Duty Session 620: Abandoned Springs

During the Hot Springs Festival, there are often times that new springs find themselves bubbling to the surface. Sometimes, old, abandoned locations can find themselves flowing with fresh, clean water once more. The Hunter's Guild has reached out to Adventurers about one such location, which seems to have attracted some unusual activity around it. They are looking for people to clear out any monster activity around the site.

OOC: This quest is only available during the Hot Springs Festival. This quest is exploration and combat-based.

Difficulty:    Easy
Rec. Party:    3+
Rewards:       1
World Rewards: None

Plot Room 3

The Hunters Guild has summoned the Adventurers to the beginning of an
old, overgrown mountain pass. Stone steps have been worn into little
more than rough rubble that leads upwards to a gravel roadway, heading
deeper into tall grass that has yellowed with the coming cold. There
is a hint of frost that lingers on everything, though it is not yet
chill enough to freeze over.

"We're not entirely sure what is beyond this point. There used to be
an old onsen at the end of the trail." A nervous looking Lander
fidgets as he stands by the trail marker. He had lead them this far,
but seems reluctant to go any further. "Clear out what monsters you
can and report back to the guild. That's the task." He explains, then
clears his throat.

"Best of luck to you all." Just as he speaks, a chill wind blows in
their direction, causing the Lander to huddle deeper into his coat and
traveling cloak. "You'll need it." He whispers.

Haru is standing there in a stately fashion as the old Lander gives the group the business. He listens. Old people just want to be heard sometimes. However he has not one but two legendary warriors of the sword and the Yamato champion here. They will be fine. A sharp inhale of breath as he turns to look to the path. "Simple mission of clearing out enemies," he says as if the whole thing is just part of his daily checklist. Not enthusiastic about it but not annoyed either. Neutral. "Kirito, Goldenblade," he looks to them, "mind taking point? Two front, one back. We should make short work of this request."
Plot Room 3

Goldenblade has always participated in festival-related duties, and helps out the Landers when they ask. That's one of the ways to maintain your cred as a Legend: Be seen, do things, help people. She's geared up and ready on arriving, a confident smile on her face. She nods to Haru about taking point and will step forward. She nods to Kirito, who she knew from the early days of the game, and hasn't seem in a while. He's different now, it's hard to say how. "You up for that?" she asks as she steps forward.
Plot Room 3

Summoned by the Hunter's guild, Kirito can't much find a reason to say no. Always busy, always tackling the next challenge and the next challenge head on...Kirito has nothing to return home to, so he's found himself throwing himself head first into the numerous quests and doing favors for the Landers.

Today, he finds himself with Haru and Goldenblade.

"Shouldn't be too difficult with the three of us. But just because it's simple doesn't mean it's not dangerous. Watch each other's backs, both of you." Kirito forces a soft smile, but he's focused. "Sound strategy."

Kirito nods his approval to Haru before he steps forward, his black coat trailing behind him. "More than up for it." He tells Goldenblade as a hand reaches to draw a black sword off of his back, leaving the second firmly sheathed.
Plot Room 3

There is the affirmative nod from Haru as the formation begins to head out. Nothing to it but to press on.

Beyond the initial waypoint, it becomes clear that there are a number
of forgotten paths that make up this part of the mountain. Some seem
as if they were once cart trails, with deep furrows in the ground,
while others look to have been made out of small stones. There are
even a few that look more recent, as if they were trodden down by the
passage of monsters or animals who must call this area home.

The problem occurs when they reach a point that the paths converge,
overlapping one another for long periods and then later splitting off
again to different parts of the mountain. With the path being so
infrequently traveled and so overgrown, it's hard to tell which might
be the right way to go. A keen sense of direction may point the way,
or a process of elimination by removing those natural pathways made by
animals or monsters. Otherwise, those keen of eye could be able to
pick out the subtle signs that marked the pathway to the onsen.

