A pause in the combat.
Hexadecimal breathed out, raising the weapons crossed in front of him slightly and lowering them, settling into a guard stance as he shifted his stance. In his left hand, a star-shaped mace, and in his right hand, a double-bladed axe.
Across from him, standing calmly, was an enemy he could not defeat, holding a longsword forward in a basic guard.
His nose itched under his mask. But he ignored it, because dealing with it would be an opening he couldn't afford to present.
"Round Two." He muttered, and then darted forward.
He feinted with his axe, which was ignored with a half-step evasion, and then swung his mace around, a high blow towards the head.
That was also dodged, but Hexi had expected that. He followed with a counter-swing, stepping his left foot back out, then falling forward and swinging low with his axe from the other side.
But the enemy wasn't fooled, stepping into the blow and stopping it short with a parry.
And then the sword twisted around like a snake, whipping around and thrusting forward.
"Gah!" Hexi rolled backwards, sacrificing his stance as he landed on his butt, continuing the motion as he went over his right shoulder, rolling away and landing on his knees, looking up.
The sword was bearing down on him.
"Athame." He announced, as he raised his mace. "Weld."
A curse of sacrifice that subtracted one from one and put them both at zero. The instant the sword hit his mace, it parted like butter, the head allowing the sword to slice it. But the effect lasted only an instant, and then ended.
By softening the outer part of his weapon, he could allow the enemy weapon to deeply bite into it, and then when the spell ended they would be deeply stuck together.
His opponent grunted, tugging on his sword, which was hooked to his mace.
Because Hexi was holding the mace with only his left hand while crouched on his knees, while his opponent was firmly gripping his sword with both hands from a solid stance, it was obvious who would win that tug of war.
But that was okay. Hexi left himself get tugged around, instead concentrating on swiping with the axe in his other hand. The swing inward and then upward were both avoided, but at least he managed to get back on his feet.
But abruptly the enemy released the sword, shoving it aside as he pushed outward with both hands, before stepping in, hands flattening, paddle-like.
His left hand was wrenched down as he was abruptly left awkwardly holding the fused mace and sword.
And his right hand was forced away as the opponent chopped at the handle of his axe, forcing it away from him, leaving Hexi's body completely open.
The right hand went up, ready to deliver a finishing blow that would cleave Hexadecimal in half.
Hexi gaze dropped from his opponent's raised hand to his eyes.
"Nazar." He said, and the prana circled around his iris, shooting out from his pupils.
The Mystic Eye of Binding.
A spell formula engraved on the surface of his eyeball that activated just by applying prana. It allowed him to hijack someone's body and control it as a puppet regardless of their will.
However, it could be defeated with Magic Resistance just like any other spell, so it wasn't really suitable for use against someone else with Circuits.
Indeed, his opponent stiffened for only a moment, before the spell was defeated.
But that instant was all Hexi needed.
He jumped back, and threw his axe overhand, sending it spiraling through the air.
His opponent knocked it aside, but that was fine.
Hexi swiped open his menu and tapped open the equipment page, and clicked once more.
Twin rapiers appeared in his hands.
His opponent slowly cocked his head sideways, considering.
A virtualized wireframe appeared in his hands, and then popped into reality as it was fleshed out.
Its appearance was exactly the same as the longsword from before.
Hexi pinched his swords more tightly between his fingers, considering.
His menu was still in front of him. He was prepared.
"Nazar: Lock." He said.
And then he darted forward, stabbing up with one blade and down with the other.
They both knew the thrust to the head was a feint. His real goal was to pierce the shadow beneath his opponent and pin him in place.
But if his opponent prioritized parrying the thrust to the ground, Hexi would happily change priority and stab him in the neck or lung instead.
But his opponent was equal to the challenge. The tip of his sword rotated widely, but his shoulders moved in a right circle.
The very end of his blade swept up the rapier that was thrusting to the ground, continued around, and caught the thrust to his chest.
Both of Hexi's swords were pushed to the side, held outside his opponent's sword. To put it another way, he couldn't parry the coming counterattack, since both his swords were forced to the side.
