Quote:“One of the seventy one currently tracked Case Seven’s no longer has a physical body that will function. Their online matrix still hasn’t transitioned to a Case Three or Case Four. This may have been the catalyst for their current status, or a side effect of prolonged mental submersion.”
Doctor Long, The Virtual Conundrum
The lumbering giant moved quickly for a creature of stone. It reached a huge fist over to the lizard man shouting it’s wild war cry.
“Warrgglglglglg!” The creature kept yelling. Its tail lashed out and slammed into our carriages side. Wood shattered while Izzy’s luggage went flying. I yowled and tried to leap out of the way.
A robe ended up covering my head. I scrambled to get myself free of the items burying me. My attempt to escape one set of clothes just led me into another. These were Izzy’s few belongings and I was tearing them to pieces just trying to get out.
[Aura of Minor Flame] flickered to life. More garbled shouts of nonsense came from the hilltops. The Protector and I were clearly under attack. Mostly him, I couldn’t win the battle against the items. My attempt to get out from under one clump was thwarted by another pile, this time our food was mixed in.
“Izzy!” I tried to shout in hopes that she might hear me. We were too far apart and couldn’t connect across long distances yet.
Abruptly I realized how terrible it would be if she did get here. This place was mobbed by monsters. Twenty, thirty, maybe more flooded around me attacking the Defender’s large bulk.
I clawed my way through another round of clothes then looked at the scuffle. The Defender had giant lizards in either hand. He swung them around at each other. The Lizards were bending and trying to claw but their actions didn’t mean much to a being of stone.
Part of me wanted to sit back and let the Defender handle it. The other part wanted to make these creatures pay with all the strength I had left. If not for their interference Izzy wouldn’t be sitting under a tree behind me sniffling from the [Cold].
Maybe we could use this to my advantage and help out. I dove for the Defender’s mess of lizard man creatures. They moved too fast and even the slightest whack of one of their tails might end me. My [Aura of Minor Flame] would reach far enough to do some damage.
I sat on the edge of our carriage and tried to let the fire damage hit a few of them.
Mana ran out after the sixth lizard creature was bashed to pieces. A fresh wave of enemies sat around the giant artificial man and started throwing objects. I spent most of those few minutes trying not to get hit by monsters being broken into pieces.
I felt sluggish after hitting zero mana. Apparently one of this world’s side effects was physical exhaustion but no actual pain. The Defender had nicks and tears all over. No steam issued forth. Each [Tribal Lizard] gushed actual blood.
These were not demons, we were being attacked by actual humanoid creatures. More than a dozen remained. The stone golem didn’t seem intent upon killing them unless provoked. I didn’t feel the same way. Those who tried to escape with any shred of health left needed to be put down.
They had attacked our cart. They had tried to get Izzy, and they weren’t human at all. All three were strikes against these monstrous beings. In this method I could make sure those who survived to get away couldn’t attack the big golem either.
The old version of me, the human Pierce, would have felt bad about this. [Ember Kitten] me, fighting to survive and ensure Izzy could be safe, did not. Our path needed to be clear, and leaving a [Tribal Lizard] alive to trick it once more would be disastrous.
I didn’t try to drag the process out or play around. The weakest had very little life anyway. Feline reactions let me dodge around those fighting and tear into the throats of those crawling away. Both eyes refused to close as life faded away.
This was much different than dealing with [Terror Rat]s.
“Pierce!” Izzy shouted in the distance. I could see her past the mess of bodies. My cheeks turned down and ears flattened upon realizing she had just seen me kill someone in nearly cold blood.
The Defender golem just kept bashing monsters together. Their garbled cries filled the air. Bits of poorly formed weaponry flew all around. Three of the half damaged ones, clubbed and battered by their own kind, turned towards the young girl.
I stopped chasing down the weakest lizards and tried to position myself between Izzy and the other [Tribal Lizard]s. She looked greatly weakened from running up here. I had no clue how she figured out what to do. Fresh clumps of dirt littered her clothes from probably falls. Mud caked the bottom of her dress.
Still, Isabella Brand stood, her father’s serious eyes glaring at the enemies on our road. She wanted to fight them. I often forgot the girl was so young because of how serious her actions could be.
“Izzy!” I meowed in her direction. The golem creature didn’t take any notice. “You’re here!”
“Stand between us, I will try to help the artificial creation.” Izzy took deep breaths trying to recover from the run.
“How did you know?” I got into a better position and eyed the first three. They were all damaged in some form. One had a broken arm, another limped. The healthiest one seemed to be ordering his half broken tribes people to attack us.
