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The room was still. The atmosphere in the air never moved. Or maybe it just couldn’t. Light began to slowly creep it’s way in, informing the part of the world where it touched that morning was soon to come.

“So, you two mind explaining what the hell you’ve been doing?”

The young man broke the silence with a fairly normal question. He kept his mood in check, but inside, his emotions were nearly about to pour as he steadily gazed from the oldest kid, who awkwardly glanced everywhere in the room except his eyes, to the younger kid, who stared uninterestedly at the wall.

“Hehe, I don’t think you two understand the depth of what I’m asking now do you?”

Effryn glanced at Gale, who was now looking at him. His eyes had a glint of curiosity, probably wondering what exactly Eizer would do. Effryn made a poor excuse of a smile, hoping to prepare for what comes next...

Shit, here it comes…

“WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU TWO THINKING?!?! ROBBING A BANK?! WHO THE HELL JUST DECIDES ‘YEAH, TODAYS A GOOD DAY TO COMMIT ROBBERY!’ HOW STUPID ARE YOU TWO?!”

“H-hey now,” Effryn tried intervening to get himself in a better situation, “in the end what matters is that we’re all safe, right?”

“Mhm!” Gale agreed, nodding his head rapidly.

The two confidently agreed with their case. Eizer calmly brushed his hand through his hair. He deeply exhaled, which Effryn hoped was him letting his anger all out.

“Maybe you’re right. In the end, the only thing that matters is- LIKE HELL!!! YOU TWO DUMBASSES SHOULD BE PRAISING ANY DEITY OUT THERE LOOKING OUT FOR YOUR SORRY ASSES!! YOUR LUCKY MY PARENTS LEFT EARLY, SO GET YOUR ASSES IN YOUR ROOMS!”

“I-I understand your mad, but do you really have to treat us like kids who just did something bad?” Effryn tried sweet talking his way out.

“GO TO YOUR ROOM!!!”

“Y-yes sir, right away sir!”

“Hmm.”

“Damn was he mad! Did we really do something that bad?”

Effryn flopped onto his bed, embracing the warmth he had missed while sleeping in the backyard under the rain.

“Well, we did just assist in robbery, murder, arson, and other unspeaking crimes.”

“Damnit Gale, when you make it sound so nonchalant, it almost seems passable for forgiveness!” Effryn said, gazing at the boy who was now wrapped in another book. “And don’t you forget the whole thing stemmed from your actions!”

“Actions you decided to reinforce with your own.”

“Eh…”

He’s right. Effryn thought, knowing the blood, horror, and pain they caused everyone around them were the cause of not only Gale’s actions, but his own as well.

Effryn blanked out at the ceiling fan, observing one blade move slowly while the other seemingly flew by with more speed.

I wonder what we do now. Is this a hopeless dead end for us, or do we actually have a future?

As he thought about the possibilities of what his life could possibly hold now he was a criminal, the flicker of the TV sounded.

Returning from his mind, he saw that Gale had been surfing the channels.

“Whatcha doing now?”

“Searching for the news channel.”

His response was so cold, it almost sounded robotic.

“And why might you be doing that?”

“For information.”

“Huh?”

As perplexed as Effryn was, Gale put his questions to rest by stopping on the news channel.

Bringing you an update from yesterday evening's bank incident, officials confirmed they found and arrested three high suspect targets, but have no more information on who else was involved in the robbery, or exactly how many others there were. Police encourage everyone to return to their homes immediately upon leaving work or school, as they are still out in the streets, and could do anything, at anytime. More with you la-’

Gale switched TV off, and returned to his seat. He now had his book again, reading silently.

“So that means were good! Kinda. Barely…”

Though he wished with every star in the sky, he knew they were nowhere near good. A pretty sad amount of nowhere, actually.

“There could be one person who still remembers what we, and everyone else looks like.” Gale calmly said while flipping a page. “Honestly, it's a pain there were still survivors.”

“Woah there! Don’t go psycho on me now Gale!”

Gale lifted his gaze from the words to Effryn.

“Me? You yourself look pretty bent up. Your eyes are as lifeless as ever and bags are living in comfort underneath, and I’m pretty sure your hair is slowly giving up on living. You’re a mess Effryn.”

“H-hey now…”

Surely he couldn’t look that badly. First off, it had to have been the rain as the cause for his messy hair, and for his eyes, he thought maybe he was tired. And for the bags… He had nothing.

“And don’t forget,” Gale’s eyes were unchanged, but his tone was more serious than usual. “you’re a killer. I don’t really know what social terms define a psychopath, but I’m sure you’d be pretty close to the line.”

“Heh.”

Effryn chuckled, thinking back on everything he’s done ever since he woke from his coma.

“I guess I’m pretty bad of a person, aren’t I?”

“That you are, but everyone is in their own way.” Gale said, returning to his book like nothing happened.

Bad person, huh? I wonder how I was back then…

Back to when Evvryn was still alive, along with Frael, and everyone else he thought as family. To where his only worries was passing school, getting money, and pure gaming sessions. Until, that is…

“That damn Nervo-connect. If we just never got that shitty idea to go, then things would still be the same…”

No. Stop thinking like that. I’ve made it this far, I’ll keep going. I don’t know how much further I have to go, but I’ll keep pushing.

As he thought, he glanced over to Gale, who was lost in the world of his book.

For Gale’s sake.

After a period of time, lunch time came by. Effryn and Gale were lazily wasting away their time, one reading a book, while the other counting each seam in the ceiling.

Then, the moment Eizer opened the door, the aroma of chicken, potatoes, and corn followed.

“Hot damn! I’ve been dying of hunger!”

“It’s finally yum time…”

The two gawked over the food practically with saliva dripping from their mouths. Effryn began descending into a beast as he readied his claws to shred his plate. Gale, on the other hand, brain instantly melted as he thought about how delectable his meal would be.

“Christ… You two are monsters!”

Effryn fully accepted the remark, digging into his plate of food with his bare hands, and talked with his mouth stuffed.

“I don’t...care what you...have to say…! It’s your fault...that we didn’t eat anything all day yesterday…!!”

“Hmhh…!” Galed added, lost in his own plate.

“Well that’s what you two dumbasses get for robbing a damn bank!”

Ahhhhh, thank you food gods!

As each feral chomp tore individual food particles, Effryn praised be to any being allowing him to eat this wonderful meal.

“Gah that was good! Thank you for the meal!”

“Y-you’re a monster…” Eizer was abhorrent to know a beast was living in his house.

“Yum yum…!” Gale lightly poked his corn, possibly wondering what creatures inhabit the yellow terrain.

“Just eat dammit! I’ll wait till ya guys are done…”

“Done!” Effryn cried with delight.

“I guess it was good.” Gale placed his fork down, acting as if nothing had changed.

The two finished their plates, leaving nothing but sparkles.

“Are you hounds back to normal yet? You devoured your plates, and I didn’t prepare any more food, so don’t get any funny ideas.”

“What do you mean?” Effryn smugly asked, slowly approaching Eizer in a beastly banner. “I’d be doing the donner party proud!”

“We made a happy plate, not a devoured plate.” Gale noted while wiping his face. “Though, why is eating other life considered a happy plate? Now that I think about it, they encourage killing and eating as ‘happy.’

Eizer had just about enough of everything happening around him, and tried reasonably explaining the two questions.

“Gale, you’re thinking about it too much. Effryn, you’re a dumbass, though I can’t help you much on that. Both of you go read or play a game, just whatever makes you stop talking.”

“A game?”

Effryn’s curiosity peaked, wondering about the full context of the question ‘play a game.’” And what kind of games? He could’ve meant board games, mind games, or video games. When it comes to the complete meaning of game, there are many factors and signs to which the host, or Eizer, could me-

“Yeah, wanna try out the Connecto-nerve?”

“Oh, that. Didn’t it fail?”

“It did at first, but it was quickly bought out by some chinese company and revived. Its sales are decent right now, so there are a good few players.”

The Connecto-nerve. The newest VR mainstream console, that brought users to the gaming world completely, with near full control over what they could do. When first announced, it was thought to be the next big thing.

It sucks this piece fo shit device failed. It wasn’t worth it Evvryn. It really wasn’t…

“Sure! You want to try it Gale…”

Effryn peered over at Gale, who took the opposite route of games, and was mindlessly in the world of his book.

“Guess I’m going alone.”

“Aw, don’t worry buddy. It ain’t anything too bad. And who knows, maybe you’ll like it.”

