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    Nightlit
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Virtualization - 10. Well Earned Calm

“Kwame! What are you doing!” Tyrone loves his cousin, he really does, but the boy infuriates him to no end.

“You have to see this!” Kwame says from around some corner somewhere.

Tyrone sighs, “I have no idea where you are!” Kwame responds by sending Tyrone a party request which he grudgingly accepts. He follows his minimap towards the dot indicating where Kwame is, “I didn’t come out here to be led on a wild goose chase!”

“It’s totally worth it!” Kwame yells back.

Tyrone grumbles but follows anyway. Once again, Kwame is probably right. But that really just makes it more frustrating. He’d like to be able to put him in his place, but his cousin is basically immune to that. Even when he’s proven wrong he just admits it and moves on.

Tyrone remembers the first time Kwame was caught looking at a guy in the school shower. No matter how many bruises he came home with, he just smiled. He’d even admitted that being outed was a load off. That getting punched was preferable to not being himself. It took Tyrone beating the crap out of like five people before people left his cousin alone. As far as he knows, Kwame doesn’t even know he did it.

“Come on man! You’re not that old. And this is a fucking digital world anyway!” Tyrone sighs and follows his mini map until there’s no where to go. He can see Kwame is only a little ways ahead, but there’s a rock face between them.

“Uh… how?” Tyrone asks.

“There’s a bush to your right, it hides a crawl space!” Kwame yells.

Tyrone pulls the bush aside and then crawls through. And when he steps out he’s amazed at what he sees. The mountain opens to a circular valley with a lake fed by a waterfall falling from the far cliff side, clearly an impassable barrier.

At the bottom of a path leading down from the place where they are standing is a beach surrounded by palm trees. The water is clear and he can see the sand beneath it. Though there are crabs and starfish and other various forms of wildlife, the area is a safe zone, telling him that they are there for ambiance.

“See?” Kwame has a shit eating grin on his face.

Tyrone grins back, “Okay. How did you even find this?”

Kwame rolls his eyes, “I searched genius. There were places like this littered all over the original game. I figured, couldn’t hurt to search here.”

Tyrone laughs, “I’m glad they made this place a safe zone.”

Kwame nods, “Right? Means we can like, hang out here and shit!”

“You gonna tell anyone else about this?” Tyrone asks.

Kwame nods, “Dude! Of course! We should set up a teleportation circle here. Get that Theo kid to make us some food and then hold a huge party!”

Tyrone laughs, “It’s not that hard to get here.”

Kwame rolls his eyes, “Yeah, but who wants to fight their way to a party?”

Tyrone looks at the place again before responding. Kwame is definitely right. The place is beautiful. “Like, half the players in this game.” He jabs.

Kwame shakes his head, “So half the players will appreciate the teleporter. That seems good.”

Tyrone shakes his head. Classic Kwame. “Fair.”

Kwame grins at him, “But, for now. Wanna swim?”

“Wearing our gear?” He asks.

Kwame laughs, “Afraid of seein’ me naked cuz? Think my hotness will put you to shame?”

Tyrone grins, “Naw. I’m definitely hotter than you. I just don’t get my jollies eyeing my teenage cousin’s junk.”

Kwame grins back, “Then don’t look!”

Tyrone can’t help but laugh as Kwame’s stuff disappears and then he runs down to the water. “I’m headed back to town! Have fun!”

Kwame waves up at him, “Your loss!”

Tyrone just shakes his head before leaving Kwame to his own devices.

Meanwhile

Zuri sighs as yet another crocogater falls before her. “It didn’t drop again.” She grumbles, “Are you sure this is what you want? Cause this is getting ridiculous!”

Kaja shakes her head, “I’m so glad I can’t have a headache right now, cause I’m sure I’d have a doozy! Was the drop rate for quality skins always this low?”

Zuri rolls her eyes when her inventory is filled with rough skins for the umpteenth time that day. “Ugh! My inventory is full again.”

Kaja sighs, “Maybe we should see if those kids can help us? Can’t leatherworking upgrade mats?”

“Even if they can’t, let’s go ask anyway!” She looks around, “We’ve been killing gaters for literally hours! Any excuse for a break!”

