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1.08% Rupegia / Chapter 2: Second Day

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Chapter 2: Second Day

17/Aug/2020 edit: I'm reviewing the grammar and fixing small mistakes of the earlier parts of the story, around one chapter a week. So, after this chapter, the quality may noticeably drop.

--

A knock on the door wakes me up.

"The breakfast is ready," says a young male voice.

The nightmare didn't end. I'm still here, stuck in this world.

I didn't sleep well because my back hurts, but since I went to bed soon after sunset I've at least managed to sleep for a long time, so I'm not that tired. I had a few nightmares, though, and one of these was simply me staring at the goblin drowning on his own blood. That scene was way too brutal for me; it still creeps me out.

I look at my stats and see that my "Strength" increased by 1 (now 8). I guess yesterday's effort was rewarded.

My mouth feels horrible. I have to buy a toothbrush, a hairbrush, some soft sleeping clothes, a better blanket, a proper pillow, more spare clothes, and underwear. I also have to clean the bloody pants. I saw that there's a well outside for cleaning. I can just buy soap from the bath attendant yesterday, and she can use magic to instantly dry my clothes. Sounds convenient, but also not.

I put on my clothes and go downstairs to eat breakfast. It's bean paste, which reminds me of home a little, roasted vegetables, and a loaf of slightly sweet bread. I realize sugar might be expensive so this bread is actually high quality. As a sweet tooth and chocolate addict, the only thing I can call this is "boring."

While eating, I think about what I should do next. The guard said to get an ID at the guilds, depending on what ID I have I don't need to pay customs tax. But first, what exactly should I do in this world?

I want to go home, but to do it I need knowledge. I saw that there's a magic university here, so perhaps they have a library that I can use, but I don't think it's going to be free. I think that historically, religious buildings like churches could have people knowledgeable about the world, so perhaps I could go to them for advice. The map shows that there's a temple in the middle of the town.

Regardless, I'm going to need to find a job and acquire money for steady living. With my skill system, I could start a crafting business, but factories in this age might not have good workers' rights laws, which might make it easy for others to exploit me. Also, I'm more of a creative type, I'm not good with manual labor.

Perhaps I could bring technology from my world here, but that's risky and it's really going to call attention to me. Inventions take a lot more than just being the first to do it, there's a need for a lot of economics and security knowledge to safeguard the profits of inventions, and I know nothing about either of these.

If we are going to assume this is an adventure and role-playing game, the most straightforward method of acquiring money is killing monsters. The map shows that there are a dungeoneering and a monster hunter guild, so adventuring might be a risky but also valid way of work. With the way that my skill system works, I have an incredible advantage in combat.

I also need Experience to increase my level and get more skill points. I don't know how to acquire Experience besides killing monsters, but perhaps there's another way to acquire skills like training or taking an apprenticeship, though I need connections and a proper career path for that.

So in the end, my first move should be to go to the monster hunter and dungeoneering guilds. But first, I'll buy a hairbrush and a toothbrush. My breath feels horrible right now.

--

Now that I'm rested and much calmer, I notice that this city is bizarre but also kind of inspiring. The different architectural styles are all very interesting, and even the contrast between them has a charm of its own.

The people also have their own sense of style. It's like this town is a hub for travelers from around the world, and they all bring their own piece of home with them. Some alleys are dark and ugly, others are comfortable and calming, some have vines and unidentified plants growing all over, others have lights and moving metal parts that remind me of steampunk. The people are all energetic and positive interactions abound.

Maybe it's just that I'm in the good part of town, or maybe I'm just feeling lonely. Yeah, let's go with lonely.

After some walking, I get to the monster hunter guild. The building looks menacing. Fangs and bones decorate the protruding pillars, skins and scales of all kinds decorate the walls, and an even bigger carnival of colors than the rest of town makes me question the sanity of the architect. A large skull with a long snout and huge teeth but lacking a jaw is hanging over the entrance. The teeth are sunk on the wall as if the skull is biting the building itself.

I cross the large double doors and I'm greeted by a large number of people talking over tables decorated with the same ridiculous style as the building's walls. Most of them are drinking unknown liquids from tankards, and there's no way it's not alcohol.

I get the impression that some of these people must drink alcohol like water even though we're still in the morning.

The first floor of the building is one large hall filled with tables. Over one wall, there's a set of large boards with pieces of paper stuck on them. If this follows the traditional game template, those are the bulletin boards and the papers are requests for extermination.

On another wall, there's a row of booths filled with men and women wearing a dark blue velvet uniform, some simple yellow embroidery to make the uniform prettier, and a badge on their chests of a crossed fang and sword. That's the symbol of this guild, and it's the same one on the double doors.

I walk towards one of the booths.

"Welcome, how may I help you?" Says a middle-aged female attendant. She's a beautiful short-haired brunette that shows an air of experience.

I smile gently and answer, "Hello. I'm a traveler and I just got into town. I came from a small village, so I'm rather ignorant of the way things are done around here. Can you explain this guild to me? What I was told might not be fully correct."

The attendant opened her eyes in surprise. I guess this is something that's unusual to ask.

"Well, this guild is very simple." -Her eyes gloss over and she begins speaking in a robotic voice- "This is a place for people that hunt monsters to gather, party up, and trade or sell their spoils. The army does regular cullings to keep the monsters in check, but they also sometimes employ hunters from the guild to help the culling. Outside of the culling, other parties also hire hunters to catch monsters for their ingredients that can be used to create valuable items, potions, food; as escorts for a merchant caravan; for expeditions inside the Sea of Trees or dungeons; or to simply protect something. Every once in a while, a special and dangerous monsters appears, and hunters specialized in tracking are then sent to hunt it down. In cases of emergency, the hunters are also called and forced to help defend either the city, the people, or the buildings in the vicinity of Rabanara. Those are the main functions of hunters on this guild."

