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The Knights of Argus - A Game Under Siege [HP/SAO]
Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 11:10 pm
[DISCLAIMER: This Fan-Fic is rated PG/PG-13 for suggestive themes. As with the nature of SAO, there will be some touchy topics that will be touched upon such as the beginning of the game (think about it or look it up), and might get your jimmies in a twist. I will do my best to keep the PG rating, but as chapters progress I will have to cover these touchy topics as delicately as I can. With that said, chapters with asterisks (*) on them will be rated PG-13. MODS, please contact me if this is an issue. Thank you for you time, and enjoy the fic.]
Just before the release of the internationally acclaimed Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, Sword Art Online
, five pets were chosen among the empolyees of the American division of Argus to test out the stability of the game on the full-dive Virtual Reality headset, the NerveGear. These pets were the first living players of the game to take the dive into the realm of SAO
and the first to inhabit the game's setting, the floating castle, 'Aincrad.' Testing of the game continued until the completion of the Alpha stages of the game, as well as the inception of the Language Conversion System, a program that converts any language spoken in the game to the selected language setting of the player. With the end of the Alpha, the game moves into Beta, a new slew of players joining in on the world of SAO
. The story follows an Akita named Lucky, as he and his friends, Ghost, Shadow, Tsunade, and Guren, work to conqure the floors as a team among the other testers. Little do they know, the game that they love is about to change, the release date of SAO
drawing nearer and nearer.
Lucky 'Lucky' Thornbow - Canine, Akita, 7 y/o, Male
Erin Thornbow - Human, 30 y/o, Male
Ghost 'Ghost' Williams - Canine, Bull Terrier, 6 y/o Male
Bethanny Williams - Human, 29 y/o, Female
Reed Williams - Human, 31 y/o, Male
Shadow 'Flash' Rogers - Feline, Bombay, 7 y/o, Male
Christopher Rogers - Human, 35 y/o, Male
Tsunade 'Vivy' Brooks - Canine, Golden Retriver, 8 y/o, Female
Guren 'Guren' Brooks - Feline, Manx, 7 y/o, Male
Michelle Brooks - Human, 33 y/o, Felmale
Kari 'Freyalise' Turner - Human, 17 y/o, Female
Gary Turner - Human, 45 y/o, Male
Blane 'Vlain' Harris - Human, 17 y/o, Male
Veronica Harris - Human, 42 y/o, Female
Many hours of research and time is going into this project of mine, constantly checking back into the SAO Wiki to help me with general information in regards to the story. I want it to be as accuate as I can, while holding true to the Housepets! theme, which is proving to be a difficult task, indeed! In all honesty, I've wanted to make this fic for a while, but until now I haven't had the time to go about creating it. I'm glad I got this chance, the first of it's kind on the Housepets! Forums (I hope)! A little word before it begins; this story will be mainly SAO with the inclusion of a lot
OC's. There will be a couple of character's from the HP! universe making an apperance as well. So, without further ado, I hope that you enjoy it!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 11:21 pm
Is this gonna be the Housepets! characters stuck in the world of Sword Arts?!
I may check it out...
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:13 am
This looks like it could be really interesting! I am definitely gonna check this out when you get around to writing it!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:20 am
Ooh this looks promising
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 9:24 pm
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite-
=Chapter One - A Whole New World=
"So, you ready to dive back in?" Erin asked confidently, his hands nestled into the pockets of his lab coat. His words reflected and bounced off of the walls of the hallway, the tapping of the Akita's nails as well as the stomps of the man's dress shoes adding their own clatter onto the conversation.
Lucky gave a nod to his owner, a smile now apparent on the Akita's brown muzzle. "We should be done with Floor Ten by the end of the day. If we're lucky."
The two shared a laugh to the terrible pun and stepped through a set of doors. When they entered the room, the dog smiled. It looked no different than the other countless times he'd been in it--the same bed, the same equipment to monitor his brain activity, the same medical expert that always took care of him while inside the game, everything was the same. Beside the bed was his NerveGear that had a copy of Sword Art Online loaded inside. Even the mere sight of the Gear made the Akita giddy with excitement. The room looked pristine with its gray carpet and black bordered light blue walls, the equipment's wires neatly tucked away into the edges and corners. The floor looked freshly vacuumed, not a speck was visible on the surface. They knew that the canine liked everything pristine, his brain always wanting everything to be orderly. Out the window was the darkened sky and the light of the city below. To Lucky, the city seemed beautiful, the tall buildings, the crowded streets, the amazing skyline, there wasn't anything he hated about it. His eyes traveled toward the time next to the window. The digital device read five after midnight, or 12 in the afternoon over across the sea in Japan, the game's place of origin.
The dog looked at the white clothed human next to his bed. Her usual bright grin staring back at him. "Hello Sandra," Erin greeted. "Nice to see you again."
"Nice to see you too, Erin." She repeats to his father. Her eyes travel toward Lucky. A clip board was locked in her grip, a pen pressed against the back of it. "Welcome back Lucky." She gleamed. "Ready to get started?"
Lucky took this moment to stretch out and relax, knowing soon that he would be under the spell of the VR device and transported to the realm of Sword Art Online, his home away from home. "Yeah, I'm good to go." He finally responded.
"Perfect." She turned to her equipment, running a final check on the touch screen in front of her. "The others are already inside. I already told Ghost's examiner to ask him to wait where you all last logged out, so he should relay the message."
Lucky jumped up onto the bed, ready to begin once more on his adventure. Erin turns to leave, his lab coat giving a twirl. "I'm going to head back to the lab. We'll keep an eye on the Cardinal and your group's users. Just remember to take notes if you spot anything wrong."
His dad had mentioned The Cardinal System once before. He told him that it was an automated process that was designed to run entirely on its own without the need of human intervention. The purpose of the system was to regulate the balance of Sword Art according to its own discretion. This system included anything from the monsters that roamed inside the game, the drop rates from fallen creatures, the in-game currency, Kol, and even the artificial intelligence. Because this system is automated, the developers and programmers had been given the task to develop and perfect the system. His father's position, along with the other owners of the members of his party, or group, were one of the divisions chosen to keep an eye on it until Sword Art Online's release date.
Erin moved his hand to the top of his forehead, giving a playful salute as he left the room. "Happy hunting."
The dog laid down on the bed, his back now against the wall. A sigh from Lucky filled the air. The NerveGear from the end table beside the bed moved into the paws of the Akita, the device resting on his stomach. His thoughts turn to the game, his passion and drive growing as a smile formed on his face. He thought of the progress that he and the other players of the game had made over the last few months, the boss barely within their reach. Before the Akita had logged out, the other players were on the search for the boss of the tenth floor of 'Aincrad', the floating castle that the game takes place in. So far, there had been no luck with finding the boss. He had high hopes that today was the day that they would finally reach the eleventh floor. He was told by his father that the castle has, in total, 100 different floors, each level becoming tougher and tougher with each ascendance. The goal of the canine was simple. With the help of his friends, he was going to conquer all 99 floors as well as the Ruby Palace, the top floor. His paws clutched the device with excitement, his determination making his heart and mind race.
Sandra laughed, her back turning once again towards him as her fingers taps away at the device. "You seem awfully excited tonight. Must be a good fight coming up." She knew him too well. A grin slowly grew on the dog's muzzle. "Well, I wish you and your party the best of luck." She turned back towards him and writes away at her clip board. Her eyes then meet his, the flat surface retuning in front of her. "That should finish up the pre-dive." She gave him a thumbs-up. "You're all set to jump in!"
"Thanks." He said graciously.
The headset moved over his head and begins to put it on, giving it a slight tilt to compensate for his pointy ears. He wished that there were spaces for ear holes to target the pet oriented demographic, but he knew that it was a longshot at best. I would take an all new version of the Gear to make that change.
The ears of the dog fold up and flatten against his head and the machine. A marginal feeling of discomfort made the dog give a small whine, but instantly subsides after a few seconds. A slow breath came out of the Akita, his heartrate and mind starting to calm down. He knows that in order for the VR to activate, the user's mind must be calm. After a quick minute, the dog was down in his bed, his head resting on a comfy pillow. He looked at the slightly tinted panel in front of his eyes. The dog takes note of the time, the numbers visible on the top left hand side. "Mark, 1:01 AM entry." He confidently articulated to Sandra.
The soft sound of a pen hastily scribbles on her clipboard. "Marked."
The dog takes one final breath. His eyes close on the exhale. Then, he spoke to the device, his words activating the machine. "Link start!"
A flash of white filled his sight, a tunnel like vision of colorful lights passing behind him at what seemed like the speed of light. It was then that the UI showed him the usual checkup, the five senses, touch, sight, hearing, taste, and finally smell. With the Gear, all five of the senses were utilized within the virtual world by stimulating the nerves in the brain. Each circle finally gave him the okay, turning green and flying off to the sides. The setup continued, moving into the language and finally the log in. He went through this process countless times during development as well as the beta, so this process went fairly quickly for him. With everything in the set-up finished, the game showed it's welcome screen, another quick stream of blue lights moving like a waterfall yet again towards the back of him. The hues of blue turn to pure white as his mind and virtual body are summoned into the game.
FLOOR TEN - THOUSAND SNAKE CASTLE
August 29th, 2022
Shards of light float above him, the environment now rendered before him. A smile formed on his muzzle. He had now entered the realm of SAO. His eyes open up to reveal forestry. At first glance, the area appeared strangely empty to him. Normally, players flocked to this specific area to regroup before heading out into the wilderness to search for the boss, but today it seemed that the spot was abandoned entirely.
The Akita took a look at his paws. It was time to go through his usual check. The fur on his arms gleamed in the light, the cool breeze in the air twisting and moving it gently. He twisted his paws around, forming and releasing fists several times. "The Digital Focusing System is working... the rendering for the fur too... so that means the Pet Recognition Program isn't on the fritz for once. Looks like I'm " He spoke to himself. His eyes focus on the greenery, then the huge castle in the distance, looking as if it hadn't been touched for thousands of years. Moss and vines covered the base of the building in green, the light emanating from the sky making the grey colored bricks pop. The dog let out a blissful sigh. He loved this world in all it's beauty. To him, the real world couldn't possibly match up to the world of SAO.
"Hey, Lucky!" A familiar girlish voice echoed behind him.
He turned towards the origin of the voice, the sheath that was carrying his sword moving slowly side to side. He spots the group of four now in front of him, all of them pets like him and all his friends. Ghost and Guren stood on both sides of Tsunade. It wasn't until he started walking towards them that he saw Shadow. His body was leaning against a tree behind the three pets, his head low and his arms crossed. The Akita knew that he wasn't much of a talker. The dark feline was an interesting one at that, his personal life almost completely unknown to him and the group, even in the real world. In short, the canine thought of him as shady and mysterious, but as well as a friend nonetheless.
Lucky stopped in front of the four. His paw rests on his hip. "Hey guys!"
"Hiya Lucky." Ghost smiled, his usual minute blush showing obviously through his white fur. The Akita smiled back at him, his gaze almost unable to leave the Bull Terrier as the sides and the top of his muzzle start to give a slight burn. He and Ghost had known each other for two years before they were inducted into the game. Their families were tied through Argus, along with the others in the group, the pets almost employees themselves. Outside of the game, the Akita and Terrier were neighbors. In their downtime, the two spent their time playing catch and other video games when they could, the extensive hours that they put into SAO almost always conflicting with their home life. Lucky had always adored the time he spent with his friend, and he knew that Ghost did too. Only Tsunade knew about his feelings towards him, but somehow the Akita knew that he was already in the know.
"It's about time you showed up, Lucky! We were just about to leave without you!" Guren snickered. "But in all seriousness, we've got to head out. We're behind schedule already." Lucky crossed his arms. Guren was always the most comical of the group, but when needed could be the most serious of the lot. He was the one that helped coordinate the assaults for the party as well as the other players that were also in the beta. Out of the five pets, he was the most known among the users in the game. Mention of a guild was also thought to have been in the works as well, Guren the irrefutable leader, but the feline deciding against it with the release of Sword Art Online around the corner. "So, Tsunade, you got here earlier than all of us, and you got to scout ahead, what do you got for us?"
The Golden Retriever clenched her fists, her fists tight with rage. "I told you already for the thousandth time Guren, it's Vivy! Vi--vy!!
"What was that? I thought I heard Tsu--na--de!" The group shared a collective chuckle, a growl escaped the Retriever.
Suddenly, a voice spoke up from the tree. "Could we get on with it?" The Bombay said harshly, his annoyed tone clearly apparent. "We don't have all day."
The Manx cleared his throat. "Sorry, Flash." He directed at the black cat with his username. His gaze met back with the Retriever. "So, sis, what did you scope out?"
The canine hesitates, her arms crossed and her eyes closed. She did not look pleased. "The road ahead didn't look too rough. It looked like there was a couple of mobs lurking on the outskirts, but they shouldn't be too much trouble. Heck, if we're up to it, we could even go to the castle. Our levels are good enough, so why not?" Her finger pointed towards the castle. "In the center of the structure is one of the columns that leads to the eleventh floor. Well, possibly." Her paws rested on her hips. "I'd take a gamble that the boss could be inside this castle."
"There you go again," Guren grinned, "always betting against the odds. It's funny how your name suits you, right up to the tee."
"I am nothing like that stupid cartoon, Guren!" She yelled.
"Anime." He corrected. "It's an anime."
"Whatever." She turned toward the path. Her back was towards the group.
"Anyways." Guren said, his serious side showing itself once more. "Despite our bickering, she is right. This is a bet we can in fact make. There are only two pillars on this floor, both on the opposite sides of each other. The other users believed that the castle was a red herring, many of the players that actually made it this far to search the other pillar relentlessly. Well, needless to say, a large majority of the players decided to give up on their search with only two days left in the beta. It turns out that from the time that we cleared floor nine up to now, no one has even set foot into the other tower." He swiped the air downward, the character menu appearing before him. He lightly swung at the menu with his paw, the map and player list eventually revealing itself. He pointed at the list. "There are only a few more players on this floor, and by the looks of it they are nowhere near us or the castle for that matter." The menu disappeared from in front of him. "I've heard that there's a place that no player has been to in the castle, a walled off section that has no other entrance. Since everyone decided to raid the other tower, barely anyone has gone into the castle, leaving the spot up for ourselves. Not only that, I also have reason to believe that this space also leads to the tower."
The Manx crossed his arms. "So here's the plan. Ghost and I will take point as usual, Lucky and Tsu-- Vivy will be our eyes on the side, watching the outskirts for any hostile mobs that may come our way. Flash will be our backup. His speedy ninja like abilities could help flank mobs that could pop up on our way there. Once we get into the castle, we have to make it to the section with the blocked off opening. Once we get it open... well, if we get it open, we have to get into the tower and find the boss as quick as possible. We've only got two more days left. Once the beta is over, we're going to have to go back to testing with our Argus Company accounts. Our personal accounts will be locked from play until the official launch of SAO. So it's now or never." His muzzle flashed a smile. "I bet that we can do this. In fact, I'm all in. Any objections? Speak now or forever hold your peace." The pets all looked around each other. No one spoke. It seemed that they were all in agreement. "Alright." Guren spoke up. "Looks like we're all on the same page." He turned towards the pathway, his silver heavy armor clanking about as his body turns. "Let's head out then. Make sure you've got everything you need. There's no time to waste."
The Terrier let out a giggle. "No there isn't."
"Indeed." Lucky agreed, the group starting their trek through the wilderness.
A pair of sliding glass doors slide open, Erin's coworkers sitting comfortably in their own desk space, the sound of keyboards tacking away filling the air. A whiff of fresh coffee filled the nostrils of the male. A yawn escaped him, the thought of getting a cup of the freshly brewed coffee running through his mind. He stopped at the two rows of desks before him, six in all. He took a look at the five before him, a couple of heads turning in his direction. "Good morning Erin!" His friend Christopher greeted. "Looks like you're the last one again. Guess who's gotta bring doughnuts tomorrow?"
"Are they gonna be for the whole team this time?" Reed jokes, patting his fello coworker on the back. The whole group chuckled along with Chris, the room filling with laughter. Jokes like his were common among Erin's team of developers. Everyone in the group knew each other, they were almost like family, and like family they were always cracking jokes at each other. Anyone outside of their group would most likely think that they were the most unproductive team in the Division, but with their skills and their extra paws in the virtual realm, their work proved valuable to Argus, even to Kayaba Akihiko, the development director of Sword Art Online and the designer of the NerveGear. Akihiko himself reached out to Erin and his team to test SAO's environment for the first time and to help perfect it later on. To be more specific, the team was in charge of Cardinal and the Pet Recognition System, the rest of the division taking the extra work on the side.
Erin took his seat at his desk, the random knick-knacks and pictures of his dog, Lucky as well as his departed wife, Lilly. He grabbed the picture of the three together, old memories resurfacing as a smile runs across his face. Five years ago, Lilly started showing changes of concentration and had a rough time of remembering specific things, such as their wedding and their honeymoon. Not only that, she also had a difficult time with speech and even sometimes had problems with double vision. After finally taking these symptoms to a doctor, it was then that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the doctors estimating that she only had three to two months left to live. At that time, Erin had taken that time off of his work, using what time he had left to spend with his wife. Around three months later, Lilly passed away, surrounded by friends and family. To Erin, she almost seemed at peace. He set the picture back down on his desk. A silent prayer formed in his mind, going out to his beloved watching out for him.
He pressed the button on his monitor, the log in screen lighting up his desk. Erin promptly entered his credentials into the computer and laid back as the computer processed the log in. The home screen pops into view, the mouse in his hand moving towards the minimized window that contained his email. With the click of his mouse the window expanded to fit the screen. His eyes immediately travel to his unread emails in his inbox, the sheer number of them making him feel apprehensive at the sight. He let out a sigh. "I wish that we didn't get so much pointless company email." He announced to the group, sharing his thoughts. "There's just so much of this pointless spam that I have to delete every day, it gets annoying after a while."
"You tell 'em Erin." Gary Turner howled, "tell 'em who’s boss! Give it to 'em straight!" The group chimed in, the room once again in a snicker.
The cool-headed leader continued to observe his email, deleting the emails that were meaningless to the man. Just as his finger is about to click on the delete button, he quickly pauses, his eyes growing wide. Were his glasses deceiving him? The name on the selected message read Kayaba Akihiko. He couldn't believe his eyes. Akihiko wouldn't just email him for laughs, this email was deathly important. An unnerving feeling filled his body. He cleared his throat, keeping his unsettled body out of the loop from his coworkers. A silent sigh escaped his nose to calm him down. He clicked on the message.
I would like to personally thank you for all of the work that you have put into the Sword Art Online Project, as well as the improvements to the Cardinal System. Your team's work will be highly valuable for the future of this game. I can't begin to thank you for your help and time. With this in mind, I would like to take over the final months of development personally. This game was the product of one idea, one dream; to create a world of my own design. It would seem fitting that I would finalize the game under my own discretion, to finally achieve my goal. With the end of the Beta, I would like you to send me all of the data that your team has collected for the completion of the game as well as any notes that you may have in regards to bugs, glitches, and feedback that your team has been provided through this phase.
Again, I thank you, your team, and your furred friends for taking part in the development for SAO. As a token of my gratitude, I am personally sending seven copies of the game for your pets as well as seven specially designed NerveGears, which have spaces to accommodate for their ears. Consider it a gift from me, to you. A word of warning, after the end of the beta, the five company accounts that were given to the pets for the duration of this development cycle will be shut down and their personal accounts will be ready for use when the game officially launches. Their items and level progression will reset to zero, but their specific character information would stick with them. The servers will open at 1 PM (1 AM EST) on November 6th. I can’t wait to see them in action.
Erin leaned back in his chair. His glasses come off of his face and his free hand is lightly positioned against his lips. He didn't know what to feel. Excitement for the fact that he just finished one of the greatest projects that he's ever worked on, or sadness for the end of his time with the dream team? He looked around. His eyes stared at each face, each member of his team. He would have to address them. The sooner the better. Erin stood up from his chair and walks to the middle of the two rows once more, leaning against the half wall. An audible breath leaves his body.
"Hey Erin, you ok?" A scratchy girlish voice questioned, Erin's eyes instantly drawn to Michelle who was staring at him with a puzzled look. "You look as if you've seen a ghost."
He leans against the half wall. Was his face really that pale? The leader puts his glasses on and slightly puffed out his chest, a large pocket of air forming in his lungs. He cleared his throat. "Attention everyone," He begun, all eyes eventually looking straight at him. "I just got an email from Kayaba. In the eamil, he wrote that he is going to take care of the final stages of development for SAO after the beta concludes, and that our work has proven valuable for the future of the game. Our work is... done. It's finished." A round of applause fills the room. "Not only that, our testers, Lucky, Ghost, Shadow, Tsunade, and Guren as well as Kari and Blane are going to get both NerveGears and titles of Sword Art Online for their personal use." It seemed as if the whole room was in shock. He adjusted the glasses that were sliding off of his nose. "So until the end of the beta, its business as usual. We've still got two days to squash these bugs and fix these glitches! It's crunch time people, let's give it our all! It's time to show Akihiko what the A-Team is really made of." The team suddenly looked alive again, nodding in agreement as their heads turn back to their monitors. A grin grows on Erin's face. It was go time.
"Serpent!" Guren called out. Each pet moved into position, Guren and Ghost ready for the initial strike. They had made it to the front of the castle, the large stairway leading to the entrance of the large stone building standing between them and their goal. The two tanks were ready for the first move. This beginning strike was always the most crucial part of the combat system of Sword Art. Depending on which side of the blade you were on, this starting attack could either give the player the kill, or seal the user’s fate, sending him or her back to the Resurrection Monument in the Town of Beginnings, the staring town that users first spawn too, the beginning of their SAO adventure.
The Manx readied his longsword, Ghost his war axe as they take a defensive position, waiting for the snake to make the first move. The strategy had started taking shape. The plan that the group had finalized on when dealing with creatures like these was to let it always have the first strike, then when blocked or avoided, the group would move in for the kill. If it had survived the barrage afterward, Flash would have the opportunity to flank it from behind to deal the final bit of damage to kill it off. The plan seemed full-proof, especially with their levels and skills.
"Ghost," Their leader announced to the Terrier, "be ready to dive to the side on my mark. The Serpent's agility will be high, so you're going to need to be faster, got it?"
"Got it." He firmly replied, the grip on his axe becoming tighter.
Lucky shook in his armor. The last thing that he wanted to look at was a gigantic snake staring him down. In his life he had seen multiple snakes, one of which haunted his dreams for a time. He eventually developed a fear for the reptiles and half the time, ran away at the sight of the foe. He needed a distraction. Something to keep his mind off of his fear. The Akita took his eyes off of the snake and casts his eyes upon the canine in front of him, his stance becoming more relaxed. Ghost looked calm, his eyes never leaving his target. His armor glimmered in the sunlight, reflecting all sorts of light onto the trees and landscape. The Akita couldn't help but blush at the sight of his friend, he looked amazing. His weapon slowly dipped below his waist.
Suddenly, the sound of a bark filled the air and the two flew out of the way. Lucky's eyes quickly turned toward the Serpent who had finally made the first move. It was heading straight in his direction. His green eyes grew wide, nearly all of the brown fur on his body almost seeming to stand up in an instant. "Carp!" He panicked. The Akita jumped clear of the snake, barely missing the beast by a few centimeters.
"Get your head in the game Lucky!" The speedy black Bombay howled angrily at the canine. In an instant he stood back up, the hilt of his sword inside his paw. He didn't want to admit it, espesially to Shadow, but he was right. He had to focus. If he didn't, it was back to the Town of Beginnings for him. He turned to the slithery reptile. A menacing look fills the dog's eye as his legs give a slight shake.
"Hey, guys!" Vivy shouted. "When it attacks, its sides are vulnerable, but we've only got a few seconds to place about a good three hits to it before it's back to normal. Once it's into the yellow, hit it with everything you got!"
"You got it!" Guren replied. "Hold formation guys, wait for the attack..."
The six remained still, both the players and the monster unmoved. The Akita turned his head to Guren. Why wasn't anything happening? Once again, the snake jolted in his direction, the team quickly avoiding the strike entirely. The canine's eyes grow wide. He realized something... "Guys," He chimed in, everyone's weapons pointing at the beast, unmoved from his words, "the snake's AI is looking for holes in our strategy! When I look away, he seems to notice right away then he makes his strike right at me directly. If we try and manipulate it, we might have a chance. Although, someone is going to have to be the bait the monster before we even think about hitting it. So, who's going to be the bait?" Silence filled the air, the sound of a soft breeze rustling the leaves on the trees filling the ears of the Akita. "Anyone?" Again, nothing. He let out a sigh. He intentionally lowered his sword and turned to his party in a comical fashion. "Really guys? Really?"
The sound of the calm nature from the rendered environment is replaced by the serpent’s attack, the frightening monster coming straight for the Akita. The dog shuts his eyes and blocks his view of the snake, his fear literally staring at him right in the face. He cleared his mind and raises his sword to him. He could feel the sword skill start to activate. He quickly opens his eyes, the beast nearly in front of him before he jumped out of the way, following his movement with his fully charged sword skill. This was his chance. "Now!" He screamed. The blade in his paw hit its mark just beyond the head, a large orange-red streak stretching the full length of the mob. A critical hit. After it passed, he turned around to see its condition, readying his sword for one more strike. He stared at the area baffled to see that a plume of sky blue shards floating upward towards the roof of the other floor, eventually disappearing one by one. A screen popped up in front of him with his take from the fight, the experience points, Cor, and loot stashing themselves away automatically into his character. Shock and confusion filled the Akita's face. Did he kill it with one hit?
A chuckle left the Manx sheathing his longsword back into its cover. "Show-off." He nudged the canine's shoulder. "Great job. And great job to everyone as well. Come on guys," He strolled over to the stairs, leading the way, "let's get into the castle before any more of those mobs spawn." The rest of the party followed Guren, their weapons quickly stashed away onto their person. Lucky exited out of the screen and put away his sword, quickly catching up to the group. The five climb to the top of the entrance, the oversized set of doors now in front of them. "Wow," the leader snickers, "I don't think they could have gone with a bigger door. I just think it isn't... enough. Don't you think guys?" Lucky crossed his arms and stared at his friend with a smirk, shaking his head. "What?" He asked innocently, a laugh slipping under his breath.
"Can we just go inside already?" Shadow persisted.
"Er... Sure. Sorry about that."
All heads turn toward the entrance. Guren slowly placed his hand on the large door. With The slightest touch of the grey textured stone, the castle opened itself for the party. When the doors had opened completely, each pet entered the hub slowly. Lucky had his paw on the hilt of the weapon at his side. He wasn't taking any chances with another encounter. His eyes glanced around the room, peaking at the smaller, finer details that this new area had to offer. The room was lit with a few well-placed torches on the walls, the Akita noticing a few paintings hung on the walls depicting some of the different areas on the lower floors. At the ceiling was a crystal chandelier right in the middle of the room, each crystal reflecting the bright flame of the torches off in all directions. The setting seemed a bit dark and dreary with the apparent decay on the different pieces of decoration as well as the cracked bits scattered along the walls of the foyer. He noticed the dark red carpet below his feet, each step like a cloud as he trekked further in.
After an hour of walking, navigating the long, desolate hallways of the castle, they find an empty room. At first glance, it seemed like a dead end, the cafeteria like space filled with wooden benches and tables. On the wall to their right was a fireplace, the flames of the burning wood hitting an empty stewing pot, waiting for a user to come by and finally cook inside it. Like the other rooms and hallways, it had paintings and carpet, but also had table cloth for the tables as well as wax candles to add onto the lighting that was already fixed onto the walls.
The leader stopped and turned before the four. "Alright, this is it. This room is the one that I was talking about before. If you would, open up your maps." Everyone pulled up their menus and navigated to the map, the greyscale outline of the area shown. "As you can see looking at the room, on the opposite side of the hallway we've just came from is a small stretch of room that continues on until..." He drew out, walking to the wall. "There." He stopped. "On the map you'll see an entrance with a question mark, meaning it hasn't been explored yet. There's several possibilities of what this might be. One, it could be the boss' lair, in that case after we log out we contact as many players as we can that are nearby to go raid the room. Two, it could be just another part of the castle. If that's the case, then oh well. At least we tried to find the room." He closed the map window and crossed his arms. "Or three, it's a trap." The room turned silent, their leader's eyes closed as if he were in deep thought. "If there aren't any questions that you guys have, we can begin." Everyone's heads looked around at each other, inevitably shaking their heads. "Good. Let's start. Spread out and scan the area. There's got to be something out of place, or a key hole or something."
Lucky, moved close to the wall as did Ghost, the rest of the squad moving outwards. The Akita stared closely at the wall, his paw slowly moving along the cold wall. It didn't seem like there were any protruding bricks that he could see. He took a step back. His eyes analyze the surface again. What could the answer be?
"You're not finding anything either, huh?" Ghost loosely asked the canine.
He shakes his head. "Nothing at all." He sat down on the bench behind him. "It's definitely a challenge, that's for sure."
"Indeed." The Terrier plants himself next to the other canine, a sudden burning sensation returning to the top of his muzzle. His eyes glance at the white furred dog, his friend’s eyes looking off in another direction. The canine's heart started to pick up the pace, his mind trying it's hardest to come up with something clever to say. Just as a thought formed in his brain, he opens his mouth to speak.
