Ghoster

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You Harpy She-Devil

Melody skipped a step, her robe’s skirt swishing around her legs. “Com’ on Rich. Hurry up!”

“Where are you taking me?” Her companion asked again. He’d asked her so many times already!

She shook her head, her new long purple hair she just bought swishing over her shoulders. “You’ll see when we get there. You’re so slow!”

“Well I’m sorry I’m wearing heavy metal armor and training strength instead of speed. And if you keep bouncing around like that you’re going to tire out.” He slogged along behind her, his head hidden by the knight’s helm he’d recently won in a quest.

He didn’t look too bad without the helm with the mocha colored skin he’d chosen and his striking golden eyes and white hair, but he always seemed self-conscious and wore his thick heavy plate mail everywhere. Except to school. For school, he bought black eye dye and black hair that he would equip. She preferred him the way he looked now.

“You’re staring at me like I said something weird. I know you haven’t been running as long as you should each day to build up your experience. I can see it in the party stats menu.”

She shook her head. “No, it wasn’t about what you said. How do you see with that helmet on, you should hide it like I hide my hood…”

“Well miss healer, I like to use the role-playing aspect of this game to its fullest, and that includes wearing my helmet. And as I told you before, the vision limitations aren’t that bad. It looks worse than it actually is.”

She shrugged and looked at her map. They were almost at the destination. The map called it the “Temple of Neparna”. She had this stupid item called the “Pact of Lauria” that had come with one of her dresses she bought for mana regen and it was an item of experience bonus; a buff that nothing else in the game boasted that she knew of.

The item required two people to go to a temple of one of the game’s gods, get some sort of quest, and the reward was two rings that would increase experience gain for both players as long as they were in a party together.

Rich was a decent guy who played “Legends of Alamoth” with her all the time. She didn’t really have anyone else who played Legends with her, so he was the only one she could think of to drag along. He shouldn’t complain about getting an experience buff, right?

She’d wondered if she should save the ring, but for what point? Why save such a powerful item when she could use it now? And sure, she probably wouldn’t be in a party with Rich forever in the game, but they partied up a lot to play. And it was just a game item. There were no real world consequences for using a game item.

“Have you heard a single thing I was saying?” Rich asked, grabbing her attention back from her thoughts.

“Huh?” She paused, wondering what he’d been talking about or asking her.

“Melody, I swear your brain is like a rabbit. One moment you are here and the next you’re off after a piece of grass.”

“Sorry, I was just thinking about my stats and how much mana I have. The best players have way higher stats for their armor. I wish I had more money in my budget to buy better robes.”

“You are always buying better stuff. Just craft something yourself.”

“You know my crafting levels are low.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re focused on your pre-med studies that are helping you skill up as a healer.”

She beamed at him. “Yup.”

“And I should be studying more for my physics test, but instead I’m out fighting mobs. And walking to some bizarre location. Why did we not take a bus again?”

“Because I wanted to walk and enjoy the scenery of Legends.” She looked around as she said this, taking in the mega trees near them, and the characters walking past. She loved how Legend’s turned the city’s skyscrapers into monstrous trees that dimmed the sun. Of course, if she switched to a different world view/game, her contacts would change the way the sun looked. The only thing that didn’t change with the settings were all the people around her. Each person had avatars from their own games or designs that they wore. She’d turned off the visual overlays once or twice before, but it felt wrong, like she was invading people’s personal space.

And it was interesting to see what people chose to look like. Ahead of her was a man in the Japanese anime style with spiky orange hair and smooth, featureless skin.

Behind Rich she could see a woman who looked almost like a ghost floating above the ground. The giveaway was in the way she was moving with her shoulders bobbing and arms swinging.

“-this scenery. This heat is going to kill me!” Rich was saying.

“Well take off your armor. Wear a cape or something.” She knew he had one. She’s seen it before.

“And what will you do if we get attacked by a mob while out walking the streets without my armor?”

“I will draw them away with my awesome bow skills while you equip your armor.”

“And in the meantime, you will die, and I can’t heal, so we’ll be kicked from Legends for a couple hours until the death penalty is paid, and you won’t be able to show me whatever it is you want to show me.”

