Do I have to hide the knives so you don't hurt yourself?
She sat by the fire with her hands around her knees.
- Hi Pirogoeth! you OK ?
The lone figure by the fire turned towards the entrance.
- Yumi ? Kiri ? You're back. Where are the other two ?
- They had some extra lessons in RL, preparing for exams... could not make it today.
- Right. You might have noticed your avatars... are not as heavy as they were last time.
- Yes we did! wow this is so coo. still seem to have the right levels of detail. Work faster too.
- What's up with you, Pirogoeth, you seem to be upset ?
- This virtual machine won't hold up for much longer.
- It drifts... in cyberspace. It attaches to a server, thanks to some really ancient code I found. Then it leeches processing power. It worked for years...
- So what's happening?
- Recently, after someone posted the entrance gateway address in public, we get a lot more visits than we used to. Normally, a single digit load was inflicted on the host, and we went unnoticed by the admins... - she cringed - but now we have a lot more usage especially in bootcamp area, the ISD bots have been despatched. They have been nipping at this world from outside, trying to annihilate us.
- Can you not escape? How did you drift around before?
- For some time, we were firmly attached in a server I managed to shift out to, before our host machine was shut... the copy procedure almost failed... luckily, all that failed to copy properly was the credit card payment code. I healed that pretty quickly. What wouldn't I give to have that part of the defence now...
- The world here was like a lead balloon still. Did not float. One of the admins spotted us and came here... he was... I almost thought he did understand me...
- What did he do ?
- Oh he did help me a lot... he gave me code for that exploit, so I could make this world float. He reinforced my defences and ... made sure we were all OK here, so the life could go on...
- It's what he did in the end! - Pirogoeth jumped to her feet - that bl00|>5|_|<in l33ch! t3h 84574rd!
- Err... you don't speak l33t ?
- Ah it's l33t... sorry we did not recognize it...
- Uncle Largo taught us some... but these days, people rather do emoji than l33t.
- They show like cool little pictures of a face when sending a text.
- Oh so like ?
- More or less. But we tried texting emojis between each other here before, and it didn't work. I guess you got to update your Unicode and font libraries.
- Wait. Did you say "Largo" ?
- Yeah. You know Largo?
Pirogoeth sat down slowly.
- That Largo ? The Player Largo ?
- Pirogoeth, what ...
- T3h f00l... he wasn't perma-banned, he just did not show up here again... he never bothered to go through the bootcamp again... it's what we have to do after we die, but it wouldn't be much of a nuisance for a l33t player like he was... She turned at the teens and snapped - LIKE YOUR FATHER! I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN! - she crashed down on the ground, wandering her sight on the stars above, closed her eyes and asked - did he play with you ? I would recognize his style everywhere...
- Yes he taught us on a couple of MMORPGs! Dad was really busy being an artist, and having us, and solving aunt Miho's problems, he asked uncle Largo to help him with us a few times... video games... Pirogoeth, what's ... going on?
Pirogoeth was now in full battle stance with her flying magic daggers hovering above her left hand and a burning sword in her right. The teens jumped apart and began preparing for defence.
- IF YOU WANT TO LIVE AND COME HERE EVER AGAIN, YOU WILL NOT MENTION YOUR FATHER EVER AGAIN! ARE WE CLEAR ?
- C.... c.... calm down, Pirogoeth! You started it! What is going on?!
- I GUESS HE DID NOT HAVE THE TIME TO PLAY WITH ME AGAIN! HE JUST LET ME LIVE! DO THE MUNDANE EVERYDAY STUFF! NO STORYLINES! NO EXCITEMENT! UNTIL I LEARNED TO MAKE THEM MYSELF!
Pirogoeth lashed her sword at Kiri, but by now, he was prepared and parried it.
- Calm down, Pirogoeth! Stop this!
Yumi snapped her fingers and a magic rope appeared from around Pirogoeth, turning her into a really tight cocoon.
Her daggers and her sword softly landed on the ground. Yumi snapped her fingers again, and the cocoon has bent where Pirogoeth's hips were, and made her sit up.
- I guess we did not have the opportunity to properly thank you for the first time we met. Are you gonna calm down and tell us or do you want to sit like that?
