The S-Red’s Blade Story

I pulled yet another pair of slimy tentacles off my shoulder. Dolmdarls were hardly ever much a threat, but they made up for that by being a pain in the butt to clean up after. Even after I had sliced the tentacles from the dead squid, they would cling to me. I tossed the purple tentacles into the ocean they came from and turned my head back over to my so called friends who were watching from the campfire.

“No, please, don’t get up, I got this,” I said as I put Sange and Yasha back on my hips.

We weren’t frolicking in Seabed. Someone had gotten the idea to have a campfire on Seaside. You know, to help us unwind and decompress and reconnect with our energies and insert some other psychobabble here. It was a pretty good idea, I’ll say. There was a nice breeze rolling in from the sea, carrying its scent onto the beach and there wasn’t a cloud in sight in the starry night sky.

“It was just one dolmdarl,” Kiara said as I walked back to the logs around the campfire.

“Yeah, yeah…” I muttered as I plopped myself onto the log.

“While you were dealing with the dolmdarl, we decided that you were going to tell the S-Red’s Blade story when you got back,” Jeya said.

“What? You’ve all heard the S-Red’s Blade story. I’m not telling the S-Red’s Blade story,” I said. The S Red’s Blade story is a lot what it sounds like: a story about S-Red’s Blade. At the same time, it’s so much more. It’s a story of a man’s quest for love and adoration. It’s a story of a man’s dogged perseverance in defiance of the fickle machinations of fate. It’s a story that visits every extreme of the human condition.

More than any of those though, it’s a story that pisses me off just thinking about it. So yeah, I thought I had settled the matter by declaring I wouldn’t be telling that story. That was silly. “Well, all right. I guess we’ll just pass the time with some music,” Kiara said as she took out a CD.

I narrowed my eyes through the flame at her. “…Is that what I think it is? You wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I?” she said, turning the face of the CD toward me. It was that accursed song, Dreams Dreams. I hate that song. There is not a more pure, more raw, more primal form of hatred anywhere in the universe than the hatred produced when I am subjected to those two brats singing. It’s not even hatred of the song or anything in particular. It’s just an aimless malice that makes life taste like crap. If it’s not clear, I did not want to listen to that song.

“All right, all right, I’ll tell the S-Red’s Blade story,” I said, gnashing my teeth. Everyone clapped excitedly and got themselves comfortable as I took a deep breath to prepare.

So, the S-Red’s Blade story began like so many a hunter’s story does: in the hunters’ guild. I was looking for something to do, and the guild was the place to go for things looking for someone to do them. I always thought it was kind of small, for what it was. You had the hunters, a collection of largely adolescent individuals armed with various tools of mass destruction and then you had this tiny little room for them to congregate in. It always seemed like a knife fight waiting to happen, if you ask me.

Anyway, I bumped into one of my friends, a FOnewearl named Vivi. She was normal looking, having jet black hair and actually coming up past my waist. Then again, I’m talking about people who could have every color of hair the eye could see, wore pointed slippers and just shoved their faces into a tub of makeup in the morning, so I’m speaking relatively, when I say ‘normal.’

“Heya Vivi-“

“X, do you have an S-Red’s Blade?” she asked. If I could have answered that question in the affirmative, I would have been spared the torment that followed. I could have spent the day on something less soul killing, like drowning kittens, or buying skinny jeans.

But no, I did not have an S-Red’s Blade. So, I said, “no, I don’t. What’s up?”

“You have so much stuff, how don’t you have an S-Red’s blade?!”

“Because I don’t. Sorry,” I said with a shrug.

“Darn…well, if you get a salvageable set off a Sinow Red, let me know? I’ll give you something nice for it.” People have said that I have an unhealthy fixation with newmen females, that I go to ridiculous lengths to place myself in their company and concoct ridiculous plans to enter their good graces. I accepted these as valid criticisms of my character. Thing was, I was totally gonna do all that anyway.

“I’ll do you better, I’ll bring you one for sure,” I said, tossing my hair with a smile.

