Chapter 13: Fated Connections

The youth who dropped from above stood as tall as Ryu, looking to be the same age as well. But although he seemed as old, he exuded a carefreeness like that of a child. Compared to the other NPCs from earlier, he was lightly armored, only being padded on the shoulders and knees, with leather bracers around his wrists.

This happy-go-lucky stud stood head-high. “Heya, there,” he said, his face full of glee.

I should have logged off…

Annoyed by the situation he found himself him, Ryu attempted to lie to get himself out. “Excuse me. I was training in this area until I saw that others were, too,” he said. “Sorry if I caused any alarm. I’ll be on my way.”

“Hmm…,” murmured the young man. He pressed his fingers on his chin, thinking for a moment. Then, with a happy smile, he said, “Okay!”

Ryu sighed inwardly, somewhat relieved that the person before him had an astuteness level of zero. Clearly, Ryu was lying, if not hiding something.

The young man continued. “But first, I have to check your things. I gotta make sure you don’t run away with the goods. Or else Captain Guinevere’s gonna be furious if she finds out.” He put up a broad smile. “Hehe.”

Ryu nodded in affirmation and allowed himself to be searched. The young NPC walked up to him and carefully inspected him. He patted Ryu on the sides and up and down the legs. But as Ryu found out, this ‘inspection’ turned out to be a little more than he was expecting. The clueless young man was rather ‘thorough’ with his search.

After finding nothing suspicious from his ‘frisk,’ the smiley guy said, “Alright! Looks like you’re clean. But I have to check your bag, too.”

Ryu took the strap off his shoulders and handed the satchel to the young man.

The bashful lad—who showed no sign of shame—kindly took the bag from Ryu’s hands and placed it on the ground. He carefully combed through the satchel, taking each item out one at a time.

During this, Ryu looked down at his left ring finger. He was relieved the NPC hadn’t inquired about his ring. He breathed easy knowing that he would probably be found clean.

At least I’ll avoid trouble, I guess.

The NPC continued scouring through Ryu’s items, now reaching to the bottom of the bag. There were only three items left in there. The first of the three that he took out was the ‘special’ blank map. He opened and closed it a few times, looking it up and down, but found nothing suspicious. Seeing nothing but a blank piece of paper, he placed it on the ground next to the other items.

The next item he pulled out was Mirvena’s token. His eyebrows furled as he looked at the peculiar object, which made Ryu’s ears jerk in response. But it ended up being of no concern, as the young man set it aside after a quick inspection.

Finally, the NPC looked into the bottom of the bag and saw the last remaining item. His eyes grew wide. His face turned into one of surprise. It was the kind of look a person made when they encountered the unexpected. His normal, happy look turned into a curious one. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “Where did you get this?” He lifted the bronze badge engraved with a bear out of the bag.

“That? It was a token given to me,” Ryu said.

“Who gave it you?” the NPC said.

“A man by the name of Roland,” said Ryu.

“Roland…from Durn?”

“That’s the one.”

After hearing these words, the young man carefully tilted his head toward Ryu. He thoroughly scanned Ryu up and down. “Hmm… Hmm…” He grabbed his chin and murmured to himself. “Why would gramps give this to a guy like you?”

Hearing the NPC utter the word ‘gramps,’ Ryu asked, “I take it you’re Roland’s grandson?”

The young man turned out a broad smile, nodding his head. “Mmhmm!”

Learning this, Ryu grew more relieved. Hopefully his familiarity with a family member—that is, Roland—would help him get out of this situation smoothly.

Considerate, the friendly NPC put back all the items he’d taken out, putting Mirvena’s token back last. However, he kept Roland’s badge in his hand. He gestured his palm out to Ryu, badge frontside up. “You should take good care of this.”

“Is it that important?” Ryu asked, grabbing the small token.

“Wah?” the young man exclaimed. “You have this and you don’t know what it means?” He exhaled, and muttered woefully to himself, “You mustn’t be from Moratia then… I wonder what you did to get gramps’ attention…? He would never give this to me… Not even if I convinced grams to tell him to… Then again, grams isn’t easily convinced either…”

The young man seemed like he would be continuing his monologue for quite some time. Ryu coughed noticeably to get his attention.

The young lad sighed. “Anyway, this badge is a symbol of recognition throughout the Brown Forest region. If anyone sees you with this, they’ll be sure to treat you well,” the young man said. “…Or they’ll steal it from you. Hehe.”

“How does it relate to Durn?”

“Durn is charged with maintaining the southeastern region of the Brown Forest. Our crest is symbolized by the Brown Bear. Anyone who is recognized by Durn, or rather, by my gramps, is given this badge of honor.”

“So is it like a symbol for a knight?”

“Hehe. Nope. It’s just a pretty little thing that shows you’ve done something good,” the NPC said. “But if anyone sees you with it, they’ll be more than willing to give you help.” He smiled. “You might even get some good deals when you visit shops.”

The young man handed the satchel back to Ryu. “Anyway, you should get goin’ before someone else sees you. They probably won’t be as nice.” He gestured his right hand for a handshake. “The name’s Galahad, by the way.”

Ryu accepted the handshake. “Ryu.”

“Nice to meet ya, Ryu,” he said, smiling. “Where ya headed to?”

“I’m supposed to follow the main road until it forks into two.”

