Dog sat on his polished mahogany framed recliner, his digitigrade legs crossed before him for maximum comfort. He raised his hand and stared at the object between his long, furry fingers, a delicate silver key about two inches. Its diamond-shaped bittings and the silver nightingale pattern on its head matched the description on the quest scroll. His snout twitched as he bit down on an unlit cigar in his teeth.
There be no doubt.
Raising his brilliant gold eyes, he stared in front of him, and four pairs of tired eyes looked back at him, not at all trying to hide their expectations. His eyes still glued on them, Dog turned his head sideways and barked. “Blinking blisters! ‘Aven’t ‘e ‘ad a meal, recruit? ‘Arder!”
“Yes, sir!” the soldier shouted back, massaging their weapons instructor’s shoulders with redoubled effort.
“Ahem!” Dog cleared his throat, turning back to the four. “Honest, me be shock-” he stopped midway; large, floppy ears flapped around as he vigorously shook his head, “sorry, bit me tongue, mighty pleased at ‘er success. Good job,” he said, raising his thumb.
The four boys and girls glowered at him. ‘Shocked’ was the word he’d been going for, they were sure. Honestly, no matter how much he tried, neither the cigar nor the dignified expression suited his puppy face. In fact, the way he just lounged around on the armchair, all this guy lacked was a pair of goggles and he’d be fit for a beach vacation of furries.
But who were they to call him out on that?
“We did the quest, so how about the reward?” Kratos asked, pinching his forehead. Even though he met Dog today for the first time, he’d heard the rumours. This titular weapons instructor of the Grandark royal guards had a tendency to muck around, but today of all days he didn’t have the patience for that.
Kratos nearly ripped his hair out at the confused look on Dog’s face. But before he could spew a well-decorated curse to turn his mother’s cheeks red, Red intervened.
“Sir Vile, you need—”
“Grrrr!” Dog snarled, baring its perfectly proportioned teeth at her. “Balls’n blisters! Never say that name! Me Dog! The Dog! Me ancestor didn’t get chased out from Ether just so ‘e could—”
“Okay, okay!” Red held up her arms, stopping the conversation from degrading into a rant. “But really, hurry it up. The fight was hard and we’re exhausted.”
“Tch!” Dog twisted his lips. “‘E youngins ‘ave no patience these days. Back in our day…” Noticing the sour face of the four, he huffed, “Alright, all of ‘e pass!” He took out a bunch of badges and handed one each to Kratos and Thena, respectively. “‘Ere be a Trapper badge, ‘ere be the thief—”
“Guardian!” Thena hissed.
“... Guardian,” Dog pouted, changing the badge then taking out another for Gandoff. “‘Ere be the mage badge.” He clapped his hand, shaking off some nonexistent dust, then turned to Red. “‘e be a bard already, what be ‘er reward?”
“Gold!” Red groaned. “And the location of the silver night harp.” She looked at the three teens excitedly examining their badges with a hint of sympathy in her violet eyes.
Technically, this was her quest, and the three had no business accepting it, but because this sir Vile wanted to avoid troublesome work, he slapped all their quests together into one. Well, as a bard, she did need a party to assist, so she didn’t mind, but that really hadn’t been a quest for a level 10 party. All because an NPC decided to be lazy. Red’s lips twisted in a vague smile.
That’s what makes Finitum so scoop worthy, I guess.
“‘Ere, take this.” Dog’s voice brought her out of her reverie. She looked at the thing he held out for her.
The silver key they brought back.
“This ‘ere be the key to the tomb of ‘Amun,” he said. “‘E will find ‘er ‘arp there.”
“Tomb of Hamun?” Red’s eyebrows shot up. “But that’s near the Nurmean ruins.”
“Right ‘e are. So ‘e need a party of level 15s to go there.” Dog took the chewed cigar out of its mouth before tossing it in the ashtray. “Congratulations on passing the test me designed,” he said, crossing his fingers with a look of pride on his puppy face.
“Designed.” Red rolled her eyes. She’d been dealing with this instructor of the guards for a while now. Seeing by how ‘shocked’ he’d been at their success, ‘designed’ couldn’t be further from the truth.
Out of the gates of the huge, grey stone castle behind them, the four let out a unified breath of relief. They looked at each other and broke out in an uncontrollable giggle, drawing some weird looks from the NPCs and players around the vast training field around them.
Red took a deep breath and asked the other three, “Since you’ve got your classes now, wanna go on a hunt?”
Kratos shook his head. “No, we’ll log out for today.”
“Really?” Red raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you want to try out the new class-exclusive skills? I couldn’t wait a second when I first got them.”
“We do, but we kinda missed a friend who was supposed to start today. So we plan to check if she’s doing ok.”
“Why? She didn’t start?”
Kratos scratched his head. “Um, she might have, but it could be somewhere else,”
“She’s Asian too, right?”
“then what? She thinks she’s too good for Grandarc or something?”
“No, it’s kind of our fault,” Kratos said, hurrying to explain. “We never told her to start here. And she kinda never played games, so…” He trailed off, noticing the bizarre look in Red’s eyes. “What?’
“This friend of yours,” she said sceptically, “isn’t your grandma or something, is she?”
“What! No!” Kratos protested. “She’s our age!”
“Uh-huh! A girl your age who never played games before.” Red leaned on a giant ogre training dummy and gave the three an amused look, but looking at their sincere faces, she faltered. “Seriously?”
Thena shrugged. “Yeah, she’s b—”
“Hey!” Kratos shut the girl up with an angry look before turning to Red. “She has some difficulties so she never played.”
“Hmph!” Red crossed her hands beneath her sizable breasts, propping them up. “Alright then, keep your secrets. But let me give you a last piece of advice as a seasoned level 14 veteran.” She gave the three a critical look. “Although your party’s got a good balance, it lacks in the damage dealing department. If you’re planning on recruiting your friend to your team, ask her to be one.”
“No way,” Kratos said, shaking his head. “I think she’d be a better healer. Or a priestess.”
“Oh, you’re just coddling her now. No way Chi’s the healer type,” Thena gave an exasperated sigh. “I think she can be a warrior. She has that side to her.”
“Like, really? I always thought she’s, like, the cool merchant type,” added Gandoff.
“Heh!” Red’s lips curved to the side. “Seems like none of you really know this ‘friend’ of yours well enough,” she said, making quotation marks with her fingers. “Anyway, it’s ultimately her choice, but if you want her to be safe and have firepower, you could choose that.” She pointed at a corner of the training field, drawing the three teen’s eyes towards two players practising shooting arrows at monster dummies.
“No way!” the three shook their heads at once.
“Why?” Red couldn’t help being surprised at their unity.
“Yeah, archery is…” Kratos hesitated a bit. “I don’t think she could do that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, what else?” Gandoff blurted out before Kratos could stop him. “She’s blind.”
The four fell silent. And the afternoon sky over Grandarc suddenly seemed very interesting to Gandoff; at least much more interesting than facing Kratos and Thena.
Like, those eyes could kill me!
“Blind...” Red broke the silence after a while with her musing voice. “So that’s why she’s never played games?” A curious smile played in the corners of her lush, red lips.
“Now that’s a scoop!”