Bitter 559

Britta wasn’t gullible enough to believe this was just a friendly invitation to come visit whenever she felt like it. There had to be a catch.

The timing of L-15 sudden appearance suggested it had something to do with the Chinese team losing over in New World.

Even if they were below average here, Level 10 should have guaranteed them the win. Britta still didn’t know what the battle in the arena had involved — Dr Reedy had mentioned something about a maze — but no matter the ground rules, the difference in levels should have been telling.

Not only that, the Chinese team had superior gear to boot. There was no reasonable explanation how they lost.

“You must have been surprised by how poorly your players did over in New World,” said Britta. She was being careful to avoid making it sound like she was gloating.

“Not at all. They were overconfident and ill-prepared. It would only have worsened their condition if they had won. Their defeat will do them immeasurable good and improve their prospects from here. Soon, they will have reclaimed their lost progress, and they won’t be so cocksure next time. I see it as a great favour you did them.”

“I didn’t do anything,” said Britta.

“No, not directly. But it is your influence that separates our two worlds. It is interesting and perplexing. I look forward to observing how you fare in an unfamiliar setting.”

“I’m only Level 5,” said Britta. “I wouldn’t be able to compete against your players.”

“I think you might surprise yourself,” said L-15. “And it isn’t really your interactions with other players that interests me.”

“Then what do you get out of this?” said Britta.

“Nothing. I wish to see how your approach works in this setting, that is all. You may keep all you gain here and take it back with you, if that is what you wish. My only interest is to see if your effect is unique to New World, or if it will work everywhere.”

Despite her reservations, it wasn’t a bad offer. She had wanted to stay away from Rick and this offered her a chance to explore a different side of the game. Assuming she wasn’t being lied to.

The city alone was worth exploring. She was interested in how it differed from Shona-by-the-sea, and if the Chinese approach revealed anything about her employer’s intentions for the game. It stood to reason that they would treat this place with greater sincerity. The only reason they’d shown any interest in the Western version was because of Britta and her effect on the game.

Britta looked at L-15, the sage old man in his robes. Had he been sanctioned by President Wu to make this offer? This could be some underhand way to get her to switch servers. But why not just ask her? It was hardly a big deal where she played the game for twelve minutes every two days.

There might be a language problem, but there were probably ways around that. Perhaps she could learn Chinese. Maybe they would just press a button somewhere and the language problem would be solved just like that.

Thinking about it, the obvious course of action seemed to be to ask Lin. Even if she wasn’t aware of this development, she would be able to find out. And she would definitely have an opinion on who to proceed.

“And I can do what I want? Go where I like?”

“Of course.”

“And if I die here? What happens to me? My original spawn point doesn’t exist here.”

“The Jade Palace will be your origin. But if you do, for some reason, die within the city walls, your death will be permanent and you will have to start anew.”

While it was only fair she be subject to the same rules as everyone else here, this did trouble her. The reason she was different to other players was tied into being this character. If she lost it, then that could mean the end of her usefulness. Was it worth jeopardising her employment for the sake of her curiosity?

It might be that the death of her gnome wizard was the reason behind all this.

But she could always take out a little life insurance. L-15 had said you could buy your way out of permadeath. She certainly wasn’t averse to spending a little money in the cash shop, especially when everything was on sale, 100% off.

“Let me think about it,” said Britta.

“Of course,” said L-15. “I have made a save point for you in the Holy Temple. It is the golden building you can see below. Come and go as you please.” He slapped his hands together with a loud crack and Britta was instantly ejected from the Jade Palace.

She felt strange, like she was being pulled in two directions at once. It wasn’t like being teleported, and it wasn’t like she was moving to a save point.

Where was she going? It was taking a lot longer than usual. These things were meant to be instantaneous.

The whiteness around her faded and Britta found herself in a small room. It was very familiar. She was back in the Church of Roha in Quosada. She opened the door to check. It was definitely the old church. She had been here enough times to be able to recognise it.

Why was she here? This wasn’t her preferred spawn point.

If she’d been given the choice, she would have just logged out from the Jade Palace, but she hadn’t been given the choice. It struck her as odd, although she might have been making too much of it.

She opened her status screen and checked her save points. They were all greyed-out except for one: Holy Temple.

Why were her old save points no longer selectable? And if they weren’t available to her anymore, how had she managed to get back to this place?

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