Cobalt stared at the structure sitting in the middle of the woods. He was out of breath, out of ammo, shit outta luck with no good options, yet… this place…
Cobalt didn't know what caused the Alpha to hesitate, but the Beowolf pack wouldn't come within 100 metres of this place. He was pretty sure he wasn't in Forever Fall or the Emerald Forest, but he was pretty sure he was staring at ruins. Four pillars surrounding a pedestal with a large stone tablet etched with a number of runic patterns.
Cobalt, not knowing immediately what these were, used an age-old skill in the gamer's toolkit, and hit them with Observe.
Runic Shrine Tablet
The entrance of a Challenge Shrine, these tablets are shaped from blood-imbued slate and carved with a runic inscription that have been inlaid with crystal blood, allowing it to maintain a magical resonance with an extradimensional space, set up to challenge all passersby by the ancient and powerful Sanguinem Order.
This tablet denotes that the shrine within contains a challenge that the Mighty may overcome. To challenge the shrine, place a drop of blood to power the relay and lay your hand on the tablet.
Cobalt's clothes were pretty soiled with hsi blood after he'd been attacked by that Alpha and its pack. Cobalt wiped his stained sleeve on the tablet and it began to glow with an eerie red light. Cobalt placed his hand on the tablet and he felt that he was suddenly elsewhere.
The Forest was gone, and Cobalt stood in a lobby, rune-inscripted stones that pulsed with magic in a steady rhythm in time with his heartbeat integrated with the stone of a large cave system. Underneath him was a large circle, looking like a waypoint of some kind and to the left side of the room was a fountain that seemed to run with a foul-looking black, oily substance.
On the far side of the room was a large Stone door. Seeing as he'd come here to challenge the shrine, he quickly made his way to the door and with some more use of observe, he quickly found the blood-activated locking sigil that keep the things inside from spawn-camping the lobby.
Cobalt jumped when he heard a voice resonate in his head, the power of the words leaving him rattled.
"I am Pax Sanguinem. In the Wisdom of the Ancient Blood, I present to you my challenge."
Cobalt shook off the chills the invading voice had left him with, cautiously walking towards the door when text from Gamer popped up in front of him.
Sanguinem Blood Shrine of Wit:
A minor test of skill
Objective: Arm Yourself
Cobalt glanced around and found that propped up in the corner was a sword, with a blade about a metre long, and no real guard, only a wooden setting and pommel to stop his hand slipping off the one-handed grip, Cobalt guessed it was a spatha of some sort, a late roman sword, longer than the gladius by far.
Leaning against the sword was a shield with a metal boss, rim and reinforcements, and leather over what he guessed was wood. Overall a very sturdy shield with some minor fireproofing to boot, in its heyday.
Both sword and shield were old and uncared for, the metal of the sword and shield had the faintest traceries of rust running along it, and a number of dents and chips in the shield's rim and sword's edge, leading him to believe they were well used by an idiot who hadn't taken them to get fixed before abandoning them. The old advice rang through his head, and he said it aloud to himself
"Fight with a broken shield, fight with a dented helmet, but if you want to live to see the sun rise tomorrow, never fight with a dull sword"
Cobalt armed himself with them all the same, something was better than nothing, and he was rather sure that there were any number of workshops catering to hutners that'd perform repair work if he was dead set on keeping grey-quality, level 1 newbie gear.
Objective: Enter the arena
The door unsealed itself and began to descend as Cobalt approached it with his new equipment. Cobalt was not a patient sort and despite his sense of foreboding,w as eager to get started. Once it finally would allow him through, Cobalt sneaked on by, climbing over the top of the door as it got low enough and was met with a large empty room with a runic circle over the center of the floor.
Entering the room, the door predictably closed behind him, and the runic circle descended. As the door thudded home and sealed itself, Cobalt saw what had boarded the Elevator.
It was a Beowolf grimm with white fur and blue eyes.
Cobalt was immediately on guard. The grimm was hostile, but not immediately so, instead slowly approaching him, growling, with fangs and claws bared.
