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The gray world and a cloaked figure appeared before me. My heart pounded in my ears.

Would you care to continue, Miss Knight?” the voice of the reaper said.

With a voice like that, who could tell if it belonged to the same person?

I swallowed. “Are you Mr. Black or someone else?”

Ever so slowly, the reaper looked up and I saw his familiar face. My heart squeezed with relief.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. Did you have a nightmare?”

“That wasn’t real, was it? You didn’t fight off some giant demon that was like 100 times larger than you?”

“Dreams in this place can often be strange.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Do I look like I could fight off a demon?”

“Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine, Miss Knight. Are you ready to continue?”

“No.”

“Very well.”

“What happened?”

“Why, nothing much at all.”

I realized at this point that he either couldn't tell me or wanted to protect me. I refused to believe it was just a dream.

“Fine. Since I'm here, mind helping me with this etiquette book while I try to once again decipher this history?”

He held out his hand and I placed the thin book on his palm. With a cool flip, he began reading.

I pulled out the history once more and wanted to cry as I saw the small cursive font. After a few minutes, I set it down and rubbed my eyes.

“Ugh. How does one even pronounce a name this long?”

He glanced down. “The Kingdom of Go-rai-thesh-se-lan. It’s not that difficult, you child.”

“I'm not a child!” I said and continued reading.

He snorted.

“Seriously, how is that a country name?”

“Your realm has country names like Turkmenistan and a sentence like The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, yet you’re complaining about Goraitheshselan?”

“Seriously. Dumb. Name.”

“Keep reading.”

 

***

 

After far too many hours within the gray, I set the book down and stretched. My body could keep going but my mind was about to break.

Mr. Black tapped on the page and scrolled his finger along a sentence. It appeared highlighted in a pinkish gray.

“Did you... did you just write in my book?”

“I used magic to highlight key sentences you should pay careful attention to when you do your first read through. It will go away if I will it.”

“What do you mean first read through? You think I’ll need to read this more than once?”

“Yes.”

I paused. There were actually a few parts in my current book that I wanted highlighted. “Do you think you could teach me that?”

The corners of his lips turned up. “You don’t ask for much, do you?”

“It doesn’t seem like it’s that hard.”

He shook his head. “Right now you need to become a battle miner. Reaper magic won’t help you.”

“Okay, how about a pen highlighter then?”

For the first time since I’ve known him a look of utter horror crossed his face. “To vandalize a book?! Never!” He thought for a second. “You drive a hard bargain. I shall teach you this one thing, but that’s it.”

He placed his palm on my forehead and whispered slippery words. Within a half second, he’d finished and begun highlighting sections of the book again.

“That’s it?”

He nodded.

I saw the passage I wanted to highlight, a part about how Nenvari and his half-siblings led a battle against the invading light Fae. I tapped my finger at the beginning of the passage and along the sentences. A line of pink-gray left my finger. With the swipe of my hand, I erased the highlight. I giggled.

“Miss Knight. Don’t get carried away. And don’t use this technique without me there or you’ll put yourself in danger.”

That sobered me like nothing else could. “I won’t.”

He nodded.

After a little while longer I neared the end of the book. I read a passage that had me stop. Then I re-read it.

“Wait. It says here that Nenvari’s stepmother, Queen Fedreicio decided to create the Cold Steel Project and Nenvari was against it at first for moral reasons, but after months of debate caved and decided to lead the project himself. It doesn’t mention what it is or why it was necessary. I think it’s related to this game.

"If he was against this game at first then maybe I could convince him to be against it again?"

He held his hand out for the book and I gave it to him. “Hmmm.” He flipped a page. “You may be right about the game but I'd need to know more about the man. Do you mind if I look through this history now?”

“Sure. Actually, can I leave it here with you while I go collect more honey? I need a serious mental break.”

“You trust me far too much.”

I rose a brow at him. “I trust you to bring me back to life, what’s a book?”

He pulled out a piece of paper, waved a hand over it and handed it to me. It was an agreement that I would lend the reaper, Mr. Black, my history book until, at least, the time of my next death. I used my new pen magic to sign my name.

“I’m ready.”

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A note from DragonOfRochester

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!


About the author

DragonOfRochester

Bio: Rochester has a degree in Videogame Art and Design and 8 years of industry experience. She challenged herself to write a LitRPG with a nonstandard game type and post the result here.

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