Duty Session 73: Is It Wrong to Pick Up Slimes in a Dungeon?

There are plenty of places in Alne that seem to have been left abandoned up until recently. The influx of Adventurers and Landers have caused empty areas of the city to become occupied in quick order. As the city is surrounded by water, it is also particularly prone to infestations of slimes. Landers are reporting that they are having trouble getting water into some areas of the city. They are asking for Adventurers who might be brave enough to face the sewers and waterways beneath the city to clear out some of the slimes in order to help get the water flowing again.

Difficulty:    Moderate
Rec. Party:    3+
Rewards:       3
World Rewards: Increases in clean water availability in Alne.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V was looking for another instance of the Rat Infestation quest when he stumbled across an alarmed-looking Lander standing next to a large sewer grate in one of the less populous parts of Alne.

"What's the matter?" He asked, raising his staff and angling a beam of light through the grate. The distant *bloop*ing audible.

A few minutes later he put out the call to the Guild to meet him in this area. Once a decently-sized party arrived, Count V gestured towards the sewer grate, "I'm afraid that it's a Sewer Level, friends. I /was/ looking for more rats, but it seems like something a little more gelatinous has become a problem of late. You might want to make certain that you're using a disposable or non-edible weapon for this one..."

Hooking the wings of his staff inside the grate, V hauls it loose and steps inside, making a face as he goes, "We're really going to need to make some wax nose plugs if /this/ becomes a regular thing..."

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The characteristic *blooping* of Slimes can be heard even at a distance. They become louder, and louder, until the party reaches a confluence of pipes just a little ways in. It looks to be where waste collects, and the room itself is filled with burbling, hopping green Slimes.

Mostly, they're consuming garbage and waste, and clogging things up. They're not actively hostile, but they are an obstacle.

Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "I don't feel like 'I was looking for more rats' is a thing that gets said very often," Shin volunteers cheerfully as he wraps his scarf around his face. Stylish, Heroic, and Functional! What more could you ask for? It's the perfect accessory! Besides, you know, the other accessory. The important one.

     "Do people usually crawl around in sewers for fun in these things?" He asks, his voice slightly muffled as they hop down into the sewer, "Why would you make them more realistic as you get more sensory technology? That feels like an extra step too far - like you added a feature you didn't need to add for some bells and whistles that were probably a bad idea to ring."

     The bouncing slimes get an, 'oh, I kinda remember these,' from the Were Fang. The belt clicks, his bug eyes flare to life for a brief instant, and then he's just breaks into a run straight through the slimes. It's timed to go right between them at their jump arcs.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Nearby, U.L.P. had heard the call over the chimlink.  So once he gets there he notices that it's...a slime dungeon.  "Oh, I see our first difficulty jump happened.  That's neat," he says, with some enthusiasm.  With that he follows down the hole with the others until they hit the ground.  

Slimes, slimes everywhere, and not a drop to drink?  That seems wrong somehow, but the bard shrugs his shoulders, grabs his bow and arrow, and is already launching barrages at slimes to try and clear away for the others.  He'll be right behind you!

"I have to agree, the smelling feature was definitely over necessary.  It's like adding survival mods in an open-world game without them.  Entirely too much."
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att had been spending the afternoon by the seaside, so it was a little bit of a hike to get over here. He's gone back and forth enough that he's started to wonder if he'll be putting a rut in the ground on his route.

Now he's starting to regret it. "Sewer levels are pretty ubiquitous, but smell was... ugh." Att goes through his inventory, pulling a piece of cloth and tying it around his face. He gives ULP a glance. "Survival mechanics are fine if you're into that sort of thing. Everyone should be allowed to modify a game they love however they please, without the judgment of the masses to ruin their fun." There's a moment where it seems like stirring background music is going to swell and he's going to rant about modifying games, but he fortunately doesn't. Small favors.

"That's a lot of slimes," Att observes. "No aggression, though..." Sneak, sneak. Step. Sneak, step. Step, step. Sneak. Stop!! ... ... ... Step. He's just weaving his way through. If you walk without rhythm, you won't attract the ooze.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Gathering a party at a sewer entrance is *always* a pro move that leads to strictly good times. Whiskey Sour is here again, at the beck and call of her allies -- and looks even worse. Her eyes settle around half-lidded and there are notable dark circles under them, a permanently (long-)suffering smile seems to have been painted onto her expression, and her motions have no real vigor to them as she approaches. When warned about sewer levels, and Shin specifically asks if people crawl around in sewers for fun, Whis has an odd, delirious-sounding response.

"Oh, sometimes you ride motorcycles in them."

There aren't any motorcycles in the game -- yet!

Dropping into the grate and bare feet splashing in the thin 'generically awful water' layer at the bottom, Whis' grin wavers only slightly. "Most of the senses are too much. I'm so... itchy."

Confronted by bouncing slimes, Whis produces 'a branch of wood' instead of a staff and, like setting up at the batting cages, takes full out power swings at the slimes, her energy ramping up as 'combat' begins.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"It doesn't, but I really want to know things about the game world. Also, I need enchanting reagents and I think the Ratspeaker might be on to something." Count V replies to Shin, pushing forward into the slime-filled chamber and... jumping on their heads! It seems to require some precision, but he manages to bounce across the tops of them without sinking into their mass.

"Sewer levels are a tradition," He explains to Shin, "but they're not necessarily considered fun. Usually they're kind of bad, actually."

