Tuesday night saw Fey logging into Fantasia at her usual time. Of the party members, only Blade was already online. Making her way towards the human warrior, Fey received a PM:
(Yes, our heroine will actually use semicolons in chat.)
Fey hastily erased what she had written without sending it, and replaced it with,
Based on Leandriel’s detailed analysis, there was no major area of the continent in which it was particularly advantageous to go next.
Fey was on the verge of skipping (*bouncy walk*) when she arrived at her destination. It appeared that Blade had found a field that was a rodent monster territory in order to train his fyrfalcon. Firefly circled and dived, more often than not coming up with a dead mouse or rat.
“Hi,” Blade greeting.
“Hi! You look busy. How about we all take a day off to regroup before deciding on going anywhere? Besides, Sirena’s going to be late today; she has a work thing. Okay? Okay, let Requiem know when he logs in. Bye.”
“…Wha…?” Blade had his index finger raised in a ‘wait a moment’ gesture, then slowly lowered it as Fey skipped (*full skipping*) out of sight.
Sensing her owner’s distraction, Firefly descended to perch on his arm. Blade stroked the fyrfalcon with a gentle finger. “At least I have one female who’s not crazy,” he said to the bird (*naïve*).
He launched his pet back into the air, and she promptly struck at a field mouse.
Blade blinked. It may have just been his eyes playing tricks on him, but it looked like there had been a spark at the moment of impact.
His sight was confirmed accurate when Firefly bore back the mouse with a scorch mark and the distinct smell of burning hair.
Not too long later, Requiem manifested in the world of Fantasia. Not having Fey on his friend list, he could no longer find the elf after she left the party. He had no other choice than to find Blade instead.
“Where’s everybody?” he asked.
Blade looked up from watching his falcon. “Apparently Sirena’s going to be late today. Fey declared it a free day and ran off somewhere.”
Requiem’s curiosity was piqued. “Where?”
Blade shrugged. “She was going in that direction the last time I saw her.” He pointed towards town.
“…Well, I’ll see you later,” said Requiem. He took the path back to Seaport, leaving the human to train his pet.
Requiem wandered through the streets of Seaport, trying to imagine where Fey would go. The town was busy with new travellers as well as construction projects to repair the damage from the recent tsunami (see Chapter 37 if you don’t remember). Just walking around, he was offered two quests to collect construction materials, which he turned down.
Requiem’s head swivelled in all directions as he walked through the crowds. Unfortunately for him, Fey’s appearance was not particularly flashy. Countless players were equipped with the same armour, and neither her hair nor skin tone were anything to draw the eye.
A blinding flash of white caught his eye. An angel, whose folded wings easily topped three metres in height, appeared at the teleportation gate far in the distance. Requiem watched until the angel leapt into the air and disappeared from sight, then went back to looking for Fey.
Almost an hour later, he still had not found her. She was not in any of the restaurants or shops, and the town was too large for him to search each building within a reasonable period of time. He sighed.
“Hi! Are you looking for a party?”
Requiem looked down. The speaker was a pretty human girl with a longbow slung over her shoulder. Next to her stood another girl in mage robes.
“You’re a warrior, right?” she continued. “We want to go hunt striped buffalo. Want to join us?”
Requiem hesitated, then said, “Yeah, sure.”
Requiem proceeded to leave Blade’s party to join the other.
“Hi!” Fey smiled brightly in the general direction of Leandriel’s face, still somewhat blinded by the flash of the teleportation gate.
“Hello.” Fey heard more than saw the smile on Leandriel’s face.
Any further humanoid greetings were interrupted by a lot of excited squeaking and murmuring. Deciding that the angel had more surface area than the elf, the Feypets held their reunion on Leandriel’s shoulders and wings.
Fey began to feel hemmed in by all the stares from curious strangers. She wanted to have a nice get-together without all the lightbulbs (1) everywhere.
Leandriel was likewise not a fan of the audience. “If we walk out of here, the chances of not being followed are next to zero,” he murmured in an undertone.
Fey nodded. “So…?”
“I propose we fly.”
