"You really have to stop making decisions without us"
"We are a team Nico, you can't just ignore us."
"She did it with the best of intentions."
"I find it unfair our two girls live near each other and away from any of us."
"Why is it that fluffy only thinks of sex?"
"I'm a guy!"
"So is HeXXXtia."
"He might be gay."
"Fuck you too, fluffy!"
The teasing and bickering continued for a while as the tavern's usual ruckus allowed their conversation to go unnoticed. It wasn't surprising that the recent topic was the fact that they now knew Nico and Currsed were girls. Girls in video games were rare, a stigma that both girls hated. However, do to safety reasons to avoid harassers or worse, the girls never mentioned their gender and only THIS tight group of friend had just gained the privilege of joining Nico's Voice Channel.
Still, they all preferred texting than talking, the voice channel used usually for... important tasks. Today, in the busy tavern where people were engaged in rp or other talks, they simply talked (typed) about the recent decisions made by Nico. The eldest of their group, Eldreon, was the strongest to oppose, while the others took the topic with a casual discontent.
"I have a family, i have a job. I need to be realistic."
"I told you that we'd be getting paid."
"A couple bucks isn't enough for me to support my family, Nico."
"If we win it could be more."
"But it's a gamble."
HeXXXtia butted in, but he was right.
"Nico, i cant just abandon everything for..."
The unison cry of the group made a wall of text in the local chat which made them all giggle a bit.
"I can't say that. This game is amazing, it's more than just A game."
Came the second wall of text at the unison response. They all chuckled.
"Ok, guys, come on, be serious. I want to be part of this, but i'm not gonna be able to dedicate even half the time you guys would be able to."
"We know, bro. But, you can try. I mean, we're all going on a gamble here."
"And we get to spend time with the girls."
"Fluffy, could you be serious for once?"
"Trust me, he cant. Remember how i met him."
"YOU MADE A REAL SEXY CHAR"
The group laughed as the usual bullying toward Fluffy began. However, Nico couldn't help but think of what Eldreon said. If Eldreon wouldn't be able to participate or be part of the team... she doubted she'd be able to find a sub.
"Well... i already spoke my mind. Nico, i cant accept being enrolled for now. I'd need something more solid."
"Ok. Just, stay with us and try to participate."
"Will do. g2g baby is crying guys."
Everyone bid him farewell as his character dematerialized before them in a cloud of white data flakes. They all looked at each other, worried and nervous. They were a healer down. A crucial roll for both PVE and PVP. Nico couldn't help but feel her hands tremble.
"Hey, wanna do dungeons?"
Everyone stared at Currsed, he rarely proposed doing any activity if it wasn't raid or public events. It was an activity they all agreed tho, they needed it... clear their minds.
>[Jace.F]: hey, i cant say sorry enough. can you log so we can talk? I'm going to leave the team, i feel real bad on what they did. I'm still your friend Nics, dont push me away. Work was tough today, had to do a lot of stuff for my boss. Sometimes i feel she flirts with me, hehe. She's cool, but... well... love is hard. Talk to me soon, i miss you.
Nico sighs heavily as she finished reading the message. The moonlight fell on her white skin as she stared up to the starry sky from the crystal doors of the diner. White tank top and exercise tight shorts, she felt comfortable in such attire at home while walking barefooted. The bitter coffee was good for her nerves and mind, easing her slowly. The team was in trouble... she was never a good leader, she wasn't made to be one... she was too impulsive.
The dungeon run had gone smoothly if not for the tiny detail of the random healer. The dungeon was finished at the end by Currsed, Nico and Blaze; all of them with a headache.