So he didn't try. He retreated a step, releasing both swords and letting them clatter to the ground.
His hand darted down in front of him, tapping his menu again, and two more rapiers appeared in his hands. His right hand dipped, thrusting towards the ground.
His opponent darted back, moving his shadow out of the way just as the sword bit into the ground.
But Hexi pressed his advantage, darting forward to stab again with the other sword, even as he tapped his menu again.
That sword was also sidestepped, but a third pair of rapiers materialized in his hands.
A thrust with the right hand towards the opponent's hip was dodged, and the feint towards the face with the other blade that twisted and dipped towards his shadow failed to pin.
Hexi grimaced. On one hand, he had the initiative and his opponent was the one reacting. On the other hand, he didn't have an infinite number of rapiers to do this with. Rather than getting pressed back, it was more like his opponent was calmly letting Hexi exhaust his options.
Wrenching the sword free from the ground would be exactly the opening that would get him cut in half.
He needed to try something else.
So he simply threw his other sword. He didn't try to spear the opponent. He simply tossed it underhand, hoping to tangle him up for a moment.
And of course rather than tangling up his legs it was caught like a twirling baton and smoothly deflected off to the side.
But it was enough.
What he materialized this time weren't swords, or even melee weapons.
In each hand, he was gripping a metal ball bigger than his own clenched fist. From the bottom side a chain dangled from them, and on the other side of the chain was another steel ball.
Heavy-weight bolas. He spun them up, spinning them around in each hand.
The first would herd, and the second would definitely capture the opponent. He would throw with the right hand, and force the opponent to dodge towards his left, right into the path of his other attack.
He threw, aiming for the legs.
The bola whistled through the air.
However, rather than dodging, his opponent simply whipped his longsword up and stabbed it upright into the ground, before stepping back.
The bola struck the sword. The chain grew unnaturally, extending as it twisted around and engulfed the weapon, both steel balls accelerating too much before they slammed into the blade even as it was ripped out of the ground.
But it was enough.
His opponent had simply sacrificed his sword, and juked to Hexi's right side, which was now unarmed.
Hexi grunted in annoyance, twisting awkwardly as he threw the second bola.
Too high. His opponent simply ducked underneath, sprinting forward.
Hexi stepped back, but he couldn't retreat as quickly as his enemy could advance.
The edge of the longsword was pressed against his neck.
"I have one more trick." Hexadecimal said, meeting his opponent's eyes.
"Nazar: Converge." He said.
The sword caught against his neck, a smooth and accurate pulling cut.
In the field, it would have sawed off his head with a single stroke. But here in a [Safe Zone], all it did was knock him to the ground.
But he twisted as he fell, managing to quickly re-establish his sight on the target.
All the weapons that he had abandoned, that he had thrown away or left behind, flew towards the target of his sight.
The very first to arrive was the axe, tossed aside earlier, whirling in like a boomerang.
It clashed, sparks flying from where it struck against the sword.
Then the bola whipped in, and his opponent raised his sword like a salute, once more sacrificing his blade to entangle the bola.
Rather than getting ripped out of his hands, he simply let it slide from his palms as the bola slammed into it, wrapping around it.
But then the rapiers came.
His control with this spell wasn't good enough to make them fly point first like arrows, but the blade adjacent to the hilt was wickedly sharp, so there was still danger.
Shortswords appeared in each hand, rapidly batting away rapiers, three in quick succession, with alternating strokes, even as the enemy turned towards him.
Two more, one that was knocked aside from behind without looking, and the other that whipped out to the side at neck level, sending the rapier tumbling around the blade.
Then the other sword was thrown at him.
Hexi jerked back, instinctively blinking as the sword buried into the ground next to his head.
Of course, the instant he closed his eyes, his spell was broken.
"Damn." He cursed, flopping down on his side.
The shortsword in the ground beside him and the one remaining in the other man's hand dissolved into motes of light.
"You did well." The enemy praised, stepping forward to offer a hand.
Looking up at [The Sixth Ranger], Hexi felt like he was standing at the base of a mountain where the peak couldn't even be seen because it pierced the clouds.