Kaja nods. “Okay.”

After the time they’ve spent fighting, the walk back to the local teleporter is a breeze and soon they find themselves standing in their shop with a bunch of people. “Hey, this place is packed.” Kaja notes.

Zuri nods, “Yeah. I wasn’t expecting so many people to be here.”

Kaja is about to respond with the taller of the two kids walks over to them, “Hey! How can we help you?”

Kaja looks around, “There’s other people here in front of us.” She says, a bit irritated at the kid.

He smiles at them, “They won’t mind. And if I know what you need, I can help speed along the process.”

Kaja raises an eyebrow at him, “Are you sure?”

He nods, “Don’t worry about it. Most of the people around are waiting for the next giveaway.”

Zuri steps forward, “So, we’ve been hunting crocogaters for like, hours, trying to get quality skins. Can you guys do something about that?”

He grins at them, “We definitely can! How many do you need?”

Zuri grins at him, “You can make them?”

He shakes his head, “No, but we have a huge stock of them! People bring quality skins in all the time. What are you trying to make?”

Kaja looks down at him, “You means we’ve been grinding for hours for nothing?”

He tilts his head to the side, “That’s a bit of bad luck. Quality skin isn’t that rare.” He grins at them, “But no matter!” He walks over to the shorter kid behind the counter and then walks back. “So, if you guys want to make it yourself, that’s fine, but we can make stuff for you if you want.”

Zuri nods, “That’s what we were told.” Zuri shakes her head, “But I wasn’t sure what to think.”

He nods, “That’s fine. We’re trying to get the word out, but we know there are some players who aren’t as social as others. Or who just aren’t as hardcore.”

Kaja grumbles to herself, “So I wasted my orbs on leather working too?”

The boy shakes his head, “I wouldn’t say so. But even if you did, we have orbs too.”

Kaja’s eyes widen, “You have orbs?” She looks around, “What’s been going on? I guess I heard some rumors, but I wasn’t sure what to think?”

A man walks over to her, “Do you mind if I take this Theo?” Theo shakes his head in response.

“I don’t know what you’ve heard, but we’re trying to be at our best.” He puts a supportive hand on Theo’s shoulder, “With these two mastering artisan skills, other people can focus our builds entirely on combat if they want to.” Theo then walks back over to the counter.

Zuri blinks at him, “Does anyone need to be that focused?”

“I guess that depends. Since we can’t die, those of us attempting the temple raid probably should be. But I don’t know if you two plan on it.” He says.

Zuri looks over at Kaja, “A temple raid run. We’re we gonna do that?”

Kaja thinks for a moment, “I… don’t know. I thought people already did that?”

The man looks down, “Yeah. They weren’t successful.”

Zuri’s eyes widen, “You mean they wiped?”

The man nods, “But they were underpowered and unprepared, so we don’t know what to expect. We just don’t want to take any chances.”

Zuri shakes her head, “Isn’t a raid at all a risk?”

The man nods again, “Yeah. And I’m not saying you should go if you don’t want to.”

Kaja nods, “Yeah, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna want to.”

Zuri nods, “Yeah. I mean, we’ve both been grinding out stuff for our builds. I’d like to use it.”

The man smiles at that, “I think a lot of people feel that way.”

Zuri smiles at that, “Sorry about our mood. We’ve had terrible luck grinding all morning!”

Kaja lets out a big sigh, “Yeah! And then to find out we could just have come here?” She shakes her head, “Makes me wish even more that we hadn’t been selling the drops we didn’t need. I feel bad taking and not giving back.”

The man shrugs, “You can start now if you want. You aren’t the first people to be uninformed.”

“Still.” Kaja says.

“So, do you need regular skins?” Zuri asks.

“I’m sure they do, but you should go ask Ben. He’s the leatherworker.” The man says.

“Which one is Ben?” Zuri asks.

“The one over there.” The man motions towards him.

Zuri walks over to Ben and, slightly impatiently, waits for him to finish with the customer he’s helping. “Sorry to cut in, but I have an inventory full of crocogater skins. Did you need them?”

