Chapter 7

The Vicious

        When Musette logged back in, she didn’t know where she was. Checking her surroundings in a panic, she realized she was on the road heading back towards Arkeport from the Grand Imperial Inn. She hadn’t changed her routine settings, and since she hadn’t purchased a room at the Inn, she’d started walking back towards the only safe rest location she had.
        The moon was high in the sky, so it was just bright enough to see her immediate surroundings, but the foothills looked large and imposing as they blocked out the stars. The path she was walking on was barely visible, but was the flattest path between the hills, so was easy to follow. Remembering what the beggar woman had said about the patrols in Makit, Musette decided to head back to Arkeport. It was too dark to try to hunt mobs, so she’d try doing some quests in town to gain more xp, and hopefully more money.
        Her Sword Skill was already up to Rank 5, with 1H Sword not far behind at Rank 3. She wasn’t even 5% towards hitting Adventurer Level 2 yet, though. Classes took a lot more xp to level up than skills, it seemed.
        Musette jogged along the road, keeping an eye out for possible enemy attacks. She hadn’t run into any on the way through, so she wasn’t too worried. She had to show her Journal for ID again passing through the Makit checkpoint. The guards were different this time, and aside from being snide, didn’t hassle her much.
        Back in Arkeport territory, Musette was much more alert. She hadn’t followed the road here, so she didn’t know if mobs would attack players on the road. She was especially wary of running into another kingspear. Those snakes were crazy fast and hard to follow in daylight. In moonlight they’d be practically invisible.
        She was carefully watching for enemies attacking her low, so she nearly missed the three men who seemed to be waiting by the side of the road. “Hello beauty,” one of them called out to her.
        Two of the three men were slightly shorter than Musette, and all three had an asian cast to their faces. In addition, all three of them were Miriam, though they had chosen the Dawn race, making it difficult to tell their exact features. The taller one was carrying a large double-bladed axe in both hands, and wearing leather armor. Another was wearing mostly cloth, but had a metal breastplate covering his chest. He also had a longsword in one hand and a shield made of wooden slats held together with leather strips. The last stood behind the other two, with nothing in his hands, and wore a cloth robe.
        They were all threat level 0, and were clearly players. The problem was that the threat level above their heads were red, indicating they were hostile.
        “It’s quite late to be travelling alone, beauty,” the shorter one in the metal armor said as they approached her. The words didn’t quite match the movement of his mouth, indicating that the system was translating what he was saying.
        Musette adjusted her footing, preparing to run. “I’m just on my way back to town.”
        “Well, you should definitely hurry back to town. Just leave all your money and items here, and you can pass,” he told her.
        Musette was expecting this as soon as she noticed that they were aggressive. Without another word she dashed as quickly as she could. The three of them were expecting her to run and were prepared to chase her, except she didn’t dash away from them, instead she dashed past them, drawing her sword and aiming for the one in the back, who was dressed like a wizard.
        A spellcasting glow had already surrounded him, but he was startled as Musette appeared right in his face, attacking him multiple times with quick slashes. His concentration was broken, and the magical glow around him disappeared, but Musette realized she wasn’t doing very much damage. Of course, they wouldn’t be able to do much damage to her either, but they outnumbered her, so in a prolonged fight she would definitely lose.
        As soon as she’d started attacking him, a name had popped up over his head, and the background music had swelled. Tightening her grip on her sabre, Musette thrust it at Xībù Fēng’s face faster than he could react. The blade flashed in the moonlight and struck him right in the eye.
        “Chòubī!” he yelled, which the system didn’t translate.
        Musette wasn’t paying attention however, she immediately yelled out, “Sidestep!”
        The system immediately took over her body, and the longsword of Xīfāng Báihŭ passed right by her face. Dodging that close cost extra energy, but it was worth it. The axe wielder, Xīyáng, not only missed her by a wide margin, but actually hit Xībù Fēng, who was holding his hand over his face.
