6. The Matter of Paying Back
When a player goes onto the forums while in-game, their avatar will act like they’re in a Body Double stall. They’d be stuck staring blankly at their surroundings, not moving a single inch at all.
As HereticKing was on his way to hand in his mission at the Mission Board, he discovered two cats, one large one small, sitting on the ground and staring up at the sky with their heads tilted. (When the tiny lucky cat found its owner ignoring it, it imitated its owner and daydreamed by his side.)
With one look, HereticKing recognised him – this was the boy he saw 2 days ago in the Newbie Village striking a silly pose with his pet.
Most players would never return to the village once they leave. There weren’t a lot of items sold there. The monsters were few and weak. Quest rewards were miniscule. There was really nothing that could entice them back.
HereticKing once accepted a hidden chain quest in that Newbie Village. After running around the whole game several times over, he finally completed this luck-based quest. He headed back to the village to hand the quest in to the NPC. Who knew that as soon as he stepped out of the portal, he’d find below a tree not far away a player who looked like a cat and a small black kitten neatly posing together and shouting something about being lucky cats and work hard at earning money.
HereticKing had laughed out loud on the spot. He had never seen a pair of owner and pet who grew so alike and so silly. But he seemed to have frightened that little newbie. When he’d finished laughing, he only saw the other’s back stumbling out of the village with ears flushed red from embarrassment.
What a coincidence that he’d meet the other again in this alley where people rarely walk through. Was this what they call fate?
He stopped, knelt before the two lucky cats and waved a hand before Bai XiaoYu’s eyes. “Out of it? Ah, so he’s looking through the forums.”
The big cat is on the forums but the little cat would surely react. Flipping through his bangle, HereticKing rejoiced that the grilled fish skewers cooked by I_Am_A_Poor_Man were still in his inventory since the last time he’d teamed up with the other to defeat a field boss.
He took the skewer out and waved it in front of the tiny lucky cat. With it he saw a kitten that was lifelessly staring at the sky turned into a imperious tiger (cat?) who’d eaten a stimulant. The kitten instantly pounced on the fish skewer and began munching at it.
HereticKing’s mouth twitched upwards. What an…interesting little cat. He might’ve even seen the kitten’s eyes turning into fish shapes as it pounced over as though it’d been starved for a few lifetimes. It couldn’t be the big cat forgot to feed the little cat, could it? He looked doubtfully at Bai XiaoYu but found the latter still in a daze.
After he’d finished feeding the little cat, HereticKing stood up, patted away some non-existent dust and prepared to head to the Mission Board. Once this mission was completed, his reputation should be enough to upgrade the guild. Tsk, he really can’t stand the nagging of both I_Am_A_Poor_Man and Shooting_Chang’e_From_Below_The_Moon. This was the one issue with being a guild leader. He had one additional stat compared to others – Prestige. It’s one of the markers for levelling up a guild.
Rather than Prestige missions, kill 100 of this low-level monster and 300 of that low-level monster, HereticKing preferred the challenging and difficult missions or bosses. However, the guild members’ contributions, buildings, finances etc had all reached the requirements for upgrading. It’s only the guild leader’s Prestige that was lacking. Hence, he could only force through it.
“Meow~~” He’d just taken one step when he heard the little black cat cry out from behind.
Curious, he looked down and was met with the black kitten’s sparkling big eyes.
1 second…2 seconds…1 minute…2 minutes.
Okay. He admitted it. He’s defeated. That pair of wide eyes filled with hope and yearning made one unable to ignore it. But he had no more fish skewers left.
“I’ll give you 1 gold coin. Ask your owner to buy some fish for you.” A newbie probably would not have the funds to buy good pet food for the little cat. Look at how he’d starved this little cat. If it wasn’t for the game’s restriction that pets cannot be more than 100 meters away from their owners, this kitten would’ve walked away by itself. He fished out a gold coin from his bangle.
“Mrrow~!” $v$. Staring down at the black kitten’s two eyes that’d turned into coins, HereticKing’s hand stuttered. The coin fell, bounced and rolled on the floor.
“Meow!” TinyLuckyCat’s movements were fast. It swiftly pounced on that gold coin and swept it into its grasp where the coin then disappeared.
Once again, HereticKing’s lips twitched a few times. What kind of pet cat is this? Gluttonous and money-loving. As he saw the little black cat raised its shimmering wide eyes at him again, he quickly looked away. Using his high dexterity, he left the alley. If he’d continue looking at those eyes, he can’t be certain he won’t pour out everything in his bangle.
When Bai XiaoYu left the forums and returned to the game, he saw the tiny lucky cat sitting in front of him with its tiny cat face held high – it’s smiling.
Strange. Before, when the tiny lucky cat got hungry, it’d act all pitiful with its big eyes blinking at him. Could it have been starved until it went crazy?
Pulling up the Pet tab, the tiny lucky cat’s Hunger was at 5/100. Bai XiaoYu was even more suspicious. If he remembered correctly, he’d specifically checked on its Hunger value before going onto the forums for fear it’d get hungry. It was also this number then. How could it not have changed the slightest after 2 hours of him reading forum posts? When did it become so good at resisting hunger? Even his own Hunger value has gone up by 20.
