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Fandom Hereafter (HS)

>Imagine you are Nova.

What do you mean? You don't have to imagine, you are Nova!

Your name is NOVA VERITY, and you're currently setting up to stream. You've got your water bottle, you've locked the door to your study, you've even picked up some snacks. The only thing left is to make sure your friends are ready. Today you plan on streaming a multiplayer indie game that seems to be gaining popularity strangely quickly. Oddly enough, though, you've not heard much about it, aside from the fact that it's a game that requires you to have a few friends to play with.

Your streaming room is its own separate room from your bedroom, and it's decorated specifically to create an interesting backdrop for your face cam. Your setup is rotated so that the camera faces a corner, which you've decorated with bookshelves full of video game memorabilia and various books and manga, the walls covered with posters from your favorite stories and franchises, and the signature triangle streamer lights that are so common these days. Off camera, the rest of the room is dominated by your art supplies - easels and pottery wheels, you've even had a sink installed in the room just so you can do your crafts without bothering the rest of the house. The water source is well away from any of your streaming equipment. You check the lights, the camera, and finally sit down in your racerback streaming chair, booting up your streaming software of choice and opening up Chatterbox, creating a group memo for the four of you.

nebulousAurora [NA] opened memo INDIEGAME PARTYNITE!
NA: okay gamers!! who's ready?!?!
NA: i know i ran this by you guys before, but!!
NA: is everyone okay with me streaming this game while we play???
> Be the girl.
More specific.

> Be the GAMER girl.
Less stereotypical, more all-encompassing, please.

> Be the picky rich girl.
Particular isn’t a bad thing. It’s knowing what you want.

> Fine. Be the lawyer.

“I will, thank you very much—“
A buzz in the pocket.
“I will… be taking a bathroom break.“

You rise from your keyboard, push in the chair, and leave the monitor running. No one will touch it — that’s not elegant. It’s a school library. They wouldn’t sacrifice their permanent record to snoop on your mock trial files.

Not in the slightest. The teacher doesn’t make a second pass at looking towards you, he just goes back to his papers. You keep walking, pushing open the girls’- it wouldn’t be proper to narrate.
Two more buzzes.

ultrafastidiousNeedlepoint [UN] responded to memo INDIEGAME PARTYNITE!

UN: This can wait half an hour, yes? If I gave consent, I meant it.
UN: No’ dear, it’s a G-H-T. Vestigial grammar. Can we fix that?
UN: I’ll have time in the guest house.
==> Be the Vanquished Challenger

Oh come on! You haven't lost yet! The battle's barely begun! Besides, you have a feeling this one is going to be the one. You just know it.

Dull metal blades clang against each other as you rush forward, your cut glancing off your Grandpa's fancy fucking fencing foil. He thrusts forward and you dart back, letting the point of the rapier dully smack your shield. You smack his next attack away and swing your sword in an arc he predictably avoids.

Time to switch things up a bit. Your next lunge leaves you open, and the foil taps your side in a way that would score a point in a prissy duel— but this isn’t fancy swordplay, this is a strife! You ready an attack that would knock him off balance, if not knock him over entirely. But somewhere in between the little smack and your attack, grandpa manages to hook the hilt of his blade around yours.

He tugs and your sword goes tumbling through the air, being caught a second before it would stick into the padded mats. Which you'd be angrier about if it wasn't so cool.

> Introduce Yourself

Your name is CYRA L. THERION, connoisseur of COOL SHIT. Like anime, video games, adventures and, as shown by the last few minutes, COMBAT. You just got your ass thoroughly handed to you by your Grandpa who's surprisingly spry for someone who should be on life support.

You hold your hand out and wait for your sword back. Your grandpa just shakes his head. Goddamnit! Your sword privileges are getting revoked again? It's not your fault you're surrounded by a bunch of losers who can't take a joke. You grumble, hand over your sword and trudge over to your room. Not like you wanted to keep practicing anyway.

> Check Computer

A memo from Nova— Yes it's time! The little icon has been sitting on your desktop for the last few days and you've shown so much restraint not opening up and trying to figure out the single player mode that doesn't exist. Not that you'd want to play alone. It's sooooo unbelievably difficult to get your whole friend group to play together. No way in hell you're missing this.

laudedUsurper[LU] responded to memo INDIEGAME PARTYNITE!

LU: bluh what are u allergic to slang? nova dont change it it fits the vibe
LU: aaaaanyway im ready whenevr u guys are
LU: cant wait to see what this mstery game rly is
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NA: no no she has a point

nebulousAurora [NA] changed memo INDIEGAME PARTYNITE!'s title to INDIEGAME PARTYNITE GHT!!!

