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    • Shark

      Donations and Recognition!   12/22/2016

      Hello everyone! We are becoming a huge community and that doesn't come cheap. All staff here are volunteers and do this because they love the site. Right now, everything is paid out of pocket, by Erroneous. We would love for you to donate in order to help out with the site costs (i.e. Forum License, Domain Name, Hosting) so that we can keep Security and Forum Software up to date and possibly add some new features. If you do decide to donate, we have some fun, snazzy gifts of appreciation for you ;) Please message me (Shark) so we can get you the gifts of appreciation! We thank you for your support! Please use this link for more info   _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ How To Donate Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the donate button.
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      NOTABLE DONORS LIST Here is where we honor the donors who go above and beyond the call of Aincrad! Top Tier Donors! Percival Row  Teayre Nezumi Zandra Alice Arc Atzo Baldur Claim Corvo Dominion Genji Ignavus_veneficus Jomei Kaya Lee Lessa Mack Macradon Nocturn Persephone Piera Ruus Sarial Hawke Shi Unyeilding Vale To express our gratitude, here is a picture of the iconic duo for all you wonderful supporters!
    • Shark

      The SAO Staff Team!   02/21/2017

      Hello members of SAO-RPG!

      I'm sure most of you (if not some) have noticed or heard changes were made to the staff team. If you are applying to staff, you may have noticed that the application process has recently changed. This has all happened because of a reformation of the staff team and the way it operates. The staff now has separate teams for development. These teams are: Floor Creation Team [Floors, Quests/Events, Bosses], Systems & Clarifications Team, and Player Support Team.

      "Who is on these teams?" Well the answer to that lies below! Floor Team Systems & Clarifications Team Player Support Team * - Denotes Team Lead

      We also have a team to work on and develop the current systems but that team will search for its members and is not allowed to be applied to.

      Now you may be asking, "Shark, how does one apply to the Staff Team?" And I have but 1 simple answer!
      Go read this thread and it may answer all your questions!

      If you have any more questions, send me a PM and I will answer your questions about staff. (Only the format of teams and/or the application process)
    • Cardinal

