Saturday, August 9, 2014

Episode 17: The Shift Tactic

EPISODE 17: The Shift Tactic

David and Jenny returned from the cave and had plenty sunlight ahead of them. The plan was to take a nap at the first opportunity. However, they had to first tread through the interrogations of everyone else. When they arrived at Reid’s house, both had to take turns relaying what had occurred in the cave this time. Finally, David reached the subject of the Ancient Neocards.
            “…And so I got what the Sentinel called an ‘Ancient Neocard,’” the Guardian revealed.
            “Ancient Neocard? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” Nathan questioned with the look on his face that easily said, “Who came up with that stupid name?”
            “Actually,” David began to clarify, though obviously desiring that nap. “Zel was just enlightening me not too long ago that it isn’t the Greek ‘Neo” that is being used. It was a new word for ‘Spirit.’ Kinda interesting to think about it like that.”
            “So we’re ‘Spirit Strikers’?” Emily asked, realizing the chain of logic.
            “That’s what it sounds like,” Reid commented. “So our forms are actually representations of our spirit. At least that explains the instinctive use of our abilities.”
            “And why bullets have no effect,” Dyl added, at which everyone took a look at him for an explanation. “W-well, it’s like that saying that ‘you can shoot the man, but you cannot kill the idea.’”
            “I don’t buy it,” Nathan announced.
            “It’s like I was saying…” Dyl attempted to continue.
            “Don’t sweat it,” the sniper brushed it off. “I just need some time to think about it.”
            “That’s probably a good idea. It will make sense more if you straighten out your thoughts before you attempt an explanation,” Reid joined in. He understood but was afraid that Dyl might slip up while caught up in the moment.
            “I think what is interesting is the Elite Stones’ abilities that you could use,” Nathan said to Jennifer, changing the focus. 
            “That is amazing!” Dyl agreed. “She doesn’t even have a form but she can use the Elite Stones. I guess next time we should hand her ours so we can find out what she can do.”
            Jenny appreciated the attention she was getting for her new abilities. However, Emily rolled her eyes and left for some air. The sole daughter of the archeologist felt some sadness as Emily walked away with the “grudge” never explained but becoming more apparent.  
David, on the other hand, took advantage of the focus on Jenny and escaped without notice to sleep. When he awoke it was later afternoon and everyone else was off somewhere. He assisted Reid’s mother with some chores, but otherwise was getting a little bored. His mind drifted to what the next two trials could be. Distracted by these thoughts, he failed to notice Jenny walking in, awake from her nap.
“Where’s everyone else?” she asked.
It took him a second to shake off the surprise and reply, “Preparing like normal.” He then took a look at her and asked, “Are you up for going after that second trial?”
“If you want to, then I’ll go. I got the rest of the stones,” she answered.
“Let’s go then. I’ll go prepare some stuff for us. This time we won’t forget to pack some food and water.”
“Alright. I’ll take care of some other stuff then.” With that, she ran off to do whatever she needed to and David turned to his Asen.
            “So are you able to give any hints about the next test?” he inquired.
            “Only that there won’t be any neomon to fight. But I can tell you about a new ability,” Zel answered.
“What is it?” the youth implored anxiously.
“It’s called mode change. After you defeated Gnugger, you unlocked a mode for your form; Power or Attack. When you defeat the others, you will unlock others as well.”
“That’s cool,” David responded. Then his mind wandered a little bit on the tangent of abilities. He decided to purchase some new neocards. Based off a feeling he had, he went with an ultra bomb and air booster. A few minutes later, both of them were running to the warehouse for another adventure.
When they emerged from the darkness, they found themselves inside a building. It was nothing like anything in the city. The heavily decorated walls were thick with stone and age. It was certainly ancient architecture, but highly civilized and beaming with plant life. Perhaps it was the most glorious botanical garden one could ever imagine inside a torch-lit environment.  Yet perhaps the most profound was the water. Everywhere there was water from a spout gushing out to most of the floor, which was covered in it.
“I guess we didn’t need to bring water after all,” Jenny stated in the same outfit as before but with an empty quiver. Instead she was carrying the small pack of supplies just in case.
They walked across the room and came to three long passages. In front stood a sign that read, “Choose wisely the path that calls you gently, there is no turning back after you choose."
“That’s it?!” Jenny cried out. “You think they could at least provide a hint.”
“If it was easy for us, then it wouldn’t be a trial, now would it?”
“Well, this is only one thing. Besides, we’re going to have to face monsters anyways.”
“Actually… Zel told me we won’t,” David revealed to her. “So I think this trial is entirely mind and skill based. We’re going to have to solve puzzles.”
“Fun,” the princess uttered as her voice was drowned out. The waterfall was making a lot of noise.
They sat down to think about the puzzle. Soon, David took to a meditative position taking long breaths.  
“What are you doing?” the archer asked.
“Something my grandpa told me to do a long time ago,” the warrior explained. “I used to get distracted very easily. Perhaps ‘used to’ isn’t the right phrase, but you know what I mean. Anyways, being so visual, I would get distracted by anything that looked cool or pretty when I needed to pay attention.
