Published at 24th of November 2022 12:34:49 PM

Chapter 102

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"You're too harsh on me, Ms. Manager," I said with a chuckle. I called her 'Ms. Manager' again to show that I wasn't offended by her reaction.

"Sorry, but not sorry," Eclairs said. Her blushing cheeks did little to dampen the abyssal glare of her gray eyes. "It's obvious that you're just messing with me now. You didn't seriously drink poison, did you?"

"I truly did," I said. "I'm not kidding. I told you that I wanted to try different things."

"Drinking something you know to be poison doesn't sound like a good thing to try."

"I never said it was." Our eyes met. We both grinned. Then we laughed together.

A couple of joggers entering the convenience store raised their brows at us.

"I think it's better if we go," Eclairs said. "Maybe once around the block."

"You mean we're going to jog?" Please say no. I didn't want to make a fool of myself in front of her.

"No, just walk." She made a face at me. "I don't want to stay around here. Customers see an employee in uniform lounging outside the store…it's not a good look." She gestured for me to accompany her strolling the sidewalk of Ruffed Grouse Avenue.

"I understand." Appearances and publicity. And what would the paparazzi think if they saw me walking with an attractive woman like Eclairs?

I don't think they’d care for someone like me. When it came to business people, the paparazzi would stalk only the stupefyingly wealthy—the mega whale lords if real life was a game. Maybe they'd care if I were with a controversial actress or someone like that. Though I wouldn’t dare do that. Nelly wouldn't forgive me if I did something scandalous that'd warrant the press's attention.

"So, Mr. Customer…Mr. Herald. What happened after you drank poison?"

"I died, of course," I said, deciding that it was more hilarious if my story went this way. "I haven't unlocked antidotes in my Ocadule yet, and I didn't have anything else to counter the damage ticks. No heals or regeneration to speak of. I spent the last moments of my life strolling around the Mardukryon village, pondering the consequences of my action."

That got another laugh out of Eclairs, as I hoped. Herald Stone, Stand-up Comedian. But it was at the cost of my honor.

"You could've just kept on drinking health potions," said Eclairs. "Pots have CDs depending on their strength, but I don't think that would've mattered. You can spam some minor health pots to survive the poison ticks."

"I didn't think of that," I truthfully said. And that was because I didn't have any problems living through the poison.

Eclairs did point out something interesting. Other than regeneration and healing—and, of course, drinking antidotes—health potions were another way of countering poison. I could change my high health regeneration gears with other defensive options and nullify the poison DoT with potions. The more potent, the better because I also needed to survive incoming attacks.

"But it's boring to keep drinking potions for ten minutes," I said. "Expensive too. I just let it run its course. The status disappeared after I respawned anyway."

"Ten minutes? Ah, I get it. Because you drank from the poison bottle, is it?" she asked. I nodded. "Right, the status usually lasts only a few seconds if inflicted by a weapon."

"Or by retribution damage," I pointed out with a mischievous smirk.

Eclairs rolled her eyes. "Are you gonna push through with that?"

I wanted to get opinions from other players about my planned build, but I only knew a few people I could talk to.

Luds had given me his input about my self-inflected ailments with [Cleansing Flames] plan. He may be an ass and a clown, but at the least, he was honest about his thoughts. I could predict what he'd say about poison retribution, not to mention my [Cloak of the Plaguespreader] debuffer build.

SpartanDonkey wouldn't give me a completely honest opinion, always looking for opportunities to make me owe him favors. Kezo, Megan, and Nitana wouldn't be completely unbiased either. Not that they would be negative about it. They might be too optimistic—they had seen my seemingly deranged Totem Juggling strategy work and might assume my other ideas also would.

It was too long to tell Eclairs the entire story of how I came about this build, so I just told her a heavily abridged version. Surely, she wouldn't mind; I wasn't technically lying to her. I shared my poison retribution plan because I hadn’t told anyone else about it.

And, wow, she gave her very candid opinion on it.

"Yes, I'm continuing with this poison retri-build," I said. "Even if you think it's…what did you call it? 'Fucking insane'?" If she knew the entire masterpiece I formulated in my head—now enhanced by her tip about potions—she'd think differently.

"Ugh, can we just erase that whole thing? I swear I didn't mean it." She pointed at the protein bar I held. "Can you just think of that as my apology?"

"Apology accepted," I said, opening the bar. “Anyway, I'm not giving up right at the start. If anyone gave up on an idea at the first sign of failure, we wouldn’t have new inventions. There's no success without failure."

"That's very profound," she said with an impressed whistle. "I know we're talking about a game and all, but what you said also works in real life. You should include that in like an inspirational speech, yeah?"

"I might have used that line in a speech before." And we shared another laugh. Eclairs probably thought I was joking—I wasn't. I'm just that hilarious, Herald Stone, the Funniest Guy on Earth.

We walked for about a minute without talking. I was sure we were thinking about topics to end the awkward silence. Was it acceptable to ask her about her life? Would that be too personal? Did that give off creepy vibes?

