It was the next Monday. A week had gone by and today was the end of Ryu’s basic training. Over the course of the past week, Bors had instructed Ryu minimally, as there was not much else he could teach Ryu in terms of physical training.
Ryu had been intent on getting stronger, so much so that he hadn’t even logged off since re-entering the game. He was like a child who discovered something new for the first time, fully immersed with everything around him. And so, not having logged off for a week, he satisfied all his basic human needs in Second World. When it was time to eat, he ate whatever Bors brought back from his daily hunts: rabbits, squirrels, deer. He even ate an adult Brown Wolf one night. When it was time to use the restroom he used the forest. And when it was time to sleep, he slept by the nightly campfire. Of course, Bors would stay half-awake to guard against intruders.
At one point Ryu almost decided to log off once just to check the condition of his body in the real world. But he ultimately deemed it unnecessary and continued with his training. And now, thanks to this extreme determination and perseverance, his character had improved, and these improvements were reflected by the apparent increase of his stats in his Character Description window.
An even greater milestone for Ryu was that on that previous Friday, he had finally managed to utilize natural energy successfully on his own. It wasn’t until his Energy became 25 that he was able to imbue his attacks with natural energy. Previously, his only experience with natural energy had been the time when he fought the Brown Wolf, but that didn’t happen with conscious effort. Now, he could use natural energy willingly.
Ryu stood arm’s length in front of a decent-sized boulder. He took one deep breath and pulled back his elbow as a pale white aura appeared around him. When he released his right arm he created a ‘swoosh’ of air—hardly noticeable, but noticeable nonetheless. Upon impact, his fist created a 3-foot-wide crater.
Ryu retracted his arm and shook the stone crumble off his hand, stepping back to take a good look at the result of his training. While the amount of damage he inflicted was impressive for someone of his level, in the much larger picture it was meager at best. He constantly reminded himself of how Bors easily obliterated a boulder much larger than this. As it now stood, his current strength using natural energy matched Bors’ base strength.
Ryu looked at his hand, clutching it in and out.
I still have a long way to go.
Bors, who was now approaching, carried over the large sack he had brought with him last week. He flipped it over his shoulder and onto the ground, upon which a plethora of weapons fell out. “Pick one,” he said.
Ryu looked around and saw nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. It was just a bunch of plain-looking daggers, maces, and axes. A few swords, too, but Ryu already had one. He didn’t even bother to Identify any of them. “It’s fine,” he said. “I have my own.” He patted down on his sword, indicating that it was already his weapon of choice—which he hadn’t identified yet, even after a week of having learned the Identify skill.
“Hmmph. Very well,” Bors said. “Come. Follow me.”
Bors smirked, turning his back and walked in the direction of the dense forest, not responding. Ryu didn’t say anything and followed.
They walked for almost half an hour into the forest until finally, they reached an area that Ryu had never ventured into before. It had a grim and eerie feel to it. There was only a sliver of light coming through the canopy, so both men could only see maybe 100 or 150 feet away from them. After taking just two steps into the new area, a virtual message appeared to Ryu.
|You have entered a Monster Zone: Brown Wolf Thicket [Area 1].
You are the first player to discover Brown Wolf Thicket [Area 1].
Being the first player to discover Brown Wolf Thicket [Area 1], you and your party will receive the following buffs while in Brown Wolf Thicket [Area 1]:
|Duration of buffs: 24 hours|
Bors walked a bit further, stopping in the middle of the opening. He turned around to Ryu and took out a tiny capped flask filled with a yellow fluid. He uncapped it, and a heavy urine stench leaked out. Bors smirked. “I hope you’re ready.”
Upon seeing Bors’ action and keeping in mind that he had entered a monster zone called “Brown Wolf Thicket,” Ryu figured that Bors had planned to lure monsters to them.
I see… He’s planning to lure out Brown Wolves.
Not so scared, but just a little anxious—and even a bit excited—Ryu’s lip curled upwards.
This’ll be a good opportunity to see how much I’ve improved.
It was not even a minute after Bors had opened the vial that about a dozen Brown Wolves appeared. They were all snarling ferociously, appearing to be more aggressive than the pack that had attacked Ryu and Bors last week.
The canines didn’t attack by creeping up to the two men. They charged, all at once—and they seemed pissed. However, Bors was not in any battle stance or positioning. He casually stood still, crossing his arms, as if he had intended to stay out of the fight.
Ryu instantly realized Bors’ intentions and prepared for a solo fight. He spotted several hand-sized stones lying on the ground and picked them up. He threw them with his natural energy-imbued strength and shot half of the fur beats down. Some of the wolves went down instantly when they were hit, being hit directly in the head or neck. Others hit in body were crippled on the first hit. If this was the case, Ryu threw one or two more rocks their way to finish them off. He missed a few times, of course.
