Escapism

Escapism :: Updates

Update 05 :: Post-Chapter 7 Log

07/06/24
~~~~~
Hihihi!
I apologise for the silence following chapter 6 and the lack of a new chapter during April </3 Things have been very busy at my end with my undergraduate studies coming to an end, and a new chapter (lol) starting soon as I pursue a masters degree.While I still want to continue keeping up the schedule of doing a chapter a month, I'm unsure of what the workload will be when I properly start in September so updates may take a bit longer :cHowever, I'm looking to upload the artbook I made alongside chapter 8 at the end of this month (hopefully, I'm also quite busy as of now...) over on Itch.io, so keep a lookout for that! Have a good day <3-Raz

btw this is what the artbook cover looks like in person, its so cool to see your own work physically!!


Update 04 :: Post-Chapter 5 Log

04/03/24
~~~~~
Hi all! Hope you enjoyed the new chapter, it was probably the most fun I've had creating it :)
The next chapter has been written out and drafted, so it should be out at the end of the month as usual! My final deadline is coming up at the end of April however so I will have to work extra hard _;Sometime after the deadline I will be uploading my uni work this term for everyone to have a look :) Stay tuned!!Also, please consider visiting the pages in my previous log to help Palestinians, any donation helps and your voice does make a difference. Thank you <3-Raz


Update 03 :: Post-Chapter 4 Log

04/02/24
~~~~~
Hello!! Hope you guys are doing well and that the new chapter was fun to read! It's really satisfying to see peoples reactions LOL
With my thesis out of the way, I have some exta time to focus on writing chapters and drawing panels!! Super excited to continue working on this project!I haven't got much else to say personally, but I would like to use this log to promote ways to support Palestinians:
https://www.anera.org/
https://arab.org/click-to-help/palestine/
https://www.gofundme.com/f/careforgaza
https://piousprojects.org/campaign/2712
Stay healthy and have a great Lunar New Year to those who celebrate <3-Raz


Update 02 :: Post-Chapter 3 Log

31/12/23
~~~~~
Hi!! Hope you guys enjoyed the latest chapter, it was a lot of fun to make, though took a while! I altered the artstyle a little bit so I could make panels a quicker pace, hopefully it still looks nice lolol
I also realised like a day later that I left out a panel near the end, my fault >_> I need to go over the uploads like 3 or 4 times before I publish istgI'll be back in uni in a week's time, so I'll aim to have the script for the next chapter before things start up again for a regular monthly update! See you then and have a great new years :3-Raz


Update 01 :: Exciting News!!

17/12/23
~~~~~
Hello! I apologise for the radio silence during the past month, uni work took up a lot of spare time -_- but now that I'm on break, I've got time to write up a new chapter (or two)!!
I've created this page so that I can share upcoming plans and in general talk to you guys about the story's progress :3That said, I've been given the green light to use Escapism as my Final Major Project for uni! This means I can spend a lot more time developing the characters, environment, and more!I'm really happy to be able to take a personal project and expand on it further like this, so I hope you guys will enjoy its progression too <3-Raz

Escapism :: About

Escapism is an online fiction series.
It follows guild leader Rae and her cohorts as they attempt to make sense of a cyberspace on its last legs and the destruction it brings to the game they find safety in.

Escapism :: Read

Escapism :: 1

The suns are beginning to rise.
They’re wondering why someone like you would still be outside at this hour, hurrying home as though you were never meant to be seen like this, or to be outside at all.

But you have your reasons. They don’t need to know, it’d only disappoint them.

The keys to your apartment ring unceremoniously. They almost slip out of hands that you never seem to keep still, but you narrowly catch them inches off the ground. It was such a close call, actually, that you were certain that they did fall and you weren’t holding anything at all.
Now, certain that you’ve woken up a neighbour or two, you’re finally back in the haven that you call your ‘home’.

You make a silent promise to never do something like that again.

The rays of the sister suns seeping through your already thin curtains are a reminder of that.

But it’s over now. You’re certain there’s no need to perform something like that again. At least, for a very long time.

The silence doesn’t last, though.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Gooooooood
morning

[TCO//B/rae]
Oh
Hey. Been a while.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Yessss ive been so busyyyy
I didnt know how hectic it could get being in this position
Ive got a lot more respect for you!
Haha

[TCO//B/rae]
…I appreciate that,
but it’s not really something that deserves ‘respect’. As long as you know what you’re doing, your guild won’t care about anything else you do.
And if you can carry the whole team. Sometimes people forget that they’re playing.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Damn really
Thats so humble of you though lol

[TCO//B/rae]
I’m just being honest.
People forgetting how to play is a serious issue. It’s happened to me. It can happen to anyone.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Okok i understand you dont u worry
Note to self: make sure people know how to play
Haha
Well
Now that i have ur attention
Guess what
lol

[TCO//B/rae]
Oh god.
What?

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Iiiits
update time

[TCO//B/rae]
You’re kidding
Another update?
What even goes on in their heads? What is there they so desperately need to update?

[TCO//Y/lerato]
You took the words right out of my mouth
I dont get it either
Im convinced the patch notes arent even written by people

[TCO//B/rae]
Yeah, there’s like half a human in that studio now slamming their hands on the keyboard.
By sheer luck, they manage to type out something that’s 30% legible.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Ahahaha
I wouldn’t be surprised if that was real
Buuuut
We can do a friendly n see what they really changed

[TCO//B/rae]
I guess we could, yeah
It’s been a while since I’ve done any friendlies. Nobody offers them anymore.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Yeah ikr
Nobody wants to do it in my guild either
Its always
What Land Shall We Conquer Next
Or
I cant make it today I’ve got [bullshit reason] also I’m gonna stop talking in the chat forever. Hearts!

[TCO//B/rae]
Are you sure that’s not them actually having a job and/or a life?

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Well
Who plays this and has a life
Hahahaha

[TCO//B/rae]
You’d be shocked to hear how many people are proper members of society.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Thats scary
Oh well ill believe it
Since ur like
Actually pretty busy

[TCO//B/rae]
Yes, good. You’ll never know who’s been doing
-gasp-
Errands…

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Lollll
You say that like you got a 9-5
If you do thatd be fuckign crazy
Youd be lying this whole time
Ooooomg
What is the truth

[TCO//B/rae]
I don’t have an office job??
God how do you type so fast

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Whats wrong with that
Have you logged on yet
Helloooooo
Oh no
Wait
Dont tell me
Your pc is still turning on
?
LOL?

[TCO//B/rae]
Yes it is
Hold on please.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Yes maam
Im just a bit excited yknow
We havent talked in ages
Ur just as moody as u were last time we talked its awesome

[TCO//B/rae]
Awesome???
Um. Well. Anyway, I’m on now.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
YES finally

[TCO//B/rae]
Oh god hold on
OH GOD

[TCO//Y/lerato]
???!??!
What
What happened
Omg LOOOLLLL
Wait

-TCO Welcomes You!-We’re so glad to have you!
With over 50,000 guild members and counting, we’re so excited to welcome you to a new world!
The TCO is more than just a battle simulator. What makes us stand out from competing games is our unique virtual realm!
Check it out with our tutorial world!

-Connecting to in-game chat-

[Y/lerato]
Veil
Is she stuck in the tutorial world

[B//A/veil]
Yeah.
