Paradigm

4: The Solo Dungeon (Part 1)

Another day, another grind.

Three Qrells is not too shabby though. My [TRAPPING] skill levelled up. Although, since I don have the requirements to do the [HUNTER TITLE QUEST], there are quite a lot of limitations to what I can do.

To quote what I read from the Paradigm Help Entries, a Title is ”A specialisation in a Users Class ” and ”the completion of Titles also provides the user with a significant stat boost ”. I read a lot of those entries over the years.

Every time I took a look at the requirements, it seemed like I should be able to get a Title Quest given to me by the system. Yet, every time I try, it comes up with the same message:

[WARNING! USER HAS FAILED THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR A TITLE QUEST]

I don know for sure, but I think it has something to do with my left arm. The Nerve Degradation came from the fact that the healing mage could not completely fix my arm. It wasn their fault, obviously, but the damage was so severe that it was a small miracle in itself that he was able to connect any of the severed nerve endings at all.

Since the Nerve Degradation means that Im unable to do any heavy manual labour or risk losing my whole arm again, there are practically no jobs or Titles for me to work towards.

The Paradigm System often tends to leave those with debilitating disabilities behind, and it seems that for all intents and purposes, I am included in that category.

I do, however, get Daily Quests from Paradigm. Although these quests are far from desirable especially if you want to get stronger. For me, they are all about my hunt for food.

I swiped to take a look at the Quests Window after I tied the last of my catches onto my hunting belt.

[DAILY QUESTS COMPLETED (1/3)

-Hunt 3 Qrells. (3/3)

-Hunt an Alk. (0/1)

-Hunt a Goron. (0/1)]

I scratched my head. The three daily quests I get are always the same, and they always give out the same rewards. EXP for my [HUNTING] skill and if I get to complete all three, I get 50 gold coins. Which would be amazing, if my left arm wasn as screwed up as it is. If I can hunt an Alk, then how am I supposed to hunt something as dangerous as a Goron?

Since checking the traps today had been quicker than usual, I decided to take a stroll through the forest. Careful enough not to go too far into Goron territory, and away from the town, but a little bit farther into the forest than Ive ever been. Im eighteen now. I should man up a little bit.

Just before I closed the Quests Window in disappointment, a notification came up and I realised that I had gotten a brand-new quest notification.

I froze. This has never happened to me before. Paradigm is finally giving me a quest? What kind of quest is it? I thought I was exempt from any type of quest?

With my heart racing so fast, I could feel the bile coming up my throat, I opened the notification and was greeted with the message:

[USER HAS RECEIVED A NEW QUEST.

OPEN THE QUEST?]

[YES] [NO]

With a little bit of trepidation, I reached out and pressed the YES option and a new window popped up in front of me that kind of scared me.

[USER HAS RECEIVED A NEW QUEST]

[Q̸̢̀̀U̷̺̞̎̍E̵̪̽S̷͚̿̚T̴̨̡̚͠:̴͖͆̆ ̶̬̳͘Ṡ̴̙͍O̵̰̾̈́L̷̢̜̐O̷̡̿ ̶̘̫̂͘D̵̝̏͝U̵͖͑N̸̞͍̅G̵̡̘̑͐Ĕ̸͇̤O̴̰̪̊͂Ń̵͙̝ – HIDDEN TOMB]

[A HIDDEN TOMB FILLED WITH DANGERS IS NEARBY. EXPLORE THE HIDDEN TOMB ENTIRELY TO COMPLETE THE QUEST. THE HIDDEN TOMB IS A Š̶̤̈́O̴͔̐L̷̞̍O̷̗̰͑ ̴̛̮͖͊Ḑ̷͚͌̋Ư̴̺͖̆Ñ̴̢̻̍Ǧ̷̢̜͠E̶̻̩͝Ö̴̲̮́N̴̳͝. ONLY ONE USER MAY ENTER THE D̶̻̫̊̐Ṳ̴͆́N̷̜̤̾͛Ǵ̴̨̙̇È̶̥̽O̴̺͗̍Ǹ̸̅ ONCE THE RIGHT PRE-REQUISITES HAVE BEEN FULFILLED]

[REWARD(S)]

[- 2OO GOLD COINS

– 20 STAT POINTS

– L̵͙͌Ḙ̸̄G̸͓͂E̶͎͑N̶̞̈́D̸̞̎A̵͍̚R̷͚̿Y̶͍͂ ̷̛͚Ì̵̞T̴͇̚E̵̩̅M̴̝̏]

It took me a little bit to register the message properly. I had never seen or heard a lot of the information that the message said, and the fact that the system said nothing about the glitched text just creeped me out a little bit, so it was safe to say that I had a lot of things go through my mind seemingly at once.

