Probably the longest so far, and probably the least funny one. Sorry orz.
I’ll add in more images…sometime later
I quickly confirmed that no one was around me, and whispered in my quietest voice,
“Lucifer…Judgement! desu wa.”
I bashed my now glowing shield into the enemy in front of me after doing a 720 spin to the back while tugging onto my invisible arm band.
“Sigh, if only <<incarnate attacks>> weren’t so embarrassing to use, I’m sure more people would actually use them.”
We have passed by <<ground zero>> earlier to access the <<Bawstagant>> area, an instanced dungeon built similar to the WNWS structure but miniaturized. This instanced dungeon housed three types of “Bosses” for the players to defeat and level up upon: the “fox”, the “Bee”, and “Sauron’s eye”. While each instance is different depending on the boss at the end of the level, we can generalize it a bit.
First there are only two out posts: the one you start in, and the one before the boss at the end of the level. There’s still area shuffling, blue gates and red gates lead to different area, but as opposed to the actual level climb to the top of WNWS, generally the <<Bawstagant>> dungeons are shorter, and thus easier to explore. Furthermore, the gates are all unlocked and there is no need to hunt for mini-bosses.
Our mission, as briefed by Zerobei, was to investigate the “fox” route, where Enciel was last sighted. We were to collect the treasures that contain “memories” along the way, which in we will use to summon the true recollection of the “fox”, who we will proceed to beat up and have him spit out information about Enciel. (We really have no other leads…)
We decided to split up from the beginning. With Snirito going through the first red gate, M3rri and I through the blue one. This is to: 1) better chances of assembling all treasures, or at most as we can, as going a single path wouldn’t guarantee getting all the treasures (since there are duplicates) and 2) “I’m a solo player”.
“Oiiii, I got the treasure, lets head to the next area.”
I turned back to search for my party member, who seemed to be struggling with giant skulls suddenly appearing and bumping her to the sky.
“Ow. Ugh. ARGH. What. Is. With. These. Traps. FRAAAAK.”
It’s been like this ever since the first area. For some reason, M3rri seems to have an affinity to the << traps >> laid in Bawstagant. While traps don’t really cause any damage to the player stepping on it, but depending on the trap, there might be undesirable << status effects >> that comes with it.
Well, with the exception of <<flame trap>>, which if you get caught by it, you’ll start to burn. <<Burning>> is an effect that causes you to lose control of your avatar, able to only propel forward at a increased speed, but losing hp while you are burning.
“Are you ok? We are almost at the outpost, just need to head to the last gate now.”
“Hmph. Why am I doing this anyways. I’m TRIPLE BLOODY M3RRI. This is freakin ridiculous. Who’s bright idea was it to implement traps. Is this some kind of joke? God, Boss run SUUUUUUUUCKS.”
M3rri was getting fouler by the second, but there is something about her being slowed and turning in slow motion while mouthing off that really felt…adorable. Something in me must’ve has awoken, hoping that we get to try this run again sometime with M3rri.
When we’ve finally reached the outpost, Snirito was already waiting…albeit impatiently.
“According to the NPC in front of the gate, a player character resembling Enciel has been frequenting this particular << bawstagant >> area of late. In the past month, she’s been here almost everyday. At first she went with people, but gradually her party grew smaller until it was only herself. The NPC noted that it was a little more than a week ago when he last saw her going in this particular gate, where she has gone missing ever since.”
“Well, seems like our clue to saving Enciel rest beyond this gate either way.”
We fed the mysterious machine all of our “memories”, and after it twirled a few of its giant gears, its center was lit up and a portal was formed. We went through the portal.
The “fox” was one of the simpler bosses of the three, according to Zerobei anyways. First, upon entering the portal, everyone will be teleported to their own arena, where they will fight with 1 of the “shadows” of the fox. The “shadows” are lesser forms of the “fox”, and aren’t all that tricky to defeat.
