Experience points washed over the party after their thirtieth consecutive win against a pack of wolves. While the experience was not as much as it had been the first few bouts, it was still experience.
Magnolia lifted her wand up in the air: “Cure Wounds.” The healing wind she summoned circled around Eugene. She watched as his avatar Engine_Loaded started the slow healing process that closed his light wounds upon his scaled skin.
EagleEye’s health happened to be several points off from his max, so it didn’t appear he needed a healing spell. Cool_Azure_Sky had full health, mostly due to her hiding behind Eugene when she casted.
It wasn’t as if the girl was useless in battle. Far from it. Cassidy had offensive magic that affected large packs of enemies just as any sword, arrow, or bullet wound. The only ineffective one in this party happened to be Magnolia, but healing did take priority when their tank took the brunt of the force.
Before they left Mydalr, they were level 6. Currently they barely reached the cusp of level 12. They only needed more battles with the wolves to bump them up to the next level. Their enemies were level 7, which made training immensely difficult. The mechanics of battle had been hard to learn, with the game system adding more realism to combat. And as such, as the battles progressed, so did their exhaustion.
But with determination and compassion for games, the beta testers jumped head first into their main assignment. Origin would not beat them. The grinding did take some of the fun out of the game, but it would be a necessary evil—especially if this game didn’t turn out to be what they wanted it to be.
The problem was that it felt too real. It was terse, action-packed, and unforgiving to those who slipped up. The party learned the hard way when Eugene, assigned as their DPS, stepped a bit further away from their sorcerer Cassidy. The wolves took advantage of the momentary lapse of space and effectively used their pack tactics to attack her. She was on the cusp of going down, her health decreasing into the single digits, and with some luck Alex swept in to save her from experiencing a character death.
By keeping their party members as close to one another, they started to scrape by.
When it came to leveling up, each person had their own style of branching their skills. The team decision was to wait on dividing up their skill points into the skill trees for their classes until after level 15. This way, it would give them all plenty of time to understand their character class and skills—and to get used to their character’s powers and abilities before adding more on top of that. It was one thing to want to grow stronger, and it was another to dump points into something one would never really use.
Alex had finished gathering the hide material from the wolves pack they battled while Cassidy took gold pieces to stash in the communal purse. They would split the earnings evenly once they were back into town. In the meantime, they would have one person in charge of items and the other in charge of money.
Magnolia was too clumsy to carry the money, as she lost over a hundred gold coins over a steep cliff. Her justification for how she lost it was peculiar to say the least. She had been rushed by several wolves, and in that moment, she panicked. The monster chased her in circles before she ultimately tripped, and dropped the coin pouch over the ledge. It was fortuitous that she did not fall off the ledge. And so with great fervor, the team decided who would be in charge of what tasks.
“We have about 31 swatches of Wolf Hide, 16 wolves teeth, about 2 tusks from a ferobear, 12 carrots, 4 oranges, 8 tomatoes, and plenty of raw meat.” Alex organized the inventory before he also listed their other items. These were the typical items anyone would see in a RPG, like potions, hi-potions, and a few ethers.
Eugene looked over to his left. He interrupted his friend with a quick reply. “There is something coming. 9-o,clock.”
Magnolia shifted her attention over where a pack of three wolves jumped out from the foliage. They were snarling, snapping their jaws at their company. Eugene jumped in front of the group, his cutlass out and dagger displayed. He would have initiated the battle, but the wolves had the advantage.
He missed his first attack, leaving Cassidy open for an attack. She had already started to cast a thunder spell, but had been interrupted when a wolf tackled her to the ground. Her concentration was broken, as she held her arm up to block the wolf from biting through her jugular.
Alex shot an arrow from the bow once the wolf tackled the young sorcerous. The arrow slammed into the wolf’s eye as blood trickled down it’s matted fur. Yelping in piercing agony, the wolf bounced off of their mage. This gave Eugene an opportunity to attack, and dispatched the other two wolves with his cutlass.
Magnolia noticed her friend had taken 14 points of damage. “Cas, here’s a cure wounds coming your way!” She raised her wand, and focused her healing art entirely upon her.
Before Alex could deliver the finishing blow on the last wolf attacking, Eugene swooped in for the kill. He aimed one of his powered up arrows, shooting one into the wolf’s lunging chest. Another cry from the wolf was all it took before the red HP bar whittled down to zero.
Magnolia felt the rush of experience points flow through them and then she heard Journey’s voice in her head. Congratulations on making it to level 13! I’ve added some new tutorial combat books in your help menu feature. Magnolia felt her console chime once again as three new pages popped up. Battle [Nighttime], Battle [Chained Boosts], Battle [After Battle Effects and Boosts].
“I’ve exhausted all my mana.” Magnolia replied in an exasperated voice. She found a log to collapse on. Her butt hurt when she landed, but the mental exhaustion lingered more than the physical pain.
“Eat this.” Cassidy tossed her an orange. A small description window popped up explaining the health benefits of the orange.
A sweet and tangy fruit refreshment. Heals up to 30 MP points after consumption.