Warlocks were magic specialized tanks who controlled agro and mitigated damage by the use of defensive and control magic in large AoEs. Reapers were heavy damage dealing glass cannons, specialized in mid-short range combat and used a balanced combination of physical damage and focused magical attacks. Warriors were high damage off-tanks, specialized in defense penetration and suppression and with a wide range of customization as they could use the full spectrum of wielding types and stances. Fluffy's class: archer, was a mid-long range class specialized in rapid-fire DPS mid range damage and High Damage cast Long Range damage. Priests, were the most basic class of healers but most heavily oriented towards Healing and Cleasing magic; they were the best class in keeping everyone alive.
Of course, this was all theory and required an understanding of one's class and even of the dungeon. Which... explained why things went south in the final boss. The priest got wiped out rather quickly and Nico and her teammates were left to deal by themselves with the Eidolon Boss which required a healer class at all times since the mechanics forced players to take damage in exchange for some buff or debuff to the boss. They barely made it.
Such things never happened when their team was together. Eldreon was quick to react, had an excellent understanding of positioning and prioritizing and more than once had change the course of a dungeon or battle with his skills. A skilled healer made a big difference both in PVE and PVP. Nico rubbed the back of her neck at the thought.
Nico heard the door open followed by the foot steps of her sister on the ceramic entrance. She walked to meet her, she would sit in the entrance a while as she left her heels on the small stand on the wall and she stretched her feet. It was a habit of her sis, and a crucial reason why Nico always opposed to using heels. She preferred being short and comfortable than tall and agonizing. However, she soon froze, wide-eyed as there was a guest in their home.
Lou would leap up and cover her assistant's eyes with her hands, making his head crash against the wooden door loudly and painfully. Nico shrieked as she dashed to hide her body behind the most immediate wall. The two sisters stared at each other bewildered.
"I told you he was coming over!"
"I didn't have my cellphone!"
"I was playing and then i made coffee!"
"You are supposed to always have it at hand!"
"You aren't supposed to bring men!"
"Girls...can you bicker later? My head is hurting."
The girls stopped bickering as they exchanged stares and Nico dashed up the stairs to her room. Lou released Fitz, who now had a very red mark on his face of where her hands had been pressing. He rubs his head in pain and actually bends down a bit trying to loosen his back and neck as the sudden assault had placed some serious strain on him. And he was already tired from work.
"It's ok, i'm fine. Just, give me a second."
He groans a bit as he massages his neck. Lou could only bow continuously while apologizing, her upbringing clearly showing. Fitz chuckles as he removes his shoes and steps on the wooden floor. He smiles as he raises the plastic bags with take-out they had bought.
"Where do i leave them?"
"Oh, um, up the stairs to the right, leave them on the kitchen counter."
As Fitz moves up the stairs, Lou undoes her shirt and hair, quickly skipping up the stairs to her room to change. However, at the top of the stairs she meets a glaring younger sister dressed with track pants and a white shirt. She was pouting.
"Why is he here?"
Respecting decency, Nico's voice was a hiss. A sharp hiss.
"We stayed up late and i offered him dinner"
"Why bring him here?!"
"I don't know! But he is here so behave!"
Nico stares at her sister as this one moved to her room at a quick pace. She speeds after her, careful to not let their little quarrel be noticed by the visit.
"You like him!"
Lou's voice comes out loud as the surprise and very direct question came rather blunt and blind sided her. Nico shushes her, moving closer.
"You like him?!"
"No! Well... I don't know"
Lou shushes her sister who seemed both excited and annoyed.
"Keep it down!"
"Hey, Lou, where are the dishes?"
"Hey calls you by your first name!"
Lou shushes Nico again as she was blushing a lot while her sister continued to tease her.
"Umm, top counter the cabinet over the stove!"
"And he's making himself at home now."
Lou covers her sister's mouth as she shushes her more, embarrassed. Nico's eyes however were very expressive and pressed on her teasing.
"I-i'm a grown woman!"
"Who has needs?"
Lou shushes her sister one last time as she lets her go and kneels before her.
"Please, stop! This is new to me!"
"And setting an example for me"
Lou begs Nico to keep quiet. Nico grins her usual way as she helps her sister up.