One: I have never had a new quest outside of the usual Daily Quests given to me ever before so that was pretty shocking.

Two: For some reason, the message had glitches everywhere. Its freaking me out and I don know what it means. Can I trust this message? What if its some kind of mistake?

But to be honest, I mainly focused on the 200-gold reward. No matter how hard I try, I kept coming back to that reward.

Without really thinking and almost as if by reflex (because of that gold reward), I accepted the quest and a notification pinged distantly in my vision. With another swipe of my right hand, I looked at the map of the area and saw that the location of this dungeon was merely 200 metres away from me currently. The location seemed familiar.

If I remember correctly, the notification on the map seems to pinpoint the entrance to the dungeon on a random spot on a solid cliff wall at the edge of the forest. This cliff wall goes all the way down one long side of the forest and is made of solid rock almost as if whoever created the area wanted to make sure that the forest felt like it was cradled against a mountain, cause thats how I feel about it.

I frowned at the oddity. Usually, dungeons spawn further away from any type of civilisation, and because of the danger of a Dungeon Break, new dungeon spawns are automatically reported by the system as an important notification to those that are within a certain area around the dungeon that may be affected by it.

As far as I know, I hadn received that important notification. Yet. Though, there was one more thing I could check on to make sure.

I took a quick, brisk walk over to the location of the dungeon and a brand-new entrance had formed at the location that had been empty and normal only a couple of days before.

With an awkward two-handed motion that left me feeling a dull throb in my left arm, I opened up the Paradigm Troubleshooting Window and asked, ”System, is this dungeon a Permanent Dungeon? ”

After a short while, an answer popped up in front of me:

[NEGATIVE]

I nodded. The fact that this dungeon is not a Permanent Dungeon and that the quest message specifically said that it was a Solo Dungeon explained why no automatic warning notification was made.

”Is this dungeon a Solo Dungeon? ” I asked to double-check.

Another short while, before a concerning answer appeared.

[ERROR: UNRECOGNISED TERM SOLO DUNGEON USED IN INQUIRY]

***

Although the fact that Paradigm itself does not recognise solo dungeon is extremely distressing, there was nothing I could do. It was getting late and I had to make my way back to town.

Pon happily grabbed the Qrells, and I was able to buy a variety of vegetables for tonights soup. Still no meat, but at least tonights soup won be boring.

On my way back, I noticed a familiar figure walking out of the tavern. It was Saizo, a mid-tier Fighter-class adventurer whos travelled through our town quite a few times.

”To or from Saizo? ” I asked brightly.

He noticed me approaching and smiled kindly, ”well if it isn Ryuu-kun, uh, Im on my way to a quest Im afraid. How have you been? ”

I raised the bag of vegetables as I answered, ”nothing much has changed. Still only vegetable soup for the orphanage. ”

Saizo chuckled, ”Im sure your luck will turn for the better soon. Hows that old Obaa-san going? I think I saw her near the outskirts of town last night when I came in. ”

My ears pricked at this. ”Oh? Im not sure what she was doing then. Shes been okay too. Still looking after the orphanage. ”

”Shes been doing that for a long time now, right? ”

I paused to think, ”yeah, at least ten years, shes been there since I was admitted to the orphanage. ”

Saizo whistled a long tune in astonishment, ”bless her heart, I wonder what will happen to the orphanage when shes gone. ”

Remembering about the quest I received, I approached Saizo a bit closer, ”hey Saizo, youve gone to several Dungeons, right? ”

”Oh, are you in the mood for one of my stories? ” Saizo said in an upbeat voice, he swiped his hand and took a look at a Window, and paused, ”actually, it seems that I might have to head off real soon- ”

”I just want to ask you a question, thats all, ” I explained quickly.

There was a beat of silence as he weighed up his options and then swiped the Window away, ”go ahead little dude, whats your question? ”

”Youve been to several different types of Dungeons, yeah? ” I started.

He nodded, ”yep! Pretty much all of them to be honest. Theres never a shortage of work for a Fighter-Class. ”

”Have you ever heard of a Solo Dungeon before? ” I asked him.

He stared at me with an incredulous look, almost as if he thought I was joking. He chuckled again, but when he noticed that I was being very genuine he stopped.

