A month later, Arthur stumbled out of the woods. Across the clearing of space were the gathering of tents around the newbie village. The ensuing month had seen the creation of even more buildings. Yet, there were still those tents—for those who could not afford more permanent accommodation.
As he wove his way through the unorganized mess of tents, compost pits, and burning campfires, Arthur’s appearance was rather bedraggled, even for the hard put-upon group of nobodies that were the commoners and non-elite. His clothing was patched together from multiple pieces, held together by thread and a wish for greater decency.
As for his weapons, those were even more damaged. His staff had been broken during a desperate fight with a herd of babi ngepet that had found him in the middle of the night, his sword shattered on the last thrust. Now, he held the broken ends of his staff in either hand as he slunk through the tents, eyes darting from side-to-side on the lookout for trouble.
Arthur watched as more than one individual flinched from his gaze, skirting away from him or watched his passing with wary looks, hands on their weapons. Unknown to him, his gait had grown longer and smoother, and more predatory as did his gaze. Constant weeks under danger had added a dangerous edge to his movements, a coldness to his gaze as he assessed potential threats.
Moving quickly, Arthur managed to get through the tents into the beginner village proper before anyone remembered who he was. Rather than head straight for the Guild Centre, he checked into the beginner residence.
Exiting a hot shower, he ran a hand through his wet hair, trimmed inside the shower. It was not a good job, but it was certainly better now. The scruff around his chin and beard was gone, only a couple of light cuts indicating the toughness of his skin and the bluntness of his blade.
On the other hand, his clothing was a wash. Thankfully, a quick check outside showed that the requested new set had arrived, allowing him to change into fresh clothes. The few coins he had been able to keep from his first kills had been enough to pay for the cheap material.
“Got to get paid. Need more skills, need to train . . .” Rubbing his chin, Arthur walked over to his bag and extracted the pair of pouches, dropping the contents onto his bed. He watched as the monster cores bounced before sorting and counting the totals.
“Forty-two.” He sighed. “Don’t know how much the herb boxes are going to be, but probably worth two cores.” Moving the two cores aside, he dropped them into his pouch while continuing to speak to himself. “That leaves forty for paying for goods and sundries and training.”
Sucking on his bottom lip, he pushed the cores from side to side as he thought. “Half? Half seems like a good idea. I mean, half is easy. Means I get to improve . . . but not fast.”
Then again, half of the points were only a fifth of a point to an attribute. His time wandering the wilds had given him a little bit of time and energy to refine some of the monster cores for his own use, such that he had gained enough points to add to his pool of refined energy. He would never let the pool drain so low again that he could not make use of his Accelerated Healing technique.
He needed more. Needed to grow faster. Needed more techniques so that he to be a well-rounded fighter. Needed a better weapon.
“Maybe just trade it all?” Arthur sighed. “Tak cukup duit. Forty cores would hardly cover it.”
He ran his fingers over the cores one last time. Trade it all for gear and techniques and maybe a few more days in this room. Learn whatever technique he bought. Then go out and, this time, stay close enough to the village to actually make some damn funds so he could begin the process of getting to the next damn level.
Rough plan in place, he swept the cores into his pouches and stood up. Time to see what there was to buy.
“I don’t believe it. You’re alive.”
“That I am, Lai Tai Kor,” Arthur said, grinning as he propped himself against the counter with an elbow. “I have some cores to trade in.” A pair of dirty, messy bags were dropped with a thump. That motion attracted some mild attention, mostly for how dirty the bags were.
“I can see that,” Attendant Lai said. His face did not flinch as he opened the pouches, pouring the crystals and separating them on the counter with the speed of long practice. “You don’t seem much stronger, for all your time away. Things get too tough?”
“You could say that,” Arthur replied. “But how do you know I haven’t gotten that much stronger?”
“More techniques out there than you can imagine, boy.” The attendant finished counting, then rubbed his chin. “And . . .?”
“You took the herb quests too? The other gathering quests? So, where are they?”
“Ah . . .” Arthur hesitated.
“You broke the boxes that came with your newcomer gear, didn’t you?” Lai rolled his eyes. “What? You try to stuff too much in? Mix the wrong types of herbs together and make it all melt down?”
“That can happen?” Arthur’s eyes grew wide.
“Why do you think we tell you all not to mix herbs when storing things?”
“. . .”
“Bodoh!” Lai sighed. “Whatever. You want all this converted to credits then?”
“Considering quality, type, and variety, I can give you 48 credits. Cukup?”
“You can’t do better?” Arthur said, doing his best to be charming. “I’ve been out for a long time, and this, well…”
“Forty-eight,” Lai said firmly. “Or you can take it all back and just use them. Your call.”
“Forty-eight it is.” Arthur sighed.
“Good man.” A twitch of his hands and the man dropped the cores down multiple circular holes built into his desk. Arthur could hear the cores bouncing around as they fell down the funnels, headed to who knows where. At the same time, a sale slip was jotted down and marked and stored in another box while Arthur’s credit token was updated.
“Thank you. Pleasure doing business, as always, Lai Tai Kor.”
Laughing, Lai waved Arthur off. The man could not help but grin and saunter a little, for now it was time to do the thing that all men enjoyed—shopping for weapons and techniques!