Ryu opened his eyes to the warmth of the morning light; Sexy Guy was still asleep, his blanket half-covering his bare chest. Ryu turned his head up to the ceiling. He blinked a few times and then rose up. As he did so, he heard a clanking noise coming from downstairs. Curious, he put on the brown crystal necklace and went down to investigate. As he closed the door behind him, Sexy Guy was slowly waking up, yawning out of his slumber.
When Ryu came down the stairs he found a middle-aged woman working the kitchen.
“Ah! You’re awake!” the woman said. “I’ve prepared breakfast. Please, sit.” She smiled. “I’m Elaine, the keeper of this inn. I had some business outside of town yesterday, so I wasn’t able to meet you. You must be Ryu. Roland told me about you. Quite heroic if I say so myself.”
Ryu put up a humble half-smile. “It was nothing.”
Elaine warmly smiled back.
A rumbling came down the stairs, and the two of them saw a tired Sexy Guy yawning and rubbing his eyes. He sat down on the stool next to Ryu.
“Look who’s awake,” said Elaine. “I assume you’re the Sexy Guy who saved Maggie, Roland’s horse.”
Still in an early morning phase, it took a moment for him to process Elaine’s words. After coming to a realization, he blushed. “Uhh….” He hesitated for a second to think of how to respond. Rather quickly, he came up with an 'appropriate' response. “Guy! Please, call me Guy!”
“Guy? Is Sexy Guy not your name?” Elaine said.
Sexy Guy’s face was red. Ryu shook his head in amusement.
“Well, you see, Guy is my nickname. It’s what everyone calls me. So please, call me Guy from now on.”
Elaine stood silent, blinking. “Okay. Works for me!” She shrugged, smiling, and went back to tending the little cauldron over in the hearth. She sipped on the stew that had been cooking for several hours. “Perfect,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron. She walked across the open dining area to the back counters and scrambled through the cabinets.
While her back was turned Ryu snickered at Guy.
“Shut up. If I had known these NPCs could say my name, I would've never gone with it,” Guy whispered. “I know it might seem a bit narcissistic, but I’m actually a decent guy. It’s not my fault—"
As Elaine returned with two large ceramic bowls in her hands, an embarrassed Guy coughed and lowered his voice, stopping mid-sentence.
“Here you go,” Elaine said, placing the two bowls in front of the players. She then steadily poured the stew into each of them until they were full.
Guy’s stomach growled, which embarrassed him quite a bit, seeing as he had eaten quite a large plate of food last night.
Elaine laughed. “I’ll be right back. Please, enjoy!”
With no delay, the young men dove into their meal. Ryu ate in a decent and reserved manner. Guy, on the other hand, he was gobbling all he could fit into each spoonful.
Elaine returned with a pile of clothes in her arms. “Here. These are my sons’. You two should be around the same size as them. They shouldn’t mind.” She handed them each a set of male commonwear, the larger set to Guy and the smaller set to Ryu. “Also, Roland would like to meet with the two of you,” she added. “When you’re done, I’ll take you to the town hall. I’ll leave you two at it.” She smiled and left.
And with that, Ryu and Guy continued on with their morning meal, Guy still chomping away. After they finished, they went upstairs to change into their ‘new’ clothes and tossed away their old ones, which were lathered by the sticky ooze from yesterday's bridge incident. The two players graciously tidied up their beds, and after, Elaine dropped them off at the town hall where Roland had his office. Elaine bid the players farewell and rode out of town in her wagon, as she had more out-of-town duties that day.
When Ryu and Guy entered Roland’s office, they first saw how organized it was. It was like a mini library suite: shelves of books all against the walls, with a neat pile of them sitting on Roland’s desk; red drapes that were well-kept and dusted; and a large window view of the rustic town life. It was a genuine scholar’s chamber.
Roland was sitting at his desk reading a scroll, but he stopped when the two players entered. “Ah, there you two are! You must excuse an old man. My hearing isn’t good these days. I didn’t hear you knock. Please, come. I have some things for the two of you.”
