Oh god it has been AGES since I've worked on this, honestly the hundreds of bot comments discouraged me but seeing there were reviews form actual people sorta gave me hope.
Anyway, I'm back, and I'm going to try finish this story. (Famous last words)
Fox boss – your wish is my command
Bluedog44 – it has been almost two years I think since you were hoping for me to update this story soon…sorry about the wait.
Either way, thank you both for your comments – they've made me re-realise my love for this story and I hope I can end it well.
Kurt entered the OASIS with a nervous jump in his step, and it was only partially calmed when he saw H waiting in what had become their 'usual' spot.
He offered a smile, and Kurt returned it.
"Vhere's Parzival?" Kurt asked, rocking back and forth on his feet as hundreds of users milled around them and ignoring the sick feeling in his stomach.
"Decided to go browse the journals," H replied, and before Kurt could respond he held up a hand "I don't know if it has anything to do with what you told us, but I doubt it."
"Fair enough," the blue creature sighed, "vhat part of ze OASIS should ve travel to today?"
"There are a few more PvP and combat zones" there was a grin on H's voice, "They've got different rules and such, but I figured you'd want to see them"
"Ja, that'd be good," and a smile slowly grew on Kurt's face to match H, "and zank you for keeping my secret."
"The less IOI knows, the better." H snorted.
They went to leave, ease of conversation and friendship finally returning, only for the mood to be soured. A battalion of Sixers walked in unnerving uniformity, looking ever more like an army, and entered the race. It seemed everyone stopped to watch them, some with apathy and others with anger.
And some, like Kurt, with growing fear.
When the Sixers dispersed H dragged Nightcrawler towards the portal leading to the PVP zone she had in mind.
"They're damn flies" She barked with a slight laugh as she watched the Sixers, and the demonic avatar pursed his lips.
"I'd liken them more to ticks," he eventually responded as they walked through the portal, "feeding off the life blood of this place and infecting it with disease."
H made to reply, but the pixels and noise as they were transported overtook her voice. She shook the ominous tone that Kurt had spoken with from her head, and instead grinned as she thought about what he would think of this new area.
Afterall, it'd be fitting for someone who liked to fight with older fashioned weapons.
"Leave them to their stupid race," she said elbowing him in the ribs as a green forest spread before us; the pixels rendering a scene more beautiful than anything that could exist in the real world. Dew seemed to hang in the air, and a soft fog thread itself through the trees and over the dirt paths.
On the distance, a stone castle rose.
"Welcome to Camelot" H smiled.
Scene after scene flicked in front of him, and his eyes scoured them for clues.
But for once, these clues he was looking for had nothing to do with the Hunt.
Halliday was a genius, and used the OASIS to make what the world was meant to be digitally by drawing from pop culture, history, magic and more. The OASIS was perfection, but it sprung from the real world and as such, maybe there was something…maybe…
He sighed and ran his hands through his lightly floating hair, he was clutching at straws. He was also putting off what he had come here to do.
He pulled up a search, and typed in Nightcrawler. When it prompted him to refine it, either to look for text, audio, or anything that could be a related visual, he selected all.
It took awhile to search, and when it did it returned a single scene; specifically a background detail that even with the highly rendered OASIS interface was only just more than a blur. It seemed to be an old poster of some sorts, barely kept together and black and white.
Sideshow Freaks; The Incredible Nightcrawler
The image that accompanied was nothing more than a silhouette, with two white spots that served to give it menacing eyes. Bars drawn over it seemed to keep it from lunging out from the paper and devouring whoever was watching.
Parzival barely registered the audio that began playing;
"I want the OASIS to be a place that everyone can be themselves" Halliday's voice said, "Where they can be the selves they want to be, not just what they were born as"
Parzival squinted, and he could make out just a little more of what the creature looked like.
It's feet seemed bent backwards, and it's hands had only…
Parzival backed away slightly from the screen.
It had to be coincidence.
It had to be.
Just a coincidence.
Or maybe another clue or hint, because the OASIS was a game and everything counted towards winning it.
The new area was a change of pace from planet Doom. True there was still little skill, some had developed a proficiency in wielding a fake blade but they were self-taught at best and had a hundred errors in their form. Despite this, he enjoyed watching, especially in the joust.
He flinched when a lance broke and rained splinters on the crowd, when he saw H with a glint of mischief in his eyes as he watched a sword fight on the opposite side. A glowing figure was a constant in each battle, an NPC, with a glowing health bar above their head.
Their armour was regal, almost golden, and their blade glinted with a sharpness that in the real world would be enough to ward of any foolhardy enough to challenge.
"I zought I already proved my skill to you and Parzival," Kurt said, as another challenger dissolved into a shower of coins quickly picked up by the crowd like vultures.
"You did, but I also thought you'd want to win another sword" H replied, "defeat him and you become worthy of taking the sword from the stone"
The sword in question was every bit as grand as the legends had made it out to be, and it stood proudly surrounded by a forcefield a little behind the NPC.
"So I'm meant to believe no-one has von?" Kurt asked,
"Some people claim to," H answered shrugging, "and they say something glitched so it doesn't give you the prize even if you do."