Eizer picked up the sleek black headset, and pulled the straps over Effryn’s head, adjusting them to fit his head. Vizors slid to cover his eyes, showing nothing but empty screens.

Next, a couple lines of wiring stretched to his arm, and the machine linking with his nerves. He didn’t quite understand it himself like the previous time, but it’s easier to accept things that make absolutely no sense than understanding illogical behavior.

“Okay. I think everything’s set, so I’m gonna switch this thing here on.”

“I-I’m ready…”

Effryn couldn’t help but feel...nervous? He wasn’t quite sure what the feeling was. It was like a mixture of eagerness, and how his curiosity wanted him to explore this world he and Evvryn once had. Yet, there was a bit of swishing around with regret, knowing this was the reason that transpired everything. .

“Five… Four…” Eizer prepared himself, readying to flip the switch.

Am I ready for this? I’m pretty sure I already know I’ll feel like shit once I log in, but can I handle it? Can I…?

“Three…” Eizer continued.

Well Evvryn, here goes to our memories!

“Two… On-”

Before Effryn could hear the final number, his existence was stuffed into the world of the VR machine, making his surroundings completely void.

“-e!”

Slowly, but eventually, his brain and the Connecto merged, and he began his process of integration in the device.

He found himself-rather, his conscious-floating above in the nothingness of the void. He looked up, down, side to side, but saw nothingness shrouded in a deep black.

After a while of floating, a text appeared in a small white box above his view:

Welcome to the Connecto-Nerve! You appear to be a newcomer, as you have yet to register on this device. Register as a guest, or create a new profile?

An impromptu choice appeared, showing either register as a guest or create a new profile.

“Oh yeah!”

Argh?! Effryn’s floating soul shrieked as Eizer’s exclamation rang through the emptiness.

“Make your own account, cause you never know when you might want to come back!” Eizer’s voice echoed far out from the void.

Fine, just don’t scream in my ear next time!

Effryn shouted with all the decibels he could muster, but his shouts seemed to only echo in the void, and nothing more.

He really can’t hear me? Wait, what if a kids playing this and their mother calls them for dinner? Does their mom know they can’t respond if they call, or do they just get infinitely more pissed the more they get ignored?!

Contemplating if this device was safe enough to put on the market, Effryn tried reaching out a hand to push the create new profile option, but…

Shit, how could I forget I’m an entity only possessing a soul! But for real, do I have a cursor or something…?

Effryn saw no mouse, or anything indicating there was something he had to move to select options. So then what?

Dammit why?! There wasn’t this complicated crap last time I played this, so then what could I possibly think to do…

Confirm: create new account?

Huh? I mean yes, please for the love of God, yes!!

Creating account, please input information:

Username, email address, password, subscription information…

Seriously?! Why should I have to bother with all this? Can’t I just play?

The computer lady thingy kept listing other things Effryn needed to input, making everything he needed sound important. But his brain could only keep up for so long, so after around the third item, which was the password, each request got increasingly incomprehensible.

...house address, zip code, girth (if applicable), and finally, sisters age.

Finally, it’s done… Wait, what the hell?!

Or, user can connect with the other account, Eizurn, to game share, ultimately skipping the entire signing up process.

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! Please computer lady, for the love of love, just do it!

Action confirmed! Please wait a moment as we update your height and other humanly features to match present player…

Praise the God of technology, even if my character will be my actual person…!

Apparently, instead of using a cursor to select the options you want, all someone needed to do was just think of what option they wanted, and it would happen. Or so Effryn had figured thus far. Hopefully, no other list of-

And suddenly, like quite extreme suddenly, his thoughts went completely blank, entering another period of darkness.

…..

Gah! What the hell?! Who thought it was a good idea to ‘force shutdown’ a person's mind?!

Mentally ranting at a machine, Effryn made sure computer lady heard everything he had to say.

That was until the screen changed from a depth black to a fading white.

A loading screen?

Games and apps.

Suddenly, an icon appeared, to which Effryn selected. There were only three games, and a few apps, such as youtube, and other basic essentials.

“Oh yeah, one final thing.” Eizer boomed from seemingly nowhere. “I have the game you guys played at that tournament. If you wanna play it, it’s called--”

Destrial. I could never forget that. Effryn thought, ignoring Eizers words.

How could he forget? The damned game that brought everything to a screeching halt, and what led right to the point where Effryn was now.

“--yeah, don’t push yourself playing. Just...you oughta have fun.”

Yeah yeah.

Focusing back on hand, Effryn thought of destrial, and the computer selected that game, immediately bringing him into another loa-

Son-of-a-bitch! What is with these loading screens?!

Out of nowhere, another screen of ignorant waiting time appeared. This time, the scenery changed from pure white, to a bright glimmer in the distance. Effryn squinted his eyes to fight off the brightness. And after a minute of waiting, Effryn felt his eyes adjust to the light, and lowered his hands…

Hands! Bless, as I am no longer a spirit of nothing! Hail to freedom, restrictions suck! Gale would probably think otherwise.

Enjoying his sensation of senses, Effryn played around for a bit on the main menu with the text: Destrail, think anything to start.

But as he rolled around in the floating abyss of the menu, a familiar voice calmly echoed in the midst of his mind, somehow surpassing even his own thoughts within the game.

-A voice he’d rather forget at this stage in his life already.

“Oh my, you tread to the alpha point of your tragedy?”

“Oh what the… Why the hell are you here?” Effryn asked, half annoyed, and half pissed knowing it would be with him during this, yet there was nothing he could do about it.

“Must you muster anger? I merely wished to observe your reaction, and with such timing, I may freely converse with you without any interruptions.”

The ghost with Evvryn’s voice chillingly replied, as if it held no emotions whatsoever.

“Oh yeah, and what if I get in a party chat with other players?”

“Don’t overestimate your social abilities boy. At most, you’ll just mute everyone who annoys you.”

Though the truth did sting Effryn a bit, he bit his lip to hide it.

“I wish I could just mute you.”

“You express your feelings, holding nothing back when it comes to your hatred. Are you hateful of me?”

What the hell kind of question is that? How could someone not hate another if they held a stick of hope over their head, and made them run like a blind animal to do their work?

“Yeah.” Effryn answered it’s question with a dry response, waiting for the screen to lo--

-ad.

Aaaaaand of course. I shouldn’t be mad at this point. I really shouldn’t!

“You’re visibly displaying such anger where your facial features tell more of a story than your words.”

“Shut up! Who wouldn’t be mad at such a poor excuse of increasing play time?!”

Forgetting his feelings towards the ghost, Effryn felt his blood boiling on the scummy plays made by the makers of the game. Sure, game limitations and the problem of overloading chunks in a world were valid counter arguments for such a thing, but he didn’t care…

“Screw that to hell! Why do we still have loading screens in 2019 when we literally have VR and cars driving on their own?!”

Rovers to mars, self learning machines, and discovering blacks holes… And yet civilization sill has loading screens? Nice job humanity.

Ignoring the rapid banter of a lonely gamer, or rather not being programmed to fight such a stupid individual, the game instead loaded text:

Create character menu-

Class selections →

Knight

Subclass for knight: Sun follower/Fallen crusader/Berserker.

Mage

Subclass for mage: Mana extractor/Elemental maniac/Golem God

Archer

Subclass for archer: Knights guard/Elven refugee/Mana whisperer

Read through each class and select which type and archetype that best fits your play-

Skiiiiiiip. I’ll just go with what I played in the demo!

Reluctantly imagining in his mind to make the computer lady quiet, she immediately shut up.

But...where is it? I know I was an explosive mage as a character before, but there’s no subclass with boom.

Elemental mage was probably the closest thing to explosive, but Effryn rememered the class being called Explosive mage, not stupid Elemental guy.

Fine, guess I’m going with Elemental...wha…?

And after thinking of selecting Elemental guy, an overwhelming amount of information poured on, even off the screen as Effryn tried reading.

Elemental Mage sub-subclasses=Pyromaniac, churches torch, Flame of Satan/touch of rainfall, well of spring, shout of tsunami/Zeus's hatred, conductor, electronic arts/frost breather/Mothernatures pet/Explosive mage/universal matter…

And the list went on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on…

“And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and wait! Explosive mage!!”

Thinking of leaving this screen with novels amount of information, Effryn happily thought of the explosive mage, and was happily transported to another--

Beautiful scenery of a mountain top, with an overarching town centered in its roots, were filled with a glimmering sunfall. Nightlife began, and street lights fitted with fire seemingly self lit, and people stormed into bars and nightclubs, hoping to indulge in pleasures of drink and flesh.