Ben nods, “Of course. We usually get more quality skins than regular ones. People assume that we don’t need normal drops and only give us the rarer ones, so an inventory of standard drops would be great.” He walks over to the auction, “So. Do you know how we’ve got this set up?”

“Wait a sec. I have a friend who should hear this too.” Zuri says.

“No problem.” Ben responds. Zuri then brings Kaja over.

“So, we are using the auction system as a communal bank. For the moment, Theo and I are passwording everything so that no one can take stuff without asking, but we hope that won’t be necessary in the future. Everything is being put up for the lowest possible price, so that soul energy won’t be an issue for retrieval. You can post the stuff yourselves if you want, but if you want it to be in the communal area, you’ll want to add one of us as a co-owner of the auction so we can set a password without telling you what it is.” He frowns, “It’s nothing personal.”

Kaja nods, “No worries. We get it.”

Ben continues, “You can still use the auction system for actual auctions, but you might not find a lot of buyers since most people are giving stuff they don’t need away and getting stuff they do need from the communal area, but the option still exists. Just don’t tag it ‘communal’ so we can keep track of what’s what.”

Zuri nods, “I don’t think we have any reason to auction stuff, do we?”

Kaja laughs, “If anything? This is loads less work!”

Ben nods, “That was part of the idea. Make it easy for us to get stuff where it needs to be. Make it about the community as a whole rather than individual gain.”

Zuri smiles, “That’s great.”

“So, is there anything else I can help you with?” He asks.

They think for a moment. “Do you know anyone looking for a guild? Collin tried to set us up with one a while back, but it didn’t pan out.” Zuri says, “I’ve been wanting to find a guild but it’s been tricky.”

“What are you looking for?” Ben asks.

Zuri looks at Kaja, “I don’t know. Do you?”

Kaja shakes her head, “Should we be looking for something?”

Ben thinks for a moment again, “Well… maybe a better question is, why haven’t the guilds you’ve looked at worked for you?”

Zuri shakes her head, “I guess… well… there were these three guys, but they were super moody and negative. I want a guild that’s fun.”

Kaja nods, “Yeah. They were also looking for the wrong reasons I think? They wanted to be meta!”

Ben nods, “Okay. So, were there any others?”

They both nod. Kaja responds, “Just lots of people forming guilds thinking about stuff like party balance and the like. Why can’t people realize this is a game? Stuff like party balance isn’t more important than the feel of the party.”

Ben looks down, “Do you have a problem with the meta?”

Kaja rolls her eyes, “You mean a bunch of blowhards telling me my build sucks because it’s not the best? Why wouldn’t I have a problem with that?”

Zuri shrugs, “Yeah. Who cares.”

Ben blinks, “But Collin is like, the king of the meta, and you said he hooked you up?”

Kaja nods, “I dunno. Collin’s different. When he talks about builds, he talks about optimizing the build you play, not some arbitrary best build.”

Ben looks down, “Uh… I don’t want to be rude but… I haven’t ever heard any of the top players talking about there being a best build. So… maybe you should give people a chance?”

Zuri ponders this while Kaja responds, “Ya think? I hear a lot of people talking about that shit.”

Theo walks over to them, “Of course you do! We’re in a game where when you die you’re gone.” He smiles at them, “But that doesn’t mean people are constantly telling each other their builds suck. If you want a casual guild, there are casual guilds, even with top players in them. That doesn’t stop them from trying to be the best they can be.”

“So, you think we should find one of those guilds then?” Zuri asks.

Theo shakes his head, “Nope. Start you’re own guild if you want. There are plenty of players who haven’t found a guild they meshes with yet, but expect people to want to discuss the meta.” He thinks for a moment, “Unless you wanted to go on the temple raid?”

Zuri grins, “We wouldn’t miss that for the world!”

Theo frowns, “Then the meta is non optional.”

Kaja frowns at him and rolls her eyes, “As if. Plenty of non-meta builds raid.”

Theo looks up at her, “But do those non-meta builds survive the raid?”

Zuri sighs, “You act like we’re actually being killed out there!”