"Thanks." He said, shortly, and accepted the hand, getting helped up. He looked around, clicking through his inventory. "I wonder if you were going easy on me though."
Hexi was struggling to control his breathing, and he was sweating all over his whole body.
Meanwhile, the Ranger didn't look even a little bit tired. He simply turned and started walking casually.
The so-called [Fortress of Saint Mark], the name that was the compromise when the rest of the guild vetoed the first suggestion, [Ilya's Castle], and also the guildmaster's second proposal, [Castle Greyskull].
A small [Safe Zone] on the east side of the [Eighth Floor], with a large Player-owned property, an opulent castle that served as the headquarters of the guild, [The Brotherhood of Saint Mark].
The courtyard had been modified to an arena with a hard-packed dirt floor, with the smithy adjacent to it. Or rather than a smithy, the designated [Workshop] of the Sixth Ranger, where he developed and worked on swords.
The reason for the layout was to accommodate exactly the activity they had just been participating in: [The Sixth Ranger] testing the skills of a Player looking to commission a sword from him.
"You're getting better." The Ranger said encouragingly, glancing over his shoulder. "If I had let my guard down I would have been in trouble." He was taking the lead, walking over to the door of his workshop.
"I guess." Hexi said, shaking his head as he fell in step.
He wanted to avoid this conversation. What he was expecting to happen, he didn't want to deal with it.
It was just like Kibaou. Growing closer by communicating with your fists, nonsense like that. You can talk to us, they said. You don't have to bottle it up.
It wasn't like that.
The sadness, the anger, he couldn't express it. He didn't want to express it. He felt like his feelings would be damaged even worse if he brought them out where other people could see them.
They wouldn't want you to sacrifice yourself, so be careful, okay?
I know that, idiot. Even if I was the one with the most knowledge and the best strength, it was that other guy that acted like the Senpai. And she had believed in him totally. Her faith in him had scared and unbalanced him.
It wasn't like he wanted to die. It wasn't like he thought they would want him to die, either. If anything, it was the opposite. They would want him to live. That wasn't deceiving himself, it was honestly what he believed. He would live on, for their sake.
But even so, it burned.
The only way to silence his own dissatisfaction was with effort.
So he didn't want to deal with any of this. He hated it when other people assumed they knew what was going on in his head.
He wanted to run away, but more than that, he wanted to crush arrogant sympathy.
"So why did you want to spar me?" Hexi said, preparing himself for this conversation.
"Hm? The normal reason. I wanted to assess your fighting skills so I could get an idea of what kind of sword you need." The Sixth Ranger said, slightly non-plussed as he opened the door.
"That's it?" Hexi said, uncertain.
"Yes." The Ranger nodded, easily. "The whole reason you are here is because you told Ilya you wanted to settle on one sword, right?"
Hexadecimal opened his mouth, and slowly closed it as he switched gears, taking advantage of the natural pause as they walked inside.
"Not exactly." Hexi replied. "It's more like... well, the last [Floor Patch] removed a tab from Inventory, right?"
Items, Equipment, and Materials.
Those were the three tabs in the [Inventory] page of the [Player Menu].
Custom tabs like [Key Items] or [Shared Items] could be created.
But, after the last Floor Boss, something unusual happened. Rather than content getting added, it was taken away.
'As a feature enhancement for greater realism, the [Items Tab] in the [Inventory] is being removed. All such items must now be materialized and physically carried.' That was what the announcement had said.
Since [Crystals] had been removed all the way back during the [Official Launch], the effect was minor.
Mostly it affected [Potions], which for Front Liners were mostly Player-Crafted support items, expensive trumps to be used sparingly.
"It got me thinking." Hexi explained, crossing his arms. "If the [Item] tab could be taken away, what about the [Equipment] tab? That would break my entire build."
Originally, in the Beta, he had just played Rock-Paper-Scissors with damage types. Bludgeoning, piercing, slashing, elemental affinities, all of it; rather than specializing in one kind of weapon, he had just used whatever the enemy was weak against.