      [Live] 2.5.0 Patch Notes   10/02/2017

      <<2.5.0 Patch Notes>> Main Guide: The main rules/tutorial section has been rewritten. Resources: A Resources section has been added. This contains reference material such as the SP/Level chart, Skills list, Enhancement list, individual profession stats, and a new FAQ. General Rule Changes: Word count requirement in Merchants & Shops section has been reduced to 100 from 150. Col logs are no longer required to include in journals. The Banker system will be used to track currency/materials going forward. New characters and Rebirth characters may choose a Starter Package containing a variety of basic equipment, col, materials, and/or potions. NK/KE tags have been removed. The table for SP gain based on the number of players in a thread has been removed. SP gain is now issued at 1 SP per 3 posts, up to the number of completed pages. (e.g. 3 SP for three pages, requires at least 9 posts) A Skill Refunding System has been added. Players may now pay a col cost to remove known skills and receive a refund of the invested SP. Rules on vanity items have been clarified. Health regeneration outside of combat has been adjusted to (10 * Tier) per post. Stealth and Stealth Detection no longer have a base rating for players. Both now use a LD roll plus a Stealth Rating/Stealth Detection modifier. NPCs and monsters still utilize a base rating (10 as a baseline for player-created mobs). 'Using cover' no longer adds to Stealth Rating. Low light or darkness conditions grant a +1 to Stealth Rating, down from +2. Switch has been added as a game mechanic (no longer a skill). Players may call for a Switch when landing a successful attack. If the Switching player also lands an attack, a Switch is performed and the two players may immediately swap hate values. Players are required to post their level, stats, equipment, skills, etc., in their first post in a thread. This should be a snapshot of your character and should not be changed after the initial post. Players are still allowed to declare their characters at a lower level or with fewer items than what they currently have, but may not claim items that have not been approved or were obtained in an unlocked thread. Turn order rules have been modified slightly to reflect the leniency of Boss Raid combat. Players may post in any order so long as each player and the enemy has gotten one action in a single round. Outside of Boss Raids, parties may have a maximum of 4 players. Combat with more than 4 players should follow a Group order similar to boss raids. When fighting multiple enemies, players must now make individual rolls for each mob. This applies to both making attacks against multiple enemies and multiple enemies making attacks. One roll no longer applies to/for all targets. The Running Away mechanic has been updated. Running away from combat now uses a LD roll with a set of situational modifiers. The col/material values and frequency in the loot table have been adjusted. Labyrinth searching rules have been adjusted. The map fragment system has been removed. Bonus rewards for scouting and defeating the field boss have been adjusted. Housing and Guild Halls have been completely revamped. PvP rules have been adjusted. Players must make an initiative roll when engaging in combat with other players. The extended Player Killing rules/restrictions have been removed. Rules on player cursor colors have been expanded. There is now a strike system for criminal infractions that would cause a player's cursor to turn orange. Killing a green player outside of a duel now results in a permanent orange cursor. An NPC Guard mechanic has been added. Orange players may now enter safe zones, but must stealth/run from guards in certain safe zones. NPC guards have a Stealth Detection rating equal to (Floor / 3), rounded down. Added more detail to character death rules. The RGQ system has been removed. Crafting Changes: Fishing as a profession has been removed. It is now a skill. The CD result chart has been adjusted across all professions (except Merchant). Good and Bad quality items have been removed from the CD result chart. Salvage chances have been adjusted. Alchemists now have a chance to salvage one or both materials when attempting to craft crystals. Crafting Die tools no longer have an effect. Consumables, familiars, housing, and some items still provide EXP and Crafting Attempt bonuses. The process of crafting Feasts has changed slightly. Cooks may now take 3 identical food items and spend two materials to combine them into a Feast. A Feast can be used in a thread to provide that enhancement to up to six players. Artisan craftable item types have been modified (Trinkets, Jewelry, Sculptures). The buffs they can provide are largely unchanged. Alchemist craftable item types have been modified (Salves, Potions, Crystals). The buffs they can provide are largely unchanged. Skill Changes: Extended Weight Limit Removed Ranks - 15 SP cost Now adds +3 Battle Ready Inventory slots Adjusted Mod: Large Pockets Now has 3 Ranks Cost set to 5/3/2 SP (10 total for Rank 3) Now increases single Battle Ready Inventory slots to 7/10/15 Removed 'Larger Pockets' and 'Largest Pockets' mods New Skill: Fishing Cost: 10 SP Effect: Use a dice roll to fish something up based on a natural CD result: Gatherer Now has a chance to yield 1-3 bonus materials based on a natural CD result Sneak & Hide Renamed to 'Hiding' Now grants +1 Stealth Rating per rank New Rank 3 Mod: Untraceable Cost: 9 SP Effect: Negates the effect of the Tracking skill against the user. New Rank 3 Mod: Blindside Cost: 9 SP Effect: Gain +2 Stealth Rating. Natural BD rolls of 9-10 reduce the target's accuracy by 1 for one turn when attacking from stealth. New Rank 5 Mod: Vanish Cost: 12 SP Cooldown: 5 Turns Effect: Allows the use of a post action to re-enter stealth while in combat. Getting a killing blow on an enemy allows Vanish to activate without using a post action. Search & Detect Renamed to 'Searching' Now also grants +1 Stealth Detection per rank Mod: Night Vision Now requires Rank 1, down from Rank 3 Cost reduced to 5 SP, from 9 Mod: Reveal Now also grants +2 LD when searching for Labyrinths and allows Labyrinth searches at 15 posts. Mod: Tracking Now requires Rank 3, down from Rank 5 Cost reduced to 12 SP, from 15 Tracking requirements for monsters, players, and NPCs have been clarified. Mod: Detect Cost reduced to 9 SP, from 15 No longer uses or affects Tracking. Now Grants +2 Stealth Detection. Grants +1 LD when searching for sub-dungeons and labyrinths Battle Healing Now recovers 1% of max HP per rank, instead of (Rank * 5 * Tier) Mod: Emergency Recovery Cost reduced to 10 SP, from 15 Now recovers 10% of max HP, down from 25% Block MIT gained is now set per rank: 5/8/12/18/25, down from 1 MIT per SP invested. New Rank 3 Mod: Shield Bash Cost: 10 SP Cooldown: 2 Turns Energy Cost: 10 Energy Effect: Make an attack with an equipped shield. On a hit, deals (Base * 10) damage, stuns the enemy for one turn, and applies paralyze/thorns/flame thorns enhancements present on the shield. Note: When calculating Base Damage for Shield Bash, Weapon Skills do not apply. Mod: Safe Guard Reworked into 'Rampart' Added a 5 turn cooldown Added energy cost of 8 Now uses a post action to reduce final damage that would be dealt to you by 25% (rounded down). Effect lasts until the beginning of your next turn. Energist Removed Ranks - 12 SP cost Now adds (5 * Tier) to total energy, instead of (Rank * 2) Howl Added energy cost of 10 Mod: Focused Howl Added energy cost of 8 Parry Increased SP cost to 12, up from 10 Added a 1 turn cooldown Energy cost has been fixed at 5, instead of (2 * enemies parried) 50% damage reduction has been specified to apply to the final damage (after mitigation). Effect applies to the next attack against the user, and cannot reduce damage from multiple enemies at once. Mod: Vengeful Riposte Increased SP cost to 12, up from 10 Added a 3 turn cooldown Damage reflected is now 50% of raw damage, up from 25% of damage taken. This damage can still be mitigated. Switch Skill has been removed. Two-Handed Weapons The +2 DMG bonus for 2H weapons has been clarified in the first rank of 2H weapon skills. All Weapons The Ferocity and Finesse mods have been condensed into a single description. You must still specify the weapon type when acquiring the mod(s). Mod: Ferocity Rank requirement set to 3, instead of ranging from 1-5 Now increases base damage of all sword arts for the chosen weapon by 1. Mod: Finesse Rank requirement set to 3, instead of ranging from 1-5 Now has 3 Ranks Cost adjusted to 5/3/2 SP (10 total for Rank 3), down from 15 at Rank 5 Now reduces energy cost of all sword arts for the chosen weapon by an amount equal to its rank. Mod: Quick Change Cooldown reduced to 3 turns, down from 5 Now allows the user to swap, equip, or unequip a weapon in their Battle Ready Inventory. Mod: Stamina Now reduces the energy cost of all attacks by 1. Heavy Armor Increased the amount of MIT gained to 8>12>18>25>35, up from 3>7>12>20>30 Mod: Athletics Bonus health increased to (15 * Tier), up from 15 Mod: Stonewall Bonus health has been adjusted to (15 * Tier), instead of equal to mitigation from other skills. Now also grants 10 MIT when wearing heavy armor Now also reduces damage taken from damage over time effects by 25% (rounded down) when wearing heavy armor. Light Armor Adjusted the amount of MIT gained to 5>8>12>18>25, down from 3>7>12>20>30 Mod: Athletics Bonus health adjusted to (10 * Tier), from 15 Familiar Mastery 'Accurate' now has 3 ranks. 'Assistant' now provides bonus EXP (crafting attempts at max profession rank) instead of CD. Meditation Removed Ranks - 8 SP cost Added a 5 turn cooldown Now recovers (3 * Tier) energy. Getting hit by an attack before the beginning of your next turn reduces the energy recovered to (2 * Tier). Survival Added 3 SP cost Increases out of combat health regeneration to (15 * Tier), instead of 20. Enhancement Changes: Life Steal has been renamed to Vampiric. The Crafting Die enhancement has been removed. Alchemist and Artisan item types for enhancements have been modified. Sword Art Changes: Multipliers have been simplified to a single number (x6) from the two-part formula (2x3). Several descriptions have been updated. Quest Changes: The 'Redemption' quest has been revamped. The level and repeatable restrictions have been adjusted to affect only the bonus SP rewards: The First Few Lessons Are Free The Second Lesson is Also Free The Third Lesson is Just As Free The Fourth Lesson is Actually Free The Venemous Warg Repeating the 'Earning a Living' quest now allows a player to change their profession. Changing professions will reset experience to 0. Repeat completions of the Earning a Living quest will only award bonus materials if the quest-taker is changing their profession. The following quests have been removed: «Witch of the West and the Three Treasures: T.M.H & S.B.» «Witch of the West and the Three Treasures: T.L.C.» «Witch of the West and the Three Treasures «The Falling of Tagas» Housing Changes: The cost and size of Player Housing is now determined by a 'plot size'. The plot size dictates how many room slots, yard slots, and stories a house can have as well as the initial cost when purchasing. Purchasing a PK-accessible home (outside of a safe zone) has an additional cost. Buffs from Guild Halls/Player Housing now comes from the type of room, rather than furniture. Certain rooms for Player Housing have upgrades. Player Housing buffs must be assigned to a player. Home owners may use the Housing Evaluation topic to re-assign a room's player(s) once every 30 days. New/Rebirth Character Changes: Players who have submitted a new or rebirth character journal for approval in the past 30 days are eligible to add one of the starting bundles. <<2.5 Update Survival Guide>> Skills: If you spent more than 15 SP on the Extended Weight Limit skill, refund any SP over 15. If you have spent less than 15 SP, the skill is inactive until a total of 15 is invested. If you spent more than 12 SP on the Energist skill, refund any SP over 12. If you have spent less than 12 SP, the skill is inactive until a total of 12 is invested. If you spent more than 8 SP on the Meditation skill, refund any SP over 8. If you have spent less than 8 SP, the skill is inactive until a total of 8 is invested. If you have the Parry skill, you must spend 2 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 15 is invested. If you have the Survival skill, you must spend 3 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 3 is invested. If you had the Switch skill, remove it and refund 10 SP. Mods: If you have the Detect mod, keep it and refund 6 SP. If you have the Tracking mod, keep it and refund 3 SP. If you have the Emergency Recovery mod, keep it and refund 5 SP. If you had Rank 1 or 2 of the Ferocity mod, lose it and receive a refund of the SP spent. If you had Rank 3 or 4 of the Ferocity mod, you must spend 6 or 3 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 15 is invested. If you spent more than 10 SP on the Finesse mod, refund any SP over 10. If you have the Large Pockets mod, you must spend 1 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 10 is invested. If you had the Larger Pockets mod, it becomes the new Large Pockets mod and you receive a refund of 2 SP. If you had the Largest Pockets mod, it becomes the new Large Pockets mod and you receive a refund of 5 SP. If you have the Night Vision mod, keep it and refund 4 SP. If you have the Vengeful Riposte mod, you must spend 2 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 12 is invested. Professions: If you had the Fishing profession, all EXP may be transferred to any other profession. If you had a Tool with the 'Crafting Die' enhancement, you may post it for re-evaluation with the Ambition or Crafting Attempt enhancement (item name/description may not change). If you retake the Earning a Living quest in order to change professions, your EXP resets to 0 for the new profession. Edit your existing shop thread with your new profession information. Housing: Existing Guild Halls and Player Housing have been removed. They may be repurchased through the Housing Evaluation template. Players who previously bought a home or hall have been reimbursed for the total col cost in their original housing application. If a guild had shared col lost due to the removal of a guild hall, PM the details to @Teion for review/reimbursement.
    • Teion

