"*I-I can't believe I lost like that!*" Dillan says, bawling his eyes out.
—Jay stood still, frozen from what was happening. Things were very awkward now, and Jay didn't know what to say to cheer Dillan up. This was the same player who Jay and his friends had watched Helmet beat in one shot in the Decimation a week ago. Has the loss really been that hard on him?
"U-uh, what?" Jay stutters to say.
"The fight!" Dillan says.
Although Dillan didn't know Jay attended his "professional debut," he still wanted someone to vent to, as his harbored emotions throughout the past couple of weeks have dragged him down under.
"I had this fight with this shady-looking character! He was a Pro with a weird helmet! and the fight was in the *Decimation* of all places!" Dillan yells.
Jay just shut his mouth and tried to smile as Dillan recounts the fight that Jay had seen with his own two eyes.
"I had this move I had come up with for over a month! It was flawless! And this guy just dodges it and puts me into my «Threshold» in one shot!"
The term Threshold—used by Dillan—is a term players use when they reach the last of their HP, which gives them insane dizziness and blurry vision. This is when they reach their Damage Threshold. When a player reaches their Damage threshold, it's usually game over for them because of the handicap it puts on players. Since Dillan was in a professional match, he wouldn't be able to see his health bar either, making Helmet's attack on him super strange.
"One shot!" Dillan continued.
"O-oh really? hehe..." Jay says, trying to play along.
"Wait...weren't you there?" Dillan asks.
Another wave of shock flows from Jay's head to his toes. What would Dillan do if he realizes Jay was at the fight himself?
"W-what?" Jay says, still acting dumb.
"You were! You and those other two ran like idiots out of the stadium after the fight!"
'Not my proudest moment...' Jay thinks, recalling his plans to distract the mob of players trying to get an autograph from Helmet.
After calling him Jay out, Dillan retracts back to holding his head with both of his hands, sulking downwards and trying to hold back tears.
"Everyone thinks I'm a joke! You probably do too..." He says.
Jay starts to feel empathetic for Dillan, realizing how detrimental that loss must've weighed him down, especially since the player base probably thinks he's just a joke. That must be tough on its own.
"Ok, I admit I saw the fight," Jay starts, "but that doesn't mean I think you're a joke."
"R-really?" Dillan asks.
"Yeah. I think you're stupid for taking that fight in the first place though." Jay says.
"*WHA*-" Dillan says with an open jaw, falling backward in his chair.
"If you're not even in a guild yet, why would you challenge a pro?" Jay asks.
"T-to make a name for myself," Dillan says, still shaking.
"That doesn't mean you should lose a match in the first fifteen seconds!" Jay replies.
As Jay talks it over with Dillan, his shaky posture is replaced with a sense of understanding, and his tense shoulders loosen up, sending his hands dangling over his knees. Jay wasn't trying to be hard on Dillan, but he wasn't going to beat around the bush either.
"I-I guess you're right," Dillan says, "But I was expecting to last a little longer, I guess.—"
"—Part of me just wanted to last a minute so I can show that the pros aren't as high and mighty as they seem. It turns out I accidentally proved myself wrong in the process, and now everyone thinks of me as 'the guy that dropped dead.'"
Jay looks away from the window, stops his daydreaming, and looks to Dillan as he speaks. There was something obvious Dillan wasn't getting.
"You said you wanted to make a name for yourself?" Jay asks.
"Well, then you didn't fail. You did make a name for yourself!" Jay says, "But as 'the guy who dropped dead' and not 'the guy that stood his ground.'"
"Huh?" Dillan says, looking up to Jay.
There was silence for a moment as Dillan was searching his recollection for his motives. Jay wasn't wrong, and he had actually spread his name throughout the game.
"You're right... I never thought of it that way before." Dillan says, covering his mouth with his hands.
"Feeling like you lost is understandable, but at least everyone knows 'Dillan, the poison Aspect user' now!" Jay says, trying to cheer him up.
"Yeah!" Dillan says.
Standing up in a celebration, Dillan laughs as Jay makes him realize that he had always succeeded in making his goal. Jay smiled as Dillan went from his sad state to a happy-up-beat character. Dillan sits back down and looks down at Jay.
"Hey, I never got your name. What do I call you?" Dillan asks.
"You can call me Jay. Nice to meet you!" Jay says, extending a fist to Dillan.
"Dillan! but you knew that already since I'm so famous!" Dillan retorts, following a fist of his own.
After only a couple of minutes, Jay was scared of Dillan because of his frustration, but now they had shared a fist bump.