In a sense, WNWS was a fair game, just like how some mmo doesn’t allow PKing in town, WNWS seems to enforce “equality” and “fairness” amongst players when RT isn’t involved… like how “tuning” works. This was an example of everyone having to pull their own load by defeating their own arena. If it were to be the opposite where everyone rotates to be isolated in the arena, and had to wait for that one player to finish, I’m sure there would be problems like people afk’ing in the middle of the boss fight, or leeching, or even breaking the boss by disconnecting in the middle of the encounter. That would be a kusoge if I ever saw one.
The shadow I faced, Rage, was one of the straight forward shadows of the “Fox”. Rage itself doesn’t do anything special, just a lunge with its staff at set intervals, however it has the highest chance of breaking parts of a bot.
Managing to get into a rhythm of dealing in bashes between the interval, I stole a quick glance at how the others were doing. It seemed like Snirito got the Hikki shadow, the shadow that has mastered the ultimate for of a reclusive social life style and achieved the state of thin existence where people don’t even recognize them. In essence invisibility. It seemed like I had better finish mine quickly to help Snirito destroy the Stealth field amplifiers around the outside of Snirito’s arena.
Feeling rushed, I saw my shadow’s hp at its last bar and charged in to deal the final blow despite it raising its staff ready to lunge. Unfortunately, my gamble was a bad one and even after I have dealt the blow and supposedly defeated it before it struck, the lag between the server and my nervegear caused his strike to go through. My arm was pierced off, and without the amazing ability to dual wield like Snirito, I was pretty much useless at this point.
I headed to Snirito’s arena only to see Snirito just teleporting out. It seems that he has managed to defeat Hikki by wildly swinging both his shield at the air while it was invisible. I guess I should’ve known better than to think Snirito would need any help. That leaves M3rri, before we can proceed to the true form of the “fox”.
“Oh no not this.”
I could hear M3rri’s moan from outside of the arena. At first, it would seem the grey shadow in M3rri’s arena just walks around aimlessly, as it doesn’t even seem to be attacking! However, upon a closer look, I could see the arena filled with << traps >>.
It was an endurance test. M3rri was alternating between being << slow traps >> and << disorder traps >>, while the grey fox kept teleporting to the opposite side as M3rri tried to get closer to fire her shield at it.
“This stupid, piece-of-crap, …”
She was starting to cuss heavily, getting more emotional with each iteration and more inaudible.
Her heated efforts has paid off in the end, but has cost us some time. We were now now pressed to finish the last form in a matter of 5 WNWS semi-cycles.
As we approached the final arena which was unlocked by the unleashed souls of the shadows, a new silhouette started to form in the center of the arena…into a familiar shape.
“Rage…Hikki…Libido… With your powers combined, I am L’Arc-en-Ciel.”
It was the person we were looking for, Enciel.
* * *
“As I expected…you have turned into the “fox” haven’t you.”
Snirito said with a “I knew it” expression on his face.
“The endless grinding, the solitude, the despair. All the pieces have come together. This was the only explanation.”
From what Zerobei has told us, Enciel used to be a very energetic, enthusiastic young member of the clan who had abit of a fear of going to the frontlines of tower climbing WNWS. In order to overcome this fear, Zerobei suggested her to try a practice run in << Bawstagant >> so that she could grow her confidence. Being the hard worker that she is, Enciel started participating in a lot more << Bawstagant >> runs than Zerobei has anticipated, which seemed to have led to this situation.
“It was my mistake. I shouldn’t have left her all by herself.”
Even now I could recall the regret on Zerobei’s face as she explained the events leading up to Enciel’s disappearance.
“…ku. Kukukukukuku. So what if I did turn into the ‘fox’?”
The female moe who is now coloured in black and has a fox visor covering her eyes spoke in an atrocious tone.
“You guys wouldn’t understand. This world is rotten. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, the rich gets everything, and the poor is left to be abused. There is no redemption for us UC players anymore. What more to play for? So why not join with the bad guys? At least HE offered me POWER.”
