Chapter 23:

Vol. 1, Ch. 23: Designed to Be Ready Before I Was Born!

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

The moment Rover stepped off the bus at the Icarus Centre shopping district, he was confronted by an impermeable wall of fans, bloggers, and gaming journalists. With a quick scan of the area, he estimated this crowd was twice as large as the one for the match with Captain Pretentious. There were a couple hundred people, at least, and more were arriving. Being Sundun-day, the second busiest market day of the week behind Nundinum-day, plenty of potential bystanders were already present and going about their shopping.Bookmark here

A Thugforce Militia helicopter was also present, its deep growls reverberating off every building as it hung overhead, as if to make sure nobody could possibly forget it was there.Bookmark here

Rover was swallowed up by the ravenous paparazzi, slinging his stuttered answers against the onslaught of questions, cameras, and microphones. Adele, Lumpy, and Quintegrity snuck off the bus from the rear door, wearing disguises.Bookmark here

“And the crowd goes wild,” Adele chuckled as she watched Rover get eaten alive by the people. She wore a fake mustache with her hair tucked beneath a backwards baseball cap, complete with baggy clothes to make her appear somewhat boyish.Bookmark here

“Good thing we have these disguises.” Lumpy scratched the fake beard on his face and adjusted the little square glasses on his nose. “People might recognize us as Rover’s crew, and I don’t want that attention. The beard is kinda itchy, though.”Bookmark here

The heaviest disguise was worn by Quintegrity. A long brunette wig hung down from under a stocking cap. Dark aviator sunglasses obscured her eyes while a plain scarf around her neck covered part of her chin. Her figure was hidden under a tactical vest and a modest ball gown that reached the ground.Bookmark here

Adele raised her eyebrows at the disguise’s ensemble. “Uh…you look really ridiculous like that in broad daylight. Aren’t you afraid of drawing more attention to yourself?”Bookmark here

Despite the layers of concealment, Quintegrity’s sunny response shone through without restraint.Bookmark here

“As long as they don’t know it’s me, there’s no problem!” she declared, making several people look at her. “Ha-ha-haaa!”Bookmark here

Adele and Lumpy made sure their earpieces were functional, and they headed into the ruckus, pretending to be just ordinary spectators. Quintegrity, however, disappeared.Bookmark here

Now where she’d go?” Adele muttered, looking around.Bookmark here

“Let her be,” Lumpy said. “I’m sure she’ll handle herself.”Bookmark here

Another paparazzi swarm crossed the wide walkway of the expansive open-air shopping mall and merged into Rover’s swarm. When the sea of people parted, the boy found himself face-to-face with the skinny, bespectacled man with beach-colored hair.Bookmark here

“You’re early!” Benedict Torrent said, walking up with his hand extended, a big smile on his face. He wore a backpack and looked strange without the large headphones.Bookmark here

“To be on time is to be late, I say.” Rover shook the man’s firm hand. For a guy who made a living off playing video games, Benedict’s hands were rough, hard, and strong.Bookmark here

Rover started Glove Alien Fight and showed Benedict his status screen to prove his character reached the maximum level, then showed his inventory list with the Special Number 5 item in his possession.Bookmark here

“Good, good.” Benedict nodded.Bookmark here

“And here’s the payment.”Bookmark here

Benedict’s phone pinged, alerting him that one hundred thousand thuggoons had been deposited to his thuggaccount.Bookmark here

“Excellent,” Benedict said, slipping his smartphone into his pocket. “Where and when would you like to get this match underway?”Bookmark here

A small murmur arose from the crowd before Rover had answered.Bookmark here

“Right here, right now!” he said boldly.Bookmark here

“Heh-heh, I was hoping you’d say that!”Bookmark here

Cheers and whoops followed. People took videos and pictures and held up their signs, the vast majority supporting Benedict. However, as Rover checked out the cluster of signs cheering him on, he noticed more familiar faces showing their support.Bookmark here

Dad, Mom, Graphite Condor, Tallyhawk Kusumegido, Hodge Dipcringle, Isho Eep, Olaf Thumdiggles, Daremont Radclaft, Mr. Pool Coach, and over a dozen others from school were among the many fans there to support Rover. He made eye contact with Graphite, who gave a single nod and a half-smirk, to which Rover mirrored in response.Bookmark here