"Zen vhy are people still trying?"
"Because nobody really thinks it's a glitch, and that you actually have to be worthy."
And before Kurt could ask more questions he was being pushed towards the fight by H, and was pushed into the combat zone by an eager crowd.
"State your name, challenger"
"Nightcrawler, and might I ask for yours?" Kurt said with an impish grin.
"King Arthur." and the NPC drew their sword.
Once again Nightcrawlers skill astounded her, but now she could truly appreciate the mastery. He blocked and parried the King's blade with ease and made quick work of landing devastating blows onto any weak point he saw open.
The health bar above the NPC's head shrunk with each devastating blow, and the crowd half cheered and half booed as Nightcrawler somehow backflipped over an incoming swipe. They cheered for the talent, and booed because there were no coins to scrounge.
There was but one hit point left, and the NPC's movements were slow as pixelated blood dripped down their chainmail. It would barely even take a hit to finish it, but at the last moment Nightcrawler stopped.
"Do you yield?" The question seemingly sprang from nowhere, and it took a second for the NPC to find its correct response.
"Nay, I cannot for the sake of my kingdom!" and with a last desperate lunge it found itself stricken through the throat by Nightcrawlers blade. The clinical precision with which it was done unsettled her slightly, as did the resigned look on the demonic avatars face.
The NPC faded to pixels, and slowly reformed.
"You have won the sword in the stone! Please collect your prize!" Its voice was cheery, and the crowd watched the forcefield in anticipation. When it didn't drop, they yelled and booed more, and H joined for but a second when everyone fell silent.
Nightcrawler walked towards the NPC, and drew the sword it had fought with from the sheath.
"Congratulations on obtaining your prize! Upon your characters destruction it will return here once more!" The cheery voice announced, and the NPC along with the false sword faded into pixels.
Meanwhile, the sword in Nightcrawlers hand lost its strange sheen and now looked tangible and real.
H let out a whoop and ran to congratulate her friend.
"How did you figure it out dude?" she said excitedly, "Seriously you keep on destroying what I expect of you."
"Words have power," Nightcrawler laughed, pulling a humorously mystical expression, "one must listen to what is said and how."
"Next you'll be telling me you made a deal with the devil and learnt the hard way," H said, pulling the demonic creature into a one armed hug, before yelling to the crowd.
"Behold the new King of Camelot!" and she summoned a paper crown to sit on top of his head.
Parzival was quick to contact H, asking for their whereabouts in the OASIS.
"Listen H, I've found something you might want to see," he whispered harshly, though he needn't have bothered considering the crowd drowned out his and H's conversation, "if you can get here without blue it'll be best"
He saw H's pixelated face frown, and glance reluctantly back over his shoulder.
"I don't know what's gotten into your head…but fine, he can handle himself here well enough," his friend eventually responded, "especially with his disappearing trick."
"I'm at the journals." And with that Parzival ended the call.
It didn't take long for H to arrive, and when he did Parzival dragged him inside the archives and pulled up the scene he had found.
"I don't get it what are you trying to prove man?" H asked, squinting at the image, before slowly realising who it resembled. "Maybe he just saw it and decided it looked cool?"
"He didn't know about the Hunt, he only entered the OASIS a little while ago!" Parzival said, "He doesn't even care about the journals and if he did, why would he choose a random background detail that doesn't even have to do with the Hunt itself!"
"…you think he looks like his avatar in the real world…" and the OASIS's ability to pick up audio made the dryness and tension in H's voice all the more obvious.
"And if he does look like that, then who's to say there aren't others."
The crowd had dispersed slightly, and he left the stone castle to wander into the forest. The sunlight filtered through the treetops, and he could almost feel it warming his fur.
What he wouldn't give to find a place like this in the real world, where he could find a nice place to curl up and sleep for eternity in. He could practically feel the soft grass underfoot, practically smell the sweet forest air.
He continued on his way until he reached a lake, and a small hovering message appeared above him warning that beyond the lake was classified as a PVP zone. Shooing it away, he sat next to the water and watched the reeds on the bank move back and forth in a fake breeze.
Kurt jumped more than he'd like to admit when a figure slowly rose from the water, wearing the familiar glow of an NPC.
"…Hello?" Kurt eventually asked, and the NPC met his eyes. It took the form of a woman, long hair and glowing eyes, with what might've been an ethereal beauty had she not been programmed by mortals.
"I am Nimue, Lady of the Lake, what brings you here adventurer?"
"Nothing but a vant for some peace," Kurt replied, "I am sorry to have disturbed you."
"You want no spells? No wishes to be grant? Nor the sword Excalibur?" It rattled off, and when Kurt shook his head, the NPC slowly moved to sit beside him and it's glow faded ever so slightly.
"Do you appear in the world as you appear in the mirror?" The question startled him, and he watched the glow fade a little more, it's hair stopped floating and its entire body grew more tangible.
"It depends, vhat do you count as ze vorld and vhat do you count as ze mirror?" Kurt eventually replied, tilting his head with a smile.
"You know what I mean clever imp," and the grin that grew on it's face was too real for it to be a program, "you are the part of the world the OASIS wishes it could be."
