"Amethyst ore, Opal ore, Millennium Star Rock and the Snow Witch's tear," he repeated to himself.
The grip in which Jungkook held his note cards turned the tips of his fingers white. He hasn't slept in 43 hours, and the fact that he could keep track of how many hours he hasn't slept and not what type of molding he needs to get to craft the Opal ore is telling. The studying isn't working.
He sighs and pockets his notes. It's 5 or 6 in the morning. He doesn't know anymore. But the empty streets are calming. The sun is rising just over the skyline, casting a long shadow into orange light beside him and the sky is clear for the first time after a long period of rain. It's refreshing.
He runs his fingers against the rusted checkered fence as he walks to Ardentmill. When he turned down this road, he regretted not using the Regular Cab in Victoria, but he definitely needed the calming walk and the time to study before the Mining Basics Test.
It was an odd road. The houses faced the alleys that ran perpendicular to the main street, but the sides of all the houses had balconies and slide windows that were lined with plants and flowers that bloomed when the sun rays reached them. He supposes there are quite the few Herbalists on this road the closer he got to Ardentmill since there were oils and essences and such that lined the balcony floors. When the sunlight hits the pastel colors through the glass, the oils react by changing color. One of the essences start to fizz, and Jungkook wants to take a picture of it just for the aesthetic.
There were only smaller, less harmful monsters on the road since dawn was rising. The bigger, more dangerous monsters spawned at dusk. He was just glad he stayed at the inn near the docks of Lith Harbor for the night and decided against Sleepywood. Dracos made the most dreadful sounds when they died and someone was always grinding in the dead of night. He understands the need to get past level 60 and get job advancements, but nobody is ever considerate of people of Sleepywood, since the locals sleep for days at a time.
Snails were so much easier to fight off in the morning than Dracos anyway. And once he hits Spore Hill, he really only has to worry about the Mushrooms (which aren't a problem, they're like level 4 monsters and Jungkook has never felt the need to grind for XP at Henesys anyway).
The air at Lith Harbor was always salty because of the sea, and the water knocking against the wooden walks reminded him of his parents back at home where the ocean lipped the sands so gently. They sold weapons and armor to Heroes. Seeing them come in so often is what made him want to adventure in the first place.
The road to the Six Path Crossway from Lith Harbor was actually paved in concrete, something not too common in Mapleworld. He likes hearing the sound of his boots hitting the pavement. He likes looking out past the fence and seeing the rooftops of the houses.
The houses and fence end right about when he gets to Forest Path 1. Ahead, he can hear the sound of snails dying. What did he expect, honestly? People always grind at the weirdest times of the day. He likes to sit at the ledge and lean back, feeling the sunlight on his face, but it looks like that isn't happening today.
He drew his pole arm, Heavenly Messenger, specially made by The Glimmer Man in the Omega Sector for 'saving his life' when in reality, he was just trying to find the special item dropped only by the Grays. He's got to admit, it was well balanced and the detail to the design was incredibly beautiful. The pole was sleek before it met the polished golden handle. Its curved back was engraved with intricate markings that supposedly helped protect him as long as he wielded it. He's been a bit rough with it, but it still manages to keep it in good shape.
There aren't usually bandits or rogue players on the Six Path Crossway, but he can never be too sure. He wasn't about to take his kills or anything, he hates those types of rude asses. He'll just pass by as casually as--
"Hey!" The stranger called to him. Jungkook's grip on his pole arm tightened as he turned his attention to him. The stranger looked tired and beaten (and handsome) and Jungkook found himself questioning his level. Not to judge (or offend) but Green Snails only come up to the knee and are around level 9.
"A little help here?" He asked, but Jungkook still stood by. "I just finished a boss battle but the effects last for a while. My map is cursed and some asshat activated a Hordes Rune just for fucks' sake before leaving the map. Could you maybe point me to Perion?" He explained as he knocked a snail off of his shin and jumped on the ledge behind him.
[The slime left behind by Green Snail leaves behind a slowed effect, causing your Speed and Jump to decrease.]
