Lee Hyun closed his math textbook.
A few years ago he had to drop out of middle school, and since then he never once thought he’d open a textbook again. However, to pass the exam in order to get high school diploma he just had to get back to studying.
Ever since Hyun left school, he was spending all of his time on earning money by manual labor, so his brain got pretty rusty. He was meticulously reading the book, but its meaning was eluding him.
“Damn, why are they teaching so many different formulae!? If I would ever need them, they can be easily found on the internet; and for the complicated stuff I could use a calculator…”
Lee Hyun was muttering to himself nonstop. It was very hard to study math all by himself, but going to cram school would mean additional expenses.
I should probably just forget it and return to the game… But I already paid for exam…
After a long speculation Hyun and his sister decided that she’ll help him with studies for an hour every couple of days. But even with his sister’s help, learning math was very hard. And when the student has no interest in the subject, teacher has to put dozen times more effort.
However Hye Yeon had planned everything ahead. Knowing her brother well, she took an unusual approach to education.
“Look. This number is your savings. Think about them! You deposited $300 for 12 month with 5.39% interest rate. How much will you get in the end?”
“316 dollars and 17 cents!”
When Hye Yeon was asking questions like that, she was always getting a correct answer in a blink of an eye. But that answer didn’t satisfy Hyun as he continued:
“The interest will amount to $16.17. But they are subjected to taxes. It’s either $2.10 of simplified tax, or $2.42 of standard tax.”
Hye Yeon smiled happily:
“See? It’s simple. You have to learn everything in a similar manner. Now to the next problem. Count the money.”
After a long break from studying, Hyun’s head was barely working; but gradually he started to notice that solving problems became easier and easier.
Hyun have read all the textbooks and solved half the problems from them. He even borrowed all the textbooks his sister had.
All in 4 days before the exam!
That’s because when you still have a lot of time you just can’t make yourself study. But once exams are already at hand, you just have no choice but to get yourself together and learn all you can in the remaining time.
And so came the day of the exam.
Hyun left his home early, to be able to walk to the school in the centre of the town, where his exam was held.
I must… I have to do my best…
On the way there he visited his grandmother in the hospital. She was getting better, she wasn’t as pale, and according to her doctor, she was able to go for walks all by herself.
“Don’t worry if you fail, Hyun. You’ll always be able to prepare better and pass all your exams.” – said his grandmother with an encouraging smile.
Lee Hyun tightly gripped her hand.
His grandmother’s hands were all wrinkled from the hard manual labor that she had to do in her late years to raise Hyun and Hye Yeon after their parents died.
Hyun will be grateful to her for the rest of his life. If not for their grandmother, they’d be sent to orphanage and most likely get separated, as it is rare for two children to be adopted by the same family.
“Well, I should go now…” – Hyun said goodbye to his grandmother and went to the school.
Exam was held at a public high school ‘Korea’. It was part of educational complex ‘Korea’ and was located near a college and a university.
Though the university didn’t get into top ten most prestigious universities of the country, it had good teaching staff and well-designed infrastructure. A lot of talented young people, including students from abroad, were studying here in an independent and creative environment.
The main quality of a prestigious university isn’t its rating inside the country, but its reputation abroad. ‘Korea’ university was well-known in other countries, so it had more students from abroad than any other Korean university.
Lee Hyun appreciated the majesty of the main building of the university.
Even though I live a lousy life… but I swear, my sister will be able to study here…
Every group consisted of 30 people.
After receiving his question list, Lee Hyun noted with a surprise that he knew most of it. His intense and rushed studying method had a great result.
Though he shouldn’t ignore the fact that this exam was meant for adult and elderly people, who for some reason, were not able to get a proper education. So it was a bit easier than the usual exam.
I know almost all of them. If only I had a chance to continue getting education, I’m sure I would have achieved a great result. – thought Hyun, slowly looking through the questions.
Hyun regretted a lot that he wasn’t able to continue going to school. In his opinion, the faults in Korean educational system gave rise to another unfortunate genius!
