Chapter 20: The Book That Devours Other Books

Somewhere in the depths of a Moratian mountain, in a cold but dimly lit cave room, gold objects and gems piled in heaps along the walls and corners. A giant double-door was the only entrance and exit. Right from where it opened, a long, red carpet laid, rolling across the room to the steps of a tall stone throne.

Sitting on that throne was a muscular, pale blue figure draped in dark garments. His bald head lay on a fist, and he crossed one leg over another, kicking his long, black cape over the seat. With his other hand, he spun a gold chess piece around on the throne arm. His ears were sharp and pointed, and his strong face seemed to make them even sharper. He sat there, bored, playing with his chess piece. However, his silent time for scheming was soon interrupted. The large, hellish door opened, resounding the room with its deep cranking noise.

A green goblin with a grotesque hunch entered. The creature scampered towards the figure. In a worried voice, it addressed him. “M-m-my lord…the caravan’s b-been…s-slaughter’d!”

The strong-faced humanoid wasn’t fazed by the worried thing at all.

“It looks like they r-ran into one of the S-Spider Queens,” the goblin said. The small monster paused for an appropriate amount of time. It then lowered its voice, and with a cracking voice, it said, “Also your Highness…th-the goods…they’re gone.”

The seated figure stopped spinning the chess piece. He suddenly exuded a heavy, serious energy that permeated the atmosphere. He stood up, and furious, he shouted, “WHAT?!” He swung his arm across the chair arm, slapping the chess piece away. It flew and hit the wall, piercing through a few feet into the mountain. Pieces of rock crumbled down the wall, with more crumbling off as his shout echoed off the walls. He rose up and stomped his way to the shivering goblin. Standing right in front of the creature, he stood almost like a giant, dwarfing the small thing. He was huffing, trying his best not to explode.

“W-W-We can raid more dungeons, my goblin prince!” the goblin said, putting his hands in his face, scared of what the giant blue goblin would do.

“Imbecile!” the blue goblin shouted. “There were certain treasures with that loot! Do you know how much I spent to obtain them?!” Suddenly, he raised a brow, realizing something. “Wait… The Drows… They were supposed to be guarding the caravan. There’s no way they could have died to those puny Spider Queens.”

“Your sister pulled them out before the caravan set off, my prince! They were sent elsewhere!”

The blue goblin raised his head. In a low voice, he grumbled, then turned away and proceeded to walk back to his seat. He waved his arm, dismissing the small goblin. “Leave. And send for the Black Captain.”

“Y-Yes, your Highness!” The green goblin scurried away, the doors shutting behind him.

The blue goblin sat back on his seat. He tilted his head to the side, resting it on his fist. He sat with his legs open. His forehead was wrinkled, and his expression wasn’t the pleasant kind. He growled. “Gornella.”

Stepping through the green portal, Ryu found himself coming out of a large portal gate. It was much like the ones at the School of Li Lin and Plum Tree Forest—just ten times larger. The portal gate was raised on a stone platform, with steps leading up and down all around it. The vicinity of the portal was fenced with tall, black metal fencing, encircling the portal gate completely. At each end of the enclosure—north, south, east, west—was a large gate to allow visitors and tourists through. These gates were wide open, but each was guarded by two silver-armored guards.

“Yue, I have some business to take care of,” Madame Yi said. “Don’t wait for me. I’ll meet you all back at the school.”

Yue Yi nodded. “Yes, Grandmother.”

And with that, Madame Yi walked off towards the northern fence gate, disappearing in the crowd of people on the city streets. The group waited a moment to make sure the elder had left completely before taking off.

“Well, I guess it’s time to go shop-sighting!” Ling Yi exclaimed. She grabbed Tazuki’s arm and dragged him away. As she walked down the steps, she turned and said to Yue Yi, “We’ll meet you guys back here, alright? See ya!” She dashed off, taking Tazuki with her.

