Though I don't consider it sex, there is some light fondling in this chapter that could make someone uncomfortable. I only mention it because the story has a "no sex" tag and I didn't want to be misleading.
A large group of players sits in the same room as the party was held the previous day.
Theo and Ben sit with the Indecisive ones, the A team, Luke, Kwame and Ricky on the stage. Most of the other top players, including Jerome and Jacklyn, stand around the edge of the stage while others sit in various places around the room.
Collin addresses the room, “So, I think we all know why we’re here, but just to make sure, the purpose of this meeting is to talk strategy for the upcoming Temple raid. Now, I can lead our strategy, if that’s what everyone wants, but I only want to do that if everyone truly thinks I’m the best man for the job.”
There’s some murmuring in the audience, before Asa steps forward, “From what I know, you are one of the best theorycrafters and strategists in the game, let alone on the server; and, I’ve been on a Temple raid you planned in the past. It went really well.”
Ardine nods, “I have been as well. You have my support.” She then turns to the audience, “But this is not a contest, and we don’t need a single strategist. In fact, we need the best minds up here, so if you think you are that? Please, step forward. Now is not the time for humility.” Her expression grows stern, “Our goal is to craft a plan that will allow us to tackle the Temple boss without a single death. This is a feat that is difficult in the best of circumstances.”
Collin nods, “Yes. I want this to succeed. I want us all to survive. I will make the best plan I can, but I also want to make sure that if someone else can make a better plan, or improve on one I start, that that’s what happens.” He looks down, “I don’t want this to be about my, or anyone else’, pride.”
Jacklyn steps forward, “The same goes for me, and I think the rest of the top players. We are the most skilled people on the server, but I don’t want that to continue being the case. We have the skill now, so we’ll use it. But if one of you gets better than me? That’s great!”
Luke nods, “Jacklyn and I are going to go over the basics of spiral mastery with anyone who wants to start.” He turns to Asa, “I was hoping you’d help?”
Asa nods, “Of course. Just give me a place and time and I’ll be there.”
Collin nods, “Let’s not rush this. We don’t really have a time limit on doing the raid, but once we start, that’s it. So let’s do this right.” A series of nods and other assertions of agreement cover the room. He then turns to Kwame and Ricky, “Kwame and Ricky have seen the boss in action. So what are we up against?”
Ricky starts, “Kwame and I decided to do some additional recon, since we didn’t get nearly enough on the first pass. The good news is, though this isn’t that surprising, you can still watch the boss fight from the final safe room, and the boss room is not teleport blocked, so we can escape if things go badly.
“The boss itself is a large shelled beast. Kind of like a huge pill bug. It’s got a pretty small area of aggression, and isn’t very mobile, provided you don’t provoke it. Once it’s been attacked or closed on though, it starts to move around a lot, though from the initial runs we saw, its AI script is pretty simple. It tends to go after the closest target unless something else intentionally pulls its aggro.
“As for what it does. It spends the majority of its time rolling around, bowling over people to deal damage. Now, this wouldn’t be the worst thing, except that we took a scan, and found that it has 90% reduction to physical and magical damage. It does have a visible opening in the back of its shell that’s mechanically indicated as a blindside, and we assume that the damage reduction doesn’t apply there. It makes some degree of sense, especially since the boss would be difficult to blindside.”
Everyone looks at Asa, “So. It looks like our damage dealer is decided for us.” Collin says, “What do you say?”
Asa nods, “I guess so.” He turns to them, “It sounds like the timing to blindside it will be extremely tight.”
Jerome shakes his head, “You think Asa’s the right one?”
Asa looks at Jerome, “Hmm… I guess the question is this. What’s going to be the bigger issue, approaching it or having its blind spot available to attack.”
Jerome raises an eyebrow, “What do you mean?”
“Well, if the boss is easy to approach and you can hide from it, it might be better for you to be our attacker. But that means you have to be able to hide from it, which you admittedly probably can, but also that its blindside is actually available to you, which if what they said is true, it might not be.” Asa walks over the Jerome, “We’re the two best blindsiders on the server right now.” He turns to everyone else, “Right?” No one responds.