      State of the Site Discussion   10/03/2017

      Please provide your thoughts and opinions! This discussion will affect the future of the site, so it's important that we get as much feedback as possible.
    • Aereth

      2.5 PK Rules / Thread Tags Discussion   10/16/2017

      Hello Players,
      Once again your feedback is needed, so head over to the thread and tell us what you think. LINK
Teion

[PP-F5] In the Wake of An Apocalypse

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"Teleport: Armadillo."

It had been a long week. Teion had spent the majority of her time on the higher floors, doing a fair share of exploring and hunting, but it was finally time to head back to her forge for a much-desired break. As her body was whisked away in a flash of bright light, she squinted a moment and blinked a couple of times as she adjusted to the familiar desert scenery. She hadn't been at the fifth floor's teleport gate for more than a few seconds before a gust of hot wind swept through the city and brushed against her cheeks. Thankful for her time spent early-on into getting the Survival skill, Teion simply tensed up for a brief moment while the winds died down as quickly as they had appeared.

Stepping out into the main settlement of Armadillo, the blacksmith headed straight for the city's exit. It was Fortaleza she needed, and there was nothing in the main city that demanded her attention.

@Shield

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The winds of the desert bit into Shield's skin. If SAO were the type of game to allow pain, he knew that the pummeling of the tiny sand particles would be like a hail of needles. He turned his collar up and pressed on. In the course of the meeting with the ascendants, he had not allowed himself time to properly grieve the loss of his fallen associate. Yes, they had all shared their sadness, but someone had to keep the meeting on topic and be a support for the younger players. Now, away from their eyes and ears, the ache began to return to his throat. As he finally fought through the head of the sandstorm, the location he had been searching for came into view.

"That's where her shop is," he thought aloud, more spitting than speaking as he dislodged the dry crusty sand from his lips. "I hope she's managing alright."

