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[F1-PP] The First Few Lessons are Free: Symphony's First Quest

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Symphony looked down at the piece of paper she held with the quest title "The First Few Lessons are Free" written at the top. "Huh, so I'm supposed to find a guy called Zachariah?", she asked herself while making a confused face. She wandered around the Town of Beginnings looking at all the colorful shops and people around her. She became distracted by the baker and the delicious breads in the shop window for a few minutes. Then she remembered the piece of paper in her hand and rushed back onto the street in search of Zachariah's shop. Suddenly, Symphony tripped and fell on the cobble street -- dropping the quest paper in the process. She scrambled up and chased after the paper (still stumbling) as it blew into an old, dusty shop. As she entered, she exclaimed, "I'm so sorry! My paper just blew in here! A-and I'm just looking for a man named Zachariah. The NPC who ran the shop merely smiled and looked upon the confused and clumsy girl. "Um, do you know where Zachariah is?", Symphony asked. The old man smiled and said, "Of course! I am Zachariah! I assume you are answering the quest summons to gather materials?". Symphony looked up, stunned and confused, before realizing that she needed to answer. "Ah, yes . . . yes! I am here to complete your quest!", she nearly shouted in excitement as she held up the paper, happy that she had finally found Zachariah. 

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Despite the intention to be careful and cautious following his escape from confinement, Pinball was ironically much more reckless when it came to sleeping. Because he couldn't sleep. Whenever he closed his eyes, initially, he would be taken by darkness, but the nightmares would inevitably make him jump out of his skin, and it would be back to wandering for the tired, lanky teenager. Always out of sight, always watching but never taking part in the daily lives of other players. It was a self-inflicted exile; longer than any he had inflicted upon himself thus far. 

Well, with some exceptions.

He still needed to get shopping done. And despite Safe Zones' harsh rejection of orange players, one could still navigate the city if they were quiet enough. Maybe it was the lack of sleep talking, but Pinball made a couple of peculiar purchases prior to... that. He bought the usual first: food and water that wasn't the crap he managed to scavenge and cook out in the wilds. The NPCs were timid, and reluctant to supply him with the things he requested, but shopkeepers were shopkeepers, regardless of whether or not they were programmed to be a bit more rude. Then came the unusual. He bought a custom-made holster: it was fashioned in a way that would hold two books at his waist, with leather cords wrapping up the sides of his torso and around his shoulders. On his left hip, he put a fat journal, stuffed with scrap paper and bound with leather twine, and to the right he put a freshly bought notebook of similar brand of its older sibling. 

Pinball was wearing his usual attire, which might not have been the smartest thing giving his Wanted status. He wore a long-sleeved black shirt, black pants, and dark brown boots. Thin, heavily worn-in leather padding covered his chest, knees, and elbows, dotted with scratches and dirt and mud. There was a bracelet on his wrist that held a tiny but glittering, ornate sword made of crystal. On his waist were the books, a sword with a red leather grip and golden hilt and pommel, and a cracked jar filled with some kind of swirling black fog. 

And then Pinball collapsed onto his back in the middle of the street, unconscious. That was when the city's guards finally took notice of the sleeping orange player, whistled for some backup, and started to pick him up in an attempt to drag him out of the settlement. 

Edited by Pinball

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As Symphony left the shop, she starred down at a list of materials to find from Zachariah, oblivious of the world around her. She didn't realize the stranger surrounded by guards in front of her until it was too late. She tripped over his torso and fell flat on her face on the stone street, dropping her paper while doing so. Luckily for the stranger, she was quite light and wearing new light armor over a short sleeved grey shirt and a black pants. 