However, choosing the wrong way could lead them to waste hours
wandering the mountains, unable to find the right way up to the
abandoned springs.

Navigation. The enemy murder hobos everywhere. Can't club exposure to death. Haru looks around and then looks at the directions they were given. One of those 'bring a scout with you'. Haru looks down for tracks to follow, but they all look the same. What could be considered a footpath could also be one formed by nature or monsters over the time. While not keen on 'wasting' time, he doesnt see it as wasting it if it leads to new tricks later on. Unfortunately that skill abstraction doesnt mean a whole lot when the magical and creation path consume most of his 'growth'. He takes a breath and exhales it slowly. "Note to self, invent GPS."
Plot Room 3

Goldenblade has, in fact, done this quest before, and she points out, "I think we go this way," but apparently she's not sufficiently convincing in getting the others to follow along, or else there are false leads that seem to go in likely directions, then lead off the path. "C'mon, you kids, it's -this- way. Same as last year." She sighs. Kids. Can't get anywhere without GPS. "No, this way...."
Plot Room 3

"I have no idea where I'm going."

Kirito eventually remarks as the small party heads out on their daring quest. A number of paths lead this way and that, and they spend quite a bit of time searching through numerous of them. Paths converge and it's hard to tell the right way to go after a hot second, where even Kirito's tracking ability is overwhelmed by the thought of it.

"Working on it."

Kirito replies to Haru, a sigh leaving his lips. While Kirito - in the past - often relied on Shiroe for such things, he hasn't spoken to him in quite some time. Hopes he's well. But, he has to focus on what's in front of him. The path continues.
Plot Room 3

Like asking kiddos to read a paper map, Goldenblade finally gets the party where they need to be going. Don't forget the basics!

Following the path, eventually the Adventurers find themselves in what
looks to be an overgrown garden. There are tiers which must have once
been beautifully kept, with walking paths that run along a nearby
river and up to lookout points that show the natural beauty of the
surroundings. There is a wonder in a place like this, as if time had
stopped completely.

However, the overgrowth means that it is hard to figure out the right
way to approach the large onsen house in the distance. Thick vines
block the way, which could be eliminated with the proper handling of
plants, or chopped away with a bladed weapon.

However, there is also a strange bit of writing that can be found on
an unusual stone, talking about a way through a nearby waterfall,
which seems to avoid the problem entirely. That is, if they are able
to understand the unusual script.

"Less monsters in the approach is a good thing," Haru says as he steps around, light of foot for light of frame, "as they may have had others clear this area before. It only appears to be an issue during this season when Fire is at its highest." Observation. "Pela would enjoy a place like this. Elly too, possibly, given the design." The Artificer with the monocle looks to set of the vines. His ioun stones float around him, the red and yellow ones creating a series of laser cutter effects to clip through the vines. "A bit of elbow grease is required," he says as the vines start falling away. Without using his elbows. Or grease. Dangnab Magic.
Plot Room 3

Goldenblade is grumbling and cantankerous, and while she's keeping it to herself, she's not really watching where she's going, and winds up in the overgrowth, and basically boxed in. "Gah, this stuff again," she mutters, but decides against using her fighting blades to cut through the mass of vegitation, instead digging an old machete out of her inventory. This machete was last sharpened during the Nixon administration, and is marginally less sharp than a baseball bat. This makes her progress slow, but she's not going to comment now, is she?
Plot Room 3

Thick vines?

Not a problem.

Sword still in hand, Kirito swings his blade in an excellent cut. Again. Again. He hacks away at it until the greenery and vinery is next to destroyed. But hey, what's something that a little bit of teamwork can't solve? Kirito smiles at Goldenblade. "I hate these things too. But, if we consider it to just be a door, must lead to better challenges, even a better path."

An optimism he should apply to his own life more.

But it's clear Kirito has not much of an interest in finding the hidden path through a nearby waterfall but it's more likely that he can't read the unusual script that offers them a way around the problem instead of through.

