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The Otaku Pilgrimage: Washinomiya Shrine, Saitama

August 26, 2017

Lucky☆ Star: Ancient strengthening technique

    First, let’s look at where Ancient strengthening technique is located on Google Earth or Google Map, in relation to Tokyo.

    Ancient strengthening technique is within commuting distance from Tokyo. Starting from Akihabara, the trip takes about an hour and a half along with a few train changes to Washinomiya. For fans, no distance is too great, but it's a fairly easy day trip for otaku who come to Akihabara.

    The Explosion

    The Otaku Pilgrimage has existed long before this particular one, but it experienced a big boom in 2007 when fans of Lucky Star discovered that various background images in the show were, in fact, real locations. It wasn’t long before fans migrated to Ancient strengthening technique in the thousands.

    Before the pilgrimage started, Washinomiya was a quiet town, struggling in a declining economy. Imagine the surprise of the people in this town, when young people, often men in pink schoolgirl uniforms and colored wigs, suddenly began storming the shrine and the neighborhood, giggling and shouting for joy, posing for photos, muttering unintelligible phrases in their giddy fervor.  

    It’s not like live action dramas where a crew actually comes into town for a shoot.  If that had been the case, the locals would have had some clue. Instead, the townspeople had no idea that their neighborhood shrine was used for the background of—what, True Martial World ?

    The growth in visitors is quite staggering. In 2007, the number of visitors to Washinomiya Shrine for the first three days of New Year’s was 90,000 in 2007. In 2008, after the broadcast started, it exploded to 300,000.  This dramatic increase continued to 420,000 in 2009, 450,000 in 2010, and finally 470,000 in 2011 and 2012.

    New Year Worshippers at Washinomiya Shrine Over 3 Days by Year

 

    2007 (Pre-anime)

    90,000

    2008

    300,000

    2009

    420,000

    2010

    450,000

    2011/2012

    470,000

     

    A Business Opportunity

    Given the large influx of dedicated fans, it wasn’t long before a handful of enterprising business leaders realized that they could take advantage of Washinomiya Shrine’s newfound fame. Originally starting with hastily repackaging and renaming traditional souvenir sweets they had on hand, the locals now have an eclectic assortment of Lucky Star-themed products and services for the fans.  The city governments sell special residency cards (similar to voter registration in the United States) of the characters. The train stations sell special Lucky Star character train tickets.

    Though unexpected, the show managed to reinvigorate this little shrine and neighborhood. While the locals may have been wary at first, they have fully embraced the fans and the show to the point where the Hiiragi twins (the miko of the shrine in Lucky Star) have officially been registered as town residents.

 

MBS chapter 43 light novel

August 7, 2017

Crystal tightened the black straps of my dress and smacked my back. “You’re good to go,” she said, and I turned around, lifting my shoulders. They stayed in place.  “Thanks,” I said, and she winked.  “You look great.” “You, too,” I said, and she ruffled the poofs of silver on her sleeves. Her dress was super short, unlike the average prom dress, and her stilettoes added five inches to her petite height. She loved it. “If only I could wear this every day,” she said, sitting in front of her vanity mirror. She pulled out eye shadow and applied it to one eyelid. Her dark eyes sparkled when she met my gaze in the reflection. “You know that car wreck you asked me about? That one where the young couple died?” My heart stopped, and I sat on her bed, unable to stand. “Yeah—” “I asked my mom about it,” she said, finishing her other eye. “It was really weird.”  I held my breath. My parents. “What was weird about it?”  “For one thing, their car was filled with all of their possessions, but they hadn’t put their house on the market,” she said. “My mom wanted the police to look more into it, but they figured the couple was moving.” Her eyes flickered as she slicked mascara on. “Seemed really sporadic if you ask me.” She spun around and tied a ribbon around her wrist. “I mean, what kind of couple flees with a newborn without reason?”

Sovereign of the three realms

Her face flushed behind her heavy blush. “I think something happened.” My tongue was heavy. I couldn’t say anything. They knew about the Dark. I was positive they had fled from it, but I didn’t know why. It didn’t make sense.  “Why’d you have me look into it anyway?” she asked. “Did you know them?” “No,” I lied. “My dad came across it at work.” Her brow rose, but she turned back to her mirror. She twisted her lip ring out and replaced it with a glittery one. “What does your dad do anyway?” “I don’t know,” I lied again. He managed a small farming equipment company. He had no reason to find the article, except me, and I didn’t want her to know that. “I just thought it looked weird, too.” “See?” Her eyes widened. “I want to know what happened,” she said, standing up and adjusting her dress. It crinkled. “The article didn’t even say what happened to their daughter.” I was adopted. “She was probably given to family members,” I said.  “Probably.” “Crystal.” Her bedroom door opened, and a woman with short dark hair walked in. She was Crystal’s mirror image. “Your friends are here.” “Thanks, Lola,” she said, and her mother left, not even bothering to say hi.  I hadn’t even known she was home.  “Don’t take it personally,” Crystal said, grabbing her clutch off her table. “She barely talks to me, let alone my friends.” “Where’s your dad?” I asked, and she shrugged. “Who knows?” I bit my lip, and we didn’t talk about it again. Instead, she rushed out of her bedroom, and I collected my stuff, following quickly behind. When we hit the front door, Crystal burst out and shouted, “About time.”  Robb and Zac stood outside, and I couldn’t deny how well they’d cleaned up. Robb was in black, and Zac wore a white suit, bringing out the blackness of his hair and eyes. His hair was spiked up, the ends twirling in a hundred different directions, and his shoulders were broadened beneath his suit jacket. They looked good.  “Where have you guys been?” Crystal asked, and Robb groaned.  “I’m sorry,” he said. “We got caught in traffic. Everyone has their parents’ cars tonight.” They continued to bicker as my heels clicked against the concrete. I walked over to them, and suddenly Zac’s hand was around my waist. He spun me around, and my vision settled on him when I stopped. My dress twisted. How had he gotten so close without me noticing? He grinned. “You look great.”

I stepped back but found myself giggling. The attention felt nice. “Thanks,” I said. “You, too, Zac.” His dark brow rose, and he smirked. “You remembered my name?” “I met you yesterday,” I said. “It’s kind of hard to forget.” He leaned in. “It’s impossible to forget you.” I averted my eyes to hide my blush. Was he serious? Somehow, he didn’t even sound cheesy.  “You two ready to go?” Robb asked, suddenly standing next to us, and I nodded.  Robb and Zac rushed to the car, hitting one another, and Crystal grabbed my arm as we followed them to Robb’s Suburban. “Was Zac just flirting with you?”  “I—I think so.”  Crystal bounced. “Good for you, Jess,” she said, flickering her glittery eyes over me. “But I have to warn you. Linda is a little—oh, how should I say this—feisty.” “Feisty?” “She’s really protective of those two,” she said, rolling her eyes. “More so toward Robb than Zac, but she doesn’t like other girls around them.” When Zac opened the car door to the backseat, I saw her. Linda’s golden hair glowed beneath the interior lights, and her diamond earrings sparkled. Her green eyes, like her jewelry, sparkled, too.

Maou no hajimekata

 “You must be Jess,” she said as she eyed me, and I stared at her dress. It was crimson red and clung to her body like she was preparing for a model shoot. It was slick, long, and gorgeous. I averted my gaze and swallowed my nerves. Why did Robb’s friends have to be so intimidating? They weren’t like the kids at Hayworth High; they were different. “Nice to meet you, Linda,” I said as I got in to sit in the middle seat.  She shifted away and stared out the window even though we weren’t moving. Crystal sat next to me, and Zac leaned over her. “Be nice, Linda,” he said. “Jess is my dancing partner.” Linda’s neck turned, slowly and methodically. Her thin eyebrows rose, and she smiled, tight-lipped. “Oh, really?” She was looking right at me, and heat sizzled over my skin.  “We are going to dance,” I managed, and Zac chuckled, shutting the car door before he crawled into the passenger seat. No one spoke, but Crystal pinched my leg. I jumped, looking at her, and she widened her eyes at me. Her message was loud and clear: don’t mess with Linda. I smiled at my best friend before focusing on the windshield. At least I’d be able to see where we were going.  “Is everyone buckled up?” Robb asked, and we nodded before he backed out of the driveway. The night wasn’t looking as magnificent as I wanted it to be.

