Chapter 4

The City of Arkeport

        Musette looked around her again. She hadn’t spent too much time setting her options, so it had just passed noon. The sun was high in the sky, and the market stalls around her were fairly busy.
        Her minimap didn’t show the people around her, but it did show the stalls and buildings nearby, albeit unlabeled. Grabbing it with her hands, Musette moved the minimap to the upper right corner of her view. It took a bit of adjusting, but she got it into a position where it was just out of sight, but she could easily check it by glancing up and to the right, so it wouldn’t cover her field of vision.
        *Health* brought up a small box showing her current BP, MP, SP, Energy, Satiety and Hydration as colored bars, and she moved that to the upper left of her vision, well in sight. This way she’d always know how much damage she’d taken, and if she was using her Energy too quickly.
        Prepared now, Musette picked one of the stalls to walk up to. Most of them were selling food or ingredients, especially fresh fish. Others were selling clothing, or even bolts of cloth. The one Musette chose was one of the few that was selling weapons.
        The weapons all seemed to range in quality from I to F, with nothing special about them, and ranged in price from 25 Tin to 1 Silver, depending on the type of weapon. A low quality spear or battle-axe would cost roughly all the starting money she had. She wasn’t interested in getting a weapon now though.
        The man behind the stall was an elf a few inches shorter than her, but his slender body was heavily muscled and his skin was darkly tanned, almost red. She could clearly see the blond hairs on his face. Rather than beards or mustaches, all elves, male and female, had facial hair that lay flat against their face, radiating out from the center, almost like whiskers, but shorter. Usually this hair was the same color as their skin and hard to see, but his near blondish hair was clearly visible against his reddish skin, not only on his face, but on his bare arms which flexed as he sharpened a small axe.
        “Excuse me,” she said to the elf standing there. “I’m new here, don’t really know my way around town. I was hoping you could direct me to the class trainers?”
        Frowning, he rubbed his chin. “That rather depends on what Class Trainer you’re looking for, lass. If you wish to learn Sorcery, there’s a school just northwest of the Governor’s mansion.”
        “No, I was looking for the warrior trainers. Why would you think I’d want to be a sorcerer?”
        The elf looked her up and down, and shrugged. “You just seem the sorcerer type.”
        “What is that supposed to mean,” she said with a glare.
        “Hahaha,” he laughed, holding has hands out to fend her off, “you just seem a bit on the brainy side. Now, now, if you want to learn to fight, then it’d be best to head to the guard’s hall, to the southeast, just below the Saen.”
        “That’s,” Musette looked around to get her bearings, “that way right?” She pointed in what she thought was vaguely the right direction.
        “Well you can’t walk straight there lass. Head east to the river Eryth, and then south until you reach the Lower Bridge. Once you cross, you’ll want to head north and east until you reach the Saen, then keep heading east until you get to the large building made of red stone. It’s hard to miss.”
        “Thanks,” she said, preparing to head out.
        “Although, if you want to know your way around town better, I recommend you hit one of the information offices first. There’s one at the western gate out of town, but the one near the port is closer. It’s just east and a little south of here.”
        “Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. Thanks a lot.”
        “By the way lass, my name is Horace. If you’re gonna be a fighter, you’ll want to keep your weapons in top shape. I’m here at the stall most days, or you can find me at the Galariel Smithy. It’s...well just go to the information office and they can help you find it.”
        “Horace? That’s...not a very elven sounding name,” she mused, not realizing she’d said it out loud.
        “Hah,” Horace laughed, “I suppose it isn’t. But I was born and raised in Arkeport, and so were my parents, so I guess we just kinda absorbed the culture. What’s your name then, lass?”
        “Hahahaha, that’s a better elven name than mine is. You win, you win,” he laughed. Still smiling, he went back to sharpening the axe.
        Smiling herself, Musette headed off to the east toward the river. She was rather surprised at the interaction with the NPC, he was much livelier than the one from the tutorial. The AI was pretty interactive, was that possibly the effect of her reputation?
