Bitter 458

There was no screen pop-up. Usually, as soon as she completed a quest, it would tell her. Prizes would be awarded, congratulations given. Britta waited expectantly. Nothing happened.

“Quiet around here, isn’t it?” said the shade in a rather bored voice.

“How come I can’t dismiss you?” said Britta.

“Oh, very nice,” said the shade. “I know when I’m not wanted.”

Britta expected him to disappear in a huff, or whatever it was smoke turned into when it disappeared. The shade remained where he was.

There was no point trying to figure him out, he was unique and a law unto himself, which was probably for the best. She looked at the man with the cabbage. He no longer seemed to be upset about the presence of a tall black cloud, he was far too enamoured of his rescued cabbage. He stroked and rubbed it like a treasured pet.

“Um,” said Britta, “I guess that means we’re friends now.” He was the one who had given her the quest, so presumably he was the one who would confirm it was completed.

“Oh, yes. Of course. Absolutely.” He said it all without ever taking his eyes off the cabbage cradled in his arms. There’s was an intense relationship, Britta could tell.

But still no indication of mission accomplished.

“So… I’m B.” She walked over to him and put out a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

He seemed reluctant to stop caressing his beloved, but he reached out a hand and gave Britta’s a couple of quick pumps. “Renard of Cabbage Farms. Likewise, I’m sure.”

Britta let go of his hand and there was a ping! Sound. A screen appeared in front of her. She was almost too afraid to look. Would the game troll her by giving her half an XP?

Congratulations! You are now friends with Renard.

10 XP awarded.

Ten experience points. Ten whole experience points. That was far more than she expected, or needed. Her hand was glowing, indicating a message, most likely telling her she had finally levelled up. She smiled and was about to press her palm to receive the good news, the fireworks, the fanfare, when a group of people walked into the tavern.

It was the other party, looking much better now. The wounds and bruises were gone, and they no longer needed to lean on each other for support.

They stopped just inside the doorway and looked around aghast.

Britta turned to the shade to tell him to make himself scarce, but all that was left of him was a faint wisp of smoke. Britta casually waved her hand around to clear the air and worked it into a wave.

“Oh, hi.”

“What happened here?” asked Grismane.

“Nothing,” said Britta, making sure to keep her glowing hand behind her back. “Minor fuss over a cabbage.”

Renard didn’t even hear her. He and his cabbage might need some privacy.

“There’s a hole in the wall,” said one of the girls.

“Oh, yes,” said Britta, like she only just noticed herself. “Got a bit rowdy. You know how it is when cabbages are involved.”

They looked confused, which was fine by Britta. She just wanted to leave and see which new spells she had to choose from.

“Is that yours?” said one of the boys. He was pointing at the drink on the bar.

“Kind of,” said Britta. “I ordered it by accident.”

“Yeah,” said the boy. “So did I. More like I was tricked by that barman. Twenty silver it cost me.”

That was interesting to hear. It wasn’t just her, then, it was a scripted event that could happen to everyone who came here. They had obviously paid up. She still had no intention of doing so.

The barman stood up behind the bar, looking a bit sheepish. “Ah, welcome back. The usual?”

“I thought you were going to get the manager,” said Britta.

“No, no, no need for that.” He pushed the drink further across the bar towards Britta. “On the house.”

The other party gawped at her. That wasn’t good, she hadn’t wanted to draw any attention.

“Okay, thank you.” She climbed up the first couple of rungs on the stool and picked up the drink. She took a long swig. “Mm. Tastes like Ribena.” She put it back down, still half-full, and headed for the door. “See you later.” She left before any awkward questions could be asked.

Once she was outside, she quickly made her way around the nearest corner. There was still a good chance they might follow her to find out what had really happened. If the barman or Renard let slip anything about demons, they were definitely going to want answers.

Once she was sure no one was coming after her, she opened up her status screen and had a look to see what she had received for gaining Level 5. She pressed the red light in her hand and fireworks went off in her palm.

Congratulations! You are now Level 5.

It was a bit loud, and she didn’t know how to turn the volume down. She closed her fist, but rockets continued to shoot out from between her fingers. After a few seconds it went quiet again. Britta opened her status screen and had a look.

There was a lot of new stuff to take in. New ability points to allocate, new skill points, new spells and skills, but she didn’t have to sort it out here. She logged out.

Thanks to the computer Lin had given her, Britta now had access to her status screen at home. She could take her time.

She got off her bed and opened the laptop. The first thing she would do was choose a new spell from Scrying PerceptionPhantasmal Conjuration and Invisible Army.

Actually, the first thing she would do was figure out what they did.

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