This dumb fuck didn’t press ‘skip’ fast enough.
What a loser. I can’t even move.

[Y/lerato]
NO AHAHAHA
Aw come on dont call her dumb you wouldnt be here w/o her
Be niceys

[B//A/veil]
I refuse to be ‘niceys’ when the fucker controlling me can't even play the game properly.

[Y/lerato]
Wow chill out
At least you can chat
You can talk to mon right

[B//A/veil]
Oh yes I’ll talk to another avatar that’ll rip me to shreds if I look at them wrong.
Which is somehow
Whenever they feel like it
!
I could be with other people who actually respect me rather than be here, for some bullshit friendly.
Thanks, Lerato. Thanks, Rae. I’m so honoured to be here!

[B/rae]
WOW
Is that how you talk to other guild leaders?
That’s so rude. I thought it was ironic before, but I guess not!

[Y/lerato]
Thts what im saying!
Veil u should apologise
Right now

[B/rae]
…I don’t think it’ll reply anymore.

[Y/lerato]
Damn

[B/rae]
Should we start?

[Y/lerato]
Yes!

-Friendly match engaged with Y/lerato-

[scene removed]

[scene removed]

[scene removed]

[scene removed]

-Friendly match complete-

[Y/lerato]
Woah
You werent uhhhh
Going easy on me?

[B/rae]
I was at first. Been feeling exhausted, you caught me at a weird time.

[Y/lerato]
Ooooohkay
Ive
Umm
Got a Lot
To improve on

[B/rae]
If you want me to be honest, yes.
But you should ask Monitor too.
They’ll know your fighting style more than me.
That’s all I’ll say.
Since, you know, we are meant to be rivals officially.

[Y/lerato]
Yeah yeha i get you
Lol
Ok im not gonna bother you since ur tired
From your
“job”
Hahaha

[B/rae]
I can assure you I have a proper job.

[Y/lerato]
Riiiight
Ok cya lets talk soon
Ill be better next time!
Mayb I’ll get to beat you
Hehehe

[B/rae]
I look forward to it.

-Disconnecting from in-game chat-

Thank god the conversation ended there. You weren’t sure how much longer you could put up such a farce.

Fatigue claws at you with sharpness you’ve hardly felt before. Thoughts merge with your dreams. Conversations rehearse themselves as you watch in the back seat. You don’t bother correcting them. It sounds fine until you wake.

Hours later, your day starts again, when everyone else is miles ahead.
It doesn’t bother you. You latch onto their backs and leap ahead, that’s how it’s always been.
Your guild’s been busy whilst you were away.

Busy chatting shit, that is.
Some members have noticed your private ‘dual’ with the other guild leader, hungry for context. It’s none of their business, and you don’t have the mental strength to explain.

- Thread: Blue Guild General [bgg] -
---
[TCO//B/user]
[bgg] :: Who Needs Sleep Anyway Edition
!new players: [link]
!hourly log: [link]
!leader updates: [link]
!roadmap: [link]
!previous thread: [link]
Make sure your contacts for local support teams are up to date.
---
[TCO//B/user]
What’s everyone doing while waiting for cooldowns?
I’ve started to do typing speed tests. Got up to about 110 WPM on my best round!
---
[TCO//B/user]
“110 WPM”
they are truly bgg’s fastest player
---
[TCO//B/user]
I typically have a show playing on my second monitor, but because of this insane event I’ve started joining vcs.
bgg is a lot more unbearable on the microphone, turns out. I can’t stop listening.
---
[TCO//B/user]
are you the fucker with the shit mic trying to speak over all of us? maybe thats why its “unbearable” for you cause all you hear is yourself.
---
[TCO//B/user]
lol
---
[TCO//B/user]
I can’t stand voice calls. Been reading the log and other threads here.
Also, can more people come to the Northern front? It’s just me and 3 other people holding the line. We’re fine for now with the NPC enemies, but it’ll be absolute hell when something actually happens. Thanks in advance
---
[TCO//B/user]
4 people at the northern front is more than enough :)
Jk of course. I’ll get some of my friends to come along.
---
[TCO//B/user]
I’ve been trying to put together a playlist of music bgg’s been listening to! Contribute here: [link]
---
[TCO//B/user]
Just in: Some spies say they saw a glimpse of our leader and the Y guild leader talking.
Are we gonna shove this under the rug again?
---
[TCO//B/user]
Seriously?
---
[TCO//B/user]
bahahaha this is just laughable at this point good luck getting out of this one leader
---
[TCO//B/user]
We really have gone to shit because of our previous leader haven’t we?
---
[TCO//B/user]
“Some spies”
…sounds sketch.
---
[TCO//B/user]
Who’s bored enough to spread misinfo? You’re lucky I have a photo. [link]
---
[TCO//B/user]
Yeah its over whatever we have this fucking thread every 2 months. Fuck off with this drama
---
[TCO//B/user]
What’s even the point of a private meeting? Are they in cahoots? Will this be another scandal? Haha
---
[TCO//B/user]
“drama”
wow i wish i could live in ur little delusional world. the picture settles it for me. if this is really becoming a repeat of our last guild leader im quitting. im so sick of being told nothing and then later finding out we’re siding with another fucking guild
---
[TCO//B/user]
What even happened to the last guild leader? Do they still play this?
---
[TCO//B/user]
“Is this it for us?”
“Are they in cahoots? Will this be another scandal?”
Is this really what we’ve boiled down to?
---
[TCO//B/user]
Suddenly, being wary of collaborating with the enemy is bad.
You know exactly what happened last time. This is a chance for us to reinforce our defences. Don’t forget how long it took to rebuild our city.
---
[TCO//B/user]
lol u guys love to dramatise anything n everything. its just a game. calm down.

You’re somewhat surprised that there are rational people replying to the rapidly spreading panic.
But to call something you’ve spent most of your waking hours on “just a game” is a reminder of why you don’t bother casually posting in these forums.
Or, at all.

Your avatar is the one who bothers telling them what to do under the guise of your name. You can’t complain.

You reach out towards your screen. A second of hesitation is padded between you and the monitor.

You know too well what’s about to happen.

-Connecting to in-game chat-

[B/rae]
Are you there?
I can see you through the minimap.

Veil.
Come on.

[B//A/veil]
What?

[B/rae]
Seriously?
Are you still throwing a tantrum?
That was so fucking rude of you earlier, you know.
I don’t care what you think of me, but to tell that to another guild leader?
Are you out of your mind?!

[B//A/veil]
Yes! Great! Say another complaint and I will put your reputation down the fucking toilet.
You think I won’t do it?

[B/rae]
Okay
But
Uh-

[B//A/veil]
Oh, are you scared? To the point of stuttering? Good, stay that way.
You’re hopeless.

[B/rae]
Fuck!
Shut up!
I just want you to tell people nothing happened and that’s it!

[B//A/veil]
Why should I?

[B/rae]
Because I can’t!
I can’t do it!

[B//A/veil]
What’s so difficult about writing a fucking sentence or two?
How about all your messages to that other guild leader?
You had no problem being nice to them!
Even offering advice!
I should be the one asking if you’re out of your mind.
What I did was nothing compared to the rest of your conversation.

[B/rae]
I-
They’re someone I know!

[B//A/veil]
So what?
That’s not how our war works. Have you forgotten the rules?