"Guys!" The Bombay yells from the fire place, gaining the attention of Ghost. The cat had cut the canine off from his thought. "Come take a look at this!" Ghost had risen from his spot on the bench and had started making his way over. Lucky's blush starts to dissipate and his thoughts had turned slightly sour. If only he had a minute more with his friend, just one more. The group had made their way over to the feline who was looking down towards the floor, his paw pushing against the table.
"What do you got for us, Flash?" Vivy asks, her arms crossed.
"Take a look at this..." He moved the benches out of the way and stood next to the end of the table. He started to lift and wiggle the table behind him. "You see how this table can move freely, right?" The four nod their heads. "Well look at this." He began to attempt to lift the table, the wooden structure not budging. A smile appeared on Gurens muzzle. The Bombay moved away from the table. "It won't move. Not an inch." His paw pointed toward the cobblestone flooring below their feet. "If you take a close look at the floor you'll see that there's a circular seam that surrounds the table." His eyes traveled to Vivy. "Could you give me a hand with this?" The Retriever walked up to the corner of the table, both feline and canine placing their paws on the opposite corners. The cat counts down to one and both push on the table harshly, the seemingly stationary surface moving with ease. The sound of stone against stone filled the room with a rumble, the pets pushing until a lock fixed the circular slab into place. The players quickly look at the wall. Nothing happened. "This must be only one of the locks. See if you can find any more tables like this."
"Will do." Guren replied.
The group hustled over to the opposite side of the room, their heads locked downward as they search for a similar mechanism. To Lucky, this seemed a bit strange... why would a boss door only be accessible through completing a puzzle? Aren't the doors opened to the players automatically? To him, this seemed like a trap. "Found it." Shadow called out calmly. He started moving the benches from the second rotatable slab, both Guren and Vivy getting into position. "Push!" The two move the table into place, another click filling the air. A loud rumble shook the enitre space. The five pets glanced over toward the wall to find a section splitting into two halves. They swung slowly inward, hitting the sides of the new room. Their eyes grow wide. It was nothing; a fake door. The sound of the entrance to the cafeteria slamming shut replaced the rumble from the walls and the lights had changed to a dreary red.
"It's a trap, guys!" Lucky growled, his sword drawing from his sheath.
"No duh, Sherlock!" Shadow screamed back, his weapon drawn as well.
The group made it to the center of the room before a plethora of slithery reptiles had spawned in front of them. They were back to back, ready for the assault. It was then that Guren decided to boost their morale. "Keep your cool guys... this is nothing. Just keep your guard up until the end!"
The snakes start attacking one by one, each of the pets swinging and slashing away at their attacks. Waves upon waves start piling up on the party, the snakes starting to attack in pairs. It was then that the canines and felines started to take hits. One after another the sheer number of snakes started to take their toll on them as they start taking more and more bits of damage. The Akita blocks a snake, another one taking a bite of his arm. He swiped at the serpent, with a frantic grunt. He kept up his attack as he struck down another five, his sword combo helping him clear a few more. The Akita looked at the HUD to his top left. He was shocked to see the low health bars of his squadmates, each of them in dire need of potions or healing crystals. Another mob had gotten the jump on him as he blocked it, another two snakes following its attack with a couple blows to the legs. He wasn't going to last much longer, and there were a good fifty monsters left to kill. It was no good. They were not winning this fight, not with this number of high level monsters.
The dog watched as Vivy's health dropped to zero, then Shadow's, and finally Guren's. They all had dissipated into floating shards, their bodies having all but disappeared from the space leaving Ghost and Lucky to fend for themselves. For a minute the snakes had let up on their attack, giving the two of them enough time to catch their breath. Their fatigue had reached their limits, but their swords were still raised, ready to fight. They couldn't stop, not for a second. "Hey Ghost," The Akita panted.
"Yeah Lucky?" He breathily responded.
"If we die, I'm giving Shadow all the flak for this botched plan, deal?"
It was then that the snakes had barraged them with attacks. Everything seemed to happen at once in the final minutes of their defense. The sheer amount of mobs were to much for the Terrier and Akita, the horde of serpents dipping their health points down to their last bits. It was like the game had prevented them from advancing further onto the other floors on purpose. Was this Cardinal itself telling them to wait until the full release? It was then that the UI had disappeared, the red 'You Died' screen flashing before his eyes. It was over.
FLOOR ONE: TOWN OF BEGINNINGS
The dog's vision filled with color as he respawned, an array of shards flying away from the pet's body. "Hello?" His echoes fill the cathedral like room, looking around the large space. The canine stepped away from the monument and checks behind him. A smile grew on his muzzle. All five of his friends had made it back, Shadow's annoyed expression making him smirk. He walked over to them. "So, that was the best plan ever, ten out of ten." Ghost let out a giggle, the rest of the group, with the exception of Shadow, following suit.
"Well," Guren started, "that's that then. Great job everyone, I mean it. I guess the tip I got wasn't so solid as I thought it was."
"We did our best." Ghost smiled. "And you know what? I had a lot of fun! Now I can't wait until the game releases!"
"Neither can I." Vivy added.
Shadow had stayed silent. "Aww come on Flash, lighten up!" The Manx put a paw on his shoulder. "We had fun, that's all that matters in the end right?"
The Bombay shrugged. "I guess."
The group nodded in agreement. "Sooo... I guess this is the end of the beta?" Lucky asked.
"Yep. We didn't catch any bugs while out did we?" They all eventually shake their heads in agreement. "Good. Then I guess there's really no reason to keep playing now. Looks like we're officially done until the release!" They cheer and high five, their joy and laughter echoing through the whole building. One by one each pet said their goodbyes and logged out, leaving Ghost and Lucky together once again. This time, they were alone.
Lucky's heart started to race. "So... uh... Ghost?"
He smiled at the Akita, causing him to blush like mad. His own light blush flushed his face. "Yeah Lucky?"
"Did you uh..." A soft gulp sounded from the canine, his words stuck inside his throat. "Did you wanna hang out later on? Cause I've got some old games that we could play at home..."
"I'd love to." He firmly, but softly responds, keeping his smile.
Lucky smiled back at the Terrier. "G-Great! I can't wait to see you then!"
"Neither can I." They both bring up their menus and navigate towards the log out screen. The two pets wave goodbye to each other, their time in the virtual world's beta complete.
TO BE CONTINUED
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 9:28 pm
Great job, D3ath_0ps!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 9:31 pm
Wow... Still know nothing of the SAO, but given what you put I'm already into this... Really looking forward to seeing how you really get the HP! world into this...
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 10:43 pm
Really awesome job on this! I just love where it is going!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Wed Aug 19, 2015 12:40 pm
Thanks for the great responses guys! I can't wait to post the next chapter! Although, I'm going to have to post the next chapter for my other fic. Lol
Here's how the updates will work. Once a Chapter is posted for Housepets! Home Stories
, my other fic, then a chapter will post here, and that process will continue until I run out of ideas on either project. If I have to take a hiatus for either school or work, it will be shown on the front page on each fic, right on top of the first post. I just have a feeling with the next school year rounding the corner, life is gonna become a lot
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:25 am
[ THERE WAS AN UPDATE TO THE FIRST POST. PLEASE READ THE TOP BEFORE READING THIS CHAPTER. THANK YOU! <3 ]
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite-
=*Chapter 2 - The Return of the Floating Castle*=
It was already five o’clock in the afternoon and the fall sunset had cast an orange glow in the ranch style living room. The T.V. had been presenting our video game to us for nearly three hours up to now and we showed no signs of stopping. My paws gripped the controller tightly as my fingers tapped a variety of buttons labeled in grey on the pure white plastic. We had tied the score between us before the start of the last round with dinner arriving around the corner, five for Ghost and five for me. I could taste the victory on my tongue. He wasn’t winning this time. I wouldn’t let him, no matter how much I felt for him. With an attack coming at him from the side, his damage percentile rose to sixty-seven percent. Before he could recover I hit him from the opposite direction, a chair knocking his character away from mine. I couldn’t help but flash a smile. It seemed like I had him where I wanted him.
In a quick motion Ghost recovered and proceeded to fly upwards, almost reaching the camera’s border. I unknowingly try and leap towards him, hoping to get a few points of damage before he could try anything. My character could only reach half of the height. At that moment my eyes grew wide. I remembered this very tactic Ghost would pull, and I sprung his trap willingly. The pink blob on the screen rushed downward, transforming into a cube-like stone, hitting my cartoonish looking character. This attack sent the figure flying towards the edge of the screen and off of the floating platform; death seeming imminent for me and my chance of victory slipping away as my damage increased to fifty-six percent. In these rounds we only had one life, one death meant the end of the match. I refused to lose. I frantically moved my character back towards the floating platform that was our battleground, barely catching the edge. I could hear a chuckle escape the white-furred canine. My eyes for an instant glanced over at him. I quickly looked back over to my game and shook my head. Always using the cheap tactics. I didn’t dare speak the thought.
My dark colored character leaped back onto the stage and proceeded to get a few more blows in before getting swallowed up by Ghost’s character. Anger quickly swelled inside my mind. I couldn’t do a thing. With a gulp of the pink character it essentially ate my own, transforming into a silhouetted version of itself. My character flew to the left and flopped around on the ground. I attempted to jump upwards to avoid the incoming attack from the opposition, but my reaction time was just late enough to allow Ghost to land two hits. The attack sent my character near the left edge of the platform, once again at deaths door. My damage percentile was at one-hundred-two. His was at a low seventy. There was no way that I could win this if I didn’t attack. I quickly made the order in my mind. The top priority would be to get his health to one-hundred, then attempt to finish him off with my dual hammer attack. First I double jumped over the blobs head and landed right next to him. Then I proceeded to relentlessly attack him with a fury of hits knocking his character towards the edge of the arena. With my final attack I sent Ghost’s character flying to the side. At first I begun to cheer inside my own mind. Then I saw the familiar blob slowly come up above me. In a flash the character slammed the platform and the cartoon character created a blue plume of light from the side of the screen. It was over.
“Yes!” Ghost cheered.
“The winner is: KIRBY!” The baritone announcer practically screamed through the television.
I sunk back in my seat as he reveled in his victory, my controller flying off to the middle of the couch. I couldn’t believe it. Victory was in the palm of my paw and in one quick moment it was gone entirely. I exhaled a harsh sigh. “Good game.” I respectfully uttered in a low tone. My adrenaline started fading away as I covered my eyes with my arms. I still couldn’t process fully what had transpired. Had I really lost so easily? It wasn’t until then that I smelled the exhilarating aroma of meat in the air, the tacos being prepared in the kitchen next to us nearing their completion. A paw placed itself on my leg, my arms moving away from my eyes.
“Good game.” The Terrier finally responded, his smile making my cheeks burn. I could always love that smile…
“Yeah…” I stupidly responded. Yeah? Really? That’s what you say? I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe that I just gave the plainest response that I could ever give, especially to him. We both then sat in silence for a minute as Ghost pointed his white controller towards the screen. The image turned dark and then went back towards the main menu. I didn’t really pay much attention to the flashing tiles on the screen. My eyes were adverted to the floor, stuck in a trance of three months ago when our group had attempted to clear the tenth floor of the floating castle of Aincrad.
Ever since the end of the beta, I couldn’t stop thinking about the game. It was really the only thing on my mind other than… well… Ghost really. That world seemed like another home to me. Being away from it only created more excitement for when we actually get to travel back to that world. When we all found out that Kayaba wanted to work on the game independently after the end of the beta test, I felt that it would be the end of my time in SAO. When I got the Gera and the game on my doorstep, I nearly screamed at the top of my lungs. I was so happy. I couldn’t imagine what I might be like when the game goes live. The sheer thought of our team making our way through the floating castle was enough to get my heart racing with excitement. The others and I already had our NerveGears, as well as the game itself, just waiting until one in the morning--the time when the servers go live--to begin our adventure once again. Tonight was the night that our group reforms, as well as the night that I would finally be able to hang out with Ghost more, rather than once every couple of days. Maybe I could finally ask him…
A paw waved in front of my eyes, making me jump in place. “Hello?” It wasn’t until then I finally registered his voice into my ears. How long was I in thought? “Earth to Lucky? Is anyone home?”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I’m still here…” I could feel the burning sensation on my muzzle.
“Didn’t you hear your dad? The food’s done! Let’s go eat!”
He grabbed my arms lightly and pulled me off of the couch. Our meal awaited us in the next room along with my father (well, male owner if I wanted to be specific). When we entered the room the air filled each of our noses with the scent of cooked beef. It was a fact that my dad made the best tacos in the neighborhood. He used the freshest ingredients he could get his hands on. He would even make routine stops at the market down the road to restock the kitchen, sometimes bringing me along with him if there was a larger list of items that he needed to grab. When we’d get home we would begin preparing a dish out of the ingredients we had and that would be our meal until dinner time. I couldn’t lie if I said I loved cooking. It was relaxing to me. A great way to cool down after a long sitting of gaming in my opinion.
Before he decided to move into game development, my dad had originally planned to earn a degree in the culinary arts. His original dream was to become a head chef at his own five star restaurant, and rightfully so. His food was top notch. No restaurant could compare to my dad’s cooking. Not even the taste parameters in Sword Art could stand up to him. During his time as a college student he would routinely get his studies done, go to work, then game for the rest of the night. There was no breaking this routine for him. That is, until he met Lilly.
Both mom and dad would tell me their stories practically all the time. Almost to the point where my ears would bleed. I could clearly recall almost every detail… Like him, she was an avid gamer. But rather working in the kitchen, she studied in a studio creating and coding to her hearts content. She was a game designer. The first time my mom and dad met was inside the college ‘Student Center’--a building located in the heart of their campus that was most of the time packed to the brim with students. My father had been looking for his group of friends that would normally flock at a large table with their laptops so that they could play on their favorite MMO. The problem was, he couldn’t spot them anywhere.
He looked at their normal spot, hoping to see the group of five sitting there waiting for him, but found someone else. All of the chairs were pushed in with the exception of a chair located at the far end. In the chair was a girl, a grey modern fedora covering her pitch black hair that stretched just above her shoulders. My dad insisted that she looked stunning.
It was then that mom had called out his name, asking if he was looking for someone. He shook it off, giving her an honest answer. He told her that he was looking for his friends that would normally congregate right where she was sitting. She even offered to move to another location, but my dad told her that she was fine and that his friends might have had something to do. After that they both turned away, Lilly to her computer and Erin towards the large open space. Dad looked back to her, feeling a bit bummed. He had been looking forward to PVPing in their game, but it seemed all but lost. It was then that he saw the mouse of the woman’s computer swipe left and right, her intense clicking all familiar to dad. She was playing an MMO.
He then asked: “What game you playing”
She followed with, “Guild Wars 2. Just playing a game of Edge of the Mist…”
After that, it’s history. They started hanging out more and eventually become a couple. Erin took up game design, falling in love with the technical side instantly. Pretty soon they were both out of college and thrown into the real world, eventually living together and getting married, then they adopted me. Years went by and everything seemed normal. But, life would throw a fastball straight into the heart of Lilly, not to mention our family. She was definitely taken too soon. To be honest, life seemed a bit duller when she passed, dad seemed to mentally shut down. He became depressed. All that mattered to him was his work. It was only until earlier this year that he started getting out of his funk. He started being more social around his team and he also started cooking fresh meals again, like the way he used to when mom was here, like today.
Ghost and I quickly took our seats at the dining table located next to the smaller island countertop. I noticed the dishes and the glasses that were already placed neatly on the wooden surface. He seemed to have pulled all the stops this time. He seemed to be smiling. I then noticed his eyes glance in my direction. I saw a chuckle escape him. I probably had a confused look on my face when I thought to myself: “Why is he laughing?” My question was soon answered when I noticed a crucial detail in the set-up of the table. There were only two spots prepared for dinner. It was then I that my expression turned cold, I could feel the air rush through my wide open mouth. I looked at my dad with shock. Was I dreaming? Did he really do this for us? Does he know about my fondness for my friend?
I could feel my muzzle burn as hot as the pan that contained our dinner, the metal landing softly onto a hot pad with the help of my dad. I looked over to Ghost as my father started to speak. “Bon apatite, you two.”
I quickly turned my head to try and respond. But, before I could get a word out, my owner had quickly dimmed the lights to a low level and quickly slipped away. I had then noticed the lit candle at the center of the table. It was official. The lighting was perfect, the meal was prepared, the table was set, and Ghost was now staring into my eyes. He couldn’t have looked better. A truly romantic evening for us.
At the time I didn’t know how to feel. I was anxious and I could feel my body start to shake, I was angry that my father had sprung this surprise out of the blue, and I more than likely looked a mess to the Terrier. But, more than anything, I felt infatuated by the ghostly presence. It was like I was staring at an angel ready to take me away to the pearly gates themselves. I couldn’t help but let out a small giggle. I finally had my moment that I longed for so long. Maybe it was the time that I shared my feelings for him…
Ghost was the first to break the silence. “Looks like we’re alone.” He smirked.
My cheeks felt as if they were on fire now. “Y-yeah.” I finally let out, my stutter the result of my nervousness.
The Terrier chuckled at me as he started preparing his soft-taco. “You look so nervous, Lucky.” He stated. A very accurate assumption to say the least. “He looked at me as he placed the tortilla on the glass surface. “Just relax a little. There’s no pressure or anything. It’s only me. I don’t bite… that much.” A round of laughs escaped the dog as he continued to create his dish. “Just take a deep breath. Have a taco. There’s no rush.”
I nodded and proceeded to grab my food. I began to think of a time where I actually had time alone with him. But the more I thought about it, I didn’t recall us ever having any alone time. Most of the time we were with our party in the floating castle searching for potential bugs and defeating bosses for Argus. We simply didn’t have the time for it. We were always on such an intense schedule when we were still working with the American division. It seemed so surreal. I kept wanting to pinch myself to see if everything wasn’t just my imagination playing a cruel joke on me. I had to continue forward. Baby steps.
Once we had finally prepared our meals, we each took a small bite. We nearly let out a soft “Mmm,” simultaneously as our food danced around softly on our tongues. Dad had truly made this meal special. This might have been one of his best too.
“This is so good.” The white-furred dog beamed. “Your dad really knows how to cook.”
“He definitely does.” I agreed.
We sat in silence for a long minute as we continued to eat out meal. The time seemed to last forever, it felt as if the air in the room became thinner as my breathing started to hasten. I should say something…
“So are you going to use the same weapons in SAO as you did in the beta?” He asked out of the blue.
I raised an ear. I set my taco down on my plate. I had never really thought about it… I usually use longsword in those types of games. If I were to change my strategy it might end greatly, or cause me to perish right on the spot. “I guess I could change weapons, you know to switch it up a bit. It could even be fun.” I pause to think about the thought clearly. My arms cross and my eyes close. “But, when I think about it, if I start with something completely new I’d be totally unfamiliar with the combos and the skills that coincide with that different item. I just don’t feel comfortable to change it up that much. If I were to change something, however, I would just switch the subtype of weapon without changing it entirely. Like a longsword to a spear. That would be a drastic change. Maybe I would just change my weapon to a katana. It’s not that big of a change, plus it would look cool.”
“It definitely would. I can totally imagine you with one. I think you’d look cute.”
My eyes grow wide Cute. Cute Did he just call me cute? At the sound of the word, I was instantly giggly. My cheeks were once again aflame. I swore I could hear him laugh through his closed lips. I was tempted to state the contrary. But, I simply figured that he would have just reinforced the fact anyways. “Thanks.” I finally mumbled.
Ghost picked up his taco again and started taking small bite out of the soft shell. I sat in my seat unmoved. I stared at my food aimlessly as my thoughts clouded my mind, thinking about SAO, as usual. When I was I not thinking about that blasted game? I let out a sigh and clear my thoughts, grabbing the food with my paw once again. Now was not the time to be thinking about some stupid game. I look over at Ghost with a smile. After he mimicked the same expression, my eyes look down to my food to realize that my taco was down to its last bite. I really must’ve been hungry. I took the last bite of my taco and leaned back in my chair. “That was a great meal.”
“It definitely was.”
I once again stare off into space. I could feel my body start to shake again. I start to think about the possibility of officially announcing my feelings for him. “Could this be the night I finally tell him how I feel?” was the main thought on my mind. In an instant I started to think of the worst case scenarios of how this could turn out. This could turn sour, Ghost just not interested at all; not to mention that this could also result greatly as he accepts my offer. It seemed like everything about our relationship was on the line. I took a moment to collect my thoughts before I opened my mouth. It was time.
“Yes Lucky?” He smiled. This time my cheeks were already on fire, his smile only added a little kindle to the flame.
“I know that we’ve been friends for a while… and we’ve fought together tons of times. I… I always like hanging out with you. Every time I think about you… my heart beats faster. Like when we were fighting that snake. I hated snakes. They’re pretty much my worst fear. And you know what calmed me down? You. You…” Here goes nothing, “You mean the world to me Ghost. I… I can’t imagine a life without you. I lov--”
Before I could get the words out of my mouth, a pair of lips had already made their mark on mine. A paw had begun to rest against the side of my face as I, at first, tense up. But after a couple of seconds I relaxed into the kiss, enjoying every little detail. It was like a sword against the grindstone, sparks were flying in every direction. I had finally gotten my chance, and it felt everyway I had envisioned it would be, a truly magical moment. As we broke away from our kiss I could see his face and his truly seductive expression. I couldn’t help but keep my blush. His paws had found their way into mine as I hold them close. My heart felt like it was about to fly out of my chest.
It was then that I got to hear the words I was searching for. “I love you too, Lucky.” The Terrier had finally announced to me. It was then another round of kisses began, this time much longer than I anticipated. The night began to grow old on us fast, the transition from the kitchen to my room quick and concise as we shut the door behind us. Pretty soon hours passed by. It had soon reached twelve in the morning and our lovely night came to an end. Ghost had to take his leave with his dad awaiting in the driveway. Without leaving the confines of my room, we got ourselves situated and exchanged our goodbyes. He landed a kiss on my forehead. “I’ll see you soon Lucky. Don’t forget that we have to be at the West gates ASAP. You know, just like we all planned? Hopefully you won’t be too out of it by the time you get there.” He joked.
I smiled. My legs started shaking a smidgen. I placed my hand on the edge of the doorway for support. “I won’t forget. Don’t worry Ghost, I’ll try not to fall to the ground. If I can help it of course.”
He placed his paw on the side of my face. “I love you Lucky.”
“I love you too Ghost.” We exchanged a short kiss and waved goodbye, leaving me standing alone in the hallway. I released a blissful sigh as I wobbly walked into my room and shut the door. I collapsed to the floor, my legs unable to bear my own weight. I softly bit my lip as my gigantic grin began to dissipate into a smaller beam. I shut my eyes. My head softly rested on the wooden surface of the door. Tonight was a night I would never forget. Tonight was the night I finally came clean to Ghost. Now were together at last. It seemed weird thinking that at first to be honest. I never thought I could do it.
It took me some time to recoup, but I quickly stood back up scurried down the hall and as quickly as I could entering the confines of the bathroom. I grabbed a used towel hanging on the bar towards the window and placed it on the floor next to the entrance of the shower. I turned on the warm water and tested it with my paw. When it was at its optimal setting I walked inside and started quickly washing myself down. I felt slightly more dirty than usual, the warm water feeling great on my body.
After I was squeaky clean I slowly marched back into my room, my fur an absolute fluffy mess. I take a look over at the clock resting on the end table next to my already set up NerveGear SPE (Special Pet Edition). This rendition of the Gear was given, to my knowledge, to us personally by Kayaba. The only visible difference between the regular version and the SPE was the pointed ears that were on the top of the Gear, made especially for the pet demographic. I personally thought of it as stylish to be honest.
I finally read the time on the digital clock. “12:55.” I spoke aloud to no one in particular. I took a deep breath. It was time. I plopped the towel in my paw onto the ground and headed over to my bed. The Gear slid onto my head and my ears nestled inside. A very comfy fit. It even felt as if they had holes on the outside to help listen for the voice command. I really great design. I turn on the device and it voiced its usual low progression of notes. I could hear the device running perfectly on my end. I laid down softly in my unmade bed, my head resting one of my only pillows. My eyes stared at the top left end of the visor. It read 12:59. I just had to wait one… more… minute…
The clock finally turned a minute further. It was one in the morning. It was time. The world of Sword Art Online awaited my arrival. I gleamed, and shouted the voice command that would bring me back into the realm of swords. “Link, Start!”
FLOOR ONE - THE TOWN OF BEGINNINGS
November 6th, 2022 - 1:00AM EST
After going through the initial start-up processes (for the millionth time), I spawned in the town square of the first floor of Aincrad, the town of beginnings. I was facing the Black-Iron Palace, the largest structure inside the town that held the ‘Resurrection Monument,’ which, as the name implies, resurrects any fallen player within the game. I looked down to my feet to find the standard starting gear already equipped to my digital avatar: a pair of grey pants (which always seemed weird considering that pets really don’t wear any), a red long-sleeved, medieval looking v-neck shirt with holes in the shoulders, the sleeves only attached by the bottom that was connected to the main portion of the shirt. The only armor that had covered my body was a black leather cuirass. I also had grey gloves that would eventually be holding a katana like weapon soon enough. Normally, I would get flak for my ‘feminine’ fashion decisions by Guren, but I knew he meant well, so I wouldn’t really worry about it.
I breathed in the digital air, filling my lungs in the virtual world. I looked around the circular area. Everywhere that I could see, there were blue auras of light spawning in more and more players. “Here comes the mob.” The thought jokingly comes to mind. I had to move quickly out of the area and towards the West Gate. Pretty soon the game would be flocking with the ten-thousand players that had bought the game a week before. Plus the group would probably be waiting for me at the Gate. There was no time to lose. But before I could do anything, I would have to get my weapon. Too bad we didn’t get to start off with weapons at the beginning of the game.
I started bolting towards the Western Gate. With every step I was even more grateful that my stamina in the real world didn’t reflect my stamina in the game. I soon started to see the marketplace coming up in front of me. I stop at the first stall I see with swords resting in their black cases and I instantly spot my weapon of choice. It was a curved sword, its classification technically within the one handed sword category, still met the requirements I desired. In order to build up to the katana skill, I would need to have experience with the One-Handed Curved sword skill in order to unlock it, so this would be the first step in working my way up to it. It would probably take months to get to that point.
Quickly activating the NPC that ran the stall I bought the item with a few simple touches of the U.I.. The Item was now inside of my inventory. My first purchase in SAO. It felt kind of surreal. It only took me about a couple of seconds to equip the item before rushing down the road without a word. I couldn’t waste any time. Although, I swore I could hear someone calling out to me, not by name however. I passed it along as someone mistaking me for someone else and kept moving.
I glanced over at the clock in the upper left as I passed by another herd of shops. The time read 1:10 AM. Yep, I was late. We had finalized beforehand that we would meet at the gates by this exact time. I guess I was too slow. I could start to imagine what sort of beef that I would get from the group; Guren poking fun at me, Flash’s constant irritated attitude and blank expressions, Tsunade’s concern, and Ghosts… well… good looks. They were a force to be reckoned with. All jokes aside, I doubt they would belittle me anyways. Some of them would most likely be late themselves anyway. I could bet my bottom dollar.
My legs pushed onwards as I neared the gates of the wall, the digital fall breeze flowing against my fur. The weather in Aincrad was programed to mimic the weather in the real world using algorithms generated by Cardinal. It felt like the optimal weather for the first day. No rain, the sun was shining bright. Not a single flaw. It felt great.
As I looked onward I could spot a pair of figures standing at the entrance of the wall. From what I could see, one had a war hammer and the other a two handed longsword. It had to be Guren and Ghost. I then saw and heard the faint round of laughter that seemed to fit my ranks of my friends perfectly. They were definitely all there. I could hear the higher pitched voice that belonged to Vivy, and the exact pitch that fit Guren’s voice to the letter. The only thing that I couldn’t pinpoint exactly was Shadow. Considering his emo-esk personality of the Bombay, he was the wild card. I could never distinguish if whether he were ever present even if I was near him. He was a true mastermind in the art of stealth and rightfully so. If I could imagine he would already be stocked to the brim with picks, throwing knives and a dagger, maybe even a one-handed sword if he were up to the challenge.
The distance between me and the edge of the town started to diminish as my fatigue reached its limits. I slowly switched to walking as I neared Ghost who was standing at an angle, most likely facing the group as they all conversed to each other. The topic would most likely be my absence or, if Ghost talked, our ‘relationship status.’ I cracked a smile (and a blush). I guess there was no use trying to hide it. There was no doubt anyone would have any problem with it, considering that everyone found us to be a cute couple. It seemed undeniable according to Viv. Maybe she was right?
I passed through the archway and I spotted three heads turned towards my direction. Before I even got a look at Guren or Vivy I walk up to Ghost and give him a peck on the lips, this time, making him flush with red. I let out a chuckle. “Well at least I know he’s glad to see me.” I had pointed towards him for comedic effect. I heard a chuckle come from both our other tank and spear-woman. At least they enjoyed it. I took Ghost’s paw in mine. “How’s it going guys? I see that everyone’s got their gear.”
