Taking the glistening golden key off its hook, the knight with a torn gambeson grabbed the clover shaped end of the large vintage key and hastily inserted it into the lock on the old wooden door. With some effort and elbow grease, the key turned in place, deactivating the rusted locking mechanism.
The door opened, and a musty scent came from within. Marcello walked through the door into a musty old library filled with bookshelves and books on a variety of different topics that he did not understand. Their titles were written in a language unintelligible to him, which was strange because all languages he had encountered so far had become mutually intelligible after the system took its hold.
His answers were quickly addressed by a strange slew of new notifications appearing before him.
Welcome, initiate. As the castle lord’s chosen and an exemplary of the human race, you have gained access to a lost section of the Great Library of Alexandria. Here you will find priceless artefacts of ancient origin available for you to purchase. It is advisable for you to cherish this opportunity, and to take your purchasing decision seriously. You may never have this opportunity again.
There are four items available for purchase at this time presented in front of you. You may only choose one of the four items.
Marcello felt chills down his spine. He had heard tales of the Great Library of Alexandria since he was a child, reading ancient manuscripts such as What Your Third Grader Needs to Know. The famous library resided in the city of Alexandria in Egypt, where hundreds of thousands of papyrus scrolls from across the world were collected and stored in one library. The massive all-spanning library was said to have been the ancient world’s store of the entirety of human knowledge within the foreseeable lands, all carefully collected and stored in scroll form.
Alas, such a marvel of scroll aggregation also turned out to be its downfall, as the library was burnt to the ground at some point in time. Hundreds of thousands of scrolls containing ancient knowledge were lost, a large portion of human knowledge crumbling to ash with the walls of the library.
And yet here he was, standing in one of the dilapidated corners of the great library itself. It just made sense, now that he thought about it. He who was an exemplary for the human race, whatever that entailed, was granted access by the system to one of the founding ancient wonders of human civilization. He now stood amongst the achievements of his ancestors. One of the legacies of humanity itself.
And in the end, that legacy boiled down to a simple choice. Four options, but only one of them could be chosen.
As much as Marcello wanted to savor the magnitude and significance of the moment, his thoughts jumped unbidden to a video game he played as a child, standing in front of three choices, the outcome of which would shape a large portion of his early years.
Marcello stepped forward and looked at the four carefully items laid upon the table in front of him, as the walls of the library themselves seemed to be nodding approvingly as he moved forward.
Upon first glance, the choices were very strange.
To the very left, there was an egg. It was quite large, the size of an american football.
Middle left, there was a quill with an inkwell.
To the right of that, there was a pendant with the symbol of an egyptian eye on it.
And to the very right, a very old hatchet.
Each and every one of the items gave Marcello chills when he laid his eyes upon them. They exuded power in a way that he did not know possible before, belaying a gravitas that seemed to echo with the very existence of Planes themselves. These were ancient artefacts, every single one of them.
There was only one thing left to do. Besides nudging Frosty for any input, all Marcello could do was use his identify skill on the opaque egg sitting on top of a red velvet cushion. A 龙 character was painted on the velvet, which he recognized as a chinese character, but for some reason the magic in this room was blocking his system interpretation that naturally translated all earth languages. No dice.
[Obscure Egg] – A large egg. May or may not contain a creature within. 120,000 points.
The length of the description to price ratio almost triggered Marcello’s gag reflex. Most of his hard earned points save ten thousand or so were going to get confiscated in one fell swoop, after all… still, Marcello was deathly curious what kind of beast existed within the egg. Perhaps a mythical one? Dragon, gryphon, pixie, basilisk, there were so many possibilities flashing through his mind. He wished he could read the character…
Simple curiosity about the outcome of the egg was not enough for him to make his decision. The system itself had warned him that he might not have this opportunity ever again, and that he should take the choice as seriously as possible. Marcello just didn’t understand what exactly he was supposed to make a choice about, when all the items were weird as hell and didn’t have any information besides the bare minimum.
May or may not contain a creature within. Like, seriously? How was he expected to make a decision when given a vague ass description like that?
Anyway, he moved on to the next choice.
[Much-used Goosequill] – An artefact that once belonged to William. These are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stages—so they call them—that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills and dare scarce come thither. 120,000 points.
