At some point, Nova drifted off. She wasn’t sure how long she slept. All she knew was that her butt ached from sleeping in an awkward position. She stood up and stretched. There were a few squawks from her shoulder but otherwise Briney settled down and fell back asleep.
Nova frowned as she looked around. She wasn’t sure how long it had been since Mathius left but it definitely didn’t fall into the ‘not long’ category. She eyed the panel in the ceiling. The thought of going up and seeing what was out there both excited and scared her.
She bit her lip and shook her head. “I’ll wait a little longer.”
She began walking around the room, stretching out her legs. She brought up her screen and focused on the last item that wasn’t an error message.
Quest Level: Stage 1
Quest Type: Contract
Within 60 days, re-establish the Explorer’s Guild within the Kingdom of Hayeln.
-Establish a guildhall.
-Have at least three members.
-Complete an Explorer’s Guild quest.
-1 rank level within the Explorer’s guild
-1 Establishing guild item
-1 Special item
“Loot!” Nova said, practically bouncing.
She hadn’t expected anything like this. The rewards didn’t seem that great. The XP looked low for establishing a guildhall. Then again, she didn’t have anything to compare XP gains. For all she knew 100 XP was actually a lot. It meant she would have to try out more quests.
Her lips spread into a grin. She was so down for quests and loot. Of course, she needed to find out how to obtain quests. She really didn’t like the idea of getting quests through summonings. She gathered from her experience with Mathius that she was obligated to enter into a deal if she entered a summoning circle. It did make her wonder what happened if a person didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain.
“No more stepping into mysterious circles for me,” she said to herself.
Luckily, since there was a quest type that meant there were different types of quests and, therefore, different ways to get them. She scanned over the rewards one more time. Her gaze rested on the special item. A wave of greed went through her but she pushed it down until it was just a small bubble of excitement. She wondered what sort of special item she would get.
“Sixty days,” she bit her lip. Now she was regretting giving Mathius such a short deadline. “I’ll figure it out.”
She closed the screen and began rocking on the back of her heels as possibilities went through her head. She glanced back at the panel Mathius left through. She shook her head.
Leaving would be a bad idea. It would be better to wait.
She pulled up her main screen. There wasn’t much on it besides error messages.
Let’s give this another try.
She focused on one of the error messages. High-pitch interference slammed into her brain. She jerked away, stumbling from the pain. She clutched her head and shook it. It took at least twenty minutes before her head stopped pounding. She took a deep breath and a look of determination covered her face.
One more time.
It took her two more times and a pile of vomit before she finally gave up. She might have kept trying but her vision had gone slightly blurry and she was starting to worry she might be causing herself brain damage.
She plopped on the ground, on the opposite side of where her vomit was, and sighed. She wasn’t going to be able to push through the error screen with just sheer will. She needed to fix it and that involved a diagnostic check. She was tempted to do it now but she still had no idea what might happen to her in the future. Mathius hadn’t come back and she was starting to wonder if he would be coming back at all. He might have abandoned her or gotten arrested and so waiting around was pointless.
What it came down to is that she really wanted to see this world she had entered. Nova turned to the pile of rubble and began to climb. She slipped a little. The flats she wore weren’t meant for climbing. In the end, she had to take them off. Nova shoved them into the waistband of her jeans and continued climbing. To her relief, she reached the top without falling. She spotted the panel Mathius went through and pushed it. It was incredibly heavy. With a grunt she pushed again, shoving the shoulder not claimed by a little purple monster into it. The stone gave and with a lot of pushing and determination, she opened the panel. By the time she had enough space to peek her head out, she had gained a lot of respect for Mathius. He was a lot stronger than she gave him credit for.
Looking around, she saw that she was in some sort of back alley. Two large walls were on either side of her and from what she could see it was empty. It was dark outside but there was still the distant rumble of people. Slowly, Nova climbed out of the hole.
Once she was out, she struggled to push the top of the stone back in place but she managed. She had to stop and duck into the shadows a couple of times as people walked by but in the end, she sealed it so no one would be the wiser. She smiled in satisfaction and then slid her shoes back on.
She hadn’t completely thought this through. Even so, she didn’t regret it. Just sucking in a breath of air and seeing the sky above her felt good. The sky looked like the one on earth. The night sky was a dark blue, almost black. Stars danced in the sky and a bright teal moon hung among them. The moon seemed so big, like if she ran forward she would be able to touch it.
She stared at it for a little while before turning and making her way to the end of the alley.
She looked out onto a great city. Buildings were clustered together and stretched up to the sky. They weren’t just one tall building but multiple buildings of different types stacked on top of each other. Nova had never seen anything like it. As she stared, two men walked by the alley, their arms around each other’s shoulders as they drunkenly sang. Nova drew back into the shadows, sucking in a breath. Neither man noticed her.
Once they had passed her, Nova peeked out of the alley, taking the opportunity to look them over. They looked like normal humans. Their clothes were plain – brown pants, a loose dark shirt that fell to mid-thigh with a belt tied around it, and worn boots. They looked like something she would see at a renaissance festival. Nova glanced around looking for any woman. She saw a few but judging by the cleavage and catcalls, she figured those ladies might be gaining the type of attention she wanted to avoid. Besides them, there were a few people scattered around, begging for coins. Nova watched as people drifted down the dirt street entering what looked to be taverns. Their numbers were low compared to the number of taverns. Nova gathered most people had already gone home and what was left were the true night owls of the bunch.
