I woke up to the sound of people talking around me. Feet stomping. Someone shouting. I didn't want to get up. I had been working late into the night and I was still horribly tired. Without opening my eyes, I turned to my other side. My neck was aching from the awkward position I had been sleeping in.
"This. Is. Awesome!"
"What? D'you know what happened?" someone asked bewilderedly.
"Where are we?" spoke an other, deeper voice.
The first speaker's attention had to be somewhere else, because she didn't reply to the questions immediately. I was just about to fall back asleep when she continued shouting.
"Yes, yes, yes, yesss!" She was about to burst from the excitement any moment now. Can't she see that some people are trying to sleep here?
"I can't believe this is happening! I've read so many fictions about this, played so many games!" She held a dramatic pause here, then stated, "We were transported into a video game!"
Ah, good. Maybe I didn't wake up after all. Dream within a dream? Cool. It hadn't happened to me before, but I liked the diversity.
"Are you serious?" rumbled Mr. Deep Voice. The others were murmuring their disbelief as well. I heard someone coming closer, and my side was nudged by their shoe.
"Hey dude, get up already!"
It seemed like she was aiming for that Ms. Annoying title. I tried to ignore her, but it became difficult to do so when she began shake me like a rag doll.
"Just five more minutes..." I muttered. I should have known better: this classic response never worked the way it was supposed to. Not even in dreams. Five minutes became five seconds when she dropped me so suddenly that my head bounced back from the ground.
"Fine, what is it?" I opened my eyes angrily, and peered around.
The sun was so blindingly bright that I had to squint to see. Now that I was paying attention as well, the bubbly girl stood aside. At first glance I could make out three more people besides me. They were all looking with bewildered expressions at Ms Annoying, who was standing with both hands on her waist, chest puffed out and apparently very proud of herself. She was short, had shoulder-length black hair, and was dressed plainly. She might have been in her early twenties, though I always found it difficult determining Asian people's age. To be honest, the way she was behaving she could easily pass for a teenager.
"Name is Imaya, nice to meet you all! As for where we are, I haven't got the faintest idea. But look at this collar!" she pointed at a black collar around her neck. Only now did I realize that everyone else wore the same. Damn, even I had one! At first glance I couldn't make out any locking mechanism on the collars. They were completely smooth and looked metallic. I didn't see mine but it was safe to say that it was probably the same.
"Just touch the front of your collar like this, and ta-da! There is the game menu." As she said so, a transparent screen appeared in front of her. It looked inverted from my position, but I could tell that there was a 3D model of herself in the middle.
A few moments later each of us were looking at a transparent bluish screen projected by our collars. On the right side, I had five buttons: Weapon Skills, Abilities, Companions, Quests and Map. The first three of them were grayed out, however.
In the middle of the screen I could see myself in all my glory: thin body and messy black hair, dressed in a simple white shirt and baggy shorts with a pair of sturdy boots. I definitely hadn't gone to sleep with these clothes on, and a quick glance around told me that everyone here was wearing the same type clothes. The detail of my hologram was incredible: I could even make out my green eyes and the stubble on my chin. I raised my right hand, and my miniaturized copy did the same.
Above the model, my first name was written. No surname was indicated, but in faint letters no title was written in its place.
On the left side of the screen were a few lines called 'attributes': Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Magic and Spirit. Each word was followed by a neat little zero, implying that I had neither strength, nor endurance. Hmm. I wasn't going to complain because it was sort of true, but still, last time I checked I had more physical strength than magical power.
Below these were only two empty boxes, and at the bottom of the screen I could see two bars – one empty and one full – which then merged together as a bubble in the middle of the screen, just under my 3D image.
I closed the menu by pressing the front of my collar again.
"If this really is a video game, why is there no exit button?" asked the blonde guy of our group. He stood up and stretched, twisting his torso this way and that. Even in his baggy shirt it was quite visible that his body was in a good shape. I honestly couldn't decide whether he was just trying to get rid of the soreness in his limbs after he was sleeping on the ground like me, or he was just showing off his muscles.
