Mutters Nico as she slouched a bit in the bathtub, sniffling. The player “Im.Purity” was a guy named Jace. Neither of them asked each other for ASL, they didn’t really need to. She met him in prior games, along with Eldreon, HeXXXtia and the rest- almost 2 years ago. Back in those days she was in a rough place. Life had taken a heavy toll... on her, her sister, her family. In her pain, she turned to the only thing she knew she could escape to... games.
Back then, she was an awful player, emotional, irrational, angry, toxic. MOBAs, MMOs, Strategy games, she tried all types of games. She simply wanted to escape. Along the way, with the anger and the pain, she met others. She met people she “tolerated”, that “She didn’t hate” but... they were more than that. In worlds and a reality where gender, age, location didn’t matter, she had found comfort. They made her laugh, they let her vent off and never asked why nor more information. They took her as she was, as who she was, in her best and her worst. And, Jace was the first.
She met him in an MMO, one of many out there. She didn’t remember which it was- not that it mattered though- but, she simply felt she began to drift to him every time she didn’t feel well. He was always there... usually. If she moved to a new game, he followed. If she quit one, he usually did too. They talked of everything and nothing, like being MLG Pro Gamers or what they’d study in the future or how classes were going. It was... comforting. They met more people, made more friends... some left over time, and others stayed. It was fun... was. She was thankful for all her friends, whom kept messaging her (probably worried if she was “ok”). The cellphone vibrated on the bathroom floor beside the bathtub as she just stared at it. She didn’t want to pick it up.
They talked a lot, even exchanging social media to stay in touch. It was...among the best and worst decision she could have made. She liked the silly and stupid topics they discussed, but sometimes the boys got a bit out of hand. She giggled at the thought and was thankful for her rather rough and strong personality; unlike Currsed who struggled since she was shy. But...besides the messages her friends could be sending at this time, she also knew there’d be messages from him. She wasn’t ready yet. Instead, she’d finish her bath and go to bed.
She was thankful for her friends... and thus made Jace’s treason hurt even more.
Player: [xXBlaze420Xx] User: Alex Firth
Player: [Currsed] User: Sakura Tanaka
Player: [HeXXXtia] User: John Foster
Player: [I.am.fluffy] User: Daniel Leon
Player: [Eldreon.Mazrik] User: Colin Hendrick
Their ages varied, with only Sakura and John being around her age. Daniel was their latino friend... always spicing things up. Colin was OLD, not THAT old, but they all loved teasing him as he was the married one. Alex was perhaps the silliest and most charismatic one, being a youtuber and streamer. They all sometimes enjoyed watching his streams, especially when they did dungeons together. If something went wrong, it was an excellent way to not let the joke die for a long time. Actually, Alex had insisted on Nico streaming too, but she continually refused. To Nico, her responsibilities came first, and that meant her family and company. She wanted to escape, but she knew she had responsibilities and a duty. Such was her duality.
Yet, she enjoyed every single second she spent with them.
She eased them in their group chat of social media, telling them they'd think of something to do later. She was tired, and they were too. Couple of jokes later, they all bid goodnight. Still, it gnawed at her, he had sent only two messages. She'd check them tomorrow.
"Nicoo." hummed a low and loving voice. But it was not enough as the auburn haired girl simply rolls on her side.
"Nicooo." she could feel the slow flow of consciousness seeping into her mind. She protests with incomprehensible noises.
As the sound of an alarm clock blares, Nico's brain is rattled into alertness, making her shut her eyes and place a pillow over her head.
"You are late young lady."
"5 more minutes"
Lou sighs as she grabs the covers and lifts them off her sister's body. She immediately curls up, but she'd have to give up- grunting in protest, disgust and anger.
"I don't wanna!"
Lou hits her softly with a pillow, making her head tilt sideways but not inflicting any pain. The frown that goes over Nico's face, followed by the slow sway of her body makes Lou laugh, grab her and pull her off the bed, to which the short girl desperately tries to claw to.
Her wavy hair had fluffed over night (as it usually did) and was falling all over her face, especially as she fell from the bed. She grunts continuously in protest as Lou simply looks at her.
"Up up." She commands, lovingly as she claps her hands twice. This time, the girl slowly gets up, facing her sister with hair covering her face, raising her hands like a zombie towards her sister.
