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227 Partying Up

 Dave didn't know why an invite to meet up and do an activity in VR should take so long. Just extend the offer and get one of the only two possible answers, 'Yes' or 'No.' A binary solution set. Simple. But no, not when fucking Ralphie is doing the talking.

"Okay, see ya later then," Ralph said, finally ending the conversation and hanging up.

Dave's stomach chose to growl loudly at that moment.

"I guess you haven't eaten either," Ralph said. For some reason he looked very like the cat that got the canary.

"Nope," Dave shook his head.

"Alright, let's go out and eat first. The girls said they need a little bit of time, so we can go get something to eat."

"Let's just order some food, then you can hop in the pod here and I can go over to my suite."

"You need to get out more, bro. Staying huddled in your room all day isn't good for you man, even if it's in a VR pod."

"I want to get back to the game asap."

Ralph gave up and let Dave call room service.

Later, as they were eating, Ralph began a discussion about the game.

"I think you should add more people for your quest in the Wilds man."

"I'd have to give them the location of the city. No way."

"Look, even with the girls our party isn't balanced."

"Go on."

"Well, I'm a swordmaster, a damage dealer. You are a mix of tank, damage dealer and caster, which is weird. Zoe is an archer, Caitlin is an assassin and Vanessa is a bard."

"I still don't see your point,"

Ralph shook his head, "We don't have sustainability as a group."

Dave frowned, Ralph wasn't wrong.

"We have a lot of DPS, all of our classes deal tons of damage. The bard can buff us to a ridiculous degree, but we don't have enough tankiness or healing for sustained fights with monsters. We need more players."

"I have three other friends with me, one is a healer, one is a tank. They are a bit low in levels but I think they can help."

"Do they know you are Mr. Skeletal?" Ralph asked.

"Yeah, but they signed an NDA contract. They won't say anything."

"Who else knows your superhero identity?"

"Vanessa is the only one who doesn't know," Dave shrugged.

Ralph "You should just have her sign an NDA too, so she isn't in the dark.

"I will log in from my room's capsule." Dave said.

"Okay, I will use the one here."

Dave returned to his suite, he headed directly for the alcove and the game capsule. Logging in to Conquest saw the familiar welcoming message.

His avatar materialized in the abandoned city and a notification popped up in front of him.

***

Player Perfect Shot left you a message.

Hey man,

When I was scouting around the city I found a dungeon and a bunch of mining sites near the city. Also there is a lot of open land for farming on the west side of the city.

Flanker and Fortress mentioned they had a new option to invite NPCs to Urburg, I told them to hold off on using it.

***

"Yo, Skelly."

"Hey man. You got my message?"

"Yeah, we can worry about NPCs later, I want to finish the tomb quest first," Dave said.

"Sounds good."

"I invited some friends along for the raid,"

There was a moment of silence, then Perfect said "I'll tell Flanker and Fortress to keep quiet about your identity."

"They all know who I am, but thanks," Dave said.

"I'm logging in man, see ya soon," Perfect hung up.

Ralph was online so Dave opened a chat with him.

"Hey Blaster," Dave snickered.

"Pfft. The mighty Death Stroke himself."

Dave shook his head, grinning, "I'm sending you the gate coordinates."

"Okay bro," Ralph replied.

Dave typed the codes for the Urburg gate and sent them to Ralph.

Ralph sent back a party invite and messaged, "Be there in a few minutes, I'm going to restock on potions and consumables."

***

Player 'Blaster' has invited you to a Party

Do you wish to accept

Y/N

***

Dave pressed yes.

***

Player 'Blaster' has designated you as:

Party leader.

***

Dave looked at his friend list and invited TNT.

"Hey, wow! A level 400 Swordsman," Flanker said through the party com.

"Interesting name," Ralph grinned.

"Interesting, yes. It has deep meaning to him," Fortress said sarcastically.

The gate lit up Flanker and Fortress stepped through, then a black armored player appeared behind them with a Player's tag showing the name 'Blaster.'

"Let's wait for the girls," Dave said.

"There are going to be girls coming with us? Nice!" Flanker immediately reverted to his hyperactive geeky persona, slicking back his hair and checking his appearance.

Dave shook his head. Flanker was a weird person. A pervert priest, it was unusual...at least in VR.

"The girls logged in, I'm sending them the gate code. When they join us here we can head out for the tomb," Dave said.

The gate lit up again, Mercy and Lone showed up along with a woman in a purple dress and a harp strapped to her back.

Ralph nudged Dave, "There's Vanessa, she looks just as good in VR."

Dave saw the name Demeri displayed above the bard, which was what he remembered Vanessa saying her avatar was named.

"I got this, guys," Flanker declared. Plastering a big smile on his face he walked over to the girls, like a predator homing in on helpless prey.

"Hey hey ladies, how yu dooin'?" he asked moving in too close and putting out a hand palm up.

Lone looked at him and then down at his hand, "Did you want something, are you okay? You look constipated."

"His name, just creepy," Demeri whispered, sidling away from him and edging behind the other girls.

Flanker turned to the remaining damsel in the hopes of not being shot down before take-off yet again. Instead he found only the pitiless gaze of Mercy, twirling a dagger in one hand. Even Flanker sensed it would be wiser not to try, or even say, anything to her. His aspirations dashed, he retreated, as though nothing untoward had happened.

Ralph was barely holding back his laughter. Dave just shook his head sadly, at least he knew he had no game, Flanker really seemed to think he was a mack daddy.

"Okay, then let's get going guys."

"Can Spike carry all of us?" Fortress asked.

"No, he can't carry eight and we would look awkward as hell even if he could. We'll have to walk." Dave shook his head.

"Aw, that was my last chance to not be the ass-man," Flanker whined.

The females edged even farther away from Flanker. It was like he never even considered filtering his mouth.

"Who's Spike?" Lone asked Dave.

"A wild stag I tamed temporarily."

"Really? Where is he," Lone looked around curiously, searching.

"I think he went to get something to eat, I'll call him." Dave whistled piercingly twice.

A few moments later Spike emerged from the trees surrounding the crumbling city walls, the sword-sharp prongs of his antlers stained with blood.