After countless words of encouragement from those within the palace, and I'd been handed a set of leather armor, a sword, and a bag of supplies- I'll admit: I felt like a cynic.
"This is amazing!" Said the man I'd come to know as Paul, seated across from me at the long wooden table. In front of us, food was laid out in a bounty of breads and meats. Fine wine and ale, cheeses and fruits. "This- I don't even know what this is, but it's the best thing I've ever had!" He sloshed his goblet, almost spilling some of the wine.
Or, what I assumed was some sort of fantasy-wine.
"Isn't it?" Beside him, a woman with long blond hair piped up in agreement. "We're in another world, with magic, and I think I saw Dragons! Or drakes? Doesn't matter: it's amazing." She clinked her goblet against Paul's own, as they laughed. "I can't believe we're here, either."
I nodded, politely. Observing down either side of the table yielded nothing but similar results. People were cheering, celebrating. One man, a muscular fellow, had even stood up on the table, drunkenly dancing as the bards on the edge of the room played a merry tune.
We were in a new world, summoned as heroes. Like a book, or a game: we were the people plucked from ordinary lives to save the world.
It was amazing.
Even the most cynical part of me would admit this.
The King, it seemed, spared no expense. We'd been given gear, food, drink, and told all manner of things I had to presume were important. How we would train, advance (quicker than most, apparently- due to our special status as Heroes) and help the Kingdom destroy the Demon Lord. The Knights were happy to guide us, stern as they seemed, and the nobles we'd met were all but bowing to our presence.
It was almost too good to be true. Which, I supposed, was exactly what bothered me.
"So, we'll have to fight monsters." I inserted myself back into the conversation. "They told us that, right? The armorer said as much."
"They said we need to determine our talents, first." The woman laughed. "They're not just throwing us to the wolves. Or, wolf-monsters?" She shrugged.
"Monsters? How bad can they be?" Paul shouted, red now reaching his face as he tipped his goblet back again. "We're chosen Heroes! Come on, now: look!" He gestured at the rest of our number. All twenty of us, dressed up to look the part. "Besides, once we're trained, we'll be unstoppable!" He added, perhaps noting my skeptical expression.
"I suppose so..."
"Have you even tried to use an ability yet?" He asked. "Look- [Identify] this." He gestured to his cup. "Try."
"What do you mean?"
"Use the skill- just focus on it." Paul shrugged. "There's nothing to it, just like the menu."
"Use the skill." My eyes narrowed on the goblet, considering. "[Identify]?"
Name: Goblet of the Royal Palace
Description: This is a Goblet
"Ah..." I considered the text. "That's strange."
"Not strange, John: amazing! Here- try this, it'll cheer you up!" Paul chuckled, pouring half of his drink into my own. It overflowed, previously untouched. Turning away from me, and back to the blond beside him, the laughter continued, as I stared at the cup.
This time, I didn't say the word.
Name: Wine of the Royal Vineyard
Description: Wine - Expensive
[Skill - Rank up] - [Identify - Lvl 2]
Huh. At least I was right about it being wine.
I tried again.
Name: Wine of the Royal Vineyard
Description: Aged Wine - Expensive - Excessive Consumption may cause Status Impairments
There was slightly more information, now. Curious, in its own way. I wondered how that worked- if there was some fully unlocked description hiding somewhere for everything around me, but the skill only revealed part of it? Or, maybe it generated brand new, with each time the skill was used?
I wasn't sure if logic could really apply to something like this.
Frowning, though, I watched the deep red drops soak into the wooden table below. My own goblet hadn't been touched, previous to Paul dumping more into it, and it had overflowed a small amount. At this point, disturbing it would only exacerbate the problem.
There was no shaking the feeling of anxiety.
Glancing up at the table around me, everyone was so happy. Most were younger than I was, in decent shape- from what I could see. All of them certainly seemed fairly unattached in whatever life they were living before they came here. I had to assume there was a selection criteria which grabbed us...
Of every smiling face, there was only one other person in the group which seemed to be more reserved. Black hair, green eyes... I recognized her as the woman who had tried to speak in the throne room. While she seemed happy enough, those eyes seemed to look about the room with a sense of caution that was absent in the rest. Not focused on the table, so much as what was beyond it.
I looked too, wiping my mouth with a cloth napkin as I glanced past the table. Those same Knights who had lead us through the motions today, stood vigilant. Long swords on their hips, armor that was far beyond the likes we'd received so far. They watched us, as the bard continued to play that merry tune. Watched us, and... not with fondness.
Having learned my lesson all too well back in the throne room, I quickly looked back down to the table, forcing a smile to my lips. There was something about all this, that I didn't like. This world was certainly something amazing. The abilities were... strange. I could only imagine, they would get stranger. The gold, the drinks, the food, the armor, the titles and promises of greatness...
No, even with all these, it still clung to me.
I didn't like this.
My eyes met the black haired woman. Hand rubbing nervously at her neck, I had to wonder if maybe I wasn't the only one.