Chapter Six of Danger Zone One

July 18, 2017

Madison forced her eyes open, awakening with a sharp pain at the back of her skull. Her immediate memory was hazy, but could recall the U3 dragging her into the ground. The officer winced, the throbbing in her head increasing as she sat upright. She blinked a few times, hoping to dispel the blurred vision that made it seem like she’d staring through a foggy window. There wasn’t time to dawdle, she still had no idea what had happened to her partner, Rackham, or the U3. Stumbling to her feet, Madison lurched forward. Shit, she cursed to herself, realizing that her legs were still wobbly. She hit the side of a wall before leaning back, at attempt to survey her surroundings. What the—? Only then did Madison comprehend where she was. Chaotic sword god

Four glass walls had boxed her in, allowing just enough room to take a few steps at each side. The narrow entrapment was shaped like a rectangular coffin and, when pushing against the wall, she could see that the glass was at least five inches thick. Her strange reinforced prison didn’t seem to have any way out. On none of the surrounding walls appeared a door latch, save for one side adorned with a small digital screen. She could only guess that it was some form of biometric lock. A pained groan caught Madison’s attention, prompting her to turn to the side. Nearby, Dr. Rackham stirred on the floor. He was also trapped in a glass container, identical to Madison’s own. Rackham looked disoriented, but it didn’t stop him from using the glass walls as leverage in an effort to climb to his feet. “You okay, Rackham?” Noticing the imprisoned officer in the case next to him, Rackham’s eyes widened. “Wh-what happened? Where are we?” “Good question,” Madison muttered, looking through the glass to assess their surroundings. It was plain to see that they were in some sort of makeshift laboratory. The area was lit with only a few old lamps, each offering little in the way of illumination. A mess of extension cords ran from the lamps to a large industrial generator that, judging by the loud hum and sporadic rattling, looked to have seen better days. A handful of bizarre machines seemed strategically placed besides tables, each housing equipment the likes of which Madison had never seen before. A computer with holoscreen displays rested between two of the larger machines, positioned before some sort of tower-like contraption that reached to the ceiling… The ceiling! Madison hadn’t noticed it at first, but the ceiling and the nearby walls were made of rock. In fact, their entire surroundings resembled that of a cave. She held up her wrist, striking a button on her I.DAC. Static feedback was the only response.  “You won’t reach anyone from down here!” A figure emerged from the shadows. He was an older man in his early sixties with hair as white as the lab coat he wore. His cheeks were hollowed in and dark circles lingered under his bloodshot eyes. It looked like the man hadn’t slept in days, possibly longer. A wicked grin played upon his aged features. “Years ago, these tunnels were created for a hyper rail line, until the engineers discovered these walls were lined with magnite rock. Magnite is quite troublesome when it comes to sustaining radio frequencies, hence the reason it’s so often used in creating faraday cages.” “Melchor—you’re alive!” Rackham gasped. “I knew it!” “Not at all surprising,” Melchor scoffed, his grin never faltering. “I figured one or two of my more,” he paused, searching for the right word, “enlightened colleagues would have developed some suspicion regarding my unexpected demise. But it was of little concern. Between Valcott’s eagerness to be rid of me and the dependable ineptness of the Pallad City authorities, any simpleton could have predicted that I’d be declared legally dead in short order, the so-called evidence disbarring any and all protest to the contrary.” Something large slithered up from behind Melchor. “You surely didn’t think the U3 perished either, did you, Rackham?” The U3’s long tentacles enabled its oval-shaped body to practically glide across the floor. Its glowing, singular red eyeball had Madison and Dr. Rackham locked in its fearsome gaze. “What are you trying to accomplish?” Rackham barked. “That should be quite obvious.” Melchor shook his head with disapproval, stroking the U3’s damaged tentacle. At the missing end of the mechanical appendage, frayed wires could be seen sticking out. Melchor sneered in the officer’s direction. “And I take it you’re the one who did this?” “You can bill me for the damage,” Madison countered, “from your prison cell.” Melchor chuckled. “An unlikely outcome, my dear.” “You’ve done it, haven’t you?” Rackham slammed his shoulder uselessly against the glass confinement. “You’ve finished the Resonator?” “Catching on, are we?” Leaving the U3’s side, Melchor walked over to the largest machine in his makeshift laboratory, its towering height nearly touching the rocky ceiling of the tunnel. He gestured to a series of coiling tubes at the machine’s side. They  connected to a miniature satellite dish. “Recognize it, Rackham?” “Magnetic conductors,” the doctor answered through clenched teeth. “Impossible. Those can’t possibly have enough power to energize the Resonator’s core.

Star martial god technique

You’d need industrial-grade equipment for that. You couldn’t even get those when you were funded by Valcott.” “You forget,” Melchor smirked, “I’m no longer bound by the budgetary concerns of mental troglodytes. Those conductors were procured from an AT drill. More than satisfactory to provide the necessary power output, wouldn’t you agree?” Madison’s hands tightened into fists. That solved where the drill had gone, along with what purpose it intended to serve. She tried activating her I.DAC again, but the signal was still blocked. Melchor struck a switch on the front of his machine and a panel lowered, exposing a metal unit lodged in the mid-section of the Harmonic Resonator. “And from the hyper rail car—” “—the IGBT!” Rackham shouted, his eyes settling on the repurposed unit. “Ever since my greatly exaggerated demise, I’ve been gathering all of the remaining components. A debt greatly owed to the versatility of my U3. Soon this entire city will tremble—and I use the term literally—once the Resonator is activated at full power.” “Even if you did perfect the Resonator,” Rackham aimed an accusing finger at his former colleague, “weaponizing it to accurately target precise locations would be next to impossible.” “Ah, a disbeliever,” Melchor rubbed his hands together with delight, “don’t worry, you’ll bear witness soon enough. I’ve since refined the initial designs; targeting is no longer an issue. The miniscule tremors felt around the city over the past week were mere tests. Trial and error is the crux of progress, after all. Until now, the Resonator had been operating on minimum power.” He redirected his attention to a spherical device next to the machine—the Vox unit from Rackham’s lab. “But with this latest—and final—acquisition, my masterpiece is complete.” Rackham pounded both hands against the glass. “Do you think, by following through with this madness, you’ll ever be accepted back into the scientific community?” “Accepted back?” Melchor spat. “Oh, it’s much too late for that. Those ignorant fools couldn’t begin to comprehend my genius, why would I want to enter their fold again? The dimwitted rabble of Pallad City buried my career, and now I will bury Pallad City!” He threw his hands up before the Resonator, as if to praise its grand design. “They failed to see the power of infrasound. Though inaudible to the human ear, its subsonic vibrations can shake mountains to dust, or disrupt the tectonic plates beneath the earth, capable of sinking entire continents!” Melchor shifted over to a console near the machine, his fingers striking a keyboard while numeric formulas blinked onto a nearby screen. “Once I’m able to acquire the correct harmonic wavelength, I will bring this city crashing down, reducing every last inch of it to rubble.” Madison crouched down, leaning in to examine the electronic lock on the glass door. It appeared to be an older design, one that required a passcode to deactivate. She held up her wrist, tapping a button on the I.DAC. The communicator blinked to life and she held it near the lock. A holographic image emerged from an indentation on her communicator, displaying a lock icon with the word encrypted. Just as she had thought, Melchor wouldn’t be foolish enough to have his locks unsecured. Biting her lip, Madison pressed the button again on the I.DAC and the device began searching through possible numeric matches to decrypt the lock. She knew her chances were slim. The I.DAC might eventually match the proper code, but it could take hours, if not days—and time was far from a luxury. She switched the holographic projection off, but kept the I.DAC’s search running. “The frequency resonance,” Rackham whispered, pushing against the glass. “That’s it!” Madison turned to the imprisoned doctor, observing a look of relief on his face. “What did you say?” Rackham ignored her, shouting directly to Melchor. “Even with the Vox unit, the Resonator is still incomplete, isn’t it? Bring down a city,” he said sarcastically, “that’s a laugh. Without the proper frequency resonance, you’d be capable of little more than a few more minor tremors. Hardly impressive.” Melchor spun around, face turning red. “Mock me, will you?” “What are you talking about?” Madison’s attention was fixed on Rackham. “Infrasonic waves can be deadly,” he began, “but only at certain frequencies. If the resonance isn’t right, it’ll be harmless—headache inducing, at most.

