Chapter 20 – Hey, let that little girl go! 🍰
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The anima inside monster cores is purer and easier to use than atmospheric anima. That is why large-scale agriculture and classic manufacturing techniques require monster cores. These days, modern industrial use has shifted to electricity as a source of energy for machinery, but agriculture and small to medium-scale businesses still rely on anima from monster cores.
—excerpt from “Introduction to Electricity” by H. Rink

Asteria

My first task was to make contact with the hero’s childhood friend. She was the reason I had to have an apartment near sector eight. But first, I had to get rid of this annoyance.

“Miss, you look like you’re lost,” said a thug. He was a tall, skinny guy wearing dirty jeans, a torn denim jacket, and a sleeveless mesh shirt.

“No, I’m not lost. Excuse me,” I said. I tried to walk past him, but he blocked my way. The other people on this side of the street were already crossing the street to avoid walking past us.

“You must be new because I’ve never seen you here before,” said the thug. “I bet you need a job. I have just the thing for you.”

“Thanks, but I already have a job,” I said.

“This job pays better.” The thug grabbed me by the arm, and I yelped in pain.

“Hey, let that little girl go!” said a female voice.

What brave soul dared to get involved? Instead of letting me go, the thug tightened his grip. Ow! That was gonna leave a bruise. A teenage girl who looked like she was around two years older than me walked up to us. She had short, bobbed black hair, warm brown skin, and bright green eyes. Yes! It was her!

“Mister, let go of my friend,” she said.

The thug just grunted and reached out with his other hand to grab the newcomer.

“I warned you!” Faster than my eyes could follow, the girl kicked the thug in the face.

“You little-!” The thug staggered back, letting go of my arm.

“Come on,” said the girl to me. She took me by the hand, and we ran off while the thug bellowed imprecations behind us, but didn’t give chase. We made our introductions after we had run a few blocks away.

“Thanks,” I said. “I don’t even want to imagine what type of job that guy had in mind for me.”

The girl laughed. “My name’s Katja.”

She was the hero’s childhood friend, alright. Success! I’d been walking the streets near her place of work for days now, but it was all worth it now that I’d made contact with the most popular female character of “Tales of Vesterland.” Katja’s figure was athletic, and she was an expert martial artist. Oren was her childhood friend. Players loved her exuberant personality and flashy special moves.

“I’m Asteria.”

“That type of guy normally stays near the train station, looking for young people who just arrived from the country,” said Katja. “If you look like you belong here, they won’t bother you.”

“I look like I don’t belong here?” I asked.

“Your clothes,” she said, waving at the old dress from home that I was wearing. Katja was wearing jeans, a moto jacket, and a T-shirt that said “Hungry Ridnacs.”

I sighed.

“Don’t worry. Tell me your budget and I’ll show you some great shops that sell secondhand clothes for really cheap,” she said. “Are you staying with your family?”

“I’m an orphan,” I said.

And that’s how I met Katja. She immediately took me under her wing and showed me the ropes when she realized I was a young orphan girl living alone in Kraej City. Thanks to her, I learned which neighborhoods were best avoided and which were safe.

***

Another success! Making first contact with the hero was a cinch for me. The tutorial of “Tales of Verterland” was Oren’s first real fight as a rookie. When we got the news to clear the streets because of a raurlea monster breakout, I knew my time had come. All I had to do was wait for the right moment then dart off into danger. Sure enough, the hero came to my rescue.

Elyon was the goddess of fate. She had inspired the video game development team on Earth to create the story of Verden's probable future path. Thus, “Tales of Vesterland” was the goddess’ prophecy. She told me that she had chosen me to be her angel since I knew the story and had the necessary qualities of an angel.

She would never tell me what those “necessary qualities” were. Patience? Perseverance? Stupidity? Whatever they were, I had them.

The hero, on the other hand, had to have some well-defined heroic qualities. Bravery. Charm. Determination. Leadership. Willingness to help. The desire to protect the weak. A certain disregard for the property rights of others.

This world had a Sacred Mystery which I thought of as a Hero System. The goddess picked a person to be the hero and the hand of fate subtly guided him to vanquish whatever evil the goddess wanted to eliminate.

Though the Hero System could make coincidences happen, people were free to choose what to do.

For example, my chance encounter with Katja might have been caused by the Hero System, but all that it had done was to arrange a meeting. It was still up to me and Katja to decide what to do. Katja saw the trouble I was having and could have chosen to walk away or help.

I just had to trust that the hero was the type of person who would choose to go on a quest to kill the ancient moon goddess Iah’s spawn.

Could I just go and kill the Iah spawn myself? Maybe. But if I failed, there wasn’t anyone who could replace me. The goddess would need to gather her strength for another millenium before she could summon another one like me. In the meantime, millions of people would die. I’m too valuable to risk in the frontlines.

