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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2006 10:35 pm 
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”Closed Solitary Gate!” Nall called, once more taking over the role of leader.

The blademaster had been the leader of this little band of freedom fighters for longer than he cared to remember. Even when the “band” was little more than himself, Raine, and Sheena... He'd still be the figurehead. Even if his two female partners were the brains of the operations, he was the brawn. And now here he was again, sort of. Nighthand seemed to have risen up well, after all, the heavyblade was the most powerful of the new band. Still. The position of leader wasn't one to be taken as lightly as Nighthand seemed to be taking it... it painted a very large target on one's back. Nall's own repeated deaths had proved that.

Nall's senses hadn't dulled, at least. A quick glance around the field and his eyes showed him everything that needed to be known. It was, actually, a rather small field. Level 23, just as Sheena had said, and darkness elemental.

The sun hung low on the horizon in the distance, casting beams of colored light to reflect off the few clouds that scattered in the air. It was a pretty sunset, but they weren't here to enjoy the sky. The weather was that of a nice spring day, the occasional breeze hinting that it was still close enough to winter for the nights to be cold.

The field itself was flat. A long, low grassland, a grassy yard, a plain. The whole field was devoid of anything much taller than the grass, with two notable exceptions. The area that they gated into was littered with rubble, blocks of heavy stone set in the ground, ruins of some long-gone buildings. In the distance was the sole structure of the field, and the dungeon; their destination.

Nall's senses caught something else, as well; another player had joined them. Who? A scan... a name. Senna. Long Arm. He sent a fast flashmail to Raine.

Flashmail
To Raine
From Nall

We have a new arrival. What happened? She looks as confused as us, and I sense no more than the normal Twilight; she's not a hacker and she's not stuck in the game.


The answer was fast, though unhelpful.

Flashmail
To Nall
From Raine

I don't know. I agree she's not a hacker, so she's not an enemy, but... I think she was trying to gate at the same time we left, and got dragged along with us. With such a large group it took longer to gate.... I have to go back to the hideout. Figure out what's going on.


Raine walked up to Nall and handed him a cherry-red orb, looking like it was made of crystal. She spoke aloud, for the benefit of all to hear.

”This is the item that will destroy the hub beyond recognition. Hopefully you'll know what to do when you see it... It will also download all the flashmail currently in the machine. It probably won't be more than one or two messages, and will probably be useless, but it's worth a shot. I got the idea from Dien.

I have to go, though. As you can see we have a new arrival; I think our gate needs to be tweaked. Sorry I have to leave... But you can handle this.”


With that, she was gone, and it was time to move. Hopefully Senna wouldn't be a problem... Nall decided to let the rest of them deal with her, and give what information he could for the moment.

”Well, here we are. Our destination is, as obvious, that temple, and those two figures are also obviously it's guardians. They're both normal monsters, oddly enough, but powerful ones. Temple Knights are what they're called, level 44. They don't have skills, but they're big, fast, and powerful.” Nall's eyes told him that much.

They had all they needed; allies, enemies, and a destination. The hackers had hit them hard enough, it was time to hit back.

OOC: Normal monster means it'll just attack when you're close, both of them. No real tactics, nor skill, just fighting. And, say hello to our newest mainplot member, Senna! Welcome Senna! I hope you all like that surprise.

http://decipher.fanhq.com/Resources/Car ... N03053.jpg
that's what the Temple Knight looks like.

So, do me a favor, and don't make me regret trying to run two quests at once, okay?

_________________
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2006 10:54 pm 
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Please? Please? Please? PLEASE?

Lissibith actually had to draw the phone away from her ear, wincing at the increase in both pitch and volume that each successive “please” brought. When she was sure another wasn’t immediately coming, she put the phone to her ear again and said, “Fine. But you need to repay me sometime.

Anything. Thanks so much Liss. They won’t get internet at our house, and I just KNOW he’s wanting attention. He shouldn’t be starving or anything, but I need to get him a Mandragora or he’ll never grow up right. You’re the best. Bye!

A click from the other end told Liss her college roommate had hung up the phone. Sighing, she hung up the phone from her end as well, then toed the power bar to turn on her computer.

She knew Amber’s house didn’t have the internet – she’d discovered that the first Christmas, when the young woman never answered her e-mail – but this was the first time Amber had actually ever called Liss to ask her to do something online for her. And of course, it would have to be in The World.

That wording might lead one to believe the game irritated Lissibith. Such was not the case. She did not, however, view it as anything more than a diversion, and as such, the obvious anxiety Amber was feeling over it – over a PET in it – was unwarranted and silly.

And grunties, they were another thing Lissibith thought was silly. Weren’t pets in real life enough of a responsibility? Why did people feel the need to get little pig-dog things and try to take care of them? Most people she’d met were pretty poor at the “taking care of” part as well, leaving their grunties neglected and lonely in pens on the various servers.

Amber was an exception, but when it came to taking care of animals OR people, the girl was quite conscious of everything. Likely if she left her grunty alone the whole of their vacation, it would be just fine, if a little eager for attention, when she returned. Amber’s overblown sense of worry, however, had led her to call Liss and ask her to interact with the pet.

Liss never had any cats or dogs, and the idea of a pet didn’t particularly thrill her. Even if the animal belonged to someone else, she didn’t like having the responsibility of that other life saddled onto everything else.

And worst – she’d agreed to go looking for a specific kind of food that Amber swore her grunty (Its name? Daisy. Like the Mario princess) had to have. And not from the store, that would never do. Everything Amber gave her grunty was fresh from a field and this would be no exception. Especially this. It seemed to be the last piece in some animal-based puzzle Liss didn’t understand.

Mandragora had BETTER be worth it” she sighed at her computer. It whirred in return as it booted up.

She logged in, warped in to Dun Loireag, and turned immediately to face the Chaos Gate. She was in this particular city because it was the place she’d last warped out of. That didn’t mean she liked the place though. Far from it. Still, it was where she needed to be.

As a matter of fact, the last time she’d been logged in was before vacation, when she and Amber had last gone on a grunty food expedition. They’d gone jointly on five of these trips, each time to a different sort of field looking for a different sort of food. It was all noisy, all dancing about from where it had been planted in the game’s version of earth. When they’d found a Grunt Mint, Senna’d had a hard time not feeling bad as Hyanae wrestled the poor thing squalling and crying from the ground. It seemed a little mean, especially when they gave the poor thing to Daisy.

Raising her spear as though trying to get the Chaos Gate’s attention, Senna said, “Turbulent Bird Grammar Twin Hills.” Immediately, the gate began its familiar routine, fading out the high-set city and teleporting her to her chosen destination.

She’d been to the field once before with Amber… no, Hyanae. It had been a strange, dark field. Heavy rain was falling from the sky, and the field was dotted with little trees built like broccoli – wide, stubby trunks topped with small but full bunches of branches and leaves. Each of the trees had a smooth stone buried next to it, something like a giant stone egg. Monoliths, imposing and silent, had been rain-slicked and reflected the light of the occasional flashes of lightning. It reminded Senna a great deal of the setting of some old black and white horror movie, where something unseen would lurk just out of sight, drawing life from its terrified victims.

Needless to say, the place had made Senna feel quite uncomfortable.

Hyanae swore she’d heard there were Mandragora to be had on the field there, and had talked Senna into accompanying her. Between them, the Long Arm and Heavy Axe had spent almost two hours combing the field and fighting the far-too-plenteous monsters that were roaming it, all in the vain quest for a piece of talking food. And as the portal deposited her on the field she steeled herself for a much tougher time of it, with only herself to face the creatures. She hoped she wouldn’t die out there. It would suck to leave a corpse under that bleak sky.

Except the sky she was seeing wasn’t bleak.

Senna blinked. The field was smooth, grassy and a great deal more… well, featureless than she’d expected. The broccoli-trees were nowhere to be seen, nor was the rain. In their place was an expansive, lightly windswept plain lit in the colors of twilight. Clouds trekked across the darkening sky like misshapen birds. The entire place was actually very pleasant, a fair change from what she’d been expecting. The only breaks in the scene were a few low rough spots, which looked to be the remnants of long-gone buildings, and something else, something much larger, off in the distance. She didn’t waste a lot of time trying to figure out what it might be. This was clearly not the field she was going for.

Great, how’d I end up here?” she muttered to herself as she pivoted to survey the rest of the field.

Of all the things she might have expected to see as she turned, seeing something moving just a few feet away when she turned was low on the list. Her first instinct was to tighten her grip on her spear, in case she was attacked. But the normal enemy warning wasn’t coming up. And the things she was seeing looked like other players, a sizeable party of them.

More to the point, she actually recognized (or thought she recognized) several of them. She thought one might have been in her clan at one point, though her recollection of the face was fuzzy at best. Two she met in one of The World’s special events, and one of them she thought she might have quested with before, though it had been quite a long time. In addition, there was a Heavy Blade in a long coat, a tallish white-haired man and a woman with blue hair and black and white armor.

She was saved asking anything at the moment when the blue-haired woman spoke instead – talking about a hub, and some stuff Senna couldn’t follow and didn’t care to. She only had one question – was something wrong that she needed to be worried about that she’d gotten brought here instead of to that gods-forsaken field she’d been targeting? But then she herself (apparently) was mentioned as a “new arrival.” She had to admit, what they were talking about, what of it she understood, sounded more interesting than grunty food. However, she wasn’t part of their group. On the other hand, was it safe for her to gate out if, as the woman said, some gate needed tweaking?

Trying to stifle her confusion, she waited for the group’s leader to finish talking, then approached the one person she thought she’d quested with. Thought being the key word. He looked a great deal different than the picture in her mind – there were some… notable additions. But if it WAS him, maybe he could tell her what was going on – or at least tell her she should get lost.

Reinier? she asked.

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 5:33 pm 
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Once the teams had been set and everyone was preparing for departure, Zan had had finally found that pseudo-solace he had been so desperately seeking out. There was no more agonized Lowen in his thoughts, no sultry and desperate Atra; there was only the Freedom Fighters collecting about, ready to go off to their next excursion with the Elites, if only indirectly. Attacking the hubs wasn't the most aggressive thing they could do, it wasn't even the most damaging thing they could do. What it was, however, was the only thing they could do. Aside from damaging the Elites' communications, the group really had nothing else available to them.

Well, at least nothing Raine, Sheena, Nighthand, and Nall were telling them. No matter how off it seemed to Zan that destroying all of three of their hubs would do the Freedom Fighters any good, it was a welcomed distraction. Zan knew he should have felt bad for so eagerly wanting to forget about Lowen, but she would understand. Zan couldn't help her if he wasn't alive to do it and going up against anything that even remotely involved the Elites meant that he could very well not come back. Yea. She'd understand.

Right?

When the Chaos Gate had sounded its activation and the trio of golden rings descended upon his idle form, Zan couldn't stop the grin that curled up upon his lips. After the Chaos in Mac Anu, though it should have traumatized him away from such an instinct, the lycanthrope craved the sound of battle. There was little like clashing blades with someone you could cripple with a single swat of your hand. Such power, such ascension from the mundane flock...it was intoxicating. Though the werewolf was wary to admit it, he could imagine no greater indulgment then tearing flesh from sinew and savoring the helpless screams of such victims. That smile soon fading from his face, replaced afterward with a blank slate, a would-be state of apathy that was only broken around those who knew him.

They'd sense his eagerness, the pent up energy roiling in his tendons, waiting to be unleashed in one way or another. Wow. Zan had never been this amped up before, this pumped to walk blindly into a new world of danger and all that the Elites entailed. Hell, he was telling Reinier not too long ago how he hated wandering into places and knowing surprises were to be had. And yet...here he was, fighting down the urge to smile. Had he really fallen so far? Such thoughts were replaced with caution as his feet hit the numerous blades of grass, crushing them beneath the weight of his boots as he surveyed the area. All he could smell was grass, soil, and stone with the initial breath, nothing peculiar striking him.

With a second and a third whiff taken, Zan began to realize the true state of the matter, both the smell of metal and the sound of it wavering to and fro through the air lofting his gaze to the Temple Guardians in the near distance. They seemed relatively statuesque at the moment and, hoping they didn't choose any particular moment soon to unleash an attack, Zan tried to find something else in the rubble with quick glances, doing his best to decipher whether or not any other dangers existed around them. However, aside from the fact that a person could probably trip over some of the ruins about them and crack their head open (the lycanthrope suddenly feeling old at the thought), no other dangers seemed to lurk. Lofting his Siberian Husky eyes once more at the two guardians, Zan could only shrug. How tough could they be? They weren't exactly small, sure, but the lycanthrope had taken on things as big...if not bigger.

Once more, of course, Zan's courage was squashed by Nall's revelation and the simple fact that they were far more screwed than not. Well, in truth, Nall could pummel both of the things with his hands tied behind his back. Couldn't he? With that thought cognated and Zan's drive restored, he could only help but wonder what the hell everyone was doing just standing and gawking about. Okay, so maybe not gawking, but no one was exactly making any sudden movements towards the creatures in front of him. Their level was intimidating, that wasn't in question, but they seemed pretty damn normal in terms of the crap and the intelligence Zan had had to face in the minions of the Elites before.

It was one of those 'easy...almost too easy...' moments, but mentioning it to the others was more than likely only going to be a repeat of their thoughts and their own opinions. So, instead, Zan decided to be the one to make the first attack. Sure, it would probably knock him flat on his ass, but if he got close enough, he could at least take a decent chunk out of what was probably a massive amount of hit points. The wolf was willing and ready to make itself known, to rip out of his skin and wield one of Zan's many blades with confidence and skill. And yet...Zan paused with only a single step taken. No. No. There was a better way to go about this. Not everything was about the 'smash smash smash' mentality.

Rayo had been kind enough to point that out to the likes of Reinier, Nighthand, and himself. Things had to be done right. What was the better choice? Range...range...what did he have under his belt that could pose as some sort of ranged attack? Spells were the first thing to come to mind and, after a quick check through his skills and a mental list of his hacked abilities, Zan decided that spells were his best choice. But the scariest thing he could toss at the Temple Guardians was a level two Rue spell. Not exactly something a level forty-four creature shudders at. From the looks of it, they were of the wood orientation, something he knew Reinier would be delighted to find out. That meant only a level one Gan spell on Zan's side. Gah, so useless. Or...maybe not quite so much.

The lycanthrope gloried in the power of the wolf, but had, up to this point, ignored the raven that had yet to be displayed with the might it could possess. Compared to the wolf, it was an infant. It hadn't quite left the nest, but it was a new Beast that Zan needed to incubate into maturity. What better way to do that than to really show it The World? He had used it before, yes, but never for combat purposes (not away from the Shadow, at least, and in that place the Raven and the Wolf existed on completely different planes). A breath was taken and the small shift began, his hair bleeding into an inky blackness, gaining both the texture and the actual form of the black material on the ends of a raven's feathers. Zan's eyes lost their pigment, bleeding away to a white with only the faintest of black impressions etched to outline his pupil and the iris in turn.

