Duty Session 81: Goblin Scouts in the Field
A porcelain quest has been offered to the Hunters Guild. There's reports of Goblin Scouts in the Eastal Free League region, close to the ruins of a place called 'Shibuya'. The region is largely open fields, with a lot of tall weeds. But there's old roads in the region that still carry some people who go to that region to gather some special herbs that can't be found anywhere else. The request requires the disposal of these goblins.
Rec. Party: 3+
World Rewards: None
"So is this really what these games are supposed to be like?" Shin Heno mutters as they crawl through the tall grass. It's been an unpleasant slog so far, carefully moving forward on hands, knees, and occasionally elbows. It rained last night; mud and clay have joined grass stains and seeds in the symphony of unpleasantness that is the crawl.
"Don't get me wrong, I can see the appeal of a distraction, but this just feels like wor-"
Shin rolls over to the side a moment before the trap strikes. Maybe it's his Masked Ranger reflexes - just a little red scratch along his leg, nothing but an HP or two of damage. He sits up.
"...okay," he says after a moment, "Maybe a little more like work than I'd like."
Also, *lots* of bear traps.
The crawl has been a sort of a squishy experience, not gonna lie. Att would normally have just toggled his avatar to stealth mode -- something normally accomplished with some fade-out and a bit of a crouch -- but this area goes on forever, and, frankly, he doesn't want to squat and shuffle for an hour.
"Not all the time," Att vaguely hedges. "This is sort of an outlier. Usually by now you would have enough experience points and treasure to do some of the more fantastic things." He stops for a second, pulling a bug out of his sleeve's cuff and flicking it aside with a grimace. It stops him from planting an elbow in a bear trap. "Ugh. Anyway, riding a horsebird across the plains in search of adventure is --" He jerks his head in surprise at the clang. "-- less like... work..."
Att finds himself in the midst of an awful lot of bear traps. He slowly starts to work his way between some without having to do it while they're attached and his HP bar is decremented. "...what did you do that you associate bear traps with work, again?"
"Metaphorically," Shin says to Att, "It's *metaphorically* like work."
As they inch their way through the field, there's a couple close calls - Att works around them, and Shin just grabs the traps and forces them open when either of them triggers a trap by accident (mostly Shin, because he can apparently just grab traps and force them open if he's aware of them). Ultimately, though, static traps aren't really a major challenge.
The goblins might be a bit more of one.
The armor isn't heavy but the weapons are. Big, rusty swords, too big for them to lift so they simply drag along behind. Big, rusty axes, shouldered and slowing them down. The goblins are clearly relying on 'the less DPS incoming is the less armor matters,' a classic strategy. After all, the less you need to defend against, the less you need to heal, too! Truly, offense is the best defense.
Shin's face splits into a wide grin. "You know, at this point, I feel like I just *wait* for this."
He stands up. The goblins notice him immediately, because he's got a white scarf in a sea of greens and browns.
The belt buckle appears in his hand. He slaps it against his waist, and the belt extends around it. His arms rotate, as they always do; the left from eleven to seven, the right from six to three.
The right hand snaps across the belt, and what always happens when he snaps the belt happens.
0 01 0
1 /----\ 0
0 / \ 0
ARMOR BEETLE ====| /\ |==== CODE: ALGOL
DEFENSE OF DESTINY ====| \/ |==== COMPILE
0 \ / 1
1 \----/ 1
0 10 0
As the goblins start charging forward, 'Algol' charges out of the constellation of lights to meet them, feet whirling, fists hammering. He blows through goblins with forceful kicks; he punches through heavy weapons.
It's pretty much the same as usual whenever Shin transforms - the glowing red bug eyes just don't strike quite as menacing a pose when he's in mostly-broad-daylight.
"Right. I can see it. It's --" Worm, worm, wiggle. S l o w c r a w l .
"-- something I can relate to, I think. I wonder if society isn't just full of them." Att almost says 'Japanese society' specifically, but thinks better of it at the last second. He isn't sure that they're particularly special in that regard; it's just that it's easier to see your own societal pitfalls and traps if you're raised in it.