Time in Destrial for the people were a splendid time, so long as the guard and it’s kind were nowhere near the people. The people hated being observed like animals, while the guards hated watching people waste their lives with silly games of drinking and adultery.

So in a manner such as an unspoken agreement, both the people and the city guards agreed to leave each other to their own biddings so long as the other behaves. Thus leaving citizens with more freedom...and more opportunities to fetch for schemes.

There was an increase in crime rate, robbery, rape, pillaging, killing, human trafficking. Serial killers spread throughout the lands, slave auction houses sprang produced like rats, leaving the outside walls of the castle nothing but a barren land of opportunity.

Inside the castle walls, life wasn’t all too better. There was corruption within power, as each person directly below the king plotted against one another to coup the current throne, and obtain power in their own hands. The guards and military, with no leading in the right mind, left the kingdom, starting their own groups of terror.

With all the madness in the world, the church stood strong, embracing everyone with open arms. There was no soul deeming worthy of hell, so long as they repented properly.

Seeing the world as it was, the church knew something had to be done. They called upon any heros or treasure hunters, fighting spirits or victims of tragedy, mages and psychos. Any willing soul capable of standing against the corruption of the world, the church beckoned anyone to figh--

I’m boreed! I get it. Sad world, hero called, world not sad. And for the love of God, stop with these cutscenes-

...of course a loading screen would graciously appear. Thanks game.

At this point, Effryn grew used to the fact that there was a loading screen after every action he did. He would even run his money on this being a much worse game than some certain open world loading screens.

At least other games have some art or nice looking pictures rotating every few seconds or so. All this game has it just a black screen with Loading… at the end!

After waiting for a nonsensical amount of time, the game eventually loaded onto a screen with three options: Story, multiplayer, or Your life.

Eizer never told me a specific one to pick, so…

Thinking about his options, Effryn thought he couldn’t care less about the story, he wasn’t in the mood for pvp, but Your life sounded interesting, even if hardly.

“Tell me, why do humans waste their lives away on these pointless dreams of entertainment?” echoed the ghost from seemingly nowhere.

“Umm… That’s a random question to ask out of nowhere.” Effryn said bluntly while picking the options Your life with his mind.

An instant later, the game switched screens. But surprisingly, it wasn’t a loading screen, but an entirely different picture:

Effryn found himself in some kind of shopping district of a town. There were all kinds of people moving about, each with different features and trademarks. Some moved with carts being dragged by animals of all kinds, with some he’d never seen in his life, like a hybrid of dog and gorilla, or a goose and penguin. There might have been one that had an alligator mixed with a rabbit pulling a carriage.

He looked around in awe as the town around him boomed with vibrant people. There were regular looking guys, elves, knights, robe guys, so probably mages. Some were running around stupidly, while others walking in a well mannered way. Some talked in groups, Effryn even overheard one group plan out there next raid on a dungeon of heretics. Then there were a few who talked to themselves, but had a player menu up, probably talking in their own party chat.

But in it all, there was one thing Effryn had trouble figuring out since being lost in the view of the city around.

“How the hell are you supposed to tell if they’re a player or an Npc?”

Being in a market area, Effryn surely saw vendors selling basic items like food, materials, weapons and armor, and those such. But each of the vendors had their own personality, talking and chatting with players about current events and what have-nots, then waving them goodbye. Hell, there was even one shopkeeper joking and laughing with a group of players around him as if they were all bots on their own.

-And what made it worse was the fact that there were no player icons above their heads indicating the difference between player and Npc.

“Well, what’s the difference,” Effryn continued from the ghost’s early question. “like, people go to parties, some drink or smoke, others might hang out with friends, or one might even work on a craft they life.”

“But you accomplish nothing with these pointless...simulations. These merely provide a facade of joy, yet in reality, all this yields is a complete waste of time.”

Effryn went to lean against a barrel filled with meat to think about his response. Sure, people consider this to be an entirely pointless thing, but…

“Why should that matter? People get drunk, people get high. Some go out, others stay in. What those people do all vary in many different ways, yet do you know the one thing they have in common?”

“...They waste their life all the same?”

Effryn couldn’t help but chuckle from the answer.

“Heh, I guess if you view from that way, then that’s your was of seeing it. But to them, it’s their own special way of having fun.”

Effryn waited silently for an answer while brushing his finger against the sand, creating small images of ocean waves storming a shore.

But the ghost’s only response was silence, leaving Effryn surprised as this was a rare occurrence.

I override your brain? Good, now leave me alone.

“Hey!” a shout came from a crowd of people.

Looking in the swarms of people, he felt his mind instantly noodle as eyes stared in his direction. HIs head swarmed with thoughts of gazes judging him. They had to be. Why else would they be looking at him? They each had their own thoughts about him, and what he looked like, and why he chose that class, and--

“I recognize you. Aren’t you Effryn? Here.”

A small, almost childlike hand reached to Effryn. The voice was soft, with a bit of squeakiness.

“T-thank you.” Effryn answered awkwardly, grabbing the little girls hand. “B-but I don’t really know yo…”

His voice trailed off as his gaze met up with hers, instantly remembering who this little girl was. Or rather, who this loli was.

“Nei…? Is that really…” he was at a complete loss for words. How long had it been since he’d seen her? Scratch that, for her to even remember him was an entirely other feat.

“Ha, to think both would memorize one another! I’m pleased to know you still have known me.”

To meet a friend he met at a tournament like this must mean something. That, or fate’s one hell of a thing.

“Follow me!” Nei shouted, holding his hand as he led him through the crazy town in this weird game.

“And then--and then, our group had to fight a bunch of asshole junkies who crafted some kind of dps enhancing drug. ALL ON OUR OWN, MAY I ADD!!”

Somehow, through a weird turn of events, Effryn found himself at Nei’s party. She brought him to a bar, where everyone was drinking, fighting one another, or playing some kind of weird beer pong with swords and magic.

“I’ll be damned! I would have never dreamed of meeting you again, especially in these circumstances. How’ve you been?”

“I-I-I…” Effryn stuttered, trying to keep himself composed from being watched by more than one person.

“Hey kid!” some barbarian knight shouted as he slammed Effryn’s back. “Nei gave us some entertaining tales of your game! She said she still wanted a rematch after all this time!”

With all the attention surrounding him, he only gazed at the floor as more people gathered around him.

“Hey now, we should give him some space. He’s not really much of a talker after all. That job’s for Evvryn.”

Nei laughed, raising a toast everyone drinking.

“Here’s a toast to my friend, and for more memories together!”

“-ARGH-!!”

Swishing their glasses with rum, men drank their brews to their heart's content, enjoying the night to the fullest extent.

-All while Effryn continued to watch the rotting wooden floor, realizing a truth that had been there ever since she first found him.

So she doesn’t know what happened to Evvryn...does she.

“So where is that energetic train of magnetivity? Being, your shortness must spring numerous problems, I find it hard to believe you would wander around without her.” Nei asked, ignorant of the reality to which the question held.

Effryn paused, not knowing what exactly to say, until he thought it best if he came right out.

“She’s uh...dead.”

Nei’s expression turned shocked, wondering what he meant. She inched closer to the now kneeling boy, as she singled out her hearing for him to bypass the decibels in from the party.

“Wa… Excuse me?”

“I said she’s gone. Taken away. Not only by some ignorant people, but for a total bullshit cause!”

Effryn felt his anger grow as his fist connected with the maple floor. All eyes were on him again, each gazing with a drench of curiosity.

“Sorry.”

Effryn picked himself up, apologized, and exited the bar.

He could hear drinking games resume immediately after leaving, with an added shout of wait from a friend Evvryn had once knew.

“God I hate this.”

Down the streets of the town weren’t much. After the little market district, only houses and such built up the rest of the town. Hardly any city activity was happening, or maybe everyone just went to the bar?

Effryn sighed, resting his body on a bench he found near what seemed like the city park. Small tree groves, along with patches of recently cut grass surrounding a stone water fountain in the middle. The moon, or rather, both moons, toyed with the water, mixing the vibrant colors with a giant green and purple spectacle.

“It’s nice, isn’t it? The way Shrek and Spyro fight each other for air superiority makes for a magical sight.” Nei laughingly said, appearing next to his head.

“It’s real colorful, that’s for sure.” Effryn admitted, wiping away a tear with his cloak. “But really, those names?”

Nei giggled, setting up some kind of magical tree trunk to sit on.

“Heh, not exactly the coolest name for beautiful moons gracing us, but they mean a lot to us.”

