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Dreamweaver chapter 40

 



Somehow I’d still been able to hang on in this dream state, and to endure a bit trying to get the fox girl to help me!

In the same way as before somehow she’d pulled me through the inky black distortion again. It took a few seconds for the vertigo and heavy feeling of being pulled through like some kind of small gravity well to go away. Finally my feet felt settled.

“That takes getting used to,” Fox Girl chuckled. “The first time for me I fell over, but you’ve kept on your feet,” she complimented.

Strangely enough I was surprised when Fox Girl explained to me why the cell of the dying girl was now empty. We were both staring at the now empty cell where she’d been not too long ago, where only seconds before light particles were evaporating into thin air over where the body was. The mana tie in from Sunghee had already worked, but she wanted me to see what had happened.

It was very sad. I felt a lump in my throat but…the damage was probably so bad maybe her dying was like being set free out of a cage.

“The demon box is based on magic very similar to dungeon magic. That’s why her body faded. I thought you would like to see it,” she said.

“I don’t want to see that,” I said.

She contested it seriously, “but you need to. You need to understand that we are real people trapped in here! Only this way will you avoid becoming like the boss orc!” I noticed that she’d lit up some kind of floating light spell too that hovered near her.

“I guess that’s true. I’m sorry you are trapped in here too. Help me to understand it better please? But I don’t care for seeing people die much,” I said.

“Dungeon magic when someone dies in it, their body is eaten by the dungeon, fueling the dungeon’s power and strength, not to mention its sustenance and how it feeds. Everybody knows that and in human mythology there are probably hints of it, yes. So it’s different than the surface where there’s a body and guts lying around,” she added.

“But if they disappear when they die is it fake? Like they were transformed into shadow or illusion creatures once they began living in the box? Is it not real?”

“Oh it’s very real. Let the orcs stab you and it’ll become real enough. You’ll feel how real the pain is for sure!” she encouraged, acting as if she’d not mind if I bled a little.

“And Sunghee absorbed her life essence before she faded? It worked without any problems or side effects?” I wanted to confirm.

“Of course…although Sunghee may absorb some of her strengths… it’s still working while the body is fading though,” she was looking at something in her mind.

“Eh? You mean like a power up?” I asked curiously.

“I don’t like this just so you know. I only did it because it could help repair the damage the orc’s boss did. But yes, she probably will be stronger than before because of taking some of the other girl’s life force in addition to countering the orc filth in her.”

“That’s good! This world is already hellish enough. Something to get her stronger with should be good,” I said.

“It might not all be positive traits absorbed,” she warned.

“Oh.”

Long silence…

“What about the loot?” I asked trying not to scowl.

She grumbled and then paused for a bit. Then she fished something out of her pocket. “Fine, here.” She handed me a small leather bag that could fit in the palm of my hand. It had a nice weight feel to it. There wasn’t a lot there, considering when I peeked inside they were mostly copper pieces by the look of it.

“How is it that you are giving me the loot so easily?” I asked suspiciously.

She shrugged, “it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a bunch of small change really, and plus I’m naturally an honest person. I can pull out more orcs using the pocket’s magic while you are here. But when you aren’t here I’ll be sleeping for a bit to get some power back. But it’s also the slave collar influencing me to give up the money I suppose. But as I said, I don’t need coercion to do the right thing. While I’ve got the slave collar on its coercing me to do what the demon box owner wants. Within reason of course,” she hurriedly added. She was annoyed by that as well I could see.

Now that she mentioned it. Her tenseness was probably her fear of me asking something weird.

That reminded me that I thought I had seen her awhile ago wearing a shiny silver enchanted slave collar like the other girls, in addition to now but I wasn’t sure I’d really seen it at the time. I still found it puzzling how she could manipulate the box’s rules. She’d covered up the slave collar before but didn’t seem to bother hiding it now. Or perhaps it was involuntarily visible.

Was it because I was more aware now?

“But you resisted on a lot of things. How is that possible?” I asked.

“Something that causes me harm or that is against my nature I will try to resist and use my reality altering, but some things that don’t cause harm there isn’t really a reason to try to fight it. Like, help with chores, and talk to you or help you get tougher,” she responded.

I must have missed something, I realized. So that helped confirm again to me, that Fox Girl should have a demon crystal that she was imprisoned in, somewhere. But I only saw four of them filled and none of those girls looked like she did. Plus she had clothes when the others didn’t, and she wasn’t in one. How could that be? Was one of them missing or not in the box? I would have to study the inventory box again.

It must be somewhere in the box. Were there more hidden compartments? There was at least the one hidden compartment I’d found before, but I hadn’t thought about searching for more things after that. That was a mistake.

