Chapter 43: True Friends

The quests that I created for her were rather simple, designed to let her finish all of them at once. For Create Water, I made her bring me a large pot of water from the spring that she mentioned. For Clean, she had to clean the dishes after we ate. Finally, for Purify, she needed to wash some of the vegetables that she had in her inventory.

She seemed rather happy with these quests, which could be considered chores. The stew that she made… well, the meat was a bit tough, but that was to be expected given what creature it came from. Once we were done eating, she picked up her dirty pot and began to carry it off away from our little improvised camp.

While she was gone, I was left thinking about how I would ask what I wanted to ask her. Was there a delicate way to approach the subject? Did there even need to be? I didn’t know if asking something like this would be insensitive or not. I really need to spend more time with people…

By the time she returned with a clean pot, filled with water and ready for presentation, I was no closer than when she had left to finding an answer to my question. Regardless, all of the quest objectives had been completed, so I confirmed this and granted her the three skills that I had learned in Aureakeep.

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Diane seemed pretty happy with this, immediately using the Clean skill on herself and letting out a satisfied sigh. Afterwards, she blinked, realizing her actions and brought her mask back up to cover her mouth as if embarrassed.

“Why did you want to catch up with me so quickly?” She asked, clearly trying to change the subject. “Was it just to give me the guild invitation?”

“That’s certainly a big part of it.” I nodded my head, focusing on sending her that invitation, which she promptly accepted. “However, a bigger part… I don’t know if I want to keep traveling alone or not. I’ve met some interesting people on the road, but… well, it’s awfully lonely traveling by yourself, right?”

She paused for a moment, before shrugging her shoulders. “I suppose so… my Chosen keeps asking me if we can spend our nights in cities instead of camping.”

“You can talk to her?” I asked in surprise, and Diane nodded her head. She pulled out a small book from her inventory, as well as a pen.

“Whenever I log out, I write a message to her. Then, she can reply to it, and I’ll read it when I log back in. After what you told me… about the Chosen feeling pain, I thought that it would be better if I got to know her.”

“I see…” I nodded my head at that, impressed by how Diane was handling it. “If it’s alright for me to ask… can you tell me more about yourself? I don’t know if this is considered rude or anything. However, you’re the best rogue I’ve seen, player or not, and you seem to have access to a lot of information that other players I know don’t.”

“I don’t think I’m the best, since I can’t catch your shadow anymore.” She responded in a wry tone, before closing her eyes to think about my question. “As for that… it’s fine. There’s not much to tell. I know people on the other side, and I have a fair bit of money to get what I want.”

“Money?” I blinked, confused about how money factored into this. “Don’t tell me you’ve been spending your own funds on the other side to help me?”

Diane paused at that, glancing off to the side. “It’s nothing much.” She said in a quiet tone. “I don’t want one of my friends to get hurt.”

I gave a small chuckle, about to say something else when she let out an annoyed grunt. “Sorry, but it looks like I have to log for now.” Diane said in annoyance. “As for traveling together, you can talk it over with my Chosen. I’ll let her decide for this.”

After she said that, she abruptly logged out, causing me to blink in confusion. Immediately, her gaze seemed to soften, and she reached up to pull down her facemask, as if finding it hard to breathe in. “Sorry about that. There’s a limit to how long players can be logged in for every day. The plan originally was for me to be the one to greet you when you got here, but you arrived faster than we planned.”

Nodding my head, I let out a long sigh. “I guess I’ve got bad timing, huh?” I had thought that she had only recently logged on, but it turned out that it was the other way around.

“It’s fine. I am usually the one to set up camp for us anyways, if you don’t mind helping me out? Do you have a tent or anything?” Diane’s Chosen asked as she stood up, brushing off her pants.

“No tent. I’ll just sleep outside. It’s what I’m used to at this point. Do you need me to be on watch for you?” When I asked that, Diane hesitated for a moment, before shaking her head.

“No, you can get some sleep, too. We have tools to set alarms around the camp.” As she said that, she began pulling spikes out of her inventory, walking around to hammer them into the ground. “Try not to walk past the perimeter I set, or you’ll trigger the alarm.”

“Noted.” I said, watching her set up camp in a practiced manner. If she was the one left to do this, I could see why she’d want to stay in a city sometimes. Though, at least Diane gave her all of the tools that she would need. Soon, a small tent was erected, made of black cloth to blend in with the darkness.

After she entered the tent, there was a brief ruffling of cloth before she emerged, wearing a looser robe that seemed to double as her sleepwear. With that out of the way, she gathered up the last of the materials left over from when Diane cooked, and entered the tent again.

I looked around, finding a large rock within the boundaries of the perimeter to lean against, and prepared to get some rest myself. However, as I closed my eyes, I heard Diane’s voice. “You remind her of herself.”

My eyes opened, and I saw Diane’s head poking out of her tent. “What do you mean?” I asked, lacking any form of context for that statement.

“My player. You remind her of herself, and she wants to protect you.”

That… clarified exactly nothing. “How could I remind Diane of herself?” I chuckled dryly, shaking my head. “I don’t think we could be more different, could we?”