But let's be honest: Kirito prefers through.

"Either way, it makes our job easier." He tells Haru. "Frends of yours?" He asks of Haru a moment, but he had witnessed the artificer's achievement and design. "You should show me how that works one of these days."
Plot Room 3

"Pela and Elly?" Haru asks as they go through the vines. "Pela is a friend and fellow Enchanter. She runs the Cafe next to my Atelier in Shibuya. A good place for ice cream and cheesecake. One of the few in Yamato. Thus making it a good date spot." He laser cuts more vines. "And as such I get plenty of couples ending theirs in mys tore, looking to buy jewelry as a gift. Thank Yeowang for the inspiration, she is truly the best merchant mind in Yamato. Things practically sell themselves and the shortage of supply keeps driving the price up." Slice slice. "As for Elly? No. Elly is family. She runs Arcadia as a member of nobility. The two of us are part of the guild, Promethius, within the Olympus Alliance." There is a pause, a finger pointing to the four floating stones around him, "Unless you meant these friends. Happy to discuss the designs. As Goldenblade may attest to our constant debate of Magic over Mundane, these are rather niche foci. Useful in combat, as the Crownless Cup made clear, but they are just as useful in precision activities such as accessory forging and enchanting. Like, say, engraving or circuit tattooing." And actual tattooing.

Beyond the mess of vines and overgrown vegetation, there is a large
stone wall which surrounds the abandoned onsen. It is relatively high,
enough so that climbing over could prove dangerous if the stone isn't
as sure in place as it looks.

There is an old gate, which seems to have stood here against wind and
weather for decades, at least. Rust clings to the metal bars in
places. A single lock keeps it shut, the bolt rattling when the bars
are shaken.

Someone skilled could try to pick the lock, or look for a weak place
in the metal to try and break the bars free. Otherwise, it may require
simply destroying part of the wall to get through, utilizing the fact
that the stones haven't been maintained in many years to their

Behold! Haru Nox in his glorious element: Earth! Fire! Volcanos! Prepare for destruction! Prepare for. "One moment," the aloof Artificer says as he puts a finger to the size of his monocle. The rim is silver with damascus marbling of black against it. The black pattern begins to swirl as the purple lens flicks to life. White text scrolls across it, informing Haru that the power level of this gate is not, in fact, over 9000. The wall structure goes next as he walks alongside it. "Here we go," he says, not one to follow the rules laid out when he can forge his own path. "Multiple ingress options." He isnt against using the gate, but thats what they want you to do. Then you get spears and traps and goblins and all sorts of shenanigans. Why not make a new door? He does. The four stones go out and begin to crunch at the wall with Dark gravity and Earth manipulation. In a short order the matter reconstructs itself into an archway, giving another way in. "Magical construction," he pats the stone with one of his hands.
Plot Room 3

Goldenblade finally does make it through, and hustles to catch up with Haru and Kirito. As to any debate between her and Haru, it's not really a debate so much as Goldenblade just being old and curmudgeonly, and she offers no clarification on the point. It's not like she's /right/ about it. Clearly, the game designers are on Haru's side here. But Goldenblade is old and set in her ways, and that's about all there is to it, grumbling about sissy finger-waving slackers under her breath.

Making her way to the rusted gate, she glares as Haru magics an entrance. Rather than save time by following, she pulls a small toolkit feom her inventory and finds a likely-looking gate. A bit of WD-40, or the local equivalent, and some elbow grease with a set of metal probes and what looks like a screwdriver made by a madman and the gate's lock grates open, and she goes in that way. With a hrmph of satisfaction.
Plot Room 3


Kirito confirms to Haru, and he takes a deep breath, his hand glowing green for a moment as he manipulates the stones themselves, working closely with Haru to manipulate the earth and ensure those four stones crunch at the wall, with Kirito's use of magic hopefully providing additional finesse. He smirks a moment. "Beautiful construction." He admits.

