The early morning sunlight had warned of its arrival, threatened sparkling wakefulness well before its golden rays began to creep across the floor of the abandoned and empty tea shop. Tessa still felt like it was an ambush when the brightness on her eyelids waxed beyond the point where sleep became an untenable occupation.
Pleasantly cool arms gave her a light squeeze while similarly refreshing fingers stroked through the hair on her forehead.
“Good morning,” Lisa whispered as she kissed Tessa’s earlobe.
Wakefulness, Tessa decided, was infinitely preferable to any dreams she could possibly have been enjoying.
And they had been nice dreams for a change.
She tried to grasp a memory of them but the details fled from her. Only the impression of a celebration remained.
Or perhaps that was a memory filtered through the haze of sleep?
Tessa had fallen asleep late, protesting that as an [Adventurer] she didn’t technically need sleep. She’d been nearly overwhelmed with the desire to hold onto the liminal moment her shared confession with Lisa had produced, as they stood on the border between the days and the border between what they had together and what they might yet be to one another.
“Very good morning,” Tessa said, and let herself melt into Lisa’s embrace.
For having slept on a bedroll she’d found in her pack, Tessa was impressed by how rested she felt. The barren floor of the tea shop was dusty and a far cry from even the cheap mattress she slept on in her apartment (or the metal storage trays where Pillowcase’s body was left when not in active service), but as she stretched her toes and checked the muscles in her back, Tessa found a startling lack of aches or pains.
“I’d be okay with staying here for the rest of the day,” Lisa said. “Just like this.”
On reflection, Tessa found she could agree with that sentiment. She had so much that she still wanted to talk with Lisa about. And Lost Alice. And Pillowcase.
It was beyond strange to think of their relationship as a four way affair. In reality, it was just the two of them. Through Lost Alice and Pillowcase though, they each had a greater view of themselves than they’d ever had before and passing up the chance to share what Pillowcase’s perspective and memories offered wasn’t something Tessa wanted to miss.
“Think the others will let us?” Tessa asked, memories of the problems she’d pushed off as ‘Future-Tessa’s problems’ filtering back into her consciousness one after the other.
“Rip and Matt probably would,” Lisa said. “Did you see how slick she was getting us off on our own here?”
“I’m thinking of nominating them both for sainthood,” Tessa said.
“You know, that’s probably something that can happen here,” Lisa said with a chuckle.
The gods of the [Fallen Kingdoms] were gone, but the developers had still needed some form of ‘divine intercessor’ for some of their storylines and bits of lore, so various “Saints of whatever and some such” could be found as either unique quest givers or referenced in the lore of the various relics and divine artifacts the players collected.
“Huh, maybe,” Tessa said. “Shouldn’t the ones from the game have helped out with fighting off the Consortium when they showed up though?”
“Not if the events we’ve seen are related to what was going to happen in the game,” Lisa said. “You know they never have any of the [Great Powers] in the world take part in stuff they want the players to handle.”
“Ah, yeah, the whole ‘not meant to meddle in the mortal world’ thing, which applies all the time except when it doesn’t,” Tessa said, not at all unhappy that their conversation had turned away from the idea of going back and dealing with the issues awaiting them at the [Great Hall].
“I heard back from Cease All by the way,” Lisa said.
“Was that what woke you up?” Tessa asked.
“No, I woke a little bit before dawn,” Lisa said and let her voice shift to Lost Alice’s register. “Survival instinct from the original [Vampire] bloodline. I have some visceral reactions to things which a no longer an issue for me.”
“Is the sunlight unpleasant at all?” Tessa asked, noticing that they were laying against the back wall of the tea shop and as far away from the direct rays of sunshine as they could be.
“Mildly,” Lost Alice said. “I normally regenerate mana faster than a other casters, but that’s suppressed in sunlight. The same with physical regeneration. It’s not painful, but it’s annoying to feel weaker. I’d call it lethargy but I have more energy now than I’ve ever had before. Just less than I did while the sun was down.”
“I have no problem signing up for night missions, if that works better for you,” Tessa said.
“About that,” Lisa said. “We’re going to need to think about where we go from here in terms of adventuring and leveling in general.”
“We’ve got Glimmerglass to help with leveling,” Tessa said. “Was Cease able to send anyone towards us to help out too?”
“She was going to bring the whole guild here but I told her not to,” Lisa said. “Not immediately that is.”
“They’re still fighting against the Consortium I take it?” Tessa asked.
“Yeah. It sounds like there was a real turning point yesterday,” Liisa said. “I don’t know if it was the attack the Consortium made on the [High Beyond] that did it or what, but their forces on the ground lost a bunch of battles, so my guild and the others are pushing back as hard as they can. I guess they’ve been running back to back missions to just wreck the hell out of the Consortium’s equipment and fortifications that weren’t being defended well enough.”
