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A note from James Northman

Just wanted to say a huge thank you to the people that have taken the time to read this story.

I would love to hear your thoughts on it if you have the time to drop me a DM or leave a review. :) 


Thanks!
James

Walking into the bar, James received a few smiles from the staff. ‘The Neophyte Bar’, or the Neo for short was one of the few places in the city that didn’t have Class bias. They instead enforced rules for behavior so if a person was a dick, they would get kicked out.

There was some karmic justice in witnessing a ‘C-Class’ or ‘D-Class’ citizen being barred for how they treated an ‘E-Class’. That mentality made the bar a very popular haunt for the lowest members of society. Since their main clientele comprised the poorest patrons in existence, the place was a dump and in a state of massive disrepair. James felt it added to the bar’s charm.

“Here to settle that tab of yours by any chance?”

A gruff voice resounded from the opposite end of the bar.

James turned to see the Manager of the Neo, Billy, who stood flicking through channels on the holographic screen. No matter what he went through, there were dead spots and blurred images.

“How did you know?”

James laughed as he took a seat at the bar and stretched out his wrist for the Manager to start the transaction.

“Ah, I was only joking. Don’t go leaving yourself short of credits. You can repay another time!”

Billy apologized as his grumpy facade dropped.

“Just doing the rounds, I came into a bit of money so thought I’d stop off here first.”

With no warning, Billy reached across the bar and pulled up James’ sleeve. When he saw the recent puncture marks from the rig needles, he let out a stream of curses.

“How many times have I said not to go to that place?! You’re lucky to be out of there alive!”

James pulled his arm away and gave Billy a weary smile.

“I was careful this time. I used an unknown name, played dumb, got high odds and cashed out after the first win.”

Billy spread his hands out on the bar and gave James a withering look.

“You’re not being careful if you won, James. Do you know how many friends I’ve lost to those vultures?”

James opened his mouth to reply, but had no opportunity to interject.

“There’s a reason it’s illegal, they only come here every few months because strings of murders follow them!”

James hadn’t prepared himself for a lecture. He thought he might have had a warmer reception from Billy since he was here to pay off his tab. Even though he meant well, it was exhausting to be yelled at trying to get ahead for once.

“Billy, stop!”

James snapped as he slapped his palm down on the bar.

The gruff man paused in his tirade and looked at the hand in surprise.

“I’m sorry, Billy. It’s just been a draining day. Can I get a drink and pay the tab please?”

“A drink... okay, we’ll get you a drink.”

With nothing more said, Billy started making a cocktail that James had never seen before. He threw ingredients from all across the bar into the concoction and James wanted to tell Billy that he would be fine with the regular beer... but Billy was making a point.

After a few moments of silence, Billy slammed a glass down in front of James. The vibrant colors and swirling ice cubes looked inviting, but the smell of it showed that it would kill him if he tried to drink it.

“Since you don’t care about dying, I thought you might as well try a new cocktail I’m adding to the menu.”

James gave the drink a look and then returned Billy’s daring gaze.

“I’m calling it the Travesty.”

Billy snapped.

At the mention of that name, something in James finally broke.

“Fuck you, Billy! You’re a C-Class, yeah? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to move up from E-Class?”

A few of the junior members of staff that were cleaning the bar stopped what they were doing and listened. James was a regular and famously kept to himself. He had never spoken a cross word to anyone in the bar, let alone to Billy.

“I’ve a good understanding as a matter of fact!”

Billy challenged him as he leaned in on the bar.

“You don’t have a shit clue how difficult it is. To get to D-Class I need to have a permanent residence. To get a permanent residence, I need to have a full-time job. To get a full-time job, I need to have an education or an employer that will take an E-Classer. To be eligible for full-time work, I need to get permission from my therapist. My therapist gets a funding grant from the government for their E-Class patients. By them saying that I’m clear to work, they’re taking money out of their own pockets!”

James took an ice cube out of the glass for each obstacle he listed while Billy just stared at the melting mess numbly.

