Deep inside the Elemental Caves, the five heroes traveled through the tunnels of the caves with the Shaman lighting the way using the spirits of fireflies that had perished during a time unknown. Usually the caves are lit up by the light of the different Elemental Stones, but there were no surfaced stones in sight and they already knew why, since this was part of the quest they joined.
Hazel groaned and stated, “I can’t believe this Stone Beast ate almost all the Elemental Stones of the cave.”
The fairy sighed and said, “Well the quest is to destroy the beast and when we do, the Elemental Stones will surface again and I can get the rare water stone to increase my power.”
Hazel chuckled looking at the fairy and said, “Couldn’t you have just bought it?”
“There’s no way. This water stone is different from other Elemental Water Stones. The usual elemental stones can be melted to make weapons or provide a boost to players during a battle, but this rare stone can be absorbed by the winning player and grant a skill to the player and increase your level by ten points if your element is water. It’s perfect for me.”
Hazel smirked and stated, “Or we can sell it to make a bunch of gold.” The fairy began to hit Hazel calling him “evil” repeatedly only to make Hazel laugh in amusement.
The priest looked at the two saying, “Stop messing around and keep your eyes peeled.”
The fairy pointed at Hazel and said, “But he threatened to sell the stone you guys promised me if we complete this quest.”
“I can assure you Hasani that Hazel won’t do such a thing. If he does then we can activate the feature to punish him,” stated the priest. The fairy, Hasani, nodded but shot hateful looks at Hazel.
The Shaman glanced back at them with the firefly spirits circling her body and stated, “You must also not forget that I was promised the Spirit Stone that would fall from the Beast.” The priest nodded and said, “Of course, Yami.”
Hazel chuckled and said, “I don’t get why you would want the spirit of a Stone Beast.”
The Shaman, Yami, groaned and said, “I need spirits to fight in this game, so a Stone Beast Spirit will be very useful.” Yami then glanced at Hazel and added, “You, on the other hand, only want money from this quest.”
“Guilty as charged. The gold and diamond crown of the beast is super rare and can be sold for a hefty price. Just like the players say, ‘Money makes the world go round.’”
The priest sighed and said, “Please don’t use outdated sayings, Hazel.”
“You’re no fun, Plato.”
“I don’t need to be,” stated the priest, Plato. Hazel scoffed and said, “Maybe I should sell the Skill Book award from this quest.”
Plato, who had been indifferent and calm, glared at Hazel with fire in his eyes.
“That skill book will allow me to revive all characters without the use of an item and it doesn’t only restore half or a third of health, but full health. I need this and if you sell it then the punishment feature of the contract will activate and send your experience points straight to zero. If you don’t want that then don’t even try it.”
Hazel nodded, but had an indifferent look as he walked away from Plato with a shrug.
As they continued down the tunnel, Plato began to notice that Sky was in a daze. Plato approached Sky and asked, “Are you OK, Sky?”
“She was so beautiful,” muttered Sky. Plato raised an eyebrow and asked, “Do you mean the NPC that runs the item stand?” Sky nodded and looked at Plato with a glint in his eye.
“I have never seen someone as beautiful as her. Her beauty rivals any girl in this entire game. Even her name, Anthea, sounds lovely.”
“But she’s an NPC.”
“That doesn’t matter. I want to finish this quest as soon as possible so I can see her again,” stated Sky filled with excitement.
“I thought you were more eager to get the elemental upgrade stone for your sword,” stated Plato.
Sky’s smile grew wider as he added, “I can sell that stone to her just so I can talk to her.”
Plato sighed and said, “She’s an NPC. She always says the same lines. She has no personality, so please give up trying to court her.”
Plato stared at Sky and noticed that Sky didn’t hear a single word he said and was practically in his own world most likely fantasizing about Anthea.
Suddenly, they all heard a roar and went into their formation.
“Here it comes!” yelled Hazel just as the Stone Beast rushed at them.
