Chapter 2: Day Two
I woke up to Feya carrying two buckets into my bathroom. Even with all the troubles of filling the tub, I’m still supposed to take a bath everyday?
I say that, but the selfish side of me didn’t stop her. In fact, I watched her as she worked. Her hair, her pants and the sleeves of her blouse were done up to let her move easier.
When she saw me awake, she stopped working temporarily.
I propped myself up with my elbows so that I wouldn’t fall back to sleep. I had to unstick my eyes by rubbing them with my fingers.
“I’m nearly done, so please go and soak for a bit,” she said as she resumed her task of filling the bath.
I may have been too used to my parents cooking my food, buying the groceries and generally doing most of the things around the house. It’s not that I didn’t want to help, but that I tended to focus on improving my skills in preparation for the future instead.
‘What skills’, you ask?
I looked inquisitively at the sweat pouring down her shirt.
“Morning training. Cannot slack off…” she answered to my odd look.
I pulled myself out of bed and started crossing the bedroom. With each step, the soft rug tickled my feet.
The bath was nearly full and today I knew how to use the ‘soap’ so I went in immediately. The warm water pressed against my body as my back lay on the hemp towel at the bottom of the wooden tub.
Turns out, the towel was to protect me against splinters. Weird, right?
Feya came back with a full bucket a few more times. She had already seen me naked, so I didn’t think twice about her intruding on me. The bubbles also helped.
“Do you want help to wash?”
“I’ll be fine, thanks.”
“I will go cook breakfast,” she said, before leaving my bathroom to myself.
“That was refreshing.”
“That is good,” replied Feya.
I walked into the kitchen fully-dressed in cotton clothes. The fabric was some of the best in the country so it didn’t feel rough or itchy. I was especially thankful for the soft underwear.
A fragrant smell hung around the room, making my mouth water a bit. I animalistically wanted to know what smelled so good.
I looked at her suspiciously.
“What are you cooking?”
“A family tradition…”
She put on the cooking mitts ‘because she doesn’t have a fire resistance ability’, and pulled out a pan of cooked muffins from the oven. How long was I in the bath for?
The smell amplified immediately. I knew the trap from experience back on Earth: you had to wait for them to cool before you could eat them.
“How long?” I asked.
“About three minutes,” she replied with a mischievous smile.
“Is this cheesecake?”
“Cheesecake? Why would you make cake from cheese?” she asked dumbfoundedly. “These are muffins made from Lv.3 Bone Extract and Lv.4 Slime Jelly. When mixed, they make a batter of sorts that expands and contracts slightly while keeping itself together. The jelly is also naturally sweet, which is what you are tasting right now.”
“Bone Extract sounds like something that shouldn’t be made into food, though…”
She waved me off.
“Cade, Bone Extract is no longer bone. Alchemists can work wonders, but it is quite simple for them to turn bone into an edible paste.”
We both finished the rest of the muffins.
“What’s on the schedule today?” I asked.
She looked at me with a pretty face.
“You really are amazing...” she said.
“You are. I’ve spoken to the other servants. They say their masters are so tense from the abrupt transition that they have trouble eating and that they're only pulling themselves together because they are pressured to. Then there's you: completely fine.”
If I was surprised, I didn’t show it.
“Maybe I am amazing, after all...”
She waited a bit before hitting me on the arm, smiling.
“We will be heading to another dungeon today, but we won't know which one until Arthur tells us.”
Nineteen Heroes, myself included, were sitting on one of the bleachers in the training field accompanied by our servants. I realized that I hadn’t paid attention to my schoolmates at all the day before. Strangely, I’m a guy that welcomes change. While meeting new people is fun for me, I never socialize more than I have to. With a whole new world opened up and an actual way to become someone, I figured I'd push forward with all I had with no time to waste. Become a game concept artist that no one knows about? Meh. Become a hero that protected millions of lives? Go right ahead and shave me bald!
Still, I felt a moral obligation to help out if I could.
“Hey, Alex. You good?” I asked.
