Chapter 20:

More Than Just Fun


Was it the lag?

He saw Alice appearing. She used some sort of ability, and now Hatano and her position had changed. He stood way at the back, while she was right in front of him.



She had her usual spunk. But he could’ve sworn he saw tears running down her cheeks earlier.

Looking past her, he waved to the back, “Hey! H-Nidma!”

He nearly called out his real name, but decided it was best not to do so with Alice here.

“He’s AFK right now.”

“AFK? Now?”



He didn’t buy it. Didn’t feel nice, either.

“Alice, earlier, you used some spell or ability…Chrono-something. What did it do?”

“O-Oh! It’s actually a pretty cool spell that was only available in the CBT! Apparently, it somehow still works in this server! Pretty cool, huh?”

“Look, how do I say this?” he sighed. “I know something just happened. And I know, you might not feel comfortable. But we really need to talk about this.”

“Uhhh oh snap! I just remembered something! How are we gonna get out of this place?”

Can’t have party members lying dead or lying through their teeth. What happened to the second part, huh?

He didn’t like how she was acting one bit. She was trying so hard to hide what had happened. But this wasn’t just something he could ignore.

With the Black Hat myth busted, there was no reason to continue being on this server anymore. But as her friend, he decided to give her a bit more time.

“Good question. How do we get out?”

“Aha! I have just the thing! Gimme a sec!”

A text box just appeared in front of him.

[ Join Group Call <Bitches>? ]

[ Yes ] [ No ]

After rolling his eyes, he chose [ Yes ].


Virginia’s volume was peaking. He should have selected [ No ].

“Err…I got lo—”

“Nidma teleported us to this weird place,” he cut in.

“W-Wait Nidma? As in Nidma, Nidma?!”

Jason continued, “The one and only.”

“Errr…V, think you could get us out of here?”

“Bitch! I was talking to you one minute ago and then you just dipped for Jason? Wow, what happened to hoes before bros?”

“Just o-open a [ Gate ] already!” her cheeks were turning red.

“You sure you can’t just walk over here? I’d rather not get slapped with the 24-hour cooldown—”

“Look Virginia,” Jason sighed, “We’re out of bounds. I’d really appreciate the assist.”

“See Alice? Now that’s how you ask for a favour.”

Right after Virginia threw shade, a purple portal opened in front of them. Stepping forward, Jason was about to enter, but a soft tug at his sleeve stopped him.


He merely smiled back at her, as if to say, you’re welcome.

As the two enter the portal, they found themselves in an alleyway behind the casino. Leaning against the wall, their third party member shook her head.

“I don’t get it. What kind of business did Nidma want from y’all?”

“Same,” Jason expressed. “Dude just warped us there then went AFK. Troll much?”

Alice felt her insides aching. It was the second time Jason lied for her sake. For him to go this far just to look after…maybe, just maybe…

“I knew it!” the elf snapped her fingers. “Guy’s a weirdo, seriously. He keeps looking my way and doesn’t say a thing. Good thing I never offered him any service.”

Jason concurred, “Trust me, you ain’t missing out on much.”

“Well anyways—Alice you wanna let Jason know what’s the plan?”

“Y-Yeah, so I was thinking…maybe we can take a rain check for now?”

“Oh c’mon! Bitch, you drag me into the party and now you say we wait? What happened to—”

“Sorry Virginia, I’m actually feeling kinda tired, too. We could meet later to discuss things.”

Virginia’s frustration slowly turned into expectation.

“Aah~ I see now. Sure, you two go and take all the rest you need. You know where to look for me. See ya!”

Just before she left the alleyway, she turned around, giving Alice a double thumbs up. Jason almost caught it, but Virginia was already whistling away, hands in her pockets.

Alice facepalmed.

“That idiot…” she muttered under her breath.

“Hey so umm, you okay if we talked outside town?”


It was an awkward walk out of Windburg Ⅱ. The whole time, both sides wrangled their thoughts, trying to come up with what to say. Lost inside their own minds, the two of them ignored all the stares and comments from random players.

In the end, they stopped at the edge of the hill, overlooking most of Pallas Plains. The breeze was gentle, but in their hearts, storms were brewing.

“Jason…” Alice was the first to break the silence, “...what did Oj—I mean, Hatano say to you?”

