Chapter Thirty Six - Talk of False Gods

“So… you don’t remember anything but the cave?” Bellcandy asked, curious. He had a very open nature and was always smiling. I was quickly coming to realize that I liked him in general.

Dull Beauty, by contrast, seemed interested in the answer but was not nearly as animated. She seemed like she didn’t like other people very much. She had brightened a little when I opened my inventory and gave her back her bow, but other than that, she was reserved and quiet.

Only in comparison to another adventurer though. Compared to say, Buggy? She was downright animated. Every scowl had a different meaning, and she seemed to disapprove of everything, but she did it differently every time!

“How long have you and Bellcandy been together?” I asked, ignoring their question.

Dull Beauty scowled a little at the question but Bellcandy put a finger to his chin and pondered animatedly. “Well, we partied up shortly after meeting in the beginners area in Variak, but played solo until Half Bold gathered a party to try and fetch his stolen horn,” Bellcandy said.

I poked at Dull Beauty’s plate, eying the rather unappetizing green leafy stuff that was covered in a watery slime and had little red things in it. She’d called it a salad. The broccoli had been delicious, but something told me I wouldn’t enjoy that.

I stabbed a fork into it and snatched a bite anyway. The taste was good but in a much different and less appealing way than the cherry blood had been. I decided my steak and broccoli was better, too, but the way the girl glared at me was absolutely worth every bit of effort spent. I resolved to do it more.

Bugbear never even reacted… even that time I pulled out one of his hairs. By comparison, Dull Beauty was vivid, and Bellcandy was more lively than me!

“So, are you a couple too?” I asked while stabbing my fork into the middle of my steaming steak and lifting it whole so I could bite around the edges. “Do you have kids, like Iron and Amy?”

“Gell!” Amy shouted, indignantly.

“Whapt?” I asked around a mouthful.

“We… are not a couple like that,” Dull Beauty said. Her cheeks were slightly pink.

“Yeah, Beauty here would never go for me. I’m too cheerful. She’s more into somber, boring guys,” Bellcandy said, throwing a roguish smirk towards the girl.

“I am not. Ugh. Instead of answering questions about us, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself, Gell? He did ask if you remembered anything before the cave,” she pointed out, only a little bit testily.

I finished the bite of steak, finding it harder to chew than the one Amy and Iron had given me.

“Nope! I lived my whole life in my cave. Now that I’m an invader, I can leave! But I still want to make sure no one goes to it, if I can,” I said before happily snatching a whole bite of cherry blood – delight – from Iron’s plate.

The man sighed and just handed me the plate. I beamed at him, overjoyed, and began to gobble the sensational food.

“So… why are you going to Variak? What’s there for you?” Dull Beauty asked with a frown.

Between bites of food, I tried to think of what exactly I was going with Amy and Iron for. I wanted to free Bugbear someday. I wanted revenge on Red Thorn. I wanted to be safe. I wanted… family. I wanted people who I could speak to and who would respond in kind. I wanted a family that would never betray me for some… instinct.

“We’re taking her to the city to find a place that’s safe for her, at least until we figure out a bit more about her situation,” Amy said, cutting in before I could come up with an answer on my own.

“You talked to the Devs yet? If Gell is what you think, this is a pretty big deal,” Bellcandy said, his voice trailing with a somberness that did not fit him. “To think that Tread the Sky could be used to torture someone. It’s fucked up.”

I blinked at him, confused. Who were the “Devs?”

I lifted a finger, then used it to wipe the red jam off my face before asking, “Uhm? Who are the Devs?”

They ignored me, instead continuing their conversation.

“I sent them a message, yeah. Not sure if anything will come of it though,” Iron said to Bellcandy. “Not that it’s their fault though. I’m sure they’re flooded with scam messages and things like that.”

‘Scam message?’ I wondered, getting irritated. I’d become an invader so I could join in these stupid conversations and now they were ignoring me!

“What’s a scam message? And who are… Devs?” I asked again.

“Still, this is a big friggin deal. If your complaint doesn’t get a response soon, I’d start spamming them. I’ll send one as well,” the healer replied. “Shouldn’t be too hard to get their attention with an image.”

“I will also. I’ve always enjoyed escaping into this game. The idea that someone could be permanently kept here though is… unsettling,” Dull Beauty said.

“Hey!” I shouted, slamming my palm down on the table.

‘Owwww!’ I thought, immediately regretting the move. Tears came to my eyes as pain raced up my palms but I refused to acknowledge it, instead glaring daggers at the adventurers who’d decided to exclude me from the one thing I wanted to be part of most.

“Who the heck are the Devs!?” I asked, now mad and in pain.

They all looked at me like I was crazy, so I glared at them again. “You all seem to just… know things! Did Miss Tutorial tell you all of this?”

All of them suddenly looked uncomfortable and I realized my opened handed slap of the table had drawn attention from the other adventurers. Curiously, the normal people didn’t seem to care at all.

