Neil has been looking forward to this ever since he learned that ReKre8™, the company behind the hit VRMMORPG Valyria was launching a brand new title, Ascendancy Online. He’s always thought that men should be sexualized just as much as women in online games and he hopes that Ascendancy Online, with its purported advances in player agency, would offer him the chance to be as sexy as he wants to be.
Neil was a casual player of the worldwide hit VRMMORPG Valtyria. He’d played and loved the game for years, but he just couldn’t dedicate the time, attention, and energy that he wanted to. He was too busy trying to make enough money to survive from one day to the next.
Suffice to say, Neil had suddenly, unexpectedly found himself with an abundance of free time with which to play Valtyria. It was a shock that hadn’t quite worn off just yet, and a cruel reminder that despite progress on many fronts, some parts of the world still let giant corporations trample on human dignity with impunity.
Work had been soul-sucking, granted. Given the choice, Neil would have happily accepted his dismissal and never looked back. Because of work, the only splash of color in his otherwise bleak existence was the little time he could scrounge together to play Valtyria every night.
There was no use bemoaning things, though. All Neil could do was survive by relying on unemployment benefits and the small nest-egg that his great-aunt had left him. Between the two, he could go for at least six months without finding a job. A year, even, if he tried to stretch things.
Neil sighed heavily as he watched a popular streamer broadcast the premier dungeon of the latest patch. If only he could make it as a streamer, it would solve most of his problems. The most popular ones made money hand over fist in the form of donations. He just didn’t think he had the kind of personality or play style that would appeal to the typical stream audience demographic.
There’s no use getting depressed over such things, Neil told himself, as he pulled his ReViz™ 0410 headset on. Now that he had plenty of time to himself, he figured it was an opportunity to finally get caught up in Valtyria.
After lying down in bed, Neil pushed the button on the side of the headset. He felt a rush as he was sucked into Valtyria, landing in the middle of the third major city that he’d unlocked at some point in the last three weeks—he couldn’t remember.
For a month, up until his dismissal, Neil had been working himself to the bone. He ended up being so exhausted that he didn’t have time to play Valtyria before passing out from fatigue. As a result, he couldn’t, for the life of him, remember what the fuck he’d been doing or where he was on the main questline of the game.
Hell, Neil didn’t remember what half of the abilities on his hotbar did.
It took Neil two days to get himself reacquainted with the world, the story, and the mechanics of Valtyria. On a whim, he decided to stream himself catching up.
At first, Neil just played as he usually did. He barely noticed the one or two people that hopped onto his stream now and then. They usually left quickly, anyway. It wasn’t until one viewer, one "Long Genus," stuck around that he started interacting.
It was mostly just idle conversation. Neil talked about his experiences with the game. He complained about certain things and raved about others. At one point he talked about thinking of making a career out of streaming and how he was afraid that he wasn’t cut out for it.
Long Genus was amicable and friendly the whole time. With some prodding from him and a handful of others that dropped by his stream semi-regularly, Neil started verbally reacting to things that were happening in-game. Slowly but surely he gathered a small following.
Neil was talking about how long he’d been playing and following the game when someone in his stream chat asked:
Oengus07: Wait, so, are you playing on an alt?
The question puzzled Neil. He stopped what he was doing for a moment. "Why do you ask?" he said.
Oengus07: Sorry! I don’t mean anything by it
Oengus07: I just thought it was weird
Oengus07: That you’re only at this part
Oengus07: When you said you’ve been playing for years
Long Genus: Geez. Don’t you think that’s a bit rude to ask? LOL. Not everyone spends every waking hour in the game, you know. Some of us have rent to pay and food to put on the table.
Neil chuckled. "It’s okay, guys. No need to get heated," he said. He walked over to a safer part of the field as he thought about how to respond.
"Yeah, it’s like Long Genus said. I didn’t really have the time to play, before, because of work. And I don’t really have many friends, so I mostly ended up playing alone. It got boring so I didn’t end up sticking around for too long, although, I got laid off a couple weeks back, though, so here I am!"
Oengus07: Oh, sorry
Oengus07: That sucks
Shaking his head, Neil returned to the hunt. "It’s fine, really. I hated the job, anyway. I think I might take the time to find something that I won’t resent every waking minute this time around," he said, turning his attention back to his quarry.
The main story quest Neil was on didn’t have him fighting anything particularly dangerous but the class he was running, the [Bloodhawk], was considered one of the weaker classes in the game. Even lower-level elite mobs like the Gorgonid required some measure of focus.
It was just as Neil was about to finish one of the Gorgonid off that a conspicuous pinging sound distracted him. His eyes widened at the sight of the 50-dollar donation that he’d just received.
As much as he wanted to say something about it then, Neil couldn’t afford to take his attention off the monster he was fighting for too long. He turned away just in time to avoid looking into the flash of the Gorgonid’s vertically-slitted green eye. Despite not being particularly powerful in the physical sense, Gorgonids were a threat because of their incredibly potent petrifying gaze.
Firing a [Jagged Bolt] at the Gorgonid, Neil used his [Sanguine Mysterium: Blood Price] and expended his hit points to amplify the power of the attack. Moments later, the Gorgonid fell backward with a loud thump, a crossbow bolt sprouting from its eye.
Having completed the quest, Neil turned his attention to the donation notification.
[$50 Donation] Long Genus: Sorry to hear about your job, Tybalt. I know times are tough and I wish I could do more but here’s a little something to help out even a bit. Please accept it. Think of it as a reward for all the fun times over the last couple of days.
Neil gawked. He could scarcely believe it. The generosity was beyond anything he could have expected. "Seriously, guys," he said, trailing off as another ping and donation notification attracted his attention.
[$10 Donation] Oengus07: I know it’s not much, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for being rude, earlier.
Standing over the corpse of the Gorgonid he’d just killed, Neil covered his face with his hands. He couldn’t believe it. "Guys, you didn’t have to," he said. "But since you’re being so generous, thank you so much. And Oengus, it’s fine. You couldn’t have known."
It was the first time Neil had any inkling that maybe he had a chance at this streaming thing.
Neil smiled as he brushed his thumb over the visor of the trusty ReViz™ 0410 headset that he’d been using for what felt like forever. It had served him well. Without it, he might not have gotten through a couple of tough times over the years as well as he had.
As much as Neil hated to say goodbye to a good old friend, it was time to lay the headset to rest. It had long outlasted its advertised lifespan. The scuff marks and dents of its aluminum-alloy casing spoke to a long life of tough love.