Symphony laid there for a few moments before shaking her head and realizing she had landed on a person. "Oh, I'm so sorry!", she exclaimed as she reached to help the stranger up. The guards stepped a few feet away and were watching silently as she seemed to foolishly help an orange player up. However, Symphony was oblivious to the icons in the games and felt bad that she may have caused him injury. She quickly dusted off the stranger and checked that he was okay. "I'm so sorry, I must not have seen you", she said again while laughing nervously. "Ah!", she suddenly exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. "Are you here for Zachariah's quest as well?". She hoped he was as she knew she would most likely get hopelessly lost in the wilderness while trying to search for materials. 

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Pinball's eyes shot open immediately. What was on top of him? He almost shoved the weight off of him, but soon it shifted by itself, and Pinball was looking up at a irl. Embarrassed? She stuck out a hand to help him up, but Pinball didn't have time for that. He glanced upwards and saw the faces of two very stern looking guards scowling down at him. Eek. 

Pinball swung his legs inward and leapt to his feet. His hair was dark black and his eyes were a bright blue - but they were tired. Very, very tired, and it was obvious as his head spun back around to stare at the three. Half-closed but intense, he shook his head and forced a small smile. But he didn't speak other than that, and he threw himself at the guards. He jumped, spinning and planting a heel across the cheek of the first guard. The armored NPC hit the ground, and in Pinball's eyes the guards' cursors turned red. It was time to go! The second swung his axe at Pinball's head, but he ducked and fell into a crouch, quickly spinning to sweep the man's legs. He, too, hit the ground, and Pinball hopped back up, glancing at the friendly looking girl. 

He wanted to say something but convinced himself not to. Instead, he took a step backwards, and, with a sheepish shrug, took off down the road, sprinting towards the city's gates/exit. Once outside, he came to a slow stop. He turned around, briefly taking a look down the path he had ran. She seemed kinda nice. It (almost) hurt his heart to just ditch someone like that. In the past, he would have offered to help her. But... he knew he had left that kind of life behind a long time ago. Pinball shook his head and quickly checked to make sure everything he owned was still on his person. 

Pinball silently cursed, kicking the ground and looking back down the road he had just sprinted across. He dropped his book. The old one he had had since the start of his game. The one with all of his personal crap in it. Pinball hesitated, biting his lip. 

Edited by Pinball

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Symphony stood stunned after the stranger ran away. Then she looked at the guards around her and watched them get up and go back to their posts. Her amber eyes were wide with questions and awe. She began to walk when her right boot hit a book. "Huh, what's this?", she asked as she picked up the book lying on the ground and made sure it wasn't damaged. Symphony looked around wondering where the book came from and then realized it came from the skittish stranger! 

Her face set with a look of determination and excitement, she took off towards the city gates, focused on finding the strange man. On the way, she didn't even notice NPCs rushing to step out of her way or the friendly baker waving hello. She was focused and dead set on finding the mysterious stranger and bringing him his book. When she reached the gates, she suddenly skidded to a halt. She wasn't used to adventuring outside cities and was a bit afraid of what could be lurking in the unprotected zones. Looking around cautiously, she finally stepped up the courage to step out of the city and began searching around. 

Farther down the trail leading from town, she ran into the stranger and smiled. "Hey!", she yelled, trying to get his attention. "I think you dropped this." She handed him his book and smiled nearly stupidly, proud that she had found the stranger and returned his odd book. Then she also noticed that he looked very fatigued and tired. "Hey, you don't look so well. Do you need some help?", she asked as she made an expression of concern. She moved closer to him in case he passed out again so that she could try to catch him.

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Pinball accepted the journal, placing it back on his side and securing it within the leather holster. He nodded his thanks, and then looked her up and down. 

She's new, he noticed. From the fresh state of the equipment she wore to the timid way she held herself once outside the city's safezone. There wasn't any monster this close to the walls, but there were always tons roaming the fields just ahead. The dangerous ones on this floor were a bit further than that, and the ones a newbie shouldn't fight for at least a couple of levels were in the forest. Should he tell her that? 

