Chapter 3 Ruled by Rage: Motivated by Will
Barely able to keep my excitement during the day, I nearly jumped Hanako as we cleared the gate, the glare she gave me just before I did being all that stopped me from doing so.
"Calm down, if we're going to do this, we have to find a safe place to dive."
"Dive?" I asked, not sure what she meant.
"Accelerate. We're going to the nearby library. From there we can link as tag partners and challenge other people." Hanako said, her hand rotating as she performed a few actions on her neuro linker, "There, the nearest library is a few blocks from here, we'll head there first."
The walk to the library despite being only a few blocks took ages to get there, but it made the walk there infinitely more enjoyable. The streets seemed to be painted in a more colourful gradient than usual, the smells from various food shops and restaurant tickling my nose with their sinful aromas.
Finding a corner at the back of the library, Hanako and I sat down as she pulled out a link cable offering one end to me.
If I was told by anyone that I'd be cabling with a girl so often I would have told then to throw out the weed they were smoking. But now, I feel as if this was totally natural. I had changed, Brain Burst had changed me. I can only hope that all the changes remain positive from here on out.
"[Alright, the drill is simple, we register ourselves as tag partners now. After that we fight opponents with the same level total as us so that you gain a good amount of points without having too much difficulty winning. This is to teach you not only how to fight in general but how to fight as a team.]" Hanako said with her mind made possible by the direct link.
"[Alright.]" I replied, my hand typing in midair as Hanako sent me the invite which I accepted.
"[From here on out, this is were it gets tougher.]" Hanako said as we both prepared to connect to the global network.
"[Why?]" I asked, pausing from the worry in her tone.
"[Be prepared to accelerate just after we connect and I'll tell you why when we do.]"
Watching the customised animation window on my neuro linker: a sword being pulled out of its sheath as the progress bar filled to full signalling my registration to the global network being completed.
The world turning a bright blue as we both accelerated, both our avatars materialised from our bodies. Hanako's Mage outfit still quite the eye catcher, she quickly blushed and opened up the matching list scrolling down the list towards the mid level opponents.
"I hope you know what you're doing..." I muttered, eyeing the list as the levels got higher and the names got even more bizarre from innocuous names like "Powder Bear" to vicious names like "Blood Butcher".
"Ah, here's a good match, "Lead Scimitar" and "Lilac Lily". They're both Level 3 so we should earn a decent amount of points if we win." Hanako said, about to select then as opponents.
"Just so you know, I'm a Level 1, I'm in no condition to fight people higher levelled and more experienced than me..."
"I know that... That's why I'm here silly!"
With those words of encouragement, Hanako pressed on the matching list selecting the opponents and pressing the drop button "Duel" sending us straight into battle.
As I appeared next to Hanako, two circles of light started out from my midsection and expanded in opposite directions, my local net avatar fading out as the clothes my network avatar wore was replaced by the angular violet armour bit by bit, my helmet appearing last. Landing next to Hanako who was already in her rust armour, she pointed a slender finger out towards the stage, the blue stage morphing before our eyes.
Walls partially crumbled revealing gears underneath them, glass cracked and shattered as the window frames thickened, some of the glass falling to the floor, the rest disappearing into the vestiges of cyberspace. The bookshelves that lined the large room I was in fell over and broke into pieces, the broken pieces being deleted like the glass shards. Running to the window of the library we were in, the road outside crumbled and reformed to a smooth tiled surface not unlike the walls we were surrounded by. Large towers in the distance shattered and fell, revealing the gears and pipes in their inner workings, like a scene out of an old visual novel from decades ago that I had read recently.
"The factory stage huh...? This would put us on an even playing field..." Hanako wondered aloud, her rocket launcher out and already pointing in the direction of the doorway.
"Huh? Why?" I replied, currently under shelter and thus unable to deploy the satellite.
"Open the colour table under your status sheet and search up the colours Lilac and Lead."
The colour table out in a quick series of button presses followed by a wrist twirl, I quickly entered the two colours into the search bar, two points on the colour chart blinking simultaneously, "I got it, Lilac is a pale purple... Lead isn't even on the chart at all... Wait, there's a separate bar?"
"That's the metal chart." Hanako said, walking over and jabbing it towards the bar under the circular colour chart, "Originally I told you the characteristics of every colour but I left out the metal chart because I didn't think we'd run into a metal so soon. Metals are rare colours in the Accelerated World and have their own chart split from the regular chart and own specialties. Metals are special in that they do not have a fixed offensive potential, though most of their abilities are of a melee range nature, what makes them so special is their defence capability."
"Defence...?" I wondered aloud, following Hanako out the door, walking away from the guide cursor as she continued her explanation.
