavern with us was the Monster Identification trainer, however he refused to teach me. He would only teach me if I see the enigmatic master of the forest.”
“Hmm.. that is strange. I haven’t heard that any of the other skill trainers requiring quests before they teach you. If all the monster identification trainers required this quest then the forums would certainly already know about it. Maybe this quest is unique to this starting town?”
“It must be. Each of the starting towns is very different from what I hear. Well, if there isn’t any information on the forums about it we just need to do it ourselves and find out.”
With a quest in mind the two of them headed out into the forest to find the master of the forest. They were able to easily move past the area with the fanged rabbits, and into the territory of the wolves. Alone they would have been in trouble. Together however they were able to fight off the wolves who typically fought in teams of three or four.
They had to take occasional breaks for Gardenia to recover her mana but with the inclusion of life magic they were able to continue onward deeper into the forest. The players had spread out more since the first day they saw less people around because of it.
Still they occasionally came across small groups of players fighting wolves in the woods.
“So where do you think this master of the forest will be?” Asked Gardenia.
“Probably the deepest, darkest part of the forest if I had to guess. It is probably some kind of boss so that is the most likely place for it to be.”
The trees were getting larger and knotted the deeper they went into the forest. Norra who normally showed confidence was hiding behind Gardenia despite the fact that Norra was their front guard.
“Do you think there are ghosts in these forests? Not that I am scared of ghosts, after all this is just a video game so I wouldn’t be afraid or anything.”
Gardenia nodded, “Yeah, there might be ghosts. But you can usually just attack ghosts in video games so we should be fine.”
“Yeah…. fine. We are definitely fine.”
There were no other players to be seen at this point. Even the wolves had disappeared. The only enemies in this area were the occasional large monster tree. However they were weak against fire magic and the two of them only had to fight them one at a time so they were able to keep progressing deeper into the forest.
Then they heard the snapping sounds. Gardenia kept walking forward as if it didn’t bother her but Norra kept herself hidden behind Gardenia. As the got closer to the sounds they saw it. A giant boar with gleaming red eyes. It was biting into the dead body of an elk.
Norra made a frightened whimpering sound. Despite the distance the board heard the sound and turn toward the two of them. It ground the earth with one hoove and then charged the two of them.
Gardenia only had enough time to raise her small shield to intercept the attack but that wasn’t enough to stop the charge and she was sent flying. She could feel it but the pain was soft and mute even what she hit the tree that stopped her flight. Norra had barely managed to get out of the way of the charge and was not trying to stab the boar as fast as she could with her two daggers. The creature barely seemed to notice that attacks.
It simply turned its head and thrust one of its long tusks into Norra. It then lifted, removing her from the ground and with one motion tossed her.
Gardenia was stumbling to her feet and pointing the rod at the boar. Something about the previous attack was causing her vision to blur. Still she managed to call out “Fire Shot” and the ball of fire sped toward the boar. Her accuracy was bad but since the boar was so big she managed to hit is anyways.
It turned toward her and charged again. Gardenia know she couldn’t block this attack with her shield so instead she dove to one side. This wasn’t able to get her completely out of the way but rather than getting hit by the boar’s head instead she got shoulder checked and tossed aside, rolling across the ground.
The boar was about to ignore Gardenia and turn to Norra again. But Gardenia still had some life in her. Her expression had changed, she was staggering to her feet and called out to the boar with a smile on her face, “We aren’t done yet you dumb pig.”
Her rod wavered as she pointed it at the boar and called out once more, “Fire Shot.”
This time the close proximity made her accuracy better and she hit the boar directly in the head. It roared in pain and swung its head and tusks directly into Gardenia.
It was too much for Gardenia and she fell down to the forest floor. Try as she might she couldn’t managed the strength to strange up again. Her vision continued to fade until it was completely dark.
Then the light began to shine brilliantly once more. She was laying on the ground in the center of the plaza where she had appeared on the first day. A large stone monolith rose above her. Any vague pain that she had been feeling was gone and had been replaced with a dull exhausting feeling.
After the dark forests the bright sun seemed a little bit too extreme for her. She staggered to her feet, wobbling a little bit. Her log explained to her exactly what happened, she had run out of hit points and died. She hadn’t suffered any death penalty since she didn’t know any intermediate skills.
Her hands were shaking, not from exhaustion or fear but something else. She watched her hands and a strange half grin began to appear on her face. She shook her head and calmed herself. Stepping backward to make room around the monolith, If she had died then Norra would probably quickly follow after.
Not even a minute had passed before the beam of light appeared and Norra was there laying on the ground. “Nooooo!!” She screamed. “Beaten, the invincible me! Impossible!” It was a frustrated cry but also so very Norra.
“Do you want a hand up?” Asked Gardenia and Norra took the assistance up.
“It looks like that thing is beyond us. A monster like that looks like a zone boss if I had to guess. It probably isn’t beatable without mastering your basic skills, and with a.bigger party too.” She shook her hand at the sky, “But just you wait Boar King! We will take you done.”
“Isn’t that the master of the forest?” Asked Gardenia.
“Hmmm… maybe should we check out with your quest giver?”
The two of them returned to the tavern and approached the man in the back. He was still there, drinking. He was old and scraggily but his clothing looked like he was once a man of means that had fallen on hard times.
“Mister Avalo, I went into the forest seeking the master of the forest and found a giant boar, one larger than a horse. Is this the master of the forest that you were speaking of?”
The old man looked up. His face looked hallow and fearful, “Yes… he is the master. There was only a kind guardian of the forest that lived out there. But that monster, that horrible boar, slew the guardian. Now none dare challenge the creature. It is the reason who the woods continue to dark and untamed.” The man looked down with a depressed look on his face, “I know it is a lot to ask but you would please slay that vile beast? If you did that then the forest could be free again.”
It was Gardenia’s quest so she nodded and said, “Yes, I will kill the beast for you.”
The man looked up and with a cracked broken smile seemed to show a glimmer of hope, “Thank you. Please, even if it is not much let me teach you what you asked from me. Since you took the time to listen to my plea it is the least I can do.”
“Very well.” Said Gardenia and there was a flash around her. She had learned Monster Identification. “It might be a while for me to become strong enough to defeat that monster but I promise you we will defeat it.
The man nodded again. Then Gardenia turned and they left the tavern.
“So, kill the giant boar king is our quest huh” said Norra. “The main challenge is that powerful charge. Against a monster like that we need to recruit an actual tank. Do you want to aim for a full team of six?”
Gardenia pondered for a moment looking up at the sky, “If needed, but you are right, we will need a tank. The only problem is recruiting, aren’t tanks rather scarce.”