LC: Chapter 33

33. Camping Interlude

The party immediately turned northwest. As they rode on, I_Am_A_Poor_Man pulled out the map and started scanning the area in that direction.

“Northwest…A few more hours and it won’t be soft sand dunes, but a barren desert filled with loess and rocks. Could the cave it’s referring to one of those muddy holes? There’re dozens, if not a hundred, of those. Tsk,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man remarked.

“Anyway, let’s deal with it when the time come–Watch out!” Below_The_Moon’s sharp eyes found something strange in the sands before the party. It looked like something was moving underneath it.

Everyone hurriedly reined in their horses. It was fortunate they’d all stopped for, about a metre before them, a row of tiny needles pricked up through the sand. If one didn’t look carefully at the desert floor, no one would’ve noticed them.

Swish! Below_The_Moon shot an arrow at the needles.

Chirp! Below the sands where the arrow landed, something began struggling.

“They’re tiny desert scorpions. Retrieve your mount. Protect Lucky.” Their mounts might die from scorpion venom if they were hit. None of them had a second horse.

“Tsk. The desert zones are so annoying,” CopperPlate said as he furiously stabbed and parried downwards, revealing several scorpions hiding under the sands.

“Looks like their A.I. got upgraded. They know to hide in sand dunes and ambush as a group now.”

Despite that comment, these were just tiny desert scorpions around Level 60 or so. The party need not do much to defeat them all. With the help of Below_the_Moon’s cunning eyes, all obstacles were quickly swept away.

However, no one let their mounts out instantly. Who knew just how many more scorpions would be buried deep beneath the sands? As a precaution, they’d best continue on foot.

“Seems like the map needs to be updated. There shouldn’t be such a dense population of scorpions here,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man shook the map in his hands as he said so. He, too, felt that such an abnormal danger was rather ridiculous.

“Think of it as an adventure. The desert gets cold rather quickly at night.” The Thirst bar increases at a greatly reduced rate too.

Thus, the party began discussing the problem of where to sleep for the night.

“Healers mark down a portal from here. Return to the city for the night and continue walking tomorrow morning?” This was a common tactic used during far-off grinding sessions. However, after the daily reset, every change to the portal after the initial marking would cost 1 crystal each. At most, the saved Teleport location can be changed twice in a day.

“I’ve got some bad news. The game says we’re currently on a special mission. I can’t use Teleport,” Chrysanthemum shrugged.

“…Aargh. Do we really have to camp outdoors?”

“We can log off.”

“Mn. That’s a good idea. Don’t oversleep tomorrow.”

“Camp,” HereticKing who’d not been participating in the discussion suddenly piped up.

“Oh. Roger,” came the Heretic Demons’ instant reply.

“Huh? That’s it?” CopperPlate was confused by the unanimous response.

“CopperPlate, it’s fine if you want to log off then. Our guild is used to camping together.” Before this, when they waited for some major boss or mission to start, they’d frequently camp down together. They’d even settled on a series of night guard schedules among themselves.

“It’s fine. NonMeta and I are used to camping outdoors too.” The two of them rarely ever trained with a healer.

“That’s settled then. I brought quite a few tents with me anyway,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man said with a pat at his bangle. He had a lot of random items stuffed in there.

“Will it be dangerous?” XiaoYu had never gone camping before. However, he was also afraid his question might sound childish, so he privately messaged the question to HereticKing.

“Yes. Monsters ambush. Other players too,” HereticKing replied.

“Then why camp?” XiaoYu had anticipated the above dangers would exist too. Hence, the more bewildered he was at HereticKing’s decision.

“You don’t like going offline. Is it not?” From the bits and pieces of information XiaoYu mentioned before, HereticKing hypothesised XiaoYu didn’t go to school or work. He spends the whole day inside the game. Plus, he’d noticed XiaoYu faintly frowning at the mention of logging off. Thus, even if he didn’t know why XiaoYu was escaping from reality, he didn’t want to put the other in a tough spot. Anyway, he’d been so bossy and tyrannical all along. Everyone around him was used to it.

“…I’m sorry.” XiaoYu lowered his head. He did indeed not want to go offline. Not only did he not want to leave the tiny cat, he also didn’t want to face an empty house all alone. The two days of maintenance felt like years to him. So, he’s that greedy of a person. Once he’d tasted what it’s like to have someone (a tiny cat) being by his side, he never wanted to be alone ever again.

“Don’t apologise. There’s some perks to camping.” If the others knew what they were talking about, they would all be jumping up and down. They’d shout, this was a textbook case of lying without even blinking.

“Chief, you’re bullying LuckyCat again!” I_Am_A_Poor_Man saw LuckyCat’s head droop down and HereticKing ruffling the other’s hair. His intuition told him this was all the result of some conversation going on behind his back.

“I’m not.”
Death glare.

“Ugh…” It’s no fun being a hero these days. I_Am_A_Poor_Man shirked back. Fine. LuckyCat didn’t want his protection? So be it. If the other was really stolen away by HereticKing later, he’d set off fireworks in celebration.

As anticipated, there were plenty of scorpions waiting to ambush them all along the way. But to the prepared party, it was a piece of cake. They transformed into gold and items with no effort. Their corpses were even whipped and diced by a certain fuming chef, in the name of collecting ingredients for their dinner later.

At 10 pm, they were fortunate enough to pass by a miniature oasis. Thus, the group decided to camp there. As for why it’s miniature, it only had a tiny pond about 2 metres in diameter and a small unhealthy tree.

Around four players could sleep in a single tent. Taking into consideration night shift pairings, and some negotiation, the tents were distributed like so: Chrysanthemum would have a tent all to herself as she’s the only female; Ice_For_Miles, Below_The_Moon and Poor_Man would share one; NonMeta would share another with CopperPlate; LuckyCat will squeeze in with HereticKing. Party members will take turns staying up according to their tents. When it’s time for Chrysanthemum’s shift, Ice_For_Miles will be woken up to keep guard with her.

The party had intended to not assign a shift to Chrysanthemum because she’s a girl. After some grumbling by I_Am_A_Poor_Man about how she’s scarier than a man, which resulted in Chrysanthemum pinching his cheeks sore, the party decided to just treat her the same as any other male.

XiaoYu wasn’t supposed to be assigned a shift either, but he insisted on how he can’t just be protected all the time and do nothing. So, the party threw him at HereticKing. With the Chief taking care of him, they didn’t have to worry at all.

Once the tents were all set up, the mighty chef Poor_Man dug out a whole set of cooking equipment and showed off his excellent Profession. With a few bangs and clashes, a special dish from the desert was procured – a scorpion banquet. Initially, everyone took a bite in the name of trying something new. Then, the great war over food began. They even called out for a few more scorpions to ambush them now. There wasn’t enough to even munch on.

Perhaps those cruel words scared all the scorpions off. It was quiet and peaceful the whole way through the night.

“Yaawn~” The big and tiny cats let out a yawn in unison. It was XiaoYu’s and HereticKing’s shift right now.

“Not used to staying up late?”

“Mn. Going to be early and waking up early is good for your body.” A magnificent tradition of the Bai family.

“Then go sleep.”

“No way. I can’t always make you guys take care of me.” XiaoYu perked up his mind. He had a look at the time and refreshed the buffs on the both of them. Then, he started petting the tiny cat, lulling it to sleep. There’s no need to force it to stay up late with him.

HereticKing knew that once XiaoYu was set on something, not even a herd of bulls can pull him back. Thus, he didn’t advice XiaoYu to go sleep again.

“Um…That…Thank you,” XiaoYu softly said after a long pause.

“You don’t need to apologise, nor do you need to thank me. Camping can train one’s survival skills and adaptability. There’s no loss from doing so.”

“Oh…You’re not going to ask why?”

“Everyone has something they prefer to keep private. If you won’t tell me, then I won’t ask.” HereticKing was way past the age of curiosity. “But if you’re looking for someone to open your heart to and vent out, you can look for me anytime.”

“Mn.” A stream of warmth trickled through his heart. It’d be a lie to say he wasn’t moved that someone cared so much for him.