“I am unable to bear your weight in sustained flight, but I can see two options to escaping from here. One, I pick you up and jump, then control our descent; two,” Leandriel made an apologetic face, “you go into my carry-pouch.”
Fey stared at the small pouch on Leandriel’s waist. “People can go in there?”
Leandriel nodded. “It should be fine. Magic goes in and out all the time.”
Magic murmured a cheerful agreement, hopping into the pouch and reappearing a moment later. At another murmur (“Come look at all the loot in here!”), the rest of the Feypets followed posthaste.
Fey grinned. “You must have some amazing stuff in there, for them to be so eager.”
Leandriel smiled in return. “Magic really does like it in there, but I’ve never been, myself.”
A mysterious lure that was irresistible to Fey. “I gotta see this,” she said, moving forward.
She paused. “How do I actually go about getting in there?” While the Feypets were around the same size as the pouch and could easily hop into it while shrinking, Fey was considerably taller.
Leandriel grasped her wrist. “Just put one hand near the opening and you’ll begin to shrink. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Alice in Wonderland time,” Fey said, reaching forward with her free hand.
The first thing she noticed was herself grown shorter, Leandriel’s face getting higher and higher in her perspective. Then, Leandriel’s grip tightened, and she stopped dropping, dangling from one arm. Leandriel looked like he grew into a giant until he was gently pinching her whole arm between thumb and index finger.
“Ready?” his voice boomed.
“Ready.” Fey’s voice sounded tiny and squeaky. She was now a hundred times smaller, with still more to shrink to enter the pouch.
Leandriel moved his hand and the now-enormous pouch opening engulfed her.
Fey landed gently on her feet in an enormous, dark space. There was no visible source of illumination, nor visible walls or floor. All she saw were items laid out in a grid-like pattern, sometimes single, sometimes in enormous piles, depending on how many Leandriel was carrying. The items seemed to illuminate themselves and themselves only, providing no reflected light to their surroundings.
Amazed squeaks drew her attention and Fey wound her way past piles of potions to come upon a truly impressive heap of coins, several times her height. What freaked her out even more was that all of the denominations were 50g or higher, and the number of mithril coins was not insubstantial. Ever since learning Gold Magnet (see Chapter 32 if you don’t remember), the amount of wealth Leandriel had accumulated had graduated from ‘staggering’ to ‘obscene’.
The Feypets gathered a step (or hop) away from the unfathomable riches, appearing too in awe to actually approach. Magic was murmuring the story of Leandriel’s gold-collecting magic, causing the other Feypets to murmur their first non-squeak sounds: “Ooooooooh.”
Fey felt somewhat the same way. Hesitantly, she approached the heap of gleaming coins, then reached out and poked a mithril coin. The dislodged coin fell with a handful of others, scattering with a flurry of pinging sounds.
The handful of fallen coins triggered a bucketful, then a tubful (as if that’s a word) of more fallen coins, until Fey had a veritable avalanche of metal happening. The Feypets climbed the only higher ground they had (Fey) while Fey attempted to wade out of the mess. However, when the coins hampered her up to her thighs, she could no longer move.
Fey blanked out for a little while, trying to imagine several times this wealth stored somewhere else. By the time she recovered, the coins were well past her waist.
A golden light shone upon the pile of money, which reverted to its former, uncollapsed state. A single coin floated up and out of sight, falling back down a moment later.
Fey slowly backed away from the gold, carrying her pets. Most of them chose to walk (or hop) under their own power now that the danger had passed.
Fey strolled through the seemingly endless room, gazing at the rows of items, most of which she did not recognize.
She came upon a thick pile of furs, presumably collected from the bodies of ferocious monsters. She sat down, petting a luxurious black pelt with green rosettes.
It’s quite comfy like this. The inside of the pouch was neither cool nor hot, and made quite a decent hangout. The glooms in particular enjoyed the lightless conditions, blending in seamlessly with the dark background.
“Hey Magic, do me a favour and pop out of the pouch for a sec?”
Magic murmured cheerfully and hopped up. Instead of falling down, he became inverted and began falling up, eventually disappearing the same way the coin had. Moments later, he returned to what passed for ground inside the storage pouch, apparently able to choose the direction in which gravity pulled him.
