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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:59 am 
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Ikkitousen
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Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:21 pm
Posts: 111
((OOC: This solo is an attempt to get my first hack, all of which have been approved by you, Nights.))


Drip… drip…

He knew that sound. Silver eyes stared at the ceiling as the young man raised a hand above him, staring at the crimson staining his skin. Bright red flowed from his fingers, down his palm, dripping down his wrist where it didn’t fall to the ground. Blood, the color of life, painted his hand from top to bottom. Idly, those pure, silver eyes continued to stare up at the crimson-smeared fingers with an almost uncaring expression. A faint thought crossed the owner’s mind as blood dripped down on his face, wondering if his eyes had become as stained as his hands with all of the battles he had faced lately. Everything seemed tinged with fear and pain, and the stench of death loomed over him at all times.

Baron sighed as he slowly sat up from his bed. Now wasn’t the time for philosophy, especially the darker side of it. The pallet vanished as he stood, and he knew he was dreaming. Well, “dreaming” wasn’t quite the word for it; it was more of a metaphor he used to describe his meetings with Higure. The wolf—AI? Program? Baron just called him a wolf for simplicity’s sake, since that was the form he generally took—said that he resided in the Twin Blade’s mind, in the darker parts where he pushed away memories he didn’t want to think on. Baron himself could not personally enter them; they were the parts of his memories that had been repressed, or forgotten, or simply were being ignored in favor of denial. However, Higure could call him here at any time when the boy was asleep or unconscious, which was why Baron had started calling it “dreaming.”

Usually, it was more like a nightmare. The boy’s memories, those that were locked away or pushed back in his mind in order to shut them out, were brought back in full force. He didn’t have a choice in the matter; though they were behind lock and key, so was the meeting place in which the wolf resided. That meant that Baron had to live through all of his worst memories every time Higure needed to talk to him privately. Unfortunately, such incidents were becoming increasingly common, and now was no exception. Sometimes they discussed the Zodiac; other times, they discussed their current situation and the best way out of it, or what could happen due to Baron’s comatose status. For some reason, the Twin Blade felt that this conversation was going to completely different.

Higure stood as soon as Baron approached, clad in his human disguise. He paid no hand to the crimson blood across the boy’s hands, as he had become accustomed to the Twin Blade’s nightmares long ago. “There you are. I was hoping you’d finally fall asleep so we’d get a chance to talk without you being dead on your feet. You’ve been wandering around in a daze for about an hour now.”

Wandering? Baron always had a sort of fuzzy memory of what was going on in the real world while he was dreaming. He knew of the recent events that had happened, at least in a general sense. There had been the capture by Xenobia, and then the prison escape, and then the run to the Root Town before encountering Tritoch. Then they had wandered around the place a bit, visited the Fire Master, and then…

The Twin Blade shivered, remembering the latest incident. Unlike the other ones with more fuzzy details, this particular memory stood out in stark clarity. It was the reason for the blood on his hands, the latest nightmare that haunted him from the inside out. Only a few hours ago, if even that, he had murdered a man. Well, not quite a man; at the time, Rugudorull had been in a powerful demon form that was knocking the living daylights out of most of the Root Town’s Anid sector. Still, regardless of his condition at the time, he was still a living being at his computer or wherever he was. Yet he was injured eventually to the point of being prone and unable to move, torn down by one of Garaa’s powerful strikes.

And then Baron had killed him, just like that. Two slashes across the throat, and Rugudorull was dead. Not just the character, but the person in real life. The man was simply gone, his existence erased by a boy that was trapped in an online game. However, it wasn’t much of a game anymore; with both combatants living in it as if it were reality, it had become a deadly contest of might. And in the end, it hadn’t even come down to that; with Rugudorull stunned and unable to defend himself, Baron simply killed him. He was gone, and without a fight, like a pig to the slaughter. There was no question to it; even Baron’s dreams reflected the fact.

But now was not the time to think about it; Higure had called him here for a reason. “An hour? Well I’m not too surprised… everything’s happening so quickly right now.”

“Unfortunately, I doubt it’s going to slow down any time soon either. For right now though, I’ve got some important news for you. I’ve found Libra.”

Baron’s eyes widened, and for the moment he forgot about his troubles. Libra had been found? That was great! The AI who had been his companion for a long time now, and in fact had been responsible for a lot of the recent events in his life, had gone missing after nearly being destroyed. Baron had despaired the loss of his companion, as he was the only one who knew much about the Zodiac aside from Higure, as well as provided the power needed to put him on an even footing with the AI enemies that they were chasing after. Without him, the search would have been put on hold even once they got out of the server, at least until he was found, but now that they knew where he was, things could get back on track!

“Don’t look so happy.”

Baron paused, suddenly concerned. “What do you mean? You found Libra, and I can get on with the search for the Zodiac once I’ve retrieved him, right?”

Higure sighed and motioned to a slab of stone at one end of the “cave” he had created. The whole thing was really just an illusion he had created for the comfort of his natural form, but Baron preferred it to the empty darkness; after all, sitting on nothingness was unnerving. He took a seat as indicated, while his companion began pacing, as if something was on his mind. Well, something was always on Higure’s mind; that was simply his way. But when he started pacing, Baron had learned, something was up, something he wasn’t comfortable talking about. Pushing him to speak would do nothing, though. All he could do was sit and wait until the wolf had thought of the best way to word his thoughts.

After a few minutes of pacing, he finally spoke. “After a bit of searching—” Higure never explained his methods, so Baron wondered just how his companion “searched” for information. “—I found Libra’s trail, and followed it. I don’t think he was stolen away, and I don’t think that an outside force is acting on him, unless it is subtle beyond a level I can comprehend. In other words, Libra went AWOL of his own accord. This suggests trouble; what if he has decided to abandon you? Maybe your status as a comatose player is detrimental to his primary goal of defeating the Zodiac. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but it’s a possibility to consider.”

Baron felt a chill as he sat there, staring at Higure. Libra might have abandoned him? Why? The whole comatose thing didn’t seem like a good reason. After all, the Twin Blade had affirmed previously that despite his position, he was still willing to hunt down the Zodiac. Threat of actual physical harm had slowed him but not deterred him from his path, and he had stated so several times. But Higure suggested that his companion had lost faith in him, and to Baron that was painfully worrying. Not only that, but there were holes in the logic that made no sense to him, making this situation even more confusing.

“Wait a second… that makes no sense. Libra combined the rest of his data with mine, so he shouldn’t have been able to go off on his own.”

“I assume that Libra himself said that? Well it’s not the first time he’s lied, albeit he didn’t tell a particularly large one this time. He did fuse most of his data to yours, but he kept enough of it separate that he could detach himself from you at any time. I’ve been running checks on your data, and indeed the part of it that makes up Libra’s main consciousness is gone, hence the silence.”

That shook the Twin Blade, and he sat in silence as he tried to think things over. Libra… had lied to him? Baron wasn’t sure that he could trust Higure so soon, but the wolf had never been one to care for another’s feelings enough to dissemble for their benefit. What he saw, he reported. But if he was telling the truth, why had Libra left? What was going on here? There were so many questions running through his head, preventing him from making sense of things, but there was only one clear course of action to take: he had to find Libra, and ask the AI himself. If Higure had found him, then he could lead the Twin Blade to his target.

“We need to find him, Higure.”

“Agreed. When you wake from this dream, I’ll give you a bit more information regarding what I have found of his location. Until then, rest up; we’ve got a long day ahead of us, at best. At worst, it’s going to be a nightmare.”

Baron nodded and closed his eyes, letting his body relax. At that moment, Higure released him from the “dream” and he sunk into actual sleep, darkness overtaking his senses and blanketing him in silence. Real dreams, rather than the meetings with Higure, were pushed away as the wolf did what he could to assure a completely restful sleep. After all, most of those dreams were nightmares, and waking up in a cold sweat was not going to do anything for his weary body. Thankfully, his sleep remained undisturbed, or if it hadn’t been he didn’t remember anything as he awoke some time later.

It was time to go. Baron slipped away from the others, though it wasn’t hard; many of them had gone on their own way and agreed to meet up later. The Twin Blade headed towards the Chaos Gate in the center of the Elemental District; Higure had noted that Libra had jumped servers about the time they had started fighting with Rugudorull and Garaa. Now that the Freedom Fighters had gotten their data flags removed, they could move in and out of the Yamiyo server as long as someone was there to “anchor” them on their return. Baron figured that Nall and Sheena would remain behind at least, the former because he was so injured and the latter to watch over him, so he could afford to leave for the moment.

He felt bad leaving so suddenly, and without warning, but he was in a hurry if he was going to catch up to Libra. The others weren’t bound to make a move right now, anyway, because they would likely be waiting on the leaders to make a decision. Nighthand and Demorian didn’t seem the types to move on with any plans too hurriedly; hopefully, they would delay things while planning out their next move. If not, Baron figured he could catch up at a later point, hopefully before they got themselves into any trouble. If not… well, he’d figure out his next move then. One step at a time, that’s what he had to focus on.