Jerome shakes his head, “No, we mean it. Are we the best blindsiders on the server? Because if there’s someone better than either of us, now would be a good time to reveal your hidden talents.”
A girl raises her hand, “Definitely you two. No one else even comes close.”
Asa turns back to Jerome, “But you have to admit, when it comes to mobility, that’s my specialty.”
A man stands up, “Well… shouldn’t we just plan for both of you to do it. Or well… whoever can pull it off?”
Collin nods, “That’s a fair point. As long as you’re both there, we can have two versions of the plan.” He turns to Jerome, “But it isn’t that I didn’t consider you Jerome. The room is large and has no cover. If we’re talking blindsiding, especially something that can move around a lot and potentially keep its blindside hidden while doing so? That’s really more Asa than you.” He puts a hand on Jerome’s shoulder, “I just don’t want you to think I overlooked you.”
Jerome shakes his head, “This ain’t about pride. It never was. I just wanted to make sure we were thinking everything through. You’re probably right,” He looks down at Asa, “This probably is an Asa moment. But if I see my chance.”
Collin nods, “We should definitely prepare for that possibility.”
Asa turns to Jerome, “We should work together. I’d be able to maneuver you into a position you couldn’t get to yourself. And if you can’t one shot it, I’ll be more likely to be able to rescue you before you get killed than you’d be able to escape on your own.”
Jerome nods, “That sounds like a plan.”
Luke shakes his head, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We don’t have a plan yet.” He looks at Asa, “We don’t even have a complete team yet.” He thinks for a moment, “I’d like to take part… but if this thing really charges around, don’t we want a dedicated tower shield tank rather than a parry tank DPS mix?”
A guy stands up, “I can do that.”
Another guy also stands up, “Me to.”
Stephan stands up, “I do that… but.” He looks at Luke, “I’d feel a lot better if Luke was there with us.”
Luke nods, “I’ll definitely be there. I’m just not sure how helpful I’ll be.”
Collin nods, “That’s good. But there’s another issue at hand here. We are hoping for a one hit KO. But in the likely event that we can’t get one, we’re gonna need someone who can snag aggro, and I mean fast. Because one thing Asa and Jerome share is being made of paper.”
Asa shakes his head, “That’s not entirely true. Remember my roulette skill?”
Collin thinks for a moment, “...wait… wasn’t it…” His eyes widen, “An auto revive?”
Asa nods, “And my guild and I tested it. It does reset my aggro.”
Jerome looks down, “It’s looking more and more like I should sit this one out.”
Luke shakes his head, “We might need you. Consider the failure to one hit KO scenario? If you strike first then fail to kill it, it will most likely have to turn around to attack you. If Asa is right there with you, he can attack it right after you, and if those two attacks don’t kill it, he should still be able to escape, draw it towards a group of tanks, and then either lose the aggro to the tanks, or have his auto revive kill his aggro for him.”
Ben steps forward, “Um… aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves?” He turns to Kwame, “Is there anything else we need to know? Like, it rolls around. But what exactly does that mean?”
Kwame thinks for a moment, “It’s like… it rolls up into a ball. And then smack, bang, boom! It’s bowling over you like a bowling ball aiming for a ten seven split! It knocks you all around and then it does it again!”
Ricky sighs, “Basically, it rolls into a ball and charges. It has a huge amount of knock back, enough that I’m pretty sure it can knock anyone down.”
Luke thinks for a moment, “Is the knock back impact?”
Ricky raises an eyebrow, “What?”
Luke looks at him, “Do you know how impact works in this game?”
Ricky shakes his head, “Not the details no.”
Luke nods, “Impact is the force caused by an attack. Impact is determined by a number of factors, like weapon type, swing angle, weapon skill and a bunch of under the hood calculations, but basically, impact is the standard knock back from an attack.”
Ricky raises an eyebrow, “Yes… but why would you ask that?”
“Because, whether or not an enemy like this’ attacks are impact is largely arbitrary. Since its weapon is unique to it, they can give it all the impact they want. But, there are some enemies whose impact is actually a special affect, like a throw, linked to their attack. In that case, no amount of skill can prevent a person from being knocked back, but a parry or full damage block will negate it, like they negate the secondary effects of any attack.” Luke explains.
