New n𝙤vel chapters are published on 𝒇𝓻𝒆𝒆𝔀𝒆𝓫𝙣𝓸𝙫𝒆𝒍.𝓬𝓸𝓶
Chapter 136: Mountain of Spears, Forest of Swords (5)
Kenzo clutched his head and banged it against the table.
Gnomes nearby tilted their heads curiously at his behavior.
“Hey, young man.” A muscular gnome with a stocky stature approached him. His face betrayed his age despite his robust physique. “I don’t know what kind of problems you have, but...”
He placed a huge glass of beer in front of Kenzo. It was custom-sized and was much larger than what was given to gnomes. The muscular gnome also had a custom-sized glass in his hand that looked far too big for his height. “...I will buy you a drink.”
Kenzo was currently at a bar in Quantes.
Unlike most rowdy pubs, this bar near his lodging was filled with men quietly drinking under the dim lights.
The two downed their beers at the same time.
“So, can you tell me about your problems? Only if you are comfortable though.”
Kenzo looked at him. The gnome looked as if he had experienced all sorts of hardships in life with his wrinkled face and deep eyes.
Kenzo felt strange looking at him. He never had an experience like this in reality. He was accustomed to office workers staggering in the streets after drinking their pain away, old men loudly talking about their past, and indifferent pedestrians walking past people passed out on the streets. It was a bleak age where if someone approached a concerned-looking young man at a bar, people would suspect the person had some kind of ulterior motive.
But perhaps because he watched too many dramas and movies, Kenzo felt like he could receive a solution to his problems from this short gnome with prominent features. The gnome had deep-set eyes that reminded Kenzo of characters in Western films.
In those movies, protagonists always received solutions from people they ran into by chance whenever they were lost. The gnome, who had appeared right at this moment, seemed like an auspicious sign.
“My concern is...” began Kenzo.
The gnome was an NPC anyway. He could tell him his worries without any reservations.
“I’m currently training under someone. He asked me to do something, but it will put me in a difficult position so I’m deliberating whether to do it or not...”
Kenzo was worried that he could be branded as a rude player if he targeted fellow players. These days, a method called ‘NPC Hunt’ was trending among players. Kenzo didn’t find committing crimes against NPCs immoral. They were just artificial intelligence after all.
That was Kenzo’s dilemma.
“I don’t know the details, but you must be in a difficult position.”
The gnome caressed his chin and made another order. “Bartender, can you give me the drink I had last time I came here?” freewebnov(e)l.com
“Understood.” The bartender brought out a bottle with a little bit of liquid left.
The gnome swished it around. “This is Mukarasanebo.”
It was an extremely rare wine in Elder Lord.
“Did your teacher ask you to carry out the task even though he knew it would put you in a difficult position?”
“No, that’s not the case. He doesn’t know.”
Kenzo couldn’t explain the concept of players to Crockta, who was an NPC.
“Can you try explaining the situation to him?” asked the gnome.
“No. He won’t be able to understand.”
“Is that so? Hahaha.” The gnome smiled and poured each of them a glass of Mukarasanebo.
Kenzo just stared at the drink, so the gnome gestured at him to go ahead.
“How can I drink something so precious...” muttered Kenzo.
“It’s okay. Drink.”
Kenzo and the gnome sipped the Mukarasanebo. He could taste its unique aroma and flavor. ‘No wonder it is called the nobility of wine.’
“Do you know why your teacher asked you to do such a task?” asked the gnome.
“To be honest, I’m not sure...”
He had no idea how getting rid of loan sharks was related to the Pinnacle of swordsmanship. He wasn’t sure if Crockta just wanted him to get rid of villains that harmed the city or if he needed to achieve a higher purpose to reach the state of the Pinnacle.
The gnome grinned. “You guys don’t know anything about each other.”
“Then, is your teacher someone you could trust?”
Kenzo thought about the question. Was Crockta trustworthy? He didn’t know much about him. He just knew that contrary to his perception of orcs, Crockta was very much a gentleman. He only became a ruthless warrior during combat.
