At the entrance of the dark and narrow crevice, Ryu looked back. Behind the grotto and through the waterfall, he could faintly see a giant creature. It was apparent by the splashing that the grizzly was still out there.
He let out a deep sigh and took a few steps into the cave. Several virtual messages appeared as he did so.
|You have entered a Special Hidden Dungeon: Plum Tree Forest Caverns [Southern Cavern].
You are the first player to discover Plum Tree Forest Caverns [Southern Cavern].
Being the first player to discover Plum Tree Forest Caverns [Southern Cavern], you and your party will receive the following buffs while in Plum Tree Forest Caverns [Southern Cavern]:
|Duration of buffs: 120 hours|
I don’t have time for this…
Too much had happened today, and although he wasn’t exhausted, Ryu was tired after today’s events. He attempted to log off again, but he received the familiar message from before. This time, with a corresponding log-off restriction of two minutes.
Waiting for the restriction to be lifted, Ryu sat down against the cave wall. He unsheathed his sword and held it straight up by the handle. He looked at the blade with an intense expression, then viewed the sword’s stats. It now read having a Durability of 2 instead of 6 like it did from yesterday.
Just looking at the blade, it was clear that his sword was wearing from his battles. There were numerous chips on the edges and dark scratches all over. However, with all the information he’d gathered about Second World, he had already expected it. But he didn’t think it would wear down this fast. Items in Dream World also wore and degraded over time, but that was after thousands of encounters. Not to mention the base durability on items was also much higher. His sword started with a measly Durability of 11. Now, just a few hundred encounters later, it was at 2.
It hasn’t even been a day and it’s already worn down by 4 points. And all I did was kill monsters.
He glared down at the Quality of the sword, and by that, the word ‘Poor.’
It’s the Quality, isn’t it?
Ryu turned his head to the void. He sighed. There was absolutely no reason for him to venture forward at this point. He’d rather wait out the bear and return to his original path after spending some time offline.
Out of sheer amusement, he took out his enchanted map. He was curious to see how far he’d gotten since entering Plum Tree Forest. But when he opened the map, something unexpected happened. As he rolled open the scroll, a tiny spot of light appeared on the map. It moved across the paper, and as if it were the tip of a pencil or a marker, it traced a path as it moved. Right where he was located, the white line started and swiggled its way across the paper. The line didn’t travel far at all; just about an inch and a half. The end of its path was marked by an even brighter white dot.
But what was more curious was that another bright dot appeared on the map, just on the outskirts of the pagoda, which was dozens of miles from the first purple dot. The two dots were not connected at all, yet the second dot had appeared just after the first.
Ryu’s eyes zoomed back to the first dot, then back to the lone white dot by his destination.
Is that… a portal?
Just as he thought this, an echoing wave of sharp tweets rang through the air. His ears twitched, and then, he abruptly stood up.
He faced the darkness.
As he looked into the cave, his previous thoughts from just mere moments ago seemed to be fading away. The bird chirped once more. There was a little voice in his head telling him, “Follow it.”
The sounds grew fainter. The little creature seemed to be flying further into the cavern.
Ryu swiftly brought up his log off menu, which no longer had the restriction on it. He could log off now. But there was something in the pit of his stomach that told him that this would be his only chance to follow the tiny creature. If he didn’t take it now, his only option would be to return to his previous path, which would take him on a several-day adventure. And preferably, he didn’t want to take that option.
He gazed down at the piece of paper in his hands. He looked at the new path that had been just magically outlined. It seemed to be only a few hours worth of travel.
It was his moment to decide: Log off and take the long way after he re-logging, or take the chance now and get to the dot at the end of the new path—which would hopefully be a portal.
The last of the echoes came through.
Ryu gripped the map tightly in his hands. He took one deep breath and stepped into the darkness.
Darkness shrouded Ryu’s path. Fortunately, the bird continued chirping from time-to-time. The sounds were faint—and continued to become fainter—but they were enough to give him a sense of direction. He walked with one hand touching the wall and followed the sound.
He re-opened the enchanted map, which emanated only enough light to illuminate the space two feet in front of him. Based off of the diagram, he had several miles to go until reaching the end of the path. However, as he traveled deeper into the dungeon, the chirping came to an end. All that he could hear was the continuous dripping of water.
Drip… Drip… Drip…
Oddly, even though it was otherwise silent, he felt nothing eery. The cave seemed completely empty. But this empty feeling did not give him comfort. Not in the least. It was the ‘quiet’ places that one always had to be wary of.
The dungeon was pitch-black, so he was most cautious as he ventured forward. If there were any sudden movements, he’d stop and hold his ground. And if a moment came when he’d be in grave danger—and he knew exactly what kind of situations those were—he would most certainly retreat or log off.
Ryu continued hugging the wall as he traveled through the dungeon, which was more-or-less a straight path.
However, he eventually came to a point where the cave path forked into two. The right path was part of the path traced out on his map. If he continued in that direction, he would eventually get to where he was going. However, the left path gave him an unsettling feeling. The air coming from there was cold. He took a good moment, standing completely still.
