What the fuck? Where am I? I’ve woken up in a room that is not my own, with no idea how I got here. And I’m naked to boot.
Looking around my surroundings there are some clothes on a dresser near me and a small pouch. I get out of bed and take a quick look around the room. There are no windows only one door. I peep through the keyhole, but can’t make out much.
Without much other choice, I put the clothes on. Both the clothes and the room have sort of a ‘village’ or medieval type feel to it. My mind flashed back to the game I was creating a character for last night, before I went to bed for some reason.
Inspecting the pouch there is ten bronze like coins inside. I have a feeling this will be useful. Next to the door of the room there is a stick adorned with decorations. I walk over for a closer inspection, only to realise it is not a stick, it is a short staff! I know, because I recognize it.
The mirror catches my attention. No fucking way! This is the face of my character profile. This is nuts!
I walk over, pocket the coin pouch, holster the short staff, take one last good look in the mirror, and exit the room. I’ve watched a lot of anime, and read a lot of fantasy light novels. My favourites being the ones along the lines of a real life game, or transported to another world type genre’s. It might sound crazy, but I’m totally prepared for a situation like this, or at least mentally anyway.
It’s pure assumption at this point, but based on my appearance and circumstances I have to assume that I’m either in a very realistic or elaborate dream, or I’m ‘playing’ in the actual game ‘It's not a game’ as my actual character. That game was also supposed to be an extreme permadeath kind of game, with no do-overs. Given the way these types of things normally work in novels and anime and the nature of the game, I have to also assume this is more like a ‘sword art online’ type of situation and that death in this world is permanent. Damn. I still have too many questions, too many things I don’t yet know.
I had already reached the bottom of stairs while pondering these things. I’m in what looks like a reception area. Seems like it’s some kind of an inn. I approach the man behind what looks to be a reception counter. “Hello.” First test: Language.
“Gud day, mr. Hardoen.”
I see my character name, well kindof. In fact it’s actually ‘Hard On’, I was totally dicking around when I named him ." However, the people here clearly have no knowledge of such things, hence that soft pronunciation of the ‘o’ in the name. At any rate, looks like I’ll need to ‘stay in character’.
I catch a glance of the ledger in front of the innkeeper, I can read it. So the written and spoken language of this world is english. That or it’s something else entirely, and I can simply comprehend it as english, not that it matters either way. A lack of ability to communicate was my greatest fear. Being unable to communicate in a foreign world like this, would have been nothing short of a death sentence.
“Apologies, but I must have had a rough night, last night, I can’t remember how long I booked a room here?”
“Oh, no matter, ya only booked it for the one night, so pack up time be round midday.”
“I see, thanks. Also, how much does a room here cost per day?”
“That’d be ten coppers a day. But if ya lookin for longer stays, I be happy to offer ya a discount,” the innkeeper smiles.
I return his smile. “Thanks.” I am not however smiling on the inside. That there would be my next big problem, loggings, food and meeting the ‘bread line’ as far as income goes. If we’re living out our characters life in such a realistic and personal fashion, then I’m sure we will need to sleep and be sheltered from the elements and also need things like food to stay alive.
My full ‘starting gear’ money for just one day's lodging, that's a problem.
“So I feel kinda guilty to ask this, but I’m new in town. Is there any place cheaper that I can stay?” I don’t yet know the ‘rules’ of this world, or how closely it mirrors reality, but I can’t help thinking of anime like ‘Konosuba’ and how those guys started out.
“Well ya could always take a nap under a tree or a bridge,” the innkeeper chuckled as he spoke, “or you could sleep in the stables. My inn don’t hav em mind you, but there be plenty o other inns that do. It be quite common for them to rent out the stables when they be full up, or a customer be lookin for a cheaper place to stay.”
Bingo. I thought there might be an option like that. “Thanks very much. Last thing, is there any place where I can find out information about things like places of interest, or available jobs, etc.”
“Oh sure, I reckon the town hall il have all ya lookin for.”
All right then, they say knowledge is power. Or it’s more like I’m going to need as much knowledge as possible to survive in this world, time to do some digging.
We lie together in a single bed, it’s a tight fit. Jessica has her back turned to me. I put my arm around her and try to pull her a little closer, at this rate she might fall right out of the bed.
Jessica immediately shrugs my arm off violently. I sigh. I can somewhat guess the reason for her current mood, she is probably blaming me right about now for the mess we are in.
“I’m sorry.” I’m not really sorry of course, who could possibly have anticipated anything like this mad ‘game’ happening, but Jess needs to hear it otherwise she is not gonna calm down.
Actually right about now I wouldn’t mind if someone could calm me down, there are just so many problems that we are facing right now. We spent the entire remainder of the money on our lodging tonight and some more food. While we have eaten enough food for tonight and have left a bit for breakfast tomorrow, what about after that?
At the rate we are going, we are gonna need at least 20 coppers a day to get by. We scouted all day, collecting information on employment, but the options were not very good.
Most skilled kinds of labour paid enough to cover those kinds of costs, but were not easily obtainable, since you either needed actual experience and someone to vouch for you, or you needed to belong to a suitable guild for the type of work in question. The only other option was odd jobs and unskilled menial labour and that did not pay very well, at most 10 coppers a day.
All said and done, I have already accepted a job digging graves for the next few days as a stop gap measure. I am almost certain there is irony in there somewhere. The job pays nine coppers a day. This is of course not enough by even half of what we need, but it’s better than nothing right now.
Jess will have to find a job as well for this to work. Almost all of the work available for woman in this town fall in the skilled category, and most of the rest fall in a category that would put Jess in a position to deal with a different kind of ‘monster’ compared to the ones encountered while adventuring.
She actually did receive one job offer out of the blue while we were on tour today. Some guy wanted to hire her as a bartender, but the way he looked at her like he was running his tongue across a slab of meat sent shivers down my spine. I’d have to be way more desperate than I am right now to let her work for someone like that. Actually scratch that, adverturing would even be preferable to that guy and probably less dangerous.
I feel an arm wrap around me and try to pull me closer, It’s warm and strong. I feel myself seeking it out. No, screw that. I shrug away hard and the offending arm retreats.
A moment later “I’m sorry.”
Damn right whose fault do you think it is that we’re in this fucking mess. If only he hadn’t convinced me to play this stupid game. Damn you Michael, why do I have to put up with this. The food is terrible and not nearly enough. This bed is as hard as concrete and if things keep going like this we won’t have even that come tomorrow.
There was a man from earlier today who offered me a job, me? I’ve never had a job before, I’m only seventeen, I’m still in fucking high school. But the way that man looked at me, it’s like I was stripped naked and being assaulted on the spot, it made me feel sick to my stomach.
Why must I get a job, my parents have more than enough money and now I’m being dragged around in this shithole. What happens tomorrow? Or the day after? Are we ever going back?
What are my parents doing right now, are they looking for me, are they worried? I was supposed to help my little sister with her piano practice, what will she do now? Is she gonna cry over it? Oh god, will I ever see her again?
At some point tears had started streaking down my face, as the emotions rummaging around in my heart are threatening to overwhelm me. I once again feel an arm stretch around me and hold onto me, but I don’t immediately chase it off this time, I no longer have the strength of will. Instead, I stop shaking, which is apparently a thing that was happening until a second ago.
“Everything will be okay, I’ll protect you.”
Those words are like a lighthouse in the raging storm of my heart. The arm is no longer offending and instead offers warmth and safety. I can’t help but feel myself melting into it.