"I'll be fine," he said finally, his voice low and curt and equally as tired as he looked. "But thank you." He turned to the fields, trying to see if there were any monsters that posed a threat nearby but found none in the immediate vicinity. That was good. But he felt guilty. He had a soft spot for the newbies and the nobodies. He shouldn't just leave like that. He took a moment to consider, then, against his better judgement, he spoke. 

"It'd be best if you forgot you saw me, I think. But... The First Few Lessons?" He gestured to the wild plants growing along the Town of Beginnings' walls. "Everything you need to find grows right there. I can make sure nothing sneaks up on you." Pinball twitched violently, his whole body flinching, but he moved on as if it hadn't happened. "If you want." Either way, he'd go and take a sit on a particularly fluffy patch of grass, and open his new notebook, regarding Symphony with suddenly cold blue eyes as he flipped a page.

"But you wouldn't happen to know someone named... Velouria, would you?

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Symphony tilted her head at the question. "Velouria? No clue whatsoever. I'm sorry." She frowned at her answer. She became distracted by the fluffy grass for a few moments as she thought of something else to say. The awkward silence began to settle when she finally thought of something. "Thank you for helping me out and telling me where to find the quest items. And let me properly introduce myself as well," she said while straightening herself up and adjusting her armor. "My name is Symphony, and I'm a newcomer to this place. It's quite sad, but I've just spent my time reading and selling goods rather than adventuring up until now. Today was actually the first time that I decided to pick up my old dagger and give a quest a try." She patted the small dagger hanging on her belt. It was new and freshly polished. One could tell that it had never ended another beings faced nor even pricked the skin of one. 

She suddenly grew serious and lay on her back on the grass with her hands clasped behind her head. "Hm. Though going back to your question, I think I remember hearing the name Velouria mentioned in the tavern as I was reading one evening. Is she close to you?", she asked as she looked over at the stranger questioningly. He seemed rather thin yet capable now that she was able to get a good look at him. She looked at his blue eyes and then her gaze traveled to his well-worn and scuffed armor. Hm. He must not have another in his life if he keeps his armor that dirty. I wonder how he came to be like this. She looked back up into his eyes suddenly when she realized that she was starring for a bit too long. Then she remembered the book held in his hand.

"Oh! That reminds me! I've never seen a book with a cover like that in the safe zone back there. Is it a new type of book or journal?", she asked as her head tilted curiously to the side. 

 

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No clue whatsoever? Pinball closed his book and put it back on his hip. He supposed that that was for the better. It was his only lead right now, but sooner or later, he knew he would find her. Pinball took a deep breath, taking in the cool morning air. She wan't searching? Instead, she introduced herself, and Pinball made a mental note to put the information she gave in his notebook later. He decided then that his new journal wasn't going to be for hunting down the remnants of Sugutsuya's guild exclusively. Maybe he could copy Hikoru, and take down information on players in general? 

"Nice to meet you," was all he murmured in response. 

Pinball took a second to think about how to answer that, but he let his eyes close and kept them shut. He wasn't comfortable with how friendly and open she was being. Had she not noticed the Orange Crystal hovering over his head? Most players he happened upon in the wilderness ignored him now. Which was good and how it should be. But not this one. He took another breath. "Yeah," he admitted, an ominous undertone creeping into his voice. "We're close. Let me know if you remember anything else.

"It's a journal. I've had it for a long time now." And Pinball left it at that. 

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Hm. A real grumpy one we've got here. Symphony thought to herself jokingly. She smiled and then jumped up in a hurry! "Oh gosh, I just remembered that I need to search for materials and it's already past noon. I definitely do not wanna see what big boys lurk out here at night," she said as she pulled up the paper of materials she needed. "Okay now to search for the first material." She walked over to the wild plants and began searching for which ones she needed. She took a small book out from a back pocket in her pants. The title read, "Basic Plant Guide". She opened it and began to compare the photos in the book to the plants around her. 

"Hm. This one seems promising," she said to herself as she plucked a small plant with flowering purple buds from the earth." Comparing it to the book, Symphony realized that this was actually a deadly plant and put it down quickly. She sighed to herself. Flipping through her book she went back to searching. 