Is this what building a following feels like? Rover wondered.Bookmark here

A chubby, but beautiful woman with hair dyed the color of cantaloupe soup slipped the backpack off Benedict, and they pecked each other on the lips. For the first time, Rover noticed the wedding band on Benedict’s finger, and it matched the woman’s. This was when Rover also noticed he couldn’t find Quintegrity anywhere.Bookmark here

Quintegrity’s probably keeping her head down somewhere. His tummy got chilly as he looked at the Thugforce Militia chopper. Is the Cohort Squadron here, too? Another helicopter loomed nearby as well, which Rover recognized. Well, well…seems like little Captain Pretentious swung by to check things out, too.Bookmark here

Mrs. Torrent removed two things from Benedict’s backpack: a video game controller and a VR headset. Benedict strapped the headset on, took the controller, and then sat in a folding chair provided by a little boy who looked like a miniature Benedict.Bookmark here

“He has a console controller and a virtual reality headset,” Rover muttered into his communication earpiece.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I see that,” Lumpy said through the communicator, adjusting his fake, square glasses. He and Adele had taken separate positions on the second-level walkway, giving them both good perspectives from higher up. “The controller will make the game’s interface easier to use than a touchscreen, and I’ve heard of people who play Glove Alien Fight AR matches with VR headsets so they don’t have to physically follow their avatars through the real environment.”Bookmark here

“Just like playing a normal video game,” Adele replied, leaning over the second-level walkway’s guard rail to zoom in on Benedict through the holoshades, “all with the comfort of sitting in your living room.” She scoffed. “What a good idea…”Bookmark here

“It’s a great idea,” Rover said, looking at his phone. “After this, what do ya say we invest in some upgraded hardware for ourselves?”Bookmark here

“Blow your own money, R!” Adele grunted.Bookmark here

“I think R has a great idea!” Quintegrity broadcasted through the communicators.Bookmark here

“Hey, Q,” Rover said, “where are you?”Bookmark here

“Oh, around.” Her voice was playful, almost mocking.Bookmark here

Rover sighed, but smiled. “Good enough for me.”Bookmark here

Once Benedict wirelessly synched his controller to the gaming tablet held by his wife, he kicked back in his chair and pushed the VR headset visor up so he could look at Rover.Bookmark here

“Well then, Rover Chork. Ready when you are.”Bookmark here

“I was born ready,” Rover said, brandishing his phone.Bookmark here

“How clichéd to say that,” Lumpy snickered.Bookmark here

“I was designed to be ready before I was born!” Rover added with extra bravado, holding his phone in the air and eliciting cheers from the crowd.Bookmark here

“Atta boy, R!” Quintegrity told him. “Use all that training you did in the womb to lead yourself to victory! Mwa-ha-ha-haa!”Bookmark here

Behind his bravado, the many AR cameras watching the event gave Rover a small pang of anxiety and a touch of stage fright. He gnashed his teeth, forcing a smile to turn that fear into excitement as the onscreen roulette commenced to select the match type…Bookmark here

Every spectator held their breath. Even the Thugforce Militia chopper seemed to stop breathing, because that makes total sense.Bookmark here

When the game selected the match type, Mrs. Torrent folded her metre stick stylus into a stylus megaphone and made the announcement.Bookmark here

“DEATHMATCH!”Bookmark here

Deathmatch. A one-on-one fight to reduce the opponent’s HP to zero, knocking them out. There was very little for spectators to do, who had no rings to hide and no enemies to scout for. This was solely between the two competitors. Unlike the sudden death rounds at the end of a tie, there was no guaranteed one-hit win, starting at full health with full preparation for a fight to the death.Bookmark here

“Eh,” Lumpy breathed into the communication earpiece, “doesn’t look like there’s much we can do to help in a Deathmatch.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover replied, wasting no time to set up his character’s equipment and settings for a true fight.Bookmark here

“All right!” Benedict pulled the VR headset visor over his eyes, essentially putting him into the game. “A real match of strength, wit, and endurance! This is what I wanted! What say you, Rover?”Bookmark here

Was it what Rover wanted?Bookmark here

He answered, “Totally!”Bookmark here

“Oh, one more thing,” Benedict said, getting snug in the folding chair. “I won’t be holding back. I hope you’ll return that favor.”Bookmark here

“Depends on my mood.”Bookmark here

Benedict chuckled. “If that’s the case, then I won’t be disappointed…”Bookmark here

The pre-match countdown reached zero.Bookmark here

The fight began.Bookmark here

Every spectator’s screen was loaded to the corners with Winter’s Sepulcher, accompanied by cheers and boos.Bookmark here