“So, I can’t get a place to live. I can’t get a job. I can’t get a therapist’s permission... Oh and gaming? They have banned me from every single legitimate gaming association!”

James listed each one off as he flicked the cubes off the bar, finally looking up at Billy with a fake smile on his face.

“James, I’m sorry, I didn-“

Billy began but James was on a tirade. His voice had cracked, and tears of frustration were welling in his eyes. A combination of exhaustion and helplessness combined to make him an emotional wreck at that very moment.

“One. Fucking. Mistake Billy. That’s all I made. Just one mistake and my entire world fell apart.”

A large security guy moved towards the bar and gave Billy a meaningful look but the manager shook his head and waved him away.

“Can I please just pay for my tab and drink whatever the fuck this thing is?”

“I’ll get you more ice...”

Wiping his face, James felt his shoulders shudder with adrenaline as he finally came back to his senses.

“Anything I can do to cheer you up a bit?”

Billy ventured awkwardly.

“You know there’s a big raid tonight which I’d love to see...”

James laughed as he took a drink of the cocktail before spitting it out immediately.

“Oh fuck Billy, that’s horrible!”

Billy chuckled sheepishly as he removed the cocktail from the counter, a wry grin on his face.

“Well, I was furious... and nice try, you’re looking for seats for the Abidden Raid?”

Raising his hands defensively, James smiled warmly.

“Just one seat, and it doesn’t even need to be in a decent bar!”

Billy tapped the interface on his wrist and scrolled through a few different options before looking up with a sly grin.

“It’s being shown all across the town, I might get you into one of the Esports bars... I know some bouncers.”

James nodded eagerly.

“It’ll cost you though.”

“Haven’t you heard, I’m practically bursting with credits?”

Billy shook his head.

“I’ll get you into a seat for the Raid, in the C-Classer Box... but you need to give me your word that you’ll never do another slum arcade again.”

James stared at Billy for a few moments, the memory of waking up and being surrounded by that group earlier was still on the forefront of his mind.

“I promise, Billy.”

“Good! Then use some of that money of yours on some clothes, because tonight you need to pretend you’re a douche C-Classer like me.”

Billy teased him as he shooed him away from the bar.

James laughed brightly as he stood up to leave.

“Shouldn’t be too hard, Billy. I was a C-Classer for most of my life.”

***

“Sorry I’m late, what did I miss?!”

The young man panted as he tried to catch his breath. His friends were sitting in a booth at the District Esports Bar, all waiting eagerly for the stream to start.

One of the well-dressed boys put a finger to his lips as though to tell the newcomer to be quiet, but it was no use.

“ID’s Gentlemen!”

A booming voice cut over the excited chatter that surrounded them. A collective set of groans emanated from the booth as each boy raised his wrist in compliance.

The bouncer scanned each of their embedded identifiers before crossing his arms.

“I need not tell you that this establishment is for ‘C-Class’ citizens and above. I will have to insist that you leave.”

One youth stretched his wrist out further and smiled nervously.

“I’m ‘C-Class’, my friends recently came on some hard times and fell into ‘D-Class‘, but I can vouch for them?”

The bouncer gestured towards the door.

“They need to leave... now!”

The ‘C-Class’ youth glanced back at the countdown timer in a panic.

“Come on! The stream is about to start!”

Another group of customers approached the bouncer, knowing that this booth was about to become free. The assorted group of boys avoided their stares.

“Then you better get moving to somewhere you’re welcome!”

With that said the bouncer reached across to grab at the kids, but they took the hint and hopped down from the booth.

They aimed a few glares at both the bouncer and the ‘C Class’ youth that guiltily remained in his seat.

As the group left the bar, the bouncer put up his hand at a group that were hovering around the empty seats to show that they couldn’t take them. With a fluid motion, the enormous man leaned to one side and gestured for a well-dressed man to take a seat.

“Enjoy the show, Billy.”

James smiled gratefully at the bouncer who gave him a wink. He was a friend of Billy’s and had treated him well, despite knowing he was an E-Classer.

