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 Post subject: After All This Time
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 10:07 am 
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Joined: Fri May 12, 2006 3:09 am
Posts: 63
Location: Wherever I'm needed.
It had been a long time.

After my sudden departure, I'd wandered alone for awhile, hiding where I could, trying to avoid detection. It worked better than I expected; the Elites were likely spending their time trying to track down the Freedom Fighters that were still fighting, rather than wasting it searching out a pawn who had seemingly vanished from the playing field. Though my first week or so had been spent trying to avoid detection, I slowly began to walk the streets of Mac Anu freely again.

The city was as beautiful as ever, despite the havoc the Elites had wreaked upon it when I'd first been put into this state; the admins certainly cleaned everything up quickly. They'd probably passed it off as a “special one-time event” when the regular players wondered what had happened. Idiots. If they don't tell people about the Elites, how many more people will end up like this? It hadn't bothered me too much when I'd been trapped... but what about those with real connections on the outside? People with hopes and dreams, with others who cared about them....

People who don't deserve to be locked up.

I laughed quietly to myself. After all, being stuck in a game was fairly tame punishment for a double murder. In a way I was lucky – even if Rikama had left some evidence, which I doubted, if they ever caught up to him we'd be in a coma. Though we're now completely one, which would make it difficult for them to evaluate me psychologically as a murderer... but still.

While I had spent most of my recent time wandering Mac Anu, I still took to the fields once in awhile, though not for my own benefit. I would help newer players make it through their first run with ease, sometimes even give them a few parting gifts that, while small to me, would keep them going for their first five to ten levels at least. They usually gave me words of thanks and left with a smile, which in turn kept me happy. I couldn't help the Freedom Fighters now, but I could do my best to make sure others enjoyed the game, while at the same time hoping they would not share my fate. Perhaps one day I'll help to spare one of them from it... after all, they can't put me in a coma twice.

My mind did often wander back to the group when I would stroll through Mac Anu, mainly to a pair of people: Dien and Raquar. Those two who had extended their hands in friendship despite who I was and how I came to be... I often worried if they were alright. On occasion I would toy with the idea of sending them a flashmail, but my fear of discovery would always get the better of me; after all, what if they decided to track me down and ended up being captured because they came looking for me? Doubtful that anyone would come looking for me considering my lack of worth, I though, but it was a nice sentiment... and it made a good excuse to avoid contact. To be honest, I wasn't sure if they'd still accept me after I abandoned them... mostly out of cowardice.

Not as if I'd be much use back there, anyways. I'm sure they've all become far more powerful than they were when I left, and I was the weakest of the weak already.

Despite my occasional field ventures, I'd not leveled up even once; all of the fields I went to were far below my level, after all. I usually let the newbies do most of the fighting, supporting them when they needed it and letting them have all of the treasure. It made them happy, and it made me happy. What else did I really need to get out of these outings?

It was on another identical, beautiful day in Mac Anu that I ran into a player who looked completely lost; a quick glance at his equipment revealed him to be a beginner Blademaster. Huh... this is what Dien must have looked like when he started out. He's certainly come a long way. The newbie was glancing around frantically, seemingly overwhelmed by the game's starting environment. Makes sense, I suppose... this isn't really the most newbie-friendly game on the market. Unless they've made something even worse since I've been trapped in here. Looks like he could use a hand getting started.

I walked up and tapped him on the shoulder, startling him more than I expected – he spun around and tried to draw his sword, but only managed to fumble around weakly before tripping backwards and landing on his backside. I smiled a little, trying to get him to soften up. “Hey there. First time? I'd be willing to help you out if you'd like. I know this game is hard to get into, but it's pretty fantastic once you do.” Fantastic, yeah... until you're stuck in it forever. Can't mention that without calling attention to myself, though. “Want me to show you around the town?

The other player nodded slightly, and I reached out my hand. He grasped it and I helped him off the ground, which brought a slight smile to his face. “My name's Nethrei, nice to meet you,” he said. I smiled back at him. “Call me Zhao, Nethrei. And likewise.”

For the next few minutes I led him around town, showing him the locations of the various shops and all of the back alleys he could run through if he ever needed a shortcut. In my time in The World I'd come to know this city quite well. Hell, it's closer to home than any place in the real world was. There was one alleyway in which I stopped dead, however: the place where I found the handbill Suraisu had spread around.

I simply stood there seething while the memories flowed through me – the pain of the tower, the struggle with Rikama, our betrayal by Suraisu, the battle in Mac Anu, and finally the blast of lightning from Rayo that had brought me down... and seemingly put me into this state. I lost track of time, playing the memories over and over in my head, my face darkening with each passing moment.

After what seemed like hours I felt a tug on my sleeve. “Uhm... Zhao?” Nethrei asked, “You alright there? You seem kinda... angry. Did I do something wrong?” I looked over at him and saw real fear on his face; I must have been standing there for at least a few minutes, or else he was an exceptionally nervous person. Whatever the case was, I calmed myself. “No, I was just thinking. Sorry about that. Let's keep moving, shall we?”

I walked quickly away from the alley, so much so that Nethrei nearly lost me in a couple of times. I wanted to leave it behind as quickly as possible... the memories of everything that had happened thanks to that piece of random chance were just too much to contemplate with others around. I proceeded to show him the few places left in the city that we hadn't already covered before bringing him back to the main area.

“Well. That took longer than I thought. Still, you should know the place better than most vets now. Did you enjoy the tour?”

“You bet!” he replied. “I've kinda got a favor to ask, though....”

He looked restless, and yet exceedingly nervous. It wasn't hard to figure out that he wanted me to help him out in his first field.

“You want a hand killing your first few monsters? Sure, no problem. I rather enjoy helping out,” I said with a smile.

“Awesome!” he said, turning to head through the Chaos Gate. Before I could even ask which field he had went to, he was through. I chuckled, looked it up via party info, and followed him in.

Ah... feels good. This will be fun!

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Miakita hazu no tasogare ga
Konna ni kirei dato naita


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