• Published 13th Oct 2019
  • 3,490 Views, 758 Comments

Spike of All Trades - Ariamaki



"Wouldn't it be great if life were like a game?", some people ask. Spike can definitively answer... "Maybe."

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Chapter 25: Penetration

Rarity gestured for Spike to elaborate, and he explained it as best as he understood. It was spelled out pretty clearly, and he could see the adjustments it was making (that extra Wisdom from earlier was dinging him down to 9% bonus experience, sadly, but in better news it looked like the 1% boost to his attributes was rounding up to whole points), but the repercussions were harder to grasp. Meanwhile they kept eating, while he thought about the skill and what it meant... Partially to avoid thinking about this change in their friendship and what that meant.

The skill seemed powerful, maybe the best thing he'd gotten so far. Sure it was relatively minor now, but with time... His experience in games suggested that any bonus 'XP' was a thing to be reckoned with. And the same was true of buffing base values, since it would kick in before multipliers. The restrictions were a little worrying, but it honestly just motivated him to stick to the plan Pinkie presented: Balance himself and do everything. It would be a long road normally... But would it, in practice? If this skill was emphasizing that it enhanced the base attributes, then it might even apply the new values to other skills and their requirements. That would be worth investigating for sure.

> Lunch (Hayburg's Hayburgers or Sugar Cube Corner)
Reward: A good meal is its own reward

Cincineighti Chili 5-way (with Rubies): Enhanced perception, 4 hours.

Before long they ran out of food to eat and even, at that point, things to say. Spike sat comfortably across from Rarity and sighed with contentment, dismissing the buff pop-up from his vision. That had really hit the spot after a hectic morning, and a little citrine from his inventory helped cleanse his palate (and refresh his movement buff) afterwards. He offered some to Rarity jokingly... but he was surprised when she took him up on it, plucking the inch-long curled shaving from his claws.

"Uh, you do know that you can't-"

"Eat this? Of course not! But I certainly cannot turn down an offer like that: I'll use it as an accent piece in something tonight, a memento by which I can remember today. Keepsakes are important after all."

He nodded with a smile that felt a bit forced... Remembering this particular part of the day wasn't going to be easy for him, no matter how well it had worked out. Still, he had to push that away and look at the brighter side: They had cleared the air and settled things, no hard feelings, fewer regrets than not... Probably better than a lot of ponies managed. A rather Pinkie-like section of his brain supplied a quiet 'Speaking of managed!' as the stallion from the shooting counter earlier came up to their table. Spike could finally get a good look at him, and doing so seemed extra-important. That was because ever since the shooting gallery earlier? He had already been fairly certain this was Rarity's uncle, and thus Arcane Ammo's husband.

[A Shot Through The Heart]
Piercing Ammunition
LV 38

Yeah, fairly certain.

"Food up to your standards, kids?"
He was surlier than his wife, eyes sharp and manecut sharper. A pegasus of the Night Guard, Mr. Ammo was taller than his wife and a little wider at the barrel... Come to think of it, his Cutie Mark was a kind of barrel as well: A guardsman's sighting scope on his flank. Taking that together with his name, Spike guessed the two of them worked as a pair in the Guard, using their skills for long-range recon and combat. Very cool stuff, and uncommon too: It was something he only knew about tangentially from talking to Shining Armor and reading about the 'sniper' classes in games like O+O. He shook his head, getting his train of thought back onto its apparently slippery tracks.

"Yeah! It was actually super good. I'd love to get the recipe, if it's not some family secret."

"Friend of the family's good as family to me anyway, kid: I'll go throw a copy together in a bit, OK?"

He nodded excitedly, both because it had been good food and because the chili would be another addition (admittedly only the second) to his arsenal of buffing food. It was a foundation for more, and Spike could imagine himself throwing entire feasts for himself and his friends... Maybe if he worked on making and testing food long enough, he could even figure out a way to lay the buffs directly, or condense the meals? Worst comes to worst, it seemed like an excuse to pig out on unusual food.

