"Both Rei and I are pretty sure Maera's only interest currently is Kiku. If you recall, Maera paid the most attention to her after all, and even mentioned her invitation to Kiku then." Gho Lightning thinks aloud, "Speaking of which... how long has Maera been emailing you, Kiku?"
Kiku bites her lip, "Truthfully, the very first email I ever received was from Maera, and I got it just an hour after I made this character and logged in. I couldn't make any sense of it at the time, so I just archived it, and assumed that perhaps it was just a mistaken address or something."
Rei sighs, "Well, try to dig it up if you can... it might make more sense now. Anyway, you're on pretty good terms with Sakura, right?"
Kiku nods, "Yes, we're pretty good friends."
"Then would it be alright if you asked her for the keywords to the areas that Maera personally protects?" Rei asks.
"No problem, I'll go now." Kiku says, standing and leaving the @home, "It surprises me how often she's online when I am."
Rei gives a bit of a sad smile, but it quickly fades as she turns toward Kusardo, "I don't think it would be a good idea to try to find that character, the one with the distorted name."
Gho nods, "Generally, when there's a name that is distorted on the board or in an email, there's only a couple possibilities. Players are not allowed to deliberately distort their names at character creation, as you have a limit of the number of numbers or symbols you can put in it. With that being the case, the only way a screen name can be distorted is if the character's data is corrupt, or, more likely..."
"It was from an AI that hasn't fully developed." Rei finishes, "and if that's the case, well... it'll be very difficult to try to locate them at the very least."
Kusardo nodded to Rei. "An undeveloped A.I. ... a difficult lead is better than no lead at all. I want to know as much as I can gather about Maera."
He leaned his back against the far wall of the @home, opposite from the Lightning siblings and just across from the door. He looked at the door for a moment, thinking about something, and then began to recite the names that Maera used when they all met. "Skeith," he began with 'his' name, "Tarvos, Gorre, Corbenik. Where do those names come from, and why did Maera call us those?"
Kusardo knew what Skeith felt like in him, that it was a sort of separate entity conserved as a dormant embryo somewhere in his consciousness. However, that's as far as his understanding stretched.
Posted on 2008-10-18 at 05:41:57.
Edited on 2008-10-18 at 05:51:36 by Serge
"The original source for those names are in a poem called the Epitaph of Twilight, which is rumoured to be the foundation for the World R:1." Gho responds, "However, they are now incorporated into entities that reside within the World itself. You've seen Gorre, and the others exist here as well."
Gho nods to Rei, and Rei takes a breath and recites.
Unknown where the Cursed Wave was born,
After the stars doth cross the heavens.
The sky in the east doth darken
And air doth fill with mourning.
From the chosen land beyond the forest,
A sign of the Wave comes.
Riding the wake is Skeith,
The shadow of death,
To drown all that stands.
Mirage of Deceit, Innis,
Betrays all with the flawed image,
And did aid the Wave.
By the power of Magus,
A drop from the Wave doth reach the heavens,
And creates a new Wave.
With the Wave, Fidchell,
The power to tell the dark future,
Hope darkens, sadness and despair rules.
Gorre schemes when swallowed by the Cursed Wave.
Macha seduces with the sweet trap.
Wave reaches the pinnacle and escape none can.
Tarvos still remains with more cruelty
To punish and destroy.
After the Wave, only a dark void remains,
And from deep within the void arrives Corbenik.
Perhaps then the Wave is just a beginning as well.
"That is one of the known fragments from the Epitaph of Twilight. However, how the Phases manifest themselves in the World is slightly different, especially now, in R:3." Gho elaborates, "The Phases now can attach themselves to characters, and give those characters that come to possess them some abilities that are beyond the system. It does have its own 'price' though. The Phases aren't simply something that can upgrade the character. They are, in effect, alive, and have their own feelings, which mirror one's own in attachment. If your feelings seem to get the better of you, especially negative ones, your Phase Avatar may go berserk, which, coupled with their incredible power, could very well have consequences that shake the foundations of the World."