Collin nods, “That is a good point. Luke, could you describe parries to us? I’m sure plenty of people don’t know the details, and you probably know some finer points that theorycrafters like me wouldn’t be aware of.”
Luke nods, “There’s not much to them really. Parries reduce damage by based on the weapon and parry ranks and they negate the secondary effects of what you parry, regardless of skill. Sometimes this will lead to hilarious moments, like you can parry a weapon swing to negate a shockwave even after the shockwave has been fired. Or, if you parry certain teleport strikes, you’ll negate the teleport, so knowing when to parry can be important. A huge example is the samurai yetis in Snow Veil Valley. Their attacks come out fast, shoot shockwaves and deal a lot of damage, but they hold their attack pose for quite a long time after they swing, and that’s technically still part of the attack. So you can wait until the shockwave passes, then swoop in from the side and parry the sword to negate the shock wave after it safely passes you but before it reaches anyone else.”
Asa nods, “And there’s more to it too. The yeti has the ability to damage enemies when it sheathes its weapon. But that actually has nothing to do with the sheathing animation. It’s a delayed secondary effect of the attack that just normally occurs at the same time. Parrying the attack prevents that from happening too.”
Jacklyn steps up, “The other thing to remember is that parries work on hit boxes, not weapon areas. Depending on the weapon they are using, you may be able to score a parry without even coming in contact with it. Sometimes you can score a parry just by swinging wildly into their attack range. I don’t really recommend that, but if you are caught off-guard and aren’t good at timing, it can work in a pinch since you don’t need parry ranks to reduce damage.”
Collin raises an eyebrow, “Hmm… that must be because you can parry virtually any attack, and not every attack uses a weapon’s standard weapon area.”
Jacklyn nods, “Yep. It’s mostly significant in PvP against weapon swapping spiral masters, but there are a few times when it matters in PvE. This boss might be one of them. It’s charging attack must have a pretty unique set of hit parameters. Parrying it might be extremely difficult, incredibly easy, or even inconsistent.”
Collin turns to her, “Inconsistent?”
Luke nods, “Yeah. Because angle makes a big difference, especially when there is movement involved in an attack, the hit box you have to hit to parry it might change even from frame to frame.”
Collin shakes his head, “Which means you and Jacklyn are the only ones who we can reasonably expect to be able to parry it.”
“Yeah.” Luke responds, then turns to her, “But, you respecced to a less tanky build right?”
Jacklyn nods, “Yeah. The ice chain build.” She grins at Collin, “Which I’m loving by the way!” She turns back to Luke, “But, you’re right. I doubt I could parry it safely on my own for any length of time.”
Collin turns to the crowd, “Any one else here who can parry?” People look around for a moment, but no one speaks up.
Luke sighs, “I’m sure I can parry it if it’s possible to parry, but it’ll still bowl over me if it’s using normal impact.” He turns to Ricky and Kwame again, “Is there anything else you can tell us?”
Ricky shakes his head, “Unfortunately no. Even when they fought it, it’s AI pattern was extremely simple.”
Kwame nods, “Yep. Roll and crush. Roll and crush. That’s all it did.”
Ricky thinks for a moment, “It has a beak like mouth when it’s not curled up into a ball, so it may be able to bite, we never saw it.”
Kwame nods, “Yep. Nadda.”
Collin sighs, “So that leaves us with precious little to work with.” He thinks for a moment, “I think we need a united front here. We can’t plan for multiple groups. We need to be together on this.”
There is murmuring from the audience. Eventually a girl stands up, “I’m sorry but… you seem tired.”
Collin blinks, “I seem tired?”
Lloyd nods, “I’ve been telling you Collin. You’ve been overworking yourself.”
A boy stands up, “You’ve been great.” He turns to everyone, “Hasn’t he been great?”
The girl who stood up before nods, “You’ve really been there for us, even when we weren’t being very supportive.”
