Codecraft - Chapter 3

The Full-Stack Wizard's Journey

Thursday, September 28, 2023


The hammering sounds of construction woke Jason as sunlight filtered through the window of the small wooden hut. He slowly sat up on the uncomfortable straw bed, grimacing at pains in unfamiliar areas.

"Was it all a dream?" he whispered, rubbing stiff shoulders. But no - this wasn't his apartment. The unfamiliar symbols on the walls told of another place, another reality.

His eyes were drawn to a table in the corner, equipped with throwing stars, knives, and a short sword. "Okay, that's either really cool or really concerning," he said out loud, contemplating the hint of adventure and danger that seemed to linger in the air.

Just then, he noticed a unique three-tailed, orange and black striped cat lounging near his mattress. The cat looked up, its eyes almost sage-like. A flicker of uncertainty crossed Jason's eyes, leading him to wonder if this extraordinary creature was a ferocious guardian or just an ordinary house pet.

Jason's eyes darted back to the table of weapons, their intriguing shapes and materials sparking his curiosity. It reminded him of the 'Eye of Debugger, an ability he'd briefly unlocked before. That unique skill had allowed him to see the world through a surreal, digital overlay. Yet, as much as he wanted to see these weapons through that vision, the ability had proven difficult to reactivate.

Eager to try it again, Jason closed his eyes and focused. He tried to recapture the state of mind he was in when he first activated the "Eye of Debugger." Deep breaths, focus, and then... "Eye of Debugger," he thought. Nothing happened. He opened one eye and then the other. The room remained steadfastly normal, and the three-tailed cat looked almost amused.

Feeling a sense of frustration, Jason had a moment of clarity. Could the "Eye of Debugger" operate like a mental command line? He relaxed his posture, cleared his mind, and spoke the words out loud: "Show me the digital world." Almost instantaneously, he heard the familiar voice in his head say, "Eye of Debugger, activated."

Both of his eyes began to perceive the environment in a completely new light. Objects in the room were surrounded by glowing grids and cryptic symbols. As his eyes locked onto a knife on the table, an interactive menu flickered into existence, inviting him to check deeper.

Thrilled by his newfound control, Jason realized the importance of the ability to switch between the two visions was vital. Guided by his common sense, he focused his thoughts on the counter-command: "Show me the magical world." As if on cue, the cryptic symbols and digital grids began to fade, allowing his eyes to adjust back to the room's natural hues and enchanting atmosphere.

Curiosity bubbling, Jason's eyes flicked back to the orange and black striped cat lounging on a corner cushion. Intrigued, he couldn't help but think how much more interesting the feline would be with nine tails instead of just three. He imagined the digital interface springing to life around the cat. He was hoping for options like 'add tail' or something cooler.

"If only I could give you six more tails and make you a real mythical creature," he thought, amused by the idea.

However, as he focused on the cat through his "Eye of Debugger," he realized that the digital outline didn't offer any options for interaction. It was like a locked interface—impossible to edit or alter.

His eyes wandered back to the inanimate objects. When he focused on them, menus would materialize in his vision, ready for his mental commands to manipulate them. But the cat? Nothing.

"Guess living things aren't open-source," he thought, disappointed at his own limitations.

As he heard louder voices outside the hut, he opened the wooden door and walked outside. What he saw was an old-fashioned village, about the size to house maybe 50 people. Roofs made of straw and cobblestone pathways gave it an old-world charm. People were going about their day, trading, talking, and some children even playing in the distance. The air was filled with a mix of interesting smells: fresh earth, flowers, and something delicious cooking not too far away.

While Jason was soaking in the scenery, an elderly man walked up to him. This man had a kindly face and eyes that seemed to twinkle, despite the wrinkles around them. "I'm Dalos, the chief of this village," the man introduced himself. "How are you feeling, young man?" he then asked.

But again, something was weird, something Jason couldn't explain. The words that reached his ears weren't English, or any other language he was familiar with. Even so, he understood what Dalos was saying. It was like his brain was changing the words into something he could understand right away. "Hope this isn't a free trial that expires at the worst time," Jason joked to himself.

Confused but wanting to communicate, Jason used a mix of sign language and words, saying, "Sorry if I can't speak your language. My name is Jason, and thank you for saving my life." The words that came out of his mouth were not in any language he knew, but everyone around seemed to understand him perfectly. His eyes widened, suddenly realizing that something was translating for him automatically. "Is this another feature of this weird place? This world looks so old, yet so advanced" he wondered with fascination.

Upon hearing Jason's words, the villagers burst into laughter. It was a warm, hearty sound that filled the air. They all seemed to think that Jason, whom they believed to be a legendary hero, was making a joke. Jason looked around, puzzled but relieved that they were at least in good spirits about his presence.

