Her Elysium Chapter 1-5

A chance meeting in the online game Destruction of Elysium changes the lives of a healer and a tank forever.

The digital worlds of MMORPGs are Alex’ only safe space. Online, she’s the great AlexTheDestroyer, leader of one of the biggest raiding guilds in Destruction of Elysium, a max level tank who can handle any monster and she knows her way around every dungeon. In real life, she’s just Alex, a clumsy girl who’s hyper and too impulsive.
Until she meets a healer who seems to be able to heal more than just her online character. Only, Alex can’t fall for her. The guild desperately needs a new healer, or they’ll lose their top rank.
Can she risk the fate of the guild just to confess to the one girl who really seems to get her?

Fleur is a girly-girl who loves flowers, dresses and being a healer in her favourite MMORPG.
But in this online world, like in real life, she feels like she’s only playing a role, never truly herself.
That is until she meets a tank who seems to match her play style perfectly. She’s curious but also a little wary.
Can she really trust someone she met in a videogame?

When Alex and Fleur meet offline at the yearly guild meeting, everything they ever knew starts to shift…

 

 

Chapter 1 – Fleur

MMORPG = Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game = A world where you can be who you want and don’t have to be yourself. Levelling up doesn’t happen by year, but by gaining experiences. If I really lived in a world like that, I wouldn’t be sixteen, I’d be level thirty by now.

As soon as I walk through the front door, I step out of my favourite high heeled boots and put them to the side. Then I make my way to the kitchen. The house is quiet, but I’m sure Mum is at home. And, sure enough, she’s standing in the doorway to the living room waiting for me, her hands on her hips.

“Fleur…” Uh-oh, I don’t like that voice.

“Yes?” I turn to the fridge. It’s Friday, weekend, time to get ready to game all evening. And you need snacks and drinks for that.

“Can you look my way?” Because, of course.

I turn, in one hand a bag of chips I’ve just snatched from the counter. “Yes?”

“Don’t forget you have to work tomorrow. And we’re having dinner at six.” She sighs, apparently whatever she was going to say wasn’t that important after seeing me like this.

“I know.” She acts like I don’t know I have to work tomorrow. I’ve only been the shop assistant at the flower shop since last winter, it’s just three more weeks until summer break, I’m pretty sure I remember that I have to work on Saturdays. “Anything else?” Because she’s not leaving the kitchen yet, still staring my way.

“Are you going out with Hannah and Sydney tonight?” She dawdles.

“Why?”

“I ran into Hannah’s mum at the shops today. She said you never go out with them on Fridays anymore. I thought you said there wasn’t anything to do on Fridays and that’s why you stay at home all the time.” Oh, great. That little lie…

“Hannah and Sydney know Friday evenings are for videogames. I go out with them on Saturdays.” I turn to the fridge and pull out a bottle of some all-natural fizzy drink, lemon flavour this week. I’m not exactly sure what Mum thinks is so good about these ‘all-natural’ drinks, they’re still sugary and fizzy, which is all I really want from them anyway, but the ‘all-natural’ on the bottle probably makes her feel better about letting me drink it on the weekends.

“You and your videogames… When are you going to do something social? Like meeting your friends?”

Do I really have to have this argument every other week? “I’m going out with them tomorrow. You don’t want me drunk twice every weekend, do you?” The words slip out. They popped into my mind and seemed to instantly transport to my tongue, I didn’t mean to speak them.

“What?” I know how to push Mum’s buttons though. “What do you mean, drunk? You’re not drinking alcohol when you’re going out, are you?”

Me? I can barely keep myself from laughing. No, alcohol and I aren’t friends, even if I’m technically still two years too young to drink it. “I’m not. But that doesn’t mean the other girls aren’t.”

I take my loot upstairs as I hear Mum frantically move through the house. She’s going to be obsessed with the idea of me or Hannah and Sydney drinking alcohol for a while. Good. Not that they drink, at least, not when I’m around or when we’re out to parties. But getting my control-obsessed Mum scared about the idea gives me some time to myself and will probably keep her off my back for another week.

I dump the chips and the bottle of fizzy on the bed. ‘All-natural’ fizzy because Mum realised that I don’t sleep for days if I have caffeine and sugar at my disposal… Something about me starting to hallucinate last winter when the whole family was around for Christmas dinner… I don’t really remember it, I was so into Destruction of Elysium that I kind of forgot to sleep for a few days, and then the Christmas dinner… Well… Ehm… That didn’t really end well, my parents sent me to bed after I started talking nonsense to people. Elysium had a special Christmas event and I had to catch up a lot of game content to complete it before it ended.

Not that I hadn’t pulled a couple of all-nighters before… My parents just never caught me at it.

After that, my parents insisted that I’d get a job to pay for my computer and my videogames myself, especially the subscription games. They probably thought that if I had something to do on the weekends that I wouldn’t be able to play as much. But that kind of backfired. Because of the job I was able to afford to upgrade my computer with a better video card and to add an extra monitor to my setup. And now that I’m making and spending my own money… They can’t complain. Well, they can, but they can’t stop me. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t exactly their plan.

I boot my computer and change into my comfortable clothes, just an old T-shirt and some leggings, then I pull my hair up into a sloppy ponytail and slide into my chair. Ah, just me and my computer for the next couple of hours. At least… until six, I guess, but it’s only just past two now, so that’s long enough.

I pop Netflix onto the second screen and then start Destruction of Elysium. Multitasking is one of my greatest skills. I can keep up to date on all sorts of TV series and still get all my gear and level up in videogames. This is probably the biggest advantage of having two screens, being able to do two things at the same time.

Sure, I could just keep a walkthrough of the game on the other screen, but I prefer something to watch, it makes me less likely to get distracted from the game, no matter how weird that sounds. I semi-distract myself from the game so that I won’t really be distracted from the game. It makes sense in my head, I promise.

I log onto DoE and select my character, then I click on the most recent show I’ve been binge-watching, Pretty Little Liars, on the other screen. It’s one of the few shows I’ve been meaning to watch but never got around to. And now the show is finished, it seems the perfect moment to actually watch everything in one go. That way at least I won’t forget too many of the clues, I hope.

As the show starts to play, I click around in-game. The first couple of minutes usually consist of making sure I collect all the money I made selling things on the market place and then checking the quests I’m working on. But, as has been the case a lot lately, being at the maximum level and mostly only playing endgame content, the normal quests just aren’t that interesting anymore and all the quests for epic gear require me to do a lot of dungeons and raids, two things that always take up a lot of time.

I click on the button for the group finder and select some dungeons. Then I sit back and wait, opening the bag of chips as I watch Pretty Little Liars.

The class I’m currently playing is a healer. I love being a healer in Elysium, even if it happened by accident. I just clicked around when I was creating my character, choosing a race that seemed cool and a class that seemed very cute to match it. It wasn’t until a few levels into playing that I realised I wasn’t doing a lot of damage, but I was getting quite a lot of healing spells…

My character, BelleFleur, is a forest-creature-person. Not a normal elf, but more of a wood elf or a dryad, I don’t really know the real name for it. The race is humanoid, but my character’s hair is green and literally covered in flowers, which apparently grow there on their own, as they don’t wither and I don’t think she has to water them. Her skin is green-ish, although she has almost a rose-pink kind of blush on her cheeks, and her gear, especially as a healer, is all designed to look like flowers or to look like they’ve been made out of flowers, things like that.

