Bitter 119

Britta knew she could be imagining the worst for no real reason and doing Stan a great disservice. He had more experience so it made perfect sense he should be leader, especially if he wanted to invite his guild mates into the party.

If there were more of them, they would have a better chance against the dwarf which also made perfect sense.

And yet…

“Maybe I should kick you.”

“What?” said Stan, his face twisting out of shape with shock. “Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know, something feels off. First you want to leave and don’t care what happens to me, then you race to stop me getting to the treasure room, and now you want to play the hero so I can get away. Feels like you’re hiding something.”

Stan held up his hands, his voice regaining its calm, but only with some obvious effort. Britta had witnessed too many arguments between her pretending-to-be-civil parents not to recognise the signs.

“Look, it’s cool. I’m sorry if I’m acting weird, but this place is freaking me out. I’ve put more than two hundred hours into this game and I’ve never seen anything like what’s been happening here. Not even close.”

She had only a few hours played, but she could see his point. She was also aware that his explanation failed to explain his attempt at preventing her getting to the treasure room.

“Yeah, it is a bit weird,” Britta conceded.

“Right? If you give me leadership, I can invite my guildies and we can actually have a fighting chance. But it doesn’t have to be me—I can give you their usernames and you can send the invites yourself.”

He was being very open and considerate now. And yet…

“Explain ‘Kick from party’,” said Britta.

A majority vote is required to Kick a member from the party. In the case of a tie, the Leader has the deciding vote.

The message appeared in front of her and the simpering female voice read it out. The voice sounded more seductive than before. Nice to see the devs were hard at work, improving the important stuff.

A majority vote. That meant if she invited his friends, they could get together and Kick her. She held the power at the moment because there were only two of them and she had the deciding vote.

Another howl bounced around somewhere in the tunnels. It wasn’t very far away, but no closer than before. Could undead dwarves get lost?

“Okay,” said Britta. “We can invite them after we find somewhere safe to hide. Let’s go to the treasure room.”

She saw it, a glimpse of something smug pass across Stan’s face, a subtle fist pump down by his side.

They started moving, both agreeing it was best to stay ahead of the dwarf. He lit the way with his torch, eager to take the lead and face any dangers first. He had looked at her ball of light but had only said, “Faerie Light scroll? Nice,” with an approving nod.

Give him the leadership role and he’d Kick her. Invite his friends into the dungeon and they’d kick her. Kick him first and the dwarf would kill her. The only safe play seemed to be to stick with just the two of them. And that didn’t feel all that safe either. If she died ‘accidentally’ the leadership role would revert to him.

All things considered, she didn’t really want to be here with someone who would most likely turn on her at a critical moment.

“Open Group.”

Stan swung around. “What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t shake the feeling you’re being sneaky. I don’t know why, but it’s not something I can ignore. Better you go do your own run with your mates if that’s what you want.”

“No, no, no,” said Stan in quick fire succession, waving the torch around so it left a glowing red trail. “Don’t, please.”

“Can you not hear how odd you’re being? Why are you so desperate to do this Level 1 dungeon? What’s the big deal?”

“Look, I’ll level with you, okay? This dungeon, it’s unique. I messaged one of my friends and told them what had happened here, and they tried this dungeon for themselves, but it was perfectly normal. No dwarf, usual traps and puzzles, same treasures. This isn’t just some bug, it’s a one-off. I don’t know if it’s random—one of those special events that happen if you’re the one millionth customer or whatever—or if it’s some test dungeon that went live by accident, but nothing here is like the rest of the game. Even the kobolds don’t act normal.”

She believed him. He had found this completely bizarre place and was desperate not to miss out on any special loot or crazy boss fight. She knew Dad would react the same to something like this, but she also knew his attitude towards a noob in her position.

Stan felt he deserved this one-in-a-million special event. He had put the hours in, grinding and farming, it was only right he experience something regular plebs couldn’t. Plebs like her. His guild buddies were also deserving. Get them in here and let the noob earn her chance at the next one-off somewhere down the line.

Of course what Stan didn’t realise was that it wasn’t the dungeon that was the one-in-a-million, it was her. She was confident next time she came here, it would be the same.

That still didn’t excuse Stan’s behaviour, though. She did what she would have done even if it had been Dad standing in front of her being a jerk.

Kick Stanley’s Cameo.”

“Nooooo.” Stan disappeared.

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