I had forgotten how vile the lands looked when a demon inhabited them. I was only human when last I fought one, and my eyes surely did not pick up on all the minute details. Even knowing Aaliyah as well as I did now, I was deeply impressed by what she created. The idea of even brushing up the sickly looking foliage was unpleasant, and I could imagine the faint odor of death all too well, having faced a real life necromancer.
I could barely see Raine with how she had pushed farther and farther into her chair. Cosette was still all cheer, untouched by any horrors in her past. I worried about Raine. I would never forget her cowering, hiding under a table from the screams of Mai and being surprised that the screaming wasn’t in her head. I never asked her why, why would she think that the screams weren’t real. Was she plagued by the voices of another place?
“Yes, she is.” stated Aaliyah.
Things were frozen again as Aaliyah casually lounged across my lap, resting her head on the arm of my chair.
“What is she hearing?” I asked.
“She feels the suffering of a god and the cries of his demons, so full of rage and despair that they have no concept of happiness or beauty.” she casually explained in a sing-song voice.
“Have you been there, where they are?” I asked.
She laughed and said, “Of course I’m there, silly. Even demons die.”
“Can you do something to help Raine?” I questioned.
“I have. I brought her to you. You’re doing wonderfully, boss-man, sir.” she claimed.
Shaking my head, I said, “Ha. There’s so little I can do for anyone. I’m just lucky Cosette isn’t holding a grudge against me for trying to keep knowledge of her parents’ deaths from her.”
“You’re right about one thing: Cosette doesn’t hold a grudge against you, not even a little one. I wouldn’t call it luck though. You’re just too charming, boss-man, sir.” she teased. “You do help people, all the time. The ‘little’ you do helps in big ways.”
I looked down into those big, blue eyes of hers. She was too adorable. “Why do you choose to look as you do?” I asked.
“Prefer me like this?” she teased, suddenly older and wearing far too little.
“As much as I enjoyed your company as Trix, no.” I firmly told her.
She reverted back to the tiny girl in her mismatched clothes much to my relief. Then she said, “I was born, I grew, and I became a cyborg. You remember. This is me. I’m my daddy’s little girl.”
“And so many other things.” I stated.
Sitting up, she poked my nose, looked me in the eye, and said, “But always my daddy’s little girl. He needs me, boss-man, sir.”
“What do you think of this area?” I asked, nodding toward the game.
“It’s gross!” exclaimed Cosette, sounding quite giddy.
Aaliyah was gone. Things were moving again.
“T-the animals are m-missing.” stated Raine.
“Ah. Yeah. They’ve probably been warped and are now following the demon, wherever he is.” I told them.
“Is he as cute as Raine?” teased Cosette.
I chuckled and said, “No, not even close. He’s quite horrific to behold.”
“That’s good. I don’t think I could summon up the will to attack Raine, except for hugs.” claimed Cosette.
“Att-attack hugs are qui-quite vi-vicious.” mumbled Raine, but she sounded like she was smiling.
“Oh, you know it!” exclaimed Cosette, just before leaping out of her seat at Raine.
There was much giggling, so I did my best to defend their characters.
“You’re lucky she didn’t pull the smithing hammer like she did on that goblin.” I teased.
“She uses the frying pan on me. Doesn’t hurt nearly as much.” claimed Cosette.
Giggling more, Raine said, “M-makes a n-nice sound.” She abruptly went silent.
I looked over at her in concern, realizing a moment later that she was hearing something. There was movement around us.
“C-Cosette! En-enemies!” exclaimed Raine in a loud whisper.
Cosette hopped into her seat with casual grace, instantly on the move as she landed. Without a word, all of us started sneaking along. We couldn’t talk. Talking in real life would carry through into the game and alert our foes. I made my character cast one of his few utility spells, further muffling the sounds of our passage. I wished I had powerful illusion magic at the moment. I might be able to incinerate the bears, but there was a chance the demon had granted these ones high fire resistance.
Raine’s character uncorked some sort of vial and dropped liquid behind us. Text appeared on my screen describing a pungent stench. I hoped she knew what she was doing. I caught sight of giant, mutated bears a couple times over the next couple minutes, but we continued avoiding them, not wanting to alert their master of our presence. He might well remember me.
The front doors of my home swung open, and I heard someone enter. Portentia was home. I could tell by her footsteps.
“Oh wow. Where are you, guys?” she asked shortly after walking into the room.
I turned to her, explaining briefly in sign language. The game had voice recognition along with other features to ignore extraneous sound, so Portentia’s voice shouldn’t alert enemies, though mine would.
