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[F17/SP] Quality, or Catastrophe | <<Challenge of Olympus: Tailor>>

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He’d been doing little more than lazing around in the shop, playing with Kagay when the message had come in. He’d spent the morning in the shop in order to relax, caring to the storefront rather than working on any further creations. His eyes glanced over the pieces on display, taking in the few that he’d managed to make in his small amount of time as a tailor. He could still feel a modicum of pride looking at them, the accomplishments that they signified – yet there were imperfections that he could see, as well. Things that didn’t appear right to him, and that obviously stood out as flaws within the entire design.

“That’s why this message makes no sense, Kagay. I’m being summoned to the mountain of Olympus by…Zeus? Isn’t that some sort of deity?... In order to show that I’m skilled as a crafter.” He waved a hand towards the displayed items, an almost sad smile upon his face as he looked at the small fox. “I’m barely skilled enough to create these…how am I expected to show my skills to what are essentially deities? I doubt they’d be interested in anything that I can make…”

His words drifted off as he glanced again around the room. He had to admit the pieces were display worthy, even with their minor blemishes. He knew that most wouldn’t even notice the issues that his eyes caught, and that the majority of his criticism was likely normal for crafters. Still, something held him back from leaping at the opportunity. He felt almost like an imposter, considering accepting the invitation.

“What do you think, Kagay?” Zenshu turned his gaze back to the fox, settled on the counter with its head on its forepaws. The fox blinked twice, slowly, before giving a small yip in response. “You’re right…I should at least accept the invitation and see what they have to offer. It would be rude to do anything less than that, wouldn’t it?”

His decision made, Zenshu began to close up the shop, collecting the few pieces he’d left laying around and placing them away in their designated storage space within the back rooms. He took a few moments to collect a few things to nibble on – for himself and Kagayaku both – before making his way out of the shop. Closing the doors behind him, he turned towards the central area of the settlement. Around him, the eerie quiet that hovered over the area, perpetually, creeped up on them. Zenshu had long ago gotten used to the feeling, but he could feel as Kagayaku pressed himself closer in response.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of, Kagay. I know this city isn’t necessarily the most welcoming, but…nothing here will hurt you. I’ve been here for some time, and no ghosts have jumped out to spook me. At least, not yet!” He giggled as the fox glanced up at him, the look almost one of annoyance or aggravation. In a huff, it took a few steps ahead of Zenshu, just enough that it made its point, but close enough that it could retreat to safety should anything appear around them.

The walk to the teleporter was a short one, and as Zenshu stepped up onto it, Kagay pressed herself close to Zenshu in order to ensure their connection for the transportation. One final glance around, before Zenshu spoke the activation word for the teleporter, calling out the name of their destination. “Athenaia!”


Word Count: 576



Zenshu | Lv. 10 | HP: 200/200 | EN: 38/38 | DMG: 8 | LD: 5 | EVA: 1 | MIT: 12 | Regen: 2 | Risky: 1 DMG | Stealth Detect: +1

Tier 1

Equipped Items

Ninjato  [Tier 1; One-Handed Straight Sword; Uncommon] A simple black, single edged ninjato.
Enhancement: Damage [1 Slot] | Effect: +(1 * Tier) base damage per slot.

Light Blue Samue [Tier 1 Clothing; Perfect] A simple light blue samue, well crafted and loose fitting. This piece appears to be in a traditional fashion, and contains wide cuffs.
Enhancement: Loot Die [3 Slots] | Effect: Gain +(1 per slot) to the LD.