Cobalt circled around his foe shield at the ready to receive whatever attack the beowolf would launch.
Objective: Complete your training
Step 1 of 5: Sidestep
Execute a small hop to sidestep the Beowolf's lunge, then punish it.
The word Training caused Cobalt's eyebrow to rise, and a smile to creep its way across his face. Just what he needed.
Just as the tutorial text said, the Beowolf crouched slightly before lunging at him with claws outstretched. Cobalt dodged to the side with a quick hop as asked, and didn't hesitate to swipe the jagged edge of his sword across the wolf's armpit, before bringing it back around and attempting to rack up the biggest combo he could, sending sword strikes every which way. He would later admonish himself for using the sword as a particularly sharp club, like some sort of videogame character.
Objective: Complete your training
Step 2 of 5: Backflip
You've pissed it off, dodge the flurry of swipes with a backwards dodge, then swoop in to punish it again.
Cobalt balked at the prospect, but he didn't have the time to really complain, so he moved with the intent of dodging backwards as the beowolf charged him with claws outstretched to either side, and Cobalt found that he'd leaned back until the boss of his shield was on the ground and hurled the rest of his body over that pivot.
The Beowolf's claws closed in on thin air, and now it was Cobalt's turn to lunge, surprised as he was that he'd performed a backflip. Cobalt lined up his sword and all but leapt at the Wolf with the intent to stab it through the heart.
The Beowolf recoiled and Cobalt attacked it like mad, swinging the sword wildly hoping to inflict as much damage as possible.
When he was forced away by the beowolf's recovery, he decided to check the damage he'd inflicted, as he didn't see much visible damage or any crippling injuries like that slash to the armpit or the stab to the chest should've been. Observing it, Cobalt saw that the wolf's details appear next to it. Its health was greyed out, and said 'Tutorial' instead of giving him any numbers.
Steeling himself, Cobalt read his next set of objectives
Objective: Complete Your training
Step 3 of 5: Perfect Guard
Use your shield to bash the beowolf's attack out of the way.
The Beowolf moved in and rose its clawed hand in telegraphed heavy strike, trying to use its weight and strength to overpower Cobalt. Cobalt swung his shield arm and batted the blow aside, sending the wolf off balance as it whiffed its power attack, and letting Cobalt smack it around a bunch more before he caught the retaliation blow on his shield and stumbled back.
Cobalt made mental notes about the timing of the attack, and how he'd moved the shield to redirect the blow away.
The Wolf fell back and raised its arms forming a clumsy, but unmistakable guard, seeking to defend itself.
Objective: Complete your training
Step 4 of 5: Power attack
Focus on your weapon, channel your strength into it, and use all your strength to launch a mighty attack that can crush through blocks and stun hapless foes
Cobalt stood at the ready, and made it look like he was ready to strike at any moment, as he focused, and found that he could feel the blad humming with energy- his energy. Preparing himself, he felt the sword's charge peak and he moved. The beowolf's guard was clumsy, but it attempted to counterattack, but Cobalt had moved against the possible counterattack, hitting the blow meant to smack his attack away head on and crushing through the defence.
This stunned the Beowolf and Cobalt only stopped long enough to read his objectives as they updated mid-conflict
Objective: Complete your training
Step 5 of 5: End Him Rightly
Use your Finishing Move skill to end the fight
Finishing Move requires an enemy to be stunned and prone, but is an instant kill. Shield Bash can be used to knock a stunned enemy prone.
Cobalt did as the objectives asked. He tucked his shoulder behind the wood of the shield and used it as cover as he launched forwards and shoulder-checked the Beowolf, lifting it off its feet and sprawling onto its back.
The Beowolf collapsed backwards, and Cobalt leapt into the air and delivered a two-handed plunging strike, feeling his sword sink straight through the beast's sternum and heart. The Wolf recoiled as Cobalt drove the air from its lungs, but it died too soon to do anything but whimper in pain.
