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Donnie

Location: The End
Word Count: 703
EXP: (18/60) + 4 (Overdrive) = 22/60


Donnie didn’t have much time to celebrate his shots hitting home (albeit at Tora’s expense) when he saw the dragon’s black tail swooping towards him out of his peripheral vision. He jammed the collective lever as hard is at would go, sending the Flying Machine up into the air...but he’d only managed to clear the dragon’s tail halfway when he heard a horrific tearing noise underneath him.

He looked down...and saw that he was only flying half a machine. The undercarriage had been ripped off completely, leaving no way to actually land the Flying Machine properly. And, to make matters worse, the fuel tank had been partially torn open, causing gasoline to rain from the bottom of the chassis.

The tail had struck diagonally upwards from the right, meaning that the Flying Machine was down its left engine too. Gravity began to take hold, sending the Flying Machine into a death spiral!

Donnie knew there was no way to save his autogyro. Without landing gear, in the middle of a fight, with the whole thing tilted downwards, it would only be good for salvage even if he tried his hardest to keep it aloft.

Thankfully, the remaining engine and the rotor on top were helping him maintain enough lift to slow his descent, giving him precious time to think. Risking a glance at the Dragon, he saw Jak going for a downwards slam of some kind. Hopefully that would ground the dragon, but it would complicate things.

He only had one shot at this, and he wanted to make the Dwarven Flying Machine’s swan song count for something before he bailed. It was already leaking fuel, and had a bunch of Boom Biters loaded in the chassis that thankfully hadn’t exploded. Two dangerous combustibles in one place.

And Tora might have given it a safety overhaul, but if there was one thing Donnie knew about Azerothian engineering, it was that if you knew a device well enough, you could always find a way to make it explode in a hurry.

He reached into the exposed wiring of the Flying Machine’s damaged components, thankful he was largely wearing leather armor with an insulated gambeson underneath, and quickly took the wire that led to the last remaining Drill Shield engine and hooked it up directly to the main battery, bypassing the resistors that would normally lower the current to something manageable.

Just as he suspected, he began to smell smoke as the wiring that led to the right engine began to fry under the increased current. Soon, an electrical fire broke out, and he knew he had to bail now..

“JAK!” he yelled. “GOT A SPECIAL DELIVERY! GET OUT OF THE WAY!” If Jak looked up, he would see a sparking, flaming Flying Machine spewing smoke, with one engine and its entire undercarriage outright ripped off, plummeting in a death spiral that would end in a collision course with the dragon’s head--and by extension, him. And Donnie had made sure that when it collided, true to most Azerothian technology, it would explode gloriously.

Donnie, for his part, wasn’t stupid. He’d packed a parachute just in case he had to bail. He was only about a hundred feet up, so there wasn’t enough time for the parachute to really slow his descent. The landing was a hard one. Not a lethal one, but he still yelled in pain as his right femur broke.

He couldn’t get a good look at the injury, what with the armor in the way, but casting Vivify once was enough to get the fracture to reset itself and mostly rejoin, and the torn muscle to heal, but he’d definitely still have some bruises left over and the bone wouldn’t be completely like new until at least another cast or two.

And he wouldn’t have that time, as the dragon would be feeling the impact of those attacks by now and it would be pissed. He got to his feet, ready to dodge whatever else the dragon had up its sleeve once it hit the ground, and respond in kind with a kick to the eye from his good leg. And with his new speed boost, dodging would hopefully be a cinch.
Over the last few weeks, Malg’s worst nightmare had come to life. As the droid was pushing a cart full of explosive charges with his two stronger arms, he looked down at that accursed black cylinder on his chest.

A restraining bolt. The most horrific torment a droid could be exposed to. With that damn thing on his chest, Malg was forced to do whatever his superiors wanted. If they wanted him to kill himself, he’d have no choice but to do that. He couldn’t raise a hand against them, and he was literally on remote-control. How they got these damn things to work with every droid in the galaxy was beyond him, but they were dangerously effective. He couldn’t even access any of the weapons locked in his body: The restraining bolt pried open all of his compartments on command. He’d been forced to give away all his equipment like a good little slave.

It was goddamn humiliating. The bastards had even put it right over the Republic symbol painted on his torso, as if to mock him.

With his two original arms, he tried in vain to reach the accursed device and rip it off, but it was like attempting to swim through solid rock. His arms simply refused to obey his commands, producing an effect like he was pushing against a brick wall. And so he obediently pushed the cart full of explosives that could go off at any moment.

He was a droid. Just because he built himself from scraps didn’t change that. Doing jobs too dangerous or menial for organics was supposed to be his lot in life.

Malg despised the very notion. His whole life, he had attempted to avoid this fate. He had risen from a legless, amnesiac droid in a planet-sized junk heap to a successful doctor with his own business on Tatooine, and then a respected combat medic.

