The woman lead them past several doors and then up a flight of stairs. Eventually she stopped before an ornate wooden door. She knocked on it before saying, “Master, wanderers are here to train.”
An old soft voice spoke from inside the room, “Bring them in, no need to make them wait.”
The woman opened the door and motioned for the two of them to enter. Inside the room was a strange study. There were racks of scrolls alone the wall and some scroll painting depicting dragons, although it felt unusual to Gardenia for such an asian inspired room to depict western style dragons.
There were several cushions on the floor and one of them was already inhabited by an old man. He was bald like the two combatants but he had a wispy beard. He was also wearing the same plain clothes.
“Come, sit down. Elunial, you stay as well.”
The woman Elunial said, “Yes master.” She stood by the master’s side while Gardenia and Oblivion Shadow took seats on the cushions.
“So, how did these seekers do?” Said the old man, the question was directed to Elunial.
“The woman ’s skill is lacking but she mades decisions fast even if those are not the best decision. Also her luck was excellent. The man had excellent skills and practical usage but has trouble with forming his own direction.”
The old man nodded, “Ah yes, I can see that in them. Since you arrived as well they also have good judgement and kindness in their hearts.” Then he spoke to the two of them, “While I thank you for leaving my students alive remember that not all enemies can be dealt with that way and only the truly strong and save even their opponents.”
Gardenia did a small seated bow and said, “Thank you for you wisdom.”
The old man stroked his wispy beard and asked, “What brings you to Spokog? You are from Trezy are you not? One of the disciples said that the caverns have shifted and opened up the path once again.”
“Yes, I indeed came for Trezy although I am a Traveler.” Said Gardenia. She knew that Traveler was the world lore name for the players; “I came in seek of the Inner Focus skill. I saw Elunial cast spells easily with the need for a magical focus and I too desire that skill.”
Oblivion Shadow said, “I am seeking inner peace. I know not how to find it but I thought this might be a good place to begin looking.”
“Well the Inner Focus skill is one that we can teach you. It is difficult to learn but I am sure you can manage. Finding inner peace however is much harder, we can attempt to guide you on that journey but it is a path you but make for yourself.” Then the old man clapped, “But learning will come, for now you should rest. I am sure your journey through the mountains was not and easy one. You should have food and then rest. Once you awaken we can begin the training. Elunial, bring them to have some food and then find a room for each of them.”
Elunial had been standing this whole time and she moved to open the door to the room once more. The two followed her as she lead them again through the hallways. Eventually she opened another door to a large dining room. There were many other people dressed as monks here.
She motioned to one of the monks serving food, “While you might find the food here plain, I can assure you it is filling. I will return for you when you are done eating.”
They were served food and took seats at one of the long tables. They received many looks from the other monks in the dining room. Gardenia began trying the food while she spoke, “These are NPCs right? I am always impressed about how good the AI is in this game. I have a friend who believes there are a bunch of AI researchers working with the developers of the game trying to make the best and most natural AI.”
Oblivion Shadow responded, “It is possible. According to the legends the forerunners were Wanderers. Since all that happened in backstory however it is obviously not actually true but it sets the stage. All the human NPCs are supposedly descended from original set of Wanderers that the forerunners came with. Part of this is that human NPCs follow mostly the same rules players. They can learn and improve skills, although they improve much slower. If they die they can also revive at monoliths just like players. The only main difference is they they can’t log out.”
“Really? I didn’t realize that the NPCs were so similar.”
Gardenia was eating what was almost like fried potatoes although the flavor was a bit different. There was also some jerky although that wasn’t much to speak of. While the meal wasn’t exactly bland it also wasn’t that exciting. Gardenia could say that it filled her up but since she didn’t actual have to eat in the game it was more of a illusion than anything else.
Just as they had finished eating Elunial arrived one more, it was like she had been watching them eat. She lead them to an area with a bunch of doors leading off into clearly small rooms. She pointed to a couple of the rooms. “These are the rooms you will use. They aren’t very big but it should be sufficient. Is there a time you want me to come and collect you, I know Wanderers like you have some strange schedules.”
Gardenia said, “About 10 hours for me.” She had work but it was going to be Friday so in the future she would have plenty of time to play more.
“Just six hours for me.” Said Oblivion Shadow, “That should be sufficient.”
She nodded, “Alright, I will have somebody check on you then.”
When Gardenia logged back and left the room she had been assigned she found Elunial waiting for her.