“You mean to say shrek means a lot to your life?”

“Well, we did go to war for those names, so yeah.” Nei kicked her legs like a child on a swing set. “And what do you mean? Shrek means everything to everyone!”

The water glistened, crickets played their strings, the heart cried its dance.

Effryn curled himself into a ball, hoping all his returning emotions would get crushed along with him.

Why now? Why am I feeling like this now? I thought I was over with...this pain.

“Effryn,” Nei asked, breaking the tune of the night. “mind if I ask how she went?”

“Kinda.”

His response was cold and speedy, assuring Nei it was something he definitely didn’t want to talk about.

“Fine. Then how are you doing?”

“Me? How would I describe it…”

Effryn thought about the basic responses, like how he was a lost puppy, or he was figuring out what to do now. But he fancied something more relatable to Nei.

“I guess I feel like a cubone completely blinded by it’s lost of a guide in life, or maybe more like when shrek and fiona were separated, and went back to their normal lives for a time.”

“Oh?” Nei chuckled. “And I assumed you thought those references were silly. So you’re a shrek, are you?”

Managing a smile, Effryn nodded.

I’m only partially that green giant. At least he finds his happiness later on, as I…

Effryn gazed into the glistening water.

...have lost mine already.

“I just...fuck. Why’d it have to end like that?”

Nei leaned over Effryn, with her lips trembling as if she had something to say, but instead fidgeted.

“N-Nei…?”

As if fighting a self impulse, Nei rested her reddened face on Effryn’s chest.

“N-Nei?!”

Her short hair was surprisingly angelic, with the scent of a new green tree as her hair brushed against his neck. His heart beat rapidly grew, as he was sure she could tell just by listening.

“Hey Effryn, I know I’m not much of anything like her, but…” Nei placed her thighs against his own, but instead of her head, she made friction with her body. She lifted her head, only to lower it by Effryn’s ear. “...I can help you cope in anyway you need.”

Her breathing was warm and heavy. Effryn could tell she was nervous too, even if he’d never been in a situation like this before.

“I-I, I mean, if you…” she began, clearly not knowing if Effryn was okay with this or not.

What do I say? Am I supposed to say something, or is there another way I’m supposed to go about this situation, or…?

His mind fluttered with thoughts. Feelings flusterting with emotion, Effryn felt a sharp worry grow in his side. And then it came to him: I… I have to get out of this. This isn’t right.

“N-Nei, I don’t think this is really right, you know?” Effryn awkwardly let out a laugh as he pulled his head away. “I mean, this is only a game.”

Hoping she would understand his meaning, he relaxed himself.

But instead of being understanding, she instead went in for a light kiss.

“Wha---?!”

A grove of holy trees. That’s what he tasted in her lips, or what he imagined such a place to taste like.

Everything moved too fast before Effryn could keep up with, and in the next moment Nei’s dark eyes were gazing into his, as if she were reading his every thought.

“You would be surprised with all the things you could do in this game. Did you know there are actually church official condoms?”

A smile curled on her lips, fitting her soft chuckle as she moved in for another kiss.

“B-b-b-but wait, I don’t think this is ok in many ways. I mean…”

“If you’re saying you can’t do it in a game, then why don’t we meet up in real life? We live in the same city, so we could find a hotel for a night and…” Nei moved in for another kiss, to which Effryn countered with his fingers.

-But having predicted something like this, Nei softly giggled as her hand carressed Effryn’s cheek, giving her the edge and time to move in for another strike, which was exactly what she did.

Nei pressed her lips against his, making soft assortments of noises. He wanted to fight it, he really did. But his body went blank, and only his mind was actively roaming.

This isn’t right. This can’t be right. I still have Evvryn… I had Evvryn. She’s gone now. It’s just me. And it’s just Nei. Evvryn’s not here anymore, so why does it matter? Maybe this is for the best. Maybe--

“Please stop.” Effryn croaked, scruffing his hand through Nei’s hair. “Please...just stop.”

At first, her face went blush as his hands messaged her head. But the instant she opened her eyes at his face, she knew immediately that her there was nothing else she could do.

“Ah… I see. I guess even if I wanted to give you my all, you’re just not ready for me.”

Nei smiled, but instead of her prior playful smiles, this one was different. It seemed like it was meant to be a mask of some sorts.

“I-I don’t mean for you to think I don’t like this, cause I do! Err no wait I didn’t mean that I meant to say that I don’t like this because of you. Wait?! No sorry I mean-!”

“Shh.” Nei pressed her finger on his lips as she giggled. “Slow down there short man! I get ya, you’re just not ready yet. I get you.”

She pushed herself up from Effryn. Her bangs seemingly fell into place before her eyes, nearly blocking her entire face.

“Well, I should get going. If you ever wanna talk, then you should message me via friends list.”

She was on her feet now, standing dead still. The moons reflected its colors off her hair, creating a beautiful image of a small elf with grey hair.

Effryn wanted to say something to her. He screamed from his inner self to say anything to her, yet nothing managed to reach outside.

But in the next moment, she twirled around, with a heart shifting smile he’d only ever seen a handful of times from Evvryn. His heart fluttered, maybe even skipping a beat, as he was locked on her beaming features.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be around if you ever need me! Well, see ya!”

And just like that, she walked away as if nothing happened.

But Effryn knew better, even if he was a virgin at these things. He knew she was holding back her emotions with everything she had in that little body of hers. She must have been crying as she walked away, and that, Effryn was sure of.

“That encounters atmosphere was entirely distorted. Are the opposite sex always sharing experiences such as those?”

Effryn felt a vein flinch, but ignored its words. He merely listened to the strange bird-like creatures as the sun crept it’s way onto the world.

So the day/night cycles are either increased to further productivity for grinding players, or they just go stupidly fast. Effryn thought, seeing as how quickly an entire day passed by.

Or maybe the night moved like normal, and time for him just seemed to stagnate from everything Nei did. Or attempted to do.

He entered some kind of holy cafe, run by a priest looking couple.

His mind raced the moment Nei was on top of him, and had never stopped since. He could still remember her face, and the look of innocence she had. Her pupils looked wider, making her even cuter than before…

“Stop! Don’t think like that!” he shouted at himself, grabbing his chest with a grip of anger.

What the hell am I thinking…?

These thoughts burning his mind drowned out every choice his mind could possibly think. The feelings he once tried to forget were now coming back as strong and painful as ever. If this kept up, he would most definitely go back to his state before he and Gale moved in with Eizer. And if that were to happen again, life would get sluggish, to the point where even thinking of doing something is a drag itself…!

“Excuse me, sir?!”

“Huh?”

Effryn snapped from his mind, looking up to find himself next in line to order.

“P-please don’t yell. N-now can we please take your order?” a young female priest timidly asked, clearly frightened by the person before her.

“R-right. Sorry.”

After fighting for about twenty minutes while sipping away at some kind of holy drink, Effryn finally tossed his cup away and left.

Jeez, I shouldn’t be thinking about this. I need something to take my mind off this.

Now finding himself back on the streets, Effryn knew he had to do anything. Any action that could possibly take his mind off Nei.

“I have a perceived reality.” the ghost suddenly inferred, as if it were reading his mind. “Why shant you precure in resurrecting your young human friend?”

“Cut the shit. False hope will kill me right now, so please don’t speak.”

“So you refuse in this hope?”

“I…”

Effryn was space still. He knew he shouldn’t say anything but shut up to it. That the ghost would only bring more pain the more it talked.

-But even knowing so, Effryn fell prey to the lure of hope.

“And what would I have to do to see her again?”

“Since failing the first task assigned to you, you lack the prerequisite of reviving your deceased friend. But there is one other way of going about resurrection. Shall I continue-”

“Yes.” Effryn cut it off.

“Fine. It is possible to trade out souls for a soul, though this is a difficult task, as-”

“How many does it take?” he interrupted again, but with an impatient tone.

“Exact amount is unknown. The souls for each living being are different in life force from each other, thus making accurate predictions impossible.”

So basically, all it’s saying is that depending on what you kill, say rabbit or human, the weight of its soul varies. Effryn could grasp it in that sense.

“But it’s not impossible.”

“Estimating on history, the impossibility barrier as already been bypassed, as this has occurred a handful of times in current history.”

“R-really?”

“Indeed.”

So not only had this been done once, it’s been done a few other times by some mad lads! So is it possible for me…

“How many have successfully done resurrection from this soul thingy?”

“Based upon high spiritual readings, there has been a total of nine since this current expansion.”