"And of course, /this/ isn't particularly nice, but as a developmental consideration smell is incredibly important. It's also connected to our sense of /taste/. I suspect they couldn't achieve one without addressing the other to some extent."

"At any rate," V waves towards Att, "a simple desire for being able to play-as-you-please would lead to smell eventually anyway. Scent is pretty important to how we identify one another, too. Ever had somebody you knew turn up a long time after the last you saw them? I bet you noticed their smell."

"W-wait, why would you ride a motorcycle in the sewer?" He wonders, at Whis.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Beyond the confluence of regular slimes, the sound of blooping continues, growing to an unsettling echo. Eventually the direction of the echoes narrow the way forward, leading the group to a passage where two could pass together shoulder-to-shoulder, with the occasional nook off to the side where one could stand in cover or hide if they wanted to.

A cluster of slimes -- five, in fact -- a bit bigger than normal are patrolling along the corridor. One of them pauses, wobbling prominently as it tastes the air, turning about and heading towards the party.

They all have a sort of manic energy to them. This group is bound to be hostile...

Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att tries to sneak-slash-hop-slash-wade through the slime with no real success. He gets to the other side and his shoulder-cape is gooey, stuck to his back, while his boots start making wet sucking noises with each step. It's not really any more difficult, but it sure is weird and noisy.

*slorp* *squish* *slorp* *squish* *slorp* *squish* *slorp* *squish*

"Ugh this is terrible." Att trudges along nonetheless. "I guess that's true. I don't usually notice when I smell my friends, though. Or, not consciously." He shoots V a glance. "Do you usually get close enough to people to catch a whiff or what?"

The hunting slimes wobble dangerously. Att stops, but sort of slides a half-step forward like he was surfing an extremely slow, extremely thick wave of liquid. He draws his staff from his inventory, materializing it in his grip, and then thinks better of it. Att looks around as he tucks it away (and it just vanishes, like magic), then reaches over and picks up... a rusty pipe! He waves it all magically.


A wall of fire erupts in their midst, drawn under them and across the group. "Did you know that slime monsters burn, even if they're water-elemental? It's kind of wild."
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Oh, there is a plan in the eyes of the hunter.  All U.L.P. has to do is set up a string arrow across the wave to cause the slimes to tug the arrow.  This will cause a nearby valve that the arrow attaches to, to open and wash the slimes into a group so that they can be AOEed down.

However, the game glitches and the slimes are somehow through the arrow.  

"Wait what?"
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "Why do people keep making them if everybody dislikes them?" Shin asks, the obvious question that everyone new to gaming asks at some point or another about weird old sacred cows.

     "Wait, motorcycles? There's motorcycles in this game?"

     Shin will be Disappointed later.

     He taps his scarf (probably his chin, but) thoughtfully. "So this is basically a test dungeon, and since it's a sewer level it doesn't have to be fun, you can just call it a tradition and roll with it? And it's probably here to test smell and taste for the system?"

     "And now that it's a real world we're just dealing with it."

     As they slosh through the sewer, Shin, who does not fully understand how this works and has not yet been exposed to the horror that is Slimes, moves forward to take a stance-

     -and gets *immediately* run over.

     No time to transform, no respect for Transformation Sequences, no dodge - Shin just gets *owned*. It takes Att setting things on fire to save him, at which point he rolls out from under the slime, saved from a mouthfull of sewer water only by his scarf and glasses.

     He sits up and coughs and wipes his face.


     "I hate sewer levels."

     Welcome to being a gamer, Shin.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Yeah? Where else are there long straightaways to really open up the throttle?" Whis shoots back, adjusting the grip on her length of wood as she plants herself in a classic baseball swinging stance and line drives a slime into a wall with a predictable 'splorch'.

"I've mostly noticed that after the apocalypse, but I've got such a big family that maybe I'm just used to smelling weird stuff."

The water thins out (leaving Whis with floor-slapping feet after being 'freshly' wetted), and the path rises into an area with less moisture and more slimes. Att's comment about how slimes burn is met with a knowing nod and an educationally raised finger. "That is because slimes are a gelatin, not a liquid. Like napalm."

She levels the finger to point and fire sprouts into a blaze covering Shin's exposed flank with outwardly-directed heat.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V meanders along towards the sound of *blooping* Slimes, until they reach a path near-unavoidably occupied by pathing enemies. He stands there observing the situation for several long moments, scratching at his chin with his free hand. When at last it looks inevitable that the Hunter Slimes will come and harass them--

"Flame Wall." He says, snapping his fingers.

The wall of flame springs up in a circle that forces the Hunter Slimes to pass through it twice to reach anyone, taking advantage of the narrow spaces in order to get maximized coverage.

He replies to Shin, "It's just a thing that's expected. Especially in fantasy-style RPGs like this one. At some point the heroes will have to escape through the sewers, or a dungeon that is basically the same as sewers. These levels are usually long and difficult relative to the content around them, so people end up liking them less than what's around them. Objectively..."

"They're probably not /that/ much worse, though."

Shin declares he hates sewer levels.

"Welcome to the pact." V responds, cheerily.

Whiskey's response gets a perplexed scratch of the head out of V, "But... are the sewers in Japan really that much better for it?"

Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Wait, why are we talking about the sewers in Japan? I didn't really realize they were any straighter than anything else? I mean, I don't really think about them at all!" U.L.P. comments with a confused looking face.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Than the streets? Absolutely. This is Tokyo we're talking about, not the country. If you live in the middle of nowhere you can drive your motorcycle wherever." Whis answers. "It's kind of ridiculous how big the sewers are, really."

