Mystic Knight Online

Chapter 37 - The Path is Busy, Please Hold

June 11, 2024 - Aincrad, Unknown Area

Yui observed the results of her and Strea's latest attempt at breaking free and restrained a sigh, or at least the equivalent of one. It had, as expected, been less than successful, especially after she notified CARDINAL about many of the errors that were beginning to crop up with increasing frequency.

While those errors would have made breaking free easier, the fact that many of them, far too many, were tied to processes that could start a sequence of errors to crop up afterward and start a cascading reaction leading to a system failure within SAO's servers was too great a risk to take. Admittedly, it was a low risk, at least in human terms, but for a digital lifeform like herself, it wasn't low enough.

It was less the risk to the system itself, but the risk such cascading failures posed to the players, all six thousand nine hundred and eighty-five of them. Unlike the NPCs, who were only as aware as required by the system, or herself, Strea, and CARDINAL, who could easily weather it due to backups, a system failure would disconnect them from SAO, with lethal consequences.

It would have gone completely against the purpose she and Strea were created for. They were created to help players after all. Even if Strea had essentially decided to abandon her role as a counseling program, it was because she wanted to be more direct in the help she provided.

Still, each failure had provided her with valuable data, even after she brought the issue of the errors up to CARDINAL so that they could be fixed rendered much of her original data less useful. Each failure showed her what didn't work, why it didn't work, and allowed her to learn from the experience. Analyzing it all, she had determined that the chances of a successful breakout would pass the fifty percent mark within a month.

She knew that any attempt could work, but it was at that point where the chances of success became higher than the chance of failure. Either way, it was only a matter of time, and unlike Strea, she had learned how to be patient.

She pushed attempting to break free aside for the moment, and decided to observe the players. At least that had started giving her something to look forward to over the last two months. While the high morale from the wedding had faded, the effect was to generally improve the emotional states of the players since, making observing them to be less saddening for her.

And while she did find Hadrian and Silica interesting, they weren't the two players she was most interested in. It was two others who were in their group that held her interest; Kirito and Asuna. In part, it was because her avatar's form would have been what many would think as how a child resulting from them would look like. A coincidence, but one which was intriguing to her, and a part of her wondered if that opened a possibility for her.

She had been curious about human families, and she wondered if she could integrate into that group that way. A family in its own way, by choice and deed, rather than by blood and relation, and one she may be able to join. And perhaps, they could serve as a restraining influence on Strea, who had somehow accessed the character creation function and created a new avatar for herself which belied the fact that she was far too young to look like a grown woman.

June 17, 2024 - Aincrad 61st Floor, Selmburg

"You're back early," Harry said, looking up from his book to see Kirito enter the large room that served as a combination of dining room and sitting room. It was one of the days that everyone in the guild dedicated to personal things, be it training, practicing any hobbies taken up, or relaxing. Asuna was experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen, Keiko and the other girls had gone down to Mol Einsen to get pampered in that Spa they liked, Kirito had decided to go out and do some training with his Dual Blades skill, and Harry had decided to be lazy for a change and read a book.

One of the Tugger Nutts books, and he could see why they were fairly popular amongst the players. Admittedly, the English was simple for a native speaker, but it was still an entertaining story. And since those fluent in English and familiar with its wordplay might know what the various innuendos and double entendres from the word play actually meant, it was outright hilarious. At least to him, it could be, though much of the wordplay was of the American variety.

He still understood most of it, the two dialects were extremely similar after all, but not all of it. He could recognize a probable case of it, though.

"I managed to break the sword I use in my offhand while practicing again." Kirito admitted with a shrug. "That makes three this month, so until I can find one that has the durability that my Elucidator has, I might have to put training Dual Blades on hold."

"The difference is that much, even now?" Harry asked, surprised.

"It was the Last Attack Bonus for the floor boss on the fiftieth floor, you remember," Kirito said. "Gear drops from bosses tend to be better quality, and their durability is higher than average, as you well know. Last Attack Bonus drops tend to be even better."

"True, but I've only managed that once," Harry noted. "Mostly because, not naming any names here, someone tends to get them more often than not. You might have heard of him. He's about your height, wears black, and isn't the most social person out there. Ever seen him around?"

Kirito snorted. "Only when I look in the mirror," he replied. "And I don't get it all the time, you know that. Besides, it's not as if I keep it all to myself, or have you forgotten where that shield you got last week came from?"

