Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chapter 14: For Today a Dream...

"Welcome adventurers!", a voice called out in a pitch black surrounding. "We have been expecting you. We have requested help, but not many have complied with us. We are very happy for you to help us in our time of need."

"This is our darkest hour. Lately the number of monsters have been increasing rapidly.", the voice said as the screen shows a battle of a knight of some sort fighting a lot of monsters. He eventually got overrun and died. "Our fighters aren't able to defend ourselves from this outrage. Thus we have rest all our hopes in you!"

"We want to end this outrage as soon as possible. But to do that, you will have to brave yourselves to go against challenges ahead of your journey.", the screens shows blazing volcanoes, icy tundra, vast deserts, and other dangerous looking places the players will most likely face in their adventure.

"But we have faith in you! Fight on brave warriors!"

"That's a boring cut scene", X said as he woke up from the game's starting cut scene. He was standing on a rock formation near a small clearing in front of the floor gate as he scouts ahead towards the first town. Mikazuki was standing near X trying to scout ahead of their position with him. Although she didn't wish to do it, but Oxide gave out a simple order at her and she agreed without hesitation.

On a the small clearing, Oxide and Val were checking the map to plan the route the group will take to the first town. The closest town available to visit is called Orestead Town, and Oxide decided to visit that town first to find more information about what are the players supposed to do to go up a floor and other basic needs for an adventurer. Val was checking for possible harvests places for her store. She had found out that she could move her store to the floor she's on by paying three quarters of the rent building she would be occupying. Of course, it's not like she couldn't afford it if she was supposed to pay it fully.

Barrios was also at the small clearing. He met up with some Alpha Wolves members and decided to held an impromptu meeting with a some of them. Seemingly it was a meeting about their plans on this floor and other clan stuffs. He had already said to Oxide that he could leave him here and meet up in the town later.

"Well... You can always make it more interesting yourself you know.", Mikazuki replied X's complains on the simple starting cutscene. "Most RPGs don't really have any cutscenes at all, you just start off out of nowhere.", she continued.

"Just how many RPGs have you played?"

"Not much", Mikazuki averted her face as she quickly gave an answer. "It isn't that bad just to set it up just like that. It gives you more options, I think"

"Why would they even bother making it anyway?", X pouted. Mikazuki sighed as she's left speechless by X's complaints.

"Alright you two! We're going off now", Oxide called over the 2 assassins. X jumped down the rock formation, followed by Mikazuki. Both calmly walked towards Oxide and Val.

"Hey hey... Are both of you on a relaxing Sunday stroll?", Oxide teased the two assassins. Mikazuki's eyes widen and she gave off a surprised ehh, as X just looked at Oxide with an uninterested look.

"Onii-chan, stop teasing them already", Val pouted beside him.

"Ooo what's this? Imouto-san is jealous?"

"Ahh? Ehh... N- No!"

"Quit wasting time. Let's go.", X took the initiative to stop the chit-chat as he pulled his hood down and started walking towards the path. The others could only looked at him from behind until Oxide lightly pushed the two girl's shoulders, causing them to start following X.

"Val, is there anywhere you want to check before going to town?", X asked as he scans around for any threat.

"Not really. I can always check later after we settled down"

"Is that so...", X looked around to check the positions of his team-mates.

"What's with looking around again and again? It's creeping me out", Mikazuki shot her complain at X. She thought that X was trying to steal a glance at her and Val, thus always gave off an irritated gaze at him, not that X cares of course.

"Not really. It's just he likes to know where everyone is before making a move out of his usual position.", Val explained. Both her and Oxide just gave of a smile at Mikazuki. They had already noted that X does this often, although at first they felt that he checked way to often, but knowing the pace and how unexpected X likes to move, they soon got used to it.

The route they took towards Orestead Town wasn't exactly filled with a lot of challenges, however it took a bit long since X decided to do an early grind1. Oxide was gave off a bored feeling as they reached the gates, but Mikazuki rebutted since she thinks that level grinding is indeed important, only to be teased by Oxide that she played too much games.

"I'm taking my leave here", X said as he walked away with his left hand lazily waving the the other three.

"That was quick...", Mikazuki said. Oxide and Val nodded at her comment.

"Oh well... It's not like he would stick with us forever. I'm probably just gonna call him if I need some help in the workshop", Oxide said.