One of the men who was very vocal during the first meeting stands up, “Yeah. I apologize. You’ve done so much for us.” He looks at the people on stage, “All of you have.”
Collin shakes his head, “No apologies necessary. We all were in a bad spot, but we’ve all been in here for over a month now, and I think we’ve all grown, both as people and as a community.”
The murmuring in the crowd sounds positive now rather than uncertain. A moment later Asa steps forward, “It sounds to me like everyone wants to help out. Is there anyone who isn’t in a guild yet? Because I think you should either find people like you and form a guild, or see if you can find a guild to join.” He looks at his guildmates, “I think it’s helped me a lot.”
Luke nods, “Some of you probably don’t want to be part of a guild, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be part of the community, or that you should go it alone.” He motions towards Kwame, “I know I am known for doing things myself. I’m not doing that. I’m a free agent. I’ll help anyone in need.”
Kwame nods, “Me too.”
Collin smiles, “And that is something we need right now. If we’re going to beat this thing, we’re going to need people who work together really well. Real teams.” He turns to Brandon, “But I think Brandon can explain it better than I can.”
Brandon nods, “I’ll try. I guess… it’s like this. Guilds are groups of people working together for a common cause. Well, our raid group needs to be a group of guilds working together for a common cause. Just like you can’t only worry about yourself when you’re in a guild, you can’t just worry about your own guildmates while in a raid group. We all gotta help everyone, cause we want everyone to survive.”
Brandon takes a deep breath, “But we want teams that work well together too, which is why we want guilds, so that everyone has people they can count on.”
Collin smiles down at Brandon, “Exactly.”
Wake puts an arm around Brandon’s shoulder, “Take Brandon and I. When we first met, he was scared of me, and I was scared of that too. He really helped me get out into the community. And now,” He smirks at the audience, “I think people know me for me now.”
Wake drops his arm from around Brandon, “We also fight well well together. I trust him to protect me and I know he trusts me to heal him. Together we manage our team’s aggro really well, and that wouldn’t be possible without a lot of practice.”
Brandon nods, “And I know I’m better at tanking because of it. Not just when teamed up with Wake, but when teamed up with anybody else.”
Asa grins, “It’s not just them. Even the top players can improve. I’ve gotten a lot better at coordinating my attacks with others now.” He looks at Luke, “The truth is, though Luke and I partied together, we more or less fought on our own. Not that we ignored each other, we just didn’t have much reason to coordinate. We were both skilled, both fairly self sufficient, and if one of us died, the other could usually finish up whatever was left.”
He turns back to the audience, “But that also limited what we could do. We had little reason to improve our teamwork. That might be why we both became top players, because we put all our time into individual growth. But this game demands teamwork. The hardest content cannot be done solo. And, if I compare it to the content I played before, the content in the game we’re in right now is more difficult. But we have risen to the challenge, and I think guilds are a large part of that.”
Luke nods, “Asa’s right. I may not be part of a guild, but I’ve been fighting alongside various people, helping out anyone who needs it; and, I’m sorry to say, I was arrogant before. All of us were arrogant before.” He shakes his head, “Not being able to die. Not wanting to watch others suffer. Dealing with harder content. It’s changed my perspective on a lot of things.
“I was great, just as all the top players were. But if I were to compare my skills now to my skills a month ago? Now I blow myself out of the water.” He grins, “And I’m sure that’s true for everyone. I know I’ve been impressed with everyone.”
Collin steps forward, “Well well. Here I thought I’d have to give a speech about how awesome we are, but looks like they beat me to it.” He smiles at the audience, “I want to make sure that everyone here really wants to do the Temple raid. That you aren’t just here because we are. You have nothing to prove to anyone, least of all us.”
He takes a deep breath, “This is probably foolhardy. Despite our best efforts, people have died since we started. And I’m sure more people will if we continue.” He looks at the players on the stage, “We’re doing this because we want to.” He turns back to the audience, “And there are good reasons to. But there are also plenty of good reasons to hole up and wait. And if that’s what you want to do. If going out there scares you, that’s perfectly fine.