Piercing shook a crick out of his neck and then looked back and forth between Spike and Rarity, eyes still sharp. Eventually he spoke, quite softly, gesturing off towards the shooting gallery.
"Rare, Arc wants to talk to ya. Mind leaving me and you friend for a bit? Figured I'd ask him some questions while we're here, maybe see if he has anything he wants to hear from me in return."

She nodded, only hesitating for a moment. Spike gestured that it was fine: This was a chance to learn more about the arcade, about Rarity's family... He had a lot of questions, so Piercing's idea sounded just perfect to him. And with that reassurance Rarity left them, trotting away to go handle whatever Arcane wanted. Spike watched until she rounded the corner, sighing, just once, as soon as she was out of earshot.

"Going to guess you let each other down easy, huh?"

He wanted to make a biting remark like his jokes with Arcane, but there wasn't any heat behind it.
"...Yeah. There's kinda been this whole... thing, ever since I came to Ponyville. I guess you heard a lot of it?"

"Nope: Just got a good eye for this sort of thing. Don't worry, you'll both bounce back. Rarity's made of sterner stuff than most ponies, and you strike me as a pretty adaptable dragon yourself."

Spike smiled at that, and held a claw out to the older stallion. He got a hoof up from his chair in return, which left Spike standing and... a little uncertain.
"So, you said you had, um, questions? For me?"

"I did indeed: Nothing bad though. Just figured we could help each other out a bit."

"Curious about dragons?"

Piercing chuckled at that.
"Not so much, at least not in the immediate sense. No, I hear tell you're a pretty avid gamer. And I... was. Past tense. But that was when I was a colt, and I'm not exactly getting any younger over here. I'm out of date, and now that it's my job, well... I could use a guide to the modern stuff."

"How out of date are we talking? Like, Mark 1 engines? I know Shining Armor does a lot of griping about how wonky those were."

"Mmm, nope: Pre-engine. The last game I played ran off a hoof-crank, entirely mechanical. The displays were all done with moving crystal overlays and little lanterns. Half of the blasted things had to be scored on the honor system, 'cause the game had no way to tell when you got a point."

"Yiikes."

"Exactly. Now don't get me wrong, I think I've figured out a lot from setting up the place. But it's one thing to hear marketing schpiels and make sure the machines are running, and it's another entirely to get the scoop from a dedicated gamer. So how about it?"

Spike nodded almost before he realized it, glad to be able to show off a little. Plus, he still hadn't knocked out that 'Look at games at the arcade' quest, so this might be his chance.
"Sure thing, Mr... Um. How do you like to be called?"

"Pierce, if ya please. The wife already took the nice simple 'Ammo' for herself, so I've gotta stick to that."

"Hey, Pierce isn't a bad name!"

Spike was pretty sure he’d met one before, in town: Nice enough stallion, if a bit coltish.

"True enough. Now... Where do you think we should start?"

He looked around and thought about that question himself. The quest he had written earlier said "RPGs" in specific, but maybe the angle didn't have to be role-playing games. There were plenty of simulations, puzzle games, god-games, fighting games, combat stuff... There were all sorts of options, and they were all important to show Mr. Am... Pierce. So even if they weren't going to be useful for his own growth as The Gamer, the best solution was clear.

"Show me around all the cabinets, and I'll point out the really interesting stuff as we go. But..."

"Hmm?"

"I won't be able to cover it in too much detail, and I know barely anything about older games or the history of it all. You'd be better off asking Gillie. He's still going to be in town for a while, right?"

Pierce nodded.
"Yeah, he said he'd be here for the rest of the year at least: They're not leaving until the summer, and he'll be back every season or two. We kept in touch a lot during the setup period, too."

"Good! I've got to visit him myself, sooner than later. It'd be a shame to miss the chance."

Nodding again, Pierce gestured towards the nearest bank of cabinets.
"Before that... Shall we?"

Spike followed with a broad smile.
"We shall!"

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