Just then, a man with a stern expression stepped forward. Unlike him, Garun stood tall, carrying himself with the kind of confidence that Jason had only seen in video game heroes. While Jason had gained a few pounds sitting at his desk job, Garun looked fit and nimble, like he could spring into action any second.

"Ah, the 'legendary hero,'" Garun said, looking at Jason up and down as if sizing him up. "It's truly awe-inspiring how you bravely run at the sight of a mere bull."

Jason felt self-conscious, aware of his extra weight and his completely average look. Here was a man who seemed built for action, unimpressed by the 'hero' that had just arrived in his world. In contrast to his own mundane life back home, Garun looked like someone who was part of exciting adventures every day.

Jason remembered the incident Garun mentioned. He had indeed run away from a bull, adrenaline fueling his legs, terror gripping his heart. But he had no idea why these people were calling him a 'legendary hero.' What did they mean by that? And more importantly, why did they need a hero? Doubts and questions swirled in his mind, making him realize he had much more to learn about this strange new world.

Dalos, the village chief, cleared his throat loudly, signaling for the chatter to cease. "Enough, Garun," he said with authority but not without a twinkle in his eyes. "You'll have ample time to exchange jokes with our guest later. Let me formally welcome you." He turned to Jason. "I am Dalos, the village chief. Welcome to Meca, our humble village. May I introduce my grandsons? This is Garun," he gestured toward the stern young man, "and this is his younger brother, Gular."

Garun grunted, keeping his stern look. In stark contrast, Gular waved with a big smile, clearly much friendlier than his brother.

Yet the interaction with Garun left him puzzled. "Why does he dislike me so much? We've never met." Jason thought. He couldn't help but wonder what he'd walked into and why Garun had taken such an immediate dislike to him. Was it something he'd done, or was Garun naturally this skeptical of strangers? Either way, Jason knew he had to tread carefully, at least until he had a better understanding of the village and its inhabitants.

Gular, who was noticeably more cheerful than his older brother, stepped forward with a wide grin on his face. "Hey, you changed the color of that monolith, didn't you? Could you do the same for my toy horse?" He held out a small wooden horse, its paint chipped and faded.

Jason took a look at the wooden horse and then back at Gular. Nodding, he activated his 'Eye of Debugger.'' then focused on the wooden horse to select the decompile option. "Ah, the color property," he thought to himself. Inspired to do more this time, he mentally navigated to the color setting and chose a variety of shades: a red mane, a blue body, and yellow hooves. The wooden horse was transformed in an instant, now radiant in its new, multicolored form.

A ripple of astonishment swept through the village, accompanied by gasps and whispers from the villagers.

"Why does everyone look so surprised? Is this the first time you've seen a colored horse, or is my choice of color not to this village's liking?" Jason asked, puzzled by their reaction.

A villager stepped forward, awe still etched on his face. "It's not the color that surprises us; it's how you did it. You didn't utter a single word while casting your magic."

Dalos, the village chief, nodded his head in agreement with his fellow villager. "Indeed, spoken words channel the essence of our magic. It would be groundbreaking if someone could perform voiceless magic, let alone do something as permanent as you did." He gestured towards the red monolith that Jason had altered the day before, "That stone, for instance, has never been permanently altered. Your actions open up new possibilities we hadn't considered."

Garun mocked, layering his voice with heavy sarcasm. "So you can change the color of a toy horse without uttering a word, yet you don't know the first thing about how our magic works? That's... impressive in its own way, I guess. You're talented and dumb at the same time. What's next, saving the world with your unmatched ability to redecorate?"

Garun whirled around to face the villagers, his voice tinged with urgency. "Think about it! This is the 'legendary hero' we're pinning our hopes on? A man who flees from a mere bull and is clueless about our world!"

His eyes narrowed, and he pressed on. "Sure, he's got some peculiar talents. But do we really want to risk our community's fate on a total stranger? Someone who's so foreign to us, he might just turn those powers against us?"

A ripple of unease swept through the crowd. Their faces clouded with uncertainty as if Garun's words had unsettled a previously unspoken fear. The mood shifted; villagers exchanged wary glances, now reevaluating the wisdom of trusting Jason.

Feeling the crowd's skepticism weigh on him, Jason's mind raced. This village was his safest bet for learning more about this strange world. He couldn't afford to be cast out now. Losing their trust was not an option. "Look, I come in peace," he started cautiously, grasping for the right words. A flicker of inspiration hit him, offering a chance to hide his ignorance while still sounding like a legendary hero. He said "The last thing I remember is being in battle with a fearsome, three-headed dragon. After that, everything's a blur. I can't remember much, so bear with me as I try to figure things out."

