It took her two hours before she finally became comfortable with casting using Inner Focus. During most of that time Elunial had left to do other things but when she returned she nodded in approval, “It looks like you understand the basics of the technique. At this point you need more practical experience. The master has a quest he wishes you to undertake. Please follow me to him so that you can listen to it.”
Gardenia nodded and followed Elunial through the hallways back to the master’s room. However this time there were monks running backward and forward. Everybody seemed like they were in a rush.
“What is happening?” Asked Gardenia.
“A large group of Wanderers is approaching and they are all preparing for the challenge. The master expects us to be extremely busy for a while.”
“I guess the tunnels did open up recently, a lot of Wanderers are probably coming here to learn intermediate skills.”
“Indeed. Although I have never heard of a time when so many Wanderer have appeared at once. According to the master there are thousands of them in Trezy and apparently even more elsewhere.”
“Yes, I have heard the same.” Said Gardenia although she was a bit uncomfortable since she herself was one of those Wanderers.
“There are some of the students who claim that this is a harbinger for the end of the world and that the Wanderers are all appearing because they hope to stop it.” Elunial stopped for a moment and looked back at Gardenia, “Do you think the end of the world is coming?”
Gardenia struggled to figure out what to say. She didn’t know if the end of the world was coming, this was supposed to be a game but that kind of story was common in games. Eventually she said, “Not that I know. But I do expect things to change rapidly. However, you can rest assure that at the very least if the end of the world comes I will be there to try and stop it.”
Elunial nodded and then continued walking, “At your current strength you would be practically useless at protecting the world. As would I. You should aim to master your intermediate skills and move on to expert skills, at least then you could participate if such a thing came to pass.”
It was not long before they stopped once more before the room where the master was located. As they entered the room Gardenia say that Oblivion Shadow was already there.
“Good, you are both here.” Said the master. He motions for Gardenia to sit and she did. “You might have heard but there are a lot of Wanderers arriving. I expect at least some of them to pass the test just like you two did. However we are ill-prepared to support that many people here in our current state. Food is the most pressing concern, if I could ask your assistance in this it would be much appreciated.”
Gardenia nodded and said, “Sure, however I can help.” Oblivion Shadow nodded as well.
“There is a special of mountain yak that live nearby. I would like you to hunt them and bring back there meat it. The more you can bring the better but you should return before nightfall.”
“I can do that but I am not well practiced in butchery so I’m not sure if I am the best choice. We would need someone like that with us. Oblivion, do you have that skill.”
He shook his head but the master simply clapped his hands, “Do not worry. I will sent Elunial with you. She has hunted in the mountains many times as part of her training and has become quite proficient in harvesting yaks.”
“You want me to go with them?” Asked Elunial looking surprised.
“Yes, consider it part of your training. Wanderers are strange people, watch them and I am sure that you will learn something.”
“Very well master.”
“Umm…” said Oblivion Shadow, “Do we get some kind of reward for helping you? I don’t care too much either way I just wanted to confirm before hand.”
The old man chuckled a little before saying, “Don’t let opportunity slip away as they say. Consider it payment for teaching you the skills that we have taught you. And if you want to learn more, those who help out will be prioritized more then those who desire free lunches.”
“I suppose that is fair.” Said Oblivion Shadow. “Doing a few quests to learn skills is a fair trade. We will bring you back as much meat as possible.”
As they left the room Elunial said, “Do you know your way back to your rooms by yourself? If I am going to join you on the expedition then I will need to prepare. I can meet you there in around half and hour.”
Gardenia waved to Elunial as she left before walking with Oblivion Shadow back toward the rooms, although they really didn’t have anything to do that.
“So, what kind of skill did you learn?” Asked Gardenia.
“Meditation. It is a skills which improves mp recovery while resting.”
“That sounds like a useful skill, maybe I should learn it.”
“Don’t bother. It is probably incompatible with you. Besides the effect of the skill are weakened while wearing heaver armors so you are probably better off learning something else instead.”
“Fair enough. Learning too many skills can be a hinderance, especially if the skill isn’t very effective. Did learning meditation help you approach inner peace?”