Light Blue Haori [Tier 1 Cloth Armour; Perfect] A simple light blue haori, long enough to hang around the knees, but light enough to not be overbearing.
Enhancement: Evasion [1 Slot] | Effect: Reduces the die value by (1 per slot) on an enemy’s attack against you. Cannot be used to avoid a critical hit.
Enhancement: Regen [1 Slot] | Effect: After taking damage, gain Regen at the beginning of your next turn. Heal (2% per slot of your total health) every turn for three rounds. Damage over time effects (Bleed, Poison) will not trigger Regen. Does not stack with Battle Healing. Taking damage while Regen is active will refresh it to its full duration.
Enhancement: Risky [1 Slot] | Effect: When you take damage, gain +(1 per slot * Tier) base damage until your next successful attack, at which point this bonus is removed. Taking damage again will refresh this enhancement. Must be using the Cloth Armor Skill for this enhancement to take effect.

Fox Head Necklace [Vanity]

Battle-Ready Inventory

Starter Healing Potions {5} | Heals 50 HP
T1 Uncommon Health Potion {1} | HP Recovery I
T1 Uncommon Damage Potion {1} | Damage I
T1 Uncommon Overhealth Potions {1} | Overhealth I
T1 Rare Health Potion | HP Recovery II


Shadow [Tier 2; One-Handed Straight Sword; Perfect] A shorter ninjato, this single edge blade is entirely black from the string wrappings on the hilt, to the tip of the blade itself.
Enhancement: Damage [1 Slot] | Effect: +(1 * Tier) base damage per slot.
Enhancement: Accuracy [2 Slots] | Effect: Gain +(1 per slot) to the BD when attacking. Cannot be used to cause a critical hit.
Arrowhead Brooch | ACC III
Big Bertha Barnacle {1} | Unique Consumable (Meal) | A fishy entree that restores +2 additional EN each turn in combat for one thread.

Sword Arts

[x8] ST-I (8 EN) | A single-target sword art.
ST-II (11 EN) | A powerful single-target sword art. Only available for use when ST-I was used and successfully struck an enemy the previous turn or if ST-II had been used and had missed the previous turn.
[x3] AOE-I (1 + 2 * targets EN) | AOE | A sword art that strikes multiple targets at once.
[x4] TECH-A (5 EN) | STUN | A single-target sword art that stuns an enemy.

Weapon Skills

Straight Sword
Rank 3
Effect: +5 DMG

Armour Skills

Cloth Armour
Rank 3
Effect: +12 MIT

[Rank 3 Cloth Armor Mod] Athletics
Effect: Gain +1base Damage.

Utility Skills

Rank 3
Effect: +1 LD per rank. +1 to Stealth Detection per rank.

[Rank 2 Searching Mod] Night Vision
Effect: Ignores any penalties from low light or darkness. Negates the bonus Stealth Rating from low light or darkness. 


Edited by Zenshu
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The light slowly dissipated, leaving Zenshu blinking on the pad of the seventeenth floor’s main courtyard. The city around him was bustling – almost overwhelmingly so compared to the emptiness that he had just left behind. Around him, vendors hawked their wares, their cries echoing into the early morning air. He could see collections of NPCs, as well as players, moving throughout the busy streets in an attempt to complete whatever it was that they needed to do for the day, or moment.

For a time, he simply stood and stared. He’d had enough sense to move off the teleporter pad itself, but the overwhelming busy presence of the area around him had been, well, overpowering. For far too long he’d been in quiet areas, left behind in the Town of Beginnings as others moved on, and then having found a temporary home in the shop that he had opened on the tenth floor. He’d kept himself to the lower floors, avoiding any of the higher ones with the belief that he wasn’t ready yet. That decision had kept him from interacting with any of the more popular, and populated, areas of Aincrad.

“This is what I’ve been missing out on, then.” The words were little more than a softly spoken whisper on the air, lost to the liveliness of the world around him. At his feet, he could feel Kagayaku shuffle closer for comfort, likely uncomfortable with the city life. Breathing a sigh of relief, Zenshu stepped forward, forcing the fox to follow him as he made his way through the city.

He had to admit, it felt good to be surrounded by people once more. The quietness of the lower floors had grown on him, to the point that he’d enjoyed it in a sense. But he had always enjoyed the company of others – even in the most minimalistic sense. Here, he’d found a return to that connection that he’d slowly been losing.