The atmosphere shifted dramatically, from skepticism to awe. "Only a legendary hero would face a three-headed dragon," Gular mused, his eyes widening. "That's incredible! Who won? What spells did you use?" The crowd buzzed with excitement, their previous doubts momentarily forgotten as they regarded Jason as the heroic figure he portrayed himself to be.

Jason couldn't help but smirk. "Ha! Nailed it. Man, if only job interviews were this easy to bluff through."

Garun folded his arms, clearly unmoved by the crowd's shifting sentiments. "Someone ignorant who can perform voiceless magic had fought a three-headed dragon but is afraid of a mere bull? This doesn't add up. He could be a fraud, or even worse, a spy."

With a steely gaze, Garun turned to Jason. "How about a challenge? Prove your courage and skills. If you're as 'heroic' as you claim, then you should have no problem defending yourself."

As murmurs of agreement rippled through the crowd, a woman leaned in to whisper something in Dalos's ear. Dalos nodded subtly, his eyes gleaming with intrigue. It seemed she too was in favor of testing the stranger.

Dalos stepped in to mediate, "Alright, a challenge it is then. But let's set some ground rules: the match ends when one of you either surrenders or becomes unconscious. No lethal force. And if you lose, young man," Dalos directed his gaze at Jason, "you leave this village."

"Fair enough," said Garun, smirking at Jason. "If you've battled a three-headed dragon, I should be a breeze, right? Unless, of course, you've been deceiving us."

Jason felt a surge of nervousness shoot through him, as though his stomach had dropped to his feet. The realization that he was about to duel, coupled with the looming threat of exile, set his heart pounding uncontrollably. "Hold on a second, when did I ever agree to a duel? What kind of mess have I walked into?" he thought. Swallowing hard, he struggled to put on a brave face while every fiber of his being screamed with anxiety and apprehension.

The villagers gathered around Garun, patting him on the back and nodding in agreement. "You always have the village's best interests at heart, Garun. That's why you'll make a great chief one day," one elder said. The atmosphere made it clear: their trust in him ran deep, based on his obvious concern for the community.

Dalos's face turned somber as he addressed Jason. "We give you one week to prepare for this duel. Given your lost memory, it would be a dishonor to fight an unprepared opponent."

Jason's internal monologue churned with thoughts. "One week? Does that mean five or seven days in this world? No, don't ask, you'll sound like an idiot." Then another thought popped up. "One week? Who are they kidding? I'd need at least five years to prepare for this! I only have experience in video game fights."

Jason's face remained composed, not betraying the inner turmoil. "Thank you for the honor of preparation time. I'll make the best of it," he managed to say, swallowing hard.

The mood in the village was tense as people went off to do their own things, knowing something important was coming up. Breaking the silence, Dalos spoke up. "Let me guide you back to the guest room. You'll need a place to rest and prepare."

Seizing the opportunity, Jason exclaimed his request before they could leave the public area. "Um, may I request an introduction to how magic works in this land? It might help jog my memory," he lied, trying to sound as earnest as possible.

The room filled with exchanged glances, a mix of curiosity and doubt hanging in the air. Dalos took a moment before nodding. "Very well, if you think it'll help you remember, it might be worth a shot."

Jason's shoulders relaxed, a subtle shift as if a weight had been lifted. Understanding the magic system would give him a fighting chance.

Dalos led Jason into a room adorned with mystical symbols and ancient scrolls. "Sit, sit," he said, gesturing to a cushioned seat. "Now, let me explain the core of magic. You see, we chant the words of the gods to channel our spiritual energy into magic. It's simple, really."

Jason couldn't help but think, "Simple? Oh, you mean just like explaining quantum physics to a 5-year-old.

Dalos gestured, and three individuals entered the room, their behavior solemn as though they were about to perform a sacred rite.

"Allow me to introduce the core magics of the Fendorn race," Dalos announced. "We specialize in three main types: creating materials, manipulating these created materials, and enhancing them."

As Dalos's guests prepared themselves, Jason discreetly activated his 'Eye of Debugger,' hoping to uncover the deeper mechanisms behind this so-called magic.

The practitioners lined up, each focused, waiting for their moment. The first one stepped forward, extending her hands and closing her eyes. "Watch closely," Dalos whispered, the room silent but for his voice.

The first practitioner began:

"From the cosmic forge, to steel I declare, Iron and carbon, in elements paired. Tags and attributes, in harmony soar, Compile into being, as steel I restore."

A piece of steel materialized out of thin air, floating before them. Jason's eyes widened, captivated by what seemed like a miracle. The first practitioner stepped back, her task completed.

Dalos gestured subtly, and the second practitioner advanced. Hands hovering over the floating steel, he took a deep breath and continued:

"By selector’s grace, to sword you shall bend, Curves and lines, in styles that I send. Radius smooth, yet structure defined, Transitions complete, in sword you're designed."

