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[PP-F27] See It Through (Pt2: Srona) [w/Lessa]

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the emerald duelist 


  • Level: 32 | Paragon: 70 | Tier: 4(11) 

Jomei: 920/920 HP | 130/130 EN | DMG 23 | MIT 44 | EVA 3 | ACC 4 | AA | BH 50 | HLY BLS 20 | FLN 16 | HLY 8  | LD 1 | Hiding 5


  • Fragarach 
  • Vestige of St. Patrick
  • Alatreon's Will

battle-ready inventory

  • Antidote (3/3) 



Saber R5 | TECH Spec.
Combat Mastery DMG R3

Cloth Armor R5
B Healing R5

Survival (x)
Parry (x)
Forgotten King's Authority
Hiding R.5 (x)
Assault Mode (x) 

Athletics (x)
Vanish (x)
Emergency Recovery (x)
Surprise Attack: Assassin (x)

Stamina (x)
Ferocity (x)
Precision (x)
Nimble (x)




Housing Buffs: 
Bedroom: -1 energy cost for the first two expenditures of each combat    
Bathroom: The first time you would suffer DoT damage in a thread, reduce damage taken from DoT each turn by 20% (rounded down)    
Dining Room: Turn 2 identical food items (same quality, tier, & enhancements) into a Lesser Feast.
Living Room: Increases out of combat HP regen by (5 * Tier HP) and decreases full energy regen to 2 Out of Combat Posts.



A deep.. deep exhale slowly escaped through parted lips, eyes trained onto the blank surface of a white, painted ceiling. A ceiling that was all too familiar to him, a sight that grew staler to him with each passing day. Lids closed over olive green orbs, though sleep was not his intention. Swinging his legs off of his bed, his feet touched the floor. Jomei sat for a moment before pushing himself up and slowly walking to the door that led to a balcony overlooking the Taft street. 

These passing days after a harrowing boss fight, where he did not even bother to visit the new floor they had just unlocked, but instead returned home.. as was his own little tradition. To decompress, to think about his life and how close he may have been to losing it. All of those memories created in this Taft home always came back, but this time he did not dwell on what was lost and what could have been. They instead remained as just simple memories, whether good or bad, they were a thing of the past. 

He watched as a farmer walk alongside a horse, saddlebags backed with trade goods, clopped just underneath where he stood. 

Maybe it was time to find somewhere new to live.. officially start this new chapter of his life, and put that past one to rest. 


// Quest Details:


Floor 27
<< Part 2: Srona>>
Party Limit: 4 | 20+ Posts
Repeatable for standard thread rewards and Ushiame Salves.


Quest Rewards:

Each Player receives the following, in addition to standard thread rewards:

  • 1000 Experience Points
  • 1000 Col
  • POTENTIAL REWARDS | Ushiame Salve
    • Tierless Perfect Mass HP Recovery (Crystal) - The party must have successfully gathered at least two additional times beyond the quest minimum requirements to obtain one Ushiame Salve, to a maximum of one per party member per thread.  This reward is repeatable.
      • Though it looks like a salve, this potent curative has absorbed the power of the green crystals around Srona and can be activated as a free action


  • Roleplay travelling from Dagan to Srona
  • Help put out the fire and speak with Percival
  • Roleplay finding the Blooming Grove
  • Collect Ushiame from the Blooming Grove
  • Roleplay returning the Ushiame to Percival


The alchemists of Srona need your assistance. A mysterious fire has destroyed their batch of Ushiame, the main ingredient used in the creation of their healing salve. While they prepare what they have on hand, you must travel to the Blooming Grove to collect more of this mystical flower. But be warned, the Grove Guardian has been angered by the recent blaze and stands guard to protect the grove from ill intentions.


Part 1 | The Mysterious Blaze
Travelling from Dagan to Srona, in search of their powerful healing salve to save the rescued farmers injured in an unfortunate cave collapse, you stumble upon a group struggling to put out a raging fire burning in one of their storage sheds. Those trapped inside have already been overwhelmed by the smoke and heat, but hope remains to save them and possibly some of the remaining salve ingredients.

Help the villagers put out the fire. Players must roll natural CD to put out the fire and continue the quest.  A combined total of 10 [+10 per member in the party] is required to achieve this goal.  Sadly, what salve remains is barely enough to tend to those wounded by the fire.

Once the blaze is extinguished, Lead Alchemist Percival informs that more salve could be created if the party can retrieve several bushels of Ushiame flowers from the Blooming Grove. The NPCs must remain to tend to their wounded, but Percival informs the party that the grove can be found part way up the mountain and is obscured by thick growths of massive, densely packed trees. Large, glowing, green crystals overlook the site slowly pulsing with light and will help guide them to its location.

Part 2 | Need Versus Greed at The  Blooming Grove
The Players must roleplay finding the Blooming Grove and will be able to see the Grove Guardian watching them when they arrive.  

Attempting to gather Ushiame requires a post action. A modified LD of 15 or higher is required to successfully gather the rare flowers.  A total of [4 +1 per party member] successful attempts is required to obtain the required quantity of material.  Additional rewards can be gleaned if players are willing to push their luck and risk the Guardian’s wrath.

The party must also keep a running tally of CD roll results for every gathering attempt made (use the CD results from your LD rolls).  Foragers may reduce their CD roll results by a value equal to their rank in the profession, to a minimum of 0.  