“Because she was abandoned.” I froze up when I heard that, seeing Diane’s Chosen with a rare, serious expression. “I’ll write that I told her this, so you won’t get in trouble or anything. But… she lives in a hospital, and has for a long time. Her family used to go and visit her, but they gradually stopped when her condition didn’t look like it would get better. She told me that she hasn’t seen some of them in years now.”

“She was desperate for people to talk to, so she turned to games, where she started to make money by helping people or selling items she found. Even if her family never visited her anymore, she was able to make friends, like Hammerhead. Like you. I asked her why she goes so far to help you, even hiring people to run a dungeon so she can farm a skill for you.”

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“She didn’t want to answer me at first, I know. But she said that she doesn’t want to be someone that abandons her friends when they are in trouble. That’s why she’s doing so much stuff for you. So, don’t make her regret it, alright?” There was another harsh look when she said that, but I nodded my head.

“Yeah… I’m sorry, I didn’t realize any of that.” Who would have imagined the stoic, athletic Diane as someone permanently hospitalized? “If you’re telling me this… does that mean you’re alright with traveling together?”

Diane let out a chuckle, shaking her head. “She said that she’d leave it up to me, but I know that she’d be upset if I turned you away. She just wants to make sure I don’t totally hate you or anything. For now, just try to get some rest. The play limit is ten hours a day, so she’ll be back before we set off tomorrow.”

“Right.” I nodded my head, closing my eyes once again and thinking about what Diane had told me. Now I could understand why she was so skilled, because she spent all of her time doing similar activities in other games. It still bothered me that she spent her own money to help me, because I know that couldn’t have been easy.

Is there a way that I can help her, too? I thought to myself. There were a few options that I could come up with. Her Chosen said that she earns money in her world by helping people or selling rare items. If that was the case, couldn’t I simply help her find those rare items to sell? As for helping people… that was something to consider later, but maybe I could design quests that she could help people take to get different skills or something? It would have to be after I didn’t need to worry about being hunted, at least.

Eventually, I felt my consciousness drift off, until the sun was beating down on my face again. When I opened my eyes, I found Diane having already started working to take down her tent, dressed in her ninja outfit. “Would you mind helping me hunt for breakfast?” She asked when she saw me moving. “I can take the rest of the camp down while you do.”

I gave a small nod, standing up and stretching, feeling several joints popping at once. “Got it.” Looking back at the road, I couldn’t help but add. “Do you want me to quickly run to Ardenveil to get something, or are there good monsters to hunt nearby?”

Diane paused at that, before shaking her head. “You don’t know your way around Ardenveil, so I’d be waiting too long for you to find a good store. The Silver Serpents in this area supposedly have really tender meat, if you can get another serving.”

I nodded my head, activating my Ghost-X and running off to hunt. After I ran higher up the mountain, I could use my Scout skill to look and see how many of such serpents there were in the area. I see… seven scattered around. As well as a large bird nest. The bird is… level eighty-five. I should be able to handle both.

Taking a deep breath, I drew my bow, and began sniping. First was the two birds in the nest, which I needed to eliminate quickly before they were scared away. One shot to the neck was enough to kill each of them, though the second was trickier as it had started to fly off by the time I took my second shot.

Next, I shot the seven snakes that I could see. Because each of these were a considerable distance from one another, killing one didn’t cause the others to begin panicking. Once I had killed my prey, I went to collect the spoils, starting with the snakes. Looting them one by one, I found that most didn’t drop anything. In fact, the only thing that I did get was three sets of meat.

Next came the birds, one of which I had to track down where it fell. It dropped me another piece of meat, specifically Rook Roc Meat. The other one gave me an egg, which was added together with the four from the nest. Of those four, one seemed nearly ready to hatch, according to my Observe skill.

I took all of the eggs with me and made my way back to Diane, who looked at me curiously when she saw what I was carrying. “You found eggs? And… large ones, at that.”

I couldn’t fault her for the confusion, given that each egg was only a little smaller than my head. “That’s right. I saw some pretty big birds on the mountain, and thought that they might be good for breakfast. Though… this one is going to hatch soon.” I said, pointing to one of the eggs in the pile. “I didn’t know what you would want to do with it.”

Diane hesitated for a moment, before her eyes went wide with almost childlike wonder. “Can we keep it? Oh, can you quickly run to Ardenveil for me? I want to get a taming skill before it hatches. Oh, and food for it, if you can.”

I blinked in surprise at this request, having not expected that sort of answer from Diane of all people. Granted, this was her Chosen, but still. “Sure, I’ll see what I can do while you get breakfast ready. How are you going to explain it to your player, though?”

“It depends on the type of bird that it turns into. If it’s big enough, maybe we can make it a mount? If not, we can train it for recon. It still fits with her image of a rogue, and she even mentioned wanting a falcon at one point.”

I simply chuckled at that, nodding my head and turning to leave. If I wanted to get back in time to eat, I’d need to hurry.

— New chapter is coming soon —
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