It probably meant that she wasn’t fully under my power until I could figure out and locate her crystal, I hypothesized. But if I were to talk about such things, she’d surely get upset at me again.

Ah, she misunderstood me as demanding the loot when I just wanted to talk about it? But the slave collar had made her perceive that she couldn’t be guilty without a punishment if she hid it from me, or that she was supposed to give it to me if I asked for it. But she hadn’t bothered with the loot the previous time I’d visited her, maybe because I wasn’t aware of it. So if I was aware of more things, then other options could open up? Perhaps this same concept was why she’d listened to my help request even though she didn’t want to.

Suddenly the demon box was getting much more interesting and more important. If Fox Girl was compelled to help me…she was already more powerful than Akira and I put together wasn’t she?

“Thanks. So everything in a dungeon or dimensional pocket type of similar thing drops loot right? But what’s this?”

“The loot, you wanted it right? Yes they drop loot, but you have to be careful of what you are getting into. Things can get out of hand fast,” She replied with a dull tone.

“I do want the loot but, wow how much is this?” I ask. Looking inside it’s full of coins. Granted they are orc coins and there will be some loss in the value but it’s still a gain. It’s the hard work of several hours of having me practice against the demon box spawned orcs.

She held up some of the coins as she turned to me to explain. She was also spreading them out to show me the differences.

“So about money, pay attention because I only want to say this once. One hundred copper coins is one silver piece, and one hundred silver pieces is equal to one gold. Also some countries like iron ingots as exchange now too, and it’s worth a good amount of silver but varies depending on the area. Dwarves really like iron ingots for trade especially if you manage to find any. People also sometimes use gemstones for currency but then you need an appraiser and both of those attract thieves,” she said.

She looked furious suddenly. Her face twitched several times like she was fighting something.

Was that because she knew the slave collar was compelling her? Maybe she didn’t really want to share this information.

I realized I needed to be super careful with her. If she was resisting this much over just information…then something like touching her would probably make her go ape shit all over the place.

“Thank you,” I said politely, acting innocent.

Then I found out it’s like super hard for someone to gain a gold coin. It will usually get taken by taxes, food, weaponry, medicine, seeing a doctor, or pretty much anything else there is before that can be saved up. It made my head hurt knowing that even if I was in a fantasy world, it was still hard to make money.

“Tax collectors also roam cities all the time looking for new people to hit up for cash. If they see a new face they may think you evaded taxes the previous year as well and hit you up right then and there,” she added.

*despair*

“Eh? It’s like that?!” I sighed.

She nodded. “Hey what are you doing?” she asked. She seemed to still be mad.

I was sorting the money. I quickly pulled it all out. And she was watching me put it in two small piles. After several minutes had gone by I finally gave half of it to her. It had taken a bit because I was identifying by color as best I could but I wasn’t used to how it looked.

“EH?!”

Now she was confused, but slightly less hostile. She had totally not expected that I would share with her!

“What? Is it such a big deal that I’m sharing?” I asked.

She looked at me strangely, “I hadn’t expected a human to share though, and since I was wearing this slave collar…”

“Well if you help me, I’ll help you,” I encouraged. Really the amount of information and advice from Fox Girl was worth many times sharing a small amount of money from the orcs.

“So how much is there?” She quizzed me to make sure I had observed her explanation of money. Foxes are always thinking about something or getting curious it seems if she was typical of others of her kind it seemed. Then she went over it again and again, on the basis that a poor student reflects on the teacher; she had her pride after all.

That’s how I started to learn about this world. Of course Fox Girl kept trying to remind me that part of the deal was that I had to promise to let her out. But she wouldn’t tell me how exactly. I didn’t think she wanted to stay, but why was she reluctant to talk about it?

Could it be she was afraid that if I learned how to let people out I’d also at the same time gain the ability to put people in?

We went back and forth identifying the coins and money for quite awhile. She made me go over it several times to be sure things were good. You might think that someone would learn another country’s currency instantly, but actually it’s more complicated than that. I had to get used to the fact that the silver coins are as big as the gold coins, and the copper coins look somewhat similar to the gold coins. Obviously mixing up the copper and gold coins together would be a major disaster.

She was also trying to describe how dwarf and human coins are basically universally interchangeable and the same values, but have different faces and icons on them. She wanted me to remember this, since mostly these were all orc coins, which aren’t quite as valuable as the other two.

This was good practice.

For starters she was also able to advise me on how much to pay the Gnome for his help; and how much to save for an [adventurer’s license]. These are two goals that must be short term goals for us!