Her eyes were those of corruption, the kind Enciel that Zerobei once knew was no where to be seen. All that was left was an empty shell filled with hatred for this world, for WNWS.
“But enough talk, have at you!”
With that, the fight started. Unlike the previous individual arenas, this one seemed to be shaped more narrowly, much like a corridor.
“Hmph, your words are as empty as your soul. Tsukiyo ill needs a member like you!”
Snirito, who seemingly activated his fanaticism, forgot all about the objective of rescuing Enciel and is instead rushing forward to strike Enciel down.
But before I could finish off my sentence, Snirito’s Double World End Ultimatum Spreading Three-Bar Charge attack has both been released and launched at Enciel. An explosion occurred right after, and we were covered in white smoke.
“Fuu, Nurusugiruze (too easy)”
As the dust cleared, there was nothing but the fissure caused from the impact of Snirito’s brutal assault.
Just as I shouted, a missile flew right past us, and collided into the path we came from where the individual arenas were. The explosion that came after it destroyed all traces of our retreat into dust.
“M3RRI! Are you alright!?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, but at this rate, not for long it seems…”
M3rri came out from underneath the rubbles, her condition doesn’t look too good.
We turned back to look at the perpetrator, as expected, Enciel was still standing.
“Fufufu, ahhaHAHAHAHAHA. THIS…IS…POWER. DO YOU SEE IT?”
She was shielded by a yellow film of barrier, perhaps that was what Snirito damaged, as the barrier had visible cracks in it here and there.
“Full Linear Electromagnetic Implosion Armament. Made from the chemical substance leaked from the “pot”, this shield is then accelerated through magnetic fields like a railgun. It does have its weakness though…such as the effective radius not being large enough for warfronts, and the projectile only travels straight.”
She said with a big smile.
“But that’s why this is a corridor.”
* * *
This is pretty bad.
Exactly how bad is it? Aside from the fact that any direct contact with FLEIA would be the end of us, the corridor seems to be endlessly long. Meaning Enciel could fire FLEIA, and just run backwards to reload, never having to have close quarters combat, which is what Snirito and I were specialized in. We’ve been trying for this past semi-cycle to touch Enciel, not only was she too fast for us, but our weak attempts to throw projectiles like Snirito’s shields are not strong enough to penetrate her barrier. Moreover, as time goes by, it only gets worse: we are closer to reaching the time limit, and M3rri who is resting in the back probably wont be able to hold that much longer.
“Damn it. Isn’t there something we can do?”
I was out of ideas. Another FLEIA went by us, forcing Snirito and I to hide in the side pillars for cover.
“There…might be something. But I can’t, it is simply too risky.”
Snirito was sweating, an action I’ve almost never seen partake.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures, Snirito. We CANT let this drag on for longer!”
“I KNOW. I know. You’ll have to put all your trust on me for this, Ok?”
As much as I hated Snirito, this was no time to put personal grudges before survival.
“Yeah, just tell me what to do.”
“Alright, just do exactly as I say. This is what we’ll do…”
* * *
“12 o’ clock direction, formation of <<blob>> type enemy approaching. Leading the way is…Snirito.”
The system operator that came with taking over “fox” alerted Enciel on the radar.
“Snirito, your final move is a suicide attack? How painful to watch…Partially disable the Rouche barrier around the FLEIA missile opening. Change the target to Snirito.”
This will be the end.
* * *
I will make this succeed…no matter what…with this hand!
Snirito thought to himself as he moved as fast as he could to catch up to Enciel.
He saw the barrier opened up, and FLEIA was fired.
“Good, inputting data.”
FLEIA changes its composition every second.
If it is bombarded with a reaction that counters its composition, one can stop FLEIA from reaching its critical reaction.
However, environment data must be inputted into the program around 19 seconds before detonation.
And, even if the program is completed, the window for execution is only 0.04 seconds.
“WITH THIS. PEACE…IS…COMPLETED.”
Enciel was already rejoicing from her victory.
Snirito kept running while pulling out two holographic keyboards from the air, and started hitting the keyboards fervently with both his hands.