Just as the mysterious female voice finished speaking, the stranger blasted three more snails at his feet. But the fire power must have been too strong, for the stranger went tumbling backwards, arms windmilling to regain his balance or find something to grab onto. A yelp escaped his lips as the weapon on his wrist blasted a stray shot into the air, sending him over the ledge into the alley below.
Jungkook has seen a lot as an adventurer, but this was certainly a first. Jungkook cleared the area and rushed over to where the guy fell. If he just came from a boss battle, hopefully he was healed up enough to not take damage from just a short fall.
He stuck his head out over the ledge and saw a tail swipe from left to right. "Whoa..." The stranger was stretched out, faced down, and just lucky enough to be caught between the wall of the ledge and the wall of a random house. "Umm... I don't know how I'll be much help now."
"No need." The stranger assured. "Are there any Snails on the roof?"
"Uh, no..?" Jungkook's eyes wandered to the stranger's (really fucking nice) ass before his tail swiped back to the right.
He nodded once. "This, I've got." The claws on his Knuckle dug into the wall, as did his real claws. His boots started to light up, along with his wristband and his Knuckle. Then came a voice:
[Lost 1 All-Cure Potion. Octopush charged to 30%. Dash charged to 23%.]
Now, Jungkook isn't an expert on neither the Pirate Class, nor Hybrids, but he's pretty sure he's just witnessed an impossible feat.
Curving and winding sparks discharged from his boots as he kicked off, giving the image that tentacles boosted him forward. He bent completely in half, planting his feet on the wall of the house and springing upward, basically climbing the wall from force only until he was safe on the roof. His tail swiped from left to right as he checked his gear and dropped a pouch of mesos on one of the windowsills of the house.
The stranger pressed a few buttons on his wristband. "Yeah, thanks, Chichi." His wristband and Knuckle glowed slow and simultaneously in gold light.
"Whoa. Your equipment talks to you?"
"She isn't just a piece of equipment. But yeah, Chichi talks to me." He eyed Jungkook a bit suspiciously.
"Where did you get her? That's dope." Jungkook watched his ears stiffen in mild annoyance. That was.. cute.
"I made her. Sorry. She's not for sale."
"Can all Pirate Classes pull something like that off?"
The stranger looked caught off guard. "No, but all cats can." His eyes scanned down his body, making Jungkook straighten his back. He hadn't even realized he'd done it until he felt a soft hum run through Heavenly Messenger. Jungkook stood almost frozen as he watched the stranger's eyes take him in inch by slow inch. "Are all Warrior Classes so curious?" He said, his tail now swaying slowly on its own tempo.
Jungkook gulped, his throat suddenly very dry under scrutiny. "I'm not that curious."
"No?" The stranger tilted his head, his orange hair falling toward one eye. "Then why be an adventurer?"
"So," he continued as if he didn't just make Jungkook's brain buffer. His Knuckle and his bracelet started to glow red. "How about pointing me to Perion?"
It was a four hour test, and Jungkook took three hours and fifty minutes to finish. Mainly because he took half an hour staring blankly at his paper as everything he went over regurgitated itself all at once. And another ten minutes went to staring at the giant smelting tool as he thought about "Park Jimin."
That was his name. The stranger's name. Park Jimin.
"So how about pointing me to Perion?"
Jungkook nodded blankly and pulled out his map. The stranger jumped from the roof to the ledge and to Jungkook's side.
Standing side by side, he noticed that the stranger seemed taller when standing... well... on top of something. He laughed to himself at the thought because it was stupid and unexpected.
His black ears and orange hair brushed against his chin as he leaned in to look at his map. His heart beat faster, and he figured it was because the only time he ever had someone this close before was if he was in a headlock, had someone else in a headlock, or was going to be murdered.
The stranger blocked part of the map with his head. Jungkook's never had a cat or a familiar before, but he has indulged in cat 'memes' 'online.' There were all sorts of cute and funny pictures and videos of cats doing stuff like this. They'd either keep their distance or invade your space depending on how they felt. But if you touch them unwarranted, they'd turn hostile sometimes? Jungkook was confused about that part, but he knew he didn't want the stranger to just up and leave with a bad impression on him.