She’s a combination of cute and in a way a little kick-ass too. I liked it so much when I made her that I didn’t really pay attention to what her class description actually was.

A screen pops up to notify me that I can now join a group going into the ‘Minotaurs’ Labyrinth’. That’s fast. Though, I guess there aren’t many healers online at this time of day.

I accept the invitation and am immediately transported into the dungeon. I’ve done this dungeon a couple of times now, it’s one of the final dungeons from when the game was just released, and I’m still waiting on some gear drops from the final boss, Asterion. But, with the drop rates of these things… it could take me another fifty run-throughs before I get all of them.

A green message pops up in the chat screen at the bottom.

AlexTheDestroyer: We’re doing a speed run. Can you handle that?

I shrug.

BelleFleur: Sure.

It’s not like I don’t have the skills, it’s just that some people are better at doing those things than others. You need a very focused group to do a speed run or we’ll just pull too many creatures at the same time for the damage classes to kill off and we’ll get hacked to death.

AlexTheDestroyer: Cool. Let’s go.

As soon as the message appears, the tank starts running into the first room of the dungeon. A tank is a class who pulls all the mobs or enemy creatures to them, away from the others. That way they’re protecting all the other players who are a little more squishy. Mostly because those classes don’t wear plated armour, like the healers or damage dealers. The rest of us follow him quickly.

I take a deep breath, moving my fingers over the keys smoothly, reminding myself of each skill that is connected to each key; ‘base heal’, ‘heal over time’, ‘strong heal’, ‘dispel debuff’, ‘group heal’ and ‘group heal with heal over time’. Just one run over them makes me feel like I can handle anything the game throws at me.

The tank is pretty good, he pulls the mobs from the first two rooms of the dungeon to him as he moves them to the best location to kill them off. And the damage classes seem to be able to kill the creatures in the right order for smooth progression, making this very efficient.

I make sure to heal the tank the most and I rarely have to heal any of the rest of us, a sign that we all probably know this dungeon like the back of our hands. I’m even able to get in some attacks on the mobs myself between the heals. Then the tank moves on and pulls the next couple of rooms.

I’m a little surprised at the ease of this run. It’s like the tank just knows how to run this with me, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve not played with him before.

Then we’re at the first boss of the dungeon, a satyr.

AlexTheDestroyer: You know what you need to do?

The message pops up on my screen again.

BelleFleur: Yes. Don’t worry. Just don’t go stand in the shiny stuff.

I can’t help the comment, but I’ve run this dungeon often enough by now, there’s a rhythm to it that’s easy enough to pick up on.

AlexTheDestroyer: Go!

The tank runs towards the boss and pulls him to one side of the room as the rest of us position ourselves in different corners, ready to sidestep and avoid any big attacks that the boss will throw at us.

I quickly switch between screens to put the TV series on pause, I don’t need that distraction during a boss battle. Then, as I switch back, I’m right in time to heal the tank and step out of the way of a beam attack from the satyr.

As I focus on all the shiny things on the screen and on our own health bars, the boss is down before I even realise it. Wow.

AlexTheDestroyer: Healer, you’re good.

BelleFleur: You’re just making it easy on me.

I click on the chest that has appeared at the other side of the room to check for good loot, but nothing interesting pops up.

The rest of the dungeon goes by in much the same fashion. The tank pulls the mobs, the damage dealers try to kill them off as quickly as possible and I try to keep us all alive. If all the dungeons this weekend go like this, I may be able to upgrade two parts of my gear before the end of the weekend, finally allowing me to join in with the latest raids.

Dungeons like this have only one party at a time, so five players at most, but raids can be up to thirty players at a time. I’ve seen them around, but I’ve never been able to join in since I’ve not been playing long enough to have the right level of gear yet.

We all stop in front of the door to the final boss, the big Asterion, the Minotaur of legends. I take a big gulp from my bottle, a little out of breath for the speed we’ve been running through this.

Another message pops up, this time from one of the damage classes.

PathTroying: You got any preference for location?

BelleFleur: I like to stay on the right side.

This boss has a lot of huge cleaving attacks and by positioning him on the left or right side of the field we can avoid most of them.

AlexTheDestroyer: I’ll pull him to the left.

We step into the final room and I throw a shield buff on us all. The damage dealers all throw their own buffs onto themselves so they do more damage and the tank waits for us all to be done.

Then he taunts the boss and runs to the left side of the room. We all make our way to the right side of the room.

And the final boss battle has started.

 

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Chapter 2 – Alex

Tank = The person who voluntarily gets beaten up by creatures, especially by the big boss monsters who would kill the other players in a single swipe. I don’t know what it says about my survival instincts that I’m the one who searches the mobs out, rounds them up and takes the beating while others kill them off…

I know I’m teetering on the edge now, the last third of this boss battle takes everything from all of us. The constant damage cones, the bombs scattered around the room, and I’m here, trying to keep the boss, Asterion, as far away from the other players as I can because if he turns to them for even a single moment… One of his big sweeping attacks on them will be the end of the battle for all of us. It would mean that we’d have to start all over with this boss, the last ten minutes of this battle all for nothing.

For a moment I register that my health is running very low, a sliver in angry red, low enough that a single blow could put me out, but just as I flinch, knowing that this will be the end, the health bar is full again. Oof.

I look across the field, trying to see the others around Asterion in front of me.

“Dude. Alex.” Troy, our ranger, seems a little too relieved by this save, as he lets out a quick sound over the group voice chat.

“Focus on the battle.” I can’t help it, we’re not done yet. Just two more attack sequences from Asterion and we’ll have a moment to breathe.

I sidestep an easy frontal cone attack but am back immediately in my previous position. It’s not just Troy who needs to focus, me too. I can’t let my eyes off the boss or we’ll lose. When Asterion prepares for his next sequence of attacks, having just thrown out room-wide damage, we get a moment to breathe and I flex my fingers.

“How are you doing?” I ask. All of us, apart from the healer we’ve just picked up, are in a group voice chat program, and the three damage class characters in our party, Troy, Aaron and Owen, are all part of my raiding guild.

“The healer keeps a close eye on us and she really knows how to predict where the next attacks will be.” Aaron answers me, but just as he does, Asterion is back into action.

“Good.” I pull Asterion back into the corner and keep him there, not letting him go, not letting him out of my sight or my range. When I check everyone’s health bars I realise that the healer really does keep us all pretty well topped up, enough for almost all of us to withstand at least one attack or accidental misstep.

“You want me to use the final attack?” Owen, our mage, asks.

“Yes. Make this fast and easy, no use letting it drag on for much longer.”

“Okay.”

A blue circle appears around Asterion, the sign of Owen’s final attack. Then there is a huge light and Asterion goes down.

Done. He’s down.

I sit back, stretching my arms and fingers for a moment.

“Alex?” Troy’s voice is urgent. “What did you think of the healer?”

“She’s good.” Okay, maybe more than just good. She’s been on top of her healing the whole dungeon, apart from that short lapse in attention during the boss battle, but it didn’t affect us too badly.