“Really? That’d be awesome, but how-“

“Don’t worry, you leave the little details to me,” I said as I turned to leave.

Now. You may be wondering, ‘what does a FOney need with S-Red’s Blade? She has her own Shifta and Deband she can cast.’ To that, I say, you’re missing the point entirely. The specific item she wanted was irrelevant. The important thing here was that she wanted it, did not have it, and would definitely think highly of whoever gave it to her. This could have been the ‘Geist Ripper+5 story’ for all I cared.

In my mind, I had it all worked out. I may not have had an S-Red’s Blade, but I had a whole vault filled with treasures. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to find someone who’d trade me an S-Red’s Blade for one of them. Personally, I never saw the appeal of burning Q-tips and toy sabers; gimme a plain old diska and gladius and I’m good to go. I hooked into the hunters’ net and checked the trading posts in search of an S-Red’s Blade I could barter for.

Again, if this story had had so simple a resolution as me having an item that I could trade, it’d be a lot shorter ‘cause I wouldn’t be telling it ‘cause it’d be boring. There were a handful available, but their owners wanted items I didn’t have. So, in what I thought was a sheer stroke of genius, I decided to see if I could trade for one of the items that were being asked for. That was also a bust. So, I decided to look for a trade that would net me an item I could use to trade for the thing that I needed to trade to get an S-Red’s Blade. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, I’ll skip ahead a bit and say that I managed to work out a viable chain. Basically, it was going to go like this: my Zanba for an Asuka, the Asuka for a Heart Key, the Heart Key for a Yasminkov R, the Yasminkov for a Madam’s Parasol, and the Madam’s Parasol for, drumroll, the S-Red’s Blades. Easy, right? If only that had been all there was to it, but there was a hidden, unlisted cost to each trade that I wouldn’t become aware of until it came time to trade: a piece of my sanity.

I set out, starry eyed and filled with hope, like a twenty something year old girl on her way to a casting call, unaware that I’d end the day exhausted and violated. My first stop was the bank, where I kept all my junk. The teller’s rack greeted me and I returned the greeting. “Hey, I need my Zanba please,” I said.

“Would you please look up here for a change?” she asked.

I was always marveled by how a pair of breasts could speak. Perhaps it’s some function of air manipulation via the cleavage. Anyway, I got my Zanba and I was on my way towards turning it into S-Red’s Blade. The first stop on my journey was some HUcast. I don’t remember his name, but as with so many other details, it was unimportant. I had Zanba. He had Asuka. I wanted Asuka. He wanted Zanba.

We met up…somewhere. He said he’d be the really big HUcast. I thought he was just full of himself, but when I got to…wherever it was, I saw that he wasn’t kidding. Dude was huge. Like, you know how you want an umbrella when it rains in the Forest? This guy would have needed one of those big tops you see at fairs. I briefly wondered who would create such a thing. It just seems like it’d be daring the universe to bring on a robot apocalypse. This guy would have been their god-king, to whom the other casts served tributes of human heads.

“You have the Zanba?” he asked.

I nodded. “You’ve got the Asuka?”

“Yes,” he replied.

We stood apart from each other for a few seconds longer in silence. Then, I suggested. “We should trade, then.”

“This trade is disadvantageous to you,” he said.

“I’m a motivated seller,” I said.

“Are you sure you want to go through with this trade?” he asked.

“No need to do me any favors, I’m good,” I said.

“It’d be better if you kept it for yourself,” he said.

“Uh, I’m sure that I have no use for it,” I said.

“Are you saying you’re trading me a useless item?” he asked.

We went on like that for a while. At some point, the words coming out of my mouth formed logic acceptable to the HUcast god-king and he agreed to the trade. I couldn’t tell you what I said. By that point, my mouth was running on auto pilot, saying whatever seemed like would end the conversation fastest. Maybe I told him I’d give him my first born son to use as a football, beats me.