So he let him stay. The stranger realized he stopped explaining where to go and looked up to find Jungkook looking straight at him. He smiled widely and stood up straight, not exactly eye level with Jungkook, but just about. "Probably helps if you could see the map, right? Please, go ahead. Chichi is recording."
Jungkook blushed, and continued. His smile made him seem more boyish then he was five minutes ago. For compete lack of words due to buffer-brain, he was beautiful.
They were at the Six Path Crossway about to depart when he finally asked for a name. As soon as he said it aloud, Chichi read:
[Jungkook added to Buddy List.]
"My name's in there. See you around, Jungkook," he said with a swipe of his tail.
And he was bounding off.
"Hey, you alright?" Came a smooth voice from beside him.
When Jungkook snapped back into reality, he found himself staring at a buffet of food in front of him, but he wasn't eating. Namjoon, of course had a plate in front of himself, eating slowly and nonchalantly, unlike other Warriors. It's not a matter of poise (no way in hell would it be), so much as Namjoon worked too much and became accustomed to a certain eating schedule.
Namjoon worked for Neinheart, the strategist of Ereve and the one who discovered the remaining bloodline of the late Empress Aria, Her Imperial Majesty Empress Cygnus. Namjoon was his apprentice, ready ever since he was younger to take his place by Neinheart as a strategist of the land. Neinheart very well knew the potential Namjoon had, but Neinheart... is Neinheart.
Suffice to say, Namjoon was his lackey. An errand boy. A pack mule. Though, only for the time being, of course.
"I'm alright. I just got a lot to think about."
Jungkook may not want to be a strategist (ideally, it's not for him, and he feels like if it takes more than three seconds to calculate 2x5, Neinheart might verbally kill him), but he always felt like Namjoon could maybe one day be his mentor. He's not that much younger, but he really looked up to Namjoon.
"Have you been to 'Seoul' lately?"
"Seoul? That other world city? I haven't been there since Neinheart told me to hop over there to see if the other Cygnus was being effected by the Smotes. Why?"
"So you know what an 'internet' is, right?"
"I have an idea." Namjoon took a bite of a peach. Not even bothering to chew with his mouth closed, he asked, "Why?"
"Do you know what a meme is?"
"Jungkook," he put down the peach and folded his hands together. "Where are you going with this?"
Jungkook quit pushing his food around and finally faced Namjoon. "I saw a hybrid today. He was part cat I think. It must have been some type of cat. He was short and had chubby cheeks like a kid. But he fought with higher level moves. And his DEX had to be out the roof. He scaled a wall with his bare hands... paws? He had retractable claws but fingers too. And his weapons looked high-grade and you know me. I'm all about weapons and shit."
"Is there a point to this, Kook?"
"He was literally horizontal, nine feet in the air in between two walls. I wouldn't have believed how he scaled it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. It was like one of those cat videos. He even stuck his head in front of my map while I was looking at it. I didn't wanna surprise him or anything. I hear cats don't like being suddenly touched so I let him put his head in the way. "
"Alright Kook. Eat your food. Warriors need fuel."
Jungkook picked up a leg of chicken and took a big bite of it. Hardly giving three seconds to chew, he spoke again, "We added each other."
"Do you like him, Jungkook?"
The question had him sputtering and then choking on his food. Namjoon waited patiently for Jungkook to collect himself. "I just happened to experience something that isn't an everyday occurrence to me, is all."
"You don't think he's cute?"
Jungkook blushed. "I don't know. I hardly looked at him." He didn't even believe the lies out of his own mouth. Namjoon gave him a look of disbelief.
"Right." The was a beat of silence. Namjoon was now the one pushing his food around as Jungkook took slower, smaller bites of his food. "Do you think you'll see him again?"
"Honestly? When do you ever see anyone you add randomly ever again?"
Beside him, Namjoon sighed deeply. He was right. Mapleworld was a big place. Jungkook was lucky to see Namjoon every few days since they both had duties in Ereve, but everyone else on his Buddy List is practically a ghost.