"That thing I use as Pina's dinner plate?" Harry retorted. "I thought you got it so we could just put food on it so she would stop stealing it from our plates."

"Surprised she hasn't eaten it as well," Kirito noted.

"Fortunately, she doesn't eat gear." Harry said with a shrug. "Might have to do with it being, I don't know, not food? Now, if one was made of meat, that would be a different story."

Kirito laughed and shook his head. The little feathered dragon's appetite and love of all things edible, especially meat, was a running joke within the guild. The fact that she could easily eat her weight in meat, and be ready for more in short order was also well known. Where she put it all after she ate it was just one of those mysteries.

"Still, breaking three swords in a month?" Harry asked. "Unless we get lucky on drops, you might need to head to Liz's or Grandzam to get one crafted that can take the abuse."

"I'll do that next week," Kirito said. "Barring a drop."

"Good idea," Harry acknowledged. "So, what'll you be doing then?"

Kirito shrugged. "Probably look at the progress I made and see what I can do to improve the training," he replied. "I've gotten it to 350, so I've opened up a few skills."

"350 already?" Harry asked, impressed. "You've been heading out at night to do some training on your own then?" At Kirito's nod, he sighed and shook his head. "I'm not surprised. Is it more like when we were training Keita and the others last year?"

"Pretty much," Kirito said with a nod. "Go out, train for a couple of hours, and then come back to get some sleep. I do it every other day, sometimes every three days, depending on how tired I feel. Most of it is me basically refining my technique. You know, doing attack patterns that can lead into sword skills, figuring out which skills are better for leading into certain follow-on stances, those things. And before you ask, Asuna knows as well, and don't even bother trying to hide the fact that you do the same, if less often."

"Kirito, we all do, to some degree," Harry said. "Including Lux, and it's often enough that it's hard to imagine that she used to be the scaredy cat of the group. Now she's going out to train on her own initiative, though she makes sure someone is with her when she does. Does Asuna go out with you?"

"She does, normally," Kirito said. "But she wanted to work on her cooking a bit today, something about wanting to try something, so it was just me out there." He then shook his head. "Still, breaking three weapons in a month is a bit much, even for me."

Harry shrugged. "At least you're not blowing yourself up when practicing with your skill." He countered. "Keiko has gotten a lot of laughs out of that, though I might decide to see if I can do that with throwing spikes." He got a thoughtful look on his face. "You know, that might… hmm…"

"Harry?"

"It's nothing," Harry said. "Just an idea I might want to try out when I go practice some other day. By the way, I have something in the works that's been showing promise, now that I have gotten it more or less down. Still takes too long to be really effective in combat, but in the right circumstances, it might be useful."

"And what would that be?" Kirito asked.

"Transferring one of my affinities to someone else's weapon," Harry said with a smirk. "I don't know if it's a part of the skill, or just me exploiting the fact that it's not against SAO's rules, but I found out early on that I could activate an affinity, and hand the weapon over. It only lasts for thirty seconds, but in a fight…"

"Thirty seconds is a long time," Kirito finished. "But you said it takes too long to set up. How long does it take?"

"Right now, it takes ten seconds if I'm not holding the weapon, though it does have to come into contact with mine," Harry admitted. "Too long to be something I can use regularly, but it's still an improvement over when I first had the idea. Again, not really practical for combat, but it can have uses all the same."

Kirito nodded. "Such as when switching out or backing off long enough to get the time to do so," he said. "Done right, you can transfer the affinity to someone else's weapon, and then both of you can move in. I wonder if we can tie that in with that one thing I've heard about recently, skill chaining."

Harry considered that, and nodded slowly. "Maybe, but I don't think doing it that way would trigger a chain effect." He said thoughtfully. "Do you know the specific requirements?"

Kirito shrugged. "Unfortunately, I don't," he admitted. "It's still fairly recent, but it probably has to do with specific timing on the part of the ones doing the chaining. Much like using one-handed sword skills in sequence on your own, though the timing is probably more forgiving."

Harry nodded. He knew that it had to have been a recent addition, a patch added to SAO, since it would have been discovered far sooner otherwise. Kayaba occasionally changed the way the world worked under their noses between game days in minor ways. He remembered that one cave some of the more... 'gamer' players had camped in front of before their jailor/GM fixed the spawning rules... but Kayaba was at least fair enough to issue broad notes to the players. Especially if it changed a rule that was generally known. Usually to make things fairer, for a given definition of "fair" in SAO, but everyone knew that there were minor tweaks that were constantly happening.