"Hey, hey, calm your tits guys, what the fuck is this talk about games? All you know is that this thing around our neck can project images!" pointed out the other woman in the group. She had tanned skin and was also quite sporty, with a short, spiky blonde hair and a strong nose. Her mouth was set in a permanent frown, and she was eyeing us with open disdain.
"Yep, you might be right," Imaya spoke up, "But then how do you explain the collars? There is no way that this technology exists on Earth."
"Because being transported to a game seems much more likely," Frowning Girl retorted.
"She has a point though," the last of us, a big black guy with a deep baritone spoke up. "These kinds of 3D holographic projections with only one source of light should be impossible. Whoever had invented this collar must have made a few breakthroughs in physics. The projected images even respond to our touch!"
"Whatever," Frowning Girl said, clearly not convinced. "Let's just find a phone and call the police. Someone is gonna pay for kidnapping us and dragging us here. I have places to be."
"How exactly do you plan to find a phone here?" Blondie asked. Before anyone could have answered, Imaya spoke up with an other question.
"Hey dude, and what's your opinion?"
After a few seconds of silence, it dawned on me that they were waiting for my answer. I took my eyes off the six-legged rabbit that was peeking out of the grass behind Imaya, and looked at the others.
"Oh, don't mind me," I said, voice still a bit sleepy. "I'm withholding my opinion until I'm sure that this isn't just a dream. I wouldn't want to run my mouth in vain, just to wake up a few moments later. Go on, you have already made a few interesting observations."
I waved them to continue, then got back to observing the rabbits. No one else in the group had noticed them yet, but I didn't bother to raise any alarm. If those animals weren't just the product of my fantasy, the others would spot them sooner or later anyways. Another rabbit peeked out from a hole in the ground — this one almost next to Blondie — and I could clearly see this time that it had only one, large eye in the middle of its head.
The others eventually got back into discussing the situation, but I had tuned them out, deciding to investigate my collar further. All of this was... surprisingly detailed, for a dream. Can it be that my dreams are always so detailed, but they become hazy when I wake up? Even the reactions of the others were very nuanced. Wouldn't I remember if I have ever had a dream like this?
Opening up my Map, I had to note that it was showing almost nothing, just a small green patch, which was probably my current position. Feeling disappointed, I navigated back to check my Quests, which proved to be much more interesting. Two entries were listed there:
Ain't don't need no tutorial
Objective: Choose a starting weapon. Slay 3 tibbars.
Description: If you can't even do this little thing, you can't call yourself a man! Or a woman! Or an attack helicopter!
Fresh start, fresh little bodies
Objective: Get down from the hill. Don't get killed.
Reward: New Ability.
Description: Pretty straightforward, eh? You either get down sooner or later, or become hermits for the rest of your life. (It wouldn't be a long life, though. There's no water up there.)
Well, at least the creator of these quests had been in a good mood. I took in the scenery. We were indeed on a hill, it was good to realize. In the distance I could see mountains in one direction, storm clouds in the other. The clearing where we woke up was quite large, grass-covered but treeless. The whole area seemed to be forming a suspiciously perfect circle. I'd have to check out later how steep the slope was around the perimeter. In the middle of the field there was a small... cottage, or shed. Something which had definitely seen better days. The others were already further away, leaving me behind to investigate the building and try to talk with the two blue-skinned figures.
"Wait, what?!" I blurted out, momentarily forgetting that just like the rabbits, they might not even be real. I scrambled up to my feet to get a closer look on the figures. New creatures intrigued me, as they could easily give some inspiration for my work.
Apart from having dark blue skin and silvery white hair, they looked pretty much the same as humans. At least, looking from afar. One of them was male, the other female. Their height was average, about the same as mine. As I got near, my first thought was that they were blue elves. They had all the stereotypical elvish features of the fantasy genre: pointed ears, high cheekbones, elegant neck, slim body... but they threw in some dark blue skin and a pair of horns for extra weirdness.
Even though their features looked alien, they were still somehow aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Their long white hair contrasted beautifully with the blue skin. The female even had something which could be their equivalent of freckles. Her horns began somewhere behind her ears, and came forward circling her head like a glorious ivory crown. As opposed to this, the horns of the male grew out from his forehead, the tips disappearing behind his ears. Oh, and their eyes! Their eyes were easily the most expressive feature. They were slightly larger than what humans have, with an iris that seemed to contain every shade of yellow and orange. Amber.
