Chapter 33:

FINAL LEVEL: A World of Possibility

CREO: Game of Creation

“N-name?” Adam said. My heart sank, like it was going to fall out of my chest.


“Name: Adam.” He said with a little nod. “God?” I shook my head.

“No Adam, I’m not God. I’m just me—a nobody lowlife gamer shut-in who’s trying to learn how to be a proper person. But if you’ll have me, I’d like to be your big brother. Or at least your friend.” Adam reached out and touched my cheek, wiping away a tear. He smiled.

“Big brothers shouldn’t cry in front of little brothers, but I’ll take you anyway, Kai.”

“Adam? Y-you remember?”

“Got ya. I stored a backup in the cloud just in—” I squeezed him tight and buried my face in his hair.

“That wasn’t funny. Never do that again, you brat.”

“Okay. We’ll stick together, buddies forever.” We cried and laughed together and our united team—our family—rejoiced.

“Kai, let’s make a sandcastle!” He produced a bucket and pail from behind his back. I lied on a towel and covered my face with my arm.

“Adam, I’m tired. I was hoping we could just relax today. We’re here all week after all.” With her cut of the tournament’s prize money, Rin gave us all a much needed beach episode, flying us out to Hawaii (in addition to helping save a certain library from getting shut down).

“Kai, go play with your brother, you slept the whole plane ride.” Mom said, enjoying the first trip she’d been on in years. I slowly rose, like a zombie out of a grave.

“I’d rather chase you.” Adam dropped his tools and bolted as I took off after him. We waded into the water and I tackled him, the waves crashing over us as we laughed.

“Boys! Watermelon acquired!” Rin called. We scrambled over to the others, where a watermelon sat on a sheet.

“What is this?” Lucy asked, taking her camera out.

“We smash it, right?” Teo said. “I saw it in an anime.”

“It’s suika-wari!” Rin held out a blindfold. “Who wants to go first?” Adam’s hand immediately shot up. He planted his feet firmly in the sand, his butt mildly extended, and… total miss.

“Did I get it?” We all booed him. I stepped up and stretched my arm.

“Alright, let Nii-chan handle this.” Everyone attempted to hide their laughter. “What?”

“Kai, you have the strength of a baby koala.” Rin said. “Even if you hit it, I don’t know if it’ll split.”

“Are you kidding? We used to do this as kids.”

“And since then, you spent how long doing nothing but play video games and CREO in your room?” Fair point. I picked up the stick and WHACK. A clean split. I bowed as everyone applauded and cheered.

“Adam!” a voice called from down the beach.

“Marcel?!” Sieg approached, wearing trousers and a long-sleeve shirt despite being on a beach. “I thought your parents said no?” Adam said.

“They did, I came anyway. But I kinda didn’t have time to pack since I had the private jet take me right away before they noticed. Mind making me another swimsuit? Unless it’s optional here.” Adam chuckled.

“Maybe later when no one’s around, but I can’t make anything right now, since the CREO server’s down. Who knows, maybe we lost that power forever?”

“Oh…” The sweat on that boy was painful to look at.

“I’ll take you to the hotel store, they’ve got some. Then we can make a sandcastle!” They ran off together, giving me a chance to return to my nap. One nice thing about an artificial body was I didn’t have to worry about sunburn. I glanced at the umbrella furthest from the water, under the shade of a palm tree. We’d waited for 3 months so she could come with. I took a seat next to her.

“Mind if I sit with you for a while?”

“Don’t worry about me, go have fun.”

“I was just gonna take a nap. Figured I’d come over here for a little first.”

“What, am I boring?”

“No—annoying, but not boring.” Selena was so thin and weak. She wore a bandana and kept a fan with her. But she was there, in the flesh, and alive. The cancer went into remission and she was able to go home. She hadn’t been online much since, but the doctors gave the okay for her to fly out with us, though she’d be going home a few days early.

“How’d you and Rin meet, anyway? You care about her so much, you almost killed yourself trying to beat me for her.”