A sweeping tattoo of feathers swept over the length of his arms, arms revealed by the nixing of his long coat back into his inventory. With only a dark green shirt and the gleam of his silver, full-moon necklace 'weighing' his torso down, he could truly take advantage of the agility granted to him in this form. Zan wasn't entirely sure how to work the raven quite yet and, instead of thinking his way through it, chose instead to allow the Instinct it possessed to guide him. He focused on the magic enhancement he felt, the stream of all the elements flowing into him, through him. He couldn't make them his butt monkey like Nighthand could, nor was he able to manipulate them with the near-grace that Reinier could with Gan...but he was a part of them. It was like going from being numb to suddenly being able to feel things beneath your fingertips, each and every elemental a new tactile experience for him to drown in. And for a moment that's exactly what he did, the lycanthrope sinking deeper and deeper into the majesty it offered up. It was like suddenly being connected to everything on the field, each and every elemental aspect; from the smallest blade of grass to the very night sky that threatened to overtake the sunset.

Falling to his knees, the entirety of his physique beginning to shake, Zan knew that he could lose his mind this way. Lose his mind to bliss, to the feeling of being a part of the very elemental code of the game? Yea. And it would be far past awesome. But he couldn't do that, not yet. God damn...how did he let this feeling go? Gah, fuck. The raven's Beast, this is how it took shape; this is how it fought to take control of him. No. He would not be controlled by any Beast ever again. Swimming to the metaphorical surface, Zan filled his lungs with sanity, coming to his feet with a wobble. With his eyes still closed, the lycanthrope once more tried to focus on the reason he came into this form.

The most powerful spell he had was of the Rue connotation, so that was the real weapon at his disposal. Touching the surface of that endless elemental sea with his mind's eye once more, with barely a skimming touch this time around, he tried to focus on the Rue that eddied in its depths, tried to tap into its secrets...and felt something click. Curious eyes opened to a whole new world, his irises filling in with three rings of color; the outermost a dark, rich sapphire, the second the light blue of a fall sky, with the third the stark blue/white of the artic. The raven's Instinct told him what he was viewing, told him he had focused the nonspecific energy that each field held and nudged it towards the influence of water and ice, towards its Rue Echo. Though to the rest of the Freedom Fighters that field was it always had been (for the minute or two that they had been there), to Zan it had become so much more.

Aside from the fact that the temperature had dropped dramatically, Zan seen visibly shaking, hugging himself from the cold, the field itself had seemed to evolve. The grass had frosted over, each step anybody made resonating in Zan's ears as both the mild press of normality and the crunch of the snow-laden miniature vegetation with a sort of surreal vibration against his eardrums. Icicles hung from the ruins in various locations, the sun that had once showed itself in a sunset now concealed behind clouds that held the potential for snow but never quite seemed to get there. Everyone's breath came out in a plume of visible air, Zan's shaking continuing as he watched for a few more intrigued seconds, knowing full well that the group was oblivious to it all. But that was okay; they didn't need to see this. There was a reason Zan was, and he had to use it to his advantage. But how?

With the Temple Guardians seeming to be on the move, the lycanthrope knew he had to get this show on the road. Zan's first move was a quick call of Ap Ruem, a skill he had received with a piece of armor he had acquired only recently. He felt his core temperature drop another fifteen, twenty degrees, knowing full well that it was only the raging boil of his lycanthropic blood that was keeping him alive. With his tremors increasing in intensity, but otherwise leaving him capable of movement, Zan scanned the field for a sign. Why was he seeing all this, experiencing this? What was the raven, an extension of himself as it may have been, trying to show him? Once more he called upon the Instinct for guidance, using not his senses, but those of the raven to point him in the right direction. His consciousness seemed to glaze over for a moment, eyes drifting to a collection of icicles on a lone pillar of rubble not two feet from it.

Blinking away the trance, Zan trekked over to the clusters of ice and placed his palm upon their surface, goosebumps erupting over his arm as the icicles began to pulse a livid blue...and suddenly, he knew exactly what needed to be done. Though his eyes retained the tripple rings of blue, the Rue Echo slipped away, his body losing its hypothermia of sorts and his mind coming to a pinpoint. Looking towards the same pillar that had pulsed in the Echo a moment before, one that was now simply stone, Zan lofted his hand, his index fingers beginning to trace something along its surface. Each swipe of his finger was followed by a trail of pulsing blue energy, his finger blurring over the pillar, seeming to paint something in frantic rushes of his hand until finally the Rue Node (circular in all its glory, etched with symbols and glyphs that varied between ones held in the game and ones only known to the Shifters of the World) found completion.

"Amp Ruem!" Zan called, slamming his palm into the center of his creation, the Node having frosted over in suit.

The effect was instantaneous and numerous; the veins along his arms, in his face, took on a rather obvious and blatantly visible blue hue, the trio of colors in his eyes now coming to an eerie glow, streaks of his flesh becoming nothing more than ice itself (almost as if it had become glass, see-through and fogged). The whole right side of his face took on that glass impression, though it still retained the movement and fortitude of flesh of bone, and Zan felt awed by it all. But he had a job to do. Breathing past the threat that loomed to drown him once more, both Ap and Amp Ruem flowing through him, Zan unleashed the first of his attacks.

"OrRue Rom!" With only twenty SP sapping away from his total, the amount of energy it took to activate the spell before it was amplified, Zan could do little more than grin.

Huge crags of jagged ice launched initially between the both of the monsters, the tornado of frozen water hopefully striking the both of them, power dispersed and divvied up. It wasn't going to be lethal, but hopefully it would hurt and hopefully it would serve as one hell of a distraction while the others collected their thoughts and their strategies.

"I'll try and keep these spells coming, everyone else who can, use this distraction as a way to get in some good hits on those things. Anybody else who can hang back and provide some ranged support are more than welcomed to. Let's get this done people, these things don't stand a chance against all of us." With his little speech given, Zan once more fired off an OrRue Rom, this one focused on the one to the left completely, all the power of the Level 3 spell assaulting the monster with the power of both Zan's boosted magic and the Ap Ruem in turn.

The longer the lycanthrope held onto that form the more frosted air, visible to all, began to lift away from both the streaks of ice along his skin and his sapphire veins in turn. It didn't hurt, it wasn't even cold to him, but he didn't know enough about the new power to say whether or not it would start to do damage. Zan could only hope, as a third OrRue Rom was launched with a lift of his hand in the direction of the Temple Guardian to his right, that it would endure.

_________________
Lv. 50 Heavy Blade
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Special: Levels, GR Sendai, PL Sakai, Darklore.
W: Tonosama Sword, Mineuchi, Jundachi.
A: Samurai Helm, Able Hands, Rare Greaves.
I: Holy Sap, Treebane, Cooked Bile, Nightbane.
EX: Elemental Summon (Lv. 2), Overdrive (Lv.1), Elemental Attacks (Lv. 2), Enhance Dark, Elemental Breath (Lv. 2).


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 Post subject: Part 1
PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 5:21 am 
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Location: The "Who's Online List," Stalking People...
His mind had barely begun to drift off into unconsciousness before he’d been once again stirred to the realm of the living. To say the least, he was still exhausted as they paraded through the gate hack that the hideout seemed to have, and as his feet came to rest on the soft earth, Dien yawned, stretching out his arms and neck, wishing he’d had just a little more time to rest.

The field he’d come to with the group was a grassland, all things considered. Only one object stood to be spoken for: a temple some ways in the distance. Around where the team had gated in was a small amount of rubble. His mind instantly flashed back to the portico he’d gated into just earlier, how portions of its domed roof were missing, and how a broken cobble path led to the white spire that had led to his entrapment. It was funny - he hadn’t considered the thought of being trapped yet. So far, he was still playing the game as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened: it hadn’t yet sunk in that he could no longer visit the outside world.

Don’t worry,” came the telltale voice from inside his head, and he looked to his left, seeing the girl standing there and gazing off into the sky, “it’ll sink in before you know it.

“That’s comforting,” he said sarcastically, turning to Danielle, “I really needed that before going on one of these guys’ missions.” In fact, that was the last thing he needed right now: his mind being distracted by reality. This group was rather without any kind of strategist, with Rayo very much absent, he’d need every ounce of computing power in his head devoted completely to the fight.

You can cut the sarcasm,” she said, taking a step toward him and learning her arm on his shoulder, “remember, I know what you’re thinking.

“Yeah,” he said, “you and about half the rest of the world, if the stereotype holds.” She sighed, shoving him softly to one side and sitting on one particularly large piece of rubble as he slowly recovered, still worn out from this non-stop battle of consciousness he was fighting.

For one, women aren’t just gossips,” Danielle replied, Dien finally catching himself before crashing into one of his party members, “and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t talk to anyone besides you and Zan.” Wait, what?

“Zan?” the blademaster asked aloud, neglecting the possibility of the lycan’s attention being caught by it, “what do you have to do with him?”

Oh yeah, that’s right,” she remembered, “you were asleep during that.

“If by sleep you mean practically dying, then yes.”

Yeah, well, anyway, somehow, my projection to Nall or Nighthand didn’t work out as I’d hoped. By the way, do you think there’s still a connection to your body somehow?” What? This girl was making less and less sense by the minute.

“Uh, I think so,” he replied, trying to connect the dots in his head and failing miserably, “but I don’t want to think about that right now: why?”

Zan asked something about hacking his character conscious for a little while,” the girl stood up, “and I figured that there may be some possibility if you’re still connected to your body somehow…” Her voice trailed off, as she noticed Dien’s closed eyes and clenched teeth.

“Like I said, Danielle,” his eyes opened, misted over and looking to the AI, “I really can’t afford to think about this right now.” A sniffle, and he turned, wiping his eyes against his bicep and looking to the temple, where a pair of monsters stood. Even if there were a connection to his body, he couldn’t use that to do anything good at all. He’d been cut off from the real world - no, he’d been torn off, the wound gaping, open, and accompanied by new strains, infections, and lots of bleeding. Metaphorically enormous quantities of sinew had been rendered useless, like losing an arm. Fists were clenched at his side, and he looked down, tears already spilling out of closed eyes, silently bitter in their remorse. Was this what that dream had done? He had to get it out or hold it back, but where it was would only be harmful to him and to others.

Dien,” she said, standing directly behind him, her arms slipping under his and wrapping about him comfortingly. We can work this out later. I’m sorry I even brought it up, but you have friends who need you. He looked up, his breathing a little heavy, both from weariness and from the burden that had just been thrust upon him.

“Right,” he said, sniffling yet again and wiping more of the flood from his eyes, “I’ll put this off ‘til later.” Would it work? I mean, if that dream had been true, then could he safely hold back anything from the forefront of his mind? No, he wouldn’t hold it back, just not think about it until he could afford to - distract himself from the pain until he could safely deal with it later. Now, on to the guardians.

Zan seemed to have the right idea: ranged attacks would be best. It was a shame they didn’t have any archers, because right now those would be helpful. No, stick with what you do have, he reminded himself, quickly looking among the group, a Gan bender with wings, a lycanthrope with wings and a new degree in sorcery, a Time bender, a Code bender, and then four seemingly normal players. The common element was simple: spells. They could just spam the two monsters with all the spell power they had until it was gone, and hopefully that would be enough to put these things to waste. The question, though, was which element should they go for?

The monsters didn’t seem to enjoy giving him much thinking time, as they began to move towards the party almost immediately after Zan’s barrage had ended. Okay, he thought, let’s see what kinds of spells we can do, and pray that any possible elemental criticals show up first time around. There were two obvious choices to pursue in this matter: a Juk spell, and a Gan spell. The green giants were coming after them swords in hands, so this would have to be fast. Their color could have denoted one of two things: that they were either completely immune to the Juk element, or that it was their weakness. Two giants, two test subjects, and for a moment Dien switched back to his starting equipment, calling on the skills of Gan Zot and Juk Rom - one per giant.

They froze in place, the Juk Rom ticking big green 0s off the enemies’ heads, while the Gan Zot sharply rose beneath the other target, its churning spires grinding away at its left foot. A shriek of pain was let out, and it reached down to the foot that had been rendered essentially useless. Meanwhile, the other gargantuan approached - this was going to get messy.

“Guys!” he shouted to the rest of the group, Danielle having vanished from his sights long ago, “keep your distance as much as you can, and hit ‘em with as much Gan power as you’ve got! Reinier, if you can, spam them with your spikes and buzzsaw blades, and you and Zan take to the sky as much as you can to keep them guessing what’s coming.” A shadow covered his form, and he turned, seeing one of the Temple Guardian’s blades headed straight for his head. With a swear, he rolled to one side, the skin on his arm scraped by the enemy’s weapon. Quickly he repthed, switching back to the highest-leveled armor he had.

Almost before he could react, the other blade came sweeping in from the other side, meeting Glitter and pushing him forcefully into the blade that remained pinned in the ground. This was not looking good - any switches to his equipment, and he’d be cut in half, and he had no Gan spells readily available. A sudden sharp pain, and everything below his waist was gone, a plane of fire cutting it off and reaching up into his sternum where his own defense had failed. Dien looked down, seeing his own sword in his chest with the rest of him hidden below this giant’s sword before dying.

This was going to be one hell of a fight.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:22 pm 
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Location: In da' plains of hell, natch.
(It was funny. The place was known as Closed Solitary Gate...and it seemed like one too. After he'd made his comments and said his dues, Canti had just waited patiently for Team...Whatever...to get on its way. Names didn't matter. It was the team with Nall, Zan, Reinier, Dien, himself, Raine, and...was that everybody? Yeah. Canti looked around this desolate place. Desolate... That was a good word for it too. See, it was kinda' dark and kinda' secluded, but even with grass and all...it had a dead feel to it, like a cemetary. That was probably the reason for the name. It was a pretty dank place to be in if alone. Canti figured that...if he went here...he'd probably be alright alone...except that the "Solitary" part would get to him. Alone...with nothing but his mind... At this point, that bothered him. He had nothing to defend himself with against...himself. Anyway, this place also had rocks, dark ones. It gave him a sense of forboding with this place. It reminded him a little of the tower. Just so. Before, it was fun. He was hyped. Now...he was concerned. Canti always liked risks and taking risks, in or out of real life, and now real life was in this life, his 'fake' life. That bothered him because now...his choices could be unhealthy, uncontrollable, and weird. And was there anything in The World to stop him from going mad? Maybe...maybe not. His own thoughts went back to his conversation with Raine when talking about these Hub missions. Let's just say that it didn't inspire much confidence...)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(During the briefing and discussion of the business with the Hubs, Canti had posed some questions and thoughts about the information they had and how to go about performing this mission. His answers largely came from Raine, who had her finger on the...Hub...of the matter, so she was the one that he talked to for the remainder of the trip. He had suspicions that the supposedly-predictable half of the Elites' behavior was not at all what it seemed...)

Canti: Raine, I don't know about this. Suddenly, every instinct in my body is telling me "Trap!" in a big way. Unprotected with only their guards and stuff? Right... I can see one of them sitting around, watching us go, and then whipping out the hellish power when our backs are turned. You said this was a big game to them. Well I think that the game now might be fly-fishing, if you catch my meaning. Whatever we do, we should go in expecting to deal with it.