Both of them looked uneasy and maybe even disturbed, which wasn't a surprise considering the group of humans gesticulating wildly in front of them. I didn't think the elves spoke our language. Nevertheless, Ms. Annoying and co. were really determined, though how bombarding them with questions would help was anyone's guess.
At this point, my already wavering resolve that I was dreaming was wavering even more. Dreams were supposed to be the way our minds are processing our memories. How could it come up with completely new creatures, with this much attention to detail? In the face of this dilemma, I deployed the only countermeasure which I could think of: the good ol' pinch-me-in-the-arm. So I pinched myself. It hurt a little.
Next, I pinched myself harder. It hurt a lot.
I stopped myself before someone else mistook it for masochism, though I needn't have worried: the others were still occupied with showing the other race how inconsiderate humans can be. They circled the elves, invading their personal space, while talking about them as if they weren't even there.
"Maybe they are NPCs." said Imaya.
"NPC?" asked the blonde guy. Now that we were both standing, I could see that he was a bit taller than me, even while slouching a bit.
"Non Player Character," came the reply. "Like, they are artificial intelligence or something. You know, robots."
"They don't look like robots to me, though." said Frowning Girl, eyeing the female elf up and down. "They aren't that rigid."
I decided that it was time to throw in my two cents. Speaking to groups wasn't something that I was keen to do. I didn't exactly have social anxiety, I was just usually content in letting others speak. So much better to just stay in the background, listen, and interject only if I had something really clever to say.
"Have you seen the rabbits?"
Well, that wasn't something really clever to say, but at least it worked. Everyone swiveled their head at me, as if they had just realized that I was also standing there.
"The fuck are you talking about?" asked Frowning Girl.
"There is no need to be rude, Dana," Blondie said, then flashed his perfect teeth at me in a smile. "No, we didn't see any rabbits. Why do you ask?"
"Just a few minutes ago, I've seen those creatures in the grass. They have yellowish hair, one eye and six legs, so I'm pretty sure they aren't from Earth," I held a nervous pause there, but no one mentioned the possibility that I might be hallucinating.
"In my opinion, there are two possible explanations for this," I continued. "Either we are still on Earth and these rabbits and the blue guys have been brought here... or we ourselves have been transported to another planet."
"Or we are in a virtual reality!" Imaya piped up.
"Well, if you say so, but I don't think—" I began, but she interrupted me.
"Oh, there it is!" she shouted and raced away. For a moment I was confused about what she was talking about, but then I saw that she was chasing one of the rabbits.
"Right, so," I tried to get back on track, "You can clearly see that these blue people also have a collar around their neck. If we assume that someone brought us to a different planet, why not them too? I mean, just look at their expressions." They might have been harder to read than humans, but it still should have been obvious that they didn't know either what was going on.
"Yeah, sure," Blondie replied. "We have already discussed this possibility. The problem is that they aren't speaking our language, but I guess we can start with introductions. Sooner or later they would learn our language, right?"
I wondered if it has even occurred to him that we could also learn their language. When no one had anything to add, Blondie turned towards the aliens.
"Hello, my name is Tobias," he said, extending his right hand confidently.
The aliens flinched back and eyed the hand warily. Now that I thought about it, calling them aliens probably wasn't so appropriate when we are aliens here too. It would— ah, better not get distracted, there were interspecies negotiations to be made.
"I don't think they recognize the same gestures that we do. Let me try something," I said and stepped forward.
"Hello," I greeted them. Better to keep it simple.
When I got their attention, I pointed at my collar and touched the front to turn on the projection. I gestured towards theirs to do the same. After a little pause, the male brought up his menu. I could tell that he had already discovered he was able to do this, because he didn't seem to be surprised. I stepped next to him slowly, then turned around so that our screens were side by side. I could see that his screen was full of strange runes, but otherwise it was similar to mine. I pointed at my name above my 3D model.
“Randel,” I read it out loud, then pointed at myself.