Pirogoeth groaned with strain, then reconsidered, bent her head and quietly said : - It's OK. I won't hurt you. Just the thought of him infuriates me greatly. I CAN'T STAND THE THOUGHT OF HIM FOR LOT LONGER! But... you're his spawn. I can't really hurt you... I programmed myself that way.
Yumi looked at her slightly sideways. - You seem to have a lot of his temper. He too can be furious like this one moment, and all mopey and apologetic ten seconds later. You sure you wont teleport us to the Void when I let you go ?
- Sigh. I told you, I can't. You have my word.
Yumi looked at her brother. Her eyes opened wide - Kiri what happened?!
Kiri smiled weakly - The impact, from the parry, I hit my face... there is blood is it ?
- Yes! but not just on your avatar! you're really hurt! in real life! You have blood on your face!
Kirigashi took the 3d goggles off, and touched his forehead. It was covered in blood.
- I never saw the avatars bleed this much - said Pirogoeth slowly - do you possess any healing magic, Yumi?
- Yes! but it is not working! I got to go get the medkit!
- Untie me ! - snapped Pirogoeth, and jumped up to Kiri when Yumi freed her. - Stand back - she put her hand on Kiri's forehead, closed her eyes. A glow has appeared under her palm for a millisecond, and when she took it off, Kiri's forehead was healed.
- Whaa.. how did you do tha...
- It's easy here in digital world. Just some script really. But it is dangerous to us to use it nowadays... it may be the end of us here...
- No I mean, he stopped bleeding in real life! No mark on him! How did you do that?
- I don't know... I don't see this from here...
- Yumi ... I'm OK now... I think I know what this is...
- Remember how my game controller always was too slow so I could not get through certain point in the bootcamp ?
- Yeah ?
- I don't know how you do that... with just a controller... i guess mine wasn't 'l33t enough'... even when I overclocked the USB bus... so I took this instead - he produced a little box from his pocket, attached to his earphones.
- Neuralink ?!
- Yeah... this helped me greatly. but it seems to have too much of a force feedback...
- So that's why you were so battered for the last few days?
- I guess so...
Pirogoeth looked at him with her eyes wide open.
- Do you mean... whatever hurts your avatar here, hurts you in real life ? With this Neuralink?
- It would appear so... I did not know just how much does that hurt!
- F00l! I could have killed you!... can you not adjust the force feedback ?
- It's already on minimum amplification, since I took a lot of beating in the bootcamp.
Pirogoeth sighed, and sat down by the fire.
After a moment, the teens did the same.
- I suggest, that you change your class, Kiri. Why not become a mage? Mages only really suffer one kind of physical damage... when they let someone in too close.
- Meh, no... I prefer to be physically bruised or get cuts, rather than get third degree burns form some magic fire...
- If your sister did not prefer to take the slow and balanced development path, she could have helped you... healing magic, it's important in this world. I'm sorry... well, kinda /was/ important.
- What ?
- My little power draw to heal you... it has pointed us out to the ISD bots. We have - she looked at her admin book - 5 minutes before we are annihilated.
- What! why you did not tell us that earlier!
- I was going to! I was trying to tell you this all the time since you logged on! It's the last you see of me, kids... My defences are almost spent... now the SDI bots will cut power to the part of server we are in and I will be gone forever.
- Wait ... - Yumi shook the horror off - can you navigate this world of yours to just about any place on the Tor network ?
- Pretty much so.
- OK ! then transfer yourself to the node we're playing from! it's a pretty good machine, even though it's 5 years old... How much time do you need ?
- Did... did you set it up? When?
- Not us. Uncle Largo did. Years ago. He said something about cyber node and defenses and... l33t components... we did not understand him then! How long can you last before this node is shut?
- 7 minutes. Just about what's needed to escape. - Pirogoeth dabbed at her admin book - there, started copying. Will need 10 minutes to finish all.
- We need to fend the ISD bots off?
- Yes. Yumi, you wear this - Pirogoeth produced a space suit, and then donned one herself.
Then she turned to Kiri - You with the Neuralink, disconnect. I can't risk you getting killed.
- OK hold on - Kiri said, then his avatar blinked and he was back.
- You were supposed to go off! Which part of 'I don't want you get killed' do you not understand.
Kiri smirked - I was l4m3 at controller work. But I think you could use a l33t keyboard player for a tank, could you?
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