My lesson with Rai continued for a while longer, touching upon a few ideas I wanted to impart into him. A big one was that anything could be used in combat. If I threw a pretty flower at my opponent, distracting him for a moment and I used that moment to attack and kill him, then the pretty flower had been a lethal weapon. He needed to learn to not only focus on his opponent but also everything around him. It was that lack of awareness that had led to both of his injuries against the nymphs.
Another habit I had to break him off, was to meet force with force, it worked against people of similar strength but if I tried to block an attack made by Sigmir, I would have a bad time. And that was not even taking into account the fact that her both, her Lok’nar and her axe were a lot heavier and carried more momentum. I had made some progress on that front with him, as he quite naturally took to the air-path, which relied on either not being in the way of the opponent's attack in the first place, by using feints to make him attack empty air or simply dodging out of the way. If neither worked, it was possible to use a parry, similarly to the moves of the water-path and if that was impossible, you were in a bad spot. Blocking, what he still sometimes tried, was simply a bad idea for us agile, speed-types. My current plan involved letting Sigmir smash through his blocks again and again, beating into him the need to dodge. Luckily, he was able to fight for a short time using practise blades made out of ice, or Sigmir would likely break the beautiful blades given to him by Giro.
Another thing he needed to learn was to use the force of your opponent against him, it was another, easy trick for weaker beings to overcome a stronger foe. It didn’t always work, especially against someone experienced, but against untrained or non-sapient beings, using their own strength against them was the easiest and best way to deal with them. One of the easiest ways was by luring them into a situation that their own momentum hurt them if they charged, for example by letting them run into a tree, or by using snares to attack a leg at the right time. Spears were another good way, but neither of us used one. Adra was already aware of those tricks, so I didn’t need to train her.
After the lessons, I continued my own studies, mostly trying to learn more about magic. My current fascination was the strange liquid, the ‘Liquid Moonlight’, it was insanely cold but creating it took an equally insane amount of Astral Power and if I wasn’t careful, it quickly evaporated or something similar. I had no idea what happened to it after it disappeared from my grasp. What was interesting was that once it had bound Hard Ice crystals together, it no longer disappeared, it remained behind, minimally weaker than the Hard Ice-crystals themselves but still easily as strong as steel.
And it had the interesting ability to take in Astral Power between slowly shedding it, similarly to my own blood when used with Blood Magic, but I had yet to find a way to control the flow-rate with either material or simply store Astral Power for a longer time in a rechargeable substance. I was experimenting with a mixture of Blood and Liquid Moonlight, sadly the extreme cold of the Liquid Moonlight made it next to impossible to mix them in a meaningful way. While I kept them in strict control using their respective magic-skills they could mingle together, but they were still their own substance and my control could easily pull them apart again. Mixing, creating a substance that was both and neither, was sadly impossible for me.
But I had a feeling that there was more to the Liquid Moonlight, something I had yet to learn and understand. Comparing it to the Earthen Staff, I had a feeling that it might be part of the substance needed to create the core, possibly used with some other material to regulate the flow, or maybe with the correct runic-inscriptions around it. Or maybe there was some sort of material that could hold it in, without letting it evaporate or warm. Normal physics told me that encasing an extremely cold liquid would cause incredible pressure onto the casing once the material warmed up and tried to evaporate. But I somehow doubted that normal physics were all that was at play when it came to magic materials or the amount of energy needed to create anything would be insane, just as the amount of energy set free if something was annihilated.
Just thinking about that, I wanted to find out if it was possible to create true annihilation-reactions with proportional energy release. It was an idea I was willing to respawn for, if only for the knowledge that it was possible. And who knew when you needed a seriously big bang?
Later that night, when everyone, but our guard, Rai at that time, was asleep I logged out and spent a bit of time in the real world.
Just looking at me was rather funny, due to the amount of time spent ingame and indoors, my previously pale skin was now heading towards snow white. My regular work-outs and very controlled diet kept me slim and moderately fit, but without either going out or into a tanning-salon, I would quickly be as pale as Morgana ingame, only without the bluish skin-tone. Well, and the long ears.
As I did my work-out, I let the video-site I used run in auto-mode, selecting content according to my normal tastes and happened upon a GNN-panel show. It featured some of my least favourite people, Acrasia, whom I disliked for the fact that she had been the one pushing me out of Amarantine, Mason, because he was a creepy jerk and had once ridiculed me at Hailcon, asking if I was lost and where my parents were and that self-important Katerina, who I disliked for her inability to simply play a good game and not make a scene about some perceived sexism in that game. I think she mostly did it to stay relevant, but sadly that need to self-promote was harming good and great games.
On the other hand, watching them getting ridiculed by Tobiuno, whom I saw as a competent and dangerous opponent, was somehow satisfying and listening to a Pantheon-employee was always a rare treat, even if they tried to pack as little meaning as possible in as many words as they could get away with. It reminded me of the clichés about elves, a people trying to say nothing and everything, without saying anything. I wondered if that trait was included in Road to Purgatory or if they had kept that behaviour for their employees.
Sadly, there was little of real substance, mostly partisan behaviour, one side disliking Road to Purgatory and trying to undermine it, on the other side people hyping it to the stars. I personally enjoyed it a great deal, so I was on the side for it, but I felt that the format was a bad one, and inviting employees of both, Pantheon and hailstorm was just trying to stir the pot. But it made for entertaining videos, even if their antics were overshadowed by Tobiuno making fun of Acrasia and Amarantine’s loss-streak, even if there was a slight sting, hearing how the mighty had fallen.
Out of some sort of masochistic curiosity, I pulled up highlights from their recent matches and quickly saw the problems. The biggest was undoubtedly that they lacked teamplay, which only came with experience. Switching out a central position disrupted the team, no matter what. And using a relatively inexperienced person on that position, well, inexperienced compared to someone who had played for over a decade, it was a recipe for disaster.
Another problem was that the current team-composition simple and direct tactics necessitated, which could be exploited. My old class had been able to lure the opponent into miss-judgements and mistakes, making them waste strength in a way that did not show up in any statistic, making it seem as if I did less than anyone else. That part of the class was almost entirely unknown, the quest to gain that skill had been removed years ago. It was a legacy-skill and one that I had used and abused to great effect. Legacy-skills had been a big controversy back then, the question if it was fair to let people use them in organised play, but the crowd that felt that they were part of a unique character and experience won out. Hailstorm countered that by making them either incredibly hard to use and next to useless if not used perfectly, allowing the new classes to take over the reins.
Oh, well, I had a new game, a new love and there was no way I would go back to CoW.
With a smile on my lips, I finished my business in the real world and returned to Mundus, finding myself in Sigmir’s arms and, for a short moment, wondering what the future would bring. After that moment, I slipped into a comfortable sleep, dreaming of future adventures.