So, here we are. Chai Shang is a relatively small city located in southeastern China. If the game followed the novels, it would probably be Lu Meng's base of operations for his final campaign against Guan Yu.
It's pretty boring. Let's blow this joint.
Welcome to the world map! Unlike in ROTK6 and 8, the other two strategy/RPG entries in the series, you can travel freely around China and search every nook and cranny for random treasure and/or bandit attacks. Unfortunately, this also meant the removal of the multiplayer feature which let you control multiple characters at once. (Or play with a friend, if you're weird.)
You can also just choose a specific city or landmark to travel to from a list, but I know where we're going and trust me, we'll see that list plenty of times in the future.
I'm on a boat!
I'm on a horse!
I'm on a burnt-out husk of a former capital city!
This is why we're here. Luo Yang boasts one of the handful of schools scattered around China. Intelligence is what Meng is most lacking and most in need of right now, so we're going to enroll and spend some time crackin' books.
Hey, the mechanics don't really support us following exactly in Lu Meng's footsteps. If I waited to start training Int until I met Sun Quan, I'd probably be dead before I got it to a decent level.
Before we can enroll, this guy harangues me. Apparently, despite being a 17-year-old college student wannabe, Meng is important enough to warrant priority news alerts from China's omnipresent network of messenger clones.
The Imperial Seal was some kind of MacGuffin that proved the right to rule of whoever held it, except that no it didn't and its only role in this story is to set up Yuan Shu as an early antagonist.
Anyway, that's exciting and all, and we'll be joining the Sun family eventually, but right now it's time to start classes.
We head to the School of INT.
Classes cost 300 gold for every twenty days' worth of lessons. It's almost as bad as American tuition.
Success! Lu Meng gains 41 INT experience. When it hits 100, he'll gain a point to his stat.
We do this a couple more times, and Meng hits 41 Intelligence! He's well on his way to being as smart as an average bandit.
This guy again.
"It seems that Master Chen Gong and Master Zhang Miao of Cao Cao's Army defected to Lu Bu's Army and turned over control of Pu Yang to him."
Chen Gong became a playable character in Dynasty Warriors 8. He is hilariously evil. He even sounds like an 80's cartoon villain. It's seriously amazing.
"So Cao Cao's Army and Lu Bu's Army are engaging in battle... Things are going to get pretty rough in Yan for awhile."
Yeah-huh. Sucks for them. Anyway, we're a bit low on funds now, so like many college students, we're going to have to find a part time job.
We head to the tavern...
... and see if anyone has any work.
Deliver Product pays well, but it means (potentially) having to hike all the way across the map. We'll hold off on that for now. Catch Thieves will take place here in town and give us some WAR experience, which isn't quite as important to us as INT, but could still come in handy.
Have no fear, citizen! Captain Average is here!
We head to the market...
... and spend the next ten days chasing pickpockets.
We succeed at dispensing justice. Captain Average, away!
And with that, we've got enough cash to enroll in another twenty days of college.
Eighty days of school, and I'm finally starting to grasp basic subtraction.
Hey, speaking of, what happened to my money? I should have had some left...
... oh. Whoops. Back to Chai Sang!
The moment I arrive, another messenger clone ambushes me.
The Central Plains are a clusterfuck right now. It's not going to get less messy any time soon, either.
Anyway, this is why we're here. For some reason, Lu Meng started off with his own private unit of foot soldiers.
Private units are... interesting? I guess? A free officer can hire a retinue of up to 10,000 soldiers of whatever types are available to the city they establish the unit in. If they join an existing army, their private unit (I believe) comes with. They can also instead find a city they want and try to conquer it with their private army, thereby starting a new faction. This is easier done with unoccupied towns, obviously.
Why Lu Meng started with one, I could not tell you. Maybe I'm supposed to deliver it to Sun Ce?
Nah. I've got tuition fees.
Well, now I'm broke and halfway across the country from my campus again. At least my useless private army isn't draining my wallet any longer.
Next time: I file for residency in Luo Yang, and the Central Plains get wracked by even more scripted events. Excitement!