“Yeah. She really is.” Troy’s somehow excited.

“So?” What’s Troy’s interest in her?

“Don’t let her go yet. We’re going to need a healer for this evening and you know that Dylan can’t run tonight.”

“Ah. Right. Of course.” Crap. I’d forgotten about that. We recently had one of the healers from the raid guild leave and the second in line is at… I don’t even know, but he can’t play tonight.

I reach out for the keyboard again, letting my finger fly over the keys.

AlexTheDestroyer: BelleFleur?

BelleFleur: Yes?

AlexTheDestroyer: Ehm. Would you like to do another run with us?

BelleFleur: ??

AlexTheDestroyer: We’d like to try a different dungeon with you and if that goes well… We’ve got a raid tonight that we need a healer for.

BelleFleur: Sure…

BelleFleur: but my gear isn’t good enough for a raid yet.

Eh? I click on her character and pull up her gear screen. She’s right, she’s going to need at least a few more items before she can join us. It’s simple game mechanics, if the average level of your gear isn’t over a certain level yet, they’re not letting you in the door of the raid. “Guys. She’s right. She can’t yet.”

“What does she need?” Owen is not only our mage but he’s also one of our gear crafters, specifically one for magical classes like mages and healers.

“Two Asterion rank set items at least. Either from this dungeon or with dungeon currency.” It would be too bad if we had to let her go now, she… she seems to fit right in with us, something that doesn’t happen often.

I stand up, start walking around for a moment, still tethered to my computer with my headset, then I return to the keyboard.

AlexTheDestroyer: How much time do you have today? We start the raid at ten.

BelleFleur: Until six and then from seven or so again.

I check the clock, it’s half past three now. That means we do have a couple of hours… “Guys?”

“Yeah?” Owen responds.

“Can we run her through some Titans?” Titans are only single boss events, but they’re really strong, probably stronger than the boss we just did. On the other hand, they don’t require thirty or forty minutes of dungeon to go through before we get to them.

“Hmmm.” That’s Troy again. “Probably.”

AlexTheDestroyer: How many titans have you done?

BelleFleur: The first three.

Okay. Good enough for collecting some fast dungeon currency.

AlexTheDestroyer: We can regroup outside the dungeon and queue to defeat a couple of them.

BelleFleur: Really?

BelleFleur: I don’t want to take you from other stuff, you don’t have to do this…

AlexTheDestroyer: Two birds, one stone. You get the gear you need and we can do a few trial runs with you as our healer.

BelleFleur: Okay.

BelleFleur: Sounds good.

BelleFleur: See you on the outside!

BelleFleur walks to the exit of the dungeon and then disappears.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I may have sounded confident to BelleFleur, but she’s right. Helping her now doesn’t mean that she’ll be ready to make tonight’s raiding. Training a new healer this close to our weekly raiding night, and especially this close to the release of the next raid… I’m not sure it’s the best idea.

“Do you want to be able to play tonight?” Troy’s character also leaves the dungeon and we follow him shortly. “And, how often do none of us die in that dungeon? She’s good, just, a little under-geared. Which makes it even more impressive if you ask me.”

“Yeah. I guess.” He’s right, of course, but just the thought of having to train a new player after we just finally reached the top five in raiding guilds… I don’t know. It’s not the most appealing. At the same time… She is good and she seems to match my, or our, playing style really well.

When I appear in the middle of the city again, I make my way to the closest gear-repair shop. If we’re going to get our butts kicked by Titans, I’m going to make sure that my gear doesn’t give out on me. A purple message at the bottom of the screen pulls my attention.

BelleFleur: Hi. Is the offer still good?

AlexTheDestroyer: Yes.

I click on her name and invite her to our party, the guys are still in it from the previous dungeon, this way we can all queue up for the same event in the group finder at the same time.

BelleFleur: Hi. Thanks for letting me join, and putting up with me.

PathTroying: No problem.

PathTroying: Why aren’t you in a guild?

Oi. I want to say something, but Troy’s right, a player like her generally has a guild. Good healers usually don’t wander around alone.

BelleFleur: Not very interested. Just been levelling a lot, not been doing a lot of content that requires a guild.

Right. Makes sense, in a way, I know that a lot of players prefer to do the levelling side solo. “Guys, I’m switching from voice chat to some music. I’ll be hearing your voices enough tonight.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Later.” The guys laugh as I disconnect the chat. I turn on my music player and put on some Japanese electronic music, the high number of beats per minute will keep me focused.

AlexTheDestroyer: Are you ready?

PathTroying: Ready

BloodyBAaron: Ready

OwenLeFay: Ready

BelleFleur: Ready

I open the group finder window and queue us for the first three Titans. Because we’re a full party, the screen to transport us into the area pops up immediately and I click on the accept button. A few seconds later the load screen appears and we’re in the Titan’s arena.

I bounce my leg to the beat of the music, my whole body gearing up to start moving again. There is nothing like a Titan battle to get your blood pumping.

AlexTheDestroyer: You know the mechanics of this one?

BelleFleur: Yes.

AlexTheDestroyer: Good.

I run onto the battlefield as I pull the boss with one of my taunts. The vibrations from the music go through my body, making my fingers and my muscles move to the sound of it. The high beats per minute of the song keeps my fingers tap, tap, tapping at the keys.

Around me, light effects, other things moving, it doesn’t matter now, it’s just me, the music and the guy I need to defeat. I get into a groove, it’s almost a trance so I can focus on doing my thing, trusting that the others will do exactly the same, that they know what they’re supposed to do and that they’re capable of doing it.

The health bar from the Titan in front of me drops to zero faster than I expect and when I look up, I realise that we actually defeated this guy in a single go. No hiccups, no casualties. A single smooth run and we’re through.

I laugh, standing up for a moment, walking around to make sure I lose some of my nervous energy. If we keep going like this, getting this new healer up to speed won’t be a problem.

When I return to the computer, the others have already left and there is a message in the chat area.

BelleFleur: Again?

I leave the arena and as soon as I’m back in the city, I queue us up again.

So… Wait… This may actually work? We may actually be able to run a raid with a new healer within hours of meeting her?

The next two hours go by really quickly. We’re able to defeat every Titan the game throws at us. We only get wiped, all of us defeated until there wasn’t anyone standing, twice. The first one was my own fault, and the second one was BelleFleur not paying attention to her own positioning for a moment because she was healing Aaron.

BelleFleur: I’ve gotta go. Dinner. I’ll be back in an hour.

She drops out of the party immediately after that and leaves the game. I check the clock and realise it’s ten past six, so she’s probably in a hurry. It’s not until that point that I realise I forgot to add her as a friend.

Oh, great, let’s hope she remembers who we are…

I turn the voice chat back on for a moment, right when the guys are laughing really loudly. “What’s going on?”

“Well…” Owen has a hard time not laughing so he can actually talk. “Troy was joking that the healer really has the whole flower theme down.”

“Yeah? So?”

“Innocent and stuff. He…” Aaron sighs. “Never mind.”

I shake my head. “You were being gross again.” Really? I leave these guys alone for a moment and they do this?

“Maybe.” Troy laughs.