Cobalt was panting hard as the adrenaline wore off and he pulled the sword from the creature's chest, planting his foot next to the blade and wrenching it free. As he rose, Cobalt felt the mirth bubbling up, and threw his head back to laugh with elation, to whoop and holler in the post-battle euphoria.
The loud thunk of a large, heavy stone mechanism clunking into place brought him out of his reverie, and he turned to investigate. A door to a large shrine glowed with crimson runes before sinking into the floor, Behind it was a large altar that Cobalt immediately deduced was the endgoal of the shrine.
Cobalt approached, eager to collect whatever was in the pot at end of this rainbow, be it gold, gear, macguffins or precious baubles.
Approaching, Cobalt found a man sitting cross-legged on top of the altar, his robes hanging loosely off his atrophied form. Cobalt wondered if he'd found a mummy given how it looked, and if Pax's message had been pre-recorded when Pax's voice boomed and echoed all around him, coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.
"I am Pax Sanguinem. In defeating this challenge, you have proved the strength of your Wit. You have taken the first steps on the long journey towards your enlightenment. Find my Brothers and Sisters in their Shrines, beat the challenges within, and collect their blessings."
Cobalt blinked as he felt the urge to kneel on the dias in front of Pax. He found the experience wildly disconcerting, and the dialogue cheap and cliche, but he was 1: a lore junkie with no hope of recovery and 2: not an idiot, and therefore would listen and learn as The Plot™ happened instead of being rude or calling him out.
Cobalt followed the urging and dropped onto one knee, head bowed respectfully as crimson runes started lighting up in black fire over Pax's robes.
"In the Wisdom of the Ancient Blood, I present to you The Blessing of the Sanguinem."
Cobalt shuddered as a crimson orb of blood hit his chest before soaking into his body.
"May your blade be sharp and your blood potent."
Cobalt furrowed his brow at Pax- about to ask what that was supposed to do- but noticed his body dissolving into crimson light before his vision went black.
Cobalt gasped as he came to, having collapsed in front of the shrine. He wondered if it was all a bad dream until he found a sword buckled onto his belt. Straight-edged with a triangular point and with a familiar pattern of chips and notches in the blade, and the small shield had the same pattern of rivets and scratches.
For defeating one of the countless Sanguinem Trials, you have gained a new level.
You are now level 8
The local area has been purified and sanctified. Vale Corruption at 95%, Grimm spawn rates decreased accordingly.
Cobalt blinked at the message, before his mind managed to parse the last line. Cobalt felt himself staring at the text with a slack jaw, stunned beyond words.
There it was. There was his endgame. Enough of these shrines and theoretically he could cleanse all of Remnant of the grimm.
He already knew that these shrines wouldn't get any easier: he stumbled across the level 1 shrine by sheer dumb luck. He'd have to learn how to fight, solve puzzles and most importantly, learn how to find these places.
Cobalt pulled himself up to try and reconnect to civilisation and figure out his next moves. He managed only a few steps before something barreled straight into him and knocked him to the ground. His head struck a rock as he landed and the world went black around him.
When he came to, Cobalt felt like a dwarf was using his head as an anvil to forge adamantium. Groaning, he fought the dizziness, the bright sunlight stabbing his eyes and the dark tunnel creeping along the edges of his vision as he attempted to stand, using a nearby tree for support.
Rolling over and pulling himself up, Cobalt was greeted by a notification
Forced Update complete, version updated from pre-alpha 0.0.3 to BETA 1.26.348
Changelog is available in patch notes
"Are you okay?"
Cobalt stiffened and saw Team CFVY had found him. "I am now… we have to stop meeting like this."
"Why are you out here?"
"I was, uh…" Cobalt said, trailing off as he searched for an excuse before his brain managed to register something.
Patting around the 'tree' he was using, Cobalt realised that the tree had what felt like cloth instead of bark. Looking up, he saw Yatsuhashi, who had let Cobalt use him for support.
Cobalt yelped in surprise, and barked a quick apology, before a wave of dizziness threw off his balance and he wound up leaning on Yatsuhashi for support.
