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Off the Line

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"Looks like the Rabbit of Caerbannog has been sighted, at long last," Genesis commented, making Angeal look away from the ingredients he had been preparing. The elf red mage was sitting on the kitchen table, examining the latest Info Leaflet released by the Overseers. "He dropped in on a party in the Wastes, coming from the MRR portal – took the short route down the mountain side without wings. Mad bastard."

Angeal shook his head and turned back to the ingredients. "I don't understand the fascination you and everyone else have with that guy," he commented while checking that he had everything he needed. "Also, sit on a chair like a normal person – that's what they're there for."

"So strict," Genesis said, but jumped down from the table and actually pulled out a chair. "And don't you think it’s fascinating? The guy has over a hundred kills, all made at level 6 – and no one has yet to collect the bounty on him! Even Loyal got himself killed within the night when his bounty got over three hundred, and this guy has a 525G bounty on his head. There only are something like ten players with higher bounties – and Zoto will probably let himself be killed to collect the money soon."

"Hmm," Angeal answered, not really interested, as he took the LV. 60 cooking gear out of his inventory and began preparing the food. If he got it right – and at level 60 it was very easy to get things wrong – he would get one of the best consumable defence buffs in the game – 1200pt defence increase for 6 hours. He didn't precisely need it, with his gear, but it could be useful if Sephiroth decided that he needed a spar – or he could sell it for some decent gold.

"And no one knows who this guy is," Genesis continued, waving the leaflet in Angeal’s peripheral vision. "It takes something special to manage what this guy is managing, and no one's ever even heard of him, in or out of the game."

"Hmm," Angeal answered again and entered the ingredients in the pot. The heat, stir and time gauges appeared above it and with a frown he concentrated on keeping the temperature perfect, stirring the pot just so while the time ticked out.

"Rainstorm has pissed off something like twenty guilds too," Genesis added. "And didn't you say there was one of the Heroes in Albrook, when he massacred all those newbies?"

"There was," Angeal said. The kid – a third class SOLDIER who had only recently bought the game – had been killed somewhere near the middle of the massacre by a blow to the neck.

"And yet you're not interested in revenge? If one of the LOVELESS had been there, I'd have hunted Rainstorm down immediately," Genesis said, frowning.

"It's not my say – I'm not the guild master," Angeal answered with a shrug. And even if he had been, he wouldn't have. The kid that had gotten killed had brought it on himself – he admitted that he had tried to sneak up on Rainstorm from behind, to stab him in the back. It was a small wonder he hadn't been booted out of the guild then, but theirs was a forgiving guild master.

"You should be," Genesis scoffed. "You pamper that puppy of yours too much."

Angeal smiled and shook his head. It was a good learning experience for Zack, running a guild – and Angeal had all the leadership duties he needed in his real life. He didn't want to keep doing his job in his sleep too – no, he'd rather enjoy himself whilst doing things he couldn't indulge in in real life.

"So the guy is in the Wastes now? He must've made some levels," Angeal said, to turn the conversation away from a constant source of arguments between them.

"Hm, yes," the red mage said, turning to the leaflet. "He was spotted just half an hour ago. They don't know where he is at this moment, though – he took off before anyone could try to follow him, just headed off to the den of the Behemoths."

"Well, they won't find him there, if he knows the place at all," Angeal said. "The canyon is like a maze." And it was hard even for a full party of high level players to handle. Angeal and Genesis could, at their levels, but anyone below 50 would have trouble, going there alone.

"Hopefully he won't be killed by the monsters there. That would be just… lame," Genesis hummed and then leaned back, looking at him. "What is the puppy's opinion on Rainstorm? I know the Overseers have a close eye on all the rumours, but they've not yet marked him as a target since he hasn't stepped on their toes yet. We in LOVELESS don't really need the bounty and none of our guild members were killed, so for now I'm satisfied just watching this develop. What's the Heroes' view on him?"

Angeal shrugged. "Zack's thinking along the same lines. We don't condone player killing outside duels and none of us precisely like what the guy did in Albrook – but since then he hasn't killed anyone below his level, and everyone he's killed has been a bounty hunter coming after him. So…."

Genesis nodded thoughtfully, leaning back. "Seems to be a common notion, among us higher level guilds. Most of those going after him are either individual players or guilds below level thirty," he said, opening a window and accessing the bulleting board. "Players for whom 500G is a lot of money. Most guilds above that are just watching and waiting."

Angeal nodded absently and watched the heat and stir gauges closely as the time ran out. Cautiously, he opened the pot and it snapped out of existence, turning into a stack of three Golden Dragon Stew. Satisfied, he put the cooking gear away and examined the food stats.

"I find your lack of interest in this matter disheartening," Genesis commented and looked at the food Angeal had made with interest. "Any of that for me?"

"You wish," Angeal said, and put the stack of food into his inventory. "And I don't really care about Rainstorm one way or the other. He's a player killer. That's all I need to know to figure out that I probably wouldn't care for him if I met him. And I have better things to do with my time than worrying about guys like that."

Genesis smiled wryly at that. "Like making delicious foods," he commented and looked around them. "And home décor, of all things," he added with a snort.

Angeal glanced around in his kitchen. The house might be virtual, and fairly small as estates in Alexandria went, but it was his and he was rather proud of how it had come out. "Precisely," he said. "There's more to this game than fighting and killing and damn bounty hunting and I'm perfectly satisfied enjoying the little things."

