Mylo and the Summoned Hero
"Now try this one."
Kasumi held out a pair of khaki pants and a summery purple shirt.
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.
"Not bad. Almost makes me wish I’d looked up how to screenshot before logging in."
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?"
Kasumi shook her head. "It fits. I bet you got used to wearing baggy clothes all the time. Now, these."
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.
It was fun. The first he’d had in quite awhile, but it wasn’t without effort.
Mylo swished back the curtain, to reveal that orange was…not his color.
Kasumi laughed. "You look like a cosmopolitan fire elemental."
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.
"So, no more orange."
Kasumi handed him another set, but shoppers were trickling in, so he had to yield the booth to one of Paul’s other customers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A costly way to stay awake.
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.
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.
Oh gods, it’s sheer.
She grinned at his frozen, but still outstretched hand.
"Oh? You want to wear this?"
"Uh, not really."
To say the shirt was summery would be the pinnacle of understatement. Fabric that translucent wouldn’t hold heat.
"You reached for it."
"I was just in the rhythm."
"Try it on."
Mylo tried to say no, but all that came out was a nervous chuckle.
Kasumi thrust it into his arms, and he tried to give it back.
In a desperate bid, Mylo appealed, "I can’t, it’s too revealing."
"Stop whining. You’re a guy! You’ve got nothing up top to reveal!"
You say that as if you’ve got…oh.
Kasumi grinned, gold eyes aglint with deadly intent. Or maybe she was on the verge of cracking up, same as he was.
Mylo made a stiff turn about-face, and tried to walk away. Footsteps behind him, Mylo sped up. Kasumi gave chase.
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.
"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."
"Sorry," they said in unison.
Peace was restored. Mylo breathed a sigh of relief when the hanger clicked back onto a rail. Kasumi seemed a bit glum though.
"So, you don’t wear whatever I give you?"
"I was having fun."
A realization seemed to dawn for Kasumi. Her shoulders relaxed, but the laughter left with the tension. She straightened up and extended her hand.
Softly she said, "Looks like I had the wrong idea."
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."
Mylo never heard the word ‘start’ said with such finality before.
"I’ve got a brand new life ahead of me. Enough faffing about in the shops, there’s not a moment to waste! Onward!"
Kasumi trotted to the door, bowed to Paul, waved to Mylo, and left.
Mylo called, "See you around!" But she didn’t seem to hear.
For a minute, Mylo stood, unsure what to do.
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.
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.
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?
But moments only stretch so far.
A new life, huh. Must be nice.