“Now is not the time for machismo or pride. We need people out there who both want to be there and are ready to be there. People who don’t have something to prove.” He looks down, “For a while that wasn’t me. It wasn’t any of the people on this stage.” He looks up. “We all continued playing when we could have been safe because we felt we had something to prove. But this has become about more than that for us. It’s about living our lives.”
Guy stands up, “I… think I want to live a life. I want to go.”
A bunch of other people in the audience nod in response to him.
Ben stands up, “We’ve been really proactive about gathering supplies. We have a number of weapons already made, as well as a decent supply of crystallized orbs. We’ve also got a large back stock of spiritual energy, much of it courtesy of Jerome and Jacklyn, who spent a large amount of time grinding. We can use this to create any orbs you might need. Remember, we’re all in this together. We may not be fighting, but we’re here to help you.”
Collin steps forward and puts an arm around Ben’s shoulder, “You’re wrong. You are fighting with us Ben. Perhaps in the most important way anyone is.”
Luke nods, “Don’t discount what you do for us.”
Ben smiles, “I won’t.”
Lloyd steps forward, “So, about this strategy we’re making?”
Collin nods, “Yes, let’s get back to that.”
It’s a few hours later when the meeting comes to a close. They don’t have a real strategy yet, but they discussed everything they know about the boss and then some and decided that they needed to take some time to think before reconvening.
The A team and the Indecisive ones find themselves alone again. “Are you thinking of a plan?” Asa asks Collin.
Collin nods, “I’m starting to. You’ll be important to it. Maybe essential.”
Asa nods, “I know.”
Ardine steps forward, “It is a bit odd though. The boss seems… perhaps a bit one note?”
Brandon looks at her, “What do you mean?”
Ardine looks down, “I mean… look at the Goblin King? It was multi faceted. There were fighter goblins for melee, spellcasters to keep people from grouping together too much, archers to keep you on your toes. This boss just… charges around?”
Collin turns to her, “I have a theory about that. I think this may be test content. After all, in theory we could have done a raid during the six hours of time, we just didn’t.”
Ardine raises an eyebrow at him, “So you think that this may be them testing out content before they tweak it for the main game?”
Collin nods, “Or don’t tweak it. It might not even be being used where they intend to put it. It is rather one note for a raid boss, as you said. But it might make an interesting dungeon boss.”
Tracy glares, “Can we not talk about the thing we just spent hours talking about?”
Ardine laughs, “Okay! Okay!” She thinks for a moment, “So, did you actually make the pet build?”
Tracy perks up, “Yes! And it’s really cool!”
The A team turns to her. “Oh?” Brandon asks.
Tracy nods, “You have a lot more control than I thought! At least once you have the skills. You can move it around by using the mini map or the radar. You can order it to attack by pointing at an enemy, but you can also give it more substantial orders using the spiral menus.”
“Don’t they have an AI script?” Wake asks.
Tracy grins, “Yes! That’s one of the things you gain from skill! At first the pet has a very basic AI script you can’t edit. But as you gain skill, you unlock its slots and learn new skills and AI patterns!”
“I assume when you point attack, you are changing the target of its AI pattern?” Asa muses.
Tracy nods, “Yes. At least its attack pattern. You see, the Bunnip has a support pattern too. It can do all sorts of healing and stuff.”
“It can heal? I thought Bunnips were a DPS pet?” Brandon asks.
Tracy nods, “They are. But they also have some support abilities.”
“We think that, since the Bunnip is a relatively early, but powerful, animal, they made it a crutch pet.” Collin says, “But, as far as I can tell, it never really gets bad. I’m sure it gets outclassed by pets more dedicated to one specific role, but I could say the same thing about any build.”
Tracy grins again, “But the best part is pointing at something and watching my cute bunnip rip if to shreds!”
Asa laughs, “That sounds amusing.”
Lloyd laughs, “It’s pretty rad. Also makes grinding so much easier.”
Collin nods, “I think anyone who is going to be primarily grinding should look into a pet build. A well planned pet AI script can fight most mobs easily on its own. We’ve even seen it beat an elite by itself. And the pet revival mechanics work just fine, so they are safer too.”
