As the doors and windows to the enchanters house became impassable, and the mans services unavailable, Bullhorn frowned at the realization. "Fuck me, this is a living world event." While not sure what the enchanter could do for the party it seemee prudent to keep npcs on your side.
For all they knew the best chance at getting gear just went up in smoke.
"Not a lot of options left but to explore. Where to first, Spaz?" Glancing down at his diminutive companion as he spoke.
"Exploring gives us plenty of options~! Let's go this way!" She responds cheerfully, skipping westward ahead of Grand Magus Bullhorn the third, third of his name (long may he reign.) As usual she had no real awareness of where she was going, but from a bystanders perspective, it'd look like she has her eyes on just about everything.
Without picking a path, without any real tracking or survival skills between them, and by just wandering westward, they were soon turned around, directed this way and that by the geography of the place and the trees. A path trodden only by their feet, and with their destination known only to the gods themselves.
In short, they've gotten lost quickly.
Perhaps if they had bothered to set up the captured location with any sort of meaningful structure, perhaps if they had done something to mark their way, perhaps, perhaps, but the time for perhaps was long gone.
There was hope, however, for in the distance they could see a plume of smoke, though as to where it originated from remains a mystery.
Bullhorn was a patient man. By nature he was a rather timid fellow that often just went wherever the moment took him. With Reina by his side those moments often did lead the pair into foolish predicaments and letting her lead had been no exception. In hindsight he should have been paying attention more.
Around his energetic friend though it couldn't be helped, the girl was the trailblazer and couldn't be stopped either way. That did not mean he was accepting of it though.
"Quit your walking. We've been going in bloody circles!" Emphasizing his words by brazenly pointing a finger at a shrub he had cast a fireball on some time ago, its remains smoking slightly. Ever since the enchanter, Bullhorn had been cautious as to how much of the new expansion would be living world or if had object permanence, fixed buildings or landscapes, but thus far it was no different than the real world. Every branch you took would not return, every enemy killed might not respawn, all the materials they gathered would not regrow for quite some time.
The devs had done a fantastic job making a realistic and completely destructible world. The problem with that was even an accident had the potential to cause a catastrophe.
With his fire spell, Bullhorn reasoned that a single missed or deflected hit could cause irreperable damage to the vast forest. Odds are it would also destroy valuable hidden treasures or materials..
All the details made his stomach turn upside down. Placing a hand over his stomach and resting his chin in his fingers, the question of what how was at the front of his thoughts.
Glancing up past the treeline there was smoke billowing lazily into the air. Signs of intelligent life?
"Oi, Reina. The smoke!" Not bothering if it meant combat or not, Bullhorn trekked off in the smokes direction, motioning for the multicolored girl to follow.
The moment those words left Bullhorn's mouth, was the moment Reina instantly changed direction as if controlled by some sort of puppet master. "Ooh? Well, let's hurry over before whatever's happening ends!" She responded excitedly as she cast 'Ride the Lightning', her form turning into a ball of lightning, propelling herself at least a hundred yards toward the smoke within a few seconds.
Reina's spell, considering she cast it in a forest, elicited annoyed responses from passing youkais, with one screaming "HEY WATCH IT I'M WALKIN' 'ERE!" It also did not propel her that far, considering where they were. Within several meters she crashed soundly into a large tree, shaking off a few surprised fairies off its boughs.
The Lightning mage laid flat on her back for a few moments in shock, remembering that she's completely unable to control the direction of her travel spell. She promptly sits up like someone who had just had a nightmare. She gets up to her feet without a word, giving Bullhorn a silly smile, her forehead looking quite red from the impact.
Other than that, they arrived at the cottage with nary a problem.
It seemed they hit upon a large cottage in the woods, looking distinctly European in design, with wattle fences and a small garden behind it. Judging from the chimney puffing out smoke merrily, it seemed someone was here, or was recently here. Both of them would not be able to see anyone on the grounds from where they were.
With a resigned sigh, Bullhorn made his way ro Reina while suppressing an honest chuckle. Just like her to run ahead and crash into something. "Alright, up we go." With a grunt he hoisted the girl up to flop over his shoulder like luggage. The girl wasn't exactly light but Bullhorn wasn't exactly weak.
"Eh?" Was all she could let out before she was laid over Bullhorn's shoulder. She squirmed a little in his grasp, but made no real move to break free. From her perspective, this was pretty fun too. Although seeing where she was going would be nice too.
The pair paced forward, Bullhorn casting a glance at the fairies they had disturbed. Fairies he has no idea were even there. If they were like the ones from the enchanter did that mean there was an NPC ahead too? Only one way to find out.
Ignoring the other sights and sounds, the horned mage made his way to the front door and knocked with his free hand while the other held Reina firmly on his shoulder.
The door creaked open, revealing.... nothing, or at least, no one.