“I think you meant to say Nidma, Alice.”


She instinctively covered her mouth, realising what a gaffe she just did.

“But yeah, Hatano, he…he told me everything. About your condition. Your mum…everything.”

“Oh well, cat’s outta the bag, huh,” she faced towards the plains below. “How does it feel to be playing with someone who’s not really alive, or dead?”

“Does it matter?”

“E-Eh? But I’m—”

“You’re more alive than the people I know in real life. But honestly, I would be lying if I wasn’t shocked at first. You’ve really been through a lot.”

“Yeah…I was just playing this for fun, then all of a sudden, my IRL life’s basically gone. I thought everything would be okay if I just, grinded as usual, but then—”

“—I know. There’s no need to say it. It was tough.”

“I never actually really stayed in a party or clan for long, y’know? So when mum wanted to be with me here, I was so happy and afraid at the same time. I was so psyched that I could finally show mum the world that I loved so, so much…”

He felt the need to tell her it was okay, but upon seeing her tears, it’ll be better if she lets it all out, he thought.

“But she just wasn’t cut out for this. And I couldn’t even tell. She was smiling the whole time, too.”

From two steady streams to uncontrolled bursts, she couldn’t hold back anymore.

“So what’s the point of being the strongest if I’m so awfully useless? I couldn’t even tell that she was hurting inside. All I cared about was myself and my own fun. She shouldn’t be here in this game with me, I should’ve been with her in something else!”

He placed his hand on her shoulder, letting her know through his gentle massage that it was okay.

“You know what she told me? Live your life to the fullest. But after she was gone, I just…I just don’t know what to do anymore. At first I took it out on mobs, other players. Just killed things to kill time. And before I realised it, I felt scared. Scared that if I tried to do anything else, I’ll end up hurting someone I really care about.

…Gosh I’m such a disappointment…”

“Aren’t we all?”

She thought he'd reprimand her, or give hollow words of encouragement. She didn’t expect that from him.

“I came here thinking that I was on some sort of grand adventure. That I was the first person to uncover the 21st-century equivalent of a new pyramid. I wanted to prove to my parents that they were wrong, so so badly, but in truth, I just…didn’t want to ask for financial help.

Then I find out just moments ago that Black Hat is fake.”

“H-Huh? What do you mean fake?”

“The cybercrime stuff? Hatano made that all up,” slowly, the realisation started to creep in. “Wait, you didn’t know that Hatano was Black Hat?”

“No…but that makes sense now.”

“Well, anyways, I think it’s best we kept that to ourselves.”

“W-Wait, what do you—”

“There’s no point telling the whole server. I mean, the whole server thinks he’s using alts or something to do bad stuff, right? I think it’s best we kept it that way. Keeps the charm and mystery alive, y’know?”

“But Jason, aren’t you making a documentary to tell the whole world about Black Hat?”

“Tell them what? That it’s fake all along? It won’t take off.”

“So that means, you’re g-gonna l-leave then?”

She was on the verge of breaking down. He really felt sorry for her. Regardless, he already made up his mind.

“Alice, I—”

“Don’t leave me!”

She held him tightly.

“I’m trying so hard, so damn hard right now, but I can’t. I don’t wanna be alone!”


“I thought when you showed up, it was gonna be just for fun. But then, being with you in this short moment, it was so much more than fun! I felt, I really felt…”


“I really felt like I was a person again and not just some string of data! I know this is selfish, but I really…I really can’t bear to see you leave…”

“Alice! Look at me!” he grabbed her by the shoulders. “I didn’t say I was leaving!”


“I wanted to tell you that I had an idea for a new documentary here!”


“Don’t you see it? We still have Cosmolore to kill, a boss that no one’s ever cleared before, amiright? There’s a whole area locked behind it that nobody’s ever seen! It’s gonna be a hit in the AO community!”


“Besides, I still have my end of the bargain to keep. That’s what this party’s for, right?”

Her face, redder than it was ever been, slowly moved away from Jason’s chest. Summoning Pareidolia, she pressed the blade against her neck.

“The hell are you doing?!”

“Just kill me already!”

He tried to wrestle the halberd away from her hands. Fortunately, she relented, letting her arms flop helplessly as the weapon fell down.

"If you're gonna off yourself, please don't do it in front of me.

...You'll get my channel banned."

Taylor J