Bitter 574

The next morning, Britta left for school early so she wouldn’t have to face Dad. Mum would have told him what had happened at the dinner with Lin, and he would probably have something to say about it, but she wasn’t in the mood to talk to him right now.

She was just glad that no one knew Guildford Underpass was related to her, until she remembered there actually were a few people who did know, and they all went to her school.

There wasn’t much she could do about it, so she decided to keep her head down and hope they hadn’t been part of the seventeen million viewers.

Hopefully, the people in question were far too excited about their own role in the future of the game to worry about what Dad was telling them to do.

People were even beginning to notice that Lewis, Rick, Lucas and Toby were hanging out together. The four of them had never even been seen in the same room before, and now they were laughing and chatting all over the school. Even more shockingly, Rick was the one holding court.

Britta considered it a good thing. Not because it meant no more bullying for Rick, but because it meant no one would be thinking about her. She went home after a day of being ignored, just like old times. She much preferred it that way.

At home, she got changed and did her homework. She had thought over the situation with Lin, trying to work out if she had made the right choice. Obviously, she wouldn’t know until she actually logged in, which she had to in a few hours, but that didn’t stop her fretting over it.

Putting her nose in some books helped. She could take her mind off it using schoolwork. She had her physics tutor coming as well, so she was kept busy for the next few hours.

After the tutor left, she had dinner with Mum. Dad was off doing something very important in the game, which was probably for the best.

Britta went up to her room and texted Lin to let her know she was about to log in. Lin responded almost immediately and Britta lay down and put her helmet on.

They had agreed to meet at the church in Quosada. Britta didn’t want to get spotted in Shona again, and there was no need to go there right now. She did still need to go to the Institute for Magic to earn the skill points she needed, but that idea wasn’t so pressing now that Lin was going to be acting as her bodyguard.

Not exactly a bodyguard, but someone who would prevent anything bad happening to her.

The Church of Roha was very quiet and empty. Britta walked through the chapel and opened the doors. There was a woman standing on the steps; her name tag said her name was Loreli. Britta knew it was Lin even from behind.

The most striking thing about Lin was her gear. She was kitted out in a manner not even the Chinese team could rival. Britta had seen what kinds of fashion outfits were available in the cash shop, and there was nothing this fancy, not even close. This was full-on armour that covered her body in interlocking metal plates, but rather than being stiff and awkward, it was sleek and form-fitting, showing off Lin’s physique.

Normally, female warriors in fantasy settings wore very little and had huge bosoms barely contained by their metallic bras (metallic for protection, obviously). It was the kind of juvenile male idea of what a fighting woman should look like. Superheroes tended to be built along the same lines — even when they were fully clothed, the proportions were exaggerated to a stupid degree.

No matter how empowered they might claim to be making women with all the punching and fighting, in the end the pictures were worth more than a thousand hypocritical words.

Looking at Lin, though, there was absolutely nothing masculine about her. The outline of her body was very clearly visible. She didn’t have huge boobs, her legs weren’t endless, her lips weren’t all puffy and seductive. This wasn’t her real body, of course, but it seemed about the same size, and there was no mistaking the stance. That was how Lin stood in real life, like a ballerina about to do a thousand effortless twirls.

She had two slim swords on her hips and a bow strapped to her back. And on her head she wore a thin scarf that looked like she had tossed it around her neck and somehow it had swirled into the perfect shape to frame her face and cover her long black hair. She just needed a pair of dark glasses and a big fan to blow her hair and scarf back, and the cover of Vogue would be hers.

Britta looked Lin up and down, shaking her head. “You can’t dress like that.”

“Ah, there you are. You don’t like my look?” The face wasn’t exactly the same — her character was an elf, for a start — but the main features were very similar, apart from the pointy ears.

“No, I don’t. I prefer to be inconspicuous. You’re already attracting too much attention.” Britta nodded towards the street. People were passing by, all of their necks turned at ninety degrees to the direction they were walking in as they checked out the superstar player outside the church. They certainly weren’t looking at Britta.

“It’s so peaceful and relaxed here,” said Lin.

It didn’t seem that relaxed, although she could see fewer players than she was used to among the crowd. Had everyone moved on to the city?

“Let’s go inside for a minute,” said Britta.

“Oh, alright,” said Lin as she followed Britta back into the church. “You know, even if I attract attention, it might warn people off. Stop them from making trouble for us.”

“No,” said Britta. “It would only make more trouble. You have to change into something more… less.”

“More less?”

“Exactly.”

“Or we could just ignore them.”

“I would rather they ignored us,” said Britta.

Lin looked down at herself and pulled a face. “I suppose I could tone it down a bit. I thought it looked pretty.” She moved her arms up and down, and the silver surface reflected a variety of colours, like it was made of mother of pearl.

“That’s even worse,” said Britta. “Didn’t you say you were still Level 1?”

“That’s right,” said Lin.

“Don’t you have the beginner’s outfit you started with?”

“I started with this.”

“How much health do you have?”

“Infinite.”

Britta wasn’t sure she’d heard right. “You have infinite HP? Does that mean you can’t be hurt, or that you can be hurt forever?”

“I don’t take damage. From anything.”

Here was a character who was even more OP than the AI. Obviously, a player with infinite health couldn’t be allowed to interact with normal players. Just like Britta couldn’t.

“If you can’t be hurt, you don’t need armour. Just buy something basic from the Player’s Market.”

“Alright,” said Lin. She was being very cooperative and letting Britta make all the decisions, like she said she would. How long would that last? Britta wondered.

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