“So, you’ve just been working as a shopkeeper?” I asked, once more checking the surroundings to make sure that nobody would be eavesdropping on us. “Expected you to have some grand goal in mind if you were planning to be a mortal for a while.”
Irena’s incarnation shook her head, leaning forward against the counter. “No, I like to live a simple life when I do this. I’ll leave my mark in history not by pioneering some great technique or reforming a kingdom. I’ll be the one to sell the heroes of the story their everyday needs. Maybe next time I’ll be a kindly priestess who spends her time helping the poor?”
Saying that, she stood up and straightened her shirt. “Speaking of which, you wanted a comm crystal? I suppose you’ll want a brief tutorial on how to use them as well?”
“It would definitely be appreciated.” I responded with a slight smile, shaking my head. “Things have really come so far… It wasn’t so long ago for us that being able to talk to people far away was just a dream.”
“Oh, I know.” She said as she stepped out from behind the counter. “Color probably doesn’t matter much for you… but since it matches your outfit, let’s go with the silver pearl.” As she spoke, she perused one of the aisles in the shop, before stopping at one particular spot. Bending down low, she grabbed a small box from the bottom shelf.
As she stood, I saw the image on the front of the box, that of a silver-white pearl set into a thin crystal slab. There were two indentations on the slab, one of which held the pearl and the other was empty.
Once she had brought it back to the counter, she opened the box and pulled out the object within. Unsurprisingly, it was just as the image on the front had depicted it. “This is a pretty standard model comm crystal. Its performance is not the best, but it is reliable.”
Turning the slab upside down, she let the pearl fall out of its indentation, and then held that pearl up to me. It was no thicker than my thumb, though I could distinctly detect the enchantments on it. “This is the comm crystal itself. Simply grasp it in your hand, and you can call anyone on your contacts list by focusing. Here, let me register us…”
Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a pink gemstone of the same size and shape as the pearl, and socketed it into one of the slots on the slab. “If you want to register a contact, this is all you have to do.” While talking, she placed the silver pearl in the second slot, then held the entire slab up.
“Grab the end with your crystal, and I hold mine. Then, we both think about what we want to list the others’ contact as. This can be changed at any time by opening up the control functions of the crystal.” Honestly, I felt like she was giving me this information way too quickly, but it was fairly easy to understand if I thought of it like a cell phone.
As she said, I grabbed the offered end of the ‘control slab’, and focused on the name Irena. A moment later, there was a small beep, and she pulled her crystal out. “They can be either charged directly with mana, or the control console can be connected to any mana charging port. Any questions?”
“One… how do I open the different functions of this?” I asked as I looked down to the slab, which did not have any buttons along its surface.
“Ah!” Her stoic mask broke for a brief moment. “Sorry, I forgot. Just hold it in your hand as if you were going to make a call, but focus on bring out its menu. They were designed so that the interface would closely resemble the interface that the world system ran on, so it should be easy for you to navigate.”
“Okay, thank you.” I sighed in relief, depositing the crystal and slab inside of my bag. “How much do I owe you for this?”
“That’ll be three harams and twelve sil, after tax.” She put on a professional smile, moving the now empty box to the side. “Harams are the name for the gold currency here.”
“One hundred per conversion?” I asked curiously, fetching the fifteen coins from my bag to pass them over.
“It fluctuates, but for the last twenty years or so, it has been fairly stable at a rate of twenty pen to a sil, and twenty-five sil to a haram. I think that the merchants are trying to increase the value of gold soon, though.” Irena’s incarnation answered with a shrug. “Either way, have a nice day. If you need anything else, well… you have my number?”
I chuckled, giving a brief nod as I turned around, pulling the door to the shop open just in time for a dwarven man to lumber in past me before I left. As I was walking down the hall, I could hear him striking up a conversation with Irena’s incarnation.
When I emerged at the first floor, I saw a lycan man with dark red hair standing in front of the counter, looking impatiently towards the stairs. “Is he the one?” He asked the receptionist, who offered a small nod. “Okay, good.”
Saying that, he walked over to me, putting on a business smile. “Hello, there. I was told you need help making your way to Suram. Is that right?”
I took a moment to look him over. It seemed that this was the first druid who accepted my request. Though, it was nice that I wasn’t kept waiting. “That’s right. Are you able to get me there?”
He nodded his head amiably, his eyes closed as he verified my thoughts. “I can get you there, alright. I take it time is of the essence?”
“Well…” I couldn’t really say no, but not for the reasons he might suspect. “I believe that the scroll will only issue your payment after the job has been completed. So, sooner would be best for both of us, yes.”
He gave a small chuckle, nodding in agreement. “Alright, then. If you can just stand right there, this won’t take a moment.”