“We’re doing okay,” Guren answered collectively for the group. He had a smile on his face. “I can see that you’re doing great.” He was gesturing towards our entwined hands. “It’s about time you two got together. I was starting to think that you never would!”
He patted my shoulder and I started to blush. I rubbed my tense neck with a smile. “Thanks,” was all I could push out.
“Alright.” Guren announced, stepping away from us to get a better view of the group. “Now that we’re all here, we can finally start. But before we get out there and start leveling up, I think we should create a party and send our friend requests, that way we can keep track of everyone.”
All at once everyone pulled up their menus and begun sending their requests left and right, even Flash who was now standing upright near the wall navigating through his menu. Left and right we accepted our friend requests and party requests and finished up in record time. We all turned towards our leader and waited for the big speech.
“Is everyone all set?” He had asked, the lot of us keeping our mouths shut. We had no opposition. “Good. Now let’s get down to business.” He started pacing. “With the launch of SAO comes a slew of 9,995 others ready to run off into the wild, ready to hunt and play to their hearts content. With that in mind, we’re going to get out there and level up before the hills and plains are picked clean. With all of the other testers that were with us during the beta, I wouldn’t be surprised that they would have the same idea beforehand.” Guren stopped to face us with a confident glint in his eyes. This was the part where he would explain his course of action. “Here’s the plan. We’re going to split up into groups.”
He faced the only couple in the group. “Ghost and Lucky, you’ll be the first group, if it weren’t that obvious. Both of you will take the northern area, shouldn’t be that hard. Just a bunch of wolves. For level ones it shouldn’t be that hard.”
“Got it.” The Terrier nodded. We had looked at each other with loving smiles.
“Vivy and Flash,” He turned to my right, “You’re going with me--”
“I’d rather go alone.” The ninja like cat proclaimed.
I looked over towards the wall to see the hooded, dark clothed cat leaning against the stony surface and I stared at him, confused.... His statement seemed so calm and collected, but his expression and posture read something else entirely. It was if he was irritated. I personally didn’t think about it much, but he was usually a loner and an introvert. He wasn’t much for group based combat. So I guess it makes sense.
“You sure?” Guren proceeded to confirm.
“I’m fine.” Shadow persisted, looking up angrily to the Manx.
Everyone’s eyes suddenly grew slightly, including mine. We could feel the tension start to grow. Guren cleared his throat. “Alright then. Vivy and I will take the southern portion. We’ll get the boars. Shadow, I’m guessing you’ll take the path, but I’ll just leave it up to you.”
“Cool.” He responded.
“Right.” The cat’s chest rose. “Before we head out I need to discuss one more thing.” I raised my brow (if I had one). “I can’t stress enough about the new players that could be lurking out in the fields. If you see someone struggling, don’t hesitate to help them out. Give them tips and tricks to help them out if they’re having trouble with the combat system. Remember how much trouble we had trying to get a hang of it?”
I could. I remember trying to swing my sword willy-nilly at a wolf on this very floor. I didn’t even get one full swing at the enemy before I was killed. It was funny to be honest.
“With that in mind, help them as much as we can. We are beta testers and ultimately alpha testers. If we have any knowledge on the game, it would be us. So… without further adu, let’s kill us some mobs!”
We all cheered and started to head off in opposite directions, me and Ghost included, ready to finally dive into the game.
TO BE CONTINUED
(A/N: This chapter is the start of a new writing style that I would like for the fic. This will be the norm from now on. Carry on! ^^)
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:31 am
Great job, D3ath_0ps!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:00 pm
Nice job on this so far! I can't wait to see where this goes!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:24 pm
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
- The Weight of the Heart=
My sword elevated to my waist. In front of me was a low level ‘slime’--a low level monster commonly found in other video games--that snarled at the sight of me. He had red piercing eyes that stared into mine. Other than the ‘all fours’ aspect of the beast, he could have been compared to me outright. My right hand held the one-handed sword tightly at the hilt and my left hovering over the middle of the silver blade. He was preparing for his attack. But I had the advantage. The sword skill started to charge a bright shade of red.
Now was my chance.
We both charged at each other with blinding speed as my sword aimed at its target. I let out a cry of might. When we made contact, I felt my sword hit its target with ease. The system assist combined with the sword skill guaranteed the blade made an impact; that is if the blow didn’t get blocked by another blade. With this monster, there was no blade in sight, there was only its fangs. It was an easy win to say the least.
After the full strike had made its mark my speed started to slow down, my blade sticking up in the air. I could hear the sound of the digital being crackling into a plethora of light blue polygonal shards. I cracked a sly grin. In front of me popped up a game window listing my winnings from the fight. The window stated I had gained a wolf hide--excellent for light armor crafting if one had the skill. To be honest it was one that I had considered now that I had a higher speed weapon at my disposal. Heavy armor didn’t quite fit the bill, obviously. Even knowing this fact I liked having heavy armor. Even as a scout, my weapon of choice was still a one handed sword rather than a rapier or a katana, the speedier versions of the sword to put it in broader terms.
I let out a breath contained in my lungs. I touched the red exit circle on the winnings window and closed it out. The adrenaline was still pumping through my body. Even though it lasted for a second, that battle seemed like the greatest feeling in the world… if it weren’t for the fact that it could have possibly been my fiftieth fight. I had already raised a whole level after nearly four hours of gameplay. It was past five o’clock in the morning. ‘Geeze… five already? I’m going to have to log out and get some food soon. I hope dad’s cooking a mean breakfast.
’ I chuckled to myself in a thought.
I turned around to find Ghost finishing up a battle with a powerful swing of his hammer, knocking the beast out of the way with and audible metallic ‘ring.’ The wolf’s health points--HP for short--quickly shot down to zero. It had seemed like a one hit KO for the Terrier. In an explosion of blue shards the monster disappeared and a window had appeared in front of Ghost. I could see a victorious smile on his muzzle. He quickly closed it out and faced me. I couldn’t help but give him a loving smile. He had put away his hammer and started walking towards me. When the canine had finally made his way over, he stood in front of me and patted my head, reminding me that I was still about two inches shorter than him. I crossed my arms and let out a low growl. I always disliked it when other pets and people made fun of my height.
Usually, by breed, Akitas are supposed to be taller than Terriers, but I just didn’t fit the bill. When I was born I was known as the runt of the litter. Plus, when I was brought into the real world, my lungs hadn’t opened up for the longest time. I guess it was more than a minute. When my lungs had finally started to work I let out a weak little cry that shocked everyone. It was then that I was known as Rakkī, or Lucky in English. I was born in the US, but my biological mother was from Japan, and so my name had been changed to the English translation on the spot.
“So how’s the spoils Lucky?” The white-furred dog asked.
I shrugged. “It’s nothing to major, I’ve got about one thousand five hundred Cor, and I’ve got about nineteen hide. Perfect for my light armor skill.”
“Awesome!” He cheered, then let out a chuckle. “Maybe when I transition to a one-handed sword, maybe I’ll let you craft my armor.”
I grinned, catching the sarcastic tone. “Maybe.”
I stretched my digital body out and let out a blissful sigh. “Man, I missed this place.”
“I can tell. It seems like you’re having a great time.”
“Sure am. I love this world…” I could see Ghost cross his arms. “Er… not as much as you hon, but you know what I mean.”
The Terrier laughed. “Of course I do Lucky, I’m just pulling your chain.”
My paw landed on my hip as I gave him a playful half smile. I shook off the joke and looked over towards the horizon. Admittedly, the first floor looked beautiful with its floating lakes and cone like spires. If I had to stay here for a month, I probably wouldn’t mind. I closed my eyes and took in a silent breath. “When I’m in this world, I feel like I could do anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love the real world, but this one has some charm to it that I just can’t put my finger on…” I sit in thought for a minute to figure out what I wanted to say, but I eventually lose the thought entirely. “Oh well. I guess it’ll come to me eventually!”
Looked like I had made my boyfriend giggle. “Its fine Lucky,” He reassured, “you’ll remember soon.” I had hoped he was right.
It was then that we both heard the sound off battle, a scream of someone being hit. We both gave each other a hilarious look. By now the player that got hit had finally realized that taking a hit in the realm of Sword Art didn’t actually result in pain. Because of the NerveGear, the nerves in the brain were transmitted through the device instead of the body itself. That’s why the user’s body wouldn’t get up and seemingly struggle in their bed while they play.
“Shall we go check out the new blood?” Ghost chuckled.
I smiled. The memory of what Guren had told us resurfaced. “I guess we should. Besides, I think we could show them a thing or two.” We took each other’s paws and proceeded up the hill. I could imagine the players that were most likely in the same situation that I was in, flailing their weapon to their hearts content.
When we arrived on the scene we could see a pair of players in the midst of battle. They were pets like us. One was a calico, the only orange spot being the one on the cat’s forehead. With the contrast of the almost completely black face and spotty white stomach and paws, the feline looked abnormal. The apparent male was wearing the standard player outfit and was out fitted with a one-handed sword. It seemed like his favorite color was orange considering his bright shirt and dark colored pants.
The other pet was a dog. She looked cinnamon colored, a pair of brown spots on the top of her head and the other on her shoulder, partially covered by her green shoulder-less tunic. The shirt almost matched my own. It was almost dead on. I couldn’t figure out her breed however. She seemed to be a mix of about three different breeds, probably considered a Mutt.
“Come on, Flare” the sweetly sounding high pitched canine called out, standing on the sidelines, “Put your back into it!”
I could see the cat stand up and face the four-legged boar with his sword pointed in his direction. “I’m trying! The combat system in this game is just stupid, that’s all!”
“I told you, you should have read the manual before you dived in!”
“She’s right you know!” I yelled out to the two. Both Ghost and I quickly moved towards them. The sword on my side was already drawn and my avatar stood beside the troubled feline with a grin. It was then that I could see his HP clearly. It was in the yellow, almost over the halfway mark. I looked at the wolf. The mob’s health was at its fullest, not a hint of damage dealt by the two. “The way the combat system works is this…” I pulled the sword to my side and begun to charge it up. “You have to start up the initial motion for your sword skill. You start your move and hold it, then the skill will charge up. You’ll feel it activate and if done at the right time…” Quickly moving forward with my attack, my sword struck the boar on its side, a bright orange-red gash bringing the monster down to just forty percent of its health. “…the system will guarantee you a hit.”
“Is that so?” The feline questioned.
I nodded as the boar begun to target me. I blocked its horn attack with my blade and I gave it a grin, my expression meant to be aimed towards the cat. “Yep. Try it out! I’ll try and send the boar your way so start charging!”
The cat stared at the boar and held the sword diagonally across his body with both paws. The blade started to glow bright blue, the skill activating. I smiled. “Okay,” he called out intensely, “ready!”
With the flick of my wrist I deflected the boar and moved out of its way, kicking it towards the feline. I watched as he looked at the digital entity with pure strength as he moved at a remarkable speed. He had slashed the boar clean through with the tip of his blade, bringing the final increments of its HP down to zero as it exploded into a billion bright fragments. I could tell that this was his first battle, if it weren’t that obvious already. Flare was thrilled when his victory screen showed up in front of him.
I walked up to him and patted his shoulder. “Congratulations.”
He put away his sword and stepped aside to face me and the others. “Thanks, uh…” He stood awkwardly as he scratched the back of his head.
He didn’t know our names. I guess it would have been kind to introduce ourselves before stepping in. “Lucky. My name is Lucky. Over here is Ghost, my beloved.”
The girl blushed and giggled, extending her brown paw over towards him. “Nice to meet you two. I’m Alanna. Over here is Flare.”
“Nice to meet you both.” I smiled.
A bright orange icon appeared in front of the Terrier, the symbol inside the circle an envelope to signify a new message. It had to be from Guren. He looked up at me. “Excuse me. I’ll be a minute.”
“Take your time, hon.” I told him kindly. As he walked a small distance away, I stared at the two pets in front of me. Just by the look of them I could tell that this was their first time taking the full plunge. But, I had to ask. “So I’m guessing this is your guy’s first full-dive, right?”
They both nodded their heads at me. “This is our first.” Alanna confirmed.
Flare crossed his arms and nodded.
She closed her eyes and smiled. “Sword Art Online is our first ever VR game that we’ve owned. In the real world, we’re in the same neighborhood, so we kind of freaked when we first saw it was going to be available online. When we asked our parents if we could buy into this new system, they agreed and ordered the NerveGear and Sword Art Online before they were ultimately sold out. We were definitely lucky to at least snag the game. For Flare’s owners, it wasn’t a problem, considering their stature in the art world. They even chipped in to help my family buy the stuff too. You couldn’t believe how excited I was.”
Alanna’s eyes opened and looked out towards the horizon.
“Now that I mention it, it’s kind of weird to think about it. I’m inside
a video game. Who would have thought we would have seen the day that VR would become this
. I guess you could say that I’m overreacting when I say this, but I feel like this is one of the greatest moments of my life. I’m so happy I got the chance to experience this in my lifetime. This game… this world makes me feel so… alive, per se. It’s just simply amazing. There’s no other way to put it.”
By the time she was finished, I too was looking out to the sights the floor had to offer, memorized by the setting sun. She couldn’t have said it any better. This world was one of the best experiences gaming had to offer and I was glad that I got the chance to experience it let alone help create it. The game was a work of art in its own right and we were living it.
The sound of footsteps filled the air, the wind blowing softly in our faces, the sound grass ruffling creating a peaceful setting. After a moment Ghost had finally pipped up. “Looks like Guren found Vlain and Freyalise while hunting. They should be joining our party soon.”
“I assume that we’re all level two by now?”
The Terrier nodded. “We’re all up there.”
My eyes were cast towards the two new players. Their eyes were still drawn towards the landscape. Ghost had must’ve spoken in a whisper. They seemed to stand like statues. A thought suddenly hit me… with the size of our group growing, I wondered if they would like to join us too?
“Hey, Flare, Alanna,” I began, their heads turning my way. “We have a seven player group that meets regularly on here and I’d think they’d like you. So, How about you join up with us?”
Both of their eyes grew wide. “Really?” Alanna gleamed.
I smiled. “Well, yeah! You guys seem cool and you have a lot to learn, so why not.” I turn to Ghost. “What do you think hon?”
He shrugged. “I have no objections.”
“Cool. Welcome to the group gu--”
Just as I was about to finish, the same orange icon popped up for Ghost and I. We looked at each other with a confused stare. The two of us open the message to see Shadow’s writing. This message was most likely sent to all of us who were in the party. The text stated:
Stay alert, the log-out button is missing from the main menu. This doesn’t seem like a simple bug either, the game masters aren’t even responding to my calls. Something doesn’t seem right… again, stay cautious.
I had read the message aloud, considering that the new members weren’t officially apart of the party as of yet. I instinctively stared at the time. It read 5:30. The only thought on my mind was why. Why would the button be missing?
“What does that mean?” Flare questioned, a hint of fright in his tone. His eyes seemed to grow wider than before.
I opened my menu and navigated to where the button should have been labeled clearly. Instead, a blank space had taken the icon’s place. A look of pure shock filled my face. This wasn’t right… no… this was far from alright. If there was no way to log out of the game, this would cause massive amounts of angry players to essentially riot in the streets. I turned to Ghost who had his menu up and positioned to where the log out button resided. He looked as baffled as I was. I finally looked at the calico. I could audibly hear him gulp. “It means that there is no way to log out of SAO…”
Both looked at him with pure terror. To be completely honest, regardless of my rank, I would have been too.
Alanna was the first to frantically speak. “But, wouldn’t there be an emergency log out or something of that nature?”
I assumed Ghost shook his head. Alanna was looking behind me and towards him. Then he spoke, “No. There wasn’t anything mentioned in the manual, so there isn’t any way of logging out other than the icon on the menu.”
“I assume because of the Gear we can’t pull off our own headsets either right?” Flare gloomily uttered.
I didn’t dare want to respond to the question with the obvious answer, but I felt lying was pointless in this situation. He was staring right at me. I had to answer. “No. We can’t…” My lips answered coldly.
We all sat in silence. The only collective emotion that we were now all feeling could only be shock. “Why wouldn’t the log out function be working?” Ghost suddenly questioned to no one. I looked up to him to find his eyes towards the ground away from the group. “Better yet, why haven’t the GM’s announced anything yet? Shouldn’t they be trying to reassure the players right now? But… if it’s as what Flash told us, the Game Masters are most likely fixing the problem? Right?...” His thought trailed off into nothing as he looked directly at me. My eyes adverted away. I couldn’t give him a straight answer even if I tried. There wasn’t any explanation to be had. Shadow was right, something strange is definitely up…
“GONG. GONG. GONG…
We all stared in the direction of the town. An announcement… finally.
I thought reassuringly to myself. With the tenth sound of the bell, my surroundings turned into white, the feeling of uneasiness only growing to new heights.
* * *
When my vision had finally cleared, my eyes laid upon a sea of ten-thousand confused souls, their avatars looking around the town square. We had all been teleported to the middle of the Town of Beginnings, right in front of the Black-Iron Palace. Beside me were the three others that had been standing next to me. Flare and Alanna were looking around the square at the faces in the crowd. I breathed slowly in and out, trying to control my anxiety starting to grow on me.
I began by looking around myself. The people and the few number of pets that I could see were all talking to each other with an expression that could only be described as worried. The situation started to poke at my mind. It was clear that someone had forced a teleport so that everyone was gathered in one central area. With this, I now knew that someone was watching over us and they had GM credentials, otherwise the bell wouldn’t have sounded and the teleport wouldn’t have happened. But who was it? It seemed like a classic case of ‘Who dun’ it?’ at this point.
Suddenly the crowd burst into a soft mumble which turned into a loud murmur, the sound of everyone’s voices turning into a collective sound. Everyone was adding their own voice into the conversation their questions peaking over the sound of the ten-thousand players.
“Can we log out yet?”
“Where’s the GMs?
“I want to leave!”
These questions popped up everywhere, and they were turning into more angry, frustrated demands by the minute. I looked around in a shiver. I could feel my confidence draining from my body. The panic started to make my mind and heart race. It felt as if I was going to pass out. It was then that I felt a furry arm wrap itself around me. My head shot up at the being, only finding it was Ghost. I gravitated closer to him as he petted my shoulder softly.
“I’m here hon. Just breath.”
I did as I was told, breathing slowly in and out. As my mind started to clear I could hear a distinctive voice pop up in the crowd. I couldn’t put a name to it, even if I tried.
“Look, up there!”
The crowd seemed to have stopped speaking all at once. The chaotic crowd was now as silent as a mouse. I saw the fleshy hand through the crowd pointing up towards the ceiling. Just below the sun-kissed roof of the first floor was a red, hexagonal message. Before I could get a read on it, the red spread through the bottom of the second floor, causing the area to be engulfed in a red tint. I looked closely at the text that was in the center of each of the hexagons. The shapes read: ‘WARNING’ and ‘SYSTEM ANNOUNCEMENT.’
I didn’t know whether or not to feel frightened, or relieved. Frightened at the fact that the red created an ominous feeling at the pit of my stomach, or relieved that someone had finally decided to do something
. I looked up. My eyes spotted something. The sky was moving
The message had dipped down into a thick liquid like substance, pooling above the more than likely nervous onlookers. The liquid worryingly resembled blood. It was then the drop then started to change its shape. It’s transformation created a series of sparks in the sky as a star like figure emerged from the shape. My eyes widened. It was a person.
This man-like figure had transformed into a crimson robe, its yellow accents resembling the usual GM robe that was prominent in the beta test. Not only that, white gloves had emerged from the sleeves and shoes had formed at the bottom. Normally, Game Masters would appear as elderly humans wearing the same robes as the one floating in the sky, but this was different. Upon closer inspection I look inside the hood of the robe. Confusion filled my face. The robe was empty.
My fearful thinking started to return, some of the crowd started to ask questions, but I could feel the uneasiness from the voices. I could start to pick out some of the questions that I personally had asked myself.
“Is this the Game Master?”
“Is this an Event?”
“Where’s his face?”
My eyes were now drawn to the sleeves of the figure, they were both rising from their places and had stopped when the hood had formed a t-shape in the sky. In the midst of this, I could think of a smile on the inside of the robe, if there were anyone inside of course. It was then a calm voice echoed over the ten thousand pets and people.
“Welcome to my world, dear players.”
The voice could have been as deep as my father’s. His words had hit me like a mace. What did he mean by “his world?” Does this GM mean he has control over this world? This game? If so, why announce it to everyone here? This seemed very strange indeed, but the being didn’t stop there.
“My name is Akihiko Kayaba. As of this moment, I am the only human being alive with control over this world.”
I could feel my heart skip a beat at the name of this malevolent “god.” This was the man who had created and developed the NerveGear, and this game. Mostly everyone in the gaming world knew his name by heart. Because of his stature, it was rare that anyone didn’t know his name or let alone hear about him. He was a quantum physicist who had made the video game company ARGUS into one of the leading competitors in the industry. There was no doubt that this man was a genius. I honesty was jealous of his stature.
I knew that he didn’t like to make appearances that often in regards to the media, and pretty much avoided the spotlight entirely. But I could remember his stunning looks, his featured lab coat completing his prestigious look. Looking at the hooded being again, I thought about it… he’d never make a GM appearance. Why would he even consider it now?
I tried understanding the situation like any other would do if he or she were in my situation, but to no avail. I had nothing. There had to be someone out there with the same knowledge, the same questions I had. I wonder if they had answers…
The voice then popped up again.
“You may have likely noticed by now that the log-out button has disappeared from the main menu. This is not a bug. I repeat, this is not a bug--it is a feature of Sword Art Online.”
I could hear another pack of voices in shock, the word “feature” sticking with them. Admittedly, the word stuck with me too. I could feel the tension from Ghost’s paw. Even he was stuck on that sentence. Kayaba continued to ‘woo’ the crowd further.
“From this point onward, you will be able to freely log out of the game until the summit of this castle is conquered.”
I could hear Ghost now. “Does… does he mean--”
“Furthermore, the NerveGear cannot be removed or shut down via external means. If forceful means of exit are attempted…”
He had paused. Everyone was silent, awaiting the next set of words to come out of his robe. To be honest, I didn’t want to hear the next statement, but his final nail in the coffin came with a hard strike as his words echoed through the town.
“…the high-powered microwaves emitted by the NerveGear will scramble your brain and shut down your vital processes.”
The crowd had stayed silent after the final word of his statement. Not a breath to be exhaled, nor a sound from our open mouths. We were all effectively in shock. The man’s words had echoed softly in my mind. ‘Scramble our brains…’ ‘Shut down our vital processes…’ Vital. I slowly put two and two together. Tears started to well in my eyes, blurring the robe floating in the sky.
He may have been crazy, but he wasn’t wrong. No, he was dead on. The NerveGear’s transmitters that were riddled throughout the device could emit electromagnetic waves that would send false sensations through the brain cells. We were also told this by my father who had personally looked and read about the device himself. If enough power were to be overloaded into the transmitters, they would effectively nuke the brain from the inside out, like a microwave oven. The vibrations cause the cells to heat up using friction and the moisture from the cells would dry up.
How is this possible? Well, with the massive battery in the back of the Gear, composing of a third of the total weight, this theory could turn into reality. Although, there was one question that popped into my mind. “What happens if a black out occurs?” A simple question, but apparently Akihiko had an answer as he started to speak once more.
“To be more specific, the brain-frying sequence will commence upon any of the following circumstances: ten minutes of no external power; two hours of network disconnection; removal, dismantling, or destruction of the NerveGear. The authorities and media outlets in the outside world have already announced the details of these conditions to the general public. At present, the friends and family of several players have already ignored these warnings and attempted to forcefully remove their NerveGears, the result being…”
I could hear an audible breath from the robe. It sounded like it was going through a sound filter with the metallic sound ringing in my ears. I didn’t want to hear the next part of the speech, but he continued anyways.
“…that sadly, two hundred and thirteen players have already been permanently retired from both Aincrad and the real world.”
A loud inhale sounded from my muzzle. Instinctively Ghost held me tight as I sobbed uncontrollably. My digital tears were soaking the short fur of my boyfriend and they wouldn’t stop. Two hundred and thirteen. Two hundred and thirteen innocent gamers, gone. Without a word. Without any goodbyes, farewells. Their families sobbing over their bed. I couldn’t handle it.
Inside I already knew he was telling the truth. There was no reason for the creator and the mastermind behind the Gear and the game to lie to the ten thousand of us, no matter how ridiculous the claims were. But there was the part of me that didn’t want to believe him. Not for a second. I couldn’t. This had to be a joke. Something to get the players riled up for the release of the game.
Kayaba continued his announcement to us, my ears already feeling like they’ve had enough.
“There is no need to worry about your physical bodies back in the real world. The current state of the game and today’s facilities have been covered far and wide on television, radio, and the Internet. The danger that someone will forcefully remove your NerveGear is already much diminished. The two-hour offline leeway period should provide enough time for your physical bodies to be transported to hospitals and other long-term care facilities with proper security, eliminating concerns over your physical well-being. You may rest assured… and focus on conquering the game.”
I could feel Ghost’s chest tighten up and a fist had formed where his paw was. “So he just wants us to run like guinea pigs through this… death game? And he expects us to just be cool and go with it?!” His voice transformed into a scream. I could hear a couple other people have the same reaction, but the rest of the crowd had stayed their tongues. They didn’t dare to speak.
“However,” the speech continued, “please proceed with caution. As of this moment, Sword Art Online is no longer a game to you. It is another reality. The standard means of player resurrection will no longer function as they did previously. When your health points dwindle to zero, your avatar will be permanently be deleted, and the NerveGear will destroy your brain.”
That was it. The rules had been set. If any player’s HP would drop to nothing… he or she would pay the ultimate price… for playing a video game.
I wanted to scream as loud as I could with pure terror, but all I could hear was the pure silence. Nothing more. No one could believe it.
When everything was on the line, why would anyone want to go out now?
“There is one condition through which you can be freed from this game…”
I looked to see the empty robe, waiting for his challenge to the players.
“…Simply reach the one hundredth floor at the pinnacle of Aincrad and defeat the final boss who awaits you there. In that instant, all surviving players will be able to safely log out one again.”
“What…” I audibly say. “That’s… that’s not possible…” My fist clenched and my words turned into a scream towards the crimson robe. “Even the beta testers couldn’t get past the tenth floor! How do you expect us to conquer this whole damned castle!!”
Then it hit me. My own words had become a chilling whisper now.
“What about my dad, who may as well be sitting beside me crying his eyes out at this very moment, huh? What about him? We’ve already lost our mom, and he could barely deal with that. Now you want to take me too?” My eyes were then gloomily cast towards the paved stone of the square. The knees that had supported the weight of my avatar shivered. “You’re a monster, Kayaba.”
There was no way to reach him. The only family member that I had and loved was on the other side of this digital wall created by Akihiko, and unless we beat the castle, I couldn’t ever see him again. The stakes couldn’t have been higher.
“Finally, let me prove to you that this world is now your one and only reality. I’ve prepared a gift for all of you. You may find it in your item storage.”
Instinctively, we all had opened up our menus to the storage of our avatar. Inside was an item that wasn’t there before. It was labeled ‘HAND MIRROR.’ You know what they said about curiosity… With a couple of presses of the UI, the mirror had materialized in my paw and I saw the reflection of my teary eyed self in the red, shoulder-less tunic. I wiped my eyes and stared at myself. Why would he give us a--
I then saw what must have been a billion bright auras surrounding each player who had opened up Kayaba’s “gift.” The same aura suddenly consumed me too as I fear the worst. I close my eyes until everything seemed like it was over.
“Lucky…” Ghost called out in a frightened tone. “Look…”
I opened my eyes slowly, apprehensive as to what I may find. Once they finally fully opened I take a look around the square. Everyone’s appearance changed. At first I was confused. Why would everyone’s appearance change all of a sudden? I looked closely back at my reflection. It was the same... why?
“I got it.” Ghost realized with a snap of his fingers. “Thanks to the NerveGear, everyone is now their real selves thanks to the facial scan built into it. The reason we didn't change is because of the pet recognition system. There isn't really much varitiy for pets, so why not just let them be them
? Plus with the calibration settings that occur when someone sets up the Gear at their initial start of using the device, you know, when it had you touch your body in the different spots. That’s how it gets a person’s height and weight.”
He looked onward towards the robe. “So this is it. This world, this game
is our new reality. Kayaba said it himself, right? This was his way of showing it. By replicating our bodies flawlessly inside the game, he forced us to see this fact: he’s not bluffing. This is real
I too looked up at the hooded shadow. I clenched my fists as another tear hit the pavement. My rage wanted to billow out of me, curses in all, towards the so called “god” floating above us. Inside the depths of my mind there was a part of me that didn’t want to believe any of his words. I didn’t want it to be real. It couldn’t be real. But yet, every bit of detail that was mentioned had all the facts, all the information to back his claims up. There was no point in denying the facts, he held all the cards in this situation. There was one other thing he had failed to mention, why? Why would he do this?
“You are likely asking yourselves, why? Why would Akihiko Kayaba, developer of SAO and the NerveGear do such a thing? Is it an act of terrorism? An elaborate kidnapping to extract ransom money?”
