Chapter 1: The Raid
Just that day, they decided to test the casual link they made. It would take place in the large bamboo forest north of the city, commonly known as the Panda Forest.
“This will be a quest to test our group. Let’s have at it!”
Following Jun’s lead, the party headed towards the bamboo forest. Yukaria still unable to keep balanced due to her hangover, was almost fully reinvigorated by the trees once they left the town.
Watching out for any potential ambushes from behind, they walked in file. Jun in the lead, then Yukaria, Eri, and Kasumi in the back.
“Ooh, since you were walking this much, your headache should have come back. We’ve already forgiven your drunkenness today.”
“This should go without saying, but today, no more drinking.” Jun turned around and glared at Yukaria. She puffed out her cheeks.
“Please don’t say things that make you sound like a teacher. In this world, the average mature person is fourteen, so we should consider that the age of adulthood now. Therefore, even Eri, the youngest among us, should be able to drink alcohol.”
“Hey, Eri?” called Kasumi from the back of the line. Jun strained a smile, thinking that of all people, Kasumi would be the one most opposed to drinking. “Then drink in moderation.”
“Huh, Kasumi?” Eri, startled, turned around, thinking that Yukaria would get scolded strictly like how Jun would.
“Ah, my family house is very old. On New Year’s, when everybody comes together, we drink a lot…”
“Oh, so it’s just like in the countryside. Could it be that you’re actually quite tolerant to alcohol?”
“Kind of. Just as much as I need for socializing.”
“You’re definitely super tolerant.” Seeing Kasumi tilt her head in confusion, Yukaria whispered into Jun’s ears, “If you’re thinking of getting her drunk to try and take advantage of her, she’ll beat you at your own game.”
“I would think no such thing!”
Due to her condition, Yukaria took short rests between following Jun.
Small abandoned huts stood all over the bamboo forest. It seemed like they were made as dwellings for mountain men, so monsters should never enter them. They also served as bind points. Usually, the fireplaces inside were burning, and the huts were always tidy, almost as if time had stopped.
As the four of them entered one of the huts and sat down near a fireplace, they relaxed cozily, munching on the scones Kasumi had made earlier.
“Yukaria, have you heard about the mountain men NPCs livingin the bamboo forest?”
“My group wasn’t really into doing quests… though I did hear something about it from one of my acquaintances, like that the mountain men always remain silent and that they could not take part in any kind of conversation.”
“So, the quest trigger didn’t really interest you?”
“Maybe so, or maybe it hadn’t been implemented yet. Though, in any case, back when this was just an MMO, and from the Birthday up until now, was this even here?”
“They really can’t speak?” Kasumi tilted her head. “But, uh… so, what kind of people are they?”
“I know! Their hearts only beat once per year!”, Eri jumped in.
“What kind of a mystic sage are you?”
“At any rate, monsters don’t come here. And yet we went to all this trouble for Yukaria to be here.”
“Well, most people seem to stop and turn back when they reach here. It would be quite disadvantageous to fight large scale monsters here, but I think we’ll do great.”
“We can’t afford to be negligent.”
Both Yukaria and Eri were wary of Jun’s optimistic view.
“Well, Killer Pandas work in groups. So, Jun, isn’t that why we’ve come?”
Jun shrugged lightly. He couldn’t gamble on something that dangerous without a high chance of success. This bamboo forest was home to monsters known as Killer Pandas.
“Pandas are cuuuuutee. Though I’ve never seen any in zoos before,” Kasumi said, in a carefree manner. “Giant Pandas are similar to bears. They’re omnivores. They could even eat people in certain circumstances.”
“So, they eat meat? Aren’t they supposed to eat bamboo…?”
“I’m not too knowledgeable about it, but if I remember correctly, the ones that eat bamboo only eat it because they live in a place where they can only get bamboo. I’m sure they’re omnivores. Killer Pandas are very much monsters. Though they’re not related to normal pandas, it’s not weird.”
In the world, which came to be known as Sky World, monsters did not need to reproduce in order to increase in number. Wherever mana, the origin of everything, was plentiful in an area, monsters could spawn freely.
“If a player has an attack level of 110, its name would appear white, whereas if that player had an attack level of 115, it would appear blue. That’s is definitely a quest boss.”
In Sky World, the strength of an enemy can be ascertained with special magic search spells or special items. Though doing so has since become the norm, it still depended on the character’s attack skill level. Normally, the attack skill is capped at level 100, but with a quest, the cap can be raised. People recently began talking about a fourth skill cap raising quest, which would move it to 120.
Right now, Jun and Yukaria’s attack levels were 115, while Kasumi and Eri’s were 110. Its name being white with a level of 110 means that it is an equal match for them. If the enemy were stronger, then it would be yellow, red, or purple, in order of increasing difficulty. On the contrary, if the enemy were weaker, then its name would be blue, or if it were considerably weaker, then it would be green.
When front line attackers fought amongst each other, normally, if they were white-named for each other, it would prove to be a very close battle. It would take about three people to take out one yellow-name and a whole group of six to take out a single red-name.
Of course, there were exceptions to the prevailing view. The difficulty would change depending on the tactics used. So therefore, many only used the colors as approximate guides, as combat power and efficacy was much more dependent on weapon skills, defense skills, and equipment.
“If we were to compare it with monsters of the same type, Killer Pandas have higher than average attack power and agility. To that extent, their health is comparably low… So, since they work together in groups of four or more, how well we can hold them off will determine the course of the battle,” said Yukaria, who was the only one with experience in the bamboo forest. “Though us five of my previous group once challenged this area, we could only win against up to six of them at once. I can make four of them go to sleep… and afterwards, the front line took one monster apiece.”
“Yukaria, how was your group organized?”
“The others were a knight, a light warrior, a summoner, and a druid. It was a setup with high recovery power.”
They had a druid, a buff-focused healing role, and a knight, a tank that gets enmity with stun and healing magic. Summoners are back line attackers, but they can summon monsters based on the situation, some of which can heal.
In short, they were made up of two tanks, one attacker, one healer, and one controller, Yukaria.
“Wow, what a sturdy group…”
“Against strong monsters, damage was sluggish. Though, when Jun helped us out, we were able to make it through dungeons on the fifth ring…”
“Where did you usually adventure?”
“Recently, we’ve been playing around on the sixth ring. There are lots of beautiful views. Since we operated there, maybe that’s how the two couples sprouted up.” Remembering how she was the one left behind, Yukaria dropped her shoulders and sighed. “Marriage… I too…”
“Ugh.” For some reason, Kasumi looked at Jun, half tear-eyed.
“Jun, shall we get married?” Yukaria fixed her eyes on him.
“Wa, waaa, waaaaaaa!”
Kasumi’s face flushed as she became flustered. Seeing this development, Yukaria pushed her face closer to Jun. As she neared him, her cleavage opened up. Jun hastily turned his eyes away.
“Jun, what do you think of me?”
“You reek of alcohol. Don’t get any closer.”
“Don’t be so shy.” She smiled, raising her index finger to her mouth. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll stop there. Okay?”
Eri forced her way through. She sighed loudly, putting her hand on the somewhat disappointed Yukaria’s shoulder.
“Flirting within the group is seriously forbidden! Yukaria, you should know!”
“I am so sincerely sorry. I was just merely poking fun.”
“So, don’t do any more teasing.”
“Don’t call me that…”
Eri, the youngest of the group, dropped her shoulders in disappointment.