"In a way, because it gives you power, Phases can amplify the dark side of a person's heart. The power is only restrained by one's own will, and only to a degree. If you draw on too much of the dark side of your heart, the Phase will then take matters into its own hands, fulfilling what was at the time your heart's desire. In a battle situation, this usually means the Phase will go berserk, and will not respond to the player telling it to stop, and will only end after they have annihilated their enemy, which could easily put the other person in a coma. All the Phases do have the power of Data Drain after all; that is how Gho and I were able to use Data Drain." Rei further explains.
"As to why Maera called us by the names of the Phases," Gho concludes, "She evidently could tell which Phase we were most suited to. How she could tell, I'm not sure, but Rei and I presume that the Phases watch over a potential candidate carefully, and Maera could somehow see which ones were watching us, further indication that she is an AI. That makes sense, especially considering that you, Kiku, and Kimono all drew on the power of the Phases in the battle against Gorre. That red wand you briefly held was Skeith's own wand. The sword that plunged into the ground for a second was Tarvos's sword. The beam of energy that erupted into the ground was from Corbenik's attack."
Finished, Gho and Rei fall silent, waiting to see if any other questions arise.
Kusardo sighed half between relief and restless stress. It was clear this was something he was already aware of but failed to understand, despite much mental struggling to make sense of it all. Now that he's been given a more broad picture of the situation, he seemed a little less edgy and closed. He lifted himself from the wall and stood straight, still regarding the Gho and Rei with a less serious face.
"So... I guess that means I haven't gone insane yet. Not that I intended to over what until recently was just a game...but to be honest, the way you recited that poem made me feel like I was listening to a prologue before the main quest."
A brief pause allowed him to imagine the familiar feeling of inserting a role-playing game into a Super Famicom console and watching the game unfold on the television screen. It was a cherished memory that lent him a positive and youthful energy in the midst of this revolutionary experience. However, he made no effort to try and forget the sound of Kiku's scream as it echoed into his reverie, reminding him of the far grander enormity of this situation. It reminded him that he wasn't playing a game for himself anymore, and whether he liked it or not, someone's life has been trapped in this surreal limbo, and something has to be done to set her free.
"What could she want with 'Corbenik', then," Kusardo posed the question. "Do you think Maera would have anything to do with the Cursed Wave that the poem talks about?"
"What Maera wants with Corbenik's power, we do not know. She probably wouldn't tell us if we asked either." Gho replies.
"The Cursed Wave has manifested itself in the World before," Rei adds, "but it doesn't seem to be related to Maera. She is, as it is well known, an enigma. Who her player is, if she even has a player, the amount of knowledge she has at her disposal, and, ultimately, just what she is capable of, is all uncertain."
"The only real things we know for sure about her is that she has data akin to a player character, but it is also strangely larger than a typical field's data size, she seems to be in the World 24/7 constantly, she is based on the class 'Adept Rogue' and one of her components is Harvest Cleric, her base level is 150, she can teleport, use Data Drain, and use a special technique known as Eldest Awakening." Gho lists, "Beyond that, no one seems to know anything more, if they know up to this degree in the first place."
"But if we're right in that she is an AI, it is probable there will be things we'll find in the archives." Rei says optimistically.
"We're severely limited combat-wise, then. It wouldn't be wise to provoke a fight with her, and we know too little," Kusardo concluded. He then added, "You're well-informed, nevertheless. Did you get all of this information from Carmina Gadelica?"
"Yes and no." Gho murmurs, "The archives hold a lot of information, but its information is about the past, hence the term 'archives'. It's from there that our knowledge of things of the past come from."
"As for things of the present, well, that's all we've been able to get so far just from our information gathering skills as well as hacking. For example, we could read the logs only by hacking them." Rei adds.
"Logs," Kusardo asked. "I don't follow."
"Oh, they're just the logs that CC Corp has regarding people's access times. They only go back to about a week." Rei explains, "There's nothing particularly special about them since they're basic, but that also means it's easier to read them because they aren't as well protected."
