Despite Lin’s rather unsettling description of her passion for plants, Britta was quite curious to see what a garden grown in a fantasy world looked like. Lin sounded like she knew what she was talking about, and being from China probably meant the kinds of plants she was familiar with were very different to the ones in Britta’s back garden.
Lin had also used the word ‘impossible’ when talking about her horticultural creations, which suggested they were even more exotic than anything Britta could picture.
“That sounds really amazing,” said Britta. She wanted to ask if she could come over and have a look, but it felt rude to invite herself. Her desire to be more bold in her requests wasn’t advanced enough to impose on people quite so bluntly. “I suppose there are a lot of things you can do in New World that don’t involve the game.”
It was a bit of a lame dismount from the conversation, but Britta was still learning how to talk to people who were from another world. Simply being herself and speaking normally was surprisingly difficult to do.
“Yes, we expect the majority of people to simply live there. You have more options and better opportunities to do as you please.”
It was the first time Britta had considered New World as not a game. She realised there would be lots of people who would find alternative ways to amuse themselves, but she had always thought of them as a small minority. From the way Lin was speaking, she expected most people to see New World as a place to hang out, maybe even live, and the game part of it would only interest only a select few.
“I could buy a house,” said Britta. She knew that already, of course, but now it actually felt like something she might do.
“Yes. And make it incredibly beautiful. Fighting dragons has nowhere the appeal of designing your perfect home in the perfect setting, and then living there. Of course, it won’t come cheap. Wealth has to be earned whether in life or in a game.”
There were all sorts of questions in Britta’s mind, about how you would make really large amounts of money in the game, and how much real-world money it would take to circumvent the effort required. There was another side to New World she hadn’t really spent much time thinking about.
“Thank you, for sorting out the cash shop for me. I mean the Players’ Store.”
“You’re welcome, Britta. Feel free to call me if there’s anything else. I’m going to go watch you deal with these gnomes. They seem terribly afraid of something, don’t you think?”
Britta wasn’t sure if she was telling or asking. Surely, if anyone could find out what the game was up to, it was Lin. But maybe she didn’t want the surprise spoiled for herself.
“They think there’s a war coming,” said Britta, “so there probably is.”
“Yes. It does look that way.”
Neither of them was prepared to make any definitive predictions, it seemed. Britta thanked her again and turned off her phone. She reached towards the laptop, and it came to life before she’d even touched it.
She did a quick browse through the Players’ Store, looking for real estate and land purchasing options. There weren’t any, as far as she could see, but there was a whole section on garden furniture for some reason. If ever she wanted an outdoor table with a giant parasol attached to the middle, it was hers for the equivalent of £75. It would have been quite a reasonable price if the table had been real.
Britta went back downstairs to tell Mum she no longer needed to access her bank account. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table, deciding which of the slowly defrosting items he would have for lunch. And which for dinner, and which for tomorrow’s breakfast. Once it was out of the freezer and soft around the edges, it was eat it or bin it.
“Mum tells me you want to go pay-to-win,” he said.
“No, Dad, I don’t. I just want to use the cash shop for saving totems so I don’t get halfway to the city and then find myself back where I started.”
“What’s wrong with the regular save points?” he asked. “Why not use them?”
“I would if I could find them.”
“Just look them up on your map.” He said it like it was the simplest thing in the world.
“I just open my map and say, ‘Please show me all the saving points,’ do I?”
“Yes,” said Dad.
Britta looked at him to check he wasn’t making fun of her. When he was being sarcastic, he tended to pull a face as a physical exclamation point. He didn’t pull any faces this time.
“I can just ask the map? And it’ll show me?”
“Yes. Don’t worry, I was like you once. Then I took an arrow to the knee.” He smiled, and then screwed up his nose and bared his teeth like he was having a fit.
“They’ve unlocked the cash shop for me,” said Britta. “I can use whatever I want, for free.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” said Mum, her head somewhere in the back of the freezer.
“What?” said Dad. “That’s not fair!”
“So I guess I can save when and where I feel like it.” She pulled a face back and left the room.
“Lunch in half an hour,” Mum called after her. It would be an assortment of microwaved frozen dinners, probably.
Now that she had the freedom to go any distance without having to worry about where she’d respawn, there was nothing holding her back. She could make it to the capital in her own time. Half an hour now. Couple of hours later.
She logged back into the game and opened her eyes to find a glaring light in her face. She slowly sat up. The light went out, and leafy vines caught in her hair. This wasn’t the altar she’d logged out from.
She pushed her way through the vines. She was in the chasm below the Gnome Village where the Great Gnome in the Sky lived.