        Moving with the ability, Musette whipped around until she was behind Xīfāng Báihŭ, who was off balance due to his missed attack. Knowing she couldn’t do much damage with a normal attack, Musette aimed for the most vulnerable part of his body with a strong thrust. Xīfāng howled, releasing a string of words the system didn’t translate and grabbed his ass. Meanwhile, Musette ran full speed towards the nearest group of trees.
        ~Ping~ You have received the title ‘Vicious’.
        Musette barely noticed the notification as she sheathed her sword and pulled out her shield while running. She held the shield with both hands in front of her, using it to knock aside branches.
        She continued running until her energy ran out, falling to her knees, panting. She quickly hid herself behind a tree, and took out her waterskin to wet her parched throat.
        ~Ping~ Sub-Skill ‘Sprint’ learned.
        ‘This game is entirely too realistic,’ Musette lamented, as her energy began to recover and her breathing calmed. She stayed where she was, listening carefully for the sounds of the three men following her. All she could hear was the sound of insects and the rustle of leaves.
        She hated PvP, player vs player combat. She was awkward enough with friendly interactions. Interacting with another person aggressively just stressed her out, and guys like those were the worst. Not only did they attack other players, but they ganged up on them, and stole their equipment. Everyone was still beginners, so no one had anything worth stealing yet, but some people just enjoyed picking on others. Musette smiled as she remembered stabbing the one guy right in his asshole. Hopefully he’d think twice before randomly attacking people on the road.
        Her energy recovered, and fairly confident she’d lost them, Musette opened her map. As usual, it wasn’t much help, only showing her immediate surroundings, which she could see anyway. However, it did show the direction back to Arkeport. Musette didn’t dare go back to the road, which meant she’d need to travel through the shillat infested wilderness to get back.
        Sighing, Musette pulled out one of the torches she’d purchased back at the inn, and tried lighting it with the flint & steel set in her bag. She had never been an outdoorsy person, and it took her more than fifteen tries to set the torch alight. It was just a stick of wood, with a bit of dry cloth wrapped around one end of it, but once it caught fire, it brightened the area right around her decently.
        She still couldn’t see very far with the trees around, but it was good enough to stop her tripping over roots and things. Musette kept an eye on her surroundings, and carefully made her way to the edge of the copse of trees. Standing at the edge, she looked around. The half moon was still bright, and in the distance she could just make out animals that looked like the deer she’d seen during the day. Even as she watched, a shadow moved, and one of the deer fell to the ground, and disappeared into darkness.
        Musette frowned. Was that a player attacking, or were animals attacking other animals in the area? She hadn’t seen any predator type animals during the day, but more dangerous mobs appearing at night was fairly common. Predator mobs attacking other mobs was not. It really gave the feeling of being in a real world, but more importantly, it gave players an idea the strength of various mobs. Those deer she’d seen earlier were threat 2. Something that could take one down with a single attack in complete silence was not something she wanted to run into at present.
        Looking around, Musette spotted another group of trees close together. Gripping her torch tightly, she sprinted at full speed across the hills to the other copse, keeping an eye out for any enemies, humanoid or otherwise.
        Luckily, she made it safely into the trees, and paused to recover her energy. She checked her map again to verify her directions. At her current pace she figured it’d take about 2 hours to make it back to Arekport. At least her sprinting, walking and jogging skills were gaining xp.
        Musette began to make her way through the trees, carefully watching her step. She avoided tree roots and vines, unfortunately she was not prepared for the ground to simply fall apart beneath her.
        “Ahhh!” Musette yelped, as she fell into the hole, rolling and tumbling several feet along a tunnel until she finally bumped into a wall.
        She felt sore from the fall, the tumble, and hitting the wall. She’d taken minor damage to BP, MP and SP, all. Pain in this game was realistic, but felt slightly removed from her real body, more like pain remembered than pain that was happening right now. It made it more tolerable, but still fairly unpleasant. Luckily, it went away somewhat quickly as BP damage healed.
        She’d dropped her torch when she fell, but turning around, she realized she could still vaguely make out her surroundings. She was in some sort of tunnel that looked like it was natural, and she could only get up on her hands and knees. The light was faint, but warm, like a fire, and was coming from farther along the tunnel.