"I doubt it... It was hard enough to find the Hubs as it was, I doubt they expect us to find them. Still, we'll monitor the fields to see if they're locked; one of the favorite tricks of the Elites is to lock the field behind us so we can't just escape."

(While she did not really entertain the idea that an elaborate trap may be in the works, like his paranoid thoughts seemed to think as possible, it seemed that Raine was at least keeping the idea open so that they'd be aware of any sudden...activities. That fear dissuaded a little, Canti decided to get about as much base information on this as he could, because the regular stuff that they all knew by heart was not exactly on his plate right now. That was a helping he had yet to be served.)

Canti: Yeah, that sounds about right. Like rats in a maze. So, these other hackers that're gonna be around... Are they like the Elites?

"Probably not. There are some powerful hackers that aren' tElites, but the Elites are above all else, paranoid. They wouldn't let anyone else get near enough to their power level to attempt to usurp their seats. They're the ones with the Twilight Items, as well, which give them most of their might."

(Paranoid? Them too? That was a surprise. So, at least while the other hackers were dangerous, they weren't like the dark gods that hung over The World like a bad stench. Cool. These Twilight Items, though...)

Canti: Like the things that allow them to control players, live or dead?

"Most of the abilities you saw came from the Twilight Items... Though they still have their brute strength."

Canti: Uhhh...yeah... To be honest, I wasn't paying attention much. Too much fighting for my life and all. But I get the picture. So, we've got hackers as guards, monsters as guards, and we don't really know what the Hubs looks like. Do we have any edges at all? Zan mentioned powers...

"Twilight infection, without the hackers to suppress it, seems to cause side effects...like Zan's werewolf abilities, or Reinier's earth controls. It seems like the longer you're infected and out of the grasp of the hackers, the more they develop."

(So, that was the story behind that. It wasn't anything they could implant because they really weren't hackers like the Elites themselves. Disconnection via the Twilight Epidemic of these Elite characters produced a side effect that reminded Canti somewhat of the movie, Tron. Actually, in a way, this was kind of like that. The main character there was a computer programmer, hence he had abilities that would control systems and change programs by instinct. That meant, apparently, that things would be changing for him too, albeit gradually...)

Canti: Feels like we've been going through some weird changes ever since the tower. But I guess that's why Dien...with the scream and whatnot...?

(Raine nodded. Dien's power... Man... Canti shook his head, thinking of the bizarre vision he associated with that thing. Was it from the infection or was it a by-product of what Dien actually did? Nah, it was probably him, because that started in the tower. Unless...what if Dien effected... No. That was even crazier than the way he and Zhao have been acting the whole time. Zhao with multiple personalities, Dien with an AI to talk to... And him? He had visions, which was either insanity or something from this infection. Or maybe they mixed... Whatever was going on, it seemed that he'd have to live with it. He'd stopped hearing words from whoever was in that brown-red haze and now seemed to communicate on a different level. It was strange...listening to it. He'd rather listen to his music though, which brought Canti to that point as he looked around, just kind of wondering...)

Canti: Also...I kinda' miss my music. It helps me think, in and out of battle. Maybe you could do something about that...?

"I'll see what I can do."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(After that, he'd said some stuff to Reinier and then got down to waiting to blow this popcycle stand. While waiting, he had to try and sort out - make an honest attempt to understand - these thoughts in his head, which he did not think were entirely his own. Maybe he was making his own Hub, a different kind of mental Hub where information works differently. According to the mechanics of it, he was a bloody crow with broken wings. Symbolically, it was right on the nose. Canti shuddered at the thought, 'cause it was true. Dien was the eagle, his mind sharp like his wits and his eyes, and yet he was clearly a wounded animal caught in a torrent of confusion. Thus, he was the eagle of pain. Zhao was the hydra whose heads fought amongst each other. That one was a no-brainer. It was an allusion to his personalities, which clashed alot of times. Reinier was a living statue, an Earth-element man with...problems. He was cracked and broken in places. Canti didn't know what to make of that. Zan was the wolf...which was kind of obvious. His wolf was rarely anything outside of sorrow and rage. All the rest of them were shadows for now, because none of them were real until they left The World, re-entering their bodies, and yet...they had to be real, because he kept learning this stuff about them. That was what the fox said. The fox... There was an engima. The fox was a voice that he heard, a communication made possible through a glitch in the system. What was this all about? The fox... Who was she? Someone he met...in the tower...somehow. Nevermind...)

Canti: This is all hurting my head. Waiter, can I order something lighter?

(Back to what was in front of him, namely the entrance to the dungeon, which was guarded by a pair of lightly-colored sword-wielding monsters. They looked...tough. Canto looked them over as Nall and Raine spoke. Seems they had an unexpected guest. The Twin Blade thought he might've recognized this one, but he wasn't sure. It was iffy, and it looked like she knew Reinier. Whatever. Nall outlined the situation now as Raine went back to the hideout. Seems their gate caused this player to be here. No big deal. Raine seemed professional. Anyway, these Temple Knights... Zan went after them first. Well, he DID want someone tougher to take point. He was hoping Earth-boy would take one in the chest this time, but it really didn't matter. So long as nobody but the monsters in front of him tried to kill ole' Canti, there were no problems. Zan was making with the attacks and the spells to give everyone else a chance, so he was in. Canti ran up around the backside of one of the Temple Knights at sort of a wide arc so as not to be noticed, and then made for the backstabbing strike. He had his Bloody Blades equipped, which meant there was a chance of getting HP back from any chunk he took out of these guys. Blades meet blades, boys, because you're getting a bite out of you with...)

Canti: Tiger Claws!

(To be honest, Canti hadn't bothered to look and see if Temple Knights were immune to the darkness of his other new attack, so he just kind of opted to go for the other strike and make it easier, taking his own chunk out of the monster's floating ass and then back away so that Zan or anybody else could divert its attention long enough for his next attack. Divide and conquer. That's what it was about. Also, he kinda' had to wonder how much HP that thing could knock off in a single sword-wing and didn't like the answer his thoughts were giving him. That was why he also gave it a Gan Zot after a quick switch of the armors for a bit. Canti had gone up in armor pieces, but kept the old ones on standby in order to keep versatility. It worked, but it was also a pain. Still, for whatever worked... Did this thing even have a weakness for Earth?)

_________________
I'll have a doozy of a sig later, I swear. It'll reflect ".hack//CODE" an' everything.

Hey look! A profile! It's got items and stats and things! Cool! If it isn't fully up to date, it will be, so don't worry 'bout it.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 1:27 am 
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Zan was immersed in the battle, even as slow as the start up was, with his thoughts honed in and focused solely on the task ahead. They had to get into that temple. They all knew it. They all understood it. It was a universal agreement on the team's advancement. To get there, to approach that goal, they had to take out the two creature's guarding it. So, simply on a general note, Zan's mind was where it should be. Everyone's mind seemed to be in the right place. However, as true as that may have been, the lycanthrope could only imagine the maelstrom of subconscious or back-of-the-mind tangents floating around the field at that very moment. As far as the werewolf was aware, his thoughts were almost entirely on managing and maintaining the distraction he had offered up only a few moments before. And yet...there was an itch he couldn't quite place in his skull, his mind constantly trying to work out the connections and the enigmas that almost always found themselves settling into his lap. What was it this time? What was bothering him now? There was something that seemed important about this moment, his eyes glazing over momentarily to Senna and back to the Temple Guardians. Zan had to focus. He did. But...what was it? He willed the inner problem-solving of his thoughts to the front of his consciousness and did his best to play the memory ticking in his blood; trying his damndest to both watch it play out in his head and fight the creatures in the distance. God damn overactive mind.

-------------------------------------------

Fourteen and naive, Conner walked down the streets of New York with his best friend and streetwise guardian - Leo. First day of High School and Conner already felt drowned by it all, wholly consumed by the sensation of going from the top of the Junior High food chain (in terms of his grade, not so much his popularity...at all) to being at the bottom of the God damn social barrel. Leo, being Leo, had already found his place in the school with the rest of the overly privileged children. It was a survival tactic. Conner's best friend wasn't like the rest of them, wasn't a snob, wasn't some sort of half-brained twit. And, of course, Conner went with him. It was only natural. It was completely ignorant. The group had eaten him alive with every poverty joke Conner had ever had the displeasure of hearing in the past and - he loved this part - even some brand new ones. Leo, being the great friend that he always was, basically told the ingrates to go fuck themselves and they were off to enjoy some good social solitude in the 'loser corner' of school. Leo wasn't used to this. At all. He had always been the charismatic, charming, and oddly hilarious guy in Junior High. To go from that little pedestal to where the two of them stood now...he wasn't handling it well. So, walking down the lines of apartment buildings as they were, all Leo seemed to be talking - ranting? - about was the numerous ways he wanted to break 'those kids' in half. He paused, however, at a small crossection of street, directing Conner into a small shop on the corner with nothing more than a neon blue palm outline with a glowing red eye in its center to advertise its business.

"Madam Tilish. I'm telling you man, she's the real deal." Sliding a twenty into Conner's hand, he urged him forward with an encouraging and painful shove. "Go on dude. I'll wait for you outside." When Conner did little more than blink, blatantly puzzled, Leo continued. "I told you if High School was really as bad as you said it was that I'd show you something, right? Well I'm showing you. Go on in."

"If this turns out to be some crack house, I'm coming after you with whatever sharp object I can find in there." With Leo's laughter behind him, Conner opened up the bell-jingling door and proceeded in.

The high school student had to push his way past a doorway of hanging beads to find the person he was looking for. The woman, no younger than her fifties, sat down at the back of the room behind a circular table. She was white, so there went the whole Miss Chloe effect. The lighting was too bright, not eerie enough, and the woman had the gall to leave the table empty! No fricking magic ball to wave her fingers over and tell him how there was love in his future or whatever bull they made up in places like this. Real deal? Right. Leo was delusional. Coming to sit in the old, rickety wooden chair in front of her, Conner did his best to muster up an excited smile. He was pretty sure he failed.

"Uh...oh, you probably want this." Sliding the twenty dollar bill onto table, Conner leaned back a touch, arms crossing over his chest. "Well?" She just kept staring.

"You don't have their eyes." Uh, okay. "You're so young." With that she placed down a trio of cards, the classic set up for a 'past, present, and future' reading. Even Conner knew that much. She flipped over the first. "The Broken Woman. Your mother, she wasn't well, was she?" To that, Conner winced.

"She died of leukemia when I was young." Short and sweet with a tone that told the fake to back the hell off the subject.

"Mm. Now let's see..." The middle card turned. "The Solitary Soldier. Are you feeling isolated, secluded?"

Conner could only laugh. "Brilliant deduction. Who isn't?"

She merely shook her head - as if to shake off his words - and placed another card below the middle one, flipping it over in turn. "The Golden Lion. You have a best friend, someone that fights away what ails you." That didn't see to be much of a question. She didn't even give him time to respond, another card placed below that one and turned. "The Cross. You'll have to make a decision soon. A decision of direction." Er. Sure thing. One card was placed to the left of The Cross, one to the right, and one below it. The bottom was flipped first. "The Golden Lion again. When this decision comes, you'll want to run to your friend. But running to the Golden Lion below The Cross will only lead to guilt." The card to the left was turned. "The Ray and the Fold. Making the left decision-" The what decision? "-will open your eyes. You'll be aware of the shadows behind the shadows, the light behind the light." Turning over the right card, she continued. "The Crow and the Blind Man. Making the 'right' decision will close your eyes, will blind you to the world that the Ray and the Fold offered up. Never again will you have the chance to see again." She paused, looking back up to Conner. Looking for something.

"Avoid crows. I gotcha." The woman furrowed her brow at that, moving to the future card and turning it over.

"The Heart With Two Swords. Stabbing the side of your heart is the red blade of love, a great love, but you will also find another. Piercing the other side of your heart is the black sword of sin. Dark lust. To follow the red blade is to follow serenity, but to follow the black sword is to follow your own self-destruction." The roll of his eyes was caught by her glare, but still she continued, placing a card below the last and turning it over. "The Still-Beating Mind. You will find your thoughts displaced in your future, moved. This could be insanity, but I've...I've never seen the card fall that way. Hm." She laid a number of cards, several, below that one, flipping them as she went. "The Blackened Crown. You will be led by someone, someone who isn't safe in his own head or his own heart. This leader will be of charred thoughts. And-" Another card turned below the Blackened Crown. "-the Noble Shield. You can trust him. Follow him." Another card was turned, back to the line made before the Noble Shield. "The Great Statue. You will also find yourself in the presence of a man of great fortitude, a man of inner power with-" A card flipped below it. "-a soft side for Mother Earth. That's...unique." Shrugging it off, she flipped the next card. "The Boy on the Bed of Nails. You'll meet another, a boy with a lot of experience in the realm of pain, be it a past life of abuse or something more. And with him we have-" Once more, a card was flipped below that one. "-The Heart of Coals. Pain is his familiarity, but fire is his heart. Be that fire passion for music, for life, or something more."

"Right, okay. Are you keeping me here this long because it costs extra money or something per minute?" Conner was blunt, sue him. She simply ignored him, however, the next card turned.

"The Warlord's Councilor. This man is wise; he'll be the one you look to when brain must conquer body. He too will be a soldier and, like the others, he will protect the All. Though he will do so not with fire or Mother Earth, but-" She paused, a card below it flipped. "-with the skies. The Stormkeeper looks to even the blackest clouds for answers." She lofted her hand to another card, but Conner stopped her.

"Look lady, I'm hungry. Can we wrap this up?" Conner didn't need to hear anymore crap.

"As you wish." Skipping a few more cards, going to the end, she flipped the last. "The Wolf in Sheep's Skin. You. Your future will be full of anger, full of animosity but-" Once again, as before, a card was flipped below it. "-The Beast's Hammer says you'll rise above it. It won't be easy, with the Beast's Hammer there's only sorrow and hardship, but you'll do it." There were several more cards to be flipped, but she seemed sated with the information she had presented to him.

"I bet that's true. Thanks for taking my friend's money, Miss Asshat." And with that he was gone and back into the street with an overly-eager looking friend.

"How'd it go? Isn't she surreal?" Leo was wide-eyed, almost drugged out by the dilation of his pupils.

"She's full of crap, Leo. You say I need to get out more? Damn man." With a frowning friend at his side, Conner once more drifted down the dirty streets of New York City and toward's Leo's mansion of a home. Everything was fine. Nothing was wrong.

Then why was it that Conner felt that woman had opened up the maw of something huge beneath his feet?


-------------------------------------------

Looking at it all in the back of his head and Zan could do little more than laugh, a short burst of sound that commented on the irony of it all. Well damn. The lycanthrope had always known that Tilish's past and present predictions had come to pass, and had indeed found himself a believer in her...talents...but it was only now that he was able to see the unfolding of her future prediction. Most of it, anyway. He knew who all the figures were, who they had become in his life. All of it, every last drop of it, was spot on. Humorous? Yea. But aside from that, all it did was make him miss his old life. He didn't miss the part about wallowing in poverty and living with a drunkard of a father, no, but he missed the world he used to see when he stepped out of the door. Zan had all since forgotten about the veils and curtains that had parted for him on that day. When he had gone off to college - a move most saw as a courageous step into his future whereas Zan was rather aware of the cowardice behind it - he had shut his eyes. A blissful time, really. No more pressure. No more obligations. None that felt as often out of his control as they were in his hands. College gave him the mundane, the sane.

