Kass always felt a strange mixture of admiration and horror as she watched her red-eyed friend tear into the flesh of his enemies. She had seen warriors fight before, and she knew their gory, hack-and-slash melee visage well, but they were nothing like Darwin. When others fought, it was clear they were playing a game. They would either play out their attacks like turns, thinking before each strike, or just swinging with reckless abandon at the monster’s hit box hoping to do damage. When Darwin fought, however, it was different: almost every hit landed on a vital spot with gore-splattering precision. His motions didn’t flow together so much as creep like stuttering death across a battlefield. It was clear that he was walking a fine line of savagery somewhere between a cornered animal fighting for its life and a sadistic artist using his weapon an instrument and his enemy as a blank canvas waiting to be painted with pain and cruelty. There were times he was clearly enjoying what he did, and others where Kass wasn’t so sure.
Naturally, it often sent shivers down her spine when Darwin carved up forest monsters. This time, however, Kass felt nothing but relief as he obliterated the putrid, grotesque boars one after another. Even just looking at them caused her stomach to do somersaults and her insides attempt an emergency evacuation through her mouth. I need to have Dad find out what team designed these vile creatures and fire them. Then fire them from every future job that even remotely requires them to work on design or illustration, she thought in disgust.
The only saving grace was that between her two spells, Frost Edge and Frost Step, she could contribute to the fight, even with her eyes closed. Her new skill Frost Step increased Darwin’s movement speed by 5% while slowing the speed of all those within a 3-meter radius of him by 5%. Coupled with her Frost Edge’s 25% boost to damage for Darwin, she felt she’d contributed more than enough to justify the experience and loot in these fights where the visual was too much to take.
“So Darwin, you said you lived in Georgia, right?” Kass asked, doing her best not to look at the EXP sources Darwin was hacking in half.
“Yeah. Why, what’s up?” he asked.
“Nothing, just wondering if you’re going to go to the Comic-Con convention in Atlanta coming up soon. I think my dad is dragging me, and I was debating if I should invite a few friends,” Kass said, slightly curious what her friend Darwin would be like in real life.
“Your dad is dragging you to Comic-Con?” he asked.
“Yeah. He has to go . . . Part of work, you might say. They do a lot of marketing, and he has to constantly answer questions at those type of events.” She didn’t want to admit to the fact that she usually begged for her dad to bring her along for the events since he generally had VIP access to almost everything.
“Really? So what are you planning on going as?” he inquired.
“Oh, me? I’m not really sure what I’m going to dress up as,” she answered, trying her best not to let Darwin know that she had secretly been planning her costume and working on it for months.
“I’ve always did want to go to one of those, but I’ve never had the time. They were always scheduled on event weekends.”
“So you avoided Comic-Con because of gaming events?” she asked in disbelief. Gaming usually brought people to the dorky events, not pushed them away.
“Yeah. If you want to put it that simply, I guess?”
“Well, how about coming to this next one? You look similar to your avatar, right? Minus the red eyes?” Despite the fact that they had spent so much time with him in game, Darwin still seemed reluctant to share much information about himself with her. And she was determined to pry as much as possible.
“You could say our faces are identical, yeah.”
“So pop on a bathrobe and come to the next one,” she pushed.
“I would if I could, but I imagine that I’ll be pretty occupied.”
“You mean you’ll be playing the game the entire day? Come on. One day of missed leveling won’t be a big deal. It would be nice to have another friend to hang out with during all the events. Half the fun of an event like Comic-Con is either making fun of or admiring the costumes–depending on how awful or well-made they are, of course. It’s way more fun when you have someone to laugh with.”
“No, it’s okay. You go. I’d love to, but I’m kind of already trapped into something. Seriously though, thanks for the invitation,” he said, awkwardly scratching his head and avoiding her gaze as he said it.
“Fine, fine. I’ll drop the subject, but you really should go to one, even without me, one day. They’re absolutely a blast,” she said, feeling a bit like the creep herself for once. She definitely wasn’t used to pushing for something and being so flatly rejected.
As they rounded the next corner, Kass felt like she should have been more surprised than she actually was. Normally, anyone who made it through a dungeon of grotesque, mutant aberrations would have to be. What she saw ahead of her, however, only confused her. What they had stumbled into was a simple, marble kitchen that could have been straight out of a Martha Stewart catalogue–if it wasn’t for the over-sized bunny that appeared to be cooking something on a stove top island. But honestly, after the poker-playing bear and Buffy the Medusa, the only way she was going to be caught off guard was if it was anything remotely resembling a normal, expected Boss.
The eight-foot-tall rabbit, dressed in a suit with a monocle and a timepiece as if he were straight out of Alice in Wonderland, was in the middle of flipping some pancakes when he finally noticed them. “Ahhh!” he shouted, messing up the flip and leaving the pancake he was making to land flat on his head between his long, pointy ears.
“A bunny with a pancake on its head . . . Why do I feel like I’ve seen that before?” Kass asked, staring at the overly familiar sight.
“Not sure, but I’m actually going to say that’s pretty cute.”
“Really? I thought men aren’t supposed to say things are cute.”
“Who said that?” Darwin asked indignantly.
“I don’t know. People?” Kass replied.
“Well, people are wrong. Things are cute –like a bunny with pancakes on its head, for example,” Darwin insisted, both of them still stuck staring at the curiosity. Kass had to admit, it was indeed cute.
