Chapter 21 – Red vs. Green
Ben Five’Oh’One regretted lot of things. In particular he regretted his choice of class. Like many people, when he looked at the class list he hadn’t noticed a spelling mistake. When he selected the class rogue, he had instead selected rouge. It was an understandable mistake, many people didn’t notice it, and many people who did assumed that it was simply a mistake by the producers.
Unfortunately for people like Ben, the rouge class was quite intentional. Like most of the less than normal classes, the rouge seemed to be entirely illogical. It was essentially a stealth class, with skills like hide and sneak, but it also had some magic like abilities. Its spells were mostly mind-effecting, with the ability to charm or enrage, but like most spell users the spells wouldn’t trigger normally. The rouge gained energy to cast its spells by absorbing the happiness of those around them. There was two ways they could go about that, they could make someone really happy and absorb the excess emotion or, do that once then use the spell Drain Emotion (Happiness).
With the amount of work that was involved in actually making someone truly happy, the majority of rouges simply used the drain. That, of course, led to the class getting a much worse reputation than most. It was to the point that some people would simply kill a rouge on site, rather than risk having their emotions played with. Ben had experienced that first hand and was equally unwilling to trust other players.
He had however realised that most people didn’t want to read complicated things. He also realised that if he was going to survive by himself, he would need to have a broad range of skills. Knowing that, whenever he got a new level, he would select a new class rather than improving an existing one. As such, when he reached level seven, he had five classes; few people would notice his rouge class at a glance like that. Anyone that could observe him would see that he was a fighter, rouge, meteorologist, alchemist and loremaster.
Since they all used different weapons and fighting styles, he found himself with different weapons strapped across his body. A longsword on his belt, daggers in both his boots, a bow on his back, a bandoleer of grenades and potions on his chest and a meteorologist’s weather staff in his hands. To prevent himself from being weighed down, or for the weapons to make noise while he was trying to sneak, Ben strapped the weapons tightly so that they could barely move. That prevented them from being drawn in a hurry, but that suited him since he preferred to run from any confrontation he wasn’t prepared for.
His short sandy-blond hair was messy when he woke up at a bar counter. He had been living off the profits he had made by selling some stolen items. A splitting headache was what woke him, a condition that was made far worse by the busy, and loud, morning life of the village he was in. It was a fairly small town, only twenty or so wooden buildings, and it was filled entirely with NPC’s; however, it was still the largest village he had come across. He was thankful to find they had a working currency system and seemed to have some kind of trade set up with a group of villages. The local dealer was more than willing to buy his goods, though he was fairly sure that he had gotten the worse end of the bargain. He didn’t really care that he was cheated; the goods weren’t his to begin with so it wasn’t possible for him to make a loss.
The money that he made had lasted a few weeks of living in a bar. Though, it might be more accurate to say living on a bar as he spent very little time away from the tap. The last of his coin had been used the previous night, and he would need to start working again, a fact the pain in his head made him painfully aware of. He didn’t normally get hung-over, but then he didn’t usually stay sober long enough to fall into that condition. As he left the bar and stumbled across the soft town grass, working his way towards a well, a cold breeze caught the back of his neck. Turning away from the breeze and hunching over, letting his back act as a wind-break, he faced down the main street.
In the centre on the town was a familiar face.
A number of weeks earlier he had been taking a shortcut across a mountain. As he made the trip he had met a beautiful woman with black hair and striking green eyes. She was a merchant of some kind and was carrying a large backpack full of trade goods. She seemed kind, a little skittish, and altogether too willing to trust a stranger. When she was fishing for dinner through a small hole in an iced over lake, he took the opportunity to betray her.
When she was distracted by something on her fishing line, he poured a potion across the ice, thinning and weakening it around where she sat. As she made a heavy pull on the rod, the ice gave in and she was pulled into the water. As she struggled and asked for him to help her out, he convinced her to pass her bag out first, saying that he couldn’t lift both it and her at once. Maybe she was panicking, because she hadn’t doubted him at all. With her bag in his hands, he poured another potion, a potion that caused the water to freeze over in an instant.
To his surprise, the bag was filled with preserved body parts. At first he felt cheated, thinking that the organs and limbs were worthless, but to his surprise the fence that bought the stuff was very excited to see them. He wasn’t sure why the deformed body parts were valuable, but he wasn’t willing to stick around people who sold organs long enough to find out.
Seeing his victim walking towards him he felt a new chill, one unrelated to the temperature. Although she seemed unarmed, her figure felt like the reaper itself as it drew ever closer. Her green eyes were focused on him and he felt his knees buckle. His legs collapsed beneath him and he lost control of his bowels. As the small woman got closer, never taking her eyes off him, she raised an arm dramatically ‘till it was parallel to the soft, green ground. Her pale hand turned a lightless black and stretched and curved into a long, thin, curved blade.
When she was a meter away, he noticed that he was crying. Tear flooded from his eyes and his nose dripped shamelessly. He tried to beg for forgiveness when she moved the black blade through his head.
Sometime later, a new rumour spread through the forum. It was a ghost story about a man who died in the game and died in real life. It wasn’t uncommon as far as ghost stories went; in fact, it might have been the most common. It was such a common story that it trended for a short while then was swiftly forgotten. The police that investigated the incident used it as an example of the dangers of using the illegal and uncontrolled program, but their warnings fell on deaf ears.