“It’s that I can actually punish you for that the next time I see you.” Troy goes to the same secondary school as me. “So I’ll let you get away with it this time.”

“You would have appreciated the joke too.” Troy tries to defend himself.

“Really?”

“Maybe.” He doesn’t sound so convinced anymore.

“Right. Okay, you guys go be gross. I’m getting something to eat.” The guys are generally pretty good, but sometimes they forget that I’m a girl too and they make weird jokes that aren’t really… girl friendly. I know it’s sometimes part of boy-culture, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it and I can still call them out for being idiots.

I turn the chat back off and put the headset down. Then I go down the stairs to the kitchen and look in the fridge. It seems like there is food stuff, but I don’t feel like making anything.

“Alex?” Dad comes into the kitchen too. “What are you having for dinner?”

“Pizza?” I open the freezer and see that we’ve got enough of them.

“Sounds good. Your mum won’t be back until nine, so it’s just the two of us today.” He turns the oven on and sits down on a chair, grabbing his tablet to read on.

My mum works a lot of long hours as a psychologist at an inpatient centre for people with autism and anxiety related problems, or something like that, and my dad teaches developmental psychology at university. And yes, they totally met at university… It’s totally sappy and they’re still totally in love with each other.

And me? I spend my days playing videogames and trying not to fail my biology class.

I walk to the back of the house, where our dog Yukio is trying to cool down a little on the tile floor. When he sees me he jumps up, his little legs scrambling to get to me as fast as he can. “You want to play with the ball?” I grab his favourite ball and make my way to the back door.

As soon as I throw the ball, he’s off, slipping between my leg and the door with his slim body even though there is more space on my other side.

I sit down on a couple of steps and wait as Yukio brings the ball back. Then I throw it again. My mind starts wandering back to this afternoon.

Could it be true? Did we actually find a healer who can match my crazy playing style? If so, that would be really good, right?

 

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Chapter 3 – Fleur

Dungeon = An instanced zone inside a game where you defeat monsters and bosses with a group of people. You can play this with specific players or choose to use a group finder and get assigned random party mates based on their class. Some people prefer one over the other. I like playing with just random people. Though, if I could find a group of people to play with who understood my style… Maybe I could change?

I was late for dinner… Which, of course, made my mum angry. Well, I can’t help that the last Titan run took a little longer than I’d expected. Not all runs always go according to plan…

But now I’m stuck putting away the dishes and refilling the dishwasher while I promised the guys in the game that I’d be back at seven. I check the clock, it’s already a quarter past seven. I hurry up and put the last plates away.

I don’t want to make them wait any longer, even though, during dinner I realised I hadn’t actually friended any of them… We were too wrapped up in actually playing and since we were a group already, I guess we kind of forgot… And since I left the party before I shut down the game… I can’t just join them again.

I’m a little stupid for someone who is supposedly smart. According to my mum that is, the smart bit, I mean.

“Fleur?” Mum is standing in the doorway again. “Can you be a little more careful? You don’t need to break anything.”

“Just trying to do this fast.” I also try to flash her my best smile.

“Why? Are you going out?” Suddenly she’s interested again.

“There’s people waiting for me in Destruction of Elysium.” I say it before I can stop myself and when I look back up at her, I wish I hadn’t because Mum’s face falls and she looks very not-amused by my reply. Why doesn’t she get that I don’t just have a social life offline, but also online?

“The game?” She sighs. “Don’t you pay a little too much attention to that game? There are actual people out in the world, you know? Actual people who would like to spend time with you.”

“And they can. Six nights out of every week. Friday evenings I play videogames.” I put the last plates away and turn the dishwasher on.

“I think that you maybe…” She starts following me out of the kitchen but I turn around to her.

“Mum. It’s one evening. I play online with people living all over the country and all over the world and we all like playing the same thing. We all like doing this. I’m not fighting, I’m not drinking, I’m not doing drugs. I’m not getting into trouble. What more do you want me to do?” I look at her for a moment longer and then run up the stairs to my room, taking them two at a time. It’s not like we’ll ever agree on this.

“Don’t make it too late. You have work tomorrow,” Mum calls after me.

“I know.” I close my door behind me, making sure not to slam it, and start DoE again, logging on and looking around. I hope I’m not too late and that they haven’t already started without me, with a different healer. That would suck, all that chat with my mother for nothing.

A private message appears in the chat box, the text purple instead of green like the party chat from before.

AlexTheDestroyer: You there?

BelleFleur: I’m here!

AlexTheDestroyer: Yes!

AlexTheDestroyer: Been sending your account a message every couple of minutes.

BelleFleur: Yeah, sorry, Mum kept me busy for being late for dinner.

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah, sorry about that. Hope she didn’t give you too much trouble.

BelleFleur: Nothing I’m not used to.

Mum is always on me for things, she just can’t seem to accept that I’m not like her. That I’m not into always going to social events and showing up everywhere. I like my dresses and cute clothes well enough, but I also like to just veg out in front of my computer and play videogames. I can do both, but they will have to happen at different times.

AlexTheDestroyer: Okay. Are you ready for another run?

BelleFleur: Yep.

I accept the friend request from AlexTheDestroyer and then the group invite, and suddenly I’m in with the same guys as before.

PathTroying: Welcome back.

BelleFleur: Thanks.

OwenLeFay: We doing more Titans?

BelleFleur: Sure, if that’s okay?

AlexTheDestroyer: Should be fine. Just gotta leave a little time for BelleFleur to check out a video about the raid later and get her gear in place.

BelleFleur: You can just call me Fleur.

AlexTheDestroyer: Good. I’m Alex.

OwenLeFay: Owen.

PathTroying: Troy.

BloodyBAaron: Baron would be nice, but just Aaron for me.

I laugh. Right… Whatever.

A screen pops up and we’re transported to one of the Titans, Hyperion. His arena is bright, with the sun high in the sky and we’re standing in a sort of golden field. Hyperion uses a lot of fire attacks in the first half of the battle.

I want to do this well, if I can get my gear up to the right level today then I can actually do raids, even in just regular group finder settings. Although, I’m pretty sure that these guys are a little more hardcore than me. They seem to be one of those groups that actually run raids according to schedules, and I’m not sure I’m really that type of player…

I throw some buffs on the party and Alex pulls the Titan, forcing us all into action, and I do my best to not let anyone die. At first, it’s going very well and I’m on top of everything, always doing the right move at the right time, but then I get distracted by my bottle of fizzy drink standing a little too close to the edge of the desk and I get us all killed.

Crap!

BelleFleur: Sorry.

PathTroying: LOL.

PathTroying: No problem. Happens to us all.

AlexTheDestroyer: Happens all the time. Let’s go again.

They don’t seem to mind, they really don’t seem to mind that I just got us wiped.

When we’re all back at the starting point and we’ve all put up our buffs, Alex pulls the Titan again. This time the battle is a lot smoother.

The second half of the battle, the field changes and goes dark, Hyperion’s night mode. This is a little more tricky as you can’t see all the area of effect spells that well in this light.

Luckily, I don’t make another stupid move and we finish Hyperion off easily.

A private message shows up in my chat again.

AlexTheDestroyer: Where are you with your quests?

BelleFleur: Literally ready to do the first raid when I get my gear up far enough.