"These are dangerous vords you speak, Nimue, especially vhen there are ears everywhere," his voice trailed off when he slowly saw movement on the opposite side of the water, "if you reside in the stacks on the edge of freedom, find me vhere the gaping maw of ze remaining go to fill their gullet."
"Then I will see you there, but first I must ask you to destroy those who have come to seek me, for should they notice my leave we would be caught." And she raised a hand, slowly gaining its glow once more, towards the movement in the trees. When he nodded she flicked her hand, and his avatars clothes changed to black bloodstained armour that made him seem all the more demonic.
He grimaced as a knight wandered out.
Three swords, in reality he'd have held one in his tail and fought with all three at once, here he couldn't unless…
He had a spare glove.
It was slightly broken, but it'd work provided he could find it without removing his visor. With a silent prayer he sunk down to his hands and knees and crawled off the platform, realising all too well how ridiculous he looked in both reality and the OASIS. He scrambled around, Murd3r3r finally taking notice of him and beginning to stalk forwards around the lake. It seemed an eternity before he found the glove, and when he did he quickly threaded it onto his tail and hoped his idea would work as he shuffled back to the platform.
Summoning the sword in the stone, it was a miracle that the OASIS picked up the damaged glove and allowed him to wield his three weapons.
Much the knight's anger as he finally stopped at the threshold between the non-combat zone and the PVP zone.
"I will rid this land of your foul presence demon!" The words stung, more than Kurt thought they would, but he had to appreciate how wholeheartedly the player seemed to take his role.
But you couldn't be hurt here, not really, so Kurt grinned and snarled.
Words couldn't hurt if it was just a game, and holding onto that mentality as best as he could and driven by the hope that there would be another like him, he danced past the threshold.
Their blades met with a shower of sparks and shrill shriek.
"Vhat is your name, opponent?" He asked through gritted teeth, either his opponent was strong in reality, or had some sort of buff that allowed him to just be able to hold equal to the demonic mutant.
"Deathdefyer," a voice growled from behind the metal helmet, "and I have never lost a battle."
"Nightcrawler," Kurt replied, parrying a swing and then jabbing with his tail as he spun to block another attack, "vould it be foolish of me to ask if you vant to yield?"
He received no reply but an obvious swing down onto his head, and though it no doubt had the brute force to cleave his arm from his body both in and out of the OASIS he quickly flipped to the side. Dropping down he swept at the knights cumbersome form, and Deathdefyer landed on his rear with a loud clank.
Quickly standing, he used the tip of his new sword to knock off the knights helmet by levering it through the eye-slit; something that brought the sharp edge unnervingly close to his opponents digital eyes.
He pressed the sword in his right hand against where his opponents jugular would have been, were he not a digital avatar.
"I ask again, do you yield?" He asked, "Or would you rather we both withdraw?"
The avatars head sunk in defeat, his pride wounded but not to the point where he would risk his coin. He reluctantly took Kurt's hand as he helped him up.
"You fight dirty, demon." His opponent said as he picked up his helmet, "Next time we meet I will walk away victorious." He looked towards the lake.
"Where is the lady of the lake?" Deathdefyer asked, realising the absence of the glowing figure exiting the water. Turning towards Kurt, he saw him make a shush moment.
Kurt went to respond, but several sixers walked from the trees and he made quick work to draw the knight back over to the non PVP zone. They looked out of place in the greenery, and Kurt began to understand and feel the intensity of distain many other must've felt towards them. Not just the gunters, but those who embrace the different parts of the OASIS only to have the illusion of peace shattered.
"What do you think of them?" Kurt asked, ignoring Deathdefyers previous enquiry.
"Sixers? A good reminder not to go into debt," Deathdefyer snorted, glaring at both him and the IOI servants, "I just keep hoping they don't win this place, because they'll make debt unavoidable."
Kurt pondered for a moment, yes he would meet Nimue in the real world but then what? In truth he was living day to day with little to do, and the OASIS had given him something. An addictive normalcy and escape, and perhaps it had begun to make him complacent.
"Where are they based in the real world?"
Even though he was once again wearing his helmet, Kurt could vividly see the confusion Deathdefyer's face must've worn, but he still replied with the location of their main centre of operations.
"Thank you, I look forward to our next bout." Kurt nodded in thanks and began walking away back towards Camelot.
"Wait but where's the lady of the lake?" Deathdefyer yelled out at his retreating form.
"At another lake, not sure which but not zis one!" Kurt yelled back, before sprinting away and changing his clothes back to what they were and smiling at the addition of armour to his inventory.
He had plans and goals for the real world, it was truly made and he couldn't understand why he should attempt something so foolhardy.
Taking on an entire organisation? Madness! Idiocy!
But maybe…it'd give the gunters a better change to look and understand the clues, win the competitions without having to avoid IOI's cannon fodder.
He sent off a quick message to Parzival and H, asking them to meet him back in their usual place.
He needed to tell them his plans, and see if they were really as insane as he thought.
Long chapter to hopefully make up for my absence, aiming to finish the story in the next few chapters :D