“We are linked Pierce. You can sense my emotions, and I feel yours. No time, hold them off!” She pointed a hand into the air. Lights started swirling around. Izzy’s energy level was low and might not be able to cast those rose colored fireballs very much.
Once more the only contribution available to me was throwing myself into danger. Maybe my next life would provide me the skills to be clever or more brains. Perhaps God would see fit to allow me to forget my impending failure.
“Pierce! The weaker ones first!” She gave me direction and I took it.
Angry hisses and yowls of noise came forth. Pure offense was the only choice. My body bristled and hind legs pushed to get liftoff. My large kitten body propelled straight into one of the [Tribal Lizard]s faces. I rapidly patted paws into the monster’s snout again and again.
“Grrlglgl!” It shouted. This beast was easily ten times my size and I might actually win. One stoney friend had helped greatly. “Rrrayall!”
It fell down clutching at freshly burned shreds. I didn’t want to admire my handwork and pushed away for the next target. The large creature’s neck billowed and a gob of green spit in my direction.
Even if I had some ability, there was no energy available to do anything. I yelled in frustration as the gob hit me. My health fell to near critical. The goo stuck to me and threw off my balance. Matted fur plus extra weight just set me off. I flick my mind towards the [Aura of Flame] ability over and over to no avail.
“Pierce!” A small ball of flame flew over. At it’s heart was the pink rose and white colored magic Izzy called her own. It slammed into the unhurt [Tribal Lizard] in the back.
“Garbblbl kll!” The third one screamed.
I dove for the second one that had spit at me. It’s neck had turned to follow the magic’s path. My red claws dug grooves up the creature’s chest in a mad effort to climb. Part of me felt pleased that the creature who just spit a gob of green shit in my direction was screaming.
“Taste kitten power!” I hacked half a meow at it. The [Tribal Lizard]’s eyes went wide. It’s neck bulged to send out another gob of green. More of that nasty stuff on me would not be good. I rapidly started shredding in a panic.
In the background our Defender was busy slamming two more of the monsters together. It looked terribly and near broken. Arms and legs were showing signs of cracking. I didn’t know how to help it besides attacking until my body couldn’t hold out anymore.
The third one started charging. Izzy sent out another bolt of pink fire at it which caused a slight stumble. My own health was down and this goo had me stiffening up. CLawing the third one would work so I settled for the oldest cat trick in the book.
I stood in it’s way and let the [Tribal Lizard] trip over me. It felt onto another dead attacker. I tried weakly to bat at the creature’s legs as righted itself. This goo had stiffened up almost the entire left side of my body. A spear jabbed in my direction and I just took it.
“Pierce!” Almost all Izzy’s remaining mana went into a third blast of fire. The [Tribal Lizard] squeaked out more unintelligible words and stopped moving. The faint smell of burnt flesh and steam filled the air.
I tried to walk towards another monster. There weren’t many left. The Defender had killed almost twenty of the things in the time it took us to finish of two wounded ones and a undamaged creature.
Maybe that was enough to get an empowerment. Then I wouldn’t be so useless. My skills barely kept Izzy from freezing to death, even now a [Cold] notice popped back up. Everything else looked bleak however. Her clothes were a mess of torn and burned materials. Food lay all around getting wet. Our stone escort was almost broken clean through in multiple spots.
“Warrrrrrrrgggglllr!” A new voice yelled. The scream echoed off of mountain tops. Both ears flattened and I tried to hiss. We had another guest coming down the hill.
“Shit. Shit.” I muttered. “Shit.”
“Pierce? What do we do?”
“Release me, then summon me back once the Defender dies.” I said. “Try to get some food, or clothes, anything you can carry easily, then you run while I hold them off.”
“Mmmhm.” Izzy couldn’t have much to give. I didn’t either, this latest bout of pain to recover my health a smidgen. Anything would help.
She released me. I started screaming before [The Inner World] even began to fade completely. Rebuilding my walls against the damage was a pointless effort. I tried amid the broken thoughts to pull my [The Outer World: Respite] skill.
I felt like there was a sea of green that undulated and rolled around me. Everything spun and still the flames burned. Me, a creature who got called to another world as a [Ember Kitten]. Energy recovered but the blue bar was being burned to a crisp somehow.
[Summon (Request)] initiated by Isabella Brand for contracted denizen of [The Outer World].
It was easier to press yes this time. The pain itself felt slightly more bearable than it had been. Still mind rending, I couldn’t tell how much time actually passed. One minute, maybe two. That moment lasted too long.
Izzy’s world left me panting with effort. Flakes of grey soot were everywhere.
“Pierce!” Her shouts stirred me a little.
My body swayed towards her voice. She sounded far away. The health and mana bars I used to monitor our status were still suffering from green flame attacks. I had no clue what was going on or how this happened.