If the CD roll tally exceeds a combined total of 30, you will have overstayed your welcome in the grove and the Guardian will begin expressing its displeasure according to the following table:

CD Tally



If the MD result on your roll was 6 or higher, the Grove Guardian summons vines from the ground that hamper and eventually pin you down.  Your gathering action fails and another player must spend their post action to free you.


If the MD result on your roll was 5 or higher, The Grove Guardian summons wasps, beetles, and other insects from the  surrounding trees, attacking all players in the party, dealing 100 unmitigatable damage and your gathering action fails.


If the MD result on your roll was 4 or higher, both of the effects noted above are applied.  Only the Player making the roll is trapped by vines.


If the MD result on your roll was 3 or higher, both of the effects noted above are applied, but damage is increased to 200.  Only the Player making the roll is trapped by vines.

Note that Regeneration and Battle Healing will not be triggered by these effects, though other enhancements and healing effects may be applied to negate these injuries.
Escaping the Grove requires a single post action by the party. No escape mechanic required.  All Players must be freed from the Guardian’s vines before this can be attempted.



<<Percival, Lead Alchemist>>
A kind, yet obviously overworked man in his early middle age. Recognizes the tension between the territories, but wants to see past it for the good of all the territories.

Lead Alchemist Percival informs you of where the Ushiame flower grows, The Blooming Grove. The Grove is located part way up the mountain entirely covered with trees. The glowing green crystals seem to slowly pulse there, denoting its location.



The Lord of the Mountain, an art print by gwendybee - INPRNT

<<Grove Guardian>>
A large, stag like creature with two, undiscernible faces and golden laurel leaves where antlers would be. 

The Grove Guardian is an invulnerable creature that remains docile unless provoked, or if the Grove is heavily disturbed.
They slowly patrol the Grove, watching you from a distance as you take what you need.. and only what you need.


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  • 1 month later...



Lessa, Guardian of Aincrad
Level: 31
Paragon Level: 54
HP: 820/820
EN: 120/120

Damage: 28
Mitigation: 142
Accuracy: 4
Battle Healing: 45
H.M.: 8
HLY: 8
REC: 8

Equipped Gear:
Weapon: Arcael's Might (T4 THSS - DMG DMG DMG HLY)
Armor: Empress Armor (T4 HA - HM HM THNS THNS)
Misc: Neutron Star Necklace (T4 TRINKET - ACC ACC REC REC)

Straight Sword R5
Heavy Armor R5
Battle Healing R5
Fighting Spirit

Active Mods:
Emergency Recovery
Justified Riposte

Iron Skin

Active Extra Skills:

Battle Ready Inventory:
Teleportation Crystal x5
Mass HP Recovery Crystal x2

Housing Buffs:
Well Rested: -1 energy cost for the first three expenditures of each combat
Clean: The first time you would suffer DoT damage in a thread, reduce damage taken from DoT each turn by 20% (rounded down)
Relaxed: Increases out of combat HP regen by (5 * Tier HP) and decreases full energy regen to 2 Out of Combat Posts.
Col Stash: +5% bonus col from monster kills and treasure chests
Advanced Training: +10% Exp to a thread. Limit one use per month [1/1]
Multipurpose: Gain +1 to LD, Stealth Rating, Stealth Detection, or Prosperity to one post in a thread. Can be applied after a roll

Guild Hall Buffs:
Helping Hand: Lowest-leveled guild member receives +10 bonus Exp at the end of the thread. At least half of the thread's participants must be guild members. Limit one use per month, per character. [1/1]



To: Jomei
From: Lessa

Hey hey,

Now that things have calmed down a bit, do you have any interest in meeting back up for the next quest in the Mysterious Divide line?

I'm definitely no completionist, but this one is kind of bugging me. I want to see how it ends.

Let me know! : )

Lessa put very little thought into the message as she composed it, and didn't waste a second shooting it off between sips of grape pop. She'd always felt comfortable around Jomei, but after seeing each other so much over the past six months, she considered him one of her best friends. There was no flutter of anxiety or nagging doubt as she asked him for more time, and that guilt over asking for his attention never reared its ugly head. In fact, the invite had already fled her thoughts as she plopped down on the couch, splashing purple liquid across her hand in the process. She didn't even bother to mutter a curse word before unceremoniously licking the drops from her fingers. Then she reached down and wedged the can between her legs, freeing up her hands to crack open the book she'd borrowed from Destin's library. Thunder thighs, it turned out, were useful for more than just splitting watermelons, and the skulls of men who wronged her.

Riker loosed a loud, dramatic yawn from his place on the rug. Flopping onto his side, he allowed the morning sun to stream through the slider door and bake him like a ham on a buffet table. A breeze swept across the lake, whispering through the emerald leaves, and ushering in the scents of late summer. As they swirled around Lessa, tugging at her blonde flyaways, she inhaled deeply. And as she exhaled, she felt a sensation that she hadn't in the longest time.

Lessa felt at peace.

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The image of the trader with his trusty packhorse was suddenly obscured by a small, opaque box containing a message. Lowering himself to lean his elbows on the railing, his eyes scanned the contents of the digital letter. A bit ironic, he thought, that the questline that helped them solved the puzzle of the previous boss fight was still open and available for completing, despite them having finished off the boss and brought a bit of peace to the floor. However, Jomei was not one to back down from the prospect of adventure.. especially with Lessa.


