Chapter 7: The Most Essential Skill

A shirtless Ryu was doing sit-ups in a large, open area of the forest, probably as big as a football field.

498… 499…… 500!

“Another set!” Bors yelled.

Ryu’s face twitched, annoyed. He was sweating all over, panting.

What the hell… What kind of training is this?!

For the past ten hours, Ryu had been doing rotations of sit-ups, pushups, pull-ups, and reverse pull-ups, with stretching in between. He had done hundreds of repetitions of each, as well ran dozens of laps around a designated area that Bors had instructed him to run, which had measured about two miles round.

This would have been physically impossible for any normal person. However, Bors had given him a strange liquid to drink at random intervals of his training. Drinking this fluid restored Ryu’s vitality and stamina, which had allowed him to continue this gruesome training routine.

Although Ryu was heavily panting at this point, he was not completely exhausted. Seeing this, Bors continued with the ‘training,’ giving Ryu no choice but to do as he was told.

It’s dark again… How long have I been in the game? The sun has set twice since I’ve logged in. That’s two days in-game… How long is that in the real world?

While Ryu was doing his new set of sit-ups, Bors thought to himself intently. “This young man… I know I’ve given him several portions of the elixir to rejuvenate his energy, but still… The intervals at which I’ve been giving them to him have increased. At first, he got exhausted after 150 sit-ups and a few laps. But after his first drink, he didn’t become exhausted until 200 reps and a few more extra laps. Then after his second, he didn’t become exhausted until 300 reps. He even did dozens of pushups to boot, even after doing his runs. Then he went to 500 right after… It’s been two hours since his last drink, and he’s managed to do several hundred reps of each exercise as well as dozens of laps. All without breaking. I’ve never seen such tremendous growth… Not even the Great Warriors of Calduun would have been capable of this when they were at this stage. Where did this young man come from? Moreover, his body…

It had only been less than 30 seconds in and Ryu was on his 70th sit up in this new set. He thought about his strange situation.

This is so different from Dream World.

In Dream World, a character could do similar exercises. However, it would have been much easier and simpler, as the only thing dictating whether a character could do the exercise was the amount of stamina they had. If an exercise cost ten stamina to complete, then it meant that doing 10 of those exercises would cost 100 stamina. So if you kept replenishing your stamina, 100 stamina at a time, you could continuously do 10 reps each time you refilled your stamina.

However, as Ryu was experiencing firsthand, doing these exercises in Second World affected the character’s body differently, as it caused a positive correlative relationship. That is, the more you exercised, the more your body grew and adjusted to your exercise routine. Thus it increased the maximum amount of reps you could perform in a routine each time. For example, doing 50 sets continuously would improve your body, allowing you to do 55 sets with ease in the future. And continuous reps of 55 would then improve your body once again, allowing you to do 70 sets after that. Etc., etc. Fortunately for Ryu, he was able to do this continuously, as every time he drank the elixir, his body was rejuvenated back to its prime state.

Ryu looked at Bors.

Those strange drinks he’s been giving me… They’re most definitely stamina elixirs of some kind. Without them I would have broken down ages ago. But what really surprises me…

He looked at his arms and abs.

My body’s transformed.

Ryu could see that his biceps and abdominal muscles were much more refined than when he had started ten hours ago. His body had become visibly leaner and more toned, as he was not the scrawny and skinny guy from earlier this morning.

“Stop. You’ve done enough,” Bors interrupted.

Ryu stood up and was handed a small glass vial containing a yellow-green fluid. He gulped the contents down.

“It’s time to move onto something else,” Bors said, leading the way to another area.

The new area was much larger. However, unlike the previous area, this place had dozens of rocks and boulders scattered everywhere. They were of various shapes and sizes, ranging from the size of a coconut to the size of small car. Bors picked up the smallest rock he could find and handed it over to Ryu.

“Take this,” Bors said. “Hold it for as long as you can.”

Ryu had no complaints and accepted the rock with both his palms. However, he didn’t hold the rock for long. Only 30 seconds had gone until the rock slipped out of his hands.

It’s heavier than it looks. Fifty, maybe sixty pounds?

“Your Endurance has improved. I’ll give you that,” Bors said. “But your Strength is terrible. Starting now you will begin Strength training!”