Ardine raises an eyebrow, “But…?”
Collin nods, “Yeah. There is a but. A pet cannot be stronger than a player, even if you put all your ranks into it. In order to maximize it’s effectiveness, you have to fight alongside it. It is safer, and totally viable, but I’m not convinced it’s better than the builds we already have.”
Tracy laughs and starts playing with her bunnip, “They actually have awesome mini games too! That can get you soul energy!”
Asa walks over to her, “So, it looks like you found your calling?”
Tracy nods, “I’ve never had more fun playing this game! I should have done this ages ago.”
Brandon grins, “I know what you mean. I started the lightning tank build because our team needed a tank and I’m better at juggling MP than dodging or parrying. But now I just love it!”
Tracy grins back, “I’ve seen you. You’d never guess you just started with it a few weeks ago.”
“She’s right. Keep this up and you’ll be considered a top player.” Collin says, then he puts a hand on Brandon’s shoulder, “Especially if you become a spiral master.”
Brandon nods, “I’m on my way there too!”
Lloyd ruffles Brandon’s hair, “Oh? Well, don’t get cocky.”
Brandon shakes him off and laughs, “I can’t get cocky with Wake around.”
Wake walks over to them, “What do you mean by that?”
Brandon smiles, “You’re always working so hard. You’re good, like, really good, but you keep at it. You always think you can be better. It reminds me that there’s always something I can learn too.”
Wake smirks sheepishly, “Oh.”
Asa nods, “I’m glad you’re humble, but you should give yourself some credit.” He walks over to Wake, climbs up into his arms and hugs him, “You’ve improved immensely since we got here.”
Wake grimaces, “Yeah.”
Ardine sighs, “I’m glad everyone’s happy.”
“Thinking about the raid?” Collin asks.
Ardine nods, “I know we’re going to do it anyway. None of us are the types to just sit around in a safe zone, waiting for the increasingly less probable chance that we’ll be let out, but I still wonder if it’s not the wrong choice. I know we’ll get this planned. We have the best players on the server. Everyone is rearing to go. But what we’re asking for is… I’m not sure it’s ever been done.”
“What do you mean?” Brandon asks.
Asa and Wake look at each other, their happy expressions replaced with forlorn ones of understanding, “An entirely deathless, single run, Temple raid.” Asa says.
Brandon looks down, “But it’s not impossible is it?”
Collin shakes his head, “I imagine it’s possible. But… that’s not the same thing as plausible or likely.” He turns to face them, “But, like you said Ardine, we’re doing this anyway. And maybe you’re right, maybe this is wrong. Maybe people will die. But that’s why we have to do our best to prevent that from happening.”
Asa hops to the ground, “Collin? Let’s go find Jerome and make that plan.”
“Yes, let’s.” Ardine says.
The rest of the group closes around them. “You aren’t leaving me out of this.” Brandon says.
Wake nods, “More heard are better right? This isn’t too many people?”
Tracy shakes her head, “No it isn’t. We all know Ardine and Collin are the best strategists here. But that doesn’t mean they won’t miss something.”
Lloyd nods, “Yes. Let’s do this.”
Asa and Wake lay in bed together. “I guess we’re really doing this.” Asa says.
Wake nods, “We are.”
Asa hugs Wake, “I just… I dunno. I’m scared.”
Wake sighs, “We’re all scared.”
Asa rolls on top of him, “I… know we’ve never done this before. But I… if I…”
Wake looks Asa in the eyes, “What is it?”
“I just… I… want to touch you. Before I die. You know...” Asa says sheepishly.
Wake looks away sheepishly, “I can’t… you know.”
“I know… neither can I… I don’t even know why I really want to do this. It’s just…” He sighs, “We’ve never done it before.”
Wake opens his menu and unequips his clothing and Asa finds himself on top of his naked chest.
Asa does the same and soon they are naked on the bed together. “Nothing huh?” Asa asks.
“It does feel good. Your chest. But, no. Not what you want.” Wake responds.
Asa looks down at Wake’s penis, “Man, you’re big even soft.”
Wake nods, “Yeah.”