This was spiralling into another pointless argument.
It always ends up with a discussion about this war.
This endless war.

[B/rae]
Fine. Fine!
I’ll make my own fucking post.

With that, you were prepared to head back to your room and continue reading what your genius guild members had to say. You were certain it’d only get livelier from this point onward.
Veil stops you momentarily, its eyes and yours fixated.

Something was told wordlessly.

Escapism :: 2

The application was closed with haste, along with your PC.
As you watch it shut down, you let out a deep sigh.

You’re not sure why you let this happen. All the warnings from Monitor were there, but you felt confident at the time, and now you’ve made an easily avoidable mistake.
You can repeat the fight in your head, and the points where you could’ve done better are crystal clear.
But it’ll be fine.
You’re still new at combat.
But that’s been the go-to excuse for the past month. You seriously need to get better at this.
To clear your mind, you’ve decided to get up from your desk and out the room.

It’s a good thing your guild doesn’t take the game as seriously as others do. Rae’s guild scares you. Your guild’s told horror stories of their experiences with them.

And it looks like your avatar is dying to share another tale.

-Connecting to in-game chat-

[TCO//Y/lerato]
I hear you!!!!
Holyu shit dude
Calrm
Down
Look youve got me making so many typos now that is sobad

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
That was an abhorrent display of strikes from you
Even compared to normal duels
Truly shocking
I felt the need to inform you at once about how poorly you did

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Owch
?

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
I am being honest
This is going to look concerning
Not just internally but to other Guilds
Next time
Just tell me to take over instead

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Hey come on im not useless
I dont appreciate that
I know i suck but just
TEACH
Me
Not just say Oh Ill Take Over
Please

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Sorry
I am anxious about what comes next

[TCO//Y/lerato]
I am too!
Im really nervous too but we can change that
But it has to be done together
If I try to do this on my own it wont go well
And if you take the lead
Idk
Veil mentioned something about you attacking it what was that about
??

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
I do not like Veil.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Oh
But
Ok
Still that doesn’t mean you can
Attack?
It?

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
I will try not to
But i do not like it.
It makes itself an obvious target.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Okay fair whatever
Sometimes you just cant like everyone
I wish you could
But its not possible
It sucks

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
I think we have different ideals regarding ‘liking’ people
You are human
Humans are capable of learning to accept one another
And even so far as to accept non-humans
I am built just for TCO
I do not feel that way
I want us to be successful and i do not care about what the enemy team thinks of that
I dont find this fun
This is how i am meant to function
Do you understand why i act the way i do yet

This confession takes you aback.
So much so that you’re staring at the text, reading their words in repetition until they aren’t real to you anymore.
It was the truth, but you never really saw Monitor merely as an avatar.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
I
Understand
Its difficult to take in
But im glad you told me
Listen im gonna leave for a bit. Need to clear my head
I know what i did wrong in that friendly match and i will do everything i can now to make sure i dont fuck up again
Or at least
Not so badly
Something that can be overlooked at the very least
I cant thank you enough for giving me this wake up call
Ill be back soon ok
seeya

-Disconnecting from in-game chat-

You stow your phone away in your pocket.
It buzzes once more, but you refuse to give it attention.
How is anyone meant to get better at this game without devoting half their life to it?

You had fun with this before.
So, what changed?
Could you pinpoint it to a certain date?
Did it happen over time?

Your memories can’t keep themselves still as you walk. The atmosphere feels heavier than normal.
It subtly creeps up on you, and, without a doubt, there’s something about this combination of feelings that makes you feel uncomfortable.

You step into the passenger carriage, playlist at the ready as the chorus muffles out the announcement coming from overhead speakers.
This train ride was done on a whim. Now that you’re out here, you’re not entirely sure where to go.
You involuntarily take a step forward as the train settles at your usual station, so you hold onto the handrail just a little tighter.
Eventually, the crowd of people who you followed into this carriage filter their way out with each passing stop. You’re able to sit down, even if for a moment.

Here’s your station. You get off quickly as you feel a strange chill run down your back.

Only now do you take out your phone. There’s a message from Monitor that you’ve left ignored until you feel like you have enough mental strength to open it.
The wind from the train’s gates forces you further into the underground maze.
The layout of this place hasn’t changed one bit, but it feels foreign.
As you rely on signs for assistance, your phone takes its time to load up a map of the area. You eventually give up on it and close the application.
Now that you’re out of that stuffy boxed-in subway, you can see that…
Everything else has changed.
This was going to be a bother.
You’re going to do something cheeky instead.

-Connecting to Local-

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Hihihi
Anyone on?
===
[TCO//Y/user]
heyyyyyy
whats up
===
[TCO//Y/lerato]
Oh hi!
Yeah so
You are in this district right?
No vpn or anything
===
[TCO//Y/user]
nah no vpn here lol
but yeah whats up are you lost? lmao
===
[TCO//Y/lerato]
Mmmmayube
Really im just looking for a PC café or something
Need a change of scenery
===
[TCO//Y/user]
oh interesting
well there is a place me and my friends go to actually
were gonna go later in the afternoon
will you stick around for then :3
===
[TCO//Y/lerato]
I could actually
Itd be nice to talk to some of you guys
Get to know you guys more
It feels wrong to be out of touch when im like
The LEAder
Ykno
===
[TCO//Y/user]
hahahathats awesome
youre so chill about it
some people were in this chat earlier sayin some bad shit about you and it felt wrong
like u were talking to another guild leader is that even real>?lmao

You stop in your tracks.
The conversation had only begun its light-heartedness, too.
You can’t-
You…
Don’t want to tell them the truth.
What are you even meant to say? That you lost?
You switch tabs, even if it adds to suspicion.
And the message you’ve been ignoring provided none of the comfort you sought.

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Don’t answer that message.

You stood amidst strangers hastily getting to places you’d never be told of.
Sorry, Monitor.
But you're going to answer them anyway.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Whoops sorry for the late message
But
We did meet that is correct
But i promise you it was nothing to do with collaboration
Or anything of the sort
Essentially
We only passed by each other
===
[TCO//Y/user]
ha
okay

You stare at the simple response.
It feels agonising to wait for something from this person.
It doesn’t help that your response looks like a poorly constructed lie.
But Monitor’s message rang in your head with such intensity that you couldn’t come up with anything else.

[TCO//Y/lerato]
[TCO//Y/user]
oh yeah
here
[link]
we’ll come around soon
maybe we can talk more in person
ciao

-Disconnecting from Local-

You’re not so sure if you even want to go to this PC café anymore.
But what other choice do you have? You can’t go back on your word after fumbling like that.
So, the path to the unknown begins, the rhythm of your footsteps off-beat as uncertainty trails behind.

The so-called café is sandwiched between businesses that take themselves far more seriously.

Signs plastered on the wall encourage you to head downstairs.
Handrails not included.
So you had to hobble down step by step.

You don’t see any staff around. Looks like the only way to check yourself in was to punch in your details at the self-service machine.
It looks well-maintained, at the very least, and it wasn’t completely empty.
You stealthily log on to the TCO app with a temporary account.
While it loads, you get back up to look at what the vending machine has to offer. The buzzing it emitted practically begged for you to check out its wares.

Well…
You debated getting something different, but you ended up going for the usual: cherry cola.
Can’t go wrong with it.

The app is ready once you return to your seat.
