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[PP-F1] Misery/Company

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Everything about the monument made his skin crawl.

Graveyards were culturally normal in most modern countries. The names of people who had been killed, like some veteran's memorial, mocked the survivors. This wasn't some kindness, it was a Reaper's Tally. How many more Aincrad had to claim before its work was finished. That was how he looked at it.

There were no familiar names, but many familiar causes of death. Boar, PK, suicide... all of them had in common that with a helping hand, most of them may have survived. Many of them were abandoned in their hour of need by their closest friends and loved ones. Corvo stared idly at the names, the causes of death, and he found himself less angry than pensive.

In some way, he was no different. Abandoned by everyone who he'd known, alone and prone to the inevitable with no hope of salvation. The only thing that spurred him forward was pride, the knowledge that he was better, that he could do something so many others had been wholly incapable of. The Frontline Players may have had things to be proud of. Their accomplishments seemed to get thrown in the faces of the weaker Players, like they weren't equal to the task of felling powerful enemies and clearing the path to freedom.

It almost made Corvo not want to be free.

Freedom meant that he'd have to thank those graceless bastards for something that had been lorded over him like some legendary tale. Freedom meant that the Frontliners had done him a favor, that he'd have to acknowledge that someone other than him contributed to his survival.

Those were lies. The filthiest kind of lies. With a scowl, his eyes darkened. If things had been different, maybe he would have been at the top, looking down. Maybe he would be the Hero, the Savior everyone looked to for guidance.

It was never to be. Corvo didn't want the limelight. The only freedom he ever wanted was freedom bought by his own hands. He'd accept no pale imitations. With that resolve, he took a step forward and threw a punch at the monument- fully aware that it wouldn't flinch, or be damaged at all.

The impact that followed shook him, but he took no damage. Instead, the words 《Immortal Object》appeared, as if to question his sanity. 


Corvo level 5

100/100 HP 28/28 EN Base Damage: 5 Mitigation: 12 Accuracy: 3 Evasion: 0 Bleed: 12 Risky: 2  Recovery: 1

Item Name: - Reaver's Edge
Item Tier: - 1
Item Type: - War Axe
Item Enhancements: - 2 Damage 1 Bleed
Description: - An axe with a serrated edge, guaranteed to leave a wound that will continue to bleed after it strikes.

Name: The King's Lament
Item Type: Cloth Armor
Tier: 1
Enhancements: Risky | Risky | Recovery
Description: "Once the loose fitting vest of a great king. When he was killed by his enemies, his spirit would not be laid to rest. That rage and despair linger, fueling the wearer's killer instinct."

Item Name: - Death God's Favor
Item Tier: - Tierless
Item Type: - Trinket
Item Enhancements: - Accuracy 3
Description: - A talisman fashioned in the shape of a skull with a blade driven through it. It emanates a foul aura, said to ensure the lethality of the bearer.


Edited by Corvo
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Sometimes, he came here to think.

Penitence wasn't his aim. At the time, Alkor fully believed his actions were just and he took the life of a man in defense of another human being. Later, he came to realize that justice was more than just black and white. He lived with the weight of what he'd done, but good had come of it. Or so he'd believed.

Mari went on from there to descend deeper into moral subjectivity. Her actions became depraved, and he lost the ability to counsel her because of some selfish vendetta against the world they were trapped in. Thom succeeded only in losing two years of his life. Unable to work together with his peers, unable to advance at all. Now that he'd made it, Alkor found himself stuck.

How did you move forward when your mind was trapped in the past? He'd recently fought some of those demons, but there were things he still hadn't resolved. Questions left unanswered. 

He stepped into the room with a quiet glance around, hopeful that he wouldn't disturb anyone's grief. This place was hallowed ground to some players, even if many of them opted to avoid it.

Alkor was just in time to witness the act of a Player with a heavy axe strapped to his back punching the monument, as if his rage had taken hold of him. "Hey, that's not going to do you any good-" 

He rushed forward to put a hand on the man's shoulder. "It won't bring anyone..." he turned the man around to see the surprised expression of someone extremely familiar. "...back," his voice was barely a whisper. 