The loose plates of the headset’s main casing rattled against one another in Neil’s hands. They marked the stripped screws and loosened inserts typical of routine assembly and disassembly.
It had been so long since official support for the ReViz™ 0410 was suspended that Neil couldn’t even remember what the announcement had said. He could however, recall the distress upon learning that the free repair programs he’d relied on were going to be discontinued.
Neil chuckled as he lowered the headset into a small cardboard box. The damn thing was chock-full of ill-fitting aftermarket parts that he’d had to source after the manufacturer stopped producing replacements. He could tell the parts where he’d had to bend the aluminum-alloy plates just to get them to close properly around the parts.
While Neil had many a fond memory with the ReViz™ 0410, he couldn’t really say that he would miss it. Two years ago it had developed a bit of a whine in the left earpiece and, as much as he might have wanted to get a replacement then, he hadn’t been in much of a position to do so.
Once he was satisfied that the headset was properly situated in the bed of crumpled newspapers he’d made for it, Neil folded the cardboard box closed and taped it shut. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it just yet, but it was still functional, despite all of its idiosyncrasies.
Perhaps, in the future, Neil could donate it to a child that would otherwise not be able to afford the virtual reality experience that it could offer. The thought was nice. If he ever gave it up, he wanted to make sure that whoever it went to next could make as many good memories with it as he had.
As soon as the box was safely put away, Neil turned his attention to the product that had arrived just today. To say was excited was an understatement. He was pretty sure he’d annoyed the technician that had come with the delivery to install it, despite the technician’s repeated insistence that he hadn’t.
Whatever. Neil cast the embarrassment out of his mind. He was too excited to care about whatever social faux pas he’d managed to commit.
Neil ran his hands over the curved polyglass pane that served as the ‘lid’ of the brand-new ReVer™ 3390 virtual reality immersion pod. If anyone had asked him, a few years ago, whether he would ever have an immersion pod of his own, he would have shaken his head and laughed.
From the moment that immersion pods had hit the market, Neil had wanted one but the exorbitant prices had always been firmly out of reach. He had been too busy focusing on survival to even spare a thought.
It was about a year ago that Neil’s hitherto seemingly-endless ill-fortune experienced a rather abrupt reversal. He could still remember it like it was yesterday.
In two months, Neil was caught up with the latest content in Valtyria. He would have been faster, but he was playing a [Bloodhawk].
At one point, Neil had considered switching classes to something more mainstream and easier to play. He decided against it, ultimately. He liked the gameplay of the [Bloodhawk] and some of the regular viewers he’d managed to gather were interested to see someone play [Bloodhawk] competently.
After another half month, Neil had managed to gear his character Tybalt to an appropriate power level to challenge the game’s toughest fights: master-rank raids. By then he’d also managed to cultivate something of a cult following. A couple of his viewers called him the best [Bloodhawk] in the game but he wasn’t so sure about that.
Though he occasionally got a helping hand from one of his viewers, Neil still played the game largely on his own. Master-rank raids weren’t the kind of content that he could do with just any group of random people, though, much less by his lonesome. What he needed was a stable group that could work on progressing through a fight’s mechanic for potentially hours on end.
While wrapping up a few side-quests that he hadn’t managed to finish just yet, Neil sent out a few feelers to see if there were any static raid groups—as they were called—recruiting. There were plenty, but most were looking for tanks and healers. The groups that were looking for damage-dealers balked at the idea of bringing a [Bloodhawk] into the group.
It was Long Genus who gave Neil the opportunity he needed. As it turned out, Long Genus was a pretty high-ranking member of the popular guild Clarent. One of the other members had been looking to put together a static group of off-meta characters and Long Genus recommended that he give it a shot.
Even though the off-meta raid group was a side-project of a lesser-known member it was still under the umbrella of Clarent. That it would attract no small amount of attention was to be expected. A sizable portion of the community was abuzz with speculation about who would make the cut.
To say that Neil found it intimidating was an understatement. He was in the first trial group and couldn’t help but feel nervous in the minutes leading up to the trial raid. It was terrifying. He couldn’t even bring himself to stream the trial. He was aware that Clarent was already streaming the whole thing.
Freaked out as he was before the raid started, the moment that he was stuck in there, Neil ascended into a strange Zen state. All the nervous energy vibrating in his body melted away into a clear mountain stream.
Neil’s mind snapped into perfect focus. Everything he’d learned over the last couple of months, he put to practice. He’d entered a battle trance and even though it was a raid that he’d never done before, no mechanic hit him more than once.
In the end, it was Neil on the [Bloodhawk], widely considered the most underpowered class in the game, that singlehandedly carried the team past the finish line. Suffice to say, he secured a spot on the off-meta raiding team, and highlights clipped from the broadcast propelled the popularity of his stream to new heights.
Neil chuckled. He reached up and grabbed the glaringly red tab that said "Pull me" on the upper right corner of the curved polyglass pane of the immersion pod. The plastic protector peeled off with such satisfying smoothness that he couldn’t help but groan in pleasure.
It occurred to Neil that maybe this was one of those occasions that warranted a "real life" stream but it felt too personal, too intimate to share with the rest of the world.
Neil hadn’t streamed the whole weekend while waiting for the pod to arrive. It was the longest break he’d taken ever since the trial raid went so fantastically well for him. He missed his viewers already, and he was sure that some of them dearly missed his dry, sarcastic commentary as well.
It was probably for the best, anyway, Neil sighed. It wasn’t like he’d spent the weekend whiling away his time. Last Friday, ReKre8™, the developers and publishers of Valtyria dropped a bombshell: they were going to launch Ascendancy Online, a surprise sequel to Valtyria they’d been working on in silence for the last couple of years that would reach beyond the eponymous continent and explore the wider world of Eiras.
The press release had also indicated that the servers would be opened early to content creators so that they can explore and make content about Ascendancy Online before everyone else and Neil had spent the entire weekend researching the new game to the best of his abilities so that he would be prepared.
The servers were due to open in just a few minutes and Neil was more than ready to give the new world a shot. He hadn’t yet made his mind about whether he was going to return to the continent of Valtyria to see what had changed there or whether he was going to explore one of the new continents right away. He figured he’d know once he actually got into the game.
Ascendancy Online was supposedly the first in a new genre of VRMMORPGs that put player agency at the core of its design philosophy. Neil didn’t know what exactly that meant but the developers had made coy references to being able to do in-game anything one could do in real life.