"So you know *my* Aspect, but what's *yours* Jay?" Dillan asks.
"Oh, well, that's hard to explain..." Jay says.
He explains to Dillan how he doesn't know if he has one, and the two share battle strategies as they wait for their train to reach Oasis City. As Jay and Dillan talked, Jay thought of what Ivy and Axel were getting themselves into.
'Hopefully, they're getting close...' He thinks.
Axel zips through the trees with Ivy as the two of them run across the terrain as fast as they can. His breaths were still steady, but knowing they would have to take this route all the way back here made him exhausted. The mass of players following suit in this race were all crowding the Wilds like a flock of birds in the sky. Axel's gauntlets weighed his arms down as he swung them back and forth to run faster, but he refused to take them off.
If he took them off, his fire Aspect would overpower him, sending a burning sensation over his skin. He couldn't risk being damaged like that in this race.
"Hey, Axel!" Ivy calls out to him, "How much farther?!"
"Give me a sec!!" Axel says, trying to open his game menu as he tries to keep up the pace.
Axel navigates the display over his left arm and selects the <Map> option. A small hologram-like projection is displayed for him to see. They were about a couple of miles away from Oasis city.
"We're pretty close!! We should be able to see the actual city soon!!" Axel calls out.
"*Watch out*!!!" Ivy yells, rushing to Axel's location.
Confused, Axel looks in front of him. A vast gorge cut into the land, with seemingly no end to its abyss. Other players were already falling into it, dying in the process. Scared, Axel loses footing as he tries to stop himself before racing to its cliff face but cannot slow down his momentum.
'Shoot!' Axel thinks as he falls into the gorge.
Ivy looked in horror as he fell over the edge of the cliff, without any means to save him. She rushes to the hole and looks down to see Axel nowhere in sight. She had her hand in her quiver to try to attempt something, but after not seeing him anywhere, she lowered her hand down and looked down to the floor.
'No! not like this!' She thinks.
Getting up from being crouched over the gorge, Ivy looks ahead for an easy way across. She would have to jump. Before Ivy has the chance to turn around and prepare for a long leap, a voice startles her from behind.
"Hey, is this your friend or something?" A player asks.
Ivy turns around to see a female player wearing a black hood with white outlines. She had a white undershirt and black pants with white boots, and seemed to be pointing up in the air. The female player had short black hair that didn't reach past her shoulders, but she had enough in the front to cover her right eye. Her left eye was the only one visible.
Ivy looks up from the player's finger to see Axel dangling in the air, being carried by a long black arm with green energy flowing around it.
"Ok!! You can put me down now!!" Axel yells.
The girl squints her left eye, and the strange hand unleashes Axel from its grasp. He quickly gets up and brushes the dirt off of his shirt from the fall.
"There." The player says.
"Thanks for saving me and all, but I don't like being dangled like bait on a fishing line!!" Axel proclaims.
"Shut up!" Ivy says, covering Axel's mouth as he continues saying things to the female player, "Sorry for that! He has a short temper!"
"What?!" Axel says, muffled still by Ivy.
"That's alright. I just didn't want another player to run off into that thing," The player says, pointing at the massive gorge, "Also, you seemed to freak out when he fell."
Ivy relaxes a little bit and uncovers Axel's mouth. He continues not to say anything. The other player looks at Ivy, and her eye widens. She walks over to Ivy and Inspects her quiver.
"Woah, You have a nice quiver!" The player says, inspecting Ivy's arrows as well.
"O-oh! Thank you?" Ivy says, embarrassed that this player complemented her quiver of all things.
"And this bow is also really nice..." The player adds.
The girl backs off Ivy and wraps her hand around her back, revealing a quiver of her own, positioned on her lower back instead of her upper back like Ivy's was. She then also pulls out a crossbow from her other side.
"I haven't met another bow user in a while." The player says to Ivy, who wasn't as embarrassed now.
"M-me neither!" Ivys says, now with stars in her eyes, "This is so cool!" Ivy concludes, now super invested in the other player's weapon and quiver.
'Girls are so weird.' Axel thinks.
After a couple more moments of the two girls fawning over their equipment, Axel coughs loudly to signal that they need to get going. Ivy and the player look at each other and nod their heads in unison.
The three players start running to their objective, jumping over the gorge carefully.
"Hey!! We never got your name, you know!!" Axel says.
"And you never properly thanked me for saving your life!" The player says in a salty tone.
"Name's Kira," She says, "And my Aspect is Umbral."
