A note from Materia-Blade

A/N: Special thanks goes to MarkerIV! Thanks a ton for all the help!

Chapter Twenty Two – Combat Zones

“Being an Adventurer sucks!” I exclaimed, having tripped on a tree root and landed on my knees for the third time now. At this point my clumsiness was going to kill me long before any invaders got the chance.

It was strange that I hadn’t tripped overly much on my mad run the night before. Surprisingly though, I was getting used to the strangely solid limbs.

I’d been exploring in a circular pattern away from the Shady Wood Copse. Thus far the world was even more beautiful in daylight than it had been at night. The orange glow of the sun seemed to cast shadows down on me that rustled and moved as the wind blew the leaves. It was a breathtaking sight.

Still, since Amy and Iron had left, I’d not encountered anyone or anything. I hadn’t been walking for very long though. I didn’t want to be too far away, should the two of them decide to fade back in. The most sensible choice was to explore in ever widening rings around the location I’d slept in last night! Even more enjoyable, I could watch my tread counter rise in number as I walked!

In the upper right hand of my vision there were two counters: one for tread, and one for sky. Both of them were measured with a strange pair of letters and a number that I recognized but meant nothing to me. “Ft²​.” I didn’t know what that was, but I did know that the more I walked, the more my Tread counter rose!

The sky counter stayed static though. Did it mean that I had to fly? I couldn’t do that anymore, but that was actually okay.

I glanced upward and shuddered. Knowing that I wouldn’t fall up into that Great-Open wasn’t enough to remove the fear hundreds of cycles had burned into my brain. The sky was beautiful, but I was thankful for the trees above my head, just in case.

“Heya Player!” came the sudden voice of Miss Tutorial. “You’re approaching the edge of a safe zone for the first time! Want to learn a little more about safe zones and combat zones?”

Her voice was accompanied by a box with the words which I assumed was her body. The words she’d spoken were written there as well as two more boxes reading “Yes, tell me more!” and “No thanks, I know this crap!”

The boxes were in my way though, and I tried to step around them and maybe see what she looked like on the other side. Unfortunately, the box wouldn’t move and remained fixed in my vision no matter how much I tried to look around it.

“Miss Tutorial! I missed you! Would you like to talk to me, like Amy and Iron did?” I asked, vainly trying to grab the box and spin it like I’d done with the “Friends List” Amy had shown me. Everything in my life that spoke thus far had a face, but Miss Tutorial didn’t seem to have one. My hands floated right through the box.

Tutorial didn’t respond and I pouted. “I… guess you only really like teaching huh?”

I selected the Yes option and the box went away, quickly replaced by another.

“Great! Always happy to help. Alright. So you’re about to leave a safe zone. In a safe zone you can’t be harmed by other players or monsters, but all of that changes the second you step outside! Combat zones are where terrifying beasts, evil cultists, and other enemies make their lairs. Not only that, you’ll be vulnerable to attack from other adventurers, should they wish to steal your equipment or money!

I gasped. Invaders killed other invaders!?

Beware, adventurer, and make sure you’re well prepared before venturing into one of these zones! Note that each zone usually has a level identifier visible on your map. If the level is much higher than your own, consider adventuring elsewhere? You don’t want to get eaten by an angry dinosaur, do you?”

“No I don’t!” I screeched, and turned and fled back to the safety of the Shady Woods Copse.

“See you again soon, adventurer!” Tutorial said with a happy tone that didn’t fit the horrifying words she’d just told me.

Things would eat me!? I didn’t want to be eaten! That sounded awful! Even if I came back, that sounded like an absolutely horrible way to die!

Overwhelmed and a little disgruntled by the knowledge that even free of the cave I still wasn’t necessarily safe, I returned to the location where I’d met Amy and Iron.

I sat down to wait, but quickly grew bored. Fortunately, I had things to take care of, now that I had some time to address them. I pulled my bag off from around my back and opened it up, deciding to spend some time going through the items the magic bag had allowed me to carry out of Dungeon Home.

I wanted to try the horn. I’d neglected it last night with the wonder of… everything. I opened the bag, and was shocked to find another screen opening up.

“Hiya Player!”

Tutorial, of course.