Honestly, it was more because he got satisfaction out of learning, tracking, and exploiting enemy weaknesses, rather than because it was really a better play style. He had gotten locked out of high-end skills, and since his Col was spread across more weapons, the average quality of each equipment wasn't so great. And he had to do stuff like exploit the [Marriage] mechanic to get the inventory space he needed.
That was in the Beta.
But now, with [Thaumaturgy], it was more like he used many different weapons as ritual tools to create weaknesses.
He was a debuff specialist. The mace that trapped enemy weapons, the rapiers that pinned shadows, even his Mystic Eye were all fundamentally debuffs. In most cases, he used weapons to circumvent [Magic Resistance] to make his playstyle viable.
There was a possibility that worried him. 'As a feature enhancement for greater realism, the [Equipment Tab] is being removed'. If that happened, Hexi would really be in trouble, to the point that he might have to step back from the Front Line.
He couldn't countenance that.
"So, I was talking with Shishou about what I should do." Hexi finished. "She said I should talk to you."
"Hmm." The Sixth Ranger hummed. "Well, what do you want to do?"
"Something like a Bag of Holding." Hexi immediately replied. "A dimensional space that I could stick any number of items in."
The Sixth Ranger considered that. "That sounds really hard."
Personally, Hexi agreed. The limits of the Thaumaturgy system could feel really arbitrary, but he was starting to get an idea of what the underlying logic was.
"Maybe I could just create weapons as needed, like you do." Hexi offered.
"I suppose." The Ranger said, frowning. "It's just that Projection isn't really that useful, honestly."
Hexi stared at him blankly. "You use it to pull out whatever you need to one-shot Floor Bosses. Floor Bosses." He repeated it for emphasis.
"Well, I suppose." The Ranger said, shaking his head. "But... that's more like the weaknesses of using Projection are canceled by the benefits of specializing in just my Element."
Hexi had to allow the truth of that.
Although people said things like 'People with [Rare Elements] are like the protagonists of Video Games', originally the comparison had been more like 'The Sixth Ranger is like the Dragon Quest Hero of [Sword Art Online], so he has a [Rare Element] therefore'.
"I've also thought about going heavier for pure Spellcasting." Hexi admitted. "But for now that means relying mostly on my Mystic Eye, and that's not something that can deal damage."
Yes. Crowd control was an excellent ability for someone in a party, but even if it was selfish, Hexi didn't want to give up the ability to play solo.
And, of course, relying on one approach made him inflexible. Against a mob that had a high resistance to that one trick, he would have a tough time.
There was another option, in the middle of each.
If he used weapons as a medium for curses, and weapons were too bulky, then he could expand the scope of his implements.
Rather than only using equipment, he could use [Charms]. Strips of paper that served as the vessel for a spell had already counted as [Items], so it wouldn't be affected any more than it already had.
But using paper charms was what she had done. No, it was something they had done together. Doing that on his own felt like he was forgetting her, and he wouldn't allow that.
"So is it just quality over quantity, then?" The Ranger asked. "Going down to, say, six weapons on average?"
Hexi grunted, making a complicated expression under his mask. "Yeah, but if I do that, I'll get pushed towards using stuff that I know will work. Right now I'm okay if some of my experimental gear doesn't perform well, but if I just aim for high quality, then I'll end up in a troublesome situation."
The Sixth Ranger frowned. "Can you explain that a little more?"
Hexi nodded. "Um, okay." He paused to collect his thoughts. "It's like this."
He held out his right hand. "On one hand, because the Front Line is advancing as fast as possible, we have to stick with what's reliable, and what we know will work. Since it's hard to know what we'll be up against on the next Floor but we don't want to waste time developing the best solution for every problem, it's better to just have something that's basic and strong."
He held out his left hand. "On the other hand, if we don't keep experimenting and growing, we'll stagnate. Our gear can get incrementally better, but at some point, improving what you already have can lose to somebody that invents a jetpack."
And Lind was milking that for everything it was worth. Her [Divine Dragon Alliance] had pulled ahead of the [Fuumaningen] as the most effective scouting guild with that.
