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About Balcerzak

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  • Birthday 04/23/1983

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    Eden Prairie

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    Blazing Sword

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  1. Such blind and unearned trust. Jade had to marvel at it. And marvel further at just how Coteon had gone about picking such a soft, pure individual for their weapon of war. Of course, when Lavinia turned her own teasing back upon her, any of the mellow or melancholic feelings the merchant had been having went up in steam. "Y-Yes, you're r-right. As a merchant, I should be striving to traffic in renewable resources," she stuttered and turned away, finding refuge in redirecting her attention to arena, pretending to be engaged in internal speculation about Agni's next matchup.
  2. Chapter 32N, 6 turns This is such a good time I'm not going to bother trying Archangel Route. I watched a youtube, and cannot feasibly imagine beating this benchmark. Total Turns: 146
  3. Chapter 30, 5 turns Chapter 31, 2 turns. Total Turns: 140
  4. After they'd made their way back to their sets, the Hero stuttered a bit, trying to catch Jade's attention. Setting down the shield in an empty seat next to her, the merchant turned to face her, the neutral expression on her face slightly betrayed by an eyebrow inching up curiously. Then slowly, as the chosen one managed to find her words, and began expressing her awkward thanks, Jade's expression softened into an almost sleepy smile. "I understand. And it's fine. Whether you simply forgot, or," then leaning closer, conspiratorially, the zombie very softly added, in a voice that wouldn't carry past Lavinia on the other side of her, "Whether as a delicious human, rightly afraid of a man-eating monster, you simply preferred to wait till you had company present whom you've known for longer, people you trusted a little more than being alone with that strange merchant you met on the road..." Jade seemed to be poking as much fun at herself, if not more, than she was at Marina here. Then returning upright and gently closing her eyes, the slight sneer that had stolen across her lips disappearing as she continued, her voice returning to normal volume, "That is fine too. I'm just pleased they worked out for you. I honestly didn't expect you to be as prompt about this--I know what I wrote," she interrupted herself, "...but I wasn't quite sure you'd take it to heart. Anyway, it gladdens me that you've been so earnest, and I don't begrudge you any delay you take while freshening them back up for the return. Do not worry." It was actually cute, Marina's concern. The Hero had passed her little test with flying colors. Jade almost wanted to reach out, and give the girl a reassuring squeeze on the thigh, but... That would be a bit too much, wouldn't it? Instead she leaned back in her seat, and gave a glance back to the field, to see how Agni was faring. Ooh, that was certainly vital strike. Another of the regular roster down and out.
  5. Just sore...? Oh. That was just what fatigue looked like. It had been a long time since Jade had felt it herself, and she'd been traveling alone for most of the time since her change too. "Oh." It was a short simple sound, not much to it aside from conveying the quick dispelling of misconceptions. Well, and maybe the tiniest hint of disappointment? The zombie's gazed lingered at Marina's shoulder a little longer, then travelled down the arm, noticing the shield being held up, being returned to her. "Well, it's good the equipment I lent you didn't cause any problems, aside from your muscles not being used to working with it then. I know, it worked for me, but I suddenly couldn't help worrying over nothing..." Jade took the offered item back, carrying it almost effortlessly in comparison to Marina as they made their way back to their seats. This was a fact that bothered her--upon realizing it as she went to set it down beside her, as she settled into place to watch Agni's matches. She would have to do a better job making sure to dampen her strength. Especially now. If she didn't... somebody might end up getting hurt.