Amy was the first to answer, albeit hesitantly. “Gell, it’s not that we’re ignoring you. It’s just… hard to explain. The Devs is short for “Developers.” Mods, or Moderators are sort of the same thing. These are people who… develop and maintain this world.”

My eyes widened. “Whoooaaa… The whole world!?”

“Pretty much,” Iron said, also sounding hesitant.

“Players – er… adventurers – send problems they find to moderators, like glitches. Or they can report adventures for breaking the rules. If the problem is really big, or something really worrisome, Mods might contact Devs for help.”

“And you can just… send them messages!? I wouldn’t think someone so important would be able to talk to just anyone. There are so many inva–er… adventurers after all.”

“Well, that’s the problem. We can’t just talk to the developers. They’re the ones who made the game, while the moderators are responsible for maintaining it. For making things… flow. For adventurers and NPCs alike.”

Bellcandy and Dull Beauty were watching Iron and Amy explain these things to me with rapt attention, like they had never heard them before either. After closer examination though, I realized that they were paying attention to me.

“So… uhm. Why would you send a message to the devs or the mods about me? Am… am I a problem?” I asked, worriedly. I remembered Half Bold had used the word glitch once when describing his ability to send his slaves into dungeons without endangering himself. “Am I a glitch?”

“Of course not,” Amy said immediately. There was a conviction in her voice and a firmness to her eyes that made me want to trust her. A strange feeling erupted inside me. Overwhelming affection and… something else. Something that felt nice.

“Thanks Amy. But… if these developers and moderators watch over the whole world… why didn’t any of them come to help me when I was trapped in Dungeon Home?”

Both of them hesitated again, neither quite sure what to say.

“They… don’t know everything, Gell. They don’t monitor the people who play… er… they don’t monitor adventurers unless they’re called. Even then, there are only so many moderators and an entire world of adventurers.”

“So… so they’re not like gods?” I asked.

An image of moderators and developers had been forming in my mind of giant beings capable of looking down on all of us adventurers. Ambivalent beings, too high above me and Bugbear to care about us. Beings who had watched me suffer and had done nothing to protect me from Red Thorn or the other adventurers, even when they could’ve.

If they didn’t know everything though… if they didn’t know I’d been in trouble… maybe they’d be willing to help me now?

Amy laughed at that. “No. No they’re nothing like God. They are just… people. Just like you and me. They have more power over this world but are every bit as flawed and cruel as any player.”

I shivered. That… did not reassure me.

“Could… I send a message to the Devs? Err… the Mods?” I amended quickly. “I… want a certain, specific invader to die. As many times as they killed me.”

They all went very quiet at that.

“Gell… that’s… wrong. Even if its deserved, you shouldn’t seek revenge like that,” Amy said, worriedly. “Its unhealthy. You should try to be better than… whoever it was who hurt you. Okay?”

Be better?

I… liked the sound of that. Be better than the Thorn. I could do that.

“Okay,” I said, unable to decide if I meant it. I wanted to be better than Thorn. But I wanted to see her die, too.

“This got way off topic. Gell, Amy answered earlier, but why are you going to Variak?” Bellcandy asked, brightly, rather obviously trying to change the subject back to something lighter than my desire for revenge.

This time I had an answer ready. “I’ve never seen a city. A place where adventurers are but they can’t hurt me? I want to see that. I’d like to find a way to grow strong enough so Red Thorn can never kill me again too. And… and I want to save my friend.”

Amy and Iron’s eyes widened at that. They shared a look of minute horror, but Bellcandy and Dull Beauty didn’t seem to notice.

“You also still haven’t picked up a class. At level 13, that’s ridiculous,” Iron said quickly, schooling his features away from the shocked expression he’d had before.

Something was strange about that.

“You haven’t picked up a class? I thought for sure you were a monk or a rogue with the way you weaved around attacks! Not to mention that paralysis touch. It’s amazing!”

I preened, delighted at the compliments. “Thank you. My shocker is my strongest ability! I’ve killed many invaders with it! What… what is a class though?”

They all looked at me strangely again.

“Hiya adventurer! I heard you have some questions about classes!”

“Oh, nevermind!” I told them, delighted. “Miss Tutorial will explain it to me.”

I began listening to Miss Tutorial explain classes and casually continued stealing food from each of my new friends’ plates as I did.


A note from Materia-Blade

A/N: Hello! Quick chapter post today before I go off to visit my grandpa. If you enjoyed please drop me a 5star review over on Royal Road! I'd love to know what you all are thinking of this story! If you'd like to continue reading, please toss a coin in my hat on patreon!

Also also! My new(ish) story The Solar Towers is now pending on Royal Road, but 50,000 words of backlog are available to patrons! So if you think you'd enjoy soft sci-fi kinda sorta post-apocolyptic slow cooked earth, give it a shot! Will link when its approved!

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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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