Zan should have been disturbed at how easily his mind let things go, at the ability he had to inflict some sort of psycho-amnesia on himself; first his mother's suicide, then the loss of that core awareness of himself and the world around him. He could have blamed it...no, he should have blamed it on the dormant and useless cells he now knew his body to possess. Being birthed with a fragile mind ready to fall apart because of some sort of bizarre genetics he had was more than enough to lay fault on. But he didn't. The lycanthrope blamed his inability to deal with the hard choices, the raw choices. Glancing about him, watching Canti launch his attacks, Zan suspected someone like him could do it for him. That Twin Blade had struck the werewolf as a realist, someone who made decisions with practicality rather than morality. Zan had done that. Once. And his lack of coping had driven him to hide in a culinary school of all places. God, so pathetic. Self-pity was mounting and he could feel himself slipping from the fight, could feel his previous drive and relief from being away from his mind slipping. He thought too much. It was only when the shadow of a looming sword obscured his vision that he decided to break from the trance and roll.

The blade still dug into his back, cleaving ribs like they were butter and spilling blood as freely as the sky did water. Zan knew his spine was snapped somewhere, knew that that column was sludge when his body refused to move. It wasn't fatigue, it wasn't pain, he just couldn't move. He was only vaguely aware that his body was slowly but surely stitching itself back together, a snail-like process in the form he held now. If the Temple Guardian that attacked him came back for seconds, Zan would be in trouble. He wouldn't survive it. The lycanthrope had only survived the initial attack because he had barely received the force of it. Barely...and yet he was still seconds from dead. He was too hurt to switch equipment so he used the only healing spell at his disposal otherwise, La Repth whispered weakly from his lips. The faint blue light reassembled the soupy remains of his spine, but didn't seal him up. It wasn't much, no, and perhaps he had helped a few of the others around him with the spell, but at least he could move his stubborn limbs. Crawling away, slowly but surely, Zan knew that someone had saved him. That, or they had distracted the Temple Guardian while he made his huddled escape. Either way he was alive and another La Repth had him healed up completely and on his feet. An improvement, to say the least.

Time for payback.

Spinning on his feet, turning to his busy assailant, he lofted his palm at the giant figure and let loose another spell. "MeRue Zot!" Weaker than his level three spell, sure, but Zan didn't necessarily want to take the chance that his spell would rip into one of his friends.

Spires of ice rushed like frozen geysers from the earth, splitting the grasslands apart as they launched in a glossy wave up and to the creature that had given him a backache he wouldn't soon forget. The spell didn't quite have the oomph that some of the others he launched had, but it was still aided by his Ap Ruem and it had to hurt...if only a little. Even if it hadn't it had gotten the things attention. It was faster than him on foot, probably faster any which way, but there was only one way to find out. A few quick steps taken forward and Zan was up and into the air, his body already complaining with the physical strain flying put on him without wings to assist. Defying gravity just the same, Zan whipped up and past the Temple Guardian's head with the whistle of metal just an inch below his foot. Phew. Turning back mid flight, still gaining altitude, he frowned. Once more someone had distracted the creature. Damn it, he had wanted to see the look of digital confusion on its face. Eh, but it seemed too normal, too regular. Did it even have the ability to be confused?

Shrugging a touch to himself, Zan looped around and touched down somewhere safe with both his friends and his enemies still in sight. That had taken a touch more out of him than he would have preferred. Mental note: Flying sucks when you don't have actual wings. Mental note number two: Feather tattoos aren't actual wings. What else could he do to contribute in this form? An inner glance to his SP told him he had the power in him for two more level threes and, sadly enough, that would have to do. The raven just wasn't developed enough. It had served its purpose, yes, and with only a few more spells left in his stash, he knew he would have to stash away the creature for another day.

"OrRue Rom!" A call to power given, Zan watched as the same one he had assaulted with the Zot spell not a moment ago was bombarded with the swirl of glacial chunks, something Zan issued once more on the same creature when the first spell had settled. "OrRue Rom!" With the last of his magical energies spent, his body drained from all of pain, healing, flight, and spells, Zan willed the Amp in his body and the raven form in turn into nothing more than normality. Now human and frail, next to the Temple Guardians anyway, Zan drew out the Horse Killer from his inventory and steadied it threateningly in front of him. A Ressurect was tossed to Dien's corpse, his cry heard, before Zan's eyes once more fell upon the monster.

If they weren't killed by the time his sword was raised, he'd show the obese woodland freaks what he was really made of.

_________________
Lv. 50 Heavy Blade
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Special: Levels, GR Sendai, PL Sakai, Darklore.
W: Tonosama Sword, Mineuchi, Jundachi.
A: Samurai Helm, Able Hands, Rare Greaves.
I: Holy Sap, Treebane, Cooked Bile, Nightbane.
EX: Elemental Summon (Lv. 2), Overdrive (Lv.1), Elemental Attacks (Lv. 2), Enhance Dark, Elemental Breath (Lv. 2).


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:51 am 
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Location: ...Tracking...please wait...
Nall barely paid attention to the battle raging before him. He could have destroyed either of the monsters in a moment had he wanted to, but right now that wasn't as good an idea as it seemed. They had a new arrival, and hacks enough were being used in front of her... Who knew what she was doing here. With their so-recent scuffle with the admins and the hackers alike, having someone random show up wasn't necessarily a good thing. She could be an admin spy, though he detected no trace of admin powers on her. She could also be a spy for the hackers, though that was less likely. She didn't have the increased level of Twilight that meant she was stuck in the game, nor did she have enough in her to make it reasonable she was their prisoner. Working with them of her own will, maybe, but that was unlikely as well. One couldn't work closely with the hackers for long without being comatose ones self.

So he probably had nothing but rumors to worry about... but there was the additional fact that the hackers could have this field monitored. The increase in Twilight from the presence and use of the hacks Reinier and Zan controlled was noticeable, though it was within the fluctuations that happened throughout The World anyways. Canti, Dien, and Cypher all had low enough concentrations, they would cause little more than ripples unless something drastic happened to manifest their own powers. Senna had nothing herself, so might as well be a part of the landscape for all the notice a hacker scan would pay to her. And, so it seemed, the rest of the party.

Nall himself was the only one who had to worry about being detected. He had posession of three Twilight Items; the Titan's Armor, the Cape of Deceit, and the Twilight's Tear... Jett's, Kuja's, and his own. Earth, Water, and Time. Still... unlike the Elites, he couldn't access the full power of them, even on their own server, Yamiyo. Pushing himself to even half the power of his own could tear his data apart. He was formidable already, his stats maxed out, his blade that of a powerful rare. He was fast and powerful, even without tapping into his Item. He made the biggest ripples in the Twilight pond, and using his items more than sparingly at best could draw unwanted attention.

”Yes, one of them is Reinier... I assume you know him from somewhere?”

Senna seemed to be watching the group in its charge at the monsters, but turned back as she replied. "From a while ago. Is this an event?"

"Not really... Not in the typical sense. It might sound crazy, but we're off to fight some hackers. Saving The World, so to speak." Nall grinned boyishly. "Never thought I'd be a hero, and yet I end up leading off a band of freedom fighters."

"Freedom fighters," She repeated after him, her attention again wandering back to the fight. "I'd heard the game had hackers, but I didn't know they were this big a problem. Don't they just change their appearance and weapons and the like?"

"Some of them, yes. We don't much worry about them, they're rarely a threat. Our concern is a large organization of them, led by powerful elites... Their control over the game is astounding. You... may have heard of players of this game falling into comas. CCCorp denies that the incidents are related to the game, but they are. Everyone you see before you... we're all stuck here, in the game, while our bodies are in comas. Again, probably sounds crazy. We're here on a mission to cripple the communications of the organization."

"Before they realize you're here?" The neutral tone of her question didn't offer much evidence as to whether she thought the idea crazy or not.

"Basically. With a little luck, they'll never know what hit them. In and out, strike and run... I'm not actually sure why you're here. I doubt you intended to come to this field in the first place... I also doubt the hackers did anything to bring you here. So... I suppose you can stick with us if you like, or you could leave. I don't think anything is stopping the latter. It could get dangerous here..." Nall's face was saddened, subdued.

There were a few seconds quiet from the Long Arm, then came a nod and a two-word response. "I'll help."

Nall nodded, and turned back to watching the battle. It had been going well enough, as well as could be expected anyways. Dien had died, Zan had done some damage, Canti had laid his claws into the task as well. Nall watched as first one, then the other of the guardians were killed. He tossed a resurrect to Dien, and together with Senna and the rest of them, walked to the temple.

The temple wasn't like most buildings of The World. It was a low, square building made of white stone, probably a marble or granite, which the hackers seemed to favor. It lacked seams, seeming to be built out of one solid piece of rock. A long, shallow staircase, steps set several paces apart, led up to a pair of immense doors. Doors which, in the low slanting sunlight, seemed to be made of golden fire. It was merely gold, no fire involved, but the effect was glorious. The doors swung open noiselessly as they approached, sweeping inward.

The inside was much like the outside; plain, simple, yet glorious. High windows granted most of the illumination, revealing swirls of pastel color on the inner walls. Rows of pews to either side of their aisle stood empty, their mahogany contrasting with the brightly tiled floor. The room held a raised stage on the opposite end of the door, a six-pronged plaque hanging from the far wall. Elemental symbols and colors decorated it's surface. A small opening, little more than a human-sized doorway, was the only exit from the room. A glance in the doorway revealed a long spiral staircase leading down.

Nall, glancing at the rest of the group, paused in his stride for the doorway. They had a little time to kill... or at least, wouldn't be harmed from a little rest. ”We might as well pause for a little rest here. Get everyone up to full SP and HP, and actually acknowledge our new ally. This is Senna. I hear she's already met you, Reinier... She's decided to help us, at least for now.” Nall was, despite his assurances otherwise, a little anxious about time. He of all people knew how quickly things could change.

Ooc: Alrighty. Talk with Senna, talk amongst yourselves, and heal up what you need to. Soon as all that is done, whether it's a week from today or three days from now, I'll lead us down into the next floor and introduce the next challenge. Let's not ignore new entries anymore, please? I know how much you all love a good fight, but still.

Anyways. Cypher, Reinier, I know you both have your excuses of summer school and work, so I'm not going to do any more than say “let's get posts in next round, kay?” At least, not until next round.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 2:38 am 
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As she walked toward where the group has recently slaughtered the two guardian creatures, Senna wasn’t quite sure what to think, and for the moment she held her silence as she debated back and forth how to react.

The decision to help them had been an easy one, if a bit hasty. It wasn’t necessarily that she believed the guy’s story. She was, in fact disinclined to think things were as he said, and that was a majority of her reason for agreeing to stay.

But… well, there were coins on both sides of the scale, weren’t there? There was no denying those creatures had been awfully high level for a field of this sort. And speaking of the field, it seemed odd in itself. The normal portals littering the landscape seemed lacking, and instead there was just that building. She was having a few uncomfortable flashbacks to another such odd field. That was probably the first part of her reason for agreeing - she was scared of trying to warp out and finding once more than she couldn’t. Not that there was anything really wrong with just dropping her connection to get out, but it felt a little wrong, like Liss was doing something untoward to Senna, when she dropped connection.

And then there were the players themselves. She was doing her best not to stare or question it, but they were using some skills and abilities she hadn’t even heard about except in rumor. Whatever this was, it wasn’t a normal quest or event, just as Nall had said. And she had heard - through rumors mostly - about players who’d allegedly gone into comas while playing, while their friends either abandoned the game or roamed it in a vain search for clues. She’d thought it was simply an urban legend. Every pop culture phenomenon needed one or two of those.

But if that was the case, if these were really freedom fighters out to stop evil hacker elites or whatever, why had they not batted an eye at a stranger just happening to show up on the field where they intended to do some damage? Perhaps it was just a general suspicion of unusual circumstances, but Senna felt sure in the same position, she would have been suspicious.

Although… this Nall seemed to be their leader, and given the powers displayed by the others, he would probably have to be at least their equal in power, intelligence (of all kinds) or both. Perhaps the others trusted that if she were any kind of threat, he could simply take care of it.

Now THERE was a troubling thought. It took a lot of willpower just to keep her pace even as that possibility lingered in her mind. He’d said he doubted the hackers had done anything to bring her here, and said it with such simplicity that he didn’t seem to be trying to stress a point. It was like he was talking about some everyday thing.

God, this was confusing.

But she’d agreed, and fairly quickly. There was no use in dallying over the decision either way, but her reasons for agreeing had nothing to do with fighting for freedom and justice against the hackers. If what Nall said was true, to try to wear that as a reason would be dishonest and cheap of her, as she wasn’t stuck in here, didn’t know anyone who was and hadn’t even thought the rumors of comatose players and greater powers were more than stories until just recently.

Her reasons were a little more basic to her personality. Curiosity and fear had been the deciding factors. Less fear though, and more the curiosity. This appealed to the part of her that loved her books like friends, the part that had made her decide to visit that strange village Hac had been trapped in once, then made her stay instead of dropping connection early like many of the others on that trip had done to escape. Whether things were or were not as Nall had explained, this field and these people were a puzzle, a curiosity, and she wanted to puzzle it out.

A selfish reason, but at least it wasn’t presumptuous the way the other might have been.

The building they walked to was a wonder in itself, and Senna’s attention was briefly taken up with just admiring it. It was pale, with a set of double doors worked with some sort of metal or crystal or… something, making them seem to actually be moving, as though something had been trapped just under the surface. It was a hypnotic sight, at least for the Long Arm. And within, the look continued. It looked like a small, old but well-maintained church, with windows to let the outside light in and pews lining the room they walked into when they passed those amazing doors. The plaque got a bit of attention, as it seemed to serve in place of a holy relic in this not-church.

It was the leader speaking again which made her stop examining the interior of the church and turn her attention back to the group. Probably it would be a good idea to try to talk to one or two of them… or maybe she should just jump in during the next fight and try to prove herself worth talking to first. After all, were she part of a group of freedom fighters, she might take a bit of exception to someone just jumping in like this. But at the moment, she figured the wisest thing for her to do was to shut up and listen to that their leader had to say. She intended to be useful no matter if they talked to her, accepted her and wanted her help or not, and the first rule of being useful was listening.

We might as well pause for a little rest here. Get everyone up to full SP and HP, and actually acknowledge our new ally. This is Senna. I hear she's already met you, Reinier... She's decided to help us, at least for now.

Senna managed to tamp down any feeling of surprise – barely – enough to keep them off her face as she inclined her head slightly to the rest of the group. Her concession to her feelings at being put in a bit of a spotlight was a slight tightening of her fingers around the haft of her weapon.

Well, this felt awkward.

