Everyday… every goddamn hour – sometimes even more often than that, I do the same thing over and over again. Some asshole with ridiculously colored hair and a shiny weapon comes up to me and I repeat my lines as I must:
“So, you’re the fabled hero, eh? Wonder if you’re actually as strong as they say? There’s a monster up in the mountains and I can’t take my wares to the city! Destroy the monster for me and I’ll reward you!”
Without fail, every single “hero” comes back with the monster’s head and I give them some silver for their troubles. The problem? I’m not made of money! I really do need to cross the mountain to sell this stuff but for some reason I’m stuck here, day in, day out, making these assholes richer while my siblings are probably starving at home, wondering where their big brother is.
Two months. I’ve been stuck here for TWO MONTHS. I left home overjoyed with the rare herbs I’d found – I knew I’d be able to feed my family for a year or more if I sold them at the city. Thankfully the herbs stayed fresh due to the magic I imbued into them but seriously?! Two months?! What kind of curse has befallen me?! I want to see my little siblings, heck, I wouldn’t mind seeing that deadbeat I call my father at this point.
Ugh. Another “hero.” At least this one doesn’t have stupid pink or blue hair. First “normal” looking one I’ve seen in weeks. Every time they try talking to me I try not to respond, but each second I resist results in excruciating pain. I’ve been practicing with each “hero” that comes by and I’m getting more used to the pain. The longest I’ve held out so far is ten seconds. Let’s see if I can push it longer this time.
She’s saying the same line they all say:
“Hey, you seem to be in trouble, is something wrong?”
I held my breath, trying not to regurgitate the cursed words. One… two… three… four… five…. I exhaled when she moved away. For some reason, some of the “heroes” would walk away if I didn’t respond immediately and the pain and need to respond went away.
She came back though, they all did. One… two… three… four…….ten… eleven… twelve… Feels like my head will split… but would I die if I held out longer? The pain made me think yes, but would that be so bad? Maybe my goods would be returned to be family and I would be free from this hell… Fourteen… and the world went black.
What the… is this some kind of bug? Or a special event quest…? But I’m only level 10…
Luna stood there staring at the NPC that had suddenly become unclickable and seemed to have fallen on his side, his image flickering. The new VR game had been released two months prior, boasting state of the art technology with more realism than any other VR game currently released. They had also boasted about their lack of bugs… Luna was only level 10! No way she was already encountering a bug – she’d shelled out a quarter of her paycheck for this game!
Do… Do I just move on to the next quest…? Luna sighed and opened up her options to report the bug. Might as well hope it gets fixed for the next player, I guess.
Her finger was hovering over the “Report Bug” button when Yu Chi stirred.
“Ugh… What the – “ Yu Chi fell silent as he realized he was on the ground. He jumped up in excitement. “YES! I’m FREE! I’m finally – “
He stopped shouting when he noticed Luna staring at him. She was pressing something in front of her frantically as she edged away.
This has to be a bug, an event wasn’t announced, I can’t click him… wth, why is the report bug button not working?!
Yu Chi wondered what she was pressing – there was a small rectangle in front of her and she kept pushing the same spot with her finger. “Hey, do you know what’s going on?”
Luna’s jaw dropped and she stopped moving. Did the NPC just ask her a question like a player? Without a dialog box? “Uh…” Smart, Luna. You are so goddamn smart.
“I’m Chi, Yu Chi. I was stuck there for a while but it looks like I can go home now! I don’t know if it’s something you did or what, but I’m free now, so thanks!” I’ll sell my herbs later – I need to make sure my family’s okay first.
Chi started down the road, shifting his pack over his shoulder. Luna stopped pressing the report bug button and watched as Chi walked down the road where she’d come from. Suddenly, Chi fell backwards. He got back up and dusted himself off before trying to walk forward again.
“WHAT THE HELL!!!” It was as though there was an invisible wall in front of him – every time he tried to step forward, he would fall back. He tried walking to the side but no matter how far he went with his hand along the “wall,” there didn’t seem to be an end. He turned around and jogged towards Luna.
I should keep moving… or log out. Yeah, I should log out for the night, I’ve obviously pushed myself too hard trying to level after work. Luna opened up her options again, her hands shaking, trying to log out before Chi reached her. Her finger hovered over “Log Out” but pressed “Settings” in her panic. Oh my God, Luna, wth.
“Hey, can you help me out?”
Luna let out a sigh of relief. This had to be a quest. Maybe the game’s “realism” was really that different from other games and this was the intro to the tech the game creators had boasted.
“Sure, Chi! What do you need?”
“Can you walk over there and see how far you can get?”
…A quest. This is a quest. A weird quest, but, I’m sure this is some kind of tutorial quest for the next section of the game. “Sure.”
Chi followed Luna as she walked down the road. She walked past the area Chi had been unable to and turned around when she heard a thud. Chi was on the ground again, but he didn’t get up this time. The frustrated yet sad look on his face made her pause although all she wanted to do was keep walking. She walked back to him.
“You okay, Chi?”
Chi looked up at her and she was shocked to see tears in his eyes. Damn, this game really is realistic. I guess it was worth the few hundred I had to shell out for it.
“I… I don’t understand. I have to go down this road to reach my town. My family’s waiting for me. I was stuck in that spot for two months – I was under a curse or something. I didn’t even know if there was a monster up there until the curse made me talk to some ‘hero’ and they brought me back the monster’s head. I kept having to give them the money I’d saved up on my way to the city and now I can’t go back home, it’s like there’s an invisible wall here, I need to get home, my family only has me to provide for them, my siblings will starve to death without me, oh my god, what am I going to do…” His eyes glazed over as the tears slowed. It would have been better if I’d died…
Luna held out her hand to him, indicating that he should take it and get up. “Why don’t I go to your town for you? I’ll tell your family that you ran into some trouble, but you’re okay and you can go sell your stuff for now or find someone to help you out with your situation.”