Carefully blinking repeatedly rather than touching her face, Whis glances at an intersection and then points down a darker side-path. "This way. I think. I hear... treasure? Well, I certainly don't smell it, because all I smell is sewer, but it sounds like a big pile of treasure."

There's an energy to her movements as she lights a dim sphere of illumination in the palm of her hand, turning down a blind corner to reveal what was making that most curious of sounds.

The volume increases with Whis' falling hopes. Clink! Clink! Clink!


In a recess with a pouring of strangely shimmering water, metallic slimes bounce against the proceeding wall, trying blindly to climb up a jump that's a llllittle too high for them. As the party approaches, the slimes stop bouncing fruitlessly at the wall, and instead start bouncing... TOWARDS YOU!
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The bard just looks towards Whis like she has something on her face.  Then after a moment he just shakes his head.  "Why not just drive in the country then, instead of in the awful sewers?  The country is at least far more peaceful, and slightly less disease-causing."

However, once they are in the next turn, the metallic slimes get a look of disbelief on the face of U.L.P.  Unable to really parse how possible this is, instead he pulls the bow up, points it towards one of the slimes.  Magical energy flows through his body into the bow and then the arrow.  

With the sound of a gunshot, the arrow flies like a bullet towards the poor slime, aiming to slam right into it and splatter it across the wall.  
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V smiles at Att Syne. He runs a finger along his own cheek in a gesture that is /clearly/ 'thinking about how much to actually say'. After a moment of maintaining this position, he says, "A lot of people come and go in my life, as their means and ways take them. The scent of a person is memorable if you... visit their home, go to events together, or even travel together. It's more common to notice a lover's scent, but you'll notice the scent of good friends, too. I'm not leaning in and smelling anybody out there, it would be rude. But scent is a necessary and overlooked part of our experience. Scent, and taste."

"This dungeon is a little more serious than the last. But it's still 'early game'." He adds, towards Shin.

Pleasantly surprised by Whiskey's declaration that she's found treasure, V finds himself rounding the corner behind her to come face-to-face with... metal slimes! He definitely looks disappointed. Loot has been dropping much less regularly since the game changed.

        "Then, I suppose..."
            "Flame Wall."

Count V declares, conjuring another Abusively Targeted circle of fire around the metal slimes.

Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "Treasure's that way, huh?" Shin just trusts in Whis's judgment.

     This shows how poor his own judgment is.

     The Slimes arrive, coated in metal. They're much slower than the other ones.

     This will be revenge.

     Shin walks forward. Left hand at ten. Right hand against his stomach. Left hand swings down. Right hand pushes outwards. Left hand sweeps up to click the belt. "Transform."

                        0 01 0
                      1 /----\ 0
                     0 /      \ 0
   ARMOR BEETLE    ====|  /\  |====  CODE: ALGOL
DEFENSE OF DESTINY ====|  \/  |====    COMPILE
                     0 \      / 1
                      1 \----/ 1
                        0 10 0

     The lights of the Perseus constellation erupt across Shin's body. He emerges in his Armor Beetle form, red scarf trailing behind him, bug-eyes lit up in the sewer darkness.

     "Masked Rider, Algol. The Demon Star will light your way back to hell."

     'Algol' charges into the Slimes. His feet whip around in furious armored kicks, moving to knock the Slimes into V's fire wall, into U.L.P.'s arrowshots, into Att's inevitable pyromaniaction, into Whis's undoubtedly fascinating counterattack. 'Algol' takes point purely to guide the slimes into the party's attacks - it's just more efficient that way.

     Newbie learns fast.
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att Syne gives Count V a contemplative look. It's one that is adjacent to his finger-to-cheek motion, wherein he thinks about how much he instead wants to pry. Eventually, he nods, seemingly satisfied for the moment. He adds onto V's commentary towards Shin a quick, "Things get more complicated as you get more levels under your belt, and that's where the real fun is." After that, it's a hustle towards the allure of TREASURE.

Att rounds a corner and stops. There's a couple seconds of jaw-working as he tries to decide on an appropriate response. "At least," he sighs, "it isn't a mimic." He raises his now-scorched pipe. "Flame Wall!"


Att turns to V. "So, service industry? Before this, I mean." It's a sort of casual aside. "I don't usually pry, but our day-to-day is this instead of this being disconnected leisure time." Getting to know your co-workers? How scandalous.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Everyone is excited at the prospect of treasure!

Everyone forgets that Whis is a delirious, looks-like-she's-dying wreck of a Druid who walks barefoot through sewers and comments about driving motorcycles through the waste management systems of real life.

With the wind-blessed power of MASKED RANGER ALGOL and liberal applications of the Best Spell, Flame Wall, the party easily controls the slower, less agile clunky-thunky slimes as they blindly walk into burning pillars of flame or fall prey to the hurricane kicks and turbine punches. A pair get loose from the pack, clearing the control zone and Shin's reach to meanace the middle and rear lines -- one of which is immediately blown apart by the overwatch fire of U.L.P.

The other is given a swift kick back into the Roasty Toasty zone by Whis, frustration powering her leg to kick a semisolid metallic mass like a futbol.

"There's going to be treasure this way. Slimes won't make a liar out of me."
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"No," Count V replies to Att, cheerily as ever, "I'm a foreign Prince used to entertaining many colorful guests, to whom I am expected to forge firm ties even as we steadfastly work to undermine one another."

To ULP, he asides, "Perhaps they're country-averse. Tokyo /is/ the place to be, after all. Or so I am told."