Only for it all to be undone when he got himself captured like a fool. He remembered it clearly. A mission that had gone wrong, leading to his unit being slaughtered, and those that were left surrendering. Lots of blasters were pointed in their faces, and he’d had that damn restraining bolt slapped on him as soon as he’d gotten on the transport ship.

The Imperial slicers had gotten to work on him after that, poking and prodding at his systems in an attempt to glean as much information as they could. A memory wipe was deemed too dangerous: He was a junk droid, and as junk droids were notoriously unstable, they feared the memory wipe would drive him into a murderous rage that not even the restraining bolt would stave off. So they ransacked his memory for everything they could and then sent him to the work camps.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a tinny voice.

“You there, scrap droid! Move the cart faster!”

Malg stopped, turning his head to face the speaker. “I’m sorry, but would you rather I run into the cave and risk the dangerous explosives spilling all over the--”

“WHO SAID YOU COULD STOP PUSHING!?” the Imperial taskmaster screamed, running forward and smacking the droid with his stun baton. All the while, the restraining bolt on Malg’s chest attempted to make him follow his last order from a superior, forcing his body to attempt to keep pushing the cart...which failed miserably as thousands of volts of electricity coursed through his kludged-together systems, sending him to the ground.

This made Malg appear to struggle as he screamed, only leading the stormtrooper to keep hitting him more and more. Eventually, the restraining bolt itself temporarily shut down under the constant shocks to its systems. Malg was free, but wracked with pain, and finally stopped moving as a result.

The stormtrooper then screamed, “GET UP YOU LAZY BUCKET OF BOLTS! I’VE HAD WORSE THAN THAT IN BASIC TRAINING! GET BACK TO WORK!”

As Malg’s systems reeled from the shock of the glorified cattle prod he’d been beaten with repeatedly, the restraining bolt--a hardy piece of technology, given it was of Imperial make and explicitly meant to corral enemy droids when reprogramming was undesirable--came online once again.

His body got up. He didn’t. He wanted to stay on the ground. But the damn bolt made him get up.

As he pushed the cart away, he heard a fellow camp guard say something to the taskmaster.

“Was that really necessary? What if the electricity made the detonators go off?”

“A risk I had to take,” the taskmaster replied. “We have to exercise proper discipline in this camp. I can’t have a fucking droid mouth off to me. It might give the prisoners ideas.”

“Even so, he...kinda had a point--”

“No, he did not. Unlike you, I get this complaint a lot from inmates carting explosives, and I talked to the logistics guys. Those explosive compounds are stable. They won’t go off even if you shoot them with a blaster. You can only set them off by properly activating the detonator, putting in the access codes, and waiting a preset time. They’ll even refuse to detonate if an Imperial transponder is in the blast radius..”

Then, he screamed in Malg’s direction, “YOU HEAR THAT, JUNK DROID!? DON’T GIVE ME ANYMORE LIP ABOUT THOSE CHARGES EVER AGAIN OR YOU’LL GET WORSE THAN A STUN BATON!”

Yes, sir,” Malg replied curtly, carefully hiding the sheer venom he felt.

When that restraining bolt was off, he would never wear one again. He would make sure of it.
Donnie

Word Count: 566
EXP: (14/60) + 4 (Overdrive) = 18/60


And as the last crystal fell and Vivi disappeared, Donnie watched as his allies piled on top of the dragon. Donnie had an idea of what he was going to do.

Xuen’s teachings, ever since his loss to and imprisonment by the Mogu Emperor, ever since he had learned patience, were on when violence should be applied and when alternative methods should be sought. And one of those teachings dictated the removal of an opponent’s advantages.

If, it was said, violence cannot be avoided, an enemy may be willing to yield after being weakened, especially if their strengths are removed. And allowing an opponent to surrender was always the honorable choice.

The Ender Dragon, unfortunately, posed a threat merely by being one of Galeem’s Guardians. By the very fact that it drew breath, it enslaved the minds of the people. Its body was a localized nexus for Galeem’s power to flow through, to be distributed upon the inhabitants of the Land of Adventure.

The same principle, however, applied. Rather than seek to eliminate a foe as quickly as possible, support one’s allies and remove the opponent’s advantage.

And what was the key advantage a dragon had over their enemies? It wasn’t size, nor strength, nor claw or fang or magic.

It was flight.

Flight allowed a dragon to fry their enemies from the skies, dive from the heavens whenever they pleased, increase their speed such that they could avoid ranged attacks through sheer velocity.

Against an aerial opponent, always seek to bring them crashing down to the earth, even if you yourself could fly. If you could not fly, you were equal. If you could fly and no-one else could, then flight became your advantage over the enemy.

And so, Donnie flew above the Dragon, gripping the stick tightly even as it dropped a sea of acid on the island below.

This would be a difficult shot. His eyes narrowed. His breath stopped. He focused intently, like a marksman attempting to assassinate a tyrant.

