Chapter 13 - Sasha
An upgradable item, huh?
Draco observed the necklace with interest. Normally, his jaws would've dropped and his mind would've shattered, but no more. Really, what could top climbing 40+ levels after one dungeon run?
Though, Draco shook his head internally. It was almost like the AI predicted his actions, thereby granting him appropriate rewards to curb the eventual consequences.
Namely, his drastic level increase. Draco understood the need for balance keenly. He was already overpowered to everyone within his rank, and he had suddenly jumped two ranks above the player population.
Even with its stoic nature, the AI understood that it probably had to present Draco with an item that could balance his level with his peers while still being beneficial to him.
Hence, the necklace.
But still, Draco felt his eye twitch. A whole 30000% requirement of experience points… He had only gained 4400% on a fluke. If 4400% experience points represented 44 levels, then 30000% represented 300 levels!
Hell, even a pinnacle existence like Richmond was only level 397. He hadn't reached the cap that was 400 yet, so what was this damned AI trying to do?
Feeling disgruntled inside, Draco let it be and decided to make things easy on the AI. After all, unlike the average noob, Draco understood this game's mechanics better than anyone else.
Hell, the AI could give him a part-time job as its assistant.
Accrual of experience points was always relative no matter the situation. For example, if Draco completed the War of Attrition at level 52, he'd be lucky to get 20% worth of experience.
However, at his previous level 8, he'd easily plunder more than a 1000%+ worth of experience!
It was simple logic and every gamer understood this rule. The higher the level, the lower the experience gain for the same event as a lower level player. His bestowment of 4400% was proof of that.
In other words, should Draco continue completing those special quests that only he as a reincarnator knew, he'd be able to dump excess experience into this necklace, simultaneously keeping him within the same realm as concurrent players as well as slowly but surely producing a powerful legendary item.
Killing two birds with one stone easily; everything in this situation was to his benefit. What made Draco feel wary was that this was all planned by the AI on the spot.
Man can never overcome the rationality and efficiency of machine….
With a sigh, Draco dumped exactly 4200% experience into the necklace, bringing him right onto 0% of level 10. It was no real loss to him as his class and attributes points hadn't been allocated.
This wasn't because of a function of the game itself… rather Draco realized it was the AI's meddling again. It knew the choice he would make, just not how far down he would bring his level. So it withheld the class awarding back until after he had made his decision.
Allocating his final attribute points, Draco felt his strength surge and his mind calm sharply. His body was covered in a golden cocoon, like an embryo in the w.o.m.b. With loud fanfare and bright golden lights, he emerged from his shell with a much more toned and refined body.
Draco flexed his muscles and felt himself up while smiling relaxedly. At first, Draco's skinny and impoverished look had suppressed his handsomeness, only allowing him to bring about 30% of it.
With this upgrade, he could now bring out almost 50% of his peak charm.
After all, looking at woman of Riveting Night's level, would she settle for a mere Draco in his past life even if he had great talent? At best, she would take him as a confidant and close friend, not enter a full-blown relationship.
If before, one would look at him twice and remark that he was worth a chat, now they would be hesitant to approach him, wondering if he was some noble young master.
Draco decided to open his character sheet before dealing with the Fire of War and Guinevere's Necklace.
｢ Name: Draco
Class: Avenger (Optimal)
Rank: Adventurer (1)
Combat Skills: Absolute Void, Revenger, Cloud Feet
Tradeskills: Smithing (level 4, 67%), Alchemy (level 3, 42%), Enchanting (level 2, 12%) ｣
His meticulous allocation granted him a special perk – the optimal categorization. Also, his character sheet now displayed his ranking. After all, before level 10 players were nothing more than babies in the cradle. Until they hit Rank 1, certain things won't be allowed them or even displayed.
As it stood, Draco could now create a guild. Obviously, doing so would create yet another system wide announcement. After the damage he had caused so far, he was understandably hesitant to start another uproar.