"Ah-- but, we all thought it was treasure, too..." He directs to Whiskey, trailing after her at a moderate distance.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

It is only a ways down Whiskey Sour's potentially ill-advised path that they happen upon what appears to be mere pollution. A disgusting, oily substance is peppered throughout the water, burning an awful despite being submerged. Quite probably, it's the exact same sort of napalm substance that was talked about earlier as a reason why Slimes can catch fire at all.

The substance, polluting a stagnant pool of water that has collected here along the path, might appear at first to be simply variably dispersed into the surroundings. But it's not. An enormous SCREAMING NAPALM OOZE lurks in the water, giant yellow eyes hanging in the depths like a pair of lamps. The characteristic jiggling of a slime in motion wobbles underwater, while pockets of bubbles escape its mouth. It cannot scream exactly audibly, but...

The NAPALM OOZE is putting off more of its substance and 'activating' it, causing the chamber to begin to fill with a combination of flames and rapidly-heating water!

Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Hmmm...I mean, it's alright.  You know I was never that big a fan of Tokyo.  Sapporo, though...now that was one of my favorite big cities.  I wanted to go back there after taking a vacation there.  Unfortunately, not as a commercial center as Tokyo is so..." U.L.P. shrugs.  

"Maybe once the world is opened up again, I'll take a trip there?  Mm...well, assuming we ever leave this place, or aren't digital copies or whate-" cut off by the fire slime.

Annoyed at remembering the city in the north, he channels more power into an arrow he notches.  Magic flowing from it as he aims it right for the center of mass of the creature.  Once released, the arrow will sink in, attempting to twist and sprout inside of it, trying to smother the flames with earth and thorns.  

Thorns tear out from the inside, aiming to spread across the water, aiming to help smother the flames.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Are we digital copies," Count V replies to ULP, "or aren't we? It doesn't matter too much, I think... and in the second worst-case scenario, in which this is simply our world now for good, I think that isn't so bad. Which is to say, that we will have been brought into a new age of exploration. Those that come after us won't need to worry about our own existential problems, and those of us who can enjoy it will /really/ enjoy it. Which isn't to say that I don't miss things from outside. But I might just be rationalizing to cope."

He heaves a sigh, "I miss milk tea and grocery shopping."

He raises his staff, moving it in a stirring motion that begins to conjure a whirlpool within the stagnant body of water-- which is all well and good, but mostly just accomplishes the purpose of spreading the napalm substance around, intensifying the flames and in particular bringing it up along the water around his ankles.

V retreats a little ways, concentrating on putting himself out.

Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Well that certainly is...a napalm ooze.

     The giant red bug eyes aren't especially expressive, but the step back certainly is. Even 'Algol' is given pause at the absurdity of the thing that is literally bubbling bouncing flame in the shape of a flame. Slimes, he remembers from his childhood games (that was the last time he was anything like a gamer). Metal Slimes, the same. Ubiquitous Japanese Cultural Idea. Sure.

     Fire Slimes?

     Yeah, that might be part of Slime Culture for Gamers, but 'Algol' isn't a Gamer, so he's literally taken aback.

     It lasts for a few moments before he shakes himself back to sense.

     He runs in along side the notched arrow from ULP. His hand snaps against the belt, which shifts to an ominous blue.

     "CODE: FREEZE!"

     Lines and symbols run down 'Algol's foot. The water below him starts to freeze, turning his run from a sloshing one against the tide to a full-on sprint. As he nears the flame, his foot whirls around to meet it, fire and ice colliding in a burst of steam as the ice trails along behind his heel and instantly evaporates, and hopefully puts out some of the creature's more errant flames to help the others murder it faster.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"How can you not like Tokyo and like Sapporo? Do you ski?" Whis wonders, the shimmering substance giving way to more water -- and pollution. The source becomes clear after a little bit more searching: a giant red jelly-ooze that burbles with an inner light and a dangerous smell.

"That's -- napalm? I don't remember a slime type like this before: just water won't be effective. Try to smother it with mud!" Whis announces, gesticulating with her staff as a slurry-wave of '''dirt''' from the surrounding wet mess seperates from the surface-burning jelly and move like a calligraphic brush across the extant fire piles while the others move for the kill-shot."

"A foreign prince?" Whis' laughter is almost unhinged. "You sound like a host at a club. They're the only people that talk like that!"
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Ah, I see," Att says, sagaciously. "You must be the one sending me those emails about business opportunities, right? I never thought we would meet like this. How embarrassing..." He rubs the back of his head with one hand. His cape makes a squeaky noise when he does, kind of like something rubbing against a dry windshield.

The advent of the SCREAMING NAPALM OOZE makes Att stagger backwards, both from surprise and a heat wave. "Alright! That's... already on fire. Kind of unfair, I think." He brandishes the scorched pipe-staff in both hands, conjuring carefully-drawn runes in the air before him. "We'll just have to pile on the damage. Okay, break the thorns! THORN BIND HOSTAGE!"

Yeah, you know how that goes: glowing violet thorned vines holding something that normally cannot be held. Break them for bonus damage!

"Tokyo is pretty alright if you like big cities," Att muses. "I think I'd rather live somewhere a degree or two less urban, but work is what it is. You know?" He looks up. "Assuming there even is any after this --"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V manages to put out the fire, coming out blistered and frazzled-looking, with a decent chunk of his HP gone. In spite of obviosu discomfort, he manages to grace Whiskey Sour with the same sort of playfully thoughtful expression he flashed at Att just a moment ago. He takes a deep breath and replies, "That makes it sound as if you're quite acquainted with the system, Whis."

