Bitter 23

Britta felt an uncomfortable strain in her lower regions. She didn’t have a stomach or intestines here, but the body back home in the pod did. She needed a bio break.

Now that she knew how to log out, it was a simple matter to leave the game. What she still didn’t know was where she would come back to. Where she was standing now in the alley? In the Church of Roha? It would be best to figure these things out sooner rather than later.

She hit the Exit button on the status screen and woke up in the pod. She pushed the lid up and was back in her darkened living room. It felt strange to be in her own body again. She carefully stepped out of the pod, ready for the vertigo. It came but wasn’t as bad as before. It passed after a few seconds.

She stumbled through the darkness and turned on the light. The real world was a little mundane after dragons and alley fights. The colours felt muted and dull. She went to the bathroom first, then to the kitchen to make herself some toast and a cup of tea. It was after 2 AM, much later than she had expected. She hadn’t had anything for dinner and the hunger was real. Six slices of toast later she was ready to return.

In fact, all Britta had done while eating was plan her next move in New World. Toast was hardly a proper meal but it was quick to make, quick to eat. There was a sense of urgency to get back. Games were addictive, but it had been a while since one had really hooked her. It was quite exciting.

It felt familiar and comfortable as she slid back into position in the pod. The darkness as the lid closed was no longer scary and suffocating, it was welcome.

She opened her eyes to familiar walls. She was in the church again, in the same small room or one very similar. The dagger was still in the rope-belt around her waist where she’d left it.

Equipment and items didn’t get lost the way they did when you died. That was good. It was probably obvious but Britta didn’t want to take anything for granted. Game designers were apt to overlook very basic things even after months of testing.

Sister Florence didn’t come bursting in this time. Britta opened the door and poked her head out. The interior of the temple looked the same, just as empty as last time. If this was her restore point, would it change when she moved around the world? Once she had more than one, would she be able to choose where she revived?

She closed the door and sat down on the hard stone slab that served as a bed. It would be a good idea, she decided, to make a thorough inspection of the controls and buttons in her status screen, and doing it here would be safer than outside.

Her approach was simple: find every menu, press every button. If she did something stupid and managed to accidentally kill herself at least she would return here and her dagger would be where she died, assuming one of the nuns didn’t nick it.

Britta went through the status screen with the intent of seeing all the options and it was a very different experience compared to when she was rushing through it as quickly as possible. She found loads of drop down menus and buttons and sliders.

There was a setting for colour that moved all the way down to zero. Everything around her went black and white. The other end of the slider, it went garish technicolour. No wonder the real world had seemed lacklustre, you could actually make the world a more colourful place here. She returned it to a setting that was realistic, with a touch extra.

Audio was also changeable. She changed the settings and clapped her hands to get a sense of how much of a difference there was. At the highest setting it was like a crack of thunder.

Alongside that there was the option to play music. Britta assumed only she would be able to hear it, but the idea of walking around with your own personal theme playing would no doubt be very appealing to certain people. Mainly boys.

All that stuff was vaguely interesting, but not really helpful when it came to playing the game. What was far more useful was the page that allowed you to customise your status screen and HUD.

You could actually change what you saw as you walked around. She already knew you could have the map in the top corner of your vision, but she could have her health and mana displayed, too. That way, she would know when she was about to die and when she had used up her magic. There was also a clock she could put up showing the time in the real world. It made the immersion a little less, having readouts in front of you like some kind of android, but it would make not dying a lot easier.

The other page she found particularly useful was the spellcasting options. Here, she could change what words to use when casting spells and even forego words altogether and use gestures. Perfect. Rather than having to shout embarrassing words she could just point or something.

There was a warning to not choose words or gestures that might be made accidentally, which made sense. You wouldn’t want to shoot off a fireball in the middle of a conversation because you clapped your hands together.

For her blinding light that only worked half the time she chose a finger-gun with a thumb-cocking motion. She had a vague hope pointing it away from herself would make it less likely to go off in her own face. She had to press a button and then make the gesture within three seconds. Then a computer graphic of a hand repeated the gesture and asked her to okay it.

Mirror was closing one fist with the thumb inside and then touching the object to be copied. Fireball was throwing out her hand like she was casting a fishing line.

Now that she had all these new moves, it was time to try them out. Here, in an empty room, seemed the best place, and the safest place. First, she tried the Glamor spell. She pointed her finger and cocked her thumb. Nothing happened.

She did it over and over, and the fifth time it went off. There was a bright flash and some blinking on her part, but she wasn’t blind. On her display, her mana had gone down slightly. She did it a couple more times to make sure she’d got it. The trick was to keep her hand very still and do it quick.

For Mirror, she made a copy of herself who appeared sitting beside her. She hadn’t paid attention to how long the apparition had lasted on the previous occasion; after the guards had turned up her focus had been on them and when she looked again the copy was gone. This time she would time it to make sure.

Mirror took a larger chunk of her mana, but she still had more than half left. Last of all was the fireball. She felt a bit apprehensive using it indoors, but it was only an illusion, not the real thing. The walls wouldn’t burst into flames, she hoped.

She made the fishing rod move and a flaming red beach ball flew from her hand making a roaring sound. The door to the room opened and Sister Florence screamed.

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