The customer laughed. “Hey, but also, you do know that there are rumours going around that a super strong rat took out the top player, yeah?”
“Seriously?” you deadpanned, “and people are actually believing it?”
“Well, yeah, because there were eye witnesses,” she chuckled.
“What have I done?!” you wailed, slapping your hands to your cheeks and dragging them down to your jawline, disfiguring your face.
“Don’t worry, I’l tell them it’s just the local merchant dressed up as a rat,” she replied.
“And that will work?” you asked dubiously.
“Should do,” she replied with a shrug, “good luck on your trip, we’ll miss you.”
“Thanks!” you replied with a smile, packing the last of your supplies in the back of the wagon.
Butterfli3 returned leading a horse that he had just bought to pull the wagon and hitched it up quickly.
“Ready to go?” he asked you with a smile.
“Definitely!” you replied brightly.
You said your last goodbyes to the customer and climbed up onto the bench at the front of the wagon next to Butterfli3.
“See you later!” you called to the customer and waved as Butterfli3 clicked his tongue to get the horse moving.
You were off!
Your smile grew and grew the further you both travelled from the city gates and your bright eyes watched the scenery around you.
“Have you ever been outside of level 1?” Butterfli3 asked as you headed deeper into the woods.
“Only with you, to level 22, but that’s about it.” you replied with a grin.
“I see, well just a word of warning but we will run into monsters and bosses but I won’t let anything happen to you. It’s a good way to grind while we travel so we can level up on the go.”
“Uh…ok, do I have to fight them, though?” you asked hesitantly.
“No O/N, I’ll take them on. But you need to stay nearby so I can make sure they don’t get to you, and also, so you can get a share of the EXP if you stay close when I take them out.”
“Ok, I trust you,” you said, putting your hand on his arm as he held the reins.
“We will need to stop at inn’s along the way to log out, too. We don’t want to be logging out in the back of the wagon where other players could find our avatars and either PK or steal our items.”
“PK?” you asked.
“Player Kill,” he replied, “some people in this game just want to take out other players.”
“Rude,” you snorted.
You chatted together as the wagon moved steadily along the track, getting closer and closer to level 2.
“Ok, there will be a field boss coming up soon,” Butterfli3 said suddenly, “if I remember correctly it’s a giant wasp.”
“Oh fun,” you remarked sarcastically.
A few more minutes passed and you could hear a faint buzzing that was steadily getting louder.
“Here it comes,” Butterfli3 said, pulling the wagon to a stop and hopping off, “stay here O/N, I’Il only be a minute.
You scanned the surrounding trees and grasslands, trying to catch a glimpse of the incoming foe when it all of a sudden appeared in front of Butterfli3.
You gasped when you saw the size of it. It was indeed a very LARGE wasp and you pressed back against the wagon seat in fear.
Butterfli3 was ahead of you in front of the wagon and he seemed as unfazed as ever as he drew his sword, holding it back in his right hand like you had seen him do in his duel with Kirito.
Your man made the first move and in 3 swift strikes he had defeated the wasp.
“You made that look easy!” you said with a smile as he ended the fight.
“I defeated the stronger one before,” butterfli3 said as he re-sheathed his sword and turned back around to look at you, “this wasp is still classified as a ‘boss’ but when you defeat the original one, another respawns in its place but it’s weaker.”
“Oh. Ok.” you replied, “it’s weird but I actually understand what you’re saying now.”
He smiled. “Is it ok if we aim to get to level 5 by tonight? These first few levels are all quite similar looking and have similar animals so there’s nothing much to show you,” Butterfli3 said as he hopped back up into the wagon seat.
“Yeah, that’s no worries,” You said happily, “I’m just excited to be with you.
You travelled quickly through level 2- which looked much the same as level 1 but with giant insects and toads, then made your way past the next mini boss to level 3.
The entry to Level 3 was guarded by a big black fox with two tails and the level itself had a very woodlands vibe to it with deer, foxes, weasels and porcupines as the field monsters.
You spent a bit of time on level 3, grinding for your fox onesie and managed to get enough fox pelts to get your upgrade- which you were super excited about.
Then came level 4 and as you both emerged through the forest after defeating the mini boss- a lion-snake hybrid and it’s not like you could see anything wrong but you just felt like something was off.
It was very quiet as you approached the main town and you saw a few players strewn through the fields just outside the gates with their health bars dangerously low.
“What’s going on?” you whispered to Butterfli3 who was on high alert and wary of his surroundings.
“I don’t know,” he replied to you softly.
He followed the track into the main town and pulled up at the gates to talk to the guards there.
“What’s happened?” he asked the closest guard as he dismounted from the wagon bench.
“BUTTERFLI3!” The guard gasped with excitement, “it’s so good to have you here!”
“What’s the problem?” Butterfli3 asked again, “why are there injured players in the field and why is no one going out to help them?”
“We don’t know what’s going on but a red bear appeared and attacked anyone it came across,” the guard said, “we don’t know where it went so no one is game to leave the city to get the players but it’s still out there somewhere.”
“A red bear?” Butterfli3 replied, “but red bears are only on level 7?”
“No, this one was down on this level,” the guard replied, “some of the players aren’t strong enough to take on a level 7 monster so it’s been wrecking havoc here.”
“But it couldn’t be a red bear,” Butterfli3 said again, “it’s not possible?”
“Look, I don’t know, ok? I don’t know how or why it’s here but it’s here. Can you please take care of it for us?” the guard pleaded.
“Yes, ok,” butterfli3 replied thoughtfully, “we will also restore the health of the players out there and bring them in to safety.”
“Thank you so much, Butterfli3,” the guard said gratefully, “and uh…”
He looked past Butterfli3 to you and paused when he saw you in your rat onesie.
“This is my girlfriend, O/N. She’s a merchant,” Butterfli3 announced proudly.
“Ahh! A rat merchant!” the guard said happily.
Your face fell.