“So my grandpa would have me close my eyes and practice meditation. His instruction would be to imagine a bowl of calm water and concentrate on that. He said after that, it would become easier to focus on my surroundings as long as I kept my eyes closed.”
“Because it was through your eyes that you would get distracted?” Jenny asked and David affirmed it. So the princess decided to try it herself. She attempted for a minute, but gave up saying, “It doesn’t work. The water is making too much noise. I can’t concentrate.”
The warrior laughed and replied, “That’s probably why it’s there. It’s to mask whatever gentle call we are supposed to be listening for. Besides, the first time always takes forever. But the more you practice, the easier and faster it becomes. Just be silent for a while and I’ll try again.”
It wasn’t easy, but she stayed quiet. She had to focus on admiring the beauty of the room while David meditated. As he meditated, he slowly began to hear a consistent soft dropping of water hitting a pool. As more time went on, he became able to isolate it and determine the path.
            Not long after they chose a tunnel, the opening collapsed, forcing them to move forward. On the other side, they found a pool of water and with drops falling from a device. On the side, they see a ledge they needed to reach, but it was too high for David to fly up to. 
            This time it was Jenny’s turn to improvise. She found boards of wood that could be used as a raft. Urging David to get on, she claimed she might be able to take them halfway. After she climbed on, she manipulated the water to shoot the raft straight up.
The newly formed master of the elements was correct. It took them halfway, but that was all Cyonex needed to make the jump. Grabbing hold of the princess, he jumped and with aid of the jetpack and air booster neocard, they made it up and advanced through the trial.
Their next challenge appeared when they entered a room. There was nothing in there except for some arrows and a sealed passage. By the passage, they found a hole, not large enough to fire a blast, but enough to shoot an arrow through. The princess took a look.
“What do you see?” the warrior asked eager to take a look himself.
“It’s another nicely lit room,” she described. There’s an unlit torch below a rope on the other side. And then there’s a flame that comes on randomly for a second.”
“Let me see,” David said curious about the arrangement. He was like one of those kids who really don’t want to be told what’s there but see for himself. Jenny, on the other hand, stepped aside to ponder what they were supposed to do.
“I guess you’re going to have to fire an arrow through the flame and light the torch,” David expressed when he was finished with the hole.
“I figured that, but how? The flame is too unpredictable and I have only these arrows.
            “Yeah, if it was right against the wall, then it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. If only it would stay on for a little longer, then you can be sure to get it.”
            “Yeah…” she agreed thoughtfully.
They both sat down and pondered the situation. Deciding that it wouldn’t do much good to just think, they decided to take a chance. Estimating when the flame would appear, Jenny took a couple of shots. The first missed the target. The second hit, but the flame went out before the arrow could reach it. Not wanting to waste the remaining shafts, they went back to thinking. While doing so, they ate the sandwiches they packed.
“It’s a shame you can’t manipulate fire,” David uttered while biting his sandwich, but then a thought dawned on him. “You have the others’ stones, right?” he asked anxious to test a theory.
“Yes, why?” Jenny answered not catching on just yet.
“Well, so far you have been able to manipulate the elements. What if that includes time?”
“Time as an element?” Jenny responded with half sarcasm.
“Try it,” he urged. “The regular ability is a boost in speed. Perhaps your ability is to slow down time.”
“We’ll see,” she said, getting up, and still with doubt.
She took up another missile, took aim, and waited. She waited for the flame to appear. It did, and then she activated the Elite Stone’s power and the flame lingered. It wasn’t for much longer, but it did. It stayed up for approximately five times longer before Jenny couldn’t hold it anymore.
Impressed with a successful gauge of the Stone’s ability, she waited again. This time she would release an arrow with the flame in slow motion. She followed her plan, and the shaft went through the flame, but it didn’t catch the fire.
Realizing that the arrow was possibly going too fast for the flame in real time, she took aim again. This time, she used the Elite Stone’s power before the flame appeared. After it appeared, she exited out of the alternate time and released the arrow. It went through the flame, but still didn’t catch fire.
The archer then decided to take a third attempt. This time, the arrow would need to be released before the flame so that when the flame burst, it would engulf the entire shaft. It was only a guess. She couldn’t even tell if this was a realistic possibility, but she tried and it worked.
The arrow finally took the flame and lit the torch. The fire from the torch then lit the rope and burned it. After a few seconds of the rope burning, the two trial takers heard the falling of heavy objects. As the last object fell, the passage opened.
Inside the room, the two travelers found an eight-by-eight grid with four heavy boulders on different spots. The ashes on the floor made it obvious that all of them were connected by ropes that burned. The biggest boulder, still tied by rope, was up by the passage about three squares from the side wall. After looking up, they could see that the big boulder was holding the passage open.
On the far wall, David and Jenny found a plaque that read, “To advance, place the boulders on the correct spots. The order is the answer to this riddle.