"Sorry, Big Guy, head's still spinning, I'm gonna have to impose on you a bit… anyone catch the numbers on that truck that hit me?" Cobalt said, looking to CFVY's team leader.
What he saw confused him, however, as a pair of large brown rabbit's ears towered above Coco's head
"...when did you become a faunus, Coco?" Cobalt asked in non-comprehension.
Coco blinked at him, not expecting that, before looking behind her, prompting a dawning realisation, before she stepped to the side, which let Cobalt see Velvet before she hid behind Coco again.
There was a long pause as both sides more or less waited for Cobalt to recover from his concussion.
Cobalt watched his status meter like a hawk, seeing the little stars icon indicating his stunned status effect go from three stars to two, coming with a marked improvement in his clarity, then down to one star, leaving him feeling more like the aftershocks of a wild party instead of having gone eight rounds with Dolph Lundgren with no mercy.
Deciding he could resume the Q&A Cobalt asked "So what are you doing out here?"
Coco pointed upwards and Cobalt saw the spires of Beacon Academy stretching above the mesa it stood on.
"Oh" was all Cobalt said.
"What are you doing out here?" Coco asked back.
"I was looking to train for my new job in the VPD, so I nicked off with a service handgun and a tin of ammo" Cobalt replied
Cobalt didn't know what he expected, but in hindsight, being laughed at should have been at the top of that list.
"You became a cop?!" Coco asked, holding back tears
Team CFVY redoubled their efforts in letting him know what they thought of that. Even Yatsuhashi was chuckling, and only Velvet- who looked mortified for some reason- wasn't laughing.
"Be that as it may, its a good way to lay low for now"
"Sure thing. Do you need help getting back to Vale?"
"An assist would be appreciated. I think I still have a bit of a concussion. What hit me anyway? My head feels like I got hit by a Semi."
Coco suppressed a laugh, and Velvet blushed and tried to hide behind coco.
"Ah, well, I'm not mad. You didn't do anything permanent, and if you can get me back to civilisation safe and sound, I'll call us even."
Raven curled up in her chair, holding her stomach as she laughed harder than she'd laughed in months and pushing away from the monitor in front of her to let her husband see Gareth's patchnotes.
"Okay, Okay, lemme read another one here… okay… boring… ah, here: 'Fixed the PhysX glitch that launched vehicles into low earth orbit if you hit both the brake and accelerator pedals simultaneously'." Gareth read out, rolling his eyes as Raven only laughed harder.
Raven managed to stop laughing long enough to point out one of her favorites to Alex. "F-F-Fixed a glitch that-" Raven paused as she giggled some more, prompting her husband to roll his eyes and continue for her. "A glitch that made Random NPC's unable to equip new wearable items, causing them to go about naked after attempting to change from default outfits."
Alex blinked, before grinning and chuckling slightly. "The one right after it has got to be related. 'Fixed NPC's not reacting properly to the sight of other naked NPC's'. And finally, 'Fixed oversight causing NPC's to not care about being naked'."
Alex looked over at Gareth.
"It was late at night, I was running on six cups of coffee and my coding was shoddy" Gareth said defensively "That's my story, and I'm sticking with it"
"Dude, you forgot to make the AI care about clothes. Be glad I managed to fix Coco's equipment before Cobalt woke up…" Alex paused, thinking to himself. "... Maybe I could have left it a bit longer. Cobalt's reaction would have been pricele- OW!"
Alex rubbed his side where Raven had jabbed him. "Alex, Gareth, you're both perverts."
Gareth pointed a finger at Raven dramatically. "You would have thought it was funny too! Don't try to deny it!"
Raven coughed slightly, hiding her blush before gesturing back towards the patch notes.
"ANYWHO, getting back on track and keeping it in our pants, people" Alex said, "changed Dev console command after too many playtesters sang the final fantasy victory theme..." Alex stopped before looking towards Gareth. "And why is the Dev Console accessible to anyone in The Game? I set up the Dev Whitelist for a reason."
