“Is there something wrong?” Evelyn knitted her brows, worried about my sudden halt.
The same was true for Charles. “You looked shocked. Maybe you expected us to understand your mother language? Sorry, but it’s not familiar. Even at the slightest, I have no idea what you have just said.”
“B-but you can understand this, right?” I hastily waved my hands, warding off their worried faces.
“This time, I could,” Evelyn replied.
“Me too,” Charles added.
“Ah, then, don’t mind what I just said. I thought you guys came from the country I lived in.” Then a forced laugh escaped my lips, intending to cover up my blunder. “Anyway, can you teach me more about this game?”
“I knew it. You’re new into this.” Charles gleefully shared a smile. “Hey, Evelyn, why don’t we teach her a few kinds of stuff before we reach the courtyard?”
And so Evelyn agreed without qualms. At that time, I placed myself in-between Charles and Evelyn. They both gave me some know-how about the game they knew. However, just as I suspected from their previous exchange, their ideas clashed. Subsequently, I was able to experience the garbled sound they mentioned.
“Are you trying to copy Meiko?” Evelyn asked.
“No.” Charles shook his head. “I guess there’s a bug.”
“Yeah, that’s possible too. I wonder when the Devs will work on it. But well, for an LMO, I guess communication between players is the least prioritized.”
Based on their explanation, LMO meant Limited Multiplayer Online. A game where a limited number of players are allowed to venture into the game. According to them, LMOs are popular from the place they came from. They said it was the trend.
Compared to MMO or Massive Multiplayer Online that they used to enjoy, LMO was more expansive because it only needed to accommodate a few amounts of player per duplicate world or setting. They explained more about the advantages of LMO, but I wasn’t able to catch up. It was hard to decipher the meaning of the words they uttered.
However, during the entire conversation, I was able to remember a few words like skill points, stamina, health points, rest points, item pack, and level. Although I was familiar with a few terms they spoke of, I couldn’t get myself to believe that it was just a game—at the very least, I was hoping it was just a game.
While Evelyn and Charles argued back and forth, we arrived at the courtyard. In the end, our conversation was interrupted half-way.
In any case, the moment we arrived at the courtyard, our sight caught several human figures. From the top of the stair leading down to the courtyard, it seemed they formed into five groups. Males and females were numbered at about the same. Maybe it was because there are two males and two female Heroes.
“There sure are many.” Charles was the first to comment.
“Sure is.” Evelyn followed. “I wonder how many would we need once we head out into the wilderness.”
“A-all of them are willing to risk their lives to join a Heroes party?” The number was nothing to scoff at. At the least, they were around twenty with a few more lining up.
“Well, it’s not like we need every role right now, right?” Charles grinned. “We can always search on the go. Who knows? We might end up meeting a special character out there. If we’re lucky, someone from the elves or dwarfs might join.”
“At the least, I’ll get a support from this group, and probably a tank or scout.” Likewise, Evelyn smiled. Her eyes began to search the crowd.
On the other hand, “Err… I don’t think I understand any of this.”
Apparently, the people in the courtyard were grouped based on roles. Namely, vanguard, support, mage, merchant, and scout.
From what the knights that accompanied us said, it seemed that these roles are named in general. There seemed to be different specialties from within those five roles.
As an example, the knight explained that a support could vary. A support may function as an all-rounder party member. From basic negotiations to battle, and to simple chores like cooking. A priest seemed to fall into this role.
The same was true for a mage. But in general, a mage is a person who has the qualifications to read and write—or someone qualified to be a scribe. In addition, a mage was required to know at least three chants from the basic level of the six elements. For those with a slightly higher qualification, one chant from each element of the intermediate level is required.
A scout was a little vague, but most of the time, they were like supporters. But what made them different is their ability to observe the terrain, honed senses, and the ability to track beasts.
The vanguard, on the other hand, was simply a front-liner. From their figures from afar, their build was large and was mostly equipped with plated armors. According to the knight, there were defensive types and offensive types.
Lastly, a merchant is a merchant. They specialize in negotiations and information gathering.
Not long before we were introduced to the five groups that the atmosphere went tense. From then on, they started introducing themselves to us one by one. Each taking a turn from one group to another. In the end, the party selection went smoothly. At least for Clark, Charles, and Evelyn.
In the end, I wasn’t able to pick. I was too afraid that someone in the group—like the bishop—knew that I tried to uncover the truth regarding the summoning. What convinced me was the figure of a black-haired man in the distance.
Is he… watching me? I trembled. My hair stood at its end.
It felt he was observing me, at the least, that’s what I felt the moment I glanced at his figure. I had no idea who he was, or what he was. But it wasn’t normal for a man to have red slit irises. It was ominous. More so that he vanished the next moment I blinked. Was it just my imagination? Or was he just too fast? I did not know. I did not understand. But at every few minutes or so, his figure would appear—looking to my direction with a grin—then vanish like it was nothing.
In the end, I was not able to focus on listening to the people in the courtyard. I was on edge the whole time that my limbs tensed.
Myself aside, Charles ended up with a party of two, the priestess excluded. He picked a female scout.