If that had been the end of it, I’d call it a tiring, but reasonable experience. You’ll note that there are still four steps remaining. The next step was the Asuka for a Heart Key. The trader was a HUney. I know I said I have a weakness for newmen women, but there’s a very important exception to that: the lolis. I fiercely maintain my position that lolis are not people. Here’s the thing: they’re jerks. They’re rude, and they’re snotty, but because they’re ‘cute’ no one freaking calls them on it.

And here we are at an excellent example of this. The HUney in question was just such a loli: freakishly big eyes, didn’t come up past my waist, pink hair, the whole works. Despite the adrenaline massing in my body for the desire to punt her, I kept myself calm and started the transaction.

“I believe you’re looking for an Asuka?” I asked. She didn’t say anything, and still had her back turned even as I walked up to her. Okay, I thought maybe she just didn’t hear me. The encounter wasn’t doomed yet. “Miss?”

She whirled around on her heel and I saw that she was carrying a Rukmin in her arms. Just, clutching it against her chest like a doll. I’d never met anyone who created a Rukmin on purpose. I mean, just look at the thing. It’s just some makeup away from being an amputee clown. Who the hell would want that floating behind them, watching? Waiting.

“He does look like a dumb HUmar,” she said. I blinked, because that was out of left field. I mean, sure, my mullet did make me look like a goof sometimes, but it’s not like I had my hair spiked up. So, there I am, turning my head around, looking for some reason why she’d blurt something like that out.

“He’s a little clueless, Rukmin,” she said. Oh, so she was talking to the doll. Okay, that actually wasn’t that strange. You can find a lot of girls do the ‘talk to your mag like it’s a person’ shtick. Not even all midgets. Though, they usually use Satos or something cute like that.

“I’m sorry, I just didn’t realize,” I said, grinding my teeth. That urge to punt her was growing. “Shall we trade?”

Again, she didn’t say anything right away. She was holding Rukmin’s ‘mouth’ up to her ear and nodding. I was about to repeat myself when she said, “I agree Rukmin, I want to stop looking at this moptop as soon as possible.”

“What the hell did I ever do to you?” I asked.

“Your foul mouth is scaring Rukmin,” she said.

“Your schizophrenia is scaring me!” I said as I took out the Asuka and thrust the handles at her. At that point, I was genuinely concerned that every second I lingered presented the possibility that my severed head was going to wind up in an ice cooler. “Look, just let me have the Heart Key, please?”

“Rukmin doesn’t know if he wants me to trade it anymore,” she said.

“Rukmin was the one who wanted the Asuka?” I asked. She nodded. “Okay. What’s Rukmin going to do with a Heart Key? He’s a boy, right?” My eyes were rolling slightly into my head. After all, I didn’t quite believe I had stooped to negotiating with a doll.

She consulted with her mag again and it was all I could do to just stand there and keep myself from saying what was really on my mind. “Okay, Rukmin says you can have it,” she said.

“I’m glad,” I said as I internally debated whether or not it would be poor etiquette to punch her in the face after the trade was complete. I eventually decided on ‘yes it would,’ but it was a very narrow vote. The ‘yes it would’ crowd was prepared to compromise with a dropkick to the chest before the nays caved. I handed her the Asuka and she gave me the Heart Key.

“Rukmin wants to know if we can borrow some of your hair,” she said.

I stopped sprinting about half a mile later. I slowed my swift jog to a brisk walk another mile after that. I didn’t stop looking over my shoulder for yet a few miles after that. With that trade out of the way, it was time to exchange the Heart Key for a Yasminkov. At the time, I thought it was fortunate that I’d be doing this trade with someone I knew pretty well.

It was another HUney, though this one was no loli. You know those video games that let you create your own characters? Yeah, she was what you got when you turned up all the good sliders to the max. I found that my brain never worked properly around her, but that’s to be expected when all the blood that’s usually in your brain is otherwise occupied.

She asked to meet up in Forest, so, I piped down, sliced my way through some bartles, roasted some rappies and just trudged through the place until I found her. “Hi X. I’m happy to see you,” she said.

