9: Names

Needless to say, I didn’t end up successfully ambushing the two on their way out of the keep. For one thing, they weren’t being chased by {Elite Guards}. The second I popped my head around to check, Pesky headshot me instantly.

If I ever saw that {Archer} again, I was going to make him pay.

But that would come later after I was much stronger. And to get stronger, I needed a better weapon. This flimsy wooden spear was not cutting it. The only problem was, I didn’t know where to get something better. I didn’t know how to get inside the keep – the gates were closed – and the wide-open wilderness proved too daunting for me to risk wandering into, especially during this never-ending blizzard.

So my only option was to train up my skills and up my attributes the hard way.

Wiping a few ice crystals off of my eyebrow, I made my way toward the female {Guard}. She didn’t look at me until I was nearly right on top of her, yelling, “Hey! You wanna spar with me while we wait for more invaders?”

Her head turned to face me and I could see a scowl forming on her lips. “Back to your post, fellow {Guard}! You never know when an enemy could be near!”

I tapped my helmet. “I got a skill that lets me know that you know!”

Her scowl deepened. “Back to your post, fellow {Guard}! You never know when an enemy could be near!”

“Come on! Sparring could be good for you, too! We’d both get stronger! Plus, we never permanently die so we don’t have to hold back.”

Her eyes twitched dangerously as her mouth formed her worst scowl yet. “B-back to your {Guard}, fellow enemy! You kn-know when-you kn-know when-you kn-know when-“

I back up quickly as she started spazzing out, repeating the same words over and over again until, finally, she stopped and went still. After a moment of an awkward and somewhat one-sided staring contest, I cleared my throat. “Everything okay in there?”

Her eyes snapped back into focus and she looked at me in confusion. “Who are you?”

I opened my mouth to respond before I really thought about it. I don’t know the answer to that question, do I? Sure, my status said I was an Elden Keep Guard but…that wasn’t really who I was. That didn’t fully describe me. Or did it? I hadn’t really done anything else but guard Elden Keep.

“I…don’t know,” I murmured. “Who are you?”

She blinked. “I…don’t know either. What am I doing here?”

“Guarding the keep.” The reply was almost automatic as if it was programmed into me.

“Guarding the…keep…” She looked up at the small castle behind the wall and gaped. “That’s a castle.”

I turned to look at it as well. “Yep,” I said, taking in the stone spires and the dome-shaped roof of the keep. “That’s a castle.”

“And we guard it?”

“Apparently.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah.”

After a minute of silence, she said, “I just…got a point in my Intelligence?”

“Huh. Never happened to me before.”

She jumped a little out of nowhere; I guess she must’ve figured out how to access the status menu.

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“Wow,” she breathed. “This is…”

“Incredible, isn’t it?”

She nodded, then frowned. “My name is None (Elden Keep Guard)?”

“I think…that’s just the status saying you don’t have a name,” I replied.

“That’s…strange, isn’t it? I feel like names are important…”

“Yeah.”

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She stared at her status before turning to look back at the castle. Then she tilted her head upward, eyes pointed to the sky. “Hey,” she said, “I’m Crystal.”

Naming herself, huh? I…kinda wanna try it, too. Staring up at the sky as she did, I searched for something out there, something that was worth being known as. And then something caught my eye: a tiny snowflake dancing its way toward the ground, twirling this way and that until it landed on my boot.

Smiling slightly, I said, “Call me Flake.”

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