Bitter 453

Britta had short legs, that is, her gnome character did. She would have liked to have sped up and got ahead of the people making her feel uncomfortable (for no good reason she could think of). Whatever the problem was, Britta wanted nothing to do with it — let them keep their aggravation to themselves. But her legs didn’t really allow for a quick getaway.

Normally, their own lengthy strides should have increased the distance between them and her, but they were moving slowly, limping in some cases. The end result was a matching of paces.

Britta could have summoned Donald and cantered past them. Once she got to Gumberlee and found the village church, she would be free to log out and return tomorrow. By that time, her brooch would be recharged and she could fly straight to the capital. She might have to buy some mana potions first, though.

She was tempted to do just that, ignore this weird silent treatment of her and carry on with her own adventure, but she found the idea of smugly riding past them as they struggled to get back to the village to be somewhat cringe-inducing. She didn’t want them to think she was that kind of person, even though she shouldn’t have really cared what they thought about anything.

It was a strange situation. She hadn’t done anything wrong, had no idea why they were upset with her, couldn’t find the nerve to confront them about what was going on, and yet, she still ended up feeling bad about it.

What her short legs could do, though, was stop. She was still quite soggy and her feet were especially starting to feel a bit yuck. Wet hairy feet in soaked boots did not make for a great combination.

She sat down in a patch of sunlight on the side of the path and took off her boots. A comically large amount of water flowed out.

She took off her backpack and jacket. It was a warm day and it wouldn’t take long to dry off if she kept herself in direct sunlight. It would also put some distance between her and them. Whatever the issue was, she would handle it a lot better once they were out of sight. She didn’t need them to be nice to her, what she really needed was a towel and maybe a pair of socks.

The cash shop didn’t deal in the more mundane items, which was an oversight, Britta felt. It wasn’t like they had problems with storage space. No warehouses were required to hold surplus stock. There was no stock.

Britta perused the Players’ Store as she was waited for her toes to dry. Her shirt and trousers were a little damp and a spare set would be handy.

Most of the items in the store were a little on the grandiose side for her liking. They were made for attracting attention, so it made sense to have a pair of trousers with a prehensile tail sewed into the back, or a jacket with giant spikes on the shoulders. It made sense if you were a massive exhibitionist.

Britta wasn’t. She would have liked an outfit the same as the one she was wearing, but less waterlogged. There was a robe that didn’t seem too ostentatious once she used the colour options to make the trim, the lining and the starry pattern all similar tones of brown and beige. It almost looked boring, if you ignored the giant collars Elvis Presley would’ve had second thoughts about.

She ordered the robe along with a magic bag and a new totem. Clichéd as it was, shopping did make her feel better. It was only a short-term fix, as past experience had taught her, but feeling less miserable in the short-term was better than nothing.

Now she just had to wait for the airdrop. She lay back and soaked up the sun. A shadow fell over her.

Britta sat back up. “Yes?”

“I wanted to tell you, it’s alright,” said Red.

Britta looked down the path but the others were out of sight. Or were hiding, ready to jump out and attack her.

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Britta.

“You saw an opportunity and you took it. That’s just part of the game. We’re a bit disappointed to miss out on the treasure, but finders keepers. You have no reason to share your loot with us.”

It seemed they thought Britta had used the guardvark’s attack to sneak into its lair and take the treasure for herself while everyone was distracted. Not a bad idea, if you were the sort of person who was willing to blindly jump into holes on the off-chance that great rewards awaited. Like Dad said, if you were the main character of a story your hunch would probably turn out to be right.

“I didn’t mean to fall into the hole,” said Britta, “and I didn’t get any treasure.”

“The guardvark stopped the fight and went after you. He knew you found his hoard and went to stop you. How did you beat him? That’s the part I’m really curious about.”

“It isn’t a him, it’s a her, and what I found were her children. There were three of them in a nest. That’s why she left the fight.”

“There wasn’t any treasure?” Red’s voice wavered. She was starting to realise her assumptions were totally wrong.

“I saw some gems embedded in the nest wall, but I didn’t have time to dig them out. I was more concerned about getting out in one piece. Honestly, I gained nothing from the guardvark’s lair. No treasure, no items, nothing.”

There was a whooshing sound and a large crate crashed to the ground behind Red. The winged creature high above them let out a screech of warning rather belatedly and flew off.

The side of the crate popped open and the same young man ran out with an armful of beautifully wrapped packages.

“Special delivery,” he sang as he handed them to Britta before turning and sprinting off.

Britta looked up at Red, feeling a little embarrassed when there was no call for it. Cash shop items had nothing to do with in-game treasure. She had no reason to explain herself. “This isn’t—”

Red scowled, turned and walked away.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.