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[F07 - PP] Mythbusters ≪Rumor≫ (Alkor)


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It wasn't that easy to get a hold of this particular piece of intel, considering the history between them. Hell, the blonde even had to make good use of her Tracking mod across floors until she finally managed to discover Hikoru's location. This new 'society' was something in her ballpark as she would pride herself as being one of Aincrad's best scouts but also she strived to be a frontliner and take part in the thick of floor clearing. Being an informant for this society would detract from that, have her work more in the background than the front. However, no matter how much she searched around, she couldn't find the entrance to the labyrinth of the 26th floor so she had to resort to this society's rumors as a last resort.

Even with her search skill and mods, she found it extremely challenging to pinpoint the location of this information broker society outside of hearsay and whispers. However, throughout her searches Hikoru's name was the common link. So she decided to go old school and do a full sweep, one floor at the time. It took some time but as she was observing one of the main settlement's teleport gate, she found tracks that lead to her current location.

Oddly enough, Hikoru had opened a coffee store to serve as front for whoever sought to work for/with this society. After exchanging some words and receiving the information she was looking for, Ariel sat at one of the free tables inside the store and ordered something to drink. A long sigh escaped her as she started thinking on her next course of action. She deliberately avoided eye contact with Hikoru, propped her feathered odachi against the table then started fiddling with her cup; overall assuming a pensive stance. 'The eye' on the 7th floor, she had little idea what it was as that floor was of little interest for her. But what could spook the NPCs, some hidden mission that wasn't listed in the guides? She took another sip and continued to mule over the info, primarily trying to find out what 'the eye' was.


HP: 820/820 | EN: 100/100 | DMG: 23 (+16) | MIT: 12 | AA | ACC: 3(4) | EVA: 3 | +8 LD | Fallen (1) | Keen (1)

Spoiler

Stats:

  • 820 HP (620 +20*10)
  • 100 Energy (80 +2*10)
  • 12 Mitigation (12[skill])
  • +1 Accuracy (1[weapon])
  • +3 Evasion (3[armor])
  • 23 Base Damage (1[base] +7[weapon skill] +1[athletics] +12[mastery] +1[ferocity])
  • +8 Fallen Damage (Successful BD: 6-8 (before modifiers) add fallen damage to your total base damage.)
  • +32 HP Holy Blessing (After taking damage, heal HP at the beginning of your next turn. Can only trigger once per round.)
  • +41 HP Battle Healing (While in combat, recover 5% of your maximum HP (rounded down) at the beginning of your turn.)
  • +5 LD (+3 LD more when searching for sub-dungeons: 15 posts CD and labyrinths: 3 posts CD)
  • Absolute Accuracy (Attack rolls of 1 no longer automatically miss. Gain +1 to the BD when attacking. Cannot be used to trigger a critical hit.)
  • Keen (After a successful attack, gain +1 BD until your next successful attack, at which point this bonus is removed. Another successful attack will reactivate this.)

 

  Equipment: 4jootpO.png

≪Onimaru Shi#187508≫ ≪Leonidas' Strength#151568≫ ≪Solo Perception#151723-1≫
T4: Absolute Accuracy | Keen | Fallen (Katana)  T4: Holy Blessing | Holy Blessing | Risky | Risky (Cloth) T1: Accuracy | Accuracy | Evasion (Trinket)
An odachi with it's saya made of polished maple, adorned with brilliant golden colour etchings and ceremonially decorated with tufts of white feathers. The long blade itself is black as the shadows and the flaming etchings on the steel seem to come alive at the wielder's will.   
A blood red cape with a black inverted V design in the middle of the back, if worn as light armor; one of the trademark items worn by the Spartans that fought until the last man.         
        
An obsidian earring with silver linings in a X cross, that is said to increase one's eyesight. 


