12 Simple Blade

Following the man, the two were surprised to find out that this room was as large as the last. The room was split into two by a large polished counter, one half occupied by well-organized displays of various weaponry, sets of armor, and shields. The other, occupied by a forge, a few other men hard at work, hammering down on red poles of iron or shaping sheets of them into shields and armor.

The two walked up to the counter so that they could discuss the transaction, but their eyes wandered, looking at some of the fancier weapons on display. Zack's eye was caught particularly by a sword being displayed on the counter, the blade long and simple, but the hilt complex, covered in five gemstones that seemed to glow with energy.

The man, who had already gone behind the counter to assume the role of the store clerk, noticed his gaze, and grinned.

"Fancy, isn't it? Its blade has been forged and re-forged across generations as its owner saw fit, and its hilt is the creation of my earliest known ancestor, those gems having been imbued with Ardor of various types from my ancestors, a team effort if you will."

The man then picked it up off the display by the flat part of the blade and the very edge of the hilt, giving the two a closer look at the hilt. "As you can see, there are two empty slots for Darkness and Light Ardor gems, but neither me nor my ancestors could wield such elements, so the two slots remain empty until someone can."

Then, from the back, a man whose clothes were dirty with sut piped up. "Aye, can you shut up with that story old man? We've heard it countless times the past hour alone!" He then took another bite of the sandwich in his hands. In response, the man at the counter turned to him.

"Oh please, if you were half the man I were, you'd be up here eagerly telling them the same story, so shut your yap, brother!" The man's brother rolled his eyes, flipping the bird before taking another bite of his sandwich. With the shake of his head, the man turned back to face Diz and Zack.

"The blade seems so simple though, why is that?" Diz inquired, doing his best not to sound rude, earning ten percent towards his completion guage.

The man's eyes widened, but quickly went back to normal, his expression seeming to become softer. With the slow shake of his head, the man replied in a somber tone, saying "You're the first person ballsy enough to ask that in quite some time."

He put the sword back on its display, before turning to them, his face steeled, as if to prevent any changes. "There seem to be blades of much higher quality on the swords rack to the right, so it's clear I can do better, that's why you're asking, right?"

Diz nodded, the two of them having noticed the slight change in the man's expression and tone. "Well, this blade is the amatuer work of my only son, who died some time ago. I would replace the blade of another one of my own, but. . ."

Trailing off, the man seemed to ponder on what he should say next. Diz shuffled, scratching at the back of his neck nervously, not sure if he should say anything or not.

Zack however, took the initiative and said "You can't bring yourthelf to do it, becauthe of the memorieth attached to it. Replathing the blade would feel like the death of your thon for a thecond time."

The man's face became downcast, and Diz was shocked. 'Zack seemed adamant about hiding his lisp to the point he would only whisper in the streets, was this random starter village NPC really worth breaking that silent vow?' he thought.

Zack's character completion gauge raised by twenty percent, as the man replied. "Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. . ." The man sighed, before shaking his head again and speaking. "I assume you've gone through something similar, uh, what's your name fella?"

"My name ith Valerio, and yeth, I have." It was Zack's turn to become somber, thinking of the past. But it didn't last long, as the man was quick to continue the conversation. "Right then, Valerio, the reason I brought the two of you back here was to explain the difficulty in slaying a Viper Bear, and summon the guards to have you arrested, much like a few others today, who had been found guilty of stealing the hard work of others."

The two glanced at each other, not sure how to explain to an NPC that they as players could respawn. The game was made so that NPCs couldn't comprehend the topic, and if a player died in front of an NPC, their memory of the player would be wiped, making it so that they had never met, and the NPC would just react according to its personality to the dead body.

On the other hand, to avoid letting players abuse this to their advantage, the NPC would have a vague understanding of their character if they met again. If one were to haphazardly steal something, get caught, but hide the item before committing suicide, the NPC would know to be wary of them. Not to mention that certain rules were bent so that they couldn't die if they were serving time in jail.

As the two racked their brains on how to get out of that situation, Zack heard the cheap bell of the door ring as the clanking of metal resounded, coming closer. He couldn't make out how many guards were about to walk in, as there was too much clatter coming from the entrance.

It seems there was no way out of this.

The two turned around and paled as they watched a large guardsmen wearing intricate armor push the curtain aside, battle axe in hand. He spoke, and his deep voice matched his imposing appearance. "These two the reason you called, sir?" The man nodded, and said "That's right, sir. I was under the impression that they had stolen the hard earned Viper Bear game of others, and called you here."

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The man then walked to the left, and lifted the polished wood plank connecting the counter to the wall, letting it fall behind into place as he walked over to the guard with a clenched fist.

"Here's the fifty copper tax for a false report." He then outstretched his hand to the guard, who took the fifty copper in his hand, to the relief of the two.

"Are you positive, sir? They're only a party of two, and they looked poorly equipped to boot, you mean to tell me they really managed to hunt a Viper Bear all on their own?" the man looked at Zack and Diz incredulously, unsure of whether he should really accept the fifty copper.

"Trust me, sir. I know good people when I see them, these two aren't the type to steal the hard earned game of others." The two then locked eyes for a short time, before the guard nodded and put the fifty copper into a pouch on his utility belt.

"Quite impressive, what do you two call yourselves?" he said, the incredulous look lingering ever so slightly, but gone for the most part.

"I'm Valerio."

"I go by Diz."

"Valerio and Diz. . . Alright, hunters like you two deserve to have your names known. I'll tell the Hunters Association of your escapades. I assume you will do the same, Leonidas?" Leonidas nodded, and after a few short exchanges that the pair couldn't hear, the guardsmen left, and their character development completion guages filled in by twenty five percent, completing Zack's objective and leaving Diz with five percent to fill.

Leonidas then made his way back to behind the counter, the two wiping their heads of sweat while the man had his back turned to them. "So, I guess we should discuss the equipment and copper you two were interested in now. Before I start tossing costs about, let me see what you two were able to get."

With a nod, Diz carefully set the makeshift bag down on the counter and opened it, revealing its contents to Leonidas. "Let's see here. . . Oh wow, Viper Bear meat, that's a rare delicacy around these parts." He then picked up the pelts and examined them closely, sighing as he put them down.

"Well, you two certainly have a great amount of potential, having been able to take down the Viper Bear, but it's clear you're still journeymen. No Adroit would bang up a beast's pelt like this. Anyway, what else do we have here?"

He picked up one of the numerous scales, turning it over and taking a brief look at it before nodding to himself. He then put it down, and did the same for claws. "Alright, so we have a lot to work with here. Is there anything specific you two had in mind for the equipment?"

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