It was safer if I let the hero do his thing.

In “Tales of Vesterland,”' the main character had enrolled in the Kraej Company’s private military and stayed at Kraej City for two years while meeting many colorful characters who would later become his companions on his adventures. My current task was to keep an eye on him.

Apart from Oren and Katja, there were two other key characters in the game who lived in Kraej City. One was Sofia, the shy cleric, and the other was Ravn, the handsome and mysterious gunman with a past, but they were of lesser importance. I’d get to them later after the hero had started on his quest.

For now, I’ll focus on Oren and Katja.

When I went into the raurlea-infested zone, I waited until I saw the shortest soldier in the group before running out of my hiding place behind some crates in an alley. The soldiers were all wearing face-concealing helmets, but Oren couldn’t conceal his height.

The goddess had given me a “hero radar” spell. I cast the undetectable spell on Oren when he picked me up and carried me to safety. Now I’ll always know the hero’s location.

Once Oren and the other soldier, an EL by his height, had saved me from the monsters, I shivered theatrically, and Oren helpfully gave me his jacket. He wanted to escort me home, but I thought he should stay with his team so I only let him walk me to the bus station.

Of course, he forgot to take his jacket back. Giving it back to him would give me an excuse to see him again.

***

“You seem deep in thought today,” said Katja.

“Oh, I had the most awful night!” I said. Katja was my waitress today, and the dinette was empty, so she sat down beside me.

“What happened?”

“The labs had another monster breakout last night…” I told her the whole story.

“A soldier rescued you? Was he handsome? Did you get his number?” said Katja.

“Yes, but he was more cute than handsome. I didn’t get his number.”

“You need to be more assertive. Did he ask for your number at least?”

“No,” I said. “He gave me his jacket and now I don’t know how to return it to him.”

“What was his name?”

“Oren.”

“Oren? Was he a tiny little shrimp of a boy? Blond hair? Blue eyes? Dimples?”

“Yes. You know him?”

Katja laughed. “He’s a friend from my hometown! He got here just a few days ago. He didn’t give you his number because he doesn’t have one. I mean, he’s living in the barracks and he probably can’t give out the barracks’ number.”

“Oh. What should I do about the jacket?”

“He’ll probably show up here the first time he has a day off. My mom told me she gave him a package for me. I’ll call your apartment then so you can give it back to him. If you’re not home, I’ll call the cafe.”

“Thanks! I’d like to at least treat him to a meal as thanks. Are you sure it won’t be too much trouble? I can just leave the jacket here…”

“Nah, it’s fine,” said Katja.

It was like taking candy from a baby. Katja was a sweet girl, no match for a wily reincarnator like me. Most of the goodies I had were reserved for the hero, but I’d be sure to create the perfect set of metal knuckles for her.

“Then I’ll have to count on you,” I said.

I mentally went through my list and placed checkmarks beside the names “Oren” and “Katja.” The rest of the hero companions weren’t due to make contact with Oren yet, but that didn’t matter. Oren and Katja were the core members of the hero's team. As long as they trusted me, the rest would fall in line.

I thought everything was going swimmingly, but life is never that easy, is it?


April Fool's Day 2021!

Story Trivia Guessing Game: True or False?

Hello, readers! For April's Day 2021, I have prepared this exciting and informative list of trivia about the characters. Which trivia items do you think are true? Which ones are false? Leave a comment, please!

  1. People often cry and/or run away when they see Seraphiel. Sometimes, they lose control of their bowels and/or bladder, too.
  2. Hjalmar (the hero who accidentally sank a continent) was one hot daddy! People say he was the sexiest man to ever live.
  3. Israfel has a really punchable face.
  4. Monster pets are not a thing in Verden, but plants are. Ely is that world’s version of a crazy cat lady.
  5. Sariel’s real hair color is black. That is why his hair is always dyed. He doesn’t want to be compared to Seraphiel.
  6. Slash pairings of the S-class ELs are incredibly popular among fangirls. Uriel, Sariel, and Seraphiel know all about it.
  7. Katja says she’s bicurious, but she’s only dated men so far.
  8. Uriel wears tights under his uniform.
  9. In a recent survey, the women voted who among the S-class Els they would like to fxxk, marry, kill. Result: Fxxk Uriel, Marry Seraphiel, Kill Sariel.
  10. Sariel’s type: cute. Uriel’s type: tall and glamorous. Israfel’s type: blonde. Oren’s type: petite. Seraphiel’s type: bendy.
  • I will reveal which trivia items are true or false on Sunday with the release of the next chapter. I'm really looking forward to finding out what you guys think of the trivia.
  • There was going to be an April Fool's fake chapter, but I thought that would be too annoying, so I made this true or false trivia instead.
  • Thanks for reading!

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