Meanwhile, Anthea was back at her stand fixing the shelves and counting the gold pieces she gathered from her journey. As she counted, she began to hear the approaching wheels of a cart. She glanced down the road and saw one of the male Venders from the village approaching with a horned donkey pulling his cart. The male Vender at a glance seemed to be a little older than Anthea with his young features. He had brown side burns and short hair that revealed the back of his neck. He wore a white cap that was stained with mud and dirt. His clothes were that of a commoner that hung loose around the arms revealing his forearms. His eyes were chestnut brown and his cheeks had traces of dirt on them.
The male Vender stopped in front of Anthea’s stand and smiled at her.
“I see that you were pulled to this spot, Anthea,” stated the Vender. Anthea nodded and added, “That would mean that you would need to move on dear Pongo.” The Vender, Pongo, chuckled and said, “So I can’t stay and chat?” Anthea shook her head.
“If any heroes pass my way, they might think I am closed if your cart is blocking,” stated Anthea. Pongo chuckled and looked down the path that headed toward the Elemental Caves.
“Can you at least tell me if the Caves are occupied?”
“I’m afraid so, the heroes that passed mentioned that they were going on a quest, so the items we can collect might be disabled,” stated Anthea. Pongo scoffed with crossed arms.
“Should have got here sooner,” stated Pongo and then added, “Send a messenger pigeon when their quest is complete, so I know when to come back.” Anthea nodded and watched Pongo redirect his cart back down the road.
As he rode off, he glanced back at Anthea and stated, “I don’t know how long you are programmed at that spot, but please send a message to Master Moogle, so he doesn’t worry over his beloved daughter.”
“I will,” called back Anthea and watched Pongo disappear into the distance.
Anthea then looked in the direction of the Elemental Caves and smiled for she was glad that she managed to gather items and ingredients for her stand before the beginning of the quest. Remembering the caves, she began to pull out the items she gathered from the cart. One was a water stone with a strange texture of red in the middle. It was highly unusual for a water stone to have red in it, but she considered it good luck and took it with her. It was such a refined water stone that she found no need to refurbish as she did with other elemental stones that she sold. She placed this stone on the front counter as decoration, since she was not ready to part with this unusual stone. The next thing she pulled out was a gray stone with a symbol of a beast on its base. At first it seemed like a regular stone, but when Anthea noticed the symbol, she knew that this stone must be special. She placed this stone next to the water stone. She then pulled out a gold and diamond crown. The crown lay next to the bone remains of a slayed beast and since it wasn’t owned anymore, she took it. She placed this crown at the center of the counter as decoration as well. She pulled out a different stone next that was made of crystal and if one looked closer it had a green arrow inside in the middle. She hadn’t seen a stone like this before, but she felt that it might be an upgrade stone only with a different design since the arrows of upgrade stones are usually red or orange. The last one was a white book with the words Angel Blessings Revival on the cover in gold ink. She did find it strange to find a book in the Elemental Caves, but it looked interesting and she was eager to read the story of this book.
After Anthea had placed all the unique items from the Elemental Caves as decoration for her stand, Anthea opened the first page of the Angel Blessings Revival Book. Before she could even read the first page, she heard approaching footsteps and shot up. From the direction of the Elemental Caves, she saw the five heroes begin to approach. She closed the book and placed it on the counter with the other unique items and went into her programmed position as the heroes got closer.
Hazel scoffed and stated, “We were so robbed from this quest. We only got two thousand gold and no award items.”
“Must have been a glitch,” stated Plato, clearly disappointed. Hasani groaned with his wings flapping angrily.
“I joined this quest for the stone and it wasn’t even dropped. Of all the glitches to happen, it just had to be this one,” stated Hasani close to tears.
Yami groaned and added, “I really wanted that beast, but it seemed like what we fought was just a remnant. Definitely a glitch.”