The immature boy in the booth nervously shuffled away from James who sat on the other side of the table. The look of guilt on the boy’s face washed away as excitement overtook him.

James couldn’t blame him. The show was about to begin.

Everyone’s eyes locked onto the picture perfect holograms as the lights in the Esports bar dimmed down.

A voice that everyone knew sounded across every speaker as the screens burst into light.

Welcome to the Final Chapter of Abidden’s Paragon Tomb!

Everyone in the Esports bar burst into cheering at the announcement. Each packed booth was filled with avid listeners who hung on every word spoken by the most popular Sportscaster for Abidden, #Penta-Price.

To those of you that have been living under a rock. Let me catch you up! Abidden’s Heroes have reached the last stage of Helena’s Master Quest!

She has led them to depths of the Paragon’s Tomb. You might think to yourself... ‘Hey, that name sounds familiar doesn’t it?’ Well you’d be right! The Paragons were the first Esports Gamers that Quentin Bell, CEO of AZE scouted himself!

It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago only pro-gamers could play! Now we have S-Class celebrities and A-Class industry titans fighting it out for our shared entertainment!

As a special treat for our viewers we’re joined in the studio by a former Paragon to provide insight on tonight’s quest! You may remember him by the title of ‘General of Light’...

“Who is the General of Light?”

The C-Class boy muttered as he stared at the screens in bewilderment.

James opened his mouth to explain, but it was a voice from the booth beside them that answered.

“Are you shitting me? It’s Greaves. Fucking Greaves. The greatest General of all time?!”

An older man who had been drinking for a few hours was staring at the boy in complete disbelief.

“Do you even watch the game?”

The immature boy snorted in response.

“Ethan is the greatest General, everyone knows that.”

A hand appeared on the hyperventilating man’s shoulder.

“Don’t, it’s not worth it.”

James couldn’t help but laugh as he heard the drunk man being consoled by his friend.

Oh my, has it really been that long! Most of our viewers seem to be clueless according to the reaction feed. Well, let me put you out of your misery! It’s Greaves! Thank you for joining us.

A muscular man that looked to be in his early thirties sat beside #Penta-Price with an expressionless face.

Haha, not one for small talk, just like the old days! Sorry viewers, we will have to cut our little reminiscing short... because it’s finally time for our Heroes to enter the Paragon’s Tomb! Greaves, what are your predictions? Who is the one to watch?

The enormous man let out a sigh and looked dismissively at the gameplay. He winced slightly before looking back at #Penta-Price.

“What sort of answers are you looking for? A fluff piece or the truth?”

#Penta-Price went quiet for a moment and tilted his head slightly to the left as he received instructions from the higher ups. Meanwhile, the entire Esports bar had erupted in laughter, most of which were older viewers. They threw a few shouts of support and ridicule about, causing more and more banter in the bar.

“Okay, lets see. The only person worth watching, as always, is Helena. She’s the only one that knows how to play the game, only one that got her legendary gear through questing and defeating bosses. She’s a veteran and the last remaining Paragon. She’s the one to watch.”

Oh Greaves, surly as usual! What about our other fantastic players? There’s a range of great talent in there!

“Like Ethan? You want me to talk about my replacement? Okay viewers, play close attention to his dramatic reactions... to literally anything happening in Abidden. I play a drinking game at home when I watch this crap. Here are the rules, they’re simple like him, so pay attention: Every time he cries, does a lip quiver or attempts a rousing speech, you need to take a drink. You’ll be drunk before the quest even starts.”

The C-Class boy sat in the booth with wide eyes.

“How can they allow him to say those horrible things about Ethan! He’s a nobody! Ethan is famous!”

All the older group was in fits of laughter but paused for a moment at the boy’s words before doubling over again with renewed laughing.

#Penta-Price tried his best to reign in the former Paragon, but it was no use.

Ah, Greaves, I don’t thin-

“Maybe you want to know about JeffX? The little rapper that runs around topless on an island chasing animals... If I ever were to get back in that game, the first thing I’d do is go after him. He doesn’t wear armor. His stats? Not a single finished quest!”