It turns out they aren’t cheap, and it’s a hundred gold per person per license. If you lose your license somehow or drop it there’s a reinstatement fee of twenty gold. That would be really important if I wanted to be able to live in human communities to escape being put down by the king and serf peasant system in addition to slavery being legal.

I’m pretty sure the adventurer’s license price is artificially high, probably from corruption.

I wasn’t sure if there were other reasons to have an adventurer’s license beyond that but she further explained it to me. It turns out an adventurer’s license also is the only way to get access to dungeons. The nobles and king have their guards around the entrances and only let in those with said licenses. They also have to keep monsters from trying to leave the dungeons anyway, and the cost of the licenses is used to help support the cost of keeping teams of guards around each dungeon.

So no license means no way to make money except become a serf.

Damn and double damn. I was starting to not like this world in some aspects. Everything here was hardcore level.

Fox Girl continued her lessons.

Also it seems that a farmer in this world might make only 3-5 gold per year if he doesn’t have a crop failure. It turns out they really have a hard life. Income is pretty variable too and renting land costs a bit, plus taxes. Really it turns out that having a farm is wonderfully hard to attain. You have to sign for the land with a deposit, and then you have to make it productive. You have to do upkeep and pay blacksmiths to repair your tools, get seed from the supplier, and rent granary space at harvest before you sell off your crop. Probably have to bribe a few officials from wanting to bully you and your family…

The list goes on.

And farming and its gains are thought to be so low. It turns out its super hard and takes a lot of skill. They have to carefully monitor conditions of all kinds and figure out how everything works with no guides or anyone looking out for them.

“But I don’t want to be a farmer. I don’t want to be poor either,” I protested.

“True, but the farmer is the basis for most the economies for humans and other creatures. That’s why we discuss it. It’s the basic unit of how humans are doing in this world! If you understand how it works, it then becomes a foundation for understanding how other things work and you can use that to your advantage. Each kingdom is basically made up of thousands of farms trying to eke out a living and suddenly a dungeon appears in the middle of the cities where each of them just happen to be taking their harvests. Real lives are affected right away, and people suffer but the king’s and nobles don’t see it very much. Not everyone can be an adventurer either, and so the prices for goods in the cities are based on the mixture of the much bigger percentage of people’s income as farmers, and trades people, and a much smaller percentage of adventurers.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” I said. “So the price of like weapons, gear, provisions, clothes, and to stay at an inn…”

She then finished the sentence, “is all based on how much a worker in a medieval kingdom can live and save upon. Most day laborers here won’t be able to even stay at an inn. Doing so may cost anywhere from one silver to five silver coin a day depending on the quality, with one silver being a bug infested rat hole or pirate den and five silver being nearly a noble’s banquet and much safer with guards in the Inn to prevent thieves and other problems. A lot of normal people will just stay in the same area, make their own huts or cabins, and do everything they can on their own. Staying at an inn is a luxury only people like nobles, wealthy traders, and adventurers can afford it. And don’t forget to save some money for taxes.”

But that’s only if we can actually make it to a town safely! A hardcore world like this, towns seem to be hard to find!

I also hadn’t considered that not all Inns were safe to stay in.

But it made sense. I was also able to learn from her how chicken dinner the adventurer eats is provided for by chicken farms. The chicken farms are on small plots of land regulated by nobles and a lord, who are charging high taxes. The one chicken sent to the inn for that dinner is a day’s wage for that peasant or serf. So of course there are other labor costs and things for the inn too, which means of course only risky income jobs would stay there.

It meant most farmers and serfs probably didn’t have a chance to eat meat very much, since livestock cost a lot to raise and buy.

“Well in the real world, I mean the world I came from before coming here a hotel would charge extra per person when renting a room? How is that going to work out if I’ve got Asakura and Rina, plus Akira and Yumi with me? Although I’m not sure if Akira and Yumi will be with me or in their own room,” Of course I didn’t ask about that twerp Akimoto and his cronies.

“They will charge you per person, but there will be some variance in price just like the inn cost will vary. But you will get a discount of saving per head with your team staying in the same room, because they know they’ll lose people to a competitor if they try to separate each person to a separate room. You also want to have your own rooms and stay at a place with good food even if it costs more because malnutrition will get you killed when you are trying to fight stuff and don’t have any energy from a wasted body,” she warned.

So on top of the one to five silver coins per room; there would be an additional half a silver coin per person staying with me with some variance. And not all monsters here dropped heavy cash or things that could be converted to things of high value.

I would have to manage things really carefully.

“Wait a minute, if that’s how much it costs to stay at an inn, how much money are each of these orcs dropping?” I asked.