Ryu started off his new training session by carrying a 50-lb rock from one end of the area to the other end, which was about 300 feet, all the while having to walk around or over all the scattered boulders. He continued doing this for two hours, and as always, Bors supplied him with a glass of the yellow-green fluid when he became exhausted. After the first two hours, he began carrying a 70-lb rock, which he continued to carry from end to end for three hours. He eventually moved on to an 80-lb boulder, but by this time, the sun was rising. The first streams of light began breaking through the canopy.

Ryu was panting, lying on the grass with his arms and legs spread out. He looked up through the tiny sky opening.

It’s morning again.

Exhausted, Ryu forced himself up and sat with his legs crossed. He closed his eyes and relaxed, breathing slowly and softly.

The morning air surprisingly feels quite nice, a little warm even. I guess all this training wasn’t so bad. My body’s definitely improved.

As he was in his relaxed stance, he began to feel something, a tingling sensation.

Ah… What is this? It feels wonderful. It’s like I’m at the top of a forest mountain, and below me is a beautiful green valley.

Bors noticed what was happening, and jolted with surprise. Around Ryu was a pale twinkling aura. It was faint, but Bors could see it clearly. He exclaimed quietly, “This is…!”

Suddenly, several splintering noises came from the woods.

Ryu opened his eyes, seeing what had appeared just 100 feet from where he was sitting. Brown wolves, twice the size of normal wolves. And dozens of them, all snarling.

There’s gotta be at least 80.

Bors tossed Ryu’s sword to him. “Get behind me,” Bors said.

As Bors said this, the wolves charged.

Bors took out several knives and threw them at the incoming wolves. The wolves that were struck were immediately taken down. They had all been struck in the neck.

His accuracy is amazing. And to think he could hit so many at once.

Bors kept throwing knives, but the wolves kept coming. He walked forwards, closing the distance in case he had to go into close combat.

If this keeps up, he’ll kill them all. It looks like he can manage on his own after all. Me on the other hand…

Ryu firmly grasped his sword’s handle.

No. If it comes down to it, I have to give it my all. I won’t die. Not again.

Flashbacks of his Dream World death experience were going through his head. These memories were slowly on their way to becoming repressed and forgotten. But every time Ryu thought of death, he remembered that final scene: his last memory of Dream World where he lay there at the feet of dozens of grinning players. The moment of his final death. Then the face of his ‘guild member’ popped up into his mind, and he squeezed his hand on the sword handle evermore tightly.

Bors soon ran out of knives, so he resorted to throwing the stones on the ground. He smashed a boulder against the ground, and it broke into many smaller pieces, using those smaller pieces as throwing material. However, as he was too busy with the wolves in front of him, he couldn’t fully protect Ryu, and unfortunately for Ryu, a wolf managed to get past and was running towards the young man. Bors couldn’t do anything to it because he had to deal with the pack of wolves charging at him. He had no other option but to let Ryu fend for himself

Although he was scared, trembling almost, Ryu had no choice but to fight. He stood firm, maintaining a decent stance.

The wolf was about ten feet away when it jumped, trying to pounce on Ryu. Barely, Ryu managed to evade it.

The wolf then circled back and attacked again, pouncing once more. Ryu managed to avoid getting jumped on, but the wolf was able to scrape its teeth across Ryu’s arm, gashing it several inches.

Ryu looked at his sword as blood was dripping down the handle.

I need to attack.

This time he took the initiative to attack. He ran towards the wolf and swung when it was within his reach. The wolf tried dodging but failed. However, Ryu’s slash was too weak—or rather, the wolf’s fur was too tough, so he did no damage.

That attack definitely connected… It’s the fur, isn’t it?

Ryu gripped his sword.

If I live through this, I’m definitely going to continue with Bors’ training.

Ryu took a deep breath and looked at the snarling beast. He firmly adjusted the grip of his sword and engaged once more. This second time around, he swung with all the might he could muster. The wolf jumped to the side trying to evade, but Ryu managed to cut its leg.

The wolf, now angry with a wound, growled viciously at Ryu. It charged at him, running faster than Ryu had seen it run before.

It leaped to attack. Ryu was too slow to dodge at that distance. At that moment, all he could do was use his sword to guard himself.

The wolf pinned him to the ground. But before the beast managed to get onto him, Ryu had turned his blade and grabbed both ends of the sword. When the creature leaped onto him, Ryu used the blade as leverage, using it as a bar to shove the wolf’s face away by pushing the blade against its neck. He then twisted the blade sideways, hoping he would slice the wolf’s neck, but the fur was too tough.

Shit!

