Chapter 8: Discovery

George opened his eyes and found himself back in his bedroom, wearing the same clothes he’d worn before logging in. He blinked several times, making sure he was in the right place. He rose up and gently peeled off the gear from his head and placed it on the nightstand. He looked at his alarm, which read 7:55 AM. He then checked his phone for the date, but its battery had died. When he turned on the computer to look at the day’s date his mouth dropped.

It’s Monday?!

In Dream World and past VRs, the rate at which time progressed was always higher than real time. More specifically for Dream World, the rate of time progression was 5:1. This meant that five hours in-game translated to one hour in real time. However, in this case, it seemed that the rate was 1:1 for Second World. Therefore, one hour in-game equaled one hour in real time. This is what George concluded as 60 hours had gone by in real time; he also had the similar sense that 60 hours had passed in-game during his time in Second World.

George placed his hand on his stomach.

Odd… I’ve been gaming for over two days. Why am I not hungry?

Suddenly, he noticed something strange. His body belt a bit different.


He lifted up his shirt. “What the hell?” he said aloud.

When he lifted up his shirt he saw that his abs were showing. He also inspected his arms, which were clear to him to be more muscular than before. To anyone who could have seen him a few days ago, he would have just been skin and bones and no muscle. But now, his body was more athletic and lean.

This is my body in-game!

George was confused, startled even. After several minutes of intense psychological self-evaluation, he stroked the sides of his arms and felt his abs once more to make sure that it was indeed real—and indeed it was.

How is this even possible?

He was scratching his head until something from the game came into his mind. He raised his head, extremely curious.

Wait. Let’s see if it works.

He sat cross-legged on his bed, meditating, trying to go back into a state in which he could harness natural essence. He sat there for more ten minutes, but nothing happened.

George sighed, laughing hysterically with relief.

Of course, it wouldn’t work. That would be absurd.

He placed his hand over his pecs, looking down at his body.

So, only the physical body is affected. I’ll have to verify this as I keep playing.

He spent no more time thinking about the game and quickly hopped in the shower. Once he got out he quickly got dressed and headed out to Downtown Manhattan.

George was on the bus on his way back home. Much to his surprise, or rather, non-surprise, he didn’t find any openings today, not even at the gaming companies. It was New York, and especially with the prominent gaming culture he’d expected to find at least something. It was commonplace nowadays for people to go into an office building and inquire about jobs or postings available. Most of the time, they got an interview right then and there. And those who had sufficient credentials and work experience were hired on the spot. Marketers, programmers, and especially game designers were highly valuable positions. Anyone with substantial experience in those areas was a priority to hire for any game company, especially for those who specialized in VR. George himself had a degree in programming and graphic design and had worked as an intern for Infinity Technology. That is, until Dream Corps released Dream World, which eventually led to the decline and shutting down of Infinity Technology. The rejections he’d suffered til now most likely attributed to the fact that he always confirmed that he worked for Infinity Technology. Interviewers and prospective employers always ended the conversation abruptly whenever he mentioned it. After all, it was known that Infinity Tech, as well as a few other game companies, was planning to rebuild and relaunch, so companies like Dream Corps and their affiliates were always wary of spies.

George was on his phone, posting his monthly rent of $2,896 on his tenant’s account. With a somber face, he looked at the 5-figure number in his bank account dwindle down to four digits.

He sighed.

I’ll have to start cutting more corners.

He sighed, his back falling into his seat.

All I’ve got right now is this game. Hopefully, it all turns out.

Upon entering his room, George collapsed on the bed. He lay there for a good minute, appreciating the fragrance of the bedsheet that somewhat relieved him of his stress. A bit rejuvenated, he went and logged onto his computer. He checked back on the YouTube video, scrolling through the comments. As he scrolled down the comments section he saw dozens of comments from players who had played it the day of release. Most of them were sour and filled with salt and bitterness.

“This game sucks. Save yourself $2,000 and some time. Don’t buy it.”
“I couldn’t fucking log off for a day. What the fuck was that about?”
“I literally wasted over a day playing this game. Literally. Logged off immediately when the menu was working.”

George scrolled further down and saw one comment that piqued his interest.

“Hey, everyone. I’ve created a forum where we can express our opinions on the game. The URL is Come and share your thoughts.”