The interior of the room within was comfortably familiar to players of WEO, though with a more homely touch. There was a bookcase, displaying all manner of books, though they seemed to be in an entirely different language. There were some that were easily recognized, like Japanese and English, but the rest seemed to be written in all sort of different languages.
A light tugging at Bullhorn's pants would direct his gaze downwards, towards a small two feet tall doll looking expectantly at him.
Reina's gaze fell upon the doll, and if anyone could see her eyes at this point, they'd be blinded by all the sparkles.
Looking down from the many out of place items, again making the mage curious as to the theme of this expansion, Bullhorn glanced to his pant leg where from the look of it a doll was trying to get attention. Not a fan of horror movies, this was becoming a jump scare scenario at an alarming rate. "... Rei, there is a doll grabbing my leg. You wanna field this one?" Something about moving children's toys creeped him out terribly. Better to let the girly one deal with the girly item. Bending forward he put the thunder mage down on her own two feet. "I'll.. back you up." The concern across his face was barely masked.
The girl quickly squirmed out of her best friend's grasp, rolling off his shoulder, landing neatly on her feet like a cat. She immediately picked up the doll, lifting it up in front of her face. "Oh my gosh, aren't you a cutie~!?" She giggled. "I don't know what you're on about Bully, unless these were mimics or something, there's nothing to worry about!" She added nonchalantly.
The doll was very well made, the joints articulated perfectly, and it seemed the face was made with something stretchy, for it moved very convincingly, as it struggled silently at being picked up suddenly. Another doll opened the door wider, with a black outfit to contrast the struggling doll's blue outfit.
While they moved very convincingly, it seemed the dolls lacked the ability to talk. The black one bowed and gestured towards another room, presumably inviting them in.
After giving the blue doll a warm smile, she put it back down, her attention drawn to the black outfitted doll, giving it a wordless nod before walking into the room that it gestured toward. Her gait and expression seemed more like an excited child than a grown woman. "C'mon Max~" She called as she disappeared through the door. Max followed along after his companion, less from personal interest in dealing with creepy autonomous dolls ushering him to trouble and more to keep Reina out of trouble.
"You're gonna be the death of us, woman." He mumbled while eyeing the doll suspiciously.
"Oh don't be so stiff!" She chuckled as she turned back to him, grabbing his cheeks.
The blue doll almost seemed to huff as she dusted herself off, closing the door behind them as the black doll lead the way. There seemed to be more dolls with the same look as theirs, though most seemed busy with what seemed to be housework. One seemed to have been entrapped by a shirt while two others tried to untangle it.
They soon found themselves in a comfy looking room, with a fireplace on one end, and a few chairs around the fireplace. The bookcase further from the fire and the table with a teapot and some cups on it suggests the woman had been enjoying tea shortly before continuing to work.
As she turned towards them, her short blonde hair and decidedly western clothing implies she wasn't a native to this place. "Ah, welcome. I am Alice Margratroid. To what do I owe the pleasure of having your company?"
Without a sound, the black doll struggled onto the table, trying to pour them all a cup of tea.
"Like a scene from a fairytale.." Maxwell ignored the animated dolls as best he could, swatting away Reina's hand as he mumbled. When that bunny mentioned adventure he had honestly expected dragons or war or.. anything besides tea with an old woman.
"Apologies for the intrusion, Ma'am. We are adventurers from.." where the hell were they from? Bullhorn couldn't recall the name of an continent from the previous games. "A land far from this one. We are lost in the forest but found your home by accident." Glancing about, he went stiff and ushered a low bow out of habit. [color=00aeef]"Where are my manners? I am Bullhorn. My associate, infatuated with your," [i]Minions[i], "friends, is Reina."[/color] Rising from the respectful bow he gave Reina a light kick to the shin and motioned for her to do the same as he had.
The kick made Reina flinch as she was completely enamoured by the quaint look of the room. "A-ah? Yes! I'm Reina, but you may call me, Great Lightning Sage of the North, Reina Zaiga the Seventh." She said, giving Alice a slight curtsy. "Are you the master of these adorable dolls? Do they have names?" She began before pausing for a moment... She moves closer to the blonde woman, leaning in, her eyes looking rather.. shifty...
"Can I keep one...?" She whispers.
"Ah yes, welcome. I've heard from the fairies that newcomers were in the forest, but I was never really interested in whats going on outside. I am the master of these dolls, yes. No they do not have a name." Alice cocked her head at Reina asking for one. "Which one? One of my Hourai dolls, or the Shanghai dolls?"
"Hourai!" She replied immediately, not really knowing what it meant.
"Well, since you're here, do you want to help me with something?" Alice put down the piece of fabric she was busy fiddling with. It seemed to be another new outfit for one of the other dolls. "I'll give you one of my dolls, as well as something nice if you do."
