Bitter 333

A bell tinkled melodically as Britta walked into Mr Fez’s Enchanted Couture. The air was laden with a sweet perfume and the clothes were individually displayed on small stands throughout the store like they were exhibits in a gallery.

Britta had seen boutiques like these in the West End. She always felt too nervous to go in on her own, and Mum was always too busy to bother with such places. She much preferred a large department store where you could buy everything all in one place.

The clothing wasn’t armour. You wouldn’t go into a dungeon in one of these outfits, not unless you wanted to impress the monsters with your keen sense of style. These were more like what you would wear if you were summoned to the palace so the king could thank you for saving the kingdom.

It was fairly obvious which class each outfit was meant for. The fighter collection was all metal plates covering sensitive areas; the magic users had robes with glittery bits along the sleeves; the rogues had tight-fitting leather with lots of pockets and straps that didn’t do anything apart from look cool.

Technically, she should get something mage-related. That was her class. But she couldn’t see herself swanning around in flowing robes like some mini-Gandalf. She’d be much more comfortable in something more practical.

It didn’t really matter, she just needed something to wear. Something not too over the top. They were all very fancy with fur lining and gems studded on the collars, and feathers sticking out of various places. The fur was very realistic. Britta was anti-fur. She knew it wasn’t real, but the concept was the same, so shouldn’t she stick to her principles? It was still skin taken off the bodies of dead animals.

Of course, so was leather, and she was fine with that, but it wasn’t just that furry critters were a lot cuter than cows. In this world, a lot of the animals could actually talk. When she looked at it like that, it really made her stomach queasy.

It was a dumb thing to get worked up about. There were far worse things you could do here that you would never do back home. And there were choices you would make back home that would require very little soul-searching. When it’s real, you just do what you have to.

If an actual ‘end of the world’ apocalypse happened, Britta wouldn’t be fretting about whether it was right to take things that didn’t belong to her, or if they had been ethically sourced. She wouldn’t be checking for ‘fair trade’ labels. She’d lob a brick through a window and take whatever she needed to survive.

Although, part of her hesitation was also to do with not knowing if this was a ‘last woman on earth’ scenario, or if everyone had just decided to take an extended lunch. It would be very embarrassing if they all came back to find her merrily rooting through their stuff.

Having said that, there was a slightly bigger problem to her progression in the looter class system. The clothes here weren’t just very fancy, they were also all very much aimed at the big and tall market. No children sizes.

It would probably be easiest to go with something in a robe that she could slash down to her diminutive requirements. The clothes here would have some magical enchantments on them, and cutting them up might damage their bonuses, but it was better than what she was rocking at the moment. She wondered how much of her stats she would lose.

That was why they had the tailors in the back. You chose the outfit you wanted, then they measured you up for the perfect fit. Only, there weren’t any tailors out back.

They might, however, have been working on orders for other people that weren’t quite so gigantic. Britta found the door in the back that led to the workshop. There were half a dozen tables, each with an unfinished garment abandoned mid-tailoring.

Some were large pieces of cloth with lines in chalk outlining a shape, but some were almost finished. Her sewing skills could do the rest.

She grabbed a leather mini-skirt meant for a sexy assassin. It would cover her down to below the knees.

“Identify.” She wanted to see if the stat bonuses had been applied, but there was no response to her command.

Was it such a high-level mini-skirt that she couldn’t identify it? That had happened before, but this felt different.

She tried to identify a few other items lying around, but got no response from them either. Then she tried it on the faintly-glowing kobold ring she was still wearing. She had identified it before, so her level shouldn’t have been a problem. There was no response there, either.

She tried to summon a ball of magic light. Nothing.

The status screen and the general mechanics of the game, like the health bar in her visual display, were all working fine. It was just magic that had stopped functioning. Was this related to why the NPC s had disappeared? No people and no magic.

The palm of her hand began flashing red. That meant a message. She tapped her palm, and it wasn’t just a message, it was twelve. All from the same person: Stan.

She had assumed she was able to still come here because Nigel had synced the game to her. She was uniquely connected to this world. But she wasn’t the only one to be given special treatment.

Stan had been forced to stay here, and unless they had managed a medical miracle, he had nowhere else to go. His body was in a state of crisis and putting him back in there was probably not an option. Which meant he was stuck here, alone.

The messages had been sent in short intervals, the earliest several hours ago. Why was she only receiving them now? She opened the last message in the chain. It comprised of only one word.

Help.

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