But he didn’t have time for idle thoughts, so he took his pen and started writing down answers to the questions, contemplating deep in thoughts over some problem from time to time.
One of the subjects Hyun was allowed to choose for his exam was ethics. Actually, he could pick a foreign language or some other subject, but he picked ethics as he decided that he doesn’t need to study it, you just have to know basic principles.
1. You found a wallet on the ground. What will you do?
Lee Hyun scratched his head. Even his decision to leave school wasn’t as hard to make.
So which answer is the right one?
He thought ethics was an easy subject, but it proved to have such complicated questions.
Well, 3 of the answers are correct…
After pondering for a while he opted to the 2nd answer. 5th looked correct as well, but ‘leaving the wallet’ wasn’t the best choice.
Other ethics questions weren’t as hard, and Hyun answered them with ease.
I’m totally getting a full mark for ethics.
Ethics was last subject, so with it he finished his exam.
“In my last trip to Ross Gleasis I got a new weapon. Shining Golden Axe! With 60+ damage!”
“What about bonus stats?”
“Strength +45, Agility -10, increased chance to not to encounter bandits while travelling; if it falls in water it will be lost.”
In the hallways, people who just finished their exam, were standing in small groups. And almost all of them were talking about Royal Road.
Axes in the game had the highest damage attribute, but their attack range and speed were considered to be the lowest. Even though every hit from an axe would deal tremendous damage, it didn’t matter much if you couldn’t land even one of them. So, if you knew how to wield an axe, you were a really dangerous fighter.
Lee Hyun picked up his bag and started walking towards the exit. He wasn’t in a hurry so he decided to walk behind that gossiping group of guys. He wanted to hear the rest of their conversation.
One of the guys looked to be around 30 years old; the other two were a bit younger.
“Joong Hoon, I’m jealous. When we left school all we did was drinking…”
“Yeah, we were just fooling around, while you’re a Dark Gamers Union member…”
Dark Gamer was a name for players who were making money through games.
But Hyun was most surprised by the reaction of two other guys: they knew who that man was and they were jealous.
Isn’t he ashamed?
Lee Hyun thought that there’s nothing to be proud about if you earn money by playing games. Because you’re not making anything useful, not bringing anything new into the world, you just make money out of thin air. And were games to disappear, you’d be one of the most useless people in the world.
“Joong Hoon, what’s your level?”
“My level? Let’s see… what was it… 355.”
“That’s huge! I have a lot of friends in game, but none of them are of such a high level. And what’s your rating?”
“I’m in the top 10000.”
The number of players in the game went over 100 millions, so being in top 10000 meant a lot.
Already at 355th level. Lucky one.
Lee Hyun couldn’t hide his envy and slowed down his pace. To get home he had to take a bus.
However Joong Hoon and two guys stopped on the parking lot near a foreign car.
“Get in, I’ll show you what being a dark gamer is.”
They got in a car and Hyun didn’t have a choice but to be on his way to bus stop, when Joong Hoon called out to Hyun:
“Hey! We have a spare seat, wanna join? If you live nearby I’ll give you a lift.”
Hyun started to consider if he should accept the invitation, but the man continued:
“It’s fine. I see you play Royal Road as well. I noticed that you were listening to our conversation. We’re headed to the regular meeting of dark gamers at the moment. If you want, you can join us.”
Dark gamers were gathering at an abandoned warehouse.
Inside a huge building there were a couple of capsules, a long table, and multiple chairs.
“Before we start our meeting, I’ll tell you about our Union…”
He introduced himself as Choi Joong Hoon and continued with a smile:
“How many people in your opinion make money by selling items from Royal Road? Not just once or twice, but those who make a living that way?”
“A few tens of thousands?” – asked one of the guys after a bit of thought.
Choi Joong Hoon shook his head.
“Not less than a hundred thousand.”
“And most of them are from India, China and some other countries of East Asia.”