She takes a breath and immediately continues, "On our side, we buy any monster corpses or organs, intact or not, then we evaluate them and give out the proper rewards. The advantage of selling to us is that we have experts in dismantling and evaluation of monster parts. We do not haggle and only buy at a fixed price. We also buy parts without the need for a buyer since we're able to stock parts. If you were to go to the merchant guilds you could sell for higher, but there might not be anyone buying it at the moment.

"On the second floor, you can use the meeting rooms to discuss things with your allies, and we guarantee a [Silent Room] enchantment on each room. On the third floor, there is the administration personnel that you can consult for more serious matters. Behind this building, there's the training grounds. For ten copper, you can use it and train with our instructors for a full period."

I assume period means from morning till noon or from noon till dusk.

"We are a sister guild to the dungeoneering guild, but we're the ones who manage and organize the hunters. We also help assess the danger of monsters and the ability level of hunters to minimize death or harm. The dungeoneering guild holds all records of dungeons, monsters, and they help acquire the tools used in expeditions.

"People who register at the dungeoneering guild are called explorers, those that have registered at both guilds are called adventurers. Finally, registering at either or both of the guilds allows you to enter or leave any town without paying tax as long as you don't hold any export good on you or in your [Item Box]. If you acquire the favor from the guildmaster, or someone with equal or higher authority, then you can pass the gate without having the contents of your [Item Box] read." The woman finally finishes and takes another breath.

She seemed surprised at my question, but she was able to answer it perfectly. I guess they are prepared for ignorant people like me, and it's just that I'm a rare find.

"Hmm… So how do I register?" I ask.

"Two silver coins, a drop of your blood, and we give you your crystal ID tablet. Also, during registration and afterwards, we periodically ask to inspect your tablet. This is to make sure that no criminal and no person who learned forbidden skills is using our facilities."

"Forbidden skills?"

I knew there was something like this.

"[Necromancy Magic], [Bloodwork] and [Undead Creation] are the only ones whose names we are allowed to mention. [Slavery Magic] and [Blood Magic] are also forbidden unless you're registered."

So slavery is also sanctioned in this world.

"Alright, I would like to register."

The guard already saw my ID when I entered the town, so there's no problem here, but I need to be careful of which skill I choose or I might accidentally pick something forbidden. There are tons of skills with dangerous or suspicious names.

I turn around and fiddle a bit with my skills. I put one point into [Space Magic] so my usage of "Items" is less suspicious. They apparently can't see the level of my skills, so this should be fine.

I pay the price, then the attendant gets a transparent crystal tablet and a needle from below the table. She pinches my finger with dexterity and lets a drop of blood fall on the tablet.

She picks it up, spends a moment to read it all, then turns to me and says, "I will register this at our books. Please wait here for a while." She leaves the booth and disappears deeper into the building.

I turn around just in time to see a fight break out. Two drunk-looking men start punching each other with unsteady postures. Two large attendants with clubs at their waists immediately jump in and forcefully break the fight. They hold the men in position while they scream abuse at each other, and after a minute or two they tire out, then the attendants drop them in place. They both fall down on the floor like boards and the hall resounds with laughter.

This is a very ruthless but surprisingly friendly atmosphere. Still, I don't really feel comfortable here.

Soon, the attendant comes back and gives me the tablet. It's a small rectangle that fits well in my hand, like a mini smartphone. I'll just put it in my chest pocket for now, then I'll store it in my "Items" later.

"How do I register at the dungeoneering guild?" I ask.

"Just show them your ID and they'll register your name for free."

I knit my eyebrows in confusion. "What, if it's free, then why do I also need to register there? Can't it be done automatically?"

She answers with a perfect business smile, "It depends on the town, not every hunter and dungeoneering guild is integrated."

I scratch my head in confusion. "Oh, well��� Anyway, now I want to sell some monsters I killed."

Her smile becomes gentle and genuine. "Oh? You already killed something? Well then, please follow me to the disassembling room."

Ah, I made a mistake, I forgot my "Items" is a special thing. I know that [Item Box] probably works similarly, but I have never actually seen it in use.

I need to make an excuse so that I can remove all my points and put them into space magic to see if I get an [Item Box].

The attendant takes me into a room with multiple cushioned chairs along the walls and a closed door with a sign "In use" hung on it.

"There's someone disassembling a monster. Wait here, and when they're finished, you'll be called," the attendant says and leaves with a small wave.

I just got a life jacket. I sit and immediately put all my points into [Space Magic]. The first point gives me [Telekinesis] spell, at 10 points I get [Gravity Crush], and finally, at 20 points I get [Item Box].

I cast it. A little mana goes away and it opens the exact same menu as "Items", but now there's nothing inside of it.

Well then, at least now I know the truth, so I put all my points back how they were.

--

After a good thirty minutes, the door opens and a big, bald, and burly man with bloody apron and gloves greets me with a smile.

"Good morning, young man. Are you here for dismantling?" He asks.

"Yes, I am."

"I'm Gordon, the chief butcher. We're ready now, so please come in, and sorry for the wait."

I nod silently and follow him to the next room. I enter a large, cooled room with a large number of metal tables, a few still bloodied. There's another person with bloody apron and gloves that's scrubbing the dirty tables.

"Now pull out on the table anything you want to sell," Gordon says.

I pull the monsters out of my "Items" one by one, and neither of the men comment anything. I notice that the monsters are still warm and bleeding, so this means that whatever is in the [Item Box] or my "Items" gets frozen in time. When I pull out the bear, the two men freeze and let their mouths hang open.

The assistant stops scrubbing and mutters, "Wow."

"Yo, call Sonny. This one is valuable," Gordon says with a creepy smile on his face.

Gordon touches his hand with his finer and a large knife materializes on his palm with *poof*, then he ignores the other monsters and starts removing the pelt of the bear.