Work talk seemed safe enough. Or I could ask her about Boady—that sounded like an even safer topic. But I also didn't want to seem like I was trying to get close to her. Discussing MCO was the safest bet of all. Recalling our past conversations, I realized we only chatted about my character.

I'm too focused on myself, aren't I? That needed to change. Her impression of me…not me, as a person. Herald Stone should be the focus of the world.

"Eclairs," I said. "Can you tell me about your MCO character?"

"I'm using a Danube," she replied. A slight smirk was on her face, probably because I mentioned her name. "We live in an underwater kingdom."

"I didn't know there were choices like that. I've only seen characters that fly. Can you walk on land? Do you need a spell not to breathe air?"

“The Danube has two forms: we look like mermaids when underwater and an ugly humanoid fish when on land. I prefer to be underwater—it's way more beautiful down there. It's like a whole new world. For me, swimming is way better than flying.

“I've tried a Harpy character before. There are several flying cities, so that's cool. Looking down at the ground high above the sky is also exciting. But other than that, the sky is mostly just boring nothingness.”

"Is that so?" I wanted to add that I tried flying as a Mardukryon, but she probably wouldn't believe the story of how I killed Mirdabons by leading them off the cliffs.

"And if you're underwater," Ecliars said, "it's like you're flying anyway."

"Good point," I said. What would a Mardukryon look like when trying to swim? I'd probably drown if that were possible in-game. "What about your Ocadules?"

"I really wanted to cook or maybe bake in MCO because I suck at cooking in real life. My first Ocadule was Danubian Royal Cuisine, enjoyable underwater cooking with seafood."

Eclairs narrated how she eventually reached land and gathered more cooking Ocadules and recipes as she leveled. Then she found a Relic Quality baking Ocadule that could make éclairs, her namesake, and decided to focus on that one. With that, she was able to join a cooking guild.

"You must be wealthy," I said, recalling what I'd heard about Grand Mille Feuilles, more popularly known as the G-Milf, the player with six-star food recipes.

"Rich?” Eclairs nonchalantly shrugged. “Hmm, I guess I have some money."

"You're being modest." Maybe I could ask Artas from her when we’d meet in MCO? Herald Stone, the Moocher? A question about crafter classes popped into my head. "By the way, how do you level? Baking only Ranks up your Ocadule. Does that mean you also have combat Ocadules for grinding Essence?"

"I have an archery one plus my own Danube Cidule. But, like, they're not good enough at my stage. I let my party handle the dungeons and killing monsters to give me Essence and Gli."

"That’s smart. You pay for leeching services with the Artas you earned from baking."

"Ah, no. Not like that." Eclairs wagged her finger at me. "I'm a helpful member of any party I join, mind you." She scrunched her nose while she squinted at me. "I don't pay for leeching services and sit in the corner of the dungeon watching movies or something. Players with baking Ocadules are not just for money-making. We’ve got very helpful boosts for our party mates too.

"Like newly baked goods have increased buffs, which can only work if you made the food for your party just before a dungeon raid. There are also passive bonuses if the baker is in the same party while you eat the food they made. I have active skills too, like throwing a muffin at someone to heal them."

"Throw a muffin?" I wasn't sure if she was joking. "Does that also apply to other crafting Ocadules?"

"Yeah, I think so. Crafters are usually support classes by design. Though some are DPS.”

I nodded, recalling Luds and his exploding flasks.

“The devs don't want us just to craft and sell, then pick other Ocadules to be useful in a party. Like potions have increased efficacy if you’re party mates with the brewer who made them. Your poison Ocadule should also have something like that."

It does. [Research Akhos Poison], the first skill of my Ocadule, increased the chance and duration of my poisons. It’d likely affect my party as well at higher levels.

I bet the higher Ranks of my Akhos Poison Ocadule would unlock skills that amplified the effects of consumables like the [Snaillord Anodyne Pill]. That pill could save a player from one-hit knockouts because it delayed part of the damage over time. It’d be interesting to see its boosted effects on my party mates.

And who was always a member of my party?


I'm on to something here. Unlike most players with crafting Ocadules, I was crafting primarily for my use, not for business or supporting others. I should find a potion-brewing Ocadule to get benefits while drinking my potions. This could be the linchpin to my planned builds.

It was time to revisit Healer Gula.



For those who haven’t been on our Discord server, I announced I'll eventually rewrite my first web novel, A Dragon Gnawing Its Tail. I’m brainstorming for it over at Discord if you want to give suggestions or help. In the future, advanced chapters of that story will be added to Patreon tiers with no added costs. I was forced to drop ADGIT along with Getting Hard several years ago due to life circumstances, and I want to revive my old stories now.

Fifteen advanced chapters on Patreon. Thanks to all patrons, especially Cidule tier Teeneet (aka Whale) 
Read my other story: REND - a psychological novel with an atypical protagonist 
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