Jolie had always liked fantasies, but she wasn’t the only one, she found out one night, during Lucifer’s Inferno.
When all of the bosses had been killed, players could kill minor monsters on any plane they wanted (that they had access to), while waiting for the next round.
Dreamy had reached level 111, so she could climb as far as the sixth plane, which looked like the inside of a tomb, with a cave system, and monsters placed out here and there. The walls had inscriptions and torches attached to them.
Even though the monsters were stronger there, and it was harder to get rewards, Dreamy stayed at plane six, simply to gloat. After a while, however, she got bored of the low drop rate, and moved down to plane five, where she found John.
Plane five was set on a dark river, into which you could neither fall or walk — characters could only walk on land, so it was a trickier map to navigate than most others, which made it interesting.
“Hi, Dreamy,” said John, after moving his character to the same group of monsters that she was fighting, on a big patch of floating land.
“Hi, John,” she said back.
“How’s it going?”
Dreamy sighed, “I don’t know. Trying to write this story, but I’m stuck.”
John said, “You write?”, shocked emoji.
“Yeah,” she said, wondering why he was so surprised.
After a few moments of silence, he said,
“Dreamy, I think I love you.”
She didn’t know what to say to that, but he spared her,
“I write, too! I’ve been writing a fantasy story for some time, now.”
Dreamy did not see why both of them enjoying to write would make him love her, but she knew that is was a joke, anyway.
“Oh, nice.” she said.
“What kind of story are you writing?” he asked, before suddenly falling to the ground.
Hm? Had Dreamy killed him?
No, she found out a couple of milliseconds later. It was RapidJudge. He had passed the two of them, without staying. But apparently he had stayed long enough to kill John. Why?
She laughed, then returned to the conversation,
“A romance story.” she said, “about a girl named Charlie and a girl named Kayla.”
John, who seemed to have been sent down to plane 4, as his character had vanished, shortly after falling face down, sent another shocked emoji,
“Dreamy, you aren’t a lesbian, are you?”
She shook her head, “No.” But there is still no chance for you.
Before the bosses spawned, Dreamy returned to plane 1, and went to the area where Batspider would spawn in a few seconds.
Several other players were already there, including GodsWatch, who had skipped the first round.
“Hi, God.” she typed in the world chat.
Before they could say more, the bosses spawned, and thanks to the OP (over powered) Zenflood, who had apparently decided to join this round, too, movement had to be fast.
RapidJudge did not join, thankfully — it was bad enough, trying not to get killed by Zen.
After the bosses, Duskerbeat sent her another PM:
“Hi, sweetie.” he said, “Let’s talk.”
“Ok.” said Dreamy, thinking about how to reject him this time.
“I’ve been wondering, where are you from?”
“Europe.” she said. A lot of places in Europe had the same time zone, so she didn’t really give her location away.
“I thought so,” he said, “I’ve seen you on at the same time as me.”
And a whole bunch of other players.
“Yeah.” she said.
“I’m from Germany.” he revealed.
“I’m curious, what is your name?”
“Dreamy.” she said.
In the background, Dreamy killed monsters. She had moved away from the boss area, as Zenflood was still there. He had lowered her HP (health points) to 70%, even though she’d been a fair bit away from him.
“Your real name, I mean.”
She knew very well what he meant, but why would she tell him? And why did he even ask that?
“A tease,” he said, “I like it.”
He continued, “I have to go for tonight, but see you tomorrow <3”.
“See you.” she said.
Once again, things had progressed into a direction that she didn’t expect. Since when were they on a nicknames and hearts base?
This time, Jolie decided to stay on plane six, and there, she encountered GodsWatch again, while running around the map to look for a good spot.
She navigated to his group of monsters, right next to a little lava lake, in the depth of a cave.
“I wish you could swim in this game. Or at least walk on the water.” she said.
In the chat, she had picked ‘nearby players’, so only people on the sixth plane would be able to see what she said.
“Or fly,” she added, “I mean, why do we have wings?”