        Thinking *Reputation*, Musette brought up the screen and scrolled down to the section with her reputation for Arkeport. It was just listed as Fair, but below that there was a subsection for ‘Craftsmen’, which just said, ‘Likeable’.
        Just a small interaction like that, and already her reputation had changed. Luckily for the better, or at least, she assumed it was for the better. Likeable was a good thing, right? This game was just too cryptic. She *Close*d the window, and continued on her way, admiring the city.
        The street she was on was a main thoroughfare, leading from the docks to the western gates. It was a fairly wide street with space for carriages and wagons to go up and down it. Pedestrians like her kept to the side so as not to be run over. It was paved with stones that had the look of being smoothed over time.
        She began to see clear differences in the buildings. Personal residences back away from the street seemed to be made mostly of wood or clay, or both. Shops seemed to be made mostly of brick, although there were rare exceptions. Very few buildings seemed to be made of stone, and they were generally larger buildings at that. Regardless of their make, they mostly had flat, wooden roofs.
        As Musette neared the actual riverport, she realized she’d been walking for over an hour. Her Satiety had fallen by over 15%, but her Energy was still full. As long as she walked normally, it never seemed to decrease, and though she’d been walking that long, she didn’t feel the least bit tired. Normally she’d be gasping for breath and sweating up a storm after that much walking. Apparently, as long as she had Energy, she could walk indefinitely, but this city was too big. An hour of walking and she still could just barely see the port.
        She tried running the rest of the way, and her Energy rapidly decreased. After about two minutes, she was panting like she’d sprinted around the track, but she hadn’t gotten very far. Running drained her Energy way too quickly, and she’d even started sweating!
        She sat down on the side of the road to catch her breath, getting a few looks from people walking by. She watched her energy rise quickly, and in just 15 seconds she’d recovered to full Energy. Her sweat had evaporated, but without that sticky feeling you usually got from dried sweat, and her breathing had evened out. If that was what happened when you ran low on energy, Musette frowned thinking about what having low BP or especially MP would be like.
        Standing up, she decided that it would be better to walk the distance, even if it took her another hour. It didn’t take her that long, because she discovered she could jog lightly without it draining her energy dry, as long as she took the occasional break. The only downside was that she did sweat a little, but she just had to wait a few seconds for her energy to recover and the sweat to disappear.
She could see the docks along the river clearly, but before she’d gotten there she saw a squarish building made of white stone, with the words ‘Arkeport Information Office’ carved into it over the door and painted a blue that was supposed to look like water from the river, she assumed.
Inside she expected to see brochures and the like, but in this medieval setting printing wasn’t as common. Instead there was a large map of the region carved into the wall on her right when she walked in, and a counter in front with a few receptionists sitting behind it.
Musette walked over to the map, taking a look at it. It was actually carved into the stone, and painted, a remarkable work of art. It showed the city of Arkeport in the center, with the rivers Eryth and Saen, and the territory around the city, which was mostly lightly forested hills. There was another smaller river not far north of the city that fed into the Eryth. To the east the hills got larger, eventually  turning into a mountain range. To the west the area eventually flattened out, with the northwest being mostly forest, and the southwest mostly plain. Right inbetween the forest and the plains was a large mountain rising up, called Graypeak. Graypeak was a broad mountain, but wasn’t as tall as the range to the east, which were called the Derdeck Mountains. Most notably, the borders around Arkeport, almost a uniform circle, were clearly marked, as were the borders of each of the neighboring countries, divided on the east by the Saen River, and to the west by the edges of the forest.
Musette wanted to remember this map, so she thought *Screenshot*, and her sight flickered for an instant. It was like she’d blinked, except she hadn’t, although the flicker caused her to blink in response. She figured that meant the screenshot had been taken, though she had no way to verify it.
She turned to the counter, and walked up to the nearest free receptionist. The counter was broad, and there were 10 receptionists there, but less than half of them had people in front of them. The receptionist on the edge was a young human girl not much older then Musette, possibly younger. She smiled as Musette walked up to her, saying, “Welcome to the Information Office! My name is Charee! How can I help you?”
