Single Player Only - Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Tan Xiong, the Blacksmith's Strength
As a single player game enthusiast, there was a slight difference between Yue Qiang's gaming attitude and casual, entertainment seeking gamers. This difference was expressed by the amount of effort spent on playing a game.
Normally, Yue Qiang would explore every available channel such as guides, forums, official websites and more to understand the novelty of a new game. But, this game, with its dubious installation and startup method had rendered the traditional way of acquiring game info almost completely useless. Even the thread he posted earlier on the forum was made without high expectations.
As of now, the only way to understand the game was to go through its plot, or more specifically by talking with the NPCs and inferring from its GUI (Graphical User Interface). This raised a problem:
There is a severe lack of information.
After a period of understanding, Yue Qiang came to realize that this game's NPCs were designed with great thought put behind them. For example, Chen Zi Han would hand out the basic chapter of 'Gui Gu Mathematics' after repeated dialoguing. On the other hand, the dialoguing with the blacksmith Tan Xiong was carried out through eye glances with hints provided by the system. Even talking with the proprietress of an ice seller would trigger an option box.
At the same time, Yue Qiang noticed that this beautiful ice selling proprietress had a pretty interesting surname - Gong Shu. Did you know? An incredibly famous figure was born with this surname during the Warring States Period. His name was Gong Shu Ban, also known by his descendants as the Founder of Carpentry, Lu Ban. In many games, Lu Ban was also known as the father of mechanical contraptions.
Yue Qiang had a suspicion that everyone he had come in contact thus far were probably all 'plot characters'.
It was hard to imagine that interactions with plot characters in this ridiculously suspicious game would follow the same old fixed dialogue system.
Click Avatar - Talk to NPC - The MC says something - the NPC says something - A quest is sent out - A quest is completed - the NPC gifts you the rewards.
Would it really be logical to assume that the traditional flow of a single player RPG would apply to this game? Could there be a hidden, deeper way of interaction?
Combining the above with Yue Qiang's own need to discover more info urgently, he realized that the solution should fall onto the dialogue mode with NPCs.
In other words, there must be a mode of sorts that could be activated.
As for the process for activating it, the system had already given out a hint before. Namely: Not following the normal process, or in other words, completing the hidden mini quests.
So, how exactly should he not follow the normal process? When Yue Qiang first interacted with the teacher Chen Zi Han, he had accidentally used the item 'A chair' and placed it beneath Chen Zi Han, and this action indirectly caused the latter hidden conversation to be activated. It was also why he kept a watchful eye on the blacksmith Tan Xiong's status when he interacted with his second NPC.
This status he was mentioning was neither stats nor skills, but the game itself giving him a 'Sweaty' attribute through the use of graphics.
Just like how he dealt with teacher Chen Zi Han's 'Haughty' attribute by pulling him a chair and fulfilling his vanity, the blacksmith Tan Xiong's 'Sweaty' attribute too could very well be a hint stating that by helping and solving the blacksmith's problem of 'sweating under hot weather', he would be able to win his favorability.
More importantly, this must be a hidden quest. No matter how trivial it might appear to be, it was still a hidden quest. Yue Qiang knew deep inside that the secret reward of a secret quest could not possibly be this simple.
Therefore, when he saw that slightly unexpected system message 'Dialogue System Activated', he finally felt a tiny sense of accomplishment.
As I thought, this game does need to be played with brains.
He wasn't particularly in a hurry to talk with the blacksmith Tan Xiong, so he might as well check out first how to use this 'Dialogue System'.
He looked around the GUI briefly, but could not find any prompts for this 'Dialogue System'. Yue Qiang thought to himself. Could it be...
He attempted a mouse click on the blacksmith Tan Xiong, and a dialogue box popped into the screen.
The dialog box was empty.
There was also a cursor inside the box.
After seeing this, Yue Qiang was finally certain that his assumptions were correct. This so-called 'Dialogue System' was, in fact, the ability to freely converse with the NPCs through typing.
The significance of this system was huge. If his favorability was high enough, then through a single NPC alone he would be able to acquire through askance a huge amount of information about the game's world.
More importantly, with this free typing method he would be able to use conversational skills from real life!
No matter how bizarre this game might be, in the end, it was just a game. No matter how smart an NPC was, they were still just an NPC.
Arriving at the thought, Yue Qiang began typing inside the dialog box: ’’I see that Big Brother Tan Xiong is not only a strong man with wide shoulders and a round waist;but also a humble person who hides his essence and true strength within. This kid had admired you for a long time, and today's display left me especially impressed.’’