  6. I was feeling the urge to play SRW again for no particular reason, and remembered I never finished my J playthrough. I pulled out the external harddrive I'd saved my old laptop's stuff from when it went belly up, and found two chapters already done that I haven't posted. I also started work on another one, but that's not quite ready yet. I don't remember much if at all of the two chapters worth of images I discovered, but hopefully I can reconstruct enough of what happened just by looking at them, and this half cryptic notepad file of notes. Ch 28, 7 turns Chapter 29, 6 turns. Total Turns: 133
  7. Linus chuckled along, "Heh, milk and honey, yeah." But it wasn't full-throated mirth, as he followed up with a somewhat darker thought, ...And genetic and emotional conditioning. It was impossible to turn a blind eye entirely on the sins of the Babylonians, despite their obvious successes when it came to aesthetics and bounty; at least for Linus it was. The revealation that the horses they'd had on display were robotic was unexpected, as was the fact that the current servant who'd stopped by the table was also not flesh and blood. It wasn't that he'd been wholly unaware, necessarily, but there was a difference between knowing there were some sprinkled among the workforce, and picking out which those were when you came to them face to face. The far bigger surprise, however, was that Alexis had just butted her way into their conversation. The ward went about it entirely casually, like her presence was just a matter of fact, and if Linus hadn'y known better he may have been tricked into thinking Irvine had brought her along with him, some personal digital assistant or something. Unlike her appearance last night, there was no smug face on a monitor, just a disembodied voice... which might have been more offputting, to be honest. Well, this was certainly something they were all going to have to get used to, at least until the situation gets resolved. The mention of James nearly took him back, but then he managed to associate it to one of the missing members. Sage, of course, for better or worse Flambre's impression was certainly not one that could be described with 'forgettable'. Lockstep with Motherloader, Linus thanked the ward as well, "Thanks for the update, wasn't expecting it. And good luck with your passive surveillance, or whatever you've got planned." He was probably have to take another moment or two to put himself back together, he'd completely lost his train of thought, and any sort of plan for the conversation at hand.
  8. Agni's puzzled, almost offended expression definitely set Jade on her back foot. Had she said something wrong? She'd just meant she wanted Marina to have her full time in the spotlight, had been hoping to avoid any 'out with the old, in with the new' by focusing on Agni's upcoming bouts instead of her completed ones. The human was so guarded, almost stiff, and his words were phrased entirely professional. The zombie had thought they'd all simply come out for a good time, but clearly this was something more to him, and she hadn't realized. "...I'm sorry," Jade apologized, without really knowing why, or what she should have done, simply letting go of his arm, and slowly following to where they would meet the Hero. Lavinia was already fully engaged in congratulations, it seemed, and the merchant would have moved to follow suit had she not seen the girl grab her arm--her shield arm--with an almost pained look. "Are you quite all right?" Jade asked a little worried. "The arena's healers didn't miss anything before letting you go, did they?"
  9. Agni had headed to the stands first, to save their spots--not that Jade had any real expectation that someone would, but there was no real harm in it neither. She and the vampire had parted arms when they sat, Lavinia situating herself between Jade and Agni. It had been rather fun for the zombie, especially the little tugs at the start, so coupled with her win at the arena she was in an exceptionally good mood. Watching Marina struggle rather significantly with Puff Trouble, compared to her own relative ease at dispatching the elf was like a cherry on the top. Self-absorbed as she was, she'd mostly tuned out the little discussion the human and the vampire were having, but neither of them seemed to mind, or were waiting on her input, so all was well. It looked like the Hero was throwing in the towel after the dark mage though? Perhaps having watched Jade square off with the final two had biased her decision. Or maybe it was the right call regardless? Still, a part of the zombie felt... unsatisfied. Anyway, it was time to head down and congratulate for the victories Marina had earned. Lavinia had headed down first, and Agni moved to quickly follow. Before he got too far though, Jade reached out an arm, clapping a hand on his shoulder, and hopefully grabbing his attention. "Um," the zombie had found she'd acted before quite finishing her thoughts, so she need another moment or two to properly order what she was trying to say. "When we're congratulating her down there, I thought it best to keep it all about her. But, well... Good luck on your challenge too." A slightly awkward smile, but honest feelings.
