Eric sighed, running his hand through his messy hair as he did so. I should take a shower, he mused. Lifting one edge of his shirt up to confirm, he wrinkled his nose, “Yep, definitely need a shower.”
Glancing over at the G3 logo that had replaced the stream, he broke into an almost unconscious grin. Fate looked amazing. His friends had been talking about finding a new game for months, but at this point they’d played everything on the market and they kept coming back to the same games. They’d been hoping G3 would bring news of upcoming titles to relieve their boredom but none of them had been prepared for this. Hurricane had truly outdone themselves with this announcement, he thought as he rose from his computer chair, shedding his shirt and tossing it on top of a steadily growing pile in the corner of his room.
Stepping into the bathroom, Eric shed the remainders of his pajamas, pausing to glance at himself in the mirror as he waited for the shower to warm up. Standing just shy of six feet with medium length dark brown hair hanging greasily down over his green eyes, framed by the lenses of his glasses which magnified the large bags underneath, he looked every inch the type of nerd who would stay up for five hours past midnight just to watch Hurricane’s conference.
“You didn’t have to stay up to watch it. You could have gone to bed like a normal person and woken up early to catch the show,” he mocked himself as he turned and slipped into the shower.
School today was going to be hell, but at least he’d be able to discuss the game with the guys. Gio was going to regret having not watched the conference live when they all started discussing it at lunchtime, or more than likely halfway through first period, Eric thought with a small chuckle.
Stepping out of the shower, he grabbed a towel off the nearby rack and dried himself off. Using the towel to wipe the steam off the mirror, he was greeted with a much improved look. His hair was no longer matted from not showering all weekend, and his complexion was notably improved. Alas there wasn’t much he could do about the bags under his eyes, but they were a small price to pay for a night of gaming and watching the reveal of Fate live.
Grabbing a quick breakfast, Eric dashed out the door before his parents could emerge from their room to begin their own morning rituals. He wasn’t in the mood to talk about his future plans this morning, or his lack thereof. Picking up his bike from the side of the house, he jumped on and made quick work of the ten minute ride to school.
Despite leaving early, he still somehow managed to arrive at the door of his classroom only moments before the bell rang to signify the beginning of the day’s classes. Safe again, he thought as he met the disapproving eyes of his teacher, Ms Fleming.
“Mr Kingsley, so good of you to join us," she said, her eyes clearly expressing her annoyance at his appearance interrupting her speech. “We were just about to go over the schedule for your senior exams. If you’d be so kind as to shut the door, we may continue.”
Nodding, Eric closed the door and quickly made his way to his seat, pausing briefly to catch Mark’s eye. “Meet us at lunch?” Mark mouthed. Briefly nodding in response, Eric sat down and focused on appearing intent on listening to the format of the upcoming senior exams. But inside, all he could think of was that glorious trailer.
The next two periods passed in much the same way. Each of their teachers spent the first half of the class going over how important these exams were to their future, then the next half discussing how they would spend the next week preparing in class. Finally, the bell rang to signify lunch and the class bolted from their seats.
“We’ll be reviewing the first three units next class so come prepared!” warned the math teacher Mr Woods as the students efficiently evacuated the classroom.
Dashing towards his locker, Eric was met by a pair of mismatched boys emerging from the opposite direction. Griffin was big, well above six foot and built like a less muscled linebacker with blond hair and blue eyes. Mark in contrast was several inches below Eric’s height with light brown hair and matching brown eyes. Somehow of the three of them though, Mark was always the one surrounded by women - confidence really was everything.
“Dude, Fate looks amazing!” Mark began as they hurriedly stuffed their books into their lockers.
Griffin laughed, “Amazing is underselling it. Those are better graphics than anything I’ve ever seen and it’s all in virtual reality, plus it’s retailing for less than $200! Hurricane must have gone insane.”
“We need to be in there day one,” Eric said as he grabbed his lunch from his backpack. “The faster we start leveling, the bigger a lead we can build over others. If we can hit endgame quickly, we can compete with the big guilds this time. No beating things weeks after Vertex or Nihilum, or getting steamrolled by guilds with all the top players because they started before us.”
“Do we know anything about endgame yet?” Griffin asked. “For all we know there are no raids and it’s purely PvP based.”
“That sounds freaking awesome," Mark replied. “Can you imagine being able to take over castles or defend like that guy in the trailer?”