You spend the first half hour of your time here reading strategies and clips of people in battles.
Once you were somewhat confident that you could replicate what they did, you go to message Monitor.

-Connecting to in-game chat-

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Im back
And
Id like to practice
Im going to take it at my own pace
You can criticise me afterwards
Ok?

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Where are you

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Im at a pc cafe

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Why?

[TCO//Y/lerato]
I
I dont know
I just dont want to be at home right now for this
Is that okay for you?
Anymor questions??

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
I guess not
Go ahead then

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Ok thx

They were interrogating you at this point. It was slowly starting to get annoying, but you weren’t going to dwell on it.

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Stop

[TCO//Y/lerato]
What

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Look
Turn away from your screen for a second

[TCO//Y/lerato]
Oh

Someone’s here.

You could only assume that it was the person you spoke to earlier.
Should you… say hi?
Or wait for them to say hi?
It’d probably be best if you introduced yourself, with the whole ‘leader’ deal.
But just as you were about to get up from your seat, the person seemed to know exactly who you were as they approached.

glad you found your way here
this place is like a hidden gem
my friends will be here later
dont mind them theyre always late
anyway
whereabouts are you

Oh
Im uhhh
At the cove near the east

awesome
give me a moment then

She falls back on the office chair and enters her credentials. You watched for a split second before a stream of messages ran down your screen.

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Fuck
No
I didnt mean TALK TO HER
Stop it
STOP
TALKING
TO
HER
STOP
IT
SOTOP
GET OUT OF THERE
GET
OUT
LERATO

What...?
You quickly hide the chat box before the person sitting--now stood next to you gets a chance to read it, but she looks as smug as ever.

pleasure meeting yggdrasils new leader
never thought id get the chance

You
Wait
Who are you

focus on the game dear

You swerve your head back to your screen and hell has broken loose.
The person you spoke to was a phantasm and now you’re paying the price.
She wasn’t even here anymore. Her chair spins slowly as the screen flickers.

[TCO//Y/A/monitor]
Now youve done it
Are you happy
I told you
I TOLD YOU
To listen to me
And now
Look whats happened
I want to throw up
You do it
You control my vessel and fight because thats what you want
I don’t care

[TCO//Y/lerato]
No
No no n
No
Fuck
Oh fuck

The minimap on your screen tells you everything.
It’s going to be you, and only you, against a group of red guild members.

[TCO//R/aither]
your reaction was priceless
how are you finding your position as a leader
its tough isnt it
well
it doesnt have to be that way if you surrender to us
what do you say lerato
unless you think you can fend us off
id like to see that
whatll it be

You’re not giving in.

Escapism :: 3

This is fun.
This is really fun.
Pure frustration like this is hard to come by nowadays, so this fight is a breath of fresh air for you.
Of course, you’re not taking this for granted. Every strike had already been calculated.
This is going to be an easy win.

[R/A/radar]
hiiii friend <3<3<3
you know <3<3
like
this place belonged to us <3<3
right
until your loooovelyu little predecessor barged in and took it from us <3<3<3
with
yknowwww
methods id call
cheating
and
bribery
thats pretty messed up dont you think
lol?
but i guess you already know that by now
w/ the way ur defending it
are u seriously going to believe what he did?

[Y/lerato]
Why should i listen to you

[R/A/radar]
heheheheee
if you werent part of yggdrasil i think aith would like you a lot

Well, maybe.
You’re not going to dwell on that passing comment.
…For now, at least.

[Y/lerato]
So?

[R/A/radar]
oh ur no fun at all
i take that back!
saw through the illusions instantly too im maaaadddd
or
impressed
?
idk
would love to know how youre doing this

This was going on longer than you had predicted.
For someone who only started combat recently, you’re starting to suspect there’s something else at play here.

But before you get a closer look, they manage to deal a fatal blow.

[R/A/radar]
aha
shit
whats wrong with you

This wasn’t part of the script.
None of this was. How did they…

[R/aither]
gosh yeah
i think i wouldve liked you under my guild
what wasted potential
radar
ill take it from here
just focus on data recovery

[R/A/radar]
roger tht
owwww

It was somewhat embarrassing to take over like this, let alone have the dispute last so long in the first place.
No matter.
This was going to end right now.

[Health fully depleted]

[R/A/radar]
finally
no idea how they kept taking hits like
um?
tanking much?
lmao
ok lets make ourselves known <3

[P/null]
I’m afraid that won’t be happening.

[R/A/radar]
wtf?

Oh, today just couldn’t get any better.

[R/aither]
and whys that dear
what could i possibly have done wrong here

[P/null]
They haven’t fully forfeited, have they?
Guild Leaders can call for help once defeated.
Hell, they could alert the entire guild if they want.
Or, they can suck it up and admit defeat, giving you whatever piece of land it was you so desperately want.
Either way, you must wait for a response.

[R/A/radar]
oh my fucking god who AASKED
what a stupid fucking thing theres no way thtsa an actual rule int eh game
im going
fuck u

[R/aither]
no
its true
i was hoping you werent lurking
but of course you would be
aha
fine
well wait
but i have a life outside of this so this better not take forever
im sure you do too
till next time, judge

[P/null]
Till next time.

Well then.
Are you still there, Lerato?

[Y/lerato]
Ugh
Still here
Somehow

[P/null]
Good to hear.
What will you do?

[Y/lerato]
I need to talk this over with Monitor
It wont take
Forever
As someone said

[P/null]
I’ll take my leave now.
You should go too, Aither.

[Y/lerato]
Oh what

-User null disconnected from in-game chat-

[R/aither]
way to rat me out
you didnt say anything useful anyway
so i really will leave
and
just know that
im not letting this slide
youve been very lucky so far dear

-User aither disconnected from in-game chat-

What a pain this was.
All because a referee happened to pass by.
You were going to complain to Radar on your way to work, although it seems as though he has a head start on the ranting.

[TCO//R/A/radar]
IM SOOOOOOOOOOO
MAD
ASOIFU089WEUJ
DSFKULJPJOT
DSOPFSPOIFPOAIPDSIDSK
WHAT
DOYOU
MEAN
WE HAVE TO
WAIT/?
?
THIS IS A WAR FGAME ASSHOLEEEEEEEEEEE

[TCO//R/aither]
this used to be like
i dunno
a formality
not an actual rule
something about codifying it this way is
well
undermining what the point of this game was about
dont you agree

[TCO//R/A/radar]
exact 7 ly
GOD
if i see that fucking janitor again im killing them
NO
HESIT8TION
also the next bus is in 6 mins can u make that

[TCO//R/aither]
shit
yeah
barely

You throw on your shoes, bolting out your flat towards the bus stop.

The scan-to-pay ticket option never works the first time.
Avoiding any gazes at your disheveled appearance, you finally take a seat.

Weaving through the crowd of office workers who had just finished their lunch break, you manage to get into an equally as packed lift to your designated floor.

[TCO//R/A/radar]
and say hi to the madam
for meeeee <3
jkjkjkjk

[TCO//R/aither]
do you actually like her

afternoon madam
sorry about the late notice
ill be making up for it tonight

Understood. You can go now.

