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The replies from gamers rarely differed from each other. They refused to make a profit from the game because “Monster Soul Online is too lawless.”
The principles they followed in other games didn't apply in this game. Basically, the game had no rules to prevent, or at least discourage, players from harming other players. There were no punishments, no chaotic status, nothing. Only a lame bounty system existed. As such, the game was a storm of chaos. Players could do whatever they wanted. It was difficult to establish a business system that could keep money flowing consistently.
The game was unfair even at the very start. Players who learned martial arts were heavily favored. They could even beat a stronger opponent if the level difference wasn't too large. It was especially lethal if you were a non-martial artist who started the game late. If you had nothing special, there was no way you would make a name for yourself.
Thankfully, Kritsana was special. Joshua invited him to test the game during its closed beta. The reason he was invited was entirely different from others. Joshua didn't want to test how profound arts would fare in the game. Rather, he wanted to see how well it played as a game rather than a battleground for martial artists.
Kritsana was a Thai gamer who made a name for himself five years before Sila entered the game. He was only sixteen at the time, but his name had already invaded the top of the rankings for the ten most popular games in the world. Surprisingly, he played all of them simultaneously and was always ranked within the top three in each game.
He had become something of a celebrity after that. Even international media acknowledged his gaming skills, praising Thailand for being one of the leading forces in e-sports.
Kritsana's early days in Monster Soul were full of hards.h.i.+ps. He kept dying over and over again in the Monster Realm. There were no guidelines or walkthroughs for Monster Soul Online during its closed beta, so he tried and tested various things. He took pride in his gaming skills. Monster Soul Online was a game, so he would beat it even though the game clearly favored martial artists.
While other players went outside to test their martial limits, Kritsana buried himself in piles of books. He gradually studied all available knowledge regarding the Monster Realm, calmly looking for monsters' strengths and weaknesses, places, quests, and any possibilities to grow stronger.
He was the first player to discover that Orichalc.u.m could be used to make a high-tier weapon. He shared this particular knowledge with Zeref and requested the man to craft a mage staff for him. Later on, he started picking several quests around the beginning area and studied nearby monsters' characteristics before going out to hunt them. He would frequently return to the beginning area to receive more quests whenever he believed his level was sufficient. Slowly but surely, the area he could hunt in expanded. Eventually, there were no places in the Monster Realm that Kritsana had yet to explore.
He relied on the human race's advantage. It was the only race that allowed a player to directly receive quests, albeit mostly miscellaneous, from the Quest Building. He acquired all 50 skills exclusive to humans that way. He also asked a monster of the merpeople race to craft him an accessory from another piece of Orichalc.u.m, and requested a dark elf to make him a dagger out of yet another piece.
Kritsana performed all of the available quests, traveled everywhere, collected countless items, and studied every accessible legend. Thanks to his achievements, he was granted the t.i.tle King of Spells and got the side job as a librarian stationed in the Magic Library, secretly sharing his knowledge with visitors.
When the closed beta came to an end, he was asked to become an Independent NPC, getting a high salary in return. Still, the New World was not as exciting as the Monster Realm, so he rarely connected to the game. Most of the time, he would let his AI control his avatar while he played other games.
In any case, the war event happened once a year, so he didn't miss out on partic.i.p.ating.
As a matter of fact, he thought all he could do was observe what players were doing. Thankfully, the law and the seal were broken due to certain people, lifting some limitations and granting him some degree of freedom.
Kritsana's avatar was surprisingly an old man in his eighties despite his real age being twenty-one. He was sitting cross-legged on the Arch-Mage Staff like it was a chair, twenty meters above the ocean's surface. He lifted his left hand to place his gla.s.ses over his eyes, using them to look at the Island of Beginnings from two kilometers away.
On his left wrist, there was the Arch-Illusionist Bracelet decorated with eight small round jewels. Five of them were black while the remaining three were pure white. Strapped to his belt was the Arch-Ritualist Dagger, the beauty of which was as captivating as the two aforementioned items.
All three of them were made of Orichalc.u.m, already at Emperor Rank.