Almost concurrently with receiving the message, Fey began to float up. Weightlessness turned into reverse gravity, and she sped towards a pinprick of brightness that eventually expanded into the outside world.
Fey winced and blinked as her eyes adjusted from almost complete darkness to the brightness of direct sunlight.
“Are you all right?” Leandriel asked somewhat anxiously.
“Yeah, yeah, it was just really dark in there.”
“I do apologize. It had not occurred to me that conditions inside might be uncomfortable and—”
Fey blinked some more, this time in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
Leandriel frowned in puzzlement. “Were you not feeling claustrophobic?”
“Mm, nope, not at all. I don’t get claustrophobic. The only thing that really gets me is bugs.”
“Ah. I must have misconstrued your comment about being trapped.”
“Yeah, I was only saying I couldn’t get out by myself, that’s all.”
“Ah, yes.” Leandriel looked down in a posture that Fey would call ‘endearingly embarrassed’. She smiled at the cuteness.
“So where are we going?” Fey asked in order to change the subject.
“Hmm… How about the local infinity dungeon?” Leandriel replied.
“Sure,” Fey agreed, following the angel to the centre of what appeared to be an unremarkable grassy plain. She was glad to get away from the crowds of Seaport, revelling in the quiet and her ability to swing her arms freely.
“What are you looking for?” she asked when Leandriel began rooting around in the grass.
“A trapdoor,” he answered.
It was Boris who located a thin rope the exact colour of the surrounding grass. Leandriel gave it a heave, revealing a trapdoor hidden under a thick layer of dirt and grass. Inside, a root complex provided a way to climb down.
Fey stuck Boris in her backpack with his head sticking out and began to descend.
Sirena logged onto Fantasia three real hours, nine game hours later than usual. Checking her status screens, she saw that Blade was the only other person left in her party.
She found Blade training his pet in the same clearing that Fey and Requiem had. The fyrfalcon was now reliably demonstrating her fire powers, briefly manifesting flame on her talons when she struck her prey.
“Hey, Sirena,” Blade greeted, looking up from collecting the latest dead rodent’s loot.
“Where is everyone?” Sirena asked.
Blade ticked off the party members on his fingers. “Fey showed up first, announced that you were going to be late, then called it a free day and ran off somewhere. Then Requiem came. I think he went to look for Fey, but he left the party without telling me anything."
“Oooh.” Sirena wore a look of intrigued eagerness. “You wouldn’t happen to have added Requiem as a friend, would you?”
Blade grimaced a negative (‘As if I would add that guy.’). “No. Why?”
Eagerness turned into (rather impolite) glee. “Heh heh heh. Requiem’s gone and got himself all separated. He’ll never find us now.”
Blade was quick enough to follow why Requiem would be unable to find players he was neither friends nor party-mates with, but he did not quite understand Sirena’s gloating. “I thought you guys liked him now?”
Sirena flapped a dismissive hand. “Only technically.”
“How do you ‘technically’ like someone?”
“He did something really amusing and awesome, which Fey and I are bound by our moral codes to like, but that doesn’t undo all the previous dislike.”
“Moral code?” Blade’s tone was somewhere between ‘You have a moral code?’ and ‘I’m curious about what your moral code is’.
“You know. It’s under the same rule that says you have to go out with a guy if he buys you the perfect gift without you telling him (2). But only if he asks you on a date after giving you the gift.”
“…Yeah.” Blade was not quite sure whether Sirena was joking, but filed the information away anyway. (Yeah, real subtle, Sirena.)
The conversation was interrupted by the sound of enormous wings. Leandriel appeared in the sky, backwinging a landing that generated enough wind that Blade and Sirena had to brace themselves to avoid falling over.
“Hey Leandriel, looking for Fey?” Sirena asked casually. Her feigned calmness was belied by the quiet-but-definitely-present telepathic :EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE: going on in the background.
Leandriel smiled, politely ignoring Sirena’s fangirling (mostly because he couldn’t think of how to address it). “I am here to deliver her, actually.” Reaching into his belt pouch, he withdrew an action-figure-sized Fey, which quickly grew into a life-sized Fey.