To: Lessa
From: Jomei


I don't know.. my schedule is pretty packed today. Between relaxing and unwinding from the boss fight..
But I think I can squeeze you in ;)

Yes, absolutely, I'd love to. I'm pretty curious to see where this goes too.

Just let me know where to meet you. 

Jomei sent the message off with a smile on his face. He gazed up at the blue sky above Taft once more before turning heel and heading back into his bedroom to ready himself. Donning his classic green attire and cloak, Jomei moved to his living room where he retrieved his trusty owl companion Adere. Once the coordinates for their meet up were in hand, the ginger made his way through the streets of the quiet city towards the center of town

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The reply came quickly, and the alert in her HUD nearly had Lessa spilling her pop again. Swearing softly, she draped her open book across her chest, and summoned the message with a flick of finger and a twinkle of bells. The grin spread across her face as she saw his willingness to go adventuring.

“Alright, lazy bones,” the young woman called to Riker as she carefully shifted, setting the book and can on the coffee table. “Up and attum. We’ve got places to be, people to see.” If the wolf heard her, he gave no indication. “Come on, bud,” she tried again. “We can’t keep Jomei waiting.” With an annoyed grunt, Riker flopped over to face the opposite direction, giving her his back.

Amused, Lessa fisted her hands and buried them in her hips. “Fine, grump ass. Stay here, then. Maybe I’ll redo that quest while I’m out. The one that gives you a familiar at the end…”

This time, he gave a snort of disapproval as he climbed to his feet, gave a good shake, then leveled her with a blank stare. When he passed by her on the way to the door, he rammed his head into her leg, sending her off balance.

“Ooookay,” she cried, laughing. “I deserved that.” Then she pulled up a new message, and wrote it as she walked into town.


To: Jomei

From: Lessa

Thanks for squeezing me into your super packed schedule. ;)

How about we meet in Dagan, where we left off? I think that’s where the quest line picks up again.


And without waiting for an answer, she teleported, made the short trip to Dagan’s main city, and dropped onto a large rock to wait for her friend.

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She was right, of course. Jomei had double checked his quest log after receiving the follow up from Lessa about where to meet. She mentioned they should meet in Dagan, where the first quest ended and second quest would start. As he eyed the quest log, he saw the message clear as day, 'travel from Dagan to Srona.' He chuckled softly to, and at, himself with a small shake of his head as he took the small step up onto the teleport platform. In an all too familiar flash of light, Jomei's virtual form was carried from Taft to the Twenty Seventh floor. 

Since they had been there before, Jomei prompted to warp straight into the center of Dagan, rather than starting at Ronbaru and making the trek, albeit a short one. Now just to find Lessa, and they could begin their journey to the next settlement. Dagan wasn't the largest of cities, and even then, most of the houses were one story, and rather spread out to allow space for their experimental gardens. There, sitting atop a large rock, he saw Lessa sitting in wait. Already wearing a smile, Jomei approached.

"This seat taken?" he'd call out to her as he hopped up onto the rock, taking a quick seat next to her. "Hm.. not the most comfortable. But I can see why you chose it. I do feel pretty cool sitting up here..." Turning a cheek to her with a grin, he'd shift his position. "Hope I didn't keep you waiting long, you ready to go?" 

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As Jomei came into view, Lessa couldn't help the grin that bloomed across her face. And when he plopped onto the rock beside her, she leaned against him for a friendly bump. "That seat was saved for my smoking hot and unbelievably wealthy sugar daddy, who was going to offer me a lifetime of comfort and a herd of one hundred horses. But I guess I can settle for you." Then she shook her head. "Nope, wasn't waiting long. I'm ready whenever you are." She found her feet again, and waited for Jomei to do the same. At her side, Riker regarded Adere with deep, soulful eyes. Whether he wanted to join the owl in flight, or eat her, Lessa couldn't be entirely sure. It was always a mystery where Riker was concerned.

"I'll admit," she began after they'd walked a ways, "I feel sort of bad leaving this quest line hanging while we were dealing with the boss fight. I know NIGHT already finished it, and saw the story to its natural conclusion, but the game should still provide the quest for us, right?" She smiled sheepishly. "I have to assume that these poor people haven't been trying to find medicine for two months now, or however long its been since we finished the first one. That would be a really long time to be waiting on us." The visual of injured NPCs standing around bleeding for weeks on end threatened to bring down the mood.

So she shook her head, blonde hair tumbling over her shoulder as she turned back to her companion. "So lets get that medicine for them, yeah? I'm assuming we'll need to run it back to Dagan, so we could loop around and-"

Lessa stopped midsentence, the words falling away as a kaleidoscope of color caught her attention. "Jomei," she began, instinctively reaching for his sleeve. "Is that... fire?"

She let go as she exploded forward, long strides eating up the distance while her boots slapped at the dirt path. Once she'd drawn closer, she saw the small party already gathered around the shed, with more running from various directions. A few buckets of water sat beside her, apparently carried by the runners. Without thinking, she dragged one up, then splashed it across the closed doorway. Smoke poured from the broken windows, and leaked from edges of the doorframe, and when she heard the muffled cough from inside, her mouth went dry. "There are still people inside," she managed to choke out.


ID 217985 | LD 20 - Fire Put Out Successfully


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  • 3 weeks later...