The description was a simple admission that a certain William once owned the goosequill, followed by a quote from Hamlet. It was so simple yet so striking, almost eerily so. At this point, Marcello truly realized what the system meant when it said that he was dealing with items of priceless nature. Some of these items belonged to those who were titans in the history of mankind’s achievements, whether they be literary or scientific accomplishments. This truly was the great library of Alexandria.
The price was the same as before at a flat hundred and twenty thousand, a trend that would probably continue onwards. Unfortunately, so was the description of its effects. Marcello could only use his imagination to try to conceive what it was this quill could do. He tried to identify the inkwell, only for the system to return that it was a normal inkwell.
The greatest mystery at the moment was what exactly the quill’s function was. Marcello reviewed the quote. That many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills… It was the truth. Those who put ink to paper had the power to shape the world in a way that a man wielding a sword could never imagine.
But right now, that was not the kind of power that he wanted or needed. Marcello had to pass on this artefact, but he still left the egg open as an option. He moved on to the next option, a pendant with an egyptian eye painted onto it.
[Eye of Horus] – The left eye of Horus. Allows one to see the unseen. 120,000 points.
No, his sense told him. This is not necessary for you.
He was almost shocked at how vehemently his sense rejected this particular artefact. His sense, which was normally rooted in logic and reason and allowed him to step just a bit further beyond those bounds, was now spilling into his consciousness with emotion. He began to feel an extreme distaste for this particular artefact.
He decided to listen to his sense, as it narrowed down his viable choices down to two, the obscure egg and the final unnamed contestant.
Onto the finale. Well… Marcello could not help but feel a bit of disappointment looking at the final item. It was a dilapidated hatchet, and identify did not help in the slightest.
[Rusty Hatchet] – A hatchet that appears to be slightly rusted over. Still good for chopping and splitting wood. Will never break. 120,000 points.
He was stumped. This description was the worst of all four of them, telling him virtually nothing about what the hatchet was or why it was one of the four items of significance. Quite frankly, it looked like shit compared to the other items.
He closed his eyes, trying for the first time to summon his sense to give him guidance.
No dice. The feeling was so close, yet just out of reach. It seemed to activate under certain circumstances. For instance, when he already considered the logical angle to things. After all, the text description of his sense talked about extending logic beyond physical limits. Or, when he was in despair, but right now he wasn’t able to muster anything like despair up like some soft serve ice cream.
Alright, try again. It was probably better for him to rationally think through all angles with the information he had at hand.
He was about to travel to a terrestrial plane with tons of overgrown trees and vines and wildlife. The system specifically told him to purchase a ‘good hatchet’. Even though the description for this hatchet was terrible, the price tag alone and its presence in the library of Alexandria meant that it was a special item.
Hatchets were meant to cut through wood, to split wood. So how exactly would that play out? Was he supposed to become master of trees or something? That sounded so lame that Marcello’s stomach growled angrily.
Well, the other two options were totally eliminated. The eye of horus probably overlapped with his intuition and the quill would shape public opinion which was something he couldn’t care less about at the moment.
But a dragon egg! Aghhhh! How cool would that be, flying around with some killer dragon, breathing fire, stomping villages…
Marcello’s eyes darted between the hatchet and the egg, his eyes looking greedily at the egg. But when they returned to the hatchet once more...
This is the one.
Marcello blinked, surprised. It was his sense talking to him again.
This is stronger.
He let out the biggest sigh in the history of his life. Was he really going to get bullied by his sense into picking the rusty hatchet over the cool mystery beast egg?
“Frosty, what do you think?”
The ice elemental shrugged. His specialty was smashing things that needed to be smashed, not deciphering the value behind ancient artefacts.
Pick the hatchet.
Marcello sighed. “This better be worth it.”
Please confirm purchase of Rusty Hatchet.
Purchase confirmed. 120,000 points deducted from your balance. Your remaining balance is 10,465 points.
He could finally pick up the rusty hatchet. It was larger than usual, with a large blade with just a few faint traces of rust on it. The wooden handle was lacquered and strong. Actually, the wood in the handle felt more than strong, it was certainly some kind of special wood. The blade of the hatchet looked more or less like steel, with an inch wide white finish on the edge of the blade. All in all, it was a nice looking hatchet despite being slightly rusted.
