We entered the busy tavern half an hour later. It took us longer than expected to find empty spaces at any of the tables. Even more surprising, most of the patrons seemed to be adventurers. He did notice a few NPCs here and there, probably generated by the system to always make the tavern feel like it was doing some business.
Finally, I spotted a table off to the side. It wasn’t actually in a corner like most edgy stories would provide, but it was out of the way enough to avoid the chance of being jostled by passersby. There was only one occupant at the table, a woman with long pale hair, looking to be about my age. I made my way over.
“Mind if we join you?” I asked the girl. “Everywhere else is full.”
She looked up suddenly as if I’d distracted her from some deep thought. Maybe she’d been studying her status screen, I thought. Or she could have been bored since nobody could go outside for fear of being devoured by a shadowy monster.
“Help yourself.” She said, waving a hand lazily at the three other empty chairs at the table. “If you’re going to order something, I recommend the coffee. If you’re a fan of such drinks, this place has the best coffee I’ve found so far.”
I raised an eyebrow as I slid into the chair on her left. Taka sat to my left, leaving a single chair open. Truth be told, I did enjoy coffee. I’d first tried the drink when I saw Savante sponsor a popular coffee brand on his channel. Curious to see what the drink was like, I’d tried a cup of the same brand, and had been quickly hooked.
“I think I’ll take you up on that,” I said with a grin. “I already feel like it’s been weeks since I had a cup.”
I should have made some with my breakfast, I thought with a slight sense of disappointment. Oh well. There would be more than enough time to do it after I logged out. As if the willowy, red-haired bar maiden had heard us over the sound of the crowd, she was soon approaching our table with two cups of steaming coffee and set one in front of me and the girl. The creators of the game had done well in creating the smell of the beverage.
“My name is Senso, by the way.” I offered. I didn’t extend my hand for a handshake. By now, I felt as if a player’s stats were private, and shouldn’t be shared willy-nilly. “I’m just trying the game for a day or two, to see if I’ll like it.”
She looked at me, raising one eyebrow in apparent disbelief or confusion. “My name is Savannah. I’ve played since this morning, like everyone else.”
“I’m Takamori.” Taka put in, as if keen not to be left out of the conversation. “You can just call me Taka though. Everyone does.”
Savannah turned a smile towards the eager ginger. “Pleasure to meet you, Taka. Are you on summer break right now?”
Taka grinned back. “Yeah. Finished all my homework early in the break, so I decided to log into Ahya Online. Did you play Trials of Ahya before?”
“No.” Savanna replied. “I’m into more hardcore games, mostly. Not a big fan of RPGs half the time.”
“There are a few hardcore RPGs out there.” I threw in. I found it interesting that she had the same view of games as me.
“That’s true.” She agreed. “Have you ever played Kingdom of Avarice?”
“I have!” I exclaimed, surprised. “Not many people know about that one.”
I looked at her in a new light. Normally, when most people claim to like the hardcore game, they’ll usually claim to play some rogue-like or similar game that was only difficult on the surface or relied heavily on randomizers to imitate challenge. She seemed to also be giving me another once-over. I decided to push the envelope a little further.
“What’s your build in Dark Souls?”
“Dex/Int.” She said instantly. “You?”
“Strength/Faith.” I replied, just as fast. “Dex/Int, eh? You a parry king then?”
She glared at the question, but I suspected she wasn’t really offended. “Bold of you to assume I’m such a troll.”
We both laughed, then seemed to notice Taka looking at both of us, missing the point of our conversation. That only made sense. He’d probably avoided the harder games, preferring tame MMOs. Unlike most hardcore gamers, I didn’t feel superior to those who enjoyed easier games. Each game had its own strengths, and players flocked to what they wanted.
Just then, music began to flood the tavern. Glancing around, I saw that two NPCs had climbed to a stage I hadn’t noticed, and began to play. One of them held a small violin and played a slow, mournful tune. The other, holding a sort of guitar, wasn’t playing, but waited patiently for his turn to jump in.
It was a compelling song. The makers of the game showed off their attention to detail yet again in these musicians. They played well, but not so perfectly as to be obviously computer-like. There were small hesitations between notes, gaps that should have been closer together, and slight fumbles that all vaguely hinted at a novice performer earning himself some small coin.
The mournful tune began to slowly pick up in pace, now joined by the player with the guitar, as he plucked gentle notes to accompany it. Slowly, it transformed from a slow, haunting melody to a fast-paced, epic tale of hope and power.
“I can’t wait to download the soundtrack for this game,” I said quietly out of the corner of my mouth to Taka. Good music in games was one of my guilty pleasures.
He shrugged. “It’s okay, I guess. But I don’t know why it seems so important. It’s just music, isn’t it?”
And indeed, all the other adventurers in the tavern and even a great number of the NPCs were all ignoring the song. Some listened passively, tapping their foot or fingers in time to the melody, but precious few were paying close attention like I was. Glancing over my shoulder, I noticed that Savannah was listening intently, but we were very much in the minority. Then I stopped caring much about that. It wasn’t my concern. If I wanted to enjoy good music, I would. And it truly was good music, especially as a third member, a curvy woman with curly brown hair and an elegant green dress, joined the others on the stage and began to sing.
In the time that the sun sleeps,
Darkness falls and the land weeps,
For those who travel the land that is torn,
Fear when the child of shadow is born
See him shamble, his red eyes agleam,
Flee before his most fearsome scream,
Make haste, traveler, we must move on,
To make it to town before the sun is gone.
We cannot be harmed in our castle of stone,
For he cannot enter where we call home,
We must wait here and sing our song,
For the Paragon, our hero to come along.
In the darkest caves beneath the falls,
You shall find the many darkened halls,
If the land is to be brought to peace,
You must lock the door and break the key.
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