The ginger looked upon Lessa with squinted eyes. 

"What would you even do with a hundred horses." he barely was able to get out without laughing. 

The ginger followed suit, stepping off of the rock with a small smile. His boots found the softer ground, blades of grass flattening beneath his feet, only to straighten back up again as he stepped forward. "Remind me to tell you about the only time I tried to ride a horse.. Unless Baldur or Mac get to tell their point of view first." His shoulders rose and fell with a shrug, offering her a side glance as he fell into step with her, "Maybe you'll have to teach me sometime. You know, for the rare instances we actually get the chance to use a horse to get around rather than using the warp gates." 

Conversation eventually flowed back to their absence, due to the fight against Wushen. Feeling guilty about leaving the injured farmers and miners from Dagan waiting for them to return for such a long period of time was very human of them. ".. I tried not to think about it but, I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me at least once." A small sigh escaped his lips as he stretched his neck to one side, and then the other. "On the other hand, at least there wasn't some sort of time limit for retrieving the medicine. So while they are probably still injured and waiting, it probably didn't get any worse. Hopefully." he mumbled that last part to himself. Swiping a hand upward, a bit faster than he'd like to admit, he opened his quest log. Still there, no big signs of the quest being cancelled out, or any 'failure' conditions. Then the relief came. "Yeah, we should be fine."

Lessa noticed it first, Jomei ruling out the increasing smell as just a nearby group of adventurers gathered around a campfire. However, when he heard the alarm behind Lessa's voice, his head swiveled to look where she was looking. The orange and yellow flames illuminating the dark interior of the cavernous floor, smoke rising and gathering within the air, barely filtering out through any tiny cracks in the ceiling. 

Jomei rushed into action shortly after Lessa, needing to take another moment to really process what was going on. Bystanders gathered round, some unsure how to help, others doing whatever they can, though all shared the same fearful look in their eyes. The buckets of water resting nearby did well to put out some of the external fire, but as Lessa called out about there being living bodies inside, Jomei knew their job wasn't finished yet. Without thinking, Jomei ran to the door and grabbed the handle. While he was not met with actual pain, his hand almost immediately went numb, and his health bar dropped a bit as he took some burning damage. "Shit." he winced, taking a step back. "Stand away from the door!" he shouted to whoever was inside. Squaring himself up with the door, Jomei forcefully bashed the heel of his boot against the wooden door frame. It took a couple of tries before he was able to knock the door inwards. 

Hot smoke poured out from the now open doorway, leaving Jomei coughing as he stumbled back, a hand up in front of his face to shield his eyes. "Come on! Out here!" he shouted inside between coughs. It did not take long for a handful of people to quickly emerge from the burning building, getting as far away from the fire as they could before catching a breath of fresh air. "Is that everyone?" Jomei asked, trying to peer past the thick smoke and flames for any other survivors.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The NPCs exploded from the burning building in a tangle of smoke and limbs. One in particular, a girl of about eleven, tumbled directly into Lessa's arms. Instinctively, the Guardian closed the girl in a tight embrace, lifting her off her feet even as Lessa moved them both backward. "You're okay," she murmured into the Sronian's soot-covered hair. "It's okay, I've got you." Only once an older woman materialized at Lessa's side, and peeled the girl off her, did the Player finally turn to Jomei. Black dust coated the lower half of her face, and she absently dragged the back of her hand across her lips before replying. "It looks like it, yeah."

"Okay, now what in the world was that?" The question burst from her before she could stop it. "I mean, we're here to get some medicine, after all this time, and now there's a fire? What are you willing to bet that the medicine is in there?"

"Who the hell are you?" boomed a voice from behind them. Lessa whipped around to find an NPC in a wheelchair, glaring up at them through smudged glasses. "And what do you want with our medicine."

"Uh, hello," Lessa replied dumbly, momentarily taken aback by the strange turn the questline took. "I'm Lessa, and this is Jomei." She motioned to her friend, succeeding in pounding his broad chest with her knuckles. "We're here because there was a cave-in in Dagan, and Tiberius sent us for medicine to help his farmers."

If the man gave a damn, he gave no indication. Instead, he simply jabbed a finger at the still burning building. "Clearly, we have nothing to offer him. So unless you have some information pertaining to how this fire started, you can leave."

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  • 4 weeks later...

The raging ball of flame continued to consume whatever remained of the building, the inner sanctum completely engulfed in smoke and fire, masking whatever would be lost to the element. A chaotic spectacle of destruction that Jomei could not pry his eyes from, the dancing orange flames reflecting off of his olive eyes. Even in that moment, as Lessa confirmed that no other bodies struggled within, and that no lives were taken, Jomei could not help feel immense relief. "Good" he said softly, only his lips moving as he continued to stare, just as everyone else around him did. 

The question that rose about the fire's coincidental appearance finally pulled the ginger's gaze from the destruction, instead falling on Lessa with slightly furrowed brows. This was no coincidence.. this was most likely in part with the quests they were partaking in. The ginger sighed as he mumbled a single, "Shit.." a dirtied hand gently cascading through his bangs and over the top of his head. 

A chairbound man would approach them from their flank, asking for their identities and intention. Lessa, always quick the response, gave the man their names - all while offering a friendly backhand to Jomei's chest, causing him to grunt softly. However, it would appear this man had more important things to worry about, like the raging fire right beside them, than Dagan and its farmers. The ginger felt a frown tug at the corners of his mouth. This was the first time they truly saw the schism that had grown between the territories first hand. 'More important matters' aside, he could almost hear a hint of animosity towards the neighboring city. 