Reaching the Chaos Gate, Baron paused to view the golden ring floating there. A wave of nostalgia washed over him as he studied the runes around the ring’s edge, remembering days gone by where he could study them in the safety of his room, wondering if perhaps they were an actual language or just a design created by the programmers of The World. Now, however, he was a part of the game itself; he didn’t have the safety and comfort of his room in order to sate his curiosity. Maybe he’d use it to distract himself when he was between missions with the Freedom Fighters, something to pass the hours.

On a prompt from Higure, the boy selected the Theta server as his destination. He felt a bit of trepidation, not knowing if the data flag was truly removed by the potion that Demorian had given him, but Baron figured if he was going to get caught, he probably would have by now. He waited quietly as the golden rings washed over him, transporting his character data to another server. The trip was odd; there was a bit of a jarring sensation as he left the illegal hacker’s server and went into the normal game parameters, almost like briefly passing through a viscous wall. Maybe it was like some kind of firewall that kept administrators from finding the server? Of course, with the power of the hackers there, it was unlikely that they could do anything short of shutting down The World anyway. And that would be an outcome none of the Freedom Fighters could afford.

Licking his lips, Baron strode out from the Chaos Gate square of Dun Loireag. The Twin Blade’s normal fear of heights had decreased considerably thanks to considerable use from the wings he had been given some time back, and he strode across the suspended walkways without a second glance downward. It used to be intimidating to look over those edges, to see the empty space stretching below the hovering Root Town, but now he could look down without feeling that twisting rush of vertigo that threatened to have him crawling on his hands and knees along the walkways and getting strange looks for his actions. And back then he would have justified that it was all because no one had bothered to install railings.

The Twin Blade fought back a small smile as he headed for one of the larger buildings at Higure’s urging. It hadn’t been all that long since the days of abject terror at looking over an edge, but since then so much had happened. The events of the Juk Prison were still firm in his mind, terror and fear intermixing as he learned the truth about the members of the Eventide Crescendo who were trapped in the game. That was when the game had stopped being fun, and started being a much more serious incident. Especially since only a short time after their escape from the Juk Prison they had been captured by Xenobia, and then…

Now’s not the time for that.

Agreed. Now, turn and head towards the shop there. I’m getting a faint resonance there; Libra might have been there recently.

Baron moved as told, eyeing the shop as he approached. It was just a simple NPC-run weapon shop, and the Twin Blade raised an eyebrow as he looked around. Why would Libra be visiting a weapons shop? He wasn’t a typical player, and if he had weapons—Baron hadn’t seen any before—the AI would simply create his own. That he chose to come here suggested that there was more to the shop than met the eye. Frowning, the boy moved towards the shop, slowly pacing around the outside. Higure led him towards the back of it, to a small little niche that all games had in their towns for no reason other than to make it look good ascetically, and then the two stopped suddenly.

Hovering before them was what Baron termed a “rip” in the air. It was as if the empty space was a flat piece of paper that someone had torn through with a knife, leaving a jagged opening big enough for a man to squeeze through with some difficulty. The Twin Blade glanced around, but he didn’t see anyone else. Normally back niches like this were popular for meeting places, slightly out-of-the-way areas that were hard to mistake, but today it was empty. Maybe it was to Baron’s advantage that there was no one else to see this; a report to the administration could have it patched up in an instant, and if it was connected to Libra, he didn’t want the trace removed!

As Baron was considering his next move, a scuff of boots on stone caused the Twin Blade to jump in surprise. Someone was coming! A single player, a female Long Arm with long silver hair streaming down to her waist, gave a start as she saw him. She brushed back strands of her hair, flustered at seeing someone else there, and she looked away from him almost embarrassedly. The Twin Blade raised an eyebrow, wondering what had her upset, but he realized he must have intruded upon what was supposed to be a private meeting by arriving before they could. Oops. Oddly enough, she didn’t seem to notice the rip despite it being in clear sight.

“Don’t worry, I’m not here for long.”

“Um… are you Baron? A man asked me to give you something, and said you’d be here.”

Baron paused and looked at the woman, now confused. She had something for him? From who? She had specified from a man, but that said nothing. There were plenty of male characters he knew. Frowning softly, which caused the Long Arm to flush again as if she had annoyed him, but he quickly put a hand on her shoulder in comfort. She jumped, startled, and backed away slightly, and Baron rolled his eyes. Some people were just so timid; why would anyone trust this girl as a messenger?

“Yeah, I’m Baron. Who told you to give something to me?”

“Just… just a man, kinda looked like you actually… he was different in his own way, but he could be like your brother.”

Baron’s eyes widened further as he recognized the description. Libra had been the one to use this girl as a messenger? Clearly something was up, and he expected the Twin Blade to follow him after he was found out. The AI had been the sort of person to always think ahead a few steps, and to anticipate events as they happened. So why was he doing this? Baron couldn’t think of a reason for Libra to simply run off on his own like this, especially without a word. He bit his lip, considering, but there was nothing to gain by standing around here fretting about it. Quickly he turned to Libra’s “messenger”.

“What were you supposed to give me?”

“Just a message… he said that he wanted you to go to the field where you met him the first time, down in the Gott Statue room, then he left. I don’t know why he asked me of all people to deliver it but… yeah, there you go. Oh, and I almost forgot to give you this.”

The Long Arm handed Baron a small glass bottle with a silver-white liquid within. The boy looked at it curiously, wondering what it was; it didn’t look like any standard item model. A look at the woman who had delivered it suggested that she didn’t know either, as she was just as curious. Tucking it into his item pouch, the Twin Blade gave a polite nod of dismissal and went back to his deliberation. The messenger took that as a sign to go, and quickly hurried off, likely wondering what was going on. Baron didn’t even notice as she left, once more thinking about his next move.

Higure, what do you think? I’ve got a message from Libra saying to go to the field where we met—which is Δ Resonating Snaring Walkway—but he leaves it at that. Apparently he wants to meet me at the Gott Statue there, though I don’t know why. However, you said his resonance leads to this rip in the air here, which is what’s confusing. We’re getting two different messages, so what should we do?

Honestly, I don’t know. I trust my own senses regarding his resonance, but that messenger provided a perfect description of him too. It’s possible that this rip is a decoy, or that the message itself is a second, deeper decoy. It could be leading us away from the rip if we decide that it is a decoy, when in reality it is where he is, or it could be sincere. Really it’s up to you to pick one and we’ll find out where to go for now.

It was his decision to make? Surprisingly, Baron didn’t hesitate in the least. He remembered the dungeon where he had met Libra like the back of his hand, meaning he could get there quickly later. For now, the Twin Blade figured that it would be best to check the unfamiliar ground first; after all, it would provide Libra with the better hiding place if he knew the place better than his pursuer, and as a result would be more likely to conceal himself there. It was a simple enough decision, since even knowing the AI as he did, Baron really couldn’t predict him. As a result, it was up to logic to make up for what knowledge couldn’t determine.

We’re going in, Higure. Warn me if you detect anything.

I’ll keep an eye out. Be careful; we don’t know what’s beyond there.

With a nod, Baron pushed through the rip, feeling a wash of… well, he couldn’t describe it aside from it being called “tingly” and then he was through. Then was a rush of white light that flooded his vision, blinding him completely, and it slowly engulfed him…

_________________
Character Information
Baron | Level 47 Twin Blade [100/1000 EXP] | 891 HP / 265 SP
Weapon: Fishskin
Armor: Emperor's Crown/Bone Armor/Thunder Gloves/Ninja Anklet
Accessories/Books: Ethereal Angel Wings, Silver Grunty
Skills: Thunder Coil, Gale of Swords
Spells: Merrows, GiRai Don, BiVak Rom, GiGan Zot, Rai Don, Ani Don, Duk Lei
GP: 750 (As of 8/2/15)
Wishlist: Nny Scales, Lucky Shoes, Saint Cross, Greave Sticker, Pet EX-Levels/Spheres(!)


Last edited by Locke on Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:00 am 
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Ikkitousen
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Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:21 pm
Posts: 111
Slowly the light faded as Baron’s eyes began to adjust, squinting to try and see through the brightness that remained. His vision was still greeted with white in all directions, but it wasn’t that brilliant, bright white that pierced his eyes. It was the same color, but it was more like the walls were painted in that pure snowy color rather than an up-close view of a sun-sized light bulb. As he slowly looked around, his sight began to adjust to the pure whiteness, to the point where he could open them halfway without having to blink them in pain. After a few moments of blinking and trying to focus, he could finally open them normally again.

The room he was in was… interesting was the only description that came to mind. Staircases were everywhere, some rising to openings into walls, some descending from the ceiling and stopping halfway down a wall, others going wall-to-wall at a slant. The whole place looked like something out of Escher’s works, albeit a lot more complicated when you saw and actually experienced them. But to make it even more confusing, staircases would vanish and another one would appear, crossing the former one’s path now that it was no longer there. It was like a constantly shifting layout, never remaining the same for more than a few minutes.

Fortunately, there were paths aside from the staircases; there were doors at floor-level, and unlike everything above him, they were constant, unshifting. Baron’s silver eyes moved from doorway to doorway, taking in the room, trying to figure out what he had walked into. The staircases, the shifting room… all of these were easily possible within the code of The World, but at the same time they were odd, unsettling. Was this place some sort of hub to different rooms, constantly changing to provide access to a wide range of destinations? Or was it simple and pure chaos without any logic behind it?

