Jason opened his eyes and he was in Nox’s house. He reached around and grabbed the first thing he could, a wooden training sword, and snapped it clean in half out of pure anger, frustration, and hatred for his brother.
“I hope you are going to pay for that.” Jason looked around for the voice and he saw Nox leaning against a doorway, watching him. Jason set the now kindle wood on the lounge seat and he shrugged.
“Depends on how much it is.” He muttered. Nox narrowed his eyes and walked over to Jason. He grabbed a handful of the red cloth hanging from Jason’s shoulders. He examined it nd talked in a passive, almost disinterested tone to Jason.
“Looks like you came across some money here recently. That or you have been employed in stealing items from other people.”
“Actually,” Jason said, shrugging Nox’s grip off., “I won it in a quest.” Nox snickered as Jason boasted and Jason glared at him distastefully.
“Well it is worthless. Completely worthless. And you said you were in a quest? When? I didn’t give you permission, and I doubt you could have even found yourself one. Bah, you are lying. You stole it. Even though it is worthless.”
Jason’s spirits sunk slightly as Nox told him that the value of the cloak was completely worthless, but he was also agitated by the fact he refused to believe that Jason earned it himself. “Oh yeah?” Jason said. “Then explain to me why I am on level four. You do not just log in and suddenly you jump up two levels for no reason.”
“What did you say?” Nox said earnestly, not detecting, or caring about, Jason’s superior and bragging tone.
“I am on level four….”
“Oh my god! Then you must have done a quest! When I first joined it took me nearly a week to get that high.”
“It’d just a level”
“But it is level four. Thief, did you know that there are only thirty-seven levels in the game?”
“No. That seems like an awefully low number.”
“Actually, it is not.” Nox went on to explain. “With each level you go up, the harder it is to gain more points. No one has reached the top level yet and it has been released for nearly six months now. They say that whoever reaches level thirty seven first unlocks a certain power,, an ability.”
“Like what?” Jason asked, interested in the idea that he might be able to win a prize.
“Like being able to play another character, winning billions of money in the real world, or even controlling other players.” Nox took in a breath with anticipation. Jason himself was at a loss for wards and Nox watched his face with a smile. “See what I mean?”
“A- Actually control other players? That is wicked insane!”
“Is not it? Anyway, so what quest did you complete?”
“The pistachio tree one.”
“The one from that girl called wings?”
“Hey!” Jason said and tried to get the basket back, but stopped because of a glare from Nox. “But.. but that is mine! I am nearly all out of food now.”
“Well that shows your right for going on a quest you weren’t ready for. And besides, I do believe you took some of my own food, so this is your returning it.”
“But that is more than I took.”
“Food has interest too, you know.” Jason rolled his eyes the unhitched the dagger from his belt.
“This is the last thing I got.” Jason noticed that Nox stared at it the most and the longest. After he had put the food away, Nox grudgingly congratulated Jason.
“Well, good job on the quest then. I must say I am pleasantly surprised, but still think you can improve.”
“That is not my fault.” Jason retorted.
“Excuse me?” Nox said, crossing his arms. “I can not teach you unless you are ready and capable to learn.”
“You could have at least told me about the assassin.”
“Oh, that. Well I would’ve told you before we selected your quest, but since you went on without me, I could not tell you or go with you.”
“Wait, I thought we were supposed to do the quests alone?”
“You are, but on your first one your master is allowed to come and help you. I could’ve taught you so many things had you waited.” Jason muttered something then put the dagger back onto his belt. He felt, as opposed to saw, Nox watching his hands with the dagger, and when Jason looked up, Nox turned around sharply as if to hide something.
“Well, what will we be doing today?” Jason asked the back of Nox’s head.
Nox shrugged. “I figured that I would take you to the arena.”
“What is that?”
“You will see. Take your long sword and your dagger only.” Jason removed his knapsack and his cloak. He folded it and put it on the couch. Then he removed his sword from the knapsack and pulled out Wing’s to compare. His was more elaborate and had the overall appearance of power, but he had grown fond of wing’s. Though he’d have to return it eventually, he’d prefer to use it now, since he actually knew how to use it. Jason had a nagging hunch that this arena might involve fighting.
Jason stashed his dagger and wing’s long sword onto his belt. He stood up straight and pivoted on his heel, then followed Nox out the door. As soon as he stepped into the cool snow, the air chilled around him, and Jason had to duck instantly to prevent his head getting chopped off.
He unsheathed his sword and twisted his body in midair, until he had knocked the weapon from his attacker’s hands. He then thrusted and ended the swift movement with wing’s elven long sword pressing against Nox’s throat. When Jason realized who it was, he slowly removed the blade and Nox gave him a crooked smile of approval.
“Good job Thief. Always react quickly and silently, never hesitate because soon it could mean the difference between life and death.” Nox said and bent over to pick up his blade. Jason watched him, but held his stance. Considerably more loose, but still rigid and ready to attack. He was not quite sure why Nox would’ve attacked him like that.
Nox must’ve noticed his hesitation to relax and he chuckled loudly enough to make Jason feel rather stupid. “Thief I was only getting you warmed up. You will see why in a few minutes. Now come on, we need to get going.” Nox turned around and started trudging through the snow in a rather new path, Jason noticed.
Jason waited a heartbeat, then sheathed his weapon and crunched on after Nox. Nox lead him on, Jason having no clue to where they were going save for the fact that it was called the arena. His suspicions were confirmed when they approached the large coliseum like building. The circular walls stretched towards the sky and Jason could hear the cry of many voices in protest and jeering.