He had impeccable timing, I’d give him that. All of these questions had now run through my perfectly intact brain at one point or another. But Kayaba continued, oddly enough, there seemed to be a hint of awe in his emotionless voice, like he longed for this moment.
“What I seek is neither of these things. I have no goals or justifications at this moment. In fact, this very situation was
my ultimate goal. I created the NerveGear and SAO precisely in order to build this world and observe it. I have now achieved that aim.”
Kayaba then switched back into his monotone voice.
“This concludes the tutorial phase of Sword Art Online. I wish you the best of luck, dear players.”
With an ear-piercing digitized screech, the robe liquidized in a flurry of pixels as it descended just above the crowd. The red liquid was quickly sucked back into the warning signs above, leaving nothing but the messages that floated just below the very bottom of the second floor. Just like the flick of a switch, the red light had disappeared too, the amber hue of the sun casting its light once again upon the sound less crowd. I could hear the music of the NPCs that inhabited the game, the original life of the RPG seeming to reset with the environment.
The game had begun anew. The new rules that confined our stay looming over our heads.
In the matter of seconds the square had essentially erupted with the less than ten thousand voices, all confused and afraid, just as I was. Suddenly, an orange message popped up for me and Ghost, who were surprisingly calm given the situation that was now laid in front of us. Nearly simultaneously, we both open to the text. It was Guren.
Get to the West Gate. Fast. Grab as many potions as necessary. We’re going to need them now more than ever. -G
I closed out the message and turned towards the Terrier. “We got to get out of here. It’s going to become really hectic really quick if we don’t move.”
“Right.” My Boyfriend agreed. He turned towards the Calico and the Mutt who were still standing where they were when the speech began. It was as if they were made of stone. I quickly crouch down in front Flare, is eyes wide as if he was in a trance. I waved my paw in front of the feline.
“Flare?” I called out, his shoulders now covered by my paws. There was no response. I start by shaking his entire body, wiggling him back and forth before attempting to knock some sense into him. “Flare?” I repeated. Again, nothing. I start to get irritated. A sniffle sounds from my nose. My eyes were still glossy from before making it difficult to make out his face at moments. With a quick swipe I smacked the feline’s muzzle. “FLARE!” That did the trick. He stared at me with a somber look in his eye. I flashed the same look. I couldn’t do anything to help him in my current mental state, let alone his. I could only offer a kind of sanctuary.
The crowd started pushing and shoving, making my head turn to a couple places in the crowd. This was getting worse. My eyes met with the cats.
“We have to get out of here. Now.” I turn to Alanna as well. She had this sense of composure that caught my eye. She seemed so strong. But, now was not the time to get star-struck. “Our group is going to meet at the Western Gate. While we’re running, be sure to stop at any stand that sells health potions and get as many as you can carry, okay?”
They nodded their heads.
“Alright,” I quickly drew a breath. Relaxing my mind slightly, “Let’s get out of here, fast.”
With a bolt we all took off towards the exit of the town. Eventually the crowd died down to a rumble of sound, the further we got away, the quieter it became. We passed by countless houses and weapon merchants, the streets of the town almost desolate if the NPCs weren’t taken into account. I looked down the different alleyways of the main pathway instinctively, my curiosity seeming to spike in that direction. It was then that I spotted two players, a tall, handsome looking man near the main avenue and a dark haired teenager standing in front of him. The eyes of the black haired kid had connected with mine for a split second, but I could tell we knew each other. His eyes told it all. He was a beta tester too.
“Potion stall!!” Ghost shouted.
“I see it!” I called out as my head shot forward, spotting the brewing keg inside the stall in front of us. “Get as many potions as you can. If you need me to spot anything, tell me!”
“That goes for me too.” The Terrier included.
We all stopped in front of the stand, one by one buying out the potions the shop keeper had. I had bought fifteen, Ghost twenty, and Flare and Alanna had bought five collectively. That wasn’t good enough. We hastily traded our items so that everyone had at most eight potions and left the area. In all it took a solid two minutes to sort everything out, but it was time well spent. The two now knew how to trade and barter, two key components in this game.
It wasn’t long before we had reached the West Gate, five figures now standing in front of us. In total, our group now had nine players, the new additions being Freyalise and Vlain as well as Flare and Alanna. We could start a guild if we wanted to.
“Glad you guys could make it.” Guren uttered. He was still feeling the effects of Kayaba’s speech. I couldn’t blame him.
“We stocked up on potions and we’re ready when you are.” I tried to say positively, my half smile putting a minute grin on the Manx’s muzzle.
“Good. I would like a word with everyone before we leave.”
Everyone faced our leader with the utmost attention. I heard an audible breath emanating from the pet.
“We all know what just went down back there. I don’t think that needs any explanation.”
He paused. By a glance he had looked as if he had seen a ghost, but with what was mentioned before, it came as no surprise.
“From this point on, every single pet and human trapped inside this game share one ultimate goal. To reach the top of the castle. With this in mind, we’re going to have to be more cautious as we progress through the game. The stakes are higher than ever and we’re going to have to keep on raising the pot if we’re going to actually win. We simply have no choice.”
The Manx crossed his arms. He looked composed, even in this sticky situation.
“It’s up to us as players, and to some of us alpha testers, to see this game through to the end. Vivy, Flash, Ghost, and Lucky, I know that your knowledge of the game is as good as mine, maybe even better, but I have to express a word of caution to your lot especially. Do not get overzealous. Ever. Your knowledge could be advantageous on the battlefield, but if your start to become cocky and arrogant, then you’re just subjecting yourself to your own demise. Plain and simple. I don’t…”
He suddenly stopped, choking on his words. Vivy had walked up next to him, placing a paw on his shoulder. He shakily continued.
“I don’t want you to die. I won’t let that happen. I refuse to. We will
beat this thing. We will
make it to the Ruby Palace. I don’t care how long it takes. This game is ours." He paused and smiled. "We will be known as the Knights of Argus, the remnants of the great video game company that still lives on through us, and we will see this through to the end.”
A round of claps had filled the air, replacing the noise that was still enveloped in the town square. That was definitely a catchy name, it had a sort of ring to it. Guren continued, his map pulled up on the menu.
“Here’s the plan. We’re going to skip right past this area and head to the next town. The fields of this area will be pretty much picked clean soon enough, so there’ll be no point in sticking around. I’ll guide you lot through the safer sections of the route so that we won’t be interrupted by any hostiles on the way over. Vivy and I will take point. Ghost and Lucky, you’ll cover our behinds. Shadow, you’re going to stick to the middle. Everyone else will stick in between us and Lucky. Any questions?”
The group remained silent.
“Good. Let’s get going then.”
It was at that moment that the game of death had officially begun. But I wouldn’t let this stupid world win. Not by a longshot. My goal was short and simple, and with the help of the party and Ghost I knew that I could see this through to the very end. This goal is just instinct: survive.
And so it begins. My heavy heart will carry onward.
TO BE CONTINUED
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:59 pm
Wow, this story is getting intense... Great job at writing this, I'm really getting drawn into this. Can't wait to see what happens to the group as they go on.
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Wed Sep 23, 2015 3:07 pm
Great job, D3ath_0ps!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:35 am
And with that, the fic begins. Thanks for reading the first three chapters guys. You should totally check out the link I recently found at the end of the third chapter. Seems fitting for it, doesn't it?
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:42 am
I look forward to seeing more from this!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:15 pm
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite-
=Chapter 4 - Preparations=
The clang of our armor filled through the crowded wall of the labyrinth with an echo. The dark setting made the space give off a cramped feel to it, the only sources of light being the torches that hung on the walls. Riddled throughout the desolate hallways were slits and forks that lied on our path, most likely leading to dead ends that were most common in this maze. This place seemed to go on for what seemed like forever.
There were only five of us, these players being Ghost, Vivy, Flash, Guren, and myself. The Argus squad. Leading the advance were the two tanks, Guren and Ghost, our fearless leader mapping out the area before us as we traversed further into the depths of this darkened dungeon. Vivy and I had the middle, our speedy weapons the second wave of onslaught if it had come to it. In the back we had Flash, the ninja who had our backs the entire time. With a strong formation, a party could easily defeat a stronger, larger enemy without much trouble. But if a party didn’t have a sturdy formation and was faced with such a feat, it was almost certain that at least one of the members would perish. With the death game in full swing, that type of recklessness couldn’t be tolerated. Not a chance.
I looked at the white-furred Terrier walking in front of me, leading the charge along with our leader. It was then that he turned around to look at me. He flashed a loving grin in my direction. I felt my cheeks start to burn as I did the same.
My boyfriend’s head turned forward and stared at the darkness. Then I could see him suddenly stop. He was looking down at his feet. I looked down to the floor to find a dreadful sight. A raised stone had slowly sunk back into the ground and a wall suddenly fell from the ceiling. I looked at Guren who was still observing his map. He was oblivious. I attempted to call out to the Manx, but it was too late. I heard one of the loudest and most blood curdling screams I had ever heard emit from in front of me. Then the stone fell into place. Sky blue polygons had plumed up from the seam in between the stone and the floor.
I let out my own scream of terror along with Vivy, calling out to the now deceased player, my friend.
I could hear a few words from in back of me, my now glossy eyes fogging up my vision. I turned to see the blurry view of a black figure fighting off what seemed like a horde of enemies, sparks flying anywhere and everywhere. I could hear the sound of struggle, sadness, and anger in the matter of seconds. I pull out my sword to attempt to join the fray, but it was already too late. We were being overwhelmed by the sheer number of these monsters. It was then that our ninja had exploded into an array of lights.
This couldn’t be happening… not again…
Vivy lets out a cry and lunges towards the monster, joining Ghost in the fight. She landed a few blows at the enemies, one of the beasts dying of themselves. Even with the apparent team work between the two, it wasn’t enough. Vivy’s HP dwindled into nothing. Her body disappeared before it could even touch the ground. I look at Ghost with agony. He was next. Time seemed to move in slow motion as he turned his head towards me. He looked mortified, afraid knowing his death was imminent. I saw the sword from the beast slash upward at his back, pushing him towards me. I run up to grab him, but all I could catch were the shards of his fragmented body. My teary eyes grow wide. I simply screamed.
FIRST FLOOR - TOLBANA
2:49 AM (Aincrad Stnd. Tm.) December 2, 2022
My body jolted up from my bed. I could feel that I was in a sweat. My lungs were taking in large quantities of air rapidly, my eyes glossy from the tears that had started to well up in my eyes. I looked around the room in a panic, trying to collect my bearings. I saw that I was laying in the same room that Ghost and I rented for the night after a full day of mapping the first floor’s labyrinth. The room felt medieval, a candlelit lamp the only source of light that was filling the plain room with the dim orange glow.
I let out a silent sob. My paws covered my wet eyes. ‘Was it a dream? Did… did all of them die?...’ my troubled mind frantically asked. I slowly looked next to me to the other space in the bed. I held my breath, my body shaking in its place. When I finally laid my eyes on the other side of the room, the feeling of relief washed over me. The white Terrier that I had loved so much continued to occupy the space next to me, his eyes still shut. He was still asleep. This feeling of ease didn’t last for long however. I started to uncontrollably ball my eyes out on the cushiony surface.
The emotions that had filled my heart were too much to handle. My own paws were pressed harshly against my face and eyes, my fingers pulling on the fur around them. It was not the first time I had these dreams. No, not by a long shot. Over the course of the first week of the start of SAO, I could barely sleep at all. Even if I managed to drift off at all, these types of dreams would haunt my very being. Death was the one thing that I was scared of in this game. I couldn’t shake it, and there was a very justifiable reason behind it. Two thousand were now gone. In just a mere month, one-fifth of the total population of the game were silenced. Never to say another word in the realm of SAO, nor the real world. It was nerve-wracking. My goal that I made was seeming to slip further and further away.
I could still remember the first… when I had gotten word of it… that death was the one to start it all.
After we left the starting town, hysteria consumed the players. They didn’t want to accept that they were trapped inside some game of death. The very first to go after Kayaba’s announcement… was a suicide. Only three hours afterward. His name was Irvin. He kept telling the others beyond the half-wall that protected then from the very cliff side he was standing on that the NerveGear was designed to have you regain consciousness when you died. It was like he completely disregarded Akihiko’s words entirely. With his final hurrah, he called out to the players, leaping over the cliff and down to the bottomless sky below, ‘I’ll see you on the other side!’
It was on the Monument of Life that players confirmed that he was really gone; from this world at least. This monument was what replaced the Hall of Resurrection in the final release of Sword Art. On this stone that rest inside the Black-Iron Palace inscribed were all the names of the ten thousand players, written in English. Their names crossed out and marked with the cause of death, if he or she were to perish.
These events such as Irvin’s took their toll on the other players, including myself, as the first month quickly passed by. Ghost constantly asked if I were okay. I gave him a smile and the half-hearted response, ‘I’m fine hon.’ I would take his hand and he’d question me. I would reinforce my claim, then he would seemingly give up. In actuality, I wasn’t okay. I was suffering on the inside. Every day was another striking blow to the heart. Depression and Insomnia were constant in this world, the consistent news of who had perished thus far further pulling me down into this dark place. In addition, the constant fear of death was even directed towards the players themselves.
Within the month of our trial, we had already heard stories of players being lynched and PKed--player killed--because of one simple fact; they were beta testers. Including the fact that about three hundred of the testers were gone, it was terrible to think that I or our team could be next. Guren had already taken precautions against this by having us constantly training and leveling when we were out in the field, and when dusk came, renting out rooms at the local inn at the nearest town. The towns were considered safe-zones by the system. This meant that no one could deal any damage to a player unless they were subject to a duel.
These things had clouded my mind. I couldn’t shake it. Inside, I knew I needed help, but in doing so would only slow us down. I wasn’t worth the trouble. Not now. We had too much on the line to be dealing with personal problems.
I quickly left the sanctuary of my room and equipped all of my armor, just in case. I couldn’t be too careful. I thought that maybe some leveling would take my mind off of things for a while, maybe even until dawn if I’m lucky. I exited the building to the darkness of night, the lights that were scattered on the sides of shops and taverns throughout the town of Tolbana, the closest village to the looming tower that connected this floor with the other. I stood at the entrance to the inn, my eyes locked onto the tower. By now the late night mapping group should already have been traversing the labyrinth at this very minute, getting some of the last few areas complete. I turned towards the north exit of the town, the plains that were most likely filled with wolves and boars lying ahead of me.
After exiting the town I looked at the sights around me, looking mainly for enemy players. When the coast was clear I let out a weary sigh and started walking forward. The safe-zone was behind me. I stared at the horizon. I was so nonchalant about leaving alone. Was it the fact that I simply didn’t care anymore? Did death not seem so bad? I shook off the thought and diverted from my path, reaching the area that I had gone to often to level-up. Although it wasn’t efficient to enhance my skill this way, this way of gaining experience points was my favorite way of advancement. I was about level five. I was on the verge of becoming level six, so why not gain this last little boost of EXP--experience points.
I pulled out my curved sword from its sheath, spotting a pack of wolves. I analyzed my possible plan of attack. I could have attempted to take on the four of them. My skill was high enough. Plus if I got hurt, I could just use a health potion. If something were to happen, no know would know, no one would care. I was alone. Just as I was about to rush into battle, I stood just beyond the creature’s detection radius, sword in hand. I attempted to lift my foot up and keep going, but I strangely couldn’t. I could feel that my mind wanted to push onward, to battle, to test my skills. However, it was my heart that finally stopped me from advancing. There was this strange feeling… I could feel… I could feel my father’s voice, calling out to me. I could feel another tear slide down from my fur onto the grass below.
What was I thinking? Why would I have even considered anything like this? My sword dropped onto the ground along with my body. I had so many people who cared about me, Ghost, Dad, the Knights… why would I have ever considered something as drastic as… as that? That was flat-out reckless. I was about to put everything on the line for no reason whatsoever, and for what? A little EXP? I was no better than the two thousand that had already perished. My paws covered my teary eyes.
I jumped and turned towards the voice behind me, a familiar figure stood behind me. He stood in his armor with grace. His war hammer shined in the starlight. He was one of the reasons that I was living. He was my angel. It was Ghost.
My face tried to send off a smile to the canine, but only conjured up a whimper and a frown. I could feel tears trickling on my arms and legs. I stared at my boyfriend. “I… I’m…” I couldn’t form a coherent sentence even if I tried.
Ghost rushed to my side and held me close, my face laid against the metal chest piece. He started petting the top of my head and rocked me back and forth. “Shh… shhh….” He comforted, “it’s okay… it’s okay hon, I’m here.”
I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed him tight. Out of everything that’s happened, he was the best thing that’s come about in the death game. I’d hate to admit it, but I was glad that he was by my side. His shaky tone had peaked through the quiet sound of the nature around us.
“I’m so glad you’re safe. When I saw that you weren’t there, I started to worry…”
‘He started to worry?’ I thought grimly to myself. A sniffle emitted through my nose as he continued.
“I thought that you had gotten yourself into trouble. So, I rushed out the door of the inn and pulled up the map. Then… I found you.”
My face looked up to see the happy smile of the white-furred player. After all that I put him through, he still held a smile. A finger wiped away the loose tears that had yet to fall down. A weak smile had now started to break through my frown. He was there when I needed him the most. Our love was strong. There was no use denying it. It was then that I could finally get a word out of my mouth.
“Thank you…,” I weakly stated, “thank you so much…”
He kissed the top of my head. “Don’t worry about it. I’m always here for you Lucky. Don’t you forget it.” The Terrier and I had momentarily separated, lifting me up back onto my feet. Ghost handed me my sword and I holstered it back into its case. His paw clasped my own as we moved onwards towards the town. “Come on. It’s not safe out here.”
We both slowly made our way back to the inn. Our comfy bed awaiting our inevitable return.
* * *
My eyes slowly opened to the medieval styled room, the sound of birds chirping outside the window. I slowly sat up in my bed. I felt… great. A minute slowly passed before my body decided to do start the day. I leaped off of the bed with a jolt and stretched, looking around the room. Ghost was apparently gone. He most likely was outside with the others, waiting for me.
I opened up my menu and was about to go through my inventory, until I noticed that I received a message. The message was from Guren.
Everyone meet at the Tolbana fountain. Disregard any mapping for today. -G
The message was closed with the press of a button and I immediately start “putting on” my gear. In SAO, there was no putting on or taking off clothes or garments, all it took really was a few presses to un-equip and re-equip and, voila, your outfit was set. No tedious movement.
First came my usual shoulder-less crimson tunic, upgraded, along with the rest of my items, to better fit my level. This newer version had white accents that covered the edges of the shirt. It looked very stylish. Next came my grey trousers, then my black gloves. Simple, but required. I then equipped my metal chest piece that covered the front of my upper body. It was light and efficient, my armor stat exactly where I want it to be. Walking toward the mirror I looked at my reflection, observing my equipped outfit. I turned my hips to observe the backside. A great smile filled my muzzle. My body faced forward, I placed my paw on the end of the hilt on my one-handed sword and the other on my hip. The gear looked nice together.
“Alright.” I announce to no one. The smile kept itself intact. “I guess I’m ready.” A loud metallic scrape filled the air. I stared at the blade. It seemed as sharp as ever. With a couple swooshes, the sword flies through the air at a remarkable speeds before sliding back into the sheath. “Let’s make today worth living.”
With a double check of the room I close the door behind me and I rushed down the stairs. As soon as I entered the main lobby, I could see Ghost leaning against the wall near the door. When he spotted me he flashed a smile.
“Hello hon!” I cheerfully called out, a couple heads turning in our direction.
I could see a look of shock that filled his face, but pulled back into a loving grin. “Wow. You seem to be in a good mood today.” We exchanged a quick kiss and headed out the door. “What’s the change?”
My body had stopped in its place as my gaze traveled anywhere and everywhere as I searched for an answer. When I had thought about it, even my own brows raised. My answer had found itself. I turned back to the Terrier. “I’m facing reality. With the rate the game is going, this is definitely going to take a while to complete. So, what’s the use of moping? I’m not special. There’s plenty of people like me who are having the same problem and they’re living just fine as far as I can tell.”
I walked up next to him.
“I miss my dad. I miss my old life. I miss our magical, ‘fun’ night. But you know what? Everyone longs for their old life now. That’s not new. But… we live on. Because this is our new reality. If we focus on the old one, it could mean life or death. You saw me last night, I almost killed myself, and for what?”
The smile that I had slowly faded. A sigh escaped my lungs, but I didn’t feel any hint of sadness. To be honest, I had felt great.
“If I die in here, like any other player in this godforsaken game, they lose everything, including their chance to see the other side again. I wouldn’t be able to see my father again, I wouldn’t be able to see your real face ever again. That. That is what I’m fighting for. My soul wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that my father would lose another member in his family in the last two years.”
I placed a finger on his chest piece, staring directly at his eyes.
“Everyone’s got something to fight for. Hell, even Kayaba.”
I disconnected out gaze, and I could see the surprise in his face. A grin slipped its way back onto my muzzle. I was about six yards away before I turned to see if my boyfriend was following me. He was still standing at the doors, but his face looked at me with a proud smile.
“Come on, love! I thought Guren wanted to meet us at the square? They should all be waiting for us.”
Ghost quickly made his way beside me as we both walked down the road together. I took a look around. The usual players that normally roamed the streets were nowhere to be found. ‘Why would everyone leave all of a sudden?’ I pondered to myself. I looked back to our leader’s message. ‘No further mapping?’ Then it hit me. I start to get giddy with excitement. The Boss’ lair was found. So then there must be a meeting today to discuss it.
When we reached the town square, I could see a plethora of players gathered in the area. Everyone was in on this. I doubted that they had any knowledge of the boss being found however. The Knight of Argus and another mapping party were the only ones that were on the case in regards to knowledge of the area, so it came to no surprise that everyone would need to be informed if we were to create a plan of attack.
In no time we found the other seven to our group of nine, all had either a straight face or a more rather serious expression to their faces. My bright smile turned into a grin. “Hey guys.” I greeted.
“Nice of you to finally join us.” Guren remarked blandly.
At first I was confused at his response, mainly the mildness of his tone, but I put this off to the side. It had seemed unimportant.
It was Vivy who then came up to me personally while a conversation spiked between him and Flare.
“You okay?” She asked.
I gave her a genuine smile.
“I’m fine. Trust me. I’m a lot better now.”
I could see her face that started to light up as well.
“Great. I’m happy to hear that.”
We both hugged each other before turning back toward the Knight in charge. He opened his mouth to start up the side meeting.
“In a few minutes you’ll be meeting with the others to discuss our main topic for today. The boss.”
I could see the shock on the two human beta testers in our group as well as the Calico and Mutt. It seemed that some of the information didn’t get through to the lot of us after all.
“Some things to know before you go in; I will not be present at this meeting. I’ve already discussed it with Diabel, your speaker for today’s meeting as well as the leader for the late night mapping group. He’ll give you the rundown of the basic plan. Be sure to split up into two parties before you get in, just a little premonition. Another thing to note is that we’ve found the boss, just to confirm.”
A sigh sounded from the Manx as he begun to trail off. He was still facing us.
“Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to get a drink. Gonna utilize this ‘mistake’ regarding our species and alcohol to the fullest extent. Have fun.”
He ended his last sentence in a sing-song fashion, but it was Vlain to question the feline.
“If you have all the info about the meeting, why not tell it to us right now just to save time?”
A good question, but Guren had a response.
“That would be telling. What would be the fun in that?”
It was Alanna who spoke next.
“So you’re just going to leave us?”
Our leader looked off into the distance and then back at her. His condescending response made her cross her arms.
“Paging Dr. House.” I chuckled, remembering an old T.V. show.
The group all let out a laugh, including the Manx before we all settled into our location and the cat who strode down towards the nearest tavern. Before the meeting began in the open amphitheater near the town, we had all decided on our groups. We divided into groups of four. The first group would be Ghost, Vlain, Alanna, and I. Ghost would be the defender, his hammer providing cover so the rest of us could move up front. The second group consisted of the rest of our team, Vivy, Flash, Flare, and Freyalise. I was certain that Guren would fall into the second group no problem. They needed a tank to help their defense, which is if Freyalise’s or Flash’s shield skill was up to snuff. Either way, we could hold our own if need be.
All at once everyone entered the theatre and took their seat on the large stone steps. The setting itself seemed old and decrepit, the obvious decay of the structure making it seem ages old. But that definitely wasn’t the case considering that it was all made to look that way. The stage seemed large, big enough to put on a production of sorts if players were willing, but doubt would tell me otherwise.
Out of the corner of my eye I could spot a blue haired swordsman walk toward the center of the stage. It was Diabel. He was the leader of our entire outfit. The whole town looked up to him. I wish I could lead like he did. He always inspired confidence in the others and helped out as much as he could. Our leader was perfect.
He clapped his hands twice, gaining the attention of everyone in the area. He started the meeting with a smile. His chest was high.
“Okay people! Now that everyone’s here, let’s get this meeting started!”
Everyone took their seats and gave their attention to the man.
“So anyway, I wanna thank you all for coming. Good to see you. My name is Diabel, and in this game, the job I rolled as knight!”
He ended with a smile and a pound to his brownish chest piece, everyone getting a kick out of his joke.
“Dude, there’s no job system in this game!”
Flustered, the knight attempted to settle the crowd back down.
“You guys wanna hear this or not?”
Everyone became quiet and honed in of his words. His look become more leader like, more serious than before.
“Right, anyways here’s the deal: our party found the boss room at the top of the tower today.”
The whole lot nearly leaned out of their spots. They were indeed shocked.
“First, we need to defeat the boss and make it to floor two. The next step is, we have to tell everyone waiting at the Town of Beginnings that it is possible to beat this game! Fact is, it’s our duty as the most capable players here. Do you agree, or not?”
It took a moment, but we all started to give a round of applause, our cheering a clear sign that we were all in.
“Okay, glad to hear that you’re all with me on this. Now, let’s figure out how we’re going to defeat the boss. First off, we’ll team up into parties of six.”
Instantly, everyone started to group up into their own teams, invites popping up like mad among the entire audience. He continued to speak.
“A typical party doesn’t stand a chance against a floor boss. We need a raid group, made up of multiple parties.”
I looked around the seats. It seemed that everyone quickly finished up their deliberating and focused their attention back up to the front.
“Alright, looks like everyone’s teamed up! Now then--”
An angry voice unearthed itself from behind us. We turned to see a male player with orange, spiky hair and it seemed like he wasn’t happy. Not even a little bit.
“Hold on a sec!!”
With a few leaps he made his way onto the stage beside Diabel. It seemed that he kept his cool. The new player pointed at himself.
“My name’s Kibaou, got that? Before we take on the boss, I wanna get something off my chest.”
He turned to us. It was his intention to make a scene, I was sure of it.
“We all know about the two thousand people who have died so far, yeah? Well, some of you need to apologize to ‘em right now!”
The spiky haired player had pointed to the crowd collectively. A murmur started to sound among the lot of us. This wasn’t good. I could tell who he was after. I looked around to the others in our group worryingly. Ghost placed his paw on my hand and kept his eyes forward, I did the same. It seemed that Diabel knew what the man was hinting at.
“Kibaou, I think I know who you’re referring to. You mean the ones who are ex-beta testers, right?”
“Of course I mean them! The day that this stupid-butt game started, the beta guys just up and vanished, right? They ditched all us beginners! They snagged all the good hunting spots, and they grabbed all the easy quests too. They were the only ones getting stronger in here! This whole time they’ve ignored us like we’re nothing.”
His look became even more menacing.
“Hell, I bet there’s some of ‘em here! Come on out beta testers! We should make them apologize to us, and we should make them all give up their money and the items they got! They can’t expect the party to trust them when they don’t trust us, why should we?”
Kibaou’s expression and tone turned pouty. My breathing started to get heavy. He was right. We ditched the town as soon as the announcement had concluded. We focused on getting stronger, but we had done it to complete the game. Was it wrong in doing so? Should we have stayed and helped? Icould feel myself tense up. This was bad. Me and my party were all at risk here.
“Can I say something?”
A deep, strong and calm voice asked to the two standing on the stage. I saw his hand that started to bring itself back down before I got a look at him. He stood up and walked down to the stage, moving in front of the angry speaker. We was considerably tall.
“Hey, my name’s Agil, Kibaou right? I wanna make sure I’m on the same page. You’re saying that the ex-beta testers should be blamed for the rookie’s deaths because they didn’t help them, and you want them to apologize and give up their winnings. I leave anything out?”
Now I could have clearly have known that the second speaker was stuck up, not to mention snotty.
“No, you didn’t.”
His condescending remark allowed Agil to dig into his inventory on his person and reached out a small brown book.
“The item stall hands these out for free…”
I smiled, knowing exactly what the item was. Kibaou’s argument was about to cannon-balled out of the water.
“… it’s a guide book. You got one, didn’t you?”
“Sure I got one! So what about it?”
“You know who was handing these out? The ex-beta testers.”
I could imagine a finger gun, pointing at the unknowing orange haired player. I could see the shock on his face. It was priceless. In my opinion, he deserved it. He had what was coming to him. Agil turned to us.
“Listen up. Everyone had equal access to this information. Even so, lots of players still died. Now I didn’t come here to point fingers at anyone. I’m here because I wanna learn from those player’s deaths. I’m here because a wanna find out how to defeat the boss.”
