It took an embarrassingly long time, but the final wraith at last dropped to Lucy's ice wand and she limped into the now-abandoned mausoleum and retrieved the ingredients that the blacksmith had said he would need to craft her "war hammer", whatever that was. I wasn't entirely clear on why this mausoleum or crypt or whatever it was had been constructed in the middle of the woods—especially on the home turf of the Sprite-born, Those Who Construct Buildings In Trees—but whatever. I wasn't sure if it was possible to get tired in a virtual environment, but Lucy sure looked like she was wiped out after all her scampering around. I hadn't been counting, but it felt like we'd circumnavigated the woods at least a dozen times. I'd even earned another behavior point with some fancy flying around the trees just before Lucy offed the final wraith! I wasn't certain, but it seemed like I was more likely to gain behavior points for successfully completing actions that I hadn't previously performed.
I figured that flying alongside Lucy as she shlepped back toward the Sprite-born capital was as good a time as any to test that hypothesis, but knowing that I needed to try something new and actually coming up with something new were two different things.
I thought back over my last few…days? Play sessions? I honestly had no idea how much time had passed. That was a bit distressing, now I thought about it. On the plus side, I seemed to be getting the same benefits from being unconscious while Lucy logged out that I would from a night's sleep. Or else exhaustion just wasn't something that affected cosmetic companion animals. Huh. Wonder which it was?
Not that it mattered, and I was getting off track. Thinking back, there weren't a lot of things that I'd tried but failed at that had obvious practical appeal as skills to master, since the vast majority of stuff I'd been practicing recently was flying-related. Although, my disastrous attempt to perch on the side of that wagon sprang to mind…maybe I could practice perching?
I surveyed the surrounding countryside. Not a lot of perch-able targets within range of Lucy, sadly, especially not with her actively moving down the road. I supposed I could test at the blacksmith, though maybe…could I fit on Lucy's shoulder? It was a moving target, and I was bigger than I used to be, but diddly; being able to perch somewhere on her instead of needing to beg like a pudgy, fluffy toddler would be sooooo nice.
Eh, nothing ventured, nothing gained!
I circled around behind Lucy, took aim at her shoulder, back-stroked as I came in for a landing to try and cut my speed at the last minute, oriented my talons about where I thought her shoulder would be—and bounced right off her, sailed tail-over-head down her front, somehow managed to land directly on her foot as she swung it forward to take a step, and ended up getting punted straight forward far enough that I bounced off the invisible barrier before crash-landing in the dirt.
Pa-keeng! I had the feeling that wasn't the behavior point that I was aiming for.
"What the—! Fluffy-kins, are you alright?" Lucy knelt down and picked me up. "If you wanted a carry, you could have just told me, silly-face!"
No, I didn't want you to carry me! Why would I swoop down at you from behind if that's what I wanted?
She picked me up, but I squirmed and kicked. I wasn't going to improve if I couldn't practice, diddle it!
"Don't want to be carried? Okay, okay, grumpy-gus! There you go." She tossed me back up in the air, and resumed walking, smiling to herself as I regained a little altitude and started looping around her again.
Okay, so that didn't work at all, but I think it was because I was going too fast. My absurdly roly-poly body basically behaved like some sort of plush-covered bouncy ball whenever I collided with anything, and my legs weren't exactly adept at grabbing onto stuff since I'd…never…practiced that at all. Hmm. So, multiple points of failure here. I tried to intentionally grip my talons as I flew, which made me wobble a bit as my focus shifted away from flying, but seemed to be working? Not that I could see my own feet to be sure. Pretty sure it was working; it certainly felt weird. Like gripping with my hands, except they were my feet. I was getting the strange feeling that I had a little insight into how chimpanzees felt. Well. Chimpanzees who were incredibly obese and lacking actual hands. Wonder if I could manipulate anything with my feet? Maybe if I figured out perching—and lifting off—I could start grabbing stuff. That would actually open up a lot of doors for me.
Not literal doors, of course. I doubted I'd be able to grab a door-knob unless I got some serious flying ninja skills.
In any case, I took another couple passes around behind Lucy and then swooped toward her shoulder before pulling back up and circling by to get the timing down. Thankfully, she didn't seem to mind me buzzing her, and didn't try to snatch me out of the air or anything.
Alright, time for attempt number two! I looped around behind her again, tilted down to swoop toward her shoulder, pulled up at the last minute, and as soon as I felt something near my talons I gripped!
I almost overbalanced and face-planted for the second time, but I didn't! As I wobbled back and forth and swung my arms around—I may or may not have whacked her in the head with one—she reached up and stuck a hand on my belly to balance me.
"Whoa, whoa there! Oh, you were trying to perch on my shoulder?"
I rotated my body to look over at her and found a giant eye staring into my own. Aaah, freaky! I still wasn't bigger than her head, so her face was pretty intimidating up close like this. But I did it! I got that behavior point! I raised an arm high and pumped it down.
"Ah ha ha, yeah you did a great job there! You want to try it again?"
Heck yes I did!
"Sure thing, girl. Here you go!" She plucked me from her shoulder and tossed me back into the air.
