Neoquest II: The Forgotten Heroine: Part One
Arthur was a Red Bruce who had gotten caught up in the Neoquest hype a bit later than the other children, but he too enjoyed playing Neoquest II. Eventually though, what happens to most gamers happened to him too, he found that the game’s plot was hackneyed, and repetitive, and it felt more like work than playing, so he quit in the middle of his Evil Mode run.
Several years later, when all of that was a distant memory, he passed by a store one day and something displayed on the window caught his eye. It looked like a Neoquest game, but the title and cover were different, it said; Neoquest II: The Forgotten Heroine.
This piqued Arthur’s interest and he went into the store, which seemed to sell a little bit of everything. He picked up the game and asked the shopkeeper, a Green Eyrie, how much it was for. The shopkeeper said it was for three hundred and fifty-six neopoints, a laughable amount for Arthur, so he bought it.
Neopia Central University was currently having its winter break, so Arthur had a lot of free time anyway. He went back to his dorm and loaded the game.
The game started off a bit like Neoquest II, but Arthur saw that there was a Blue Usul instead of Rohane at the beginning. What was even odder was that the Usul was lying in a bed and didn’t look too well. A blumaroo walked in, one that Arthur realized as being Rohane’s mother. She glanced at the Blue Usul longingly and said:
Eirika, are you sure that you want to do this? Your health has never been very well, and Rohane hasn’t come back from studying yet.
Eirika, who was the Blue Usul, got up and told Rohane’s- no, her mother, Arthur realized, that she wanted to go.
The screen flashed and the following rules showed up:
1. Eirika is suffering from an ailment of the lungs, and this will affect her gameplay.
2. Once Eirika is knocked out, there is no reviving her and the game will end.
3. If the game is not completed within seven days, Eirika will succumb to her illness.
Arthur grinned. Someone had made an alternate version of Neoquest II, and it looked like it was set a few years before Rohane’s adventure, and involved his sister. Arthur knew being knocked out meant game over in Insane Mode, but it looked like this version didn’t have modes and went to it straightaway. Plus, there was a time limit.
At the time, it had seemed fun to Arthur, but just how much it would sadden him later on, he had no idea.
At the start, Arthur checked his inventory. Instead of ‘Father’s Sword’, there was another weapon called ‘Gifted Sword’.
Another change in the game was the fact that there was some background music. Arthur tuned it down a little, and considered muting it, but decided to keep it for the moment.
For one thing, the game was a whole lot shorter than Neoquest II. He managed to reach Zombom in less than one hour.
However, he began to notice something strange. Every once in a while, a screen with a skull would pop on which would say: Stop doing so much activity. Eirika can’t keep doing this with her illness and needs to catch her breath.
This screen would show up for about fifteen seconds, and when it was over, fifteen seconds had passed in the real game, and Eirika had taken damage as if she had been stunned.
Arthur would scowl, as it had nearly ensured his defeat at Zombom, but he managed to outmaneuver him at the last second and won. These sorts of things happened occasionally, and it took Arthur a few seconds to notice that the music changed slightly.
Later on, he realized, there was another sound coming during these times. He strained his ears, and was shocked to realize what he was hearing was panting. The music in the game wasn’t anything special, but the panting; it sounded as if there was really someone in his room who was running out of breath. And the music seemed to become more grim when these sorts of things happened.
Another funny thing happened, there was no Mipsy to recruit. Arthur wandered around for quite some time to see if there was some other character, but to no avail.
Ramtor came up soon enough, and he was defeated. In total, it had only taken Arthur three hours to defeat chapter one.
Arthur was expecting the game to show a scene back on the spaceship, but it didn’t. Instead, it showed Eirika panting on the ground, looking very pale. She hacked and coughed, and the sounds likewise played through the game’s speakers.
Arthur really wasn’t someone to bond with a fictional character, he found dramas on Neovision to be cheesy, but he somehow felt a deep pang for Eirika right then and there. He would have previously laughed at the thought of feeling compassion for a video game character, but there he was, feeling for the Blue Usul displayed on his screen. The music started getting darker, and he felt a chill crawl down his spine, as if the temperature in the room had just dropped ten degrees.
The game then shifted to Terror Mountain, without any real explanation as to how Eirika had gotten there. There was no spaceship scene.
At this point, Arthur’s roommate, Fred, a Red Eyrie, had walked in.
“What’re you doing?” Fred asked.
“There’s this game I’m playing,” Arthur said. “It’s like a Neoquest II prequel.”
Fred was something of a Neoquest II veteran, having played even the Insane Mode of the game before losing due to bad luck at the final battle with King Terask. He had quit out of anger, and didn’t feel like starting from the beginning after that.
“There is no Neoquest II prequel man,” Fred said. “Unless you’re talking about just plain old Neoquest.”
“No,” Arthur replied. He saved his game and showed the case to Fred.
Fred looked at the case and his eyes widened. He examined it. “I’ve never even heard of this thing before man… were’d you get it?”
Arthur explained how he had came by the game, and Fred looked incredibly uneasy.
