• Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

Day in the Life: Escape from the Heavenly State

Uso

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"Yes, superpowerful. Taking humans and making them even more stupid... really makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something." Jan replied, not at all too focused on her digital avatar, sticking with simple animation of her upper body as she just waved the gun around at high speed like a bat to smash up the zombies that got close. "Maybe they could crawl on the ground too? Just for that extra-power? Reward us for our amazing leg-ownership."
 

Ray of Meep

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"Riiiiight. And attract every man and woman in a space station, dragging marines along with them?" Pao snorted, glancing at the screen. "Suit yourself. If you insist, there's the Bing Ta if you want to tag along. More work for me though." He fully left the room, leaving Hoshiko and Jun alone in their virtual reality.

A few hours later, a younger woman hopped into the lounge with a similarly aged man. She kissed him on the cheek, before he left for another compartment. The young woman was dressed in a typical, grey jumpsuit with reflective orange bands, covered by patches of grease. Two scars ran from her cheek bone to her temple. The two Daqinren would recognize her as Jian, the man her lover. Jian would politely wave at Hoshiko, before sliding into a sleeping bag strapped to the edge of the wall, watching the screen as Hoshiko and Jun indulged themselves in VR. Jian said little, but was visibly entertained by what was going on, partly due to the novelty of this completely virtual world, partly due to the lack of any other entertainment besides what she had stored on her datapad.
 

Uso

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Met with the distaste of the Zombie Genre, it seemed that Hoshiko was prompting Jun to pick a new game instead. The arena turned black for a moment, followed closely by the dramatic swelling of an orchestral battle-music.

Kēki sensō!
Lǐmiàn de jīnglíng

A previous save file was being loaded, replacing the WW2 Iconography with something a little more steel and chrome with a large raised area infront of the group. Standing upon it in a crisp white uniform was a rather tall man with short blonde hair and a cutting tone, "You should be proud you've made it this far. Your skills have improved since we last met but your Journey ends here." He would draw a sharp knife from a holster at his side.

"He's just one man!" Mallow called out, the fluffy cloud-looking-blob-with-legs-and-arms called out, raising its short-staff to point at the man before them.

"Yeah, We'll beat him with the power of TEAMWORK and FRIENDSHIP!" Called out another, clearly some kind of NPC brandishing a pair of butcher knives and dressed in a similarly sleek white outfit with an appron over her chest.

"Right, Uh. Hoshiko, you know how to play this one?" Jun asked, the other three characters waiting as if they were about to jump into action, "This is the furthest I've gotten and its gotta one of the final fights. You could look up a guide if you don't know how to play. Game is totally balanced around what Humans can do so its basically easy mode for us." Jun was now dressed in an appron as well, a belt of tools hanging off her hips. Around her and the rest of the part was a large open area with numerous steel appliances and ingredients set out. This giant kitchen was setup for a bake-off between the pro-chef on the stage and Jun's plucky kitchen-staff!
 

CadetNewb

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For a moment, Hoshiko pondered just what kind of game this was. The name was a completle non-sequitur for her and just didn't click whatsoever, however, the time to think ended the moment the 'boss' drew his knife.

Hoshiko's knife landed right between the eyes.

"Huh. What was that all about?" she asked aloud, scratching her head in meatspace.
 

Ray of Meep

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"You weren't supposed to do that, I don't think." Jian blurted out, her eyes moving from the screen to Hoshiko. On screen, the chef fell while the AI reacted the best they could, with various over-the-top reactions and media tropes. It was clunky and jarring, but given the context, the simulation did alright maintaining the atmosphere.

"This is a culinary battle. Those were kitchen knives." She continued to explain, tilting her head to look at Hoshiko with some confusion in expression. "This is a staple of oriental culture, there's thousands of this stuff in shows, movies, video games, sims, how do you have no idea what to do here? I thought you could think and feel as two simultaneously, that should be more than enough time to get exposed to this basic trope."
 

Uso

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"I HAVE NEVER MET A CHIEF THAT I HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH IN AS YOU!"

The knife was solidly embedded in the Cheif's head but it seemed that the damage model for this game was disabled. The game seemed to treat it as more of a failure to cut a vegetable than as an attack on a person.

"You're supposed to cook something as a team." Jun added, pulling a knife from her belt and using it to quickly cut an Onion. Her hands moved incredibly fast, slicing the onion in half and then removing the outer layers before dicing what remained. She then slid her knife under the diced onion and used it to toss the white cubes over at her friends. Her assistant chiefs had already heated a pan and brushed it with oil so they were ready to catch it. "You know, with the power of FRIENDSHIP and garlic-infused oils..."
 