"You killed this one alone?" He asks while still working.

"No, I found him weakened. I think he was fighting the goblins that I killed."

His laugh echoes across the large room. "Hahaha, now that's a jackpot. You see, this one also has a bounty on him, so when we get Sonny here you'll get a bonus. Also, did you kill him by stabbing through the eye? That's some creative method you got there." He glances back and shows me a bloody smile as some of the bear's blood is smeared on his cheek.

Do they have poker here?

"Creative? How are you supposed to kill him normally?" I ask.

"Crushing the head. His skin is too hard to kill with an axe or spear, and magic ruins too much of the meat and the pelt. I see you used something like [Electric Magic], yeah? That's good to stun him, but it still damages the pelt a little."

The door suddenly opens and I see Sonny come into the room. He's a small man with yellow eyes, white hair, pasty white skin, and white spiral horns on his head. When he sees the bear, his eyes shine behind his oval glasses, his lips curl into a creepy smile, and he whispers, "Ooooh, excellent."

Thankfully, he ignores me and goes towards Gordon. He examines the butcher's work and starts talking to him, then the assistant comes back and helps Gordon.

After Gordon finishes the bear, now named Grey Berserker, Sonny says that the reward for killing him is two gold pieces while the body is worth another seven. If the hide was more well preserved it could be sold up to ten coins. Each goblin's body is worth forty copper. The "hedge-wolf", now named Mossy Fangpine, is worth one silver coin.

Since the money isn't excessive, they give it to me immediately, otherwise, it's necessary to wait for the money to be transferred to the guild.

Sonny turns to me and says with a subtle smirk, "So this is your first hunt, eh? Starting your tally with a surprise. But don't let other parties use you, now. They might be too easily impressed by a lucky kill on the Grey Berserker."

I awkwardly smile and respond, "Well I don't plan on bragging about it, so nobody will know."

He holds back a chuckle. "Oh, no. We publish hunt results, so people will know your name pretty soon."

I wince and look away. "Argh… Is that so?"

Even this I have to be careful about so that I don't stand out.

Gordon's laugh echoes again through the cold room and he asks, "Hehehe, you don't want fame? What kinda hunter are you?"

"It's kinda troublesome to be too famous too quick," I answer.

He points the bloody knife at me like a finger and nods. "Haha, the boy got a good head on his shoulders."

"Anyway, I will be waiting for your next surprise," Sonny says and he gives a small bow.

He seems to be a delicate man. He moves with measured movements that give him an air of dignity.

I say my goodbyes and leave. Now I need to go to the dungeoneering guild since they might have some interesting information about monsters and dungeons.

--

This guild also boasts an extravagant facade. Black bricks reflect little dots of light when the sun shines upon it, ceremonial blades slowly swing along the wall through magical means, and exposed clockworks show a very familiar clock above the double door. This clock is exactly the same as the ones on Earth, with twelve hours and sixty minutes. Maybe I can buy a pocket watch somewhere and cosplay as a steampunk Victorian British noble.

On each of the large double doors, there's an engraving of a gear and an upside-down bardiche. The symbol probably represents the cliche of a trap of swinging blades on a corridor being activated by a mechanism. The dress code for the uniforms of the attendants is exactly the same as the hunters guild except that the badge is different.

The door is on a corner of the building, so when I enter it I'm faced with a rather small hall with a few cushioned chairs and tables. The rest of the building is separated by a chest-high wall, and I see rows and rows of bookcases, tables, and chairs on the other side. There's also a considerable number of people studying there. It seems that I have to put a coin on a booth to enter the library area.

The small windows make the illumination seem moody, and couple that with the almost absence of any sound, and the atmosphere is one of calmness and seriousness. All in all, this place seems much more refined than the hunters' guild.

I approach a booth and ask to register. The attendant takes my tablet away and comes back a few minutes later.

"How do I enter the library?" I ask.

The attendant responds in a low and serious tone, "There's a toll of two copper coins, and you have to put a deposit of one gold coin. If you damage a book, then your deposit is forfeit."

"What kind of books are there here?"

"Strictly magic, traps, dungeons, monsters, and artifacts. Anything else you need to go to the temple or the university."

"Artifacts?"

"Rare magical items with dangerous uses."

O~h… that sounds interesting.

"I also heard you sell supplies for expeditions," I continue questioning.

"The item shop is through that door." He points to the closed door.

How's a room full of shops so silent even though it's right next to a library? I'm going to bet on magic.

I'm not interested in buying items right now, so I just leave. Next, I'm going to the temple.

--

The temple is in the middle of the town, so it takes quite a while to walk there.

It might be a few hours before noon, but the temporary food stalls are already opening around me, and soon, the smell of simple roasted or fried food fills my nose.

I'm actually kinda hungry, and I'm too curious to let this chance pass by, so I buy a cheap stick of goblin meat. It's quite a lot of meat for a single copper coin so it makes me a bit anxious to eat it. It's probably pretty bad-tasting meat that the poor eat.

I bite into it, and barely feel any taste, though I'm not really surprised that it's this bland. The only real flavor on it comes from the spices: a mix of garlic and oregano with salt. Still, I thought spices would be expensive for a middle-ages society, so to see it wasted on this meat stick gives me a little hope for the future.

--

I arrive at the temple. It's a gigantic half-sphere made of what seems to be white marble. Four thin towers rise out of the corners of the temple lot, and I can see a clock on each tower facing outwards. The temple itself is in the middle of a large square lot where the path created by the four entrances to the temple divides the unused land into four sectors.

Two sectors have buildings on them that look like living quarters. One of those buildings is full of children, so perhaps it's an orphanage and the other is the dormitory. The third sector is a grass garden with a dirt field, and the last is a small plantation. The temple itself doesn't seem to have any sort of decoration, giving an air of austerity.