Now out of rocks, Ryu drew out his sword, which he also began imbuing with natural energy. Two wolves sprinted ahead of the pack and jumped at him. He evaded and slashed them at their sides in retaliation. One of them, more agile than the other, managed to move in time to dodge the complete slash, but it was still gashed on its hind leg by Ryu’s sword. The other wolf fell down on the spot.
After seeing that the wolf dodged, Ryu reactively swung his sword once again, striking it again, killing it this time. At this time the other four wolves had encircled both him and Bors, who was still standing ever so casually on the same spot. Ryu, on alert, footed his way closer to Bors, now maintaining an arm’s reach from him.
Suddenly, the wolf behind Ryu jump at Bors, and seeing that Bors made no movement signaling a counterattack, Ryu turned and swung his sword around. The blade broke right through the creature’s vertebrae, and the wolf fell just three feet from Bors. When it died, the other three wolves, each just ten feet away from the two men, charged simultaneously. Ryu dashed to the wolf closest to him, and as it was about to jump on him, he moved to the side, dodging the attack. He grasped his sword with both his hands and swung down on the wolf’s neck, killing it instantly.
There was no moment of thinking or stopping at all. Ryu instinctively let go of the sword’s handle as he killed the wolf and re-adjusted it into his hand, holding it like a javelin. He raised his arm, pulling it back, and hurled the weapon at another incoming wolf. He was not a master weapon thrower by any means, but he was either very lucky or very fortunate, as the sword impaled the creature straight in the chest as it was in its mid-air jump.
Now weaponless, Ryu maintained a more defensive stance and did not take the initiative to attack. As the last wolf sprung forth, Ryu moved to the side, only barely evading the creature’s jaw. It did, however, manage to tear his shirt with the very edge of its jaw. As he was dodging, his own body just inches from the wolf’s, he clenched his left hand and maneuvered his leg left to ground and support himself. He focused his energy into his left hand and released a devastating blow onto the animal’s snout. Upon contact, there was a ‘crack’ that echoed through the air. The blow killed the wolf the moment it was struck, and the animal was sent tumbling ten feet away.
After this spectacle, the ever-so-casual Bors change his facial expression, looking astonished for a moment, then reverting back to a normal-looking expression. He scoffed to himself, and thought, “His reflexes are remarkable. His instincts even more so.”
Ryu took a deep breath, and then looked up at the sight of dead wolves before him.
If this had been any other VRMMO, without a doubt, I would have died at my level.
In the real world, Ryu was a highly astute person and both book smart and street smart. However, although he enjoyed them, immersive VR games didn’t come naturally to him. He was an introverted and passive personality, so engaging in active mechanics within VRMMOs such as Dream World felt clunky. He understood the mechanics thoroughly, but he was terrible at executing on them. This is why he was considered a ‘mediocre’ player within Dream World.
However, after having played Second World for more than a week, he felt the difference between Dream World and Second World. It was the most subtle difference, but it was the most significant difference. Ryu considered typical virtual reality an ‘immersive experience,’ an experience that felt real, but was one of the mind. But now, after having played Second World, there was a level above ‘immersion,’ which he now considered ‘real-dreaming,’ an experience which was both truly real—not just immersive—and truly not. And it was for this reason that he was able to defeat the wolves so easily. All of his innate instincts and intuition he possessed in the real world were present in Second World. And paired with his in-game body, he could do things that he couldn’t do in other VRs. So, mechanics like cooldown timers and skill restrictions, and all the other nuances of the typical VRMMO had very little or no meaning for him now. In Second World, he could just follow the flow of battle as it came to him.
Ryu smiled, excited about the limits of this new world. As he looked back up he saw that the bodies of the wolves began to glow with an aura and started to disintegrate into the air, much like how monsters disappear when they die in other VRMMOs. He turned his head all around and saw small parcels and objects standing in place of each wolf corpse. He walked to the nearest pile of items and picked up a small copper bar. There were other parcels of copper, too, ranging from the size of a small nugget to a 6-inch long bar, as well as furs and canine teeth. Although it was just a small thing among the pile, he could also see a copper ring, as well.
Didn’t Holy Dawn say monsters don’t disappear and drop loot? The bear and wolves we’ve killed never disappeared, either.
Ryu remained in thought but was shortly interrupted by Bors. “Looks like you’ve noticed. This is a Monster Zone. Much different than our training area.”
“How so?” said Ryu.
