Jorgen adjusted his spectacles until the blurriness subsided, and he could see clearly.
In Abidden, his vision was perfect, but returning to reality was always such a jarring sensation.
When the room came into focus, he could see a score of analysts waiting to give him the latest news. Beside them was Viktor with an odd look on his face.
"Going by that expression, I'm guessing that you've found out more about Travesty?"
Viktor sighed as he raised a hand to silence one analyst that was about to speak.
"We've spoken about this, Jorgen. The priority right now isn't Travesty, it's Helena. We only have a small window of opportunity here. You're in the Holy Citadel, with a powerful group of priests and companions..."
Viktor gave up trying to explain and snapped his fingers at one analyst to continue.
The person who stepped forward was the same one that Jorgen rebuked earlier in the day for being too talkative. It was clear as day that he was choosing his words carefully in front of the Scumlord.
"Mr. Baw, we're currently tracking Helena's movements and she's on her way to the Citadel. We strongly advise you to stay in that location. The blessings you receive from the Prime Good, alongside the buffs from the Holy Order, will give you a stronger chance of success. From analysing the skills of your companions, we've devised the following plan of defence."
Jorgen sighed audibly as he glanced across the room to where a visual counter was gradually reducing in value.
"What did you uncover about Travesty?"
When Jorgen turned his attention back to the analysts, none of them met his gaze. A brief silence washed over them until Viktor finally relented.
"I'll tell you, but you need to keep on track. The world is watching right now, and this is our opportunity to establish you as Abidden's greatest!"
Jorgen whirled his hand as an impatient gesture to usher Viktor onward.
"Spit it out."
Viktor turned to the monitors and gestured at one of the smaller displays.
"The E-Classer footage that we watched... looks like it's legitimate. I got talking to a few people that were at the Sponsorship event in Royal D1, and the main attraction was apparently an E-Classer from the slums. A little more digging showed us that Nox Holdings has registered a sub-division, called Travesty Holdings... which means he's sponsored by her. If you're not aware, let me be the first to tell you, Jorgen. Nox is not someone we can fuck with."
Jorgen remained quiet as he took all the information in.
Viktor then gestured for an analyst to step forward.
"The Public Record shows an application made by Nox Holdings for a themed skyscraper called, The Dread Tower."
The young woman tapped at the tablet in her hand as she read through the information, her eyes never once moving up to meet Jorgen's glare.
"Since the Vendetta system went live, and NPC's have gained autonomy... the existing factions in Abidden have undergone a lot of changes."
The analyst that Jorgen ridiculed previously for being long-winded, gave his colleague a sharp jab in the arm with his elbow, which brought her right back to the topic.
"... someone overthrew the Escravo Cartel in Rayth. It's now known as the Dread Faction."
The analyst blurted out finally before taking a step back. Relief washing over her features.
Sensing a change in Jorgen's demeanor, Viktor stepped forward to remind the Scumlord of what was at stake.
"Now you know. He's in Rayth, but that doesn't matter right now. If he's set up his base of operations there, you can guarantee that he'll remain there for the foreseeable future. Helena is literally flying towards your location on the back of a dragon. You need to listen to the plan they've come up with."
Jorgen gave Viktor a withering look, but the executive continued.
"Travesty would need to attack you first, and from what we've seen in the footage... he's not an idiot. Focus on Helena now, and after you defeat her... we can come up with a plan for getting this Dread character, okay?"
Jorgen smiled ruefully as he took off his spectacles and got back into the Nexus Rig.
Viktor gritted his teeth as he launched forward and stopped the rig from encasing Jorgen.
"Stick to the plan. You need to defend the Citadel!"
Jorgen reached out of the rig to remove Viktor's hand, forcibly.
"You're telling me to hide. I'm a fucking Scumlord. I'm going to find Travesty and kill him. If Helena tries to stop me, I'll kill her too."
Viktor staggered backward, clutching his hand after experiencing a sharp pain.
The Nexus Rig closed, encasing Jorgen and logging him back into Abidden.