cheers

[TCO//R/aither]
she didnt even look at me

[TCO//R/A/radar]
tats a you problem
if it was meeee <3
i could sweet talk her into leaving the same time as everyone else <3<3,#<3

[TCO//R/aither]
id like to see you try

hi guys

Aither!

heyyyy

hi!

Hiiii

did i miss anything
madam wasnt helpful
like usual

Of course she wasn't

No not really, the only thing you missed was the lunch we got.

Oh!
Yeah that was really good

what
cmon where did you guys go this time

somewhere new!
they did some really good rice bowls, you gotta come next time

well of course

After wasting valuable company time catching up with your coworkers, you finally open your work PC.

hey

Hi!
I hope everything’s okay? You sent off the notice quite late.

yeah that
it was pretty sudden
had to go see my mom in hospital and everything its pretty uh
pretty depressing stuff so

Oh, no, its fine, if you’d rather not talk about this then I won’t press on.

yeah uh
sorry
um
anyway
its pretty hot today dont you think
even for august standards

It is, yeah! What a relief we have working AC.
Last year this time it broke down, and we started threatening madam that we weren’t going to come in until she got someone to fix it.
Then guess what she said!

WAIT I want to do the impression
“Fix it yourself right now if you so desperately need it. You’re still coming in regardless.”

fucking hell ahahahha

Exactly!
So we took that seriously and started looking up the model number and everything.
Then she almost fired us for that.

whoops

Yeah. Whoops indeed.
It got fixed in the end, so that’s what matters.

thank god for that

You couldn’t imagine being deprived of AC, especially not in this heat.
The forecast says it's about to get hotter, too…
An hour passes slowly, the chatter from your arrival died down. The noises that remained were the clattering of keys and the occasional clicking from someone’s mouse.

going for a breather.

oh ill come with

Me too.

same

The four of you announce your leave one by one, sneaking out of the office through the fire exit.

so,
im assuming you all know about the branwen and yggdrasil leaders meeting?

yeah

What was the point of that friendly fight?
I cant remember the last time I had a practice round like that. Hah.

well there was a point
because they went on to fight
and subsequently lose
to rostam’s leader
which is
CRAZY

Your phone vibrates like crazy. Someone’s desperate to leave a message.

[TCO//R/A/radar]
dont be stupid about this

Of course you wouldn’t be ‘stupid’ about this conversation. Thanks a lot, Radar.

did we all just hear the news at the same time
our forum is going crazy about it
i cant even load anything on there

If this all happened in the span of hours think of what could ensue tonight
We all need to be prepared to fight

fuck me im not ready for that.

shes right though
this could be pretty big
like the event 3 years ago
that big

holy hell what a throwback!

I only just started playing back then. I was so lost.

god yeah what an awful time to start playing.

Owch?

i guess this means were really gonna have to fight each other now huh

Yeah
Theres only so much we can do to avoid each other but now its pretty much unavoidable
At the end of the day, this is just a game. If we take it any more seriously than we do now, then…

She pauses as she sees you suppressing a smirk.

sorry
i just never took you for someone to start saying a motivational speech
go on

yeah. youre the least likely to speak up in work, sooo…

Well
Anyway.
We’re the only four openly talking about TCO. You know how big this game really is. The 50k playerbase on their tutorial page is data from years ago.

yeah were way past that
theres like 150k online usually
forgot how many downloads it has though

Yeah, exactly.
So think about it, there’s probably way more people who play it on 10/F. They aren’t going to take us seriously when we say we want a truce with them.
My point is,
The peace between us is probably going to end tonight.
But whatever happens in game shouldn’t be carried out into real life.

You wish things were that easy.

we should head back

The atmosphere is heavier than normal. A few passing comments arise here and there, but overall, work had been quiet.
You watch as everyone prepares to leave for the day, waving as they leave one by one.
Turning to your side, however, your coworker Veera hasn’t moved at all.

hey um
everyones gone now
i mean i have to stay cause of ot but you know

Oh, yes
It didn’t sit right with me if you were going to be here on your own.
I’ll stay as well. A few more hours here isn’t going to be the death of me.

but
itll be dark and
um

I’ll be fine.
This district cares slightly more about handicapped people than other areas.

o
okay

You weren’t planning on fumbling even further, so you practically glue your face to the monitor, typing frantically.
Your mind was all over the place with what happened earlier, and this wasn’t helping at all.
The enter key on the cheap keyboard probably couldn’t handle much more of your mindless tapping.

Is something bothering you?

um
no

You’ve been able to lie through your teeth with ease, that is, up until this point.
Now, you really don’t have a clue on how to hide this.

Are you sure?

if i said im sure
youd know i was lying
so
theres a lot bothering me
and its not even work related
isnt that crazy

I’m assuming some of this is to do with the hospital visits?

yyyyeah
things are a bit tense and i guess its getting to me finally
itll blow over though
really soon

Yeah. Tonight, even.

Is that so?
I have something outside of work that’s a bit tense as well.
I’m also hoping that it gets dealt with pretty soon.
Looks like we’re in… hm
I wouldn’t say the same boat, your situation is a lot more serious than mine. Forget what I said.

oh no its fine really

You try to laugh it off, and attempt to shift the conversation to something else, then another topic, and eventually the PCs grow tired of waiting for you to log back on as they shut their eyes.
You only just catch the time on your phone as a notification blinks, realising that you both were free to go.

Even at a time like this, people still filtered out of the building.
Once you both were at street level, Veera already starts to make her leave.

oh wait
do you want me to come with

It’s fine, I’ll make it!
My place is walking distance, anyway. That’s why I chose to work here.

whaaaat

Thank you for tonight, though. I had a lot of fun talking to you.

As she says this, she reaches over to hold your hand.
You couldn’t help but get flustered at that.

uM
of course of course its fine yknow ahahhahahah
ummmmseeyou tomorrow

See you!

[TCO//R/A/radar]
LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
LOL
LOLLLLLLLL
what the HELL lol i thought you were cooler than that!!!!!
you really are a loser man

[TCO//R/aither]
holy shit shut up

[TCO//R/A/radar]
no im never gonna shut up about this
EVER
this is too good

[TCO//R/aither]
kill yourself

[TCO//R/A/radar]
no
get the bus loser
if you miss this one the next is in like a year
and in this heat?
no sirrrrrr

You always seem to just catch the bus. This type of luck is going to run out soon, and you have your suspicions the day this happens is just around the corner.

[TCO//R/aither]
any reply from lerato yet

[TCO//R/A/radar]
yea

[TCO//R/aither]
reallly

[TCO//R/A/radar]
im not even kidding dude
but
i want you to wait until were back
as in i want u to open ur laptop
and read from there

That’s… something.
You could somewhat predict the response, but if even Radar, an avatar that couldn’t sit still, this had to have been something serious.

Time to find out.

Escapism :: 4

It starts to make sense as to why everyone puts up such a farce at work.
It's not even subtle when people leave the room all at once to discuss battle plans. But to mention the game in the office ‘realm’… sounds so childish, doesn’t it?
Maybe, if you had a different role in the game, you’d like to have a casual conversation with the others.
You and your coworkers work for a mindless office job for a mindless boss. It’s no wonder everyone is so invested in a game like this.
Which was why… talking to Aither tonight was refreshing.

