Chapter 21: Threads of Fate

Ryu walked through the northern market streets, chewing on an indeterminate meat, a skewer in his hand. He’d taken a meat sampler from a food cart vendor. He didn’t know what meat it was, but he was hungry so he didn’t care. Although, he was sure the sign read “Tri-Horned Bison and Mudwater Lamb Skewers.”

He held in his other hand his Scribe Tome, which was open to a map of Moratia. The streets were just as crowded as the eastern market district, but he was careful enough not to bump into any of the marketgoers. His eyes were set upon the expanse of the Brown Forest. Although a massive region, it was just a fraction of the country. To his calculations, the kingdom was roughly one and a half times the size of the United States. This surprised him, as he had never expected the overall geography to be on such a large scale. He was surprised the first time just finding out how large the Brown Forest was. Now, finding out how expansive the rest of the country was, it complicated things more for him.

But that wasn’t even the most startling part. When he was transferring texts back at the Traveler’s Shop, he had glanced at a map laying out the Eleven Kingdoms. He saw very well without close inspection that Moratia was the smallest country.

Ryu glared down at the map, scanning the other Monster Zones across Moratia. There were a great number of them, some of which were even larger than the Brown Forest. In the back of his mind, he imagined the Zones from the other countries. But he didn’t need to open a map to any of them. It was now well within his realm of expectation and imagination just how massive they could be.

This world… It’s enormous.

Knowing this, he became a little concerned about traveling through the rest of the world, not that he hadn’t been already, especially after venturing through the Brown Forest and Plum Tree Forest.

He turned the page back to the map of Voruna. He pressed two fingers on the page, treating the page like a computer tablet, and gestured to zoom in. Indicated by the map, he was only two blocks from the Crafting and Forging District. But right up ahead was a store called ‘Munsy’s Portal Scroll Shop,’ and so he decided to stop by. He slid the last piece of the skewered meat into his mouth and dumped the wooden stick into a nearby garbage bin. He put his Scribe Tome away in his bag and proceeded to the shop.

Ryu entered the store to find the inside minimally furnished. All the ‘furnishing’ the store had was a large oval rug in front of the clerk’s counter, behind which was an open wall of cupboards that expanded across the back wall. In each cupboard space was a nicely stacked pile of rolled up scrolls, and given the name of the shop, it was obvious what kind of scrolls they were. At each of the side walls were similar-looking cupboards, only just smaller. There were customers in line already waiting, a few of them with scrolls piled up in their face. Most, however, carried only one or two in their hand. 

Ryu walked over to one of the side cupboards. He picked out a scroll at random and Identified it. 

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: 20 feet x 10 feet

Portal Distance Threshold: 200 leagues

Portal Duration: 60 seconds

Quality: Poor
Explicit Rarity: Common
Implicit Rarity (Hidden): Brown

This is better than the one I used. However…

His eyes glared down at the phrase ‘This is not a party-exclusive scroll.’ Reading those words brought back memories of his encounter with Mordred, and they were memories he didn’t want to have any more of. He did not want a single non-party-exclusive scroll, especially after that incident; they posed too great of risks.

He scoured the other shelves from his side of the shop but couldn’t find party-exclusive scrolls. After not finding any, he went to the other side of the room, but the results were the same. Coming out empty handed, he turned his attention to the shopkeeper, looking at the array of scrolls behind the counter. With no other option, he stood in line, waiting for his turn to come up at the counter. It wasn’t as long a line as others he’d seen, so he didn’t have to wait long.

When he finally came up to the counter, he asked the shopkeeper, “Do you sell party-exclusive portal scrolls in your shop?”

The middle-aged woman replied, “Of course.” She turned to the shelf behind her. “What kind of portal scroll would you like?”

“Do you have any for a one or two-way portal to Voruna?” Ryu said. “Also, any one or two-way portal scrolls for general use, too, if you have them. The distance doesn’t matter to me.”

The shopkeeper nodded. “I do. How many would you like?”

“How much for one?”

“It’ll vary for the general-use portal scrolls, but the Voruna scrolls will be one gold coin each, or the equivalent of course.”

Ryu wasn’t the hoarding type, especially when it came to game currency. After all, what would be the use of it if you didn’t spend it? He had nine Silver tokens worth of gold coins left, and an additional seventy gold coins still not converted. He had nothing else to spend them on, so purchasing some portal scrolls weren’t an issue.

“What’s the farthest porting scroll you have?” Ryu asked.

“My best party-exclusive scrolls port up to 1,000 leagues away,” said the shopkeeper. “They’re two hundred silver coins each, but they’re two-way portal scrolls.”

Ryu nodded. “I’ll take five of them and four of the Voruna scrolls.”

“Alright, that’ll be five gold coins.” She grabbed five scrolls from a bottom cupboard and four more from one of the top cupboards. She laid them on top of the counter.