He knew how fast these Boom Biters moved: Slightly slower than the average cannonball. It was no machine-gun, but it was fast enough for what he needed. As the dragon dashed forward, he lined up the arc not with where it was, but where it was going to be.

He squeezed the trigger ten times, rock-solid piloting skills and nerves of steel from a long career making sure the recoil didn’t make him miss.

The ten Boom Biters sailed through the air in a parallel series of arcs, moving from left to right across the dragon’s body.

The first shot would hit the dragon at the end of its left wing. The second in the center of its left wing. The third in where the left wing met the body. The fourth, fifth, and sixth across its back, near its kidneys and spine. The seventh where the right wing met the body. The eighth in the center of the right wing. The ninth at the tip of the right wing. And the tenth...well, screw it, that one was aimed for the back of its neck. Linkle had the head covered.

The Boom Biters were launched within milliseconds of each other. The system could barely keep up with how fast Donnie was firing.

When it was done, he let out the breath he’d been holding.

Please, dear Light let this work, he thought.
Sheet is possibly WIP. Malg is a very independent character, so I wasn't sure if I should give him any supporting characters to reflect his self-reliant nature. I already discussed with @FalloutJack that Malg and Singe would be connected, so maybe I can get away with listing her there? I'm not really sure.

@nitemare shape Lemme know what you think!

Donnie

Word Count: 1004
EXP: (8/60) + 6 = 14/60


It took a while for Donnie to process what he was seeing, once he made his way to the large island by Disc anyway.

That “boss.”

That was no ordinary raid boss.

That was a Light-forsaken dragon.

Dragons, on Azeroth, might as well be gods. Azeroth had pantheons within pantheons, on top of other pantheons, where almost every religion was true to some extent.

Dragons were powerful enough that they had their own worshippers, known as the Sect of the Dragons. And this was for one reason: The TItans.

Primordial Azeroth was ruled by the Elemental Lords of fire, earth, water, and air. Then the Old Gods, Y’ssarj, N’zoth, Yog-Seron, C’thun, and others invaded from the Great Dark Beyond (also known as outer space), defeated and enslaved the Elemental Lords and their underlings, and made Azeroth the seat of their so-called “Black Empire,” an empire of Voidspawn and eldritch creatures. They created several species that persisted to this day, such as the mantid and the qiraji.

The Titans, mortal enemies of the Old Gods, saw this infestation, and could not allow Azeroth’s world-soul to be corrupted. So they invaded the Black Empire, destroyed it, defeated the Old Gods and imprisoned them beneath the planet’s surface.

The Titans seeded Azeroth with their own brand of mechanical life, creating numerous installations and machines designed to keep Azeroth from becoming corrupted, and oversee this new world.

To watch over Azeroth, they took several proto-dragons--animalistic dragon-like creatures from the Elemental Planes--and empowered them with intelligence and incredible power. They divided these new dragons into five “Dragonflights,” ordered by color, each led by a Dragon Aspect, who had mastery over a specific natural domain. The Black Dragonflight protected and watched over the earth. The Red Dragonflight was charged with controlling and restoring life, capable of regrowing the land in the event of mass death, conflict, and strife. The Blue Dragonflight was given mastery and control over all magic, including Azeroth’s network of leylines. The Green Dragonflight were the protectors of the Emerald Dream, the spiritual realm of life itself. And the Bronze Dragonflight were the protectors of time.

The conflicts Azeroth faced could all be traced back to the Titans and the Old Gods in some way. And the dragons were massively influential on Azeroth’s history as a result.

And granted, this dragon didn’t look like any member of the Black Dragonflight he knew of. This thing was far too purple. But it was the lord and master of this dimension. He knew that by context alone. This realm of floating islands in an endless void was this dragon’s purview. It was its guardian, just as the Dragon Aspects were the guardians of Azeroth.

So, he stood for a while, intimidated, unsure. You didn’t just blindly run at and punch a dragon, especially one you knew nothing about.

He observed his allies going ahead to attack. The dragon regenerated. Oh joy. But those four crystals seemed to be the ones empowering it, judging by the purple beams they emitted.

And then Donnie ran for his life, even using a Chi Torpedo, to avoid a bomb heading his way, which exploded into acid when it hit the ground. Thankfully, he wasn’t hit, but that had been a close one! But he had to admit, it felt good spiraling through the air like a missile for the first time since he got here.

But that did it. He needed to get into the fight.

He drew an orb and held it high, the containment spell within becoming undone, revealing the Dwarven Flying Machine. It was damaged by the electric shocks, sure, but it was largely mechanical rather than electronic. It would work fine, for the most part. But he couldn’t account for Tora’s modifications, since he didn’t know how computerized they were. Except for the holographic targeting system, which...was that magical or electronic? He wasn’t sure which, it could be either.

Either way, it didn’t matter, as long as the Flying Machine shot straight.