"IN. THE. BATH!" Lou pushes her sister into the bathroom as the girl flailed and grabbed on to the door frame. Despite their small playful skit of a zombie attack, Lou knew her all too well. Thus, here we are. Nico took her shirt and pajama pants off with a deep sigh as Lou spoke from outside the door.
"Wash yourself properly, do you want waffles?"
Her tone was low as she frowned at the fact of going to school. It wasn't that she hated it, she... just...no... she did hate it. It was boring.
Lou was just placing the stack of waffles at the table as her sisters, still drying her hair, walked in with a yawn.
"Glad you're awake"
Nico grabs her mug of coffee and takes a deep sip, sighing in relief as she slouches on the table a bit.
"Honey, come on" Lou combs her hair a bit, despite it being nicely combed so it fell effortlessly before her shoulders and held back by a black hairband. Her sister (when it came to going out in public) was always very elegant, proper and spot on in the attire selection. It made her just a bit jealous- she'd take an hour just to pick what to wear to work. Still, with her hair combed in a side tail and a leaving a lock free to flow beside her face, she felt it was the look that complimented her the best.
Breakfast was quick as each ate 2 waffles and Nico got up to grab her leather bag that looked like a briefcase and proceeded to kiss her sister's forehead.
"See you soon."
Nico sighed as she sat on the back of the bus, the usual whispering and snickering muted for she paid no attention to them. She sat upright, proper and refined as she closed her eyes and rested her head on the window.
The chat was always the usual: what to do the weekend (youth) and work (adults). Idle chit chat which she always found dumb, nonsensical and boring. She just wanted the day to go by as quickly and effortlessly as possible. She just had to smile, be nice, be respectful to teachers and not talk much.
She is disturbed from her brief nap by a poking on her cheek. She shakes her head slightly, rubbing her eyes a bit as she blinks twice to a girl smiling kindly at her with blue glasses.
"Good morning Chiyo."
"Good morning Nico. You ok? You had us worried last night."
The girl yawns as Nico rubs her head. She was a sweet girl of her size, black short hair and a very youthful face (looking almost like a middle schooler). She always had a soft and sweet voice, a deredere voice (as they all loved to tease her with). She was of the few friends she had in school, real friends.
"Nyo, Nico." The girl scoots away as she combs her hair a bit with her hands.
"Sorry, you are just really cute."
"I-i'm your s-size!"
The girl pouts and Nico chuckles.
"Don't worry, i'm ok. It was just... it was a surprise to see him there."
"You mean Jace?"
"Yeah, i never thought he'd sell me out over a seat in an MLG Team"
"Well, we still don't know that."
"Took our guild's domain and talked about me with them. I don't know how much he said."
"Maybe he just said how we fought."
"And, that's not bad enough?"
"It's frustrating but we can improve."
"I guess, but... leaving us to join them?"
"They are the strongest guild, Nico."
"Who's side are you on?"
Nico giggles as the girl gets flustered and curls up, dropping her gaze in embarrassment.
Nico would pat the other's head once again.
"I'll get over it. And we'll get revenge."
"Do ya, really think we can take 'em"
She had always loved head rubs, it was like an OFF button. The slurring of the small girl along with her relaxed sleepy face made when head rubbed was just cute.
"Maybe, the tournament will take a while. Guess... we'll just have to take Guild Battlegrounds more seriously."
"UUUUH, competitive. Haven't heard you dis serious in a while."
"Oh... i'm so serious."
The girls giggle together at the back of the bus. The rest of the ride was spent with small chat about boys, school, classes and topics about games, patches and if Nico was ever going to do something on the next mayor update. The last made Nico grunt and protest a lot, and to receive a lecture on "responsibilities" from Sakura- who was just eager for it. She wanted to be among the first to play. Such was their relationship- the best one there was.
Lou finished her black coffee at home whilst reading news in the tech industry, gaming industry and reading on some blogs of "insiders". No one was aware of what the company was working on- which was good. A company many times purposely let out information as smokescreen tactics: both to divert attention and to attract attention. However, the company was still in the concept table over their future products, and (with nothing definitive in place) for rumors to sprout usually meant something was wrong. Today, was starting off well as news simply portrayed a bright future for the GA.IM with more and more companies migrating to it, the gaming industry investing heavily in it and for "Realms of Light" still leading as the best MMO out in the market.
A Free-to-play game, but it's negative reviews were scattered, bickering over it's excessive liberty towards players and the "unfairness" of limiting guilds unless they were able to control a territory; however, the game still sat at a solid 92% Approval and 9/10 rating.