Ben looks up at her, “We don’t know what’s happening outside. We don’t know whether people who die are just taken out of they’re pod or if they are killed or if they are sent to the moon in a rocket. But… people don’t want to take that chance. And if you are just treating the temple raid as a fun thing to do? Then you might not find a lot of people wanting you in their raid group.”

Kaja scoffs, “Well fine! If they’re gonna be all stuffy we don’t want them anyway!”

Zuri shakes her head, “Kaja… what if they’re right though? What if we aren’t taking this seriously enough?”

“What does that even mean, seriously enough?” Kaja counters.

Zuri shrugs, “I dunno. But what if we’re, projecting, or something?”

Kaja grumbles, “Ugh! You mean we’re the problem?”

Theo shakes his head, “No! Never think that. There isn’t a ‘the problem’, and you aren’t a problem.” He smiles again, “Besides. I get where you’re coming from. There are loads of people who are assholes about the meta. But, for the most part that’s not how things are here. Maybe it’s because we’re trapped, or because we culled the PKers, or because the top players are taking people under their wing, but if people who are elitist about the best builds are stuck in here with us, they are keeping quiet about it.”

Zuri thinks for a moment, “So, you think we should change our expectations? Give people the benefit of the doubt?”

Theo nods, “I think you’ll both be happier that way, but if you don’t, that’s fine too. Just remember that whatever you choose, choices have consequences.”

Kaja thinks for a moment, “Huh, that’s good advice.”

Theo grins, “Collin told me that.”

Zuri laughs, “Sounds like something he would say.”

Kaja shakes her head, “So, any thoughts on how to find people?”

Ben and Theo both think for a moment. “You said you were introduced to some guys earlier?” Ben asks.

Kaja nods, “But they didn’t mesh with us at all.”

Ben nods, “Well, but they might know other people who don’t mesh with them, right?”

Kaja blinks, “Huh… that’s actually a good idea.” She turns to Zuri, “What do you think?”

Zuri shrugs, “As good an idea as any I’ve got.”

Kaja turns to Ben and Theo, “Thank you.”

Zuri waves, “We’ll be seeing you.”

Ben waves with a sheepish smile while Theo says, “We’ll be here!”

After they’ve left the building, Kaja turns to Zuri, “So, what? Do we just call them up?”

Kaja thinks for a moment, “Maybe we should see if we made a mistake with them first?”

Zuri nods, “Sounds good to me!”

Meanwhile

Stephan is sitting around in the park when Luke walks over to him, “Hey. Stephan right?”

Stephan nods up at him with a frown, “You don’t remember me?”

Luke shakes his head, “I do, I’ve just been learning a lot of names lately. I didn’t want to confuse you with someone else.”

Stephan nods, “Oh. Okay.”

Luke squints down at him, “Are you okay? You seem a bit down?”

Stephan sighs, “I miss my brother.”

Luke frowns, “I wish I could do or say something to make it better. I wish I’d been able to do more for you that night.”

Stephan shakes his head, “It’s not your fault.”

Luke nods, “I know. I just wish there was more I could do to help.” He shakes his head, “I’m not gonna brood.” He looks down, “So, should I leave you alone? Or do you want a pick me up?”

Stephan looks up at him, “A pick me up?”

Luke nods, “A friend of mine tells me he he found a super great hidden safe zone. Beautiful and fun. The perfect place for a beach party. I was gonna check it out when I saw you.”

Stephan thinks for a moment, “Can I bring my guild?”

Luke smiles, “You joined a guild?”

Stephan smiles up at him proudly, “I started a guild!”

Luke grins at him, “Good going!”

Stephan nods, “Yeah, Jerome’s in it. You know him right?”

Luke nods, “Wait, you got Jerome to join a guild?”

Stephan smiles and nods, “I was a bit surprised too.”

Luke snickers a bit, “I bet Gail talked him into it.”

Stephan blinks, “Gail?”

“Old girlfriend. Now she’s kind of his kick in the pants. She’s that person who can get him to see when he’s not thinking clearly.” Luke’s smile fades, “Kind of like what Asa was for me.”

Stephan looks over at him, “You think about Asa a lot don’t you?”