You don’t remember it being so quiet, even at this hour. Things have changed, and you’ve not quite grasped how drastic it’s been.

Even now, your flat’s boiling.
This heat could drive you crazy. Hopefully your old fan still works.
It was going to be a long night, and all you needed was a small breeze to keep you going.
You change out of your work attire as quickly as possible, aware that your ‘friend’ must’ve been waiting for ages without any response from you.
Or, they probably knew already. They always knew what you were up to, it was eerie at times.

[TCO//P/A/null]
Took you long enough.

[TCO//P/veera]
I know. I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t miss out on too much.

[TCO//P/A/null]
It’d be nice if I could repeat myself and report to you saying nothing worthwhile has happened, but today…
Oh boy.
Tonight’s the night, Veera.

[TCO//P/veera]
oh
Then
What happened while I was away?

[TCO//P/A/null]
Yggdrasil’s leader, Lerato, was lured into a fight with Rostam’s leader, Aither.
Aither did this with the intent to take back former territory.

You hold your breath momentarily. Her request to take half the day off was… for this?

[TCO//P/veera]
That’s what the excuse was?

[TCO//P/A/null]
Yes.
Lerato put up a fight, mind you, until they shredded Radar’s arm. Aither took over to finish the job after that.

[TCO//P/veera]
That’s
Overkill.
Is Lerato okay?

[TCO//P/A/null]
For the most part, yes.
I had to step in before she tried to force her way into Yggdrasil territory.
I told them to make a decision: Surrender there and then; or tell Aither that this wasn’t over.
And that’s where we’re at now.
Do you want me to read out the statement?

You’ve always hated how this game insisted on tying itself to real people and real names, especially with leaders.

[TCO//P/veera]
Please do.

[TCO//P/A/null]
“Hello,
Firstly, I want to apologise in advance if this announcement isn’t up to your standards. I understand I cannot replicate my predecessor and I will not even try to become a mockery of him.
I’m sure you are all aware of what I am about to discuss, so I won’t waste your time.
I had my health fully depleted in the fight with Rostam’s leader. I will fully admit I was rash during the battle and that I shouldn’t have fought on my own.
I wanted to prove something, and was compensated with this outcome.
But I refuse to stay down.
I won’t be upset if you refuse to join me. My best friend didn’t agree with any of this, either.
If you still want to join, I will support you to the best of my abilities and undo the humiliation I’ve caused.
~Lerato”

[TCO//P/veera]
Their best friend?

[TCO//P/A/null]
Their avatar. A bit cheesy, in my opinion.
Monitor hasn’t been active for most of the day, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll come back anytime soon.

[TCO//P/veera]
That’s
They can do that?
I had no idea.

[TCO//P/A/null]
If proper moderators were still around, they’d reactivate them with force.
That might alter their internal data, resetting it even, but…
I wouldn’t know what that’s like.

[TCO//P/veera]
What was the response to this?
If you can see it, that is.

[TCO//P/A/null]
I can’t access the forums. I got a copy of the statement from someone in-game.
And from what I’ve read…
Both sides are going to raise hell.
So, are we caught up now?

[TCO//P/veera]
We are.
Mostly.
What about the other guilds? Branwen? Gilgamesh?

[TCO//P/A/null]
I haven’t paid as much attention to them, but it looks like they’re keeping their heads down. Branwen’s leader was in hot water this morning for talking to Lerato.
And because of this, Rostam members are starting to point fingers at Rae for being the instigator.

[TCO//P/veera]
This doesn’t make sense at all. Don’t they hate dealing with other guilds?
They’re definitely going to get pulled into this.

[TCO//P/A/null]
Alright, correction, I said they’ll stay away, but we both know that this is going to be game-wide in the end. Yellow and Red first, then Blue, then…
That will be a true fight.

[TCO//P/veera]
Just like the Hydrean Year?

[TCO//P/A/null]
Exactly like the Hydrean Year. Except, this will be on a larger scale.

You had a feeling you were going to lose sleep tonight, but now it's starting to look like you weren’t going to get any rest at all.
So long as no incidents happen while you’re ‘on duty’, you think this is worth it.

[TCO//P/A/null]
We’re going to break records with the amount of people online right now.
It’s contested with the peak from the Hydrean Year.

[TCO//P/veera]
Oh my god!
Don’t these people have work tomorrow? School? What do you mean?!

[TCO//P/A/null]
This game brings out the worst in people.
Are you ready to join yet?

[TCO//P/veera]
As ready as I’ll be.

You reach in and past your monitor, letting yourself be transported into the game realm.
The strange numbing of your limbs is something you’ll never get used to. You’ve wanted to ask other people if they felt this way, but…
No, never mind. There’s no point in imagining things like that.

-Connecting to in-game chat-

[P/null]
Your sword.

[P/veera]
Thank you.
This is a bit nerve-wracking, now that I’m here.

[P/null]
I can guarantee you will be fine. You’ve done this for several years. This is no different.

[P/veera]
Yeah. Sure. That’s reassuring.

[P/null]
I’m only stating the truth.
Should I just not say anything next time?

[P/veera]
No
Well
Just keep doing what you’re doing. I really don’t want to make a fuss.

You don’t hear a clear response but instead hear a short huff, much like how a pet would sigh after a long day.

Enough stalling. You need to make it to one of the borders.

Many of the players are gathered here. A handful of newer players seem to misunderstand your presence.

[P/veera]
I’m not here to fight. I’m only monitoring the situation.

[Y/user]
lmao
theres no such thing as a pink guild
ur a spy

[P/veera]
Um…
No?
That’s not right at all?

[Y/user]
fuck off
or well kill u too

You really wish seasoned players would at least give them a hint, but that kind of tutoring mentality has gone out the window recently.
It was better to stay invisible. You didn’t have time to explain your role.
So far, no attacks yet…

[P/null]
A lot of people are swarming live-streamers. I could go figure out where they're broadcasting to for you.

[P/veera]
Oh, god. Live-streamers? Really? For a game like this, what do you even stream?

[P/null]
This doesn’t usually happen. It’s only because of the ‘declaration’ that people have decided this is something to, well,
Monetise on.
I could’ve stopped this.

[P/veera]
You could’ve?
What?

[P/null]
Sorry, just wishful thinking.
We’re probably going to be stuck telling these live-streamers to remember what game they’re playing.

[P/veera]
Oh, how fun!

As you were about to make another comment, you heard the siren make her call.

From a safe distance, you watch the two guilds run at each other head-on.

[P/veera]
Are Lerato and Aither around?

[P/null]
They’re online, yes, but elsewhere.

[P/veera]
Wonder why…

[P/null]
There’s been an attempt to form a proper strategy, but these ‘fans’ are ruining it all.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the competent side moved to a different guild after all this.

[P/veera]
Will they really do that?

You expect an almost immediate reply, but you’re left in a moment of silence.

[P/null]
...Who knows.
Oh
4 o’clock. 5 against 1.

You turn around, barely making out a group of Rostam members rending a single target apart, limb by limb, fragment by…

[P/veera]
Oh, what is this?
Hey.
Hey!
That’s enough, you’re not meant to deal anymore damage once someone’s down! Step back! You’ll lose experience points!

You hear no reply from them, but you’re told that the avatars are all facing you.