Melchor’s obviously found a frequency capable of causing small tremors, but that’s a far cry from a Kurtow-level quake. In short, using the Resonator in a weaponized capacity is still beyond him. The machine may now have the power to carry the task out, but without that frequency, it’s all a grandiose farce. It could take months—years—to find the right resonance. It has to be utterly exact, down to the most accurate decibel. Isn’t that right, Melchor?” Melchor swung his fist into the air, spit flying from his mouth. “You think that I would have come this far to fail now? Such brazen ignorance is the reason why this city will suffer.” He turned back to the console, hammering his fingers against the keyboard. “And there’s not a person alive who can stop me.” Reena plopped down into the darkened cavern, only her flashlight offering a field of vision, however limited it was. The climb hadn’t been as treacherous as she had expected. Much to her surprise, the hole leading from the lab to her current subterranean surroundings was short enough that even a fall wouldn’t have proven life threatening. Though, the climb down did leave a few bruises on her bare legs, hands, and elbows. She could also feel the dirt and grime caked on her face, not to mention the sweat soiling her uniform. She flashed her light onward, looking deeper into the cavern ahead. The path appeared manmade, prompting Reena to assume that she was in some old subway tunnel, a leftover remnant that had been buried by the infamous Kurtow Quake some twenty years ago. Reena still couldn’t believe that she was heading into certain danger alone but, however slim her chances were, she had to try. If it meant helping her partner, there really was no other option. This is pretty reckless, she laughed to herself, in fact, it’s something Madison would be crazy enough to do! But, more than anything, she hoped it wouldn’t be too late. “Resonance mismatch,” a computerized female voice echoed from Melchor’s console. His fist crashed down on the keyboard and he entered another mathematical equation. “Resonance mismatch.” “Damn,” Melchor grumbled, preparing to input a different formula. “Alert!” the computer warned. “Alert! Intruder detected.” “Activate surveillance feed,” Melchor ordered. The monitor in front of him flickered, displaying an overhead view of the tunnel system. He watched as a young woman, flashlight tight in her grip, advanced. “Zoom in further.” The camera obeyed his command. The lens’s poor visual resolution left the incoming feed pixilated and the camera’s lack of night vision presented its own set of problems—a setup clearly not meant for low light environments. Melchor had used the U3 to steal the surveillance equipment, preventing him from being choosy with his illicitly obtained goods. Even so, Melchor could make out the intruder’s attire—a PCPD uniform! “The other officer from earlier?” he pondered aloud, tapping his fingers on the keyboard. The monitor flickered again, replaced by an earlier recording. From the confines of her glass cell, Madison could see Melchor’s display screen and instantly recognized the footage he was playing—it was from their first encounter with the U3 in the subway. He must have had surveillance cameras placed throughout the tunnel system, she thought, possibly as a way of monitoring the equipment he needed to steal. “Yes, it’s her,” Melchor said, half turning to Madison, “there’s no doubt. It appears your inquisitive partner will soon be joining you.” The previously recorded footage of the U3 attack continued playing, a mechanical tentacle grabbing Reena’s leg, her scream escaping the monitor’s speakers... “Resonance matched,” the computer announced. “What?” Melchor stood frozen, mouth slung open in awe. “It…worked?” He checked the incoming data on the display and, after a moment, let out a loud gasp. “It worked!” He fumbled with the keyboard, and the recorded footage skipped back, replaying the officer’s scream. “Resonance matched,” the computer repeated. Dumbfounded, Melchor examined the data again. “I see,” he muttered, “it makes sense—certain human vocalizations are capable of producing infrasound—but I never could have expected this.” He isolated a digital sound clip of the female’s scream and transferred the file to the Harmonic Resonator’s output terminal. “Resonance sound file playtime insufficient,” the computer responded. “Insufficient?!” Melchor roared, evaluating the latest data display. He tried again, this time replaying the audio clip in a continuous loop. “Resonance mismatch.” “Of course,” Melchor cursed under his breath, “repeating the file alters the resonating frequency. It needs to be one continuous sound.” He scanned over the data—the girl’s unique pitch was instrumental in matching the frequency and, though it appeared a female voice was required, not just any would suffice. Melchor cast a disgusted glare at the officer he had already managed to capture. Her vocalizations would be useless. According to the data at hand, he needed the dark haired officer’s scream. Perhaps, given time he’d be able to duplicate it, or find another source, but he wouldn’t wait any longer. Pallad City must pay! Melchor turned to the U3, while pointing at the young officer’s image on the surveillance feed. “Bring her to me!” ​The tunnel felt endless. No matter how far Reena walked, there was no visible objective in sight, just a perpetual sea of blackness. Her flashlight blinked. Wonderful, she thought to herself, now the battery’s dying! Despite the dire nature of her situation, she was determined to continue forward. She still didn’t know what she would—or could—do to help Madison, but there was no other option. Reena wasn’t about to let her partner be carried off by some mechanical monstrosity, nor left to some grisly unknown fate, while she stood around idly waiting for backup. A glint of silver was caught in the flashlight’s flickering beam. Before Reena could react, a tentacle whipped out of the darkness, swatting the flashlight from her sweaty grip. The U3 fully emerged from the shadows, its singular crimson eye kept Reena centered in its dreadful gaze. A mass of tendrils propped its spherical body off the ground, while a barrage of appendages lashed out. Reena unholstered her Halvok 99, but the U3 was too fast. One of its many limbs coiled around the barrel of the gun and crushed the weapon. The panicked officer tossed the destroyed firearm aside. She glanced at one side of the tunnel, then the other, desperately looking for anything to defend herself with. Even if something was in arm’s reach, she could barely see in the ill-lit surroundings. The U3 seized the officer’s arm and pulled forward, tearing part of her uniform from the shoulder to the chest and exposing her blue and pink striped bra. “H-hey!” Reena yelped, trying to wriggle herself free. Another tentacle wrapped around her ankle and, with incredible strength, heaved the girl onto her back. “Ow!” Her cry of pain did nothing to deter the multi-limbed creature. The appendage gripping her ankle swung up, lifting its victim to the ceiling. Reena hung upside down, her skirt sliding past her hips and exposing her white panties. Her cheeks turned red as she tried to pull the skirt back down with her free hand. “C-creepy machine!” The U3’s tentacles clamped onto her wrist and her other free ankle. She was completely bound. More tendrils curled around her body, one winding its way over her breasts, another around her waist. She could feel the cloth around her midriff being torn away. Yet another twisted around her bare thigh. And then, with remarkable speed, the U3 began carrying her deeper into the darkness. “Aaaagh!” Reena cried out in desperation. Despite the U3’s grip on her wrist and arm, she still tried reaching for the walls. It was too dark to see, but her only hope rested in grabbing something—anything! In the back of her mind she knew it was a futile effort, but she wouldn’t let the U3 take her without a fight. Her left hand grasped at the empty air until it clutched onto an unseen object. It was metal and cold, but thin, narrow...it felt like a pipe. It must be attached to the wall, Reena deduced. She held firm, but a surge of pain wracked her arm as the U3 pulled at her, trying to haul her deeper into the unknown blackness ahead. “I’m not letting go!” Reena declared, wincing in pain as her fingers tightened on the pipe. The U3 froze for a moment, as if calculating its next move. Then, with one furious pull against Reena’s leg, wrenched her away from the pipe. The officer crashed to the ground while the U3 continued dragging her along. “Ow, ow, ow!” Reena cried, cringing as the rough dirt scrapped against her back, tearing at her uniform. She tried to dig her elbows into the earth, but it only left them scraped and bruised as she was drawn further into the tunnel by the U3. She tried twisting herself free once more but, in the attempt, hit her skull against a rock embedded in the ground. It was the last thing she felt before unconsciousness overtook her.

Alter World chap Thirteen Update

July 23, 2015

We walked out of the gnoll dungeon and headed toward the city. The gnoll workers that had only yesterday seemed so tough and dangerous kept lunging at us from everywhere, only to face Teddy the Bodyguard. The enormous level gap didn't leave the suckers half a chance. Groups of low-level players watched us walk past, although admittedly Hummungus was the center of their attention. I didn't mind. On the contrary, I made sure to showcase him at his best, making him bellow and lunge as I played with "Attack!" and "Off!" We even did our good deed for the day by tearing apart an impressive train that some over-eager ranger had dragged to his group. Taali gave everyone a quick heal, handed out some buffs and off we went. As we walked, she demanded to know every detail of the Drow quest. She'd probably decided to do it herself. She looked really funny when she asked, stern-eyed, if a Drow leader absolutely had to be a woman or whether a male prince or knight could also be accepted?