The Ranger had a thoughtful expression as he pondered the same thing.
"Anyway," Hexi said, "I rely on carrying lots of gear so that I can try out new stuff that might work great, or might be terrible. But I still keep carrying all the gear that's proven as really useful."
His trap-mace was an example of something new, and it was situational, only useful against human-sized mobs that used weapons, but it was a game changer in certain situations.
But his Shadow Rapiers could consistently create an opening for a kill against anything with a body. They practically guaranteed the next hit would be a crit.
And his axe was supposed to inflict wounds that wouldn't heal. That wasn't really working yet though, because it was based on a fundamentally different kind of curse. But he could keep trying it out, testing it against a mob, and then immediately toying with the enchantment between battles out in the field.
If his equipment limit went down, he would have to pare down to just what he knew would work.
"Basically, I really want to maintain my huge inventory of equips, but I'm worried about the game nerfing that out from under me." Hexi summed up.
Shirou rubbed his chin, frowning. "I hear there are Mid Liners who use Familiars as pack animals."
Hexi grimaced. "It's a good idea, but it still means changing my loadout for each battle. It helps, but it doesn't quite get me where I need to be. Plus I have to worry about my pack mule getting ganked by a mob, which turns everything into an escort quest." He couldn't entirely keep the disgust out of his voice when he said that.
It was a good idea... for a Mid Liner. Against someone taking it easy, having a Familiar as a porter was useful. But on the Front Line, pushing as hard and fast as possible, they were a liability.
"If it's familiars, there was... another option." Hexi said, deeply hesitant.
"I knew someone that was working on making a Familiar out of his Sword." Hexadecimal paused, clenching his jaw and pushing down what was welling up inside him. Using that guy's idea for himself bothered him, just like abandoning her half of charmcraft bothered him.
After a moment of collecting himself he continued. "The idea was to create a sword with the capacity to grow and level up just like a Player. Something like that could work really well." He shook his head. "But I'm not really sure it would be a good fit for me, I tend to be pretty rough on my gear."
Yes. He wanted the Sixth Ranger to know about it so it could help other people. That would make that guy happy. But to use it himself was still...
Hexi shook himself. "Anyway, I've been thinking about it, and I don't really have a good solution."
"I see." The Ranger said. "To be honest, I can't think of a solution either." He made it sound like a personal failing. But he smiled and soldiered on. "However, even if I can't help you with that, I can at least make you an excellent sword now." He nodded, slapping his thighs as he stood upright. "Well, do you have any special requests?"
"Not really." Hexadecimal said. "Being good conductors for my spells is the most important trait."
"Hmm." The Ranger frowned. "In that case, the quality of the materials matters, but also that it's strongly aligned to you. That is to say, reusing the same materials over and over, building up a history between you and them, is also very important."
"That actually explains some things I didn't understand." Hexi admitted. Among his weapons, some worked better at carrying his curses than others. At first he had thought the variability just meant he was still unskilled, but later he noticed that the weapons that he recycled tended to be more efficient than ones made from fresh material.
"In that case, please just materialize all your weapons, and we'll sort through for the ones you've had the longest time." The Ranger said. "Those will make the best tools for you."
"Okay." Hexi said, nodding as he navigated his menu, pausing right before he clicked [Materialize All]. "Wait, how are you going to tell which ones I've had longest?" He tended to recycle materials, after all, so it wasn't like the [Creation Date] listed with the [Appraisal] would be helpful.
"Huh?" The Ranger blinked. "Determining the history of the materials is basic Structural Grasp... right?"
Like Hexadecimal would know spells better than The Sixth Ranger. "I suppose." He said, a little hesitant. "Well, if you can do that, it's fine."
And he clicked the button.
Hexi ran a perfectly balanced build. Half his character points in STR and half in AGI. However, he was [Married] to a high-level NPC that was a 100% STR build. In SAO, married characters' inventories were added together, and inventory capacity was STR-based.
Although his personal inventory capacity was literally medium, he had exploited [Marriage] to have an inventory that was functionally gigantic.