"Right," Kusardo nodded. They were experienced, he thought, and covered their bases well. This kind of professionalism and tendency to stay on the ball didn't become of a group of guiltless pranksters. "So, what did the archives say about the Cursed Wave? What happened?"
"That information is from quite a long time ago, R:1 to be specific." Gho says, "So we haven't dug up much on it yet. The further back you go, the more difficult it becomes to traverse the archives."
"So we're even less prepared for what might come," he said plainly. Pausing for thought, Kusardo broached perhaps one last question, "... did the archives say anything about people who have been Data-Drained, or have fallen into comas and such? Like Kiku?"
"The closest case to Kiku's is also from R:1." Rei begins, "But there are a couple of more minor incidents that occured in R:2. They have all recovered, if that's what you're asking."
"Hmm," he nodded, "that's good to hear. It's interesting, too, that all of this seems to have it's roots in R:1. That was my favorite version of The World, actually." Kusardo smirked as quickly as he blinked. "You said when we started talking that these events have their roots with 'the original purpose of The World'. What did you mean by that?"
Rei smiles, "It's the true purpose for why 'The World' was made, at least for R:1. The programmer, evidently, had much more to do than make an online game..."
Gho coughs, "Don't get sidetracked Rei. As romantic as it is, to put it bluntly, the programmer was in love with the person that wrote the Epitaph of Twilight. In any event, they didn't know each other, even over the internet, but..."
"He wanted to make their child in a real form. Here, in 'The World'." Rei says, smiling, "That is the original purpose of 'The World', to be a womb for their daughter, and a world for her to grow up in. The Ultimate AI, one which can grow as a human can. That AI is named Aura, but she no longer seems to be active in 'The World'."
"As far as we know, she disappeared before R:2." Gho adds.
Kusardo looked surprised. "A... virtual child... in the form of an A.I. ..." He seemed to try and comprehend the concept for a moment before he became lost in it. Life that is made from lines of codes but can emulate the humanity that created it. All at the same time it sounded like a beautiful fruit of a man's love for a woman, and a staggering development of human technology. He felt even more swept up in the fantastic quality of the World he used to love so much. He longed to regress to his childhood, and it seemed he could touch his younger self at any moment and be taken back.
His head was cast down in deep thought, or day-dreaming, as he drank in this new, fantastic knowledge, not worrying whether or not it might be truth or a cruel lie, a joke of fate on the infant humanity. A moment passed, and he began to face the door as if to walk out, but stopped and just looked at the doorway. "So," he finally said, "what's the plan, then?"
"Well, for now, we just need to get more information. That means trips to the archives for Rei and I." Gho says simply.
"Right now, we can go pretty much anywhere from here, so just do what you want to." Rei adds with a smile, "As far as we know, and one still has to consider that what we know is more than the normal player, we're not on a time restraint or anything."
"Hmm. All right. Then I think I'll pay Maera a visit."
"Well, if that's your choice, I suggest waiting for Kiku to email; the area that Sakura was PK'd in by her will likely be your best bet so far to find her." Gho says.
"There's also that email," replied Kusardo. "Something about 'my area', she was talking about. I have no guarantee that she will be there, but other than what Kiku finds out, it's my only lead." With that, he promptly leaned back on the wall and said, "I'll wait eitherway."
"'Your area'?" Rei asks, "What was that email?"
"You don't know?" Kusardo asked. It seemed that when Rei said they were able to view the 'logs', he assumed they were also aware of any outgoing emails from Maera.
"Well, we'd only know if we hacked your email, and that's no small task." Gho chuckles.
Kusardo smirked. "I guess that means you can't scan Maera's outgoing emails, then."
"Anyways," he began, "Kiku wasn't the only one who got an email. After everything you've told me, I finally understand what it meant."
"You've heard the heart, but you don't know where it is.
You've felt the wand, but you cannot see where it came from.
Who, you should know already.
What is not important.
Where: Xi Chosen Hopeless Nothingness
When is not important.