Hearing Haru speak of Pela and Elly makes him smile, chuckling a little bit. "That's wonderful. They sound like good people...and that both of them run their own stores is a good thing for them, helps ensure a good living while we're trapped in this game."

"Both are necessary."

He turns his eyes to Goldenblade and seems approving of her more simplistic approach.
Plot Room 3

Haru motions to the open gate and the new gate, "Evidence continues to present itself that there are multiple ways to progress in this brave new world of ours," he says. He takes a motion to Goldenblade for Kirito, "Direct some of that praise towards Goldenblade. She created an entire road structure to Eas, has made electricity work, is seen as the foremost construction expert in Yamato, and," he grins, "hates the attention." On the top of attention, he does note, "Arcadia is the realm in Fourland. Not a Duchy, but one step down. Eas, for example, resides within. Elly is a good friend to make. Myself, too, if Im being objective about it. I am the only one who can manage Chaos Gate travel." A pause. "Which is a shame, really. It will benefit all Adventurers once Dragon's Eye is properly secure and Gilgamesh is satisfied to open up broader transit. However, places like that tend to have a 'Hive Boss' or a Dungeon Heart. While it remains, either arguement is a weak one to the welfare of Adventures and Uruk." Pontificating Enchanter pontifictes. Half-glasses push up.

Beyond the (old and new) gate(s), there is a large courtyard which must have been the
central entry way into the onsen. There are many individual buildings,
some meant for bathing, and others for sleeping or entertainment
purposes. However, all have seen better days. Some are only just a few
bits of wood that stick up from the ground, giving the impression of
the structure that had once been there.

Others look largely intact, although they are stained by age, large
pieces of roofing missing. The most notable of these seems to be the
hot springs themselves, of which half the building seems to be gone,
but the rest seems intact. The once empty and dry springs now bubble
forth, overflowing into the courtyard and leaving the ground wet and
muddy beneath their feet.

However, this new influx of water seems to have brought with it some
strange creatures. At the arrival of the Adventurers, a series of
heads pop up from the murky surface of the water, blinking frog-like
eyes at them. Then, wet and scaled limbs begin to crawl out of the
mire, dragging with them spears. The monstrous frog-men croak their
displeasure before starting to launch spears at the intruders, trying
to drive them away from the springs.

"We found the monsters," Haru says with the level of elation that would follow a Ravenclaw Potions Professor. One croaks at them angrily and he-yucks a javelin at Haru to demand more enthusiasm. They are important and a haughty Adventurer will not demean their flipping flopping existance. Haru dodges. Fwoosh. "Monsters are hostile," he slaps a mundane label on them. Chuuni Frogman seeths. His origin story begins now! An arcane bolt slaps him on the side of his head. It will begin... when he wakes up!
Plot Room 3

Multiple ways to progress, indeed. Being true just annoys Goldenblade more. "You kids spend too much time off imagining things that can't happen," she complains aloud. This game, of course, is an example. "Then you wonder why your real life isn't what you want it to be. It's because you spend too much time wishing, rather than finding out how things work and doiing what needs to be done to make it happen." Of course in game, that applies equally to magical and mundane tasks, so her complaints aren't really valid. They'd be a bit more valid in RL, if we were in RL and had RL constraints, but we don't, so she's just being sour. Maybe the kids in her construction job before she retired have gotten under her skin?

But seeing monsters, that's like flipping a switch, and Goldenblade all but vanishes from where she was approaching the flooded courtyard. The next moment, she can be seen behind one of them, her sword swinging in a flat arc through its neck. She fades from view again as the monsters next to the victim turn and try to stab her. She appears some yards away, where they're now looking for her, but facing the wrong way. She comes up behind one, and runs it through with her golden steel blades. Not enough to kill it, but it's HP drops like a stone, and she vanishes again before its allies can mount a counterattack. She continues with this strategy, sneaking away, striking from surprise, and vanishing again, and one by one, the enemies are reduced to pixels.
Plot Room 3

"Monsters are always hostile."