I cross the stone path and enter the temple proper, then I see a huge hall. The entirety of the first floor seems to be a place for prayer. Along the outer wall, I see sixteen statues, each statue a different human-like bust depicted, and in the center of the hall, there's a single huge statue depicting a sphere, the biggest of them all. The prayer space is divided into two rings; on the outer ring there are benches spread all over that point towards the outer statues; on the inner ring, the benches are pointed towards the inner statue. Beside each entrance, there's a stair that runs along the circular wall in a clockwise manner and leads to the second floor.

All kinds of people can be seen praying in all kinds of manners to the statues. Some are on their knees, some have their hands up in the air, some are holding themselves, some are clasping their hands and have their eyes closed. I can even see a few people crying, and those are all accompanied by a person that I assume is a priest. They wear a loose white robe with a colored vertical line on the side of the arms and legs.

This scene stuns me for a few seconds. It seems that this is a polytheistic world, so it might be a good idea to learn about the gods and choose one to pray. Since "Piety" exists as a stat, might as well use it. I'm a pragmatic agnostic, so, if there's a benefit, then I might as well convert.

I look around and go for the closest priest that's not doing anything. A woman with tied black hair, tanned skin, and full lips. On Earth, she could be called a "Latina."

"Excuse me," I call her attention a little awkwardly.

She turns to me and smiles kindly. "Oh, hello," she greets back.

I lean on my awkwardness to make my words more believable. "I'm a traveler, and I just came to this town from a small village where I could barely learn about the world. Could you spare a moment and teach me about these statues?"

She spends a moment in silence looking at me with a mix of confusion and amusement. "Oho… an inquisitive person. It's good to be like that." She nods gently, then motions to the stairs. "Let's go to the second floor, there are plenty of rooms for private consultations. My name is Ciel, what's yours?" She asks with a smile.

"Wolf Ryder."

She nods respectfully. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ryder. Follow me, then."

Mr. Ryder? Feels weird to hear that.

The second floor seems to have consultation rooms along the outer walls while administration rooms are in the center. Small holes in the ceiling and shining crystals on the walls light up this building. I look down a corridor that leads to the center of the floor and see a spiral stair that probably leads to the third floor.

She takes me to an empty room, and like everything on the inside of this temple, it's made of white marble slabs with black cement on the seams. There are a few simple cushioned chairs and a table. Ciel sits at the other side of the table, then motions for me to sit on a chair in front of her.

"Now then what would you like to know?" She asks.

I scratch my head in thought and answer, "Well… could you start from the beginning, like, the beginning of the world?"

She looks at me with eyes open in surprise, and I blush in embarrassment.

Goddammit, she's looking at me like I'm a weirdo.

"I think what I know is full of holes, so let's start from the beginning. This way I won't miss anything important," I hurriedly add.

She chuckles then smiles at me. Honestly, her smile is quite charming. She looks at the ceiling in thought as she says, "Understood. Let's see… the Tale of Creation starts like this.

"The Overseer is the most powerful god that has ever been, but even with all his power, they desired 'something.' They, with their immortality, did not know what it was to live and die, they always existed. To observe how it would be to not be immortal, they created 'something,' and govern that 'something' while they observed, they created 2 gods: the God of Beginning, and the God of the End. And so, that 'something' would be born, live, and die.

"But that wasn't enough. 'It was a waste to let 'it' die and disappear,' the Overseer thought. So they created ten gods that would serve as a 'base.' That 'something' lived and died on one of the 'base' gods, then moved on to the next god, and so on and so forth. Thus, that 'something' wasn't wasted and lived in a cycle.

"But that wasn't enough. The cycle repeated and didn't change, so the same thing would always happen. To change that, the Overseer created the God of Change, whose purpose was to change that 'something' little by little, making it different every time, thus making sure that the cycle wasn't always the same thing. But that was dangerous as the God of Change didn't know restraint, so Change could break the cycle with the way they were acting. To prevent that, the Overseer created the God of Order, whose purpose was to restrain the God of Change and to prevent them from breaking the cycle.

"But that wasn't enough. The cycle was changing and its integrity was secured, but there was only one cycle, one 'something', and now even the God of Change wanted something 'new.' So the God of Change created a new subordinate god, the God of Creation, whose purpose was to create new cycles so that the amount of things the God of Change could act upon would increase. Since the new god was a subordinate, they didn't have the authority to interfere with the original cycle, so there was no risk of them breaking it.

"But that wasn't allowed. The God of Order was displeased with the new creations, so they copied the God of Change and created a new subordinate god, the God of Destruction, whose only purpose was to stop the God of Creation. And so, the four gods kept battling for an incalculable amount of time. From this battle, the 'base' gods were slowly transformed by the God of Change into the elements we have today, the elements of Light, Darkness, Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, Electricity, Nature, Space, and Spirit. During this battle, the Gods used these elements on each other as weapons, creating our land, our sea, our skies, our plants, our sun, and our night. The 'something' was slowly changed into 'power,' and eventually, it became what we call 'mana.' So, in essence, their battle created our world.

"But that wasn't enough. The God of Creation wanted to copy his superior god; they wanted to create something that would create things and change the flow of their battle. After much thought, Creation realized they couldn't create something powerful, since they were still a subordinate of Change. So instead, they created something intelligent and self-conscious, with the potential to go far beyond its original purpose. They created humans and the Genderless God of Existence to watch over us.

"But that wasn't allowed. The counter Creation, the God of Destruction created humanity's worst enemy, the monsters. They're specialized in killing humanoids, their only purpose being to grow stronger and kill. In response to the monsters, the God of Creation changed humans into different forms to act against the monsters. They created the other races of humanoids: the halflings, elves, dwarves, gnomes, pixies, beastfolk, wereanimals, merfolk, dragonkin, chimeras, and finally, the demon race.

