Chapter 14: Why Must I Come Across So Many NPCs in One Day?

Ryu stood at the fork of the road. He took out the special map, but nothing about it had changed. It was still just a blank sheet of paper.

This should be the spot.

He looked out to the left path, then out to the right. Obviously, there was no ‘third’ path, just left or right. Then, by intuition, he turned his head straight forward. He stared at the huge gap of trees between the forked road. 

A hidden path?

The forest in the middle of the fork looked just like the wilderness around. There wasn’t the slightest hint of the extraordinary, and it gave no ominous or strange vibes. Anyone who ventured here would’ve seen past it. Had it not been hinted by Bors, continuing straight forward would’ve never crossed his mind. Still, Ryu was wary. He proceeded to enter the forest. But, as he took a step forward, a large bony hand came down over his shoulder, placing a knife to his throat.

“Move and I’ll slit your throat,” said a weasel’s voice.

Ryu turned his head, shifting his eyes to see a tall, cloaked man standing behind him. Calmly, he said, “Is there a problem?”

“Not if you don’t want one,” the man said. “Just give me what I want, and we can both go on our merry ways.”

“Do you want gold? I have gold.”

“Ooh. That’s a nice offer, but I’ll be nice this time and let you keep your gold,” he said. “You have something else that I want.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know wh—”

“You can stop,” the NPC said. “I know you have the stone.” He grinned.

This new foe whom Ryu encountered was one of the worst types of people to deal with. They were the scheming and conniving types who always seemed to have several tricks up their sleeves. Ryu recognized that, but he wouldn’t allow himself to give in to such a person, even an NPC. Trying to change the subject, Ryu asked, “Who are you?”

“Is that really something you should be concerned about?” the man said.

Ryu heightened his guard as subtlety as he could. At the same time, he thought of several possible ways of resolving this. There were a few ways in which he saw opportunities for getting out, but they all posed a great risk. He remained cautious and remained in conversation with the haunting man.

The NPC continued. “I have eyes everywhere, you see.” As he said this, Ryu could hear the cawing of crows echoing through the woods. “And my little eyes showed me that you have the stone.”

“I don’t have it anymore. I gave it—”

“Like I said, I saw everything. Even your little encounter with that buffoon. He’s not very bright, that little Galahad… And it seems that you aren’t either.” The man raised down his other hand, holding a portal scroll in Ryu’s face.

Seeing this, Ryu realized the mistake he’d made. After just stepping out of the portal, he had immediately suffered the downside of using his item.

Shit. He followed me through the portal.

The thought that someone had been watching him during his encounter with Galahad unsettled him a bit. Even worse, he couldn’t even tell that someone else had been in the area. Ryu felt a chilly aura being in such close proximity to the man. The fact that he had failed to detect him back then made him suspicious.

Something seems off with this guy.

“I really hate getting my hands dirty,” the man said. “So if you could just give me the stone, then we can both get on with our days. I’d rather not bloody my hands. But if I have to…” He then laughed maniacally.

While the man was laughing, Ryu looked at the bony thing of an arm around his neck. He focused natural energy into his hands, which were unseen by the man. He took the lightest breath so as to not alert the unsuspecting creep, and in an instant: BOP! Ryu grabbed the hand-held knife and spun around, twisting the man’s arm in the process. The man let out a sharp ‘Gah!’, only to be punched in the jaw and once again in the gut, but much harder.

The spiny weasel tumbled several feet back, his nose and mouth bleeding. He dropped his portal scroll, trying to cover his bloody face. “Y-you can harness essence!” Fuming, he charged at Ryu, dagger in hand. When he was within reach, he extended his long arm forward, swinging it in an arc at Ryu’s neck. Ryu, by some luck, slipped on a pebble as he moved his feet back, and avoided the slash. The tip of the knife was a mere inch away from gashing his neck, only managing to cut through the string of his necklace, which sent the brown crystal flying several feet away. Ryu unsheathed his sword, lunging it forward, releasing it by the handle.

As the sword flew, the dark cloaked man jumped backward to gain some distance, sidestepping in the processing. In the Narn language, which was completely foreign to Ryu, he blurted, “How foolish! Now you don’t have a weapon!” But he instantly regretted his remark, as the sword immediately flew backward, gashing his leg. He cried in pain.

Seeing that the NPC was momentarily distracted, Ryu took advantage of this and opened his Log Off menu.

I have to get out of here. If he catches me, it’s over.

However, upon pressing the log off button, a message appeared.

You are attempting to flee from this fight via logging off.

If you flee from this fight via logging off, you will lose 5 Reputation.

Knowing this, will you flee?
Yes No

You’re shitting me. A new game mechanic in the middle of a fight? Fuck.

Ryu knew in the back of his mind that losing five points of this so-called “Reputation” would be worth it if it meant preserving his life. But in that instant, his heart fluttered, and his finger just moved by itself, selecting “No.”

Having no time to regret his action, Ryu re-grabbed his returning sword and charged at the man.

At the same time, the man had overcome the pain. His painful expression suddenly turned into a long grin, his lips curling into an evil smile. He drew out a long belt from the back of his waist that held numerous black knives.

Seeing this, chills ran up and down Ryu’s skin, but he didn’t back off. As soon as he got in range he swung his sword, aiming for the man’s arm. However, his attack was easily blocked by the grinning man. Ryu gripped his sword’s handle with one hand, and with the other, he pushed against the blade of his own sword and smacked it forward, propelling the man several steps back.

But attacking had never been his objective.

Ryu retracted his arms and swiftly struck the ground with a natural energy-imbued slash. Bits of dirt and soil flew upward, creating a mini wall in-between the two fighters. During the brief moment that the wall was up, Ryu rolled over, picking up the abandoned scroll on the ground, and quickly got back on his feet. He swiftly consumed the item, prompting the item’s portal location screen.

At this same moment, the NPC had already prepared his attack and lunged forward. His dagger, shrouded with a faint dark aura, pointed towards Ryu. He smirked and hissed in the Narn language, “Goodbye.” But due to his premature celebration, he failed to notice Ryu’s prior actions.

Just feet away from being plunged by the man, Ryu randomly selected a location on the map that was nowhere near his own. Simultaneously, a dazzling white light appeared, and when it dissipated shortly after, the NPC was gone.

Ryu collapsed on the ground, taking a heavy breath. But he quickly got up and scurried off into the forest ‘path’ in-between the crossroad.

Moments later at the crossroad, a portal appeared. The pale and bony NPC stepped out of it.

At the same time, a new figure jumped down from the branch of a nearby tree. When he landed, he took a knee, sounding worried. “Lord Mordred, your leg.”

Seemingly not heeding any thought to the new figure, Mordred’s cold and blank expression turned into his notorious large grin. “Interesting.” 

“Sire,” the servant spoke, and as he did so, horses were galloping towards them. “Lady Guinevere has arrived, my lord.”

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