Luke nods, “I do. I just… I need to get to a place where I don’t. As long as I’m obsessing over Asa I’m not ready yet.”

“Ready for what?” Stephan asks.

Luke sighs, “You know what? I’m not even sure.” He then forces himself to smile down at him, “But that’s not important right now. Right now, we should go see this place Kwame found.”

Stephan is about to respond when he gets a message from Zuri about guilds, “Hey Luke, do you think it would be a problem if some more people tag along?”

Luke blinks, “I’ll check. I dunno how private Kwame wants this place to be.” Luke sends a message and then a moment later he just bursts out laughing, “So apparently, far from minding, Kwame wants you to invite whoever it is.”

Stephan smiles, “That’s good. It’s this girl and probably her friend. They’re looking for a guild still.”

Luke nods, “Then we should help them find one.”

Stephan sends a message back to her to meet them at the temple teleporter.

When they get there Zuri and Kaja both seem surprised, “Is that Tall&Zxy?”

Luke shrugs sheepishly, “I go by Luke now.”

Kaja grins, “Not so tall.” She sidles over to him over dramatically, “But definitely zexy.”

Luke laughs a little, “Thanks I guess?”

Zuri shakes her head, “Don’t take it the wrong way. Kaja likes flirting with well… anyone.” She snickers, “But I wouldn’t kick you out of bed.”

“Can we change the subject?” Luke says, clearly embarrassed, prompting Zuri and Kaja to laugh.

“What are we laughing about?” Armon asks as he walks up with Jerome.

“How zexy Luke is.” Stephan responds.

Armon gives him a look, “Huh… I’m not gay but… I can see it.”

Luke sighs, “Ugh! I’m never gonna live that screen name down am I?”

Jerome shakes his head, “You might if you were ugly.”

Luke rolls his eyes, “And I can’t even uglify myself now!”

“Now now! I’m sure there’s some hideous combination of clothes you could wear. But we’d still tease you about your screen name anyway.” Kaja elbows him, “Can’t unsee the zexy after all.”

“Am I really that attractive?” Luke asks, suddenly self conscious.

“Hot enough to be zexy?” Kwame answers from where he’s standing by the teleporter, “Not sure. But definitely hot enough to be teased about it.” He then walks over to them, “Name’s Kwame. I was not expecting this.” He grins, “So I’ve decided this is no longer a beach getaway. Now it’s a fucking party!” He turns to Luke, “I expect you to invite Ben and Theo.” He thinks for a moment, “Would the A team and the Indecisive ones want to come?”

Luke shrugs, “Probably?”

Kwame raises an eyebrow at him, “Probably?”

Luke nods, “I don’t talk to them much, so I dunno what’s up with them recently.”

“Aren’t the Indecisive ones and The A team a big deal in server politics?” Stephan asks.

Luke sighs, “They are, but not because they really want to be.”

“A lot of top players, Luke and myself included, feel protective of everyone else. So we’ve been trying to take responsibility for stuff.” Jerome says. “That’s the only reason the Indecisive ones or the A team is in server politics at all.”

“Really? You don’t think there’s any selfish motivations at all?” Stephan asks.

Jerome shakes his head, “Honestly, I think most of the members of both guilds are pretty laid back, and would prefer to just enjoy the time they have in game. They feel obligated to help keeping the server sane.”

Luke nods, “I think so too.”

Zuri shakes her head, “Let’s just invite them and get this beach party started!” The rest of them nod in response.

A Little While Later

Watching the top players play, even fighting the relatively weak mooks on the way to the mountain lake, gives Zuri a new perspective on the game. It’s not so much how skilled they are, but the way they aren’t taking their skill so seriously. Asa grins and gives Ardine a thumbs up after a successful blindside and later Ardine yells in triumph and high fives Brandon after ending an entire fight with a single shockwave. Collin and Lloyd look on as Tracy’s bunnip rips things apart while she laughs maniacally. Lloyd pats her on the head earning a scowl while Collin just looks on laughing. Luke even smiles sheepishly when Kwame slings an arm around him after he solos an encounter.

“It’s nice isn’t it?” Zuri looks to find someone Jerome introduced named Gail.

