Chapter Thirty – A Look Back
Half Bold was gone. We were likely just lucky he hadn’t decided to continue attacking, distracted as we’d been when Amy hugged me.
He’d fled, taking his minions with him, as soon as the archer died again. He probably didn’t like his odds against me and my new allies, deciding to quit while he was ahead.
The hug ended and the comfort ended with it. I took one look at Amy’s incensed face and winced.
“What in the good lord's name have you gotten yourself into!? We are gone for an hour, an hour, and come back to find you out of the safe zone, being attacked by… no. Attacking raiders? A full team of them!”
I bowed my head shamefully as the tirade continued on. Amy was mad at me but I couldn’t quite understand why.
“What… Gell, what possessed you to leave the safe zone and attack those players!? I know for a fact they didn’t attack you. Didn’t you say you didn’t want to be like the invaders?”
“No, I don’t!” I cried, incensed that she would accuse me of that.
“Then why attack them! Isn’t that just like an invader?”
“No! It was different!” I exclaimed, trying to get a word in. “It was–!”
“Sweetie, can’t you see how attacking other invaders is no different than–!”
“No! It was different!” I yelled, finally getting fed up with her shouting. “They were attacking my home!”
That finally seemed to stop Amy from shouting at me.
“Your… home?” she asked.
“My only friend lives there! I’ve… met one of those invaders before. Half Bold. He’s a Beastmaster. He captures us. Takes us. Makes the instinct tell us to do what he says. I couldn’t let him take Bugbear! He’s the only who ever cared about me. So I had to stop them. Had to stop anyone from going to Dungeon Home.”
“If… if you have a problem with that, then maybe you should j-just go your own way. I’ll stay here and protect my friends without your help. Okay?”
‘Gods I don’t want them to go…’ I thought miserably.
“Sweetie… I’m sorry. I jumped to conclusions,” Amy said thoughtfully. “I didn’t know you were…. Uhm. Defending your home.”
Amy had a pensive look on her face. Contrite. Guilty even. I’d seen the expression so rarely I barely recognized it. Invaders didn’t have much use for guilt. Amy did though.
“That’s okay,” I said as my mood rebounded. “Uhm. Thank you, as well. I’ve never been… saved before. I don’t like dying. It’s not very comfortable, huh?”
The two of them blanched. “It… certainly isn’t.”
I was about to ask them about what they had done in the city when a notification popped up in my peripheral vision.
New message arrived! [email protected]
New Friend Request! [email protected]
New message arrived! Amy Thyst
New message arrived! Iron Crock
New message arrived! Amy Thyst
New message arrived! Amy Thyst
Bellcandy? The healer? Ugh, why was his name so… janky like Amy and Iron’s had been? Were all adventurers named like that?
More importantly, why would he want to trade name pieces with me!? Hadn’t I just killed him? I wasn’t giving a piece of my name to someone who probably wanted revenge!
Wait, Amy and Iron had sent me messages too? When had they done that!?
I opened the newest message, and this time was prepared for the sudden dialogue box and the familiar voice that accompanied it.
“Hiya, Adventurer! Seems like you’ve received a message! Congratulations! You’re making your first foray into the social world of Tread the Sky! Would you like to learn more about the messaging system?”
“Hello, Miss Tutorial!” I said brightly. “You guys! Miss Tutorial is here! She’s always teaching me things! Do you want me to tell you what she’s saying!?”
“Uhm. That’s alright. You go on ahead. We’ve already heard what... Miss Tutorial has to say before, Sweetie,” Amy said. She fidgeted though, as if something were making her uneasy.
I shrugged and turned back to Miss Tutorial, wondering if she spoke to everyone like she was doing for me.
I was about to click yes but Iron stepped closer to Amy and began to speak to her in a low voice that was hard to hear.
“She’s talking to the tutorial again, Hon,” I heard him say.
“And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Amy replied, calmly.
He lowered his voice conspiratorially, whispering into Amy’s ear. “Don’t you think we should… I don’t know? Tell her? That it’s… not real?”
