“Enough yelling, already,” the spider speaks, making my heart nearly stop. What was next? Flying? I don’t even want to think about what would happen if it reveals hidden wings.
“It can talk!” Braeden says loudly, pointing at the monstrous arachnid. I should question why he’s surprised since he has been on this floor before, but I can’t see past my own fear.
“Didn’t you already know that?” Mist replies.
“That doesn’t make it any better!”
“Enough!” the spider shouts, making my blood run cold. “Come into the light where I can see you properly.” She raises a leg, which carries an extinguished lantern. As she moves it closer to it, the flame ignites, illuminating the area with a soft purple glow. Her fangs are large and intimidating, but it’s the set of eyes watching us and large abdomen that strike fear in me the most. Images of her prickly legs touching my skin make me shiver to the point where I feel like throwing up.
We approach her as she requests and she lets out grunts of disapproval. “Oh, this won’t do. Your arms are not strong enough to weave for hours on end. Your eyes lack attentiveness. How will any of you defeat my disciples?” Smaller spiders dropped from the ceiling, eliciting a loud gasp from me. Great more spiders. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. What’s next? Wasps for lunch? “If you want to acquire the greatest prize, you must earn my approval. Anyone who cannot out-weave the great Arachne is not suitable to wield such gifts.”
“We will accept whatever challenge you put before us,” Yumi answered for us, realizing Braeden and I were too afraid to formulate a sentence.
Arachne chuckles and shakes her head. “I can see you are determined to win.” She shifts around making me run behind Yumi for protection in case even more spiders appear. Yumi rolls her eyes at me, but doesn’t push me away. Arachne spins a pile of webs in front of us, it slowly takes the shape of a brown, wooden loom. “Before we begin, we must go over the basics. I don’t want anyone complaining that I wasn’t fair in my terms.”
A tutorial window for a plain weave opens in front of my face just as everyone receives their own loom. The instructions make my head spin as I try to make sense of what to do next. I scoot my loom closer to Yumi’s, still afraid of Arachne’s form. I begin reading the instructions aloud, hoping that’ll be enough to calm my nerves. “Pull the weft thread over the warp thread, then under the second, over the third, until the end of the warp threads. Start left to right.” After completing the instructions, I stare at my product, only to find a huge tangled knot of threads. “Hey, Yumi. This is good enough, isn’t it?”
Yumi let out a scoff. “Only if you’re trying to make a toy for a cat. You’re supposed to use the horizontal thread to guide it over the vertical thread. Like this,” she replies. I watch her careful hands follow the instructions to a T, even going as far as weaving the thread the opposite direction. "You should use the shed stick to weave all the way across these threads. It’ll help create a gap between the different threads and keep them from getting tangled in each other.” She continues explaining and I do my best to mimic everything she does, but the end result is the same.
I peek at everyone else’s work to see if it’s just me struggling, and sadly it is. Braeden’s weave is filled with smaller knots, Serafina’s is loose and unstable, while Mist is moving his shed stick across, but nothing is happening.
“Don’t worry. Only one of us needs to win. Judging by Yumi’s silence, she must have it figured out,” Braeden explains. “This was much harder to do without a party of people. I barely managed to scrape through.”
I guess all those conventions paid off. No one can top Yumi’s creativity. “I guess it’s all up to you, Yumi,” I say, making my way back to her.
“No problem, this’ll be a piece of cake,” she answers cheerfully.
“Are you ready for the next task, challenger?” Arachne’s voice echoed.
The window to accept the quest appears in front of Yumi, and she wastes no time clicking ‘Yes.’ The first thing she’s asked to do is to craft a design with a double diamond weave. Her hands are nimble, moving with the loom fluidly and gracefully without missing a beat. Purple and gold thread appears as she pictures the design in her mind. Within minutes, she’s finished a beautiful rug and is ready for the next task.
Arachne picks up the rug and observes it closely. A soft bell resounds, and she claps her legs together, something I thought impossible for a spider to do. “Wonderful! The twill was a nice touch. You have passed my test, but given your extraordinary talents, I shall present an bonus for you. If you can complete this task, you will be given this limited edition bow.” As if on cue, a mystical bow appears, the limbs have a special skin akin to stars in a night sky. “Only if you accept.”
“What should I do?” Yumi turns to me and ask.
“You can create anything! Your hands are literally blessed by God,” I answer. “And it’s free! Our moms would ground us for not accepting something being offered with a one hundred percent discount!”