Zuri blinks, “Nice?”

Gail stretches lazily, “Not having to worry about it. We can fight if we want. But if not? We can let other people do it.”

“You don’t wanna fight?” Zuri asks.

Gail laughs a little, “I love to fight! But sometimes I just want to watch masters at work. Ya know?”

Zuri nods before Kaja walks around the corner back to the group, “Hey! Look what I found!” She holds up a gold bow.

Zuri laughs, “That’s what was in the rare chest?”

Kaja nods, “Yep! I’m gonna give it to Ben or Theo as soon as we port them here.”

Gail grins, “They’ll like that.” She then walks up a small ramp of rocks near the edge of the path, “So, Jerome also told me you were looking for guildmates still.”

Zuri walks over, “We are.” She looks around, “Didn’t want gloomy guildmates. But everyone seems to be in high spirits now.”

Gail nods, “Don’t worry. I’m sure half of them will be moping around by tomorrow.”

Kaja tilts her head to the side, “You say that like it’s a good thing?”

Gail grins, “It’s who they are.”

Zuri smiles a bit, “I think I get it.”

Gail nods, “But I know what you mean. You guys are looking for people like The A team, who don’t take themselves too seriously.”

Kaja grins, “Like you, you mean?”

Gail nods, “Perhaps! That all depends.”

Zuri raises an eyebrow, “On what?”

Gail wears a shit eating grin, “Whether or not you can defeat me… at the volleyball minigame!”

Kaja’s eyes widen in delight, “Wait… There’s a volleyball minigame? Awesome!”

Gail grins, “Yep! You can also play badminton.”

Kaja grins, “So there’s a net and you can play volleyball or badminton with it?”

Gail nods, “Yep!”

Kaja turns to Zuri, “Are you game?”

Zuri laughs, “Of course. But… you didn’t know about the volleyball net?”

Kaja blinks, “You did?”

Zuri shakes her head, “We’ve been in here for weeks. You never perused the help menu?”

Kaja tilts her head to the side, “You mean it’s actually helpful?”

Zuri rolls her eyes, “It is a help menu.”

Kaja scrunches her face, “Most help menus in games are useless.”

Gail laughs, “Yeah. But apparently this game’s help menu isn’t.” She motions towards the A team. “But, between you and me? Brandon’s memorized almost the whole thing. And he’s more than willing to share.”

Kaja grins, “I’m not friends with him.”

Gail shakes her head, “You should be. He’s nice.”

Kaja nods, “I’m beginning to think that maybe I was a bit quick to judge the server.”

Gail shrugs, “Perhaps. But we did cull a bunch of assholes, so it’s not like there weren’t bad eggs.”

Kaja sighs, “I try not to think about that.”

Gail nods, “Most people do.”

It doesn’t take much more time before they reach the crawl space and in a short amount of time the group is looking down at a beautiful tropical pond. “Wow. This place is awesome.” Zuri says.

Lloyd sets up a teleportation circle and in a moment Ben and Theo appear. Theo turns to them, “Wait a moment! This place needs some sprucing up.” He then goes to the center of the room and casts Sanctuary. In a moment everyone gets an invite and they are standing near a tent and campfire in the middle of the beach. “There we go! Now we can use our furniture and stuff!”

Ardine’s eyes widen, “That’s brilliant!” She exclaims, “Not only does this mean we can do what we want without being disturbed! Using sanctuary creates a private instance so multiple groups can use the area for different things without interfering with each other!”

Theo looks at Ardine sheepishly, “I’m glad you approve.”

She laughs, “None of that Theo! You deserve praise and more.” She turns to everyone else there, “Don’t you agree?” Everyone hollers in response.

It doesn’t take very long for the group to set up a fun space and soon everyone is enjoying swimming in the water, talking, and snacking on food Theo brought with him.

Zuri watches everyone play, “Yeah. I think we made a slight error being so anti social.”

Kaja nods, “Yeah. I think you’re right.” She then turns to Gail, “So, about the volleyball. Who are you gonna have on your team?”

Gail grins, “So you want a two on two match?”

