“Whew.” Thorn wiped imaginary sweat from his brow as he looked back over the trees that stretched to the horizon. The forest was eerily silent, causing the sound of his footsteps to seem unnaturally loud. Ever since he had gotten within fifteen miles of the valley, the unnatural silence had settled as the sounds of insects and small animals disappeared. Even the wind seemed scared to approach, causing an unsettling stillness in the air.
Glancing around at the trees that had been his only company for the last three days, Thorn couldn’t help but miss Mina and Oberlin’s constant chatter. Even Velin’s stoicism would be better than this oppressive silence. He had almost started talking to himself to break the strange feeling that crawled up his spine.
The party had split up in Berum three days ago after their adventure in the abandoned city and their conflict with the Crimson Snakes. To save time, Thorn traveled toward the keep while Mina and Velin logged out to change their housing arrangements. Agreeing to meet up once they were back in game, they said their goodbyes and Thorn forged on ahead, arriving at this silent forest.
The terrain had been steadily rising for the last day, and he could see that he was quickly approaching a large mountain range. If Velin’s conjectures were correct, then Greymane Keep was located in the valley on the other side of the mountains.
Breaking out into a jog, he began to cover ground quickly and, feeling no drain on his stamina, kicked his speed up a notch. Soon Thorn was practically flying up the mountain, each stride carrying him almost a dozen feet. Trees flew by in a blur of greens and browns as his speed slowly increased.
Within half an hour, he had covered most of the distance to the peak of the mountain and could see the snow-capped summit sticking up over the trees. Unfortunately, catching a glimpse of the snow peeking above the trees distracted Thorn enough that he wasn’t watching his footing and, stepping into a small dip in the ground, he lost his balance. He hit the ground rolling, smashing straight into a large tree so hard that it fell to the ground with a thunderous crash, its trunk directly broken off.
Groaning in pain and clutching his back, Thorn tried to stand to his feet only to hear an odd chittering sound coming from under the tree that he had just knocked over. Squeaks of anger and pain poured out from under the tree in an unrelenting torrent and, worried that he had hurt someone, Thorn pushed the pain in his back out of his mind, grabbed the tree trunk, and lifted it up with one hand.
Greeting him was an absolutely furious little, furry creature. It didn’t look to be injured, but it was certainly angry, a fact it reinforced by jumping at Thorn with its teeth and claws bared. Despite being startled at the sudden attack, Thorn managed to catch the little creature with one hand where it scratched and bit furiously. Unsure at this sudden turn of events, Thorn was about to try and throw the creature off when he realized that the little monster wasn’t actually hurting him, as its teeth couldn’t pierce his skin.
It was also quite cute, like a small red panda with multiple tails. A pretty pattern made up of three diamonds on its forehead made it look like it was wearing a small crown. Right now it was doing its best to chew through Thorn’s gauntleted fingers. Afraid it would hurt itself, Thorn quickly unsummoned his gloves, allowing the small creature to gnaw on his fingers to its heart’s content.
When it became apparent that its efforts to remove Thorn’s fingers were futile, the creature abandoned the attempt, instead climbing up onto Thorn’s shoulder and shaking its little fist at his face while it scolded him. Moving carefully, Thorn pulled an apple out of his inventory and offered it. Snatching it quickly and holding it in its mouth, the creature scampered down Thorn’s tall body, jumping onto one of the trees he had uprooted in his tumble.
Sitting on its hind legs, it used its front paws to hold the apple while it munched on it, still grumbling in between bites while throwing Thorn dirty looks. Amused, Thorn brought out more food and sat down as well. Opening up his messaging system, Thorn looked for someone who was online, finally settling on Mina’s icon.
“Hey, Thorn, did you find the castle yet? I just logged in, and I am waiting for Velin before we come your way. Oberlin said he would be a couple more days. Did he tell you?”
“Yeah, we talked. Hey, I have a question. Do you know what this is?” Thorn flipped the camera forward facing, revealing the grumpy creature which had finished the apple and was now eating the rest of Thorn’s food as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Oh, you found an ailuridae. An uncommon, royal ailuridae at that!”
“Yeah, it’s like a red panda. But you can tell how rare it is by its number of tails. One tail is common, two is uncommon, three is rare. Do you see the symbol on its face? That is how you can tell it is a royal creature. You should bind it as a pet and then give it to me!” Mina’s eyes glowed as she gazed at the fluffy creature. “It is so cute.”
Seeing that Thorn was looking over, the Ailuridae shook its fist at him again, obviously still mad.