Multiple one-handed hammers. Spears, pikes, and halberds. Greatmauls. Longswords, broadswords, shortswords, armingswords, rapiers, estocs, cutlasses, throwing picks, throwing daggers, arming daggers, and knives. Maces of many sizes. A few flails.
Bolas of various qualities; he was still working on those.
Looking at the eclectic pile of equipment, Hexi felt vaguely embarrassed by the excess. Even if they were relatively low quality, they were still all Front Liner gear. He could arm an entire Mid Liner Guild to the teeth with this much.
"I haven't really culled out the excess recently." Hexi half-explained. He kept them sorted rigorously so he could pull from his inventory quickly and accurately in battle, but he hadn't taken anything out in a while.
"You've got a pretty good selection." The Sixth Ranger praised. "Most of this is made by Front Liner smiths; you've got a lot of stuff from Grimlock."
"Oh, you know Grimlock?" Hexi said. In a way it made sense that a Front Liner smith would know about his competition. But, compared to them, [The Sixth Ranger] wasn't in competition with other Front Liner smiths. His stuff was just overwhelmingly better.
"We've never actually met." The Ranger admitted. "But he does good work."
"Huh." Hexi said, slightly amused. He thought about introducing them, but volunteering to arrange a social event was completely not him, so he didn't say anything.
"Oh, I made these." Shirou said, picking up a pair of rapiers that were in their sheathes.
He hadn't forgotten they were in his inventory. But he tried not to think about them.
They had been his best rapiers, until he had sacrificed them.
Even now, if he had them recreated, their stats would still be obviously better than anything else he owned.
But he had hesitated.
They were like a monument.
The rapiers he had used to defeat the Fifth Floor Boss, [Zolgen].
It was ridiculous to think that defeating a video game boss counted as revenge, but human emotions weren't rational.
"Those... are special." He said. He didn't want to talk about it.
"Yeah." The Sixth Ranger quietly agreed.
The Ranger was holding them carefully. If he pulled the blades out of their sheathes, only part of the blade would come out, with the remaining fragments still stored away.
"These swords..." The Ranger began. "Rather than being closely associated with you, they're strongly aligned as [Cursing to Death]."
"That... what about it?" Hexadecimal defensively replied.
"There was a sword, once." The Ranger began, after a pause. "Called Tyrfing, it was forged by the dwarves Dvalinn and Durin, with a golden hilt and a blade that gleamed like fire. Most importantly, it would unfailingly kill every time it was drawn, because of a curse of destiny."
Hexi parsed that. "So you're saying that I should go for a sword with a strong death effect?" It was tempting. A powerful finish.
But it a sense, it was the worst match for him. For a normal player, a curse on their best sword that required them to kill with it every time it was drawn would be a hassle only against a Boss where the Last Attack wasn't guaranteed. While farming mobs, it was something you wouldn't even notice. Likewise, all you'd have to do is go whack a weak mob after a Boss Fight and you'd be fine.
But for Hexi, who switched out weapons constantly, it would be a serious handicap to bind his equipment until a condition was met. Of every Front Liner he could think of, Hexi himself was the one worst suited for such an effect.
"I dunno." Hexadecimal replied. "The curse sounds cool in principle, but it's a bad match for my fighting style."
"There is a spell called Geas." The Ranger continued. "A hero was bound to a course of action, and breaking it would lead to their doom. But it was also a boon, empowering them so long as they upheld the oath."
That... changed things a little.
"So the Curse will actually power up and get stronger directly in proportion to how inconvenient it is, huh." Hexadecimal considered that.
Fundamentally, using such a sword was a gamble. He'd have to weigh the benefit of a strong finisher against the danger of sealing away all his other weapons.
But, if the Curse grew stronger the more he gave up to use it, then it meant the gamble would always be attractive. The more options he had to give up, the more powerful the death attack would become in their stead.
"I suppose." He said, chewing his lip.
The Ranger nodded. "Since we're basing it on that legend, I still need more materials, though."
Hexadecimal went over what he'd been told. "You're going to send me on a fetchquest for gold for the hilt, aren't you." He said, resigned.
