40. To Yearn for the Stars
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After eating their meal at Old Wang’s, Rakna asked for directions from Alexa and she led them to the closest hotel. It was one of the more imposing buildings in the city.

 

When they went through the entrance, they were welcomed by a clerk who after asking for their IDs, offered them each a free room because they were new to the System.

 

After taking an elevator that Rakna was sure had somehow moved them across a distance that was considerably higher than the building’s height he saw from the outside, the four of them found their rooms at the very end of the corridor.

 

“Well, I guess we’ll split up for the night,” Rakna commented as he opened the door to his room with a card they had been given. When the door opened, Pronos instantly dashed inside, curious to see how it looked.

 

“At what time should we gather tomorrow?” Nyx asked.

 

“It’s almost midnight right now… To get a good rest, let’s say we get out at 9,” Rakna said. “Also, here,” he added and waved his hand at them.

 

Several sets of clothes came out of his ring and appeared in his friends’ arms. He hadn’t been the only one to buy clothes and since he was conveniently able to store anything in his ring, he had been the one to ‘carry’ them.

 

“All right, see you in the morning,” Allan said and entered his room. “Good night, peeps.”

 

“Good night,” Nyx followed up and closed her door after entering.

 

“Good night, Rakna,” Flavia said softly and did the same as the two others.

 

Rakna was the last one to close his door which was followed by a loud shattering noise coming from inside the room. He distanced himself from the entrance and found himself looking at a queen-sized bed placed in a room that had one entire wall made of glass so that you could look at the night city.

 

Now, the second thing that he noticed was Pronos frozen still on top of a nightstand. His mouth was wide open and, on the floor, laid a broken vase spilling water over the carpet.

 

Rakna sent a blank look at him and the little snake turned away and quite literally tried to whistle his way out of it. Rakna sighed and walked to a certain door which he believed was some sort of bathroom.

 

When he opened the door, the lights turned on automatically and his assumptions were proven right. He inspected the shower, the toilet, and the sink before looking through the small shelves.

 

He grabbed one of the many towels there were and used it to get rid of the water while Pronos watched awkwardly. Then, after throwing away the ceramic shards along with the plant and the dirt it was planted in, Rakna lied down on the bed.

 

He stared at the ceiling for a while, before sitting up. He looked at Pronos who was continuously sending feelings of shame and guilt through their connection. “Don’t worry, little guy. I’m not mad. I just hope you don’t knock over a vase someday where our life might depend on it, okay?”

 

Pronos nodded frantically and Rakna snorted before focusing on one certain System window that he mentally made reappear. It was the prompt that told him of the unlocked features. He planned to follow Gray’s advice.

 

“Alexa, you’re there?”

 

[Of course.]

 

“Then let’s start. The Pavilion is something I’d like to ask about, but we’ll probably learn tomorrow so let’s skip it. Explain what the ‘Macro Translation’ is.”

 

[Macro Translation is something necessary for a Host’s life inside the System. It allows for people to be able to converse even if they speak different languages. To put matters simply, this feature of the System makes it so that everyone in the System speaks a common language. However, this doesn’t include written forms.]

 

“I see. Good to know. What about the Ranking?”

 

[Ranking is exactly as Gray Whisles told you earlier. The higher your rank is, the more influence you have in the System, over both fellow Hosts, Locals, and the System itself.]

 

“How do you increase it?” Rakna continued his questioning as he leaned against the bedstand and Pronos did the same on a pillow, quietly listening.

 

[To be promoted, one needs to fulfill a few conditions. One of the most common conditions would be how high your level is. I believe it would better if you see for yourself, Rakna,] Alexa stated and a System window opened in front of him.

 

❮ ◈ ❯

Rank I

Promotion Conditions:

- Level 10

- Attribute Cap Greater Than 40

- Ten Completed Quests: 1/10

- Fifty Monsters Above Level 8 Killed: 6/50

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“Straightforward enough,” Rakna commented. “What do I gain from promoting?”

 

[Other than prestige and higher authority, more practical rewards such as Attribute Points and Items are possible. Keep in mind that promoting gets harder the more you do so and the rewards become proportionally better.]

 

“All right, tell me about Looting.”

 

[It refers to what humans from your planet would call ‘drops’. When defeating a monster or even a hostile Host, they have a chance to drop valuables such as money and equipment.]