NA: the ght stands for GOOD HECKIN' TIME!!!
NA: anyways!!! since most of us seem to be okay, i'll be streaming this one!!!
NA: so please try to not get my channel banned from twitch!!
NA: not that i think any of you would!!!!!
NA: i'm gonna start stream now, let people filter in
NA: dw about being half an hour late ines
NA: we'll keep them entertained!!!!
NA: there's bound to be tons of content if people are THIS hyped about it!!!
NA: you won't fall far behind

You're just about to hit the Go Live button on your streaming application, when a loud knock rattles the door to your streaming room. You wince, knowing that knock. Your mother was angry, and looking for you.

NA: change of plans
NA: mother wants to speak to me
NA: gimme like 15

Sliding from your chair, you timidly make your way over to the door, jumping from the second rattling knock before pulling it open. Immediately, you know what's wrong. Your mother's brandishing around your report card that you tried (and apparently failed) to hide. She pointed angrily at the three F's on the card, and you wince. Rolling up the report card, she wallops you over the head with it before you have a chance to react. The impact does minimal physical damage, but leaves you standing in your doorway, tears in your eyes. When she's finally done scolding you, you simply retreat back into your stream room, locking the door again. The physical damage may have been small, but the emotional damage was massive. You curl up in your streaming chair, all the light and whimsy gone from your eyes, replaced with tears that glimmer in the neon lights of your setup. You're... gonna need a minute.

>Be someone else for now.
> Maybe… be the ideal girl?

UN: I can wait. Thirty minutes.
UN: I’m not allergic to anything. I ate peanuts until they stopped killing me.
UN: That’s the definition of grace.

You flush the toilet, disposing of the paper you used to touch the handle in the swirling bowl as it cascades downward. There’s no way a germ would touch you, if you let it.
A napkin, hand-embroidered, unlocks the stall door as you step out. You smooth down the pleated fabric of your skirt, staring straight into the mirror as you do.

You break contact to check your phone for a moment. Rankle your face at the renaming of the memo, but you don’t comment. It’s not a good look, you would think.

UN: It’s Inès. There’s an accent mark.

Setting the screen to the side, you roll your sleeves to the elbows and press the dispenser three times, spreading soap across the length of your forearm as you lather one up before rinsing it down. Better to be thorough than sorry, after all.

Someone opens the door into the ladies’ bathroom, then closes it again. Maybe she saw you and left, and maybe there was a reason, but you don’t pay attention to that. It’s not elegant to worry.

Upwards and forwards.

UN: Well, there’s better judges of public opinion than yours truly.
UN: I won’t mind the climb, either.
UN: You’re a gadfly, Nova. I’m sure they’ll be satisfied with your eccentricities.

You don’t know how to address the mother thing, so you don’t. If you won’t get it perfect when you say something, you won’t mention it at all — that’s what being a lady is all about.

Satisfied with the degloving of dirt on your skin, you roll the sleeves back down and smooth over your hair with the remaining wetness — pressing the volume of curls down just a mite, then setting to study yourself again.

That’s good enough.
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[ Meanwhile, some time away... ]

The sounds of House of Wolves from My Chemical Romance are blasting through shitty headphones, as our subject walks through the store. Glaring at anyone who tries to meet his eye, and only sort of listening to his mother as she talks about her next client. It's strange to see this boy out and about; both because it's still time for school, and because the boy's not known for going outside of the house. Yet, here he is, stalking the linoleum aisles and trying to avoid the embarrassment that is his mother in her tiedye yoga pants. It really clashes with his vibe.

He sighs, closing his eyes for a brief moment. God, why did this game have to drop on a Friday. To us, though, we have more pressing matters, as we need to:

> Be the emo.

His eye visibly twitches, and he... completely ignores us. Let's try again.

> ... Be the internet troll.

He rolls his eyes (eye, technically), and ignores us once again. Apparently, we're doing this the hard way. Fine.


You think to yourself, jeez, breaking out the full name, and finally relent.

Your name is, technically, GWENAËL RIVIÉRE; everyone who knows you just calls you NAËL though. You liken yourself to a CONNOISSEUR in the art of INTERNET PRACTICES; though, you can't exactly PROVE THAT right now, as you're at the stupid grocery store. Your mother insisted on going and getting a smoothie after her YOGA LESSON, and you still want to argue with her to take you home. You wish you wore your hoodie today, but no, that's not proper yoga gear. You roll your eyes at the thought. It's as you're walking to the check out stand that you get a notification. You pull out your iPod Touch (gotten for your birthday last summer; not the newest model, and there's a few cracks on the screen from the previous owner, but it's incredibly appreciated) and see that you've been added to a memo.