However, Rover didn’t take his eyes off his phone screen—he saw the indicator for the damage inflicted on his opponent: “Nullified.”Bookmark here

The Antifreeze Bracelet on Benedict’s character shattered, sacrificing itself to block the wearer from one hit of Ice Elemental damage.Bookmark here

He anticipated that, Rover thought, his grin cracking across his face, and I anticipated his anticipation. And I bet his second accessory slot has the Heatshield Bracelet to cancel the Fire Elemental damage from Infernal Rain. So…Bookmark here

Rover tapped the third attack button for the Beelzebub Glove Aliens before he could see Benedict’s character through the icy sarcophagus.Bookmark here

“Belly of the Beast” was this button’s name.Bookmark here

Rover’s avatar put its hands over its head, holding up a purely dark sphere that formed between both palms. Instantly, a giant vortex of nightly hues opened up as a Darkness Elemental windstorm swamped the AR environment. With the disappearance of the graphics for Winter’s Sepulcher, Benedict’s character became visible as it was swept away in the swirling currents, taking continual Darkness Elemental damage while spiraling closer to the void held by Rover’s character.Bookmark here

“Whoa-ho-hoo!” Benedict laughed out loud, enthralled by the unprecedented fury of Rover’s storm. “Now, ain’t this something?!”Bookmark here

Thanks to the VR headset, Benedict never lost sight of his character, viewing the game through a third-person perspective behind the avatar like in the original game. Additionally, his game controller allowed nimble operation, and he quickly selected the in-game Rope item, using it to lasso a real-life powerline pole. Benedict’s character pulled itself along the Rope, then secured itself to the pole to keep from being sucked into Rover’s vortex.Bookmark here

Each second, Belly of the Beast unleashed stronger winds over a wider area. Rover rapidly tapped the command button on his phone screen, which kept the attack going and built its strength.Bookmark here

Yet, the continual damage Benedict’s character took was paltry, maxing out at two HP damage with each hit. Benedict seized the chance to equip another Antifreeze Bracelet to replace the broken one.Bookmark here

“How high is this dude’s defense?” Lumpy grunted, watching Benedict’s character use a second Rope item to double its hold on the pole. “It’s practically unfazed by…by whatever the hell this is you’re doing, R!!!”Bookmark here

Adele, on the other hand, continually shrieked and gasped, confounded by what she witnessed through her phone—she was no help at all.Bookmark here

Rover ignored the distracting commentary from his friend and sister. He ignored the mixed reactions of shock, anger, fear, and jubilance from the crowd.Bookmark here

There wasn’t room for losing focus.Bookmark here

Belly of the Beast strikes multiple times, and it isn’t doing much damage. It’s safe to assume Benedict won’t feel the need to equip the Smiley Bracelet to negate Darkness Elemental damage…yet.Bookmark here

The dark storm grew stronger, and Benedict’s character began taking upwards of five HP damage with each hit now. Its hands fumed with thick smog while it remained securely fastened to the pole.Bookmark here

“He’s charging something up,” Adele told Rover, watching Benedict’s character. “I see his avatar’s hands smoking, or something. From the looks of it…”Bookmark here

“Summoning magic,” Rover said. He had his own character throw the black hole center of Belly of the Beast, sending out a tornado of Darkness Elemental energy toward his opponent. “From the color of the spell effects, I’d say he has the Legion Lord Glove Aliens equipped.” He sneered. “Perfect for countering my Darkness Elemental attack, because they add resistance to it. Also, I hope he doesn’t have that weapon leveled up to the maximum…”Bookmark here

“Why?” Adele asked. “What happens when the Legion Lord Glove Aliens are maxed out?”Bookmark here

Rover didn’t answer.Bookmark here

Three winged Imps spawned around Benedict’s character, each wielding a cruddy spear. Immune to Darkness Elemental damage, they soared unhindered through Rover’s wicked winds.Bookmark here

“Imps are kinda weak,” Lumpy commented.Bookmark here

“Yeah, they’re weak…”Bookmark here

Rover grunted as one of the Imps threw its cruddy spear, hitting Rover’s character and inflicting the Poison status effect, which continually dealt HP damage over time. The Imp promptly pulled another spear from its butt as the other two did the same.Bookmark here

“But they’re frickin’ annoying!” Rover barked.Bookmark here

He fired Infernal Rain into the air, burning the Imps but not killing them, and kept his character moving to dodge their spears. He slid his finger across his item menu, used an Antidote item to cure the Poison status effect that had damaged him, and used a healing Potion to restore his HP. However, another strike from a second wave of Imps reinstated the Poison effect.Bookmark here

