My first attempt at hunting very nearly became my last. I saw a small rabbit just off the trail. The pop-up prompt helpfully informed me that the rabbit was young: level 1. Sounded like my size. Without the Soul Stone, I couldn't raise a pet for myself. Never mind, I could manage. Level 1 casters often had to do a lot of tanking. I selected the bunny as target and activated the Thorn Grass. The earth bubbled around the poor creature entangling its paws with the thorny blue foliage. The life bar above the rabbit's head shrank about ten percent. The bunny emitted a shriek—a call, rather—and bounded toward me. Simultaneously, a God-awful beast of a rabbit cleared the nearby shrubs. An adult rabbit. Level 3. Whatever. It was going for me. Embarrassing, really: to be killed in your first fight—by a rabbit. Rabbit or no rabbit, I hurried to move the target to the big bastard and cast a slowing DoT. A resist. The target couldn't care less about the spell. A magic resistant rabbit—what kind of world was that? Another try, and I managed to slow it down a bit. You've been bitten! Damage sustained: 6 points. Source: the young rabbit's teeth. Life: 54/60. The young rabbit's missed! He attempted to punch you but failed! Indeed, the young 'un had caught up with me and was now busy trying to hurt me. I drew the dagger and slashed the bunny in the face. His life bar shrank some more. I activated Life Absorption. The Young Rabbit has ustained 8 points Damage. You've received 8 points Life. 60/60. You've been bitten! Damage sustained: 17 points. Source of damage: the Adult Rabbit's teeth. Life 43/60. You've been bitten! Damage sustained: 5 points. Source of damage: The Young Rabbit's teeth. Life 38/60. You've been clawed! 12 points Life lost to the Adult Rabbit's claws. 26/60. Shit. Time to leg it. I still had the slowing spell on both bunnies—enough time to run off a couple dozen paces, turn round and cast Absorption twice. The Young Rabbit has sustained 8 points Damage! You've received 8 points Life. 34/60. The Young Rabbit has sustained 5 points Damage! You've received 5 points Life. 39/60 You've received Experience! Die, you bastard! My attempt to slow down the mature rabbit resulted in more aggro and two more bites. My life dropped into the orange zone so I had to retreat double quick. Had it dropped into the red, my speed would have dropped accordingly and no way I could've escaped. But even so my advantage was minimal. I just couldn't shake the big bunny off for enough time to cast the spell safely. After another hundred paces, the forest parted. We scrambled out into a clearing. Far beyond, I could make out the city walls and dozens of players swarming below as they interacted with each other, doing a bit of leveling. I marked the position of the gate towers and the paved road and bolted for the main gate, counting on the guards. Surely they would stick up for a player and not let a mob into town. A monster rabbit, never thought I'd live to see the day. Total embarrassment. Shame about the experience lost: I could kiss it goodbye if the guards finished the mob. But I spoke too soon. The big bunny shrieked. I looked behind me and yanked the brakes on. Some level two rogue stepped in the bunny's way and prodded him with two short swords. Now I had to think fast. Whoever inflicted more attack damage on him would get the experience.