((OOC: Edited to fix grammar errors))

_________________
Senna, level 33 Long Arm (710 HP/180 SP)
Most common kit: Ichigou, Racoon Earcaps, Air Bracer, Snow Panther, Winter Coat, Graceful Book
Spells/Skills: (Critical Hit/Death) Repulse Cage, Ap Corv, Ap Vorv, Rai Rom, Rue Zot, La Repth
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Last edited by Senna on Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:11 pm 
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Location: In da' plains of hell, natch.
(At the moment, Canti was all completely focused on battle, and killing Temple Guardians. So in on it was he...that he no longer paid any real attention to the others until they suddenly entered his immediate life again. This was the way Canti worked in battle, and it worked nicely. At the time, for instance, of Zan's slight problem in battle - as in where they clocked him hard - Canti was unaware of the fact and just kept going on his thing. Ironically, his next actions were a distraction for the Temple Guardians, not even aware that that probably enabled Zan to recover without interference as he struck the back of a Guardian, making it turn on him and try to slice him apart. Unfortunately for that monster, it had a run-in with something that Canti had been working on, just in the back of his mind, that being special Twin Blade styles of fighting. The Temple Guardian found its long blades inserted into in between the prongs of Canti's weapon, and then Canti jumping up and twisting while pushing the Guardian's arms away so he could kick it hard and kick right off of it, vaulting into the air for a second or two so he could come down and attack it hard while it was wide open.)

Canti: Twin Dark- OOF!!

(The monster disappeared before he could lash out at it, surprising Canti and making him land on his face in a harsh fall that would seem almost comical, except that he wasn't laughing and there was no amusing soundtrack. He hit the ground, tumbled a bit, and immediately recovered as he was aware that he could be attacked within a moment's notice. However, as he looked up, he saw that the other one was dead too. Okay... Looks like they were killed right out from under his nose. Canti shifted slightly, and then got up, reorienting his shoulder as he overheard Nall talking with the Long Arm that had somehow gotten in here. Not a hacker, clearly, otherwise they'd be attacked by now. It sounded like Nall was explaining their situation to her. Seemed like she might've just been a regular user, not a hacker and not stuck in The World. Then, the doors began to slowly open up, admitting them inside. The veteran of the group led them all in, and down, into a marble-looking castle place, or dungeon. Something like that. Canti stopped as he heard Nall talking to the rest of them now.)

"We might as well pause for a little rest here. Get everyone up to full SP and HP, and actually acknowledge our new ally. This is Senna. I hear she's already met you, Reinier... She's decided to help us, at least for now."

(Yeah... Only, this situation was not something he'd rather be sitting around for. Canti looked like he was in a heightened state of suspicion. Not of Senna, but of his surroundings. For some reason, he didn't see her as a probably threat. It was this place that made the hairs on the back of his head rise, and he didn't know why. Finally, after a Repth or two had finished the healing process and his SP went back up, he looked around, and then he decided to approach their new arrival.)

Canti: Senna, right? Can I...ask you a question?

(He looked and sounded as if he were bothered by something, but what? It was hard to tell that something was on his mind, not with those blackk pits for eyes, but it was noticeable enough.)

"Certainly."

Canti: D'you live anywhere near Boston?

"In Pennsylvania, near Philly. You're from there?"

Canti: From Boston, yeah. Close enough... Uhhh, can I ask a favor? Just look up something for me online?

(Again, this felt awkward as hell. Senna simply nodded in answer to his request, thus prompting him to continue, to explain himself...)

Canti: Could you...see if there's a report on a...Damon Fortis? News? The papers? Anything?

(She nodded again, then her character went completely, almost eerily still. It remained that way for well more than a minute before she came back. This time, her expression had actually changed form the neutral she'd been wearing. Before, she'd been rather impassive, and now...something had changed in voice and tone. Canti thought he heard her mutter, "He wasn't...", and then go on to say...)

"There were some police stories. Brief. An unexplained coma. I'm sorry."

Canti: Is that all...? Aren't they doing anything? Doesn't anyone even care?

(Senna raised an eyebrow at this.)

"I'm sorry, but you can't expect every medical action or family's reaction to be news. That it's not on the net doesn't mean it's not there."

(Canti gave Senna a look of confusion for a moment. It's not what he meant. Well, maybe not exactly. What DID he want? Some kind of confirmation that he was still alive? That he was found and wouldn't starve to death or something? Maybe... He shook his head, the anger dissolving.)

Canti: Not that I have any family, but it would be nice if someone cared.

"I'll look more later."

(Then, in a different tone...)

"I am sorry."

(But Canti remained in a grim mood and sort of sauntered off, the last words Senna hearing being "Didn't wanna end up this way..." before he moved on down the room and exhibited a restless behavior, sort of like a caged animal. He ran towards and up a wall with speed, jumped off, headed towards the other wall, and repeated. After he got tired of that, he looked at the strange doorway. Was it a puzzle thing...?)

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 2:04 am 
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When the Temple Guardians finally lay quiet, the night air no longer plagued by the violence of their motions or the actions taken against them, Zan felt his body give an inward sigh. That little arch of combat had been the only real use of his raven and, up until that point, Zan had found no use for it. With only one real transformation under his belt, even half way with the Corvid as it was, Zan didn't have the proper stamina walled against the raven's Beast taint. So, the moment the two creatures disappeared into nothingness was the same moment the lycanthrope felt his humanity return; his hair ruffling back into normality, arms in turn, with his eyes once more retaining the eerie glare of blue that seemed in sole possession of a Siberian Husky.

The Heavy Blade had long since passed the period of post-metamorphosis collapses, but damn if he didn't feel the knee-jerk urge to curl upon the grass and indulge himself in one hell of a nap. Sadly enough, as the case always seemed to be, they had to move on. Fine, fine. The group's approach to the temple seemed silenced, each and every member (even the newer one, the nigh-stranger clutching a Long Arm's weapon) of the Freedom Fighters gaining a look of contemplation and general observation. Zan too gained such a look, his gaze scanning over the seamless surface of marble and granite, trying his best to discern just how they had managed to craft such a thing.

Not that such a construction was impossible in the real world, no, but the design wasn't at all common. A laugh came at that thought, the werewolf realizing how ludicrous a comparison to modern infrastructures to a world based purely on data was. Zan paused at the base of the stares, watching with an idle indifference as the others shuffled past him, leaving him to his own devices as they delved deeper into the secrets of the field. Not Zan. Keeping a new friend's voice in his head, someone he knew would ask questions first and barge in later, the lycanthrope lidded his eyes to a close. Igniting his senses to their true potential, his nose flaring and his eardrums honing, Zan picked apart each and every scent, each and every sound that crossed his supra-physical path.

The invigorating smell of grass, the dull hint of rock, and the overpowering waver of perspiration were the only things that took note in his head. As far as Zan could tell, the group was in no immediate danger. Neither the telltale scent of portal monsters nor the odd acidic linger of unfamiliar Twilight made itself known. It wasn't a for sure way to anticipate the threats of the Elites, but they were a few tools Zan had for premeditation at his disposal. Satisfied with his 'findings', the lycanthrope began his own ascension of the uniquely spaced steps, wondering just what kind of creature they could have possible been crafted for. Perhaps, just perhaps, Zan was overthinking it.

There was a chance that his grogginess from the raven's welcomed invasion had his mind running in needless circles, but the caution was stashed away in the back of his head just the same. Better safe than sorry, as they say. When he too had come to emerge in the vividly alien interior, beautiful and magnificent in all of its mystery, Zan used his senses once more as investigative preambles. This time, however, he had shifted his focus to sight and sound, sweeping the walls for any signs of things to come. The one thing that did catch his interest was the mural set off into the temple's first room near the stage that had been set. The signs of the six elements made him wonder, made him mull over potential progressions.

If the Elites were particularly clever, which they had proven to be in their own way, they could have very well hidden something in the colors of the mural. No matter how focused Zan could make his vision, nothing on his current spectrum of sight could pull any subtle clues from its surface. The only ability he had at his disposal to change the veil at which his eyes pierced was with the raven, something he had barely been able to drag himself from in the first place. However much he didn't want to do it, unfortunately, he might not have another choice. If the lycanthrope was going to be made to look back on a decision not to have done it later when it could have saved the deletion of his comrades...well, it was safe to say that wouldn't sit well with the man.

Grumbling his frustration with the situation, Zan willed the raven to fill the corners of his thoughts, to infuse itself in his marrow. No time to drown in the pleasures of sheer connection. No time at all; it was straight to business. Shuffling through the Echoes, Vak, Rue, Gan, Juk, Ani, and Rai alike, revealed absolutely nothing to the lycanthrope's eyes. Okay, so maybe he really was overthinking things. The next order of business, according to Nall's nudging verbal insistence, was to make himself known to the new recruit that had found her way in their ranks. Had she come here on accident? Was this another of Nall's godly powered sidekicks like Raine and Sheena?

A quick glance at her basic information revealed both the low nature of her level (in comparison to the likes of Raine and Sheena anyway), and Zan threw out the theory. If she wasn't with Nall...then maybe she really had been unlucky enough to find herself amongst them on a horrible draw of fate's cards. Poor girl. The Heavy Blade's first instinct was to give her the same speech he had given to Canti, Zhao, and Dien, but that hadn't worked out. Either way she was going to stay, he was sure, so either way she was royally fucked in the long run. So, in essence, why even waste his breath? Plus, Zan's unwelcoming attitude had put off a lot of the people that he was now sadly stuck with.

Not exactly prone to making situations for himself uncomfortable on purpose, Zan slowly drifted toward the Long Arm, waiting for her conversation with Canti to pass before he himself offered any sort of introduction.

"The name's Zan. In case any of the others are too lazy or too shy to offer up their names, the fallen angel guy over there is Reinier. Ah, but you know him." Shifting a lazy finger towards another of the Freedom Fighters, he continued. "The kid in the denim coat is Dien. Ah, and the leader-ish guy that spoke up earlier is Nall, if he hasn't told you himself already. Now, that said, I'm going to go back outside to keep watch. If any of the guys here get overly ambitious, you have my approval to make good use of that pole you're holding." With the slight smile on his face coming to be concealed by the pull of his leather hood of his head, obscuring his face in shadows, Zan made his way back the way he came.

Sure, he hadn't given her much chance to make conversation, but Zan didn't exactly feel one of the Elites' communication stations was a good place for chit-chat. Grinding his fists into his palms one after the other as he left the temple's entrance (though still keeping himself within ear shot of at least one or two of the others), cracking his knuckles in boredom as he did so, Zan took his place as a solitary presence at the top of the steps. It was unlikely, really, that anything was going to try and sneak at them through the massive front doors, but the Heavy Blade figured it smart to keep an eye out just the same.

Besides, it gave him the chance not to stand around and be useless while Nall waited for the appropriate time to move them all out and down the spiral steps Zan had eyed near the stage. Plus, thinking about it, setting himself apart from what could grow into vocal noise for the time being would give him a chance to think and put at ease the memories and puzzles his brain had crowded him with before. Any chance to set himself at ease away form the battlefield was vastly cherished and appreciated. Opening up the supernatural expanse of his senses once more, he prepared for another possible strike from the field before him.

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Special: Levels, GR Sendai, PL Sakai, Darklore.
W: Tonosama Sword, Mineuchi, Jundachi.
A: Samurai Helm, Able Hands, Rare Greaves.
I: Holy Sap, Treebane, Cooked Bile, Nightbane.
EX: Elemental Summon (Lv. 2), Overdrive (Lv.1), Elemental Attacks (Lv. 2), Enhance Dark, Elemental Breath (Lv. 2).


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 3:38 am 
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Location: UNKNOWN ERROR, please try again later
To: Reinier
From: Fiddler
Subject: Howdy!

It’s Stefano, just wanted to check up on you since you’re online for once. I heard you were in the hospital, something about a coma or whatever. I didn’t really believe it, cus you’re always fuckin’ awake. Needham’s been a bitch again, givin’ out that huge ass project… ugh, when the hell are we ever gonna need to use fuckin’ Geometry in real life, anyways? Whatever, bitches will be bitches. I’ve also heard some other interesting news… something about you finding a… rock or diamond or something and you getting ‘powers’ or somethin’. Sounds like hackin’ to me, my friend. You know better then that, I hope. But it’s interesting… I’ve recently found an interesting item that’s not in the game’s guides anywhere. It’s a pretty cool little jewel, it always radiates this deep purple… it’s so trippy, man! I’m definitely keeping this baby. Shit, gotta log. Mom’s freakin’ out again. Catchya later, hombre.

~Stefano “Fiddler” Fidous


Reinier crushed the Flashmail in his fist, as he let out a growl and looked up to the rest of the group. It had been bad enough that one of the first people he had ever group quested with, outside his normal friends of course, had joined up with the band of Freedom Fighters, but now he would have to do a major project when he got out of his coma. Things were not looking very bright for the young boy, now. And then, of course, the chime of yet another Flashmail entered Reinier’s ears. He reached in to his pocket, and pulled out a piece of parchment and untied the piece of string that held it tightly sealed in a tube.

To: Reinier
From: Leucosia
Subject: Powers

Reinier, I forgot to tell you this… but please, PLEASE, do not over do it with your powers. Right now, you’re at the stage of your powers just beginning to bloom. It may be quite some time before they fully manifest. So, until then, don’t over do it or you could tear your body to shreds. We’re short in stock on bodies right now, so don’t over do it! Once your powers manifest, and you’ll know when they do, then you can go gung-ho all you want, okay? Promise me you won’t over do it! Promise!!!


Reinier chuckled as he pulled up a new Flashmail screen, putting away the letter from his mentor in his back pocket. He pondered the words he would say for a few moments, trying to find the right words to capture his sense of sarcasm.

To: Leucosia
From: Reinier
Subject: Re:Powers

I’ll try.


With everything squared away with that, Reinier stood from the rock he had been sitting upon, and pushed the hair out of his eyes and put it along the back of his ear. He looked up, shielding his eyes with his hand, peering over to the Temple. The group had already entered the building, and Reinier let out a yelp. He jogged over to the Temple, opening the door, and wordlessly entered the building. The boy spied over the group, and found Zan near the stairs. Reinier slid across the room, until near the Lycan, and said, “What’s the situation, Goose?” He let out a smirk, wondering if Zan would catch the reference. It HAD been a long time since the movie had been released, but it was still a good movie in Reinier’s eyes.

Zan never moved his eyes from the distance beyond, never shifted his stance of focus. “Excuse me?”

The smirk vanished from Reinier's face, a sense of unease in the Lycan’s words. “Goose was the name of Maverick’s wing man in the movie Top Gun. I’ll rent the movie and we’ll watch it when we leave this hell. That’s besides the point, though. Is everything okay, man?” Reinier shifted his weight to his right leg, and crossed his arms as he squinted his eyes and edged closer to Zan, trying to get a good look under his hood for any sign of emotion.

Only with Reinier’s show of concern did Zan leave his mental post, pulling his hood down to reveal the Siberian Husky blue of his eyes, eyes that finally acknowledged the fellow Heavy Blade. “Going through a few things. Real world shit has me distracted, that’s all.”