No one knew why he would do so, but the general consensus was that, regardless of whether they managed to succeed or not, he wanted to ensure that they had a chance to do so, however slim.

And yet, sometimes, it seemed as if some changes happened on their own, without his input, as if the world changed slightly on its own. Maybe it was the players themselves affecting things in small ways which added up over time. Maybe all of Kayaba's little patches added in there too. Harry wasn't exactly knowledgeable about the matter.

He idly remembered something he learned early on in SAO, on how treating the NPCs well-tended to be acknowledged and reciprocated by them. Little things like politeness, common courtesy, and treating them as something besides being part of the environment had worked out for him and Keiko in small, but significant ways. The food tasted better, the beds they slept on were slightly more comfortable… little things, really. But those little things had made their enforced stay just that much more comfortable.

It made Harry wonder if the system was learning from them, while they were learning from the system itself.

##

Asuna tasted the mix she had put together and frowned thoughtfully. It was almost there, but not quite what she was looking for. Perhaps I need to add some more sag leaf to the mix, she thought. The elbiba seed got it to the right consistency and color, and the oleg fish bone managed to give it the salty flavor, but it is still missing something. Well, time to try again, I almost have it. If I can get it done soon, I can add it to tonight's dinner. But even if not today, soy sauce will be on the menu soon.

It had taken her weeks to learn the nature of each mat used in cooking. Their flavors, their textures, how they worked with certain types, and noting it all down. By the time she was done, she had something that was reminiscent of the reaction tables she had used in Chemistry classes whenever they did lab work, but all of it paid off. The fact that the experimentation had also provided a massive boost to her cooking skill was also appreciated.

Most of the relatively few players who tried their hand at cooking followed known recipes, all of which could be obtained with ease from any establishment that served food and drink. Some experimented from there, to create their own variants. And a very few tried to design their own recipes from scratch, using their experience with cooking mats in general to experiment. The latter, which effectively created new recipes on their own, if successful, provided massive boosts to increasing the cooking skill, and was almost considered a requirement to max the skill out.

Asuna started as the first type, often did the second type, and was now trying her hand at the third. Her goal? Create an SAO analogue to soy sauce. If she could, then she could use it as the base for further testing and duplicate more flavors. She already had managed to create an SAO analogue to mirin, and sugar already existed, so if she could do this, then she had everything she needed for what she planned for dinner. Even without the rest, just having soy sauce alone would give her options for flavoring meals that she didn't have beforehand.

She was looking forward to surprising everyone tonight.

##

Silica took a bite of the meal and blinked. There was something familiar about the flavor, something she remembered. A quick glance around the table showed that most were staring at the food in some confusion, as if they were tasting something familiar, but couldn't quite place it.

Well, Harry wasn't, though he stopped as well when everyone else did. He gave them all curious looks and then turned his attention to Asuna, who was looking hopeful at the rest of them. He then slowly took another bite, making sure to get some of the meat into the sauce, and took another bite.

She watched her husband as he chewed carefully and then swallowed. He then gave Asuna a knowing look.

"You managed it, didn't you?" He asked. "I can't place the flavor, I was only in Japan for a couple of months before all this started, but it's a flavor I've tasted before."

Silica took another bite and concentrated on the flavor herself, using Harry's conclusion as a guide. As she thought about the flavor, her eyes widened as she finally placed it, teriyaki. Asuna had managed to duplicate the flavor of teriyaki. How? She thought as she looked back at the guild leader.

"It took some work," Asuna said, apparently reading the question in Silica's expression. "I needed to learn how all the ingredients worked before I could even think of combining them to duplicate the flavor. SAO has sugar already, and mirin was surprisingly easy to duplicate, but soy sauce?" She shook her head. "I think I tested about fifty ingredients before finding the right ones to combine. After that, it was simply getting the right amounts of everything together."

Silica and the rest looked surprised, and then took another bite.

"She's right," Lux said after a moment.

"Teriyaki," Rain said happily. "It's teriyaki."

Kirito simply continued eating, as if it was the best food he had tasted in years, and if he didn't take the chance to eat it right now, it would disappear.

"Well, we can tell Kirito likes it," Asuna said, amused. She then looked at Harry, who was chowing down and putting a few pieces of meat on a smaller plate. "And Harry's certainly enjoying it as well. Though he's also putting some scraps on a plate."