 

“Dungeons,” Rakna didn’t waste time and asked for the next feature.

 

[It is explicit. On every Plateau, there will be a sizeable number of Dungeons. Clearing them is a means to train, collect good equipment, and sometimes complete a Quest.]

 

“Then, tell me about Quests now.”

 

[Of course. Quests, as you saw, can be given by Locals such as Wang Faezi. Their objective can vary from the simplest of actions to the rescuing of a princess.]

 

If Rakna didn’t know better, he would have thought that Alexa tried to tell a joke.

 

[Quests have three possible sources in total. One; Locals. Two; Exploration. This includes things such as discovering lost ruins, dungeons, or even just a simple lost item that you would be tasked to return to their owner. Three; Path Quests. Your Path will make you go through ordeals in the future to master your abilities.]

 

Rakna scowled at the last one. He wondered what kind of Quest his Path could give him. What sort of test would a Nine-Tailed Werewolf be required to go through?

 

[Then, we have Parties,] Alexa continued on the list, probably having learned by now that her Host would ask it without waiting. [Parties are a very simple idea. A Party can be created when several Hosts form a group to either conquer Dungeons or complete Quests. The Party cannot have more than ten members and any experience gained by any of them will be shared with the others at half value.]

 

[On the same idea, there exists Guilds. I’m sure you understand the gist of it already. Gray Whisles will explain more to you tomorrow. Finally, the last feature accessible to you through the System are Trials. There is a definite number of Trials on each Plateau and they are also the conditions required to move from one Plateau to another. The First Plateau has exactly three Trials. Only by completing them all will you be allowed to access the Second Plateau. More details will be given to you at the Pavilion.]

 

Rakna rubbed the bridge of his nose with a grunt. “It sounds like this Pavilion is a major aspect of the System.”

 

[That is correct.]

 

He sighed and took a look at Pronos who had fallen asleep in the middle of Alexa’s explanation. He then glanced at the time on a digital clock hanging from the wall of the room and idly noted that there were only a few seconds before midnight.

 

That point would have been passed as utterly meaningless if it wasn’t for the fact that the very second the 11:59:59 turned into 00:00:00, the lights of the city suddenly shut down as if a blackout had occurred. Even the light of his room was forcefully turned off.

 

Rakna looked through the window with a slightly stunned expression. His eyes dilated a bit as he began to see the stars that should have normally never been observable in such a rural area; one that was terribly futuristic on top of that.

 

“Alexa, is this a normal occurrence?”

 

[Affirmative. This city, baptized Dark Steel, has been conceived so that every light strong enough to hide the stars would be turned off at midnight without exception.]

 

“Remarkable,” Rakna nodded before closing his eyes, ready to sleep. “Every city should implement something like this. My old man would love it.”

 

[…your uncle?] Alexa asked. Rakna clearly heard the curiosity in her tone.

 

“Yes. He liked star-gazing and he would complain about city lights every now and then,” he replied oddly softly. “And, I guess his interest got transferred to me. Though I have to admit, I used to do it even more than he did,” he admitted and opened one eye to look at the window again. “If I could, I would stay up all night, observing the night sky.”

 

[…] Alexa was once again having alien thoughts. Her Host wasn’t talking in the indifferent way he was used to. No, she would go as far as to say that it was warm. That’s why she became curious. For some reason, she wanted to know the reason behind this change.

 

[Can I… ask why you enjoy star-gazing so much?]

 

“Stars… are beacons. They shine brightly from within the bleakest of places. Isolated, surrounded by darkness, no life, no air, no sound. But they’re still there and they burn so vividly that we are compelled to view them. In the end, I guess you could say that I admire that aspect. You could also say that I yearn to be one of those stars,” he concluded and closed his eyes again.

 

This time, Alexa knew that he wouldn’t be saying anything else. As a matter of fact, he had by some strange manner managed to consciously shut down his mind. One couldn’t call that sleeping.

 

‘Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it meditation,’ Alexa considered. ‘A deep meditation that allows both the body and brain to rest. Is this a byproduct of his Eyes of the Soul?’

 

Alexa was left alone with her musing. Something she noticed had been happening more and more ever since she had become her Host’s AI. Discarding these thoughts, Alexa followed the example and made her awareness shut down until her Host woke up.

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