After saying that, he took a couple of steps backwards, and then reached down to open up a leather pouch at his waist. Once its stopper was removed, a thin stream of water poured out and into the air. “Suram has a public fountain near the west gate. That should be a good drop off location.”
The water began to spin and swirl in midair, forming a circle that was filled in by a flash of blue light. When the flash ended, I saw an open street, people walking by and giving me a wide berth.
I nodded my thanks to the man before stepping through, happy to have made it to my next destination. Okay, Udona, where am I doing?
From here, you’ll want to head towards the southern slums. There’s been an outbreak in this city lately. Nothing fatal, but it makes it hard for the poor to work. While you’re there, you can find one of those ‘hopeless cases’ you wanted.
While she was explaining, I began walking towards the area that I was being guided. From what she said, there was indeed a hopeless case. A young boy who had been stung by a large insect monster one day while he was going out to gather in the fields. However, from the sounds of things he had an allergic reaction.
Normally, he would have died on the spot, but… due to a stroke of luck, he managed to level up as a farmer at the last minute. The energy of the world kept him from dying, but it also caused the venom he was allergic to to merge with his blood. Every day, his condition was getting worse and worse, his body unable to cope with the change.
I had never even known that something like this could happen. I hope it’s something that my ki can fix. I silently pray, both to Irena and to myself. My steps hastened as I made my way towards the slums.
It was easy to tell when I arrived, because I began to see more and more people with their health bars hovering over their heads. Their health was not low, mind you, but the sign of the constant damage was plain for anyone to see. Smiling to myself, I couldn’t help but pity the young children who would try to pretend to be sick like this.
Is there a community leader I could speak with here? I asked mentally towards Udona.
There is, actually. A young elven man named Jaren. He’s been the pillar of this community for the last fifty years or so.
Hearing the confidence in her voice, I couldn’t help but question it… You seem awfully familiar with all of this. Is there anything else I should know?
Hmm? No, I just get a lot of prayers. As long as I properly sort through them from time to time, I’ll learn who is influential where, and what the general state of things are.
Shrugging my shoulders, I asked her to guide me towards Jaren’s home. His place was a small, worn down shack in a back alley. Well… if you could really call it a shack. Scraps of wood and metal fused together into a small shelter, a cloth draped over the doorway.
I noticed a few hostile glares being sent towards me as I turned down the alleyway, moving to stand in front of the doorway. “I’m looking for an elven man named Jaren. Are you home, by any chance?”
“Who’s asking?” A coarse, weary voice came from within, followed by a cough.
“I’m a healer. I was told that there were those here in need of help--”
“Scram.” The word from inside the small shack cut my off. “Nobody here has the gold to pay you.” Though he said that, his voice sounded bitter, a sorrow eating away at his words.
“I’m not asking for payment, sir. I just want to help people.” I explained calmly, surprisingly already used to this sort of treatment after meeting Zamas.
Slowly, the cloth curtain pulled back from the doorway, and an elven face stuck out through it. Udona had described him as a young man, but you would never be able to tell by looking at him. Dirt and grime marred his face, lines of stress making him look as if he were an elder. “You say that you desire no coin to help these strangers?” He asked suspiciously. “What do you want, then? Slave trade is forbidden in these lands, even for debt slaves.”
Sighing slightly, I shook my head. “If you find it hard to believe that I am being selfless… then just consider it as me wishing to train a healing skill that I have received.”
Surprisingly, a glimmer of hope appeared in the man’s eye when he heard that. “Then… can you teach this healing skill to others?”
However, I could only shake my head in denial. “I only acquired this skill myself by accident, and would not even know how to train someone to use it. All I know is that it can cure illnesses and physical wounds, as well as repair objects. But if I had to choose between fixing people or things, there is only one correct answer, isn’t there?”
His eyes widened as he listened to my words. Looking into his thoughts, I found that this man was actually a faithful priest of Irena, and he had been using her gifts to determine the truth in my statements. “Udona watches over us after all.” He muttered quietly, closing the curtain to his home. After a moment of shuffling about, he opened it again, stepping out fully.
Now that he was standing, I could see that he was just as tall as myself, his previous skeptical frown replaced by a smile tugging at his lips. “You wait here, and I’ll gather everyone. Are there any restrictions to your skill, such as uses per day or things that cannot be treated?”
I hesitated to answer, as I was not entirely sure myself yet. “I’m still training the skill, so I haven’t found the exact restrictions… However, it uses energy, so once I run out I will need to replenish it. As for things that cannot be treated… I have not tested it yet, but I do not believe I can cure something that someone had been born with.”
He nodded his head, taking in my words. “Okay, then I shall return shortly.” Saying that, he rushed out of the alley, where it appeared that a group of people had begun to gather and watch us. Or, more specifically, to watch me. I guess that they really were protective of Jaren.