The Sixth Ranger was famous for never compromising on the quality of his swords.
Originally he'd been merely neutral towards Ilya's decree that he had to send everyone on fetch quests for materials, but apparently as a result of that the enchantments became more effective, so now The Sixth Ranger cheerfully demanded that everyone else should also hold themselves to 100% quality.
Among Front Liners, they told each other that even if the quests were annoying, at least the sword increased in power proportionate to how annoying it was. If your efforts were rewarded like that, the quests weren't such a big deal.
"You're correct." The Sixth Ranger said with a wry smile.
Then he cleared his throat. "You know," he began.
Hexi looked up.
"In the legend, King Svafalrami kidnapped the dwarves and forced them to make Tyrfing. Because of their pride as smiths, it was a beautiful sword that cut through armor as easily as clothes. And because of their hatred as hostages, it was cursed to always kill, and to cause three great evils." The Ranger recounted the story quietly, with his back facing away from him.
"But it's a little sad, isn't it?" The Ranger continued. "Despite having such a powerful death curse, the sword was just a sword. It was just a dependable weapon, no more and no less."
Hexi swallowed. "What exactly are you trying to say."
"Even if she doesn't really understand it herself, Ilya is worried about you." The Ranger replied. "I'm not close enough to you to say anything, and in the first place you've kept yourself together, so no-one can criticize your behavior." The Ranger turned, and looked at him.
"In legend, Tyrfing was a sword that doomed its wielder to inevitable destruction. I think there's meaning in telling you that." Even if Hexadecimal was the one with the Mystic Eyes, he found that The Ranger's gaze had his attention locked.
He felt something welling up inside him. Resentment, anger, and sadness.
'Nobody understands what I'm going through.' It wasn't exactly that. There were plenty of people that had lost someone. Even in his own Guild, the Paladins, Cuvie was a boy of the same age who had lost a party member.
No. Everyone could understand what Hexi was going through.
What frustrated him was how everyone took that to mean they had the right to dictate to him how he should handle it. How he should feel about it. How he should respond to it.
Those guys had been something special. Friendship and camaraderie like he'd never felt before. He didn't know how to put it in words, and he felt their loss keenly, even now.
But even so, having other people dictate how he should feel about it enraged him.
He'd already failed to keep them alive. If he couldn't even grieve for them properly because other people kept telling him how he should feel, that would destroy him.
"I'll go get the gold." Hexadecimal muttered, turning towards the door.
Was he running away from a conversation he didn't want to have?
Maybe. He'd appreciated Ilya-shishou's awkward attempt to broach the subject, even as he'd carefully deflected it. Somehow it had been more sincere and meaningful than Kibaou's concern, even if he knew that Kibaou was equally genuine.
But... The Sixth Ranger was better than that, better than everyone. A super-warrior who helped everyone, supported everyone, saved everyone, without judgment. Even if he was a founding member of [The Brotherhood of Saint Mark], he would freely make swords for anyone on the Front Line. Everyone relied on him.
The implication that he, too, was worried about Hexadecimal made him feel uncertain, ashamed, but also annoyed. Well, at least that guy had explicitly said that he had no place to criticize Hexi. That was something Hexi could appreciate, at least.
He shook his head, closing his eyes and slowly breathing out as he stepped outside, before he turned his gaze upward.
"Gold, huh." He mused.
Tyrfing, a sword that a king threatened dwarves into making. Compared to that legend, he could get gold that matched the myth, at least a little bit.
It wouldn't do to just buy it from a merchant in the market in one of the towns.
"Who's a king-like NPC I can steal gold from, huh." He wondered to himself.
Only the Eighth Floor had an appropriately Feudal motif, to begin with. The rich grassland kingdom being raided by Orcs, that was the setting he remembered from the fluff.
Well, it was also the case that the weapons for sale on the Slime Floor were expensive and heavily ornamented. Maybe he could steal a weapon from there? Yeah, that could work.
Hexadecimal nodded to himself, mind firmly fixed on the quest in front of him to the exclusion of all other thoughts.