There was no point trying to insist someone else take responsibility. As soon as N-28 had selected her quirks for her — making the best choices after a mere glance, ones she probably wouldn’t even have been aware of — he turned away and began organising his troops. The big shadow monster was now the centre of attention. Britta was left to clean up the mess in the back, like a janitor without a mop.
She could have made a fuss, stamped her foot and insisted they sort out their own problems, but she could see they were all genuinely busy. There was a battle between good and evil going on, and even the bad guys needed to get ready.
“Um, could I at least borrow a weapon. I don’t really…” No one was listening. She wasn’t sure a weapon would do her much good, to be honest, but it felt like an opportune moment to get N-28 to give back the large dagger he’d taken from her last time.
“Here,” grunted a large ogre (possibly a troll), “you can have this if you like.” He handed her a giant hammer that was taller than she was. “I’ve got two.”
He held it out with a goofy look on his face. The bad guys may have been on the side of darkness and demonic forces, but they were team players.
“Er, thanks, but it’s a bit too big for me.”
“It’s not the size, you know? People think it’s how big it is that makes it hurt so much when you smash someone’s head in, but it’s the momentum. You’ve got to swing it just right, hit that apex and then follow through.”
Britta nodded and turned to look for a way out. Not so much out of Monster HQ as out of this conversation.
The guardvark family were all looking at her.
“Take this,” said a small impish creature, handing Britta a club. “I need it back, though.”
The club was manageable but dragged along the ground. Fortunately, it wasn’t too heavy and she was able to rest it on her shoulder and carry it like that.
Britta cast Teleport and the world blurred for a second. She hadn’t actually chosen where to go but she was thinking of Gabba and hoped that was good enough.
“What the—” Gabba wasn’t expecting company and jumped back, dagger drawn. Then she saw who it was and visibly relaxed, which was mildly insulting.
“Go back,” said Britta.
Gabba paused like she was thinking about it but she was probably inspecting Britta’s abilities and stats.
“Nice club. Did you mug a caveman?”
She was stalling for time. Britta wasn’t sure why, maybe her detecting skills were on a cooldown. Britta was on a bit of a clock herself. She produced a fireball in her hand, ready to throw it at Gabba.
“Really?” said Gabba, not at all concerned. “I know you’re an illusionist. Illusionists don’t do fireballs. Not real ones. Go ahead, burn me to a crisp.”
Britta threw the fireball and it shot forward, growing larger, filling the tunnel, roaring towards a defiant Gabba, who didn’t even try to get out of the way. When the smoke cleared, there was nothing left but ash.
It was hard not to smirk. Gabba had been so sure of herself, so confident. It was very satisfying seeing her eyes widen in disbelief when the blistering heat had hit her, just before she exploded.
But she would be back in a moment, and very angry. One win would just be seen as a fluke.
Britta checked her map and started walking towards the totem where Gabba would respawn. Then she shook her head at her own lack of common sense and used the totem herself.
She logged back in and found herself in the tunnel with the totem, alone. She was sure Gabba would arrive in a minute, so she waited. She thought about breaking the totem, that way Gabba would be miles away and have to find her way here again. It was tempting, but Britta wanted to make a point.
“That wasn’t very nice. I nearly lost a whole level.”
“I did warn you,” said Britta, pleased she hadn’t jumped when Gabba appeared, the way Gabba had when Britta had appeared earlier.
“It was an illusion,” said Gabba. “How did an illusion kill me when I knew it was an illusion?”
“Maybe it wasn’t an illusion,” said Britta.
“Then you would have got burned, too. Small tunnel, large fireball. You’re not even singed. You cheated.”
“I cheated better than you, you mean?”
Gabba didn’t look like she was willing to see it that way. She pulled out a dagger.
“It won’t end well,” said Britta, producing another fireball. “How much XP are you willing to lose?”
Britta was confident of a second win. Gabba had died and come back through a totem, so the debuff was up again. The strange thing, though, was how her confidence was almost tangible. When you were properly confident of beating someone, you weren’t the only one who knew it. Just by looking at Gabba, it was obvious she knew Britta wasn’t bluffing.
“Hmm,” said Gabba, putting away the dagger. “No point bringing a knife to a fireball fight.”
“Leave the guardvarks alone. Tell the Alchemist they’re off-limits.”
“You think she’ll listen? Your fireballs won’t work against her, will they?”
“No, but if she doesn’t back off, I’ll go to the other alchemist, the one who taught your one, and I’ll help her. Tell her that. I think she’ll get the message.”
Gabba cocked an eyebrow. “Is that right? Interesting. You really know a bunch of them, huh? Well, well, well.”
She seemed to be thinking things over. Britta waited, fireball spinning in the palm of her hand.
“Time for a tactical withdrawal, then. Until next time.” Gabba took a step back, her smug smile back in place looking for all the world like it was her win, and logged out.
Britta let out a sigh of relief and dismissed the fireball. Then she brought down the club and smashed the totem to pieces. Those points she’d put into strength not wasted after all.
Finally, she could get back to her own adventure. She was looking forward to it but first, she sent Dad a PM.
Using cash shop items? The shame!
The reply was almost instantaneous.
Not mine. Battlefield improvisation. To win the war, one must make sacrifices.
Britta smiled as she typed in the next message.
Try destroying one.
She waited for his next reply, giggling to herself.
Why the hell are they defending our totems?
Britta closed the chat and logged into her own totem, somewhere on the road to the big city.
500 chapters done, will be taking a break. Bitter will return Monday 3rd September. Oh, and there's a little bonus chapter on the next page...
Bitter Book 4 (Ch. 301-400) is now available on Amazon and other sites, if you feel like supporting the cause.Afterword from Mooderino