Higure, where are we?

There was silence. Baron bit his lip, thinking things over. Either Higure was unable to speak with him here, or the AI wasn’t here period. He hoped it was the former; the feeling of being alone in such a strange and unfamiliar environment was unsettling. Sighing softly, the Twin Blade looked around again, trying to decide on his next move. There was no sign of the entrance he had come in through, so going back wasn’t an option. The option to Gate Out was grayed as well, meaning he was trapped. If he weren’t comatose, Baron figured that he probably would have crashed the game launcher so that his character would be force-logged out, but as he was, there was nothing that simple unless he wanted to kill himself both here and in the real world.

Well, there was nothing to gain by waiting here, staring at doorways as if expecting someone to hand him a sign. Baron turned, looking from door to door to see if there was anything suggesting a path forward. They were all uniform, though, and the doors were filled with that same empty white that had blinded him upon entering this strange area, so that he couldn’t see through them. With a sigh, the Twin Blade simply took one of his weapons, placed it on the ground, and then spun it as best as the slightly rounded hilt allowed it to. It was a dumb way to pick his path, but there wasn’t really a way to determine it anyway.

The blade stopped, pointing to a door on Baron’s right. With a shrug he picked up the weapon, re-sheathed it, and walked in the direction that he had “chosen.” And behind door number one is…

There was another flash of light, but the Twin Blade had already shielded his eyes, preventing the light from damaging them again. After a few moments it died out, but it was replaced by utter darkness. No, not darkness; more like the darkness of nightfall. Baron uncovered his eyes, slowly opening them to ensure that he wasn’t surprised again, and after a moment he lowered his hands, sure that it was alright. Well, as alright as being in unfamiliar territory where anything could happen was, anyway. The Twin Blade looked around to get an idea of his new location, and paused, surprised.

He was back in the Anid sector of the Yamiyo server. Well, at least he thought he was; when Baron had seen the place last, the buildings were mostly rubble from Raikiri’s rampage and the resulting fight against Garaa. Here, buildings were intact, looming high above him in long, towering rows. The streets were fully paved again, no longer torn off in chunks and fragmented in others. The sky above was pure black, as well. Some of the buildings had lights on in them, too. This is what Baron would have assumed the Anid Sector looked like before Raikiri obliterated it, though there was something nagging at him. For a few moments he thought about it, wondering what it was, and then he realized what was bothering him.

There was no one else around. The sector, which should have been teeming with folks either helping to rebuild or going along with their daily lives, was completely and utterly empty. There wasn’t a sound or the simplest of movement. It was completely dead, as if it had been abandoned, yet everything was in perfect condition, as if it had recently been built or maintained. What was going on here? Why was it so empty? It was disturbing, and Baron shivered as he started walking down the street. A city devoid of life wasn’t a city; it was a ruin, a ghost town that likely hid more than it suggested.

Silver eyes slid from building to building as Baron strode along the street, locking onto windows with lights streaming out. That was as much a suggestion that there was life here as the presence of the city itself, but whenever he tried to enter one of the buildings he found it locked. No shapes moved through the lighted areas either, giving it the feel of abandonment, and hurried at that. The Twin Blade was getting more and more wary as he strode along the silent road, a shiver running down his spine. This was like in a horror movie, where something would jump out from the shadows at any moment. In fact, Baron figured it would happen any second now…

And he was not disappointed. A loud scream of pain erupted around him, a man’s voice that echoed between the empty buildings. Baron admittedly jumped in surprise, stumbling back as he tried to find the source of the sound. Another one came, from different direction, and another, and another. It was as if the sound itself was moving quickly, darting from building to building, the dark emptiness seeming to conceal more by the moment. The Twin Blade reached down to his weapons reflexively, though he paused when he felt something warm move along his fingers. Something wet.

Baron froze, and as he looked down, he saw an image that sent chills down his spine. The blood that had marked his hands when Higure had pulled him into a “dream” was back, staining from fingertip to wrist in uneven blotches. The weapons at his side, when pulled from their sheaths, were also stained with crimson, painted in long splashes along the sharp edges of the blades. The Twin Blade’s eyes widened, and that chill became even worse as another scream echoed from the alley behind him, louder than ever. He whirled, his breathing starting to pick up as panic started to overwhelm him.

There was nothing there. Baron considered for moment, heart pounding in his ears. He knew it wasn’t over, and adrenaline was rushing through his body as he prepared for whatever was making that sound. The Twin Blade had his weapons ready, ignoring the blood dripping down his wrists and off of his arms. There was no time to think about them, not when there was a threat that was lurking around a corner. No, not behind a corner; Baron could literally feel the presence now. It was unsettling, like it was close, practically atop him… no, it was…

Baron whirled around, slashing with his blades as another howl of agony erupted behind him. His blades met solid resistance, and then kept going as Raikiri fell to the ground again, clutching a throat that had already been stained red with blood, dried and old across his chest and neck. The wound was reopened thanks to his slash, and fresh blood sprayed across the two combatants. The Twin Blade froze, his eyes widening in slow horror as he saw the demonic form fall to the ground again. There wasn’t even that story-like slow motion; the body just dropped while screaming in that same unmistakable pain.

Another scream came, and another, and another, all howling from different directions. Baron turned to see a second Raikiri emerging from an alleyway, and then a third caught his eye as it simply rose from the ground. Each one bore the exact demonic visage, but the eyes were empty and dead, and each one already had its throat cut, fresh blood dribbling down across dried and crusted red as they staggered forward. One of them clutched at his throat, while the other raised a limp hand, weakly pointing at the Twin Blade before it as if it were an act of judgment on the boy that had killed it.

Baron stepped back, but another deep wail sounded behind him, and the Twin Blade whirled to see several more Raikiri copies shambling down the road towards him. A few raised their hands in that same silent judgment while others writhed with fingers clutching at ruined throats. All the while, the collective group moved towards him, one occasionally breaking into that loud scream before falling silent and resuming its walk towards him. They were on both sides, now, the copies slowly surrounding their prey.

The Twin Blade’s eyes widened further and further, and he felt his body begin to shake unconsciously, a terror so deep that he couldn’t describe it beginning to overtake him. Even though his mind was screaming that this couldn’t be real, that this wasn’t really happening, that this had to be a dream or nightmare or something, his body was frozen in sheer horror. Baron’s eyes kept darting from one figure to another, waiting for one to begin its attack. What was he supposed to do? He couldn’t fight all these! No, he couldn’t kill again, he wouldn’t. He had already ended a man’s life, he couldn’t do it again!

Rational thinking fled from him as the panic increased, yet through it all a thought still remained steady. It didn’t feel like his own. But you already did. Look on the ground behind you.

No… no I didn’t… I was defending myself…

A tone of satisfaction tipped the next reply. Were you? You didn’t know it was a threat. You simply lashed out. You’re a weapon, a soulless killer now, aren’t you? Do you enjoy it?

Shut up! I’m not a killer… I’m not… I wouldn’t…

Suddenly one of the Raikiris collapsed as it took a step forward, a cry of pain erupting that was somehow different from the constant moan the others took up time and time again. Baron whirled to see Higure standing over the body, teeth bared and blood across his muzzle. God, but data could be realistic, making the wolf look that much more vicious and terrifying. The Twin Blade couldn’t be happier to see a familiar face, though, and for a moment he relaxed, felt some of that fear ebbing away from him. He wasn’t alone; he didn’t have to face this horror by himself.

“You idiot, don’t turn away from your enemies!”

Baron’s eyes widened, and he turned just in time to see one of the Raikiri copies lunging at him, a blade forming out of lightning as it thrust forward. The Twin Blade sidestepped it and the resulting arc of lightning that remained as the slash passed; he remembered all too well how shocking that remaining charge could be, and it would hang in the air for a good minute or so. Reflexively, he sent out an Ani Don to knock the copy away, and a fiery BiVak Rom tore through the enemies to his left. Immediately his hesitation reasserted himself, and those thoughts from before flooded back. Was his first instinct really to fight, to kill…?

“We don’t have time for this, Baron! Go through your trauma later, we have to escape now unless you want to die!”

Again the wolf’s voice snapped Baron back to reality. Higure had already taken down four more copies, but more seemed to be coming from every direction. Quickly the Twin Blade looked around for a way to escape, but all he saw were more dark alleyways. None of them seemed promising, especially when more copies were coming out of the floor, the walls, or just from thin air. So where were they supposed to go? Baron supposed he could take to the air, but he wasn’t going to abandon Higure so easily. Besides, if these copies were anything like the real thing, they’d blast him out of the sky with lightning in seconds.

“Escape where? They’ll follow us no matter where we go!”

“The building on your left! The one without any lights should have an unlocked door at the front. Go through it and we can talk then!”

Baron looked in the direction indicated, and indeed, there was the building indicated, the only one without a single light on it anywhere. It was hard to even see, practically blending into the night. Unfortunately, there was a problem. “There’s too many of them between us and there! We’d never make it!”

“Already working on it.”

