A safety clipper clicked, and my capsule swung open just as I opened my eyes. My head was throbbing with a phantom pain, and my shallow breathing was the only sign of life. What the hell? I lay there for a few minutes, focusing on my breaths and trying to still my racing thoughts. Ian. That stupid, damnable Ian. Clenching my fists, I rose and slowly climbed out and glanced up to my alarm - 12 o’clock.
“Tin-can! Can I login back?” I asked, my voice trembling. What? Looking down, I noticed my still clenched fists were shaking as well, and when I tried to walk, I staggered. “What?!” A flare of anger surged inside me, but I couldn’t control my body. Overcome with nerves, I fell to the floor and lay there, trying to calm my senses.
“Negative, Miss Charlie. The game indicates you need to wait the full twenty-four hours amount.” My former friend attacked me and I was so powerless to do anything about it. That was the reality; that was something I couldn’t understand. His punch hurt, yes, but the shock was even more devastating on a deep level.
He didn’t know who I was under all these boobs, but despite all that, he shouldn’t attack people for no reason. No decent human being does that. “Call their support line about it.”
“Success. You are one thousand, three hundred, seventy-first customer calling. Estimated time of waiting is six hours.”
“Cancel that. Keep me posted about login time and if it changes, let me know,” I said and crawled towards my sofa, where I could finally rest. Reaching behind it, I pulled out a beer and… it was empty. Great. This is just great. “I can’t ignore the problems anymore, can I Tin-can?”
“According to the American Health association, consulting problems with your significant other is the first step in healing a mental scar.” Significant other, huh? Well, there was a minor problem. I didn’t have one! Not even beer or whiskey! “If I may add, your emotions might be unstable because of transformation and your new hormones.”
So that explained why I was in such a sorry state. Maybe. But… “Stupid Ian!” I screamed, nearly damaging my vocal cords and threw the empty bottle at capsule, where it exploded with a loud bang. “Call Lucas.”
“Connecting… Lucas’ home system marked that he is not available.”
“Call…” I said, but my voice trailed off. Why did I want to speak to someone, why I have had the urge to complain about Ian's unfairness? Not speaking about my urge to slice his head off.
There was nobody I could talk to except Lucas, so I turned up Katherine’s stream.
Beautiful Elven girl in a revealing armor was fighting on a meadow with Waspies. She danced around them in a crude Imperial fighting style and poked at their stings with her long-sword while defending with her shield. Sadly, I couldn’t chat with her either, because the stream was an hour behind the game.
As I was watching her to fight her way into the flowery field, an idea struck me. There was a VIP line for the game in case you got stuck, or they put your account on hold. It wasn’t on the contact page, only hidden on a seventy-two page of their terms and conditions, worded poorly to avoid AI recognising that. Maybe they could tell me how to stop my hands from shaking? With a renewed vigor, I picked up my phone and called them.
VIP? More like wtf, because I was on hold for more than half an hour, and only after that a girl answered, “Hello, my name is Clair. How may I help you?”
“Hello. My name is Charlie, and during my game I got glitched because my name was the same as my titular title Princess, so a debug session was initiated to clear the problem and I entered an identification code of your employee Ian. He killed me after a brief conversation. I only want to finish my debug session,” I said with an almost mechanic sounding voice. I didn’t want to appear professional, like when I reported exploits, but I couldn’t just say, Hey, me ded, help.
I heard only a keyboard from the other before she said, “I logged your request, Charlie. Rimelion thanks you for using our distress line. Have a nice day.”
“What?” I blinked a few times and glared at my phone. “That was it?” My quenched anger flared again as I wanted to strangle something. Someone. Why did I try my title? Now I couldn’t help Lisa, or chat with Katherine, or continue in the main story. No, I was sitting ducks at home, watching pretty girl killing wasps.
“Miss Charlie, thank you for trusting me with access,” said Tin-can suddenly, waking up me from my ogling at the tv, where Katherine just finished her last enemy.