Was he really going to whine this much? It wasn’t that hot yet. It must be the senses implanted throughout his body to allow the simulation of armor that were making him so ornery. “Fine, let’s switch scenes for the walk there so we don’t get attacked.”

“But aren’t we walking so you can enjoy the scenery? The pretty fake virtual trees we could’ve seen from the bus.”

She huffed, “I can’t win can I! I simply wanted to enjoy walking through the trees of Malern in Legends with you and you just keep complaining!”

He looked at his feet sheepishly which caused an interesting grinding noise from his armor. She loved how realistic everything felt and looked and even sounded in this game! Even the noise from the people around them was dimmed by the programming and hardware in their bodies.

“Sorry Melody. I didn’t mean to get annoyed, I just… I enjoy playing this game with you, but really, why are we walking to this location?”

She sighed. She couldn’t actually tell him anything. “I have an item I need to activate at a certain location. I need to be in a party to be able to activate it. And it’s not that far. The walk is good for our basic daily stamina experience gain.”

“Are we almost there then?”

She pulled up the map overlay. It was just around the corner.

“Yup. We’re almost there.”

“Thank God. Really Mel, please at least explain stuff before dragging me off on some ridiculous expedition to find some shrine or another.”

“I will next time. I just thought this didn’t need much explanation.”

“Didn’t… Really… I give up.” He threw his hands up in the air in mock defeat and she smiled and laughed at his gesture.

“Oh! An epic quest just popped up on my radar with the Sword of Akabosh as a reward!” He exclaimed.

“Ok. Cool. We can do that after I get my item.” It would be a useful item to have, but after they used her item they would get more experience from the epic quest.

He looked a little distant, as if reading through some online screens. “The Sword of Akabosh is a rare greatsword that does fire damage to enemies.”

“I’d hate to be on the other end of PvP combat with flame damage.”

“I know! I can’t wait to get this sword.”

They turned the corner and she could see the vine covered front entrance of the temple with its oak double doors. It was neat how the entry looked like the walls were stones placed between trees with vines dangling down them.

“Here it is.” It was quite a pretty building, but unlike most game temples, it didn’t look like it was a church outside the game. She wondered what it looked like outside of the game. There was no steeple for one thing. Maybe it was just a small office building in reality. Nothing was as cool looking outside the game though. Probably better to never see it outside the game.

He shrugged. “Cool, can we go in and get this item or whatever and get on an air conditioned bus? We can look at the pretty trees from the window of the bus then.”

“Yeah sure.” She agreed nonchalantly without paying much attention to him as she pulled on the door. Either this game had done some major programming for these doors to make her feel like they were massive and heavy, or the doors on this place really were just that massive and heavy.

The door opened into a dimly lit massive space. Trees lined the edges of the hall making the bones of the structure, and an arched glass roof allowed her to see their massive branches above the building. The light inside was all provided by the small amount of sunlight filtering in.

The programmers must have spent time making this temple look so unique. Even the seats around the edges of the large room were made of the roots of the trees bursting through the ground to form natural bench seats for people to sit on.

This type of design was why she played Legends over all the other *MMARRPGs out there. Half of them were super cheap in their Augmented Reality integration. The graphic overlays wouldn’t be quite right. The weight mechanics wouldn’t be integrated in so nothing felt real. People got what they paid for in games, and Legends went the extra mile on everything. All this detail for what was probably the lobby of an office building.

“Why are we in what looks like a church?” Rish asked, pointing at what looked like an altar made of tree roots at the front.

“I don’t think it’s a church. That’s probably the front desk of the lobby in this office building.” Melody shrugged as she made her way to the front. The guy up near the front in a black robe sweeping at the dirt floor was probably the quest giver and would give them the items for xp. He might even be a bot NPC put here by Legends. She really needed to stop breaking immersion by trying to guess what things were under the AR layer.

“Hey, sir! Are you the quest giver for the ‘Pact of Lauria’ item?” She called out to him.

He looked up at her with what looked like annoyance. Maybe he wasn’t a bot. It was hard to tell these days.