"We understand, completely." the ginger would add with a step forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with his blonde haired companion, "And.. well.. no, we couldn't tell you what caused this fire, since we only just got here. But if it wasn't for the two of us, there would be a lot more lost than just the building." a hand would shoot outwards to his side as he spoke, gesturing towards the multiple victims who were trapped inside - the young child trapped inside - still expelling smog from their lungs and wiping soot from their eyes. "Not to discredit the others who helped, but if we had arrived any later, this would be a much different scene." 

Changing topics with a heavy inhale and exhale, he would continue. "We aren't just here on business to help Dagan, we're visiting all of the territories. We managed to help them out by rescuing some of their people.. how can we help you out? Maybe gain your trust enough to help send some aid Dagan's way?"

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  • 2 months later...

The NPC's lips nearly disappeared entirely as they drew into a paper-thin line. Behind his glasses, his dark eyes flared brighter than the fire still burning mere feet away. Despite the chair he appeared confined to, and his somewhat scholarly exterior, Lessa sensed the anger rolling off of him in waves. Or perhaps that was simply the flames, the heat it threw, and the strange, hellish light it cast. "We are perfectly capable of taking care of our own," he sneered, "and we take offense to any suggestion as to the contrary."

Clearly, Lessa longed to shoot back, even as the gathered Sronians coughed loudly. Even those who hadn't been trapped seemed sluggish in their efforts to put out the flames, as if they'd already given up hope that there was anything left to save. The Guardian itched to abandon the pointless dialogue, and aid the crestfallen NPCs, but something told her that the quest required diplomacy over physical labor. At least, this part of it did. And she could wait just a bit longer, if it meant helping the greater good. Besides, there were still people in Dagan who needed saving, too.

 "No, we aren't saying that at all," she stated, hoping that her tone didn't betray her words. "I apologize, we got off on the wrong foot here, Mister..." Her voice trailed, and though she eyed him expectantly, he remained silent. Finally, she prodded, "I never caught your name."


"Percival. Alright, Mister Percival. We're confident that you could have taken care of your own people, but we're still glad to have been here to provide backup." Without giving him an opening to comment, she forged ahead. "As Jomei said, we're just here to help." With a sweeping gesture that perhaps bordered on too showy, Lessa motioned to the still-burning wreckage. "You guys are really busy. Maybe there's something we can do while you all focus on putting out the fire?"

She thought that he might reject her again, but instead, he turned to regard the flames in contemplative silence. Then he sighed heavily. "That building held our supply of Ushiame flowers, which is the main ingredient in all of our medicinal products. We've... lost it all. If we hope to tend to our own wounded, and possibly those in Dagan, you'll need to retrieve more from the Blooming Grove." With a distracted wave of his hand, he directed them toward a nearby trail. "Bring me back what you can, and maybe we'll discuss this further."

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His muscles tightened, nearly flinching, as the man fired back at him, seemingly offended at Jomei's offer to help. Stubborn players have crossed his path plenty of times, but it wasn't very often that he was met with a stubborn NPC - and a quest giver at that. 

"W-Wait, that's-" he started, tripping over his words like a bumbling idiot.

Lessa picked up the fumble, and continued on where Jomei left off. The ginger would sigh to himself, both out of embarassment and relief, as Lessa leveled with Percival. She explained their intentions, without undermining the -obviously spread thin- people of Srona. Simply nodding along, Jomei stepped back and let his blonde companion take the lead. He woud catch himself as a soft, warm smile grew on his lips, greatly admiring Lessa's natural act for diplomacy. 

His olive eyes would finally fall of her the side of her face as Percival began to speak once more, agreeing to allow the two adventurers to help. Their mission, to travel to the Blooming Grove and retrieve Ushiame flowers. "A simple fetch quest? Seems easy enough." Jomei's weight would shift from one leg to the other as his arms cross at his chest, "What's the catch?"

Using his hands to turn the wheels of his chair in opposite directions, allowing him to turn partially away from the two players, he would point off into the distance. It was a bit difficult to see through the thick smoke of the fire, but it appeared to be a thicket along the side of one of the mountains, pulsing green light barely seeping out. "I've never been there myself to see, but apparently theres some sort of creature that lives there. Peaceful, so I've heard. The story goes, when Srona was first founded, many of the original settlers were sick from some unknown disease. Three brothers, two with this sickness, stubmled upon the Blooming Grove. They were met with the Guardian, who could sense their illness, and lead them to the Ushiame flowers."

"The first brother - who was not sick - plucked a flower from the tree, hoping to sell. The Guardian felt their deceipt, and banished them from the garden. The second brother, who was sick, began plucking multuple flowers, even more than he could carry. The Guardian found his greed to be a cancer to the grove, and was banished with the first. The final brother, only took what he needed - enough plant for the few settlers that were sick. The third brother was allowed safe passage back home."

Percival's shoulders rose and fell with a shrug, "I don't know if its true, or just some made up story. But moral of the story; don't piss off the guardian." 

With a nod of his head, Jomei thanked Percival. "Got it, thanks for the advice. We'll be careful."