"Come to think of it, we haven't added you in our friend list Mikazuki", Val said. She opened her menu and send a friend request at Mikazuki, followed by Oxide. Mikazuki accepts both the invitations after a notification came up on her HUD.

"Do you have anything to do after this Mika-chan?"

"Not really. I just need to find a place to stay"

"Is that so? Why don't you accompany me setting up my restaurant on this floor?", Mikazuki agreed with a nod without a second thought.

"Can I come?" Oxide asked with a big smile on his face.

"Nope. Girls only", Val rejected her brother immediately while showing her palm in front of his face. She took Mikazuki's hand and went off with her, leaving the frozen Oxide behind. Oxide's soul went flying afterwards, seemingly went off sightseeing without it's dumbfounded body.

After leaving the rest, X went to find an affordable inn he could stay in. For the next couple of days, he planned to check around the place and know what exactly is the goal for each floor. For the past couple of hours, he had learnt that the gameplay itself isn't that far off from the Proving Grounds floor, cities and towns are safe zones, most loot can be taken from a dungeon, any wild area has monsters to beat. However, he still hasn't see the point to all of it. For him, this is basically another RPG game with the exception of unable to log out and players play with their life.

"Excuse me. Can I ask for your help?", a voice called out. X looked at the direction of the voice's origin and found a little boy using a rag in a nearby alley. He walked towards him and stood in front of him.

"Would it be okay if you would listen to me for a while?", the boy asked. X was hesitant to listen to the story at first, but after he realized the boy didn't have a player icon above him, thus it was obvious that the boy was an NPC.

His thought was answered by the quest notification tab showing up on his HUD:

A boy has concerns about a dream he saw last night, listen to the boy to know more about the dream.
Clear Condition: Listen to the boy's story
Reward(s): -

After reading the quest notification carefully, he decided to listen to the boy even though there wasn't any reward in doing so. He felt that the quest held something important, since it was weird that most people didn't even realize the existence of the boy.

"Well... It's about a dream I saw last night.", the boy started. The next instant, X felt like he fainted as his vision turned into pitch black.

"Ugh...", X grunted as he regained conciousness. He stood up while holding to his head which was in pain. When he realized it, he was standing on a cliff looking towards a certain structure. The sky was dyed blood red, and the distant clouds were dark grey and unleashing its fury to the ground. The sun was behind the structure, thus he couldn't see the structure well. A strong wind was bowing around from various directions.

"In my dream, I woke up to the sounds of thunder and raging winds. The sky was red, and there were thunderstorms in the distant.", the boy's voice said. X looked around, but he couldn't find the boy anywhere he looked.

"There was a strange rocky structure in the distance. However I have no idea what it was.", X looked at the structure after listening to the boy's voice. "I wonder what it was. I wonder if it held something important."

A lightning struck the structure. Not long afterwards, some kind of a dragon emerged from the summit of the structure, spreading it's wings and roared. All the thunder cracks were no match against the dragon's roar.

"Some kind of creature emerged from the structure. It roared so loud that I had to cover up my ears from it. After I opened my ears, I listened to the symphony of wrath. The roars of the dragon and thunder mixed in their deranged chorus sent me the chills."

X stared at the dragon with chills sent down to his spine, just as the boy had felt. He wondered if there is such thing like this in the following floors, and if there is, how could he tackle the fear of staring into this death's rhapsody.

"All of you humans have no chance against us! We have come to bring terror to your land! We will avenge all the deaths you have brought upon our brethren! And there will be no hope left for you!", the boys voice said accompanied by a distorted heavy voice. "... said the creature", the boy's voice alone explained afterwards.

"The creature...", the dragon started flapping its wings, "...started flying around the rocky structure", flew around the structure, "and suddenly charged at me", and suddenly darted towards X.

X's eyes widen upon seeing the dragon darting fast at him. He tried to take out his dual daggers but he realized he wasn't in his regular clothing, but in a rag like the boy was wearing. Cold sweat dropped down from his forehead as he tried to run away from the dragon. He looked back at the dragon just to see it's jaws opening. His vision suddenly blacked out.

X opened his eyes. He looked around and saw that he was back in Orestead. He could only looked at the boy. The boy smiled at him and said "Thanks for listening mister!", and went off. On his HUD, he saw the notification that he had completed the quest given by the boy. However, he still wasn't cured from the shock of seeing the boy's dream.