“Wah?! The southern crossroad?!” Galahad exclaimed. “That’s dozens of leagues away!” The young man took out a peculiar blue-tinted scroll from his tiny waist pouch. “Here. Take this.” He handed the scroll to Ryu.

Ryu accepted the gift, and asked, “What’s this?”

“A magic portal scroll,” Galahad said, a large smile on his face. “It’s the lowest grade one, so it’ll only take you somewhere within 100 leagues. But it should be good enough to take you to the southern crossroad.”

Ryu looked intensely at the item in his hand. “Isn’t this valuable?”

“Ah, don’t worry! It only costs a few silver coins. With my salary, it’s not much at all,” said Galahad. He then smiled with kind eyes for the first time since Ryu met him. “Besides, you must’ve done something really good for my gramps for him to give that to you. It’s the least I can do.” He gestured to the bronze badge now pinned on Ryu’s shoulder strap.

I didn’t expect for this game to have portal scrolls… That would’ve been helpful from the start… We should’ve been more thorough with our shopping when we were in Durn.

“Thank you,” Ryu said.

“Anyway, I gotta get goin’. The Brown Forest is huge, so I got a lot of work cut out for me.”

“What are you doing here?” Ryu asked.

“Hmm?” muttered Galahad.

“Are you looking for something with those people?”

“Oh, yeah,” Galahad replied nonchalantly. “Almost two weeks ago an expedition was carried out in the Brown Pass. I’m one of the hired escorts.”

The Brown Pass? Those are the mountains along the northern forest border.

“The excavators found a lot of items, but they were attacked by a huge horde of monsters, strangely,” said Galahad. “The monsters fled with some of the items, but we managed to retrieve almost all of them.”

“How many more do you need to find?”

“Just one,” Galahad replied. “It’s a stone. A relic of some kind. An expert inspected it and said it had an extremely high concentration of natural essence, an alchemy material of the highest grade. If not used for alchemy, it’ll most likely be auctioned off. Probably for a fortune.”

“I heard those people saying you’ve been chasing it for almost two weeks.”

“Yeah…,” Galahad said, with an annoyed tone. “The monsters of the Brown Forest just kept coming out and attacking us. It was weird. I never saw anything like it. Just hordes and hordes of Brown Wolves, Brown Bears, and Brown Elk. Not so scary in a one-versus-one, but man, if you’d seen the numbers, you’d have peed yourself… Thankfully we had Sir Percival and Captain Guinevere.”

“Who are they?”

Galahad scratched his head. “How far away do you live? Are you not from the Eleven Kingdoms? Sir Percival I can understand, but not knowing who Lady Guinevere is? I don’t get you at all.”

With a casual look on his face, Ryu said, “I’m a traveler.”

“A traveler?! No way!” Galahad’s eyes sparkled with wonder and excitement. “You’re the first traveler I’ve ever met. Are you strong? Travelers are supposed to be really, really strong. Can we fight, can we fight? I’d love to fight you. Please, please, please.”

Ryu chuckled nervously to himself. “Maybe next time. You’re probably stronger than me, anyway. I’ve just started my adventure.”

Disappointed, Galahad frowned. “Oh… Okay.” His face then quickly brightened up again. “Well, I’ll let you to your travels, then!” He gestured his hand once again for a goodbye handshake. “I hope we meet again, Ryu. When you get stronger, I’d love to challenge you to a duel… Just don’t get too strong too fast, okay? I don’t wanna get beat up that bad. Hehe.”

Ryu half-smiled, accepting the handshake. He didn’t say a word, as no words were necessary.

Galahad gave his iconic ‘broad smile’ look before he parted ways. As he drifted into the darkness of the forest, Ryu Identified the item he had just received.

Portal Scroll
This is a magic portal scroll that will allow the user of this item to open a one-way portal to a designated location.

Being that portals have a fixed size, those that exceed the size of the portal shall not be permitted to enter the portal.

This is not a party-exclusive portal scroll. As such, the portal opened by this scroll will be available to all who wish to enter it.
Portal Size: 10 feet x 5 feet

Portal Distance Threshold: 100 leagues

Portal Duration: 30 seconds
Quality: Poor
Explicit Rarity: Common
Implicit Rarity (Hidden): Brown

It’s not party-exclusive? I can’t be using these often, then. I can’t afford to have someone random hop in with me. I’ll have to find party-exclusive ones, if there are any.

Seeing that no one was around, Ryu used the scroll.

A virtual map window appeared depicting a 100-league highlighted radius from his current position, which was marked as a red dot.

You can open a one-way portal to anywhere in the highlighted area.

If you would like to open a portal, please select anywhere in the highlighted area.

Ryu quickly analyzed the map and found the location he needed to get to. He tapped on the virtual window and a confirmation window appeared.

Please confirm the opening of a portal.
Yes No
If you confirm ‘Yes,’ you will consume this Portal Scroll, upon which a one-way portal will be opened to your specified location.

This portal can be used by all creatures that can fit through the portal door.
Duration of Portal: 30 seconds

He selected ‘Yes’ and confirmed the message. When he did so, a sparkling beige, rectangular portal appeared several feet in front of him. He exhaled and stepped in, upon which he instantly found himself in a new location. He was standing in the middle of the road, facing north. Two paths were before him: one heading west and one heading east.

…But where was the ‘third path’ Bors mentioned?

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