Bitter 558

From what Britta understood, forging and alchemy were how players advanced themselves here without having to fight monsters or farm low-level quests. With a cool weapon or some augmented abilities, they were able to rise above their fellow players and make a name for themselves.

However, crafting items of value came with risks. Exactly how the players fine-tuned their characters to make the most of the possible benefits wasn’t clear to Britta, but clearly the chances of it blowing up in your face were not insignificant.

Britta took another look over the battlements. There was an energy and vitality to this place she hadn’t sensed anywhere else. As frantic and rapid as life here was, there was a sense of satisfaction to the way people moved around. They were all hurrying to get places as soon as they could.

They weren’t desperate or harried, they were busy.

The balance between the effort required versus the rewards possible seemed acceptable. In the real world, that wasn’t usually the case. The idea that you could have what you wanted if you worked hard enough was tempered by the reality of having to do a job you didn’t like all that much, and the level of competition as others tried to get there first and leave nothing behind. In a digital world, there was always more stuff to claim.

Even with catastrophic failure a distinct possibility, and being forced to go back to the beginning a constant threat, there was still a chance you could get your piece of the pie. Although, those who got lucky would be on the road to Heaven’s Door quicker, which would be an obvious advantage. How did players treat each other? Helpful and cooperative? It seemed unlikely.

“Did those ten players come to New World because they thought it would be easier than competing against the top players here?” asked Britta. If they were only Level 10, and the top players here were Level 34, then it made sense to try and find a quick method of collecting experience.

“Perhaps. Although, there are plenty of ways to improve yourself here, no matter what level you are.”

Britta watched the people below. It was sort of mesmerising, trying to guess what they were up to and where they were so keen to get to. Presumably, these were the lower-level players, but if they were Level 16, surely they’d be powerful enough to handle themselves out in the world. A Level 16 character would have some amazing abilities, surely.

“I don’t get it. Are you saying everyone down there is around Level Sixteen? They don’t look very powerful.”

“Most of the players you can see are still below sixteen. They remain inside the city walls so they can level up safely. Outside the city there are many powerful monsters and deadly areas it would be inadvisable to visit until you are properly ready.”

That sounded the same as New World. If everything here was just scaled up, it meant sixteen wasn’t really any different from Level 3 back in Shona.

There was a flash of light below. “What was that?” said Britta. Three had been the crackle of blue lightning in an alley. Now there was someone down there, away from the crowds. He had a tag over his head, but it was yellow.

“A new character has been born. It is one of the players who died in the first explosion you witnessed.”

L-15 reached out a hand and, completely implausibly, he was somehow able to touch the tag as though it wasn’t far away but as though it was next to him, just very small.

As soon as he touched the tag, it grew much bigger and the writing on it became clearly visible. The text, however, was in Chinese, so Britta had no idea what it said.

“He is newly created and as yet does not have a class,” said L-15. “His name is Quiet Pond. His last three characters have all been assassins.”

It sounded like there was a high turnover when it came to character creation. Keep rolling the die until you hit big.

A group of six armoured players caught Britta’s eye as they marched through the street, pushing people out of the way, NPCs and other players alike. Judging by their outfits, they were more likely to be nearer Level 34 than Level 16.

They seemed to go out of their way to bump into people and threaten them if they didn’t immediately give way.

From her vantage point, Britta could see the group of bullies were on a collision course with the new player who had just entered the game and was about to emerge from the alley.

L-15 stood with his arms clasped behind his back and a small smile playing across his lips.

The two groups, six versus one, met. There was an immediate confrontation, which seemed to be instigated by the new player. Three of the armoured players attacked the new arrival, who didn’t even have a weapon. Britta had no idea what had caused the fight, or what had been said, but the fight was over very quickly. The group moved on, a little more swagger to their steps, it looked like, while the new player struggled back to his feet.

“Why did—”

L-15 pulled out a hand from a voluminous sleeve and bid her to wait. Britta looked back down and saw a figure in black appear. It wasn’t clear where the figure had come from. The roof of a multi-storied shack seemed the only place. But wouldn’t she have seen him up there?

The black figure approached the fallen player and helped him up. They became involved in an animated conversation and then rushed off together like old friends eager to catch up. The black figure had not been a player.

“They knew each other?” asked Britta.

“No. The new player triggered an event by forcing an encounter between himself and a player thirty levels above him. They now have the option to take a revenge quest. The assassin has made him an offer to join the Dark Guild and take up the secret class Death Ghost.”

It was a lot of information to take in. There was nothing like that in New World. Or not that she knew about.

“So, he intentionally got beaten up to trigger the event?”

“It is highly likely,” said L-15. “His destiny is now tied to the player he confronted. In the future they may become rivals or friends. One may betray the other, or they may lead armies against one another. Only time will tell.”

“And there are more of these types of quests?”

“Many, if you can find them.”

It was interesting. Britta had thought there would be a much simpler form of haves and have-nots here, but things were far more complex than that.

“That’s very interesting. You still haven’t told me why you brought me here.”

“First, I wanted you to see what else was available,” said L-15, “and then I wanted to make it available to you.”

“To me? What do you expect me to do here?”

“Anything you want. There won’t be any restrictions on your involvement. You may take any path you choose. You might even become King of Kings.”

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