As he drew nearer and made for the front door, he found that it would not open. The door stuck fast against its frame. He gave it another swift tug to make sure it was not just stuck from the grit of the sands working into its hinges, but it did not open.

"I guess she's really out then," he said with a sigh. "Well, it's not like I have anywhere to be between now and the boss fight."

Turning his back on the door, he slumped against it and settled himself in to wait and to steel himself. @Teion was likely to be in bad shape, if she was anything like the others that Shield had seen since Beatbox's announced passing.

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Every so often, she raised an arm to shield her face from the sand that kicked up from the swirling winds. At first, the walk between cities was long and grueling, but after she had taken a strong liking to the smaller city named Foraleza, Teion had eventually gotten used to traveling between the two locations. The journey was a bit tiring, but largely uneventful.

After stepping into the safe zone, she hadn't gotten far past the city walls before she spotted the familiar structure of her smithy visible in the distance. Something not-so-familiar, however, was the figure she thought she saw outside, as if waiting for the shop's owner to return. She cocked her head to the side with curiosity. Her shop had been closed for some time now, due to a combination of her lack of crafting materials and a newfound desire to leave the building unattended for during her adventuring spurts. Several paces closer and, through squinted eyes, she made out mussed brown hair and a masculine frame. 'Shield?' was the only fitting name that came to mind. Sure enough, yes another few paces brought the man clearly into view leaning against the heavy wooden door of her smithy. Closing the remaining gap between them, Teion raised a hand in a short greeting. "What brings you here?" She inquired in a with a neutral tone.

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It took a moment before Shield knew how to respond. There was something palpable missing from her greeting. Everyone that Shield knew who knew Beatbox seemed to share an understanding of his passing. A sort of somber connection. Teion showed no sign of this.

I always knew her to be stoic but... wait...

Shield raised his hand to return the greeting. If Teion really didn't know somehow, then blurting it out into the open would be overly blunt and cause her more grief than was necessary. He decided to try another method.

"I was just... checking on you," he answered, which was the truth. "I wanted to make sure you were alright."

He held his breath waiting for her response, hoping as hard as he could that she would understand what he meant so that he wouldn't have to be the messenger of this particular bit of news. The Ascendants had barely held it together and he had forced himself to stay strong for their sake. He didn't know how many more of these exchanges he could handle in one day.

Edited by Shield

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"Hmm..." She mused in little more than a mumble. While she wasn't going to turn the man away or further question what seemed to be little more than a friendly visit, she found the whole thing rather odd. She knew that Shield had climbed the ranks to the frontlines very quickly, and so she had always assumed that the man was constantly keeping himself busy between his combat and mercantile duties. Was there a reason that she wouldn't be alright?

"Mm...yeah." She answered quietly, unable to come up with a theory for an explanation that made sense in her head. "I've been out for a few days." She continued as she attempted to quell Shield's unclear worries. "Mostly on floor fourteen and fifteen..." She trailed off, shifting uncomfortably in front of his gaze. He seemed expectant, like there was at least a couple of pieces to the puzzle that she was missing.

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The weight that had been sitting in Shield's chest sank to his stomach at her reaction.

She doesn't know.

For a game that was entirely electronically networked, word was spreading too slowly on the matter. Maybe simply because of how common death really was. Every new person who arrived late to the boss planning meeting had been a new storm of anger and confusion. His face remained unchanged except for a tightening of the line of his lips. The day's storms were apparently not over yet, literal and metaphorical. Even as this realization settled in, he could see the misty edge of the sandstorm begin to roll towards the edge of the settlement. With a deep breath, Shield simply nodded his head, accepting what was likely to come.

"We should go inside," he said. His tone was even, but there was something heavy in the way that he spoke. He added quietly, "You're going to want to sit down."

He gestured with a broad palm for Teion to open the door. If there was to be an emotional reaction, he figured it was best to have at least a little privacy. He wasn't sure how well they had known each other, but she was one of the few people he had really seen Beatbox socialize with. There was no telling how she would take the news.

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"...Sure..." The word fell slowly and uncertainly from her mouth as the woman tried her best not to stare back at Shield's face with curious suspicion. She didn't know the man well--with only a few adventurous outings and a handful of business transactions to their relationship's name--but something seemed a bit odd about him nonetheless. His motivation for seeking her out was hinted at, but still unclear. 'He wants to tell me something?'

Teion hesitated for a fraction of a second, but moved past her visitor to push open the door of her shop. Cardinal recognized the player with her hand upon the door's handle as its owner, and it swung open rather easily. She allowed the man to enter behind her, reaching for the weapon at her back and pulling it free. Though she was fully capable of storing the item in her inventory, the act of setting the broad blade of her scythe against the floor felt more natural. She was starting to take little everyday nuances like that wherever she could get them.

She thought about trying to break the tension in the air with more words, but none surfaced. She was beginning to feel unnerved while she was left to wonder what Shield would say next. Teion had taken a few steps to cross the room when something unsual caught her eye and pulled her attention to the dark oak counter. She didn't recall leaving any items laying around before she left. A couple steps more, and she froze, the soles of her shoes becoming rooted to the floor.

Resting beside two small, glittering gemstones and a single crystal lay a polished black blade with gold trim that spiraled down the hilt. She recalled admiring the weapon on more than one occasion in the brief glimpses she would see it in action. But why was it here, and not with its owner? Why had Shield decided to pay her a visit with an aura of concern and dread?

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Shield's eyes fell on the sword as well and immediately recognized it. The blade was shaped differently, likely modified with a sticker, but that was Shii's Talon. It was the same one that he had personally appraised for Jonathan, which changed hands to Beatbox. Shield suddenly realized that he had arrived just in time for her to find everything out for herself. Hopefully words from an acquaintance would be less jarring than suddenly becoming an heir to a friend's possessions without any other warning. He took a long breath and put a hand on Teion's shoulder, steering her into the nearest chair in the hesitation of her confusion.