Originally, you met this... nebulousAurora through, naturally, seeing her Twitch channel and instantly deciding to bully her. And then she was so optimistic it made you feel bad, and you actually started talking to her and her little group of friends. You consider them people to talk to, but they're not bad and your mother is glad you're making "friends, and no, Naël, anonymous internet users don't count!"

You don't tell her how you found them. It's better if she thinks you found them through school.

You hold off on talking, though. You prefer to type, and you can't do anything anyways from your phone. Unfortunately, you had to actually buy the game, so you had to answer your mom's many questions before pre-ordering the game with her credit card and then handing over the notes used to make the purchase. You set it to download once it released, so it'll hopefully be done by the time you get home. But as of now, it's not like you can play the game, so you'll lurk for now. You do open your phone though; Spotify just started playing something from that new band, Twenty One Something, and it's leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

==> anachronisticRuin [AR] has joined the memo [INDIEGAME PARTYNITE GHT!!!]!

God, why must you use this platform, stupid fucking morceau de merde--

Whatever. Your in the damn memo now, so you have to say something. You don't really want to conjure the energy while you're out, but. Here you are.

[AR]: LOL 15 taken im @ the store
[AR]: un42nately (thts "unfortunately" 4 the posers (rlls eyes)) i cant play the game like this soooooo o_o i'll b l8
[AR]: b there by the time im back or ur a square lmao

You don't talk like this literally anywhere else online, as you value not being the talked about cringe of the week. But these guys (or, really, one of them in particular) are fun to annoy.

morceau de merde = piece of shit
also, the first twenty one pilots album released in 2009. sorry to burden you with this knowledge LMAO
> Cyra: Grumble

The four of you have been planning this for how long and now everyone’s busy! Which is stupid! And it’s not going to be that long so you really shouldn’t start anything else. It takes exactly five and a half seconds for you to give up on that.

You grab your 3DS out of a drawer on your desk and turn it on. Time to bash you head against that one fire emblem level. You manage to fail the chapter at twice in the next few minutes, not helped by the fact you’re texting while you’re doing it. Or trying to.

LU: Noooooo not you too
LU: I cant believe that I;m the most puntual one
LU: puntutal
LU: punctual
LU: like ines messsing up schedule stuff? world ending
LU: uuuuuuuuuughhh

> Abandon Patience

After the fourth game over you give up and shut the DS with a bit too much force before tossing it back into the drawer. You tap your fingers on your desk, hard and frequently enough that it probably counts as furniture abuse. Fine, whatever. You aren't going to just sit here and wait around for your stupid friends to finish whatever they're doing.

LU: whatever im gonna go do a sidequest of m own
LU: bye losers, seeya in 15min

> Begin Sidequest

It's been a couple of minutes since your sparring match with your Grandpa, so your main sword should be under lock and key... But that doesn't mean there aren't options. Between all of your cool ass swords and your Grandpa's fancy fucking fencing foils there's gotta be one you can steal without him noticing....

You just like having a sword on you, okay? It's fucking cool! Just like capes and glowing eyes and fucking destroying your opponents in battle! You give the memo one more cursory glance before walking out of your room to begin your heist.
> Nova: Get over yourself.

Wow, rude. But you do have a point. You can't cancel your plans now, not when there's three hundred people sitting in stream chat, and your friends waiting to play with you. You wipe the tears from your eyes and check your reflection in your face cam. Your eyes are a little red, but it's not too noticeable unless you know to look for it. Should be fine to start stream. Phew, okay, you can do this. It won't be the first time you've had to stream right after a crying session, and certainly it won't be the last. No one will notice. You put on a brave face, swap the current scene to your "starting soon" screen, and hit the "go live" button, starting up stream music while you wait for everyone to properly file into stream.

Meanwhile, you check the memo again for any new updates.

NA: sorry Inès, i don't know where the accent button is on my keyboard!!
NA: anyways, the minutes were had. i got a good walloping from mom!!!!
NA: noooo we're all late???? not nael too ahaha....
NA: i started the stream so i'll just hold them off until we can get started!!! maybe we will play some minecraft or something in the meantime!!! idk!!!!!
NA: good luck on your side quest cyra!!!!

You sigh, sitting back in your seat. Looks like your friends are gonna be a minute - should have checked that before you went live. Oops. The chat has been sitting in the "starting soon" screen for long enough, so you figure it's about time to get the show on the road.