AlexTheDestroyer: Good.

AlexTheDestroyer: Do you have a headset and a voice chat program?

I have, but the headset is crap and old, and I don’t really like doing voice chat, especially with people I barely know…

BelleFleur: No, sorry.

AlexTheDestroyer: No problem, just checking. How is your dungeon currency?

I check my currency on the character screen and realise that I really need to repair my gear, all the parts are showing with an orange or almost red overlay. I close the screen before I remember I was supposed to be checking my currency, not my gear, and open it again.

BelleFleur: Two more Titans and I should be good to go.

BelleFleur: Gotta repair first though.

AlexTheDestroyer: Okay.

I transport out of the Titan arena and find a gear-repair shop nearest to my location. When I reach it, there is a player standing nearby with their name in green, which tells me that they’re in my party, and it’s Alex. I make my character wave at Alex before I repair my gear.

BelleFleur: I’m ready to go again.

AlexTheDestroyer: Two more, right?

BelleFleur: Yep.

The Titan screen comes up again and we battle another Titan, Oceanus. I need to focus, I really need to focus this time.

It’s different when you’re playing with people for a longer length of time. When you’re not just playing one round or maybe accidentally a few times after another, but to really keep playing with the same players, over and over again. I don’t want to let them down after the good runs we’ve had this afternoon, especially since I still feel like it’s a fluke. That these guys have just really mistaken me for someone else. That, I don’t know, that it’s just some weird prank and I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and none of this has happened or something.

But what would be their goal? They’re really helping me in the game, no matter whether they actually take me on the raid with them this evening or not. It doesn’t really matter right now. So, why would they take on a noobie healer like me?

AlexTheDestroyer: Final one!

It’s Rhea again, she wiped us right before I had to go downstairs for dinner. Not going to let that happen this time! Nope! I stay focused, even when Owen missteps and nearly gets killed before one of the huge room-wide attacks and I have to use one of my best healing spells with the longest cooldown timer.

But I’m able to heal us through it, frantically hitting the keys on my mouse and keyboard. Rhea has a couple of insanely high damage attacks, some of which I really have to heal through when they hit Alex, and on top of that she has an attack that creates lava puddles on the floor that we need to stay out of.

I have to look all over the place, making sure I’m not in the wrong spots, making sure everyone’s health is up high enough, all of that.

Then the screen changes and we’ve defeated her.

I sit back, taking a deep breath. Wow. That wasn’t easy. Let’s hope the raids aren’t as insane as this, although… we’ll also have six times as big a group to play with. More attacks, more lights, more of everything and above all, more to keep track of.

AlexTheDestroyer: You okay?

BelleFleur: Yeah.

I leave the Titan area and, after repairing my gear at the repair shop again, I go in search of the endgame gear shop for the gear that I need.

I look at the gear I’m wearing in my gear screen… It’s a cute outfit, but I know that it’s not going to last, not if I want to play raids. I buy a chest piece, well, a shirt really, and then boots, my final two pieces of gear that I’ve needed to upgrade to allow me to go queue for raids.

An envelope blinks in the top of my screen, pulling my attention to it, but I need to find a mailbox to read it. So I hunt one down. It’s not too far off from the gear seller, luckily.

It’s a letter from AlexTheDestroyer, with an item attached to it. ‘Thanks for running with us. I thought you’d enjoy this.’

The attached item is a costume item that my race and gender can wear and it will show up instead of my gear. It’s a pale yellow dress with a sort of flower petal shaped skirt that changes from yellow into red at the ends. It’s really cute, I’ve been trying to get my hands on this dress for a while. It’s a rare drop from one of the earlier dungeons in the game, but even after running it for fifteen or so times, I’ve only ever seen it once, and I didn’t win the loot roll for it and in the market place they sell it for way too much. Wow.

I send a private message to Alex.

BelleFleur: Thanks for the dress!

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah, no problem. Had it anyway and I can’t wear it.

I can’t imagine what a tank class like him would look like if he’d be allowed to wear an item like this. It would be… interesting. A character wearing this dress and then standing in front of one of those huge bosses, taking all the hits. Though… I guess it could be fun.

AlexTheDestroyer: Do you want to go watch a walkthrough of the raid? It’s early, but you can ask questions if you need to.

AlexTheDestroyer: Also, would you like to join our guild? We’re a raiding guild, and it would be nice if you could join us for raids as often as possible, but… You know…

I don’t reply yet. It’s a sweet offer, and maybe actually meeting some more people in-game would be good. Especially if we all work together as well as the small group I’ve been playing with.

AlexTheDestroyer: Our main healer had to drop out because of finals and then immediately started her internship afterwards, so she hasn’t been around, and our secondary healer isn’t always around either. Like today.

BelleFleur: So, I’d be what… your tertiary healer?

AlexTheDestroyer: Back-up Primary?

That makes me laugh out loud. Right.

Well, if he makes it sound so attractive… The idea that he may prefer me over the other healer is a little blush-inducing and I feel like he may just be flattering me. But at the same time, having a steady group to quickly do dungeons and maybe even raids with is a nice thing to look forward to.

BelleFleur: Sure. I just can’t run late during the week and not at all on Saturdays, day or evening.

AlexTheDestroyer: We can work with that.

He sends me an invite and when I click on accept to join the guild, I’m suddenly surrounded by more people. The chat screen fills up with orange text from people talking about the upcoming raid and just general goofing off.

AlexTheDestroyer: Guys, we’ve picked up a really awesome healer today, BelleFleur. She’ll be running the raid with us this evening. It’s gonna be her first, so be nice!

BelleFleur: Hi all.

I don’t know what else to type and people start to ask me all sorts of questions, one faster than the next and some of the guys from the party that I ran the Titans with also join in. I try to answer all the questions, which isn’t easy. They range from the simple questions like how long I’ve been playing, to my favourite dungeons, and my favourite soundtrack from a dungeon, which I’m all perfectly fine answering, to the more personal, all of which I don’t answer, because I don’t like giving out personal information. I thought they may not like that, but it seems they’re fine with it, luckily.

BelleFleur: I’m going to watch the raid walkthrough, I’ll be back in a bit.

I minimise the game, and start the walkthrough video from someone whose walkthroughs I’ve used in the past.

Within seconds of it starting, I know that I’m going to be in for a very rough evening. Not just the bosses, but the positioning, the extra members, the mechanics. It’s all not just one step harder than the dungeons or a Titan, it’s almost three times as hard.

I thought this was going to be fun and interesting, but this seems more like it’ll be a lot of me getting my butt kicked… And I kinda feel bad for the guys after all they’ve done for me this afternoon… They’ve helped me all day and I’m going to get them killed over and over again…

How was this a good idea?

You are currently reading:

Chapter 4 – Alex

Healer = Person who makes sure that the rest of us don’t die in battle. Their primary target to heal is the tank, though they should always make sure they don’t die themselves. A dead tank can be raised from the dead, a dead healer means a wipe for the whole party. Not as much fun. So I guess, target zero should be themselves and other healers, and then their primary targets would be the tanks. When a tank and a healer fit together well, when their play styles match, that’s one of the best things in the world. They’d be nearly undefeatable.

