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“Meeting me in the prison cell was planned. What about you, Podlihob? Was meeting you in the courthouse planned as well?”
I want these sorts of things in the open.
“I got the most votes to help you, since I was the only VR-tuber with access to a lawyer non-player who could assist, and there aren’t many lawyer players.”
Let’s just get direct.
“Are you guys actually my friends? Can I trust you?”
“Dude, I’m your friend. I may fuck things up, but I am your friend. I’m also somebody who takes care of this place. You know what I mean?” Rhynn looks away from me, like he is trying to hold back the waterworks.
“I think you’re cool as hell. I am not an admin and can take a break from vlogging if you want. I just want to see where your ride takes you.” Podlihob nods at me.
“I just opened a portal in the bathroom and murdered the shitty god and got a ton of messages about how sparkly my accomplishment was. What is important out of that?” They both blink and look through system windows.
“Yeah, the shard bulletin boards are all blowing up over your main quest win. Anyone scanning global notifications saw your achievement. Uh, the first important thing to decide on is what your second class is going to be. There’s going to be people who are pissed they missed out on a god raid and try to get you to trigger the fight again so they can get divine loot. Nobody was expecting your main quest to end that quickly.” Rhynn shakes his head and takes a pull off a flask.
“I think sequence breaking is awesome. I’ll reincarnate and go through a newbie build with you. We can figure out some sort of duo build and have fun while we find out what is going on with you. We’ve got nothing but time, right?” Podlihob grins a little broadly for my liking, but maybe that is just my mood.
When Podlihob says ‘figure out who you are’ my chest hurts sharply. That got me right in the feels.
“Besides working on a character build, what else do people do on this shard after beating the main quest?” I should understand the scope of post-game, right?
“There’s usually post-game content determined by what you did during the main quest. You did arena battles and dungeon runs, so you should have immediate access to some post-game arena battles and post-game dungeons.” Podlihob is more animated and enthusiastic than I have ever seen before.
“You can still unlock other stuff in the post-game. No big deal. Figure out your second class because that can help you out on what you should be doing in the post-game. And if you want to find out who you are, nothing is better than that going full weeb and doing a Twinsoul build.” Podlihob is spinning his mask around a finger by the strap.
Rhynn scoffs audibly.
“You going to tell him to start dressing as a sailor scout too?” I am not sure I am a fan of working on a boat.
“Soul-forms are copies with 0.001% variation. Best person to talk to so you can learn about yourself. Hell, I’ll reincarnate and do it with him. I’ve partied with people who did the build before and got blade reaper unlocked then. I think I have a handle on how to optimize it.” Podlihob continues to grin. “You want to try it out with me?”
“May as well.” There are too many classes available for me to decide what to pick right away. If Podlihob knows a class that can help me figure out who I am, that’s definitely the one I want.
Podlihob messes with a window, and before our eyes reincarnates, no longer looks like a hob, but instead is taller, furrier, with a protruding snout. He’s still light blue, but now there are some yellow, orange and red highlights here and there in his fur. Is he a bear? His clothes grew with him, so he’s still dressed, thankfully.
“Hold on a sec while I set my class and then I can hook you up.” The clown mask remains in Podlihob’s hand, but the rest of his clothes become a black robe. The clown mask changes into a pauldron on his right shoulder. In his hands, glowing light coalesce into a pair of large kukris.
“Okay, I just stab you with this, and you should unlock the blade reaper class.”
“You have to stab me?” Why are my friends always trying to beat me up?
That seems unnecessary.
“Don’t worry, it only hurts for a little bit and then the pain will be all gone.”
What’s with that phrasing? That does not inspire confidence, that’s something a killer would say! Rhynn isn’t saying anything, and neither is Tyu. I guess that makes it okay?
“Make it fast. My health is invincible to your pathetic HP damage anyway.” I’ll be fine. Right?
Podlihob dashes at me, hacking down on both collarbones with the kukris.
This hurts. I feel nausea in my teeth.
I slump down to my knees. I am drooling uncontrollably, and I think I am about to vomit. Instead of vomiting, the kukris are wrenched free and glowing strands appear stretching from the blades to my wounds. I finally vomit, but instead of bile more of the glowing strands appears, gathering all together into a ball. From the shining ball, a figure appears. I see, well, I see myself. His fur is lighter than mine and his skin is darker. His eyes are gray and look kind of dead.
“I’m your soul blade, please tell me my name so I can tell it to you and set my weapon form so I can reveal it to you.”
“It sounds like you’re supposed to tell me those things.” Why is he getting it twisted around?
“Okay, default values it is. My name will be yours backwards, so ‘Nyyvaz’. This name sucks. Just call me, I guess Nya? That can work. My form is, who care, I’m a kukri just like those, thanks and bye.”
A glow covers him before he vanishes and reappears as a little kukri in my hand.
I find I am now also wearing a black robe like Podlihob, with a scabbard for the kukri. I am listed as a blade reaper in my second class tab. Surprisingly, I have a lot of skill points I can throw at blade reaper.
I apply all the points it will allow me into my soul blade, Kukri Nyyvaz, and it provides me a bank of blade points to use on a giant grid of abilities. There’s a view button I can use to cycle through a variety of infographic styles. Very nice.
“Take your time exploring your skill tree for the blade and allocating your starting points. We can hit plenty of dungeons to farm you some experience, as well. I’ll be messing with mine here for a minute.” Podlihob transfers his focus to his own skill window.
“I’ll make some food. I may not be able to help you with weebshit, but I can help you with food at least.” Rhynn leaves.
“My first set of abilities are grouped under conceptual. What does that mean?”
