Level 4: Foreboding

“…”

Lia stopped in her tracks and observed the quest message. She felt it was quite suspicious as it seemed like it had been timed with her entrance in the restaurant, but she ignored the feeling with the reason that in the end this was a game and the players would always be like the heroes arriving on the nick of time.

As for why Lia found it suspicious, she had been going around the restaurants and stalls in the town not only to check the food’s market price, but also to see who would be willing to teach her some culinary skills. At the end of the day, Lia found that the owners of the ‘Loose Goose’ were the more approachable and capable ones, she had returned to ask them if they’d be willing to teach her.

‘Could all this be staged? But, why? Moreover, how would “they” have known I’d choose this place and not one of the other restaurants? Let’s calmly think this through. I have to catch up with some thugs, I’d have to run after them, and possibly, end up in a dead-end, forcing me to fight them. Though I don’t have to worry about that, with all the training I went through from when I was a kid till now, even if I don’t have any weapon, I still would have no problem if it’s just those three.’

Lia accepted the quest in the midst of her thoughts, ran outside just in time to get a glimpse of the ‘shady’ trio, and promptly followed them from a safe distance.

‘Still, I’m level one. The quest didn’t say anything about beating the thugs though. Would things escalate really that much if this was all arranged? It’s possible. Then, how do I go around defending myself? Use real life techniques. I know how much real life combat experience can be useful here, mom told me so. Problems: the level of my enemies is unknown, the disparity between out attributes could be severely disadvantageous. Plus… the execution of my techniques could be slightly affected by my different depth perception and field of view.’

The kidnappers went around the corner, thus Lia slowed down before reaching the corner and stopped.

‘It seems I’ve got no more time to think. Couldn’t they have run away some more? Though if they did I doubt my avatar’s stamina would let me keep up with them. That aside, judging from their appearance, their foot work, and their speed, if things go south and it’s really a trap, I would just need a head start and it’s guaranteed that I’d be able to return to the restaurant before they could catch me. Though for saving the kid, I would need a distraction. A cover of some sort.’

Taking out one of her water pouches, Lia rounded the corner and put herself in position to be able to easily run away if needed. Her eyes gaze attentively at the situation before her. She observed, considered, interpreted and evaluated the scenario she was presented. The more she analyzed, the more she understood.

A woman’s intuition is never wrong.

The three thugs stood behind the kid, bowing their heads to some degree, and not in the respectful way, but more like they were apologizing. Apologizing for having followed orders they couldn’t refuse. The kid was obviously the puppet master.

‘Guess the kid won’t obediently allow me to save him now.’

The water pouch, now useless, was unhurriedly placed back inside the inventory. The boy just smiled at her actions and waited for her to be done with it before talking.

“My beautiful white rose, what is your name?”

‘… Great.’

Despite the fact that she didn’t care, it was not like she also didn’t know it.

Lia knew men were after her. Or, more precisely, her body.

Why would anyone want her? After all, to quote, she was “just an insensible little bitch.”

‘Each time they say something like that, all I can think about is how my and mom’s efforts all this time amount to nothing. It’s not like I wanted to get shot, lose an eye and also my emotions.’

It’s not like in these last 12 years Lia never cared about it, she just thought that there was no use in crying over spilt milk.

She breathed in and out to concentrate again.

‘Going back as to why this is such a “nice” development, the boy wants me and he’s clearly dangerous.’

He hadn’t tried to approach her like a normal person, no, he instead had his subordinates act as if they were abducting him, all to lure Lia alone in a dead-end, a normal girl would certainly be frightened when ‘surrounded’ by such malicious people.

‘Thank God this isn’t real life. Nor can I be considered a normal girl.’

All the while Lia was lost in thought, the arrogant kid had been talking, but she naturally utterly ignored him.

‘In the end though, I still need him to complete the quest. Staged or not, the couple from that restaurant will give me my reward if I bring them the kid. At most, if I need to run away, I will just go to another town…’

Lia closed her eyes to better concentrate after she lamented to herself a bit.

‘If I hadn’t put that water pouch away, I guess this would have been a bit faster and easier, but whatever, it doesn’t really matter.’

“..y! Hey! Are you listening to me?!”

Then she opened her eyes to gaze directly at him.

Not a hint of emotion was present in those dark purple, crystal clear eyes.

Right then, something peculiar took place in a timeframe so small the human brain wouldn’t be able to perceive, but also big enough that it would be able to trigger people’s subconscious mind, their sixth sense, allowing them to understand that something had happened, something had changed, though not exactly how or why such a thing took place.

It was in this manner that she had noticed the change, but she decided to leave it for later as, suddenly, the men looking at Lia shivered.

Fear started permeating their bodies, threatening their sanity and their souls. They had done nothing, but they had gone too far.

Each step she took toward in their direction made them feel as if more and more dark and ghastly claws were reaching out for their souls and trying to snatch them.

She narrowed her eyes as she thought, ‘isn’t this quite easy?’

Lia coolly took the boy by his wrist and proceeded to walk out of the alleyway and onto the road leading to the restaurant.

The would-be thugs dared not to move.

With her back to them, her lips barely curved upwards, or at least tried to, for an instant.

She wasn’t exactly in the mood to make fake smiles and flaunt her victory, though this hadn’t been what she had originally planned to do.


Kidnappers on the run! – Completed
You managed to safely return the kid to the restaurant while not causing a fuss after having discovered the truth. The three men were part of the castle guards of Thyw’s Lord, and Johan, the Lord’s second son, had ordered them to fake his kidnapping to catch the heart of the lady he became obsessed with.