“Good question. Each orc is only dropping about forty to eighty copper a kill in the demon box. The demon box also mirrors reality closely and so other orcs will probably have a similar amount of change. Though officers and bosses will have more, but be harder to kill. So…” she could see I was at my limit.

And somehow I had to have enough to have adventurer licenses for the people with me? The total amount of money from killing the orc boss was pretty good and a safe stash in the demon box. I’d been able to count and go over it now that I understood the monetary system better.

In short the amount of money and gold that I had after sorting through the enchantment and converting the orc money to human money through the use of the demon box was only about two hundred thirty seven gold and some change. It did seem that the demon box’s item sorting feature converted the copper and silver to an easier to carry form. I was basically going to be nearly bankrupt as soon as we hit a city.

But Fox Girl also warned me not to let anyone know I had a demon box since they were ridiculous expensive treasure artifact level items. Some people saved for years to get them not only for making it impossibly easy to carry tons of stuff with no weight but also because of the monetary conversion enchantment that I could use by placing money inside it. That was basically the same thing a bank charter enchantment gave.

And no I don’t get free money from it, Fox Girl explained. It would only convert a certain number of copper coins to the same value in silver or gold, or vice versa.

It turns out a normal dimensional pocket item box with no special functions starts with only ten slots and costs about 1,000 gold because it’s made by magic users from a guild that has an established price throughout the land. Each additional ten slots is another 1,000 gold extra for an upgrade, and mine already had over forty of them. The upgrade to convert money, or sort money enchantment is an additional thousand by itself.

Wow, the demon box really is super cheaty…

This is much more rare and expensively cool item than I’d thought it to be, when you consider how hard it is to get something like this!

So now I would be a target for thieves, slavers, and assassins if it was ever found out I had this…great. How could my day get any worse?

Then she explained that the Yayoi system might be a bit simpler and less control from the top with fat and corrupt nobles but make up for it by higher chance of being invaded since they were on the frontier, but that being on the frontier forces people to cooperate more and therefore probably have a bit more freedom. Of course the adventurer license fees are standard throughout the world. So there was no getting around the full price it seems.

“But the real problem is after some money for weapons, and gear there will probably only be enough money for two adventurer licenses after losing a ton of cash to gnome. That’s also only if I’m careful with the other gear costs for the rest of everyone. How am I supposed to deal with the others that we don’t have enough money for yet?” I asked.

Then she explained how one adventurer license will allow that adventurer to have two apprentices or assistants at the dungeon checkpoints but beyond that we’d have to get promoted and rank up for our card to be able to hold more people beyond that. So most parties ended up with six people or less because of the affordability of licenses of all things but not because it wasn’t possible; also dividing up the loot from a day’s worth of dungeon hunting starts to create poverty when there are more than six, she explained.

But once I was past the checkpoint I could get around the limitation of people?

“Eh? Checkpoints?”

Another surprise!

Now I found out there are both border checkpoints and city entrance checkpoints.

There were other bonuses too. For example loot was mandated by law and through enchantment magic to favor those with adventurer licenses over assistants and apprentice positions too. If a party had one licensed adventurer and two assistants then the adventurer would get half the gold, while the other half would be divided between the two assistants. When I asked how it worked with more people in the party with licenses she explained that if two people had licenses and four people did not, it would still distribute the wealth and gold to licensed adventurers first as if they were two people each rather than one each, and then to others as second priority.

Even in a fantasy world poor people get screwed.

So now new goal: don’t be poor…or escape from poverty.

“OK, but if they are apprentices can they earn a license by serving under an already licensed adventurer?” I asked next, hoping there might be openings for the others somewhere.

“It’s possible but impractical,” she said.

Then I found out by serving as an apprentice for ten years you can gain a license that way too. But adventuring has a high mortality rate in this world and that’s why it becomes impractical. If you didn’t have the money then you were probably weak. If you were probably weak then you’d probably die before you got a chance to fix that. In fact it’s expected that ninety percent of people will not even live through five years, let alone ten. Just a few battles on a first floor of a dungeon where the easiest monsters reside are expected to have killed at least 1 or 2 party members minimum per team easily within a year by average.

It turns out there is also an enchanted license system for land owner, knight, mayor, some types of trades, and to be a noble, or serve in certain special offices like advisor to the king, diplomat, etc.

“But is adventurer a job in this world like fighter, mage or healer, or ranger, or just a license?” I wondered.

Were there any other loopholes I wondered? But it seemed that even though Fox Girl was knowledgeable it ‘helped’ for me to notice something for her to be fully honest about it. The slave collar didn’t let her lie directly, but if I didn’t ask the right thing she might leave things out.