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Percival turned away from them, a clear dismissal, and Lessa blew out a long breath. "Oooookay then," she drawled, though only loud enough for Jomei to hear. "I get the guy is stressed, but damn. No need to bite our heads off when we just wanted to help. When we did help." Shifting toward the path Percival had indicated, she waited until her partner did so as well before moving into a walk. As she plodded, the woman scrubbed her hands over her face, then winced as she realized how thoroughly she'd smeared soot across her flushed cheeks. "Ick," she mumbled, snagging the end of her cloak, and using to unceremoniously wipe at the grit.

"That was an interesting story though," came her muffled voice from behind the fabric. Only once she'd let it fall back into place, swirling about the heels of her boots, did she continue. "Definitely a warning for us. We can't be greedy, meaning we can only take as much as is necessary." The blonde pursed her lips in thought, then added, "However much that is. I actually have no idea. I guess we play it by ear?"

She stretched her arms over her head, working out some of the tension still knotting her back and shoulders. Apparently, pulling people from a burning building took a toll on the body, even in a video game. At least she'd finally stopped trembling. While she'd done a good enough job hiding it from Percival (and perhaps Jomei), the ordeal had left her more than a bit shaken. "I wonder what this guardian is, anyway," she began conversationally, glancing over at Jomei. "Maybe a big bear or something? That would kind of fit the setting."

Hardly any time had passed before the pair emerged in a clearing. Though trees still canopied the space, shifting leaves sending dappled moonlight falling to the ground below, there was an openness here that Lessa knew was intentional. A circular pond with a small waterfall burbled pleasantly from the opposite side. "This has got to be it," she whispered. She didn't know why she suddenly felt the need to lower the volume. Something just felt different about this part of the woods. Something felt... holy? Rubbing suddenly damp palms on her thighs, Lessa's gaze swept the meadow, searching for signs of flowers... or threats.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Hm." Jomei's throat rumbled with a hum as he exhaled deeply through his nose. "Guess not everyone is happy with us players sticking our noses in everything. But.. despite the welcoming party not being very... welcoming.. I'm happy we stuck around to help. I don't think I would've been able to sleep too well if we hadn't saved those people from the fire." The smile that had grown from relishing in their kindness to assist grew sour as the thought of leaving those stranded people to perish crossed his mind. Even if it hadn't come true, thanks to their heroics.. it pained him a bit to think that other players may not feel up to helping, after getting an earful from Percival. A hand rose to run through his hair, pushing the flowing bangs in his face to the top of his head - though his eyes trailed to Lessa as she expressed disgust, and noticed the dark soot that covered her hands and face. Glad he didn't just rub that all in his hair. 

"I think you've got little something.." the ginger said with a snide smirk, poking at his own cheek "Right here." 

The two trudged on towards the menagerie of trees that Percival had pointed out, continuing to engage in conversation the entire way.

"A bear makes sense.. or maybe some kind of deer. I guess a bear is more threatening though.. Either way, it'd be best we act with that story in mind. I'd really prefer to not get on this guardian's bad side." 

The grove was eerily beautiful. The trees and their leaves were dark, even with the shining green light of the crystal clusters, but the deep purple tones of the bark were interesting. It was also quiet, as if all sound from outside of the grove had been silenced - possibly even some noise from within. Each gentle step sounded twice as loud as his boot shifted across grass and gravel.

"Alright, let's get looking. Probably best we stick close. I don't want to lose you." he'd add with a tiny chuckle before turning his attention to the search.

"...Any idea what these flowers look like?" 

ID 218853 | LD 19 | CD 10

Ushiame Flowers [ 1 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 10/30 ]

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  • 2 months later...

Lessa nodded, humming a soft sound of agreement. "I definitely don't want to get on the guardian's bad side, either. Whatever it is, with a name like 'the guardian', it's probably packing some power." Whether that meant literal power, or symbolic, she couldn't be sure. In truth, it didn't really matter. Getting thwacked by a strong beast, or being shunned by a floor of NPCs for slaughtering their god-figure, could both be equally problematic. "I definitely hope that this guy doesn't come after us," she said suddenly, a thought coming to her. "I mean, in the story, the guy who wasn't run off was sick, right? I'm sure the moral is not to be greedy, but here's to hoping the guardian recognizes that we're trying to help." She blew out a hard breath, sending her long blonde bangs flapping. "I'd say something like 'the game wouldn't set us up on a quest that just screws us over', but I've learned my lesson in the six billion years we've been stuck in here."

I don't want to lose you, he said so conversationally, and she was surprised by the pleasant little flutter of butterflies in her stomach. Her cheeks warmed, and she flashed him a quick smile of appreciation before turning away. Flowers, flowers, flowers. People were suffering, there was medicine to be made, and no time to waste. Still, Lessa felt a bit lighter than she had a moment ago as she picked through the leaves of a nearby bush. They were the size of dinner plates, and at first glance, didn't appear to be hiding any flowers.

"I have no idea," she answered. Then she shrugged. "Not sure why, but I'm envisioning something pink. Or maybe purple, like the bark? I sort of hope they're white, so they'll stand out. It's really hard to see in the dark." She chewed on her bottom lip as she studied the bush a final time, then pivoted to explore another one. "This is such a pretty floor, and I love the crystals. But I miss the sunlight. I'm not sure I could live in a place without a day/night cycle."