Baron looked down in surprise to see Higure right next to him, his one eye closed in concentration. Immediately the Twin Blade felt a surge through his body, a sense of presence, and then another surge before it all faded. What the heck had just happened? He was about to ask Higure before another rush left him to fall to his knees, wincing. There was no more time to think about it though, only to react, as more of the Raikiris came in after him, several brandishing different weapons. Lightning started to dance from one to another, as if they were all one gigantic entity swooping down on him, and at once, eight or nine simply charged into close combat.

The Twin Blade reflexively moved to dodged between them, only to find that he was suddenly past the enemies, their charge completely avoided before it had time to fully start. Surprised at his own speed, Baron didn’t notice that another enemy had snuck up behind him until its weapon was raised above its head for a downwards swing. He easily sidestepped it, again moving far ahead of the weapon and even getting around behind the copy in order to slash at its back and incapacitate it. Quickly the Twin Blade started running for the building while he had a brief opening, once more amazed at his speed. How was he moving so fast? Had Higure hacked his character data or something?

Question it later, you’ve only got about a minute and a half to get to that door before this wears off!

Higure’s voice was back in his head; that was a comforting familiarity that at the same time made Baron realize just how odd his “normal” was now. Obeying almost reflexively, the boy quickly darted for the doorway that had been indicated. It was amazing how much his speed and agility had been enhanced; he found himself easily avoiding attacks and dodging through gaps that would have been risky at best without breaking a sweat, moving at Ap Do speed at very least. It was a nicely timed advantage, and Baron planned on making full use of it. There was no time for any sort of hesitation now, not if he wanted to survive!

A copy loomed ahead, but Baron go around it this time; he went over it. A jump had him bounding right over it, albeit with a little push from his wings to get him a bit more altitude, and immediately the Twin Blade hit the ground behind it, breaking right back into his run. This feeling of power was amazing, enabling him to perform feats he wouldn’t have thought easily possible without any difficulty whatsoever. The thought that it was going to end soon, at least by Higure’s words, was a bit of a disappointment, but Baron figured that what had been changed once could change again.

Finally they were to the doorway. Baron reached to open it, and to his surprise it wasn’t locked like all the others. Shoving it open so hard that the hinges creaked—it was amazing, the strength desperation gave a man—the Twin Blade ran through the portal, praying to whatever gods The World had that it was safe, and was immediately blasted by another surge of blinding white light. Well at least that was another familiar sign by this point; repetition did tend to help familiarize things. Baron just hoped that every doorway wasn’t like this, because he could feel a migraine starting in the back of his head from the stabbing lights.

Suddenly the boy staggered and found himself on the floor of the room he had started in. He tried to bring his hands up to catch himself, but they didn’t want to react, instead letting him collapse in a weary slump. It was odd; after all that exhilaration he felt absolutely drained to the point where he just wanted to pass out. Doing so here, however, wouldn’t be a good idea. With that in mind, Baron forced himself to stay alert, lifting his head slowly. He figured what he was feeling was some sort of energy crash after the surge of speed and strength he had experienced a few minutes ago; maybe he had just worn himself out?

The room was unchanged, if that could be said for a room with entrances constantly disappearing and being replaced by others as pathways formed and vanished subsequently. At least it seemed unchanged; Baron really couldn’t tell. What he could tell was that his head was beginning to become sensitive from the brightness. Yup, definitely a headache forming. At least he was alive; that much had some good to it. But what was he to do now? He was still trapped here—wherever “here” was—and had no idea of his next direction. All he was doing was trying to find Libra, and without some way to track him, it would be impossible in this maze.

Well, the Twin Blade suspected that he might have a way to track the AI, at least. Higure was now with him, and the wolf had picked upon “resonances” before, so maybe he could do that again here. Speaking of the AI… Baron hadn’t seen him during the mad dash. He assumed that Higure could easily take care of himself and in all likelihood had been right behind him. But looking around, he couldn’t see the wolf anywhere. The room that the boy was in was empty of life aside from himself, without a sign of his companion. Had Higure not been able to make it through in time? Had he given his life to let Baron live?

You idiot. I’m not one for “heroic sacrifices.” I’m just resting in your mind again. Have a little confidence.

Oh. Well that was explanatory enough. What was that, just a minute ago? I felt so fast and strong, but now that it’s gone I feel utterly drained.

No wonder. That was our first time merged, and likely the weakness is your body rejecting it now that I’m back in only your mind.

Merged?

An ability of mine. Don’t worry about it, it’s just something I can use to augment your abilities temporarily. Just think of it as a perk of having me around.

Fair enough. Baron slowly pushed himself up onto his knees, and then into a sitting position, still breathing a bit heavily as he tried to focus his vision. This was more than just a complete rejection for his body; if anything this was more like a withdrawal! Either way, he pushed through the weariness despite the difficulty in doing so, resigning himself to a nice nap after this. For the moment he had to consider his next move, since obviously wandering randomly from room to room was bound to be a lesson in suicide. Using Higure would be the way to go, of course, but in what manner? Maybe it was best to get some information first.

So… where are we? You seem to know a good deal about this place.

I’m familiar with the layout, in a way. Let me explain. This is what you might call a “mindtrap.” The function of it is to trap an individual in a dataspace that is created using the fragments of their data memory to recreate settings. In this case, this is an interesting one, drawing upon both your digital memories as well as your actual ones now that you’re trapped in the game. That was why the Anid Sector back there, despite you only seeing it destroyed in your digital memory, was intact. The mindtrap drew upon your expectations of a whole, unbroken sector, as well as creating a foe drawn from your lingering guilt. A very fascinating turn of events, seeing one of them turned on a comatose player… but at the same time, potentially deadly.

Baron considered that for a moment. So is there any way I can influence it, since this whole place is a recreation of my thoughts and memory?

No. To my knowledge, though admittedly it is limited, only the one who created it has any control over it. The “hub” we’re in right now, sort of a foyer to all of your recreations, is the only safe place, yet we won’t get anywhere just standing around here. So at some point we’ll need to search some of the other areas in hopes of finding an escape. The only way I personally know of is to stop the person who has control over the mindtrap, since the jailer stays with his prisoner.

Okay, so the person who had left him there was still somewhere within the confines of the mindtrap. That was at least a goal, to find said person and force them to release Baron. But where were they to begin? In this room, this “hub” as Higure called it, there were countless doors, most of them ephemeral and temporary, and his captor could be behind any of them. The Twin Blade couldn’t hope that the jailer was through one of the solid doors, nor did he want to; after all, if there was another horror like the recreated Anid Sector, he felt he wasn’t going to last long.

Baron still shivered, and reflexively looked down at his hands. They were clean once more, but he could almost see the blood dripping off of them, the warm liquid slithering along his fingers. Clenching them tightly, he closed his eyes, trying to block away the image. Pain stabbed through his head, agony worse than any migraine, like someone was stabbing through his skull. But no matter what he did, it now was stuck in his mind firmly, tied with the memories of his fight in the fake Anid Sector. He really had killed several clones without thought, and though the intent was to defend himself, there had been little hesitation. He really was a weapon, a tool that had no purpose but to kill at another’s direction.

That’s right… a tool to be pointed at a perceived enemy. You have no thoughts of your own, as a tool should not.

No! He wasn’t a tool. Baron gripped at his head to try and force the thoughts out. No matter what happened, no matter what acts he had to commit in order to survive, he was not a tool. He was a human being, with thoughts and feelings and everything. He had his morals, and he would act as he needed to. The Twin Blade clung to that thought, running it through his head over and over again. I am human, not a tool. I am human, not a tool. The rhythm of the words were comforting, relaxing, and slowly he finally managed to calm himself enough to think clearly again. The ache in his head slowly started to fade, and slowly, the boy managed to release the death grip he had on his head.

Baron! Are you alright?

I’m fine. What’s wrong?

Something had just hit you with a strong mental attack, trying to influence you somehow. Knowing your constant annoying turmoil, I’d guess psychologically.

So that was where the thoughts had come from, though a lingering doubt remained in Baron’s mind. Maybe the force of the thoughts, the strength behind them had come from the mental strike, but the Twin Blade wouldn’t have been surprised if the thought itself had originated with him. This guilt had been tearing him up from the inside out, and all it would take was a little nudge here and there. He sighed softly, rubbing at his head; maybe the damage had already been done to his psyche too; who knew? At this point, all he could do was move forward, and work things out when he actually had some time to think.

…There’s one more thing bothering me, Baron.

Baron frowned. What now?

A mindtrap can only be created by a person who had been given access to your data at some point in time. And this particular trap seems as attuned to your memories as well as your digital data… something’s suspicious here. Let me think on it.

The wolf went silent, and Baron was left to his thoughts again. Frowning, the Twin Blade found a place to seat himself down—not that there was anything besides walls, doorways, and ephemeral staircases around here anyway—to think things over. Higure had said that whoever had created this trap had accessed his data at some point, which was unlikely to be involuntary. At least, if it was involuntary, the Twin Blade would have remembered having his data searched through. That meant that whoever it was either had free access to his data or had been allowed to examine it at some point. Baron couldn’t think of any situation where the latter had occurred, so it meant the former. Unfortunately, while that did create a small list of suspects, two of the three names on the list gave him chills.