  10. A bit of a prideful smile came to Jade's face when Lavinia mentioned their earlier shopping visit. She raised a hand and rubbed under her nose a bit, somewhat concealing it, but it was still obvious from the corners of her eyes to anyone paying attention. A couple of moments later the zombie felt she'd regained enough control and, while still smiling, felt she was wearing a more normal, happy expression, not something that had runaway on its own sense of self-worth. "Well, it would have been rude not to haggle with him at all," the merchant hedged, "But you're right, I don't think he fully anticipated what he was getting himself into." At some point the vampire had linked arms with her, a fact Jade only noticed when a slight tug arrived with the suggestion of moving to the stands. Softly laughing, she countered. "I only mind a little," and tugging back, she explained with accompanying nod of the head toward the nightmare. "Stables first, then we'll return to the stands. Won't take long, because you're right, we do want to see every fight she's up against." Then looking at the Hero directly, she added. "We'll be cheering you on, of course." Jade was frankly astonished how easily the Hero dispatched the first foe. She'd definitely remembered the fight against Galahad being more of a struggle. Rounds two and three were a breeze as well, of course, but that just seemed to be how the roster was set up. The zombie clapped excitedly, and eagerly awaited the matches to come.
  11. Linus had given another vague hint that if they needed him, he'd be willing to costume up and play the part of serving serf too, but he'd left it implied rather than explicit. Fact of the matter was, most everyone who he'd heard was filling the role were female, so even if he got made over and dressed up, he'd probably just be sent to try to help Nero explain things to the crowds or something instead, which wouldn't have been the end of the world. But after it seemed like Hitomi was seriously considering throwing her name into the hat, it was probably for the best nobody tried to wring his arm (though they wouldn't have to twist very hard). Having at least one of the captains not tied up in duties meant that if something came up that needed them, they wouldn't be giving Carmen and her friends a bad name needing to drop the act and put out fires for Team Odyssey. If it was just something as simple as Makala showing up late, that probably could've been handled by text, but if Kirara or Alexis or something came calling... So a bit of a wave, and he parted from the volunteers (and the voluntold). That left Linus to wander a bit, splitting his time between keeping an eye on the rest of the gang and just enjoying the exhibit. He'd answered Helena's question, explaining that the gang was mostly splitting up and enjoying themselves for now, but that they'd be reconvening in the rear courtyard after the 3pm demonstration wrapped up, then made his way over to look at the horses. Then Linus had had half a mind to go check out the rear courtyard early, just to get some eyes on, but a couple of impressive manservants blocked the way and turned him back. Somebody must've been wrapping up some business back there or something. On his way back out of the mansion, he briefly ogled an attractive grease monkey before making his way over to the field for a few moments. The Cavalier and Journeyman were being eulogized, and were definitely quite the pieces of work, but Linus didn't feel like adding on to the torrent of questions and making poor Nero's plight any worse, so he just nodded to himself and moved on. Spotting Helena again, the poor girl seemed a little out of sorts, not used to the crowds maybe, so he made a point to pick her up, inviting her along to the tables that had been set up near the front courtyard. He wasn't exactly hungry yet, but maybe she was, and he could just order a coffee or a tea or something. It was also about the time he might expect the other girls to have finished their transformations and begin their serving duties, so that wasn't a bad argument for being in the area either. As luck would have it, he spotted Irving already at a table, and the pair went and pulled up some chairs across from him. "Thoughts so far," Linus asked the man, easing himself into his seat. He turned to Helena to make sure she felt included too, and revised the question. "Either of you, I guess."
  12. Agni had undoubtedly meant his comments purely as praise, but it was a little unfortunate about the man's choice of wording. Had she chosen the wrong career? "Ehhh," the zombie drew out an expression of uncertainty as she considered the matter. "Maybe. Perhaps I could have been a sharpshooter doing trick shots for a travelling circus. Making circuits around the Hwein countryside, hanging out with the sword-swallower and the flying trapeze late at night, after the shows closed. Maybe that would've worked out better? Or I suppose I could have fought my way up the ranks, to be a seasoned sniper in a unit of elites." Maybe I wouldn't have died on that stormy night, out on the road, trying to make a delivery. A wisftul, almost cheery thought. Maybe I still would have died, but it wouldn't have been in Vaia. ...And then Morwen certainly wouldn't have found me. A decidedly less optimistic one. A weak frown and a shrug of the shoulders. "I wouldn't really be me if I had, and I'm not sure I don't want to... be me." Marina had come up and tapped her on the shoulder, beginning to ask something, though, so Jade shook her head and closed out this line of thought, "Sorry, I took your joke a little too seriously there, Agni." Ah, the Hero was just requesting use of the shield? A much easier matter than deep food for thought. "Of course you can. You should know I'm not shy about lending things out, so long as I get them back," a twinkle of a smile at this, before the merchant continued. "I should warn you, it might be a little awkward getting used to... Or maybe that was just me. You might take to it like a fish to water. Definitely seemed more help than not though! Picked it up when Lavinia and I went shopping earlier tonight, and don't regret the investment one bit."
