24. Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

[Group Chat]

  • [Master of Disaster]: Unbelievable! We’ve just barely started our plan on world conquest and someone’s already stolen a march on us!
  • [Q]: Did you expect anything less? We’re not exactly blazing a trail through the game right now.
  • [Master of Disaster]: That’s exactly the problem! Get your T2 class already!
  • [Q]: Man, I just got my new class and haven’t even gone dungeon diving yet.
  • [Kukis]: To begin with we aren’t aiming to be first.
  • [Vamboree]: Slow and steady wins the race. Even in previous games we started well after other players but still caught up and surpassed them. It won’t be different this time either.
  • [Master of Disaster]: Come on guys…
  • [Rouland]: Any of you have a quest near Mizar?
  • [Vamboree]: I can take an escort quest there. What’s happening?
  • [Rouland]: Someone started up an event and now we have to deal with a monster stampede.
  • [Master of Disaster]: UGH. So many events are being triggered without me doing it!
  • [Q]: Not to discourage you, but there’s at least a million players all running around the same area. I think it’s harder to not trigger an event than it is to do so.
    Or did you want to be a special snowflake and monopolize all the rewards?
  • [Master of Disaster]: Yes, actually.
  • [Q]: …
  • [Master of Disaster]: Anyway, keep leveling up guys. By the time we’re all level 30-ish we’ll meet in Svelt and get going, alright?

    Q closed the chat and shook her head. “Mod’s really eager to get going huh? We’re not even in a rush or anything.”

    The group was currently in front of the forest of spherical shapes, which Q recently learned was named Borumba Forest. As for why they ended up here again, it was because they headed back to the Primrose base to look for information on any nearby dungeons, and were caught by Sharon. After hearing about the groups journey into the ‘Stabby Shrubs’, Sharon thought that another area filled with runes and grimoires might be nearby, so she sent them to search around Borumba Forest.

    Just as they were about to enter, Mod sent a message and immediately began complaining. Q empathized with him as she also secretly wanted to do something big, but the rational voice in her mind told her that she definitely wouldn’t be able to catch up to those players. Instead she decided to focus on the task at hand, which was to search for anything related to runes.

    “I think it’s probably because we’ve joined a game at launch for the first time.” Kukis said, breaking Q out of her thoughts. “He probably wants achievements of some sort to be remembered by.”

    “What are you two talking about?” Sunflower asked with her eyes shining curiously.

    “We’re just talking with other friends.” At the mention of ‘friends’, Sunflower’s curiosity piqued and Kukis helplessly explained. “We have a group of friends that we met from other games, and they also joined into this one. So far there are only five of us because it’s really hard to get a game pod to play in. Speaking of which, how’d you get one Sunflower?”

    “Oh, I don’t own one,” Sunflower chirped, “I just play at the arcade near my home.”

    “What kind of arcade has a spare game pod lying around!?” Q shouted in disbelief.

    “Um… R.Grade Arcade?” 

    “R.Grade…?” Suddenly, Q’s eyes widened. “Ooooh! That makes sense then. I know the boss who works there. He would totally lend out a pod for kids to play in.” 

    “You know Uncle Archie? You must live close to me then! You should come over and play!” 

    “Heh, It’s only at times like these that I’m reminded you’re still a kid.” Q took a deep breath, then put on a serious expression. “Young lady, what you did just there was very dangerous. When you’re talking to strangers online you should never reveal personal information.” 

    “But… you’re not strangers…” 

    “That’s not the point!” Q’s shout made Sunflower flinch. “You shouldn’t trust people so easily! What if we were bad people that found out where you lived? What would you do then, huh?”

    “…” Sunflower was left speechless. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she faced Q’s sudden ruthless attitude.

    “Do you understand? Bad things will happen if you’re too careless. You can’t be doing that kind of thing okay?” Q’s tone softened.

    “Mm… okay.” 

    “Pinky promise?”

    “Pinky promise.”

    The two of them linked their pinkies together, and then shared a smile. The heavy mood instantly lightened, 

    “I’m sorry Sunflower. I don’t want to be mean, but it’s better that you understand this now than suffer later.”