Alkor level 31 [paragon 21]

740/740 HP 108/108 EN

Base Damage: 19 Mit: 30 Acc: 4 Eva: 3 Blight: 32 [afflicted target loses 20 Mitigation for duration] Bleed: 48 Paralyze

Skills: One Handed Straight Sword Rank 5, Light Armor Rank 5, Energist

Extra Skills: Combat Mastery Rank 3

Mods: Stamina, Ferocity, Meticulous, Resolve


Witchfang: T4 Demonic Straight Sword [Bleed | Paralyze| Blight | Cursed]

Cloak of the Wandering Warrior: T3 Perfect Cloak [3 EVA]

Eye of Osiris: T1 Perfect Trinket [3 ACC]


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His expression shifted quickly from confusion to thinly veiled rage. "Well, I'll be god damned," he uttered acerbically, ruby gaze locked on Alkor's own gold. "I finally found something you're wrong about, Cap." Corvo took a step closer to the man, which caused the Knight to instinctively give ground. With anyone else, he may have stood his ground. Evan, however, knew Thom far too well for that. If there was any ground for him to stand on, Corvo had ripped it out from under him in an instant. "Apparently hitting the fucker can bring people back from the dead. You know, I heard a lot of things. You were alive, you were dead, you had a girlfriend- don't even get me started on that," he jabbed a finger at the man's shoulder accusingly. "But for all the shit I heard, none of it came from you."

He stayed in the blonde haired player's face, giving him no chance to back down. He'd break him. That was already a foregone conclusion. He'd break him the same way that his ghosting had broken Evan. It was as much as he deserved.

"I ain't seen my parents in years, Cap," he continued. "I joined this god forsaken hell to be able to half out with you, and within a day of the nightmare, you weren't anyplace to be found. Do you know how lonely it is? Do you know how alone I've been?"

His eyes moved up for a moment and he caught sight of the other man's hair. "And what the hell is that? You dye your hair for some bitch? Pah, throw you behind the screen of a game console and your balls start dropping, is that it? Not once in all the time I've known you have you shown any interest, not since you were a kid and you pissed yourself when that girl talked to you. See, Cap, you can hide from these people who don't know you, but people like me? People like me already know what you are."

"You're being unfair, Eva-"

"Don't you fucking call me that. Don't say that name. That's too good for you."

Corvo felt his hands shaking as his voice raised, as spit flew from his lips and peppered the other man realistically. He reached up and cuffed the man, twisting and tossing him so that his back was pinned against the monument.

"No, you don't get to say my name," his eyes were wide now. He shoved harder, weight against the man's chest. Though he couldn't hurt him, he could see the fear in his eyes. Levels meant nothing here. Not like this. "You've literally fucked me out of years of life. Your actions have robbed me of my family and friends, just as much as this accursed game. You need to take some kind of responsibility, you know."

"What do you want from me?" Alkor shouted back. "It's not like I can just make you log out! It's not like I can apologize and make the past go away. You're just yelling at me!"

"And it feels good, too." Corvo hissed through his teeth as he leaned closer, his mind racing over thrilling, exciting, bloody ways to slaughter a man who was once his best friend. He knew that if this weren't a safe zone, he wouldn't beat Alkor in a fight. Still, it was more than he'd been able to do in several years. This was a slow burning inferno that had built up pressure for far too long. "Yeah, I got it. I thought your name was on this slab," his finger jabbed against the monument, just behind Alkor's ear.

"I reckon that'd make everything right, don't you Cap? If the last two years of my life weren't a waste because my best friend abandoned me."

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It felt like a hot knife lancing through his chest. The words, far more than the vicious onslaught by Corvo, made Thom want to scream back. He understood all too well what it felt like to be alone, but he couldn't relate to the hardships that his friend described. All he could understand was the feeling of betrayal, and yet, Alkor had become so good at that during his time in Aincrad. First Lessa, and now Corvo. He was better at running away than he was confronting his problems.

But he was done with that.

"So what?" he asked, "I die, and you magically feel better?"

"No," Corvo seethed, "but it's a start."

"To what?" he questioned the man. "Are you even thinking about what you're saying? You want the only person who knows who you are, your only connection to the world outside, dead? You want everything that you've been wanting for two years to die for what? Self-satisfaction?"

"Maybe I do." Corvo bristled as he punched the monument once more, this time inches from Alkor's face. "Maybe all I've got left is that anger. I don't know anymore."

"Then why even bother struggling?" he asked calmly. More than anything, Corvo seemed infuriated that Alkor was so calm in the face of this anger. His eye twitched as the Knight continued. "Why survive in this hell for all this time if you've taken leave of your wits? Other people have tossed themselves off the edge. They've gone and let enemies batter them until they were flecks of data, only remembered by the wall of text behind me. You could have done that, too. You could have given up any time. If you're really so empty, what was the point?"