A treasure chest by which value is weighed
Filled with whatever possible and impossible
Always there, but never opened
To break it would lose all that it contains.”

“So it’s something like Pandora’s Box?” Jenny spoke out tossing ideas.
“Maybe,” David replied but with no opinion behind it. It was one of those default responses one gives without thinking about it.
 “After giving so many puzzles, you’d think we could expect a strategic one soon, right?” Jenny said, not sure what to make out of it all. “Instead we have a riddle. And even after we solve the riddle, we have to figure out how it relates to the boulders.”
The warrior strolled around the room, taking a gander at the boulders and their starting positions. He took notice that the entire room was not in the grid. He then spotted that the torch they lit was outside the grid, but the pole holding the flame was in the corner. Investigating the floor, he realized that the tiles had alternate colors from beige to dark brown. The layout looked like this:






P stands for Puzzle, H for hole, F for Fire, and the B’s for boulders

He now had an idea of how room related to the riddle, but first he would need to solve that riddle to test it.
“You know,” Jenny began again. “If it weren’t for the fact that we wanted to move on, this is actually a nice room. Could use some decorations, but…”
“Jenny! Be quiet for a second,” David spoke out annoyed. “I need to clear my head…” He then proceeded to face palm.  “It’s really that simple isn’t it?” he asked rhetorically.
“What is it?” she asked trying to figure out what was running through his mind.
“Stand over by the wall,” the Guardian instructed, pointing to the wall she shot the arrow across. “This room is laid out like a chess board.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“A chess board is an 8x8 grid labeled 1-8 and A-H,” he started explaining. “Assuming the big boulder and the flame are fixed, we can write a word. The flame is at A1, so the first letter is A. My next guess is that the second row has no character so it should be a space. That means the big boulder is the third letter and so it’s an ‘H’. We need to spell the rest out using the remaining three boulders.”
“What are we spelling?” the princess called out as the warrior moved to the closest boulder.
“A head!” he replied trying to push the boulder. “Something’s value is determined by how much you are willing to give up for it. It can hold thoughts of reality or the fictional. But you cannot break it open to get what’s inside, because then you killed the guy and every thought inside. Now if I can only move the boulders!”
“You need help at all?”
“If you think you can manipulate rocks too, then yes.”
“Sorry, the Elite Stone only works for grass and vines.”
David stepped back and took another look. “Don’t worry, I have something else that might do it.” He went back to the boulder and was finally able to move it. Jenny looked at him and had no idea what to think other than he was faking it before. Either way, she still told him where to move the giant stones. After the last boulder reached its destination, another passage opened up with stairs.
At the top of the staircase, the couple found a spectacular sight. They were on an open deck beneath a starry night. They had gotten a glimpse of the night in the village, but not as amazing as they saw it now. Shooting stars gleaned the silver lit sky. Perhaps it was the greatest natural scene they had ever seen.
Both of them stood in awe and wonder at the view they had, from atop of a tower. To add to their delight, they found that the tower was built on a beach and could hear the soothing waves and smell the fresh ocean air. Taking it all in, they felt like they could stay there forever.
Jenny, delighted by it all, ran up to the ledge and twirled to grasp it all. However, she went a little too far and nearly fell off the railing, but David held her back.
“Sorry,” she said, a little embarrassed.
“Don’t worry. I feel almost like doing the same thing,” he replied with a smile and looked up at the beautiful decorated night.
