I faded into being and immediately threw myself at Lucy for my "don't leave me" hugs. Lucy had apparently lost track of time with all of our boss solo-ing and subsequent quest turn-in shenanigans, and had logged out as soon as she finished her shopping and realized what time it was. I covertly checked the date while she was giving me a big hug. Thankfully it had only been a couple days since her last play session. Phew!
Once she was done hugging me, Lucy set me down and popped open her messages. "Oh, hey, Blocadoc got back to me! Sounds like she's off adventuring quite a ways away, but she says one of her friends wants to meet you, Fluff-kins."
Right, I vaguely recalled that Blocadoc had some computer science-y friends who were interested in machine intelligence or something. Drat, and I hadn't checked in with Witchy about whether that was safe.
Especially troubling because if they were a friend of Blocadoc, then they doubtless already knew I was a far cry from your standard companion animal. I guess there wasn't much I could do about that—after all, if not for Blocadoc then I might not have achieved the level of communication with Lucy that I currently enjoyed—and hopefully the lure of academic notoriety would protect me to some extent. I didn't think it was likely that Blocadoc's friends would sell me out to the game moderators, although I might be in trouble long-term if they decided to write a paper on me or something.
I'd just have to play it by ear and hope Lucy didn't spill all my secrets to some stranger.
Yeaaaaah. That was definitely going to work out.
Now afflicted with a lingering sense of foreboding, I tossed myself into the air and followed after Lucy as she headed into town.
Nothing much of note happened in our play session that day; after scrounging up a few side quests, Lucy went traipsing around the immediate area handily defeating every enemy she came across. I barely ever had a chance to step in; the enemies were low enough level that she was one-hit-killing virtually everything. She seemed to enjoy it, though, and it was admittedly restful after that crazy fifth story quest. I'd have preferred to look for slightly more level-appropriate tasks, but she wasn't asking me about that so what could a bird do?
Eventually, she'd had her fill of side quests, and logged off.
She logged in a few days later, and at first it looked like I was in for more of the same. After the first couple of side quests, however, Lucy stopped what she was doing and popped open her messages.
"Well, look at that! Blocadoc's friend has apparently created a new character and wants to meet up! Let's see, apparently they're a Bunyip-born and are working their way through the tutorial quests in the Bunyip-born starting town, so maybe we should go to them! Hm, where is that, anyway…" Lucy popped open her map and started poking around, but I could have told her the Bunyip-born starting town was—"Oh wow, that's a long way off! I was hoping we could get there today, but it's way down south."
Yeah, there. I vaulted my way into the air, made a tight turn, and lit on her shoulder to look at the map.
"Think we can make it, Fluff-kins?"
Well, it was a bit of a schlep, but Lucy was level 10 now, and her combat capability was probably closer to level 12 or 15, just based on the fact that we soloed that plorg chieftain boss. Hm, and if that Willington character was still stalking her, he'd be back in the Sprite-born starting town.
Yeah, this idea wasn't so bad. Cheep!
"Alright, then, it's time for a road trip!"
Typically, folks would want to prepare for a long trip through higher-level areas, so Lucy of course teleported to Fountain Town—I never did catch the actual name of the place—and then immediately set off into the forest.
Oh, well, I suppose she stocked up on healing potions after the boss fight. We'd probably be fine.
I wasn't sure how long this trip would take. In the old computer version of the game, everything was pretty close together, but I'd noticed that traveling took more time in this full-immersion variant. I couldn't recall if Blocadoc had said how long her trip from the Yakshi-born starting town took, but this should at least be shorter than that; the Yakshi-born were almost as far away from the Sprite-born as you could get, while the Bunyip-born starting area only had the Golem-born and Oni-born starting zones between it and the Sprite-born. And maybe not even both of those; depending on how closely we could skim toward the center of the continent, we might be able to bypass at least one of those zones. Probably the Oni-born area, based on my quick gander at the map from Lucy's shoulder.
There wasn't much of interest to see in our initial stint of traveling. A few lushes, a few gribblins, but otherwise just pretty standard Sprite-born forest. Lucy bypassed a small town rather than get bogged down in NPC conversations and side quests, which I heartily approved of, and ended up logging out after we'd only covered about a quarter of the distance between the Sprite-born starting zone and the Golem-born borders. This was going to take longer than I'd expected.
Over the next two play sessions, we gradually made our way south out of the Sprite-born forests, and the terrain became more rocky with low-lying scrub rather than the heavy forests I'd become used to. Several small canyons required us to navigate out of our way to find bridges or places we could climb down and then back up on the other side.
On the plus side, the enemy mobs finally started to get a bit more varied. The main low-level mob for the Golem-born lands was a maniacal, flesh-eating goat-like thing called a chupa. Individually, they were a lot stronger than a gribblin, but since they tended to travel alone or in pairs, Lucy was typically able to fight them off without taking too much damage. I only tried to peck one; they were as bad as the plorgs.
Mid-way through Lucy's fourth play session, we came across the steepest canyon yet, which presented us with a quandary.
Lucy stood near the edge and stared down at the river that wended its way along the bottom of the canyon. The place wasn't Grand Canyon impressive, by any means, but it was still pretty deep, with sides that were steep enough they didn't look easily scalable.
"What do you think, Fluff-kins?" Lucy asked, pulling open her map. "I haven't filled in much of this, but it sure looks to me like we would need to travel all the way to the Golem-born starting town to find the easiest place to cross this monster." I was reasonably certain that was the case. "I suppose we could try to climb down, but that looks like a good way to fall to your death and force a costly respawn."
Yeah, it was a conundrum, all right. I wracked my brain, trying to remember if I'd ever needed to traverse this sucker. I hadn't played as Golem-born all that often; I just didn't find the Endurance races much fun. I seemed to recall that the canyon became easier to navigate the closer to the Golem-born starting area you traveled, though, so odds were good Lucy was, if not strictly correct, close enough that it didn't make much difference.
Heading the other way might work; I knew that the canyon didn't extend very far into the more dangerous central portion of the continent. However, the enemy levels would quickly skyrocket as we traveled in that direction.
"Well, what do you think? Left or right?"
Oh, I was making the decision? Well okay, then. Uh, so it was between a long, boring trip, or a probably shorter, but possibly terminally exciting one.
Yeah, that wasn't really a decision at all. I stuck out a wing.
"Left it is, then! Into the unknown!"
I'm sick of starter towns. Let's skirt the edges of the Gloaming proper.
Plus if we happened across any lower-level Gloaming mobs, maybe I'd get a chance to snack on them…
Lucy marched east, unaware of my gastronomic fantasies.