"Because," Corvo whispered. Then, his voice rose again. "Because I've got my family's pride to consider, asshole. Unlike you, there are people who are proud to call me their son. They're looking on with hope for me to make something of my life. And here you are, my friend, and I decide to throw advancement aside for the sake of spending time with you and the boys. I picked my friends over my family. You know what my family means to me."

Corvo sobbed, unbidden. "You were family to me."

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"And when did that stop?" Alkor asked quietly.

"When you gave up on me!" Corvo screamed. Their faces were close, so close that he couldn't hide the tears. He couldn't stifle any of the emotion that bled into his words. "You could have sent me a message, literally any time. You could have found me, let me know you were okay, but you were off plowing some pink haired bimbo-"

"Mari?" Alkor asked.

"Who the fuck else, genius? Yeah, I heard all about it. Emotional Rollercoaster, all that goofy shit you were never any good at. You picked that over your family. I thought you were dead, I thought I'd never see you again, and I thought I didn't have anyone." Corvo exhaled. "And really, I don't. It's obvious you can't be relied on when the chips are down."

"You know that's bullshit." Alkor grabbed Corvo by the arms and pushed him off. The difference between them wasn't much, even with numbers as a consideration. Alkor’s stats were system generated, while Corvo's were all natural. "You know I'd be there in a minute if you called.

"But you weren't, Thom. You weren't there for two goddamn years. What do you have to say about that?"

"I went into a goddamn coma!" Alkor practically screamed. Corvo blinked. This man never showed emotion to that degree. "I disappeared, gone, everyone thought I was dead. What was I supposed to do?! All that time, I had no idea that you'd logged in, because you'd never reached out either!"

"Oh fuck off!" Corvo threw a punch, which took Alkor square in the cheek. "I didn't reach out! Fuck, we were supposed to meet on the very first day! Where the hell were you!"

"Are we just going to keep shifting blame?" Alkor sighed, fatigued. "This is exhausting."

"You're fuckin' exhausting," Corvo folded his arms and muttered.

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"Oh, yeah, that's mature," Alkor slumped down the face of the monument and took a seat. "Look, man, I'm sorry that I suck at communicating, and I'm sorry that it came this far and got this bad. I wish there was something I could do to make up for all of it, but honestly, I know that's unrealistic. I just want to find a way to make things better. If you're willing to do that."

"Yeah, I'm not so sure that we're on the same page," Corvo snapped. "If you think saying your sorry makes me feel any better, you're still a child. This is gonna take a long time for me to even begin to work through. But," he lowered his voice now, so quiet that if anyone entered, they wouldn't hear him. "I am glad you're not dead, I guess."

Alkor snorted. "Yeah, okay," he chuckled. "You know what? I'll take that. That's more than you usually give me to work with."

"You haven't built the guild in this wretched hellhole, have you?" Corvo asked.

Alkor shook his head. "Nope. Just ain't the same without you guys," he said. "Some bonds run deeper than guilds, and I ain't about to spit on that by recycling it for Aincrad."

Corvo closed his eyes. "You sad sack of shit. Sappy, always sappy lines."

"So, what do you plan on doing now?" Alkor asked. "You can't just keep going on like... that."

"The fuck you trying to say?" Corvo narrowed his eyes.

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"I'm saying you're a veteran gamer," Alkor glanced him over. "You have a lot to offer, if you make up your mind to do it. Even if you stay mad at me, even if you continue to hate this world, channel that. Use your skills and your intellect to help get everyone out of this world. And if that's not good enough for you, do it so you can see your loved ones again. Self-satisfaction, actual benevolence, all that shit aside-" Alkor leaned in and narrowed his eyes. "-we both know you've been wasting your potential."

"Don't you think it's a little unfair to lecture me?" Corvo quirked an eyebrow quizzically. 

"You just lectured me," Alkor shrugged.

"Fuckin' shameless," the red haired player guffawed. "As expected of the Captain. No sense of propriety whatsoever."

"Circumstances change, people rarely do," Alkor shrugged.

"What're you, a fortune cookie?" 

"Look, let's figure out what kind of build you want. I'll help you get hooked up with some people who will get you through strong enemies so you can hustle to the Frontlines. And I'll add you to my friends list fight now-" Before Alkor could open the menu, Corvo shook his head and caught the man by the wrist.