After she threw the boy on the floor of the restaurant, Lia checked the quest completion notification and noticed some backlogged system messages that she hadn’t read.

In Hyria, when a player was under an adrenaline rush, an intense fight, under deep concentration, etc., normal notification would automatically be hidden, but once the player accessed his/her status, they would make themselves stand out.

New skills have been acquired:

Calm Analysis (Passive)
Quick Analysis (Passive)
Primordial Fear (Active)

Please, see below for more detailed information.

Calm Analysis (Passive)
A calm analysis of the environment always helps making a more correct judgement on one’s own situation.
Effects:
+25% Easier to spot anomalies and possible dangers
+10% Easier to come to an understanding of the situation
+5% Easier to spot lies in a conversation
Quick Analysis (Passive)
A fast thinker survives longer.
Effects:
+15% Faster in making a decision
+15% Faster to spot anomalies and possible dangers
Primordial Fear (Active)
When your lack of emotions, empathy and interest in others’ lives is revealed to those around you, all they will be able to see in front of them is Death Herself.
Effects:
Instills fear and stuns every weaker being that stands where you have been while keeping Primordial Fear active. The more time has passed, the lesser the effect is. Every minute that passes diminishes the effect’s duration by 30 seconds.
Instills fear and stuns every being of the same level as you or weaker.
Instills fear and stuns every being not over 5 levels higher than yours. For every level higher, 20 seconds are subtracted to the duration of the effect.
Radius: 1 meter
Duration: 2 minutes
Cost: 60 MP, then 2 MP per second if kept active.

Lia was slightly surprised, not because she wasn’t aware that this game could create abilities/skills according to a player’s behavior, but because of how quickly she had acquired, not just one, but three of them at roughly the same time. Though her interest ended there.

She walked in front of the couple who owned the ‘Loose Goose’ and observed them. At least it seemed like they regretted the ‘prank’ a little.

‘They tricked me, but now that I was able to capture the Lord’s arrogant son, they started feeling some remorse, I suppose. This explains why the quest rewards said the two would be indebted to me.’

“Care to explain?”

The man, Ul, and the woman, Krista, remained silent for a short moment but then they began to explain.

Apparently the little pest had seen her in the plaza while she inspected the prices of the food and made inquiries about getting taught how to cook, after she left the ‘Loose Goose,’ he sent some of his men inside to ask if they knew her, then he ordered them to cooperate with the staged kidnapping. In addition, it had just been a fluke that he choose this restaurant, Lia had simply been unlucky.

As for Johan, he was a well-known asshole that liked to use his position as the Town Lord’s son to force others into doing what he wanted.

While they were talking, the kid got up and screamed something like “Don’t think it’ll end here, you..! You..! Damn it!”before storming out of the place.

No one paid attention to him, some out of fear, some out of disgust.

“… I see. Anyway, I had originally come back to ask you to teach me your cooking skills, but I guess there won’t be a need for me to ask you such, right?”

Said Lia while she coldly looked at them. Ul seemed a little thrown off, maybe he didn’t want to accept apprentices so easily, or at all, but after a “Dear…” and a glare by Krista, he accepted while sighing.

In the end, Lia spent a whole week (IRL) before finally learning the skills she wanted, along with some general tips and common knowledge.

At first she had to do the usual minor things, like washing the dishes or peeling potatoes. She would’ve complained, seeing as the skills were her quest reward, if she hadn’t been given a place to sleep and two/three meals a day. Lia had never liked eating breakfast that much.

All the physical exercise even wound up increasing her stamina.

Of course she didn’t spend all her time playing Hyria. She took care of her real life needs, went jogging with her mother or trained at the dojo, and lastly she always made sure to do her homework.

‘Now that I’m done here, I have to go earn some money to fund my adventures. Thanks to Krista I still have a lot of my bread left, but that won’t last me too long. There should be a bulletin board in the plaza for repeatable quests, but before that I need to go get myself a class, I want to see what kind of benefits I’d get by becoming a swordswoman. I also need to know if it’s possible to change classes later on. Mmh, I should log off after my visit to the atelier.’

On the way to the to the Swordsmen’s Atelier, Lia made a mental list of the things she had to buy later. After all, Ul and Krista hadn’t paid her…

The Swordsmen’s Atelier was a two-story stone building near an open area with mannequins being beaten by NPC soldiers and two or three players. Inside there were some more mannequins and many types of swords hung on the walls, with only three NPC training there. Seeing the ‘goddess’ whose beauty and nickname were both famous to players and NPCs alike, enter his atelier, the instructor quickly went to greet her.

“Hello young lady, I’m Triel, the instructor. Are you interested in becoming a swordswoman?”

“Hi, I’m Aisha. I’m here to know what are the benefits joining this atelier.”

“Well, it depends on what type of swordswoman you want to become, but I guess you would be best suited for the speed type. Speed types concentrate on raising their agility, dexterity and of course, strength. You’d be lacking in defense and you would be limited to light armor, but if you train hard enough in dodging you will be able to make up for the disparity. Lastly, like for every other swordsmen, you will have less mana and it will also regenerate more slowly.”

“Thank you for the information, if I become interested in swordsmanship I’ll come back.”

‘I’ll come back to accept this class should I not find anything else of interest.’

Finally out of the atelier, Lia had just began walking toward the plaza when someone hit the back of her head.


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