As people were wont to do, everyone assumed they were talking about sex. Neil was more skeptical but he hoped that everyone was right. Valtyria had been off-putting in that way. Despite his avatar Tybalt being incredibly masculine on the outside, there was nothing between his legs bar a smooth mound.
Not that people had been able to go all the way naked in Valtyria without mods, anyway. Neil would have given those mods a shot but he was too much of a coward. They were against the game’s terms of service and he’d heard horror stories of people getting banned for using even mods that only had cosmetic effects.
Neil hoped the speculation was right. He wasn’t a virgin but his experiences could be counted on the fingers of one hand. He just didn’t have the confidence to be putting himself out there. Neil liked sex but normal people were exhausting and some came with emotional baggage that he just didn’t have the energy to deal with.
Perhaps Ascendancy Online, with its purported absolute freedom, would give Neil the experiences he desired. He now had a full immersion pod, after all.
Neil licked his lips. He couldn’t wait to find out. Fortunately, he didn’t have much longer to wait. A glance at his watch indicated that there were only three minutes left to the official early-access launch of Ascendancy Online.
It was nearly time. In one smooth motion, Neil stripped his short off and stepped out of his pants. He lived alone, so being naked wasn’t an issue. The user manual of the immersion pod had indicated that while fully-clothed use was acceptable and well within normal operating parameters, full nudity was recommended for maximum immersion.
Neil pushed a button on the side of the capsule and there was a faint hiss as the polyglass lid popped open. He clambered in, using the rails on the inside of the capsule to pull himself up and into the capsule.
As far as Neil understood, this version of the ReVer™ immersion pod was equipped with an ‘Adaptive Gel Bed,’ replacing the need for belts and buckles to keep the user secure. The sensation of the gel was rather strange when Neil lay himself down into the bed. For one thing, it was rather cool against his skin. The way it squished underneath him was somewhat off-putting, too.
A moment later, the lid of the pod swung shut again. It was a little claustrophobic, but it wasn’t too bad. The curved polyglass pane clicked shut with a strange finality that made Neil’s heart skip a beat.
The whir of the pod starting up was comforting in a way that Neil didn’t expect. He closed his eyes and sighed as the capsule pulled him deeper into the gel. He didn’t know where the suction was coming from, but it wasn’t all that unpleasant.
Neil’s head and shoulders sank into the gel bed with a quiet squelch. Shortly thereafter, the rest of his body followed. First, his torso, then his limbs. The gel adapted to the shape of his body, expanding just enough to keep him snugly in place.
It felt better than Neil expected, especially once the gel warmed up. The sensation was odd. The gel felt slimy, and sticky, and slippery all at the same time but he rather liked it. He could barely contain the moan that threatened to spill from his lips.
Neil wasn’t sure if he was just feeling things or if the gel was subtly vibrating but it was nice. Despite himself, his cock stirred. It plumped up, engorging with blood as the gel flowed into all the little nooks and crannies that it had yet to fill.
As the gel flooded into the space between his ass cheeks, Neil sucked in a sharp breath. He felt like his ass was being caressed. His cock throbbed. The gel felt so good—warm and faintly pulsing against his hole.
Instinctively, Neil bucked his hips into the gel. Alas, its grip on his body was firm. He was locked in position. Helpless. Powerless. Somehow, as much as that set off alarms in the back of his mind, it also added to the excitement.
Neil flinched. Something cold and tingly had latched on to the base of his neck. He was terrified, for a moment, that something had somehow gotten into the gel bed but before long, he realized that it was probably just the neural interface of the capsule getting into position.
A low, velvety male voice rang out from the interior of the immersion pod. The smooth baritone sent chills down Neil’s spine. It was even better than he’d imagined.
User Stewart Neil Harrison, would you like to launch the virtual reality interface now?
Neil savored every word. "Yes," he said. "Oh, and call me Neil, please."
Change of user designation request acknowledged. Launching virtual reality interface in 10 seconds.
"Fuck, yes," Neil whispered.
Upon launching the virtual reality interface, user Neil might experience brief disorientation, light-headedness, and/or vertigo. Do not be alarmed. After a short adjustment period, the symptoms are expected to self-resolve.
Neil had heard something about that. He wasn’t looking forward to it but if the rave reviews of the immersion pod were anything to go by, a few seconds of intense discomfort were well worth it.
Launching virtual reality interface now.
Neil flinched again as he felt a sharp sting at the base of his neck. It felt like an insect bite, more than anything else. If not for the gel bed keeping him firmly in place, he would have instinctively swatted the bug off the back of his neck.
For a moment, it was as if nothing was happening. Neil was worried that he’d purchased a dud pod, but he knew the chances of that were astronomically low. His eyes widened as he felt it, a weak electrical current surging through his body, making him tingle as it traveled through to the tips of his fingers.
Neil had scarcely processed the sensation when the whole world went black.
The light-headedness and vertigo that the pod voice had described hit Neil right away, and more besides. He struggled not to throw up from the dizziness and nausea that smacked into him like a sack of bricks.
The feeling of drifting unmoored in a vast and desolate void didn’t help. Neil gagged once or twice, dry retching before the sensation passed and a small blue light blossomed in the emptiness in front of him.
Hello, said the pod voice, this time emanating from the mote of light fluttering in front of Neil’s face. I am Veri, your personal ReVer™ 3390 virtual reality immersion pod assistant.
"H-hello, Veri," said Neil. Gods. That voice, he thought to himself. It was too good. Granted, it was a bit off-putting to hear the delectable baritone emanating from a mote of light. He couldn’t help but wish that Veri was in a more aesthetically pleasing form.
The light flickered, dimming at first and then growing brighter with increasing intensity. Neil had to shield his eyes for a moment before the blazing radiance faded away. When it did, his jaw dropped and his cock throbbed.
Neil couldn’t help himself. He licked his lips. Almost as if the assistant had read his mind, it had taken on another form. That of a sexy, muscular man with a not-insignificant endowment. "T-thank you, Veri," he murmured. "T-that’s much better."
Heat rushed into Neil’s cheeks. It made sense, in retrospect, but he hadn’t realized that the pod would be able to read his thoughts.
Veri flashed a handsome smile that simultaneously made Neil’s heart melt a little, and his cock get a little harder.
Not that Neil was complaining, but it was a problem. If he wasn’t more careful, he would end up fucking Veri long before he ever got to try out Ascendancy Online.