I sit back in my chair as I wait for Fleur to return and the rest of the players to finally settle down so we can jump in as soon as possible.

Then a private message pops up.

BelleFleur: I don’t think I can do this…

BelleFleur: I’m just going to get you wiped a hundred times until everyone’s tired of me.

AlexTheDestroyer: We’ve all been in that same place, that first time when you run a raid.

AlexTheDestroyer: Don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine.

BelleFleur: It just seems like so much.

I laugh. Yeah, I know. And, as a tank, it’s not as hard for me as it will be for her. Especially the raid we’re going to run, it has a good number of healer checks, elements that will put out a huge amount of damage on the whole party that the healers will have to heal through. It’s always rough, no matter how experienced the healer is.

AlexTheDestroyer: Which part are you scared of?

BelleFleur: All of it.

I laugh again. Well, at least she’s honest, though I think she’s totally underestimating her own skills.

AlexTheDestroyer: Well, you won’t know unless you give it a try. As long as you know the mechanics you need to keep an eye on, you’ll be fine.

BelleFleur: Don’t hate me if I get us wiped a hundred times.

AlexTheDestroyer: We’ll just start over a hundred-and-one times and get through it. We’ve got all evening to do this.

Most of us have anyway, and I know the other people won’t mind wiping a few times because we have a new healer. It happens, that’s part of the game, that’s part of creating a group who play together. And having another endgame healer to work with for dungeons and raids is something we all really want. So we’re willing to mess up a few times before we get a good fit.

AlexTheDestroyer: We’re starting in 20 minutes, are you ready?

BelleFleur: What if I say no?

AlexTheDestroyer: You’ll have 20 minutes to prepare.

I can’t help but laugh at Fleur. I get her fear. Running this raid for the first time, especially with people who have already done this a good number of times, is scary, but we really have all been in that same situation. And the way I’ve seen her play this afternoon, I think she’ll be fine. She just needs the experience of how the raid really feels to play and then gain some confidence in her skills.

BelleFleur: I’ll be right back.

I turn the group voice chat on and it’s already quite crowded in there. “Hi everyone. Ready to go?”

Multiple people respond with different variations on “Yes”, “Definitely” and “Can we go yet?”.

“We’re just waiting for the last few members to come online, and I haven’t heard from one of the other guild leaders yet, but they should be checking in soon.” I look through the text chat in the program to see who of the other guild leaders are online yet. Tonight we’re running a raid with three guilds, a large party each. A normal party is five people, but a large party is ten, so double that, and then three guilds… It’s always a little chaotic the first ten minutes.

Then one of the other guild leaders comes online, messaging me though the chat program. ‘We’re almost ready to go. You ready there?’

‘Almost.’ I check in-game again, but Fleur hasn’t returned yet. ‘Waiting on a new healer. Hasn’t run this raid yet, so may need extra support.’

‘Will tell the others. Can you invite us into the chat?’ The other guild leader sends me a link and we merge the two voice chats into one big group.

Time for the crazy to begin.

* * *

I take a deep breath as I step out of the way of the boss, one of the tanks from the other guild takes over from me as there are too many damage modifiers on me, which means more chance of me actually dying.

“How’s she holding up?” I ask of the group, most of us are too focused to actually talk too much during a battle, so in the middle of the battle it’s mostly quiet apart from some cursing.

“Holding up well. Hasn’t died yet.” Troy answers quickly.

“Good.” And it’s time for me to take my position in front of the boss again as the damage multipliers have either run out or been healed away.

We’re doing well, which is no surprise for the most part, as we’ve run this raid so often, but it still requires a lot of focus. The mechanics are crazy, but not too bad.

Two damage dealers from one of the other guilds suddenly die and then I see both Troy and Aaron go off too.

“What happened?” I nearly step into instead of out of a huge attack from the boss.

“Sorry. Sorry.” The tank who is supposed to take care of adds, additional strong creatures that spawn during the boss battle, speaks up. “My fault.”

Troy and Aaron are resurrected pretty quickly, and come back into battle. Luckily, stuff doesn’t go wrong again for the rest of this boss. When we’re all getting ready to walk to the next boss room, I send a message to Fleur.

AlexTheDestroyer: How are you doing?

BelleFleur: Ehh…

BelleFleur: It’s insane, but I think I’m holding up.

AlexTheDestroyer: I’d say. Yeah. You’re doing well.

BelleFleur: It looks more insane than it really is.

AlexTheDestroyer: It’s the lights and flashing. It’s sooooo distracting!

BelleFleur: True. They make it so much worse.

“Alex!” Someone calls me through the group chat. “Get your backside to the next boss.”

When I look around me on the screen, everyone else is already gone. “Whoops.”

“Focus, dude. Focus,” teases Troy.

“Yeah, yeah.” It’s not like focusing is my best skill and I just got a little distracted by talking to Fleur.

BelleFleur: Where are you?

AlexTheDestroyer: Coming.

Of course, now it’s two sides who will tell me to hurry up. I laugh, but then I’m in the next room and stand with the rest of our group.

One of the other tanks starts pulling the boss and I turn on some damage buffs for my tank. This boss doesn’t require more than one tank, as long as the tank and healer can pull it off, so I try to get as much damage in as I can while I also try to get an angle that lets me check in on Fleur. For someone who is doing this raid for the first time, she seems to be pretty on top of everything.

Our luck, running into a healer who actually knows what she’s doing and she’s not part of a guild yet. With the recent changes in our line-up, this could turn into a great weekend.

* * *

After we finish the raid, I go off the voice chat. We only got wiped once, and that was on the final boss battle. Fleur felt really responsible for it, even though we were all at fault for not being in the correct spot at the right time a few times. And with a boss with multiple mechanics which all do a lot of damage that quickly adds up to a wipe. The second time went better, everyone was in the spot they were meant to be in and such.

Even though the rest of the guild is hanging out in the group voice chat and having fun, I’m not joining them today. I’m actually going to do a couple of things for my mining skill, where you mine stone and ore, and Fleur invited me to her party, as she’s doing the same.

BelleFleur: I’m sooo behind on this gathering skill…

BelleFleur: Like, it’s twenty levels behind on my main class.

AlexTheDestroyer: Well, that’s not too bad, is it?

I look at my class and skill screen. I have two gathering skills and one of them hasn’t even got to level twenty, but I have no crafting skill over level ten. I tend to just source that out to others in the guild, or sell my gathered items and buy crafted stuff from others in the market place.

BelleFleur: It feels like school.

BelleFleur: On track with one skill, but behind on all the rest.

AlexTheDestroyer: You mean on track with the only one you like?

BelleFleur: Yes.

BelleFleur: I’m always ahead in biology.

I laugh.

AlexTheDestroyer: I’m always behind in that one.

AlexTheDestroyer: I’m ahead in maths.

BelleFleur: Maths? Wow.

BelleFleur: I’m not that good with numbers.

AlexTheDestroyer: For me, just when they make sense. Maths usually makes sense.

BelleFleur: I can see that.

BelleFleur: Well, help me out, please. What’s the best place for me to gather herbs and stuff right now? You’re the one with the numbers.

AlexTheDestroyer: Fine, follow me.

I like talking to Fleur. She’s funny, even if she may not mean it.