  13. The Aria had taken a pretty nasty hit, but then Tarquin had asked her if she could take the wheel while he tried something rather daring. Jess had gone along with it, of course, her visual deficiency was much less of a hindrance just moving the mech around than it would be for aiming and firing after all. Plus, that had been the reason why she was there in the first place. To aid and support. The boy's explanation was brilliant, and with the two of them it felt like they could really pull it off. And boy did they ever. The rapid fire railgunning had seen them score two decisive hits, and even the miss against that one impressive alien craft had been enough to force it out of position, its accuracy in attacking the Artemis suffering enough that Lieutenant Kim had been able to evade a swipe from its monstrous tail. A complete win, in the sergeant's eyes. She hadn't understood the German the boy had uttered: whether he was pumping himself up for their next engage, cursing the enemy, or some third option all seemed equally plausible. Yes, it sounded harsh and angry, but then again, wasn't that pretty much characteristic of all German? There was no point dwelling on it, as he quickly switched back to English, and their communication and coordination continued as normal. Despite the success of the ingenious maneuver, it also had rapidly depleted their energy reserves, and when combined with the host of supportive fire they'd participated in over couple of minutes since the maneuver, as well as their own shots of opportunity, Jess hadn't needed Thorvald's radio message to know they were running low. But that was just like him, wasn't it? Always looking out for others. She'd discounted it at first, when Cheryl had brought it up, but it certainly was a calming influence, and definitely helped the wounded soldier cope with the experience of being back in the fight. Now that they'd docked, and the mechanics had busily begun the refueling efforts, as well as some emergency repairs, Jess had something else on her mind. Maybe she was overthinking things, but Tarquin had been sounding pretty strained at times, and they were both working pretty hard. "I was thinking about maybe seeing if they couldn't send up some bottled water and a protein bar, could use a little fuel myself. Is there anything you might want? Figure it'd be better to ask for everything in one go if there was."
  14. Jade had been leading DV out of the Arena, intending to ask the zombie who'd been in charge of sign-ups if there was some place to stable her now that her stint was done so that she could join her friends in the stands and watch the others. However, before she got the chance, a surprise interruption caught her by storm. "Lav--What are you... Ahahaha," Jade's stuttered expressions of surprise quickly melted into joyous peals, as the taller woman caught her, lifted her, and twirled her around. The merchant dropped hold of the reins so as to not get all tangled up, and it was honestly lucky for the vampire that her 'mare recognized her, and further that she recognized Jade was laughing and enjoying herself. Even still, Deep Vermilion leaned forward, after the merry-go-round had finally stopped and she didn't have to worry about moving targets, and managed to catch a lock of Lavinia's hair in her mouth, giving a brief tug before letting it go and giving an almost playful nicker, followed by a bit of a snort. As for the merchant herself, all the sudden praises left her feeling a little bashful, but also proud. "Well, I did start missing some shots against that man from Ringtail City," she confessed, then added with a hint of jealousy. "He was remarkably fast for a zombie. But on the whole, yeah, that felt really good." Jade nodded and smiled before launching into what was a mixture of excuses and explanation, "Probably got some lucky match-ups, but the fact that everything was one-on-one was really a godsend. When you're a bit on the slower side, as far as things like that goes, well it only gets worse the more enemies there are. Makes you gotta practice till you're as precise and accurate as can be, 'cause you can't afford to be wasting shots." A shrug and a bit of a blush followed as she tried to downplay a bit of the more elaborate praise. "Well, 'just a merchant' isn't exactly wrong? I mean, sure I'm pretty unique in certain ways, but there've got to be plenty of other merchants out there with their own strengths..." Okay maybe that was a bit of a reach, better shift tactics to something much more solidly defensible. "And at any rate, I'm certainly no