"What I’d give to have [Focus] right now to stay on task," Neil muttered to himself. Veri was very distracting.
It appears that user Neil has yet to set up his virtual reality interface hub environment. Would you like assistance with doing so?
It took a moment for Veri’s words to reach Neil. The latter was busy staring at the former with a small dopey smile. "O-oh, uh, we can do that later… There’s something important that I need to do soon…" said Neil.
It should have ended there but against his better judgment, Neil continued. "O-oh… A-and one more thing. Is there a-any chance you could talk a bit more… uh… c-casually?"
Sure thing, Neil, said Veri.
Fuck, Neil hissed, under his breath. This was even worse. He shook his head. He had to stay on task. "So for now can you just give me a nice comfortable chair and pull up a couple of holographic screens for me, kind of like they have in those sci-fi movies?"
Of course. Are you fine with me going through your memories to find examples of chairs that you would find comfortable?
"Uh… Sure," said Neil. Something told him he probably shouldn’t be giving an AI consent to rifle through his head but he figured nothing bad could come of it.
Out of the aether appeared a nice padded chair with a tall backrest modeled closely after the gaming chair that Neil had had a few years back. Neil blinked. He’d expected to feel something as Veri went through his memories, but he hadn’t even had the slightest inkling it was happening.
"Huh," said Neil. A heartbeat later, the sensation of gravity returned and he didn’t feel quite as adrift as before. He walked over to the chair, sighing in relief as he sat down. It was just as relaxing as he remembered it being—if not more.
Three holographic screens popped open in the air in front of Neil, making him jump. "W-warn me next time, Veri. Jesus Christ. You almost gave me a heart attack," said Neil.
Sorry, Neil. Although I should note—if you’re concerned about a potential heart attack—I could set up a virtual appointment with a cardiologist.
Neil blinked again. "No. No thanks, Veri. I-I’m fine. I was just… It was an expression."
I see, said Veri, a thoughtful expression on his face. I’ll take note of that for the future. I’ll also send that along to the language processing team. I wasn’t properly calibrated to recognize sarcasm.
"Alright," said Neil, turning his attention to the holographic screens in front of him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Veri pull up a holographic screen of his own, presumably to make that report he’d talked about.
The interface was surprisingly intuitive. It was to be expected, given the developer of the ReVer™ 3390 but Neil had had many bad experiences with new technologies. Most everyone had.
After checking his email to retrieve the early access code that ReKre8 had sent him, Neil pulled up the Ascendancy Online client. "I’ll see you later, Veri," he said before he could think about what he was saying. "I’ll hop into the game now."
Alright! See you later, Neil, said Veri, giving a wave without looking up from his screen. Though, I hope you do realize you can still talk to me while you’re in-game.
Neil blushed. He did know that. He’d just spoken without thinking, first, which had landed him in trouble before.
Deciding that there was no need to keep digging his grave, Neil launched the client. He sucked in a breath as the rudimentary ‘hub’ he’d created was pulled away into the void.
Welcome to Eiras, chosen, said a quiet, gentle feminine voice.
Neil squinted as a bright ray of golden light descended from above. In the middle of the beam was a beautiful woman clad in brilliant gold and creamy white. Her skin was as alabaster, and her eyes shining with brazen light.
I am Sophia, creator of these lands, she murmured, inclining her head in just such a way that her hair like fine-spun gold swept to the side in what seemed like rippling waves.
Behind and to the sides of Sophia were a set of four golden rings through which bolts of the same creamy white silken cloth as her robe were hung. One pair hovered further to the sides and lower, just behind her shoulders. The other pair hovered higher up and closer, just behind and to either side of her head.
I have called you here, as one of many, to a land of mortals and gods, to pursue your destiny and weave a story you would call your own, said Sophia, with a smile.
Neil was at a loss for words. He was just dazzled by the hyper-realism of it all. Sophia was awe-inspiring in exactly the way he’d always imagined a true god or goddess would be.
Sophia’s eyes widened in surprise as she cast her gaze over Neil. I can sense that you are no stranger to this land, she said.
Neil’s mouth worked fruitlessly as he tried to find the words to respond.
I see. In a previous cycle, you were incarnated into the continent of Valtyria as the human known as Tybalt. Beside Sophia, another shimmering pillar of light appeared. Hovering in the middle of the soft, golden radiance was an ethereal image of Neil’s character in Valtyria, Tybalt the [Bloodhawk].
Neil couldn’t help but stare.
In order to ease your transition into this new cycle, would you like me to reincarnate you as Tybalt? said Sophia.
For a moment, Neil considered the question. He liked the look of Tybalt but it had been a long time since he created the character. Accepting the offer now would let him jump into the world faster but at the same time, he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to keep playing the same character in a brand new game.
Turning to Sophia, Neil asked, "What does that entail?"
Sophia smiled. In the interest of preserving the balance of the world, reincarnation will be purely superficial. None of the abilities or possessions of your previous incarnation will follow you into the new cycle.
Neil nodded. That made sense. They weren’t kidding when they said that the game was the most immersive yet. He liked how they’d worked the basic question of "would you like to load your previous character’s appearance data?" into the lore.
"Will I be able to make changes?" said Neil.
A laugh not unlike the sound of a thousand, thousand pieces of crystal tinkling against one another reverberated in the empty space around Sophia and Neil. Yes, of course, my chosen, said the goddess. Should you choose to do so, you may change every last detail of the body in which you will be incarnated.
That was good. It was still faster than making a character right from scratch. Neil could live with that. He opened his mouth to ask something but stopped himself. Sophia had said that he could change anything, so it stood to reason that he could also change Tybalt’s race.
When Neil first played Valtyria, the half-dragon Zakhar race hadn’t been available yet and none of the other races had particularly appealed to him. "Sure, I’d like to be reincarnated as Tybalt… Though I’d like to make a couple of changes first."
In that case, I shall leave you to it, my chosen. If you have need of me, simply call my name and I shall do my best to provide the assistance you need, said Sophia, before dissolving into a flurry of golden motes of light.
With the goddess gone, Neil turned his attention back to Tybalt. He’d had his heart set on the Zakhar ever since the patch that released them onto Valtyria. "Now, how do I do this?" he muttered to himself.
Out of the corner of his eye, Neil saw a blinking icon. He turned his attention to it and it swept up into his field of view. It was still on the lower left, but at least this time it wasn’t just in his peripheral vision.