So would I always have to trick her?

She frowned.

But then gave up the goods, “you can be a licensed adventurer and have your job be totally separate. The adventurer license is just a system of magic enchantment promoting order and network as well as to also promote human dominance in this world. But there can be and are people with a job called adventurer too, though they still have to get a license like everyone else. However the licenses are tied through magic to a person by matching their DNA into the card when it’s installed to prevent counterfeiting. There are a lot of common jobs that you see a lot like fighter, soldier, technician, gladiator, knight, and rangers but also a lot of custom jobs too. Healer is virtually impossible and only in legends by the way. Also, you won’t find mages on every street corner but there are a few,” she hurriedly added.

“So there are ways to catch someone borrowing someone else’s card isn’t there?” I asked like I was confirming but didn’t actually know. It was like a feeler.

“Yes. You can be caught quite easily when they ask to see the card at checkpoints and see someone else’s face on it,” she said.

Damn. And double damn.

Wow, that was close then. If I hadn’t found out about that I would very likely have borrowed Sunghee’s card to use…and gotten arrested. Somehow I doubted criminal punishments in this world were very light.

But then I had to ask her about money bags. After all, what if there was a world enchantment that coerced the issuance of adventurer licenses, how would it be forced to take effect in how it channeled loot distribution? Couldn’t someone just try to force keeping the money on their own?

She then explained how on the surface that could and would happen sometimes, but in the dungeons when the bodies fade the money is automatically transferred to the enchanted money bags which are mandatory as part of entering the dungeon.

“Mandatory? Meaning compulsory making you buy something you don’t need?” I asked.

“Well they make you buy them, but they are cheap at only 1 Gold each. They don’t have the currency conversion enchant like the item boxes do, but they carry the enchantment of ‘dungeon money looting’, which was promoted by the licensure system. Of course if you already have an item box you won’t need one,” she explained.

“But if the money looting global magic is active can’t someone just rob or kill another party in the dungeon and take their loot then?” I ask.

She nodded slowly, “that happens a lot. Thieves, slavers, and bandits operate large groups in the dungeons frequently.”

“With all the trouble you’d think people wouldn’t want to be an adventurer,” I complained.

She shrugged, “the alternative is to be a serf with barely more freedom than a slave or a slave itself. Plus the dungeons are here to hurt people and spawn near towns trying to eat up the villagers one at a time. If no one goes in them for awhile they will undoubtedly spew out demons and monsters to roam and ransack the land. Not even the orcs like that. But if you can deal with the dangers, it’s income that can’t be taken away by a greedy pig king or his minions.”

I shivered. If the orcs don’t like them either, then it must be bad, if it’s worse than they are.

But now I think I understood Sunghee more now that I was beginning to understand the conditions that had caused her to be exposed to the dangers of this world.

Of course she was too tired to go into how the ranks worked, and wanting to go back to sleep so she could replenish her mana.

My head hurts. Stress. I had to now think about tackling an approach to these problems.

Fantasy based worlds and their income…economics are here even.

Before our discussion ended, she warned me that once the others in my survivor group realize all this information and get to town and discover it, they would surely try to kill me for my gold. Especially because of the lives of those without gold here can be pretty awful because of the concept of ‘grind upon the faces of the poor’ by those in wealth and power.

I still needed to figure out how to usage the demon box slave crystals.

Would I need a fake money bag, so that it wasn’t obvious that I didn’t have a normal money bag?

So much to do, and so little time…

I still hadn’t figured out how to pinpoint who I was talking to when I entered the demon box’s dream state. If I talked to Sunghee I could make her teach me some of the hieroglyphics so that I could ask about what to do next.

I also wanted to have her see if there was a way I can borrow and use her adventurer license to get into a town without being grabbed.

Come to think of it, I never really did promise to let Fox Girl out did I? She wanted it badly and had been trying to talk to me as if I’d made that promise. But I was sure I hadn’t said that yet. I did express wanting to cooperate and help each other though.

She was tricky. If I wasn’t careful I might even get tricked into becoming her slave or worse. I would have to be exceptionally careful how I dealt with her in the future. It meant I’d have to cut our visiting hours to short planned intervals with no surprises.

If she could alter reality could she also try to alter my decision making? Or was her ability only physical and not mental?

As I was feeling foggy in sleep I think I was part way between awake and asleep when I thought I heard Fox Girl’s voice again, “you don’t really think you’ll be able to live like the gnomes can you? They never see the sun, and they live much like animals do…it’s a hard life.”

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