International borders meant nothing for Royal Road. Any person from any country was able to enjoy the game using capsule. Even the language barrier was removed, thanks to the automatic speech translation software, provided by Unicon Corporation.
“I heard there’s a trading company in Korea that works only with Royal Road…”
“That’s true. They sell items and in-game money obtained by their employees. I’m not going to criticize them, they made their own decision. But we made ours, and do not want publicity. A lot of our members are unsociable by nature and prefer to be alone… Players like that wouldn’t be able to show their potential in a big company. That is why we created The Dark Gamers Union.”
Choi Joong Hoon’s words slightly confused recruits.
“Then what does being in the Union mean?”
“Good Question. The main reason for Union is information exchange. Our union accumulates information gathered by members. It allows you to learn about hunting grounds, good dungeons, profitable trading routes and rare monsters…”
“Wow, you share information? So it means that once I join the Union I get access to the information database?”
“Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. You can’t get all the information immediately. Member’s access level is determined by his rank within the Union.”
“Eh, why’s that?”
“That’s just security measure. It didn’t happen before, but some member might leak our information outside, and Union is all about information.”
“Guess that’s true. Once there’s enough people about anything can happen.”
“Yeah. Also players of level 100 have no use for information about dungeons of level 200 and higher. Therefore we assign ranks to our members according to the value of information they provide. And that rank determines how much access they have to our data. That’s how it all works. Of course every new member gets access to the basic information.”
“So rank is directly dependent on the value of information you provide?”
“Not just that. If you actively participate in the Union’s activities, your rank rises. Same thing if you sell items through our auction website often enough. But there’s a certain limit to that kind of advance in rank.”
“That looks good enough. So how do we sign up?”
Two guys, who came with Choi Joong Hoon, started to fill the papers. They stated their character names, levels and other related information.
Depending on this data the initial rank was assigned. As the guys had a level of 140, they got assigned the lowest rank ‘D’.
“Aren’t you going to sign up too?”, asked Joong Hoon after approaching the calmly sitting Hyun.
Lee Hyun though it over 2nd time and after counting all the pros and cons shook his head.
“I’m not going to join.”
“So that’s your answer?”
Joong Hoon didn’t look disappointed in the least.
“Well, if you refuse to join, that means you do play Royal Road. And as you agreed to come here with us you must have a certain interest in our organization. But if that’s your decision, there’s not much I can do…”
Then Choi Joong Hoon leaned to Hyun’s ear and whispered:
“Those two are just random people. They probably won’t even use information available to them. But I can see that you are different. So if you would join our Union, you’ll get access to some special information…”
“I suppose you just don’t want to bother with sharing valuable information, if you don’t need access to information for newbies. Isn’t that so?”
Lee Hyun was quite surprised. It looked like Choi Joong Hoon saw a lot of players like Hyun and so was pretty accurate with his assumptions.
“Anyway, that’s fine. Everyone has their own principles. And our Union respects that. However I’ll give you an advice: If you’re a serious Royal Road player you’d better off joining our Union.”
Lee Hyun, who was silent up till this moment, quietly replied:
“I don’t have time to raise my rank and I don’t want to give away any information.”
If Lee Hyun was to reveal his name – Weed – he’d most likely have some problems. He recalled how On Joo-wan threatened to interview him.
But even the 2nd rejection didn’t upset Joong Hoon. On the contrary, it seemed he liked Hyun’s response.
“Okay. At least people like you won’t stab in the back. Do you know our website? Then listen here. Login kj9008, password 165008. That’s a special account for people who join our website for the first time. Once you login using it, you’ll get a rank ‘C’, and it gives you access to a decent amount of valuable data, trust me. Also, you can change the password once you login if you’re worried someone else might get access to your information.”
“Why do I get such a special treatment?” – asked Hyun indifferently, and added – “Colleague?”
“That’s simple. Dark gamers have three rules. First rule of dark gamers is ‘Don’t trust anyone’. That exactly describes our current relationships.”