Neil reached a hand out and tapped the blinking icon. A large "character creation" window appeared in front of his eyes. It moved with him, remaining in the center of his vision like a part of a Head-up Display. The effect was nifty but he didn’t exactly want to have a massive window taking up the majority of his field of view, even if it were slightly see-through.
There was no button to pop the window out of the HUD, to Neil’s consternation. He supposed it only made sense for the immersion pod to have an entirely different control paradigm to the headset. He recalled that Veri had been able to read his mind earlier and decided to give a direct mental command a shot.
Pop out, Neil thought, while focusing his attention on the character modification window. Just as he was hoping, the window popped out of the fixed HUD in his vision and into the world. It stayed fixed in place even as he moved around, which was exactly what he’d wanted to happen but wasn’t particularly helpful for the endeavor of changing Tybalt to his desires.
Neil reached out and touched the window floating in front of him. Strangely enough, it felt semi-tangible, like a faint pressure at the tips of his fingers. Keeping his hand on the holographic pane, he modified the window’s position, putting it a little bit under his eye line and pulling it a little closer to his body.
Stay fixed relative to me, Neil said, in his mind, hoping that the command would work. To his delight, it did. The window moved around with him, keeping the same relative position as if it were bound to him with rigid struts.
"First things first," Neil muttered, under his breath, as he walked up to the beam of light wherein Tybalt hung suspended. He looked down on the character modification window, tapped the field that said "Race: Human" and selected "Zakhar" in the dialog that popped up.
Tybalt’s body changed in front of Neil’s eyes. The transition was smooth, starting with a pair of horns growing out of Tybalt’s temples and curving back over his head. Tybalt’s ears tapered to a point just as patches of dark scales the same color as Tybalt’s hair sprouted on the visible parts of his body.
In the back of Tybalt’s head, the patch of scales extended from just under his hairline to the base of his neck, tapering into a point that rested just above the spot where his shoulders met. It swept along the sides of his neck, stopping just under his ear and tapering toward his jaw. From there, the patch of scales followed the line of Tybalt’s jaw. Both sides met at his chin, and from there went downward, following his throat and tapering just above his collarbone.
Another patch of scales straddled the bridge of Tybalt’s nose. The two ends swept to either side, following the ridge of his cheekbones. Neil could also see two smaller patches of scales on both collarbones but the rest of Tybalt’s body was obscured by his gear.
Tybalt’s physique changed, as well. The angles of his body became… sharper, almost. It wasn’t that all the softness of Tybalt’s body had disappeared, just that all the lines of his hard musculature had become tighter—more defined.
Neil licked his lips as he walked around Tybalt. From just under Tybalt’s tailbone, a long, slender scaled tail emerged with the tapered tip hanging halfway down his calf.
"I wonder…" Neil muttered to himself. He wanted to see the rest of Tybalt’s body and the gear was in the way. It was the one complaint he’d had with the [Bloodhawk] class. Aesthetically speaking, the gear had been nice enough, but it had always been dark and covered most of the body.
One of Neil’s major complaints about Valtyria as a whole was that there weren’t enough sexy outfits for male characters. It had been disappointing. Despite all the progress that had been made toward gender equality, somehow men were still not allowed to be sexy. He hoped that Ascendancy Online would change that.
Neil focused on Tybalt. Remove Tybalt’s gear, he thought.
All of Tybalt’s gear shimmered and disappeared as the system responded.
Neil grinned at the sight. Though he was a bit disappointed that Tybalt remained in his underwear—a pair of tight black compression shorts—one thing became quickly apparent to Neil: Tybalt was no longer a eunuch. That, and that Tybalt’s ass was no longer as flat as a board.
There were patches of glimmering scales all over Tybalt’s body, as well. There were two large ones on the sides of Tybalt’s upper arms, and two smaller ones on the upper third of his forearms that formed what looked like wrist guards which tapered onto the back of his hand and the base of his wrist.
Neil wasn’t satisfied. He needed to see the full picture. With a thought, he commanded the system to remove the underwear, half-expecting that it would not work as he hoped. To his delight, it did. Tybalt’s anatomically-correct manhood, unrestricted by his underwear, flopped out.
Tybalt was, suffice to say, endowed. His dick looked substantial, decently thick even in its flaccid state. A small patch of scales formed a diamond on the top side of the base of his cock and a pair of sizable balls dangled from underneath.
A stray thought crossed Neil’s mind. I want to see him hard. The system responded before he even realized he’d put it as a command. Tybalt’s cock twitched and rose gradually to full mast, bobbing up and down as it throbbed and leaked.
Neil had read the advertisements and had watched the interviews but he’d been skeptical of all the speculation. He hadn’t thought the developers would go so far but he wasn’t complaining. Too bad you’re going to be a bottom, Neil thought to himself, as he watched Tybalt’s straining endowment.
As much as he wanted to reach out to touch Tybalt’s cock, Neil had other matters to attend to. For one thing, he needed to finish appraising Tybalt’s current state.
There were large patches on the front of Tybalt’s thighs as well. The patches not only swept around to the side and up onto the lower left and lower right of his abdomen, small curved ‘wings’ extended to the back, as well, to where Tybalt’s ass met the backs of his thighs. More scales adorned the heel of his foot, the back of his ankle, and the bottom part of his calf.
The biggest patch of scales was on Tybalt’s back. It spanned nearly the whole breadth of his back from just under his shoulder blades and tapered along the length of his spine until it flared out at the base of his tail. A small triangle dipped down into the top of his ass crack, while the wings of the ‘flare’ cupped the top of each ass cheek.
Together with the patches of scales on Tybalt’s thighs, the patch of scales on his lower back perfectly framed his supple, muscular ass in a way that made it look even bigger than it was. Neil didn’t think he’d have to change that particular asset in any way.
All in all, Tybalt as a dragon-boy looked good. There were a few things that Neil thought needed changing, though. For one thing, while Tybalt’s scales looked nice as they were, the dark color detracted from their luster. He lightened them, just a smidge, and saw that it was already much better.
Still, Neil thought the scales were missing something. He wondered if it were possible to customize them further. As soon as he gave thought to the command, a second window popped up with precisely the customization options that he liked and a 3D diagram of an individual scale.
The scales only really needed a little more to pop and Neil had the perfect idea for them. Finding the color that he liked, Neil grabbed the airbrush tool and painted a thin line of glittering gold along the pointed bottom part of the scale.