ID 222484 | LD 6 | CD 5

Ushiame Flowers [ 1 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 15/30 ]

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"Looks like you were right" Jomei chimed as he pointed towards the white petals of a flower, its long stem extending a couple of inches over the tall, grass-like bush it grew out of. "At least now we have a better idea what we are looking for." A finger hovered over the delicate plant and gently tapped on it. The petals reacted in an almost frightened manner, flinching outwards before curling into a more tulip like shape. The flower then vanished with a small flash of light, data and pixels breaking down to easily transfer into his virtual pockets. 

"You and me both, and that's coming from a ginger who's worst enemy is the sun." Jomei added with a laughand a gentle palm placed on the bark of a tree as he slowly circled it. "I get that the crystals provide enough light to see, but I think the darkness would eventually drive me mad." Jomei let a beat pass before he shifted topic. "I'm actually considering moving out of Taft, as much as I love the city. Get a fresh start, look at some new scenery. Just.. haven't exactly found a floor that calls to me." A small sigh would pass his lips before he turned a face towards Lessa, smiling softly, "About time I leave that place behind, and find something new.. Any suggestions?"

As Jomei bent forward, carefully pushing through a dark shrub in search of that white flower, a shiver ran down his spine. He felt the powerful gaze of some ancient entity watching him, defensive and cautious. The feeling of an animal being hunted, mere moment before being struck down. His own breath caught in the back of his throat as he froze with fear for a moment. Jomei's gaze shot upward, and then behind him.


"I think its watching us... and I'm not sure if it trusts us.. Be ready for anything."

ID 222592 | LD 5 | CD 8

Ushiame Flowers [ 1 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 23/30 ]

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As Jomei pointed out the flower, Lessa jogged over, pressing closer to examine the item before it slipped into his inventory. Then she nodded. "Good to know, thanks. There's not a lot of light here, but hopefully a white flower will stand out a bit better than a darker colored one."

She tugged an elastic band from around her wrist, and in a smooth, sweeping motion, gathered her blonde hair at the nape of her neck. In a movement so second-nature that she was hardly aware she was doing it, Lessa pulled her hair back from her face, and wrangled it into a long, sleek tail. Then she turned away from him, shoving her hands into another bush as she mulled over his question. "It's funny that you mention that," she stated finally. "I'm actually considering moving, too. I love Manderley, but it holds a lot of memories. I'm starting fresh, and some new scenery should make that easier. Besides, I have the col, and almost thirty unique floors to choose from. Why wouldn't I?"

She straightened, pursed her lips, then added, "I'm not sure where I want to go, either. The mountains on Floor 15 are gorgeous, and I love the overall vibes. I used to teach about Tibet, so I'm all about the culture and the history. Floor 24 is pretty, too, but I'm not sure I'd want the sun and sand deal all the time." She loosed a quick shrug. "Yeah, I guess I haven't had anything call to me yet, either. Hopefully soon."

Shifting back to her search, a flash of snow-white caught her eye. Lessa grinned, lunging for it with more enthusiasm than was probably necessary. "Aha!" she declared, grabbing it by its stem and yanking. She instinctively brought it to her nose for a smell, and it shattered into light against her face. She immediately summoned her inventory, and breathed a small sigh of relief after confirming it was there. It was then, with her attention on her HUD, that she felt the eyes on her back.

She slowly closed the window, the twinkle of bells far too loud in the silence. A sideways glance at Jomei confirmed he also felt the presence. "Yeah," she replied slowly, "and the feeling's mutual. I definitely don't trust it, either. Let's get this done quickly."

ID 222984 | LD 18 | CD 2

Ushiame Flowers [ 2 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 25/30 ]

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Jomei wasn't alone in feeling the presence of something - most likely the guardian - watching their every moves. From that point on, he was ever so cautious with his movements. Watching every step as to not even disturb a stone or fallen branch, and only touching bushes where he believed a Ushiame Flower was blooming. He had even slowed his breathing, trying to mask the sound which seemed even louder with the silence of the grove, but the anxiety of impending danger from an unknown creature made that difficult. Just trying to exhale through his nose without making a sound made him feel as though he were suffocating. For a protective, mostly passive, creature.. he was terrified of what it could do to them.

A gentle breeze caused the leaves above them to shuffle. Gave him a bit of a start at first, but shortly after welcomed the masking sound so he could breathe a bit more easily. The gust also set bushes around them into a swaying motion, glints of white petals creeping out from behind them. Carefully, Jomei would step towards the plant, lowering himself down to a knee as he moved his hands towards their target. 

When suddenly, vines like serpents lashed out in his direction, the prickly thorns that coated them nearly cutting into his arms and face. With a quick dive backwards, Jomei was able to avoid the entanglement as they created a defensive barrier around the Ushiame flower he planned to pluck. It was then he saw the guardian, even if for a moment. A massive, horse-like creature with luminescent blue fur that glowed like the moon. Its white mane floated gracefully down its back, as if underwater. Golden, frond-like antlers rose out of its head which gave off the vision of two barn owls side by side. Each of its four eyes stared at Jomei, unmoving as it slowly backed into the shadow of the grove, vanishing again.

"I don't think we're welcome here anymore.." he would say over to Lessa, before shouting out to the guardian.
"Please, we don't mean you, or the grove, any harm. We just need some flowers to help mend the sick and the injured.. we aren't here for greedy reasons."