Expansion…? he wondered what it could mean by that, but he guessed it to be something like the big bang, so he brushed it off.

Based on what the ghost had been saying and from what Effryn had understood, only a known total of nine have been documented to successfully resurrect a living being since the beginning of time.

Effryn grunted as he rested his shoulder on a street lamp, waiting for the magical liquid to turn green.

Jesus, how pathetic am I to believe a figure of my mind for a shot of hope. I’ll look real sad when she reveals she’s been lying, won’t I…

The red liquid erupted a small flame, turning it to green. Carriages stopped, giving the people a chance to move onto the next crosswalk.

“Fine.” Effryn muttered quietly, to the point where the ghost could hear him, but no one else around him. “I’ll follow along this stupid game, so place me in line for the tenth spot.”

“Mmm. Is that so? I perceive you do not fully grasp the difficulty of this task, as it requires a massive amount of-”

“Yeah Yeah, I’m sure it’s an ungodly number. Now please be quiet. I want to see what this world has in store.”

Effryn waved his hand as if he were brushing someone off, as he slowly made his way to the church of this town.

“Yes, I see. So you register as an explosive mage, no experience, and you want to do something with your life. I’m getting that right?”

A man that looked like a high ranking priest snickered, observing the documents with a closer look.

“Y-yes sir. I just want to know if there’s anything needing to be done.”

Though it was a game, Effryn felt himself getting anxious by talking to this guy. It reminded him of the time he went to get his first job, with the awkward sitting around and handshakes, and the tagalong questions they make you play.

The priest looked ruffled through some paperwork while sipping away at some kind of green drink.

“Well um, sir. I don’t see anything you could qualify for, but I could get in touch with someone that may help you seeing as you are new to this world.”

Man, he’s getting in touch with this world. Npc’s really are something nowadays.

“Please!”

Effryn heard a soft displeased groan from the interview, or the priest, but he decided to ignore it.

The priest loaded up some kind of interface, and began swiping away at icons until he found the one he had been searching for, and annoyingly clicked.

Weird. I never would have thought they’d give Npc’s a UI system like players.

Effryn blankly watched the man as he called someone through some kind of magic portal. He didn’t really grasp the concept, and saw no reason to, so he let the man do his work.

“Okay sir. Please wait in our lobby until they arrive. Thank you, Next!”

“O-oh, right.”

Silently cursing at the asshole, Effryn sat at the furthest seat from everybody. He watched as more people piled in, asking for their daily quest, and then heading out with their adventuring parties.

The process of reviving Evvryn.

The thought ran through his head. He questioned whether it was believable rather than true. Such a method couldn’t possibly exist, even if there was some kind of ghost talking with him in his mind.

But...what if he just entertained the idea? He wouldn’t believe it, but just follow along with it. Like a game? No-that’s exactly it!

Just a game! That’s how I think of this! I’m just playing a mindless child game is all!

Holding himself giddily with a smile spread across his face to which he held no clue about, he was abruptly ear pierced from his thoughts by an overly sounding man (?) Or was monster the correct term?

“IS THAT YOU EFFRYN??”

His intruding voice shook the floors. Chatter from probably a mile away were broken, all looking at the source of the enormous shouting.

But when Effryn looked up, he knew it was no mere shouting. How could he blame people for being surprised at the groundbreaking noise? When in fact, it was Towu’s normal speaking voice.

“Dude! I haven’t seen you since forever!” Though there were mean comments and remarks throughout the room, Towu and Effryn were still ecstatic to see one another.

“EFFRYN!! I HAD A FEELING THAT IT WAS YOU!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!?!” Towu, with his ignorantly giant figure reached over and picked up Effryn as if he were a child, and gleefully hugged him.

“I could ask you the same thing!” Effryn joking asked, before realizing some a thought. “Wait, why are you here?”

“I WAS SUPPOSED TO PICK UP A NOOBIE TODAY AND SHOW HIM THE ROPES! BUT I’VE GOTTA ASK, WHY ARE YOU HERE?!”

And to think fate doesn’t exist. If not fate, then luck sure is a bitch.

“Um, about that… I think you’re talking to said noobie.”

Towu’s muscular build slowly began crushing Effryn, as it took the giant a second to process the information. But once he did, his face lit up like gunpowder.

“REALLY?!?! AHH MAN, ISN’T THAT COOL?! MAN, I SHOULD TELL NEI ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW!!!”

Towu dropped Effryn in a flash, letting him really feel the impact of the floor.

Man, does it feel nice to talk to an old friend. I’m really glad it was Towu…--Wait?!

“H-hold on! W-wait a minute, don’t do anything just yet please hold I’m praying please wait a-” Effryn continued his rambling as he grabbed onto Towu’s loincloth.

“WHAT’S WRONG LITTLE BUDDY?! AWW, ARE YOU GETTING NATS IN YOUR TUMMY OVER NEI?!?!”

“W-w-wait! I’m not, it’s just-”

“--JUST LOVE, ISN’T IT?!”

Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit. Damnit Towu, I swear to God you can be really cool, but a major brick up my ass sometimes.

“Um, well…”

Effryn staggered on his words, using everything in his brain to formulate a plan.

“DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! I’LL JUST CALL HER HERE!”

Oh, fuck.

Watching as Towu lifted his arm up to open his menu, Effryn felt his insides utterly destroy itself. How could he explain to him about what just happened? He is a fellow bro, he thought, but still, would he be okay with this? What if he has feelings…

“...for her. W-wait! Towu wait! No need to call her, cause I already talked to her this morning!” Effryn exasperated, praying with the energy of every priest around him to stop him. “Or wait, would that count as last night? Yesterday? But it just turned morning like minutes ago, right?”

Effryn double checked his game time, to see it was now turning into evening.

“The hell?! It was just night moments ago!”

Feeling the confusion of time toy with his mind, he felt it was best to utterly erase that part of his mind and focus on Towu. By now, he was looking down at Effryn, entirely ignoring him and his ranting.

“Y-you’re still going to call her?!”

“WELL DUH! EVEN IF YOU MET HER, SHE IS THE SECOND PART OF THIS TRAINING OPERATION!” Towu said--or rather, excessively shouted in his normal voice--as naturally as ever. “BUT DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT, I SAID TO MEET ME AND YOU AT THE SLUM CENTRAL. AND THAT MEANS WE HAVE TO GO TOO! LIKE RIGHT NOW TOO!!”

“Y-you did? R-right now?! Hold up! P-please put me down! Hold on, that’s a wall!!”

But words seemingly rubberized off of Towu, as he burst through the wall with Effryn in hand, all with a brimming smile.

Eyes among eyes of crowds glanced at him, but after a second or two, they quickly turned away. It didn’t matter who. A knight, a barbarian, or a psychotic wood elf, they all promptly ignored the clearly visible kidnapping happening before them.

“You know, I really don’t know who’s worse in this situation! The stupidly big guy carrying me with his finger while wearing nothing but a loincloth, or the bastards, who clearly have enhanced abilities of strength and magic, just watching from a distance and act like nothing is happening to me?!” Effryn cried at both Towu and the people around him.

The brute broke wall after wall, and once he reached the main street, he leaped from cart to cart, though he pretty much destroyed them in the process.

“Son of a…How much more of this torture?!”

Though as fun as it sounded, soaring through the sky with a wanted sign, being barraged by debris after debris, was starting to get very old and very painful pretty fast. He wasn’t sure how much more he could take, and judging from the brutes happy expression, Towu looked like he was just getting started.

“DON’T WORRY EFFRYN, YOU’LL BE THERE IN FIVE SECONDS!!”

“T-thank goodness! W-wait, why did you only mention me…?” Effryn’s voice trailed off, as he witnessed the one thing he set all his prayers to.

Towu instantly fell to a stop, and positioned himself as if he were getting ready to pitch a Godlike fast ball in a baseball game. At this point, Effryn knew that whatever God there was had abandoned him, as he felt his body be enveloped by a single hand.

And so, with one final plea, Effryn released a barrage of shambled begging to prevent this cosmic toss.

“Hold on wait please wait one thing I dislike no hate is falling off of heights and being thrown at a horizontal position is really no differen--”

Oh...I just pierced the sound barrier, didn’t I?

Going from being held tightly like a newborn, to being halfway across the city and still flying, Effryn found himself not being able to hear any sound. From the wind, from the birds, or from his screams. Yet, he could perfectly hear his own mind, calmly accepting the fact that he had been forcefully thrown to be airborne. Perfectly.