The last reads were done while doing the dishes before taking her handy tablet with her and off to work. The drive wasn't long, considering they lived in the outskirts of the city. If anything, she liked that her sister's school campus had been trapped inside the city (more or less) and was a half hour walk from their building. Well, not theirs but the company owned 4 floors, the highest. Still, it was a 1 hour drive from home and... with days like today.
It took longer... and an immeasurable amount of patience. As her car beeped in the parking lot, she could only sigh and ride the elevator, motivating herself for the day ahead. Or so she had hoped. The elevators doors opened and she was met with hell, and Satan as the welcome committee.
"You are late."
What came next could only be described as Dante's Inferno walk through the hells. Her Uncle, the current CEO, laid on her the situation of desperation in the company as teams were scattered about with doubts, concept issues, and a myriad of other problems. With her trusted assistant by her side, she was asked to walk and meet personally with each team, each area, along all the floors to ensure that "the machine was properly assembled, properly tended and properly working". It... was hell. Thank god for Lunch.
"Young Lady, we have a meeting pending. The concept of the new product."
Lou protested loudly as she almost fell in tears of desperation on her assistant's shoulder's.
"I'll get something for you miss."
She gives him some money as she walks, tired and dishearten into the meeting room where her uncle and the creative board were seated. Thankfully, they weren't mean, and her uncle, despite his strict demeanor, pats her head and smiles. She was trying her best... but she was hungry. Very hungry.
A Nico wearing track suit pants and jacket leaned back against the shade of a tree. She was tired.
"FIU! I though i'd die."
Came the voice of Sakura as she plopped beside her, panting. Physical Exercise was something neither of them enjoyed at all, but Nico was actually athletic despite her hatred towards such activities. Thankfully, it was past noon- Lunch. The two girls giggled as they took out their small bentos. Sakura came from a Japanese household, Nico had Japanese descendence. Physically, they were nothing alike, but it was these details that truly shone and bound the girls together.
"What did you bring Chiyo?"
"Ano, Kushiage, Gohan Rice and... Curry?"
"Yum. I brought Rice too, steak and seaweed salad."
They smile at each other as they place the boxes between them, side by side and (after thanking the meal) proceeded to eat together, sharing meals. It had always been this way, since they met.
"He's an idiot"
Nico pulls out her cellphone and leans towards Sakura, who also leans closer to get a better look. Cheek on cheek, the girls read his two messages. They were very short.
>[JaceF. MLG] Niko, please dont be mad. I told him to not say something about that. I know i did wrong. You have no idea how terrible i feel. But... i can't do much, the team's direction is forcing all of us to simply go on these crusades. We must dominate the land at all costs and by any means necessary. It has caused a massive dissent among the members. I'm part of the team, a "commander" and im forced to place an example. I dont know what to do. i was hoping to talk to you before all of this began. i swear niko. i would never do something like this just cause, you know me.
>[JaceF. MLG] niko, you must be asleep, but you have to know this... for you, for the game. apparently there is a small problem with the current format and guild management. you gave too much freedom and influence. this current biggest guild, chimera, it wants to dominate the current available raid grounds... dominate all guilds and place itself as an absolute kingdom, proving their superiority. i will keep you posted, even if you ignore me... for this game, your game. their plan must not happen.
"Is that possible?"
"I don't know. I mean... yes, the liberties i allowed are ample, but... to be able to control all guilds under a single reign? It would require a lot of resources, maintenance, time, and they'd have to control all their terrains in the weekly raid."
"But they could"
"it's a monumental task"
"One to make history"
Nico's head spurred at the thought. Sakura was right. The guild was no average player guild, nor even a player made guild, it was THE guild of AN OFFICIAL ESPORTS TEAM. Resources, dedicated time, the appeal of being part of them and being able to meet and play with players of such caliber. Guilds would either be crushed or would just bow to them, cashing on the faint opportunity of being part of them.
"Niko?" Sakura nudges the other girl, snapping her from her trance- the bell was ringing.
The rest of the day Niko struggled to pay attention and to think of this... flaw she had incorporated into the game. She had wanted the game to be competitive, but not for there to be a guild to crush and rule over all others... an empire. She had thought guilds would balance each other out, the competitive level between players preventing the rise of one single guild. Also, micro transactions were mostly estetique in the game... except for one: Guild Installations and Territory.