"Teion..." he began, faltering for words. This was his first time actually breaking the news to someone, and the words felt wrong and broken in his mouth as his tongue fumbled with how to arrange them. "I didn't think I'd be delivering this message, but you're about to find out anyways. It's unexpected, and in a lot of ways it doesn't even feel real yet but.."

His normally hard, dark eyes were soft now, apologizing to the woman on the receiving end of the message that he was grief-stricken to have to replay in his own mind for what felt like the hundredth time already. For a moment, his words caught on the lump that was fighting its way up his throat and into the back of his mouth.

"Beatbox is dead."

The air felt as if it was filled with a cold static charge, and his fingers felt stiff on her shoulders. He wasn't trying to squeeze, but he was having trouble controlling the force of his fingers.

"I only just found out," he said, his vocal cords pulling themselves taut like a drum head as his words pounded out through the silence of the desert shop. He released her, turning away to give her the privacy of her own thoughts in what was proving to be a difficult moment even for him. "I'm sorry. I figured you would have already known. It was announced at the boss planning meeting. He fell in a fight against a player called Death Adder... he may be connected to Laughing Coffin, but we don't know that for sure yet."

He was beginning to ramble, and he knew it. He forced his tongue to stop moving before it built up more steam. Putting more words out in the air might delay whatever reaction was coming, but it would do nothing to help, at least not right now. Outside, the faintest howling of wind began to overtake the shop. He braced himself for Teion's response. Whatever it was going to be, he did not envy her in this moment.

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The blacksmtih gave a small start, flinching when she felt the weight of Shield's hand upon her shoulder. Teion had truly been lost in her thoughts, feeling legs move beneath her as Shield's careful guidance brought her to take a seat. What was going on? She had a bit of trouble absorbing the man's words. His tone was clear that he was leading up to something, and his hesitation only caused the feeling in her chest to grow tighter.

"Beatbox is dead."

Teion's expression hadn't changed--brows just slightly furrowed, eyes staring off at nothing in particular. It was as if she hadn't heard him at all. And yet, as Shield's touch vanished and he put just a bit of distance between them, Teion forced her legs to push her up. She walked slowly and silently over to the counter where just a few items rested on the surface. The glittering gemstones. She didn't have to pick them up and read the game's dialogue window to recognize them as the item drops from Rhaegal and Zylara. Of course there was Shi's Talon, the blade that he had most recently acquired and treasured. But one item among them wasn't familiar to her. A crystal, the same as any other, glowed faintly against the hardwood. Hesitantly, she reached out to it.

Taking the item in her hand, she pulled it closer to her and gently tapped upon it's surface.

"Hey Thea, I know this sad news for you to hear and while our relationship is still fresh... there is something I just have to do. I have heard about activity from a suspicious target from some Horsemen the other day... He was said to be ridiculously powerful, I must try to make this place safe like I had promised everyone. In the morning if you don't see me in your friends list... well, expect me to be dead...

Thea, I want you to promise me something. Never stray from what you know is right, never kill without reason. Never become as dead as I am, emotionally at least. Thea, I love you. Nothing will change that. But this is just something that needs to happen. I'm sorry... again, I- I love you..."

Beatbox's voice had filled the otherwise silent room as it left the recording crystal. Before his message had finished, Teion's vision began to blur. The tears hadn't welled at the corners of her eyes for more than a moment before they spilled over, running down her cheeks. She was silent. Lost for words. For the briefest of seconds she had refused to believe it, but Shield himself was standing behind her taking on the role of messenger that had been thrust upon him. After Beatbox's voice had disappeared and she felt the weight of the crystal in her palm, there was only one word that she could first manage to force out of her throat.

"Why?"

She choked the question out, but didn't expect an answer. "What did you do..." The words were little more than cracked whispers now, while her fingers curled around the crystal while her tears showed no signs of subsiding.

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Shield felt as if he had walked in on a scene that he was not supposed to witness. Teion had always played her cards close to the chest, rarely showing any emotion. To get a glimpse into her personal life, and for that matter to witness her tears, was alien. His back was still turned, which he was grateful for. After all, his own eyes weren't dry by any means. To hear someone who was similarly stoic lose their composure struck a chord that he had not heard played for some time. A few feeble attempts at questions floated from Teion into the ether of the hollow room. There were no real answers to them. They were questions asked by a broken heart, and no actual answer would satisfy what was behind them.

In the stillness, broken only by the distant whine of the sand storm through thick walls and sharp sniffs from both of the players present, Shield put all of his efforts into keeping his breath even. This had to be hard for Teion, not only because of the loss, but because the idea of emoting, especially so overtly and in front of others was likely as foreign to her as it was to him to witness it. After the silence stretched on long enough, Shield broke it.

"Raynor," he said, his voice cracking as if he were somehow a kid again. He felt almost as if he were. Maybe it was simply because there were fewer people than at the meeting for which for him to stay strong, but he felt lost. "He said your real name," he explained, clearing his throat to very little effect. "I figured it was only fair that you know mine as well. It's Raynor."

His throat worked itself frantic trying to once again swallow the lump that continued to swell inside of it, but he was soon forced to give up the attempt. It was going to be there as long as it wanted to be there.

"I didn't know you two were so close," he said, his words hoarse and unsteady. "I'm really sorry, Teion. I know that doesn't mean anything right now, but I'm sorry. There's no way for that to feel okay right now." The more he talked, the more he managed to take the sharp corners off of the obstruction in his wind pipe. It was like taking sandpaper to it. There was no way to remove it, but he could make it so it wasn't as rough and raw. "Saying I'm here for you feels meaningless. I know you don't really know me. We've adventured together, and we've fought side by side, but I know I'm kinda a nobody in your life."

