"Morgona Mod Gone" Part one
"Programmer's curse my rear." Orca grumbled. "Everyone on forums and World itself knows M-78's nothing more than a liar."
To that Balmung smiled. Despite being immersed in a game where dragons ignited the skies with a single breathe, and harpies flocked like migrating birds, where such known impossibilities lurked around each corner Orca had the gall to scuffle at a curse.
Furthermore, Orca had seen the impossibilities anmd wonders the World had to offer, it wasn't hearsay as it would be to say… a level one noob wandering around a level one field.
Yet, despite what he'd seen and done Orca scoffed at the idea of a curse. Never mind that they broke curses all the time on their own. They… made a living as it were... shattering the thin lines that bound monsters, severing the ties that separated nightmare from earth by simply letting their shade touch the binding lines of gold of a portal. And, once the sparks died, and the binding light was little more than a memory there came plagues of devils, undead, deranged monstrosities, screaming horseman of disaster and death churned the soil of the darkest places.
Not to mention your odd assortment of possessed trees, oversized worms, and insane, disgruntled presents.
Such was the World they lived in.
For even Christmas turned sadistic and cruel on the right field and keyword combinations. Recalling Orca's face at his first taste of physical immunity at the hands of a ribbon-ed, gaudy, box with ambitions for PKing Balmung cracked a grin.
"Where you hear the clicking of a keyboard, and a scream." The Azure Sky bantered.
"Please." Orca groaned. "Not you too!"
"Scared of ghosts?"
A chuckle and grin on Orca's part helped the blade master reclaim the good humor he'd lost. "I don't believe in ghosts, and I'm not scared of what doesn't exist."
Wings unfurled, gently flapping, Balmung wished for cooler surroundings. Standing atop a swell of cooling mama, threads of red spilling about their island refuge the Azure Sky knew he wished in vain. Still it was an idle hope, no harm done.
"Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's not there Orca." Balmung half scolded.
Silence, then after fanning his face a few moments the Azure Sky turned to the Azure Sea.
"I'm gunna get some water. Hold the fort?"
To that more than reasonable request Orca nodded.
"When you get back, I get a turn." Orca called, pitching his voice so it carried though Balmung was still as stone and well... right there. Since first getting them, the Azure Sky's wings went still, and Orca took that as a sign that thought the avatar was present no one was home. Wishing he could sit (he wasn't going to trust his rear to the ash black rock no matter how much was offered) he sighed instead and flapped a hand in front of his face. In Real and World, he sweated slow cooking by magma born streamlets that stripped the black cracked ground like blood over charred flesh. In the distance (but not distant enough for any level of comfort, the very ground seemed to breathe under his feet for it) pillars of flame and rains of molten stone roared and splattered.
Good thing the paint on his face wasn't real, or maybe the sweat wasn't real (though that felt real enough, way too real for a game), regardless of what was true in this land of artifice he was just glad physics wasn't up to one hundred percent. Else he'd be called Zebra of the Azure Sea.
Or worse yet, Strippy.
Yes, faced with the mere thought of baby talk Orca descendent of Fianna simply counted his blessings and each second that separated him from a nice cool glass of water. Water, with ice, with beads of even more water dripping slow-mo style down its sides. A big, huge, glass straight from the fridge with cubes aged in the freezer enough to have just a touch of freezer burn to give them a little bite as he ate each one.
Heck, he'd stick his head in the freezer for a whole minute right then. It would feel good, really good, no scratch good, it would have been awesome.
With a wing twitch and blink to announce "I'm back" Balmung came back to life with a wince.
Unable to resist himself, Orca opened his mouth.
"Quite a shock, from after sticking your head in the freezer isn't it?"
Wings ruffled to the point they looked poofy, from top to bottom no less, Balmung turned to stare at his friend, almost moving slow-mo himself.
"The freezer, your head..." Blue eyes wide in incredulous surprise, wings almost fluffy, the Azure Sky's shock more than killed the joke. And, really, considering his intents for himself it wasn't much of a joke. "Never mind."
With an audible snap Balmung flared his wings, chased out all the fluff to them, then folded them over his back with care.
"Get some water Orca, you sound like you need it."
Pulling off his headset Orca plucked off first his FDM goggles than plucked out his ear buds one at a time. With the last bud pinched between two fingers, and being pulled away he wasn't sure… The World's sights were set aside after all, its sound all but fading, nearly gone…
Softer than a whisper, maybe imagined, he could have sword that Balmung grumbled something about the fridge not being cold enough. Stuffing his hand into his mouth least he laugh, the boy called Orca sniggered and snorted instead. And he did his best not to laugh.
Not that he was successful, but it wouldn't due to hurt Balmung's feelings, not at all.