The changes were reflected in real-time on Tybalt’s body and they looked great. As one final touch, Neil added a dusting of gold along the central ridge of the scales, which proved to be just right.
Now that Neil had given Tybalt’s scales a touch of gold, his jet-black hair seemed dull in comparison. To remedy it, he added a few golden strands as well, acting as nice accents in the sea of dark locks.
Since it seemed that gold was going to be the accent color that tied Tybalt’s look together, Neil decided that he should change Tybalt’s black eyes as well. He selected a mellow gold color that faded to amber at the edges, a perfect match for the vertical slits that Tybalt’s pupils had turned into. To top it all off, Neil added a dusting of gold around Tybalt’s eyes, making it almost seem like he was wearing eye shadow.
One thing Neil didn’t particularly like was that Tybalt was overly broad, for lack of a better term. He had the body of a football jock, which was nice, but not exactly what Neil wanted. A few modifications rectified the issue. Not only did Neil make Tybalt a bit shorter, but he also made him leaner and more streamlined. It was perfect.
Out of the corner of his eye, Neil noticed that there was an option to set the appearance of his starter gear. There was no shortage of sexy options, which he was glad for.
After a few minutes of consideration, Neil settled on a decent outfit to start with: a tight, form-fitting crop-top and shorts, both in black, as well as black leather sandals.
The most important choice was yet to come, however. Neil noticed that the dialog was allowing him to select Tybalt’s underwear from a set of options. There were the typical boxers, briefs, and boxer-briefs in a variety of patterns and designs but, much to his surprise and delight, there were other, racier options as well.
As sorely tempted as Neil was to go free-balling as Tybalt, he ultimately settled for something that was sexy but also moderately respectable. He was sure the tight red jockstrap would look good on Tybalt, especially if the waistband peeked over the top of his shorts a little.
Neil previewed the outfit on Tybalt and stood back to admire his creation. Tybalt was everything he could have asked for. He was satisfied.
"Sophia! Goddess, I am ready!" Neil called out.
Sophia descended from the heavens once again on a beam of milky golden light. Very good, my chosen, she murmured, her lips curling into a small smile. Are you satisfied with what you have chosen for your incarnation?
Neil nodded. "Very," he said, glancing over to Tybalt.
In the back of his mind, Neil couldn’t help but wonder what his long-time viewers would think about the new Tybalt but he was pretty sure they’d be fine with it. He’d talked openly about wanting sexier gear for [Bloodhawks] and male characters, in general, before.
Very good. Now, there is one last matter before I let you continue on to Eiras, my chosen. I shall grant you a single weapon as a boon. In the last cycle, I believe you roamed the land as a [Bloodhawk]. Would you like a [Bloodhawk] weapon as your boon, or would you ask me for another?
Neil pondered the question. Playing [Bloodhawk] again was sure to make the new player experience easier since he already knew how to play the class, but he didn’t know if he wanted to keep playing a [Bloodhawk] forever.
Whatever Neil’s feelings were on the matter, his answer came down to one question: "Would I be able to change classes in the future?"
Sophia nodded. Of course, my chosen. You are free to walk down whatever path you wish to pursue.
Neil pursed his lips. "Okay," he said. "In that case, I’d like a [Bloodhawk] weapon."
So shall it be, my chosen. Are you prepared to return to Eiras?
Nervous energy thrummed at the tips of Neil’s fingers. He was more than ready. If he had to wait a moment longer, he was sure he was going to explode. "I am," he said.
It was a bit disorientating to, quite literally, fall from the heavens in a pillar of golden light. A few gasps rang out from the crowd that had gathered at the base of the raised marble dais as Neil plummeted from on high.
Fortunately, at the last moment, Neil’s descent slowed. He landed lightly on his feet and stepped out of the pillar of light, brushing away the few golden motes that still clung to him.
Neil looked down at his hands, opening and closing them, wriggling his fingers. When he played Valtyria using the ReViz™ headset, he was always peripherally aware of his real body. Such wasn’t the case with Ascendancy Online and the ReVer™ immersion pod.
Having a tail was the strangest sensation. The fact that it felt so natural was a testament to how good Ascendancy Online was at bridging the gap between fiction and reality. Neil could scarcely believe it.
Paying little heed to the people around him as he walked down the steps leading away from the marble platform, Neil reached behind him and grabbed his tail. He nearly moaned out loud at the electric shock that shot up his spine the moment he touched the base of it.
Neil chewed on his lower lip. He looked around, pointedly ignoring the white-robed NPC that was approaching him from nearby. He hadn’t expected how good it would feel to touch his tail and right now, what he needed was a private place.
"Sir, please! If I might have a moment of your time!" said the NPC, waving frantically in Neil’s direction.
It went against all his instincts as a gamer but Neil paid no attention to the NPC with the conspicuous quest marker above his head. He’d spotted a dark alleyway nearby.
"L-later!" Neil shouted as he made for the alleyway.
Neil managed to slip into the narrow space between the two buildings unmolested. The NPC ran after him, but he was faster. Not to mention, he had a head start.
Though he knew that the NPC was unlikely to give up on his pursuit, Neil knew that he could get away fairly easily. He knew how to lose pursuers thanks, in no small part, to one of the most difficult quests in Valtyria: the level 70 [Bloodhawk] quest.
Neil darted through the network of back alleys as quickly as he could. He did his best to ensure that they remained mostly undisturbed in his wake. He didn’t stop until he couldn’t hear the NPC calling out for him, anymore. When he did, he stopped and listened for a few minutes more just to make sure he was no longer being followed.
With a grin, Neil leaned against the wall behind him. His heart was pounding in his chest and he was a little short of breath. He felt good. He could feel the blood pumping in his veins. He was hard, too, almost painfully so.
Neil’s cock was pressed up against the tight fabric of his shorts. The outline was almost obscene and a small wet spot had already formed at the tip.
Hooking his thumbs into the waistband, Neil pushed his shorts down past his package. His cock had pushed out the side of his jockstrap pouch and was smearing pre-cum all over the inside of his thigh.
A low moan bubbled up out of Neil’s throat as he pulled the comfortable cotton pouch to the side to release his cock and balls. His cock sprang up, unrestrained, flinging a strand of pre-cum into the air.
Neil licked his lips. Tybalt’s cock—his cock—looked so goddamn appealing. He wasn’t this big in real life. It felt so much heavier, so much more substantial. It felt like all the blood in his brain had pooled in his crotch.