"Look, Cap. I respect you. I think a lot of the fact that I just told you to die and you put up with it. But I can't just pretend I'm not responsible for my own decisions the past couple of years. I'm not alright. I'm fucked up, honestly. My brain ain't right, not like it used to be. I've got a lot of work to do. I've got a lot of ground to cover, and damage to undo, and I've got to do it myself. If I didn't do at least that much, I'd never be able to live in my own head."


"Friends comes later. Friends comes after I can rationalize all the hate and rage. Before I came to this world, I wasn't like this. I've fallen so far. If I went back now, my parents, my brother, my sister- they wouldn't know who I am. I don't want that."

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He wanted to speak, but he understood and respected the other man's tenacity. Since they'd known each other for so long, he knew that Evan wasn't the type to flinch on something like this. If he felt that seriously, the most he could do was begrudgingly agree. "I get it," he said, more quietly. There was a part of him that was sad they'd be parting so soon after finding each other again, a few years later. Sad, but excited to see what would come out of it when Corvo finally got serious. The other Player had spent so much time wallowing that he'd forgotten how to live. His rage, his sadness, his empty spirit all made sense and were justified- but if he had nothing to use that fuel for burning, he was just burning himself out.

"I wanna see grandma, too. I know the odds aren't in my favor, but I at least want to put my best foot forward. I know that's the same for you. When you get out, you want your dad to be proud, right?" Alkor knew there was more to it with Corvo's family. How protective they were, and how vehemently they'd been against him playing Sword Art Online- they'd be overprotective, and they'd never want him to play another video game again. But Corvo was too strong of a personality to simply fold under that pressure. If nothing else, this whole experience would have given the man wings with which to fly toward the sun. He'd become the Icarus he was always trying to fashio"n out of himself.

"Just don't forget that I'm here if you need me, man," he said, a bit more softly.

"I'm not relying on you," Corvo said as he turned away and waved a hand. "I'm through with blaming other people, and getting mad at a world that doesn't care how I feel. It's done taking from me. I'm done letting it. I'm going to be the King of this fuckin' castle, Cap. Just you wait."

"The King, huh?" Alkor smirked. Leave it to Evan to come up with the most ridiculous statement in the room. "I can't wait to see that."

"When you see me again, it's gonna be on the Frontlines," Corvo told the man, shooting a smile back over his shoulder. "And by then, better or worse, whatever I've become, I hope I'll have made my family proud."

"One of us already is," Alkor smirked.

Corvo gave a shrug, turned away, and walked toward the door.

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Perspective: Corvo, leaving the Monument

There was something sobering about the way he swayed with each step. After he was outside the room, his knees felt weak. All of the emotions he'd fought to suppress finally boiled over, rising to the surface and then over the edge. He caught his breath only to lose it again. What was going on? All of that time, he'd convinced himself that he would never see Thom or any of the others again. He'd thought that everything he knew was gone, and that Aincrad only kept taking. Now that something had resurfaced, he wasn't sure how to cope with it. Alkor was there. He was in the building just behind Corvo, and the red haired Player had willfully denied his friendship. He'd gone as far as to say he'd take on the world alone, and for his best friend to watch him do it. He was proud- fiercely so, and he knew that his newest task was greater than anything he'd faced so far.

The quests in Aincrad were nothing next to the monumental expectation he'd just made for himself. The King of Aincrad, but he was little more than a joker. He wanted so badly to turn around, to say that he'd acted in error, irrationally, but what was said between friends the way he'd said it- those things were set in stone. He'd anted up. He couldn't fold now, when all the chips were already on the table. "Fantastic job, Ev," he muttered to himself. "Now I really do have to do it. I really do have to make something of myself, and show all the other idiots trapped in here with me that I'm not just someone for them to laugh at." He steadied himself a moment later, his eyes closed as he took a deep breath.

When he exhaled, he made his first decision. "It's time I did something for myself that wasn't just lashing out in anger," he said quietly. He already had an idea of how to separate himself from the hedonistic nihilist he'd become. Now, it was time for him to embrace a higher calling. He was going to become a force to be reckoned with- a King in more than just name. So, he headed into the deepest part of town with a handful of coins, and he decided to make a reckless cosmetic decision.

That's what pretty girls do when they have an existential crisis, right?