Bullhorn arched an eyebrow at the mention of 'something nice'. A quest could provide the both of them with necessary items to overcome the new world, that was common sense, so his choice to participate was a given. Nodding his head, "What do you need done Miss Margatroid."
"Do the dolls stay animated after you give me one?" Reina queried. This was extremely important to her. The reasons were obvious.
"They should." Alice spoke, leading the way to the back. "Over here. Judging from you two, this should be a simple task."
The back of the house, where Alice lead them, was a nice open clearing, with barely anything but grass growing on it, ringed by the forest itself, and a few of those large mushrooms, a few large enough to sit on. There was few lines to hang clothes upon nearer the house but nothing else of mention.
Once they stepped out onto the clearing, a strange electric noise came, followed by the sudden poof of displaced air. A large three meter tall doll, perfectly proportioned, wielding two large blades stared impassively at them.
"Fight my Goliath doll."
"What are we, your crash test dummies?" Bullhorn asked incredulously, the sight of one of those creepy emotionless faced dolls wielding painful looking weapons hit him hard in the creepy zone, a tingle surged through his spine at the thought of fighting such an abominable looking thing.
"Fuuuuuck." Half whisper, half groan, Bullhorn took out his pitiful little knife and bit his lip trying to consider how this should work. Freeze its legs and punish from afar seemed viable, but odds are it was strong enough to shatter such a feeble restraint.
"Whats the plan?" Maybe his companion would have an idea.
Reina, for the most part, had been oddly quiet since Alice's answer. Quiet because her mind was just racing with all the fun she could have with her own animated doll buddy. She'd always wanted to have a small companion. Only when Bullhorn spoke to her directly, did she snap back to reality, only to see the giant doll in front of her. Somehow she knew that they had to fight it, perhaps the information just kind of filtered into the back of her head.
She looked at her bestest friend, Bullhorn... And gave him the most nonchalant shrug known to man, and a silly looking smirk. "Don't got one! Beat it up!" She exclaimed proudly as her hand crackled with bolts of blue electricity. A single bolt of lightning flashes from her hand, striking the doll in between the eyes.
Or so it would, had it not moved as soon as she raised her crackling hand. With unnatural speed for the huge blades it wielded, one blade struck the ground, attracting then dissipating the lightning, before the other went for a broad sweep, broad enough to cleave both of them where they stood.
The combination of watching her lightning hit a makeshift lightning rod, and the stunning speed of the giant doll; she almost didn't dodge the sweeping blow. Her body turned into a ball of lightning, zipping forward toward the doll, hoping to stun it with the spell. She deactivated the spell as she reached it's leg, touching it and casting lightning from her hand once more.
Bullhorn on the other hand took the route less traveled, dropping to the floor the instant Reina's lightning arced through the air. With the monsters blade cleaving just above him it seemed that was the wisest choice. "Fucking dolls." Grumbling to himself yet again, he rose to one knee and launched a frozen bolt at its chest, hoping the magics innate slow would give them a chance.
If that didn't work, fire would have to serve.
Had Bullhorn not done what he did, Reina would have been cleaved in two almost immediately. With a long blade still uncommited, with its mere reach, it had enough to simply cut her down as she flied through the air. Instead, its arm froze slightly, enough to slow it down that Reina bounced off the flat of the blade instead of straight into the edge. The electricity surged up the doll's arms, searing the wood, but doing little to stun it, considering it had no nervous system to scramble.
"Kite the damn thing, Rei." As the faster and more limber of the pair she was better suited to dodging. If he had a staff he moght have been able to block the damn things swing(s) but a knife served no purpose on an animated piece of.. whatever ot was made of. The positive news was it could be slowed so ice would serve for now.
Both hands turned an icy blue as he prepared to cast another bolt of cold aimed at its chest again. Attack speed lowering seemed more beneficial than movespeed crippling.
"Yessir!" She responded, saluting quickly as she circled it's legs, trying to get behind it. Her hand crackled once more with lightning. It didn't seem very effective, but the increasing damage would surely do something, right? She let the bolt loose again, her hand still point-blank on it's leg.
It turned its attention first, towards the mage in front of it, who having ducked its speedy attack, was now casting right in front of it. Its hand shot forwards, grasping Bullhorn's face with a vicegrip, distrupting his spell. Throwing him back, far towards the cottage, it instead spun with its weapons out, unfettered by any slow effects, and crushed Reina's ribs, sending her hp far into the red.
The blow took Reina by surprise and with a loud WHACK, her body slams into a nearby tree, making it shake from the impact. "Ugh.." is all she let out as she took a health potion out of her belt, downing it like a shot of vodka. Her health bar quickly regenerates as she stands up, tossing the small vial aside. Due to her build, she's very limited on options, but it didn't bother her too much. Again she holds out her hand, firing yet another lightning bolt at the doll, this one looking a little more vicious than before.