“Hey, you’ve got some nerve coming around here after scaring me like–!”

“I see you’ve opened your inventory! Would you like to learn more about your inventory, item management, and equipment screens?”

I glared at the woman and selected “No!” She could go explain things to someone else! Rotten jerk.

“Okay! But if you ever want to know more, you can always view this information via the “Tutorial” option in the “Options” menu! Bye bye now!”

“Yeah you better go!” I exclaimed. “And good riddance! Scaring me…”

She did go, and I immediately felt guilty. Miss Tutorial had warned me about the dinosaurs that might eat me after all. She’d even told me how to ask her questions again.

Well. Maybe I’d apologize later. Not now though. I was still a little mad at her.

I opened my bag, but this time, while I could look inside and see all the items in there, there was also a box that held little slots and small images that looked a lot like all the things I held!

Ohh! There was a little potion, just like my health potion! And there was my pebble! Oh, the elf’s tiara! It looked so cute in small picture form! I beamed as I saw the horn, but something else caught my eye first.

I tapped on the small image of two seashells and they floated out of the bag as if by magic!

“Thank you, bag! That was nice of you!” I said, delighted by the kindness. Nothing else had ever brought anything to me before, but this bag seemed perfectly happy to! I wondered if adventurers were born with bags like this.

The bag obviously didn’t respond, but that was okay. I didn’t know if it was a creature like Bugbear, but it could certainly do things! That qualified as far as I was concerned.

The seashells in my hands gleamed like crystals or Momma Bossbear’s pool. Or maybe the stars at night.

Seashell Pauldrons

Item Class: Rare
+6 Armor. Grants Darkvision.
Durability: 28/28

Armor Class: Light Armor

I pulled them out and admired them for a moment before putting them on. They were beautiful and glinted in the sunlight. I beamed, my skin-dots turning a bright yellow as I craned my neck to see how they sat on my new shoulders.

I grew somber then. I was an invader now. I wasn’t in my old form. The only reason I could wear these pretty things was because of what I’d done to Momma Bossbear.

The arms and legs still felt foreign to me. Using them, walking and standing and running, all felt somehow natural. At the same time they were completely alien. I would lift a tentacle and expect to curl it around something only to find I barely needed to exert any effort to lift it with my hand. I forcibly tried to stop thinking about it. If I thought too much about what I had become a horrible feeling of unease bloomed over my body. My glow faded from yellow to a mix between disgusted green and a sickly purple.

Sure, I could wear pretty things, but I’d gotten these from killing Momma Bossbear. I couldn’t turn away from that. Couldn’t hide it. A newfound resolve grew in me. I would wear these as a reminder of who I didn’t want to be. Maybe… one day, Momma Bossbear could pull free enough from the instinct to forgive me.

I sighed and moved on, hoping the horn would be a happier experience than the pauldrons.

I withdrew the jewel-encrusted instrument gingerly. The ornate horn gleamed in the morning sunlight, its purple gems reflecting dazzling lights into the canopy of trees above whenever they caught the sun. I tilted the horn, trying to make as many little lights as I could before spinning them around playfully.

Still, this was it. The moment of truth. I could hopefully free whoever it was Half Bold had imprisoned within this horn.

I lifted the horn up to my new lips, and put my mouth around the horn’s front. It tasted strange. Earthy. Not pleasant. I blew, but instead of a musical note like the bard or like Half Bold had made, the only sound was… sort of like the sound of Bugbear stepping in a puddle. An airy whirring sound that turned my freckles green with disgust.

What the heck! How was I supposed to make music come out of this thing?

“H-hhehe,” I heard a voice behind me, and jumped, turning to find Iron standing there, holding a hand in front of his face. Amy was there too, also hiding a grin.

A note from Materia-Blade

A/N: Well, another bright and early morning chapter before work. Fucking hell, 5 more days until I'm finally part time. Five more. Just five... Uggghhh.

If you missed it, the inspiration image for Gell is on the last chapters A/N!

If you enjoyed this story please drop it a 5-star review over on Royal Road! If you'd and would like to read more consider tossing a coin into my hat on Patreon? Every little bit helps and by god would I love to make a living doing this.

Thank you all!

'Till Next.

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About the author


Bio: Hello!

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!

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