For a split second, you wanted to ask these people what was wrong with them, but you refrained.

[P/veera]
You all got the experience points already, right?
What else is there to get from this?

[R/user]
why are u taking this so seriously
wtf?
its a game
just have fun

Fun. Yeah. It’s really fun when you’re not the one injured.
They really don’t have a clue, do they?

[P/veera]
Just… find someone else to bother already.

They begrudgingly leave the avatar alone, some still giving you glances as they rejoin a crowd.
And it was going to be like this for the rest of the fight!
It’s already driving you nuts.

[P/null]
This player isn’t responding.
The game will give them 10 seconds before it kicks them out.
We can’t stay here, Veera.

[P/veera]
...Right.

You do your best to not think about fallen avatars too much.

[*/siren]
polymnia friend!
good luck out there!

[P/veera]
Oh!
And you!

You raise your sword at the siren above and hear a ‘sparkling’ sound effect in return.

[P/null]
Bet she’s happy to finally have something to do now.

[P/veera]
Absolutely. I can’t imagine waiting for who knows how long to perform her duties.

And so, with the help of your avatar, you sink in hours making sure things weren’t getting insanely out of hand.
You get called names a lot. It hardly bothers you, knowing that a lot of these comments were coming from people praising someone they watched, and all of a sudden decided that whatever they did in-game was justified, because of course you need to praise the people you fervently worship.
It makes no sense to you. These live-streamers are just singular people, aren’t they? So what?
The only allegiance people should have in this game is for their guild. There are leaders here to ‘praise’, for god’s sake! But that’s still not enough?

Your grievances start to get to your head, so much so that you needed to hold back from shouting back at a player.
Just another hour, you think, and then you’ll log off. It was around the time when the other members of your guild would finally come online.

[P/null]
Stop.

You sense a formidable avatar not too far away as you pause in your tracks.
Even if you were hidden in place of your avatar for her, you’re still surprised, and even a little flustered.

[R/aither]
you again
dont try and stop me this time
the statement makes it clear what they want to do

[P/veera]
…I know. I wasn’t planning to.

[R/aither]
good
you finally have some common sense in your head
i wont take long
just sit back and relax

[P/veera]
Don’t
Get hurt.

You don’t want anyone to get hurt. And yet, for whatever reason, you still say such a pointless thing to her.
You needed to check on Lerato, too.

[P/veera]
Is she going directly to see Lerato?

[P/null]
It would seem so.
You’re not thinking of trying to stop this, are you?

[P/veera]
God, I want to.
This is such a pointless fight, and Lerato could-

[P/null]
I know. I’m part of this game.
And I know that there’s no point in stopping this, but if you’re that desperate to know if they’re fine, then we’ll follow.
From a safe distance.

[P/veera]
Deal.

As you search for the two leaders, you’re told that the former Yggdrasil border has started to alter, with the minimap showing the eastern division blotted in hues of red.

Within your avatar’s recommended ‘safe distance’, they relay the situation to you.

[P/null]
So far, it’s their avatars staring at each other. I’m assuming Aither’s talking to them in another chat client.

[P/veera]
What could they possibly be talking about that requires a different chat client?

[P/null]
I’m not going to even try and guess.

Neither were you. You just wanted this over and done with.

[P/null]
Soph is online. Faes already caught up with everything, so I’m assuming fae’ll get to work right away.

[P/veera]
Oh, good. I’ll thank faer before I log off.

Just as the conversation started to drift away, you heard an ear-shattering explosion.

[P/null]
FUCk
Oh my fucking GOD
I
That’s a shelved attack what the fuck. What the fuck!!!!!!

You don’t recall your text-to-speech function having the option to sound so emotive, but the sheer impact was enough to make you stumble.

[P/veera]
Wait, shelved?
That’s
We need to go there! We can’t let that continue!!

Without fail, this drew the attention of almost every avatar. The commotion of confused players grew in volume, and it was clear that you were going to be surrounded amongst thousands soon.

[P/null]
You have to leave the game.

[P/veera]
What?
No, I’m not-

[P/null]
I’m serious. I can tell you why when you’re out. Just.
please get out of here.

[P/veera]
…Okay. Please be careful.

You complied, disconnecting from the game as soon as you could.

Your time in the TCO feels like a dream as soon as you’re back in your room.

Escapism :: 5

This is the part where all fingers should’ve been pointed at you.
Or so you thought. Why wouldn’t it be this outcome? How could anyone accept that half-assed statement you came up with in haste?
Nobody will bring it up now. The shelved attack has drilled itself into everyone’s minds and mouths.
You’re certain it could have been worse. The perpetrator knew this, they chose to make a dramatic opening of curtains for this first act.
It makes you wonder why people go through all this effort.
But you can’t completely curse out this person. You owe them one, in fact, for letting you have a quieter night than usual.
You greet the glimmering moon but refuse to delve into the specifics. She knows enough. Enough to be dissatisfied with who you are.
With your burner phone, you have your notes app open, a location, floor, and flat number. Nothing else.

What you do is for the benefit of the game. You repeat this statement until it becomes background noise and alter the words so it remains fresh in your mind.

What you do is for the benefit of the game.
This is for the benefit of the game.
This is good for the players.
This keeps your guild safe.
This is helping you.
This is good.
This helps.

[TCO//B/A/veil]
I hate
How happy this makes you.
I hate you for a lot of reasons, but this,
This is just repulsive.

It belittles you over the now unused monitor.

[TCO//B/A/veil]
Get this over with already.
You ran home this morning out of fear that someone caught you.
But you just can’t resist doing such a horrible thing,
Over
And over.
I hate you.

The blade of your pocketknife gleams as it finds itself plunging into the carcass. You couldn’t find any words to respond with, so you let the tool speak on your behalf. It has done this before. Countless times.

Despite what you told yourself, convinced yourself, even,
You broke your silent promise with ease.

Only now its words ring in your ears as you turn ever so slightly towards the hijacked monitor. Veil vanishes as soon as your eyes lock with its.

…Do you want this game shut down?
Is that it?
If they find-if they find out people die from this, you’ll be erased.

[TCO//B/A/veil]
Oh. Thank you for telling me! Like I’ve not had that thought ever since I first opened my fucking eyes!
You’re so selfish you won’t even care about me unless it’s a way to bargain!
What’s wrong with you, Rae? What the fuck is wrong with you?

What’s wrong with you, it asks.
Where could you even begin?
Should you pin the blame on someone else, just like what people are doing to you now? Keep the cycle burning?

What’s wrong with you, you ask, as you stare into the bathroom mirror, not really seeing your face, seeing someone else there behind you when really there isnt anyone there and youre just making it up theres no one in this flat other than you you the one who forced their way into a dead players room to give them one last laugh as you treat the open wounds like a delicacy and it something this endless war gifts you even if you hate it so much you just cant resist whats in front of you

you vulturethat
is what’s wrong with you.
But you never had it in you to put your thoughts into words. You always stumbled over sentences. It’s why you preferred to talk over text, but…
You always find yourself having to force words out of your mouth instead.

I don’t know how to tell you what’s wrong.

[TCO//B/A/veil]
Of course you don’t. Forget it.
If you love this game so much, get off the fucking ground and come back or else people are going to start realising you’re missing.
…Wow.
Even after watching you do all this, I still tell you to come back.