"Do you have a favorite?" He asks, airily.

Att Syne gets an exaggerated, theatrical shrug, "Who am I to deny the common clay of the world the opportunity to be parted from their wealth? It's *more* embarrassing to be divested of livelihood in such a way, don't you think?"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

A thorned arrow is joined with thorned magic to engulf and wrap the Napalm Ooze. By itself this might have been risky -- the flames that surround the Ooze begin to eat away at the plants and thorns, slowly but steadily declining the dangerous spell's timer at a more rapid pace than should ordinarily be possible.

But a sudden freezing charge through the water cools the surroundings and the stagnant, bubbling water around the Napalm Ooze in short order. On top of that, an unusual effect comes into force -- as rapid shifts between hot and cold begin to oscillate through the water, ticks of damage begin to stack atop the Napalm Ooze, further mounting as Whiskey uses mud to put out more flames. Looks like it was at /least/ somewhat of a gimmick miniboss.

A moment later the heat/frost-shock combined with twin Thorn Bind Hostage spells cause the Napalm Ooze to screech its last with a final series of bubbles, and then what is left of it drifts down in the water, collecting at the bottom.

Somebody should maybe call attention to the need to do some sewer cleaning to stop another one from forming.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

With less burning in the way, the party is able to pass through the cistern of the Napalm Ooze into a great circular chamber with high, arched ceilings. It's odd that such a structure would be beneath the city at all, much /less/ within the sewer system. Another clue that something is going on with Alne that was not previously considered? That remains to be seen. Even so, it is suspicious.

As the party makes their way inside, globs of sludge begin to seep in from the very floor, walls, and ceilings. The disgusting sludge collects in the center of the room, coalescing into a fish-like transluscent ooze with beady eyes, and long arms with thin, dribbling fingertips glowing with an ominous light.

A moment before it begins to advance to attack, faces begin to emerge along its surface-- ghostly, pale, though most certainly reminiscent of various Landers that could have been recognized around the city prior to this point.

Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Mahjong," he says towards Count V, "I know, simple joy, but I do like the strategy and the competitiveness that the game encourages.  I also miss my coworkers and underlings.  That's another story for another day, however~!" There is a pause as he considers the real meat of that conversation.  "I suppose the question of copy or original does not matter.  If we are not who we think we are, then we are still us...we were just created with a bit extra on top."

The topic comes back towards Tokyo, "I just think it's too crowded.  Also, what if I do like skiing?  Have you ever been?" he tacts on, after a moment of thought.  Perhaps things were getting heavier, but for now, it was time to focus on the adventure!  The rest can come later...

Finally, the UR-SLIME appears, writhing in the faces of those who he had eaten.  With that, he starts to sing, harp in hand.

"Thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder
I was caught
In the middle of a railroad track
I looked round
And I knew there was no turning back
My mind raced
And I thought what could I do
And I knew
There was no help, no help from you
Sound of the drums
Beating in my heart
The thunder of guns
Tore me apart
You've been

With that, Lightningstep happens, he is gone, flashing around the creature as he moves up walls and flips over.  Each time a flurry of arrows is released, before hitting the ground and is gone again.  A barrage of arrows seems to fly at all angles, trying to do as much damage as he could lay down.  

Finally, he stops, catches the harp he tossed into the air and bows.  
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     'Algol' is mostly silent on the way down. It's probably one of Shin's most frustrating character traits - once he's changed form he doesn't do all that much small talk. But he is listening.

     There's a shake of the head at the commentary from V. "It's the thieves who should be embarassed. Preying on the weak is cowardly." It doesn't sound like he's roleplaying - it sounds like he's legitimately sort of irritated.

     Not at *V*. He's pretty clearly aware it's a joke on V and Att's part.

     When they enter the room full of ghostly slime, pale and horrid and full of Lander faces, 'Algol' against takes a step back, this time in sheer horror. This is not, in fact, like something on TV. Or, rather, it is, but there's no goofy CGI or rubber suit or animation. There's the painfully real, painfully creepy, painfully disturbing faces emerging from the nightmarish goop, probably making creepy ghost noises because that's what these things do.

     And despite very much acting like, and perhaps even deluding himself into being, a Hero of Justice, normal people are generally terrified of this kind of thing, and 'Algol' is, beneath the mask, still a normal person.

     It takes until U.L.P.'s song for him to rally. Once the harp starts to play, it reminds him that he's got backup, and backup makes creepy things less creepy. He leans forwards on one knee.


     A jump, a flip, two hands out, two feet forward. He crashes into the ghostly mass with a brutal stomp. From around and beneath him, thorns erupt, closing around the mass and squeezing it down. 'Algol' bounds off it and lands on the other side to get out of the way of other peoples' attacks.

     It may also mean he gets a dramatic explosion behind him as he lands.

     This was not intentional but is serendipitous.
Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

The Napalm Ooze burns its last. "We need to get a janitorial duty down here, before that thing re...goop...ifies." Att takes a step. He makes a crunching noise. "Oh, ew, the heat hardened the slime in my shoes, ew, ew, ew --"

Hop, hop, hop. Att shoots Shin a quick quizzical look, then directs it at V with a tiny shrug. "Oh, yes, quite." His accent shifts towards British Received Pronunciation. "Why, if they have the chance to live the dream of wealth and luxury, is it truly a waste of their toil's rewards should it line your pockets?" He twirls his burned and rusty pipe and tucks it under his arm like a cane, then exaggeratedly swaggers down and across the cistern.