"But that wasn't enough. The people they created were smart, but they couldn't grow fast enough to counter the monsters. During this period, all intelligent life almost died out. This was called the Age of Oppression. So to save the humanoids, God of Creation gave us the power of improving our soul by killing monsters and absorbing the fragments of their souls. With those pieces, we could eventually grow a bigger soul, and with a bigger soul, we could grow more and faster. The amount of extra pieces on our soul is called a 'level.'

"But that wasn't allowed. The God of Destruction then cursed the land, they made it so that the free mana in the environment would be used to create monsters. With this, any sort of abandoned land would greatly increase the amount of monsters, which then could lead to the monsters flooding the civilized world.

"Seeing the power of the 'levels,' the God of Creation gave us a way to share knowledge, a way to quickly grow our greatest gift, our intelligence. They created the 'skills,' a way to quickly learn what others had already learned if we trained our bodies in similar ways. This was the decisive move that allowed us to push the monsters back and kill Ender, our Nemesis. With that, the land was safe, and the Age of Glory started."

Share the knowledge? Then the skills aren't decided by the gods, but instead by society? I see. This way, skills can be modified and new ones added, otherwise, the progress of society would be almost entirely dependent on the Gods.

"But that wasn't allowed. The God of Destruction took his time, but he managed to create something that would rival the power of civilization: the immortal Monster King, a copy of a humanoid that has intelligence, the capacity of growth, and the power to command monsters at will. With this, civilization was pushed back again, and the battle with the Monster King continues to this day. Currently, the battle could be said to be in a stalemate; we keep the monsters in check, while the Monster King pushes us back whenever we get some ground."

In the stories I've read, this type of villain would be called Demon King, but since there's already a demon race I guess it would cause confusion to call him that.

"The creation of the Monster King started Age of Discord, where the races fought each other all over the realm as they couldn't agree on a way to unite and fight the Monster King. Then, came the first emperor of Avgi, Ajax Doxa, who united our continent, Gilios. After his death, he Ascended and became the first Humanoid God, the God of The Sun. Thus, he started the Age of the Sun.

"As a response to the creation of the Monster King, the God of Creation enabled the birth of dungeons, sky fortresses, and monster ships. When the mana got too thick at a certain area, a mana storm would be born, but its destructive power did nothing but help the God of Destruction. Thus, to control that, the God of Creation blessed the land so that whenever a mana storm would occur, a dungeon would be created to absorb its power. If it happened below ground, it would be called a dungeon, if in the sky, it would be called a sky fortress, and if below the sea, it's called a monster ship."

I suppress a smile.

And finally, the most standard element of any fantasy story, the dungeon, has finally shown its face coupled with the reason it exists.

"These dungeons are manifestations of our culture coupled with the power of the nearby monsters. This would contain the power of the storm with the drawback of creating powerful monsters, but considering how dungeons are limited spaces, they in turn turned into perfect training grounds for civilization. With the creation of the monster hunter guild and the dungeoneering guild, we can manage the monsters and the dungeons so that we can acquire power and items in ways we never could before."

"After that, the God of Creation left this realm to create other realms and cycles. There are many realms along with ours in this cycle, though we don't know their names. We do know that the name of our realm is Rupega, and the name of our cycle is Reigurando."

"Wait, what? Can you explain a bit more what realms and cycles are?" I interject.

"Well… see it this way: a different realm is a place where laws of the world are different than ours. Perhaps it's a land where you don't have a ground to fall to, perhaps it's a land where you fall up instead of down, perhaps it's a land where monsters and people changed places. Do you understand this?"

So in essence, it's a different "reality."

I nod and answer, "Yeah, I think so. And what about cycles?"

"Cycles are the path of mana. When things are destroyed, like our spirit, the earth, the flame of a spell, or anything else, the mana doesn't 'dissipate' like some would believe. It simply leaves our realm and is changed into something else on that new realm, this is what a cycle is."

I grab my chin in thought and question, "You say there are different cycles, but how do we know this?" -An idea enters my mind and it makes me quite excited- "How do we know there are other realms? Can we see other realms? Can we move between them?"

She smiles and lifts her hand, gesturing for me to slow down a bit. "Woah, calm down, that's coming on the next part of the tale."

I lean back on my chair and smile embarrassedly. "Ah, oh… sorry. Please continue."

"After the God of Creation left, certain humanoids started to acquire immense power. They were called heroes during their lives, but their time on the realm eventually ended, like all things should. The God of Creation took notice of such souls passing through the cycle, and they didn't want to waste such valuable souls that achieved so much. To solve this, they turned those souls into subordinate gods, and thus, the Humanoid Gods started to Ascended. We know of sixteen Humanoid Gods so far.

"These gods give us blessings and messages to us when necessary, and this is how we know about the other realms. They can see beyond our realm and told us about it, but even they can't move between realms.

"We think there are other cycles because it fits the teachings of the God of Creation to always grow and expand. Also, the humanoid gods tell us the God of Creation is not currently in any realm of this cycle. Which fortunately means that the God of Destruction is also not here, bringing stability to our realm.

"That's the total of the Tale of Creation," she finishes with a smile, then she pours water into a cup and drinks.

I blink blankly as my brain returns from "story mode" and say, "Wow, that's a lot of information. Is this written in a book? Do you have other books with tales about this world that I could read?"

She looks at me curiously. "You know how to read? Well, we do have books, but they require special permission. Though if you join the temple you can read them at any time."

"What do you mean by joining the temple?"

"Working as a priest. There's always the need for more people helping in the orphanage, or cooking the meals, or spreading the word in the streets."

That doesn't sound like easy work, or work that pays a lot. I need to acquire money for research and to get some power so that I can live an easier life. I don't think I will get either by working here.

I frown and respond, "Hmmm… I don't think I want to become a priest. Is there any other library that I can access?"