“That means you have something stupid and broken, which is in normal for you.” Podlihob fiddles with a window. “I got single target DPS, you get zone DPS or something technical and we are probably okay.”
I guess I should just take this first tree. It allows me to specialize in perspectival attacks. I think they work like this: If I pretend to attack someone far away, it would be like they got hit with an attack by a giant based off of my visual perspective since my hand or kukri would look large and they would look small.
“Should I grab a heal if I see one?” Here’s an ability which lets me hand-wave damage away on allies by passing the kukri over them in my field of view.
“You want to focus on survivability as much as offense usually, but I don’t think you’re worried about survivability. Take whatever you think is cool, because I have a feeling your grid is better than mine.”
I take a perspectival swipe for offense, and the healing hand-wave. I also get a bare-handed perspectival attack, and finally a perspectival teleport, where I can switch places with something I can see. Offense, a heal for others, and movement. The rest of my points are used up on passive abilities linking those skills together. Podlihob is still messing around with his blades’ skill grid, so I check my spell research. My progress in gravity magic is coming along. I guess that is fine. My next most likely target of research is Rune Languages. After seeing how the people on this shard uses runes, I am mostly sure they are the main path to power for wizards.
Rhynn comes in.
“I’ve got a seven-layer dip made, and I’ve fried the first batch of chips. You can guys can start eating while I keep frying.”
Rhynn’s cooking is amazing as always. We cram food into our mouths in a daze while messing with windows over the counter in the kitchen.
Podlihob finally says
“We should hit a couple of dungeons, get over the hump in blade reaper, quickly do soul devourer since it only has a few levels, and then switch to the Soul Super build. Once we have Soul Super and blade reaper mastered, we snowball through soul shaman. You clear fast, so if we are serious and abuse some haste, we can probably blast through in a few weeks, tops. You try communing with that thing at the end of all that, and you might get some clues to what is going on with you.”
“I guess that works as a plan. What about traveling to other shards?” That would settle things about if I am a player once and for all, right?
“Oh yeah, once we finish the build with soul shaman, we can travel to Kotodama and go full Wordless to get amazing passive bonuses. You should have enough Soul Mastery at that point to activate all soul skills silently, and you can steamroll goofy Kotodama users for comedic justice.” Podlihob sounds confident, and I’m interested to see if I will be able to travel there. “Or are you asking if can you travel to other shards? Beats me.”
I have until we finish leveling up these soul classes to see if I can travel to other shards. I still show my shardtether flag as on. But now that my brain is not full of memory maggots, I can try to think rationally about things, and see if I can remember something. I need to investigate the settings window again. Podlihob is here; let’s ask him.
“Do you guys have a settings window?”
“Nah, I just have options. Settings are not set from within the system. You should spend some time on that and see if the players who think you’re an admin are right. You can probably do some crazy shit if you’re an admin.”
I hope so. I’ll definitely be disappointed if that is not the case.
“What about you, Rhynn?”
“I have some local area settings for businesses and things. No general settings. I would be careful with that window. Best practices says messing with the system while you’re logged into it is a good way to corrupt data, and that might be your own or a lot of players logged in to the shard. This shard is big enough it would probably just be localized to a region, but that could still be catastrophic. Please promise you won’t mess with that window too much.”
“Okay. I probably shouldn’t need it. I beat the god thing by rewriting its code in front of me, and it was fine.”
Those open mouths will attract flies, guys! Why do I get that reaction so often?
“So we’re going to grind experience in dungeons, right? What about that arena tournament?”
“That steaming pile got shelved. We’re jumping you up a bunch of tiers in the post-game. The tournament before was tuned around A-tier, which is kind of an insult to me, but whatever. Now in the post-game, we can go up against some higher tiers. I think we start in S, but I feel like you can compete in X. Maybe even higher tiers. We can do some exhibition arena battles, and we can also set up private duels with players from bulletin boards. If you want to go into a tournament, I think you should wait till you get finished with your weeb build so you at least have a chance in the upper classes. There are plenty of builds that are mostly immortal. A soul build at least gives you some odds for wins through soul-sealing or soul devouring.”
“I’ll second that. The Twinsoul build dumps so much power onto the soul form and at the end you merge with it and go super vegetable man. What is your base special attack on your daggers? Since we’re using the same weapon type, we can probably share enhancement materials or something.” Podlihob lightly swings a kukri with his wrist, testing the balance.
Vegetable man? What did he mean by this?
“I can make an attack based on my perspective. I kind of want to test it out to see what it is like and how exactly it works.” It sounds awesome to me.
“Yeah, I want to see how that works too. My ability just lets me stay hidden or invisible after a sneak attack. Not gonna lie, I am super jealous.” Podlihob slams a beer. “Man, it feels good to be myself. All that LARPing before was lame. Not that I change my character that much. Just act silent and angsty and you can space out and read bulletin boards all day. It’s a good strategy for time management. You should try to get past that innocent and naïve thing. People are going to find it annoying, especially given how powerful you are. Try to find a clue before somebody slaps you in the face with a clue by four, you know what I mean?”
“I should be less naïve? What, like distrust you guys?”
“No, I don’t mean like that. Just think more about how revealing what you can do can put you in a bad situation. Try to resolve things through a minimum amount of force. That kind of stuff. Maybe you should start using some bluff skills to throw people off about how strong you really are.” Podlihob puts his kukri away and grabs another beer.
“He’s the motherfucking fecalmancer! And nobody should ever forget that!”
He raises a beer in salute and chugs it.
“Sky’s the limit. We’re just happy you’re doing better and with us. Seriously.” Podlihob smiles and turns to me.
Podlihob hugs me. Rhynn comes over and wraps us both up. I have friends, and I am going to find out who I am.