Interested, he visited the forum. There were only three posts, all of which were uploaded a day ago, but they only had a few hundred views. Each of them summarized the following, respectively:

“I couldn’t understand the NPCs. Is this a bug?”
“My character died, and I was automatically logged off the game. Now I can’t log back in no matter how many times I try.”
“Where are you supposed to get skill books? This game’s boring as hell without skills. Getting a refund ASAP.”

The second post especially caught George’s attention.

Someone died and can’t log back in? I should PM them and ask about it. I need to know more about this game before I go back online.

George created an account under the username “Dragon” and sent the following message to the second poster whose forum name was “Orchid”:

“Hello. I also play Second World. How long ago did you try logging back in since you died?”

George waited at the computer for almost an hour before getting a response, rotating between Minesweeper and Solitaire during that time. Orchid messaged back with the following:

“I died almost a day ago. I tried logging back in immediately after, but I couldn’t.”

George replied:

“Have you brought your equipment back to the store? Perhaps there’s something wrong with it.”

Orchid replied with the following message:

“Already tried, and they said there’s nothing’s wrong with it. I tried getting a refund, but I can’t because of their policy: If your character dies you can’t get a refund. It’s stupid, but it’s true. Look in your VR package. There should be a slip of paper that lays out all the terms and policies. The clerk told me he would take back my VR equipment, but I wouldn’t get a refund for it. He also said that I should buy a new set of equipment to see if that would solve my problem.”

Reading this, George asked:

How would they know if you died?

And Orchid replied:

Do you see the dial that’s attached to the electrodes? When you die, the ring around the dial will turn red. That’s how they know if someone’s died.

George then asked:

“Have you tried with a new set of equipment?”

 To which Orchid responded:

“No. I think I’m done. There’s just too much to learn, and it’s really boring, and I don’t really want to spend another $2,000 on this game.”

George sent a final response:

“Ah, well. Good luck then. Thanks for the information.”

George minimized the browser and fell back into his chair, sighing with a bit of worry.

Looks like I can’t be careless in this game.

He sat there and spun his chair around several times, during which he was eyeing his phone, which was charging on the USB connector to his computer. He pulled the chair back into the desk and disconnected the phone from the USB plug. When the phone screen came on, he pulled up the contact list, hovering over Chase’s number. He stared at it for a long moment but eventually placed the phone back down. Saying nothing, he returned back to his bedside, falling face forward onto the mattress, closing his eyes.

When George woke up, there was a dim light. His head was turned to the window, and he saw the sun rising.

Shit. Is it morning?

He forcibly got himself up, rubbing his drowsy eye. Yawning, he went out to the kitchen and made himself a quick cup of coffee and then went back to his room. He sat down on the chair and grabbed his phone from the desk.

…Should I call Chase?

He looked down at his phone’s screen, repeatedly scrolling up and down in his contact list, not sure of what to do.

Maybe after.

He sipped the remainder of his coffee, getting back on the bed, and logged straight back into Second World.

Ryu was finishing his 90th set of 100 sit-ups. He had now reached a stage where he could comfortably do dozens of sets of his endurance and strength exercises. It had been ten hours since he logged in and Bors had yet to be seen. He was rather fortunate not to have been attacked.

During these ten hours he would occasionally get tired after a few rotations of exercises, but not to the point of exhaustion. So in between his rotations, he took incremental breaks, during which he practiced attuning to natural essence. It was invariably slow at first, but he eventually reached a point where he could integrate at a steady and consistent rate. It was still rather dull, but the feeling was now considerably more noticeable than the tingling sensation he had experienced prior.

After finishing the set, Ryu fell, his back to the ground, and his arms stretched out. He took deep breaths.

Whew. I’m surprised I did all that.

He drew out his hand in the air and looked and it, turning it palm-forward and palm-backward a few times, then clenching it into a fist.

I guess it’s a good time to start combat training.

He rose up and walked over to one of the medium-sized boulders. Standing in front of the rock, he inhaled and exhaled calmly and loosened his shoulders. He entered a combative stance, readying a punch.

Let’s see if this works.

He released his arm forward, with full force, making perfect contact with the boulder.

“What the hell!?” Ryu shouted, shaking his hand vigorously. “God dammit!”

There was not even the slightest dent, and now due to his oversight, his hand was now bulging red.

I probably should have tried on the tree first.