It was then that wolf grabbed the sword with its mouth and shook it out of Ryu’s hand. It tossed the blade several feet to the side, leaving Ryu with nothing but his bare hands.

With no more options, Ryu used both his hands, his left hand used as leverage to keep the wolf from biting his face off, and his right hand used to forcefully lift the wolf up from its belly, in the hope that he could re-grab his sword. Unfortunately, the animal was much too heavy to be pushed away.

It was in that moment that Ryu lowered his right hand, and with absolute resolve, he formed a fist. The strange energy that he had felt earlier surged through him. 

He felt power in that moment. 

With all his might he hit the beast in the neck.

Crack!

Ryu punched so hard that it broke the wolf’s neck, killing it instantly. Full of adrenaline, he was breathing heavily. He pushed the dead creature off and got up, upon which he saw Bors walking towards him, already having killed the last of the wolves.

“Congratulations,” Bors said, in a matter-of-fact tone. “You’ve killed your first Brown Wolf.”

Ryu looked at both his hands, thinking about what had happened in that final moment. Bors looked at him and said, “Natural energy.”

“Natural energy?” said Ryu.

Bors laughed. “You really do live under a rock, don’t you? But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Bors said. “Come, I’ll show you.”

Ryu followed Bors to the other end of the field where there weren’t any wolf corpses lying around.

Bors then stopped and stood in front of a car-sized boulder, turning to Ryu. “First, just raw power,” he said.

He inhaled and formed a fist. Then he punched the rock. Upon connecting, he dented it, creating a three-to-four feet wide crater.

Bors then jiggled his hand, shaking off any rock fragments or particles that were stuck on his knuckles. “Now, let me show you what happens when I imbue my attack with the power of natural energy,” he said.

Bors inhaled, deeper than before. He seemed more focused, too. He clenched his fist, readying his strike.

As Bors did this, Ryu saw twinkling specs floating around Bors and also a faint, but visible beige aura enveloping him, too.

Bors did a swift jabbing motion, and the next thing Ryu saw was the boulder shattering to thousands of pieces. The impact itself blew against the grass in proximity and also a created little gust that brushed Ryu’s hair to the side.

Amazing.

“If you’re amazed, don’t be,” said Bors. “I’m not so good with utilizing natural energy, so what you just saw was nothing but a little spectacle.”

Still clueless on the matter, Ryu drew a blank face.

Bors laughed. “Come, sit down. I’ll tell you. But first, let’s patch up that arm of yours,”

Bors sat down a small boulder, with Ryu doing the same. Bors took out a vial filled with a red concoction from the pouch around his waist and poured it over Ryu’s wound. As soon as the liquid touched Ryu’s arm, Ryu’s wound began to close up. It took only a matter of moments before Ryu’s arm was fully healed.

Ryu moved his fingers around and squeezed his arm to make doubly sure this was all real.

“Neat, isn’t it?” Bors said.

“What is that?”

“A healing potion,” Bors said. “But it’s of the lowest quality.”

I wonder what a high-quality one would do…

“You’re lucky you didn’t lose an arm or a leg. I definitely don’t have anything with me that would’ve patched that up.”

“I see,” said Ryu. “Thank you.”

Bors scoffed. “Anyways, back to natural energy. But before we begin we must go over the basics. First you must know that in this world there is something called natural essence, which is the essential unit of natural energy. Hence, why it’s called ‘essence.’ Simply put, natural essence is natural energy in its purest form. That should be pretty simple to understand, I hope.”

Ryu nodded for the sake of nodding, still unsure of what that meant, as Bors was really vague.

“Good,” Bors said. “Anyways, when one harnesses natural essence, they are able to manifest this raw source of power as natural energy. And using that energy, they can perform inhuman feats.” Bors looked at the spot where he shattered the boulder. “That last punch you saw was imbued with natural energy.”

“If I may ask, what exactly is ‘harnessing’?” Ryu said.

“First, you must know that there are two types of harnessing: attunement and absorption. When you harness natural essence through attunement, you integrateyourself with it. It isn’t one simple action. It’s a continuous process. Don’t imagine absorbing essence into your body. That’s not what integration is. Instead, imagine invisible roots from within your own body, slowly growing, extending outwards and out of your body, connecting with other roots on the outside. The roots, in this case, being natural essence.”

Ryu nodded, agreeing with the logic. “So what you’re saying is that we all have natural essence, and that integration, or rather, attunement, is a kind of harmonization between our own essence and the essence of the natural world.”

