Of all the members of their party, and despite being seemingly the simplest to figure out, Obby was the biggest mystery to Rose.
“So what kind of training did you have in mind?” Rose asked as Obby led her out towards the rolling hills that were undead.
“Well, you’re not just an [Archer] anymore, are you?” Obby asked.
“Yeah, I haven’t been for a while,” Rosee said. [Lightning Archer] was so much cooler, and, as far as she knew, unique.
“We’ve been mostly slotting you in to a standard [Archer] roll though,” Obby said. “Stand in the back, shoot things, repeat until loot drops. That works, but I think you can be more.”
“More? Like what?” The idea that they might be able to open up more powers appealed to Rip, but Rose heard something deeper in Obby’s words. Not ‘you might be able to do more’, but ‘you might be able to be something more.’
Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.
Rose was able to accept that she’d gained amazing strength and phenomenal abilities largely because it seemed to be happening to everyone else too, and from what she’d been hearing, most other people made out a lot better than she had.
Long time players were apparently god-like. Completely out of her league. Glimmerglass wasn’t any kind of fighter and she could still turn an army of zombies to dust where Rip would have been able to take down a handful of them at best before they overwhelmed her.
Watching that Glimmerglass smiting the undead like the wrath of an earthbound god hadn’t been disconcerting though. Other people were always more impressive and cooler. That was just how things were.
“I don’t know exactly what you’ll be able to do,” Obby said, and Rose’s heart sank by a smidge. “I think it’s going to be up to you, at least to some extent.”
That sounded like the empty promises people were always making that “she’d be able to make something of herself” if she took her studies seriously, or tried harder, or did any of the other million things that sounded so much easier than they really were.
“That’s why I wanted to try training with you alone,” Obby said. “When you figure out what you can do that will be great. When you stumble, I can help you figure out what went wrong.”
“Couldn’t you do that for me and Matt though?” Rose asked.
“A good trainer gives you their full attention,” Obby said. “I could manage both you and Jamal, and probably the rest of the party too, but I want to be there when you need me, not when your turn comes up. If that makes sense?”
“Why?” Rose asked. She hadn’t meant to say that. It had slipped out as her disbelief warred with her desire not to question the gift horses she was being given.
“You don’t mean ‘why is that a better training method’,” Obby said. “You’re wondering ‘why I want to train you at all’?”
“No. I mean, yeah,” Rose said. “Am I falling behind? Because I’m not as good an [Archer] anymore?”
Obby laughed, and turned an incredulous look on Rose.
“That is definitely not it,” she said. “You are crushing it as an [Archer]. Seriously, you’re the highest level [DPS] character in the city. You’ve taken on challenges none of the rest of them have, both up in the [High Beyond] and as one of the first people to complete the dungeon.”
“What about Matt? We’re the same level, and he did all the same stuff I did.”
“He’s not primarily a damage dealer, he’s [Control] with enough damage to play a decent second fiddle to you in that arena,” Obby said. “And, yeah, he’s impressive too, but he hasn’t started making [Dream Spinner] into his own class yet. Not like you have with [Lightning Archer].”
“So is that supposed to mean that I’m better than he is?” Rose asked, not even slightly happy with that idea.
“You’re a much better [Lightning Archer] than he is, yes. And he’s a vastly better [Dream Spinner] than you,” Obby said. “I know that sounds trite, but the point is those are two different paths. You’re not trying to be him and he’s not trying to be you, and, really, all that matters is how you’re doing with what you’re striving for.”
“So, am I doing good enough?” Rose asked.
“Oh, you’re well past ‘good enough’,” Obby said. “You’re somewhere in the neighborhood of ‘astounding’. I didn’t want to train with you because you’re falling behind, or your weak. We’re all behind, and we’re all incredibly weak compared to people like Glimmerglass, but we’re working on that, and we’re getting better as we go. I wanted to train with you today, because I see so much in you that’s so familiar. There are skills I’m pretty sure you can develop if you want to lean in that direction, ones that aren’t particularly obvious, but can be incredibly useful, again, depending on what you want to be able to do.”
“Can you give me an example?” Rose asked. Her mind raced to leap ahead and guess what sort of ‘cool stuff’ a [Lightning Archer] might be capable of that she hadn’t thought of. Her heart lagged behind though, dragging the ball and chain of fearful experiences that had taught her what kind of a weapon hope could be.
“When Tessa was in trouble up in the [High Beyond], you raced ahead to get to her as fast as possible, right?” Obby asked.
“Yeah. [Lightning Archer] comes with a movement speed buff,” Rose said.
“I think you can do better than just running quickly,” Obby said. “I think if you really need to move, you can [Ride the Lightning].”
Chaos was an old friend to Yawlorna. From her classes as an undergrad, to captaining the crew of a research ship, to surviving in the depths of hostile moon, she was used to things falling apart at a significantly faster rate than you could put them back together. The unspoken swell of excitement that passed from the inside of the [Great Hall] into the streets and beyond didn’t come as a great surprise therefor.
Apparently everyone could level up now.
She could see why that was causing a stir.
She could also see what the inevitable result of said “stir” would be.
