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.
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?”
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
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
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.”
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."