CadetNewb

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"Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean I'm trying hard all the time," the totally-not-a-Daqin-princess-on-vacation shrugged in meatspace. "You got any hobbies you sometimes compete in, but maybe sometimes just do to relax?" Even inside their shelter, not-Hoshiko looked like a Triple-A Movie Actress in the middle of a skeezy bar - totally out of place. "The guy drawing his knife had me twitch my tail, that's all," she pointed out to Jian with a the Daqinren idiom. Of course, she wasn't even trying to blend in here, and wore the most comfy, casual clothing she could. Given that the place was built into a mountain and had a fission plant running, it couldn't make up its mind so a track suit with its top tied around her waist it was for her. "Not sure if you're the video game type," Hoshiko remarked, closely inspecting Jian from head to toe.

"Uuuuuuuuugh. You still have Essential NPC protection on? You're not a baby Jun!"
the Hoshiko on the display screen grumbled. "And I'd rather not. There's no way I'm cooking for some stuck up, wrinkly prude!" she crossed her arms over her apron with a pout.
 

Ray of Meep

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"All of us have to be video game types, or we'd go insane." Jian shook her head. "Space Command claims to have ship interiors optimized, but all it really means is that there's barely any space to move around in. It was only due to necessity that we even got exercise equipment, so the only entertainment is video games. VR is nice, but it's a huge hog on the servers, especially the type that you have going right now." She pointed to the screen. "How you're pulling this off on our little nuke kettle honestly baffles me." Jian paused, musing, before continuing,

"I can't say I have a single favorite, chess, checkers, Chinese checkers, I've played them all. You can only play so many with a few crew around you before you thoroughly know everyone's playstyle in and out." Jian sighed, but her eyes lit up, "But you're new, and you also have two brains to work with at the same time. Could you play a few rounds?" She slid her datapad between the two with an assortment of classic board games on the menu.
 

Uso

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"The Earthlings from that island have a saying: Fūdou~ōzu wa subarashīdesu. It means this game is AWESOME and if you don't like it there is something wrong with you... besides how are you ever going to attract a partner without cooking skills? You're going to end up being a hundred year old maid if all you can bring to the table is knife-throwing-skills." Jun said, not thinking much of the Human that was with them now.

"Pause game."

She would then finally wake up, opening her eyes and giving some of her attention to their visitor, "There are no Daqin that are below 2400 in chess. Playing such solved games would be boring."
 

CadetNewb

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"I can cook!" Hoshiko hissed, her imarginary tail spiking up like a bottle brush. "But not for some wrinkly British prick." She then sighed and cleared her throat, fanning herself to reset her mood.

"Anyways, Jun's right. We've grown out of traditional board games since it's got a very limited number of moves," Hoshiko pointed out. Completely pulling herself out of the virtuality, the screen went to pause as she looked less like a fashion model posing for a picture and more one that was griping about what to do to pass the time. "Though, you give off the impression you haven't played Dàqínqí," the totally-not-a-princess noted. Daqin Chess (大秦棋) likely wasn't too popular in the Heaven Forged Republic for obvious reasons, even if it was the superior game. Xenophobia was like that. "We came up with it during the early years after we fled to freedom when bandwidth and calorie use had to be restricted, so it uses conventional board design and chess pieces. But the pieces and starting positions themselves can be shuffled and there's more than one board," she elaborated. Waving her hand, the screen changed to show the boards and pieces.

"They naturally grew more complicated as time went on," Hoshiko pretended to move a time slider as the simple circular plastic pieces became miniatures. "And then it goes on and on from there."
 

Ray of Meep

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"Those just sound like variations of chess and checkers." Jian raised an eyebrow and commented. "5D chess has existed for centuries, with minimal load on the computers." To demonstrate her point, she pulled up the game on her datapad. "See? Branching timelines and time travel. Sure, base chess is mostly a solved game, but even adding just a single dimension to it raises its complexity significantly."

She sighed, setting her pad down to look at the two Daqinren, unamused, "The problem isn't the game itself. The problem is that if you keep playing with the same crew, ma de, the same fleet, you eventually know everyone's playstyle within half an Earth year. Billions of permutations boil down to the few hundred sets of moves. Ironically, the vast distances makes the world smaller. It's not worth trying to connect to the millions back on Wu Zetian since the latency is so bad. I thought forcefully leaving the military would make life a bit more interesting, but..."

Jian grumbled, "... besides taking on the risk of getting executed everyday, nothing changed. It got worst, since my sphere of people got even smaller." She looked at the large screen with resignation, "I'll play Daqinqi with you, if that means I get to play with someone other than Pao and my boyfriend and a few others, for once this year."
 