“Haha, what did you do? It looks like it is mad at you. Look how cute it is!”
“Yeah. I might have knocked over its home. How do I bind it as a pet?”
“There are a couple ways to tame creatures, the simplest being to pay an Animal Trainer to do it for you. You can also use Pet Cards from the shop to tame creatures. They are considered vanity items, so they will appear in your inventory immediately. In theory, if you could make the animal like you enough, it will offer a contract on its own, but that is really rare. I would use a Pet Card, if I were you.”
Opening up the cash shop interface, Thorn searched around and clicked on the pet shop window. A semi-transparent screen covered Thorn’s vision, asking him if he wanted to travel to the pet shop or open it in windowed mode.
“Mina, what does it mean about traveling to the pet shop?”
“You’ve never used the shop?” Mina’s mouth dropped open in an exaggerated manner.
“No, I’ve never needed to.” Thorn ignored her mockery.
“Well, if you are outside of combat, you can go to any of the vanity shops. It takes you there mentally, but your body stays where it is. But that way you can get your vanity items and equip them immediately.”
“Isn’t that dangerous? What if you get attacked or something?”
“Not really. I mean, I guess it could be. Just don’t use it while you are in danger. Plus, there is a little bell thingy that will let you know if something is happening in Nova Terra. The shops are in Fantasia, so if you are worried, you can just log out of the game and go there. Or open up in windowed mode. You’re the size of a mountain, Thorn, don’t be a sissy.”
“Thanks, Mina.” Ignoring her bantering, Thorn ended the call and clicked on the button to open the shop in windowed mode. The see-through window solidified, floating in front of Thorn like a virtual video screen. Inside, he could see the shop.
At the moment, it was empty except for a middle aged woman sitting behind a glass case. Shelving covered the walls holding a massive amount of cards, each with the picture of a different creature on it and a colored border.
There were red cards along the bottom of the wall, blue cards at about waist height, and a line of silver cards at head height. In the case in front of the woman were gold bordered cards and a couple black bordered cards.
“Hello, sir, how can I help you?” asked the woman, smiling at Thorn through the screen.
“I have an animal here I would like to register as a battle pet.” Thorn pointed at the Ailuridae, which was still muttering in between bites of food.
“Oh my,” gasped the woman. “That is an Ailuridae. A royal Ailuridae!” Quickly, she stood and placed a thin block of wood on the counter. “Put it in the containment field, quick!” The block of wood lit up with a circle of blue runes which projected a glowing sphere into the air.
Puzzled, Thorn looked at her through the screen and then looked at the small, furry creature. Seeing his confusion, the lady covered her mouth and laughed.
“Sir, you can just put it through the window.”
Curious, Thorn stuck his hand through the screen, almost immediately making contact with the wooden counter in the shop. Surprised, he pulled his hand back and stared at the window. It was like two completely different realities were superimposed on one another, with only this square hole connecting them. Shaking his head, he turned his attention back to the matter at hand, reaching out for the small creature.
Catching it proved to be more of a challenge than he expected, however, and after a few fruitless minutes of trying and failing, Thorn stepped back. The furry creature, obviously pleased with itself, preened and managed to look down its tiny nose at Thorn, despite the incredible height difference.
Smirking, Thorn pulled a pastry out of his inventory, crouching down to hold it out. Slowly he coaxed the furry creature closer, tempting it with the freshly baked smell. Once again, as he waited patiently for the ailuridae to take the bait, Thorn couldn’t help but marvel at the convenience of an inventory. It stored his food in a perfectly preserved state, which meant that it came out as perfect as it had been when he put it in.
Eventually, curiosity and greed won out, and the ailuridae slipped forward, jumping up onto Thorn’s arm to snatch the sweet smelling pastry. Lighting up after the first bite, it devoured the rest of the pastry quickly and then held out a small paw, demanding more. Three pastries later, it was so preoccupied that it didn’t notice when Thorn stuck it through the window into the pet shop.
Thorn moved his hand into the field, feeling that the ailuridae ceased moving as it entered the area. Thorn took a moment to examine his hand but, seeing nothing strange, quickly looked back at the shopkeeper who was staring at the Ailuridae floating in the field.
“Wow, this is the first time I have ever seen an uncommon ailuridae!” gushed the shopkeeper. “And a royal one at that. Look, look, see the two tails? See the black stripes under its eyes? And the cute white cheeks? Ooooooh. It’s just too cute!”
Thorn cleared his throat, reminding the shopkeeper that she had a customer.