The boss reveals itself: some kind of ghostly figure, with support from ghastly spectres coming out of the walls. Att drops the pipe and draws his sword, the gleam of clean steel a stark contrast to the rest of this place. It's a nice disconnect from the very 'real' smell, the ghosts: Att has stared too hard and too long at texture maps and model geometry to be taken in by the horror of it, so the dissonance hardens him to the very thing that drives Shin back. He instead goes forward, blade rising high, and twists wrist, hip, and leg to make sweeping cuts through the air between himself and the monster. Blades of howling wind rip from the edge of his sword, leaping across the gap!

But not before the song is over. They're loud, and he's desperate for good music. He doesn't want to ruin it.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

<Do you have a favorite?>

Whis manages to only blush a little, looking away and closing her eyes with a snort of the nose. 'How silly' her expression says, but he probably knows better: and the answer is yes.

"Mahjong is fun, but only while drunk." Whis asides, a bit bluntly. "It's a good game, though."

"We all miss people." Is added to the thought as the OCTO-Slime appears, saving that little spot of depression for another quest or meeting.

"Octo..." Whis repeats, squinting (not actually that much of a change in how lidded her eyes are) at the strange creature. "What's the octo part?"

The faces press out of the surface. "Eugh! Ecto! It meant Ecto! Giving a bad name to all octo-things! How dare you try to ruin takoyakI! Call a healer!"

Light gathers at the tip of Whis' staff as she slides out of the way of a tentacle template attack, the room darkening a bit in comparison to the fierce light of her charged attack.

"But not for me." She finishes, firing yet another coruscating pillar of blue-white light into the ectological faces evident at the center of the goopy mass.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V makes an affirming noise towards U.L.P., replying, "I've played Mahjong on and off, but it's never quite been my personal style. It's always useful to know the rules of such games, though. They can be used to tie people together when they might otherwise have little enough to do with each other."

Smiling, he adds, "I suppose that's true of any game. But 'traditional' games, especially so, I think."

As they reach the final chamber, and the boss begins to coalesce before them, V begins to wonder -- could they interrupt the start-up sequence? How do these areas interact with the normal rules of fighting in the central towns? Could you attack a Lander down here and not get harassed? If you collapsed a floor and brought them below, would /that/ remove them from the protection of the system?

"-- Ah." And then the boss reached fully formed.

"Nightmare Sphere!" V exclaims, almost reflexively. A purple bolt leaves his wand, expanding into a bubble that surrounds and corrodes the Ectopudding's substance-- giving it a gloopy, more liquid texture than it /should/ have as a Slime.

Count V smiles grimly, setting his staff against the floor, and answers Shin: "If that is so, then all life there ever was or will be is cowardly."

This, too, appears to be a grim joke.

Towards Att, "I don't have a hat to tip at you right now, and that's the only thing that feels appropriate. Most of my cosmetics were stripped, too. Remind me later."

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Arrows hammer into the weakened Ectopudding, and as it takes damage -- making great, sweeping assaults with its long, disgusting limbs -- spirits begin to drift up and off of it, its structure suffering as it loses the souls that it housed. First its fingers begin to grow shorter, and then its overall stature begins to shrink. When it is kicked by Algol, it is reduced to easily half its original scope.

When the wind slashes into its substance, dozens of ghosts go scattering into the surroundings.

The final bolt of blue-white light comes against a creature that is but a single enslaved soul, its form momentarily resembling that of a minor Lander Hero dressed in the most basic of armor, before it bursts entirely, coating the entire room and the Adventurers within it in a layer of revolting ooze.

A series of coins are scattered through the air with the Ectopudding's destruction, each rattling -- or splooshing, depending on specifically where they land -- in general proximity of one Adventurer each.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V looks horrified. Not at any of the ghost stuff, at the /garbage/ that he's covered in. He leans over to pluck the coin off of the floor, and then begins to squeeze at his hair to try to get some of the slime out of it.

Then-- then he freezes in place.

"We've gotta collect this slime."

"We've gotta collect all of this slime."

"If it can actually cause deceased Landers to linger on within its substance..." He doesn't finish the thought. Going from disgusted to looking absolutely intrigued, Count V pockets his Slime Murder Coin and begins scooping up the disgusting sludge.

It might go without saying, but... though he does not address it, of Whiskey's conspicuous silence:

    [Count V will remember that.]

Att Syne
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Att, currently slimy on one half and pretty alright on the other, gives V a thumbs-up. Hat. Got it. Reminder noted.

He crouches down, nabbing a coin and starting to pile up the slime. "Maybe if we turn it into discrete lumps, we can put those in our inventories and haul it out of here," he suggests. "Then we can work on turning it into bricks. Though we get awfully close to some Cask of Amontillado shit after that..." This does not sound like a deal-breaker, exactly.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Cask?" Whis repeats, shaking her face abit to loosen the goop from her face and just moving the gook around. She pronounces it like 'casku' and her voice contains absolutely zero comprehension beyond 'like a barrel?'.

"We could use a barrel right now, yeah..." She decides. "And I could use a shower."

There's a very long pause before a suffering, exhausted sigh. "Which hasn't been invented yet."
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

As V considers, and then starts picking up the slime U.L.P. makes a face at the request slash order.  Though the idea was solid...thinking for a moment, he shrugs and pulls out a lined sack.  Always be prepared, he thought.  