Reinier nodded his head slightly, and began to peer around the room. He liked the feeling of being God-like that the building seemed to project upon all who entered. He wondered how hard it would be to add this kind of feel to the Negative Frame, a place he had begun to call a sort of... home. "Yeah... I have a feeling I know what you're talking about. A friend just Flashmailed me, telling me I have a big project assigned... I guess he thinks I woke up from the coma... That, and if I know what's what, he might have found the Ani Keystone... If that's the case, I need to find him... But right now, my obligations to the Freedom Fighters outweigh my own personal problems, y'know? What about you? Problems in the pack?"

Though Zan's eyes had returned to the grassfield and its motions, his attention remained honed on his friend. "How'd he get a hold of one of your old keystones? I figured those were locked up somewhere." Be it on purpose or a slip of thought, the lycanthrope didn't answer Reinier's question.

Reinier closed his eyes, and scratched the back of his head in deep thought. "Fuck if I know, but what I do know is I need to get it before Flau gets to him... She's... I guess a witch works. I don't know what she's planning, but it's big. She's the reason Taimat's a dragon, and why Knai..." Reinier stopped mid-sentence, feeling a wave of sadness flow through his body. "But yes, she's the reason I have these wings, and my new powers. I'm going to stop her, whatever she's doing... But yeah, that's enough about me... What's plaguing you, my friend?" Reinier sucked whatever mucus had begun to leave his nose, and rubbed his nose with his right gauntlet. He plucked the tears which had begun to well up with his fore-finger, and looked over to Zan, a massive smile placed upon his face to cover up the sadness.

Zan could smell the dulled salt of his tears, could see the subtle hint in his face that the smile was false. But that didn't matter; Reinier was trying to push past it, so the werewolf would in turn. "My girlfriend. She...people have her that shouldn't. People that are hurting her. And, of course, there's nothing that I can do it about it from here, inside this damn game. But like you said, my duties to the Freedom Fighters have to matter more than my personal boggings." Zan's own expression had grown stoic, outwardly apathetic. It was the cover all those with issues tended to wear, a cover to seem like they thought they were higher than the rest. The only thing to betray such a standing in Zan was a look in his eyes; a look only a real friend would catch.

Reinier crossed his arms once more, shaking his head. "That pisses me off. You've got my help whenever you need it. You know me 'n fighting. I'll kick whoever's ass for whatever reason as long as it's for the greater good." Reinier nodded to himself before continuing on.. "Though, right now I'm worried about something... Senna... I quested with her, once, before everything became more then a game. She's a cool gal, and I really don't want anything to happen to her... It's one thing for us to turn a blind eye to condemning strangers, but to do it to a friend... I just want you to help me protect her, that's all..."

When Reinier had finished talking Zan once more pulled his hood over his head, concealing in shadows all but a sliver of his mouth. "It's funny you should say that. I was all for saying 'fuck it,' in regards to her. But if you say she's worth protecting, than she's worth protecting. Just let me know what I can do."

Reinier let out a smile, a true smile, and pat Zan's shoulder. "I owe you one, thanks man." With that said, Reinier let out a nearly unnoticable nod, and said, "Okay, I'm going to go talk to her. Start rallying 'the troops,' I'm ready for some action." Reinier began to walk off, flashing the peace sign with his right hand as he headed for Senna.

Time for a reunion…

Don’t say something stupid… I know it’s hard for you, but try.

Reinier took a deep breath while walking closer to the woman, and exhaled as he finally reached her. A nervous smile crossed his face as he scratched the back of his head. "Um... hey there. You've gotten stronger... I see. Any decently fun quests? I've had my share..." A nervous laugh escaped Reinier's lips, as he fluttered his wings a few times.

She laughed a little before responding. "So I've... heard. A few things for my part. Got sat on by a giant penguin." She pulled a wry, distasteful face at that. The expression faded as she added, "Nice wings."

"Yeah, they get me around pretty nicely. What else have you been up to? And how did you even manage to get here with us...? This... yeah... this group has strange luck. I don't know if it's terribly safe for you to be with us..." Reinier trailed off, looking down to the ground and scratching the back of his head. He felt like a child who was fibbing, and not telling the whole truth.

Senna tilted her head a little. "So it's true? You're really all stuck here? And fighting hackers?"

Reinier blinked a few times, taken back by the fact she actually knew the details. "Yup... It's a pretty tough life we're leading now. We get by, but these hackers... they're stronger then the Admin of the game. I believe that the four top ones might actually be..." Reinier cringed, and didn't finish the sentence.

Senna didn't press the issue. She instead glanced around the room and said, "You been working together long? It was interesting, watching that last fight. Your group is... skilled."

Reinier's sorrow turned to happiness, as a sly grin crossed his face. "You haven't seen half of our capabilities. When we're all fighting at max, we can topple buildings. Or, in Zan's case, throw them. He managed to take down a building when he went Wolfy. It's pretty amazing stuff. With our curse, comes our small shinning ray of hope, I guess."

One eyebrow on the Long Arm's face hiked at this, not in disbelief but something more akin being impressed. "Sounds interesting. I'll try not to get in the way. And I'll remember to duck if we find any stray buildings." She punctuated that with a slight, wry smile.

"Yeah, that's normally the best way to go about it. The thing is, here, it might be a bit more difficult. From what I've gathered, the lesser hackers we're up against play dirty. Very dirty. The upcoming battles will be messy..." Reinier trailed off, suddenly going in to his own world of thought about the upcoming battles.

Senna nodded. "That's why you're trying to destroy these... hubs? Disrupt them? I hope you get them. These people sound vile." A note of something like anger flared in the last few words.

A solemn nod came from Reinier, as he said, "Vile's putting it nicely. They're cruel beings who put others in comas just to build themselves castles and temples like the one we're standing in. These people need to be stopped, and it will be us who do it. The Admins might lend a hand, now that they've seen what these people can do to Mac Anu, but I doubt it. Sometimes, you're the only one who can make a difference, y'know?"

"I think I do." she paused, then added, "I'll help how I can."

Reinier gave a nod and extended his hand. "Welcome to the cause. You're more or less a Freedom Fighter, now, my friend." Senna gave a brief nod, and took his hand. A sigh from deep within his soul happened, though it was unheard by all.

Another soul condemned…

_________________
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Reinier's Wishlist: Sakabatou|Sharktooth
Abraxas' Wishlist: Complementry|Summon
The Hack's Wishlist: Wall lvl 2


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 4:08 am 
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Location: The "Who's Online List," Stalking People...
Buildings and their lights sped by in a chaotic parade against the car he sat in. From the window, they appeared a constant blur, unless one of them was picked out. There were people on the sidewalks, not caring about the cruiser or its inhabitants - their lives were too fast and important to do so. Countless faces and their attached personalities flashed by, illuminated by the lights, and attacked by the rain. For a moment the windows and signs on the buildings seemed to become dim, a rumble of thunder echoing after its eternal predecessor that had illuminated the skies to the point of day. This was the city, and already Jed’s perception of it had changed.

The metal rings around his wrists ground away at his flesh as he sat in the carved seat, uncomfortably forced to twist his body. The skin at the base of each hand was complaining loudly, but there was nothing he could do about it, except ask that the officers in the front seat loosen the cuffs’ grip on him. Yeah, right, like police officers would really do that to a kid who might be facing the chair. Just the thought of it sent a chill down his spine. What had gone wrong? I mean, it’s not like he actually did anything bad, right? Hell, all he’d actually done this time was fix an unresolved code-loop. Those kinds of things were bad for both users and the systems they were on, so what was the problem?

Water still remained in patches on his shoulders, arms, head, legs - everywhere rain had had the chance to hit in the trip from his room to the cruiser. It was cold, especially with the two men cranking the AC to the highest notch that the modified Chrysler they were in. Why they did it the accused hacker would never know, but the fact was that he felt like he was beginning to freeze. He thought of speaking up and asking that the men turn down the air, but it wouldn’t be much longer anyway. Even from here he could see the station.

The light-parade stopped, freezing the buildings around the station in a form of blissful ignorance. He wasn’t the first “punk kid” to be dragged down to this station, and he wouldn’t be the last. Only a handful of people watched as the men parked the car, opened the door, and pulled him out with a little more force than was necessary. Yeah, maybe it was just force of habit on the police officers’ parts, but still, he’d appreciate a little more gentleness when being escorted by the arm. Maybe when this whole thing was over he’d be able to ask that they be nicer to people in the future. I mean, it wasn’t like he was
going anywhere. For now, though, he thanked the officer for his escort - at least there was no mistaking where he was supposed to go.

Eventually, he landed in a chair, his hands now chained much more comfortably in front of him on a table. Granted, he couldn’t move them without taking the table along as well, but he wasn’t about to try. There was tension in the air, and yet somehow he felt like he wasn’t nervous enough. Just having been brought to a police station in a cruiser by two armed officers in handcuffs would’ve had just about any of his friends in a panic, and yet for now he didn’t really care that much.
That was more frightening than the fact that he was here: the fact that he wasn’t afraid of being here. At the very least, it gave him something to think on for the few minutes it would be before the interrogation officer came in to question and book him.

“It’s Jed, right?” came the question from behind him as the door slowly drew itself closed, “Jedediah O’Brein.”

“That’s right,” the kid replied, turning his head to face the new figure, “what can I do for you, officer?”

__________

Dien’s eyes opened, and he was, once again, caught in the field with the rest of the freedom fighters. The fight around the two temple guardians was decidedly less interesting than had been the warfare in Mac Anu, and as his ghost sat up, he yawned, pushing his arms out to either side and twisting his torso until the spine cracked, then repeating the process in the other direction. It wasn’t refreshing as he might have hoped, but still, this body was vapor - not prone to easily cracking bones.

So,” Danielle said, her back suddenly against his, “you ended up getting arrested for this hacking obsession of yours?

“Hacking is a capital crime,” he said dryly, obviously not wanting to talk about it, “let’s just say the police didn’t like my goodwill hobby.” He pushed himself up, walking slowly away and trying to free his mind from the trouble that this discussion was bound to bring up - yeah, that wouldn’t work. No matter what he did, she was going to pursue it: if he’d learned anything from the tower, it was that she wouldn’t leave this alone.

You know,” the girl replied, leaning on him from one side, “if you don’t want me to pursue a matter, just tell me and I’ll let it go…” She’d been listening to his thoughts? Eh, it was something he still had to get used to.

“Do you do that voluntarily?” he asked, looking over to her, “or can you not control which of my thoughts you hear?” She merely smiled, neglecting his curiosity yet again. For a while, there was silence as they watched the fight unfold. To all other eyes, it would appear as though the ghost of Dien’s shoulder was slumped a bit, save for maybe Zan. He sighed, knowing that he’d probably be forced into that line of thought and the mental agony it would bring.

No, he wouldn’t deal with it now, not until they were in the clear. The pain of realization was on top of him, looming like a black storm cloud and eager to overtake him. By force of will, he held it back, knowing that eventually he’d have to push through it. Already its spreading white sheet had begun to cover him, blotting out the timeless symbol for happiness: sunshine. Now all he could see was overcast, with the blue remnants of inner peace fleeing on the horizon. Rumblings of the thunder of realization were already heard, and it raindrop-tears had begun to fall.

The storm would have to wait.

As though by some act of divine providence (or just of one of his new friends noticing his body in its translucent blue form), his body was returned, and along with it none of the precious SP that he would need to keep fighting. Ah well, the fight was pretty much over anyway, and he was never one for spellcasting anyway. Danielle’s body had long-since evaporated in the air, silently ending this round of interaction. Chances were that she was probing about his code for some link to his real-life body. He smiled, forcing back the emotions that such a thought could bring to the front.

So, that left the blademaster to do no more than stand by and watch the fight commence. There was also the option of greeting the newcomer on the field - wait what? His head quickly turned to the side, eyeing the longarm who’d shown up. Had he completely missed the new player’s arrival on the field? Well it didn’t appear to matter much. For one she was chatting it up with Nall, so he apparently trusted her enough to do that much. And if that wasn’t reassuring enough, the girl seemed to have a familiar look about her - like he’d seen her somewhere before. Such a thing was strange among the countless players of the World. There were his clanmates, and these Freedom Fighters, and then outside of that he knew next to no one in the game. He would have meandered over to say hello and find out if she remembered him at all, but was much too lazy to make such an effort at the time being.

One of the gargantuan enemies fell, and then the other, both fading to red and leaving naught but air in their stead as they slowly evaporated. Wordlessly, the leader turned to Dien and tossed him a Resurrect (for what reason the lower-leveled blademaster didn’t know), and began walking toward the structure the two monsters had failed to protect. It was an interesting building, to say the least. Not a seam to speak for in its impressive form, gleaming white against the sunset-sky. And the doors: the intricate, golden doors glistened in the sun as they silently opened, reflecting vast arrays of its light over the field. Stairs had elevated the group to the entrance, and passing through the massive golden doorway left them within an assembly hall of sorts, with rows of chairs aligned around a stage.

The room’s walls swirled in soft tones, illuminated by windows to the sun from above that seemed to gleam in an abnormally blanched tone for this time of day. Reds, greens, purples, greens, oranges, and blues swirled about on the wall, reminding the blademaster of the pedestal from the second floor in tower. Chances were that there was no connection, or that this could be taken as a sign to mean that the elites had a thing for elemental swirls. In any case, the fulcrum of the room seemed to be a plaque that hung over the wall of the stage. On it, six colors etched themselves into being, and the runes that were inscribed indicated an affiliation with the elements. Well, that much was clear.

There was something about it that made Dien feel it was important. Well, besides the fact that it was on a stage in front several rows of rich, wooden seats, elevated, and definitely the brightest thing in the room besides maybe the tile work on the floor. If anything, it would probably be a good thing to keep in mind - for all they knew it was a clue to anyone stupid enough to forget how the field worked (if the last field he’d been in was any evidence of that, the Elites liked leaving behind such clues). But, that was all there was to the room, besides the single doorway that led to a spiral staircase down into nothing, from his current perspective.

We might as well pause for a little rest here. Get everyone up to full SP and HP, and actually acknowledge our new ally. This is Senna. I hear she's already met you, Reinier... She's decided to help us, at least for now.” Straight to the point, as seemed to be the case with most of what Nall did. There was much to talk to that man about, but as of yet, Dien wasn’t quite ready. If the green-clad player even said the wrong thing, it might break the floodgates he’d hastily erected to halt his emotions. Hell, that would make talking to anyone difficult, even if it was this longarm.

He remembered now, where he knew her from. It had been his first event in the World, his first chance to prove he was worth more than the dust of Mac Anu’s streets that most n00bs seemed content with. Granted, back then he ultimately hadn’t been much more, but the event had given him something new to experience in any case. It had been just following the Valentine’s Day event (in which participants had to scour Mac Anu for a grand total of 102 roses), and Dien had managed to procure a hefty sum of roses. Fifty such flowers were procured for the event, albeit in vain as by the time he’d plucked the fiftieth flower, the event was announced completed. Still, the bouquet ended up in the hands of Senna in the midst of the event, or so he thought. Actually, it might have been a sum of GP, but he was unsure. In any case, approaching the girl would be…awkward. For the moment, that was a conversation best saved for later.

