Chapter 50: Softening Brats

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"That was just... I don't even..."

Erika sighed as she stared into the void. She was reduced to a fickle azure flame after being ripped to shreds by a tornado.

Drainer Bees were alright, they weren't formidable enemies and they only banded together under special circumstances. Erika could safely pass through their region as long as she didn't deliver the first strike.

However, that Windflora King.... It was the incarnation of disaster. The Windflora King was as friendly as a normal Windflora, and its wind gusts could casually blow up a building. Erika had no means to fight.

Unlike the other times when Erika pitifully died, this time Mina didn't make fun of her. It was strange, so Erika decided to confirm that Mina was still alive.

"Say, Mini. Are you there?"

"Yeah."

"That was awful, wasn't it..."

"Bah, 'em bees are pussies for ganging on ya like that. And that huge flower is real gangsta, so ya have to figure out how to kick its ass."

There was neither ridicule nor complaints. Because of this death, Erika lost all of today's progress and had to return all the way back the Murph Village. Yet, Mina didn't accuse her of anything; it was peculiar.

Perhaps the little beastie finally softened up to Erika, after spending lots of virtual time with her. Or, many Mina just became numb to how often Erika died...

Erika respawned in the village and reunited with Vivi. She was glad that the pixie arrived in the village safe and sound, but Vivi wore an awkward expression.

"Hmph. You sure have some nerve, ordering the great Vivi around like that."

Vivi crossed her arms with a grumpy face and an unexpected emote appeared beside her. The icon seemed to suggest... a sense of guilt? From Vivi? Impossible. For all Vivi cared, Erika could die a million times like the helpless idiot she was. At least, that's how things worked thus far.

Even back when they were surrounded by Drainer Bees, Vivi appeared conflicted about leaving Erika behind in the swarm. The pixie covered everything up with her usual arrogance, but she couldn't entirely mask her concern. Perhaps, like Mina, the cheeky pixie also opened up to Erika a bit. This theory was further confirmed when Vivi willingly shared a personal story.

In order to reach Zelin City, the great Vivi once tried to cross the forest where Drainer Bees lived. On the way, she ran into a stupid Drainer Bee and fought it to death. Even though she destroyed the wimpy bee, Vivi was then swarmed by the bee's allies and had to strategically retreat. This story must have been the reason why Vivi was wary of the bees.

Erika was aware that, most likely, none of these events "truly" happened. NPCs often had backstories to feel like believable people, but the events mentioned in said backstories were no more than memories imprinted onto the NPCs. Nonetheless, Vivi retold her story with a myriad of believable expressions. It felt as if she was truly there and experienced these battles; the story managed to draw Erika's sympathy.

"My, that sounds like a terrible experience. Say, were you also covered by a yellow smoke after defeating the first bee?"

The theory of the RPG veteran was simple: a dying Drainer Bee marked its attacker with a yellow aura, turning all nearby bees against the killer. Vivi backed up this theory by confirming that she had a similar experience.

Drainer Bees were normally civil mobs. But, once triggered, they'd swarm the offending player all at once. It was a nasty game mechanic which turned the area into extremely dangerous.

Luckily, the duration of the Drainer Bee's marking was finite. After Erika respawned, she was no longer covered in yellow smoke. Even without dying, the attracting aura would have surely worn out after a while. The next time Erika would visit that area, she wouldn't be targeted right away.

The only remaining mystery was the first Drainer Bee, which assaulted Vivi out of nowhere. Nothing marked Vivi as a special target at the time, yet the normally peaceful bee tried to stab the pixie. Even in Vivi's story, the bee she met was portrayed as the enemy who struck first.

"Say, Vivi. Is there any reason why bees attack you?"

"Hmph, these idiots must be craving the great Vivi's almighty magic. Like, they love to drain power from the strongest."

Vivi pressed both hands against her waist and lifted her chin in confidence. It was an arrogant theory, but it made some sense too. Drainer Bees openly attacked Windfloras, so perhaps possessing wind powers attracted them.

In other words, bringing Vivi to the region of the bees was very risky for both of them. Still, Erika could think of only one strategy for them.

"Next time, we should run through the area with Drainer Bees. Make sure you don't engage in unnecessary combat."

"Hmph. Like, I know that much."

Vivi crossed her arms, but she didn't seem particularly annoyed or irritated. All the poison in her words was directed toward the bees she had to dodge.

With this, the strategy against Drainer Bees was settled. However, Erika still had no idea how to deal with the Windflora King, which awaited them further down the road. Considering her low combat capabilities, she had to borrow the internet's help for this.

It was already evening, hence Erika decided to wrap things up for today. She bid farewell to Vivi and Blobby and then logged out. Before leaving Mina's apartment, Erika made sure to perform her usual routine as a makeshift guardian.

"How is your left hand?"

"Hmm... still a useless piece of meat."

"Make sure you don't play GoVe while I'm not watching."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Do you have enough food for tomorrow?"

"Yeah. Worst case I'll order more pizza."

After confirming that Mina was likely to survive until tomorrow, Erika patted the little beastie as if praising a child.

"Eh...?"

Erika... really patted Mina. Her hand was neither bitten nor dodged; she touched Mina's messy hair for the first time. Locked in a daze, Erika continued to pat Mina until the beastie ran out of patience and kicked her outside.

Step by step, Erika steadily tamed the small brats around her, both in RL and VR.


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