Why is not important.
How: Gorre can open the door, and will not refuse you entry.
It's your choice." Kusardo recited.
"That was the email. I think she wants me to awaken Skeith." Kusardo adds.
Gho glances sharply at Rei, "Chosen Hopeless Nothingness."
Rei nods, "That's the area Skeith was located in from R:1."
"Anything else I should know about either?" Kusardo asks.
"Well, Xi Chosen Hopeless Nothingness is an area that is normally unaccessable by the Chaos Gate." Gho says.
"We can open the warp to it through the Chaos Gate, but not right now. Hacking the gate requires something we don't have yet." Rei adds, crossing her arms, "But we could get it easily enough."
"I don't think you'll meet up with Maera there," Gho quickly adds, "But Skeith, undoubtedly."
"Skeith," he almost seemed to hissed the name. "Yeah... I'd like to meet him as well, in due time."
Opening the back door, and sounding as though she was trying not to disturb anyone, Kiku re-enters the @home. "Oh, everyone's still here?" She asks, looking around.
"Ah," said Kusardo, "welcome back. Did you find out anything?"
"Yep, and..." Kiku bites her lip, "One of the areas Sakura mentioned is the area that Maera invited me to..."
"Area names often hold special meanings for what is within them, even if they are your run-of-the-mill area." Rei thinks aloud, "So what are the areas?"
"Well, the one Maera asked me to meet her in is Xi Mysterious Passionate Fallen Angel. The other area Sakura mentioned is Xi Hidden Mythical Safe Haven." Kiku replies.
"Rei, you're the one who tends to grasp area name meanings better, so what do you think?" Gho asks.
"Well," Rei replies, "I think we can all agree that Mysterious Passionate Fallen Angel could be representative of Maera herself. As for Hidden Mythical Safe Haven, it sounds similar to Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground, so there might be something special there."
"But if Maera frequents there, then it's not likely we'll find much before she forcibly ejects us, don't you think?" Kusardo points out.
"Yeah, at this point for sure." Gho agrees, "But it's better to keep them in mind as places to avoid for now. It's better knowing where to avoid than not knowing and walking right into them."
"Right. So Hidden Mythical Safe Haven and Mysterious Passionate Fallen Angel, all in the Xi server. I wonder what Maera's fascinations with the Xi server is," Kusardo said with a mild sarcasm.
"Perhaps her last name is Xi." Rei chuckles, "But we'll see. Maybe not now, maybe not in a few days, but we will find out. At least Gho and I will."
"And I don't mean that to restrict it to us two either." Rei explains, "It just might be something that you decide later on you don't want to be a part of any more. It isn't something where understanding makes you smart or not understanding makes you stupid. It's just something for those involved."
"All right. I'm guessing you two have already filled Kiku in with what you've told me?" Kusardo asks.
"Yes, we talked to her earlier about it." Gho replies.
"All right. If that's all, then, I think I'll get going to my area." Kusardo murmurs.
"Not yet; Gho and I'll be able to get you into that area tomorrow." Rei says.
"Ah... right," Kusardo acknowledged, looking a little defeated in reticence
"All right. Is that everything, then?" Kusardo checks.
"Seems to be." Gho replies, "So, see you later!"
"Later!" Rei adds as an echo, and Rei's half of Twin Lightning vanishes as Gho exits the @home.
"Hm," Kusardo nodded to them as they left. Left only in the room was Kiku, to which he said, "So, what will you be doing now?"
"Honestly, I don't know." Kiku replies, "I was thinking of going to an area to level, but I don't want to try that just in case... it hurts..." Shaking her head, Kiku continues, "I guess I'll go hang out with Sakura."
"Hmm..." he thought for a moment, then stopped her before she left. "Wait."
He had to think a moment. If they were going to be taking on the likes of Maera in the near future, they needed to become stronger... but that was a different challenge for Kiku, he realized. It was more than just a grinding campaign of 'leveling up' , but an emotional challenge. She needs to be able to handle herself in her new environment.