His footsteps took him over to the nearest pew, and he sat, lazily leaning back so his head could actually rest on the thin wooden back without straining his neck and making it unnecessarily breakable. Eyes closed, his mind wandered off in thought, too awake to sleep, but too tired to stay up and about. He heard Zan mention his name and turned his head, seeing him run down the list of who was who. Eyes closed again, and his head rested once more on the pew. If she wanted to talk, then he would entertain her, but for now he was content to just sit and get in some rest.

The conversation, if it could be called that, died down quickly and he heard a heavier pair of footsteps heading his way. Doubtless, it was Zan, and the character passed him by. Now there was something worth talking about. Granted, if the two talked over what he subconsciously knew he had to, he knew it would break down the floodgates, but there was some certainty inside him that this in particular had to be done. The black veil rolled back from his eyes, revealing the entirety of the ceiling once again, and he rolled his head on its joint to face the lycanthrope who stood at the top of the stairs, seemingly very eager to get going again.

He likely heard the blademaster’s slow approach, or smelled something about it. Dien’s foot came to rest beneath him against the wall just outside the doorway, facing into the middle of the room. Starting this conversation would be difficult, to say the least, and it would be hard to tell just how it would affect him. Was he scared? Yes, but at least they weren’t under threat of attack now.

“Zan,” Dien said aloud, “Danielle said you mentioned something about hacking…” His voice trailed off, and he stared off blankly, not even within eyeshot of the heavyblade.

Indeed, Dien's approach was heard from its beginning, Zan's idle frame neither jumping nor twitching at the sudden sound of words on the air. “Yea. Could you come over here? I'd rather not have to yell this.

With a single push, his foot released itself from the wall, and Dien turned the corner, entering the dark realm in which Zan chose to exist and leaning on the wall to the outside of the staircase, the player now directly next to him. “So,” he said, “what's up?”

Still Zan didn't make a motion to face him...or to even acknowledge his presence, really. Either he was taking the whole sentry business a touch too seriously or the request he had was something he couldn't look Dien in the eye for. “There's a Wound, a gap in my data that, for lack of a better word, has scabbed over. It's my ticket into the real world. I was wondering if there's something you can do to tap into the Wound to wake me up again. It doesn't have to be permeneant, if you can't do that, but I need enough time to get Lowen out of the mess I put her in.

The blademaster stayed silent a moment, looking back into the room and trying to regain his fragile composure again. "I've..." he stared, but never completed the thought, instead feeling a frog grow in his throat as the realization slowly began to sink in, "...my applets - the ones I'd use to hack your wound - those are gone." He turned to face the heavyblade, fighting the urge that was growing inside him to hate this guy who had trapped him. No, it was Xenobia's fault, not his - the killer had been the Elite Hacker of Light, not this lycanthrope. Dien pushed off the wall again, coming in front of the man to face him, his face visibly troubled. "But if there is anything can be done by me, I won't hesitate to chace after it with everything I have - I owe you that much after the hell I gave you." Resolute eyes stared into the lycan's eyes, honest tears spilling out as he quietly pledged his aid.

Zan didn't make a motion, didn't withdraw his hood to reveal his expression; the only reaction given being the length of time it took for a response to come up to his lips. “Stop crying, Dien.” The familiar tinge of salt had hit his nostrils. “Just...go back inside. If things happen, they do. If not...that's something neither of us can control.

He had to laugh at the player's command - he'd been telling himself the exact same thing. “Yeah,” Dien said, starting the trek into the room, “I really should, right?” He laughed again, though it was still audible that he was on the verge of a maelstrom of tears. In some kind of instinct he put his hand on the player's shoulder as he walked past, either for support for himself or as a reassurance to the lycanthrope. Hell, he didn't know why, he just did it and proceeded to the pew. Regaining the composure to continue this mission was gonna take a while after that one, and he mentally kicked himself for even having submitted to his subconscious drive to make things right between himself and the other player. Or had that been for the better?

_________________
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Image|||Level 35 Blademaster (+200 EXP)
Wishlist: EXP, Ends of Earth, Armor with Status Effects


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 8:47 pm 
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-------------------------------------------

Conner knew he should have gone right and headed home or at the very least ran back to Leo's house. That would have been have been the safe thing, that would have been the sane thing. But no, instead he had chosen to follow the screams of a little boy into the apartment; the same little seven year old boy whose head he had pinned sideways into the pillow. The little bastard had bitten him enough times through the priest's words to elicit such a thing. Deep breaths, Conner. Don't faint. Don't black out. Focus on the man's words; focus on the beat of your heart. Keep breathing. Keep. Breathing. Conner's hand felt as if it was pressed to smoldering iron, the kid's flesh boiling with what writhed within. Protesting words in languages the high school student couldn't understand kept hissing from the child's throat, kept drawing Conner closer and closer until his face lingered but an inch above the boy's temple. Torn cords from varying electrical appliances around the apartment tied the kid's limbs to the bedposts, but each struggling effort made by the boy was met with the waning creak of slowly splintering wood. How the hell? No...no, stop asking questions. Close your eyes, turn away from his God damn gibberish.

The flustered holy man continued to fumble through biblical passages, flicking a vial of holy water at the ever-flailing body of the child between sentences. It only seemed to enrage the kid more, his mouth dribbling off more syllables that seemed far too foreign and far too coherent for Conner's tastes. Even with the high school student's other hand forced down on the kid's solar plexus he couldn't keep him down, couldn't keep him idle. Whatever the priest was doing, it wasn't working. It was only a matter of time before the child broke loose from his entrapments and when that little shit was running around with blocks of jagged wood tied to his arms...well, Conner didn't really want to be there. Cowardice and paranoia had begun to take root in his thoughts. He found himself no longer considering the most effective way to pin the child before him, but rather the quickest way out of there before the shit hit the fan. Sadly, the priest caught wind of his little scheme and decided that, of course, it was one hell of an idea. With stuttering apologies given, the man fled from the room, shouts for explanation sounding from the living room as the parents of the child watched their child's salvation head for the hills. This, of course, left Conner alone with the brat.

Or so he had thought.

Not a second later and the approaching sounds of parental footsteps were joined by a third...the priests?...before the mother and father once more hung back and left a solo pair of feet against the carpet down the hall. Good. The holy man had grown back his balls. However, to Conner's dismay, the person who stepped through the threshold of the child's room was adorned in street clothes and appeared to be no more than a junior or senior in high school. Gelled black hair, arranged in wiry spikes, was met with the hazel of his eyes and the blue jeans/black hooded sweater combination he sported for clothes. Seemingly undisturbed by the words slithering from the child's lips or his flailing form, the mystery figure simply stepped onto the bed, standing over the child as he fixed something onto his left hand. Whatever it was was fashioned of some sort of metal, bronze by the look of it, and crafted into some sort of symbol; three chains leading off from it, capped off by rings that slid around the figure's thumb, middle finger, and pinky in turn. With the symbol now resting over the center of his palm, the new person in this little sideshow spoke up.

"You know the rules against using kids, fuckwad. Time to shove you back to whatever shithole you crawled out of."

Before Conner could speak up, before he could question the exact nature of the thing on the guy's hands or what the hell what he had just said had meant, the palm with the rustic looking device slammed down and onto the child's chest, just an inch above where Conner's hand resided. A burning sizzle hit the air only a moment before a high pitched screech sliced up through the kid's throat, dying down to quiet and unconsciousness not a moment later. The atrocious fever that the kid had had not a second before was gone, replaced by the cold and clammy feel of someone who had just woken up from a really, really bad nightmare. Taking his hands off the kid, Conner stumbled back, his frantic gaze aimed at the guy who had ended it.

"Well," The teenager paused, indulging himself in a small smile as he too looked towards Conner. "Looks like we need to have a chat."


-------------------------------------------

Oddly enough, the memory made Zan smirk beneath the darkness of his hood, his post held and his stance as stolid as it was when he had started the little look out. To look back on those days, when he had taken the left and found the light beneath the light, the darkness beneath the darkness...it was nostalgic. Looking back on it, though, did make him feel a touch moronic. How could he ever have not known what went bump in the night? How could he ever have not known what whispered in the ears of everyone when they weren't looking? Foolishness was followed soon with guilt as he once again questioned his reasoning for going off to college. The world that that singular night had immersed him in had started to choke the Heavy Blade, had started to grow far too intense. There were a lot of things that Zan was willing to do for the greater good. Like Reinier, he was more than ready to kick ass and take names later if it meant that the cosmic karma was shifted in the right direction. However, there were only so many lines of morality he'd cross for the ambitions of other people.

Such thoughts were filed aside at Reinier's approach, their conversation short lived but vital in its own way. So, Senna was to be protected. Zan doubted that she needed it in the physical sense, but she could never prepare herself for the sort of things Twilight could dawn upon them. Pun sort of intended. Was there really a way that the lycanthrope could protect someone from the virus' infection? Such a proposition was laughable, really, when one considered that he had been a personal carrier for the Twilight that had passed on to Dien. And yet...and yet Reinier had still asked him for help in guarding her. How he'd go about that he didn't know, but he was a man of his word. If anybody else had gone up to Zan, save Dien, with that request, the werewolf would have politely told them to go screw themselves. He had already tried to warn people to leave them once, he wasn't about to do it again. Reinier, however, had saved Zan's ass and displayed to him how to be a real warrior on more than one occasion. The Heavy Blade wasn't one to just ignore something like that.

Next on the list of conversations had been the Blademaster he had pulled under and drowned into this world himself. That little exchange of words had seemed to last even shorter than his previous interaction and had produced much less satisfying results. Zan had inwardly prayed that all Dien's boasting of being some sort of uber light hacker (okay, so that's an exaggeration, but the lycanthrope was pissed) would actually come to fruition. As much as Zan wanted to lock the kid in a room and force him to find a solution, Dien had a point. Whatever tools were at his disposal before were no longer at his fingertips because of his current...situation. A situation, Zan had to remind himself for the umpteenth time, he had gotten the kid into. There was still hope, of course, that Dien would have some sort of moment of enlightenment and suddenly know how to make all of it better, but it was a hope that would diminish day by day. How many days of hope did Zan even have left in him? Hell, how many days did Lowen still hold? Lowen...the Heavy Blade hadn't heard from her in a while. Long enough, anyway, to make a paranoid guy like him worry. Had the link Atra had fucked with fixed itself yet? Only one way to find out...

Lowen, you there?

A pause. Nothing.

Lowen...Lowen, are you there? Hello? If Atra permanently fucked up their connection, so help him he'd ki--

Conner? Thank God.

Yea, it's me. Are you okay? Are they hurting you again?

No. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen or heard from any of them in days. I haven't been given food in just as long and the water they gave me last time is dwindling dangerously low. I'm not all that great at rationing things. She tried to make the last sentence sound humorous, but came away only with desperation.

Just...just try, okay? I'm doing my best to find a way out of this game. I don't know if it'll be permanent, probably not, but I'm working on it. Hold on for a little while longer, okay? Can you do that for me? Zan knew he probably sounded like he was patronizing a child, but hell.

Okay. There are times when that word alone can be frustrating, and then there are times, like this one, where Zan thanked God that some simpleton had come up with it.

Their conversation was ended purposefully, Zan fully aware of the energy it took to send even the simplest of thoughts through their sympathetic connection. She had to hang on, had to hang in there. If he lost her...only the Big Man in the sky knew what would happen. Without Lowen, Zan was pretty damn sure he'd have to leave the Freedom Fighters all together. What use would an empty, mourning husk be to a team of people constantly fighting for their independence from the hellhole that had them so tightly wound in every inch of its code? Shouldn't that mean that he had to leave them now so he could save her and so he could come back and not be completely useless? Maybe. But neither time nor situation seemed to allow him such a logical process. For now he could only wait, could only stand and bide his time until Nall gave the all clear and they once more headed out and down into the bowels of the dungeon. All for what again? Oh, right, to destroy a single communications hub and nab some of their dirty Flashmails. 'Cyb3r me?' 'k!1' The thought bought a rare smile from Zan's lips. Well, it seemed he was all full of smiles today.

As much as he hated to continue to run thought this loop of think of Lowen, don't think of Lowen, he had to switch his thoughts onto the task at hand. The Freedom Fighters had to be more important than his own issues. Lowen wouldn't want the lives of all of the people there to be exchanged for hers. Zan would easily do that, if he was ever given the choice, but Lowen would forbid it. And so he...he simply had to follow this path and see where the hell it took him. Oh, and Reinier. He had to stay here especially for that kid. The discussion they had had not long ago back in the jazzed up Hideout hadn't been forgotten. Reinier was on a road of degradation and he would need someone to end him if he ever stepped too far away from their path. Zan would try and reason with him, sure, but he already knew that by the time he saw the change in Reinier it would be too late. Like the element bound to the fellow Heavy Blade's code, he was adamant and unmoving in his opinions and aspirations. If Reinier wanted ultimate power in exchange for every moral fiber in his body, in exchange for even his soul? Oh, he'd get in. There was no question about that. All Zan could do was pray for such a thing to never happen.

Thinking on it further, Reinier wasn't the only one that needed someone to keep them steady. There was Dien was well. Zan never feared that Dien would Fall, that Dien would become one of the people the Freedom Fighters so actively fought. The lycanthrope's obligation to Dien was a much different one. It was Zan's fault, whether the Blademaster acknowledged it or not, that the kid was stuck here. Thus, in the werewolf's mind, it was his job to find the kid's out; his 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. The fact of the matter was that Zan knew very little about who Dien was. Yet...there was something about the kid-who-cried-often that reminded Zan a lot about himself. Where the Heavy Blade held in his troubles for the most part, bottled it up nice and tight (giving it a nice shake from time to time) with all the intentions in the world to let it explode at a later date, the Blademaster was honest about who he was. That difference aside, they seemed to hold a lot of the same values. Hell, in truth, Dien reminded Zan a lot of Leo, of Domini. Maybe that's why the friendship they had had bonded so quickly. Be it that or Dien's knowledge of his darkest sin against his own people...Dien was one of two people Zan trusted in all of the Freedom Fighters. The lycanthrope could only wonder one thing.

How long would those two be able to trust him?

_________________
Lv. 50 Heavy Blade
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Special: Levels, GR Sendai, PL Sakai, Darklore.
W: Tonosama Sword, Mineuchi, Jundachi.
A: Samurai Helm, Able Hands, Rare Greaves.
I: Holy Sap, Treebane, Cooked Bile, Nightbane.
EX: Elemental Summon (Lv. 2), Overdrive (Lv.1), Elemental Attacks (Lv. 2), Enhance Dark, Elemental Breath (Lv. 2).


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 5:01 pm 
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Location: ...Tracking...please wait...
Socialization commenced, mission complete. Nall stood, wandering around the temple, looking for details, clues, anything. The only thing that wasn't typical for hacker architecture was the elemental crest hanging above their next destination. The more he looked at it, the more ominous it seemed.

It was sort of like a cross, of a cross had six limbs. From the centerpoint, a white crystal, a central prong stretched straight upwards, shaped like a flame made of ruby and garnet. To it's left, growing leftwards then up, was a tree. At least, it would have been growing, had it too not been made of gemstones. Dark brown crystal the likes of which not seen in the real world, topped with jade and emerald leaves. To the right side of the flame, mirroring the tree, was an inky tendril of darkness. A solid chunk of oiled obsidian, a slightly wet-looking matte black.