Even as they stood chatting back and forth, however, the bunny with pancakes on its head slowly grew bigger. It started off as a tall rabbit, and each passing second it grew wider, turning it into something monstrous. It’s originally skinny arms began to bulge, muscles started to pump up and veins began popping out. The cheaply tailored suit it was wearing slowly shredded as the muscles kept bulging bigger and bigger.
When it was finally done with its transformation, it looked like an eight-foot-tall steroid junkie trying to overdose.
“So . . .” Kass started, giving Darwin a look that said they needed to take care of the monster before they talked any more about where they had seen it before.
“Yeah, I got it,” Darwin said, dashing at the Hulk-bunny behind the island.
As Darwin dashed forward, hopping over the island in an attempt to land a quick blow against the bunny, who easily blocked the attack with his claws, Kass was stuck trying to decide what type of spell would be best. There were fancy spells like Ice Dragon’s Dance, but each of them had huge setbacks from either low DPS, long channeling times, or a chance to miss if the target moved; even worse, the AoE damage from the spell might send Darwin all the way back to spawn if she wasn’t careful. As a result, no matter how hard she thought about what type of spell she wanted to use, she always ended up slamming her staff into the ground and chain casting Snowball’s Chance as fast as she could. It was reliable, rarely missed, and her go-to spell. In the end, it was exactly what she did here.
Kass tried to focus on casting the spell at the monster’s legs to help decrease its mobility, spamming the skill as fast as he could–until Darwin did something that made her laugh so hard she couldn’t concentrate. During the fight, the cottontail had grabbed both of Darwin’s blades and was using its ears as weapons in an attempt to attack Darwin. Darwin let go of his weapons, crouched to the floor and darted under the rabbit’s legs. When the bunny turned around to attack him again, the rabbit was met with Darwin throwing two onions from the counter into its face and then chopping them up over and over again in midair with a butcher’s knife he had found.
The roid-rabbit stopped attacking Darwin to rub its eyes, clearly crying from the onions, giving Darwin enough time to stab it in the gut with the butcher’s knife. Darwin left the blade buried in the hare’s belly and grabbed the nearest frying pan. At that point, he just started beating the bunny across its crying face with the pan, leaving Kass helplessly giggling in the corner instead of helping. When the poor Boss animal finally died, Darwin chopped one of its feet off with the Butcher’s knife and threw it at Kass.
“There, now you can have a rabbit’s foot!” he said. Somehow, the brutality of smashing a living thing’s face in with a frying pan had not dented his desire to make bad jokes.
“Did you just kill it with a frying pan? Was there not a spoon nearby?” Kass asked, trying her best to be polite and not entirely disturbed as she tossed the Boss’s foot to the ground.
“Yeah, no spoons. All I saw was a fork, and I just wasn’t sure which way to go with that. So yeah, I grabbed the frying pan.” He clearly felt no shame at his oddly won victory.
“Alright, well then. What did he drop?”
“Oh, yeah. Check it out. It’s perfect for you,” he said, throwing a piece of jewelry at her.
Kass caught it. It was a cut sapphire jewel in the shape of an oval with a silver dragon curling around it, wings outstretched and hooked to a thin silver chain. She opened up her menu and examined the item: Dragon’s Tear, +10 to Concentration, +10 to Spirit. Wow, this is perfect for me! And it’s so pretty!
“See? Now you get to be the first girl I’ve ever given jewelry to,” he said as she put on the necklace.
“Awwwww . . . I’m touched,” she feigned sincerity. What? The first girl? Really? Does that mean he has never had a serious girlfriend?
“So did that sate your hunger for a boss fight with a proper loot drop?”
“Yes! Yes, it did. And now I’m tired, so I’m going to hit the hay. See ya ‘round, pan-player,” she said, logging off for the night.
Even though she logged off for the night, satisfied with finally getting some gear from a dungeon boss, she couldn’t help but check the forums. She felt like she was tired enough to pass out as soon as her head hit a pillow, but some habits just couldn’t be kicked that easily. It was even worse today since she had so many questions burning in the back of her brain: Why was a Creation Stone on starting island? Has anyone ever run into a Medusa boss before? What ability lets a player turn a monster they’ve just killed into a permanent zombie pet?
The problem was that no matter how far back she searched, she couldn’t find answers for any of her questions in the forums archives. Instead of answers, she just found herself with more questions. To begin with, no-one even mentioned an ability close to Darwin’s. Even though it was clearly overpowered, it wasn’t suggested in any of the trending builds. Given the massive size of the forums, and the sheer amount of user feedback generated within them, it just didn’t make sense logically for there to be a skill that wasn’t mentioned.
Then, to make matters worse, there hadn’t been a single sighting of a Medusa, a Creation Stone or even a boss that gave up a prize–any prize–without a fight. In fact, none of her searches even turned up results of a boss that didn’t simply attack as soon as the player entered their aggro zone–much less talk to the player and then give them the dungeon’s treasure.
The more she dug, hoping to find even a single shred of information that might shed a ray of light on her quandary, the more she became frustrated. What the Hell is going on with you, Darwin? She tried to add up the day’s events with everything else that had happened recently in Valcrest, but kept coming up short. Something is still missing. How can there be so many mysteries centered around a single doofus in a bathrobe?