Kritsana could cast all spells under the eight basic elements. He also had extensive knowledge regarding magic, psychic power, qi, and every race of monsters in Monster Soul. Still, the most dangerous weapon in his possession was neither his powerful equipment nor his knowledge, but his mindset.
Kritsana always believed that he was extremely weak and vulnerable. An ordinary person like him could be killed practically at any moment. As such, he never underestimated his foes and always did things heavy-handedly.
He wasn't arrogant and would never be stupid enough to send a warning or a letter of challenge to his enemy. Once he arrived at the destination, he silently but immediately took action according to Montra's request.
“Please prevent the slime-race Independent NPCs from helping Sila in the war.”
The request was short and clear. Kritsana wondered why Independent NPCs like the Slime King would be interested in joining the war between players.
Based on the information he had gathered from the game forum, Sila entered the game only recently and intended to win the war just like everyone else. Sadly, with such a late start, he severely lacked manpower. The solutions he came up with were to join the alliance with all of Montra's enemies and clear the racial master quest in order to create an army of monsters.
Even Kritsana thought it was an interesting idea. In return, Montra countered Sila's strategy by doing the same thing Sila did—mobilizing an Independent NPC.
“Four against one, huh? That's too much,” Kritsana mused. He knew he would have literally no chance if he fought them head-on. “I guess it's time for me to say goodbye to the Arch-Illusionist Bracelet. That's regretful. I'll surely miss it.” He looked at the three white jewels in the bracelet.
The Arch-Illusionist Bracelet was a magical artifact with a fraudulent ability that enabled the user to completely ignore the resources normally required for casting a spell. All restrictions—be it a sacrifice, magic power, health points, place, and time—wouldn't matter. The user could cast a spell instantly no matter how complex it was. Regrettably, it could be used only eight times, and Kritsana had already used it five times during his adventures in the Monster Realm, all five times falling in the first six months after he received the bracelet.
Kritsana knew this battle wouldn't be easy. Thankfully, he was fully aware of the slime race's racial characteristics—including its weaknesses. He would be a fool if he didn't use this knowledge to his advantage.
His mind prepared, Kritsana took the Arch-Ritualist Dagger out from his belt and poured his magic power into it. The inscriptions on the blade let off a golden glow. Kritsana pulled seawater up high and compressed it, before stabbing it with the dagger.
The Arch-Ritualist Dagger was a magical artifact that enabled the user to perform any ritual-based spell—barring only Ancient Magic—even if the user had never learned it, though the user must know the name of the spell and its effect.
Spells of the eight basic elements were all Kritsana could normally cast, so the dagger played a major role in letting him use unique spells that belonged to other types of magic.
“Death Magic — Summoning the Sovereign of Grave Keepers.”
One of the white jewels immediately turned black. Death Magic was versatile and powerful, but most spells came with many conditions of use, greatly limiting how to utilize them. Kritsana had to sacrifice one of the priceless jewels in order to unleash a certain spell that was ranked fourth hardest to use among all 666 spells of Death Magic.
The Sovereign of Grave Keepers wasn't a monster, but a ma.s.s of compressed magic power. Its form was a pile of human skeletons that formed into a ma.s.sive ball. Black magic power flowed through them, acting like a pulse and making it look like black plasma with bones hidden inside. It silently floated in front of Kritsana. Its pair of eyes, devoid of emotions, stared straight into its master's. It gradually absorbed seawater, expanding its size in a manner similar to a balloon. Soon, it took off, flying toward the Island of Beginnings.
“Most spells from Death Magic are hard counters for armies. The Sovereign of Grave Keepers enhanced by my Art of Magic should be able to buy me some time.”
Kritsana's Art of Magic tripled the effectiveness of a spell that he normally should have been unable to cast. Its utility sounded oddly limited, but he could always make use of it through the Arch-Ritualist Dagger and item skills attached to eight of his rings.