With one long, heavy breath in and out and a wiping of his eyes against his sandy sleeve, he turned back towards Teion. Seeing rather than just hearing her weep was almost enough for him to start losing his composure again. Clenching his insides, he stole his strength and soldiered on.

"It's not the same thing, but I don't really know what's happened to Beat," he said with a shrug. "If there's one thing that we have in common, it's that we're each much more alone than we were not so long ago. If you need to just be somewhere else... somewhere that has fewer reminders of things that you don't want to deal with yet... it's not much, but I've got a couch and I've got a fireplace. If you need to use them just to avoid things here for a while, you can."

Shield had rarely offered any sort of physical reassurance to the players around him. For that matter, he had no idea whether Teion would even want to be touched, right now, let alone borrow his shoulder to cry. Still, he held out a hand for her anyway, there for her to freely accept or push aside. Before she had a chance to react, however, the small, vibrant serpent that lived in his sleeve slithered across his hand, not even hesitating in what was a fragile and dangerous moment. It held itself out, extending across the gap until a single coil managed to find its way onto Teion's knuckle. Its narrow, muscular body twined itself around her wrist like a bangle, stopping once it had coiled itself completely around her, staring up with iridescent, slitted eyes.

Why is everyone better at this sort of thing than me? Even a bunch of ones and zeros arranged in pretty colors is a better comforter than I am.

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The world felt like it was growing darker. Teion knew this feeling, kind of. It felt strongly--much, much more strongly--but strangely, uncomfortably familiar. She was brought back to the sixth floor. Ages ago, it felt like. When she had last felt this kind of sorrow, anger, and defeat. She had grown cold after that. She closed herself off so that nothing could ever make her feel that way again. Then why was she so foolish as to let this happen? It was a chance encounter, meeting the blonde swordsman. His kind smile, warm gaze, and a fervent sense of justice seemed to hold the favor of many. He was nothing like her, really. Not after everything that happened with Eru and Dael. What on Earth had drawn a person like Beatbox towards her? And why did she, a soul that had already given up on healing, allow him in?

It was Shield's strained voice that brought her back to reality. His single word left her confused, just another piece of information that didn't make sense adding on to the pile. She hadn't gotten so far as to try and decipher it when Shield's voice reached out to her once more with a small explanation. A distraction. Something that puzzled her, despite the reasoning he offered. Still, she found herself unable to offer any sort of reply.

And so he continued. He offered pained words of support, even going so far with a place to stay. She turned, properly facing the man as two things further caught her off-guard: the expression on Shield's face, and the hand he offered to her. Her eyes trailed down to the latter just as his familiar revealed itself. It took her a moment to register the feeling of the reptile wrapping itself around her wrist. She wasn't sure how to feel as she looked down at the creature staring back at her. Suddenly the whole situation felt real, as if she was trying to convince herself that everything up to that point had been merely a dream. But no. The items on the counter beside her were really there. Shield was really standing before her, offering what support he could despite his own frayed composure. Beatbox really was dead.

It's not that she wasn't thankful for Shield's company. He was poorly-equipped for the position he'd been put in, and she couldn't imagine having to take on the same kind of role. Her emotions simply began running their course. Disbelief and denial had passed now, making way for the tiny flame that rested inside of her to spread like wildfire. She lowered her gaze to the floor, feeling her jaw tighten as strongly as the hand at her side that curled into a tight fist. Her shoulders bobbed up and down with her uneven breaths. The feeling in her chest continued to grow tighter, squeezing at her until she turned back towards the counter and brought her fist down upon it. The action was futile, of course. Besides the sound of the impact filling the room, her outburst was met simply with a colored dialogue window to inform her that the furniture was considered an Immortal Object. "He-he promised!" Her strained voice was coupled with tiny gasps for air. Despite how well she knew that nothing good would come from her anger, the feeling was too strong for her to deny. "I knew h-he was stupid a-and reckless, but..." The words spilled out of her as incomplete thoughts.

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With the slamming of Teion's fist on the counter, Shield felt his breathing steady somewhat. He wasn't even entirely sure why until he noticed that his left arm had instinctively raised itself in front of his body, his hand grasping for the imaginary shield that nearly always resided in its grip. For just a moment, the sound had put his brain in fight or flight mode, and it removed him from the worst of the pain. His eyes narrowed as he made up his mind. Teion wasn't ready to be comforted. That much was clear. However, there were other avenues available to them.

Shield swiped through the air, causing the faint tinkling sound of his menu to chime into the tenseness of the air. His fingers maneuvered through the options, opening sub-menus that he clearly knew about but had yet to make use of. A dialogue box sprang to life in front of Teion.

Quote

 

Will you accept duel request?

  Opponent: Shield                     

  Type: 1 vs. 1 - Half-Life            

______________________________________________________________________________________________

[o]                [x]     
 

He then continued navigating through boxes, pieces of armor materializing on his tall frame, first a shining chest plate, followed by a spined puoldron on his shoulder before finally summoning out his Manticore Mask shield.

"Neither of us are very good at this," Shield said with a coarse growl. He took two long strides to the door where she had retired her scythe for the day, picking it up and tossing it to her. "But it sounds like you've got some anger you need to work out, and you're not going to find a better punching bag than me."

With his main hand free now that he no longer needed it to pass Teion her weapon, he summoned out his own - a simple mundane one handed straight sword. He held it out at arm's length, the chipped point of the junk blade angled forward. He wasn't going to psychoanalyze her out loud, but this was clearly the anger stage of grieving. Since she was not exactly the type to be cuddly around someone she didn't know intimately, this course of action made the most sense. He almost wondered to himself if this would be a way to let her open up and to gain her trust, but that was neither here nor there just yet.