The ax-wielder turned back towards the whiny player next to him. In an instant the orange haired fellow stampeded off the stage in a pout and sat harshly down on the stone. The tall man sat right next to him. Diabel sighed and clapped his hands, regaining his composure.
“Okay, can we back to the meeting now?”
No further interruptions halted the man any further.
“For info on the boss, it’s all in here...”
He pulled out his own copy of the free item.
“…the latest issue of the guide book you just heard about. According to the book, the boss’s name is ‘Illfang the Kobold Lord.’ Also, he’ll be surrounded by his minions, the Ruin Kobold Sentinels. Illfang carries an axe, and a buckler. He has four health bars, and when the last bar turns red, he switches to a curved sword type weapon called a Talwar. He can change his patterns of attack too.”
The crowed was left in a mumble, the information suddenly stopping. Diabel had closed his book and threw it into his own hands.
“That’s it for the briefing. As for the distribution of loot, money will be divided equally among everyone, the party that defeats the boss gets the EXP, and whoever gets an item gets to keep it. Any objections?”
All that sounded was a quiet soft collective voice.
“Good! We leave tomorrow at ten in the morning! Meeting adjourned people!”
As soon as he uttered the words, everyone had shifted out of their positions and stood up, including the Knights. A majority of the players had come up to Diabel, most likely with questions about the raid that they felt uncomfortable to ask about before. Without any questions, we started to leave the theatre. Before we all passed the looming columns that marked the entrance, I caught a glimpse of the dark haired player from a month ago, this time he was alone. Did he have a group to raid the boss? I thought I would go and ask if he would like to join us. Before I could walk up to him, an orange dot floated above the ground where my menu would be. I instinctively open the message and start reading.
Lucky, meet me at Fiery’s Tavern. I need to talk with you. Alone. It’s urgent. -G
I looked at the pop up with curiosity. Why did he want to meet? Could it be about me? Did I do something wrong?
My boyfriend had asked, my window closing with a quick press of the button. I smile at him.
“Yeah, I’m fine hon.”
I take his paw and started to head back towards the inn with the rest of the group. A breeze rolled through the town. I breathed in the digital wind, the cool air filling my avatar’s lungs. It was a great day outside. It seemed like a perfect leveling day. Maybe Ghost would like to do some leveling…
“Hey, Ghost?” I began as we walked, “Did you want to do some leveling today? I’m almost to level six, and I was hoping to get it done before the raid tomorrow. Where are you at?”
“I’m halfway to six.” He smiled.
“Great! Soooo, what will it be?”
“Is that even a question?” He joked, “Of course I’ll go with you!”
We were just about to pass by the tavern our leader wanted me to meet and I started to slow down. I grab his other paw.
“Great! I can’t wait! I have to meet with Guren about something right now at Fiery’s, but I’ll meet up at our room when I get done. Okay?”
He gave me a kiss on the top of my head.
“Sure. I’ll see you then.”
We parted ways and I made my way to the Tavern. This building was one of the best, cheapest drinks on the first floor, or so I've heard. Guren visited this place semi-often and knew exactly what he wanted every time he went. I had never traversed inside the building before. It never was my thing. But I guess this would be as good a time as any.
I made it to the building and I opened the door, finding Guren sitting at a table, alone, with his head slightly lowered. Was he okay? This question would soon be answered as I neared his table.
TO BE CONTINUED
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:20 pm
Great job, D3ath_0ps.
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:43 pm
Sheesh the length of these things are awe inspiring all all their own, that is just pure amazing... Then the actually story going on just draws me in, it's just so great. The amount of work you put into this is just the best, keep it up! Look forward to seeing what is brought up at the tavern.
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 2:38 am
Keep on writing these things please! I love how they all are coming out!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 2:02 am
Absolutely love this story
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:53 pm
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite-
=Chapter 5 - In the Lion’s Den=
I pulled out the chair at the table Guren was sitting at as I quickly glanced around the seemingly lively area. For the players that weren’t all about joining the fight on the forward lines, there were a handful of them located in Tolbana. There were about six scattered around us in the room. As for the tavern itself, Fiery’s (pronounced like Fee-air-ie’s) was a very calm setting. In the corner of the room was an NPC violinist who made beautiful music the instant a player walked through the door. At first glance, the place seemed exquisite, the red tablecloths and open curtains giving the room color, not to mention sunshine. This place seemed like it was the best.
My body sat down in the chair and I pulled myself back into the table. I looked at Guren. He was looking down at the empty glass in front of him with a darkened frown, the lighting making his face seem as dark as Flash’s. At first glance, I could tell that something was off, now, there was no question. He was hurting. The waitress NPC quickly made her way over and greeted herself, asking if I would like any food or drink. I opted for a water, Guren another round of his mead. I could see that he was tipsy, but coherent. It seemed like the game had the effect of alcohol down pat. The waitress scurried away and left us to talk, my leader now finding the courage to speak.
“I heard about last night…”
I let out a sigh. Looked like Ghost told the lot of our party. However, I didn’t mind that much. There were no secrets between us and we decided to keep it that way for the duration of the game. Still, I could see that something was bugging him. Whether he would share it or not was up to his discretion. I wouldn’t force it out of him.
The Manx continued our conversation.
“…you were about to take on a pack of level five wolves before Ghost stepped in.”
He looked up directly at me, a fist pounding the table so hard that our glasses started to shake and the purple ‘IMMORTAL OBJECT’ pop up flashed before us. This was the protection that prevented any damage to any of the structures in the town.
“What happened to make you go out there like that?! Didn’t you understand the consequences of going at the pack, let alone leaving the town? Why were you so careless?!”
He had finished his round of questions and stared at me with his straight face. I looked down at the table with my own blank stare. ‘Should I just tell him everything? It’s not like he’ll outcast me from the party, right?’ A clear glass is placed right in front of me by a girlish, fleshy hand. I looked at the non-living female and politely accepted the drink, my uncontrollable response allowing the programed response to tell us to enjoy our beverages and leave.
I looked back to my friend. It took me a drink and a sigh, but I was ready to give my response. I clasped my paws together and set them on top of the red table cloth.
He looked at me with a confused stare, but I continued to answer his questions.
“One entire month of death, misery, and sadness. That’s all this game has been. Personally, I don’t take death well. Ever since my mom’s death, even the thought of it eats away at my soul, the result leaving me in a depressed state. Let’s multiply that number by two thousand. Now you’ve got a problem.”
I paused. I could feel my stomach start to tense up. However, the words kept coming.
“Up until today, all I could feel was sadness and hate. This game used to be a fun past time that I got to test for. I loved it. Now? I absolutely hate it. This game is… it’s hell. The lingering thought of death helps with that feeling, even now. I’ve barely gotten at least three hours of sleep a night because of the insomnia I’ve developed. It wasn’t until last night that I finally snapped. I woke up from a horrifying nightmare and I left the inn to level up. I thought to myself, ‘no one will see me, and nobody will care if I died.’ It wasn’t until I was about to walk into the detection zone of the wolves that I realized, I was about to make one of the biggest mistakes that I could make in this game. Then, Ghost found me. He was there when I needed him. When I was ready, we both walked back to the inn and I fell right asleep.”
Another sip of water hit my avatars tongue.
“It was last night that I finally realized, I do have something to fight for. We all have something to fight for. We as players risk our lives every day we live in this world, that’s just simply the way of things around here. It can’t be helped. We all long for our old life, but what’s longing for if we don’t do anything? As players we have to keep going, to keep fighting if we ever want to see our old lives again, no matter how risky. It’s going to take some time. This first month shows it. You can’t possibly live your life in this game moping, you’d lose your mind. Not only that, a clouded mind could mean life or death in some situations. There’s simply no use in trying to think about our old lives. It’s pointless.”
My eyes stared out the window.
“Death in this game means you lose everything. You lose that chance to see the other side. That fact looms over everyone, but we have to be strong and keep moving forward, otherwise we’ll be trapped in this game forever. We have to step up and rise to the challenge. For everyone here.”
When I stopped talking, all I could see was Guren’s shocked look. It took him a minute to snap out of his trance, but he let out his own sigh. He drank a small portion of his drink and stared at me. This time with a smile.
“You sound just like Diabel.”
His tone was as bland as ever, but he continued.
“Always for the well-being of the players. The people’s man. To strengthen the spirits of his comrades with just a simple sentence. Well, sentences in this case.”
His eyes looked up at mine. I swore I could spot a tear welling up, but before I could determine that fact, he shut his eyes. His whole face seemed to lighten up.
“Thank you.” He had simply stated.
I flashed him a smile as well.
I stood up and pushed in my chair. I took one last chug of my glass of water, setting the transparent cup down on the table with a clang. I thought I saw a few heads that turned my way, but I disregarded it.
“I’m going to finish up leveling for today before we head to the dungeon. I’m just about to reach level six and I’m not going to quit now.”
He chuckled and raised his glass.
“Happy hunting then.”
With the sip of his drink I left my leader to contemplate on his own, the thought of Ghost sitting in our room waiting for me making me giddy with excitement. Although, I couldn’t help but think about Guren. This entire conversation seemed strange. He was hurting inside. No question. Was this whole meeting just about trying to boost up his own morale? Whatever the reason, he seemed happier and that was all that mattered. It was finally time to get past the rest of what remained of level five. Level six was as good as mine.
* * *
“Man, what a day!”
My own voice echoed throughout the crevices and alleyways of the town. The day had suddenly slipped away from both me as well as Ghost--who walked right beside me. We had just finished almost an entire day of leveling, and between the both of us we had both reached level six. Who knew the low level monsters could take so much energy out of a player?
A look full of pride filled my face as a grin flashed itself at the Terrier.
“I still can’t believe you got to level six! You must’ve killed about sixty wolves! Pretty glad everyone took the fields south of the town, huh?”
“Yep.” He simply responded.
I flashed a smile and looked to where the touch interface would be when I flicked my wrist downward. In my mind, I already had a plan. This plan was to observe what I had earned from nearly seven hours of level grinding and determine where I could take my love out to dinner. It seemed like was high time that we’d go on a proper date, even if it were in a place like Aincrad. There could have been worse date to have in this floating castle, let alone the real world, so why not have our first one here? Heck, it would be a great memory to share with our families when we got to see them again… well, depending on the point of view of course.
With just a glance at the interface I read the amount listed before me. I tried not to overreact, but I formed a fist and punched the air. Over five thousand! A giggle sounded right beside me. On the top of my muzzle, a crimson hue had formed. Looked like I wasn’t as subtle as I thought I would be.
“What is it?” He chuckled.
I closed out the menu and anxiously looked at him.
“Oh, nothing! It’s nothing!...”
That didn’t work. He looked at me with a sly grin. There was no doubt that he was already on my case, trying to figure out what I was planning even when I didn’t know for sure myself. I could feel my heart racing. Maybe I should just tell him…
“Actually… It is something…” I scratched the back of my neck. My speech started to hasten. “Would… you like to go to Fiery’s? I know that there isn’t anything really fancy on this floor, and according to Guren it’s really good, so would you like to--”
The words stopped altogether when the Terrier’s arms had wrapped tight around me. When we stopped our minor embrace he ruffled the fur on the top of my head between my ears.
“Of course I would Lucky.”
My smile was most likely ten times as wide at that moment, literally jumping up and down with joy. With a yank of my paw we quickly sprint over to the tavern. We passed by a couple of the players that attended the meeting earlier, some of them giving us a smile, the other half uttering something of some description. I couldn’t make out their words entirely… but something told me that I really didn’t want to hear. I was with the love of my life, nothing else mattered.
When we made it to the tavern, it was as lively as ever and we hadn’t even walked through the door yet. The moment Ghost and I walked through the door the almost calm feeling that I had before when the tavern was a ghost town was replaced by anxiety. Almost everyone that was taking part in the raid tomorrow either drinking their worries away, or having a meal with their newly formed parties. There were only a couple of open tables left, and I intended to take one of those tables.
I took the white-furred paw and started weaving though some of the groups that were standing up in the aisle-ways. Some of the players that saw me either simply moved out of the way or stood there until I got their attention. After about a couple of minutes we both finally were able to sit down. I breathed a sigh of relief. I took a look at the crowded space in awe. It wasn’t until then that I realized that the vibe wasn’t hectic at all. On the contrary, it was calm. Some were standing, yes, but that’s because these tables only seat about six at a given time. The general discussion from what I could hear was plans of attack and battle formations, noting else. It was… strange to say the least.
After I got the general vibe I looked back over to Ghost. He was just sitting there, waiting for me to say something. I cleared my throat and started the conversation.
“So, I’ve never really eaten anything from here before. I’ve only heard good things from Guren, and he’s only had their mead as far as I can tell. Have you heard anything about this place?”
He crossed his arms and leaned in on the table. I place my chin in the palm of my paw, using the table as a support. The smiling face that was prominent on my muzzle made him in turn grin back at me lovingly.
“I’ve actually never even set foot in this place. I haven’t even heard of this place from other players either, so this is definitely a new experience for sure.”
“Then I guess we’re in the same boat I guess!”
We both chuckled. The waitress NPC had suddenly walked up to our table, giving us the normal greeting. The special was the Fiery Brew Mead, “the spiciest drink on this entire floor.” We had also asked what they to eat, their grilled fish being the one item that peaked our interest. Normally, fish is one of the best tasting entrées in SAO that had an extremely low chance of it being cooked incorrectly, and this seemed like a very reputable place, so why not?
Our meals were set. Two orders of grilled fish and Fiery’s Mead. With a bow the NPC left and hastily navigated to the kitchen. It was then that a voice popped up in the air.
“You know, despite the situation, I’m actually kind of excited for the raid. With all of us working together, there’s not a doubt that we’ll win. I’m sure of it. And that’s not even the only thing. Once the floor one boss has been cleared, it’ll open up a whole slew of possibilities not to mention the entire castle.”
I could see the fire in his eye. His passion was literally seeping through every word. The excitement in his voice… it felt incredible.
“This push for the second floor is exactly what we need to finally show the others that we can actually beat this game. I don’t know why, but my bones are aching for boss battle. I’m fired up! I’m SO ready!!”
A chuckle had released into the air. I took his paws.
“Wow. I never knew that you had such a fire in your heart. It’s kind of… hot actually, pun intended.”
Crimson had formed on his muzzle as we both let out a round of laughter. There was no doubt that the lot of the tavern had turned their heads towards us, but I couldn’t care less. I didn’t even turn my head to see. They probably thought that we were crazy, laughing and having a good time while this game of death was taking place. In actuality, I thought that the whole lot of them were insane, not enjoying a single second of their new lives. We might be trapped, confined to this game, but I didn’t see it that way. Not at all. This game had so many possibilities and skills to make the impossible possible in this world, like moving at incredibly high speeds with a sword or even being able to wield a weapon that was ten times your weight, like Ghost. It was ludicrous to think that this was in no way cool. It was awesome, and they had to admit that.
When our laughter finally ceased, the canine in front of me finally responded.
I smiled at him.
“No problem Ghost.”
Our food and drink had finally arrived at our table. The steamy fish looked superb with its edible green accents neatly arranged on the other side of the plate. The metal jugs of mead were placed on the side of our table and the NPC waitress bowed once again, telling us to enjoy our meal. We instantly started to dig in, both mine and Ghost’s words not even uttered until all of our food was eaten. The instant the last bite of food hit my avatar’s stomach, I relaxed in my chair as did the Terrier. We hadn’t even touched our mead at all. I reached for the metal mug, tipping it until the drink danced on my tongue. It took a second for my mind to catch up to the fiery sensation in my throat in my stomach, but it felt great. I let out a blissful sigh. Ghost coughed at his drink. He rubbed his sternum
“Wow that’s hot!”
I snickered at him as I take another chug of my drink.
“What’s the matter hon? Can’t take the heat? I thought you were ‘fired up?’”
My boyfriend had growled at me and proceeded to show me up. He took several chugs of his drink, leaving me with my own mug tilted slightly in pure shock. He slammed his now empty mug down on the table and flashed me a sly look, his armed crossed. I finished up my drink and set my mug softly on the table. I bite my lip, another feeling taking my surprise completely away. We both lean over the table and share a long kiss. Not long after, we both headed out of the tavern and quickly inside the inn. Our room and bed awaited us as we fiddle around with our settings, specifically the ‘moral code removal.’ Tonight, our date will end with sleep, tomorrow, the boss was all ours. We were finally ready.
* * *
The sound of rough knocking filled the air of our room, waking me up from my slumber with a jolt. I rise up from my spot and hear the sound of our leader’s voice.
“Wake up lovebirds! Rise and shine! We’ve got a meeting in five!”
We could hear his footsteps creek throughout the hall and start to get softer. I stretched my body as Ghost leaves the sanctuary of the bed, slowly re-equipping his clothes and armor. A sigh escapes my muzzle and I too get out of the comfy bed. I put on my usual attire and turn to the Terrier with a grin.
He gave a nod and we had left the room, shutting the door behind us. We had quickly traversed down to the ground floor, meeting the seven others of our two parties sitting down on the chairs and couches waiting for Ghost and I. Guren stood up and turned to the lot of us.
“Great, we’re all here.”
The two of us took our place with the other Knights. I looked at our leader with a smile. A look of shock had filled my face slightly. Our leader was smiling, a genuine grin like he had before the start of the game. I had wondered if he would give one of his normal speeches, was I going to be right on the money?
“Here’s how everything is going to work today…”
Yep. I was right.
“Everyone taking part in the raid today will be meeting at the fountain, and when everyone arrives we’ll move as a whole unit towards the tower. Once inside we’ll make our way to the boss room and we’ll begin our assault. If everything goes according to plan, we’ll be at the second floor by lunch.”
He brought his paws together.
We looked around each other. Not a peep was sounded.
“Alright then. Let’s move out to the fountain. Good luck guys.”
In one instant all eight of us who were sitting down stood back up, our armor and weapons clanking about the room. I took one last look at the lobby of the inn. To be honest, I liked this place. Maybe I could come back to Tolbana for old time sake later on in the game. A paw suddenly found its way into mine. My paw lightly tightened its grip. I looked up to the Terrier standing beside me. He asked me a simple question.
I gave him a simple response.
One by one we filed out of the building and pooled up near the entrance and finally moved to the meeting spot. There was only one thing that was present among all of the players in Tolbana; the tension. I could feel it among almost everyone. It was the look on their faces that gave it away. They all seemed anxious about the daunting task ahead of them. We all knew what was at stake, and we all had only a couple questions on our mind: ‘whom among us was about to die,’ and ‘how many.’ The only way to find out the answers was to go sword to sword with the boss.
I could see the rest of the group become consumed by the same thoughts and state of mind. I was really the only exception. Confusion filled my face. Was it only natural to have thoughts like those? Why didn’t I have the same thought process as the others? Was I wrong to think this way? I let out a sigh, my knees started to buckle slightly. I wondered if it was possible to help ease the tension off of the group.
I simply said in a colorful tone, gaining the attention of the lot. A grin had filled my face.
“I know it may be rude to ask, and you don’t have to answer, but I wonder what our folks would be doing right now. You know, if we weren’t stuck in this game.”
Flash had turned his head.
“What’s the question for?”
My shoulders shrugged.
“Motivation I guess, and so that we could ease the tension a smidgen. That’s all.”
The ninja themed warrior simply crossed his arms and closed his eyes.
I looked at the others when Flare caught my attention.
“I… guess if I weren’t trapped in here… my dad would probably be chasing his tail or something. Mom would be relaxed up next to him while they reminisce about some battle that would have ‘devastated the entire balance of the world’ or something like that.”
He stopped to stare at some of the confused faces looking directly at him. He cleared his last statement up quickly.
“Yes, if you were wondering my father is a dog. A Shepsky to be precise. I actually live in the same neighborhood as Alanna too as a matter of fact.”
Flare snickered and turned towards her.
“Why don’t you go next? It only seems fair.”
The Mutt had crossed her arms.
“Geeze, way to put me on the spot like that…”
She looked up to the roof of the first floor. Thoughts most likely poked at her mind.
“Let’s see… I guess my dad would still be watching the same old carto-- anime that he normally watches. Now that I mention it… I kinda miss those cool shows. Huh, I guess I kinda do take after him after all…”
“With the way you play games, you definitely take after your ‘pops. No question.”
After her apparent blush, Vivy decided to take a whack at the question.
“My parents, well… owners really, would probably be at work while Guren and I played other video games. Nothing really special there.”
“That’s probably the same thing that I’d guess too. Mom would probably be at home cleaning the house and reading like she normally does. Dad would be working at Argus while I just sit at my computer without a care in the world.”
After her came the male human.
“My mom would be doing the same thing. Not really much to that I guess.”
The Terrier finally spoke up, directed at me personally.
“Well, if I had to guess I would be hanging out with you no doubt, and helping out around the house with mom and dad, well, if they weren’t working that is. What about you?”
“I would be doing the same thing. Hanging out with you, eating my dad’s glorious meals…”
A sigh escaped me.
The group nodded in agreement. I looked at the group with a smile as they seemed to show a slight gleam. From what I could tell, our little talk had successfully brightened up the mood of the entire nine player group. Everyone was mumbling happily to one another as Ghost and I stood side by side, looking over the Knights. The Terrier placed his arm over my shoulders and held me close, my head resting comfortably against him. I closed my eyes, almost as if I was in a trance.
After a minute had passed, the blue haired leader finally gave the go ahead for our raid group, the entire forty man squad moving out of the town and down the forested pathway to the looming tower ahead of us. The White furred canine had taken my paw at that point and was walking beside me. I had to admit, the path to the pillar was beautiful in appearance. The sunlight passing through the leaves shone down on the dirt path and hit our armor, reflecting on the trees and greenery alike. Out of the corner of my eye I could see rabbit like creatures roaming the grounds of the forest, although they were four legged instead of the normal two. This rabbit like creature also had two long stands of what seemed like floppy antennae that had matched the fur color of the passive mob that dragged on the ground as it moved.
As we neared the entrance to the labyrinth, the trees began to appear thicker and taller. Their size seemed almost daunting, their limbs creating an almost dome like area around the base of the cylindrical tower that connected the floors together. Because I always hunted near the fields, I never got the chance to explore the pathway and the monsters that inhabited it. The sounds of bushes the ruffled with each passing mob had caught my attention and I was looking around searching for the source. Before I could find the mob, we were already making our way into the menacing stone pillar. Ghost and I enter the labyrinth without hesitation and I breathe slowly in and out. I already knew what my mind would attempt to do. The darkened stone walls, the tight square corridors, the now crowded space, I could already feel my breathing that started to hasten. It seemed as if the walls had started to close in on me, sucking the very life out of me. Another fear seemed to have taken ahold of me inside the realm of SAO.
Ghost tightened his grip on my paw. I looked up towards him, towards his cute and loving grin. The sound of his gentle voice filled my mind, the words from the day before resurfacing, almost as if he was calling out to me.
“I’m right here, hon.”
A light rosy shade had appeared on my muzzle and my face filled with joy. I looked ahead of me, not even caring about the crowded feel of the area. My mind was focused on him. With Ghost, I always felt secure. He was quite literally the best thing that I had in this game, this fact was undeniable.
After roughly twenty minutes of navigating through the tunnels of the first floor we finally arrived at a room that was large enough to cram about double the size of our raid group. At the other end of the room was a pair of colossal ivory blue doors that seemed impossible to even budge at the slightest. I would’ve thought that exact thought if I didn’t already take part in the beta and alpha prior to entering the world of Aincrad. I already knew that with a single minute push against its stone surface.
We all stood in the room for a quick minute, everyone either sitting down or relaxing their nerves before (possibly) their first boss fight or rechecking their items and gear. It was then a sword pierced through the crowd, everyone silencing their voices to a whisper. Only one voice had now echoed through the chamber. It was Diabel’s.
“Listen up everyone, I’ve only got one thing to say to you…”
He formed a fist, needless to say he was ready like everyone else standing in this room.
“…let’s win! Come on!”
He pulled his sword out of the ground and turned to the door. The leader lightly pressed the blue boss door with the hand carrying his shield. The two ginormous doors opened with ease and began to reveal a bafflingly large open space--the boss’s lair. When the doors had finally fully opened, we all slowly marched into the space with caution. I looked beyond the wall of players in front of me and saw the red figure sitting down on his throne at the opposite end of the room. The mob was about four times the size of a human, and was big in appearance. It was then that I could see his eyes flash at us. We were spotted. I saw him reaching for his axe leaning next to him on his seat, but as soon as his grip had formed itself around the weapon the room filled with an almost blinding array of color. My eyes instinctively glanced at the sudden change of scenery.
When I looked back I could see the large boss leaping towards us as his HP bars and name appeared above and in front of the beast. He let out a deafening roar that gargled in its throat. In front of the boss flashed a trio of auras that spawned his minions, just as the guide book stated. Their HP gauges had appeared along with their names as well. The weapons of these human sized brutes had rough blunt boulder like ends on their two handed weapon. Unlike the boos, they were decked out with armor that had covered their entire body and head, the only open areas being their red tails and pointy ears, back, and seam between the leggings and the cuirass.
In a fury the boss and minions charged at us with full force. I could feel the ground shaking with every thump of the large boss’s feet. I could see part of Diabel’s sword point towards the charge. It was then that could hear his signal to start our onslaught.
The next few seconds were a like blur. We had charged towards the enemy with a crushing strike, almost instantly draining half of the minions HP. The onslaught continued for a good ten minutes and our strategy was working perfectly. Squads A, B, and C were on the front lines of the attack while the rest of the squads, D, E and F take care of the minions. The first party consisting of Guren, Vivy, Flash, Freyalise, and Flare were up in front with Squad B while Ghost, Vlain, Alanna and I were with Squad F working on keeping the minions off of the frontal assault. Essentially, we were the back up.
After we had killed a sentinel, I glanced over at Illfang’s massive HP gauge. I noticed that with each look the health bar would diminish further and further. At one point I was completely taken off guard while my gaze was astray. I had noticed the large blunt weapon swinging towards me and I had ducked and rolled out of the way, but quickly recovered and I had lunged at him with my charged one-handed sword. It only took one hit to make the mob explode in an array light blue.
I prepared my weapon for another strike as more minions spawned before us. I was ready this time. Then Diabel’s voice peaked through the sound of battle.
“Squads A and C, switch in!”
Both groups of players had switched their places and A had charged towards the monster, swinging at the beast left and right as he blocked almost all the blows from their weapons with ease. It was then I could see the boss start to lift his axe.
“Here it comes! Squad B, block!”
I could see Agil block the axe with his own and Kibaou delivering the counter to the beasts swing. It was like a synchronized dance with blades. The combat looked almost graceful.
“Squad C, keep guarding and prepare to switch. Everyone else, when you fall back, regroup and flank them!”
He had turned to us.
“Squads D, E, and F, keep those minions off us!”
We all gave a nod and kept guarding, our attacks taking effect on the smaller monsters. At first it seemed like this battle would never end. I even started to question if we were even making progress on the boss at all. But, when all of the minions were defeated and stopped spawning in, I turned to the boss. His health had finally dipped into the red.
I could hear the low growl of the beast before he flung his axe and buckler off to the sides of the room It had seemed like we were on the verge of victory. Now for the final step of the plan.
It was Diabel’s voice that shouted the command. He was sprinting towards the monster.
“I got it!”
A look of confusion filled my face. The plan was for everyone in the raid group to surround the boss so we could keep hacking away at the monster and still be able to block. He finally stopped nearly in front of Illfang before his sword had charged into its fullest form. The bright yellow light was memorizing to watch. It was then that he had finally pulled out his final weapon. My eyes grew wide. The guide book was wrong. In the beta, the boss on this floor used a Talwar. Now, in his grip, was not the weapon that we had thought. This weapon was a long, light, and had a v-like crevice at the top. It almost resembled the katana I was longing for. This sword… it was a No-Dachi. Diabel was in danger.
A player had shouted behind me. I turned to look who had said it, finding the dark haired player yet again. He was nearly screaming at our leader from the back of the group.
“It’s no good get out of there!”
Before the blue-haired individual could take a step, it was already too late. The red beast had already jumped up into the air, leaping off of the pillars as if he were a rubber ball bouncing off of a wall. This disoriented Diabel and when the boss finally stopped to complete his strike, it had slashed him diagonally through the chest, knocking him back with a brute force. But Illfang didn’t stop there. He slashed the player again, this time sending him flying across the room. I was in shock
This time, Kibaou’s voice was heard, the monster roaring right in their faces.
The black haired player rushed to our leader while we all kept the boss and the new slew of minions at bay. There could still be enough time to heal him before he disappears. Hopefully.
I couldn’t help but think why he would do something as drastic as what he did. Then it hit me. He was after the last attack bonus item. This was awarded to the player that had given the final blow to the boss, the winning strike. I struck down a minion in rage. This was a reckless move. I couldn’t believe it. I looked over at Diabel once more only to see his avatar explode into tiny blue fragments in the arms of the black haired teen. My heart sank. He… was gone.