"So speaketh the third strongest player in the game."

Angeal shook his head and turned to the red mage. Genesis looked somewhat out of place, in his dark red armour and flashy cape, his back adorned by black and red wings which he never unequipped. Angeal's rather modest kitchen wasn't precisely designed for entertaining someone of Genesis's level of sheer flashiness.

"Why are you so interested in Rainstorm? Aside from the fact that at level 6 he killed over a hundred players," Angeal asked, curious.

Genesis grinned and snapped the leaflet shut, putting it away in his inventory. "Oh, my friend, the reasons are many. First, he's the only male Viera in the game and I'm dying to see if his gear really looks as ridiculous as they say. Secondly, he's not just a Viera, but a Viera swordsman – have you ever heard of such nonsense? Thirdly, most of those he killed were higher level than he was – all the kills past the initial 79 have been mid level players, ranging from the twenties to the forties. That's no mean feat, from someone at level 6. Fourthly…."

"Yeah, okay, okay, so he's somewhat interesting," Angeal rolled his eyes. "He's still a player killer."

"So am I, when I have to be," Genesis shrugged. "This Rainstorm is the first breath of something new we've had since… well, I can't even remember. The players haven't been this agitated since Sephiroth came to Alexandria the last time. It's entertaining, Angeal. The whole thing is amusing to watch."

Well that explained it. "You need new hobbies, my friend," Angeal answered, shaking his head and opening his character inventory, to switch out of his cooking outfit and into his armour.

"Yes, well. There are only limited hobby opportunities in this game," Genesis sighed. "And since we just finished a production and the members want a break, there's little to do around the theatre either."

"There are hundreds of things you can do in Alexandria," Angeal answered, not impressed. "Everything from board games to… to house building. You could do anything – art, music, fireworks, whatever. Instead you… follow gossip."

"Hmph," the red mage answered and gave him a look. "I have tried the board games, and they bore me. And I did my share of building when the LOVELESS guild house was built. I already do art, music, and occasionally even fireworks at the theatre. I also do costumes and dye crafting and even design slogans," he said and waved a dismissive hand at it all. "Some of us aren't quite so happy with the little things, my friend."

Angeal gave him a look. "I'm a hair's width from suggesting that you find yourself a nice girl and settle down, you know," he said, amused. "But with that sort of litany, maybe you need a nice boy instead, since you're almost the perfect wife."

"I'm not the one who has level 60 cooking skills. Nor am I the homemaker between the two of us," Genesis snorted, motioning at the kitchen around them. "And what a fine home you have, Miss."

Angeal shook his head at that. "Was there anything else you needed, Genesis, aside from having someone to listen to your gossip?"

"Not really. I'm just bored," the elf admitted, crossing his legs and leaning back. "Alexandria is boring these days. Almost makes me want to join Sephiroth in scouring the fields for bosses, but what a waste of time that would be," he sighed. "Maybe once Rainstorm makes it to Alexandria things will get more interesting."

"And we're back to that guy," Angeal sighed. Then a thought occurred and he looked at Genesis a bit closer. Genesis, when he was bored, was bored with his whole body – all dramatic slumps and disgusted expressions. He wasn't quite slumping now, and his expression was keen. His eyes were shining and out here they had no Mako to make their eyes shine.

"Genesis," Angeal said slowly. "Are you… could it be… have you, of all people, become a fan? A Rainstorm fan of all things?"

Genesis took a double take, looking at him with disbelief and then standing up in outrage. "Of course not!" he snapped, grimacing. "I am merely keeping an eye on the situation, and that is all. Nothing about it in any form or fashion could ever indicate that I –"

"You've bought the Overseers’ info about the guy," Angeal pointed out. "You actually bought info from the Overseers and you hate giving any money to other guilds."

"Well, the name of their guild is the Overseers – they tend to have the latest info about everything," Genesis defended himself, folding his arms.

"And you felt the need to have this info," Angeal said, amused now. Genesis the fanboy – it was the most ridiculous concept he had ever thought up and yet it was looking rather likely. "You wanted it so badly you paid money for it. Probably had one of your guild members do the actual buying, but you still had to get it." He grinned at the face his friend made at him. "Merely keeping an eye on the situation, yeah, right."

"Oh, shut up," Genesis answered. "What else of interest is there, really?"

"For you, I guess, nothing," Angeal grinned and patted his shoulder. "Looks like you've joined a fandom, Genesis. Congratulations."

"Oh, get your furry paw off me," Genesis grumbled and fell back to the chair, arms folded and sulking like a teenager. "I am so un-friending your unfriendly ass," he said, as if confirming the image he presented, despite all of his gleaming armoured glory.

"Sure you are," Angeal answered, smiling. "When do you think Rainstorm will make it to Alexandria, then?"

"No one knows. It's a pity he went to the Wastes, really," Genesis added, sighing. "The chances of him running into players there – or of someone finding him – are so low it's almost sad." Then he frowned "Isn't Sephiroth still in the Wastes?" he asked, looking at Angeal.

Angeal considered that. "Yes, the last I heard from him," he said slowly. "But the Wastes are almost as big as the entire eastern continent. What are the chances of those two meeting?"