Unfortunately, like most plans in this world, it did not go as he hoped.
After half a day of lurking in the square, Wilbert did not hear any mention of quests, classes, or players. However, he did hear that the training grounds and the market stalls nearby were much busier, so he decided to go and check it out before finding something for supper.
'Oh wait, I didn't bring any money… but I recall seeing lots of juniper bushes on the way here, so I should be able to scavenge something for dinner.'
Since he would be sleeping rough outside the castle walls, scavenging for food would not exactly be more of an inconvenience; it would at least give him something to do.
When he arrived at the market again, the assault on his senses did have more of an effect this time as he was paying attention to the details. When he smelled the roast chicken at one of the stalls, his stomach could not help but grumble.
Unfortunately, with no money and nothing to trade, he could only swallow his saliva and try to ignore the dull ache in the pit of his stomach.
He spent some time milling about in the market's crowds, but he had no luck. In the end, he had no choice but to move onto the training grounds.
Once he emerged from the market crowd, the training grounds came into view. The vast field was filled with brawny men bashing into each other, wrestling on the ground, and attacking what looked like scarecrows.
The men were covered in sweat and mud, and they would occasionally jog over to the side to gulp some water and quench their thirst before rushing straight back out to continue training. As he watched them, Wilbert was filled with awe at their diligence; these men did not stop for a rest at all other than the very occasional water break.
Wilbert then turned his head to survey the rest of the fields, and he was even more impressed by the people training further away. On the one side, there were soldiers equipped with bows and arrows firing at targets quite some distance away. Wilbert was not sure if he could even throw a stone that far, let alone hit the targets so accurately. On the other side of the warriors were people hurling orbs of fire and water and dummies.
Wilbert had only ever heard about them in his bedtime stories when he was younger, so to see them in person took his breath away. The long dark robes, the cool pointy hats, the indifferent expressions—Wilbert was impressed by their appearance alone.
At the entrance to the grounds stood a rugged man in thick plate armour. His neatly cropped blond hair was almost as long as the dusty beard that covered his jaw.
Seeing as the man was at the entrance, Wilbert knew that he could not just enter the grounds to gather information. Thus, he decided that the best course of action would be to simply ask the man either for entry, or if that was denied, ask the man if he had heard of the terms 'player' and attributes' and so on.
However, as he approached, before he could even say anything, the man turned toward him and started speaking in a booming voice, not dissimilar to a clap of thunder.
"Hello adventurer, welcome to Fluebridge. We are a humble city on the border, prone to beast attacks. We are in need of your assistance. Would you be interested in temporarily joining our… Wait a minute, you're not like them."
The rugged man frowned. The young man before him seemed to give off the same feeling as those adventurers, but looking at him once more, he realised that it was just some village boy.
"Not like them?" Wilbert had no clue what was going on. He had simply been wandering through the area when this man ran up to him out of nowhere. "Who's 'them'?"
"Huh, you really are like them." The rugged man looked at the ground for a moment before returning Wilbert's curious gaze. "Where are you from?"
"A village a few miles south."
The rugged man frowned, leaned closer, and inspected Wilbert. "You're definitely not one of them. From the looks of it, you're quite a good sprog. How'd you feel about joining the local military?"
The man's rambling had left Wilbert stupefied. "I… er… Who are you?"
"You're lucky you came today, kid. I rarely ever come down here for the recruitment. I'm Bairn, captain of the guard here in Fluebridge."
"Capt… captain of the guard?! I apologise for not recognising you sooner, sir."
"Ah, don't worry about it. Most fresh recruits and adventurers are like that, so I'm used to it. It's not like I'm some famed warrior whom everyone should know."
"Anyway," the captain interrupted, "I know it's a lot to take in, but it looks to me like you might have a talent for fighting. Since you're here, why don't you have a look around the training grounds?"
"Talent for fighting? How can you tell just after meeting me?"
The captain smiled. "I have a sixth sense for this sort of thing."
After saying that, the captain turned around and headed into the training ground, and Wilbert followed behind obediently.
After the two left, the reaction of those in the area could be split in two. The first set of reactions seemed to expect the captain to leave, as if him being there to recruit people personally was a waste of his time anyway.
The second type was…
"The captain of the guard moved? I've never seen him move before, and I've been playing for four years now."
"Four years? The games not even been out that long."
"Is this some event? Which of those NPCs will trigger the quest, the captain or the kid?"
"Probably the captain. If this is an event, the kid might come back into it later on."