“FLEIA Eliminator program. Started. All Eliminating system stats: OK.”
Snirito hit enter on both his keyboards, and shouted:
“YOU GET TO BUR-BUR-BURNING!!!!”
“YES, YOUR MAJESTY!”
I dashed in front of Snirito in that instant, and at the same time Snirito let out our secret weapon, the plan we formulated, a << Fire Pillar >>.
As soon as the <<burning>> status got on my screen, I charged all my remaining fuel into my boost. There was nothing else I needed, no arm since it was broken, no shield, no sight, no hearing. All I had was to move forward, and count to 19 WNWS seconds.
The plan was simple, and relied on two things.
After Snirito gets Enciel’s attention, all I needed to do was hide and run at the same speed as him.
From what we’ve observed, FLEIA requires very precise calculations on the proximity of designated target location.
Meaning that any miscalculation, or pre-contact with FLEIA will cause the igniter to run prematurely.
Which if, desynchronized with the system, will stop the fuse from going off.
My only challenge was to make contact without the missile detecting it has “hit” something. And the only way was…
Now! Activate Wonder Bit!
As my body glowed white, so did the missile. Wonder bit provides 0.04 of invulnerability frames, which the game handles by treating as if you were removed spatially from the game. It is possible theoretically…but…
The light receded, and I was still in one piece.
“It worked? It completely worked? 19 seconds and 0.04 seconds…”
Snirito’s surprised voice assured me that I was still alive.
But it was too early to celebrate, even as we speak the barrier was closing, and Enciel could be retreating any moment.
My << Burning >> status was still on, and I used my last ounce of strength to fly straight into the barrier, managing to hold it open as Snirito arrives shortly.
Snirito reached into the barrier, and with his maxed dexterity, managed to push the “reset” button on the back of the visor as Enciel was turned around trying to make a run for it.
“Program restarting. Preparing for shutdown. Forget all unsaved work.”
The system operator announced the countdown sequence as Enciel’s gaze dims and her voice starting to be cut off with static.
And she fell to the ground.
* * *
I woke up in a white haze. My surroundings was filled with nothing but a seemingly endless stretch of white with occasional sprinklings of DNA or scientific related symbols appearing. Perhaps I was in a dream sequence caused by my descendants looking through my memories from the animus.
In front of me I saw Enciel, now lying on the ground.
“What you’ve done is murder, you know?”
“You’re still here? I thought Snirito said he would reset your mechanical doll OS so all the corrupted files would be reverted back to the original state.”
“Hmph, you humans, and all your kind, not realizing the threat to come. You probably think I just had a few too many bugs in my program and have a few wires hooked up that caused my behavior. Do you really think automated dolls are that primitive that they can’t check and debug their own operating systems?
Did you think that merely from repeated running the same task over and over again that a machine will be “tired out”?
No, you guys don’t know ANYTHING. Not about the threat, not about the current state of WNWS, not about me.”
She was right. Even though we don’t think much of it now, WNWS has definitely been declining in player numbers. The hostile environment inherently built by the power gap between the RT and UC players has already driven many new players away from the game, and the artificial segregation from the community only amplifies it. Aside from the population stagnation, there’s been an oversaturation of “moe-types” avatars lately, and the trend of player-base skill levels on the decline. While probably not apparent now, WNWS has seeded many problems that will grow and plague the game in the future.
Humans are indeed weak, irrational at times, and sometimes downright blinded by our greed. We make mistakes, and fall for all the garapon schemes that WNWS throws at us. We can’t change what has already happened.
But even then, we have to face the adversaries and move on. I can’t vouch for others, but we are learners, even if we learn inefficiently.
I realized she was nearing her time, as her bottom half has already started to data-lize.
“So we are parallels. Therefore I say:
You’re right. I don’t know anything about you, Snirito, the clan, or the state of WNWS.
This time, I will get to know you.”
Enciel has fully vanished by now, but I feel that at the very last moment, she left with a smile.
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