“The slime race was bound to live on the Island of Beginnings because its members, especially the low ranked ones, are extremely vulnerable to salt. Up against the Sovereign of Grave Keepers that I combined with seawater, their overall fighting ability should drop by around twenty percent. It's far from enough though. This kind of spell can only inflict damage to mobs, but it's mostly ineffective against Independent NPCs. I must add at least a couple more spells just to be safe.”
Kritsana descended, bringing himself closer to the sea surface. The Arch-Mage Staff slid from beneath him and instead hovered in front. The man was still sitting on the air in the same posture though. He spread his arms, pulling ambient mana to coil around him, ready to cast a high-tier water-element spell.
“O, Monarchs of Rivers, Twin Monstrous White-Scaled Fish Kings, who swam in the River of Death. This humble one asks the two of thou, who symbolize birth and extinction, bestow upon me a part of thy breathing and vision. Twin Fish's Domain.”
Kritsana's body submerged into the ocean, diving several hundred meters. He could breathe underwater as long as the spell was in effect and could also see things through the vision of the Twin Fish he had summoned. Eight ma.s.sive dragon fish made of seawater jumped around, swimming to the Stone Forest and causing heavy rainstorms in their wakes.
Actually, the spell Twin Fish's Domain should normally have manifested two dragon fish, which would blast fierce water jets at each other, causing the enemy in between them to get caught up in the attacks. However, Kritsana relied on the Arch-Mage Staff's ability that quadrupled the number of spells he cast through it, though it came with a price, making the spell consume four times more magic power than usual. As a result, there were eight dragon fish instead of two, increasing the amount of water being blasted. Instead of continuous streams of water jets, what came out were numerous cyclones surrounding the Slime Kingdom.
“Directly slamming them with seawater like this, it should lower their fighting ability by yet another thirty percent. The Guardian Poluk is a qi-type direct fighter. He will most likely have a hard time. However, the Slime King and the Guardian Divine are psychic-type. They must have some means to reduce the effects of my spells. Lastly, the Guardian Viola has magic that can manipulate elements, so my spells must be the least effective on her. To be sure, I must exploit the slime race's other weakness.”
Kritsana had studied the slime race's characteristics beforehand, especially about the race's four Independent NPCs. While they were indeed strong, they were cla.s.sified by the system as genuine monsters, not humans who underwent race-changing quests. Thus, unlike players who were always cla.s.sified as humans even after the race change and got the G.o.ddess' Blessing, Independent NPCs had no ways to overcome the race's weaknesses predetermined by the system. It was one of the reasons why Kritsana didn't change his race.
True, some races had many advantages and only a few weaknesses. When properly exploited, however, such weaknesses could be fatal.
“The slime race is similar to the goblin race in the sense that there exist many racial skills. There are hard rules about them though. A goblin's skill pool changes according to the weapon they wield. As for a slime, no matter how diverse their skill pool is, they can't possibly possess magic-type skills of the light and dark elements.”
Being able to use six of the basic elements was already a lot. Only a handful of people would view that it was a weakness, especially when a slime could easily swap their element's affinity to reduce the opponent's damage, which they could do rather quickly. Nevertheless, a weakness was still a weakness. The eight basic magic elements each had special traits that only a few players were aware of.
The earth element is the most balanced. Most spells are direct in application, meaning they are easy to use, but also inflexible. Many spells come in a solid state, making the attack and defense partly physical. There are many useful spells, including disguises. Still, the weakness of the earth element lies in its speed, which is the slowest among the elements.
The water element is about cleansing and purification. Its most distinct trait is its shapeless nature. Most spells of the water element come with strong blasting pressure, making them excellent choices when it comes to pus.h.i.+ng an opponent off-balance. Regretfully, the element doesn't have many lethal spells that can finish off an opponent.
The wind element is the most versatile. There are offensive spells as well as healing, support skills, and buffs. The element also has the longest reach. Aside from those aspects, however, its overall strength is subpar. Basically, it's a mixed bag element.
Spells of the fire element have a wide area of effect and the damage they inflict always lingers. They leave the target with burns even if the spell has been completed. The combined amount of damage it deals is second to none. Its weakness is its high magic power consumption.