“Er...hi Charee? I’m new to Arkeport and not quite sure how to find my way around….”
“Oh, well I can direct you to any place you need, but we can also sell you a map of the city for just 7 Tin! Then you won’t have to keep coming back just to get your bearings!”
Charee was really enthusiastic about her job, but a map was exactly what Musette needed. Reaching into her bag, she counted out 7 Tin pieces and slid them across the wooden counter.
Off on the other side of the room, Musette could hear another player interacting with one of the receptionists. He was a craclau with polished white bones pushing out through his dark black skin. He seemed to be trying to break the NPC AI by asking it stupid questions.
“What is 2 plus 2?”
“Well it’s 4, but that isn’t really what the information office is for….”
“What is love?”
“That...are you asking me out?”
“Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?”
“...are you okay sir? Do I need to get you some help?”
The AI in this game was really surprising, but Musette was distracted from them by Charee handing her the map across the counter. Charee was smiling brightly, her teeth perfect as her short brown hair swayed with her movement. “Here you go, a map of the entire city. All the important places are marked, including some of the better shops in the area!”
Musette spread open the map on the counter to study it.
~Ping~ Map Updated!
There was an alert sound and a small message appeared when she opened the map, and glancing up, Musette saw that her minimap had indeed updated. It seemed just owning the map was enough to give her the map data. The message faded away, and smiling, she slid the map into her bag.
“Thank you Charee. Is there anything else you can help me with?”
“Oh yes, all kinds of things! If you want to get a boat on the river I can get you a schedule of departures. I can tell you about local deals at area shops, or special requests from the city! I can even tell you things about the surrounding area! Oh, and I know all the best rumours and juiciest gossip about town! Um…, well maybe not that, but I can provide general information, too, not just stuff specific to the city.”
“Do you know much about classes?”
“Of course!” Charee exclaimed with her perfect smile, puffing her chest out proudly. “I’m an apprentice Scribe you know.”
“Oh…. That’s….”
“Do you want to know about being a Scribe? I can tell you all about it!”
“No, no,” Musette said hurriedly, heading her off, “what do you know about warrior classes?”
“Hmmmm...I’ve never heard of the Warrior Class. The fighter type Classes I know of are Swordsman, Archer, Brawler, Barbarian and Adventurer. Or, if you want to go more defensive you could try being a Knight, Samurai or Guardian.”
“Whoa, Samurai? Are there Ninjas, too?” Musette asked.
“Umm...maybe? I’ve never heard of a Ninja. They sound sneaky. If you’re interested in that, you could be a Rogue, Scout, Hunter or even Treasure Hunter! I thought about being a Treasure Hunter but I’m scared of the dark!”
‘Way too much information Charee,’ Musette thought. This NPC seemed to be enthusiastic about everything. Their conversation was interrupted by guards dragging away the craclau who had been harassing the receptionist. Apparently there was a limit to how off-topic you could be with an NPC before the guards were called.
Once the disturbance was cleared, Musette turned back to Charee. “What can you tell me about the fighter classes?”
“Swordsmen use swords! They learn all kinds of sword techniques, and have good strength and dexterity. Archers are the best with bows! They can attack from a good distance, and have high dexterity and good agility. Barbarians are powerhouses who attack with axes, hammers or greatswords! They use big weapons and cause big damage, but people say they don’t have much technique. Brawlers beat people with their bare hands! They just punch and kick everyone, and they have pretty good agility. Adventures are...just adventurers. They don’t specialize in anything, I think, so they can do anything I guess? I...I guess I really don’t know that much about fighter classes.”
Charee hung her head sadly, and Musette hurried to reassure her, “No, no, that was very helpful. Thank you so much.”
Charee recovered quickly, again smiling brightly. “Glad I could help! Do you have any other questions?”