He’d greeted the many players that he’d passed, a few taking a moment or two to speak with him, often times wondering if he’d had any information to provide. Although he’d had little to offer, he’d been able to promote his tailor shop – which a few had taken interest in. He’d promised them that he’d be around later on in the evening, if they’d wanted to drop by, and provided directions on how to find it.

“I’ve only recently opened, so my selection is a bit limited right now…but if you want to place an order, I can definitely have something sewn up and ready to go in a small amount of time for you!” Most had taken interest in his offer, likely curious to see what he could provide them with for services. The encounters had only instilled his desire to find the point behind the message he’d received, to see if he really could obtain something of value from this quest.

“Even if it turns out to be nothing, at least I’ve made some good marketing attempts here. They do say word of mouth is the best way to promote your business…so even if those I spoke to today don’t show up, maybe someone they mention it to will!” He was truly excited at the prospect for the first time, seeing a growing opportunity for his small start up to succeed. He was just taking in a breath of relief, and content, when a voice behind him spoke out.

“Are you the one whom has been summoned to Mount Olympus?”


Word Count: 586

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“Am I the one…? Oh, yes! Yes I am!” Zenshu turned to find himself staring at what appeared to be a half man, half animal. The creature seemed to huff in response, apparently taking Zenshu’s confusion as a sign of disrespect, or disgust at the sight of it. Bowing deeply, Zenshu quickly added to his response. “My sincerest apologies, I did not expect to be summoned by one such as yourself. In fact, from my interpretation of the message I had received, I had expected to make my way to the mountain unguided…”

He stood up again, noticing that the expression on the other’s face had changed, if only slightly. Determined to make a better impression, Zenshu gave a slight bow again. “I have failed to introduce myself. My name is Zenshu, and this is my companion Kagayaku hoshi. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

The creature seemed stunned at the sudden introduction, and remained silent for a moment, before reluctantly speaking. “I am Gruukr. I’m here to guide you to the mountain, and the meeting with Athena. Come this way, please.”

Without any further introduction, nor waiting for a response from Zenshu, the creature – Gruukr – simply turned and began walking down the main street towards the walls of the large city. Not wanting to be left behind, nor wanting to cause any further disrespect – intentional or otherwise – to the guide, Zenshu hurried after them.

“I do not mean to be rude, but I’ve not seen one of your kind before, and therefore know very little about you…you mentioned that you are Gruukr…is that your name, or your species?” His words were carefully spoken, and the smile on his face remained stagnant as he awaited the response. He wasn’t sure if he was overstepping any sort of boundaries, but his curiosity was getting the better of him. He was desperately trying to remember anything of the mythology of the European cultures – as this entire area was clearly built off of – but was coming up blank on what was before him.

“Gruukr is my name. And not that it matters to you, but I’m a Satyr. We’re a…well, a hybrid folk, of sorts. We serve the gods and goddesses of this land.” The words carried an almost indignant air to them, as if there was something hurtful in admitting them. Zenshu was unsure what to make of it, and felt himself fall silent for a moment as he pondered it.

“Well then, Gruukr, it is a pleasure to meet you. I want to say thank you for guiding me to the mountain. I am truly honoured that you have taken the time to do something so kind for me.” He saw the flash of confusion on the other’s face as his words reached it, as if it couldn’t believe what he was saying. Content to wait for the other to speak up, Zenshu carried on in silence for a time.

The Satyr, Gruukr, led them out into the wilds beyond the city itself. Where the city had been overwhelmingly busy, the fields beyond reminded Zenshu of the more peaceful lower floors that he had spent his days in until now. Although lush with tall grasses, Zenshu could see for quite a distance, the openness almost beautiful in a way.

He could see, in the far distance other players fighting with the local creatures, likely trying to level themselves up in an attempt to reach the higher floors. As he watched, he imagined himself out there one day soon, grinding his way towards the frontlines. He knew that he was quickly making progress, and that he would one day be able to stand at the forefront in their fight for freedom.