Such mechanism limited Guild growth, a purposeful mechanism so Guilds would have to compete against each other to grow. The price was also slightly steep, preventing players to simply spend money to expand their guild territories or improve their Guilds in a Pay-to-win fashion. It was all oriented to players and player guilds... not competitive ESport companies with resources. But... few ESport teams had invested into the game; she hadn't thought of such a problem. Even worse... this was the first and only competitive team officially investing in the game. She needed them... for promotion. She felt trapped.
Classes were a struggle, she wasn't able to pay attention. Well, she knew she could ask for help from any of the boys or some other friend. Nico knew her looks and sweet charm could get her some favors, but she disliked doing it. Quite frankly, she paid little attention to her classmates and what they did. She knew what they thought of her, her looks, her family, her money. Some hated her, some worshiped her... she, simply wanted peace. Such was the reason why she was usually quiet and distant, enhancing more her position of unconquerable beauty. However, she was thankful Sakura was always by her side; her best friend.
"Not with your mouthful, miss"
Lou would swallow her bite, wiping her lips as she giggles and looks at her assistant.
"Sorry, but i really owe you one Fitz."
"You gave me the money."
"Details, you were kind enough to get me food after the meeting."
"It's my job."
"No... it's a friend's action."
The man named Fitz, her age, older by only some months, simply smiled as he shakes his head. He looks at her, his features much more relaxed.
"There we go."
"You know that i try to be as professional as i can. You ARE my boss."
"Ugh, i don't care. I rely on you far too much for you to be calling me miss"
"Yeah, a lot."
The pair laughs as they ate their sandwhiches in Louisa's office, an elegantly minimal office with black and white coloring.. and a lot of gadgets and prototypes scattered around, along with blue prints and papers.
Fitz, her assistant was an elegant guy who could rock a suit or office wear. He wasn't eye candy, but he sure grabbed attention from the ladies, especially for being a foreigner. However, beyond looks, he had also proven to be a dexterous person at technology, administration and being her all around support. For a person who worked part-time with them, his presence was felt (especially for her).
Lou had felt a bit insulted and had actually frowned when he was appointed as her assistant a couple months ago. Now, she couldn't imagine managing her hectic executive life without his aid. His brain seemed to always remember everything and kept a strict control on them, with strict priorities unless told otherwise by her directly. Loyal and professional to the core... maybe even to a fault, but she cherished him.
"So... how was your weekend?"
"Nothing exciting, just... hanged out with some friends."
"Clubbing and get drunk? Meet some ladies?"
"Let's only leave the drinking aspect of it all. I do get tired and use my free time to just relax."
"But you are depriving so many ladies from meeting you!"
The two laugh.
"Oh trust me, i am nowhere as exciting as you may imagine. I tend to only play videogames on my days off."
"Perfect for the company, what better assistant could've i asked for."
"I feel like a guinea pig now."
More chuckles rise as they finish their meal. A simple one, but enough to keep both exhausted individuals with the energy to finish the day.
"So... what do you play?"
"I thought i already told you."
"Well, i doubt you ONLY play RoL."
"Oh... and why is that? Is the game THAT good?"
"You doubt a game your company itself made?"
"No, but... i never thought someone could dedicate themselves to only ONE game. I mean, my sister developed it and she still hops around games a lot."
"Understandable, at least to me. She sees her own game with more critical eyes than others. Maybe she seeks for inspiration in other games... or to not think of hers."
"Wow.. do you know my sis? You kinda nailed that train of thought"
"Well, it's something i'd do. And no, i haven't met the famed developer of the game."
"I'd offer the encounter... but..."
Lou stands up, dusting her suit and adjusting it, along with redoing her hair. She seemed serious, as if she was getting ready for something big and of huge importance.
"We have a job to do."
She extends to him a folder, with a smile. He opens it and his eyes widen in surprise.
"Maybe you might get to meet your beloved game's creator."
"Want me to run this to them?"
"We will need a prototype ASAP"
As Lou walks out the office, his assistant scanned the sheets with speed, his face serious.
"this. is. ambitious."
"Go big or go home."
"Did you just..."
"I'll do what you ask, i'll talk with workshop first, get them to make a blueprint and functional prototype. Software comes last."
"Interesting, i'll trust you on it. Go."
They snicker as they part ways, Lou entering with an identical folder into the meeting room; her assistant walks towards the elevator, a wide smile on his face. He loved his job, and would get a chance to meet the creator of the game that might give him a shot at ESports.