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Pixel Courage 9

I felt exhausted. My breaths didn’t come fast, like I would’ve expected. They came slow, like a struggle. I leaned against the inside of the dragon’s mouth, because I felt too tired to stand up straight.

My back on the dragon’s mouth, I felt something with my right foot. After feeling it with my foot for a few seconds, the conclusion became obvious: it was a nub that’d once been one of the dragon’s teeth. The dragon totally decimated its mouth when it let loose its lightning.

With all the destructive potential of that lightning, I wasn’t surprised it’d also hurt the wielder. Made me worry about my eyes, though. They were a little sore, but nothing compared to this mess.

The Thorn Archer walked up to me. “How’d you get lightning to come out of your eyes?”

“Hi, my name is Chris. That’s how normal people introduce themselves, if you were curious.”

“Dan,” the archer said. “How’d you get lightning to come out of your eyes?”

“I don’t know. What happened to your friends?”

“They all left, as soon as they realized there wasn’t any more XP or loot to be gained,” Dan said. “You really don’t know how the lightning came out of your eyes?”

“That’s what I said.” I rubbed my eyes. Fucking madness is what it was.

“The Thorn Sage is going to want to meet you.”

Wished Dan would shut up. Didn’t answer him, wondering if he would just leave me alone.

He didn’t. “I said–”

“I heard you,” I replied. “Why do I want to meet the Thorn Sage?”

Dan seemed taken aback by that. It took him a second before he said, “The Thorn Sage rules over all this.”

“‘All this’ is a stupid fucking game.”

“It’s more than it looks like.”

Dan continued, “The Thorn Sage can get you some of the best missions you’re likely to find. High XP, great loot. And he doesn’t rely on Charisma Levels when deciding which mission to give, unlike almost every other NPC in the game. Looks like you’re fucked when it comes to Charisma.”

He didn’t mean to, but Dan had just let me know I could see other player’s stats. I’d have to figure out how to do that.

“You’re probably not too worried about Charisma, though. People must dislike you a lot in the real world, too. Right?”

“Go fuck yourself,” I said. “But first, take me to The Thorn Sage.”

— — —

As Dan and I trudged on towards the Thorn King, there were so many thoughts swirling around my mind: Would Alex notice me since I made such a splash on the first day? If so, what would she say?

Then I wondered about the game itself. Everybody’s talking about how it’s so different, so unlike what it seems. Why? What are they trying to say?

And finally, What time is it in the real world? Should I log off soon?

Despite the fact that I was stuck in my own thoughts, there was one thing I couldn’t help but notice: the air was so much cleaner inside the walls than outside them. Whereas out there and in the WEEPING PLAINS it’d been a gross yellow, inside the walls it was surprisingly clear.

There was a lot of green shrubbery — probably a positive effect that all the Thorn Magic had on this area of the game.

We passed through the bazaar I’d seen earlier. It wasn’t that big — really just one aisle of shopkeepers. Half of them were busy with PCs, who were trading in loot they’d gotten, upgrading weapons, buying potions and all that.

But the other half were just standing there, waiting for someone to approach. I tried not to stare, but it was hard not to. And a part of me realized I was being an idiot, anyway: they were just NPCs.

So I watched the shopkeepers with a small degree of discomfort. They were just… standing there. They weren’t fiddling with stuff, weren’t looking bored off in the distance. They just stood there, because that’s what they were supposed to do. They weren’t even awkward, they just… stood there.

I was thankful when we got out of the bazaar. Not too far from it, we passed a nice-looking tavern named The Thorny Sword. The place was popular, PCs and NPCs milling about, all different sorts of races. I knew I had to check the place out later.

After that there was a weird-looking temple. It looked like a weird mix of Classical Greek and Medieval Cathedral. Adding to the strangeness were the ten obelisks surrounding the temple, in a black-and-white pattern. Couldn’t read whatever it was that was scrawled on the obelisks, and Dan clearly wanted to get to the Thorn Sage as soon as possible.

A purple gremlinish figure opened the temple door and walked out. I thought I saw people huddled around a TV screen. But his body meant I wasn’t able to see much. Then the door closed. The robed man gave me a surly look.

Must’ve been imagining things.

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