Musette gave that some thought. Charee actually had been very helpful. There wasn’t much information about the various classes in the game yet, so Musette hadn’t known which class she wanted to play. Charee’s information was enough to help her make a decision. That, coupled with the map was already plenty.
Chloe was an experienced gamer however, so she didn’t miss many queues. “Are you sure you can’t tell me any local gossip,” Musette asked.
Charee blushed, then looked around to see if anyone was watching her, then leaned in close to Musette and whispered, “I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but there’s a rumor that the Makit Imperial Princess will be visiting Arkeport this month. No one’s sure why she’s coming here, maybe some trade business or something. Ah, but I think it’s an arranged marriage, you know. I mean, why else would a Princess go travelling across the country!”
“Wow,” Musette whispered, playing along. That was more rumour than gossip, but it was still interesting. Musette wasn’t sure how useful it would be, but she made a mental note of it.
“Okay,” Musette said, “I think that’s all I needed. Thanks again Charee.”
“Oh, before you go, do you want to subscribe to the Valia Newsletter? It’s only 12 Tin a week!”
“ does that work, exactly?”
“It’s a magic newsletter! You buy the subscription, and it will automatically be deducted from your Vault Account, and the newsletter will be delivered to your Journal each day. It has all the latest news and information, and if there are emergency or special updates, they’ll be sent immediately as part of the subscription. It’s the best way to keep up with what’s happening in the world! Well, maybe the only way, but still the best!”
“Wait, vault account, what’s that?”
Charee frowned, “Have you not been to the Vault yet? You should definitely go there before you leave the city. The Vault is a place to store money and items for later. After all, you can hardly carry everything in your bag. Plus any money stored in your vault can be used as if you were carrying it on you, but it can’t be dropped or stolen, because it’s not actually on you, it’s in your vault! There’s just a small tax of 1% paid every three months on any money in the vault. Basic item storage is free, of course. Up to a certain limit.”
*Map* brought up her full map, and Musette looked for the Vault. There were actually several locations on the map, including one near the port, and one near the guard’s hall where she was headed. She placed markers on that location, as well as the guard’s hall itself, and closed her map.
“Thanks a lot Charee, that’s good advice. And yes, I’ll take the Valia newsletter,” Musette said, taking 12 more Tin out of her bag. That was half the price of a basic sword, but it seemed too useful to pass up.
Charee took her money, and did something behind the counter. Suddenly Musette’s bag vibrated, causing her to jump slightly in surprise. She opened the bag, and her Journal was glowing. Taking it out, it opened automatically to a page with writing in neat print on it.

Thank you for subscribing to The Valia Newsletter, the only way to receive all the latest and greatest updates on the World of Valia. Did You Know: There are currently 53,218,519 people who have entered Valia from another world today?
Are you one of these new citizens? As a special celebration TVN is running a special contest. Find one (1) Other World’s Token and bring it to any Vault location to win a special prize!

So, that was how the newsletter was delivered. As a bonus, there was a special quest available. It seemed to be an open quest, but only people who subscribed to the newsletter would know about it. There weren’t any clues to where the item could be found, or exactly what it was, but knowing its name was still helpful.
And there were already 53 million people playing this game! More people had skipped work, or stayed up all night, to start at launch than she’d expected. That was more than half the people who had bought a Dreamcuff who were already in the game…, although some of those were probably EPG employees.
There was an option to erase the message, but Musette left it. She did have a thought however, and looked back up at Charee.
“Charee, do you also sell pens and ink?”
“Of course! Pens are just 10 Tin a piece! Ink is pretty expensive though, about 8 Copper a bottle.”
Musette looked at her *Bag*, seeing the measly 31T she had left. That wasn’t close to a Copper, so there was no way she could afford the ink. She could get the pen, but without ink there was hardly any point, and she wasn’t sure how much she’d need to spend to set her class and get her starting weapon. Sighing, she shook her head and turned down the pen and ink.
“Thanks again Charee, you’ve been super helpful. If I need any more information, I’ll come by and see you again.”
“Okay! I work here most afternoons! It was nice meeting you!”