“David, I want to thank you,” the princess said.
“For what?” the Guardian responded.
“For everything,” she smiled and it was one that perfectly matched the beauty of the night. “This whole adventure. It’s been like a dream come true in every regard. Being alone so often, I would dream of being a princess. And then a knight in shining armor would come to my rescue. So when Zel told me what was going to happen, and when you came that first time in the alley, I was delighted beyond belief.”
She took a deep breath and continued. “I feel bad that you have had to come to my rescue so many times, but every time, I feel like my heart is going to explode with joy. And now that I have these powers, I am even more ecstatic to be able to help you. And this view! There is no one I would rather see it with!”
“Jenny,” the knight responded. “I will admit that when I was a child, I did not care who it was I was rescuing. It could be any damsel as long as it meant I would have an adventure. As I grew up though, I started requiring my princess to be someone I would want to save. I can’t say this is true for anyone else, but I will come to your aid as often as I need to. It’s not just because of my duty, but because you are worth it to me. In that regard, you are the perfect princess, because you are worth saving.”
Neither of them could tell why, but the air around them seemed to strip them of all of their fears and worries. They were at absolute peace to reveal their feelings for each other, yet at the same time take no advantage of the vulnerability. There was complete respect for each other. They just stood there on the balcony, gazing at the blanket of silver stars over the soft and gentle ocean and holding dear the other.
After sadly realizing that they could not stay, they went down a second stairwell back inside. However, they did not neglect to take a picture for memory.
 The two dreamers continued through the trial, solving the various puzzles that challenged them. Eventually, they reached an arena with a few pillars spread out and complete with stands for an audience. In the center, the second Sentinel stood. This one was a knight. In his left gauntlet was a huge invulnerable shield.
“Greetings, Cyonex the Falcon, and your highness the Shining Princess!” the Sentinel called out like the first. 
            “I take it you’re a Sentinel,” David stated.
            “I am. My name is Swight,” came the reply. “My lady, you must go to the stands and watch from there.”
            Jenny heeded the order and walked to the bleachers. She was pleased that there was finally a place for her to sit and watch.
            After the princess was clear of the arena, a Nellenion field appeared and both warriors drew their swords. Cyonex pulled his glorious Sudron and Swight unsheathed a mighty blade of his own. It had a golden hilt curved toward the blade and decorated with a ruby, a sapphire, and an onyx. It was obvious that this opponent was a heavy striker.
            They both took a moment to size each other up and then they both closed in. The first clash of their duel. David now had an idea of the force he was up against. The Sentinel’s one handed blade nearly overpowered his two handed approach.
Breaking apart from the clash to strategize, Cyonex moved away.
“He’s pretty powerful,” David muttered.
“Yeah, and his shield isn’t just a piece of wood either,” Zel commented for the first time the entire trial.
“Have any suggestions?”
“Well, if you want to even the power game, you do have your mode change, but then your defense and speed will drop.”
“And I can’t just keep changing, can I?”
“Nope. After each mode change, you’re stuck with it for a while before you can change back.”
Deciding to test the strength of the shield, the youth fired a falcon’s blast but it did nothing to the knight’s guard. Sheathing Sudron, the youth decided to try a twin sword tactic. He activated his shock sword and torch sword. He then charged in and attacked head on. However, the mighty arm of Swight forced him to use both of his blades to parry.