“There’s also the 2nd rule: ‘Give as much as you take’. You seem to be the kind of person to follow those two rules, and would you use some of our information, you’d provide something valuable in return. I see a real dark gamer in you.”
“What about 3rd rule?”
“And here’s the 3rd rule: ‘Only trust in money’.”
And so Lee Hyun decided to join the Dark Gamers Union.
* * *
On the 4th level of dungeon of Basra Weed, Hwaryeong and Zephyr were concentrating on hunting.
They risked their lives in every fight, and with every fight their skill and experience points were rising.
“Ok, health back to full… Weed, let’s go look for the next fight.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice.”
Zephyr and Hwaryeong got on their feet.
Whatever the methods they tried to persuade Weed to slow down the pace of the hunt, it was all in vain. So they finally resigned themselves to his will.
Meanwhile, Weed was thinking that dungeon of Basra almost expended its value as a hunting ground.
We’ll stay here for another day or two at most. I’m sorry for the time I had to spend on exam.
Quite a lot of time passed since the siege of Odein.
Balkan Guild was greatly weakened and won’t be able to launch another assault on the stronghold for time being. So the winners will have enough time to secure their position. Most probably all the hunting grounds around Odein will become private, so only players from Prosperity Guild or their allies will be allowed to hunt there.
It’s a pity.
Dungeon of Basra – one of the most famous dungeons, renowned for plentiful experience and valuable loot.
In the past two days Weed gained 17 levels, reaching level 247. But he doubted they will be able to hunt here for much longer.
I’ve got to get at least 5 more levels in the remaining time. And it’s best to begin from some strong monster; I won’t be able to get experience fast enough from small ones…
Weed called his friends and headed to the place they hadn’t yet visited once – to the den of the dungeon’s boss, a place called ‘Main Revolt Headquarters’.
When Weed first mentioned his idea, Hwaryeong and Zephyr answered with a strong resent:
“I can’t believe it!”
“Weed, have you finally gone nuts?!”
Dungeon of Basra’s boss had a level of 290, and he was accompanied by subordinate knights of level 275. No wonder Weed’s partners had such a reaction.
“Weed, we used to think that you had better judgment. But this time there’s absolutely no way we can beat the boss and his knights.”
“Exactly!” – Zephyr backed Hwaryeong up –
“Basra’s boss is a dark mage, and even said to be a necromancer. Necromancer’s magic is very different from that of normal mages. And you also have to take into account his 290th level and an increase in health due to his ‘boss’ status.”
“They say his attack power is enormous!”
“Yeah, you take a couple hits and you’re dead.”
Weed waved his hand to interrupt them:
“His attacks are really that strong?”
“Of course! And no kind of bandages will help that.” – exclaimed Zephyr.
“And bandages can only be applied after the battle!” – added Hwaryeong.
Suddenly Zephyr and Hwaryeong exchanged glances and a complete unanimity could be read on their faces. They brightened up and smiled.
“Weed! We’re coming!”
Once I die, I’ll get to rest. – At that moment that was their only wish.
Those are some funny friends I’ve got myself here.
Weed wasn’t getting bored with them around. He couldn’t stop being surprised how simple they were. However Weed didn’t realize that he was not much different; one just has to remember how agitated he becomes if even one coin is at stake.
“Hahaha! We haven’t had any visitors for quite a while. What business do you have here?”
In the deepest part of the dungeon, sitting on a magnificent throne and dressed in gorgeous clothes, there was the dungeon’s boss, accompanied by 2 knights and 12 thieves.
That’s our end…
Thank god, it’s going to end here.
Upon hearing the boss Hvaryung and Zephyr bid farewell to their lives. They weren’t too nervous, at least their smiles indicated otherwise. But they did feel a little thrilled; after all they weren’t encountering bosses all too often.
The main NPC of the dungeon was gathering forces to revenge British Confederacy, so it was possible to prevent the fight. Because if you are friendly enough, you would be able to get a quest from him, like to stop assassins sent for his head, or to provide thieves with the items they require.