“You guys talking about Fate?” Connor interjected from the locker beside Eric’s. At 6’6, Connor was one of the biggest guys in the school. Much to the PE coach’s constant chagrin however, he didn’t play sports, but instead sat on the student council and participated in math contests.
“You know it. You saw the reveal too?” Eric shot back.
“Hell yeah. Me, Sam, and Kurt spent all morning talking about it in Mrs Savard’s English class. Game is legit.”
Eric wrinkled his nose at this. Kurt was not someone he wanted to be discussing right now.
“Anyways, I’ll see you guys around, student council is meeting to discuss yearbook distribution. Later dudes,” Connor said, waving his arm over his shoulder as he walked off.
"Speaking of which. I promised someone I'd give them my notes. I'll meet you guys back here in a minute," said Mark, slamming closed his locker as he dashed off in the other direction.
"Odds that that someone is a girl?" Griffin asked dryly. "Not something I'd be willing to bet on," Eric replied.
"Do we just wait here for him?"
"Might as well."
"How was your weekend anyways? We didn't really get to talk last night. Did your Taekwondo tournament go well?"
"Kind of?" Eric replied.
Griffin arched his eyebrow. "Kind of?"
"I mean, it didn't go badly. But I didn't do as well as I'd hoped," Eric explained, grabbing his lunch from the locker as he slammed it shut. "I lost in the semi-finals to the provincial champion. Won the bronze medal match though, so I placed at least."
"Not bad. Congrats."
"Thanks," Eric laughed. "Anyways, how was your weekend?"
"Quiet, chill. Just stayed at home gaming. Watched Crones with my family on Saturday and then played with the guys on Sunday before you got home."
"Cool, what about-" Whatever it was Eric had been about to say however, was cut off as Mark returned, this time without his notes.
"You guys ready to head down?" Mark asked.
"Yeah, who were you giving your notes to?" Griffin asked.
"Just a girl," Mark replied smoothly. Hearing this, Griffin shot a triumphant look towards Eric who rolled his eyes in response. Mark seemed to be friends with every girl in the school somehow. The odds of the recipient being a girl were far higher than the alternative had been.
"New girlfriend? Or just a friend," Eric asked as they left the lockers behind.
"Just a friend," Mark replied. "For now at least," he added with a sly grin.
Making their way to the cafeteria, the discussion continued, centered around their thoughts on what endgame would look like. As they sat down, another pair took the seats across from them. Of southeast asian descent, Gio looked like the Filipino version of Mark. While he wasn’t as good at picking up ladies, he still somehow found himself surrounded by women in all his activities, probably because he was an artist, Eric mused. Rob on the other hand was a bit taller than Gio and Mark, though still shorter than Eric himself. Of Chinese descent, his smile was usually the first thing people observed about him. He always seemed ready to laugh at something or someone. Usually someone, Eric thought wryly.
“You guys ready for Fate?” Asked Gio, ripping into his sandwich.
“You know it," Eric responded with a grin. “What are you guys planning on playing? Should we worry about making a balanced party?”
Griffin rolled his eyes at this, “We don’t even know what classes the game has and you want us to make a party?”
“Yeah dumbass, we’ve literally seen one trailer and you want us deciding our futures already?” came a voice from behind them.
Turning, Eric saw that Jun-Ho had appeared. Jun-Ho, or Jun as he preferred to be called, was Korean and lived up to the Korean stereotype by being the best gamer in their group. As a competitive person, Eric always attempted to compete with Jun but somehow managed to fall just short in most cases, something Jun never let him forget.
“I’m just saying that it’s not a bad idea to at least decide what we should focus on. The game releases in just over a month,” he retorted, taking a bite of the cold slice of pizza he’d grabbed from the fridge earlier. Ugh, he thought with distaste as he bit into it, Mushrooms.
“Well obviously I’ll be a ranged damage dealer. I’ll be the main dps and you guys can all be my supports," Jun said with a laugh as he sat down next to Mark.
“That’s fine, what about you guys? I know Mark is probably going to be a jack of all trades healer and Griffin will play a tank. What do you two want to play? Oh and where’s Ryan?” Eric asked, turning to address Rob and Gio.
Gio looked pensive, “Ryan said he’d be down in a bit, he had to talk to the teacher about something on the exam. And I’ll probably go tank.”
