29. Journey West 01
Tlot, tlot, tlot, tlot…the sounds of a wild herd of horses rang out in the wide open desert. If one listened closely, they would discover a different sound hiding among the racket – plap, plap, plap.
That’s right. That was the sound Bai XiaoYu’s silly Peco Peco made with its big claws.
Why not ride together with someone else on their horse? It’s possible for the occasional romantic streak, but if two adults were to really go galloping through the countryside together on the horse the game provided in stores, that horse would re-enter the reincarnation cycle within the hour. Unless it was HereticKing’s wild steed which was much bulkier than the in-store horse. However, it was already rare enough that such a wild horse would recognise an owner. If anyone else tried riding it, they’d risk being kicked to death.
Therefore, no matter how hard the Peco Peco pumped its two thick legs, it’s still slightly slower than a horse. Especially the white Thousand-Li Horse owned by HereticKing. But in reality, HereticKing didn’t ride at the head of the herd. He slowed his horse down and rode beside XiaoYu.
No one opposed to or gossiped about this action at all. Bai XiaoYu was a key part of this quest. Without the egg in his bag (After the quest was accepted, it became a quest item which was account-bound.), this bunch of high-level players would be doing all of this for nothing no matter how far west they went. Thus, it was most suitable for the Level 101 player, who was the highest-level player among them, to protect XiaoYu. Along with the best protective buffs from the healers, it made XiaoYu feel like he’d turn into a certain striped rare animal that also had the character for “cat” in its name.
The seven players paid attention to keep XiaoYu in the centre of their pack the whole time. Thus, they adapted to the Peco Peco’s speed and didn’t employ the full extent of their riding abilities.
If one were to say who was the most eye-catching of the group and if the tiny cat called itself number two, no one would dare to say they were the first. It must be said I_Am_A_Poor_Man really great taste in pranks. After the pot with a dent on its bottom was clipped onto the Peco Peco’s head, the small cat fit in it nicely. The kitten seemed to really like this VIP seat. Not only did it sit up straight the entire way, it would even look around it from time to time, just like a strict inspector.
The party was rushing through the Peco Peco region right now, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any other monsters in this stretch of the desert. For example, the green snake XiaoYu met earlier when on foot. They tried their best to avoid getting close to any mobs during the whole trip because most of their mounts didn’t have any attack or defence capabilities. The moment they were attacked, the mounts would return to the owner’s Mount Inventory. A serious injury could even result in a mount’s death on the spot and being recycled by the game.
All their eyes could see were yellow sand. Occasionally, they’d spot some greenery. Cacti. Nevertheless, they’d been listening to I_Am_A_Poor_Man’s explanations on how dangerous and strange their journey west would be. The monsters’ A.I. were vastly improved. Thus, these cacti might’ve even turned into cacti spirits. They could only be standing still and pretending to be actual greenery just so they can bluff passing players.
Reality proved that their guess was correct. Upon avoiding the third cactus, that huge cactus finally couldn’t resist quivering and shooting hundreds of tiny thin spikes at them.
As the needles needed to travel quite some distance before reaching any of them, most of them fell to the ground. A small number of them were shot straight into the party. Unfortunately, all of them were blocked off by HereticKing’s shield, who had reacted just in time. While those needles wouldn’t take off too much health, no one wished to turn into a porcupine.
It can only be said that this was an exceptionally idiotic cactus who tried challenging players of much higher level than itself. Not only was no one turned into a porcupine, its stomach was shot through by an arrow. With a loud cry, it spilled its juices all over the floor and died.
“Mrrow!” The moment the tiny cat saw the shiny coins spilling out, it swooped down from its VIP seat and pounced at it with a swift and ear-piercing “Swish”. Just like someone who’d been starving for over three days and had just spotted a bowl of delicious and savoury braised pork. It wasn’t even afraid of being stomped to death by an accidental hoof.
“Tsk. Tsk. Now I really know how addicted the kit is to money,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man sighed. With a wave of his hand, he threw a speed up buff at the little cat to make it pounce faster.
Almost everyone in the party had seen just how greedy the cat was before this. Hence, they decided to just stop and wait in silence.
“This…what kind of pet is it?” Below_The_Moon’s hand shook. It was lucky there weren’t any other monsters nearby. Otherwise, the next arrow might have stabbed straight into the little cat’s butt.
“This is the almighty lucky cat. Come and pray before it,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man replied.
“Who’re you trying to fool? A lucky cat is a chubby, fluffy calico cat. Something that has white, gold and black fur.” The two of them were always arguing with each other. So Below_The_Moon didn’t trust a single word out of I_Am_A_Poor_Man’s mouth.
“Tch. You’re so outdated. Nowadays, the trend is to keep things subtle and hidden. Who said a black cat can’t be a lucky cat? Come, Lucky, show him your Pet tab.”
“Okay,” XiaoYu said.
“Eh? It really is a lucky cat. We’re almost guaranteed to get 50% more gold this time,” Below_The_Moon said. Based on previous S-rank quest rewards, this quest’s reward would be phenomenal.