Asa picks it up and drops it, watching it plop down. He then does it again. He keeps doing it and laughs. “Man. There’s something oddly satisfying about it! It’s so much heavier than mine.”
Wake pushes Asa on his back and does the same to him, but there is no plop. It just kind of slowly falls back into place, “I guess I can’t really do the same to you.”
Asa looks down, “Does that bother you?”
Wake shrugs, “Not really. I’m just glad you can get some enjoyment out of being naked with me.” He rolls on top of Asa, “I may not have any sexual feelings for you right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything.”
Asa grins, “It’s weird, isn’t it? I remember the feelings. And I know I should feel them. I’m certain if we could feel them, I’d be all over you right now. But… they just aren’t there.”
Wake grimaces, “I know. At first it was bad, but now it’s just… I guess I’ve gotten used to it. I can still be happy being with you.”
Asa nods, “Yeah.”
Wake leans down, “I know it won’t matter… but I want to kiss you again once more before well...”
Asa sighs, “Yeah. Because it’s possible we might not come back from this.”
Wake kisses Asa lightly on the lips. A chaste kiss is all that interests them in their current state.
“It might not be tomorrow that we do the raid.” Asa says.
Wake smirks, “Then we’ll keep doing this until it is right?”
Asa pushes Wake over and then rolls on top of him. “Hey!” Wake says, surprised.
Asa grins, “Did you forget I’m a lot stronger than you?”
Wake grimaces, “I guess strength matters more than size here, doesn’t it?” He then picks Asa up and holds him in the air, “Except maybe it’s that none of that matters because we’re digital people in a digital world. Digital people in a digital world that won’t let us have digital sex.”
Asa pokes Wake’s nose, “Now isn’t that a thought? What would digital sex even look like?”
Wake snickers, “I hope it’s not like the cooking mini game!”
That causes both of them to burst out laughing, “Oh God! Can you imagine?”
Wake shakes his head, “I don’t want to jinx it. It could still be implemented you know.”
Asa shrugs, “That would be the day. I think people would still do it though. If it feels good, it feels good right?”
Wake shrugs back, “Probably.”
Asa pokes Wake’s nose again, “You gonna put me down?”
Wake pulls Asa into a hug, “I am.” He rolls over on top of him, “So I can hold you. Because it’s not just remembered feelings for me. Arousal might not be implemented, but care definitely is.”
Asa sighs, “I hope I didn’t give you the impression that I don’t have any feelings for you...”
Wake snickers, “I know you do. You just find it difficult to express yourself sometimes.”
Asa laughs, “I do? Don’t you mean I overly express myself exactly?”
Wake shakes his head, “Sometimes I think you do that because you are trying to figure out what you are trying to say as you say it.”
Asa blinks, “I… guess you’re right.”
Wake grimaces, “I find it endearing.” He gives Asa a small kiss on the nose, “And I’m learning to understand Asa speak.” He kisses Asa on the forehead, “What you don’t say is just as important as what you do.”
Asa smiles, “What do you mean?”
“You are really exact in what you say. But if you can’t be exact, you don’t say it at all.” He smirks, “But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Asa’s smile widens, “You are the most empathetic person I’ve ever met.”
Wake looks away sheepishly, “You think?”
Asa looks down, “Though that could just be because I haven’t met many empathetic people.”
“I think you’re pretty empathetic. You just have difficulty expressing it.” Wake says.
Asa looks him in the eyes again, “You think so?”
Wake nods, “I think that’s part of why Luke gravitated towards you. Because he’s not very good at expressing his emotions. I get the feeling he isn’t even aware of all of them.”
Asa thinks for a moment, “You may be right. I could always read him. I used to think it was just because of how close we were… but I can’t remember a time I couldn’t read him.”
“You could read me too.” Wake says.
Asa tilts his head to the side, “What makes you say that?”
“You were never really scared of me. Intimidated by my features, but you got over it too fast for it to be real.” Wake says.
Asa smiles, “Yeah. I dunno if that’d been the case if you were straight. Not that I’d dislike you, just...”
Wake nods, “You’d have been wary of me. I understand. It’s hard to know how people will react to finding out you’re gay.”
