Buff 3.5


"I just need you to be honest with me, sweetheart."

Greg held back a groan as he stood in the foyer, the feeling of damp clothing pressing against his chest another annoyance to add to his ever-growing list. "Mom, that's the third time you've said that already."

Susan nodded, her arms crossed as she sat on the couch armrest. "Yes, I might have, but you know why."

Greg's gaze shifted, moving away from his mom's eyes to focus on her mouth. "No," he lied, the word sliding out much easier without eye contact. "No, Mom, I don't."

"Sweetie," his mother's tone shifted almost imperceptibly. "I just want to know what you were doing this morning."

Still avoiding eye contact, Greg raised a hand to scratch the side of his face, the action belying his nervousness. "I already told you."

"And I already told you," Susan retorted, the soft tone laced with the brittle edge she always used when trying not to seem angry, "I don't believe that you woke up at 6 am just to go for a run,Greg." The fingers of her hand tapped out a steady beat on an arm.

Greg frowned. "Mom, i don't know what you want me to say." He pulled at the sleeve of his long-sleeved white shirt with his other hand, the sweat-covered fabric clinging uncomfortably to his skin.

"What?" Susan made a frustrated gasping sound, as if trying to draw breath but hesitating. "I want you to say the truth, Greg." She rose to her feet, her body leaving the armrest of the couch to stand almost level with her son.

Greg took a deep breath through his nostrils, tipping his head back to further avoid looking his mom right in the eyes. Lying was hard enough when it came to his mom. Doing it with eye contact was asking for a miracle. All that considered, he couldn't exactly give his mom the truth.

– o – o – o – o – o – o – o –

The events of last night… this morning… a few hours ago were simply insane, the climax of the night being fucking Stormtiger of all people showing up. Compared to everything before the Nazi Airbender showed up, the rest of the night was relatively calm.

Of course, he went hunting for seven more Merchants. He did have a quest to complete. Insane night or not, he wasn't going to just ignore an easy six-thousand xp. He wasn't stupid. Finding any more Merchants was the real problem. While they were the most prolific gang in the Bay, they weren't exactly the most obvious. He couldn't exactly keep an eye out for their gang colors - purple and black -, because as disorganized as the Merchants tended to be, they were rarely seen wearing them. After a couple hours of searching, enough time for him to finally decide which perks he wanted, he finally managed to take down a few more individual Merchants.

With the boosts to his stats and liberal uses of his skills, the rest he found went down rather quickly. Surprise attacks were always useful, after all. By the time 5:55 had rolled around, he had just finished [Weapon Charge]-ing his bat to bash the last one in the ribs, plunging the thug's HP to 0.

By themselves, the Merchants gave up around 185 XP each and 15 bucks each, bringing him one-third of the way to level six (+ 1295 XP, + $105). Greg knew that upon completing the mission, he'd be bound to hit the next level but what ended up happening was a surprise and a half.


Quest Success!

"First Blood II: Even Bloodier" Completed!

Gained 6500 XP.

Gained 1 Stat Point

Bonus Objective Completed: +6500 XP, + 1 Stat Point


Level Up x2! You are now Level 7

You gained 4 stat points.

With the bonus added on top of the XP he got from completing the quest, he shot right past level six as well as the threshold for level seven. The increases to his skills after everything was said and done were just icing on the cake (+2 Reflexes, + 2 Slashing Resistance, + 1 Piercing Resistance, + 1 Blunt Force Resistance, +2 Cold Resistance, + 2 Weapon Charge, + 1 Angry Straight).

However, that happy mood didn't really last all that long once he realized exactly what the time was, the knowledge making him wince as soon as he remembered his mom's habit of waking up shortly after six AM. Running home using the main streets would get him home much faster but that wasn't really an option, considering that the morning commute had already started. Greg didn't really feel like getting pulled over by Armsmaster for suspicious activity, especially considering his clothes still had blood all over them.

With several [Equip]s and [Unequip]s, Greg put away his combat gear and his bat, replacing them with a white long-sleeved shirt, a pair of grey sweatpants and white running shoes. That done, he began running home, taking special care to avoid any main streets. Within an hour, he had made it home, only to face his mom in a nightgown on the other side of the door, a scowl on her face.

– o – o – o – o – o – o – o –

"Mom," Greg began again, letting out a slight whine with the word. "I don't know what you want me to say. I told you, I've been running since six this morning. I didn't feel like the treadmill would do me much good, so I decided to go out for a workout."

"Greg…" Susan sighed, raising a hand to her face to massage the bridge of her nose, "I really don't know how you expect me to believe that. You never just go outside. That's just… not you."

"Mom, look." Without hesitating, Greg peeled the sweat-covered shirt from his body, leaving his chest bare. "Does this look like I'm lying?"