“Okay, you have got to take this back,” Fred said, holding the game like it was poisoned.
“Why?” Arthur asked.
“Seriously man?” Fred asked. “You’re asking me why? You’re telling me you found a game at some store and you bought it and started playing it? Don’t you watch Neovision and see the horror stories on it? You could be playing the main character here.”
Arthur laughed derisively.
“Sure, make fun of me,” Fred said. “But I’ll have you know, I heard from someone about a guy who bout a game from a store, and it involved playing against a wizard. You had to find the wizard, and if he couldn’t find him in time, the wizard would take his soul. He couldn’t finish it, and wanted to return it, but the store he had bought it from had suddenly turned into a burnt building, and no one had any memory of it. The guy was never heard from again.”
Instead of looking scared, Arthur was skeptical and asked, “If no one heard from him again, how do you know that story.”
Fred paused as he thought up a response. “I don’t know, maybe, well, maybe he told his friend about it!”
Arthur sighed. Fred was really into occult stuff and was full of conspiracy theories like how there really was a thing called Jelly World and such, and Arthur mainly ignored them.
“Plus,” Fred said, “does this even look like it is an official game to you? How come we’ve never heard of it? Just take a look at the cover.”
For the first time, Arthur looked at the cover carefully. It had been quite some time since he had played the original Neoquest II, but even he could tell that the cover looked odd. It was a bit sinister, and looked like it had been fan-made.
“It’s not an official cover,” Arthur admitted. “So it means someone else made it.”
Fred nodded. “How does the game play? Did it ask you to make any kind of weird contracts with it? Is there some sort of time limit?”
Arthur shook his head. “There isn’t any contract like that. But there is a time limit.”
Arthur explained the time limit in the game, as well as the other things. He explained that nothing creepy had happened yet, except for the weird pauses and music.
“Seriously though,” Fred said. “You should probably go and return the game right now.”
“Right now?” Arthur asked. “It is way too late.”
Fred looked scared slightly. “It might be too late…. but at least try to go back to the store and return it. Or at least ask who made it.”
Arthur nodded. He honestly wanted to play it some more, but it was getting late. Tomorrow morning, he’d visit the shop, and at least get to know more about the game.
The next day, Arthur got up uncharacteristically early. Fred was still snoring away, so Arthur moved out, showered, and took his breakfast outside. With nothing left to do, Arthur felt mysteriously drawn to the game that he had. He took it out, and started the Terror Mountain chapter.
The music there was a light, jingly tone like that played on the Day of Giving, and it was only interrupted once when the same screen came declaring that Eirika needed a break. It might’ve just been Arthur’s imagination, but he could swear that it lasted longer, and the sounds of the deep breaths that came had gotten louder.
Arthur are that point remembered that there was something known as skill points to spend, and nearly slapped himself for forgetting and not using them earlier. Eirika’s skills were the same as Rohane’s as far as he could remember. Arthur spent the points like he wanted to, and continued on.
Once Arthur had spent the points, he went ahead. There was the same place that you would normally recruit Talinia, but she wasn’t there. Arthur was about to decide that there weren’t any recruitable characters, so he was about to leave when the same pause screen showed up. It cleared, and then a Grey Techo was standing near Eirika suddenly, whom Arthur was sure hadn’t been anywhere near there earlier. He said:
Excuse me miss, I am a travelling doctor, and I couldn’t help but notice that you are sick. I have been looking for my fortune for a long time, and wouldn’t mind an adventure. Will you take me along with you?
That excited Arthur a bit, and he agreed. The techo didn’t have a name, and was simply called Doctor. He had only three skills, two of them were Valm’s, the group healing one as well as his group shielding ones. The last one was a new one, and said ‘Disease Resistance.’ It seemed to be a skill that would decrease Eirika’s illness or something, but the thing was that the skill required five points per stage rather than the normal one point.
At this point, someone tapped Arthur lightly on the shoulder. He whirled around, heart racing, to find that it was only Fred.
“You really scared me there,” Arthur said.
Fred shrugged. “Are you still playing that game? Don’t tell me that it has hypnotized you or something. Go and give it back.”
Arthur wanted to play some more, but he thought he might at least ask where the game had come from, so he went back to the same store he had seen that day.
The only thing was that the store looked different from how it had looked the other day. Arthur went in to see that the shopkeeper was absent and there was Blue Draik there instead.
Arthur said that he wanted to return something, but the shopkeeper didn’t seem to recognize the product. Arthur talked about a Green Eyrie, but the shopkeeper told him that a Green Eyrie had never worked there.
Arthur would have normally thought that the guy was lying so he wouldn’t have to return it, but the guy didn’t seem to be hiding anything. And plus, the game had only cost a bit over three hundred neopoints, not an amount someone would normally lie for. And, he realized, that meant that it wouldn’t show up in the Shop Till either. Disappointed, he went back where he told Fred the story. Fred was understandably scared and said that they should start consulting a whole list of people starting from Edna to Queen Fyora, but Arthur shrugged it all off and started playing again.
To be continued…