The excitement of getting to play Ascendancy Online was still there, burning in the back of Neil’s mind. Hell, he anticipated it so much he made a list, earlier in the day, of things to do and try out once he got in-game but his priorities had gotten a bit derailed since he made that list.
Climbing into the immersion pod nude had something to do with it, Neil was sure. He remembered the way that the gel had felt against his asshole, how good it had been—how aroused it had made him.
Neil reached between his legs. He cupped his balls in his palm. They were so warm. So big. So juicy. So full. His palm felt even hotter. He couldn’t help himself. He grabbed his balls and rolled them around in his fingers. He leaned forward, sweat dripping from his brow, and groaned at how good it felt.
The tip of Neil’s tail flicked as he instinctively shuffled his legs further apart. Though he’d only pushed the front of his shorts down, he’d pushed it far enough that the back was only precariously perched on the top of his bubble butt. When he moved his legs apart, the tenuous grip it had slipped. The pair of tight shorts slid all the way to the ground, landing in a crumpled heap around his ankles.
The cool air against Neil’s bare ass made his skin tingle. He reached back with his free hand and palmed an ass cheek, his fingers digging into the supple meat.
A low moan slipped from Neil’s lips as he spread his ass. The cold air made his pucker twitch. His tail rose. The sensation was beyond words. It felt good. It made him horny. In that moment the only thing he could think of was how the cold air made his hole tingle and how much he wanted it to be filled.
If Neil had known how hard-wired for pleasure the Zakhar body was, he might not have chosen the race but there was no going back now. He could only moan as he bucked his ass back, desperate for a cock and a filling that was not going to be coming.
Neil let go of his balls. He rubbed his hands over his exposed, rock-hard abs. His fingers dipped in and out of the chiseled channels between the firm groups of muscles and left tingling trails of heat in their wake.
Chewing on his lower lip, Neil moved his other hand up from his ass. His fingernails brushed the sensitive underside of the base of his tail and he felt like he’d been struck by lightning. Every muscle in his body tensed and a glob of clear glistening pre-cum beaded at the tip of his cock.
Neil wanted more. Needed more. He rubbed that soft spot where the bottom side of his tail met his back and moaned. It was almost too much.
Drool dribbled onto the cobblestone as Neil panted. He grabbed his tail by the base and groaned. He didn’t know why it felt so good but he wasn’t complaining.
A keening cry, desperate and loud, rang down the alleyway as Neil tugged at his tail. Something in the depths of him bubbled and churned and, for a moment, he was afraid that he was going to embarrass himself by making a mess.
The more Neil tried to keep it in, the stronger the sensation got. He clutched his stomach, squeezing his thighs together as if it would help. Despite the distress, he could not muster the will to pull his hand away from his tail. If anything, he felt an even more pressing need to keep tugging.
A low groan slipped out of Neil as the rumbling in his stomach got progressively worse. He squeezed his eyes shut, sweat dripping from his brow. He could feel it coming. As tightly as he clenched himself he knew he couldn’t resist. Not for much longer.
Neil moaned—a high-pitched and desperate cry that echoed off the walls of buildings to either side of the alley.
There was a wet spluttering and spurting sound as Neil’s hole gave. He whimpered, cheeks flushing in embarrassment. Instead of the awfulness that he expected, the air was filled with a faint but distinctive slightly-sweet musk.
At the same time, Neil felt something wet and slick dribble down the insides of his thigh. His face flushed even harder. He hadn’t realized that Zakhar were self-lubricating. It was hot. Humiliating, too, but gods was it blisteringly hot.
Neil spread his legs further. He bucked his ass into the wall behind him, not caring that the cold, smooth stone was incapable of giving him what his body craved. He tugged on his tail, stroking his fingers along the smooth scaly length as he chewed on his lip and suppressed the little noises of pleasure that spilled out of him regardless of his best efforts to remain silent.
Never in his life had Neil felt so horny. He loved it. He felt like a slattern and a whore but it only added to the hotness of the whole thing.
With a final, strangled whimper, Neil came. He hadn’t even so much as touched his cock and yet he came. It started at his asshole, pulsing, twitching, and throbbing, a wave of pleasure that gently rolled over the rest of his body. Thick white cum dribbled freely from the tip of his substantial endowment, dripping down along the underside.
Neil’s whole body buzzed as he slowly came down from the orgasm. He felt light, warm, and tingly all over. He felt so good he couldn’t help but grin.
Looking down at himself, Neil saw that he’d made quite a mess of himself. His asshole wasn’t leaking slick anymore, but there were streaks of it glistening on his legs. He’d also somehow managed to get cum all over his shorts.
Unfortunately for Neil, he neither had the magic to instantly clean himself nor was there anything nearby that he could use to at least make him seem a bit more presentable. He was also out of time, it seemed.
Neil’s hearing, more sensitive than he was used to it being, was able to make out the sound of rattling armor. It seemed the city guard was out in force. He doubted it was about him but the universe seemed set on conspiring against him as a guard shouted, from dangerously close nearby, "I need that Chosen found! And quickly!"
To think that running away from an introductory NPC could precipitate into what seemed, frankly, to be a disproportionate response. Neil shook his head and sighed. He couldn’t say that he would have done things differently, though.
Neil was impressed. Over the years, games had repeatedly touted their commitment to player agency but had never really delivered on the promise. Ascendancy Online, at least so far, seemed to have made good on its word.
Had this been Valtyria, fleeing from the introductory quest NPC would have never led to such a kerfuffle. The NPC would have just passively accepted Neil when he returned—as if he’d never run away in the first place.
That being said, Neil wasn’t sure what warranted bringing the city guard into the mix. He’d expected that the NPC would maybe keep looking for him or ask others to help but to bring the city guard into it seemed like an unnecessary escalation of the matter.
Neil had to get ahead of things before they went even further though he wasn’t looking forward to reappearing in front of the NPC looking like he currently did. It was pretty obvious what he’d been doing. His shorts were stained, and there was a wet spot in the back where the last dregs of the slick he’d leaked had soaked through the fabric.
Oh well, Neil thought to himself, as he started making his way back to the central plaza. It wasn’t like there was anything he could do about it now. He could only hope that the NPC he’d run away from earlier wouldn’t call him out on it.
The way back to the central plaza was easy enough to find. Neil wound his way through the network of dark and narrow alleyways, stopping just short of the plaza itself. He peered out through the mouth of the alley and saw the NPC from before standing around, looking concerned.