“Ran'del,” repeated the male elf. His tone was deep, but strangely musical. He then touched the runes under his miniature, and said, “Teva'ryn”.
Hmm, not too bad. I was afraid that they might have long, tongue-twister names that is only easy to pronounce if you are a native.
“Teva'ryn,” I repeated after him with a nod. I turned and looked expectantly at the female.
“Devi'lynn,” she said in a clear tone. Her voice was entrancing too.
After that, I let the others do their introductions too. Most of their names I managed to pick up already, the only exception being our biggest guy, Pell. By biggest I didn't only mean tall, as he was also very stocky. He was the least talkative in our bunch, not counting Teva'ryn and Devi'lynn. The dark-skinned man was completely bald on the top of his head, but had a majestic beard. He was probably in his mid-thirties, which made him the eldest among us – the rest of us were all in our twenties, as far as I could tell.
“There is one more thing I'd like to try,” I said after the name-changing was done. I didn't get my hopes up, but I had to try. I didn't want to refer to them as “blue people” all the time.
I shooed the others back to make some space, then pointed at myself once again.
“Human,” I told Teva'ryn. Then I pointed at each of the others and repeated the phrase. I was a bit reluctant to point at Pell, because there was a chance that his skin color would just confuse the elves and my message wouldn't get through. In the end however, I didn't omit him because it would have been totally racist. My life philosophy didn't include provoking big bulky men who could turn me into pancake. Even though I liked pancakes.
I turned back and pointed at the elves, tilting my head questioningly. Teva'ryn just stared at me, uncomprehending. I was just about to give up — yeah, I didn't try very hard, but whatever — when Devi'lynn touched Teva'ryn's arm lightly.
"Sylven," she said. She then pointed a slender finger at herself, and repeated the word.
I nodded. I couldn't think of any way my little inquiry could be misunderstood, so hopefully Devi'lynn gave me the right word. With my mission done, I turned around and strolled away. As interesting as these alien people were, I still wanted to know why we received a 'quest' about getting down from this hill. Hmm, is it possible to shorten their name? I wondered as I hopped over a rabbit hole. Devi and Teva. It sounded like a good nickname to me, but maybe they wouldn't like the idea. If humans had such a beautiful voice, I would enjoy listening to others pronouncing my full name anytime.
My line of thought became quickly forgotten as I looked over the edge of the clearing.
I could see instantly that it wouldn't be that easy to get down from the hill. There was a large drop — about twice as high as I was — before the slope became less steep. But the problem wasn't the height, it was the few dozen mutated gnomes right beneath me. Their heads were as big as their bodies, and they had baby faces. Human baby faces with sharp, pointed teeth. As far as I could tell, they were all around our little hill. As I edged closer, the closest one noticed me and began wailing in a very child-like manner. This resulted in a chain reaction, more and more creature picking up the horrifying... battle cry? Thankfully, they couldn't climb up to where we were. Their hands were so short that they couldn't even scratch the top of their head if it was itchy.
"What the fuck?" someone shouted behind me. Glancing back, I saw the others (even the Sylven) running towards me.
"Randel, what did you do?" asked Dana. It could have been a perfectly innocent question if her tone wasn't so accusatory. I decided to ignore her, since they would get to know what was up pretty soon anyways.
"Ewwww!" Imaya, who was already peeking cautiously over the edge, jumped back as fast as she could. "Mutant babies!"
I stood back and studied everyone's expression. Dana and Tobias had the most normal reaction in my opinion: they were horrified. They quickly retreated just like Pell, who appeared to be disgusted more than anything. Teva'ryn looked unfazed upon seeing the creatures. He didn't let Devi'lynn anywhere near the edge though, so Sylven girl's expression remained curious. Imaya was fascinated and horrified at the same time, as if watching a particularly good horror movie. She was lying on her stomach, head stuck out above the drop to inspect the monsters more closely.
"By the way, did you see our Quest Log?" I asked Pell and the others. "It seems that whoever has put us here was probably aware of these gnomes."
"That would explain the weapons." rumbled Pell.
"Weapons?" I asked.
"Yeah. We found a few rusty iron swords, spears and daggers in the shack."