"Oh…" The scowl fell from her face, replaced by a look of shock as she stared at Greg's stomach. "Oh my goodness, Greg."

"You can't say that I haven't been working out." Greg flashed his mom a weak smile, stretching his arms out wide to offer an unobstructed view of his chest. The added points from last night had only served to enhance the appearance of his body, adding another layer of definition to what was once an unimpressive torso. "You've seen me working out every day, right?"

Susan blinked. "I… yes. I just… I didn't… I didn't know…" Greg watched as his mother closed her mouth, her head tilting to the side as if trying to resolve some incredible puzzle. ""

"I don't know. I just started working out recently and my body just… changed, I guess." Greg shrugged, letting the sweaty shirt in his hand drop to the floor. "You always said I was a late bloomer. Just like you." The grin on his face was only partly faked, Greg simply happy to have a reason to show off. "I guess it just started hitting me."

"So… the fighting, the girls…" Susan trailed off, a pained look on her face.

"The working out," Greg added with a nod.

"...yes. The nonstop working out," Susan shook her head as she sat down on the armrest again. "Why? Why the working out anyway? It's all so… sudden. You're perfectly fine just the way you are."

Oh boy. "I've just… you know, been thinking of trying out for the football team," Greg replied with a shrug, glancing down at his feet as he spoke.

"The f… The football team?" Susan's hand went to her chest, her pained expression becoming slightly forlorn.

"Maybe… uhh… maybe…" He scratched the side of his face again, keeping his gaze away from his mother's. "Maybe try out for quarterback, I dunno."

"Like your father?"

"Um, well," Greg blinked at the sudden retort, surprised at the speed of his mother's response. "Not really. I didn't exactly think of Dad when I had the idea." His mind honestly hadn't even gone to his father, the man the farthest thing from his mind most days. Even when his dad was around, he had long given up trying to get his son interested in sports.

"Football… all this," His mom's gaze visibly dropped to his chest again, that look of pained dismay still present. "I'm glad that you found something new. I just… I don't know what to say, Greg."

"Umm, Mom?" Greg's grin dimmed slightly, confused by his mother's reaction. "Something wrong? You're acting like you're sad or... something." He stepped away from the door, taking a step closer when his mother hesitated to respond. "Mom?"

"No!" Susan let out a gasp and quickly stood up, advancing towards her son. Arms spread out wide, she engulfed him in a tight hug. "No, Greg. Not at all."

Okaaaaaay, that was unexpected. Greg blinked as his mother squeezed him even tighter as the hug went on, seemingly unwilling to let go. "Mom?"

His mother didn't reply, instead cupping the back of his head with a single hand and pulling him in even tighter. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I… was so hard on you and…" Greg heard a sniffle from his mom as she paused, "...and you're just changing and growing and… I'm so sorry."

"Mom, are… are you okay?" Greg replied. His hand came down in a repeated, jerky movement as Greg did his best to pat his mother on the back. This wasn't the first time he'd done it. In fact, a few years ago, it was almost routine for him to calm down his crying mom but doing it while lying… that was new.

"I'm…," Susan inhaled, pulling back from her son just enough to look him in the eye, "I should be the one asking you that. I yelled at you, I punished you, I took away your toys..." A hand rose up to wipe at her wet eyes. "I've been so terrible. Are you okay, sweetie?"

I killed someone.

I think I'm okay with killing people.

I think I died.

These thoughts and more raced through his head but Greg knew better than to give them a voice. Instead, he flashed his mother a smile. "Honestly, I," Greg shrugged, the smile on his face becoming slightly sincerer, "I feel fine." How messed up is it that that is the first honest thing I've said this morning?

Susan pulled him back into a hug again, her head resting on his shoulder and vice versa. "You don't know how happy I am to hear that."

For a long moment, she was silent, content to hug her son. Greg was just happy that there were no more awkward questions to dodge. Then, head still on her son's shoulder, Susan spoke.


"Yeah, mom?"

"Are you on steroids?"

Pulling back, Greg gave his mom a look. "Mom!"

"Just a random thought. You don't have to answer, of course." Susan shook her head, letting go of her son. She patted Greg's cheek with one hand before turning around and heading toward the kitchen.

Steroids, really? Greg stared at his mom's retreating back, a befuddled expression on his face. After a moment, he flexed an arm and shrugged, nodding slowly. Honestly, I can see where she's coming from.

As Susan reached the threshold to the kitchen, her hand gripped the doorway and she looked back over her shoulder at her son. Like before, her gaze fell to his bare chest. She let out an audible sigh before speaking again. "Greg, sweetheart, not that I think you are doping, or whatever it's called, but you didn't actually give me an answer."



Spoiler: STATUS

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  • Lover of All Things Worm


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