“Exactly,” Bors said. “However, absorption differs greatly from this. As you’ve correctly described, attunement is when two sources of essence harmonize, becoming one. Absorption, on the other hand, is when one source of essence absorbs another.”

“So then, based off of what you’ve said, attunement should be more difficult than absorption,” said Ryu.

Bors gave a rough smile. “You’re pretty smart, kid,” he said. “But yes, you’re right. Attunement takes time, dedication, and immense focus. There are very few people in Albamania who practice attunement nowadays. I figure that there are less than 10,000 people in all of Albamania who currently practice. Of those 10,000, maybe 100 or fewer are adept or masters at it. Absorption occurs in a sitting, or even instantly, which is why it’s the more popular approach to harnessing essence. However, there are risks and drawbacks that come with it.”

Ryu nodded.

“Now, when you harness essence, be it through attunement or absorption, two things happen. The first we’ve already discussed, which is being able to utilize the power of essence, manipulating it in whatever shape or form as you see fit. The second, just as important, is that your body becomes stronger. What I mean by this is that, as a result of integrating with or absorbing essence, your body becomes strengthened. Essentially you become fused with it, thus making your body more powerful. After all, essence is pure energy.”

“Is that how you were able to kill the bear and wolves so easily?” said Ryu.

“Aye,” Bors nodded. “It’s also why you couldn’t cut through the Brown Wolf’s fur during that fight earlier. It had harnessed enough essence throughout its lifetime to toughen its own fur… Which, in your case, could’ve probably been just a few days or a few weeks.”

Ryu furled his eyebrows and said, “So that must mean other creatures can harness essence, too.”

Bors nodded. “All creatures can, and they do it naturally just by being alive. Scholars call this Passive Attunement. Humans passively harness essence, too, but only at a minute level. It isn’t until they focus and attune themselves willingly that they are able to harness essence at a proficient level. But some creatures are better than others at harnessing essence. These kinds of creatures, they are the real monsters. At your level, pray that you don’t come across one.”

Ryu grabbed his chin. “I think I understand it now.”

“I only explained the major points,” Bors said. “If you want a thorough run down, you’ll have to talk to a scholar, like that old man. They can explain it much better than me. There are numerous others in the cities just as knowledgeable, if not more.”

He must be referring to Roland.

“Understood,” Ryu said. “I’ll make a visit when I get the time. Thank you.”

Bors nodded. “And with that, I believe we’re done here.”

“Already?” Ryu said, a little surprised.

“I’ve helped you with the very basics,” Bors said.” And you might not know it, but you’re a natural-born fighter. I don’t think I can teach you anything else.”

“What about harnessing essence?”

“If you’re talking about attunement, that’s something only you can teach yourself,” he said. His lips turned upward, turning into a haughty smile. “But I see that you already have a talent for that.” Bors was referring to the time when Ryu harnessed essence for the first time, which was probably beginner’s luck. Or perhaps fate.

“As for harnessing through absorption, you can do that with potions and elixirs,” said Bors. “However, refining essence into a potion or elixir, or any other form factor, requires extensive knowledge of alchemy. The number of alchemists in Moratia are few, and that’s why the prices of potions and elixirs are extremely high.”

Ryu looked down, holding his chin.

Alchemy… No, it’s too soon to think about that. I need to focus on my fighting skills first.

Ryu looked up at Bors. “Could you at least teach me sword skills?”

Bors examined Ryu, scanning him up and down. “Hmm. I think I might be able to. Of course, I don’t do favors for free.”

“You trained me, didn’t you? You also used an elixir on me.” Ryu said nonchalantly.

“Tch. I did that old man a favor. Not you.”

It was at that moment that a nonchalant Ryu took out a gold coin from his bag, waving it in Bors’ face.

Bors’ face flushed with red, drooling almost. But he coughed, quickly composing himself. “I’m not too good with swords,” he said. “But I might be able to recommend you to someone.”

Ryu nodded.

“Is it alright if I use your training grounds for a few more days?” Ryu asked.

Bors sat there silent. “Fine,” he finally said. “I’ll only be here for another week, anyway. You’d better make good use of it while I’m still here.”

“Thank you,” Ryu said, nodding.

With that, Ryu resumed his physical training. Meanwhile, Bors carried the wolf carcasses away to who knows where.


It was several hours later. Ryu was on a boulder, sitting straight with his legs crossed. He was in a meditative stance, his eyes closed. He tried entering the state he was in when he first harnessed essence. But nothing was happening. He almost succeeded again earlier, but he heard a slight breaking of a branch from the wind and lost his focus.