When we get to the location where she can gather items for her harvesting skill, I switch to my mining skill gear and start gathering around the same area. Both the harvesting and mining nodes here, spots where the gatherable items respawn, are the most profitable in the market place, so I come here often to get a little extra stuff to sell off between dungeons and levelling a few other classes and skills.

It’s brain-numbing and not very exciting, but that also makes it easier to do other things on the side, like talking to Fleur.

I don’t know why, I barely know who she is, but somehow, she makes me feel good.

* * *

A loud knock on my door startles me as I look up from the game, pulling me out of a trance.

“Yeah.” My voice is groggy.

“It’s six in the morning.” Mum opens the door a little, looking at me. “Have you played all night?”

What? I check my phone but it really is six in the morning. Ack! “Apparently.”

“Well, luckily it’s the weekend.” She shakes her head. “But you may want to get some sleep.”

“Thanks. Will do.”

“Night.” She closes the door behind her and I turn back to the game.

I should have realised how much time has passed, Fleur and I both levelled a new skill up to level fifteen, something that tends to take a good couple of hours.

A message from Fleur is waiting for me.

BelleFleur: Alex?

BelleFleur: You there?

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah. Sorry. Mum came in.

BelleFleur: Awkward.

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah. Especially when she says it’s six in the morning…

BelleFleur: Don’t joke.

Her messages stop for a moment.

BelleFleur: Crap! I have to be at work in three hours.

I remember her saying something about not being able to play during the day on Saturdays… I guess this is why.

AlexTheDestroyer: Oops?

BelleFleur: Wouldn’t be the first time…

BelleFleur: Crap…

BelleFleur: My mum’s going to be furious…

BelleFleur: I’m gonna go, see if I can get at least an hour and a half of sleep or something…

AlexTheDestroyer: Sorry for keeping you up.

AlexTheDestroyer: See you tonight?

BelleFleur: Tomorrow.

BelleFleur: I’m seeing friends tonight.

AlexTheDestroyer: Aren’t I your friend?

I know, it’s a little bold, and looking at it after I’ve already sent it, makes me feel a little awkward, but I couldn’t help myself saying it. It feels like we’ve got to know each other so quickly. And, yeah, I tend to say brash things when I’m tired.

BelleFleur: One of those real-life friends things. Those I share the meat-space with and such.

At least she’s taking it well.

AlexTheDestroyer: Well, I guess meat-space can never beat the digital, right?

BelleFleur: I don’t know. I had fun tonight.

The little flip my stomach makes tells me I may be a little too invested in this thing we’ve got going on. Definitely too invested for someone I’ve met online in a videogame just yesterday…

BelleFleur: But I really need to go now.

BelleFleur: See you tomorrow.

AlexTheDestroyer: See you tomorrow.

And BelleFleur logs off.

I’m glad I don’t have a job, but it’s still bad that I’ve kept Fleur up all night. Even though we both didn’t mean to, it still wasn’t a good idea. But I guess that’s what happens when you play and have fun together. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun with someone and I hope Fleur doesn’t get into too much trouble…

Crap. Now I feel bad for her. And I guess I should really go to bed too…

Although, I have a feeling that sleep may not happen any time soon.

Just a hunch, you know.

 

You are currently reading:

Chapter 5 – Fleur

Guild = Group of people you play a game together with more closely. You often band together to defeat dungeons and raids but also to just talk to each other or to help others out. Sometimes guilds even get together offline…

I can’t believe I stayed up all night. All night! And I didn’t even realise it. But now I’m standing behind the counter of the flower shop I really do feel it. I’m exhausted and there is just not a lot to do. I don’t know if it’s the time of the year or what, but we’ve barely had any customers yet and it’s almost twelve. I’m almost falling asleep standing up, which is a skill not unknown to me.

I’m not sure if levelling that new class was worth not sleeping all night, but talking to Alex definitely was. He’s smart and funny and knows so much about Destruction of Elysium and other videogames. He totally made me forget about what time it was and it wasn’t until he mentioned it that I realised how much time had passed. Typical. Of course… I’m having to pay for that now.

A customer walks into the shop and when I look up I realise it’s not a customer at all but my best friend, Jade. She dawdles around the shop for a moment before she comes over to the counter. “Morning.” She looks me over, way too awake herself.

“Ugh.” I have very few words this morning, especially to people who are too chipper and who I don’t have to be super sweet to so I won’t scare them out of the shop.

“You look like you haven’t slept in days.” Jade laughs.

“Just not last night.” I lean onto the counter, hoping that a change in position will help.

“Why?’

“Videogames.”

“Uh-oh.” She pulls a face. She doesn’t get my interest in them, but that’s okay, we share other hobbies, like TV show fandoms.

“Met a guy online yesterday and we played all night.” I want to talk to someone about this and no way I’m telling my parents or one of my ‘mother approved’ friends.

“Is this like… normal play or adult play?” She looks at me with her perfectly shaped eyebrows raised.

“Normal play…” I shake my head. “We just played the game. Nothing fancy.”

“Fancy enough to keep you awake all night though…” She wiggles her eyebrows, her dark eyes shimmering in delight.

“He’s just really interesting. He’s like a year older than we are, so in his last but one year of secondary school and he’s like really, really good at the game.” I know it sounds silly, but I was impressed. And for some guy to be interested in me… That doesn’t happen often. Usually I’m just the girl in the corner who nobody pays attention to, the one girl at a party not to get much interest from the guys. And I don’t mind that much, it gives me more time for games and other fun stuff.

Jade laughs. “Well, sounds like your type then…” She turns around and looks at the shop. “What else do you know?”

“He plays a lot of videogames and he runs one of the best raiding guilds in Destruction of Elysium. And he invited me to play together with them last night.” I can’t help but squee a little. The thought that I may be good enough to run with them is still a little unreal to me.

“That’s good, right? Like, really good?” She may not get my obsession with videogames, but she sort of gets that they mean a lot to me and she did catch some of my rambling about game mechanics, I think.

I nod. “Really, really good.”

“How was it?”

“I can’t even explain. Running that raid… Wow. So much going on, but then these people with me were like veterans at this raid, so I had to make sure I kept up with them and all. And I’m still like this newbie and everything…”

“Well, if he thought you could do it.”

“He did. And he was right, even though it was scary… But we made it until the end.” I take a deep breath, frowning. “He asked me to play again this evening.”

“And that’s a bad thing, why?”

“I promised the girls I’d go out with them. I also told my mum I would go with them.” I sigh. “I don’t mind, usually, but today… I don’t know. I wish I didn’t have to. But if I cancel now, my mum’s going to be annoying again all week.”

“True.” Jade sighs. “But still, you’ll be tired.”

“You don’t think my mum cares about that, do you? If she finds out I stayed up all night gaming again… I don’t know what she’ll do.” I don’t want to deal with that. Not now, not again.

Last time was bad enough, she took my internet away for three days, both the internet for my computer and the wifi for my phone. I don’t know what ‘responsible’ way she’ll come up with to punish me this time.

It’s just stupid. I’m sixteen, I can have some responsibilities, you know? But, of course not. Not me. Not little me. Little me with a track record of making stupid mistakes… Stupid forgetful mistakes. Well, sorry for not having the same brain as she has, a brain that can remember things normally.