Belly of the Beast reached its time limit and disappeared before the black hole core could reach Benedict’s avatar. The dark winds died, and Benedict had his avatar hop off the pole and head into the burning AR environment. His Heatshield Bracelet shattered on contact with part of Rover’s raining blaze, but his character quickly caught on fire after another flaming hit and took continual damage. After equipping a second Antifreeze Bracelet, Benedict had his character charge through the flames at Rover’s character.Bookmark here

Winter’s Sepulcher instantly wiped out all of the Imps, but merely broke one of the ice-proof accessories on the opponent. Benedict spawned three more Imps, then launched a barrage of Darkness Elemental energy orbs that locked onto Rover’s avatar like homing missiles.Bookmark here

Rover dodged all the poisonous spears and took a hit from one dark orb, taking significant damage. His character was fast, sacrificing defense for speed, but as more homing dark orbs and poisonous Imps swarmed the fiery battlefield, Rover knew it was time to flee.Bookmark here

There doesn’t appear to be any barrier to the playing area. Ideal for being the chased one in this match…but damn, that still means I’m on the defensive here!Bookmark here

Using a Goosepack, Rover’s character blasted off into the air as his final fireballs fell from above. He healed with a couple Potion items, but it was harder to avoid Benedict’s homing orbs in the air than on the ground.Bookmark here

“Benedict is taking decent damage from being on fire!” Adele said. “But he isn’t knocked out yet. How much HP does he have?”Bookmark here

“I reckon he has armor that doubles his HP,” Rover said, chasing after his avatar through the open-air mall while Benedict sat comfortably in his chair. “That explains how much damage he’s able to take before healing.”Bookmark here

“Aaaand, he just healed,” Lumpy grunted, watching through his phone. “Fire seems to be your best bet, as it’s continual and makes any Heatshield Bracelet worthless after the first hit.”Bookmark here

“Infernal Rain’s strongest hit is the first one that shoots straight up,” Rover said, guiding some incoming attacks into a third-floor footbridge. “But whatever…”Bookmark here

In midflight, Rover’s character used Infernal Rain again as additional honking came from his phone’s speakers—Benedict also had used a Goosepack, and a goosey chase took place.Bookmark here

Turning around, Rover wanted to keep the match somewhat localized to avoid chasing after his avatar and keep his enemies within the burning area. Another blast of Winter’s Sepulcher took care of the surrounding Imps and shattered another of Benedict’s Antifreeze Bracelets.Bookmark here

Lumpy cheered. “Oh man! In midair, I see that Winter’s Sepulcher is actually spherical, but on the ground, only half of the attack range is visible! It’s huge!”Bookmark here

More of Benedict’s orbs struck Rover’s character, but Benedict had been lit by more falling flame. Swapping to the Infantry Glove Aliens, Rover shot bursts of full-auto energy bullets at his burning opponent. The two characters circled around, filling the virtual airspace with long-range projectiles.Bookmark here

“This is a heck of a dogfight!” Adele watched the aerial action, her fake mustache quivering with excitement. “Benedict is taking half damage from burning now, so he probably just equipped something that halves Fire Elemental damage.”Bookmark here

“Immune to Ice and reduced damage from Fire and Darkness,” Lumpy mumbled. “He’s figured you out, R.”Bookmark here

“Just gonna keep burning and shooting ’im!” Rover replied brashly. “And this, too!”Bookmark here

Another vortex of Belly of the Beast engulfed the AR environment, and a tornado set out on its own. While it still didn’t do much damage, it interfered with Benedict’s flight, buying Rover time to heal with a Potion, negate the Poison status effect with an Antidote, and reignite Infernal Rain as soon as the previous one stopped. Another round of Winter’s Sepulcher wiped out all the Imps and broke yet another of Benedict’s Antifreeze Bracelets.Bookmark here

To avoid falling damage, Rover landed his character seconds before the Goosepack vanished. Some stray homing orbs hit him, and he took cover under a second-level walkway to avoid further attacks.Bookmark here

When Benedict’s Goosepack ran out, his character was caught in the Belly of the Beast tornado, unable to do much as it helplessly swirled around and around. However, during this time, Benedict noticed something.Bookmark here

“Rover’s Darkness Elemental storm is stronger this time,” he said casually into the stylus megaphone his wife held for everyone to hear his voice. “In fact, all of his attacks seem to be getting stronger over time. Does that mean Rover’s special Glove Aliens inflict more damage as the battle goes on? Stay tuned to find out!”Bookmark here

