Luke opened his eyes.
‘Where am I?! I can’t see anything.’
He was surrounded by pitch black darkness and was sitting down on something.
Suddenly, the moonlight shined through a gap that appeared close, yet far away from Luke, slowly giving him hope.
As the gap widened, Luke saw something in front of him.
‘Is that a corpse? …Wait a second.’
Luke could see detailed embroideries shining from a silver robe, and held his breath.
‘How is this possible?’
He knew exactly where he was and who the corpse belonged to.
The moonlight soon revealed all of Luke’s surroundings. He stood up and made his way to the exit of this dark space.
He looked down.
Gleems started screeching. Hundreds of them. Jumping up and down as if high on adrenaline.
‘As I thought…’
This was the moment before Luke died for the first time.
At least that’s how it originally played out, but now, Luke was more than capable of surviving in this bizarre situation.
He smirked and started conjuring a wind blade.
Luke’s smirk quickly turned into a frown.
He couldn’t muster up even a wisp of wind, let alone a wind blade.
Luke started unbuttoning his shirt.
In the meantime, the mother Gleem was enveloping the old man Wilfred’s corpse in thick wind, and started carrying it down to the starving Gleems.
The tattoos were all gone from Luke’s chest. Even the silver hourglass was gone.
‘Without the elementals, I’m as strong as I was back on Earth, which isn’t giving me any hope at all!’
Just as he buttoned his shirt back up, wind started enveloping Luke’s entire body.
‘Shit, I don’t want to be eaten alive again. And if the tattoos are anything to go by, I’m not gonna travel back in time if I die this time…’
But in reality, Luke was already floating tens of meters above the army of Gleems and was slowly descending.
The wind enveloping Luke was dispersed in an instant, making his body accelerate in a freefall.
‘Was everything that happened to me since I arrived here a dream that I made up as I was about to die? I refuse to believe that.’
He didn’t want to believe that his pain and suffering so far were just a construct of his own imagination and fear.
He just couldn’t and wouldn’t entertain such a thought at all.
Luke was now only a few meters away from the ground.
His eyes were determined and ablaze, even when faced with certain death.
But just as his face was centimeters away from the ground, Luke appeared somewhere else in an instant.
Luke was breathing heavily, his forehead full of sweat.
He was on his back, so he sat up and looked around.
He was in the same inn that he fell asleep in last night.
Morning has broken just as Luke’s nightmare came to an end.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Even after half an hour had passed, Luke was still lying down on his bed, in a puddle of sweat, thinking about the dream he had awoken from.
‘I haven’t had any dreams ever since arriving in this world. Why now? And why did I dream about my first death specifically?’
Luke closed his eyes.
‘I can’t actually say that it was just like my first death. In reality, I had the time elemental back then, yet in the dream I didn’t.’
After thinking about it some more, Luke stood up from the bed.
‘I don’t think that I’ll get anywhere with this train of thought.’
The bed he was just in was soaked in sweat, and Luke’s clothes didn’t fare much better.
‘I stink. I should really take a bath. That aside, I need fresh clothes first. There’s no point in taking a bath if I’m just gonna wear this again.’
He fumbled his hand around his pocket, and could feel four circular and small metals objects. Those were the 20 denar coins; it’s what he was left with after paying for the room.
Luke left the room.
“Want some food?”
The old and grumpy inn-keeper said as he spotted Luke.
“I think I’ll pass, I need to save up my money.”
“Hahaha! Well, you’re in luck then! The breakfast is free if you rented a room.”
“Well, then, now we’re talking! I’d like some.”
The grumpy inn-keeper winked at Luke.
“Coming right up!”
‘I have misjudged this inn-keeper. He just looks grumpy, but is actually pretty care-free and easy to talk to.’
Luke sat down at one of the tables and waited for the food.
The grumpy-looking inn-keeper soon arrived with a plate of food, and a tankard.
He soon brought over a small loaf of bread for Luke as well.
Luke looked at the contents of the plate.
