You created a new prayer.
Name: Target Stinks.
Description: The next positive skill hitting the target will flip, causing an adverse effect.
Class: Personal Skill
CD: 1 min
Duration: up to 10 seconds or until a positive skill hits the target
Affinities: Entropy, Faith
Restrictions: Prayer must be in the same or higher tier than the flipped Skill.
The parrot crashed into the ship, slicing the players who were too slow to dodge with its hooked feathers.
Eddie jumped forward and rammed his rapier into the bird's eye.
"My ghost will haunt you!" Captain Squack screeched before it stopped moving.
Flora's HUD filled up with notifications. If she hadn't adjusted the transparency, she would be unable to see anything.
You gained an Achievement: Multitasking: Cast 5 skills in less than 2 seconds.
Reward: + 1 OV Magical Macro-Control (converted into a marble)
You gained an Achievement: Contributor II: Have the highest contribution in a group of more than ten players in a boss fight.
Reward: Eligible for Party and Raid-Leader positions in the PuPSy.
Name: Squack's Cocked Hat
Type: Clothing, hat
Effect: + 2 OV to Physical Macro-Control if you own a seafaring vessel.
Need | Greed | Abstain
"What is happening?" Flora asked. "Which option should I take?"
With a fluid movement, Eddie retrieved his blood-soaked weapon while his eyes focused on Flora. Intensity radiated from Eddie in waves. "Who are you asking, love? Your gorgeous smelling friend Eddie, or your even more fragrant enemy Eddie, which you targeted by your evil prayer!"
"It was an accident, Eddie. A skill-accident. No need to look at me that way." Flora said. "I'm sorry."
"Just imagine my surprise when the System notified me that my good friend Flowing Flowers had cast a nasty skill on me." Eddie drawled. "The System had at least the grace to apologize for the incident because as a member of your group, I shouldn't be a valid target for negative skills."
"I apologized, as well!" Flora said nervously.
"Treason! You betrayed me, Flora!" Eddie half yelled, and half sobbed.
Recognizing that Eddie was in drama-mode, Flora relaxed and grinned. "You got me 3/4 this time!"
Suddenly, the actor laughed and high-fived Flora. "One of my best performances to date! That new skill is awesome! But please use it on our enemies."
A girl started clapping, and a boy joined in.
"You are Ed Degenhart, right? I adored you in 'Three Blossoms for a Cent'. I watched it every Christmas as a child!" The girl chirped. "May I take a selfie with you?"
"Of course, dear."
"Thank you so much, Mr. Degenhart. So groovy that someone your age enters VR!"
Eddie's face fell.
"I mean, that shows that you're young at heart!" The girl hastily corrected.
Flora chuckled. "Eddie got you, too. He is in rare form today."
The girl was relieved and giggled when Eddie winked at her.
While Eddie posed for pictures, Aidan notified Flora that she had the right to salvage Captain Squack because she contributed the most, but she had to hurry. She had already lost the privilege to roll for the Captain's hat because she hadn't reacted fast enough.
The beak, fabrics from its bandana and clothing, feathers, hooks, meat, claws, and wood from its peg separated in piles. Her inventory was already filled with different meat and stuff from the crabs. She would have liked to transfer the non-perishable parts into a container, but the ship was too crowded and the runways too rickety to place the 3x3x3m container. With clenched teeth, she bought one more row of inventory slots for 10 VirDias.
"Should I share with the others? What are the customs regarding the distribution of the salvaged parts?"
"Do you need the claws, Flowing Flowers? I want to craft something with them." A young man in green leather armor asked her at the same moment. So Flora took only some hooks and red fabric and released the rest.
"It is recommended to clarify the distribution of loot and salvaged bounty before partying, Milady. I found a lengthy article about guidelines in the forums, filled with the kind of legal text you don't enjoy. Do you want to read it?"
"The short version is that if you plan to wear a piece of equipment because it is better than anything you own, you choose 'Need'. If you plan to wear it only occasionally, or one of your companions would like it, or you could really use the money you get by selling it, you choose 'Greed'. If you don't want to have it at all, 'Abstain' is the right option. When you are unsure what to choose, 'Greed' is the standard button, Milady. Misusing 'Need' is a reason for war and hatred."
"Wow, that's really counter-intuitive. I don't want to be greedy… So being needy is worse than being greedy? So true for our society. The greed of the powerful is easily excused, but the need of the masses disdained!"
"Actually, you have a higher chance to obtain the item if you select 'Need'. The selection rule is 'Need' before 'Greed'. So if someone selected 'Need,' and you selected 'Greed,' you won't get the item."
"Hmm. So the challenge is to determine if I have a real need or not? But wouldn't I be greedy if I would select 'Need' without needing it and humble if I would select 'Greed' when I needed it. Oh, dear. I'm confused."
"Why are you frowning, love?" Eddie asked after he had finished entertaining his fan.
"I'm thinking about Need and Greed. What did you pick?"
Eddie fetched the hat from his inventory. "I selected Need because I wanted to ask fate if being a Pirate Captain is still in my scrolls."
"Seems like fate says Aye."
Eddie shrugged, but he equipped the cocked hat. "Or that I'm the captain of my fate."
Several of their group members had scaled the mast. When Flora inspected them, she saw an orange glowing thing in the crow's nest. So, they climbed up as well and found the scratching post for the cat lady's quest.