I could still hear him, though I don’t think he intended me to. What did he mean Tutorial wasn’t real? She was right there! I mean, her body was a couple of grey boxes that wrote the words she spoke, but that wasn’t a bad thing! Still better than an invader.
“Darling, I don’t think she would listen to something like that right now. This… this is her world. The people in it are as real to her as we are,” Amy responded.
I frowned at that, pretending to be engrossed in Tutorial’s words while actually eavesdropping on the two of them. I had noticed Miss Tutorial was like the invisible status screens. Only the person she was talking to could hear her. Now Amy thought she wasn’t real too?
“Maybe they’re keeping her alive on an IV drip? Maybe she’s a coma victim or something? Technology is getting pretty amazing these days,” Amy continued, her voice also pitched low to be harder to hear. “Either way, confronting her about her reality is the last thing we should do.”
“I guess,” Iron said with a shrug. “Still feel like we should tell her it's a waste of time to actually talk to the friggin tutorial like it's a real person.”
Okay, that was enough.
“Derek!” I shouted, turning to face the two of them.
Iron blanched and looked back at me with a shocked expression on his face, but he also shut up. Wow! It really worked! Maybe Derek really was a magic word!
“Sw-sweetie?” Amy asked, a worried expression on her features. Iron looked spellbound. Hah! That was so cool.
“I didn’t like hearing him talk about Miss Tutorial that way,” I said before glaring at Iron. “She never did anything to you!”
“Where did you hear that name, Gell?” Amy asked, sounding a little upset.
I looked back at her, confused. “What name? I just used the magic word you used to make Iron stop talking!”
Amy blinked, confused herself. “Did… I?”
Iron’s confused look suddenly morphed into laughter.
“Oh… oh that's great. You’re a treat, Gell!” he said, gesturing animatedly at Amy. “Don’t you remember, Amy? I was mad about the Unicorn?”
“Sw-sweetie. That’s… uhm. Derek is not a magic word,” she said consolingly.
It wasn’t? I found myself pouting.
“It seemed like one,” I said, somberly kicking at a stick on the ground and watching it bounce. It was different from flicking stones in Dungeon Home with my tentacles, but still enjoyable.
“It’s… Iron’s real name,” Amy said after a brief bout of self-conflicted lip biting.
I stared at them.
Seriously? More names!?
“You invaders do more weird things with your names!” I huffed indignantly. “If Derek is his real name then why doesn’t he use it!? Gell is my real name! Gell the Jellyfae! You don’t see me calling myself something different!”
I walked away a few steps and sat down on a stone, frustrated. I didn’t want to be an adventurer! I wanted my old body back. Though… I wasn’t sure if Amy or Iron — Derek — would’ve spoken to me if I hadn’t become like this.
Would they have tried to kill me, too? I didn’t want to believe it, but they looked just like invaders now. Derek with flimsy archer’s gear and Amy wearing her healer’s robes.
I sighed and pulled the notification back up with Bellcandy’s messages. I opened the message first.
Great freaking fight! Never seen a PK quite so tricky. Awesome use of the racial abilities! Seriously, how did you get it? Anyway, wanna be friends? I’ll PK with you sometime!
‘PK... Hadn’t Iron or Amy told me that PK meant Player Killer?’ I thought, reading it over.
I opened up the friend request, deciding that perhaps if I befriended the healer I could convince him not to go back to Dungeon Home.
[email protected] has invited you to be friends. Do you accept?
Did I really want a random human to have a piece of my name? I hesitated, but decided the potential benefits outweighed the risks. I hit yes, and my friends list appeared, showing Bellcandy listed at the top.
I growled at the name and it rearranged itself to look right, Bellcandy, before deciding it was time to ask Miss Tutorial about some things I was having trouble with. For one, I really needed to figure out what a valued PK and infamy meant. Miss Tutorial had tried to tell me but I’d been quite busy keeping the invaders from killing me at the time.
She really needed to learn a sense of timing.
Now, I could actually finally ask her a few of the questions I’d been having, and she’d already told me how to reach her.
“Options!” I said loudly, and was greeted with a dialogue box similar to Miss Tutorial’s, though it had no text and her voice didn’t accompany any of the buttons I saw.