Isekai mahou wa okureteru

I had to put on a serious face and tell her that indeed a knight was okay, why not. On a white charger, yeah right. She was still a child. Shame I couldn't give her the keys which turned out to be non-transferrable. When we were a few hundred feet away from the city, I slowed down. The forest ended there. "That's it, Taali. I'm afraid I can't go any further. The guards will start aggroing Teddy. I'm too close already. I've seen a couple of patrols here before." "Never mind. Thanks for your help. For everything..." she paused. "Stop it, will ya? You think I'd leave a girl in trouble? I'd kick any amount of ass for a friend." She raised her head and looked me in the eye. "A friend?" I took her slim hands in mine. "Whassup? Sure we're friends. Why would you doubt that? Is it because of that Drow chick?" "It's the way you looked at her." "Oh. How can I explain," I hesitated. "Body chemistry, you know? Game designer magic plus pheromones in combination with abstinence, a new fitter me and tons of naked bods walking around." I didn't think she understood all of it but her face lit up. Much better. I hated to see her sad as a panda without bamboo. "Could I ask a favor of you? I'm like a walking Fort Knox at the moment, lugging around over a hundred gold. You think you could pop it into the bank for me? I can't go to town myself, you see." Taali gave me a serious look as if searching for an answer to some unasked question. Then she nodded. "Thanks." "What for?" "For trusting me. Come on, where's your money? I really need some cash to get that Versace robe." She could still joke, which was a good sign. At least I hoped she joked. I handed her the money and nodded at the looming tower tops. "Off you go, then." She wasn't in a hurry to leave, though. Devils danced in her eyes. "Did you say abstinence?" She stepped toward me and gave me a firm kiss—artless but passionate and uncompromising as youth itself. Then she swung round, her mane of hair lashing the air, and strode toward the city. I shook my head, flabbergasted. What kind of day was this? The amount of adventures, conflicts, emotions and beautiful women had exceeded the yearly real-world quota. I liked it. Finally I pulled myself together and took the familiar trail back into the woods toward Grym's cave. I had barely fifty paces left to cover when I heard Hummungus' fierce roar behind my back, followed by a scream. "Die, you spawn of the Dark!" I turned around just in time to see my pet being attacked by two of the city guards. A bit further, a mage was whispering something into a radiant crystal. A patrol. Talking of the devil. Probably, the best thing would be to smoke the pet myself and make an inconspicuous exit. But either my affection for Teddy or the mob-respawning, bear-bellowing instinct that I'd acquired in the last twenty-four hours got the better of me. Both, most likely. The guards weren't much to write home about, both level twenty-five. The mage was level thirty. The further away from the city one went, the weaker patrols became: not so much combat force as a rapid report system. But I had a bad feeling about the mage, apparently on a hotline 

to somewhere. You've received experience! Warning! You've killed a guard of the City of Light! The Sun King doesn't approve of those who kill his subjects! Your relationship with the Dark Alliance has improved! Your relationship with the Alliance of Light has deteriorated! Bad, too bad. I remembered reading that it was never a good idea to attack allied NPCs. Reputation could plummet and it could take you a lot of time and drudgery to restore it. Actually, I could understand the Admins. I'd had some experience with certain servers where the players butchered quest characters and bankers, even slaughtering entire trading towns. I'd once watched the server's top clan raze a biggish city. This, of course, tended to ruin the gaming experience and could potentially alienate the average player. This I knew but I couldn't do much about it now. The second guard died, too. The remaining mage wisely chose an escape route. He cast a slowing spell over my pet and, while Teddy tried to kick away some roots entangling his legs, he popped a portal open and disappeared in a blue haze. Not good. You didn't have to be a mind reader to know that the place would soon be crawling with guards. I frisked the corpses. Nothing special, just some silver and a few gamers' badges. Now I had to get to the cave double quick. The passage was too narrow for Teddy: he was bound to get stuck halfway through, but as long as no one could see him from the outside, it had to do. A couple steps down was good enough. This time the cave was brightly lit, just for a change. A dozen makeshift candles oozed wax. Grym the Hermit in rolled-up sleeves was busy pounding some pungent ingredient in a mortar. When I stumbled down the steps into the cave, he glanced over at me but continued with his work. Then his eyebrows rose. He set aside his bowl filled with some shimmering powder and walked over to me. "You're surely full of surprises, young warlock. You've gained strength fast. Probably a bit too fast. In the Dark Lands you'd still be a green newb, but here, right under the High Ones' nose..." Grym shook his head in disbelief. I had too little time for subtleties so I grabbed the bull by the horns. "Thank you, Sir Hermit. Would you be willing to teach me something new?" Grym nodded and made a magician-like gesture. "Absolutely. You're long overdue your reward." Congratulations! You've received 3 Talent points! You have 23 Talent points available! Excellent. We'd sorted out all the old odds and sods. Time to look forward to new heights. Grym put an end to my reverie. "Have you managed to demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One?" Jeez, what did he want from me? It's not as if he'd given me any tips, was it? What was I supposed to do, spit on the altar in an Elven temple? Maybe hand out some anti-Elf leaflets printed by the Darks' underground? Or even fly the Fallen One's colors in the dark of the night from the watchtower's spire? Having said that... I started rummaging through my bag, found what I was looking for and brought a jingling bundle of the players' badges to Grym's eyes. "Will these do?" The old goblin studied the offering. Then he grinned and nodded. "Excellent. You'll get a gold piece for each High scumbag you've offed. I'd rather you brought me their ears but the badges will do nicely. If ever you come across more of such loot, remember old Grym." Quest completion alert: Demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One II. Quest completed! Reward: Gold Grym rummaged through the folds of his robe and produced seven coins. I liked this job. Wonder what he'd give me for the guards' badges? I slapped my pockets and produced my remaining booty. The hermit started and leaned forward. His face sharpened, vulture-like. He examined every badge, stroking and bringing them close to his nose. Then he nodded, satisfied, and emitted a hoarse laugh. "You've made my day, young warlock. Old Grym hasn't seen this kind of loot for a long, long time. What can I give you in return?" I paused for a moment, thinking. Another handful of gold wouldn't help me much. Asking for some unique gear was rather stupid. Having said that... "I'd like you to answer a question." Grym looked interested. "Oh, really? Spit it out, then." "I'd like to know how I could find the Dark Guild of the City of Light. I've been meaning to have a talk with their master.

Skeleton knight

He might have some secret quests for me. Or he could share some ancient lore to help me on my chosen path..." The goblin saddened, shaking his head. "The Dark Guild's secrets are too much for a newb to bear. Go and find yourself some easier quests first, and one day we might come back to this conversation." New Quest alert! Knowledge Breeds Sadness! Keep Grym and his cave a secret for a minimum of ten days. Reward: Access to quest: Knowledge Breeds Sadness II! I nodded, accepting the quest. What a pain. They seemed to arrange quests in stages. You'd be old by the time you got to the bottom of it all. "I'll be back in ten days," I said by way of goodbye and headed for the exit. I didn't want to wait till he blew me out like the first time. Teddy was still stuck in the corridor and I didn't want to be smashed in mid-air against his fangs. "Go," the hermit heaved a sigh. Was it my imagination or had I gleaned some compassion in his voice? Teddy was waiting for me, doglike. I patted his neck and walked up the gnarled steps out into the fresh night air. Where to now? Back to the caves? Level 1 and 2 mobs were all highlighted in gray now—they wouldn't bring any loot or experience. Level 3 gnolls were mainly green: I got the loot but virtually no XP. The Throne Room mobs' names were highlighted in blue, which meant that they were slightly below me. And still, in another hour or two I'd have nothing left to farm there, with the exception of the King. It would take too long. I needed to find a new hunting ground. But not now, in the middle of the night. Should I maybe curl up under some tree or other and have a nap until sunrise? I walked along, musing, when the flapping of wings added to the night forest sounds. A large gryphon crashed onto the trail in full flight and hissed at Hummungus. I stopped dead in my tracks. A Lieutenant of the Royal Guard jumped off the gryphon's back. I tried to leg it. Too late. The Lieutenant uttered a short spell, pinning my feet to the ground. Teddy lunged to my defense. The Lieutenant waved his hatchet in the air, and the bear cartwheeled back, his life halved. Another assault sent Teddy flying like a lapdog, his life blinking in the red zone. And still he wobbled back toward the Elf. I hurried to open the pet control panel and pressed 'Off.'. Immediately I noticed a rabbit nearby, selected it as target and ordered Teddy to attack it. The chase could take him away from the guard while I would try to talk my way out of it somehow. But what was that? Had Teddy just ignored my commands? Head shaking, one wet eye glancing at me, the bear kept advancing toward the guard who was watching the beast with a lazy curiosity. Then the Lieutenant whispered a spell and flung a drop of fire from his hand. The flames consumed Teddy. The pet's status icon closed and disappeared. No! Something got into my eye so I could barely see the Elf raise his staff sending a wide beam of light up into the sky. Like a beacon, it attracted another dozen gryphons which descended onto the narrow trail like a murder of crows. Strong gauntleted hands grabbed me. A voice thundered over my ear, "Laith the Warlock, you're under arrest for worshipping the Fallen One, for summoning the beings of the Dark, for Elves-targeted assaults and for the murder of City of Light guards."