"If you help the temple, maybe you can catch the attention of the chief priest, and he's the only one capable of giving special permission, but our books are rather limited. Besides that, you can try the library at the magic university. It has a much wider variety than ours, but it costs a lot just to enter, and the books available to non-members are also limited…" She tilts her head and plays with her hair adorably. "Are you perhaps a scholar? By your clothes, you look just like another commoner or starting adventurer, but you are way too smart to be either. You can read and your curiosity is impressive."

Well, I guess this was unavoidable. I needed information, and there was no other way besides stumbling in the dark. Time to lie a little.

I give her a gentle smile as I lie, "Well, I'm from a very far away land, and I had to give up a lot just to come here, but I'm no scholar, I'm just a naturally curious person."

Half-truths. It may sound mysterious, but I don't have the knowledge required to craft a well-built lie where I give information such as birth-place, family names, and etc.

"Hm? Haha…" She tilts her head and laughs awkwardly. "Well, I'm sorry for trying to pry into your business, but I can say one thing for certain, you are an interesting person."

It seems she understood I don't want to talk about my origins in detail. A person who hides his past is suspicious and untrustworthy, but I think I acquired enough goodwill that she can just let this pass.

This talk gave me some comfort, so perhaps I can keep coming here and asking more questions. It seems the God of Creation encourages the sharing of knowledge, so I can ask questions more freely than I had imagined.

Right now, I've heard enough, so I want to go back to the dungeoneering guild and look for info about the monsters around here. I've decided I'll carefully hunt as a primary way of making money until I'm more accustomed with crafting and the laws. I'm not a fighter, but I also know very little about trade and economy, so I'll need a lot more knowledge to get into that area, and fighting seems easier in comparison due to the skill system.

"Well then, I think I heard enough for now," I say and nod respectfully. "Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed this talk, can I come back another day and ask for more?"

She nods emphatically and answers, "It's part of our job to inform those who listen, so I would enjoy talking to you again. If I'm not at the temple, just ask for any other priest that's on standby."

"Well, if it's not too much, can I continue talking to you, specifically?"

I'd rather not talk to different people, and she looks much better than the wrinkly old priests I saw around.

She twitches in surprise, then smiles gently as she says, "O-okay, that's not a problem. During the morning, I either work at the clinic or the orphanage, and I help prepare lunch and dinner most days. Every two days, I rest during the afternoon, so I'm not at the temple every day."

"Alright, then. I don't know when I'm coming back, but it's going to be soon. Until then."

"Goodbye, Mr. Ryder," she says and smiles brightly.

"Goodbye, Miss Ciel," I awkwardly respond with a nod.

--

Since it's almost noon, I look for some cheap food. It seems it's the bean season, so most stalls are selling a variety of bean dishes.

I enter a restaurant and eat a green bean soup that reminds me of green peas. All they have here is goblin meat, though. Previously, I felt that my inn was expensive, but after tasting this meat, I feel like that the price is justified.

I'll postpone going to the university for a while until I have a better grasp of magic and the life around here, so now I'll go to the dungeoneering guild to gain more knowledge of the area.

I still feel it's dangerous to say I'm from another world, so I'll avoid places where they might ask my background. If I said that I'm from another world, I'd certainly cause a lot of ruckus, and in no novel that would end well.

As I'm walking back to the dungeoneering guild, I have some time to reflect on what I learned. Ciel said that the Humanoid Gods give blessings and messages, so there's really no question about the presence of gods here, therefore, being an atheist is just idiotic. Some "God" sent me here, but simply reneging all Gods would be an infantile decision, especially because I'm dealing with fucking Gods. It's just not something to take lightly.

I saw that there are sixteen gods, so maybe I should learn more about them and start praying to one. Since they also communicate, and they were once people of this world, then perhaps they're reasonable. It also gives me a little comfort in knowing there's a being that could help me if I show a little faith.

I notice something change in me. I open my stats and see that my "Piety" has increased by 1 (it's now 3).

It seems that the peepers in the sky can even read my mind.

--

I enter the dungeoneering guild and ask for the section with information on monsters and dungeons around this area. The attendant guides me to the second floor and shows me a section with dozens of cloned books. This seems to be a common inquiry around here, so the guild prepared a large number of copies of the books: "Monsters of Rabanara," "Dungeons of Rabanara," and "Advice for New Explorers". The creativity in naming is heartwarming.

After taking a look at them, I learned that I'm one lucky motherfucker. The Grey Berserker is the most powerful type of monster in the region. There's always a large bounty on them because they're smart enough to avoid the culling, so they're always a danger in the forest. The advised strategy to defeat it is a group of at least three fully armored people and one healer. The aim is to use blunt weapons to break the bear's bones since they're much more fragile than the hide, which makes most cutting or piercing weapons useless.

Goblins are like in any other game. They grow like weeds and require constant care so they don't choke your plants, which means your life. They give little rewards, but bringing a whole corpse could net some considerable amount of money. The problem is, most people don't have enough carrying capacity to bring a lot of corpses into town. Goblin meat is tasteless and sinewy, but it's the base meat for the poor so they always sell. Most hunters don't bother with the corpses and only bring a proof of extermination, which is the right ear.

Mossy Fangpine is another dangerous enemy. There's a chance the mossy spines will poison the person; another evidence I'm actually lucky. They hunt in packs of three or more, and the one I fought was alone only because of the culling. The strategy is to hide behind a shield and wear at least leather armor, then counter stab it in the face after it jumps to bite, or just use magic since they are vulnerable to it. Arrows are okay to use, but they are fast and the spines can deflect arrows if you are unlucky. They have an extraordinary sensing capability, and they'll likely appear whenever a monster is killed because of the blood.

Another enemy is the Rabid Rabbit. This one, like the Fangpine, only charges and bites. The bunny acts alone and is extremely vicious. The bites are poisonous and can make a person go berserk. The meat tastes good, and the saliva glands are used in potions, so this monster is always hunted, making it hard to find.