Nox looked over his shoulder at Jason and smiled. “Thief, this is the arena. I have signed you up already to fight a series of three opponents.”
“Why?” Jason asked. Nox stared at him if it were the stupidest thing Jason had ever said.
“Because. It gives you experience with fighting and experience points. Plus if you win all three battles, you go to a championship round where you battle the previous winner.”
“What else do I get out of it though?”
“Experience points! Flechs! More quest offers, and food.” Nox stopped them walking near the front door. Jason eyed the arches skeptically. Nox rolled his eyes and pushed Jason forward until he stumbled into the dark building. The voices outside echoed ominously and Jason looked around.
“Well, when do I start?”
“What!?” Jason bolted as Nox pushed his forward, holding a tight grasp on Jason’s arms so he could not make a run for freedom.
“Relax Thief. You will do fine, now make me proud, I will be watching you.” Jason was given one last shove and he fell into a dirt arena, the walls rising all around him. He looked back and the passageway he had come through was gone. Jason stood up and suddenly there was a roar of cheering around him. Jason grabbed his sword and unsheathed it and looked around, looking for his opponent.
Overhead, there was the mechanical female voice Jason had come to associate with the computer. “Round one. Player Alias: Theif, level four, versus Player Alias: Lehcar, level four.” Lehcar? Was not that just Rachel spelt backwards? If he was correct, he should be playing a girl. And if his hunch was right it was an…
Elf. The other player, Lehcar, materialized on the opposite side of the areana. Jason estimated there was a difference of ten strides between him and her. Her eyes were wide, and she had curly red hair pulled back into a tight pony tail. Jason could detect both surprise and fear in her expression, and he guessed that she had probably been pushed into this as quickly and surprisingly as he ‘had.
“Both players please step onto the starting lines.” The computer commanded, and Jason stepped forward until his feet were placed over a short white line. Lehcar stepped up also, and Jason noticed that she had rather tanned skin. He had also noted that the temperature had changed when he had entered the arena. It was friged and cool like the rest of the Tundra, but had a rather nutral feel to it. Just as he was thinking thet, his arb changed. A faint blue light swept upwards from his feet to his head, and when it passed over a certain part of his bpdy, the clothing became lighter, more breathable, and clanged like metal. It was battle armor. He noticed the same thing happening to Lehcar and when the light faded, he tightened his grip on the weapon and took a fighting stance in front of her, and nodded politely to her.
“Hello.” He said kindly. “Good luck.” She looked surprised at his light and gentle tone, and she nodded.
She whispered, “You too,” before mimicking his stance.
Jason raised his weapon and lunged forward. He swung the elven long sword hard and fast and he was jolted as Lehcar blocked his attack. She looked surprised also as she did so. And retreated quickly, taking a step back. There was a loud booing noise when she did this, and Lehcar looked around angrily at all the spectators.
Jason watched her, knowing that she was probably frustrated and scared, and he had a sudden pang to not fight her and stood up out of his stance. After a moment of Lehcar looking around and mentally composing herself, she turned back to Jason with a look that reminded him of Wing’s deep determination and stubbornness.
“Well, I guess I will have to fight you.” She said and jumped forward with the known ability of speed by the elves, and Jason reacted smoothly and without much effort of blocking her and twisting her arm. She cried in pain and Jason let her go, then lunged, jabbing the blade in a swinging motion at her head. She ducked, then jumped up and kicked out at Jason.
Her attack caught him in the chest, and pushed him back. He stumbled to remain standing, and had to take a second to locate and preserve his balance. He almost was not ready for her next attack, which he was able to dodge a fatal head wound, but was clipped on the thigh.
Jason backed away, and he heard cheering from the stand. He looked around, and saw all the happy, angry, and passive players who were watching the fight. Feeling a burst of anger, he turned back to Lehcar, who had waited for him to get into his stride.
“Ready?” She asked breathlessly. He nodded and he though he caught a glimpse of a gapped-tooth smiled, before he charged her. They went through a series of parries and lunges, ducks and dodges, before he managed to knock her sword away from her hands.
Lehcar removed a plain dagger and held it defensively in front of Jason, and he brandished the long sword in response. He managed to knock her other weapon away also, and licked at her feet while she tried to flee. She fell to the ground with a loud ‘oof!’ and he put a foot down on her breastplate to pin her down. She looke dup at him with silent resignation. He placed the tip of the sword under her chin, just at the throat.
“Sorry about this.” He said sincerely, and she nodded.
“It is okay.” She huffed. “I would’ve done the same thing. Jason watched her, and felt truly bad about what he had to do. After a cry from the crowd to “Kill her!” Jason flicked his wrist and took away one of her three lives. There was a loud cheer for Jason and Lehcar faded softly at first, then vanished instantly, just like the zombie from the other day. Jason’s foot fell to the ground and he sheathed his sword.
“Congratulations Player Alias Thief. In reward for completing round one you have receive two thousand gold, an energy and stamina upgrade, and four hundred thirty six experience points.” Jason felt his body recharge as the experience points added themselves to him. There was that familiar rush of adrenaline and wind as he gained a level.
I am on level five now. he thought. Now I can join that guild. The realization was gone almost as fast as it came. The voice spoke again overhead.
“Round two. Player Alias: Thief, level five, versus Player Alias: Dusty, level seven.”