Asa raises an eyebrow at him, “Yeah. But I wonder if you can understand what it would be like for me?”
Wake looks down at him, “Because you’re small and I’m large and intimidating?”
Asa nods, “I doubt most people would pick a fight with you.”
Wake nods, “That’s true, but that doesn’t mean people don’t react badly. I’ve had my share of rejection.”
Asa sighs, “It’s hard.”
Wake grimaces, “Maybe it was out there, but if one good thing came out of being stuck in here, it’s that we’ve got a community where everyone knows we’re a couple and no one cares.”
Asa laughs, “That’s true isn’t it?” He looks up at the ceiling, “It’s like Collin says. As long as we’re here, we get to decide what kind of community we want to be.”
Wake sighs, “It’s too bad we had to cull a bunch of people to get here.”
Asa nods, “It’s strange isn’t it? We didn’t kill those people because we wanted to be rid of them, but that was the end result. And… I wonder if the community isn’t better for it in the long run?” He sighs, “I’m not suggesting we should have done that if we had another solution, but you can’t argue with the results.”
Wake nods, “Ethics and results rarely meet end to end. Often, they are mutually exclusive.”
“Ethics or morals?” Asa asks.
Wake shrugs, “I’d say that’s true of both ethics and morals.”
Asa nods again, “Yeah.”
Ardine stares at the long notation she and Collin just spent hours creating, “This plan is full of holes.” She says with a sigh.
Collin nods, “I know.”
“We’re assuming too many things.” She adds.
Collin sighs, “What else can we do?”
Ardine shakes her head, “I don’t know.” She looks over the notation once more, “What do we do if both Asa and Jerome hits and it survives? Or if it has a threshold limiter?”
Collin looks down, “My hope is that it won’t have more than one.”
Ardine grumbles in response, “It’s a good plan. I just wish we had more to go on.”
Collin nods, “I agree. What do you think the others will say?”
Ardine shrugs, “What can they say? They don’t have anymore knowledge of this boss than we do, and we heard their opinions. It isn’t as if we devised this plan entirely by ourselves.”
Collin nods again, “That’s true.”
Ardine stands up, “Shall we call it a night?”
Collin raises an eyebrow, “You act as if we can get tired.”
Ardine raises an eyebrow in response, “Mental fatigue does not require one to be physically tired.”
Collin does a yawn emote, “I almost wish it did make me tired.”
Ardine laughs, “I know what you mean. I’ve slept a few times just for the sake of it. It’s not the same of course, but it’s the only thing we’ve got.”
Collin grins, “So, you go sleep. I’ll condense the plan into a presentable form, and then we can hold a meeting about it tomorrow.”
Ardine nods, “Agreed.”
I'm back. Sorry, I entered a bit of a low and couldn't motivate myself to write for a few days. This was a pretty jargon heavy chapter. I hope you are still with me.
Stuff You Might Want to Know
Mechanics – Fire: Fire as an element, is focused on being straight forward and easy to understand for players who are new to the game or more casual. Fire magic tends to be powerful and widely applicable, but inefficient in terms of both MP and cooldown. The weapon associated with Fire is Ax.
Damage: Fire damage spells are powerful and often affect a wider area than other similarly powerful spells. The most powerful spells in fire approach the damage of the more powerful directed damage spells in other elements, but affect a wider area. The weakness of fire is high MP costs and cooldowns, making fire spellcasters peter out faster in longer fights.
Support: Fire buffs tend to be short lived but strong. A single boost of damage; a short time of extreme damage reduction or invincibility; etc. Unlike damage spells, they have low MP costs, but still have high cooldowns. Fire debuffs are usually connected to traps.
Traps: Traps are zones that trigger an effect when entered by an enemy, when triggered as part of a trap web or when a skilled user casting fireball (the most basic fire damage spell) to trigger their web. Each player can connect traps together, with a limit based on their skill level, as a trap web, which will all activate either simultaneously, or in sequence after a fixed amount of time, as defined by the user. Traps are where fire’s more advanced techniques are, as well as the majority if its debuffs.