The two players approached the desk.
Roland stood up, holding some items in his hands. He waddled to the two young men and handed them each a small parcel. “It seems like the two of you aren’t carrying much. This is but a small token of my appreciation. It isn’t much, but I hope you’re able to make do with it.”
Both players looked into their pouches and saw that inside were gold coins. Ryu seemed to have no reaction at all, but Guy was drooling.
Roland then handed them each a book whose cover and binding were made out of a smooth, black leather. “Those journals are no ordinary items. I’m sure they’ll be of great use.”
“Thank you,” both players said.
“Ah, it’s nothing,” Roland laughed. “Is there anything else you need?”
Ryu then added, “Where can we get equipment?”
“Equipment?” Roland said.
“Like swords and bows and arrows. Weapons.”
“Ah. Well, there are a few shops around town, but they have a very limited selection of items. You may also ask the blacksmith to make weapons for you. Although, that could take quite some time, maybe even some materials, which you two probably don’t have,” he said. Roland stroked his chin. “May I ask why you need weapons?”
“We wish to train,” said Guy, clenching his fist, excited.
“We wish to go hunting for monsters,” Ryu said.
Curious by Ryu’s response, Roland walked up to the young men, carefully observing them. “Hmm. I see. I see,” he said, nodding. A lightbulb then went off in his head. “Oh! I know someone who might be able to help you. But…”
“...Is there a problem?” Ryu asked.
“The thing is, this person lives in the Brown Forest. I’m afraid for you two it’ll be quite dangerous.”
Ryu looked at Guy, and they both nodded at each other. “We understand the risk.”
“Very well,” Roland said, nodding. “The man you’re looking for is Bors. He served in the Moratian army several years ago. While he isn’t at all the greatest fighter, I’m sure he’ll teach you enough to get you both started on your adventure.” Roland went back to the drawer of his desk and grabbed something. “You can tell him that I sent you. If he wants proof, show this to him.” Roland presented Ryu with a small bronze pin in the shape of a bear.
Ryu extended out his palm and accepted it. “Thank you, sir.”
“Ah, it’s nothing! You saved my life. I’ll help you in any way that I can,” Roland said. “Anyhow, the Brown Forest is quite some ways from here, so you two should head out as soon as you can. You don’t want to be out alone on the western road after sunset. If you need supplies and weapons, check out the bazaar before heading out. I’m sure you’ll find some things you’ll like.”
“Thank you. We appreciate all the help you’ve given us,” Ryu said.
Roland smiled. “Good luck, travelers.”
With that, the players gave one final thanks and left, and headed to the center of town.
The bazaar was a circular market of stalls in the center of town, many of which sold exotic produce and goods that the two players had never come across. The buildings around were all shops, stores, and bakeries, selling clothing and assortments of foods and baked goods. Even though there weren’t many people strolling through, the atmosphere was friendly. At the heart of the market was a large statuary marble fountain of a warrior-like figure holding a spear. Ryu, strangely curious and drawn, stopped just for a moment to glance at it.
“Hey, look!” Guy said, pointing to a small shop with a shield sign dangling above the door.
The two players headed to the weapons shop. Ryu looked back at the statue one last time before entering the door.
Upon entering the shop, the owner greeted them with a warm smile, Guy happily waving back. The two players wasted no time and began looking through the items. While they were going through the display of weapons and armor Ryu tried looking at the items’ stats, but nothing was showing up. He tried several methods, but none of them worked. This made him more curious about this new VR world.
“I can’t see the stats,” Ryu said.
“It’s fine, we can just ask the shopkeeper,” Guy said. “Excuse me!” he yelled to the shopkeeper. “What level and quality is this weapon?” Guy said, raising up a sword.
“I'm afraid I don't know. All the items in this shop are Unidentified.” said the shopkeeper.
"How come they're all Unidentified?" asked Guy.
"I don't have the skill to Identify items. Nor can I afford to pay an Appraiser to Identify them," the shopkeeper said. "I'm afraid this is all that I have to offer you."
