The hooded woman, at the top of the stairs, turned toward Erika.
"Welcome to the Water Temple. My name is Minerva."
The woman smiled gently, erasing all the suspicion Erika had toward this NPC.
"What rune do you have? Let's see..."
Minerva's purple eyes glinted and scanned Erika from head to toe.
"Oh, [Communication] isn’t it?"
Erika nodded in approval.
"You are... trash."
"Who, in their right mind, will choose to be born with [Communication]? I bet your head is completely hollow, isn't it?”
Minerva retained her warm smile as she casually insulted Erika.
"My, what's so bad about [Communication]?"
"It's completely useless for a newborn who can't tell left from right. Your fate is to die in the plains and to rot like the trash you are."
"Is that so..."
Erika didn't take the insults to heart, but she was nonetheless surprised. She expected [Communication] to be a discouraged starting rune among players. However, she didn’t expect the game’s NPCs to think that way as well.
"Bah, this bitch is annoying! Punch that fucker in the face!"
"Now, now. No need for violence."
Erika calmed down her invisible friend and turned to Minerva with a confident smile.
"Perhaps others fare poorly with this rune. But I assure you, I can handle it."
"Oh, so much confidence for such a midget."
Erika looked at her small and adorable avatar. For her: being called a “midget" was flattery, not an insult.
"No need to worry on my behalf.”
Erika declared in confidence.
“I'll tame all the cute, legendary animals in this world."
Erika had a theory: the insulting dialogue existed to test her communication skills. After all, she picked [Communication] as her starter rune. Therefore, she had to act strong and confident in front of Minerva.
“I like confident shrimps like you.”
Minerva’s friendly smile grew even wider, becoming borderline creepy.
“Then, you don’t mind if I give you a little test right away, do you?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
A magical portal opened inside the hall, summoning forth a black beast. It had fierce red eyes and its thick, black skin was covered in silver metal.
Erika gazed at the black beast in shock. This was way too sudden for an introduction event.
“M-my, what a magnificent familiar you have...”
Erika tried to play it cool and even managed to draw a smile, albeit a stiff one.
“Whoa! Cool shit! Kick its fat ass! Titan vs. Dragon!”
Mina was completely oblivious to Erika’s tension. A huge dragon was a sigh to behold in VR, and Mina imagined herself challenging this legendary being.
“Trigon. Kill her.”
It was a simple and short command. In the next instant - the dragon already stood right in front of Erika. Trigon raised its huge claw and swept the area.
Erika was blasted away. She didn’t even have the chance to protect herself.
“Agh! Ugh! Gah!”
Erika crashed into the stairs. Her head, arms and legs got repeatedly struck as she rolled downwards.
“C-curses... ugh... gah...”
The pain Erika felt was by no means as strong as it would be in reality. Nevertheless, it was unpleasant enough to make one hate it. She tried to move her body, but her injuries ached whenever she twitched.
Compared to all that suffering and distress...
“Whoa! Did you see that shit!? That fucker is ultra fast! He went WOOSH even though he’s a fatass! I bet he used a freakin’ [Speed] rune!”
“Ugh... please don’t yell so much...”
“Stand up, Titan! You gotta show that fat bastard who’s da boss!”
“Do you... do you really think I could do such a thing...?”
Erika gritted her teeth and did her utmost to stand up. She was clearly at death’s door, although nothing in the UI showed her condition.
“Where... where’s my HP? How much do I have left?”
“Huuuh? Are ya high? There’s no HP in this game.”
“Eh...? Then... then, how do I know if I’m close to death?”
“You just kinda feel it!”
“Is that... so...”
If it were up to Erika’s “feeling”, then she already died. At least ten times.
Erika raised her pained face toward the dragon. Trigon’s red eyes speared through Erika, informing that he planned to deliver another blow.
Fighting is out of question. I supposedly have is the [Communication] rune, but I don’t even know how to activate it. Is it a passive effect? I should ask Mini-
Trigon raised his claws and stepped forward.
Erika thrust forth a stopping palm.
“Y-you dragons are wise creatures, right? Surely, we could talk this over... peacefully...”
Erika gulped once she finished. Trigon’s claw stopped in midair and his expression softened somewhat.
Is this working? Is this the power of [Communication]?
A faint smile surfaced on Erika’s wrecked expression. Despite how brutal and insane the situation was, perhaps Erika could turn the tables around with rhetorics. Maybe, she could even convince the dragon to turn on that hooded bitch-
Trigon opened his huge maw and blew on Erika.
You must be kidding...
A blazing flame poured onto Erika and engulfed her whole. The world turned black and everything fell silent.