Ryu collapsed on one of the smaller boulders to rest and let his hand recover. After sitting down, he opened up his character menu.

HP: 50/50 Energy: 5/5
Physical Stats
Strength: 10  Speed: 5
Endurance: 16 Stamina: 8
Quickness: 88 Agility: 22
Hardness: 1

Physical Hardness: 1 ???
Toughness: 1

Physical Toughness: 1 ???
Mental Stats
Intelligence: 499  Wisdom: 749
Perception: 499 Insight: 749
Misc. Stats
??? ???
Unallocated SP: 30

Hmm. Some of my physical stats have changed since the last time I logged on. It must be due to all the training I’ve been doing.

He grabbed his chin, carefully processing all the information he’d gathered.

So… Physical training does increase your physical stats, after all. That makes sense.

For all current VRMMO’s known to the world, in-game physical training never affected one’s own stats directly. Players could complete physical training and be rewarded with bonus SP, but that was it. So for Ryu, this was quite a discovery. He wasn’t at all shocked, though, as there was sound logic to it. After all, if a person trains his or her body, it would be more than sensible for the corresponding body stats to improve along with it. Now that he had come across this, it now made sense why and how Guy’s muscles had grown during their journey to the Brown Forest the few days prior.

It seems that my suspicions have been confirmed.

Ryu shifted his eyes to his unallocated stat points. When he first opened up his character information screen those some odd hours ago, he had immediately noticed the up-arrow indicators next to his stats, indicating that they could be increased. Since then, he’d subconsciously been thinking about which stats to increase.

I have 30 stat points. What should I use them on?

Looking over his mental stats, he saw that his Intelligence, Perception, Wisdom, and Insight were all one point away from being either 500 or 750, so he opted to put points into those. He pressed the up arrow next to his Intelligence, and a small confirmation window appeared.

It will take 2 stat points to increase your Intelligence by 5.

Would you like to use 2 SP to increase your Intelligence by 5?
Yes No


Ryu pressed on the ‘No’ option to exit the confirmation window, and then re-pressed the up arrow icon by his Intelligence once again, only to be shown the same exact confirmation window.

It will take 2 stat points to increase your Intelligence by 5.

Would you like to use 2 SP to increase your Intelligence by 5?
Yes No

Interesting… I can’t simply increase my Intelligence by 1. Moreover, I have to use a minimum of 2 SP to increase it. Furthermore, the allocation rate is 2:5, or 1:2.5…

Normally in a VRMMO, when players increased their stats via stat points, or SP, they increased it by a ratio of 1:1. Therefore, one stat point would increase a given stat directly by one. So, if a player were to use 20 SP to increase a stat, they would increase the stat directly by 20. But in this case, the allocation rate of SP-to-Stat was higher, being 2:5, or 1:2.5.

Let’s check Wisdom.

Ryu exited the confirmation window and tapped on the up arrow by his Wisdom. And upon seeing the new confirmation window, he became more intrigued.

It will take 8 stat points to increase your Wisdom by 21.

Would you like to use 8 SP to increase your Wisdom by 21?
Yes No

Ryu did quick math and found that the ratio was slightly different this time.

The ratio is 1:2.625. The conversation rate is slightly higher.

Upon realizing this difference, he exited the character screen and opened his Skills Descriptions menu. He checked back at the description of his Intelligence and Wisdom to re-verify the “Affinity Grades” that he had noticed when he first looked at his skills.

You have profound intellect.

Your Intelligence directly affects your Perception.
Affinity Grade: S+++
You have profound wisdom.

Your Wisdom directly affects your Insight.
Affinity Grade: S++++

Intelligence has an ‘Affinity Grade’ of S+++, whereas Wisdom has an ‘Affinity Grade’ of S++++. And there is a 0.125 difference between the allocation rates between the two. That must mean each degree of positivity or negativity is a difference of 0.125 in the allocation rate for SP… I should calculate this.