        Cautiously heading towards the light, Musette found a hole at the end of the tunnel. Looking through it, she saw a large cavern heavily lit with torches and filled with bones. Inside the cavern there were a large number of orcs.
        Orcs were a humanoid species, but unlike goblins and gremlins were not among the enlightened. They were tall, generally being over 6’, with piglike features. They even had wide snouts like a pig, although they had three nostrils. The males were pear shaped, with muscular chests but narrow shoulders, and plump, flabby bellies. The females were the exact opposite, with large breasts and broad shoulders, but narrow waists and hips. Some of them had one or two horns growing out of the side of their heads.
        They looked comical, but were dressed in fur from animals they’d killed and carried broad bladed swords that were widest at their point, and had no guard. They weren’t wearing too much in the way of clothes, but it was enough for them to be decent.
        From where she was, Musette could only make out grunts from the noises they were making, They might be talking, but she was too far away to be able to get any words out of it, even if they spoke a language she could understand. There were about 50 orcs down there, each of them either threat 0 or 1. After grunting at each other for a bit, they all headed out of the cavern, leaving just one woman, larger than the others, behind.
        Musette watched to see if she was going to leave also, or if any of the others were coming back. If there was just one, Musette was sure she could take it, but she didn’t want to be swarmed. This one was only threat 0, which meant they were basically even.
        Seeing no change after a few minutes, Musette focused on *Experience* and checked her skill levels. She had 5 Skill Points, and her Sword Skill was already 5. She silently put all her points into Sword, then focused on *Status* to see the changes.
        Her Attack now showed 2-2, which meant she’d doubled her damage, and her Attack Speed had jumped to 6. However, her Defense was still 1. The orc was the same threat as she was, so should have relatively similar stats.
        Carefully kicking at the dirt, Musette widened the opening as quietly as possible. The dirt tumbling down sounded incredibly loud in her ears, and she was certain the orc would notice her any second, but she didn’t dare hurry. Hopefully the orc would just think of it as the scratching of a shillat in the walls.
        Once the hole was big enough for her to crawl through, Musette carefully looked out of it again. The orc seemed to be doing something with the bones, she was grinding what looked like half a skull in some kind of bowl. Musette took a few breaths to calm herself, then began slowly climbing down the wall into the cavern. She was moving quietly, keeping her presence hidden, but all that was ruined when she landed and heard the crunch of bone beneath her feet.
        ~Ernh~ Alert: You have entered a red zone.
        Musette grimaced, both at the message and the sound of bone crunching beneath her feet. A red zone meant that her character could actually be killed. It was a severe danger zone; only a black zone would be worse.
The orc made a startled cry, and turned toward her. Musette didn’t hesitate and turned around, drawing her sword and shield, and with a yell, rushed towards the orc, more bones crunching beneath her feet with each step.
        The orc began grunting and making guttural noises, possibly some sort of language. Musette didn’t understand it, though, and prepared to attack. Suddenly a light from above bathed the orc, then shot towards Musette.
        Shit! The orc was a priest! Musette immediately raised her shield, covering her face, blocking the light attack. None of her armor had any magic resistance, but her shield did, meaning it was the only way for her to defend against the attack. She still took 6 mental damage, even with the shield, causing her head to vibrate unpleasantly for a bit.
        When she recovered and moved her shield, the orc had grabbed a sword and was nearly on top of her. Musette swung to the side, dodging the blade, then thrust her sword at the orc’s side.
        The blade hit, but the orc never stopped chanting. Musette tried attacking again, but the orc blocked it with her arm, still taking some damage, but giving herself a chance to finish chanting. More light poured down from above, and Musette felt a sense of dread flood her. The chant had done 10 spiritual damage!
        Musette gripped the hilt of her sword and moved her wrist in the way she’d memorized, activating Power Strike manually, waiting for her concentration to recover. She slashed the orc powerfully across the chest, her blade glowing slightly. Musette didn’t let up, however, following up with several quick slashes and a thrust, while she was on delay. Musette’s MP and SP were much lower than her BP, and with no Resistance, she needed to finish this quickly.