He highly doubted that Higure would have done it, or he wouldn’t have come to save him in the last area. If the wolf wanted him out of the way, he would have left the Twin Blade to freeze up and die. That didn’t mean he hadn’t, but Baron hardly believed that his companion would do it. That left two other individuals—technically three—but the Gemini were sealed away still, and even if they weren’t, how would they have been able to access his data? No, it wasn’t likely to be them either. That left one possible culprit, but it was one Baron had reason to suspect, as much as it grieved him to do so, but evidence did suggest the possibility.

I take it you came to the same conclusion I did, judging by how glum you just got.

…You think that Libra did this too?

Could be. I never really understood his motives, but I do know that he had the greatest access to both your digital data as well as your memories, since he was with you and in fact permitted to even take control of your character data at times. If anyone could have the greatest chance of trapping you here, it’d be him.

Baron didn’t know what to say to that, and remained silent. I know it’s hard to believe he’d do it based on his recent attitude and actions, but it’s possible that there’s another agenda that only he knows of. I don’t know what’s going on, but we’ll find out. We just need to find Libra. If he’s working against us, we eliminate him. If there’s something else… we’ll see then.

_________________
Character Information
Baron | Level 47 Twin Blade [100/1000 EXP] | 891 HP / 265 SP
Weapon: Fishskin
Armor: Emperor's Crown/Bone Armor/Thunder Gloves/Ninja Anklet
Accessories/Books: Ethereal Angel Wings, Silver Grunty
Skills: Thunder Coil, Gale of Swords
Spells: Merrows, GiRai Don, BiVak Rom, GiGan Zot, Rai Don, Ani Don, Duk Lei
GP: 750 (As of 8/2/15)
Wishlist: Nny Scales, Lucky Shoes, Saint Cross, Greave Sticker, Pet EX-Levels/Spheres(!)


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:03 am 
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Ikkitousen
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Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:21 pm
Posts: 111
Baron didn’t want to speak right now. Too much was racing through his mind right now, but the possibility of betrayal was cutting him deep. Before this whole mess that left him trapped in the Yamiyo server, as well as within The World itself, the Twin Blade would never have doubted Libra. The AI had been with him for a good while now, and had never once given any indication that he was being less than honest with him. But now that he had been in this world of hackers and Twilight, where a game became real and deadly, he was willing to believe that even his most trusted ally would turn on him. But it also chilled him to think that he really couldn’t believe in anyone, anymore.

Baron was just getting so tired. He closed his eyes and pressed his hands to his head, trying to concentrate, but it was hard to focus when his mind screamed at being constantly wary. There was too much to worry about, of late, too much to fear. The Twin Blade just wanted to break down, to let it all end, but at the same time he wanted to live. He wasn’t going to just die, as easy as that would be. He just wanted it all to be over. He never asked to be brought into the game, a victim of this damned Twilight virus, and he’d certainly not wanted to end up in a war with the Elites, hackers who could likely blow them away.

Well that last one wasn’t a given; after all, Baron had dealt the fatal blow to Rugudorull, the Elite of Lightning. But nonetheless, that had been mostly luck due to the Doomkeeper practically leaving him defenseless, and the Twin Blade couldn’t take credit for the victory, only for the kill. He shivered, thinking about that for a moment, but pushed it away. One of those thoughts that should remain behind locked doors, that’s all that it was. He was not a weapon. He was not a killer. All he had to do was remind himself of that. Raikiri had fallen in battle, because they were in a war. Soldiers in a war fought, and they died. Justified. Yes, it was justified by the war they were in.

Baron didn’t believe the excuse, but he pushed it away for real this time, focusing instead on where to go next. They needed to find the keeper of this mindtrap, and if it was Libra, they’d deal with matters then. But where would he be? The Twin Blade didn’t know where to look, where to begin. Without any knowledge of the trap’s layout, they had no real direction to start in. they would just be wandering blind. Baron couldn’t even remember which door he had entered or come out of when it came to the recreated Anid server; honestly, he had no desire to go back in there, and with his luck, he would.

Higure spoke suddenly. I might have an idea, though it goes against my knowledge of the mindtrap.

Hm?

Libra told you to go meet him at Δ Resonating Snaring Walkway, correct? Maybe it was a hint, as if he expected us to come here. He’s always been one to plan ten steps ahead, and I’m sure he figured out your mental process regarding the entrance to the trap. Try focusing on the Gott Statue room where you encountered him, and maybe you can influence one of these doors to lead us there. I don’t know that it will, given my limited knowledge, but it’s the only thing I could come up with.

Worth a shot.

Baron closed his eyes, trying to remember that room. There wasn’t much special about it; after all, it had looked like any other Gott Statue room. It had been a large stone room with an altar at one end, a railing behind the altar blocking a pit over which a large statue hovered. But there was one unique feature that caused this room to be different from the average Gott Statue room, and that was how he was able to lock into it. His visual had the chest opened, the inside empty, but in return, the only door to the room was lit up, providing access to a special side area that the Gemini had created as a meeting place. Whether or not it was still there, he didn’t know, but if he ended up being able to influence this much, he should be able to influence whether or not the room existed in this dataspace.

It’s working! One of the higher doors is solidifying.

Baron opened his eyes and looked up, and indeed one of the more ephemeral doors was solid now, like the ones below. As he broke his concentration, however, the entry shimmered and started to fade. The Twin Blade immediately called back the image to mind again, and once more it was whole again. It flickered whenever his thoughts changed slightly; how was he supposed to get up to it if it was ready to vanish at the slightest shift? Baron quickly had to focus again as that question crossed through his mind. He had to concentrate on the room, or it was going to vanish. Deep breaths, closed eyes, and he had the image firmly in mind again.

I apologize for what I’m about to do, and I hate doing this without permission, but keep the image in mind. I’ll get us up there.

The Twin Blade would have asked, but he had something to focus on at the moment. He kept his eyes closed, the image firmly in his mind. However, in a moment he felt that rush of power from earlier, surges rushing through him, all the way to the smallest toes. Energy washed through the boy’s body, and suddenly it was like he was flying. He could practically feel the wind whipping past him—no, he had to focus. Right now, he just had to keep the details of the room in his mind. Altar, statue, glowing door; each detail was drawn out in painstaking accuracy, to the point of practically being there and being able to touch it. Baron just had to keep his mind on it until Higure was done doing whatever he was doing—

We made it. You can let the image go now.

Baron opened his eyes, and he was unsurprised to find himself in the very Gott Statue room that he was visualizing only minutes ago. The details were just as he remembered it, too, maybe even more accurate; perhaps that increased realism was created by the data memory he had of the place to supplement his actual recollection. Either way, it was definitely the same room. Cold stone was underfoot, light layers of dust rising as he strode across it. A flickering torch—he had forgotten about light sources, when he had imagined the place—stood on either wall. Even the treasure chest seemed more vivid than the Twin Blade’s memories, which admittedly had been given a chance to fade. God, he could barely recollect what a treasure chest looked like, he had been out of the main game for so long. Or had it been long? Time had become a blur of late.

The boy shook his head, knowing that there was no time for this. He could reflect later, and probably would, but right now he had to focus. Libra had told him to come here. It was possible that the AI was here. Baron wasn’t sure what he’d do first when he saw his long-time companion; what would he say? Was Libra doing all of this, keeping him trapped here? Could he be trusted anymore? Another shiver ran through the boy as he considered. Best to ask Libra when he was found, find out what was going on, why all of this was happening. Hopefully he wasn’t manipulating this. Hopefully.

The room itself was like any other normal Gott Statue room, no detail out of place. A simple altar with a treasure chest stood at one end, and the statue itself floated over an endless pit just behind it. However, there was more to the room than just this, if it was copied over accurately. Baron strode over to the treasure chest and threw the lid open before turning to the doorway. As expected, it went from a normal door to a glowing silver light that filled the frame completely, the path changing behind that light. It wouldn’t go to the dungeon proper until the chest was closed again—would it have gone to the dungeon, or was only this room recreated from his memory?—but instead to another hidden area… and that was where the Twin Blade wanted to go.

He quickly headed through the doorway, though absently he checked his blades. While it was unlikely that there was another threat ahead, at least here, it never hurt to be careful. There was only a brief flash as he passed through the light. In a moment he was out of it… and in a completely different room than he had expected. The room he had expected would have been black and empty aside from a series of lines connecting six points to each other in an enormous six-pointed star. It was in that room that he had fought the Gemini and met Libra—well, more like Libra showed up and pushed the task on him.

But the room Baron found himself in was completely different than he had expected. A large area, the walls were a good fifty paces apart, and were of a yellowish-white stone. The center of the room was raised in a large circular dais lit by four torches in a square pattern surrounding it, and a soft red carpet led from the doorway that the Twin Blade had entered through to a short staircase leading up to the dais. On the far side of the room was another doorway, the entrance sealed by a pair of solid steel doors that appeared locked, and they too had another carpet on the floor that led to the dais as well.

Well this is… unexpected.

The room was completely empty, with no one else present. To Baron, it was almost eerie. He had never seen a room like this, ever, so there was something off. Higure had said that mindtraps were based on his digital memories—and in this particular case, his actual ones too—but the Twin Blade had never been in a room like this one. Well, the wolf had also said that this was an alternate dataspace; perhaps there were other sections connected to the trap itself? He had assumed that it made up the entire area, but it seemed that there was a possibility of separate sections as well. Or maybe just a single one… which could mean his captor was here.

