Excellent. Well then, let's get started. The story takes place maybe twelve years ago? I think it's twelve. Anyway, it was at Gigatech University where I was in my third year, which I was failing... badly.
Samantha was leaning forward across her desk, the smile on her face was genuine as she and the entire studio listened to the Paragon. His surly nature was almost a trademark after his decade long career as the General of Light. The person sitting across from her was nothing like the Greaves she had watched online.
Turns out, I wasn't a great team player. I didn't trust others very much and would instead try to do everything myself! Good thing I grew out of that habit...
Greaves' expression turned guilty as he raised his hands defensively. His gesture was met with laughter and applause from the in-studio audience, with many of the faces in the crowd still looking perplexed at his behavioural change.
One professor at Gigatech obviously took pity on me. He gave me an opportunity to gain some extra credit, and all I needed to do was join a team of his choosing. Can you guess what team it was?
The smile on his face didn't falter in the slightest as the crowd took the bait and shouted "Paragons" in unison.
You're all eighty percent wrong! They put me on a team with Helena, and she's going to kill me for saying this... was failing too!
Greaves was leaning forward in his chair as though he was trying to get closer to the crowd. It was a stark comparison to McClean, who reclined back in his chair. The Paragon's presence was magnetic and his charm was infectious. It was impossible for the audience to listen to him without smiling.
So this professor, he was a former pro and was definitely one of the best lecturers in the University. He must have picked the absolute worst offenders in the whole campus and shoved them onto our team. We learned quickly what our problem was. Can anyone guess what it was?
Before any of the audience responded, McClean's bitter tone sounded out from behind the Paragon.
Everyone wanted to be a Damage dealer. Eighty-six percent of gamers choose offence orientated classes.
Greaves grinned as he turned to look at the Scumlord.
Correct! All six of us wanted to be the primary damage dealer in the team, and the only one that didn't put up a fight was Helena... the best damage dealer there. Anyway, I don't want to get sidetracked, because I could talk for hours about all of this. That professor made us do all these little competitions in leagues you've never even heard of. We were losing to high-schoolers! We were losing to anyone and everyone that went against us. Hell, I reached a breaking point after the fourth consecutive loss. Helena was cold as hell throughout the whole thing, like she didn't care at all if she got expelled. I couldn't understand her at all!
McClean shifted in his seat as he rested his hand against his face. His formerly aloof demeanour had changed somewhat, and it looked as though he was genuinely listening to the story.
Samantha had completely abandoned all questions she had prepared. The ear piece that had been prompting her was also silent. Greaves was giving them an inside scoop that had never been heard before.
So I reached the breaking point. I couldn't stand losing another time, so I tried bullying the others into changing their roles. Turns out, that all your credibility goes to shit when you're facing expulsion. In their eyes, if I was worth listening to... I wouldn't be in the same situation as them.
Greaves laughed as he shook his head in wonder.
It was pretty hard to argue with that logic. But it made me realise I was just as much a part of the problem as they were... so after a lot of thought, I changed my role. Who can guess what I changed to?
Greaves raised his hand to silence McClean, who was about to answer.
This time, before the Audience could shout out an answer, Samantha herself got caught up in the excitement and blurted out her theory.
"Obviously, you went with a Defensive role, a Tank?"
A cacophony of agreement washed over the studio with many shouting out the same guess, although there were a few overly enthusiastic ones that kept repeating the words, "General of Light."
I kept seeing everyone around me die, so... I moved into a Healer role.
The whole studio went deathly quiet at those words, with Samantha gaping at the Paragon and McClean coughing in a fit of surprise.
Greaves let them hang like that for a few seconds before he burst out laughing.
Of course I became the tank! Hell, can you imagine me in those robes?! Anyway! Something very interesting happened after that point. We started winning.
The audience's laughter peaked for a moment before muting suddenly. Samantha had tapped a button on her desk to silence the background noise. She wanted to hear what Greaves said next.