Nonetheless, Crockta had rescued him at the Forest of Monsters, and when Kenzo explained his desire to learn from him to help others, Crockta had nodded approvingly in response.
They had only spent a short amount of time together, but he grasped a sense of the kind of orc Crockta was.
Kenzo nodded. “Yes. He is.”
The gnome smiled. “Then trust him.”
“I saw your expression just now when you answered the question.”
The gnomes swished the bottle of Mukarasanebo. There wasn’t much left. He poured the remains and handed the glass to Kenzo.
“It’s such a rare wine. Please don’t give me all of what’s left.”
But the gnome shook his head in response to Kenzo’s refusal. “This time, I will tell you my story. I’ve lived in Quantes my whole life, but I’m leaving today.”
“As you can tell from this Mukarasanebo, I was wealthy. I was a successful businessman, but I lost everything due to a momentary mistake. So, I’m leaving this place. I am now just down to my body. That's all I have left. I plan to go to another city and do some manual labor.”
Kenzo hadn’t expected to hear such a sad story from the gnome. His expression was so peaceful.
The gnome continued, “It was because of loans.”
Kenzo’s eyes widened in shock.
“My friend, who was my most trusted advisor, told me not to trust them, but I believed I had a handle on everything. They suddenly claimed I owed them an enormous amount of money. I shouldn’t have believed outsiders who appeared out of nowhere...”
The gnome smiled bitterly. “Unfortunately, that’s how I lost everything.”
Kenzo was speechless. The weight of his past sins pressed down on his shoulders.
“Somehow, I’ve found myself confiding my life’s regrets to you.”
“Ah, it’s okay.”
“Anyway, everything is up to you, but I think it’s worth listening if someone trustworthy advises you.”
The gnome got up from his seat. Kenzo tried to stop him, but he had already taken a step back.
“I’m so glad I met you before I left. I was lonely. The glass in your hand is the last of the Mukarasanebo produced that year. Please slowly savor the drink.”
He settled the bill with the bartender and exchanged a brief, knowing glance with him. They had probably known each other for many years.
The gnome then exited the bar under the moonlight.
Kenzo gazed into the liquid in his glass. ‘Mukarasanebo.’ It was called the nobility of wine for its exquisite flavor.
He raised the last glass to the tip of his tongue.
It was bitter. 𝒇𝒓𝙚𝙚𝒘𝙚𝙗𝙣𝒐𝓿𝙚𝙡.𝙘𝒐𝓶
Kenzo slipped through the darkness. Finding players in Quantes wasn’t difficult. He just tracked down anyone who looked suspicious. He was a swordsman, but he had learned hiding, tracking, and infiltrating skills by imitating ninjas.
He discovered how players manipulated gnomes in Quantes. First, they lent the gnomes money. Then, they avoided repayments from those able to pay back their loans and forcefully increased interest or tormented gnomes unable to repay their debts with higher interest rates. It was a common method, but they were successfully exploiting many gnomes because the citizens of Elder Lord were unfamiliar with such cowardly tactics.
Moreover, the loan sharks had bribed the authorities in Quantes into scheming with them and ignoring any complaints about their unjust acts. The gnome who had given him Mukarasanebo had fallen prey to such tactics.
They were replicating the evils of the real world in the game.
“Give us the money!”
“I don’t have money...I only borrowed a hundred silver. When did interest go up so much...?”
“It’s written right in this contract! Can’t you read?”
“I tried paying it back, but you weren’t there at your spot...”
“Then you should have tried to find us! The truth is that you failed to repay us! Am I wrong? If you have a problem, take it to court! I’m good friends with the authorities of Quantes just so you know.”
They were no different from scummy, real-world gangsters and yakuzas.
“If you don’t have money, sell your house! There’s always a way to pay back your loan.”
“This house has been passed down in my family for generations...”
“Then give us the money!”
The armed players had entered the borrower’s house. A commotion ensued as they started breaking all of the furniture in the house and blackmailing the gnomes.
“S-stop it, please!”
“You said you don’t have money, right?”