“Oh, oh, please excuse me. I am Sondra, the Battle Pet Master of Fantasia. Did you want to trade in this pet for money?”
“Actually, I’m not sure. Can you explain how this whole Battle Pet thing works?” asked Thorn.
“Of course. Ehem. The Battle Pet system is one that allows travelers and natives of Nova Terra to tame wild animals and monsters and take them as companions. Each person can acquire one Battle Pet. As you grow, there are various ways to strengthen your Battle Pet. Every Battle Pet is ranked by color, with red being common, blue uncommon, silver rare, gold epic and black unique. Gold level pets are boss drops, and black level pets are one of a kind.”
“What does it cost to get a pet?”
“That depends on what color pet you want. All new pets are adjusted to match the progression of their owner so they can grow with them. The lower your progression when you get the pet, the cheaper it is, and the same is true for the color.”
“What do you mean by progression? I thought Nova Terra didn’t have a level mechanic?”
“Oh, it doesn’t. Progression refers to how close you are to mastering your current class. Battle Pets grow based on how they can support your class. So, in this case, because ailuridaes function as healers, as you progress through your class, your battle pet will gain skills that compliment you. That means they might develop offensive buffs if you are a melee fighter or defensive abilities if you are a caster.”
“What if I don’t have a class?”
“You don’t have a class? Oh, in that case, your Battle Pet will take their standard growth path, growing slowly over time until you get a class.”
“You mentioned selling?”
“Yes, you can sell animals you find so long as you tame them first or capture them in a Battle Pet trap. For example, an ailuridae is a silver ranked pet and can be sold for 100 gold, whereas a royal ailuridae is a gold ranked pet and goes for 500 gold per level.”
“Hmmm,” Thorn scratched his chin. “What if I wanted to bind this Ailuridae as a battle pet? What would the cost be?”
“Let me scan it and see.” Sondra pulled a small crystal wand out from her robe and waved it over the suspended Ailuridae, and after a couple seconds a screen popped up.
Race: [Royal Ailuridae]
Titles: [Royal Princess]
Abilities: [Royal Grace]
“Whoa!” gasped Sondra. “This is a unique Ailuridae! Having a name and a title makes it a black ranked pet!”
“And how do I bind it?”
“Oh yes, yes. You bind a pet by paying a binding fee or by using an equally ranked card. So if you want to bind Akira here, you would need to pay me 10% of the sale price of a black ranked card, which would come to 1,500 gold.”
“1,500 Gold? You mean that the normal price is 15,000 gold for a black ranked pet?” Thorn was stunned at the price. “That’s incredible.”
“I mean, each black ranked battle pet is one of a kind, after all. And a unique item or pet could be said to be priceless. In fact, you have really lucked out by finding a unique pet.” Sondra looked enviously at the furry creature rotating slowly in the blue light.
“I think I want to have this pet bound to me,” Thorn said, quickly converting a couple of UC in his Fantasia account into gold and pulling a stack of ten gold coins from his inventory. One of the perks of having wealth, he thought. Thorn’s aunt had showed him how to deposit money into his Fantasia account. He had not tapped into it yet out of principle, but now seemed like a good time to break his self-imposed restriction.
“Sure, give me a second.” With more wand-waving, Sondra activated the wooden base, and with a twinkle, the Ailuridae disappeared, only to be replaced with a black-edged Battle Pet card. Handing it to Thorn, Sondra pointed at a small device on the counter with a needle. “Please place a drop of blood on the card. This will bind your pet to you, and you will gain the ability to summon your pet by saying [Summon] and your pet’s name. You can summon your pet for any length of time, but if it dies, you will have to wait at least 24 hours before you summon it again.”
Thanking Sondra for her help, Thorn did as she said, watching as the card disappeared, and a notification box popped up to let him know that he could now summon a pet. His mood high, Thorn activated it and grinned as a chittering ailuridae appeared on his shoulder. Different from before, the ailuridae now had three tails and a curious expression as it looked around at everything else.
Race: [Royal Ailuridae]
Titles: [Royal Princess], [Thorn’s Companion]
Abilities: [Royal Grace]
‘Master?! Master!’ An excited voice rang out in Thorn’s mind as Akira hopped up and down on his shoulder. ‘Master, I’m Akira. I’m smart and soft and beautiful and the best! I can fight and hunt and do magic and tell people what to do, and I’m the best Ailuridae!’
Bemused by the torrent of thoughts from his new pet, Thorn picked her off his shoulder and stroked her fur. “It is nice to meet you, Akira, I am Thorn. Let’s get along, okay?”
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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.