 

  Inventory:  

  • ≪Teleport [Crystal]≫
  • ≪[T1] Blank Dungeon Map≫
  • Spoiler
    ≪Shirajishi-ryū Kendogi#156967≫
    T1: Evasion | Evasion | Evasion (LA)
    Initially designed as a uwagi, some liberties transformed into a long pristine white cape with red accents and silver trims, reaching down to ground level. Branded with 白獅子流 (white lion style) kanji on the back, it brings the item closer to the initial design.
  • Spoiler
    ≪Mothbrand#156715≫
    T3: Vampiric (Off) | Vampiric (Off) | Accuracy | Accuracy (1HSS)
    An antenna taken from Mothra's corpse, sharpened that could be used as a weapon.The grip is orange and yellow-like colored while the blade itself is blood red with orange runes in the middle.
  • Spoiler
    ≪Frozenshade#156614≫        
    T3: Mitigation | Taunt | Frost Thorns (Shield)
    A brightly coloured saya that's always cold to the touch, crafted mostly out of mithril. The sheath is more than capable of going head-to-head against a weapon; made to be used more to help shield the user than their sword by parrying blows and deflect attacks. White runes on each side shine as the frozen thorns effect procs.
  • Empty 
  • Empty 

 Buffs: 

  • +4 DMG: "Filling" -> ≪Liquor of Light#151942 [Drink]≫
  • (Search IV -> V) "Skylight"
  • -1 EN [3/3]: "Well Rested"
  • -25% DoT [1/1]: "Squeaky Clean"
  • +20 HP | [2] EN OOC regen: "Relaxed"
  • +1 LD/SR/SD/Prosperity [1/1]: "Multipurpose"
  • +1 BRI slot: ≪Dimensional Backpack≫
  • +1 BRI slot: "Item Stash"
  • + 3%* EXP: Paragon lvl. 10
  • + (10%* EXP) Col: Paragon lvl. 5
  • +10% EXP: "Advanced Training" 

 

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Perhaps the most annoying thing about Hikoru was how slippery he was.

Even now that he'd retired from the Frontlines and given up on his notoriety as a quiet killer, he still clung to secrecy and clandestine movements. Part of what made him such a great Info Broker was his ability to slip into and out of places unnoticed. Usually any intel that he gathered came secondhand. With information about the Twenty Sixth floor still new and hot, there were many things still in flux. That meant he would be there, somewhere, seeking the answers in person. What Alkor found defied expectation.

With things deteriorating in the wake of the system overhaul, it made sense for the Broker Network to set up shop somewhere. Digging their roots in at the top meant that they could take a downward approach and seek new data about the frontlines across all of the floors. Certainly, it was a realistic and pragmatic business model, but to see the man as the proprietor of a coffee shop came as something of a letdown. He expected to find Hikoru somewhere in a seedy bar or skulking in a back alley, not serving double mocha frappachinos to Frontliners and moonlighting as a seller of secrets. Maybe he'd become obsessed with peace since he'd left the fight. Maybe it was some passion leftover from the outside world, and he'd finally given into the temptation to live it out.

Whatever the man's motivation, Alkor slipped through the door without much enthusiasm and took a seat at one of the many tables and waited for a member of the staff to come around so he could put in his order. "Sorry sir," the girl told him, "we don't serve alcohol here. This is a coffee shop." He lamented the poor business model as he put in an order for a large cup of black coffee and watched the woman leave. His eyes met with the face of Lara, the info broker who he'd met on the ninth floor and she smiled sheepishly at him with a wave. 

The First Sword shifted his gaze away. "So that rumor about you being alive wasn't smoke and mirrors," the Keeper of Secrets himself whispered as he pulled up a chair opposite Alkor. It hadn't shocked the Knight at all to know the man had seen him come in, or that he'd slipped close unnoticed. Hikoru had a reputation to uphold. "How'd you do it?" the man asked. "Plenty of people dying to know how to cheat the inevitable."

Perhaps the joke was in poor taste, but neither man seemed offended or laughed at the comment. Instead, Alkor accepted his coffee from the waitress and took a sip before his gilded gaze settled on the man. "You have your secrets, I have mine," he shrugged. "Not like knowing would keep anyone who's fated to die from doing it."

At that comment, the Broker sat back in his chair. "You're probably right about that. I'd heard you were keeping it tight lipped, but I figured I'd try. Anyway, you came about the rumors that've been circulating, right?" He leaned forward and dropped his voice. "Truth is, you're not the only one hunting them, as you've probably surmised by now, In fact, you've got competition all over the place, and closer than you probably think."