I wish I didn’t care about you at all.

The mental image of the room you ‘visited’ slips away as soon as you phase through the monitor screen.
You leave no trace behind. The person will be considered missing.
Veil, with a scornful look, keeps its distance from you once you fully load in.

-Connecting to in-game chat-

[B/rae]
What?

[B/A/veil]
Oh, nothing.
Just making sure you don’t accidentally see me as another dead body and start salivating.

[B/rae]
I’m not…
That’s not how…

[B/A/veil]
Move already.

Of course it had to put you on the spot like that.

This was a risky place to be in. Because of the player’s lingering data, you ended up in Yggdrasil territory.
If anyone were to see you, well, that would cement any rumours, wouldn’t it?
You wish you picked up the invisibility feature before Aither snatched it.
Nothing much you could do about it now, unless…

[B/rae]
Hey.

[B/A/veil]
For god’s sake, what?

[B/rae]
If someone managed to un-
Unshelf?
Unshelve an attack like that, then what’s stopping us from brute-forcing invisibility?

[B/A/veil]
You want to do what?

[B/rae]
It’s not as bad as, um, that, is it?

[B/A/veil]
Well, no, but…
I guess rules are off the table now, aren’t they?
…Never thought you’d bring this up.

[B/rae]
I’m only giving you a suggestion.

[B/A/veil]
I mean, sure, it’s not the worst idea you’ve come up with.
At least it’s not going to some-

[*/siren]
what
were you saying?

Of course she was able to locate you and Veil in a matter of seconds.
You’ve never met her face-to-face. Last time you even saw her silhouette and her burning wand was during the Hydrean Year.

[B/A/veil]
Siren…

Even Veil was hesitant to speak.
You remember it recounting a time where it had an unpleasant discussion with her, and how it swore to avoid seeing her again.

[*/siren]
yes, correct
thats me
im glad you havent forgotten
back then you were pretty eager to pretend i wasnt something of concern
has that changed, friend?

[B/A/veil]
Of course. I was careless during the Hydrean Year-

[B/rae]
What do you want?

You could feel Veil’s eyes piercing you as you interrupt its intricate method of appeasement.

[*/siren]
what do i want?
hey, rae,
answer my question first.
what were you both saying?
and why are you here at all?
i thought i made it clear that this was a fight between rostam and yggdrasil
unless
youd like to confess something?

She took you as a joke. That’s what was happening here. She wanted you to slip up and say something out of turn.

[B/rae]
Confess?
Well, fine-

[B/A/veil]
NO
No.
Rae is…
Not in the right state of mind.
The attack caught us off guard. She wanted to check it out for herself, and I couldn’t stop her.
It won’t happen again.
We have no intention to be involved in this dispute.
There’s enough to deal with back at our base. We were just taking our leave.
Isn’t that right

In her eyes, it looked as though Veil had merely put its hand on your back, but you felt its claws dig past your hair and into your shirt with ease, refusing to let go as its pressure increased.

[B/rae]
Yeah.
I just wanted to see the attack in-person.
I don’t even know how I could pull off something like that.
I’m flattered that you think I was behind it.

[*/siren]
haaa
okay then
you two are still awfully suspicious
get out of here already
who knows. i might change my mind.

[B/A/veil]
Thank you, Siren.

She remains in the same spot whilst you two scurry away.
Once the both of you were out of earshot, Veil wasted no time as it stopped you in your tracks, seething.

[B/A/veil]
What the actual FUCK WERE YOU THINKING?
I know you’ve never spoken to her but TAKE A HINT?
She could’ve lit our asses to the whole of the TCO because YOU INTERRUPTED ME FOR NO GODDAMN REASON
DID YOU DO THAT JUST TO PISS ME OFF?
I HATE YOU
I HATE YOU SO MUCH RAE
WHY DO I HAVE TO BE WITH SOMEONE LIKE YOU

It happened so suddenly. Your balance was completely thrown off as it shoved you.
Your gaze lands on its hands, still trembling from the impact. Veil’s revulsion wasn’t going to stop here.
And yet, you’re as calm as ever.

[B/rae]
We’re still in Yggdrasil territory.
You can keep telling me how much you hate me later.

You walk past it with haste, knowing that if Siren didn’t return, a player would have discovered you instead. Even stopping to think of this was an invitation for anyone to discover you.
And yet, just as you assumed this was over, it stops you almost immediately.

[B/A/veil]
What
WHAT?
It doesn’t even bother you?
Why?
Why do I feel like I’m more of a human than you are?

[B/rae]
Maybe I’m not! Fine! I’m not the human here, you are. Are you happy now? Does it make my actions justifiable?

[B/A/veil]
HAHAHA
Okay. Yeah! Let’s pretend we’ve swapped places! Fine by me! You’re already playing your part, I might as well keep up with my ‘act’!!

[B/rae]
Can we go now?

Seeing as it gave you no clear response, you held onto its wrist tightly, staring at it much like how it glared at you earlier.
It’s only fair, isn’t it? Veil tore at your skin.

[B/A/veil]
…Let go. That hurts.

[B/rae]
Does it actually?

[B/A/veil]
Yes! It does! Stop!
Stop it!!
Please!

Why was it pretending to be in pain?
It’s not a human at all. You could easily find out what a person’s limits were, and Veil was disobeying this rule.

[B/rae]
You’re not playing the part well.
I can’t determine if you’re human or not yet. I need to figure it out.
This is just a test.
I’m the artificial one here, remember?

[B/A/veil]
No
NO
NO
PLEASE
STOP PLEASE LET ME GO PLEASE JUST LET ME GO
WHAT IF I DIE
WHAT IF I REALLY DIE
I DON’T WANT TO DIE
I WANT TO BE HUMAN I WANT TO LIVE OUTSIDE OF THIS WAR I DON’T WANT TO DIE HERE
WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME
I THOUGHT
I THOUGHT YOU HATED THIS WAR TOO
I thought you hated this game
Is that it
Youre punishing me
For
Being a part of this
why is everything you say a lie
I don’t want to die by your hands
No
You should be the one to die. Right here.

Before you could react, you felt your neck tightening as the human slipped out of your grasp by chance.
Once again, its claws find its way past your skin and into your muscles, and even past that…

[*/siren]
changed my mind
you two deserve whats coming for you
too bad i "cant do anything about it"

[B/A/veil]
What
WHAT
WHY
YOU SAW ALL OF IT
WHY AM I BEING PUNISHED

[*/siren]
haha hey
punished is a harsh word
i gave you a chance to leave, you took it to start a petty fight.

[B/A/veil]
ME?

[*/siren]
yes, you!
you started yelling! did you forget?
this is concerning
youre clearly defective if youre hurting your player
the only way to solve this is to have some more eyes on you, no?
ill help you make it feel special
you can light the fire
raise the wand and make sure everyone sees you and rae
and become the star of the show!

While you’ve collapsed on the floor, you barely catch a glimpse of the Siren putting Veil into a trance as she raises its hand. The sky, previously voided, now flickered in hues of blue.

It was too late to do anything. You watch as she took her leave, laughter escaping each breath.
Veil had no words left to utter. It looked up at the spectacle, much like fireworks as players from three guilds swarmed around the city.
From here, your vision grew hazy.

This was the part where all eyes are on you.

Escapism :: 6