He cleared his throat before answering, ”to be honest, I thought you were pulling my leg, I don think thats a real thing. Did you get a notification saying that? ”

I nodded meekly, before adding, ”but it was all glitched up and everything, so I don think its legitimate. ”

”The System glitched for you? ” Saizo said in excitement, ”can I see? ”

”Sure… ” I said. I placed down the sack of vegetables and swiped Paradigm into existence and shared the Quest Information Window with him.

He whistled again, ”oh wow, it is creepy-looking. I can believe you got a glitched message. Some people in the cities Ive visited have talked about how Paradigm has been glitching, but theres never really any proof cause it disappears straight away. This is the first time Ive seen it. ”

He continued inspecting the message, ”yeah, I think this isn a legitimate message. Have you taken a look at the rewards? They seem like extremely good rewards, considering the completion requirements. ”

”Yeah, that also tipped me off on it being illegitimate… ” I mumbled.

”The others are going to freak when I tell them that Ive seen a glitched message. ”

”Oi, Saizo, we need to go! ” A gruff voice called out from behind Saizo. It belonged to the bald adventurer that Ive seen travelling with Saizo before. I scowled, theres something off about the bald one, he makes me uneasy.

”Sorry Nato, Ill be right there – do you want to know something wild? ” Saizo turned and waved at his friend to come closer.

Begrudgingly, Nato walked up to where Saizo and I stood.

”What is it? We need to go. ”

Saizo pointed at me and chuckled, ”this little guy got a glitched message from Paradigm! ”

Nato glared at me and then looked me up and down, ”this little twerp? ”

Saizo patted my left shoulder which sent hollow throbs running up and down my arm. ”Oh, come on, don be mean, this is Ryuu! Ive told you and Mobito about him. ”

Ah, I recognise the name Mobito too. A greasy mid-tier Hunter-Class adventurer with a nose that seemed to turn down impossibly like a beak. We don have the best facilities to bathe ourselves in the orphanage, but I swear Mobito never bathes from how he smells.

Something changed in Natos face that I couldn pinpoint when he realised who I was. ”A glitched message? ”

”Yeah, look at this. ” Saizo chuckled, he didn see what I saw. He swiped the Window over to Nato and Nato took a quick look at it. His eyes twitched and he shot another disgruntled look at me.

”It is fascinating, ” Nato started, but as he studied me once more, a severely awkward silence brought down the mood. He snapped his eyes back to Saizo before saying, ”as much as I would like to talk about this fascinating topic, we need to go. Everybody is waiting. ”

Saizo sputtered something unintelligible and sighed. He turned to me and smiled kindly, ”seems like I have to go now. I hope to see you after this quest when I come back, we can talk more then. ”

I thanked him and wished him luck and watched silently as the two walked away in the opposite direction I was heading.

***

I made soup without Obaa-sans help that night. It was slow and difficult, but I managed to do it. She was gone when I arrived back at the orphanage and it wasn until an hour later that I realised that Gorou was gone too.

I asked around and they revealed that Gorou had been adopted into a family that came from a couple of towns away. He had gathered all his things into a bag and left with Obaa-san into town.

Usually, the families dropped by the orphanage to pick up the children, so Obaa-san and Gorou going into town was pretty weird, but maybe certain circumstances required them to go there. It was also very odd that Obaa-san was still out even at dinner time.

Once again, Taido complained about the soup but seemed to quiet down when I revealed that there were added vegetables in it to give it more flavour. Or at least a different flavour than they
e used to.

Obaa-san didn come back till it was way after the other kids bedtimes. She was a little shocked when she saw me sitting in one of the seats near the fireplace, as I watched the embers flicker while waiting for her.

”What are you doing still up? ” Obaa-san said, her hand placed on her chest in shock.

”I couldn sleep, ” I said mutedly, as I rubbed my arm absentmindedly.

Obaa-san dragged another chair to sit near the fireplace with me. ”Your arm is hurting again? ”

I looked at her then at my arm and realised what I was doing. ”Oh, its got nothing to do with my arm, just a bad habit. ”

”Ah, ” Obaa-san said, ”whats wrong then? ”

”Its nothing much, ” I said quietly. ”I just miss Kei. ”

”Ah, I see whats going on, ”Obaa-san said quietly, ”you heard about Gorou. ”

”How did you-? ”

”Whenever someone leaves the orphanage, it reminds you of Kei and you get all nostalgic about it. ” Obaa-san sighed as she explained. ”I know its hard, we
e all like a big family here, I understand. ”

”I didn even know that someone was thinking about adopting…him, ” I mumbled.

