Bitter 488

Britta was in the last two, and without even trying. She had meant to have a quick look to appraise this new (well, kind of old) game mode and then she had planned to duck out and continue on her never-ending (always interrupted) journey to the capital city.

That had been her plan but, as usual, things went in an unexpected direction.

The battle royale had been so quick she hadn’t had a chance to log out before she ended up in the final. Even though the speedy nature of the game had been down to the lack of players, she actually preferred the swift pace. Get in, get out, claim your prize.

She could imagine a whole new style of gameplay developing to accommodate this mode, with tryhard players (including but not limited to Dad) specifically optimising their characters to take advantage of the rules. Perhaps James had accidentally made a character that suited this arena, which would explain how he had done so well.

She had no idea where James was and even less idea how she was going to deal with him. All she could see was a mass of pillars coming out of the floor, walls and ceiling. He could be anywhere. Her character very definitely was not designed with this sort of place in mind.

He would probably be delighted to have her as his final opponent. She contemplated leaving and letting him have the win, but it would feel much more awkward now. If she’d done it at the start, no one would have noticed, probably. Now she was in the final, it would stand out a lot more, and attracting attention, good or bad, was the opposite of what she wanted.

Everything had happened at such a fast pace that she hadn’t had time to work out how you were meant to play here. This type of game had never appealed to her, running around trying to kill as many people as you could before someone got you seemed like a pointless exercise. It was meant to be fun, but she had little interest in the concept.

It wasn’t like she wasn’t familiar with games like this. Dad used to be obsessed with BR when she was younger but he grew out of it. Well, he gave up in frustration because so many players would cheat and use aimbots or various hacks to become invulnerable or invisible or to see through walls. It turned into an arms race between cheaters and anti-cheat software. The cheaters were always one step ahead.

Hopefully, the same sort of thing wouldn’t happen in New World. It seemed unlikely, but then it always did until someone found a way.

As Britta scanned the arena for signs of James, the platforms began moving. But rather than move forward, closing the distance between pillars, they were moving back, retracting into the walls, making the arena bigger and emptier.

The pillar under her, which was sticking horizontally out of the wall and extended ahead of her like a bridge, was also moving backwards, but she wasn’t. As the platform receded, she looked down and realised she wasn’t standing on anything, she was floating. She looked over her shoulder and there were two wings on her back. So now it was aerial combat?

There was a triumphant cry, and a figure came tearing through the air towards her, dark wings flapping wildly. James looked fired up and ready to fight, but he didn’t have a dagger in his hand, he had a sword. It gave him more reach, but it seemed an odd choice. The dagger was one hit, Britta could just let him strike her, she could tank the damage and nick him with the dagger. Easy win.

But there was something odd about the sword. It was completely black, just like the daggers they’d been given. In fact, it had the same smooth ceramic look as the daggers — exactly the same.

How had he managed to turn his dagger into a sword? How was that not cheating?

With the extra reach, he would have a huge advantage against anyone with a dinky knife. He could touch you before you were close enough to strike. Throwing the dagger seemed like the only other option, but if you missed you would be defenceless.

James was charging towards her in what was not a very straight line. He was weaving haphazardly from side to side, still getting used to the power of flight. Britta didn’t have the same problem and shot upwards, easily avoiding him.

She was used to wings, she had spent several hours working out how to use them earlier that morning and was now quite proficient. Perhaps some people would consider her to be cheating as well, but she had learned to use the wings as a form of transport the old fashioned way — by finding a magic brooch that let you fly and putting in the practice. Totally legit.

It still didn’t give her a way of getting close enough to James without becoming an easy target. She could keep out of reach (until he got good enough with his wings to match her speed and manoeuvrability) but she couldn’t attack him. He would just poke her with his sword. And she couldn’t sneak up on him when they were in a big open space with nothing to hide behind.

She did have other options, though. She could make a copy of herself and give James the same chance as Dad, although a sword might be able to hit both versions at once if he was quick enough.

She could blind him with light and get him that way. Or fireball him, but he could just fly out of the way.

Or she could use Teleport and appear behind him. It would only take one hit from behind him to win, although it would be difficult to appear in the right place with him whizzing around all over the place. In that regard, his lack of coordination actually benefitted him.

It was good that she had options. She would definitely be able to hold her own if this was for real. But it wasn’t. She turned sharply and flew straight at James.

His face registered surprise, and then doubt. He probably thought this was some kind of trick and he needed to be on his guard. But his innate arrogance (and the fact he had a sword whereas Britta only had a dagger) convinced him to accept the challenge.

They both flew towards each other, blades fully if not equally extended.

Britta moved to the left at the last second, sliding past the long sword. It nicked the side of her hand and everything went black. She could have beaten him, she was sure of it. She just couldn’t.

It was one of the requirements of her employment with APE, that she not win anything. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, and coming first in contests or defeating bosses would only serve to make life more difficult for her. She was curious how James had managed to get the sword, but the truth was that even if he had found a way to cheat, the number one cheater in this game was Britta.

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