Yue Qiang typed as he thought: Let's throw in some 'priceless' compliments and see how the NPC reacts.
’’If you have business then we'll talk business. Otherwise, you can save the bullshit.’’
Yue Qiang's attempts to butter up the NPC was met with a brick wall, but he wasn't discouraged in the slightest and continued typing, ’’This kid would like to learn a skill, and I wonder if Big Brother Tan Xiong would grant me this honor?’’
He finished the sentence, but quickly felt that something wasn't quite right, so he changed the word ’’Skill’’ to ’’Dharma’’ before finally tapping 'Enter' and sent out the message.
He pondered words and formed sentences to talk to the NPC while he reflected on the benefits of this dialogue system.
Originally he was going to wrack his brain for a way to trigger the hidden quest to learn the blacksmith's skill. Now he didn't have to. As long as he put a little heart into typing the right words, there's practically every chance in the world to learn a skill, and who knows, maybe he could even get a combat skill. Maybe he didn't even need to pay a price. This dialogue system sure saved him a massive amount of time and energy alright.
Yue Qiang typed out the sentence and waited for the other party to reply. He saw the blacksmith Tan Xiong humph coldly and said, ’’We are on the eve of our country's demise, and only now young master had thought of killing the enemy in battle. Don't you think it's too late?’’
Yue Qiang typed: ’’It is never too late to sacrifice for one's country.’’
The blacksmith Tan Xiong humph coldly again, ’’Your constitution really is too poor. I'm afraid you can't learn my body strengthening dharma.’’
When Yue Qiang saw the reply, he instead became excited. After entering the game for such a long time, this was the first time had a proper discussion with an NPC about skills. They might be using some obscure words like 'body strengthening dharma', but the meaning was nearly the same.
Yue Qiang typed: ’’In that case, may I ask Big Brother Tan Xiong to know exactly how much stats, excuse me, what level of constitution do I need to achieve, to be able to learn a combat skill?’’
’’A frail and sick puppy like you wants to learn combat skills? What a lazy toad you are lusting after a swan's flesh.
Yue Qiang felt helpless. Even a blacksmith in the starting area would dare to mock him repeatedly. Either he did not have enough Charisma or the game's difficulty was just outright crazy, and since the system had clearly stated that his Charisma points had reached its limit there was no doubt that the latter possibility was very real. At this point, he began, to sum up his thoughts. Since this game was made so realistically, it's probable the variety of skills should not exceed the realm of reality by too much. Why not take a look at the blacksmith's Tan Xiong strength, who seemed to have some history of his own?
As soon as he arrived at the thought, Yue Qiang typed: ’’I wonder if Big Brother Tan can show off to this kid a thing or two?’’
The blacksmith Tan Xiong said: ’’You wanna know my true strength? Sure.’’
He lifted the hammer to the air with that taut and muscular arm of his but did not swing it about in a show of techniques. Instead, he tossed the huge hammer gently and sent it flying right towards Yue Qiang's direction until it landed heavily at his feet. When the hammer slammed onto the ground, a cloud of dust rose and covered Yue Qiang's view, and even his screen had shuddered slightly in response.
What terrifying weight!
’’You can try out my hammer first.’’ Tan Xiong said.
Yue Qiang made his character crouch and attempted to lift the hammer.
System Message: You do not have enough Strength, and are unable to lift the hammer.
It was as he expected. Before he could type anything in reply the burly blacksmith had already picked up the hammer with ease, and with his other hand he grabbed over a red hot iron and began tapping it with his hammer. In less than a minute, when Yue Qiang took another look at the somewhat reddish iron he was shocked to discover that it had transformed into a delicate iron flower.
It was so lifelike that it was almost real.
If you ignore the color and materials, it would appear as if it was grown naturally. Yue Qiang purposefully turned the mouse wheel to zoom in for a better look, and under a high resolution the iron flower remained as flawless as ever, and not a single blemish could be found.
At this point, Yue Qiang had come up with a rough estimate in his heart. It was very possible that, other than a powerful strength stat, this blacksmith Tan Xiong must have a skill that was similar to the Accuracy stat, and at a pretty high level too.
’’I wonder, how long would it take this kid to train until he reached Big Brother Tan's stats, excuse me, this level of strength and control? Is there any way to speed up this process?’’