Using a small, sharp stone he found on the ground, he spent the next few minutes chiseling a chart onto the large boulder he couldn’t dent. The charted displayed the following:

Efficacy/Affinity Grade SP-to-Stat Allocation Rate SP Required for Allocation Stats Obtained
F- 1 to 0.125 8 1
F 1 to 0.25 4 1
F+ 1 to 0.375 8 3
D- 1 to 0.5 2 1
D 1 to 0.625 8 5
D+ 1 to 0.75 4 3
C- 1 to 0.875 8 7
C 1 to 1 1 1
C+ 1 to 1.125 8 9
B- 1 to 1.25 4 5
B 1 to 1.375 8 11
B+ 1 to 1.5 2 3
A- 1 to 1.625 8 13
A 1 to 1.75 4 7
A+ 1 to 1.875 8 15
S- 1 to 2 1 2
S 1 to 2.125 8 17
S+ 1 to 2.25 4 9
S++ 1 to 2.375 8 19
S+++ 1 to 2.5 2 5
S++++ 1 to 2.625 8 21

This should be it. And furthermore, it seems that the game will only let you increase a stat by a whole number, given that I have to increase my Intelligence by a minimum of 5, therefore using 2 SP… Let’s see if this checks out for the other stats. Hopefully, there aren’t A++’s and the like. This chart would be wrong if that were the case.

Suddenly four in-game windows popped up.

Congratulations! You have 500 Perception.

As a result, you have gained the Identify skill.

You are the first player to learn the Identify skill. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points.
Congratulations! You have 500 Perception and 500 Insight.

As a result, you have gained the Recognize skill.

You are the first player to learn the Recognize skill. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points.
As you are profoundly perceptive, you are able to identify items and determine their quality and provisional stats.

As your Perception increases, so will your ability to identify items.
You can Identify items up to Super Rare rarity.
As you are both profoundly perceptive and insightful, you are able to recognize others, discovering their character information.

As your Perception and Insight increase, so will your ability to recognize others.
You can Recognize others who are Level 100 or below.

Upon seeing all these new skills regarding his Perception and Insight, he opened the Character Description menu. He saw that he now had 500 Intelligence and 750 Wisdom, along with 500 Perception and 750 Insight.

HP: 50/50 Energy: 5/5
Physical Stats
Strength: 10  Speed: 5
Endurance: 16 Stamina: 8
Quickness: 88 Agility: 22
Hardness: 1

Physical Hardness: 1 ???
Toughness: 1

Physical Toughness: 1 ???
Mental Stats
Intelligence: 500  Wisdom: 750
Perception: 500 Insight: 750
Misc. Stats
??? ???
Unallocated SP: 50

My Perception and Insight have increased, and I didn’t even increase it myself. They must have increased when my Intelligence and Wisdom increased. So, I guess the descriptions were right about them directly affecting each other… So much like physical stats, if you ‘train’ your mental stats, they’ll naturally increase, too. My Intelligence and Wisdom… They must have increased when I figured out the mechanics of SP allocation.

Wasting no time, he went on to verify the chart by attempting to use SP to increase his stats. Remembering that his ‘Efficacy Grade’ for his Strength was a D-, he expected that he would be required to use 2 SP for a one-point increase.

If I’m right, I’ll need to use 2 SP to increase my Strength by 1.

He pressed the up-arrow indicator by Strength and a confirmation window appeared.

It will take 2 stat points to raise your Strength by 1.

Would you like to use 2 SP to increase your Strength by 1?
Yes No

Alright. Now to check the others to make sure this chart is accurate.

He spent the next few moments checking the confirmation windows for his other stats, and indeed, the results confirmed the accuracy of the chart.

Looks like it all checks out. I’ll save my SP for now until I find the need for the stats.

He let out a sigh and relaxed down on the rock. He was silently celebrating in the wake of his new discoveries, appreciating the world around him. He grabbed his brown crystal necklace that was dangling across his chest. Pinching the crystal between his thumb and index finger, he raised the necklace to the sky. It shimmered in the light, causing a twinkling in his eyes. Overjoyed with everything that happened today, he couldn’t help but smile.

This game is more amazing than I thought.

“Looks like someone’s in a good mood,” said a deep voice. An approaching Bors was carrying a large sack over his shoulder.

“Yeah,” Ryu said, setting the crystal back down on his chest. “I guess I am.”

“Well you should be,” said Bors. “I brought you a few gifts.” He threw a leaf-wrapped bun and it landed on Ryu’s chest.

Upon seeing the little food parcel, Ryu’s lips turned upwards. His stomach growled, and he chuckled lightly to himself. He looked back up at the sky.

Yeah… This game is incredible.

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