Harry glanced to the side and everyone noticed Pina staring at the small plate with a posture that screamed eagerness. He carefully pushed it in front of the little dragon, who then took an experimental bite of the meat before eagerly starting on the rest, giving content sounds that were almost a cross between chirps and growls. The second she was done, she looked at Harry almost eagerly and giving him "puppy-dog" eyes, causing him to snort in amusement, before he pointedly reached out and gave her a gentle scratch at the base of her skull.

"She was going to either beg or steal some of it from me anyway," he said, putting a couple of more pieces of meat on the plate in front of Pina. "Still, it's good, excellent even!"

June 19, 2024 - Aincrad 65th Floor, Horin Skyways, Western Path

Rain took a look around as the light from the teleport faded when Kirito went and investigated the crystal that had been found inside the cave they were exploring and mapping. The sixty-fifth floor had been a source of frustration for many players in the assault team for two weeks as they found themselves running into the proverbial brick wall in terms of getting anywhere more than a kilometer from Barist, the floor's main town.

They had decided to go westward to check something Harry had heard from one of the NPCs. Not from any questions he asked, but from one of those random conversations that NPCs had and many players often tuned out. Well, those outside of Argo's network, at any rate.

Not that the solution for getting around the floor hadn't been obvious from the start. The various floating structures in the air, almost like bridges, were clearly visible from almost anywhere that had an unobstructed view. The problem had been in finding out how to access them so they could continue the exploration of the floor.

Well, it looks like we figured out how to access this one, she thought.

She took a look around the area again and noted the linear path involved. Unsurprising, as the current consensus was that the entire thing was designed as a means of getting around a floor that held a broken terrain of sheer cliffs going up or down into the floor's base itself. In other words, a place that was a nightmare to navigate, and which had kept hundreds of players stymied for longer than usual.

"Well, we're here," she heard Harry say. "And I don't see any… never mind, don't want to tempt fate here."

Turning she shot him a questioning look.

"I don't see any mobs, but with our luck, there are going to be flyers before long," he explained. "If not here, then on the next one we'll need to use."

Rain looked to Asuna, who nodded at his statement. "He's right," she said. "Harry, you, Silica, and Lux take the right side, two meters from the edge. Kirito, Rain, and I will take the left, same distance. This way, a sudden pull shouldn't pull us off."

"Perhaps it should be three meters," Kirito said, giving the edge, and its lack of any barriers to keep the unwary from falling, a wary look. "And we could stagger our formation." He brought up a window and made a quick diagram of what he thought. "If Harry is in the lead, he can watch all directions to the front, I can take the back and do the same," he pointed at the two points representing the lead and tail. "The staggered formation will also give each of us a little more room to maneuver if need be as well."

"Not a bad idea," Asuna said, nodding in acceptance of his idea. "Where'd you learn this?"

Kirito shrugged. "There was an American game out a couple of years ago, and it actually used real tactics and maneuvers used by military units." He said. "There were some liberties taken, but many of the squad movements were based on what military units actually use. What I just proposed is designed to move quickly, and if there are flyers here…"

Asuna nodded. "Then it'll be best if we get through here quickly," she finished. "Any mobs would have an advantage here, since our mobility is restricted. This will allow us to cover all directions so we can respond."

"Except up," Lux chimed in, noting the understandable tendency for adventurers to often fail to think in three dimensions. Though flying mobs were far from rare, they tended to be more direct and linear in their attacks. That tended to make those mobs who didn't attack that way problematic for many.

"Just keep an eye on the sky every now and then," Asuna replied. "Let's go."

They all nodded and got into the formation.

Aincrad 65th Floor, Mee Forest

Asuna looked to the rear as the light of the teleport faded, seeing the crystal which would most likely lead back to the skyway glowing with a simple blue light. The trek across it had been without difficulty, with mobs being an actual rarity on it. However, the formation they adopted had proven itself to be effective, as Harry's suspicion that flying mobs would be the most likely encounters had been correct. Not that it came as a surprise, given that they were on a path that was suspended in the air.

She mentally filed it away, and looked around the forest she and her guild had entered from the skyway. She could see the path which led along and out of the forest, and from a general look around, this place wasn't even remotely friendly. It was still midday, and yet the dark and gloomy atmosphere made it seem as if it was closer to evening. Add in the relative chill that seemed to permeate the forest, and the general silence of their surroundings, it gave her a bad feeling.

