Chapter 1: Neversweet on the Fifth Ring
The fortress, located on the long wall known as Never, currently housed over one hundred adventurers.
In total, over five hundred adventurers were exploring the island of Neversweet on the fifth ring. Neversweet placed high among the most visited islands on the fifth ring, second only to the Fuelfai island, the ending point of the eponymous campaign. Due to the abundance of quests on Neversweet, the two together became the centers of activity for adventurers.
Between the loot dropped by monsters attacking the fortress and the many excellent quest rewards, the Never Wall was a great place to earn money.
In addition, rewards that didn’t directly contribute to progression couldn’t be overlooked.
“Oh, oh, this is problematic, there are so many sweets left. Adventurers, why don’t you try some?”
A seemingly out-of-place girl in a snow-white frilled dress uttered those words, guiding adventurers who had finished their work to assemble in a dining room. Her ears were long and pointy, a distinctively elven characteristic. That in itself wasn’t the surprise, since the elves called Neversweet their home. She was just exceptionally graceful in appearance.
After squinting at her, the game would reveal her name to be Kissandra.
Earlier, she had brought with her a group of maids, each carrying sweets with both of their hands.
The chattering adventurers all stood up and bowed, out-of-sync with each other. The girl dismissed them with: “No need for the courtesy, just enjoy yourselves!” and calmly waved her hands, beckoning to her maids to distribute her fresh baked sweets.
“Princess, this… kind of place again?”
Following the girl, a man in a tuxedo entered the room. His name was Kalcile-facile. Though he had youthful face, his grey hair hinted that he had his fair share of years behind him. By their design, elves rarely changed appearance through aging. Consequently, many players started calling them “old dudes” or “house elders”. Since this man was the elven Minister of State, his own nickname was “nation elder”.
The princess turned around to face the old man.
“What does ‘this kind of place’ even mean? The protection of our nation currently happens to be in the hands of these adventurers,” she rebuked him. “It’s my god-given duty to see to the completion of the appropriate quests. Please understand that times have changed.”
As if not grasping her point, Kalcilefacile shook his head, “If your respectable father was listening, he would surely be in anguish.”
“When father wakes up, I will of course take it upon myself to explain this thoroughly to him.”
In the end, the old man ran out of patience to argue with her and pulled at her arm. “You have another appointment to make. Come here,” he said and dragged her out of the dining hall.
Business as usual. The adventurers had become used to this, so as soon as the elves left, they continued their loud squabble.
“Hey, this is yummy!” Hikaru appreciated the food, “But that girl seemed like Princess Talia.”
The voices grew. Hikaru, sitting next to Jun, got a cookie lodged in his throat and choked. Jun hastily poured a glass of fruit juice into Hikaru’s mouth.
“Ugh, thanks. It got in my airway… Even this stuff happens in Sky World, huh.”
“Well, it’s not like our bodies are actual game characters. According to a player who used to be a doctor, it seemed like we have our real life bodies, just stronger.”
Meanwhile, Jun turned to ask Hikaru a question.
“Which island is Princess Talia from?”
“No, uhhh, Jun. Princess Talia is…”
“She’s an anime character. A Sunday morning show, a girly anime,” Eri, sitting across from them, chimed in. She recited the full name of the anime and casually described Princess Talia’s famous quotes and behaviors. “The anime aired last year, and Teru Ninomiya, who did Princess Talia’s voice, made a breakthrough from the role. And even just before we were thrown here, the third…”
“I think that’s a bit much.” Jun said, shaking his head. “This conversation feels a bit like it’s straight from a drama.”
“Jun… do you not watch anime?” Hikaru asked quietly.
“That kid would never do that~” Eri grinned. “Instead, this guy is glued to the screen playing online games in his free time.” The short girl turned at Hikaru. “Hikaru-kun, so you’re an anime otaku. Is Princess Talia your type?”
“Uh, uhhh, I… A-anyways, let’s get back on topic,” Not wanting to answer, Hikaru averted Eri’s gaze. “That just now was Princess Kissandra, the one who holds all these fortress defense quests, right? She’s a royal? Why would she come to a place like this? Why would a princess bring us baked snacks? Is this an event too?”