    “I get it.” Sunflower pursed her lips, but it soon turned into a smile. “Hehe, you’re like my mommy. She always says things like this.” 

    “Urgh, I’m still struggling with big sister so don’t increase the difficulty!”

    “Pffft- Good luck with your future kids, ‘mommy’.” Kukis laughed out loud.

    “Hmph. If we ever have kids I’m making you take care of them.” Q’s swift counter immediately shut down Kukis’ laughter, leaving her with her mouth hanging open. Then, a split second later Q realized what she had just said and wonderfully self-destructed as she blushed, her face turning as red as her hair. “Uh- um- quest! Let’s go!”

    With a speed that made it seem like she was running away, Q hastily entered the round forest. Kukis was left standing in shock, while Sunflower alternated her gaze between Kukis and the direction Q ran off to. A few moments passed as Sunflower tilted her head left and right as she pondered about the two’s relationship. It didn’t take long for her to draw a conclusion as a mischievous smile – much like Q’s – began to form on her face.

    “Come on big sis, let’s go!” She said, pulling Kukis by the hand. 

    “Oh- uh, yeah.” Kukis nodded and followed along, but her mind kept wandering.

    By the time they found Q, she had long since calmed down and was staring intently at a group of Squibbles, the ball-like squirrels they had fought before. When Kukis approached, Q looked her straight in the eye. Neither of them said a word, but seemed to come to an understanding to not mention the earlier incident. With that issue temporarily shelved away Q finally felt at ease to continue as usual, so she stepped forward, adjusted the small crown on her head, and shouted,

    “Bow down my subjects! Your ruler appears before you!”

    The Squibbles rolled around in confusion, unsure of why this weird vulpyne was shouting at them. Then, they felt a regal aura. A presence so powerful and commanding that they felt from their very core, a desire to obey. They looked at the being that had spoken, and instinctively understood what they had to do.

    “Bwahahaha! That’s right! I am your queen!” Q laughed maniacally as the Squibbles rolled around her, creating a perfect circle. She picked one at random and carried it in her arms, stroking its fur. “Onward, my faithful subjects! Bring me to the magical runes!”

    For a moment the Squibbles stopped rolling, not completely understanding Q’s intention. Soon though, they seemed to think of a place and began bouncing and rolling off into a direction. Q happily walked amongst the fluffy beings, while Kukis and Sunflower trailed behind.

    “Um, Q, what the heck are you doing?” Kukis asked, being careful not to step on any of the Squibbles.

    “Well I was thinking. After Sharon gave us this quest to look for rune stuff in this forest I figured that it would be similar to when we joined up with Melun and the others and found that dungeon. Problem is, we don’t have any info on a hidden dungeon so I decided to ask the locals.” Q stroked the Squibble in her arms, which seemed to puff up with pride. 

    “Locals, huh?” 

    “Um, big sis, can I have one too?” Sunflower asked.

    “Sure!” Q looked for the gentlest looking Squibble among the group, then picked it up and whispered in its ear, “You’re going to obey and protect that girl alright? Treat her as your master,” then passed it over to Sunflower.

    As Sunflower excitedly danced around with the new ball of fluff, Q picked up another one and presented it to Kukis. “Do you want one too?”

    “No, I’m good. Also I don’t know how to feel about randomly picking up animals and claiming them as pets. Are they even domesticated?” Kukis poked at the Squibble in Q’s arms, which hissed in return.

    “Probably not, but they’re nice while I wear this crown. Who knows? If we increase their favorability, maybe we can adopt them as pets!” 

    “I highly doubt that killing a king and taking its crown to fool his people will result in anything good.”

    “It’s fiiiiiine. Look, we’ve reached our destination! Which is… uh, this is actually kind of awkward.”

    The group of Squibbles ended up bringing them to the same clearing with the giant tree that they fought the Squibble King before. To Q’s dismay, said Squibble King was alive and well, and was currently looking at the group with a face full of contempt. Both it and Q locked eyes, and seemed to be having an intense clash of wills.