He got in, powered up the engines, and drifted off into the air. He kept an eye out for the dragon as he flew. His life literally depended on it. Wait, why was he trying to multitask? This was what Strikers were for! He summoned Vivi again to make his life easier. “Vivi!” he said. “If the dragon comes anywhere near us, tell me! If it tries to shoot us, tell me! And if it tries to eat us, tell me!”

“Understood!” Vivi replied, sitting on his lap again.

...Donnie really needed to get a second seat for this thing.

He aimed carefully at one of the four crystals. Really, it was just a hunch on his part based on the available evidence, and he had no idea what this thing’s magical properties were. But if it contained enough magical energy to cause near-instant regeneration in a creature that size, he did not want to be on the receiving end of what would happen if that much power was released all at once. Such as a Boom Biter blowing the crystal to kingdom come. So he was pretty far away from it, though he wasn’t stupid enough to get near another crystal or fly over the void.

He lined up the holographic arc with the crystal atop the tower, his finger curled around the trigger...and he squeezed it three times.

Three Boom Biters soared towards the target in a majestic arc. He did not want this thing to survive the explosion. If his hunch was right and it would explode on a shatter, the same logic dictated that it would vent magical energy along a crack. And a jet full of cosmic eldritch void energy to the face was not something anyone wanted.
Barring Vivi hadn’t screamed bloody murder and interrupted him, or the dragon didn’t suddenly take offense to his continued existence for firing explosives at the thing keeping it alive, he would get the hell out of dodge and move on to the next crystal.
So I pivoted at the last minute. came up with a whole new character. Let me know what you think.


Donnie


Word Count: 2,260


EXP: (45/50) + 3 + 10 = 58/50 LEVEL UP!

Level Up Reward: Power: Art of Movement: Donnie regains his advanced movement techniques, including Chi Torpedo, a technique that allows him to spiral across the ground about a hundred feet and then increase his movement speed by a third for 10 seconds, stacking twice. He also gains *Windwalking,* the ability to use the power of the wind to permanently boost his movement speed by 10%. The aura of wind magic also affects every ally within 10 yards. This gives him a maximum running speed of 40 MPH.


Written in collaboration with @Lugubrious.


After the fight was over, Donnie felt a deep sense of disquiet in his soul. He took Gough’s Spirit without another word, and left the premises. While the others sat down and began to have their usual post-fight banter and dole out Spirits, Donnie walked down the grassy mountain until he found a secluded spot, away from the others.

He sat down on the sun-kissed grass, getting into the lotus position. He needed some time alone.

Merkava was merely a savage monster. The zombies, demons, and ghosts were, well, zombies and demons and ghosts. But what had happened just now was...brutal. At least when he’d had to fight the Horde on rare occasions before he got the guts to declare neutrality, the enemy was genuinely motivated. At least there was a sense of honor to the fighting, however sad.

This...this was murder. They freed one, maybe they could have freed all of them. But freeing someone took power, and they needed as much as they could get in this topsy-turvy world.

It all came down to power. Power was just an abstraction of strength. And he knew who to turn to on matters of strength.

He emptied his mind, seeking a sign, some kind of guidance, for what he should do. In times of great importance, he could count on a word from Xuen. He could travel to the Timeless Isle and meet him personally, or simply resort to prayer, like the paladins of the Light did.

He closed his eyes, putting his fists together, and silently prayed.

Mighty Xuen, I seek your wisdom. The enemy is perhaps the most powerful I will ever face. He takes the hearts and minds of the people of the multiverse and makes them do his bidding, to protect a world he stole from other, more creative gods. He is ruthless, holier-than-thou, and willing to make friend fight friend and brother fight brother to keep his dream alive. I can save some, but not all. Circumstance and the sacrifice of power prevent me and my allies from saving everyone who is killed. White Tiger, you are a fountain of wisdom on the subject of strength. You philosophize on when and how it should be used. So, I beseech you, grant me the guidance to choose the correct path.

He waited. And waited. And...nothing. Normally, he could feel a connection to the power of Xuen, or the other August Celestials, within himself at all times. But...now that he thought about it, he couldn’t feel anything. It was like his connection was severed. Like he was now the only source of the thunder god’s power in the entire world. If you could call this place a world, anyway.

His disquiet was only multiplied.

Well, he thought as he opened his eyes, at least I have this Spirit. He took Gough’s Spirit in hand. He had killed this man. He didn’t have to. He could have freed him. But circumstance and folly prevented it, and he wanted to fix his mistake. And to give Gough an opportunity to turn his bow against the repulsive god that had the gall to call itself a being of Light while sponsoring horror after horror.

The spirit seemed to resonate with Donnie’s sentiment. It shone brightly, momentarily growing from a mere sprite into a ghostly facsimile of the Hawkeye himself. Then the image flowed into the monk, cementing the formation of the spiritbond.

“That’s a neat mechanic,” came a bloopy, electronic voice from nearby.

