Bitter 48

The little old lady gnome had a hunched back and hair sprouting from odd places. She wasn’t ugly, in fact she was almost cute in a geriatric kind of way, but she certainly wouldn’t win any beauty contests.

Britta was stunned by the transformation. Even though she was in a computer game and everything could be manipulated to look like something else with a few lines of code, it was still jarring to see it happen right in front of your eyes.

“How… how did you do that?”

“Magic,” said the Wise One, which was fairly obvious. “A simple glamour spell, nothing too fancy.”

Britta had a spell called glamour (or ‘glamor’ as the words on her status screen used American English for some reason) but all it did was produce a bright light. There’d been no indication it could change her whole appearance.

“Can I do that?” she asked.

“Of course. Given time. And effort. And total dedication.”

It sounded less appealing when she put it like that.

There was something alluring about being able to make yourself look beautiful with a wave of your hand, but at the same time there also something not quite right about it. Were you supposed to trick guys into thinking you were a hot chick? What would happen when they found out the truth?

Still, it would be a pretty amazing ability to have in the real world. No one would be able to tell the real hotties from the fake ones. Men would have to rely on something else to judge women by.

“Can you make yourself look like anyone, any size?”

The Wise One nodded. “For a limited time. Your skill level determines for how long, and how easy it is for people to see through it.”

Yes, that was the other thing. A virtual dice roll would determine if they would be fooled, their magical resistance versus her skill level. And her skill level was very low.

Her own resistance was high though and she’d still been taken in, which meant the Wise One had to have an even higher skill level. The ideal person to teach her how to use her powers.

Not that pretending to be beautiful was what she would use it for. If that had been her goal, she could have just created a gorgeous character to inhabit at the beginning of the game. Anyone could be flawless in this world. But having the ability to look like someone else could be very useful. There were any number of ways it could get her out of trouble. One minute she looked like she did now, the next she was some random person going about their business. If someone was chasing her, they’d go running past, no idea she was standing right there. Assuming, that is, they didn’t see through the disguise. Then it would just be embarrassing.

She might even be able to impersonate other people, like they did in spy movies, only she wouldn’t need a rubber mask. There had to be quests in the game that required her to go into dangerous places where looking like the guy in charge would mean no fighting. Just swan in, salute to the grunts, take all the gold and walk out.

It wouldn’t be that easy, and probably fail miserably, but it would be fun trying. At worst, she’d just get killed and try something else. She was starting to see the potential in the game, if you didn’t rely on just stabbing things before they stabbed you.

“I would like to learn how to use my powers better,” said Britta, hoping her words would unlock the next part of this quest.

The Wise One just looked at her. Typical. When she wanted to be left alone she triggered quests left and right without even meaning to. Now she actually wanted to go down this route, nothing.

The Wise One nodded slowly. “Yes. I think it is possible. It won’t be easy, though. The journey is arduous, and takes a long time. You must give your all to the Great Gnome in the Sky, pour your heart into your training, expect nothing but suffering. Are you willing to commit yourself fully and deeply?”

“Yes,” said Britta.

“It won’t be easy. Are you really prepared to do what it takes?”

“Of course, of course. I’m not afraid of hard work,” said Britta.

“Good,” said the Wise One. “Do you have any questions before we begin?”

Britta thought about it. “Yes. Are there any shortcuts?”

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