"And don't bother declining," he said, anticipating some resistance. "And don't hold back, either. If you're going to vent, vent all the way. Don't keep any of it back."

With that, he flicked the point of his sword to beckon, inviting her opening attack as he shrank behind his shield. Only his sword arm, his mat of untidy hair, and one dark eye peered out from behind the barrier. Whether or not she was ready, he was.

Edited by Shield

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The window that appeared suddenly in front of Teion had almost startled her. She stared at the text on display, having to re-read the question more than once to fully comprehend it. She picked up her hand from the counter in order to wipe her wet cheeks with a loose tan sleeve. With another sniffle, she turned her head back to the duel's issuer, watching with lingering confusion as the equipment materialized over his form. She watched with a few hushed sobs as he took hold of her weapon and tossed the item towards her. She naturally moved her body to catch the item in both hands, staring down at the scythe's handle. It was then that Lilith worked her way from around the woman's wrist and coiled herself around the dark metal. She made her way up the length of the handle in a spiral until she had reached the top, staring expectantly at her owner once she had stopped.

Teion's gaze had accompanied the creature until she followed Lilith's gaze back to the battle-ready man standing in front of them. With another rub of her eyes and nose against the back of her wrist and hand, she walked forward a few steps and held her weapon out towards the man, allowing the viper to return to her master.

The blacksmith took a few steps back, pulling the handle of her weapon closer to  her chest while her cobalt eyes drifted back down to the prompt still hovering in front of her form. She felt the electricity surging through her core paired with Shield's continued encouragement. Loosening one hand's grip, she paused over the floating window a moment before pressing down on the blue circle labeled 'Accept'.

Teion felt her jaw tighten again when she quicky closed the gap between them. "Were you just trying to prove something again?!" Her emphasis peaked when the point of her scythe collided with her opponent's shield. She called out to a man who would never hear her rage. "You told me there was more to this!" Another strike rang out. "At least break up with me before you go charging into more fights you know you can't win!" Her breathing had already grown heavier, and she paused a moment before her next swing. She felt hot tears welling at the corners of her eyes again. "Why did you think I was like this?" Her volume dropped as her voice cracked. "Emerath and Endilix might as well be dead..." The grip around her weapon renewed, and she lifted her head with a fire still burning in her eyes as she came back at Shield with another heavy swing. "but that doesn't mean you had to for real!"

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Her first strike rang out like a muted gong against the surface of his shield, and with that the duel was underway. With a flick, the last of Lilith's tail vanished into Shield's sleeve. Now that she was safely in her hiding spot, he could breathe a little easier. The duel continued, the mid-air clock counting down on the marquis suspended in the air behind them. With each stroke of the scythe, the seasoned tank rolled his body, positioning himself behind his iron wall. She was swinging more or less blindly at first. He did not even need to activate his Parry to prevent damage. Even as the top of his health bar dipped from her attacks, it was always immediately replaced.

Steady as she goes. She's forceful, but she's still building momentum, not to mention ferocity. She could eventually get around my defenses. That's the advantage of a hooked weapon.

In his sleeve, he felt the slight movement of Lilith wrapping around his arm for stability as though he were a tree branch.

We'll be ready if that happens.

Teion poured out the bitter gall left from past lost loved ones. It gave him the impression that he was hearing more from her in just a few swings of her scythe than she would spill to anyone she knew if the method had been simple conversation. With the next series of blows, the vigor of her attack increased, and his health actually began to decrease faster than it was replenished. It was his turn now to adjust the grip on his weapon, and he began to use the sword's damaged edges to redirect the force of her blows, reducing the hit point loss back down to manageable levels.

Battle Healing is still keeping pace. Let's see if she can be pushed further.

He doubted words would reach her, but actions were still a possibility. Holding out his shield arm a little further, he cradled the next blow, ducking in and pressing his shoulder to the back of the bulwark. Looking just below the shield's bottom edge, he took note of where her feet were positioned and threw his shoulder into the line of her attack, pushing into her weapon and center of gravity in an attempt to knock her off of her base.

You strike, I defend. I push, you push back harder. Nothing less than your all is going to cut it, so lay everything out there!

Edited by Shield

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Teion was attacking with her heart, not her head. Shield's counter-attack, though it was little more than a shove, threw her off balance. She stumbled back a step and a half before falling back on her rear, causing her to wince in discomfort. She blinked in surprise, taken aback by his actions, but didn't remain distracted for long. Curling her fingers around the handle of the scythe that had fallen to the floor beside her, she planted her feet firmly back on the ground.

Her lungs filled with air and she took up another fighting stance. 'Fine then, we can make this a real fight.' She thought with gritted teeth. Though she didn't know it at the time, this was exactly what she needed.

A steady exhale, and a dash forward. A feint to the side, and a wide swing from the right. "Maybe I was stupid to think it would be okay." She muttered the words under her breath. Her eyebrows were narrowed, blinking past the tears that felt as through they would resurface at any moment.

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Shield watched as Teion seemed to refocus. His eyes carefully followed her movements before he ducked behind his barrier. Once again, he practically vanished from her view. The shelter of his shield blocked his opponent entirely out of sight. What it did not block, however, were her words. He wanted to disagree with them, but this was the wrong time. Nuanced arguments in the midst of fights were a quirk of Hollywood, not real combat. Even as he thought this, the health bar that was wrapped around him dropped by practically a tenth. His brow furrowed and he looked down at his body.

How did-

Just as he began to pose the question though, he had his answer. The hooked blade, like he had  suspected might happen not long ago, had snaked its way around the edge of his shield and sank into his rib cage.

She got me.