Att levers himself up and brushes grass and mud off. He comes up a step behind Shin, chuckling, reaching to either side and drawing staff and sword. "Yeah. This is at least partly what this is all about."
TRANSFORMATION SEQUENCE. Att smiles with some small amount of appreciation at the simple things in MMO-life, following behind 'Algol' at a jog and then breaking into a sprint to close the rest of the distance. His staff gets used as a nearly-six-foot shield and occasional bludgeon, but his sword flickers and flashes with silently-executed Artes that rely on overwhelming the goblins' meagre defenses before they can bring their weapons to bare.
It's no challenge.
With Shin up in the front line smashing through weapons, Att is free to get right in and provide the real DPS. Staff deflects what weapons remain; expert cuts cleave red lines in the air and the goblins alike. They disperse with bursts of smoke, and then disperse on their little legs, running backwards as fast as they can.
It's beecause they're running for their master.
They must be an outcast tribe. A tribe of weirdos who followed a real monster, or maybe more than one. The Armor Goblin is, indeed, heavily-armored, as its name implies, but what's more worrisome is the glow in its wicked little eyes, the spikes on the back of its gauntlets and its shoulders, and the complete lack of weaponry. It's a grappler and a grabber, looking to hook on and hold on and crush and skewer until nothing remains.
The problem with a punchgoblin is that it's a direct counter to 'Algol'.
Whatever Shin might've been about to say to Att is completely interrupted as the goblin runs forward to punch him in the face. He only narrowly avoids taking three holes in the face - instead he gets off with a 'mere' two. They're glowing red dots right next to his eye. That looks...grisly, and unpleasant.
A second punch hits him in the torso as he moves to knee the goblin in the chest and finds, well, finds it heavily armored. The goblin shoves him backwards in a shower of red sparks. 'Algol' rolls into the mud and untransforms.
Att comes up short while the punchgoblin just socks 'Algol' right in the bug-teeth. He visibly winces, making an 'oooh' normally only heard during professional wrestling matches or particularly one-sided boxing commentary. 'Algol' rolls and ends up in the mud next to him. Att pulls a healing potion out of his inventory and tosses it to him, stepping up instead and beckoning the goblin with a challenging gesture. He presents his sword, staff laid along his arm and held behind him --
-- and then as soon as the goblin becomes a train, he calls, "FLAME WALL," and the predictable happens.
Hopefully it dies before the momentum runs them over.
The Flame Wall isn't enough to kill the goblin, that much is clear, but it is enough to drive the thing back behind the wall. It starts pacing carefully, slowly, like a shark waiting for the kill. Shin sits up and grabs the potion with a gulp.
The Flame Wall starts catching along the grass. It's at that point that the Armor Goblin just gives up and walks away, disappearing back into the tall grass. Shin runs his hand across his face.
"That was....rougher than I'd expected. Nice call."
He stands up and adjusts his scarf. "Yeah, I guess no matter where you go on the planet, there's all kinds of little traps at work, huh? And you never really expect them when you step on them."
He grins over his shoulder, eyes closed, possibly so Att doesn't have to see whatever Shin's eyes look like in this moment. "Thank God we don't have to work anymore."
"Are there normally this many goblins in an area like this?"
Att Syne, Goblin Tamer, he... he isn't. He keeps the goblin on the far side of the magicked barrier, the crackling flames warding it off rather than disintegrating it as it charges through. The goblin seems smart enough to back off once a brushfire starts to build up. Once Att is sure it's gone, puts out the fire with a few quick gestures before it gets worse with them inside a field of tall grass. "Mm. Wasn't the result I was hoping for, but I'll take it."
Shin takes the lead. Att keeps an eye out, trying to find tracks back to the outcast encampment they must be near. "Yeah. I suppose even grinding in an MMO is less work than real work, huh?" He grins. "I don't miss marking tests, I'll tell you that much. Though maybe after long enough I will," he sighs, voice dropping.