“You didn’t know? Her dad died from cancer two years ago. We met in a virtual charity meetup. I didn’t really want to go to it, but they wanted some patients and they liked how my avatar looks. We became friends, and she introduced me to CREO. I owe her so much, she gave me a reason to move forward when I was at my lowest.” I sighed and lowered my head.

“I really have been a horrible friend if I didn’t even know her dad died.”

“You were. But I also get it, wanting to shut out everything. Maybe the real reason I hated you so much was because you reminded me of myself.” We sat in silence for a while, just long enough for it to get awkward. “Kai, you don’t have to keep talking with me. Trust me, just being here is amazing. While I’m still here, I’ll live the best life I can. Jim’s Ice Cream doesn’t hurt, though. I’ll have to take you if you’re ever in Chicago.”

“Deal. Oh, and thanks for everything. Adam wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t helped.” She nodded as Adam and Sieg returned and found a worthy spot for their castle.

“Kai, come help us! We’re gonna make the biggest sandcastle ever!” The rest of the day was mostly spent building an outrageously large and complex sandcastle, splashing each other in the water, and other activities that were not my well-deserved nap. Still, it was fun.

After a fantastic dinner, we mostly went our separate ways, exhausted from hours-long flights. I wanted to sleep too, but Adam had other plans, tugging at my Hawaiian shirt’s sleeve.

“Can we take a walk?”

“But I’m tired.”

“Please? There’s something I wanted to check out.” And so, he dragged me out past the beach into the jungle (not proper terrain for flip-flops).

“Where are we going? You aren’t lost, are you?”

“Nope, I looked on the map, it’s this way.”

“What is? If you don’t tell me—” The trees parted ways to reveal the starry night sky. A real one, not the fake stuff from CREO. I’d never seen one before.

“I heard this was a good spot.” Adam said, sitting at the edge of a cliff that led down into a small lake. I sat next to him and we stared at the stars for what felt like hours.

“I’m glad I never went Full Virtual, not permanently anyway. What we’re gonna do now is an issue, but right now, none of it matters. Those are real stars.”

“I want to go to school.” Adam said. I took my eyes away from the sky to stare at him.

“Really? You don’t need to, you’re already smart enough.”

“I want to experience it and make friends, like normal kids do.”

“But you won’t age, all your friends will get older and you’ll still be 10 years old.” He shrugged.

“Doesn’t mean I can’t still make friends and go through school. I’ll just be shorter than everyone else. Not much different from now, come to think of it.”

“If you say so. I’ve been thinking I should go back to school too. Since the tournament took up all my time, I totally neglected homework and now I have to repeat my last year, but that’s okay—I’ll get another chance to have a school life. It’s not so scary anymore.”

“We are still going to play in next year’s tournament, right?”

“Of course! I heard they accepted our request to hold next year’s finals in Teo’s hometown too. Win or lose, it’ll be fun. And of course, we’re gonna win.” We fist bumped, then Adam grinned at me.

“Think it’s too shallow for me to push you in?”

“Life’s about taking chances, but I’m not breaking my legs for a swim.” We climbed down the rocks and waded into the pool, floating on the water with our eyes to the sky.

“You gonna date Rin?” Adam asked abruptly, making me splash him.

“What are you talking about?!”

“You like her, right?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.”


“Shut up. I'll certainly try to be a better friend, but I haven’t figured out yet what my feelings for her are. I don’t even know if I can have a normal relationship, or a normal life now.” Adam softly punched my side.

“Sorry. If I never came into your life, that wouldn’t have happened.” I punched him back.

“Never apologize for coming into my life. Other Kai said it best—I love you more than anything, buddy.” Adam smiled, those bright eyes of his shining in the moonlight. He turned and ran up the rocks, rubbing his eyes a little.

“It’s deep enough to jump, I’m gonna cannonball!”

“Just don’t hit me.” Water splashed all over me, then he sprang out of the water and tackled me.

“That’s for earlier!”

“I give up! Team Captain, have mercy!” On the way back to the hotel, I still stared at the stars through the trees, thinking about what our future might hold. Whatever happened, we’d be together, and even if we couldn’t live normal lives, there was no reason we couldn’t live happy, purposeful lives. After all, this is a world of possibilities.