        The orc began chanting again, and swung her sword in an attack, aiming for the break after Musette finished her fierce series of attacks, but Musette thrust her shield forward into the orc’s chest, pushing her backward.
        ~Ping~ Ability ‘Push (Shield)’ Learned.
        The shield push was successful, interrupting the orcs attack, and her casting, but decreased the shield’s durability by almost 5%. Still, it was worth it, as Musette followed up with a Power Strike thrust right to the orc’s snout. The orc howled, grabbing it’s nose with one hand, and attacking with the other. Musette blocked the attack with her sword, and nearly dropped the sword as her hand went numb.
        “Sidestep!” she yelled, but was still on delay, and the orc’s next attack bit into her shoulder, doing 3 physical damage and nearly causing her to drop her shield. Musette kicked out at the orc’s leg, and the orc backed away, then began chanting again.
        Musette didn’t give her a chance to finish chanting, dashing forward, blocking the orc’s attack with her shield, then Power Striking the orc’s face again. The orc screamed and tried to move out of the way, so only it’s cheek was cut, but it still had interrupted its casting. Musette followed up with several more quick attacks. The orc recovered and tried to attack again, but Musette blocked it with her shield, then followed up with a Power Strike slash across the orc’s sword arm.
        The orc dropped her sword and tried to back away, but Musette kept attacking fiercely. Finally the orc fell to the ground, bleeding from all of Musette’s attacks. There was blood all up and down her sword, and there were even splashes of blood on her tunic. She only had 2 Energy left, and was breathing heavily, so could smell the strong, metallic scent of the blood.
        The orc had only been threat 0, but that fight was several times harder than fighting a threat 2 shillat. The orc had barely done any damage to her actually, but it’d taken Musette more than 40 attacks to kill her, including using Power Strike. Calculating it, the orc probably had around 200 BP, half as much as Musette, but around 4 times that of a shillat. Musette quickly ate bread and drank juice. The orc hadn’t done much damage, but Musette had used Power Strike multiple times, and each use cost her 10 BP. Eating and drinking at the same time increased her healing rate, and soon she was recovered.
        Musette cleaned her sword, and checked the orc’s body. Beside the body, there were a couple of dropped coins, about 6T. There was nothing else, except the sword, which the orc had dropped earlier. Musette picked it up. It was heavier than her sword, but not by that much, about the weight of a longsword, but the shape was very different. It only had an edge on one side of the blade, the other side was wide and dull. The weapon was called Priest’s Falchion. It was a blue weapon, but all its stats were a mystery. Musette slid it into her bag for later.
        Looking around the rest of the room, there wasn’t much here. Lots of bones, and some well worn, ragged furs with a pungent smell. Musette did not pick those up. She did find a few odd looking rocks, which she dropped into her bag, but that was about it. Finding nothing else, Musette decided to check the new Ability she’d gained.

Push
Delay .4s
Cost: 7SP
Requires a shield. Allows you to push a target away temporarily with your shield. Must strike the opponent squarely with the shield for the effect to trigger. If your Strength is higher than your opponents, the opponent will be pushed away from you based on the difference in Strength. Due to your high creativity, when used against an opponent under delay, this ability increases delay by twice as much as normal. Caution: This ability can cause severe damage to your shield.

        It was a particularly useful ability, and its short delay meant that it was possible to do follow-up attacks. Its SP cost wasn’t that bad either, but it did say it only worked if the opponent had lower strength. It also had double effect when used on someone under delay. Normally if you were under delay and took an attack, the delay would be increased a small amount, making it harder to use abilities. With a decent shield, it might be possible to lock an opponent down to only doing normal attacks with this ability.
        Satisfied with her gains from this difficult fight, Musette grabbed one of the torches from the cavern, and headed to the only exit she’d found. She wasn’t worried about being attacked immediately upon walking out, since no one had attacked her while she was fighting, but she didn’t want to walk blindly into an ambush either.