Okay, that pretty much clinched it. I was reasonably certain that I was gaining physical behavior points—probably Agility—when I performed new physical skills. I was likely gaining Intellect when I successfully communicated with Lucy. And maybe Strength or Endurance when I—er—collided with stuff.
I still wasn't sure how those stats were going to be useful for me, of course, but I finally felt like I was getting a handle on how to gain them. I wondered if Endurance was something I only gained when I made a mistake, or if I could grind it by running into things intentionally? Though given that I never seemed to suffer damage, maybe grinding that particular stat wasn't all that useful. Plus I probably only had 100 behavior points to work with, if the limits were anything like for the player characters. Yeah, I'd try to minimize my collisions for a bit and focus on getting my Agility high enough that I could open my diddly interface.
I supposed maybe Intellect would be useful for that, too, which was just as well. I really didn't want to try to cut down on my already supremely-limited ability to communicate with Lucy.
I got in lots of good practice at flying in to perch on Lucy's shoulder on the remaining walk to the blacksmith, but unfortunately didn't unlock any additional behavior points in the interim. Oh well. So it went. While Lucy chatted with the blacksmith—what parts of his dialog tree did she even have to still explore?—I considered my next steps. I suspected that Lucy wasn't going to be playing for very much longer, and I was drawing a blank on what I could do to gain more points within the confines of the blacksmith's shop. Maybe I'd work on my Interface Opening Calisthenics.
I practiced a few tip-of-the-arm curls, did some vertical swipes, and just for kicks tried the interface opening movement which of course—HOLY FLICK IT WORKED!
Without a lick of fanfare, an interface—my interface—jumped into view in front of me:
|Messages (2) →|
Huh, well that was a pretty abbreviated set of menu options. No inventory or equipment, which was a bit of a downer. And of course no "Log Out", although I was expecting that. What really bummed me out was that "Skills" was grayed out, and there was no "Help" option. Oh well. I'd figured things out on my own up until now, and at least this meant I could probably unlock skills at some point.
I was curious about my two messages, but I wanted to see what I was working with first. I whapped "Character" with my arm. Thankfully it worked.
|Name: Mr. Familiar||Species: Peck-Peck|
|Main Class: --||Sub Classes: --, --|
Evidently my name was "Mr. Familiar"? What the hinterlands? Ugh, that had to be the work of that poor excuse for a deity who got me into this mess. It had his awful, alliterative fingerprints all over it. Just use my flicking real name! Who cares? Also, I'm not a familiar! I'm a companion animal! What a ploink-off.
And speaking of my species, apparently I was…a Peck-Peck. Yeeeeeeah, so I was just going to pretend I never saw that. Moving on.
|Level: 6||Stat points: 12|
|Cuteness: 10||Flexibility: 20|
|Expressiveness: 13||Plushitude: 10|
WHAT THE FLICK WAS WITH THESE STATS?! Cuteness? Expressiveness? Plushitude?! That wasn't even a word! And I only had 12 available points to spend? I mean, I figured my level was synched up to Lucy's, but if I were a normal character I'd be getting 4 points to spend per level! Was I only getting two, or had they somehow gotten automatically spent? This was the worst!
Actually, no, back up, that wasn't the worst. What the flicking hinterlands was plushitude? Argh, that bugged me SO MUCH! I mean, yeah, I was disappointed at having fewer stat points, but it was these utterly inane statistics that were driving me up a—
"Oh, cool, there's a new character screen for you, Fluff-kins! I wonder what unlocked it."
What? I glared up at Lucy looming overhead, my mind still caught up on the insult to my soul that was "plushitude". She had her interface open and appeared to be looking at…exactly the same screen that was currently floating in front of me. Wait, what? She gets to see my stats, too?
"Mr. Familiar?! Oh no, and here I always thought you were a girl! Sorry, Fluff-kins!"
You're still going to call me Fluff-kins, though?!
"Huh, looks like your level is the same as mine. Oh, and you've got some stat points to spend. Huh, what is this? Plushitude? Ah ha ha, that's amazing!"
Wait. Ohhhhh no. I had a really bad feeling about this. I whipped my incredulous gaze away from Lucy and started to reach for my interface, straining to allocate my stat points to literally anything other than plushitude, but before my eyes my available stat points started dropping at a prodigious rate. Nooooooooo! Udder flicking son of a mountain goat! WHY WOULD YOU START MIN-MAXING NOW?!
|Name: Mr. Familiar||Race: Peck-Peck|
|Main Class: --||Sub Classes: --, --|
|Level: 6||Stat points: 0 (-12)|
|Cuteness: 10||Flexibility: 20|
|Expressiveness: 13||Plushitude: 22 (+12)|
I collapsed backward, the interface seamlessly rotating so that it remained in front of my face. I can't even…what…seriously, this is the worst.
"Aw, it's not so bad, Fluff-kins! You don't mind if I keep calling you that, right? Look, you've got so…much…plushitude!" She punctuated her words by picking my limp body up off the ground and giving me a biiiiiig hug.
|Expressiveness: 14 (+1)||Plushitude: 22|
I hate you so much right now.