I stood up, ready to defend myself. The Thigh Master sprung away, knocking over a pile of magazines as it collided with a shelf.
“Relax, Yoga-man,” Nikko said, “I try not to dish out knuckle sandwiches for breakfast. That is a meal more fitting for supper time. Why are you working out anyway?”
“It's a long story,” I said.
We told it to him anyway. To Nikko’s credit, he listened intently, only referring to me as a ‘bat-shit crazy nerd’ twice, the entire time.
“Well let's go kill this Ragnarok guy and be done with this shit,” Nikko said matter of factly.
“I am sure it isn’t going to be that easy,” said Lorelai, “Maybe we should start with finding him first? Don’t ya think?”
“Yea, no shit Sherlock,” Nikko countered, mocking her condescending tone.
Lorelai sighed, then turned to me, “Sorry, we have spent too much time together.”
“Well, at least we can agree on that,” he said before turning to me and pointing a finger to her, “This bitch is all, ‘let’s go outside and explore. We need to find Milton, I am worried. I’m hungry. Blah blah blah’ she is going to be the death of us.”
I laughed, “It feels good not to be the only one he hates.”
“Oh no, fatty,” Nikko added, “You are still on my shit list. I had to waste a fucking ability point to heal my back after I lifted your fat ass onto my bed the other day.”
“Ah,” I said, gently caressing the tender bruise on my face, “So that is how you healed your fists before you punched me? You went pretty crazy on that ice wall too, do you have a berserker ability as well?” I asked, a tad bit excited.
“No, you… jesus… you are such a nerd,” he stuttered.
“That is just him,” Lorelai added, “he doesn’t need an ability for it. He is just an asshole. Isn’t that right Nikko?”
“Fuck off,” he said.
I fingered my bruise again, “Well if you have the ability to do so - can you heal the black eye you gave me?”
“You can fuck off too,” he replied, snatching some of my food and shoveling it into his mouth.
“Everyone ready?” Lorelai asked as we all mingled around the front door. Nikko burped - a side effect of finishing off his first ever energy drink, which was coincidentally, the last energy drink in my bag.
“I think so,” I said as I pat my head for my fedora and then my back for my Katana, “Oh wait. I have to choose a new ability. One sec-”
You have leveled up! Please choose an ability!
Available abilities are based on your fighting style and attributes. Please select one. This option cannot be undone.
Inspect Level 3 - Uncovers an additional ability of inspectable creatures.
Bait - You become irresistible to your target enemy. Damage taken is reduced momentarily.
Set Trap - Lay down an invisible trap to ensnare and damage mid-sized and below enemies.
I looked at my party without selecting an ability. I pointed to Nikko and murmured, “Okay, he is the healer…” I pointed to Lorelai, “She is the…. Damage dealer, I guess?”
“Why are you wasting our time? Pick an ability and let’s go,” Nikko said, interrupting my train of thought.
“Shut up, Nikko,” Lorelai said in my defense, “let him do his thing.”
Nikko sighed. I returned to my mumbling thoughts.
“... so that makes me… SHIT” I said, considerably louder, “The Tank.”
“Yea,” Nikko scoffed, “I could have told you that.”
I shook my head, reluctantly choose the Bait ability, then took a moment to explain the intricacies of team compositions and what everyone’s area of responsibility was. Nikko shrugged but seemed more than happy to sit in the back of fights and heal us.
“Yea… if you guys want to take the brunt of attacks, more power to ya,” were his final words on the subject. We left the parlor and set out to hunt some monsters.
I lead my party around the corner and down my street, where I knew some Scroungers would be hanging around.
“What happened here?” our DPS asked, pointing to the house that Avalanche once held up. His body had long since evaporated, but the shell of the house was still there, in a pile.
“Avalanche happened,” I said, “the big monster I was talking about. We are not ready for a something of his size, especially since Goldrin’s ability is on cooldown.”
We approached a few Scroungers. The nearest one noticed us and gave up on its attempt at acting like a normal human and began hopping up and down, alerting the others.
“Alright, just like I said before,” I started to say. I heard Lorelai’s feet buzz with power, so I didn’t bother to continue my pre-raid speech. She leaped into the air, soared at the height of the tallest houses, and crashed down into a crowd of hoping Scroungers. I whirled my Katana around and charged. The distance between where I was and where the Scroungers were, was way longer than I had thought. By the time I got in range to pull some Scroungers off our DPS, I was huffing and wheezing, but happy. Happy I was able to run the entire distance at all. It was a new record for me. I wasn’t fast by any means, but hey, a win is a win.
I activated my Bait ability and felt my skin tingle. The sensation turned into a slightly painful one - like pimples covered my body and were all mercilessly popped all at once. Then my world was yellow. I waved my free arm around, trying to dissipate the cloud that blocked my vision. Finally, I succeeded and was able to see the ordinary colored world again. That world was four Scroungers running at me.
“Oh, shit,” I said, the words squeaking out of my mouth in reflex.
Strength Check Failed - you have been tackled to the ground.
I hollered out in pain as someone took a bite out of my leg. My screams became muffled as a pair of blue jeans and their accompanying leg covered my face, suffocating me. I twisted my head away to try and get some air, but the leg followed. My arms were too busy trying to stop whatever was biting me from continuing to bite me, and were determined to stay focused on that threat. Just as I thought I was going to pass out, my arms came to the rescue and shoved the leg off my face. I took in a deep breath. My exhale turned into another howl as a mouthful of flesh pulled from my leg. My vision was a blur of damage notifications and body parts. Before I could think enough to wave away the notifications, a new one caught my eye.
Nikko has healed you for 15 hit points.
