They had been teleported on an off-the-path cliff side. The area looked inhabited, far from what they assumed Mydalr was located. The woods were thick, with lush trees blanketing the area and mossy covered bushes. The sun light, as dim as it was, indicated that it was almost evening.
Magnolia shook her head, trying to reorient herself in the surrounding. The jump caused slight nausea to blossom in her stomach, if it wasn’t for her character attributes she’d have thrown up her breakfast right then and there.
“That was one hell of a ride.” She muttered. She wiped her face to scratch the itch on her cheek.
Only silence greeted her.
“Cassidy?” Mikan snapped her head to look around her. “Alex? Eugene?” Her voice jumped an octave as she balled her fists in fright. “Guys?!”
She noticed her wrist console chimed, and uncurling her right hand, she shook as she touched the lit notification. A chat screen appeared above the console and she noticed Eugene, Cassidy, and Alex had created a makeshift chatroom for their party.
Engine_Loaded: What’s everyone’s 10,20?
EagleEye: By a creek. What’s your 10-20 Kuro?
Engine_Loaded: Under a canopy of trees.
Cool_Azure_Sea: Am I the only one in Mydalr?
EagleEye: Is Mags with you?
Cool_Azure_Sea: No, she not with you?
Magnolia sighed a breath of relief when Cassie’s messaged instantly popped up. That must mean that they were all currently on. It took her a couple seconds to figure out the keyboarding.
RelicPetals: I’m by some cliff, with trees and lots of undergrowth.
Engine_Loaded: I see a cliff near my position. Mags, stand by the edge.
She did as she was told, and peered down. The only thing that she saw were trees and greenery. Her leather armour clicked with each movement she made.
Engine_Loaded: I see you.
EagleEye: I see a profile of Mags. Should we three meet up and then join Cas?
Cool_Azure_Sea:I will see what information I can find out about Mydalr. Maybe I can dig up some stuff for our main quest.
Engine_Loaded: That sounds like the game plan to me.
RelicPetals: Okay, I’ll follow the path down then.
EagleEye: Hey Mags, be careful. You don’t have many offensive spells so be careful. There are enemies roaming.
Engine_Loaded: I’m heading there as fast as I can.
RelicPetals: Don’t worry, I got my trusty wand by my side.
She opened her main menu to pull out her weapon. Her console pinged as it alerted her to a new message.
EagleEye: While scoping I noticed a fairly large bird flying around—keep your ears peeled.
Taking the mental note down for possible enemies nearby, Magnolia steeled her resolve. If she didn’t make it to Eugene or Alex and lost a life, she’d be the first one in their group out of beta-testing. Although the infinity symbol representing her life span also made her curious to see what would happen.
She made her way through the shrubbery and she found herself staring down at a blue slime ball. It had googly eyes and bobbed in place. It appeared to have noticed her entrance and wiggled and writhed.
“Uh…” She could see it was a level 3 slime. It’s red health bar said only 22 HP, 30 MP. She looked at her own stats and realized that despite not having offensive spells, she might be able to hit it enough to kill it. Plus, she was double its level. She’d be fine even without the guys here. Magnolia raised her wand up, and swung it down upon the blob.
The blue goo splashed around her wand, and it absorbed the physical attack. While it took a negative one damage, it looked royally pissed that she’d hit it with her simple wand.
It started to cast a spell, she could see that it was water based, the element dripping off droplets where it cast. Suddenly, water bullets pierced out from the blue slime and rushed into Magnolia’s character. Her dexterity and endurance were significantly lower than a fighter, so she had a bit of difficulty dodging. She managed to miss the first two shots, but the third shot of water pelted her right in the face.
She staggered, her entire body soaked with waterous goo and saw a staggering drop to her health. How the hell did it critical her? Did the system have an automatic “crit” system involved in battle?
She panicked. Her flight and fight system kicked in, causing her to flee in a hurry. Her boots pounded on the ground as she dashed to escape the initiated battle. “Why me!!” She yelped and looked behind her. She could see that the blue blobby monster was indeed following her.
It tried to attack her while she was fleeing, but the shots continued to miss.
She rushed down the hillside, until she ran smack into a red scaled dragon borne with onyx eyes.
“Of course, you’d be the one to start a fight.” He charged straight at the blue blob that stopped in its movement. Eugene raised his Fachion up as he went for an attack. His curved sword broke through the waterous goo, but it still wasn’t enough to kill it.
“Eugene! Mags!” Alex came at a jogging speed, pulling out his bow to adjust his shot. He narrowed in on his target and laced the arrow with his own technique. “Get back!”