mercenary, I'd much rather get out of conflicts without resorting to fighting, either through talking or--" It was then that Jade suddenly noticed what the nightmare was getting up to. "Deep Vermilion, you stop that right now." The somewhat rare full name address and her stern tone made it very clear she didn't think the 'mare's antics were as funny as creature itself obviously found them to be. "Ahhhh," she heaved an apologetic sigh and continued, "You're just so starved for attention aren't you? ...and maybe literally as well," Jade mused with a thoughtful look, turning back to Lavinia. "I definitely made her work out there, especially in the last couple rounds." The interruption had brought a change of mood, and now a little more honest, the zombie pulled in for a hug of her own, stating simply, "Thanks. For... all of this. The kind words, the pleasant diversions. Everything." Then, briefly rooting about in her pouch, Jade produced a silver apple, and taking the vampire's hand deftly pressed the fruit into it. "Here, want to take a turn at feeding her?" And by now of course enough time had passed that the others were catching up. Apparently Lavinia had made a mad dash, and Marina had followed with a more normal pace, but this fresh round of congratulations almost threatened to bring on a new batch of deflections. Closing her eyes briefly, Jaded decided, No, not this time. "Y-Yeah, I did my best. Looks like it worked out? I'm sure you'll have a great go as well!"
  15. Jade wasn't sure why, but somehow Lavinia's words--when she asked her to slow down so she wouldn't miss the performance--caused the zombie to think of something she had forgotten. Brains can be funny that way, random stimuli firing synapses that connect to other ideas. The vampire was right on one count at least. There was something missing. Suddenly stopping stock still, Lavinia's hastened pace took her right past the zombie she was trying to catch up with. "Do you think they'll let me bring DV," Jade mused aloud, "It's not like I can't fight without one or the other of my 'mares, but I do so much better when they are around. I'll catch right back up, don't worry," she finished, and made a quick detour to where her nightmares were stabled. When the group finally pulled up in front of the arena, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise to see that the person booking the runs was a zombie himself. He seemed a bit skeptical about Marina and Agni, but there was plenty of reason for that, and presumably the pair would figure something out before the issue became a real problem. As Lavinia volunteered her for the first run, which Jade had known was coming and well prepared for, the merchant paused a moment to just confirm with the organizer, "It's okay if I bring a steed with me, right? I'm sure you get mounted knights and such from time to time, this shouldn't be any different than that." She gave Deep Vermilion a couple pats as she spoke, the 'mare currently looking like just an ordinary horse. Well, no, that undercuts things, she was still at the very least a black beauty. "Hah! 'Course! Ain't no rules against that. Put on a good show," came the brisk reply, with hearty laughter. Then he confirmed her name again, and made sure to let her know she could go all out if she needed to, they had healers on standby and presumably strong warriors to hold her back if she lost herself. A brief smile and a half laugh, "Good to hear, but I'm hoping it won't come to that. Guess I don't need to worry that I'm using real bullets either? Didn't have the time to look into finding alternatives." Then with all the formalities taken care of, it was actually out into the arena, down on the show floor. Late in the day, Jade had almost expected there wouldn't be anyone in the stands watching, but there were still some curious observers beyond just the group she'd travelled with. She was a bit nervous, having an audience, but when the first opponent, Galahad, a dwarf, came out and the match began, there was less time for self-doubt and uncertainty. The sturdy warrior seemed to shrug off her shots, and swung back with strong strokes of his axe, scoring two hits on her, despite attempts to shield them. By the time his third attack came, though, Jade had figured out the rhythm, and managed to avoid it, and she finally wore down the man's endurance after that. There'd been a moment's hesitation when asked if she'd continue, but things hadn't been too bad, and she was sure Lavinia would rib her for chickening out if she stopped here. Besides, she needed to run out more clock so