"Do you want to see him again?"
With Namjoon, there's always a moment when you feel as if he's given you an answer to something that wasn't even asked, a question that hasn't even been posed in your head.
"I'm sure you will then."
Jungkook chugged the rest of his reindeer milk and slammed the empty mug on the table. He clapped Namjoon on his back a bit harder than he meant to, sending Namjoon's spoon flying out of his hand, but ignoring it, already on his way to start his next quest. "Thanks, Joon!"
"You know, in Seoul you'd call me Hyung!"
"I know a lot of people, Jungkook." Taehyung pushed his goggles off of his face and into his red hair.
"Yes, I get that, I understand."
"I'm just minding my own business, man."
"You're a damn liar. You know every piece of gossip out there." Jungkook laid his Heavenly Messenger on the counter. "If I pay you to cast magic on Heavenly Messenger, will you tell me where I can find Gellimer?"
"Hmm..." Taehyung straightened his clothes and pretended to contemplate idea. "Heavenly Messenger is a beauty... but it seems you've already turned it into a Soul-Weapon." Taehyung ran a long, tan finger against the pole of Jungkook's weapon, drawing a low hum from it. "As you know, higher grade weapons require higher grade spells, which means you'll be spending quite the amount of mesos here. And I'm sure you know that there are chances of your weapon getting destroyed even with a protection scroll on it."
"I..." Jungkook loves Heavenly Messenger. It was well balanced and basically alive and in tune to him. Having it be destroyed through reckless chance would basically be a trash ending for it.
Jungkook fought off the whole Black Wings guard at their base with intention of interrogating Gellimer on information on the revival of the Black Mage, but he wasn't there. He was informed that Gellimer himself left his lab, which hasn't happened since the creation of Xenon and Berryl. If the old hermit actually left his lab, whatever the mad scientist came up with could be the end for a lot of people.
"Quit scamming the poor boy, Tae." The voice startled Jungkook out of contemplation, and the body to that voice dropped silently from above and onto the counter beside the shop owner. His black tail swayed ever so slowly as his smile stretched across his face, as if he could read his every thought down to his subconscious.
"I'm trying to run a business here, if you don't mind. Mind your own."
Jimin's eyes scanned low to high until their eyes met. He bit his lip and his ear twitched before turning back to Taehyung. Jungkook's face reddened at the actions and the unexpected turn this whole situation took on.
Jungkook hadn't seen Jimin for weeks. He was convinced he'd never see him again, actually. But here he is, dropping from the ceiling and saving his Heavenly Messenger from a bad choice he'd make.
"Why would you wanna mess with a weapon like Heavenly Messenger, hmm? It's good as it is, and you know Soul Weapons grow with the soul it's connected to. You know there's no need to mess with it. Why would you even try?"
Taehyung crossed his arms and turned away from Jimin's nagging. "I'm just a person trying to pay their rent, okay?"
"Oh, shut up. You make enough in one week to pay your rent. Who knows what stupid shit you would buy if you weren't so stingy."
Taehyung pulled at one of Jimin's black ears, causing his tail to straighten. In return, Jimin held Taehyung by the shoulder, claws digging into his robes.
"Listen," Jungkook overheard. Taehyung was terrible at whispering. "Charging to cast magic on a weapon like that could get me a trip to the Commerci Republic. Why did you have to insert your big ass into my deal, hmm?"
"Ahem." Jungkook cleared his throat. While he agreed about Jimin having a nice ass, he had heard everything Taehyung had just said about ripping him off. Jungkook grabbed his pole arm from the counter.
Jimin smacked Taehyung behind the head. "You screwed yourself, stupid. Learn how to whisper."
"Alright, fine. Take your weapon and leave my shop. I have appointments."
"No. Nice try. Tell me where to find Gellimer. I'm not leaving until I know. And I'll tell all the clients that walk in that you're ripping them off."
Jimin's tail swayed at the thought of all that chaos, at the authority behind Jungkook's voice.
"Hey, my prices are fair!"
He scoffed. How could he argue that when he just tried to rip him off? "But who do you think the public would believe?"