Eugene’s senses perked at the command, and with his acrobatic skill he flipped backward. He could feel the air shift as Alex released his arrow. Magnolia edged further away from the battle scene as she witnessed the blob took 11 damage from Eugene’s attack, and an overkill shot from Alex for 18 damage. The blob exploded into bits of blue goo, and experience divided itself between the three of them. Eugene sheathed his sword while Mikan put her wand away.
“Overdramatic much Alex?” Eugene responded casually as he flicked off blue goo from his long sleeved, baggy shirt. He wasn’t dressed as he had been during the Land of Time—in fact he looked like she had dressed. The same applied to Alex, as he closed in to their location.
“Nah, if anything that’s extra experience points.” Alex smirked, rubbing his finger under his nostrils. Magnolia could see his sense of accomplishment for defeating the blob.
“There was a Crit bonus rewarded. Check your activity log.” Alex did as Eugene suggested, and he noticed the critical bonus had been awarded to them for the final arrow he shot.
“Only a 3% increase in experience? That’s a bit sad.” Alex sighed before closing the menu off his wrist console.
“Jot it down in your mental note for your beta notes.” Magnolia offered. She had a few notes for her beta experience so far. She wanted to make note of the long tutorial process, and how support characters would have a difficult time running solo in the beginning stages. She also wanted to note that she felt a bit weird—like she felt tired, hungry, and dizzy. If this was a game, then she shouldn’t be feeling these side effects as heavily as she was now.
“Hey Mags, you alright?” Eugene’s turned to her direction, his taloned claws carefully going up her chin to cheek as he assessed her.
It was this moment that she shook her head. “No—to be honest I feel weird. I think I’m going to call it here.” She tinkered with her wrist console. Eugene moved over to her, and noticed her trying the log out feature.
Magnolia touched the logout button and she’d been taken to the system shut down. She went to key in her code, but before she could finish typing: Marmalade7, her console glitched and booted her out.
“What the…?” She attempted the logout three more times. Each time she failed to logout, the more anxious she became.
Eugene and Alex tensed at her failures.
“Marmalade7.” She yelled. She remembered that the scientists and doctors in the testing lab had said they had only need to say their system fail word to get booted out.
Except she hadn’t.
“Mags, are you sure you are saying the right passcode? You didn’t forget it, did you?” Alex tried to soothe her tension with some possible explanation, but she shook her head. Magnolia felt her stomach bottom into what seemed like a dark hole. Her throat seemed to clench the air from her lungs, robbing her of her breath. Despite that, she pushed through her anxiety to speak. Broken words, but they were words none the less.
“Y-yes. I remember I put marmalade because it’s my favorite. 7 is my birth date.”
Eugene immediately went to his logout mode and attempted his passcode. “Kickstarter32.”
He went through the same glitch. She watched him give a cross expression before closing his menu console. “That’s no good.” Alex turned to him and gave him a bewildered expression.
“Maybe we need to complete the first main quest before attempting a logout? But that would contradict what they said in the lab.”
“Let’s meet up with Cas in Mydalr and—”
Magnolia could barely hear what they were talking about after that moment. She could feel her body get jittery, the same way it would when she felt claustrophobic. She knew that she was out in a wooded area, but the feeling of it being a game gripped her mind like tight shackles. Her irony from before seemed omniscient of what may come ahead. What if they were trapped in the game.
Magnolia couldn’t see past the black void, something cold gripped her from deep within. It was only until two warm, clawed hands gripped the sides of her face that brought her back to reality. She saw him, his red scaled face, narrowed onyx eyes, his frown that etched what someone would typically consider handsome.
Before she could react, he covered her mouth with a cupped hand, and he used the other to support the back of her head.
“Calm down.” Eugene replied. “Remember who you are and why you’re here.”
She closed her eyes and tried to calm her body. Her shaking diminished and finally, her lungs started to work again. She breathed from in and out from her nose, until she felt the pressure from her neck and mouth release. “Good, focus on short and even breaths.”
“You alright?” Alex peered at her with worried azure eyes while Eugene finally moved away from her to look beyond the tree line.
“I’m fine now. Thanks.” She shuffled her equipment before looking at the male dragonborne who happened to see past her anxiety. He was right about needing to calm down though. Nothing would get fixed if they panicked.
They were stuck in the game for the time being. Magnolia came to terms with this fact when she saw Alex and Eugene’s calm resolve. “Let’s get moving.”
The dragonborne narrowed his eyes as he led the trio toward what Magnolia assumed would be Mydalr. She could feel the wind change, the way the leaves rustled in the air gave her an eerie sense of belonging.
She remembered Eugene’s words as she walked right behind them. “Remember who you are and why you’re here.” Her fist clenched tightly around her staff. She was a beta tester and she was one of the best. This game—Origin—I won’t let it defeat my spirit. We’ll figure a way out. I know we will.