He opened up its Inventory. Bai XiaoYu thought back to before. Flower sprites shouldn’t drop anything edible. It was all just a pile of flower pollen, branches, roots and what not.
“Eeeeeh?!” The number of items in the Pet Inventory was the same as before but the money counter below suddenly displayed 1 gold 3 silver 22 copper.
When did he have a gold coin? Could the tiny lucky cat have produced a gold coin by itself? But nothing in its skills said so…
XiaoYu looked at the kitten in shock. It was still smiling very happily. Could it be inviting him to praise it?
Subconsciously, he glanced down at his System notifications. In such a strange situation, there should be some indication.
“Player HereticKing has fed your pet grilled fish skewers. Hunger -20.”
“Your pet picked up 1 gold coin which was dropped by Player HereticKing.”
“Little cat!” He was angry. It’s okay if it’d just eaten other players’ food. The tiny lucky cat was really cute. It’s perfectly normal for people passing by to use some food to play with it. But how could it pick up money dropped by other people? Perhaps that player didn’t even know they’d dropped a gold coin or they might be looking everywhere for it! One should not be too greedy. It should’ve frantically pawed at him and ask him to give the coin back as soon as it saw him return to the game! (He did not even think why money would be randomly dropped. Storage spaces do not have holes =.=)
“Meow…” The tiny cat tilted its head. The owner didn’t seem happy.
“I’m going to return the money to him.” When he saw the cat lower its head, XiaoYu thought it was reflecting on its behaviour. His heart softened and gently patted its head. After all, one cannot ask the tiny lucky cat to act as a human would. He was a little too harsh just then.
He summoned the private message channel. In the name text box he entered “HereticKing”, and began typing. Because they weren’t friends, he could not use voice chat.
“Ding.” HereticKing, who’d been consoling himself in the game’s cafe after upgrading the guild, heard the chime for private messages and chose to display it.
“From LuckyCat: Good day, Mr HereticKing. Thank you for taking care of my pet cat.”
“Pfft~” He’d nearly wasted a cup of coffee. So that boy’s name was LuckyCat. Thinking back on that feline face and that money-loving greedy pet cat, this name really suited him.
“You’re welcome.” He’s in a good mood so took this rare opportunity to reply to a stranger’s message.
“Mr HereticKing, may I know where you are? My pet cat picked up a gold coin you had dropped. I would like to return it.”
“HereticKing. Also, don’t use formal language.” It’s annoying enough to hear formal language everywhere he went in reality. But was this child too polite and well-mannered or just used to interacting with others at a distance?
Bai XiaoYu’s typing fingers paused. He wasn’t good at interacting with strangers in the first place. So he would either avoid them or be very respectful. So the other person disliked formal language. Did that mean the reason he couldn’t make friends before was his overly-respectful manner which made everyone avoid him?
“Then can you tell me your coordinates?”
“There’s no need to return it.” It’s just a gold coin. Even 1 crystal was a small number to HereticKing. To this new player, 1 gold coin was probably a lot of money.
“…” XiaoYu didn’t know what to say anymore. Indeed, to an old player 1 gold coin was not worth much. Most items on the market used gold, or even crystals, as standard currency, not to mention the prices of some rare items would have who knew how many 0s when counted in gold coins.
But it wasn’t his. All the same, XiaoYu still felt a little awkward. Even though the other said he didn’t need to return the money, it could also be because the other didn’t want to reveal their coordinates just for a little bit of money. Every person has a right to privacy.
After some consideration, XiaoYu decided to mail it. He already knew the other’s name. He could mail it to the other person, though there’s a possibility they’d reject it.
However, one letter required 5 silver. XiaoYu was depressed for a moment. A new player really can’t use anything. Time to earn some more cash.
He changed his original direction and headed east of Prole. He’d first kill some lizards.
Lizards are about the same level as flower sprites but they are larger than the little cat. So it’s up to him alone to slowly poke and grind away at them.
As he attacked, he pulled up the Pet tab. He’d thought of a question.
As expected, the money acquired from HereticKing didn’t count in the tiny cat’s experience. Otherwise he could just find a friend to easily level up the tiny cat. Friend throws money -> Tiny cat collects money -> Return money to friend -> Friend throws again -> ad infinitum.
Probably only money obtained from corpses would count as experience. The game is such a trickster. While XiaoYu looked at the game in contempt for a few seconds, he still ended up rejoicing this bug he’d imagined was not viable. Otherwise, he’d be unable to resist messaging the GM to report about the bug.
Poke and rest. Poke and rest. After 3 hours of poking and resting, he’d finally killed 100 lizards. He glanced at the sky and decided to find the cheapest inn for the night before killing flower sprites the next day.
He moved everything in TinyLuckyCat’s inventory to the storage box, then took out 10 silver coins. He bought a Return Scroll, mailed 1 gold coin to HereticKing, repaired his equipment and bought the cheapest potions and food there were. In the end, he had 1 silver left – just enough to get through the night.
Once all was done, Bai XiaoYu peacefully slept in the inn’s simplest wooden bed. Just before he sunk deep into slumber, the last thought to pass through his head was: It seemed like he’d use up all his money every single day. How long would it be before there’s excess?