Chapter 1: Fortunate Imprisonment

SEA server is made up of various islands covering the countries of Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam among others. Much of the areas remain unexplored due to the dense forests, mountainous regions and the deep sea making the known spots inhabited by the majority of adventurers.

The culture of SEA server in Elder Tale is one of constant warfare in which only the strong survives due to the small explored areas but the abundance of players (around 300,000). Guilds are always competing to outdo each other both in raids and in the arena. PK is not unusual in these parts due to competition over valued spots. Even rising to the top of the rankings is a feat in itself. Recruitment in guilds gets pretty cutthroat due to the ideal of "quantity over quality". But there are guilds that do the opposite.

{Metzger}, a small guild consisting of 70 members. Led by their guild master {Khergan}, they are a relatively unknown guild in the SEA Server except to the upper echelons of the top guilds. Originally created as a guild for his real-life friends, it grew into a hub of strong adventurers. All the members in the guild with the exception of the founding members were hand-picked by {Khergan}. All were strong, all were trustworthy, eventually, all became friends. The small guild formed into a cohesive unit capable of challenging Legion-Scale raids with just their members. This guild was silently disbanded due to their commitments outside of the game.

With the dawn of the new patch {Novasphere Pioneers}, they eventually contacted each other to try it out and challenge the new things. Then the {Catastrophe} occurred.

May 3, 2018, 6:00 am (Manila) - Patch Day

Waking up in a ruined building was not something he had in mind. Taking a look around his surroundings, he came up to a possible conclusion.

(I must be dreaming. But it feels too real to be a dream. Must have been the alcohol taking effect on me)

Then he stood and walked. Noticing his garb, he is wearing his equipment from Elder Tale.

(Wait a sec, is this really a dream?)

Finding a puddle of water, he rushed towards it and peered at his reflection. The guy you would expect wearing glasses actually does in-game. Tall, dark wavy hair, medium-built with ceremonial tattoo's (from his racial traits) and a laid-back, no-nonsense attitude with a wide knowledge of the game.

(Okay, so I look like my in-game character, that must mean I could do this).

Suddenly the in-game menu popped up with varying options. The information popped up as follows:

Name: Aerix

Level: 90

Race: Race of Ceremony

Class: Cleric

Subclass: Field Medic

Guild: None

(Interesting. If this is truly happening, those guys must be having a blast right now)

But he needed to make sure that this was real.

(If this was a dream, a log-out button would be present and I would wake up).

But there was none.

(Was this a nightmare?)

It did not look like a nightmare since no twists have come up.

(Might as well check out the situation)

Several hours of pondering the situation inside turned fruitless. Logic ruling out doubt, he went outside of the building to confirm some questions in his head. As he went outside, dozens of people were wandering around probably feeling the same doubts as he did. Surveying the environment, he realized where he is.

"Shit. I'm at the expressway going to Manila."

On the other end, he noticed some people making a scene. Mostly ones that are lamenting their fate of being stuck in a game. For some it would be hell. For "them", it's the culmination of their dreams.

*sigh* (I should head to the capital to get more information, I won't get anywhere with these people)

Checking out his inventory, he looked around for a peculiar item to speed up his travel.

(Ah, there it is)

Taking out a small dragon shaped flute and some raw meat, he summoned his "ride" to the capital.

(Hopefully no one notices this)

After a few moments, a young, gray dragon descended on his location. This is the mount {Gray Dragon Hatchling}, a Legion Raid-Class reward from completing the quest "Defense of the Walled City". Although just a hatchling, these elusive creatures can easily carry the weight of a fully equipped adventurer and can fly at considerable speeds. The fully-grown gray dragons are ranked the fastest of all mounts but has the lowest attack power. Special care must be given so that the hatchlings grow at a faster rate.

This rare item would give away his identity but luckily no one was around when he used it.

(Have to steer clear of crowded areas and land in a secluded place)

Feeding the piece of meat to his dragon before taking off, he mounted it and rushed off to the capital. The view from the sky while riding was one of the more interesting parts of the day. The rush of wind in your hair, the feeling of riding a living creature. Summing it up in a word: Awesome.