began casting the Life Absorption double quick. An extra bit of healing wouldn't go amiss. You've received Experience! Got him. By then the young rogue was almost finished, too. Either the bunny had critted him or the kid had already been low on life when he'd aggroed him. I dragged my feet toward the rogue sitting on the ground next to the bunny and tending to his wounds. "Thanks, man." "Thanks don't fill a purse," he answered with a smile as he unwrapped another bandage. "You can't be Russian, surely?" Naturally, the game translated the entire content into the player's mother tongue, but that was a bit too good. "Ukrainian," he offered a blood-stained hand. "Cyril a.k.a. Cryl, Elf rogue level two." "I'm Max. You can call me Laith. A new Nec," I shook his strong fingers looking over the gradually disappearing blood stains. Having said that, it really had hurt when the bunnies were making a quick job of me. Blood had splattered everywhere. Not an agonizing pain, but pain nevertheless. In the heat of the fight, I'd taken it for granted forgetting I was stuck inside the FIVR. The high pain threshold and overall acuteness pointed at the profound FIVR immersion. Actually, the officials recommended to switch to a basic 3D type at the first signs of pain. The deeper the immersion, the more real it is for your brain and the higher the risk of getting perma-stuck. The likes of myself were discouraged from visiting virtual worlds with high authenticity levels. But in this case, you couldn't please me more. My hyper sensitivity increased my chances tenfold. In the meantime, Cryl was done with his bandages which brought his life up to fifty percent. "A Nec, you said? In all frankness, you're either a masochist or an idiot. Then you may be someone with lots of patience and an ambition to match." I smirked. "You forgot lots of spare time. But I could use some patience, sure." "Good to know that," Cryl was already stomping his feet impatiently, looking for a new challenge. "Any plans? I still have two hours left until forced logout. Fancy grouping up?" A message alert popped up. Cryl the rogue has invited you to join his group. Mechanically I adjusted the interface to semi-transparent as I gave it some thought. On one hand, I had to go to town and get myself settled down. I wasn't an on-and-off player—I was about to stay here. No innkeeper would rent me a room for free: I needed to get hold of some money for lodgings, food and some clothes. On the other hand, I still had plenty of time till sunset and even though a rogue wasn't the best choice for a tankless group, it was probably more fun together. I wanted to get a better look at him. You never know, we could become friends. You've joined a group! Group leader: Cryl. The loot rule: Master Loot. Cryl rubbed his hands. "Excellent. If we could just get ourselves a warrior tank and a healer, that would be awesome." He yelled at the top of his lungs, "We need a tank and a healer, levels one to four. For the Gnoll Hill." He turned to me and winked, lowering his voice, "Preferably young females. Preferably those who haven't yet armored themselves up to their eyebrows. AlterWorld must be the place. You wouldn't meet so many scantily clad cuties at a Miss Universe final." He laughed so infectiously that I smiled, too. Funny guy. In actual fact, the overstrung spring inside me was relaxing, I could feel it. Since I'd learned about my diagnosis, it had been a race against time. I kept pushing myself, too scared of dying on my apartment floor just two feet away from the phone. Having said that, what would I have done with it? Now the peaceful beauty of my new world poured inside me filling my drained soul and washing out all the stress and weariness. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and smiled as I exhaled. "You're not stoned, are you?" Cryl sat up. "No. Not at all. It's just so... beautiful. What about those gnolls?" "They're some awesome mobs. The caves are their main dungeon, three floors, levels 10 to about 25. Too early for us. But around the caves, there're tons of petty gnolls there, like workers, gatherers and messengers. Those guys are begging to be killed. They might drop a bracelet which you can sell to other players or to the Caravan Guards' Master. Each bracelet gives you the same experience as you get if you kill a gnoll. Donators—I mean those who invest real cash into the game—buy them like hot cakes. They'd rather spend an hour screaming their heads off to buy bracelets by the dozen, and then bingo! they're already level 10 or even 20, no need to waste rabbits. Talking about rabbits. You'd better check yours before it stinks." All the rabbit dropped was two strips of rabbit meat. I could sell it to a shopkeeper or start to level the cooking skill. I was curious how much I could make by the end of the first day. The location chat was busy: I'll pay 1 gold for Red Bear ID. PM me. WTS Blue Gladiolus or trade for top Druid gear. Lvl 8 Mage LFG
