No more text seemed to burn on the first page, other than his name and "Player 47". Probably that's his ID as a player. He turned to the next page. Sure enough, it was empty. He waited for a minute, two minutes. Nothing seemed to happen. He flipped again. Waited. Nothing. He repeated the routine until he was well half into the book, in which he caught glimpse of a page that had something in it. It was a drawing--a sketch of the arm guard that laid in his starting chest.
The silver arm guard was long as to cover the whole span of his forearm. Its steel was a half inch thick, and looked like it could stop a bullet or two, but is totally useless since it only covers his forearm. At the center of its span protruded a clean-cut blue gem the shape of a rhombus square, and was about 2 inches long by 1 inch wide. He looked deeper into the gem, and saw a galaxy of green dust swirling inside.
At the front end of the arm guard was a thin wide slit, which for all he knew might be a big SD card slot, or a place you can swipe your credit card through. Jokes aside, he was curious what the slit was for. Maybe something will come out of it. He didn't know. In the first place, this whole affair was occult from the very beginning--no sense trying to make sense of it. He looked at the book again. No change on the sketch. He flipped to the next page, and three question marks burned in the middle of the new page.
"Isn't this book so useful..." he sighed and closed the book, put it in his jeans' pocket, and went back to scrutinizing the arm guard. It was a little too large for his arm. The arm guard was, he discovered, large enough for his hand to pass through its ends without a problem. It was an arm guard, but it felt more like a hoola hoop for his thin arm. He didn't know how something as faulty as the thing could be so useful. Was he supposed to fling it at enemies? Stupid. He'd die before he gets caught doing something so silly. The thing was useless as a tool, and looked more ornamental.
Well, the blue gem at the heart of it looked beautiful enough to pass as valuable. He touched the gem. It lit brilliant green, the color of the dust trapped inside the blue gem. He should have expected it to be touch-activated from the chest, but Frey Alcott was as ever a logical man. The steel of the arm guard melted into thick, mercurial liquid. The melted steel did not drip down to the ground, as the law of gravity might suggest, and seemed to have life on its own, clinging to his skin like a leech would to its host. The steel was scorching hot to the touch, and he could only wriggle in pain as the arm guard fitted as it pleased on his skin from the elbow down.
He screamed and trashed around, with the crunching sound of dead leaves accompanying his every footfall and chirps of disturb birds with every swing of his arm, which he thought was gonna fall off from cauterization. It was not long till he lost energy and succumbed to the pain and fatigue.
When he came about, it was already night. The forest that had been dim during the day was ever darker during the night. Starlight filtered by the forestial roof of tree leaves gave barely enough luminance for him to see his surroundings. What happened? He remembered. His right arm was fine. He could still feel it as a part of his body, and could still fold and unfold his fingers. He sat up, took a look at the arm guard wrapped on his arm, and tried to pull it off, at first gently. It didn't budge. He pulled on it again, with a much stronger force, and then decided his skin will tear off first before the damned thing let him go. He next felt around the arm guard's steel body to perhaps find a lock or the like, but its surface was impeccably smooth.
It was almost embarrassing as it was ironic that he thought the arm guard was too large earlier. Now it's stuck on his arm. Hell, with how hot it was earlier, the steel might've even burned itself into his skin. He yanked on the arm guard for the last time, before giving up entirely. He glanced around. Not that he could see much in the dark. All he could see were outlines of shrubs, and the towering shadows of trees in the distance.
He was starting to worry for himself. He hadn't forgotten what Victorina said. The world was home to monsters and deities. Was it really okay for him to be in the middle of a dark forest this time of day, in a world where wild animals were the least threatening things you might find lunging out at you? Basic law of probability showed that there was a high chance of there being a bloodthirsty beast just waiting to pounce at him from behind the shrubs. The damned woman might be the reason he's in this world, in this game, but he figured she wasn't lying as much as he hoped.
The real question of the day was, what was he going to do next? He's in the middle of a forest, in the middle of God knows where, with not a map nor even a compass to start with.
Not to mention food. Frey knew he was dead, but he doubted this "borrowed body" he's in now can live with just air for sustenance. He had just rested and wasn't yet hungry, but figured if he was going to survive this game, he'll need the proper nutrients. He'll need them sooner than later.