"...Maybe we can go train together."
"Oh, alright, if you're not busy." Kiku replies, "Should I invite Sara? She's a Twin Blade so she'd be a good third."
"Sara," Kusardo muttered, "... yeah, as long as she doesn't try to 'PK' us."
Kiku laughs, "She's a level lower than you! In all honesty, I think we might have scared her a bit when we ran into her too."
It takes little time for the three players to gather and find an area of their choosing. Delta, Looming Eternity's Prophecy, a level 8 Shrine-type dungeon. According to the statistics on the Chaos Gate, there is one other player already in the area, however, since there's only one player, and no indications of a battle, the trio decides to go ahead anyway. In all likelihood, it was just another player intent on levelling.
The area at first glance appears to be an old fashioned Asian-style temple. Where Sara, Kiku and Kusardo enter the area is in front of a set of gates allowing entry into the depths of the temple, which all appears above ground. Light shines in through the many openings in the walls, lighting the interior of the building. In the first room, Kiku quickly hears the footsteps of the enemy, and with a brief indication to Kusardo and Sara, the trio fly through the doorway, knocking each of the three lizard-like monsters into the barrier that immediately erects as a result of battle.
[Outbreak of Battle]
The three lizard-monsters, appearing vaguely like a cross between a humanoid thing and a lizard, with powerfully built legs and in their mouth the hilt of a katana, quickly recover. They spread out, one staying where it was while the other two try to circle around the party.
So far, only the one that Kusardo hit seems to have a significant sliver of its health taken off, which is clearly due to the attack power of his broad sword.
Posted on 2008-11-03 at 00:45:10.
Edited on 2008-11-03 at 00:48:49 by Reralae
Bringing his blade down in a massive swing, Kusardo slams his blade into the lizard-monster, causing it to groan under the impact, and is nearly sprawled flat under the blade.
Stepping forward to one of the other monsters, Sara winks, "Now then, let's try this out!" She says, rushing forward and bringing her two flowery blades to bear. Unlike Kusardo or Kimono before, she slashes back and forth, before attaching her two blades together to twirl like a cheerleader's baton, slicing a multitude of times at the lizard-monster in front of her. Strangely, after the hits, the monster's graphic turns a shade pinker, and a couple of hearts float away from it.
"Aww, I think it likes me." Sara says, giggling.
Without much of a thought on its part, the charmed monster rushes at the one not yet hit, slamming it back with a slice from its blade, slashing it with its claw, and hitting it again with its tail.
Breathing heavily, despite not having done much yet, Kiku raises her staff. "Alright... Zan Rom!" She calls, pointing the staff at the two fighting lizards. A magic circle is briefly seen underneath the uncharmed one, before a small tornado whips around them, with the slicing gale damaging both of the monsters.
With a growl, the lizard in front of Kusardo charges forward with its blade, landing a jarring hit on the character's armour. (-45 hp)
Kusardo briefly noticed Sara's display and the charming effect it had on one of the lizard men, just before suffering a blow from his present foe. His character reeled back, but soon returns the blow with his own. "Good hit, but not nearly enough!" he says as he does a wide swipe across its abdomen.
(What's my character's max combo number again? three?)
Yet, even as Kusardo goes for the killing blow, the game screen suddenly freezes, and static breaks across both it and his speakers. Then both the sound and screen fades, and across his screen the words in red appear:
It didn't only happen to Kusardo either; abruptly, everyone in 'The World' disconnected, and for no apparent reason. Not long afterwards, an email is sent out to all the members of 'The World'.
Author: CC Corporation
Subject: System Update
We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the system failure, however, we expect for 'The World' to be running again by tomorrow. During the maintenance, 'The World' will be updated to R:3.24.
The system failure was due to an internal server error, which will be amended in the update.
We thank you for your patronage of 'The World'
Despite the game itself being down, the Board and other things of course are still active.
Posted on 2009-02-27 at 19:15:20.
Edited on 2009-02-27 at 19:47:03 by Reralae