They raced across the field, nearly flying, Balmung having learned something of flight, yet not all of its elusive secrets, was managing a sort of glide hopping and leaving little to wonder –if there were any about- how they'd earned the title "Hero's of Zeit" Master Supreme lagged behind Hyper Falcon for a while, and watching Balmung and his new mode of near flight Orca felt a stab of concern. He'd held the rank of "Master" for almost a half year but seeing how fast those wings were making his partner… His rank was definitely in danger.
Oh well, win some, lose some, that's the way World and world worked, wasn't it?
Still despite his surge of philosophical thought under the cliché he wondered at ways to get a hold of Balmung's "speed tab" supply. Nipping his lip, part to keep a string of yelped "hot-hot"'s in as they raced mere inches along a red and bubbling vein, and part to keep half formed plans from tumbling out, the Azure Sea squinted at the black smears ahead. Be they the field's dungeon, the hilt of a colossal blade lying amongst its molten fragments, he couldn't tell.
Suddenly, lip nipping turned into a wide grin as inspiration struck.
"Speed tab?" We could go twice as fast and …"
He didn't even need to say more. With a half grumbled "why didn't I think of that" Balmung threw out two Ap Do's (two down, who knew how many to go) and they were on their way.
Then, there was no "nearly" to it, they were flying, the type that didn't need wings to make it work out alright. They raced along a red and black world, going so fast the heat couldn't' catch them, and the golden gates that housed monsters and worse were by passed so fast they seemed like fireworks.
Under the frenzy of hooves, brought low by despair,
Such things born of false promise, morbid truths uncensored
We wondered of time, how much remains before it all passes
We grieved time's loss, oh what should have been!
He shivered, despite his best efforts not too. Sipping water, meal untouched, he let mother and father's talk flow about him. As for himself, he had nothing to say, no comment to add, so he held to silence. Silence, and sipping, trying not to feel half broiled by his "pretend" forays on a molten wasteland.
"So, how's work going?" Mother asked, to that father blinked, after all he'd talked of his day and then some. But Mother did not look upon her husband; her attention was fixed to her son.
"Hot." Satoshi noted. "Dusty." He added after a moment's thought.
"If you actually dusted your room once in a while-" Father cut in.
"Mm…" To that attempt to aggravate Satoshi made a distracted noise, took another drink, not really hearing a word.
Or rather, he was hearing other words, far too clearly.
"Dear, is something the matter?" Mother asked, concern obvious. To that Satoshi woke up a little.
"Just, well, we found something a little while ago and Lios has me on standby, and I was thinking about that."
Both Mother and Father looked at their son, confusion obvious.
"Did you even read my contract, not the pay schedule, but the "duties and obligations" part?" Though he hadn't meant it… his tone was more than a little snide. Shelving a sigh, and more exasperated chatter, he took a deep breath instead. Then, since the silence still lingered, he took another drink. The water was still water.
For an idle moment he wished it was… well whatever he'd had in Mac Anu. Making a note to ask Lios if he'd recalled what Balmung had accidently ordered that night, Satoshi finished his drink to near perfect silence.
"They shut the field down, locked it up with me and Orca still inside. The second Lios texts me I've got to log on and start a field comb, that'll take at least four hours.
"At least!" Father snapped.
"Four hours." Mother chimed in, in complete agreement with her spouse. ""You've been on two and a half already!"
"It's an emergency." Satoshi explained. "And it's Friday, I'll just sleep in tomorrow."
A buzz from his pocket made him start. Squirming enough so he could get to his phone Satoshi flipped it open. He didn't even try to hide the grin that touched his lips as he read Lios's laconic note, that and the post script.
"Work?" Sora grated, glowering.
"Yeah," With a click the phone folded shut. "I've got to go."
"Have fun playing." Sora grumbled, spearing a piece of dinner so fiercely the fork went through, scrapping the plate underneath.
"I'm working." Satoshi protested. "A Field comb is not on my list of things I want to do."
"You certainly skip off to do it fast enough." Father snapped.
Opening his mouth, then snapping it shut for there was no need to articulate exactly what he was thinking, its tenor all but oozed off him in waves, Satoshi stiffened. Glaring at his father like he'd have glowered at a PKer caught in the act Satoshi decided that this time he'd say it. Civility be damned, it was deserved. He stood all but shaking with indignation, face twisted into a glower so fierce Orca would have backed up for seeing it.
But Orca wasn't here, only Father.
"When have you ever cared about anything, old man? For anything I've ever done anything you've ever done? When have you ever bothered to feel anything like passion, like caring, you shade everything you say in tones of irritation and disgust for so long it makes me sick."
