Bitter 37

Britta opened her eyes. She was, as expected, back in the temple. The small room looked no different from the last time. Did she always come back to this room or did they just look the same?

Now that she was here, she didn’t really know what she wanted to do. There was plenty of New Town left to explore, and then there was the surrounding areas, but her character wasn’t really equipped to deal with any encounters of a life threatening manner. It had become all too obvious everything could kill her. Weak monsters, plants, inanimate objects—even her own spells. Fighting her way to the top was not going to work out.

The compulsion to be in this world was still strong, though. Back home, she was lying in the pod wrapped in only a towel. Which, admittedly, would help with the buckets of sweat she’d produce while playing the game, but made her feel a little uncomfortable about how the game had sucked her back in. Was she an addict already?

First, she needed to check her status screen to see what she’d gained from taking part in the zombie fight. Deep down she couldn’t help but hope somehow her one hit on the giant zombie’s foot had been the decisive attack and would earn her billions of XP and a magic sword or whatever. Illusionists probably didn’t use swords. Maybe a wand.

As she raised her hands she noticed her palm was glowing. She pressed the ‘message’. Tiny fireworks went off in her hand again. It didn’t feel quite so impressive this time.

“Congratulations, you have reached level 3,” said an emotionless voice.

Well, at least she had gained one level. Now she was level 3 she could do the quest for a mount and ride around on a pony. That at least would be enjoyable, assuming the pony didn’t kill her.

She opened the status screen. She had another point to spend on her abilities. The point in strength she’d added last time hadn’t made much difference, but it wasn’t like she’d tested it much. How do you tell if you’re slightly stronger? There wasn’t a gym where you could lift a few weights to see. Actually, there probably was in the guild, all those musclebound warriors were bound to want to show off their digital muscles, even though they were probably nerds who never went to the gym in real life.

Britta stuck a point in strength again. She would get buff and punch the next zombie she met right in the knee.

Choose one: Ventriloquism, Magic Wall, Shadow Guardian

She had the same options for spells plus a new one. She looked up Shadow Guardian and learned it summoned a shade she could tell to keep watch or go check things. It sounded quite useful. See what’s round the next corner, or have it keep an eye out while you did something you didn’t want to be caught doing. She took it.

She could have spent more time deliberating about which was the best spell for her particular build and skill level, but who had the time? One more crappy spell wouldn’t make much of a difference either way.

Before she closed the status screen, Britta added a gesture to summon the Shadow Guardian. The casting word was ‘dildo’ and there was no way she was going to say that out loud. No doubt some adolescent programmer thought himself a real wit for sneaking that past his bosses.

She immediately summoned the shade by interlocking the fingers of both hands. Probably not the most efficient gesture, but it was the first thing that had come to mind. It appeared like a mirage, shimmering slightly and wobbling like a poorly tuned black and white television. Dad had one in his office at home, although he never used it. He was one VHS video player away from becoming a total hipster loser.

“Go see if anyone’s outside,” she told it.

“Hidden mode?” it asked in a thin, scratchy voice.

“Yes, hidden mode.”

The Guardian faded to a less visible grey so it looked like a watery reflection. It floated towards the door and then through it. A moment later it came back.

“The main hall is empty.”

This spell really could turn out to be useful, especially if no one but her could see it. She would have to check next time she ran into another monster, so hopefully never.

“What else can—” Before she could finish her question, the shade faded from view and then disappeared completely.

Britta checked her mana—zero. A useful spell that depleted all her magic. Good thing her other spells were all so terrible she’d never want to use them. Her hand was glowing again. She had a message, another parcel was waiting for her at the post office. More junk mail trying to get money out of her? She would get it later, first she wanted her pony.

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