"Also, I have noticed that orange thing above your head," she said to the man while starring at the plants. "And no, I'm not scared of you. I have legs and can still run from you. Plus," she paused and looked back at him, "back in the real world I knew how to defend myself. Fighting another human is a lot more familiar than fighting a beast." She looked back down at her book. "Humans are a lot more predictable."

 

ID #:  113470 LD: 6

Quest objective: 0 / 5 T1 materials

 

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He watched her produce a book from her inventory, immediately interested. He wanted books! He wondered what kinds she carried? He wanted anything he could fine. Anything about Aincrad's lore or the wildlife... or even a dictionary. Anything about the human condition (if that kind of thing was even in the game), written by players or otherwise. Fictional or otherwise, Pinball was thirsting for knowledge. He wanted to get smarter. He wanted to know things. 

He needed to. 

But he didn't say anything, looking as uninterested and tired as ever. He leaned forward, lifted his knee, and rested his head on his leg as he watched her go pick through flowers and such. Not scared of him? Outrun him? Fighting humans was familiar? Pinball moved a lot differently than he had in the real world. He had had more "training" than most, and he knew how the systems worked like the back of his hand. The numbers were all that mattered. He scowled. Yeah, that's right. And my numbers are bigger. He quickly hid his sour expression by looking away, busying himself by idly picking the weeds he was sitting beside. Disgusting. 

Pinball twitched, but said nothing. 

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Noticing his lack of reply as well as his interest, Symphony glanced over at the strange man and noticed him trying to distract himself. Shaking her head gently, she focused back on the task at hand and glanced over at a tree nearby. She walked over to it and sized it up. Noticing the trunk was too big, she moved on to the tree beside it. Bracing herself, she jumped up and started climbing the trunk until about 7 or 8 feet up. Pulling herself up onto a thick branch, she took the previous book out of her inventory and studied the moss on the branch next to her. "Aha!", she exclaimed as she plucked the moss from the branch and put it into a protective brown pouch attached to her belt. "Found the first material!" she yelled down to the man. 

Symphony quickly and nimbly got down from the tree and slid down the trunk the last few feet onto the ground. She sighed to herself and noted herself lucky for not breaking a branch on the way down. "By the way," she said while going over to the stranger, "you never told me your name. Here, I'll make a deal with you." She produced a new book out of her inventory labelled "Hunting A Predator" and held it in front of him. "You tell me more about yourself and you get the privilege of reading this boy right here while I continue gathering." She continued to hold the book in front of him as she awaited his reply. 

 

ID #: 113472  LD: 16

Quest objective: 1/5 T1 materials found 

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He watched her as she got up and wandered over to a tree. He stifled a yawn, and went back to picking out the weeds. As long as she stood within his line of site, he was confident he'd be able to catch whatever was attacking her in time. But for now, he waited, resisting the urge to just get up and walk away. He didn't want her to get killed yet, not after she had returned his journal. Pinball rolled his head around his shoulders. He knew if he let his eyes close for too long he'd fall back asleep. But no, really, why the hell should he care? Suddenly Pinball was angry, and he ripped out the weeds with a violent passion. Mindless rage flooded his mind, and then it was gone, just as quickly as it had come. Oh, he thought. 

Symphony came back after finding her first material, and offered Pinball a book; and on the condition that he told her about himself, he could read it while she gathered. "Mmn," he grumbled, mulling over the girl's terms. Was it safe to tell her his name? He wondered if his previous captors were even after him at this point. Well, whatever. "My username is Pinball," he mumbled dumbly, making a quick grab for the book. 

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"Ah, very nice to meet you, Pinball!" she said as she watched him take the book. "Now keep a good eye on that and please don't bend the pages while I keep searching, okay?" Symphony turned her back on Pinball and began searching again. What an odd name? Pinball like the arcade game back home? she thought. She accidentally let out a small giggle at the name, but then quickly covered her mouth and blushed in embarrassment, hoping the Pinball hadn't heard. 

