Mike felt it was a little easier to breathe after watching the wolfman crash into the barrier and receive such serious damage. It seemed they were safe for the moment.
Unfortunately they couldn’t stay within the circle indefinitely. Eventually the「System」would consider them to be attempting to cheat and eliminate them.
Turning his back on the dogmen, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He forced himself to ignore it. Even though the wolfdog’s killing intent was almost palpable, Mike made a point of acting calm and in control.
If the others saw him remain calm, it would be that much easier for them to do the same.
He noted the distribution of the group between the two circles.
Jessica had Nikki and Emma with her. Trisha and Brandan were standing next to him, in the circle closer to the wolves.
His circle was a little cramped, Jessica and Nikki were both relatively petite, and Emma was practically kid sized. Everyone in Mike’s circle was average sized at least, Mike himself was a good bit larger.
Mike didn’t really consider making any adjustments.
He had no way of knowing what would happen if they shuffled around. In the worst case the barrier might power down while someone had a foot in both circles and the wolves would take advantage, killing everyone.
Instead of worrying about it Mike just smiled reassuringly.
“Trisha, Nikki,” he said indicating the two players in both groups nearest the machines, “go ahead and use the vending machine with whatever credits you have,” he said.
The women both nodded. Without any need for convincing they both opened the store screens. Apparently they were both eager to find a weapon or maybe a skill, something to help protect them.
Watching them for a while, he suddenly felt Brandan tugging at his shoulder.
Mike turned to face him with a questioning look.
The kid nodded in the direction of the wolfman that lay crumpled on the ground.
“It’s not dead,” he said with some degree of confidence.
Mike watched the corpse, it lay still for the length of several deep breaths. He was just about to tell the kid he was crazy when the wolf twitched. One of its eyelids briefly snapped open, its malicious yellow eye glaring at Mike for a three count before it lost consciousness again, with another jerking spasm.
“You’re right kid, it’s still alive. It’s also out of the fight for now. That’s all that really matters. Since you saw it first, if we live through this, I’ll let you kill it to become a player.”
“I can kill it right now, from here” the kid said puffing out his chest, “I just need to put one foot outside the circle, and a good knife.”
Before Mike could ask him how he was so sure, he explained, “I used to go down to the farm to visit my Beepa when I was younger. After I finished my chores there wasn’t much to do. He did’t have the internet and his tv was antenna only. So when I’d get bored he used to set up a chunk of wood and hand me his knife. I made all sorts of games out of it, hitting specific spots, or trying to hit flies, that sort of thing. I got pretty good.”
Mike thought about it for a second and then looking over his shoulder he asked Trisha, “What are you spending your credits on?”
Trisha mumbled something noncommittal, so Mike squeezed in next to her and without really thinking about it, whispered into her ear, “Find anything good?”
Trisha jumped, her feet almost leaving the floor, and Mike, worried she might back up or fall outside the circle, grabbed her around the waist.
“I’m sorry, sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I should have done that better. Are you okay now,” He asked, ignoring the snort Jessica gave from somewhere behind him as he gently let her go.
Trisha seemed embarrassed, but she didn’t acknowledge it. She didn’t blush or punch him in the arm playfully. She just dusted the front of her pant suit and adjusted her glasses.
“It’s fine,” she said, “I was just debating between a few different items. I tend to get lost in my head. It’s a bad habit, especially now.”
“I can understand. What were you debating between?”
Trisha motioned for him to lean over her shoulder as she brought several items up on the display, three books, a scepter looking rod, and a bracelet made from large blue beads.
“The books are all on ice manipulation. Two of them are about magic, one is beginners water magic, the other is an advanced magic book specifically on ice magic. My powers aren’t supposed to be magic though.That third book is the only book I’ve found so far that is about “ice manipulation” without using the word magic anywhere in the description.”
“So what, you figure if you read up on ice magic you’ll get insights into your power?”
“More like if I learned ice magic maybe it would compliment my power and increase my strength,” she said, lowering her head as she tucked a hair behind her ear.