Cursing his luck as he flew back under the strength behind the golem's strength, his vision swam as the ground rushed up to meet his crashing fall, rolling through the dirt until finally colliding with a fence post of some sort, his body cracking painfully against it. Arms flopping to either side he stared straight ahead as his brain struggled back to working order.
Disorients in VR were obnoxious as could be.
With his health bar only down by 20% from impact damage, Max rose from the ground shaking until both legs were steady, eyes never leaving the golem. It had tossed him nearly a dozen feet.
"If I cannot freeze you, then so be it. You. Will. Burn." The words came from clenched jaws as both hands smoldered before turning to brilliant flames of shimmering crimson. Bracing his feet he channeled the spell and thrust both hands forward, hurling the burning sphere at the golem's chest. A second and hopefully a third, raced from Bullhorns hands in quick succession.
If that creature turned his way, he would be ready to stop casting and blast the thing back with Forcewave.
If it ignored him, the fireballs would fall like rain.
The doll had turned towards Reina, being closer to it. The crash of lightning against its body, seared and cracked its arm a little now, but it was still moving extremely quick towards her. Bullhorn's attack, though rushed due to queuing up a few in a row, did hit the doll, now turning it into a blazing hulking inferno wielding two blades, now bearing down upon Reina. Once more it raised one arm to attack Reina, who held up her staff in futile defense, but....
"Thats enough. I've gotten what I need." Alice interrupted, smiling all the while.
With a wave of her hand, the goliath doll first extinguished of all flames, then seemingly repaired itself by magic, turning back into its original condition before the fight.
"I wasn't quite comfortable letting you ignite all that gunpowder inside the doll so close to my house."
Gunpowder? That fucking thing was a walking bomb?!
The flames on his hands dissipated as the spell was interrupted, Bullhorn merely crossing his arms as he eyed the doll and the old lady with equal caution. If she had desired to, miss Margatroid could have killed both of them, quite easily..
"Good to know. Now, about that reward?"
"Yes! The reward~!" She parroted in excitement, brushing herself off.
The promised doll stepped forwards, wielding a lance and shield that seemed a bit bigger than it should be able to handle, looking very pleased with itself. The clothing it wore was similar to the rest of the blue dolls, white capelets and apron, blue dress underneath, but with an envelope in one of its pockets.
"Take good care of it." Alice smiled. "And it will take care of you, as best as it could."
Reina's eyes lit up like it was Christmas day for a 5 year old getting a fantastic present. She immediately picked it up and held it in front of her face like she had done previously. "Does it have a name or do I get to name it?" She asked, her gaze fixated on her new friend.
"Hmm... You can name it anything you want, within reason."
"Coco!" She responded immediately., with a big grin on her face
Bullhorn tried, poorly, to hide his disappointment. Dolls that could move were terrifying and after dealing with a 10 foot tall murder machine in girlish clothing he was less than eager to have a miniature one armed with a toothpick as their traveling companion. It honestly gave him the creeps! Turning to Miss Margatroid, he cleared his throat and approached with what passed for a smile. "By chance is there an item you can give that may be more suitable for a mage?"
"Oh?" Alice cocked her head slightly. "Did you want more dolls? I found dolls make perfect items for magicians like I, after all."
"Afraid not, Ma'am. If you can tell me about the area perhaps, anything an adventurer should know, that would be equally helpful."
"Adventurers, huh? Thats what you two are?" Alice paused for a moment, before continuing. "Don't eat the red and white mushroom, they're very poisonous. But they're good for stews, if and only if you cook them with the glowing blue mushrooms that grows on rotten tree. Oh and beware of the black and white witch, she'll try to swipe everything she can from you."
"Helpful. Thank you, Ma'am." Saluting the elderly woman, Bullhorn turned to Reina and his.. newest.. companion(?)
Reina, for the most part, wasn't really listening; deciding to pull out the small envelope that sat in the Coco's pocket. She wasted no time in opening it to see what was inside...
Unfamiliar notes, bearing the numbers 1000. Plus several hard candy.
Bullhorn and Reina gains 1000yen each
The lightning mage examined the notes for a moment, trying to figure out what use they had. She gave up in about five seconds, pocketing them. She unwrapped one of the candies and promptly popped it into her mouth without checking what it was.
"You're really just gonna EAT a candy, given to you by an old woman in a forest cabin, surrounded by creepy dolls, that nearly had you KILLED by a 10 foot tall walking bomb? Reina, how can you be so careless." Exasperated, Bullhorn had fallen to a sitting position on the grass with a hand on his face.
"Hmm? But it's tasty! And maybe I'll get a new spell out of it, who knows?" She chuckles, squatting down in front of Bullhorn, holding out one of the candies toward him. "Want one?"