Shaking his head, he forced his focus back on the present, glancing at Gruukr out of the side of his eye. The Satyr had been silent since they’d left the city, and Zenshu was still trying to figure out if he’d somehow upset his guide, or if the Satyr was simply surprised as his kindness.


Word Count: 675

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They continued in silence for a while, the only sounds that reached Zenshu’s ears were the soft wind, the crunch of the gravel beneath their feet, and the distance sounds of combat from out in the fields. His attention had been continuously drawn to the few players he could see in the wildlands, eyeing them up as best as he could. Not that he’d be able to recognise them, between the distance and the lack of acquaintances, he had little to go on to try and place any sort of name to the figures. Still, he made mental notes of their general appearance – at least what he could see of it – in case he ran into them at a later time.

“One day I’ll join them.” He’d spoken aloud without even realising, but as he turned back to his guide, he could see the Satyr staring at him. The creature had a bit of a curious look on its face, and Zenshu could see a question bubbling on its tongue.

“You’re going to join the gods one day? That’s a very…ambitious goal. But…well, I don’t think it’s all that possible. At least, I’ve never heard of it happening.” The Satyr cocked its head at Zenshu as it finished speaking, as if trying to imagine him joining the gods and goddesses atop the mountain of Olympus. He couldn’t help but giggle slightly in response, before answering the Satyr’s question in earnest.

“Actually I meant the frontline fighters, of my own people. The ones who are working to clear the many floors of this floating castle, this world. I wish to one day join them, and help them push the frontlines ever upwards.” He glanced up towards the sky, imagining himself on the frontlines, working to clear away the floors above and ahead, helping to bring everyone one step closer to clearing the game itself. He knew it was still a ways away, but his determination was strong. Besides, he had a promise to keep. A promise that he swore he’d never give up on. He owed it to everyone.

“That is certainly a very noble goal. I do hope that you one day achieve it.” The Satyr turned its attention back to the road, continuing to lead them across the open plains. Silence fell over the two for a time, before Zenshu heard her whisper, almost as though to herself. “I wish I could’ve taken the path of a warrior. To gain honour, and glory. That would be the life…”

He’d almost stopped in his tracks at hearing the words, the longing behind them. For the first time he wondered if this guide was doing so out of its own free will, or if it had always been destined to guide travellers to the mountain, to meet the gods. Left to be nothing more than an escort.

‘Well, of course that’s its purpose. It is a game after all, and this thing is nothing more than a collection of code brought to life as a creature within the game. I doubt very much that it actually has wishes, desires, dreams, of its own…I think… But as he considered the possibility, he wasn’t so sure. He felt his brow furrow as he considered that perhaps, just maybe, there was sentience to the NPCs in this game. In all of his encounters, he’d never considered the possible humanity of the NPCs. They’d always just been figures to fill the otherwise empty spaces, things to interact with for a purpose. The concept of humanity, of actual sentience, had never occurred to Zenshu before. But now that it had, he was having trouble pushing the concept away.


Word Count: 612

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“Why don’t you live out your dreams of becoming a warrior?” Zenshu’s question seemed to ring on the air, echoing slightly in his own ears. The silence had been building, and with it an uncomfortable feeling in the air around them. He hadn’t meant to be entirely direct with it, but as the words came out he realised there was nothing he could do to take it back. He hurried to add on to his question, hoping to at least reduce the disrespect it had conveyed. “I happened to hear you mention that you’d always wanted to be one, so I was just curious as to what was stopping you. You seem like you’d be quiet a capable fighter.”

The Satyr actually laughed in response, which was not the reaction Zenshu had expected. Anger, annoyance, even outright dismissal, but not laughter. It took a few moments for the other to calm down enough in order to be able to answer the query. Zenshu waited patiently, curious as to if he would receive any sort of response to his question at all.