Man...how peaceful it is to be in the sky! How could I have never known! The soothing wind, the neighboring birds, the mothering son, how could…

And from the facade, his true inner mind poured out:

SCREW THIS SHIT!!! I DON’T EVEN WANNA KNOW HOW BADLY THIS IS GONNA HURT, YET I CAN ALREADY FEEL MY SCARS!!

One with the clouds, he could literally inhale the liquid in the puffy skyline. He had always pictured them to be a sweet water since a child, but the feeling of being waterboarded in the sky was definitely not that feeling.

From one torture session to another, a giangantic tree as big as a few skyscrapers came into sight. In its surroundings were groves of gleaming trees and plants, with water pouring from the leaves of the massive tree.

And though being in the air was scary, he had to admit: In the moment, it was entirely heart robbing.

What a sight…

The view was too great, he was even able to forget about the short drowning intermissions. That is, until picture he was having a wet dream over grew rapidly bigger. Like, much bigger. Face to face bigger…

Holy--! I think I’m getting too good of a view!?

Effryn braced his arms up, hoping they could support the impact of the hit. He hoped, just maybe, that he could knock off the horizontal fall damage off and bypass the enormous amount of pain that would follow such a landing. Remembering a certain event in the game, he knew Destrial didn’t cut back on players receiving damage, so hopefully--

“This better work God damn-”

“-it!”

In the next moment, Effryn’s eyes focused on being surrounded by a spectacle of small green and blue lights.

Huh?

Blue and green fairies surrounded Effryn, to which he guessed there were a dozen at most. They were covered in leaves and plants, but most notably, they were giggling.

He looked around, then down at himself, patting his legs and shoulders.

“Pain? I don’t feel any. So no pain?”

He made sure to check his arms, which should have taken the foremost amount of damage. But uncovering his robes, he found no bruises or the such. Actually, he found no sign of any damage to his character. None whatsoever.

“W-what’s going on here?” he questioned the air.

Then, one of the fairies, who must have been special as she had both a blue and green aura, flew right into Effryn’s line of sight.

Though, another thing setting her apart from the others was her intensity of laugh.

“Bwahahaha!! You sure looked like a dumbass up there! Say, what the hell could you have been possibly trying to accomplish doing something like that?” the mixed fairy exclaimed while laughing, her voice extra squeaky than the others.

Now that Effryn could get a better view of her, he saw the depth of color beaming from her hair, as separating strands of blue and green riddled her hair. He could see some kind of etchings in her leaf-like wings, but he couldn’t make out what any of it said, as they were incredibly micro. He found it intriguing, as to seeing how cute such a, wai-

“The hell?! You’re anything but cute!”

“In what world am I not cure in! You’re just pussy little dumbass, flying straight into the Great Tree of Eve for suicidal fun!” she said as her rebuttal, even adding a short-handed, or in this case, short pinky-kick to his nose.

“And you’re just a bitch!” Effryn added.

“Oooo, the pussy boy can mimic an adult. How fun!” the bitch said, to which the others burst out in laughter. “You shoulda seen the way you pathetically splat all over the tree! You sure painted it a nice red!”

“Huh? I...died?”

The bitch looked up surprised. “What? Did you think you’d survive something like that? You had to have been going faster than a lightning mage maxed out on speed buffs.“

“Yeah,” a fairy on the blue side added, “and you shouldn’t need to thank us.”

“I think I’d rather keep on living without knowing you even mentioned us.” a fairy on the green side added.

That caused every fairy to cry out in laughter. But the bitches laugh stood out more than ever, as hers grew more obnoxious by the second.

“Bwah! We shouldn’t have to waste time reviving you! C’mon girls, let’s go find more jokers like him!”

“Yay!” they all shouted in unison.

The mixed, err, bitch flew away ahead of the pact, still laughing in her stupid laugh. Effryn could still hear her annoying voice even after she made some distance between them.

“-to think he could save himself by putting his hands up, like ‘man, I sure am glad my hands are here! Let me just hold them so I can be protected.’ Like, who the hell does he think he is?!” she giggled, and other fairies followed suit.

He glared at the bitch, cursing her under his breath. And for a moment, before reaching completely out of sight, she slightly twisted her head in Effryn’s direction, curling a witch-like smirk. It was hard to see, but it was just enough for him to make out.

But it was only for a moment, as they were soon enveloped by the branches of their home.

“Sheesh...what a load of assholes.” he muttered to himself, hoping he never had to see them or similar people again.

“Effryn?”

An all to heart-stabbing voice shouted through the trees.

Turning his body, he saw through a sliver of leaves and glowing purple venus flytrap-like plants a tiny, loli elven girl.

“O-oh, hey. I, uh, made it here, Nei.” Effryn stammered, trying to keep his blushing face hidden.

“So let me get this straight. Towu threw you, you soared through the skies, splattered on the great tree, and was revived, only to be verbally assaulted by the healers usually looking after dying players?”

Nei clicked her tongue.

“Pretty much…”

She lowered her head and sighed. “You can cause so much trouble in such a little amount of time, you know?”

“It’s not my fault! It’s the programmers fault for making their AI’s assholes!” Effryn dug a shot at the game makers, like every other livid player would be.

Effrryn expected Nei to shoot back at his point with a ‘oh yeah, well you go make your own games then! See how you like it!’ kinda point most people who meat ride a game say, defending their most precious title.

But it was anything but that. Her reaction was a more surprising one, as if she were genuinely stunned by a concussion.

“Um, you do know…”

Nei’s words trailed off.

“Know what?”

As if she confirmed her suspicions, she again sighed, though with a more disappointed tone.

“You do know that there is not a single Npc in this world, right?”

“No Npc…? I mean yeah, apart from the shopkeepers and those medic assholes, this would make a perfectly free world from computer players.”

Effryn felt like he slowly grasped the meaning of Nei’s words. But by the look of her face, he felt he was way off.

“Wrong. I mean as in this world is a completely player based game. There are no computers dishing out the gear, only us people.”

It took Effryn several seconds to fully comprehend her, but once he figured it out, his mouth gaped.

“S-so wait, someone actually wants to sit around and wait at a store all day, selling virtual items to players for online currency, when in fact they could be doing everything they are now, but for actual profit in real life?”

“Precisely, though a bit too judgemental.”

Effryn was absolutely stunned. How could a world with only people who have more power and less consequences for their actions, successfully maintain this degree of peace?

The short explosive mage slumped to the long grass, and felt it’s silky edges brushing against his back as he lay. The sun began to fade. Or was it now coming out? He couldn’t tell, or know exactly how much time had passed since was turned into a condiment for a tree.

Nei moved to Effryn, leaning against a tree close to his head. He focused his gaze on the peering great tree, watching as it blanketed the ground from light.

“Hold up, so even those assholes…” Effryn exclaimed suddenly, thinking about those fairies plus bitch.

“Yep. Those ladies were real people too. Every single one of them.”

“Every single one of them is a bitch.”

“Rude.”

A breezing wind pass passed the air with a polluting scent of fragrance. Fond of the tree like fragrance, Effryn sniffed to his heart’s content. After sniffing for some time, he eventually found the source direction of the smell, and so, he followed the smell like a dog…

“--!”

Weird. I didn’t expect the smell to be this close.

Apparently, the source had been near him, as his nose found the direct spot of the smell. His notion used purely his nose to find the source, so he couldn’t tell exactly what the smell was. He lightly pressed his smellers against the surprisingly soft texture of the smell, and grazingly breathed on and off, until-

“H-hey?! W-w-w-what are you…? I-If you don’t stop I’ll…”

A clean crack rustled the local life as birds flew away.

“I’m really, really sorry.” Effryn repeated over and over, as he lay prostrated on the ground.

“N-no, I think I should be the one apologizing!”

Though his focus was on the dirt below him, he could tell Nei was flustered by her fluttering.

“No, it’s my fault for being naive with my nose.” Effryn reinstated.

“But that doesn’t mean I should have killed you!” Nei pressed on.

“I fully deserve what happened. The thought never crossed my mind that you were the source of the smell, even if logic dictates that being the most likely possibility.”

Effryn looked up, locking eyes with the fidgeting Nei. This was the first he’d ever seen her like this, though…

Not too long ago, I discovered a completely new part of her as well. Or would that be considered her feelings?

“P-please, let me say sorry! I mean, not only did I instantly break your spinal cord, followed by having to kill you to end your suffering, but you also had to deal with those mean fairies again.” she bent over in a formally apologizing manner, while placing a hand over her heart. “And to be honest...I kinda enjoyed your light breathing.”