The half elf druid peeled the skin off and enjoy the tangy, succulent taste of bitterness enter her taste buds. This would be her fifth—scratch that—sixth orange that night. While she seemed fine with the repetitious food, it didn’t seem to have the same impact as the beef stew had.
“We covered all the side quests and trained up to level 13. Were you serious about training to level 15 Eugene?” Alex wiped the sweat from his face, waiting for the call from their pseudo tank. The Draconian rogue rolled his neck back and forth until he felt a soft pop. Then he went to stretch his shoulder.
“If we’re good on supplies, we should keep training. The nighttime is good for active battling and experience boosts.” He wasn’t wrong about the night time fighting. The battles were intensified, but the payout was better. The experience they gained doubled, and material drops doubled too. If they continually had successful battles, and kept their chain going, it would effectively boost their experience and drops by up to five times the normal rate.
The problem with this line of thought happened to be sleep, or the lack thereof. Magnolia finished her orange before she tilted her head up to look at the darkened sky. “Can we just call it a night and pick this up in the morning? It’s what—past 2 now?”
Cassidy chuckled. “Are you not used to playing all night?”
The half elf sighed to her tiefling friend, “No, that’s not it. I just feel like we should be fully rested for the next thing. The Earth Gemstone is all that we need, but what if there is a boss battle. You know these games have those types of things.” She hoped logic would play a hand in their next course of action, but that was not to be the case.
“She’s one of those gamers.” Eugene retorted with disdain, mostly to mock her through her previous statement from before. “Instead of trudging headfirst, she turns tail, runs back to save, sleeps in a tent, saves again, and then tackles the boss.”
“Okay, fine I am that type but is it that wrong to play on the airs of caution?” Magnolia shuffled her feet. Yes, she was that type of gamer. What else was she supposed to do?
“Welcome to Origin, the game that doesn’t care what style of gameplay you’ve done.” Cassidy said with little to no emotion. “It will challenge you with endless hours of torture and fun.” She checked her own talons before blowing on them.
“Can we even call this a game anymore?” Magnolia replied to her friends, and they sat quietly. The elephant in the group had been about Origin and what it truly was, but no one wanted to openly talk about it… at least not the rest of the party.
“Let’s just get through this first quest and go from there.” Alex said with a frown. “You know, this is a terrible way to promote a game. I wonder what our parents would say.”
Eugene smirked, “Sucks to be you?”
“Wow.” The druid replied to the Dragonborne.
“My parents totally told me that.” Their elven archer answered truthfully. “Although it was because I missed the black Friday sale for the re-release of Vinyl Vantasy VII.”
Cassidy had been tinkering with her menu console. Magnolia ignored the two boys in the party and decided to see what she was up to. She looked over her shoulder and noticed her Character Growth page. “Distributing points already?”
“Something like that. I was branching off my magic toward lightning and fire spells. Shouldn’t you do that same?” Her Tiefling best friend offered the seat next to her on the log.
“Yeah I suppose you’re right.” Magnolia tapped on her Character Growth, and saw a slight increase in her stats. While she had lower physical damage per second points, she had fairly decent points in magic and wisdom. Her magical damage per second points were significantly higher.
“I could unlock an aero spell.” The druid smiled as she set her points where she deemed necessary. The last of her points remaining would either stack upon the next level up, or she could just spam one of her level 1 spells to get better potency.
The black-haired half elf staring back at her from her wrist console looked on the brink of exhaustion. Their conversation about distributing points finally caught the attention of the two males. “Weren’t we waiting until level 15?”
“We’re level 13, and honestly six-seven levels of backlog is tedious as it is.” Cassidy glowered before closing her menu. “You may be used to distributing points left and right, but I’m not.”
Magnolia smiled, she understood the struggle of a point buy system and waiting to distribute those points. If the points put in weren’t placed properly, then the player would be out of luck. And she didn’t want to find that out during a fight. Not when their lives could be in jeopardy. Maybe. In her opinion, she wasn’t sure whether to think she and her friends were in mortal danger quite yet.
Alex waved off her concern. He tapped onto his menu and clicked rapidly to allocate his points. What took the girls 20 minutes, took him a mere 5 minutes. “Why don’t we call it a night after we get the Earth Gemstone? We go into the cave, grab the stones we need, and by the time we’re done we should be at our respective levels of 15. Hopefully.”
Their resident Dragonborn Eugene shrugged. “As long as we’re 15 before we leave Mydalr.”
“That settles that.” Cassidy said to Magnolia.
Magnolia could feel her eyes starting to get heavy, but agreed to their plan all the same. Get the Earth gemstone, and finally get some sleep. “I can’t wait for bed.” She replied as she stretched her arms over her head.
“A nice, cozy, feather down bed…” Cassidy chuckled to Magnolia. The half elf in the group smiled in return.
“And a cup of hot chocolate milk.” Magnolia added
“And chocolate-raspberry biscotti.”
Before the girls could continue on with their tirade of their future nightly plans, Eugene snapped them back to attention. “I’m going to stop you two there. Look alive peeps, we’re heading into the cavern.”