Donnie turned to see, looming like a specter in the doorway of the house he sat beside, a being that defied logical explanation. It filled him with neither apprehension nor surprise, since by now his time in the World of Light desensitized him to the strange and unfamiliar in a big way, and even ignoring that, he’d encountered more than his fair share of the bizarre during his time on Azeroth. The stranger before him appeared to be a golden machine with a shimmering face, with bars of lights forming an angular facsimile of a face. From the contraption’s base extended a flowing purple cloak trimmed in exquisite fur, creating a look rather like certain wraiths from Donnie’s world, whose skulls, arms, and spines constituted the only solid matter in their ghastly robes. Compared to them, though, this floating, unliving thing seemed more dryly cheeky than wrathful or vicious. Plus, the artificial mouse-like creatures climbing across his robes, clicking softly, managed to be rather cute.

“Greetings,” he bleeped. “I am the Lord of Games, manager of entertainment and keeper of forbidden knowledge, yet somehow I don’t seem to have you in my database. Who are you?”

Donnie rose to his feet, extending a hand. “My name’s Lee. Donovan Lee. Nice to meet you.”

The screen on the Lord of Games’ head flashed an image of two hands shaking, which moved up and down. “...Likewise. You may call me LOG. Your name, however, is not recognized. You must be a custom, which would make your existence in this world truly remarkable. And in a sense, tragic. What are you here for? Easter egg hunt?”

“Back up a moment. Custom? Tragic? My world has games, but I don’t think we have the kind of games you’re talking about. Assume I know nothing, and please explain. I’m from Azeroth, if it helps.”

Though simple, the expression on LOG’s screen portrayed a pronounced neutrality. “Yes, yes, I know. Your world is quite renowned. But it’s really not much use explaining. I doubt you’d understand.”

Donnie crossed his arms. “I’m not stupid. I know that my world isn’t that advanced in the grand scheme of things, what with us having to stave off an apocalypse every few months. We don’t exactly have time to really focus on entertainment technology these days. But I’m pretty sure I could grasp what you’re talking about, if you’d at least try.

LOG sighed. “My knowledge is forbidden for a reason, you know. To embrace the truth is to invite insanity. Insight into what lies beyond, into the fate one has in store...it has driven many to madness. And all of them believed themselves wise, able to handle whatever secrets might come to them. I can give you a nugget of knowledge, bit player, but are you sure you want to receive it?” Something in the atmosphere had changed, something in the sky, or the wind, or the air. The glowing pixels of LOG’s screen burned bright against the blackness that surrounded them.

Donnie paused for a moment. He had faced things that would make most men cry for their mothers in the fetal position. He had fought Garrosh Hellscream in the throes of Old God possession. He had felt the Sha pull and tug at his mind. He’d even been mind-controlled, more than once. He was definitely no stranger to murderous attempts on his sanity, but he had to consider.

And he did. For a while.

Finally, he spoke. “Very well. Tell me.”

“I shall.” The Lord of Games floated into the air. “You, Donovan Lee, are walking down a path to oblivion. Even if you succeed, it will be the end of you. Not death, but a fate many would consider to be...worse.” LOG looked out across the valley. “This world was made by Galeem. It is reality, but it is the only place where you, Donovan Lee, truly exist. Here, and only here, can others know your face, and remember your name. If this World of Light comes to an end, you will cease to exist. You will return to nothingness, to sheer, uncaring anonymity. You will be a nameless hero, just one among an uncountable number. That is your tragedy, and what it means to be a custom.”

“But what about my past? My friends, my family, the temple I lead? Did it all mean nothing?”

Your past?” LOG’s face gleamed. “You are an expression. Your memories, a flavor on the tongue. The actions you took are not yours alone. But it did not mean nothing...” The entity descended, his tone less cold. “You may take solace in that.”

He looked down at one of the mice chewing on his cape. “Still, if you value your identity, you should not be seeking the restoration of the worlds. The World of Light may not be reality, but it’s better than nothing, hm?”

“...So, what you’re saying is that I won’t be famous. That I won’t have my titles and mountains of gold and my artifacts of great importance. You claim it’s the same as cessation of existence. That anonymity is a fate worse than death, correct? Not that when the worlds are restored, I’ll actually lose consciousness, forever.”

LOG stared at him. “What little you will have, in anonymity and isolation, if the World of Light ends, is meaningless in the greater scheme of things. It is as a dream, fleeting and personal, nothing at all to the waking world.”

Donnie’s response was as blunt and straightforward as an Arcanite hammer to the skull. “I don’t care,” he said in a flat voice. 

With that out of the way, he continued. “I don’t care if I have some grand cosmic meaning I can’t even grasp. These other people I’m working with, the non-customs. Would they even understand what you’re talking about? Do they even grasp the distinction between this dreaming world and this waking world you’re talking about? I get it, you’re a font of forbidden and eldritch knowledge gleaned from planes of existence beyond my mortal ken. That means nothing to me.”