“W-wha-?”

Now Effryn was starting to stammer.

“I-If you enjoyed it so much, then why’d you split my back?!”

The more Effryn grew shaky, the more Nei became complacent.

“Heh, yeah I’m genuinely sorry about that! But you know,” Nei’s tone completely changed from before, growing more confident and to the best of her ability, more womanly. “girls have a natural reflex when a guy they like starts touching their soft spot💜”

Effryn had no response to give, and merely watched as Nei slowly crept onto his lap. She moved her back against his body, and gently placed her head on his shoulders.

“You know, if you really wanted to touch my thighs, then you should have just said so.”

Effryn thought she probably wanted him to grasp her with his arms, and tightly hold her in a hugging position. But all he could do was simply sit idly while she sit in his lap. Even if Effryn was pretty short, he didn’t compare to how small Nei was, so oddly enough, she fit comfortably in his lap.

“N-Nei I-”

“Shh.” Nei interrupted him, putting her finger over his lips. “Let me enjoy this moment just a little bit longer, ‘kay?”

Not knowing what to do, his inner mind fought over itself on what to do.

Do I stop this? Do I do nothing? Do I edge her on? Is this right...Scratch that, nothing’s exactly wrong or right about this. If she enjoys this, then what’s the problem? I should just keep this up, for her…

Another breeze of wind skipped by, causing strands of her hair to fly in Effryns face. It lightly tickled his face, and the smell of newly grown tree was better than before.

A thought appeared in his mind, poking at the idea of actually holding onto her. Before thinking properly, he felt his hands slowly gravitate upwards in a holding position, but…

Nei would enjoy this, but would I? I mean, Evvryn…

“Please, don’t stress yourself to death.” Nei broke his wrecking mind with a soft yet pitched whisper. “Just enjoy the moment for what it is, without the silly regrets.”

“I-I really want to, but I…”

“But you aren’t ready to move on. I get it, really. Though if I must say, you should really decide on what to do next with your life, not waste it in a time that you can’t change.”

Effryn had no response to that, but not by choice. Tears started to streamline from his cheeks, and he felt the weight in his arms increase. The heavy burden grew, enough so that he couldn’t support keeping his arms steady.

“Gosh, you really are a baby.” she said in a motherly tone, grabbing hold of his falling hands and tightly gripping them. “Effryn, I want you to know: I like you. I support you in everything you do, no matter the stupidity. From the moment I first saw you in that lobby, I could tell you were going to be a pain in the ass competition, but to think you would win by using a glitch, now that was cheating, yet admirable.”

“H-how am I supposed to-”

“Hey! I’m not done silly.” she planted her head more firmly in his shoulders, giggling away while his tears fell on her forehead. “And the way you would puppy around with Evvryn made me so jealous. Your chemistry with her, and the interactions you two had sounded like a blast.” Her grip became tighter as she moved their joined hands to her cheek. “For a time, I really envied her.”

Those words. Those words hit him the hardest. He couldn’t help but cry for her by how she felt. But those tears must have sparked something inside him.

“Don’t say that! Sure, she had her own unique quirks and attributes, but you have your own as well!”

“Please, you shouldn’t spout such ear candy towards me. I’m aware of your feelings towards Evvryn already. I have no place on your roster for such feelings, so please, the more you try to ease everything, the more it hurts knowing I can’t compare to her.”

Effryn couldn’t help but tightened his own grip, and move closer to her teary face.

“Nei, you’re an amazing girl who's incredibly smart and talented in your own way. I’m sorry for making you feel this way towards me, even after you pour your feelings. But just know, I’m thankful for you, and that I just need a little more time to accept and process your feelings.”

Effryn moved his gaze down at the Nei, who moved gaze towards his. At first, her teary eyes branded that of a desert with small glands of water glistening in a lost oasis. But after a moment, a small giggle averted her sight.

“This whole feelings and crap thing sucks. You don’t know how happy I was to see you here, and now we’re finally openly talking.”

Effryn gave up on all resistance. He was now the only thing keeping him and her tightened together.

“Fine! I can wait for you to give me an answer later on how you feel about me, but you better not keep me waiting forever!” Nei said, wiping away each person's tears from her cheek.

“Heh, I promise.”

“Do you swear?”

“I swear on the great mother tree.” Effryn jokingly came up with the first thing that came to mind.

“Ooh, now that’s the greatest form of promise for elves, so you better be prepared to keep up your end!”

“I swear.”

Laughing, Nei placed her hand on his shoulder, while resting her body on his.

“We can stay like this a little longer, just before Towu arrives at least.”

Effryn hummed in agreement as he felt the comforting warmth of Nei and her body soothing with his own. They both didn’t know exactly how long before Towu arrived, but they knew they could enjoy this glistening moment for just a little longer.

Turns out quietly resting on someone for thirty minutes could be really awkward. Sure, it felt nice at first. But after a while of hearing each others soft breaths, they couldn’t help but duck their heads into one another out of embarrassment.

Lucky for them, Towu appeared before them, along with the fairies, who were unsurprisingly quiet towards him. The two, who quickly picked themselves up after he appeared, figured he must have died somehow, but decided to brush it off. Though, Effryn had a feeling it was something to do with his wanted level.

“SO WHAT HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN DOING?” Towu said at a perfectly normal tone for him.

“U-us? Nothing!”

“What he said! We were just patiently waiting here for thirty minutes, watching as a full ingame day and night cycle passed.”

The two blushed as they explained themselves, hoping they could move on from earlier.

“WHATEVER IT WAS, IT’S NOT IMPORTANT. BUT JUST SO YOU GUYS KNOW, I WAS CHASED OUT OF THE CITY, WITH SOOO MANY POLICE AND BOUNTY HUNTERS BEHIND ME. I DESTROYED AND KILLED A LOT OF THINGS ON MY WAY HERE, ALONG WITH TAKING DOWN A GOVERNMENT BUILDING! OH YEAH, THEN THE ELITE SKY WATCHERS CAME FLYING IN…”

As Towu continued on in his story, Effryn noticed Nei trying to get his attention. He glanced at her, and she stuck out her tongue and smiled, whispering:

“I can wait, but you better not keep a girl waiting for long!”

“...THAT WAS WHEN TWO ICY GUYS RIDING ON THE BACKS OF HOLY KNIGHTS ARRIVED AND TRIED TO SLOW ME DOWN! LUCKILY, I FOCUSED ALL MY SKILLS ON THE WIND SPEED, SO NOTHING CAN STOP ME! THEN AFTER THEY FAILED, I…”

After what felt like lifetimes of listening to Towu and his journey to the great tree, he and Nei took Effryn out on what they called a ‘Noob course.’ Towu hyped it up to epic quest filled with dungeons and demon lords, but all they really died was exploring the city.

They saw the high priest church, the knights final bastion, and the mages ruins. But all in all, they only did one real quest, which was a hunting quest for a rabbit.

After much contemplation of killing the poor thing, Towu just crushed it like it were a grain of sand, destroying the hide, which then voided the quest completely.

While storming through the city, Effryn counted maybe twelve full game day cycles that passed.

“WELL THAT’S EVERYTHING!! ANY MORE QUESTIONS OR DESIRES?!”

“I think I understand pretty much the basics.”

The basics of fleeing, killing, the ruining quest.

“Heh, I must say, today was rather enjoyable.” Nei added, relaxing on a stone bench.

Though, with everything they did today, or rather through the span of twelve days, Effryn could confidently say he had enjoyed himself.

So much so he couldn’t help but let strands of tears flow down his cheek.

“Thank you guys. You really don’t know how much this means to me.” he said, with a croaky and hoarse voice.

“No problem dude! That’s what we’re here for.”

Nei swayed her hips around, smiling while holding a thumbs up.

“WHAT MAKES YOU SAY WE’RE DONE?! WE HAVE ONE MORE PLACE TO GO BEFORE WE CALL IT QUITS!”

Then as if his energy suddenly reimbursed within him, he quickly stood up, causing the sidewalk and bench Nei was using to crumble instantly. Nei helplessly fell in the rubble, while Effryn tumbled around trying to support himself from falling. He fell anyways.

“LET’S GO!!” Towu excitedly shouted. So much so, that he swooped up both Effryn and Nei in each of his arms, and began to jump, and destroy, across each building.

“Damnit haven’t we had enough!” Effryn fell on the wooden floor, feeling it’s splinter embrace with his arms spread out. He’s felt enough pain for today that he considered himself a juggernaut mage.