For now he decided to consult his booklet. The blue gem in his arm guard glowed mild amidst the shadows. He used the glow of it to make of what's written in the booklet. He flipped through the pages until he landed on the page where the arm guard's sketch was drawn. Nothing changed much, except that there were now three question marks above the sketch, which was not there the last time he checked. The next page displayed three big question marks, as before. He flipped to the next page, and was surprised to see that something was actually written on it.
Only those two words were written on the top of the page. Must be some kind of monster and, by the name alone, a dangerous sort. He turned to another page, but nothing was written on it. A sense of foreboding made him want to dig a hole in the ground and hide in it until morning, but then the ground might eat him alive. Wherever teleport and sentient mercury is possible, everything is possible.
He stood up, shook his legs awake. The first to-do on his list was finding shelter. A cave would be nice, decreases the chance of him getting eaten alive by whatever monsters lurk in the forest. One of them might be this "Goblin Hound" written on the booklet. He walked aimlessly but in a straight line, the glow of his arm guard the only guide preventing him from crashing into a tree. Finally he was finding some use for the thing, albeit a bit more trivial than he'd wanted and expected. He needed more than a lantern. He needed something to defend himself with. On his trail he found a broken branch, not a meter long, lodged between the thick roots of the oak (it looked like oak, but probably wasn't) it fell from. He pulled it out and took it along. Better than bare hands.
Frey stopped when a nearby shrub rustled. He pointed his arm guard at the shrub, his twig at the ready. The shrub was three feet tall, with green berries peppering its leafy exterior. The shrub shook again. Frey took a few steps back. He didn't really know any fighting technique, and having a stick for a weapon didn't make him any more comfortable.
He could run, but that might attract more danger to him. Not an option. He took on an impromptu crouching stance, and waited for the monster to come out.
It wasn't a monster. Well, not by his standards, anyway. What shot out of the shrub was a furry pink animal the size of a bunny. It had looped horns like a ram on the two sides of its head, and it had blue marble eyes that shone as they reflected the green glow of Frey's arm guard.
Cute, he thought. And the shrub grew fangs and teeth and gorged on the little creature. It took him a moment to realize that it wasn't the shrub that ate it.
Came out of the green, still chewing the furry pink animal was a dog as large as a tiger. Its eyes were bloodshot, its mouth holding three rows of shark-like teeth, and two large front incisors that dripped with the critter's blood. It looked pretty much like a "Goblin Hound" to him.
The beast jumped, tackling and mounting him as his back crashed down the forest ground. Breath was knocked out of his lungs as the hound's ton of a weight pressed on him, and sharp pain stung his body as the monster's claws sink on his thighs. He swung his twig, and the Hound caught it between its razor teeth. One chomp was all it took for the wood to break off the middle. The Hound snarled a pissed-off snarl and it bit down, with the intention of swallowing his head whole, and would've succeeded if he hadn't put his left arm between his face and the monster's jaws. Tearing pain shot from his arm to his head as the dog gnawed on his left arm.
"Shit, shit, shit!" blood and chunks of skin flattened on his face as his arm flesh was torn to shreds. In a panic he punched the monster with his right hand. A metallic clink came from the arm guard and, at the same time his fist collided with the beast's jaw, a metal tip protruded out of its head, covered with dark-red blood. The gnawing on his left arm ceased. The hound went lifeless, suspended over him by the silver blade that pierced it. The blade, he realized, came out of the arm guard--from the thin slit on its front. The blue gem of the arm guard glowed bright green, as if to proclaim its blade had won.
The blade retracted back into the arm guard with a shing as the blue gem's light extinguished. The dead weight of the monster fell to the side, away from him.
He was alive. He looked straight above, at the starry night sky past the tree leaves, feeling in his whole body less pain than numbness.
Get up, his head told him. He tried. With only one healthy hand to push him up, it was more than a chore he could handle. His body was heavy, his thighs were cut pretty bad. The monster must've had knives for paws. He managed to sit up, but that was as far as he got before the world wobbled and blurred around him. He had to seal his wounds, but without strength to tear a piece of his clothes, he was helpless.
He had to go. Anywhere but there, where scavengers might smell the dead Goblin Hound and think he was part of the happy meal.
He pushed himself to a crawl, which was more of a creep along the floor. His mangled arm gushed out more blood with each movement, and soon blood loss got the better of him. He fell to his side, heat leaving his body fast, and he laid there on the ground in the middle of the forest, with a dead monster for a companion.