"It was Alpha 7. I was still mostly putting basic physics and interactions in place."
"Dude… We make this game from the outside. Raven's the only one who's actually gone in the game. Why do we even have an internal Dev Console?"
"So I can superbuff new dev characters after save wipes and attempt to test and balance endgame content."
Alex stared at him like he'd grown a second head. "... Gareth, we do all our Dev work out here. We don't need an internal Dev Console!"
Gareth looked sullen "...I wanted to cheat with an avatar, so I hid an easter egg."
Alex rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. "Next time, just preface it with that. Have you fixed the character stat system yet?"
"Most people tend to react badly when I mention that I'm a filthy casual; and Yes. I'm not sure why he got the Alpha Build. I had Beta 1.26 ready and rarin' to go. Just the standard 6 stat system we agreed on." Gareth reported "I double and triple checked that all the patches were applied and working properly, and all the critical systems matched exactly with the backup whilst Cobalt did that Shrine"
Alex smirked. "And then you had Velvet kick him in the head at the same time you forced the update. Nice cover-up."
"Yep. Took a bit of timing, I'll admit, and some manipulation of PID values… I don't like doing that, these things are damn-near self-aware and I don't like getting inside their head like that." Gareth said, looking uncomfortable
Raven raised an eyebrow. "Why'd you mess with Velvets AI? You could have just changed Cobalt's Character model for just long enough for her to kick him."
"...because changing a number is easier than- aaaand I just remembered that changing models is literally as simple as picking from a drop-down menu… correction: because I'm an idiot who should have thought of that." Gareth self-admonished.
Raven shook her head in amusement. "In any case, I'm kinda bored. Anyone want to help me try shipping Cobalt?"
Gareth and Alex both backed off a few steps, lest they be dragged into an inescapable matchmaking session.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I certainly did, especially the Dev talk at the end. For anyone who's curious, I'm Raven, Yoshtar is Gareth, and Eaod2000 is Alexander.
Not our actual names, you understand.
Also, We're gonna put a new poll up! It'll be for us to see who you (the fans) want to ship with Cobalt the most. It'll include every single female character in RWBY. Every. Single. One. Obviously the poll is mostly for fun. There are some character we just aren't going to ever ship Cobalt with.
In the meantime… Well... Kiddlywinks, boys and girls… we have a slight… problem
We realised that we had a lot of grand plans, and exactly zero timeframe to really execute them in.
Cobalt decorrupting the police force, for one… he can't exactly walk in on a dirty deal and then everything's fixed. It'll take time, more than the ~6 months Canon gives him before everything goes tits up. Then he has to train almost an entire force of honest, blue-uniformed heroes, which is no small task, and start to disrupt crime in Vale, at least starting to push both syndicated and otherwise organised crime out of Vale, alongside crackdowns on White Fang Domestic Terrorism.
Then there's other stuff to do more with Gamer that we haven't revealed yet.
So we're gonna slightly fudge the first chapter. Instead of team RWBY helping him escape, we're gonna give Cobalt an extra year, and mention that it's a first year team CFVY that finds him in that bush under the Beacon medical wing instead. We'll make the changes to reflect this decision soon.
Normally, I would be very concerned about giving a Gamer a year and a half to power up and prepare without sending God or Malkuth at him (those of you who have read The Games We Play should know who the latter is). How many MMORPG characters can you say didn't go from slaying Rats to slaying "Glas Ghaibleann, the Destroyer of Worlds" in less than a year in-game time, even counting the shortened day/night cycle most games tend to have.
Fortunately, we figure that the objectives mentioned earlier should keep Cobalt busy: It's hard to go out and slay level 160 Grimm in Vacuo if you're also busy putting out fires and taking down the [Vauge Italian/Irish mob name] crime syndicate in downtown Vale.
Reviews are more than welcome y'all.
And since I this has been asked a bunch: this fic is a rewrite of the OG Gaming for Glory. Sequels, if we attempt them, will likely be titled New Game Plus.