Brandan cleared his throat, in a not so subtle attempt to remind Mike about getting him a knife. Mike rolled his eyes, ignoring him. They still had hours behind the barrier. Both him and Jessica had credits to exchange after Nikki and Trisha. The kid could wait a few minutes while he talked Trisha through her spending.
Ice manipulation was a serious power, nurtured well, Trisha might even eclipse him as their powerhouse.
“Okay so I understand the books then, what about the other two?” Mike asked, nodding toward the screen.
“The wand is more ice magic, but its a spell, not something I’d need to learn, just something I’d use. It’s like a pistol loaded with low grade ice magic, and it’d eventually run out.”
“And the bracelet?”
“That’s the most expensive item of the lot, it would take all my credits and I’d have to give up on a job or skills this time around. But it also has the potential to make me into a weapon right now.”
Mike perked up when she said that. Jobs were important, as were skills. Learning how to use her powers would be necessary in the future. But in all honesty, he was worried they weren’t going to survive the wolves.
If Trisha could become part of their fighting force instantly, the other stuff could wait. He’d had the same thought about the ice wand until she’d said low grade and expendable. Forcing her to choose an item like that was in the same vein as the fodder four buying guns earlier.
He hadn’t even looked through the store for himself yet. He had almost thirteen hundred credits. Surely he could find a solution that didn’t require him to gimp one of the rookies.
Trisha had no idea what he was thinking as she explained the bracelet, “It seems to be a practice tool. Like a tiny exercise machine specifically made for ice manipulators. Each bead constantly draws in cold from the surroundings, giving the added benefit of keeping its wearer warm.
When used by someone like me, each bead becomes a retrievable bullet. Given time and training, supposedly I will be able to turn each bead into a shield for defense or a sword for offense with a thought… It’s only uncommon rank. The fact it has such a specific user pool makes it even cheaper. But it’s still everything I have right now.”
“Bottom line it for me then. Which one do you think will help the most now? Which one will help the most in the long run? And which one do you want the most?”
Without hesitation Trisha answered, “the beads.”
“There you go. Worry about the rest later. Go with your gut.”
Trisha nodded, touching a few prompts from the store, until a bracelet formed in her hand. She quickly put it on and with a half smile at Mike, stepped back out of the way. She couldn’t quite get all the way around him, Brandan, oblivious, had stepped up when he realized Mike was about to get his knife and Trisha had nowhere to go, causing her ample bosom to be pressed gently against his arm.
Mike knew she wasn’t trying to seduce him or anything funny. Drawing attention to it would only serve to embarrassed her, not that she’d show it on her face. She’d pretty well mastered the ice queen look. But talking with her had already given Mike a glimpse past the wall, and he thought it was fairly likely she was far more effected by things than she let on.
He didn’t want to cause any needless misunderstandings or resentment.
Besides, if he was being honest, he quite liked the present situation.
Mike wasn’t immune to the female form.
In fact, since becoming a half orc he seemed hyper aware of it. Without vigilantly maintaining his calm and confident act, he’d probably have convinced all the women he’d met so far that he was a pervert with his leering.
It was annoying. He hadn’t felt so out of control of his hormones since his early teens. But he refused to give in, and the other side effects of being half orc, the strength and durability, were more than enough to offset it. At least they were in a world where everything was constantly trying to kill him.
Scrolling through the knives, he considered getting a full set of throwing knives. He knew nothing about them and due to their nature of being a set, getting good knives would require significantly more credits.
Eventually he saw one he could live with, [Knife +1], it looked like a Bowie knife. He wondered if it might not be too heavy but it was only a hundred credits and Bowies were the only knives he knew for sure were weighted for throwing. Also with regards to the +1, his own ax was testament to its prowess. It wouldn’t only be useful this one time.
Handing the knife over to Brandan, he smirked as the kids eyes lit up. Hefting the blade in his hand, then sliding his thumb across it and sucking the small cut it opened he looked up at Mike and said, “this’ll do.”
Mike just grunted.
Author : The Steve