Sirena’s eyes almost bugged out of their sockets. “Don’t tell me… You’ve seen the inside of a Pokeball??”
Fey shrugged. “I mean, I have no way to tell whether the inside of a Pokeball is the same. This doesn’t transform you into magical red light.”
Sirena swatted Fey’s arm. “This is no time for technicalities. I want to see, too.”
Fey looked up at Leandriel with a ‘sorry my friend is crazy’ expression. “Would you mind?”
Leandriel smiled. “Of course not.” He held out a hand and helped Sirena into the pouch.
“Would you like to see as well?” he asked Blade.
Blade shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?” entering as well.
:This is so cooooool!: Unlike her physical voice, which would now be produced by vocal cords a thousand times smaller than normal, Sirena’s telepathic voice was unaffected by the pouch and could be heard in the outside world.
:Ready to come out now?: Fey asked dryly. Not having another necklace for equipment, she continued to wear her telepathy stone. Her physical voice would now be in Sirena’s infrasound range, so she resorted to telepathy as well.
:No way. Ooh, so pretty.:
:Whatever you do, don’t touch—:
: —the coins,: Fey finished lamely.
Leandriel chuckled and fished Blade out of the pouch.
“Thanks, man,” said Blade, brushing himself off.
:Look at all of these potions! And magical items! And accessories!: Sirena exclaimed.
:If you’re done gawking, Leandriel has places to be.: Fey said, voice even drier than before.
:Oh, pooh, fine. Leandriel, I’m ready to come out now.:
When everyone was safely out of magical storage, Leandriel bowed. “Farewell for now.”
“Bye!” said Fey, her voice much brighter than normal.
“Bye!” said Sirena, her voice bright as it usually was.
“See ya,” said Blade (the only person acting like a normal, calm adult).
With a huge leap and gust of wind, the angel was gone.
Sirena nudged her friend suggestively. “So, how was your day?”
“Very well, thank you.” Fey randomly decided to adopt a faintly European accent to respond.
Sirena pouted. “You know I’m going to get answers out of you one way or another.”
Fey scoffed. “I am impervious to your tricks. I divulge no information I do not wish to.”
“I’ll tickle you,” Sirena threatened.
“I’m wearing armour,” Fey countered, unfazed. She was ticklish, but less than average. The key, she found, was staying calm; the ticklish sensations strengthened when she was excited.
Still, she changed the subject. “Don’t we have anything better to do? I mean, look at Firefly over there, training so hard without her owner. We should go help her out.”
Indeed, the fyrfalcon had amassed quite the pile of dead rodents while Blade was distracted. Reminded of his duties, Blade returned to training. Fey and her pets helped by flushing the rodents out of hiding, gaining experience by killing any monster too slow to get out of the way.
Sirena settled down to fill her new Prayer bar. There were multiple ways to do this, the most basic being simple prayer, which she tried now.
Several hours later, a gentle rain began to fall.
“I did it!” Sirena exclaimed. Another benefit of being devoted to a god was the ability to summon small miracles, the scale of which was dependent on the amount of favour one had curried with the god. A newly-inducted follower like Sirena could only summon weak rain in a small area.
“Couldn’t you have picked something else?” Fey complained. She hated getting rained on.
“Like a bolt of lightning?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of a gentle breeze.”
“Erm, Sirena, is there any way for you to stop the rain?” Blade asked. His fire-based pet was looking distinctly bedraggled and unhappy.
“I could, but that would constitute another miracle, and I just used up my whole Prayer bar. By the time I refilled it enough, the rain would already be gone.”
“This is clearly a sign that it’s time to take a food break,” Fey announced.
The party made their way back to Seaport to eat at a restaurant, confusing their fellow diners with their wet apparel.
(1) In Chinese, the equivalent of “third wheel” in dating slang is literally “lightbulb”. The author thought that this would make more sense in the context of a staring crowd than “35th wheel”
(2) As far as the author knows, only she and her best friend obey this moral rule. The author absolutely does not recommend taking dating advice from this story. However, she does point out that most people have a deep-seated desire to receive the perfect gift as an indication that they are truly understood.