“Idk,” said GodsWatch, “I always turn them off.”
In order to prevent lag, players could turn off certain functions in the game. They were still there, of course, but invisible to the player, and thereby lessening the load for the computer to process.
She felt as though he had missed her point, but continued,
“Me too.” said Dreamy, “but still, it would be cool to fly off the map into the stars that surround it.”
“I guess.” said GodsWatch.
Guess? There was no question about it.
“You don’t think it would be cool?”
“Idk, I’ve never thought about it.”
But surely he must be thinking about it now, right?
“What about now?” she asked.
“What about it?”
“Are you thinking about flying?”
Then what was he thinking about?
Jolie noticed that her HP (health points) had dropped to 50%.
“You’re killing me.” she said.
“Sorry, not on purpose.”
Their characters fought monsters with a distance between them that looked like a couple of meters.
“I know, but I’m dying.”
GodsWatch suggested, “just move a bit to the side, and I shouldn’t be able to reach you.”
Even though it was friendly advice, Dreamy couldn’t help but feel as though he was coldly pushing her away. He clearly wasn’t, but a part of her felt hurt about him wanting to increase the distance between them.
She hesitated a bit, inhaled, and surrendered, before typing the following words,
“You want me to move away from you?”
Why did she say that? She ought to have stopped at the HP part and just moved away, like he suggested. Why walk into this forbidden territory?
“No.” he said.
No? He didn’t want her to move away? Jolie reminded herself of the fact that he was 15, and she was 22. 7 year age gap. Platonic.
“Welp, afk.” he said, and the chat died.
What kind of timing was that? She started to feel as if he was clueless, but maybe that was for the best. Or was it? Did she not want him to feel the same — platonic — connection between them?
She did. She really did. But even if it was platonic, she knew that she shouldn’t. Even so, she found it impossible to keep herself from wanting to talk to him, and doing so as much as possible. She couldn’t help but feel that spark of joy in her chest, every time he logged in. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t stop herself. But she would. She wouldn’t sink as deep as into the most forbidden realms of age-gaps, and wouldn’t enter non-platonic grounds. That was certain, for she was a responsible adult.
She was, wasn’t she?
The next day, when Jolie logged into the game in the morning, she was faced with a surprise.
John greeted her — in the guild chat.
“Hi, Dreamy.” he said.
“Why are you in SS?” she asked, then clicked his name, just to make sure that it was the same John, that she knew, even though two characters couldn’t have the same name.
John said, “I switched guild, for you.”
For Dreamy? She thought back about his declaration of love. But it was a joke, wasn’t it?
“Why?” she said.
Changing guild cost 500 diamonds, which equaled about 15 usd.
“BBF isn’t so interesting, anyway,” he said, “I’ve seen you get along well in this guild, so I decided to come here.”
So it wasn’t entirely because of last night?
“I see,” she said, “In that case, welcome.”
She continued, “But you won’t have the protection of the top 3 anymore.” she reminded him.
Dreamy was doing a daily quest, in which the objective was killing a certain number of different types of monsters, spread out across the game map.
“I know.” he said, “I don’t need it.”
Don’t need it? Jolie doubted that.
John continued, “Now that we’re in the same guild, we can enter Friendly Battlefield together.
Friendly Battlefield was a daily guild quest, in which — you guessed it — players killed bosses and monsters, and got rewards.
Duskerbeat joined the conversation,
“A new member? Welcome, John.”
Jolie got the feeling that his ‘welcome’ wasn’t sincere.
“Thank you,” answered John.
“And hi, sweetie,” added Duskerbeat.
“Sweetie?” asked John, with a shocked emoji, “did I miss something?”
“No,” said Dreamy, “you did not.”
In the next moment, she got a PM from John:
“Is there a reason why he calls you sweetie?” he asked.
Amused, Jolie typed, “He wants to marry me.”
John sent a shocked emoji, “Damn, I was going to ask you, but it seems like I’m not the only one.”
“It seems so.” said Dreamy, not knowing what else to say.