“Me? A warrior? Ha! No, no. That would never be allowed. I come from a tribe that has always served the gods and goddesses in the mountain. Perhaps if I’d been born to another tribe, it would’ve been possible. But not as I am. We Satyrs are destined…well, to serve. My brothers were lucky, they can at least serve as temple guards. But I’m stuck guiding mortals to the gods and goddesses forever.” The tone rang with a touch of sadness, covered over by attempted humour. Zenshu opened his mouth to argue with the Satyr, before slowly closing it again. He wasn’t quite sure what he could say. That they should do what they should do what they wanted? That they could be a warrior if they so desired? That it was only a matter of breaking free?

Shaking his head, he instead said the only thing that he could. “I wish I could help you.”

The Satyr seemed to twist around in surprise, their eyes going wide as they looked at Zenshu. He wasn’t entirely sure, as it was hard to read the other’s facial expressions sometimes, but he thought they were shocked at his confession.

“Why?” The single word response was filled with emotion – to Zenshu it sounded like a mixture of surprise, anger, and sorrow. As if the creature couldn’t believe that someone would display empathy towards it.

“Because everyone should be allowed to live their dreams. No one should be forced down a specific path, tied down and unable to escape. I believe that if you really want to do something, you should be able to do it. And it…well, it saddens me to hear that you can’t do that.” His mind flashed images of his own life before his eyes. He’d never really regretted any of the things his parents had forced upon him. Sure, some of it he’d have preferred not to do, in favour of other activities, but he’d never so much as felt a complaint. Yet now, as he spoke to the Satyr, he wondered if he shouldn’t have felt some sort of negativity towards it.

“You’re an odd individual, you know that?” The Satyr smiled at him before turning back around to continue leading the way towards the mountain. Zenshu quickly fell into step beside his guide, smiling in response to the comment. He knew quite well that many considered him odd, for many different reasons. He was just happy that he was able to make someone else feel joy, if only for the moment. Even if it was just a creature created in a computer generated system.


Word Count: 618

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“I truly do wish that I could do something to help you. I don’t just say that meaninglessly. I doubt there’s really anything I could do though…” Zenshu spoke up again after a few moments, trying to convey his desires in his words. He knew that they were hollow, without anything more than empathy to fill them. Still, he felt that he needed to at least say something.

“Even just your words are comforting enough. I thank you for being so sincere in them, I…well, it’s not important, but I do appreciate your kindness.” The Satyr seemed to pause in thought as they continued along the path, considering whether they wanted to say anything else. Zenshu waited, head cocked, to see what more was being held on the tip of the tongue. “Not many show me such kindness. It is truly meaningful, to me at least.”

The Satyr fell silent after that, and Zenshu allowed the silence to persist. He wondered at the final comment – did the Satyr remember the other players they had led to the mountain? Or was this simply a part of its programming adjusting to Zenshu’s welcoming attitude.

He walked in silence for a while as he considered the possibilities. He felt his mouth open and snap shut a few times as he tried to bring his question aloud, but wasn’t entirely sure how to properly word it. “Hey, Gruukr, do you remember the other players that you led to the mountain? The other players who were requested to visit Mount Olympus?”

The Satyr turned to look at Zenshu again, this time a questioning look on its face. It seemed interested in Zenshu’s own interest, as if it was out of the ordinary. When the Satyr did begin speaking, it was with hesitation, as if it was unsure. “I do…I’ve led a few to the mountain before, before yourself…I remember each of them. Some of them were far less welcoming, far less…nice…than you yourself. Not to say that they were all unwelcoming, or rude, or…well…they weren’t nearly as nice as you.”

Zenshu smiled, bowing his head slightly at the compliment. He was surprised that the NPC had memories of previous events – it brought everything into question about how he’d been viewing the NPCs previously. It was quite possible that this specific NPC was unique, different from the others that they as players often encountered. Still, he wasn’t sure whether that meant that this specific artificial being was allowed to keep its memories for a better connection with players, or if this was common place and that every NPC remembered.