Tazuki shouted at Ryu as he disappeared into the busy southern marketplace. “Don’t forget to visit the Crafting & Forging District!”

With the two younger ones gone, Yue Yi turned around to Ryu. “Shall we get going, then?”

“Let’s,” said Ryu, a faint smile on his face. He didn’t show it, but he was excited.

“The auction house is this way. Come.” Yue walked toward the eastern gate. Ryu followed her.

Traveling down the eastern alley vaguely reminded Ryu of Durn’s market streets. The difference was night and day. Compared to the rustic market alleys of Durn, Voruna’s marketplace was bustling. Not to mention that streets were five times wider, too, and lined completely up and down with stalls, seemingly going on forever.

“This place is bigger than I thought,” Ryu said.

Yue Yi laughed. She wondered when Ryu would comment on the fact. “That’s how all first-time visitors feel when they see this place. It should be expected. After all, Voruna is not only the crafting capital of Moratia, but also the trading capital, as well. Not even Calduun’s market compares.”

“Just how large is this place?” Ryu asked.

“Voruna itself spans a little over five leagues. The central part of the city—which is just about a league in diameter—is housed solely by market and trade-related buildings, with the portal gate being at the very center. That’s the case with most cities, as well,” Yue Yi said. “All the buildings you see now are all stores, shopping complexes, item galleries, produce shops, production facilities, and all the like you can think of.”

“I see,” Ryu nodded. “And just how many people are here in the city, you think?

“Voruna has almost five million residents. But that doesn’t even include the one million visitors the city has at any given time,” said Yue Yi.

“How do you know all this?”

Yue Yi smiled. “My grandmother is the ambassador of Shu. I used to tag along, and she’d have me guide tourists through the city.” Yue Yi tilted her head forward, turning it. She nodded to an open shop to the side. “There’s a Traveler’s Shop right there if you need a map of the city.”

“Do they sell world maps, too?”

Yue Yi nodded. “Mmhmm.”

Ryu took out the pouch of gold he’d received from Roland, retrieving a gold coin. He held it out. “Will this be enough?”

Yue Yi laughed. “You could buy thousands of maps with that. Come, I’ll show you to the currency converter.” She walked over to a short stone pillar in front of a shop. The pillar had a stone bear head protruding out of it. She took Ryu’s hand and placed it in the animal’s mouth. “Now drop the coin.”

Ryu did as she said and let the gold coin fall into the bottom pit of the stone mouth. Instantly, a virtual window appeared before him.

What would you like to convert [1] gold coin into?
Silver and Copper

Ryu hesitated out of sheer ignorance.

Yue Yi chuckled. “I’d suggest picking the ‘Silver and Copper’ option.”

Trusting her word, he did what she advised. When he picked the ‘Silver and Copper’ option, another window appeared.

Please enter the number of silver coins you’d like receive from [1] gold coin. The amount left due will be converted into copper coins.
Enter silver coin amount and confirm conversion below.

Confirm conversion:

Yes No

Ryu stood still, his finger up on the screen, still not sure what to do.

Yue Yi laughed at his baffled expression. “I’ll give you a hint: one Gold coin converts into one thousand silver coins, and one silver coin converts into ten thousand copper coins.” 

Hearing that, he put in the number 999 in the window and confirmed ‘Yes.’

Nine hundred ninety-nine silver coins and 10,000 copper coins… That should be enough, I hope.

Immediately after confirmation the currency conversion, the gold coin dissipated into thin air. Sparkles of gold trailed the air, and what appeared in place of the gold coin was a palm-sized silver coin. He took the silver coin out of the stone head, inspecting it. He Identified it.

Silver Token
A Silver Token represents Essence Value in the amount of Silver and Copper coins.

This Silver Token has an Essence Value of:

999 silver coins 10,000 copper coins

I see… So this is basically like a credit card.