Falling directly below the flame was a waterfall of sapphire and aquamarine. To it's left, underneath the tree, was a diamond-and-topaz inlay of a stylized lightning bolt, gleaming in the twilight sun. And, finally, underneath the darkness tendril, was a frozen outpouring of sand, like the broken side of an immense hourglass. This whole thing was mounted high up on the wall, out of reach and above the doorway. What it meant, what it represented aside from the elements, was anyone's guess.

”Alright, now that we're all rested up, let's move on.” Nall said, gesturing for the doorway. They had a little time to kill, after all, but that didn't mean they were free to spend all day here. They had a job to do.

Without waiting for the others to follow, he disappeared down the staircase. It quickly resolved itself to be a spiral staircase, leading around and around and down and down, a seemingly endless number of flights. All was lit from everywhere and nowhere at once; no light sources, but light everywhere. The typical cop-out of CCCorp in their dungeon designs. Still, CC rarely used spiral staircases, so it wasn't easy to forget this wasn't just any old dungeon adventure.

Nall was, of course, first to emerge from the endless staircase to the bottom. The walls simply ended, the last step being the floor. Once more they stood in a large room, this time circular. Their staircase was the central column of the cavernous room. Exploration would reveal another doorway in the column, exactly opposite their exit. It was closed solidly, however. A version of the cross-like symbol from above was left in the door, made of the same gemstones and the same opulence. The only difference was, this one was missing pieces from each “element” prong. A leaf-shaped insert, a small hole from the flame, a prism shape from the darkness tendril, a lightning-bolt shape from the prong of lightning, a droplet of water from the waterfall, and an hourglass-shaped hole in the sand. It would be rather obvious; this was what they had to do now.

Find the keys, unlock the door, and move on with the dungeon.

Sometimes, Nall wondered how the hackers managed to put up with this kind of thing. Did they simply have hackers assigned to one area, never to move? He couldn't see any lesser hacker putting up with this sort of trial every time they had to “commute to work”, after all. It was a lot of work and a lot of danger. Perhaps the hackers had their own sort of key, or could simply gate into the end room.... Oh well, they might find out later. One never knew.

Around the outside of the room were six pathways. Each was set in an arch in the stone walls, each arch inscribed with the elemental symbols, the same symbols that appear at the casting of a spell. They all glowed dully with the internal light of their element, signifying the path one would take.

Really, why would the hackers give clues like this? Nall sighed. He could understand giving the intruders a fighting chance, if only for entertainment, but this was ridiculous. It was almost like the hackers were relying on this place never being found, rather than it's own challenges being able to stop the intruders.

To Nall's special senses, he could see a little bit else on the archways, though. Maybe the hackers didn't expect larger parties to enter... Those spell symbols were more than just decoration and label.

”Well, let's pick a path and find the key. Don't try to split up though, those archways will let off a powerful spell if fewer than four people attempt to enter it.” Nall informed the rest of the group as they studied the room.

The faster they got this over with the better, after all.

--------------------------ooc:

Hopefully if you can get a quicker post in, I don't have to wait a full week for this decision. After all, there's no puzzle to this one, just a choice. You'll have to visit them all anyways...

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 2:26 am 
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By the time Nall had called their little rest time to be well and over, Zan had found himself wavering in and the depths of an idle trance. Standing as he had been, superhuman senses crawling through the depth of the field, it hadn't been long before his mind came to a hapless halt. It was like undergoing several million years of devolution, his mind drawing away from intelligent thoughts and coming down to the simple matters of following sounds with his eyes and traveling breezes with his nose. Every time he came away with nothing; nothing threatening, nothing even remotely hostile. Be it the Elite of Time's tone or some subconscious memory of what it had been like not to be a subservient primate, the words led him away from his solitary world back to the here and now. Yawning a touch, a sudden wave of muscle cramps forcing him into indulgent stretches, he found himself at the back of the line of descending Freedom Fighters. Pulling his hood down, Zan took stock of the staircase and the oddly illuminated walls about them.

It was taking freakishly long to get to the bottom of the spiraling thing, the lycanthrope's patience beginning to dwindle and thin. It was an eerily familiar setting, something that had Zan dipping into the back of his memory banks for identification. A book. It reminded him of a book. When the name of the book had struck into the front of his thoughts, the werewolf suddenly found himself doubting their downward climb. In The House of Leaves there had existed a staircase like this, though the walls had been non-existent the world about the characters was pitch black, but like the book this one too seemed to never end. How deep were they going, really? Personally, Zan wasn't a fan of knowing that if they found themselves in a bad spot that required vacating in a hurry that they'd have to run up three or four miles of God damn stairs to do so. Well, in theory they could just gate out. But who's to say that the Elites or their lackeys wouldn't just lock the field and trap all the Freedom Fighters in their little funny farm of construction? Too many questions, too few answers.

Finally, the decent had grated Zan's nerves a touch too much, the slow pace set by the others agitating the lycanthrope beyond his ability to ignore it. Alright, time to hasten the trek. The Heavy Blade's visage had converted into that of the Corvid by the time his jump had taken him as far up to the ceiling as he could manage. Since he was going down, normal flying became more of an effortless glide and with a self-amused chuckle sounding from his throat he whipped above and past the others. Before he left their sight he turned to fly on his back, offering them up a simple wave of his hand before he spun back onto his stomach and took off completely. The stairs below him began to blur into a solid line as he picked up speed, the lycanthrope only then beginning to realize that he didn't exactly have the proper flight training to be zooming down like he was in such a confined space. Plus, who knew what the hell this was going to open up into? Removing himself from the moment, looking at it from a more objective point of view, Zan half wished there was a closed door to greet him. There was no doubt such a thing would break him in half a dozen places, but the others needed something to laugh at. Too many, himself included, were being bogged down by their own sullen issues. Humor could liven things up a bit.

Another thing to consider was the potential danger that lurked at the end of this little journey, if such an end even existed to the damn steps. There was a big chance that Zan was going to severely regret the little cutsies he had taken from the rest of the Freedom Fighters. Suddenly fearing the number of things stacked against him, the lycanthrope wisely chose to slow down, his pace now set to a brisk fall rather than the terminal velocity that he had accidentally acquired in his fit of rash stupidity. Either way it was much quicker than the walk that himself and the others had been waddling in and, quite frankly, Zan just wanted the trip down to be done and over with. The sooner they finished the whole thing the sooner he'd have more opportunity to talk to Dien about the only thing that truly mattered to him at that point in time. When the open threshold finally greeted the Lycan's eyes he couldn't help but smile, whooshing out into the open before spiraling up and coming to settle down feather-light onto his feet. Well, unless his eyes lied to him - which, in such a place, they could - there wasn't any immediate threat. What the new room did seem to require, however, was a little investigation.

Six archways seemed to make up the majority of the room's walls; each of them glowing with a color that Zan assumed represented the elemental dangers and foes the Freedom Fighters would find in their depths. Great. More elemental shit. The mural had promised such a thing, sure, but Zan had sort of been hoping that the Elites were just a fan of digital artwork. His personal scan of the room came to a conclusion the Heavy Blade found his eyes (now their Siberian Husky blue as the rest of him sifted back into normality) resting upon a duplicate mural of the one he had been referencing in his thoughts not a moment before. This one, however, seemed to be damaged. Closer inspection revealed the ornament of sorts not be broken, but simply missing pieces. Ah ha. The archways pulsing around him now made sense, his brow lofting as he considered the crap they would have to go to in order to retrieve the necessary pieces. Wonderful, just wonderful. Why couldn't the bastards just have the frickin hub out in a clearing on the field with a big neon sign flashing above it that said 'Fuck Me Up, I Dare You'? Weren't they confident enough?

Mumbling under his breath about one irritation or another, the Heavy Blade began to pace the perimeter of the archways, trying to figure out a system of some sort to figure out which was best to enter first. Were there any hidden signs, any subtle scribblings on the walls with trigonometric equations that would clearly tell any genius who could figure that crap out which entrances led them to oblivion and which ones guided them into salvation? Ha, right. Because the Elites were just full of fuzzy teddy bears that made any thing even resembling some oasis of safety. Damn it. They were royally screwed no matter which way they ended up going with and no immediate plan of discerning the bad from the 'oh shit we're so going to die in there.' So, it came down - at that moment anyway - to personal preference. Zan had always found ice and water to be rather soothing elements...ignoring the fact that the fuckstick Melzas had trapped him here with the stuff. Eh. But they didn't really have any advantage in that place. Without Tokki on their team, they'd be just as helpless in the ice field as they would anywhere else. Alright, far from helpless, but it would still be nice to go somewhere they'd have an edge in first. Well...Reinier was rather skilled in the Gan zone of things, wasn't he?

Though the fellow Heavy Blade didn't have nearly as much faith in his own talents as Zan did in them, he would still be a nice asset down the Gan path. Tilish had flipped The Heart of Coals for Dien, so maybe embarking on a little fiesta down the Vak area would awaken some latent fire talents in the kid. Or probably not. Plus, one automatically associated fire with pain and 'hot hot hot.' Or was that last part porn? Who knew. Either way, the Vak area didn't seem as inviting as he had initially considered. The Juk path, perhaps? Yea, right Zan, let's start out in a zone where Reinier could find himself crippled off the bat. Brilliant. What was next on this little line up of blind deduction? Ani, perhaps. Oh yea, that was an even better idea. Let's go and plunge into an abyss that will probably end up being the actual Abyss! Plus, it would be fun to test everyone's night vision. Seeing as that little advertising campaign was doomed to failure, Zan turned his thought then to the last of the bunch, the Rai path. Rayo wasn't with them, so whatever appeal it might have had was immediately gone. Not like the guy could openly manipulate the stuff, but still. So, in the end, Gan seemed to be the best idea.

The idea that struck him next made Zan feel like an idiot for not having considered something so obvious before. He was thinking and acting on a human level when, in fact, he was much more than that. The lycanthrope had tools at his disposal that he openly ignoring for one dumbass reason or another. Calling the wolf to his senses, Zan began a miniature investigation into each of them with hearing and smell alone; sight was useless, piercing into darkness and nothing more. His ears gave him nothing for the Vak path, but filled his nose with the smell of cooked meat, a smell that had his mouth flooding with saliva at a moment's notice. Sure, he didn't prefer his meat crispy, but he'd take whatever he could get. God damn he was hungry. Regretfully, however, he moved on, turning his attentions next to fire's opposite. This time his nose gave him nothing while his ears had the information; a dull roar of a waterfall panging mildly against his eardrums. Huh. That one might not be so bad. Shuffling along to the Juk area gave him only the mild ruffle of leaves, something that the Lycan could have figured out on his own. Ah well, it was more information than before. The Gan zone was a touch more informative, the sound of a heavy rock moving making itself known inside of his skull. Not surprisingly, any attempt to tap into the mysteries of the Ani portion of this mystery only gave him dead, unnatural silence. Its opposing companion, Rai, gave off nothing more than a hint of ozone. Odd. Shrugging a touch to himself, he turned to the others who had filtered out from the steps during his prodding.

"Alright, everyone listen up real quick. I think it's fair to say that we have to go down each and every one of these eventually. However, I did the best with what I could to figure out what we're up against and came up with a few things. Vak smells like cooked meat, I heard a waterfall in Rue, heard rustling leaves in Juk...lame, I know...a large stone moving around in Gan, a complete and total silence in Ani, and something that smelt like ozone in Rai. I know it isn't much, but I figure it's better than going into all of them completely blind. Oh, do note though that there's a chance the Elites have this place wired to throw off intrusions with even amplified senses, so we don't even really know if what I heard and smelled have anything to actually do with what lies beyond." He paused, allowing that information to sink in before going on. "I think it'll be best if we walk down the Gan path first. We have someone who's relatively apt in the area, whether he believes it or not, and I think it'll be a good start." That done, he made a short trip to Dien. "What do you think is the best path? The only opinions that really matter to me amongst these people are you and Reinier. I have a feeling Reinier would side with me, so I figured I'd check with you."

"Well," Dien said, looking off towards the different doorways, "I'd guess that we start with Ani. Just the fact that there's total silence sets it off as the most dangerous place, and I'd guess we want to get the hardest parts out of the way first." There was a pause, and he looked at that particular door, "that, and there's the fact that not knowing what's over there is making me a little anxious and whatnot."

Zan took a moment to consider it, shaking his head after only a moment of doing so. "I understand that, I do, but we need to put our own anxieties behind us and think about the rest of the group. We're more likely to have an easier time through the Gan alley as a start. If anything, it'll get us warmed up for what's to come. Immediately immersing ourselves in what could be the most dangerous of them all would be rash, foolish, and hell of a lot more dangerous. We don't want to lose people already, do we?"

"Ah," Dien said, "but do we really want to immerse ourselves in what could be the most dangerous of them after we've tired ourselves on the other elements?" The Blademaster looked around the room, staring at the keyhole again before continuing. "Still, you guys all have more experience here - you lead and I'll follow, trying to kill things as best I know how."

The lycanthrope nodded, glazing his eyes over the threatening loom of the Ani path. "And you're right, we wouldn't want to do it last. But I didn't say last. Doing it first would be as stupid as doing last. Maybe once we take a stroll down Gan Lane we'll know what this place is up to and the Ani zone won't be such a bad place to go. So, if I get Gan up and going, you think you can back me on it?" With nothing but a nod given by the kid in response, his eyes telling of the world of thought he was drowning in, Zan began a short trip to Reinier and went to confirm what he already knew would be true. "I'm getting people to agree to the Gan path, you in?"

Reinier gave a slight nod in Zan's direction, not truly looking in his direction. Thoughts of the trails in each room fluttered through the boy's mind at his point, and something as trivial as which one to pick didn't seem to bother him all that. "Gan works with me. It doesn't really matter which room we visit, y'know? From the looks of it... we're going in to all of'em."

Zan smirked at that, a shrug leading into words. "True, but I think the best way to pick up some steam is to start out on a path we have some general, if only trivial, safety in."

Reinier looked over in Zan's direction, and smirked. "Building up steam for when we enter the wood area, and I become useless? That would be smart. I figure if I fill my pockets with rocks I'll be fine when we enter the wood area..." Reinier trailed off, chuckling softly to himself.

Turning then to face the rest of the group, smiling as well, he let off another small announcement. "We have three people gearing to the Gan path, everyone else cool with that decision?"

Some might not be, sure, but if they had any chance in any of the paths, that was the one.

_________________
Lv. 50 Heavy Blade
Wishlist
Special: Levels, GR Sendai, PL Sakai, Darklore.
W: Tonosama Sword, Mineuchi, Jundachi.
A: Samurai Helm, Able Hands, Rare Greaves.
I: Holy Sap, Treebane, Cooked Bile, Nightbane.
EX: Elemental Summon (Lv. 2), Overdrive (Lv.1), Elemental Attacks (Lv. 2), Enhance Dark, Elemental Breath (Lv. 2).


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