On that note, he could allow someone else to take the credit. He wasn't planning on creating a guild just yet. First, his mission was to acquire land in a resource heavy area outside of the jurisdiction of the kingdoms and empires. That was the only way to become a tyrant at this early stage.
This was exactly why he was bothering with the War of Attrition. Speaking of the war, he surmised it was about time he made an appearance and gave both sides a little push.
However, there was something much more pressing for him to do. That was to try and assimilate with the Fire of War. Yep, that's right, try. All fusion items possess their own sentience and can decide on who they'd like to bond with. An example would be a vicious and heartless Dragon Soul currently residing in Draco's head.
In response to his thoughts, the Dragon Soul unsheathed a claw in its middle toe and stabbed it into Draco's brain while maintaining its lazy posture.
Draco cursed loudly as he grabbed his head in pain. Blood came out of his nose in a small trickle and he felt like he was on the verge of death. Still, he dared not think any disparaging thoughts about his haughty occupant. After all, that little tap was just a warning.
Deciding to ignore that damned dragon, Draco held the crimson seed in his hand and observed it carefully. Then he popped it into his mouth like a pill and swallowed.
Here it comes…
Right on cue, a burning pain assaulted Draco from his core to every pore on his body. He felt like instead of a crimson seed, he had swallowed a hot coal that was emitting steam inside his body, cooking his organs. Draco had to grit his teeth and bear with the excruciating pain for a few minutes before it subsided to a mild simmering.
Unlike a typical player who would've succ.u.mbed to the pain or be broken by it, Draco had ingested fusion items before during the pinnacle of his life. Despite being a melee class fighter, he was a proficient Tradeskill player, especially in forging and enchanting, which meant he had bonded with quite a few mystical fires in his time.
Each fire had its own property and nature, so the bonding was different. As a violent and murderous fire, naturally the bonding process for the Fire of War would be dangerous and grueling.
Still, unlike the higher ranked flames he had conquered, a relatively low rank flame like the Fire of War took a far shorter period to assimilate. Flexing his arms, Draco felt a little better. The most noticeable change for him was the fact that he felt a perpetual warmth stemming from the very core of his body.
In his head, the Dragon Soul was rolling about happily, basking in the warmth. Draco's lips twitched as he felt indignation bubbling within him. Despite going through all the pain, why does that blasted soul have to benefit from this too?
In response to that, the little lizard opened one eye and brandished a claw nonchalantly. Understanding the threat, Draco silenced his thoughts and turned his attention to the necklace.
Naturally, he wasn't going to wear something this effeminate so openly… he might send out the wrong signal with that. Luckily, Boundless had a feature to change the outer appearance of certain ornamental items for a cost.
Since there was no way to 'pay-to-play', the only valid currency was the standard in-game currency. Paying a whopping thousand gold coins, Draco had the necklace's look changed from a pendant-like shape to a gangster chain.
Admiring his bling, Draco equipped it and felt the benefits of the item wash over him. Plus, who didn't like wearing chains?
Alright, it's about time I headed out.
He had responsibilities to fulfill.
A few moments later, the rouge-like Drake walked into the guild outpost with a carefree posture that made him seem harmless and amiable. However, any seasoned fighter would feel apprehensive at the distinct movements he made.
It felt like his every footfall matched the heartbeat of the one who listened, exerting a palpable mental pressure on them. Formidable! Only true experts who have comprehended the maxims of battle could emulate this level of skill.
A cheery voice called over. Turning to regard the one who called him, Draco saw the dainty and adorable Sasha walking over to him with a wide and excited smile.
"We have completed the task you set for us!" She reported with an expectant expression.
Chuckling, Draco obliged her. "Well done, Sasha. You have truly gone above and beyond what I expected."
Similar to a flower that was watered in the sunshine, Sasha brightened up due to the praise. She gave a little curtsy like a noble lady – which Draco surmised she just might be. "I'm humbled by your praise."