“Well, then you’ll have to go.” Jade doesn’t exactly sound that sorry though.

“Yep.”

“Need me to get you some caffeine?”

“Yes, please.” My parents won’t like it, but I don’t care. Caffeine is on my ‘no-no’ list, but my parents are not here and I need the energy to keep going today. I’m only halfway through my work day, I’ll have to get through the whole evening too.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t fall asleep.” She grins, wiggling her fingers at me as she turns around.

Like I can.

Right as Jade walks out, two customers come in. Each of them wants a bouquet of flowers, but, of course, none of the ones in the shop appeal to them. So I have to put them together myself. I like doing this, the finding the right flowers, making the bouquet look the fullest and prettiest it can be. It’s fun to do. But the exhaustion also pulls on me, which makes this all a little harder.

“There you go. Have a lovely weekend.” I hand the bouquet to the second customer and she leaves the shop with a big smile. That’s the best part, making people happy.

My boss, Andrew, comes through from the back. “How are you holding up?” He carries in two more bouquets and puts them into buckets.

“Pretty good.”

“Did I hear Jade earlier?” He comes over to the counter.

“Yeah. She’ll bring you a coffee too, don’t worry.”

“Too?” Andrew looks at me pointedly.

“I’m working all day and then I’m out with friends tonight. I need the caffeine.” I shrug. “It’s that or sugar.”

“Caffeine is fine.” Andrew rolls his eyes, smiling. I may only get a little jittery from caffeine but I seriously start bouncing off the walls after too much sugar. He knows, he’s seen it before.

Just then, Jade comes back into the shop, carrying three coffees. She hands me the iced coffee and then hands Andrew one of the other cups.

“Thanks, I owe you one.” He stretches as he walks to the back of the shop. “You two, don’t go breaking stuff. Thanks.”

I look after him and roll my eyes. Right… because that’s what we do. Break stuff. Well, not usually anyway.

I take a sip from the coffee, the cool drink clearing my mind a little. At least this is nice. Now, if I could only survive the rest of the day…

* * *

I stumble into the house. It’s late, but at least I made it through most of the night. I’m so exhausted that I slump down on the stairs to take off my shoes.

Dad opens the door to the living room. “You back?”

“What does it look like?” I sigh and I stare at him, too tired to even come up with a smarter remark.

“You look like you’re home. You want something to eat or drink? We’re watching a film, want to join?” Too awake for my brain.

“No thanks. I’m off to bed.” I’ve been awake for more than thirty-six hours by now and that includes a day of school and a day of work.

“Okay. Goodnight.” He smiles and goes back into the living room, closing the door behind him.

“Night,” I mumble at the door and then start climbing the stairs. During times like this I wished I had a bedroom downstairs.

I’ve been mainlining coffee all day and just crashed on my way home. Which is what happens after so much caffeine. I close the door behind me, slumping onto the bed, but even as I almost curl up, I reach out and hit the power button on my computer. I may be exhausted, but I still want to go check out DoE.

As the computer boots I pull myself out of bed and slide into the chair. Then I start the game and log on, typing the password wrong twice before I get it correct. Because, of course, lack of brain power.

As soon as my character appears and the world forms around me, a purple message shows up and my heart skips a little.

AlexTheDestroyer: I thought you wouldn’t be online today?

I laugh. Yeah, I remember saying that. But Alex has been on my mind most of today and I just couldn’t not check in.

BelleFleur: Just checking my market place and messages.

Sort of…

AlexTheDestroyer: Did you survive today without sleeping?

BelleFleur: Ehh…

BelleFleur: Something to do with a lot of caffeine.

AlexTheDestroyer: Whoops.

BelleFleur: Yes.

BelleFleur: What did you do today?

AlexTheDestroyer: Hunted down some members for their contribution for the guild meeting in three weeks.

BelleFleur: Meeting?

AlexTheDestroyer: Yeah, the guild and some of the members who raid with us a lot get together and we’re having a barbecue and stuff.

AlexTheDestroyer: It’s fun. We get to see each other face to face instead of just talking through a program or seeing each other in the game.

Seeing Alex in person? My heart does that ‘skipping a little’ thing again. Would it be too forward to ask where it is? If it’s close to here…

AlexTheDestroyer: Would you like to come? I know you’ve only been part of the guild for like… a day, but it may be fun.

Really? Could I? Would my mum even let me?

But at the same time, depending on when it is or where it is or if it’s already summer break… It shouldn’t be too hard to make this work…

And I’ll be able to see Alex. Which feels a lot more exciting than it should feel, right?

BelleFleur: Where is it?

AlexTheDestroyer: It’s at a barbecue grill place near my home in Groningen. It’s just the afternoon and into the early evening. We’ve got people coming from all over the place, so we can’t make it too late because they’ll have to go home again.

Groningen?

BelleFleur: That’s just an hour away for me.

That close? Alex lives that close?

AlexTheDestroyer: Really?

BelleFleur: When is it?

AlexTheDestroyer: Saturday, three weeks from now.

AlexTheDestroyer: Though, I guess Saturdays would be hard for you…

Yeah. Saturdays aren’t the best for me to work with, but I get why they’d do it on a Saturday, better connections with buses and trains and stuff.

BelleFleur: I could see if I can leave early from my job, and it’s only an hour away, so…

AlexTheDestroyer: So, you’d like to come?

Does he sound excited about that? Or is he just being friendly? I wish I knew, but asking might be a little weird, especially if he’s just a friendly person. Argh. I wish this was easier. I wish there was like an option to check someone’s ‘friend level’ with like a click of a mouse like you can in dating games sometimes. Like, this person is ‘friendly’, ‘slightly interested’, ‘flirting’, or whatever you want to come up with.

BelleFleur: Yeah. Though I don’t know if I’ll be allowed. Parents and stuff…

AlexTheDestroyer: I get that.

AlexTheDestroyer: I guess I could just write you down as a maybe. And if you do come, you can bring money with you for the drinks and food and stuff then. Sound good?

This is actually going to happen? Like. Actually? He’s not just being nice, but he’s actually asking me to come?

BelleFleur: Yeah. Thanks.

AlexTheDestroyer: Great!

AlexTheDestroyer: Are you coming to join us in a dungeon or raid, or are you going to sleep?

BelleFleur: I’d love to do a dungeon.

BelleFleur: But I should go to sleep.

Because every time I type, I have to retype each word three times before anything makes sense. I may really want to join them, but I need sleep.

AlexTheDestroyer: Sounds like a better plan.

AlexTheDestroyer: Sweet dreams, Flower.

This is flirting, right? I’m not just making things up? I’m too surprised and don’t know what to reply right now.

BelleFleur: Have a good raid.

I quickly log out, my face burning.

Have a good raid? What kind of dull goodbye is that?

But my brain may have gone into a little bit of a haywire status, because even though I’m so exhausted I’m almost falling asleep in my chair, my brain is in overdrive and my heart isn’t far behind.

Dammit. I’m supposed to be going to sleep, but now I’m not sure how easy that will be.

I may be seeing Alex in three weeks. I’m already excited and I don’t even know if I’ll be allowed to go…

 

 

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