“Purr…purr…” The tiny cat twisted and turned. Its belly rose and fall with each snore. Occasionally, it’d smack its lips, as if it was dreaming of the meal it had just now.

“They all say a pet is like its owner. Are you like this too when you’re asleep?”

“I’m not. >///<” XiaoYu had yet to realise he’s just being teased.

“Hehe…” The moon shone bright tonight. XiaoYu’s blushing face from all that teasing was crystal clear to HereticKing’s eyes. He’s in such a good mood. Night guard shifts weren’t that boring after all.

Reality proved that it’s best one didn’t push too hard to do something one wasn’t used to. In the last 10 minutes of their shift, XiaoYu was unable to resist the urge to sleep. His body tilted to a side, fast asleep.

When he realised HereticKing ended up carrying him back to the tent, it was already the next morning. Of course, what ended up happening was if an egg was cracked on his head, it’d instantly turn into a fried egg.

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LC: Chapter 32

32. Journey West 04

Party members who logged on one after another felt as if they had been struck by lightning. They didn’t witness the two hugging. (They’d long since stopped.) What they saw was a certain almighty Guild Leader doing something that’d be extremely boring to someone with his level – poking at ants.

In actual fact, the family of three were just doing some stretches after their meal. Rather, as everyone called it, grinding.

HereticKing would taunt an ant over and let it munch on him. XiaoYu would then whack and beat at it with his wand. The tiny cat was about the same size as the ant, so it would help out too.

The surrounding ants were then attracted over and surrounded them. Regarding these unwelcome monsters, HereticKing didn’t hesitate. With a few swooshes of his sword, they’d all turn into cripples. Thus, the little cat would smack a few times here and giddily busy itself collecting money.

The onlookers all stiffly stood by the wall. As they waited for the rest of the party to log on, they stared at the duo-plus-a-kitten.

“I always thought Chief disliked carrying others,” Below_The_Moon sighed in awe.

“That’d have to depend on who the other is. But I am just satisfied to see Chief finally doing his duty as a knight,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man nodded in agreement. As he said so, he threw out a few buffs at the couple. The “Taunt” skill was an aggro-attracting treasure for helping others level. Thus, nearly every single knight in the game had been dragged out to grind with newbies at one point or another. This was a great nanny class, right after the rare healing nannies.

It took XiaoYu ten whole minutes of whacking at the stubborn ant in front of him before it keeled over. He was exhausted. It was to be expected. The level gap was too big. Comparatively, the small cat was so very happy and fulfilled from picking up tons of drops that it stuck to HereticKing like glue. It even twined around his legs and rubbed its furry head against his shiny boots.

“I think, if it wasn’t account-bound, the tiny cat might’ve ran away to your Chief.” CopperPlate was quite envious and a little jealous. It was never this affectionate to him. =3=

“Tsk-tsk. Chief’s charms don’t discriminate. Even a human-type Boss monster with the most sophisticated A.I. can’t resist, let alone this foolish little cat.”

“??” CopperPlate wasn’t there for that triple S Level 100 quest.

“Ahem. It’s nothing.” Anyone could feel the daggers HereticKing’s eyes shot out at the gossiping crowd. If they were smart, they should know not to show off the group’s dirty laundry.

“Everyone’s so early,” a sharp voice interjected. The last party member, Ice_For_Miles, finally logged on. The agreed-upon meeting time was still quite far off. Everyone was obviously eager to get the quest finished as fast as possible. At the very least, they should make some headway and not just stare at the unchanging “head west” hint.

When they emerged onto the surface once more, the sky was growing darker. However, this didn’t affect their charge west. After the incident down at the Ant Cave, they’d gained a mutual understanding of each other. The unfamiliarity from when they first partied up was gone, and a certain degree of trust and unspoken bond.

Since they were still travelling through the Ant region, they inevitably bumped into a few monsters and ants scurrying around in search of food. But, by some stroke of luck, they didn’t meet a single player at all. This was also normal. If it weren’t for exploration, questing or grinding, no one would willingly venture into this torturous place.

Still, this luck would vanish into thin air within the next few minutes. Far off in the distant, a stampede of hoofbeats could be heard. Vast amounts of dust were thrown into the air by them, causing everyone to be wary. With no other choice, the party slowed down and hoped theses were just some random passers-by.

The other group of players had actually long noticed movement coming from the party’s direction. They too slowed down. When both parties had a clear view of each other, they were all stunned. Evidently, they knew each other.

It can only be said that both parties had an eye-catching mount, different from the average brown horse. HereticKing’s big white Thousand-Li Horse stood out like a crane among chickens. The other party also had a purebred red horse which stood out. If one asked Heretic Demons guild members about any red horses they knew of, then the mount of GloryOfTheWorld, the Guild Leader of their archnemesis Wings, would instantly pop up.

“I didn’t think I’d bump into Chief Heretic in a place like this. What a coincidence.” It really was GloryOfTheWorld himself. Behind him were ten or so Wings members.

“Mn,” HereticKing greeted with a nod. He was always so nonchalant about irrelevant people. It wasn’t because the two guilds have a history. Frankly, there was nothing going on between him and Glory. There weren’t any grudges being held and neither interacted with the other much. A face-to-face interaction like this could be counted on one hand alone.

“Questing? What a strange group.” GloryOfTheWorld kept up his smile. His gaze sizing up XiaoYu who stood beside HereticKing. From his equipment and Peco Peco, he must not have reached his Second Job Change. However, he’s surrounded by several of Heretic Demons’ top members. He’s so well-protected. No matter what, it’s abnormal. Could there be something special about this little healer?

“Hehe. Even the almighty Glory himself is questing in the desert? What a great coincidence, but we’re rushing for time. Let’s get a drink together next time,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man replied back with a smile too.

“Boss, this is a great chance. Are we not PvP-ing them?” It was clear GloryOfTheWorld’s side had the advantage in numbers. The other party even had a newbie in his first Job.

“If you’ve got the time to think about PvP, why not spend it on getting your levels up?” GloryOfTheWorld actually really wanted to ask HereticKing out for a meetup one day. That is, purely just for sparring and not for any other reasons. “Anyway, they’re not all part of Heretic Demons. I’ve said before that no matter what issues there are between guilds, we cannot drag other innocent players in.” After a side glance as the now silent subordinate, the Wings party continued on with their quest too.

“But I’ve very curious. Just what strange quest did they accept? They’re actually bringing a newbie in his first Job with them,” pondered LittleZhuGe – one of the vice guild leaders of Wings – while riding on his mount with his chin in his hand.

“Great strategist, use your mystical calculations to calculate just what are they going to do?” cried a Wings member.

“Shoo. Do you think I’m a fortune teller? But since HereticKing’s so careful about protecting a newbie, then he must be key to the quest. I’m guessing it’s at least an S-rank quest.” Why else would someone personally gather highly-skilled veterans to protect a newbie? It can’t just be for some trivial F-rank quest.

LittleZhuGe’s guess was almost spot-on. Unfortunately, he didn’t know that even if XiaoYu had accepted an F-ranked quest, HereticKing would go along with XiaoYu. After all, it was the great Guild Leader himself who dragged XiaoYu out and slack off work today. If it wasn’t due to the quest’s unpredictability, HereticKing wouldn’t have risked it. The two of them would probably be strolling lazily somewhere else.

“Heh. I thought a fight would break out.” CopperPlate looked back. The Wings party was already gone from view. He patted his chest in relief. It was an open secret in the server that Wings and Heretic Demons disliked each other.

“If the ones leading the party weren’t Glory and ZhuGe, a fight might have,” answered Below_The_Moon in a serious tone.

“Why?”

“The high-ranking members of our guilds rarely ever come in contact. There’s just too much friction between the average members of our two guilds. This is unavoidable.” If the other party consisted of just the average guild members, there was a chance they’d try and kill a few guild leaders to show off. If the heads of the two guilds meet up though, it’d be difficult for a fight to break out. No one wanted to truly and utterly make an enemy of the other.