Word Count: 433

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Once again, the pair fell into silence as they continued along the pathway. Zenshu could see the mountain slowly rising into the sky in the distance. He figured there was still some distance to cover before they’d even reach the base of the mountain, and then the climb itself. He wondered if he would even make it home before dark with how far they had to go.

“Say, you’ve led quite a few people to these meetings, right? Do you happen to know anything about the meeting with Athena? I know that the message hinted that it would be very specific towards, well, the individual…but do you know what previous tests have been like?” Zenshu figured he’d not get an answer to his question – he truly doubted that the Satyr would know, or be willing to share it with Zenshu. It would likely give him an unfair advantage if they did so, which likely wouldn’t be allowed by Cardinal.

“I’ve never actually seen any of the tests myself. We guides are not allowed to remain in order to watch the trials being completed…” It was exactly as Zenshu had expected. He felt a slight tinge of disappointment, but not surprise at the admission. He was just about to thank the guide for at least being honest, when they suddenly continued speaking. “But…a few of the players have told me about it, after the event. Some stated that they were required to create a piece worthy of being worn by a goddess, or review created pieces and point of flaws, or perfections, or the styling used…or any number of other things that I will admit I didn’t entirely understand.”

“Thank you, that’s truly insightful. I wonder…why I was summoned. I doubt that I could make anything that a goddess would be impressed with enough to wear themselves. I could maybe view a piece and pick out the flaws or perfections, or maybe even the styling, although I think even that would test me truly…” The Satyr seemed to watch him from the side of its eye, as if considering his words before responding. Zenshu smiled, shrugging slightly as he answered the unspoken words of his guide. “No matter, it’s meant to be a test. And if I do fail, then I guess it just means I need to keep working hard in order to better myself. Perhaps, perhaps if I’m required to I could return again and enjoy your company as you once again guide me back to the mountain. I would enjoy that.”

The Satyr suddenly turned away, although not before Zenshu spotted a tinge of colour on the creature’s face. He was left stunned for a brief moment before his assumptions were confirmed, the words carrying a tone of embarrassment. “I am…pleased to hear that you enjoy my company that much. But I would be more than happy if you did not need to return. I do hope that you succeed on your test, if only because…well, because you’ve been so kind. I feel like of any of the players whom I’ve guided to the mountain, you deserve the rewards of the goddess the most…”

Zenshu felt himself blush in response. Sure, the Satyr was simply an artificial intelligence creation responding to his kindness in kind, but it still felt warming to hear the words. He gave a slight bow of his head, unable to bring his words of thanks aloud this time as he fought back the flushing that was overtaking him.


Word Count: 584

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The base of the mountain loomed before them, the tip of the peak forcing Zenshu’s head all the way back just to see it. Around them roamed large creatures that Gruukr had described as the guardians of the mountain city, ferocious beings that would have torn him asunder if not for the grace and protection that the goddess had provided him in order to reach Olympus.

He was happy that he didn’t need to be concerned about them, just being near the mountain itself had made him feel small and insignificant. He couldn’t imagine having to fight powerful foes under the looming shadows here, the difficult only made harder by the feeling of the towering mountain dwarfing him.

A shiver down his back made him shake in response to the thought, and Zenshu turned his attention back to the path before them. It wound its way up the side of the mountain, snaking back and forth before disappearing behind a collection of trees a little ways up the base. Gruukr had explained they would need to pass through the forest, and into the rocky terrain beyond, before they reached the city itself.

“Hey, Gruukr. Do you know if I’ll be meeting Athena herself, or will there be a proxy?” Zenshu seemed to catch the guide off guard with his question. He could see the Satyr pause and consider his question before responding, as if unaware of what he was actually asking, or needing to process the question in depth before being able to provide an answer.