Chi nodded, sniffling. “Thank you. My family is in Chuna… our house is by the lake, if you ask someone near there for the Yu family home, they will show you where it is. Please take this to my siblings… it’s not much but they should be able to buy food for a month or so. Please don’t give it to my father. Give it to Chisa secretly, she’s my sister.”
Luna took the money and put it away carefully. Chuna was the starting town for the game, so her journey wouldn’t take her long, especially if she warped there. “I’ll be back in 10 minutes, Chi, so just sit tight, okay?”
Chi nodded and shuffled over to a tree to sit under it. “I’ll be right here, hero. Thank you.”
She gave him a smile as she pulled up the map. “My name is Luna, Chi. I’ll be back soon.” With those words, she disappeared.
The lake… okay, looks like it’s in the south part of town. Luna ran towards the lake, wondering what her quest reward would be. She hoped it was new gear – she was still wearing the newbie stuff she’d spawned with. She clicked an NPC and was glad to see an option that said “Where is the Yu family house?” She clicked it and the NPC started walking away. She was lead to a small, wooden house that seemed to be falling apart.
She knocked on the door and a small girl answered the door. “Yes?”
Luna couldn’t click her. Definitely a part of the weird tutorial quests. “I’m looking for Chisa?”
The girl nodded. “I am Chisa. Can I help you?”
“I ran into your brother, Chi. He wanted me to let you know that he’s okay and – “
“WHO IS IT, BRAT?” A loud voice echoed from inside the house. Chisa turned and told her father that it was a stranger at the door. “TELL THEM TO GO AWAY IF THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BUY ONE OF YOU.”
Chisa winced and nodded as she stepped out of the house, closing the door behind her. “I’m sorry, my father… is unwell. You met my brother?”
Luna cleared her throat and nodded. The booming voice had sounded so angry… it made her nervous. “Chi ran into some trouble, but he’s okay. He’s not sure when he’ll be able to come home and he wanted me to give you this.” She pulled out the small pouch of coins Chi had given her. Chisa took it gingerly from her, eyes filling with tears. “Brother… this is probably all of the money he had left. Is he really okay? He’s not hurt?”
Luna shook her head. “He’s fine. I’m going to go back to him soon. I’ll make sure he gets home, okay?”
Why did I say that? Maybe it’s a prompt from the game? Chisa is so little… she can’t be more than 10 years old. Luna looked at the small child wiping away her tears. She gave Luna a bright smile. “Thank you, hero! I trust you! Please make sure my brother stays safe.” Chisa threw her arms around Luna in a hug. She barely came up to Luna’s waist. Luna found herself patting Chisa’s head and smiling. “Don’t you worry. Make sure you and your siblings eat well.” She didn’t have much as a level 10 character, but she pulled out another pouch from her inventory screen. “Use this to get some candy for yourself and your siblings okay? I’m going to go back to your brother now.”
She stepped back and waved to Chisa as she walked away. Chisa waved back, smiling as she clutched the coin pouches to her chest. Glancing at the house again, she pulled up her map and prepared to warp to the town closest to where she’d left Chi.
She found Chi still sitting under the tree she’d left him at. “I gave Chisa the money and let her know you’re okay. Have you been – “
Chi threw his arms around her, sniffling. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Luna froze. Chisa hugging her was one thing, but Chi was a male. An NPC, but a male. She was not used to this kind of physical contact and felt uncomfortable. “Uhm… you’re welcome. But could you let go?”
Chi jumped back, embarrassed. “Oh, sorry. I wasn’t thinking. But thank you so much. I think I’ll head to the city… I’m sure I’ll be able to find a magician to help me back home after I sell my herbs.”
Luna nodded, blushing. “Will you be okay on your own?” I promised Chisa I’d make sure he’s okay…
Chi nodded. “I’m used to the journey to the city. Thank you again, Luna.”
Chi started heading up north, giving Luna a quick wave. Luna realized something… Where’s my reward?!
Luna realized that Chi was heading the same way she was. Her map indicated another quest north of them and she jogged to catch up to Chi. “Hey, Chi… is there something you’re supposed to give me?”
She was embarrassed that she was asking an NPC for a reward, but without any indicator from the game, what was she supposed to do?
“Oh! I’m sorry, Luna! I should probably give you some kind of reward for helping me. I… I’m sorry I gave all of my silver to my sister… I have some herbs if you would like? It’s not much, but it’s all I have, I’m sorry…”
Chi put down his pack and opened it. “I have some Cynth, Liac, Waterbloom…”
Wth… what kind of quest reward is this. The herbs are good and everything but… She stood there staring into the pack. There were bundles of herbs glowing lightly, but she was confused. She’d never encountered a game where the quest reward was given like this. Chi was still rambling on about the herbs in his pack. “I guess I’ll take some Waterbloom?” I’ll make some health tonics, I guess. She’d picked up potion making as a craft and had stupidly picked up ingredient tasting as a side skill. Everyone could pick up cooking but there was a higher probability of your food tasting horrible if you didn’t pick up ingredient tasting. She didn’t want to experience her horrible cooking in the game and had impulsively picked ingredient tasting instead of herb picking. She knew she could pick up herb picking later when she hit level 35 and a secondary side skill slot unlocked so she would do that later.
She put the herbs into her inventory and paid no attention to the fascination in Chi’s eyes as she did so. “You must be a powerful magician to be able to store your belongings in such a way, Luna.”
She shrugged. Did the game come with some kind of weird flattery function?