For some reason, Clark ended up with four. They were all females. Excluding the princess whose role was utterly vague, Clark picked one from each role except for the merchant group.
On Evelyn’s side, she picked two. One male and one female. The male came from the vanguard group and the female came from the supporter group. It seemed, in the end, she changed her mind in getting a scout first.
The moment the party selection ended, we were made to split-up in order to converse with our new party members. When they left, I was asked by the knight to try to select at least one party member from the five groups. Because of the knight’s urging, I ended up picking a random priestess. With Talcott hanging around me all the time, I thought having a female around would be reassuring.
The next events passed by quickly and uneventful. I was led to guest chamber along with Talcott and the priestess to exchange our greetings. There was nothing out of the ordinary, nor was the priestess suspicious in any sort of way.
When afternoon came—while fixedly staring through the window of my chamber—we were asked to head to the courtyard again. This time, it was to introduce us to the instructors.
Clark selected the twin-blades instructor. It seemed he was the offensive type.
Charles took two instructors. One for the bow and one for a long sword.
Evelyn selected the rapier instructor. Apparently, the instructor was an adventurer from Laurel.
On my end, I selected the instructor for staves and rods. The moment I picked him, an old man that looked like a sage, he was overjoyed. Apparently, staves and rods were diminishing in numbers. It wasn’t due to their scarcity, but due to the shift in preferences.
From what I have heard from him, a mage nowadays preferred a dagger or a short sword. Especially in Academia and in Laurel, mages carrying staves and rods were extremely rare. However, back in the days, staves and rods were the usual weapons for mages.
The main reason was the advent of shards. Or the so-called era of Shards and Crystals.
Staves and rods functioned similarly to mana stabilizers—which were now made into small metallic rings mixed with mithril. However, since they were usually made of wood, they were cheaper than the rings. Other than that, Libet had a variety of trees that allowed mana stabilization near the snow-capped mountains to the north. But since Laurel had a mine for mithril—and the fact that Academia found a way to mix mithril with tin—the prices eventually dropped. That is to say, to Laurel and Academia.
That aside, it was harder to identify a mage out in the field if they used a sword or a dagger. This made bandits, who lacked the knowledge to chant offensive magic, wary of blindly assaulting a group of merchants or adventurers.
Usually, the staves and rods were replaced by accessories such as bracelets and necklaces. Some used earrings and piercings. Some anklets and some embedded it in their gloves. Or in case someone is wealthy, or in the military, they used a sword or dagger equipped with shards.
The mage instructor kept on speaking non-stop. He vigorously declared that the old way has its charms and would always be the original. But he didn’t deny the advantages of following the trend of shards.
I tried suggesting embedding a shard on staves and rods, and he replied that it was possible. But he was against placing the shards near the head of rods or staves. It was too dangerous if the shards or crystals ended up cracking or breaking when it was used to smash an opponent.
By the time he ended his speech, which made me utterly exhausted, I returned to my chamber. Various encounters happened in a single day that I immediately jumped on the bed. By the time I was pressing my face onto the pillow, I started chanting Clairvoyance.
Once I finished, I closed my eyes. Then shortly, my view changed. Immediately, I started searching around the castle for entrances and exits. Next, I moved from the main spire into the moat surrounding the castle. One time. Two. Three. I took laps around the castle, trying to memorize its structure until the duration ran out.
By the morning of the next day, I used Clairvoyance. When night came, Clairvoyance. And so in the next day. And the next. And the next.
At each passing day, my mana capacity grew slightly larger. It seemed that the more I used my Blessing, the more my soul would merge with it. Along with that, my abilities increased. My handling of magic increased as well. The mana consumption decreased too.
When I realized that, I felt a sense of guilt. My instructor, for more than twenty years of studying magic, had lower mana capacity than I. Even more so than the number of magic I was capable of using. But in terms of experience and technical know-how, I immediately lost.
However, the thought of him studying years of magic—from basic chanting to studying and memorizing the structure of the inscriptions—was overwhelming. But all of that years he spent studying was nothing compared the blessing I had. All of those years he spent studying, I acquired it all, if not more, in just a day. Or more accurately, the moment I was summoned.
The Blessing was a cheat. It was too good to be true. Far too good and far out of the ordinary.
It made me think there was a catch in it. No, it definitely has.
As the days went by, Charles, Clark, and Evelyn still thought it was a game. I tried telling them through writing, but it was no use. The ink vanished the moment the tip of the quill brushed against the paper. However, I was able to gain something new. At times, they needed to enter a rest point before they could enter a sleep state.
Lastly, I started to notice—no, I was forced to notice. At times, when using Clairvoyance. That man, black-haired with red-eyes would look to my direction and grin. Sometimes close, sometimes far. But every time I caught sight of him, he would gesture something different.
The first time was him pointing to himself and then to my direction.
The second was pointing to his eyes and pointed back to me.
On the third time, he zipped his ominous smile shut.
Lastly, on the last day I used Clairvoyance, he slid his thumb across his neck.
It was easy to comprehend. It only meant one thing. My life would end if I would not keep my mouth shut.
“I want to return.” My answer was obvious. “I must return. But I don’t want to use the people’s lives for it. My father, grandma, and my friends won’t be happy with it—I think.”