Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 6: Mr. Familiar is a Third Wheel

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Ka-weenk! The first thing I was greeted with as I "woke up" (for lack of a better term) was the sound of a message hitting my inbox. I gave a quick swipe through the air, but yeah. Still no interface. Ah well! I had more important things to worry about today!

As Lucy faded back into view, I bounced over to her like an over-enthusiastic puppy made out of pink fluff. Hey, Lucy! Ready to go kill some more gribblins? I wanna get to softball size today!

Cheep cheep!

However, Lucy barely spared me a glance, instead instantly popping her interface open and navigating to the messages. Uh oh. I had a bad feeling about this…

Sure enough, ten minutes later Lucy was teamed up with Mr. Banzy-pants and I was getting dragged around South Yorba on more stupid fetch quests. I held out hope that I'd at least be able to peck a few gribblins, but the diddly Nix-born was completely obsessed with checking for loot as soon as the stupid things dropped, which meant that I never had a chance to sneak in and peck one; they dissolved into light as soon as he was done, every time. I really hate that guy.

With nothing better to do, I fell back on practicing my interface-opening motion, and watching as Lucy and RayBanz worked together like a poorly-oiled machine.

Lucy was back to her low-level ice wand again today. She'd started to get out her sword, but Ray shot that one down practically before it was even out of her inventory. "No, no, Luce, you'll just get in my way with that. With an ice-element ranged attack, you can slow the enemies down, which means I'll get hit less and have more chances to hit them. You should never have a party that's only melee attackers! We'd just end up tripping over one another's feet."

So Lucy had slipped her sword back into her inventory with nary a quibble, and pulled out the ice wand.

It didn't take more than a single fight to make it obvious that RayBanz knew absolutely nothing about what he was talking about, no matter how confidently he mansplained it.

As soon as the first enemy showed up, Ray immediately jumped for it, rocketing straight between it and Lucy. Of course, that meant that she couldn't actually hit it with her wand's attack. Even in the computer game version of BAO, you couldn't fire magic through friendly characters, although it wouldn't hurt them if you tried. Lucy tried to circle around so that she could get an angle on the gribblin, but Ray noticed and waved her back. "No, stay in formation, Luce! You'll get flanked if you move too far that way!"

Uh, she can solo these mobs, you know?

Lucy dutifully fell back and started trying to snipe the gribblin between Ray's flailing limbs. Mostly the shots just splashed harmlessly against Ray's back, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't intentional.

The gribblin was finished off by Ray in short order, and they went trekking further into the forest. Evidently they were pushing for one of the early dungeon clear quests in an effort to boost Lucy up past level 5.

The next several packs of gribblins followed the same pattern. When there were more than one enemy, Lucy could get a shot in edgewise, but mostly Ray just hogged all the fun. There was one time when a gribblin was wide open way off to the side while Ray was engaging another. Lucy carefully lined up the shot, but as soon as she let fly, Ray activated a movement skill and dodged straight into the path of her ice blast as he briefly slashed the gribblin she'd been aiming at before refocusing on the one he'd been murdering before. "Whoops, sorry Luce! Gotta draw aggro!"

The only times when Lucy actually had a chance to engage gribblins in combat were when, without fail, Ray would crouch down and loot the corpse of the gribblin he just killed, leaving Lucy wide open to whatever enemies were still standing. She'd always take the opportunity to lay into them, but of course because she was using a ranged attack, as soon as they closed she'd be reduced to either whacking them over the head with her wand or desperately running away as she tried to avoid getting beat into a pulp.

Then as soon as she got a little breathing space and turned around to hit the gribblin she'd been kiting, Ray would be back in her way.

Was this…fun? I was having a hard time understanding why Lucy was teaming up with this guy. It was blindingly obvious that she didn't actually want to play a ranged character. I was beginning to wonder if Ray had bullied her into the Sprite-born class in the first place, because both her stat allocations and the way she fought when he wasn't around argued that she really, really wanted to beat her enemies' faces in. But despite that, for everything except his advice about stats and skills she just meekly did whatever he said.

It was weird.

Though come to think of it, they got pretty physical back when I was stuffed down Lucy's front, didn't they? So maybe they were in a relationship? Wait, was Lucy actually a girl?

Although I guess that still wasn't guaranteed. No reason two guys couldn't get chummy with one of them using a female avatar. Or two girls for that matter. I had literally no idea how physical intimacy worked in this full-body virtual environment; maybe being all up in one another's business was normal, regardless of whether or not folks had a relationship in the real world. Being stuck in the game and unable to communicate with anyone left me unable to answer that question.

Regardless, I hadn't seen Lucy interact with anyone other than NPCs and RayBanz in the entirety of her play sessions, so it seemed likely there was some level of exclusive relationship between her and Ray. It was a mystery, and unfortunately watching them ineptly slaughter gribblins wasn't giving me many opportunities to solve it.

Oh well. Mostly I only cared because it was obvious that while RayBanz was around I was never going to get anywhere with my own goal of growing bigger.

At last we made it to the dungeon they'd been shooting for and went inside, where the combat dynamic that had dominated things outside was even worse because the walls of the dungeon made it impossible for Lucy to maneuver even the little bit that Ray had permitted her in the forest.

Ban-man kept slaughtering every gribblin we came across while Lucy continued to uselessly blast him in the back with her wand, and eventually we made it to the dungeon boss's room. As best I could tell, they were on a quest to clear this dungeon out by defeating the head gribblin. I vaguely remembered doing this one at some point, but the details escaped me. Ever since I'd discovered the joy of skill-building back when I was still struggling with the idea of whether I should try to rely on my stream for income, I hadn't paid much attention to the starting quests. It was easier to level up by defeating mobs on the way to the skills that I needed for whatever build I was working towards.

