It seemed like Dread waited an eternity. Everyone in the diner held their breath until the scoreboard finally turned green for the first time ever. The crowd erupted with cheers, and Dread found herself being lifted by several strangers. Under Dread’s name, the scoreboard showed, “.1 inches.” She forced the supposedly “immovable” woman to move a tenth of an inch. The giant red-headed woman walked towards Dread, the crowd set her down as the woman approached.
“Not bad, kid. You’re pretty strong.” The woman walked a small circle around Dread, eyeing her up and down. “Are you a Unique?” she asked. Dread nodded.
“#42, La Calavera.” The woman smiled and clapped Dread hard on the back.
“If I’d known you were a Unique, I’d have armored up,” she said. She sat down at a table and gestured for Dread to sit next to her. A waitress brought them drinks, then left again.
“Armored up?” Dread asked. The woman nodded. She smiled and held her hand up between her and Dread.
“Dragon Soul lets me scale my skin over for protection.” A gold sheen developed on her hand. Dread watched as a pattern of lines formed on the woman’s skin. Each line displaced and elevated the skin on each side of it until the woman’s arm was covered in thick golden scales. Dread’s eyes widened, and she looked at the woman’s face in surprise. She found the woman’s face also covered in scales. The red-head blinked, then the scales began to disappear back into her skin.
“Whoa. I wish I could do that,” Dread said. The woman chuckled.
“It’s pretty handy, though it’s not just for dragons. Reptiles, Naga, and Mermaids can do it, depending on the variant.” Dread’s eyes lit up when she mentioned Mermaid.
“I’m a shark mermaid!” she shouted at the woman, half standing and leaning across the table. The woman’s soft chuckles grew louder. She stood from her seat and patted Dread’s shoulder.
“C’mon I’ll show you how.” Dread followed the woman back to the white gaming area. The woman stepped onto the white zone and Dread did as well. “The skill is buried in menus. You could activate it manually, but it takes too long to activate that way to be of any use. You’ve got to learn how to,…” the woman held her hand up and scaled it over again. “…do it at will.” The scales receded leaving her pale, soft skin behind. “To do that you have to learn what it feels like. Find the skill in your menu and activate.” She said. A menu that only Dread could see appeared in front of her. She made a point of remembering skills that looked interesting to try out later, but kept searching until she found a skill named “Sharkskin”.
Upon activating the skill Dread felt her skin tingle. She felt as if each individual pore grew a point. She looked down and saw her skin had become grey and jagged. Without warning the giant woman punched Dread in the stomach. She did not have to do anything but flinch, but the girl felt no pain. She opened her eyes and relaxed. Again the woman punched Dread, but she did not flinch this time. She took the hit and realized she did not feel a thing.
“Obviously I’m not using my full strength,” the woman said. To illustrate her point her fist flew into Dread’s stomach, this time hard enough to double the girl over. “But, you get the point,” she said. Dread remained hunched over, trying to catch her breath. She always knew there were Uniques stronger than her, but she never met any. Her mind began to believe she was one of the strongest Uniques. A half-hearted punch from someone she could see becoming a friend reminded Dread that there were definitely stronger Uniques out there. She wondered if she could have survived the punch without the sharkskin armor. She released the skill, noticing the feeling of her skin softening up again.
“Now that you know what it feels like, try to make it happen. Imagine it happening, and the nanos will do the rest,” she advised. Dread concentrated on the feeling. She closed her eyes and imagined her skin spiking up like a cheese grater. “Great job!” Dread opened her eyes and smiled at her grey skin. “Keep practicing that and it’ll get easier,” the woman said.
“Thanks!” Dread said. She reached out and shook the giant woman’s hand. “I can’t wait to tell Dirge!” she said. Thinking about her sister prompted Dread to remember what she was supposed to be looking for. “Oh. I should wait until I get my beasts,” Dread mumbled to herself.
“Looking for beasts? I know where you can get a couple Unique ones.” The woman turned and walked towards the Diner’s exit. “C’mon,” she said without turning around. “You can have your friend meet us there,” she said. Dread followed the woman out of the diner overflowing with excitement.
[I learned something awesome! – Dread] Dread sent a Whisper to Dirge. It was the first time she tried to communicate that way and she hoped Dirge wouldn’t mind.
[I just learned how too! -Dirge] Dread felt Dirge’s reply in her ear. She followed the woman while conversing with Dirge.
[Learned how to what? -Dread] she asked.
[Whisper! Isn’t that what you learned? – Dirge] Dread chuckled to herself when she got Dirge’s response.
[No. Learned that in the tutorial -Dread] [I learned a new skill. Sharkskin -Dread] The woman turned right, and Dread continued to follow.
[I made a new friend. -Dread] She hoped Dirge and her new friend got along. Dread realized she did not know the woman’s name and would ask her once they got to where they were going.
[She’s taking me to find beasts. -Dread] [Meet us there. -Dread]. She hoped Dirge would figure out how to track her using the in-game map.
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