She was still bewildered at his attitude. What could have made him so cold and what was he trying to hide? Symphony knew it was outside of her best judgement, but she decided that she wanted to get to know the man a bit more. It seemed like knowing him would make her ordinary life a little less boring, regardless of whether that be good or bad. 

As she was absorbed in her thinking, Symphony reached down to what she thought was a stick. But as she picked it up, it began to wiggle in her hand. "AAHHHHH!" she screamed as she dropped the snake. She ran back to Pinball without thinking and huddled behind him, peaking out from behind his shoulder to see if the  animal was gone. After a few moments, she came back to her senses and sheepishly stepped back out from behind Pinball. "I-i'm very afraid of snakes," she muttered, trying to explain herself and hopelessly regain some of her lost dignity. "Y-yeah." She wandered back over to the foliage. 

I am a complete idiot. He probably does not want to stick with me. I can't believe that he's stayed this long. She sighed and began searching again. 

 

ID#: 113483  LD: 11

Quest objective: 1/5 T1 materials found

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He just nodded, offering a sheepish half-smile when she chuckled at his name. He was kind of used to that by now. If he had known that he was going to be trapped in a game for two years, he wouldn't have named himself after his cat. Pinball turned his attention to the book and quickly leafed through the pages, seeing what he could grasp by quickly skimming the whole thing. There weren't many pictures, but there were diagrams outlining the biology of some common animals - as well as some of the monsters native to Aincrad. Monsters he had fought in the past. Those were the ones that interested him the most. The majority of those diagrams were in their own section. It was like a monster manual! It outlined the combat tactics of common monsters and offered ways to overcome those obstacles, and gave tips on hunting more dangerous wildlife. It was useful information, and Pinball began to take notes. 

And then he heard her scream. Pinball slammed the book shut, leapt to his feet, gripped his sword and prepared to rocket forward... but Symphony was already running back towards him, and he saw nothing. He looked back at her, confused. "O-oh," he replied, letting the half-drawn sword fall back into its scabbard. "No, that's fine... be careful." And without saying anything else, he wandered back over to his books and started to read in earnest. 

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Symphony looked back and smiled as she saw him continue to read. Huh. I guess he likes reading as much as I do. At least we have one thing in common. She also noticed how he had prepared himself to protect her. Maybe he is nice and caring underneath that harsh facade of his, she thought. She wondered what he really was like. 

Again, she pulled out her plant booklet and went back to work. Now trying to dig up the right medicinal roots for a healing potion. Her small handheld shovel broke as she hit a harder root. "Ugggh," she nearly screamed. "This is so frustrating." She got up and tried to walk off the frustration. "By the time I'm done it'll be dark. Then I'll be in even more danger and just to gather a few ingredients." She sat down with crossed legs and massaged her temples with her hands, baffled and frustrated with her bad luck. 

ID#: 113487  LD: 7

Quest objective: 1/5 materials found

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Pinball watched her get back to work, and he noticed her nearly scream from frustration. He knew how that felt. Thank God he was finished with this quest line. He was about to get back to reading his book when he saw a flash of blue light in the corner of his eye. He turned, and found himself staring at the back of a Frenzy Boar. The weakest of the mobs, but arguably the most iconic creature on Aincrad! Pinball stood and drew Tyrfing, the gold-hilted weapon gleaming in the sunlight. The blade itself seemed to be made of clear, polished silver; but as he moved, so did the blade's reflection, dancing like it was made of water. As the creature snorted, kicked up a bit of dirt, and started to sniff the grass, Pinball walked up to it and shoved his sword into the back of its head. The boar hadn't even noticed the teenager's approach. The sword went through its body, piercing through it as if it was just a thin bit of cloth. Pinball sheathed the sword. True to his word, he was going to make sure nothing attacked the girl while she went about completing her quest. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Action Taken: [Basic Attack] [-1 EN]
Frenzy Boar: ID#113489 BD: 7+4= 11 (Hit!) MD: 4-3= 1 (Miss!) ~ 12 DMG 