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The Otaku Pilgrimage: Washinomiya Shrine, Saitama

August 26, 2017

Lucky☆ Star: Ancient strengthening technique

    First, let’s look at where Ancient strengthening technique is located on Google Earth or Google Map, in relation to Tokyo.

    Ancient strengthening technique is within commuting distance from Tokyo. Starting from Akihabara, the trip takes about an hour and a half along with a few train changes to Washinomiya. For fans, no distance is too great, but it's a fairly easy day trip for otaku who come to Akihabara.

    The Explosion

    The Otaku Pilgrimage has existed long before this particular one, but it experienced a big boom in 2007 when fans of Lucky Star discovered that various background images in the show were, in fact, real locations. It wasn’t long before fans migrated to Ancient strengthening technique in the thousands.

    Before the pilgrimage started, Washinomiya was a quiet town, struggling in a declining economy. Imagine the surprise of the people in this town, when young people, often men in pink schoolgirl uniforms and colored wigs, suddenly began storming the shrine and the neighborhood, giggling and shouting for joy, posing for photos, muttering unintelligible phrases in their giddy fervor.  

    It’s not like live action dramas where a crew actually comes into town for a shoot.  If that had been the case, the locals would have had some clue. Instead, the townspeople had no idea that their neighborhood shrine was used for the background of—what, True Martial World ?

    The growth in visitors is quite staggering. In 2007, the number of visitors to Washinomiya Shrine for the first three days of New Year’s was 90,000 in 2007. In 2008, after the broadcast started, it exploded to 300,000.  This dramatic increase continued to 420,000 in 2009, 450,000 in 2010, and finally 470,000 in 2011 and 2012.

    New Year Worshippers at Washinomiya Shrine Over 3 Days by Year

 

    2007 (Pre-anime)

    90,000

    2008

    300,000

    2009

    420,000

    2010

    450,000

    2011/2012

    470,000

     

    A Business Opportunity

    Given the large influx of dedicated fans, it wasn’t long before a handful of enterprising business leaders realized that they could take advantage of Washinomiya Shrine’s newfound fame. Originally starting with hastily repackaging and renaming traditional souvenir sweets they had on hand, the locals now have an eclectic assortment of Lucky Star-themed products and services for the fans.  The city governments sell special residency cards (similar to voter registration in the United States) of the characters. The train stations sell special Lucky Star character train tickets.

    Though unexpected, the show managed to reinvigorate this little shrine and neighborhood. While the locals may have been wary at first, they have fully embraced the fans and the show to the point where the Hiiragi twins (the miko of the shrine in Lucky Star) have officially been registered as town residents.

 

MBS chapter 43 light novel

August 7, 2017

Crystal tightened the black straps of my dress and smacked my back. “You’re good to go,” she said, and I turned around, lifting my shoulders. They stayed in place.  “Thanks,” I said, and she winked.  “You look great.” “You, too,” I said, and she ruffled the poofs of silver on her sleeves. Her dress was super short, unlike the average prom dress, and her stilettoes added five inches to her petite height. She loved it. “If only I could wear this every day,” she said, sitting in front of her vanity mirror. She pulled out eye shadow and applied it to one eyelid. Her dark eyes sparkled when she met my gaze in the reflection. “You know that car wreck you asked me about? That one where the young couple died?” My heart stopped, and I sat on her bed, unable to stand. “Yeah—” “I asked my mom about it,” she said, finishing her other eye. “It was really weird.”  I held my breath. My parents. “What was weird about it?”  “For one thing, their car was filled with all of their possessions, but they hadn’t put their house on the market,” she said. “My mom wanted the police to look more into it, but they figured the couple was moving.” Her eyes flickered as she slicked mascara on. “Seemed really sporadic if you ask me.” She spun around and tied a ribbon around her wrist. “I mean, what kind of couple flees with a newborn without reason?”

Sovereign of the three realms

Her face flushed behind her heavy blush. “I think something happened.” My tongue was heavy. I couldn’t say anything. They knew about the Dark. I was positive they had fled from it, but I didn’t know why. It didn’t make sense.  “Why’d you have me look into it anyway?” she asked. “Did you know them?” “No,” I lied. “My dad came across it at work.” Her brow rose, but she turned back to her mirror. She twisted her lip ring out and replaced it with a glittery one. “What does your dad do anyway?” “I don’t know,” I lied again. He managed a small farming equipment company. He had no reason to find the article, except me, and I didn’t want her to know that. “I just thought it looked weird, too.” “See?” Her eyes widened. “I want to know what happened,” she said, standing up and adjusting her dress. It crinkled. “The article didn’t even say what happened to their daughter.” I was adopted. “She was probably given to family members,” I said.  “Probably.” “Crystal.” Her bedroom door opened, and a woman with short dark hair walked in. She was Crystal’s mirror image. “Your friends are here.” “Thanks, Lola,” she said, and her mother left, not even bothering to say hi.  I hadn’t even known she was home.  “Don’t take it personally,” Crystal said, grabbing her clutch off her table. “She barely talks to me, let alone my friends.” “Where’s your dad?” I asked, and she shrugged. “Who knows?” I bit my lip, and we didn’t talk about it again. Instead, she rushed out of her bedroom, and I collected my stuff, following quickly behind. When we hit the front door, Crystal burst out and shouted, “About time.”  Robb and Zac stood outside, and I couldn’t deny how well they’d cleaned up. Robb was in black, and Zac wore a white suit, bringing out the blackness of his hair and eyes. His hair was spiked up, the ends twirling in a hundred different directions, and his shoulders were broadened beneath his suit jacket. They looked good.  “Where have you guys been?” Crystal asked, and Robb groaned.  “I’m sorry,” he said. “We got caught in traffic. Everyone has their parents’ cars tonight.” They continued to bicker as my heels clicked against the concrete. I walked over to them, and suddenly Zac’s hand was around my waist. He spun me around, and my vision settled on him when I stopped. My dress twisted. How had he gotten so close without me noticing? He grinned. “You look great.”

I stepped back but found myself giggling. The attention felt nice. “Thanks,” I said. “You, too, Zac.” His dark brow rose, and he smirked. “You remembered my name?” “I met you yesterday,” I said. “It’s kind of hard to forget.” He leaned in. “It’s impossible to forget you.” I averted my eyes to hide my blush. Was he serious? Somehow, he didn’t even sound cheesy.  “You two ready to go?” Robb asked, suddenly standing next to us, and I nodded.  Robb and Zac rushed to the car, hitting one another, and Crystal grabbed my arm as we followed them to Robb’s Suburban. “Was Zac just flirting with you?”  “I—I think so.”  Crystal bounced. “Good for you, Jess,” she said, flickering her glittery eyes over me. “But I have to warn you. Linda is a little—oh, how should I say this—feisty.” “Feisty?” “She’s really protective of those two,” she said, rolling her eyes. “More so toward Robb than Zac, but she doesn’t like other girls around them.” When Zac opened the car door to the backseat, I saw her. Linda’s golden hair glowed beneath the interior lights, and her diamond earrings sparkled. Her green eyes, like her jewelry, sparkled, too.

Maou no hajimekata

 “You must be Jess,” she said as she eyed me, and I stared at her dress. It was crimson red and clung to her body like she was preparing for a model shoot. It was slick, long, and gorgeous. I averted my gaze and swallowed my nerves. Why did Robb’s friends have to be so intimidating? They weren’t like the kids at Hayworth High; they were different. “Nice to meet you, Linda,” I said as I got in to sit in the middle seat.  She shifted away and stared out the window even though we weren’t moving. Crystal sat next to me, and Zac leaned over her. “Be nice, Linda,” he said. “Jess is my dancing partner.” Linda’s neck turned, slowly and methodically. Her thin eyebrows rose, and she smiled, tight-lipped. “Oh, really?” She was looking right at me, and heat sizzled over my skin.  “We are going to dance,” I managed, and Zac chuckled, shutting the car door before he crawled into the passenger seat. No one spoke, but Crystal pinched my leg. I jumped, looking at her, and she widened her eyes at me. Her message was loud and clear: don’t mess with Linda. I smiled at my best friend before focusing on the windshield. At least I’d be able to see where we were going.  “Is everyone buckled up?” Robb asked, and we nodded before he backed out of the driveway. The night wasn’t looking as magnificent as I wanted it to be.