Hah… right. You practically went fishing for that one. Draco rolled his eyes at her antics. He hadn't know her for long, but he had quite a good opinion of this woman.
"This way, My Lord."
Sasha indicated for Draco to follow her, which he did. Soon he was brought to the plot he selected earlier to see a humble shop with only two floors. It was slightly larger than those in the modern world and the design was very aesthetically pleasing with the usage of polished wood.
Nodding, Draco gave a mental thumbs up. For an establishment this early into the game, it was definitely suitable for him to use. "I'll be opening tomorrow. I'll need to use the night to stock up the store beforehand. Can you give me a list of the builders and materials used so I can come up with an appropriate compensation for everyone?"
Sasha clapped her hands excitedly. "That I can do. I'll inform everyone who took part of the construction and conduct a survey. I'll be back tomorrow with the relevant data."
Efficient and intelligent.
"Please do. Let me know if you need anything else, Sasha."
"I should be the one saying that My Lord. Okay, I'm off then. Have a nice night!"
Watching an almost 25 year old woman skipping away like a little girl was admittedly quite endearing. Then again, it might be Sasha's particular charm. Last time Draco was here, she was nervous and uptight, which was to be expected. Their estrangement meant that anyone of them could die the next day.
Who could muster the will to be happy in such a situation?
Now that the handsome rogue 'Drake' appeared offering premium items as well as his own mercenary services, things were looking up. But clearly, that alone wasn't enough reason for Sasha to go this far for him. It was clear that the young woman was slightly smitten with the savior of their outpost.
Sighing, Draco lamented being such a darned desirable bloke. Life really was hard when you were the epitome of male beauty…
But he didn't let his narcissism show. Instead, he went into the shop and organized its shelves with different items and labels. He placed potions and consumables near the entrance, weapons and ammunition in the middle section and armor in the back row.
As Boundless was still a game in essence, Draco didn't need to paste labels on everything manually. Instead, he just entered a price in the system and it was displayed above the item automatically.
It took him a few hours to get everything set up. Now, the only thing he was lacking was a shop attendant. However, Draco felt he just might not need one with Sasha around.
Exiting the shop, he locked the door and placed a card on the door saying that they'll be open tomorrow. Draco left the area of the establishment and headed towards the tavern, where he was sure Anguis would be.
Entering the building, he noticed it was heartier than before with far more people patronizing it. It seemed that Draco's decision to supply these people had a positive effect on everyone, not just Sasha.
Seeing the man himself enter the tavern, many people made a toast to his health and even some of the girls among them offered to dance. Smiling amicably, Draco denied them gently, saying that he needed to meet Anguis.
He was directed to the backroom, where a long table stood with a map pasted onto its surface. Apart from Anguis, there were a few other young men who were gathered in this room, aside Sasha.
"Anguis." Draco called out to the leader of the outpost casually.
"Ah, Drake. Welcome to our humble planning room. By the way, how exactly did you get in?" Anguis asked with a skeptical frown.
"Brother!!" Sasha chided, smacking his arm.
Turning to Draco, she gave him a smile that could melt the heart of a Lich. "Welcome Lord Drake. Please have a seat so we can discuss our plans moving forward."
Draco was about to seat himself and ask if there was any work available for him, but one of the fellows suddenly snorted and pulled his chair away. Draco paid no heed to this childish act and simply rolled to his feet from his squatting position.
A sudden silence descended on the room as a palpable tension brewed in the air. Anguis frowned and turned to the offender faster than Sasha could berate him.
"What's the meaning of this Tony?" He asked with a sharp voice.
Tony shrugged and sneered at Draco. "We don't need some outsider to tell us what to do. We're doing fine as we are."
Draco simply smiled. "Your definition of doing fine is vastly different from what I understand. Seems rather synonymous with 'on the brink' to me."
The tension heightened with those words. While Tony was generally in the wrong, Draco belittling their struggle to survive so far made all the goodwill he had acc.u.mulated for his actions dissipate.