There was no other choice for him at the moment, he switched to Power mode. There was no change to his appearance, but definitely to his stats. As Zel said, the power would go up, but at the sacrifice of speed and armor. David was able to compensate for the armor by using his saiber armor, granting a small increase in defense and a barrier for one blow. However, the speed couldn’t be accounted for, not that it made much of a difference. At least then, the youth should be able to hold off the knight’s heavy blade.
  They clashed blades again and David fared better, but he couldn’t get past that shield. It was larger by far than Drame’s buckler, so the tactic of going high and low could not work. The best bet would be to strike in between the sword and shield, but the Sentinel was too strong in combat for that. The Guardian would need to come up with another plan.
The youth first led the Sentinel away from the pillars. He then attempted to circle around him. His hopes were to make the knight dizzy by causing him to turn around so much. It possibly could have worked. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fighting a human being. So instead, he got tired out and the knight took advantage of it and struck a hard blow, sending the youth far back and into a pillar.
“This isn’t working well,” David said, trying to come up with a strategy.
“If you’re just trying to match his power, then you’ll always be at a disadvantage,” his Asen commented. “You’re going to need to use your own skills and abilities. The increase of power is just so that doesn’t happen again.”
“I can’t see any openings either. And if he were human, that last trick should have worked,” the youth complained.
“Then you’ll have to create an opening.”
“Well, I know if I can get a stab with my shock sword, I might be able to sneak another blow in. I just need to get chance and capitalize it.”
The dreamer took a look through his remaining neocards. He then had an idea. Taking a page from his last battle, he launched a smoke screen around his opponent.
Despite being inhuman, Swight was not given an advantage of being able to see through smoke. The next thing the knight knew, he got shot from behind. It was quicker than he anticipated, but he turned anyways to block what he thought would be a follow up. Instead, he hit by the shock sword from behind and the stun from that left him open for a mega sword neocard combo.
What happened was that David used his boomer shot to loop around and hit the Sentinel. Since Swight thought that David somehow snuck behind him, he turned when in fact, he didn’t. This gave the Guardian the opening he needed. The youth had shifted to thinking like a fox.
The Sentinel got back up on his feet and the smoke was gone. However, he couldn’t see Cyonex. The next thing he knew, there were bombs both in front and behind. The shield only guarded him from one, but that meant that the one behind was the stronger blast, sending him face flat.
Then, diving like a bird of prey, David came and landed a heavy blow with Sudron, but Swight rolled over in time for the shield to block it.
The knight got back on his feet and held his ground. However, Cyonex was now on the offensive. In his Power mode, he could now handle the Sentinel’s blade. He continued to slam his sword against the shield.
“Your puny sword will never break my shield,” Swight proclaimed strongly.
“So what?” Cyonex responded with carelessness that frightened the Sentinel.
Now acting more like the Falcon than the Fox, David forced the knight back and then used Elite Fire to push him against a pillar. The attack did no damage in itself, but the impact against the pillar stunned Swight just long enough for the Guardian to swing his flaming sword past the shield using Full Power. With that slash, David emerged victorious.
Following the routine from last time, Jenny obtained the sphere of light, and David gained the Ancient Neocard, “Guardian’s Block,” and a new mode, Defense. Then they walked through another passage that brought them back home.

Episode 18: The Bird and the Samurai

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