This particular boss was just another gribblin, albeit a larger-than-normal one who was backed up by a magic user. Amusingly, the head gribblin was wearing pants that looked a lot like the ones RayBanz had on, and the magic user had an ice wand, so it was a mirror match.

Given that I couldn't contribute anything, I settled back in a corner of the room, swung my arm up and down repeatedly, and watched the dysfunction unfold before me.

Ray was getting hammered. He must have been crafting his build around the dodge secondary stat, because he'd barely taken any damage from the gribblins up until now, but the boss gribblin started pounding him down as soon as one of the ice attacks from the mage nailed him. Dodge chance always started off as a low percentage, but then got modified up depending on the agility difference between the attacker and the defender, and ice attacks debuffed both the base dodge chance as well as the adjustment for agility. Not a good match-up for Mr. Banz.

Lucy clearly didn't know this, because she kept slinging her attacks at the boss gribblin.

"No, Luce, attack the mage!" Ray finally yelled in exasperation. So she did. Except that Ray evidently decided right then that he needed to attack the mage, too, and jumped directly in front of her attack. Uh, dude? You just asked her to focus fire on the mage, so maybe you should have waited on that?

The whole thing was just painful to watch. I needed to come up with some way to communicate with Lucy. Even getting stuck with a weapon she clearly didn't prefer, I was certain she could contribute more to combat. Plus she hadn't used a single skill, that I'd noticed. Sprite-born have a lot of crowd-control type skills thanks to their pollen skill series, and at level four she should have access to at least the first of those, Confusion Spores, which doesn't need line of sight to work; she could have fired that off right into Banz-butt and had it function perfectly.

In any case...but just then a Pa-keeng! interrupted my train of thought. Nice, another behavior point! I refocused on my arm swings, and…maaaaaybe I was a little closer to getting the flick outwards at the end of the movement? I'd been trying to figure out what was preventing me from opening the inventory, and aside from the horrifying possibility that I had to open it differently than a player character, I hadn't been able to come up with much other than that outwards flick. My stubby little excuses for arms were not exactly precision instruments, particularly compared to human hands. Never thought I'd miss opposable thumbs so much, not that there was anything I wanted to pick up.

I took a short break from swiping my arm up and down and focused on the end of my arm, trying to force it to bend one way or another. It was hard to say for sure, but I think it was actually moving a little more than it had before the behavior point. Maybe the ability to move my body was tied more closely to stats than would be the case for a player? It was also possible that growing larger had improved my physical control, of course. I shot a glare towards Ray, who was engaged in running around in a circle with the boss gribblin chasing after him while he tried to chug a potion. Ha ha, okay that was amazing. I hadn't thought about the fact that potions would actually need to be drunk instead of just clicking on it and having the effects instantly applied.

Oh man, and now he'd stumbled over an uneven part of the floor and the potion was all down his front. Aha ha, was he ever ploinked over that!

Lucy had run forward, evidently on pure instinct, because she suddenly paused in obvious uncertainty, then fired off a perfect ice blast into the back of the pursuing gribblin boss, who slowed as the freeze status triggered. That gave RayBanz the chance to pull a second health potion out and chug it.

Meanwhile, the magic user nailed Lucy with one of its ice blasts. Thankfully, the freeze effect didn't trigger this time, and Lucy whirled around and stabbed the gribblin in the throat with the pointy end of her wand.

Which…evidently counted as an attack, because the thing collapsed! Bloppata-kee! Oh nice, a level-up! Even better, Mr. Banzie was still occupied with the boss gribblin, which meant that Lucy dashed over to try and help him, leaving the corpse of the magic user just lying there. I hustled my way over and gave that sucker a quick peck with my beak. Blech! Tasted like frozen mud pies. Sa-woop! But I couldn't argue with results!

RayBanz finally succeeded in killing off the boss gribblin. "Nice work, Ray!" Lucy fawned. Please, Lucy, if he had two brain cells to rub together you two could have taken these gribblins without breaking a sweat. It was depressing to see her all impressed over that idiot.

"Well, did you get any loot from the mage?" asked Ray, as he bent down to poke at the boss gribblin's corpse.

"Oh, uh…" Lucy glanced over where the magic user had been, only to find an ever-so-slightly larger me standing looking excessively innocent. "I guess it didn't have anything."

"Oh well, not like a low-level dungeon is going to drop anything very good, anyway."

"But I did hit level 5!"

"Excellent, maybe now we can finally do something fun!"

Wow, what a duffle. I'd shuffled over their way once it was obvious I wasn't going to be blamed for the mysterious disappearance of the mage gribblin, and Lucy's grin sure looked forced to me. Don't worry, Lucy, at least I…well, okay, yeah, that wasn't much fun for any of us, huh?

"Alright, let's head back to town, and then I'll head out and let you can allocate your stat points, maybe pick up one of the base Sprite-born classes while you're at it. You haven't visited any of the trainers yet, either, right? Probably couldn't hurt to get some skills to go along with that ice attack."

So, since it was RayBanz who said it, of course that's what we did.

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A note from EO Tenkey

How does dodge chance in a world where to all intents and purposes you're physically inhabiting the body of your character work, anyway? Mr. Familiar, you're asking all the wrong questions!


About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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