The steel morphed into the shape of a sword. Jason felt a surge of disbelief and wonder.

With a slight bow, the third practitioner advanced. Meeting Jason's eye briefly, she began the final chant:

"Function sharpen invoked, edge fine-tuned to the core, Increment sword strength, like a variable I store. Callbacks to the hilt, and to the blade's keen sight, Await your power, to unleash warrior's might."

The sword emitted a radiant glow. Its form became robust, its blade razor-sharp. Jason could hardly contain his awe.

Throughout the demonstration, Jason noticed something peculiar. The incantations they chanted sounded eerily like a script in a programming language. Each syllable, each phrase seemed to represent a command that transformed characters—code—into something palpable and real. His background as a web developer made it all the more fascinating and uncanny.

"Are they... Are they literally coding reality?" Jason pondered, his mind racing. "This is like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript... but on steroids."

His "Eye of Debugger" revealed something even more intriguing. This wasn't magic in the conventional sense—it was science, just a form of science this world hadn't realized yet. Everything seemed to revolve around bytes or some other unit of data. The incantations were like algorithms, manipulating these units into forming matter and effects, and spiritual energy was a form of computational resource.

Jason grinned to himself, "If magic here is just another form of coding, then I have a shot at this. After all, I'm a wizard in my own right—a code wizard."

"As with all things, there are limitations," Dalos said, eyes twinkling with wisdom. "Our magic has a lifespan; the effects last only for around ten minutes. Hence, we also train rigorously in physical combat to supplement our abilities."

Jason nodded with clearer understanding. "So they're like programmer-samurais...or nija, blending magic and weaponry. Ten minutes could be a limitation, but it all depends on how they use it."

"Thank you for this invaluable information, Dalos," Jason said earnestly. "Do you happen to know where I could train? I really need to get the hang of this before... you know, the whole duel thing."

Dalos nodded, a look of understanding in his eyes. "I'd recommend heading straight to the training ground located just behind the village hall," he said, pointing him in the direction of the exit.

Jason made his way through the village, his eyes scanning for the hall Dalos mentioned. Upon finding it, he spotted an open area filled with training dummies and wooden weapons. His footsteps quickened as he approached, and soon he was in the heart of the training ground.

Not being able to remember any of the incantations, Jason decided to focus on how the 'Eye of Debugger' could be used for battle. Jason settled into a chair, staring intently at a spear lying a few feet away from him. "Alright, Spear, tell me your secrets. What properties do you possess that could help me survive a duel? Maybe you have some kind of hidden power or... Oh man, I can't believe I'm talking to a spear."

Jason moved closer and studied the spear's properties, his attention landing on its 'position' attribute. "Can I manipulate this thing remotely?" he pondered. Focusing intently, he tried to update the spear's coordinates using just his imagination. The minutes felt like hours, each failed attempt melting away at his confidence.

Just when he was about to give up, he noticed something—the spear quivered an inch off the ground each time his gaze wandered. Energized by the clue, he fixed his gaze at a point a few feet away and visualized the spear levitating. After a struggle that seemed like an eternity, the spear lifted—just a few inches off the ground.

From a distance, Jason looked like he was daydreaming or slacking off, but in his mind, a battle raged on.

Garun glanced over and scoffed. "He's doing nothing, just slacking," he thought. Annoyed, he yelled, "Hey! What are you doing?!"

Jason's eyes, startled, snapped toward the source of the voice—Garun.

The moment Jason's eyes met Garun's, the spear—which had lifted just a few inches off the ground—shot through the air towards Garun at a startling speed. With amazing reflexes, Garun caught the spear just before it could make contact with his face.

Jason learned how to move an object, but he also moved himself in a difficult situation.

The spear, although intercepted by Garun's swift hands, resisted with an uncanny force. The levitating power infused by Jason made the spear jitter and wriggle in Garun's grasp, like a serpent trying to break free. Veins popped in Garun's arms, his muscles strained as he wrestled with the seemingly possessed weapon.

The square was silent, all eyes were locked on the tussle between the man and the levitating spear. The seconds stretched, the world seemed to slow down, and then, with a final determined heave, Garun slammed the spear into the ground, pinning it in place.

Garun's eyes locked onto Jason's, creating a strong tension in the air. "Well, that was unexpected. Perhaps you're not as pathetic as you look," he said, his words filled with a complexity that Jason couldn't quite figure out. Garun then turned away, and as he did, the corners of his mouth seemed to twitch upwards.

Jason squinted, his thoughts racing. 'Was that a smile? What's going on in his head?'

The unclear moment left him uneasy, casting a long shadow of doubt and making him even more nervous about the upcoming duel.