“Cade? Yeah, I’m doing okay. You?”
“I have a beautiful girl cooking me breakfast every day, so how could I not?” I smiled widely at him.
Feya turned light pink because of you, so I hope that cheered you up, Alex.
“Cade... you’ve been a real friend to me for years now… you know I trust you, right?”
“Even though I know that you don’t like people…”
You shouldn’t be that direct, Alex.
“... I’ve been wanting to ask since you’re the best when it comes to games... Do you know what’s happening? Will we be able to go back home? Do we just have to beat the game?”
His eyes showed a hint of desperation.
“Do you miss your parents and your sister, Alex?”
He looked down. “Yeah, and I feel like I’m never going to see them again.”
“Cheer up, man. A feeling tells me we’ll be able to go back someday. Unless Lenea was doing something irresponsible, she must have a way of sending us back by reversing her ritual. The only thing we can do now is kill the Demon King, maybe ‘restore the Goddess’ power’ and then let her decide if she sends us back or not. Of course, I might instead find myself a wife or something and stay here permanently, but that’s my plan for now.”
The ‘feeling’ I got came from comparing this game-world with my experience in reading online novels and playing RPGs, not from something concrete such as evidence. But so what if I said a bunch of flowery nonsense to lighten his load?
“Really? I knew you were planning something, but those were warm words to hear coming from the guy in the corner that nobody notices.”
“You have it wrong. I actually enjoy being ignored. I sometimes don’t check my text messages for a few days because I don’t want to answer. But, you know… I'm just like you. I also want to go home.”
I prayed to my lucky stars no divine being was listening to us.
"Speaking of text messages... Is your phone still charged? Mine was dead when I got to my room," asked Alex.
"Me too. I noticed when I tried showing Feya a picture of my dog last night... Some sort of fantasy EMP, maybe? Either way, I doubt text messages would work from here. Seems like we're not on Earth anymore."
“Yeah, whatever. I'll keep my phone on me in case we can't come back here for some reason. But back to the topic... when you find a way back, or when you defeat the Demon King… come find me and take me back with you.”
I nodded, before smiling.
“Might take a while, though. Look at these skinny arms,” I said, flexing for all to witness my glory.
Our conversation was interrupted by loud footsteps coming from one of the passages that led out of the courtyard. Arthur hurried out and calmly stood in the center of the field.
“Has anyone talked to Hero Derrick lately?” he asked aloud in a serious tone.
Whispers sounded out immediately. Arthur continued with an explanation:
“We found his room empty this morning...”
I figured he had run away when he'd said the first part, but where could he have gone? Did Derrick want to die out there alone? Maybe he'd received an amazing class or a legendary artifact somehow and was currently winning at life…
More footsteps were heard, clearly getting closer very quickly.
“Sorry I’m late!”
It was Derrick and his servant.
“I was up early because I fell asleep at 6 so I went to visit the Capital but then I got lost and I only just found my way back!”
Please don’t build such long and horrible sentences.
In any case, he didn't seem that stressed about the recent events other than being late for the meeting.
Arthur looked at him, but then loudly called out to everyone:
We stood and quietly lined up in rows, doing what we were drilled to do the day before. No one pipped a squeak since they were tense.
“Today, we will see the results of yesterday’s labor. You will each produce your loot and show me your level. I will then send you off for the day to a dungeon suited for your skills.”
He had his assistant lead us one at a time to his office, which was also located in the courtyard. Most of the Heroes were still level 1, but others had gotten to level 2 and even a few to level 3.
You should know that to get to level 2, you had to kill your first goblin. They each gave 5 experience with the Blessing's bonus so to get to level 3, you had to kill four more goblins to get the 20 experience required. We only had three hours to hunt, so even one goblin was considerable. By the way, the goblins your servant killed didn’t count since there was no shared experience in this world.
My turn came and I went inside the richly furnished office with Feya close behind. Arthur welcomed us and instructed me on how to show only a portion of my status. I quickly understood how and flashed him my level.