Zuri grins back, “You think I was going to sit this out?”

Gail turns to everyone else there, “Has any of you played the volleyball minigame?”

Kwame stands up, “Of course! Did you guys wanna start a game?”

Asa stands up, “Wake and I have been doing it too.”

Brandon elbows him, “You act like Ardine and I haven’t!”

Luke grins, “Sounds like we’ve got ourselves a volleyball tournament.”

Zuri and Kaja grin, “We’re in! But first we have to beat Gail so she’ll join our guild!”

Jerome steps forward and bows, “Then Gail. May I have the honor?”

Gail snickers, “Always.”

Though Gail and Jerome win the first few matches, mostly due to Kaja and Zuri being unfamiliarity with the game, they eventually get that all important victory. “That did not go as I planned.” Kaja notes, a tad bitterly.

Gail laughs, “It was fun! And you won! I never said you couldn’t lose first.”

Kaja’s expression immediately reverses, “Awesome!” She then blinks for a moment, “So… you’re joining our guild. What’s your build anyway?”

Gail snickers at that, “You invited me to your guild and you don’t even know what I do?”

“We’re not too concerned with being meta.” Zuri responds.

Gail rolls her eyes, “I’m not either. But most people do at least care about covering the basic combat roles.”

Kaja nods, “Yeah. Which is why I asked. I run the offensive staff build that builds on healing magic skills.”

“I run the ice armament and buffing build.” Zuri says.

Gail grins, “Cool! I am a demolitionist who specializes in traps.”

“Ooh! I’ve always wondered about traps! Is that fun?” Kaja asks.

Gail laughs, “It’s amusing, but it’s hard to use on bosses.”

Kaja shrugs, “Isn’t that part of the fun though?”

Gail grins, “You get it! Most people are just like ‘that build sucks!’”

Zuri shrugs, “Who cares what they think!”

“I wholly agree.” Collin steps in, “I think you should perfect the build you like.”

Kaja turns to him, “See? That’s part of the problem. Not everyone wants to play the optimized build! Some people like to just play with what they like.”

Collin doesn’t miss a beat, “That’s perfectly fine! I spend lots of time thinking about off meta builds. Especially ones more focused on fun factor than power. It’s always great when I find one that’s fun, weird, but also works!”

Zuri smiles at him, “I knew there was a reason I liked you.” She then turns to Gail, “So, guild?”

Gail nods, “Yeah! Is it just the three of us?”

Kaja nods, “For now, but I want to find someone else.”

Zuri nods too, “Yeah. I’d like a big guild!”

Collin smiles, “I can look some more if you’d like. I think I have a better idea of what you’re looking for now.”

Kaja thinks for a moment, “Nah. I kinda wanna look around for myself.”

Zuri thinks for a moment, “Yeah. What do you think Gail?”

Gail points to the volleyball net, “I think the volleyball tournament must begin! And then after that we can start our grand adventure for our future McGuffin seeking allies!” The group laughs and then goes to the net.

Gail and Jerome end up winning the tournament, but Kaja and Zuri do quite well considering they’d never played the mini game before and everyone has fun. By the time the tournament ends it has grown dark and people start to head off.

“So, what now?” Gail asks.

Zuri thinks for a moment, “Maybe we should think of our name?”

Kaja smiles, “Yeah. Maybe like, SuperBoomers!”

“We are not calling our guild Super Boomers.” Zuri says.

“No. It’s SuperBoomers, as one word.” Kaja corrects her.

Zuri shakes her head, “No!”

Kaja frowns overdramatically, “Aw!”

Gail bursts out laughing, “Is there a story to this?”

Zuri rolls her eyes, “Only that she always tries to name everything SuperBoomers. Always.”

“It’s a cool name! I will always stand behind SuperBoomers!” Kaja says.

Zuri shakes her head, “No SuperBoomers!”

“What’s wrong with SuperBoomers?” A young girl, probably barely thirteen, asks.

Zuri shakes her head, “It’s childish!”

The girl tilts her head to the side, “And?”

Zuri looks at her, “And… I… don’t know.”

The girl shrugs, “Then what’s wrong with it?”