You never know when your reward is going to be too much soup.  
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     'Algol' snaps both hands across the belt. The Armor Beetle form flakes away, as usual.

     Shin is largely clean.

     That is some kind of mad cheating right there.

     The Hero of Justice bends down and picks up one of the coins. He fiddles with it for a moment before he realizes what V said.

     "...wait, what?"

     "We have to *collect* this?"

     "Oh, that's *gross*."

     Still, it's apparently Loot, so they might as well Loot it! Shin moves to help with the slime-gathering.

     Whis's conspicuous silence at the host question draws an eyebrow-raise from him, but he doesn't say anything. He does, however, say:

     "Have you slept yet?"

     "You could always take a nap and then use a river or something. Maybe a waterfall. Don't they do that in movies?"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"That's cold. Really, really cold." Count V says to Shin, as he literally deposits slime in his robe's pockets, "But it does give me a /fantastic/ idea to look into..."

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"I want a proper bath first. A proper, spring bath. In that cave under the mansion, preferrably." Whis notes. "But I'd settle for a shower. We have neither!"

Shin gets a full-on look, a dull-and-dead-eyed stare.

"No. Not since the apocalypse."
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     "Just think of it as martial arts training or something, right?" Shin asks cheerfully.

     He has never had martial arts training in his life and it is quite certain that he got this idea from martial arts movies.

     'Not since the apocalypse.'

     Shin practically whirls on her. "Are you serious?"

     "OK, look. I know you gamers can be kinda crazy but that's not just unhealthy, that's *deadly*. You'll-"

     His voice cracks a little bit. "You'll die from overwork if you keep pushing like that."


     Not the guy. The concept.

     Shin rubs the back of his neck. "I really don't wanna see anybody else I know go out like that. Go to sleep for a while when we get back, OK?"

     'Anybody else I know' has a particularly dark tinge to it - the 'probably-not-a-casual-acquaintance' kind of tinge.

Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Drawing you a hot bath is easy. Keeping it hot like a spring will take some trial-and-error we don't want to conduct with a person. My experiments with heat applied through magic -- only magic -- burned up my last test subject." Count V responds, straightening up and staring at his hands.

"Actually, we're all going to need to do some bathing and clothes-washing after this anyway..."

Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Hey, not all of us are...geeze, I haven't done that since my college days.  I've pulled my fair share of all-nighters, and not playing a game..." he lies like a cheap rug.  His spread is at least fifty-fifty.  

Though Shin's comment about overworking causes him to stare at the boy with some interest.  As another businessman working for a company, he recognizes the stain that came from their forerunners.  Though his father escaped it...

"He's right, Whis.  Not only that, but we also have no idea what happens if you die through any other means than PKing in here.  Nor am I in a hurry to find out," he comments, "But it's your life, you do you."

"Yeah, we are," he says towards Count V.  "Without a bath, I suppose we could try and find a hot spring."
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Shin continues to get the stare. Whis' eyes close like shutter-blinds, coming back up with the slow lift - the sticky resistance of dryness.

"I itch all over. I want to sleep in a bed. I haven't had the right brushes for my hair. We're stuck here, for now, but someone's coming. There has to be. So there is."

Rummaging around in her belt for a pill, she pops it into her mouth, audibly clicking it between molars before crunching down - without anything to wash it down. "I have pills to ignore the Exhaustion effect. I treat the side effects in other ways. Because there's a chance if I close my eyes and relax, I'll stop 'being me' and start 'being my avatar'. It's accepting defeat."

Her jaw sets. "I'm never going to accept defeat. Ever. It's been a month:"

"I'm fine."
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     There is a long moment, as Whis produces her pill. As she clicks down. As she insists that she's fine. As she says that she'll stop being herself and start being her avatar.

     Shin's fingers twitch.

     "What's so wrong with that?" His voice is very, very quiet.

     Then he makes a decision.

     It's not a slow stride. It's a flash, a Godhand motion to just get right up next to her and grab at her collar so he can look her in the face. The normally-placid-looking Shin Heno is gone - now those eyes look like they belong to 'Algol', to somebody who really can say the phrase 'the Demon Star will light your way to Hell' and not sound like a cheesy TV character. Those eyes are dangerous eyes.

     "Go to sleep."

     "I don't care if you're fighting the status effect. I don't care if you're treating the side effects. I don't care if you think there's a *chance* you'll stop being you."

     "Because if you keep doing this there's a certainty that you'll die."

     Shin's fingers tremble at his side. "And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a chance is better odds than a certainty!"

     "So go to sleep, God dammit!"
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"Shin Heno."

Count V straightens up, tapping his ominous-looking staff against the ground, "It is a fundamental truth of the world that 'people need each other', but one thing I've learned for a certainty is that they do not need 'specific people'. You can reach some people with a light touch, some people with a heavy touch, and some people with something inbetween."

"But it's no good to handle the 'light touch' people with the heavy touch. It is our nature that our Truths do not match. You can never reach a peaceful man by speaking from a place of Vengeance, no matter how loudly you shout in his face. That isn't his Truth."

"I don't know what Whis's Truth is, but trembling with -- is it anger? Fear? Whatever it is, I'm sure it doesn't translate. Even if it did, though..."

Count V casts a sly, bitter smile towards Shin, "Mr. Hero of Justice, don't you think the young ladies of Japan face enough physical intimidation from the men that surround them that you're obliged to be better than that? Maybe you just didn't think about it, but everything about your body is screaming 'danger' to anybody who might be smaller than you. All that gets you is appeasement and retreat."

Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Grabbed at her collar, it's surprising how awake Whis can look for how tired she obviously is. What Shin gets, however, is neither resistance nor acceptance, a cold and unflinching reception of the larger, taller, and onstensibly more physically inclined character taking hold of her.

"I am not a liar." Whis repeats.
"And I just told you what I'm going to do."

"Either let go," She begins, her tone icewater.
"Or drop party and flag up."

She waits, head lolled slightly against her shoulder, for Shin's decision.
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

U.L.P. places a hand on both Whis and Shin's shoulder.  His face is serious, but also gentle.  He's not trying to escalate, but his tone is firm.  "Alright, break it up, we're allies, not enemies.  Shin, I get why you are afraid, but what Count V says is correct.  If someone feels pushed into a corner, most of the time they'll just shy away and just wait it out, or respond fiercely.  Ultimatums are not going to help anyone."

"Whis feels strongly about this, and if she wants to talk to us about it, then she will on her own time.  Or she will have the issue forced by life.  Not giving up is an admirable trait, Shin, but trying the same tactic repeatedly, or trying only one approach is a method to madness."  He says, not talking down, not accusing, but rather as an older brother trying to give advice to his well-meaning, but a hot-headed brother.

"Whis, you know what's best for you, but don't outright dismiss others when they're worried about your health, alright?  No need to take it personally either.  Sometimes people are just overly fierce when expressing things like worry, especially if those things hit close to home."

He removes his hands, "Thankfully my father never worked himself to death, but I know some in the company that have.  It's terrible, and hard to comfort those they leave behind."
Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Shin's fingers tremble again. They tighten into a fist.

     He's just holding Whis there, staring at her, when she challenges him to drop party and flag up. It's unclear if he even heard Count V, if he even heard U.L.P.. His eyes remain locked on hers, as if he really is considering doing exactly what she said, dropping party, flagging up, and beating her into unconsciousness. As if he's considering that it might actually be the smarter option.

     He drops her and turns away, shrugging U.L.P.'s hand off his shoulder. "I'm not doing this, next time. If you're that determined to kill yourself then you go right ahead. I'm not getting myself exiled again."


     Those dark eyes meet V's. There's an emptiness there behind those glasses, an empty, angry gaze. "Use whatever touch you want when you lower the coffin."

     And then he's walking out.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"As an Acolyte, I think that you will find I strictly do not need coffins." Count V quips, momentarily forgetting that he is no longer Level 90.

Shin Heno
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

     Shin whirls on V as he passes.

     His fist is an inch from V's face. An inch. V can *see* the scars on the back of his hands. He can *see* how close Shin just came to decking him.

     He can also see that Shin *grabbed his own wrist* to stop himself.

     And that even Shin looks surprised that he stopped.

     Shin straightens. He tugs his scarf back up over his face. He doesn't say another word. He just straight up drops party and leaves.
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"I've been ready to die for a long time." Whis comments, that same icewater tone. The words are absurd, coming from the same person who brightly smiled and made heart-hands at the group.

Shin moves to walk out, which gives Whis an opportunity to comment to U.L.P. "He's permitted to be worried. If he wants to force his will on me, he'll need stronger stuff than words."

Returning to that same tired-cheery, she calls to the retreating Shin (and the group at large) "Nice fighting! Commends for everyone!"

She doesn't do the heart-hands, instead muttergrumbling something about 'settling for a river'.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

Count V blinks. He's quick, but not the quickest. Sturdy, but not the sturdiest. An incoming fist is perceptible to him, but he knows he probably can't get away from it in time-- and quick or not, he knows that Shin's classes /hurt/. His lips move, a word seeming imminent, inevitable.

It doesn't come.

"It's hard to be a hero, isn't it?" It's not a question.

He regards Shin sympathetically, expression softening quite markedly. It isn't until Shin has properly gone that he speaks again.

"ULP--" He turns towards the Minstrel, "you're the only one who can catch up with him once he's gone. Unless you or Att want to chase him down before you get cleaned up, I'd appreciate it if you would trail him and make sure he stays safe. He needs space..."

"And maybe he doesn't need us in particular..."

"But 'nobody' isn't acceptable in the interim, either. Shadowfists are squishy."

Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

U.L.P. shrugs his shoulders after a moment, he didn't think it was going to immediately help, but people's heads are hot.  Still, as the party starts to split, and the near punch does not come to pass he looks towards V as he asks him to go tail Shin.  

"I am surprised you haven't figured it out yet, V.  It's not about him being a fan of Common Road or whatever.  You can tell when he reacted to Whis like that whens he mentioned no sleep, or when he talked about people working to death."

"Probably his dad.  Anyway, I'll follow and keep you informed.  Though next time?  A little of that advice for yourself," he gives V a pat on the shoulder.  "Nice party, as always...never a dull moment with you guys~!"
Whiskey Sour
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"The dull moments are the ones between questing. I use them to rest my eyes." Whiskey asides, heading out of the zone with her party members.
Count V
Alne - Plant Hwyaden HQ

"It isn't that I didn't notice," Count V responds to ULP, his tone growing more apologetic, "I simply didn't think that his need exceeded hers just now. As you might have guessed by how I addressed it, I'm rather acutely aware of the challenges that young women face in our country. Perhaps it colored my response too much. Oh, well... thank you for the party, and take care of yourself."

This is how he accidentally offers the impression that he is a host/ess/, rather than a host.