Hi all!  Another chapter of SOO!  I should have another chapter of Delvers up tomorrow.

If you guys could vote on Delvers LLC on Goodreads I would appreciate it.  https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/87838.LitRPG_the_books_set_in_virtual_reality_online_MMORPG_games  (Delvers is #37 or higher)

This story is going to be a novella, not a full-length novel.  I’m hoping to have it published by Jan.  It will probably be the first in a series.


 

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Vale met up with Bartholomew Holstings, AKA Steve at a diner on the outskirts of Nodol.  His friend loved eating virtual food during his downtime.  Bartholomew raised his eyebrows when he saw Abigail, but Vale gave a slight shake of his head.  Bart shrugged, paid for his meal, and tagged along as Vale silently led the way to his interview.  It wasn’t exactly often that Vale turned up with strange girls, but Bart was usually very easy going.

A lot of things had happened in a short amount of time, and Vale was frustrated.  The people in the white masks who attacked him had been members of a guild.  The Lords of Finality were the biggest group of dickheads around in Vale’s general geographical location.

S.O.O. didn’t have separate servers like antique online games.  Everyone played in one world, and players began playing in a general area with others based on common language.  It was possible to travel and encounter other groups of players who spoke different languages.  A few players had made a trip around the world, mostly streamers.

The Lords of Finality were a player killing, PK guild with a few high visibility streamers.  They took violent contracts from other players or individuals outside the game.  Some people who didn’t play S.O.O. enjoyed affecting the in-game balance of power or messing with others’ streams.

The Lords of Finality were also known for just randomly killing people too.  Most of the guild’s members weren’t very high level or very good fighters, but they had numbers.  The fact they had a fairly large audience watching their streams meant everyone in the guild actually got paid for their shenanigans too.  They literally profited from murder.

Vale really couldn’t stand them.  If the Lords of Finality were after him, they could be very annoying even if they didn’t kill or capture him.  Evidence suggested they wanted to capture him based on the stagecoach chase.  Vale didn’t know why.

He really needed to just avoid the Lords of Finality for now, but they could be hard to shake.  The LoF had even accepted a contract on Brutus once before.  It had taken the big psychopath a solid month of constantly killing the masked freaks before they finally gave up.

Vale sighed as he headed towards his interview with the Vermillion Entertainment rep.  He had a lot on his mind but he was most bothered by Abigail.  At the moment, she was skipping along, making small talk with Bart.  Bart knew better than to give anything away about himself or Vale to a stranger.  The conversation was very superficial.

Vale wasn’t an idiot.  He found it highly suspicious that his appearance and combat style was outed by the mysterious ABI, then Abigail turned up in his life when he most needed an ally.  He’d have to be asleep not to notice that ABI and Abigail’s name were similar.  Of course, nobody actually knew who the real ABI was.

Either way, he thought the whole situation was suspicious as hell and Vale wanted to settle whether he could trust the girl or not.  He only knew of one way to do that, but Abigail wasn’t going to like it.

He abruptly stopped and stepped into yet another alley.  Bart and Abigail followed him without being told.  Vale said, “Okay, look, I think if we’re going to form a party we should probably form one now.  It will allow me to talk to Bart during this interview using party chat, at least.”  Vale turned to Abigail.  “I still don’t trust you.  Before I go any farther with you, I think I need you to show me your character sheet.”

Abigail frowned.  “Are you sure you don’t just want to see me naked?  Especially with a 9/10 ‘Index, I get pervs asking to see my character sheet all the time.”

Vale pinched his nose between his eyes and sighed.  It was obvious that Yggdrasil Entertainment had wanted players to be shy about sharing their character sheet.  Doing so literally made them appear naked to whoever they were sharing with.  When he thought of Yggdrasil Entertainment, Vale alternated between thinking they must be brilliant demigods or basement dwelling perverts.

Players under 18 automatically had small, strategic areas censored; they also saw everyone else’s nudity censored.  Adults had no such protection.  Sharing a character sheet was something people with a high ‘Index were less likely to do… for obvious reasons.

Bartholomew cocked an eyebrow in obvious amusement.  Vale knew his friend had taken an instant liking to Abigail, probably because both their characters looked ridiculous.  Where Abigail was dressed as some sort of cute Asian, steampunk pistoleer in bloomer shorts, Bart played as an Alchemist.  He looked like a goth clothing store threw up all over his character.

