Chapter Six – Another World: One
Tatiana fumed. Fuck, she wanted to quit. She wanted to quit. She wanted to quit. She. Wanted. To. Quit.
But she couldn’t. Jobs sucked. The real world sucked. Sharon and her fucking face sucked. “You clocked in one minute late! That’s a write up!” Damn bitch.
A half hour to scarf down a few morsels and fifteen minutes every four hours to finally rest her fucking feet for a few seconds, only to have to crawl back down the stairs and clock back in on a damn timer. Was it any wonder she was late?
The day was beautiful outside. The her of two years ago would’ve been out and about enjoying the sunshine, but her body ached so much that she didn’t dare leave the house. Her back ached. Her shoulders ached. Most of all, her feet ached.
‘Standing all day should be outlawed,” she thought, concurrently with the very real consideration of just breaking one of her own legs so she might be allowed a stool at work for a few precious months.
But she couldn’t quit. Another year and she’d have enough saved to finally attend college. Then four years, give or take she might be able to get a job where she didn’t have to stand all day.
Till then, she could do little more than suffer in silence. Things could be worse, though. She could not have a job. She could be dead broke, instead of just dead tired. She could be one of those starving kids in Africa…
All the platitudes didn’t help. Her feet still hurt, and her life still sucked.
When she finally made it into her room, she broke into a grin. Time for some more Tread the Sky.
She disrobed, showered, and munched on a few crackers. Logging into Tread the Sky was wonderful, but she’d learned early on that lying in bed awake for hours on end would leave her sweaty and gross no matter that she wasn’t actually moving. It was something you needed to get ready for if you wanted to really play.
She’d thought the game was stupid at first, until her friend Germain had told her about the foot thing. She’d tried it for ten minutes and been immediately hooked. Not because of the vibrant world, not because of the pretty colors. Not even because, in there, she could be someone other than her boring, ugly self. None of those. The best reason to join Tread the Sky was that for a precious few hours, her fucking feet didn’t hurt anymore.
Having prepared and gotten into some comfy shorts and a t-shirt, she lay down on her bed and pulled her headset over her eyes, letting the system connect to her synapses. She breathed in blessed relief as her foot pain vanished. Suddenly, she was as fleet-footed as a ten year old.
The chronic pains developed over her twenty five years of life weren’t that bad, she knew. She was aware that others had it much worse than she did. But fuck if it didn’t feel good to completely lose all of her aches and pains, just for a little while.
It had taken a few weeks for her to get over the joy of the pain-free experience of logging in, but once she finally did she’d fallen in love with the game itself as well. It was everything her real life wasn’t: Fun, free, and unbelievably cathartic. It was pure joy to slay a ravaging zombie or a mindless bugbear after a long day standing on her feet bagging people’s shit for eight hours in the real world. The only way it could be better was if she could make the Bugbears wear Sharon’s stupid face.
Germaine had said there was a mod for that, but she wasn’t so mad at Sharon as to actually waste time installing mods, when she could be in the game.
Tread the Sky dynamically generated terrain and quests, but beyond that, it had with about a million hard coded locations. Barely ten percent of those had been discovered. Although there was a main story quest, she hadn’t bothered with it much. The main quest made exploration a huge feature and there was a square-foot counter that kept track of how much land you had explored, and particularly how much of the “Sky” you had tread. That was the in-game term for going to entirely unexplored areas.
Since the game had enough actual space to cover a planet the size of Jupiter, if not significantly more, you could rather easily find yourself in a location that no one else had ever mapped before. Theoretically the entire world of the game would be generated and covered at a certain point, which might drastically reduce the fun of the game, but that was still a year or two off.
Each and every place had new dungeons. New quests. New locations where you could build a guild or an army. New stories. Tatiana hadn’t found herself bored even once while logged in. It’d been worth every penny the ridiculous five hundred dollars the headset had cost her. And hers had been a second hand knock-off.
She’d been especially looking forward to logging in tonight. Her dungeon raid the previous evening had been a failure, but even that had been a lot of fun.
“Welcome to Tread the Sky! We hope you enjoy your stay! Wander yonder, and don’t be afraid! Adventure awaits!”