It was the perfect time to take a look around. She looked down at herself. Compared to everyone, her teal shirt was a bit too eye-catching. She hadn’t seen anyone in bright colors, most of the clothes were muted. She could chance it since it was clear most people were inside but the way people drifted in and out of the taverns was too unpredictable. She wanted to at least have them ignore her if she bumped into anyone. She untucked her shirt from her jeans, letting it hang down to her thighs. Next, she took her hair down and instead plaited it into a braid, figuring a braid was always nondescript. She tucked her scrunchie into her pocket. She looked down at herself and frowned.
She looked around the alley, searching for something but all she could see was mud and bits of garbage. Her eyes went to the mud as an idea came to her.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she mumbled.
She walked toward the mud and knelt down. Scooping some in her hand, she began to coat her shirt in it. She silently wept for her blouse but continued caking it in mud until she had practically dyed the shirt in it. She then gave the same treatment to her jeans. She took a bit of dirt and smudged it on her face. Satisfied, she stood up. She wished she had a mirror, but she figured that she came across as a beggar. She started to leave the alley when she glanced back at the panel.
She frowned and then reached over and spread dirt over it. Satisfied that it looked like the rest of the alley she turned back to the street. Hunching over, she stepped into the city.
A few people glanced her way but most ignored her. Nova pretended not to notice the people looking at her, hunching over further as she walked. A man’s face twisted in disgust while a woman who had looked over simply glanced away with a bored expression. Nova sighed in relief. She wasn’t sure if this was a world where women only wore dresses but she took a chance that no one would look too closely at a beggar.
So far, she had been right. Once she was a little further from the alley she straightened up and took the time to look around her. What she saw left her in wonder. The buildings she thought stacked on top of each other were actually floating. They were so close together it made them look otherwise, but there were small gaps. After a moment, she noticed that almost none of the buildings had chimneys.
Taking a closer look at the buildings she passed, Nova made mental notes about them. Outside the alley were mostly taverns and even a small theater. As she moved further down the street, the taverns were replaced with a few bakeries and grocers. Further down the shops opened up to lumber and grain mills. Her attention turned back to the floating buildings. She could make out a few names. Nova was curious how people managed to get to the upper levels. She could see what was basically floating pavement, but no way to actually reach it.
She looked around her, searching for a way up when she noticed a hint of green down one of the streets. Deciding to wait on the floating shops for now, she traveled down a side street that opened up to a wide cluster of fields and groves. The fields and groves were clumped together and some were even enclosed with more of the stacked floating shops above them.
Curious, Nova wandered down the path. Each field and grove had a sign hovering over it with a shop name. All the field areas grew fruits, vegetables, and grains. It was definitely the city’s farmlands. The groves were the only difference. Some of the trees grew fruits but others were normal trees. It didn’t take her long to make the connection that the trees were probably harvested for lumber. It struck her as odd that everything was so clustered together and divided up like it was. She stopped in front of a sugarcane field.
Colored crystals were buried in the ground of the field. Some of them glowed while others were stagnant. On a hunch, Nova focused her mana sight. Threads of various colors weaved through the crystals. She leaned forward, trying to take a closer look when a white crystal flared up. Nova felt a force hit her and she was thrown backward into the road. She skidded across the ground before coming to a stop.
“What the hell was that?” She groaned.
There was the sound of running feet. “You there! What are you doing?”
Nova turned to see two men in red tunics and metal helmets. They both had swords sheathed on their hips. It didn’t take a genius to realize they were guards. Nova could stay there and let them interrogate her on the off chance they wouldn’t find her highly suspicious or she could run.
Nova scrambled to her feet and ran.
“Stop!” One of the men shouted.
Nova could hear them behind her. She sped up. She had a head start and had always been a fast runner. Up ahead she saw a turn down another road. She whipped around the corner and frantically looked around. She needed a place to hide before they caught up with her. Her gaze settled on a grove further down. She ran for it.
She ran past two wheat fields until she reached the grove. It looked to be an apple grove. She ran towards it and slammed into an invisible wall. As soon as she hit the wall, she felt a surge of power and then was thrown back into the road. She flopped to the ground and immediately scrambled to her feet. She glanced back the way she came. The guards could round the corner at any time.
A squeak went off in her shirt and Briney popped out his head, but she shushed him. He gave her another annoyed squeak but settled back down into slumber. Her gaze returned to the grove and noticed several crystals embedded in some of the trees. Her eyes flitted over the crystals until she found a glowing white one, similar to the one that lit up at the other field when she was thrown back.
That’s got to be it.
She reached out with her mana sight. She could see it, white threads tied together with faded yellow threads enclosed the grove like a shield before leading back to the crystal. She reached out her hand, pulling the threads. For a moment they fought her but the faded yellow threads soon collapsed into her hands and the white threads followed after.
Nova ducked into the grove. She weaved through the trees and crouched behind one. She was far enough away to not be immediately seen, but still close enough to see the road. She had just settled on the ground when she heard footsteps.
“Where she go?” A voice said.
As Nova waited for them to appear in her view she felt a rush of energy. She looked down at her hand to see the threads of mana seeping into her skin. A blue screen popped up.
[Warning! You have 30 seconds to transfer mana before eruption.]
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