“There are four categories of Zones in this world: City, Monster, Neutral, and Hybrid. A City Zone is a zone that is inhabited by people, such as a village or a town. It also includes farmlands. A Monster Zone, on the other hand, is a zone where monsters live, like this zone we are currently in. A Neutral Zone is a zone that is not inhabited by either. Like the Western Durn Road, for example. And finally, a Hybrid Zone is the hybrid of both Neutral and Monster Zones, where some areas of the Zone are Monster Zones and some areas are Neutral Zones. The Brown Forest is a Hybrid Zone, as you have probably realized. Some parts are Neutral, and some parts are Monster. My training areas are located in the Neutral Zones of the Brown Forest.”
“So in other words, you’re also saying that Neutral Zones can be occupied by both people and monsters.
“Aye,” Bors said. “Those wolves from last week, and also the bear, they came into a Neutral Zone.”
“What about the local fauna, like deer and rabbits? Where are they categorized?”
Bors smirked. “All creatures that are not people are considered monsters. After all, every single living creature harnesses natural essence. Even a sweet-looking rabbit. But don’t be fooled, kid. Some of the most harmless-looking creatures are sometimes the most powerful. But to answer your question: For these parts of the Brown Forest, most of the local fauna like deer just happen to live in the Neutral Zones. And since they live in the Neutral Zones, it’s not uncommon to see a Brown Bear or Brown Wolves venture into Neutral Zones.”
“So how does a Monster Zone play into this?”
Bors continued. “Monster Zones are magical areas that have an incredibly high concentration of essence, so much so that creatures spawn frequently out of the essence.”
“And when they’re killed they become this?” Ryu said, gesturing to the items on the ground. Of course, Ryu was already aware of what this pile was, as he had played VRMMOS before.
“Correct,” Bors said. “But only in Monster Zones. If a monster dies outside of a Monster Zone, their bodies remain intact. But if they die whilst in a Monster Zone, their physical bodies disappear, and they leave behind an assortment of items. These items may be slabs of meat, skins, and furs, as well as raw material like that bar of copper you have in your hand. There are rare occasions where parts of the essence of the creature will transmute into an already-refined item, like a sword, or even a potion or elixir.”
“Does the amount of loot depend on the monster?”
“Indeed it does,” said Bors. “And not just that, but it also depends on the zone as well, as each zone has its own unique attributes.”
He must be referring to the Monster Zone buffs. So it does seem that loot mechanics exist in this game, after all. It’s only a matter of killing monsters in the right zone.
Ryu bent down and picked up the ring from the pile of loot and Identified it. As he did so, two messages appeared, followed by a window with the ring’s stats.
|Congratulations! You have successfully used the Identify skill.
You are the first player to use the Identify skill.
As a result, you have earned the title, The True Identifier.
|Congratulations! You have earned your first title.
Earning your first title has granted you access to the Titles Descriptions menu.
You are the first player to earn a title. As such, you have been rewarded with 10 stat points.
|Copper Interspatial Ring|
|Level Requirement: 1
Spatial Slots: 10
|A spatial slot for this ring can store only one of the following:
|Weight: 0.025 lb|
|Explicit Rarity: Rare|
|Implicit Rarity (Hidden): Brown|
|This item is True-Identified.|
An interspatial ring? I’ve read about these in some Wuxia novels. I see… I’m guessing it’s supposed to be a substitute for the virtual inventory that VRMMOs typically have. It looks like you have to work for everything in this game after all. Even the inventory.
He looked down at the bottom of the ring’s description, noticing that the item was also marked as “True-Identified.”
True-Identified? I wonder what that means.
“You’re quite lucky,” Bors said. “A ring. That’s quite an uncommon find. You should get it Identif…” Bors awkwardly stretched out the sound of the ‘f.’ “…You can already Identify items, can’t you?”
Ryu nodded casually.
Bors merely sighed, shaking his head. “Of course.” After a moment of jealous thinking, he then asked, “Well, what is it?”
“It’s an interspatial ring.”
Bors turned silent. “How lucky can this young man get?” he thought.
“Is there something wrong?” asked Ryu.
“No, no. Not really,” Bors said, humorously. “It’s just that interspatial rings are worth hundreds of gold coins—even for the lowest rarity ones, or even the lowest quality ones.”
“Is that a lot?”
“A hundred gold coins can get you a decent Rare piece of equipment,” Bors said. “Tell me, what are the stats for your ring?”
Ryu told Bors exactly what he had seen on the ring’s stat window. He even mentioned the term ‘True-Identified’ and the Implicit Rarity of the ring.
Bors woefully sighed, but gradually returned back to his calm manner. “I guess some were just born to be great.” He put his hand on Ryu’s shoulder. “Young man, you’re quite lucky.” He paused, and said in a serious manner, “But even luck can’t save you from a fight.” He walked away, back in the direction of the main road. “Come,” he said. “Pick up your loot and follow me.”
“Where are we going?” said Ryu.
“You still have one more fight.”
Bors turned his head, a grin on his face. “Me.”