Ryu handed her five Silver tokens. The shopkeeper placed them into her small currency converter on the counter, and just as it had happened back at the Traveler’s Shop, thousands of coins came sliding down the mouth of a bigger currency converter in the back.

The shopkeeper smiled. “The name’s Munsy. Please come back any time.”

“Will do,” Ryu said, a half-smile on his face. He nodded goodbye and left, as there was a line of customers behind him.

Outside, Ryu dug into his pants pocket. He opened up his hand, showing his four remaining Silver tokens, the pouch of gold coins at the back of his thoughts.

Party-exclusive scrolls are quite expensive… I may need to farm a lot in this game, then…

Farming wasn’t at all a problem for Ryu. But it was boring, especially if he had to do it hours upon hours on end. When he first played on Dream World, that was all he did—for over three months. Until, of course, he spent real money to “speed up the process.” But even after, things weren’t as easy as he had imagined. He still had to hunt thousands of monsters for certain crafting materials. That was when he only had Chase to play with, too. But Chase wasn’t online as long as him, so he had spent most of his grinding alone. He didn’t mind being alone, but he also didn’t mind company. In fact, although he didn’t prefer company, he enjoyed it. It was fun playing with others. However, if there were simpler or more interesting methods of earning in-game money, he’d definitely prefer them over farming.

He put his Silver tokens away and continued his way to the Crafting and Forging District.

The Crafting and Forging District streets were moderately populated. Not as much as the general marketplace, but they were crowded enough that not even the horses and caravans got easily through. As Ryu traveled through, he discovered it was divided into three distinct sub-districts: blacksmith, accessory, and textiles and leather.

The buildings of the blacksmith sub-district, despite being workplaces for the hammer and anvil, were well maintained. There were those that may have needed some light repairs, but nothing too serious. The workshops were open to the full view of the public. Marketgoers could see the blacksmiths working the anvil and hammer, hitting metal pieces in the furnace. After a blacksmith forged an item, they placed it in a cold bath. After being cooled, items would be hung up on metal hangers or put up on display on a wooden wall.

In the jeweler shops of the accessory precinct, workers were chiseling away on crystals and gems, socketing them into a variety of rings. Afterward, they handed the product to the customers in line or placed them into a little black box to be transferred to a jewelry shop. Of the Crafting and Forging District shops, they numbered the fewest. But they had the most customers.

The textile and leather sub-district, while having the most shops of the three sub-districts, had the least visitors. Most people went to the armorer’s workshops for equipment instead. There were a few grandiose clothes-making stores, but most of their patrons were of noble and aristocratic backgrounds. 

Ryu was walking in the textile and leather sub-district when he came upon a small weaving shop at an unpopulated corner. An old woman was working on a wooden loom. It was an ancient-looking contraption, but it had been given the most care over the years. The woman wore her long, gray hair in a bun. Her attire was just a simple beige dress and cotton shoes. She wore no jewelry of any kind. She didn’t have many textiles on her table, and currently, she was weaving menswear. Based on her light smile, it seemed to be for an important man.

Ryu walked up to the shop and knocked on a wooden pole. “Excuse me.”

The old woman stopped what she was doing, raising her head to the player. “Oh, why, hello dear. What brings you to this little shop?”

“I came by to see what you have.”

The old woman laughed lightly. “There aren’t many visitors nowadays. I don’t have much, but feel free to look around.”

Ryu scanned the shop, seeing only a few pieces of garments hung up on a tight string. The old woman only had a sliver of a rug of textile left. She was probably only barely making by with what she had.

The player turned his head back to the old woman. “Your pieces are simple, but they’re very beautiful.”

“Oh, you don’t have to say such things!” she said, blushing.

Ryu smiled. “I would like to buy a piece from you.”

The elder paused, looking at Ryu with sincere eyes. She knew just by looking into his eyes what kind of person he was. And seeing what she saw, her eyes lit up. “This is all I have, my dear boy. And I’m afraid I don’t have much material left to make you anything.”

“That’s okay,” Ryu said. He then took out from his interspatial ring his giant ball of Pure Weaver silk. “I hope this will do.”

Upon seeing the shiny silk ball, the old woman lightly gasped, “This is…” She looked back at Ryu whose expression showed no sign of surprise. Seeing only a sincere young man offering up a ball of Pure Weaver silk, she smiled warmly. “It will do.”

Ryu smiled in affirmation.

The old woman then continued. “However…That material in your hand is extremely difficult to process. It would require a needle made from very specific materials. The thread used for fashioning it must also be made from a certain material, which I do not have on hand.”

Ryu nodded. “Whatever you need, I’ll get it for you.”