“Good point. I don’t even want to imagine that,” she says. “What do you guys think?”
“Go for it!” Serafina cheered her on.
“ You’ve got nothing to lose,” Mist answers coolly.
“I don’t think anyone has the weapon, but the stats look good. Would be a great addition to the team’s comp,” Braeden adds.
“I accept your challenge,” Yumi declares, hitting ‘Yes’ once again to the new prompt.
“This will challenge your skills as you must weave with fabric to create a fashionable scarf worthy of the goddess Athena,” Arachne explains. Purple plaid fabric, yellow yarn, a pair of scissors, a small ruler, and a knitting needle appear on a table next to Yumi. “Using these materials, you have until the clock strikes six.” A clock appears above us and Arachne and her minions retreat into the darkness, locked in stasis until we interact with her again or complete her challenge. The time reads three o’clock.
“Have you ever woven with fabric before?” I ask her.
“Once, but it was a failed product. I guess now is as good as any time to practice. It’ll take time, but I think it’s possible. Can you cut the thread for me? Serafina, hold the fabric in place for me.” She turns to Braeden and Mist, who are awaiting instructions. “You two can sit there until we need something.”
“Fine with me,” Mist answers quickly.
“It’ll give us time to figure out next steps. There’s a lodge on floor six, so I’ll talk to Mist about some food options,” Braeden agrees.
Yumi doesn’t respond. She’s already quick at work, focused on winning. Her fingers tremble, but her eyes are clear and full of determination. If she’s nervous about the outcome, she doesn’t let us see it. Whenever she asks for more yarn or a fresh piece of fabric to start over, Serafina and I move into place to assist.
The clock ticks away quickly until there are only ten minutes left. Yumi’s hands start to shake more as she reaches the end, but hasn’t eased up on her pacing. The pastel purple and yellow colors compliment each other, creating a plush, silky scarf.
“I think it’s done,” she finally says, wiping away some sweat that accumulated on her brow. Every stitch is perfect. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that she failed reproducing such a product in the past.
The clock turns to six and Arachne reappears. “Have you completed the task?” she asks, picking up the scarf. “Interesting. The technique is absolutely flawless. Not a loop out of place. This will be the perfect gift to present to Athena to thank her for her gratitude.”
Our inventory lets out a ding and we all check it to find a new piece of equipment. Serafina gets new armor that increases her defenses, making her less likely to die so fast to enemies. Mist’s shield gets upgraded and Braden’s guns now shoot five extra bullets. Yumi is overjoyed with her new bow, but I can’t help but notice that all I receive is twenty thousand gold and a lousy ring that increases my critical ratio slightly.
“That’s unlucky,” Yumi comments, noticing my loot.
“Or maybe it’s a blessing in disguise,” Serafina says, studying the ring. “What if it has some unique passive ability?”
“Holy RNG! Wow. Well, that’s not awful. At least we’ll be able to eat more than bread for the next couple of days,” Braeden exclaims.
You think you’re going to get me down by giving me a shitty drop?
Hell no. I’m going to use this money to the fullest and eat to my
heart’s content. We’ll see who’s laughing then, I thought vehemently.
The release of the newly developed headset, known as SoulDive, reignites interest in virtual reality massive multiplayer online role-playing games (VRMMORPG). Mythic Kingdoms (MK), a recent game offered on the new console, provides players the opportunity to traverse fantastical worlds inspired by mythologies around the world and interact with artificially intelligent characters that behave like real people.
The game's fun comes to a halt when everyone ends up trapped in the game. With the "log-out" button disabled, the only way to escape is to complete MK's one hundred and fifty levels. To make matters complicated, players learn that in-game deaths will leave them in a permanently catatonic state.
Mai Chongrak is among the thousands of players trapped in MK and is determined to overcome the game's challenges. When she first logs in, she notices she has an ancient grimoire in her inventory called the "Book of Fate" that no one else seems to have. It contains the history of MK's worlds, but also serves as a powerful spell book to the first mage, the Enchanter. With her guild, they uncover a sinister plot concocted by an evil organization known as Venomous Hearts, who have captured the hearts of the Goddesses of Light in order to conquer MK and break out of the game to wreak havoc on reality.
"Mythic Kingdoms" is a virtual reality gaming novel inspired by KINGDOM HEARTS and the light novel, SWORD ART ONLINE by Reki Kawahara.
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Illustration by Kat Miller
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