“And if a fight did break out, they’d have to be prepared for retaliation from two big guilds,” Chrysanthemum suddenly piped up with a mysterious smile.

“…Right. I forgot. You’re part of the Wolf Clan.” She’s even a member of the fierce Healers Alliance from the forums. By the way, CopperPlate and NonMeta weren’t part of any guild. They’re used to being free.

“Mn. Mn.” If XiaoYu, a new healer chick, was dragged in because of a guild’s vengeance, then she wouldn’t mind telling everyone just how cruel Wings was to an innocent little healer. That would stir up the pack of girl’s abundance of motherly love.

“The hint…” The rare few words from NonMeta sounded out.

“!!!” Everyone wasn’t shocked at the fact NonMeta spoke, but because the quest’s hint changed. From two simple words, it’s now a sentence: In a cave further off towards northwest.

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LC: Chapter 31

31. Journey West 03

The tiny cat looked like a general who’d won the war. Chest puffed up, it strutted elegantly through the petrified crowd towards its owner. However, just as it passed by I_Am_A_Poor_Man, it was picked up by the back of its neck.

“You greedy cat. How dare you step on your dear old Grandpa Poor. Are you itching for a beating?” I_Am_A_Poor_Man said with a scowl.

“Meow~ Mreeow~” The little cat had just collected lots of money. It’s so happy that it didn’t care if its paws were dangling high off the ground. Thus, a certain someone’s attempt at playing the villain failed miserably.

“Tsk. I really don’t know what to do with you.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man pouted and threw the small cat into XiaoYu’s arms.

“Ah… I’m sorry. The little one couldn’t pick anything up the whole day, so it couldn’t hold back at all,” XiaoYu apologised to the party as he ruffled his hair meekly. He actually knew that no matter how much the tiny cat had picked up over the day, it’d never change its behaviour. Unless its dimensional pocket was stuffed to the brim.

“No, no. It’s fine.” The crowd hurriedly waved their hands in denial. Why argue with a kitten over something so trivial? =_=

“The drops…” After some consideration, XiaoYu jogged over to HereticKing and opened up the tiny cat’s inventory, prepared to dump everything out.

“Leave it. We’ll split the loot once the quest is over. I trust you,” said HereticKing as he seized the chance to ruffle XiaoYu’s hair himself.

“Yes. Since the cat has its own inventory, we won’t need to worry about dropping anything if we accidentally die.” NonMeta had already dragged CopperPlate into a corner to reflect on his problematic kissing impulse. But CopperPlate never forgot to protect XiaoYu, even amidst his endless struggling. After all, CopperPlate personally witnessed the time XiaoYu was nearly mobbed over equipment drops.

“You jinx!” Chrysanthemum gave CopperPlate a hard bop to the head. “Who was the one who mentioned encountering a region’s boss? Then, we really did encounter one. Now, you want to curse us all to die?”

“But we got great loot. I…” CopperPlate murmured miserably. How would he know a throwaway line would become true? Unfortunately, under the death glares of everyone else, he lost the courage to go on and swallowed the latter half of his sentence deep into his gut.

“Alright. Everyone’s fine. It’s okay. We’ll split the loot once we get back safely. I really do believe in CopperPlate’s words now. LuckyCat really is a lucky cat. Tsk-tsk. The next time I plan on grinding for anything, I will definitely drag you along,” said Below_The_Moon as he returned his bow back to its holder, looking as if he’d just completed a great deed.

“It’ll be 6 soon. Shouldn’t we be getting off?” A sharp voice piped up from the back. Ice_For_Miles was extremely sensitive to the flow of time. All because of his punctuality in real life.

“Looks like we won’t be able to make it to the Egg zone. Why don’t we stop here? The respawn time for the queen is 12 hours. This place is very safe now.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man looked up the area around where they were. Once everyone came back online, the hurricanes would have stopped long ago. They can then find an exit up and out. It was faster travelling on mounts than going through the tunnels.

“Wait!” As soon as CopperPlate spoke up, everyone’s eyes bore right into his body. Their eyes asked, just what does this jinx want to say now? “I just want to know what stats the Ant Queen card has. I’d be too curious to eat dinner otherwise…”

The eyes then shifted to XiaoYu, only they weren’t fierce and blazing anymore. They were shimmering with anticipation. It must be said that CopperPlate’s words were exactly what they were all thinking deep down. The game developers never revealed the stats of anything. They expect the players to seek out everything themselves, especially the stats of rare items. Anyone with a brain would never be so foolish as to show off on the forums either.

XiaoYu expanded the card’s description and shared the resulting tab to the party.

In the middle of the card was a picture of the Ant Queen. She’s portrayed to be waving her giant scythes around, directing the worker ants around her. Just like a bossy landowner. Below the image was a line of tiny, tiny text; Ant Queen Card – +50% defence against Earth attacks. 5% chance of countering. Type: Clothing.

“…” The crowd went silent once more.

“Luckily I’m not an Earth wizard,” Ice_For_Miles’s sharp voice piped up once more.

It can only be said that no matter who received the card, they’d be bullying Earth-type monsters from then on. And during PvP, any and all Earth wizards will have to avoid them at all costs. If it was just the +50% defence, it’d be fine. The enemy can still use buffs to increase their damage. It’s the following line that would be troublesome. While there’s only a small chance, it’s 100% damage once triggered. There’s a very high chance for fragile wizards to die by the counter-attack. They’d have committed suicide in a rather painful manner.

Their curiosity satisfied, the crowd began logging off. Left behind, XiaoYu and HereticKing went about looking for a clean spot to sit and deal with the in-game Hunger levels.

I_Am_A_Poor_Man dawdled until the crowd all disappeared. Then, he dragged XiaoYu over to a corner by an arm around the neck.

“Hey. Why does Chief call you Xiao-Yu?” I_Am_A_Poor_Man’s curiosity wasn’t fully satisfied yet.

“Oh. It’s because I call him Yao, so he calls me Yu.” The “xiao” was probably because he was younger. (The “Xiao” in his name is not the character for small!)

“What?” In his shock, I_Am_A_Poor_Man lost control of his voice. The exclamation attracted two beams of deathly glares towards his direction. HereticKing had been rather upset from the moment I_Am_A_Poor_Man dragged XiaoYu away for a private chat. HereticKing placed the blame for his behaviour onto him treating XiaoYu as if XiaoYu was his little brother. Of course, he’d be unhappy if his brother got hooked and carried around.

“Chief told you his name?” I_Am_A_Poor_Man asked in a soft-once-more tone.

“Mn.”

“Lil Lucky, you’ve got to hold on. Don’t go helping the Big Bad Wolf when you’ve been stolen away by him.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man and HereticKing had been best friends for years in real life. Naturally, he knew HereticKing should be straight. However, according to research, over 90% of humans have fluid sexualities. It’s only the straight side of them that gets subconsciously projected. (Nonsensical research conjured up by the author.) XiaoYu was such an honest good young man. If Chief really wanted to steal him away, it’d be a piece of cake. Thus, I_Am_A_Poor_Man was only half-joking in his teasing.

“???” Naturally, XiaoYu couldn’t comprehend I_Am_A_Poor_Man’s playboy ways at all.

“Um…” I_Am_A_Poor_Man could almost see the question marks floating all around XiaoYu’s head. He sighed. It’s so rare for there such a pure bunny to exist in this world these days. Hence, he sounded quite defeated in his reply, “I’m off.”

“Okay. Bye-bye.” XiaoYu and the tiny cat both waved their hand (and paw) and watched as I_Am_A_Poor_Man vanished where he stood.

“What did he talk to you about?” HereticKing didn’t mean to ask at first, but when he saw the two sneaking glances at him during their chat, it was obvious they were talking about him.

“I don’t really get it either.” XiaoYu was very confused. It should be normal for friends to share their real names. What’s with the Big Bad Wolf and the helping? It’s so weird.

