"I CAN see that you're now ready to travel outside the village and the Crescent Woodlands," the Elder said. "But before that, you need to have your coming-of-age ceremony first. Would you like to have it now? I could immediately prepare the necessary arrangements."
"No, thank you Elder but I still have things I need to deal with first," Luo Yan politely rejected.
As much as possible, he wanted to finish the hidden event first before undergoing the ceremony. Because once his coming-of-age ceremony was done, it meant that he could finally be transported to the beginner's town - Olkdale. Sure, he could still come back here after that. But the feeling of an unfinished task just didn't sit well with him.
"I see. Then just come to me when you're ready."
"Yes," he said. "By the way Elder, are you familiar with the incident involving Filli's disappearance?"
A sad expression suddenly appeared on the Elder's face. "What happened to Filli was truly unfortunate. That's why I always advised you younger people to take caution at everything you do. But Filli and his friends has always been a group of playful children. Always inadvertently causing trouble to others. If only they could have been as well behaved as you."
It didn't get past Luo Yan some of the key words that the Elder said - 'Filli', 'his friends', 'always causing trouble'. Since this was a game, an NPC was programmed to say the lines scripted for them. The things they said would usually be helpful to the player. Either guiding them with the gameplay or helping them with their tasks. That's why he was sure that what the Elder said was just not some kind of rambling.
"Was Filli with his friends the day he disappeared?" Luo Yan asked.
"I'm not really sure about the details. I talked to those children but they didn't really give me anything of import. I think you should ask the Gatekeeper. He probably knows more than me."
"Okay. Thank you, Elder."
Luo Yan said goodbye to the Elder and walked out of the yurt. He already planned on visiting the Gatekeeper prior to this so it alligned with the Elder's suggestion. He opened the map of the village. He was certain that it would pinpoint him to the location of the Gatekeeper's house. Since the Gatekeeper had an important role in this hidden event, the map would certainly consider his house as an important establishment.
Just as he expected, he saw a red dot with the words, 'Gatekeeper's House' to the North of the Elder's yurt. He immediately walked towards there. Along the way, he asked NPCs he met about Filli. They didn't give him any important information aside from the usual 'he went to the forest a month ago and never came back'.
Soon, he arrived at his destination. It was a cottage slightly bigger that the one he woke up in when he first entered the game. It probably had two rooms -one for the Gatekeeper and the other for Filli. From all the conversations he had with various NPCs, not once was there a mention of the Gatekeeper's wife. So the Gatekeeper was a single father raising his only son who's now missing. The game developer probably thought that made up for a better drama.
Luo Yan walked towards the door and knocked. After a while, the door opened and he saw the Gatekeeper with a tired look on his face. When he saw him, his face became slightly better.
"Noctis! Do you have news about my son?"
"Sorry, Gatekeeper. I just came back from finishing the task given by the Elder, I haven't started looking for Filli yet."
The face of the Gatekeeper was once again surrounding by gloom. "I see."
"I actually came here to ask what you remember on the day Filling went missing. It might help me with my search."
The Gatekeeper cheered up a little when he heard what Luo Yan said. "I'll tell you everything I know. Up to the last detail."
The Gatekeeper gestured for him to enter the cottage, so he didn't hesitate to follow inside. The inside of the cottage was a hundred times better than that poor cottage of his. There's a complete set of furnitures in the living room. There's even a small arc that separated it from the kitchen and dining area. There were decorative plants around that brought a homely atmosphere to the house.
The Gatekeeper sat down. Luo Yan did so as well and sat on the opposite chair.
"We fought the day he went missing. That day was also the anniversary of my wife's death. It seemed like every year we fought whenever that day came," the Gatekeeper said with a wry smile. "This time it's because Filli wanted to hold his coming-of-age ceremony much sooner. He said he wanted to leave the village so he could avenge what happened to his mother. You see, my wife, when she went to one of towns outside the village for an errand, she returned with a curse put on her. It was so powerful that even the Elder couldn't lift it. Just after five days, she died."
Luo Yan wrinkled his brows. What's with this backstory? Don't tell him there's still some kind of follow-up event after he found Filli?
"Of course, I disagreed with Filli. He's still young. There's at least three more years until he reached the right age. But he just wouldn't listen. So out of anger I told him that if he could kill a high level monster, then I'd agree to what he wanted. The next thing I knew, his friends told me that he ran to the forest and they dared not follow," the Gatekeeper continued.
There was that again, the word 'friends'.
"We searched the forest for the whole three days but didn't find any sign of him. Many of the villagers said that Filli was probably attacked by a monster and then eaten, that's why we couldn't find him. But how could I believe that? If I do, then I might as well admit that it was me who pushed him into that kind of end. Then it would probably be better if I died as well."
Even though Luo Yan knew that he was talking to an NPC, he still symphatized with him a bit. Probably because the anguished in his voice was too real. "Don't worry, Gatekeeper. As I've said to you, I will find him."
The Gatekeeper gave him a grateful look. "Thank you, Noctis."
"These 'friends' of Filli, may I know who they are? I also want to ask them some questions."
"It's Ivo and Iro, they're the younger twin brothers of Ivan."
Ivan? That NPC he first met? "Do you know where I can find them? Like a place they usually go to?"
"Those two and Filli built a treehouse on the East area of the village where most of the tall trees are. They usually stay there most of the times."
"Is Filli's relationship with them good?"
"Yes. They're our village's well-known troublemakers."
If those twins really had a good relationship with Filli then why didn't they stop him when he ran to the forest? If they're really good friends, they should at least do that, right? But they only did it after Filli was already deep in the forest. Why? They're definitely hiding something.
"I see. Thank you, Gatekeeper."
Luo Yan said goodbye and went out of the cottage. He immediately ran towards the place the Gatekeeper said. It's time to find the truth from those twins.