Mr. Familiar

by

EO Tenkey

Quest 14: Mr. Familiar Places a Tall Order

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The longer I watched Lucy and Ray adventure together, the more obvious it became that if preserving my existence required Lucy to have fun playing Born Again Online, RayBanz was my sworn enemy. Lucy was all but completely checked out at this point; she was going through the motions of trying to attack enemies, but although I doubted Ray was intentionally preventing her from participating in combat, the way he jumped around from enemy to enemy made it almost impossible for her to get off a shot in edgewise. Even if I hadn't seen her in action playing solo, I would have known she was bored out of her skull. Whenever Ray finally turned back to her, she visibly pulled herself together and did a complete mood 180, though. It was super aggravating to watch.

I was reasonably confident that I knew the reason for her apathy towards playing with Ray, of course. From what I'd seen, Lucy just wanted to bash stuff's face in. Ranged combat simply wasn't her jam, and despite the lip service that she paid to Ray's advice, I'd never actually seen her take the skills or stats that he recommended. She had a plan, and she was sticking to it—even if she was apparently not willing to confront Ray directly.

Granted, it was a stupid plan, but I probably needed to do less judging and more figuring out how to guide her toward a character that would be fun for her to play.

Yet that, of course, was the trouble. While I enjoyed a good, non-conformist skill build as much as the next person, I still wasn't entirely convinced that Lucy's plan extended further than, "Smashing stuff is fun!" She mostly appeared to want to keep her stats as evenly distributed as possible, and focus on skills and equipment that would get her into face-bashing range. I grudgingly had to admit that was working out better for her than I would have expected, but at least if she stuck around in the Sprite-born starting area, it wasn't going to last. There simply weren't that many melee-oriented skill trainers, and the equipment drops were mainly targeted at ranged damage-dealers; combine those two facts, and that meant that Lucy would be struggling in solo play sooner rather than later.

That being the case, I had a few things I would need to try and finagle: I needed to guide Lucy toward an area with skill trainers more in line with her desired play style; I needed to encourage her to either ditch Banz-boy or else swap out the ice wand in favor of a weapon she'd actually enjoy; and I needed to push her towards getting a class that would allow her to continue to grow instead of plateauing her melee damage potential.

All without being able to directly communicate with her.

Flick, this was a tall order, huh?

Hmmmmmmm.

Come to think, traveling somewhere else would necessarily require her to ditch Sir Banzy, since he was dead-set on his plan to groom her into the perfect ranged backup for his silly dodge-based frontline build. So the first goal was almost wholly reliant on the second, but realistically, unless I could figure out a way to actually talk to Lucy I didn't think I was going to have any luck getting her to leave Ray's party.

Actually, wasn't the problem that RayBanz was the only player she interacted with? I'd never actually seen her talk to anyone else. I'd have to keep an eye out for opportunities to shove her at other players. Maybe I could fly into her face to get her attention and then lead her towards someone suitable looking? I couldn't guarantee that some random stranger would be any less bad than Ray, of course, but given that Ray was basically rock bottom…yeah, it seemed to me that the odds of that working out somewhat positively were pretty high. Plus having interaction with other players might broaden her horizons and encourage her to push back against Mr. I Know Best About Everything.

I also had some hope that when she'd saved enough money for her hammer, she might assert herself with Ray and join him on the front lines. I imagined that would go a long way toward making play sessions with him fun instead of agonizingly boring and useless.

Okay, so I had some long-term goals. I'd also try to keep an eye out for areas with units that were really satisfying to fight at melee range, although I was pessimistic I'd remember anything like that in the Sprite-born starting zone since personally I usually went with range damage dealers of one sort or another when I'd played Sprite-born.

As for classes…were there even any class trainers for Sprite-born who offered melee-oriented classes? I might just have to leave that one up to Lucy for a while. Typically the tutorials would push people into a one of the standard classes around level 5, so since Lucy hadn't gone that route I was guessing she was holding out for something more exotic. I wasn't sure where she'd find something like that in the Sprite-born starting zone, but maybe she'd surprise me. Heck, I certainly hadn't seen the "build me a hammer" quest coming. Since I couldn't recall any non-standard class trainers off the top of my head, I'd just to keep my eyes open for those, as well.

Frustrating. I could remember all sorts of things about skills and where to learn them, but I'd never paid as much attention to classes and class trainers. If I was aiming for a specific class, I'd usually just look up where the trainers were located and travel there directly instead of trying to find trainers in non-standard locations.

Oh well; no sense beating myself up about it.

Rather than worrying about things that I couldn't control, it was time to start working on the things that I might be able to control.

I needed to work on my communication skills.