It was like we were all lost at what to do, our spirits broken, our leader, gone from this world. We were blocking the attacks from the large beast as best as we could. It was then that the two player party of the teen and a hooded figure decided to lead the charge. The female player (at least from what I could tell under the cloak) wielded a rapier and the male a black sword. The beast soon saw the two charging at him and powered up his no-dachi. The black haired swordsman charged his sword as well and swung at the beast. The boss had blocked his attack and fumbled backwards.
The girl flew at the beast, ready to strike. But, suddenly, the beast had found his footing. My eyes widened.
He had warned her just in time. She moved out of the katana like weapons way, her cloak getting hit in the process, disappearing in an array of polygonal shards. Without the cloak, her chestnut colored hair flowed seamlessly through the air. She raised her sword and let out a cry, in a flash piercing Illfang’s chubby body numerous times, shoving him further down the way.
This attacked worked for several more tires before the swordsman made an attempt at another block, the beast memorizing his moves, quickly faking his attack, slicing the player across his chest. This swipe knocked the player into the rapier wielder.
Guren called out to us.
“Get your butts over here and help cover these two! MOVE IT!”
In an instant we were at the front with the rest of the players. Agil had just blocked an attack that was headed straight for the two players, knocking the boss back a few steps. A few other players and our group made up of Guren, Flash, Vivy, Ghost, and I charged forward holding off the huge monster until both of their HP’s were back up. With each swipe we hit the monsters sword, each attack eating slowly away at his total health. It was then that I could see him prepare for an attack. We couldn’t react in time. Illfang swiped his sword and hit practically every one of us. The attack had us on the ground as he jumped in the air, prepping his next attack to finish us off. I thought we were done for.
The male screamed. I could see him jump to the boss’s level, just before he was about to attack. The swordsman’s attack slammed the monster into the ground of the lair. The HP gauge still had a sliver of health left. We almost had the boss. One last round of attacks should have done the trick. I could make out those same exact words from the guy.
“Come on Asuna, help me beat this sucker! One last attack!”
“You got it!”
They both charged solo towards the boss. I watched in suspense. If only I had a tub of popcorn and a pop... this was movie worthy. The mob let out another roar and got back on his feet. The boss attempted to attack but was blocked by the swordsman, the attack followed by the rapier wielder. With one last slash, the teen dug his sword into the beast and sliced his body in a diagonal streak, nearly cutting him in two. The cry of might that I heard… there was nothing like it. He was determined. When his attack had completed, beast flew slow motion in the air, then proceeded to explode into an array of polygonal shards. We all stood in our places with shock and awe. Then… victory.
We had all cheered when the word ‘Congratulations’ floated midair for all to see. Our party had done the impossible. We had finally showed this game that it would take control of us. Not anymore. I ran over to Ghost and hugged him tight, nearly running him over at the speed that I was going. Our muzzles exchanged a kiss and a smile, glad to see that our work had paid off.
The room had dimmed back down from its colorful atmosphere into its normal greyish state. I could get over how excited I was. After our after-battle windows had closed, all of the Knights had run over to each other with cheers and praise. We were all stoked that the first boos was finally over and done. Once we all had calmed down, I asked the first question.
“Ok, did you guys see how awesome that was? Please tell me you saw what that guy just did.”
“We did, don’t worry Luck. I’d doubt anyone missed that awesome power. Kirito did great.”
I raised a brow.
Our leader shook his head.
“That’s his name. I met him once while in the town. He seemed really shady at first, but he’s a cool guy once you get to know him.”
Bringing my voice down to a whisper, I walk up to the Manx and moved my muzzle close to him. At this point the others were talking with one another and we could talk freely.
“Is he a beta tester?”
The Manx gave a slight nod. I look over to the tester and flashed a smile. ‘So he’s a tester just like we were, huh. He’s got spunk, I’ll give him that.’ I had thought to myself. I could hear a second round of cheers, no doubt celebrating the man of the hour.
I turned to match Kibaou’s shakey voice to the spiky-haired human collapsed on the floor. The room became deathly quiet.
“Why’d you do it, huh? Why’d you let Diabel die!”
This question was entirely directed at Kirito. All eyes and ears were on the both of them. The player in question then restated the question.
“Let him die?”
I could see Kibaou’s face turn sour.
“That’s what I said. Admit it, you knew the technique the boss was going to use. You could have told us! Then Diabel would have stood a chance! He wouldn’t have had to DIE!”
His shout echoed through the chamber. I could almost feel bad for the angry player, but then I remembered one simple fact: we had no exact knowledge of what weapon the boss was going to use. The reason this information was hidden was that it was learned right on the spot. There’s no way he could have known. But, Kibaou’s mind was clouded.
The crowd’s silence turned into a murmur, the players trying to find a reason themselves on how he could have known. I could see a couple players staying silent, just like our entire group. We all knew except the newbs. At that moment, someone blurted it out.
“I know why he knew, he used to be a beta tester! Think about it, he knew the boss’s attack patterns! He knew but he kept it from us...”
I could see a sniffle come from the orange-haired player. I didn’t like where this was going, and rightfully so. The next sentence brought a chill to my spine.
“…and, I bet he’s not the only beta tester here! Come on, show yourselves!”
In that moment, everyone started looking around, searching for their players hidden in the mist. The situation started to deteriorate very quickly. We and the other possible testers were all in danger right now. From all that we’ve heard from previous attacks made on the others over the past month, this situation was far from optimal. If someone didn’t do something soon, this situation would get hairy, fast.
“Hey, calm down…”
Agil attempted to defuse the situation, but amongst the clatter a suspecting cackle filled the air. I looked at the player still crouched down on the ground. It was Kirito. He had everyone’s undivided attention. I couldn't help but get a slight chill. He actually sounded… evil…
“So you guys think that I used to be a beta tester?”
He stood back up.
“It’s not cool to put me in the same class with those newbs.”
A question filled my mind quickly, my head giving a slight tilt. Was he… bluffing? A piercing angry cry filled the air.
“What did you say?”
I could feel the smirk on Kirito’s face, and he wasn’t even facing the same direction as me. He turned and faced us. Then he began walking towards the group.
“You heard me. Most the thousand people who scored a slot in SAO’s beta were rookies. They were so green, they didn’t even know how to level up. Hell, even you guys are better than they were…”
Most of our mouths were wide open, even Kibaou’s, heck, even mine. This charade was taking its effect. Kirito continued to amaze his crowd, stopping in front of the now shocked player.
“But me, I’m nothing like those guys man. During the beta, I made it to floors that were higher than any of the other testers, that’s a fact. I knew about the boss, ‘cos I fought tons of monsters with way more sword skills on higher floors…”
This time he flashed his own menacing stare and smile at Kibaou.
“…I know a bunch of other things too, more than you can imagine, more than any info broker.”
Shock filled his groups face, there was no other way to describe it. Kirito’s opposition then finally got the chance to speak.
“W-what the heck? If that’s true then you’re worse than a tester, you’re a gosh darn cheater, that’s what you are!”
Commotion spiked through the crowd, as everyone--with the exception of the testers--added their own comment into the discussion. One comment, however, stuck out among the rest.
“He’s a beta tester and a cheater, he’s a beater!”
And a euphemism was born, instantly labeling Kirito as such. All I saw on the swordsman’s face was a smile.
“A beater… yeah that’s good. I like it.”
Gasps sounded from the lot of them. The conversation continued as he navigated through his inventory.
“Okay, you can call me beater. Just make sure you don’t confuse me with those beta testers anymore.”
With the tap of his U.I. he had selected his item and it had materialized on his body. It was a black raggedy coat, stretching down almost a foot off of the ground. On the shoulders was a leather armor that was embedded into the coat, giving it a small protection rating as well. I personally recognized the item… the Coat of Midnight. That’s what the first floor boss drops. I could clearly remember, because I was the one to have the item. I didn’t use it much, so after the day we beat the boss, I just gave it away and never bothered with it again. This coat… it seemed to suit him.
Without a word, Kirito left the group and headed towards the exit, leaving about forty players speechless. One player however ran after him; his party member, Asuna. I looked towards Guren. He was releasing a sigh. It was most likely to calm his tense nerves. He turned to Kibaou and walked over to him. I could hear him from where I was standing. His voice seemed comforting.
“Kibaou, I need you to go to the Town of Beginnings to spread the word of what’s happened here. Can you do that?”
Without a word the spiky-haired player turned his back and left, his party quickly trailing behind. Our leader then announced to the lot of us still standing where we were.
“Everyone else, get to the second floor. Hopefully we see you lot at the next boss fight. Thank you so much for fighting with us, with Diabel.”
After that, everyone started to file toward the exit. We all stuck behind to wait for Guren who was now in front of us. He continued his speech.
“As for the rest of us, we need to keep fighting too. These fights aren’t going to get easier. No… this was only the beginning. We’re going to have to keep on getting stronger if we’re going to survive, and if we play our cards right, we’ll keep on pushing forward. Knights…”
“Let’s move out.”
TO BE CONTINUED
(A/N: If you guys haven't guessed or noticed by now, whenever the story that I'm writing coincides with any of the events happening in either in the anime, manga, or light novels, spoken dialogue will be extracted from either source to move the plot if necessary INCLUDING words that the system finds... bad. With the nature of SAO or any game for that matter, there is definitely swearing. If there happens to be any cursing, I'll censor it, don't worry. That being said, I claim no ownership of the text that I do in fact use, such as the dialogue from this very chapter from the battle and thereafter.)
Mod Edit: Don't use that word as profanity (Fixed!)
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 11:07 pm
I really like this latest chapter! You just keep on rocking it!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 11:46 pm
Great job, D3ath_0ps.
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:25 pm
Definitely did not sit here for hours catching up with the story. ._.
Very nice! So different from the other...
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:07 pm
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
FLOOR 27 - RONBARU
May 7th, 2023
A soft breeze had blown through the town of Ronbaru, my shirt ruffling and moving to the west. I placed my hand onto the butt of my holstered katana and closed my eyes, to take in the spring breeze. This floor had a calming feel to it, and out of my favorites this had to be a top contender for sure. My eyes opened to the mountains on the outskirts of town, the tower just barely peeking its way through the spires.
Because of the rocky formations, the sunlight that would have normally shone through the floor was all but gone. It was dark every day on this floor. The only sources of light that emitted anywhere on the floor were the lanterns around the paths in town and the large blue crystals that were riddled all throughout the rock. Even the ceiling had stalactites forming on its surface. To me, this place had charm unlike the other players. Maybe it was the darker side of my personality that allured me to stay here, maybe it was the minerals that were just waiting for me to grab, and maybe it was the blissfulness of the scenery.
I looked at the time on the upper left corner on the interface. The colon that flashed for every second that passed had caught my attention. The time read 7:50 AM. I looked around towards the town past the Teleport Gate of the circular town square to see if I could spot Guren or Ghost, but they were nowhere to be found. A blissful sigh escaped my muzzle as my eyes wandered towards the craggy rock formations, the hazy blue that emanated creating a smile on me that naturally brought color to my personality.
After another a minute of waiting at the towns edge, I felt a paw cover the open patch of fur that was my left shoulder. The touch felt familiar to me… then I put a face to the paw. I already knew who it was. I turned to face my beloved canine, decked out in his highest level armor. He had almost a full set of heavy silvery armor, his new blue shirt only barely leaking through the creases of his metallic shell. His black pants ruffled as he stepped forward, pecking the top of my head. It was after the kiss that he finally spoke to me.
“Good morning hon…”
He had groggily announced, his body twisting and turning. Ghost was definitely not the morning type, which was certain to say the least.
“…Looks like you beat me here… again. How do you get up so early? And how did you not
wake me up half the time?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the silly questions he had given for me. But, I had an answer nonetheless.
“Oh, I’ve just been trying to raise my sneak skill so that I could help out with scouting more, you know, so I can just map and not have to worry about the enemies all the time. Plus I didn’t want to wake you up. You look so cute when you’re asleep.”
I leaned over the thick half-wall, my eyes focusing on the horizon. The same smile had found its way back onto my face.
“This floor is so beautiful… the temperamental lighting, the great view, even the look of the buildings… I only wish it had more use to it other than the ore that it holds, then we could spend more time here…”
My shoulders gave a slight shrug.
“I guess that’s just the way things go here. The Assault Team has to keep pushing if we want to leave this game and if I have to sacrifice in order to make that a reality, then so be it. I don’t mind one bit. Maybe I’ll come back here in my free time, like I do for the Monument.”
The final word had stuck with me for a second. My gaze had sunken down aimlessly to the rest of the town below the mountain side, but I had quickly shaken off any feelings that clouded my thoughts. It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t care about the players that had perished, quite the contrary in fact. On the twentieth day of each month I would go back down to the first floor at the Town of Beginnings to pay my respects to the Monument of Life inside the Black-Iron Palace. Usually, Ghost would join me in this endeavor and even some of the players from our party would come and join me if they had the time. When I looked at the stone, I could make out the names that had been newly crossed out. It was always tear-jerking to see, but I braved through it regardless. It was only proper to see them off for one final time, even if it was only one player.
It was then that Ghost had come up beside me and took my paw in his. My eyes turned to see the gleaming Terrier looking into my eyes.
“I wouldn’t mind getting a house down here if we wanted, I mean, when we get married of course. I do admit, this place has some charm to it and I wouldn’t mind staying here.”
I simply shook my head.
“There isn’t really much point. I bet that there are better places further up that would be far better than the floor that we’re on now. Plus there isn’t really much to do other than mining and spelunking in the labyrinth.”
Ghost had given me a suspect stare, then questioned me with a single inquiry.
“Are you sure, hon?”
My firm nod gave him the answer he desired. He flashed me a smile and placed a paw on the side of my muzzle, the other laid atop the paw resting on the half wall of the circular space. Another feeling emerged that I had forgotten to take note of in my time here on Floor 27: romantic. With a slow inch toward him, our muzzles connected. When we finally ceased our small moment together I simply grinned lovingly at him.
A sound of familiar laughter filled my ears as I turned towards the inside of the town square--technically circle--and noticed the rest of our usual nine player party now standing ten feet away from me and Ghost. The feeling of my muzzle completely burning only intensified as my eyes noticed Alanna showing a slight chuckle. I removed my hand from the wall and my arms folded across my chest. Needless to say I was a bit embarrassed. The white-furred canine placed his paw on my back onto my shoulder.
“Well good morning love birds, glad you could make it to our meeting.”
He looked at us with a smile.
“I guess you guys got the memo that I sent last night. The blue and black was a good choice, right?”
I looked down at my shirt and stared at the now pure blue color, the black accents obviously apparent with my golden fur contrasting brightly with the calm and dark colors. If it were my choice, I would have chosen a light shade of red, but with Guren as the leader, there was no questioning his decision. And with the news that was arriving today, I had no complaints on the matter.
The two of us that were originally standing at the edge of the town’s center moved back into the crowd of six and stared at the Manx with a smile.
“It’s been almost half a year since we started our trek to floor one-hundred, and we’ve been fighting side by side ever since that first day. And, well…”
He paused, pulling up his menu and navigating to the inventory screen with haste. With a couple of taps, a decorative shield had materialized into existence, my eyes and muzzle gleaming with excitement. The metal’s boarders were bordered with black, the background of the shield a pure blue. Plainly written on the front was the initials of our party, K.o.A, in pure white, the center of the ‘o’ a hexagonal point that stuck out from the plating. This part was made of steel, but polished to appear like silver. It was definitely a sight to behold. Guren grabbed the shield from the bottom and presented it to the lot of us.
“This right here is the very symbol of the Knights of Argus, the now nine player guild that defends the name of the company that was more than likely wronged by the ‘god’ of this death game. It is our duty to protect the players fighting to defeat this game, and to battle alongside the men, women, and pets on the front line. This is our duty.”
He threw the shield at Freyalise, the female human catching the hunk of metal in the air with a single hand.
“Our colors our blue, black, and silver. Blue, for the skies that we long for back on the other side. Black, the wall of protection we as the Knights will fight for, as represented on the shield. And finally, silver, for the strong bond of all of us here. It is the heart of our guild, and is what makes us tough.”
The Manx had smiled and looked at all of our proud faces.
“Furthermore, I would like to announce the two people who will be admitting people into our ranks, if they wish to do so; Ghost and Lucky. With both of their strength and speed, they will no doubt be able to test their strengths whether they are STG or AGI types.”
Guren placed his hands on his hips.
“From this day on, the Knights of Argus guild is now official in the eyes of the system and will continue to be for as long as this game continues to run.”
I could hear a snicker from his muzzle.
“It is and has been what I’ve said in the past: we will
beat this thing, we will
make it to the Ruby Palace, and we will
see this through to the end.”
A short sigh escaped him. It had seemed like an enormous weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“Now that the important stuff is out of the way, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programing. On today’s agenda, we’ve got some mapping and leveling quotas to meet. Our levels are at about forty-six to forty-eight, right?”
We had all nodded in agreement. Looked like everyone was on the same page.
“Great. Then our goal is to try and make it to level forty-nine by the day. As for mapping, a party in the Knights of the Blood have already discovered the boss room and are calling a meeting tomorrow near ten in the morning. We will most likely be raiding the boss’s lair the same day, so be prepared to fight. As for our guild, leveling and mob grinding will have its benefits. With each kill, our guild will take away a small fraction of the Cor you earn and places it in the guild’s shared funding. There is one rule that I have to express however in regards to the shared money; please do not take away from the fund for your own indulgences. The money will be used for getting new equipment as well as purchasing a home base when we have enough Cor.”
It was then that Flash unexpectedly called out from the group. His tone was bland and dark, but clearly heard within the confines of his black hood. He was speaking directly to Guren.
“When exactly will we receive the invites for the guild?”
Our leader smiled and snapped his fingers
“Great question! The invites will roll out to you all later on in the day; mainly in the afternoon so it won’t interfere with our mission for today. So don’t expect any messages from me until around six or seven o’clock. With that being said, we can officially start on our first task as a guild. So let’s not waste any time.”
With the meeting done and over with, we all moved as a group out of the comfort of Ronbaru and to the tunnel that lead to the tower. Guren lead the charge as always with Vivy, Flare and Alanna followed right behind while they mumbled a storm. I swore that they could talk their lips away, they even sung duets from time to time. After those two came Ghost and I, our paws locked together like two swords deadlocked in combat. Next up were the two humans, Vlain and Freyalise, who usually didn’t speak all that much. When they did, however, their topic seemed to be mainly about their skills and stats. They barely ever talked about their old lives at all, if ever. Finally in the back of the pack came Flash. I never heard a peep from the Bombay. Occasionally I would check back to see if he was still following the group, but he would always be following steadily behind with his head low and his paw ready to pull out his steel dagger whenever necessary.
With my check of all of the Knights concluded, I stared frontward down the cave, lit by the dim blue hue of the various crystals. Only a few steps later, I found myself gazing directly at one of the cores of the large reflective surface. The thing had to be as large as a car by the look of it I couldn’t even see the top of it, granted it was embedded into the roof of the cavern. Strangely, I felt almost nostalgic looking into the object. My own mind started to question these strange feelings. Was it the hue of the crystal that reminded me of the sky, or was it the looming height of it that reminded me of the house back in the real world? I tried going back through the depths of my memory to figure out why exactly these feelings had resurfaced. That is until, my eyes grew wide. It was then that it hit me.
I had remembered clearly.
Back when I was about three or four years old, my father and mother used to make frequent stops at this shop in the suburbs. This shop was named “Earth Lore,” and for good reason. The shop sold a variety of crystals and gems dug up from the Earth to be sold to the general public. I remembered always walking into the store with a smile, interested in finding new and intriguing rocks to show off back at home. One trip down there, I found a large, clouded crystal sitting atop a black pedestal. Curiously, I reached over to grab it. Before I could even touch it I was stopped by the pet cat that lived with her owners that ran the shop. Her name was Niya, she was a cute black tabby that fit the mystical and lore side of the store, and took pride in it just as her owners did.
She told me that the stone was a crystalized gypsum, the store called it ‘Selenite.’ This specific clouded rock came in all shapes, forms, and commonly found in a tan-ish shade, but this appeared to be a rarer white version. When she stopped talking she reached over toward the base and a ’Click’
could be heard. With the flick of the switch a light illuminated the cloudy innards of the stone. The amazement on my face must have been comical to her when she laughed. Instinctively, I had blushed and crossed my arms. She babbled more information about the stone, also showing the different color mode on the base, but I had disregarded the information as nothing. Even now I could even give anyone an accurate price on the thing. All I had remembered was that I had just enough money to actually purchase the item. That day I took the item back to my home and placed it on top of the desk inside my room. When I configured the base and stopped the color on a light blue hue, it felt a little bit cozier in my sanctum.
When I looked at the crystals in this floor, it reminded me of the very rock in my room, still illuminated from the night I had said goodbye to the real world. At that point, my nostalgic thoughts finally faded away, leaving me with a bright smile. I turned to my right to attempt to find the group that, in my mind, was waiting for me. Fortunately, the group was all but gone with the exception of one Knight in particular. He was leaning on the dark, rocky surface of the cave. His face had a slight blue hue to it from the crystals not to mention his steel armor. His voice then echoed softly to me.
“You good to go?”
I smiled to the Terrier.
With a sprint I found my way back to his side as we both move onward toward the labyrinth. My eyes were trained on the dim teal light just ahead of us although my focus was still directed at Ghost.
“The group is just ahead. By the time we get to the labyrinth, Vlain and Flare should be waiting at the entrance. Guren and his squad should be already inside starting their leveling for the day.”
I had let out a single chuckle.
“So they got a head start. Well…”
The legs of my avatar had started to carry me faster than my casual walk as the canine beside me followed suit.
“Then there’s no use hanging around here! Last one there buys our next meal!”
* * *
The sharp ping of metal on metal rung through the air as a war-axe and a metallic arm collided with a crash of might.
Ghost’s upward block of the elemental’s attack knocked the creature backwards and off of its feet, not to mention the Terriers. It had appeared that our Knight was stronger than the being when the distance of the two increased dramatically. It was then that Flare stepped in for the attack with his rapier. Their combination was by all means a stellar attack, and one used and perfected by Asuna, vice commander of the Knights of the Blood. Although Flare lacked her amazing speed, he was definitely a force to be reckoned with in terms of skill. I would have even dared to say that his switch from a sword to the speedy weapon that was now in his possession was a great one at that.
“Lucky! Vlain! Switch, now!”
Still having yet to recover completely from his assault, he blurted out to us. With my mind in a trance, the words that resonated through the rectangular teal halls made me jump in my place. Although the words passed me by, I could already tell what he wanted of me and my partner. We had quickly switched our positions with a sprint. As soon as we took our place in front of the large mineral elemental, Vlain had already deflected a downward blow aimed directly at us with his own upward swipe.
Once the attack was parried I quickly took my strike at the mob with a direct attack to its torso. With a blue streak my katana pierced it and instantly slashed with a second swipe for good measure. The elemental soon recovered and took another jab, this time at me. Before it could lay a stone on my chest-plate, my party member blocked the attack and allowed me to hit the monster yet again. This time, his HP bar didn’t stand a chance. My second hit had brought its HP down to four percent and it wasn’t able to recover before I was able to deal the final attack right through its body. In a flurry of pixels the monster exploded and eventually disappeared, my sword sliding gracefully back into sheath with a ring and a click.
In front of me was the familiar screen of the winnings from the fight, my last attack allowing me to gain the majority of the EXP from the fight. However, a couple lines of text had appeared before me, putting a smile on my muzzle. It read: “Congratulations!! /
LV UP! Lucky / 49 > 50.” When my miniature window disappeared from view I let out a blissful sigh and turned to the three behind me as my paw instinctively rested on the flat bottom of my katana. My other guildmates were practically mimicking the same motions as I was more or less with their weapons holstered either on their back or sides and a victorious grin plastered on their faces.
I looked up at the time on the upper left hand side of my vision reading 5:58 AM, which would actually translate to PM to fit the world of Aincrad or “SAO Standard Time” as our group would put it. The usual stopping point for our group was normally around six o’clock, so it was only natural to stop near that time. It was at that point that Ghost pulled the group together and took on the role as our groups leader.
“So we’ve been leveling for about seven… no… almost eight hours now. I think that it’s safe to call it for today. Plus I’m getting kinda tired from all of this fighting, so why not just head back? What exactly are our levels?”
Flare was the first to answer.
“I’m at forty-nine.”
“Mine’s forty-eight. Nearly on the edge of forty-nine.”
And finally myself, mimicking the monotone of the first two containing my excitement with a level of ease equal to a freight train executing a sharp turn with blinding speed.
“I just reached fifty myself.”
I could see Flare’s eyes that grew nearly ten times the size that they were normally. The sight made me let out a few cackles and echoed throughout the space. My next sentence couldn’t have even been uttered without a few laughs.
“What’s with the face?”
Flare just gave me a smile and placed his free paw on his hip.
“Level fifty, that’s what! Congratulations Lucky! I know you definitely worked your tail off to get there.”
I could already feel my cheeks becoming flushed with red even with Vlain’s two cents.
“Yeah, congrats Luck.”
It wasn’t until a giggle and an embarrassed grin had found their way back onto my face that I had finally gave my inevitable response.
Ghost placed his paw on the top of my head. From the placement of the gloved hand, I could tell that he was behind me. Everyone’s eyes were trained on the Terrier. All I could do was watch the two in front of me as my boyfriend addressed the squad.
“Fantastic! I’m glad that everyone’s happy with their levels. I’d say that we’ve definitely earned a meal at the restaurant near our inn. As for tomorrow, the plan is as follows…”
I took over from there, leading the conversation from there. I did not think that he expected it either with his voice trailing off where I picked up.
“…We meet up outside of the inn and as a group head over to the staging area. Once we arrive, we hear out what the vice commander of the K.o.B. has to say and we follow her orders to the letter. After the meeting concludes we’ll make our way to the boss and go into our squads. You all know what to do after that.”
It was then that I stopped abruptly and allowed Ghost to continue, not seeming to mind my small intrusion. I was almost glad to give the reins back to him. He was always better at it than I.
“With that said, that’ll conclude the quotas for today. Go get some rest. You all will definitely need it for tomorrow. It’s just like we told you on the tenth and twentieth floors, as of the ninth floor we have no
idea what were up against completely, so be on guard and rely on the information from the scouts. They’re essentially your lifeline.”
With his pause he led up to his last statement of the night.
A sigh of relief had almost burst stridently through the space, a quick close of my maw sending the air quietly through my nostrils. The two players in front of me didn’t seem to notice when they turned their back toward us. When I looked at them, I wondered, did they mind my part in the closing of the day? I guess I could have said I was becoming more confident with our group with the shape that it was currently in. Although, with my slight panic-like state after giving only part of a speech, I could not give myself credit just yet. Until then, I’ll wait until that day where I’m giving a full-fledged pep talk in front of the entire guild.
“Let’s get out of here….”
The white-furred canine insisted, taking my paw in his.
“This place gives me the creeps.”
My grip tightened and a smile shone before him. Our feelings were almost equal when it came to this place. It was nothing like the blissful caverns and mountain sides of this floor. It felt only cold and gritty in the labyrinth. Nothing more, nothing less.
I had then finally agreed with him.
“Yeah, let’s get out of here. It’s definitely not the place that I would call a good place for a date if I had the choice.”
We both exchanged a few giggles and eventually went on our way back to the town of Ronbaru, trailing not too far behind Vlain and Flare. By the look of it, they were caught up in a conversation with one another. Their words however did not even reverb back to us, so my nosy mind could not take wind of their topic. It looked like they were having a great time. I could tell from their mouths that they were laughing at something, probably a story or a joke.
I simply just smiled and walked with Ghost. Nothing more, nothing less. His company kept me sane really. That was all that mattered, and I just left it at that. He more than likely felt the same way with his muzzle not even moving an inch past his usual smile. There was a word that described this whole situation… it was on the tip of my tongue. Before I could find the word to fill that thought a voice filled my right ear with wonder and awe.
“I can’t believe were at level fifty already. It seems like only yesterday that we were just level five clearing the first floor. Now look at us… we’re almost ten times what we were then and we’re an actual guild now. How things have changed so fast… it’s weird, you know?”
His ending question left me answering in a nod and a ‘mhmm
’, my wordless answer sparking another round of thought for him as he continued on.
“It kinda leaves me to wonder what’s to come. Pretty soon I’ll have my cooking skill at an optimal level so we don’t have to eat out all the time, you’ll have your tailoring and armor skill high enough to be the guild’s armor curator…”
I watched as his eyes glance upward with a glint in his eye to finish his sentence.
“And then we’ll have our own place to call our home.”
I chuckled and placed my own thought on the table.
“Don’t forget about us being married too, hon.”
“How could I even forget?”
Our conversation had suddenly stopped, leaving the echoes and glow of the labyrinth to fill the void. We had walked for nearly ten minutes before stumbling into the dark cavern that led to Ronbaru. My eyes caught a light blue stone sticking out from the ground, nostalgia making my muzzle gleam.
My voice abruptly echoed throughout the cave, catching the attention of the tank.
“…humans have it great on the other side. They get to own property, actually marry, and have real jobs. Their lives kinda seem grand compared to ours. If only we could do those things in the real world… that would be fantastic.”
As I start to think further about the subject, my thoughts turn a tad unhappy.