Viktor roared out in frustration before whirling around to the analysts.
"Get me everything we have on this Rayth place!"
Someone appeared in his peripheral vision, standing awkwardly as if waiting for the opportunity to speak up.
Viktor snapped as he turned to regard the man, wondering how this day could get any worse.
The nervous man stumbled over his words as he vaguely gestured at one monitor behind him.
"It's Greaves, Sir."
Viktor narrowed his eyes at the man as he approached their command centre, looking at the various screens around him.
"How could it be Greaves? He logged out of the game after being defeated!"
A hand appeared beside Viktor, pointing at one particular feed.
"He just showed up on The Samantha Show..."
Viktor exhaled slowly as he tried to compose himself.
"Why the fuck is he there?"
Much to Viktor's chagrin, the rhetorical question got an answer.
"He's going to explain what happened at the Division One Invitational where the Scumlords lost to the Paragons."
All the analysts and catering staff were still looking anxiously in his direction. The spat between him and Jorgen, coupled with his earlier outburst, had put everyone on edge.
Viktor turned to look at the Nexus Rig where Jorgen lay contained. His expression through the casing looked so peaceful.
"Mr. Romero? Elisabeth Volte is here to see you."
Viktor wondered when he'd next enjoy that same peaceful feeling.
Wind whipped past Helena's ears as her Dragon ascended powerfully into the sky. Each beat of its huge wings brought the Disciple of Darkness higher into the clouds.
Their destination was visible in the distance, a gigantic island suspended in the sky.
|You are approaching the Sky Palace.|
|The Lamerian Throne is Hostile towards you.|
|The Lamerian Collective is Hostile towards you.|
|The Merchant Alliance is Hostile towards you.|
Helena couldn't help but grin as the game bombarded her with notifications. The one that she was most excited about was still to come though, and she knew it would arrive soon.
In the distance, she could already see them. Proudly gliding above their city in their usual haughty fashion.
|The Celestial Race is Hostile towards you.|
In her entire time in Abidden, the Celestials were by far the most insufferable race. Any perceived slight would cause a loss of reputation. If you were late in handing in a quest, that would cause another reduction.
Helena probably wouldn't have cared about it so much, but when all the raids depended on the other Heroes helping her... the success rates went down and it handicapped her own progress.
The Celestials that were gliding around aimlessly reacted to her approach immediately, with one of them bolting towards a bell tower, their wings beating relentlessly.
Helena cast her attack on the Celestial.
|Blindness has failed. You are out of range.|
Helena released the reigns of the Dragon harness and aimed ahead of her target, judging the distance as she did for the last decade as the Celestial Archer.
A bolt of darkness pierced through the sky, intercepting the Celestial and ripping viciously into its outstretched wing. A despairing wail followed the attack as the Celestial fought through the pain and continued to beat his wings towards the bell tower.
Helena had been playing with her new skills while she helped the other Paragons with their Class Quests, and one of her favourite combinations was Shadow Strike, followed quickly by Shadow Snare.
Shadow Strike: (Reusable in 6 seconds)
Shadow Strike is a ranged Darkness attack that has a 25% chance to apply a curse.
Shadow Snare: (Available)
Shadow Snare is a curse that causes damage over time and restricts movement.
Helena activated the skill in her mind and watched as the Celestial's injured wing twitched and convulsed. Flying suddenly became impossible as tendrils of black seeped out of the wound, latching to various parts of the Celestial.
|Ensnare has been applied! Target's movement will be restricted for 6 seconds.|
When Helena had used this against other opponents, it provided an excellent opening to attack them while they were vulnerable.
However, with the Celestials, a whole new battle dynamic appeared because they were flying.
Helena couldn't help but laugh while she watched as the proud angel-like figure screamed in rage... before plummeting into the ground of the floating island.
|Your target has sustained significant falling damage and has died.|
The surrounding Celestials watched in horror, but seemed to learn nothing as they billowed their wings and set their sights on Helena. She could faintly hear that they were screaming words at her, but she was still too far away to hear or care.
