“Alright, that’s good, you’re done.” Don said, staring at the results recorded on his record sheet.
“Already?” Michael asked.
“Yes. You can go wipe off at the pool over there, I’ll hand in your results in the meantime. When you’re done head to the counter, they should have your recommendation ready by then.”
Michael bowed to Don slightly.
“Thank you for your hard work!” he said before heading off to the pool to wipe off the sweat.
‘My, even this is so realistic! I feel sticky and completely covered in dust,’ Michael thought.
Don watched him walk away, and looked down at the record sheet in his hand.
‘How is this possible?’ he thought, ‘He’s no more than sixteen years old. He doesn’t seem particularly muscular at all, nor did it seem like he was trying his utmost during the assessments, but his scores are like this… He could easily match up to a knight in the middle his prime; a warrior trained from birth in the arts of the sword and the saddle.’
Michael, completely oblivious to the worries and wonders of his assessor, wiped himself clean at the pool. The water was crisp and cold. He felt completely refreshed when it was over.
Following his clean-up, he donned his shirt once more and headed into the building. He recalled the twists and turns they had followed to reach the rear exit of the building, inverted them, and followed the path back to the reception desk. He found the receptionist waiting for him at the door.
“Please follow me,” she said and headed for the stairwell without giving him any explanation.
Michael followed, a little puzzled at her sudden curtness. It wasn’t that she wasn’t impolite, but he sensed that she no longer had the same enthusiasm for conversation she had had earlier. The enthusiasm seemed to have turned into determination, but determination for what, he didn’t know.
The pair rose up the floors of the building, passing by level after level. They proceeded at quite a brisk pace, which left Liscia – if he remembered correctly, that was what Don had called the receptionist – slightly out of breath by the time they reached the top floor. Michael, on the other hand, had lost barely a single percent of his stamina.
Liscia stopped for a moment to catch her breath at the top of the stairs. Before continuing down the hallway. They had rose up a total of 5 levels, with two flights of eleven stairs for every level, Liscia had climbed a total of a hundred and ten stairs in the last two minutes.
When Michael did the math, he couldn’t help but think, ‘No wonder she was out of breath. If this was back in the real world, I would be lying on the floor already!’
Liscia stopped in front of the last door in the hallway.
“Wait here,” she said, before opening the door, stepping through, and closing it again behind her.
Having little choice, Michael leaned against the wall and waited. Barely a minute had passed before the door opened.
“Come in,” Liscia said.
Her voice was serious. The tone had been completely absent from her when they had first met, and now, the tones that suffused her voice when they had first met, were completely absent as well; the one had replaced the other.
She stood aside to allow Michael to step through, and so he did.
He found himself in a small office on the other side of the door, which Liscia closed behind him. The office was moderately sized; it was about five by four metres, a total of twenty square metres. At the other end of the office was a desk. In front of it were two chairs, and behind it sat a comically muscular man.
From his looks, the man was likely in his late forties to early fifties. He had greying hair. An impressive moustache covered nearly a third of his face, which was itself also greying. His clothes were simple, though clearly of high quality. He wore a simple dark grey blazer-like jacket, underneath which was a white shirt. Michael couldn’t see his pants.
The old man looked at him. His eyes spoke of a deep interest, and a sizeable portion of caution laced with suspicion, though no hostility swam in them. The man motioned to one of the chairs in front of the desk.
Michael walked up to the desk and took his seat. Liscia waited until he was seated before taking the remaining seat.
The old man lifted a piece of paper, which he scanned for several awkward moments. His finger traced where his eyes were focusing. Every now and again his finger would halt, and he would look up from the sheet at Michael for a moment, before returning to the sheet. This process continued for about two minutes before the old man put the sheet down, leaned back in his seat and sighed deeply, as if giving up on something.
“Excuse my rudeness in making you wait, but I was just looking through some information,” the old man said.
His voice was rather deep, almost husky and quite coarse.
Michael shook his head.
“It’s no problem, sir. My name is Michael.”
“My name is Dargo, and this lady sitting beside you is Liscia. As you know she is our guild headquarters’ receptionist, and as you no doubt have surmised by now, I am the guild’s guildmaster.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Guildmaster,” Michael answered, bowing his head lightly.
“Please, Mr. Dargo is fine.”
“I have to say, Michael, your test results are quite something.”
Dargo’s eyes scanned Michael’s face intently as he said so.
“I will have to take your word for that, Mr. Dargo, I haven’t seen the results yet.”
“Surely one should know one’s own capabilities, right?”