Once the current song ends, you swap to your "just chatting" screen, giving the camera a big smile and wave as you start your intro, talking excitedly into the camera and mic, but not really saying much. You update chat on the plan, telling them about the game you plan on playing for them today, and talking a bit about your friends who will be playing with you. Inés, the mature and organized one, Cyra, the badass one, Naël, the cool edgy one. You say you don't know what the game has in store, as you wanted to go into this as blind as possible, and are discouraging backseat gaming for this stream. You type a small note to your mods to time out anyone who tries to backseat game. You don't say that your friends aren't quite ready to play yet, rather you keep talking, running your mouth to run down the timer. You know this game requires at least two people, so you just gotta wait for one of them to be ready.
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UN: You don’t lose until you try.

You dry your arms in the hairdryer, thoroughly yet again. The phone is checked, but stays on your person — once you pick it up, you won’t put it down, and though women are proven multitaskers it wouldn’t be polite to give anything half your attention.

Oh hm! You pause at the door, holding it open halfway. Cyra corrected herself — on some things. Still, improvement.
UN: Inés. It’s still Inès.
UN: And Naël has a diaeresis.

Back out you go. You quietly note that copies three and five of the Pre-AP textbook are missing, yet not a single soul in the library reads one. Did the librarians notice, did they care… well, nobody knows for sure. You don’t bother to remember that, not really. You don’t hold grudges.

UN: It’s not my mess. People who can’t be squares turn into flakes — that’s why they chipped the stone into blocks before they stacked it into pyramids.
UN: You can get things done as a square. Those who aren’t good enough can’t be relied upon. Linn not bothering to research means that I picked up her slack.

Well- at least you don’t hold grudges with the things that don’t involve you. Someone else with a 3.9 doesn’t degrade your 4.2, after all — once you achieve a 4.2. That’s what the Pre-AP textbooks are for, and you are glad you own your own copies in case a day arrives when numbers one, two, and four are missing, too.

UN: Thank you, Cyr. You’re one of the good ones.
UN: Update if you spill any blood or loot any papers.
UN: And everyone sane poses their spine straight, actually — it’s the body’s basic form of respect for itself.

Your posture stays the same, as you stride towards your chair and sit right back where you found it. No one is here, save you and the teacher — in essence, no one here cares, not the way you do, and it wouldn’t be proper to go back to what you were doing before.

UN: Just apologize if you do the same thing wrong twice.
UN: The only way it’s your fault is if you didn’t learn the first time.

…You sigh. Walloping. The most your mother would do is stop dusting your room. You can’t relate — you don’t have experience. A lady wouldn’t say anything about that.
A lady would know how to change the subject, however — divert it to positive matters. You swipe briefly through the homescreen, then take an alcohol wipe to it — you were in the bathroom, after all.

UN: Say, Nova. My phone is open.
UN: How does the audience feel about Clash Royale?
[AR]: whts 4 di4r3s1s lmao

You adore messing with people. Only online though, if you tried to do it in real life you'd die on the spot.

There's a tap on your shoulder; it's mom. You smother the grin that comes with trolling "l0sers" online, and instead focus on grimacing, as you are regrettably still in the store. She points out the candy next to the register, and... it's embarrassing, but you physically feel your eyes light up. It's a rare day when mom deems the candy spiritually friendly or whatever. You only care because you, admittedly, like candy. You grab a bag of sour-sweet gummy candy, and your mother nods so it's scanned and then thrown into her bag. She has two with her, both burlap and reusable. Save the trees, and all that.

You grimace (for real, this time), when Inés brings up the poser thing.

[AR]: not pos/ing/ baka >_< what a p0ser rofl
[AR]: 4ls0 cyra find sum ep1c l00t or sumthing to share w da class
[AR]: the ch4t would preesh it or what3va

'Preesh'. God, you hate the English language and their shortenings. So does everyone else though, so it's not like you're of the minority.

You ignore the 'whalloping' descriptor. Your mother, while annoying at times, wouldn't dream of hurting you (or your aura), so you don't... entirely know how to respond. A year ago, you might have said something invocative, but after your mother oversaw some messages of yours, you'd rather not genuinely hurt someone. Still, though, you distantly hope everything's alright. Somewhere under the 14 year old edge, anyways.

... what were you talking about again? Right. The store. That you hate. Luckily, your mom hands you one of the bags, so you take it (but not without an eye roll) and follow her out, doing your best to type with one hand.

[AR]: LMF4OOOO clash royale??? r u srs rn, th4tz sooo m4instream O_O imagine playing tht
[AR]: evry1 KNOWZ tht m0bile gamez r #TRASH

You've never played Clash Royale, and you don't want to. It's too bright and colourful and popular for you, SMH.

