Stage 4: Flower

In the game world the times of night and day happened in two hour intervals or faster depending if there was a storyline quest in progress, but since the game was sealed time matched that of the real world. If it was day in the real world then it would be day in the game world.

Within the game world, the sun began to rise along with the sound of the calling rooster that echoed from the Emerald Mountains. As the sun rose, so did many of the inhabitants of the game. Anthea was one of them. Anthea sat up from the grassy ground and stretched up with a small yawn. She pulled out barley bread from her cart and began to munch on it as the sun began to touch her cart.

Anthea suddenly noticed Sky approaching from a distance and immediately swallowed her food. She slipped the remaining food under her stand and dusted off her dress from grass remnants. She went into her NPC position as a click was heard.

Sky slid to a stop in front of her stand with a bright smile on his face.

“Anthea.”

“Welcome to my humble shop fellow traveler. Would you like to buy any of my wares?” stated Anthea. Sky nodded and asked for three revival positions and High Positions. As Anthea got the items, Sky also pulled out a chicken leg from thin air. He held it to Anthea saying, “I thought you would like this.”

“I am willing to pay 50 gold pieces for the fried chicken leg. Is this offer to your liking?”

Sky sighed accepting the payment as he handed her the chicken leg and then paid her for the items he asked for. Sky placed the items in his inventory and smiled at Anthea.

“Anthea?”

“Would you like anything else?”

“No, but I just wanted to let you know that I will continue to come until you say my name.”

Anthea smiled and stated, “Please come again.” Those words alone made Sky red in the cheeks. Sky left Anthea’s stand waving farewell to her.

When Sky was out of sight, Anthea was released from her set form and stared at the chicken leg in her hand. Anthea giggled and took a bite of the chicken leg looking forward to Sky’s next visit.

In truth, nearly a month had passed since Sky started to visit her stand. He was true to his word; he never missed a day to visit her even though she never changed what she said. He offered her gifts, but she still paid him for it. Sky would accept the payment with a disappointed look, but Anthea felt that he used that money to buy the next gift. Anthea enjoyed Sky’s company and before she knew it, she always looked forward to the next time she would see Sky.

Sky, meanwhile, was hunting Badger Rabbits in the Hills of Melancholy. The Badger Rabbits would try to flee the high leveled Swordsman, but he would not allow any to escape. He had slaughtered his thirtieth Badger Rabbit when he heard someone clapping behind him. It was no mystery who the clapper was: Hazel, the thief.

“What do you want?” asked Sky before slashing another fleeing Badger Rabbit.

“I just wanted to see how you were faring considering that you’ve been going to the same hunting ground for a month and not only that spending your hard earned money on useless items from a Vender you fancy.”

“Anthea isn’t just any Vender. She’s someone I plan to marry,” stated Sky, slicing another Badger Rabbit. Hazel froze in shock as Sky’s words sank in before letting out a yell of disbelief.

“I knew you fancied the NPC, but to actually think of marrying her. That’s going too far,” stated Hazel.

“I think not. I knew the moment I saw her that I wanted to be with her.”

“Earth to Sky? She’s an NPC meaning she has no personality. What do you plan on doing when you marry her? Say ‘I love you’ and then you accept her reply of ‘How may I help you fellow traveler?’ That’s just seriously crazy.”

Sky clenched his sword and glared at Hazel.

“You wouldn’t understand. I feel that there is more to Anthea. I want to know everything about her.”

“She’s like any other NPC,” stated Hazel bluntly. Sky shook his head and then both Hazel and Sky began to hear giant footsteps approaching. They glanced into the distance and saw the main boss of the area: Badger Rabbit King, approaching them at an alarming speed. Sky held his sword in fighting position. Hazel sighed pulling out his dagger from his side.

“I’ll help you with this boss. I needed the experience anyway,” stated Hazel. Sky nodded accepting Hazel’s help.

The Badger Rabbit King leapt at them as the music for battle began to start. Hazel groaned glaring up at the sky.

“Seriously, why does this stupid fighting music always play when there’s a boss?”

“It’s in the programming.”

“It’s still annoying,” yelled Hazel as he leapt at the Badger Rabbit King. He sliced at its fur and then stole an item from the Badger Rabbit King. The item was a High Potion. Hazel then jumped to the side to allow Sky a chance to slice at the Badger Rabbit King. The Badger Rabbit King cried out in pain as its HP went down by 10%. Sky gritted his teeth in displeasure.

“This fight is tough with just the two of us,” stated Sky. Hazel had to agree before dodging a strike from the boss. Sky jumped back and then held his blade to his chest concentrating his power into the sword.

“KNIGHT’S FURY!” yelled Sky as he swung his blade at the Badger Rabbit King. A power of blue light emitted from the blade and sliced through the boss making the HP of the boss go down by 30%.

Hazel snickered saying, “That’s nothing.” Hazel took two spins in the air giving off a glow and then yelled, “DAGGER STORM!” Multiple daggers of silver rained down from Hazel’s spinning form and pierced the boss’s body making the HP go down by another 30%. Only 30% health remained for the monster.