“Yeah, uh, I’m happy to see you too, Leah,” I said.

“Are you sure? Because you’re facing the other way. And standing so far away,” she said. As I said, brain not work so good near her, so I was keeping my distance as not to do something dumb. “Why don’t you come a little closer?”

“I’m great here, thanks,” I said. I heard her heel sink into the ground, and immediately took a step forward to restore the distance between us.

“Don’t tell me you’re scared of me,” she said, taking another step.

“Uh, uh, listen, how about you just leave the Yasminkov there, I leave the Heart Key here and we just pick them up?” I said, stepping away again.

“You’re being silly,” she said, now briskly walking toward me. I started to run and she started to run too, both of us going in circles. “X, I have other things to do today!” she yelled.

“I do too!” I shouted back to her.

“Then stop running and give me the Heart Key!” she said.

“Let’s just do it my way and we can go!” I said.

“Oh for the love of…” she muttered. Unfortunately, her legs were longer than mine, so eventually, she caught up and tackled me from behind. “All right, now give it up!” Pinned, I held up the rock and she plucked it from my hand. She laid the Yasminkov on the ground in front of my face and then said, “there, was that so terrible?”

“I guess not,” I said, somewhat pleased that this trade might end more sanely than the others.

“Hey, X,” she said.

“Yeah, what?” I asked, turning my head up to make eye contact for the first time.

She made googly eyes at me and said, “wouldn’t it be nice if you let me keep the Heart Key and the Yasminkov and I’d owe you one?”

I turned my head away and immediately began struggling. “God dammit Leah, this is exactly what I was trying to avoid!” I yelled as I scrambled to get out from under her. She wouldn’t let me up though and just kept shoving her elbow into my back, against the ground.

“For me, pretty please?” she said. There was a distinct disconnect between the sweetness of her voice and the force of the hold she was using to keep me floored. It was like a cat asking a mouse to share its cheese. But, I had a goal and I was determined to stick to it, so I just violently shook my head. “Come on,” she said, some of the sweetness disappearing from her tone.

“Everytime we do a trade, I swear to god, you do this!” I whined. It was true. The week before, we were going to trade a Spirit Garment and a Twin Blaze, and somehow, she ended up walking away with both, plus the Add Slots I was going to use on the Spirit Garment. Come to think of it, she was probably going to use the Heart Key on that same Spirit Garment.

“No I don’t,” she said, literally twisting my arm. “You just give me things out of the kindness of your heart.”

“Bullcrap!”

Eventually, she gave up and let me up. I didn’t waste any time grabbing the gun and backing away, leaving her seated on the ground. “You’re unusually focused today,” she said, obviously amused with the ordeal she put me through.

“I have somewhere to be, excuse me!” I said, deliberately forming each word in my mouth so I didn’t stutter. Just as I was about to stomp off though, she called to me one last time.

“Oh X, could you find me a couple of God/Arms? I need them for this new armor! Thanks!” she said, waving me off. I just ground my teeth and kept on going.

Three trades down, two to go, and I was running dangerously low on tolerance for bizarre personalities. It’s like, really, how the hell did these people find me? Did I have a sign on my back that said, ‘emotionally broken persons with naught but contempt for social norms please congregate here?’ Was it some sort of karmic retribution for ill deeds committed in a past life? Did I blow up a nunnery? You can only take so much random aggravation before you really have to stop and wonder about what sort of choices you’ve made in your life that could allow for these circumstances.

At any rate, at the halfway point, I couldn’t not proceed to the finish line. I took the Yasminkov to the next person, a RAmarl. Since I was trying to get all of this done in the same day, I had to agree to meet up with her where she was. Where she was, was the mines. A short jaunt later and I found her.