Brushing down his crop top and shorts to make himself look at least a little more presentable, Neil stepped out of the alley. He crossed the distance between the NPC and him with a brisk stride, walking up behind the guy before clearing his throat. "Hello," he said.
The NPC jumped. Literally jumped. Neil almost felt a little bad for startling him so much.
"H-hi," said the NPC.
Neil scratched the back of his neck. The sensation was weird. His fingernails kept slipping on the scales. Lowering his hand, he said, apologetically, "I’m sorry if I caused you any concern."
"I-it’s okay," said the NPC. "I-I was just supposed to make sure to welcome Chosen as soon as they arrived. T-there are a couple of us on the welcome committee and it was my turn to do a welcome a-and you ran away!"
Neil’s breath hitched in his throat as the NPC lowered the hood of his pristine white robe. He was as adorable as his voice made him sound. He was another Zakhar, just like Tybalt was, except his scales were a lustrous, almost-metallic red. He had short red hair like fire and a pair of small white horns that curved upward from his temples. His eyes were wide and could have been described as doe-like, if not for the fact that they were slitted like a reptile’s. They were a soft reddish-orange that seemed to glimmer like embers.
"I didn’t intend to run away," said Neil. "T-there was just something that I had to, uh… take care of."
The NPC blinked. He blinked again. He sniffed the air, eyes widening and pupils dilating. He took a step back and looked Neil up and down, mouth slightly open. "I-I-I see," said the NPC, cheeks turning almost as red as his scales.
Neil blushed too. He’d hoped that he’d been imagining things but the NPC’s reaction pretty much confirmed that that faintly sweet musk was still hanging about in the air around him. He did not doubt that the NPC now knew what, exactly, he’d gone off to ‘take care of.’
"So… um… What now?" said Neil, averting his gaze as his cheeks burned.
The NPC squeaked. "O-oh yeah. Um. I-I’m supposed to…"
So adorable, Neil thought.
The NPC took a deep breath. Then, he bowed deeply, folding his hands on his lap as he did so. "I-I have been remiss in my duties. F-forgive me, Chosen. I-I, Yokha, son of Valla, welcome you to Novraya and the city of Brandt."
Neil imitated the gesture. "Thank you," he said. "I appreciate the warm welcome."
"I-I don’t think anyone expected that you would run away from me," said Yokha, bashfully. Neil almost felt bad for him. It must have been humiliating. He couldn’t feel too bad though because here he was, standing in the middle of the city, with drying cum on his shorts and streaks of slick on his legs.
"Sorry about that," said Neil, scratching his cheek.
"I-it’s okay!" said Yokha, shaking his head and waving his hands in front of him. "I-I totally get that there were, um… things… that you had to, uh… take care of."
Neil’s gaze met Yokha’s eyes. They were silent for a moment before Neil averted his eyes and cleared his throat. "A-ah, y-yeah, right," he mumbled.
"I-it’s just… It’s a big day, you know?" said Yokha.
Neil raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"Um… Today’s the day the goddess Sophia promised that her Chosen would return to Eiras," said Yokha. "S-so everyone’s been a little bit tense a-and fortunately everything was going great until y-you came along…"
Neil hadn’t expected that his actions would throw a wrench into the city’s plans for the day though when he thought about it, it made sense. It was then that it hit him: Ascendancy Online would be unlike any MMO that ever existed. It was a truly living world, one that adapted, in real-time, to the actions of its inhabitants.
"A-and, um…" There was a tremor in Yokha’s voice and his fingers. He took a deep breath to steady himself. When he was done, he looked up and met Neil’s gaze with fresh determination. "You managed to catch the Patriarch’s attention."
Making a Splash
??? Rank Quest. (Replaces beginner quest [A Brandt New Experience])
A new cycle has dawned on Eiras and soon the heavens will resound with the clash of new Ascendants. For now, however, the Chosen must take the first steps of their journeys.
Upon arriving in the city of Brandt on the continent of Novraya as a new Chosen of the goddess Sophia, you have caused quite a commotion by avoiding the welcome to which you were entitled.
Your renegade actions have attracted the attention of the local city lord. Try and make a good impression as it might prove invaluable on your journey.
Quest Objective: Meet with the Patriarch and leave a memorable impression
Quest Reward: Unknown (Rewards will be based on the impression you leave on the Patriarch)
Neil blinked. He’d expected the pop-up the moment that Yokha talked about the Patriarch. What he hadn’t anticipated was the content of the window.
It was only natural that an introductory NPC would give him an introductory quest but Neil would have never imagined that the default one would be overwritten by a hidden quest just because of something he’d done impulsively.
Neil had to wonder what was up with the quest. Surely such a thing wouldn’t happen for every player that ignored the introductory NPC. He’d already found the response to his avoidance overblown. The quest just seemed even more absurd on top of it. He could think of no reason that the city lord, even if it were just the starting city, would pay attention to a new player just for running away.
"Do you, uh, know why this ‘Patriarch’ is interested in me?" said Neil.
"I’m sorry. I don’t. But you should accept his invitation to his home. It’s an honor and a privilege. No one gets invited to the Patriarch’s home without good reason…" said Yokha.
"I see…" said Neil. He was lost in his thoughts for a moment before something odd about Yokha’s words struck him. "Wait. He’s invited me to his home?"
Yokha nodded. "Yes."
Neil frowned. "He’s the city lord, right?"
Yokha nodded again.
"And you’re sure he doesn’t want to meet me at his office, instead? He specifically invited me to his home?" said Neil.
"Y-yes. Um… I-if it’s any consolation, w-we’re all confused about it, too," said Yokha.
"Ah…" said Neil. He had no idea of what to make of the whole situation. One thing it did prove, however, was that Ascendancy Online was in another realm entirely as far as VRMMORPGs were concerned.
Neil could have conceived of the developers adding an Easter-egg quest for players who avoided the introductory NPC’s upon arriving in Eiras but there was no way that they would all get invited to the home of such an important figure.
The quest he got was unique. Neil was sure of it. The most likely explanation was that it had been dynamically generated as a result of his choices.
It was an opportunity Neil couldn’t well afford to give up. "Alright," he said. "I’ll go visit the Patriarch."
Neil flicked the dialog box away with a mental command and turned his attention back to Yokha.
"I’m glad to hear it!" said Yokha, beaming. "Before you do, though… You should get cleaned up."
Neil looked down at himself, then back up at Yokha. He scratched his cheek and chuckled. "I guess I should," he said.