He tried to identify it again, but the description was the same. Until…
*New Profession* available, [Carpenter].
“What the hell?” Marcello said loudly. Just… basic carpenter? The profession sounded like one of the lamest things ever compared to all the buildup and hype that he just experienced. The golden key, the library of Alexandria, that ridiculous price tag, everything had hyped him up to an unimaginable level, just to get slapped in the face at the end. He felt like he just got scammed by the system so damn hard.
He nearly fell over as he processed what had just happened. He must have gotten scammed. What the hell was this? Special reward my ass! Risking his life and limb, he expected to at least get something better than Scroll of Summon Ice Elemental. This just made no sense.
Maybe the class description would reveal something important? He quickly opened up the class information screen.
[Carpenter] – Wood can be used as a construction material for many different creations, from houses to boats to furniture or even artistic pieces. As a carpenter, you will develop and hone your skills working with wood. Allows you to chop wood more efficiently. Allows you to bind wood with mana. +0.5 strength growth, vitality growth, and endurance growth per level.
Well… Alright, sure, binding wood with mana was a novel concept for him, and plus the three stat growths were actually kind of damn good, probably better than the regular version of carpenter, but it was still hard to say that the class was worth the heartache it took him to scrounge up a hundred and twenty thousand points.
Oh, and to make matters worse, Frosty was now nodding approvingly at the hatchet in his hand. “Not you too, buddy…” Marcello groaned.
Anyway, there wasn’t much else for him to do except accept the profession and pray to god that it would get better in the future. Hopefully the price tag on the hatchet would end up paying off.
*New Profession obtained*: [Carpenter]
That giddy shopping experience from earlier where he was flush with points and had a whole world of possibility ahead of him was crushed to the ground like a boot stomping on a flower petal. Goodbye hopes and dreams.
Marcello just skimmed through the store and grabbed some last minute items from his mental shopping list. He couldn’t afford anything from the fifth floor, with all the fancy amulets and orbs and shit there, so he moved onto the fourth and third floor.
He ended up buying a tent, a lot of flint, some miscellaneous survival gear, a tutorial scroll of pathfinding, and a decent javelin, since he couldn’t afford to purchase both a decent spear and a bow. No points left for a shield. His remaining points went into some preservable food for the road plus one last hot meal.
[Archeios Javelin (uncommon)] – A thick javelin once used to hunt mammoths. May be retrieved on command by using mana.
There were some rare rarity javelins on the fourth floor, but he just didn’t have the points left to buy them, so he had to make do with an uncommon rarity javelin from the third floor.
Marcello exited the tutorial store slightly angry, with a new javelin slung over his back, replacing his old shortbow that had outlived its use. Munching on a hot chicken and cheese sandwich that he bought, he savored the last of his hot food as he accepted the new notification that popped up on his screen.
Travel to the Terrestrial Plane confirmed.
A portal appeared in front of them.
“Let’s do this, Frosty.”
The knight and elemental duo walked into the portal, stepping out into one of the strangest biomes that Marcello had ever encountered. Trees with trunks the width of a tennis court sprouted from the ground at odd angles, and in front of him pouring down from a rock cliff was a massive waterfall. The water crashed down like it was supposed to, but strangely there was a glowing force at the bottom of the waterfall that appeared to be pushing droplets of water up into the air like they were being slowly levitated upwards. It felt like he was watching bubbles of air in an aquarium rise up, except now those bubbles of air were pockets of water rising up into the heavily oxygenated atmosphere.
The air felt easy to breath, almost too smooth, as it was rich with so much oxygen that Marcello felt slightly light headed.
He took out and activated his Tutorial Scroll of Pathfinding, the same one that Nolan used to find the exit back in the area two trial. Marcello figured out a trick with the scroll that wasn’t really necessary back in the castle. The scroll could only give two-dimensional directions, and the obvious way to use it was to lay it horizontally like a compass. But what was stopping someone from turning it vertically?
He examined the scroll both ways. Aaaaaand… the scroll pointed straight up the waterfall, somewhere on that elevated plane. Fuck. Maybe it was time to climb.