281 Everspire Expansion
"This your girlfriend?" Bev pointed to Mai, who was sleeping on the couch. Nix had slept for a few hours and then woken up. He had covered the Asian girl with a blanket from the bedroom.
Mai's laugh from the couch told them that she was awake. "In your dreams."
Nix considered the statement for a moment before playing. "I have three girlfriends in my dreams, oh and 'last domino'."
"Damn you!" Pon's southern accent didn't match up with his old man persona. Pon was actually a 35-year-old Texan with a thick head of brown hair.
Pon, Jun Li, and Semmi had shown up together a few minutes after Nix's family. The six of them were seated around the dining room table playing a domino game called 'Mexican Trains.'
Nix was trying not to stare at Semmi and Pon. Real Semmi was a tiny blonde named Samantha; she was funny and extremely quit-witted. The two obviously had a bit of real-world chemistry. Jun Li was a tall, athletic woman. Her face seemed average, but when she smiled, Nix had decided that she was pretty.
"The two of you look exactly like your avatars." Jun Li was flipping over dominoes while they restarted the game.
Bev nodded. "None of us knew anything about VR gaming, so we were complete noobs."
"Seen Ronnie or Sharl?" Pon said it while hiding a smile.
Nix shook his head. "They haven't stopped by.
"Yeah... they're super hot." Semmi opened a can of soda and poured it into two glasses before sliding one to Jun Li.
Jun Li nodded in agreement. "Scandinavians, if you can believe it, blonde hair and blue eyes."
Nix made a face. Somehow he didn't want to see that version of Ronnie, his image of her as dark and sexy had to be preserved. "At least Gideon looks the same."
Pon nodded. "I always thought he fought like a woman."
"The hells that mean?" Mai finally moved from the couch; her dark hair was still standing straight up. There was no way anyone would ever confuse her with her Assassin Avatar Gideon, her easy-going manner brimmed with confidence.
"Soon as you told me you were a female, it all made sense," Nix admitted.
Mai walked pass the group and peeked in the fridge; it was stocked with all kinds of beverages. "How's that?"
Nix leaned back in his chair and snuck a peek at his dad's dominoes. "You regularly go for the groin while fighting, totally against the man code."
Semmi laughed at the comment. "Wait... Isn't there an infamous move called the Woodcutter where you relieved someone of their equipment?"
Nix frowned at the tiny blond. "He was a demon and completely naked. Not the same."
"Nope, not the same," Pon agreed.
The clock counter on Nix's hud told him there were only a few minutes left until Colonial went back online. The group was still seated around the table, Mai had pulled up a chair from the bedroom desk.
"What do you think was nerfed?" Pon had been worried about it since they were logged off. Apparently, his concern had to do with several black market items in his inventory.
Semmi considered the comment for a moment. "I think it's the death of Khione. We all get a quest saying any of us could be the 'General' in a battle for Colonial, and then you guys kill Khione."
"Does that mean this was out of sequence?" Jun Li had been playing Colonial the longest; she had never heard of anything like a live-patch.
Nix thought back to Hyai, who had been making dinner when the patch hit. What if she was gone? Or if Shae didn't exist?
Mai had been watching Nix's expressions change. He had more virtual friends than any gamer she'd ever met. She wanted to say something to comfort him, but it felt awkward.
Jun Li reached across the table and squeezed his hand; apparently, his friends also picked up on his concerns. "Don't worry, Nix; we'll relog into the exact moment we left. Our NPC friends will still be there."
[Logging Off: Virtuna]
[Logging In: Colonial]
[Patch Notes: In an Epic battle beneath the frozen Tundra of Colonial, the Inferno Guild suffered a significant loss. Khione struck down their Guild Leader, and the two of them disappeared into a rift created by the Ice Goddess. ]
[A file labeled Read Me has been sent to your hud.]
Jun Li invited all the Player Officers to her vineyard home, oddly enough only Semmi had ever been there before since Inferno tended to congregate wherever Nix was. Behind her house, there was a large patio with a long table for entertaining. No one was in a festive mood. Ronnie sat with her arms crossed, her dark eyes already blazing with anger.
[Jun Li has created the Vineyard channel]
Semmi has joined the Vineyard channel.
Pon has joined the Vineyard channel.
Wind has joined the Vineyard channel.
Banzi has joined the Vineyard channel.
Chael has joined the Vineyard channel.
Nansu has joined the Vineyard channel.
Tess has joined the Vineyard channel.
Sharl has joined the Vineyard channel.
Ronnie has joined the Vineyard channel.
/Vineyard: Jun Li: I'll bring up the Read-Me file, and then we can go from there.