Silence followed once more, and he could only hope it would heed his words.

ID 222985 | LD 14 | CD 6 | MD 4 Miss

Ushiame Flowers [ 2 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 31/30 ]

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"It's beautiful," Lessa breathed, shocked into stillness by the Guardian's appearance. "And also terrifying." She drew a long, deep breath, then lifted both hands in a placating gesture. The creature had already lashed out at Jomei once, and that had been a very near-thing. If she weren't careful, she'd find herself at the end of those Bulbasaur-esque vines. But the Guardian did have a somewhat horse-like look, and if Lessa knew anything, it was how to act around a spooked horse.

"Easy," she murmured, her gaze bouncing haphazardly between the thing's four eyes. "Hey, look, he's right." With a slight tilt of her head, she motioned to her companion, but her eyes never left the Guardian's. "We're not here to hurt you, or take more than we need. I promise, we're just here to help out the town. They had a big fire, and their supplies are gone. There's a lot of injuries, especially after the cave-in, and... well, yeah, long story." Despite the rambling, Lessa's tone never wavered from that of an adult comforting a frightened child. And when the Guardian slipped back into the shadows, she blew out a relieved sigh.

Moving with slightly more urgency, the woman jogged toward a bush where the earlier breeze had revealed a hint of white. "Got you," she hissed, and reached out to close her fingers around the delicate stem.

There was no warning - no sudden breeze, no war cry, not even the whisper of vines cutting the still, night air. Lessa was just standing, and then she wasn't. Her legs flew out from underneath her, and she registered the pressure around her ankles at the same moment that her body smacked painfully to the ground. She was jerked backward, the flower bursting into pixels as it was dragged from her fingers. This one, some distant part of her thought, wouldn't end up in her inventory. 

Instinctively, Lessa contorted her body, reaching back to draw her weapon at the same moment that the vines gave another vicious tug. "No!" she cried out, watching helplessly as Arcael's Might nestled itself in the grass a dozen paces from where the Guardian had been dragged. Like a fish on a line, Lessa flailed, hands grabbing wildly for purchase as the Guardian dragged her into the shadows.

ID 223248 | LD 20 | CD 4 | MD 7 Hit, but also, no.

Ushiame Flowers [ 2 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 35/30 ]

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lessa's gestures and voice, much more suited for calming the otherworldly beast. Each step in its direction was cautious and calculated, the tone of each word that passed her lips was gentle. When the guardian of the grove made its presence scarce once more, the two players shared a sigh of relief. "Nice job. Handled that a lot better than I did." the ginger would say with a smile, though he kept his voice hushed to not disturb the serenity of the grove any more than they already had. Though if they would be able to continue their quest to gather the flowers was another issue. He could still feel the four eyes of the creature watching him from the shadows. "Need to be quick and careful.. We can't return empty handed." He spoke out loud, though not necessarily to Lessa.. more as a self reminder. 

Jomei was not having any luck locating another of the Ushiame flowers. Though, from over his shoulder it sounded as though his companion had. At least one of them was having a bit of luck after their encounter. He had only peered over in her direction for but a moment, but just enough to catch those same vines that blocked him from plucking a plant. This time, however, they decided to strike at the forager herself. Yanking the woman off of her feet and through the brush and dirt away from where they stood. "Lessa!" Jomei shouted, as he abandoned his search without a second thought. She put up enough of a fight to slow the reel of the vines from dragging her into the darkness of the grove, allowing the quick footed Jomei to intercept. 

"I'm sorry." the ginger would say loudly, outwardly towards wherever the guardian tested them. Retrieving his blade from its home on his hip, a quick swipe towards the ground would sever the vegetation. The vines that intertwined around Lessa went slack, while the rest of the serpentine form continued to retreat back into the wood. "You alright?" Jomei asked as he dropped down to his knees to help free Lessa of her entanglement. "I don't get it.. we've been doing everything we were supposed to. Why are we being attacked?" 

// Post action to free Lessa

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Lessa had no shame. The moment Jomei's sword severed her binds, she scrambled away like a feral animal, only finding her feet once she'd put space between herself and her attacker. "For fucks sake," she spat, somehow managing to make the three words come out on one syllable. Bending at the waist, she snagged her blade, and held it aloft as she moved back to her friend. "Apparently," she began, "I did not handle it better than you did. I handled it horribly. This whole thing is a fucking joke."

Still shaken by the close-call, Lessa was happy to let simple anger chase away the lingering, more complex fear. She held onto her mad, glaring into the shadows at the waiting Guardian. "What the fuck are we doing wrong?" she bellowed suddenly, fingers tightening around Arcael's hilt. "You just going to attack us no matter what? Doesn't matter that we have to be here, or that we're saving people? Just another stupid quest backing us into a corner?" The blonde let her head fall back, now addressing the heavens, rather than the beast in the trees. "Pretty fucking lazy writing, don't you think?"

The glade plunged into silence, Lessa still clenching and unclenching her teeth. If she had a controller to throw, she'd already have done it. Instead, she tossed Jomei a quick glance over her shoulder. "I'll keep an eye on this little shit, and you keep looking for flowers. We can trade off in a minute. Sound good?"

ID 223256 | LD 5 | CD 8 | MD 2 Fail

Ushiame Flowers [ 2 / 5 ] 
Grove Guardian Tolerance [ 43/30 ]

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