It’s more difficult than I thought.

He breathed in deeply, giving himself wholeheartedly away to the world. He meditated for several minutes, with nothing still happening. Then, after a while much too long, he felt something. It was a tiny feeling, much like the tingling from before. It gradually became stronger, until finally, Ryu felt a surging force within him.

It feels similar to mana from Dream World. But it also has a strange warmth to it. It doesn’t feel like much. Probably equivalent to a Lvl. 2 or 3 character’s amount of mana. My Strength and other stats don’t seem like much at all, either… I still have a long way to go.

His eyes still closed, Ryu smiled, the most authentic smile he’d shown. He didn’t even think about it. It just happened. Exhilarated, he inhaled.

Suddenly, a white light emanated from his body, beaming into the sky. A bright radiance flowed around him, but it quickly dissipated.

Ryu exhaled and opened his eyes to virtual screen window.

Oh?

Congratulations! You have learned the Natural Essence Harnessing skill.

Learning the Natural Essence Harnessing skill has granted you access to the Skills Descriptions menu.

You are the first player to learn Natural Essence Harnessing skill. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points.
Congratulations! You have learned the Natural Essence Harmonization skill.

Learning the Natural Essence Harmonization skill has granted you access to the Passive Skills Descriptions menu.

You are the first player to learn the Natural Essence Harmonization skill. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points. 
Congratulations! You have learned the Self-Awareness skill.

Learning the Self-Awareness skill has granted you access to the Character Description menu.

You are the first player to learn the Self-Awareness skill. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points.

Skills? Menus?

Ryu gestured his hand in the air and opened up a new menu: the Skills Description menu.

Natural Essence Harnessing
Natural Essence Harnessing: Attunement

You are able to harness minimal amounts of natural essence through attunement.
Natural Essence Harnessing: Passive Attunement

As all things passively attune to the natural world, you have the basic ability to passively attune to the natural world. As a result, you passively harness natural essence through attunement.

You are able to passively harness minuscule amounts of natural essence through attunement.

As your Natural Essence Harmonization skill increases, the amount and rate at which you passively attune to natural essence will increase.

Your proficiency with Natural Essence Harnessing is affected by your Perception.
Level: Beginner
Proficiency Grade (Attunement): S+
Proficiency Grade (Passive Attunement): F-
Natural Essence Harmonization
You are able to harmonize with the natural essence that you harness through Natural Essence Harnessing: Attunement and Natural Essence Harnessing: Passive Attunement.

As a result of harmonizing with natural essence, you are able to transform natural essence into natural energy, enabling you to create or manipulate natural phenomena.

Using natural energy, you can strengthen your body at will, as well as strengthen weapons by imbuing them with natural energy.

As your Natural Essence Harmonization skill increases, your body will passively become stronger, increasing your StrengthStaminaEnduranceSpeedAgilityQuicknessHardness, and Toughness.

Your proficiency with Natural Essence Harmonization is affected by your Insight.
Level: Beginner
Proficiency Level: S+
Sword Mastery
You are able to use a sword at the most basic level.
Level: Beginner
Proficiency Grade: F
Hand-to-Hand Combat Mastery
You are able to fight using hand-to-hand combat at a basic level, but you’ve had some experience with hand-to-hand combat, so you have some understanding of hand-to-hand combat.
Level: Novice
Proficiency Grade: C

He motioned his hand again in the air and opened a new menu: the Passive Skills Descriptions menu.

Self-Awareness
You have a moderately-above-average level of self-awareness. As such, you have the insight to understand things about yourself.

You are aware of some of your own basic character information.

Achieving Self-Awareness has also granted you the ability to understand your skills better .

You are aware of some basic information regarding your skills.

As your Self-Awareness level increases, you will become aware of more information about your character and skills.
Level: Moderately Above Average
Strength
You have average strength.

You are able to carry 50 pounds worth of objects on you without getting tired.

The Natural Essence Harmonization skill does not yet have a passive effect on Strength.
Efficacy Grade: D-
Endurance
You have average endurance.

You are able to do dozens of short routines of beginner-level exercises for a prolonged period of time without becoming fatigued.

Your Endurance affects your Stamina.

The Natural Essence Harmonization skill does not yet have a passive effect on Endurance.
Efficacy Grade: D
Stamina
You have average stamina.

You are able to do a long routine of beginner-level exercises without becoming fatigued.