I rapidly signed to my screen, asking Mila to explain in more depth. She was always watching. I should’ve thought of asking her sooner. Another of the large mirrors lit up, showing Mila’s avatar signing away.
More minutes stretched by before the bears finally wandered off. Cosette breathed out loudly before saying, “I never thought I’d feel so tense playing a game.”
Portentia laughed and said, “The game is pretty awesome. I never thought I’d get into a video game till I started. Looks like you guys are too far away for me to catch up.”
“Oh. Go to the guild hall. You can use the traveling stone to come straight to us.” I suggested.
“Nice!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be right there!”
Glancing at the time, I said, “You’re home early.”
“Quiet night. Captured a mugger, but that’s it.” explained Portentia.
I just nodded. A single mugger would be a quiet night for her. Feeling relatively safe where we were, we waited for Portentia to join us. Once she arrived, the four of us continued toward where the meteor had landed.
“Meteors can be pretty small. How are we going to find it?” asked Portentia.
“Cr-crater.” stated Raine.
“Yeah. I guess that makes sense if it’s a big one.” replied Portentia.
“I think we’re almost there.” asserted Cosette. “We’ll show you!”
I stopped, catching something out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and saw the enormous demon walking toward the same place as us.
“Guys, we need to run.” I insisted.
“Noooo!” whined Raine.
I could see that she had turned to face it as well.
“Gather around, and I’ll use the stone.” I told them.
“No!” exclaimed Raine. Her character was shoving her backpack at mine, offering a trade.
“What!?” I asked.
“G-get my m-mats. I-I’ll show him a r-real d-demon.” stated Raine.
I accepted the trade and opened my mouth to talk her out of it, but she was gone. Her character was far, far faster than mine. I couldn’t believe how quickly she was gone.
“Let’s go!” I exclaimed, running toward the meteor site.
Portentia and Cosette followed. We weren’t even halfway there when the sky became even darker. I could see spells flying from the demon and explosions even after. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on Raine’s screen.
The raid boss who wiped over twenty thousand people was getting hit by garden tools, smithing tools, kitchen tools, and a number of things I didn’t even recognize. The damage was laughable compared with its health but impressive for a single person. No doubt she had enchanted every last implement.
I hadn’t doubted that Raine’s reaction time was far beyond what any character could manage, but the way her character moved was really bizarre. She had strange sidesteps that moved her great distances nearly instantly, allowing her to avoid area of effect attacks that I could never dodge. She had some sort of instant duck move that allowed her to dive under swings at her head with ease. There was some roll move she used that ended in her character raising its arms as if presenting something.
“James, that’s a tree!” exclaimed Cosette.
Oops. I hoped I hadn’t been running into the tree for long. Bit distracted. Incredibly, Raine was still alive when we finally reached the crater where the meteor had landed, though the demon had called in its minions for reinforcements.
“Raine, can you make it to us?” I asked.
“J-just g-go.” she ordered.
I told the other two to hug the meteorite
“It’s too heavy to come with us. Give me a sec.” stated Cosette. She used a spell to boost our strength.
“U-use a p-potion too. In m-my b-bag.” muttered Raine.
I did as she said, passing out strength potions. I needed to get Raine to make me a new bag. Hers was vastly larger, mostly filled with crafting materials, but also holding potions, elixirs, and tools. Still, we were lucky Portentia came home. Cosette and I wouldn’t have been able to carry the meteorite without her, despite the boosts. Only items carriable by the group being transported could be taken along.
“I think that’ll do it. Hug the stone.” I ordered.
Nothing happened. I quickly typed in guild chat asking who online had the stone from our guild hall. I really should’ve given the guild a heads up several minutes ago.
“No, I’m not mad. I’m in a hurry. Nekopawpaw’s soloing a raid boss. We found the last of the demons, and I need to get her mats to safety.” I explained in guild chat.
That was the first time I saw guild chat stop moving for any length. There were several seconds with no response at all. Then chat erupted back to normal with several people saying they were “on it”, and many more asking if I was messing with them.
“Hey, Mila, could you put Raine’s fight on the guild’s magic mirror?” I asked.
“No, master, but I can instruct you how to scry with it.” she replied.
“Good enough. Let’s do this.” I told her.
Several of the nearby guildies were already staring at the meteorite, but Cosette and Portentia were guarding it.
In guild chat, I typed “No one goes near the meteorite, or you’ll earn Nekopawpaw’s ire. I’m putting what that entails on the magic mirror for any who doubt me.”