In the sky, there's the Dragolite, a small dragon that doesn't have a fire breath. Their meat is somewhat hard to cook and has a strong taste, but it's still valuable. The farmers hate them since they like to kidnap the sheep around here. They don't kidnap the children but just try to kill them, so the children of the farms around here are trained in archery the moment they can hold a small bow.

The last part shocks me a little. This is really a brutal world. Also, this is the enemy that captured my summoned bird.

There's also the Giant Dragonfly. It uses its legs as spears and attacks with high speed. The easiest strategy is to just use a spear longer than their legs. They're weak but annoying to deal with because they are agile, and it's difficult to dodge or escape them, so it's advised for hunters to always carry a simple long spear in their [Item Box]. Due to their nature, they appear mostly along rivers or lakes, and they don't fly too well among the trees, so that's why I haven't met one yet. Their wings and eyes are valuable crafting items, so they sell quite well.

The occasional migrating flock of wyverns is a threat. Wyverns have wings on their arms while dragons have wings on their backs, separate from their arms. Also, Wyverns look more like velociraptors with wings, while dragons are lizards with wings. Wyverns attacks are the most common threat to this settlement, so sooner or later I'll be called to defend the town against them. They only fly as a way of long-distance movement since their huge bodies and low magical capability makes flying awkward for them. Unlike dragons, who can manipulate the wind with ease, wyverns tire easily if they have to be agile during flight, so fighting against them is always done on the ground. The best strategy against them is to fight behind shield walls using pikes and ranged attacks. Finding and destroying wyvern nests is heavily rewarded since this means that the attacks on the town reduce in frequency.

These are the common monsters that are born here. The thing is that migrating monsters are extremely common, so the chance of meeting a random monster is quite high, which means that you really need to read a lot about monsters to be prepared for anything. This discourages me a little about hunting monsters in the forest for money. I also have little experience in tracking, so I think that looking at the nearby dungeons might be a better choice for now.

--

Dungeons have a lot of variety. There are some that are maze-like, whose floors can be many times larger than entire towns. Others are just large underground environments where monsters roam around copied fragments of the world above. Some even have artificial lights, allowing them to sustain some form of plant-life. Plenty are mere dimensional doors to some unknown space, possibly full of traps, randomness, and constant change. The most popular among hunters are the small labyrinths, especially the ones that create a floor exclusively for a single party, which guarantees that no other party will influence your progress, but unfortunately they're much rarer. Most dungeons have some sort of "elevator," which allows adventurers to move to any floor they've previously explored.

Dungeons increase in depth the more they're allowed to remain undisturbed. Damaging the core forces the dungeon to reduce in depth to repair itself, while destroying the core makes it fall apart. The nobility is the one responsible for culling the forests and managing the dungeon depth. In the book, it is implied that a noble that doesn't fight doesn't deserve their title. It sounds quite interesting, so I need to ask more about this later.

It's quite tiring and time-consuming to keep reading all this information, so I don't really have time to go out of town today. I decided to go to a nearby dungeon tomorrow, Royd's Kerfuffle. The adventurer that discovers a dungeon gets the right to name it, so quite a lot have some ridiculous names.

This dungeon in particular isn't that popular since the monsters there do not reward much, but it could be a perfect training ground for me. It's a labyrinthine dimensional door dungeon that has an "elevator." At the lower levels, I just need to look out for traps. The worst of them teleport their victims to a random place on the same floor, so things only start to become difficult after the tenth floor, but the floor traps are always at the same place, so it's easy to avoid them.

Right now I still have some free time until sunset, so I decide to go look for the hunters training grounds.

--

The training grounds is a large dirt field. There's a large area for sparring, an archery range, a wide, long, and secluded place where I can see some mages throwing some flashy spells, a place where a few freakish pieces of armor float and fight some people, a small building with barred windows, and a small fountain for people to drink.

Is that fountain magical or is there plumbing in this town?

I pay the toll to enter and approach one of the idle men with the symbol of the hunters guild engraved on his leather armor.

"H-hello, I'm new around here. Could you tell me how I can use this place?" I ask the man.

He's not big or burly, but he has a menacing gaze. He sports a buzz cut, his skin and face are full of small scars, and his posture is intimidating.

How does one get scars on a world with magical healing?

He says in an eerily calm voice, "Hm? Well, the archery range is free, and we can lend you a bow and arrow, but you'll pay for anything you break. The magic range is free, too, but you have to work with the manager so you don't hurt other people. The Living Armors are rented, and the manager also deals with that. I'm an instructor, and I can give you training with weapons, but you can't monopolize me, so we have the students spar with each other once you're at a proper level." His gaze is unwavering, it makes me want to spontaneously look away, but I resist it for now.

"Then, could you teach me the sword?" I ask.

He nods energetically. "Alright, let's spar so I can measure your skill. Put away your sword and I'll give you a wooden one."

He goes into what I assume is the warehouse while I put my sword in my "Items," then he comes back with two wooden swords and throws one at me.

"What's your name?" He asks.

"Wolf Ryder."

Now that I've said it again, I think that I've made a mistake, this name certainly doesn't suit me. My parents were right, my original name was better.

"I'm Toga. You make the first move, and I will start attacking after a while."

So I start my session. I rush and attack, but I have no idea what I'm doing. Because the skill system takes over some of my movements I'm at least confident that I've shown I know how to slash and thrust.

Toga effortlessly blocks, parries, and dodges my attacks. It feels like I'm a child throwing a tantrum while he holds me back by simply holding my head. Then he starts attacking and in three strikes my sword falls out of my hand.

"Well your technique is a mess, who taught you the sword?" He asks while frowning.

"Self-taught," I answer meekly.