"I'll leave you two love birds alone."
"It's not like that!"
"More time for me to game."
"You go to bed early, miss!"
"So you two can be all alone?"
Her sister's embarrassed and frustrated squeal is heard through the door as Nico begins to strut down the stairs with her crooked smile. She snickers a bit, stepping down to the first floor and taken rather aback by the great presentation on the table.
"Hey. You're... Nico, err, miss Sato?"
"Yeah...how do you know..."
"Oh, um...i suppose you didn't notice me. It's fine, i'm really just an assistant after all. I was with Lou when you discussed in your office in the Gaming Department."
His words were carefully measured, causing him to seem to be tiptoeing his way through the conversation. Nico was amused. Was she intimidating an older man?
"Yeah. Sorry, i do remember you being there. Didn't catch your name."
"Oh... just, call me Fitz. That's what Lou calls me either way, err, Sato-san."
"It's fine, you may call her Lou and... you may call me Sato-san."
"It'll be wierd."
"Yeah, but i'm still not comfortable letting you call me by only my first name"
"i, umm, sure... i understand."
Fitz laughs nervously as he looks at the short yet seemingly more mature girl. She was real pretty and cute, the resemblance with her older sister quite noticeable though they were very different in many ways. He however, couldn't help but feel nervous around her, more than how he felt around Lou. Odd.
"So... should we..."
Lou's steps down the stairs were audible as she was speeding.
She drops from the last step with a very casual grey oversized sweater which left one shoulder bar, and a skimpy outfit- suiting for her age and purpose but not very reserved nor proper. To which Nico whistles. Lou blushes staring at her sternly. Fitz simply feels his jaw drop and maybe a nose bleed. Nico extends him a handkerchief. She was enjoying this.
"Yey, our leader is back. Did the run actually make you that stressed?"
"You ok Nico?"
Nico was still adjusting herself on the seat as the messages began already to flood in. She smiles as her presence in this world was relevant and irrelevant. One more player, the creator, without responsibilities, but responsible for everything that is, was and would be. She sighs before beginning to chat back- calming her guild mates.
As she checked how things were and welcoming Eldreon back (baby was asleep now), she decided to check her friends list. He wasn't logged in... and she hadn't blocked him. It was hard. She sighs and notices she had a private message.
>[Currsed] You ok? You've been kinda afk a while.
Nico smiles, Currsed could be so cute and caring. She really loved Sakura; she was always there.
<[Nico.Ni] Yeah, just... thinking.
>[Currsed] Him? Also, the guys are talking to you.
She had been in a daze and she was rather surprised at the spam of her guildmates trying to check if she was alive. She giggles at their silly ways.
"Guy's im here."
"Ok, so she isn't afk."
"Just ignoring us."
The unison cry comes out as they all give him a solid punch, making him flop side ways on his bench.
"Anyway... what should we do?"
Nico resumes the topic as she messages Sakura back.
>[Nico.Ni] Why are you asking about him? It's not like i care. But he isn't logged in. Think he really feels that bad?
<[Currsed] Sure, you dont care. Anyway, you'll need to talk with the team tomorrow. I'll come.
>[Nico.Ni] Thank you. And, I.DONT.CARE.
The girls giggle privately as the rest of the guild kept trading topics on how they should train. Nico let them be, she had an idea already. The Arena were always open, even the Team PVP; the competitive beta may have been over, but the option was still there. Players like competitive gameplay, regardless of getting ranked or not. However, there was a topic at hand.
"So, competitive teamplay consists of 5 v 5. So... we must decide who'll play- not Fluffy- and where we can get a Healer."
"All agree on not letting Fluffy participate in competitive?"
The whole team raises their hands, causing Fluffy to slouch on his seat. It was the usual bullying, which led to everyone (after a couple of laughs) to apologize and the girls to hug him- bringing a whole and common topic back.