“…” From XiaoYu’s expression, HereticKing was certain the other wasn’t just pretending. His mood instantly brightened. He knew all along that I_Am_A_Poor_Man was an evil schemer. It’s a pity XiaoYu wasn’t the same kind of person as I_Am_A_Poor_Man was. So even if the other passed on his evil ways to XiaoYu, he most likely won’t get it and would never do anything bad.

They spread their cloaks out on the ground and sat down. Side by side, they began savouring the food from their Inventory.

“…You’re only eating carrots?” They ate during the wait in the oasis too. HereticKing watched as XiaoYu munch on carrots only while the tiny cat nibbled on I_Am_A_Poor_Man’s specialty grilled fish and dried fish snacks.

“It’s cheap and it reduces quite a lot of Hunger.” Crunch. XiaoYu took a bite of the carrot in his hand. At that time, he’d use all of his money every day. So, what he ate and what he slept in were the most economical results of repeated comparison and deep research. While he had money now, it’s just a virtual number. XiaoYu wasn’t that fussy anyway. Saving up and earning more money was priority.

“…” HereticKing stared as XiaoYu chowed down on his carrots, worth 10 coppers each, as if they were the most delicious food in the world. He felt rather speechless. “Did Poor dock your pay?”

“No. He gave me a lot.” XiaoYu didn’t ask the other pilots what they were paid, but 100 crystals were a sizable sum to him. “I just couldn’t bear to use any of them. In the future, updating my equipment and what-not would be costly too and…I want to transfer some of my crystals out. I don’t have a lot in my savings…”

The more XiaoYu explained, the softer his voice went. It’d be a lie to say he didn’t feel embarrassed by his finances at all. Most of the people who are shut-ins could earn money through their writing or drawing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t talented in that aspect. All he’d ever excelled in was studying. But he’s not that qualified now. Even if he wanted to work from home, no company would want him. Thus, he who hid in his home all day long can only live on like a weevil. Slowly exhausting the wealth his parents left for him.

When I_Am_A_Poor_Man talked about how hard it was in his office and how he was being squeezed of all energy and motivation, XiaoYu was a little envious. At least he could walk about in public to work and interact with others. He could only be stuck in a space smaller than 100 sqm day after day.

HereticKing reached out and gently pulled XiaoYu over into an embrace. He didn’t like watching the one who always gave him joy look so hurt and sad. He could roughly guess just how depressing XiaoYu’s real life was. That’s why he wanted to boost himself up using Asgard Online.

“Don’t be so down. You are a lucky cat. You’ll beckon loads and loads of money in the future.” HereticKing patted XiaoYu on the back, all the while thinking of how to change the mood. His eyes then spotted the tiny cat by their feet. As it munched on its fished, it tilted its head at its owner, curious as to why he’s so upset.

“Worse comes to worst, you can make TinyLuckyCat chow down on carrots along with you. It looks like it should go on a diet.” As it ate, its throat and belly bulged. It looked just like a fur ball.

“Hehe. It is a little overweight.” XiaoYu who carried it around all day long felt the same. Hence, with his head still leaning on HereticKing’s shoulder, light chuckles began drifting from his mouth. “But I can’t bear to make it suffer. It’s always been beside me.”

“Meow~” The tiny cat rubbed itself on XiaoYu’s leg and looked innocently at HereticKing as it did so. It didn’t want to eat those rock-hard carrots at all.

“Then give your little owner 50% more gold drops every time,” HereticKing said as he stretched out a finger to poke at the little cat’s head.

“Meow!” Yes, sir!

From afar, it looked like a happy little family’s picnic. Of course, one would have to ignore the hordes of ants crawling all over the place, ruining the atmosphere =_=.

Translator’s Note:

Xiao-Yu: In an attempt to differentiate “Bai XiaoYu the name” from “Lil Yu the nickname”, all untranslated prefixes/suffixes will be linked to the noun via hyphens. E.g. Ah-Yu, Xiao-Yu, Yu-Ge. Prefixes/Suffixes may also be untranslated when relevant to character interaction, e.g. Xiao-Yu and the wonderful world of homonyms.

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LC: Chapter 30

30. Journey West 02

“Eh? Lucky, your nametag’s grey.” It was rather dim in the cave. Plus the grey shade, the name floating above Bai XiaoYu’s head was nearly invisible. However, Below_The_Moon was an archer. An archer’s eyesight was much sharper than any other classes’.

“No way. The game thinks LuckyCat attacked Chief?”

“It must be.” However, even PvP matches between party members were considered the individual player’s problem. Otherwise, all party members will be notified that a player has been attacked by XXX of YYY party.

“So very weird. Chief, just how much HP got knocked off by LuckyCat?”

“…1 HP.”

“Tch. That means it takes over 10,000 LuckyCats to kill Chief. What thick skin,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man mumbled with a pout.

“Pffft. 30 HP to deal 1 damage. Rather effective, Lucky.” CopperPlate had run over to join the crowd after he finished stabbing the two ants hanging on his legs to death.

“Lucky’s level is too low or else it might not just be 30.”

“Ah. Chief, your ‘hero saving the dam-’, no, ‘hero saving the cat-in-distress’ move is so touching! Do your arms hurt? Want me to heal you up?” lied I_Am_A_Poor_Man without a single blink at HereticKing’s full HP bar. His only fear was for the world to be at peace. (Party members could look at an estimate of each other’s health, but not the exact numbers.)

The entire party crowded around HereticKing and XiaoYu, chitter-chattering nonstop. Except for NonMeta who never liked to speak and Chrysanthemum who was sneakily laughing and scheming by the side.

HereticKing didn’t mind it at all. LuckyCat wasn’t heavy. No one would be harmed by a few more minutes of carrying him. Now that he thought of it, losing 1 HP in exchange for LuckyCat’s butt to avoid getting up close to the ground was quite worth it. Frankly, he wasn’t willing to see LuckyCat hurt at all.

XiaoYu was still doing his best to shrink back into his cloak. All of a sudden, he paused. Something’s wrong. He’s still being carried by HereticKing. But he didn’t feel at ease speaking up about it in the public chat channel, so he silently messaged the other, “Thanks. You can put me down. And I’m sorry.”

For the game to determine the action as a PvP intent meant the impact from his fall was quite forceful. While no one’s arms could get broken in-game and the pain sensitivity was lowered, catching a human being falling from the sky should’ve put a lot of pressure on the other’s arms.

“As long as you’re okay,” the other replied.

With a sweep of HereticKing’s gaze, his guild members quietly ducked to a side. The remaining CopperPlate was also pulled aside by NonMeta. Only then did HereticKing put XiaoYu down.

‘Hee-hee. Carried for 2 minutes and 15 seconds,’ Chrysanthemum mentally giggled as she counted down according to the in-game clock.

CopperPlate led the way while I_Am_A_Poor_Man directed from the back with his compass. They didn’t really want a full-on war with the ants. It was more efficient to avoid walking into any monsters at all. They would only fight when the way ahead was blocked off by a dense pack of mobs. They’d clear the area as fast as possible to prevent the ants further off from noticing the disturbance and crowd over.

The ants in the tunnels were all mutated. They’re not the kind in reality that could only be seen with a magnifying glass. Huge ants as big as a grown man’s foot allowed the group of humans to easily spot and avoid them.

As the pack of humans journeyed on, they began discussing about their upcoming meal. Except for XiaoYu and HereticKing, every party member used a gaming bed. That meant they had to log off for their dinner, resolve any bodily needs along the way, shower, or even tidy up their homes.

“We’ll all log off at 6 pm. Everyone, finish up anything that needs done and we’ll gather here at 7.30 pm. How about it?”

“No problem.”

“Okay.”

“Uh…Can I not log off?” asked XiaoYu as he meekly raised his hand. There’s nothing he needed to do if he logged off anyway. Furthermore, his pod wasn’t one of the top models in the market. Every time he logged off, he needed to wash off the sticky nutritional fluids or he’d feel uncomfortable. (The top models would automatically wash it off for the players and dry them off. It was absolutely not a washing machine!)

“While there shouldn’t be any aggressive monsters here, what if you accidentally bumped into some bugged or mutated variants?”