I was pretty sure most people in the area had hurried over, since the hall was filling quickly. Guild chat was alive with talk about our prized crafter facing off against a demon.
“J-James, I-I’m almost… almost out of p-potions.” stated Raine.
“I wondered what you were using to heal. I would’ve given you mine had I known you needed some.” I told her.
“I’ve u-used several h-hundred.” she mumbled.
Ouch. That was expensive.
“Think you can run away?” I asked.
“I-I… only had o-one speed p-potion, b-but I-I can… try.” she told me, weaving through enemies to dodge a giant fist.
The demon had killed countless of its own minions just trying to kill Raine. The thing was lucky her character couldn’t keep up with her in real life. Watching her bonking heads with hammers, pans, and other non-combat implements was somewhat comical as she took off.
“You’re heading the wrong way.” I mentioned.
“N-no. I d-don’t want it… f-following me h-home.” she stammered.
I guess that made sense. I had no idea how far this thing would try following her now. I’d muster our army, but there simply weren’t enough of us on at the moment to kill it. Most of our guild wouldn’t even be awake.
“What have you guys been doing?” asked Alma just after running into the room.
I nonchalantly told her “Raine’s been demonstrating how to solo a demon.”
“I hardly believed the messages I was receiving, but seeing her… what are those moves?” she asked.
Nearly at the edge of the demon’s horde with it on her tail, Raine started explaining where various things she was using were obtained. The strange roll maneuver she had was “Present the Dish.” from cooking. “Check the Oven” and “Stove Dash” were also from cooking.
As she continued, every last move came from one type of crafting or another, but her crafting skills were far higher than even my combat skills, granting her huge boosts to the effectiveness of the moves.
“For someone who abhors violence, you certainly understand it.” stated Alma.
“W-why else would I ab-abhor it.” replied Raine.
I chuckled even as Alma rolled her eyes.
Cosette and Portentia were both standing by Raine, watching her screen and cheering her on.
Several tense minutes later, Raine was still running, but the demon was too fast. Luckily, all of its horde was left behind, allowing her to dodge more easily.
“You should’ve stayed behind for her.” stated Alma, gripping my hand.
“Then the meteorite couldn’t have gone through.” I told her.
“Oh. I see.” she replied. “We could go meet her.”
“Even if everyone drops what they’re doing and comes to join us, do you think we’d stand a chance?” I asked.
She sighed and said, “No, we would not.”
“I-it’s okay. W-we have m-my mats!” exclaimed Raine.
“You mean that I have your mats!” teased Cosette, trying to laugh villainously.
“Don’t worry, Raine. I wouldn’t let Cosette steal from you.” stated Portentia.
Cosette lunged at Portentia, who easily dodged.
“James! Help! My food is avoiding me!” exclaimed Cosette, fangs now evident in her mouth.
I caught Alma’s mouth twitch while I started laughing.
“Shh… y-you’re startling Pufflewink.” warned Raine.
A quick blast of energy partially caught Nekopawpaw, damaging her again.
“A-all out.” muttered Raine. Then she turned and attacked the demon with a giant frying pan. “B-bad demon.”
“It’s..” I started, hardly believing the stars now floating around the demon’s head.
“You dazed it! Run!” exclaimed Alma, gripping the back of Raine’s chair.
Mila then said, “Wow. There’s a less than one percent chance of that move ever effecting this demon at your current skill level. If you dive into the cave northwest of you, the demon won’t be able to follow.”
“There’s a cave?” I asked.
“Oops. Mother’s going to yell at me for giving away spoilers.” claimed Mila.
Raine hadn’t hesitated at all. She quickly veered northwest and took off into the cave, using some sort of charm to create light as she hurried deeper. When she looked back, the demon was clawing at the entrance, ripping it apart and causing part of the cave to collapse.
Guild chat was still busy with people talking about what just happened. People were cheering her on.
“What!? You’re logging off there?” demanded Alma, upon seeing Raine hit the logout button.
“I-I w-work soon.” she mumbled.
“Oh. I can try distracting your boss if you like, so you can call in sick.” offered Alma.
“Th-thank you, but I-I’ll be okay. We g-got it!” she exclaimed.
“I’ll see that the meteorite makes it to your shop.” I told her.
She got up, thanked everyone again, and headed off toward her room.
“I must say that I am most impressed.” stated Alma.
“Think you could really distract me?” I teased.
She rolled her eyes before staring up into mine and saying, “You, my darling, are quite easily distracted.”
I had to admit that I felt distracted already.