Times was fun with them... regardless of what they did. Dungeons- slaying bosses and BAMs for fame, glory or gear. They enjoyed exploiting the current late game dungeons (5) that (despite their gear level) was always a challenge as monsters were built with series of mechanics that required reaction time and memory. White Chapel, was their favorite as it was the last dungeon released and gave a sneak preview of the future expansion (one Nico and Sakura already knew what was coming). As they slayed the final boss- a humanoid shadow, armored in white which was known as "Humane"- they watched the cutscene unfold. The creature's body dissipating slowly into dark mist and 4 figures stepping around it, speaking of what was to come.
They enjoyed Competitive Arena, where they tended to take things lightly, averaging an 82% win rate. But... motivated from the cutscene of before, they were urging to bump that to equal the current leaders of the board- Golden Chimera 91%.
With Eldreon online for a while, they decided to not waste time at all. Soon, both Alex's stream on his Blaze and the spectator option of the game was getting flocked by players and guilds eager to watch top tier competitive gameplay. They were getting attention.
"You two got along."
"Yeah... more or less. Sato-san..."
Lou inquires with a pout, making Fitz laugh as they sat outside under the starry night.
"She asked me to call her that."
"That girl, i swear."
Fitz would laugh as he took a swing at his tea.
"Is it wrong to call her that?"
She pouts tho, making Fitz notice she wasn't being that honest.
"Oh come on Lou-san."
"Oh, dont you dare."
"I'll murder you."
"Lou... what other ending is there?"
"Call me Lou and that's it.
The two adults laugh at their antiques.
"Thanks for today. I couldn't have made it through without your help."
"Well, it's my job. But i do enjoy it. It's fun, and you're fun."
The two avert their gaze, blushing as they look up at the sky. Fitz's cellphone vibrate and glows in the dark, making their attention divert to it. He grabs it.
"Who is it?"
"Umm, just... some friends."
His eyes squint at the bright light and at the images displaying before him. It was a video from his guild mates; they were spectating a competitive game of Arena in RoL. Fitz had dismissed it for a second- the guild had been recruiting stronger players the last week. But, the video soon panned to a kemonomimi reaper, taking out the enemy team's tank and healer and soon speeding up into the castle to destroy the Core. He knew that character.
"What is it?"
His attention is snapped back as he turns the cellphone's screen off and looks at Lou. She was inquisitive, curious and close.
"Let me see."
Fitz places the phone in his pocket, he didn't want her to know about his hobbies. That he wasn't as interesting as he looked, nor that he was currently conflicted on whether being a professional gamer or... staying in the company responsible for the game he loved so much. He had little time to decide; gaming careers were short lived. Then again.
Lou pouts and Fitz smiles as he moves a lock of her bang behind an ear.
"Trust me, it's nothing. My friends just wanted me to watch a gaming video."
"You like video games a lot?"
"Lucky boy, you landed a really special job then."
"I guess, I mean... i'm studying and decided to take work for now while i decide what to do with..."
Lou presses a finger to his lips.
"Worse comes to worse... i'll always need you."
Their gazes met for a second as their hearts raced and their cheeks burned bright. They looked away, giggling sheepishly and shyly, soon turning to laughter. They stole glances at each other as they finished their teas and shared a bit of their hobbies. He was thankful Lou was also a gamer, though (in her word) "not as hardcore as her sister".
As it got late, Fitz helped Lou clean the dishes and take out the trash. He felt they had gotten close... very close. However, he didn't expect their goodbye; a soft kiss on the lips by Lou as she closed the door. He felt silly, hot and... worried. Living two lives was hard.
As he took his cellphone out once more, he noticed the video stream was over. He played it (now being a regular video) and skimmed through looking for her. A kemonomimi reaper, dressed in victorian attire, named Nico.Ni. He knew that her guild was amongst the highest ranked... she was one of their main threats. He'd have to decide what to do soon.