“Oh? Level 5, huh… Feya, right? Did he fight on his own the whole time?”
She looked surprised that Arthur remembered her name.
“That is so, Sir Arthur. I barely supported him at all.”
“Very well. Let’s see you to the Goblin Caves. Furic, could you lead them?”
A man in armor stepped forward and nodded at us to follow him. He was a student of the military academy, judging by the color of his cape.
Furic led us to the castle stables, where we picked up specially-prepared horses. I had never ridden a horse before, so it was an incredibly strange feeling. Fortunately, I was able to ride behind Feya, who had no objections.
“But won’t you try to stray your hands?” she had asked. What a queer woman, I say.
The journey led us to a small mountain range that could be seen from the Capital despite me not having noticed it before. The entrance to the dungeon was an opening a meter wide in a cliff face. Furic told us he would wait outside the cave until we came out. Someone had to take care of the horses while we were gone. We had a time limit of five hours this time, since it was still early morning.
Feya and I entered the cave’s mouth to discover quartz crystals that glowed in a faint bluish light to illuminate our way. The grey cave walls slowly became darker. Total silence made our footfalls and our breathing echo loudly. Following the trail of light, we came upon the first room.
There were clear signs of a battle having taken place. The cave floor had many stains while the walls and ceiling had black scorch marks.
“Do not worry about collapsing tunnels, Cade. Dungeons rarely change shape.”
Although there were no bodies, the fighting had definitely claimed lives. After quickly looking around for loot, we kept going. Feya lead the way because of her tougher defense and superior health.
The only thing interesting other than Feya’s back were the crystals, which I decided to examine because I was bored. They seemed to radiate something other than just light, though what that was eluded me. Maybe they exuded mana or some kind of energy like heat or magnetism? Were they radioactive? I didn’t want to touch one to find out, but maybe I could throw a pebble at one?
My mindlessness ended after some 30 seconds when Feya halted suddenly. She indicated forwards. When I looked ahead, I was met with the sight of three goblins walking towards us.
“These goblins have higher health than the other ones, but with your improved strength, one blow should be enough,” said Feya.
“Then you've met this kind before?”
“I have not, but these are generic High Goblins and they are everywhere. Since I was level 12 when I came to study in the Capital, I’ve never had to come here before.”
I subconsciously used a stepping motion from my simulations to cut down the distance between myself and the goblins. The lead goblin barely had time to react before he was brutally murdered. The cave was bathed in greenish light and I felt the refreshing feeling of Feya’s sprite spread over me.
The other two goblins were soon torn to pieces, though I took a slash across my arm. It hurt, but it only took away 18 health and it was soon healed by Feya.
Level 6 Human Male
EXP: 45 / 180
Titles: Chosen of Lorea
Stat Points: 2
Intelligence: 10 + 1
Incredibly, I had already leveled up. Considering my earlier experience was at 35 out of 125, that meant that one High Goblin was worth 45 experience. Wait, no. One was worth 22.5 experience, since I had double experience.
I had already figured out that level experience had a formula, which was the current level to the power of two times 2.5. I briefly wondered why they used such a simple equation. Maybe 2.5 was unique to the goblin type. I’d find out about it sooner or later.
But following this logic, I could deduce the levels of these goblins. The ones from yesterday gave 2.5 experience, or half of their max EXP, on level 1. If this carried on, these goblins should be level 3.
“Are these level 3?” I asked.
“How did you know that?”
Feya looked at me suspiciously.
“Mechanics are super simple here,” I answered. “Let’s keep going.”
Looting the dead goblins, I received 56 coins and a brown loincloth. I immediately put the leg armor away in my storage to get rid of the smell.
Found in the darkest parts of goblin society, this loincloth has served many dirty purposes. No sane person would willingly wear this article.
Effects: -1 Intelligence
Even the system disapproved of it being an item.
Our trip continued deeper into the mountain. Eventually, stalagmites and stalactites could be seen piercing the floor and ceiling. Large cracks appeared in the rock walls. The cave must have been very old.