There were a lot of maybes and could bes and possibilities, but not one of them would get him an answer. Baron strode across the room, heading for the far doorway, figuring that the answers would be there. As he crossed the dais, however, he felt a chill in the air. There was a sense of presence again, filling the entire room. Something was here, something he could detect without seeing it. That alone made the Twin Blade wary, and he drew his blade. Thoughts flickered at him, taunting him for drawing his weapons without knowing there was a threat, but he was too focused to pay them any mind. Well, much mind, anyway; hesitation tinged his movements. Was he really nothing but a weapon now?

Baron. Focus on the present, worry about other things later.

Sorry, sorry.

That presence was still everywhere, as if the entire room was alive, and Baron kept flickering his eyes back and forth. Higure was likely looking through his eyes too to catch details he’d miss. The Twin Blade adjusted his grip on his weapons, pausing to briefly glance down at them. No blood this time, thankfully; he couldn’t really stand another unnerving moment so soon. It seemed that whoever was watching wasn’t trying to twist his mind again, merely observing to see how he would act. Well, Baron was going to keep his cool this time… he hoped. He had been particularly jumpy lately.

After a few moments, the presence simply faded, retreating away. Baron relaxed his shoulders, but didn’t sheath his weapons; after all, an attack could still come at any time. The room was empty though, so if anything else was coming, it would likely be through the doors ahead. Taking a deep breath, he moved towards the steel doors, stepping down the stairs from the dais and crossing the soft carpeting. Another shiver ran up his spine for some reason, but he ignored it. Right now, he wanted to get to the bottom of this whole mess so that he could get out and return to the others. They had probably already gone off to visit the Fire Master to announce their victory. Hell, he had probably been left behind as they went off on their adventures. Maybe he could send Sekai a Flashmail and find out where they were…

“GiGan Zot.”

Baron’s reaction came too slowly; the pillar of earth that he tried to dodge caught him in the shoulder, pinning him to the wall and hanging him by one arm. Fiery pain lanced through the limb as his weight dragged on it, but a quick Gan Don to shatter the pillar freed him, allowing the Twin Blade to land on his feet again and face his assailant. A Repth repaired the injured muscles of his arm and the cracked bones of his hand and wrist, but nothing could erase the memory of pain. Flexing his fingers experimentally, Baron quickly picked up his weapon where he had dropped it. All he got for delaying was another spell being sent his way, a storm of lightning crackling in a whirling tornado of electricity.

Quickly dodging to the side, Baron quickly shot off his own spell, the GiRai Don smashing down at a figure standing atop the dais. A white cloak billowed as the attacker quickly jumped back, avoiding the lightning, and countered with a wash of flames from a BiVak Rom. Baron quickly ran out of the way, heat washing over the spot where he had been, and prepared his own counterattack. Rather than burn his SP pointlessly, however, he charged in from the side, moving around the dais with his blades slashing out. His opponent simply slipped out of the way of the attack without retaliation, leaping up atop the dais again.

Now Baron could get a better look at his assailant. The man (or woman? Baron assumed man out of habit) stood at about the Twin Blade’s height, his body concealed by a long white cloak that settled down around his knees, a single cut through the center held together by a single pin. Revealed when his cloak moved, he wore a pair of baggy black breeches and what appeared to be a black undershirt as well, though it was hard to see. His head was cloaked by a high hood that hung to just above the eyes, strands of white hair moving across sky-blue irises, while a mask was drawn across his mouth and nose. That was all that the Twin Blade could make out of his opponent, though.

“So, have you accepted that it’s your nature to kill yet?”

Definitely a man, with that voice. “Dunno what you’re taking about, you’re the one trying to kill me.”

“To live, you must kill those that would kill you. It’s a simple principle.”

With that the man attacked again, an arm sliding out from under the cloak to stab a long-bladed dagger towards the Twin Blade’s chest. Baron brought his own weapon up to parry the blow, swinging his other blade around in a horizontal arc. It was a surprise when a second knife blocked his own; apparently whoever this was had a Twin Blade base for his character. Baron imagined that it was a hacker, judging by his presence here, and most hackers used bases from The World’s data for their character, at least in terms of basic weapon style, etc. It seemed that this one was no different.

Baron followed with his blades twisting the enemy’s apart, then stabbing both forward. His assailant took a half-step back, just beyond the reach of the boy’s stretched arms, and came in low, blades curving inwards as if to slice at his legs. The Twin Blade leapt over the attack, bringing his weapons down in a vertical slash. Again his attack was blocked, and the cloaked man went on the offensive again. The two exchanged blows back and forth, neither managing to cut through the other’s guard but for a second, and never enough to leave a serious wound. Their clash continued for a few moments in silence, both concentrating, until Baron was pushed back by a surprise kick from his opponent, leaving him to stumble over the dias’s edge and fall to the ground below, grunting as his leg twisted from the impact.

“Who the hell are you anyway? What do you want?”

“GiRai Don.”

Baron’s eye widened, and he quickly threw himself to the side, but he wasn’t fast enough to avoid the majority of the lightning that forked down from above, smashing into the floor and sending the Twin Blade to slam into the far wall, fingertips twitching slightly from the electricity that felt like it had fried his nerves. Grimacing, he pushed himself up onto his feet shakily, breathing hard. It felt like his entire back and side was a mass of bruises, and his vision still had large patches of white in it, but he was alive. God, he didn’t feel it though, with his skin feeling cooked and electricity still running rampant through him.

“Ol Re—”

“GiGan Zot.”

Baron managed to get away from the stone pillars that rose up after him with a vengeance this time, pushing himself off from the wall and narrowly dodging the spires that tried to stab into him. He tossed his healing spell on the run rather than sitting still this time, and the wounds on his body slowly closed up and healed over. It didn’t quite fix his vision or the slight headache that was forming, but at least he was whole if not wholly well. A quick pair of Rue Zot spells were sent to pierce the stranger’s body, though Baron doubted at their success, using it to merely buy more time.

He was right on the mark, too, as the hacker simply stepped back and cleft both pillars in two with a single sweep of his blade, stopping the attack. He quickly moved back into the fray, leaping off of the dias and bringing both blades to stab down at Baron’s face. Unable to parry with the downward force his opponent was using, the boy sidestepped, and got a long cut across the ribs for his effort as the man slashed his weapons sideways upon landing. Grimacing and clutching at the wound as fiery pain seeped through his torso, Baron cast a quick Rai Rom to give him a bit of space so that he could cast a basic Repth spell to heal the wound and knit his injuries together.

“You don’t have time to ask why or how if you want to live, boy. To live, your opponent must die. It’s a balance that’s unavoidable.”

The man was right, as much as Baron hated it. The boy didn’t want to admit it, but he couldn’t deny it either. In this fight, one of them was going to die, and if he wanted to live to escape from The World, to help the others escape, then he had to be the one who won. The hacker would have to die, judging by his intent. But it hurt so much to think about it; was this another hacker within the boundaries of The World, who would actually die upon being defeated, or was it merely a simulacrum? No, he couldn’t think about it. Baron could grieve later, and he knew he would, but he had to do this. He had to.

“You’re right… you’re right. If I have to kill you in order to save myself, in order to go back and help save the others from The World, then I will.”

Baron darted forward suddenly as well, his blade raking across the man’s right shoulder almost to the chest. Blood blossomed against the white cloak, and the hacker staggered back with a grunt of surprise. But Baron didn’t let up the attack, quickly pressing in a series of quick slashes, aiming for any vital areas he could. His mind screamed at the thought of what he was doing, but he fought it back, knowing he had to do this. There was no other choice; to live, the hacker must die. For the sake of the people he wanted to save, the hacker had to die. And because he had tried to kill Baron, he had to die.

I really am a killer, a weapon. Blood will stain my hands forever, yet I’ll accept it as I have to. I won’t seek out death, I won’t ever enjoy it… but if it’s necessary, then I will do what I must.

There was silence suddenly, a silence so strong it was almost suffocating. Baron stared at the man in front of him, pinned to the wall by one of the boy’s weapons through his shoulder, while the other one was still in the Twin Blade’s hands, piercing the man’s stomach. Blood flowed freely, staining the pure white of the man’s cloak, and even the black of his undershirt seemed to grow even darker with the crimson soaking into it. Yet the crystal-clear eyes didn’t show an ounce of fear, or pain, or concern. They were calm, focused, composed. Baron almost might have gone so far as to say that he was resolute about something, though that seemed odd; what could be going through the man’s mind?

It was over. Baron pulled the blade from his opponent’s shoulder, letting that arm hang limply against the wall. With a deep breath, he brought the blood-soaked blade up to the man’s throat, closing his eyes briefly in a silent prayer. It was time. With only a second’s more hesitation, he brought the weapon around in a slash identical to the one that had taken Raikiri’s life, the first slash that had stained his hands with blood from that moment on. The red would never be cleansed from them in his eyes, but now he understood what he had to do. Necessity could be a cruel thing.

