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Nodding that he understood, Thorn watched the rest of the group split up, and after waiting for a moment, he walked toward the city. Berum, like many cities, was surrounded by a large wall with guard towers placed every hundred feet. Four gates, one in each cardinal direction, controlled traffic coming in and out of the city. Thorn soon arrived at the northern gate where the guards were watching players and NPCs walking in and out.

Passing through the gate, Thorn ignored the guards’ stares and made his way to the location that Ouroboros had marked on his map. Champ’s was a spacious courtyard with a couple warehouses set around a large tent with the sides rolled up. Players queued by the tent, entering one at a time to have their items appraised by the NPCs.

Spotting Ouroboros by the side, Thorn queued up and waited for his turn. After about half an hour of waiting, Thorn was called in front of one of the NPCs and started removing things from his inventory to place on the table. Objects like skins could be placed into stacks and were bundled by the system, otherwise Thorn might have buried the entire tent in kobold skins. As it was, he still took out over 700 skins, causing the NPC appraiser's mouth to drop open in shock.

After that were piles of low-quality weapons, semi-rare resources dropped by the chieftains, and a couple of rare items dropped by the Shamans. The Great Shaman had only dropped a special token that Ouroboros had taken as proof that they had completed the quest, but the team had been able to recover a number of precious statues from his cave, which Thorn also took out.

The appraiser, staring in amazement at the piles of loot that Thorn pulled out of his inventory, got busy calculating and soon gave Thorn a piece of paper with a series of numbers written on it. Looking at the paper, Thorn saw that it had a neat list of all of the items that Thorn had pulled out, each with a price associated with it. If the party leader agreed, Champ’s would buy those items for that price. If they did not agree, the items would be returned to the team’s inventory.

Taking the list, Thorn walked to a nearby tavern, where he spotted Mina and Velin sitting with Jorge at a table. Walking over, he looked at the spindly chair for a moment before sighing and moving it to the side. Ignoring Mina, who was giggling, Thorn sat on the ground and put the list on the table.

A few minutes later, Ouroboros arrived and, after a quick look at the list, approved all of the items. With a ding, the list was replaced by a pouch of gold. The skins alone came out to an astronomical 7,000 silver, or 70 gold, while the rest of the items had been sold for over 30 gold, giving the group a total profit of 103 gold! Thorn could only shake his head at the difference. He had slaved away for weeks to make only a few silver.

Ouroboros had agreed to pay Thorn two gold a day plus 5% of the total profit from loot, bringing Thorn’s share to 13.15 gold. Ouroboros handed Thorn 14 gold and waved him off when he tried to return the difference.

“Don’t worry about it, Thorn. There is no way we could have carried this much back if it wasn’t for you.”

Having settled the matter of money, Thorn and the others ordered food from a waitress who walked up to the table and continued to chat as they ate their food. Thorn was especially hungry and ended up spending a full ten silver on his meal, eating at least three times as much as the other three combined.

“Holy Terra, big guy!” Mina exclaimed, shaking her head and pointing to the piles of empty plates. “Aren’t you afraid of getting fat? You ate more food than I would eat in a week!”

“There is a lot of me to keep up,” smirked Thorn, patting his belly.

“Yeah, no kidding.”

Seeing that Mina was going to launch into another verbal barrage, Velin gave Ouroboros a pointed look, causing him to swallow the food he was eating and jump into the conversation. However, his haste left him coughing, and it was only after a few minutes that he could actually get some words out.

“So, Thorn. Any plans now that the mission is done?”

“None so far,” said Thorn, scratching his head. “I was thinking of looking for a class. Or I may get some weapon training. Watching you four has been eye opening, and I sort of feel like I have been wasting my time in Nova Terra so far. I was also thinking about picking up some other porter jobs since they suit me pretty well.”

“That makes sense. Classes are pretty important.” Velin took a small sip of her coffee before dabbing at her lips with her napkin. “They introduce some specialties and abilities that you cannot get otherwise, which can be a huge advantage. Do you have any idea of what sort of class you want to get?”

“Honestly? No idea.” Thorn shook his head, playing with his cup. “I have to do some more research. Do you have any recommendations?”

Hearing Thorn’s response, both Mina and Velin looked at Ouroboros, who smiled and sighed.

“Why don’t I give you a basic rundown of how classes work,” Ouroboros said, unable to stand the looks from the girls. Pulling out a small, three sided pyramid from his inventory, Ouroboros placed it in the center of the table and activated it.

Instantly, they were encased in an ethereal mist, the sounds of the busy tavern fading away. Seeing Thorn’s interested look, Mina jumped in to explain that it was a sound isolation pyramid that would keep other people from hearing what they were talking about.

“That’s right, I meant to ask about that,” said Thorn in confusion. “What is the big deal with classes being so secret?”

“It isn’t just classes, it is everything, really!” replied Mina in excitement. “Haven’t you noticed that all of the information in Nova Terra is suppressed? If you want to find something out, you have to actually go and look for it or find someone who knows about it! No one knows why, but actually, Eve suppresses most of the information about Nova Terra that is spread to the outside world!”

“Eve?”

“You don’t even know about Eve? Man, you really are a noob!” declared Mina. “Eve is the persona of the AI that runs Nova Terra. She is the first god and is the only AI entity that can interact with the outside world. She deletes or modifies posts on the forums to prevent information from spreading.”

“Whoa. I mean, that makes sense though. When I was doing research before I started, there was very little concrete information about the game.”