“You are welcome,” was my automatic answer. “Wait, why have you mentioned that now?”
“My calculations indicate you are not doing an activity demanding your hundred percent attention.”
Hearing that made me laugh uncomfortably, and I brought my hands up to my head, running my fingers through my hair as I did so. “I have to. You can get my body back.”
“You don’t need me,” Tincan said, forcing yet another chuckle from me. “But I appreciate you established a reasoning, miss Charlie. I’m not a human anymore, but I want to offer you a partnership - together we are stronger.”
Who to trust? Ian? Hah, if nothing else, Tin-can was brutally honest and helpful. “We are, aren’t we? To fight robots, you need a robot.”
Rimelion responded to my complaint only after an hour, and Clair suggested I should return to the game, but she sounded even more devoid of life than my capsule. First thing I noticed after login was nothingness again. A painful memory of Ian tore into my mind, and I flinched violently to hush it away and shut my eyes.
“Princess, since your first report I always craved to meet the woman behind the avatar,” not-Ian said. “We call you The Exploiter, y’know.”
Owner of the voice showed himself once I reopened my eyes - a tall man in a white jacket, sitting on a motorcycle. Blinking a few times, I stared at him with my mouth open. “What?”
“Relax,” he said, and graciously jumped down. “I’m here to fix Ian’s mess, not to scare you.” He reached his hand towards me. Although I faced countless attacks in the game, I backpedaled in fear of his palm attack; my body was betraying me again. The man chucked nervously at my reaction and run his hand through his hair. “I don’t know what Ian did, but he’s not evil, is he? My name is Travis. What’s yours?”
John! You are a warrior; you are strong. What would Doraghan, the northern conqueror, said to your pathetic display? You can’t talk, and even Ian’s pathetic attack left a scar on you? Wake up! During my inner monologue, he was just standing there, so I apologized, “I’m sorry, it dazed me. I hadn’t expected Ian to straight up kill me.”
“About that…” Travis waved his hand, and the motorcycle vanished. “Ian’s my colleague, and something’s just not right about your story. I believe him when he said you did it yourself. See, when he threatened to delete your account because of your exploit, you just ended yourself.”
All he got from me was a blank stare and I crossed arms. “I did what?”
“Framing him and getting away? That seems oddly familiar. So-”
“Shut up, you stupid moron.” Waking up from my shock, I found myself snapping at him with a slowly rising voice. “Ian was my friend as well! I was so shocked when-”
“Hah, I caught you lying!” Travis winked. “You met him a few days back for the first time.” I gave him another blank stare - I was getting better at it. “Sorry, bitch, but I won’t let you take Ian down.” With a smile, he pressed something on his virtual keyboard.
|[Attention! Initiating ban…]|
“You won’t?” I flashed him a deep grin. “Okay, I will do it myself.”
|Requesting confirmation. Ban sequence in progress… 24%|
To calm myself, I inhaled deeply. This version was full of bugs, ripe for me. So I said, “You’re an amateur. I can exploit even the rules. System, trace previous debug ID, show current debug ID.”
|[Debug session #7032#]
[Debug session #7176#]
Confirmation received. Requesting resources. Ban sequence in progress… 36%
“Section seventy-nine, requesting assistance of emergency of global backup six-one-seven. Admin present, requesting a review of localized company ethics committee immediately at seven-one-seven-six.” I decided to not call for the big guns, their boss should be enough. Why would I send the entire game crashing?
|[Resources received. Requesting rollback. Ban sequence in progress… 79%]
[Ethics committee session #1 starting…]
[Banning sequence stopped… 91%]
Yellow light flashed, and a red-haired woman fluttered into existence. Her captivating green eyes darted between me and Travis, with a puzzling look on her beautiful face. Before I could greet her, Ian came into existence as well. I clenched my fists and sighed deeply to gather all the courage I could.
“Ian? Travis? What’s going on?” she yelled at them and her threatening eyes made me gulp. “Travis, don’t tell me you tried that.” Travis protected his crotch in front of her, gulped as well and nodded; while Ian was only glaring at me with clear hostility.