That professor had brought together a group of individuals who were very good at offence type roles. When you add in a tank, it gives the others more time to deal damage. Our composition was terrible, we had absolutely no way to heal ourselves, but we just kept mowing through the competition.
Greaves raised a finger and paused dramatically.
Before you think, 'Wow, that's so cool!'... I'd like to remind you we were fighting against high-schoolers. Anyway, the rest of that story doesn't actually matter. I just needed to explain the start of it so you'd understand how impactful the next part was for me. My effectiveness as a tank surprised Helena, so much so that she invited me to join her team. It was outside of Gigatech University, and it finally dawned on me why she didn't care about the outcome of her classes. She was already in the Rookie Leagues!
Turning towards the enraptured Samantha, Greaves slapped the table in front of him before pointing at the host with a smile on his face.
Don't laugh! The Rookie Leagues was a big deal to us. It was the first step on the ladder to turning pro. You could only graduate from Gigatech if you entered the Rookie Leagues or higher. So for Helena to have already achieved it, it was incredible. She was offering me a chance to join her team! If you got into the Rookie Leagues or you got a Sponsor at any point during your studies, Gigatech wouldn't block your graduation. Their Alumni network is insane! You're one of them, aren't you?
Greaves turned to look at McClean, who tilted his head away slightly before answering with a smirk.
Yes, I graduated into the Intermediates.
The Paragon nodded his head with a look of respect on his face. He turned to Samantha, who looked a little lost.
You can't fluke entry into the Inters! It's essentially the next league up from the Rookies. Ah sorry, I'm getting sidetracked... where was I? Yes! Helena invited me to join her Rookie team, and it felt like she was literally handing me a free ticket. They were bottom of the third division and didn't have a sponsor. They were essentially a ragtag group of enthusiasts that either had their own rigs or rented them out in cafes.
I was a boarder at Gigatech, so I had access to their rigs in the evenings. They were only a few games away from relegation since another team poached their tank. The free ticket suddenly didn't sound as great as I thought, but it was still a chance to get noticed! I see some of you typing on your interfaces, look up 'The Goners', that was the team name.
You'll see a few familiar faces on their records. Helena, Kincsö, Khance, Scarr, Myself and Travesty. Well, you'll find some variant of those names. In the Rookies, you could change your game-tag. It gave a lot of players the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Helena had found them all and was the one responsible for putting them together.
Greaves took a breath as he looked up at the audience. His energy hadn't faltered in the slightest since he had spoken, and the vibe that he was giving off was incredibly genuine.
Being honest, Khance shouldn't have been on that team. He was at least an Inters League player and could have been a Healer for any team on the cusp of the professional circuit. I'd never say it to his face, but he's the best Healer I've ever come across. I cannot wait to see what he does as the Shadow General.
Kincsö was just as much a force of nature back then as she is today. She was the first to welcome me to the team and bluntly told me we were going to be friends. She was a damage dealer, purely offense orientated with absolutely no hesitation to throw herself into danger.
Scarr was the scout of the team. He marked opponents and had a knack for infiltrating enemy bases... which is so strange to hear now because his reputation is closer to that of a comedian than a player. I'm hoping that his new villain class will give him the opportunity to show the world more of his skills. He had the highest amount of stealth kills on our team. You already know how great I am... which leaves Travesty.
Before Greaves could continue, Samantha's face contorted ever so slightly with annoyance. She reached her hand to hear ear as if to silence the instructions that were being relayed to her, but before her hand made it halfway, she froze and looked towards her team in the studio.
McClean picked up on it immediately and started interacting with his interface. Greaves turned to the Scumlord with a wry expression on his face.
What's going on?
McClean glanced up and nodded towards Samantha, who concentrated on the silent instructions she was being fed by her colleagues.
The only thing that could interrupt something as groundbreaking as this, on a live segment... is something happening in the game. My guess is that Helena and Jorgen have finally started fighting. But that alone wouldn't faze her this much, so something unexpected seems to have happened in Abidden.
Greaves' eyes lit up at those words as he raised his wrist to activate his own interface. Suddenly though, as if remembering where he was, he laughed ruefully.