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Perspective: Alkor, at the Monument 

As Corvo left, Alkor turned back to the Monument and sat down on his knees. There were lessons to learn, from the living and from the dead. Corvo was an exercise in patience, in understanding. They were opposite personalities. Alkor was a quieter, meeker, yet driven individual while Corvo wanted the whole world, and he wanted it his way. Both of them understood the value of hard work and determination, but they applied that knowledge in vastly different ways. Truthfully, when Alkor had heard that one of his friends was alive and trapped in the game with them, he'd hoped that the other man had shown strength of spirit and a resilience to the Death Game. From what he'd just seen, the other man had fallen prey to it in totality, and it had skewed him further down a dark road.

Alkor couldn't follow him down it. He respected him, even loved him as a friend; but there were some things that even friends couldn't sacrifice. For Alkor, being that bright light had become part of who he was. He wanted to save others. He wanted to share the mercy and grace he'd seen. Now, he had friends on the other side.

"Honestly, even though you hate it when people set expectations, I can't help but anticipate great things when you go popping off with shit like 'I'm gonna be the King,' Ev. I bet you will, too. I know when you say something, you mean every word. That's why we make such good friends," Alkor mused as he reached down and grabbed a stick of incense that rested in front of the monument like a sacred altar, and he ignited it carefully. He held the herb out and upright, slowly and methodically moving it to waft in front of the names that represented the souls of the departed. Thankfully, Corvo's name didn't populate on that list.

Thankfully, neither did his own.

"Now I guess I've got expectations of my own to live up to," he sighed, both eyes now closed. "You've always had a way of making me step outside my comfort zone, haven't you?"

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He stared at his reflection for a long time.

The red hair he was born with was a part of him, even when he denied so much of himself out of spite. It was a fact, irrefutable, something that he refused to bend on. It was something that kept him tethered to his sanity in a world that threatened to steal it from him daily. So, for him to willfully give it up meant that he was finally finished with that fight. It meant that he no longer needed to hold on to the things he held dear simply to keep his mind. It meant that he embraced the end of that chapter, and that who he was was no longer up for discussion. Aincrad had won many battles against Evan, but ultimately, it had lost the war.

His hair was a golden color now, almost reflective of the aesthetic changes he'd seen in Alkor. He never asked why Alkor made the change, or what significance it held. For Corvo, it was defiance. The will that drove him forward now blazed in a form that everyone would be able to see. He smiled, red eyes burning with newfound intensity. Instead of a red-haired, foul-mouthed vagabond, his appearance took on that of a more sophisticated, refined cruelty. It wasn't apparent at a glance, but a woman passing by remarked that he looked sharp. If she'd stayed longer, his words, his demeanor, everything might have changed- but now, he had at the very least a more inviting scowl.

Corvo stepped out of the room and pulled his cloak over both shoulders, letting it catch the wind and flow through the breeze behind him as he ran. There were quests he needed to do, thing's he'd neglected for too long. Now, with his mind made up, there was nothing standing between him and growth. Somehow, he'd managed to blame everyone and everything else for his problems. He'd become the very thing he hated. There was so much work to be done.

And so much rage to tap into.

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"Honestly, I'm a little disappointed," Alkor said quietly. "Of all the people I know, he was the least likely to succumb to depression. Or at least, that's how he always seemed. Maybe it's true what they say, that the people who smile brightest are the ones with the most to hide." Their personalities were like fire and ice. All the time they knew each other, Evan ran counter to virtually everything Thom stood for. Quiet, level headed, and focused versus loud, hot tempered, and erratic. Both of them were good, both at different things. The main thing that kept them glued together was that they could balance each other out. "I know he's going to do great, though."

He slowly stood and turned toward the exit. His respects were quiet and never lengthy, but they helped him sort through his thoughts. If he remembered his actions, he wouldn't be likely to repeat them. That was the logic he used to dictate his actions. It wasn't because he was sentimental. Not like Evan. The man had clung hard to the memory of his family and let it hold him back. Alkor dove right in absently, obsessive. The game was more of a challenge for him than a setback. This kind of world was built for him, as a gamer.

Someone who lived with a family who cared for him, someone who had a halfway decent upbringing couldn't empathize with the struggle that had turned Alkor into a NEET. That was one of the reasons that they clashed so hard. Alkor didn't seem to care about anything from the outside looking in, and Corvo had an overbearing personality. They bickered and fought, but when they worked together, they handled things extremely well. Alkor knew the things that Corvo was suited to, and Corvo was exceptionally reliable in a pinch. They were perfect compliments. 

But now, what would happen? They weren't working together this time. They couldn't create a plan, nor could they optimize. Evan had essentially told him, I want to make it on my own. He wanted to prove his worth.

For once, Thom respected that decision tremendously.

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