Naturally, would you take one of those quests you’d become the enemy of British Confederacy. However not just anyone was able to take those quests but only players with high enough fame attribute.
So when Basra’s boss started talking to Weed, Hwaryeong and Zephyr started to get nervous. Because if the fight won’t start they won’t get a chance to die.
But much to their relief Weed tightened his grip on the sword and answered:
“We came to kill you.”
“Hohoho! So you’re just another pack of British dogs! Well, if you came here to die I won’t disappoint you. I’ll hang your heads at the entrance as a warning for other puppets of Confederacy. Knights! Kill them!”
“Yes, your Royal Highness Archduke.”
While the boss was babbling, Weed waved his sword and yelled:
The effect of Agatha’s holy sword triggered and holy spirit infused Weed.
” High Priest’s Blessing!”
The ring on Weed’s hand faintly flared and covered Weed’s body with soft glow.
Even though these items’ effects had duration of only 20 minutes, they were blessed by the High Priest of church of Freya himself! In a single moment Weed became stronger by half.
“Van, hold off the thieves!”
Even death knight forgot his defiance in presence of such blessings. It wasn’t wise to meddle with Weed when he was so strong.
“Zephyr, help Van to deal with thieves.”
If he was to fight, he’d prefer fighting knights, that’d be a faster way to die.
“Hwaryeong will stall the knights. I’ll take on the Archduke.”
“What if they come to their senses?” – exclaimed Hwaryeong in a worried voice.
“Then deal with it. If Van and Zephyr finish the knights by then, they’ll help you. I’ll be busy with the boss.”
Zephyr and Hwaryeong didn’t have any choice but to follow Weed’s orders.
Two knights were slowly approaching Weed, skilfully swinging their swords.
“Don’t sleep Hwaryeong, begin!”
Zephyr immediately headed towards the group of thieves, and Weed easily slipped past two knights and rushed ahead. Hwaryeong was left alone, facing two knights.
To charm enemies, stronger than her, she’ll have to spend a lot of mana and dance much longer than usually. And knights were quickly approaching!
“For the glory of Basra!” shouted NPCs and jumped towards Hwaryeong.
Dancing girl closed her eyes in despair.
That’ll probably hurt a little…
The pain would bring death! It was a lot more welcome than all those strenuous everyday fights that were leaving her completely exhausted.
However a second passed, than another, but nothing was happening to her! Moreover, she heard that knights had stopped and started to argue.
“Kill her, Jason.”
“I don’t want. You go, Tobon.”
“I can’t! As knights we gave an oath to always protect the ladies. It is our duty! If I kill her, I’ll no longer be a knight.”
“Well, I think the same way! But the boss ordered…”
The last words dismissed their doubts. Hwaryeong heard one of the knights approach her and say apologetically:
“Forgive us, lady!”
Even while expecting to die any moment, Hwaryeong never stopped her dance, she was still elegantly moving her hands and bending her body.
It wasn’t difficult at all for her to dance with eyes closed. Over the last few days she had to dance in front of thieves of Basra many times, sometimes while fighting with extreme sleepiness. So she eventually learned to dance with closed eyes.
You successfully executed Charming Dance.
Knights of Basra are ensnared.
“Ah! After all she’s too beautiful, I can’t kill her. Sorry boss, we aren’t…”
Hwaryeong managed to disable the knights.
“Aww! I can’t believe I did that!”
She collapsed on the ground in frustration, when Zephyr and Van, who just finished off the thieves, approached her.
Zephyr was admiring Weed’s fight against the boss of Basra, who was throwing multiple dark spells at him.
“Pierce my enemy, Dark Arrows!”
Numerous arrows made of pure darkness shot from behind Archduke aiming at Weed. The spell was cast almost instantly, but Weed still managed to dodge all the arrows.
He was able to do that because he had already accounted for a possibility that something like this would happen. So the moment boss began to cast his spell Weed had determined its type and area of effect and started to evade it. Zephyr was completely astonished by that feat.