“I’ll stay behind with him.” HereticKing used a gaming pod. It didn’t matter whether he logged off or not.

“Then, we’ll leave Lil Lucky to you, Chief. If all goes well, we should pass by an egg nest before 6,” said I_Am_A_Poor_Man as he scoured through the large map of the ants’ tunnels he found.

Egg-type monsters were everybody’s favourite powerless monsters. The Ant Cave had an exceptional number of them. If one discovered a nest or a storage spot, they could go on slashing forever, provided, of course, they’re careful enough to avoid patrolling or working ants. Those ants bite after all.

On one hand, this arrangement allowed XiaoYu to gain some experience when he was bored waiting. On the other hand, this mean he could avoid the Queen Ant boss. She would never act rashly in the area her kids were growing up in.

“Ah. Why won’t the heavens send me a gaming pod too?” sighed Below_The_Moon. No one believed XiaoYu was using a gaming pod in the beginning. Even after I_Am_A_Poor_Man, it still felt rather unbelievable.

“Your salary from Chief isn’t that low. Go buy one yourself.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man wanted to knock Below_The_Moon’s head too with his tome. Unfortunately, an archer was very agile and dextrous. It ended up waving into thin air.

“I’m saving up for a wife,” said Below_The_Moon as he waggled his finger. After all, a gaming pod wasn’t that reliable yet. A model like XiaoYu’s would cost ten-thousands. The top models require millions. A salary worker like him can’t just waste money like that.

Billions and trillions of ants were scattered all over the cave. Occasionally, tiny aggressive bats would fly over their heads. These bats were the special characteristics of a cave. However, the caves in the lower level areas were as weak as mosquitoes. XiaoYu could kill them with a wave of his staff or wand, let along high-level players. How else can healers kill off these non-undead monsters? The Zombie and Jiangshi Caves would never be grinding zones otherwise.

“Hey, have you noticed there are less and less ants?” spoke CopperPlate from the front, waking the crowd behind him up from their chattering frenzy.

“No way…We’re that lucky?”

“No. It’s such a huge area and there’s only one boss. How can we bump into it?”

“Isn’t it nice to exercise before a meal? The queen would only be Level 80 on this floor anyway.”

“We don’t know how long this quest would take. It’s best to conserve on supplies.”

“Ice, Hailstorm. Moon, debuff traps. CopperPlate, catch the shield. NonMeta, cover your blades with this.” As HereticKing assigned everyone their tasks, he swiftly transferred his boss encounter shield over to CopperPlate (Level Limit: 85. +11 Alloy Shield with a Lion King card slotted. Boss card, Lion King: +20% defence against bosses. -50% defence against other enemies.) then threw a bottle of poison he’d made himself over to NonMeta. “Healers, pay attention to buffs and health. Poor, retreat 30 steps with XiaoYu and make sure he’s safe.”

“XiaoYu?”

“LuckyCat.”

“Oh.” While I_Am_A_Poor_Man had questions about the name, there was a major enemy closing in on them. He’ll ask once the problem’s resolved. “Lucky, follow me. Remember. Never ever go in the area 30 steps around the queen. It has a small AoE earthquake spell.”

“Okay.” XiaoYu didn’t like how he’s always a bystander during boss encounters, but he was just way under-levelled. He will be useful once he’s at a higher level.

In a blink of an eye, a giant queen ant appeared before their eyes. It dragged its huge metres-long and over a metre-wide abdomen behind it, surrounded by hundreds of soldier ants. They rapidly crawl towards the group of humans. Don’t be mistaken by the queen’s long poop-looking abdomen. When it moved, it was as fast as a player with speed buffs.

Unfortunately, before the queen got close to the players, explosions sounded off and a series of smoke wafted up into the air. The soldier ants began to slow down. Some drifted off into the walls and banged hard into them, as if they were blind. Some even began attacking other ants. This was the first batch of debuff traps Below_The_Moon had set up just now. Slow, Darkness and Confusion. They’re only effective against small monsters and the effects don’t last for long. All they’re used for was stalling the footsteps of the ant army.

Soon enough, the scrambled ants fell back into formation and began closing in on the humans. A few loud booms rang out once more. This time, they’d stepped on the second batch of explosive traps. The soldiers right on top of them were exploded to smithereens. All other soldiers were hurt one way or another. Even the Queen Ant lost a few health points to the explosions. She gave a loud roar and stomped. The ground around her shook. What a pity for her that Below_The_Moon had long since finished setting up the last batch of traps. After a quick retreat back to the group, the tiny earthquake couldn’t reach him at all.

Traps were only effective when the monsters weren’t close to the player themselves. Once they close in, it’d be up to the player’s own skills. The game was realistic, to an extent. Traps can injure party members. Thus, the last batch were high-tier debuff traps. (They last longer.) That way, the uncontrollable explosions won’t accidentally hurt any one of them.

Once the giant ant army fell into chaos again due to the last traps, the three close-combat classes in the party – CopperPlate, NonMeta and HereticKing – rushed in and started decimating all the average mobs.

CopperPlate was a tank. While he was 16 levels below HereticKing, his heath bar was already slightly above HereticKing’s. Hence, he tanked the queen. While HereticKing was a knight too, he was an Agility knight. He can only dodge. The area they were in wasn’t that big and he was afraid the boss would be accidentally led near XiaoYu. Thus, when he was handing out tasks before the battle, he immediately handed his shield over to CopperPlate. In the rush of the moment, CopperPlate didn’t think too much about it. He equipped the shield and charged towards the queen. If he’d known the shield was worth over a thousand crystals, he’d probably hop around in giddy about it first.

With three players hacking the ants close-up and Below_The_Moon’s arrows from far off, half of the army was demolished within 10 minutes. Still, as the saying goes, a swarm of ants can bite an elephant to death. The three players who’d tanked the attention of the entire army were all hurt.

“Scram.” Ice_For_Miles, who’d been chanting the whole time, had finally finished the chant for the greatest AoE ice spell – Hailstorm. Thousands and thousands of tiny ice arrows barrage down into the area. It’s guaranteed to tear all monsters within to shreds! Use Limit: Once a day.

The three players who were still fighting all dashed away from the monsters the moment they heard Ice_For_Miles. All of a sudden, the ants lost their targets. Only a few soldier ants reacted fast enough to chomp down tight on the fleeing humans.

The torrent of arrows lasted for two minutes. All soldier ants in the area were dead. A fifth of the Queen Ant’s health was lost.

All that’s left of the big ant army were a dozen or so soldiers who’d snuck away by luck. The area around the Queen Ant was all empty. (Minions spawned by Boss monsters do not drop gold or items, just experience.) I_Am_A_Poor_Man had already settled XiaoYu into his spot and had returned to share Chrysanthemum’s burden. He also used Holy Light to carefully attract a soldier ant to his side and left it to its munching. The aim was to prevent the queen from summoning any more. They don’t have a second Hailstorm to bash another army.

NonMeta covered his katars with the poison HereticKing gave and snuck his way around the queen. As soon as he reached her back, he jumped onto that humongous abdomen and stabbed down. A dangerous dark purple crept out from the wounds. Above the Queen Ant’s head, a serious of numbers began flashing by. -20. -30. -40…

The pain made the queen instinctively tilt her head up and let out a sharp cry. She flailed her abdomen around, trying hard to flail this “flea” off her body. At the same time, a pair of her scythe-like claws slashed and sliced at the two “flies” before her eyes. But all they hit were CopperPlate’s shield and HereticKing’s shadow.

It’s not hard to defeat the Queen Ant. Her own Attack stats weren’t that insane. It’s just the number of minions around her were. Other than those, they just need to be able to bear with her earthquake attack.  She also had a cumbersome abdomen as her weak spot. They just need to aim for it the whole time and they’d quickly deplete all her HP. HereticKing’s and CopperPlate’s task was to block the attacks of the queen’s two scythes and attract her attention. NonMeta can then gouge out a few holes into her abdomen to speed up the creeping venom HereticKing made from the zombies.

“Shhhiiiik!” The queen gave a loud cry. An earthy yellow glow appeared around her body.