He crossed his arms again. “I’m not some glory hound who thinks that he’s only important if everyone knows his name. I’m a Huojin Monk. I believe that I am the change I wish to see in the world, and a Huojin sees that change through to the end, no matter the consequences. And there are people suffering in agony because of Galeem.”

He summoned Vivi, and just as quickly dismissed him. “You see that little wizard that I just summoned? He got dropped into the Dead Zone by Galeem when the World of Light was made, in a barren, dead city infested with zombies and demons from every world imaginable, all in the same place. He survived in an abandoned police station for several days with a bunch of other survivors, only for my group to arrive and help them escape to here, the Land of Adventure. He didn’t make it, and got zombified. Some super-soldier in green armor killed him and a bunch of other infected and I made him into a Striker to bring him back. Galeem is heartless enough to just drop a poor man into that hellhole for no reason. The humanitarian cost alone is worth my fame several times over.”

His face became harsh. “Now if you don’t mind, we’re done here, Lord.” He turned around and made to leave.

LOG watched him go. “Well, I’d hardly consider that to be ‘back’,” he muttered before turning back to the house to resume working on his game. “Still, that’s quite the heroic spirit. May you reach the goal and the reality you desire.”

“Thanks--wait, what did you say just now?!” the monk said as he whirled around and walked right back to the house LOG was coding in. “If there’s something more to Strikers than I was told, I need to know. It’s important to my quest.”

The Lord of Games looked up from his mice. “Hm? That wizard seemed to spring into being at your beck and call, didn’t he? Like a ghost. Seems like a terrible way to live. But such things are not within my realm of expertise. Perhaps there’s someone else you could ask. Now, if you’ll excuse me, these bugs won’t squash themselves.”

Donnie sighed. “Yes, I agree. But Spirits vanish into nothing when left there, and the alternatives are absorption or equipment. I wanted to give him some kind of existence, at least. Just...one more thing. Sorry for snapping at you, and...does a ‘Xuen, the White Tiger’ exist in your database? Do you know if he’s in the World of Light? Or any of the other August Celestials?”

“Yes, no, and no.”

“That explains things. Thank you for your time. I’m gonna leave you to your tinkering.” With that, Donnie left for the meeting spot.

He arrived before long, with his intended time of meditation cut short and all. The others had yet to depart, and as he entered, he drew a glance from Tora and Poppi, who’d shifted to QT mode. “Hm. Donnie look deep in thought. Wonder what he thinking,” the artificial blade said aloud.

“Probably about big bossypon. Meh, Donnie! You good?” He waved at the monk with his wing.

"...Yes, somewhat," Donnie said. "I went to meditate on the situation we're in, and I ran into a... robot, of sorts. He called himself the Lord of Games, or LOG for short, and said that I'm...different from you guys, somehow."

He explained the rest of what happened, quickly filling in who the August Celstials were and his connection to them since Tora likely wouldn't even know who he was talking about.

It didn’t help. The two were pretty baffled. “What?” the Nopon said, practically slack-jawed.

“Maybe we talk about this after death battle,” Poppi suggested. Reading the room told her that it wouldn’t be much longer before the heroes rolled out.

"We can always visit him after we beat the champion," Donnie said. "He's within walking distance."
Donnie

Word Count: 2,362

EXP: (39/50) + 3 = 42/50

Written in collaboration with @Lugubrious.


Donnie, on instinct, ran for cover immediately. His world was advanced enough to have rifles. Derived from muskets and blunderbusses, sure, but rifles nonetheless. Some adventurers were cut from the cloth of common hunters, using tamed beasts and traps to fight their enemies. And Azeroth had some gnarly wildlife to tame and sic on your foe, from grizzly bears to dire wolves to giant spiders and even dinosaurs. But the hunters themselves usually fancied bows, crossbows, or guns. Those that went without a pet were the deadliest of all at long range, expert marksmen who could effortlessly turn the head of a demonic warrior the size of a house into something resembling tomato dip before the thing could even get close, or often even react.

Hiding behind a nearby rocky outcropping, he began to formulate a plan.

There were six snipers, from his position. A big guy in armor with a greatbow, likely the toughest to take down. A slim thirtysomething with a wide-brimmed hat, glasses, and a deadly-looking and futuristic (by an Azerothian’s standards) rifle, though obviously non-magical. A twentysomething girl wearing very little clothing, armed with an even-deadlier looking rifle. An old man with yet another newfangled rifle, likely the most fragile. A young blond-haired man in a blue tunic and what looked like a Titan-made bow. He’d have to make sure he didn’t get hit by that thing, it looked nasty. Then there was an absolutely fabulous crossbowoman in a lavish fur coat. He had no idea what to expect from that one, but she was obviously a skilled sniper just like the rest of them. Fortunately, crossbows took longer to reload than those rifles, which were obviously of a similar design to Michael’s .50-caliber beast.