Instead there were quite a few more than I expected.
I was a little impressed! I thought if I said “Options!” it would only have the Tutorial in it, but there was so much more! I didn’t know what any of these were but I could learn!
Then, suddenly, I found myself angry. Why did I have to become an adventurer to find all of these things? Why did only adventurers get a Miss Tutorial friend to help them out?
I wanted to find out, and tell whoever was responsible for denying all these interesting things to my kin that they were a huge jerk! And quite a few of the words Amy said were bad besides!
I dropped that train of thought as I wondered about the other names listed. Were each of these different boxes with text? Was there a Mr. Social? A Miss Livestream!? I had to find out!
Later though. For now, I had to consult Miss Tutorial.
I pressed her button and a whole list of things appeared. A few of them were greyed out and I realized quickly that those were the things Miss Tutorial had already told me about. So, Combat Zones was greyed out but just above it, “Inventory” was still shining brightly with a little explosion picture that said “NEW” beside it!
I remembered that!
I pressed it and the list disappeared, leaving Miss Tutorial’s box in its place.
Tutorial explained how my big bag worked. I could go through it normally by opening it, or for easy access and convenience I could just say Inventory, and that list with the little pictures of my treasures would appear, and I could pull them out of my bag instantly like I’d done with Dull Beauty’s Bow.
That was just something you could do!
I listened to the others I had skipped too. PK, as it turned out, did mean Player Killer. Player seemed like the wrong word to me, but I guessed it wasn’t up to me to decide how life worked. PK also meant a sort of currency that could be used to buy things in towns. Usually things geared towards hurting other invaders, which suited me just fine. It could also be used to buy experience points. When I followed that particular option, Miss Tutorial’s body had to expand nearly to the size of my entire field of vision to explain, and I was pretty sure there was more than one page. So I decided to leave that one for another day. For now, PK was money I could use to buy things to make it easier to PK for more PK.
I giggled. Words were fun.
Fame and Infamy were much easier to understand. Infamy meant people would know you were dangerous and Fame meant people would just know you. Miss Tutorial explained that both of the two played key roles in unlocking quests.
Whatever that meant. They’d mentioned quests three times now and I still had yet to find one. I’d made a fake one, and the invaders seemed to think it was legitimate, except for Dull Beauty. But I had yet to actually get one.
“Thank you, Miss Tutorial!” I told the box happily as I pressed her “Okay” button at the end of the “Messages and the Messaging System” lesson. I’d also read the messages Amy and Iron had sent me! They’d been worried when they returned to the safe zone and found I was missing.
There were still a lot of lessons available for Miss Tutorial to teach but I didn’t really want to anymore, so I moved to press the little X in the upper right hand corner of her body.
“See you soon! Miss Gell,” she said as I closed her. I beamed. Miss Tutorial was so nice.
Using what I’d just learned from her, I pulled up my friends list and pressed on Bellcandy’s name. A new box appeared with a blinking line and a list of keys.
This was the “keyboard” she’d been talking about. I began poking at the letters, giddily watching as the words in my head became words in the world! I might’ve gotten a little crazy with it sending the reply.
“Gell?” Amy asked just as I finished the message. “We’d like to try to take you to the city, but we’ve been playing for a long time, and the sun is setting. The road back is much more dangerous at night. Would you mind spending the night in the safe zone and we’ll rejoin you in the morning?”
They were leaving again? Well, I guessed that was alright. Somehow I didn’t think finding adventurers like Amy and Iron would be easy so I didn’t want to upset them.
A compromise then.
“Would… you do me a short favor first?” I asked shyly.
“What ya need?” Iron asked, before Amy could question the request. She glared at him, but he didn’t seem to notice, instead focused upon me.
“Would you… come with me to Dungeon Home? So I can look at it one more time before we go? It’s very close. It’s been my home for my whole life. I…”
I trailed off, unsure what to say.
Amy smiled a sad smile. I could tell the smile was sad, but didn’t understand how I knew. I just did. Smiles could be sad.
“Of course, little Gell,” Iron said, kindly. I felt glad.
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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!