Obaa-san chuckled dryly, ”yes, I did warn them about his attitude, but they were set on him it seems. ”

I sighed. ”I wish I was able to say goodbye. ”

She nodded slowly, ”Im sorry. ”

There was a pause between us as Obaa-san let me work through my conflicted feelings.

I looked at her with interested eyes, ”since you were in town, did you-? ”

”I didn get any letters from Kei, no… ” she said quietly.

The answer saddened me even more. I watched the embers in the fireplace grow smaller slowly with each passing second.

”Obaa-san, youve been around for a while, haven you? ” I started again.

”Are you trying to subtly call me old? ” she smiled.

”No, thats not it, ” I mumbled quickly, ”I think I remember you saying that you weren originally from Ohda. ”

Obaa-san shifted up in her seat, ”why indeed yes. I was originally from Mitsuri City, on the other side of Pjana¹. Why? Do you want to hear some stories from when I was a young girl? All those centuries ago… ”

”No, no, I was just thinking that you would have met quite a lot of people, thats all. ” I defended myself from Obaa-sans teasing.

She chuckled and said quietly, ”ah, yes, you could say that Ive met quite a few people in the seventy or so years of my life… ”

”You would have met some adventurers too, right? ”

Obaa-san studied me, ”yes, more than my fair share…what are you trying to get at Ryuu? ”

I bit my lip as I wrestled with how to ask her my question, before I gave up and simply tried the direct way, ”have you ever heard of a Solo Dungeon before? From the adventurers or anybody? ”

I swiped the message Window over for her to look at. She took a quick moment to take a look at the message.

She gasped, ”oh my, is this a Glitched Message? ”

I nodded.

I watched her closely as she read the Message. As she reached the end, I saw something shift in her eyes. I can tell what exactly, but for a fraction of a second, I thought I saw greed.

”Did you just read the rewards? ” I asked.

This shocked her a little bit, ”what? Yes, sorry. I just saw the 200-gold coin reward… ”

I smiled a bit, I guess if anyone else had seen my face when I was reading the Message for the first time, I would have had a similar look on my face at that reward.

”I don know what to do. Im not even sure if its a legitimate quest. And Ive never heard of a Solo Dungeon before. ” I explained to her. ”Thats why Im asking you about it. ”

I could see Obaa-san struggling to peel her eyes off the Window. ”Im sorry Ryuu, but Ive never heard of a Solo Dungeon before. I didn even think the Glitched Message rumours were real either. ”

”Yeah, you
e not the only one who said that, ” I mumbled.

”You showed this to others? ” Obaa-san snapped in a tone that surprised and slightly scared me. Her eyes bored deep into me as she waited for my response.

”I mean, yeah, I showed Saizo who then showed it to Nato earlier today, ” I mumbled an answer.

At my answer, Obaa-sans eyes softened a tiny bit from the coldness and harshness that they had. ”I see I see. Nato and Saizo are good people at least. ”

She swiped the Window away and focussed back on me. ”You have to be careful with who you trust in this world Ryuu. Don just show that Message to anyone, you hear me? ”

I nodded, ”of course Obaa-san. ”

”Do you want me to try and ask some of the other town elders to see if and what they know about a Solo Dungeon? ”

I shook my head. I grabbed a stick and poked into the fireplace, making sure that there were no hidden embers hiding. ”I have a feeling that nobody will know what it is. Now I just have to decide on whether or not Im going to attempt the quest. Imagine what we could do for the orphanage if I can get that 200-gold reward. ”

Obaa-san was confused for a split second, ”the orphanage? Oh, there are so many things we can do with that money of course. ”

”I think Ill head off to bed now, ” I said as I saw the last of the nights embers die off and patted Obaa-sans shoulder as I walked past her.

”Hey Ryuu, ” she called out as I was about to go past the doorway.

I turned as I heard her shuffle her way up to a standing position. She walked over to me and I stood aside to give her space to walk out also.

”No matter what you choose, don choose it for anybody else but you, ” Obaa-san advised. ”You
e eighteen now. Do what you want to do, but make sure its what you want to do. Do you understand me? ”

I gave her a soft smile and nodded.

________________________

¹Pjana [piyah-nah] proper noun. A small nation located on the east continent.

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