Kirito remarks and while he is /fast/, he's unable to avoid an attack of a watery scale, dragging spears behind them that manage to strike him across the side, leaving a glowing red mark where he had been struck until his HP can recover.

"Tsk!" He makes a sound of disgruntlement with himself as his companions work swiftly to dispatch the creatures. A sword is drawn and he gleefully engages! " Didn't realize I was in such esteemed company!" He remarks to Haru, smiling at Goldenblade with a big smile on his face.
Plot Room 3

"Plenty of stories around, Kirito. Many as interesting as the last. Consider me being a librarian curating a few good books worth reading," Haru says as he expends very little energy in the fight. He doesnt take the enemy serious enough to go full Chuuni. "Cognative dissonance, Goldenblade? Yes. But consider that creativity and mental illness is closely linked. Is it so hard to believe that 'vision' and creativity comes from those that spend their time thinking of what they want their reality to be, versus what it is? Most Adventurers from the Old World came here to -escape- the world they were in and be just that, more than what they were." He shakes his head, "Ah, I miss these little conversations, Goldenblade. I think about them when working on MagiTek because either extreme isn't the right answer. Vision without a plan is a dream. A plan without action is equally vapor. Is it so hard to subscribe to both hard work and forging a path towards a goal?" A pause there. "Probably. People get bored, give up, want someone else to do it for them. It creates a void for someone else to fill it. Either way," he charges up one of his arcane blasts and splatters a frogman into little bits, "the medicine to that disease is to talk less and do more. How is the training school going? This year's batch of students full of drive or just driven to easy gains?"

Eventually, the strange, monstrous frog-men are driven off, retreating
into deeper parts of the onsen in order to avoid the assault from the
Adventurers. A few spears are left lying strewn about their

However, they do not seem to be the only guardians of this place.
Almost as soon as they disappear, a massive rumble sounds. It is
followed by a movement of red-gold fur as something massive leaps from
behind one of the buildings, landing atop the crumbling rooftop. Tiles
from the roof clatter down as a large monkey-like creature crouches
there, nostrils flared, watching them with intensity.

The Monkey King roars out his challenge, reaching for one of the
support posts and ripping it free, as if the massive monster intended
to use it as a staff. It launches itself forward, landing in a crouch,
then sweeps the weapon out towards the waiting Adventurers, ready to
defend this place from their interference.

"Alas," Haru responds quietly in response to the roaring monkey, "this is not your day. As simple a fact as it may be, you lack the strength to hold this place." The four stones that swirl around Haru begin to zoom away from him, creating lines of light against the air. When all the lines connect, a pane of glass appears. Again. Again. Before long the area is filled with floating glass shards, interjecting themselves in the way of the Monkey King's attacks and taking the wind out of the boss' swings. There is enough enchanting energy left over to protect the environment itself from the force of the fight, preserving the onsen as much as the old place can be.
Plot Room 3

Goldenblade grunts in agreement with Kirito about monsters. "Heads up," she advises him, for what good it does. "/This/ is what we came for." Clearing monsters out of this old site. Will the Landers follow up on us clear it out? They didn't last year, and it's infested again. But she's clearing it again just the same. Maybe the Landers will do better this year?

"What's cognitive dissonance, anyhow?" she asks Haru. She grumbles as he explains himself, and who knows, he may even be right? For here. "That's the problem with games. They're not real. But they feel real, and people get confused," she says. As far as planning and vision and effort, they /do/ all go together, that much she agrees with. She just wishes the planning didn't require so much understanding of make-believe, which she doesn't get. All of the tropes and things that gamers just take for granted have to be explained to her slowly and at length. Like why everyone rides the pekos. She sighs as her school is mentioned, and says, "Of course I don't have any students," she says, sounding bitter. "What can I teach them that they can't learn someplace else from people who understand them better?"