Shuumatsu nani shitemasu ka
WTB gnoll bracelets. Gray 20 copper, black 50 copper, red 2 silver. Preferably in bulk. WTS +350 HP buff, duration 3 hr. Price: 1 gold. I'll be sitting by the East Gate. Janis is PK! He's by the creek, go kill him! You PK! You killed me first! Cryl guffawed. "Kidz!" "Yeah. Useless truants. It doesn't look as if we can find anyone. Let's just go and then decide." "Okay. Let's go." Seven minutes of brisk walking along the forest edge brought us to a low hill range. The foothills were teeming with players—groups and solos—busy pulling monsters and attempting to take them apart. As we watched, a low-level warrior pulled a train of three gnolls and a level 8 gnoll overseer. In less than a minute, the whole party was lying dead having only nailed two of the lower gnolls. Greedy-eyed, we watched the monsters leave. The overseer, badly crippled as he was, was too tough for us. "Cryl? You don't happen to have any distance weapon, do you? To pull a mob or two? "I don't," he tut-tutted. "In theory, I can use slings and crossbows. Only I haven't saved enough yet to get myself any. I bought a dozen bandages and that was the end of my dough." "I see. In that case, I'll be pulling them with DoT and then hand them over to you. Wait here." I ran up the hill and looked around. About a thousand feet away I noticed a cave opening, surrounded by a low stockade with some dirty flags flapping over it. The ground around me was streaked with trails which were swarming with gnolls. The closest to me was a hurried level 3 messenger. I selected him as target and activated the Thorn Grass. The gnoll swung round, hissing, and trotted toward me. I cast Life Absorption and scrambled down the hill, taking cover behind Cryl's back. He descended on the mob, stabbing him wherever he could reach. But he couldn't pull him off me fast enough as I'd aggroed the mob too much. Ignoring his opponent, the monster went for me. You've been hit by Messenger Gnoll! Damage sustained: 16 points. Life 44/60 You've been hit by Messenger Gnoll! Damage sustained: 12 points. Life 32/60 It did hurt. I drew my dagger and we started slicing the mob up between the two of us. At the same time I was trying to cast Life Absorption. Twice the mob's hits made me lose concentration until finally the spell went through. I only had 20 Life left when the gnoll yelled something and passed away. You've received Experience! Just. I was no tank any way you looked at it. Cryl crouched by the body and lay one hand on it. With a clank, the mob's money divided between the group members. I was now two coppers richer. "He's got a letter on him too, binds on pickup," Cryl said. "Some low-level quest or other. Want it?" "You can have it. He's not our last messenger." We sat quiet for a couple minutes restoring life and mana while Cryl was changing his bandages. "That's it, the bandages're finished," he said with regret. "I only raised the skill to 3 points. I have to heal 4 hits at a time." "You shouldn't have started. It will cost you too much at the first levels," I watched a small group who had arrived running in their underpants and were now busy touching their graves and picking up their gear that appeared in place of tombstones. I rose. "You ready?" I waited for his affirmative and flew up the hill. This time I chose a single gnoll worker lugging a basketful of earth. DoT, two Life Absorptions, a quick hand-to-hand and finally, the welcome experience message. This time it was much easier: the worker had less life than the messenger so he packed up in no time. Cryl bent over him, surprised. "Listen, he's got this Soul Stone here but it won't let me touch it. WTF?" "Oh. Jeez, it has to be mine," I hurried to the body and picked up a nondescript little blue rock. The Soul Stone. Contains the soul of a level 4 gnoll. To raise him, use the Summoning the Undead spell. I moved the spell to the quick access panel, clenched the stone and cast the spell. With thunder and lightning the stone crumbled to dust. The earth parted right in front of the crouched Cryl's nose, letting out a Gnoll Zombie. The kid yelped and rolled out of its way. "You could've told me!" "I'm telling you now," I guffawed. "Meet Rover, my pet. He'll be our tank."