You look up as your mom opens up the hatchback of her small car; it's like... a Toyota or something. You don't know cars. Following her lead, you place the bag you were carrying into the back and close the trunk, walking around to the front of the car to hop in the passenger seat, typing all the while.

[AR]: in ANY case................
[AR]: im out @ my car now, so liek..... dont touch tht di4l!!! (or whteva's on twitch >_>)
> Cyra: Plot

Most of the swords are in the training room, which is obviously going to be locked (Stupid Grandpa). Then there's the few in your Grandpa's room which you'll never get to. Which leaves only a few candidates and only one reason option.

> Enter Living Room

You walk into the immaculately decorated living room and your eyes land on it. The HANDCRAFTED FENCING SABRE right above the mantle. You're a simple swordsman, but you can't deny that this thing is a beauty. A guard crafted from shining twisted metal, a gleaming blade with damascus patterning and a wicked point not dulled for safety. It's a spectacular sight.

> Retrieve Sabre

You would if not for one thing— you're a short motherfucker. You can barely reach the top of the mantle let alone another foot or so above it. Which means you're going to have to get creative.

> Stack Chairs

It takes a couple of minutes but you manage to balance a stool on the seat of the armchair closest to the mantle. It's a bit wobbly, but you've scaled worse contraptions before! You're choosing to ignore what happened after you did as you scramble up the stacked furniture.

You reach out and your fingers bump the dull edge of the blade. Okay, it's just barely tall enough for you to reach if you just lean forward a little bit... The stool creaks and leans with you, legs beginning to lift off the chair. You quickly try to snatch up the sword before leaning back to right yourself, but that little bit of momentum seems to have been too much. Something snaps beneath you.

> Crash

The next thing you know you're sprawled out on the ground, the sword clattering next to you a moment later.


You turn your head to look down the hall. There in the distance you can see the doorknob begin to turn. Apparently falling and knocking over a bunch of stuff is loud. Loud enough to grab Grandpa's attention.

> Abscond!!

Yeah yeah, you gotta split if you don't want to get another lecture. Or worse, your shield privileges take away. Which is stupid cause it's really the stool's fault and not yours. Should have been sturdier!

Where can you— Hallway closet! You sprint past the opening door and throw yourself amongst the stacked towels. You can hear your Grandpa saying something before walking off. Stealth master, that’s what you are! Now you just have to wait for him to go back to his study.

You bring your attention away from excitedly proclaiming to the camera that "big moves are happening soon" to check the memo again, desperately hoping someone is ready to go. Instead, you're met with Inés suggesting the two of you play Clash Royale. You tell the chat you'll be a second, turning from the camera to respond rapidly.

NA: im very serious about this!!!!!
NA: i gotta show chat something otherwise they'll all leave!!!!!
NA: mobile games are tricky to stream tho!!! you need an emulator....
NA: luckily! i have one!!!
NA: honestly i think i'd rather you get home so we can play the proper game??? but i understand if you have things to do still!!!
NA: in which case, why are you offering clash royale??
NA: eh, well, better than doing just dumb old minecraft!!!!
NA: the tone shift would have killed the vibe anyways!!!!
NA: and you can probably get home while playing anyhow!!! you seem like you multitask well!!!
NA: wanna do some 2v2s??? partner up and stomp some noobs????
NA: or do ya wanna take on a pro like me???

You turn back to the camera, now booting up your emulator. You explain to the chat that your friends are running a bit behind, so you're gonna do some Clash Royale with Inés. You don't specify how long your friends will take, and chat initially seems to throw a little fit, upset that you're not getting right to the action. Then mods turn on slow mode, and the chat becomes a bit more bearable to look at again. You give a smile, one that your mods know is thankful to them, but the chat wouldn't know any different. Changing the scene over to your emulator, you start clicking through the menus to set up a game, and do your best to ignore the chatters who are outraged or the fact that the viewer count is dropping slowly.
UN: Light sources. That's what they have on Twitch.
UN: When something is popular, it gets faster and cheaper.
UN: That's a basic rule of capitalism.
UN: I play games with innovation. That's a choice, regardless of platform.

You train your eyes on the supervising teacher as you type, hands in your lap and phone in your hands under the table. You're practiced with the screen, to the point you can write without looking. It's a skill, like anything else -- everyone else clutters their mind too much to learn anything useful in this day and age. The truth -and one you don't care to admit- is that, if you weren't an excellent student, you would be just as excellent a slacker.
No one will know, however, and no one will care. What you do for friends and what you do for yourself can't be judged on the same axis, anyhow. You'll divert yourself for them.

UN: You're judging wrong, Naël.
UN: The full word is appreciate.
UN: And I don't pretend to be anything I'm not.