Alkor lazily closed his eyes and enjoyed the bitter flavor as it rolled across his tongue. The heat was a lie, the flavor was a lie, but trapped in this world, some lies had become kindness. Especially now, when everything they all knew had been called to question. "Of course. Everyone's in a big hurry to solve the riddles and be the first ones to the boss. I get it. Knowledge is power, moreso now than it's ever been." He gazed sidelong at another blonde in the room, someone who wasn't looking their way despite the fact that she was more out of place than Hikoru. He slowly glanced back to the man. "So, are you saying I have to outbid the other buyers?"

Hikoru laughed. "Sure, I'm a businessman, but even I don't want to profit on chaos like that. Turning players against each other always ends badly. You remember Zelrius, Ssendom, Teayre..." All dark marks on a list of names throughout the history of their imprisonment in Aincrad. Some dead, others missing, or worse. Anyone branded a Player Killer was the absolute enemy of the Frontliners. They stood in the way of freedom. Hikoru's words reinforced that sentiment. "No, I'm actually encouraging you to work together. If Frontliners don't learn to figure things out cohesively, we'll never make it through this game alive."

Alkor paused. What Hikoru said made sense, and even matched some of his beliefs on the matter. There were plenty of people who would disagree, though. He frowned. "Then," he asked, "what do you want from me?"

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Luckily, information was a commodity she was in possession or can easily get a hold of when needed, such as this time. Her hand danced through the many options on her HUD until she reached the item she was looking for, a floor index. One of the most important reading items for every player to possess which will hopefully tell her what this ‘eye’ is, if it turns out to be a location as the blonde initially surmised. “There you are.” she muttered softly before she traced the text with her finger while mentally reading the description. 

She continued to cross checked with the rumor info next to her, almost indifferent to her surroundings until a familiar laugh drew her attention. She discreetly turned towards Hikoru and the unknown man he was now talking with near her, decided to eavesdrop on their conversation as she sipped from her cup. She almost spilled it on herself as she heard three names not so many players now knew off. The blonde drew unwanted attention on her and sent away with a dismissive wave, the waitress that was headed towards the blonde to most likely offer help.

Oh course, her little slip didn’t go unnoticed by Hikoru who grinned at Alkor’s last question. He then nodded towards the blonde that undoubtedly just caught the attention of at least half the cafe’s occupants. “She came to ask about the rumor too, despite our… past.” He slightly pauses, hesitance visible on his features before continuing. “She might be open to working with others, with you.

Ariel was trying to make herself look busy, her chance to listen some more into their conversation was zero, now that several pairs of eyes were directed at her. She let out a defeated sigh and tried to take another sip of her cup, only to sadly discover that it was now empty. She raises her hand to get the waitress’ attention and orders another cup of hot cocoa.

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His gaze moved sideways toward the woman Hikoru indicated, and he watched as she quickly recovered from her blunder. Unintentional movements were rare among the stronger Players in Aincrad. It meant something had caught her off guard. Alkor couldn't tell by looking at her just how powerful she was, but he could hazard a guess. 

If Hikoru knew who she was, she was probably one of the Frontliners. "Loud and clear," he said as he stood up. "Then at this point, the conversation is much better served if we just include her, right?" he questioned. 

"Yeah," the Broker shrugged. "Just needed an excuse to make you suggest it."

Alkor blinked. What a surprisingly petty notion from the King of Secrets. The two of them must not have gotten along in the past. With a series of quick blinks, he dismissed his amusement and started toward the blonde woman's table. Hikoru fell into step behind him, and when Alkor sat down, the Information Dealer stood above the table without coming too close.

"So," Alkor said without properly introducing himself. By this point, everyone was almost certainly on the same page. The First Sword would give a proper handshake and his name once Hikoru was out of the picture. "About that rumor..."

Alkor's gaze moved toward Hikoru expectantly, which placed the pressure  and spotlight entirely on him. The other man gave a long, heavy sigh. He'd wanted to avoid undue attention. Ah, well...

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Posted (edited)

Slightly nodding to the girl who brought her drink, Ariel didn’t take much to start sampling the beverage. Partially to distract herself from her own self-consciousness. She let out a pleased sigh as the subtle taste of strawberries helped assuage her and forced Ariel to center her focus back on the matter at hand. She quickly materialized a slender pencil and began using it as a pointer as she continued working on her HUD.

A couple of seconds passed after the unknown man sat down at her table. The blonde raised her gaze to see who decided to nonchalantly invite themselves at her table. She then turned towards Hikoru and raised a questioning eyebrow. She had previously noticed the several free seats around and the info broker should know that she wasn't the type of person that enjoyed sharing the table with randoms. She stopped her pencil midair and proceeded to lightly tapping the eraser end against the table at a somewhat slow but steady pace.