"My name's Axel!! Fire Aspect!! And the shrimp with the bow is Ivy!!" Axel says.
"Shut up! I'm only two inches shorter than you!" Ivy explains, "I have a life Aspect!"
"Uh-huh, You guys are an interesting bunch, aren't ya?" Kira grins.
Continuing onwards for Oasis City, the new party of players race with the crowd eager to obtain their own Slayers Pass. The forest thinned, and the view expanded. Axel looked on as he saw Oasis' lights and buildings crowding the landscape. Large fountains and streams of water flowed around the surrounding areas, which was rare to see considering this part of the map was a desert, hence why it's called "Oasis City."
Kira and Ivy ran side by side, getting well acquainted with each other. Letting them talk it out with each other, Axel opts to check in with Jay, sending him a text message.
>Hey!! Are you at Oasis yet?< Axel types
>Almost there, how about you guys?< Jay responds
>Also good!! We picked up another player for our party, it seems, which we'll have to introduce to you when we meet up.
>I also made friends with another competitor! If I make you guys wait too long for us, don't think twice about grabbing a pass and going! We can catch up!
ˆˆsent just now
Axel struggled to type and run simultaneously, all the while Ivy and Kira talked with each other while keeping up their jog.
"So, what arrows do you use?" Kira asks.
"Is that a question? Mythril tipped, of course!" Ivy responds, "Using anything else is like giving yourself a disadvantage!"
The two girls laugh as they talk about meta-gaming and mechanics. All the while, Axel tries to type and jump over rocks in the path.
Jay and Dillan were still riding the train down to Oasis City, making small talk in the meantime.
"So you have friends in this race?" Dillan asks Jay.
"Yeah, and they're probably in Oasis by now," Jay responds.
"You think all of the passes are gone by now?" Dillan asks.
"I hope not!"
As they talk with each other, Jay and Dillan start to feel their train deaccelerate, moving the two players awkwardly as the change in motion shifts their balance. Jay looks out of the train window just in time to see the shift from being in a dark tunnel to the Oasis metro.
It was highly similar to the Spahn metro, without all of the grime one would expect, but the decor and other features fit this city's style, with stone walls and marbled pillars scattered around the place. The color of bronze and brown mixed with gold and blue filled every piece of this station.
Jay and Dillan quickly get out of their seats, exit their cab, and try to spot a pair of exit doors. While walking through the gatherings of players doing the same thing as them, Dillan catches stares from groups of players and starts to sweat anxiously. Jay senses Dillan's sudden change in demeanor but ignores it for the time being. Feelings can be assessed after they secure a Slayer's Pass.
"*Now arriving at Oasis City. Please watch your step as you exit the vehicle*!" The robotic voice says.
Jay and Dillan both fight through the rest of the players in the train to exit, seeing a couple inside who turned to physical combat to leave. Thankfully they fled before anything happened to them.
Following the signs for directions, Jay and Dillan run through the maze of hallways that make up «Oasis Station», the metro hub in Oasis City.
"Do you know where we need to go again?" Dillan asks.
"Yes!" Jay reassures, "It should be right outside of the station!"
The two race to find the main exit to the station, where the Slayer's Passes should be. After a couple of tight turns, Jay lays his eyes on the doorway to the outside world. Dillan smiles and chuckles to himself as he sees it as well.
"Piece of cake! Right, Jay?" Dillan celebrates.
"Let's hope!" Jay says, anticipating to get one of the one-hundred passes finally.
As soon as they left the Station, stepping into one of the main roads in Oasis City, Jay immediately spots a cart-stand with the Slayer's Crest on it. That's where the passes should be! Other players were racing over to it as well.
As Jay got closer, however, his joy was replaced with a weight in his stomach.
There weren't any passes on the cart, and Axel and Ivy were nowhere in sight.
If you see this, thank you for taking your time to read my story! It means a lot! :P
Jay and Dillan talk things out, and Jay solves Dillan's problem, letting him know that he's made a name for himself after all! Dillan appreciates that a lot, gaining back his confidence.
After falling into a gorge on accident, Axel is saved by the mysterious Kira, whose Aspect is umbral. Ivy and Kira get along well since both are bow users.
Arriving in Oasis city provides an interesting dilemma for Jay and Dillan, however... The Slayer Passes are gone!
Will our heroes ever find the elusive passes and complete the 'Race for a Place?' Tune in next time! :]
If you see anything that needs improvement, or anything you would like to comment about, I happily accept constructive criticism! This story is for you to enjoy after all!
-Keenan Sallings ;)