On one side of the plate there was what seemed to be mashed potatoes, and on the other side, a mix of minced meat and vegetables.
‘Some of these vegetables look familiar to those you could find back on Earth, but then there’s some that I’ve never seen before too.’
Luke dug in, as he was pretty hungry. He also took big gulps of the alcohol that was in the tankard, helping him wash down the food as he ate.
He soon finished his meal with a smile on his face.
‘It was pretty tasty!’
The grumpy-looking inn-keeper came over to clean up the table.
Luke averted his gaze from the inn-keeper and awkwardly cleared his throat.
The inn-keeper grinned.
“Not at all, that’s the biggest compliment a chef can get!”
Luke looked at the inn-keeper once again.
“You were the one who cooked this?”
“Thanks for the food.”
The inn-keeper was taking the empty tankard and the dirty plate back to the kitchen, whistling as he went.
Luke got up and left the inn.
He looked at his watch.
‘10:53 o’clock. I slept for quite a bit, huh?’
Luke stretched for a bit and then started looking for a place to get some clothes.
‘There’s a few options.’
He could either go to a tailor’s shop, but that would be the most expensive; on the other hand, Luke had heard of a flea market while wandering the streets yesterday.
He heard that it was peddling various goods, and that it was right next to the market that he had previously visited.
As he had only 80 denars, the choice was obvious.
Luke started walking toward the general direction of the flea market, the big crowd of people being his only obstacle.
As the inn he was staying at was relatively close to the market, he arrived in no time.
Unlike the general market, the flea market was a bit more closed-off.
Luke arrived in front of the flea market and a wooden sign with a few symbols greeted him.
‘Fh-lee-mah-rh-ket… I think?’
Luke could barely make it out because of this world’s unique written language, where one unique symbol could only make one unique sound. He had already memorized most of the 35 symbols that existed in the written language.
He heard of similar languages existing back on Earth, but of course, he never studied them.
You could freely enter the flea market, but instead of it being completely open, it had weird improvised roofs that were made out of cloth, and hanged above the market as a whole, only letting in a few rays of sun.
These cloth roofs weren’t hanged that high up, and were around three meters off the ground.
‘Is this intended to give the merchants and the visitors some shade from the sun?’
Luke wondered as he was walking through the flea market.
Something grabbed his attention soon after.
A black-tanned man wearing a middle-eastern looking headwear, usually called “hijab” back on Earth, as well as fluttering red robes that followed his body as he was gracefully handling different kinds of linen, weaving clothes from thin air with his two hands.
Luke was in a daze. He had never seen anyone moving their hands with such dexterity, even in movies.
He was now standing in front of the man. Luke approached him without even realizing it.
The man was now looking at Luke, still moving his hands as fast and dexterously as before.
“Can I help you?”
Luke nodded, and pointed at his shirt and pants.
“I need some new clothes.”
The man replied.
“What’s your budget?”
“I have 80 denars.”
The man let go of the linen and thread he was holding to point at Luke.
“Who do you take me for?!”
The linen and thread both fell down to the ground.
Luke chuckled as a vein popped on the man’s forehead.
He stopped pointing at Luke and sighed.
“Ahh… Tell you what, you’ll give me the 80 denars and I’ll get you a pair of clothes. But you will also need to do a favor for me.”
‘A favor? Yeah, I figured I wouldn’t have enough money for proper clothes after finding out the price of renting a room…’
“What kind of a favor?”
“Hmm, I need some new linen delivered to here. It was supposed to arrive this morning, yet there was nary a word of it.”
“Alright, what do you want me to do about it?”
“It was supposed to pass through a small village to the south of here yesterday. Go there and check what’s with the hold-up, and if possible, solve it. If not, just come back and inform me about the situation.”
‘A small village to the south of here? Don’t tell me…’
Luke’s eyes narrowed.
“Okay, I’ll go check it out, but this better be worth it.”
“Oh, I’ll make sure it is!”
Luke turned around and left the flea market with a questioning expression.
He had a bad premonition about this whole situation.