Did you also expect to find here, one of the best served coffee In Aincrad? I’m sorry if that rumour was a bust for you as well, stranger.” she replied with a half mocking tone to Alkor, taking her time to study his appearance. She let out a small grin as she heard Hikoru almost imperceptibly click his tongue to her comment and fold his hands in front of him. Thanks to the new update, even with her keen tailor eye, she had trouble judging people’s gear quality which gave her a hint as to whom she was facing. unfortunately, she couldn’t read much off him overall, so she turned towards Hikoru again for an answer. But instead of shedding some light he simply shrugged, turned around and left the two without another word. Letting her to figure things out alone.

Ah! Nigemashita!” she instinctively muttered, letting her cultural heritage slip. As if the altered kendo uniform she wore and the tachi resting against the side of the table weren't a dead giveaway already. She shrugged it off, then rested against the chair to face the newcomer once more. She stopped tapping her pencil and instead started twirling it between her fingers with dexterity, locking his sight with her silver eyes.  “I’m afraid we haven’t been properly introduced. My name’s Ariel. How can I help you?” she asked with a practiced smile.


Spoiler

 "(He) ran away " (polite)

Edited by Ariel - The Crowned Lion
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"Waruikedo, ano otokowa sono yōna kotode yoku shirarete imasu." Alkor's lips peeled up in a slight smile. For a Japanese person, blonde hair was general seen as symbolic of rebellion or delinquency. Since she spoke the language, and they were in a predominantly Japanese game, it was probably safe to assume she was either fluent or a native speaker; and if the latter, then they had at least one cultural faux pas in common. Because of that, he felt no real need to apologize for not initially introducing himself. He glanced back toward the waitstaff, who hurried a refill to his cup as he added, "if only he were as good at brewing coffee as he is flighty."

By then Hikoru had gone to check on something, but Alkor heard him faintly from an adjacent room as he sneezed. He closed his eyes for a moment, then when he reopened them, gold met silver. He'd seen an expression like that thousands of times. In a mirror, slammed into place by hammers wrought of determination, uneasiness, and anxiety. She was more a master than he was, admittedly. If not for the pencil spinning habit, he might not have noticed it at all.

He wouldn't speak on that. Instead, Alkor returned her formality. "Alkor," he gave his name. "In this situation, since the Broker was unlikely to divulge the information to us individual, I figured speeding up the process would serve both of our purposes better. You don't strike me as a woman who likes to have her time wasted," his gaze wandered to the pencil and lingered there a moment before they moved back up to make eye contact. Nonverbal cues were powerful, if used properly. Your impatience is showing.

"Which suits me perfectly, because I can relate to that. Now," Alkor took a sip of his coffee, letting the heat course down through his throat before he continued. Hikoru had returned by that time and seemed to have plotted everything perfectly to facilitate a conversation that only tangentially involved him. Of course he did. "Since everything is in order now, we can begin with your explanation of the rumor," he shifted the focus back to Hikoru, who looked almost exasperated in response.

"Right," he groaned, then coughed once. Then, "you know about the Eye, right? Floor seven, the peak of the highest mountain? Yeah, so, word is something strange has been going on up there, something dangerous- or, at least, spooky enough to make someone not want to investigate."

"Tell me you didn't pay someone who pissed their pants and ran away from a loud noise and you're trying to pass it off as Information," Alkor sighed. "Is business really that bad?"

"Quiet you," Hikoru hissed. "You know I don't just take info willy nilly. I'm actually proud of this job. Anyway, I went to collaborate the story myself, but you know, the whole Griffin that supposedly spawns up there thing- I didn't want to take the risk by myself. There's a lot of moving parts to this one."

Alkor studied the Broker for a time. There was honesty in his words, at least. He frowned. "Did you get close enough to confirm anything useful?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah. Definitely a Griffin up there. Eagle head, Lion body, the whole 9. Word is that it circles the eye and swoops down if you happen to get too close. Not sure that there's much else to it than that, but that seems pretty bad to me. Also- there's been a few Players who went up there and never came back down."

He glanced to Ariel and caught her eye for a second before he turned his attention back to Hikoru. "Could be related to the Griffin," Alkor suggested, "but that would mean it was able to move a lot more freely than people previously thought."