It was a surprise when the blade struck stone with a shower of sparks. Baron’s eyes widened as he realized that the man was gone, no longer held to the wall. There wasn’t even blood on his weapons, nor smeared on the wall. Whirling, the Twin Blade’s eyes scanned the room, only to lock onto the man standing atop the dias again. The cut across his chest was gone, as were the stab wounds in his shoulder and stomach. The white cloak was as pure as ever, unlike a moment ago. What had happened?

“Good to see you’ve found your resolve to kill. If you’re ready to fight for real, then I suppose it’s time for me to stop going easy.

Suddenly the man was gone, and Baron felt a sudden coldness in his side. Looking down, he saw a dagger buried to the hilt. Fire seemed to explode from the wound as pain suddenly hit him in a wave, and the Twin Blade staggered back, only to run into something solid. The hiss of metal through the air was his only warning, and he ducked beneath a slash as the stranger’s blade came from behind in an attempt to decapitate him. A quick Gan Zot behind him was Baron’s feeble attempt at fighting the man off, but again the hacker was gone before the spell even went off, out of the range of the Twin Blade’s sight.

Another streak of pain slashed through his arm as the hacker appeared briefly to cut at his target before moving quickly again, twisting smoothly as Baron tried to slash at him. It wasn’t that the man simply vanished, he was merely moving so quickly and fluidly it was hard to keep track of him. Every motion was precise, smooth, and simple. Baron knew that he couldn’t do anything against this, not simply fighting with strength alone. But what else did he have? His mind? This guy seemed a lot smarter than him as well, not to mention faster… what advantage did Baron have?

“PhaRai Don.”

Baron whirled long enough to see a black-gloved hand pointed towards him, and then there was nothing but pain, a very familiar pain at that. Lightning coursed through him in surges, waves. The Twin Blade’s vision was filled with white, his hearing filled with the crackling pop of electricity. A distant heat filled the pain, along with a tingling numbness, but they almost felt like they were happening to another person. His nerves were shot; he couldn’t blink, he couldn’t move… all he could do was stand there as the lightning used him as a living conduit. He hated being electrocuted, and it seemed to get worse every time.

Finally it stopped, and the numbness came in full force. Baron wondered how badly he’d been fried, surprised he was alive. He would have gasped with pain, if there was anything but that empty numbing running through him. As it was, he was almost blissfully happy that he wasn’t hurting; it gave him the chance to cast a pair of Ol Repth spells, draining the last of his SP to restore his health to full. But he was pushing his resources for nothing; now that the hacker was being serious, Baron couldn’t keep up with him. He hadn’t been using the highest tier of spells before either, something else that put the Twin Blade at a disadvantage. What was he going to do?

If only I could bring him down to my level…

I wonder… can you?

Baron almost paused, but then kept moving as wave of flames swept towards him, barely avoiding the powerful Vak spell. What do you mean?

I need time to think. In the meantime… enough of my strength has come back to allow another fusion. If nothing else it will buy you some time, and perhaps give you a chance to figure out a way to beat him. It couldn’t hurt to think of a backup plan if I’m wrong…

Suddenly that rush came again, but Baron was better-prepared for it this time, planting his feet in order to keep his balance steady. Everything seemed to become clearer and focused, everything seemed to slow down. Even the hacker, despite his insane speed, seemed to drop down to a more visible level. At least he wasn’t vanishing every time he moved anyway, though if Baron wanted to compare their speeds the man would still at very least be above the level of an Ap Do as opposed to his own. But now he could see, and anticipate. Baron’s eyes narrowed, and he darted forward to attack.

The hacker wasn’t blind, and he quickly leapt above Baron to land behind him, preparing another spell. The Twin Blade had expected this, though, and rebounded off of the dais’s side for a quick boost of speed, tackling the hacker around his middle and bearing him to the floor. If it hadn’t been a snap decision he might have brought his blades around and used the opportunity to at least get a stab in, but right now there was hardly time to think. All he could do was watch, react, and anticipate whatever he could between the first two. As he drove his blades forward in a quick sweep, his opponent dodging once more with ease, he knew it to be true.

What galled more was that Baron knew Higure was right; this measure wouldn’t be enough to defeat the hacker. If he remembered correctly, the wolf had mentioned that it had a very short duration, wearing off far too soon to be a good long-term ability. Still, the Twin Blade suspected that his companion had a plan cooking up. If he needed time, Baron was prepared to fight for it as best as he could, because right now he wasn’t coming up with anything better. He just had to hold out…

“PhaRai Don. PhAni Kruz.”

Lightning converged above him while darkness swirled around, the two powerful spells forming on either front. There was no room to evade the strikes, with skulls etched into grins surrounding him while electricity gathered into powerful bolts above. There was no way Baron could survive this attack; he was going to die here. That thought sent a chill through him, but nothing more… he just couldn’t feel anything anymore. He was empty; it wasn’t acceptance of death, merely understanding that he couldn’t do anything about it. It was over, he was gone. In a cliché movie he might have whispered an apology to those he wouldn’t be returning to; as it was, the Twin Blade’s mind went blank except for one thought.

I’m going to die…

It was in that instant that he felt… something. Baron wasn’t sure what it was, but it was almost a warm pulsing. Something felt… right? The Twin Blade had always thought it was silly to hear people describe a feeling as “right,” but that was before he felt it himself. Suddenly, he understood it now, like something had just slid into its proper place, and a lock fell away. It was as if someone was writing instructions in his head, and without thinking about it, Baron began to follow them, and in return felt another rush of power flow through his body. Something was there…

Equivalence…?

Suddenly everything shifted. Jumped. Spasmed? There was no way to describe it than a general change. For a moment there seemed to be multiple copies of everything; the pillars in the room, the hacker, even Baron himself seemed to be replicated as if his vision had doubled and then doubled again. The spells around him seemed to shatter and fade into nothingness. Then the world seemed to set itself back into place, with everything solidifying once more. The Twin Blade felt fine, not sure what had changed, but the hacker staggered and stumbled, grabbing at his head. The man’s bright blue eyes were wide beneath his hood, and he looked at Baron as if he was seeing someone completely different.

“How did you…? What did you do?”

That’s a good question… Baron mused. Still, if the man was as put off as he was, it had to be in the Twin Blade’s favor.

With the spells gone and the hacker off-guard, Baron quickly took to the offensive. He darted forward, blades flashing in the torchlight, and this time he cut solidly through the man’s body. Two splashes of bright red leapt up, and again the attacker stumbled back, gashes visible across his chest and shoulder. A surge of lightning crashed down, but Baron dodged aside from the GiRaiRom, glad that it wasn’t as powerful as the last few spells. Had the hacker not given himself an infinite SP hack or something, and run out for his more powerful spells? That seemed like a foolish thing to do, unless the man was simply overconfident.

While the spell exploded into the stone behind him, Baron quickly closed the gap, moving in to slash at his opponent again. This time the man pulled out his own blades again and parried the attacks, another oddity; before, he had simply slid out of the way with that amazing speed he had. Why was he slowing down now? Well, why could wait. Baron had things on an even footing now, and he wasn’t going to waste his advantage in case it was temporary. He attacked again, one blade twisting down low towards the hacker’s stomach while the other was stabbed high at the man’s face. As expected, the hacker went for the one at his stomach, only to be surprised by the face stab and switch his guard at the last second to protect a more vulnerable area. The result left him with a long dagger through his belly even though the upper blade was knocked aside. Baron twisted his body and pushed off from the man’s torso, leaving an even wider, gaping wound as he sprang away.

The hacker fell to one knee, gasping. “R-Repth…” The wound in his stomach partially closed, though crimson stained his outfit. It was the first time that Baron had seen a healing spell used by his opponent, which again was odd; why didn’t he just hack his character’s data to repair it? What was so different?

And another thing came to mind… several times, the man had staggered with pain, and showed very real signs of being injured. Baron had resolved himself to kill this man if he was forced to, but at the time he had been uncertain that it would be a real death. Now he was feeling another surge of uncertainty; could he really go through with this? He had to, yes, or he was going to be the one to die, but the Twin Blade didn’t know if he could force himself to anyway. It just wasn’t in his nature to want to kill, only fight to defend himself.

You don’t have to want to kill to be able to do it; it’s necessity rather than want. All creatures kill to survive, whether it’s for food, or for safety. This is no different for you.

Baron paused; Higure was right in that it was a necessity. He wasn’t a tool to be used to kill, or a monster with that desire; he had killed Rugudorull as part of the necessity to keep himself and his group alive. He had fought the copies in the previous room in order to survive. And now, he was doing the same in fighting this hacker, whoever he was. The Twin Blade didn’t have to like it, he never would like killing, but necessity… necessity he could understand. It was a grim revelation, but it gave him the resolve he needed to finish this fight… hopefully this time it wouldn’t waver.

Baron raised his hand for another spell. “GiRai Don!”

Lightning streaked down and struck the hacker while he was still recovering, blasting him with electricity and causing his body to jump and spasm. Boy, did Baron know that feeling all too well. However, there was no time to pause. While his attacker was stunned, the Twin Blade crossed the room in a few quick steps, stabbing his weapons into the man’s chest and stomach again, further aggravating the original injury and creating new ones. The blades were pulled free and then swept across the hacker’s chest in a sideways motion, further spreading his crimson blood across his white cloak.