Bart’s ‘Index was high too, 8/10.  Someone who knew Steve in real life would recognize his character, but he’d given Bart a slimmer body, dark hair, and a different nose.

However, the greatest change between Steve and Bartholomew was how his character was dressed.  Steve always looked a bit like a preppy jock.  In fact, other people were often surprised that Trent and Steve were best friends.  Trent was a hard core gamer and Steve looked like a “dude bro.”

In Secret of the Old Ones, Steve’s character Bartholomew looked like he was up to no good just standing there.

He wore a dark trench coat and thick tanker books with chrome spikes on the toes.  His long sleeves gathered before his wrists, caught up on his chrome-spiked, leather bracers.  He wore a dark beret and a silver monocle ringed with black, etched runes.

His thick, sinister looking necklace had dark patina from age.  A blood red ruby flashed at the center of the design.  Bart’s right hand rested on a cane of dark wood topped with a chrome skull.  The sword cane’s thin, deadly blade could be drawn in a split second.

Bartholomew was an [Alchemist], a subclass of the Apothecary class.  He chose his subclass a couple weeks ago when he hit level ten.  Vale knew that under Bart’s trench coat, his friend carried a myriad of little bottles and vials as well as an impressive assortment of knives.

Vale thought Bart looked like Jack the Ripper, if Jack the Ripper had been into punk rock or death metal music.

Vale ignored Bart and looked Abigail in the eyes.  “It’s not negotiable,” he said.

Abigail’s eyes flashed in anger.  “You sure you aren’t just trying to take advantage of the situation?”

“Nope.  I just think you’re suspicious as hell.  You’re not even my type.  Actually, I think you’re more Bart’s type.”

Abigail pursed her lips and looked at Bart.  “Really?” she asked.

Bart suddenly found the drain pipe in the alley very interesting and devoted his entire attention to studying it.  “Maybe, maybe not,” he muttered.  The man wasn’t shy, but he hated to be put on the spot.  Vale grinned.

Abigail smirked and turned back to Vale.  “So there’s no other way I can gain your trust?”

Vale sobered.  He said, “Honestly… not really.  You helped me out of a bind, true, but I still find your sudden appearance out of nowhere too suspicious to tolerate.  Plus, I’m about to negotiate a streaming deal, and anyone in my group will probably be in it.  It’s true that I need some allies and I’ve been kind of a loner player for a long time.  That has to change.

“This is a really tough decision for me because I really could use a ranged fighter and technologist in my group.  However, since my name is so well known now, I think I’ll have trust issues about anyone joining.

“So what’s it going to be?  If you won’t show me your character sheet, that’s fine, but if so, this is where the ride ends.”

Abigail frowned.  “I don’t know who I’m more pissed at; you for making me do this, or Yggdrasil for making it such a pain in the ass just to share a character sheet.”  She glared at the alley wall for a moment before she sighed and said, “Fine.”

Vale got a prompt:

Abigail van Cog wants to share her character sheet with you.
Character sheets should not be shared widely with strangers.
Do you accept this intimate request?

Vale rolled his eyes.  The prompt’s wording was ridiculous.  For a company that could create such an amazing game, Yggdrasil Entertainment was really strange.

Vale chose, YES.

In his vision, Abigail’s character sheet popped up.  To his eyes, Abigail herself also lost all her clothes, or rather, they turned almost completely transparent.

Abigail stood defiantly, her arms crossed over her chest.  She glared at Vale but otherwise was not trying to hide her body.  He didn’t stare at her, but he did glance.  Her breasts were as modest as he’d thought they were.

Vale always thought it was interesting when someone shared their character sheet with someone else, each layer of clothing turned transparent and could still be seen.  He could tell she was wearing zebra stripe bikini-style panties.

Sheesh, girls really get into accessories in this game, he thought.  He kept his own underwear as the game’s default.  He noticed Bart trying not to show how jealous he was.  Vale rolled his eyes.  He ignored Bart’s envy and Abigail’s indignation to focus on the character sheet.