"Any ranged weapons?"
"Only a short bow. But I think we only have 10 arrows, tops."
"Damn," I swore. "Even if we can kill one gnome per arrow, it is still too few."
Pell raised an eyebrow. "It seems like you have accepted it quite readily that we may have to fight."
"Oh well, you know how it is. After experiencing technology that surpasses what we have on Earth," I gestured toward my collar, "And witnessing the existence of a completely different, alien race," I glanced at the two Sylven who were talking quietly among themselves, "I just can't be bothered too much by killing a bunch of dumb gnomes. That, and also the fact that I'm still not hundred percent sure that I'm not dreaming."
"Heh. You are a strange one, alright," Pell said. "I like the way you think, though."
"Thanks, I guess." It wasn't anything I haven't heard before. I didn't know what to think about these 'insult-wrapped-in-compliment' things. I have to try not to judge people too quickly, I reminded myself. Maybe he didn't even realize that it was kinda rude what he said.
While Tobias and Dana were looking through their Quest Log, I headed back with Pell to the shed. I stopped just outside, investigating the structure of it. It was really basic, only a few large nails holding together the long, decayed wooden beams that represented the side walls.
"What are you looking at? The weapons are inside." rumbled Pell in his baritone.
"Oh, but are all of them, really?" I asked with a small smile, tapping the wooden wall.
The rabbit-like creature whimpered on the end of my spear for a few moments before it went still. Faint, white mist erupted from its body. Some of it flew into me, some of it headed towards the others. I felt a mild nausea, and it sure as hell wasn't because of the mist. I haven't killed anything larger than a spider in all my life... until now. Though it didn't make me feel much better, I could justify this one: we didn't know how much time we have to spend here before we can get home, and we needed something to eat. It seemed like nobody cared about us being here. Whoever had put us on the top of this hill, they didn't plan to help us too much. The bastards. They didn't even provide any manual for the collar!
Speaking of which, I opened up my menu to check my quests. As I suspected, these rabbits were the so-called 'tibbars', and the quest progress went up to 1/3. Another interesting thing I noticed was that the bottom left bar of my screen began to fill up. I touched the progress bar, and it displayed a single word: Souls. I tapped on the already full right side bar as well (which was light blue, as opposed to the white color of the other), and it said Mana. I tried the bubble in middle as well, but it was unresponsive. Is it supposed to be 'Health'? If so, why does it look empty?
I tore my spear out of the dead rabbit and left it lying there. Logically I knew that I'll have to move it, hell, even skin and cook it at some point, but at the moment I couldn't even bear to look at it. Maybe after killing two more it would be easier. Ah, the School For Psychopathic Mass Murderers. Today, you only have to slaughter innocent rabbits. Tomorrow? Mutant babies. And after that? Well... it really isn't a big jump to kill a few sapient creatures, is it?
I didn't know how I would get home, but I really hoped I wouldn't have to stay here for too long. What would my family think? What would Sarah? Maybe they would deduce that I had been kidnapped and organize some kind of search party for me. I certainly hoped that they wouldn't think that I had enough of my life and committed suicide. I hadn't spoken with either of them in the last few weeks, so who knew what they thought.
I focused on my rabbit-hunt. Catching them was the hardest part. There weren't even any other parts, really: once I caught them with the end of my spear, they were dead. I chose the spear specifically because of its reach, but it didn't really help much, since I had no idea how to hold it properly.
After a few minutes of running around, I began to tire out. The tibbars were everywhere, jumping in and out of holes in the ground, but as I got near them they always became spooked and sprinted away. In my frustration, I reversed my grip on the shaft and tossed the spear in the direction of a fleeing tibbar. The spear soared through the sky beautifully, and... oh, who am I kidding, of course I missed terribly.
Two good things had happened, however. The first one was that I didn't manage to lose the spear by throwing it down the hill. The second was that I heard a soft ping coming from my collar, and at the bottom of my vision I saw a few words flashing briefly before disappearing:
You have discovered a new skill: Spear Throw.
I opened up my menu quickly. The Weapon Skills button became clickable, and it brought up a new window, containing one entry.
Spear Throw, level 1
Toss your spear forcefully to skewer enemies from afar.