“Yeah, no one knows why. I mean, Eve says that too much information will break the immersive aspect of Nova Terra, but there are tons of other theories about why she shuts down information.”

“What about in game?” Thorn asked, leaning over the table in interest.

“Power,” Ouroboros cut in, looking at Thorn with a piercing gaze.

“Power,” Thorn repeated, leaning back as the group fell silent.

Power. It did not take more than a second for Thorn to understand what Ouroboros was talking about. In a world like Nova Terra, information could be said to be the most precious thing. One of the most important aspects of the game was that there were drastic differences between what players brought into the game that could not be overcome by any amount of hard work. Some things could be trained, but others were fixed.

Like Thorn himself, some players brought traits that gave them a huge advantage in the game while other players had a much more humble start. The only playing field that was completely even for all of the players when they started was knowledge. All of the players who came into the game were clean slates due to the level of control that Eve exercised on the release of information about Nova Terra.

This made every sliver of knowledge that a player got in the game worth something. The player who knew more would naturally have an advantage over a player who knew less. More knowledge translated into more opportunity, more chances for growth.

Take classes, for example. Even the most basic classes were not simple to acquire and could only be retrieved from the end of chain quests and specific dungeons. At the same time, having a basic class would allow a player to stand out from the crowds, giving them special abilities and talents that the average person could not possess, no matter how hard they worked.

And that was to say nothing of the uncommon classes. A single uncommon class could create an elite, one of the best players in the game. But getting an uncommon class was as hard as ascending to the heavens, and no one was willing to share the opportunity with others. After all, that was the same as finding a winning lottery ticket and then giving it away.

But it wasn’t just classes. Information about quests, lost history, secret locations, even magic, were all protected pieces of information. Who knew if a single passage from a book on history could lead a player to a great ancient inheritance? And that was to say nothing of the practical advantages of having a class that no one else knew about or understood.

As Ouroboros related, because of the advantage that information gave, all of the major guilds had come to a tacit understanding to keep information as tightly controlled as possible. The fewer people who knew, the fewer who could compete for the top spots in the game. As a result, many of the elite players were tight-lipped when it came to their classes and the things they knew about Nova Terra.

“That makes sense,” Thorn said, after thinking it over for a moment. “Not only does an information ban allow the major guilds to control who can grow and how fast, but it also grants them persuasive power. They can say things like, ‘If you join me, you will get a special class.’ That way they can grow while keeping the quality of their ranks. Pretty brilliant when you think about it.”

“Exactly,” said Ouroboros, a flash of appreciation lighting his eyes at how quickly Thorn grasped the main concept. “Information has always been powerful, but it has taken on a new level of power here in Nova Terra, where we are all trying our best to unearth information about the game.”

“So how do regular players find out information? Do they have to join a guild?”

“Sort of. There are two ways to gain information besides finding it yourself and learning it from another player.” Ouroboros took a drink. “The first is by joining a guild. Every guild has its specialization, and the types of intel they have are going to be reflected by that. Guilds like ours, Ragnarok, are focused on game progression, so we have a lot of information on how to grow as players and how to complete quests. Other guilds, like The Eye of Oghma, which is focused on magic research, will be the best choice if you want to learn about magic.

“There are craftsman guilds that have unique recipes and mercenary guilds that have a huge breadth of knowledge due to the different tasks they have completed. Merchant guilds would be able to tell you the price of goods anywhere on the continent, and exploration guilds have mapped huge areas. Each guild protects their information very seriously, and one of the worst charges that a guild member can face is leaking sensitive information.

“The second way to find information is through the player guild, Avalon. Officially, its name is The Children of Avalon, but everyone calls it Avalon for short. No one knows much about them, but they seem to know everything about everyone. They are an intelligence organization that compiles information about every possible subject. You can buy information from them by exchanging for information, completing tasks, or paying outrageous prices.

“While we are on that topic, here’s some more free information for you. There are three groups that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of in Nova Terra, as all of them have the ability to make your life a living hell. The first of the three are the top ten guilds. They have too many powerful players and too much influence.”

“Top ten guilds?” Thorn opened his in-game browser and did a quick search, coming up with next to nothing.

“Yeah, you won’t find them advertising themselves, but we keep an internal list. Hold on, and I’ll send it to you.” Ouroboros sent Thorn a message with a document attached.

Opening it up, Thorn found a list of the top guilds with a small description. The Children of Avalon was at the top of the list, and Ragnarok was third, after a guild called Eastern Alliance. Thorn was surprised to see that his aunt’s guild, the Society of Roses, was actually fifth on the list.

“Apart from Avalon and joining a guild, your only option is to find the information yourself. Which is not much of an option, if I am honest,” said Ouroboros.

“Or to have awesome friends like us!” said Mina.

“Right, or have awesome friends like us. I can give you a rundown of all the non-sensitive information about classes so you can make a good decision moving forward. Picking a path is pretty important for your future growth, so you’ll want to pay careful attention to whether a class can upgrade. Some classes have a progression, while others are fixed in the state you get them.

“You are familiar with the classification for classes, right? One word classes are called common classes, two-word classes are called uncommon classes, and three-word classes are called rare classes. There are also unique classes that have four words, but so far there are only four of them in the whole world. Classes can be further broken down into five general categories: combat, utility, support, production, and leader.”

As Thorn listened attentively, part of his brain was realizing how truly fortunate he was to have fallen in with this group of players. There was absolutely no way he would have found out this kind of information so quickly on his own!

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You can find out more about me at sethring.com


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WildCard

Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.

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