Chapter 4:

Must Be Nice (part 1)

Mylo and the Summoned Hero

"Now try this one."Bookmark here

Kasumi held out a pair of khaki pants and a summery purple shirt.Bookmark here

"Okay."Bookmark here

Mylo dipped into the changing booth. He’d lost count of how many outfits she’d come up with using Paul’s merchandise as the components, but no matter. He slipped out of the previous selection and into the new. A moment later he emerged to Kasumi’s approving nod.Bookmark here

"Not bad. Almost makes me wish I’d looked up how to screenshot before logging in."Bookmark here

Mylo thought, Screen…shot? Just who are you, and where did you come from? But he said, "It’s tighter on the shoulders. You sure this is my size?"Bookmark here

Kasumi shook her head. "It fits. I bet you got used to wearing baggy clothes all the time. Now, these."Bookmark here

"Sure."Bookmark here

Into the booth again. Any other day Mylo would have been in bed by now, dozing the day away, ear muffs guarding him from the neighbor’s loud toddler, just to be ready for the next shift. But right now he moved like he was jazzed on caffeine—not that Mylo would ever touch coffee. No jitters here, but the nervous peak-energy had him in and out of clothes as fast as Kasumi could pick them.Bookmark here

It was fun. The first he’d had in quite awhile, but it wasn’t without effort.Bookmark here

Mylo swished back the curtain, to reveal that orange was…not his color.Bookmark here

Kasumi laughed. "You look like a cosmopolitan fire elemental."Bookmark here

His blonde hair, dark red eyes, and skin that verged on bronze, plus the orange top—yeah, that sorta checked out. Finally, she said something which he understood. Alternate characters, instanced towers, NPCs—so much of her lingo was inaccessible to him. If only for a moment, it felt like he was getting on her wavelength.Bookmark here

"So, no more orange."Bookmark here

Kasumi handed him another set, but shoppers were trickling in, so he had to yield the booth to one of Paul’s other customers.Bookmark here

Now Mylo stood there, a white blouse and knee length skirt sitting folded over his arm, watching. Paul waved a customer inside and Kasumi flicked through a rack of jackets. Everything that moved in his field of view shimmered gold, especially the damselfly that had come in by accident. He should be asleep, but Mylo felt like he could run up a mountain—maybe he could have.Bookmark here

The customer vacated the changing booth and Mylo slipped in. He flinched when he saw the price tag, but his tried on the outfit anyways. Kasumi would probably already have something else for him to try.Bookmark here

When he turned, the hangers on the wall left golden trails in his vision. Many names for the trick floated around, but Mylo stuck to the old term: impelling. Mylo was venting from his gyre into his blood. Impelling chased off exhaustion, boosted damage resistances a little and stamina a lot. But a bit of mana seeped out of his reservoir as well, slowly creating a vacuum there.Bookmark here

Experienced strobili could keep this up for days—Mylo might manage two hours. Felt like holding breath in a single lung while the other drew ever shallower breaths.Bookmark here

A costly way to stay awake.Bookmark here

When Mylo emerged, he found Kasumi standing stock still. She wore an expression that cocktailed delight and shock, and added a twist of horror for the garnish. He asked what she’d found and Kasumi raised the hanger. A button down shirt, night black, called out to him to be worn. Its material seemed weightless, ethereal. Without seeing the tag, he just knew his meager savings couldn’t take the hit. It had to be expensive.Bookmark here

As he reached to take it, Kasumi draped the shirt over her arm. It whispered across skin. Golden motion shimmer from the impelling dazzled Mylo. But when the fabric stopped moving, Mylo blushed. Despite the fabric’s dark color, Kasumi’s milky skin tone showed through.Bookmark here

Oh gods, it’s sheer.Bookmark here

She grinned at his frozen, but still outstretched hand.Bookmark here

"Oh? You want to wear this?"Bookmark here

"Uh, not really."Bookmark here

To say the shirt was summery would be the pinnacle of understatement. Fabric that translucent wouldn’t hold heat.Bookmark here

"You reached for it."Bookmark here

"I was just in the rhythm."Bookmark here

"Try it on."Bookmark here

Mylo tried to say no, but all that came out was a nervous chuckle.Bookmark here

Kasumi thrust it into his arms, and he tried to give it back.Bookmark here

In a desperate bid, Mylo appealed, "I can’t, it’s too revealing."Bookmark here

"Stop whining. You’re a guy! You’ve got nothing up top to reveal!"Bookmark here

You say that as if you’ve got…oh.Bookmark here

Kasumi grinned, gold eyes aglint with deadly intent. Or maybe she was on the verge of cracking up, same as he was.Bookmark here

Mylo made a stiff turn about-face, and tried to walk away. Footsteps behind him, Mylo sped up. Kasumi gave chase.Bookmark here

The last turn in the changing booth resulted in Mylo in an airy white blouse and longish skirt. And while Mylo was starting to catch on, Kasumi still looked to the bystander like the dude she’d made on the character creation screen. Customers turned to watch and misidentified the both of them.Bookmark here

"Ah!" Paul barked at them. "I must ask you not to run about! There is a time and a place for the ruckus, and my shop is neither."Bookmark here

"Sorry," they said in unison.Bookmark here

Peace was restored. Mylo breathed a sigh of relief when the hanger clicked back onto a rail. Kasumi seemed a bit glum though.Bookmark here

"So, you don’t wear whatever I give you?"Bookmark here

"I was having fun."Bookmark here

"Oh."Bookmark here

A realization seemed to dawn for Kasumi. Her shoulders relaxed, but the laughter left with the tension. She straightened up and extended her hand.Bookmark here

Softly she said, "Looks like I had the wrong idea."Bookmark here

A throat-clear and a stretch later, Kasumi spoke at full force again, "Well, it’s been fun, Mr. NPC. But it’s high time I got started."Bookmark here

Mylo never heard the word ‘start’ said with such finality before.Bookmark here

"I’ve got a brand new life ahead of me. Enough faffing about in the shops, there’s not a moment to waste! Onward!"Bookmark here

Kasumi trotted to the door, bowed to Paul, waved to Mylo, and left.Bookmark here

Mylo called, "See you around!" But she didn’t seem to hear.Bookmark here

For a minute, Mylo stood, unsure what to do.Bookmark here

He exhaled. So, that was it. More odd jargon aside, Mylo hadn’t expected anything. He couldn’t say that he’d hoped for anything, except that it last a little longer, and then a bit longer still.Bookmark here

This had nothing to do with love—at least not according to Mylo. At first sight? Yeah, that sounded like drivel to his ears. His heart didn’t pound watching her go, and none of the other usual cliches applied either.Bookmark here

For an hour and a half, this was a really good day. One vibrant even without the color burst of impelled mana. Mylo had activated ability so he could be present for the moment, as long as it might last. And who wouldn’t wish for their halcyon hours to stretch and fill the rest of the day, or a week, or more?Bookmark here

But moments only stretch so far.Bookmark here

A new life, huh. Must be nice.Bookmark here

Marshall Eastman
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