I felt the wound from my first bite heal, but just barely. My body was awash with pain. It felt like it would never end. And then, it did.
Nikko held his hand out to me. My eyes, widened from pure terror and too much adrenaline, desperately combed over my body, searching for wounds. They didn’t find any. I took a steady breath to slow my heart rate. It had little effect, so I took Nikko’s hand instead and stood up.
He chuckled, “Good ‘tanking,” he said, putting particular emphasis on his last word like it was foreign and mocked his tongue on the way out.
Lorelai ran up to me, “Oh my god, are you okay? I tried to kill them as fast as I could, just like you said. I am so sorry!’
I stared at her blankly, my emotions anything but blank.
“How do you feel?” she asked worriedly. I focused on her words. I used her feminine voice as a winch to pull myself out of psychosis. Then, I thought about what she asked.
“Hungry,” I decided.
“Okay, here is the next group,” Our DPS said as we passed my apartment complex. I wasn’t sure why, but I had the feeling that I should not tell them that I lived there. It probably had something to do with the off chance that if my life returned to normal, I did not want Nikko to know where I lived. “Is there any way you can bait them without shooting that blinding smoke out of your pores?”
I shook my head, “I have no idea, but in the future, I will only use the ability from further away.”
Lorelai nodded and looked to Nikko, who nodded as well. Then she activated her Power Jump ability and landed into the next crowd of Scroungers. The orange energy surrounding her sneakers dissipated across the road like lightning as she enabled her Power Punch ability with a red crackle. She swung, and the head of the nearest Scrounger exploded like a watermelon with a rubber band addiction. Four more Scroungers turned on her, three faceless citizens and a big guy in a tank top that looked like he wasn’t afraid of working out in front of people and perhaps, even preferred it.
Nikko, who had long since put a great deal of distance between us, yelled at me from across the road, “Explode!”
I nodded, and a second later every single one of my exposed pores began to stretch open, making way for my Scrounger pheromone. If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be ‘extremely fucking disagreeable.’ As I sat patiently in my cloud of yellow, a thought invaded my mind. I peeked into my shirt and confirmed that that the inside was not coated with pheromone.
Maybe if I cover my skin in strategic ways, I can direct the yellow, I thought, moments before BodyBuilder Bob decided that he was going to set a new personal record in the clean and jerk. He lunged at me, but luckily, I happened to be slightly more agile than the barbells he spent most of his time with. Bob’s muscle-laden facial features twisted in anger like he had just dropped a 40-pound dumbbell on his pinky toe. My Katana whirled. Bob’s thick right arm thumped to the floor. Then...
Strength Check Failed - you have been tackled to the ground.
...the other Scroungers caught up to me. My Katana clanged to the ground as I did. My arms returned to their honorable duties of protecting my junk from getting bitten off, and my neck propelled my head around violently so no one could get a pair of blue jeans over it. BodyBuilder Bob stood above me, his tightly drawn face forming a smile. He raised one fist high into the air as the wound from his missing arm spit blood at his less Trenbolone-injected brethren. I caught a slightly jealous glance of his six-pack tightening, then decided it was time to activate my Matrix skill.
Bob’s mitten sized fist smashed down into one of the other Scroungers that was on top of me, killing it instantly. Even though I was on my back with a few adult sized bodies weighing me down, my Matrix skill still managed to get me out of the situation. Really, it was equal parts the ability and my body fat. If excessive rolls didn't cover my body, I wouldn't have been able to use them like caterpillar legs.
As I reached down to pick up my Katana, I was subconsciously aware of two people yelling under my grunting. I stepped forward and slashed the legs off the most situationally aware Scrounger, then chopped off Bob’s only remaining, excessively large arm. It thumped to the ground like a trash bag stuffed with milk and steak. By the time the big dummy realized he was armless, I was already being pushed back by the remaining Scroungers. I slashed horizontally, vertically, did that arms-up-blade-at-a-downward-angle deflect move that you always see in the movies and quickly learned that the films were just one big lie. The result, even though I held an awesome Katana, was that the Scroungers were relatively unharmed and I was exhausted. I was pushed back into the opposite curb, where I promptly tripped and fell. To my credit, my newfound agility allowed me to turn around as I fell. I thanked the Thigh Master in all of its godliness and stood up from my stomach as fast as I could.
One of the benefits of being a fat guy, if you have never been one I highly recommend it, is that once you get moving somewhere, it is pretty hard to get you to stop. Sure it takes you longer to get moving in the first place, but the intricate timing and physics that went into being a fat guy happening to be working out perfectly for me at that moment.
A Scrounger propelled itself onto my back, scratching around for purchase in the process. It didn’t find any and certainly couldn’t just bearhug me, so it fell into the grass. I felt another one hit me and do the same. My Katana glimmered in the moonlight as I spun it at the grounded targets and took off their heads. Two more notifications filled my vision. I swiped them away with an imperceptible movement of my head and turned around… just in time to see Bob’s.
Franco attacks you - Minus 50 hit points - Critical strike!
My forehead reeled back and led the rest of my body to the ground. I did my best to scramble backward like a crab, and it became apparent that dumbbell curls did not work out your entire body as I had thought. The armless Bodybuilding Bob, or Franco if you wanted to be polite about it, stalked toward me. As the muscles in my back arms threatened to give out, my panic-ridden brain tried to come up with a plan.
Where the fuck is my party? Why did he headbutt me - who does that? How many more headbutts can I take?
I recalled that I had around 200 hit points. I was pretty sure I had over. I wasn’t happy about my recollection skills at the moment though - it meant that my only option was to stand up… and take some headbutts to the face.