He could hear it: a light moaning coming from the left tunnel. It seemed to be a remnant for a much deeper echo from deeper within the cave. And obviously, that meant that a much larger tunnel or network of tunnels existed beyond the left path. But now wasn’t the time for that. He wanted to get out of the dungeon as soon as possible.
But, of course, being the curious person he was, there grew a tiny spark of intrigue.
I’ll come back here later. Maybe with a party.
When the word ‘party’ rang through his head, he realized that today was the day that Chase and Orchid would be logging on. He’d already been online for fourteen hours since talking with either of them, so it was possible that he had stood both of them up.
I got so involved today I almost forgot… I need to get out of here fast.
He could’ve logged out just to check if he had any messages, but he’d already started his endeavor through the dungeon. And it wasn’t that much farther, either. Another hour or two wouldn’t hurt, he thought. And so, he continued on.
The height and width of the cave tunnel grew taller and wider as Ryu persisted through the dungeon. He frequently shifted his eyes to each side of the tunnel, noting just how much the tunnel had grown.
Ryu had walked for over an hour already. By, now he’d traveled over two leagues into the dungeon—a good seven or eight miles at least. After all this time, Ryu expected to come across a swarm of bats or see some beetles or moths, but he saw none of that. Fortunately, though, his journey was coming to an end. The dot on his map was just up ahead.
It’s been so quiet… Where are all the monsters?
But, as he headed up the tunnel, he finally heard sounds. There were two voices. But they were snarly, mean-sounding—nasally and high-pitched.
“Hurry it up, ya scum!” screeched one of the voices. “If we don’t get these goods to the Second Goblin Prince, we’re both dead!”
“Shut yur trap up and help me!” screeched the other. “We hav’ta get outta here before another Brown-Fanged Spider Queen spawns.”
Ryu came to the end of the tunnel where he saw light again. The tunnel opened up into a large chamber, which was provided with light by an opening to the surface. However, the opening was dozens of feet high. In the center of the chamber was a white crystalline pillar, and in the light, it sparkled just as phantasmically as the portal he had opened earlier in the day. There two short, vile-looking creatures right next to the structure, and all around, at least three dozen bodies of similar beings. They two were packing and sorting items into a cart. Ryu couldn’t make out what all of the items were, but he saw some cloths, armors, and weapons. Cautious, he Recognized both characters, both of whom had the nearly the same stats, just different names.
The Second Goblin Prince
|HP: 7/90||Energy: 0/0|
|Strength: 10||Speed: 4|
|Endurance: 10||Stamina: 5|
|Quickness: 4||Agility: 1|
|Intelligence: 7||Wisdom: 4|
|Perception: 7||Insight: 4|
The Second Goblin Prince
|HP: 14/85||Energy: 0/0|
|Strength: 9||Speed: 2|
|Endurance: 12||Stamina: 6|
|Quickness: 4||Agility: 1|
|Intelligence: 7||Wisdom: 4|
|Perception: 7||Insight: 4|
They’re both Level 6 but have really low stats.
Seeing such relatively low stats in comparison to his own, Ryu surmised that the goblins didn’t train much, or at all. And seeing their stats, he paid special attention to their current health, which was an indication that they had recently fought something.
The two goblins bickered as they picked up the loot from their dead allies, and presumably from the monsters they had just killed. “Gah! This is such a mess!” Gurkil spouted.
“Shuddup, you maggot. You didn’t do a thing to that Brown-Fanged Spider Queen!” Gerkil snorted.
“What’dya expect? You crippled my leg in our last bout!” Gurkil said.
“Ungrateful scum, I shoulda let you die!” shouted Gerkil.
“We should just take the lot and run with it,” said Gurkil. “We could make a fortune.”
“Do that, and the Second Prince’ll kill us,” Gerkil said. “Did you forget what happened to Girkil? ” As he spoke, he coughed up black Goblin blood.
“Yur poisoned. Hurry it up so we can get back to the lair!” Gurkil said. “And what’d y’do to those two brats?”
“They’re tied up by the cart!” shouted Gerkil. “Now shut yur mouth and pick up the pace!”
The two goblins continued their looting. Ryu stayed by the tunnel, peeking carefully. He didn’t see them before, but now that the goblins had mentioned them, he could now see two young NPCs tied up by the feet and hands. They were chained to the cart. One was a boy, who had dark hair; the other, a girl with brown pigtails. The boy seemed just a little older than the girl, but they both looked to be teenagers, if not on the cusp of adolescence. Both of their faces and clothes were smudged with dirt.
“Where’s the key?” shouted Gerkil. He searched the ground and all over his body, but he couldn’t find anything.
“You lost it?” shouted Gurkil. He crawled over to Gerkil to inspect the careless goblin. He eyed Gerkil all over and the ground everywhere, but also didn’t see the key. “Idiot! How’re we s’pose ta open the chest now?” Annoyed, grunted at his goblin brother. “Come on! Help me lift the chest onto the cart, maggot!”
“What for?” Gerkil said.
“You lost the key! Now we gots ta carry it back!” said Gurkil.
“How’re we s’pose to open it when we get back?” asked Gerkil.