The old woman understood his determination. She nodded, smiling. “Very well. I’ll get you a list of what you need.” She walked to a small desk at the back of the shop, taking out a slip of paper and inked feather. She scribbled some stuff down and returned to Ryu, handing the paper to him. “Once you have the materials for the needle, feel free to visit my husband in the market. He’s a blacksmith and will craft it for you. You should be able to find the required materials in Voruna’s market. As for the thread…I’m not sure if Voruna’s market may have the material for it.”

“You’re certain?” said Ryu.

The old woman nodded. “To fashion that silk, I need a certain type of thread, and there are only three known species of monsters in the Eleven Kingdoms that drop materials needed to make it.”

Ryu knew exactly what she was implying. “If the market doesn’t have it, I’ll have to hunt those monsters down, won’t I?”

“Correct,” the elder said. “But the problem is: you may not be strong enough to face those monsters.”

“Hmm,” Ryu said, grasping his chin. “The alternative would be to go to other markets then.”

“Yes. But these materials are rare and highly sought after, especially by the elves.”

Elves? Damn. I don’t have the funds yet to go into a bidding war.

Back on the streets of the general marketplace, Ryu had seen a general information panel regarding the ‘wealthiest kingdoms.’ Loreen, the country of the elves, ranked third. And, of course, Moratia was ranked last.

Ryu sighed. “It looks like it may take me a while to get the materials then.”

“Perhaps not. While two of the three species are in other kingdoms, the other is purportedly a Moratian species, right in our very backyard: the Brown Forest,” the elder said. “However, it’s said to dwell deep in the caves and is a rare species to come across. It’s also said to be a Boss-level monster.”

It must be beyond the Brown-Fanged Spider Queen, considering that was only a mini-boss… 

Ryu exhaled, clenching his jaw.

Looks like I’ll have to train that much harder.

Ryu asked the elder, “Do you know of anyone who has come across it? Maybe they can guide me through the caves.”

“Unfortunately, I do not,” the old woman said. “However, there is one person currently in the kingdom that may be able to help… Although, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to get an audience with her.”

“And who might that be?”

“The Royal Ambassador of Shu, Madame Gao Yi,” the elder said. “If I recall correctly, she served as Assistant Chief Monsterologist of the Monsterology Association.”

Ryu’s body reactively twitched hearing that name.

That old woman?

The old lady continued. “Although, she doesn’t appear in public much, and her whereabouts are generally unknown.”

Perhaps Yue Yi might know something, too. I’ll ask her before I go to her grandmother.

“I see…” Ryu said. “I think I know what I have to do now. Thank you.”

The woman smiled. “I will let my husband know you’ll be visiting soon. I am Charlotte. Please stop by any time.” 

Ryu nodded farewell and left.

Charlotte stood standing, looking at him as he walked away. She took out a bright white napkin from her dress pocket and held it in her hand. She whispered aloud with a smile on her face, “I didn’t think I would see Pure Weaver silk again in my lifetime.”

Ryu’s Scribe Tome was open up to the map of Voruna. The auction house was just around the block. He was done with his detour in the Crafting and Forging District. He’d visit the blacksmith precinct again once he’d gotten the materials he needed.

He looked down at the piece of paper with Charlotte’s notes.

Needle materials:

1x Golden Spider Fang
1x Orichalcum Ore
1x vial of Flame Tarantula Venom

Thread materials:

2x Monarch Mothworm Silk Threads
or 1x White Lavender Cotton Tail
or 3x Deathstalker Spider Silk Threads

Just looking at the material names, Ryu knew this was going to be an expensive endeavor. That, and he also needed to get stronger for when he needed to hunt for certain materials.

I have a lot of work cut out for me…

Turning the corner, he saw Yue Yi, Ling Li, and Tazuki all lying against the wall of a grand building entrance. The building was gated twice, one gate for each of its two doors. However, only the left gate was guarded by soldiers, and most of the people coming in and out of it were dressed in very proper attire. On the other hand, at the right gate, mostly normal-looking folk were coming in and out.

When Ling Yi caught sight of Ryu, she waved. “Hey! How was your shopping adventure today?”

Ryu smiled. “It was alright.”

Ling Yi smirked. “I hope you haven’t had your fill of fun yet because the real fun’s just about to begin. Come, come!”

“Ling-Ling,” Yue Yi said, warning her little sister to control her rowdiness.

Yue Yi guided the group through the left gate, walking in the crowd of proper-dressed individuals. When they came to the door, the guards stopped them because they didn’t recognize Ryu.

“Stop,” said one of the guards.

“It’s okay. He’s with me,” Yue Yi said. She held out a brilliant, silvery token.

The guards nodded and let the group through.

Ling Yi grabbed Ryu’s hand and ran up to a large, black double-door with gold handles. She swung open the doorway and said, “Welcome… to the auction house.”

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