I left the depressed Ratul and walked back to Lovebird. Rajahard had also come to the two girls and the three of them seemed super excited, Lovebird in particular.
"What happened?” I asked them.
“She got her first Karma points!” Ladyjane said, her expressive eyes wide, pointing at Lovebird.
“Really?” I concentrated on Lovebird and saw her details. Her Karma had gone from zero to 200. “That’s cool. What good deed did you do?”
“That old lady slipped, and I caught her just in time from falling,” Lovebird said, pointing at an elderly female NPC with a big head and waist but relatively thin legs.
“Give me a hundred Karma!” Rajahard said.
“Let her keep it,” Ladyjane snapped at Rajahard.
“Darn it, you can’t even understand when I am kidding!”
Lovebird giggled at the fighting couple and I too joined in on the laughter. But I had a queer sensation. I felt like this was something important. Rajahard had asked Lovebird for Karma points. Karma points were transferrable, but I had never really given much thought to that. Was it possible to accumulate lots of Karma just by asking people? No, this meant something more than that. Selfless deeds… damn, my mind felt like it was trying to undo a really complicated knot. Karma… selfless deeds… other players… transferrable…
And just then I received a message. It was Mastermind.
“Hey, can you meet me?” he said.
“Where are you?” I asked.
A moment passed before he replied.
“About a thousand kilometres away to the east.”
Was Mastermind kidding? He certainly wasn’t the kind that did. I had after all promised to help him.
“Look, this is serious. I am not kidding,” he messaged again.
“But how can I meet you when you are so far away?”
“Use a portal.”
“Yes. The nearest one is in the Rak lands. Do you have a map?”
This was going to turn out way serious than I had thought.
“I do. But it doesn’t show any portals or names of places.”
“Doesn’t matter. Portals are shown in every map of every level. You just need to know how to spot them. Okay now, open your map.”
I did. The map opened in my vision, showing everything that was in a twenty-five kilometre radius around me.
“Do you see red spots?” Mastermind asked me.
The Rak side of the map had tens and possibly hundreds of red spots.
“Yes, there are quite a few actually.”
“The ones you are seeing are the villages of the Raks. Focus more; you’ll see that there is one red spot that is darker than the others. The portal is there in that particular Rak village.”
I really focussed. Lovebird and the others probably thought I was acting funny, but they didn’t disturb me and they too fell silent, seeing that I was doing something important.
“Nope, I couldn’t find it,” I replied, giving up.
“There is. Try harder, you’ll find it.”
I concentrated harder. And then I finally found it. It was tricky to find as it was surrounded by other red spots and there was the green of the forests as well. But thankfully I could see that it was just a shade darker than the rest of the red spots.
“Yeah, I found it.”
“See? It’s there. Now go to that Rak village.”
“What? It’s night!”
“Look, I could really use some help in the situation that I am in. But if you don’t want to help that’s okay. “
“I’ll go,” I said. I had given him my word earlier, and I didn’t want to turn back now. But at the same time I couldn’t help but think that I had signed up for something that was harder than what I had fathomed it to be.
“Thanks. Look, this is not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. At least it should be worth it. I believe there is a weapon—an ancient artefact— which might be of great use to us… yes, might because I am not quite sure, but hey there is hope, right? Well, I believe that using this artefact it will be possible for us to destroy Death13 once and for all.”
“Will I take anyone with me? I mean it’ll be a bit tough to kill an entire village of Raks on my own to access the portal.”
“That’s your wish. If you take somebody along only bring people you really trust. And no, you don’t have to kill the Raks. Violence is not always a good thing, you see.”
“Then how am I going to get to the portal?”
“Just ask the Raks.”
I waited a moment before replying. I wasn’t sure what the Raks would do if I tried to talk sense with them. I was sure they would make a barbecue out of me, instead of allowing me access to the portal.
“Are you crazy?”
“Just give them some gold. Keep your sword inside your bag. Perhaps go with your hands raised.”
“I thought Raks considered humans as food.”
“Look, there are many places in the real world humans keep an animal as pet and consider it a part of family. Sometimes humans even worship that animal. And then there are places where the same animal is eaten by us. You keep those beautiful fish in the aquarium, yet you crave the taste of fish, right?”
Not really, I preferred chicken. But I could see what Mastermind was saying.
“Yeah, I get you.”
“Cool, come fast.”
I looked at Lovebird, Rajahard and Ladyjane.
“Who was it?” Lovebird asked, a tinge of concern in her eyes.
“A friend. He wants me to go. Now.”
“On a hunt?” Rajahard asked, and he looked rather eager.
“No, something else.” I considered for a moment if I should ask them to come along. But I didn’t know what kinds of risks were involved. Mastermind hadn’t told me specifically what he needed my help for.
“Want us to go along?’ Lovebird asked.
I placed a hand on hers.
“I am sorry, but this time I’ll have to go alone.”
She nodded, pursing her slips, slightly disappointed.
In a few minutes I was out of the inn. I took one of the horse-drawn carts to the river. From there I took a boat to the opposite bank. Paying the ferryman, I checked the map. My position was marked by two small blue concentric circles that were in the very centre of the map.
The darker red spot was seven kilometres to the south-east. It was well beyond The Line. I hoped I wouldn’t end up in a pterodactyl’s stomach tonight. That would really suck.
I began to run. I was glad this was a game world. Running seven kilometres in the real world would be quite a task. I used to run marathons while I was at school, but school was a distant dream from the past and so were the marathons.
The forest felt ominous. I had never been in the Rak side of the river during night. Any sound made my heart beat faster, even if the sound was made by a frog or an insect. I was thankful that I wasn’t panting that much. But just to keep my health at optimum, I stopped half-way to the village to drink a health vial. I had quite a few of the vials.
After some time I passed The Line. I looked up at the moon floating high above. A small dark object passed right below it. Was that a pterodactyl that was flying high? No, it was a cloud. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I continued on my run to the village that had the portal. But just then, I tripped on something and fell. It took me a while to realise that the ‘something’ was a rope. Immediately dark shapes jumped out from the bushes. I sprung back to my feet in alarm.
I was about to pull out my sword from my bag but then I remembered what Mastermind had said.
“Wait, please. I just want to use the portal,” I told the Raks.
The Raks burst out laughing like hyenas. There were four of them and their laughter sent a chill down my spine. The Raks were of the warrior class.
“What are we supposed to do if you want to use the portal?” one of them said, still giggling, even as I remained very alert. “We were kicked out of our villages. The village isn’t ours. The portal isn’t as well. But you, we can eat you and take your gold. Friends, attack the human!”
It had been a mistake to listen to Mastermind. The four Raks leapt upon me even before I could pull out my sword from my bag. They pinned me to the ground, while one snatched my bag from me.
“No!” I cried.
I tried to struggle, kicking at them. That was all my frantic brain was telling me to do at the moment, though there were many other wiser things I could have done. It was only when the Raks were tying my hands together with rope that my brain finally kicked into action.