Sora and Reno returned to camp exhausted. If infiltrating the castle had been their objective, then they had failed miserably. Though a quick glance at their dragon tattoos revealed that each had earned a hefty sum of KP (Knight Points), Reno was surprised to see himself closer to a level-up than Sora, though both were ultimately far from a level-up. Neither minded since in Academic Mode, the benefits of a level-up were likely limited.

“Ugh, we need to go about this smarter,” Sora said. “This is supposed to be a simulation of Malory’s text. Meaning, the events from the novel are supposed to be recreated here and that is what has happened; the problem is that we just dived head-first into things. The scene with that battle was literally just one line in the text if I remember correctly. Even then, it was super-vague. We need to dig into that text. What did you say that knight’s name was? The one in the battlefield that yelled at me?”

“I didn’t say his name. He just gargled it. Ummm… I’m pretty sure he said it was ‘Ulfius”.”
“That sounds familiar. Let me pull up the virtual edition and re-read the chapter we are in; after all, when we were on the Region map, it did say ‘Read’, NOT ‘re-enact.’”

Sora then pulled out a musty and worn leafy tome from his leather knapsack. Opening the book, the pages were written in an archaic alphabet; only later did Reno realize that it was Latin.

“You can read Latin?” Reno asked Sora.

“Huh… oh, no, I can’t. I guess from your perspective it appears that I can but from my viewpoint, the tome emits a sort of holographic translation of Le Morte Darthur in modern English. I mean, I did, we did, have to spend money buying this expensive virtual version. I don’t know about you, but I would be pissed if it was in Latin!”

Reno laughed. He had to remember that this was a game. A virtual game but a game nonetheless. It was just that the ultra-realism of the world had thrown him off guard. He was used to in-game text always-already appearing in modern English, usually in an easily digestible text-box; he wasn’t used to this brutal and realistic violence; he wasn’t used to expending his own energies and huffing and puffing from combat. He was used to simply monitoring his stamina bar in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, not heaving and slashing swords and side-stepping and dodging blows. Reno could only imagine how sore he was going to be when leaving the machine.

“Okay” huffed Sora with an air of finality. “So, in the book, Uther is already at war with the duke before the battle happened. At the very start of the chapter, he asks the duke to a sort of parley where he brings his wife to Uther’s court for dinner. Uther tries to put the moves on Igrayne and she and her husband, the duke, flee. When Uther finds out he is outraged and demands they return. They refuse. So, Uther attacks the duke’s two castles; evidently, he put himself in one castle— Terrabyl— while his wife he stuck in the other, Tyntagil. Uther laid siege to Terrabyl but fell sick with love-sickness… or something. So, he calls on Ulfius to find Merlyn so Uther may be healed. Ulfius does find Merlyn but it took a while because Merlyn was trolling Ulfius because he was dressed like a beggar. Some haggling, or something, happens, and the chapter concludes with Merlyn promising to return to heal the king.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that now.” Reno remarked. “My guess would be that our best bet is finding Ulfius.”

“Agreed. But, where would he be?”

The two thought about it for several moments before ultimately deciding on the command tent. They got up and searched. After spending maybe thirty-minutes in vain searching, they relented and asked a passing by solider. His directions weren’t the most helpful but after another thirty minutes or so they found the tent in question. Finding it only by at the last minute seeing its distinctive crest slung over the entrance, they turned at their heels and entered; the two guards stared at them for a moment but let them in, no doubt under the impression that each of them was knights of some renown or of some important royal advisers.

Sure enough, there was Ulfius, pouring over what appeared to be tactical maps of the local area. Nestled in a corner was the sick lord Uther, thick furs covering him on a rope-bed. Sora and Reno approached.

“Milord, how is the king?” queried Reno, not quite sure how to begin a conversation with an apparently important NPC.

“Ah, young sir knights. I am surprised to see you, especially after such a vicious first blooding. The king is ill, I’m afraid. I am not sure what I shall do to aid him in time to turn the battle.” Replied a visibly downcast Ulfius.

Reno and Sora exchanged looks. Reno wasn’t sure quite how to stir the direction of the conversation. He supposed that the best course of action was to keep things simple.
“Ah, sir Ulfius” Reno hoped he pronounced his name right, “maybe seek out the wise Merlyn? Perhaps he can heal our lord’s grievous sickness?”

Ulfius was silent. Reno thought that maybe he was incorrectly replied or gotten Ulfius’s name wrong. But, Ulfius was just considering his suggestion. You know, young knights, that is a good idea. Surely, Merlyn of all people could aid us! I shall seek him out forthwith!”

Reno smiled at Sora who smiled back. It appeared that they had done it.

Ulfius went to King Uther. He told him of his plan to go and find Merlyn. Uther looked pleased. Ulfius asked if the king had any information which may help the old lord. The king said in turn, “I am seke for angre and for love of fayre Igrayne, that I may not be wool”. Ulfius reiterated that he would seek out Merlyn and find a cure.