After a pause, John said, “So, what do you say?”
Dreamy responded, “I need a top 10 lover.”
Well, more like a top 2 lover.
John said, “I understand, my character is weak. You deserve better.”
He continued, “But not Dusker, I recommend Zenflood.”
Dreamy wondered what to respond to his recommendation.
He continued, “Me, I’ll marry my alt, for now.”
“Sounds good,” said Dreamy, then opened the interface of the Arena, in which players did their best to rank as high as possible, for increased rewards. Dreamy was ranked 15, because even if she was ranked 13 in the proper ranking, battle power had different shapes, and as Dreamy was, essentially, a noob, her battle power did not have the best distribution, but, of course, of that she had no idea, and it was a mystery to her how Chinese managed to beat her every day, even though he was supposed to be weaker.
John added, “I will try to make the top 10.”
This was the second peak of popularity in Jolie’s life. The first had been a couple of years earlier, at a different university, during her last time of socializing in real life.
Later that day, she met Yuna at Morpheus’ Lair.
“Yuna!”, she said in a PM, “Life is so weird.”
“Dreamy, Hi, how are you?”
Jolie typed, “Good, you?”
“In grief,” said Yuna, “I haven’t seen Bone all week.”
That was bad.
“Sorry to hear that,” said Dreamy, “Spear has been less active, too. He doesn’t do events, just teatime and dailies.”
“Yeah,” said Yuna, “it’s because of the merger. If it wasn’t for you, I would probably quit, too.”
Jolie agreed, “My only reason for staying is friends.”
“You have many,” said Yuna, “I see you talk to GodsWatch and John, but I can’t join much, because I have work, and the time difference.”
Jolie knew from before that Yuna played at her workplace.
People quit all the time. It was normal. If Spear quit, Jolie wouldn’t be sad, and if Yuna quit, she would accept it, but how would she feel if GodsWatch quit?
As the days went by, Dreamy got more messages from Duskerbeat, and watched John try to make the top 10 in order to marry her, while chatting about writing. She viewed Duskerbeat with scorn, as he wasn’t even trying to collect flowers to send her. At least John was trying. All Duskerbeat did was trying to win her over in the shadows that were PMs, where no one else could see.
Jolie knew that Duskerbeat and John didn’t actually like her; they liked an image of her that they had created in their minds. She was but a reflection of their ideal love goddess, but that’s not who she was in real life. Only with GodsWatch did she feel real, as if he saw the person behind the cute name and character, and, likewise, she felt as though she saw him. But was it all an illusion? Either way, it was not romantic.
They got into the habit of talking every day, starting just before Heavenly Boss, at 10 PM, where they met at Cerberus’s area.
One afternoon, in a lifeless world chat, GodsWatch said:
“D: My feet are cold.”
Amused, Jolie typed, “then wear socks.”
GodsWatch: “Too lazy, they’re on the other side of the room.”
Dreamy: “Then suit yourself.”
GodsWatch: “I hate when my feet are cold.”
Dreamy: “Then wear socks!”
GodsWatch: “Welp, I’ll just grab them whenever I need to take a piss.”
There was no filter on this guy, but Jolie liked it. People had too many filters these days, so a raw person was refreshing.
GodsWatch: “What, not my fault they’re too far away.”
Dreamy: “They can’t be that far away.”
GodsWatch: “They are, my room is the size of a house.”
Dreamy: “I see. I guess you’ll have to live with cold feet, then.”
Jolie, on the other hand, didn’t need to live with cold feet, as the end of February came with a breeze of warmth — as warm as a northern country could get in the winter.
The warmer weather meant that Jolie could spend more time with her classmate, Millie, as the buses were more accessible; they baked cupcakes, watched a famous Japanese drama about a poor girl and a rich guy, explored another city, in which they ate at a Chinese buffet and walked into an adult shop for the first time, ate sushi, and went to the movies.
In the Japanese drama, that they watched while eating the chocolate cupcakes they’d baked, the male lead was a troublemaker. He got into many fights, and was a bit of an airhead, but changed after meeting the female lead — he was still an airhead, but stopped fighting.