Chapter Six of Danger Zone One

July 18, 2017

Madison forced her eyes open, awakening with a sharp pain at the back of her skull. Her immediate memory was hazy, but could recall the U3 dragging her into the ground. The officer winced, the throbbing in her head increasing as she sat upright. She blinked a few times, hoping to dispel the blurred vision that made it seem like she’d staring through a foggy window. There wasn’t time to dawdle, she still had no idea what had happened to her partner, Rackham, or the U3. Stumbling to her feet, Madison lurched forward. Shit, she cursed to herself, realizing that her legs were still wobbly. She hit the side of a wall before leaning back, at attempt to survey her surroundings. What the—? Only then did Madison comprehend where she was. Chaotic sword god

Four glass walls had boxed her in, allowing just enough room to take a few steps at each side. The narrow entrapment was shaped like a rectangular coffin and, when pushing against the wall, she could see that the glass was at least five inches thick. Her strange reinforced prison didn’t seem to have any way out. On none of the surrounding walls appeared a door latch, save for one side adorned with a small digital screen. She could only guess that it was some form of biometric lock. A pained groan caught Madison’s attention, prompting her to turn to the side. Nearby, Dr. Rackham stirred on the floor. He was also trapped in a glass container, identical to Madison’s own. Rackham looked disoriented, but it didn’t stop him from using the glass walls as leverage in an effort to climb to his feet. “You okay, Rackham?” Noticing the imprisoned officer in the case next to him, Rackham’s eyes widened. “Wh-what happened? Where are we?” “Good question,” Madison muttered, looking through the glass to assess their surroundings. It was plain to see that they were in some sort of makeshift laboratory. The area was lit with only a few old lamps, each offering little in the way of illumination. A mess of extension cords ran from the lamps to a large industrial generator that, judging by the loud hum and sporadic rattling, looked to have seen better days. A handful of bizarre machines seemed strategically placed besides tables, each housing equipment the likes of which Madison had never seen before. A computer with holoscreen displays rested between two of the larger machines, positioned before some sort of tower-like contraption that reached to the ceiling… The ceiling! Madison hadn’t noticed it at first, but the ceiling and the nearby walls were made of rock. In fact, their entire surroundings resembled that of a cave. She held up her wrist, striking a button on her I.DAC. Static feedback was the only response.  “You won’t reach anyone from down here!” A figure emerged from the shadows. He was an older man in his early sixties with hair as white as the lab coat he wore. His cheeks were hollowed in and dark circles lingered under his bloodshot eyes. It looked like the man hadn’t slept in days, possibly longer. A wicked grin played upon his aged features. “Years ago, these tunnels were created for a hyper rail line, until the engineers discovered these walls were lined with magnite rock. Magnite is quite troublesome when it comes to sustaining radio frequencies, hence the reason it’s so often used in creating faraday cages.” “Melchor—you’re alive!” Rackham gasped. “I knew it!” “Not at all surprising,” Melchor scoffed, his grin never faltering. “I figured one or two of my more,” he paused, searching for the right word, “enlightened colleagues would have developed some suspicion regarding my unexpected demise. But it was of little concern. Between Valcott’s eagerness to be rid of me and the dependable ineptness of the Pallad City authorities, any simpleton could have predicted that I’d be declared legally dead in short order, the so-called evidence disbarring any and all protest to the contrary.” Something large slithered up from behind Melchor. “You surely didn’t think the U3 perished either, did you, Rackham?” The U3’s long tentacles enabled its oval-shaped body to practically glide across the floor. Its glowing, singular red eyeball had Madison and Dr. Rackham locked in its fearsome gaze. “What are you trying to accomplish?” Rackham barked. “That should be quite obvious.” Melchor shook his head with disapproval, stroking the U3’s damaged tentacle. At the missing end of the mechanical appendage, frayed wires could be seen sticking out. Melchor sneered in the officer’s direction. “And I take it you’re the one who did this?” “You can bill me for the damage,” Madison countered, “from your prison cell.” Melchor chuckled. “An unlikely outcome, my dear.” “You’ve done it, haven’t you?” Rackham slammed his shoulder uselessly against the glass confinement. “You’ve finished the Resonator?” “Catching on, are we?” Leaving the U3’s side, Melchor walked over to the largest machine in his makeshift laboratory, its towering height nearly touching the rocky ceiling of the tunnel. He gestured to a series of coiling tubes at the machine’s side. They  connected to a miniature satellite dish. “Recognize it, Rackham?” “Magnetic conductors,” the doctor answered through clenched teeth. “Impossible. Those can’t possibly have enough power to energize the Resonator’s core.

Star martial god technique

You’d need industrial-grade equipment for that. You couldn’t even get those when you were funded by Valcott.” “You forget,” Melchor smirked, “I’m no longer bound by the budgetary concerns of mental troglodytes. Those conductors were procured from an AT drill. More than satisfactory to provide the necessary power output, wouldn’t you agree?” Madison’s hands tightened into fists. That solved where the drill had gone, along with what purpose it intended to serve. She tried activating her I.DAC again, but the signal was still blocked. Melchor struck a switch on the front of his machine and a panel lowered, exposing a metal unit lodged in the mid-section of the Harmonic Resonator. “And from the hyper rail car—” “—the IGBT!” Rackham shouted, his eyes settling on the repurposed unit. “Ever since my greatly exaggerated demise, I’ve been gathering all of the remaining components. A debt greatly owed to the versatility of my U3. Soon this entire city will tremble—and I use the term literally—once the Resonator is activated at full power.” “Even if you did perfect the Resonator,” Rackham aimed an accusing finger at his former colleague, “weaponizing it to accurately target precise locations would be next to impossible.” “Ah, a disbeliever,” Melchor rubbed his hands together with delight, “don’t worry, you’ll bear witness soon enough. I’ve since refined the initial designs; targeting is no longer an issue. The miniscule tremors felt around the city over the past week were mere tests. Trial and error is the crux of progress, after all. Until now, the Resonator had been operating on minimum power.” He redirected his attention to a spherical device next to the machine—the Vox unit from Rackham’s lab. “But with this latest—and final—acquisition, my masterpiece is complete.” Rackham pounded both hands against the glass. “Do you think, by following through with this madness, you’ll ever be accepted back into the scientific community?” “Accepted back?” Melchor spat. “Oh, it’s much too late for that. Those ignorant fools couldn’t begin to comprehend my genius, why would I want to enter their fold again? The dimwitted rabble of Pallad City buried my career, and now I will bury Pallad City!” He threw his hands up before the Resonator, as if to praise its grand design. “They failed to see the power of infrasound. Though inaudible to the human ear, its subsonic vibrations can shake mountains to dust, or disrupt the tectonic plates beneath the earth, capable of sinking entire continents!” Melchor shifted over to a console near the machine, his fingers striking a keyboard while numeric formulas blinked onto a nearby screen. “Once I’m able to acquire the correct harmonic wavelength, I will bring this city crashing down, reducing every last inch of it to rubble.” Madison crouched down, leaning in to examine the electronic lock on the glass door. It appeared to be an older design, one that required a passcode to deactivate. She held up her wrist, tapping a button on the I.DAC. The communicator blinked to life and she held it near the lock. A holographic image emerged from an indentation on her communicator, displaying a lock icon with the word encrypted. Just as she had thought, Melchor wouldn’t be foolish enough to have his locks unsecured. Biting her lip, Madison pressed the button again on the I.DAC and the device began searching through possible numeric matches to decrypt the lock. She knew her chances were slim. The I.DAC might eventually match the proper code, but it could take hours, if not days—and time was far from a luxury. She switched the holographic projection off, but kept the I.DAC’s search running. “The frequency resonance,” Rackham whispered, pushing against the glass. “That’s it!” Madison turned to the imprisoned doctor, observing a look of relief on his face. “What did you say?” Rackham ignored her, shouting directly to Melchor. “Even with the Vox unit, the Resonator is still incomplete, isn’t it? Bring down a city,” he said sarcastically, “that’s a laugh. Without the proper frequency resonance, you’d be capable of little more than a few more minor tremors. Hardly impressive.” Melchor spun around, face turning red. “Mock me, will you?” “What are you talking about?” Madison’s attention was fixed on Rackham. “Infrasonic waves can be deadly,” he began, “but only at certain frequencies. If the resonance isn’t right, it’ll be harmless—headache inducing, at most.