And with that, Ulfius was off, taking with him both Reno and Sora since he thought of them good luck.

Thankfully, for an already beleaguered Reno and Sora, Merlyn happened upon quicker than either of them would have imagined. Sora was pleased though not surprised; after all, Malory wasn’t specific in how Ulfius found Merlyn, just that it happened “by adventure.”

When they were close to leaving the encampment, they happened upon Merlyn. But, something was off… something weird. Merlyn was coated in a sort of darkness. Like his features were only visible through a pane of frosted glass.

Reno and Sora looked at one another puzzled. Neither knew what to make of this; surely, this wasn’t something presumed by the text?

Then, a darkness surged; Merlyn was one the ground and dancing around hid fallen figure was a pale, ghost-like reflection of Merlyn. It glared at Reno and it burned his retinas as though he had just had lost a staring contest with the sun. Another darkness surged, this time around Ulfius; again, Ulfius fell to the ground while a pale-reflection of Ulfius danced cruelly around its fallen master’s form. Neither Reno or Sora knew what was happening; Reno was positive that this wasn’t from the text.

Belatedly, Reno realized that this must have been the “Corruption” listed on the Region map. He told Sora but that still didn’t answer any of the questions— like how to get rid of said corruption and what they should even do.

Suddenly, the two ghosts met. They began to talk.

“Foolish Merlyn, will thy travel with me to heal my wretched lord Uther? He is sick and needs your pathetic remedies.” Said the ghost-like Ulfius.

“Yes! But only if you give me Uther’s firstborn child, so that I may devour him as part of my cannibal feast!” shouted the ghost-like Merlyn.

“Of course! Nothing simpler!”

“We have to stop this!” exclaimed Reno. “If these… perversions, these corruptions have their way then the story won’t proceed; it can’t if the central protagonist is eaten alive!”

“Right!” but Sora didn’t stop; he drew his short-sword and charged. But his attack had no effect on the ghosts; the blade just went right through. Sora cursed.

“Hahaha… mortal weapons have no effect on us, child.” The two spirits mocked.

Then, out of nowhere, something in Reno’s bag shined; the light emanated from within like someone had just turned on several high-powered flashlights coated in Disney magic, for, not only was the light bright but it radiated with a sparkling aura that dazzled.

Reno reached into his bag and withdrew a cross. Translucent and made from a brilliant gemstone Reno couldn’t hope to ever identify, it was a sight to behold. Emblazoned on the cross in barely discernible writing was an inscription; it read: “When the Devil claws and corrupts, this cross will glow true; speak the Truth and keep His will absolute.” That was as plain as day as far as Reno was concerned. Seeing that Sora was preoccupied with his own fancy cross, Reno decided to wing what he thought the cross wanted.

“Halt, both of you satanic corruptions!” shouted Reno to which both of the corruptions halted. “Neither of you belongs in this world and it is time to return to the netherrealm!”
“Absurd; you cannot tell the future, child.” Both scoffed.

Reno thought for a moment. No. He couldn’t tell the future. He wasn’t Merlyn but he was a book reader. He knew what had happened in Malory’s original; initially, Ulfius requited to Merlyn’s wish to be justly rewarded, under the condition that Uther, in fact, would ultimately be more rewarded than even Merlyn himself. Reno thought that if he spoke this truth, as the cross had said, then the corruptions would be vanquished; after all, these spirits were called “Corruptions”. And how did one right a corruption? But putting in the correct data, by removing the incorrect data.

Reno thought hard but Sora was on the right track and had his book open: “’Whom do you seek?’” Asked Sora imitating Malory’s Merlyn to Malory’s Ulfius as originally seen in the Morte.

The ghost-like Ulfius looked displeased. They looked paler, like they had lost some of their vitality.

“’Well’, saide Merlyn,” continued Reno, imitating Malory’s Merlyn “’I knowe whome thou seekest; therfore seke no ferther, for I am he. And yf Kynge Uther wille wel rewarde and be sworne unto me to fulfille my desyre… for I shalle cause hym to have all his desyre.”

And that did it!

In a burst of black, the two spirits were vanquished. Quickly, as soon as the corruptions vanished, both of the actual Ulfius and Merlyn regained consciousness. Feeling a tinge on their wrists, Reno and Sora noticed that each received a hefty experience boost leveling them up to level 2. The tattoo gained a bit in complexity with each of their dragons receiving an extra talon.

Neither of the students had time to reflect on their victory, however, as both were almost instantaneously plucked from the Territory, flying suddenly through the air as though they were propelled by rockets.

They had been returned to the Region map. A single silver star now hung overhead the Territory; underneath the label ‘Corruption’ now held a single indicter “1/1”.

They had done it. Chapter 1.1 was complete.

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