“This may sound strange, Mr. Dargo, but I honestly am not too sure what my capabilities are. That’s why I chose to take the assessment in the first place rather than just choose a professions.”
“That does make sense…” Dargo said.
He scratched the stubble on his chin as if contemplating something.
“Honestly, Michael, we’ve never seen results quite like this.”
Michael wasn’t too surprised. He was supposed to be one of the heroes in this world, naturally his capabilities would be far higher than the natives’. What he didn’t understand, however, was why the developers had coded such a scene. The standard in most games was that the player wasn’t the first of his kind to exist in the world. Usually the existence of others such as the player were already well-established within the lore, so no such surprised and suspicious reactions should be seen from the NPCs.
‘Ah, well, this is supposed to be a completely new direction for game like this, something new, different and novel,’ Michael brushed it off.
Michael reminded himself of the very stern request that the beta-testers never break character. And responded in the way he felt was most in-character.
“Results such as what, Mr. Drago?”
“Well, the results themselves aren’t anything extraordinary, we’ve seen many people with stronger results than this. What makes these results so extraordinary, is the person who produced them.”
“How so?” Michael asked, somewhat confused.
“You are but a sixteen year old. You’ve only just become an adult. You have quite a light physique, with no signs of extensive physical training. And yet your results are that which an above-average knight, who was raised with the sword and saddle would produce. I’m sure you can understand our surprise.”
Michael gazed at the old man for a moment. Truly, such results were out of the ordinary. Though he still had yet to see the exact numbers, based on the fact that they said it was equal to an above-average knight, it should mean that he had demonstrated excellent reflexes, great strength, and decent speed. There was no test for tactical and strategic thought, nor for awareness, which meant that he couldn’t know if those stats were of a similar grade either. However, considering his character’s age, physique, and history, there was no doubt that he shouldn’t be able to demonstrate such ability.
‘So they’re expecting an explanation from me. No doubt someone who demonstrates such ability, especially when they are not supposed to be able to, would arouse considerable suspicion. If I understood the background information provided on the lore of the world, the entire continent should be rife with war, preparation for it, or schemes to bring about more. In such a climate it would be no surprised if I’m thought of as a spy or informant.
‘Hmm… This puts me in quite the bind. I’m supposed to not break character, which means I’ll need to provide them with a lore-true and acceptable explanation.’
Michael rubbed his head in his mind.
‘Ahh, what the heck is this? The developers have really put me in a difficult situation. Why on earth would they do this? This is just unreasonable.’
“I can’t explain why my results would appear to be so extraordinary. In my hometown my abilities are but average, so I’d never thought I was much of anything special. I’m just as surprised as you that my abilities are apparently rather uncommon.”
‘This isn’t the ideal answer, it opens up a whole other can of worms, a bunch of other questions I’ll need to answer, but it should give me a bit of breathing room to figure things out, so it’ll have to do.’
Dargo remained silent for a few moments before posing his next question.
“That sounds quite fantastic. A whole town filled with people of such strength? Certainly they must be quite famous, where exactly are you from?”
‘A, there it is,’ Michael thought.
Lickily, he had used the few moments of respite provided by Dargo’s considerations to formulate a story to explain the main points of questioning.
“It’s quite far to the east of here. It took me three years of non-stop travel just to reach here from there.”
Three years of non-stop travel should put the place well outside of any reasonable range of information exchange. In fact, it would put it well outside the known boundaries of the map. It would be reasonable for no one to have heard anything about a place so far away. There remained just a few other points of questioning.
“If your home is so far away, what made you take on such a long journey? You’re sixteen now, and if you’ve truly travelled for three years, that means you were just thirteen when you set out.”
Michael had been anticipating the question.
“Honestly, looking back now, the answer is quite childish, then again, I was but a child back then. I don’t claim to be much more now, but my journey has taught me a few things. The reason for my taking on the journey was wanderlust. I grew up on the tales of adventure and glory that were passed down amongst my people. Like almost any other child, I had the dream of becoming someone who would have such stories told about them; unlike most other children, however, I actually got the chance to do just that, and took it.”
“Hoh, you’re quite the lucky child then!” Dargo said.
Most of the suspicion flowed out of his eyes at the answer. They seemed to say, ‘I know the feeling, my damn kid is just like that’.
Dargo took up the sheet and scanned it over once more before smiling.
“You have average strength, but your reflexes and agility are quite high, your sense of balance is impeccable, and it seems you even have quite a bit of affinity for magic.” Dargo interpreted the data on the sheet, “All in all, you would be best suited to either being a scout or assassin.”