“Not only that. Lucky here is a lucky charm. Each strike would guarantee a quest item. If we encounter a Boss, it might even drop a rare item. Just like the crown from before.” With how friendly and easy-going CopperPlate was, he would never stop once he found something to talk about.
囧. XiaoYu had a feeling that CopperPlate was promoting or advertising him, and it even felt somewhat like false promotion too. It was just by coincidence that quest items dropped in the two times he was with CopperPlate. As for the crown from that time, it was only an unexpected miracle.
“Eh? Really? But it’s best we don’t encounter any Bosses this time. The desert is not a map that’s great for positioning and trapping monsters in,” Below_The_Moon replied.
“Hurry up. It’s going to be 4 pm soon,” interrupted Ice_For_Miles. The tiny cat had settled back into its perch. The moment the hurricanes started, the first to be doomed would be a fragile wizard like him.
“Ye-mmmh…Pfft.” CopperPlate initially responded out of sheer habit. By the time he realised who the voice belonged to, he couldn’t help but to laugh out loud.
“Go on. Laugh. Everyone who first hear him speak do the same,” Below_The_Moon kindly said, informing CopperPlate not to force it in.
One can’t blame CopperPlate for laughing. Ice_For_Miles had an ordinary man’s face, but his voice was as sharp and delicate as the voice of a boy whose voice hadn’t started breaking yet.
“…” Ice_For_Miles turned his head away. “I’m already used to this,” his face said.
After a brief interlude, the party was back on their journey west. They did need to leave the Peco Peco region and enter the Ant zone before 4. That’s because underneath the Ant region was a gigantic network of ant caves. If they can find an entrance and enter this underground network, they can safely hide from the rampaging sands. In the upcoming two hours of hurricane season, they could continue their journey using the underground tunnels.
The Ant Cave was one of the best grinding spots for classes with AoE skills. The monsters there were more tightly packed together and most of them were passive. The only issue would be the ants were monsters with a strong sense of unity. The moment any one of them go attacked by a player, the passive ants around them would all attack that player. If a player couldn’t clear monsters faster than the ants could start gathering, then they’d be better off not committing suicide by training here.
“Huff. Huff…” The Peco Peco was sprawled out on the ground, panting with its tongue out. They’d finally found the gigantic hole that was the entrance to the Ant Cave. It was exhausted.
“Meow…” The tiny cat patted the Peco Peco’s big beak in consolation.
“Thanks for your hard work.” XiaoYu knelt down and fed the Peco Peco a few bottles of water, then he retrieved it back into his Mount Inventory. It will be really crowded in the upcoming cave. If its big feet accidentally stepped on an ant, he’d be done for. Everyone else stored their mounts too.
If one had to name another disadvantage to the Ant Cave, it’d be that the few entrances nearest to the city were rather deep. Players would need to gather their courage and jump in before entering the Cave. However, it was quite impossible for anyone to die from the drop. At most, they’d lose a few dozen HP. The worst that can happen was they might hit an ant when they land. Then, they’d be attacked unprepared. On the contrary, the exit was a smooth and gradual slope upwards. Players just need to follow the trail and they’d reach the surface. It was a pity these exits were always deep in the desert. The game was that evil. ╮(╯▽╰)╭
The tanky knight CopperPlate was the first to jump down. Even if he bumped into a few ants, he wouldn’t immediately be bitten to death. Next, they jumped down one by one from the player with the most health to the player with the least. The last to jump was XiaoYu. He stared down at the deep dark abyss. He hugged the tiny cat tight to his body and jumped down, his heart feeling like it was about to stop at any second. It’s just some health. His 600-plus HP should be enough for this drop.
But before XiaoYu received the game’s notification of health lost, he felt the rush of gravity pulling him down suddenly slow down and stop. There was no sensation of his butt being cracked wide open by the ground. It was as if he was being protected by something.
When XiaoYu opened his eyes and registered what was going on around him, his face regrettably went tomato red. The great Guild Leader was calmly holding him in a princess carry away from the ground. Injury? Fall damage? He’d have to bash away at this knight’s insane 10,000-plus HP first.
“Ah~ Chief, you’re so biased. Why didn’t you carry anyone else? We all lost 30 HP from that fall,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man said.
“You want to be carried?” HereticKing raised an eyebrow. “Go kill yourself back to Level 33 first.”
“Forget it. I’d rather die than to grind back up again,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man replied.
“Poorie, even if Chief was willing to carry you now, would you dare? Moron.” Below_The_Moon ruthlessly jumped at the chance to complain about the other.
“True. I don’t want to head into Finance to close up my account tomorrow,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man said with a wave of his hand. “Ah, Lil Lucky, you’re so lucky.”
After a round of teasing by I_Am_A_Poor_Man, XiaoYu’s face went redder. He desperately wished he could just bury himself in his cape and pretend to be nothing but air.
Cactus monster = Muka, rather cute and moderate-sized monsters whose cries some may find annoying (as with most monsters from Ragnarok, if you were sensitive to harsh/electronic noises).
Boss = MVP. Something I forgot to tie-in before. So, most bosses mentioned in this story would be a direct copy (or a slight variation) of their in-game counterparts.
AoE = Area of Effect