Trapped in an online world called iSync, Issa meets a thousand other players from every corner of the world, who all go by their online ID names. Struggling to survive and fighting for a way out, he meets Flower, a mysteriously smart girl. How will a human mind survive in conditions evolution hasn't prepared it for?


33. Chapter 33

The caravan had come to a stop again. Safire got off the wagon she was riding on. For a while, some members of the group had thought about separating from the NPC caravan so that they could make faster progress with their Wind Boots. But in the end, natural human laziness got the best of them and so Safire continued to ride on the wooden wagon she had become familiar with in the past few days. 

The NPC caravan Safire’s group traveled with consisted of roughly twenty wooden carts. Each cart had at least one male merchant accompanying it, with one or two horses spanned in front. 

The caravan behaved strangely like a real one. They would stop for regular breaks and feed the horses. Sometimes a cart would have a merchant’s wife and children on it. Each cart carried goods that the NPC merchant wanted to sell at the next location. Where that next location was, nobody knew. That is one the reasons why Safire’s group decided to travel with the caravan. Since merchants would naturally choose the safe routes to travel on, this was an easy way discover good travel routes and new towns. So far, following the compass direction, it seemed as if the next location would be Praya. 

Safire had made several attempts to talk to the merchants, however it seems they had been only programmed a handful lines of dialogue. Since then, Safire tried several more times to talk to merchants to see if their dialogue had been updated, but to no avail. As scary the truth might be, the merchants proved nothing to change it. The developers had stopped any contact with the iSync world. 

Wether or not there was anyone to take care of their bodies in the real world, nobody knew. 

Safire got off the cart. She decided to leave those kind of depressing thoughts behind. Thinking about it wouldn’t help her in any way. She was alive, and that was all that mattered. 

Suddenly her AirMenu opened. There was a message from the front of the caravan. 

The scouting players had just come back. 

Safire equipped her Fire Ring and ran to the front. Once there, there were several players gathered listening to the report of the Wind Boots specialists. 

“We’re approaching a small village. It’s about a day’s journey from here,” Lia reported. Lia was the fastest of them all. Once they had separated into different groups, the shy Lia managed to come forward with her talents. 

She was a short girl. With shoulder length brown hair, a flat nose and a mouth that would never go beyond a small smile for the fear of becoming the center of attention, Lia was a girl few people would notice. It was Safire who discovered Lia talent with Wind Boots. Once they had been doing combat exercises and Safire was fuming with frustration. No matter how hard they tried, they never seemed to quite reach the level of Sven’s group. In blind range Safire had fired off the largest flame blast she was capable of. What she didn’t notice was that Lia - a girl with almost no presence - was standing only a few feet away from her. Before Safire could notice that Lia was in the way, the ball of flame was already on its way. During that split second, Lia dodged sideways and managed to avoid any damage. 

It was a fruitful lesson for both of them. Safire learned the importance of controlling her anger, and Lia learned of her talent with Wind Boots. Since then Lia had trained under Safire’s supervision and become the fastest scout in the entire group. A distance that would take the caravan a whole day to travel she could travel back and forth in six hours. 

Safire planned on presenting Lia as the star player of her group to Sven. She had heard that Sven managed to developer a sniper player called Cynthia, but in her mind, Lia’s blinding speed was even more impressive. Yet, her speed would not have been the most impressive thing for those who could use the Wind Boots. If Lia traveled at such high speeds, players with Wind Boots were awed by her skill to control such speeds without tripping or running into a tree. 

“I couldn’t see any names for it, but the local inn is called Tea House,” Lia said. “I asked the innkeeper for a log book of past guests, and it seems that Issa, Quaker, Flower, Irady, Saaler and Thunder all have passed through this town.” 

“You can access that kind of information?” a player asked.

“It’s nothing special,” Lia shrugged. “All I did was ask the innkeeper. It seems that this kind of information is the part of the public records. I was just talking to the inn keeper to see if his programmed dialogue was different from the innkeepers in Queenstown, and I asked him if he knew if other players had passed through here.  Then he got out a tablet which had a list with their names on them.”

Safire stood there, listening. She felt happy. At this rate, they would be able to make it to Praya before Sven. One victory. 

“Good work,” she patted Lia on the shoulder. 




An hour after Lia made her way back to Safire’s caravan, Sven’s group arrived at the Tea House through an adjacent path. It seemed that no matter if you went through the North, East or West Gate, all the paths lead to Praya. 

This fact left nothing but a bitter aftertaste his Sven’s mouth after discussing it with Cynthia, the master long-range shooter of his group. All roads lead to Rome, Sven thought. So Praya was supposed to be the Rome of iSync? Tch. Gavin was full of himself. 

With a sigh, Sven took the final step to the top of hill and oversaw all of Tea House village. With the eyes of a developer, he analyzed the structures in front of him. 

So this is the village Gavin placed in front of his looks nothing like Intos. 

Sven made some guesses of the code formats Gavin might have used, but in the end he couldn’t make much of it. As hard as it was to admit, with the iSync toolkit, Gavin was always two steps ahead. Gavin always managed to come up with new code formats that tapped further into the imagination of the human mind, resulting in new village structures and architecture styles that Sven couldn’t even dream of. 

Clenching is teeth, Sven made his way down to the Tea House without waiting for the rest of the group. While the fact that they had gained some momentum in capturing escaped players made him happy, seeing how Gavin was above him hurt. Gavin was the one he wanted to surpass. Gavin was his goal. And now he was dead. His legacy was sealed in stone with his death. 

How ironic that his kids are stuck here too, Sven thought. 

Sven made sure that his group was at least a few minutes behind him when he reached the Tea House. He asked the innkeeper for the logbook. Automatically, the innkeeper brought out a table computer. On the screen, it asked Sven to type in his administrator password. 

This feature was one thing he kept a secret from the other players. It was perhaps the only thing remaining that set him apart from the others. At places where players could check in and safely sleep, the NPC which monitored the place would keep a record of every player ID who passes through and record it. Only the administrator had access to these records. 

Sven entered his password. For a second he feared that he wouldn’t be able to log in outside Queenstown. The screen loaded and a familiar interface popped up. He selected the document that held all the names of players who had passed through Queenstown. 

The list was blank. 


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