“Oh hell, good luck stopping him now! He’s on a rampage!”

One man in the booth laughed out loud as he slapped the table in front of him. Everyone in the bar was enjoying the nostalgic gruffness of Greaves. Many of them grew up watching the streams of him playing the game with the other Paragons. Everyone agreed, you either loved him or hated him, there was no in-between. Which is probably why he got fired from the roster of Heroes.

Greaves, I think that’s all we’ve got time fo-

“How about MamaBest, the Cookery Mogul that just bakes in a castle all day talking about her products? Fucking useless... all of them.”

Suddenly the picture on the screen changed and Greaves was no longer present in the studio. It was just an overlay of #Penta-Price in front of the game being streamed. He only looked ruffled for a few seconds before his excited demeanor kicked back in. The laughter around the room died down as everyone paid attention to the caster and the video stream behind him. The action was about to start.

16 million online viewers watched as Helena led the group of Heroes through the Tomb. Every time there was movement, viewers witnessed a flash of light as her arrows shot past the other Heroes to strike her targets. Helena’s original class was Hunter before she specialized in archery. She later unlocked a unique class called the Celestial Archer which resulted from her 100% Justice rating. She was the first person to maximize the morality feature of Abidden and nobody had achieved it since. Over the course of the next hour, snakes, skeletons and earth golems attacked the group. They were low effort mobs, and the audience groaned at the fact that it took so long for the other Heroes to dispatch them. Everyone knew that the stream would go on for 4 hours, so viewers were eager to see the story-line progress as much as possible.

The next tunnel was filled with smarter monsters. They were like strengthened forms of the previous attackers. Lizard men, ghouls and earth elementals. This time it required more effort from Helena, and it also rewarded viewers with the first death of a player.

Helena’s arrow has pierced through the Lizardman’s skull! Critical Hit! That’s just tripled her damage. Oh, no! The resulting explosion has caused Ethan to lose his footing.

Opportunity for the Elemental who doesn’t miss their chance. MudSlide attack! That’ll have a slowing effect for the three Heroes that took a hit. Ethan looks paralyzed!

It wasn’t a critical mudslide, and he’s not dazed from the previous explosion. It looks like he’s catching his breath! Come on Ethan, we believe in you, show them how it’s done!

Unfortunately, the Lizardman lashes out with a scimitar attack which has an impressive range and... oh! Elemental damage, that’s a fire sword.

Ethan just took a full hit without defending himself or attempting to evade. The damage is significant! Get this man a healer and fast!

Wait, where is the healer... You won’t believe this everyone! CurioSity is Dead! Looks like they took him out with an earth elemental. Rookie mistake for the Raid! Always protect your Healer!

Every viewer listened to #Penta-Price as their eyes darted between the fight on screen and the sidebar which showed all the Heroes portraits and stats. Ethan was in a lot of trouble, and nobody seemed to want to jump in to help him. Damage counters and logic breakdowns were flashing up in the bottom of #Penta-Price’s overlay. Top Damage Dealer was Helena. Helena topped every category up for grabs. Ethan was on top for most damage received, which gave many Greaves’ fans great joy.

Without Ethan’s Sword of Light, there is nothing to hold back the army of Ghouls. It looks like there’s tension in the Squad! I wonder what they’re saying to each other right now!

We will find out those details tomorrow! Remember everyone, this is the live stream of the raid, you must tune in tomorrow to see this in cinematic mode!

What’s cinematic mode you may ask? Let me tell you!

Cinematic mode is a subdivision of Abidden Zoetic Enterprises and allows viewers to watch Raids, Quests or Exploration of Abidden in movie blockbuster quality!

You’ll be able to follow your choice of Hero, watching them interact with the world! Subscription prices may vary depending on package and affordability- OHHHH, ETHAN IS DOWN!

I repeat, Ethan is down. A Ghoul attached from the ceiling must have escaped Helena’s notice! Poor Ethan has died and will join CurioSity back at the Spawn Point.