Mana cost: 5
Cool down: -
Modifiers: strength, dexterity
Well now, that was interesting. I recovered my spear quickly, and started to experiment.
It became clear quite soon that I could use the skill by shouting its name. Then it became clear that I only needed to say it normally. After that, I discovered that murmuring it was enough. Finally, I had an epiphany and realized that it was enough if I only thought about using the skill. At that point, I felt a bit embarrassed about all that previous shouting.
It was easy to realize when the skill was activated, because I lost control over my body. At first it was downright terrifying, but after a few tries I got more or less used to it. It was a really strange sensation, as if I was a puppet and someone was pulling my strings, except those strings were inside me. My body was moving on its own, performing the spear throw with perfect technique.
I could also confirm the skill usage by the state of my mana bar: it became slightly depleted. From the amount missing, I could calculate that I had about 100 mana originally, before spending it on 5 mana cost tosses. The progress of the skill hadn't advanced, which probably meant that I needed to hit live targets to level up, not a bunch of grass stalks.
After a few tries, I managed to hit 2 more tibbars with my Spear Throw. Because my menu was open when I killed the animals, I could also see what happened with my Soul and Mana bars. The former was filling up from left to right, creeping towards the bubble in the middle. The other bar had been doing exactly the opposite: each time I used Spear Throw, it seemed like the whole blue bar was shifted slightly to the left, pushing mana into the bubble. However, the sphere in the middle still seemed to be empty.
Right after my third kill, my collar pinged and informed me that I had completed the quest. Moreover, my Spear Throw had gained a level: it was now level 2 with a progress of 2.4%, and the mana cost had gone up from 5 to 6. I could only hope that the skill was somehow now stronger, or the throw itself became more accurate. Since I wasn't in control of my body during the throw, it could mean that whatever was directing me was becoming more and more accurate with each level.
During my little hunt I hadn't actually paid attention what the others were doing, though I was aware of them in the background. It was time to find out what they had been up to, so I headed back to the cabin. Imaya was standing a bit farther away from the others, practicing with the bow. She was quite good with it: all of her arrows were embedded relatively close to each other in the wall of the shed. When I passed behind her I heard her complaining to no one in particular.
"I can't believe it, they call this a skill? The arrow isn't even glowing! Where are the special effects?"
The others were trying to decide who took which weapon. Pell was already holding a bloody spear similar to mine, the corpse of a tibbar lying next to his feet. Tobias had an ugly rapier, while Teva'ryn was clutching a rust-eaten scimitar. The only remaining weapons were daggers, but none of them was especially awe-inspiring. In addition to that, we had two small wooden shields.
"They cannot even understand any plan we form! It is a waste to let him have that sword." hissed Dana angrily to Tobias.
"I'm not so sure. I think it will be obvious when to use—" he started to say, but Dana interrupted him.
"We can't fucking trust them with it, we don't know shit about them! What if they betray us?!"
Meanwhile, Teva'ryn just watched the scene impassively. He probably didn't even understood the reason of Dana's frustration.
"I won't be running around with those rusty toothpicks while that blue freak is armed!" Dana raged on. "If you are so trusting of them, then give me your weapon, let's see how you like the idea!"
"Here, take this," I said, planting my spear into the ground. I then squatted down to inspect the daggers laid out in the grass. If Dana wanted a weapon to fight with, I wasn't about to stop her. I just hoped that she wouldn't chicken out when the time came to escape the hill and fight the gnomes. I would be perfectly content watching the action from the sidelines. Besides, a dagger had its uses too. The animals that we wanted to eat would need to be skinned and gutted, and that was no easy feat with a spear.
I heard Dana huff behind me as she pulled out the spear and stormed away. I left the shields where they were, since their owners would undoubtedly be expected to lead the charge against the little monsters. The remaining four daggers were of various length. I picked up the longest one, which was also in the best condition. After I raised the weapon and inspected it from various directions, I made a few probing strikes with it and named it Stabby. Now I just had to wait until a became a hero and saved the world, and everyone would sing its name in their praises.
Seriously though, if this really was a game and I was transported here to save the world... then this place was probably doomed.