Your Stamina is affected by your Endurance.
Efficacy Grade: D
Speed
You have average speed.

You are able to traverse a league in an hour at a constant walking speed.

You are able to traverse three leagues in an hour at a constant running speed.

The Nature Essence Harmonization skill does not yet have a passive effect on Speed.
Efficacy Grade: C-
Quickness
You have above average reflexes.

You are able to react quickly to any situation you find yourself in.

Your Quickness affects your Agility.

The Natural Essence Harmonization skill does not yet have a passive effect on Quickness.
Efficacy Grade: A+
Agility
You have slightly above average agility.

You are able to change the direction of your body movement while already in motion… Sometimes.

Your Agility is affected by your Quickness.
Efficacy Grade: A+
Hardness
Hardness: Physical Hardness

You have basic physical hardness.

You will be cut and pierced by physical objects.

The Natural Essence Harmonization skill does not yet have a passive effect on Hardness: Physical Hardness.
Efficacy Grade: F-
Toughness
Toughness: Physical Toughness

You have basic physical toughness.

You will suffer physical trauma that is not classified as a ‘cut’ or ‘pierce.’

The Natural Essence Harmonization skill does not yet have a passive effect on Toughness: Physical Toughness.
Efficacy Grade: F-
Intelligence
You have profound intellect.

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

Your Wisdom directly affects your Insight.
Affinity Grade: S++++
Perception
You have profound perception.

Your Perception is directly affected by your Intelligence.
Affinity Grade: S+++
Insight
You have profound insight.

Your Insight is directly affected by your Wisdom.
Affinity Grade: S++++

So many skills! It also seems that I had already learned skills. It’s just that I didn’t know about them. It seems you have to unlock the Skills Descriptions menu to see what skills you have. It even includes passive skills, like Strength and Stamina.

Seeing these skills, Ryu was excited.

He gestured his hand in the air, opening the Character Description menu.

Name
Ryu
Title
None
Level
1
Affiliation
Traveler
Alignment
None
Race
Human
Profession
None
Fame
5
HP: 50/50 Energy: 5/5
Physical Stats
Strength: 5  Speed: 3
Endurance: 10 Stamina: 5
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

He smiled.

This is incredible.

“Looks like someone’s in a good mood,” a voice said, approaching from behind. It was Bors. His leather vest was splattered with blood.

“Ah, it’s nothing,” Ryu chuckled. “I was just thinking of something, that’s all.”

“By the way, did you see a white light just now?” Bors said, a little curious with a hint of suspicion.

“No,” Ryu responded. His eyes were closed when his body emitted the light, so he was really telling the truth.

Bors bore a blank expression, blinking. “Hmm. Well, alright,” he said. “Anyways, I have to go to Durn for some things, so I’ll be gone for a while,” said Bors.

“I think I should get going, then. I haven’t been home in a few days,” Ryu said, getting up.

Bors nodded. “Do you need me to accompany you out of the forest?”

“I’d appreciate that,” Ryu said. He picked up his items, and the two left.


When they arrived at the edge of the forest Ryu turned to Bors. “This should be it,” he said. “I can make it back from here by myself. Thank you for everything.”

Bors didn’t say anything. He simply gave an understanding nod and continued on the path back to Durn.

But before Bors fully turned his back, Ryu said, “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to come back and train again. Just until you leave, of course.”

Bors didn’t stop when Ryu spoke. He had kept walking, with his back still turned. “You have a week,” he said loudly. “And don’t keep me waiting.”

Ryu spoke no words, only half-smiling. Bors continued on, his back still turned, waving two fingers as a goodbye to Ryu. It was, after all, the most appropriate way for the two men to say farewell.

Ryu waited until Bors was out of sight before he brought up the ‘Log Off’ screen. But before logging off, he looked up at the sky and smiled a wondrous smile.

I guess this game isn’t so bad after all.

A soft wind came passing by, gently blowing against his short, but silky black hair.

He confirmed the log out and was gone.

Meanwhile, still on the western road, Bors was walking, sensing the strange phenomena. Behind him was a dazzling white pillar of light, extending up to the sky. He didn’t bother turning to check what had happened. He merely rolled his eyes, gleaning over his shoulder.

He scoffed. “So, he was a traveler, after all.” He smiled and continued on.

The gust that had blown by Ryu earlier was now just passing Bors, and with it, a vibrant green leaf. The gentle gale carried it away into the sky—into the shining sun.

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