But it wasn’t any ordinary wooden floor, it was where he first reunited with Towu since entering this God forsaken game.

“Why here?” Effryn asked, knowing Nei had the same question based on her puzzled expression.

“I FIGURED IT WAS PERFECT PLACE TO LOG OFF SINCE THIS WAS WHERE WE BEGAN OUR ADVENTURE. PLUS A PARADE’S GOING TO START HERE SOON, SO I FIGURED WE SHOULD WATCH TOGETHER BEFORE LOGGING OFF FOR THE NIGHT!”

“Wow. That’s actually...a valid idea.” Nei said bewildered, not knowing Towu was capable of going to timed events. “How’d you know such an event would occur?”

“OH, I FORGOT TO SAY! WHEN ONE OF THE GUARDS CAUGHT ME, HE TOLD ME STUFF LIKE ‘you better not cause any trouble when the knight leaders showcase their strength,” Towu said, impersonating the poor officers voice like some kind of squeaker on xbox. “AND STUFF!”

Nei sighed, clearly disappointed. “Of course that’s how you found out. Maybe if you weren’t wrecking the city by your lonesome, then you could properly gain information on such events.”

“So when does it start?”

“SHOULD BE ANY SECOND NOW!”

“Oh nice. Huh, second?!”

Nei and Effryn glared with lost eyes as men in shiny armour filled the streets. Apparently, the parade was starting now.

The three exited the guild-like hall, and joined the many others watching. Players of many different races and classes came, as were the same with the knights on the parade.

They showed off different groups of classes, such as tanks, semi combat mages, or regular swords-men. Then there were different arch-types, like scholars and scouts, each having their own time on their floating magic powered rock.

“HERE HE COMES!” Towu ruptured the eardrums of the people nearby.

“Who?”

“Oh, you’ll recognize him if you see him.” Nei answered his question quickly while observing the display. “He was someone we played since the competition. You know, the knight.

“The Knight…”

Effryn brainstormed in his head for a moment, thinking back to that game.

-And once he did, a powerful emotion flowed into his body.

“Holy shit…” Effryn muttered, trying his best to keep himself calm in front of Nei. But it seemed she sensed something wrong.

“Effryn? Is there something wrong?’

He heard her words, but his brain couldn’t afford to respond. It was purely on seeing this knight, and to see if he really was the same guy from the game. Because if so…

I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch for what he did to Evvryn.

With his mind beating on getting a look at the bastard, he lost touch with his surroundings. That was, until he felt a warm grasp tightly gripped his hand.

“Somethings wrong, isn’t it?” It was Nei, who’s soft touch and calming voice slowly cracked free Effryn’s mind. “I can tell you’re quite livid about something, so please, tell me why.” She raised their joined hands. “I can tell cause your grip is tighter than it's ever been.”

The life of the parade started to boom with louding cheering and shouts. The most sought after part must be starting soon.

“Nei. I’m sorry, but I’m not who you think I am.” Effryn whispered, not knowing to himself or to her.

“Huh?”

Her eyes flittered, wondering what he meant.

And through the excitement of the crowd, Effryn lowered his gaze. His whisper nearly meshing with the people, yet Nei could understand him as if it were just them:

“Because I don’t deserve to be on a pedestal like you think.”

“What…?”

Nei stared at him, but he couldn’t respond. Not with his mind focusing so intensely on the streets.

If it is him. If it’s not him. Hurry up with this bullshit.

Without realizing it, his hand were draining the life out of Nei’s fingers. She watched as he readied his note log, and saw the expression of pure hatred seething from his face.

She felt her fingers being crushed, even recoiling from the pain. But through it all, she remained silent. For his sake.

“He’s coming!”

“Finally!”

“Ooh, where?! Where?!”

Suddenly from all around, shouts of curiosity rose. People began to push and cram, while the bigger varieties physically knocked others back at least ten feet away.

“There he is! The Holy Saber; the protector of our city from other players and bandits!”

And it was with that shout, with an incoming carriage of high class decorations. It must have been forged straight from Holy steel, with small but detailed strokes of glistening paint outlining a golden ivy cross.

And riding on top, was with no doubt in his mind, the same person he had fought in the tournament. He wore the same armour, looked like the same class, and was identical to the same charging knight he fought that day.

Anger boiled in Effryn’s brain as it formulated every possible way to go about killing that smug smile he wore while waving at the people who adored him.

I’ll strangle him/I’ll drown him/I’ll cut out his lungs/I’ll make him choke on his own eyes/I’ll make his loved ones watch as they all sit in a room together and watch as they each slowly die/I’ll--

His mind continued with endless ideas. He felt his contours of his imagination breaking away at that very moment, with impulses wanting him to drop everything and go kill the bastard.

Calm down. Even if I do a thing now, he’ll just respawn like nothing happened. So if I want to get him, I need to get him in real life.

But the hardest part was how. It’s not like a person's address was next to their level or stats.

The bastard knight merely waved for his display, until he vanished amongst the waves of people. Effryn thought it was nowhere near the hype that people led up to be, but everybody else seemed to have different opinions.

He must have been the last exhibit being that players were filling the streets after he left. Life in the streets, though chaotic, was slowly returning back to its market place.

“WELL, THERE YOU GO! THE WHOLE TOUR! HOW’D YOU ENJOY IT?!”

Effryn scratched back into reality from Towu, and saw him observe the incoming stalls of ‘magic candy.’

“Psst.” Nei whistled, “are you feeling any better now?”

She broke a forced smile, tightening her grip and reminding Effryn he’d been holding her hand hostage to oxygen.

“O-oh, sorry!” Effryn let go, resting his hand in his sleeve pocket. “And yeah, I’ll be fine.”

Fine once I put that bastard thousands of feet below hell.

She looked as if she had something on her mind, but she let go. Instead, she reinforced her facade of a smile to look a little more realistic.

“WELL, WE SHOULD GO TO BED! NEI’S GOT WORK TOMORROW, AND I’VE GOT SCHOOL, SO NIGHT!”

“Night.” Effryn said with hardly any emotion behind him.

For a final time, Nei looked as if she were about to burst open, with her tongue leading the charge. But like the other two, she kept them in.

“Nei.”

She jumped at the sound of hearing her name called by him, and turned her head the other way, whimpering a soft “What?”

“I keep my promises. Trust me in that. But know, there is a whole lot more to me than you might realize.”

“Well, there’s a whole lot more to me than you might realize too Effryn. 💜”

She seemed satisfied with her response, turning her head to face him and poking out her tongue. She even added a little twirl, making her leaf skirt do wonders in the air. “See ya!”

She alloted her menu, finding the right UI, and teleported away. Towu had been in the same process too, but before he fully left the particles in this world, he gifted Effryn an item.

“Huh?”

“HEHE, THE MASTERS GIFT TO HIS STUDENT!” Towu laughed like a maniacal sensei, who also had an overly loud laugh.

“Yep. Thanks teach.”

From his laughing jolly expression, Towu instantly changed. His lips formed a different grin, with a gaze more heavy than usual. “AND ENJOY THAT GIFT I GAVE YOU! HAVE FUN!!”

“W-wait, what? Tow--”

And before he could finish, Towu vanished just like Nei, leaving Effryn all alone in the cheering streets of a crowded district market.

What’d he give me? Effryn thought, loading up his menu and looking at his weapons. Apart from his beginners common staff, there was a weapon with a color rarity he never seen before, a pure black.

He hovered over the item, but saw no rarity was even listed for the weapon. It was a dagger, but looked almost normal naked compared to other weapons.

There was a description, which was strange being as only special items had, like certain quest rewards. It read:

Any persons struck by this dagger will cause one point of damage to them, while also receiving their ISP information and giving you that players current address. Note that this weapon ignores blockers, even that such as TOR. Have fun!

“What the hell did he give me?”

“So he wishes to toy with you as well now, does he? This’ll be quite interesting.”

“Who the hell asked you. Shut up, what would I even do with a weapon like thi-”

Brushing off the ghost, a single thought occurred within his mind. His lips moved into a smile without him knowing.

“So what this weapon’s telling me is…”

Sounding pleased, the ghost added its grimace, “So now your plans are forming with such a weapon. Oh, how such a noble boy hath fallen.” The ghost chuckled in the atmosphere, as Effryn equip the weapon, placing it in the holster that kept his staff.

“Now then,” he faced down the path of parade, and his eyes narrowed like a sinister crow looking for their prey, watching as the herd of crowds followed in suit of cheap entertainment. “It’s time I hunt you down. For Evvryn.”

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Kaiydyn

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