Bite your tongue. Bite it. It's not right for a woman to ask for apologies... she can always politely shun someone if they don't offer the basic respect first. It's near-impossible not to let the sentiment bleed to your countenance, and you quietly extract your gaze from the man in front of you so that he won't think you've given the stinkeye.
UN: Diaeresis. It's the formal word for umlaut.
UN: It's the right of a self-respecting human to have pride in their name. Accuracy is part of it, but not everyone can hold themselves to that.

That sounds too much like an insult, doesn't it. You wonder why no one else seems to rise to Naël's veneer of stupidity, seems to care like you do. They could be better, he could be better, so at least they could try to be. But you don't try to push it. If people want pointers, they'll ask for it, and you won't push, you won't have to.

You won't have to.

UN: I know you're professional, No'.
UN: Prepared, too.

UN: It's something I like from you.
UN: It's fifteen minutes of prep time, really.
UN: If I offered, then trust I can and handle myself.
UN: The cinch now is Mamá's car, and playing with you won't change that. I won't come slower, either.

You can crush them completely and still be friends. You can be perfect and still be fun. But you won't have fifteen minutes.
Your eyes drift to the blinking cursor over trial notes, and your finger navigates the Friends screen, challenging Nova to a duel on instinct alone. Blind trust, or something like it. Something perfect, or something close.

UN: I'd prefer head-to-head.
UN: I've mastered Pekka Bridge Spam, after all.
> Cyra: Check Phone

You wiggle your phone out of your pocket and open up the memo. Might as well since you can still hear your Grandpa looking around and putting furniture back into its place.

LU: inèèèèèssss
LU: gwens being a dumbass to mess w u an ur falling for itt
LU: so chiiiiilll
LU: tho i gotta agree clash royal??? really?
LU: minecraft woulda been way cooler. do mc hunger games or something

You switch over to Twitch to see how Ines and Nova are doing in their duel, only for your eyes to immediately lock onto the twitch chat. A bunch of stupid losers complaining like they couldn’t just go to a different stream or wait a few fucking minutes. You try to tell them that and immediately get timed out by one of the mods. Damn it.

> Check Other Streams

You decide to see who else is streaming this new exciting game... and it’s almost no one. Or, not entirely true, but there are less than you would think. You try not to pay too much attention to what they’re doing though— You’re gonna go into this 100% blind!

LU: anyway i did get some awsome loot
LU: jus uh
LU: might b a lttle longer than i thought

> Peek Out the Door

You crack the closet door open and— Nope, absolutely not. You’re gonna have to wait a bit if you wanna evade capture. Normally you’d risk it, but you don’t want to get grounded. You don’t think your Grandpa would accept “I need to be on a friend’s twitch stream” as a reason not to get your computer taken away.
[AR]: ROFL like ur a pro
[AR]: being a "pr0" @ mobile gamez is zooooo cringe SMH

You ignore the fact that you spelling everything like that is, in itself, cringe. To the uninformed, anyways; it's just fun to bully Inès like this.

Speaking of.

[AR]: iz clash r0yale rly

You pause in the middle of typing. Switch apps. Search up what 'innovation' means. Switch back.

[AR]: tht *innovating* anywayz??? itll probz die out in another year or 2

Despite the grin on your face from trolling, you can feel it tighten all the same. God, she's so uptight all the time. You just don't get it! Yeah, sure, he has 'pride in his name' or whatever, but it's not a huge deal; you only shared it with these chucklefucks because everyone was going around the circle and you didn't want to be left out Cyra kept joking your name must be stupid. You're not sure she's unconvinced, to be honest, but her name is Cyra; you're not even sure how to pronounce that! And maybe, yeah, your name is unconventional, and maybe it's mostly had by old people, but. They don't live in France. They don't know that.

... still, you don't know why it gets under your skin so much. It's just a letter. Why does she care anyways?

[AR]: k :P

Whatever. You're soon distracted by Cyra calling you 'Gwen' anyways. What a strange nickname; you've, admittedly, gotten used to Naël. Thank Inès for consistently using the accent. Eyes rolling, SMH. Sides, Gwen is normally a nickname for the feminine form of your name. Then again, the feminine form of your name is a lot more popular-- wait, right, you're texting people.

[AR]: yh or liek
[AR]: idk spleef or smth :P
[AR]: also share wht u g0t or else x_x

There is no 'or else'. You're just edgy. You do hope Cyra got something good, though; wouldn't do good to risk things for uncool shit. Or even worse, cosmetic-only shit. Gross.