I put Stabby down and turned back to the other daggers. One of them was little better than a lump of iron, it couldn't really be called a weapon. The other looked like it had been made of rust. The third wasn't too bad, though the handle looked way too small for my hand. I wouldn't be able to get a good grip on it without cutting myself. I looked up and found everyone was staring at me. Was there something on my face, or what?
Seeing that Devi'lynn didn't have any weapon yet, I turned towards her and extended the third dagger, hilt first. Teva'ryn stepped between us, and shook his head slightly. Oh, so they do have head movements for yes and no, just like us! Neat.
"He doesn't let her have any weapon," said Tobias. "Must be a cultural thing."
I nodded my understanding to Teva'ryn, then stood up and walked towards our archer. I brought Stabby and the third dagger with me.
"Hey, Imaya! You need a backup weapon?" I asked her. She put down her bow and bounced closer to me.
"Sure!" she replied quite energetically. I would have thought that physical exertion such as shooting the bow would tire her out, but it had seemingly the opposite effect.
"So, has everyone chosen their weapon?" she asked. "Because if so, I'll show you guys what I've discovered so far. Weapon Skills! They are awesome. I'm already planning my alias name. What do you think, should it be something classic like 'Ranger', or should it be something fun, like 'NoScope Princess'?
After gathering up a frustrated Dana, Imaya explained us what she had discovered about the collar and the Weapon Skills. She colored it with her own experiences from various video games — which made her explanation so much longer — but basically she repeated the same things that I already knew. After that, we spent several minutes chasing tibbars and discovering new skills. It wasn't very fruitful, because those stupid rodents wouldn't just stand still and let us practice deadly moves on them. It also took time to explain Teva'ryn what we were doing, but once he caught on he seemed to figure out the rest by himself.
I gained two new skills with my dagger: Dagger Throw and Lunge. Nothing too surprising, considering the nature of our targets. After decimating the hill's tibbar population, we gathered together again.
"So, do we have a plan?" I asked.
"Yeah, we do," replied Tobias. "While you were running around with the spear, we walked around the clearing, trying to determine which direction we should escape."
He paused here and looked at me disapprovingly. Was he trying to imply that I was doing nothing while they worked on our survival? When I didn't react in any way, he continued.
"We spotted a river in that direction," he pointed. "The slope is a bit steeper on that side though, so we should descend somewhere around the West," he pointed in an other direction, "And once we are down we should take a turn and head towards the river."
Before he could explain further, I spoke up.
"This planet is spinning in the other direction."
“Huh?” came the intelligent response from Dana. Tobias just made a funny face, something between irritated and confused.
"I'm telling you this because it could be important," I said. "At least, if you want to talk about East and West. Do we determine where West is according to where the sun sets? Because I have been watching the shadows moving and I'm fairly certain that the sun travels the sky in the opposite direction."
They were just looking at me, completely dumbfounded. I quickly amended myself.
"I mean, you can still call that direction the West if you want, I just thought to clear up some facts to avoid confusion."
"Who the fuck thinks about watching the shadows, just to see whether the sun is going in the proper direction?" asked Dana incredulously.
"Hey, it actually wasn't that difficult to notice," I retorted. "I think this planet is also spinning faster than Earth, so the shadows aren't changing that slowly. Plus, this was an useful thing to do. It actually proved that we have been transported to an other planet."
"Or we are in a virtual reality!" Imaya chimed in.
"Well, if you say so, but I don't think—"
"So, what I was saying," Tobias interrupted us, "Was that aside from our obvious need of water, there is a higher chance that we would find other people if we travel downriver. If there are any other humans on this goddamned planet at all."
"Oh, there most certainly are!" Imaya said enthusiastically. "There have to be someone who would give us quests, plus, there must be a place where we can claim our rewards for slaying monsters!" She seemed to be way too eager for someone who had just announced that we would be getting paid for being killers.
"What do you plan to do with the gnomes?" I asked.
"We will try to lure them to the other side of the hill. After that, hopefully there won't be too many of them left here and we can fight those off," Tobias said.
"Alright," I said, then looked back at the shack. "I have a suggestion, though."