Uso

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"Oh, this is good. Hoshiko could use a play date to cheer her up and I could go make you two some snacks if you like? I have excellent cooking skills that I'm not afraid to show off because of the British." Jun added in.
 

CadetNewb

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She eyed Jun for just a moment, mulling over her mood and words before committing.

"Yeah, sure, I guess you can cook something for us," the-not-a-tigress relented. "And here I was working my way up to some of the cooler games we made later on," Hoshiko shrugged, a little disappointed. She didn't need to tap the screen to order it, but it helped to orientate them all to where she wanted them to look. "Since you wanna play Daqinqi, you're going to have to build your army roster first," Hoshiko began. "From that roster, we'll have a few set units as well as random units that are drawn from the roster," she explained, the screen lighting up with the pieces and their various attributes.
 

Ray of Meep

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Jian snorted at Jun's comment about cooking. "Go ahead and try. All we have is a vacuum oven and various pastes and dried goods." She looked back at the screen, scrolling through the options. "You know, the silver lining with being in the middle of nowhere is that the corporates can't nickel and dime us on these games, since we don't have good connections out here." Picking out a few units and adding them to her roster, the human continued, "I've been planetside for a few months," She held up one of the unit cards. "They'd charge you five Gaobi for this guy right here."
 

CadetNewb

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Like a cat, Hoshiko's eyes focused on the holographic card that Jian held in her hand, her pupils reflecting every wave and motion. At least, for a small moment, her attention shifting back to the deserter herself.

"That's....pretty awful," she finally remarked, taken aback by the steep price. "In the Empire, meatspace is for work so we don't own much stuff physically, but commodities in virtuality like this are really cheap," the princess-in-hiding noted. "I've been looking around while on vacation here, but why are things so different in this system than, say, Li Ming you think?"
 

Ray of Meep

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"Because of you." Jian looked through the deck she cobbled together. She didn't have much context besides the instruction manual, what she thought looked good on the cards, and her own past experience with boardgames. "Well, not entirely because of you, more our parents, grandparents, ancestors."

She put her tokens on the board, seeing how they interact with the tutorial dummy. "Shen Zhou was the first star system colonized by the Old Regime, those people who created your Mother, your Empress, Zhuli Number Four, while Li Ming was a comparatively latter effort. We had a lot of the Old Regime here, more than Li Ming, so quite a bit of that thought process remains: state before the people, greater good, all that bullshit. Then there's the fact we're closest to Ping Qiong, you, who've gutted the Old Regime and completely changed the course of our history through a lot of rolling heads. What made Shen Zhou, Shen Zhou, to put it bluntly, is that you didn't kill enough."

Jian paused and scoffed. "The Zhuli didn't have much of a presence here, unlike in Sol. There were even less of your predecessors in Li Ming, but it also lacked much of the Old Regime in the first place. So what we have here is a perfect mix of a very violent nextdoor neighbor and enough of the Old Regime who survived who not only remembered what you did, but were enough in number to create spawn and influence their children and grandchildren for decades to come." She paused again, starting up a player vs. player game. "You aren't the only monsters the Old Regime created. Plus, you have good VR tech and you pay traitors well."

She let out a cold laugh. "I've said enough to get shot four times over." The woman played her first card and put down her first piece on the board. "Your move."
 

CadetNewb

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"Really?" Hoshiko raised an eyebrow, skeptical at first. Though her hands moved to draw her cards to determine what the random pieces of her army would be, she mulled over what Jian said. "That's pretty funny. Mother always said that they didn't kill more since because they couldn't figure out the morality of doing that, let alone the ramifications for the future, and now you tell me this?" the princess smirked in amusement. Seeing what random forces could be called up from the deck to help her regulars standing pieces, she set down her army on the board. "I'll have to tell Mother that," the not-Tigress noted. "Though, the situation is basically the same for us, isn't it? We're neighbors, but The Empire didn't turn out this way, and the standard of living is a lot better," Hoshiko pointed out, reaching down to make her own opening move.

"I can't imagine paying so much for a single card and it's board piece," she shook her head in disbelief.
 

Ray of Meep

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Jian scoffed. "What your mother said was bullshit; I think you still committed crimes against humanity." She moved a piece up the board, what she figured was an aggressive, opening play based on what she read from the manuals. "But what came out of it, I can't say I like it either. All this damn hype around protecting humanity from you, it gets tiring, especially living in these bottles for planetary cycles on end. Li Ming's soft, Sol is old and exhausted, Shen Zhou is pent up with all this anger. The other human states aren't that much better."
 
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