 

Name Abigail Qiao Smith Class Skills
Class Technician Marksmanship
Subclass Artificer Pistol Appreciation
Level 10 Tinkering
Experience 552229 Inventor
XP to next level 107771 Advanced Gunsmithing
Stamina 49 49
HP 49 49
Mana 80 80
 
Total Original Level Ups Bonuses
Strength 5 4 0 1
Agility 8 6 2 0
stamina 5 3 2 0
Intelligence 9 6 3 0
Willpower 11 6 3 2
Luck 5 5 0 0
Perm Bonus Source Twilight Trench Anklet (Will +2) Pharoh’s Eyes
(Str +1)

 

Vale whistled soundlessly in shock.  On one hand, Abigail had told the truth about everything.  He doubted she was the mysterious ABI now.  She had no stealth or espionage abilities.  In fact, her skills were rather straightforward for her class and build.

On the other hand, she had two permanent bonus items!  At level ten with two permanent bonus items, and her smart stat distribution, Abigail was top tier!

Vale still didn’t understand why she wanted to join his group.  He’d never been popular before so he wasn’t sure if this type of thing was something he needed to get used to.  He thought about it briefly and decided it probably was.

Despite not personally understanding Abigail’s motives, it was obvious she’d be an asset to the group.  He stood there lost in thought for a moment before Abigail growled, “Hey dummy!  Are you ever going to release my sheet?  You get a good eyeful?  Do you enjoy breaking young girls’ hearts?”

With a start, Vale realized that Abigail was still naked to him, her character sheet accessible.  Vale didn’t think it was possible for Bart to look any more jealous but his friend was practically drooling.  What the hell is wrong with him?  He dates cute girls all the time, Vale thought.

“Yes, yes, sorry about that,” he said.  “But it’s not my fault that Yggdrasil Entertainment made people strip just to show their stats.”

He released her character sheet, and Abigail was once again as properly clothed to Vale as she appeared to the rest of the world.  Vale ruefully realized what a strange scene the whole situation could have been for the last few minutes.  He sincerely hoped ABI was nowhere around.  He’d hate to have the whole world think he was some sort of opportunistic pervert.

“I am going to start a group right now,” said Vale.  “I’ve never been into grouping before very much.  Bart or someone else could help me out with stuff, or I could join a random group.  However, some of the new quests I’ve gotten are pretty hairy.  Do you want to join my group, Abigail?”

The girl sniffed, her frown improved some.  “I suppose.  I did save your ass in the stagecoach and if you never demand to see my character sheet again, I guess we can get along.  Maybe.  Ifyou’d stripped me in real life, I would have shot you.”

“Oh yeah, that’s  right.  How are you so good with guns?”  Vale thought back to her display of skill with her strange weapons.

“Practice in real life, duh.  Just like you probably practice fencing IRL.”

Vale sighed and shook his head.  He was curious about her statement but it wasn’t worth asking further questions.  Abigail was irritated and now he couldn’t really blame her.  He felt like kind of a jerk.  He wanted to explain that he’d thought she might have been ABI based on her first name, but he was afraid he’d sound like an idiot.

Vale began the process for forming a group.

Are you sure you’d like to form a group?
Each member of your group will share experience earned.
Group members may be able to share quests.

Vale chose, YES.  Then he added Bart and Abigail.  Both his friend and the irritated steampunk girl accepted.

Vale began leading his new group to his meeting with the Vermillion Entertainment rep again.  He could understand Abigail’s mood, but after he had a streaming contract she’d start earning money too.

With a flash of insight, he realized that had probably been her goal from the start.  Now he believed that she’d been bored and wanted a group.  After all, he also needed to group up now to start tackling harder quests.  Beyond that though, she probably also wanted to be part of his group so she could also be a part of his stream.  She could make money.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he pretty much had to start streaming after becoming so famous in such a short amount of time.

If Vale walked away from the meeting with a streaming contract, he was going to immediately start tackling his legendary weapon quest.  He needed to get away from cities for a while.  Wanted posters, The Lords of Finality, he knew all the drama he’d experienced was going to be nothing compared to what was in store for him.

Once the entire world saw ABI’s video and knew what he looked liked, he was in trouble.  But what he was really worried about was Brutus getting back into the game.  There were only a few days left of his enemy’s death lockout.

Brutus never gave up—ever.  A chill ran up Vale’s spine and he sincerely hoped the meeting with Vermillion Entertainment went well.  He needed to prepare for Brutus’ return.  He wondered how many people would watch his stream just to watch his inevitable rematch with Brutus.  The thought did not make him feel better.


 

One last thing – Delvers has a rap trailer now. 😛   You can check it out here:  https://youtu.be/-izRtP1G-yQ

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