Bitter: Book 5 is now available on Kindle and EPUB. LINK.
Preface from Mooderino
Britta logged out because she didn’t trust good luck. She had just received a very valuable gift, so the next obvious step was for someone to come along and take it away from her. Or block her using it. Or change it into something she didn’t want.
The sudden panic of achieving the goal she had set for herself came as a surprise. She hadn’t realised what a pessimist she was until then. Not that she thought of herself as an enthusiastic blast of positivity — no one would think that — but she was generally hoping to do well, in a realistic way. Pragmatic, not negative.
But her ambitions had always been quite small, until recently. She had been prepared to struggle but, in the end, she saw her chances as fairly good and within her abilities.
Once you got beyond the humdrum and freely available, then it became much less likely for her to succeed. That was merely a matter of common sense. It was obvious she shouldn’t have struck it lucky so quickly and so fully. Not without a drawback.
Britta sat on her bed feeling like she’d just pulled off a bank heist and gotten clean away.
She hadn’t even waited around to ask N-28 what exactly he had done. All she’d seen was him using up the two skill points gained from the books, and then she could suddenly teleport around at will, as many time as she wanted.
Now that she was back home, the risk of being asked to return her ill-gotten gains seemed unlikely, although still not entirely absent. Safe enough to turn on the laptop and bring up her skill tree. She could at least take a closer look at the changes.
It took Britta several minutes of staring at the screen before she was able to locate the first new quirk. While all of her old quirks were on the right side of the screen, Walking the Dog was far on the left, with no connection between it and the ones she already had, at least, not on this side of the screen.
There were connections, lots of them, she had seen them but they were hidden from the eyes of players. Which made it very hard to work out what effect they would have once selected.
What did Walking the Dog have to do with teleporting? And more to the point, what was Walking the Dog?
There was no additional information about the quirks. The screen was a static update. She couldn’t press on anything or ask for additional details. That would have to wait until next time she logged in. But this snapshot of her current status would tell her where to look.
She had been given two skill points and both had been used. She began searching the screen for the second quirk and found no trace of it.
The skill tree was vast and complex. It was obvious why this wouldn’t be made available to players, new ones especially. It would only confuse them and make them feel overwhelmed.
New players were meant to understand what they needed to do so they could be kept busy and find it hard to log out. Make it too complicated at the start and they would get bored and give up. It was a game, it should be fun. It should feel like you were making progress.
She scanned the screen again, her face almost pressed up against it, but there was no other quirk highlighted.
“Is there a new quirk on this skill tree?” she asked the laptop. She found that if she asked a question out loud when there was no one else around, the computer would assume she was asking it.
“Yes,” said the laptop.
“Are there two?”
Britta looked again. There was definitely only one over on this side of the screen.
“Where is it?” A light began flashing over the new quirk. “And the second one?”
There was no change, just the one light flashing. She leaned closer.
“Have two skill points been used on the same quirk?” she asked.
“Yes,” said the laptop.
How was she supposed to have known to do that? Why was it even possible? The whole thing was ridiculous. They didn’t even follow their own rules. Britta was beginning to suspect there were no rules, they were making it all up as they went.
Next time she got a skill point, she would throw a dart at her skill tree. She would probably discover a legendary new ability.
Britta sighed and sat back in her chair. It didn’t really matter if she didn’t understand how it worked. She now had the ability she had wanted. She could go where she pleased, more or less. There was still the matter of the anti-magic devices to consider but there was a way to prevent herself from being affected — she had to level up and make her spells too strong to be countered. And to do that, she would have to go somewhere where the XP flowed like water.
It was a school night and she had things to do, but first she called Lin. If Britta was going to have any chance of surviving the hardships of the Legendary World, she would need help.
Lin answered almost immediately. “Did everything go well?”
“Fine, thank you. I was wondering, um, if you wanted to go to the Legendary World this weekend. I mean with me.”
“This weekend? Yes, that would be great. Really great.” Lin sounded genuinely thrilled at the prospect.
For Britta, it was a toss-up between feeling flattered and deeply suspicious. She really had to find a way to handle this intensified level of paranoia. Suppress it, or use it for something useful.
“Are we going anywhere in particular? Did you uncover a new feature?”
The problem with surpassing people’s expectations was that they then expected you to do it all the time.
“No. It won’t be anything too wild. I just need to level up a bit, and they have more XP available over there.”
“Grinding?” asked Lin, sounding not quite as enthused but doing her best to put a positive spin on it. Britta didn’t blame her. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Britta wasn’t entirely sure herself how she was going to find enough XP to level up, or if L-15 would even allow it. How had the Chinese team levelled so fast? Where on their server should she go? Was it all about killing monsters over there or were their other ways to acquire the necessary XP?
Tomorrow was school, that took priority. Bumping into Rick was a slight concern, but nothing she couldn’t handle, or avoid. He still didn’t know she was the one he was looking for. She went to bed wishing the weekend would come quicker.