Ryu was keen. Once the shopkeeper had responded, Ryu’s suspicions were re-affirmed. "Alright, thank you," Ryu said.
"Do you know of any shops selling Magic-tier items in this town," Guy asked the shopkeeper.
"Magic-tier? What do you mean?" the shopkeeper responded.
Just as Guy was about to comment on that response, Ryu interrupted. “Please, don’t mind my friend here,” said Ryu to the shopkeeper. “It seems we were mistaken.”
The two went off minding their own business, inspecting the gear.
“What was that for?” said Guy.
“This doesn't seem to be like Dream World or any other VRMMO we've played. It probably uses a different system of tiers for items.” Ryu said in a low voice.
Guy frowned, but his facial expression showed that he also agreed with that Ryu said. “Ah...you're probably right,” he said. “What should we do then?”
“Keep playing. We need to find out more about this world.”
Guy nodded. “Gotcha.”
Ryu inspected a sword. He looked up and down the blade for a while.
This had been the first time that he had to inspect any item like this for any VR. Usually, for any VR, you would have the item appraised and identified by an appraiser or yourself—granted if you had the Appraise skill.
He tilted the blade downwards, upwards, sideways, and all sorts of ways until he made sure he had inspected all the blade’s angles. He eyed down every edge to check for any chips or cracks.
Suddenly, he felt a strange surge of energy resonating in him. It was the faintest feeling, but he could feel it. He felt that it was as if his intuition and observation skills had become keener.
He looked at the blade once more, and for a slight second, he thought he saw a very tiny glow about the sword. But he quickly dismissed any ideas he was having and recomposed himself. He continued observing the blade, wary of what just happened.
He took a long hard look at the blade.
“Are you going to buy that?” said Guy.
“Oh,” Ryu said, coming back to reality. “Yeah. It doesn't seem too bad.”
“Great. Then let’s go to the counter,” said a smiley Guy, carrying all sorts of weapons and goods in his arms.
Ryu and Guy approached the western gate and found Mirvena waiting for them.
She gave the two young men a gentle look. “Good day, travelers. I hope you enjoyed your stay, even though it was a short one.” Then she clasped her hands together, looking down as if she had somehow disappointed the two players. “I know you two are about to embark on a long journey. But if I may, I have a favor to ask the two of you.”
“Anything, madam,” Guy said with confidence.
Mirvena chuckled with a warm smile. “Oh, please. I am but an old woman now. Such formalities should be left for the ladies and gentleman.”
Guy scratched his head, blushing.
Ryu stood collected. “What is it that you need from us? If it is anything within our power to do, we will do it.”
Mirvena extended her right arm, opening her palm in which she held a bronze badge. It was engraved with an image of a man holding a spear. To Ryu, it seemed to be the same man whose statue had been placed in the center of town, although he wasn’t certain.
“When I was young, I traveled to many places in Moratia. Among my travels I met a mysterious man who gave me this crest,” Mirvena said. “I do not know the history of its origin. And unfortunately, I have not met the man since then to ask its meaning, and I am afraid that he may be long gone from this world. I am an old woman now, so my adventuring days are over. If you would be willing, will you seek out the meaning of this token in my stead?”
Ryu humbly bowed. “We will do as you ask.”
“Thank you,” Mirvena said, and handed the token to Ryu.
She then took out a brown book.
“What you have around your necks is a magic crystal. I do not know of its origin—no one in this village does. Not even that cumbersome husband of mine who is always reading books. But the crystal allows us to communicate with others from foreign lands and nations. For travelers such as yourselves, it should be of great use. But in case you lose them, here is a book containing the language of Narn—the language of this town, and also the language of the kingdom of Moratia. I am afraid this is all the help that I can give you. I hope you are able to understand it.” She handed the book to Ryu. He accepted it with a firm hand.
“Thank you,” said Ryu.
“You are welcome back to Durn anytime. May the Lord of Protection keep you safe.”
The pair gave their farewells and set off, a bright day ahead of them.