August 4, 2019
Shen woke late the next morning after spending most of the night studying Laaysa’s research on Aurora’s Blessing. He yawned and stretched his arms outward until they hit the walls of the capsule.
It had been his fifth night at the capsule hostel and now he was nearly used to living there. His capsule was large enough to sit in but not to stand in. It could comfortably fit one person to sleep in, but not two.
There were plenty of sockets, including a terabit ethernet connection that was included in the monthly rent. He kept his DR SenseDrive and console in the capsule, but the rest of his items were kept in a personal cubby down the hall.
The bathrooms and kitchen of the hostel were shared, but the residents seemed friendly enough, or at least they minded their own business and did not bother him. For the most part, the experience was fine. He had less room than before, but at least he could run DR games at any time of the day with a strong connection.
Shen rose and brushed his teeth and showered. Then he returned to his capsule and looked over Laaysa’s research again. It was a comprehensive outline of the game, its mechanics, and its world. He now understood the basics and had an idea of how to tackle the early game. There were some areas of knowledge that were missing from what Laaysa had gathered, but these, according to Laaysa, Shen would pick up naturally as he played.
He opened his phone and stared at it. He wasn’t looking forward to what he’d have to do next.
He had to message Tif.
There were over a hundred text messages from his former guildmate that Shen had not yet read. He took a breath to prepare himself for the bombardment of Tif’s personality.
Then he let out the breath.
He wasn’t actually put off by Tif. He’d gotten to enjoy his presence in the guild over the past two years. He was guilty that he had not once responded to Tif’s messages. Unlike Laasya, who Shen knew would understand why he needed his space, Tif and Shen were not as close.
However, Tif had looked up to Shen.
Tif joined Capricorn two years prior because of Shen. Shen knew this because Tif had cornered Shen—that is to say, Chryses, in the Capricorn guildhall and confessed his admiration for the guildmaster shortly after joining.
Tif had also chosen the berserker class and for the first six months, tried to copy Chryses in everything he did, from appearance to character builds. The problem was Tif wasn’t a very good berserker.
Later Chryses learned that Tif had always played casters or other ranged types and never got the hang of the sword, let alone the broad sword which was an unwieldy and uncommon weapon in the game.
Because of this, Tif did not rank high enough to raid dungeons or go on PVP matches with the premier group of the guild, which Shen led. So despite following Chryses around whenever possible, Tif was left out when it came time for any real fight.
After several months, Tif gave up on becoming a berserker and chose to become a hunter instead. He cornered Chryses again in the guildhall using his new level one character with a wide, eager smile on his boyish face.
“Master! Wait up! Master, it’s me!”
“Oh… uh hey Tif… listen I gotta-“
“I’m a hunter!”
“Uh yes I see that,” Chryses said eying the hunter’s bow in the young man’s hand. “No longer berserkering huh?” Shen said with relief.
“Oh yeah, berserker’s are amazing, but I just don’t have the hang of it like you do. But just you wait. I’ll be in A-Circle in no time with my hunter. Then we’ll be playing together every day!”
“Ohh-kay, looking forward to it Tif, now if you’ll excuse me,” Shen said quickly, trying to escape the young man.
“What’s my reward?”
“Sorry?” Chryses said, turning back.
“What’s my reward when I make it to the A-Circle? I heard if you make it to the top party in the guild you get a reward.”
“Oh, yes that’s true… you get a monthly gold stipend and a choice of any item from the guild vault.”
“Can have your mobile contact card instead?”
“What?” Chryses said, taken aback.
“Your contact card—in real life. If I get to the inner circle with my hunter, I’d like to have your contact card. It would be my greatest honor, Master!”
Chyses wanted to say no, but Tif’s avatar, a 16-ish youth with big cartoonish eyes looked like he was about to cry. After a long moment, he nodded with a sigh.
Tif jumped up with joy, bouncing around the hall, only stopping to tell the guildmaster’s promise to whoever passed by while receiving the annoyed looks of other guild members. Most of which probably also wished to have known the guildmaster on a first name basis but did not have the guts to just go up and talk to Chryses on a whim.
In those early days, Tif was known as “Chryses’s Stalker”. Though no one was malicious or mean about it. That was partly because Capricorn was not that kind of guild. Players were kind and helpful to each other and those that weren’t didn’t last very long.
The other reason was despite Tif’s somewhat annoying sycophant personality towards Chryses, he was also a diehard and loyal guildmember.
Chryses was no pushover when it came to his duties as a guildmaster, but for whatever reason, he had the hardest time saying no to Tif. This was most likely because he just didn’t want to let the young man down.
In any case, he figured that it wouldn’t matter too much to agree to Tif’s request because reaching the A-Circle, the most prestigious raid party of the guild was nearly impossible. Not only would Tif have to reach level 300, but he’d also have to surpass many of the top players in the guild—and the A-Circle of Capricorn weren’t just the best players in the guild, they consisted of some of the best players in the game.
Despite this train of logic, three months later, Tif had managed to beat out another player in the circle with his level 300 hunter and received Shen’s contact card.
From then on, Tif proved to be a very capable player in the guild. And in the end, when players began leaving in droves and the guild was down to less than a thousand members, there was no more loyal or active a player than Tif.
Shen sighed again looking down at his phone. Remembering how Tif had always been at his side, willing to take on any mission, willing to help him with all his projects to keep the guild alive, he felt sorry that he had ignored Tif for so long.
He opened his phone and began to read the messages.