Generally, I didn’t think RAmarls stood out. They wore baggy pants, silly hats and more than just a few of them put makeup on like they were off to war, medieval style. Clearly, they didn’t like being ogled and dressed like that, I was happy to accommodate them. This one was no different in that respect. What made her remarkable was the sheer amount and variety of guns she was loaded down with. A pistol strapped to her arm, a shotgun on her back, mechguns on her hips and a rifle in her hands. With that much metal on her, I almost thought she was a RAcaseal, but seeing as those didn’t actually exist, that was obviously a silly thought.

“Um…” I said as I walked up. “You have a lot of guns.”

“I like guns,” she said. Okay, fair enough. I was more of a stabbity fellow myself, but I can understand an appreciation for guns. That ridiculous hope that it might be a normal encounter just would not be extinguished.

“Well, I guess I have one more for you?” I said as I held up the Yasminkov. I swear, the look on her face when she saw it belonged on the cover of some ‘adult materials.’ “You’ve got my Madam’s Parasol?”

“Yes. Shall we trade?” she asked. I sighed in relief. Finally, I thought, I had found a normal person. Ha.

“Gladly! Man, you can’t imagine what I had to go through to get this Yas,” I said.

The glee on her face turned off like it was on a switch. “What did you call it?” she asked flatly.

“Uh…it’s a Yas?” I said, knowing full well it was the wrong answer, but having no idea what she was looking for here.

“No, you have to respect the firearm! You can’t just call it some cute little name like ‘Yas’! You have to use its full name and do honor to the long line of guns it succeeds!” she said, practically frothing at the mouth. The way she was going, I thought she might break out into tongues any second.

“Okay…? Uh, well, it’s a Yasminkov?” I said.

“It’s not just a Yasminkov! Yasminkov is a proud name that has produced dozens of respectable firearms!” she yelled.

“Uh…a Yasminkov…” I paused. Honestly, I didn’t remember what kind it was. It’s a gun, they all look the same to me. “3000?” I wasn’t sure what made her madder: my inflection or the lack of specifying a letter. “…S, maybe?”

“Does that look like a Yasminkov 3000S to you?!”

“Lady, this could be a Frankenstrudel 9999 Triple ? for all I know about the subject,” I said.

It’s not that I don’t know I’m pissing people off. I just don’t fall over myself to do anything about it. She was flailing her arms wildly and incoherently stuttering while I just stood there, biding my time. After a while, she managed to collect herself and say, “apologize to it!”

“…What, to the gun?” I asked.

“Yes! If you want the Parasol!”

“Ugh…” I rolled my eyes, but I did as was requested. “Yasminkov 3000…S-“

“R!”

“Whatever. I’m sorry for offending your name,” I said.

“Now kiss it.”

“I don’t wanna,” I said, already exhausted of the conversation. She held up the Madam’s Parasol over one of the many abysses in the mines. Seems to me those really ought have been fenced off; working hazard, much? Anyway, I sighed and kissed the butt of the Yasminkov while muttering, “ridiculous.”

Instantly, she calmed down and her posture became that of a proper lady. “Since your lips touched it, I think I should get some consideration in the trade,” she said.

“I swear to god, I will melt this thing down to slag,” I said as I lit up a foie in my free hand, now thoroughly unamused. That got her to freak out again and we carried out the trade without further incident. All that grief over an antiquated device that flings metal at the enemy.

On to the final item on the agenda. If the trader had been anything but a FOmarl, I would have abandoned all hope for any normalcy in the encounter. But, it was a FOmarl. Really, there is, nowhere in this world, a nasty FOmarl. At least none that I’ve ever met. At worst, maybe they’ll ignore you if you’re a jerk. Otherwise, they’re sweet, they’re considerate and they’re freaking magical. Seriously, you tell me how the hell their legs move under their robes, I defy you.

So, like a fool, I piped up back to Pioneer 2, expecting, you guessed it, a normal encounter. If nothing else, I am an eternal optimist. Those people who think that the third movie in a series won’t be garbage? Don’t have nothing on me.