"Yes, split from precious metals on the left of the chart to heavy metals on the right, Lead itself is a particularly troublesome colour. It has immunity against many physical elements like striking and piercing and is weaker against special elements like poison and being burnt. This means that shooting it with explosive projectiles or using blunt force like causing him to take damage from the stage by falling would not be as effective."
"I see... And what about this factory stage?"
"Factory stage: Hard surface, Feedback damage upon stage destruction. Weak attacks won't work, and melee attacks will cause feedback damage to the attacker. But since lilac is purple the avatar can attack from a range, and lead would be immune to the feedback damage. Likewise both of us can attack at a range and thus can fill our own gauges via stage destruction with no drawback."
"Then... Does the factory stage have flowers?" I asked, my footsteps coming to a stop.
"Not at all. Why do you ask?"
Indeed there were petals fluttering in through the windows, most of them glowing a serene violet colour as they floated and tumbled on the inwards draft.
"They've found us get down!" Hanako screamed, grabbing my shoulders and forcing me down as a purple blur flashed above us, large gashes appearing in the walls where both Hanako and I were less than a second before.
"Aww, I missed." a girl's voice came from outside, sounding around our age and playfully disappointed.
"Never mind. We'll take care of the Level 1 first, it'll teach that Level 5 to pick better partners." a boys voice said, a metallic clacking sound echoing through the corridors as our opponents closed in on us.
"Don't just lie there, run!" Hanako whispered urgently, dragging me to a room on the other side of the corridor after I deployed a sword from my satellite and stabbed it into the ground.
Her hand still on my shoulders, Hanako steered me o a nearby window and jumped out, signalling me to do the same as the male's voice said from the corridor, "What's this? A sword? Did one of those two idiots leave it behind...? Uwahhh?!"
As the sword was undeniably touched by one of them, I quickly sent the detonation command, causing a small dent in Lead Scimitar's health as the resulting explosion blasted the corridor the sword was in.
That should teach him a... Huh?
The dent I had made in Lead Scimitar's health gauge was practically negligible! One of my swords alone is enough to take out at least the hand that touched it and deal at least a tenth in terms of damage, the drop in Lead's health bar is less than half that!
"Striking immunity. The damage you dealt to him was most likely the flames from the explosion." Hanako said grimly, throwing a small canister on the ground, smoke flowing constantly out of it and fogging the area, "Here's the plan, you engage Lead Scimitar, I can't fight a well trained melee fighter, and your ability to fight in ranged combat is not as good as Lilac Lily."
Nodding in response, I broke off from Hanako, hoping that they would split as well and come fight us in one on one battles, deploying my satellite in preparation for battle.
Did I mention that things just never go as planned?
"Hey the Level 1 went this way. Let's gank him first. Once he dies the match is ours." Lead Scimitar said, a pair of footsteps heading for my position instead of heading towards Hanako.
This is so not fair... If I hide in a building, I'll be a sitting duck but if I stay outside they'll find me for sure...
Struggling to calculate the coordinates needed to deploy swords so that I could have a fighting chance, I tripped in my mad scramble to get away, catching the attention of my two opponents.
"So unsightly." Lead Scimitar laughed, brandishing a wicked blade that was the same dull grey as him.
"I wonder who his parent is?" Lilac Lilly wondered aloud, her petals already surrounding me.
P-please... Let this work...! If it doesn't I'm dead!
Entering the coordinates that I had gambled my life on, a sword shot down from the sky... And struck the ground more than ten meters away from my two opponents.
Laughing hard and making me feel even smaller than I already did, they both closed in on me Lilac's petals completely surrounding us now, "Any last words newbie? Your parent would be so disappointed in you."
"Actually, I admire him for standing his ground." a voice said from behind both of them.
Hanako...! Thank goodness!
"Geez, what happened to the honour of one on one?" Hanako sighed, loading a rocket and firing at Lead and Lilac's feet, forcing them to jump out of the way or be blown up.
"C'mon let's go, you take Lead and I take Lily." Hanako said, offering me a hand and hoisting me to my feet.
Nodding in response, I stood still for a moment to calculate the coordinates that I was on against the position I was on the map.
"C'mon, hurry up! What's taking you so long?" Hanako asked, getting impatient.
"Calculating..." I muttered, trying not to give in to the loss of concentration that occurred during the time it took to answer her.
"What? Calculate faster! Aren't you using yourself as the point of origin? It'll let you arm yourself a lot faster!"
Actually now that she mentions it she does make a very good point...
No sooner had I changed the system I was using, a sword came flying down, embedding itself in the ground right next to me, ripe for the picking as I drew it and swung it once to test its weight.
"Isn't that a lot easier? Let me guess, you were using the map layout centre as the origin weren't you?" Hanako asked as she ran forwards, hopefully before Lead and Lilac had a chance to regroup.