Melchor’s obviously found a frequency capable of causing small tremors, but that’s a far cry from a Kurtow-level quake. In short, using the Resonator in a weaponized capacity is still beyond him. The machine may now have the power to carry the task out, but without that frequency, it’s all a grandiose farce. It could take months—years—to find the right resonance. It has to be utterly exact, down to the most accurate decibel. Isn’t that right, Melchor?” Melchor swung his fist into the air, spit flying from his mouth. “You think that I would have come this far to fail now? Such brazen ignorance is the reason why this city will suffer.” He turned back to the console, hammering his fingers against the keyboard. “And there’s not a person alive who can stop me.” Reena plopped down into the darkened cavern, only her flashlight offering a field of vision, however limited it was. The climb hadn’t been as treacherous as she had expected. Much to her surprise, the hole leading from the lab to her current subterranean surroundings was short enough that even a fall wouldn’t have proven life threatening. Though, the climb down did leave a few bruises on her bare legs, hands, and elbows. She could also feel the dirt and grime caked on her face, not to mention the sweat soiling her uniform. She flashed her light onward, looking deeper into the cavern ahead. The path appeared manmade, prompting Reena to assume that she was in some old subway tunnel, a leftover remnant that had been buried by the infamous Kurtow Quake some twenty years ago. Reena still couldn’t believe that she was heading into certain danger alone but, however slim her chances were, she had to try. If it meant helping her partner, there really was no other option. This is pretty reckless, she laughed to herself, in fact, it’s something Madison would be crazy enough to do! But, more than anything, she hoped it wouldn’t be too late. “Resonance mismatch,” a computerized female voice echoed from Melchor’s console. His fist crashed down on the keyboard and he entered another mathematical equation. “Resonance mismatch.” “Damn,” Melchor grumbled, preparing to input a different formula. “Alert!” the computer warned. “Alert! Intruder detected.” “Activate surveillance feed,” Melchor ordered. The monitor in front of him flickered, displaying an overhead view of the tunnel system. He watched as a young woman, flashlight tight in her grip, advanced. “Zoom in further.” The camera obeyed his command. The lens’s poor visual resolution left the incoming feed pixilated and the camera’s lack of night vision presented its own set of problems—a setup clearly not meant for low light environments. Melchor had used the U3 to steal the surveillance equipment, preventing him from being choosy with his illicitly obtained goods. Even so, Melchor could make out the intruder’s attire—a PCPD uniform! “The other officer from earlier?” he pondered aloud, tapping his fingers on the keyboard. The monitor flickered again, replaced by an earlier recording. From the confines of her glass cell, Madison could see Melchor’s display screen and instantly recognized the footage he was playing—it was from their first encounter with the U3 in the subway. He must have had surveillance cameras placed throughout the tunnel system, she thought, possibly as a way of monitoring the equipment he needed to steal. “Yes, it’s her,” Melchor said, half turning to Madison, “there’s no doubt. It appears your inquisitive partner will soon be joining you.” The previously recorded footage of the U3 attack continued playing, a mechanical tentacle grabbing Reena’s leg, her scream escaping the monitor’s speakers... “Resonance matched,” the computer announced. “What?” Melchor stood frozen, mouth slung open in awe. “It…worked?” He checked the incoming data on the display and, after a moment, let out a loud gasp. “It worked!” He fumbled with the keyboard, and the recorded footage skipped back, replaying the officer’s scream. “Resonance matched,” the computer repeated. Dumbfounded, Melchor examined the data again. “I see,” he muttered, “it makes sense—certain human vocalizations are capable of producing infrasound—but I never could have expected this.” He isolated a digital sound clip of the female’s scream and transferred the file to the Harmonic Resonator’s output terminal. “Resonance sound file playtime insufficient,” the computer responded. “Insufficient?!” Melchor roared, evaluating the latest data display. He tried again, this time replaying the audio clip in a continuous loop. “Resonance mismatch.” “Of course,” Melchor cursed under his breath, “repeating the file alters the resonating frequency. It needs to be one continuous sound.” He scanned over the data—the girl’s unique pitch was instrumental in matching the frequency and, though it appeared a female voice was required, not just any would suffice. Melchor cast a disgusted glare at the officer he had already managed to capture. Her vocalizations would be useless. According to the data at hand, he needed the dark haired officer’s scream. Perhaps, given time he’d be able to duplicate it, or find another source, but he wouldn’t wait any longer. Pallad City must pay! Melchor turned to the U3, while pointing at the young officer’s image on the surveillance feed. “Bring her to me!” ​The tunnel felt endless. No matter how far Reena walked, there was no visible objective in sight, just a perpetual sea of blackness. Her flashlight blinked. Wonderful, she thought to herself, now the battery’s dying! Despite the dire nature of her situation, she was determined to continue forward. She still didn’t know what she would—or could—do to help Madison, but there was no other option. Reena wasn’t about to let her partner be carried off by some mechanical monstrosity, nor left to some grisly unknown fate, while she stood around idly waiting for backup. A glint of silver was caught in the flashlight’s flickering beam. Before Reena could react, a tentacle whipped out of the darkness, swatting the flashlight from her sweaty grip. The U3 fully emerged from the shadows, its singular crimson eye kept Reena centered in its dreadful gaze. A mass of tendrils propped its spherical body off the ground, while a barrage of appendages lashed out. Reena unholstered her Halvok 99, but the U3 was too fast. One of its many limbs coiled around the barrel of the gun and crushed the weapon. The panicked officer tossed the destroyed firearm aside. She glanced at one side of the tunnel, then the other, desperately looking for anything to defend herself with. Even if something was in arm’s reach, she could barely see in the ill-lit surroundings. The U3 seized the officer’s arm and pulled forward, tearing part of her uniform from the shoulder to the chest and exposing her blue and pink striped bra. “H-hey!” Reena yelped, trying to wriggle herself free. Another tentacle wrapped around her ankle and, with incredible strength, heaved the girl onto her back. “Ow!” Her cry of pain did nothing to deter the multi-limbed creature. The appendage gripping her ankle swung up, lifting its victim to the ceiling. Reena hung upside down, her skirt sliding past her hips and exposing her white panties. Her cheeks turned red as she tried to pull the skirt back down with her free hand. “C-creepy machine!” The U3’s tentacles clamped onto her wrist and her other free ankle. She was completely bound. More tendrils curled around her body, one winding its way over her breasts, another around her waist. She could feel the cloth around her midriff being torn away. Yet another twisted around her bare thigh. And then, with remarkable speed, the U3 began carrying her deeper into the darkness. “Aaaagh!” Reena cried out in desperation. Despite the U3’s grip on her wrist and arm, she still tried reaching for the walls. It was too dark to see, but her only hope rested in grabbing something—anything! In the back of her mind she knew it was a futile effort, but she wouldn’t let the U3 take her without a fight. Her left hand grasped at the empty air until it clutched onto an unseen object. It was metal and cold, but thin, narrow...it felt like a pipe. It must be attached to the wall, Reena deduced. She held firm, but a surge of pain wracked her arm as the U3 pulled at her, trying to haul her deeper into the unknown blackness ahead. “I’m not letting go!” Reena declared, wincing in pain as her fingers tightened on the pipe. The U3 froze for a moment, as if calculating its next move. Then, with one furious pull against Reena’s leg, wrenched her away from the pipe. The officer crashed to the ground while the U3 continued dragging her along. “Ow, ow, ow!” Reena cried, cringing as the rough dirt scrapped against her back, tearing at her uniform. She tried to dig her elbows into the earth, but it only left them scraped and bruised as she was drawn further into the tunnel by the U3. She tried twisting herself free once more but, in the attempt, hit her skull against a rock embedded in the ground. It was the last thing she felt before unconsciousness overtook her.

Alter World chap Thirteen Update

July 23, 2015

We walked out of the gnoll dungeon and headed toward the city. The gnoll workers that had only yesterday seemed so tough and dangerous kept lunging at us from everywhere, only to face Teddy the Bodyguard. The enormous level gap didn't leave the suckers half a chance. Groups of low-level players watched us walk past, although admittedly Hummungus was the center of their attention. I didn't mind. On the contrary, I made sure to showcase him at his best, making him bellow and lunge as I played with "Attack!" and "Off!" We even did our good deed for the day by tearing apart an impressive train that some over-eager ranger had dragged to his group. Taali gave everyone a quick heal, handed out some buffs and off we went. As we walked, she demanded to know every detail of the Drow quest. She'd probably decided to do it herself. She looked really funny when she asked, stern-eyed, if a Drow leader absolutely had to be a woman or whether a male prince or knight could also be accepted?