Even Anguis cast a cold look towards him. The only one unfazed was Sasha, but she was racking her mind to think of ways to defuse the situation.
"Alright then, you're right. We've been hovering over the gates of hell all this time. That's an undeniable fact," Anguis admitted with a sigh.
"Brother…" Sasha whispered.
Of all the people she knew, her brother was the most headstrong and willful, never being defeated by anything or anyone. For him to so casually admit defeat…?
Anguis' melancholic disposition suddenly morphed into a commanding and authoritative one. "But I won't stand for someone insulting our efforts so far, intended or otherwise hinted. We've gone through too much to be judged so easily by the outcome."
Draco simply titled his head in confusion. "How on earth did speaking the facts of the situation turn into an insult? It seems like the cause of your outposts decline and low position among the others is not the enemy, but the people themselves."
Tony slammed his hand on the table. "And what do you mean by that? You'd better explain yourself outsider or you can forget about leaving here today."
Draco waved Tony's words away with a casual gesture. "Not even if you all joined hands could you even scratch my afterimage, so don't talk beyond your means weakling."
"I chose this outpost to outfit because you were near the bottom rung of hierarchy and because you seemed to show promise. But looking at the leadership… I'd best retract my effort before it fails me."
Everyone held their breath and most had an awful look on their faces, especially Tony. Despite harassing Draco, the simple fact was that they desperately needed his supplies. There was nothing particularly special about their outpost and like he said, there were countless others who would welcome him.
Anguis glared at Draco with disdain. "I didn't think you were petty enough to abandon the needy just because someone was rude to you."
Draco sneered at Anguis coldly. "The problem is that you aren't exactly acting 'needy', are you?"
The two clashed wills through their intense gazes, and no one tried to interrupt for fear of having ire drawn onto them. Sasha had a worried expression on her face. She understood her brother's point of view, but she didn't want to see Draco leave, especially since all the merry people just on the other side of the door would fall into even deeper despair.
And all of that would be pegged on them, the leaders. Naturally, Anguis was also aware of such a thing, but he wasn't willing to allow Draco to walk over them just because they were in a bad position. He embodied the hope and pride of this outpost… he'd rather be ill-equipped than a slave to another.
Sighing, Draco gave up. This Anguis fellow was worth respect for sticking to his values even in such a difficult situation. Draco couldn't find it in him to continue twisting his arm so sharply.
"You… forget it. I didn't come here to fight or to listen to your plans. I came to inform you that the shop will officially be opening tomorrow. I also came to ask if you were willing to hire my expertise on the battlefield."
"Well, we could use your help in a certain front… how much exactly are your services?" Anguis asked while scratching his head with confusion.
"I'd prefer to charge per kill. Let's say, 50 silver per head?" Draco proposed with an unfeeling smile.
"Eh, that's cheaper than I expected, so why the hell would I say no? Head over to the Ferro Fields. That place has become a no man's land for both sides, as we're locked in a deadlock. I guess your help should be practical over there." Anguis suggested with a nod.
This fellow… Draco's eyes narrowed. This Anguis fellow was cunning alright. Sending him right into the deadlock because he knew Draco would break it.
In every war, the no man's land was always the key to making a strong push. Break it, you break your enemy. Anguis was gambling everything on Draco fulfilling that objective.
A no man's land was called such for a reason. It meant that no one on either side could cross it while retaining their breath of life. Draco being told to fight there meant he'd have to cross such a minefield, not even mentioning whether he could surmount it and break through.
But still. Some part of Draco relished the idea. Even as an evil bloke, he still had that boyish streak in him that salivated over the idea of a 'one man vs an army' situation and looking cool because of it.
"Alright then, I'll be taking my leave." Draco responded with a bow, before blinking away.
"You should probably…" Anguis was about suggest, before Draco's form suddenly blurred away.
"Brother, he's gone." Sasha pointed out, while trying hard to stifle her laughter.