The Disciple of Darkness raised her hands at the closest one and repeated the process, curious if it was just a fluke.
Moments later, she received a notification.
|Your target has sustained significant falling damage and has died.|
Helena couldn't help but laugh as she guided the Dragon with her legs, killing one Celestial after another as she gradually made her way towards the Citadel at the centre of the Sky Palace.
"Welcome back, Hero!"
A Priest exclaimed in relief.
Jorgen opened his eyes and looked around. He was still in the Citadel, surrounded by the companions that he had been tirelessly recruiting. A host of priests and holy men were surrounding his group, offering the protection of the Citadel.
"Jageranimus, your timing couldn't have been better! We are under siege from the Disciple of Darkness... the fallen hero, Helena! The People of Lameria need you now more than ever!"
|You have received a Quest!|
Jorgen dismissed the notification as he flapped his wings abruptly, throwing him up into the air and allowing him to land beside the NPC.
"Where is Rayth?"
The smile on the Priest's face twitched ever so slightly.
"In front of our Protector, I can forgive how you failed to address me respectfully... but I would advise you to remember your place in the future."
The Priest chided Jorgen as he raised his arms to gesture at the statue of the Prime Good. They carved it in such a way that it looked like the God was holding up the ceiling of the Citadel.
Jorgen gritted his teeth and was about to try again, but the Priest continued to speak.
"Are you perhaps thinking of launching a Crusade? Purge the horrors of the Dread Lake and bring the criminal syndicates to justice?"
Jorgen sighed in response before shrugging his shoulders.
"Sure, yeah. I want to launch a crusade."
|Your attempt to launch a Crusade has failed|
The Priest shook his head in bewilderment.
"How could we possibly approve you to do such a thing while we're under attack from the forces of evil?"
|You have lost Reputation with the Holy Citadel Faction|
|You have lost Reputation with the Lamerian Throne|
|You have lost Reputation with the Lamerian Collective|
|You have lost Reputation with the Merchant Alliance|
"Hero! You need to choose your words carefully! If we lose the support of the Holy Citadel, we won't be able to use their artifacts in the upcoming battle!"
Jorgen winced as the shrill voice reached his ears. He didn't even need to turn around to know which companion was speaking. It was the Cristophe, the annoying blacksmith from Venna, that the analysts had advised him to recruit.
"Don't worry, Holy Men! Jageranimus is a man of virtue and honour. He will definitely protect us against the traitorous Helena!"
Another companion advocated for Jorgen, thumping his gleaming breastplate as he did so.
|The Morale of your Companions has risen|
Jorgen resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He had somehow assembled the most insufferable troupe.
"I ensure you, oh holiest Priest of the Prime Good... that I have no intention of launching a Crusade..."
Jorgen stumbled over the words as he tried to get the information he wanted.
The Priest's eyes narrowed in suspicion, so Jorgen kept going.
"In this dire time. I will support you, with my sword... and my heart?"
Finally, the Priest's face broke into a wide smile as he stepped forward and embraced the Hero.
"You truly are a worthy Hero!"
|You have gained Reputation with the Holy Citadel Faction|
Jorgen winced as the frail robed man latched onto him.
"But... out of curiosity, and no desire to do a quest or a Crusade, can you tell me where Rayth is?"
The Priest looked up to Jorgen, the smile still on his face.
"Of course, Child of the Prime Good!"
|A Priest of the Prime Good has updated your Map|
Jorgen grinned as he received the last notification.
"Wait here, I'm going to... scout the perimeter!"
He instructed his companions and the Priests in the Citadel as he flapped his Celestial wings and flew up to the roof.
Jorgen was grateful that they designed most of the architecture around the Sky Palace with the Celestials in mind. Since they could all fly, many roofs and ceilings had entrances and exits made for them.
As Jageranimus flew threw the open space, Cristophe turned around to the Priests and the other companions.
"I've a good feeling about this battle!"