“The interest is too...we can’t...”
“Then get out of this house! It’s ours now!”
Just then, Quantes’ police arrived after receiving a report about the commotion. The loan sharks suddenly changed their attitudes and politely presented their documents and official letters to the police.
“Oh my! Thank you for all of your hard work protecting Quantes, sir! Apologies for being loud. Here are the documents. We are doing things legally, so don’t worry.”
The police flinched at the sight of the armed players with formidable weapons. They verified the documents and official letters and didn’t find any problems with them. They exchanged glances with each other and nodded. “Please be mindful about the noise. We received a complaint.”
“Oh gosh, sorry. Hahaha.”
“Alright, then. Take care,” said the police as they departed the scene.
After the police left, the loan sharks resumed their threats.
“Retarded NPCs. Hehe. Guys, search everything in this house. Who knows? We might find something valuable.”
“Hey, is this little twerp your kid?”
An old memory came flooding back, and Kenzo felt something snap inside him when he saw them trying to mess with the victim’s family.
When he was a kid, he used to get bullied. The bullies would hurl insults toward him, and he could endure those, but any insults about his family were intolerable. Yet, he had no choice but to put up with them because he was weak.
His childhood pain never healed; he still had a festering wound in his heart. His love for heroes from anime and desire to help others probably stemmed from that old wound.
‘Don’t become someone lame.’
Kenzo emerged from the darkness and entered the house. The loan sharks were startled by the appearance of another player. “Who are you?”
Kenzo responded with his sword.
Kenzo was a high-level player and had even recently witnessed the Pinnacle through his training with Crockta. Although players were a lot more skilled nowadays then they used to be, he could still slaughter second-rate players like them in no time.
His claymore slashed the players, and they immediately turned into white particles. Only the trembling gnome accomplice, who was an NPC, remained.
Kenzo seized him by the collar and tossed him outside. “If you don’t want to die, tell me the location of all the members in your organization.”
The gnome, face white with fear, retreated. Kenzo went up to him and sliced a few strands of his hair with his claymore. If he had tilted his sword a bit, the gnome would have died on the spot.
The gnome was completely stricken with fear at the near encounter with death.
“It’s your last chance. One, two...” said Kenzo.
Before Kenzo got to three, the gnome fessed up and revealed the organization’s central points, how many members they had, and the location of their leaders. Kenzo then knocked the gnome unconscious by lightly striking his head after obtaining all of the necessary information.
The night was far from over.
Kenzo speedily carried out his plan. Although loan sharks were spread out throughout Quantes, the central powers were limited. Kenzo targeted and finished off the remaining members until dawn came.
At sunrise, Kenzo found himself surrounded by a group of formidable players. News about him had spread among the organization, and their strongest players had gotten together to get rid of him.
They were strong. A few were on a similar level as him, which made him even more angry because they were high-level players who didn’t need to harass others to level up more. But they were profiting from tormenting and exploiting others. It didn’t matter that their victims were NPCs. It was still wrong.
He thought of the eyes of the gnome who had bought him Mukarasanebo, the faces of the frightened children as their home was destroyed, the father begging for his family to be spared, and the mother’s tearful embrace—he couldn’t suppress his anger because all of those images seared into his mind.
He couldn’t stop himself from swinging his sword.
“Why is a fellow player fighting against us?” a player wondered as they tilted their heads curiously.
Kenzo ignored them and charged. It was a disadvantageous fight against several opponents at a similar level or perhaps even higher than him.
But for some reason, he didn’t think he was going to die.
In his hand, he grasped his claymore, carrying with him all the time he had dedicated to training with Crockta.
The player’s numerous blades came flying toward him in an instant. There was no way he stood a chance against them, but Kenzo didn’t turn back.
[Your assimilation is rising.]
[Your assimilation is rising.]
[Your assimilation is rising.]
[Your assimilation is rising...]
He felt one with the world. The world of Elder Lord was nudging him forward.
Kenzo tightly gripped his claymore and leapt into the swords surrounding him.
Right then, the world grew slower.