Mother went white, father's jaw unhinged. Taking advantage of that moment Satoshi stormed out of the room. Least more venom pour out, venom so vicious yet true that honor would forbade him from taking back what he said.
"You get back here!" Shaking off his paralysis, Sora fought to stand. As it was he was talking to his son's stiff back. And his son's back was like talking to a wall, save the wall was stationary and Satoshi was well on his way to full retreat. "Fine, go back to your damned job then, see if I care! But you remember something Satoshi. The second you take those damned VR glasses off you have to deal with me. I'll pull you off that damned contract with CC Corp so fast you'll think you're in a time warp!"
Satoshi took the stairs two at a time. At the steps base Sora stopped, snarled.
"Are you listening to me Satoshi?"
Near the top, so close to sanctuary, he stopped.
"Is any of this getting through to you?"
He wished for wings then, hardly idle that wish, it was fervent. Thick wings, wings he could fold about him to muffle all this out, with plenty of feathers so he could better stuff his ears. Was he hearing? Yes, God yes. How he wished he could not, with all his heart. And how he wished he could turn, turn and snarl "When have you ever listened to me? Why should I listen to you, Father?" hung between such bitter words, such dark impulses, and the overriding urge, to fly. Just to be gone. He shivered sanctuary so close he shivered.
"You pull that contract and I swear I'll move out."
It was father's turn to be shook, to fall silent, and listen.
For the first time in years.
"I've got a credit card, and a debit card in my name. You aren't co-signed on either one and I've got access to funds you can't shut down. You threaten my contract and I'm gone, and I won't come back. Ever."
Incredulous, father shuddered, spat with fizzling frustration. "You wouldn't know the cost of one month's rent much less-"
"Standard lease agreement for an apartment is three times a months' rent. As for how much that is," Satoshi shrugged, "I know five apartment's costs, five close enough to school that I could keep going till graduation at least. As for after, well that's after."
One breath, two, then half choked, Father found his voice.
"We need to talk. Things have gone this far between us, than we need to talk."
Eyes closed as fervent became desperate, Satoshi shivered.
"Fine." The disgusted 'whatever' hung unspoken but not unsaid.
"If it takes longer, until after you turned in, you want me to wake you up?"
After all, it was a knight's duty to be courteous, no matter the circumstance.
"If I'm sleeping, we'll pick it up in the morning." A harsh sound that might have been laughter if only it had tried. "'Less you're going to pack up and be gone if I'm not around."
To that, the utter lack of apology, he tendered none of his own. Though he had hoped, hoped that Father would… But with hopes death rotting in his mouth he ascended, to that and awkward silence to his back. Not looking back to see if Father loitered, or if he moved on, Satoshi neared the door and was beyond it before he knew what happened. Then, it was closed, locked and he was leaning against it for a while. Bracing it against an onslaught that wouldn't come. Only when the shaking subsided did he fish his phone out of his pocket. With burning eyes Satoshi opened it up and re-read the last text.
No smile this time, but considering, that wasn't unreasonable in the slightest.
"Meet back dungeon, 15 min. Lios. PS try not to cause a scene just to get away."
Torn between laughter and tears, he shook. How damned ironic he'd know, a virtual stranger met in virtual reality, their acquaintanceship forged in a world that was not, it made him sick at how astute Lios was. How the man knew without even knowing Satoshi for reals how things stood… That revelation alone was tinged with shades of shock and wonder, and under it all a bittersweet appreciation that was too complicated to properly analyze. He shook for a while braced and quaked, until he could actually think just a little. Another glance at the message's send time verses the present and he nearly sobbed.
Eleven minutes before log in.
Too long, surely he'd break.
Too short, he'd never pull himself together.
The thoughts chased him around like twin devils. Complete opposites yet perfectly paired. The door knob dug into his back, so she shifted a bit so it nipped at his side. No one was coming; he'd been left alone after all. Nothing would happen until after, after all.
God help him for hating them all for that. For Lios and his knowing. For Father and his "latters" and passive acceptance and idiotic attacks born of stubborn ignorance. For Mother, for doing nothing save watch. And for Orca, in that moment he hated his best friend for his dammed and damning innocent view that stemmed from the fact they were friends "only online".
But all that paled before what came next. That bitter hate at himself. For never doing anything right, never being anything right. In that moment when he'd hated the mall, and he realized it, he hated himself ten times more than any of them combined. He hated himself for being able to feel such hate, and though it was only in his head, he hated himself for wanting to direct all his anger at them. Queasy and frustrated, worn and weary, he approached the computer terminal.
Four hours, minimal, stood before him. Four hours of hard work that was appreciated in one distant place and not even comprehended where it mattered most.
If he had wings surely they'd drag behind him.