Abidden can wait a few minutes. I was just getting to the best part! There's definitely a delicate way for me to say this, and if Kell Daystar knew I was here, talking about this, he'd probably have me shot. I know for certain that Elisabeth Volte is shrieking somewhere and watching her stock price.
Greaves turned to look at McClean, who barely hid a knowing smile. The Scumlord merely opened his palms and shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal manner.
Our little Rookie team got into the playoffs for the District One invitational. By reaching the top of the Rookie League, they allocated us a space... as a Wildcard entry. We don't know if it was just to give us exposure to how terrifying the other players were, or maybe it was a publicity stunt? Either way, we got there.
Samantha looked as though she wanted to interrupt Greaves and started anxiously looking over her shoulder to where they usually displayed the in-game events. The Paragon had no intention of stopping.
Tensions got incredibly high as we somehow scraped through the first few rounds. Our strategy and teamwork that we had tried to build up suddenly vanished. We were relying purely on instinct and dumb luck. If you saw any of our games, you'd agree that they were atrocious. There was nothing remotely special about us.
At those words, Samantha turned around in shock and even McClean raised an eyebrow. A prominent member of the Paragons was admitting to being mediocre... it was a commonly discussed topic, but rarely acknowledged by mainstream media.
Greaves leaned back in his chair as he raised a single finger on his hand.
Our luck ran out at the semi-finals. Teamwork, cohesion, logic... all of it gone. We were purely relying on instinct at that point, and it exhausted us emotionally. Scouts were reaching out to us, some offers of sponsorship, all of them with one thing in common. 'Depending on your continued success.'
Greaves' finger remained in the air as his voice turned into something more akin to a growl.
When we logged into the game, we could barely talk to each other without it turning into a shouting match. I can't even remember why we were angry. All I can remember is hearing Travesty's voice and disregarding it...
We had devolved into playing like it was a 3BR and-
Samantha asked in confusion, which caused McClean to snort in laughter. Greaves didn't even hesitate.
Basic-Bitch-Battle-Royale. Many players. One winner.
Suddenly the audience's laughter sounded out and Samantha glanced to the toggle option where she had turned them off. Her hand instinctively went to her ear as she received orders to keep the interactions between Greaves and the audience, but she caught herself and merely nodded to show she understood.
So you're probably all wondering why the long story? Who the hell is this Travesty guy, and why should you care? Sorry for taking so long to get to the point. I just wanted you all to understand who we were and why it hurt as much as it did for the years that followed.
The laughter died down as Greaves continued to hold up a single finger.
Esre got the first kill for the Scumlords. He took out Khance and then Kincsö two minutes later. They had studied our movements and knew the habits that even we weren't aware we had. Rogue got the third kill for the Scumlords when he took down Scarr. McClean practically danced on a hilltop to draw out Helena, and it worked. Jorgen flanked her and killed her. I saw red and charged straight into the fight... we were done for, and I knew it deep down. I just wanted to have at least one flashy fight for my last moments in the competition.
I had failed as a tank, as a teammate, and as a friend. Why did I fail? Because I wasn't good enough to protect them. Anyone can tell you it was only a game, but it was one of the greatest tests I've ever endured. How do I know I failed? Because I felt relief when it was all over.
Greaves tilted his head to look at his hand, finally acknowledging his gesture of a single raised finger. His expression appeared conflicted as he resurrected the painful feelings of the last decade and started putting them into words.
But it wasn't all over. Travesty wasn't dead.
He was our Playmaker. It's a role that is popular with some teams, but much more common in the higher leagues. In the lower categories, most teams would just choose to take another damage-dealer, but Helena vouched for this guy and said he was the real deal. If I'm honest with you all, I never saw the value in the role. He had all these strategies, but they felt like complications that added nothing. As a fighter, he was mediocre.