This conversation is all going on as she's stabbing monsters as if that was just a casual thing done in passing, but then the red-gold fur of the Monkey King becomes visible, and Goldenblade says, "Well, if it's not ol' What's His Name?" Her tone is sarcastic, but once again, her movements are hard to follow, practically vanishing for some moments, before appearing behind they Monkey, her sword planted deep in its chest. Of course assassination isn't a one-shot kill, like the name implies, but it does take off a healthy chunk of health bar, and the ensuing melee becomes much, much shorter as a reault.
Plot Room 3

"Yes...it is."

The monkey king.

The red-gold fur of the beast becomes visible. "Think it's Sun Wukong?" Kirito suggests. "Chinese mythology, if I'm not mistaken. Was he the greatest in heaven or the greatest under heaven?" He turns towrds Haru. "Stories make this world worth living. The things we do for each other, so we don't lose our humanity." Then of course, the roaring monkey.

"Now then, my friends, to work."

Kirito suddenly moves like a flash, striking the Monkey King numerous times while enshrouded by golden light. In fact, it looks like it's numerous Kirito's striking from numerous angles all at the same time!
Plot Room 3

It doesn't take long for the Adventurers to realize that the Monkey
King is no ordinary boss monster. In fact, his challenge rating is
high enough that it ranks as a raid boss. This means that the beast
does huge amounts of damage to those who are unwary. Enough so that it
likely pushes them to the edge of their endurance.

Luckily, they manage to eliminate one of the monster's health bars and
that seems to be enough to shift the beast's behavior. The Monkey King
raises the wooden pole above his head, shaking it with a roar of
challenge, and then disengages, leaping from rooftop to rooftop before
vanishing up the mountain, into the mists that surround the abandoned

What is left are scraps of fur, a sure sign to the Hunter's Guild that
this place is no longer safe. If a raid boss has made this place home,
it is bound to need more than a simple quest like this to clear the
location completely.

"Clever," Haru observes as the boss avoids defeat by retreating. That sort of intelligence isnt always seen in monsters. Most fight to the bitter end. He waits until the end of the fight to address the topics prior. "Games do serve a purpose. They fend off boredom, for one, which causes many experts in their field to stop growing. The 'real' part is about results. If a master weaponsmith creates a sword in a game its not the same as forging one that can be held in their hands. We walk a fine line about what it 'real' here, now. Rather unique situation." A hand gestures about the lack of Goldenblade's students, "Empathy is an important trait in a teacher, but I wouldn't discount your methods. A wise student seeks teachers of all kinds, and so long as we are learning, we are always students. Some students may need the harsh reality that life isn't going to spell it out for them. Not really my field, though. I find more joy working on arcane puzzles and unlocking secrets over getting the third Leroy MacJenkins to stop making sword chucks a thing." A smile there. He is absolved from such things now. Free. FREE! "Lets take a brief break before heading back. Onsens like this are nostolgic for me and I don't hide the fact I am sentimental about this sort of stuff," he says evenly, taking a moment to walk about. Stories do, indeed, make for a world worth living in. Have to slow down occasionally to have them room to grow.
Plot Room 3

Goldenblade looks around as the Monkey King retreats, and says, "I suppose this is a good reason why the Landers never reclained this place. The Monkey King never gets defeated." As far as feeling real, she says, "It's like cooking. If you cook for real, you can make food with flavor. If you use a command to cook, you get meh. Same with crafting, I discovered some time ago, so I had to learn now to craft for real. I don't know how magical crafting works, but that's how physical crafting works."

She shrugs off empathy and boredom both, and says, "If you can do a task, it doesn't matter how you feel about it, or how people feel about you. The task gets done whether people like it or not. A brick wall doesn't care about people's feelings." On the other hand, if Haru's feeling nostalgic about this place, she can catch her breath and relax before heading back.