‘So cheesy,” Tatiana thought, but she grinned anyway. Last night she’d fought a huge, humanoid bear and killed an assassin Jellyfish that floated in the air! What might she end up facing tonight?
She opened her inventory, grimacing at the low level gear she’d acquired. It wasn’t very good, but she couldn’t afford better without raiding a dungeon and her friends were rarely all available to go raiding together at the same time. Once a month, maybe.
Playing alone was doable but the level grind went from maddeningly slow to ‘barely worth trying.’ The game was still fun and had a lot of quests that you could do that weren’t very dangerous. If you completed them they allowed you to tweak the ways you could fight in subtle ways. The game was more about finding the best ways to fit your personal style, rather than bloating your numbers.
Being the stabby-stabby type suited her just fine.
She was looking through the scrap cloth and rusted bugbear weapons to get an idea for how much she could get by selling the lot when she noticed something strange.
The last item in her inventory. There hadn’t been a notification for it last night. Could that be a glitch?
The jellyfish mob she’d killed had dropped a strange orange orb. As she examined it, her eyes widened. It was a Dexterity Crystal. They were relatively rare, and she’d only received one as a reward for doing low level class quests so far. This one’s image looked much bigger.
She selected the item from her inventory and it appeared in her hand. She used Observe, one of the initial skills needed to play the game and identify rare items. Her eyes widened in shock at what she found.
Dexterity Crystal. Single use item. Increases the user’s maximum Dexterity. This item is of Sovereign Class quality.
‘Wh… whoa,’ she thought. This thing would sell for a shit ton of gold on the in-game markets. If she sold the gold itself, she could probably make a solid fifty bucks off of it alone in the real world. Conversely, she could use the gold to gear herself up to be able to take on that big bear in the cave all alone. But… she played a rogue. Her class needed dexterity more than any other statistic.
She decided it was best to hold onto it for now. Maybe she could get more of them from the strange jellyfish?
‘Jellyfae? What the hell is that?’ she thought idly.
She brought up her status window, and was delighted to find that her name was still Red Thorn. That name was actually kind of cool. It sounded like the type of name one of the game’s top players might have. Those folks actually made money from this game, streaming their adventures online as they raided dungeons at the highest level areas discovered. 37, so far. She was only level 11 and she’d been playing for over a month. Levels in this game were hard as hell to earn. But that didn’t ruin her enjoyment of it.
Name: Red Thorn
Unspent Attribute Points: 0
She looked at her friends list and found that none of the others were online.
She scowled. She usually needed at least one of them to supplement her skills, or at least play as a distraction for whatever creatures needed killing. That way she could use her rogue skills to deal critical hits from behind.
Alone, she could still play, but she’d probably have to go to a lower level zone, nearer to a Core City. She also couldn’t risk treading the sky, lest she wander somewhere too dangerous. Death meant a loss of experience, and could even mean a loss of levels. The game brutally punished failure, removing half the required experience to get to the next level with each death, regardless of how far along you were. This meant characters could regress levels, and with each level lost, five stat points were randomly taken away from the user’s characteristics.
Of course, regaining the level would return those stat points but experience gain was glacial.
Dungeons were less punishing though. The previous evening’s loss had only taken ten percent of the experience needed to reach the next level. That was probably to encourage players to take risks in dungeons. Poor Edgar though; he’d died twice and lost twenty percent.
She pondered what to do and decided that if she could get a Sovereign class item from throwing a single dagger at that jellyfish, she might as well try to get another one. Items that increased stat points directly were rare, and there was a decent chance she could get it on her own. She didn’t stand a chance against the Ghoul or, god forbid, the Boss Bear, but she didn’t have to fight them.
If she didn’t miss her guess, that jellyfish had followed them from nearly the beginning of the dungeon.
Mind made up, she closed her inventory and began the long trek from her respawn point to the dungeon with the weirdly named Bugbears. A smile lit on her face as she walked, her soles feeling lighter than air.
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I'm Materia-Blade. I've been a long time fanfiction writer, and have recently decided to toss my hat into the original fiction arena. I love fantasy, sci-fi, and Lit-RPG's and have read hundreds of books from each genre.
My new story Artificial Jelly has released and is currently being pretty well received! Excited for it to hit trending! Thanks to those who support it, and me, and I hope it continues to impress!
Hope to hear from you soon!