“You know I would feel bad that I didn’t log into Glimmerglass so I could be helping with that but I have to say, at the moment, I absolutely do not regret my choice to start up again as Pillowcase.” Tessa ran her hand down Lisa’s side and indulged herself in a long slow kiss when Lisa moved in close for one.
Lost Alice’s fangs weren’t the problem so many of the fan fics a younger Tessa had read had made them out to be. They weren’t razor blades after all and the gentleness that Lisa held her with made Tessa feel safer than anything else in either world she’d been in.
“I only regret we didn’t get here sooner,” Lisa said.
“I came so close to telling you a few times,” Tessa said.
“Me too,” Lisa said. “But, hey, three cheers to us. I remember a 16 year old Lisa who managed to dodge telling her crush that she liked her until a year after they graduated and they were both involved with other people.”
“And did this crush like her back?” Tessa asked.
“This crush said that she’d been crushing on Lisa since they were 15 but was absolutely sure that Lisa had no interest in her and was devastated that they never hooked up in high school.”
“We’ve lived very similar lives,” Tessa said with a smile. If the miseries of their pasts had led them to be who they were, where they were, then she was, in that moment, grateful for all of those miseries.
“I’d like to make sure that continues to be true,” Lisa said.
For a moment, Tessa simply accepted those words. She wanted them to be together for as long as she could imagine. It took her a moment to hear the other meaning, to remember Lisa’s concerns from the last time they’d been resting together like this.
“You’re thinking I shouldn’t risk adventuring?” she asked. Tessa wasn’t appalled at the idea, or resentful of it. She could see where Lisa was coming from all too easily, and she had to question if, without Pillowcase’s more durable body, if she could really contribute anything to a team.
“I don’t know,” Lisa said. “You’re amazing. I’m concerned about how much that costs you, but if we’d gone with the plan of you hiding away and me trying to tank the zombie soldier guys, I think we both would have died.”
“That encounter was a lot worse than anything we should have been tangling with,” Tessa said. “Without you backing me up, I would be have been dead in about a second I think. Maybe two since Pillowcase was able to help out a bit.”
“The good news is, with Glimmerglass and the others to help out, we shouldn’t wind up that far over our heads again,” Lisa said.
“With the right help, we can probably level up a pretty fair amount without being in any danger at all,” Tessa said.
“Which is something I’m all for,” Lisa said. “For the others, I’ve got some concerns about how well they’ll be able to learn their classes if they get power leveled up too high, but you’re a better tank, even just as you, than about ninety percent of the randos I’ve grouped up.”
“That’s flattering, but I’ve definitely got a lot to learn,” Tessa said and let Pillowcase speak as well. “I can take what I learned from observations as Glimmerglass and the tactics that were programmed into me by the Consortium, assuming we can restore my [Clothwork] form, or strengthen this body, but there are many mechanics I’m still unfamiliar with and some things that I’m sure can only be learned by actually doing them.”
“That’s sort of the central point for me,” Lisa said. “You’re a [Void Speaker] now, and a [Soul Knight], sort of. We know what a [Soul Knight] can be, but [Void Speaker] seems to be completely new. I checked with Cease and it wasn’t in the beta at all, so we don’t have any data on what you’ll be able to do, or even what role you’re supposed to play.”
“It might be something really specialized,” Tessa said. “I mean I just kind of had it when I came back. It might be completely focused on whatever it was that happened to me.”
“Maybe, and if so, that might be perfect,” Lisa said.
“How so?” Tessa asked.
“When we ran into the [Formless Hunger] you did something to it but the Tessa part of you was lost, right? You mentioned something about the [Fractured] status condition?” Lisa said.
“That’s right,” Tessa said. “I think it split me in two. I’m not quite sure what that did to the ‘Tessa’ part of me though, aside from giving me the [Void Speaker] class that is.”
“Well it let you use that [Fractured] effect, maybe not offensively, but something close to it,” Lisa said. “You’ve managed to make a tool out of it at least.”
“I guess that’s kind of true, how is that perfect though?” Tessa asked.
“We’re these strange dual beings at the moment right?” Lisa asked. “But you have the key to break that apart. I am not at all suggesting you try it on anyone, but if that’s where the abilities of the [Void Speaker] class are focused, just picture what the really high end version of that sort of thing would be?”
Tessa turned her gaze inwards, projecting her imagination forwards and letting the class ability lists for [Soul Knight] and [Solar Priestess] and [Rogue] guide her.
The early levels always gave a taste of what the class’s focus was. [Soul Knights] got the abilities to drain an opponent’s health and make it their own. [Rogues] got a stealth ability and an assassination attack. [Solar Priestess] got both a heal and a simple bolt of radiant fire. None of the abilities were overwhelming, but they all led to powers that were far grander in scope. From the [Rogues] [Thousand Blades in the Dark] to the [Solar Priestess’s] [Rise in Valor], the top tier powers of a class let them battle against gods and win.
So what would the top tier power of a [Void Speaker] look like?
If she could break apart monsters even now, what could she [Fracture] when she was ready to contend with the strongest powers in creation?