Throughout this, the man stopped trying to block or counterattack, and merely took each hit as it came, jerking back and staggering on every hit, but never once trying to bring his weapons up. Instead his eyes met Baron’s, and they seem almost… satisfied? Every hit seemed to bring a sparkle of approval from the man’s face. That confirmed a suspicion in Baron’s mind, one that he had considered partway through the battle, but had pushed aside. The Twin Blade didn’t like the idea that had risen, but he knew that he had to find out the truth. So he raised his hand again…

And ripped off the man’s hood. The face beneath was a mirror of his own down to bright silver eyes that met his evenly, just as Baron had feared. Libra smiled weakly, grabbing onto a pillar nearby for support as he staggered, almost falling to his knees in the process. The AI coughed several times, blood dribbling down his chin from the internal injuries. The Twin Blade dropped his weapons and immediately went to fish out a Healing Potion from his pack, but Libra waved it off, preventing him from using it. Baron, confused, put it up as he was instructed. Didn’t Libra want to be healed?

“I’m… I’m sorry, Baron. I had to do this. I woke up while you were fighting Rugudorull… He coughed again, and it took him a few minutes to regain himself. “…You were suffering, because you could not accept that this is a war. People… people are going to die. Your side, theirs… there’s no escape from this reality. If… if you can’t handle it, then you’re going to be among the casualties. Neither you nor the rest of The World that you hope to protect can afford that.”

Baron shook his head. “Whatever, don’t worry about it! We’ll talk in a while… let me just heal you…”

“No. I have to die… I didn’t want to tell you but… I found out something. I… I thought that my data would fuse completely with yours… it didn’t. My… my consciousness… is what prevents a full merge. I thought… I thought I could… just guide you, but… your Twilight…”

Libra groaned before coughing again, blood still visible on his lips, and Baron leaned in close, only to be pushed back gently. “What about my Twilight?”

“Before… I wanted to guide you… you needed my powers to defeat the Zodiac. But… your Twilight has… it has taken my powers, and made them your own. You saw… just a moment ago, you used my own power of Equivalence against me. You don’t need me anymore… and I can help you understand the necessity of killing in my own death. Trust me… it’s what has to be done.”

Baron shook his head again. He didn’t agree in the least! “You’re wrong, Libra, I need your help! You know more about the Zodiac than—”

Baron, that’s enough. He’s chosen this path, himself. Don’t forget, he nearly killed you several times throughout this in order to try and strengthen your resolve. It was him, or you. Let him die knowing that he accomplished something, rather than fight him.

Higure’s cool logic pierced through again, and Baron fell silent, falling to his knees before the AI that was bleeding across the ground. By now, Libra had lowered himself to a sitting position with his back to one of the pillars, and he closed his eyes briefly, taking in a few quick, shallow breaths. The Twin Blade knelt by him quietly, unsure of what to say. Libra was dying, in fact he wanted to die, for Baron’s sake… it was a terrible feeling. And there was nothing he could do about it! This was so wrong, for someone, even an AI—really, what made them less than people who claimed to be created by God or gods, depending—to just give up their lives…

Finally, Libra stopped breathing. Baron knew it when the AI’s chest stopped rising and falling, and the room seemed to go oddly quiet. Libra was dead, gone forever, and it was almost chilling. The Twin Blade started to reach for his former companion’s body, for some reason thinking that laying it down in a more proper manner would be better suited for him, but at that moment, the room seemed to break. And that was literal, too; cracks started appearing on the walls, along the pillars, even through the flames on the torches. With Libra’s death, the mindtrap was starting to fall apart. More cracks seemed to rip through the area, and gaps appeared between sections of data, revealing a bright white light like that of the foyer shining through them.

The lights grew brighter, more blinding, and the world seemed to shake around Baron as his vision went completely white. After a moment he felt like he was falling… and then nothing. Everything seemed to fade into black, before the Twin Blade lost consciousness.

-----

“Well, this is the first time you’ve come here without being invited.”

Baron groaned as he slowly woke to awareness, barely aware of his surroundings. He recognized Higure’s voice, though it felt almost distant, but that was possibly because he was also feeling groggy as well. The Twin Blade pushed himself to his feet, his vision unfocused and still completely black. Well… the blackness was odd, actually, as it felt as though there was a substance to the blackness. He wasn’t blind, but everything around him was black. That seemed… well, possible enough, he supposed. After all, he had just broken free of a mindtrap by killing the person who created it; Baron had no idea what was supposed to happen as a result!

Getting to his feet and looking around, the Twin Blade saw Higure standing nearby. Well, that explained the blackness; Baron was in the section of his own mind that the wolf lived in, which was supposed to be the “shadows”, or the repressed and feared memories that lurked within his head. How had he gotten there? Higure must have invited—no, he had just said that he was just as surprised that Baron was there too. The Twin Blade rubbed at his head, trying to make his thoughts a bit more coherent than before. He was mentally scrambled, but needed to focus; Baron knew he had to be unconscious or he wouldn’t be here… so where was he actually?

“Right now, your body is laying in the back alleyway behind the shop in Dun Loireag.” Higure answered, once more showing that he could read Baron’s thoughts inside of his space within the boy’s mind. “Apparently the rip is gone, and we were placed right back outside… I suppose I’m not surprised you’re out cold though. Normally a mindtrap, when broken, generates a lot of trash data, and the server lags and frizzes somewhat for a moment while it deals with it. That can cause system crashes as you get closer to the source, so maybe it just temporarily knocked you out.”

“I see… well. How do I wake up then?”

“Well normally I just eject you when our conversations are done. Perhaps I can do it again, though that might just knock you into actual unconsciousness instead of here. Willing to try?”

Baron gave a nod of permission before he suddenly had his vision go black again. His body felt heavy, but… he was still aware. With a groan, he pushed himself up and opened his eyes, only to be greeted by the bright sunlight of Dun Loireag. Standing up on his feet somewhat unsteadily, the Twin Blade looked around, but didn’t see anyone else around; he was alone behind the shop. The rip in the air was gone too, as if it never existed. It seemed like nothing had really happened… but he knew otherwise. A lot had happened, and little of it was good.

Libra was gone. As many times as he realized it, Baron never seemed to truly get it. It was like he wouldn’t accept the simple fact, just because it was so hard. He honestly didn’t think he’d ever truly believe it. Though the AI hadn’t been with him very long, maybe a few months at best, he had become a familiar presence. Now, he was simply gone. Sure, Baron still had Higure to keep his mind occupied—was that really a good thing? Was he ever going to get some privacy of thought?—but it wasn’t the same. He supposed that maybe one day he’d get over it, but right now it hurt, and it hurt badly.

Still, there were a lot of questions left. How am I supposed to handle the Zodiac now? Sure, I know I can just use his Equivalence powers now, but… how do I merge their data with mine? Hell, how do I know I managed to merge Libra’s with mine?

Libra’s was mostly anchored in you, so when he died the remainder went to you. As for the rest… I don’t know. Libra knew how to merge the data, and for some reason I doubt it is automatic. We’ll have to figure that out as we go.

Baron frowned, wondering how they were going to figure that sort of thing out. And then there was one more question. And… what about that bottle that Libra gave us? I never got to ask him what it was.

I’m working on analyzing it while it’s in your inventory. I’ll tell you when I find out.

Baron nodded and started towards the exit of the alleyway, ready to get back to the others in the Yamiyo server. He had been gone longer than he expected, and hadn’t planned on getting sidetracked this far, but he had been insistent on finding out what had happened to Libra. Now he knew but… well, maybe it would have been better if he didn’t. Either way, the Twin Blade had no further reason to be away, and he could get back to dealing with the dangers that the Freedom Fighters faced. He had tuned it out before when he had to deal with Libra, but now he knew that it was more important to get them all out of the Yamiyo server and deal with the Elites however they could for now. After that… well, he’d find time to deal with the Zodiac when he could. There were just so many questions to answer, and so many mysteries that he couldn’t solve right now. In the end, he just hoped that it wouldn’t serve as a distraction in the fights to come; the Freedom Fighters needed everyone working their hardest.

When the need came, would Baron have the strength to do what he needed to do? He suspected only time would tell. Hopefully, when it did, he wouldn’t let the others down. Hopefully.

_________________
Character Information
Baron | Level 47 Twin Blade [100/1000 EXP] | 891 HP / 265 SP
Weapon: Fishskin
Armor: Emperor's Crown/Bone Armor/Thunder Gloves/Ninja Anklet
Accessories/Books: Ethereal Angel Wings, Silver Grunty
Skills: Thunder Coil, Gale of Swords
Spells: Merrows, GiRai Don, BiVak Rom, GiGan Zot, Rai Don, Ani Don, Duk Lei
GP: 750 (As of 8/2/15)
Wishlist: Nny Scales, Lucky Shoes, Saint Cross, Greave Sticker, Pet EX-Levels/Spheres(!)


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:34 pm 
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Master of Games
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Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2003 9:23 pm
Posts: 1260
Location: ...Tracking...please wait...
Grades'll be lumped with the rest of yours in the main thread.

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Wishlist: Any Armor or Weapons under level 50, Any Scrolls (prefer level 2+)

EXP 500/1000


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