Read-Me [Inferno: Vice Leader Jun Li]
Several adjustments had to be made in order for our future expansion to be released properly. We regret this matter and recognize that it is unfair to the Inferno Guild. As compensation, all Inferno members are granted a complimentary 5-year Deep Stay. This can be used at any time and will never expire. All members of Inferno have been raised to level 125, the minimum level now required to enter Everspire. The Gemini Gate Platform in Haven now includes the starting city in Everspire. Additionally, all fees related to crafting and gate travel will no longer be charged to Inferno members.
All NPC memories have been adjusted to reflect the new sequence of events; please speak with them at length to fully understand the changes.
[Re-Edited Events of the Heart of Winter.]
Nix, Semmi, Pon, Wind, Jun Li, and Tess spent several days investigating the disappearance of the Ashobel in the Polar Icecap. During this time, Nix was able to place Tharaka into the body of an Emperor Ashobel doll that he created with Taxidermy. Tharaka assumed leadership of the Ashobel and accompanied the Team to Aquarius.
Inferno defeated Neptiphago, and Nix used the city Interface to establish control of the Aquarius. Aki and her squad of Archons were sent to Loki by Nix. After leaving Aquarius, Inferno traveled with Fabri to destroy the Heart of Winter artifact.
The heroes journeyed toward a cavern a few miles from Cyphix, where the Heart of Winter was kept. When they attempted to destroy the artifact, Khione, the Goddess of Winter, manifested. In a hard-fought battle, Khione was on the verge of being defeated when she managed a sneak attack on Nix that temporarily stunned him. She took advantage of that moment and struck down the Inferno Guild Leader. Before the rest of the Team could finish her, she opened a rift and disappeared. The rift remained open, but no sign of Nix could be found.
Pon stood up and slammed his hand on the table; his old face was beet red as he shouted several incoherent sentences that were devoid of anything but cusswords.
/Vineyard: Wind: Answer to the question on how to beat Inferno, you rewrite the ending.
/Vineyard: Ronnie: Is this some horrible joke? Are they f*cking kidding? Who cares about a few levels? Or some fees?
[Player Message Only] Welcome to the New Everspire Expansion. You may start a new character at level 125 to adventure in the fabled dragon origin world of Everspire. There is now an entrance to Everspire North of Cyphix; you must be level 125 to enter. Be sure to explore with caution; you will have to earn new gear and weapons, none of your old equipment can pass through the rift into Everspire. All Experience points in Colonial and Oasis have been doubled.
/Vineyard: Tess: Guys... Listen, this is just a minor bump. Inferno has just become part of Colonial Game Lore. It's a huge nod to us that they handled it this way.
/Vineyard: Jun Li: That's a good point. Nix is missing, but he has to be somewhere in Everspire.
/Vineyard: Semmi: I spoke with Hyai before coming here. Ducky, Morti, Fey, and Shae were also part of the Khione fight. That was left out of the Read-Me. Apparently, they were all slain.
/Vineyard: Pon: F*CK! The f*cking hell are they trying to pull? He can't summon any companion help?
/Vineyard: Wind: His companions will be down for 3-days. He just has to lay low.
/Vineyard: Ronnie: Lay low? Have you met Nix?
/Vineyard: Pon: Wait... He has those flying thingies. Arch Winds!
Jun Li shook her head and pointed to a large chest sitting by her backdoor.
/Vineyard: Jun Li: I received a Guild Notification that this trunk has all of Nix's gear in it. Those Arch Winds are summoned with a bracer.
/Vineyard: Pon: Oh for f*cks sake. Is this a nightmare? Did they handcuff the boy too? Make him wear a blindfold?
/Vineyard: Sharl: I get it. They are trying to slow down the expansion. From what Nix says, the harder areas of Everspire are hazardous. Players will rush to the starter city, but it will take a long time to gear up.
/Vineyard: Semmi: Nix has control of Inferno City, think about it. A dragon city high above Everspire. They let us discover Everspire to usher in the expansion, but they have to slow us down.
/Vineyard: Jun Li: Everspire is enormous, bigger than Oasis, and Colonial combined. They'll be a rush of noobs starting 'instant 125s.' The rest of Colonial will be scrambling to level up.
/Vineyard: Ronnie: Hey... Going through the rift in Cyphix causes you to lose all your gear. Will the same thing happen if we use the Gemini gate to enter?
/Vineyard: Sharl: They had to put this patch together fast, could they have f*cked up?
/Vineyard: Jun Li: Only one way to find out.
/Vineyard: Semmi: The eight of us and Fajii will go.
/Vineyard: Nansu: Include me, please. I'm a lifestyle player, but I can investigate the town and gather whatever intel is available from local sources.
/Vineyard: Jun Li: Good enough. The 10 of us will find Nix.
/Inferno: Jun Li: Fajii, would you be available to come with a Scout team to investigate Everspire?
/Inferno: Fajii: Yes. When are we leaving?
/Inferno: Jun Li: First thing in the morning.
/Inferno: Fajii: Mina has already gone through the gate; she is no longer in contact.
/Inferno: Jun Li: Understood. See you in the morning.