He waited for a while, observing the proceedings and biding his time until he could strike. He wasn’t very fast without his mount, and even with his mounts he’d be an obvious target. HIs best bet was Vivi, who thankfully hadn’t spawned this time, likely having the same thought process Donnie did. He wished he could talk to Vivi right now, but that would waste the little time the Black Mage had before he despawned.

As he observed the snipers, their weapons, the fact that revival was possible, and the chaotic attempts to get to the tower and end them (noting the Courier’s insane ploy with approval as it took out Quiet), he noticed something. That giant with the greatbow. He seemed to have an...unusually-good perception for being so far away from the enemy, especially with all the background noise of people breaking the tower walls and such.

To test this, he picked up a rock and threw it at another large outcropping nearby. True to his prediction, Gough turned towards it instantly. Unfortunately, that got him scanning the area and readying to strike him down once he picked up Donnie’s breathing.

The monk only had a few seconds at best to do this, he had to act now!

Willing Vivi back into existence, he whispered “Cast Stop on the giant, quick!” Having been carefully observing the situation, same as Donnie, Vivi reacted instantly, his staff glowing as he cast the spell. Vivi had only used up some MP from the previous battle, since he could only appear for a few moments at a time. This gave him fewer opportunities to waste it like with the zombie apocalypse scenario only a day earlier, meaning that he could absolutely make Gough stop in his tracks.

The spell spanned the great distance between boulder and battlements, and a black aura appeared in a cylindrical field around the giant sniper. Around him the air distorted, as though filtered through a heatwave, and Gough stood frozen in time. With his senses stopped as well, he could take no action whatsoever for a few seconds, giving Donnie the opportunity he sought.

“Now, cast Thunder on the old man and bail!” he whispered. “I’ll get us out of here!”

“Right!” Vivi whispered back, casting Thunder on The End and vanishing an instant later. Before the thunderbolt from the sky even hit the old sniper, Donnie was already moving, getting on the Disc and using the route Fox took, hidden by boulders and trees, flying low to the ground to make it to the tower. Of course, the puffy cloud trailing behind him was a problem, but he took the Disc into overdrive, hoping his raw speed would make him almost impossible to track when mixed with the dense cover of rocks and plant life. He’d make the tower in thirty seconds, tops.

In a flash a bolt of lightning dropped from nowhere, striking the End where he lay. The magical assault surprised both Imani and the Sniper, eliciting a yell of surprise from both, but it shocked the End in a far more literal sense. He didn’t scream, or cry out, or even moan. He just sprawled there on his stomach, his rifle clutched in his hands. A faint whisper issued from him, lost in the breeze. “I can return to the forest at last...” Then the ancient man lay still, dead as a doornail.

For a moment the other sharpshooters just looked at him, another of their number eliminated in the blink of an eye, but they quickly noticed that after the End’s heart stopped beating, something else started beeping. Unfortunately the two, rattled by their comrade’s death, realized what it meant just a little too late.

“Uh oh.”

“Bloody hell!”

BOOM! A fiery explosion rocked the top of the tower, sending both Imani and the Sniper flying into the open air. It dealt a powerful blow to Gough, halted as he was by Stop, and a second later when the effect expired the giant barely managed to avoid falling. The others were not so lucky. Imani fell about halfway before she righted herself and kicked off the tower, sending herself in the direction of the field by the waterfall. She hit the ground hard, but somehow appeared totally unaffected by the impact, and the next instant a smokescreen appeared to serve as shelter. The Sniper, meanwhile, plummeted while howling at the top of his voice until he hit the surface of the moat, allowing him to survive the fall, too.

Back atop the tower, Gough fought to steady himself. It’d be only a moment before he regained firm footing, but someone quick on the draw could find an opportunity there. Link, meanwhile, avoided the detonation entirely, having descended into the tower’s interior moments ago.

Donnie was only about ten seconds out from the tower when he saw the top of the tower go up in a fireball, feeling the shockwave hit him in the chest. His ears were even ringing. Thankfully, he’d been around enough battlefield explosions to keep his footing on the Disc, but he could also hear the Sniper screaming bloody murder as he fell from the tower’s battlements.

Four Celestials! Did that old man have a bomb tied to his heartbeat or something?! Donnie thought as he continued to move behind cover.

By the gods, he hated doing this. That poor old man didn’t need to die like that. Neither did the girl, who had her whole life ahead of her. The man in the hat didn’t need to be fighting them, and neither did the huntress, the giant, or the warrior.

He was going to end Galeem for making him fight innocent people. Even the Old Gods didn’t pull stuff like this on a mass scale like Galeem did.

But now that the situation had changed, what was his next move?

Well, as he was thinking this, he had already arrived at the tower, so naturally he chose to go up. There were enough people on the ground floor, and Gough was vulnerable.

Like a speeding bullet, Donnie, atop his flying Disc, landed a chi-enhanced axe kick to the back of Gough’s helmet, hopefully sending him into the drink or worse. This, of course, made him land flat on his ass given that the Disc was traveling upwards, but he commanded the Disc to deposit him on the roof and then desummoned and put it away in a practiced maneuver.