“We should begin setting up a triage area and hospital beds, shouldn’t we?” she said, looking around the small room Glimmerglass had commandeered for training Yawlorna further as a healer.
“We probably won’t need that,” Glimmerglass said. “Unfortunately.”
Yawlorna was puzzled by that for all of two seconds.
She’d thought they would have injured patients spilling out into the streets as a horde of underleveled, or unleveled, people stormed out to slay xp giving forest creatures and whatever various monsters they could find.
Then she considered how lucky their previous patient had been.
And how those untrained and unwise unleveled people were likely to far in similar battles.
“We need to either stop them or start digging graves then, don’t we?” Yawlorna said.
“Stopping them would be best, or at least delaying them until we can arrange for some safer training options for them,” Glimmerglass said. “I don’t know if their new ability to level also means that they’ve been [Soul Wakened].”
“I thought that was for [Adventurers] only?” Yawlorna asked. “That an [Inspiration].”
“We never knew what [Inspiration] was,” Glimmerglass said. “It was just a feeling some of us got. The same is true of [Soul Wakened]. In fact a fair number of people think they’re the same condition. There weren’t many [Adventurers] who hadn’t been touched by [Inspiration] and there weren’t any at all that weren’t [Soul Wakened], since being able to use the [Heart Fires] to respawn from death is somewhat mandatory given the sort of dangers we pitch ourselves into.”
“And no one knows how to turn that on right?” Yawlorna asked. “Immortality is simply a fickle beast?”
“Somewhat literally,” Glimmerglass said. “Given that even [Adventurers] can die permanently if they run afoul of the [Hounds of Fate].”
Yawlorna was completely certain that it was a trade she and all the rest of her crew would gladly take.
True, maybe there was some unknown downside. Maybe the Hounds dragged your soul off to become ghost dog kibble rather than everyone else who got to spend eternity in a library with hot springs and no requirements to ever publish anything.
Much though she yearned for it, Yawlorna was skeptical that her personal version of heaven was likely to be real, and the definite option of having a second chance if things went disastrously wrong seemed like a much better choice to gamble on.
Except it wasn’t a choice.
It was a gift that some people were given randomly and others had to do without.
That line of thinking lead to unpleasant places, so Yawlorna cut it off with a better one.
Either [Soul Wakening] was a naturally occurring phenomena or it was a gift from some higher power. The key to determining which was true lay in collecting the right data, and she had a whole crew of people who were nominally still under her command who had been rigorously trained in collecting good data.
They might not have the immortality trait yet, but this was a world where they could manage to acquire it.
All it would take was a little study.
Bringing the defenders of the [Fallen Kingdoms] the entire catalogue of their foes capabilities, troop distributions, and goals had seemed like Hailey was delivering them the most vital information possible on the greatest threat to the world. After listening to Tessa’s recounting of what had happened in the [High Beyond] though Hailey was left wondering if the information she’d brought was going to amount to anything more than footnote on a forgotten page in some forgotten history book.
Assuming there was anyone around to write history books.
“I can’t…I don’t know…how did you make it out of all that?” she finally asked when Tessa finished her, clearly abbreviated, tale.
“With a lot of help,” Tessa said. “And, honestly, a ton of luck.”
“I think we all need to start mainlining your luck,” Hailey said. “We’ve got [Eldritch Abominations] in the game, or in the world I mean, and none of them sound as bad as what you encounter, and fought, and survived!”
“Well, we never really found the [Hungry Shadow],” Tessa said. “Just its minions, and those were a lot easier to take out.”
“What about in that garden place? With the level cap?” Hailey asked.
“Oh, yeah, that was…I mentioned I got really lucky right?” Tessa said.
“You fused three identities and fought something off using the spark of a god,” Hailey said. “That’s not luck. That’s…I don’t even know what that is.”
“A one time trick I think,” Tessa said. “The god soul’s aren’t exactly laying around everywhere. If you hadn’t brought one with you, and Glimmerglass hadn’t been nearby, I don’t think Pillowcase or Tessa would have had a prayer. So, you know, lucky.”
“I need to tell Penswell about this,” Hailey said. “I don’t know if its going to make her day or ruin it though.”
“Depends how well the Consortium manages to handle the [Hungry Shadow],” Tessa said. “It could be that they’ll all wipe each other out and the remnants will become just another monster faction. Maybe converting the [High Beyond] into a high-level only zone, instead of the split we saw where it had a lowbie starting area too.”
“That sounds like what would have happened if this was still a game,” Hailey said. “I don’t think we can count on things going anything like a game would at this point.”
“There’s another possibility we’ll want to consider then,” Tessa said. “But it may ruin your day even further.”
“More than a reality devouring monster looming overhead while an alien invasion fleet decimates our cities?” Hailey asked. “Please, I gotta hear this one.”
“Ask yourself this question then; if we got here from Earth, which means there’s some connection between the two worlds, what are the chances that the [Hungry Shadow] is going to come down to the [Fallen Kingdoms] where we’ve got god-like power and literal magic from the creation of the universe at our fingertips, and what are the chances that it heads back to Earth instead, where the best weapons the people there have will ruin the planet if they use them en masse?”