"Do I want to know what a parrot needs a scratching post for?" Flora mused.
"Maybe it's just a trophy. Pearly's Pussies is a rival business. Or maybe Squack sharpened his hooks on it."
"So the cat lady is the owner of a pirate captain cat?"
"Actually, Pearly runs a cat burglar ring." Eddie grinned.
"If cats and parrots can do illegal business ventures, then toasters or octopus robots may as well. You don't have to be a captain. You can delegate it to First Mate and be his cox." Flora suggested while she climbed into the Mover.
Eddie sighed and followed her.
"The position or title isn't the issue. The quest told me to raid a cargo vessel. I outmaneuvered it, and my crew entered it. Then, they killed the entire crew. I tried to stop them, but they didn't listen to me. Oh, Flora, it was so horrible! And senseless! The people on the cargo ship were just harmless merchants and sailors. I don't want to kill or even steal from regular folks. When I was young, I thought, I'll steal from the rich and give it to the poor. However, now I'm old and rich, and I don't see myself as a valid target for some punks only because I had success in life. I donate a lot to charity, so I don't need some pirates to do it for me."
Flora hummed in agreement.
"How can I be sure to target evil people? As a robber, I could research the venues, but the sea is huge. So how do I select only malevolent ships?"
"Maybe you'll find an evil trade company and learn their routes? Or is there something like counter-piracy? You know, vigilante-style justice."
"Vigilante! I like the sound of it. Zorro of the seas!"
Flora heard the joy in Eddie's voice. Thankfully, he stomached the ride back to the sea cottage better than the flight before. Of course, Aidan flew extra gentle, only a few centimeters above the water.
"Dark Knight of the deeps!" She exclaimed.
Eddie: "Superman of the salt waters!"
Flora (in Robby's honor): "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of the tide!"
Eddie: "Punisher of the puddle!"
"The last one is a winner," Flora said, and Eddie agreed.
When they arrived at the cat lady's house, the woman was more polite than before. She thanked them and gave them the next quest.
Quest: Learn to walk like a cat
Description: As a reward for your work, Pearly teaches you to be cat footed. Hint: You find Pearly in the shed near Granny Boba's cottage.
Rewards: 30 minutes of skill training: Cat-Footed
When Eddie and Flora entered the shed, a black cat with a white belly sat on a cube. It nodded to them and pointed with its paw to two more cubes.
Name: Pearly the Polished
Type: Cat Burglar
Eddie sat on one cube, and Flora shuffled to the second one while throwing suspicious glances at the cat.
"Thank you so much for teaching us, dear Pearly," Eddie said.
The cat stared unblinkingly at them until Flora sat down. Then it stood up, hopped down, nodded again, and jumped on the cube.
"What am I, if I don't want to be bossed around by a cat? A cat-racist? A catist?" Flora mused.
"I forgive you anything, love, except being catist. How can't you recognize divinity on four paws?" Eddie dutifully stepped up the cube and jumped down.
The cat glared at Flora until she imitated Eddie. "I'm bullied! By a cat! I'm so glad we are in this together, Eddie."
"We are on totally different planes of existence, former love. I'm a devout follower of the church of cat, while you are a heretic."
Eddie learned the skill after 10 minutes of mimicking the cat's movements. The remaining 20 minutes, he spent dishing out 'helpful' advice.
When Aito began heckling her with farting beeps, Flora ordered the Octopussy and the Golly to use Eddie's cube and join in. Aidan lucked out because there was no cube big enough for the Mover, and the second exercise, the 'catwalk' was impossible without legs. Flora claimed it was even impossible with only two legs. Nonetheless, first Eddie had proven her wrong, and then, in the last minute of the 30 min timer, she received a message:
|Animated companion Golly can't learn any more skills because all its skill slots are filled.|
Open-mouthed, Flora stared at the message. After she unassigned Hail, a second message appeared.
You gained a new skill from your animated companion.
Description: Reduces fall-damage and increases the chance to land on your feet, reduces noise while walking, increases jumping capabilities.
Class: Cat Burglar
Cooldown: 1 min
Duration: 25 sec
Now, Flora was depressed that her potato sack-brained golem was better at learning skills than her.
"If the cat had provided a skill diagram, I wouldn't have needed to parrot it," Flora complained to Eddie while they handed in the bounty quests. "Wait. For cat burgling a scratching post from parrots, we were rewarded to parrot a cat? That is too meta for my taste… "
After Flora parted with Eddie, she went back to her lair. The sight of all the now useless boxes depressed her even more.
"How should I sleep tonight? If I go to bed in my bedroom, I'll get the time-dilation, but nothing else. If I sleep on the unholy cliff, I get a bit of faith affinity as well. Maybe I can sleep while wearing the Twelve-Changing-Finger-Positions Rubber-Training-Gloves, so you can cast some skills. I can order the golems to go to work in any case. Do you think I should build a real coffin, stuff some rune-schemes in it, and see if I can sleep through the attacks? I'm tired enough to ignore a lot."
"I don't know, and yes, Milady."
Flora added a soft mattress to a coffin with a glass lid and filled it with ice and lightning damaging runes. She remembered reading about a scheme for a sleeping poison and added it as well. To test if perception would rise even if she were asleep, she included the Spooky Shadows Scheme. Of course, Aidan could dim or even turn off all the rune-schemes.
After animating six golems, Flora entered her new coffin.
"I hope no prince tries to kiss me."