He held down his hood even lower that it was, afraid of other people to see his terrified face. It was bad enough to experience a near death like experience like that, even worse if he told anyone else about it. But deep down, he knew that that strange quest had something to do with the game itself. He thought it could be either the storyline of the game, or a certain bad end.

"Snap out of it damn it", X said to himself whilst shaking his head. He paced up himself and head straight to his inn. Before he could reach his inn however, he got a message from Oxide to meet him at the entrance of the town. Although he was thinking of ditching Oxide, he finally decided to meet up with Oxide, knowing that it probably be important for Oxide to call him out.

It wasn't exactly a long distance to go from X's position to the entrance of town, however it felt like an eternity for X who was still shaken by the quest he took earlier. Thus after steadily taking one step at a time, X was able to meet up with Oxide.

"Took you some time", Oxide said as he waved lightly at X. "What happened to running through the rooftops?"

"Not in the mood", X bluntly replied. Oxide raised his brows on X's reply, not expecting the answer he heard.

"What's up? You look hideous", Oxide said while pulling off X's hood.

"It's nothing", X held on to the front side of his hood before Oxide could fully reveal his face. "Either way, what did you call me up for?"

"Nothing much. I'm just thinking about taking a stroll with you"

"I'm outta here", X started walking back towards his inn. Oxide's face quickly turned from his regular genuine smile into a dumbfounded face. However he snapped out of his dumbfound state and caught X by his shoulder.

"It's not important isn't it? I'm going back"

"You can't read the situation as usual huh?", X shot his trademarked obnoxious glare at Oxide on his comment. "I'm kinda interested in something, and I was wondering if you have any idea about it". X faced Oxide and sighed in front of him, thinking to himself why should this guy go roundabout every single time?, and finally just stared at Oxide signalling him to start talking.

"Have you heard of a quest where only a couple of people can do?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"There's this quest giver that seemed like he gave out quests only to some players", a certain little boy's face ran through X's head. "This might be my speculation, but I think the players who are able to receive the quests are selected by the game developers"

"Did you receive the quest?"

"Yeah. It was a weird quest. The quest said that I only had to listen, but I felt like I was sent to another world or something like that"

"Who gave the quest?", X immediately asked after Oxide finished his answer. Oxide took a step back, shocked by X's sudden question.

"Whoa! Slow down. You can always say that you're bored from accompanying me"

"Who gave the quest?"

"I got it from some kid"

"What was it about?"

"Something about some end of the world kind of thing. Although it did contain some cool flying chameleon or the sort...", X was caught off by Oxide describing a certain dragon as a flying chameleon, thus causing him to lose focus and didn't listen to the final part of Oxide's description.

X snapped out of his confusion after Oxide flicked his finger in front of his eyes. He immediately blinked his eyes quickly and looked around to remind him what he was doing.

"What's up with you?"

"I kinda lost focus in the middle of your delusional lecture"

"Am I really that boring?", Oxide said with a displeased face.

"Not really. You're just idiotic in your own way", Oxide smacked X's back while exclaiming what exactly do you mean by that?!, causing a number of crowd to look at the two. X pulled down his hood even lower as Oxide tried to explain to the crowd that it was nothing.

"Sorry about that. You really are harsh sometimes"

"You're the one who overreacted", Oxide could only gave a hopeless/annoyed smile at X's reply.

"Either way, where did you lose focus?"

"Somewhere around flying chameleon or so", X shot a glare at the smiling Oxide with a hidden meaning of it won't happen if it wasn't for a certain flying chameleon.

"The next part was something like some boring melancholic monotone. Sounded like an end of the world propaganda though"

"We might get the same quest"

"Really?!", X nodded as an answer.

"Either way I haven't exactly looked into it seriously. I'll leave it to you, shishou2", X said as he walked away from Oxide. Oxide had another dumbfound face he usually makes when X suddenly did something on his own accord.

"Thanks shishou", X suddenly said after taking a few steps away from Oxide.

"For what?"

"A certain lame flying chameleon joke", X said and walked away.

1 Raising level by defeating monsters or the sort
2 Shishou is basically a more respectful way of saying sensei (Teacher/Mentor in case you didn't know)

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