Now, quick reminder: this last trade was a Madam’s Parasol for an S-Red’s Blade. Let’s go over what a Madam’s Parasol is, very quickly. It’s precisely what it sounds like, a parasol for classy ladies. It’s pink, it’s frilly; if it were a little smaller, it’d be a doll accessory. This, combined with the fact I was on my way to see a FOmarl had put a certain expectation in my mind. I was expecting some dainty waif fresh out of a children’s fantasy book. What I got…well.

We had agreed to meet by the observatory outside the lab. You know, the one with the neat view of Ragol. I got there first and entertained myself with the view for a few minutes before she got there. When I felt a tap on my shoulder, I braced myself and held onto that absurd hope that this would go normally. That hope was immediately dashed when I laid eyes on her.

“X Launcher?” she asked.

“Y-yeah…” I said, my mind devoted to the task of processing her appearance. I said I was expecting someone small and dainty, right? If she didn’t have a pretty face, I’d have been sure that was a man in drag from the way her arms filled out her sleeves and how tall she was. You’ve seen a FOmarl’s sleeves, right? Filling those up is no small task. You could smuggle small children in those things. I actually felt my heart go plop into my stomach when I realized it was going to be another bizarre encounter, even if only because I was going to have to look at her for the duration of it.

“It’s wonderful to meet you! I’m a big fan,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied; I still hadn’t retrieved enough of my brain to do fancy things like form complete sentences.

“The Parasol?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said, holding it up.

“It’s as beautiful as I thought it would be! Here, the S-Beat’s Blade, as promised,” she said.

“All right,” I said, holding the parasol forward. She took it out of my hand and pressed the daggers into them, blissfully unaware of my dumbfoundness. “Thanks,” I managed to say.

“Thank you! The stories are true, you really are nice!” she said.

“Yeah…” At the time, I didn’t think I had done anything that nice. Plus, I was so relieved to be done with that idiotic fetch quest that I didn’t give any further thought to what she said. I was so relieved, in fact, I almost paid no mind to how ridiculous the Madam’s Parasol looked with her. I thought the handle might snap in half in those hands, yet there she was, twirling it about, oblivious to the mismatch. “I’m gonna go now…”

“Okay, goodbye! And thank you so much!” she said.

So, that was over and done with and I returned to Vivi in triumph.

“You really got it?” she asked right after porting into the guild. No ‘hello’ or anything. Well, I didn’t really mind, but after that ordeal, I really could have done to be treated like a human being, even with just such a small gesture.

“Yes. Yes, I did,” I said. “Here.”

“I can’t just take it like that. Let me trade you something-“

“NO! No, no, no, no no, that’s okay, just take it!” At that time, if the heavens had parted and the gods themselves descended upon a beam of light amidst a chorus of heavenly angels to offer me all the rares, all the money and all the women in exchange for a dimate (because who carries monomates?) from my bag, I’d have said the same thing. I was a little burned out on trading.

“Well…okay,” she said as she took the Blade from me. As she did, she got a look at it and the expression on her face fell slightly. She looked back up at me, then back at the item I had gone through so much grief to obtain, and smiled to herself. “Thanks X,” she said before she granted me a kiss on the cheek.

“No problem Vivi,” I said. The pride I was feeling almost made the whole thing worthwhile. Now, if you were paying attention, you noticed that I said the FOmarl had given me an S-Beat’s Blade, not an S-Red’s Blade. I did not find out about this critical error until later. I’ll let you imagine my reaction when I did. Eventually, I did get a proper S-Red’s blade for her, but I sure as hell didn’t trade for it. I went into the mines and chopped apart as many Sinow Reds as I could find. Then, when I ran out of Sinow Reds, I painted the Sinow Blues red and chopped them up too.

And that’s the S-Red’s Blade story. It had the campfire up in stitches. “Yeah, that’s right, yuk it up. Bastards,” I said as I watched them laugh. Yeah, I’ve destroyed military supercomputers, gigantic beasts and even slain primordial evil, but you know, it was those times I remembered best: just shooting the crap with my friends.