Never before had he seen such a game mechanic. He thought he’d have to carry all those coins everywhere. He was given a break in Durn when he and Guy first roamed the market streets. They didn’t have currency converters in Durn. Thankfully he didn’t need one then. The items he got from the citizens of Durn were gifts of gratitude for saving Roland. 

I didn’t think they’d have this sort of technology. This is far more advanced than anything I’ve seen in a fantasy VRMMO.

He turned his head to Yue Yi. “I could convert the rest of these gold coins into Tokens if I wanted, yes?”

Yue Yi nodded, smiling. “Mmhmm. For the number of coins you have, this currency converter should be fine. But if you ever have to convert coins in the thousands or more, I suggest going to a bank. Every bank has a giant one that converts basically an infinite number of coins. If you want to store your items, you can do that there, too.” 

“I see. Thank you.”

“Thank the scholars and alchemists. They invented the currency converter,” Yue Yi said. “But you have to remember that you can only convert if you have the minimum amount to convert.”

“What about raw material, like copper bits or bars?”

“You can go to the foundry and convert them into coins with a material converter. And with the coins, I”m pretty sure you know what to do with them now.” She smirked.

Ryu nodded. “I’ll visit when I have the time.”

“Alright, then!” she sighed. “I have errands to run. I’ll meet you at the auction house if that’s alright with you.”

Ryu turned his head to the Traveler’s Shop. He looked back at Yue Yi and nodded. “I’ll see you there.”

“Alright! See ya!” Yue Yi waved goodbye and headed back in the direction the two came from.

After she left, Ryu converted nine more gold coins into Silver Tokens, all of which were the same value as before. He kept the remaining ninety coins as they were, then proceeded into the Traveler’s Shop.

Walking in, Ryu was met with racks of adventurer’s bags, side pouches, and satchels. Along the right wall was open cabinets with rolled maps and hardcovered books. Above, there were various maps all rolled open and pinned against the wall. On the left side of the shop was a wall-length shelf, completely stacked with tomes and pocket-sized books. 

He went through the bags on the rack. Some seemed like much better options than his current one. But he didn’t mind his semi-tattered satchel, and so he moved on. At the cabinet of maps, a bin with rolled up maps of Voruna had already been placed on a side table for the convenience of city tourists. Ryu was about to take one but then took another look at the giant cabinet in front of him.

There are too many…I can’t take them all.

His eyes then shifted to a large, white-covered book set on the middle of the cabinet. He walked up to the cabinet and picked up the book. He opened it and skimmed its contents, only to find pages upon pages of maps.

A world atlas.

Ryu turned his head around to the counter. “Excuse,” Ryu said to the shopkeeper. “How much is this?”

“That’s a Grand Atlas. It’ll be twenty gold coins.”

That’s pretty expensive, isn’t it?

“It’s pretty expensive for a book, I know,” said the shopkeeper. “But it’s the best I have.”

Ryu couldn’t be bothered by the price. He nodded. “It’ll fine.”

Happy to hear that, the shopkeeper’s expression into a bright one. “Thank you, traveler.”

Ryu then walked across the room to the bookshelf. There were dozens of different books stacked on each row of the shelf. All of them were language books and dictionaries. He scoured through all of them, finding them to be variations of dictionaries for the multitude of languages of the Eleven Kingdoms. Yet again, there were too many things to carry with him, and he only had two free slots left in his interspatial ring. Left with no options, he took decided to take only two books off the shelf. One book contained the language of Shunese and the other the language of Munese.

Satisfied with his ‘shopping cart’ he went up to the counter. He placed the three books in arms on the counter. “I’d like to buy just these three.”

“That’ll be a total of 20 gold coins and 40 copper coins,” the shopkeeper said.

Ryu opened up his satchel, feeling around for the pouch of gold coins. It should’ve been at the very top of the bag, but it must’ve slid beneath everything else, seeing as he couldn’t feel it. He placed some of his items on the counter as he sifted through the contents.