"I don't like this," Kirito said. "There's something about this place that's just not right." He shuddered. "Just being here makes my skin crawl."

"The last time I was in a forest this quiet, I didn't enjoy the experience one bit." Harry added. "And that was before SAO."

"Run into any scary animals?" Rain joked.

"One of those times, yes." Harry replied seriously. "There are some strange things in the more remote parts of Scotland, and some of those things that people think don't exist… just might." He shrugged. "It was dark out, so it's not like I got a good look, and I wasn't interested in doing so. This place gives the same feeling." He looked around and shuddered. "I second Kirito's statement, I don't like this place."

"Both Harry and Kirito don't like the feel of this place? That's our cue to be afraid," Silica said drily to the others.

"We'll follow the path for a bit until we either find a way out, we reach a dead end, or two hours have passed," Asuna said. "If we hit a dead end, or the two hours are up, we'll teleport back to Barist and post the map data, as well as the info on how to get here." She looked around. "Still, we might want to have our weapons drawn and our eyes sharp." She added.

Everyone nodded.

##

Lux scanned the trees to her left, her schiavona held in her hand in a manner of relaxed readiness. The last hour had been interesting, for a given definition of the term. While mobs had been scarce due to their staying on the path, all of the fights against them had been odd, to say the least.

There was something just wrong about the mobs in the forest. Not about their type, the dark and gloomy atmosphere did well enough to hint at what they faced. It was as if something had infected the mobs, or had damaged them in a way.

Some mobs seemed incomplete, parts of their bodies seeming to break off and reform. Some of them seemed to have their stats all over the place. And some seemed to not be able to decide what their stats should be. She remembered fighting treants that seemed to verge from being ridiculously easy, to seemingly something that would be at home five or six floors higher, often changing during the fighting.

She saw the markers which indicated a safe-zone and noted the odd sensation of the air seeming to bend around them as they walked through the field separating it from the rest of the forest, and everyone relaxed. It might only be temporary, and confined to the small location, but they were safe, for the moment.

"What the hell is wrong with this place?" Rain asked. "I mean, it's like everything here is glitched."

Lux nodded and turned to Kirito, who had a pensive expression on his face. "Not quite," he said after a moment. "We've all seen glitched areas before, and none of them were like this. It's more like the underlying data was damaged, and the system's trying to compensate."

"Damaged?" Harry asked. "How?"

"Maybe a cyberattack by someone trying to free us on the outside, or someone doing so just because," Kirito admitted. "I don't know, but I've seen something like this before in another game. Someone hacked the system and did some damage, and it did things like this before. Nothing to damage it all, but it took those in charge weeks to fix it all."

"And that means… what?" Harry asked.

"It means that this area's unstable," Kirito concluded. "We need to get out of here and tell others that coming here is probably going to be a lot more dangerous than usual because of it. We can't stop them from coming here, but if we at least put the info out, they'll at least know the dangers if they decide to chance it anyway."

They all nodded, though Lux's was a bit reluctant. While only warning people about it was all that was required of them, the fact that they weren't likely to try and stop players from trying their luck made her uncomfortable. "We might want to advise them to do so in full groups, and to be ready to leave on a moment's notice," she said. "I know we can't stop them from coming out here, but…"

Asuna nodded. "But telling them to be ready to flee if necessary wouldn't hurt. That, and the fact that this might be a glitched area means that teleport crystals might not work, or worse, not work properly."

Everyone winced at the possibility. While expensive, teleport crystals were an essential part of most inventories for front line and Assault Team members, as they were the last resort to get out of a bad situation. Veteran adventurers always had a few, and nearly all the front line and mid-level players have had their lives saved by using them by now.

The risk that the crystals might not work was not something anyone liked to think about, though there were enough incidents for players to realize that the possibility of it happening was now increasing. What had once been an extremely rare event, often tied to traps, was now becoming something that was considered merely rare, and now tied to locations.

It was disconcerting, especially since the usual advantage of having levels that were at least ten levels higher than the floor number was becoming less effective with the way the mobs were now beginning to fight. While it was something that was relatively easily managed with good teams, the fact that their quickest means of healing and their "I'm out" options were closed off in those occasions made an already dangerous situation worse. Potions still worked, but they were slower than crystals, and a situation requiring a crystal usually meant that you needed a lot of healing now, rather than a burst of healing and then gradual further healing.