(The city sure looks different. That's to be expected in this game)

Manila, the capital of the Philippine Region in the server. Home to over 40,000 adventurers alone, this city is one of the busiest places to be in. Here the largest guilds converge and hold their so-called diplomacy that always hides their strong-armed tactics to coerce other factions to have it their way. Here lies the trade route that is connected to the rest of the major cities in SEA. To control this city would centralize a power base on the server.

Within two hours of flying, he found a safe spot to land and dismissed his mount.

(The marketplace seems like a good place to start)

Back when it was a game, the Manila marketplace was the heart of commerce in the Philippine region. Merchant NPC's and Players alike sold their wares to make profits. From crafting ingredients to Phantasmal-Class Items, you can find it all here. It also included an underground market wherein dealings of "paid PK" and "information brokering" are found.

(Might as well head down "there" to my stall)

The underground market was the place where he made his fortune selling information on raids his old group has already done with the means to accomplish it safely as well as information on farming spots for certain rare crafting items. There were the usual customers of the big guilds and some of the up-and-coming guilds but he never played favorites and always gave the information to whoever pays.

(This place hasn't changed a bit since I was gone).

In the underground, he is known as {Shadow}, a famous broker due to his accurate information as well as his not-too-steep prices that only opens his stall at random times. People would line-up at his stall for days just to get the information they need. If the patrons found out his true identity, he would be openly sought out as well as hunted down. He knows very well the power of information and uses it to his advantage in any way possible. Only "they" know that {Aerix} and {Shadow} are one and the same person as "they" were the ones that suggested that he should sell information for their guild funds.

On the underground market, stalls are on a room basis with only a thin divider separating two parties save for a handhole used for handing gold. You cannot see the buyer nor the seller making this an anonymous transaction. There will be the risk of getting scammed but it all comes with dealing incognito. But among them, there will be few that people would trust.

{Aerix} entered his old stall and turned into the persona of {Shadow}. After a few minutes of waiting. Someone entered his stall and took a seat.

"It's been a while since you opened shop Shadow. I figured you might have something I need"

A deep voice came from the small opening. Aerix does not know the identity of the client since the game has built-in a "voice modulator" to mask the actual voice of one in the underground. Since the client came for business, he should not refuse.

"Do you want to buy or trade information?"

This was his generic reply to all that came into his stall.

"Trade it is then."

Answered the unfamiliar voice. As this is a trade, the dealer requests first.

"Answer my question: What's the overall situation in Manila?"

"It has been a period of uneasiness since the adventurers have been trapped in the game. Resources on shops such as raw fruits and vegetables have been depleted due to the discovery of tasteless crafted food earlier in the day. PK does not occur during this time since people are wary that the effects might be permanent. The large guilds have been organizing themselves to gather some information whilst bolstering their manpower in order to prepare themselves for any events."

"Sounds like they are panicking"

"They are, but the guild leaders do not show it since morale is already low enough as it is."

The first part has been completed. Now comes the trading terms of the dealer.

"A fair answer. What information to you request in return? Anything except my identity and background is forbidden. "

The latter statement is a standard in the underground. Secrecy is invaluable.

"Where is a suitable location for gathering fresh fruit?"

"Take a three-hour ride south-west, there is an abandoned farm with resources enough to supply a medium-sized guild for at least a week. That might help."

Thus ends that transaction.

"Thank you. A pleasure doing business."

"Likewise."(Good thing I saw that area when I was going to the capital, but the information I got was much more valuable).

Exiting the underground market after his dealings, Aerix confirmed that they were indeed stuck in {Elder Tale}. Now that the problem is clear, he needed to find some people to travel with to try and sort out this mess.

(I wonder who among them was around when this happened)

Peering into his friend list, he saw a lot of names available but chose to go to the closest ones.

(Those guys don't even look at their list. I can't wait to see the looks on their faces)

With a slight grin, he pushed towards the outskirts.