The four heroes seemed to be depressed by the turn of events of a glitch, but Sky, seemed happy as they got closer to Anthea’s stand.
“She’s still there!” cheered Sky and began to run toward Anthea. Hazel watched Sky run toward the item stand and asked, “Should I even bother to stop him?”
“Just leave it,” stated Plato with a sigh.
Sky slid to a stop in front of Anthea with a smile and greeted her.
“Welcome to my humble shop fellow traveler. Would you like to buy any of my wares?”
“Of course I would Anthea. Can I have another Revival Potion?”
Anthea grabbed one Revival Potion and placed it on the counter next to the upgrade stone.
“Would you like anything else?”
Before Sky could say anything, Hazel grabbed Sky from behind making Sky gasp and stumble back.
“Don’t buy unnecessary items when we are about to split,” stated Hazel, clearly annoyed. Sky groaned ripping away from Hazel’s hold.
“I will buy anything from Anthea if it will give me a chance to hear her voice,” stated Sky. Hazel groaned as did the others.
“I can’t wait to reach the Old Man Oak Tree, so I can finally separate from this dumb party,” stated Hasani as his wings fluttered behind him making him rise from the ground slightly.
Sky looked back at Anthea and was about to ask for something else, until he noticed the items on the counter that were meant for decoration.
“Would you like anything else?”
“Yes, can you tell me where you got these items on your counter?”
“Would you like anything else?” asked Anthea, not able to answer Sky’s question. Hazel groaned and stood next to Sky saying, “She won’t answer that if it’s not in her programing and…”
Hazel’s eyes instantly grew wide at the gold and diamond crown on the counter. He swiped it from Anthea’s counter and stated, “The Beast’s crown.” The others perked up and looked at the unique items on the counter.
Hasani picked up the rare water stone and said, “This was the stone I was supposed to get.” Yami picked up the gray stone and said, “I can feel the Stone Beast within this. This is definitely the Spirit Stone.”
Plato saw the Angel Blessings Revival Book and said, “That’s the skill book I wanted to learn.” Plato picked up the book and noticed the upgrade stone on the counter as well. He pointed it out to Sky and said, “That’s the stone you were supposed to get.” Sky was silent as he looked at the stone Plato pointed out and then glanced at the others that were holding the items.
“We didn’t pay for it, so put it back,” stated Sky. Hazel scoffed gripping the crown in his hand.
“Come on, Sky. These items were supposed to be ours for completing the quest. She’s an NPC, so she has no use for them.”
“But they are her items.”
“Then ask her how much for the items,” stated Hazel. Sky nodded and looked at Anthea, who still had a smile on her face.
“How much for the items on the counter?”
Anthea stared at Sky and said, “Would you like anything else?”
Hazel chuckled and said, “See? She’s an NPC and doesn’t care about the items that aren’t in her inventory for sale, so we can just take it. No price on awards.”
Plato placed a hand on Sky’s right shoulder and said, “This NPC doesn’t care, so just take the item that was meant for you.” Sky bit his lip and picked up the stone muttering an apology to Anthea.
“Please come again,” stated Anthea with a smile, but Sky avoided eye contact with her.
Hasani ran ahead of them with a smile on his face and the stone in his hand and said, “Let’s head to the Old Man Oak Tree to break the party.” They nodded and followed Hasani. The others ran after Hasani, but Sky walked away slowly.
Sky glanced back at Anthea, who stared out in front of her as if waiting for someone. Sky clenched his fist and then ran off looking away from Anthea.
Anthea felt something click as she fell into her chair and stared at her empty counter. She never intended to sell those items since she wanted to research them, but she never imagined that they would be taken by five of the heroes of the game.
Anthea shook her head and pulled out a piece of paper from her cart. She began to write on it using a feathered pen, but her hand was shaking and then she noticed droplets of water falling on the paper. She placed her finger tips to her eyes and felt the moisture. Anthea dropped the pen and began to sob into her hands.