Weed swung his sword to deflect a few arrows he couldn’t dodge and dashed towards Basra’s boss.
Basra’s Archduke instantly teleported a few steps back, however on his chest a bleeding long cut was clearly visible.
Weed’s Sculpting Blade technique was completely ignoring any armor!
For necromancers, who didn’t have any armor and had low health, strikes like that were especially dangerous! If only the boss was a leech, he’d have almost infinite vitality like Lord Tori. But there were few monsters like that in the game, and usually players were trying to avoid them.
After gaining some distance from Weed, the boss got a few moments to observe the situation and came to a conclusion that it wasn’t favorable for him.
“It’s useless to fight me!” – he shouted in rage – “I made a contract with the god of death! Do you want to know why those British bastards weren’t able to defeat me? I’ll show you! The Immortal Power! Arise my soldiers!”
The ground under their feet started to tremble and skeletons started to appear from it! Multiple black, red and white skeletons!
Archduke of Basra, as a true necromancer, used his main trump card, and summoned mage, warrior and archer skeletons to his aid. His voice got filled with triumph:
“Most of the Basra’s warriors were buried here! This place was a burial ground for many generations, and since I was a child I used to come here to practice necromancy. Now this will become your burial ground as well! Ahahahaha!”
Weed’s movements were significantly slowed now that he had to fight through hordes of summoned skeletons. Those monsters weren’t that dangerous by themselves, but they’ll make avoiding boss’s attacks much harder, and that was what worried Weed the most. Every magic attack of the Archduke could lower Weed’s health by third, if not by half.
One of the skeletons hit Weed from behind with his rusty sword. The hit was accurate, but there was almost no damage because Weed had carefully polished his armor before the fight started.
But attacks continued.
About level 220…
Weed started to think.
Thanks to his vast experience of fighting monsters he was able to precisely determine the level of the enemy by one received hit.
Level 220 monsters won’t be that dangerous…
But the problem was that the boss was able to summon skeletons indefinitely, and they were greatly hindering Weed’s movements, while blessings would hold for just 20 minutes.
And once their duration is over, the fight will become a whole lot harder. In other words, he didn’t have any time to spare.
“I’ve got to get rid of the undead… Yeah, I know the way! Fight fire with fire!”
All this time Weed was wearing the helmet of the Death knight that he got in Lavias.
The helmet allowed Weed to summon undead of level 50. The exact amount and degree of obedience depended on the Leadership attribute of the summoner.
Even more skeletons rose from the ground. More than 200 of them, and all of them kneeled, expecting their master’s order.
“Fight! Against those who threaten me!”
Two skeleton crowds started to fight each other. In this fight it was hardly possible to distinguish friend from foe.
“Servants of the god of death, I order you with power, given to me: submit to my will!” – shouted the Archduke.
“You’re not the one who summoned us.” – came the answer from the direction of the battle.
Skeletons, summoned by Weed were a lot weaker than those of the necromancer. They were dying quickly and did no damage to the enemy, but they still managed to divert enemies’ attention to let Weed escape the skeletons’ ranks.
“Triple strike! Backstab!”
Weed started to assault the boss sparing no mana. Archduke was able to use blinks to evade Weed’s attacks, but his advantage was already lost. Hwaryeong, Zephyr and Van finished the knights who had finally woken up and hurried to help Weed.
Now the entire party was chasing the fleeing boss, and a couple minutes later he succumbed to the furious onslaught of his opponents and died.
– Endurance +1
– Fighting Spirit +1
– Level has risen.
Weed had already fought monsters of level over 290, so he only got one level for this victory. Of course this boss was stronger than the vampire lords, but he was still far weaker than Lord Tori…
“Wow! Great! We won!”
Zephyr and Hwaryeong celebrated their victory and walked towards Weed. But the focused expression on his face made them stop.
“Hmm, I have 3.5% of life left. I watched it closely…”
“Well, then let’s continue the hunt.”
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