        Outside the cavern was a crudely dug out tunnel. As she continued down it, she found that several tunnels branched off from it. Musette moved slowly and quietly, worried about running into any other orcs. They all seemed to have low threat levels, but with how much BP they had, fighting two of them would probably mean her death.
        Eventually she reached a point where the main large tunnel she was in split into three different tunnels. Her map was useless again, it only showed the cavern she’d started in, and the long main tunnel, but none of the branches, and certainly not any of the places ahead of her. The only thing it did show was that she was underground, and that she was not heading in the right direction to get to Arkeport.
        Musette chose the middle tunnel at random, which went to the left, and slightly forward. As she explored more, she found some offshoot tunnels that seemed to lead to what looked like rooms. There were beds and shelves, and a firepit. They seemed kind of like one room apartments. This clearly wasn’t the right way.
        After a few wrong turns, Musette made her way back to the branching point, but as she got near, she heard grunting. She slowed down, looking around herself, trying to find a place to hide, but there was nowhere to go. It was a bare tunnel.
        She dropped her torch, and crept forward, hoping to disappear in the darkness. What she saw was a large group of orcs, they were coming out of the rightmost tunnel, and heading back to the large cavern. Several of them had mild injuries, and they were carrying several dead animals. Apparently they had gone out hunting, and returned successful while Musette was wandering around.
        Musette didn’t understand why they were heading back to the large cavern in the back, but she didn’t miss this chance. Once the last orc had disappeared down the main tunnel, she dashed across to the tunnel they’d come from.
        The tunnel wound around a bit, but started heading upwards. As she’d thought, this was the exit. There were no torches, but the tunnel was mostly barren aside from some moss, as the other tunnels were, so Musette picked up speed. She was still careful so as not to trip and fall, but she needed to get out of here quickly.
        It began to get faintly brighter, and suddenly Musette found herself on the side of a short hill, screened by a stand of trees. The hill was small, closer to a mound, and easy to miss. This explained how a warren of orcs could be so close to a major city without being wiped out. Orcs normally lived on the surface, but these had moved underground and only hunted at night.
        Something triggered Musette’s sense of danger, and she moved quickly, trying to mimic the movements of Sidestep. She failed and the ability didn’t activate, but she avoided the axe that nearly split her skull open.
        Musette turned quickly, to see a male orc holding a large battle axe that reflected the moonlight moving to attack her. This was an orc warrior who was guarding the entrance to the orc’s home. Any minute now, the other orcs would get to the cavern and discover their priestess dead, so Musette couldn’t afford to be held up here, but the orc was moving to attack her and did not seem inclined to let her leave.
        Thinking furiously, Musette dashed forward, getting underneath the orc’s raised axe and attacking under the arm. The orc howled, but didn’t drop the axe, instead bringing it crashing down towards Musette’s back.
        Musette desperately dropped to the ground, rolling away. She got up quickly, but the orc was already coming for her. Gripping her sword tightly, she used a Power Strike thrust right at his bare knee. There was a sharp cracking sound, as the orc’s kneecap shattered. The orc’s leg crumbled out from under him, but he managed to hold himself up on one leg and swing his axe horizontally at her.
        Musette was startled, she hadn’t thought she’d actually be able to disable him like that. She must have gotten a special effect for doing a precision attack or something. She jumped back, dodging the orc’s axe swing, but nearly tripping over a tree root.
        She could probably get a lot of experience from killing this orc, but he was threat 1, and between his yell and the chances the other orcs had found the dead priestess, they’d probably all be on her in a matter of minutes. Turning away from the injured orc, Musette jogged off in the direction of Arkeport.
        She continued heading toward Arkeport, taking the straightest route she could find. She kept an eye out for orc pursuit, and attacks from nocturnal animals, but she didn’t have a light, so mostly had to depend on luck and her hearing. She wasn’t confident in stopping to light another torch. She also had to test the ground, she didn’t want to fall into another hole.
        It was a tense jog, taking nearly two hours, but finally she found herself at the walls of Arkeport. Slowing to a walk, she followed the wall to the gate.


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