After a moment you nod shakily, deciding that maybe it is better to move forward and try to find a way to escape than to just sit around dying in this virtual space. Even if you have to disappear for the good of the party, it wouldn’t be any different than staying put.
You step through the new pathway to find an even more distorted virtual space ahead. The man with the shield is immediately on guard, raising his defense as the swordswoman prepares her offense. You wish you had a weapon, and realize the somber twin has none either. That comforts you, for reasons unknown.
The space is red and angry, coding flying like bullets but not hitting you or your party. You wonder if someone is controlling them, before you dismiss the thought at its incredulity. All feelings of remembrance have gone in this twisted place.
The man with the shield shouts, and only then do you notice that the Cheshire twin has taken residence in the room. She smiles at you and quirks a finger in your direction. Her twin immediately steps in front of you, the somber girl shaking her head and causing the mirror image’s grin to droop slightly. Neither the man with the shield nor the swordswoman have lowered their weapons.
With a slightly peeved face, the harlequin twin extends her hand out to her duplicate. The somber twin takes it reluctantly and you were about to call out to stop her when the two were illuminated in a brilliant flash of coding. They appeared to join as one in a horrific cacophony of maniacal laughter and blood curdling screams before fading away entirely.
The pathway opened out of the twisted place, and your companions were less sure about moving onward this time. They look to you, gesturing vaguely to the pathway that may or may not have been opened due to the somber twin’s sacrifice.
What do you do?
The new surroundings that the small resistance group found themselves in were much less infinite feelings but just as suffocating - a long, bland, perfectly straight and uniform hallway. No markings broke up the monotony of the endless walls of dull silver, not even pink lighting that seemed to pervade every other aspect of the ship were present in this space. Myos was beginning to get anxious that they had been walking for too long, and his gaming instincts were on high alert. Any moment now, some giant enemy crab or something was going to jump out from the shadows and they were going to have to attack its weak point for massive damage. Or maybe the Empress herself would come out and try to persuade to give up their quest or convince them that they aren’t so different and offer them a position of power that they would turn down for the sake of the honor of their team.
Or the redhead would smack into a table at the end of the hallway because he let his imagination get the best of him.
Zeke snickered, and Myos stepped back to join him, looking at the small table that appeared to be carved from some sort of rare, metallic black material. On top of the table there were several rows of small pink heart charms, all neatly arranged in a grid. Amaya tilted her head quizzically, fiddling with the star charm on her sailor collar again.
Achernar stepped up to the table with a broad grin plastered on her face. “Leave this to me, guys,” she laughed, yanking the golden anchor from her neck, going through the same fantastical transformation Myos had earlier to transform into her armor suit. Revving up her powerful chainsaw katana, she slashed through the table in one easy stroke, cutting the table in half as if it were made of melted butter. The blue haired woman stepped back to watch the satisfying conclusion of her work, only to frown in disappointment when a new table and set of heart charms had materialized in its place.
“What the fucking hell?” She exclaimed, the armor dissipating around her as she went back to normal.
“It’s obviously some sort of puzzle,” Zeke reasoned with a wave of his hand, scoffing as if it were so noticeable. “The hearts and their order are supposed to represent something, and we have to work through everything we know and the answer will be apparent to us fairly quickly,” he finished with a self satisfied smile, rolling back his shoulders in pompous relaxation.
Zeke looked to see who had spoken, scowling to see it was the girl with the pink kitten ribbon in her hair. “I beg your pardon?”
“I said you’re wrong,” Razzy repeated her statement with a fluid shrug, her boots clicking on the floor as she walked towards the table. “The hearts don’t stand for anything.”
“Then, um, what are you supposed to do here?” Amaya asked, looking between each of the members of the group for answers.
“And why won’t stabbing work?” Achernar huffed, crossing her arms.
“Yeah, Razzy, take it away, if you know what to do,” Myos said with an encouraging nod. “I think this labyrinth or whatever is some sort of sick security system from the Empress. They’ll be more challenges after this,” he sighed.
“Probably,” Razzy replied as she picked up two of the small heart charms, the rest of the group watching in amazement as two more suddenly seemed to simply vanish from the table as if some invisible spectre had gobbled them up. “This is called Nim. It’s a game.”
“A game?” Myos said, eyes lighting up at the mere mention of his favorite hobby.
“Mhmm,” Razzy replied absentmindedly, taking turns with her invisible enemy removing alternations of one, two, or three small heart pieces.
“Well, like, how do you win?” Amaya questioned, furrowing her brows as she tried to figure out the point of the game, watching the other girl make moves with quick succession until Razzy had removed a three charms and only a single one remained for her gaming partner.
The table disappeared as a bell that was only going to become more familiar sounded overhead, and a door came into existence in front of them.