"Yeah... Origin is around there." I replied, pointing at the assigned Origin in this map.
Smirking in response, Hanako took aim and fired another rocket between Lead and Lilly before they could band together as they leaped away from each other yet again, Hanako now too close to the both of them.
Before I could shout out a warning, Hanako twirled on the spot holding something in her hand, a signal for me to take cover as a loud bang and flash of light that even made it partially into my eyes as I hit the floor in the opposite direction of the flashbang.
Both Lead and Lilac screaming from temporary sensory overload, I took the opportunity Hanako gave me and rushed Lead Scimitar, striking through his open guard and shaving off quite a sizeable chunk off his health bar, his total bar dropping to roughly 70%.
Grinning in satisfaction as he yelled in pain, I didn't raise my guard quickly enough as his wild haymaker swing cut into my unguarded flank, my own health bar taking a similar albeit larger hit.
"Violet stop messing around and fight seriously!" Hanako yelled, attracting Lilac's attention, a torrent of petals flying in her direction.
Dammit I was... Who knew he'd get a lucky shot in?
With Lead following up on his haymaker I had no chance to retort as I dodged to the side from his heavy and unfocused swing, countering with a swift slash across his face, my blade ready to parry his counter.
As he blinked a few times, the effects of the flashbang finally wearing off, I took a deep gulp as he glared at me.
The real fight begins now...
My legs starting to shake out of fear, I took a basic ready stance, sword gripped tightly in both hands.
"Payback time bitch!" Lead roared, swinging his scimitar in a wide diagonal arc, the swing itself predictable enough to gauge where the blade would travel.
My own sword held at the ready, I swung back with a loud battle cry ready to counter when the sound of glass breaking echoed throughout the surroundings.
My sword... Shattered... Upon impact...
Stunned by the sudden loss of my weapon, I quickly rolled out of Lead's blade's path slightly too slowly as part of my leg sustained a bad cut.
"It's over!" Lead roared, ready to deal the final blow, a sword interrupting him as it shot down from the sky into the ground next to me.
Damn I'm lucky... If Hanako hadn't told me to alternate the coordinate system, I'll be diced while trying to calculate the coordinates needed to summon a sword to myself.
Raising my recently acquired weapon to defend myself against Lead's vertical cleave, a bell sound rang as the words "Time Out" appeared across our fields of vision, half an hour having passed and Lead's team having the lower amount of health, (Lilac's health bar being in a critical state while mine was still at a healthy 40%).
"We won! We won!" Hanako yelled gleefully, dropping her rocket launcher and embracing me in celebration as Lead and Lilac burst out blaming each other for the loss.
"Yeah, that was so scary." I replied, feeling slightly shaken by my first tag battle.
"Don't worry, you'll get used to it." Hanako replied as we both burst out.
After quite a few battles, mental fatigue started to set in as we entered duel after duel, even being challenged a couple of times the final score being a grand total of 5 wins and 3 losses, the losses occurring from me dying twice and running out of time while both of us had less health than our opponents.
"Right I think it's time to call it a day." Hanako said, removing the direct link cable and logging off the global network as I did the same, "Too many consecutive matches in a day can tire you out. Especially if you're new to this lifestyle."
"Yeah..." I replied, too tired to give a full reply.
As we packed our bags to leave, I was about to stand up when the world turned blue and started to reform.
"Acceleration...?! Who's challenging me?!" I muttered, turning my head towards Hanako who vanished as well.
If it's not her then who?
As the circles of light appeared and expanded changing my appearance into that of my duel avatar's, I glanced around the library, the walls and buildings crumbling to dust as grass grew.
The twilight stage huh...?
The scenery that of a beautiful twilight sunset, the land itself was hilly with a lake near me to my left, the water reflecting the golden rays of the setting sun.
A clanking sound drawing my attention back to my opponent, I quickly accessed his stat details, his hand touching the air, no doubt doing the same thing.
Level 5 Shadow Vain? What kind of name is that...?
But the level alone was enough to cause alarm bells to go off in my head, this guy is a Level 5, someone who no doubt already has a good idea of what he's doing and how to fight. Why is he picking a fight with me?
"Ahhh, it's been a while since I've been to the twilight stage... Would be such a shame really, to dirty it with the blood of a newbie like you... Such a shame..."
"Who are you? And why are you challenging me?" I asked, ready to deploy my enhanced armament when needed.
"As you probably saw from my stats page, I'm Shadow Vain. And that's all you need to know. Nothing personal really, I just pick fights with lower levels so I can clock easy points and wins on my record."
"But I'm a Level 1. Killing me wouldn't bring you that many points..."
