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Zero Cool (6-17-18)

[OT] Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

Dirge stepped into the quaint, bright shop. Her black and orange lolita style skirt disturbed the still air as she crossed the threshold and the resulting breeze encouraged motes of dust to play in the sunbeams. Hundreds of specs flowed through bright yellow light to collect upon the various guitars, lutes, and other stringed instruments that lined the walls. Dirge's eyes eventually roamed to the center of the room and she noticed a large wooden table. It displayed several wind and percussion instruments organized by type. A tall, wispy woman appeared in Dirge's peripheral vision. She approached the raven-haired girl with a friendly smile and a golden halo hovering above her head. The gleaming ring seemed affixed to a specific spot above her messy green bun, its bounce matched every bob of her head as she walked.

"Welcome! Can I help you find something?" the woman asked. She stopped at a respectable distance from Dirge, afraid of intimidating the short girl with her height.

"I need an instrument," Dirge said. Her focus drifted back to the table. "How do I pick?" The woman considered Dirge for a moment.

"You're a Unique?" she asked. Dirge's gaze zoomed back to meet the woman's eyes, then she nodded.

"#14 La Muerte. What are you?" she replied. The woman's smile straightened and her face became noticeably less welcoming.

"I'm just a 'Zero'," she said while staring down at the young girl. "Uniques need Unique equipment," the woman said. Without warning, she turned her back to Dirge and walked away. Dirge noticed the woman’s chainmail armor jostling with the movement, but the rings made no sound. "We keep them in the back," the woman added without turning around. Dirge took several large steps to catch up. The woman walked around the table, then turned into an open doorway next to a section of displayed mandolins.

The next room mirrored the front of the shop, though with a smaller selection of instruments. Several skylights in the ceiling poured sunlight into the cozy room. Seconds after stepping into the room, a high pitched ringing sound filled Dirge’s ears.

“Ow!” She flinched from the pain. It felt like someone shoved sharp needles into her eardrums.

“Of course it was easy,” the woman sighed to herself, then gestured to the table with her arm. “Alright, go walk around the table until you find it.” Dirge stepped toward a broadside of the table. As she neared, the pain in her right ear grew while her left ear felt more at ease. She turned right and followed the piercing sound. The volume of the ringing remained constant despite the pain increasing with each step toward the head of the table. A bright twinkle caught her eye and she turned toward it. Another twinkle reflected off the surface of a brilliant handbell. Dirge leaned closer to get a better look at the bell. An inch thin black leather strap, decorated by an engraved skull logo repeated across its surface, looped out of the end of the chrome portion. She reached forward, and the ringing pain in her ears stopped the moment she touched the bell.

“I’ll take it, how much?” Dirge asked. She held the bell up and smiled at the wispy shopkeep. The woman laughed in return.

“Can’t buy those with nanos,” she said, then a broad smile took over her face. “We game for it, I hope you’ve got something to bet. I’ll even let you pick the game, kid.”

“Orrrrrr,” Dirge’s eyes rolled up and backward, “I can just take it. If you really think about it any other way makes,...” she formed a “0” using both hands to touch her own fingertips in front of her chest. “Zero sense.” she winked an eye at the woman.

“Even you aren’t that lucky, kid. Shop rules. What’s your bet?” She pulled the bell from Dirge’s hand, then walked toward a door on the opposite side of the room. “My name’s Glory. Angel Bard, with Angel Oversoul,” she said. After she introduced herself a game invitation popped up at the edge of Dirge’s vision. It displayed the bell under the woman’s picture. She jiggled her wrist, and her white umbrella appeared under a picture of Dirge.

“I’m Dirge. Fairy Bard with Unicorn Oversoul. I’ll bet my #5 El Paraguas for that bell.” Glory burst into laughter, doubling over with obvious exaggeration.

“HA HA HAHA!” She forced laughter for several seconds before slowing down to an occasional chuckle. She shook her head. “I’m going to accept because I really really want to, but the bell is 100 times worth your umbrella. Easily,” Glory reached for the silver chain around her neck, then tugged on it until she fished out a small silver cross. She brought it to her lips for a gentle kiss to mark her agreement to start game negotiations. She pulled the door inward and gestured Dirge through it. “Take a look at the arena, pick your game.”  

Dirge stepped outside into the sunlight and saw a full sized Derby pit. A 100-foot square pit filled with blank, translucent nanos. It resembled a swimming pool filled with still, milky white water. The arena sat alone in a large field, with nothing useful nearby. Dirge stared at the pit for several dozen seconds before a brilliant idea sparkled in her orange eyes. She turned her wrist up to access her Node. She touched and swiped at the small clear rectangle until a black hovering scoreboard rose out of the center of the solid pool.

“Tic-Tac-Toe,” A deep male voice sounded from the scoreboard. Large five-foot blue cubes rose out of the pool at each of the four corners, as well as all the halfway points between them. Nine cubes locked into position to form the shape of a single giant cube, with approximately 50 feet between each. A single cube hovered in the center between the other eight. “Plus Derby,” the scoreboard added. White tracks formed to connect all the cubes together.

“Fun choice!” The woman patted Dirge on the back as she walked past her towards the arena. “This one is easy to drag out.”

Previous Dirge & Dread story: Tutorial Start
Next Dirge & Dread story: Bearly Immovable


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