28 Daring Done, Part Two
The second my body can move at full speed, I race over to the Demon Boss. Every Boss experiences a slight delay after a next-stage transformation that creates a tiny window for enterprising (suicidal) players. I use it now to begin a False Chain of martial arts attacks.
Since these attacks aren't all moves from the same form (or even the same martial arts disciplines) they don't count as a real combo, but as long they continue to land without an opponent's counterattack also landing, the system allows varying percentages of the combo skill bonuses.
Two lightning-fast head kicks to the jaw knock the oni's snarling face back. Blood and spittle fly everywhere. (Taekwondo.)
A spinning leg sweep knocks the off-kilter demon to his knees. He's still head and shoulders taller than me, but it's a manageable difference now. (Karate.)
I use a series of quick jabs and hard crosses to keep his head spinning. (Boxing.)
When the Boss brings his hands up, instinctively, to block his face, I lock onto his meaty right wrist, use my entire body weight to pull and twist, then combine an elbow down and knee up to knock the giant spiked club out of his claw. It clatters to the ground, taking out a chunk of mosaic with it.
(. . .Female Self-Defense Seminar Xiuying made me take in middle school.)
(She took Advanced Muay Thai next door.)
There's a sweet hack in Viren's Refuge I stumbled across back in the beta: during PvE combat, any equipment or weapons you can force the mob to drop during battle, you can wear or wield regardless of stat or level difference. The bummer is, once you leave Combat, if the item wasn't intended to be a system drop, it will just disappear into an explosion of particles.
On the bright side, it means that right now, when I grab the handle of the massive spiked club of death, I can lift it like it weighs no more than a baseball bat.
The thing is twice as long as I am, so it's difficult to wield. It also slows my movement and attack speeds the same percentage it slows the Oni no Gekido Boss.
I hate weapons with speed reduction side effects.
Still, I manage to thwack the oni upside the head and deal 3000 damage, so that's pretty satisfying.
I start my own lumbering journey toward the next still-standing lantern, significantly less rage-filled than Mr. Stanky Wrath. Now free of the heavy weapon, the oni moves way faster, however, and I know he's going to catch me before I can destroy the lanterns. I call Whistling Starfall out of weapon storage, and when the Oni leaps into the air to smash me with his fists, I spin and hit him with Comet Burst.
The epic explosion knocks him higher into the air, roaring his guts out, and I do some quick mental math to determine my perfect position. I ready my stance, put away the dart to hold the club two-handed, and. . .
I time my swing to hit him right before he lands, and smack him flying back across the arena.
"Hells yes! Take that, you rancid oaf!"
Humming Take Me Out to the Ballgame, I sedately make my way to the sixth lantern. I don't have the club-related Skills of the Boss, so I can't one-hit obliterate the lanterns. But I'm a patient guy. Especially when I get to smack the shit out of things with a giant-ass spiky stick.
"With a WHACK!, two, WHACK! strikes you're out," I sing quietly as I take two big hits, "at the WHACK! ball KA-THWACK!!!" and then another two before finally destroying the flaming stone pillar.
By this time, stinky Boss man is back in action, so I throw the club towards the next pillar to regain my agility, and start attacking with Whistling Starfall. Headshot after headshot interrupts all claw Skills the Boss tries to use, and I Dodge his wild swings, his jump attacks, and all flying debris. I'm focusing with everything I've got...and everything I've got turns out to be a metric fuckton of awesomeness!
This is insane! I'm taking in enough data to overload most players,and I'm barely breaking a metaphorical sweat. It's not that I suddenly know things I didn't before, or that I can somehow move in ways I'd never thought possible. It's more like I'm simply thinking and moving as fast and accurately as I can, constantly.
Looking back, every thought, every decision since I re-logged in, I've implemented them perfectly and immediately. I've essentially been in the Zone since I first engaged this Boss!
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When I've maneuvered the Oni as far away as possible, I Sprint back to the club, heave it up, and with another four hits, smack the seventh lantern into smithereens. Then I duck to avoid another claw swipe, throw the club towards the next lantern, and start dart-throwing and dodging all over again. I get enough distance to pull some raw stamina foods from Item Storage and chow down, while still Headshotting snarling Boss dude.
Is this what that S-Prime Solution allows?
Does the upgraded solution make it possible to push your brain to its limits without the immediate mental fatigue? My dopamine and adrenaline levels must be through the roof right now, but I'm feeling no pain. Instead, I'm in the Zone, easy as you please. No time passes between thought and action. All actions in VR are thought; there are no real muscles that must be activated.
I repeat the same general formula to take down lantern eight, and then freeze as the Final Stage animation plays.
[Thank you for your bravery, Erebus.]
'No prob.' I mentally shrug at the floaty-whisper voice. The Kodama sounds like wind rustling through leaves, if that could make words.
[With one final strike, the Oni shall be forced to leave this plane.]
'Sorry about him, by the way. Pretty sure he's only wrecking your shrine because I killed so many creepy bastards on the way here.'
As a Spirit of the Forest, the Kodama might also be pissed about that, come to think of it.
[I am not angry! I am grateful! You have helped rid this forest of the evil spirits roaming among the trees and turning the land to darkness. Even the sacred gates were being desecrated.]
Bleh. Gross oil babies.
[Now, once the demon leaves this place, I will have time to prepare the forest for his eventual return.]
[Yes, now that he knows the richness of this place, he will return. I know I will not survive our next encounter, but with this extra time afforded us, my people will stand a chance.]
'What. You're going to die if you face this dude again?' I frown.
[When you have grown stronger, Hero Erebus, you will be able to finally destroy this Oni who leads the horde of darkness. But be warned, he will have amassed a much greater army of vengeful spirits by then, so the path will not be so easy.]
Ah, tit monkey. I don't wanna deal with all the nasty, creepy monsters and dead babies again.
'Orrrr...I could just kill the dude now.'
What then? The game would have to come up with a different Chain Quest, yo!
[Impossible! He is too powerful for your current feeble form!]
I turn to check out Stage Three Boss dude. It's...not great. He's doubled in size, turned all black, flames are shooting out of his eyes, and he's got a new weapon (death scythe, good for slicing heads). Plus, his old club disintegrates in my hand, leaving me with only the crazy Cursed blades as viable weapons, and once I draw them, I can't change my mind and just destroy the final lantern.
It's his death, or mine, and given the givens, it most definitely means mine.
So it's stupid, no way I can kill the Wrath Demon, he still has 30,000 HP to my 200 and change, he's got 17 levels on me, and I have no idea how long this upgrade will allow me stay in the Zone before the serious mental crash I feel must be inevitable.
On the other hand, Aku says, "Let's kill him, slice him to pieces, yes, it will be fun!" and that's a damn compelling argument.
I do two quick hand seals and call forth Zen'aku. The silver-white Zen blade sings and blazes bright in the face of Evil Baddie Bossman, and void-black Aku releases his memories of death as screaming cries of anguish and terror. It's his way of cheering me up. I'm oddly touched.
Gripping both blades tight, grinning like a maniac, my own battle cry melds with Zen'aku's, and together, we charge forth to wreck this demon up.