Kaja grins at her, “Yeah, what’s wrong with it?”

Gail is also grinning, “I’m fine with SuperBoomers!”

“I don’t care if it’s irrational! I will not name our guild SuperBoomers!” Zuri yells.

She scrunches her face when she sees the other three laughing. She then starts laughing with them, “So, who are you?”

“Rika.” She says. “Spiral master in training.”

“Someone thinks highly of herself.” Gail says.

Rika grins, “I never said I was great at it, but I will learn! I will become a spiral master!”

Kaja smirks at her, “Not the best spiral master ever?”

Rika smirks back, “I’d love to be the best spiral master ever, but I’m content just being one.”

Zuri snickers, “Someone is more mature than they come off.”

Rika scoff, “Oh please! I’m just full of false bravado.”

Gail raises an eyebrow, “And you admit this?”

Rika nods, “Humility was beat into me.” Then she grins, “But that doesn’t mean I have to be negative!”

Zuri thinks for a moment, “What’s your build?”

Rika shrugs, “Elemental archer. I know, I know. Not the most spiral master-y build. But I like it.”

Gail shakes her head, “I’m sure there are lots of ways being a spiral master could be part of that build.”

Rika shakes her head, “Typically, spiral master builds aren’t two handed, and I don’t have a crossbow or pistol yet.”

Gail frowns, “Huh. Oh well!”

Rika looks up at Kaja, “So, guild called SuperBoomers?”

Kaja sighs, “That’s been vetoed.” She thins her eyes at Zuri, “For some reason.”

Rika tilts her head to the side, “Are you guys forming a guild?”

Zuri smiles, “Yep! That’s why we need a name.” She thinks for a moment, “Were you waiting for an invite?”

Rika looks sheepish to them for the first time, “I was raised not to ask for stuff like that.”

Zuri shakes her head, “That’s a shame. I liked your bravado better.”

Rika thinks for a moment, “So… if you gals are making a guild. Can I join it?”

Kaja nods, “Sure! Why the fuck not?”

Gail snickers at her, “Should you be swearing in front of the children?”

Zuri rolls her eyes, “Thirteen is hardly a child.”

Rika shakes her head laughing, “I’m still a child. But thanks.”

Gail thinks for a moment, “How about the Highlanders?”

They all look at her, “Highlanders?”

Gail nods, “Yeah! It’s a good name! Sounds strong too, doesn’t it?”

Zuri thinks for a moment, “I do like it.”

Kaja grins, “Highlanders is good.”

Rika smiles at them, “Thanks. I’ve been lonely.”

The three older women hug her.

Zuri gives her a sisterly smile, “You’re not alone anymore.”

Some of you might be noting how in depth the game mechanics are? That's because I'm not just a writer, I'm also a game designer hobbyist, so while the mechanics aren't tested or mathed out? They are designed from the point of view of being plausible for an actual game. I put a lot of work into it, and I hope it gives the story the authenticity I intended for it to.

Stuff You Might Want to Know

Mechanics – Chaining: Chaining is a combo mechanic where multiple attacks in quick succession allows further attacks to do more damage but generate more aggro (relative to a non chain attack doing the same amount of damage). The amount of time you have between hits gradually goes down the higher the chain count goes. The damage increase is gradual (starting at 1% per hit) and has a hard cap of 100% bonus damage, but both can be boosted or bypassed with skills while the aggro increase can be mitigated via skills. Chains are kept track of by target, with AOEs building the count for each target separately. Chain bonus damage is considered an increase to base damage, and is thus added in before other bonuses and enemy resistances and is unaffected by skills that prevent something from taking bonus damage, unless they specifically mention chain damage.

Magic chaining skills are mostly in ice, and focused primarily on quickly building combo count and chain damage multiplier. Weapon chaining skills are mostly in Ax and focused on extending the amount of time between hits before the chain resets and taking advantage of an existing chain to do big damage.

In most cases, each party has their own chain count and damage modifier for each target, but in Temple raids the chain is shared by the entire raid. Enemies can also chain, and typically share one count per target for the entire combat.

Copyright © 2020 Nightlit; All Rights Reserved.

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