Lumpy muttered, “He’s totally into this whole livestreaming thing. A genuine show host personality.”Bookmark here

“Not just that,” Rover grunted into his earpiece as his avatar ran into the open, “he suspects my Beelzebub Glove Aliens’ passive ability…”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Lumpy asked. “You mean…they get stronger as the battle goes on?”Bookmark here

“Not precisely.” Rover shot energy bullets at Benedict’s storm-trapped character as it also took continual Fire and Darkness Elemental damage, momentarily inflicting damage faster than Benedict could heal. “I have to keep doing damage with those Glove Aliens’ attacks. If I let up, the attack will drop. Also…all of my stats are affected, not just my attack. Defense, speed…all of them increase!”Bookmark here

Lumpy chuckled, followed by loud belly laughs. “Truly sinister, my man! I love it!”Bookmark here

Rover used another Goosepack, soaring straight at the opponent. He fired more full-auto energy bullets while taking damage from Imp spears and homing orbs. Soaring past Benedict’s character, Rover dealt a quick swipe with his sabre. Benedict was freed from the dark vortex as it vanished, and he immediately used another Goosepack for himself, continuing the midair dogfight.Bookmark here

However, Benedict flew away. Rover was forced to give chase, which meant physically running through the Icarus Centre on foot.Bookmark here

“Dammit!” Rover spat, sprinting after the flying characters.Bookmark here

Rover used Belly of the Beast to slow Benedict’s escape, catching the fleeing avatar in the dark winds. This time, Benedict’s character was pulled straight into the well-aimed dark sphere core, and not even his Goosepack allowed him to escape. Also, the core inflicted double the damage than the winds alone.Bookmark here

“I’m stuck!” Benedict announced with an excited smile. “Time for a new trick…”Bookmark here

From the ground, giving chase on foot, Rover didn’t get a good look at Benedict’s character in the air. Its hands fumed again, as if to summon more Imps, but Rover failed to notice how much thicker and viler the character’s animation was.Bookmark here

It was a summoning spell, all right. Just not for Imps.Bookmark here

High above the virtual battlefield, a circular pattern of AR light appeared in the sky, which Rover recognized.Bookmark here

“That’s a summoning gate,” Rover murmured, getting short of breath from the sprinting, “and it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen in Glove Alien Fight.” He tensed up, but pushed himself to run faster.Bookmark here

Damn…Benedict really did max out his Legion Lord Glove Aliens…Bookmark here

A hole opened inside the circular pattern, and through it came a massive being resembling a wolf crossed with a dinosaur. If it had been a physical creature, its winged shadow would’ve been able to eclipse a city bus—very large to scale when compared with other in-game Glove Alien Fight components, including the avatars.Bookmark here

“Th-That’s…!” Adele stuttered, gawking at the huge foe swooping down as the summoning gate closed and vanished.Bookmark here

“Baha Mutt…” Lumpy gulped. “The fabled dragondog king…and reportedly the strongest summon in Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

Rover grit his teeth, staring through his phone at what he had come up against. Baha Mutt, the dragondog king, used its huge claws and plucked Benedict’s avatar out of the Belly of the Beast vortex. It absorbed the Darkness Elemental damage (which would’ve healed it if it hadn’t been at full health already) and placed Benedict’s avatar safely on its back. Benedict, now in control of Baha Mutt, stood unaffected inside the core of Rover’s measly storm.Bookmark here

“Q,” Rover said into his earpiece, his voice rattling, “if you’ve got something up your sleeve…anything…now’s the time to use it…”Bookmark here

“Sorry,” she replied, her tone somewhat disheartened, “but there’s nothing I can do in a Deathmatch, so I’m making crepes right now.”Bookmark here

“…CREPES?!?” Rover howled.Bookmark here

“Ha-ha! Yeah! These people need to eat, and who doesn’t love a good crepe? I’m giving them away for free, but people are tipping me, which isn’t technically selling and isn’t violating solicitation laws!”Bookmark here

At that moment, everyone watching the match through their AR devices heard the mighty roar of Baha Mutt.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 999Bookmark here

All Money… {T}113,600Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}112,600Bookmark here

Food Slip… {T}1,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

Anti-Grav Skateboard… {T}499,999Bookmark here

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Weapon… BeelzebubBookmark here

Armor… FASCAR ShirtBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… Heist HoovesBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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