Musette waved at the enthusiastic girl and left the Information Office.

Jogging was definitely the fastest way to travel, at least until she could get a mount. Running was to be saved for emergency escapes, and she didn’t even want to try sprinting.
It took Musette just under an hour and a half to make it to the guard’s hall that way, and that was with a stop at the vault. There was already a vault account set up for her, so she didn’t have to do anything, but she did deposit the rest of her money there, just in case. She considered dropping the boots she’d gotten in the vault, but decided to keep them. She didn’t want to have to jog to the vault if she decided to change her mind about wearing them.
On the way, she’d received a system message letting her know that she’d developed the ‘Walking’ skill, as well as the ‘Jogging’ sub-skill. These were her very first skills, and she’d gotten them just by trying to get to the places where she could actually do things.
The skills seemed to let her move faster, although the change was so slight it was barely noticeable. It should also have affected the energy consumption, but again the change was slight. Of course, the skills started at rank 1, and all skills maxed out at 1000, so there couldn’t be that much change.
On the other hand, she could gain experience in them just by using them. When she finally reached her destination, her jogging skill was only 2 exp away from reaching rank 2. Musette decided to jog around the block to level it up, while checking her experience.
Each skill had its own experience bar, as did whatever class you chose. As she didn’t have a class currently, there was no experience gain for it. In addition, there was a separate ‘Life Experience’ bar. This was where experience from winning battles and completing quests went. When it filled up, it would give you a skill point, which could be used to instantly raise any skill by 1 rank, keeping the same relative experience. Of course, you could only have 10 of these skill points at a time, so you couldn’t save them until you had your skills at rank 900 to instantly take them to 1000.
Halfway around the block, without any fanfare, her jogging skill hit rank 2. When it did, she noticed something odd. Before her life experience needed 200 experience to get her next skill point, but once her jogging skill ranked up, it need 250 exp. Musette paused and did a quick calculation. She needed 200 exp to Rank up her walking skill, and 300 exp to Rank up her jogging skill again. Was the amount of life experience she needed the average of the total experience needed to level up all her skills? That might be exploitable by having a lot of low ranking skills.
Musette finished her jog around the block, and before heading into the guard’s hall, she ate a couple of her pieces of bread to restore some of her Satiety. She also purchased a full waterskin which she drank some of to restore her Hydration.
The Guard’s Hall was a large building made of stone and wood that covered maybe 3 blocks and was about 4 stories high, the tallest building in this area. Unlike the Information Office, the Guard’s Hall was full of people, possibly hundreds. Some were wearing guard uniforms and were most likely NPCs. The rest were players, and they all seemed to be waiting in line.
The idea of waiting in this long line did not appeal to Musette, so she walked over to one of the guards. “Um, can I ask what everyone is waiting in line for.”
The guard glared at her, but responded, “They’re waiting to speak with administration about choosing a Class. These newcomers know nothing, so they all have questions about the Classes. Just wait in line and they’ll get to you as quickly as they can.”
“...If I already know what class I want to be, do I have to wait in line?”
“No, you can just head to the training area for your Class,” the guard shrugged. “See the signs up there?”
On the left side of the room, there were several doors, and above each door was a symbol. “The Sword is for Swordsman, Axe for Barbarian, Bow for Archer, Fist for Brawler, Torch for Adventurer, Horse for Knight, Shield for Guardian and Helmet for Samurai.”
The guard waved her away, and Musette headed over towards the door with the Torch over it. She had chosen to be an Adventurer. However, the huge crowd of people didn’t just move out of her way, and not all of them were waiting patiently in line. Musette had to weave her way slowly through the crowd but did finally make it where she was heading.
A few other people followed her down a short corridor. Musette wasn’t sure if they’d already made their choice, or if they’d just gotten impatient with waiting. The corridor opened up into a large room filled with wooden boxes, and in the center of the room stood a human man over 6’ tall wearing blue and gray metallic armor.

As soon as the players entered the room, the man barked out, “So, you want to be an Adventurer!”

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