If Gough had recovered from that. The monk was ready to fight the giant personally. This would be a duel to remember.

The giant heard Donnie coming. He pre-emptively twisted so that while Donnie’s kick pushed him off the edge of the tower, his giant hand clamped down on its edge a moment later, and with incredible strength Gough hauled himself back up. After dropping the greatbow, he pulled out an arrow to use in his main hand. While little more than a long knife for him, it was a deadly lance to a normal man. With the other hand he removed a stone from his pouch, about the size of a potato, and without a word Gough flicked it Donnie’s way. It flew at him faster than a slingshot stone, and much heavier.

Realizing what the giant was about to do, Donnie rolled out of the way, though the stone grazed him in the middle of his somersault. That hurt! It even left a scrape down the side of his chestplate. Thankfully, it hadn’t been a direct hit. That would have been nasty.

But now it was the monk’s turn. Sprinting in an arc towards Gough’s right side, he attempted a chi-enhanced palm strike directly to Gough’s massive leg, followed by a Blackout Kick to his oversized knee, before making to disengage, anticipating a melee attack from the giant.

Gough didn’t seem to move, standing conspicuously still, with his direction of his head fixated on something over the monk’s shoulder. As if on cue, a deep, guttural voice sounded out from behind Donnie in alarming proximity. ”HELLO!”

Donnie flinched, running to the side and springing into a fighting stance to assess the threat, eying Gough in case he decided to do anything.

There was nobody behind him, just the broken shards of the stone Gough threw lying next to the battlements where it shattered.

But Gough started moving the moment Donnie changed his direction. He went low, extending his leg in a wide sweeping kick that took up an appropriately gigantic amount of real estate. As he went down, he scooped up his bow and nocked the arrow he’d never intended to use as a melee weapon. In one fluid motion he took aim, the bow held horizontally, and then Gough fired down into the tower itself. The great arrow blasted through the masonry, decimating Donnie’s entire side of the tower several stories down as it flew on its diagonal path.

Donnie’s moment of confusion cost him dearly as Gough’s sweep kick knocked him off of his feet. He rolled with the punches, even the blunt impact of the sweep rippled through his body. It didn’t break any bones, but he’d feel it in the morning for sure. He sprung to his feet in time to witness Gough nocking his arrow. Donnie, realizing where the arrow was pointed, dove towards Gough’s left side, avoiding the arrow, but only barely. He rolled, and stood, but he was only a few feet from the edge of the tower.

He grinned, realizing he was fighting an enemy who could actually formulate a strategy and not just some big oaf with a bow. This just got a hundred times more interesting. But he wouldn’t be fooled by that strategy again.

He sprinted evasively, noting the firing axis of Gough’s bow and making sure he wasn’t in an arrow’s flight path whenever Gough decided to fire again, or dodge when Gough decided to strike in melee. He was going to reach him, that much was certain.

And when he finally did reach him, he’d make sure the giant felt the chi-enhanced strikes headed his way. And if the giant tried anything? Disengage (or jump if it was a sweep) and Chi Burst from short range.

The Hawkeye looked listlessly forward, his unseeing eyes nowhere in Donnie’s vicinity. Only when the sound of footsteps reach him did he take action. Knowing the rough layout of the tower’s top following the destruction of a chunk of it, Gough knew his foe didn’t have much lateral room to work with. He lowered his grip on the bow and held it like a staff with both hands, then swept it horizontally to try and whack Donnie off the tower again.

Donnie, meanwhile, simply grabbed onto the bow, vaulted himself over the giant’s arms, and landed a chi-enhanced drop kick to the giant’s face before kicking off of Gough’s helmet, hurling himself into the air, and rolling onto the ground.

All of this roof-smashing gave him an idea, but how was he going to put it into motion?

Wait, motion! That was it! At Donnie’s mental command, Vivi popped into existence a few feet behind him, and seemed to know what was ideal for the situation, casting Stop on the giant once again before vanishing.

That sound...the sound that came before Gough was frozen in time a minute ago. The clear note of a spirit manifesting, temporarily taking form in order to act, reached the giant and clicked in his head. He nocked another arrow with great haste, aiming not at Donnie, but at Vivi, and let go of the string. The Stop struck him the next moment, but the magic struggled to hold him. Donnie opened up his Luggage to retrieve the ingredients for a powerful Gunpowder Charge, but the Stop ended well before it did the first time. All of a sudden the black arrow screamed forth once again. It slammed into Vivi, but instead of creating a trophy, the impact created a bizarre reaction. Vivi de-manifested into a burst of multicolored light that turned gold just like the gold light that made trophies, which hung there for a split second. The light then arced through the air, tracing the spiritbond, and the next moment slammed into Donnie. Before he knew what happened, he fell from the tower as a trophy, leaving devastation and a even more wounded Gough behind.
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