“Your friend has already gone to do his training. I have been assigned as your trainer. While I am still an apprentice myself part of my studies is helping others to learn skills.”
“I had forgotten to ask but are there any requirements to learn the Inner Focus skill.” Asked Gardenia.
Elunial was already leading her through the hallways toward wherever the training area was. “You already meet the requirements, of that I am certain. The only requirement is to have completed mastering a basic magic skill. Since you are capable of casting intermediate healing spells you are already done with that. If you have also mastered a basic casting implement then it will be even easier to learn.”
“I have mastered a basic casting implement, although I haven’t used it in a while.”
Elunial opened up a door into a mostly empty room. The only thing that was here was a small table tucked away in one corner. On the table lay a small book. Elunial pointed at the book, “There is a training manual. If you read over it you should be able to understand the basics of the skill. After that we shall do some training to cement the skill and get you to level 1 with it.”
Gardenia was mostly familiar with the process since she had learned skills before. A book or trainer would unlock the skill, granting the lvl 0 version of the skill. Until you got the skill up to lvl 1 it was mostly useless so a short amount of training was needed to make the skill usable.
She looked over the pages of the book which were mainly diagrams of somebody doing martial arts poses. She didn’t really read anything but she still got the notification that she had learned the lvl 0 version of the skill.
As she was about set the book back down she was reprimanded by Elunial, “Read the book properly. Even if Wanderer are exceptionally good at learning skills you shouldn’t neglect the basics. Proper understanding of the fundamentals of the skill are required to unlock your full potential. Without properly understanding it you will not become a full master.”
Gardenia was a little surprised and was about to open her mouth to argue but eventually thought better of it. None of the other teachers had recommended this, was it better to do it. She raised the book again and looked it it. It wasn’t too big, maybe it would be best if she read it.
She watched the pages looking over the diagrams and the writing. It explained how to concentrate to activate spells. In the game skills had many supporting effects. While somebody just joining the game might not know how to use a sword as long as they acquired the sword skill they could swing a sword naturally. Initially it was a bit awkward, like your body was being controlled without your input, however as you got use to the feeling it was more like a tutorial system which you eventually learned to use by yourself.
Gardenia had experienced this too while she took time to master the basic sword skill. The focus skill should be like that but looking over all the descriptions she was uncertain how much aid was actually being given. Casting Implements were used to gather mana and transform it into the desired form. The runes and carvings on the rod helped give magic form. With Inner Focus the caster needed to craft those runes mentally to give the spell the appropriate power.
According to the skill book the early levels of Inner Focus only boosted the casting strength when no using a casting implement and it was only when you neared mastery did it start to speed up casting. Even with inner focus it was still more effective to cast using an implement however the skill helped close that gap.
When Gardenia finished reading the book she had a pretty good idea of how using Inner Focus was supposed to work. Elunial just stood back to let her practice. Gardenia began with her very first and most basic spell.
“Fire Shot” was normally quick and easy to cast. Without the assistance of a casting implement the spell was basically useless however. Offensive spells were basically impossible to aim without a casting implement, still Inner Focus was supposed to aid with that as well.
Gardenia tried to cast the spell several times, aiming at the target dummy that had been setup in the room. Activating Inner Focus wasn’t very difficult, she could feel the power of the spell growing beyond what it would be without the skill. However her aim was terrible.
After a few missed shots Elunial said, “Focus on your target and that is where your spells will fire toward. It is easier if you look directly at your target, the center of your vision is where you are aiming. If you get distracted the focus will wear off and your spells will be erratic and weaker.”
It took only a few more minutes for Gardenia to reach lvl 1 in the skill however her aim had only improved somewhat. Her spells were almost always off to the right of where she expected them to be.
“Listen, you have to remember the point of origin of your spells. Your fire shots are appearing off at your sides and are supposed to point inward toward your target. However your not estimating the distance right and the angles of your shot are all wrong.”
“Take about three steps closer and try again.”
Gardenia did as she was told and suddenly all her shots began to hit the target. After several adjustments of distance she was beginning to understand what Elunial was talking about. Aiming in the game was more complex then she thought it would be. Previously she had just used the rod which she held in front of herself which made aiming a lot easier.
Now she had to hold a sword, a shield, and cause fire shots to appear and fire. The best she could describe the experience is that she was using a limb that she never knew existed to move and fire the bolt and she had no idea how to operate the limb.