The way Yue Qiang spoke caused Tan Xiong to make an angry expression immediately, ’’There are no shortcuts on the path of martial arts! If you haven't trained for eight or ten years then don't even think about it!’’
He then said, ’’Not to mention that three months later, our country will soon perish. Even if you did somehow train to my level in just three months, what's the point?’’
The strong and burly Tan Xiong seemed to hide within his chest a million words that he could not help but spill, ’’To wrought iron ornaments is just an insignificant skill. Do you want to know what my real ability is?’’
Tan Xiong said as he rolled up his left sleeve.
Yue Qiang hurriedly adjusted his screen to take a closer look. He was quite a distance away and wasn't paying his full attention earlier, but now that he examined closely, he realized that the blacksmith Tan Xiong's left arm was actually made out of wood! The texture was exquisite and a diverse variety of joints actually made it work in no way less than a human arm. Now that he thought about it, when he grabbed that red hot iron with his bare hands, he was also using this wooden arm.
’’Out of my entire body, the greatest weapon I have is actually this prosthetic wooden limb. This was made by that lassie from the Gong Shu family after I lost my arm during the war years ago. With this arm, my combat capability had actually improved a step further, and now I'm at the point where I barely surpassed the limits of a normal human's strength.
’’But so what?’’ The blacksmith Tan Xiong's tone seemed to imply that he was recalling the countless tragedies of the past, ’’Even with this arm I am still completely helpless! Ai, three months later, the country will no longer be a country, so there's no point in talking about these things. Young master, you should just keep being the scholar you are and enjoy another three months of peace.’’
The moment he finished, as if wrought in great sadness, he actually stopped smithing, the blacksmith walked back into his home and locked the door.
Yue Qiang never thought that he would acquire so much information from the blacksmith Tan Xiong right after the Dialogue System was activated.
Even more surprising was that the blacksmith didn't stay at his original location after saying his part. In a single player game, the situation where you were unable to continue dialoguing any further meant that the main scenario had begun.
According to the information derived from the conversation just now, ’’Three months later, the country will no longer be a country’’ most likely meant that this village was about to face a huge crisis in the future. Even after accounting for his added strength after the lassie from Gong Shu family made him his prosthetic limb, there was no chance that the blacksmith Tan Xiong would be strong enough to defend against this crisis.
He didn't know who the enemy was, but from the way Tan Xiong described it, ’’Completely helpless’’, it meant that their strength was above even Tan Xiong's.
At the same time he also noticed a very important point and that was the way to increase stats in this game:
There are no shortcuts on the path of martial arts!
If you haven't trained for eight or ten years at least then don't even think about it!
If it was any other game Yue Qiang would never have given two shits about these lines because he probably didn't need to look far before an NPC would obediently pass over some peerless martial technique right into his hands. But judging from the game's level of realism and how insufferable it was to complete the two hidden quests before, to practice martial arts - that is to increase his stats most probably would consume a huge amount of time. At the very least, there was no way to quickly improve his strength within the mentioned three months.
What should I do?
Is it really impossible to level up in this game?
Yue Qiang did not give up. The blacksmith Tan Xiong had returned to his smithy and locked the door, and was in a 'could not be talked to at the moment state'. So he began making rounds within the tiny village and at the same time typed very carefully when he conversed with the village's NPCs. He didn't dare to let his guard down when using the Dialogue System, and his attitude was either slightly cautious or even flattering when he typed.
It wasn't a joke. This game was so realistic that who knows if these NPCs are just lines of codes or some other incomprehensible things?
After making one round after another and chatting cautiously with over 20 NPCs, Yue Qiang realized that every NPC shared the same pessimistic note when they talked. It was as if all of them had taken a 'do one's level best and leave the rest to God's will' attitude towards this certain event three months later.
It seemed that this village's eventual demise should be the main scenario. In that case, would altering the scenario and saving the village be the incredibly obvious hidden quest?
Also, how the heck should he level up in this game?
The reason Yue was so concerned about the way to level up in this game wasn't simply because wanted to complete the game's quest. The other more important reason was, of course, him recalling the 8 free distribution stat points during the character creation screen, and the series of changes that followed after he used those points.
Leveling up in almost any game meant the all-around increase in stats, and in this game increasing stats had this extra layer of meaning in real life.
Yue Qiang moved his character back into the house at the beginning of the game and began to ponder deeply.
Suddenly, he had an idea.
’’If my thoughts are correct, then leveling up in this game may need to be realized outside the game.’’ Yue Qiang muttered to himself.