"The game has changed around us," Hikoru shrugged. "Nothing we used to know is certain anymore. Anyways, I gotta get back to work- other clients to talk to, you know? Let me know what you find out, I'll pay you for the trouble, as usual."

Hikoru left the table in a hurry, and Alkor folded his hands on top of it. 

"You ready to check it out?" he asked. No reason to waste any more time guessing or wondering.

 

Spoiler

"Sorry, but that guy's well known for things like that."

 

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To his initial statement, the blonde couldn’t help but to smile and nod in agreement. “Douzo yoroshiku!” she replied, a little surprised but in a good way by his statement. She was a little surprised to learn that Hik didn't share with him the rumour, while she was already knees deep in researching it before going to investigate firsthand. A second, more determined nod, came as a validation for his assumption.

She quietly listened to their exchange and the second explanation of the rumor. She sent their informant off with a wave, guess his wounds still needed more time to heal… as did hers. But mending old wounds wasn’t her goal today, or the immediate future, so she cast the thought and most of its related feelings aside. There will be time for that later.

Once they were alone, she took a moment to finish the rest of her cocoa. “Funny how he didn’t mention the griffin to me before, I guess our destination makes sense now.” she answered and tapped on her HUD with the pencil, making it visible for both of them. On top of the table was a top-down map of the 7th floor, zoomed in and centered around a red circle. She placed her pencil in the middle of it. “That’s where we need to go. I’m not familiar with this floor so I had to do a little digging.” She then stood up and retrieved her katana, then slightly nodded towards the exit: “Ready when you are!” 


Spoiler

"Nice to meet you!" (polite but a bit more casual)

 

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"Kochira koso, yoroshiku onegaishimasu." For someone with a laid back attitude, his linguistics mirrored a more cultured, respectful upbringing. It was an odd dichotomy. He watched as Hikoru left them to their business and once he was gone, Ariel set about her work immediately. Business as usual, and for Alkor, that suited him just fine. When she pulled the map data, he glanced it over thoughtfully.

Not much had changed about the topography, but it felt like other things were in flux. At one time, there was no danger from the Gryphon unless its nest was disturbed; but now, it seemed that wasn't the case. He frowned. What other things might be different when they got there?

"We should assume that the situation might be dangerous," he said. "If there is a mechanic like that at play, there's not much we can do other than get the hell out of the way. Best case scenario if we get grabbed, we get moved to the nest. Worst case scenario, death by fall damage." Alkor took a sip of his coffee and placed it back down on the table. If only they served booze. "I'd rather avoid either, honestly, so keeping an eye out is a big part of this. I think we should actually go up to the nest and see what's going on- or at least, get as close as we can. If you're willing to?"

She was ready to go, so he nodded and stood to follow her. "Figured I didn't need to ask, but formalities aren't a bad thing," he said with a shrug. 

With that, they headed to the teleporter, and to floor 7.

Spoiler

I should be the one saying that, I'm in your care.

 

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The blonde's lack of familiarity with the 7th floor could be seen as soon as get got to there. Pulling her HUD and using it for reference even inside the main settlement. Last time she was here, she finished a quest involving... snakes? with wings?, the blonde's memory was fuzzy as it was during the period when she was in a haste to level up. She'd take any quest and finish them one after another with little regard towards the lore behind it. Her sole purpose back then was to follow in her guild master's footsteps and join the frontlines. Nowadays however, she had found her balance and was taking everything, including this rumor chasing, one step at a time. Enjoying various aspects of this game and what it had to offer.

They still had some ground to cover until they got near their destination: "There..." she pointed out with her saya. "The Eye... we're almost there." Ariel added, having matched the description they got with what they saw. Her gaze fixed on the tall peak, she then asked Alkor: "How did you come about chasing rumors, Alkor-dono? Do you plan on joining the frontlines effort?" she asked, thoroughly rummaging through her memory for any sign of meeting him, even indirectly, in any previous occasion but to no avail. He may as well have joined while she was busy dealing with personal affairs, after all she had skipped a number floor raids and events before the 25th. Her info wasn't as up-to-date as she would be happy with, not since the amount of people she could trust significantly shortened to a number that can be showed just with one hand. She would now take any oportunity, like this one, to find out something of interest.

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