Bitter 161

Britta returned to her room once she’d eaten. Dad did try to ask her about what had happened but she said she was still figuring out what to do about the dwarf. She didn’t mention Stan knowing her private details because she knew both her parents would have a fit about it and stop her playing the game.

They might eventually let her back in after talking to Dr Reedy and getting various assurances, but the decision would no longer be Britta’s. They were her parents and she was technically a child, so it was their job to step in when they felt things were getting out of hand. Britta understood that. But she was also capable of making her own choices, especially in a world that wasn’t real.

Choosing what path to take and seeing where it took you was what was great about the game, especially because you had the opportunity to take the path you normally wouldn’t.

Britta wanted to go against her normally restrained and careful approach to life. It was safer, but it also meant missing out on a lot of stuff. Stuff like doing something you knew was probably going to end badly, just for the hell of it.

She had a sense that she was only just starting the game now. Everything that came before was like an extension of the tutorial. A way for her to learn the basics. She hadn’t really understood what the point was, other than to admire the realism of digital fakery.

She took a shower and got dressed. There was a slight tug in her mind, urging her to put on the helmet and get back into New World, but she ignored it. Instead, she went through her school books and made sure she was up to date with everything she needed to do. She set up a planner on her computer and set aside time each day to do homework and stay ahead of any coursework.

Being organised came easily to Britta, so it didn’t take long. She was determined to keep on top of her studies and to do it as efficiently as possible. The game was very time consuming and would probably only become more so. She had no intention of turning into some helpless addict who lost sight of their real life because it was more fun to live a pretend one. She liked her hair clean and her complexion clear and intended to keep them both that way.

Once everything was done and neatly put away in her bag for school tomorrow, Britta lay down on the bed and put on the helmet.

She emerged from the Temple of Roha into a bright, sunny afternoon. She realised she had never been here at night, even when it was night at home. Perhaps they hadn’t implemented a night time mode yet.

The first thing she did was go to the Adventurer’s Guild building which was opposite the temple. She walked up to the receptionist and asked about where to store things she didn’t want to carry around, where to sell swords and armour she found in dungeons and how to train in using weapons. It was clear to her she would have to get better at defending herself.

Now that she had a clearer idea of what she wanted to do, it became a lot easier asking questions. She no longer felt awkward and embarrassed showing how little she knew. She peppered the receptionist with questions, her only concern being to get the information she needed and not forget to ask something and have to waste time coming back later.

The receptionist was very helpful. There was a bank where you could store items and money. They charged a small fee. The local smithy was the best place to sell stuff like weapons and armour. You could get more from the Auction House, but only if you found a buyer—not many people were looking for a rusty kobold sword. Training in weapons was available from the guild. You could sign up for a series of workouts like you were signing up for a yoga class.

Britta decided the training could wait for now. She went to the bank, which had appeared on her map once the receptionist mentioned it, and opened an account. She stored the Cloak of the Dorf in a small room only she could enter. There was just the one door for everyone, but it took each person to their own private storage space.

The blacksmith bought the equipment she had picked up and used it for scrap. He gave her six coppers for all of it, which was practically nothing. It really wasn’t worth the effort of carrying it out of the dungeon.

Once she’d got all that out of the way, she checked her map for Stan. He was still registered as her friend so he would show up as a blue dot. He was at the mine.

If she could see him, then he could see her. He must have known she had logged back in but he hadn’t tried to contact her. He was waiting, leaving her to decide for herself. This was too important to him to risk screwing up by being a jackass.

She sent him a message that she would meet him by the entrance to the mine and got a simple ‘Okay’ in return.

Donald took less than ten minutes to get her there. The queue for the mines wasn’t as long as it had been and there were no high-level characters organising things. People had given up on the idea of finding the rumoured dwarf and the line to the epic version had once again become huge.

Stan was waiting. He saw her approach and waved in case she hadn’t seen him.

She climbed off Donald who wandered off.

“If we do this, we do it my way. I might not know what I’m doing but I still get to make the decisions. We aren’t equal partners.”

Stan nodded.

“You’re going to have to get rid of all your OP items,” said Britta. “It won’t let us meet the dwarf if we have broken gear.”

“Oh... okay. Just the stuff I was wearing last time?”

“Yes. You can’t have it in your inventory, either. You have to put it in the bank or get rid of it.”

Stan nodded and then walked over to the other queue. He spoke to a tall man in full metal armour waiting to go into the epic version and began handing over items. A dagger, a ring, a cloak. Some scrolls, a small leather bag, a stick that could have been a wand. The recipient took them with wide eyes, thanking Stan profusely.

“He’s in my guild,” said Stan when he returned looking lighter. “I’ll get them off him later.”

“What if he doesn’t want to give them back?”

“I’ll kill him,” said Stan, smiling. “I’m joking.”

“I don’t think you’re joking,” said Britta.

“You probably think I’m going to wait until the right time and then turn on you and it’s a terrible mistake to trust me, right?”

“Probably,” said Britta.

“But you’re going to do this anyway.”

“Yes.”

Stan’s smile turned into a grin. “I think we’ll get on just fine.”

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