“When we finally leave this game and go back to the real world, it almost seems like that all of the things that we would finally have, a house, a married life… it’s almost as if they didn’t even happen. I guess it’s why I love the virtual world. I finally get to make my dreams into a reality. Part of me doesn’t even want this to end, but I know that we can’t go on living like this. Plus I know that there’ll be other VRMMOs that could more than likely do the same thing, so… I don’t know, I guess we just enjoy what we have now until the end.”
The moment of silence came back and flooded the darkness. This time, Ghost ruffled the top of my head, the fur more than likely in a jumbled up ball.
“You got that right. Don’t you worry a hair about the real world Lucky, we’ll enjoy every second of time we have together in here. Just keep a big ol’ smile and you’ll be just fine."
How couldn’t I? With him around it was impossible not to. My paw gripped his tighter and my free arm held onto his in a hug. A giggle had made it's way out from my muzzle. I had remembered.
That was the word I was looking for.
"Hey, don't you owe me a meal?”
I walk in silence, cursing in my head. He remembered.
TO BE CONTINUED
(A/N: Sorry about the length and pointlessness of the chapter! Been quite preoccupied currently and I'm having trouble with coming up with the details of the coming events for the story. But, don't you worry, give me a chapter or two and I'll be back on track with the action.
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:50 pm
I am loving so much of this right now! I hope we can get more soon!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:45 am
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite
- Rocky Road=
“Argus had nothing to do with our situation and you know it. Kayaba trapped us, not them. So if you are going to use your bias to outcast my entire guild, then you can go die to a slime for all I care.”
A condescending response shot back.
“Wow, no need to be harsh! I thought we were all friends here?”
Guren had a paw gripped tight on the hilt of his sword as the other rested on his hip. Tension was high in the war room, the guilds and solo players watching as the drama unfolded between a player from the Aincrad Liberation Army and our leader.
Just hearing the sharpness in his voice implied there was no doubt he was at his tipping point, and for good reason. Personally, at least for me, this was highly offensive considering that my father was an Argus employee. As for the other three alpha testers… I only could imagine what they could have been feeling. I would probably shoot for anger. It was justifiable. To say that Argus is the cause for our entrapment, how could we not
gotten mad? If I were in his situation, there was no telling what I could or would have done to that player.
“You don’t even have the slightest clue if what you are saying is even accurate! What make you so sure Mr. Holmes!? Please, enlighten us!”
The man then shouted his response to the Manx. His pompousness was at its peak at this point.
“Well the way I see it you stupid cat, Kayaba and Argus are pretty much entwined. Don’t you know how Kayaba pretty much brought Argus to Triple-A status? It’s Argus’s fault that they had Kayaba in their company in the first place and did nothing to stop him from keeping us here.”
Our Knight slammed his paw down on the table.
“The people at Argus more than likely had no idea of Kayaba’s intentions! I have no doubt that he acted alone in this!”
The male Liberation player simply grinned and leaned against the table.
“Then what’s your proof?”
I felt my eyes grow wide. His trump card was seamlessly pulled and he now had the advantage over us in this fight. Guren knew full well he couldn’t disclose the status of our time in this world just due to the fact that even being a beta tester was dangerous enough. If we finally disclosed the fact that we were alpha testers… who knows what people would do.
“Oh, wouldn’t you want to know?”
Guren uttered sarcastically in a dull manner. I raised a brow. The thoughts in my mind couldn’t help but try and figure out what he was trying to get at. What exactly was he planning?
“Yes actually, I would. What could you possibly have to back up what you said?”
A grim and darkened expression flooded his face. He paused for a brief minute, but he looked as if he was about to break down. He kept his composure. Everyone’s eyes and ears were awaiting interestedly in the felines direction. With a sigh and a glare staring the human down, the words flowed outward from his muzzle.
“My dad worked at the American Division. The same goes for a handful of others in our group. Their mothers and fathers worked alongside one another at their offices located in the heart of Detroit. That’s how I know. Another thing that I know for an absolute fact is that they would never do something that sinister knowing that their own family
would be trapped in a world of their own design. So, if you were asking for proof, you would think that they would share information about Kayaba and the game to us when sitting down for dinner, don’t you think? You know what one of those conversations were? It was about how he took over development in the last stages after the beta. Information directly from the source. What can get better than that? So to answer your question, no, it wasn’t Argus’s fault. Do you get the picture yet or do I have to bash it into brain like a mace?”
The room grew silent along with the Army man. His mouth was agape with surprise along with the select few Knights that our leader had essentially called out. Nobody spoke a word. I couldn’t believe that he would disclose that information willingly. I soon started to worry that our cover would be blown any second. That is until I realized the way that he stated his point.
He phrased it precisely so that it kept our identities and rank a secret while delivering the final blow to this argument. I had to hand it to Guren. He definitely was a fantastic speaker, and friend. If I had to pick anyone to have my back in a fight, there was no question that he would be my first pick… well… besides Ghost that is.
Asuna’s high pitched voice seemingly echoed throughout the crowded space practically gaining the attention of all the players before her. She’s been in the vice commander spot for only a couple of floors, but she held the title well. She stared at both our leader and the single body standing where the Liberation Army stood, their matching armor clearly identifying him as such.
“If you two are finished, I’d like to actually plan for the boss’s lair.”
She paused and looked around.
“As I was saying before the interruption, with everyone in attendance, The K.o.B, The Army, The Knights of Argus, and the few solo players present, we can begin to discuss our plan of attack. To start, the boss is a Mineral Elemental, pretty much similar to the ones that we fight in the labyrinth. This, however, differs from the normal mobs. The boss’s attack patterns are quicker and harsher than it’s pint sized minions and attacks with its metallic arms. From what we’ve seen, its attacks could prove to be difficult to block, even with a high ‘strength’ stat. Our best shot is dodging and attacking from behind. If anyone spots a weak point shout it out.”
Guren spoke up from his place beside our guild.
“Are there any attack patterns that are currently known as of now? We wouldn’t want to go in there blind.”
The vice commander nodded and stared at the Manx, almost prepared for the question entirely.
“The only attack pattern that we know of for sure is an attack that throws the smaller Elemental mobs at the far edges of the room. Other than that attack, there were no others that our scouts could detect. They couldn’t get a better look at his attack patterns because of the barrage of minions. The scouts abandoned the room and retreated back into town with a few other pieces of info. The boss’s initial motions suggest that his arms could also be used to attack by slamming them against the floor around him. As for formations, we’re going to have tanks in the front and one handed swords in the middle. We don’t know anything more about the boss, so watch yourselves.”
She stood up straight and glanced at everyone in the room once more.
“Are there any further questions about the upcoming raid?”
Asuna waited for any word, sign, or signal, but found nothing as she stood up straight.
“It’s settled then. Our raid begins at twelve on the dot. You all have three hours from now to prepare and meet up by the teleport gate. Meeting adjourned.”
With the close of our meeting, everyone scattered around, some heading out of the door to go for some last minute leveling or to form their own meeting, or some staying inside to talk to our raid leader for information that was missed. Asuna seemed to be in the middle of the sea of people surrounding her with questions of all sorts, while a few Army players stepped forward to Guren, their leader seeming more apologetic than ever. It looked as if he was about ready to kick the snarky player out of the entire guild by the tone of his voice, but unfortunately we didn’t stick around to find out. Our entire guild headed out of the meeting room and into a restaurant not far from where we all were supposed to meet to leave for the boss.
* * *
“Ghost, move left! Now!!” Guren had shouted among the players in fray who were surrounding the beast. I watched in awe as the whole motion carried itself among our group. The Terrier heeded the Manx’s warning and shifted to the left side, avoiding a powerful attack from the large Mineral Elemental. The attack left the stone ground cracked and exposed as the beast’s arm raised and prepared itself for another strike at some players behind it, small fragments dropping down with a high pitched clack.
I could see Squads A and D ready their weapons while the monster turned to greet them. This would give us the chance to catch our breath before the next attack cycle would commence. Around the Elemental spawned a small number of the smaller, thinner versions of the boss. Despite their smaller size, the minions still packed a considerable punch with their slash attack and proved difficult to kill effectively without another player, at least from my point of view. It wasn’t impossible, however. The solo players that still remained on the front lines put up a fight and could take down mobs with no problem. I had to hand it to them, they were indeed powerful.
Our short break came to an end when the arm of an Elemental started to fly at my muzzle. Out of what seemed like instinct came my katana, ready to block the oncoming mob as the blade glowed a bright blue. When the rock and metal made contact, a sharp ring sang in the air, the other weapons creating a brash harmony of battle. My eyes kept their lock on the enemy as a war-hammer struck the parried monster in the chest, sending it nearly all the way back where it had spawned. The tank smiled and brought his hammer back down beside him.
“I’ve got the first hit, Luck. Don’t worry about blocking. Just go for the attack!”
I smiled back at the Terrier as he sprinted forward. His war-hammer already beginning to give a red glow. My simple yet firm response sounded before the distance became any larger.
My own charge followed Ghosts as I readied my sword. The whole attack only lasted around fifteen seconds, but the movements almost seemed like minutes had passed us by. Ghost had swung at the attacking foe, sending him and the mob back a few feet as I continued my advance. After I had gotten close enough to strike I maneuvered my sword so that I could deliver the next blow. When I had my sword in position I swiped at the Elemental’s torso, creating a bright gash before disappearing into a flurry of blue polygons. Right when the monster had perished we had moved back to the starting position of the squad, or guild in this case.
We were Squad C. We were the only nine player squad among the usual seven player groups in our usual boss raids. Today we had six complete squads and three two to three man groups, which comes to about forty eight to fifty three players. This was one of the biggest raids that we’ve had up to now, and it showed no signs of slowing down. Our combat even showed that very same thing.
Guren and Vivy were inseparable when it came to battle, the same went for Flare and Alanna and even for me and Ghost (real shocker there…). The only ones that didn’t really mind fighting in a group or even alone were Flash, Frey, and Vlain. It seemed that in our respective smaller two player fighting style our guild seemed to excel the most.
I looked over at Guren and Vivy, just finishing off a minion along with Vlain. Just about five feet next to them were Flare and Alanna taking care of yet another stony creature with their Axe and Rapier combo attack. It seemed like we were doing great.
“Squad C, heads up!”
My head shot to the sound of Asuna’s voice, then to the monster. I could see the large arms of the boss completely raised for his crushing assault. The arm wasn’t near me even so I stepped a couple of paces backward to avoid the impact. However, I could see a very dire situation in the shadow of the Elemental. In the darkened area I could see a couple of players fighting two of the minions who didn’t fall to our defense. As I watched in panic, my voice echoed through the chamber.
“Vlain, Frey! Get out of there!!!”
Vlain shot a sly remark back as he blocked a quick attack.
“What do you think we’re trying to do!?”
Freyalise looked quickly upward at the metalic arm hovering above. This provided enough time for the minion in front of her to swing its arm at the shrot-sword weilder, creating a gash near her right hip. The Knights shield dropped to the floor and landed just outside the shadow of the beast above her. She grabbed her side while I stood in place, frozen. I wanted to just move in and help, to get them out of this situation. But, this thought proved to be futile as the boss’s attack was bound for the ground. There wasn’t time. Guren shouted at the two for one more last-ditch effort.
“Move it guys! Get out of there!”
In one quick movement, the male player dove to the side and avoided the incoming attack. I looked to where Freyalise was, blocking what seemed to be the most poorly timed attack in all of SAO. She looked in our direction and attempted to dive our way, kicking the shield towards the group. As our eyes locked onto each other it felt like time seemed to slow down while the arm of the elemental reigned supreme on her life in the realm of Aincrad. I watched as the arm made contact with the ground.
Mouths of the Knights were agape.
Only a second. That’s all it took before I could see that eerie blue plume of polygons filled the air. Those shards were it. Those were the remains of the player that I
knew as Freyalise.
She was right there. She was
right there. I could have done something. There was something that I could have done. I let that happen…
At that moment Ghosts voice brought me back to reality.
“Lucky! Get it together hon! Stay with me!”
He looked over to our leader.
“Guren, we need a switch! We need to regroup--”
His voice seemed to fade as rage fueled every harsh breath that came out of my body. Every sound that I could hear just a second prior just seemed to be white noise. My eyes stared the boss down, glancing at the low HP gauge floating on the right side. There was only a sliver left. Maybe it wasn’t too late to do anything after all.
It was if my body was moving all on its own when it clutched the curved sword and rushed towards the monster. All that I could think of was killing this monster
that removed my friend from both worlds real and digital. When I got close to the mob, I swore I could have heard the sounds of familiar voices before the beast slammed down his arm on the floor once more. This time however, I jumped out of the way and landed on the front of the rocky stomach of the boss. With my agility I started to run upward towards its head, the most vulnerable section. I hardly even noticed I went vertical on the way up. The moment I finally realized it was when I reached the top, leaping further in the air for the last strike. The final attack to take care of this monster for good. I screamed at the top of my lungs to the point that my trachea burned as my sword made its mark on the top of its flat head.
It took only a few seconds for it to fall and ultimately perish, the boss exploding into a sea of blue. When the surface of the boss disappeared I landed on the stone ground with a thud, my sword still clutched in the palm of my paw. I didn’t even glance up to see the ‘Congratulation’ sign above, let alone the winnings from the fight. There was nothing to be happy about. We had lost a fellow guildmate.
Asuna yelled, storming over toward my location. I could tell she didn’t seem happy with what just transpired, even with my back towards the entirety of the raid group. She stopped right behind me.
“What the heck
was that? Are you trying to get killed? Do you even realize that this isn’t a game? What we are doing here is serious business and if you’re going to pull off stunts like that…”
My body turned to face the leader, my head sunken and my eyes glossy. I could barely make out the white and red boots of the K.o.B vice commander. I barely noticed that she completely trailed off from what she was saying. Then came my sorrowful response.
“I’m sorry for jeopardizing the raid. Please forgive me… that was careless what I just did…”
Guren stepped forward and stood beside me.
“Let us handle this. Lucky’s with me and apart of the K.o.A.. He’s our responsibility.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a shining metallic object laying near the rubble of one of the attacks that the large Elemental had laid waste to. My body immediately started walking toward the glow and eventually stood in front of the object that emitted the light. My paw grasped the object and my eyes stared into its steel center bit. It was the Knights of Argus shield. I couldn’t help but get lost in a trance as my gaze shifted to the steel. I could see my warped reflection in the metal. The thought of Freyalise and her last moments replayed like a movie in my mind. Tears started to well in my eyes. Very quickly I stood up and started to breathe slowly in and out, ceasing the tears from flowing onto my fur. With the shield in hand I moved towards my guild, no doubt feeling the same as I. At this point players started heading toward the exit, then my quiet tone spoke to the desolate air.
“Goodbye Frey. I’m so sorry.”
That night, all I could recall was crying in the arms of Ghost, just wishing that this world would end, that I didn’t have to see one more player succumb to Aincrad or Kayaba. The only thoughts on my mind until the morning was: ‘how much longer would we have to suffer?' and 'how many more people would have to die?’ Too many it seemed.
This world… it never ceased to tear you apart physically and mentally. That was certain.
TO BE CONTINUED
(A/N: Sorry for the delay! This is all that I've got for right now!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:44 am
Great job, D3ath_0ps!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 4:18 pm
Wonderful job on this! It came out very nice!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 10:58 am
Its the most beautiful thing I've ever seen! Like snow in July!
By the way, happy Thanksgiving everyone! ^-^
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 10:37 pm
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite-
=Chapter 8 - Initiates=
It had been three months since we lost Frey. Every day after her death seemed so different without her. Vlain seemed to take the blunt of it all; he hardly even put up a fight against the mobs when it came time for mapping. It was as if he gave up. I couldn’t imagine how he must have felt. He grew up with Frey. They’ve been best friends for as long as they could remember. The two of them were practically inseparable. I even thought at one point that the two of them were a couple. Both of them denied it outright, but I still had my suspicions.
A week after the twenty seventh floor was cleared, Vlain came to Guren with disappointing news. He told our leader that he was leaving the Knights of Argus and wouldn’t be returning. When I got wind of this, it immediately raised a plethora of red flags. Even Guren was concerned. That’s why he referred him to me before he left our guild for good. Maybe the reason for the recommendation was because of the talk at Tolbana, it was the only one I could think of at the time and it seemed to make the most sense. But I didn’t question it further.
When Vlain came to me, he looked bad at best. I could see that he wasn’t getting any sleep just from the bags under his eyes, not to mention his defeated look. I first asked him if he was okay, he just gave me the bland response, ‘I’m fine.’ After that quick talk, I quickly started to think of what I could do. After a minute, I finally came up with a brilliant idea. Today was the day that I would go back to the Town of Beginnings and pay my respects to the fallen players inside the Black-Iron Palace. I thought that maybe I could convince him to stay if I showed him the monument. So, I asked him if he’d like to see something with me. The only ones who knew about my trips to the monument were Guren and Ghost, so it would mainly be a surprise for him. Plus, I thought I could add a little dramatic effect into the mix. At first, he seemed hesitant, almost unwilling, but I begged him to go. I even promised him that after he’d seen what I wanted him to see, he could leave the guild. After a moment, he finally agreed. I wanted to jump for joy, but there was no time to waste.
I asked him to first pull out a teleport crystal. He immediately started questioning me, I persisted that he should trust me. Without any more argument from him he pulled out a blue crystal and asked me for our destination. I told him to meet me at the gate and simply uttered: ‘teleport: Town of Beginnings.’ In an instant my avatar magically appeared at the town and the first thing that I had done was moved out of the way for my guildmate. As I stood there waiting however, I couldn’t help but feel a small bit of doubt. What if he didn’t follow? What if he found out what I was planning? I quickly dismissed these thoughts as a blue aura appeared at the gate. I could feel a sigh of relief rush out of my muzzle. Once I could confirm it was him, we both entered the Black-Iron Palace. At that point I could tell that he knew what I was getting at. But, he followed me anyways. At least he was giving me a chance. That was all I could have asked for.
Before we reached the monument, I quickly materialized a red rose like flower, fully prepared for my exertion. Vlain and I stood before the massive black stone and gazed into the carvings. My glance hovered over every name, starting from the far left, the A’s, and making my way to the far right, the very last people on this list. I didn’t dare skip a name, for each and every letter among the thousands of names still left untouched and uncrossed held a precious ounce of life that fought for their right to live on the other side. For this reason, I couldn’t help but read the ones that were already crossed out as well. It was them that paved the way for our advance. It was their souls that would provide the push to aim for higher floors. Their sacrifice to this world was indeed too great for us to comprehend, and I wouldn’t let it go unnoticed. I couldn’t. I couldn’t deny that they lived and fought in this world just like the rest of us. Even Irvin, the first known death after the announcement.
I could see the familiar names of some of the comrades that we lost along the way. Diabel. Cerenity, a fellow solo on the front lines that unfortunately met her demise on floor 20. And then, I found it. Frey’s name. Staring at the name, I almost thought that she would just appear right in front of me. Right where she would have spawned if the game played as it should have if Kayaba didn’t butt his head into Aincrad. I only wished she would. My gaze left the stone and stared at the Knight to my right. His glossy eyes told it all. He was indeed staring at her. Maybe he was wishing the same thing? I let out a sigh and finally started to talk, but kept it at a whisper out of respect for this hallowed ground.
“Do you see her?”
I waited for a response, but only got a nod. A single tear streaked down his face and I could see his fists clench. My voice then echoed softly again through the chamber.
“She was a definitely a fighter. I never saw anyone compare to her skills with a sword and shield, not to mention her kind heart. She was definitely one of a kind.”
It was then that he added his own tearful response to the mix.
“There was time you know…”
This was the first weak statement that came from the male. His voice alone almost made me want to just hug him outright, but it was necessary that he speak his mind. I could tell that he needed it. As soon as he was ready another slew of words made their way to the inscribed name before him, almost as if she was here with us.
“I could have saved yo--… her. I could have saved her. I should have. When the arm came down, all I wanted to do was get out of there. I thought that she would just…. I… I looked at Frey to see if she was alright, but by the time I could see, the arm was already down. I thought that she was alright. I simply told myself that if there was anyone that could get out of that situation, it would be her. But when… when the arm came up…”
He stopped speaking and lowered his head. I could see the tears that had welled in his eyes now a miniscule puddle of water on the floor. It was time that I stepped in. He needed someone to tell him everything was going to be okay. I stood up and brought my gaze back onto the names. This conversation, whether Vlain knew it or not, involved them too.
“You remember when we first left the Town of Beginnings? When we all set out to get stronger to defeat the first boss? Do you remember the first month? How Irvin jumped off of that one cliff near the East Gate? How two thousand people were suddenly… gone? At the time I only wished I could forget…”
I stood up and continued to stare at the wall. My paws rested on my hip and the end of my katana. I continued and asked him one more question, this time a non-rhetorical one.
“Do you know why we continue to fight in this world?”
I waited for a response, but never got one. I pulled out my sword, a different blade than the one from floor twenty-seven. This sword was the very product of that day. The boss’s rare item drop. The dark-steel ingot. This ingot was the only one I had come across in my time on floor twenty-seven, and I felt that it was the perfect one for my new blade. The information box of the item mentioned that this type of steel was a lighter composite and that it came directly from the heart of the boss that was slain by my hand, this grade of metal being the perfect material to use for quicker weapons like the rapier or the dagger. So, with that knowledge I had the ingot made into a katana almost the day after we made it to the twenty-eighth floor. Although it cost me a pretty penny, I would say that it was definitely worth it, I even named the item. Its official name was Ciyph. It was a play on the word Scythe, and even sounded exactly like it. This was going to be the reminder of what I was about to say. I stared at the blade and kept talking to my reflection, giving my sword more meaning than thought possible.
“We fight to honor those who have succumbed to this world. To those that couldn’t make it to see this day. We owe it to them that we see this through to the end, and when we do, we know that the fallen were watching over our perilous battles every step of the way. We can’t forget them. Not ever.”
I paused and sheathed my weapon, materializing another flower. I held it in my paw with the other. Finally I turned my breast plate to the human and looked up to his eyes.
“I know that Frey will watch over you and the Knights in battle and beyond, forever and always. Just know that you did your best to help. There was nothing that you could have done to help her situation. But, don’t give up. Fight for her. Fight for her sacrifice. Fight for the thousands that have sacrificed so much to get where we are.”
The rose enters my free paw and I offer it up to the Knight, his gaze catching the red hue of the flower. He looked at the smile on my face and back at the flower, almost contemplating too hard about taking the object from my paw. I waited very patiently, and he eventually took the flower gently in his hand. He stared at it as I placed mine on the ground in the middle of the display. I closed my eyes and gave a silent prayer, then stood back up. I gave him a cheerful look.
“I hope I get to see you tomorrow. Floor twenty-eight’s mapping won’t get done by itself you know.”
With that, I left. I went back to the inn that our guild was staying at and sat near the window facing the town square. At that point it was up to him if he were to come back to the guild or not. I had a perfect view of the teleport gate and could clearly see players coming in or out. But, at around midnight, I could spot our Knight slowly walking back to the inn. With a smile on my face I went to bed with Ghost and waited for day to shine through.
Tomorrow, three months after I had taken Vlain to the monument, we were welcoming new people into our fold. I would have to speak to them all along with the current Knights near nine o’clock. I couldn’t be late.
FLOOR 35 - OUTSIDE THE NOTHERN GATES of MISHE
August 22nd, 2023 - 9:30 AM (AST)
“Hello, initiates. I’m very glad that you five could make it to your first meeting today. Today, we’ll see if you have what it takes to be a Knight.”
Guren stood before the five players with his paws on his hips, his role as leader shining bright as he gave his opening statement to the new Knights that were going to be inducted into our fold. Behind the Manx stood the rest of us, in order, Flare, Vivy, Flash, Me, Ghost, Vlain, and Alanna. We all had our paws and hands behind our backs, this historic event for the guild being as formal as it could be, given the circumstances. Looking back at our leader, by the bright grin on his muzzle, he was absolutely exultant to be speaking before them this morning.
“As you may know, we are a guild of mostly pets, and we haven’t really accepted new players up until now. We are an inclusive guild and will let in anyone willing to fight along with us, as well as the players on the front lines. The only expectation that we have for you all is that you are prepared to fight to beat this game and that you give your all to complete this MMO. Our main circle consists of Ghost, Lucky, Vivy, Flash, and I. As you may have heard by now, we five players had family that worked at the American division of Argus, and continue to fight for them. Please respect that knowledge. That being said, you all are the first inductions into the K.o.A. since its creation, and I want to keep this short and sweet…”
Now for the good part. This never got old. A shield was thrown by Vivy and caught seamlessly by the Manx. He dug the metal into the soft ground and showed off the detailed portion to the small group, the hexagonal reflection shining against the cape around what looked like a Rottweiler.
“We are the Knights of Argus. This right here is the very symbol of our guild, the now thirteen player group that defends the very name of the company that was wronged by the ‘god’ of this death game. It is our duty to protect the players fighting to defeat this game, and to battle alongside the men, women, and pets on the front line. Our colors our blue, black, and silver. Blue, for the skies that we long for back on the other side. Black, the wall of protection we as the Knights will fight for, and finally, silver, for the strong bond of all of us here. It is the heart of our guild, and is what makes us tough. As I mentioned to our group at the beginning of the game: we will beat this thing, we will make it to the Ruby Palace, and we will see this through to the end.”
He paused and looked at the five, all of which were either smiling bright or keeping a bland straight face.
“Now then, I would like to leave you with Lucky and Ghost, the ones that will be testing your skills and training you in the strategies that we use for the front lines. I’ll see you guys on the battlefield.”
With our cue, we both step forward as the rest of the guild enter back into the town. While they go on mapping, we will be with the initiates. Ghost was going to handle the beginning of the speech.
“Hello Everyone! I’m Ghost…”
He looked at me with a loving smile. I obviously blushed like mad. ‘Darn him’ was the first thing to come to mind before I cleared my throat and spoke my name.
“And I’m Lucky.”
“As Guren mentioned, we will be the ones who are going to fill you in on our strats for our mapping parties and boss raids. We’ll be dividing you up into the two main stats, Agility and Strength. I’ll take the strong types and Lucky here will take the faster players. Our job is to assess your skills and see what you all could provide to the guild and place you accordingly into a group for mapping and the floor raids.”
At that point, I decided to take over, continuing where Ghost left off. My body walked over to the left section of the line.
“As I move along the line starting from my left. I’ll need your name and weapon type. Since you guys are new, I wouldn’t want to mess up your names. My memory really doesn’t fare well when it comes to those things.”
With a chuckle I stand in front of the first player. He looked light on his feet, his light armor and sleeveless yellow tunic clashing with his dark skin tone as his brown trousers attempted to match. After quickly observing him, I then asked his name.
“What’s your name?”
“Theta, my main weapon is a simple dagger, but I’m working on my one handed sword skills too.”
“Great! Nice to meet you.”
Only a few more steps took me to the other soon-to-be Knight, but I smiled once I saw her. She was an Akita, just like me. Same fur color, even the same color eyes, she could have been my doppelgänger as far as I could tell. She had this black dress like outfit, the opening for her legs making the outfit battle-ready for sure. Not only that, the red top that she had on practically mimicked my own tunic that I was wearing at the time, only the sleeves were not connected to the underbelly of my arm as mine were. I then asked her the same question.
“What’s your name?”
“The name’s Avery. Glad to meetcha Luck!”
She had slammed her hand on my exposed shoulder, making me let out a quiet yelp while she gave me a thumbs up and a sly giggle. Quickly pulling her paw back, she snapped her fingers.
“Oh yeah! I forgot about my sword! My weapon is a two handed longsword. I forged it myself!”
“A blacksmith, eh?”
“Yep! I used to run a small shop on floor two.”
“Yep, a fellow smith seemed to outsell me back on the second floor in Urbus. The moment I sold my shop--well stall really--I moved on to Taran. Found the same guy some days later, shopless. He told me that he lost his business too because everyone moved up to the third floor. Darn front liners! Could you guys slow down for once? It’s not like our lives are at stake or something.”
A loud round of chuckles burst though the group. She definitely was a jokester just like Guren used to be. It had to be a full minute before I could even attempt to talk again. The first comment that I could utter was a witty response to complement her joke.
“I’ll be sure to tell Asuna that Avery. Welcome to the Knights.”
I moved onto the next player, this one, however, seemed a tad quiet. He wasn’t like Flash where he just seemed completely shut out. He actually seemed like he was just trying not to stand out. His… energy just seemed friendly, but he wasn’t talking at all. He dressed just like an NPC--wearing an ordinary light grey tunic and black trousers--only he had a chest plate to boot for extra defense. He had to have been solo. Otherwise, he was straight from the lower floors, which meant that he had a lot to learn if he were to map with us let alone raiding. When I stepped in front of him, I simply asked the same question again with a smile.
“What’s your name?”
He answered without hesitation, almost as if he were fearfully giving the info to a gang of red players--murderers, or enemy players in this game.
“Sammuel, I-I use a mace.”
I placed a paw on his shoulder, sending a sharp jolt though his spine so sharp that it practically made even me jump. The same smile greeted him once again.
“Hey Sam. You mind if I call you Sam?”
He paused, looking at me as if he had seen a ghost, but nodded his head in agreement.