“Careful. She’s going to use her big earthquake attack.” I_Am_A_Poor_Man healed up the fragile Below_The_Moon and Ice_For_Miles with a wave and quickly retreated. The further away from the centre of the attack, the less damage one’d receive. All they need to do was to make sure they won’t die in one hit.

The two healers both threw a new Holy Wall at NonMeta and CopperPlate respectively. (For a certain period of time, it’d reduce a set percentage of physical and magical damage received. The reduction was determined by the spell proficiency. Cooldown Time: 5 minutes.) The two players then continued their retreat.

With the Queen Ant as the centre, the ground began rumbling and shaking. Except for XiaoYu who was standing outside her range of attack, everyone stumbled from the rolling earth and lost some health. The four players far away quickly steadied themselves, but the consequent tremors seemed to be alive and kept sucking away at their health. Fortunately, it wasn’t that damaging. The 10 to 50 HP drained away each second could be swiftly replenished by the two healers. Ice_For_Miles even backed up into XiaoYu’s healing range through coincidence. XiaoYu was throwing all his puny healing spells at Ice in an attempt to help relieve the two healers’ MP drain.

The three players who were almost on top of the centre of the earthquake were not doing as well, especially the two knights. Not only were the tremors depleting their HP, they were unable to block or dodge the queen’s two claws as they couldn’t steady themselves at all. Colourful streaks showed up one after the other on their bodies. NonMeta was still standing on top of the queen. He sunk his blades deep into the queen’s abdomen and used them to steady himself. Thus, he was much less affected by the earthquake than the two knights on the ground.

Time felt agonisingly slow in the 30 seconds of earthquake. When the earth finally calmed down once more, the healers dashed ahead to heal up the three players whose health had dropped below half by that point.

After the shocking but uneventful first earthquake, the party had a grasp on just how threatening the queen’s attacks were. As long as the queen didn’t go berserk during the last drops of her health, it’s just a matter of time before she was ground to dust.

After 30 minutes, reality proved the almighty game was on their side. The queen didn’t go berserk when her health dropped below 10%. Naturally, she gave out a woeful shriek. Dust whooshed by as she died in an explosion of drops.

“Swish!” Just as the crowd opened their eyes wide in anticipation of what strange and mystical items she’d drop, a sudden gust of wind blew above their heads. A black ball of shadow stepped on their heads and pounced on the pile of items. In an instant, everything disappeared.

Tiny! Lucky! Cat! Everyone who knew what that black ball really was grit their teeth and swallowed back the blood in their mouth as three black lines descended en masse down their foreheads.

“Um…I think I saw a golden sparkly crown,” said I_Am_A_Poor_Man as he mimed a pair of binoculars from the back.

“Not only that. There was a card,” HereticKing solemnly spat out. He was closest to the pile of drops, so he’d roughly seen what was in it.

“…” Everyone went silent.

“Aaah! Gods! Lucky, come give me a kiss! This is my first time getting a boss card drop,” shouted CopperPlate as he covered his head with his arms.

Bai XiaoYu’s face dropped into a great big 囧.

Seemed like a certain someone’s really, really lucky when they’re in a party.

Translator’s Note:

The Ragnarok Online equivalent of the Queen Ant monster is Maya. However, it’s not clear whether the monster in this chapter really is half-human as the game version is.

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LC: Chapter 29

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.

Translator’s Notes:

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

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LC: Chapter 28

28. Big Gathering

“We’re here.”

“It’s so big!”

XiaoYu thought the oasis would just be a pond about the size of a basketball court with a few small trees growing around it. In reality, not only was the imagined pond bigger by several times, it wasn’t just surrounded by a few lonely trees. There were at least a hundred trees or bushes scattered around it. While it wasn’t as dense as a forest, it was filled with greenery.

This was one of the larger oases found to-date. The further into the desert one went, the smaller they were. However, it cannot be said for sure there weren’t any of these little spots of heaven in the deepest parts of the desert.

After finding a shady tree, the two sat down to cool themselves off.

The tiny cat could finally be free from the large cape. It stretched, jumped and frolicked to its heart’s content. But there was only so much shade under the tree. The little one was black enough as it is and it didn’t want to sunbathe, so its play area was often the space around XiaoYu’s knees and HereticKing’s lap which was just a jump away. After some rolling and squirming, it’d then climb onto HereticKing’s shoulder to pounce into XiaoYu’s lap and start begging and showed off its cuteness – water, please.

“If on the Peco Peco, head south from here for 30 minutes and you’ll be at the Pyramids.” What HereticKing meant was if XiaoYu went grinding in the Pyramids in the future, the nearest water source would be this oasis.

“Mn. Got it.” XiaoYu silently marked down the spot. Once he reached Level 60, it’d be about time for him to start camping here.

“Do you have any friends who want to join in the quest?” While HereticKing had a list of potential candidates, he didn’t forget this quest was found by LuckyCat. Out of respect, the other should have the first pick.

“Any level requirements?” At once, XiaoYu thought of CopperPlate and NonMeta. A glance at the Friends tab told him they were online.

“The higher the better.” Otherwise, his healer would suffer.

“I’ll ask.”

“CopperPlate, what’s your level?” XiaoYu asked.

“Huh? Lil Lucky? 85. What is it?” CopperPlate replied.

Since CopperPlate was Level 85, NonMeta should be about the same.

“Are Level 85 tank Knight and katar Assassin okay?” XiaoYu asked back in the normal chat channel.

“They’re good.” HereticKing didn’t think LuckyCat’s friends would have such high levels. It looked like I_Am_A_Poor_Man didn’t have to work his ass off.

“Achoo! Who’s talking about me behind my back?” I_Am_A_Poor_Man grumbled as he organised all the information found on the desert region.

“CopperPlate, are you and NonMeta free? I found an S-ranked quest in the desert,” XiaoYu messaged.

“S rank! Yes! Yes, of course!” CopperPlate was ecstatic. “Eh? You’re in the desert too?”

“I was Peco Peco hunting just now. You’re here too?”

“We’re grinding for mummy drops in the Pyramids with Chrysanthemum. Wait. Can you catch that bird alone?” CopperPlate asked.

“A friend’s helping. It’s caught,” XiaoYu replied.

“That’s good. Wait a moment. I’ll ask NonMeta,” said CopperPlate in the private chat.

“Hm-Hmph~ You found an S-rank, but you didn’t call for Chrysanthemum. Lil Lucky, I’m very angry. The consequences will be severe. Are you prepared to have your flower burst open?” A female voice creeped into XiaoYu’s ears, making him shiver in fright.

“What is it?” HereticKing who’d been paying attention to XiaoYu the whole time saw him suddenly shiver. Startled, he placed his hand on XiaoYu’s shoulder before HereticKing even realised what he’d done.

When XiaoYu felt the weight on his shoulder, his heart somehow calmed down. He turned and gave a smile telling HereticKing to not worry. “It’s fine. Perhaps a Level 98 healer lady might be joining. Is that okay?” he asked.

“Of course, it’s okay.” Now, not only was I_Am_A_Poor_Man not going to be exhausted, he’d be bored to tears. (Poor: Achoo~)

“Sorry, Chrysanthemum. I…didn’t mean to. Um…if you’re free, you’re welcome to join us,” XiaoYu messaged back.

“Hehe. That’s a good boy. I hear Lil CopperPlate said you were mount-hunting with your friend nearby?” Chrysanthemum asked.

“Mn. We’re resting at an oasis now. The one nearest to the Pyramids,” replied XiaoYu.

“Are we doing this quest now?” said she.

“We’re gathering information and helpers at the moment. Once we’re all gathered, it should be time to start,” he said.

“Oh~ Hee-hee. Is your friend a guy? A girl?” Chrysanthemum’s true motive was exposed. After all those questions, the thing she wanted to know the most about was this.

“Um…” XiaoYu was not used to Chrysanthemum’s evil laughter yet. His hair stood on ends and a chill went down his spine. “It’s HereticKing…”

“What? I’ll be there soon! Eep~” Chrysanthemum was very excited at that news.