My attention quickly returned to the quartz crystals and our hunt.
Another goblin took my blade to the gut and fell down lifelessly to the stone floor. I wiped my sword on his clothes.
Ever so slowly, the goblins’ appearances improved. They were not at a commoner-looking level. They each gave 80 experience and quite a few coins. From what I gathered from Feya, ten coins was roughly comparable to 1 USD. Inflation in some areas as well as rarity of trade altered the costs considerably, but it was close enough for me.
A peasant in this world would barely earn 7000 coins a year, so he had to make do with very cheap food. Meanwhile, I had accumulated over 500 coins in a single day, equivalent to 50 bucks. It wasn't exactly massive profit, but my level was still in the single digits.
My slash beheaded the last goblin cleanly.
The level up sound played in my ears. It felt good, especially considering it was the main reason I risked my life in this dungeon. Earlier, even my Simulate ability went up a level.
You are now level 10!
You have learned the ability Ability!
Level 10 Human Male
EXP: 40 / 500
Titles: Chosen of Lorea
Stat Points: 2
Intelligence: 14 + 1
Why is it such a vague ability name?
This ability allows the Gamemaster to manipulate abilities. Cannot manipulate Gamemaster class abilities. Ability level will affect options. Extends the Simulate ability.
After reading the text over a few times, I started to feel a connection to the ability. I concentrated on my Storage ability and the empty fourth simulation opened up in my head. The system had me generate myself in the void, which took a few seconds. Once created, the me in the simulation started using Storage.
He kept repeating the same actions over and over, grabbing forwards and pulling out my black sword before putting it back in Storage in a similar manner. A label indicated a cost in mana and a box displayed the ability information of Storage.
Wondering what was happening, I tried changing the way I was doing the motion of getting my sword. I imagined the sword appearing in my hand instantly, no matter where my hand was. The me in the simulation was really doing it. He was fetching the sword from random positions. Satisfied, I 'saved' the simulation before looking at Feya excitedly.
I opened my status and noticed that my current mana had gone down by 13 points: exactly what the label had said inside the simulation. I brought up Storage’s information because I'd forgotten to read it earlier:
Instantly transfer items between a virtual space and the palm of your hand. Items are limited to objects gained from monsters and abilities. Storage space of 1 meter/ability level.
Mana Cost: 1
I had apparently given the ability a mana cost. I had never had the chance to use mana--and by extension, magic--before now, so this was quite a thrilling moment for me. Beyond that, the description definitely fit with the simulation. Without anything to lose, I tried to pull out my sword from Storage.
Normally, I would automatically grab forward like I would pull something from an invisible bag. The item would reverse-disintegrate itself into my hand. It only took a second to take something out, but that much was enough to get hit a few times if you were ambushed by enemies. This time, however, the sword materialized right into my grip without the gesture.
Feya was looking at me like she'd seen a ghost.
“What just happened? Did you receive an ability?” she asked, frowning.
I repeated it a few times. I could ‘equip’ and ‘unequip’ it more than ten times a second. It looked like it was phasing. I tried with other items (not the loincloth) and sure enough, they also appeared right into my hand by default.
“I just edited my Storage ability…” I said, slightly speechless.
“How did you…” Feya asked. “What?”
“I just reached level 10 and gained a new ability to edit my other abilities.”
“Gained an ability to edit… you gained what!?”
“Hold on… let me test it a bit more.”
I reopened the simulation, added a nice flame effect on my hand when I took an item out and tried it again.
“This is really cool,” I whispered with a smile. “Especially when I keep toggling it… Can I make the fire do damage...?”
“Are you using Storage?” Feya asked me.
I guess this was a cheat ability, but it still cost mana so there was a limit… right? Stop frowning like that, Feya...
“But… this breaks so many worldly laws...”
“Have I ever read you my class description?” I asked her.
“No, you haven’t…”
The Gamemaster is able to change even the very nature of the world through his mind's eye. Greater permissions are available to the powerful Gamemaster.