You accept the duel from Inès, and swiftly find yourself in over your head. You chalk it up to trying to crack jokes to chat the entire match and partially paying attention to the argument going on in your group memo. You briefly spot Cyra in the Twitch chat, and watch her promptly get banned. In the brief time it takes you to unban her and notify your mod team to not ban Cyra again, you've already lost the match against Inès.

Chat proceeds to make fun of you by spamming the letter 'F' in the chat followed by laughing emojis. You try to defend yourself to your chat, but they don't relent, so you turn it into a bit of false confidence and bravado and pretend it doesn't actually hurt your feelings. You challenge Inès to another duel, promising chat to do better this time, that you were just warming up before, and now you were gonna win for sure, even though you had a feeling this one was gonna go the same as the last. Maybe your friends were right, maybe hunger games or spleef would be better. You were actually good at Minecraft, as opposed to Clash Royale.

Ah, well. Not much you can do about it now.
The first is won handily — Nova doesn’t have the right card at the right time to defend against your PEKKA. The robot chops their tower down in three hits after you Zap their Skeleton Army, and they can’t find a second swarm card in time.
Proper. Expected. You’ve played fighting game leagues before, and it’s always ended with a handshake — proper, not friendly but respectful. You don’t shake hands with the ones that cry.

Three minutes, per match. Five minutes if it goes into overtime. You estimate four matches, in that instance — somewhere around fifteen minutes.

You don't have fifteen minutes. You should be working, you think, as you tap idly to the screen. The hard ridges in your face flatten out -- there's no time to be pissed at Linn, or Naël, even though you aren't pissed, that's not what a proper woman should be-

UN: I think long loot is my favorite.
UN: Pictures, please, when you have them.

You took the lead with Nova’s first tower a minute ago, and then ricocheted between typing out another message and throwing out another card to defend before swiping right back to the memo. You can do both. You’re doing both. The worst thing you could do with your friends is ignore them. So, simply, you won't.

> Inès: Care, anyways.

..."K". It's just a letter, it's the most you'll get out of him. He'll listen, that's just what he'll do, and you'll never make him do more than that. It's not proper, wouldn't afford him respect.
Naël deserves respect -- the kind of respect someone should hold for their name, their language, their heritage. You sent him a friend request, after all.
Cyra does what she says, and says what she means. Nova holds the world on their shoulders. And Naël? Naël shows up.
UN: Innovative. If you're using a language, do it right.

Naël shows up. And you like that.
They aren't the friends you'd design, but they're the friends that matter.

UN: I know this, Cyra. I'm not sweating. I'll do fine the way I am.
UN: I don't fall for anything.
UN: Do your friends threaten you back, Gwenaël?

No one threatens you, not really. Mamá stops dusting, Papa stops speaking, Abuela leaves the oven cold and the brother close in age to you bikes to school alone. Actions simply have consequences when you don't execute them perfectly. It's why you don't speak to Abuela directly anymore -- the report card speaks much better.

You speak to your friends, though -- you think you'd like to take care of them, if you had the tact. The time, the proximity- but you don't. The most you can do is speak to them, and do that perfectly. Not pointers, not lessons, they wouldn't need that, but... Reminders are better, you think. Than ignoring them. Than having nothing to say.
Nevertheless. If your friends don't show themselves respect, you'll feed it to them until they regurgitate the doctrine themselves.They're good. They don't need to be perfect, but the least they can be is proud.

Nova turns it around when you fail to commit enough resources defending a push. They win the second game while you’re typing, sixty words per minute. You missed forty-seven seconds of the game.

You hit the rematch button again.
> Cyra: Celebrate

Aha! You’ve been unbanned! Take that you losers— perks of being friends with the streamer. You send off one more fiery retort before switching back to the memo— you really don’t want to watch them play clash royale.

Your face splits into a sharp grin as you see Naël’s reply. Some time ago he mentioned knowing how to fight with a knife and you’ve made it your mission to actually see him in action. To be more specific you’ve been trying to goad him into a fight— or at least into challenging you to one. The four of you are going to have a meet up one day, and you want to be able to spar with at least one of your friends.

LU: or else?
LU: or else what naël?
LU: gunna make me? hmmmmmmmmm???
LU: i would fucking looooooooove to see you try

> Check Outside

Your Grandpa’s gonna check the closet eventually so you need to find somewhere else to hang out for a bit. You crack open the door and see the coast is clear. You wiggle back out of the closet and— Oh fuck he’s coming back. You whip open the door to the roof and dash under the stairs.

LU: buut i cant show pics rn
LU: mostly cause i havent taken any

You attempt to take a selfie with the sword, but the picture is blurry, badly focused, the sword's barely in frame— it's real shitty. The worst one you’ve ever taken actually.