    Disgraceful cur! You dare to return to my kingdom wearing the crown of my slain kin!

    Your brother was a despot! He treated his people as no more than dirt to be tread upon.

    As is right for the lowly peasants!

    Seems like the throne needs to be vacated once more…

    “Looks like we need to fight.” Q told the other girls. She put down the Squibble in her arms and there was a mischievous glint in her eye. “But this time, we aren’t alone! Cookie, get it’s attention, Sunflower protect her!” 

    The two moved according to their instructions. Kukis began throwing her hammers at the Squibble King, while Sunflower stood in front of her and took a stance. As the Squibble King became enraged and charged towards Sunflower, she smiled in return and threw down a round leaf with runes inscribed on its surface. 

The moment the Squibble King made contact with the leaf, it activated, sending a powerful gust of air upwards which threw the King off balance. Kukis took this opportunity to run up to it. A red glow surrounded her body and she brought down her twin hammers on it, toppling it to its side. She followed it up with another skill which made her arms turn into a blur as she rapidly struck the King multiple times.

Meanwhile Q found a vantage point on the giant tree, and addressed the regular Squibbles which had yet to make a move. “Citizens of the Borumba Kingdom, hear my words!” 

The Squibbles chittered and squeaked, confusedly rolling about. They looked to their King, who was furiously doing battle, then to the smaller being that was exuding a presence similar to their King’s. Seeing that the King was in no mood to talk, they eventually gathered around Q and listened to what she had to say.

“Your King is unrighteous! He treats you lower than dirt, abuses your goodwill, and snatches all the best acorns!” 

The Squibbles shifted uncomfortably, but some of them seemed to be nodding.

“Think about it, why do you need to work for this King? What does he do for you? You guys put all the hard work in defending the forest and gathering resources, and this King just sits here and eats acorns all day! Is that something a ruler should do?”

More of the Squibbles were in agreement, and a few even began squeaking in anger.

“Look! Your King is weak!” Q pointed to the Squibble King which had been knocked over once more. “Now is the time! Rise up, and fight for your rights!”

Finally the Squibbles exploded in anger, and all began charging towards the Squibble King. Kukis and Sunflower saw the wave of furious Squibbles and quickly dodged out of the way, while the King was a beat slower and only noticed the oncoming horde once they were on top of him. The Squibble King screeched and tried to shake off the Squibbles, but was soon overwhelmed and buried under the weight of his own people.

“Q… what the hell did you do?” Kukis stared wide-eyed at the pile of fluffballs.

“I… think I started up a worker’s revolution.” Q scratched her cheek in embarrassment. “I just wanted to get these fluffballs to fight with us and uh… got a little too into it.” 

At this point the Squibble King managed to struggle its way out of the pile and its eyes were filled with resentment as it looked at Q. Q only gave it a cold look, extended her fist, then made a thumbs down gesture. The Squibbles apparently took this as a sign, as they bit the King with more ferocity until it died.

You obtained 1000 experience
Level up!
Learned [Deceive], [Animal Handling]

    “I have mixed feelings about this reward but… hey, we did it!” Q cheered. “We took down the King! Good job guys!” She began patting the Squibbles on their heads.

    “I can’t believe this is a thing that can happen. You directly manipulated a boss’s adds to kill it. I’m definitely putting this one on the message boards.” Kukis was opening up a window, but was stopped by Q.

    “Hold on, although I’m pretty sure that the game will just respawn a new boss, let’s give these little guys some breathing room, okay?” Q somehow managed to find the Squibble she picked up earlier, and held it in her arms once again. 

    “You’re really treating this as a different world huh?”

    “Sure I am. I mean, I know it gets messy treating this place as both a game and a real world, but since we’re in this world we might as well treat it like our own. Anyway, come over here. I saw something earlier when I was talking with the little guys.” 

    Q brought them to the previous vantage point she stood on, and pointed at it. There was a large hole which seemed to lead into the tree. “Looks like it’s time for a dungeon dive.”

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