“I’ll see what classes there are first,” Rob said after a moment.
“What classes for what? Are you guys talking about the exams?” came a soft voice from behind him.
Whirling around in his seat, Eric saw Mirianne Martins standing there with a lunch tray in hand.
“Uhhh no, we’re talking about video games," he responded in a flustered voice. “Hurricane announced a brand new VR game this morning and everyone’s pretty excited.”
“Oh,” Mirianne replied.
“But we’re going to be studying together for the exams soon. We’re meeting up at uhhh... Griffin’s place! Did you want to come?” He asked, feeling hopeful.
“Sorry! I’ve already told Mary and Cassie that I’d study with them after school today," Mirianne responded. “Maybe next time though.” With that, Mirianne walked away towards her friends’ table.
“We’re meeting up at my place?” Griffin asked with an amused smile on his face. Eric buried his face in his hands, “I panicked okay? I didn’t expect her to say yes anyways.”
“When are you going to ask her out, man?” Mark asked. “Everyone knows you’ve been crushing on her for the last year.”
“We’re just not a good fit. She’s class valedictorian and I’m a video game addict who can barely make it to class on time. After graduation, we’ll probably never see each other again," replied Eric. “Anyways, back to Fate. What do you guys think of what we’ve seen so far?”
Mark looked doubtful and the other guys shared glances, but fortunately they turned the conversation back to Fate. Eric let out a little sigh of relief as he took a peek at Mirianne, now talking animatedly with her friends at a different table. In less than a month, they would go their separate ways, her to some prestigious University and him to a normal University where he’d room with Griffin. It was better this way, he told himself.
As the bell rang once more signifying the end of the school day, Eric stretched. Somehow he’d made it through the school day. Now all he had to do was manage to not fall asleep too early and he’d be free of his dumb decision to pull an all nighter to watch the Hurricane conference. Still worth it, he smirked to himself as he gathered his bag and left the class. The bright posters on the classroom walls gave way to the whitewashed sides of the school corridors. Grabbing his phone, he quickly checked the brand new Fate subreddit to see if any new info had been posted yet. Engrossed in his task, he almost didn’t notice as a huge figure suddenly stepped in front of him.
“Careful!” Eric snarled as he looked up from his phone. A tall boy with a pale face and a bad case of acne had appeared in front of him. His thick eyebrows nearly reaching his short, military style hair as he stared down at him, as if appalled that Eric could be angry with him.
“Shut it, Kingsley. We’ve been asking you for weeks for your consent forms for graduation. If you want to be allowed to walk, you need to consent to being on the holotape shown on VirtuNet,” the boy snapped, clearly angry with Eric’s tone.
Eric sighed, running his hands through his hair, “Sorry Kurt, it totally slipped my mind. I was up kind of late last night,” Eric tried to explain. But Kurt cut him off.
“Oh yes, watching G3 I’d imagine. Come on, Kingsley. Everyone except YOU has given in their forms. Make sure you’ve got it tomorrow or I’m going to have to involve the administration.” Kurt said in a threatening tone. With that, he turned and hurried off in the other direction, doubtless to one of his many after school activities. Why anyone would actually want to remain at school once class was over was anyone’s guess in Eric’s book. But as long as it got Kurt out of his hair, he was happy.
With a sigh, Eric trudged over to his locker, pausing briefly to stare at the equations and scribbles adorning the exterior - remnants of last minute studying for tests he’d barely studied for - before opening it up and grabbing his bag from inside. He knew he shouldn’t be angry at Kurt, even if he was a prick, he was just doing his job as the vice-president of the student council. Still, did he have to be such an ass about it? Eric wondered as he moved through the halls towards his bike, tied as it always was to a tiny tree next to the bike racks.
Jumping on, he kicked the rusty kickstand a few times before it disengaged and made quick work of the ride home. His parents wouldn’t be home until well after supper, which meant he had plenty of time to plan a way to get his mother to sign the consent form without turning it into a discussion about his future plans. He still hadn’t told them that he’d accepted an offer for a major in game theory and design, and he felt strongly that it would be best to keep it that way for as long as possible. In the meantime though, he could at least content himself by browsing the web for any scraps of information about Fate. A prospect that cheered him up greatly. By the time he made it home, Kurt’s intrusion had been almost forgotten as Eric dashed upstairs to continue where he’d left off before Kurt had accosted him.