“…” XiaoYu didn’t know what Chrysanthemum was excited for. Did they know each other? XiaoYu tilted his head and stared questioningly at HereticKing. It made HereticKing look back with a head full of question marks.

“My friends said they’ll be here soon. They were at the Pyramids,” XiaoYu said.

“Mn. That’s three. Any more?” HereticKing asked.

“None.” XiaoYu glanced at his friends list again. Shumai was not online.

“Then you don’t mind it if I bring three more, right?” They needed a wizard and an archer. Along with I_Am_A_Poor_Man, that was three.

“Mn. Is Big Brother Poor among them?” XiaoYu asked.

“Of course, he…He told you to call him that?” HereticKing will not admit that he was upset by that.

“Mn. His name is too long.” It’d also make others misunderstand if he said it out loud. (Crowd: Why is this child always saying he’s poor?)

“Really…My name is quite long too. You can call me Yao.” As HereticKing said so, he wrote the Yao character on the sands.

“Eh?” How can a name with only two words be called long?

“What? Can’t you?”

“No…” XiaoYu examined the Yao character and asked, “Is this your name?”

“Yes,” said HereticKing.

“Mn…” XiaoYu pondered with his hand on his chin. “My name is quite long too. If you don’t mind it, you can call me Yu.”

“XiaoYu? Got it.”

“Huh? How did you know my name is XiaoYu?” XiaoYu stared at HereticKing in shock before suddenly realising what the other really said. “Oh…you mean Xiao for small,” XiaoYu continued as he scratched his head.

HereticKing’s brows furrowed before relaxing in realisation. Was this buy one free one? He got the correct character by accident.

“This Xiao?” HereticKing chose to write down one of the commonly used Xiao characters and wrote the Xiao character for XiaoYu along with the Yu character.

“Mn.”

“Looks like I’m quite lucky.” HereticKing smiled. It felt like the number of times he’d smiled today was almost equal to the number of times he smiled over the past 6 months.

************

Less than 30 minutes later, they could hear hoofbeats echoing from the distance. (Horses travel faster than Peco Pecos XD)

“Lil Lucky~ Your Big Brother CopperPlate is here.” Before he could even be seen, his voice could be heard ringing out.

“My friends are here.” XiaoYu stood up and stretched. He walked out of the shade and into an open area easy to be spotted so CopperPlate could see where he was.

“I told you Lil Lucky’s a lucky charm. No one stop me. This time, I must rub off all the luck I can get.”

As soon as CopperPlate got down from his horse, he tried tackling XiaoYu with his characteristic bear hug. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as fast as other people, nor was he as strong. Before he even touched a single hair on XiaoYu, he wound up dangling by his collar. He was picked up and away to one side by NonMeta like a little corgi.

“NonMeta, you bastard! Fight me!” CopperPlate shouted.

“The way your friend greets people is quite special,” HereticKing said solemnly from behind XiaoYu.

Actually, if NonMeta hadn’t made a move then, CopperPlate wouldn’t be able to touch XiaoYu either. The almighty Guild Leader had one arm stretched out ready to pull XiaoYu to a side and dodge the hug. Thus, the useless arm now laid itself over XiaoYu’s shoulder, making the eyes of Chrysanthemum, who’s just a few feet away, twinkle.

“Heh. Hehe…” XiaoYu didn’t know why CopperPlate insisted on pouncing on him every time they met either. Could it be due to trauma from when they first met outside the Zombie Cave where CopperPlate wasn’t able to tackle XiaoYu?

With three more added to the party, XiaoYu became the one to introduce everyone to each other. After HereticKing’s true age was revealed, Chrysanthemum was still the oldest in the party. Only, it caused a tiny wound in the childish heart of the 26-years-old “old hag” Chrysanthemum.

“Hahaha!” When XiaoYu shared the quest with the others and summarised what the situation was, CopperPlate rolled on the floor laughing.

“…” NonMeta didn’t laugh, but his twitching lips betrayed the face he was trying hard not to.

As for Chrysanthemum, she just stood there with a small smile on her face. If one ignored the way her gaze constantly drifted between HereticKing and XiaoYu.

“How much longer?” The five humans and one cat returned to the shade of the tree from before. CopperPlate was the first to speak up from impatience.

“15 minutes. We’re waiting on three more,” HereticKing nonchalantly replied as he focused on scratching the tiny cat under the chin.

“Meow~” Comfy. The little cat’s large eyes squinted into a line from enjoyment. Once in a while, it’d luck HereticKing’s fingers, encouraging him to keep scratching.

“Hey, hey. Lucky, did your cat turn traitor?” CopperPlate nudged XiaoYu. Why was his pet being so affectionate with another player?

“No…I think.” XiaoYu wanted to know too. Could this be what they call imprinting?

Chrysanthemum was sitting quietly to one side, pretending to be a gentle girl. However, her two eyes betrayed her gossiping heart. ‘Mn. Amazing. If you want to catch someone, you have to catch his pet first,’ they said. As such, whenever she looked at HereticKing, her eyes were full of respect. When she looked at the little cat, there would be a hint of disdain in her gaze.

“Ah!” XiaoYu was suddenly reminded of something.

“What is it?”

“I don’t have riding equipment for my bird yet.” Would everyone have to walk with him later?

“Don’t worry. I asked them to bring a set along,” HereticKing said.

“T-Thanks.” XiaoYu ruffled his hair. HereticKing was so thorough. He felt a little bad.

15 minutes flew by and hoofbeats could be heard once more.

The people HereticKing called over was, naturally, Heretic Demons members. As such, every one of them were skilled players over Level 95. I_Am_A_Poor_Man, Level 96. Shooting_Chang’E_From_Below_The_Moon, Level 100. Ice_For_Miles, Level 97.

Except for I_Am_A_Poor_Man, the other two players’ classes could be deduced from their names alone. Majority of the monsters in the desert were fire-type. Hence, an ice wizard would be most suitable for this quest.

“Ah, the Demoness!” As soon as I_Am_A_Poor_Man saw Chrysanthemum, he instantly jumped back half a step.

“Oho. It’s been a long time, Poorie dear.” When faced with “familiar” people who would expose her for what she was, Chrysanthemum would pretend to be polite. She immediately stepped up and had a little grope.

“Gods, Lil Lucky, how have you not been gobbled up by her?” I_Am_A_Poor_Man pulled XiaoYu to a side and did a hands-on check-up. It was only when he felt two beams of death rays that he reluctantly took his demonic claws away. He then pulled out a set of Peco Peco riding equipment from his inventory.

“Thanks.”

“Tee-hee. I also bought a Peco Peco helmet. That way, your little cat would have a VIP seat,” I_Am_A_Poor_Man smirked as he brought out an equipment which looked like an old warped pot. “Place this on its head and the kitty can sit on it.”

“= =|||”

“Alright. Everyone’s here. Prepare to depart.” The almighty Guild Leader spoke up, telling everyone to go do their jobs.

And so, the three new party members joined in, understood the mission and, once they listened to XiaoYu’s explanation, collectively fell down laughing on the floor once more.

Translator’s Note:

This chapter has been locked/made private (as were some of the previous chapters) on jjwxc. If there are any discrepancies from the translation to what you know, note that this is probably the reason why (aggregators are useful for something after all).

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LC: Chapter 27

27. Search for the Oasis

“Let’s head to the oasis first.” Just standing around was a waste of water. Why not take a look at whether the oasis was still where HereticKing remembered it to be?

Players who’d been grinding in the desert all know it’s very important to know where the oasis was. It’s one way to be sure they had a steady supply of fresh water. Those who were lucky might even hunt some food.

“Okay.” XiaoYu’s eyes were already exhausted by the endless sea of yellow. It would be nice to freshen them up with the legendary desert’s oasis.

The location of the oasis closest to the city had already been charted out by other players. It’s now a secret everyone knows. It just so happened to be in the same direction as the area they were about to scout out.

