The girls split up into two groups. Lyria and Amelie went to farm for cheese, while Astrid and Luna farmed for flour from fairies at the Gnarled Woods Sanctuary. With Amelie's delicate defense and low health points, they decided it was safer to have Lyria with her to watch over her health. Sed returned to the Black Rose headquarters after cleaning up the mess in the living room.
The sanctuary of the fairies was a land covered with large trees with magenta leaves and pale blue trunks. From where Luna and Astrid stood, they could see the famous tree house town, Mir. Wooden bridges and climbing ropes connected the buildings and allowed easier traveling. Mir was known for its crafting shops and NPCs that teach crafting skills.
"So that's the famous Mir," Luna said as she squinted her eyes. "I've never been there before."
"We can drop by to restock after our stock of potions run out." Astrid attacked a nearby fairy slime. "I heard there's an NPC there who gives out armor crafting recipes."
"Hey. It dropped a strawberry!"
Astrid picked the strawberry up from where the fairy slime once stood.
Garth likes strawberry cake.
She remembered Sed's words back when he and Pio visited the guild headquarters to pick Garth up. Maybe I should make him one as thanks for his help.
"Yes, Luna?" Astrid turned her head.
"Sorry. It's nothing." Luna wanted to tell her about how a hacker dropped a handkerchief that was oddly similar to Jasmine's, but she knew this wasn't the place to discuss such a confidential topic.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah. It's just a trivial matter." Luna smiled.
"Ok then." They went back to fighting.
After they gathered around a hundred bags of flour, they walked towards the town of Mir. The trees in the area had such large roots that it slowed down their travel. Eventually, they arrived at the cobblestone pathway lined with glowing balls of light inside teardrop shaped glass casings. Thanks to the thick leaves of the trees, barely any sunlight reached the ground. Even during daytime, the glowing balls of light were prominent.
At the end of the pathway was one of the town gates, made of the same gnarled woods as the trees around them. When they finally got inside the town, the first thing they saw was the bustling free marketplace.
Luna poked the guildmaster. "Astrid, let's buy some of their special cookies. I've always wanted to try them!"
"Sure." Astrid checked her menu tablet's built in map system for the shop's location. "Looks like it's one of the buildings up above."
"Awesome! We can check out the view."
They found a wooden winding staircase right beside the general store, which they used to get to the third level. They passed a sturdy wooden bridge to reach the Mir Pastry Shop, located right across them.
Luna was excited. "Which flavor should I get, Astrid? The lemon cream cookie?"
"Why not just buy all the flavors?" Astrid replied as she opened the shop's door. The moment she took a step inside, a girl with brown hair tied in low pigtails screamed for help. All the other players in the shop appeared terrified. They were all backing away from the store's NPC shopkeeper.
"Run!" the girl shouted.
"What's happening?" Luna stepped inside to have a look. Almost immediately, the female shopkeeper jumped on her and started clawing, causing both of them to fall down on the floor.
"Luna!" Astrid readied her katar and attempted to pull the shopkeeper away.
"What's with this lady?" asked Luna as she fought off the hostile NPC.
"She suddenly started attacking players while we were lining up to buy cookies!" said the brown-haired girl. She took out her lute and started playing a tune, casting increased attack and movement speed on Astrid and Luna. "Please stop her! I'll support you with my set of bard skills."
Astrid used Electrify to stun her opponent. "Shouldn't someone call a moderator?"
"We're on it!" The remaining players in the room ran outside to safety. Judging by their equipment, they were probably at around level 30 or 40. It would have been risky for them to fight the shopkeeper, whose level wasn't even displayed at all because NPCs didn't normally attack players.
"Ugh. We should have stopped by the general store to buy potions before coming here."
The shopkeeper finally got off Luna. She started convulsing until a pair of dark black wings grew on her back. The three of them watched in horror.
"What in the world..." Luna's jaw dropped. "Can NPCs even do that?"
"This one apparently can. This doesn't look good." Astrid moved back a little.
Purple smoke started filling the room. Once it reached the three of them, they were inflicted with poison. Luna quickly drank an antidote, but she was poisoned again in a matter of seconds.
As the three of them gradually lost health points every few seconds, they backed away from the NPC. Astrid ran in to try and stun the shopkeeper, but the NPC caught up to her speed and slashed at her. One hit took out half of Astrid's health. The bard played a melody to restore the lost health points.
"How do we beat this thing? It's overpowered!" Luna exclaimed as she readied her shield to block any deadly hits.
"We need long range attacks." Astrid checked her inventory for magic stones. Unfortunately, she didn't have any in stock at the moment.
The bard played a new melody with her lute. "I can cast debuffs, but my healing isn't as strong as the priest's."
"I really wish Amelie and Lyria were here right now. We could use their wind spell and heal."
Luna coughed from the smoke. "What if we run outside so the smoke will be dispersed? At this rate, we're going to get killed by the poison if we stay in this room."
"We could do that, but it might cause more casualties."
The bard prepared herself to run. "There could be high level players nearby who can help."
"Alright. Let's run!"
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