Audible gasps rippled through the Esports bar as everyone watched Helena try to fight off the entire mob by herself. Some Heroes stupidly charged headfirst into the mob, while others ducked behind Helena waiting for her to take care of them.

“There’s no way they’ll be able to do this without Ethan.”

The young ‘C-Class’ boy groaned as he leaned his head back in exasperation.

A question kept tugging at James’ head and curiosity finally got the better of him.

“Hey, how long have you been watching this stuff?”

James gestured at the raid on the screen.

The boy scratched the back of his head as he thought about the question.

“Dunno, maybe three years?”

James took a steady breath before nodding, his curiosity satisfied.

The drunk man from before though decided that this was the perfect time to jump in with an opinion. A beer in one hand, and his elbow resting on their booth as he leaned over the partition to talk to them.

“That’s why you’ve no idea what’s going on here. Those people in that raid... none of them are the real deal. You love them and will defend them, because the big corporate execs knew you’d love them. That’s why Greaves was cut and Ethan took his place.”

James couldn’t have said it better himself. It was true. Greaves and the other Paragons were professional gamers. Ethan was a handsome man that was just popular.

The C-Classer shook his head but the man speaking to him cut him off before he could speak.

“The Paragons aren’t just a name, they were the best. Watch Helena fighting out there, everything would fall apart without her. Do you know what Helena was famous for?”

He shook his head once more, this time wanting to know the answer. It was James though that answered his question, causing the drunk man to notice him for the first time.

“Helena was famous for being a support character. She defended the Paragons from the rear, protecting their flank...”

Nodding his head in agreement, the man muttered as he gestured at the surrounding screens, showing the Heroes standing behind Helena.

“Exactly! But this crap... it makes no sense. They’ve forced her into the role of a leader and it’s a joke.”

The kid who had been trying to ignore both James and the drunk guy finally piped up with a smug grin on his face.

“Ha! You’re wrong. Ethan is the leader. He’s the Light General and got that title from the King. He’s the Raid Leader, see that crown on his profile picture. That means... He’s the Leader.”

The drunk man just shook his head and leaned back into his own booth, sharing a look of bewilderment with his friends.

“Those execs really know how to brainwash the kids.”

He muttered as he lifted his beer and focused back on the Stream.

James gave the kid a humoring smile before looking back at the screen.

#Penta-Price was reeling off stats and information on the battle. It was almost halfway through the 4 hour window, and the raid faltered on the second passage. Every Tomb or Raid had at least 5 passages that slowed down the party. After that would be the Boss fight, which would usually last three episodes, so 12 hours.

Everyone in the crowd knew this was going too slow, and losing Ethan and CurioSity meant that most of the Heroes would be reluctant to push forward. True to that, there were only a handful of the Heroes actually doing anything. Of that handful there was only one making an impact.

Helena’s Celestial Gate is on cool-down for the next 3 minutes. She has pushed the mob back but there are only so many arrows that the Celestial Archer can fire at once.

TroyLegal, Partner at Troy Legal, playing as a Spear-man. You’ll notice that TroyLegal has yet to advance to a specialist class. We’re told that he’ll have broken through his ascendancy quest before the next raid, so make sure viewers that you watch it when it airs!

TroyLegal has thrust forward at the earth elemental which got stuck in the Celestial Gate. It looks as though the attack has fallen short. He’s supported by the tank of the Raid, ShieldBro who you may know as the leading manufacturer of leisurewear and sporting goods.

ShieldBro offers a 15% discount to all viewers that use the code displayed on the screen now.

“Hey, can you call out that code for me?”

The kid asked eagerly as he tried to look up at the screen and back at the display projected on his wrist.

Looking at the boy and back at the screens, James just reclined back in the booth and sighed.

“This game is fucked.”

 

 

 



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About the author

James Northman

Bio: Irishman struggling to get through the #LitRPG Tutorial Island.

Currently writing Wildcards: Book 1 - The Dread Pirate

If you'd like to support me, here's a link to my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/JamesNorthman

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