Bitter 96

Britta opened her eyes. She was on her back, staring up at a familiar ceiling. She sat up and looked around the small room. She was in the Temple of Roha, her usual respawning point.

She looked down at her hands. They were small and red. She pulled up her status screen and quickly checked her stats to make sure nothing had changed. She was back to being a gnome illusionist.

Something was different, though. She was being watched. Outwardly, there was no sign of her watchers—no cameras following her around—but she knew they were there and it made her feel awkward.

They’d see every dumb move and failed attempt from now on. The thought made her mouth go dry. But they were paying her for the privilege, and it wasn’t like they hadn’t already seen her ‘unique’ playstyle, so let them laugh at her if they wanted. Having the devs with her might even come in useful.

“Dr Reedy?” she said to the empty room. “Hello?” There was no response.

More likely they would just record what she did and make an intern watch it.

Her equipment, what there was of it, was waiting in her inventory. There was a shield in there, too, the one they’d given her to defend against not-so-random goblin attacks. That might come in handy. Sadly, she had no access to the items belonging to her barbarian character. There had been no option to choose which character she wanted to play, so Lewis the Loser was no longer available to her, which was a shame. If she could slip back into Lewis and post his items to herself, maybe she could sell them.

Working out the best way to make money was a part of the game she hadn’t looked into yet. She still hadn’t visited the Auction House to see how that worked. She needed to get more items to sell.

Dad owed her for the items from the bandit she’d killed. Once she got that money, maybe she’d be able to buy some proper gear. Lots of things to sort out.

The door opened and Sister Florence stood there with a big, gormless smile on her face. “There you are, deary. Time to go, we have a lot of people wanting to praise Roha today. Come on now, I’m sure there’s plenty for you to be getting on with,isn’t that right? To be sure, it is.”

Britta had the distinct feeling she was being kicked out, which was strange. It hadn’t been like that the previous times she’d woken up here.

She hopped down from the slab and walked out the door Sister Florence was holding open. When she stepped into the temple, another door opened on the far side. A player—the tag over his head said Elvis Deadman—came out looking flustered. He wore a long, red and white robe and carried a staff. A mage of some kind or maybe a priest? Britta wasn’t sure.

He hurried off towards the exit. Then more doors opened on each side of the nave and player after player came running out. Fighters, rangers, rogues… It was hard to identify all of them, but they all had the same determined white rabbit with a pocket watch look on their faces.

It wasn’t usually this busy. Apparently, around twenty-four hours ago, a lot of people had died somewhere nearby. If it was that long ago, you would think the fight was long over, but the way everyone sprinted for the exit, it looked like whatever it was, it was still going on.

The door behind her opened and a tall woman in full armour came out of the room Britta had only just vacated.

“Excuse me,” said Britta. “Where’s everyone going?”

The knight, or whatever she was, looked down at Britta, pulled out a sword from her back that was almost as tall as she was, and then ran for the exit. Britta had to jump out of the way to avoid being knocked over.

Whatever had people so excited, it probably wasn’t something a lowly Level 3 gnome should worry about. The last thing Britta wanted was to get killed and be locked out for the day.

She made her way to the temple doors, careful to stay out of the way of the players still charging out of the rooms and barreling past her, and stepped out into New Town.

The sights and smells of the fake world were as overwhelming as ever. The real world might have the edge in total sensory immersion, but it was still pretty crazy seeing fantasy creatures walking up and down the street.

Only, there were a lot more player tags floating around over the crowd this time. This was a beginner town, so players tended not to stay here long (unless they were like Britta and had no idea what they were doing), so what were they doing here? Were they a new influx of players brought in by APE to take testing to the next level? Did that mean she was no longer the crappiest player on the server?

First things first, check out the Auction House. She opened up her map and noticed her hand was flashing. She had a message. She pressed the light on her palm and a screen opened. It was a letter telling her she had a package waiting for her at the Post Office. The package was from Oswald Owlface.

Who the hell was Oswald Owlface?

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