He sprang back, holding out his shield arm defensively, struggling to buy himself a few seconds. He turned, and one foot found purchase on the top of a nearby bench which he used it to vault over the table beside it. Shield landed and rolled on the far side to come up facing back towards Teion, guard up, with the furniture as a temporary buffer. She would need to move around to catch him again.

"Lilith, go!" he called out.

He could feel the reptile slither up his arm and over his shoulder. The practically neon scales of the fanged familiar flashed in the light of the forge as she gaped her maw and struck at his neck. Her hypodermic-like teeth sank into his carotid artery, though unlike an actual snake bite which would harm, this had the exact opposite effect. His health ramped back up to full almost instantly, as if she had mainlined healing potion directly into his veins. He ventured a glance at Teion only to notice that he was not the only person who was feeling the effects of the fight. The backs of the woman's hands were marked with dozens of red, angry scrapes that glowed like the coals of the nearby furnace.

Looks like my thorns damage has been doing its job.

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Teion low out a low growl when her opponent distanced himself from her. She gave the handle of her weapon a quick spin, rotating the direction of her blade until it was left frontward facing once again. Memories were turning their ugly heads in her direction, reminding her of all of the trials and tribulations she had been through up to this point.

Endilix called her his friend, but where was he? He was still alive, and that was the extent of what Teion ever knew. Would they continue to avoid each other, even if by some miracle the both of them survived this hell-hole and made it back home? Yes, this 'game' had damaged any bond she had with the red-headed twins beyond repair. It wasn't until Beatbox pushed his way past her shell that she was willing to let someone else in. To this day, she still didn't know what it was he saw in her. What drove him to keep trying to put a smile on her face, as difficult as she made it for him. And yet he would throw it all away.

Teion's eyes scanned the room, attempting to find the best path to reach her target. She ran towards the table separating them, holding her weapon in one hand while she vaulted over the furniture herself, swinging her legs over the side as her free hand steadied her and guided her landing. On her feet with scythe in hand, but without holding an advantageous position over Shield, she delivered another couple of blows that he would have easily deflected. She grit her teeth once more as another fragment of the picture came to light in her mind. "What about your sister?" She wasn't shouting anymore, but the words still came out with a sharpness to them. "Did you give up on her too?" More questions that would never be answered spilled from her.

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There was a definite change to the energy behind both Teion's words and her attacks. Sure, he had broken the momentum of her attack, but the floodgate seemed to have calmed, at least in sheer intensity of its fury. He kept his eyes clear this time, not letting the shield impair his vision as he watched and in turn blocked each of the attacks. The strikes each technically landed, the game counting them as hits, but she was taking far more damage from it than he was, and she didn't appear to have any regeneration to sustain her. She was getting critically close to half health.

That's it. Get out what you need to get out.

There was no more need to put pressure on her. The wave seemed to have spent all of its time building. If there was going to be a true tsunami in the aftermath of the initial quake, it couldn't be long until it hit.

People are such odd creatures. We make little rules about keeping distance and formalities behind when we're allowed to feel things and then when to show the things that we feel. It's to the point where we have to go through all of this to break down a barrier. Sometimes, it's just super complicated to be a person.

Edited by Shield

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"Am I supposed to find her for you? Do you want me to tell her?" She hissed. The frequency of her attacks were slowing. She remained quick on her feet, trying to locate and exploit any holes in Shield's defense that she could possibly find. Once more, the edge of her scythe struck the Manticore Mask and she gave a small hop back to disengage before she would try again.

With her weapon raised, Teion had nearly charged at the man for another powerful strike when a display appeared between them. Shield's name and picture were highlighted orange, with the word above declaring him the 'Winner'. Teion froze, staring blankly back at Shield. The duel was over. The damage from his thorns had chipped away at her health the entire fight, leaving the bar that hovered beside her a dull yellow color.

The strength in her limbs drained, and her scythe met the ground with a short clang just before her knees buckled underneath her. All too quickly, she felt a fresh stream of tears running down her cheeks. "I... I can't--!" Her sentence was yet again left unfinished. The backs of her hands quickly found their way to her cheeks, rubbing and wiping at the tears that kept reappearing on her skin.

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With a breath to reset himself, Shield dismissed the victory window, paying it little mind. Navigating through his menus, he dismissed his equipment one item at a time until he was left in his tan canvas jacket and a small vanity chest plate. Bending down, he retrieved the forgotten scythe and propped it back in its original resting place before returning to Teion. Bending a knee, he lowered himself to the sandy floor of the smithy shop so that he was once again at her eye level. He reached out, placing his hand lightly on the back of her head and pulling her gently forward so that her face found its way to his shoulder.

And there they sat. For a short while at least, they were no longer warriors on an arduous quest to overcome the obstacles that kept them prisoner in a game of death. They were just people faced with a lifetime's worth of pain and isolation. Shield didn't speak. Despite the wave finally hitting the shore, there were no words to calm these seas just yet. The fight had been all that Shield needed to regain himself, remembering the fortitude it took to be strong for others, at least for a little while longer.

A faint whistle drifted through the walls of the shop, the storm still tossing the winds of the desert this way and that. He didn't look forward to his journey home. This time around, he might just take the easy way out and take a teleportation crystal to the center of the main settlement and take the portal straight from there. Or he might just wait for the storm to cry itself out as well. Either way, he wasn't in a hurry.

This will take the time that it takes...

He smirked silently to himself for a moment.

Look at me. Only a few hours since the meeting and I'm already back in dad mode. Guess you never really stop being that once you become that.

His broad hand slowly rubbed the back of Teion's head, careful not to tangle her hair. If he thought really hard about it, he could try to convince himself that this was just another scraped knee or bad report card that he was comforting for. Then again, even if he tried to do so, there would still be the ache of loss hiding away in his chest as a reminder of the truth. He would deal with that eventually.

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