Watching Lucy and Ray's dysfunctional excuse for party-based combat was just too painful. It was time to test out communicating with Lucy more directly. At the moment they were battling a mob of gribblins in the forest; personally, I would have abandoned this area after the first dungeon, but Ray was evidently a completionist. On the plus side, they were pushing far enough into the woods now that the number of gribblins was pretty high, and since there were more of them about battles tended to attract more gribblins which in turn drew the battle out.

Ray was still completely ignoring Lucy right up until she tried to flank enemies, at which point he'd yell at her to stay behind him. However, I'd noticed something as I pondered what Lucy would enjoy: the trees in this area seemed like they'd be pretty easy to climb. Something that was obvious in retrospect but I hadn't really thought about until I figured out how to fly was that moving just a couple feet upwards drastically changed how far I could see—and what I could see over people's heads. As best I could figure out, physical objects in-game typically behaved similarly to their real-world counterparts, and the character movement was all actual movement, not canned animations. Albeit presumably driven by the player's brain somehow. I was super curious about the technology, but with no way to ask about it that curiosity wasn't likely to be assuaged anytime soon.

In any case, I'd noticed that when Ray or Lucy walked up stairs, they actually stepped on top of the steps like you'd normally do in real life. I suspected this meant that there was robust physics simulation going on, which in turn argued that player characters should be perfectly capable of climbing a tree. And I had just the tree; there was one a little behind Lucy but still well within range of the mob of gribblins Ray was currently engaged with that had an easy-to-reach branch with another branch above it around head height. If she could pull herself up onto the first branch, I figured she could hold the upper one with one hand for stability while she wielded her wand in the other, and she'd finally have line of sight to her enemies.

But could I communicate that plan to her? Only one way to find out.

I'd been standing on the ground, and I didn't want to waste time trying to figure out launching myself into the air, so I just waddled over to Lucy.

She didn't notice me. I whacked her on the leg a few times with my arm, which she continued to fail to notice. I moved around in front of her and pecked her in the shin repeatedly.

"Wha—what are you doing Fluff-kins?"

Success! Attention procured. I waddled away from her, stopped, and looked pointedly back.

She was looking at me with a face that might have well had "Dur, what?" printed on her forehead.

Well, repetition is the mother of learning and all that. I waddled back her way, pecked her on the leg once, then repeated my waddle, stop, and look back routine.

"You want me to follow you?"

Yes! Cheep!

I really wish that I could nod, but since I was all head that was likely to cause me to faceplant. I guess cheeping sufficed in this particular instance. Maybe if I kept it up, she'd pick up on the pattern. Being able to answer yes/no questions could come in handy.

"Well, Ray doesn't really want me to move, but I guess if we're not going far…"

Whoo, success! Pa-keeng! Yeah, thanks game. Guarantee that was an Expressiveness point, though I didn't have time to check just then.

Alright, now for the tricky part. I successfully led Lucy to the tree I wanted, and looked pointedly between her and the lower branch, but she just stood there staring at me expectantly. Come on, you're a Sprite-born, aren't you? Aren't they all about climbing trees?

Guess not. I waddled close to her and lifted up my arms.

"Now you want me to pick you up?"

Yes, diddle it! Cheep!

"Okay." She picked me up. Boy, she really was bored with Ray, huh? She hadn't glanced over at his battle once, and fortunately he was having a rough enough time that he hadn't noticed her dereliction of duty.

I squirmed a bit and succeeded in launching myself out of her arms, made a quick circuit of the tree, and successfully perched on the branch before staring Lucy down.

"If you just wanted to fly to a tree, you could have done it from over there, silly-puss."

No, no, no! Cheep cheep!

I launched myself from the branch, flew a tight circle around Lucy's head, and then returned to the branch. Pa-keeng! Yeah, that was a pretty bit of fancy flying, wasn't it, game?

"Uhhh—"

Yeah, she wasn't getting it. I repeated my back and forth routine.

"Do you want me to climb up in that tree?"

Yes! Success! Cheep! Way to go, Lucy, I knew you weren't completely thick!

"Well, okay, I guess. It doesn't look like Ray really needs much help right at the moment."

It took a little fumbling around, but Lucy eventually succeeded in pulling herself up onto the tree branch, where she sat. Uh, no. I was hoping you'd…

"Oh, hey, I can see the things Ray's fighting from up here! Nice, I think I can actually shoot some for once!"

Well, whatever. Close enough.

Pa-keeng! Game thought so, too, evidently.

Lucy let off a few shots with her ice wand, successfully contributing to the defeat of the gribblins for the first time this play session and returning to her standard, animated self.

The look of confusion on Ray's face when he turned around and saw her sitting up in a tree was pure icing on the cake.

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A note from EO Tenkey

Most lit-RPG protagonists: "Aw heck yes, I just gained a totally broken unique skill that's going to give me a definitive advantage over everyone I encounter for the next several hundred pages!"

Mr. Familiar: "Aw heck yes, I just convinced someone to climb a tree!"

...What is even going on here.


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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