I spent some quality time in the raised creature's custom settings. I renamed the zombie Rover and entered a few commands: as you'd guess, mainly Attack! Heel! Off! and others in the same vein. I ended up with a level 3 pet—not too bad considering that the stone fell out of a level 4 monster. "Now it'll be easier. Sit!" I told Rover and ran to pull another gnoll. The zombie was nothing to complain about. He made a decent tank pulling the aggro to himself and not letting the mobs kick our poorly armored asses. His hits were mediocre, 5 to 7 points, but he could take the heat and absorb damage. The farming process—that is to say, monotonously grinding mobs—started to fall into a pattern. The next three mobs we ripped apart no problem. We even got another messenger, this time level five. After his death, a blue shimmering mist enveloped our bodies and the two of us gasped in unison. "Ding!" I said. "Up!" Cryl yelled. Congratulations! You've reached Level 2! Racial bonus: +1 to Intellect Class bonus: +1 to Intellect, +1 to Spirit 5 Characteristic points available! I opened the char's menu. After a second thought, I added 3 points to Intellect, 1 to Spirit and 1 to Constitution. Would do for the time being. Intellect had already reached 16 which gave me 160 points mana—not bad at all for level 2. "You finished with yours?" I asked a vacant-looking Cryl. "Five more sec. You can start pulling." "Okay," I nodded and began climbing the hill feeling I'd been living there for ages. Whereby I immediately stumbled into two gnoll gatherers. "é*@&!" the toothy bastards yelled, lunging at me. " é*@ç$!!" I yelled back, tumbling down the hill. "I'm bringing a train! Two gnolls! Rover, attack!" I set him loose on the farthest monster. Now I had to deal with just one. "This one's ours," I shouted to Cryl. He nodded and stepped in the mob's way. After some quality clashing of steel and humming of spells, the gnoll collapsed. You've received Experience! While I'd fought, I kept casting Life Absorption as the quickest way to deal damage. So now my life bar was still at 100% while Cryl's hit indicator hovered in the orange zone. The next moment, my zombie groaned and crumbled to dust. His gnoll, albeit rather bruised, turned round and went for us. "Wait, step aside. Let me first," I told Cryl and lunged forward burying my dagger in the gnoll's eye. You've dealt 14 points critical damage to Gnoll Gatherer! Immediately I stopped his clawed paw with my face. His next punch landed on my liver. Jeez, it hurt. Cryl joined in from behind my back, adding a lovely aggro-generating bunch of hits. The monster swung round to face him which allowed me to step back and cast Life Absorption again. More hits. A flash of magic. You've received experience! Got him. "Great job, man," I offered Cryl my hand. "You did it by the book." He shook my hand, his face serious. "So did you, cutie. No fuss, just got the job done. You're a legend." We smiled to each other. "I hope one of them at least happens to have another Soul Stone," I said. "My zombie has given up the ghost." "Let him rest in peace. He saved his master's life. Lived like a dog, died like a hero." "Must be his karma," I mused watching Cryl crouch by the bodies. More coin-rattling. I now was five coppers richer. "When it rains it pours," Cryl cheered up. "This one has a Stone and a gray bracelet, call it twenty more coppers in the till. Oh. The other one's empty." "You can have it all. I'll have the next one. But give me the stone, please. Time to resuscitate our hero." The hero didn't live up to his fame. The raised zombie was level 2. I really needed to get myself some stuff with pet leveling bonuses. Never mind. I'd have to change the pet when I got another stone, as simple as that. Two minutes for regen, then I rushed off to get us another gnoll. The farming process continued without a glitch. I kept pulling a gnoll or sometimes two. The loot was meager to say the least: a few coppers apiece plus miscellaneous trash like rusty daggers, some ore, and all sorts of statless items. Once or twice we had a couple of quest bracelets albeit gray ones. To get anything cool you had to head deep into the caves. Two hours into the game, we were level 5. Each had a couple hundred coppers and a dozen bracelets to show for our trouble. On top of that, I got myself twelve Soul Stones although now the raised zombies' levels 2 to 4 didn't look like much compared to my level 5. We were meditating after a complex fight with two more gnolls when a high-level Druid dashed past right between us. "Train!" he yelled and disappeared, speed-buffed. "What did he say?" Cryl turned to me. Then we were swallowed by a mob crowd chasing the druid. No idea where he'd pulled so many. He must have fallen out of a cave and bolted for the city not bothering about the low-level guards. It had worked for him. But not for us. They spent us in five seconds flat. Still sitting, I took two crits to my back, jumped to my feet for a second and collapsed again. A crimson haze clouded my view. Warning! You have died in battle. In a moment, you'll be respawn in your last bind point. You can change the bind point using a special spell or artifact. A grave containing all your gear and the contents of your bag will appear in place of your death. Only you can pick them up. If you don't reach your grave within three hours, it'll be teleported to the nearest city graveyard. * * * Strictly Confidential From the Edict of the President of the Russian Federation On Creating the Sharazhka Classified Experimental Facility Installation Bunker 9 to be used as the server farm. Deploy Eden 17 Office Deluxe as the experimental virtual environment software. Register and assess all nationals categories 4, 4a, 7 and 11. Shortlist all C1-listed nationals such as researchers, analysts and top engineers. Lay the groundwork for potential digitizing of all the individuals over 65 years of age and those with serious health problems.