LU: cant take one either
Shit! You knew you'd fuck up English at least once. Unintentionally, anyways; you regularly fuck it up on purpose all the time. Your art teacher once said that in order to break the rules, you had to know them, and you detest that notion, which is at least part of why your typing is nigh unreadable. You're pretty sure she meant it in context of impressionism or whatever, but... still applicable. It's fine.

You have no interest in watching Clash Royale, friend acquaintance or not. You're also... pretty sure you're still banned from Nova's chat the last time--but not the first--you went in there. You managed to turn an entire mob against you, good times; you can't even remember what that was about. Maybe the game...? Who knows. Either way, their mods kinda hate you, so you haven't bothered appealing.

[AR]: whtEV4 linguist (rolls eyes)
[AR]: and h0w DARE u think tht of my friends...... 4 shame >_>

You don't talk about the way your hand clenches onto your jacket at the mention of 'friends'. You hold back a scoff-- like you have any friends. The closest people are probably these schmucks on the internet not like you'd admit it, and offline? Please. The ladies at Mom's yoga classes try, but they're all in their mid-twenties. They're old. Ew, no thanks.

The grimace only stays with Cyra trying to prod you into fighting her.

[AR]: i WOULD but thrs liek
[AR]: an ocean :/ n the ST00PID travel restrictions >_<

And also, of course, you just don't want to fight people. You learned how to knife fight because it's COOL AS FUCK, but also for self-defence. 'Sides, you think Cyra mentioned sword fighting? And what can a knife do against a sword? Nothing. That's what.

[AR]: then get 1!!!1!
[AR]: teh ppl demand the epic l00t O_O

It's you. You're 'people'.
> Cyra: Find a better spot.

Yeah, yeah. If you want to get a picture you can’t stay crouched here. You duck out of your hidey hole and into the hallway— Only to crash right into your Grandpa. You stumble back and trip onto the ground, sword falling next to you.

He looks at the sword. Then to the rip in your skirt and the slowly forming bruise on your arm— neither of which you had noticed earlier. His eyes flick back to the carnage in the living room before settling on you.

His mouth opens and you brace yourself for it. For the lectures, for the admonishing words. For him to tell you to be more careful, to fix furniture that you knock over, to stop sneaking around, to give him the sword. Instead he just sighs. One breath in, one breath out. And he gives you a disappointed, almost resigned look before going back to his room.

> Abscond

Sword forgotten, you dash into your room and slam the door behind you. Something inside you burns. Not like how paper burns when placed above candles or wood when in a fireplace. It burns like cheap plastic as it turns into cinders and sludge, releasing thick toxic smoke. And you have absolutely no clue why.

> Play the Game

You click on the little application, the game that’s been taunting you for so long. You’ve left Nova waiting for long enough. Time to give those losers on twitch what they’ve been waiting for.

LU: Sooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyy looks like u guys are gonna hafta wati to see teh loot
LU: buut nov i’m opening up the game rn
LU: tell ur chat to stop whining.
>Nova: Play the game.

Taking your eyes off your Clash Royale to check on the group memo, you internally give an elated sigh seeing Cyra ready to go.

NA: thank you cyra!!!!
NA: shame about the loot tho......
NA: maybe some other time?????
NA: i can boot up the client if you wanna boot up the server????

You turn back to the camera, giving a wide grin. You quickly finish up your current duel with Inès and change scenes to your 'Just Chatting' scene, explaining along the way how your friends are ready now, and that you'll be getting on to the main event, the game you'd promised on Twitter you'd be playing today. You boot up the client version of the game, and are disappointedly surprised when all that pops up is a simple command prompt window. You frown in confusion, and shift the scene over to the window anyways, explaining to chat that you have no idea what's going on, or if you're doing this right. Checking the chat box, you see that your numbers have gone up significanty since the Clash Royale debacle, but still aren't near where they were.

NA: uhhhh.....
NA: what am i looking at?????
NA: what am i supposed to do?????????????
NA: any ideas guys???????
> Cyra: Connect.

Your screen loads with a strangely stuttering loading screen, with the occasional flash of what looks like stock footage of a bunch of birds. After your machine jitters it's way to the end of the loading bar, it goes black. After just enough time to make you worry, your screen blips to life with a view of a room, along with a person inside sitting at a computer. An animation occurs in the top right of the screen, showing a black dot fill with purple, and connect to a similar orange dot.

> Nova: Connect.

Words appear in the window. You think you can make out the pixelated outline of some winged animal behind the text, but it's too blurry to say for sure.


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