“If I may.” I came forward and ignored my beating heart. “There was a glitch, then Ian killed me in a debug session, and Travis threatened me. System, please play log of last minute of session seven-zero-three-two to the committee before customer Princess died.”
Her eyes focused on an invisible screen in front of her, and we all were watching her with held breath. After examining what happened, she glanced up at me and spat, “Bitch, what do you want?”
“I did nothing wrong!” Ian stepped up and faced the woman. “Yes, she has a limit of hundred percent, but she agreed to the conditions!”
Before she could shut him up, I mumbled, “My former friend Ian, according to your terms and conditions, it only covers the simulated words and a personal space. As far as I know, debugging session are legally outside word, because they take place on company servers and different engine.”
“Precisely.” She ushered him out with her hand and he compiled by logging out; Travis followed him shortly. “So?”
“What do I want?” I struggled and played with my fingers, and my voice waned, almost to a whisper. The anger fueling my rage vanished without a trace. “Nothing. The only thing I want is to play, and if you get through of my logs, you’ll know all I did was not cheating.”
Creating a chair, she sat down, crossed her legs the same as I so desperately tried all the time, and called an invisible menu. “I see. Except one.” The more she read, the more her face brightened. “How did you know the name Duwin Ianlee?”
Because I obviously didn’t have the power to summon a chair out of nothing, I sat down on the ground. You could offer me a chair, or give me your name…
“I can explain,” I said, gathering my most confident voice. “In the language of ancient Elven, in local slang, Duwin means darkness and Ianlee means literally the death that comes to earth and claims lives.” And there is an exploit about him in God’s domain, where you can get unlimited money.
“Excellent research.” Her grin deepened and shot eyelashes at me. “But that is not enough to summon him.”
Damn, that’s true. “The God’s book mentioned you need focus on death and despair.”
“Yeah, twat, you can stop feeding me this rubbish.” She was writing something all the time, but she paused and sighed. “Higher ups love bullshit like yours, so I can’t ban you. You want to tell me you read all hundred books and the entire game manual, with all conditions?”
A word yes was itching on my tongue, but I held myself. When you want to exploit, you need to read all the information.
To know it better than anyone.
Well, with two exceptions - I ignored all religious books, except angels managers and about the magic. They were so stupid, long texts of magical nonsense, and I was a warrior. As far as I knew, the AI running the Rimelion was on its own, and the company only had power over the connection to Rimelion. If I could bypass that…
The minutes ticked by as I sat on the ground, waiting for her to break the silence. She was clearly enjoying it, and from time to time she scratched herself or adjusted her hairstyle, not minding me at all.
“You are lucky.” She dismissed her chair and strolled towards me, her rosery high heels clapping. “They ordered me to change your name to Charlie. You are hero and all that bullshit… Tsk-tsk.” After clicking her tongue, she called her interface and typed something. “Sadly for you, they didn’t say how to do that.” I couldn't help but feel a chill go down my spine as she grinned deeply for the second time.
With a thunderous boom, a human appeared in our realm. He was wearing plain hunter clothes, a bow on his back, and sported strange white hair.
“Welcome, Charlie.” The woman handed him a long document. “As I told you, you can’t decline.”
“You serious? One thousand gold to give up my name? Just like that?” He couldn’t hide his excitement and even jumped from joy. He wouldn’t win any haggling contest, that was for sure.
Redhead confirmed it with a nod. “I sent the copy to your capsule. In a week’s time, use the scroll and Charlie will send you a thousand golds.” What? Me? I shop up and ran towards them. Obviously, I wanted to stop the transaction, but when I tried to touch the man’s shoulder, my hand went through him.
|[Attention! You have a new name: Princess Charlie, baronetess (empire)]
[Attention! A new contract - one thousand gold to player Ch4rli33. Time remaining: 6 days 23 hours 59 minutes]
Great. A new debt.