“I wonder how much of this is planned by the game system… In the first place, the princess didn’t seem to be acting like that.” Eri muttered, chewing a cookie. She was resting her chin on the tabletop impolitely.
“Princess Kissandra originally didn’t release any quests aside from fortress defense ones. In these two months, she started releasing many more quests… Ah, this cookie is crazy good!”
“From the start, even if we completed Kissandra’s defense quests, the island’s quest completion percentage wouldn’t increase. It makes sense. It does, but.”
“What makes sense?”
“The quests. I tried asking earlier.”
“Princess Kissandra.” Everybody’s eyes widened. “She prayed to the gods to let her create quests. The priests and royalty of this world are pretty handy.”
“… What, really? But if you asked her it has to be true.”
“It seemed interesting, so I gave Princess Kissandra a few suggestions.” Jun said quietly, so that the neighboring tables wouldn’t be able to hear.
“Again, you’re off doing things without telling anybody,” Eri groaned, furrowing her eyebrows. “If you had been caught by the palace guards, what would we do… Anyways, what kind of suggestions did you make?”
“It’s Jun we’re talking about here. He doesn’t make mediocre suggestions.”
“But, hey, we’re able to help out this country. I’m happy,” Kasumi chimed in.
Each of the three had their own reaction, but to put it simply, they were saying something along the lines of: “At any rate, since it’s Jun, if he can do something, he’ll do it.”
Hikaru still didn’t known Jun very well and he opened his mouth, flabbergasted.
“You can ask NPCs these things?”
“Here, maybe,” Jun said, smiling. He had devised a theory about how NPCs think. They lived in this world. There was no algorithm that they acted within. They could act as they wished. This wasn’t a game, they were just the native people of this game-like world. At least, this is how he thought they should think of it.
“It’s been five months since the Birthday, and people are starting to get used to that possibility.”
“Mmh, well, I actually adventured solo for a long time…”
If asked, Hikaru would have said that he secluded himself deep in the mountains of the sixth ring, with just his summoned monsters as companions, for a full three months.
“Isn’t it hard for a caster to be alone?”
“If the monsters are weak, my three summoned monsters can make it less dangerous than for other classes.”
It was possible for summoners to call out multiple monsters at the same time. However, maintaining the pets would draw upon the majority of the summoner’s mental points, rendering him/her unable to cast any other spells sufficiently well.
Even so, in areas where the monsters were weaker, a summoner could have several pets out at once and still fight efficiently.
“Didn’t it get lonely?” Concerned, Kasumi asked.
Hikaru smiled wryly, “Well, I had my pets, so…” The first thing Jun told the others about him was that he really cared for his pets. He had been chuckling as he said that. “But, recently, when the second classes became available I supposed I should investigate the feature…” Hikaru claimed that he then summoned the courage to leave the mountains. “Then I thought, if I chose beast master as my second class, I could make Kaa-kun my partner.”
The squirrel-like animal perched on its favorite spot on Hikaru’s shoulder cried “Piih”.
“That little guy was a monster?”
“He was a sprite. I got him from a quest. It wasn’t like just normally using Charm. Kaa-kun just started following me.”
Jun nodded, seeing what he meant. Beast masters were exclusively a second class. Their unique power was to charm monsters, temporarily using them as their own team members. Summoners and beast masters both could add members to their team and often fought solo. Though…
“Hikaru, is your body weak?”
“Huh? Uh, y-yeah. Maybe.”
“Hey, hey! Anyways, Hikaru-kun, I think I might have heard your voice somewhere before…” Eri said.
“Huh? Huh? … You haven’t.”
“Why did you suddenly lower your voice? … Suspicious. Okay, I suppose I might have met you somewhere before.”
Eri’s doubts flustered Hikaru. Yukaria laughed, “Don’t make others hate you.” She pushed Eri, who had been curious and leaning into the table, back in her seat. “We are mercenaries, wayward vagabonds. Please understand that.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry Hikaru-kun. Don’t hate me.”
“N-no problem… Don’t worry about it. Sorry for acting suspicious.”
Eri and Hikaru bowed their heads towards each other. Looking at the two of them, Kasumi smiled and said, “I’m glad you two are getting along.”