Hazel and Sky both charged at the monster and thrust their weapons forward. Sky impaled the right eye and Hazel impaled the left eye. The creature cried out and then turned to dust as its HP reached 0% and the music came to an abrupt stop. From the dust appeared a light making Hazel rub his hands in anticipation.

“I wonder what the rabbit dropped?” stated Hazel excitedly. Out of the light emerged a golden flower with a red center. Sky caught the falling flower and stared down at it. Hazel frowned staring at the flower.

“A flower, seriously? There’s already so many here.”

Sky smiled down at the flower and placed it into his inventory.

“Flowers are common, but I bet Anthea will love it.”

“She’s just going to ask for a payment,” stated Hazel with a smirk. Sky ignored Hazel and began to leave the hunting grounds. Hazel was about to walk off, but realized that boss items were pretty expensive and if Sky wasn’t going to accept the payment anyway, he might as well relieve him of the payment from the NPC. Hazel then charged after Sky with money dancing in his head.

Anthea, on the other hand, was carving a piece of wood into a shape of a Badger Rabbit. A Badger Rabbit sitting next to her nudged her leg with its nose making her look at it. She showed the almost done statue and asked, “What do you think?” The Badger Rabbit licked her hand in reply making Anthea giggle in response.

She finished carving the small creature and placed it inside her cart. She then yanked out a piece of Barley bread and held it to the Badger Rabbit. The Badger Rabbit began to nibble on the bread just like it would do a carrot. Anthea giggled in delight, but stopped when she noticed a shadow fly overhead. She looked up and could have sworn that she saw a black dragon’s tale disappear into the clouds.

Anthea snapped out of her thoughts, when the Badger Rabbit ran off and then she noticed Sky running her way. Anthea immediately stood up and dusted off her dress, but she also pushed back her long brown curly hair to reveal more of her face. She then went into her NPC position.

Sky finally reached her and greeted her with a bright smile and said her name.

“Welcome to my humble shop fellow traveler. Would you like to buy any of my wares?”

Sky shook his head and pulled out the flower he won from his inventory. He presented it to Anthea with a bright smile saying, “I wanted to give you this flower.” Sky waited for Anthea’s usual response when he presented her a gift, but to his surprise, Anthea remained silent as she stared at the golden flower.

Anthea didn’t know why, but the sight of the flower made her heart aflutter, but then her set lines kicked in, “I am willing to pay 5,000 gold pieces for the Goddess Flower. Is this offer to your liking?” Sky sighed in disappointment and placed the flower on the counter as Anthea presented the gold to him. Before Sky could even reach for the gold, it was snatched by none other than Hazel.

Hazel chuckled placing the gold in his inventory.

“I should really hang out with you more. You make me rich,” stated Hazel, earning a glare from Sky. Sky glanced back at Anthea and, to his surprise; Anthea was staring at the flower with a different look. Anthea usually had the same expression every time she “accepted” a gift, a generic smile, but the look Anthea gave this time seemed more genuine.

“Do you like flowers?” asked Sky. Anthea suddenly picked up the flower and showed a bright smile that Sky had never seen before appear on her face.

“I love flowers,” stated Anthea. Sky’s heart was racing in excitement, while Hazel stared in disbelief.

“Was that a set line?” asked Hazel as he went to Sky’s side.

Sky held Anthea’s hands that held the flower and asked, “Can you say that again?” Anthea’s smile became generic again and stated, “Would you like anything else?” Sky usually felt downhearted at this point, but instead he laughed and hugged Anthea nearly pulling her over her counter.

“I know I’m getting closer to understanding you, so I’ll come again and again. That’s just how much I love you,” whispered Sky. Sky separated from Anthea and then headed toward Hazel saying, “Let’s hunt some more.” Hazel nodded with a shocked expression.

As they walked off, Sky noticed Hazel glancing back in the direction of Anthea. Sky chuckled and stated, “Her reply shocked you huh?” Hazel nodded and stated, “She almost sounded real.”

Sky smiled and glanced back at Anthea, who still stood in her stand.

“She is real.”

When Sky and Hazel were out of sight, Anthea broke out of her set state and turned red in the cheeks covering her mouth in shock.

“Is this real?” Anthea muttered to herself. Anthea glanced at the golden flower on her counter and picked it up with one hand. She then got up from behind her counter and took a few steps onto the road. She heard a click and realized that her time in the space had come to an end.

Anthea looked in the direction Sky and Hazel went and then shook her head. She began to load her stand into her cart along with all her created items. A piece of paper slipped from her counter drawer and picked it up. Anthea found herself smiling at the name on the paper: Sky.

Anthea placed the paper into her dress pocket and then glanced at the golden flower in her grasp. She placed the golden flower in her hair and smiled with a light blush on her cheek.

Anthea whistled into the air and then a horned donkey appeared. She fastened the cart to the donkey and then took one glance at the empty corner she spent a month in.

Anthea smiled and pulled out a piece of paper from her cart. She wrote three words on that paper.

Anthea pinned the paper on the tree in the space and then rode her cart down the road to return to her village.

The following day Sky had returned with Hazel only to see an empty space and a note on a tree that held three words: Thank you Sky.

Those words were enough to drive Sky to tears of both sadness and happiness.

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