A more game-relevant question. "Mm... no, not around here, not usually. I think there are a few big world events that make them spread out. That's like a quest that all the players have to contribute to at once to solve. We'd have some indication of that, though." ...wouldn't they?
Fingers brush briefly against the stone belt. Shin's bug eyes flare up a moment later. It's just for a brief instant as he looks around for any sign of tracks amidst the blaze of smoke. After a moment, he cracks his knuckles, and the bug eyes vanish. "Alright, I've got something. Lots of tracks in this direction. Maybe some kind of nest," he says, and starts walking in a direction, away from the blaze.
"I doubt you'll miss it," Shin says as they walk, "There's too much to do here. We've got a world to shape, now. To really shape. Not just pretend-shape. Not get told that we matter out of one side of the world's mouth."
He's grinning, under the scarf. He's grinning. The lines of his cheeks say as much. "We've got a place we can call ours to make something better than the place we came from, and people want to leave it behind. What's with that, huh? Don't you think that's insane?"
There sure are a lot of goblin tracks. There's also a lot of goblins.
The nest resembles nothing so much as a big skull sunk into the earth - eyes carved out for archers to sit above the cave entrance and fire, a yawning maw with metal traps that can easily be dropped on intruders. It's an unpleasant sight all on its own.
Then you add the, oh, twelve or so goblins, the retreated Armor Goblin, and a nasty-looking Goblin with a pair of long, curved blades and a strange monstrous black cat companion.
The archers let sail as the Armor Goblin and the Goblin Ranger come racing forward to meet the pair in battle, all fists and blades and slashing claws, a maelstrom of guaranteed death.
Again, Shin takes his stance. "In this world, we can be heroes. We can matter."
The belt snaps against his waist. "In this world, everybody really does mean something."
"And I won't let anyone threaten that."
"That's what a Hero of Justice is supposed to do."
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 Perseus blaze to life. The demon star pulses where the belt should be. The Armor Goblin runs forward to intercept 'Algol' once again, swings his fist into the storm of lights-
-and gets a hand around his wrist. A black, chitinous arm. The red lights die, leaving the black armor, the yellow mandible-crest, the glowing red eyes, and the blood-red scarf.
"Masked Ranger, Algol."
"The Demon Star will light your way back to Hell."
'Algol' whirls the Armor Goblin around into the supporting meleers. He hurls the massive monster into the glut of archers and runs after him, sticking himself into the thick of it. Each shot moves to tear a piece of the Armor Goblin's armor off its skin and hurl it as a weapon into the archers; each shot moves to rip and slash and cut, to damage everything around him. He knocks aside blades and arrows in the process, foot whirling around to catch approaching enemies unawares.
The Armor Goblin stands up.
'Algol' clicks the belt three times. "CODE: BREAKER."
The requisite kick.
'Algol' lands on the other side of the Goblin.
"An encampment, then," Att muses. "They set them up near where they're ranging, but they can go a long distance on foot from them, too. If we can clean that up, we can put the goblins down for the count out here."
They walk. It's far more sedate than crawling through the mud around bear traps. Att's attention wanders to the horizon. "Yeah... it sure seems that way, doesn't it?" He looks up. "It sounds insane, yes. But people have things they've left out there. I don't think they realize what kind of opportunity they have in here to make everything better, and to really make it the way /they/ want it, but I understand a little bit about where they're coming from." He smiles faintly. "I was a week away from serving in Heaven, you know?"
They come across a rise, and there's the camp; the nest. The huge skull is definitely a trap, so Att doesn't even intend on entering it. He sheathes his sword, flexing his fingers. His voice comes with a somewhat deeper, more dramatic intonation.
"But that doesn't mean we shouldn't rule, even if this is our own private Hell."
He raises his staff and voice to the sky both. A glyph grows underneath him, shining with mage-light. "I, thy Summoner, hereby invoke the sacred contract. By my word be bound, and by my will be clad in the strength of armies! Come forth, Beast of Earth and Man!" A white light shines. "FERROS!"