"Mystery solved," he responds and laughs out loud. "You know how to attack, but you're lacking a 'flow,' so it's easy to find openings to counterattack. The first thing you should learn is how to defend yourself. Now, do you want to train the proper way, or the easy way?"

I get a chill when I hear that. I know what's coming. It's going to be painful, but this is an opportunity to see what true sword fighting is like, and what kind of man or boy would say no to that?

"The... proper way," I answer.

He grins evilly and says, "Then defend yourself like your life depends on it, because it does."

He beat me up.

--

My body is bruised and bloody. I didn't imagine that a blunt wooden sword could make such a cut. Toga crushed me and he's barely out of breath. He's certainly a scary man. Did I choose the worst instructor by any chance?

While I'm sprawled on the ground, Toga calls someone. Another instructor comes by and touches my arm, then he starts singing something like a prayer, and my body stops hurting little by little. I see the bruises return to normal color, and the cuts stop bleeding then close up, all in just a few seconds. This must be healing magic, and it's much faster than my [Regeneration] spell.

Oh wait, was that a chant? Do people normally need to sing something so that the spell activates? I don't know anything about that, but it's a common trope in video games to balance magic, and they make it that powerful magic takes a long time to chant.

I get up and notice there's a small amount of people watching me, and quite a few of them are grinning. Embarrassment fills my heart and makes me blush.

What's so funny?

"Good job surviving, boy," says one of the grinning men.

I try to stop my smile. They're making fun of me for getting beaten up, but I just can't deny it must've been a spectacle.

Toga stops in front of me, and I notice a hint of kindness in his tone as he says, "Your body is weak and your technique is poor, but you got enough 'Willpower.' Keep coming and you'll be a proper swordsman in due time."

I'd noticed people greet each other with a clear nod, so I mimic that and say, "Thank you for the session, teacher. I'm way very tired now, so I'm going to retire."

I'm not sure what's the etiquette when dealing with the instructors here, so I just call him "teacher" instead of saying his name.

"Goodbye," he calmly says and nods.

I turn around and wash my face in the fountain, then I leave. Now I'm just gonna pass by the hunters guild for a quick look.

--

Near the entrance, I notice something I'd ignored the first time I came here due to nervousness. On a wall, there are two large black boards where I can see something written in white. "Notable Hunts" is written on top of the first one, and below it, there's a magically scrolling list of hunter names with monster names next to them. I get a chill when I see my name with "Gray Berserker" right next to it. The second board says "Confirmed Kills'' on top. It scrolls much faster and has a list of the hunter names coupled with the number of monsters killed. It seems that the second one is about the number of proofs of extermination you sell to the guild.

I walk towards the notice board and see that most of the notes there are about the prices for the bounties or corpses of the common kills around here, like the goblins, Dragolites, or monsters from the dungeons. The rest are bounties on specific monsters sighted. Some contain a rough drawing, but they all contain the name, the last seen location, a short description of the monster, and a threat level.

From what I understood by reading monster books, the threat level goes from 0 to 10, the numbers have the following meaning: 0 = harmless, 1 = capable of killing a child, 2 = capable of killing an untrained adult, 3 = capable of killing the common soldier, 4 = capable of killing a soldier squad, 5 = capable of killing a knight squad, 6 = capable of killing veteran hunters, 7 = capable of killing a soldiers company (100 men), 8 = capable of killing a division (10,000 men), 9 = capable of destroying a fortress, 10 = unkillable.

Why are knights ranked lower than veteran hunters? Is it a matter of specialization? I see that there's a permanent bounty on the Grey Berserker, and his threat level is four. Dragolites are threat level one and Mossy Fangpines are threat level two.

When I decide to leave, I notice that there are a few people looking at me. I recognize that at least two people were here in the morning when I sold the bear. Do these people do nothing besides sit here and drink?

It's probably what Sonny said: other parties will be interested in me since I killed a Grey Berserker all by myself. It doesn't matter that it was half-dead, they don't know that.

I decide to leave quickly and go back to the inn for rest.

--

Dinner is a red bean paste with minced meat and spices to put on the bread. Feels like it's spiced with paprika and cumin, so now it only needs some spicy pepper for it to be just like chilli.

After dinner and a bath, I go back to my room and reflect upon today. I look at my skills and see that they all have a "plus" sign on their level. [Sword Use], [Dodge], [Parry], and [Block] all have a 1 on the right side of the plus. These are new skills that I gained after I trained. Does this mean that trained skills are different from the ones assigned with the system?

I try to remove [Parry], but it doesn't allow me, so I guess this means that I can't learn [Parry], then remove the skill, then learn it again, and repeat as a way to accumulate skill points. No exploits in this game eh? Mine not included.

This is how my skills are right now:

-

Wolf Ryder Skill Report

Physical

Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level | Skill Name: Level

Sword Use: 5+1 | Dodge: 3+1 | Parry: 0+1

Block: 0+1

­

Magical

Mana Efficiency: 3+0 | Mana Recovery: 1+0 | Electric Magic: 4+0

Nature Magic: 5+0

­

Miscellaneous

Andraste Language 10+0

-

After that, I almost doze off thinking about the Tale of Creation. The name "Reigurando" reminds me of something familiar. Then something hits me. The Japanese language lacks some things required for them to pronounce foreign words properly, and the way around it creates an accent that some even find funny. After a while, you start to notice the patterns in their speech and easily manage to understand what foreign word they're trying to say.

The Japanese way of pronouncing the English word "Playground" is "Pureigurando". RPG, Role-Playing-Game, is pronounced "Arupegi," which is incredibly similar to Rupegia. I'm truly stuck into a fantasy video game, and it's made by the Japanese. And finally, "Demon King'' is also a common trope on Japanese stories.

I'm really an "isekai" protagonist...

--

--

If you'd like to support Rupegia, you can become a patron at: www.*******.com/manasong

­


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