"He's got a point."
"You," Taehyung swatted at Jimin for instigating again. "Don't make me spritz you with water." Jimin put his hands up, backing off. "Listen, kid. You'll be safer in this world, chasing around baddies at your own level."
"I don't care. I have a mission to complete and people are at risk."
Taehyung looked at him with great scrutiny, wondering if this kid was actually really brave or just looney. "Fine." His mischievous smile widened. "Come back after your grand mission, okay? You'll have to, anyway."
If Jungkook questioned what that last part meant, he didn't say it out loud. Anything said could probably change Taehyung's mind about telling him the information he needed.
There was a grave silence in between Taehyung's words. Jimin sat behind the counter during the whole interaction, the quietest Jungkook had ever seen him. There was no cute twitch of his ears or playful swoop of his tail.
Jungkook took in his profile, the bridge down to his cute button nose, the eyelashes that touch his cheeks delicately, his lips, and such beautiful sun-kissed skin. His eyes opened, revealing dark brown eyes that bled gold around his sharp pupil.
"Hey! After all that bargaining you really didn't listen?" Taehyung sighed, tired, and dug into an old box behind the counter. "Here's a charm. Equip it, and it'll point to where you want to go."
"I really appreciate this, Taehyung. I'll pay you back somehow."
Taehyung lazily waved him off. "I don't need it, kid. Just go, already."
"I heard you like Earth clothes. Versace, was it?"
"It's Gucci, and if you get me something it should be shoes. Deal?" The bells over the door jingled as Jungkook left the store. "Sucker is too willing to spend his mesos. Cute kid though. How long until you start to follow him?"
Jimin's ears perked. "I don't know what you mean."
"Oh, come on. I wear these goggles for protection, but they don't hinder my sight. You've been talking about a macho guy with a cute face from the Warrior class for weeks and the moment you drop from the ceiling, you look at him like a four course meal."
Jimin is practically vibrating in his spot, completely ready to have another expedition. But the idea of having one with Jungkook, it was sending waves of excitement through his body.
"Just don't die. Come back safe. I want my charm back." Jimin is already bounding off of the counter and out the door. "Make sure he doesn't buy me something hideous!"
There's an occasional tinkling, the sound of gold hitting more gold. It gets louder and louder as if approaching, and more distracting as well. Jungkook couldn't even find where he was on his map. The pretty sounds grows louder.
A sudden pressure sat on both of his shoulders, the sounds echo through his ears at the right. He looked. A hand donned with gold bracelets.
Jimin flew over Jungkook and made a clean landing on two feet, turning around and lifting his hands in the air, waiting for an applause. The bracelets jingled against each other as he waved his hands around, thanking an invisible crowd.
"Did you just leap frog over me?"
"And it was beautiful. So. Where are we headed? Who are we fighting?"
Jimin's ears flopped to one side as he tilted his head teasingly. "Oui, monsieur. We," he drawled.
"I don't know what you said," heat shot up his spine at the tone. Jungkook's mind flashed back to when Jimin was struggling to fight a mob of Green Snails. If he was any shorter would he have fallen off the ledge to the ground? And if he did, would he have landed on his feet? He shook off the thoughts. "But this mission is very dangerous."
"Well then, why not have someone accompany you?"
"Dangerous for your level. Just because you're with someone strong doesn't mean you'll survive." Jungkook passed Jimin, taking the path at the right of the fork. He could have sworn Jimin's tail brushed against his pole arm. A blush crept onto his cheeks as Heavenly Messenger hummed against him. He cleared his throat and spoke again. "I was sent on this mission by Neinheart." The fact that Neinheart sent specifically him could mean he either has high expectations of him or that he's expendable.
"Ooh, Neinheart," he rolls his eyes. Jimin steps in front of Jungkook, cutting his steps short. "Tell me more about how Neinheart, with no jurisdiction in Edelstein, sent you to beat down the Black Wings? I guess as a member of the Rebellion, I'll have no choice but to report this to Taehyung, a very high ranking Mage within that organization as soon as I get back." Jungkook was stunned into silence.