“Why’re you askin’ me?” Gurkil shouted. “It’ll be the Second Prince’s problem, not ours. Now help me, you scum!”
Annoyed, both of the goblin brothers crawled over to the chest lying on the ground twenty feet over. Each of them carried it by one end and grunted their way back to the cart. The chest itself was about the size of an average drawer, and its keyhole was unusually tiny—tooth-pick sized.
Shortly after, though, they—Ryu included—heard a bird chirping. On top of the white crystalline pillar was the tiny amber bird Ryu had encountered previously. And between its small beak was a small gold key. The bird lay the key down under its belly and looked at the two goblins with its signature curious look.
“There’s the key!” Gurkil shouted, pointing out the obvious.
“Don’t you think I see that?” yelled Gerkil, angry and annoyed. “Now get your bow out and shoot that bird!” Gerkil took out a hook and chain while Gurkil took out a short black bow, as he was instructed to do so.
Gurkil pulled the bowstring, eyeing the bird. After a moment of aiming, he released. However, the arrow missed. The bird didn’t even move, too.
Gerkil screeched, “You missed!”
“Stop yer yappin’ and focus on gettin’ the key!” said Gurkil. He aimed once more at the innocent little bird. He released and… swoosh!
…Still nothing though. He had missed again. Annoyed, he grunted.
“Move outta the way, scum!” Gerkil said. He took the bow and arrow out of Gurkil’s hands. He steadily eyed the target, pulled the string back, and released. The arrow flew directly at the bird, seeming like a perfect shot. But no, it ended up being a miss too. The tip of the arrow had literally brushed the feathers of the tiny creature as it projected through the air. Even with that, the bird still didn’t move. In fact, it yawned as if it were bored and tired.
“Ain’t so easy, is it?” Gurkil remarked in a sarcastic tone.
Gerkil let out a grunt. After their failed attempts, his only resort was to smash the bird with his hook and chain and knock the key down. He readied the hook, swirling it around.
But just as he was about to chuck it, a loose rock from the tunnel wall suddenly broke off, tumbling into the chamber. Alarmed, both goblin brothers looked behind them, eyeing the area of the tunnel.
“Who’s there?” Gerkil shouted. He motioned to Gurkil to investigate, and Gurkil did just that.
Ryu initially had the thought of logging off. And really, it would have been the wise thing to do—the safest thing to do. But his deep curiosity for this game made him stay. And so, he stayed. He didn’t bother retreating momentarily, either. He walked right out into the open where the crawling goblin saw him.
“It’s a human!” Gurkil shouted.
Hearing this, Gerkil spit at the ground. “Kill him!”
Gurkil drew out a long and broad-bladed dagger. He scurried to the player, letting out a screech before bringing down his blade. Much to his surprise though, Ryu easily evaded his attack. The player cut both of his hands off with a clean slash, and the goblin turned away, screaming.
“Wh-who are you?” shouted Gerkil, having seen what had happened to Gerkil.
Ryu did not respond. He had no reason to respond. He calmly stood his ground.
Flustered, Gerkil drew out his own dagger. This time, however, he dipped it into a strange yellow ooze on the ground before going into his battle stance.
Ryu glared down at the pool of vibrant liquid and took caution.
Just like the goblin before, this second goblin charged at Ryu. The player maintained calm and focus, allowing the creature the first move. Gerkil slashed down at the player, and with quite the force. But Ryu blocked it with his own sword. However, when he did that, a large piece of the blade broke off.
Not being able to be bothered by it, he counter-attacked. Surprisingly, the goblin parried the attack with his own. Gerkil sneered with joy. But his joy lasted for only a second, as Ryu quickly countered the parry with another attack, which was followed up with a succession of attacks. The swiftness of the player’s movements was too much for the already weakened goblin.
Gerkil fell down, his dagger falling down just a hand away from him. “P-please, spare me.”
Ryu extended his sword out onto the goblin’s chest. Of course, this was a ruse, he thought. He wouldn’t let the goblin deceive him. But as he was busy making sure Gerkil didn’t grab hold of the dagger, a handless Gurkil came rushing behind. Ryu tried blocking him with his free arm, but the handless goblin simply bit down on it. And it was by no means a ‘nibble.’ His own blood splattered on his face. He grunted with great pain.
He changed his focus onto Gurkil, stabbing the monster in the gut, which relieved him of the goblin’s mouth hold. He gave Gurkil no chances and slashed straight across the creature’s torso. Black blood gushed out of the dying goblin’s wound, and the Gurkil fell down, dead.
Seeing this, Gerkil turned feral. He grabbed his venom-soaked dagger, and with reckless abandon, swung carelessly at Ryu. Ryu calmly blocked or dodged all of the attacks, and eventually, he disarmed the goblin and plunged his sword into its chest.
Gerkil’s raging expression turned into one of hilarity. He died laughing.
And it soon became clear why. Ryu felt coldness from behind. He pulled out his sword from the dead goblin, pushing the body away. Then, he turned around.
Behind him, just thirty feet away, a gigantic brown spider loomed, its giant brown fangs protruding outward.