Frenzy Boar: 0/10 HP | 3 DMG 

Pinball: 980/980 HP | 97/98 EN | 4 ACC | 3 EVA | 12 DMG 

Edited by Pinball

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Symphony looked up from her work when she heard the dying scream of the boar. She watched as Pinball plunged his sword into it quickly and precisely, mouth partially open in awe at his skill. Quickly getting up, she walked over to where the dead boar lay and starred down at it. This was her first time seeing an animal killed outside the Safe Zone. She sniffed the air and smelled its fresh blood. "Thank you for taking him out before he could get to me," she said while crouching down next to the beast. "Do you know if we can harvest him for a meal? I may be able to cook us something over a fresh fire. It's getting dark anyways, might as well build one." Up above them, the sky was turning a faint silver and purple as the sun set over the horizon. She knew that there would be more dangerous animals as night fell upon them. To make matters even more frustrating, she had only found one material so far. 

Quickly, she rushed back over to the last plant she had been focusing on. If I can find at least one more material before making camp then I'll be one step closer for tomorrow. She was able to dig with her hands and find a fresh root just underneath the surface of the cool soil. Taking her dagger, she cut a bit of the root off and put it in the brown pouch at her hip. "Okay. All done for tonight. Do you want to help me set up camp?"

ID#: 113491  LD: 13

Quest objective: 2/5 materials found

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Pinball watched, uninterested as the Frenzy Boar's body dissipitated into a cloud of pale blue, transluscent polygonals. He watched the small crystals drift away and disappear before turning his attention to Symphony. "Harvest?" He nodded, and then shrugged. "Well, I can't get any rewards from these mobs. Too weak. But sometimes they can drop meat." He shook his head though, turning around to gather the books. She wanted to make camp so soon? They weren't even that far from the town. If worse came to worst, and she couldn't afford renting a room, he could pay for one. "Boar meat isn't that tasty, though. You want..." He picked put his new book on his waist. "...bear meat. Or deer, if you want something less - uh. Gamey. Or bite-y.

"You wanna camp right outside the city?" Were they hobos? "Should finish your quest first. I'm leaving after.

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"Ah, okay." Symphony looked up at the sky, it didn't seem too dark yet. Maybe she could finish before nightfall. She was a little embarrassed at suggesting to set up camp right outside the city as well as suggesting harvesting the meat. "I'm still so new at this." She sighed. She hoped she would gain knowledge quickly during future adventures -- if she could even complete this one that is. 

She picked up a small blue flower that matched the one identically in her plant booklet and put it in her satchel. While searching, she tried to make conversation in order to get to know Pinball better. "So, Pinball, what do you like to do around here besides killing things?" She looked over to him to see his response. Even if he may be closed off, at least he isn't bad to look at, she thought absentmindedly while gazing at him. 

ID#: 133492  LD: 13

Quest objective: 3/5 materials found

 

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"You get used to it after a while." Pinball plopped back down in the grass, settling in his spot. Night was coming soon, but for Pinball, it was almost like the beginning of the day. It was weird; his sleeping schedule was messed up to the point where he only slept when he was tired - and even then, the times he slept varied considerably. His mood got better and worse at the drop of a pin, and he passed out whenever he lies down. Sometimes he thought he saw things that weren't there. Sometimes he closed his eyes and woke up four hours later. Sometimes he thought, if he could somehow make everyone disappear, he could be at peace. 

Pinball lifted his head and answered her question, as curt as ever. "Not much." There was a hint of emotion in his voice, under the monotonous tone that suggested something more sinister - or was he just being brief, and trying to avoid conversation? It was probably quite hard to tell. Pinball reopened the book he had borrowed and quickly flipped back to the page he had left off on. 

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