Jolie couldn’t help but letting GodsWatch float into her mind, with images of him being a troublemaker who didn’t get along with other people, but still had a sort of pure side to him.
The character in the drama was also a teenager, so maybe it was a teen guy thing? But then, why weren’t all teen guys like that? Indeed, the whole point of dramas was to portray extremes of something, not realism. But if it wasn’t supposed to be realistic, why did GodsWatch seem so similar to the male lead?
After her friend had left, Jolie ate too many cupcakes and got a stomach ache.
She figured that the image of GodsWatch in her mind wasn’t necessarily an accurate picture of him. Like John and Dusker had done to her, she had probably distorted him in her mind. But if so, why didn’t she pick Zenflood, or John, or even Dusker? Why on earth would she pick a 15 year old, when she had older — legal — people available? It didn’t make any sense, at all.
After inviting Millie to observe her pole dancing class, Jolie and her friend went to see Beauty and the Beast at the movies, but not before eating first.
Millie complimented Jolie’s dancing while they ate at a well known hamburger place, at which Jolie opted for chicken nuggets.
After that, they bought candy, then waded through snowy rain to the movies, where they promised to buy hot chocolate to heat up.
Jolie didn’t expect being able to relate so much to the story of Beauty and the Beast. She hadn’t known much about it before, but why was it that so much of it reminded of her real (virtual) life?
The Beast was an antisocial guy, whose mother had passed away, exactly like GodsWatch.
Gaston was a cunning man who wanted Belle, no matter what. He reminded of Duskerbeat, or John, but mostly Duskerbeat, with his foul habit of asking for someone’s real name online.
Why was it that all male leads reminded of GodsWatch?
Jolie didn’t believe in coincidences. She knew that people see what they want to see, but he was 15.
She told Millie about him, from an amused angle, not wanting any misunderstandings.
“He sounds charming.” said Millie.
Charming? Jolie had never thought of it that way, but maybe that was it. He was charming, to anyone. But then, why didn’t he get along with people?
The first week of March was spring break, and Jolie went to visit her family.
Jolie told her sister about the 15 year old who beat her in the ranking, in spite of her efforts to surpass him.
“Hm,” said her sister, “he sounds like an angsty teenager.”
Angsty teenager? Everyone seemed to have very different opinions of him — even two people who only had heard Jolie’s portrayal of him.
Was he a person who could be anything, to anyone? Or was Jolie’s view of him correct, and he was special?
Special? Indeed, he was special to her. Ever since the start, she had kept him in a different place in her mind than she did the other players.
First, it had been because he reminded her of a younger version of herself, then, because he was funny, and because she enjoyed talking to him, felt that she could do so without inhibitions, which wasn’t common. It was different, special. But he was 15, so it was only in a platonic, person to person, kind of way. Nothing more.
She couldn’t help but see GodsWatch in a different light now. The lines blurred between purely platonic and romantic interest, but surely she couldn’t have a 15 year old as a love interest? No, even for Jolie, that was too much.
She was a future cougar, but the keyword was future.
Talking to GodsWatch made her feel free, like herself.
In her mind, she painted an image of him, though she knew that it wasn’t correct. But why did it even matter? She realized that none of her concerns were relevant — after all, it was a game. Indeed, that was all it was. Yes, and in a game, she could do whatever she wanted. Age difference didn’t matter, nor did the fact that he was a teenager, because games didn’t discriminate age.
Her current lover was 35, so the age gap was even bigger. 13 years. Almost twice as much as 7. And Jolie hadn’t for a second thought weirdly of it.
Not that she was planning on turning GodsWatch into her lover. Of course not, but that was irrelevant to his age. It was simply because she needed an OP (over powered) lover. GodsWatch was only a level 113, at rank 12 — just one rank ahead of herself!
So, no, he was not going to be her lover.
But the question was, how long could Jolie keep telling herself that? How long could she deceive herself that she was a responsible adult?