He sighed. “I might be. Let me check.” He moved as if he was checking through different screens.

He probably was an actual person Legends and other games paid to give items and quests out to people.

“Yup, looks like I am. Let me read this over quickly.” He said as his eyes scanned something that only he was seeing.

“That guy looks like a priest.” Rich commented.

Why was Rich so obsessed about commenting on what this place was? “He’s probably a janitor. He was sweeping a second ago.” Melody whispered back to Rich. She didn’t want to disrupt the man’s reading.

The robed man sighed again, scratching at his dark bald head with a black gloved hand.. “Ok. I’ve got this down. Come stand over here.”

They both moved over to where he was pointing.

“Do you two agree to quest together and gain XP together?” He asked.

What a strange quest. Melody nodded. For right now she would continue questing.

“I need a verbal answer from both of you.” The man said with a clearly annoyed voice.

“Yes, sure! Why the hell not! I just want to get this over with.” Rich grumbled with clear annoyance at this quest.

“Yes.” Melody stated. She was really excited to be able to use this ‘Pact of Lauria’ item finally!

The man nodded, pushed a button, and then said, “The pact has been signed. You are now partners of Lauria in the name of Neparna”

The air around them began to swirl in little white lines. It created a tube shape around them. Tendrils of white wind came out of the pen around them and reached for their hands. It swirled around their hands covering them from view. It dissipated after just a couple seconds leaving an unfamiliar weight on her left hand ring finger. Wait, why was there a gold band on the ring finger of her left hand?

She looked over at Rich and saw the same on his hand. Wait. These couldn’t be…

“YOU HARPY SHE-DEVIL!” Rich screamed. “You just tricked me into marrying you!”

“What?” Melody responded, bringing up the status sheet to look at it. It showed Rich as her partner and the XP bonus. “I don’t think it means we’re married. Just questing partners.”

“Look at this dumb ring and our real life statuses you crazy woman!” He held out his hand and showed he was trying to remove the ring and he couldn’t.

It was a virtual item. Of course he could just easily remove it. She went into her inventory and looked at equipped items. She clicked “remove” on the ring. A status window appeared “Can not remove without divorce proceedings.”

“Oh. Oops.” Shoot. She hadn’t thought this was a marriage item!

“OOPS! OOPS is all you have to say for tricking me into a marriage! I don’t want to be married to you!” He yelled at her and then turned to the robed man, who was probably actually a priest. “Can you divorce us right now? I didn’t agree to be married.”

The man shrugged and started sweeping again. “Not my problem. You should have read the fine print. You’ll need a divorce lawyer to get divorced.”

Rich ground his teeth in clear frustration. “Fine. Forget the sword of Akabosh. Next stop is a divorce lawyer.”

“What’s done is done. We might as well get your sword and use our XP bonus while we do so. Then we can head to a divorce lawyer.” Melody didn’t like the thought of being married, but the XP bonus was super exciting. Maybe by being partnered for a little bit she could get ahead in her school work XP. And they would be getting a divorce anyway. It wasn’t like it actually changed that much.

“Are you really that crazy? Is this you saying you want to be married to me?” Rich sounded exacerbated.

“No. I don’t want to be married to you, but it’s already done and will take some time to undo. I just figured might make the best use of a bad situation that we can.” She smiled thinking about the XP bonus on the next quest. “Just think of all the XP we will be getting.”

“Fine. Sword of Akabosh first. Then IMMEDIATELY after, we will be going to a divorce lawyer.” He stormed toward the door not waiting for her.

“Enjoy your married life!” The priest called out to them as they left.

Neither of them bothered to respond as they headed for the bus stop.

*Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality Role Playing Game. Similar to the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games of the past, but overlaid on top of the real world to form a true Augmented Reality/Virtual experience.

A.N. This short story is dedicated to the friend who I accidentally entered into a “Pact” with in an MMO because we were questing together and I didn’t quite understand what the item was, just that I could get an XP bonus from it. The “You Harpy She-Devil” words were thrown at me when they realized our MMO characters were now considered married in the game. This story came about as the thoughts of, what if that “oops” moment had more real life consequences.

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