Isekai mahou wa okureteru

I had to put on a serious face and tell her that indeed a knight was okay, why not. On a white charger, yeah right. She was still a child. Shame I couldn't give her the keys which turned out to be non-transferrable. When we were a few hundred feet away from the city, I slowed down. The forest ended there. "That's it, Taali. I'm afraid I can't go any further. The guards will start aggroing Teddy. I'm too close already. I've seen a couple of patrols here before." "Never mind. Thanks for your help. For everything..." she paused. "Stop it, will ya? You think I'd leave a girl in trouble? I'd kick any amount of ass for a friend." She raised her head and looked me in the eye. "A friend?" I took her slim hands in mine. "Whassup? Sure we're friends. Why would you doubt that? Is it because of that Drow chick?" "It's the way you looked at her." "Oh. How can I explain," I hesitated. "Body chemistry, you know? Game designer magic plus pheromones in combination with abstinence, a new fitter me and tons of naked bods walking around." I didn't think she understood all of it but her face lit up. Much better. I hated to see her sad as a panda without bamboo. "Could I ask a favor of you? I'm like a walking Fort Knox at the moment, lugging around over a hundred gold. You think you could pop it into the bank for me? I can't go to town myself, you see." Taali gave me a serious look as if searching for an answer to some unasked question. Then she nodded. "Thanks." "What for?" "For trusting me. Come on, where's your money? I really need some cash to get that Versace robe." She could still joke, which was a good sign. At least I hoped she joked. I handed her the money and nodded at the looming tower tops. "Off you go, then." She wasn't in a hurry to leave, though. Devils danced in her eyes. "Did you say abstinence?" She stepped toward me and gave me a firm kiss—artless but passionate and uncompromising as youth itself. Then she swung round, her mane of hair lashing the air, and strode toward the city. I shook my head, flabbergasted. What kind of day was this? The amount of adventures, conflicts, emotions and beautiful women had exceeded the yearly real-world quota. I liked it. Finally I pulled myself together and took the familiar trail back into the woods toward Grym's cave. I had barely fifty paces left to cover when I heard Hummungus' fierce roar behind my back, followed by a scream. "Die, you spawn of the Dark!" I turned around just in time to see my pet being attacked by two of the city guards. A bit further, a mage was whispering something into a radiant crystal. A patrol. Talking of the devil. Probably, the best thing would be to smoke the pet myself and make an inconspicuous exit. But either my affection for Teddy or the mob-respawning, bear-bellowing instinct that I'd acquired in the last twenty-four hours got the better of me. Both, most likely. The guards weren't much to write home about, both level twenty-five. The mage was level thirty. The further away from the city one went, the weaker patrols became: not so much combat force as a rapid report system. But I had a bad feeling about the mage, apparently on a hotline 

to somewhere. You've received experience! Warning! You've killed a guard of the City of Light! The Sun King doesn't approve of those who kill his subjects! Your relationship with the Dark Alliance has improved! Your relationship with the Alliance of Light has deteriorated! Bad, too bad. I remembered reading that it was never a good idea to attack allied NPCs. Reputation could plummet and it could take you a lot of time and drudgery to restore it. Actually, I could understand the Admins. I'd had some experience with certain servers where the players butchered quest characters and bankers, even slaughtering entire trading towns. I'd once watched the server's top clan raze a biggish city. This, of course, tended to ruin the gaming experience and could potentially alienate the average player. This I knew but I couldn't do much about it now. The second guard died, too. The remaining mage wisely chose an escape route. He cast a slowing spell over my pet and, while Teddy tried to kick away some roots entangling his legs, he popped a portal open and disappeared in a blue haze. Not good. You didn't have to be a mind reader to know that the place would soon be crawling with guards. I frisked the corpses. Nothing special, just some silver and a few gamers' badges. Now I had to get to the cave double quick. The passage was too narrow for Teddy: he was bound to get stuck halfway through, but as long as no one could see him from the outside, it had to do. A couple steps down was good enough. This time the cave was brightly lit, just for a change. A dozen makeshift candles oozed wax. Grym the Hermit in rolled-up sleeves was busy pounding some pungent ingredient in a mortar. When I stumbled down the steps into the cave, he glanced over at me but continued with his work. Then his eyebrows rose. He set aside his bowl filled with some shimmering powder and walked over to me. "You're surely full of surprises, young warlock. You've gained strength fast. Probably a bit too fast. In the Dark Lands you'd still be a green newb, but here, right under the High Ones' nose..." Grym shook his head in disbelief. I had too little time for subtleties so I grabbed the bull by the horns. "Thank you, Sir Hermit. Would you be willing to teach me something new?" Grym nodded and made a magician-like gesture. "Absolutely. You're long overdue your reward." Congratulations! You've received 3 Talent points! You have 23 Talent points available! Excellent. We'd sorted out all the old odds and sods. Time to look forward to new heights. Grym put an end to my reverie. "Have you managed to demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One?" Jeez, what did he want from me? It's not as if he'd given me any tips, was it? What was I supposed to do, spit on the altar in an Elven temple? Maybe hand out some anti-Elf leaflets printed by the Darks' underground? Or even fly the Fallen One's colors in the dark of the night from the watchtower's spire? Having said that... I started rummaging through my bag, found what I was looking for and brought a jingling bundle of the players' badges to Grym's eyes. "Will these do?" The old goblin studied the offering. Then he grinned and nodded. "Excellent. You'll get a gold piece for each High scumbag you've offed. I'd rather you brought me their ears but the badges will do nicely. If ever you come across more of such loot, remember old Grym." Quest completion alert: Demonstrate your loyalty to the Fallen One II. Quest completed! Reward: Gold Grym rummaged through the folds of his robe and produced seven coins. I liked this job. Wonder what he'd give me for the guards' badges? I slapped my pockets and produced my remaining booty. The hermit started and leaned forward. His face sharpened, vulture-like. He examined every badge, stroking and bringing them close to his nose. Then he nodded, satisfied, and emitted a hoarse laugh. "You've made my day, young warlock. Old Grym hasn't seen this kind of loot for a long, long time. What can I give you in return?" I paused for a moment, thinking. Another handful of gold wouldn't help me much. Asking for some unique gear was rather stupid. Having said that... "I'd like you to answer a question." Grym looked interested. "Oh, really? Spit it out, then." "I'd like to know how I could find the Dark Guild of the City of Light. I've been meaning to have a talk with their master.

Skeleton knight

He might have some secret quests for me. Or he could share some ancient lore to help me on my chosen path..." The goblin saddened, shaking his head. "The Dark Guild's secrets are too much for a newb to bear. Go and find yourself some easier quests first, and one day we might come back to this conversation." New Quest alert! Knowledge Breeds Sadness! Keep Grym and his cave a secret for a minimum of ten days. Reward: Access to quest: Knowledge Breeds Sadness II! I nodded, accepting the quest. What a pain. They seemed to arrange quests in stages. You'd be old by the time you got to the bottom of it all. "I'll be back in ten days," I said by way of goodbye and headed for the exit. I didn't want to wait till he blew me out like the first time. Teddy was still stuck in the corridor and I didn't want to be smashed in mid-air against his fangs. "Go," the hermit heaved a sigh. Was it my imagination or had I gleaned some compassion in his voice? Teddy was waiting for me, doglike. I patted his neck and walked up the gnarled steps out into the fresh night air. Where to now? Back to the caves? Level 1 and 2 mobs were all highlighted in gray now—they wouldn't bring any loot or experience. Level 3 gnolls were mainly green: I got the loot but virtually no XP. The Throne Room mobs' names were highlighted in blue, which meant that they were slightly below me. And still, in another hour or two I'd have nothing left to farm there, with the exception of the King. It would take too long. I needed to find a new hunting ground. But not now, in the middle of the night. Should I maybe curl up under some tree or other and have a nap until sunrise? I walked along, musing, when the flapping of wings added to the night forest sounds. A large gryphon crashed onto the trail in full flight and hissed at Hummungus. I stopped dead in my tracks. A Lieutenant of the Royal Guard jumped off the gryphon's back. I tried to leg it. Too late. The Lieutenant uttered a short spell, pinning my feet to the ground. Teddy lunged to my defense. The Lieutenant waved his hatchet in the air, and the bear cartwheeled back, his life halved. Another assault sent Teddy flying like a lapdog, his life blinking in the red zone. And still he wobbled back toward the Elf. I hurried to open the pet control panel and pressed 'Off.'. Immediately I noticed a rabbit nearby, selected it as target and ordered Teddy to attack it. The chase could take him away from the guard while I would try to talk my way out of it somehow. But what was that? Had Teddy just ignored my commands? Head shaking, one wet eye glancing at me, the bear kept advancing toward the guard who was watching the beast with a lazy curiosity. Then the Lieutenant whispered a spell and flung a drop of fire from his hand. The flames consumed Teddy. The pet's status icon closed and disappeared. No! Something got into my eye so I could barely see the Elf raise his staff sending a wide beam of light up into the sky. Like a beacon, it attracted another dozen gryphons which descended onto the narrow trail like a murder of crows. Strong gauntleted hands grabbed me. A voice thundered over my ear, "Laith the Warlock, you're under arrest for worshipping the Fallen One, for summoning the beings of the Dark, for Elves-targeted assaults and for the murder of City of Light guards."

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