Jimin nonchalantly shrugged and walked away as he spoke. "Oh my, what would that do for the upcoming continental alliance that Empress Cygnus wants to propose, I wonder? That wouldn't be a very impressive start. But, oh well. We all have our duties, I suppose."
"Whoa! Okay, okay." He ran back to catch up to the troublesome cat, stopping in front of him. He had an extremely smug smile sitting below his cute button nose. "You can come along, but at the risk of dying. You know the Black Wings, so you know Gellimer. He wouldn't leave his lab just for anything, especially without an army to protect himself."
"Glad you see it my way." He said, passing Jungkook the way he did him not too long ago. "By the way," he called without looking back. "I'm a higher level than you. Don't you do research before your missions? Did you happen to find Taehyung by chance?"
Jungkook huffed as he heard the word. "I'm more of a doer," he said. Research is so barbaric. He became a hero to pick up a weapon. Also, he figured he would've learned on the way. "And I don't exactly believe you're a higher level with the way we met."
"First impressions do last." His claws drew from his Knuckle at incredible speed, but as fast as his weapon was, Jungkook's reflex was just as fast. Heavenly Messenger emitted a soft vibration against his hand. "Want me to prove it then?"
There's a crawling doubt as they stare each other down. Jimin looks confident. His smug smile has a dark twist that widens. Jungkook can see his fangs, all four of them sharp and maybe even the thought that they're cute crosses his mind. A single bead of sweat forms at his temple. The gold in Jimin's eyes burn with his bracelets. He watched as his pupils vertically stretched and sharpened. His stare is unwavering, a sort of gleam that tells you he's playing with his food.
"Chichi, please read my progress from three weeks back." He laughs as his claws retract.
[Week progress: Defeated Hilda. Finished 8 quests. 2 people added to buddy list. Weapons upgrades to Vepar Bloody Hands and CHICHI. Gained 3 levels. Ended week at level 127.]
Jungkook's grip on Heavenly Messenger loosened as Chichi read Jimin's accomplishments aloud. The heat rose in his body, but he's not sure if it was from being mad that he was just toyed with or if it had something to do with the way Jimin looked at him. He stepped back, not knowing when they had gotten so close.
Jimin's tail seemed to never stop swaying. It always caught Jungkook's attention, back and forth like it was trying to hypnotize him. "You should really be careful who you talk to about their level like that. Someone might kill you for it someday."
"Level 127," he breathed. He was more than impressed. Three weeks ago he was at level 96. Now he was at level 108 but there was still a 20 level difference (and he knows that it gets harder to advance levels as you get higher).
The proud smile on Jimin's face caused his eyes to look closed. Jungkook was getting whiplash watching him go from killer to cute. "That was three weeks ago, Jungkook. I'm halfway to 133 now," he said as he let the other lead.
"You can't blame me for thinking you were a lower level. When we met, you were roughed up and surrounded by Green Snails."
"No, when we met, I had already been roughed up by Hilda and my Hyperteleport was cursed. I was taken to Ariant twice before I ended up near you."
"And why did a Pirate Class at such a high level need to be at Perion?"
"Well why was a Warrior Class at Lith Harbor? Hmm?" Jungkook stopped in his tracks and gulped. He felt like he was being backed into a corner every time he happened to argue with Jimin and well, he was embarrassed, to say the least.
Professions should be taken up at level 35 along with the requirement of the 2nd job advancement. He couldn't say he was taking the Mining Basics Test at level 96. Only Namjoon, Grant the Elder, the master of Mining, Cole, and the master of Herbalism, Saffron knows.
"Don't serve a dish you're not prepared to take the first bite of, Jungkook." Jimin effortlessly jumped onto a lamppost, tail swaying behind the flag as he made himself comfortable. Heavenly Messenger sends a shock through Jungkook's arm, as if he was snapping himself out of it.
He let out huff of bitter defeat, and continued to trudge forward as the streetlamps flickered on. Above him, Jimin leaps from lamp to lamp. The sun sets in a flurry of cold purples and warm pinks.