Eyesight proved almost useless. I couldn’t stop to figure out a reason. There was a giant [Tribal Lizard] attacking the Defender. I could make out it’s sounds and the clank of a spear. Part of my vision saw the two large creatures fighting. The Defender kept whacking away with the dead lizard men around it.
“Warrrllrrrr kllgllgggll” More nonsense came forth. The creature seemed to be spitting green jobs towards the Defender.
“Izzy. Did you get your stuff?” I asked.
“Mmmhm. We need to run.” Her voice sounded borderline terrified. I applauded her for not breaking under the pressure. Part of me hated this next step but my own life meant nothing compared to keeping her safe.
“Go!” I shouted at her and felt guilty immediately. “Please! I’ll try to help the golem.”
“MMmhm!” She clutched a bundle of lumpy objects wrapped with shits. Izzy had wrapped up a few objects quickly in preparation for flight down the road.
The biggest [Tribal Lizard] yet was winning against the Defender. I bunched up and tried to get a steady line of sight. Green flames still chewed at my status bars. Aching flared with every single crackle of green. I had to attack anyway, to help cover Izzy’s escape or rescue our stone giant.
My leap was vaguely successful. I felt skin of something beneath me and it wasn’t Izzy. The recently gathered energy started pouring into [Aura of Flame].
“Rrrl! Ggglh!” It yelled. Everything started spinning in a circle. The monster was trying to shake me off.
“No! Not going to happen!” I dug and held on. The stone golem was still moving but I couldn’t tell what. Spinning didn’t help me headache in the slightest.
Green flames kept chewing at my status bars. They were recreating in chunks at a time so the consumption never ended. I blinked for a moment then lost my grip. Everything kept spinning and I tried to get away.
A spear jabbed where I had been. I yelped in terror and tried to get away. There was a clunk as stone collided with the large [Tribal Lizard]’s shield. The monster yelled out another string of gibberish as it felt sideways.
I staggered quickly back to the creature’s head. It flailed around while my paws tore into it’s face once more. Wild hissing escaped me and the Defender elbow slammed into the big monsters belly. There was a cracking sound and more weak gargling came of it’s mouth.
“Pierce!” Izzy was far too close. I wanted her to stay far away from this mess. Far, far away.
The lizard beneath me shook with half felt movements. I kept clawing and hissing at the creature’s head, relishing the ease of attacking one of these creatures on the ground. Claws frequently didn’t get past the bone, but everything on the surface was torn into ribbons.
My head really hurt. All four limbs ached. The [Aura of Minor Flame] kept ticking away with what energy remained. Once it ran out everything would feel worse. I had no idea how my mind could stand so much agony and still march forward. Maybe it was a mild detachment due to knowing I wasn’t going to die.
This lizard creature couldn’t say the same. It stopped moving. I laid down huffing. Isabella’s footsteps could be heard, along with another crack of stone from the giant.
I tried to lift my head and look at the creature. One of it’s arms was detached and being held like a club. Part of it’s foot had vanished. Flakes were missing from the Defender’s face.
“Pierce, are you okay!” Izzy ran past all the dead monsters. She didn’t spare them a single glance and scooped me up. Fresh pain hit me at being violently moved but I accepted it. The green kept hitting.
“I need rest. Real rest. So do you.” The green flames were keeping my thoughts from going in a straight line. Each time I tried to consider how to go forward things fell apart.
“Our cart, might still work. The Defender, might be able to carry us.” She said.
“You’re being very brave.” I tried to sound positive. Part of me worried about how she hadn’t just snapped. Dead bodies were all over the place. “Without more time to recover, I won’t be any use. Just, summon me if something goes wrong.”
Izzy looked at the giant stone man. It was picking up items from the ground and putting them in the cart with us. Our horse was gone somewhere. She looked back at me and nodded with uneasy eyes. The message came up displaying my return to [The Outer World]. I couldn’t even prepare for the pain, it hadn’t stopped. As before, it hurt, and I screamed in the silence of my black room.
[The Overseer]‘s log: That was the longest ten hours of my life. The techs and I sat there watching attacks come in from Subject 17. They lost a lot of strength once we managed to corral his neural links back into an isolated network. We essentially had to bribe him just to make it that far.
It feels like we’re dealing with humanity’s baser instincts being brought to life. Some of the visual feeds are downright disgusting insights to people’s wants and desires. Once again I wonder how denizens even put up with this.
My uncle insists that they just channel all humans through specific pathways that none of them have to look at. Kind of like creating a back alley in the digital world. I’m told that the portions untouched that only Case One through Fours have access to are something special.
Maybe one day.