“You’ll be meeting with Athena directly. It should be just you and the goddess alone, for the trial. At least, that’s how it’s always been in the past.” Content with the answer, Zenshu gave a nod, before providing his thanks. Once again Gruukr seemed surprised by his kind words, as if it was extremely out of the ordinary.

Just how badly are the other players treating these guides, that a simple word of thanks can be considered so nice? I need to remember not to ever become like that. He felt himself frowning in response to the thoughts, his eyes gazing up at the peak of the mountain. He wanted to make sure he remained himself, no matter what this game threw at him – and that included the behaviours and actions that he had been taught to include in his everyday life. It worried him that so many other players appeared to have forgotten, or never been taught, these basic mannerisms. Perhaps it’s all the foreign, modern influences. Perhaps father truly was right about the negative effect it was having on our culture, on our people…Perhaps I didn’t listen to his teachings well enough to understand…

He wasn’t sure if that was entirely accurate, he’d taken most of his parents’ teachings to heart. Although he may not have been perfect about every minute detail, Zenshu felt like he had taken the overall ideologies and implemented them in his life. Still…he felt as though he needed to escape this world, and make things clearer between himself and his parents.


Word Count: 514

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The climb up the mountain had been far easier than Zenshu had anticipated. He’d only been hiking in the mountains at home a few times, and he’d never gone particularly high in any of them, but it was far more tedious than he’d expected it to be. The same could not be said for hiking up mountains in Sword Art Online. The activity itself was definitely time consuming, but the effort put into it was…almost disappointingly limited.

If there’s one thing about this world, sometimes it makes things almost too easy. It sure can be enveloping, bringing you to forget that you’re in a virtual world and not a real world, but sometimes it does things like this, which remind you that you really aren’t in the real world. Then again…I doubt it would be beneficial to have it too realistic, because then some people wouldn’t play it.

They reached the gates to the city – if it could even be called a city – only a couple hours after they had begun the climb itself. Zenshu was surprised, looking back down the way they had come. He had certainly expected it to be a far more trying hike, and far more time consuming, when he had first viewed the mountain from their travels across the open grasses.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” The Satyr stepped up beside Zenshu, staring up at the gates of the city. Zenshu’s gaze was torn from the mountain’s base, where he’d originally been looking, as he glanced over at the gates. He doubted that the Satyr had even noticed his lack of attention, nor cared much about how he would actually respond to the question.

“Quite…so is Athena in there?” Before he could even complete the question, the Satyr had moved to the gates, pushing them open gently and waving Zenshu inside. He passed through, eyeing the large courtyard beyond. He was surprised to find it empty – not a single other soul in the area. “There’s no one here.”

“Well, of course, Athena will be in her own personal area. We’ll – You will meet her there. Come! She’s likely waiting for you now.” Almost in an excited stated, the Satyr led Zenshu onwards, guiding him down a collection of pathways and hallways through what was likely the main house of the gods that he was intruding upon. The entire situation felt wrong to Zenshu somehow, as if he was entering a private space that he had no right to be in.

After a dizzying number of twists and turns, Gruukr stopped before a single doorway, a large smile on their face as they waited for Zenshu to catch up to them. Pausing at their side, Zenshu cast his eyes over the door, before raising and eyebrow at his guide.

“This is it, the end of our guide together. I wish you all the best, but I think you’ll do just fine!” The excitement in the Satyr’s voice was obvious, but the smile on the other’s face was genuine. Zenshu took a moment to give a deep bow, before placing his hand on the door. He gave a soft push, stepping inwards as the door swung open.


Word Count: 528

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The interior of the room was far simpler than Zenshu had expected it to be. A lounge chair, a small tea table – or eatery table, he wasn’t entirely sure which is was – as well as a few cushions cast about were strewn between a collection of pillars that divided an obvious resting area. On the opposite side of the room – directly across from where Zenshu had entered, and through the seating area itself – was an area that was clearly set up with the concept of tailoring in mind.