So when we first logged in and he started giving orders, I think we all just kinda zoned out and didn't listen to him. Hindsight is hilarious when you think about it. Because everything he warned against turned out to be true. When it was finally just him left standing, I prayed for his quick death so we could put the entire experience behind us.
Looking across the studio, Greaves saw the astounded expressions of the audience. The disbelief was mirrored on Samantha's face too, with only McClean looking discomforted by the story so far. The Paragon lowered his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose, looking pensive.
Imagine my surprise when an hour goes by, and another... and another. I can't remember exactly how long Travesty had been in the game when Helena called to my dorm. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she came with a case of beer. Apparently Kincsö and Khance were watching it together too. Scarr was off the grid, but he did that sometimes after a defeat.
Helena had to calm me down when I got angry. I had it in my head that Travesty was making a mockery of our team. By running away from the Scumlords, he was essentially showing every scout in the city, that we were Rookies that didn't deserve to be there.
Greaves' jaw tightened at those words as he looked off into space for a moment. The audience was deathly quiet as they hung onto every word the Paragon said. When he turned back to speak to them, his voice broke ever so slightly.
Imagine my surprise when he killed one of them.
It was one of the greatest moments of my life. We had taken down one of the Scumlords at the Semi-Finals of the District One Invitational. Our almost team-wipe wasn't so bad since they took a casualty too. That was my logic. Travesty had pulled it out of the bag, and I was inwardly revisiting my estimation of the guy.
When he didn't log out after that kill. I think it was then that we realised.
Greaves clenched his fist as he shook his head in annoyance.
He was using the plan we had ignored.
Travesty was single-handedly hunting down the Scumlords.
It took him forty-three hours to kill them all.
Samantha suddenly gasped, but Greaves took it one step further.
I can see the gamers in the room by their horrified expressions! We've all tested our limits of our Rigs, and some of us have even overclocked them to see if we could push out more in-game time... but this was ten years ago.
Travesty went past the point of no return and paid the price. After finishing the fight, he never logged back into his account.
"What do you think happened to him?"
Samantha's concern was genuine as she was victim to the powerful storytelling of the Paragon.
We were teenagers, and we knew we screwed up. We didn't listen to him... so obviously he blocked us all and went off to do something else? That's what I thought, but Helena was adamant that Travesty wasn't like that. No matter what we tried, we couldn't find out anything about his identity... we were a ragtag rookie group, we didn't use our actual identities. Hell, nobody knew that I was Dario Hargreaves son! This was around the time that anyone could be scraped if they put too much of themselves online.
Before Samantha could continue, a junior employee ran up to the desk and attempted to whisper in her ear. In his hand was an open interface tablet that he was extending towards the host. Samantha tried to wave him away, but he was persistent.
"What exactly could be more interesting than finding out the genuine history of the Paragons?"
Samantha finally snapped at the studio employee. He immediately paled at the host's tone.
"Come on, don't be shy, you're on stage. Spit it out."
The Host waved at his location on her set and then at the wide audience in the stands.
Swallowing audibly and shuffling the interface away, the young man opened his mouth to speak before Samantha's musical laugh stopped him.
"Haha, I can't believe you think I'd be so cruel. Can we have a round of applause everyone for our lovely runner here? Come on, sweetie. You can tell me what the big deal is."
Samantha smiled radiantly as she clapped along with the audience, her eyes locked onto the junior employee that had approached her.
After ducking forward and whispering in her ear, the junior practically ran off the set. Samantha however just shook her head in shock as she turned back to the audience.
"Well, it looks like we're about to see the greatest grudge match being settled in Abidden! I've just gotten word that the Jageranimus has found out where Travesty is and is on route right now! We're going to switch to a live feed to see the People's C-Class Hero, Jorgen Baw face up against the True Paragon...?"
Samantha turned to Greaves as she suddenly realised she didn't know Travesty's actual name.
Greaves gave a tight smile. He was cautious about sharing parts of Travesty's life. It wasn't his place to tell the world about the hospitalisation or the decade of misery that Travesty had to endure. Instead, he gave them what they asked for.
James Sylvester... E-Class.