the vampire would be stronger anyway. The second contender, on the other hand, felt like a joke to her. The vampire's throwing stars had less impact than some mosquitoes she'd faced and Jade found herself worrying if it was still too early in the evening, if he was fighting at a handicap. But she couldn't let that deter her from taking a free win, and so she advanced to the next challenge. A fellow marksman, if the werewolf's pistol was any judge of the situation, and getting caught up in the thrill of the moment, she swung down from DV, who had yet to have to exert herself, and was still presenting as just a brilliant black mare. Walking up to Frank, she held out her hand for a shake, and asked "Ten paces, then draw?" He responded with a laugh, saying "Sure thing, lass. The crowd'll love the suspense." And love it they did, apparently, when a roar erupted as it was proven that not only was Jade the faster gun, but also much more accurate. The zombie actually gasped a little in surprise upon seeing the man go down without a fight. Was she somehow better than she thought? This was an arena right? Established fighters, fleecing the foolhardy from their challenger's fees? Her inner doubt continued when the elf with the overlarge sword was similarly dispatched with a single bullet. Was she being toyed with here, before the organizers finally pulled the rug out from under her? The dark mage that came next was more of a challenge, bringing back the difficulty she'd faced in the first fight. DV had had to rear up, push back the Incubus through size and intimidation, but the pair won here too without anything drastic or surprising occurring. The dark magic hurt, but not enough to push her past her limits, to feel like a real threat. Leon Tennessee was another gunner, and Jade gave him the same deal as Frank. They started out, on the ground, ten paces apart, but Leon was significantly faster, and as he began firing twice for every one shot of hers, Deep Vermilion let out a whinny, and cantered up in front of her, taking a shot. The site of the bullet's impact broke out into flames, and as DV snorted smoke, with her mane also igniting in flame, a roar swept across the crowd. Based on the noise, the spectacle they were getting now was one the kind of was rarely seen. Jade quickly swung up, mounting her steed; the marksman's duel was only good for the first volley, anyway, as soon as Leon had fired his second shot all bets were off. The gunslinging finally came to an end, and she was the victor. They'd both fired enough shots to need to reload, and she'd come out the quicker on that, though even if she hadn't, his bullets weren't having nearly the effect on her as hers were on him. She probably could have gone another two, maybe three reloads? It was hard to tell, she'd begun missing some of her shots too, while the other zombie was still landing all of his. But further speculation was pointless. A victory was a victory. Does she challenge the final combatant? The referee had arrived asking the now familiar question. The audience in the stands certainly seemed eager for more. While things had definitely begun ramping back up out of the early lull, she'd still not been in significant danger. Were they saving a truly overwhelming foe in reserve as their ace? It was a valid wonder, but to come so far and turn back right at the final cusp just really wasn't an option. Could she really call herself a merchant if the first hint of a little risk scared her off a potential profit? The final fight was truly a culmination. Jade had unleashed a powerful initial round, striking the gorgon deep in the chest. But "Soft Snake" was quick to counter, vaulting up and pushing Jade off her horse, then jumping down and cutting deep into her belly with his wicked hunting knife as he landed. If she hadn't managed to quickly unload a second shot into him, putting a stop to the attempted disemboweling, she wasn't sure how bad things might have got. She probably would have been pushed to feral fairly quickly, a fate she was lucky to have avoided throughout the whole gauntlet. After the officials had pulled the exhausted competitor off of her, declaring her the victor and awarding her the prize purse, DV walked right up next to her and worriedly rubbed a nose in her stomach. "Ahh, yeah, I'm fine," she grunted, and patted the 'mare. "It looks worse than it is."...That said, it was also easily the worst blow she'd been dealt all night by a wide margin. Then it was time to exit the arena, and return to her friends.
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