The glyph vanishes. It reappears in front of the skull, and from it a shape rises, torn from the earth. A crude humanoid figure, huge but wrought from boulders shot through with veins of gleaming metal and fragments of discarded armor, draws itself to its full height. It immediately attracts the attention of the nearby goblins, its stone-and-steel skin repelling attacks as its gigantic fists smash any opposition that gets close... and escapes 'Algol.' It's the tank, after all. It's impressive, but it's not the primary source of punishment.
Att looks thoughtful throughout. He's waiting on cooldowns to mop up anything he missed. "Too much, maybe?" he muses.
The monster rises, and the Goblins begin to get a sense of how incredibly screwed they are.
Ferros's fists hammer against the ground. Rocks crash against skulls and bodies, pulping them in a shower of red light. Massive feet stomp through the crowd as Ferros moves to grab hold of the twinblade goblin and its cat. It's not the primary source of DPS, but it's more than enough, and in an advantageous place for it to really work. The reinforcements just come right out into the churn, so they're no help, and the twinblade Goblin and its pet are held tight in its hands, so they're not going anywhere, and the Armor Goblin is busy getting the living hell beat out of it by Algol, so *it's* no use against Ferros either. Everything is pinned down and nothing has a means to escape.
By the time it's over, there's a slew of dead goblins disappearing into smoke, and scattered loot, and a collapsed cave. Ferros falls back apart, 'Algol' stands up and pops open the belt, and Shin emerges from the flake-away bug-man transformation with a wide grin on his face.
"Too much? I don't think I'm the right person to ask, am I?"
Shin squats down to inspect some of the goblin loot. "The thing is...it's nice that they have people left behind, but if they can't guarantee that they won't pull the rest of us out, then I don't care, you know?"
"I don't want to go back. I'll fight to stay here. And that's what it comes down to. Those of us who want to stay shouldn't be forced to leave. If they can find a way out that doesn't take the rest of us, sure, OK, but the old man's words didn't suggest that, did they? They suggested that the escape path was everybody or nobody."
"And if that's the case..."
Shin looks up at Att. His eyes are empty and dead. "Then it's nobody."
He stands and puts his hands behind his head, and the look is gone, and he's grinning again. "I think that was a reference you made, but it was totally lost on me. Why don't we just rule in Heaven instead?"
Ferros makes a bass-pitched sound kind of like a war cry once the fight is over, and then gradually fades away. Att wipes sweat off his forehead. Summons aren't cheap on the ol' MP reserve. "No, I suppose you're not." His grin is just as real, but perhaps not quite as wide as Shin's. He starts down the slope towards the camp to do the looting half of this whole thing, staff becoming a fancy-looking walking stick as he goes. He looks towards Shin and catches that dead-eyed look, stumbling a step.
Att catches himself, then scrapes the mud off his heel on a rock with a little put-upon sigh. "Oh, it's from Paradise Lost, though kind of paraphrased. The gist is that Heaven might be paradise, but you're still a servant up there. So if you rule in Hell, things might seem like they suck, but at least you're not beholden to anyone but yourself." He taps his boot-heel on the stone and then puts his foot down. "Proteus might have the right idea, though. If you want to rule in Heaven, first you've got to kill God."
A beat. "Don't tell her I said that, though. She'll start hovering ominously and chuckling darkly and we'll never hear the end of it."
Shin stands up and stretches. "I guess we should go find God and kill Him, huh? He's overdue anyway."
With that extraordinarily ominous statement behind him, Shin starts heading back through the field. "Thanks for the team, by the way! Commends and all that stuff Whis says!"
'Well that was ominous,' Att thinks.
"Yeah, uh, same." He starts back, too. It turns out they're going the same way.
About ten minutes later, they're slogging through the mud again. It's their own fault. They literally did this once already.
"We really need to get on that ranch thing," Att sighs.
"That or find me a motorbike," Shin replies cheerfully, "I always wanted a motorbike. Or some animal that's close enough. Do those even exist?"
"Don't worry," Att says with his own occasionally naturally-ominous intonation. "I've got a plan for that."