"But my win is practically guaranteed." Shadow said, cutting me off in mid-sentence.
I really don't like this guy...
"But enough talk. I thought you'd be in those tag duels for forever. Thank goodness I waited." Shadow said, drawing two longswords out from his back and dashing forward.
"Go Enhanced Armament!" I yelled, throwing my satellite into the air before drawing a sword from my own scabbard.
My blade clashing with both of his, I took a step back from the ferocity of the attack, and although the blades were just bits of data from a VR game, the impact felt so real.
Breaking the parry with a forward shove, Shadow sent me stumbling backwards as he himself leapt forward to press his advantage.
Left with no option but to defend, I shot a sword out into the ground next to me and picked it up with my free right hand, my left hand raised and ready to counter his incoming attack. As my left met his right, a large metallic clang echoed through the silent battlefield, my right blade making contact with his left as sparks flew between us.
Both of us pushing off and breaking the parry again, Shadow made a rapid series of steps towards me followed by a quick strike to my unguarded flank. Twisting my left hand to block, I could only gape in shock as my sword shattered upon contact with his, Shadow following through with his strike and taking off a large 40% chunk of my health bar from his attack.
Gritting my teeth from the pain, I hopped backwards to put some distance between us, a dirty red avatar silently watching us from the side: Rust Bomber.
Dammit I can't give up here... My body is moved by my thoughts, my will is dependent on my desire to win. If my desire is strong enough I will impose my will and find a way!
Dropping down another sword for my left hand, I swung it out to counter a slash from Shadow's own left hand, the blades clanging upon contact, my own blade shattering again like glass.
"Ha! Your swords are no match for mine, but why do you have so many of them? Are they somehow related to your trauma?" Shadow sneered, parrying my attack as we both fought for supremacy.
"What's it to you?!" I snarled, the memory I tried so long to bur resurfacing in my mind like a monster awoken from slumber.
"Oh my so you ARE one of those kids then? That'll just make killing you even sweeter." Shadow said, his voice coated with ill-suppressed mirth.
"One of those...?"
"Let me guess. Your family was robbed making you bankrupt causing your family to lose everything and now you're left with nothing. You're one of those cases aren't you?"
How would he know this?!
"My family was KILLED YOU SON OF A BITCH!" I roared, summoning down two swords on my position before leaping back and detonating them.
"Killed...? Oh, so you're one of the ones who resisted huh? That's too bad. Shame your parents had to go."
This guy... Talking like he was involved in their death... But it can't be, if he can't be that old, the oldest he could be would be 2-3 years if he fulfilled the condition of requiring a neuro linker for life... Maybe he's just messing with me.
My inner calm restored, I silently called down another sword to replace the one that shattered, raising both crossed against each other to block Shadow's vertical strike.
"Let me guess, armed group of four, all armed with pistols and silencers, they tried to steal the wares and your parents tried to stop them, they put up a fight and were killed as a result?"
My memory flashing in my mind in flashes and glimpses, my mother telling me to hush before hiding me under the bed, screams, metallic clicks...
The walls I had been building around my fragile heart finally shattering, I raised my head once again to glare at my opponent and the asshole who thinks it's fun to taunt people with the horrors of their past.
I don't care if he really is involved or not. To mess with my memories and my past. I'm going to KILL him.
Fists clenched to the point of the hilt of my sword pressing into my hand, I dashed forward, screaming a loud battle cry as I attacked him with no care for myself.
"YOU BASTARD...!" I roared, slamming my arms down as hard and as fast as I could, no care for defence with hurting him being the only thing on my mind.
Before I even reached him though, a black blur slashed through me, my vision instantly going black as I returned back to the real world.
Standing up as if nothing had happened, I gave a quick quizzical glance to Hanako silently asking what happened. As she drew a hand across her neck, the message was clear: I was beheaded.
With nothing left to do in the library, Hanako and I started to leave until something caught my eye: a lone figure, with chestnut brown hair and dark circles under his eyes, dressed in the school uniform of a school not around here waving at us as we left. Blinking once to make sure, there was no doubt about it, she was waving at us.
"Who was that guy? I could've sworn he was waving at us." Hanako whispered, right after we left the library.
"I don't know... But I think he's definitely related to the avatar I just fought just now." I whispered back.
"The level 5 Shadow Vain? This is bad... There's a reason you're not supposed to know other people in real life..."
"He might come after you in real life instead of just the game. And by the way, what did he say to you? Why'd you lose control like that?"
"He mentioned... My parents." I said sullenly, nearly losing my balance as we turned around a corner.
"Careful... What about them?"
"I don't want to talk about it... So... What are we going to do now?"
"What I was planning to do all along. Join a Legion."
-End of Chapter 3-