The lightning element has the quickest speed. There are many spells for crowd control and disturbing the opposing side's tempo. Some spells are quite powerful if used right. Sadly, unlike the fire element, most lightning-element spells are single-target spells. There are only a handful of AOE spells, which is troublesome since spellcasters are normally in high demand for siege battles.
The ice element is bone-freezing cold and long-lasting. It is neither fast nor slow, but difficult to block or interrupt. Ice-element spells are significantly easier to delay compared to other elements. The element's offensive capability is subpar since its strength mostly lies in debuffing.
The light element is special in the sense that the damage is often predetermined. If the spells connect, they inflict the same amount of damage no matter where they land on the target. Aside from this trait, the light element is naturally great at healing and recovering.
The dark element is purely offensive. The attack power of dark-element spells might be slightly lower than those of the fire element, but they normally ignore the target's defense. In addition, the dark element has many curses that other elements lack. The weakness of the element is well-known, however, being that it doesn't have a single defensive spell.
“Slimes can't use the light and dark elements, so they can neither use curses nor remove them. If I affix four consecutive curses on them, their fighting ability will be reduced by another twenty to thirty percent.”
There was no need for him to approach the island in order to cast a spell from a close distance. Kritsana was aware that he was weak, so he refused to show up, opting to keep bombarding the slimes with spells from a long distance. Through the effect of the Twin Fish's Domain, he was regarded as the ninth identical fish. He could fire off a spell from any of the eight fish without personally being there. The slime race's members would have a difficult time finding and coming at him, who was hidden underwater.
“Coming from the West is the chain of judgment which shall bind all prisoners. It is vaster than the sky and darker than the night. It brings forth more suffering than what one must experience in Purgatory. The Apocalyptic Shackle.”
Even though it was a high-tier spell, Kritsana managed to shorten the chant and cast it. His shadow on the seafloor bended and snaked around like living chains, before each of them branching into four and then into twelve, flaring like a fishnet. All twelve shadows flew into the rainstorm, causing a great upheaval.
Magic spells were different from psychic power and qi. They could be stacked as long as they belonged to the same spellcaster. Even when Kritsana overlapped one spell after one another, the spells wouldn't become unstable or break down.
The Sovereign of Grave Keepers exploded in mid-air, generating an army of a hundred thousand black skeletons from up high. Each skeleton's strength only amounted to that of a Knight Rank monster, but it was immortal, unable to be killed by normal means. They roamed free in the middle of the rainstorms and curses, totally unaffected by the sinister domain. Once they found an enemy, they would rush at them crazily. If they realized that they couldn't win, they would simply detonate themselves and later come back to life. As a result, even after the morning of the next day had arrived, the situation on the Island of Beginnings showed no signs of getting better.
The most enjoyable game was the one he was winning. Kritsana didn't rush things even though he could. He prioritized staying hidden. If he were to engage in a direct clash, his timing for casting spells would be greatly interrupted. Magic type was unfavorable against psychic type, so he especially didn't want to be detected by the Slime King. He a.n.a.lyzed that he could put up a fight if it were a one-on-one duel, but he had no chance of survival against the four of them at once. There was no need to take unnecessary risks. Under the pressure of the magic bombardment, the Slime King could never find him.
The great power of magic continued to imprison the Slime Kingdom in a manner that made people feel the situation was hopeless. Despite that, a small ray of hope was sent away from the darkness. The Slime King and Divine joined hands, secretly pus.h.i.+ng the only slime that had a chance at averting the crisis, and rescuing the rest of his comrades, out of the domain without Kritsana noticing.
There was still hope left for the Slime Kingdom. The Slime King had activated his psychic skill and found a player possessing a particular skill. It was fortunate that such a person was currently on the Island of Beginnings.
The little slime's mission was to search for a certain player who possessed a high-level monster-commanding skill and ask for their help. With the help of such a skill, his Way of Slime would exert enough power to shatter the magic domain.
“Luaid”, or rather the little slime who Sila had secretly named “Orangey”, turned back to glance at his kingdom one last time before using Psychic Impact to hop forward like a bowling ball. His destination was the southern side of the Island of Beginnings.