“We aren’t going to eat you alive Sam. Every one of us in this guild is very friendly. In fact, I think that you’d get along with us pretty well! So don’t sweat it. There’s nothing to be afraid of here.”
The player looked off with a flustered look.
I raised my finger in the air, cutting his apologies .
“There’s nothing to be sorry about. You’re completely okay Sam. I know that it’s a bit uncomfortable with six other new people and pets around you, but we are kind players. We’ll all be here for you.”
I could see him crack a smile. His eyes kept their focus towards the ground.
As I moved onto the next player, it seemed like a whole shadow was cast over me entirely along with the one cast by the wall surrounding the city, and speaking of Shadow, this player seemed to feel almost exactly like him. This player was the Rottweiler in the dark cloak. The black fabric seemed to cover what little color that his fur naturally shown, his blank expression adding into the strangeness of who exactly this player was. The cursor on this pet, along with the others that I had passed, was green and didn’t prove to be any threat. But, I couldn’t help but be suspicious. I had cast aside these thoughts quickly as I stopped before him. I gave him a bright smile.
“What’s your name?”
He responded with an even more impassive response.
“Revel. One-handed sword.”
“Nice to meet you.”
His reply had almost wiped the smile on my face. It was as if his words were an eraser and my greeting was merely a useless statement on a chalkboard. What was with that guy? The question poked at my mind even after I moved out from in front of him. It could have been paranoia, but I could have sworn that I could feel his gaze pierce the very flesh of my avatar. It made me want to shiver.
With the shadow out of the way I moved onto the last player in the group. Judging on what he was wearing I could tell that he was a katana user just by the look of him. He had a green and black samurai outfit, his nearly golden colored accents making his outfit seamlessly pop. It reminded me of another guild that recently joined the fight on the front lines, the Fuurinkazan, a samurai oriented group of six that all took on the role of the ancient warriors. They were quite skilled. The familiar question sounded once last time when I looked at the warrior.
“What’s your name?”
A slow, almost maniacal laugh escaped the human. Confused, I raised a brow and asked another question.
“What’s so funny?”
After a couple more chuckles he gave his reply.
“Sorry, I thought I wouldn’t see the day that I would be ordered by a mangy mutt. I thought that the guy would be the one in charge of this ‘cuddly army,’ not some stupid cat.”
I crossed my arms and stared into his eyes.
“You heard me. I bet the only reason that the front lines keep you guys is just for show and moral support. You guys couldn’t even hurt a slime if you wanted.”
At first I wanted to ask myself why Guren found this guy even remotely bearable. But, I thought about what I had planned today and an idea formed in my head. My own sly grin formed on my muzzle. This was the perfect time to move into our next task.
“Well, let’s see about that.”
I backed away and continued to face the group of five.
“The next task is assessing your combat strength. Rude Guy, Theta, and Revel, you’re with me. Sam and Avery, you two are with Ghost. We’ll start with… Rude Guy and transition to one of Ghost’s then back to mine, rinse and repeat until we’re done. The way that we’ll be doing this through the duel system, one hit wins.”
It was the samurai’s turn to talk, asking a question of his own.
“Considering that I’m the ‘Rude Guy,’ why me first?”
I gave him a smirk stopping where I was.
“For shots and giggles of course. Now stand ten paces in front of me. You’re up first…”
“The name’s Hopson, mutt. And you’ll remember good and well when I’m done winning this stupid challenge.”
“So be it.”
He moved his way in front of my position. Through the menu I sent the first player his duel request, the cocky player instantly accepting the invitation and pulling out his katana. Slowly, I pull out my Ciyph and ready the weapon for battle, both of my paws gripping the black leather tight as the sword pointed at the duelist. I looked at the clock that had appeared above us. It was counting down from sixty. It was at 47 by the time I looked up.
This was my chance to assess my situation.
His sword was diagonal, pointed to the left. A very poor stance on his part. By the look of it, he was either going to go for an attack to my right and get my torso, or he was going to go for the head. Although, there is also a chance that he may fake me out by going for the other side of my body. I had no way of knowing what exactly he would go for, but there was one thing that I could check that would give it away entirely.
29, 28, 27…
My gaze had transferred over to his own. I could see his pale green eyes moving all about in their sockets, looking for an opening for his attack. As soon as he got a look at my left side, he looked straight up into my eyes. A smile broke on my face. I got a look at where he was searching. I knew his attack. He was in fact going for the fake-out.
12, 11, 10…
My eyes kept its lock on his. We remained motionless, right up till the last moment. I looked up to see the time. 10:05 (27) AM.
3, 2, 1. Go.
At the instant the thirty second mark was reached we charged at each other with our weapons in hand, ready for the duel. As expected, his sword acted as if it was heading to the right, swinging quickly in that direction. I tilted my sword as if it were to block this bogus strike, allowing him to go through with his plan of slashing the left. As soon as he moved and started to strike I moved my sword to the impact zone, blocking the blade as soon as it made contact.
Once I had blocked the blow, I maneuvered my blade so that I could go for my own target. I had positioned the blade so that it had no chance of missing and the Ciyph created a blue glow. My eyes never looked away from its target. A mere slice on his cheek. That’s all that was needed. The katana pushed forward. My eyes looked at the duelists face. The winning sound filled the air. 10:05 (40). Just ten seconds. A sigh escaped my muzzle.
It was done.
A small orange gash had been created right where the blade had cut. It took all the precision I had not to strike through his thick head, but managed it quite well if I knew. I took a few steps back and sheathed my weapon back up. I caught a glimpse of his baffled face, his mouth completely open. If that didn’t wake him up, I wouldn’t know what would.
“Don’t underestimate the power of pets.”
I looked over at the other stunned and impressed initiates.
TO BE CONTINUED
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 10:39 pm
This chapter is very action-packed! A very lovely job on this! I need to read it again sometime!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 2:49 am
Before I continue with the next chapter, I just want to say how happy I am with how well this Fic has been received and how much progress has been made so far. I'm so happy that you guys are liking what's been going on with the story so far, it really does mean a lot to me and I just wanted to show my thanks. I haven't been so driven to write something this cool before and I'm having a lot of fun enhancing the story every chance that I get. To be honest, I didn't think that I would get this far into the Fic, considering in the past how much progress that was made with Home Stories leading up to the final chapter of book one. It amazes me every time I think about how I proved myself wrong. Again, thank you all for reading this far. The next chapter will be released soon! <3
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 10:55 pm
Well of course you are welcome for reading this. This story is a treat! And it is a testament to your skills as a writer! Nice job!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 11:11 am
I'm really enjoying watching the strength of Lucky's character shine through.
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:57 am
Great job, D3ath_0ps!
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 1:29 am
-The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite-
=*Chapter 9 - Lost*=
FLOOR 35 - THE FOREST OF WANDERING
August 26th, 2023 - 6:20 PM (AST)
“On your left!”
The warning rang through the wooded area, giving the armored tank enough time to block the incoming mace belonging to the ape-like mob. The parry caused both of the longsword and the wooden club to create an unrealistic flurry of bright sparks as if two swords were deadlocked in combat, the bright orange glow like a miniature firework in the darkened forest; it had looked like we may have missed one minor detail after all. The force of the impact nearly knocked both the NPC and the Akita off their feet, Avery struggling to regain her footing as she faltered back to the group.
With the Drunk Ape blocked, this gave Hopson enough time to deal a swift horizontal blow to its sternum and fall back to the Knight behind him, the wound glowing a bright orange against its dark red fur. The mob let out a deafening roar as the ape behind hastily switched in to assist its wounded counterpart. The injured monster pulled out a gourd and raised it to its mouth, taking a drink of whatever was inside. This item was common with this monster variant and only appeared after a switch had occurred or if the player wasn’t fast enough, although, that specific case was astronomically rare as per usual with the fast pace mentality of the front lines players.
The liquid inside the container was capable of restoring nearly all of the monsters HP and proved to be difficult to manage, given the fight had gotten to that stage. Potions worked in the same fashion; reaching down to a pocket on the belt of your avatar and lifting the bottle to your mouth to drink. However, this substance that the Apes had was a tad greater in strength than the ones we could obtain at the time. This monster was hunted frequently in the Forest of Wanderings and it was considered to be the ‘strongest mob on the floor,’ and it seemed like the perfect creature to have the initiates fight for the day’s task.
After the second foe had switched with its friend that was healing on the sidelines, the Ape clutched its club and readied for another attack. While the mob could only perform low-level Mace skills, its attacks were powerful rather than complex or fast, and with the high weight of their weapon and their strength stat it was no wonder why the beasts’ attack took away a third of a player’s health bar. Considering the stats on the people and pets front lines, those players could handle a single beast without a thought, but if it came down to fighting multiple enemies in a single fight, it could take a couple to a few skilled fighters to deal with them strategically. However, it is possible to take a couple out alone if one had the drive or the skill to take the challenge head-on. It wasn’t something that I wouldn’t try though, the shear idea sounded like ‘suicide’ to me.
With her weapon raised, the canine’s voice called out to the katana user that had fallen back behind her to prepare for another assault.
“Don’t mention it!”
From the sidelines I observed the two and their fighting styles as well as their strategies in the field. Surprisingly they seemed to work well together, despite Hop’s feelings towards pets. I was shocked to say the least, given what transpired the day before.
Five days earlier, the duels with Ghost and I gave us only a taste of what exactly the five new players could do in combat as well as get to know the newbies that we would more than likely bond with over the course of whenever this game would inevitably end. As a result, we got some good information from the five and noted some of their strengths.
Avery was the perfect tank. She was almost equally matched to Ghost in combat, and shocked even him when she nearly won the duel by sheer power alone. Revel and Theta both showed their true color as well as speed, the Rottweiler initiate even winning the duel with a rapier after a great display of remarkable agility. The dagger-wielder, Theta, couldn’t even match the dog’s speed even with the lightest weapon available. Ghost called it a remarkable display of pure skill, I couldn’t agree more. Hopson was the only player that not only lost once, but twice after asking for a retry, whining that I didn’t give him enough warning to prepare himself. He would be the one that would need the most help for sure.
After the series of duels the Terrier and I split the new guildmates into two teams at our own discretion. Each miniature squad required to have a tank and at least one attacker, given the strategy that our guild used every day on the front lines. Avery and Hopson were the first led by myself and the other consisted of Sam, Theta, and Revel. The whole endeavor started near noon and had lasted until dusk, a group meeting to follow in the restaurant section of the Weathercock Pavilion, the inn that our guild was staying at for the duration of our stay on thirty-five.
Earlier that morning our leader had talked about what exactly we would be doing for the day and swiftly left the guild to their own devices, that is until Ghost and I were politely halted by Guren. Before we left, he had given us the ‘okay’ to go out and do some late night leveling once everyone was back at the inn safe and sound and that we’ve gotten our fill of Weathercock’s famous cheesecakes. After giving us the special map item to guide us through the forest, we thanked him and waited till twelve in the afternoon to begin our assessment.
Snapping out of a daze, I watched attentively at the fight that continued before me. The Drunk Ape lazily took its first step forward, foremost, Avery and Hopson following suit with their weapons in their respective battle positions.
“Here it comes!”
The tanks voice echoed through the forest while the ground gave a quiet rumble with each gigantic step of the Ape. The action seemed intense from where I stood, my heart even picking up the pace as the battle played like a movie in front of me. I had almost felt obligated to join them, the long day of watching the two duke it out with the various monsters in the forest taking its toll on me as I continued to watch from the base of a tree a small distance away. I had only wished I could join them. My sword was calling for me, it’s craving for digital flesh nearly tempting me to finish off the beasts myself. The fighting and leveling just wasn’t as fun when watching it from afar. So, unfortunately, I had to make do with situation for the time being, knowing later I would get my chance to level. I snapped out of my trance and followed the fight one more.
When my eyes caught the two Knights, I could see the edge of Avery’s steel longsword attempt to meet the incoming club that attempted to meet the top of her head. She raised her sword to intercept the wooden weapon and simply waited. However, I noticed something in the NPC, something that she should have noticed right away. With a sudden switch of its aim the mob maneuvered its weapon so that it would make contact with the left side of her body. By the time she realized the switch, it was far too late to evade. My eyes grew wide.
I watched as a third of the tanks health quickly dwindle away, the empty portion of the bar sticking out like a sore thumb. My heart started to race. Each and every beat felt like a miniature earthquake that seamlessly made my mind start to panic. They needed help. I needed to get in there. I began to raise my foot off of the ground to walk toward the, my paw resting on the hilt of my katana, but my body stopped completely, my entire being shaking as if I were stuck in the cold. I couldn’t move. My eyes glanced back over at the two Knights, the fight not eager to wait for anyone.
Hopson continued his assault, slicing his weapon across the Apes leg. Looking at the monster, the impact did not even make it flinch. The male player barked a command at the canine as he turned tail.
The dog did as he said, barely recovering from the last blow as she staggered back onto her feet. The Drunk Ape swung his weapon back at the Akita, this time narrowly missing the club by mere centimeters. They stood side by side back at their original position and faced the monster with heavy gasps. They looked exhausted. This had to be the last one. It was in our better interest that we didn’t press our luck too far. They needed a break, but they also needed to defeat these monsters. I let out a relaxing sigh, the majority of my nerves dissipating knowing that they are safe. It was time to be a leader.
“Good teamwork you two. Don’t forget, it heals if you wait too long. If you have to, take a more aggressive strategy. They don’t call it ‘the strongest mob on this floor’ for nothing.”
Hopson’s avatar turned its head my direction to give me a sour look, his angry tone to follow under his heavy breaths.
“We’re trying, you stupid dog! Why don’t you come over here and help us out? Why do we have to fight these things alone?”
‘I want to help you out, Hop. I really do…’ was what I had wanted to say, but the other truth--at least from the guilds standpoint--had shown its ugly head.
“It’s because your levels are a tad low, which could mean everything in the imperfect situation. Not to mention that you’re going to have to work as a team to get through to higher floors, so you might as well work together to get the hang of each other’s strengths. Heal up and keep fighting you two. Analyze your situation.”
A growl came from one of the digital beings in front of me, although it didn’t come from a monster. The snarl came from the snarky human. Not only that, I also heard an audible curse escape him more than likely directed toward me.
“Hey! Focus, Hop. We can do this. Just worry about the Apes.”
He let out an aggressive sigh, then came an exaggerated reply as she grabbed a potion from the small pouch on her belt.
“Okay, fine. Do you have a plan, mutt?”
“Give me a sec…”
A second was all Avery needed. After taking a swig of her health potion, she seemed to come up with a cunning plan right on the fly. It was time to see how well she was in the midst of battle.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to take the left side and you’ll take the right. We’re going to take ‘im straight on.”
Before Hopson could argue, the tank continued to speak, shooting his comment down before it even toon off.
“If the mob attacks either one of us we’ll block or evade depending on who it chooses. Once he makes his move, just keep on attacking until it recovers. Once it does, we repeat this process again until the blasted thing is toast. Once this guy is finally dead we can take on the other one using the same strategy, except this time we’ll switch positions.
“In order for this to work, I’m gonna need you to keep up with my pace, got it?”
The katana wielder didn’t seem enthused about the approach as he put his two cents on the table, doubt filling his voice.
“How do you know it’ll work?”
She simply shrugged her shoulders and grinned.
A smile slowly curled on her muzzle and finally spoke, firmly taking the idea and quite literally running with it as she left the male human in her dust. When his reaction time finally caught up with him, he faltered and then caught up with his squadmate.
“Let’s do this!”
I had to admit, Avery’s determination was surely top-notch. Surely nothing was a challenge for her. Hell, even if it were she would have surely blown that wall to measly bits and pieces. She even put some pep in Hopson’s step in the process. If I had to describe what I thought of it, Impressed was surely an understatement.
With the tank leading the charge the two spilt up according to their hurried plan. On the left side was the agility type player, the right the longsword user. I looked up at the Ape to see his reaction to the Knights plan to see his head turning in both Avery’s and Hop’s direction. The system was deciding which player to take on first. If I had the option, I would have chosen the tank just based on the sheer damage that her longsword could inflict with each hit. Some would take on the katana first for its speedier attacks and shortened cool-down rate, but the damage that it would deal would be dependent on the user’s strength and agility respectively--how hard and how fast you hit.
Once the AI had systematically chosen its target, both players were already stationed in their designated positions on the sides of the monster. It didn’t take long for them both to start wailing their weapons at the feet of the Drunk Ape, instantly starting to twiddle down its full HP gauge. For every one hit that Avery would land, Hopson would give two to three in exchange, the power of the male’s katana dealing a varied amount of damage each time. When the Ape had finally decided on its target, its club had deftly swung in the air, the attack going straight for the female canine. She intuitively blocked the wooden mace like weapon with ease as another flurry of unrealistic sparks flashed through the warm air. Was it possible that she thought the same way I did?
After pushing away the mace-like club with her steel sword, the beast took a step back as it faltered to regain its balance while the tank below it continued to deliver strike after strike, lowering its health to almost minimal levels. They almost had won the fight. Each side of the NPC were riddled with both long and small bright orange wounds, every mark shown as if they were oozing polygonal shards or pixels. Looking at how well the two did with constructing a new plan right on the fly, they surely made a fantastic team for sure. Hopson continued to attack along with his teammate until the moment when the monster finally gave in to the sheer power of the duo. All it took for the mob to disappear was a very short second, in its place a plume of bright polygons that slowly soared upward and quickly faded away.
The moment the first Ape was destroyed, there was no time for celebration, there was only one that had to be dealt with. I was genuinely glad that it was nearly over. Standing around doing nothing but watching the fight was pretty dull, not to mention my strong craving for some good cheesecake making my stomach rumble up a storm. I shook my concentration off of the distraction resting inside of my avatar and cast my eyes back towards the second Ape, ready to observe the rest of the fight.
By the time I had looked back at the two Knights, they had already switched their positions and were nearly at their points of impact. Again, the monster was making its mind on which player to take on first, until its eyes finally took Hopson into its sight. The club swung down at the warrior before he could even make a dent in the Ape, but thankfully missed as the player jumped to the side of the attack then quickly recovered and continued his assault, a quick orange slash now glowing on the right leg of his foe. A deafening roar sounded from its mouth as he struggled to get another attack in, but the two were no match for him. In the matter of seconds the HP bar of the NPC finally reached its end and the remanence of the enemy just a flurry of blue polygons and an obscure memory.
Avery was the first to let out an audible noise, her many exhausted breathes escaping her muzzle. The way she was breathing it was almost as if she ran a marathon. Her fatigued voice turned to Hop.
“Told you it’d work.”
The human looked at her with a straight face, his pants joining the chorus.
“You never said--… you know what, whatever. Good plan… mutt.”
I swore I could have heard a handful of chuckles under the dog’s heavy breath, it even made me giggle. My avatar began walking over to the two who were resting where their battle had taken place, the Akita sitting comfortably on the grassy floor of the forest. Another soft breeze flowed through the Forest, ruffling my fur and the bottom portion of my shirt that wasn’t covered by my steel chest plate. My voice then broke the tired sighs of the group, all heads turning my way.
“Now that’s what I call a good battle. Good work guys.”
The canine collapsed to the ground entirely and pumped her fist in the air.
“Woo. Go team.”
I let out another round of laughs.
My index and middle fingers quickly flicked downward in the air to bring up the menu, scanning and searching through my items for the map to get us back home. Guren had bought this map with his own Kor and from the look of it was quite expensive. This item showed a players location within the forest and directed him or her to the exit--or entrance in our case--with no problem. Normally, a player would use a teleportation crystal to get back to the nearest town to escape a field dungeon, but the Forest of Wandering was different. As the name implied, the area is known for players getting lost, even to the clearers--the players on the front line. If a player would attempt to use a crystal to escape, the result would only lead to ending up in a completely different portion of the dungeon.
From what we could figure out, the forest was divided up like areas on a chess board, except the squares that the player would land on were based on random chance, rather than going straight ahead to the next square. There was also a one minute time limit for each area, that time stopping if one would enter combat, that time resuming once the player would leave combat or flee from battle. Needless to say, this forest was a piece of work. If I didn’t have the map on my person, I don’t think that I would ever be able to exit the dungeon.
My stomach let out its own roar for all to hear as I materialized the item and held it in my paw, reading where it would take us next.
“Let’s get out of here, I’m starving.”
The two Knights rose to their feet and followed me towards the exit, the thought of Ghost and the glorious food keeping my mind going for the last stretch.
FLOOR 35 - MISHE, OUTSIDE THE WEATHERCOCK INN
August 23rd, 2023 - 7:13 PM (AST)
“How did I know that you would just get us lost even with that stupid map? It’s like you weren’t even trying to get us back. I should have known better than to trust a canine with the directions.”
Hopson’s voice made my well-formed snarl into gritting my teeth and a silent growl as I had clenched my fists. Every emotion that I once had at the end of the mission that was assigned to Ghost and I, was now replaced only by angst and frustration. Behind me as we passed under the archway into Mishe, the sound of laughter that blasted from the humans mouth like nails on one of the old chalk boards that the old Argus team insisted on having in their office.
When we finished with our hunt and started our way back to the European styled town, we entered the first area that would lead us to the exit. I looked at the map and followed a mark that seemed like the way out and lead the group into the next area. At first I hadn’t noticed that at that moment I had lead us astray from the path that we were supposed to take. It took around three other sections of the Forest to make me see the error of my navigation. At a fork in the road, I stopped to look at the map and started to panic. Hopson seemingly found his opportunity to turn the situation on me. Even as I continued to attempt to put us back on the right track, at every turn he would find a way to pull me down even further into the depths of my anxious, saddened state. After over thirty minutes of our struggle, we finally made it to the outside of the wooded area and on the path to our inn. Escaping the Forest of the Lost wasn’t the end of the human’s speech however; only after Avery had said something he finally shut up, it wasn’t until we got back to the town when he started back up again, this time nearly shouting his insults my way as he laughed under his breath. The sheer joy in his cackles only pushed my buttons further along with his next set of words to follow.
“He probably can’t even read to save his own life. I wouldn’t even be surprised, he is just a stupid mutt after all.”
“Hop, stop. Now.”
Avery had quickly come to my defense, stepping in front of the katana wielder. Although, this attempt was futile, the sheer height and strength allowed him to quickly push the Akita softly enough to the side for the crime detection system unable to detect any wrongdoing.
“Out of my way, witch”
This rude outburst finally made me turn around to the human, staring him down with a menacing look.
“The fact that I have to look up to something as stupid as an animal for a leader, it’s just plain ludicrous. I mean look at you. You’re so tiny compared to us humans. The fact that you are even here is that your masters knew that this whole thing would turn out like this. You know what, I’d even bet the stories of you taking down twenty-seven’s boss are just all made up bullmalarkey too. You aren’t strong, you simply just get lucky enough to not die. ”
My mouth was agape when it came to his last few statements. His words nearly knocked me off of my feet. I looked around to see several groups of players staring in our direction to observe the scene before them. I simply pointed my muzzle to the ground while my vision turned foggy. I wanted to do something, anything, but my body remained motionless. It was as if I were being punished for being myself. I couldn’t have a say, and Hopson would have surly continued to instigate. Inside my mind, there was a part of me that wanted to fight him and his words head on, to defend my father and my friend. Although, there was another part of me that was listening to the words and actually starting to question my very being.
Was he actually right? Did my father and the rest of the Argus five’s owners really set us up to be trapped in this world? Was the alpha position at the company just a ruse to get us inside the game? Why would we be punished? I could feel my mind start to slip away as he let out another round of chuckles.
“You’re nothing, Mutt. You will never be anything but a simple speck of dust in this world, and will simply float away into nothingness. You’ll die in here--”
A strong voice boomed from a small distance away. The armor of our leader clanked about as he moved over to our location. Something… no, someone else was with him too. My detection skill was working at least.
“So you think you can just be a jerk and get away with it? You think that you can tear someone down from the comfort of their own being and just rip them apart? I don’t think so.”
Guren finally made his way to us and crossed his arms.
“From this moment on you are kicked out of the Knights of Argus. Your guild status is now null and void, leaving you a solo player once again. You are never to join the ranks of the guild for as long as we remain in this game.”
In a quick motion a dark hooded figure drew its weapon and hastily stopped in front of the human. It’s dagger used a powerful attack to launch the now ordinary man back to the outskirts of town, landing harshly on his back. I felt one of the Manx’s paws come up to my shoulder and his voice turned into white noise with my inattentive state. I looked at the player just starting to get up off of the ground. I could feel my rage starting to grow, almost mimicking my state when the mineral elemental was killed. There was a voice inside of me who begged to go down there and show him a lesson. He was outside the ‘safe zone’ of the town. It would be quick.
I looked down to my katana and clutched its leather grip and turned my attention over to the player on the outskirts of the town. He brushed off the dirt that collected on his armor and caught my attention once more as his mouth opened for another round of remarks.
“Looks like the mutt became the chicken. Can’t even fight your own battles. How pathetic--“
Before he could finish his last thought I kicked up the dirt from below me as my legs quickly carried me faster than I ever thought possible. My sword was already drawn and ready to strike, though this was no duel. I was out for vengeance. For blood.
He mocked my family, the Knights, the Argus Five, and our mothers and fathers. He bullied and tortured me ever since he became a Knight. To me these were all the reasons that he had to hone up to his crude mindset. I had been taking the beating from his words for too long, and he had finally managed to break me after this short period of time.
I quickly inched closer towards him and directed my sword straight for him. My eyes scanned his face and was shocked to see that his reaction was natural. He was staring death in the face, and he knew it. At the speed that I was going and the sheer amount of skill that I had, he knew that one good well-placed hit would send him back to the real world without a thought. There was one cruel truth about this whole ordeal that even sent a chill throughout my spine.
This brought me sheer joy.
I could hear Ghost’s voice call out towards me. My gaze left the human for just a millisecond, my train of thought quickly averting from its previous course and now into a heart racing panic. I was going to kill this man. At the speed I was going I couldn’t stop my movement, there was no putting an end to my chosen path, but there was one thing I could change. Ciyph’s path. My paws clenched the weapon and hurriedly maneuvered it to the very spot our first duel ended with, his cheek. It would get the job done while only taking down a sliver of his HP.
My dark katana flew over the shoulder of the player, keeping its distance from the starting target near the center of his chest. The blade made a simple but clean cut on the surface of his skin, a decent orange line showing exactly where my blade had made contact. When I stopped, a rush of wild air blew past from both our still bodies. We stood next to each other almost like statues. The eyes of the frightened warrior stared into my own heartless looking eyes. I gave him no emotion--no anger, no happiness, and especially no fear. I didn’t dare to give him the satisfaction. My voice simply mirrored my situation.
“If you think you have any right to bring up my family or judge me in any way, you’ve got another thing coming.”
Ciyph was brought back to my side, my mind and body working hard to get through the adrenaline rush that fueled my actions. I turned to my guildmates and again directed my voice to the man.
“Don’t come back. If you do…”
I turned to him and brought the sword a centimeter from the tip of his nose.
“…There is no stopping me the next time you do something stupid.”
He gave me an angered look as his word rumbled the air.
“Is that a threat?”
“It’s a promise.”
His shocked look gave me the satisfaction I needed to please my lust for vengeance. A sigh had left my muzzle once I faced my guildmates again, though I could tell by the look on each of their faces that they didn’t completely agree with what I did. Just Ghost’s stunned and saddened look even made me judge my actions. To say I felt terrible was an understatement. Maybe I had gone a tad overboard.
I would have to make it up to him. That was certain. I couldn’t let his world fall apart because of me.
My body moved towards the group and ended up stopping ahead of our leader. He didn’t give me a hint of emotion or action, he only looked at me with a stern eye as his arms remained crossed. I almost wanted to apologize to him and forget this ever happened. Almost. I didn’t regret what I did, nor did I want forgiveness. I believe Hopson got what he deserved, though not what I had originally had in mind, and that was all that mattered.
“Luck, I think that you should take the night off. Thank you for observing Avery today. We’ll reassign Revel to your group tomorrow and we’ll try this again. Don’t forget, this floor is pretty much in the palm of our paws now. It’s only a matter of time before we clear it. Stay sharp.”
I walked past Guren and stood in front of Ghost, nearly looking as if he was going to cry. I gave him the biggest hug I could and comforted him as he let out his first few sniffles. I buried my muzzle in his fur and finally got out what I wanted to say to him.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry hon.”
After today I would need to keep my actions in check. I had almost killed someone. I would have surely been marked as either a red player or an orange player for sure. I almost scared even myself, not only that I almost went through with it. There was only one thing that I could do now besides saying sorry and moving on, and that was own my actions. I have friends in here that care about me, I should throw my life in the line if I don’t have to. That would be foolish. Just because someone is stupid in an online game, doesn’t mean it condones them to death. That would be cruel. I’m not cruel. It was a game for god’s sake, and he didn’t have to die. There were worse people in this floating castle than Hopson that was a fact.
That day I promised myself to myself and to Ghost that he was the most important thing in my life, and that I would protect him no matter what. I loved him too much to die now. Not when I almost had my ring ready to go. The only thing to wait for now was the perfect moment.
TO BE CONTINUED
Re: The Knights of Argus - Housepets Unite [HP/Sword Art Onl
Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 3:57 pm
Great job on writing this chapter out! You don't disappoint!