Bai XiaoYu bent down to pick up the tiny cat and followed behind HereticKing towards the south-west. He’d learned not to walk around half-heartedly now. His two round eyes stared down at the ground as he walked. The tiny cat imitated its owner in staring at the floor as well. Anyone witnessing this sight might think gold and treasures would be popping out from beneath the sands.

HereticKing would occasionally look back at the two cats “hanging their hands in remorse”. While he admired how well XiaoYu was able to follow him with his head hung low, the mischievous side of him wondered – if he just stopped and turned around without notice, would XiaoYu just rush in and send himself into HereticKing’s arms?

The thought lingered in his mind, but HereticKing never acted on it. He knew LuckyCat didn’t have skin as thick as I_Am_A_Poor_Man. His face was as ripe as a tomato during the incident before. If he was teased again, he might faint from embarrassment and anger or even just stomp away and tear up a Return Scroll right then and there.

He’s got plenty of time. He’ll play with this little guy another day.

XiaoYu was oblivious to the fact he’d narrowly escaped from a “disaster”. Still, he could hide once but he can’t hide forever. He’ll be met with more “disasters”.

HereticKing always had I_Am_A_Poor_Man chattering on beside him. It felt rather strange to be walking on and on in silence. Furthermore, he didn’t have a tiny cat to play with now. Perhaps he could make the rare move to try and start a conversation.

However, HereticKing didn’t know what’s the trendy topic for boys these days. (There’s a reason why the little cat viewed him as an “uncle”.) I_Am_A_Poor_Man nattered on endlessly last time, but he never mentioned anything about LuckyCat’s interests or hobbies. LuckyCat looked like he should be around 20 years old, about the age of a university student.

“Are you studying in university?” HereticKing slowed down until he was walking beside XiaoYu. They should be walking side-by-side if they’re chatting. If they talk while one is at the front and the other behind, it’d feel like a leader questioning his subordinate.

“Um…no.” If all those events hadn’t happened, XiaoYu should be in his second year now.

“…” HereticKing didn’t think his eyes were fooled. XiaoYu’s awkward personality didn’t seem like he’s already struggling in society’s rat race. The only option left was he’s a university student. As for the miniscule chance of not being either… At the sight of XiaoYu’s dull eyes, HereticKing decided not to continue asking about this. Perhaps some unhappy memories were related.

“What kind of healer are you planning to be?” Since there’re some issues with his real-life situation, HereticKing thought they could talk about his in-game life.

“I’m thinking tank.”

“Oh…not many build tank healers.”

Other than the basic Intelligence for healers (to increase Magic Attack, Magic Defence and MP), the other stat points could be distributed as a player pleased. There were many builds for healers, like the violent build (Strength), the tank build (Vitality), Agility build (increases dodge chances, reduces cooldown and delays), speed build (upon reaching 200 in Intelligence, a new stat would be branched out – Wisdom. It increases casting speed and MP recovery speed), and even pure Intelligence builds.

 Based on the current meta for healers right now, a lot plan their builds towards the latter few. There weren’t many healers around. They’d usually train in parties and even then, it’d never be their turn to tank monsters. They do very much need their spells to be fast, so they can protect every party member, and effective, especially their healing spells.

“I grind solo.” So, to ensure he would not be smacked to death with just one blow, he needed to increase his Vitality!

“Not going to party up?”

“Too much trouble.” XiaoYu shook his head. When he saw doubt on HereticKing’s face, he lifted up the kitty in his arms. “It levels up according to the items it picks up, and it loves to pick up items. I won’t restrain it, nor would I put it away.”

“So that’s why. There’s already been trouble from it, right?” Otherwise, you wouldn’t look so helpless and crestfallen.

“Mn…”

“Don’t be upset. They think everyone’s like them. Petty and selfish. I know you definitely won’t hoard everything.” You wouldn’t have chased after me just to return that one gold coin otherwise. HereticKing ruffled XiaoYu’s hair.

“Thanks.” It felt nice to be trusted. XiaoYu brushed away the clouds in his mind and smiled, revealing two cute little canine teeth.

As if he was infected by that smile, HereticKing smiled back. It sort of felt like they were smiling knowingly at each other.

“Once you reach your second Job Change, would you be willing to join the Heretic Demons?” The minimum requirement for entering the branch guilds of Heretic Demons was over Level 50 after the second Job Change. As the big Guild Leader, he can’t break the rules. Still, he really hoped XiaoYu could be part of them.

“Yes.” A guild must be lively. Perhaps he could experience the atmosphere of a classroom again.

“Remember to notify me as soon as you successfully get through your Job Change.”

“No problem.”

“Then, I eagerly await your application.”

“Mn. But, my level would be the lowest. Hehe.”

“It’s fine. Your level would be quickly trained up. Maybe you’ll level up five times or more once this S-rank quest is done.”

“That much experience?” Why not hunt for an egg to trip over every day?

“That’s a conservative guess. Quests ranked S and above aren’t easy to find.” Of course, the Level 100 was an exception to the rule. The game would love it if everyone rolled a quest ranked S or above, so they’d lose experience from being unable to complete the quest. In reality, over 90% of players would draw an S-ranked quest the first time they attempt the Level 100 quest.

“Then we must complete it.” XiaoYu clenched his hand into a fist. He could almost see the vast amount experience waving at him.

“Meow!” The little cat stretched out a paw and waved, as if it too was set on the mission. But it was most likely seeing a pile of gold coins waving at it instead.

“Hehe.” The big and tiny cats were so in synced with each other. It looked like his future won’t be boring at all.

“There’s a snake!” XiaoYu, who’d been staring down at the ground, suddenly noticed something wriggling in the sand before him. Upon a closer look, it was a small green snake about as wide as his wrist.

“Don’t panic. It’s a passive mob. It’s fine if you don’t step on it.”

“Oh.”

XiaoYu carefully stepped around the little snake. It seemed to be able to detect when players were near it. It raised its round head and stared at XiaoYu. He somehow felt disdain coming from it. The snake then looked at HereticKing and quietly stretched back on the sand to continue its slow wriggling.

Did a snake just look down at him? =_=+

“Seems like the A.I. of the monsters around here were improved.” That meant their journey west might not be that peaceful. Thus, HereticKing started up a discussion with I_Am_A_Poor_Man via private messages again.

“Don’t be sad. Once your level is higher, we’ll come back. I guarantee it will be moving around you instead then.”

“Mn.” XiaoYu scrunched his nose and silently glared at that cowardly bully of a snake.

XiaoYu’s discreet actions did not escape HereticKing’s gaze. He was very satisfied to see LuckyCat being more relaxed around him. So much different to that respectful and formal yet detached attitude from the start.

Perhaps LuckyCat was just like some lonely little beastie (Not a typo! It’s not little bottom!). At the start, he’d treat anyone trying get close with hostility and indifference. Once they know each other more, he’d slowly let down his guard and reveal his original naive personality. He’d even throw a minor temper tantrum now and again.

HereticKing smiled. He affectionately looked at XiaoYu who kept his head down low in search of “treasures”. It’s sort of like how an older brother would look on at his pouting younger brother, yet not really.

Translator’s Note:

  1. Hide once but can’t hide forever: Twist to the Chinese saying, “One can hide on/from the first day, but they can’t hide from the fifteenth”. The reason the 15th is used is due to the lunar calendar. The first day is the new moon and the 15th is the full moon. Some interpret it as never being able to hide from justice or karma. Bad deeds are typically done during the night, so the moonlight is seen as a metaphor for justice.
  2. “Disasters”: More accurately, it’s the character used for trials and tribulations (more commonly found in cultivation stories).
  3. They think everyone’s like them. Petty and selfish: Rephrasing of a Chinese idiom (以小人之心度君子之腹). The proper translation is “assuming the noble heart with the mentality of a petty man”.
  4. Smiling knowingly at each other: Part of a meme/idiom (相视一笑). It simply translates to “Smile at each other” but there are some nuances in it that’ve been added in since the poem it first appeared in.
  5. Beastie/Bottom: There are many homonyms to “shou” (bottom/uke in Chinese). This is one pairing the author specifically pointed out.

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