He could clearly see the spinning wheels, the racks for hanging and stretching, as well as the numerous mannequins whose entire purpose was simply to display the completed pieces. His eyes ranged over the pieces, admiring their clear eloquence and lavish designs, as well as their fundamental capabilities. He knew that although they appeared to be display pieces in their beauty, they were also well crafted in order to be useful in the trade.

“You appear to be admiring my tools, more so than myself.” The voice came from the cushions in the central area, and Zenshu felt himself jump slightly in response. He’d not even noticed the woman seated in the main area, his eyes locating and viewing the tools themselves almost immediately.

Bowing deeply, he gave a heartfelt apology. “I meant no disrespect, it’s simply that I’ve never seen such an elegant, beautiful and eye-catching collection of tools before. I’ve always worked with what was available, which…well, it doesn’t compare in any category of what you have here…”

He paused for a brief moment, before remembering that he hadn’t introduced himself yet. “My name is Zenshu, it is a pleasure to meet you!”

The goddess seemed relatively amused at his attempt at politeness – or perhaps it was his focus on the workshop itself. Either way, he felt that he’d made at least an interesting first impression for the goddess. Or, at least, he hoped that he had. He truly had no way of knowing either way, unless she came out and said so – or said something that directed him towards that understanding. Zenshu waited patiently, trying to determine his standing. He knew that first impressions were key towards success in many avenues of life. This was likely one of those avenues, and he’d hoped to make a good first impression – as he wasn’t entirely sure that his skills were up to the task of proving himself in whatever task was going to be appointed to him.

“It is a pleasure to meet you as well, mortal. My name is Athena, and I am the goddess who will judge your abilities in the craft of tailoring. Are you ready for your challenge?”


Word Count: 451

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Are you ready for your challenge? The words rang in his head, echoing as if bouncing off the walls of a cave. Zenshu didn’t feel ready, in any way or form. Yet he’d made it all the way here, to this room, and now stood before the goddess Athena herself – and she was asking if he was ready. Closing his eyes, he tried to mentally shake away the doubt, the worry, the concern that he wouldn’t be good enough.

“I do not know if I am ready, or not. I don’t believe myself to be an extremely talented, or capable tailor in any way – in fact, I would say that I have only just started down my path towards expertise in the art of crafting clothing. But I am willing to risk, and accept, your judgement on my abilities, for whatever that is worth.”

The words had left Zenshu’s mouth before he was even entirely aware of what he was saying – or had wanted to say. He bowed deeply at the end of his sentence, before righting himself and placing his hands in front, folding them in a calming way. He waited patiently for the response, wondering if he’d be turned away on the spot. He couldn’t help but expect it, any such admission in the real world would likely get you turned down for the position you were attempting to receive – at least in the experiences he’d had.

“I’m sure that you are far more capable than you think you are, mortal. Many who come here profess to me about their abilities, their strengths, what they have mastered. Few come before me and profess their weaknesses – their ineptitudes.” The goddess almost seemed to be smirking as she spoke, as if amused by what Zenshu had said. Yet, as he glanced on, he saw an almost pleased look in her eye, as if she was truly admiring his words, his courage behind them. “I much prefer those who know they can still improve, who believe they have not yet mastered their craft – those are the ones who always prove most worthwhile. You, from what I have already seen, seem to be one of those.”

She suddenly rose from her seated position, moving across to the work area beyond, and waving a hand for Zenshu to follow. He carefully strode across the floor towards the work area, curiosity over what his challenge would be driving him forwards. He glanced about the area as he went, taking in the few decorative pieces that furnished the room, but his attention was always drawn back to the tools that were on display.

As he stopped at the edge of the room, Athena waved a hand towards the tools. “Your challenge is truly quite simply. I wish you to create me a piece that I have never seen before, and that I could not imagine. Something that is wholly new, that I would never have had the chance to experience, or wear, had you not brought it to life before me.”


Word Count: 506

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