"So unless we find an exit from here to a different zone, and that place isn't glitched as well, we're walking back then." Silica noted with a sigh. "Looks like it'll be a long day."

"Still, there's one good side to this, for a given definition of good, at least." Harry said. At everyone's confused looks he grinned. "We can explore for the sake of exploring for a change. I wonder how many things we missed because we've always tailored our work towards advancing."

"Well, we do need to get out," Asuna noted.

"Granted," Harry agreed. "But you have to admit, there have to be things here that we can find that would be looking around and actually seeing this world." He looked at everyone. "Think about it for a moment. Most floors aren't exactly direct in how we find the field bosses and open up the labyrinths, and the few exceptions more or less prove the rule. Kayaba would have done it that way to encourage exploration, we've been doing just that on this floor while we tried to figure it out. That, and I probably think Kayaba wants us to see what this place has to offer."

"He has a point," Lux noted.

"I would still rather not explore this place anymore," Asuna said calmly. "Glitched zones are too unpredictable, and this zone gives even Harry and Kirito a bad vibe." She looked at the two of them. "And if a place gives both of you a bad vibe, well, Silica had it right. The rest of us should be afraid."

"Good point, and there are plenty of other places on other floors we can check out," Harry admitted. He looked around. "Should we test the crystals, just to be sure?" His question may have been calm, but everyone could see his wariness, even in the safe zone.

Asuna nodded. "Perhaps we can try," she said, carefully. "If it doesn't work, you all remember the way back, right?"

Everyone nodded.

Aincrad GM Area

Kayaba looked at the status of CARDINAL's repair of several damaged areas and frowned. He had prioritized the repairs to the damaged zones on the sixty-fifth floor, as the players were now there, and he didn't want to find out what their interacting with any damaged areas could do. There was also the possibility that they would figure out that the outside world had managed to break in, even though he had close that route off, and that would give them a false hope.

He even quarantined the area, Mee Forest, setting it up so that players couldn't access it, feeling that a delay of a couple of weeks was preferable to what could happen. It was less that they could be killed, the players who would venture there knew the risks, it was the fact that the area was so unstable that the presence of players could cause the problem to get worse.

Naturally, and not entirely unexpectedly, players found a way in. He had forgotten about that out of the way access point via the Horin Skyways. Pulling up the data on it, he realized that it had been intended as a shortcut for players to use, either through finding it, or opening it from the Mee Forest. He had simply forgotten to disable that particular NPC conversation so they wouldn't get the idea.

Well, the conversation may have been what gave them the impetus to look more carefully in that area, but knowing players in general, they would have stumbled on it anyway. In fact, he should probably be surprised that it took this long for any group from the Assault Team to manage it. Two weeks with so little progress would have had them tearing apart every place they could go to see if there was something they missed. While nowhere near as thorough as follow on groups, let alone mid-level players, they were every bit as skilled at detailed exploration. More skilled, really. They were just highly focused towards clearing the floor, so the degree of mapping and quest data tended to be skewed in that direction.

So, it was Hadrian of Steel Phoenix who stumbled upon the information, he thought as he looked over the logs. He isn't a scouting or information gathering type of player, but he is someone who knows to pay attention to even the most random bits of information. Probably Argo's influence, though any experienced player knows the value of information gathering by now. He pulled up a different log and browsed it, as well as the recording from their brief stay in the safe zone. From the combat data, they handled themselves well, but with the information they spread, it's clear that they recognized just how dangerous that area could potentially be. He looked over the data for the zone and saw that there were no other players in it for now. Time to close that opening off for the time being.

"CARDINAL, ensure all teleporters leading from the Horin Skyways to Mee Forest are disabled," he ordered. "Restore functionality once the repairs are ninety percent complete."

"ACKNOWLEDGED," CARDINAL replied. "QUERY: SHOULD A NOTIFICATION BE SENT?"

"Yes," he replied. "Advise them that the area is under repair due to damage suffered by a malicious hacking attempt, and that we are hoping to restore it in short order."

"POSIT: PLAYERS ARE UNLIKELY TO BELIEVE IT DUE TO TIME CURRENTLY TAKEN."

"True, but without changing the way the floor operates and the progression, it is the only promise I can make," he admitted. "Open up Quest IDs 10A57 through 2B211 on the previous floors to allow them to occupy their time." He smiled. "They were designed to be challenges, and should distract them enough for the damage to be repaired with minimal interference."

"ACKNOWLEDGED."