“Not really. They said that there were more skills I could be taught but that I would need to master meditation before I could learn them.”
Gardenia nodded, she didn’t really understand Oblivion Shadow’s goal but her own goal was nebulous enough that she couldn’t really judge others.
“Oh… Elunial asked whether us players are here to stop the end of the world.”
“I wouldn’t be too surprised if that is the case. That sounds like a likely scenario for the developers to think up. Even more so if the NPCs have some concept of the end of the world happening.”
“Ehh… I was worried as much myself. She said we would need to have expert skills to even participate in the end of the world if it happened.”
“She is probably right. It is probably and event for even game players. Mastering expert skills is probably needed for something like the end of the world. In the lore I read there is some information about such as even. They say that when the world ends that the obelisks will fail and those that die will remain dead. That when that happens the monsters will begin to destroy civilization. Without obelisks there will be no hope to save the world.”
“That sounds like a pretty sketchy story. How would the game work if the obelisks stopped working. Anybody that died wouldn’t be able to rejoin the game. People would complain if that ever happened. The game would die.”
“Yes, it would… Although maybe that is the actual truth of the end of the world. The players stop showing up and when the devs start to disable the game the first thing that goes is the obelisks. Then when the servers are finally shut down the real end of the world happens.”
Gardenia shivered, “That seems a bit scary even for me. No, there is probably some end of the world event. We will just have to stop it and restore the obelisks. Then everybody will be able to continue to play like normal.”
“Such optimism. Still, whatever happens it is still far away. I don’t think anybody has learned expert skills yet and at the rate they are improving I expect it to be several months before anybody even starts learning expert skills. I hear that expert skills require multiple mastered intermediate skills to learn.”
“I should probably start looking into those skills then. Figure out what I want and start learning the prerequisite early. But what if there is some rare skills… maybe I should pick up the skills I am interested in and…” Gardenia began muttering to herself under her breath while trying to figure out what to do about her skills. There were a lot of options and she still didn’t have a fully realized vision about how she wanted to play the game.
Before she realized it she was interrupted by Elunial. “Are you two ready?” She asked, breaking Gardenia out of her thoughts. Elunial looked different then she had previously. While she was still wearing the simple clothes she had several tools strapped to a belt around her waist. It includes a knife and what looked like climbing equipment.
“Are you sure you won’t be too cold?” Asked Gardenia.
“I have trained in these temperatures for years. I will be fine. If you find it too much we can teach you the cold resistance skill.”
Gardenia shook her head, “I appreciate the offer but I will pass. It will just make it harder to learn my other skills.”
“Very true. Now come along. We will be leaving through the back entrance.”
She lead the way one more through the bustling hallways of the monastery. Up another set of stairs. The air grew chillier until they arrived at a set of stone doors. Elunial pushed at the doors and they opened to the snowing expanses of the mountain tops. As they stepped through into the snow Gardenia was reminded about how cold everything was here.
Gardenia began to cast her fire support spell. This time with the aid of Inner Focus the effects of the spell were a little bit more powerful and the chill was a little bit more bearable then before. She looked over at Oblivion Shadow and said, “Do you want me to cast warmth on you to?”
“I have some cold resistance potions but your spell would be better.” Said Oblivion Shadow. Gardenia hadn’t even known that cold resistance potions existed but he was right, spells were more reusable than potions. So she cast her spell on him as well.
“Elunial?” Asked Gardenia.
“Things aren’t particularly cold so there is no need to waste your mana. Save it for when we actually need it. Monster have been more commonly lately so keep your guard up.” She closed the door tightly behind them to keep the heat in the monastery.
She continued, “The yaks are a bit away so we will need to travel to find them. This section of the mountain doesn’t have enough vegetation for them so we will need to travel to their grazing zones. Keep an eye our for yetis and other monsters.
While traveling Gardenia and Oblivion Shadow got a good feel for Elunial’s skills. She was stronger than either of them, although not by much. Gardenia wondered if Elunial had held back during the trial to make it more fair.