Upon seeing one particular item Ryu set on the counter, the shopkeeper’s eyes widened. “Th-that’s a Scribe Tome!” His expression was of a delightful surprise.

Ryu raised his head, slightly confused by the shopkeeper’s reaction. “Hmm?”

“Young man, you have a Scribe Tome!”

“I do,” Ryu said, plainly. “Is something special about it?”

“Hohoh! You don’t even know what it does, do you?”

Ryu shook his head sideways.

The shopkeeper laughed. “Scribe Tomes have the ability to absorb texts.”

“How exactly?” Ryu asked.

“Just open up a book or an inscribed scroll and press it against a blank page of the Tome,” the shopkeeper said. “The text or scroll will be consumed and its contents will be transferred completely to the Tome. Try it!” He gestured to Ryu to transfer a text to his Tome.

Ryu grabbed his brown Moratian language book. He opened up the Scribe Tome to a blank page and pressed a page from the brown book on it. Instantly, the Moratian book disintegrated. Its leftover brown essence particles dissipated into the air. Ryu looked down at the previously blank page and found the Durn language inscribed on it. His eyes gleamed with fascination. Naturally, he could only smile.


Then his expression turned a little sour.

…Why didn’t Roland tell me this before?

“Hehe. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?” the shopkeeper said, rubbing his nose.

Ryu recollected himself. He smiled. “Incredibly.”

“Those things are extremely rare. And very expensive,” said the shopkeeper. “How did you come upon it?”

“It was a gift,” Ryu said.

“Oh? You must have done an incredible thing to have gotten that as a gift,” the shopkeeper said, and then realized the answer to that concern. He saw the Durn token clipped on Ryu’s strap. He smiled. “I see now. Thank you, traveler.” 

Ryu smiled, scratching his head in modesty.

The shopkeeper stood confidently. “So, do you still want just these three?” The keeper turned up a broad smile, showing the full of his teeth.

“How much for one of each?” Ryu said, nodding to each spot of text in the store.

“One of each? Just for you: all for twenty gold coins and 500 silver coins.” The shopkeeper smiled, raising a thumb up.

Ryu took out his pouch, getting out twenty coins. He slid them, along with one of his Silver Tokens, up to the shopkeeper.

The shopkeeper’s eyes shifted to the Silver Token. “This is…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ryu said, smiling. He winked.

The shopkeeper’s face brightened up. He raised his arm up over the counter. “Thank you, traveler.”

Ryu gladly accepted the handshake. “You too.”

The shopkeeper proceeded to place the gold coins and Silver Token into the mouth of a small bear-head statue on the counter. All the currency disintegrated as they did from when Ryu used the currency converter outside. Behind the man, a larger stone bear head was placed, and from out of its mouth, currency spewed out. It all spilled into three separate large glass containers underneath. Each bin contained the appropriate currency accordingly: gold, silver, and copper.

Ryu smirked.

This game never ceases to surprise me.

After the transaction was completed, the shopkeeper gleefully said, “Take your time!” He then moved to the side to deal with another upcoming customer.

Ryu put his things back into his bag and proceeded to copy all the texts and books in the store into his Scribe Tome. There were so many that he didn’t finish until an hour later. Before exiting the shop, he waved a grateful goodbye, the shopkeeper responding with his own happy goodbye.

Alone on the busy marketplace, Ryu opened the Scribe Tome to a newly formed table of contents on the first page. He scrolled through the names of contents until he came upon “Voruna” and tapped on it. When he did that, the Scribe Tome’s pages turned by themselves until they landed on a two-fold page depicting a map of Voruna. There was a blinking white dot on the map at his current location. He recognized instantly that it was him and couldn’t help but smile a little. It was an amazing thing to discover new things, and he was delighted.

He scanned the layout of the marketplace, quickly finding the auction house. It was about five blocks from his current location. But since he wanted to venture through the city a little more, he shifted his eyes up to the Crafting and Forging District, which was ten blocks up north. He decided to take a detour.

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